Lead: One hundred and fifty years ago the Republic was facing its greatest crisis. This continuing series examines the American Civil War. It is "A House Divided."

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: By 1850, slavery so dominated the national conversation that few national matters of policy could be discussed without reference to this peculiar institution. To mollify Southern demands, The Compromise of 1850 included a much more severe fugitive slave regime. Rejecting Northern attempts to provide basic rights such as habeas corpus or a jury trial, the law put the onus of proof on the accused escapee and then gave the slave no mechanism for proving their status. The law established Federal commissioners before whom slavers could bring fugitives to circumvent uncooperative anti-slavery local courts. If a commissioner decided for the slave he received five dollars, if he decided for the owner, he received ten dollars, presumably to facilitate the paperwork needed to remand the slave back South.