The post of U.S. Commissioner dates back to 1793, when Congress authorized U.S. Circuit Courts to appoint “discreet persons learned in the law” to take bail. With the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Congress granted commissioners new powers to determine the fate of fugitive slaves.
More than 300 U.S. Commissioners were in office throughout the period of the law’s operation (1850-1864), though only a select few actually handled fugitive cases. At present, no comprehensive list of commissioners operating under the 1850 law exists. The names below represent a working list, which will be modified accordingly as this thesis project progresses. Names in bold signify commissioners who handled fugitive cases.