AN ACT FOR THE BETTER ORDERING AND GOVERNING NEGROES AND OTHER SLAVES IN THIS PROVINCE
WHEREAS, in his Majestys plantations in America, slavery has been introduced and allowed, and the people commonly called Negroes, Indians, mulattoes and mustizoes, have been deemed absolute slaves, and the subjects of property in the hands of the particular persons, the extend of whose power over such slaves ought to be settled and limited by positive laws, so that the slave may be kept in due subjection and obedience, and the owners and other persons having the care and government of slaves may be restrained from exercising too great rigour and cruelty over them, and that the public peace and order of this Province may be preserved: We pray your most sacred Majesty that it may be enacted,
- And be it enacted, by the honorable William Bull, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor and Commander-in-chief, by and with the advice and consent of his Majestys honorable Council, and the Commons House of Assembly of this Province, and by the authority of the same, That all Negroes and Indians, (free Indians in amity with this government, and degrees, mulattoes, and mustizoes, who are now free, excepted,) mulattoes or mustizoes who now are, or shall hereafter be, in this Province, and all their issue and offspring, born or to be born, shall be, and they are hereby declared to be, and remain forever hereafter, absolute slaves, and shall follow the condition of the mother, and shall be deemed, held, taken, reputed and adjudged in law, to be chattels personal, in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions and purposes whatsoever; provided always, that if any Negro, Indian, mulatto or mustizo, shall claim his or her freedom, it shall and may be lawful for such Negro, Indian, mulatto or mustizo, or any person or persons whatsoever, on his or her behalf, to apply to the justices of his Majestys court of common pleas, by petition or motion, either during the sitting of the said court, or before any of the justices of the same court, at any time in the vacation; and by the said court, or any of the justices thereof, shall, and they are hereby fully impowered to, admit any person so applying to be guardian for any Negro, Indian, mulatto or mustizo , claiming his, her or their freedom; and such guardians shall be enabled, entitled and capable in law, to bring an action of trespass in the nature of ravishment of ward, against any person who shall claim property in, or who shall be in possession of, any such Negro, Indian, mulatto or mustizo; and the defendant shall and may plead the general issue on such action brought, and the special matter may and shall be given in evidence, and upon a general of special verdict found, judgment shall be given according to the very right of the cause, without having any regard to any defect in the proceedings, either in form or substance; and if judgment shall be given for the plaintiff, a special entry shall be made, declaring that the ward of the plaintiff is free, and the jury shall assess damages which the plaintiffs ward hath sustained, and the court shall give judgment and award execution, against the defendant for such damage, with full costs of suit; but in case judgment shall be given for the defendant, the said court is hereby fully impowered to inflict such corporal punishment, not extending to life or limb, on the ward of the plaintiff, as they, in their discretion, shall think fit
III. And for the better keeping slaves in due order and subjection, Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no person whatsoever shall permit or suffer any slave under his or their care or management, and who lives or is employed in Charlestown, or any other town in this Province, to go out of the limits of the said town, or any such slave who lives in the country, to go out of the plantation to which such slave belongs, or in which plantation such slave is usually employed, without a letter superscribed and directed, or a ticket in the words following:
Permit this slave to be absent from Charlestown, (or any other town, or if he lives in the country, from Mr. ________ plantation, _______ parish,) for ________ days or hours; dated the _______ day of _______.
Or, to that purpose or effect; which ticket shall be signed by the master or other person having the care or charge of such slave, or by some other [person] by his or their order, directions and consent; and every slave who shall be found out of Charlestown, or any other town (if such slave lives or is usually employed there,) or out of the plantation to which such slave belongs, or in which [such] slave is usually employed, or if such slave lives in the country, without such letter or ticket as aforesaid, or without a white person in his company, shall be punished with whipping on the bare back, not exceeding twenty lashes
- And it shall be further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any slave who shall be out of the house or plantation where such slave shall live, or shall be usually employed, or without some whiter person in company with such slave, shall refuse to submit or undergo the examination of any white person, it shall be lawful for any such white person to pursue, apprehend, and moderately correct such slave; and if any such slave shall assault and stricke such white person, such slave may be lawfully killed.
- Provided always, and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any Negro or other slave, who shall be employed in the lawful business or service of his master, owner, overseer, or other person having charge of such slave, shall be beaten, bruised, maimed or disabled by any person or persons not having sufficient cause or lawful authority for so doing, (of which cause the justices of the peace, respectively, may judge,) every person and persons so offending, shall, for every such offence, forfeit and pay the sum of forty shillings, current money, over and besides the damages hereinafter mentioned, to the use of the poor of that parish in which such offence shall be committed: And if such slave or slaves shall be maimed or disabled by such beating, from performing his or her work, such person and persons so offending, shall also forfeit and pay to the owner or owners of such slaves, the sum of fifteen shillings, current money, per diem, for every day of his lost time, and also the charge of the cure of such slave; and if the said damages, in whole, shall not exceed the sum of twenty pounds, current money, the same shall , upon lawful proof thereof made, be recoverable before any one of his Majestys justices of the peace, in the save way and manner as debts are recoverable by the Act for the trial of small and mean causes; and such justices before whom the same shall be recovered, shall have power to commit the offender or offenders to goal, if he, se or they shall produce no goods of which the said penalty and damages may be levied, there to remain without bail, until such penalty and damages shall be paid; any law statute, usage or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.
VII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful for every justice assigned to keep the peace in this Province, within his respective county and jurisdiction, upon his own knowledge or view, or upon information received upon oath, eithe4r to go in person, or by warrant or warrants directed to any constable or other proper person, to command to their assistance any number of persons as they shall see convenient, to disperse any assembly or meeting of slaves which may disturb the peace or endanger the safety of his Majestys subjects, and to search all suspected places for arms, ammunition or stolen goods, and to apprehend and secure all such slaves as they shall suspect to be guilty of any crimes or offences whatsoever, and to bring them to speedy trial, according to the directions of this Act; and in case any constable or other person shall refuse to obey or execute any of the warrants of precepts of such justices, or any of them, within their several limits and precincts, or shall refuse to assist the said justices or constables, of any of them, when commanded or required, such person or persons shall forfeit and pay the sum of five pounds, current money, to be recovered by a warrant under the hand and seal of any other justice of the peace, in the same way and manner as is directed by the Act of the trial of small and mean causes
- And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That two justices and one freeholder, or one justice and two freeholders, of the said two justices and three freeholders, shall make a quorum, and the conviction or acquittal of any slave or slaves by such a quorum of them shall be final in all capital cases; but on the trial of slaves for offences not capital, it shall and may be sufficient if before sentence or judgment shall be given for inflicting a corporal punishment, not extending to life or member, that one justice and any one of the freeholders shall agree that the slave accused is guilty of the offence with which he shall be charged.
XII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That so soon as the justice or justices and freeholders shall be assembled as aforesaid, in pursuance of the direction of this Act, the said justices shall administer to each other the following oath.
I, A B, do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will truly and impartially try and adjudge the prisoner or prisoners who shall be brought before me, upon is or their trial, and honestly and duly, on my party, put in execution, on this trial, an Act entitled An Act for the better ordering and governing Negroes and other slaves in this Province, according to the best of my skill and knowledge. So help me God.
And the said justice or justices, having taken the aforesaid oath, shall immediately administer the said oath to every freeholder who shall be assembled as aforesaid, and shall forthwith proceed upon the trial of such slave or slaves as shall be brought before them.
XIII. And for the preventing the concealment of crimes and offences committed by slaves, and for the more effectual discovery and bringing slaves to condign punishment, Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That not only the evidence of all free Indians, without oath, but the evidence of any slave, without oath, shall be allowed and admitted in all causes whatsoever, for or against another slave accused of any crime of offence whatsoever; the weight of which evidence being seriously considered, and compared with all other circumstances attending the case, shall be left to the conscience of the justices and freeholders.
XIV. And whereas, slaves may be harbored and encouraged to commit offences, and concealed and received by free Negroes, and such free Negroes may escape the punishment due to their crimes, for want of sufficient and legal evidence against them; Be it therefore further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the evidence of any free Indian or slave, without oath, shall in like manner be allowed and admitted in all cases against any free Negroes, Indians (free Indians in amity with this government, only
excepted,) mulattoe or mustizoe; and of all crimes and offences committed by free Negroes, Indians, (except as before excepted,) mulattoes or mustizoes, shall be proceeded in, heard, tried, adjudged and determined by the justices and freeholders appointed by this Act for the trial of slave, in like manner, order and form, as is hereby directed an appointed for the proceedings and trial of crimes and offences committed by slaves; any law statue, usage or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.
- And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That if any slave in this Province shall commit any crime or offence whatsoever, which, by the laws of England or of this Province now in force, is of has been made felony without the benefit of the clergy, and for which the offender by law ought to suffer death, every such slave, being duly convicted according to the directions of this Act shall suffer death; to be inflicted in such manner as the justices, by and with the advice and consent of the freeholders, who shall give judgment to the conviction of such slave, shall direct and appoint.
XVI. And whereas, some crimes and offences of an enormous nature and of the most pernicious consequence, may be committed by slaves, as well as other persons, which being peculiar to the condition and situation of this Province, could not fall within the provision of the laws of England; Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the several crimes and offences hereinafter particularly enumerated, are hereby declared to be felony, without the benefit of the clergy, that is to say: – if any slave, free Negro, mulattoe, Indian or mustizoe, shall willfully and maliciously set fire to, burn or destroy any sack of rice, corn or other grain, of the product, growth or manufacture of this Province, or shall willfully and maliciously set fire to, burn or destroy any tar kiln, barrels of pitch, tar turpentine or rosin, or any other the goods or commodities of the growth, produce or manufacture of this Province, or shall feloniously steal, take or carry away any slave, being the property of another, with intent to carry such slave out of this Province, or shall willfully or maliciously poison or administer any poison to any person, free man, woman, servant or slave, every such slave, free Negro, mulattoe, Indian, (except as before excepted,) and mustizoe, shall suffer death as a felon.
XVII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That any slave who shall be guilty of homicide of any sort, upon any whiter person, except by misadventure, or in defense of his master or other person under whose care and government such slave shall be, shall, upon conviction thereof as aforesaid, suffer death; and every slave who shall raise or attempt to raise an insurrection in this Province, shall endeavor to delude or entice any slave to run away and leave this Province, every such slave and slaves, and his and their accomplices, aiders and abettors, shall, upon conviction as aforesaid, suffer death; Provided always, that it shall and may be lawful to and for the justices who shall pronounce sentence against such slaves, by and with the advice and consent of the freeholders as aforesaid, if several slaves shall receive sentence at one time, to mitigate and alter the sentence of any slave other than such as shall be convicted of the homicide of a whiter person, who they shall think may deserve mercy, and may inflict such corporal punishment, (other than death,) on any such slave, as they in their discretion shall think fit; any thing herein contained to the contrary thereof in any wise not withstanding; Provided always, that one or more of the said slaves who shall be convicted of the crimes or offences aforesaid, where several are concerned, shall be executed for example, to deter others from offending in the like kind
XXII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person in this Province shall, on the Lords day, commonly called Sunday, employ any slave in any work or labour, (works of absolute necessity and the necessary occasions of the family one excepted,) every person in such case offending, shall forfeit the sum of five pounds, current money, for every slave they shall so work or labour.
XXIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall not be lawful for any slave, unless in the presence of some white person, to carry or make sue of fire arms, or any offensive weapons whatsoever, unless such Negro or slave shall have a ticket or license, in writing, from his master, mistress or overseer, to hunt and kill game, cattle, or mischievous birds, or beasts of prey, and that such license be renewed once every month, or unless there be some whit person of the ago of sixteen years or upwards, in the company of such slave, when he is hunting or shooting or that such slave be actually carrying his masters arms to or from his masters plantation, by a special ticket for that purpose, or unless such slave be found in the day time actually keeping off rice birds, or other birds, within the plantation to which such slave belongs, lodging the same gun at night within the dwelling house of his master, mistress or white overseer; and provided also, that no Negro or other slave shall have liberty to carry any gun, cutlass, pistol or other weapon, abroad from home, at any time between Saturday evening after sun-set, and Monday morning before sun-rise, notwithstanding a license or ticket for so doing. And in case any person shall find any slave using or carrying fire arms, or other offensive weapons, contrary to the true intention of this Act, every such person may lawfully seize and take away such fire arms or offensive weapons .
XXIV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any slave shall presume to strike any white person, such slave, upon trial and conviction before the justice or justices and freeholders, aforesaid, according to the directions of this Act, shall, for the first and second offence, suffer such punishment as the said justice and freeholders, or such of them as are empowered to try such offence, shall in their discretion, think fit, not extending to life or limb; and for the third offence, shall suffer death. But in case any such slave shall grievously wound, maim or bruise any white person, though it by only the first offence, such slave shall suffer death. Provided always, that such striking, wounding, maiming or bruising, not be done by the command, and in the defense of, the person or property of the owner or other person having the care and government of such slave, in which case the slave shall be wholly excused, and the owner or other person having the care and government of such slave shall be answerable, as far as by law he ought.
XXV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful for every person in this Province, to take, apprehend and secure any runaway or fugitive slave, and they are hereby directed and required to send such slave to the master or other person having the care or government of such slave, if the person taking up or securing such slave knows, or can, without difficulty, be informed, to whom such slave shall belong; but if not known or discovered, then such slave shall be sent, carried or delivered into the custody of the warden of the work-house in Charlestown; and the master or other person who has the care or government of such slave, shall pay for the taking up of such slave, whether by a free person or slave, the sum of twenty shillings, current money; and the warden of the work-house, upon receipt of every fugitive or runaway slave, is hereby directed and required to keep such slave in safe custody until such slave shall be lawfully discharged, and shall, as soon as conveniently it may be, publish, in the weekly gazette, such slave, with the best descriptions he shall be able to give, first carefully viewing and examining such slave, naked to the waist, for any mark or brand, which he shall also publish to the intent the owner or other person who shall have the care and charge of such slave, may come to the knowledge that such slave is in custody. And if such slave shall make escape through the negligence of the warden of the work-house, and cannot be taken within three months, the said warden of the work- house shall answer to the owner for the value of such slave, or the damage which the owner shall sustain by reason of such escape, as the cause shall happen
XXX. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no slave who shall dwell, reside, inhabit or be usually employed in Charlestown, shall presume to buy, sell, deal, traffic, barter, exchange or use commerce for any goods, wares, provisions, grain, victuals, or commodities, of any sort or kind whatsoever, (except as hereinafter particularly excepted and provided, and under such provisos, conditions, restrictions and limitations as are herein particularly directed, limited and appointed) on pain that all such goods, wares, provisions, grain, victuals or commodities, which by any slave shall be so bought, sold, dealt, trafficked or bartered for, exchanged or used in commerce, shall be sized and forfeited, and shall be sued for and recovered before any one justice assigned to keep the peace in Charlestown, and shall be applied and disposed of, one half to him or them who shall seize, inform and sue for the same, and the other half to the commissioners of the poor of the parish of St. Philips, Charlestown; and moreover, that the said justice shall order every slave who shall be convicted of such offence, to be publicly whipped on the bare back, not exceeding twenty lashes; provided always that it shall and may be lawful for any slave who lives or is usually employed in Charlestown, after such license and ticket as hereinafter is directed shall be obtained, to buy or sell fruit, fish and garden stuff, and to be employed as porters, carters or fishermen, and to purchase anything for the use of their masters, owners or other person who shall have the charge and government of such slave, in open market, under such regulations as are or shall be appointed by law concerning the market of Charlestown, or in any open shop kept by a white person
XXXVI. And for that as it is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain the wanderings and meetings of Negroes and other slaves, at all times, and more especially on Saturday nights, Sundays, and other holidays, and their using and carrying wooden swords, and other mischievous and dangerous weapons, or using or keeping of drums, horns, or other loud instruments, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes; and that all masters, overseers and others may be enjoined, diligently and carefully to prevent the same, Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall be lawful for all masters, overseers and other persons whosoever, to apprehend and take up any Negro or other slave that shall be found out of the plantation of his or their master or owner, at any time, especially on Saturday nights, Sundays or other holiday, not being on lawful business, and with a letter from their master, or a ticket, or not having a white person with them; and the said Negro or other slave or slaves, met or found out of the plantation of his or their master or mistress, through with a letter or ticket, if he or they be armed with such offensive weapons aforesaid, him or them to disarm, take up and whip: And whatsoever master, owner or overseer shall permit or suffer his or their Negro or other slave or slaves, at any time hereafter, to beat drums, blow horns, or use any other loud instruments or whosoever shall suffer and countenance any public meeting or feastings of strange Negroes or slaves in their plantations, shall forfeit ten pounds, current money, for every such offence, upon conviction or proof as aforesaid; provided , an information or other suit be commenced within one month after forfeiture thereof for the same
XXXVII. And whereas, cruelty is not only highly unbecoming those who profess themselves Christians, but is odious in the eyes of all men who have any sense of virtue of humanity; therefore, to restrain and prevent barbarity being exercised towards slaves, Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person of persons whosoever, shall willfully murder his own slave, or the slave of any other person, every such person, shall, upon conviction thereof, forfeit and pay the sum of seven hundred pounds, current money, and shall be rendered, and is hereby declared altogether and forever incapable of holding, exercising, enjoying or receiving the profits of any office, place or employment, civil or military, within this Province: And in case any such person shall not be able to pay the penalty and forfeitures hereby inflicted an imposed, every such person shall be sent to any of the frontier garrisons of this Province, or committed to the work house in Charlestown, there to remain for the space of seven years, and to serve or to be kept at hard labor. And in case the slave murdered shall be the property of any other person, than the offender, the pay usually allowed by the public to the soldiers of such garrison, or the profits of the labor of the offender, if committed to the work house in Charlestown, shall be paid to the owner of the slave murdered. And if any person shall, on sudden heat or passion, or by undue correction, kill his own slave, or the slave of any other person, he shall forfeit the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds, current money. And in case any person or persons shall willfully cut out the tongue, put out the eye, castrate, or cruelly scald, burn, or deprive any slave of any limb or member, or shall inflict any other cruel punishment, other than by whipping or beating with a horse-whip, cow-skin, switch or small stick, or by putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such slave, every such person shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.
XXXVIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case any person in this Province, who shall be owner, or shall have the care, government or charge of any slave or slaves, shall deny, neglect or refuse to allow such slave or slaves, under his or her charge, sufficient cloathing, covering or food, it shall and may be lawful for any person or persons, on behalf of such slave or slaves, to make complaint to the next neighboring justice
XLV. And whereas, the having of slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereinafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught, to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person and persons, shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds current money.
XLVI. And whereas, plantations settled with slaves without any white person thereon, may be harbours for runaways and fugitive slaves; Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no person or persons hereafter shall keep any slaves on any plantation under pain of forfeiting the sum of ten pounds current money, for every month which any such person shall so keep any slaves on any plantation or settlement, without a white person as aforesaid
LVI. And whereas, several Negroes did lately rise in rebellion, and did commit many barbarous murders at Stono and other parts adjacent thereto; and whereas, in suppressing the said rebels, several of them were killed and others taken alive and executed; and as the exigence and danger the inhabitants at that time were in an exposed to, would not admit of the formality of a legal trial of such rebellious Negroes, but for their own security the said inhabitants were obliged to put such Negroes to immediate death; to prevent, therefore, any person or persons being questioned for any matter or thing done in the suppression or execution of the said rebellious Negroes, as also any litigious suit, action or prosecution that may be brought, sued or prosecuted or commenced against such person or persons for or concerning the same; Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every act, matter and thing, had, done, committed and executed, in and about the suppressing and putting all and every the said Negro and Negroes to death, is and are hereby declared lawful, to all intents and purposes whatsoever, as fully and amply as if such rebellious Negroes had undergone a formal trial and condemnation, notwithstanding any want of form or omission what-ever in the trial of such Negroes; and any law, usage3 or custom to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding
- PINCKNEY, Speaker. In the Council Chamber, the 10th day of May, 1740.
Assented to: WM. BULL.