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The climate of New England, rather than any other cause, seems to have been a barrier to the prevalence of slavery. It is supposed that no more than three ships belonging to Boston, were ever employed in the slave traffic in one year. No other port in that colony was at all concerned. At one time a joint trade in rum and slaves was carried on with Barbadoes. The earliest mention of slavery in the colonial histories is in 1639 ; one Samuel Maverick, of Noddle's Island, being in possession of two slaves. The number of Africans, mostly slaves, in Massachusetts including Maine, in 1763, was 5,214; in 1776, 5,249; and in 1784, 4,377.* Rhode Island, particularly the towns of Bristol and Newport, were extensively concerned in the importation of slaves. The degree in which Connecticut was implicated, we are not able to ascertain.
The commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have the honor of leading the way in the ABOLITION of slavery. The efforts of William Penn for the accomplishment of this object have been already recited. Before the year 1641, the general court of Massachusetts re-enacted some of the most benevolent provisions of the Mosaic code, touching this subject. In 1645, a Mr. Williams of Piscataqua, was required to give up a slave who had been kidnapped on the coast of Guinea. In 1645, the same legislature inhibited the trade in slaves. The disputes with Great Britain seemed to have awakened an extensive sympathy for the negroes. Remonstrances were sent to the British government, previously to the Declaration of Independence. In 1770, there was a decision in the supreme court, which was highly favorable to a slave. Nathaniel Appleton and James Swan, eminent merchants, and judge Sewall, gave a zealous and enlightened support to the friends of freedom. On the 1st day of March, 1780, the assembly of Pennsylvania passed a bill with this expressive title, “ An act for the gradual abolition of slavery.” “We esteem it a peculiar blessing granted to us,” say the legislature, “ that we are enabled this day to add one more step to universal civilization, by removing as much as possible, the sorrows of those who have lived in undeserved bondage, and from which, by the assumed authority of the kings of Great Britain, no effectual relief could be obtained.* Weaned by a long course of experience from those narrow prejudices and partialities we had imbibed, we find our hearts enlarged with kindness and benevolence towards men of all conditions and nations; and we conceive ourselves at this particular period extraordinarily called upon, by the blessings we have received, to manifest the sincerity of our profession, and to give a substantial proof of our gratitude.” “ And whereas the condition of those persons who have been heretofore denominated negro and mulatto slaves, has been attended with circumstances which not only deprived them of the common blessings that they were by nature entitled to, but has cast them into the deepest afflictions by an unnatural separation and sale of husband and wife from each other, and from their children-an injury, the greatness of which can only be conceived by supposing that we were in the same unhappy case. In justice, therefore, to persons so unhappily circumstanced, &c. Be it enacted, That all persons, as well negroes and mulattoes as others, who shall be born within this State from and after the passing of this act, shall not be deemed and considered as servants for life, or slaves; and that all servitude for life, or slavery of children in consequence of the slavery of their mothers, in the case of all children born within this State from and after the passing of this act as aforesaid, shall be, and hereby is UTTERLY TAKEN AWAY, EXTINGUISHED, AND FOREVER ABOLISHED.” No person, then a slave, could be retained when over twentyeight years of age, unless registered previously to November of that year. The abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, takes its date one day later than the date of the abolitionlaw of Pennsylvania. It resulted in Massachusetts as a consequence of the primary article in the bill of rights, prefixed to the constitution of the State—the language of which article is, “ all men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and lib
* See Dr. Belknap's answers to the inquiries of judge Tucker of Virginia, in the second volume of the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
* The most signal effort here alluded to on the part of the general assembly of Pennsylvania, when a colony, to prevent the importation of slaves, was an act passed June 12, 1712, but disallowed and accordingly repealed by Queen Anne, on the 20th of February, 1713. This is one of numerous instances, showing that the government of the mother country were determined at all events to fasten slavery on their colonies.
erties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property ; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.” This clause was inserted, not as expressing a general truth, but with a particular application to the colored people. Some slaves immediately assumed their freedom. In 1783, a decision of the supreme court in favor of a colored man, gave a death blow to the system. The legislature of Connecticut, at a special session held in January, 1784, for the purpose of revising and amending the code of laws, agreed to incorporate this section ; " No negro or mulatto child, that shall after the first day of March, 1784, be born within this State, shall be held in servitude longer than until they arrive at the age of twenty-five years, notwithstanding the mother or parent of such child was held in servitude at the time of its birth, but such child, at the age aforesaid, shall be free.” According to the census of 1830, there were twentyfive slaves in Connecticut About the same time the legislature of Rhode Island enacted a law on the same subject, varying in a slight degree from that of Connecticut, yet fixing the same day as the period at which hereditary servitude should cease. Sixteen slaves are enumerated in the last census. The importation of slaves into Connecticut was prohibited in October, 1774, and in Rhode Island, it is believed, at a period equally remote. New Hampshire having in her constitution, which was finally ratified on the eighth day of February, 1792, inserted a provision of similar import, and comprised indeed in nearly the same words with that already cited from the constitution of Massachusetts, has, by implication, also abolished slavery within her territory. The citizens of Vermont, not contented with implication on such a momentous subject, established by distinct enunciation, the inference as well as the principle, in their constitution formed in July, 1793. The following are the words of the inference ; “ Therefore, no male person born in this country or brought over from sea, ought to be holden by law to serve any person as a servant, slave, or apprentice, after he arrives at the age of twenty-one years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives at the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent after they arrive at such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.”
The first act of the State of New York on the subject, bears date the 29th of March, 1799, and provides, “That all children born of slaves after the fourth of July, 1799, should be held by the owner of the mothers of the same only until they should respectively attain to the age of twenty-eight years, if males ; and if females, until the age of twenty-five years.” Another act of similar import was passed April 8th, 1801. A final blow was given to slavery in that State, by an act of March 31st, 1817. The fourth section is as follows; “Every child born of a slave within this State, after July 4th, 1799, shall be free, but shall remain the servant of the owner of his or her mother, and the executors, administrators, or assigns of such owner, in the same manner as if such child had been bound to service, by the overseers of the poor, and shall continue in such service, if a male, until the age of twenty-eight years, and if a female until the age of twenty-five years; and every child born of a slave within this State, after the passing of this act, shall remain a servant as aforesaid, until the age of twenty-one years, and no longer.” The thirty-first section declares that "every negro, mulatto, or mustee, within this State, born before the fourth of July, 1799, should, from and after the fourth day of July, 1827, be free.” This day has passed, and not a slave is now found in the borders of this great State. After several ineffectual efforts on the part of the advocates of human rights, an act was at length obtained on the 14th day of February, 1804, from the legislature of New Jersey, entitled “ an act for the gradual abolition of slavery.” It does not differ materially from the law of Rhode Island, except that white male children born of slaves after the fourth of July, 1804, may be retained as servants, by the owners of their mothers, until the age of twenty-five years only, and female children, in like manner, until the age of twenty-one years only. The number of slaves in 1830 was 2,254; 14 of whom only were under ten years of age.
From the States and territories north of the Ohio river and east of the Mississippi, slavery is forever excluded by the provisions of an ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States, northwest of the river Ohio,” which was ratified by Congress, July 13th, 1787. The ordinance recites and adopts certain articles, previously agreed upon by the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia, in the compact by which these States ceded the Northwestern territory to the Federal government. The articles alluded to are styled, “ Articles of compact between
the original States and the people and States within the said territory, forever to remain unalterable, unless by common consent.” The sixth article provides that “there shall neither be slavery nor involuntary servitude in said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The inhabitants of Ohio, in addition to the condition contained in the ordinance, embodied the following excellent provision in their constitution. “ Nor shall any indenture of any negro or mulatto, hereafter made and executed out of this State, or if made in the State where the term of service exceeds one year, be of the least validity, except those given in the case of apprenticeships.” A provision in nearly the same words is inserted in the constitution of Illinois, and also in the constitution of Indiana, with the omission in the latter of the words, “or if made in the State."*
Maine, as a distinct sovereignty, was never contaminated with slavery, having been a part of Massachusetts till 1820. Her constitution, adopted October 29, 1819, and ratified by Congress, March 2d, 1821, contains the same declaration of unalienable rights, which gave freedom to all slaves within the parent commonwealth.
The number of States in which slavery is abolished is twelve, or one half of the whole number. The abolition-acts
* The following is a brief statement of the measures adopted respecting this subject. The cession was made on the part of Virginia, in March, 1781. On the 19th of April following, a committee, consisting of Messrs. Jefferson, Chase, and Howell, reported a plan for a temporary government of the territory, in which was this article" That after the year 1800, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convicted.” Mr. Spaight of North Carolina moved to strike out this paragraph. The question was put, “ Shall these words stand as part of the plan?" New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, seven States voted in the affirmative. Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, in the negative. North Carolina was divided. As the consent of nine States was necessary, the words could not stand, and were stricken out accordingly. Mr. Jefferson voted for the clause, but was overruled by his colleagues. In March of the next year, Mr. King, of Massachusetts, seconded by Mr. Ellery, of Rhode Island, proposed the formerly rejected article, with this addition, “ And that this regulation shall be an article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitutions between the thirteen original States, and each of the States described in the resolve," &c. On this clause, which provided the adequate security, the eight northern States voted in the affirmative, and the four southern States in the negative. The votes of nine States were not yet obtained, and the motion was lost. Two years afterwards the requisite number of votes was received, and the existing ordinance was established. The articles were drawn up by Nathan Dane, of Beverly, Massachusetts,