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"An ACT to amend the act intituled, 'An act to reduce into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes'" (1801)

In "An ACT to amend the act intituled, 'An act to reduce into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes,'" passed on January 21, 1801, the General Assembly updated several of its laws relating to slaves and free blacks. This came in wake of Gabriel's Conspiracy (1800).

Transcription from Original

1. Be it enacted by the general assembly, That if any personal shall permit his or her slave, or any slave hired by him or her, to go at large or hire himself or herself out, it shall be lawful for any person, and it shall moreover be the duty of every sheriff, deputy sheriff, coroner and sergeant of a corporation to apprehend and carry such slave before a magistrate of the county or corporation where apprehended; and if it shall appear to the magistrate that such slave comes within the purview of this act, he shall order him or her to the jail of the county or corporation, there to be safely kept until the next court, when, if it shall appear to the court that the slave so ordered to jail hath been permitted or suffered to hire him or herself out contrary to the meaning of this act, it shall be lawful for said court, and they are hereby required to order the sheriff or other officer to sell every such slave for ready money, at the next court held for the said county or corporation, notice being given at the courthouse door at least twenty days before such sale: Provided always, That no sale pursuant to this act shall convey a greater interest in such slave than the person himself or herself had, who commits a breach of this law, unless it shall appear to the court that the owner of such slave was privy to, or connived at such breach.

2. Any person who shall suffer a slave held by him or her as trustee, guardian, executor or executrix, administrator or admistratrix, to hire himself or herself out contrary to the meaning of this act, shall forfeit and pay forty dollars for each and every such offence, to be recovered by any person who will sue for the same, by action of debt or information in any court of record within this commonwealth.

3. One third of the amount of the sale of every such slave shall be applied by the court ordering such sale, towards lessening the county or corporation levy, and the residue shall be paid by the sheriff or other officer, after deducting six per centum on the whole amount for his trouble and the jailor's fees, to the person who shall inform thereof, and cause the fact to be established; and where there shall be no informer, then the whole proceeds of the sale, after deducting the commissions of the sheriff or other officer and jailor's fees as aforesaid, shall be applied towards lessening the county or corporation levy.

4. Any negro or mulatto, bond or free, shall be a good witness in pleas of the commonwealth for or against negroes or mulattoes, bond or free, or in civil pleas where free negroes or mulattoes shall alone be parties; and whereas experience has evinced that the fourth section of the act, intituled, "An act to prevent the migration of free negroes and mulattoes into this commonwealth," is defective: For remedy whereof, Be it enacted, That if any slave shall hereafter be brought or come into this state from any place without the limits of the same, it shall be the duty of any magistrate of the county or corporation where such slave shall be found, upon information to him given, to cause such slave to be immediately apprehended and brought before him or some other magistrate of the county or corporation, who, upon satisfactory evidence had, shall commit such slave to the jail of his county or corporation. And the magistrate so committing shall forthwith give notice to the governor of his proceedings, who, with the advice of council, shall take such steps for the removal and transportation out of this commonwealth of the slave or slaves so committed, at the public expence, as they in their discretion may think proper. And the expences so incurred shall be paid by the person importing or holding such slave so removed; and shall be recoverable against every such person as aforesaid, his or her executors and administrators, in the name of the governor of the commonwealth for the time being, by motion or suit, in which every such person may be held to bail, in any court of record in this commonwealth: Provided, ten days previous notice be given of such motion to the persons to be affected thereby: Provided also, That the governor shall have power to order such slave to be sold and transported without the limits of this commonwealth, if the person holding or importing said slave be unable to reimburse the commonwealth the expense of commitment, removal and transportation: Provided also, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to repeal the fourth section of the act, intituled, "An act to reduce into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes."

5. Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of every commissioner of the revenue, annually, to return to the court of his county or corporation, at the time he returns a list of taxable property, a complete list of all free negroes or mulattoes within his district, together with their names, sex, places of abode, and particular trades, occupation or calling, a copy of which list shall be fixed by the clerk of the said county corporation, at the courthouse door, and the original be deposited for safe keeping in his office; every commissioner of the revenue or clerk of a court, failing in said duty, shall forfeit and pay the sum of twenty dollars, to be recovered by motion or information, one half to the use of the county or corporation, and the residue to any person who shall sue for the same.

6. If any free negro or mulatto so registered, shall remove into another county, it shall and may be lawful for any magistrate of the county or corporation in which he or she may intrude, to issue a warrant to apprehend said free negro or mulatto; and if upon examination it be found that he or she has no honest employment by which to maintain him or herself, such free negro or mulatto shall be deemed and treated as a vagrant.

7. All the courts of law within this commonwealth shall constantly give this act in charge to the grand juries of their courts, at the times when such grand juries shall be sworn.

8. All acts and parts contrary to this act, shall be, and the same are hereby repealed.

9. This act shall commence in force from the first day of June next.