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shall happen to become servants for time, enacts “ that all slaves set at liberty by their owners, and all negro, mulatto, and Spanish Indians, who are servants to masters for time, in case they shall come to want after they shall be so set at liberty or the time of their service be expired”—they shall be relieved at the cost of their masters. Rev. L. 1715, p. 164.
1715,—the date of a revision of the Laws : in which, an act concerning arrests for debt : that the debtor, “if no estate appear, he shall satisfy the debt by service, if the creditor shall require it, in which case he shall not be disposed in service to any but of the English nation,” p. 5 of Rev. continued in the later revisions.
- An act relating to freemen. Persons desiring to become “freemen of this corporation,” having a certificate of the selectmen that they are persons of quiet and peaceable behavior and civil conversation, of the age of twenty-one years, and freeholders—to be admitted on taking the oaths, p. 40 of Rev.
- An act to prevent the running away of Indian and negro servants, p. 87 of Rev.
- An act prohibiting the importation or bringing into this colony any Indian servants or slaves. “Whereas divers conspiracies, outrages, barbarities, murders, burglaries, thefts and other notorious crimes, at sundry times, and especially of late, have been perpetrated by Indians and other slaves, within several of his Majesties plantations in America, being of a malicious and revengeful spirit, rude and insolent in their behaviour and very ungovernable ; the over great number of which, considering the different circumstances of this colony from the plantations in the islands, and our having considerable numbers of the Indians, natives of the country, within and about us, may be of pernicious consequence to his Majesties subjects and interests here ; unless speedily remedied,”-enacts “all Indians brought into this colony, to be disposed of or sold here, to be forfeited to the treasury of the colony unless the importers give security to re-export,” p. 209 of Rev.
"Mr. Hildreth, 1 Hist. U. S. 372, says this provision is in the code of 1650.
1720. An act to prevent such as have made their escape from justice, or have been convicted of certain crites in other colonies from making their abode in this colony. - Reprint 1737, p. 258. Continued and modified, in later laws, see ed. Laws 1810, p. 359, note. Rev. 1750, p. 106; 1784, p. 110.
1723. An act to prevent the disorder of negro and Indian servants and slaces in the night season. Reprint 1737, p. 291.
1725. That delinquents under penal laws may be “ disposed of in service to any inhabitant of the colony,” to defray the expense of their prosecution. Repr. 1737, p. 314.
1727. An act requiring masters and mistresses of Indian children to use their “utmost endeavours to teach said children to read English, and to instruct them in the principles of the Christian faith.” Same, p. 339.
1730. An act for the punishment of negro, Indian, and mulatto slaves for speaking defamatory words. To be punished, on trial before a justice, by whipping, not exceeding forty stripes; "and the said slave, so convict, shall be sold to defray all charges arising thereupon ; unless the same be by his or their master or mistress paid and answered.” Same, p. 375.
1750. An act to prevent such persons abiding, and hiding in this colony, as make their escape from justice, or are convicted of certain crimes in other colonies. After providing for their expulsion, as in the act of 1720, contains a provision, " that if any such person or persons flying, or making escape, as aforesaid, be pursued by order of proper authority, from any other Government, in order to bring him or them to justice, he or they may be apprehended by order of the authority of this Government. And if, on examination and enquiry into the matter, it shall appear such person or persons have been convicted, as aforesaid, and are escaped, or are flying from prosecution as aforesaid, he or they may be remanded back and delivered to the authority or officers from whom such escape is made, in order that due and condign punishment may be inflicted on such transgressors.” Rev. of 1750, p. 106.
1774. October. Act against importation of slaves"No Indian, negro, or mulatto slave shall at any time hereafter be LAWS OF RHODE ISLAND.
brought or imported into this State, by sea or land, from any place or places whatsoever, to be disposed of, left or sold, within this State."
1776, October. The charter of 1662 made the constitution of the State of Connecticut, and its sovereignty declared. Laws 1784, p. 1.
$ 223. LEGISLATION OF RHODE ISLAND.
The earliest legislation of a distinct colonial character, within the limits of the present State, is that of an Assembly consisting of the collective freemen of the various settlements or so called towns, then known as the “ Providence Plantations ;" convened at Portsmouth, in Rhode Island, May 19, 20, 21; 1647. These “ Acts and Orders” contain provisions in the nature of private law, though embodied with declarations of public law, or political constitution. Among these the following may be noted as particularly connected with the subject of this chapter :
See Jackson v. Bulloch, 12 Conn. Rep. 42, for a judicial exposition of the history of slavery in the colony and State, also Reeves' Domestic Relations, 340.
? In view of this, Mr. Bancroft, Hist. U. S. vol. i., p. 402, says, “but the people of Connecticut have found no reason to deviate essentially from the frame of government established by their fathers. No jurisdiction of the English monarch was recognized; the laws of honest justice were the basis of their commonwealth, and therefore, its foundations were lasting." Considering the reputation of the earlier legislation of Connecticut as a restraint on the liberty of the subject, it may be well to refer the curious reader to the statutes of 1715, respecting the observation of the Lord's day and for the suppression of immorality and irreligion—p. 206 of the first edition of the State laws.
3 In the legislation above cited the charter granted by the Earl of Warwick, Lord High Admiral, and others, Commissioners under the authority of Parliament, March 14, 1643, was expressly referred to as a source of political power. This charter gave to the "inhabitants of the towns of Providence, Portsmouth and Newport, a free and absolute Charter of incorporation to be known by the name of the Incorporation of Providence Plantations, &c., together with full power and authority to rule themselves, and such others as shall hereafter inhabit, &c., by such a form of civil government, as by voluntary consent of all, or the greater part of them, they shall find most suitable, &c. Provided nevertheless that the said laws, &c., &c., be conformable to the laws of England, so far as the nature and Constitution of the place will admit." (Records of the Col. edited by J. R. Bartlett, 1856, vol. I. p. 143, 156.) But the persons who acted as the freemen, or who assumed to be these inhabitants, were those who as members of the several towns or settlements-Providence, Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick,-had, in the name of the majority, declared themselves the “free men” or “free inhabitants." Those of the first-named three towns had, for some years before, exercised civil power in their several settlements. The inhabitants of Warwick, had not assumed such a power, which they contended was illegal: but, though not mentioned in the Charter, they appeared in the Assembly of 1647. (Roc
LAWS OF RHODE ISLAND.
“It was ordered, upon the request of the Commissioners of the town of Providence, that their second instruction should be granted and established unto them, viz., 'We do voluntarily assent and are freely willing to receive and be governed by the laws of England, together with the way of the administration of them, so far as the nature and constitution of this plantation will admit, desiring, so far as may be possible, to hold a correspondence with the whole colony," &c. 1 R. I. Col. Rec. p. 147. Also under the title Touching Laws, in four heads, the first of which is,—“That no person in this colony shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseised of his lands and liberties, or be exiled, or any otherwise molested or destroyed, but by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by some known law, and according to the letter of it, ratified and confirmed by the major part of the General Assembly, lawfully met and orderly managed.” 1 R. I. Col. Records, 157.
“Touching the Common Law, it being the common right among common men, and is profitable either to direct or correct all without exception; and it being true, which that great Doctor of the Gentiles once said, that the law is made or brought to light, not for a righteous man, who is a law unto himself, but for the lawless and disobedient in the general, but more particularly for murderers of fathers and mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, and those that defile themselves with mankind, for manstealers, for liars and perjured persons, unto which, upon the point may be reduced the common law of the realm of England,' the end of which is, as is propotinded, to preserve every man safe in his own person, name and estate, we do agree to make or rather to bring such laws to light for the direction or correction of such lawless persons ; and for their memory's sake to reduce them to these five general laws or heads," &c., &c. 1 Records, 158,
ords, vol. I. pp. 27, 45, 52, 87, 129; 2 Douglas' Summary, p. 80. Staples' Annals of Prov. p. 55.) This Assembly declared_ the form of government established in Providence Plantations is democratical; that is to say, a government held by the free and voluntary consent of all or the greater part of the free inhabitants." 1 Records, 156.
This definition may be attributed to the Antinomian doctrines of the great majority of the first settlers, 1 Douglas' Summary, p. 444, note.
LAWS OF RHODE ISLAND.
Debts, &c.“ But he (the debtor) shall not be sent to prison, there to lie languishing to no man's advantage ; unless he refuse to appear or to stand to their order.” 1 Records, 181.
Under Breach of Covenant it is enacted that servants shall not depart from service before the expiration of the time agreed, &c. 1 Records, 183.
1652. “Whereas, there is a common course practised amongst Englishmen to buy negers, to the end that they may have them for service or slaves forever ; for the preventinge of such practices among us, let it be ordered, that no blacke mankind or white being forced by covenant bond or otherwise, to serve any man or his assighnes longer than ten yeares, or untill they come to bee twentie-four yeares of age, if they be taken in under fourteen, from the time of their cominge within the liberties of this collonie. And at the end or terme of ten years to set them free as the manner is with English servants. And that man that will not let them goe free, or shall sell them away elsewhere, to the end that they may bee enslaved to others for a long time, hee or they shall forfeit to the collonie forty pounds." 1 Records, 241, 243.
1675. “The legislature passed this order that 'no Indian in this Colony be a slave, but only to pay their debts, or for their bringing up, or custody they have received, or to perform covenant, as if they had been countrymen, not in war. Some of the Indian captives were, however, in the great Indian war of 1675-6, sold by the Colony ; not for life, however, but for a
Under the then existing form of government this aet operated only in the towns of Providence and Warwick, by whose Commissioners it was enacted. According to a Report upon Abolition Petitions made by Elisha R. Potter, of Kingstown, in the R. I. Legislature, Jan. 1840, this is the first legislative notice of the subject. It never obtained the force of a general law. 1 Banc. 174. 1 Hildr. 373.
* This was under the Charter of Charles 2d, 1663, which declared that certain persons named, “and all such others as now are, or hereafter shall be admitted free of the Company and Society of our Colony of Providence Plantations, in the Narraganset Bay, in New England, shall be from time to time, and forever hereafter, & body corporate and politick, in fact and name, by the name of the Governor and Company of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," &c., and provided for an assembly of deputies to be elected "by the major part of the Freemen of the respective places, towns, or places,” &c., “such laws, &c., be not contrary and repugnant unto, but, as near as may be, agreeable to the laws of this our realm of England, considering the nature and constitution of the place and people there." ; Hazard, 612.