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priv'd of them by our fellow men as we are a freeborn Pep el and have never forfeited this Blessing by aney compact or agreement whatever. But we were unjustly dragged by the cruel hand of power from our dearest frinds and sum of us stolen from the bosoms of our tender Parents and from a Populous Pleasant and plentiful country and Brought hither to be made slaves for Life in a Christian land. Thus are we deprived of every thing that hath a tendency to make life even tolerable, the endearing ties of husband and wife we are strangers to for we are no longer man and wife then our masters or mestreses thinkes proper marred or onmarred. Our children are also taken from us by force and sent maney miles from us wear we seldom or ever see them again there to be made slaves of for Life which sumtimes is vere short by Reson of Being dragged from their mothers Breest Thus our Lives are imbittered to us on these accounts By our deplorable situation we are rendered incapable of shewing our obedience to Almighty God how can a slave perform the duties of a husband to a wife or parent to his child How can a husband leave master and work and cleave to his wife How can the wife submit themselves to there husbands in all things. How can the child obey thear parents in all things. There is a grat number of us sencear . . . members of the Church of Christ how can the master and the slave be said to fulfil that command Live in love let Brotherly Love contuner and abound Beare yea onenothers Bordenes How can the master be said to Beare my Borden when he Beares me down whith the Have chanes of slavery and operson against my will and how can we fulfill our parte of duty to him whilst in this condition and as we cannot searve our God as we ought whilst in this situation Mther can we reap an equal benefet from the laws of the Land which doth not justifi but condemns Slavery or if there had bin aney Law to hold us in Bondege we are Humbely of the Opinon ther never was aney to inslave our children for life when Born in a free Countrey. We therfor Bage your Excellency and Honours will give this its deu weight and consideration and that you will accordingly cause an act of the legislative to be pessed that we may obtain our Natural right our freedoms and our children be set at lebety at the yeare of Twenty one for whoues sekes more petequeley your Petitioners is in Duty ever to Pray. Vol. ii. 28
434 NEGRO PETITIONS FOR FREEDOM. [1774.
To his Excellency Thomas Gage Governor; — *
To the Honourable His Majesty's Council, and the Honourable House of Representatives of the Province of the Massachusetts May in General Court assembled, Jane —Anno Domini 1774.
The Petition of us the Subscribers, in behalf of all those, who, by divine permission, are held in a State of Slavery within the Bowels of a Free Country. Humbly Sheweth
That your petitioners apprehend, they have in common with other men, a natural right to be free, and without molestation, to enjoy such property, as they may acquire by their industry, or by any other means not detrimental to their fellow men; and that no person can have any just claim to their services unless by the laws of the land they have forfeited them, or by voluntary compact become servants; neither of which is our case; but we were dragged by the cruel hand of power, some of us from our clearest connections, and others stolen from the bosoms of tender parents and brought hither to be enslaved. Thus are we deprived of every thing that has a tendency to make life even tol[erable.] Whenever any social connections are formed among embittered by the cruel consideration of deprived of enjoying life in the same agre[able feljlow men, who were made by the
Inherit the like salvation with us. tion, we are rendered incapable of the Supreme Governor of the universe, to the duties, which are due unto him. an intolerable grievance, Ave are often under the necessity of obeying man, not only in omission of, but frequently in opposition to the laws of God. So inimical is Slavery to religion! As we are hinder'd by our situation from an observance of the Laws of God, so we cannot reap an equal benefit from the Laws of the Land with other subjects. We are informed, there is no law of this Province, whereby our masters can claim our "services, mere custom is the tyrant that keeps us in bondage, and deprives us of that use of the law, which our fellow men, who we believe under God are no better than us, are entitled to and do enjoy. We do not claim rigid justice, but as we are deserving like other, men, of some compensation for all our toils and sufferings; we would therefore in addition to our prayer, that all of us, excepting such as are now infirm through age, or otherways unable to support themselves, may be liberated and made free men of this community, and be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of its free and natural born subjects. Further humbly ask that your Excellency and Honours would be pleased to give and grant to us some part of the unimproved land, belonging to the province, for a settlement, that each of us may there quietly sit down under his own fig tree [and enjoy] the fruits of his labour.
* This petition was drawn up by a more skilful hand, as regards penmanship and orthography. — Eds.
We humbly Honours, will give this sch consideration: and pray cause and act of the Legislative the slaves throughout this obtain their freedom from
at the same time prohibiting any being sent out of the Province, previous to the said acts taking place; or at least to declare, that there is no Law whatever for keeping us in Bondage.
But if your Excellency and Honours cannot in wisdom adopt this plan of relief for us, we humbly and earnestly request, that you would release us from bondage by such other ways or means, as to your Excellency,and Honours shall seem good and wise upon the whole. And your Petitioners, as in duty bound shall ever pray.
436 NEGRO PETITIONS FOR FREEDOM- [1777.
To the Honorable Counsel & House of [Representatives for the State of Massachusitte Bay in General Court assembled, Jan. 13,
The petition of A Great Number of Blackes detained in a State of slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country Humbly shuwith that your Petitioners apprehend that thay have in Common with all other men a Natural and Unaliable Right to that freedom which the Grat Parent of the Una vers hath Bestowed equalley on all menkind and which they have Never forfuted by any Compact or agreement whatever — but thay wher Unjustly Dragged by the hand of cruel Power from their Derest friends and sum of them Even torn from the Embraces of their tender Parents — from A popolous Pleasant and plentiful contry and in violation of Laws of Nature and off Nations and in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity Brough hear Either to Be sold Like Beast of Burthen & Like them Condemnd to .Slavery for Life — Among A People Profesing the mild Religion of Jesus A people Not Insensible of the Secrets of Rationable Being Nor without spirit to Resent the unjust endeavours of others to Reduce them to a state of Bondage and Subjection your honouer Need not to be informed that A Life of Slavery Like that of your petioners Deprived of Every social privilege of Every thing Requiset to Render Life Tolable is far worse then Nonexistance.
[In imitatjion of the Lawdable Example of the Good People of these States your petiononers have Long and Patiently waited the Evnt of petition after petition By them presented to the Legislative Body of this state and cannot but with Grief Reflect that their Sucess hath ben but too similar they Cannot but express their Astonishment that It has Never Bin Consirdered that Every Principle from which Amarica has Acted in the Cours of their unhappy Deficultes with Great Briton Pleads Stronger than A thousand arguments in favowrs of your petioners they therfor humble Beseech your honours to give this petion its due weight & consideration and cause an act of the Legislatur to be past Wherby they may Be Restored to the Enjoyments of that which is the Naturel Right of all men — and their Children who wher Born in this Land of Liberty may not be heald as Slaves after they arive at the age of Twenty one years so may the Inhabitance of thes Stats No longer chargeable with the inconsistancey of acting themselves the part which thajr condem and oppose in others Be prospered in their present Glorious struggle for Liberty and have those Blessing to them, &c.
* This petition, in an improved form, is on the files at the State House in Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 212, p. 132. It is signed by Prince Hall and a few others.—Eds,