April 16, 1862: District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act

 

It is sometimes asked why compensated emancipation wasn’t attempted instead of fighting a Civil War, as if that had been the choice.  Although Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipation, neither the slave states nor the border states, in spite of Lincoln’s vigorous efforts, were interested.  There was one area, however, where Congress had the power to impose compensated emancipation, and that was in the District of Columbia which was under the direct control of Congress.  On April 16, 1862 President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emanipation Act.  Under the Act some 3,185 slaves were emancipated with the owners receiving approximately a million dollars in compensation.  The Civil War cost about two and a half million dollars a day for the Union.  In purchasing power a million Civil War era Union dollars has the spending power of about 27 million dollars today.

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May 18, 1652: Rhode Island Bans Slavery

Vernon-300x293

 

 

More than two centuries before slavery was abolished in the United States, Rhode Island passed the first anti-slavery statute in the English speaking colonies on May 18, 1652:

 

 

Whereas, it is a common course practiced amongst English men to buy
negers, to that end they have them for service or slave forever: let it be
ordered, no blacke mankind or white being forced by covenant bond, or
otherwise, to serve any man or his assighnes longer than ten years or until
they come to bee twentie four yearsof age, if they be taken in under
fourteen, from the time of their cominge with the liberties of this
Collonie.
The Act limited the time to ten years for whites and blacks being held as indentured servants.  Unfortunately, the Act quickly became a dead letter, and by the middle of the Eighteenth Century slaves constituted eleven percent of the population of Rhode Island.  The permanent abolition of slavery did not begin until the Rhode Island legislature passed a plan for gradual emancipation in February 1784.  All slaves born after March 1, 1784 were to be freed, girls at age 18 and boys at age 21.  By 1800 there were 384 slaves remaining in Rhode Island.  In 1840 these numbers were down to 5 quite elderly slaves, twelve years prior to the 200th anniversary of the first attempt to abolish slavery in Rhode Island.

 

Published in: on May 18, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 18, 1652: Rhode Island Bans Slavery  
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Pennsylvania 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery

1780 Act

 

In 1780 the State of Pennsylvania passed the first law in the Western hemisphere for the gradual abolition of slavery.  All slaves prior to the passage of the Act remained slaves.  (An Act passed in 1847 freed the few survivors of this group.)  However, all children of these slaves were to be freed when they attained the age of 28, and no new slaves who would reside in Pennsylvania for  longer than six months could be brought into the State without being granted their freedom after the six month period.  Legislation passed in 1788 cut off loopholes such as masters selling pregnant slaves out of state.  It wasn’t a perfect Act, but it succeeded in eliminating slavery in the Keystone State.  Would that such legislation had resolved the question of slavery peacefully throughout the country!  Here is the text of the Act: (more…)

Published in: on January 3, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Was Lincoln a Reluctant Abolitionist?

Lincoln was first and foremost a politician, and the sincerity of politicians is always subject to question, but it is impossible after examining his speeches and private letters not to be convinced of his deep and abiding hatred of slavery.

His attitude towards slavery was well set forth in the following letter to A.G. Hodges on April 4, 1864: (more…)

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Was Lincoln a Reluctant Abolitionist?  
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Get Off The Track!

Something for the weekend.  Get Off The Track! by the Hutchinson Family Singers, a family group of singers who were very popular in the North during the 1840’s, 1850’s and 1860’s.  They were fiery abolitionists and this song became the anthem of the crusade against slavery in the US. (more…)

The First Free State

The beginning of a new series looking at the ending of slavery in the North.  In many states it was a lengthy and convulted process.  Not so in Vermont where the constitution of 1777 abolished slavery outright: (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The First Free State  
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