Slave Laws Of Georgia, 1755-1860

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Slave Laws of Georgia, 1755-1860“Creating A More Educated Georgia”1

Law is interpreted differently across the state. Portions of Georgia remained frontier until 1830s.– More primitive conditions, judges, clerks, lawyers,jurors with different qualifications and priorities. There is no centralized judicial review until 1846.– Superior Courts are court of appeal for lower courtdecisions, but there are multiple superior court districts.– Supreme Court authorized in 1845, first cases heard in1846. Laws passed by the legislature are repetitious, duplicated.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”2

Colonial Slave Law, 1755 Passed after slavery was allowed in Georgia in 1750 andafter Georgia became a Royal Colony in 1754. Based on South Carolina Slave Code of 1740. Renewed in 1765. Revised in 1770. “Revived” after Statehood along with other Colonial Actsby Revival Act of 1784.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”3

Legislative Intent“Creating A More Educated Georgia”4

Legislative IntentWhereas, from the encreasing number of slaves in thisprovince, it is necessary, as well to make proper regulationsfor the future ordering and governing such slaves, and toascertain and prescribe the punishment of crimes by themcommitted, as to settle and limit, by positive laws, the extentof the power of the owners of such slaves over them, so thatthey may be kept in due subjection and obedience, andowners, or persons having the care and management of suchslaves, may be refrained from exercising unnecessary rigor orwanton cruelty over them,“Creating A More Educated Georgia”5

Legal Status“Creating A More Educated Georgia”6

Legal Status “All Negroes, Indians, Mulatoes or Mestizos (except thosealready free) who now are or shall hereafter be in thisprovince and their issue or offspring born or to be born arehereby declared to be and remain for ever after absoluteslaves.” Follow the legal condition of the mother (not the father). Deemed in law personal chattels. Can sue for freedom.– Guardian must file suit, as property slaves (and free people ofcolor) have no legal standing.– Burden of proof is on the plaintiff (slave).“Creating A More Educated Georgia”7

Legal Status Legal responsibility for enslaved persons includes master(owner) and persons “having charge or government of slave”(overseer, white family member, white employee). Under colonial law, penalties for white offenders usually consistof fines, whipping or corporal punishment for slaves. After statehood and establishment of county jails and StatePenitentiary in 1817, penalties for white offenders includeimprisonment. In language of the law, a person is a white person (and usuallymale). Qualified by “person of color.”“Creating A More Educated Georgia”8

Passes, Permits or Tickets A slave cannot go alone out of the town or plantationwhere they live unaccompanied by a white person, orwithout a letter or ticket signed by the master or person incharge. Any white person can apprehend and moderately correct aslave who is without a ticket or pass. Any white person who forges a ticket for another person’sslave (property) is fined. No more than 7 men slaves can travel high roads togetherunaccompanied by a white person.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”9

Passes, Permits or Tickets Every owner of a plantation with 25 slaves over the age of16 must retain one white man capable of bearing arms—fine, 5 per month. (1770) Modified, every owner who keeps 10 or more slaves over16 must keep a white man capable of bearing arms as anoverseer, manager or superintendent, same fine. (1823)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”10

Crimes of Masters and WhitePersons Regarding Slaves Beating, maiming, disabling a slave employed in thelawful service of his master. Concealing or conveying away a slave accused of crime toavoid trial. Master is fined up to 200 for capital crimes. Employing slaves to work on the Sabbath. A retailer giving or selling beer or liquor to slave. Hiring slaves without ticket from master, per diem fine. Working slaves more than 16 hours per day.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”11

Crimes of Masters and WhitePersons Regarding Slaves Denying sufficient clothing, shelter, foodHarboring or entertaining a runaway slave.Slave stealing, inveigling.Allowing persons of color or slaves to beat drums, blowhorns or allow public meeting or feastings of strangeslaves. Teaching slaves to write or employing them as scribes.– Teaching slaves to read outlawed 1770, re-enacted1829 along with free persons of color.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”12

Crimes of Masters and WhitePersons Regarding Slaves 1798 Constitution: Article IV, Section 12. Any person whoshall maliciously dismember or deprive a slave of life shallsuffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case thelike offence had been committed on a free white person,and on the like proof, except in case of insurrection bysuch slave, and unless such death should happen byaccident in giving such slave moderate correction. Prior to 1799, killing a slave, punished with progressivefines. After 1799, charged with same offense andpunishment as killing a white person. Manslaughter, the penalty is branding. (1799)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”13

Crimes (Penal Code) Cruel treatment, including excessive beating or whipping,withholding food or clothing, overworking, wasincorporated into the Penal Code. (1817) Extended to include employers (1833), overseers, biting ortearing with dogs. (1852) Employing (using) a slave in store, bar or shop sellingspirituous liquors. (1835)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”14

Assembly Justice of Peace may empower Constable (Sheriff) todisperse any assembly or meeting of slaves which maydisturb the peace.– Sheriff authorized to search for arms, ammunition,stolen goods. Owners fined for allowing public meeting or feastings ofstrange slaves or strange persons of color. “No congregation or company of negroes shall under anypretense of Divine worship, assemble themselves, contraryto the act for regulating patrols.” (1792)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”15

Assembly No person of color, free or slave, shall be allowed topreach or join in any religious exercise with any person ofcolor, free or slave, where more than 7 persons of color arepresent.– Must have written certificate from 3 ordained ministersof their order (denomination).– Must have written permission of county justices ofInferior Court.– Must have written permission of mayor or chief officer.(1833)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”16

Working Unlawful for a white person to buy, sell, trade, barter, etc., forany goods or commodities from a slave. Slaves are not allowedto keep boat or canoe or raise horses or cattle. (1770)– Any person can seize goods or articles and take to Justice ofthe Peace, goods sold at public auction.– Owners or persons in charge of slaves living within a town’slimits can give slaves a license to sell, with quantity andquality of goods specified in signed license. Unlawful to allow a slave to work outside their respectivehouses or families without ticket. Both owner and employerfined. (1770)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”17

Working No white person shall buy or sell from a slave without a ticketauthorizing him to do so cotton, tobacco, wheat, rye, oats, corn,rice, or other article. (1816) Amended to except such articles that are known to be usuallyvended and manufactured by slaves. (1824) Amended in Penal Code of 1833 to specify articles vended andmanufactured by slaves: “brooms, baskets, foot and bed mats, shuckcollars, and such other thing.”“Creating A More Educated Georgia”18

Runaway or Fugitive Slaves Lawful for any person to apprehend and secure any runaway orfugitive slave.– Required to send slave to master OR– Deliver to District Constable (Sheriff). Sheriff to advertise (by 1860, in newspaper advertising county’ssheriff’s sales). Schedule of fees for food, lodging, travel paid by owner/agent toConstable/Sheriff.– Constable (sheriff) can detain slave until fees are paid. If feesremain unpaid, he can sell slave at auction. If slave not claimed in 18 months, sold at auction. By 1860, time to claim runaway slaves reduced to 3 months.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”19

1802“Creating A More Educated Georgia”20

GeorgiaChronicle(Augusta),June 5, 1802Five Dollars RewardRun Away from the subscriber, onThursday the 20th inst. a negro womannamed MIRABELLE in French, but inEnglish FANNY, about thirty years of age,short and thin, well known in Augusta andits vicinity, branded on the breast VERDERSt. MARC. It is very probable she willmake for Mr. John Fox’s or Mr. Milledge’splantation, or to Mr. Ananias Cooper’smills, having a husband at each of theabove places. As I am told some personwished to purchase her, any person mayhave her for five hundred dollars.M. Verdery.May 28.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”21

GeorgiaChronicle(Augusta),June 5, 1802RUN-AWAY from the subscriber Four Negroes, to wit:GEORGE, a country born fellow, of a yellow complection[complexion], about thirty five years old, 5 feet 8 or 9inches high, rather slender made, and has one of his toes off.NANNY his wife, about 40 years old, much of thesame complection and height, some of her fore teeth out,and very thick lips.JUNE, a small fellow, about 27-8 years old, hisright hand has been burnt and his fingers stick together.AMEY, a young wench, very black, she has amulatto child, a boy about a year old.A Reward of FORTY DOLLARS will be paid forthem to any person that will deliver them to the subscriber,or lodge them in goal [gaol/jail] in Burke county.Matt. Clark.May 23.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”22

Crimes of Slaves Striking a white person, successive punishments bynumber of offenses. (1770)– Third offense death penalty. Carrying or using firearms or other weapons unless in thepresence of a white person without ticket or license frommaster to hunt. No firearms on the Sabbath, expanded toweekend. White person can seize firearms and give toJustice of Peace, forfeited by owner. Selling or exchanging goods, wares, grains, provisions,commodities.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”23

Crimes of Slaves Not permitted to rent or hire out any house, room, store orplantation on his own account. White person permitting this isfined. Not permitted to administer medicine to any other slave excepton direction of some white person. (1770) Employing (using) a slave in an apothecary shop (druggist) tocompound or sell drugs is a crime. Does not prevent druggistsor apothecaries from employing a slave to perform the laboriouspart of their work under supervision. (1835) Slave committing crime (except felony) by command of master,owner or employer is not guilty, but master etc. is. (1811)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”24

Crimes of Slaves Capital Crimes (1755)– Homicide of white person except by misadventure or in defense ofmaster or other person in authority.– Willfully burning or destroying a stack of rice, corn or other grain.– Willfully burning or destroying any tar kiln or barrels of pitch,turpentine or rosin.– Stealing any goods or chattels whatsoever.– Deluding or enticing any slave or slaves to run away.– Willfully poisoning any person.– Instructing another slave in the knowledge of poisons.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”25

Crimes of Slaves Additional Capital Crimes (Act of 1770)– Insurrection or an attempt to incite insurrection.– Rape or attempted rape on a free white female.– Assault of a free white person with attempt to murder.– Maiming a free white person.– Arson of any kind.– Murder of another slave or free person of color. All other offenses committed by slaves or free persons of colorpunished at discretion of the court; in no cases shall the same extend tolife and limb. (1816)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”26

GeorgiaTelegraph(Macon),November 23,1858“Creating A More Educated Georgia”27

Georgia Telegraph (Macon),November 23, 1858“The negro slave Jacob, property of H. Newsom, Esq., was onMonday, the 15th instant, convicted in Bibb Superior Court, of themurder of Thomas Babgy, Jr. The circumstances attending this sadcatastrophe are doubtless fresh in the minds of most of our readers.The deceased, an exemplary young man, while endeavoring todisposess this negro Jacob of some liquor which he was in the actof conveying into the Campground for the purpose of vending itcontrary to law and the regulations of the ground, was fatallystabbed by the prisoner, and died in a few hours after. The Jurywere but a few moments in making up the verdict, and the prisonerwas brought into Court and sentenced last Friday.”“Creating A More Educated Georgia”28

Patrols --1765 Law Militia captains appoint 2-3 citizens annually in each district as patrolcommissioners.– Patrol leaders make lists of persons liable for patrol duty, lay offdistricts in companies, select captains, 10-12 for each company. All white men between 16-60 must participate. Women originally ordered to participate. (repealed 1824) Fined for not participating. Must keep gun or pistol and rounds of ammunition. Examine all plantations in their district once every 14 days (2weeks) for slaves without passes, runaways. Shall punish by whipping. Have power to search slave houses for offensive weapons.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”29

Patrols --1765 Law Legislature passed local patrol laws. No major revision until 1854, kept 1765 provisions not in conflict.– Inferior Court appoints patrol commissioners. Act of 1856 exempted persons over 45 from patrol duty.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”30

Trials Laws change as court system changes and develops. 1755 law—there must be a trial for crimes committed. Evidence of slaves and Indians admitted (slaves and NativeAmericans not otherwise permitted in court). Free persons of color tried in like manner. (1755) Justices can summon and compel all persons to appear and giveevidence upon the trial of any slave. (contempt) Owners compensated for executed slaves from 1755-1793. After 1793, owners paid expense of prosecuting non-capitaloffenses. Act of 1803 includes clause that no slave shall be tried twice forthe same offense.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”31

Trials Slaves tried in Justices of the Peace Court, panel of 3 justices. Capital crimes tried in Inferior Court, jury trial. (1811)– From a jury pool of 36 to 24, owner or manager couldchallenge 7 and State could challenge 5. Trials for capital crimes transferred to Superior Court. (1849)– County attorney or solicitor prosecuted case.– Grand jury heard evidence and handed down indictment. Law of 1829 affirmed review of decisions of Justices of thePeace and Inferior Courts to the Superior Court. Supreme Court established, first trials in 1846.– Only cases where there was a technical error in the trial.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”32

Constitution of 1798Article IV Section 11. There shall be no future importation of slavesinto this State, from Africa or any foreign place, after thefirst day of October next. The legislature shall have nopower to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves withoutthe consent of each of the respective owners, previous tosuch emancipation. They shall have no power to preventemigrants from either of the United States to this Statefrom bringing with them such persons as may be deemedslaves by the laws of any one of the United States.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”33

Importing Slaves into the State Importing slaves into the state prohibited (slave traders)– Except for personal use.– Anyone moving into a county with slaves must register themwith the county Clerk of Superior Court. (1817)– Travelers through state are exempt.– Parents may give, hire or loan slaves to a child for one year.– Free persons of color from another state and seamen areprohibited from entering the state.– Restrictions on importation of slaves from other statesremoved, reinstated, and removed permanently by 1856.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”34

Manumission Act of 1801– Outlawed except by application to the legislature. (1801)– Illegal for clerks of Superior Court to record deed ofmanumission. (same act) Act of 1815– Clerks of Inferior Court (probate) prohibited from recordingany deed of manumission.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”35

Manumission Act of 1818– Fines increased from 200 to 500. (1818)– “Manumission by will, deed, contract, agreement, stipulation inwriting or by parol (word) for the purpose of manumission is nulland void.” Slaves cannot work for freedom or profit from labor.Every slave so manumitted arrested and sold at auction.– Free persons of color required to register.– Free persons of color forbidden to own real estate or slave. Act of 1859 prohibits manumission of slaves by deed or will afterSupreme Court decision declared such manumission contrary to theActs of 1801 and 1818.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”36

Probate Administrators and Executors have broad powers over assets (slaves)when settling estates.– Administrators of intestate estates cannot sell slaves unless the saleof the personal estate and hire of slaves for 1 year is insufficient topay debts of estate. (1805)– Court can order sale of slaves for “benefit of heirs and creditors.”(1829) Guardians have broad discretionary powers over assets of minors.– Under court order, guardians can hire out the slaves belongingminors or keep them together on plantation. (1829) Children under 5 years of any woman slave are not to be soldseparately, exposed to sale, or divided, unless a division cannot beotherwise effected. (1854)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”37

Civil Lawsuits and Debt As property, slaves can be used by owner as collateral,mortgaged, or sold to satisfy claims against owner. Currency is scarce, promissory notes (I promise to pay 10 at xinterest), are exchanged like currency. Notes are sold to thirdparties and renewed like loans. Upon default, slaves sold to payoff note. When writ of execution from a Justice of the Peace Court upon1 or more slaves is issued, the execution and claim is to betransferred to the Superior or Inferior Court, whichever meetsfirst, and tried in the same manner as other claims in that court.(1824)“Creating A More Educated Georgia”38

Columbus Enquirer, September 11, 1840“Lee County”“Will be sold on the first Tuesday in October next,at the court house in Starksville,”“Creating A More Educated Georgia”39

Columbus Enquirer,September 11, 1840Also two negros, Charlotte a girl about six years old, and Bena boy about five years old, levied on as the property of JohnTurner, to satisfy a fi fa issued from the Inferior Court of Leecounty, in favor of David Goff vs said John Turner, assignedover to Robert Kenady. Property pointed out by said Kenady.“Creating A More Educated Georgia”40

Bibliographies and Finding Aids Any colonial, state or county record which covers the timeperiod 1749-1865 is a potential source of informationabout slavery in Georgia Handout: Resources for Records of Enslaved People inGeorgia Finding Aids @ Georgia Archives (Archives main page) Virtual Vault County Records on Microfilm“Creating A More Educated Georgia”41

Sources for Laws and GeorgiaCodes Colonial Slave Code, 1755: Colonial Records of Georgia,vol. 18 Online: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000530729 Acts of the General Assembly, compilation of laws passedeach legislative session Search online, Georgia Legislative Documents(GALILEO), 1799-1999– Keyword, Boolean (and, or, not), Year and Page“Creating A More Educated Georgia”42

Sources for Laws and GeorgiaCodes Code: collection, compendium or revision of laws. CivilCode and Criminal Code. Arranged by topic, assignednumbers (title, chapter)– 1799 Watkins Digest of Statutes– 1837 Prince’s Digest– 1845 Hotchkiss’ Codification–

male). Qualified by “person of color.” . fugitive slave. – Required to send slave to master OR – Deliver to District Constable (Sheriff). Sheriff to advertise (by 1860, in newspaper advertising county’s sheriff’s sales). Schedule of fees for food, lodging, travel paid by owner/agent to

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