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Manumission of Slaves in North Carolina

Primary source: An Act to Prevent Domestic Insurrections, and for other Purposes, state law, 1777.
Caption: In the wake of the Revolution, many Southern states liberalized their provisions for manumission. By 1790, slaveholders could manumit their slaves throughout the South, except in North Carolina.

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I. Whereas the evil and pernicious Practice of freeing Slaves in this State, ought at this alarming and critical Time to be guarded against by every friend and Wellwisher of his Country: . . . 

II. Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and by the Authority of the same, That no Negro or Mulatto Slave shall hereafter be set free, except for meritorious Services, to be adjudged of and allowed by the County Court, and Licence first had and obtained thereupon. And when any Slave is or shall be set free by his or her Master or Owner otherwise than is herein before directed, it shall and may be lawful for any Free holder in this State, to apprehend and take up such Slave, and deliver him or her to the Sheriff of the County, who, on receiving such Slave, shall give such Freeholder a Receipt for the same; and the Sheriff shall commit all such Slaves to the Gaol of the County, there to remain until the next Court to be held for such County; and the Court of the County shall order all such confined slaves to be sold during the Term to the highest Bidder . . . 

V. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Slave or Slaves shall hereafter be allowed by his or her Master, Mistress, or Overseer, or other Person having the Care of such Slave or Slaves, to hire out him or herself, such Slave may be taken up by any Magistrate or Freeholder, and kept to hard Labour, for the Use of the Poor of the County, for any Time not exceeding Twenty Days; any Law, Usage, or Custom, to the contrary notwithstanding. . . 

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An Act to Prevent Domestic Insurrections, and for other Purposes (1777); reprinted in The State Records of North Carolina: Published Under the Supervision of the Trustees of the Public Libraries, by Order of the General Assembly, vol. 24, Laws 1777–88, ed. Walter Clark (North Carolina: Nash Brothers, Book and Job Printers, 1905).

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