Manumission Act, 1784

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  • Manumission Act, 1784

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Manumission Act, 1784


Image of "An Act authorizing the Manumission of Negroes, Mallattoes, & others, and for the gradual Abolition of Slavery" from the Rhode Island General Assembly, 1784. This was the beginning of Rhode Island's gradual abolition of slavery.

See also:
Address Delivered Before the Rhode Island General Assembly, February 12, 1930


Rhode Island State Archives




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An Act authorizing the Manumission of Ne-
groes, Mallattoes, & others, and for the gradual Abo-
lition of Slavery.
Whereas all Men are entitled to Life, Liberty
and the Pursuit of Happiness, yet the holding Man-
kind in a State of Slavery, as private Property, which
has gradually obtained by unrestrained Custom and the
Permission of the Laws, is repugnant to this Principle,
and subversive of the Happiness of Mankind, the
great End of all civil Governments:
Be it therefore enacted by this General As-
sembly, and by the Authority thereof it is enacted
that no Person or Persons, whether Negroes, Mola-
toes or others, who shall be born within the Limits
of this State, on or after the first day of March
AD 1784, shall be deemed or considered as Servants
for Life or Slaves, And that all Servitude for Life
to be born as aforesaid,
or Slavery of Children ^ in Consequence of the Condition
of their Mothers, be and the same is hereby taken
away, extinguished & forever abolished.
And whereas Humanity requires that Chil-
dren declared free as aforesaid remain with their
Mothers a convenient Time from and after their
Birth, To enable therefore those who claim the Ser-
vices of such Mothers to maintain and support
such Children in a becoming Manner, it is further
enacted that such Support and Maintenance be
at the Expense of the respective Town where those
Reside and are settled, Provided however that the respective Town Councils may bind out such Children as Apprentices, or otherwise provide for their Support and Maintenance, at any Time after they arrive to the age of one Year and before they arrive to their respect ages of Twenty one and Eighteen: And whereas it is the earnest Desire of this Assembly that such Children be educated in the Principles of Morality and Religion, and instructed in reading, writing and Arithmatic, Be it therefore enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that due and adequate Satisfaction be made as aforesaid for such Education and Instruction: And for ascertaining the Allowance for such support and Maintenance, Education and Instruction aforesaid, the respective Town Councils are hereby required to adjust and settle the amounts in this behalf from Time to Time as
the same shall be exhibed to them, which Settlement so made shall be final and the respective Towns, by Virtue

thereof shall become liable to pay the Sums therein Specified and allowed And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid that all Persons held in Servitude or Slavery, who shall be hereafter emancipated by those who claim them, shall be Supported as other Paupers and not at the separate Expense of the Claimants if they become chargeable, provided they shall be between the Ages of Twenty one Years, if Males, and Eighteen Years, if
Females, and forty Years, and are of sound Body and
Mind, which Shall be judged of, and determined by the
Town Councils aforesaid In the Lower House.

Read the same Day and concurred
By Order Henry Ward Secy

Original Format



Rhode Island. General Assembly, "Manumission Act, 1784," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #71, (accessed December 5, 2019).