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Historical Document
A Memorial to the South Carolina Senate

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Click here for the text of this historical document.

Four years after the signing of the Constitution, a group of "Free-Men of Colour " from Charleston appealed to the South Carolina legislature for a partial repeal of the 1740 "Act for the better Ordering and Governing Negroes and other Slaves."

"The Negro Act," as it was commonly known, prohibited free blacks from testifying under oath, denied them the right to trial by jury, and subjected them to "Prosecution by Testimony of Slaves without Oath by which they are placed on the same footing."

Claiming citizenship under the Constitution, the petitioners reminded the Senate that they had "since the Independence of the United States contributed and do now contribute to the support of the Government by chearfully (sic) paying their taxes."

Despite the "unremitted grievances they...Labour under," the men did "not presume to hope that they shall be put on an equal footing with the Free white citizens of the state;" rather they simply sought the repeal of clauses within the act that put them on the same legal footing as slaves.

The memorial was rejected.

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