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Historical Document
Appendix to Memorial to Pennsylvania Legislature
1832

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Click here for the text of this historical document.

In January, 1832, "the people of color of the city of Philadelphia and its vicinity" presented a "Memorial to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Drafted by James Forten, William Whipper, and Robert Purvis, the petition was a response to two pending legislative acts. The first was a resolution passed by the House to explore the passage of a law that would ban black emigration into the state; the second urged the repeal of previous acts related to fugitives. The basis of both resolutions was the popular belief that poor blacks placed an undue burden on publicly-funded relief.

While the Memorial from the black community offered moral arguments against the resolution, an attached six-point appendix offered facts to refute the idea that Philadelphia's black community constituted a financial burden on the city. The Memorialists had collected receipts for at least $2500 paid in taxes by blacks, "while the sum expended for the relief of [black] poor, out of the public funds has rarely, if ever, exceeded $2000 a year."

The appendix further described black-owned property in excess of $100,000, as well as the financial and moral impact of the city's "more than fifty beneficent societies, some of which were incorporated, for mutual aid in time of sickness and distress."

In presenting this carefully documented record of their "consistent, orderly and moral lives," Philadelphia's black community observed that "in the aggregate we will not suffer by a comparison with our white neighbors whose opportunities of improvement have been no greater than ours."







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