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Historical Document
Petition of the "People of Colour... Philadelphia"

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In 1799, led by the Reverend Absalom Jones, seventy-one "People of Colour, Freemen within the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia" submitted a petition to congressional Representative Robert Waln, requesting protection "from the oppression and violence which so great a number of like colour and National Descent are subjected."

The petition focused not only on slavery and the international slave trade, but also on "another equally wicked practised openly by Citizens of some of the Southern States upon the waters of Maryland and Delaware." It went on to describe in detail the process of "kidnapping those of our Brethren that are free, and purchasing others of such as claim a property in them" by slave speculators and their agents. The petition further noted that "In the Constitution, and the Fugitive bill, no mention is made of Black people or of Slave," therefore asserting the petitioners' right "to partake of the Liberties and unalienable Rights" guaranteed by the Declaration and the Bill of Rights.

Waln introduced the petition in the House of Representatives on January 2, 1800, where it sparked a huge debate, prompting the opinion by House members that it had "a tendency to create disquiet and jealousy." The petition was referred to committee, where it died.

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Related Entries:
Kidnapping in Pennsylvania
Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
Portrait of Absalom Jones

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