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

To the President, Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States-
The Petition of the People of Colour, Freemen within the City, and Suburbs of Philadelphia:

Humbly Sheweth,
That thankful to God our Creator and the Government under which we live, for the blessing and benefit extended to us in the enjoyment of our natural right to Liberty, and the protection of our Persons and property from the oppression and violence which so great a number of like colour and National Descent are subjected; We feel ourselves bound from a sense of these blessings to continue our respective allotments and to lead honest and peaceable lives, rendering due submission to the Laws, and exciting and encouraging each other thereto, agreeable to the uniform advice of our real friends of every denomination. - Yet" while we feel impressed with grateful sensations for the Providential favours we ourselves enjoy, We cannot be insensible of the conditions of our afflicted Brethren, suffering tinder curious circumstances in different parts of these States; but deep in, sympathizing with them. We are incited by a sense of Social duty and humbly conceive ourselves authorized to address and petition you in their behalf, believing them to be objects of representations in your public Councils, in common with ourselves and every other class of Citizens within tile .Jurisdiction of the United States, according to the declared design of the present Constitution formed by the General Convention and ratified in the different States, as set forth in the preamble thereto in tile following words--vix-"We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestick tranquility, provide for the Common Defence, and to secure the blessings of Liberty, to ourselves and posterity, do ordain &c."- We apprehend this solemn Compact is violated by a trade carried on in clandestine manner to the Coast of Guinea, and another equally wicked practised openly by Citizens of some of the Southern States upon the waters of Maryland and Delaware: Men sufficiently callous as to qualify, for the brutal purpose, are employed in kidnapping those of our Brethren that are free, and purchasing others of such as claim a property? in them; thus these poor helpless victims like droves of Cattle are seized, fettered, and 1-iiirried into places provided for this most horrid traffic, Such as dark cellars and garrets, as is notorious at Northurst, Chester-town, Eastown, and divers other places. After a sufficient number is obtained, then, are forced on board vessels, crouded tinder ]latches, and without the least commiseration, left to deplore the sad separation of the dearest ties in nature, husband from wife, and Parents from children thus pocket'd together they are transported to Georgia and other places and there inhumanely, exposed to sale: Can any Commerce, trade, or transaction, so detestably, shock the feelings of Man, or degrade the dignity of his nature equal to this, and how increasingly is the evil aggravated when practised in a Land, high in profession of the benign doctrines of our blessed Lord who taught his followers to do unto others as they would they should do unto them!--Your petitioners desire not to enlarge the volumes [that] might be filled with the sufferings of this grossly abused class of the human species (700,000 of whom it is said are now in unconditional bondage in these United States.) but, conscious of the rectitude of our motives in a concern so affecting its, and so essentially interesting to [the] welfare of this Country, we cannot but address you as is Guardians of our Civil rights, and Patrons of equal and National Liberty, hoping you will view the subject in an impartial and unprejudiced light.--We do not wish for:- the immediate emancipation of all, knowing,- that the degraded state of many and their Native of education, would greatly disqualify for such a change; but humbly desire, you may exert every means in your power to undo the heavy burdens, and prepare way for the oppressed to go free, that every yoke may, be broken.

The Law not long since enacted Congress called the Fugitive Bill, is, in its execution found to be attended, with circumstances peculiarly hard and distressing for many of our afflicted Brethren in order to avoid the barbarities wantonly exercised upon them, or thro fear of being carried off by those Men-stealers, have been forced to seek refuge by flight; they are then hunted by armed Men, and under colour of this law, cruelly treated, shot, or brought back in chains to those who have no just claim upon them.

In the Constitution and the Fugitive bill, no mention is made of Black people or Slaves -- therefore if the Bill of Rights, or the declaration of Congress are of any validity, we beseech that we as men, we may be admitted to partake of the Liberties and unalienable Rights therein held forth firmly believing that the extending of justice and equity to all Classes would be a means of drawing down the blessing of Heaven upon this Land, for the Peace and Prosperity of which, and the real happiness of every member of the Community, we fervently pray --

The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution 1770-1800, by Sidney Kaplan,
New York Graphic Society Ltd., in association with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1973


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