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Original Documents Freedom & Emancipation

Pennsylvania Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery
1780
Cited in Dorothy Schneider & Carl J. Schneider, eds.
SLAVERY IN AMERICA: FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE CIVIL WAR. (New York: Facts on File, 2000).
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Document Description
Most states in the North did not abolish slavery immediately. Instead, they passed "Gradual Emancipation" laws which called for a phasing out of slavery. With its statute of 1780, Pennsylvania became one of the first states to enact such legislation.

Transcript
[W]e rejoice that it is in our power, to extend a portion of that freedom to others, which hath been extended to us ... We esteem it a peculiar blessing granted to us, that we are enabled this day to add one more step to universal civilization, by removing, as much as possible, the sorrows of those, who have lived in undeserved bondage ...

III. Be it enacted, and it is hereby enacted, That all persons as well Negroes and Mulattoes as others, who shall be born within this state from and after the passing of this act, shall not be deemed and considered as servants for life, or slaves; and that all servitude for life, or slavery of children, in consequence of the slavery of their mothers, in the case of all children corn within this state from and after the passing of this act as aforesaid, shall be, and hereby is, utterly taken away, extinguished, and for ever abolished.

IV. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That every Negro and Mulatto child, born within this state after the passing of this act as aforesaid (who would, in case this act had not been made, have been born a servant for years, or life, or a salve) shall be deemed to be, and shall be, by virtue of this act, the servant of such person, or his or her assigns, who would in such case have been entitled to the service of such child, until such child shall attain unto the age of twenty-eight years, in the manner, and on the conditions, whereon servants bound by indenture for four years are or may be retained and holden ...

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