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Topic Sixty-two:  Readings to Learn about Abraham Lincoln while in Springfield (HOME PAGE) On-Line Hunt-a-Puzzle



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The Illinois Black Laws of 1819


Illinois had placed into it's Constitution of 1818, at the pushing of Governor Coles, that slavery would not be legal.  This would take much discussion and political maneuvering.  A compromise was eventually reached: slavery was prohibited except in the salt mines, where it was allowed to continue until 1825. A later attempt to amend the constitution to allow slavery failed.   Illinois courts would hear arguments concerning slaves and slave-owners in Illinois all the way into the 1840's.  Lawyer Abraham Lincoln (1847) would even defend a slave owner in Coles County, but lost that case.  The Fugitive Slave law of 1850, created a terrible and fearful environment for all blacks in Illinois.  It would take the 13th Amendment in 1865, to finally end the issues and division over slavery, even in Illinois.

     In actuality, slavery was legal in Illinois for a short time in its earliest years.  Governor Coles brought this to the attention of the new state leaders.  We can read about this here:  "

     "The legislature convened at Vandalia, on the first Monday in December, 1822. On account of the division of the pro-slavery vote between Phillips and Brown, the anomaly was presented of a legislature containing a large majority in favor of slavery and a governor opposed to the institution. When the Governor delivered his inaugural address before the legislature, he called attention to the fact that slavery really existed in Illinois notwithstanding the provisions Of the ordinance of 1787, and urged upon the legislature such remedial legislation as would lead to the emancipation of the slaves, a repeal or revision of the "black laws," and such legislation as would make Illinois a free State in fact."  From the Illinois State Historical Society, by Ethan A. Snively, 1901

     In 1819, special laws had to be enacted to take care of the blacks entering into the state through "escaping," and other means.

     It was a bad time for African Americans everywhere in the country.  They could be free in Illinois, though, if the laws were obeyed. 

An explanation of the Illinois Black Laws:

     "On the 30th day of March, 1819, the first General Assembly of the State passed what was known as the "Black Laws." They provided that no negro or mulatto should settle in the State until he had first produced a certificate of freedom under seal of a court of record, which together with a description of the person producing it, and also his family, if he had one, was to be duly recorded in the county in which he proposed to settle. The overseers of the poor were empowered to expel such negroes or mulattoes whenever they desired. Any person bringing slaves into the State with a view of emancipating them was required to execute a bond in the sum of one thousand dollars as a guaranty that the person emancipated would not become a county charge, if he neglected to execute the bond, he was liable to a fine of two hundred dollars. All resident free negroes and mulattoes, before the first day of June following, were to enter their Dames and every member of their families with the clerk of the circuit court, together with their evidence of freedom.     

     No person was permitted to employ a negro or mulatto without such evidence of freedom under penalty of one dollar and fifty cents per day for each day employed. To harbor any slave or servant, or to hinder the owner in retaking any slave was made a felony punishable by a fine two-fold the value of the slave and a whipping not to exceed thirty stripes Any negro or mulatto not having a proper certificate of his freedom was deemed a runaway slave subject to arrest; he was to be advertised for six weeks by the sheriff and if no owner appeared, he was sold for one year, at the end of which time he was entitled to a certificate of his freedom, which was good unless an owner appeared and claimed him. No person was permitted to trade with a servant or slave without the consent of the master. A slave found ten miles from home was subject to arrest and to be punished by thirty-five stripes; or, if he appeared at any dwelling without leave of his master, the owner of the dwelling was permitted to give him ten stripes. Unlawful assemblies by slaves or servants were punished by thirty-nine stripes, while in all cases where free persons were punished by a fine, slaves were to be punished by whipping at the rate of twenty stripes for each eight dollars of fine, with the Proviso that not more than forty lashes be given at any one time."  Also from the Illinois State Historical Society, by Ethan A. Snively, 1901.

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