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An Act Relative to Slaves and Servants, 1817

An Act relative to slaves and servants
New York State Archives, NYSA_13036-78_L1817_Ch137_p2
 
Document Description
An act relative to slaves and servants, 1817, containing a provision freeing every child born of a slave in the state who was born after July 4, 1799. This was, however, a gradual process. All such children were still bound to the master of their mother until age 28 (for males) or age 25 (for females). Every child born of a slave after this act was passed was also legally owned by the mother's master until age 21. According to the terms of the law, all slaves were to be free by 1827.
 
Transcription
And be it further enacted, That every child born of a slave within this state, after the fourth of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine, shall be free, but shall remain the servant of the owner of his or her mother, and the executors, administrators or assigns of such owner, in the same manner as if such as child had been bound to service by the overseers of the poor, and shall continue in such service, if a male, until the age of twenty-eight years, and if a female until the age of twenty-five years; and that every child born of a slave within this state after the passing of this act, shall remain a servant as aforesaid until the age of twenty-one years and no longer.
 
Questions
What problem does this document address?
How does this document attempt to solve the problem?
 
Resources
Berlin, Ira and Leslie Harris. Slavery in New York.
 
            Johnson, Mat. The Great Negro Plot: A Tale of Conspiracy and Murder in Eighteenth
Century New York.
           
Singer, Alan J. New York and Slavery: Time to Teach the Truth.
 
 

Historical Context
White New Yorkers were divided over slavery even after the close of the American Revolution.  They remained divided over the issue of equal rights for blacks far longer.  While gradual emancipation proceeded according to state laws passed in 1799 and 1817, other laws and the 1821 state constitution barred large numbers of free blacks from voting.  New York's black abolitionists had many allies in the fight to end slavery nationwide, but found fewer supporters in their quest for equal voting rights in their own state.  Following the Civil War, many white New Yorkers resisted the national movement for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal voting rights for all men.  As late as 1869, a majority of the state's voters cast ballots in favor of retaining property qualifications that kept New York's polls closed to many blacks.  African American men did not obtain equal voting rights in New York until ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870.
 
Essential Question
Was New York a perfect model for the best way to end slavery?
 
 
Check for Understanding
According to this document, what was the status of slaves in New York at the time this document was created?
 

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