Jamaica

Jamaica Slave Code

(1664)

“An Act for the good Governing of Servants & ordering Rights betweene Masters & Servants”

 

Introduction

This act was passed (sort of—approved the Council of Jamaica, and the Royal Governor, and the Speaker of the Assembly, but probably not passed by the whole) in 1664.  It is not yet fully checked and edited: the original handwriting, as you see below, is not always easy to decipher.  The comments on the side in the boxes are from the original. What rights do masters have? What rights do servants have?  What happens to servants when they disobey the rules? What are those rules? How does the status of servants differ from that of slaves in the Barbados slave code we examined last week? 

   One quick explanation: the unit of governance was not the “COUNTY” but the “PARISH”—church and state were closely intermingled, and the parish performed much of the legal oversight and care for servants and laborers.

Holly Brewer

Further Reading
Sources
Cite this page
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire (October 5, 2022) Jamaica Slave Code – An Act for the good Governing. Retrieved from https://slaverylawpower.org/7641-2/.
"Jamaica Slave Code – An Act for the good Governing." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - October 5, 2022, https://slaverylawpower.org/7641-2/
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire August 20, 2022 Jamaica Slave Code – An Act for the good Governing., viewed October 5, 2022,<https://slaverylawpower.org/7641-2/>
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - Jamaica Slave Code – An Act for the good Governing. [Internet]. [Accessed October 5, 2022]. Available from: https://slaverylawpower.org/7641-2/
"Jamaica Slave Code – An Act for the good Governing." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - Accessed October 5, 2022. https://slaverylawpower.org/7641-2/
"Jamaica Slave Code – An Act for the good Governing." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire [Online]. Available: https://slaverylawpower.org/7641-2/. [Accessed: October 5, 2022]
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An Act for the good Governing of Servants & ordering Rights betweene Masters & Servants

Whereas much of the Interest & Subsistance of this Island consists in the Servants brought to & disposed of in the same and in theire Labours dureing the time they have to Serve. Whereon Notwithstanding provision hath been made by many good Laws.  Yet great & often damages have happened to the people of this place through the unruliness, obstinacy & resistance of the Servants.  And whereas alsoe it much concernes the peace of this Island that a continuall strict course should be taken to prevent the bold extravagants & wandering of Servants who frequently runn from & depart theire Meysters [Masters].  Servants making use of all advantages and occasions to disturbe the publique peace & preiudice theire Masters. Wherefore the Governor Councell & assembly upon Serious and mat[ure] Consideracon of the premises. And for the good regulateing & governing of Servants in all things concerning theire Masters & themselves during the times they have to serve by Indentures or otherwise and alsoe concerning such Servants wages. Have thought fitt to enact ordeine & publish. And it is enacted ordeyned & published by the Governor Councell & Assembly & by the authority of the same that noe person whatsoever shall presume to bring into this Island any Children of the English Nation or dominion thereunto belonging to bee Sould as Servants under the age of fourteene years unlesse they can produce a                                                                                                   Certificate or an Indenture in writeing from the principall person of the parish wherein the Childe last lived that it is done by their consent at the request of the Parents of such child the age of such child or [?] to bee judged by inspection.  And whosoever shall doe otherwise shall by conviction by sufficient Testimony or the parties confession before the Governor or any one of his Councell for the time being bee imprisoned by the said Governor or Councellers, warrant untill hee hath given in Security by recognizance of two sufficient Freeholders of this Island in one hundred pounds Sterling, to the Secretary for the time being that hee will returne such Child or Children unto theire Parents or guardians or such as have or should have the keeping of them and of his performances thereof to bring or send a certificate within twelve Months next ensueing as aforesaid.  And whereas it hath been an ill custome usuage of divers Merchants & other persons comming to this Island Indirectly & by delusive means & practices to obtaine Men & women on board of ships in England to cause them to bee transported hither.  And are here disposed of to serve according to the custome of the Country haveing noe Indenture Covennt(Covenant?) or contract for the same.

It is therefore hereby further enacted & ordained by the authority aforesaid that from & after the publicacon hereof all persons so indirectly sent or brought over the Masters of them or the person to whome they are consigned or who are concerned therein haveing no Indenture Covenant or contract made in writeing or other verball agreement by him or them to bee proved by the oath of one or more Wittnesses or by the Servants confession that such Servant came with his owne consent (p. 1) knowledge that all such persons soe brought over have hereby power and are at liberty to implead the persons that brought them or to whome they are consigned according to the Law of England for theire freedome & to recover theire damages & satisfaition for such wrongfull & injurious dealeing Provided that hee or shee declare the same and make his or theire complaint to some Justice of peace within 30 dayes after his or her landing in this Island unlesse they are really prevented by sickness and then within thirty dayes after hee or shee is able  And all Servants hereafter brought to this Island whose time shall expire at any time hereafter haveing had noe Indenture or contract shall receave for theire wages forty shillings Sterling, or goods to the value of 40 shillings or a patent for thirty acres of land according to his Majestys proclaimation where such Servant shall desire it and to which noe tytle is pretended by any other. And in case of Indenture or Covenant to bee paid according to his Covenant or Indenture in money Sterling, or in commodityes of this country according to the true vallue therefor.  And whatsoever Servant shall hereafter come to this Island and serve out their times by Indenture or otherwayes shall receave as aforesaid the last Master always to pay the wages.

 

It is further enacted ordained & published by the authority aforesaid that noe Freeman or trader, whatsoever presume to buy or sell any commodity whatsoever with any Servant or Slave within this Island without consent of the Master or owner of such Servant or Slave upon paine of forfeiting triple the vallue of the said goodes they trade for the Master or Owner of such Servant or Slaves  And all contracts & covenants soe made by such Servant or Slave to bee utterly void & of none effect  And such trader or ffreeman for such his offence further to forfeit five pounds Sterling one halfe to our Soveraigne Lorde the King his heires & successors and the other halfe to the Informer the same to be recovered by action in any Court of Record within this Island.

It is further enacted & ordeyned by the authority aforesaid that whatsoever Servant or Servants by Indenture Custome of the Country or by monthly or yearly wages or day labor shall lay violent hands upon his or her Master or Mistris or Overseer or any person put over them in authority to governe them and being thereof convicted before any of his Masters (Majesty’s?) Justices of the peace of this Island by the oath of one or more wittnesses or by his or her owne confessions shall serve his of her said Mr or Mrs one whole yeare after his or her tyme by Inbdenture custome or bargaine bee expired the same to bee ordered upon such conviction as aforesaid by the said Justice of the peace & hee to make record thereof Dureing which time the party soe ordered shall have noe wages.

It is further enacted & ordeyned by the authority aforesaid that whatsoever [OBSCURED] Servant or hired Laborer or Artificer by custome covenant or hire who shall imbezell(embezzle?) perloyne lend out or willfully waste or make away any of their Master or Mistresses money, [UNCLEAR], Cotton, [UNCLEAR], Indico, Tobacco, hogs, sheepe, cattle, fowles, stork or other goods or provisions or comodityes whatsoever shall uppon conviction for every such offence by one or more testimonied upon oath before any of his Masters(Majesty’s?) Justices of the peace within this Island or the partyes owne confessions bee adiudged(adjudged) by the said Justice of the peace to serve his said Master or Mistress two yeares after his said time by Indenture Custome or bargaine bee expired without any consideracon of wages or Sallery to bee payd him  And bee (p. 2) further lyable in case that time of Servitude will not make full satisfacon.  And whereas many women Servants are begotten with Child by ffreemen or Servants in great providence(?) of their respective Masters whome they serve [OBSCURED] is therefore ordeyned & enacted by the Governor Councell & Assembly and by the authority of the same that whosoever shall beget a woman Servant(?) with child shall for such offence personally serve the owner of such Servant three yeares or put one in his place for the said time which is recompence(recompense) for the said Mr or Mrs of his & her losse & charge in bringing(?) up the bastard Child, & damage receaved(received?) by the disabling the woman(?) Servant but if the said Child bee brought up by & at the charge of the parish(?) then the reputed Father to serve the said parish two yeares [OBSCURED] the owner of the woman Servant one or put one in his place for [OBSCURED] said time as aforesaid or give Security to save(?) the parish(?) harmless [OBSCURED] satisfy the said owner for his said damage But in case of the said [OBSCURED] death before the three yeares bee expired then the said person is only [OBSCURED] Serve the said owner one yeare but if the said woman Servant shall [OBSCURED] to dye or become infirme by reason of her Labor in Childbee(Childbirth?) then [OBSCURED] reputed ffather shall serve the said owner dureing the whole time that said woman had to serve when shee [UNCLEAR] by him  And the said [OBSCURED] woman Servant soe offending shall serve her said Master or Mistress two yeares after her time by Indenture or otherwise bee expired the same to [OBSCURED] ordered by the next Justice of the peace before whome such proofe thereof shall be made  And for the better understanding herein It is hereby ordeined & enacted by the authority aforesaid that the same [OBSCURED] or evidence that is sufficient to [UNCLEAR] that reputed ffather of a bastard by which hee is obliged to discharge the parish(?) whose it shall bee or [OBSCURED] keepe the same, shall bee as authentique to a Jury to cause the ffather of a bastard to make repareicon(reparation?) to the Master or Mistress of such woman Servant upon whome the same is begotten as is before appointed but [OBSCURED] Servant shall begot a woman Servant with childe then after his time is expired hee shall serve the owner of the said woman servant double the time shee had to serve at the time of theire offence comitted.

Item(?) it is further enacted & ordeyned by the authority aforesaid that if any Man Servant shall marry without his Master or Mistresses consent dureing the time of his apprenticeship hee shall serve his Master or Mistress fower [four] yeares after his said time of apprenticeship is expired  And if any freemen shall marry the maide or woman Servant of any person within this Island such freeman shall forthwith pay unto the Master or Owner of such Servant double the vallue of what the mayde or woman Servant is worth to bee recorded by Action of debt in any of his Majestys Courts which noe protection essoine or wager of law shall bee admitted or allowed. If hee bee a Servant then after his time is expired hee shall serve the owner of the said woman Servant double the time shee had to serve at such her time of Marriage.

Item  it further enacted & ordeined by the authority aforesaid that when any difference shall arise between Master & Servant in & concerning the time of theyre Servitude or Tearme  of yeares that they are to Serve that all such differences as shall hereafter arise betweene any Master or Servant bee heard & determined at common Law as in other causes right betweene party & party  And that all Servants that have occasion of ground to comence suite therein bee allowed such reasonable time of performance thereof by the respective Masters as to the next Justice of the peace shall seeme requisite & convenient but not to bee allowed more then two of a family in the behalf of themselves & the rest  And whatsoever Servants over & above the number of two shall uppon pretence of complaint absent themselves from theire Masters Service shall by order from the next Justice receave(receive?) thirteen lashes & bee returned to his Master & Service by a constable [UNCLEAR] the Justice before whome the complaint is made shall be cause  And whatsoever Servant or Servants shall willfully & obstinately absent himselfe or her selfe out of his or her Master or Mistres Plantacon or Service either on Satturdayes Sundayes or any other dayes or times not haveing licence or his ticket in writeing under his Master or Mistress or Overseers hand for the same upon conviction thereof by the oath of one or more Wittnesses or his own confession before someone of his Masters(Majesty’s?) Justices of the peace within this Island shall for every two Hours absence bee adiudged(adjudged) & ordered by the said Justice to serve the said Master or Mistress one whole day after his time by Indenture or custome is expired soe as the same doe not in the whole exceed three yeares and soe in [UNCLEAR] for a loner or shorter time for such his absence.

It haveing formerly been a great complaint(?) that many Masters when theire Servants grow sick & unable to performe theire dayly labors will seeme to remitt some of theire time to bee cleered(cleared?) of them or turne them off to the intent that they may not bee at all chargeable to them for theire recovery whereby many of the said Servants may most miserably perish(?) or become a charge to the parish where they first happen to bee layed upp for prevencon(prevention?) whereof(?) for the future & [UNCLEAR] punishing(?) such inhumane acts in such persons as shall become guilty of the same It is hereby ordeined & enacted by the Governor Councell and Assembly and by the aucthority of the same that what Master or Mistress or Overseer shall hereafter offend herein or shall not use or indeavor all lawfull meanes for the recovery of such theire Servants as shall happen to be diseased or sick dureing the time of theire Servitude shall forfeit 20 pounds (sterline?) the same to bee levyed by warrant of the Justice of the peace before whome it shall be proved by the oath of one or more Wittnesses and to be [UNCLEAR] into the hands of the overseers for the poore of the parish(?) and disposed towards the maintenance of such Servants soe turned of & for recovering of his or her [UNCLEAR]  And the said Servant so neglected & turud(?) off bee freed from his said Master  But in case such sick Servants shall not live to the expending the said [UNCLEAR] of 20 pounds (sterling?_, then the remainder to bee disposed of towards the maintenance of the other poore of that parish(?) provided allwayes that in case any Servant or Servants in this Island shall through his or theire owne willfull Misbehavior happen to have any disease [UNCLEAR] any broken bones bruises or other impediments whereof they have not onely disabled themselves to performe theire Labors as they ought to doe but alsoe are a greater charge for phisick(?) and chirurgery(?) to theire Master or Mistress then formerly in every such case the said Servant shall Serve his or her said (p. 4) Master or Mistress over theire time by Indenture or otherwise is expired until they have made Satisfaccon(Satisfaction?) for the charge eppended(?) on them for theire recovery  And afterwards hee or shee soe recovered shall Serve over [OBSCURED] much time as hee or shee by any such meanes and accident were disabled(?) to Serve  Any former Law or custome to the contrary Notwithstanding

It is further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all such differences [OBSCURED] shall arise in point of wages betweene Master & Servant or Master & Laborer [OBSCURED] Artificers or to Scoote(?) Master or Schoole(?) Mistress for theire respective Sallary for working(?) of Children shall bee heard & determined by the next Justice of the peace who is hereby impowered upon any such complaint to [OBSCURED] out his warrant & Summon the parties(?) before him and to heare examine and determine all such differences as shall come before him as is aforesaid  And shall issue execuction thereupon and to bee executed by the said Constable of the parish who is hereby required to officiate the same(?) and shall for his paines receive Satisfaction to the same vallue as Marshalls of the Court of common pleas doe for levying executions.  And of all such Suites the Justice shall make record Any Law Custom or usuageto the contrary Notwithstanding.

And whereas Its much feared that some persons within this Island have executed violence or great oppressions to & upon theire Servants through which some of them have bin murthered [murdered] and destroyed  And the authors & causers of such theire destructions have gon [gone] cleere undiscovered & unpunished by reason of the sodaine interring [burying] of Servants so destroyed & murthered as aforesaid. For prevention whereof and discovery of all such murthers and fellonyes as may bee hereafter committed Bee it enacted & declared that the Governor Councell and Assembly and by the authority of the same that noe Master Mistress Atturney or cheife of any family or plantation within this Island shall please to bury or interr any Christian that shall hereafter happen to dye within [OBSCURED] respecting plantacons out of the usuall burrying place untill the body of such Servant hath bin viewed by the next Justice of the peace a constable and 2 of the Neighbors of the parish wherein the [OBSCURED] house of the said planter(?) [UNCLEAR] which Neighbors the sayd Justice or Constable shall make choyce of upon paying 100 pounds (sterling?) for [OBSCURED] Servant that shall bee soe bured without viewing as aforesayd  [OBSCURED] any person shall happen to dye 10 myles from the dwelling of a Justice of peace or Constable then it shall be sufficient for the Master or [OBSCURED] of such person to cause the body of such person to be viewed by 2 of [OBSCURED] Neighbors and in default of Neighbors by 2 of the same family [OBSCURED] if upon such view it shall app(appear?) that such Servant came to their death by any [OBSCURED] violence wounds or unlawfull meanes that [UNCLEAR] the viewer of such Servants [OBSCURED] forthwith give Notice to the Court that proceedings may be made there [OBSCURED] according to law hee receiveing for his fee soe much & noe more then the laws of England is provided  And be it further enacted [OBSCURED] ordeyned by the authority aforesaid that every such Justice of Constable and Neighbours chosen as aforess(?) duely Sumoned by the(?) owner or overseer of such Servant to that view of such dead body as aforesaid [OBSCURED] shall fails to come within two houres after such Sumons shall Severally() & respectively forfeit for such theyre default 10 pounds (sterling?) All forfeitures shall bee paid unto our Soveraigne Lord the King his heires & Successors for the publique use of this Island to bee (p. 5) recovered by action of debt by the Treasurer for the time being in any Cort [court] of common Pleas within this Island Provided that such Notice bee given as aforesayd it may bee lawfull for the owner of such Servant or Overseer six houres after such notice bee given freely to bury such his or theire Servant Any thing in this act seeming to the contrary Notwithstanding.

It is alsoe ordeined enacted and published by the Governor Councell & assembly and by the authority of the same that all Servants under the age of eighteene yeare which are brought hereafter to bee assigned over or disposed off(of?) as Servants in this Island haveing made noe contract in England or else where shall Serve for the Space of 7 yearses & noe longer and such as are above 18 yeares shall serve dureing the space of five yeares & noe longer and at the end of theyre time shall receive from theire Masters or Mistresses a pattent for 30 acres of land according to his Majesty’s Proclamation or two pounds Sterling or goods at the current rate for theire wages And where man and wife are brought over Servants in one Shipp they shall bee sould or disposed off [of] togeather and not severed.  It is further enacted and ordeined by the authority aforesaid that all such persons as shall hereafter sue for theyre freedoms in respect of theire ages as is before mentioned shall bee judged by the Jury by Inspection or [UNCLEAR] of Stature of confession when they first arrived in this Island.

Bee it further ordeined & enacted by the authority aforesaid that with Servants soever shall unjustly trouble his Master or Mistress with suites in Law the said Servants shall bee by the Courts where hee comitts the offence ordered to serve his Master or Mistress (soe injured) for his unlawfull & unjust vexation of them after the expiration of the time he hath then to Serve the double time and Space of that time hee neglected in following said suite.

And it is hereby further enacted and ordeined by the authority aforesaid that all such Servants as shall lye in the Goale for theire owne offence shall Serve theire Masters double soe long time after the expiracon of the time they have to Serve by custome Indenture or contract as hee or they have laine(lain?) in Goale for And shall further serve his or her said Master at the rate of 10 s(shilling?) per moneth(month) till hee hath satisfyed the fees and other charges his Master hath expended for him.

Bee it further enacted and ordeyned by the Governor Councell and Assembly & by the authority of the same that whosoever eyther [OBSCURED] of a family or Captain or Master of a Shipp or other that shall entertaine any man or woman Servant above one Night If hee doth not know him or her to bee free shall for every day or night after the first forfeit 1 pound sterling  And if hee know him or her to bee a Servant to another man or woman And doe notwithstanding willfully entertaine him or her hee shall forfeit 5 pound (sterling), for every day and night after the first the one halfe of the said forfeiture to the Master or owner of the said Servant and the other half to our Soveraign Lord the King his heires and successors for the publique use the same to be recovered by accon of debt or Informacon in any Cort(Court?) of Record within this Island  And if any suspected person [OBSCURED] within any plantation at unseasonable houres or being there shall stay more then a fitting time It shall be lawfull for the Master his Overseer or Servants to apprehend such person and keepe him in custody until hee may bee brought to the next Constable And if any Overseer freeman or Laborer Servant shall entertaine or hyde any Servant belonging to another Planter(?) such Overseer freeman or Servant upon conviction before one of his Maties(Majesty’s?) Justices of the peace shall for every such offence serve the Master of owner of the Servant or Slave one whole yeare after his time with his owne Master or Mistress of that plantacon is expired, for which hee shall receive noe Sallary or allowance but ordinary Plantacon [UNCLEAR] shall fish or flesh for Provision.

It is further enacted and ordained by the authority aforesaid that noe Overseer hired or Covenant Servant or driver of horses working Cattle carriage beasts Carts waines(?) or waggons [UNCLEAR] without the consent and allowance of the owner of the said horses working Cattle or carriage Beasts Carts waines(?) or waggons to ride themselves or to lend them to others to ride on or worke them for others or for himself with any other loade then what belong to [OBSCURE] the Owner of the said beasts and carryages And whatsoever Overseer hired or covenant Servant or driver shall after publication hereof doe the contrary shall uppon conviction thereof by the oath of one or more wittnesses or the parties owne confession before any of his Majesties Justices of the peace bee adjudged by the said Justice three Moneths [Months] Service to the owner of [UNCLEAR] for every time that hee shall bee convicted to have ridden of his Masters horses or beasts Carts waines or waggons or leiden(?) team or any of them with other mens goods or his owne or suffered any other to ride leid(?) or worke them without the Owners consent as is aforesaid  Any from Custome or Asuage(?) to the contrary Notwithstanding.

It is further enacted and ordeined by the authority aforesaid that whatsoever Servant by Indenture or custome shall bee found or apprehended in the Act of running away upon board of any Shipp Barque or Boats upon departure from this Island whereby it may instantly bee presumed that the said Servant intended & prepared to escape and run away unlawfully from the Island and his or her Master or Mistress Service or haveing further unlawfully absented his or her her selfe from his or her Master or Mistress Service bee found by [UNCLEAR] aboard some ship barque(?) or boate to escape and run away unlawfully as is aforesaid from thie Island and his Master or Mistress [OBSCURED] such Servant soe taken or found or soe indeavoring(endeavoring?) to get aboard shall upon conviction thereof before any of his Maties(Majesty’s?) Justices of the peace for this Island bee condemned Servant to his said Master or Mistress for the full space and tearme(term?) of 3 yeares to bee Served and performed after his or her first Indenture or Service by custome bee expired  And the Justice before whome such conviction is made is hereby required to make record thereof (p. 7) Any other Act statute or Ordinance heretofore made or any Clause in Act contained in any wise Notwithstanding And before the said Justice the said Servants Haire(?) to bee Shaved by order of the said Justice  And whereas divers Servants and Slaves have bin carried off this Island to other Plantacons and Collonyes to the great damages and [UNCLEAR] of many the Inhabitants thereof and noe remedy is provided for them in regard the Meister(Master?) of the said Shipp is only bound in the office whoe perhaps is a meane man & perhaps never more comes to this place againe to prevent which for the future Bee it enacted & ordained by the authority aforesaid that noe Master(?) of a Shipp or other vessell shall bee permitted to trade or traffique or to wood or water(?) within this Island untill hee hath given in Security by himselfe(?) @ 2 others the Inhabitants of this Island being either sufficient freeholders or resident Merchants in the sume(sum?) of 2 (pounds?) (sterling?) that hee will not directly nor indirectly cause or suffer to bee carried off this Island in his said Shipp any Servant or Slave belonging to any of the Inhabitants of this Island without the knowledge & consent of the Owner.  And that hee shall search his Ship sufficiently before his departure and certify under his hand to the secretary for the time being that hath soe done  And that hee is thereby well assured that hee hath noe such person in his said Ship Also that if hee hath any [UNCLEAR] in his Ship hee shall certify the Names of them And all Constables within this Island are hereby required to apprehend all runnawayes that they shall know of by [UNCLEAR] credible Informacon & them in safer custody convey from Constable to Constable until they come to the comon Goale of to his Master or Mrs.  And whatsoever Constable shall neglect his duty herein shall forfeit £ Sterling halfe to our Soveraigne Lord the King his heires and successors for the publique use of this Island And the other halfe to the owner of the said Servant if hee sue for the same in the precincts where the fault is committed In which action issue shall bee joyned the verdict taken and Judgement therein given the first Cort Any former Law to the contrary Notwithstanding.

And to the end noe person may pretend Ingorance in this act or Statute or any branch or Clause thereof It is lastly enacted & ordained by the authority aforesaid that the Minister of every parish Church within this Island twice every yeare (That is to say) the Sunday next before Christmas day and the Sunday next before the 25th of June shall distinctly read & publish this Act in their respective parish churches upon paine of forfeiture of 5 pound Sterling, for every Neglect or fayling they shall make therein to bee paid to our Soveraigne Lord the King his heires and successors for the publique use of this Island and to bee by the Treasurer recorded by action of debt or Information in the Court of the precincts where such Neglect or default is made wherein noe wager of Law essoine or protection shall be allowed.

Tho: Whitston Speaker 

[Note that it is not clear that the Assembly signed]

Past the Councell the 20th of 

February, 1664 [1665]                                                                                                                                                                                     I consent to this

Peter Pugh Secr [Secretary]                                                                                                                                                                             Tho. Modyford

EARLY ACCESS:  Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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