Barbados Slave Code
Huntington Library version
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Sep 27, 1661
An Act for the better ordering and Governing of Negroes.
Whereas heretofore many good Lawes and Ordinances have been made for the Governing regulating and ordering the Negro Slaves in this Island and sundry punishments appointed to many their misdemeanours, crimes and offences which yet have not met the effect hath been desired and might have reasonably been expected, had the Masters of Families and othe the Inhabitants of thisIsland been so carefull of their obedience and compliance with the said Lawes as they ought to have been and those former Laws being in many clauses imperfect and not fully comprehending the true constitution of this Government in relation to their Slaves the Negroes an Heathish, Brutish and an uncertaine and dangerous kind of People to whom if surely in anything wee may extend the Legislative power give Us of Provisionary Laws for the benefit and good of this Plantation not being contradictory to the Laws of England, there being in all the Body of that Law no Tract to guides us where to walk nor any Rule set Us how to Governe such Slaves. Yet Wee well know that by the right rule of reason and order wee are not to leave them to the Arbitrary Cruell and outrageous will of every evill disposed person but so farr to Protect them as Wee doe mens other goods and Chattells, and also somewhat further as being created men, thought without the knowledge of God in the world. Wee have therefore upon mature and serious consideration of the premises thought good to renew and revise whatsoever wee have found necessary and useful in the former Laws of this Island concerning the Governing and ordering of Negroes (p. 2)
And to add thereunto such further Laws and Ordinances as at this time Wee think absolutely needful for the publick safety and may prove in the future behoofull to the preace and utility of the Island by this Act repealing and dissolving all other former Laws made concerning the said Negroes. And for the time to come Bee it Enacted ordained and published. And it is by the President Councell and Assembly of this Island and by the authority of the same enacted, ordained and published That no Master Mistris, Commander or Overseer of any Family in this Island shall give their Negroes leave on Sabbath days Holy days or at any other time to goe out of their Plantations except such Negroes as usually waite upon them at home and abroad and then with a ticket under his Master, Mistris, Commander or Overseers hand the said Tickett specifying the time of his or her coming from the Plantation and the time allowed for his or her returne and no other Negro except upon some necessary business and then to send a Christian or Negro=Overseer along with them with a Tickett as aforesaid upon peine of forfeiting for every Negro soe Licensed to goe abroad Five hundred pounds of Muscovado Sugur halfe of the said Fine to bee to the Informer and the other to the publick Treasury, and if any Master Mistris Commander or Overseer of a Plantation shall find any Negro or Negroes in their Plantation at Ny time without a Tickett and Businesse from his said Master &c and do not apprehend them or endeavor so to doe, and having apprehended them shall not punish them by a moderate whipping shall (p 3) forfeit Five hundred pounds of like sugur to bee disposed of as aforesaid the said penalties to be recovered before every one Justice of the Peace of that Precinct where such Default shall be made who is hereby authorized and required upon complaint made to examine upon Oath to hear and determine the same and by Warrant under his hand directed to the Constable t cause the said Penalty to be Tried as in case of Servants Wages the said Constable to receive for his paines as in the Act of Servants Wages is appointed.
It is farther enacted, ordained and published that if any Negro either Man or Woman shall offer any violence to any Christian, as by striking or the like, such Negro shall for his or her first offence by information give to the next Justice bee severely whipped by the Constable by Order of said Justice, For his second offence of that nature by Order of the Justice of the Peace hee shall be severely whipped his Nose Slitt and be burned in some part of his Face, and for his Third offence of that nature by Order of the Governor and Councell such greater Corporall punishment as they shall think meet to inflict. Provided always that such striking or Conflict bee not in the lawfull defence of their Masters Mistresses or Owner of the families or of their Goods. And it is hereby further Enacted that the Negroes shall have Clothes to cover their Nakenesse necessary yeare (that is to say Drawes and Capps for the Men, and Petticoates for Women.
And whereas the Inhabitants of this Island have much suffered by the running away of their Negroes and by the injurious keeping of such Runawawy or Fugitive Negroes by several persons in their Plantations. It is hereby Enacted published and declared by the authority aforesaid that alle persons who are now possessed of any Fugitive or (p. 4) runaway Negroes do within Six days after the publication of this Act in the Parish Churches bring them in and deliver them to the proper Owners or into the Custody of the Provost Marshall for the time being or his appointed Deput at the Towne of St. Michaels upon paine of paying Ten Thousand pounds of good Merchantable Muscovado Sugur for damage unto the Owner to bee by the said Owner accused in the Court of Common Please for the precincts where such Trespasser lives by Action of Leot? Or Information in which no Essoine, Protection, Injunction, or Wager of Law shall be permitted or allowed. And if any Christian Servant so possessed of any such Negroe or Negroes not acquainting his Master thereof de faile or neglect to bring in with in the time before limited as is before enjoined the said Servant shall immediately upon Conviction thereof receive Thirty Nyne Lashes upon his Naked back by Order from the next Justice of peace to some Constable or the common Executioner and after the expiration of his time of Service shall serve the owner of the said Negro or Negroes the full Terme and space of Seaven years and a Record thereof to bee made by the Justice before whom such Conviction shall bee had. And farther it is Enacted by the authority aforesaid that all Overseers of Plantations do twice in every weeke search their Negroe Houses for Runway Negroes and what Overseer shall neglect to do the same shall forfeit one Hundred pound of Sugar for every default, the one halfe to the informer, the other halfe to the publick use.
And Bee it farther Enancted by the authority aforesaid that whosoever hereafter shall take up any Runaway Negro that such person shall within Eight and Forty [p. 5] hours after bring the said Runaway to his proper Owners or to the Provost Marshall or his Deputy upon paine of Forfeiture for every day they shall keep such Negroe or Negroes beyond the said Eight and Forty hours and thereof bee convicted by Confesssion or verdict the Same or quantity of One thousand pounds of good Merchantable Muscovodo Sugar to bee levyed by the Provost Marshall or his Deputy by order from the Governor for the time being upon the person so neglecting to bring the said Runaway upon his Lands Goods or Chattells the one halfe thereof to bee to the owner of the said Negro and the other to him or them that shall informe thereof out of which the said Marshall’s Fees shall bee deducted and if the said person or persons informing be servant or Servants to the party so deteining the said Negroe that then then the said person or persons so informing shall bee from thenceforth absolutely free and cleare from his service Any Indenture or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.
And it is further Enancted by the authority aforesaid that all persons that shall hereafter take up an Runaway or Fugitive Negroes and shall so bring them unto the Provost Marshall or his Deputy shall receive one hundred pound of Muscovado Sugar or a note for soe much that the person may dispose of his own Sugar immediately upon the delivery of them from the Treasurer for the time being who is hereby appointed to pay the same, and in case hee shall refuse to make the said payment upon the Presentment of the said Negroes and the req[uired] oath to be made before any Justice of the Peace the said Justice is hereby authorized and required to direct his Warrant to any Constable to cause the value thereof to bee immediately levyed out of the Goods of the said Treasurer and the said Goods bee delivered unto the said party.
And bee it farther Enacted by the Authority aforesaid that it shall and may bee lawfull for the said Provost Marshall to reteine and keep up his Custody the Bodys fo all such Runaways, until the Owners of them shall pay unto the said Treasurer One hundred and ten pound of Muscovado Sugar and also unto the said Provost Marshall Four pounds of like Sugar for every Four and Twenty hours the said fugitive Negroe hath been in his Custody and also until he have a discharge under the hand of the aforesaid Treasurer or his Store housekeeper Provided always that the said Provost Marshall do furnish the said Negro with sufficient Food and drink.
And it is farther Provided and ordained by the authority aforesaid that if any of the said Negroes shall dye for want of Food or dry and convenient Lodgings the said Provost Marshall shall bee responsible for them to the Owners and if the said Marshall shall suffer any Negro to escape before hee bee duly delivered by a discharge in writing under the hand of the aforesaid Treasurer, the Provost Marshall shall pay unto him the aforesaid hundred and Ten pounds of Sugar and shall bee further secured to the Owner of the said Negro as by the Governor and Councell for the time being shall be thougth fit and convenient.
And further it is ordained and Enacted by the authority aforesaid that all such persons as shall apprehend and bring downe any Runaaway Negro to St. Michael’s Towne unto the Treasurer for the time being or to the Prison shall upon such bringing downe such Runaway Negroes deliver unto the said Treasurer before hee shall receive the consideration before appointed an acco[omp]t of his name and [p. 7] place of aboade with the time when and place where hee apprehended such fugitive Negro which the said Treasurer is hereby required to take and enter in a Book to the intent that all Owners of such Negroes may come to the right knowledge and understanding when their Negroes were apprehended and by whom and whether they might bee wrongfully taken up or not, and that the keeper of the Prison at the delivery of any Negro do take a Receipt of the person to whom delivered and therein incert the mark or description of the Negro delivered, any usage or Custome to the Contrary heretofore had in any wise notwithstanding. And it is hereby further Enacted and published by the authority aforesaid that every Overseer of a Family in the Ilsand shall cause all his Negro houses to be searched diligently and effectually once every fourteen days for Clubbs, Wooden Swords and other mischievous Weapons and finding any to take them away and cause them to be burned. As also for Clothes, Goods or any other things and Commodities and particularly suspected Flesh that is not given them by their Master, Mistresss or Command[er] or Overseer and honestly come by in whose Custody they find the same they shall seize and take into their Custody and a full and ample description of the particulars thereof in writing within Six days after the discovery thereof to send to the Clerk of the parish for the time being who is hereby required to receive the same and to enter upon it the day of its Receipt and the particulars to File and keep to himself but to sett up upon the Post of the Church Door A short Breife that such lost Goods are found whereby any person that hath lost of his goods may the better come to the knowledge [p. 8] where it is by farther enquiry of the Clerk, who is not to shew the particulars until the party enquiring for stolen Goods shall first declare what hee hath lost, and the marks and description thereof and paid him Twelve pence for the same, by which if the said Clerke shall bee convinced that any part of the said goods Certifyed unto him to bee found appertaines to the party inquired hee is to direct the said Party inquiring to the Place and Person where the Goods bee who is hereby required to make restitution of what is in being to the true Owner upon the penalties of the Forfeiture of Two hundred pounds of Muscovado Sugar for every neglect by the Overseer or Clerk aforesaid in any of the particulars. To bee levyed upon his Goods and Chattells for the breach of either of the two last clauses in this Branch by precept or Warrant from the Judge or Justice before whom the Conviction shall bee had. The one halfe of the Fine aforesaid to goe to the publique Treasury the other halfe to the person that shall informe.
And that all Negroes likewise may receive encouragement to take up fugitive and Runaway Negroes it is farther ordained and enacted by the authority aforesaid that whatsoever Negroe shall at any time of his own accord take up any Runaway Negroe that hath been out about Twelve Moneths shall have for his so doing Five hundred pounds of Muscovado Sugar to bee paid by the Owner (if hee will redeem him) within one moneth during which time the Master of the Negro that took up such Runaway hath power to keep him for the purpose aforesaid. But if the Owner (p. 9) Master or Mistresses service (to whom they are Slaves) out of designe and intent to carry away any of them out of this Island or howsoever to defraud their said Masters &c of them and bee thereof convicted by their own Confession or the Oath of two Credible Witnesses or by the confession of such Negroe or Negroes with reasonable circumstances concurring shall bee by the Governor of the Island for the time being or by any Judge of Record or any two Justices of the Peace adjudged to pay the Master of the said Negro or Negroes Five thousand pounds of Muscovado Sugar by precept or Warrant from the aforesaid Governor, Judges, Justices before whom the conviction is made to bee levyed upon the Lands, Goods and Chattells of the person so offending by such Constable to whom the aforesaid Warrant shall bee directed and bee delivered to the party grieved by way of damage and the surplusage (if any shall bee) returned to the Owner and in case the party offending shall not bee found worth Land, Goods, or Chattells to the value aforesaid, then the said Governor, Judge or Justices adjudge him Servant to the party injured for Seaven years and so deliver him over to him and make Record thereof. But if any man shall so tempt and practice any person’s Negroes and them actually so tempted Convey, carry or send off the Island and [p. 10] bee Owner of the said Runaway will not or doth not redaince? him within the said time, then the Master in whose Custody hee is hath hereby power to Sell the said Fugitive or Runaway Negro and to take Five hundred pounds of the Sugar to himself for his Negro, The rest to returne to the Master of the Negro so taken up, and whosoever shall depryve or deteine any Negro that hath taken up any fugitive of the Boon or Reward given him this Law for so doing shall Forfeit three thousand pounds of Muscovado Sugar, one third to the Countrey, One third to the Informer and One third to the Negro wronged which guift? and forfeiture shall bee justly imployed by the Master of the Negro in Clothes for the said Negro to weare with a Badge of a Red Crosse on the Right Arme whereby he may bee knowne and cherished by all good People for his good service to the Country. The aforesaid Fine to bee recovered in by him that shall sue for it in any Court of Record or Action of Debt or Information in which no essoigne, protection, injunction or wager of Law shall bee permitted or allowed.
And whereas divers evill disposed persons have heretofore attempted to steale away Negroes by specious pretences of promising them Freedome in another Country against which pernicious practice noe punishment suitable hath been yet provided Bee it therefore Enacted and ordained by the Authority aforesaid that what person soever shall directly or indirectly at any time after publication hereof tempt or perswade any Negroes to leave their [p. 11] Master bee after apprehended in the Island for the same hee shall bee by the Governor and Councell for the time being condemned to pay the Owner of such Negro three times the value of them in Sugar and Execution for the same from the Governor to issue accordingly unto the Provost Marshall or his Deputy.
And whereas many Heynous and grievous criems as Murther and Burglarys and Robbing in the Highway Burning of Houses or Canes bee many times committed by Negroes which offenders for danger of escape are not long to bee imprisoned and being brutish Slaves deserve not for the baseness of their Condition to bee tried by the Legall Tryall of Twelve men of their Peers or Neighborhood which neither truly can bee rightly done as the Subjects of England are, nor is execution to bee delayed towards them in case of such horrid crimes committed It is therefore Enacted, Ordeined and published by the President Councell and Assembly and by the authority of the same that when any such Crimes as aforesaid shall bee committed by any Negroe or Negroes Slave or Slaves and the said Criminalls bee apprehended and brought before any of his Majesties Justices of the Peace within this Island the Justice before whom the said Criminalls are brought shall take security for their forth coming or send them to Prison and [p. 12] with all convenient speed shall joine to him the next Justice of the Peace and those two Justices shall by their Warrant or Precept call to them three able good and legal Freeholders of the place neerest where the said Crimes were committed and those Five persons Vizt. The two Justices and the three Freeholders shall hear and examine all Evidence proof and Testimony of this Fact committed and if they shall find such Negro or Negroes &c guilty therof, they shall give Sentence of Death upon him or them accordingly as is provided by Law for such Capitall Offenders, the said Freeholders being first sworne before the two Justices, who are hereby impowred to administer the same and forthwith by their Warrant cause Execution to bee done upon such Negro or Negroes, Slave or Slaves by the common Executioner or by what other Executioner can bee gott, Negro or other. It is farther provided that if any Freeholder shall make default to appear upon such Summons before the Justices as is beforementioned or appearing refuse to joine with them as afore is appointed and do shew no good Cause for such default to bee approved by the said Justices that then the aforesaid Justices sett a Fine upon him of Five hundred pounds of Muscavado Sugar and forthwith by their Warrant or precept to the next Constable or what Constable they shall think fit to levy the same upon the aforesaid [p. 13] Freeholder his Goods or Chattels accordingly.
Provided always neverthelesse that all Pettie Felonies under the value of twelve pence and all small broyles and misemeanours shall bee heard and determined by the Master of the Negro or Negroes committing the same upon the complaint of the partys injuried but if such Master shall not give such Negroe punishment in the presence of the Complainant to his satisfaction the party injured chall carry his complaint to the next Justice of the Peace who is hereby required and authorized to hear the same and upon Conviction by Confession or Witnesse or Oath of the party injured to inflict such Corporall peines or punishment (not injurious to Life, Limb or Member) as hee in his discretion shall judge fit and reasonable.
And whereas several petty Larcenys and Trespasses are daily committed by Negroes as in maiming one another and killing of Horses or Cattle Stealing of Hoggs and divers other of like nature, which would bee too tedious and chargeable if the party injured should be compelled to take the ordinary course of Justice against them for the more speedy proceedings therein for the future Bee it Enacted and Ordained by the authority aforesaid that upon comlaint made to any of His Majesties Justices of the Peace dwelling in the Parish where the offence is Committed the said Justice shall issue his Warrant for the apprehending the Negro or Negroes complained of, and for all peersons that can give evidence against them [p. 14] and if upon Examination it do probably appear that the said Negroe or Negroes are guilty of the Crimes complained of then the said Justice is to certify the same to the Justice next dwelling to him and to desire him by virtue of this Act to associate himself to him which such Justice is hereby required on such desire to doe and both of them Associated are to issue out their Summons to three sufficient Freeholders of the said Parish where the Fact complained of was committed acquainting them with the said matter and appointing them a day, hour and place where and when the same shall bee heard and dtermiend by the Judgment of the aid Freehodlers and themselves or the major part of them at what day oure and place the said Justices and Freeholders shall repaire and cause all the said Offenders and Evidences against them to bee produced and if they shall upon the said Evidence or Confession of the said Offender or Offenders adjudge them guilty of the Fact complained of, they shall then condemne the Owner or Owners of the said Offendor or Offendors respectively to make reparation and satisfaction to the Complainant for the damage which hee hath received which if the said Owner or Owners shall refuse to make according to his or their proportion by the said Justices and Freeholders or the Major part of them adjudged and appointe them and in such case the said offending Negro [p. 15] or Negroes belonging to such Owner or Owners soe refusing shall by Judgement of that Court first receive such Corporall punishment as the said Judge shall think fitt and after be awarded to the said party injured to have and to hold the said Negro to the injured party and his heires forever and in case the said Justice and Freeholders or any or either rof them shall neglect or refuse to performe the Dutes which by this Act is required of them, they shall severally for such their respective faults forfeite the just quantity of Five thousand pound of Muscovado Sugar the one halfe to the publique Treasurey and the other halfe to the party grieved if he shall prosecute for the same in the Court of that precinct where ye said default is made.
It is further Enacted ordained and published by the President, Councell and Assembly and by authority of the same That if any Negroes shall make Insurrection or Rise in Rebellion against this place or People or make preparation of Armes Powder Bulletts or offensive Weapons or hold any Counceel or Conspiracy for raising mutiny or Rebellion in the Island as hath formerly been attempted, that then for speedy remedy thereof the Governor of the Island or Superiour Offier for the time being appoint a Colonel and the Field Officers of the Regiments of the Island or any Four of them to meetin in Councell and proceed by Marshall Law against the Actors, Contrivers, Raisers, Fomenters, and Concealers of such mutiny or Rebellion and them punish by death or other paines as their Crimes shall [p. 17] deserve and as to the aforesaid Coll and Field Officers or any Four of them shall seeme fit, and that no Master, Mistris or Commander of a Family should bee affrighted by fear f Loss to search into and discover their own Negroes so evilly intended, It is farther Enacted and ordained that the loss of Negroes so executed shall bee borne by the publisck and when the present Treasury is not sufficient to satisfy the loss, A publique Levy shall bee presently made upon the Inhabitants for a Reparation of the same.
And whereas divers Negroes at this present are and long since have been runaaways into Woods and other Fastnesses of the Island doing continually much mischief to several the Inhabitants of this Island hideing themselves, sometimes one place and sometimes in another, so that with much difficultie they are to bee found unlesse by sudden attempt Bee it therefore ordained and enacted and it is hereby orained and Enacted that from and after publication hereof it shall and may bee lawfull for any Justice of Peace, Constable or Capt of a Company within this Island that shall have notice of the residence or hyding place of any Runaway Negores fugitive and out Lawed to raise and Arme any Number of Men not exceeding Twenty to apprehend and take them either alive or dead and for every Negro that they shall take alive having been runaway from his Master above Six months they shall receive Five hundred pounds of Muscovado Sugar and for every Negro which hath bin runaway above twelve months one Thousand pounds of Sugar from the Owner Master or Commander of the said Negro, if killed in taking they shall receive five hundred pounds of Sugar from the publique any Act or statue heretofore made to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.
And it is further ordained and enacted by the Authority aforesaid that if any Negro under punishment by his Master or his order for running away or any other Crime or misdemeanor towards his said Master shall suffer in Life or in Member no person whatsoever shall bee accomptable to any Law therefore But if any man shall of wantonnesse or only bloudy mindedness & cruell intention willfully kill a Negro if his own he shall pay into the publique Treasury Three thousand pounds of Sugar. But if hee shall so kill another mans, he shall pay to the Owner of the Negro double ye value and into the publique Treasury Five thousand pounds of Suagar and hee shall further by the next Justice of the Peace bee bound to the good behavior during the Pleasure of the Governor and Councell and not bee lyable to any other punishment or forfeiture for the same neither shall hee that kills another man’s Negro by accident be lyable to any other penalty but the Owners action at Law.
But if any poor Woman small Freeholder or any other person kill a Negro by night ouf of the Road and Common path & stealing his Provision Swyne or other Goods hee shall not be accomptable for it, Any Law, Statute, or Ordinance to the contrary notwithstanding. And to the intent it may bee always certainly known what Negroes are out in Rebellion to their Owners & the publick Peace It is by the authority aforesaid Enacted and ordained that all Owners of Negroes within this Island do within Ten days after publication hereof send an Accept to the Secretary for the time being in writing what Negroes hee hath fled & runaway & of thetime they have been gone and so for the time to come within Ten days after any Negro shall absent himselfe from his service under penalty of paying One Thousand pounds of Muscavado Sugar whereof one halfe to bee to the Informer the other halfe to te publique treasury to bee recovered by him that shall sue for it in any Court of Record by action of Debt or Information in which no essoigne protection, injunction or [p. 18] Wager of Law shall be permitted or allowed.
And because the Negroes of this Island in these late years past are very much increased and growne to such a great number as cannot bee safely or easily Governed unless Wee have a considerable number of Christians to balance and equall their Strength and the richest men of the Island looking upon present profit stock themselves onely with almost all Negroes neglecting Christian Servants and so consequently their own and the publick safety.
Bee it therefore Enacted and Ordained by the President Councell and Assembly and it is Enacted and orained by the authority of the same that within Twelve months after the publication hereof wevery Freeholder provide himiselfe of a Christian Servant for every Twenty acres of Land that hee enjoyes and possesseth and from the said Twelve moneth forward that every Freeholder possessed of thirty [acres] or more keep no lesse than one Christian man Servant, for every Twenty Acres of Land hee is Master or Owner or Occupier of upon the penalty of Forfeiting Three Thousand pounds of Muscovado Sugar, One Thousand to the informer, One thousand to the Governor or Superior Officer of the island for the time being and One Thousand to the Churchwardens or Overseers of he poor for the use of such poor where and in wat Parish such default is made to bee recovered against the Person refusing or neglecting obedience herein in any Court of Record &c b the party which shall Sue for it, and the Fine to bee new layd upon every person every Six months that hee continues his Contumacy and refuse or neglect to performe obedience hereunto, provided that in case Christian Servants [p. 19] cannot possibly be gotten, that then those that want the proportion in this Act named do supply themselves with a like number of hyred men which are to be hyred for six months at least that then they bee not lyable to the aforesaid Forfeiture.
Lastly and to the intent that this Act and every Clause and branch thereof may receive full Execution an no person plead ignorance therein It is ordained and Enacted by the authority aforesaid That this Act bee read and published in all the respective parish Churches in this Island the first Sunday in February and the first Sunday in August in every yeare ensuing the date and first publication thereof.
Given under my hand this 27th day of September 1661.
EARLY ACCESS: Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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