Barbados Slave Code
(1661 – 1667)

In 1661, Barbados became the first English colony to pass a comprehensive slave code.  Below is the best version of it we have.  The problem is that the only versions of it that survive date to 1667, when it had already been amended twice: this version was transcribed and sent by members of the Council. The passage of the act was quite peculiar.


The Governor was Humphrey Walrond, whom Charles II had appointed. He was a staunch royalist: after surrendering to Parliamentary troops in 1645, he had migrated to Barbados in 1647, where Governor Philip Bell appointed him to the Council, Barbados’ governing body.

In late 1649 and early 1650, Walrond helped to lead a royalist coup on the Island.  In 1651, after Cromwell sent troops to regain control of Barbados, he was one of only two leaders (Francis Willoughby was the other) to be banished.  During the 1650s Walrond spent much time among the Spanish: presumably he gave them valuable information about the English and the Island, since the King of Spain knighted him and ennobled him for his services in 1653.

In 1660, after the Restoration, new Governor Walrond called an assembly and asked them to ratify a slave code that he and his Council had already written; they refused. So he prorogued (dismissed) them and called another which he presented with orders to repeal all the laws passed during the 1650s during the “Interregnum” (by order of the king) and then to pass a slate of laws on topics ranging from the settling of estates to the rulings governing “Negroes” as well as a separate set of rules for “Servants.”  The new assembly passed all six.

Holly Brewer

Further Reading
  • Edward B. Rugemer, “The Development of Mastery and Race in the Comprehensive Slave Codes of the Greater Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century.” The William and Mary Quarterly 70, no. 3 (2013): 429–58.
  • Bradley J. Nicholson, “Legal Borrowing and the Origins of Slave Law in the British Colonies,” American Journal of Legal History 38, no. 1 (January 1994): 38-54.
  • Richard Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 (Chapel Hill, NC: Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press, 1972).
  • Jerome S. Handler, “Custom and law: The status of enslaved Africans in seventeenth-century Barbados,” Slavery & Abolition 37:2, 233-255, DOI: 10.1080/0144039X.2015.1123436.
  • “Transcript Acts” Barbados National Archives, Bridgetown.
  • TNA CO 30/2/16-26, UK National Archives.
    • Note that there are two other manuscript copies of this first code, one at the Huntington Library and one at the Barbados National Archives in a volume called “Transcript Acts.” Internal evidence suggests that the copy at TNA is the earliest. The Barbados copy seems to have been made from the TNA copy in the early 20th century. The Huntington copy reflects later legal additions. Note as well that the printed copies of this law (1700 and later) also silently included later legal amendments, as they were produced for practicing lawyers.
  • Transcription credit: Holly Brewer, Matt Fischer, Lauren Michalak.
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"Barbados Slave Code." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire [Online]. Available: [Accessed: April 19, 2024]

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Book cover of Barbados Slave Code

Lists of Arts Barbados tb82

CO 30/2

Page 1

An Act for the better ordering and governing of Negroes

Whereas heretofore many good Lawes and ordinances have been made for

the governing [and] regulateing and ordering the Negroes, Slaves in this Isle

& sundry punishments appointed to many their misdemeanors, crimes and offences 

which yet have not met the effect hath been desired and might have reasonably been

reasonably expected had the Masters of Families and other the Inhabitants

of this Isle been soe carefull of their obedience and complyance with the said

Lawes as they ought to have beene. And these former Lawes being in many

clauses imperfect, and not fully comprehending the true Constitution of this

Government in relation of their Slaves their Negroes, an heathenish, brutish, and

an uncertaine dangerous kind of people, to whom if surely in any thing we

may extend the legislative power given us of provisionary Lawes, for the

benefit and good of this plantation, not being contradictory to the Lawes

of England, there being in all the body of that Law, noe tract to guide us

where to walke, nor any rule sett us, how to governe such Slaves, yet we

well know by the right rule of reason, and order, we are not to leave them to

the arbitrary, cruel, and outrageous wills of every evil disposed person, but

soe farr to protect them as we doe many other goods and Chattels, and alsoe

somewhat further as being created Men, though without the knowledge of God

in the world, we have therefore upon mature and serious Consideracion of

the premises thought good to renewe and revive whatsoever we have found

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An Act for the better ordering and governing of Negroes [Ctd.]

necessary, and usefull in the former Lawes of the […]

Governing and ordering Negroes, and to add thereunto such further Lawes and ordinances, as

at this time we thinke absolutely needful for the publique safety and may prove

in the future behovefull to the peace and utility of this Isle by this Act

repealing and dissolving all other former Laws made concerning the said

Negroes and for the time to come.    


Be it enacted published and declared and it is by the President, Councill, and

Assembly of this Isle and by authority of the same enacted, ordained, & published

that no Master, Mistress, Commander, or Overseer of any family within this Island

shall give their Negroes leave on Sabbath days, holy days or at any other

time to go out of their plantations except such Negroes as usually wait upon

them at home and abroad, and them with a ticket under his Master, Mistress,

Commander, or Overseers’ hand, the said Ticket specifying the time of his or her,

coming from the plantation and the time allowed for his or her returne &

noe other Negroes except upon necessary business, and then to send a

Christian or Negroes’ Overseer along with them with a ticket as aforesaid upon

forfeiting for every Negroe so limited to go abroad 500 pounds of Muscavado sugar,

half the said five to the Informer and the other half to the publique

Treasury; And if any Master, Mistress, Commander or Overseer of any plantation

shall finde any Negro or Negroes at any time in their plantation without a Ticket

and business from his said Master and not apprehend them or endeavor so to

doe and having apprehended them and shall not punish them by a moderate

whipping, shall forfeit 500 pounds of the like sugar to be disposed off as aforesaid, the said

penalty to be recovered before some Justice of the Peace of that precinct

where such default shall be made who is hereby authorized and upon Complaint

made to examine upon oath to heare and determine the same and by Warrant

under his hand directed to the Constable to cause such penalty to be levied

as in case of servants wages is appointed.

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of peace hee shalbee severely whipped his Nose Slitt and bee burned in face and for the third offence hee shall receive by order of the Governor and Councill such greater corporall punishment as they shall thinke meete to inflict provided alwayes that such striking or conflict bee not in the lawfull defence of their Master. Mistris or owners of their Famillyes or of their goodes.

Clause 3: And it is hereby further Endacted that the Negroes shall have Cloathes to cover their nakednesse oune every yerare (that is to say) drawers and Cappe for Men and pettycoates for women, And whereas the Inhabitattants of this Isld keeping such runawayes or fugitive Negroes by severall persons in their plantacions

Clause 4: It is hereby enacted published and Declared by the authority aforesaid that all persons that are now possessed of any fugitive or runaway Negroes doe within six dayes after publicacion of this Act in the parrish Church bring them in and to their proper ownere or into the custody of the Provost Marshall for the time being or his appointed deputy at the Towne of St. Nichaelas upon paine of paying of Foure thousand pounds, of good Marchantable Musco[vado] Sugar for damage unto the owner to bee by the said owner recordred in the Court of Comon pleas for the precincte where such trespasser lieth by Accon of debt or informacon which noe esseyne proteccon injunction or wager of Law shalbee permitted and allowed And if any Christian Servant soe possessed of any such Negro or Negroes not acquainting his Master thereof Doe neglect or faile to bring them before the tyme appointted as is before enjoyned the said Servant shall immediately upon Comisson thereof receive nyne & thirty Lashes upon his naked back by order of the next Justie of the peace to some Constable or the Comon Execucener and afer Execucon of his time of service shall serve the owner of the said Negro the full Tearme and space of Seven yeares and and a Record thereof by the said Justice before such Examinacon shalbee had

Clause 5 {Overseers to search the Negroes houes twice every weeke} And further it is Enacted by the authority aforesaid that all oversers of plantacons doe tiwce every weeke search their Negroe houses for runaway Negroes and what overseere shall neglect to doe the same shall forfeite 100 lb of Sugar for every default the one halfe to the Informer the other halfe to the publique use

Clause 6: And bee it farther Enacted by the authority aforesaid that whosever

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hereafter shall take upp any Runaway Negro shall person shall with[in] fourty eight houres after bring the said Runaway to the proper owner or to the Provoste Marshall or the depute upon paine of forfeiting for every day they shall keepe { any bringing a runaway Negro} such Negro or Negroes beyonde the said fourty eight houres and thereof bee [comitted] by [] the same or quantity of one thousand pounds of Muscavado or [] sugar to bee Levyed by the Provost Marshall or his deputy by order of the Governor for the time being upon the person soe neglecting to bring the said Runaway upon his Lands goods or Chattles the one halfe thereof to the owner of the said Negroe and the other to him or them that shall informe the same out of which the said Marshall fees shalbee Deducted. And if the said person or persons informeing bee Servant or Servants to the party soe do Delay [ceing] the said Negroe that the said person or persons soe informeing shalbee from the [] absolutely free and cleare from his service any Indenture or Contract to the contrary notwithstanding. {If the informer bee servant to the reteynor}

Clause 7: And it is farther Enacted by the authority aforesaid that all persons which shall hereafter take upp any Runaway or fugitive Negroe and shall soe bring them to the Provost Marshall or the Deputy shall receive one hundred pounds of Musco Sugar or [a noate for for such that ] the person may dispose of his owne Sugar[ avediably] upon the delivery of them from the [Teere] for the time being who is hereby required to pay te same, and in case hee shall refuse to make the said payment upon the [presentment] of the said Negroes and thereof oath bee made before any one Justice of the peace the said Justice is hereby authorized & required to direct him Warrant to any Constable to cause the value thereof to bee leavyed out of the goods of the said Bearer And the said Goods to bee delivered to the said party

Clause 8: And bee it farther Enacted and Ordeyned by the authoritie aforesaid that it shall & may bee lawfull for the said Provost Marshall to Deteyne and Keepe in his custody the {how long the provost marshall may deteyne a Negro} body of all such Runaways untill the owners of them shall pay unto him the said Bearer one hundred and tenn pounds of Musco Sugar and alsoe unto the said Provost Marshall foure pounds of the like Sugar for every twenty foure houres the said fugitive Negroe hav been in his custody and alsoe untilll hee hath a discharge of the aforesaid Bearer or his Storehouse Keeper; Provided always that the said Provost Marshall doe furnish the said Negroe with Sufficient foode and drinke. {the Provost Marshall to give him Victualls}

Clause 9: And it is further provided and ordeyned as aforesaid that if any of the said Negroes shall dye for want of foode or dry or convenient lodgeing the Provost Marshall shalbee

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responsable for them to the owners and if the said Marshall shall suffer any Negroes to escape before hee bee Duely Delivered by a discharge in writeing under the hande of the aforesaid Bearer the said Marshall shall pay unto him the aforesaid one hundred poundes of Sugar And shalbee further [soufured] to the owner of the Negroe as by the Governor & Councell fee for the time being shalbee thought fitt and convenient. [In margin: Negroes dyeing for want of foode in prison]

Clause 10: And it is farther Enacted by the authority aforesaid that all such persons as shall apprehend and bring downe any Runaway Negroes to St. [Machaetts] Towne to the Bearer for the tyme being or to the person shall upon such bringing downe such Runaway Negro Deliver unto the said bearer before hee shall receive the Consideration before appointed an accompt of his name and place of aboade with the time where and place where hee apprehended such fugitive Negroe which the said Bearer is hereby required to take and enter into a booke to the intent that all owners of such Negroes may so see to their right Kowledge and understanding when their Negroes were apprehended and by whom and wether they might bee wrongfully taen up or not, And the Keeper of the prizon at the Delivery of any such Negroe doe take a Receipt of the person to whom Delivered and [] insert the Marke and discripcon of the Negro Delivered any usage or Custome to the Contrary heretofore had in any wise notwithstanding.

Clause 11: And it is further Enacted and ordeyned by the authoritie aforesaid that every overseere of a Family in this Island shall cause all his Negro houses to bee searched diligently and effectually once every fourteene dayes for Clubbs woodden Swords or other mischevious weapons and finding any to take them away and cause them to bee burn’d As alsoe for Chattles goods or any other thing or Comodityes particularly suspected flesh that is not given them by their Master & Mistres Comandment or Overseeres and honestly come by in whose custody they find any thing of that kinde and suspected or Knowne to bee Stollen goods the same for to seize an to take into their custody and within six dayes after their discovery thereof to send a Cerificate to the Clarke of the parrish for the time being wh is thereby required to receive the same and to enter upon it the day of itts receipt and the particulars to fyle and keepe to himselfe but to sett upon the porch of the Churchdoore a short breviale of such lost goodsmay the better some to the knowledge where it is by future enquiry of the Clarke who is not to show the particulars untill the Enguirer of Stollen goods shall irst declare what hee hath lost and the Markes & descripcons thereof and paid twelve pene for the same by which if the said Clarke shalbee Concerned that any part of the goods Cerifyed unto him to bee found applyed to the party enquireing hee is to direct the said party enquireing to the place &

Page 6

person where the goods bee who is hereby required to make restitution of what is in being to the rue owner upon the penalty of the forfeiture of 2000 lb of Musco Sugar for every neglect by the overseere or Clarke aforesaid in any of the particulars to be leavyed upon his goods or Chattles for the breach of either of those two last Clauses is the breach by precept or Warrant from the Judge or Justice before whom such Commiccon shalbee had the one halfe of the five aforesaid to goe to the publique Treasurey the other halfe to the person shall informe And that all Negroes likewise may receive encouragment to take figitives and Runaway Negroes

Clause 12: It is farther ordeyned and Enacted by the authoritie aforesaid that wahtsoever Negro shall at any time of his accord take upp any Runaway Negro that have beene out about twelve Monethesshall have for his soe doeing five Hundred pounds of Sugar to bee paid by the owner if hee will redeeme him within one Moneth dureing which time the Master of the Negro that tooke upp such Runaway hath power to keepe for the purpose aforesaid But if the owner of the said Runaway Negro will not nor [dethrust] receive him within the said tyme then the Master in whose custody hee is hath hereby power to sell the aforesaid Fugitive or Runaway Negro and to take five Hundred pound of Sugar to himselfe for his {if the Master will not redeeme him} Negro and the rest returne to the Master of the Negro so taken upp And whosoever shall Deprive or Deceive any Negro that hath soe takepp any fugitive of the bond or recoard given him by this Law for the doeing shall forfeite three thousand {any Depriveing the Negro of the boon} pounds of Muscovado Sugar one third to the Counry one third to the Informer and one third to the Negro wronged which guift and forfeiture shalbee justly imployed by the Master of the Negro in Chathes for the said Negro to wharewith a Badge of a Redcrosse on his right Arme whereby hee may bee knowne and cherished by all good people for the good service to the Country the aforesaid five to bee recovered by him that shall sue for it in any Court of Record by Accon of Debt or information in which noe Essoyne protection Injunction or wager of Law shalbee admitted or allowed. And whereas diverse evill disposed persons have heretofore attempted to steale away Negroes by spurious persones of promiseing them Freedome in another Country against which practices upon lie noe punishment suitable hath been yett provided

Clause 13: Bee it therefore Enated ordeyned by the authority aforesaid that whosever shall diretly or indirectly at any time hereafter publicacon hereof to capt or persuade any Negroe to leave their Master or Mistress forever to whom they are Slaves, out of intent {againste Stealeing Negroes} and designe to carry away any of them out of he Isld or whosoever doe defraud their Master or of them and bee thereof convicted by their owne Confession or the oathes of two creedible witnesses or by the confession of such Negro or Negroes with

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[22] [ {any sending of other Negroes forfeite treble value}]

reasonable Circumstances Concurring shalbee by the Governor of the Isldfor the time being or by any Judge of Record or any two Justies of the Peace adjudged to pay the said Master of the said Negro or Negroes five thousand pounds of Muscovado Sugarby present or Warrant from the aforesaid Governor, Judge or Justice before whom the Condicon is made to bee leavyed upon the Lands goods or Chattles of the persons soe offending by such Constable to whom the aforesaid Warrant shalbee directed and Delivered to the party greived by way of damage and the Surplusadge (if any bee) shalbee returned to the owner And in case the party offending shall not bee found worth Land Goods or Chattles to the value aforesaid then shall the Governor Judge or Justice adjudge him Servant to the party Injurred Seaven yeares and soe Deliver him over to him and make Record thereof, But if any Man shall soe [Corupt and practine] any persons Negroes and then soo actually tempted away carry and send off the Isld and bee after apprehended in the Islad for the same hee shall by the Governor and Councill for the tie being condemned to pay the owners of such Negroes three tyes the value of them in Sugar and Execucon for the same from the Governor to yssue accordingly unto the Provost Marshall or his Deputie And whereas many hanious and greivouse Crimes Murhters & Burglaryes & robbing in the highway burning of houses and Canes bee many times committed by Negroes which offenders for Danger of escape are not long to bee imprizoned and being brutish Slaves deferve not for the basenesse of their Condicons to bee tryed by the legall tryall of twelve Men of their appeares or Neighbourhood while truely within can bee rightly done as the Subjects of England are nor is Execucon to bee delayed towards the in case of such horrid Crimes committed.

Clause 14: [In Margin: the tryalls for Negroes for Murther]

It is therefore Enacted ordeyned and published by the President Councill and Assembly and by the authority of the same that when any such Crimes as aforesaid shalbee Committed by any Negro or Negroes Slave or Slaves and the said Criminalls apprehended and brought before any of his Majestyes Justices of the peace within this Isld the Justice before whom such Criminalls are brought shall take Security for their fourthcomeing or send them to prizon and with all Conveniente proceede shall joine unto them the next Justic of the peace and those two Justices shall by their Warrant call to them three able good and loyall Freeholders shall heareth examine all Evidences proofe and Testimony of the fact [counucted] And if they shall find such Negro or Negroes guilty thereof they shall give sentence of deathupon him or them accordingly as is provided by Lawe for such Capitall offencers the said Freeholders being first sworne before the two Justices who are hereby impowered to administer the same and forthwith by their Warrant cause Execucon to bee done upon such Negro or Negroes Slave or slaves by the Comon Executoner or by what other Executoner can bee gott either Christian or Negroe

Clause 15: It is further provided that if any Freeholder shall make default to appeare upon

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such Summons before the Justices as so before menconed or appeareing refuse to joyne in them as before then the aforesaid Justice sett a fine upon him of five Houndred pounds of Musco[vado] Sugar and so [today] the same upon the aforesaid Freeholders his goods or Chattles accordingly; Provided alwayes neverthelesse that all petty Fellonyes as under the value of twentie pence and all finall [broyles] and misdeamours shalbee heard & determined by the aster of the Negro or Negroes committing the same upon the Complaint of the party injured. But if such Master shall not give such Negroe punishment in the Presence of the Complainant to his satisfaction the party injured shall carry the Complaint to the next Justice of the peace who will hereby required and authorized to heare the same And upon Conviccon by Confession Witnesses or oath of the party Injured to inflict such Corporall paines or punishment not injurious to life Limbe or Member as hee in his discreecon shall thinke fitt and reasonable. And whereas severall petty Larcenyes and Trespasses are Dayly Committed by Negroes in maimeing one another and killing of horses and Cattle stealeing of hoggs and diverse others of like nature which wilbee to [tada] use and chargeable to the party Injured should bee compelled to to take the ordinary course of Justice against them for the more speedy proceedings therein for the future.

Clause 16: Bee it Enacted and ordeyned by the authority aforesaid that upon any Complaint made to any of his Majestyes Justices of the peace dwelling with the parrish where the offense is Committed the said Justice shall issue his Warrant for apprehending the Negro or Negroes complayined off. And for all persons that can give Evidence againste them. And if upon examinacon it doth probably appeare that the said Negro or Negroes are gulty of the Crimes complained of then the said Justice is to certifie the same to the Justice dwelling next to him And to desire the said Justice by vertue of this Act to associate himselfe with him which such Justice is hereby required or such desire to doe and both of them soe associated are to issue out their Summons to three sufficient Freeholders of the said parish where the fact complained off was committed acquainting them with the said matter and appoint them a day houre and place where and when the same shalbee heard and Do [herewined] by the Judgement of the said Frredholders and themselves or the major part of them at which day houre and place the said Justice and Freeholders shall repaire and cause all the offences and Evidences against them to bee produced and if they shall upon the said Evidence or Confession of the said offender or offenders guilty of the fact complained of they shall then condemne the owner or owners of the said offender respectively to make reparacon and satisfaccon to the Complainant for the damage hee hath rejoined which if the owner or owners shall refuse to make according to his or their proporcon by the said Justices and Freeholders or the major part of them as judged and appointed then and in such case the said offeding Negro or Negroes belonging to such

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[24 ]

owner or owners soe refuseing shall by Judgment of the Court first receive such Corporall punishment as the said Judges shall thinke fitt and after bee awarded to the party inured to have and to hold the said Negroe to ethe said negroe party and his heires for ever. And in case the said Justices and Freeholders and any or either of them shall neglect or refuse to performe their dutyes where by this Act is required of them they shall severally for such their respective defaults forfeite the just quantity of five hundred pounds of Musco[vado] Sugar the one halfe to the publique Treasury the other halfe to the halfe to the party greived if hee shall presente for the same in the Court of the [presente] whom the said default is made.

Clause 17: And it is farther Enacted ordeyned and published by the president Councill and Assembly and by authority aforesaid that if any Negroe shall make Insurreccon or rise in rebellion againste this place or people or make preparacon of Armes parades or offensive Weapons or hold any Councill or Conspiracy for raiseing Mutinyes or rebellion in the Isle or hath beene formerly attempted that therefor the speedy remedy thereof the Governor of the Islae or the Superior officer for the tyme being appoint a Councill and the [Heald] officers of his Regiment of the Island or any four of them to meete in Councill and preseede by Marshall Lawe agste the Actors Coutrivors [waifers] by Death or other paines as the Crime shall deserve And as the aforesaid Master Mistress or Commander of a Family should bee frighted by feare of losse to search into and discover their owne Negroes soe evilly intended

Clause 18: It is farther Enacted and ordeyned that the losse of Negroes soe executed shallbe borne by the publiue and when the present Tresaury is not suffitient to satisfie the losse a publique Leavy to bee presently made upon the Inhabittants for reparacon of the same And whereas diverse Negroes are and long since have beene Runaway unto Woods and other fastnesse of the Island doe continually such mischeife to severall the Inhabittants of this Island hydeig themselves sometymes in one place and sometymes in another soe that with much difficulty they are to bee found unlesse by some suddaine surprize.

Clause 19: Bee it therefore ordeyned and Enacted and it is hereby ordeyned and Enacted that from and after publicacon hereof it shall and may bee lawfull for any Justice of the peace Constable or Captain of a Company within this Island that shall have notice of the residense or hyeing place of any Runaway Negro fugitive and outlawes to raise any Number of Men not exceeding twenty to apprehend

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{for takeing of Runaway Negroes}

or take them either alive or dead. And for every Negroe which they shall take alive being Runaway from his said Master above six Monethes they shall receave five hundred pounds of Sugar. And for every Negro which hath beene Runaway above Monethes one thousand pounds of Sugar from the owner Master or Commander of the said Negro if killed they shall receave five hundred pounds of Musco[vado] Sugar from the publique and Act or Statute heretofore to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

Clause 20: And it is farther Enacted and ordeyned by the authoritie aforesaid that if any Negro under punishment of his Masters or his order for runing away or any other Crimes or misdemeanours. Toward his said Masters shall suffer his life or in Member noe person whatsoever shalbee accomptable to any Law therefore But if any Man whatsoever shall of wantonesse or only [mindednesse] and[ranell] [wile ]upon willfully kill any Negro of his owne hee shall pay unto the publique Treasury three thousand of Musco[vado] Sugar but if hee shall kill another mans hee shall pay unto the owner of the Negro double the vallue and into the publique Treasury five thousand pounds of Musco[vado] Sugar And hee shall further by the next Justice of the peace bee bound to the good behavior dureing the pleasure of the Governor and Councill and not to bee lyable to any other punishment or forfeiture for the same neither his hee who kills another Mans Negroeby accident lyable to any other penalty but the owners Accon at Lawe But if any poore small Freeholder or other person kill a Negro by night out of the Common path & Stealeing the provision Swyne or other goods hee shall not be accomptable for it any Lawe Statute or ordiance to the notwithstanding And to the {Negroes killed Stealeing} intent it may bee certainly Knowne what Negroes are out in rebellion to their Master to the publique peace

Clause 21: It is by the authority aforesaid Enacted and Ordeyned that all owners of Negroes within this Isld doe within tenn dayes after publicacon hereof send an accompt to the Secretary for the tyme being in writeing what Negroes hee has {a Certificate to bee sent to the Secretaryes office of all Runawayes} fleed and Runaway and of the time they have beene gon and soe for the tyme to come of paying of one thousand pounds of Muscovado Sugar whereof the one halfe to bee to the Informer the other to the publique Treasury to be recondred by him that shall sue for it in any Court of Record by Accoid of Debt or inforacon in which noe essoyne proteccon Injunction or wager of Law Shalbee permitted or allowed And because the Negroes

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of this Isld in these late yeares past are very much increased and growne to such a great number sa cannot bee safely or easely governed unlesse wee have a considerable number of Christians to ballance and equall their Strength and the richest Man the Island lookeing for the present profitt Are themselves only with almost all Negroes neglecting Christian Servants and soo consequently their owne and publique safetie.

Clause 22: Bee it therefore Enacted and ordeyned by the President Councill and Assembly and it is enacted and ordeyned by the authority of the same that within twelve Monethes after publicatacoid hereof every Freeholder provide himselfe of one Christian Servant for every twenty Acres of Land that hee enjoyes or possesses. And from the said twelve Monethes forward that every Freeholder possessed of twentie Acres of Land or more Keepe noe lesse than one Man Servant for twenty Acres of land hee is Master owner or occupyer off upon the penalty of forfeiting three thousand pounds of Musco[vado] Sugar one thousand to bee to the Informer one thousand to the Governor or Superior officer of this Island for the time being. and one thousand pounds to the Churchwardens and overseers of the poore for the use of such poore where and in what parrish such default is made to bee recoudred against the refuseing or neglecting obedience therein in any Court of Record by the party which shall sue for it and the fine to bee now layed upon every person every three Monethes that hee Continue[ too] Continuancy or refuse or neglect to performe obeience here unto Provided that in case Christian Servants cannot possibly be gotten that then those that want the proporcon of this act named to supply themselves with the like number of hired Men which are to bee hired for six Monethes at least that then they bee not lyableto the aforesaid forfeiture. Lastly to the intentof this Act and every Clause and branch thereof may receive full Execucon and noe person please Ignorance therein

Clause 23 It is Ordeyned and enacted by the authority aforesaid that the act bee read and published in all the respective parrish Churches in this Isld the first Sunday in February and the first Sunday in August every yeare ensueing the date and first publicacon thereof Given under my hand September 24th 1661 Signed Humphery Walrond1Note that the signature is in the same handwriting as the body of the letter, and thus this is a copy of the original

Timeline of



Barbados Founded

Captain Henry Powell establishes a colony on Barbados, along with about 80 English colonists and some 40 African and Indian “slaves.” It is not clear that they actually were enslaved–they had apparently agreed to come for a term of years. But it indicates an intention to replicate Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch practices elsewhere. 


Lifetime Servitude

In 1636, Governor Henry Hawley and the Barbados Council proclaim that all Africans and Indians who arrive in Barbados without labor contracts could be kept as servants for life. Meanwhile, most English laborers who arrive in the island come with contracts that specify only a few years of service.


Richard Ligon

Richard Ligon publishes A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, which contained one of the first detailed descriptions of a British sugar plantation.


Royal African Company

The newly restored King Charles II, together with his brother James, charters the Royal Adventurers into Africa, England’s first state-sponsored slave trading company. 


Barbados Slave Code

Barbados becomes the first English colony to pass a comprehensive slave code. 


Butts v. Penny

 The Court of King’s Bench, the highest common law court in England, rules that “negroes” are infidels, that as infidels they could not become subjects and were therefore aliens, outside the protection of the law. They could as a consequence be considered property. They thereby set up powerful legal mechanisms for recovering enslaved “property” that applied across the empire, and legitimated racial slavery at the highest levels of English law. In Barbados this meant that credit could be more easily extended against enslaved property, which facilitated the slave trade.

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  • 1
    Note that the signature is in the same handwriting as the body of the letter, and thus this is a copy of the original