The Black Laws in the Old Northwest: A Documentary History

By Stephen Middleton | Go to book overview

Summary of Cases

Although the Ordinance of 1787 bound Indiana to prohibit slavery, its leaders early on found creative ways to circumvent the ordinance. The agricultural potential of Indiana and the interest of immigrating whites to preserve slavery produced successive petitions to Congress to rescind or modify the ordinance, Congress denied their requests. However, by the time Indiana entered the Union as a free state, it had made slavery possible under the guise of indentured servitude. The state supreme court found ways to uphold the prohibition against slavery, approve indentured servitude, and validate the state's racial code as prescribed by the legislature.

Territorial leaders succeeded in rationalizing slavery by arguing that the prohibition in the ordinance applied only to slaves brought into the territory after 1787. According to this interpretation, slaves already in the region, and their children, were unaffected by the Ordinance of 1787. The supreme court rejected this thesis in State v. Lasalle ( 1820). Lasalle, a slave holder, entered Indiana allegedly before adoption of the ordinance. He held Polly, a black woman, as a slave. Abolitionists disputed his claim and carried the case to the supreme court. The court rejected Lasalle's claim, declaring Polly a free woman. Later in Vaughan v. Williams ( 1845), a federal court affirmed the automatic emancipation rule, declaring that slaves were automatically freed when brought into Indiana with the knowledge and consent of their owner. State and federal courts upheld the fugitive slave law, however. As Ray v. Donnell ( 1845) shows, slaves who escaped from a slave jurisdiction were returnable under state and federal fugitive slave laws.

The black laws of Indiana also barred black children from common schools. Occasionally, school masters sympathetic to civil rights admitted black youths to private schools. Invariably, white parents objected, and the dispute ended up in court. Lewis v. Henley ( 1850) addressed this question.

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The Black Laws in the Old Northwest: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Ordinance of 1787, Article 6 xix
  • Introduction xxi
  • Notes xxvii
  • Part One- OHIO, March 1, 1803 1
  • I- Declaration of Rights 9
  • II- Enumeration and Election 11
  • III- Militia Policy 13
  • V- Colonization 19
  • VI- Kidnapping Law 25
  • VII- Public Education 33
  • VIII- Jury Law 47
  • IX- Reports- The Black Laws 49
  • X- Runaway Slaves 111
  • XI- Relief for the Poor 131
  • XII- Miscegenation of the Races 135
  • XIII- Civil Rights 137
  • Summary of Cases 143
  • Select Annotated Cases 147
  • Suggested Readings 155
  • Part Two- INDIANA, December 11, 1816 157
  • I- Declaration of Rights 163
  • II- Slavery 167
  • III- Indentured Servants and Laborers 185
  • IV- Suffrage and Election 195
  • V - Militia Policy 197
  • VI - Immigration and Residency 199
  • VII- Miscegenation Laws 207
  • VIII- Taxation and Enumeration 213
  • IX- Colonization 217
  • X- Kidnapping 227
  • XI- Fugitive Slaves 241
  • XII- Testimony and Witness 245
  • XIII- Public Education 251
  • XIV- Civil and Legal Rights 255
  • Summary of Cases 259
  • Select Annotated Cases 261
  • Suggested Readings 267
  • Part Three - ILLINOIS, December 3, 1818 269
  • Notes 274
  • I - Declaration of Rights 275
  • II- Militia Policy 279
  • III- Suffrage and Elections 281
  • IV- Servants and Slaves 285
  • V- Immigration and Residency 291
  • VI- Kidnapping 309
  • VII- Testimony and Witness 315
  • VIII- Runaway Slaves and Servants 319
  • X- Civil and Legal Rights 329
  • Summary of Cases 334
  • Select Annotated Cases 335
  • Suggested Readings 341
  • Part Four- MICHIGAN, January 26, 1837 343
  • I- Declaration of Rights 349
  • II - Kidnapping 353
  • III - The Slavery Controversy 359
  • IV- The Militia 363
  • V- Public Education 365
  • VI- Miscegenation of the Races 367
  • VII- Civil and Legal Rights 369
  • Summary of Cases 373
  • Select Annotated Cases 375
  • Suggested Readings 377
  • Part Five- WISCONSIN, May 29, 1848 379
  • Note 383
  • I- Declaration of Rights 385
  • II- Suffrage and Elections 387
  • III- Runaway Slaves 391
  • IV- Personal Liberty and Legal Rights 403
  • Summary of Cases 415
  • Select Annotated Cases 417
  • Suggested Readings 419
  • Index 421
  • About the Author 429
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