Declaration of Rights
Illinois set forth a bill of rights in its constitution, enumerating legal rights that could not be abridged by the state or its citizens. Illinois also prohibited slavery in compliance with Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It was possible for Illinois to extend civil rights to African Americans during its territorial phase and the early years after statehood. The state, however, made it easy for whites to bring in slaves under the guise of indentured servitude. Illinois required emigrating slave holders to only sign labor contracts with each servant brought into the state. This principle of freedom and bondage in Illinois may seem contradictory even though the the majority of whites never pretended to be liberal towards blacks. Most whites ancestry. Also wanting cheap laborers the whites circumvented Article 6 in the Ordinance. Without cheap laborers, some planters reasoned, Illinois would face a tought time reaching its agricultural potential. Consequently, Illinois proclaimed Jeffersonian notions about freedom, while rejecting equality between blacks and whites. The state constitution approved this dual policy inaugurated by the territorial legislature in 1903, and later refined by the general assembly of Illinois.
Constitution of Illinois, Article 8, 1818. That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and unalterably established, we declare,