previous next


In the year 1770 a servant of Richard Lechmere, of Cambridge, stimulated by the general discussion of the slavery question and by the advice of some of the zealous advocates of emancipation, brought an action against his master for detaining him in bondage. The suit was decided in his favor two years before the similar decision in the case of Somerset in England. The funds necessary for carrying on this suit were raised among the blacks themselves. Other suits followed in various parts of the Province; and the result was, in every instance, the freedom of the plaintiff. In 1773 Caesar Hendrick sued his master, one Greenleaf, of Newburyport, for damages, laid at fifty pounds, for holding him as a slave. The jury awarded him his freedom and eighteen pounds.

According to Dr. Belknap, whose answers to the queries on the subject, propounded by Judge Tucker, of Virginia, have furnished us with many of the facts above stated, the principal grounds upon which the counsel of the masters depended were, that the negroes were purchased in open market, and included in the bills of sale like other property; that slavery was sanctioned by usage; and, finally, that the laws of the Province recognized its existence by making masters liable for the maintenance of their slaves, or servants.

On the part of the blacks, the law and usage of the mother country, confirmed by the Great Charter, that no man can be deprived of his liberty but by the judgment of his peers, were effectually pleaded. The early laws of the Province prohibited slavery, and no subsequent legislation had

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Somerset, Mass. (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Newburyport (Massachusetts, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Tucker (1)
Richard Lechmere (1)
Caesar Hendrick (1)
Greenleaf (1)
Belknap (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1773 AD (1)
1770 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: