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[129] sanctioned it; for, although the laws did recognize its existence, they did so only to mitigate and modify an admitted evil.

The present state constitution was established in 1780. The first article of the Bill of Rights prohibited slavery by affirming the foundation truth of our republic, that ‘all men are born free and equal.’ The Supreme Court decided in 1783 that no man could hold another as property without a direct violation of that article.

In 1788 three free black citizens of Boston were kidnapped and sold into slavery in one of the French islands. An intense excitement followed. Governor Hancock took efficient measures for reclaiming the unfortunate men. The clergy of Boston petitioned the Legislature for a total prohibition of the foreign slave-trade. The Society of Friends, and the blacks generally, presented similar petitions; and the same year an act was passed prohibiting the slave-trade and granting relief to persons kidnapped or decoyed out of the Commonwealth. The fear of a burden to the state from the influx of negroes from abroad led the Legislature, in connection with this law, to prevent those who were not citizens of the state or of other states from gaining a residence.

The first case of the arrest of a fugitive slave in Massachusetts under the law of 1793 took place in Boston soon after the passage of the law. It is the case to which President Quincy alludes in his late letter against the fugitive slave law. The populace at the trial aided the slave to escape, and nothing further was done about it.

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