NORTH CAROLINA LAWS AND ACTIONS, BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND THE 1861 SECESSION CONVENTION, TO PRESSURE FREE NEGROES TO ENSLAVE THEMSELVES.
It defies belief that free negroes would voluntarily enslave themselves unless they were living in conditions of sever deprivation, i.e., work, housing and food for their families, and viewed themselves as powerless to prevent intimidation. The harsh conditions at home created by the Civil War put all of their limited freedoms at greater risk and undoubtably forced the men listed below into making tough, survival choices. Finally, such extreme legislation, especially in 1860 and 1861, provides further documentation of how slave property was the uncontested, most important issue for the men serving as representives in the North Carolina General Assembly and in 1861 Secession Convention.
LEGISLATION BY THE NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ca. February, 1861.
AN ORDINANCE ALLOWING FREE NEGROES TO ENSLAVE THEMSELVES
Be it Ordained, etc., That any free negro, being twenty-one years of age, who may desire to become the slave of any white person, may petition the County Court in the county in which said negro may reside, stating the person he or she may select, and said court shall have full power and authority in their discretion, to convey an deliver said negro to the person selected as his or her slave, according to the provisions of this ordinance.
Be it further ordained, That such petition may be filed in either vacation, or at any term of the County Court, and at the first term after the filing said petition, the court shall [end page one, begin page 2] order the clerk to make due publication of such petition by advertising, the same for the space of thirty days, at the Court House door, and two or more public places in said county, and at the next succeeding term, the said court, twelve Justices being present, shall hear and determine said petition, and make such order or decree as many be necessary to convey absolute and complete right and title to the person selected, to such negro as his or her slave forever.
Be it further ordained, That such negro shall be present, in court, and shall be privately examined by one or more members of the court touching his free consent to such petition. And such a negro shall not be liable to the debts of the person selected, which may have been contracted prior to the order of the court declaring him or her a slave.
Be it further ordained, That the costs shall be paid by the person selected s the master or mistress of such negro, and shall be the same as in other cases of petition.
Be it further ordained, That this ordinance shall be in force from and after its ratification.
NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY, February 1861.
Presented by Mr. Williams, for the Committee
The Committee to whom was referred a Resolution to authorize and empower the County Courts to permit free negroes to enslave themselves, and also the petitions of Duncan Artis (Wilson County), Thomas Craig, Martha Craig, Mary Ann Rankin and others, beg leave to report that they have considered the same, and recommend the passage of the accompany ordinance.
A. D. WILLIAMS, Chairman
ENSLAVEMENT OF DUNCAN ARTIS, A FREE NEGRO, OF WILSON COUNTY, NC by the 1861 NORTH CAROLINA SECESSION CONVENTION, 8 November 1861.
Presented by Mr. Thompson. [ERVIN APPLEWHITE THOMPSON, 1861 NC Secession Convention County Delegate from Wayne County, NC. Born in Wayne County in Stony Creek Township in 1827 and died in 1882 in the Insane Asylum in Raleigh, NC] Information on Mr. Thompson from: John Gilchrist McCormick, PERSONNEL OF THE CONVENTION OF 1861 [Chapel Hill, NC: James Sprunt Historical Monographs, #1, 1900], page 84.
AN ORDINANCE ALLOWING DUNCAN ARTIS ( A FREE NEGRO) TO ENSLAVE HIMSELF
Be it ordained by the delegates of the people, in Convention assembled, and it is hereby ordained by the authority of the same, that DUNCAN ARTIS, a free negro of the county of Wilson, be permitted and empowered to enslave himself by choosing JAMES B. PEACOCK, of said county, as his master; and that the said JAMES B. PEACOCK, have, hold and enjoy the rights to, and dominion over the said DUNCAN ARTIS as if he had been born his slave.
Be it further ordained, That this Ordinance be in force from and after its ratification.