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The Underground Railroad In Hudson County - Part Three

By Alexander Maclean

Edited by GET NJ, Copyright 2002

it was still possible to own a slave ... in New Jersey until the 13th Amendment ... was adopted in 1865

The spirit that culminated in the Declaration of Independence had spread among the people. For a series of years petitions setting forth the evils of slavery, and praying for relief, had been sent to the Legislature annually, but these met the fate that has overtaken local petitions for the last quarter of a century. The Revolutionary war and the hard times that followed it, overshadowed the slavery question for a time. In 1785, a law was enacted, providing a penalty of fifty pounds for bringing a slave imported from Africa into New Jersey, if imported after 1776, and twenty pounds for any others imported. In 1788, the importation of slaves from abroad was prohibited, and for several years there were many laws passed to regulate and restrict slavery. It was not until 1804 that a law was enacted that was intended to end slavery in New Jersey. This bill was before the legislature for two years before it passed. It was strongly favored -- and bitterly opposed.

According to this bill, children born to slaves after July 4, 1804 would be free after reaching twenty-five years of age, if males, and twenty years if females. The right of service was the transferable personal property of the owner. It was believed that this law would gradually extinguish slavery, but it did not. An emancipation act was passed in 1846. This law also permitted slavery to continue, though it made a rapid reduction in the numbers held in bondage. This is shown by the National Census. In 1790 the census showed 11,500 slaves. In 1800 there were 12,500. Bergen County, then including Hudson County, had 2,300 slaves in 1800, or about one sixth of the population. After this, each census showed a falling off due to the gradual emancipation act. In 1850 there were still 236 slaves, and 18 remained in 1860. In fact, it was still possible to own a slave under certain conditions in New Jersey until the 13th Amendment to the National Constitution was adopted in 1865.

Francis Newton Thorpe in his constitutional history of the American people (1901) says --"The negro in bondage was an outcast; overlooked by the tax-gatherer; refused admission to the schools; denied entrance to the trades; living on the thorny side of village life; doctored by charity; watched by a slave-holding democracy; rejected from the society of whites, and forbidden to mingle freely with his own." They were in a condition to excite pity and compassion.

Part Four

Hudson County Facts  by Anthony Olszewski
Hudson County, New Jersey is a place of many firsts - including genocide and slavery.
Political corruption is a tradition here.
First issue in a series by Anthony Olszewski
Click HERE to find out more.

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