Prince Hall petitions for the abolition of slavery (1777)


Prince Hall was an educated former-slave in Boston who worked to abolish slavery and improve the condition of blacks in Massachusetts. In 1774 he petitioned military governor Thomas Gage, seeking the abolition of slavery; this was refused. In January 1777 Hall and seven others petitioned the Massachusetts state assembly for the same purpose. The Massachusetts assembly deferred any decision, referring the petition instead to the Confederation Congress:

“To the Honourable Counsel and the House of Representatives for the State of Massachusetts in General Court assembled, this 13th day of January, 1777…

The petition of a great number of blacks detained in a state of slavery in the bowels of a free and Christian country humbly show that… they have in common with all other men: a natural and inalienable right to that freedom which the Great Parent of the Universe has bestowed equally on all mankind, and which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever.

They were unjustly dragged by the hand of cruel power from their dearest friends, some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender parents – from a populous, pleasant and plentiful country, in violation of laws of nature and of nations, and in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity brought here to be sold like beasts of burden and like them condemned to slavery for life…

Every principle from which America has acted in the course of their unhappy difficulties with Great Britain pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favour of [the anti-slavery] petitioners, and they, therefore humbly beseech that your honours give this petition its due weight and consideration and cause an act of the Legislature to be passed, whereby they may be restored to the enjoyments of that which is the natural right of all men; and their children, who were born in this land of liberty, not be held as slaves.”