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May 2015 Web Final

May 2015

A BILL to Provide for

A BILL to Provide for the Apprehension of Runaway Slaves In the Great Dismal Swamp, and for other purposes. by Wanda E. Hunt McLean Raleigh: W. R. Gales, Printer to the Legislature. 1846. Louis Round Wilson Library-UNC Chapel Hill Call #Cp326.7N87g2 In the 1840s slave owners who lived in counties bordering the Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) became aware that slaves were escaping through the swamp with the assistance of other slaves, slaves passing as free, free people of color, and white people. Many of these people who assisted were working in the swamp. The owners and supervisors of these companies often hired runaway slaves. If the hired slaves left, the company simply hired more black people which resulted in cheap labor. Consequentially the slave owners in Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Gates, Perquimans and Chowan counties submitted a petition to the General Assembly that would hopefully stop or slow down Underground Railroad activities in the GDS. The petition was introduced to the Assembly in 1846. W. R. Gale was the printer for the legislature. The petition became a Bill in 1847. Slaves who were in the GDS with no intentions of returning to their owners were in the swamp long enough to either wait for a passage north to the Norfolk or Portsmouth shipping docks or south to the shipping docks in Elizabeth City to continue their journey to freedom. If an owner of a slave, or one loaned out, wanted to permit a slave to work in the GDS he or she had to deliver the slave before the Clerk of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions of the county in which the slave was to be employed, and the clerk completed paper work on a physical description of the slave. This information was kept on file in the court house. The slave owner or superintendent also received a copy, and this was given to the slave to keep on him/her at all times during employment in the GDS. Those who did the hiring in the swamp were responsible for reviewing this document prior to a black person being hired to work. Any person in violation of this process was punished; some people were jailed, many slaves were wiped, and many people paid a hefty fine. The county clerks in the six counties were also required to attach a copy of the Act on the front door of the courthouses. All possible scenarios for assisting slaves to escape while employed in the GDS were covered in this Bill. This Bill also addresses a fact that many people today are not aware of especially in the South; white southerners other than Quakers and abolitionists assisted slaves in their flight to freedom. The Bill clearly acknowledges this activity by white people as stated in the following: Be it further enacted, That if any white person shall, in the said Swamp, consort, or work with, or employ, or engage, to work in said Swamp, any runaway slave, or any slave who shall not have such certified copy as aforesaid, he or she shall forfeit the sum of one hundred dollars, to be recovered in an action of debt by any person who will sue for the same, and shall be moreover indictable as for a misdemeanor, and, on conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three months, and a fine at the discretion of the Court. Slave escapes were often spontaneous. But the term Underground Railroad was used by both white and black people to describe a highly secretive and organized network of escape activities. Whenever a law was passed such as the one above, or the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, all involved reorganized which often led to slaves escaping in larger numbers. The large number of waterways in NC leading to the various sounds and the ocean often made the UGRR “unseen in plain sight.” Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia, by David Edward Cronin, 1888 Albemarle Tradewinds has never required contracts from it’s clients. 22 Albemarle Tradewinds May 2015 albemarletradewinds.com

Your local computer repair store. From Laptop Repair to virus removal we do it all. Located in Elizabeth City NC. 252-562-0987 Book Sale during the famous, annual Whitehall Shores garage sale at 202 Japonica Drive, Camden 27921 June 6th sponsored by The Camden Friends of the Library. All monies raised will go to support our local libraries. Have slightly used books? Want them to go to a good home? Bring them by the Camden Library off of HWY 158/ Short Cut Rd and get a tax donation form and see your books make a difference. All proceeds from donated books go back into helping the libraries. Looking to join a group? The Camden Friends of the Library is what you are looking for. Stop by the Camden Library to pick up a form or email friendsofthecamdenlibrary@gmail.com for more information. Free 24 hour news at albemarletradewinds.com Thank you Virginia Pilot for your news feed. facebook.com/AlbemarleTradingPost Albemarle Tradewinds May 2015 23