Centennial Times - March 28, 1862 - No free negroes allowed.
March 28, 1862
Law Prohibiting Entry Of Free Negroes Is Opposed
AN ARBITRARY LAW—
The law prohibiting free Negroes from coming into Maryland unless they happen to be the servants of white men, remaining in the presence of their masters while here and leaving when they leave, was no doubt intended for the protection of the slaveholders of our state, but under its rigorous and absolute provisions, our Courts have no power whatsoever to discriminate between those arrested and brought before them who may have come for such an unlawful purpose and those who have not.
They are constrained to impose a fine on all alike and under fault of its payment, imprison and sell them into slavery.
This harsh procedure works great injustice and oppression in many cases and excites a feeling of indignation on the other side of the Pennsylvania line which too often avenges itself by secretly conniving at aggravated infractions of the Constitutional rights of our citizens or by boldly and openly striking them down. Thus the law defeats the primary purpose of its enactment by virtually doing the slaveholder more harm than good.
It also makes unworthy and undignified appeal to the mercenary motives for its own vindication, by allowing the informer the whole of the fine imposed for the first offense and the half of that imposed for the second. This sordid, unquestionably mean consideration and not the safety of the community or the good of society has multiplied trials of this kind before our Courts, and rendered necessary a prompt modification of the law, so as to vest in the proper authorities discretion in which they could ignore mere speculative cases and administer to those who annoy them with such cases a fitting rebuke.
The remarks especially suggested themselves to our mind by the recent arrest of two free Negroes, hired servants of Capt. Holibert of the United States Army, whilst in transit through this place. They were in his employ and were making their way out of town under a furlough from him, when they were seized and committed to jail for coming into the State contrary to law. Before, however they had a hearing before the Orphans’ Court, which under the law takes cognizance of such cases, during the recess of the County Court, they were forcibly taken from Jail by the military in pursuance of an order from headquarters and set at liberty. The affair created no surprise or excitement, because the community felt they had been wrongfully imprisoned.
Other cases, equally revolting to a proper sense of justice, have arisen under the law, among which we may mention the imprisonment of an idiotic Negro who came across the line to sweep a few chimneys. He is still in jail at an expense to the taxpayers of the county, and as none will buy him, he will eventually have to be discharged, and the fine and costs charged to the county. (Herald and Torch)
Used with permission of the Herald-Mail
59 x 33 cms
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Washington County (Md.), 1860-1862