Monday, July 17, 2017

Massachusetts Declaration of Rights

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"Part the First: A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" consists of thirty articles. The first states:
This Article was the subject of a landmark case in 1781 before a Massachusetts court sitting in Great BarringtonBrom and Bett v. AshleyElizabeth Freeman (whose slave name was "Bett"), a black slave owned by Colonel John Ashley, sued for her freedom based on this article. The jury agreed that slavery was inconsistent with the Massachusetts Constitution and awarded Freeman £5 in damages and her freedom. A few years later, Quock Walker, a black slave, sued his master for false imprisonment; the jury found for Walker, and awarded him damages of £50. His master was then subject to criminal prosecution for assault and battery against Walker and was found guilty by a jury, which imposed a fine of 40/- (£2). In this manner, slavery lost any and all legal protection in Massachusetts, making it a tortious act under the law, effectively abolishing it within the Commonwealth.[citation needed]

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