Petition To The New Hampshire Government (1779)

Petition To The New Hampshire Government  (1779) 

A petition to the post-Revolutionary-War government of New Hampshire in the United States requesting emancipation from slavery. A source states, "For most slaves in [the city of] Portsmouth another fifteen or twenty years passed before they were freed, and some in New Hampshire waited sixty years or were never freed." [1]

  1. Sammons, Mark & Cunningham, Valerie (2004), Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage, Durham, New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire Press, p. 66, ISBN 9781584652892 


Petition To The New Hampshire Government
1779

To The honorable Council and House of Representatives of said State now sitting at Exeter in and for said State:

The petition of Nero Brewster, Pharaoh Rogers, Romeo Rindge, Cato Newmarch, Cesar Gerrish, Zebulon Gardner, Quam Sherburne, Samuel Wentworth, Will Clarkson, Jack Odiorne, Cipio Hubbard, Seneca Hall, Peter Warner, Cato Warner, Pharaoh Shores, Windsor Moffatt, Garrott Colton, Kittindge Tuckerman, Peter Frost and Prince Whipple, natives of Africa, now forcibly detained in slavery in said State most humbly sheweth that the God of Nature gave them Life and Freedom upon the terms of the most perfect Equality with other men;

that Freedom is an inherent right of the human species not to be surrendered, but by consent, for the sake of social life;

that private or public tyranny and slavery are alike detestable to minds conscious of the equal dignity of human nature;

that in power and authority of individuals derived solely from a principle of coercion against the will of individuals and to dispose of their persons and properties consists the completest idea of private and political slavery;

that all men being ameniable to the Deity, for the ill improvment of the Blessings of his Providence they hold themselves in duty bound, strenously to exert every faculty of their minds to obtain that blessing of freedom which they are justly entitled to from the donation of the beneficient Creator;

that through ignorance and brutish violence of their countrymen, and by the sinister designs of others (who ought, to have taught them better) and by the avarice of both, they, while but children and incapable of self-defense, whose infancy might have prompted protection, were seized, imprisoned and transported from their native country where (though ignorance and un-Christianity prevailed) they were born free, to a country where (though knowledge, Christianity and freedom, are their boast) they are compelled and their unhappy posterity to drag on their lives in miserable servitude!

Thus, often is the parent's cheek wet for the loss of a child torn by the cruel hand of violence from her aching bosom! Thus, often, and in vain, is the infant's sigh for the nurturing care of its bereaved parent. And thus do the ties of nature and blood become victims, to cherish the vanity and luxury of a fellow mortal! Can this be right? Forbid it gracious Heaven!

Permit again your humble slaves to lay before this honorable assembly some of those greivances which they daily experience and feel. Though fortune hath dealt out our portions with rugged hand, yet hath she smiled in the disposal of our persons to those who claim us as their property; of them, as masters, we do not complain, but from what authority they assume the power to dispose of our lives, freedom and property we would wish to know.

Is it from the sacred volumes of Christianity? There we believe it is not to be found but here hath the cruel hand of slavery made us incompetent judges, hence knowledge is hid from our minds!

Is it from the volumes of the law? Of these also, slaves can not be judges but those, we are told, are founded in reason and justice. It cannot be found there!

Is it from the volumes of Nature? No! Here we can read with others, of this knowledge slavery can not wholly deprive us. Here we know that we ought to be free agents! Here we feel the dignity of human nature. Here we feel the passions and desires of men, though checked by the rod of slavery. Here we feel a just equality. Here, we know that the God of Nature made us free!

Is their authority assumed from custom? if so, let that custom be abolished which is not founded in nature, reason nor religion;

Should the humanity and benevolence of this honorable assembly restore us to that state of liberty of which we have been so long deprived, we conceive that those who are our present masters will not be sufferers by our liberation, as we have most of us spent our whole strength and the prime of our lives in their service. And as freedom inspires a noble confidence and gives the mind an emulation to view in the noblest efforts of enterprise, and as justice and humanity are the result of your deliberations, we fondly hope that the eye of pity and the heart of justice may commiserate our situation and put us upon the equality of freemen and give us an opportunity of evincing to the world our love of freedom, by exerting ourselves in her cause in opposing the efforts of tyranny and oppression over the country in which we ourselves have been so long injuriously enslaved.

Therefore your humble slaves most devoutly pray for the sake of injured liberty; for the sake of justice, humanity, and the rights of mankind; for the honor of religion; and by all that is dear, that your honours would graciously interpose in our behalf and enact such laws and regulations as you in your wisdom think proper, whereby we may regain our liberty and be ranked in the class of free agents and that the name of slave may not more be heard in a land gloriously contending for the sweets of freedom; and your humble slaves as in duty bound will ever pray.

Portsmouth November 12th 1779

Seneca Hall
Peter Warner
Cato Warner
Pharaoh Shores
Windsor Moffatt
Garrett Colton
Kittindge Tuckerman
Peter Frost
Prince Whipple
Nero Brewster
Pharaoh Rogers
Romeo Rindge
Cato Newmarch
Cesar Gerrish
Zebulon Gardner
Quam Sherburne
Samuel Wentworth
Will Clarkson
Jack Odiorne
Cipio Hubbard

State of New Hampshire:
In the House of Representatives
April 25th 1780