Text of Prince Hall's 1788 Petition for Freedom

February 27, 1788

Prince Hall presented this petition to the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It protested the kidnapping of three free African Americans who were taken to the West Indies to be sold as slaves and argued the threat of being taken was keeping freemen from working in an industry where they could be employed.

Prince Hall, Illustration

Prince Hall was an African-American who lived in colonial Massachusetts. He played a prominent role in the abolition movement in colonial Boston.

To the Honorable the senit [senate] and House of Riprisentetives [Representatives] of the comon Welth [Commonwealth] of Massachusetts bay in general court assembled Februry 27 1788: The Petition of greet [great] Number of Blacks freemen of this common welth [Commonwealth] Humbly sheweth that your Petetioners [Petitioners] are justly Allarm’d at the enhuman [inhuman] and cruel Treetment [Treatment] that Three of our Brethren free citizens of the Town of Boston Lately Receved [Received] ; The captain under a Pertence [Pretense] that his vessel was in destres [distress] on a Island belo [below] in this Hearber [Harbor] , haven [haven’t] got them on bord [board] put them in Iorns [Irons] and covred [covered] them of, From their Wives & children to be sold for slaves; This being the unhappey [unhappy] state of these poor men What can your Petetioners Expect but to be treeted in the same manner by the same sort of men; What then are our Lives and Lebeties [Liberties] worth if thay may be taken away in shuch [such] a cruel & unjust manner as this; May it Pleas [Please] your Honnors [Honors] we are not encensebel [insensible] that the good Laws of this State forbedes [forbids] all such Base axones [actions] : Notwithstanding we can aseuer [assure] your Honners [Honors] that maney [many] of our free blacks that have Entred [Entered] onboard of vessles [vessels] as seamen and have ben sold for slaves a sum [some] of them we have heard from but no [know] not Who carred [carried] them away; Hence is it that maney [many] of us who are good seamen are oblidge [obliged] to stay at home thru fear and the one help of our time lorter [loiter] about the streets for want of Imploy [Employ] . Wereas [Whereas] if thay were Protected in that Lallfull [Lawful] calling thay might git [get] a hanceum [handsome] Livelihud [livelihood] for themselves and theres [theirs] : Which in the Setturation [Situation] thay are now in thay Cannot. One thing more we would bege [beg] Leve [Leave] to Hent [Hunt] — that is that your Petetioners [Petitioners] have for Sumtime [Some time] past Beheald [Beheld] Whith [With] Greaf [Grief] Ships cleared out from this Herber [Harbor] for Africa and there thay [they] other [either] steal or case [cause] others to steal our Brothers & Sisteres [Sisters] fill there [their] Ships holes [holds] full of unhappey [unhappy] Men & Women crouded [crowded] together, then set out to find the Best market. Seal [Sell] them there Like Sheep for the Slarter [Slaughter] and then Returne [Return] hear [here] like Honest men; after haven [having] sported with the Lives and Lebeties [Liberties] Fello [Fellow] men and at the same time call themselves Christions [Christians] ; Black O Hevens [Heavens] at thi [s?] These our Wotley [motley?] Greevences [Grievances] we cherfully [cheerfully] Submeet [Submit] to your Honores [Honors] Without Decttateing [Dictating] in the lest [least] — knowing by Experence [Experience] that your Honers [Honors] have and we Trust ever Will in your Wisdom do us that Justes [Justice] that our Present Condechon [Condition] Requires, as God and the Good Laws of this Common Welth [Commonwealth] Shall Decteat [Dictate] you — as in Deutey [Duty] Bound your Petetioners [Petitioners] Shall Ever Pray


Prince Hall

Note: The edits to the text were made by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Source: Massachusetts Historical Society Collections Online