Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Laws of Slavery in Texas

The Laws of Slavery in Texas

Edited by Randolph B. Campbell
William S. Pugsley
Marilyn P. Duncan
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Laws of Slavery in Texas
    Book Description:

    The laws that governed the institution of slavery in early Texas were enacted over a fifty-year period in which Texas moved through incarnations as a Spanish colony, a Mexican state, an independent republic, a part of the United States, and a Confederate state. This unusual legal heritage sets Texas apart from the other slave-holding states and provides a unique opportunity to examine how slave laws were enacted and upheld as political and legal structures changed.The Laws of Slavery in Texasmakes that examination possible by combining seminal historical essays with excerpts from key legal documents from the slave period and tying them together with interpretive commentary by the foremost scholar on the subject, Randolph B. Campbell.

    Campbell's commentary focuses on an aspect of slave law that was particularly evident in the evolving legal system of early Texas: the dilemma that arose when human beings were treated as property. As Campbell points out, defining slaves as moveable property, or chattel, presented a serious difficulty to those who wrote and interpreted the law because, unlike any other form of property, slaves were sentient beings. They were held responsible for their crimes, and in numerous other ways statute and case law dealing with slavery recognized the humanness of the enslaved. Attempts to protect the property rights of slave owners led to increasingly restrictive laws-including laws concerning free blacks-that were difficult to uphold. The documents in this collection reveal both the roots of the dilemma and its inevitable outcome.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79310-1
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Joe R. Greenhill

    It is with special pride that I introduce this volume of readings. When the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society was established in 1990, the board of trustees identifi ed several tasks that needed immediate attention: revitalizing the dormant Judicial Portrait Collection, interviewing retired justices, and preparing a narrative history of the court. With this book, we have taken the first step toward fulfilling the last of those objectives, an achievement of which our members may be justifiably proud.

    Few states are favored with a history society dedicated solely to their state supreme court. This society is among about twenty such...

  4. Project Director’s Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Joseph W. McKnight

    The history of slavery in the United States has been the subject of hundreds of works over the years, but with the important exception of Randolph B. Campbell’s 1989 groundbreaking book, the literature on the history of slavery in Texas is sparse. The sparseness is particularly evident in the area of slave law. Most works on the legal dimensions of slavery focus heavily on the Old South, and Texas law is discussed either briefly or not at all. National scholars no doubt have paid scant attention to Texas slave laws because Texas was an atypical slave state. As the only...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Randolph B. Campbell, William S. Pugsley and Marilyn P. Duncan
  6. A Note on Editorial Style
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    (pp. xviii-6)
    Randolph B. Campbell

    The institution of African slavery as practiced in the antebellum United States depended on the ownership of humans as chatt els, pieces of movable personal property. As chattels, slaves remained property for life with no legally prescribed way to earn their freedom. They had no property rights themselves but could be bought, sold, mortgaged, hired, bequeathed to heirs, and distributed in estate settlements. Clearly, the status of slaves as property defined the institution in vital ways for both the enslaved person and the slave owner and is a key to any study of slavery and the law.

    Property rights in...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Laws on Slavery in Mexican Texas, 1821–1836
    (pp. 7-50)

    . . .

    The Junta Nacional Instituyente of the Mexican empire, being convinced by the urgent recommendations of the government, of the necessity and importance of giving to the empire a general law of colonisation, have thought proper to decree as follows:

    . . .

    Art. 30. After publication of this law, there can be no sale or purchase of slaves which may be introduced into the empire. Th e children of slaves born in the empire, shall be free at fourteen years of age.

    . . .

    Therefore, we order all tribunals, judges, chiefs, governors, and all other authorities,...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Laws on Slavery in the Republic and Statehood Periods, 1836–1860
    (pp. 51-105)

    . . .

    Sec. 6. All free white persons who shall emigrate to this republic, and who shall, after a residence of six months, make oath, before some competent authority that he intends to reside permanently in the same, and shall swear to support this constitution, and that he will bear true allegiance to the republic of Texas, shall be entitled to all the privileges of citizenship.

    . . .

    Sec. 9. All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Laws on Free Negroes in the Republic and Statehood Periods, 1836–1860
    (pp. 106-135)

    Mr. Jones of Austin of the special committee to which was referred the petition of Wyly Martin reported an act authorizing Wyly Martin to manumit & set free his slave Peter . . .

    The Committy to whom was referd, the petition of Wily Martin relative to emansipating his Slave Peter have carefully examined the subject,—

    Your Comitty have before them satisfactory testimony that the said slave has resided in texas about sixteen years, the most part of which time he has transacted business on his own account by Consent of his master, and during that period has universally sustained...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Laws on Slavery and Freedom in Confederate and Reconstruction Texas, 1861–1874
    (pp. 136-154)

    . . .

    Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated States to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. . . . She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery—the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits—a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. . . .


  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-176)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 177-180)
  14. Index
    (pp. 181-190)