The Black Code of Louisiana, 1806

This is part two of a two part article focused on the slavery laws of Lousiana compiled by an anonymous contributor from Maryland specifically for the National Era newspaper. This was a major endeavor in the days before Wikipedia and online legislative databases.

The article below has been abridged for the web. To view the complete article, please access the Accessible Archives database and search using the data at the end.


Law of June 7, 1806.

  • SEC. 1. Slaves shall have free enjoyment of Sundays, and shall be paid fifty cents a day, or its customary equivalent, for their labor when employed by the free inhabitants – provided this privilege shall not be extended to slaves employed as servants, carriage drivers, hospital waiters, or in carrying provisions to market.
  • SEC. 2. Every owner shall give to each of his slaves one barrel of Indian corn, or its equivalent, in rice, beans, or other grain, and one pint of salt, in kind, every month, under a penalty of a fine of ten dollars for every offence against this provision.
  • SEC. 3. The slave to whom his master shall not give a lot of the ground he owns, to be cultivated by the slave for the slave’s own account, shall positively receive from his master one linen shirt, and one pair of line pantaloons for the summer, and a linen shirt and woollen great coat and a pair of woollen pantaloons for the winter.
  • SEC. 4. Slaves disabled by old age, sickness or any other cause, whether their disease be incurable or not, shall be fed and maintained by their masters, in the manner prescribed by the second and third sections of this act, under the penalty of a fine of twenty-five dollars for each offence against this provision.
  • SEC. 5. It shall be the duty of the master to procure for his sick slaves all kinds of temporal and spiritual assistance which their situation may demand.
  • SEC. 6. No master shall be discharged from the obligation of feeding his slaves, by allowing them, instead of feeding them, to work certain days in the week for their own account, under a penalty of twenty-five dollars for every offence against this provision.
  • SEC. 7. The slaves shall be allowed half an hour for breakfast during the whole year; from the 1st of November to the 1st of May they shall be allowed two hours for dinner, and the rest of the year one hour and a half; but if the masters shall cause the meals of the slaves to be prepared the time fixed for rest shall be abridged half an hour per day.
  • SEC. 8. Slaves, disabled by old age or otherwise, having children, can only be sold with such of their children as they may think proper to go with.
  • SEC. 9. Every person is expressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers children slaves under ten years of age.
  • SEC. 10. Slaves shall be considered as real estate, and shall be subject to mortgage, seizure, and sale, as real estate.
  • SEC. 12. No master shall suffer on his plantation assemblies of any slaves but his own, under penalty of paying all the damage to the masters of the strange slaves, in consequence of permitting them to assemble.
  • SEC. 14. Any persons finding a slave carrying corn, rice, pulse, (legumes,) or any other provisions whatever, for the purpose of selling them, without a permission in writing from his master, shall have a right to stop and seize the said provisions, for reward, provided they may take two dollars from the master, in lieu of the said provisions; but if it be proved that the master has given permission, in writing, to his slave to carry, &c., and that it was destroyed by the parties seizing, then such parties shall be punishable by fine of twenty dollars; of, if insolvent, by two months’ hard labor.
  • SEC. 15. As the person of a slave belongs to his master, no slave can possess anything in his own right, or dispose in any way of the produce of his industry, without the consent of his master,
  • SEC. 17. Slaves shall be prosecuted in criminal cases, without it being necessary to make their masters parties thereto, unless the master be an accomplice; and for this purpose slaves shall be indicted and tried, without appeal, &c.
  • SEC. 19. No slave shall, by day or by night, carry any visible or hidden arms, not even with a permission to do so, on pain of such arms being appropriated to any person who shall seize them, &c.: Provided, That a slave may carry the arms of his master from the master to some one else, if authorized to do so by a writing to that effect.
  • SEC. 20. Slaves employed in hunting shall always carry with them permission, in writing, to have fire-arms, such permission being renewed every day, and having no effect beyond the limits of the plantations of the masters,
  • SEC. 21. As slaves may say they are free, free people of color who carry arms shall have with them a certificate attesting their freedom, or they shall be liable to lose their arms.
  • SEC. 22. Masters, in case of robbery or other damage done by their slaves, shall, beside the corporal punishment to which the slave is subject, pay all damages, or abandon the slave to the person robbed, &c., within five days from the time of sentence.
  • SEC. 23. A master, denouncing his slave as a runaway, shall be exempt from reparation for the injuries caused by his slave.
  • SEC. 24. All persons are prohibited from selling to any slaves intoxicating liquors (des boissons eniorantes) without a permission in writing from their masters, which the sellers shall keep fifteen days for their justification, under the penalty of being answerable for the damages and paying a fine of twenty dollars, to go one-half to the county treasury and one-half to the informer; and any person who shall sell or furnish, in any manner whatever, to any slave, intoxicating liquor, either for cash or in exchange for provisions, shall forfeit and pay a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, nor less than twenty dollars, &c.
  • SEC. 25. Every slave found on horseback, without permission, in writing, from his master, shall receive 25 lashes, and be sent home to his master, who shall pay twelve and a half cents per mile for carrying back the slave.
  • SEC. 26. Every master having runaway slaves shall report them to the judge of the county in which he resides, and the judges shall enter in a book the report of the master, &c.
  • SEC. 27. The keeper of the county jail, where a runaway slave might be caught, shall pay to the captors, whether free or slave, three dollars for ever slave caught on the highways, &c., and ten dollars for every slave taken in the woods, &c., and delivered to the said jailer, which sum shall be reimbursed by the master of the slave.
  • SEC. 28, 29. The slaves thus arrested shall be condemned to hard labor by the authorities of the county, &c., they providing for their maintenance, house-room, clothing, and medical attendance; and if after two years, &c., they shall not be reclaimed by their masters, the said slaves shall be sold, &c., and after paying expenses, &c., the balance of the money shall be paid into the public treasury, &c.
  • SEC. 30. To keep slaves in order and lawful submission, no master shall allow them to go beyond the city in which they dwell, or beyond the plantation to which they belong, without a permission, in the following form:

The bearer, (negro or mulatto,) named ______, has leave to go from _______ to _______ for _____ days (or hours).” Dated day of delivery. This order shall be signed by the master, &c., or some one by his, &c., authority; and every slave found beyond the limits of the city or plantation, &c., without such person, or without a white person accompanying him, shall be punished with twenty lashes by the person arresting him, and shall be sent back to his master, who shall pay one dollar, &c.

  • SEC. 31. Any person, not authorized, giving a permission to a slave, shall be liable to pay fifty dollars for the offence, or suffer one month’s public labor.
  • SEC. 32. If a slave shall be found absent from his usual place of working or residence without permission, or without being accompanied by some white person, and shall refuse to be examined by any freeholder, the said freeholder may seize and correct the slave,and if the slave shall resist, or try to escape, the freeholder is hereby authorized to make use of arms to arrest him, taking care, however, not to kill him; but if the slave shall attack and strike the said freeholder, the freeholder can lawfully kill the said slave.
  • SEC. 33. If any slave, lawfully employed, shall be beaten by any person without cause or lawful authority, the person so offending shall pay for every such offence a fine of ten dollars; and if the slave so beaten shall be mutilated or rendered incapable of working, the offender shall pay the master two dollars a day, besides the fine. And if the slave be forever rendered unable to work, the offender shall pay the master the appraised value of the slave, or be forever maintained at the expense of the offending party; but if the offender shall not be able to pay the said fine, &c., then he shall be imprisoned for not less than one month, nor more than a year.
  • SEC. 34. Every justice of the peace, &c., may order the assembly of the posse comitatus, to disperse runaway slaves, &c., and may authorize search for arms, ammunition, stolen goods, &c., and apprehend slaves suspected of having committed crimes, &c.
  • SEC. 35. It is lawful to fire upon runaway slaves who may be armed, and who, being pursued, refuse to surrender.
  • SEC. 36. Any person wounded or disabled, &c., in the pursuit of runaway slaves, or slaves charged with any crime, &c., shall be rewarded by legislative act, &c., and if killed in the pursuit, &c., his heirs shall receive the reward, &c.
  • SEC. 37. Masters, either in person or by others, shall have power to pursue and search for their fugitive slaves, wherever they may be, without prior notice, except in the principal dwelling house, &c.
This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: September 2, 1847
Location: Washington, D.C.

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