The Barbaric Laws of Ohio in 1837

The ILLEGAL enactments of Ohio, are extremely oppressive to her colored population. – These LAWS were made by our Western Fathers, in the reign of wolves and bears.*  They are vestiges of backwoods barbarism, and never were intended for this enlightened day.

The first settlers passed them, merely to guard themselves against too great an ingress of worn-out slaves, set free from Kentucky and other slave states. They intended them, merely, as a protection, for the time being, that would be superseded by civilization and education. The axe and the hoe, before which the western forests have fled, should long since, have come in contact with all these unequal, unrighteous, and injurious laws.

The state legislature has been memorialized several times on the subject. The voice of the people has called, LOUDLY, for the repeal of the oppressive code, yet the members have stuck to it, with the same KIND of tenacity, that the Haytians do, to the usages of their fathers, in working their oxen by their horns. They have no other good reason. OUR FATHERS MADE THESE LAWS, and we must not BREAK THEM, is the VERY BEST apology, that possibly can be made, for their existence in this light and liberal age.

For the benefit of such of our readers, as are not acquainted with the disabilities to which our brethren in Ohio are subjected, we will mention a few of them. They exist, under a clause, of the old constitution of the state, in which colored men are denied a residence in the State, without bonds and freehold security, for good behaviour, and as an indemnity against their ever becoming a public charge. They are denied the right of suffrage, and of giving testimony against a white man, in any case, or any circumstances whatever.

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.
The colored people of the State have arisen, in their moral and intellectual strength, and resolved, that if there be any Republicanism, any religion or conscience, on the part of their white fellow citizens, and if there be any influence in industry and wealth, in moral and intellectual worth, and in remonstrances and prayers, on their part – they will no longer be brutalized, in a civil and religious country, and by the professed followers of a Holy and impartial Jesus.

We know our readers will admire their zeal and industry, in this noble cause, as well as delight themselves, with the wisdom and prudence of their measures.

We give below, from the Cleveland Journal, a report which, no doubt, will be read with pleasure, and we trust with profit, by all our brethren and friends:

THE COLORED PEOPLE OF OHIO – Some five or six months since, Mr. Clark went from this city, as an agent, to visit his colored brethren in this state, for the purpose of learning their condition and prospects. On Monday evening last, a meeting was held in the Stone Church to hear his report. It was able and interesting, indicating research, industry and intelligence in the agent. – As the result of his inquiries it would seem that the colored population of Ohio is about 5,000. – Some of these are engaged in mechanical labours with eminent success. Some own farms worth from three to twelve thousand dollars. Increasing attention is given to education; a large portion of the youth are in schools.

One object of the agency was to bring forward to the legislature petitions for the removal of the oppressive disabilities under which the colored race in Ohio groan. A few were presented, last session, which were received more favourably than was anticipated. It is hoped that patient perseverance will gain the end. It doubtless will, if the Christian public do not defeat them, and if they themselves evince their purpose to be worthy of all the immunities enjoyed by their fellow citizens.

Cleveland Journal.

* We mean when the State was first settled, wild and uncultivated, and these animals were plenty.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: July 22, 1837
Title: The Laws of Ohio

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