Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question.
I think you will find this particularly pertinent to your question.
Concerning slavery in America and the laws regulating punishment of
slaves, the Slave Codes of the State of Georgia, 1848 specifically
address this issue and provides an excellent example of the rampant
inequality in the law. There are many others but for emphasis sake I
will point out a few statutes wherein the intent of the law was to
address the infractions of a slave quite differently from that of a
free white man when perpetrated by each, and on one another:
ART. I. CRIMES, OFFENCES, AND PENALTIES
SEC. I CAPITAL OFFENCES
4. Punishment of slaves for striking white persons.
?If any slave shall presume to strike any white person, such slave
upon trial and conviction before the justice or justices, according to
the direction of this act, shall for the first offence suffer such
punishment as the said justice or justices shall in his or their
discretion think fit, not extending to life or limb; and for the
second offence, suffer death: but in case any such slave shall
grievously wound, maim, or bruise any white person, though it shall be
only the first offence, such slave shall suffer death.?
You will note there that the second offense of the crime that is
typically called ?battery? today (a misdemeanor) resulted in a death
sentence for a slave. Conversely, a slave was not punished for
striking a white person in defense of a white person, if ordered to do
?5. When the striking a white person justifiable. -- Provided always,
that such striking, wounding, maiming, or bruising, be not done by the
command, and in defense of the person or property of the owner or
other person have the care and government of such slave, in which case
the slave shall be wholly excused, and the owner or other person
having the care and government of such slave, shall be answerable, as
if the act has been committed by himself.?
Further are these examples:
Slaves or persons of color were not allowed to ?preach? or ?exhort?
without a license. The penalty was a $500 fine, imprisonment not to
exceed six months, and a whipping not to exceed thirty-nine lashes.
This law did not apply to whites.
SEC.. II. MINOR OFFENCES.(17)
A slave who gave false information resulting in the wrongful
punishment of another slave was punished in the same manner as the
wrongfully punished slave. Obviously this same law did not apply to
SEC.. II. MINOR OFFENCES.(20)
And then of course there is the catch-all statute that provided that a
slave could be punished however the court determined in all matters
not specifically addressed in this code. Clearly such a broad and
ambiguous law was not applicable in the offense of free white men.
SEC.. II. MINOR OFFENCES.(21)
Under Article II SEC. III. EVIDENCE, a slave or free white person or
any witness ?who believes in God and a future state of rewards and
punishments? may testify against a slave, but only a jury of free
white men could determine the fate of the accused.
Other examples include the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of
the Legislature in the Year 1619 (statutes here are written in the
common old English). For example, a free white man may punish a slave
for disobedience and if that slave died as a result, the murderer was
not held criminally liable:
?An act about the casuall killing of slaves.
WHEREAS the only law in force for the punishment of refreactory
servants (a) resisting their master, mistris or overseer cannot be
inflicted upon negroes, nor the obstinacy of many of them by other
then violent meanes supprest, Be it enacted and declared by this grand
assembly, if any slave resist his master (or othe by his masters order
correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance
to die, that his death shall not be accompted ffelony, but the master
(or that other person appointed by the master to punish him) be acquit
from molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepensed malice
(which alone makes murther ffelony) should induce any man to destroy
his owne estate.?
VIRGINIA STATUTES ON SLAVES AND SERVANTS
There are many such examples but a few others include:
??if any negroe or other slave shall presume or lift up his hand in
opposition against any christian, shall for every such offence, upon
due proofe made thereof by the oath of the party before a magistrate,
have and receive thirty lashed on his bare back well laid on.?
VOL. III, APRIL 1692 - 4TH WILLIAM AND MARY,ACT III, 3.102
Free Negroes or non-Christians were not allowed to own Christian
slaves, and a master of color was not allowed to own any slave except
those of his own complexion.
In Alabama there were similar laws:
Blacks found guilty of writing passes for other slaves could receive a
whipping up to 100 lashes. -- 1852 Code
An enslaved black could be punished by whipping and branding for
manslaughter if the victim was another slave. -- 1827 Statute
A free person found guilty of assembling with enslaved blacks was to
be fined $20 and be punished with 10 stripes. -- 1852 Code
Enslaved blacks found guilty of murdering an enslaved or free black
were to be punished up to 100 stripes, or be branded in the hand, at
the discretion of the jury. -- 1852 Code
Enslaved blacks were sentenced to death for capital crimes. If the
judge found the slave?s owner to blame for the capital offense
committed by an enslaved black, the owner was simply made for forfeit
the executed slave as his punishment. -- 1852 Code
SLAVERY IN AMERICA
Here are some other miscellaneous examples:
"In Georgia, if a white teach a free negro or slave to read or write,
he is fined 500 dollars, and imprisoned at the discretion of the
court; if the offender be a colored man, bond or free, he is to be
fined or whipped at the discretion of the court.?
?In North Caroline, to teach a slave to read or write, or to sell or
give him any book (bible not excepted) or pamphlet, is punished with
thirty-nine lashes, or imprisonment if the offender be a free negro,
but if a white, then with a fine of 200 dollars.?
SLAVERY AND THE INTERNATIONAL SLAVE TRADE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
?In Georgia, any person may inflict twenty lashes on the bare back of
a slave found without license on the plantation, or without the limits
of the town to which he belongs. So also in Mississippi, Virginia, and
Kentucky, at the discretion of the justice.?
(Jay?s Inquiry, p. 134.)
?In South Carolina and Georgia, any person finding more than seven
slaves together in the highway without a white person, may give each
one twenty lashes.? Similar in Delaware: ?more than six slaves.?
(Delaware Laws, 104. Stroud, p. 102.)
?In Kentucky, Virginia, and Missouri, a slave, for keeping a gun,
powder, shot, a club, or other weapon whatever, offensive or
defensive, may be whipped thirty-nine lashes, by order of a justice.?
?In North Carolina and Tennessee, a slave travelling without a pass,
or being found in another person?s negro quarters or kitchen, may be
whipped forty lashes, and every slave in whose company the visitor is
found, twenty lashes!? (Ib.) The visits of parents and children,
husbands and wives, may be thus punished.
?In Louisiana, a slave, for being on horseback, without the written
permission of his master, incurs twenty-five lashes; for keeping a
dog, a like punishment.? (Ib.) Horses and dogs, as well as weapons,
might assist their escape.
?By the law of Maryland, for ?rambling, riding, or going abroad in the
night, or riding horses in the daytime without leave, a slave may be
whipt, cropped, or branded on the cheek with the letter R, or
otherwise punished, not extending to life, or so as to unfit him for
In Georgia and South Carolina, ?If any slave shall be out of the
house, or off the plantation, of his master, and shall refuse to
submit to an examination by any white person, such white person may
apprehend and moderately correct him; and if he shall assault or
strike such white person, he may be lawfully killed.?
THE AMERICAN SLAVE CODE
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prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
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Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher
SLAVE CODES OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA, 1848
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
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