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The Protection Society of Maryland | Maryland Historical Society

The Protection Society of Maryland


In 1816 a number of the leading citizens of Baltimore, believing that many
negroes were unjustly deprived of their freedom, formed themselves into a society
for their protection. A printed copy of the Constitution of this society, with
the original signatures, in manuscript, is in the possession of the editor, who
thinks it worth reproducing as a matter of history.

We, the undersigned, desirous of establishing a society for
ensuring protection to the people of color who are now free, and
to those who, at a future period, will be entitled to their freedom,
deem it necessary to state specifically our views and objects.
To avoid all possibility of misrepresentation, we make this
declaration at the outset, that we will not interfere with the legal
rights of masters over their slaves. Whatever may be our private
opinions, the abolition of slavery is not our object. So long as
slavery is sanctioned by the laws of Maryland, so long does it
become the duty of every good citizen to reverence those laws.
But a numerous class of these people are already free, and that
freedom is guaranteed to them by the same laws that protect every
other man in his person and property. If the laws can be openly
violated or covertly eluded, if a freeman, in short, whether black
or white, can be kidnapped and sold for a slave, every man has a
direct personal interest in repressing so daring an outrage against
the laws of the land; we all have an interest in maintaining the
integrity of the laws, and we do not see why the man who would
seize a black man and clandestinely rob him of his freedom, would
not be guilty of a similar outrage on the freedom of the whites, if
the opportunity offered and a market could be found for the sale
of his victims. This shameful practice of kidnapping free negroes
and disposing of them as slaves, has been carried on to an extent
so alarming as to render a combination for the purpose of suppressing
so scandalous and illegal a traffic, indispensable.

There is another class of people of color who are entitled to
their freedom after a term of years. The masters of these unhappy
men have, in many instances, on their death beds, made provisions
in their wills for their freedom. By passing into the hands of
persons more avaricious, or less humane than their former masters,
these devoted men have been clandestinely sold as slaves for life,
by which the benevolent intentions of the testators, the laws of the
land, and the sacred rights of humanity and justice, have been
equally outraged and profaned. Some of this unhappy class are
children—most of them ignorant, and all unable to protect themselves
from a foul conspiracy of kidnappers.

By the laws of Maryland, a negro discovered without his free
papers may be taken up and confined in jail as a runaway, and if
he does not produce the evidence of his freedom, is liable to be sold
as a slave. It has frequently, to the disgrace and scandal of our
jurisprudence, happened, that these miserable beings thus taken up
and imprisoned, not being able, in their state of confinement, to
procure the documents, within the time allowed for their production,
have afterwards, as a consequence, been sold for slaves.

Thus has a law originally intended for the protection of the rights
of masters over their slaves, been made to bend to the views of a
wicked and unprincipled set of free-booters, who are engaged in
entrapping and enslaving freemen, who dare thus, in defiance of
every sacred principle, to prostrate all law and justice at the shrine
of their guilty avarice. It is to preserve the dignity of the State
of Maryland, and to pay a due respect to the jurisprudence by
which it is governed, that we call on our fellow citizens to unite,
and to assist us in our endeavors to give to the law its proper tone
and energy, and to preserve the sacred rights of humanity from
such daring and wanton violation.

With a view the more effectually to accomplish this object, we
have submitted the following plan of a
This Society shall be called "THE PROTECTION SOCIETY OF
Any man may become a member of this Society by paying
Three Dollars to the Treasurer thereof.
The officers of the Society shall consist of a President, two Vice-
Presidents, a Treasurer, two Secretaries, four Counsellors and a
Standing Committee of six members, to be called the Examining
Committee—all of which shall be chosen annually by ballot.
The President, or in his absence, one of the Vice-Presidents,
shall preside in all the meetings, and subscribe all the public
acts of the Society. The President or either of the Vice-Presidents
in his absence, or any two of the examining committee, shall
have power to call a special meeting of the Society. There shall
be a stated meeting of the Society every three months. Six
members shall constitute a quorum to do business.
The Secretaries shall keep a fair record of the proceedings of
the Society, and shall correspond with such persons as shall be
judged necessary to promote the views and objects of the Society.
The Treasurer shall keep all monies and funds of the Society,
and shall, when in funds, pay all orders signed by the President,
or one of the Vice-Presidents of the Society, or by any two of the
examining committee, which orders shall be his vouchers for his
expenditures. He shall, before he enters on his office, give bonds
of not less thaa five hundred dollars for the faithful discharge of
bis duties,
It shall be the duty of at least one member of the examining
committee to enquire into every case where application is made for
the interposition of the Society, and if on such examination he or
they shall, after consulting one or more of the counsellors, be of
opinion that it is the duty of the Society to interpose, he or
they shall take such measures as the nature of the case may require,
to protect the rights of the person or persons on whose behalf the
application is made. But no petition for freedom, nor any legal
proceeding on behalf of the Society in favor of any colored person,
or for the protection of the rights of any persons who are the
objects of this Society, shall be commenced without the advice of
one of the counsellors, and it shall be the duty of the counsellors
to give advice in all cases when applied to by one or more of the
examining committee.
The members of this Society shall pay an annual contribution of
Two Dollars, to defray the expenses of the Society. The Society
shall also have power to levy such a tax on the members as shall
be necessary to defray the expenses, and accomplish the objects of
the Society. This tax, and the annual contribution shall be collected
by the Treasurer, and any member who shall neglect to pay
either for the space of three months after it is demanded, shall
cease to be a member.
The President and Vice-Presidents shall, virtute offioii, be
members of the examining committee.
Every person, on becoming a member, shall subscribe to this
It shall be the duty of the Secretaries to report the proceedings
of the Society at every meeting.
The Society shall have the power of making such By-Laws as
may be necessary to carry into effect all the objects for which the
Society is formed.
James Inglis, Minister
George Brown
Robert Oliver
Robt. Gilmor
J. A. Buchanan
Jno. McCulloch
Lyde Goodwin
John Brice, Jr.
S. Smith
Chr. Johnston
Isaac McKim
Robt. G. Harper
John Purviance
Edwd. J. Coale
Colin Mackenzie
John Caldwell
David Hoffman
John Chapman
Elisha Browne
Saml. Byrnes
John C. Richards
Saml. Baily
R. D. Mullikin
Geo. Baxley
Tho. Harwood
Wm. H. Mclntire
Saml. Keerl
Samuel Baker
D. F. Magruder
Th. Baltzell
John Strieker
Aaron Levering
Moses Sheppard
Wm. Eaton
Elisha Rogers
William D. McKim
Henry Stickney
James Fulton
Wm. Patterson
Chas. Ghequiere