Sixty-one citizens of Abbeville District seek the repeal of an 1834 law forbidding people to teach slaves to read. They request "the liberty, if we think proper, to teach our Servants to read, with so much fluency and Correctness, that they will be able to peruse the word of God and other religious books with pleasure and profit to their Souls." The petitioners purport that the law forbidding slaves to read is an "infringement of the right of conscience"; in addition, the law is unconstitutional as it negates the Eighth Section of the South Carolina Constitution establishing freedom of religion. They declare that "by this article all mankind within the limits of the State, are allowed the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship,” and since slaves are a part of mankind, they have immortal souls and the right to exercise religious worship. The petitioners lastly assert that servants who live in religious families and have been taught to read and understand the word of God are "much more trusty in every respect" than those who did not know nor understand the Bible.
Result: Referred to committee on colored population.
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Repository: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina