Weston March 19th, 1795.

Rev'd Sir,

5 Your letter of the 11th- instant is just come to hand. You cannot
be tedious to me while you are influenced by a desire to serve the interest of
humanity. If the africans who petitioned the Genl Court in 1773 & 1774 appli-
ed to Govr Hutchinson, I consider it as a proof of what I before supposed, that
the bill wch passed the two houses was presented to him for his consent before
he abruptly prorogued the court. The negroes, I conclude, were informed of its
being before him, and waited upon him to ask his favour. A number of the
court, myself among the rest, well knew he would not sign the act. I cannot
be positive that I heard him say, he had an instruction which forbad him;
but that he said he could not sign an act against the slavetrade, as
Barnard had said in 1767, a number were not ignorant of; who, notwith-
standing, were not the less forward to do, themselves, what they apprehended
to be duty.

If the negroes petitioned Gage, I know not who
could have advised them to the measure. He as governour had would have
no power to serve their cause, but as a branch of the legislative; and the only general court
while he was in the chair, was in 1774, which he adjourned to Salem, and
there dissolved. During that Short Session no such bill could have
passed the two houses. I, indeed, went home myself, having had the
honour of being negatived by him, in company with Mr Bowdoin and
Dr Winthrop; but the adjournment took place in a few days, and
when the court was at Salem no law was passed. The dissolution pre-
vented it.

I am unable to say what was done by the Court in 1777; tho' I
seem to have a recollection of having heard of some thing like what you
mentioned as having been told you by Prince Hall. This is all I can
say. I had been meditating a retreat fror public business previous to
my last neg in 74, and tho' I was afterwards prevailed upon by the town of
Dedham to represent them in what was called the Massachusetts Congress,
from its origin till its dissolution, yet, when government (upon recommenda-
tion of the general congress) was assumed in form, the offices of Governour
and Lieut Govr being considered as vacant, I belonged to neither branch.
Being in want of health I refused a seat in the house of reps, when chosen
by my town, and also, previous to the coming on of the election of councellors, wrote to

desire I might not be considered as a candidate, giving my ill
state of health as the reason of my declining a seat in council. Since
that time I have never been a public man, save four days in
the house of representatives, in 1785. As soon as the election of
Mr Bowdoin for governour was accomplished, to assist in which was
my only inducement to go to court that year, I asked leave of absence for so
long a time as it might suit my convenience to remain at home;
which having obtained, I left the representation of Dedham to my
colleague, and never took a seat again during the year. I think
I must have been tedious to you by my prolixity; but I wished to
give a reason why I could not answer your last question.

In great haste, your's with perfect regard,
Samuel Dexter

[Postscript]

P. S.
March 20th. -- I have been disappointed of sending this letter, and open it to
make an addition. A bill making provision as Prince Hall related to you, might
have been under consideration of the Court in 1777; but had it been
passed into a law, I think it probable some would have become free
before the year 1780; yet I never heard of any negro, either male or
female, before a slave, who asserted his or her right to freedom till
the last mentioned year. If there are any journals of the house
of Representatives for 1777, or of the council, in being, they are, probably, in the Secretary's office.
A recurrence to them will settle the question. The present gover-
nour, (then at Congress) was Secretary in 1776; and Perez Morton
Depy Secy. -- Perhaps too in the next year after. But the office of the
present Secy is the place where the journals are, or ought to be
deposited.

March 23d.

Addenda. --
If any such law as you mention passed in 1777, it ought to
have been in the Statute Book of Perpetual Laws.* But no such law is there;
nor any other, that I know of, wch passed while a majority of the Council admi-
nistered in place of governour. Those laws are now in sheets, and your
friend Judge Sullivan will readily inform you whether such an one is among
them.

But had such a law been in being the declaration in the Bill of
Rights would not, in every case, have been solely relied on. I know of one
instance of a young negro, who, I think, was under 21 in 1777, and
of age in 80. His master was solicitous to retain him; but gave up
the point after the suits I mentioned in my first letter were finished.
I never heard him hint that he lost his slave but from the operation
of the article in the Bill of Rights above referred to.

* If for no other reason, to preserve it should be for have been
preserved in perpetuam rei memoriam, for the honour of those
the Court that passed it.

18.1 cm x 14.8 cm

From the Jeremy Belknap papers