House of Commons
Wednesday, Oct. 27th, 1852....Mr. McDugald, of Bladen from the same committee [the committee on the Judiciary], reported the bill to amend the act of 1840, chap. 30, entitled an act to prevent free negroes from carrying fire-arms, and recommended that it do not pass. Mr. Williams, of Warren. said:
Mr. Speaker: Having had the honor of introducing this bill, and being prompted so to do, by the wishes of a large portion of my constituency, I feel it due to them as well as to myself, respectfully to request that the House do not concur in the report of the committee on the Judiciary in rejecting the bill. And in making this request, Mr. Speaker, I am not prompted by any undue feelings of revenge, or induced so to act from a disposition to persecute or oppress that unfortunate part of our population known as the free persons of color; but a sense of duty, as well as a proper regard for the interest of those I represent, and the sincere belief that the passage of the law will remedy a crying evil in the State of North Carolina, have influenced me to offer this bill. And I desire to submit a few remarks in defence of the bill now before the House. Sir, the amendment which I offer to the act passed at the General Assembly of 1840 and '41, simply takes from the County Courts the authority to grant license to tree persons of color to own, keep, or carry firearms; and I am well aware that this additional restriction upon free negroes will to some seem oppressive and tyrannical, for the reason that some few of them are industrious, and honestly labor for a livelihood . . . As the law now exists if you detect a free negro carrying firearms, and demand his authority for so doing, his reply is, "I have a license from the County Court," and whether he has or not, how many, I ask, put themselves to the trouble of examining the records of the Court to ascertain? And Sir, as the law now exists, if one free negro is authorized to carry firearms, the consequence is that every free negro in his neighborhood uses the same, and not unfrequently when the fear of detection is lost, [the] slaves are also permitted to use them, and Sir, what [are] these firearms used for? Is it for the purpose of [protecting] their crops, or for the purpose of killing lawful [game]? It is not, but most frequently to prowl about [and] over their neighbour's plantations, encouraging [idleness], setting a evil example to the slaves of the country and too often killing and maiming the stock of [those] who unfortunately live near them. Mr. Speaker, I [heard?] free negroes as a curse to any society, to any [community], to any government where the institution [of slavery] exists, for experience teaches us that as a class [they] do not live by honest employment, and I must [confess] that I am in favor of holding them in the [strictest] subjection that the laws of humanity will allow, and [putting] upon them every restriction that is necessary [to] guard and protect the community from their evil [example] or vicious habits. I wish, Sir, the laws of our country to teach free negroes, that while they choose to [remain?] and live among us they must respect our interest [and] keep within proper limits, and I know no way [more] effectually to teach them that lesson,than by the strong arm of the law.
Mr. Speaker, I conceive it impossible that the passage of this bill could do harm, and I am satisfied it will be productive of much good, for while it deprives the free negro of no real benefit, it gives to us, to our slaves, and society a guarantee against the frequent depredations and damnable practices of free negroes in the use of fire-arms. I, Sir, judge of the good or evil of laws by their effect upon society; and I regret to say that the law granting to free negroes in any event the right to carry firearms does not answer the purpose for which it was intended, and this being the case, it is the duty of the Legislature to deprive them of that right.
And, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to be understood in proposing the amendment alluded to, as reflecting upon either my judgment or integrity of the County Courts; but, Sir, the liability to be imposed upon exists in them as well as in other bodies, and I well know that they have been frequently deceived by false witnesses and false representations as to the character and standing of free negroes, and thereby granted to very unworthy applicants the right to carry firearms. In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, suffer me to say that I am convinced the passage of the bill which I have introduced is demanded by the exigency of the case, and I trust that it will meet with a favorable consideration from this honorable body.
The bill was rejected by a vote of 61 to 44.[Weekly North Carolina Standard, City of Raleigh, North Carolina, Wednesday Morning,November 3, 1852. Volume XVIII. Number 944. Pg. 4]