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Rare New York Senate Print of Proposed State Law to Combat the Dred Scott Decision
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Every slave … who shall come or be brought, or be involuntarily in this state shall be free.

SLAVERY AND ABOLITION—NEW YORK STATE. New York Senate. “An Act To secure Freedom to all persons within this State,” Edward M. Madden, April 9, 1857, Passed the Assembly on April 17; failed in the Senate. Printed with numbered lines for the use of the Senate. 1 p., 6.5 x 11.5 in.

Inventory #23389.07       Price: $3,500


Neither descent, near or remote, from an African…nor color of skin shall disqualify any person for being, or prevent any person from becoming a citizen of this state; nor deprive such person of the rights and privileges of a citizen thereof....

Every person who shall hold, or attempt to hold in this state in slavery…under any pretence, or for any time however short, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and on conviction thereof shall be confined in the state prison at hard labor for a term not less than two nor more than ten years.


Historical Background

In 1799, the New York legislature passed “An Act for the gradual abolition of slavery” that indentured and would eventually free slave children born after July 4, 1799.  In 1817, it passed a law freeing those slaves in 1827. But non-residents and part-time residents could still bring their slaves into the state temporarily.

On March 14, 1857, New York Assemblyman Samuel A. Foot introduced resolutions declaring that the U.S. Supreme Court, through its decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford “has in effect declared slavery to be national,” and calling for the creation of a joint committee of three senators and five assemblymen to “consider and report what measures (if any) the Legislature of this State ought to adopt to protect the constitutional rights of her citizens.” The resolution passed by a vote of 49-24, and the Senate concurred on April 2.

On April 9, Edward M. Madden introduced this bill in the Senate. Simultaneously, Foot introduced this bill (#24129) and three resolutions (#23389.08) in the Assembly. Eight days later, the Assembly (with 81 Republicans, 38 Democrats, and 8 American Party members) passed the bill 72 to 38. In the Senate (with 17 Republicans, 9 American Party members [Know Nothings], and 4 Democrats), attempts to move the bill to the Committee of the Whole were evenly divided. Lacking the two-thirds majority required for this procedure, the bill died.

Very similar language appeared in an 1859 bill which also failed; New York passed no new Personal Liberty Law during the decade before the Civil War.

The New York Senate had thirty-two members in 1857, so it is likely no more than fifty copies of this bill were printed for Senate consideration. We can find no evidence that any other copies have survived.

Edward M. Madden(1818-1885) was born in Orange County, New York, and began work at a cotton factory at age nine. He worked as a merchant and then opened a saw factory in Middletown. He entered politics as a Democrat and was a delegate to the 1852 Democratic state convention. He joined the new Republican Party and served as a member of the New York Senate in 1856-1857, 1872-1873, 1875, and 1880-1881. He also served as a delegate to the 1864 and 1876 Republican National Conventions.

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