Under English law, the legal status of each colonist was defined by the same protocol used for the first 19 Africans, who arrived on Virginia’s shores in 1619. It was the same law that made the Patriots Englishmen. History supports, no erstwhile Englishman, who later became an American after the Declaration of Independence in 1776 held a heighten status or rank under English law. They were not immunized from being subject to English criminal laws, nor were any class of colonists, living within the North American colonies granted a legal right, license, or privilege to own fellow colonists or Africans. History supports, Afro-Englishmen and Africans who lived in North American colonies during colonial times were subjects of King George III by English law. They had unalienable rights, in particular liberty after the Somerset Decision… as the British high court ruled slavery was not allowed or approved by the laws of this Kingdom and can only be lawful by “positive law”. The ability to enact positive laws for North American colonies during colonial times rested solely with the British Parliament. Colonial assemblies during colonial times never had plenary power to enact “positive laws”. Thus, General George Washington’s utterance to General Carleton that “colonial statutes” legitimated post-Treaty of Paris ownership claims of Americans is stunning for both—mendacity and then durability.
with respect to mendacity… the slaveholding Washington had to know colonial statutes were never positive law… colonial slavery was an extralegal practice and it only functioned due to colonial tyranny and wide-spread corruption within the North American colonies and that by 1772… colonial statutes had been struck down by the Somerset Decision. Arguably, the manner and substance of General Carleton’s statements to America’s future president in May 1783… that he did not see any provision in the articles of peace, as being a relinquishment or an abandonment of England’s promises of liberation and subjecthood for enslaved Afro-Englishmen and Africans were believable and the truth. However, this was new information for Washington… who in turn was caught flat-footed and off-guard. Furthermore, Carleton’s extrapolation that it would be a breach of faith for him not to honor Clinton’s Phillipsburg Proclamation that made former slaves… His Majesty’s subjects thereby entitling them to be “set at liberty” per treaty was understandable… but his plan to evacuate all Revolutionary War-era blacks from the United States (who wanted to leave the United States) and devastate America’s economy that was teetering on financial collapse caused the slaveholding Washington to lose much of his objectivity.
History supports, Generals Washington and Carleton’s meeting was cordial and this was the first Washington heard a British plan to remove all former slaves from the United States. Carleton assured Washington… if removing the former slave population away from the United States proved to be a violation of the Treaty of Paris then compensation would have to be paid by the British. Washington went along with Carleton’s suggestion that each nation generate a registry each called The Book of Negroes, listing their names, ages, and occupations, along with the names of their former masters, so that “the owners might eventually be paid for the slaves who were not entitled to their freedom by British proclamation and promises”. But in actuality… Washington was in a state of shock and horrified by the realization for the first time that U. S. Peace commissioners… who were led by northern Patriots John Adams of Massachusetts, John Jay of New York and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania had negotiated away their claims of ownership and control of Afro-Englishmen… in exchange for peace with the British and had kept it a secret from General George Washington.
Satisfied with his meeting with General Carleton… General Washington sent a letter to General Carleton that memorialized his understanding and their commitment to get their sovereign governments involved:
“The measure is totally different from the letter and spirit of the treaty but waiving the specialty of the point, leaving this decision to our respective sovereigns I find it my duty to signify my readiness in conjunction with you to enter agreement, or to prevent the future carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American people”.
General Carleton ordered everyone under his command to “remain on duty until every man, woman and child who wanted to leave the United States is safely moved to British soil”. However, through detention, coercion, and trickery the United States thwarted the feared mass exodus to the British ships. Thus, by November 28, 1783… when the British left America only 3,000 black people was on their manifest and they were transported for resettlement in Nova Scotia, the Caribbean and England.
The Treaty of Paris of 1783 provided the following: “All Prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty…” And despite General Washington’s assurance to General Carleton that the dispute would be resolved by his sovereign government… this did not occur. The U. S. Congress of the Confederation ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784… but never formally addressed the legal dispute regarding the status and condition of Revolutionary War-era blacks nor did the United States “set at liberty” the remaining 500,000 Afro-Englishmen imprisoned within its borders… instead the United States enslaved and exploited a half million British subjects and made them the bedrock of America’s slave-based economy. This was in violation of international tradition and law. And if the U. S. had a legal basis to keep British subjects, then as a separate sovereign nation it was legally obligated to substantiate Washington’s oral averment of ownership of these Afro-Englishmen based upon “colonial statutes” or controlling rule of law. The United States was obligated to prove these people were “slaves” and not qualified to be “set at liberty” per terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 by English law… before relegating them to a life of slavery. Decidedly, America’s founding generation was on actual notice that an international dispute existed and could not respond like a petulant child and elect to do nothing to address this legal dispute, as it did. Clinton’s Phillipsburg Proclamation of June 30, 1779 freed all 500,000 enslaved Afro-Englishmen throughout the North American colonies and its lawful consequences could not, nor were they ever abandoned by the British or the United States lack of responsiveness since liberty was a personal right under English law.
After the United States ratified the Treaty of Paris in January 1784… copies were sent back to Europe for ratification and the British ratification occurred on April 9, 1784 and the ratified versions were exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784. Subsequently, Congress started receiving grievances and complaints from former slave masters, claiming they were financially injured by General Carleton’s evacuation of the 3,000 former enslaved British subjects. Responding to their clamor… varied congressmen came to challenge Carleton’s legal right to leave the country with people whom which their constituents claimed were slaves, whom which they owned. They claimed England had deprived their constituents of personal property in violation of the treaty and that Clinton’s Phillipsburg Proclamation was an unenforceable “promise” that did not terminate their constituents’ ownership interest… thereby the British should pay. These claims and arguments had no merit since the legal status and condition called “slave” was a legal fiction that was not legally recognized, as the Somerset Decision had ruled slavery was not authorized in the Kingdom in 1772 and no positive law had since legalized slavery within the North American colonies.
The Congress adopted English law after the Declaration of Independence in July 1776… binding all erstwhile Englishmen… now American slaveholding Patriots to the Somerset Decision: requiring positive law authorizing slavery… if status or condition of being a slave were to be claimed by an alleged slave master or recognized in His Majesty’s Kingdom. During colonial times… colonial statutes enacted by colonial legislative assemblies were not positive law. Colonial assemblies did not have plenary authority or power to enact positive laws. Thus, slaveholding colonials could not legally claim ownership of a person based upon colonial statutes, as they could not point to positive law that recognize their ownership or alleged power as slave master over their alleged slave. Simply, there were no positive laws that conferred rights, privileges, or authority unto putative slave masters during colonial times or later. Moreover, in 1772 the Somerset Decision ruled slavery was not allowed or approved by the laws of this Kingdom… four years before the Declaration of Independence in 1772. The legal consequence of this ruling rendered all putative colonial statutes void ab initio… by operation of English law. These things coupled with the following facts; (1) slavery was prohibited on British soil during colonial times; (2) colonial legislative assemblies never had plenary authority to enact positive laws; (3) colonial slave statutes functioned extralegally as the King did not give his assent to such laws; (4) the Somerset Decision conditioned the enforcement of slavery upon the existence of positive law in 1772 and (5) liberty was a personal right under English rule of law. These facts are destructive to America’s ownership claims or argument that the release of Revolutionary War-era blacks were not provided for in the Treaty of Paris of 1783 since they could not point to positive law establishing ownership of any Revolutionary War-era black.
Without much doubt… the Phillipsburg Proclamation was not a mere “promise,” rather, it was a memorialized agreement between the British government and enslaved people in colonial America… a letter of patent. This written proclamation was authorized by English law as it was issued by the British government during colonial rule. The proclamation liberated enslaved people within His Majesty King George III’s realm and did confer British subjecthood unto African born slaves and the legal effect was conclusive. The letter of patent dated June 30, 1779 was no less legal, conclusive, or binding of a legal document as was the Treaty of Paris of 1783. England’s emancipation of all enslaved people within the North American colonies during colonial rule was a lawful exercise of executive power within the North American colonies and was the rule of law in each colony that self-declared themselves states after the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. Moreover, with respect to colonial rule… as the Treaty of Paris, ratified by the United States on January 14, 1784 does concede colonial rule subject to the British ratification of the treaty that occurred April 9, 1784… colonial rule is has been conceded and acquiesced by the United States at all times prior to final ratification of the treaty with England. The Declaration of Independence of July 1776 changed nothing.
The Somerset Decision ruled slavery was not allowed or approved by the laws of this Kingdom and can only be legal by “positive law”. The First Congress adopted English law in July 1776 after the Declaration of Independence and rejected Thomas Jefferson’s bill to formally sever legal ties with English jurisprudence. Did British General Carlton illegally remove 3,000 black slaves from the United States in November 1783 or did the United States illegally refuse to release 500,000 British subjects in violation of the Treaty of Paris of 1783? The legal disputes, unresolved issues, and potential academic discourse and inquiry turns upon English law during colonial times. General Washington’s claim of controlling “colonial statutes” with respect to ownership of Revolutionary War-era blacks frames any legal dispute, historical question, or academic inquiry. England’s common-law prohibition against slavery of British soil—operative in 1619… The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ended the American Revolutionary War and it was ratified by the Congress of the United States on January 14, 1784. In turn, England ratified this treaty on April 9, 1784 and executed copies delivered to each nation May 3, 1784 in Paris, France. Centrally, the parties agreed to the end of colonial rule and release of all “prisoners” held by respective sovereign nations. However, the United States refused to release and “set at liberty” Afro-Englishmen, claiming they were “slaves” based upon “colonial statutes”. Such slave laws were struck down by England’s Somerset Decision in 1772. The United States enslaved 500,000 British subjects and made a half of million, legally free people the bedrock of its slave-based
The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ended the American Revolutionary War and it was ratified by the Congress of the United States on January 14, 1784. In turn, England ratified this treaty on April 9, 1784 and executed copies delivered to each nation May 3, 1784 in Paris, France. Centrally, the parties agreed to the end of colonial rule and release of all “prisoners” held by respective sovereign nations. However, the United States refused to release and “set at liberty” Afro-Englishmen, claiming they were “slaves” based upon “colonial statutes”. Such slave laws were struck down by England’s Somerset Decision in 1772. The United States enslaved 500,000 British subjects and made a half of million, legally free people the bedrock of its slave-based