Runaway Slave Punishments



Runaway slave punishments in South Carolina.

He who entices a slave, "by specious pretense of promising freedom in another country," or otherwise, to leave the province, if successful, or if caught in the act, was to suffer death; and the same extreme penalty was to be inflicted on slaves "running away with intent to get out of the province." Any slave running away form twenty days at once, for the first offense was to be "severely and publicly whipped."

Plantation School Teacher Urging a Slave to Escape to Freedom, 1850s

Plantation School Teacher Urging a Slave to Escape to Freedom, 1850s
Buy This Allposters.com

In case the master neglected to inflict these runaway slave punishments, any justice might order it to be inflicted by the constable, at the master's expense.

For the second offense the runaway was to be branded with the letter R on the right cheek. If the master omitted it, he was to forfeit 10 pounds, and any justice of the peace might order the branding done.

Escaped Slave Trying to Elude Slave Hunters and their Dog

Escaped Slave Trying to Elude Slave Hunters and their Dog
Buy This Allposters.com

For the third offense, the runaway, if absent thirty days, was to be whipped, and have one of his ears cut off; the master neglecting to do it to forfeit twenty pounds; any justice, on complaint, to order it done as before.

For the fourth offense, the runaway, "if a man was to be gelt," to be paid for by the province if he died under the operation; if a woman, she was to be severely whipped, branded on the left cheek with the letter R, and her left ear cut off. Any master neglecting for twenty days to inflict these atrocious cruelties, was to forfeit his property in the slave to any informer who might complain of him within six months.

Black Slaves Hiding in Southern Swamps on their Escape to the North

Black Slaves Hiding in Southern Swamps on their Escape to the North
Buy This Allposters.com

Any captain or commander of a company, "on notice of the haunt, residence, and hiding place of any runaway slaves," was "to pursue, apprehend, and take them, either alive or dead," being in either case entitled to a premium of from two to four pounds for each slave. All persons wounded or disabled on such expeditions for runaway slave punishments were to be compensated by the public.

Escaped Slave Captured under the Fugitive Slave Law

Escaped Slave Captured under the Fugitive Slave Law
Buy This Allposters.com

If any slave under runaway slave punishments "shall suffer in life or member, which," says the act, "seldom happens, no person whatsoever shall be liable to any penalty therefor." Any person killing his slave out of "wantonness," "bloody-mindedness," or "cruel intention," was to forfeit "fifty pounds current money," or , if the slave belonged to another person, twenty-five pounds to the public, and the slave's value to the owner.

No master was to allow his slaves to hire their own time, or, by a supplementary act two years after, "to plant for themselves any corn, peas, or rice, or to keep any stock of hogs, cattle, or horses."







Civil Rights for the Unborn!