Act of March 22, 1794

During the Third Congress, the United States begins the long anticipated dismantling of slavery within its borders.


An Act
Passed at the
First Session of the Third Congress
of the
United States of America.

ACT OF MARCH 22, 1794.


An act to prohibit the carrying on the slave trade, from the United States to any foreign place or country.

§ 1. Fitting out vessels for the slave trade to foreign countries forbidden, under penalty of forfeiture of vessel.§ 2. Penalty on persons fitting out vessels for such trade. § 3. Bond required from owner, &c. of foreign vessels suspected of intention to trade in slaves.§ 4. Penalty on citizens taking on board any person for the purpose of being sold as a slave, how disposed of.

§ 1. BE it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That no citizen or citizens of the United States, or foreigner, or any other person coming into, or residing within, the same, shall, for himself or any other person whatsoever, either as master, factor, or owner, build, fit, equip, load, or otherwise prepare, any ship or vessel, within any port or place of the said United States, nor shall cause any ship or vessel to sail from any port or place within the same, for the purpose of carrying on any trade or traffic in slaves, to any foreign country; or for the purpose of procuring, from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, the inhabitants of such kingdom, place, or country, to be transported to any foreign country, port, or place, whatever, to be sold or disposed of as slaves: And if any ship or vessel shall be so fitted out, as aforesaid, for the said purpose, or shall be caused to sail, so as aforesaid, every such ship or vessel, her tackle, furniture, apparel, and other appurtenances, shall be forfeited to the United States; and shall be liable to be seized, prosecuted, and condemned, in any of the circuit courts or district court for the district where the said ship or vessel may be found and seized.

§ 2. And be it further enacted, That all and every person, so building, fitting out, equipping, loading, or otherwise preparing, or sending away, any ship or vessel, knowing, or intending, that the same shall be employed in such trade or business, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, or any ways aiding or abetting therein, shall, severally, forfeit and pay the sum of two thousand dollars, one moiety thereof to the use of the United States, and the other moiety thereof to the use of him, or her, who shall sue for and prosecute the same.

§ 3. And be it further enacted, That the owner, master, or factor, of each and every foreign ship or vessel, clearing out for any of the coasts or kingdoms of Africa, or suspected to be intended for the slave trade, and the suspicion being declared to the officer of the customs, by any citizen, on oath or affirmation, and such information being to the satisfaction of the said officer, shall first give bond, with sufficient sureties, to the treasurer of the United States, that none of the natives of Africa, or any other foreign country or place, shall be taken on board the said ship or vessel, to be transported, or sold, as slaves, in any other foreign port or place whatever, within nine months thereafter.

§ 4. And be it further enacted, That if any citizen or citizens of the United States shall, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, take on board, receive, or transport, any such persons, as above described, in this act, for the purpose of selling them as slaves, as aforesaid, he or they shall forfeit and pay, for each and every person so received on board, transported, or sold, as aforesaid, the sum of two hundred dollars, to be recovered in any court of the United States proper to try the same; the one moiety thereof to the use of the United States, and the other moiety to the use of such person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

JOHN ADAMS, Vice-President of the United States,
and President of the Senate.

APPROVED, March the twenty-second, 1794.

President of the United States.