African American Revolutionary Soldiers
An Act for Enfranchising Ned Griffin, Late the Property of William Kitchen.
[An Act for Enfranchising Ned Griffin, Late the Property of William Kitchen Colonial Records. Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1784 April 19, 1784 - June 03, 1784; Volume 24, Pages 543 - 649.]
I. Whereas, Ned Griffin, late the property of William Kitchen, of Edgecomb county, was promised the full enjoyments of his liberty, on condition that he, the said Ned Griffin, should faithfully serve as a soldier in the continental line of this State for and during the term of twelve months; and whereas the said Ned Griffin did faithfully on his part perform the condition, and whereas it is just and reasonable that the said Ned Griffin should receive the reward promised for the services which he performed;
II. Be it therefore Enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby Enacted by the authority of the same, That the said Ned Griffin, late the property of William Kitchen, shall forever hereafter be in every respect declared to be a freeman; and he shall be, and he is hereby enfranchised and forever delivered and discharged from the yoke of slavery; any law, usage or custom to the contrary thereof in anywise notwithstanding.
Hiring a substitute was a common practice for those who could afford it. In this case, Kitchen promised Griffin his freedom upon return. Griffin fulfilled his service (it is believed to have been at the battle of Guilford Courthouse), but Kitchen instead sold him back again into slavery [upon his return].
In April 1784 Griffin petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for his freedom based on Kitchen’s “promise.” The assembly acted quickly and enacted legislation that freed and enfranchised Ned Griffin and declared him “forever delivered and discharged from the yoke of slavery.”
I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.