Slavery in Illinois

Jarrot v Jarrot (1845)

The 1818 Illinois state constitution stipulated that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this state.” The “hereafter” was interpreted to mean that slaves already in the state would not be freed. Also, all indentures made prior to 1818 would be recognized. The first state legislature also passed severe laws restricting the movement, immigration and labor of free blacks.

The next landmark decision on slavery in Illinois came in 1845 when the Supreme Court of Illinois decided the case of Jarrot v. Jarrot (2 Gilm., 1). In this case, Joseph “Pete” Jarrot sued his “master” for wages. Julie Jarrot (of the Jarrot Mansion in Cahokia, Illinois), Pete’s owner, claimed he was a slave, descended from a woman who was enslaved in Illinois before the passage of the Northwest Ordinance. Therefore, he was not entitled to any wages. The court held that Article Six of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, applied to all slaves in the territory at the time of its passage. The effect of this decision was to free all slaves and their children. In effect, Pete Jarrot was no longer a slave. The Constitution of 1848 declared, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state….” The adoption of the constitution effectively ended slavery in Illinois.

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