Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Recognition: Better Late than Never and Better Little than Nothing

Two New England states have interesting laws that are somewhat related in that they recognize groups that formerly (or currently) had no legal status.  New Hampshire has a bill (SB 187) moving through its legislature that very belatedly frees slaves who had petitioned the state government for emancipation.  A group of slaves who were fighting in the Revolutionary War wrote an eloquent plea to the state legislature requesting that they be freed:
... freedom is an inherent right of the human species not to be surrendered, but by consent, for the sake of social life. ... Here we can read with others, of this knowledge slavery cannot wholly deprive us.  Here we know that we ought to be free agents! Here we feel the dignity of human nature. . . . Here we feel a just equality.
Sad to say, the New Hampshire House voted to table the petition and to revisit it at another time,  saying that
The House is not ripe for a ­determination in this matter: Therefore ordered that the further consideration and determination be postponed till a more convenient opportunity.
The time is apparently ripe now.  The story in the  Boston Globe  mentions that five of the original group were emancipated by their owners, but the others died enslaved.  The Globe article reports that the bill began when local historian Valerie Cunningham discovered the story reported on the front page a 1779 New Hampshire Gazette, and included it in her book, Black Portsmouth.

The other bill that caught my attention was a Connecticut bill, HB 6690, that provides animal advocates in abuse cases. Interesting testimony in an April 5, 2013 hearing on the bill here. The Boston Globe carried a brief article on the matter here. The article discusses, but the hearing has far more detail on the way the bill is tied to studies showing that mass murderers so often begin with cruelty to animals.  It is sometimes difficult reading, but shows how similar bills might progress. The sponsoring representative, Diana Urban, notes what a problem it is to prosecute such cases, and how often the charges are essentially dropped.
The animal rights poster decorating this blog post come from a helpful blog post at The Truth Syndicate. a series of posts listing animal rights laws across the U.S.  The first image is a well-known poster from the abolitionist movement.  According to Wikipedia, it actually comes from a medallion that was designed for the abolition movement in Britain, by Josiah Wedgewood. 

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