Free Moors of SC and Turks of Sumter Co. of SC had significant ethnic diversity during colonial times. The “Free Moors” of SC had been sold into slavery in the Middle East, brought to north America as slaves from Africa, earned their freedom, and petitioned the legislature that they not be carried off again into slavery. The “Turks” of Sumter County were either pirates, or escaped from pirates, according to General Sumter and were present before the revolution. These families also are often reluctant to discuss what they know of their heritage. We are here slowly accumulating source documents on these people.
The Moors Sundry Act of 1790 was passed by South Carolina legislature, granting special status to the subjects of Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed ben Abdallah. It recognized Moors as white people with jury duty as a privilege. Moors were not to be subjected to laws governing blacks and slaves.
Petition from Sundry Free Moors
On January 20, 1790, a petition was presented to the South Carolina House of Representatives from a group of eight individuals who were subjects of the Moroccan emperor and residents of the colony. They desired that if they happened to commit any fault amenable to be brought to justice, that as subjects to a prince allied with the United States through the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, they would be tried as citizens instead of under the Negro Act of 1740.
The Free Moors, Francis, Daniel, Hammond and Samuel petitioned on behalf of themselves and their wives Fatima, Flora, Sarah and Clarinda. They explained how some years ago while fighting in defense of their country, they and their wives were captured and made prisoners of war by the Portuguese. After this a certain Captain Clark had them delivered to him, promising they would be redeemed by the Moroccan ambassador residing in England, and returned to their country. Instead, he transported them to South Carolina, and sold them for slaves. Since then, “by the greatest industry,” they purchased freedom from their respective masters: They requested that as free born subjects of a Prince in alliance with the U.S., that they should not be considered subject to a State Law (then in force) known as the negro law. If they be found guilty of any crime or misdemeanor, they would receive a fair trial by lawful jury. The matter was referred to a committee consisting of Justice Grimke, General Charles Pinckney and Edward Rutledge.
Free Moors Petition: Ruling
Edward Rutledge reported from the committee referred to the Free Moors petition. The order for immediate consideration of the matter was read and agreed to as follows Vizt: “They have Considered the same and are of opinion that no Law of this State can in its Construction or Operation apply to them, and that persons who were Subjects of the Emperor of Morocco being Free in this State are not triable by the Law for the better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and other Slaves.”