The beginning of the 1800s saw various governors and members of the Assembly attempting to bring a measure of order to the Bahama islands as it related to the control of slaves and their movements on the island. A number of social and economic changes were taking place which were significantly affecting life in the islands. The transatlantic trade was brisk, and this meant the number of slaves being traded and the number of new negroes being brought in, were increasing. Population levels were expanding but worryingly for whites, their numbers were not growing as fast as negro populations. Larger numbers of slaves on the streets was becoming problematic. Slaves being hired out by their masters, or hiring themselves out, as allowed by their masters needed regulating. Crime was increasing, more and more slaves were absconding or being stolen, sold into slavery in other colonies. Movements during the day and night , on the streets and alleys, needed to be controlled and fast.
From these concerns, an Act was brought into force to control the movements of slaves on the streets of New Providence. What is interesting about this act, is the stipulation of having to wear something distinctive on their clothing, a copper badge, displayed in a prominent way, which showed their status and licence to pass freely on their limited business.
AN ACT for regulating the hire of SLAVES, CARTS, WAGGONS, and DRAYS, and for other purposes therein mentioned 1800
That from and after three months from the passing of this act, it shall not be lawful for any proprietors or other person or persons having the direction or management of any slaves in the island of New Providence to suffer or permit such slave or slaves to hire themselves out to work, either on board vessels or on the shore as porters or labourers, without first registering the names of such slaves in the Police Office, and obtaining therefrom a Copper Badge with the number of such have marked thereon, which Badge is to be worn upon the Jacket or frock of said have in a conspicuous manner.
That any person or persons hiring or employing either on board of vessels or on shore, any have or have not having a Copper Badge as aforesaid, shall be liable to the penalty of Five Pounds for every slave so employed, besides double the wages of such slaves or slaves, to be paid to the owner or persons having he management of the same.
That the Acting Magistrate shall on application of the owner or person having management of any such slave or slaves, register the names of the same and of the owners in a book to be kept for the purpose, and shall furnish a Copper Badge to be worn by such slave or slaves upon payment of One Dollar each.
That any person or persons obtaining such Badges shall not allow the same to e worn by any other slave or slaves, than whose for whom the same has been obtained at the Police Office, nor for nay longer time than such slave or slaves shall be permitted to hire the slaves out to work as aforesaid, and on the death, sale or removal of such slave, shall return the Badge into the Office of Police under a penally of Five Pounds for every offence.
That no person shall let or drive for hire any car, waggon or dray within the limits of the said Town and Suburbs, without having first obtained a licence for so doing from the Commissioners of read, streets and highways of the district wherein they may respectively reside for which licence shall be paid Five Pounds per annum for every such cart, waggon or dray, and the money for such licences, shall be paid into the hands of the Commissioners to be applied towards keeping the streets, lanes and alleys clean and for repair and in case any person within the limits aforesaid shall let or drive for hire , any cart, waggon or dray, without having obtained such licence, every such person shall forfeit and pa for every such offence Ten Pounds to be applied as aforesaid.
That every cart waggon and dray herein aforesaid, shall have painted on them the name of the owner and be numbered and registered in the Police Office, and no person shall deaf the said name or number the penally for Fifty Pounds, and all slaves driving such carts, waggon, dray shall be register and have a Badge as aforesaid, under a penalty of Ten Pounds to be paid by the owner or owners of every such cart or dray for every offence.
That the owners of all carts, waggon air drays shall be liable for any damage done by any such drays, waggons or carts, or by the slaves having the charge thereof.
That if any person driving any cart, waggon or dray in any of the streets, lanes or alleys in the said Town and Suburbs, shall ride upon such cart waggon or dray not having some other person on look to guide the same, every such offender being convicted before the Acting Magistrate by the oath of one credible witness, shall forfeit and pay the sum of Twenty Shillings, and if a slave, the same to be paid by his owner or employers, and in default of the payment, the offender to be committed to the workhouse or common gaoal, and receive such punishment as the Magistrates shall judge proper, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes
That the rates of porterage, carterage and drayage shall be from time to time fixed and ascertained by the Commissioners of roads, streets and highways for the town of Nassau.
All persons concerned, are hereby required to pay due attention in the before recited act, as the same will be chiefly enforced against those who shall make default, and the proprietors or other persons having the management of slaves, are hereby notified that the hours of attendance at the Police Office, are from 9 o’clock in the forenoon, till one in the afternoon.
PETER EDWARDS,} Acting Magistrate
G. LEITCH } Acting Magistrate
Police Office, 20th December, 1800.