Pennsylvania: An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery


About the Author

The 1780 act was proposed by George Bryan, a member of the Pennsylvania legislature. Like most pieces of legislation, it has no single author. Legislators altered and amended the act as it went through committees and was read on the floor of the legislature. Bryan is considered the father of the law. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Bryan came to Philadelphia when he was about twenty years old. He practiced law, became a Patriot leader, and was a devout Presbyterian whose religious values influenced his opposition to slavery. Before the Revolution, Bryan was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress (October 1765), and from 1777 to 1779 he served on the Supreme Executive Council of the state, usually as the council's vice president but for a time as the president, which was the equivalent of being the governor of the state. In 1779 he was elected to the state assembly, where he immediately proposed the Gradual Abolition Act. Shortly after passage of the act he became a...

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The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act (Pennsylvania State Archives)

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