Since the foregoing was written, Governor Means, in his message to the Legislature of South Carolina, refers to the laws under which “colored seamen” are imprisoned. We make the subjoined extract, showing that he insists upon its being continued in force, on the ground of “self-preservation”—a right which ship-owners will please regard for the protection of their own interests:—
“I feel it my duty to call your attention to certain proceedings which have grown out of the enforcement of that law of our State which requires the Sheriff of Charleston to seize and imprison colored seamen who are brought to that port. You will remember that the British Consul addressed a communication to the legislature in December, 1850, on the subject of a modification of this law. A committee was appointed by the House and Senate to report upon it at the next session of the legislature. These committees reported adverse to any modification. On the 24th March, 1852, Manuel Pereira was imprisoned in accordance with the law alluded to. The vessel in which he sailed was driven into the port of Charleston in distress. This was looked upon as a favorable case upon which to make an issue, as so strong an element of sympathy was connected with it. Accordingly, a motion was made before Judge Withers for a writ of ‘habeas corpus,’ which was refused by him. These proceedings were instituted by the British Consul, it is said, under instructions from his government, to test the constitutionality of the Act. I think it here proper to state, that Pereira was at perfect liberty to depart at any moment that he could get a vessel to transport him beyond the limits of the State. In truth, in consideration of the fact that his coming into the State was involuntary, the Sheriff of Charleston, with his characteristic kindness, procured for him a place in a ship about to sail for Liverpool. Early in April, Pereira was actually released, and on his way to the ship, having himself signed the shipping articles, when, by interposition of the British Consul, he was again consigned to the custody of the sheriff. A few days after this, the British Consul insisted no longer on his detention, but voluntarily paid his passage to New York. This was looked upon as an abandonment of that case. The statement of Mr. Yates, together with the letter of the British Consul, are herewith transmitted.
“While these proceedings were pending, the Sheriff of Charleston had my instructions not to give up the prisoners even if a writ of habeas corpus had been granted. I considered that the ‘Act of 1844,’ entitled, ’An Act more effectually to prevent negroes and other persons of color from entering into this State, and for other purposes,’ made it my duty to do so.
“On the 19th May, Reuben Roberts, a colored seaman, a native of Nassau, arrived in the steamer Clyde, from Baracoa. The Sheriff of Charleston, in conformity with the law of the State, which has been in force since 1823, arrested and lodged him in the district jail, where he was detained until the 26th of May, when, the Clyde being ready to sail, Roberts was put on board, and sailed the same day.