LAWS OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, as follows:
1. Any person held in slavery may petition the Circuit Court, or judge thereof in vacation, for leave to sue as a poor person, in order to establish his right to freedom, and shall state, in his petition, the ground on which his claim to freedom is founded.
2. If, in the opinion of the court or judge, the petition contains sufficient matter to authorize the commencement of a suit, the court or judge shall make the following orders:
First, That the petitioner be allowed to sue, on giving security satisfactory to the clerk, for all costs that may be adjudged against him, or her:
Second, An order that such person have reasonable liberty to attend his counsel and the court, as occasion may require; and that he be not removed out of the jurisdiction of the court, and that he be not subject to any severity on account of his application for freedom.
3. Both order shall be endorsed on the petition, and a copy of them endorsed upon the writ, and served therewith, and in the same manner.
4. If the court or judge is satisfied, at the time of presenting the petition, or at any time during the pendency of the suit, that the petitioner has been, or is about to be, restrained by any person, of the reasonable liberty of attending his counsel and the court, or is about to be removed out of the jurisdiction of the court, or that he has been, or is about to be subjected to any severity on account of his application for freedom, the court or judge shall cause the petitioner to be brought up by a warrant, under the seal of the court or hand of the judge.
5. The warrant may be directed to the sheriff of any county, and shall command the officer to seize the petitioner, wherever he may be found, and bring him before the court or judge, and to summon the person, in whose possession he is found, to appear before the court or judge, on a day, and at a place, to be therein specified.
6. The warrant may be executed by the officer to whom it is directed, in any county in the state.
7. When the petitioner is brought before the court or judge, the person in whose possession he is found, or his agent, shall enter into recognizance to the state of Missouri, with sufficient sureties, conditioned, that the petitioner shall, during the pendency of the suit, have reasonable liberty of attending his counsel and the court, that he shall not be removed out of the jurisdiction of the court where the suit is to be brought or is pending, and that he shall not be subjected to any severity on account of his application for freedom; which recognizance shall be filed in the court, and be a record thereof.
8. If the person, or his agent, fail to enter into the recognizance, the court or judge shall make an order that the sheriff take possession of the petitioner, and hire him out to the best advantage, from time to time, during the pendency of the suit, and take a bond from the hirer, payable to the state of Missouri, in such penalty as the court or judge shall, in the order, direct, and with such security as the sheriff approves, conditioned as in the recognizance of the defendant, and further conditioned that the hirer will pay the hire to the sheriff, and return the petitioner at the expiration of the term for which he is hired, or as soon as the action is determined.
9. The action to be brought under the leave given, shall be an action of trespass for false imprisonment, and shall be instituted in the name of the petitioner, against the person holding him in slavery or claiming him as a slave.
10. The declaration shall be in the common form of a declaration for false imprisonment, and shall contain an averment, that the plaintiff, before and at the time of the committing of the grievances, was, and still is, a free person, and that the defendant held, and still holds, him in slavery
11. The defendant may plead as in other like cases, or he may plead the general issue, and give any special matter in evidence.
12. If the plaintiff be a negro or mulatto, he is required to prove his right to freedom.
13. If the plaintiff's right to freedom is established, judgment of liberation shall be given in his favor against the defendant, and all persons claiming under him, by title derived after the commencement of the suit.
14. In actions prosecuted under this act, the plaintiff shall not recover any damages.
15. Either party to the suit may have a writ of error, or appeal, to the Supreme Court; and an appeal or writ of error taken by the plaintiff, shall operate as a supersedeas, with any recognizance.
16. If the sheriff hire out a person suing for his freedom, as provided in the eighth section of this act, he shall collect the proceeds of such hire, and, from time to time, loan out the same, at an interest not less than six, nor more than ten per centum per annum, and take from the loanee, a bond or note, with security for the payment of the principal sum and interest; and when the suit is ended, such sheriff shall deliver such bond or not to the person entitled to the same.
Approved, February 13, 1845.