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Petition from Clark Mills, petition number 741

Former slaveholders in Washington, D.C., had to petition to receive financial compensation under the D.C. Emancipation Act. Clark Mills, whose foundry cast the bronze Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome, claimed compensation for several slaves. He requested the most money for Philip Reid, a highly skilled craftsman who was instrumental in casting the statue.

Records of the Department of Treasury, National Archives and Records Administration

Petition from Clark Mills, petition number 741 Petition from Clark Mills, petition number 741

The D.C. Emancipation Act

Although the Compromise of 1850 prohibited the slave trade in Washington, D.C., slavery in the nation’s capital remained legal until Congress passed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act in 1862. The act abolished all slavery in the District, provided financial compensation to former slave owners, offered emancipated individuals opportunities to move to colonies abroad, and protected freedmen from future enslavement. Congress finally ended all slavery in the United States with passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865.