By the 1790s every state in New England had begun to free slaves by statute, court decision or enactment of gradual emancipation laws. By 1800 the number of free blacks in Fairfield County had increased dramatically as the number of slaves declined. The Gradual Emancipation Act of 1784 declared that children born of slave mothers after March 1, 1784 could not be held in slavery beyond the age of 25. Many Fairfield County slaveholders complied with the law, officially registered the birth dates of children born in slavery, and freed them when they reached 25. In 1848, Connecticut passed legislation freeing all slaves in the state--whether of age or not--but by then, there were only a handful of slaves remaining as illustrated in the 1841 Census.
Unlike the North, slavery in the South became more entrenched and expanded rapidly following the invention of the cotton gin. As early as 1800, slaves escaping from the South began to arrive in Connecticut. Some came by ship to its ports, others traveled by land. The influx of escaping slaves and those searching for them would cause new problems for New England and its abolition movement.
Image: Compendium of the Enumeration of the Inhabitants Statistics of the United States, Sixth Census (Washington: Thomas Allen, 1841). Courtesy Mr. Craig Kelly.