Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11380005

State: South Carolina Year: 1800
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Benjamin Langstaff, administrator of the estate of John Langstaff, seeks compensation for the slave John Louis. John Louis, along with two other slaves, was convicted of treason. John Louis and Figara were sentenced to be "hanged by the neck until their bodies be dead"; the third slave, Chappelle, was to be "confined in some proper secure place untill an opportunity offers to ship him out of the State to any place out of the United States."

PAR Number 11380010

State: South Carolina Year: 1800
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Benjamin Langstaff, administrator of the estate of John Langstaff, seeks compensation for the slave John Louis. John Louis was convicted of treason and hanged in 1797. The petitioner, "by reason of the indisposition of the said John Langstaff the father of your Petitioner & the subsequent neglect of your Petitioner the Claim for said negro was never before submitted to the Legislature. He now "hopes the Certificate accompanying this Petition will fully substantiate his right of Indemnity in the Premises & relies on the Justice of the legislature for compensation."

PAR Number 11380014

State: South Carolina Year: 1800

Abstract: Richard Pearis, a native of Virginia and former resident of South Carolina, seeks to return from the Bahamas to settle "himself and family in this state of which his wife is a native." He states that he is aware of the South Carolina law that prohibits "the importation of slaves" into the state "without special leave for that purpose granted." Desiring "to bring into this State ... Sixty negro Slaves who are and have been his own property for many years past," the petitioner prays that "he may be permitted when he himself becomes settled with his family in the State to bring with him the slaves above mentioned." Pearis assures the legislature that he will "give satisfactory security that the property in said Slaves is and has been indisputable in himself for many years and that he will bring no more slaves with him into the said State than are bona fide his own property."

PAR Number 11380103

State: South Carolina Year: 1801
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: John Potter reports that Jamaican merchant and ship owner William Boyle McCullock arrived in Charleston on 17 July 1801 on board his brig Perseverance and "having on board as part of the Crew of the said Brig three Negro men Slaves named Dublin, Belfast, and Cork.” Potter further reveals that, when the brig anchored in Charleston harbor, Captain Peter Grantham "incautiously and by mistake" reported the three enslaved crew members as "Merchandize along with the Cargo," whereby the commandant of Fort Johnson reported the matter to city authorities, an arrest warrant was issued, and the three sailors were sent to the work house. The petitioner avows that McCullock “brought the said Negroes to Charleston with the intention of using them as Saylors and again carrying them off the Country.” As McCullock's attorney in fact, John Potter prays that it be ordered “that the said negroes of William Boyle McCullock be delivered up to him or to your petitioner for his use.”

PAR Number 11381725

State: South Carolina Year: 1817
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Felix Herminier declares that he "chose South Carolina as an asylum against oppression" when he was forced to flee British-controlled Guadeloupe in 1816. He further notes that he brought with him "a large & useful collection of the most interesting objects of natural history: that he intends to dedicate his time and requirements to the promotion of science in this state." Having now sent for his wife and eight children, he "humbly prays that he may be permitted to introduce into the state two slaves, who are absolutely necessary to attend upon" his family.

PAR Number 11382224

State: South Carolina Year: 1822

Abstract: Three hundred thirty-four officers and members of the "South Carolina Association" seek to limit an evil of the greatest magnitude, i.e., "the constant intercourse, which is maintained between the blacks of the North and South." They exclaim that "to permit a free intercourse to exist, under such circumstances, between our slaves and their free persons of colour, would be, to invite new attempts at insurrection." The petitioners also decry the presence in South Carolina of "coloured persons" from Europe and the Caribbean, in particular. The memorialists opine that they "cannot conceive a measure, which can give greater security to the State in general, than to prevent ANY FREE COLOURED PERSON FROM ANY PART OF THE WORLD ever entering again into the limits of the State of South-Carolina, by LAND OR BY WATER." Hopeful "that the dangers which menace our prosperity as a Slave-holding State, will be met by a corresponding energy in the laws," the petitioners propose the establishment of "one CONSOLIDATED NEGRO ACT or code, for the government of this class of people," which would incorporate all the "hundreds of acts and parts of acts passed in the course of a century" and which "will give security to the master, without taking away from the protection of the slave ... whilst [enabling] every planter and citizen, at one glance to see his rights and his duties, and thus be a public convenience."

PAR Number 11382603

State: South Carolina Year: 1826
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: One hundred fifty-nine petitioners, members of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce and other citizens, seek to repeal an 1823 and 1825 act regarding persons of color who arrive in port as cooks or stewards on vessels from Europe, the West Indies, Mexico, South America, states north of the Potomac River, and the District of Columbia. The petitioners assert that said laws "have proved extremely detrimental to the commerce of Charleston and of the state at large" in "a variety of way"; for example, preventing "masters of vessels from employing colored persons or slaves in the line of business in which they would be most useful and profitable" and thus compelling "them to employ whites at a very heavy expense and consequent loss" is one of “the grievances to which the mercantile community is subjected” by the operation of said laws. They therefore "earnestly solicit your serious attention to the following points, ... whether so much of these Laws may not be repealed without injury to the public safety, as Compels vessels arriving in our ports having on board colored persons as cooks and Steward to load and unload" them and "whether so much of these laws may not be repealed, without injury as prohibits the employment of Slaves as mariners, Cooks and Stewards in our trade with slave holding colonies in the West Indies."

PAR Number 11484204

State: Tennessee Year: 1842
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Four citizens, "a portion of the citizens of Middle Tennessee," seek "an alteration & amendment of the law on patrol, to render it effective & operative, in the state, if not exemplary to other states; to guard & protect the liberties & rights of property, secured under the Constitution of the federal union, to the states; & preserve the power & weight of influence, of their representatives in the halls of the Congress of the United States."

PAR Number 11677703

State: Virginia Year: 1777
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: Edmond Ruffin Jr.'s slave Dick was apprehended attempting to board one of Lord Dunmore's ships. The Committee of Safety decided to send Dick, who displayed an "insolent and seditious Disposition," to the West Indies or to the lead mines as an example to other disloyal blacks. Dick, however, died before the example could be set, and the owner seeks compensation.

PAR Number 11678304

State: Virginia Year: 1783
Location: James City

Abstract: Eager to become a resident of Virginia, Henry Martin, of Tortola Island, “has lately made a purchase of a considerable landed Estate in the neighbourhood of the City of Williamsburg.” He now seeks to import slaves, but discovered that a law prohibits the importation of slaves "from any place or places whatsoever." Martin avers that "the necessity of Slaves in this Country for the purpose of Agriculture and of Domestic Ecconomy is too obvious to require farther demonstration." He therefore prays that "he may at least be allowed to import any numbers not exceeding twelve negroes for domestic purposes."

PAR Number 11678404

State: Virginia Year: 1784
Location: Elizabeth City

Abstract: The "Negro Fellow named Tom," age about nineteen years, ran away to British lines in 1775 but was soon taken by Patriot forces and ordered by the Committee of Safety to work in the lead mines. In 1776, Tom was sent to the West Indies and sold "in order to procure a Supply of Powder and Ammunition for the use of State." Moss Armistead, the administrator of Joseph Selden, avows that the said Selden, Tom's owner, "in his Life Time or your Petitioner since his Death has not been able to procure Payment for the Same." He therefore prays that he be enabled "to provide for said Joseph Selden's numerous Family who have been greatly distressed during the War."

PAR Number 11681409

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: James M. Morris, executor of the late Samuel Overton, represents that his testator emancipated, by his last will and testament, Armstead, London, Isaac, John, and Morning on account of their "Fidelity & good Conduct." Morris asserts that "that there is no Person of Colour of Better Character or more meritorious than the sd. Armstead, & that the others, emancipated by the will of the sd. saml. Overton are also of good Character, & hopes that your Honorable Body will pass a Law permiting them to reside in this State."

PAR Number 11682404

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Lewis Bolah, a free man of color, represents that he was born in Richmond, Virginia, and was sold, "in consequence of the pecuniary embarrassments of his former owner," to Waters Clarke of the City of New Orleans. He further recounts that he betrayed an insurrection plot among slaves, free people of color, and "a few abandoned and lawless white persons" in 1812; he surmises that had he not disclosed said "horrible conspiracy," there would have been a "general scene of conflagration, murder and robbery & the City of New Orleans and the surrounding Country if possible would have exhibited a spectacle of ruin and desolation exceeding anything which formerly transpired in St Domingo." Bolah states that the legislature of Louisiana was "pleased to consider the conduct of your Petitioner & some others as useful and meritorious" and "passed an act to purchase and emancipate them." Fearing for his safety, Bolah reports that he returned the following year to Richmond. The petitioner therefore "humbly prays the Legislature to pass an act authorizing and permitting him to remain and reside within this Commonwealth."

PAR Number 11682508

State: Virginia Year: 1825
Location: Essex Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1822, Dillard Gordon, a free man of color, married Floreal Floretta, a woman of color, then about seventeen years of age. The daughter of a white man, Floreal had been emancipated in 1814, as provided for in the will of her father, Philip Henshaw, who bequeathed her half of his estate. Citing that said property will prevent her from becoming a burden to the county, the petitioner prays that she be permitted to remain in the state.

PAR Number 20482805

State: District of Columbia Year: 1828
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Willock, owner of a coffee estate in Cuba, owes a debt of $6,704.25 to James Jenkins Wright and Henry Shelton, who advanced said sum "to aid him [Willock] in the purchase, and stocking with negroes &c, a coffee estate." Learning that Thomas planned to transfer ownership of the estate, including his slaves, to his son William and William's wife Sarah, the petitioners immediately went to Cuba to stop the transfer until the debt is settled. It was agreed that William would sell thirty lots of land in Washington, D.C., on which Sarah would relinquish her dower rights. However, Thomas and Sarah have failed to execute the proper papers. Wright and Shelton ask the court to order the defendants to "execute the said agreement in good faith; ... that lien of your Orators on said Lots may be Established, that the said described Lots may be decreed to be sold, free and disencumbered, of the claim of Dower of the Defendant."

PAR Number 20484401

State: District of Columbia Year: 1844
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Ann Mason Chichester Tutt seeks the settlement of an ownership dispute regarding nine slaves. She asserts that in 1830, her husband put up for public auction nine slaves which he acquired through his marriage to the petitioner. Tutt states that she directed her brother, George M. Chichester, since deceased, to purchase the slaves on her behalf for her sole use and benefit. Chichester followed his sister's wishes and then arranged, at her request, for their transportation from Virginia to Pensacola, where Tutt's husband was residing and where she was planning to join him. During the voyage, the ship, Comet, wrecked near "New Providence in the British Dominions." The British authorities emancipated the slaves. Tutt placed a claim with the United States government for indemnity and remuneration. The British authorities granted the request. When the claim was granted, however, Chichester's executors, Robert Bowie and William T. T. Mason, claimed ownership of the slaves on the grounds that Chichester was the original purchaser. Tutt argues that at no time did Chichester set up any interest in the slaves nor did he expend any money for their purchase or transportation.

PAR Number 20485503

State: District of Columbia Year: 1855
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Edward Lockett, Henry Johnson, and James Berret state that British authorities in Nassau, New Providence Island liberated the slaves aboard the brig Creole, insured by the Merchants Insurance Company. The insurance company reimbursed the slave owners. The petitioners charge that John Pemberton, Liquidator of the Merchants Insurance Company, enlisted their help in prosecuting a claim against the British government for compensation for the slaves. The petitioners inform the court that Pemberton signed a contract promising them one half of any form of indemnity received. They aver that they paid all the expenses for prosecuting the claim, hired special counsel and submitted claims to a commission appointed to settle such disputes between the United States and Britain. Pemberton, however, fraudulently submitted the final claim and prevented the petitioners from transmitting necessary evidence to the commission. As a result, the commission then awarded Pemberton $28,460. The petitioners argue that "without the exertions used by them or those employed by them said award would never have been made to said John Pemberton." The petitioners believe that Pemberton has already received half of the award and fear that unless he is enjoined by the court, he will receive the other half and refuse to pay the petitioners. They seek a subpoena and injunction preventing Pemberton from receiving the remainder of the reward.

PAR Number 20583104

State: Florida Year: 1831
Location: Escambia Location Type: County

Abstract: Shortly after Victoria Le Sassier married Pedro de Alba Sr. in 1813, she discovered that her husband had "a cruel, turbulent & vindictive disposition, [he] squandered her private property abused her Son Joseph Noriega & her other relations." He removed Le Sassier's "faithful domestick" and replaced her with a slave of his own. Soon Le Sassier became "very sick with vomiting, violent pains in the stomack attended with great debility." Alba never called for a physician, giving her medicines himself, and refusing to allow her family to attend to her. Noriega finally rescued his mother from the house and she began to recover. She believes that Alba poisoned her as she had never had those attacks before her marriage or after she had left his house. She also believes Alba had forged a will that he planned to use to gain control of her property. Alba left Florida, but he has since returned and he is attempting once again to gain control of Le Sassier's property. Le Sassier asks that she be granted a divorce from Alba and that her property be protected from him.

PAR Number 20681825

State: Georgia Year: 1818
Location: Twiggs Location Type: County

Abstract: Jose Gelar states that he is a "native of the Island of Cuba belonging to the Dominion of his Catholic Majesty the King of Spain, and by birth a freeman." Gelar contends that he was taken by "persons claiming to be citizens of the United States" and now he is "deprived of his Liberty" and held as a slave. He asks for a writ of Habeas Corpus.

PAR Number 20684309

State: Georgia Year: 1843
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: In his last will and testament, Edward Quinn, deceased, divided his estate, except for his slaves, between his wife, Jane Quinn, now Jane Clark, several relatives residing in Ireland, and the Roman Catholic Church in Charleston. Quinn also specified that his slaves "may be kept together by my executors and that they may be clothed and supported out of my entire assets and effects without being hired for the space of one year from my decease and that in the meantime, my said executors do make application to the Legislature of the State of Georgia, to free them, I not having it in my power from the nature of the law now in force to do so myself and in the event of the same Legislature refusing to free or emancipate them" they should be moved to some place where they can "enjoy their freedom." Jane Clark states that the clauses of the will which grant property to foreigners are contrary to a law prohibiting foreigners from owning property in Georgia. She further avers that "the emancipation of the slaves therein mentioned, is contrary to express Statutes of Said State, against her well established and long recognised public policy and inimical to her institutions and therefore null and void in law and equity." Clark argues that she is, therefore, the only legal heir to Quinn's estate. She has appealed to his administrator, James Harper, on several occasions to deliver the slaves into her possession; however, he has refused. For a time, Harper hired out the slaves. He now argues that they have "departed from his custody & possession." Clark believes that the slaves were in Savannah under the care of Harper's brother. She asserts that Harper had "ample time & means to have recovered them" and she holds him responsible for their loss. Clark asks the court to declare the clauses of the will regarding foreigners and the emancipation of the slaves null and void. She requests that Harper be ordered to give her the slaves and any money earned by their hire.

PAR Number 20780403

State: Kentucky Year: 1804
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Antoine, a free man of color, petitions the court to prevent Jonathan Purcel, Emanuel Lacey, Davis Floyd, or any other person, from selling him into slavery. Antoine, also known as Ben, was emancipated in Havana, Cuba. After moving to Virginia, Antoine took as his wife a slave owned by Purcel. About 1796, the petitioner, his wife, and Purcel moved to Post Vincennes. Antoine states that Purcel then threatened to sell his wife into "some part of the Spanish country" unless Antoine agreed to indenture himself to Purcel for seven and one-half years. As an added inducement, the petitioner states, Purcel promised that Antoine's wife would also be freed at the end of that time. Shortly before the end of the indenture, Antoine discovered that Purcel planned to sell him and his wife to Emanuel Lacey. Antoine agreed to be sold, fearing that if he refused, Purcel "might place him in a worse situation." Lacey purchased Antoine and his wife, took them to New Orleans and sold them as slaves for life. There, Antoine was able to gain an audience with the Spanish governor of Louisiana, who reviewed Antoine's deed of manumission and voided the sale. The couple, "anxious to return" home, then traveled up the Mississippi River with Lacey, who mistreated and abused them until they ran away. Antoine's wife, exhausted and suffering from ill treatment, died. Antoine made his way to Louisville, where he was jailed as a runaway. Davis Floyd, a slave catcher hired by Lacey, took him out of jail and tried to sell him across the Ohio River, but Antoine was too old and too weak to attract any bidders. He was taken back to jail in Louisville where he wrote his petition.

PAR Number 20780404

State: Kentucky Year: 1804
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Antoine, also known as Ben, petitions that he was emancipated in Havana, Cuba, then moved to Virginia, where he "took to him a wife a negro woman slave the property of Jona. Purcel." The petitioner, his wife and Purcel moved to Fort St. Vincennes where Antoine was coerced into signing an indenture for seven and a half years, with the promise of freedom for his wife at the end of that period. Shortly before the indenture expired, Purcel told Antoine that the period of indenture was actually fifteen years. Purcel sold Antoine and his wife to Emanuel Lacy who took them to New Orleans and sold them as slaves for life. Antoine and his wife then returned north with Lacy. His wife died, and Antoine was placed in jail for a few days before being handed over to Davis Floyd who is trying to sell him. Antoine asks the court to issue an injunction preventing anyone from selling him until his case can be heard.

PAR Number 20785134

State: Kentucky Year: 1851
Location: Woodford Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Bullock owned Jack McAfee and other slaves to whom he granted manumission in his will. All slaves who were twenty-one and unmarried had the opportunity of "going to Liberia or some other place of freedom out of the bounds of these United States." McAfee charges that Eleanor Bullock, Thomas's widow, refuses to allow him to emigrate, keeps him in servitude, and is keeping the proceeds from his hire. McAfee is suing Bullock for freedom, back wages, and seeks a restraining order to prevent his removal from the state.

PAR Number 20881013

State: Louisiana Year: 1810
Location: Pointe Coupee Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Jean Pierre Rousselin, a merchant, has loaned Joseph Durac, also a merchant, 474.02 piastres. According to Rousselin, Durac has no known property in the territory and no home; his only "refuge" is in the "camp de nègres" of one Etienne Major, where he lives with one of Major's slaves. Rousselin is afraid that Durac is about to flee the territory before any judgment is rendered and executed against him in regard to this debt. He claims that his fears are justified by the fact that Durac has turned all he owns into cash and has admitted to several citizens of the parish that he is about to leave for Jamaica. He is also trumpeting to all that are willing to listen that he would not repay Rousselin even though he has the means to do so. Rousselin asks the court to condemn Durac to pay his debt. However, believing that the parish court order is unlikely to be executed in view of Durac's intent to skip town, he asks the court to execute "articles 21 & 22" of the law, whereby a Superior Court is asked, in such instances, to go "en circuit" in order to establish courts of internal jurisdiction [Original in French].

PAR Number 20881316

State: Louisiana Year: 1813
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: Marie Gabriel, Carit, and Zilia, women of color, wish to ensure their freedom. They represent that, in Cuba, they were slaves of “Dame Magnan Widow Letourneur,” who, in order to "reward the good services that she had received," freed them. When the French population was forced to leave Cuba, the widow moved to New Orleans. In order to express their gratitude to Mrs. Letourneur, the three petitioners followed her to Louisiana and worked for her there until her death. Prior to her death, Mrs. Letourneur, fearful that her heirs might try to reclaim the petitioners as slaves, instructed in her will that her executor, Claude Magnan, should fulfill all the formalities required for emancipation in the Louisiana courts. Magnan has yet to do this and the petitioners worry that their freedom may be revoked. They pray that the court order Magnan to fulfill the wishes of the widow's will.

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