Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11281703

State: North Carolina Year: 1817
Location: Sampson Location Type: County

Abstract: Bernard Laspeyre asks that an act passed in favor of his wife Harriet be repealed. Bernard contends that the charges contained in "that obscene Instrument" constitute "a Virulent and Infamous Libel, under the name of a Petition" and that Harriet's petition "cannot be the production of that fallen Angel, once the ornament of her Sex"; said petition accused Bernard of committing adultery with her slaves and marrying her solely for her property. He further asserts that Harriet abandoned him "in a fit of Jealousy" and that he urged "her by the tenderest terms and manner to return to your Memorialist house and family"; instead, he complains that she inveigled "from his Service all his negroes which by a Marriage Settlement are under his Sole controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "you will be pleased to Repeal the act passed Last session in favour of his Wife, as being Ruinous to your Memorialist and family and being Subversive of the most Sacred Institutions of Society." If not checked, Bernard believes that "before long the tables of Both houses [will be] covered with Petitions from Jealous and discontented Wifes, who are now on the tiptoe of expectation to see the issue of this petition."

PAR Number 11481503

State: Tennessee Year: 1815
Location: Humphreys Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty-five petitioners defend John Farmer, "whom we believe to be an honest, upright and good citizen" and who "has been deprived of the privileges of a Free Citizen." They report that Farmer, in the heat of an argument, stated that Thomas Laneir "had sold a parcel of free negroes"; Laneir sued and Farmer later "gave Laneir a piece of writing importing that what he had said was the effect of passion and that he was sorry for it." The petitioners, not pretending "to say that his assertions against Laneir were correct," do, however, "fully believe that it was the general opinion, at that time, that Laneir was concerned in the selling of sd free negroes." They therefore "humbly pray that said John Farmer may be restored to all the privileges of Citizenship, which we think him in justice entitled to."

PAR Number 20184219

State: Alabama Year: 1842
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: Lucretia Chambers, through her next friend Thomas McGinnis, seeks to divorce her husband John Chambers. The petitioner states that after ten months of marriage, John Chambers had become so abusive that she left him and moved to her father's residence. She claims that John, in order "to wound and provoke her feeling assumed to be jealous of her constancy ... and without the slightest foundation charged her with the commission of adultery and other base & unwomanly conduct." In addition, she says he imposed, "as a kind of guardian and mistress, an ignorant filthy negro woman--thus compelling her to submit not only to his own caprices and tyranny, but to the ... oppression & insults of his negro paramour." Maintaining "that never ... did she knowing give him cause for complaint," Lucretia says she "endured his wanton tyranny ... until patience itself ceased to be a virtue, and a separation no crime." Although John "is possessed of an estate worth, probably, five or six thousand dollars," he has failed to provide for her and she asks that, in addition to a divorce, "a separate property for her maintenance may be set apart." In his related answer, John accuses his wife of adultery and of being pregnant by a man other than himself.

PAR Number 20184705

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, Bradly Glover sold his property, abandoned his wife, and emigrated from Virginia to Alabama, taking along two slaves, a boy and a woman. He "was at the time he left, and had been for sometime previously," his wife, Eliza H. Glover of Buckingham County, Virginia explains, "in habits of ilicit intercourse with said negro woman, and as your Oratrix believes still keeps the said woman for the purpose of sexual intercourse." Eliza seeks alimony. She has been "accustomed to have all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life furnished to her, without personal exertions of her own." Now, she is "helpless and destitute." She asks for an injunction to prevent people from paying Glover what they owe him, and asks that she might keep some of the money as "a suitable and comfortable support."

PAR Number 20184712

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in Washington County, in 1836, Sarah Debose testifies that during her eight years as the wife of James Debose she endured "the grossest, cruel and brutal and violent trespass and treatment." She claims that her husband slandered her good name, whipped her, drew "a deadly weapon" and threatened to kill her, and abandoned her without providing for the care or education of their three children. He also committed "the abominable crime of adultery" with Martha Hainsworth, a married woman to whom he later gave three hundred dollars. Sarah lost one eye to an infection, and is "afflicted" in the other; she is destitute and asks for an injunction prohibiting her husband from disposing of his property, including a tract of pine land near Mobile, and a slave and her daughter. She also requests that he pay her a monthly allowance, and, for the time being, be confined to jail.

PAR Number 20184821

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah H. Claffey asks for a divorce from Matthew Claffey, an Irishman, who, she says, drove her out of the house and forced her to return to the home of her parents. During their time together, Sarah charges, Matthew abused her constantly, accusing her of adultery, yanking her off her horse, slapping her in the face, hitting and kicking her and "inflicting great pain." He is a "wicked and profane" man, filled with the "turpitude baseness and corruption common to the lowest and most vulgar of the Irish who come to this Country." He also committed adultery, having "carnal intercourse and illicit connection" with a prostitute. Matthew owns a twenty-year-old slave named Charlotte, and her two-year-old-child.

PAR Number 20185103

State: Alabama Year: 1851
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: When Narcissa Rucker married Henry Henderson in Wilkes County, Georgia, in 1815, he owned only five slaves: Sally, a young nurse; Burton, a boy; Daniel, a man; and Hester and her child. The Hendersons moved westward, first from Wilkes County, near the South Carolina border, to Coweta County, in 1828, not far from Alabama, and thence to Macon, Chambers, and Tallapoosa counties in Alabama. By 1850, the Hendersons owned extensive plantation lands in three counties, and eighty-seven slaves. They also had a considerable amount of "cash on hand." Narcissa contends that she was instrumental in helping her husband accumulate property. In 1850, fifty-nine-year-old Henry Henderson began to accuse his fifty-six-year-old wife of infidelity, and he soon became obsessed with several alleged affairs, including one with Madison Kinnebrew and another man named Augustus. He soon became increasingly violent. During the summer of 1850, as Narcissa lay in a sickbed, Henderson "commenced complaining about the conduct of certain of his negroes," especially the house servants and cooks. He "flew into a passion" and threatened his wife with a hickory stick. He then "took hold of her, in a rude manner, and seizing her by the head and throat, jammed her against the wall," scratched her below the ear, tore one of her gums with his finger, and threatened to kill her, brandishing a knife when she attempted to escape. In 1851, Narcissa Henderson files for divorce. She seeks a division of property "most consistent with the pleadings and proof of the parties."

PAR Number 20185115

State: Alabama Year: 1851
Location: Greene Location Type: County

Abstract: On 1 May 1850, Rachel Pate of Green County married Samuel R. Pate of Sumter County. At the time of her marriage, Rachel owned a thirty-five-year-old slave named Celia and her five children, whom she had received by deed of gift from her father. After her marriage, Rachel "repaired" to the residence of her new husband in Sumter County, but left her slaves in the care of her mother and brother-in-law. Rachel contends that, shortly after the wedding, her husband "began to manifest a restless and unpleasant State of mind and feeling" towards her, which included "malicious charges against [her] chastity and character." When Samuel left on a trip to North Carolina, Rachel left their residence and returned to live with her mother, where she remained under the belief that her husband never intended to return. Following a suit against her brother-in-law, Henry W. Stafford, and one Rebecca E. Hall, Rachel's slaves were seized by the sheriff, and Samuel, as trustee of his wife's estate, attempted to get possession of them. Rachel claims that he intends to sell the slaves. She asserts that his misguided conduct, indeed, his "Mental Imbecility," made him wholly "unfit and incapable of conducting or managing her said Separate Estate and property." Rachel seeks the right to control and manage her property, including her slaves. In his answer to his wife's charges, Samuel Pate explains that she had confessed to him having led an unchaste life before their marriage and that the child she was carrying was another man's. She went so far as stating that there were five candidates to her child's fatherhood. Samuel claims that he found out the confession was probably unfounded and he was eager for reconciliation with his wife. Furthermore, he asserts that he is fit to manage his wife's estate, including her slaves, he explains, "and is advised that by law he has the right and is the proper person to manage and conduct it."

PAR Number 20185308

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: In the mid-1840s, Eliza, a slaveholding widow, married Barnabas Strickland, a migrant from Georgia, described as charming, intelligent, "a man of Specious manners & respectable appearance & a Minister of the Gospel." The couple signed a prenuptial agreement giving Eliza control over her land and slaves. She soon discovered that Barnabas was not only heavily in debt (although he owned a slave woman and her children), but was inept in managing the plantation. She invited her son-in-law, George C. Burns, to come and help her but he left after conflicts with Strickland. Sometime around the year 1848, Barnabas agreed to turn over her slaves to his wife in payment for money owed her; the slaves were nevertheless taken from her possession. Shortly thereafter, Barnabas arranged to purchase slaves in his wife's name, but later sought to make this property his own. Eliza "resisted," and asked her son, William Boswell, to come and take over the plantation. The husband said he would "deliver up control" only if his wife turned the title of her slaves over to him. Fearing he might cause trouble and embarrassment, and after consulting with a lawyer, she agreed. He then mortgaged the slaves, took the cash, and fled from the county. At midnight, on New Year's Eve 1852, creditors sneaked on to her plantation, rounded up the slaves, and took them away. She filed suit against the creditors as well as her husband but the sheriff reported that they were "not found in my County."

PAR Number 20185625

State: Alabama Year: 1856
Location: Limestone Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1851, after many years of marriage, Mary Ann Andrews and her husband Richard J. Andrews signed a contract giving her "sole and Separate use" of the Negro woman Sarah Ann and her seven children--Anthony, Angeline, Isabella, Jenny, George, John, and Hannah. Richard Andrews, however, refused to execute the contract. In 1852, Mary Ann filed suit for possession of the slaves, and left her husband a short time later. The sheriff took the slaves into custody, but the husband, who was still acting as Mary Ann's "trustee," posted bond and recovered them pending a decision of the court. Even after Mary Ann obtained a judgment against her husband, the latter refused to give the slaves up. In 1856, Mary Ann files suit to remove him as trustee, explaining that he is a "habitual drinker and subject to frequent gross intoxication," and that he profits from her slaves "Sometimes hiring them out and Sometimes working them himself." She seeks "the specific relief to which the facts of her case entitle her."

PAR Number 20186313

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1856, at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Mobile, James E. Slater married slaveholder Emily Cooper, a young woman residing in the city with her mother. Engaging in mercantile business, Slater traveled a great deal, often absent for weeks at a time. In April 1863, while in Montgomery, he sustained an injury and sent for his wife. A few nights after her arrival he discovered her kissing one Charles A. Black in her hotel room. He immediately sent her to her mother's, and, having "lost his faith in her honor and chastity," made arrangements for a permanent separation. It was then that he found out that during his absences she had led a life "of great wantonness and profligacy." On various occasions, she had invited men to her house, or rendezvoused with them "elsewhere in the City of Mobile for the purpose of a guilty Sexual Intercourse." Slater seeks a divorce, and asks for custody of their five-year-old daughter Kate.

PAR Number 20186318

State: Alabama Year: 1863
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Emily F. Slater seeks a divorce from her husband, James E. Slater, who, she asserts, has treated her with great cruelty and brutality. He "denounced her as a d-m whore, and ordered her to leave the house," she said, and on one occasion choked her "until she fainted and the blood run out of her mouth." Moreover, her husband is the adulterer "suffering with a venereal disease, contracted by such an adulterous course of life." He took her eleven slaves away with the intention of selling them and depriving "entirely of her property." She would have filed for divorce sooner but felt "an instinctive dread of a public exposure." Emily prays that the court will grant her a divorce, require child support, and prevent Slater from "molesting or interfering with her in said care custody & education" of their five-year-old daughter Kate.

PAR Number 20186605

State: Alabama Year: 1866
Location: Pike Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Taylor, described as having a "weak mind," accuses her husband W. Giles Taylor of being "cruel and inhumane," threatening to have her arrested for allegedly trying to poison him and forcing her to abandon her home and their six-year-old daughter. Giles's brother, Charles Taylor, took Elizabeth to New Orleans and abandoned her with only eight dollars in her purse. She made her way by boat back to Montgomery, and then walked many miles back to Pike County. Upon her arrival, she learns that her husband is unjustly accusing her of "illicit intercourse & cohabitation with a negro, one Wade, a freedman formerly owned by Mrs. Owins." She prays that the court will grant her a divorce, custody of her child, and alimony.

PAR Number 20582203

State: Florida Year: 1822
Location: Escambia Location Type: County

Abstract: Charles Baler accuses William Lear of slander, stemming from a case instituted by Lear on 4 April 1822 that charged Baler with "a felony, to wit, in carrying away a Negro Man the property of Thomas Baler." Charles Baler was arrested, but the suit was discontinued for want of prosecution. Baler claims that his reputation was damaged and that he was "brought into public scandal, infamy and disgrace with and amongst all his neighbors and other good and worthy citizens of the County." He claims ten thousand dollars damages.

PAR Number 20584701

State: Florida Year: 1847
Location: Leon Location Type: County

Abstract: Elvira Lang, by her next friend James T. Archer, seeks an injunction against her husband, Thomas Lang, restraining him from removing, selling, or using the personal property set aside as her separate estate; she also asks that a new trustee be appointed to administer it. The plaintiff states that at the time of her marriage with Thomas Lang a marriage deed was executed granting her separate interest in a trust estate, which included slaves. The property was her dower from the estate of her first husband, James D. Bullock. The trust is currently administered by James A. Berthlott, who is sick and unable to manage it properly. She further explains that she was forced to separate from her husband following his "unkind, abusive & insulting" treatment. Elvira Lang charges that her husband refuses to surrender her property and threatens to leave the state with slaves belonging to her estate.

PAR Number 20679901

State: Georgia Year: 1799
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Reuben Beckum claims that he has been slandered by Frederick Evans, sustaining damages of $3,000. Beckum, who describes himself as a "good true honest and faithful citizen from the time of his nativity," charges Evans with accusing him of being a rogue and a Negro, and of keeping a Negro in South Carolina to steal property. He asks the court to award compensation for the damage caused by the uttering and publishing of these "false feigned Scandalous, Malicious and approbrious english words."

PAR Number 20680004

State: Georgia Year: 1800
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: Molsey Jones accuses John D'Antignac of damaging her reputation, by accusing her of "keeping a bawdy house, or house of ill fame." Jones interprets his words as meaning "that your petitioner was not only a whore but kept a house to bring whores a Negroes together." She asks that D'Antignac be summoned to answer charges of trespass and defamation, and to pay $5,000 for damages to her reputation.

PAR Number 20680404

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

Abstract: John Pettit alleges that "he hath been injured & damaged by James Neely." Pettit insists that his long-enjoyed stellar reputation has been slandered by Neely's accusations that he has harbored a runaway Negro slave girl, recently purchased by Neely. Pettit sues for $10,000 in damages.

PAR Number 20680702

State: Georgia Year: 1807
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy Pool sues Jonathan Matthews for slander, citing $5,000 in damages. She alleges that her good name and reputation have been compromised by Matthews when he stated that "'she has been deflowered & prostituted by a Negro fellow.'"

PAR Number 20680703

State: Georgia Year: 1807
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy Pool sues Ephraim Peebles for slander, citing $5,000 in damages. She alleges that her good name and reputation have been compromised by Peebles in his statement that " 'she had been constuprated and debauched by a Negro fellow.' "

PAR Number 20681009

State: Georgia Year: 1810
Location: Laurens Location Type: County

Abstract: Jethro Butler sues John Mooney for slander, claiming $2,000 in damages. Butler asserts that he "is a good honest, upright & faithful Citizen, and as such hath all his lifetime hitherto conducted and demeaned himself." Butler contends that, in spite of his stellar reputation, Mooney loudly called him "as damned a Rogue as any" in front of several people, and accused him of stealing "the negroes he has now in his possession, & brought from South Carolina when he came away." Mooney also accused Butler of stealing his son's horse. Butler asserts that this accusation has damaged his reputation and he asks for redress of his grievances.

PAR Number 20681112

State: Georgia Year: 1811
Location: Wilkes Location Type: County

Abstract: William M. Kain sues Samuel Kerrison for slander and $2,000 in damages. Kain claims to be a citizen of good standing in his community. However, in July 1811, Kerrison announced that Kain was seen by one of Kerrison's slaves "with one of the said Samuel's Negro Women beyond a Certain fence ... In the act of embracing." Kerrison also accused Kain of having "made Overturs for a Criminal Intercourse" with another of his female slaves, and even to have tried to offer money to several women slaves for such purpose. According to Kain, these accusations have severely damaged his reputation and his relationship with his friends and family.

PAR Number 20681404

State: Georgia Year: 1814
Location: Emanuel Location Type: County

Abstract: Milner Holladay sues Francis Pugh for slander and $5,000 in damages. Holladay claims that on 10 September 1813, Pugh uttered "false feigned Scandalous malicious and approbrious english words" accusing Holladay of "negro harboring." Further, Holladay charges that Pugh publicly suggested that if Holladay were elected to the state legislature, he would be denied a seat due to charges based on these allegations. Holladay complains that Pugh's allegations have not only ruined his good reputation in the community, and subjected him to the penalties for such crimes, but have hurt his business. He asks that Pugh appear at the next Superior Court to answer his allegations of slander.

PAR Number 20681804

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

Abstract: Reubin Christian sues Reufus Christian for slander. The petitioner claims that he is "a good true faithful upright honest Citizen from the time of his nativity hitherto hath conducted & behaved himself & hath continued & lived free & innocent of the crime of harbouring consealing or in any wise maintained any runaway negro slave or slaves belonging to any person whomsoever or any other such infamous crime or vice." Reufus Christian, however, has accused Reubin Christian of harbouring a runaway named Leah. Reubin Christian sues for $5,000 in damages.

PAR Number 20681917

State: Georgia Year: 1819
Location: Liberty Location Type: County

Abstract: Paul H. Wilkins sues William Ward for slander. Wilkins claims that he was an esteemed member of his community and "a humane master in the treatment to his slaves." Ward, however, publicly accused Wilkins of half-clothing and half-starving his slaves, as well as beating them severely and maiming them. Ward claims that one of Wilkins's slaves was so exposed to inclement weather that his feet were frost-bitten and that he was deprived of the use of one of his toes. Wilkins contends that he has been "greatly injured in his said good name, fame and credit, and brought into public scandal" by Ward's allegations. He claims that he "has sustained damage to the value of five thousand dollars." He asks that Ward appear in the next Superior Court to answer the allegations.

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