Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10382701

State: Delaware Year: 1827
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: The chairman of the Wilmington Union Colonization Society expresses concern about the expanding free black population. Robert Porter argues that free people of color do not and cannot enjoy the most important civil privileges (voting and office holding), cannot associate with whites, and will not be accepted on a basis of equality. Porter defends the legally sanctioned separation by declaring that "our separation from these people is the effect of moral causes, the foundations of which we could not safely remove; amalgamation would demoralize society; the consequence of breaking up the present distinctions would be not to raise the free coloured people, but to sink all to a state of degradation yet unknown.” He therefore suggests "the removal of these people" to the west “coast of Africa” as the solution to what he describes "people by their very condition our enemies." In Porter's opinion, the American Colonization Society is deserving of more "of the resources of the National Government" and if the Society were able to make "this removal general and common, there can be no doubt, that this whole population would flow in a current in that direction."

PAR Number 11082401

State: Mississippi Year: 1824
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Andrew Barland, the son of a white man by a woman of mixed race, was given a good education by his father as well as some property. He states, that, having married into "a respectable white family," he has always been received and treated as a white man. Furthermore, he has served as a juror, given testimony in court, voted, and "enjoyed all the privileges of a free white Citizen." Recently, howerver, a controversy has arisen in a court case when one Joseph Hawk called into question whether Barland, a man of color, should be allowed to testify. Barland writes to the legislature that "his education, his habits, his principles, and his society are all identified with your views." Barland notes that he owns slaves and therefore "can know no other interest than that which is common to the white population." He asks, therefore, that the state "extend to your petitioner such privileges as his countrymen may think him worthy to possess."

PAR Number 11281003

State: North Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Bertie Location Type: County

Abstract: William H. Green, sheriff of Bertie County, requests compensation for housing in jail two prisoners and three witnesses. He states that Allen Bilch, accused and later executed for horse stealing, remained in jail for 254 days; Anthony Wiggins, accused and executed for murder, remained in jail for 162 days. Green also states that "negro Tom, Mary Manly and Winifred Wiggins were committed as Witnesses against the sd. Anthony Wiggins ... and continued one hundred and forty six days each when they were discharged." Asserting that his expenses have not been fully reimbursed, the petitioner insists that "the legislature in stipulating the allowance prescribed by law for the maintainance of prisoners, it never was their intention to tax any one individual with the Cost of bringing to punishment the violators of the law."

PAR Number 11379109

State: South Carolina Year: 1791
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Charleston bricklayer Thomas Cole and butchers Peter Bassnett Mathewes and Matthew Webb represent that they "are deprived of the Rights and Privileges of Citizens" due to the an act passed in 1740 "commonly called The Negroe Act." They state that they do not have "it in their power to give Testimony on Oath in prosecutions on behalf of the State"; they "are debarred of the Rights of Free Citizens of being subject to a Trial without the benefit of a Jury"; and they "are subject to Prosecution by Testimony of Slaves without Oath by which they are placed on the same footing." The petitioners report that "they have at all times since the Independence of the United States contributed and do now contribute to the support of Government by chearfully paying their Taxes." In addition, they "are ready and willing take and subscribe to such Oath of Allegiance to the States as shall be presented." While they "do not presume to hope that they shall be put on an equal footing with the Free White Citizens of this State," they do "humbly solicit such indulgence as the Wisdom and Humanity of this Honorable House shall dictate in their favor by repealing" the such clauses in the said Act that "will efectually Redress the grievances which your Memorialists humbly submit."

PAR Number 11383402

State: South Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Charleston resident Edward Carew seeks leniency for his slave Isaac, sentenced to twelve months solitary confinement and three hundred lashes for striking his slave wife in the head with a hoe handle and causing her death. The petitioner believes Isaac will not survive and contends the punishment does not fit the offense. He asserts that "the Case is not distinguishable from many others of conflicts between people of this description -- no such violence was used by the Prisoner as should have excited an apprehension of fatal consequence" and that "the death of Kettura may be regarded in some measure as accidental." Carew further concludes that "the evidence only shews a common instance of a quarrel between a negro and his wife which are of frequent occurrence and not deemed to merit more than moderate correction."

PAR Number 11681021

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: On 18 June 1810, the Richmond City Council passed an ordinance that "no negro or mulatto" shall be permitted to use any "Gig chair or other carriage" in the city "except in the Capacity of maid or Servant to some Lady or Gentleman, hiring and riding therein." Christopher MacPherson, a mulatto free person of color who served as clerk during the American Revolution, asks for an exemption from the ordinance. He explains that, as an accountant and bookkeeper, he travels to various parts of the city; moreover, he and his wife are "both advanced in life and occasionally subject to disease -- it has happened and may again happen, that the occasional use of a carriage when they are unable to walk, may be necessary not only for their comfort but their health." The petitioner “submits without a murmur to those Laws of the Commonwealth, which impose disabilities imposed on that class of people to which he belongs and he is not disposed to deny, that there may be persons with respect to whom, the ordinance aforesaid might properly apply, but he humbly conceives that the said ordinance is unjust as it respects himself and family and that it deprives him of rights to which he is intitled under the laws and Constitution of this Commonwealth." He therefore prays that his case be taken into consideration and that “your Honorable Body will be pleased to enact such regulations as will prevent those rights from being infringed.”

PAR Number 11683509

State: Virginia Year: 1835
Location: Rockbridge Location Type: County

Abstract: John Moffett writes that some eight or nine years prior to the filing of his petition his slave Lucinda, a then fifteen-year-old girl, set fire to his barn. When a black woman named Peggy was asked to testify, "many persons became convinced that the said Peggy had instigated" Lucinda to "commit the incendiary act." At that time, Moffett contends, he did not believe that Peggy was implicated. However, after Lucinda "had been sent out of the country," some of his cattle were poisoned. He became "satisfied" that Peggy, whom he describes as an "intelligent, artful and vindictive" woman, was behind the poisoning. Moffett, who left the county for a while, has now returned and bought property. He has discovered to his great surprise that Peggy and her husband Scipio, both free people of color, have recently been granted permission to remain in Virginia. He asks the legislature to rescind its act granting such permission and to send the couple into exile. He claims that he "cannot feel secure in the possession of his property while the said Peggy is permitted to remain in the country."

PAR Number 11685902

State: Virginia Year: 1859
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-one residents of Prince George County insist that to protect the "due subordination of slaves to masters, & generally of the inferior black to the dominant white class," the assembly must address "two existing & wide-spread evils." These evils are 1) "the shops or other places for the unlicensed selling of intoxicating liquors to slaves" and the "carrying on with them other illegal traffic;" 2) "the intercourse with slaves, (& also with free negroes,) of persons, whether vagrants or temporary sojourners, who, in many cases, are either voluntary agents or hired emissaries of northern associations, or individuals, laboring to destroy slavery in the southern states, by instigating desertion, or conspiracy & insurrection." They seek new measures for the "prevention & punishment" of the twin evils.

PAR Number 20184722

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

Abstract: Margaret Collins, a free woman of color in her eighties, claims that her son, Joseph Collins, had an illegitimate child with his slave, Milly. Joseph gave the boy, named Edward, to Margaret, who in turn entrusted him to her daughter Louisa, wife of Benjamin Laurendine, and referred to as Madam Benjamin. Margaret and other family members treated Edward as a relative, but Louisa hired him out as a slave. After twenty years, Margaret Collins, complaining that she never intended the boy to be a slave, asks that Edward be returned to her and that an accounting of the money made from his hiring out be provided. Louisa Collins Laurendine, who has a sister named Isabel, is referred to as Isabella in parts of the documents.

PAR Number 20186331

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

Abstract: Free person of color Catharine Chastang complains that her husband, Edward, has abandoned her. After their marriage in 1857, they lived in the house of her father, Zenon Chastang. According to the deposition of Louis Chastang, Edward "abused his wife in a disgraceful manner, repudiated her as his wife, abandoned her without furnishing her any means of support, and declared he never would do any thing for her." Catharine asks for divorce.

PAR Number 20481801

State: District of Columbia Year: 1818
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: John Garrison, a black slave, petitioned the court for his freedom from Mrs. Janet Lingan. That petition is "still pending and undetermined." Garrison charges "that one William Beverley Randolph, pretending to have purchased your petitioner of said Mrs Lingan, is about, with the privity & consent of said Mrs Lingan, to remove your petitioner out of the County of Washington." Garrison asks that the defendants be "enjoined from removing your petitioner or causing procuring or suffering him to be removed" until his case is settled by the court.

PAR Number 20483301

State: District of Columbia Year: 1833
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: William Ellison seeks a writ of habeas corpus for "William Thomas John Thomas alias Wm Brown John Brown," who has been imprisoned as a runaway slave. The petitioner claims that said Thomas/Brown is the son of a white woman and thus is free.

PAR Number 20483807

State: District of Columbia Year: 1838
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Anne Edinbro, a slave, asserts that her previous mistress, Mary Heugh, executed a deed of manumission on 19 September 1829, by which she would be free on 31 December 1846. Her term of service was sold to Robert Earle under the agreement that she would not be sold out of the District of Columbia or for a longer term of service. Edinbro contends that Earle sold and delivered her to David Waters as a slave for life. She seeks an injunction preventing Earle and Waters from removing or selling her beyond the jurisdiction of the court and asks that the defendants be summoned to answer her complaint.

PAR Number 20484005

State: District of Columbia Year: 1840
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Eliza Johnson, a woman of color, asserts that "she is entitled to her freedom at the age of thirty years which she has now attained" according to the will of her former mistress, Jane Woodward, deceased. Johnson states that she has a petition for her freedom pending in the courts "against one Thomas J. Belt who detains her in slavery." The petitioner seeks an injunction preventing Belt from removing or selling her beyond the jurisdiction of the court.

PAR Number 20484504

State: District of Columbia Year: 1845
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: James Becket, a man of color, states that John Chew, of Prince George's County, Maryland, specified in his last will and testament that Becket, “as the issue of” one of his female slaves, should “be set free and at liberty” upon arriving at the age of thirty. Becket is now about twenty-six years old and is the slave of Agnes Clarke, of Montgomery County, Maryland. For some time, Becket has been living in Washington and hiring himself out, paying his wages "from time to time" to Clarke or her agent. The petitioner states that a few days ago, William Glover, claiming to be an agent of Clarke, arrested and confined him to the private slave jail of Thomas Williams, a man known to be a slave trader. Becket avers that Glover has advertised him as a slave for life and is planning to sell him beyond the city of Washington. He seeks an injunction preventing Glover, Williams, and Clarke from selling him as a slave for life beyond the jurisdiction of the court.

PAR Number 20486237

State: District of Columbia Year: 1862
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: On 16 April 1862, Congress passed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Owners were required to file a schedule of slaves with the court, which issued certificates of freedom. On 12 July 1862, another act permitted minor or absentee owners and slaves themselves to file for certificates of freedom. Evelina Wedge, a "brown" female, between twenty-one and twenty-two years of age, who is the wife of a free man of color, George Wedge, states that she and her children, Martha A. E. Wedge and George Washington Wedge, are owned by Alexander McCormick. She seeks her freedom and the freedom of her children.

PAR Number 20486264

State: District of Columbia Year: 1862
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: On 16 April 1862, Congress passed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Owners were required to file a schedule of slaves with the court, which issued certificates of freedom. On 12 July 1862, another act permitted minor or absentee owners and slaves themselves to file for certificates of freedom. Mary Warrington, a "Light Mulatto" woman, twenty-five years of age, states that she is owned by Benjamin L. Jackson. She seeks her freedom.

PAR Number 20486309

State: District of Columbia Year: 1863
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: On 16 April 1862, Congress passed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Owners were required to file a schedule of slaves with the court, which issued certificates of freedom. On 12 July 1862, another act permitted minor masters, absentee owners, and slaves themselves to file for certificates of freedom. Maria Stevenson, belonging to Caroline Noland, of Montgomery County, Maryland, seeks her freedom.

PAR Number 20486315

State: District of Columbia Year: 1863
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: On 16 April 1862, Congress passed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Owners were required to file a schedule of slaves with the court, which issued certificates of freedom. On 12 July 1862, another act permitted minor masters, absentee owners, and slaves themselves to file for certificates of freedom. Eliza Johnson, a slave belonging to Caroline Noland, of Montgomery County, Maryland, seeks her freedom.

PAR Number 20782204

State: Kentucky Year: 1822
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Phillis Thomas claims that she and her children, all free born of free parents, were "forcably taken in the night from St Marys County in the State of Maryland and brought by a circuitous rout to avoid pursuit and detection to the State of Kentucky against their will" and have been held in involuntary servitude by James Burk. The petitioners also fear that when Burk discovers they are appealing to the court for their rights he will move them out of state and sell them as slaves. Thomas and her children ask the court to restore their freedom and to subpoena James Burk and restrain him from sending them out of the county until a final decree is made on this bill.

PAR Number 20783812

State: Kentucky Year: 1838
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: About 1830, Milly Stafford, a free black widow, married Israel Boston, a free man of color. They lived together for six years and had five children, two of whom survived. Milly claims that two years ago Israel left "with the intention of abandonment," making no provision for her or their children. Boston owned a small lot and house in Louisville, and he sold the front part of the lot before he left. Milly Boston asks the court to grant her a divorce and custody of the children, to restrain Israel from interfering with her or them, and to prevent Israel from selling the rest of the lot or the house, allowing her to enjoy it "as a means by which to rear and educate her children."

PAR Number 20784019

State: Kentucky Year: 1840
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Drummond, a free woman of color, states that Jeremiah Drummond, her late husband, desired that she “be free from the claims ... of all the world” and thereby emancipated her in his will. She further represents that said will stipulated that she be given several hundred dollars during her widowhood. Elizabeth claims that James Overstreet, the executor of her husband's will, has taken money from her and refuses to pay her the said legacy. She asks that the terms of the will be enforced.

PAR Number 20784312

State: Kentucky Year: 1843
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Amanda, a woman of color, asserts that her former master, Samuel Heisle, stipulated in his will that she and several other slaves would be free upon his death. Amanda charges that the executor of the estate, James Heisle, has violated the instructions of the will by selling her to Shapley Owen for eight years.

PAR Number 20784713

State: Kentucky Year: 1847
Location: Boyle Location Type: County

Abstract: Permelia Russell, free woman of color, seeks a divorce from Willis, a former slave who was freed after the death of his owner, Robert Craddock. Permelia states Willis behaves towards her in a cruel and inhuman manner. After a two-week visit with her mother in Louisville, "she returned home, and to her great surprise found that the Deft had rented out their residence to a white family," and he "left [their furniture and clothing] in charge of the family." Permelia charges that the family refused to let her collect her possessions. She states Willis holds "about five thousand dollars worth of property," consisting of a house and lot in Danville, KY, worth $1,500; land in Casey, KY, worth $2,000; and other property worth $1,500. Permelia seeks alimony and support from Willis. [Five people gave depositions wherein they testified that they had lived with the Russells, were neighbors of the Russells, or had known one or both of them for a long period time. For these reasons, it was presumed that these individuals were free people of color.]

PAR Number 20881607

State: Louisiana Year: 1816
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: John Peck claims that he is a free mulatto illegally held as a slave. According to Peck, he was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to a free mulatto woman named Lidia Peck. In 1813, Dennis Darling of the Mississippi Territory, "pretending” to be his owner, “made a bill of sale of him to Abele & Shambleton of Pensacola," who then sold him to Burton & Gorham of New Orleans. Peck prays for his freedom and asks that Burton & Gorham be condemned to pay him one dollar for every day of his imprisonment. In a related document, a witness testifying for the defense states that he owned a runaway slave by the name of William "answering very much to the description of the person now claiming his freedom." According to the witness, William's parents, named Jim Young and Priscilla, were both slaves; the latter still his property. Since the witness's identification of John Peck as William is in direct contradiction to that of another witness who knew both John and his mother Lidia in Baltimore, this may have been a case of mistaken identify.

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