Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11000007

State: Mississippi
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: Natchez resident Richard Terrell asks for a change of venue for the trial of his slave Henry, accused by another slave of burglary. Convicted once but granted a new trial, Henry "cannot have anything like a fair trial" in Adams County. The slave who accused Henry was a "man of bad fame."

PAR Number 11184601

State: Missouri Year: 1846
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: On 14 January 1845, John Smith's slave Maryland was jailed by the judge of the St. Louis criminal court as a witness in the case the State v. G. W. Goode. The black man was released after sixty-three days. Smith claims he suffered "loss and great inconvenience" and asks to be compensated "the usual fees."

PAR Number 11184602

State: Missouri Year: 1846
Location: St. Louis Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioner states that in November 1844 he asked that his slave William be placed in jail as a runaway and kept there for safekeeping until such time as he could dispose of him. However, on 11 January 1845, the judge of the St. Louis criminal court ordered that William testify in the case of the State v. G. W. Goode. William was confined sixty-six days, during which time Beirne could neither use his services nor dispose of him, all to his master's "great inconvenience, prejudice and damage." Beirne seeks payment of the "usual fees in such cases."

PAR Number 11282201

State: North Carolina Year: 1822
Location: Hertford Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-two "coloured persons citizens of this State" would "beg leave to state that some of them whose names are assigned to this petition bore an honorable part in the seven years war which established the Liberties of their Common Country." They further represent that "during that eventful period they were taught to believe that all men are by nature free & equal, and that the enjoyance of life, liberty and property ought to be secured alike to every citizen without exception & without distinction." They therefore are dismayed by "the passage of a Law at the last Session of the Legislature by which their lives & liberties are virtually placed at the mercy of Slaves." The petitioners contend that their rights, as free people of color, are "held by so slight a tenure as the favour of slaves and the will & caprice of their vindictive masters" and that slaves "are bound to a blind obedience, and Know no law, but the will of their masters." They therefore humbly pray "that the Act of the last Session of the Legislature making slaves competent witnesses against them in criminal case may be repealed."

PAR Number 11282202

State: North Carolina Year: 1822
Location: Hertford Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty-two "Citizens of the County of Hertford beg leave to state that they entirely concur in the sentiments expressed in the annexes petition of Coloured persons." They represent that "they entertain the same opinion of the impropriety of the Law of the last Session of the Legislature by which slaves are made competent witnesses against free persons of colour in criminal cases." The petitioners "believe that it may in many cases be productive of the most serious mischief."

PAR Number 11283108

State: North Carolina Year: 1831
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred sixty-four residents of New Bern complain that "many of the free negroes residing in the Town of Newbern, claim the right of voting" and "that fifty or more actually exercise that right" to send a representative to the House of Commons. They point out that the state constitution permits those who possess a freehold, who have lived in the town twelve months, and who have paid taxes to cast their ballots as freemen. But, the petitions argue, free blacks are not freemen: they "are forbidden to contract marriage except with their own class"; they cannot sit on juries or testify in court except in certain cases; and they can be sentenced death on the testimony of a slave. "Can these disabilities," the petitioners ask, "belong to a Freeman?" They ask the legislature “to ascertain and determine the true construction of the Constitution upon the subject matter of this their Memorial."

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 11379802

State: South Carolina Year: 1798
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: James Delaire states that his slave, Paul, alias Figaro, was convicted of sedition and sentenced to be transported from the United States to the Dutch Colony of Surinam and sold. Other slaves involved in the plot were hanged, but Paul testified against them and his life was spared. Paul was turned over to Duncan Hill, owner of the brig Aurora, for transport to Surinam. Owing to the "Intense cold the said Figaro had suffered in the Work House at Charleston & the strong pressure of the Irons on his legs very few days after the Sailing of the Aurora he was taken with a swelling about the ankles which turn'd into a sore & that a mortification of the flesh ensuing his toes rotted & one of his feet drop'd of[f] entirely." As a result, Paul sold for only about $20 though he was worth $350. Delaire seeks compensation.

PAR Number 11379803

State: South Carolina Year: 1798
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: James Delaire states that his slave, Paul, alias Figaro, was convicted of sedition and sentenced to be transported from the United States to the Dutch Colony of Surinam and sold. Other slaves involved in the plot were hanged, but Paul testified against them and his life was spared. Paul was turned over to Duncan Hill, owner of the brig Aurora, for transport to Surinam. Owing to the "Intense cold the said Figaro had suffered in the Work House at Charleston & the strong pressure of the Irons on his legs very few days after the Sailing of the Aurora he was taken with a swelling about the ankles which turn'd into a sore & that a mortification of the flesh ensuing his toes rotted & one of his feet drop'd of[f] entirely." As a result, Paul sold for only about $20 though he was worth $350. Delaire seeks compensation.

PAR Number 11380007

State: South Carolina Year: 1800

Abstract: Leroy Beuford seeks compensation for a slave named John who was convicted and executed for poisoning. Beuford believes that "he has Not Justice Done Him." Related documents contain the testimony of several slaves that detail John's acts of conjuring and suspected poisoning.

PAR Number 11382230

State: South Carolina Year: 1822
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Ann Drayton Perry avers that her slave Agrippa was "condemned to Transportation, by the Court, organised for the Trial of Slaves and others, charged with attempting to raise an Insurrection." She argues, however, that Agrippa's name "was never mentioned nor given in, in any of the lists made out by the Conspirators that gave evidence in behalf of the State"; indeed, he only came before the court "as a witness in favor of" Captain Sims's slave Scipio. The petitioner charges that Agrippa's guilt stemmed from the testimony of Perault, "(a fellow possessing intelligence and understanding above the generality of Negroes, glorying in the part he was to act, and boasting he would do it again, if an opportunity offered.) She relates that, in bargaining to rent a horse from Perault, Agrippa had said that he planned to use the horse "to do a thing good for you and good for me," which Perault "understood was to go to raise men for the Insurrection." Perry insists that this statement is hardly sufficient to banish Agrippa from the limits of the United States. Noting that the freeholders estimate Agrippa to be worth $1,000, the petitioner prays that "your Honorable Body ... will be pleased to restore her the Negro; or if, in your justice and wisdom, you should deem the sacrifice necessary, that you will give her the value of the slave."

PAR Number 11382906

State: South Carolina Year: 1829
Location: Georgetown Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Six Georgetown District residents seek compensation for Ann Paisley of Prince George's Parish, whose slave Henrietta betrayed an insurrection plot. They recount that Henrietta, "on or about 20th of July last," heard "the man Charles one of the Ring leaders in the late conspiracy in their quarter," make "use of some threatening expressions in anticipation of the intended insurrection"; Henrietta immediately informed Paisley and Charles was quickly taken up, confessed, and implicated others. They further report that slaves were "very generally excited" against Henrietta and that she was even attacked by a slave named Joe, who was captured, tried, and executed. The petitioners therefore ask that Henrietta and her child be emancipated. In addition, they insist that Ann Paisley should be granted an annual stipend since she is a woman of little means and Henrietta "constituted at present almost her sole support."

PAR Number 11383101

State: South Carolina Year: 1831
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: John Enslow states that his slave John was convicted of "being engaged in a conspiracy and projected insurrection of the Negroes and Sentenced to be imprisoned in the Work House of Charleston untill his Master under the direction of the City Council of Charleston shall send him out of the limits of the United States into which he is not to return Under penalty of death;" said "sentence was in fact a commutation of the punishment of death" due to John's testimony against other slaves. The petitioner further reports that John was therefore duly imprisoned and "that during said confinement he died." Enslow argues that John’s dying in the Workhouse had the same consequence as if he had been executed in that "in either case the property of your Petitioner being taken from him by the public authority, and in the present sentence being dictated by a consideration of the public good." He cites that precedent can be found in the case of David Haig who sued for compensation when his slave Harry died in the Workhouse under the same court-sanctioned sentence. The petitioner therefore prays that his case be taken into consideration and that he be granted "the compensation allowed by Law in case of a Slave executed under the Sentence of a Court."

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 11384702

State: South Carolina Year: 1847
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: James Perry seeks compensation for a slave, Prince, who was convicted and hanged "for poisoning with intent to kill." Perry asserts that "the slave being a prime and valuable fellow, your Petitioner has consequently experienced great loss." Prince was appraised at five hundred dollars. Prince's nephew, Thomas, testified that his said uncle gave him "3 lumps large as the end of his finger" and that Prince told him "to put it in the coffee & let nobody know."

PAR Number 11682003

State: Virginia Year: 1820
Location: Pittsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: On 26 December 1819, Pleasant Waller's slave Abraham was murdered by a slave named Primus, belonging to Ayres Hodnett. Tried and convicted, Primus was sentenced to death, but "the Executive of this Commonwealth" commuted the sentence to transportation and sale beyond the limits of the United States. Waller complains that although Hodnett, the owner of the murderer, was compensated--Primus was sold at a fair price—he, the owner of the victim, who was an innocent observer, remains uncompensated. He seeks reimbursement. Several related documents contain the testimonies of slaves, belonging to different owners, who recount the fight between Abraham and Primus that led to Abraham's death. The fight occurred over an insulting remark made by a third party regarding the leaden style of dancing of Primus's wife, Dilsey. The altercation started in the course of a social gathering in the kitchen of one of the owners.

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 11685017

State: Virginia Year: 1850
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: The petitioners object to a recent revision of the Virginia law that places financial responsibility for retrieval of a hired slave who runs away on the owner rather than the person hiring the slave. Under the old law, the "hirer of a slave was considered as the owner of that slave for such term as the slave was hired to him, and if the slave should run away during such term, was compelled to pay all the costs of apprehension, jail fees & c." The only exception to the revised law is in cases of maltreatment of the slave by the hirer. The petitioners point out that the burden of proof lies with the slave owner who is forced to rely on the statement of the slave, "which will amount to nothing." In all, the law creates an unhealthy situation in the widespread practice of hiring out, they contend. "A large portion of those who hire negroes," they add, "especially in our cities, consists of Foreigners and of poor and ignorant persons who have no other idea of right and wrong than that which conforms exactly to their interest."

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 20883931

State: Louisiana Year: 1839
Location: Orleans Location Type: Parish

Abstract: James Thompson represents that, on the 6th of April 1839, his “quatroon” slave, Mary Jane, boarded the ship Orleans and was carried away to New York City. According to Thompson, the captain of the ship, S. Sears, permitted Mary Jane "to eat at table with white people” and in other respects treated her “as an equal of white people." In addition, while in New York City, Sears allowed Mary Jane to associate with abolitionists. Thompson contends that Mary Jane used to be a "good faithful and trusty house servant;" she is now "entirely and totally unfit for such a trust or for any useful purpose." Furthermore, Mary Jane had with her $100 and several articles of clothing belonging to him when she boarded the ship. Thompson therefore seeks $1,000 in damages from S. Sears and the owners of the ship Orleans. In addition, claiming a privilege on the ship to secure his demand, he asks the court to sequester the ship.

PAR Number 20979121

State: Maryland Year: 1791
Location: Anne Arundel Location Type: County

Abstract: Phillip Boston states that he is detained in slavery by Richard Sprigg when "he is entitled to Freedom being descended from a free yellow woman being one of the Portuguese." Boston asks that he be discharged from service to Sprigg.

PAR Number 20985718

State: Maryland Year: 1857
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Show purchased Mary Jones "for a term of years" from William Logan, agent for William Rohback. The bill of sale stipulated that her term of service would end 22 April 1861. Show alleges "that said Mulatto slave is a woman of bad habits" and that "she actually absconded and run away" from him, for which she "was arrested and secured in the jail of Washington County." Show seeks an extension of Jones's term of service and he wants authorization to sell her out of the state.

PAR Number 20985807

State: Maryland Year: 1858
Location: Baltimore Location Type: County

Abstract: Carville S. Stansbury "is the owner and master of a negro Boy named Nathaniel aged about 16 years for a term of nineteen years." On 12 July 1858, Nathaniel ran away and on 13 July 1858 he was arrested and lodged in the county jail for two weeks. Stansbury asks the court to grant him compensation for the expenses he incurred retrieving the slave.

PAR Number 21083704

State: Mississippi Year: 1837
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: T. P. Bradish states that his slave, Peter, is in jail on assault and battery charges. The petitioner prays for a writ of habeas corpus and permission to exercise the right to post bail for the accused.

PAR Number 21284605

State: North Carolina Year: 1846
Location: Orange Location Type: County

Abstract: William Lipscomb petitions for a writ of habeas corpus after his slave Anderson was arrested for stabbing another slave named Daniel. Related documents provide slave testimony about the source of the argument that arose between the two slaves involved, while walking from the meeting house back to their respective plantations, and give a description of the confrontation that led to the "affray" and the stabbing of one of the slaves.

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