Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10382110

State: Delaware Year: 1821
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: John Cooper states that he is the owner of a three-year-old slave named Aaron, who was born in Maryland and "has resided there ever since." He further reports that he manumitted Aaron's mother Phebe. "Wishing to bring the said Aaron into this State and not being willing to incur the penalty of the laws in such cases," Cooper "prays the General Assembly to pass an act authorizing him to bring into this State the said Negro child Aaron."

PAR Number 11000009

State: Mississippi
Location: Wilkinson Location Type: County

Abstract: W. Davis asks for the emancipation of two old slaves, Charles and Eve, formerly owned by the late Colonel Hugh Davis of Wilkinson County. Davis planned to free the slaves but died before he could carry out "his benevolent intention." Davis's heirs never claimed ownership of the two, but the slaves were nonetheless "levied on and sold as their property" and purchased for the petitioner. They have now repaid the price of their purchase and W. Davis is ready to implement the wishes of the late Colonel.

PAR Number 11000022

State: Mississippi
Location: Warren Location Type: County

Abstract: Three hundred and thirty-six citizens of Warren County write on behalf of William and his wife, who were "faithful and favorite family servants" in the white Newman family. After the death of the last descendant of the family, the couple was purchased by their present owner for the purpose of emancipating them. They have lived for many years "in a manner free," the petitioners explain. Their intercourse and dealings were "entirely with white people," and they "carefully avoided commingling with or having transactions with Slaves." During three epidemics in Vicksburg, William Newman "faithfully and carefully" distributed supplies to the "suffering and afflicted." The petitioners ask the legislature to emancipate the couple. They "are deserving of it and entitled to it."

PAR Number 11081601

State: Mississippi Year: 1816
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: Adams County residents ask the legislature to pass acts of emancipation for the family of Ben Vousdan, who died in 1816 without providing for their freedom. The petitioners note that Ben Vousdan was a former slave, freed in 1802 by the will of his late owner, William Vousdan. Ben married a slave named Mary, whom he purchased from Stephen Minor, and the couple had five children: Louisa or Lucy, Rachel, Sandy, Mary Anne, and Benjamin. Ben and his wife lived "as free persons, separate and apart, to themselves," but when Ben died in 1816 his family remained legally in bondage. The petitioners argue that Ben intended to free them and was attempting to have a will drawn up to that effect when he died.

PAR Number 11082303

State: Mississippi Year: 1823
Location: Claiborne Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Cochran asks the legislature to pass acts of emancipation for two slaves whom Cochran's brother sought to free in his will. Robert Cochran, who is executor of his brother's will, states that Patience and Gloster are mother and son and should be freed because of their "long & faithful Services to both my deceas'd Brother [George Cochran] & myself."

PAR Number 11082801

State: Mississippi Year: 1828
Location: Claiborne Location Type: County

Abstract: Willing to put up a good-behavior bond, Thomas Collen asks the legislature to pass acts of emancipation for Mary Willis and her three children--Richard age about six, Daphne, age about three, and William, age about six months. Mary, the daughter of a free woman of color named Daphne, had "long been recognized as a free woman and exercised the privileges of one."

PAR Number 11279901

State: North Carolina Year: 1799
Location: Duplin Location Type: County

Abstract: Matthew Edwards represents that "he hath a Mulatto man Slave" named Peter, whom "he has Suffered for Several years past to live to himself" with his wife and children. The petitioner therefore prays that "your Honourable body will pass an act to Emancipate said Mulatto with all the Privileges of any other person of mixed blood by the name of Peter Edwards."

PAR Number 11280206

State: North Carolina Year: 1802
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Members of the Mechanical Society of Wilmington join other inhabitants of the town to contest "the practice of many Owners of Slaves in Town, to hire to them their own time." The petitioners argue that said slaves as "mechanics" take on "work on their own account at, sometime less, than one half the rate that a regular bred white Mechanic could afford to do." They also point out that this practice affords slaves with "so much time to themselves" to consort "daily and nightly together" whereby "insurrections, and plans against the lives and property of the citizens may be formed, matured, and carried into execution with unanimity, secrecy and dispatch." They therefore pray that "one particular civil officer" be authorized "to adopt and pursue such vigorous measures for prevention of abuse" of the self-hiring of skilled slaves, whom they consider to be "the irreconcilable enemies of the Whites."

PAR Number 11280704

State: North Carolina Year: 1807
Location: Hertford Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Copeland joins sixty other petitioners in requesting that the petition of Eli and William Copeland to emancipate their slave Ben be denied. They argue that the said Ben "is a person of evil disposition often having been the Instigation of disputes and Controversy betwen Neighbours and Brothers"; in addition, they charge that Ben "hath for some time been "at Liberty to Run at Large." The petitioners therefore "Hopeth that your Wise body will take the Same under your Consideration and will not grant the Petition of Said Eli and William."

PAR Number 11281607

State: North Carolina Year: 1816
Location: Iredell Location Type: County

Abstract: Mussendine Matthews, executor of the will of Mary Knox, puts forth that "the said Mary Knox in her last will instructed and especially requested her executors to use all lawful endeavours to have a slave woman belonging to her named Sall liberated." Matthews further discloses that "said Slave is now living and has for many years by permission of her deceased Mistress lived with a free man of colour as his wife in the County of Rowan." The petitioner therefore prays that "your honourable body would take the case into consideration and liberate the said Sall by the name of Sarah Ford."

PAR Number 11281708

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

Abstract: David Sills and William Wheless, the executors John Hoof's will, explain that Hoof left "a Will which directs all his Slaves to be Liberated by the General Assembly." Being appointed to carry said will into effect, the petitioners beg "that your Honorable Body may View The Said Will and give them such relief as you may think proper." They further pray that "if your Honorable Body shall not think fit to liberate the whole of the Slaves named in the Will & the Children which has been born Since -- That you will take this part under your Humane Consideration, and enact Such Laws as shall Emancipate" a portion of said slaves, i.e., Sylvia, "admitted by the Said Hoof to be his child," her six children, and her three grandchildren. The petitioners note that some eighteen years ago Hoof gave Sylvia "away in Marriage to Drewry Owen," a free man of color, and that he "has had this woman with him at his own house this 15 or 16 years, and by their Industry have raised all these Children as free people, and at a great expence to him the said Drewry, without any aid, or controul of the said John Hoof."

PAR Number 11283105

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

Abstract: Eighty-seven residents of Lenoir County seek "to exclude all coloured retailers of Cakes, spirits &c from its limits," except those licensed by the county court. They are convinced that the "free negroes & slaves hiring their time, from the adjoining Counties ... have not only produced serious loss & inconvenience by the temptations which are thus held out to their slaves, to steal lambs, pigs, & poultry to barter with them," but also they firmly aver that said persons "do a far more serious & incalculable injury by the facilities thus afforded for the dissemination of seditious writings & notions," noting that "these black pedlars have it in their power to distribute, without suspicion, in every nook ... in the County, the pamphlets ... as well as communicate verbally the murderous plans of a Nat Turner." The petitioners therefore pray that "your Honourable Body ... will further legislate on this matter."

PAR Number 11283107

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

Abstract: Fifty-six citizens of Craven County, who "reside upon Neuse river and the adjacent creeks above the town of New Bern," complain about "the large gangs of slaves, who come up from the Town of New Bern ... in boats, with papers from their owners ... to sell, buy, traffick, and fish" in their neighborhoods. The residents argue that by said practice they "are much injured and interrupted both in their vocations, and in the management of their farms and negroes." In addition, they assert that the self-hired blacks "corrupt the slaves of your Petitioners, induce them to run away, and when runaway employ them, in dragging skimming nets for the purpose of catching fish, and pilfering the farms of your Petitioners." They therefore ask that the acts of Assembly be nullified "with regard to Slaves hiring their own time, and likewise the subject of trading with Slaves, and also the indiscriminate permission given to them to fish at large upon the waters of this state."

PAR Number 11283302

State: North Carolina Year: 1833
Location: Cumberland Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Hostler, a barber in Fayetteville belonging to the estate of David Smith, reports that Smith allowed him "to purchase his own freedom" and that he has "paid to the said Smith & his Executrix ... the full sum of Five hundred Dollars, the sum required of him"; he also states that he has paid $96 "per year for about Four years and a half." The petitioner therefore "prays that he may be emancipated and admitted to the privileges of free men of Colour in this state."

PAR Number 11285609

State: North Carolina Year: 1856
Location: Brunswick Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-eight citizens of Smithville, in the County of Brunswick, and "some of us Mechanics," consider "the great injury done us by Colored persons in taking contracts at a lower rate than we can afford, thereby depriving us of the means of supporting our families." They therefore pray "your Honorable bodies to pass an act to prevent free colored persons from becoming contractors for any mechanical work such as building houses vessel &c. And especially to pass more stringent laws against slaves hiring their own time." The petitioners purport that "the evil has become a serious one, and we most earnestly believe that sound policy no less than our own interest requires that white mechanics should be protected against the competition of colored persons whether free or slave."

PAR Number 11381905

State: South Carolina Year: 1819
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Seventy-one white working men in Columbia seek legislation that prohibits slave owners from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. They suggest several "inconveniences & injuries arising from the aforesaid practice": that when slaves hire their time from their owners "to contract to do a job for any person, there is no remedy for his failing to do it"; a skilled slave, due to his "greater cheapness in his living ... is able to work cheaper & still make his wages than it is possible for white Journeymen to do & maintain their families"; and the wages of skilled slaves "in most cases" are "spent in the indulgence of vicious habits." The petitioners also request that "your Honourable Body see the necessity of prohibiting by Law such negro mechanics from taking apprentices to learn their respective Trades."

PAR Number 11382009

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty-six "mechanics and undertakers in the Town of Columbia" seek legislation prohibiting slave owners and overseers from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. Self-hired slaves not only became contractors, or "undertakers" of jobs themselves, the petitioners complain, but they take "apprentices in the various mechanical arts exercised on and practiced in the said Towns whereby your Petitioners are often deprived of Jobs & employment in their respective trades." The petitioners seek a law with "certain and heavy penalties" to constrain owners or managers from permitting slaves to hire their own time. They also seek to penalize those who hire such slaves and to halt the practice of slaves hiring apprentices.

PAR Number 11382010

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty-six "mechanics and undertakers in the Town of Columbia" seek legislation prohibiting slave owners and overseers from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. Self-hired slaves not only became contractors, or "undertakers" of jobs themselves, the petitioners complain, but they take "apprentices in the various mechanical arts exercised on and practiced in the said Towns whereby your Petitioners are often deprived of Jobs & employment in their respective trades." The petitioners seek a law with "certain and heavy penalties" to constrain owners or managers from permitting slaves to hire their own time. They also seek to penalize those who hire such slaves and to halt the practice of slaves hiring apprentices.

PAR Number 11382017

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Fourteen "Inhabitants of Saint George Dorchester" seek to halt the "very common practice" of slaveholders allowing slaves to hire their own time. They complain that slaves are given "the same monthly Tickets, or tickets of a longer date, which Tickets not confining them to any particular Parish, or District, they are permited to go where they please, and of course are not Subject to the Patrol Laws, as they have no fixed residence or place of work." The petitioners therefore pray "that a Law may be Past Prohibiting owners of Slaves from hiring their time to themselves, Except in Incorporated Towns or Cities."

PAR Number 11382018

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Fourteen "Inhabitants of Saint George Dorchester" seek to halt the "very common practice" of slaveholders allowing slaves to hire their own time. They complain that slaves are given "the same monthly Tickets, or tickets of a longer date, which Tickets not confining them to any particular Parish, or District, they are permited to go where they please, and of course are not Subject to the Patrol Laws, as they have no fixed residence or place of work." The petitioners therefore pray "that a Law may be Past Prohibiting owners of Slaves from hiring their time to themselves, Except in Incorporated Towns or Cities."

PAR Number 11382119

State: South Carolina Year: 1821
Location: Berkeley Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Henry Ravenel, executor of the will of Paul D. St. Julian Ravenel, seeks to emancipate a family of slaves that belonged to the testator before his death in January 1820. The petitioner asserts that said slaves "are by the said will left to the Executors thereof, in special confidence, that they should be by them emancipated." Ravenel admits that he is "now greatly embarrassed by the act passed at the last Session of your Honble Body indirectly restraining or prohibiting future emancipations, by requiring all slaves thereafter sett free to remove beyond the limits of the State." Having "now no remedy but to apply to your Honble body for authority to execute a valid Deed of emancipation for the aforesaid seven slaves, with their future intermediate increase, without regard to their individual capacity for obtaining a livelihood," the petitioner prays "in their behalf that they may be permitted to reside within the State lines in the same manner as tho the Deed had been completed previous to the passing of the act of the last Session."

PAR Number 11382222

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

Abstract: Two hundred eighty-nine citizens of Richland District seek laws preventing owners from allowing their slaves to hire their own time. They aver that "the demoralizing effects which such a practice is calculated to produce, is daily manifested by the dissolute lives of slaves who are thus licenced, and the baneful influence of their examples on the conduct of others." They further decry that skilled slaves "are enabled to labor at cheaper rates than the free white population of the same employments, and thus monopolize, in a great measure, the different mechanical trades; too frequently at the expense and sacrifice of the industrious white mechanic." The petitioners argue "that the vital interests of the whole community are materially interested and concerned, and eminently endangered by the pursuit and in the continuance of this alarming practice, as has been too palpably manifested by the recent and serious occurences in the city of Charleston, in which the principal plot and scheme originated and was matured by the machinations of this very class of our black population." They therefore pray that such laws be enacted "as will immediately and effectually suppress this dangerous and growing practice."

PAR Number 11382223

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

Abstract: The "City Council of Charleston," aware of the events of the late conspiracy to raise insurrection among a portion of the black population, is confident that the legislature "will adopt to the Crisis those measures which are required for the public safety and its future tranquility and prosperity." To that end, the City Council offers several suggestions for the state's security, three of which are: that non-native free people of color who "have come within its limits within ten years should be compelled to leave the State"; that slaves and free people of color who visit "any of the non slave holding states" be prevented from returning to South Carolina"; and that "the number of male slaves be greatly diminished within the Lines," particularly those skilled craftsmen "who hire themselves out or are hired by their owners." In addition, the petitioners support the allocation of land and men to erect a building and bolster a militia to protect the populace. They also propose that "those slaves and free persons of Color who by their fidelity or attachment to the best interest of State [who] made important disclosures should be liberally remunerated."

PAR Number 11382701

State: South Carolina Year: 1827
Location: Columbia Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: W. F. DeSaussure, Intendant of the town of Columbia, joins other town wardens in voicing many concerns facing their town. One such issue concerns the increase in the number of self-hired slaves who have "very much the control of their time and movements." He argues that the rapid growth of this class of individuals "render it expedient that they should be better known to the Police, and more under their control than they now are." Town officials therefore recommend the passing of an ordinance “requiring the owners of slaves hired out in the Town of Columbia to make return of such slaves to the Town Council and to take out badges."

PAR Number 11382813

State: South Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: One hundred eleven "sundry mechanics of the City of Charleston" complain that they are suffering from a lack of trade and unemployment due to the unfair competition from "Negro and Colored Workmen." They suggest that the 1822 statute outlawing slave self-hire be amended “as to make it completely effective of its purpose.” They lament "that almost all the Trades, but especially those of Carpenters, Bricklayers, Plasterers, Wheelwrights, House-painters, Shoe-makers, &c are beginning to be engrossed by Black & Colored workmen; that they are multiplying in a prodigious ratio; and, that Charleston, already swarming with a population of Free blacks, and of Slaves, more Licentious than if they were Free, must in a very short time be in the condition of a West Indian Town, which it will be impossible to defend without a Regular Military Force." They therefore pray "for such relief in the premises, as to your Honorable Body it may seem most expedient to grant them." The petitioners also request permission to form “themselves into an Association by the style of ‘the Charleston Mechanics’ Association’.”

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