Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11384504

State: South Carolina Year: 1845
Location: Abbeville Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Priscilla Jessup, a free woman of color, "has considerable property -- That she owns among other things, her husband John, a negro man," whom she purchased in 1834; since his purchase, John's condition, "in consequence of the love and affection which she bears to him has been that only of nominal servitude." Averring John to have always been "industrious, honest faithfull and obedient," the petitioner asks that he be emancipated. Jessup fears "in the event of her death, John ... will fall into other hands in the condition of a slave."

PAR Number 11384704

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

Abstract: James Gill represents that his father, Col. George Gill of Chester District, stipulated in his will that "a slave named Andy in his possession at his death should be under the care of his son C. S. Gill and to have as much land as he could cultivate, and no work imposed on him"; when the said George died in 1844, the bequest was instituted. He further reports that shortly thereafter the said C. S. Gill died, and, in accordance with the will, Andy was permitted to purchase himself. The petitioner now prays "your Honorable Body, to take into consideration the case of the Said Slave, who has been a faithful Servant, & is now quite old (being 51 years of age) and permit him to remain in the State of South Carolina and be free."

PAR Number 11384705

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

Abstract: James Gill represents that his father, Col. George Gill of Chester District, stipulated in his will that "a slave named Andy in his possession at his death should be under the care of his son C S Gill, and to have as much land as he could cultivate, and no work imposed on him"; when the said George died in 1844, the bequest was instituted. He further reports that shortly thereafter the said C. S. Gill died, and, in accordance with the will, Andy was permitted to purchase himself. The petitioner now prays "your Honorable Body, to take into consideration the case of the Said Slave, who has been a faithful Servant, & is now quite old (being 51 years of age) and permit him to remain in the State of South Carolina and be free."

PAR Number 11385801

State: South Carolina Year: 1858
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: The South Carolina Mechanics Association seeks to halt slave self-hire. Although laws had been enacted against the practice, they declare that the "baneful evil" continues, and the statutes “have become a dead letter." The officers of said association insist that more stringent measures are necessary. They further assert that such legislation would be “eminently conducive to the best interest and prosperity of the State, her Institutions, and her Citizens and to the well being and usefulness of the slave himself." The petitioners also request "that your Honourable body would take into consideration the class of negroes known amongst us as Free negroes and that a tax be imposed upon them or that some other remedy be made that shall at least place us in such a position that we may be able to compete with them, if they are to be on an equality with us."

PAR Number 11385803

State: South Carolina Year: 1858
Location: Marion Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Thirty-seven residents of Marion County seek to strengthen the law preventing slaves from hiring their own time. The petitioners argue that "nothing is so injurious to the institution of slavery as the loose manner in which some owners maintain their authority and we deem this hiring by Slaves of their own time, either directly or indirectly, as especially demoralizing to the slaves and injurious to other owners of slaves." They assert that the law, which levies a fine of $50 as a penalty, is "ineffectual in remedying the evil." The fine, they assert, is "trifling," and it is very difficult to bring cases to court. The petitioners ask that the penalties be increased and that magistrates “have jurisdiction of such offences,” furnishing them “with a Jury if any Constitutional difficulties intervene."

PAR Number 11385805

State: South Carolina Year: 1858
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: One hundred sixty-two "Mechanics and Workingmen of the City of Charleston" report that, "at a large and enthusiastic meeting of their body, held on the evening of the eighth of October last," they agreed "that a baneful evil exists in our City and State at large, to wit: the hiring by slaves of their own time, affecting not only the interests of the mechanic and workingman, but also of the owner of the slave, as well as the property itself." Believing that "our Legislature have enacted laws which are as yet a dead letter," the petitioners resolved that a committee be appointed to petition the next legislature to increase the penalties and more rigidly enforce laws against slaves hiring their own time.

PAR Number 11483310

State: Tennessee Year: 1833
Location: Sullivan Location Type: County

Abstract: Seven neighbors and relatives of Abigail and Phebe Morrell oppose their petition "praying your honorable body to pass a Law authorising them to emancipate certain negroes named in their petition." They point out that the said Morrells "are far advanced in Life perhaps seventy years of age" and that they were "no Doubt persuaded to Liberate them by the negroes themselves contrary to their own will." They further charge that said slaves first designed "to get their Liberty and then pursuade the old women to will them the premises on which they now Live and all the personal property of the Estate at their [Decease] which would be prejudicial to your petitioners." They therefore pray "your honorable body to ... Reject the petition of the sd Abigail & Phebe Morrell."

PAR Number 11483904

State: Tennessee Year: 1839
Location: Greene Location Type: County

Abstract: Washington Henshaw joins his wife Jane in seeking the emancipation of Gilbert, a thirty-five-year-old slave who “has been privileged with the control of his own services and wages arising therefrom, until he has, by his providant management paid your petitioners the price set upon his freedom." The Henshaws report that Gilbert and his wife Lucy, "who has been indulged with her liberty, by her owner, the Revd. Saml W. Doak," have "lived for some years, in their own hired tenement, without restraint, upon their liberty, from any person whatsoever -- that during this time they have given satisfactory proof, by their industry morality and unoffending conduct, that they are qualified to appreciate the blessings of liberty, without the danger of its abuse." The petitioners therefore pray that Gilbert be freed, "with the privilege of remaining in the state."

PAR Number 11483908

State: Tennessee Year: 1839
Location: Greene Location Type: County

Abstract: Rev. Samuel W. Doak states that "he is the owner of the negro woman slave Lucy ... [and] that for past service and other considerations, he is desirous of processing her emancipation, with liberty to remain in the State." Doak recounts that Lucy "was a family servant of your petitioners from her childhood till a few years ago, being now about 25 years of age." He attests to "her habits of industry, good disposition and her sense of the subordinate station she occupies." The petitioner therefore prays that a law be passed "authorizing the emancipation of the said woman Lucy, in accordance with the prayer of the foregoing petition of Mr. & Mrs. Henshaw, in behalf of her husband Gilbert."

PAR Number 11584105

State: Texas Year: 1841
Location: Jackson Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel McCollock informs the legislature that "previous to the Declaration of Independence he together with his two Coloured Women Peggy & Rose immigrated to Texas" and that he desired the women to "be and remain free all the remainder of their days." "Desirous of Securing to them a permanent home," the petitioner asks that a law be passed "authorizing him to enter of record in the County of Jackson a deed of emancipation ... authorizing the said free persons to continue in the Republic as long as they shall properly demean themselves."

PAR Number 11586101

State: Texas Year: 1861
Location: Harrison Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-two white mechanics in Harrison County seek the passage of a bill "to prevent the competition and encouragement of Negro Mechanick." They believe that "it is not just or right to give Slaves the advantages or liberties that they are now endeavoring to take or get to put down white Workmen whose daily living is made by the sweat of their brow in their industrious pursuits." They "most solemnly object to being put in competition with Negro Mechanicks who are to rival us in the obtaining of contracts for the construction of Houses Churches and other Buildings." The petitioners declare "Negroes forever but Negroes in their places (viz: in Corn & Cotton Fields) and if there are those who have Negro Mechanicks to do their own work let them have them but we do not want to be equalized with them by allowing them to go at large contracting for jobs of work ... or to be made the Competitors of Negros in this a true Southern State." They ask that a law be passed "to confine them to the hire of some Workman or Undertaker whose duty it will be to keep them in their places and under proper control without the owner or Master being at all injured."

PAR Number 11678201

State: Virginia Year: 1782
Location: Henrico Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-three inhabitants of Henrico County ask the legislature to prohibit masters from allowing slaves to hire out their own time. They argue that "said Slaves live in a very Idle and disorderly manner and in order to pay their Masters their due hire frequently stealing in the neighbourhood in which they reside or which tends to a worse Consequence encourage the Neighbouring Slaves to steal from their Masters and others"; this practice "allso gives great discontent to other Slaves who are not allow'd such Indulgencies." They therefore pray "that this Honourable House will take this matter under your serious consideration and pass an Act to put a Stop to such pernicious practices."

PAR Number 11681015

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: Born a slave in 1776, Jingo was sold as a youngster to William Barclay, a storekeeper and merchant in Accomack County. Prior to leaving for England in 1798, Barclay made provisions permitting Jingo "to act as a free man." Jingo asserts that Barclay had in fact intended to free him but "from forgetfulness or some such cause" failed to do so. In 1810, Barclay returned to the United States and signed a deed of manumission in the Baltimore County Court. Jingo seeks permission to remain in Virginia as a free man.

PAR Number 11681117

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Berkeley Location Type: County

Abstract: Jerry, a forty-five-year-old "waggnoner," and his wife Susannah were emancipated by the will of their recently deceased owner, John B. Craighill. They petition the legislature to be allowed to remain in the state of Virginia where Jerry was born and where their family live. They inform the court that he and Susannah have four slave children who are part of Craighill's estate and are about to be sold. Furthermore, Jerry's mother who, although a slave has been allowed to live with Jerry and Susannah, is "so old & infirm that she could not be removed to any considerable distance." Jerry prays that a law may be passed authorizing him and Susannah to remain "within the state without incurring the penalties of the act to amend the several laws concerning slaves."

PAR Number 11681304

State: Virginia Year: 1813
Location: Cumberland Location Type: County

Abstract: Nancy and her daughter Sophia are entitled to their freedom by the will of their late owner, Henry Holloway. However, Nancy informs the court, she and Sophia are "precluded from availing themselves (should they remain in the state) of the benefits intended to be confered on them by" their late owner because of "the provisions of the act entitled 'an act to amend the several Laws Concerning Slaves' passed on the Twenty fifth day of January 1806," which requires freed slaves to leave the state of forfeit their freedom. To venture to an unknown land, Nancy explains, "in the midst of Strangers, cut off from the society & aid of relations & friends," would be unbearable. She asks the legislature to give her permission "to remain within the limits of Virginia and to enjoy the immunities & priviledges to which they are entitled, under the Will of" their late master.

PAR Number 11681306

State: Virginia Year: 1813
Location: Fairfax Location Type: County

Abstract: When his master, Nathaniel Wheeler, decided to move from Prince William County, Virginia, to Tennessee, in 1808, Jacob struck a bargain to purchase himself and remain with his wife and children, slaves in Fairfax County. He paid for himself but before he received his deed of manumission, he explains, the General Assembly prohibited the emancipation of slaves within the commonwealth. Unable to fulfill the contract, Wheeler executed a bill of sale to Christopher Trickey, whom Jacob had chosen as his guardian, "with the condition that" Jacob "should have and enjoy the privileges of a free man." Accordingly, Jacob presented himself to the courthouse of Fairfax County to register as a free person of color. He was rejected. "Far advanced in life," he now turns to the legislature, asking that "in tender compassion for his age, and for the feelings of a faithful old negro" the legislators will "pass an act to enable" him "to spend his few remaining days within the Commonwealth." He would rather die, he says, than leave his wife and children "whom he tenderly loves." A related document reveals that his white guardian, Christopher Trickey, presented an affidavit to the legislature asserting that Jacob "was never designed" to be his slave and presenting himself as "exceedingly desirous" that Jacob be "legally emancipated & allowed to remain in this Commonwealth."

PAR Number 11682401

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: Pocahontas Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Trout represents to the legislature that, after more than fifty years as a slave, he was allowed by his owner to purchase his own time and has thus accumulated by "Industry and Good economy," to procure his freedom and buy property. Although he is prepared to abide by the laws of Virginia that require him to leave the state, he asks for an additional year of residency to dispose of his property.

PAR Number 11682408

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: King William Location Type: County

Abstract: Evelina Gregory Roane, "a Daughter of affluence," seeks a divorce and custody of her infant son. Evelina represents that her marriage to Newman B. Roane has been wrought with "hardship and cruelty." She confides that "she was quickly reduced to the situation of a Slave who for some unpardonable offense, was constantly under the frowns of its master." Evelina further discloses that the said Newman admitted that "he had two mulatto children then at his Brothers who were much more comely and hansome than any she would ever bear" and shortly thereafter "this negroe woman and two mulatto children were brought upon the plantation." She confesses that "her husband adopted this woman as the more eligible companion & wife," and she reveals that her husband boasted that "if he had not expected a fortune he would never have married her." Having endured and survived multiple violent assaults, she asserts that she "obtained the restraining power of the civil magistrate" to force her husband "to keep the peace toward your Petitioner for the space of twelve months." She therefore prays that "a law may pass this honorable Body Divorcing your Petitioner from her husband ... and provide in the said act of Divorce that your Petitioner may be allowed to keep the said Junius B Roane in her possession until he comes to an age proper for being put to school."

PAR Number 11682510

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

Abstract: Robert Dickeson petitions to deny Moses, a slave previously owned by his late father, residency in Virginia. He represents that said Moses was devised to his brother, who executed "a deed of emancipation for pecuniary consideration." He further points out that for many years Moses "carried on a continual traffic on his own account." The petitioner further asserts that he "has strong reason to suspect & believes [Moses] acted dishonestly in several instances." He cites that in "one instance your petitioners father was robbed of $1000 by his own slaves ... [and] he suspects the slave Moses to have participated"; in addition, Moses's son was "in the habit of purloining" poultry and other items. Averring that "the said Moses has abundant means to enable him to remove to some other state," the petitioner prays "that your Honorable Body will not sustain the petition of Moses, but that he may in due time be required to depart the Commonwealth."

PAR Number 11682511

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

Abstract: The petitioners, residents of Preston County, represent that when Thomas Butler moved to Ohio he left behind a slave named Jack, whom he settled on a farm to live wit his free wife and children. A number of years have passed since that time, and Thomas Butler has died. By his last will and testament, Butler requested his executors to send Jack to Ohio "to receive his freedom." The petitioners intercede on Jack's behalf and ask the legislature to pass an act authorizing Jack, after he has become a free man, to return to Virginia to "the place where he now lives."

PAR Number 11683311

State: Virginia Year: 1833
Location: Princess Ann Location Type: County

Abstract: In December 1832, constable Thomas Ward arrested the slave Harry, charging his owner with permitting him "to go a large and hire himself out." Committed to jail, Harry remained incarcerated because his owner, a free mulatto woman, could not pay the fine, nor could he be sold, being "old & infirm." In May 1833, Harry was released. Edward Fentress, jail keeper, asks to be reimbursed for his expenses of $43.75.

PAR Number 11683314

State: Virginia Year: 1833
Location: Stafford Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-one citizens of Stafford County defend the Wharton family--William, Lemuel, Barney, Nancy, and Lewis--who had been nominally owned by John Cooke Sr., deceased. The Whartons "are all white persons in complexion and in fact," with only a remote ancestor on one side of the family being black. They are persons "of excellent character," have married with whites, and in their attitudes and "partialities are decidedly for the whites." One Wharton identified a slave stealer; another gave information leading to the capture of several runaways in New York City. The petitioners ask that the family be permitted to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11683414

State: Virginia Year: 1834
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Sally Dabney informs the legislature that she was purchased by her husband, Cambridge Dabney, in 1818 and remained his property until his death in 1826. Her husband, Cambridge Dabney, had always intended to free her at his death, she contends, but he "held her in slavery during his life to prevent the separation which would have been the necessary consequence of her emancipation." There is no better proof of his intention to free her, she contends, than the fact that he left his property to her; a slave cannot own property, she points out. Nevertheless since Cambridge never officially emancipated his wife, she now finds herself in the peculiar circumstance of being a slave without an owner. She asks for an act granting her freedom and allowing her to remain in Virginia. She and Dabney had no children and, although she is now remarried, she thinks it unlikely that she will ever have any.

PAR Number 11683507

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

Abstract: Some twelve to fifteen years prior to the filing of his petition, Fontaine Wells of Albemarle County purchased a female slave named Yarico from his father's debt-ridden estate. He explains to the legislature that, after his mother's death, Yarico "had supplied as far as was practicable her loss to her children by a constant watchful and affectionate care." From her "long and faithful services to the family," Yarico had become, "as was natural, an object of interest & affection with those who had witnessed & profited from her." For some time Wells explains, he has permitted Yarico to "receive, principally, if not entirely, the earnings of her own labor." She is "an honest and harmless and unoffending creature," Wells and others argue. He is desirous of setting her free and asks that she be allowed to remain in Virginia. Fifty-four citizens of the county join him in support of his request on behalf of Yarico.

PAR Number 11683516

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

Abstract: Having faithfully served his invalid owner, Dr. John McConell, for more than twenty years as a body servant and blacksmith, Arthur Lee was promised his freedom at his owner's death. McConell however omitted to make provisions for Arthur's freedom, and the latter was purchased by a North Carolina man named Hamilton Brent who permitted him to remain in Virginia if he would turn over $100 of his annual hires. Over the years Arthur Lee paid Brent $1,600 in hires and $500 for his freedom; in addition he was able to save enough money to purchase his wife and child. Three other children have been born since Arthur purchased his family. He asks to remain in the state with his family in his old age. In a related petition Dr. McConell is referred to as McDowell and Hamilton Brent as Hamilton Brown.

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