Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11000002

State: Mississippi

Abstract: The petitioners assert that the 1809 law requiring retailers to take an oath that they would neither buy nor sell liquor to slaves without written permission from the slaveholder "is unequal unnecessary and unjust." Some retailers, the petitioners note, fail to obtain a license, and some private citizens sell liquor to slaves. Moreover, not all merchants obey the law. Thus when slaveholders send their domestic servants to stores without permission slips some merchants refuse to sell the slaves "the smallest trifle" while others sell items to the slave "without the formality of any permission in writing." They urge the legislature to consider the "necessity of reform."

PAR Number 11282002

State: North Carolina Year: 1820
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Ninety-five Wilmington residents complain about transient traders who arrive during the winter and spring months and whose chief capital "is invested in spiritous liquors, & that the trade is almost exclusively confined to the black population." The petitioners remark that the effects of said trade are "truly alarming" since it "opens a wide field for the commission of the most nefarious acts and jeopardizes the best interests of our Town." They further charge that "these persons use the foulest stratagems to intice our slaves from his duty, & that they have, on many occasions, inveigled them from their owners, & conveyed them into the Northern States, from whence they are irrecoverable." Noting that "our youth may be insnared" as well, the petitioners ask that consideration be given on imposing "a Tax on all transient persons engaged in the vending of Goods, wares, & Merchandize, similar to that exacted by our sister States--South Carolina & Georgia."

PAR Number 11283002

State: North Carolina Year: 1830
Location: Duplin Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty residents of Duplin County "consider themselves aggrieved in consequence of the very many impositions by persons availing themselves of the Law, relating to retailers of Spiritous liquors." They assert that the "great defect in the Law" is "a very fruitful source of evil" whereby "not only freemen but the Slaves of our County are likely to be corrupted." Of the belief that "many of the Families of our Citizens have been reduced to poverty & want by the frequency of County Grog or retail shops," the petitioners therefore propose "the propriety of your passing a Law (for the County of Duplin (at least)" requiring that retailers of "ardent spirits" obtain licenses and that "every person who obtains a License to sell ardent spirits" should pay a tax, based on the quantity sold.

PAR Number 11284002

State: North Carolina Year: 1840
Location: Robeson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-six residents of Robeson County believe they are "cursed with a free colored population that migrated originally from the districts round about the Roanoke & the Neuse rivers." They describe said population as "generally indolent, roguish, improvident and dissipated" and "are under no restraint but what the law imposes." The residents further declare that "they are great topers & so long as they can procure the exhilarating draught seem to forget entirely the comfort of thier families." The petitioners therefore "think that a law restricting them in the sale of [ardent spirits] would benefit them & the community at large."

PAR Number 11284803

State: North Carolina Year: 1848
Location: Pasquotank Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-seven citizens of Pasquotank County assert "in this county there is a large slave population, and the morals of our slaves are corruptible by means of the facilities they have in finding a ready market with Retailers and the ease they find in getting ardent spirits." They complain that the "planters are sufferers to a very great extent from thefts committed by the slaves, which thefts they believe in great degree are brought about by the fact that the slave finds a ready market for his stolen produce in the person of the owners or keepers of said retail shops." The petitioners "beg leave humbly and respectfully to suggest to your Honorable Body the propriety of enacting a law for the County of Pasquotank requiring the Tax to be levied upon all Retailing license granted within said county shall hereafter be the sum of Twenty five dollars."

PAR Number 11285005

State: North Carolina Year: 1850
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Ninety-nine Washington County residents represent "that the selling of Spirituous Liquors to free negroes, has become a great nuisance to us." They purport that "the large portion of them [free negroes] are "idle, & intemperate." They acknowledge that "the laws are now so strict as to prevent the sale of spirituous Liquors to Slaves, but these laws are evaded, by selling it to the free negroes, who are but the tools, in the hands of the Slaves, to procure it." The petitioners therefore pray "that such laws may be passed as ... may correct the evil complained of."

PAR Number 11285105

State: North Carolina Year: 1851
Location: Lincoln Location Type: County

Abstract: James Graham urges the General Assembly to enact legislation "to induce, if not compell, the free Negroes in North Carolina to emigrate to the Abolition and Free Soil States. It appears to me that Negrophobia, which is now raging and rousing up a large number of people in the non-Slaveholding states cannot be cured more effectually than by giving them some strong black medicine out of their own black Bottle." Graham proposes making landlords who rent land to free persons of color liable for all of their tenants' "taxes, contracts, damages, Penalties, fines and costs, and other legal liabilities which colored persons may contract or incur while living thereon: that is, I would make the actual possession of the free Negro, a lien, on the land on which he lived; and let that lien continue until his public and private liabilities were paid." Graham urges such action because "there is a numerous class of the worst sort of Abolitionist dwelling in our midst in the Southern States who clandestinely trade with Slaves and receive stolen goods in payment for ardent spirits and other articles, thereby corrupting and destroying the value of Servants." He proposes that white men convicted of trafficking with slaves be whipped as well as fined.

PAR Number 11285205

State: North Carolina Year: 1852
Location: Hertford Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-five residents of Hertford County represent that their county has been exempted from "the ‘bill’ now before the Legislature of N Carolina 'to prohibit the sale of Liquor to free persons of color'." The petitioners "believe the sentiments of the people of said county to be almost unanimously opposed to such exemption." They therefore "do earnestly and sincerely pray your Honourable body to grant us the protection afforded by the bill to the citizens of the counties in the state, Carteret excepted."

PAR Number 11285411

State: North Carolina Year: 1854
Location: Warren Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventy-two citizens of Warren County request the passage of a law to prohibit selling liquor to slaves. They "suggest that all who Keep it for sale by the Quart ... shall first obtain License by or with the consent of a majority of Freeholders in the neighborhood, and also take an annual oath, not to sell, or have sold, or cause to be sold, any spiritous liquors, directly or indirectly to any Slave whatever, without an order from his or her owner." Violators would be charged with perjury and "subject to a fine of considerable amount."

PAR Number 11285703

State: North Carolina Year: 1857
Location: Rowan Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-two residents of Salisbury seek the repeal of recently passed "five gallon law passed as an amendment of the charter of the town of Salisbury at the last General Assembly." They believe said amendment "is contrary to the wishes of a large and respectable minority -- if not a majority -- of the citizens of the town." In addition, they purport that liquor is now being sold "by irresponsible and immoral persons and thus the traffic is changed from men of good moral character to persons of bad character." They maintain that "our slave population" is still corrupted by said individuals, along with "the youth of the town by driving them to these low groceries instead of licensed shops." They therefore "pray you Honourable body to repeal said law."

PAR Number 11285706

State: North Carolina Year: 1857
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: The Raleigh Baptist Association seeks to halt the peddling of liquor at sales, musters, "tax gatherings," and elections. The petitioners assert that the legislation requiring a license for the sale of liquor is inadequate. They believe that "the evil cannot be reached by the usual methods of abating nuisances and grievances, for the visits of these offenders to any particular neighborhood are generally transient, consequently no person feels himself sufficiently aggrieved or called upon to present them to the Grand Jury, and in this way these itinerant venders of circulating poison, which they introduce into all the veins and arteries of society, stopping at every crossroad and every gathering, stopping man, boy and slave, selling them in every quantity from gallons to drams, enjoy an impunity from punishment which is inflicted upon licensed Retailers for violations of their license." The petitioners therefore pray that the legislature will take "the foregoing into consideration."

PAR Number 11286104

State: North Carolina Year: 1861
Location: Martin Location Type: County

Abstract: Five citizens of Martin County seek an amendment to a section of "the Revised Code" of North Carolina. They propose "that for the better protection & security of our slave property ... the Revised Code should be so altered and amended that the penalty for selling either directly or indirectly any spiritous Liquors to slaves should be imprisonment for not less than one month or more than six and also a fine of not less than Fifty-dollars or more than Five hundred dollars."

PAR Number 11286107

State: North Carolina Year: 1861
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-one residents of Rockingham and vicinity ask that the legislature ignore a previous petition from residents to stop the sale of liquor within two miles of the village. The petitioners counter that "a dram shop farther than two miles can not be watched as one so close to our village and that hence, the injury to the slave population will be much greater." They therefore "ask that such Law shall not be passed."

PAR Number 11286108

State: North Carolina Year: 1861
Location: Richmond Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-nine citizens of the town of Rockingham ask that an act be passed prohibiting the sale of liquor within two miles of the Richmond County Court House, "provided that a majority of the free white male citizens of the Town of Rockingham shall so consent." They complain that "they have been most seriously annoy'd by the sale of intoxicating drinks sold in our midst that it is so corrupting in its tendencies and so grossly immoral in its effects, upon the white and black population, and particularly the latter." They report that they "find the servants frequently secreting and carying off their masters effect to give in exchange of ardent spirits to our great damage, as well as to the corruption of their morals." The petitioners firmly believe "that in times like the present, when the most watchful and strict discipline should be maintain'd between master and servant, that every thing the least calculated to produce an insubordinate spirit on their part should be removed as far as possible from them."

PAR Number 11379002

State: South Carolina Year: 1790
Location: Georgetown Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Seventy-four "Inhabitants of Georgetown" represent that they "find the Laws already made for the regulation of the said Town to be very defective." In particular, they request that "Negroes be prevented from Galloping Horses &c through the Streets of the said Town"; that "every person whatever be prevented from Trading with negro slaves or retailing Spiritous Liquors to them on board of vessels with the Harbour of Georgetown"; and that "every person be prevented from Trading with Negro and other Slaves within the Rivers of the said District."

PAR Number 11379003

State: South Carolina Year: 1790
Location: Georgetown Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Seventy-four "Inhabitants of Georgetown" represent that they "find the Laws already made for the regulation of the said Town to be very defective." In particular, they request that "Negroes be prevented from Galloping Horses &c through the Streets of the said Town"; that "every person whatever be prevented from Trading with negro slaves or retailing Spiritous Liquors to them on board of vessels with the Harbour of Georgetown"; and that "every person be prevented from Trading with Negro and other Slaves within the Rivers of the said District."

PAR Number 11382707

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

Abstract: Forty-two "Sundry Grocers of the City of Charleston" call attention to an 1815 ordinance that bears for them "a character of oppression." The said ordinance states that no licensed shopkeeper, during certain evening hours, may "admit into his or her premises, any Negro or person of Colour, or in any manner sell or retail to the same or any of them, any Liquors whatever; and every person herein offending shall forfeit and pay for each and every offence the sum of Fifty Dollars." They argue that it is obvious, from "a reasonable observation," that "negroes are permitted to Walk the Streets until a particular hour, and dispose of their commodities, so Your memorialists conceive they should be allowed to sell to them until that hour." Citing the "present depressed state of business," the petitioners pray "such relief in the Premises, as to Your Honorable Body shall seem meet."

PAR Number 11383107

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

Abstract: Officers of the Society of Vigilance and other residents of Edgefield District request "a revision of the patroll laws." They "think that a ticket given to a slave ought to state where he is going as well as how long to be absent and that a pass and repass ... ought not to be lawful." They "are satisfyed that negroes having tickets to pass and repass such a length of time without stating where they are going are in the habits of visiting grog shops and other places where they would not be willing to be seen by their owners." They point out, however, that the slave by "having a pass & repass cannot be lawfully whipped by the patroll." The petitioners submit “to your better judgement to say whether any alteration shall or shall not be made in the above named law.”

PAR Number 11383410

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

Abstract: Twenty-three citizens of Society Hill, Darlington District, are aware that a repeal or modification of the License Law will be considered at the next session of the legislature. They therefore "beg leave to present their views on this important subject" by offering several suggestions concerning “the evils of Intemperance”: first, they request the repeal of the License Law, except where it prevents selling liquor to slaves; second, they ask for a referendum on the next ballot, which would propose the entire prohibition of the liquor trade except for medicinal purposes; and finally, the citizens suggest that drunkenness be considered a punishable crime.

PAR Number 11384012

State: South Carolina Year: 1840
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Citizens of Charleston Neck complain in an unsigned petition that their proximity to Charleston makes them a magnet for disorderly houses, unruly people of color, and "wicked and depraved persons of every class." Dissolute people of color loiter in crowds about these shops, the petition states, and they purchase liquor, drink, and are loud and boisterous on the Sabbath "when duty to God and man requires that peace and quiet should pervade our streets." In addition, the taxes on free people of color in Charleston are so severe that many of them have moved to Charleston Neck. The petition notes that "wherever congregated, they have depreciated the value of all property around them, and have in many instances rendered themselves a complete nuisance to the neighborhood." To remedy this situation, the petitioners propose a bill for new taxes in the Neck on land inhabited by a majority of slaves or free persons of color, a capitation tax on free people of color, and a tax on all persons of color who keep a store or shop. They also propose to organize six hundred patrollers, currently under a single captain, more effectively by a revision in the patrol laws.

PAR Number 11384302

State: South Carolina Year: 1843
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Forty-two citizens of Barnwell District "are satisfied that an evil of great magnitude pervades to some extent the whole State, and one which strikes at the vitals of our domestic Institutions, which demands at the hands of the Legislature some effective measures for its suppression." The petitioners "allude to the illicit traffic with Slaves." They lament that "the owner of the property is defrauded of his just Gains, and the slave is made the vehicle through whose hands the stolen property is passed. Thus through the base and nefarious means used, the slave is made the fit instrument of crime, and being trained to every violence, he too often eventually becomes an assassin or incendiary. His mind corrupted, his body diseased, he either fills a premature grave by the effects of disease or through the administration of justice, expiates his crime on the gallows, while the promoter and partner of his guilt escapes with impunity and in defiance of the law." Noting that the dockets are crowded with indictments for trafficking, the petitioners seek a law imposing corporal punishment on whites for a second conviction for trafficking with slaves, either selling them liquor or purchasing corn, rice, or cotton, "the three great staples of the County."

PAR Number 11384703

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

Abstract: Members of the Town Council of Camden request permission to enact several ordinances regarding slaves: they seek authorization to tax slave owners who hire slaves out in town for more than a month; they request permission to hire hands to work on the streets, rather than allow slave owners to "commute" the labor of their hired slaves to a "given sum"; they seek permission to keep the money derived from fines levied against those found guilty of buying the produce of planters from slaves or selling alcohol to slaves -- currently, city officials in Charleston and Columbia keep this fine money. Further, the law of the state would be better implemented "in spirit" if cases of this nature were brought before town officials rather than taken to court, where "technicalities" could get the guilty parties off. Town officials should "hear, & determine such offences, affix such fines thereto as are now authorized by Law, and receive such fines into the Treasury of the Town."

PAR Number 11385203

State: South Carolina Year: 1852
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Forty-six citizens of St. Bartholomew Parish seek legislation to prevent free persons of color from retailing liquor, especially to slaves. They maintain that said practice of "selling spiritous liquors" to the slave population is "a great nuisance" and "is prevalent in our section of the country, working great mischief and in the opinion of the undersigned, ought to be restricted by the action of the Legislature." The petitioners "believe it is in the power of the Legislature to pass an Act, throwing suitable safe guards around the community on this subject, so as to secure good order, and to protect the rights and morals of the country." They therefore “earnestly ask your Honorable Body, to take this matter into serious consideration and to adopt such action in the premises, as in the Wisdom and Patriotism of Your Honorable Body may seem justly to be dictated by the intrinsic importance of the subject.”

PAR Number 11385204

State: South Carolina Year: 1852
Location: Colleton Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Forty-six citizens of St. Bartholomew Parish seek legislation to prevent free persons of color from retailing liquor, especially to slaves. They maintain that said practice of "selling spiritous liquors" to the slave population is "a great nuisance" and "is prevalent in our section of the country, working great mischief and in the opinion of the undersigned, ought to be restricted by the action of the Legislature." The petitioners "believe it is in the power of the Legislature to pass an Act, throwing suitable safe guards around the community on this subject, so as to secure good order, and to protect the rights and morals of the country." They therefore “earnestly ask your Honorable Body, to take this matter into serious consideration and to adopt such action in the premises, as in the Wisdom and Patriotism of Your Honorable Body may seem justly to be dictated by the intrinsic importance of the subject.”

PAR Number 11481305

State: Tennessee Year: 1813

Abstract: Eighty petitioners complain "that many of the good Citizens of this State labour under great inconvenience and disadvantage from the numerous Tipling Shops erected on the high way and in our Towns by free Negroes and other." They argue that "our Servants cannot with safety be sent on Our Ordinary business owing to the trafic and intoxication encourag'd and carried on, at those Links of Corruption." In addition, the petitioners purport that "our holy Sabbath days are regularly violated and profaned by the numerous crowd of Slaves collected for the purpose of drinking and bartering for Whiskey, the stolen property of their Owners and others." They therefore pray that this subject be taken "under your wise consideration, and make such provision to remedy the evil as you in your wisdom may deem proper."

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