Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10380901

State: Delaware Year: 1809
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Zachariah Pritchett represents that "the parents of a certain negro lad named George who had been living as free people for near twenty years, placed their son out to service with your petitioner." He further relates that Ezekiel Anderson approached his father, Major Anderson, a justice of the peace, and "complained that your petitioner had obtained the possession of this negro lad whom the said Ezekiel claimed as his property (altho' free born and never bound to him, until lately the said Ezekiel has prevailed upon him without the knowledge or consent of his parents to bind himself before a justice of the peace).” Pritchett cites that Major Anderson issued a warrant that charged him with harbouring George and alleged that George was a runaway slave; George, whilst working in the field, was seized and delivered to said Ezekiel. The petitioner asks that Major Anderson be dismissed as a Justice of the Peace, on the grounds that he had conducted himself in a "most arbitrary" and oppressive manner and that he had knowingly subverted law and justice; moreover, Pritchett contends, "he is grossly ignorant of his office and of the powers vested in him by the law."

PAR Number 11282904

State: North Carolina Year: 1829
Location: Lenoir Location Type: County

Abstract: William Murchie asks that his privileges as a citizen be restored after having been convicted and imprisoned for "the harbouring of a slave" who allegedly had stolen certain goods. Murchie asserts that his only "error or fault" lay in not informing against his father-in-law, Charles Roach, with whom he lived and to whom he had been apprenticed. He further reveals that his wife was not a widow as she represented but instead "the first husband of his supposed wife was alive." Having "wholly separated himself from her and her connections," Murchie asserts that "he has demeaned himself in such a way as to secure ... the countenance of the respectable part of society" and that he has "married into a decent family." The petitioner therefore prays "of your honorable body to remove the legal stigma which may remain upon his name."

PAR Number 11282906

State: North Carolina Year: 1829
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-two Craven County residents support William B. Murchie who "is about to apply for an Act to restore him to credit." Murchie lost his good name after being convicted and imprisoned for harboring a slave.

PAR Number 11482204

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Johnson, executor of the late David Beatty, reminds the legislature that his testator devised freedom to the slaves in his possession at the time of his death and requested that they be settled in the Indiana Territory. He further reports that Beatty's sister, Ann Hope, filed suit to prevent said emancipation and that said "contest was finally determined in favour of the will," allowing "your petitioner one year from that time to use every legal means to procure the emancipation of the negroes." Beset by ill health, Johnson admits that several months elapsed before he could proceed but he states that when "he was ready to remove those unfortunate persons to Indianna, and that anxious hope which they had so long indulged in [was] about to be consummated, they were yet doomed to further disapointment." He declares that "the son of Mrs Ann Hope came in the night time to where the negroes were ... and forcibly & Secretly took them away, carried them off and concealed them from your petitioner." Johnson, having regained possession of said slaves, now submits that Ann Hope and friends have suggested "that if by such means your petitioner should procure the freedom of said Slaves they will make him responsible out of his own estate ... for the value of them." Avowing that “nothing Stands opposed to the just [demands] of these Slaves to their freedom but avarice ... which would sacrafice the liberty & happiness of these persons,” the petitioner commits the slaves to “your hands ... hoping that you will mete unto them that measure of Justice which you would have others measure unto you.”

PAR Number 11681712

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Isle of Wight Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-nine residents of Isle of Wight County fear the large black population in their midst. They point to two recent murders of whites by blacks, and the difficulty in apprehending out lying and runaway slaves. They suggest more stringent legal penalties for those, whites and blacks, caught harboring fugitives, including, for free blacks, the death penalty. The intercourse between slaves and free persons--free blacks and poor whites--"is calculated to produce crimes of the most serious and dreadful consequences, to promote insubordination & a spirit of disobedience among the slaves, & finally to lead to insurrection & blood."

PAR Number 11684302

State: Virginia Year: 1843
Location: King William Location Type: County

Abstract: Freeholders and other white inhabitants of King William County ask the legislature to sell fifteen hundred acres on the Pamunky River and other lands that were set apart during the colonial era for the Pamunky Indians. The lands were only "set apart," not "granted away." Now the Pamunkys form only a "small remnant" of the population, having "so largely mingled with the negro race as to have obliterated all striking features of Indian extraction." The lands, the petitioners state, are now inhabited by two "unincorporated bands of free mulattoes in the midst of a large slave holding community." These free people of color might easily be converted "into an instrument of deadly annoyance to the white inhabitants by northern fanaticism." The areas have become resorts for free people of color, "worthless and abandoned whites," and runaway slaves. In short, the tracts are a "harbor for every one who wishes concealment."

PAR Number 11684708

State: Virginia Year: 1847
Location: Loudon Location Type: County

Abstract: Eight residents of Loudoun and Fauquier counties point out that convictions for violating existing residency laws by free blacks "have been of rare occurrence, & that prosecutions have, in consequence, been almost entirely abandoned." "[P]rompt steps" should be taken to "rid the State of this growing fungus." Free blacks should be either sent to Africa," the petitioners argue, "remanded to slavery, or extended "privileges of Complete Citizenship."

PAR Number 11684903

State: Virginia Year: 1849
Location: Rockingham Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred nine residents from Rockingham and adjacent counties ask that the period of time allowed to emancipated slaves before they are required to emigrate be reduced from twelve months to one month. Free blacks have it in their "power to annoy us to an extent almost beyond expression," the petitioners complain; they become acquainted with the roads "leading in various directions through our mountainous country," and then "purloin off our slave and reach a free state before we even believe the slave has ran away." Often prompted by abolitionists, free people of color also try to free their slave wives, slave children, and slave relatives. "The laws of Virginia recognise in us the right to hold slaves as our private property," the petitioners argue, "& we contend that no body of men has the right to divest us of our property."

PAR Number 20182101

State: Alabama Year: 1821
Location: Jackson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Hopkins states that when he lived in Warren County, Tennessee, he owned a "Negroe Woman of dark complection aged about 45 years & of the value of about four hundred dollars named Molly" and a "mulatto girl named ayes of light complection aged about sixteen years of the value of about one thousand dollars." Hopkins asserts that the women "were feloniously taken" by John Hammons and transported to Alabama where they were sold by one John McGowan to George W. Thompson, despite knowledge of his (Hopkins's) claim to ownership. Fearing the slaves will be sold, Hopkins asks the court to order Thompson to offer security for them pending the outcome of his suit of recovery.

PAR Number 20184106

State: Alabama Year: 1841
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: In January 1837, the petitioner, Charles Simpson, borrowed $700 from William Freeman, giving Freeman a note for $812, payable in December. Simpson annually renewed this note with Freeman for several years until Freeman sought and won a judgment against him. The petitioner accuses Freeman of "wickedly falsely and maliciously" taking out a second attachment on his property in Georgia by inducing one of Simpson's slaves to run away to the Freeman's house, where he was hidden until the attachment was issued. Simpson charges that Freeman is not satisfied "to take judgment for the principal debt alone" but has levied his property, exposing it to sale to satisfy the judgment. Simpson asks for an injunction to restrain Freeman "from proceeding any further against your orator touching any of the matters in question."

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 20184808

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1839, Elizabeth Hassell of Hickman County, Tennessee, married Alexander C. Hamilton, who had many debts and no property. Elizabeth's father, Joseph Hassell, gave the bride 220 acres of land, and loaned the couple a family of slaves consisting of Sophia and her seven children. Before long, Hamilton had sold the land and one of the slaves. Joseph Hassell sued to recover his other slaves, but Hamilton refused to turn them over. Then in 1843, the two men reached a court sanctioned agreement, whereby Hassell gave the couple a life estate in the slaves, on the condition that the slaves not be subject to Alexander's debts and not be taken out of the state of Tennessee. The agreement also stipulated that, in case Elizabeth died without children, the life estate would be split between James Hassell and Alexander Hamilton. Later Elizabeth and Alexander sold Alexander's interest in the life estate to James, but later Alexander purchased the slaves back, a transaction attested by two bills of sale. Alexander later sold two more slaves. Elizabeth charges that Alexander then began to treat her "with great Cruelty & barbarity." Once, she said, he nearly choked her to death; he was also guilty of adultery. And one night in 1848, Alexander stole away, taking five of the slaves to Dallas County. Elizabeth seeks an attachment on the slaves, and a subpoena requiring her husband to answer charges. Related testimony reveals that Alexander was in the habit of frequenting houses of ill repute and even applied to a physician for medicine to treat a venereal disease. This case was filed in both Tennessee and Alabama, the latter being the state where James had taken the slaves; it went up all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court. Alexander and Elizabeth where divorced. In 1850, Elizabeth was awarded the slaves who had not been sold by Alexander; the slaves were delivered to her in 1852.

PAR Number 20184904

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Barbour Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1842, Miles M. Johnson of Florida, and Cornelius J. M. Andrews and Elizabeth Johnson, executor and executrix of the will of the late Isham Johnson of Barbour County, Alabama, obtained a judgment of more than five thousand dollars against William Wyatt and William H. Wyatt in the Superior Court of Leon County, Florida. To avoid paying the debt, the Wyatts arranged for Ephraim Ponder to move a number of slaves to Alabama, where he sold some for cash and some through notes issued in his name. The slaves were worth about six thousand dollars The plaintiffs sue the Wyatts, Ponder, and lawyers hired to collect on the notes, charging fraud, and winning a judgment in excess of eight thousand dollars. The lawyers, however, were not found culpable.

PAR Number 20185807

State: Alabama Year: 1858
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1838, Jeremiah Doss of Coosa County executed his Last Will and Testament, bequeathing his "valuable servant Gilbert now in the state of Georgia" to his father and mother during their life times and then to his brother and sisters. Jeremiah died a very short time later, and Gilbert went into the possession of Jeremiah's brother, Hiram H. Doss. In 1857, Juliann Hatcher, one of Doss's two surviving siblings, discovered that she was entitled to a one-half interest in Gilbert, something her brother Hiram had hidden from her. She had no reason to suspect her brother of fraud, she says, but he deceived her. She sues for an amount equivalent to half the hire of the slave (at least one thousand dollars) from the time her brother took possession of him until the present; she also asks for a sum equal to one half the slave's value with interest. She fears, however, that her brother has taken Gilbert out of the state or "sold him or otherwise disposed of him."

PAR Number 20482210

State: District of Columbia Year: 1822
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Hercules Dowery seeks to settle a dispute with Benjamin Johnson regarding Maria, a female slave. Dowery contends that Johnson made an agreement with Cemas Dowery, Dowery's wife, to allow her to raise and nuture the then three-year-old Maria during Cemas's lifetime. Now, sixteen years later, Maria has an infant and Dowery charges that Johnson is attempting to violate the contract "by withdrawing Maria & her infant from your orator & selling them to the South or parts unknown." He seeks a subpoena and an injunction to prevent Johnson from removing Maria and her child "from the possession and care of your Orator, during the life time of your Orator's wife."

PAR Number 20482211

State: District of Columbia Year: 1822
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Amelia Sewell and family seek a subpoena and an injunction against Lewis Booth who "wrongfully obtained possession of" a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old mulatto slave girl, Maria O'Neall. Booth promptly sold her to John Alford, reputed to be "one of the regular Traders . . . who was making arrangements to convey her away to the South." The Sewells were issued a writ of replevin and paid $600 security to prosecute the matter. Maria is now back with the Sewells, and they seek an injunction to bar the defendants from receiving a writ of replevin against them and to protect their possession of Maria until the court rules on their case.

PAR Number 20482603

State: District of Columbia Year: 1826
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Iris Smethers paid Mary Greenfield, the mistress of Letty Brown, $4 a month for Letty's labor in her laundry business, allowing the slave two or three days a week "to work for herself & raise money" to purchase her freedom. Letty informed Smethers that John Lowe "was about to befriend her" by buying her from Greenfield. Lowe promised Letty he would free her when she paid the balance due of $210, but Smethers contends that Lowe actually bought Letty "to hold as a slave for his own use." Letty has now paid Lowe almost all of the agreed upon sum, but he contends "that said promise was made only to Letty herself, who being a slave at the time, the promise is not binding." Letty has since had a son of whom Lowe "has taken forcible possession," claiming the boy as his slave as well. The petitioner seeks to subpoena Lowe requiring him to answer the charges levied against him and requests that the court require him to manumit Letty and her child, upon her paying any amount that is due for her freedom.

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 20484907

State: District of Columbia Year: 1849
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-six petitioners assert that on 15 April 1848 seventy-six slaves, the property of various owners, escaped on the Potomac River aboard the schooner, Pearl. The petitioners voluntarily pursued the schooner onboard the steamboat, Salem, and captured the slaves and three white men who were navigating the Pearl. They placed the slaves in a Washington County jail as runaways. The petitioners assert that the owners of the slaves gave Francis Dodge Jr. a sum exceeding $3000 to pay the necessary expenses and to reward the petitioners for their services. The petitioners charge that Dodge has refused to distribute their reward. They ask that Dodge be summoned to answer their complaint and be forced to pay them for their assistance in the capture of the slaves.

PAR Number 20486105

State: District of Columbia Year: 1861
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Jane Elizabeth Martha Mackall seeks a divorce from her husband Brooke Mackall. She states that since the birth of her youngest child in 1857, her husband "began to exhibit evidence in some strange consistencies of conduct, of alienation from her, which have since developed themselves into an almost insane hate." At times, he has deprived the petitioner and nine of her ten children of sufficient funds, food, and shelter. In April 1859, Jane Mackall went to Pennsylvania, where she owned property, to obtain money for her children. She states that she left her infant in the care of her eldest daughter, fearing to leave the infant in the care of the nurse, "a young mulatto woman belonging to the defendant." The defendant, according to Mackall, refused to allow the eldest daughter to sleep in the small flat with her brothers and sisters unless she left the infant with him. When she refused to do so, he directed two of his young male "negro servants" to sleep in the chamber with his daughter. The petitioner avers that her husband was in the habit of beating the children and poisoned her and her children by putting rat poison on their food. In addition, Mackall states that her husband attempted to sell a house servant who was very close to the petitioner and her children. When he was unable to obtain a purchaser, he returned to the house with the slave. Jane Mackall hid the slave in her chambers for several months. She states that when the defendant found the slave, he locked her in his chamber and then sold her to a slave trader. Mackall requests a divorce, alimony, and custody of her children.

PAR Number 20582701

State: Florida Year: 1827
Location: St. Johns Location Type: County

Abstract: Manuel Aquair seeks to foreclose on a loan for $425 that he made to Nicholas Morgan; he also asks the court to order Morgan to surrender the slave, July, who Morgan offered as collateral. Noting that Morgan has not repaid the debt, the petitioner believes he is entitled to said slave; Morgan, however, will not settle the debt or surrender the slave. Aquair therefore asks that Morgan "may be forever foreclosed and barred of and from his right or equity of redemption in the said negro slave so mortgaged."

PAR Number 20584105

State: Florida Year: 1841
Location: Leon Location Type: County

Abstract: Canada Rouse asks the court to compel David Graham to pay a debt incurred by his purchase of stock in the Union Bank of Florida, for which Rouse is the security. If Graham is unable to settle the debt, Rouse asks that the Graham’s slaves, property and stock be sold and the proceeds applied to the debt for the stock. In the aftermath of a failed attempt to smuggle the slaves to another state, Graham agreed to sell the slaves and Rouse dropped action against him. Now Graham refuses to sell and the bank is threatening Rouse with legal action. Rouse seeks an injunction to prevent Graham from fleeing or from selling the slaves illegally.

PAR Number 20680404

State: Georgia Year: 1804
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: John Pettit alleges that "he hath been injured & damaged by James Neely." Pettit insists that his long-enjoyed stellar reputation has been slandered by Neely's accusations that he has harbored a runaway Negro slave girl, recently purchased by Neely. Pettit sues for $10,000 in damages.

PAR Number 20681404

State: Georgia Year: 1814
Location: Emanuel Location Type: County

Abstract: Milner Holladay sues Francis Pugh for slander and $5,000 in damages. Holladay claims that on 10 September 1813, Pugh uttered "false feigned Scandalous malicious and approbrious english words" accusing Holladay of "negro harboring." Further, Holladay charges that Pugh publicly suggested that if Holladay were elected to the state legislature, he would be denied a seat due to charges based on these allegations. Holladay complains that Pugh's allegations have not only ruined his good reputation in the community, and subjected him to the penalties for such crimes, but have hurt his business. He asks that Pugh appear at the next Superior Court to answer his allegations of slander.

PAR Number 20681804

State: Georgia Year: 1818
Location: Elbert Location Type: County

Abstract: Reubin Christian sues Reufus Christian for slander. The petitioner claims that he is "a good true faithful upright honest Citizen from the time of his nativity hitherto hath conducted & behaved himself & hath continued & lived free & innocent of the crime of harbouring consealing or in any wise maintained any runaway negro slave or slaves belonging to any person whomsoever or any other such infamous crime or vice." Reufus Christian, however, has accused Reubin Christian of harbouring a runaway named Leah. Reubin Christian sues for $5,000 in damages.

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