Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11483330

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

Abstract: William G. Harding, the guardian of the only child of the late William Harding, asks permission to sell Maria and her six children to Texas-bound Daniel Maurice Harding, owner of Maria's husband. The petitioner states that he "believes it would be to the interest of the infant to make the sale," as "the whole family are an Expense." Harding further reveals that "the said family of children are not healthy and two of them are afflicted one with white swelling and the other with scrofula."

PAR Number 11484302

State: Tennessee Year: 1843

Abstract: One hundred fourteen citizens of Tennessee "request that the Laws of the State may be so changed as to permit 'Doctor Jack' to continue the practice of the healing art." The petitioners represent that "in his disposition he is humble, unobtrusive, peaceable and quiet; and in his morals altogether irreproachable, possessing great medical skill, particularly in obstinate diseases of long standing, and capable of great usefulness to the community in which he may reside." They further aver that "Doctor Jack is about 60 years of age, and has been a public practitioner of medicine 16 years, giving offence to no one, creating no disturbance, and until recently meeting no disturbance in the quiet pursuit of his business."

PAR Number 11484303

State: Tennessee Year: 1843

Abstract: Sixty-seven "Ladies residing in Tennessee respectfully petition the Honourable Legislature of the State to repeal, amend, or so modify the Act of 1831 c. 103. S. 3 which prohibits slaves from practicing medicine as to exempt from its operation a slave named Jack the property of William H. Macon." They "believe 'Doctor Jack' to be honest, honourable & skilful, especially in obstinate cases of long standing; and that the people ought not to be denied the privilege of commanding his services."

PAR Number 11485503

State: Tennessee Year: 1855

Abstract: Twenty-year-old Benjamin Murrell and nineteen-year-old Martha Ann Murrell, heirs of the late Isaac Murrell, join forty-eight other petitioners in requesting "the sale of one Negro girl named Ann a diseased and afflicted creature." The Murrells state "that we are going to remove to a distant state" and "that we now have an opportunity of selling said Ann to a good advantage." They "therefore pray you to grant us the right by special act of Legislative enactment to sell said negro so that we may avail ourselves of the profits thereof before we remove."

PAR Number 11586001

State: Texas Year: 1860
Location: Gonzales Location Type: County

Abstract: Nineteen-year-old John Blackwell petitions the legislature for the authority to control his own affairs. Blackwell, a farmer, "feels and believes that he is competant to attend to his own business, and to exercise all the rights, privilleges, and functions of a free man." He further explains that "he is the legal owner of property that is suffering and accumulating him nothing by reason of the opportunities being with-holden from him, of availing himself of higher wages a healthful location -- prudent care of his slaves and a higher rate of interest on money." He states that "some of his Slaves being old, and many of them little children that require the fostering hand of a good Master instead of the abuse and neglect to which a hired condition subjects them." Blackwell therefore prays that "your Honorable Body will enfranchise him, and confer on him the powers and privileges of a free man, to possess himself of the control of his estate."

PAR Number 11679901

State: Virginia Year: 1799
Location: Williamsburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Littleton Tazewell writes that a "Negroe Fellow," his property, was charged with a felony and committed to jail. The slave was taken to trial on 13 December 1796, found guilty, and sentenced to be "burned in the hand" for his crime. At the time of the trial, it was determined by a physician that his legs were so badly frost-bitten that only a double amputation could save his life. Tazewell, claiming that he was "anxious to do everything in his power to save the fellows life," authorized the physician to perform the amputation. Contending that his slave, whose name we find out from the physician's testimony is James, alias Blue Jim, was injured while under the authority of the law, Tazewell seeks reimbursement for his "expense and very great trouble."

PAR Number 11680801

State: Virginia Year: 1808
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Sarah De Pass asks the legislature to permit her to keep a slave that she transported from South Carolina in violation of the law prohibiting the importation of slaves into Virginia. She explains to the legislature that her husband is in Jamaica for health reasons and she came to Virginia to be with her family during his absence. She claims that she unknowingly violated the law. She also contends that she must remain in Virginia with "her Mother, & family" until she hears "something decisive concerning her husband." She asks permission to keep her slave in Virginia until that time and to be exempted from "any fines, penalties, or forfeitures" which may be liable to.

PAR Number 11681021

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: On 18 June 1810, the Richmond City Council passed an ordinance that "no negro or mulatto" shall be permitted to use any "Gig chair or other carriage" in the city "except in the Capacity of maid or Servant to some Lady or Gentleman, hiring and riding therein." Christopher MacPherson, a mulatto free person of color who served as clerk during the American Revolution, asks for an exemption from the ordinance. He explains that, as an accountant and bookkeeper, he travels to various parts of the city; moreover, he and his wife are "both advanced in life and occasionally subject to disease -- it has happened and may again happen, that the occasional use of a carriage when they are unable to walk, may be necessary not only for their comfort but their health." The petitioner “submits without a murmur to those Laws of the Commonwealth, which impose disabilities imposed on that class of people to which he belongs and he is not disposed to deny, that there may be persons with respect to whom, the ordinance aforesaid might properly apply, but he humbly conceives that the said ordinance is unjust as it respects himself and family and that it deprives him of rights to which he is intitled under the laws and Constitution of this Commonwealth." He therefore prays that his case be taken into consideration and that “your Honorable Body will be pleased to enact such regulations as will prevent those rights from being infringed.”

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 11682714

State: Virginia Year: 1827
Location: Pittsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: David Ward represents that he "was born a slave and the property of John Ward the elder" and that his late master manumitted him in his last will and testament for faithful service. He further cites that he served as overseer of Ward's affairs and also attended him in his illness, whereby "he never slept out of his master's room, for twenty five years of his life." Avowing that "your own Virginia is alike dear to him," the petitioner asks the legislature "to extend him the privilege of residence upon his good behaviour, and to that end he prays your honorable body to pass a law."

PAR Number 11682807

State: Virginia Year: 1828
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Hetty Jacobs, the widow of Solomon Jacobs, joins the guardian of her three infant children and the administrator of her late husband's estate to request that the eleven slaves belonging to said estate be sold "and the proceeds vested in Bank or Government stock to be held for the benefit of the widow & children." They aver that said slaves consist "exclusively of women & children who are not only wholly unproductive, but if not sold, must become a charge to the estate." Declaring the conduct of said slaves to be “very insolent and every way objectionable," the petitioners therefore pray that a law be passed "authorising the sale of the said slaves."

PAR Number 11683001

State: Virginia Year: 1830
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Davy, a twenty-six-year-old man of color, represents that "he was liberated by the last will and testament of his mistress Miss Anna M Quarles," as a "reward for his honest & faithful services." He further states that "he has understood unless you shall think fit to permit him to remain in the state ... [he will] be compeled to leave the place of his long residence and his wife and connections forever [which] would be to him a most afflicting dispensation." Noting that he suffers "from bodily affliction," the petitioner therefore prays "for permission to pass the remainder of his life in this state and he will endeavor to deserve the benefit done him."

PAR Number 11683120

State: Virginia Year: 1831
Location: Northampton Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-eight residents of Northampton County address one of "the evils attending [the oyster] trade." They represent that "the oysters in many of their waters" are "materially diminished [in] their numbers" and that "the industry of the oysterman” will be forced to 'sweep the bottoms' of the small & shallow inlets of our county." They aver that "other & greater evils however press upon us with a might so serious & alarming, that all the foregoing considerations, however important in themselves, sink into comparative indifference." They report that "this trade is conducted almost exclusively by citizens of other states," who depend "chiefly on our slaves & free negroes; the former labour for them only in the night whereby they are rendered unable to labour for their owners in the day, & in the course of a few years are laid up with rheumatism & other diseases of a premature old age." The petitioners further note that said slaves come into contact with men "who have devoted themselves to the work of 'universal emancipation' & whose zeal for the slave sanctifies in their view the worst extremities of teaching & violence." They therefore seek relief and ask "so far as their county is concerned, the trade may be wholly forbidden."

PAR Number 11683403

State: Virginia Year: 1834
Location: Henrico Location Type: County

Abstract: Richmond resident Ann Pritchard stipulated in her last will and testament that her slave, Dolly Woodson, should be emancipated and that she should receive the residual of her estate after payment of all the debts and of a $500 bequest to a male relative. Following Pritchard's death, George Crump, the executor of Pritchard's estate, seeks an act of emancipation and permission for Woodson to remain in Virginia. Dolly "is now upwards of fifty years old, is infirm and subject to fits of frequent recurrence." In a related document, the late Pritchard's attending physician testifies that he had, over the course of several years, "abundant opportunity of witnessing the deportment of her servant woman Dolly—as a slave she was unexceptionable in her conduct and indeed upon many occasions, she exhibited an affection and tenderness rarely if ever surpassed in the more exalted walks of life."

PAR Number 11683902

State: Virginia Year: 1839
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred eighty-one citizens from Prince William County object to the petition "presented to your honorable body by Sundry Fishermen & Salt importers of Alexandria ... permitting the introduction of Free negroes from the north during the Spring season on the ground that labor is too high in this section & because they cannot get hands enough here to haul their 6 & 800 fathom seines." The petitioners offer five reasons for their opposition: 1) that fish have become scarce and expensive; 2) that local employment opportunities would suffer; 3) that the free people of color who would come are "miserable wretches who vegetate all Summer in the District of Columbia, Baltimore & Philadelphia, and in winter are sheltered and fed in Work Houses Jails & Poor Houses"; 4) that free blacks “owing to their filthy ... way of life are liable to all manner of contagious disorders" such as small pox; and 5) that it would not be good to have large numbers of black people in a section where the white population is thin.

PAR Number 11683917

State: Virginia Year: 1839
Location: Prince William Location Type: County

Abstract: Martha, a free woman of color, asks permission to reside in Virginia. She states that the late Catharine Hancock emancipated her three or four years ago and that she "in obedience to its Laws left the Commonwealth and abode and now abides in a strange land, amongst strangers." She further recounts that she "previous to her Manumission had taken as a Husband a certain slave called Lewis ... to whom she is sincerely attached, and to whose company and intercourse she now humbly and fervently prays your Honble body to restore her by permitting her to return to reside in, for the residue of her days, her native neighborhood and State, dear old Virginia."

PAR Number 11684902

State: Virginia Year: 1849
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: John M. Ferguson, sergeant of the City of Richmond and keeper of the jail, seeks reimbursement for expenses incurred while he held Nancy Parham, a free woman of color, in jail. Ferguson informs the legislature that Nancy Parham was committed to jail "as a free woman of colour in want of a register," i.e., Nancy had not received the appropriate permission to reside in the city as required by law. The court directed Ferguson to hire out Nancy for a period not exceeding two years in order to pay for jail fees. However, when it was discovered that Nancy had cancer and was not expected to recover, nobody would hire her. Ferguson was forced to ask the Overseers of the Poor to allow her "to be received into the poorhouse." She was discharged from the jail, but Ferguson has so far "received no part of the jail fees." He uses Nancy's case to represent to the legislature that the "law makes no provision as to what is to be done with free negroes confined in jail under such circumstances." It is difficult to find people to hire free blacks as the law requires, even in the best of circumstances, Ferguson argues, for he hirer must post bond "into a penalty double the value affixed to said free persons by the Court." As the jailer, Ferguson has been "compelled to suffer considerable losses." Therefore, in addition to seeking compensation for his expenses in Nancy Parham's case, Ferguson asks that "further provisions for relief" be made when such cases "may hereafter arise."

PAR Number 11685601

State: Virginia Year: 1856
Location: Rockbridge Location Type: County

Abstract: Reuben Howard, a fifty-year-old free man of color, asks permission to remain in Virginia for six months. He represents that "he has a wife and five children in said County, & has paid for his wife & four children." Howard further states that he visited his mother in Ohio last year thereby being "compelled to leave the state." Noting that "he is now subject to Rheumatism," the petitioner "appeals to the Humanity of your Honorable body, and prays that an act may pass, allowing him to remain six months in this Commonwealth, by the end of which time, he will remove with his family to the state of Ohio." Howard avows that "he was not aware until within a few days of the consequence of having visited the state of Ohio."

PAR Number 11686202

State: Virginia Year: 1862
Location: Goochland Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-four citizens of Goochland County represent that Dr. John Morris "has been for the last ten years or more afflicted by a disease of the spine, which has rendered him utterly incapable of walking ... in consequence of such disease he is altogether incapable of attending to out door business of any kind whatever." They further reveal that said Morris "is the owner of some fifty or sixty slaves and a large plantation" and that his four sons all volunteered "for the War." The petitioners assert that Morris's overseer "has also been called out with the militia and unless he be relieved by your interposition will leave home for the seat of war in a few days." They therefore pray that William P. Crowder, the said overseer, be exempted "from service in the militia so long as he continues in his present employment."

PAR Number 20183812

State: Alabama Year: 1838
Location: Marshall Location Type: County

Abstract: Jesse Carr, through his guardian and next friend David A. Monaghan, asks the court to make William Willborne return six slaves and their children, purchased from him at a price less than half their true value. Monaghan claims that Willborne took advantage of Carr because of his mental incompetence. Monaghan states that his charge is "a man of extremely weak & Unsound mind" declared by a court to be an "idiot or non compos mentis." The petitioners further request "an account be taken of the hire & said defendant compelled to pay the same to said guardian for use & benefit of your Orator."

PAR Number 20183905

State: Alabama Year: 1839
Location: Perry Location Type: County

Abstract: Michael Wright asks the court not to execute a previous judgment against him in the matter of payment for slaves he purchased from Ezekiel Salmon and Zera Davis. Wright says that in 1837, he paid the two men three thousand dollars for four slaves: "a negro boy slave named Dave, a negro boy slave named Jack and a negro woman slave Mariah and her child." Wright says Salmon and Davis "falsely and fraudulently represented to your orator that the said negroes ... were sound in body and in mind and entirely free & exempt from any disease or ailment whatever," and states that Mariah and Dave "are and were at the time of said sale diseased and wholly worthless and of no value." Wright refused to pay the remaining balance, and the defendants successfully sued him. The petitioner pleads that his lawyer was negligent in his defense and seeks an injunction preventing Salmon and Davis from carrying out the judgment, believing "that in equity and conscience they ought not to have or demand to have from your orator anything more than the said fifteen hundred dollars already paid ... the said sum being of the full value of the said negroes in their diseased condition."

PAR Number 20183921

State: Alabama Year: 1839
Location: Coosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In December 1836, William Campbell purchased the slave Hardy, thirteen years of age, for $846 from John Dailey Jr. of Henry County, Georgia. As payment, Campbell transferred a note of $896 to Dailey, and Dailey paid Campbell fifty dollars in cash to balance out the transaction. Shortly after the sale, Campbell "discovered that the said negro was wholly unsound and worthless," and in March asked Daily to take back the boy and return the note used to purchase him. But before Dailey could respond, the slave died. The petitioner notes "that he has been greatly injured and endamaged by not having the possession of said note and that by reason of the wrongful acts of said Dailey," and he seeks an injunction against Dailey to prevent him from prosecuting the makers of the note and from collecting the money. In addition, Campbell requests recovery of the note.

PAR Number 20184306

State: Alabama Year: 1843
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: Catharine Underwood seeks a divorce and property settlement from her husband Joel Underwood on the grounds of cruelty and adultery with a female slave. Six months into the marriage, Catharine reports, Joel "assumed a coldness and indifference towards her," which escalated to physical threats and abuse. In addition, she asserts that Joel commenced an "adulterous connexion" with a female slave he had purchased. Catharine charges that it was due to this illicit relationship that her husband "communicated to your oratrix a disease too loathsome and shocking to mention." She therefore asks the court for a divorce.

PAR Number 20184613

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Montgomery Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, John Strom purchased from Henry F. Slatter of New Orleans a slave named James for $690, but within four or five days James died from pleurisy "or a disease of like character." Slatter, the petitioner, contends that James was in good health when sold to Strom, but that he caught "pleurisy" from exposure to intemperate weather only a couple of days after the sale and while in Strom's possession. Slatter further contends that, at first, Strom did not make any demands on him but, being in small pecuniary circumstances, requested him to bear half the loss. Slatter denied the request. In 1845, however, Strom sued Slatter, who owned land in the city of Montgomery, arguing that James was sick when he was sold. The next year, Strom won a civil suit with a jury awarding him seven hundred dollars. Now, in a countersuit, Slatter contends that James died "from exposure to bad weather" and "was sound and free from disease" when sold. Slatter asks for an injunction restraining Strom "and all others his agents and attornies from the collecting of said judgment and any further proceedings."

PAR Number 20184712

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Mobile Location Type: County

Abstract: Married in Washington County, in 1836, Sarah Debose testifies that during her eight years as the wife of James Debose she endured "the grossest, cruel and brutal and violent trespass and treatment." She claims that her husband slandered her good name, whipped her, drew "a deadly weapon" and threatened to kill her, and abandoned her without providing for the care or education of their three children. He also committed "the abominable crime of adultery" with Martha Hainsworth, a married woman to whom he later gave three hundred dollars. Sarah lost one eye to an infection, and is "afflicted" in the other; she is destitute and asks for an injunction prohibiting her husband from disposing of his property, including a tract of pine land near Mobile, and a slave and her daughter. She also requests that he pay her a monthly allowance, and, for the time being, be confined to jail.

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