Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10381902

State: Delaware Year: 1819
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: James Lackey seeks relief from fines assessed after he and two other men were convicted of assault and battery with intent to kidnap. The charges were brought by Preston Moore, a free man of color, and Lackey's indented servant. Lackey argues that the fines are excessive, that Moore's character is questionable, and that the governor had already remitted the "odious part of the Sentence whereby your petitioner, and the other two Defendants were subject to stand in the Pillory for the space of half an hour." Lackey reveals that he purchased Moore, “with a view to have his Labour on the Farm,” from the New Castle jail, where Moore was imprisoned "for his evil Deeds."

PAR Number 10382308

State: Delaware Year: 1823

Abstract: Twenty citizens ask "for an alteration in the Law so far as respects masters & apprintises, the present Law bean hard on the master." All too often, the petitioners contend, an apprentice would remain with his master until he reached the age of seventeen or eighteen years and then would run away. If the runaway returned or was caught, the master was responsible for any illnesses "which would disable him from work so as to become a charge to the county." The citizens ask that the law be amended to strengthen the position of masters.

PAR Number 10384502

State: Delaware Year: 1845

Abstract: Forty-three petitioners seek amendments to the law governing the retailing of liquor. They ask to "separate intoxicating drinks from other articles of ordinary traffic--to require that a license to retail them shall only be had in the manner now required for tavern license; that the tax be at least $12; and that under no circumstances shall a sale either to or by negroes or mulattoes be permitted." The current license fee of $2.50, they argue, allows "the most abandoned negro" to obtain "a legal commission to poison both morally and physically a whole neighborhood, or at least to render worse than worthless almost all the servants within his reach."

PAR Number 11085201

State: Mississippi Year: 1852
Location: Wilkinson Location Type: County

Abstract: Wilkinson County residents request additional patrols and better enforcement of the laws. They argue that such measures are needed because of "a certain class of lawless and unprincipled persons, whose chief occupation is illegal traffic with negroes, bartering whiskey for pigs, poultry, meal, corn &c., &c., thus corrupting the morals and injuring the health of the negroes, to the great detriment of their owners, and the imminent danger of the community." They also note that "it is a common practice with shop-keepers, particularly during the Christmas Holidays, to have, in and about their shops, crowds of negroes, drinking, fiddling, dancing, singing, cursing, swearing, whooping, and yelling, to the great annoyance and scandal of all respectable and order loving persons." The petitioners ask the legislature to make it illegal to "encourage or allow any noisy or clamorous assembly of negroes, about his or her store or shop."

PAR Number 11280204

State: North Carolina Year: 1802
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Martin R. Byrd, "Colonel of the Militia of the County of Washington," asks to be compensated for expenses incurred during his efforts to suppress a "threatened Conspiracy of the Negroes." As commanding officer, Byrd called "out the Militia for the purpose of apprehending the Conspirators, protecting the defenceless inhabitants, & keeping Guards over the accused until they could be tried & Condemned or discharged in a due course of law." Noting that he "was under the necessity of furnishing the said Militia with provisions Liquors &c," the petitioner reports that he has submitted "a true statement" of said expenses "to your honorable body, and humbly prays that you will take the same under your consideration" and render him relief "as to you in your Wisdom shall seem meet."

PAR Number 11280305

State: North Carolina Year: 1803
Location: Beaufort Location Type: County

Abstract: The relatives of Euphan Alston Rhodes ask that the said Euphan be granted a divorce from Captain Arnold Rhodes. They recount that their relative married Rhodes in 1795 when she was seventeen years old; at the time, Euphan possessed "a valuable Estate in Lands &c besides a number of valuable Slaves.” The petitioners lament that the said Rhodes wasted his bride's property shortly after their marriage, losing all the slaves and a large portion of the real estate. They further decry that Rhodes has "abandoned himself to Idleness, Intoxication, gambling &c." Of the belief that "a mutual loathing possess them Each towards the other," the petitioners pray "that a Law may be passed by your Honorable body disolving the band of marriage between the Said Arnold, & Euphan Alston Rhodes & thereby fully Divorcing them for Ever from Each other."

PAR Number 11280503

State: North Carolina Year: 1805
Location: Wayne Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred forty-one "Sundry Inhabitance of Wayne County" report that, in 1804, Willis Bryan "was Charged with takeing a Certain Small negro the property of john king ... and Carying the sd. small negro out of the sd. County and selling it, which proceeding Caused the sd. Bryan to absent himself from the state." They aver that "previous to this accident" Bryan "supported an Honest Character otherwise than he was Very Subject to Intoxication by the Excessive use of spirits." Revealing that "the Negro aforsd has since been Recovered and Returned by his family to its proper owner," the petitioners pray that "an act of pardon" be passed permitting the said Bryan "to Return to the bosom of his Distressed family in Safety."

PAR Number 11281001

State: North Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: James Wallis, "a minister of Religion," represents that he went to the widow's house "to apportion off some of the negro property of the late Doct. William Morrison," in his capacity as Morrison’s executor. He relates that, following "the business ordered by the court," several intoxicated men began quarreling. Noting that the widow requested that he "have them put of the house," Wallis intervened and thereby was charged and convicted of assault and fined fifty pounds. The petitioner denies any wrongdoing and argues that two persons, "who were considered as most deeply implicated were brought to trial and acquitted." He therefore "hopes to obtain from the Legislature of the State that relief which it alone is competent to afford."

PAR Number 11281703

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

Abstract: Bernard Laspeyre asks that an act passed in favor of his wife Harriet be repealed. Bernard contends that the charges contained in "that obscene Instrument" constitute "a Virulent and Infamous Libel, under the name of a Petition" and that Harriet's petition "cannot be the production of that fallen Angel, once the ornament of her Sex"; said petition accused Bernard of committing adultery with her slaves and marrying her solely for her property. He further asserts that Harriet abandoned him "in a fit of Jealousy" and that he urged "her by the tenderest terms and manner to return to your Memorialist house and family"; instead, he complains that she inveigled "from his Service all his negroes which by a Marriage Settlement are under his Sole controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "you will be pleased to Repeal the act passed Last session in favour of his Wife, as being Ruinous to your Memorialist and family and being Subversive of the most Sacred Institutions of Society." If not checked, Bernard believes that "before long the tables of Both houses [will be] covered with Petitions from Jealous and discontented Wifes, who are now on the tiptoe of expectation to see the issue of this petition."

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 11282402

State: North Carolina Year: 1824
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: John D. Barber discloses that, after three years of marriage, his wife Mary "left his house without cause and entered into the most abandoned scenes of prostitution with black and white." Barber further reveals that said Mary "has contracted a long time since a most hateful disease" and that "she is a most uncommon drunkard and thief." The petitioner therefore prays "that the Legislature will pass a law to dissolve the bonds of matrimony between him and the said Mary Barber." Attached affidavits charge that the said Mary "is considered to be and looked upon as one of the basest prostitutes in the human family" and that she is "entirely unfit for civilized Society."

PAR Number 11282712

State: North Carolina Year: 1827
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Jonathan Bryan seeks a divorce from his wife Ann Jane Anders, who not only attempted to kill him but also incited "an Insurrection" among his slaves. Bryan reports that the said Ann Jane attempted to poison him more than once; that she failed to nurse him when he “was Confined with the Billious fever So that his life was despaired of"; that she "has laid voiolent hands on his person twice;" that she has "treated with Cruelty the Seven Children he has had by a decent and former wife"; that she "took medicine" to induce a miscarriage when she returned from being absent "for the Space of eleven months dureing which time She got herself with Child;" and that he "has not seen the Said Ann Jane and has been for Som time past and at this time She is aliveing in a Negro house With Negros." He therefore prays that the legislature will "interpose and pass a Law Divorcing him from this wife Ann Jane."

PAR Number 11282902

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

Abstract: Clement Hill was indicted and convicted in 1828 for "an assault and battery on the body of one Jesse Reed, a man of Color." Fined $200, Hill prays that this sum be refunded to him on the grounds that Reed insulted and abused Hill's sister, "heaping upon her various epithets of abuse indignity & profanity too opprobious to be mentioned to your honorable body." The petitioner attests that "Reed is a mulatto of notoriously bad character & known to be so by all the people in the vicinity of his place of residence" and that "Reed is much in the habit of using insolence to white people cursing & abusing them, without cause or first provocation." Hill also submits that Reed “now stands indicted for Petit Larceny in Gates County Court.”

PAR Number 11283301

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

Abstract: Gatsey Stevenson laments that her husband Silas is "unfortunately addicted to habits of intemperance" and that his "fits of intoxication" forced her to "quit his society" and to take "shelter under the roof of her father." Gatsey further confesses that the said Silas "took into his house a profligate woman ... & is now living in adulterous intercourse." She reveals that said woman "by some device has procured title" to her husband's plantation and she has thus been "cast upon the world utterly destitute." Gatsey therefore prays "that a law may be passed ... securing to her such property as she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11283401

State: North Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Burke Location Type: County

Abstract: Ellena Cobb seeks a divorce from her husband John Cobb. She confides that the said John represented "himself as highly respectable and of good standing in the Town where he resided and of considerable celebrity as a physician having a large and extensive practice which was very profitable." Swayed by his appearance, Ellena confesses that she married him and moved to South Carolina where she discovered, two days into the marriage, that her husband was "perfectly insolvent that he had no practice as a physician and was by his intemperate habits incapable" of affording "any comfort or protection to your petitioner but on the contrary [was] a constant source of ... heart rending mortification and regret." The petitioner reveals that she has left her husband but understands "from respectable and undoubted sources that he is still pursuing the same intemperate and dissipated course which he did when she was living with him and associates with the most degraded low and immoral company such as free negroes mulattoes and the very dregs of society." Avowing that she "was most fraudulently shamefully ... imposed upon by the base false and dishonest representations of the said John Cobb," the petitioner prays that she may be granted a divorce “by an act of the General Assembly.”

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 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 11285802

State: North Carolina Year: 1858
Location: Onslow Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-eight Onslow County residents represent "that some legislation is absolutely necessary to relieve the people of the State from the evils arising from numbers of free negroes in our midst." The petitioners decry that "the free negro is an indolent lazy & thievish drunken individual, working only when he cannot steal, or induce the slave to steal for him." They further assert that "the slave is induced to enter his owners barn and the free negro is the recipient of the stolen goods; paying for them in whiskey." This results, they declare, in the slave imbibing "untill he become intoxicated, when he is ready for a general fight, or any species of rascality that may present itself." The petitioners argue that "free negroes are a growing evil, and deserve as we have no doubt, it will receive, the attention of the present General Assembly."

PAR Number 11382918

State: South Carolina Year: 1829
Location: Kershaw Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Thirty-four residents of Kershaw District petition on behalf of Joseph Mickle, who purchased James Walker, a free person of color, who was "sold for his Taxes"; for a five-year term of service, Mickle paid $215.37, "it being the amount claimed by the Tax Collector." The petitioners report, however, that the said Walker "made his escape from said Mickle and got into No Carolina, where it seems he was liberated and set entirely free by the Authorities of that state." The residents charge that Walker "is a man of general bad character" and that he "was suspected of setting fire to houses in the night, breaking open Stores and meat Houses." They further allege that he "a habitual drunkard, and we really think him capable of any outrage for which depravity could prepare the human mind." The petitioners therefore pray that Mickle's note be cancelled.

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 11385006

State: South Carolina Year: 1850
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Thomas Bennett seeks a pardon for his slave Peter Blacklock. He represents that an altercation broke out between Peter and another slave named York; the said Peter "inflicted on York a blow that fractured his skull and caused his death in a few hours." Bennett further recounts that Peter was convicted of manslaughter and was sentenced to receive "one Hundred and twenty five Lashes and then to be removed to the Jail of the district" and to "remain imprisoned for two years, the first year of which he should receive monthly Twenty Lashes." He discloses, however, that the said slave is "considerably advanced in years" and that he "became intemperate from the use of ardent spirits -- this habit followed by Epileptic fits." Describing Peter as "a wretched remnant of Humanity -- Prostrate mentally and physically by disease," Bennett fears that his slave "will not probably survive to the termination of his confinement without the interposition of Executive clemency.” The petitioner therefore prays "that Your Excellency would extend to this unfortunate man the Executive prerogative of pardon."

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."

PAR Number 11482106

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

Abstract: Catharine Smith asks for a divorce from her husband, John P. Smith, a man of "the most abandoned dissolute & dissipated description." Smith accuses her husband of "engaging in the most extravagant scenes of lewdness, drunkenness and debauchery" and confides that he "has often treated your Petitioner in an inhuman and intolerable manner by inflicting violence on her person, and that in direct violation of his matrimonial vow, he has been repeatedly engaged in illegal intimacies with the slaves there were subject to his controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "she may be divorced from her husband and that the bonds of matrimony may be entirely dissolved."

PAR Number 11482107

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

Abstract: Elizabeth Street asks for a divorce from her husband, James Street. She confides that "in about two years after our marriage he sold a negroe the only one we had, and then went off and left your petitioner." Street further laments that "in his absence the ballance of our property was taken by his creditors." She also discloses that the said James "was continually abusing her" and "was subject to intoxication and frequently would stay from home drunk two or three weeks at a time." With five children to support, Street prays "your honorable body to grant her a divorce from the bonds of matrimony" and that any property she may acquire be protected from satisfying the debts of the said James.

PAR Number 11482605

State: Tennessee Year: 1826
Location: Sumner Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Wilson of Sumner County asks for a divorce from her husband, Joseph P. Wilson, who two years ago "abandoned her, leaving her and a child to the pity of her relatives." Wilson recounts that she owned fifty-three acres of land and two slaves valued at $600 when she married the said Joseph in 1822. She further notes that her said property has been sold to satisfy the debts contracted by her husband during their two years together. She therefore prays "that under the peculiar circumstances of the case your honourable body will grant relief, by a bill of divorce."

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