Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10380301

State: Delaware Year: 1803
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Delaware resident Walter Dulany contends that the recent behavior of his two slaves, whose relatives mostly reside in Maryland, requires that he either sell them or "use harsh and rigorous treatment towards them, for the purpose of preserving due order and submission in his family." He further states that he wishes to avoid "the last mentioned line of conduct ... as it is the most disagreeable method of the two, and not so likely as the former to effect the desired object." Dulany therefore prays that a law be passed "authorizing him to sell and dispose of the said Slaves to some citizen or citizens of the State of Maryland, willing to buy them."

PAR Number 10383701

State: Delaware Year: 1837
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-two citizens of Sussex County seek the repeal of a Delaware law of 1827 prohibiting the exportation of slaves to any other state or territory. The petitioners complain that the law had "a most powerful tendency to render Slaves disobedient and Consequently far less useful and valuable to their owners than they would otherwise be, leading at the same time to the exportation of many Slaves contrary to this law and to many and indeed to a great portion of the frequent Cases of Kidnapping with which Your Courts of Justice are so often resorted to in vain for redress by the enforcement of this law."

PAR Number 11086013

State: Mississippi Year: 1860

Abstract: A committee appointed by the citizens of Enterprise complains about "traveling agents of various kinds from abroad" who promote "insubordination of our slave population." They ask the legislature to pass an act requiring these agents to obtain a license in the county to transact business.

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 11283806

State: North Carolina Year: 1838
Location: Edgecombe Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty citizens of Edgecombe County oppose the petition of the executor of the late Godwin Cotten to emancipate a slave named Ely, who was "a turbulent and what may be termed a bad Negro" prior to his sale by Drewry King of Halifax County, Virginia, to the said Cotten. The petitioners therefore "pray your Honorable Body not to Liberate the said Ely only on condition that he be sent out of the State."

PAR Number 11285001

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

Abstract: Seventy-seven Duplin County residents insist "that we should exert every effort in our power to establish and preserve tranquility and decorum among our slaves,” and they are “fully convinced of the fact that the residence of free persons of color in their vicinity has a tendency to foster a spirit of discontent in their midst." They therefore pray "that the Legislature may devise some means by which their removal may be effected." The petitioners suggest a suitable appropriation be authorized "to transport these said free persons of Colour to Liberia, and that all of them be compeled to go except those who prefer to be sold and become slaves." They further "suggest that it be left to their own option either to be transported or remain among us and be sold into slavery."

PAR Number 11285206

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

Abstract: Fifty-one Sampson County residents condemn free blacks as a "perfect Nuisance, to civilized Society." They decry that "the free Negroes, and mulatoes living amongst us ... hold themselves a grade above the slave population and attempt in divers ways to equalize themselves with the white population." They further charge that said "course of procedures, and their communications with the slave population, renders them (the slaves) disposed to be disobedient and turbulent." The petitioners therefore propose that the legislature pass "such caustic laws as to compel them to emigrate, or by rasing a fund by taxing them, to be appropriated to their collonization in Africa, or by petition to the general Government for a location for them in the far West."

PAR Number 11286001

State: North Carolina Year: 1860
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred ninety-four Mecklenburg, Iredell, and Cabarrus county residents demand "a more stringent law, to meet the exigency of the times." They point to "the unpaid and inefficient system of Patrol" as the "causes in which crime and insubordination have their outbirth." The petitioners charge that, in addition to the "incendiaries from abroad," it is the "evil-disposed persons located in our midst who carry on an unlawful traffic with slaves" which induces them to commit murder, robbery, and arson. They further believe that punishments for said crimes are "totally inadequate."

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 11382005

State: South Carolina Year: 1820
Location: Beaufort Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Sixty-four residents of St. Helena Parish are "convinced of the pernicious condition resulting to the State of So Ca from the number of Free persons of colour within her limits," and they "beg leave respectfully to bring the subject before" the Legislature. They contend that the state "not only derives no Strength from the class of which we complain, but is essentially injured; the example of indolence and vice exhibited by the coloured free persons is perpetually before the slaves; they encourage insubordination by principle as well as example"; they also cite that "coloured labourers" take jobs from the "white mechanics." The petitioners "cannot believe that you will permit a class so useless, pernicious, and degrading to the character of the State, to Supplant the intelligent industrious" persons who would be so essential to the State's "physical and moral strength." They therefore pray "that you will take the whole subject into consideration, and make such provision for the removal of the free coloured persons."

PAR Number 11382410

State: South Carolina Year: 1824
Location: Clarendon Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eighty residents of Clarendon, Claremont, and Richland districts and St. John's and St. Steven's parishes seek a reward for a slave named Royal, who provided information about the location of the camp of a runaway gang leader named Joe, or Forest, which led to Joe's capture. During the administration of Governor Thomas Bennett (1820-1822), the executive branch offered a reward, as did the relatives of a white man named Ford who had been murdered by Joe; however, the runaway was "so cunning and artful as to elude pursuit." Emboldened by his success, he "plunged deeper and deeper into Crime, until neither fear nor danger could deter him first from threatening and then from executing a train of mischief we believe quite without a parrallel in this Country." They report that a number of "runaways flew to his Camp, and he soon became their head and their life." Joe inspired his followers with the "most Wild and dangerous enthusiasm" and he continued as leader of his band for four years, inculcating among his fellow slaves "the most dangerous notions" of "insubordination and insurrections." His activities kept whites in "a constant state of uneasiness and alarm." In October 1823, residents organized several infantry companies and scoured various sections along the Santee river and its tributaries, but the distances (sixty miles by land) and extremely hot weather wore them down. About to give up, they were surprised when a slave named Royal, belonging to Mrs. Perrin of Richland District, revealed the location of Joe's camp. The militia startled the runaways, who had a boat and muskets but failed to escape; Joe and three of his followers were shot and killed on the spot, and the others were dispersed. Most of them were either hunted down and killed, or captured and hanged. The petitioners therefore pray that "this slave on account of his good Conduct and faithfulness" be rewarded for the services he rendered.

PAR Number 11382913

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

Abstract: Twenty-three planters of Christ Church Parish seek to repeal the 1821 law that imposed the death penalty on whites convicted of killing slaves. The petitioners argue "that inflicting the punishment of death on a white man for killing a slave, who is a property, instead of exacting a fine for the loss of that property, was placing the white inhabitants on a footing which would not be admitted by Juries of our countrymen, and hence that the penalty would never be inflicted in any case however enormous." They avow that the said law made slaves more aggressive and thus encouraged ideas of insubordination and emancipation. The planters further assert that the law hindered their ability to put down gangs of runaways, whereby "such negroes as have in Consequence of this Combination of fatal circumstances remained out for Years, at length cease to respect the whites" and become reckless and launch attacks against plantations, plundering stock and goods. In detailing circumstances where the deaths of runaway slave have "been brought on them by the aggravating circumstances attending their depredations," they relate how one slave family joined a group of runaways in the woods, and after the mother and father were killed, the children (one of whom had been born in the woods) surrendered. The planters seek redress from "so grievous a state of anarchy" and demand that runaway slaves be considered outlaws and "deprived of the benefit of the Laws and out of the protection of the State."

PAR Number 11382920

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

Abstract: Twenty-three planters of Christ Church Parish seek to repeal the 1821 law that imposed the death penalty on whites convicted of killing slaves. The petitioners argue "that inflicting the punishment of death on a white man for killing a slave, who is a property, instead of exacting a fine for the loss of that property, was placing the white inhabitants on a footing which would not be admitted by Juries of our countrymen, and hence that the penalty would never be inflicted in any case however enormous." They avow that the said law made slaves more aggressive and thus encouraged ideas of insubordination and emancipation. The planters further assert that the law hindered their ability to put down gangs of runaways, whereby "such negroes as have in Consequence of this Combination of fatal circumstances remained out for Years, at length cease to respect the whites" and become reckless and launch attacks against plantations, plundering stock and goods. In detailing circumstances where the deaths of runaway slave have "been brought on them by the aggravating circumstances attending their depredations," they relate how one slave family joined a group of runaways in the woods, and after the mother and father were killed, the children (one of whom had been born in the woods) surrendered. The planters seek redress from "so grievous a state of anarchy" and demand that runaway slaves be considered outlaws and "deprived of the benefit of the Laws and out of the protection of the State."

PAR Number 11677703

State: Virginia Year: 1777
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: Edmond Ruffin Jr.'s slave Dick was apprehended attempting to board one of Lord Dunmore's ships. The Committee of Safety decided to send Dick, who displayed an "insolent and seditious Disposition," to the West Indies or to the lead mines as an example to other disloyal blacks. Dick, however, died before the example could be set, and the owner seeks compensation.

PAR Number 11681526

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Nansemond Location Type: County

Abstract: In his will John Yeates bequeathed "Sundry Slaves towards the Support of two free schools." Citizens of the county now claim, however that the slaves, however, have become "a total expense." Some are sick with "Afflictions," others have young children, some of the men are disorderly, absconding part of the year, and still others refuse to hire out to certain employers. Residents ask that the Board of Trustees for the schools be permitted to sell the slaves at their discretion.

PAR Number 11681706

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Campbell Location Type: County

Abstract: On a trip to Kentucky, slaveholder George Whitlocke took along his personal servant Edmund, but when Edmund misbehaved Whitlocke left him behind in Kentucky "as a method of punishment." Several years later, Edmund is still in Kentucky, but, Whitlocke says, he has expressed "great contrition for the offence he had committed" and is very anxious to return to Virginia. For his part, Whitlocke, who inherited Edmund from his parents, is loathe to leave him in Kentucky. And "he was about to give orders for" Edmund's return, "when he was told, to his surprise, that he could not do so without violating a law of the commonwealth." Edmund, Whitlocke avers, "was raised with great care & tenderness by your petitioners parents, with whom he was always a great favorite, & at their death, was left as a specific legacy to your petitioner. Your petitioner regards him, in this point of view, as a memorial of parental affection peculiarly interesting to his feelings, & it would be a subject of deepest regret to him thro his whole life if, by the stern inflexibility of the law, co-operating with his own unfortunate ignorance, the sacred intention of the authors of his existence should be frustrated." Whitlocke seeks permission to bring Edmund back to his "native country."

PAR Number 11682104

State: Virginia Year: 1821
Location: Greenbrier Location Type: County

Abstract: The administrators and administratrix of the estate of John Welch ask to sell Henry, a "likely and valuable negroe" who was in the habit of running away. Henry is obstinate, perverse, and unruly; he has made repeated attempts to escape to Ohio, and he possesses "high notions of liberty." He could not be hired out profitably, and he might be entirely lost to the estate.

PAR Number 11683306

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

Abstract: Alice Kelley writes that in 1832, her slave Anthony "became deranged in mind" and "spread consternation and dismay throughout the neighbourhood." Lately, he has become "more furious and ungovernable than ever." Kelley is a widow who has only an eleven-year-old son to help her, while Anthony is "a strong, athletic man." She not only fears for her own safety, but her neighbors' safety as well. He might, she contends, escape and commit "greater outrages than he has already." She asks to have him placed in the Lunatic Hospital at Williamsburg, or Stanton, or in the county jail.

PAR Number 11683514

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

Abstract: James Haskins's uncle, John Haskins Sr., is insane. His estate consists of a 1046-acre tract of land, thirteen male slaves ages seventeen to fifty, fourteen female slaves ages sixteen to sixty, and eleven slave children ages one to eight. The slaves are unproductive, difficult to manage, and a "nuisance to the neighbourhood." John Haskins, representing a group of relatives, asks that the land and slaves--except the uncle's personal body servant Tom--be sold and the proceeds, perhaps $20,000, be invested at 5 percent, which would be more than enough to maintain his uncle comfortably.

PAR Number 11683602

State: Virginia Year: 1836
Location: Gloucester Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred eighty-four citizens of Gloucester County are convinced "that the difficulty of keeping their slaves in proper subjection is daily increasing, and that it becomes them, with a due regard to their interests, to adopt some efficient means of remedying the evil." They assert that "the principle cause to be assigned for the insubordination existing, at present among the slave population, is the residence of the Free people of colour, who not only add nothing to the effective labour of the County, but are dissolute in their morals, and by their example promote sedition and vice of every kind among the slaves." The petitioners propose that $15,000 be borrowed "to be reimbursed by an annual tax to be levied on the people of the County, with the intent that the sum thus raised should be applied to the removal of the free people of colour." They therefore "avail themselves of this occasion respectfully to suggest the absolute necessity in reference to their interests as slave-owners of adopting such measures ... to check the efforts of the Northern fanaticks who are advocating the propriety of the immediate abolition of slavery in the South, and who by means of pamphlets and other publications of an incendiary character distributed through the Post Office or by their hired emisaries are endeavouring to disseminate their hateful and dangerous principles among our blacks."

PAR Number 11683631

State: Virginia Year: 1836
Location: Gloucester Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty-six citizens of Gloucester County are convinced "that the difficulty of keeping their slaves in proper subjection is daily increasing, and that it becomes them, with a due regard to their interests, to adopt some efficient means of remedying the evil." They assert that "the principle cause to be assigned for the insubordination existing, at present among the slave population, is the residence of the Free people of colour, who not only add nothing to the effective labour of the County, but are dissolute in their morals, and by their example promote sedition and vice of every kind among the slaves." The petitioners propose that $15,000 be borrowed "to be reimbursed by an annual tax to be levied on the people of the County, with the intent that the sum thus raised should be applied to the removal of the free people of colour." They therefore "avail themselves of this occasion respectfully to suggest the absolute necessity in reference to their interests as slave-owners of adopting such measures ... to check the efforts of the Northern fanaticks who are advocating the propriety of the immediate abolition of slavery in the South, and who by means of pamphlets and other publications of an incendiary character distributed through the Post Office or by their hired emisaries are endeavouring to disseminate their hateful and dangerous principles among our blacks."

PAR Number 11684815

State: Virginia Year: 1848
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: Residents of Clarksville ask that John and Lewis Wimbish be permitted to operate a ferry across the Roanoke River. Currently, the only ferry is operated by James Somerville, who charges them the full sixteen cents permitted by law. They pay the same when they have business across the river at the court house. Moreover, Somerville "keeps no white persons at his ferry" and his slaves "are disorderly drunken and unaccomodating." The landing is a "rallying point for drinking & Gambling on the Sabbath day and of nights when large numbers of slaves from the surrounding Country Congregate and Carry on a Contraband trade." The petitioners believe that fifteen hundred dollars a year would be adequate to pay to the overseers of the two ferries.

PAR Number 20184105

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

Abstract: After marrying Sarah Duncan in 1836, Jacob Smith instructed his children and servants to respect his new wife "as children & Servants ought to do, towards a mother & mistress." But, Smith charges, Sarah "never appeared happy, or content in their company nor spoke to, or communed pleasantly with them; her conversation with them was at all times in strains of anger & unpleasantness." Less than seven months after the marriage, Susan left. Now, Smith asks for divorce.

PAR Number 20184315

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

Abstract: Nathaniel Hooe amends his original petition against William A. Harrison, filed 12 July 1842, which is still pending in court. At issue is the fate of certain slaves who are currently in the possession of the defendant. Hooe claims that "said slaves were subject to be recalled at the pleasure of your orator," but Harrison has refused to acknowledge Hooe's claim to the property. Hooe says that "he places a far greater value on the said slaves themselves than any compensation in money which he might recover at law" because many of these slaves have been "a part of his black family of negroes" for many years. The petitioner "seeks & desires a restoration of the slaves themselves, the identical property loaned and not their value in money."

PAR Number 20184612

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

Abstract: In 1844, at age fifteen, Catherine Awtry married Harvey Snow without her father's permission and "without her own consent being fully and freely and willingly given." A few months later, Catherine charges, Harvey went to the kitchen and remained there "until a late hour in the night in company with his negro woman." Later, she says, he engaged in "criminal intercourse and Sexual connection with his own Negro woman Slave in his own house and had a child by her the off spring of his illicit connection." Catherine further charges that Harvey permitted the female slave "to abuse her in a most shameful and improper manner." In 1845, Harvey abandoned Catherine and migrated to Mississippi. When he returned, he went back to living with his slave and Catherine was forced heir home. Catharine asks for expenses to prosecute her suit, divorce and alimony.

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