Race and Slavery Petitions Project

Search Results

Your subject search returned 85 total results.

Displaying 25 results per page.

PAR Number 11381905

State: South Carolina Year: 1819
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Seventy-one white working men in Columbia seek legislation that prohibits slave owners from allowing skilled slaves to hire their own time. They suggest several "inconveniences & injuries arising from the aforesaid practice": that when slaves hire their time from their owners "to contract to do a job for any person, there is no remedy for his failing to do it"; a skilled slave, due to his "greater cheapness in his living ... is able to work cheaper & still make his wages than it is possible for white Journeymen to do & maintain their families"; and the wages of skilled slaves "in most cases" are "spent in the indulgence of vicious habits." The petitioners also request that "your Honourable Body see the necessity of prohibiting by Law such negro mechanics from taking apprentices to learn their respective Trades."

PAR Number 11382014

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

Abstract: Twenty-nine citizens of Kershaw District "represent as an evil the premission of Slaves, and free persons of colour, at Military reviews and muster grounds." They contend that "the true policy of the State is to prevent them from being present at such places, and on such occasions, as would enable them to witness and become acquainted, with the use of arms." The also argue that "martial music, and the warlike movement of troops are calculated to fire their bosoms with feelings, which, at an evil hour, may burst forth with distructive fury, and distroy the peace and lives of our fellow citizens." The petitioners "also present as an evil the practice ... of premitting slaves, and free persons of colour, to serve as musicians in military corps, and at military reviews." They therefore submit their concerns “to your honorable body, trusting that you will take them into serious consideration, and dispose of them for the best interests of the State.”

PAR Number 11382222

State: South Carolina Year: 1822
Location: Richland Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Two hundred eighty-nine citizens of Richland District seek laws preventing owners from allowing their slaves to hire their own time. They aver that "the demoralizing effects which such a practice is calculated to produce, is daily manifested by the dissolute lives of slaves who are thus licenced, and the baneful influence of their examples on the conduct of others." They further decry that skilled slaves "are enabled to labor at cheaper rates than the free white population of the same employments, and thus monopolize, in a great measure, the different mechanical trades; too frequently at the expense and sacrifice of the industrious white mechanic." The petitioners argue "that the vital interests of the whole community are materially interested and concerned, and eminently endangered by the pursuit and in the continuance of this alarming practice, as has been too palpably manifested by the recent and serious occurences in the city of Charleston, in which the principal plot and scheme originated and was matured by the machinations of this very class of our black population." They therefore pray that such laws be enacted "as will immediately and effectually suppress this dangerous and growing practice."

PAR Number 11382230

State: South Carolina Year: 1822
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Ann Drayton Perry avers that her slave Agrippa was "condemned to Transportation, by the Court, organised for the Trial of Slaves and others, charged with attempting to raise an Insurrection." She argues, however, that Agrippa's name "was never mentioned nor given in, in any of the lists made out by the Conspirators that gave evidence in behalf of the State"; indeed, he only came before the court "as a witness in favor of" Captain Sims's slave Scipio. The petitioner charges that Agrippa's guilt stemmed from the testimony of Perault, "(a fellow possessing intelligence and understanding above the generality of Negroes, glorying in the part he was to act, and boasting he would do it again, if an opportunity offered.) She relates that, in bargaining to rent a horse from Perault, Agrippa had said that he planned to use the horse "to do a thing good for you and good for me," which Perault "understood was to go to raise men for the Insurrection." Perry insists that this statement is hardly sufficient to banish Agrippa from the limits of the United States. Noting that the freeholders estimate Agrippa to be worth $1,000, the petitioner prays that "your Honorable Body ... will be pleased to restore her the Negro; or if, in your justice and wisdom, you should deem the sacrifice necessary, that you will give her the value of the slave."

PAR Number 11382317

State: South Carolina Year: 1823
Location: Edisto Island Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: The "officers of the Edisto Island Auxiliary Association" assert that "a sacred regard for the safety of their property, and the welfare of the State, have forcibly induced them to establish a Society, in aid of the constituted authorities, with respect to the regulation of the Coloured Population." They purport that "it is not necessary only that the civil authorities should display their customary alertness and devotion to the public weal, but that the zealous aid of every patriotic citizen should be freely offered" to avert a "serious calamity" and "forever crush the spirit of insubordination and revolt." The petitioners point out that "the white population of Edisto Island is to the Black, as 200 to 3000, or as 1 to 15." In addition, the petitioners argue, the "ties of consanguinity and interest are insufficient to prevent even our neighbours from publicly thundering their anathemas against the holders of Slaves; neither moral considerations or political motives can restrain their demagogues from infusing into the bosoms of our credulous and superstitious coloured people, the most dangerous and revolting doctrines." They therefore "respectfully beg" that the Edisto Island Auxiliary Association "may be incorporated as a Body Politic."

PAR Number 11382808

State: South Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Joseph Johnson, Intendant of the Charleston City Council, raises many concerns to the members of the House of Representatives, one such concern being "the number of Schools publickly kept for the instruction of persons of Colour in reading and writing." Johnson is of the opinion that instruction is "injurious to the Community." He purports that "to be able to read and to write is certainly not necessary to the performance of those duties which are usually required of our Slaves and on the contrary is incompatible with the public safety." Johnson further argues that "the knowledge of the art of writing will enable persons of this class to carry on illicit traffic, to communicate privately among themselves and to evade those regulations that are intended to prevent confederations among them," whereby it will be "impossible to distinguish between the free and the slave of our coloured population." He therefore knows "of no remedy so effectual and at the same time so little liable to objection as the absolute prohibition of all Schools for the instruction of Coloured persons." In addition, Johnson asks that the practice of owners and others in hiring slaves and free persons of color in their stores and shops be halted. In addition to denying employment to the white population, this situation introduces "the Coloured population and especially slaves into situations which are inconsistent with their Condition." The petitioner suggests "that the system of slavery is so interwoven with the constitution of our Society that even if our interests permitted it would be impossible to eradicate it." He believes, therefore, that "it becomes highly important that the regulations necessary for maintaining this state of things in peace and security should be permanently established and regularly maintained."

PAR Number 11382809

State: South Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Joseph Johnson, Intendant of the Charleston City Council, raises many concerns to the members of the Senate, one such concern being "the number of Schools publickly kept for the instruction of persons of Colour in reading and writing." Johnson is of the opinion that instruction is "injurious to the Community." He purports that "to be able to read and to write is certainly not necessary to the performance of those duties which are usually required of our Slaves, and on the contrary is incompatible with the public safety." Johnson further argues that "the knowledge of the art of writing will enable persons of this class to carry on illicit traffic, to communicate privately among themselves and to evade those regulations that are intended to prevent confederations among them," whereby it will be "impossible to distinguish between the free and the slave of our coloured population." He therefore knows "of no remedy so effectual and at the same time so little liable to objection as the absolute prohibition of all shools for the instruction of coloured persons." In addition, Johnson asks that the practice of owners and others in hiring slaves and free persons of color in their stores and shops be halted. In addition to denying employment to the white population, this situation introduces "the coloured population and especially slaves, into situations which are inconsistent with their condition." The petitioner suggests "that the system of Slavery is so interwoven with the constitution of our Society that even if our interests permitted it would be impossible to eradicate it." He believes, therefore, that "it becomes highly important that the regulations necessary for maintaining this State of things in peace and security should be permanently established and regularly maintained."

PAR Number 11382813

State: South Carolina Year: 1828
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: One hundred eleven "sundry mechanics of the City of Charleston" complain that they are suffering from a lack of trade and unemployment due to the unfair competition from "Negro and Colored Workmen." They suggest that the 1822 statute outlawing slave self-hire be amended “as to make it completely effective of its purpose.” They lament "that almost all the Trades, but especially those of Carpenters, Bricklayers, Plasterers, Wheelwrights, House-painters, Shoe-makers, &c are beginning to be engrossed by Black & Colored workmen; that they are multiplying in a prodigious ratio; and, that Charleston, already swarming with a population of Free blacks, and of Slaves, more Licentious than if they were Free, must in a very short time be in the condition of a West Indian Town, which it will be impossible to defend without a Regular Military Force." They therefore pray "for such relief in the premises, as to your Honorable Body it may seem most expedient to grant them." The petitioners also request permission to form “themselves into an Association by the style of ‘the Charleston Mechanics’ Association’.”

PAR Number 11383702

State: South Carolina Year: 1837
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: William Dunn asks to emancipate a twelve-year-old slave, William, whose mother is "light yellow" and whose father is white. Dunn declares that said child is "so very white and of so good a complexion, as not to create even a suspicion on the mind of the most critical observer" that he is a person of color. He further avers that the said William "has in his raising been kept, thus far, separate and apart, from the Society of coloured people, and has, consequently not imbibed any of the principles or habits peculiar to them." The petitioner insists that "it is inconsistent, with [his] feelings ... to retain in slavery, a person, who approximates, so closely in identity of colour, habits and appearance to that of the white man." He therefore prays that an act be passed "granting your petitioner leave and authorizing him to emancipate the said little Boy William with permission for him to remain in the State."

PAR Number 11384302

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

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

PAR Number 11385601

State: South Carolina Year: 1856
Location: Abbeville Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: The "Trustees of the Estate of Dr De La Howe and the Lethe School" ask that the legislature "authorize the purchase four negroes, two men and two women, that is, two men and their wives" for use at the school and on the Lethe Farm. The petitioners argue that "it is a difficult matter to find a negro to hire, and when one is found, the probability is that he is such an abandoned character as to make him of little value." They purport that purchasing slave couples, on the other hand, would provide a more stable labor force and the cost of interest on money borrowed to purchase four slaves would be less than yearly hiring costs. They therefore assert that "the advantages to the proper and successful management of the Estate by purchasing are so clear and decided in its favour, that the Trustees deem it unnecessary to say any thing further, but request your Honorable body to take the matter into consideration."

PAR Number 11385803

State: South Carolina Year: 1858
Location: Marion Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Thirty-seven residents of Marion County seek to strengthen the law preventing slaves from hiring their own time. The petitioners argue that "nothing is so injurious to the institution of slavery as the loose manner in which some owners maintain their authority and we deem this hiring by Slaves of their own time, either directly or indirectly, as especially demoralizing to the slaves and injurious to other owners of slaves." They assert that the law, which levies a fine of $50 as a penalty, is "ineffectual in remedying the evil." The fine, they assert, is "trifling," and it is very difficult to bring cases to court. The petitioners ask that the penalties be increased and that magistrates “have jurisdiction of such offences,” furnishing them “with a Jury if any Constitutional difficulties intervene."

PAR Number 11484904

State: Tennessee Year: 1849
Location: Rutherford Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred six petitioners "beseech [the Legislature] ... to repeal all laws legalising the sale of ardent Spirits in tippling houses or elsewhere." Among other arguments, they assert that "there is a class, a race of population amongst, but not of us: a class that Providence has permitted the Caucasian to hold in subjection, a subjection now rendered necessary by our relative positions, for the ending of which the most sagacious political economist can see no time." They further espouse "the theory has been adopted and is now acted upon; that the ignorance of that class is necessary to its degradation, and its degradation to our security -- And this class having no intellectual and but little moral culture to restrain and direct them" and that "the excess in use of ardent spirits is becoming the pervading passion of their class we know; but we cannot see, and cannot know how or when or where the poison is dealt out to them." The petitioners "tremble at the consequences to which this may lead -- The white man has cultivated intellect and strong endearments to subdue or restrain him in his madness; yet when his passions are inflamed by drink his desperate hand breaks the dearest ties, and spills the most cherished blood. But what is to restrain besotted slavery from filling the land with blood and conflagration? The details might be imagined but they are too horrible for reflection."

PAR Number 11586101

State: Texas Year: 1861
Location: Harrison Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-two white mechanics in Harrison County seek the passage of a bill "to prevent the competition and encouragement of Negro Mechanick." They believe that "it is not just or right to give Slaves the advantages or liberties that they are now endeavoring to take or get to put down white Workmen whose daily living is made by the sweat of their brow in their industrious pursuits." They "most solemnly object to being put in competition with Negro Mechanicks who are to rival us in the obtaining of contracts for the construction of Houses Churches and other Buildings." The petitioners declare "Negroes forever but Negroes in their places (viz: in Corn & Cotton Fields) and if there are those who have Negro Mechanicks to do their own work let them have them but we do not want to be equalized with them by allowing them to go at large contracting for jobs of work ... or to be made the Competitors of Negros in this a true Southern State." They ask that a law be passed "to confine them to the hire of some Workman or Undertaker whose duty it will be to keep them in their places and under proper control without the owner or Master being at all injured."

PAR Number 11680507

State: Virginia Year: 1805
Location: Petersburg Location Type: City

Abstract: The mayor and other officials of the city of Petersburg bring to the legislature several recommendations to control the growth of the free black population and regulate their freedom of movement, and to curb the growth of the slave population and even perhaps eliminate the pernicious influence their presence has on the white population's ability to enjoy peace and security. The first measure the concerned citizens offer the legislature is one that aims at "repealing or at least suspending the operations of the laws authorizing the emancipation of slaves." Second, they recommend "restricting the residence of blacks, if practicable, to the Counties or places in which they were born or liberated." Third they recommend that measures be taken to restrict "the residence of black people in the towns, at and below the falls of the rivers." The result would be the "diminishing" of the free population and "after a given period they would soon be replaced by a white population from other states and other Countries and consequently increase our relative numbers with the blacks, and add much to the security of our eastern frontier." Finally, the last recommendation offered by the good citizens of Petersburg is to place the state of Virginia, via its legislature, at the center of a purchasing scheme that would eventually eliminate the slave population. They recommend that a tax of one half of one percent be levied to create a fund upon which the state would draw to buy slaves, in a ratio of one male to two females, from individual owners and ship them out of state. Should taxation not be feasible or acceptable, a lottery could be created for that purpose. The desire of the concerned citizens to thus control, reduce, and even eliminate black people living among them is based on their understanding that the laws of human nature and the prevalent ideas of the time are powerful incentives to the oppressed population to lay claim to their right to liberty. Indeed, they say, "with such a population so formidable, placed as they are in a state of imperfect freedom, beneath the character and dignity of free white men, we can calculate nothing on their friendships; on the contrary we may reasonably presume that they will perpetually progress in the rational spirit of liberty." To prove their point, the good citizens of Petersburg quote Jefferson, "whose physical, moral and political researches are ungrafted on a profound elevation of mind devoted to the happiness of man." Jefferson poses and answers the question: "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm bases, a conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" Indeed, says Jefferson, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever—that considering numbers, nature and natural means only a revolution of the wheel of fortune or exchange of situation is among possible events." Whatever Jefferson's deep meaning in such musings the people of Petersburg interpret them as sounding the alarm about what might happen in a slave society where the numbers of white to black has risen out of proportion. Do we want to be, they say, the next Santo Domingo?

PAR Number 11683108

State: Virginia Year: 1831
Location: Charles City

Abstract: Sixty-three residents of Charles City County assert "that it is the almost universal custom with the owners of Mills in this county, and indeed in the whole of the lower part of the state to employ, coloured persons, slaves, to attend to their mills and to do the duties of miller." They further complain "that the grievances under which they labour in consequence of this custom, are burdensome and ought to be redressed." The petitioners contend that "few or none of them thus employed are honest, and we are all of us constantly subjected to great inconvenience & much vexation." They charge that "in the neighbourhood of almost every mill there are located squads of free negroes, who it is believed are sustained almost entirely, by the millers, with the unlawful gains, taken from their customers and these slave millers are a sort of link of communication between our slaves and the free persons of colour." They therefore "take leave to suggest that if a law were passed, requiring every owner of a mill to keep employed as his miller a white man ... much if not all of the grievance under which we labour might be redressed."

PAR Number 11683213

State: Virginia Year: 1832
Location: Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-six "inhabitants & Freeholders of the County of Hanover" react "with concern and astonishment" to the "doctrines [that] have been advocated & published to the world, and questions debated from day to day which fill the whole community with alarm." Deploring that "the right to property amounting to one hundred millions of dollars has been questioned," the petitioners report that "it has been said that no abolition will be attempted unless full compensation be made to the owners of the slaves"; they strongly retort that "this notion of compensation is the most extraordinary that ever entered into the mind of man. Whence is the compensation to proceed? From the state. The state is the people." This, they assert, would mean that "the slaveholders then are to pay themselves for their own slaves." The petitioners purport that "slaves while kept in subjection are submissive and easily controlled, but let any number of them be indulged with the hope of freedom ... that they reject constraint and become almost wholly unmanageable." They further decry that "it is the expectation of liberty, & by that alone, that they can be rendered a dangerous population." Of the opinion that "our slaves are a cheerful & contented race strongly attached to their owners," the petitioners therefore urge the legislature "to abstain from every attempt to provide for the emancipation of the slaves partial or general, immediate or prospective in any manner whatsoever."

PAR Number 11683707

State: Virginia Year: 1837
Location: Westmoreland Location Type: County

Abstract: The laws prohibiting persons from retailing liquor without a license are ineffective, four residents of Westmoreland County explain. Few cases are brought before grand juries, while many persons of "abandoned character are engaged in this illegal traffick." This was detrimental to the morals of slaves, who plunder from their masters to buy "ardent spirits." Residents argue for harsher penalties.

PAR Number 20183913

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

Abstract: Eveline Whetstone seeks a divorce from her husband. Upon her marriage to Evans Whetstone in 1830, her father, William Ratcliff, sent her a slave for a "cook and a washer woman Your Oratrix Never having been accustomed to Cooking and washing." Shortly after her marriage, her husband "commenced his most cruel treatment towards your Oratrix threatened to whip her for not having milk for him and for spitting on the floor accused her of lying and used many other opprobrious epithets." He compelled the petitioner "to do all the cooking generally for the family both whites and Blacks. He also commanded your Oratrix to do the washing." Eveline describes cruel treatment "not more than three weeks before the birth of her youngest daughter he abused her much." She also recounts that Evans threatened her life, testifying that one time "he loaded in her presence two guns and told her if she did not go home to her Father's he would blow her brains out and lay with an open knife in his bed for some time." Furthermore, he told the slaves that "if she attempted to correct them to whip her." She states that her husband ordered a slave "to get into her lap and kiss her[,] Compared the personal likeness of one of his Negro women to your oratrix and gave the preference to the Negro." When Eveline Whetstone fled the house with her two daughters, her husband applied for a license to marry another woman. Although his request was rejected at first, he succeeded the second time. He is now living with his "pretended" wife. Eveline seeks a divorce.

PAR Number 20285908

State: Arkansas Year: 1859
Location: Calhoun Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Jane Ledlow Pennington seeks the revocation of Alfred B. Lary as guardian of her child, Adam S. H. M. Ledlow, son of her deceased husband, Adam S. Ledlow. In 1855, following her husband's death, the court appointed Alfred B. Lary as guardian of the boy. She charges that, even though Lary has requested and received funds from the trustee of her son's estate, he has treated the boy in a cruel and inhumane manner, has not provided him with proper clothing, letting him run "filthy, dirty, and unwholesome," and has permitted him to associate freely and intimately with his slaves. Moreover, Mary Jane Pennington claims, she has been prevented from seeing her son. She prays that Lary be summoned to appear before the court and removed from his guardianship. Related testimonies reveal that Adam Ledlow was the owner of a handsome estate in Alabama, including a number of slaves.

PAR Number 20381804

State: Delaware Year: 1818
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: James Riddle asks to export and sell his slave, William Jones, who has been prosecuted but not convicted of "a Highway Robbery." Riddle tried to reform Jones but discovered it was not possible; shortly after he put him on his farm "to ascertain if he could be reclaimed," Riddle discovered that Jones had stolen a considerable amount of property from one of the neighbors. Citing community pressure for the removal of Jones, the petitioner prays that he be granted "a permit or License to export sell or carry out for sale from this State into the State of Maryland or Virginia the aforesaid negro slave William Jones."

PAR Number 20382306

State: Delaware Year: 1823
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Residents of Kent County ask that James Whitaker Sr. be permitted to sell his slave Luke, an outrageous fellow who has "run his said Master to more than one hundred Dollars Cost and is stealing and trading away his said Masters Property."

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 20482808

State: District of Columbia Year: 1828
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: Henry Forrest seeks to settle a title dispute regarding the ownership of Mary, a female slave. Forrest purchased Mary and her mother Polly "with a view to prevent them from being removed to a distant part of the United States, and from being separated from their friends." He agreed to pay $400 to purchase the slaves, "a price much larger than they were really worth." Forrest later discovered that Colvin Smith, Mary's owner, had no legal title to her. Forrest asks for an injunction preventing Smith from collecting payment for Mary.

PAR Number 20483402

State: District of Columbia Year: 1834
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: David Young seeks to settle a title dispute over a slave family. "Watt, aged about 50 years, his wife Rachel aged about 35 years, with their two children Jenny aged about five years & John aged about two years," were purchased for $500 by Young from Delia Norris, now deceased. Young still owed $400 for the purchase of the slaves. Half of the debt was to be paid to Louise and half to James R. B. Norris, the children of said Delia. Young paid $200 to Louise and executed a note for the remaining $200 for the benefit of James R. B. Norris, who was a "minor & was run away absconding." The said James now claims ownership of the slaves, alleging that they were part of the estate of his late father. Young seeks an injunction to prevent James R. B. Norris from seizing the slaves and asks that they may be held by the marshal until the dispute is settled.

Next 25 Results