Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11000002

State: Mississippi

Abstract: The petitioners assert that the 1809 law requiring retailers to take an oath that they would neither buy nor sell liquor to slaves without written permission from the slaveholder "is unequal unnecessary and unjust." Some retailers, the petitioners note, fail to obtain a license, and some private citizens sell liquor to slaves. Moreover, not all merchants obey the law. Thus when slaveholders send their domestic servants to stores without permission slips some merchants refuse to sell the slaves "the smallest trifle" while others sell items to the slave "without the formality of any permission in writing." They urge the legislature to consider the "necessity of reform."

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 11085703

State: Mississippi Year: 1857
Location: Oktibbeha Location Type: County

Abstract: William Bell requests compensation for expenses incurred during the prosecution of J. J. Rainwater, convicted of "trafficing & bartering with slaves." Rainwater was "a dangerous man in a slave community," inducing slaves to steal from their owners. One of Bell's slaves, for example, stole $260 from him and took the money to Rainwater, who "appropriated it to his own use." Bell retained attorneys and paid their fees. When a criminal indictment was handed down, Rainwater fled to parts unknown, forfeiting $500 in securities. Bell seeks a portion of the forfeiture.

PAR Number 11086201

State: Mississippi Year: 1862
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: Sarah Garrett was indicted and found guilty on three charges of "permitting her slaves to go at large and trade as freemen." She was fined $500 in each case. Citizens of Madison County request that an act be passed "remitting the fine imposed in said cases" because she was "utterly ignorant of the existence of the law under which she was indicted." Sarah, a widow with four children, including two in the army and another recently killed in the war, was forced to permit the slaves to "hire their time" to support herself and her remaining child. One of the slaves hired out as a barber and two others as draymen.

PAR Number 11279210

State: North Carolina Year: 1792
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: Nine Franklin County Justices of the Peace represent that John Webb, the "at present and acting Justice of the peace ... Stands charged with vices and crimes So immoral and unbecoming the Dignity of a Magistrate, that they cannot with a Suitable Degree of Respect for themselves and the office they hold continue to act in concert with him." They accuse Webb of "Seducing & Trading with Slaves prevailing with them to plunder their Masters and turning this to his own advantage." They therefore pray that the said Webb be prevented "from acting in his Said Capacity of Justice of the Peace until time is given for him either to acquit himself of this charge or that he may be convicted thereof."

PAR Number 11280513

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

Abstract: Maj. William Odom joins six other petitioners in stating that they were recently "try'd for a Riot, prosecuted by a Mullattoe by the name of Elisha Cumboe." He explains that the said Elisha is a part of "a family of these Mullattoes who are well known to be of Infamous Characters" and that they "are envious malicious & dangerous persons, having a Villanous Clan about them." Williams reports that said "riot" originated when William Townsend "prosecuted & Convicted a Brother of said Elisha Cumboe for Larceny" and the said Elisha, "out of revenge," went to Townsend's plantation and "shot & kill'd a valuable Horse of his." They admit that "for this Offence your petitioners proceeded to apprehend said Cumboe, perhaps without the Legal process of Law;" Cumboe brought suit and Maj. Odom was fined fifteen pounds and the other petitioners incurred a ten-pound fine. Asserting that "the whole of the conduct of your petitioners was Instigated by an ardent wish to procure order & good Neighborhood," the petitioners pray that they be released from the payment of said fines.

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 11283105

State: North Carolina Year: 1831
Location: Lenoir Location Type: County

Abstract: Eighty-seven residents of Lenoir County seek "to exclude all coloured retailers of Cakes, spirits &c from its limits," except those licensed by the county court. They are convinced that the "free negroes & slaves hiring their time, from the adjoining Counties ... have not only produced serious loss & inconvenience by the temptations which are thus held out to their slaves, to steal lambs, pigs, & poultry to barter with them," but also they firmly aver that said persons "do a far more serious & incalculable injury by the facilities thus afforded for the dissemination of seditious writings & notions," noting that "these black pedlars have it in their power to distribute, without suspicion, in every nook ... in the County, the pamphlets ... as well as communicate verbally the murderous plans of a Nat Turner." The petitioners therefore pray that "your Honourable Body ... will further legislate on this matter."

PAR Number 11283107

State: North Carolina Year: 1831
Location: Craven Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-six citizens of Craven County, who "reside upon Neuse river and the adjacent creeks above the town of New Bern," complain about "the large gangs of slaves, who come up from the Town of New Bern ... in boats, with papers from their owners ... to sell, buy, traffick, and fish" in their neighborhoods. The residents argue that by said practice they "are much injured and interrupted both in their vocations, and in the management of their farms and negroes." In addition, they assert that the self-hired blacks "corrupt the slaves of your Petitioners, induce them to run away, and when runaway employ them, in dragging skimming nets for the purpose of catching fish, and pilfering the farms of your Petitioners." They therefore ask that the acts of Assembly be nullified "with regard to Slaves hiring their own time, and likewise the subject of trading with Slaves, and also the indiscriminate permission given to them to fish at large upon the waters of this state."

PAR Number 11284206

State: North Carolina Year: 1842
Location: Wake Location Type: County

Abstract: Commissioners in Raleigh address the "many defects [that] exist in the statute laws of the State relating to slaves and free persons of colour" and propose amendments that will better promote "the peace of the community .. and the happiness of slaves." They declare that "it is well known that for years past a band of unscrupulous fanatics ... have been using every exertion to produce discontent and ultimately to engender rebellion amongst the slaves of the South." They cite that the statutes passed in 1830 and 1831 "forbidding slaves to teach each other, and prohibiting their being taught by white persons, to read or write, figure excepted -- forbidding slaves to go at large as freemen or to preach or exhort in public -- requiring emancipated slaves to leave the state within ninety days after their emancipation -- forbidding the migration of free negroes into this state -- and prohibiting their intermarriage with slaves" were designed not only "to protect the value of slaves as property, but to preserve that due subordination amongst them, and the free negroes which was likely to be disturbed by occurrences in other sections of the country and by the machinations of the reckless spirit of Abolitionism which was springing up in the north." Not presuming to dictate how the laws might be changed, the petitioners "beg that such provisions may be made as will protect the community in which they live from the many evils” that will occur if the existing statutes, which are easily bypassed or laxly enforced, are not amended.

PAR Number 11284803

State: North Carolina Year: 1848
Location: Pasquotank Location Type: County

Abstract: Fifty-seven citizens of Pasquotank County assert "in this county there is a large slave population, and the morals of our slaves are corruptible by means of the facilities they have in finding a ready market with Retailers and the ease they find in getting ardent spirits." They complain that the "planters are sufferers to a very great extent from thefts committed by the slaves, which thefts they believe in great degree are brought about by the fact that the slave finds a ready market for his stolen produce in the person of the owners or keepers of said retail shops." The petitioners "beg leave humbly and respectfully to suggest to your Honorable Body the propriety of enacting a law for the County of Pasquotank requiring the Tax to be levied upon all Retailing license granted within said county shall hereafter be the sum of Twenty five dollars."

PAR Number 11285105

State: North Carolina Year: 1851
Location: Lincoln Location Type: County

Abstract: James Graham urges the General Assembly to enact legislation "to induce, if not compell, the free Negroes in North Carolina to emigrate to the Abolition and Free Soil States. It appears to me that Negrophobia, which is now raging and rousing up a large number of people in the non-Slaveholding states cannot be cured more effectually than by giving them some strong black medicine out of their own black Bottle." Graham proposes making landlords who rent land to free persons of color liable for all of their tenants' "taxes, contracts, damages, Penalties, fines and costs, and other legal liabilities which colored persons may contract or incur while living thereon: that is, I would make the actual possession of the free Negro, a lien, on the land on which he lived; and let that lien continue until his public and private liabilities were paid." Graham urges such action because "there is a numerous class of the worst sort of Abolitionist dwelling in our midst in the Southern States who clandestinely trade with Slaves and receive stolen goods in payment for ardent spirits and other articles, thereby corrupting and destroying the value of Servants." He proposes that white men convicted of trafficking with slaves be whipped as well as fined.

PAR Number 11285409

State: North Carolina Year: 1854
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred forty-six residents of Mecklenburg County feel themselves "greatly Harrassed and annoyed by the frequent depredations committed on our Poultry Yards by Negroes." They therefore respectfully "petition your Honorable Body for the Passage of a Law Prohibiting entirely, the trade & traffic with Negroes, for either 'Eggs or Poultry.'"

PAR Number 11285703

State: North Carolina Year: 1857
Location: Rowan Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-two residents of Salisbury seek the repeal of recently passed "five gallon law passed as an amendment of the charter of the town of Salisbury at the last General Assembly." They believe said amendment "is contrary to the wishes of a large and respectable minority -- if not a majority -- of the citizens of the town." In addition, they purport that liquor is now being sold "by irresponsible and immoral persons and thus the traffic is changed from men of good moral character to persons of bad character." They maintain that "our slave population" is still corrupted by said individuals, along with "the youth of the town by driving them to these low groceries instead of licensed shops." They therefore "pray you Honourable body to repeal said law."

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 11300005

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

Abstract: Forty-three wharf owners and merchants in Charleston ask the legislature to take action to halt the theft of cotton bales. They assert that “slaves and free persons of Colour, who being able to write, readily manufacture tickets in the name of the owner or employer or any other person, and frequently in the name of a fictitious person” and then sell said cotton and other goods to unscrupulous shopkeepers. They further lament that said trafficking is very difficult to stop and even when suspects are brought in it is difficult to prosecute as the bales have already been shipped out. The petitioners “confidently believe that in the article of Cotton alone, not less than Five Hundred Bales are purchased in illicit traffic by the Shops in Charleston from Slave and free persons of color.” They therefore ask for stricter laws and better enforcement.

PAR Number 11378504

State: South Carolina Year: 1785
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Fifteen residents St. James Santee Parish "present as a Grievance, that Patroons of Schooners and other small Craft are allowed (as they pass and repass up down our Rivers) to Trade, Traffick, Barter, and Sell to, and with Negroes, to the great Prejudice of their Owners and a Manifest hurt to the fair Traders in our City." They "therefore wish that all Fines and forfeitures may be Recovered in a Summary way, and paid into the public Treasury of this State to be appropriated in such Manner as our Legislature may see fit."

PAR Number 11379002

State: South Carolina Year: 1790
Location: Georgetown Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Seventy-four "Inhabitants of Georgetown" represent that they "find the Laws already made for the regulation of the said Town to be very defective." In particular, they request that "Negroes be prevented from Galloping Horses &c through the Streets of the said Town"; that "every person whatever be prevented from Trading with negro slaves or retailing Spiritous Liquors to them on board of vessels with the Harbour of Georgetown"; and that "every person be prevented from Trading with Negro and other Slaves within the Rivers of the said District."

PAR Number 11379003

State: South Carolina Year: 1790
Location: Georgetown Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Seventy-four "Inhabitants of Georgetown" represent that they "find the Laws already made for the regulation of the said Town to be very defective." In particular, they request that "Negroes be prevented from Galloping Horses &c through the Streets of the said Town"; that "every person whatever be prevented from Trading with negro slaves or retailing Spiritous Liquors to them on board of vessels with the Harbour of Georgetown"; and that "every person be prevented from Trading with Negro and other Slaves within the Rivers of the said District."

PAR Number 11379303

State: South Carolina Year: 1793
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: "In behalf of the Whole," eight members of "The Society of Master Coopers of Charleston" express frustration at the "inattention" given by authorities to the law passed 10 May 1740 and revived 12 March 1783 regarding the management of slaves within the state. "[A]t present as well as for considerable Time past," they observe, "the Slaves of Charleston have been privileged (although illegally) to sell traffick and barter, as well as to carry on different Trades and Occupations (free from the Direction or Superintendence of any white Person whatever." They further declare that the black mechanics and tradesmen work "to their own Emolument and the great and manifest Injury of the mechanical part of the Community, selling their Commodities and working at their Trades much lower and at much cheaper Rates, than those persons who are privileged by their Citizenship." The petitioners believe such "Privileges encourage Negroes in Stealing as well as destroy that Subordination which the Situation of this State requires from the Slave towards his master and all other Citizens." The white coopers ask for an act of incorporation, with "Privileges and Rights as are usually granted in such Cases."

PAR Number 11379309

State: South Carolina Year: 1793
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: "In behalf of the whole," eight members of "The Society of Master Coopers of Charleston" express frustration at the "inattention" given by authorities to the law passed 10 May 1740 and revived 12 March 1783 regarding the management of slaves within the state. "[A]t present as well as for considerable Time past," they observe, "the Slaves of Charleston have been privileged (although illegally) to sell traffick and barter, as well as to carry on different Trades and Occupations (free from the Direction or Superintendance of any white Person whatever." They further declare that the black mechanics and tradesmen work "to their own Emolument, and the great and manifest Injury of the mechanical Part of the Community, selling their commodities and working at their Trades much lower, and at much cheaper Rates, than those Persons who are privileged by their Citizenship." The petitioners believe such "privileges encourage Negroes in Stealing as well as destroy that Subordination which the Situation of this State requires from the Slave towards his master and all other Citizens." The white coopers ask for an act of incorporation, with "privileges and Rights as are usually granted in such Cases."

PAR Number 11380601

State: South Carolina Year: 1806
Location: Barnwell Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Nathaniel Heywood, John Gibbes, Ann Gibbes and Daniel Blake oppose a petition that proposes to establish a public landing on “one or other” of their plantations along the Combahee River. They say that a public landing would be met with "very great inconvenience to the Owners thereof, as it would expose their settlements to all the disadvantages which usually attend a Vicinity to public Landings, by giving free access to their plantations to the Idle and the Vagrant" and to the "pedling boats which frequent the river, who want only a public Landing as a Station to enable them to remain in the Vicinity of the large and productive rice plantations, for the purpose of trading with the Negroe Slaves, to the very great loss of the Owners, and Corruption of such Slaves." The petitioners contend, moreover, that there is an "already established" public landing at Dunhams, three miles away by land and five or six by water, used by rice planters in that area of St. Bartholomew's Parish.

PAR Number 11381002

State: South Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Georgetown Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: One hundred one residents of Georgetown submit that they "suffer seriously from the insufficiency of the provisions of the Law for the prevention of illicit traffic with negroes." They believe that "a considerable portion of the crops raised in the vicinity of the said town is sold by Negroes, without tickets; several hundred bushels of rough rice having been found, at different times in the possession of petty shopkeepers, who raised no rice and who could hardly, in any other way, have obtained such large quantities of produce." Purporting that "the love of plunder" has greatly increased, the petitioners point out that "these evil-disposed persons ... have several times attempted to set fire to the town." They therefore pray that their situation be taken into consideration and that they be granted "such pecuniary aid" as to enable "the Town Council of said town to hire a Guard for the protection of the said town."

PAR Number 11381508

State: South Carolina Year: 1815

Abstract: Sixty citizens residing along the Ashepoo and Pon Pon rivers seek the repeal of a 1779 law that established a thirty-foot "cut" between the two rivers and required all males between the ages of sixteen and sixty to maintain the cut or pay an assessment or fine. They reveal that the cut "is now about two feet wide and in places not so deep and is seldom if ever used but by Runaways and Negroes unlawfully trading from River to River." Surrounded by "an immense Swamp of impregnable and uninhabited Marsh and Ti-Ti," they report this "harbour for Runaways" fed, during the War of 1812, a great number of "depredations on Plantations and Rivers [by] Runaways and Outlaws," forcing Governor D. R. Williams to call out the militia. They state that said militiamen captured and executed two of the leaders, Mowby and Dunmore, and hanged several of their associates. The petitioners complain that the cut "prevents the irrigation of a large extent of Land which must ever remain a loss to the State ... as it can never be reclaimed by Fresh water Irrigation and consequently become then the Residence of a white Population." They therefore pray that this law, "haveing become obsolete and a nuisance," be repealed.

PAR Number 11381509

State: South Carolina Year: 1815

Abstract: Sixty-four citizens residing along the Ashepoo and Pon Pon rivers seek the repeal of a 1779 law that established a thirty-foot "cut" between the two rivers and required all males between the ages of sixteen and sixty to maintain the cut or pay an assessment or fine. They reveal that the cut "is now about two feet wide and in places not so deep and is seldom if ever used but by Runaways and Negroes unlawfully trading from River to River." Surrounded by "an immense swamp of impregnable and uninhabited marsh and Ti Ti," they report this "Harbour for Runaways" fed, during the War of 1812, a great number of "depredations on Plantations and Rivers [by] Runaways and Outlaws," forcing Governor D. R. Williams to call out the militia. They state that said militiamen captured and executed two of the leaders, Mowby and Dunmore, and hanged several of their associates. The petitioners complain that the cut "prevents the irrigation of a large extent of Land which must ever remain a loss to the State ... as it can never be reclaimed by Fresh water Irrigation and consequently becomes then the Residence of a white Population." They therefore pray that this law, "haveing become obsolete and a nuisance," be repealed.

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