Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11381601

State: South Carolina Year: 1816
Location: Orangeburgh Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eleven citizens of Amelia Township, Orangeburg District, seek the passage of a law prohibiting slave owners from allowing their slaves to raise their own livestock or cotton. They argue that "every measure that may lessen the dependance of a slave on his master ought to be opposed, as tending to dangerous consequences. The more priviledges a slave obtains the less depending he is on his master & the greater nuisance he is likely to be to the public." They further insist that "of all their privileges that of their making cotton is the most objectionable." The petitioners purport that "Cotton is subject to the depredations of the night-walking thief and when lost it would be the height of folly to attempt to find it among negroes who all have cotton of their own ... to authorise a slave to make cotton for himself is incouraging him to be a thief by putting him in the way of secreting what he steals." They declare that “a master may make what improvements he pleases in the lodging cloathing and food of his slave, in short there are many ways to encourage their industry without granting them privileges that would enable them to steal with impunity.” The petitioners therefore pray "that it is highly necessary a law should be enacted this Session prohibiting negroes making cotton for themselves."

PAR Number 11381608

State: South Carolina Year: 1816
Location: Orangeburgh Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Eleven citizens of Amelia Township, Orangeburg District, seek the passage of a law prohibiting slave owners from allowing their slaves to raise their own livestock or cotton. They argue that "every measure that may lessen the dependance of a slave on his master ought to be opposed, as tending to dangerous consequences. The more priviledges a slave obtains the less depending he is on his master & the greater nuisance he is likely to be to the public." They further insist that "of all their privileges that of their making cotton is the most objectionable." The petitioners purport that "Cotton is subject to the depredations of the night-walking thief and when lost it would be the height of folly to attempt to find it among negroes who all have cotton of their own ... to authorise a slave to make cotton for himself is incouraging him to be a thief by putting him in the way of secreting what he steals." They declare that “a master may make what improvements he pleases in the lodging cloathing and food of his slave, in short there are many ways to encourage their industry without granting them privileges that would enable them to steal with impunity.” The petitioners therefore pray "that it is highly necessary a law should be enacted this Session prohibiting negroes making cotton for themselves."

PAR Number 11381805

State: South Carolina Year: 1818
Location: Kershaw Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Forty-eight "merchants and store keepers" in Camden complain about the 1817 law that increased "the penalties which are now by Law inflicted on persons who deal or trade with negro Slaves." They argue that said law, in effect, penalizes "the good Citizen submissive to the Laws of his Country" while rewarding a “less scrupulous” merchant. The former loses income by refusing to sell articles to a slave not producing the owner's "written permission," resulting in the store keeper’s family being "in want of bread & short of money"; the latter merchant will make the sale and "make a fortune." They also suggest that said law "serves as an Engine of Vengeance," allowing "drunkards" that have been refused liquor to indict merchants "for selling a 12 1/2 Cents worth of tobacco to Slave." The petitioners contend that the law did not intend "to prohibit servants to purchase any article for money for their own use, or that of their masters." They therefore "respectfully submit the policy of adopting such measures as may be most effectually valuable to prevent recurences of abuse and ensure the Security and Liberty of the retailer."

PAR Number 11381806

State: South Carolina Year: 1818
Location: Kershaw Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Forty-nine "merchants and store keepers" in Camden complain about the 1817 law that increased "the penalties which are now by Law inflicted on persons who deal or trade with negro Slaves." They argue that said law, in effect, penalizes "the good Citizen submissive to the Laws of his Country" while rewarding a “less scrupulous” merchant. The former loses income by refusing to sell articles to a slave not producing the owner's "written permission," resulting in the store keeper’s family being "in want of bread & short of money"; the latter merchant will make the sale and "make a fortune." They also suggest that said law "serves as an Engine of Vengeance," allowing "drunkards" that have been refused liquor to indict merchants "for selling a 12 1/2 Cents worth of tobacco to Slave." The petitioners contend that the law did not intend "to prohibit servants to purchase any article for money for their own use, or that of their masters." They therefore "respectfully submit the policy of adopting such measures as may be most effectually valuable to prevent recurences of abuse and ensure the Security and Liberty of the retailer."

PAR Number 11382016

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

Abstract: Seventy-nine citizens of the "most thickly inhabited part" of Sumter District, demand a law requiring that all boats on the Santee River be "Commanded and governed by Some respectable white person in whom Confidence can be placed." Presently, they declare, many boats are "navigated or commanded by negroe patroons," who trade with the slaves and carry off cattle, hogs, and "other articles of considerable value" from the plantations.

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 11384703

State: South Carolina Year: 1847
Location: Kershaw Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Members of the Town Council of Camden request permission to enact several ordinances regarding slaves: they seek authorization to tax slave owners who hire slaves out in town for more than a month; they request permission to hire hands to work on the streets, rather than allow slave owners to "commute" the labor of their hired slaves to a "given sum"; they seek permission to keep the money derived from fines levied against those found guilty of buying the produce of planters from slaves or selling alcohol to slaves -- currently, city officials in Charleston and Columbia keep this fine money. Further, the law of the state would be better implemented "in spirit" if cases of this nature were brought before town officials rather than taken to court, where "technicalities" could get the guilty parties off. Town officials should "hear, & determine such offences, affix such fines thereto as are now authorized by Law, and receive such fines into the Treasury of the Town."

PAR Number 11479901

State: Tennessee Year: 1799
Location: Davidson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty Nashville residents complain that "considerable Inconveniences arise from divers negroes in Nashville keeping Houses of Entertainment by Trading with other negroes in the Country, as well as a Disgrace to the Town." They therefore pray "that a Law may be passed to prohibit any Negro or negroes keeping a house in said Town." They further "think it will be advisable to pass a law to prevent Masters of Slaves from allowing their Slaves any Such liberties."

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 11484701

State: Tennessee Year: 1847
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirteen "members of the Grand Jury, for the County of Bedford & state of Tennessee," request the passage "of some law for the more effectually preventing negroes from selling, meats, chickens, fruits &c upon public days, at public places." They declare that they "have seen & felt the evil effects of the system now prevailing upon that subject," as "the only way most of the things thus sold are obtained is by stealing -- and your petitioners amongst others suffer from their petty thefts." They therefore propose a law "authorising any person, when they see negroes thus trading, to have them taken up before a magistrate & publicly whipt, unless the negro can produce a written permit from his or her master or mistress, authorizing them thus to trade."

PAR Number 11485103

State: Tennessee Year: 1851
Location: Rutherford Location Type: County

Abstract: Two hundred sixty-five residents of Rutherford County deplore the "great evils growing out of the residence of the free colored population in our midst." The petitioners insist that free people of color "not only infest our town, but are scattered over our entire County" and that they "are generally indolent and manifest no disposition to labor for a living, but by thieving themselves and holding out inducements to our Slaves, to trade with them, induce them to steal every thing that comes in their way, which renders them less valuable and more ungovernable." They therefore "humbly, but earnestly ask you in your wisdom to take an extended view of this important subject, and apply whatever remedy you may deem necessary."

PAR Number 11485506

State: Tennessee Year: 1855
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred seventy Williamson County residents represent that "they have long suffered from a petty robbery carried on by the slaves and despite of locks and bolts stealing is but carried on the more extensively and since they have been unable to protect their corn cribs wheat granaries poultry Houses dairies &c they would humbly pray that Your Honorable Body would so amend the present patrol System as to make it more effective." They also propose that a law be passed "allowing to those who act as patrols a reasonable compensation for every night they ride." The petitioners believe "that the traffic of stolen property now carried on so extensively to the injury of the community and also to the injury of the slaves would be in a great degree destroyed."

PAR Number 11485507

State: Tennessee Year: 1855
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-three Williamson County residents represent that "they have long suffered from a petty robbery carried on by the slaves and despite of locks and bolts stealing is but carried on the more extensively and since they have been unable to protect their corn cribs wheat granaries poultry Houses dairies &c they would humbly pray that Your Honorable Body would so amend the present patrol System as to make it more effective." They also propose that a law be passed "allowing to those who act as patrols a reasonable compensation for every night they ride." The petitioners believe "that the traffic of stolen property now carried on so extensively to the injury of the community and also to the injury of the slaves would be in a great degree destroyed."

PAR Number 11485901

State: Tennessee Year: 1859
Location: Maury Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred eight residents of Maury County deplore "a fearful evil and difficulty fastening upon our body politic, that if not arrested and a stop put to, will be obliged to end in fatal consequences"; said evil, they point out, is "the traffic & sale of Ardent spirits to the slaves." Citing "no other vice or dissipation in our Community half so ruinous as this liquor traffic with slaves," the petitioners propose that "any one found guilty" of supplying slaves with liquor "be confined in the Jail & penitentiary house for a term not less than 1 & not more than 2 years." They are "fully of opinion the passage of the above law would put a stop to the liquor traffic with the slaves."

PAR Number 11678402

State: Virginia Year: 1784
Location: Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred twelve “diverse freeholders and inhabitants of Hanover County” represent "that many Evils have arisen from a partial Emancipation of slaves." They complain that free people of color act as agents for slaves, distributing and selling property stolen from their masters; in addition, a "Great number" of slaves taken by the British Army "are now passing in this Country as free men." Petitioners request that free persons of color be required to obtain freedom papers signed by a county clerk and that some mode be adopted to prevent free black people from trading with slaves.

PAR Number 11678405

State: Virginia Year: 1784
Location: Henrico Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred six “divers freeholders and inhabitants of the County of Henrico” represent "that many evils has arisen from a partial emancipation of Slaves." They complain that free people of color act as agents for slaves, distributing and selling property stolen from their masters; in addition, a "Great number" of slaves taken by the British Army "are now passing in this Country as free men." Petitioners request that free persons of color be required to obtain freedom papers signed by a county clerk and that some mode be adopted to prevent free black people from trading with slaves.

PAR Number 11680203

State: Virginia Year: 1802
Location: Amherst Location Type: County

Abstract: Seventy-nine residents of Amherst and Campbell counties complain that the erection of traps, dams, and "other devices" along the James River and its navigable branches have depleted the fish population to such an extent that in the future there might be none left. The petitioners explain that, among whites and blacks in various sections of Virginia, fish is an important part of the diet, and that "in poor families & others wherein are a number of negroes fish of every description become an article of necessity." The petitioners seek to strengthen the law regulating mills, mill dams, and other obstructions along the river.

PAR Number 11680403

State: Virginia Year: 1804
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Fifty-four white residents of Richmond complain that captains of northern trading vessels trade and barter with slaves, corrupting their morals. In some cases, captains "inculcate in their weak minds a spirit of discontent, tending to insurrection." In other cases, they encourage slaves to steal from their owners, receiving the stolen goods "in barter for spirits or baubles." They "decoy them away in the expectation of obtaining their liberty," and "after being thus beguiled they employ them as slaves, and convey them to ports where slavery is tolerated and there sell them as such." The petitioners represent that the laws on the books are weak and unenforceable. They ask for stricter laws to curb these practices.

PAR Number 11681008

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Charlotte Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred seventy-two petitioners complain about slaves who keep and raise horses and hogs. Those who do, the petitioners say, steal hogs, corn, and provisions from their white neighbors. Petitioners seek a law to penalize slaveholders who, "directly or indirectly permit their slaves to own or possess any horses or hogs." The slave-owned property should be confiscated and either turned over to the informer, or used to assist poor people.

PAR Number 11681009

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

Abstract: One hundred forty-nine petitioners complain about "the practice, of Negro Slaves free Negroes, & Mulattoes, raising and carrying dogs." This is done to the great injury and detriment to sheep raisers. A law should be passed prohibiting slaves from taking dogs off of their owner's plantation and forbidding free black families from owning more than one dog.

PAR Number 11681806

State: Virginia Year: 1818
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred eighty-four residents of Accomack and Northampton counties complain about slave fishermen who come at night and gather oysters. As a consequence, they "neglect their labours in the day, and in the course of a short time are laid up with broken constitutions." White crews of oyster vessels, often from the lower counties in Maryland, encourage slaves in the Chesapeake region to pilfer from their owners, not only poultry but grain and "other things of value for which they always afford a ready market & hence the slaves are corrupted." The petitioners know that the legislature "can no doubt" offer protection "against abuses so easy of remedy and so loudly demanding its consideration."

PAR Number 11682510

State: Virginia Year: 1825
Location: Russell Location Type: County

Abstract: Robert Dickeson petitions to deny Moses, a slave previously owned by his late father, residency in Virginia. He represents that said Moses was devised to his brother, who executed "a deed of emancipation for pecuniary consideration." He further points out that for many years Moses "carried on a continual traffic on his own account." The petitioner further asserts that he "has strong reason to suspect & believes [Moses] acted dishonestly in several instances." He cites that in "one instance your petitioners father was robbed of $1000 by his own slaves ... [and] he suspects the slave Moses to have participated"; in addition, Moses's son was "in the habit of purloining" poultry and other items. Averring that "the said Moses has abundant means to enable him to remove to some other state," the petitioner prays "that your Honorable Body will not sustain the petition of Moses, but that he may in due time be required to depart the Commonwealth."

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 11683120

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

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

PAR Number 11683204

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

Abstract: Sixty-seven residents of Buckingham County argue that “an evil exists among us owing to a large sum of money being annually paid out of the public Treasury, to those who have slaves executed for felony committed; and for arresting and trying them &c.” They therefore “humbly pray that your honourable body will take the subject into consideration, and repeal so much of the laws as tax the Commonwealth with this unreasonable expense, and make the owners of them responsible or bear the burden.” The petitioners also propose “that your honourable body will pass an act to compel the owners (so far as they be able) to pay all damages and costs, for all Larceny committed by their slaves and when a slave shall have been executed by order of the Court, that the owner lose the value thereof, and not be allowed to receive compensation by petitioning the Legislature.”

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