Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10384903

State: Delaware Year: 1849

Abstract: Twenty-nine residents of the Camden area seek a special legislative act to punish the "notorious Samuel D. Burris, well known to a large portion of the community whose conduct is highly reprehensible ... being a notorious character, who is going about the county they believe persuading and enticing slaves Servants and apprentices to run away and leave their Homes, to the great disadvantage of the Community." They point out that Burris "was accused, apprehended, tried and found Guilty agreeable to Law, after which he was Sold as Servant, and bot by some men who suffered him to go about amongst as and continue the same unjustifiable employment." The petitioners "request Your Honors to pass some Law to reach his Case and effectully stop such conduct."

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 11280703

State: North Carolina Year: 1807
Location: Randolph Location Type: County

Abstract: James Alexander Sr. and his son James Alexander Jr. are "bail for the appearance of Joseph Alexander who was accused for haveing [persuaded] a Negro man a way from his Master." They declare that the said Joseph "has absconded" and that they have used all possible means "to bring him to Cort but has failed." With a judgment of one hundred pounds "hanging over us," the petitioners pray "your Honorable boddy to remit the Said recognicence or any part of it as you in your wisdom may think Propper."

PAR Number 11282002

State: North Carolina Year: 1820
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Ninety-five Wilmington residents complain about transient traders who arrive during the winter and spring months and whose chief capital "is invested in spiritous liquors, & that the trade is almost exclusively confined to the black population." The petitioners remark that the effects of said trade are "truly alarming" since it "opens a wide field for the commission of the most nefarious acts and jeopardizes the best interests of our Town." They further charge that "these persons use the foulest stratagems to intice our slaves from his duty, & that they have, on many occasions, inveigled them from their owners, & conveyed them into the Northern States, from whence they are irrecoverable." Noting that "our youth may be insnared" as well, the petitioners ask that consideration be given on imposing "a Tax on all transient persons engaged in the vending of Goods, wares, & Merchandize, similar to that exacted by our sister States--South Carolina & Georgia."

PAR Number 11282303

State: North Carolina Year: 1823
Location: Onslow Location Type: County

Abstract: William L. Hill, Colonel of the Onslow Militia, seeks compensation for his men who "were in regular Service for the space of Twenty six days in the months of August and September, a busy and unhealthy season of the year." Hill explains that "During the Summer of 1821 an insurrection broke out among a number of outlawed and runaway slaves and free negroes in said County." He exclaims that "an universal panic pervaded the county" as the band had "ravaged farms, burnt houses and ravished a number of females." In response, Hill took measures to restore "public safety" by activating the militia to pursue the well armed "daring, cunning and desperate slaves," who "had long defied the Civil authority." Hill further relates that his men's efforts to suppress the said insurrection exposed them "to every privation and inclemency of the weather, in exploring woods, swamps, & marshes." Noting that the men "have never received their pay agreeably to said act of Assembly," the petitioner prays "your Honorable body to direct the same by resolution."

PAR Number 11282406

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

Abstract: Nineteen Buncombe County residents express concern about the increasing number of free blacks in their midst. They realize that they "need not bring to the view of your honorable body all the many evils and inconveniences arising from an undue portion of this idle & marauding description of persons" and "that they are immoral idle & dissolute are facts of notoriety whenever they are numerous." The petitioners further argue that free people of color "infuse corruption and a spirit of insubordination into the slaves." Having "had enough of this unfortunate & troublesome portion of our species to feel them a public nuisance," they therefore pray that an additional tax be imposed "on all free persons of Colour now resident in the state, & on such as may subsequently emmigrate and settle amongst us a capitation tax of fifty dollars per annum."

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 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 11285802

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

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

PAR Number 11382224

State: South Carolina Year: 1822

Abstract: Three hundred thirty-four officers and members of the "South Carolina Association" seek to limit an evil of the greatest magnitude, i.e., "the constant intercourse, which is maintained between the blacks of the North and South." They exclaim that "to permit a free intercourse to exist, under such circumstances, between our slaves and their free persons of colour, would be, to invite new attempts at insurrection." The petitioners also decry the presence in South Carolina of "coloured persons" from Europe and the Caribbean, in particular. The memorialists opine that they "cannot conceive a measure, which can give greater security to the State in general, than to prevent ANY FREE COLOURED PERSON FROM ANY PART OF THE WORLD ever entering again into the limits of the State of South-Carolina, by LAND OR BY WATER." Hopeful "that the dangers which menace our prosperity as a Slave-holding State, will be met by a corresponding energy in the laws," the petitioners propose the establishment of "one CONSOLIDATED NEGRO ACT or code, for the government of this class of people," which would incorporate all the "hundreds of acts and parts of acts passed in the course of a century" and which "will give security to the master, without taking away from the protection of the slave ... whilst [enabling] every planter and citizen, at one glance to see his rights and his duties, and thus be a public convenience."

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 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 11482505

State: Tennessee Year: 1825
Location: Rutherford Location Type: County

Abstract: Ninety-four residents of Rutherford County accuse "twenty to thirty families of free negroes" in said county of encouraging slaves to steal and of instilling "into their minds views of liberty." They further assert that, "in elections for militia officers, they are in the habit of uniting upon some favorite candidate and thereby controal as they please all elections where they have a stake." Complaining "that they are rude and insolent in their behavior," they declare that free blacks are "in every respect bad neighbors and bad members of society." The petitioners therefore pray that a law be passed "compelling all free persons of colour forthwith to leave the county of Rutherford and take up their abode in some State beyond the Ohio where slavery is not tolerated."

PAR Number 11483307

State: Tennessee Year: 1833
Location: Franklin Location Type: County

Abstract: The Auxiliary Colonization Society of Franklin County supports the removal of free black people from Tennessee to Liberia. They state "that there are many free negroes in this State, and that their removal, in the opinion of your petitioners is highly important to the well being of the good people of the State, and is also desirable for the benefit it would confer upon the free negroes themselves." The petitioners argue that free people of color "are an ignorant and degraded race, & that although they are not Slaves, yet they have scarcely any of the privileges of the white population, and their associations must of necessity be among our slaves, by which their morals become corrupt." They therefore propose, with "motives of benevolence towards the free negroes themselves, and by a just regard to the quiet and good order of our domesticks, and by a regard for our own safety, from the dangers of insurrection," that "an appropriation of such portion of the publick monies, as in your wisdom may seem sufficient" be made and "placed under the direction of the Colonization Society."

PAR Number 11483310

State: Tennessee Year: 1833
Location: Sullivan Location Type: County

Abstract: Seven neighbors and relatives of Abigail and Phebe Morrell oppose their petition "praying your honorable body to pass a Law authorising them to emancipate certain negroes named in their petition." They point out that the said Morrells "are far advanced in Life perhaps seventy years of age" and that they were "no Doubt persuaded to Liberate them by the negroes themselves contrary to their own will." They further charge that said slaves first designed "to get their Liberty and then pursuade the old women to will them the premises on which they now Live and all the personal property of the Estate at their [Decease] which would be prejudicial to your petitioners." They therefore pray "your honorable body to ... Reject the petition of the sd Abigail & Phebe Morrell."

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 11485502

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

Abstract: Sixteen citizens of Wilson County, "having witnessed the evil & injurious effects growing out of the practice in force in this, & other sections of the state, in permitting Free negroes to peddle & barter about the country," ask that a law be passed "which shall prohibit Free negroes from peddling & bartering about the country." The petitioners avow that said free people of color offer slaves "inducements to steal, traffic, & to indulge in other vicous practices" and they “ask you to use proper means in the passage of an act, which shall remedy the evils above hinted at.”

PAR Number 11584203

State: Texas Year: 1842
Location: Houston Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-nine Houston residents request that Henry Tucker, a free person of color, be exempted from the recently enacted law requiring all free people of color to leave the Republic by 1 January 1842. They state that Tucker, a barber, practices "habits of Sobriety, Industry, and Honesty" and displays "uniformily correct deportment." While heartily in agreement with the law compelling free persons of color "to leave the Republic by the first day of January 1842," they nonetheless "feel satisfied that no injury can result from his example or conversation to the Slaves with whom he may associate" and that "this community is really benefited by his labour."

PAR Number 11585102

State: Texas Year: 1851
Location: Bexar Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-nine residents complain that "no provision is made for the punishment of persons who advise or attempt to induce a slave to leave his master." They add that "we could find no law that would make the crime any higher grade of offence than an ordinary misdemeanor." They point out the "the present law punishing with death the enticing a slave from his master is only applicable to a case where he has actually been enticed out of possession." The petitioners hope that "you are well aware of the insecurity of slave property in this County and will at once perceive the necessity of enacting an appropriate remedy."

PAR Number 11680101

State: Virginia Year: 1801
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: In 1801, Edmund Grady was prosecuted in the Richmond District Court and found guilty of stealing a slave in the possession of Paul Thilman, a deputy sheriff of Hanover county. He was fined fifty pounds plus court costs. In fact, Grady asserts, he owned the slave woman, having purchased her from one James Head Lynch; a purchase that could be verified by the bill of sale in his possession. The slave, whose name is revealed in a related affidavit as being Nelly, had been seized by Sheriff Thilman by virtue of an execution against Lynch's estate. Learning what had happened, Grady secured a warrant to search Thilman's house, from which he recovered Nelly. Although part of the petition is missing, it can be assumed that Grady is suing to have the fine remitted.

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 11681712

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Isle of Wight Location Type: County

Abstract: Forty-nine residents of Isle of Wight County fear the large black population in their midst. They point to two recent murders of whites by blacks, and the difficulty in apprehending out lying and runaway slaves. They suggest more stringent legal penalties for those, whites and blacks, caught harboring fugitives, including, for free blacks, the death penalty. The intercourse between slaves and free persons--free blacks and poor whites--"is calculated to produce crimes of the most serious and dreadful consequences, to promote insubordination & a spirit of disobedience among the slaves, & finally to lead to insurrection & blood."

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