Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11682612

State: Virginia Year: 1826
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: With near hysteria following the escape from jail of a man named Boxley, accused of "instigating an unlawfull assembly among the slaves," a group of Spotsylvania County residents petitioned the General Assembly to have the Superior Court (where Boxley was to be tried) moved from the town of Spotsylvania to Fredericksburg. They succeeded. Now, another group of men, including some of the original petitioners, argue against the move, noting that Spotsylvania is in the middle of the county and Fredericksburg far to the northeast, a great distance for jurors and witnesses to travel. While they applaud the new superior court system--placing a higher court in every county--Spotsylvania is the only county in the state where this court is not located at the county seat. As for the escape, the jail was not the problem, but rather a jailer, who allowed prisoners too many liberties.

PAR Number 11683211

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

Abstract: One hundred nineteen residents of Fauquier County represent that they have "long witnessed the corruption of the slaves by the free negroes of this commonwealth" and that they are "thoroughly convinced that the interest and perhaps the safety and peace of slaveholders if not of the whole white population and the welfare of the slaves themselves call boldly for the passage of a law excluding free persons of colour from the state." They further propose that "such as remain longer than the 1st of January 1837 shall be subject to public sale for the benefit of the literary fund of our state."

PAR Number 11683314

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

Abstract: Forty-one citizens of Stafford County defend the Wharton family--William, Lemuel, Barney, Nancy, and Lewis--who had been nominally owned by John Cooke Sr., deceased. The Whartons "are all white persons in complexion and in fact," with only a remote ancestor on one side of the family being black. They are persons "of excellent character," have married with whites, and in their attitudes and "partialities are decidedly for the whites." One Wharton identified a slave stealer; another gave information leading to the capture of several runaways in New York City. The petitioners ask that the family be permitted to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11683416

State: Virginia Year: 1834
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred thirty-nine citizens of Culpeper County inform the court that one Jacob Waynesburg, in the year prior to the filing of their petition, forged freedom papers for two or more slaves, affixing to them the county seal for authenticity. Two of the slaves then committed felonies and made their escape. George W. Jameson, a magistrate, pursued Waynesburg into Maryland, captured him, and brought him back for trial. Jameson incurred substantial expenses. A group of citizens seeks to compensate him for his efforts. A related document reveals that one of the slaves, Oscar Smith, was apprehended in the state of New Jersey, and that the freedom papers he was carrying were determined to be in Waynesburg's handwriting.

PAR Number 11683508

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

Abstract: Samuel Johnson, a free man of color who informs the legislature that he is becoming "old and feeble," asks that his daughter, Lucy Malvin, be permitted to remain in Virginia. He explains that Lucy's husband, Spencer Malvin, a "thriving intelligent mechanic," deserted his wife and her little children when it was discovered that he was circulating anti-slavery literature. According to Samuel Johnson, Malvin sought to "array The Blacks against the whites with a view to the supremacy of the former." Samuel Johnson implores the legislature to take into consideration "a life of incessant toil" to procure for himself "a small cottage and Garden where he had hoped to close his eyes in peace attended by his child his only child." He adds that "his attachment to the Town the county and their people is strong and inalienable. He could not at his advanced age and with his feelings to another soil and another people and yet without his daughter and alone how could he be here." Several related petition reveal that Samuel Johnson (also called Johnston), a man of mixed race, had as early as 1812 purchased his wife and children, including his daughter Lucy mentioned in this petition. In addition, one the related petitions reveals that in 1837 Lucy Malvin was still a slave owned, together with her three children, by her father.

PAR Number 11683509

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

Abstract: John Moffett writes that some eight or nine years prior to the filing of his petition his slave Lucinda, a then fifteen-year-old girl, set fire to his barn. When a black woman named Peggy was asked to testify, "many persons became convinced that the said Peggy had instigated" Lucinda to "commit the incendiary act." At that time, Moffett contends, he did not believe that Peggy was implicated. However, after Lucinda "had been sent out of the country," some of his cattle were poisoned. He became "satisfied" that Peggy, whom he describes as an "intelligent, artful and vindictive" woman, was behind the poisoning. Moffett, who left the county for a while, has now returned and bought property. He has discovered to his great surprise that Peggy and her husband Scipio, both free people of color, have recently been granted permission to remain in Virginia. He asks the legislature to rescind its act granting such permission and to send the couple into exile. He claims that he "cannot feel secure in the possession of his property while the said Peggy is permitted to remain in the country."

PAR Number 11683602

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

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

PAR Number 11683630

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

Abstract: Twenty-five Fairfax County residents ask that "persons trading in carts wagons & Carryalls" be more strongly regulated. The petitioners assert that said peddling is "highly injurious to the farmers, and detrimental to the character and value of our slaves." They further declare that many of "these vehicles, we fear, are owned, & driven by persons not of good fame, or strict probity." The residents decry that "the great facilities that [said peddlers] ... offer to many articles plundered from our farms is a most serious grievance." They therefore pray that "all persons engaged in this pedling, & petty Traffic should be compelled to procure a license from the county courts."

PAR Number 11683631

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

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

PAR Number 11683716

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

Abstract: Freed by the will of his late owner, who also bequeathed him a ten-acre farm, sixty-year-old Daniel Hughes asks to remain in Virginia. He would "as soon be again enslaved as to be banished the few remaining years of his life from his wife & Children and place of nativity."

PAR Number 11684003

State: Virginia Year: 1840
Location: Loudon Location Type: County

Abstract: Verlinda Perry's slave, Jarrett, was charged, tried, and convicted of "circulating or causing to be circulated a certain writing denying the right of Masters to property in their slaves and inculcating the duty of resistance," the slave Jarrett or Gerrard was transported and sold "beyond the Limits of the United States." Perry submitted a claim to the state for $800, the value of her slave, as is customary "in all cases of slaves condemned to be hung or condemned to death," but through an omission she as not yet been compensated.

PAR Number 11684212

State: Virginia Year: 1842
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: The petitioners, twenty-two residents of Richmond, explain to the legislature that in 1833 slaveholders in Richmond and Henrico County, meeting to discuss ways to "prevent the absconding and abduction of their slaves beyond the limits of the state," formed a society "for the protection of their slave property." They elected a board of directors, president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Now, after nearly a decade, they ask the legislature for an act of incorporation. With such an act, the members contend, the society could better protect masters "from the loss of their slave property" as well as better preserve "the peace and quiet of the community."

PAR Number 11684302

State: Virginia Year: 1843
Location: King William Location Type: County

Abstract: Freeholders and other white inhabitants of King William County ask the legislature to sell fifteen hundred acres on the Pamunky River and other lands that were set apart during the colonial era for the Pamunky Indians. The lands were only "set apart," not "granted away." Now the Pamunkys form only a "small remnant" of the population, having "so largely mingled with the negro race as to have obliterated all striking features of Indian extraction." The lands, the petitioners state, are now inhabited by two "unincorporated bands of free mulattoes in the midst of a large slave holding community." These free people of color might easily be converted "into an instrument of deadly annoyance to the white inhabitants by northern fanaticism." The areas have become resorts for free people of color, "worthless and abandoned whites," and runaway slaves. In short, the tracts are a "harbor for every one who wishes concealment."

PAR Number 11684607

State: Virginia Year: 1846
Location: Spotsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: Ely Ball and Henry Satterwhite, trustees of Nancy Horner, represent "that a slave named Dennis a portion of the trust property ... absconded and passed himself as a free man." They further report that "while passing in that character he committed a felony punishable on a slave by stripes, on a free man by confinement in the Penitentiary." The petitioners aver that they did not "he was arrested & tried & convicted as a freeman and sentenced to the penitentiary where he now is." Noting that he is "now lost to owner," the petitioners ask to be "relieved by the passage of a Law to restore him to his owners and they respectfully pray the passage of such a Law." Dennis, "by the name of William Mayo," was convicted "of having carried or caused to be carried from the town of Fredericksburg beyond the commonwealth, three slaves."

PAR Number 11684708

State: Virginia Year: 1847
Location: Loudon Location Type: County

Abstract: Eight residents of Loudoun and Fauquier counties point out that convictions for violating existing residency laws by free blacks "have been of rare occurrence, & that prosecutions have, in consequence, been almost entirely abandoned." "[P]rompt steps" should be taken to "rid the State of this growing fungus." Free blacks should be either sent to Africa," the petitioners argue, "remanded to slavery, or extended "privileges of Complete Citizenship."

PAR Number 11684903

State: Virginia Year: 1849
Location: Rockingham Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred nine residents from Rockingham and adjacent counties ask that the period of time allowed to emancipated slaves before they are required to emigrate be reduced from twelve months to one month. Free blacks have it in their "power to annoy us to an extent almost beyond expression," the petitioners complain; they become acquainted with the roads "leading in various directions through our mountainous country," and then "purloin off our slave and reach a free state before we even believe the slave has ran away." Often prompted by abolitionists, free people of color also try to free their slave wives, slave children, and slave relatives. "The laws of Virginia recognise in us the right to hold slaves as our private property," the petitioners argue, "& we contend that no body of men has the right to divest us of our property."

PAR Number 11685016

State: Virginia Year: 1850
Location: Greenbrier Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-nine slaveholders in Greenbrier County seek to prohibit, or restrain, free persons of color from the North from entering Virginia. The petitioners contend that free blacks come as barbers, waiters, drivers, and visitors; they come from Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and other cities; and they sow "discord and disaffection" among slaves and urge them to run away.

PAR Number 11685901

State: Virginia Year: 1859
Location: Prince George Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-seven residents of Prince George County insist that to protect the "due subordination of slaves to masters, & generally of the inferior black to the dominant white class," the assembly must address "two existing & wide-spread evils." These evils are 1) "the shops or other places for the unlicensed selling of intoxicating liquors to slaves" and the "carrying on with them other illegal traffic;" 2) "the intercourse with slaves, (& also with free negroes,) of persons, whether vagrants or temporary sojourners, who, in many cases, are either voluntary agents or hired emissaries of northern associations, or individuals, laboring to destroy slavery in the southern states, by instigating desertion, or conspiracy & insurrection." They seek new measures for the "prevention & punishment" of the twin evils.

PAR Number 11685902

State: Virginia Year: 1859
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-one residents of Prince George County insist that to protect the "due subordination of slaves to masters, & generally of the inferior black to the dominant white class," the assembly must address "two existing & wide-spread evils." These evils are 1) "the shops or other places for the unlicensed selling of intoxicating liquors to slaves" and the "carrying on with them other illegal traffic;" 2) "the intercourse with slaves, (& also with free negroes,) of persons, whether vagrants or temporary sojourners, who, in many cases, are either voluntary agents or hired emissaries of northern associations, or individuals, laboring to destroy slavery in the southern states, by instigating desertion, or conspiracy & insurrection." They seek new measures for the "prevention & punishment" of the twin evils.

PAR Number 11686001

State: Virginia Year: 1860
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty residents of Louisa County insist that to protect the "due subordination of slaves to masters, & generally of the inferior black to the dominant white class," the assembly must address "two existing & wide-spread evils." These evils are 1) "the shops or other places for the unlicensed selling of intoxicating liquors to slaves" and the "carrying on with them other illegal traffic;" 2) "the intercourse with slaves, (& also with free negroes,) of persons, whether vagrants or temporary sojourners, who, in many cases, are either voluntary agents or hired emissaries of northern associations, or individuals, laboring to destroy slavery in the southern states, by instigating desertion, or conspiracy & insurrection." They seek new measures for the "prevention & punishment" of the twin evils.

PAR Number 11686006

State: Virginia Year: 1860
Location: Hampshire Location Type: County

Abstract: William Thrasher, Robert Powell, James Shearer, and William Dunlop represent that they "arrested one Geo Washington Day ... who was at the time in company with three certain slaves" and that "at the time of the arrest said slaves were in the act of absconding from the state." They report that a warrant issued and Day was charged with "aiding abetting, and being accessory to the escape of said slaves from their master." They further state that the court ruled that Day be permitted "to give bail for his appearance before the Circuit Court in the sum of five hundred dollars;" Day failed to appear whereby "his recognizance became forfeited." The petitioners assert that "it was upon their information that said Day was arrested and upon their testimony in chief that the proceedings against him were sustained." Insisting "that by the forfeiture of his recognizance they have been deprived of the reward of $500 given by law to the informers in such cases," the petitioners pray that the three hundred dollars paid into the State Treasury "on account of the forfeited recognizance" be bestowed upon them.

PAR Number 11686007

State: Virginia Year: 1860
Location: Fauquier Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixty-five residents of Fauquier County insist that to protect the "due subordination of slaves to masters, & generally of the inferior black to the dominant white class," the assembly must address "two existing & wide-spread evils." These evils are 1) "the shops or other places for the unlicensed selling of intoxicating liquors to slaves" and the "carrying on with them other illegal traffic;" 2) "the intercourse with slaves, (& also with free negroes,) of persons, whether vagrants or temporary sojourners, who, in many cases, are either voluntary agents or hired emissaries of northern associations, or individuals, laboring to destroy slavery in the southern states, by instigating desertion, or conspiracy & insurrection." They seek new measures for the "prevention & punishment" of the twin evils.

PAR Number 11686101

State: Virginia Year: 1861
Location: Kanawha Location Type: County

Abstract: A five-man committee, representing the "Citizens of Charleston, in the County of Kanawha," seek to amend "the Laws ... to prevent all persons, and especially officers of Steam boats from bringing within the limits or waters of this state under any pretext whatsoever, free negroes from the Northern States." They declare that "the existing laws are wholly and utterly incompetent to remedy the evil contemplated" and "that the presence of free negroes from the northern states, among other things, tends to the destruction of our social institutions and our civilization." The petitioners "are at a loss to know how it is that the Legislative power of the state permits the continued and repeated visits and intercourse of the vicious, corrupt and degraded free negro of the Free states into the bosom of our servile caste." They therefore "suggest that the Law be amended."

PAR Number 11686103

State: Virginia Year: 1861
Location: Rockingham Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-eight residents of Rockingham County join John Cowen in asking that John Robinson, Cowen's former slave, be permitted to remain in the state. They avow that said Robinson "is a remarkably well behaved, sober, and industrious negro" and that he "is a useful negro in this Community and has evinced his fidelity and good conduct in a peculiar manner." Cowen reports that in 1847 said Robinson "traveled with me as my servant through Pennsylvania and Ohio and was often requested by Abolitionists to leave me and on one occasion was threatened to be taken by force"; Robinson "steadfastly refused to do so." The petitioners therefore pray that John Robinson be allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 20183002

State: Alabama Year: 1830
Location: Bibb Location Type: County

Abstract: Harwood Goodwin states that in October 1823 he "did place in the possession of said [Benjamin] Camp a Certain negro man slave named Jim, of the age of sixteen years," as collateral for the one hundred dollars he owed Camp, who is his son-in-law. Goodwin states that Jim was worth six hundred dollars and, as part of the agreement, he stipulated that the first year Camp pay him $60, "at a hire of five dollars per month for the first year, and that the hire was to increase as the boy grew older & became more servisable," continuing until the debt was repaid. Goodwin also borrowed another $250 from Camp, offering a slave, Lucy, worth five hundred dollars, as collateral, with the same conditions of hiring out to repay the debt. Goodwin says that Camp "has been long since reimbursed," and that "during such time of hire & while in his possession or under his control, or by his Improper & cruel Treatment ... Lucy has been greatly injured & her value greatly decreased." The petitioner further states that Lucy has given birth to a child during this time. As Camp refuses to settle accounts, Goodwin asks the court to force Camp to return the three slaves; to pay "all monies with legal interest on the same for the services of said slaves over the amount due respondant from Orator;" and to pay for the injuries sustained by Lucy while in Camp's possession. Goodwin is also suing Camp "for the damages, or injuries sustained in his interest, by causing the death of the mare & colt" belonging to Goodwin as well as for compensation for his son's services while employed by Camp. In his answer, Camp contends that the property was placed and allowed to remain in his possession on his agreeing to financially bail out his father-in-law, whose property was levied on several times. He claims that there never was any talk of his paying hiring fees.

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