Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11280002

State: North Carolina Year: 1800
Location: Granville Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas and Susanah Smith Hendley state that Israel Fuller, the "reputed" father of Susanah, conveyed land to Israel Smith, Fuller's "illegitimate child" and Susanah's "reputed" brother. They further report that the said Smith died "about fourteen years ago under age and Intestate without lawfull Heir whereby said Land escheated to the State of North Carolina." The petitioners pray "that by an act of your honorable body, said Land may be vested in said Susanna."

PAR Number 11282306

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

Abstract: Josiah Turner asks the legislature to refrain from passing a law to emancipate three slaves held by the estate of Jehu Whitted. Turner states that Whitted's will directed that if his only child, Anne, died before she reached "full age" without "heirs lawfully begotten," the slaves, James, Duncan, and Stephen, should be emancipated; Anne died in 1819 under age and without heirs. Turner explains, however, that he married Jehu Whitted's widow and they have a son William, who is Anne's half-brother and heir. Reporting that he sued Levi Whitted, Jehu Whitted's executor, to invalidate the will, the petitioner asks that the legislature allow the case to be settled in the courts before passing a law emancipating the slaves. Turner also argues that said slaves "have not the merits nor the moral qualities that would fit them for emancipation." He reminds the legislature that "by the Laws in force, it is not the mere will of the owner which can emancipate a Slave: Free negroes have been always regarded in this State as a dangerous population & must always be so regarded where Slavery exists: Hence good morals & such a course of upright living as will in the emphatic language of the Statute constitute meritorious services are indispensible, as well as the will of the master." Turner argues that “these Slaves have performed so Such Services.”

PAR Number 11283305

State: North Carolina Year: 1833
Location: Martin Location Type: County

Abstract: Ned Hyman, the former slave of the late Samuel Hyman, represents that "by his faithfulness and extraordinary attention to his masters business and interest secured his esteem and favor and obtained his sincere wishes that your petitioner should be freed." Hyman recounts, however, that "the nearest your petitioner has been able to approach an end so disirable to his decd master is, to have had the title to your petitioner vested in your petitioners wife," Elizabeth Hagans, a free woman of color. The petitioner avers that he "has had the good fortune to accumulate an estate worth from five to six thousand dollars; consisting of Lands chiefly Live stock negroes and money the right & title to all which except the money is vested" in his wife Elizabeth. The father of three children, Hyman "together with his wife Elizabeth" therefore pray that an act be passed "for his benefit and relief."

PAR Number 11378601

State: South Carolina Year: 1786
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Charleston resident William Livingston appeals to the legislature for relief regarding the slave Dublin, who "hath been Confined in the Work House of this City for near these three Years last past." Livingston states that Dublin has been doomed "to perpetual Imprisonment for an Offence (which tho' highly Criminal)" does not warrant life in prison. He further argues that the "Magistrate and freeholders who passed such Sentence ... have exceeded the bounds of Jurisdiction with which they are legally invested." Livingston reveals that he and his minor brother and sister inherited said slave from their father's estate and that they "are greatly injured and agreeived, by being so Long deprived of his Labour and Service Contrary to Law and Equity." He "therefore now begs leave to remonstrate against the Proceedings had, and Sentence passed."

PAR Number 11382509

State: South Carolina Year: 1825
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Robert Bentham, Joseph Winthrop, and Arthur Parker, "attornies of John Parker, Junr.," report that John Parker, "in consequence of the Extreme ill state of his Health," sailed to Great Britain, taking with him a fourteen-year-old slave named Elizabeth. The petitioners represent that the said Elizabeth "is exceedingly anxious to Return to her Family & Connexions, all of whom are the property of her Master, the said John Parker, Jr." They therefore pray "that a Special Act might be passed allowing the Said Parker Junr the privilege of again bringing within the Limits of the State, the slave alluded to in this Petition."

PAR Number 11481902

State: Tennessee Year: 1819

Abstract: Benjamin Ingram of Lauderdale County, Alabama, represents that he "acts as Guardian for the children of Jesse Westmoreland Decd" and that his wards and their mother have moved from Tennessee and currently live in Alabama. He further reports that the said Westmoreland "left to his said children Seventeen or Eighteen negroes, which by the Laws of this State cannot be removed from it." Ingram therefore prays that "your Honorable body may pass an act allowing said Slaves to be removed" to Alabama where "sd negroes will be of much greater profit to said Children."

PAR Number 11483110

State: Tennessee Year: 1831
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Austin Gresham, administrator of the estate of Henry A. Burge and the husband of Burge's widow, asks to sell an eleven-year-old slave named Nathan. Grisham declares that "for three or four years back, this boy, Nathan, has been in the constant habit of running away: that he has employed all the means he could, himself, devise, to prevent it; that he has obtained the aid of other experienced persons to the same object, but has failed in every expedient" and that "the habit is increasing." Gresham therefore prays "that you would pass a law directing him the sd negro boy Nathan to be sold."

PAR Number 11483330

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

Abstract: William G. Harding, the guardian of the only child of the late William Harding, asks permission to sell Maria and her six children to Texas-bound Daniel Maurice Harding, owner of Maria's husband. The petitioner states that he "believes it would be to the interest of the infant to make the sale," as "the whole family are an Expense." Harding further reveals that "the said family of children are not healthy and two of them are afflicted one with white swelling and the other with scrofula."

PAR Number 11485503

State: Tennessee Year: 1855

Abstract: Twenty-year-old Benjamin Murrell and nineteen-year-old Martha Ann Murrell, heirs of the late Isaac Murrell, join forty-eight other petitioners in requesting "the sale of one Negro girl named Ann a diseased and afflicted creature." The Murrells state "that we are going to remove to a distant state" and "that we now have an opportunity of selling said Ann to a good advantage." They "therefore pray you to grant us the right by special act of Legislative enactment to sell said negro so that we may avail ourselves of the profits thereof before we remove."

PAR Number 11584901

State: Texas Year: 1849
Location: Sabine Location Type: County

Abstract: David S. and Jane B. Richardson Kaufman, the parents of four-year-old Daniel Richardson Kaufman, petition the legislature to change the name of their son "permanently to Daniel Kaufman Richardson." They state that the reasons for changing the child’s name "will be found in the will of his deceased Grandfather," Daniel Long Richardson, who mandated that said child would not receive his one-twelfth share of the estate unless his “name is permanently changed by the Legislature.”

PAR Number 11585004

State: Texas Year: 1850
Location: Bowie Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-year-old Massack Janes seeks to take charge of the "considerable" estate to which he is entitled. The estate, "consisting of negros and Land money &c from his Farther's Estate," is currently "in the hands of one Eli H Moore as Guardian of your petitioner." Janes laments that this situation is costing him "a considerable Sum Yearly in Costs Commissions &c." He therefore prays that an act be passed "authorizing him to take and recive into his owns hands and Control all of his said Estate as though he was of full age."

PAR Number 11585005

State: Texas Year: 1850
Location: Gonzales Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-year-old William Wallace Gordon asks that he be allowed "to take charge of and manage his Estate." Gordon, "a permanent citizen of Gonzales County," states that his property consists "of some negroes & personal property." Noting that he has no living relatives, the petitioner purports to be "of good moral character judicious & prudent in his affairs." Gordon therefore prays that a law be passed "whereby he may be released from all the legal disability of minority."

PAR Number 11585109

State: Texas Year: 1851
Location: De Witt Location Type: County

Abstract: The chief justice, court clerk, and other officials in De Witt County ask that eighteen-year-old James W. Steen, a young man of "sprightly intellect," be permitted to manage his own affairs. They note that his property "is small consisting of one negro woman and 4 children and a few hundred dollars," which "cannot be governed under the Guardian Law without waste & which would be a sacrafice to sell." Believing Steen to be "a young man of unexceptionable moral character," the petitioners pray an act may be passed by which Steen "may succeed to the rights privileges &c which he would succeed to and receive on arriving at 21 years of age."

PAR Number 11585203

State: Texas Year: 1852
Location: Walker Location Type: County

Abstract: The guardians of the minor heirs of James J. Harrison ask to purchase land for their wards. They report that the estates of thirteen-year-old James S. Harrison and eleven-year-old Keturah A. Harrison "consist of some thirty five negroes, seven thousand dollars in money ... and but little land." The petitioners purport that "the monies vested in good lands at the present low prices would yield a far larger & safer interest than by lending the money out." They therefore pray a law be passed "authorising such investments and under such restrictions as in your wisdom you may direct."

PAR Number 11585204

State: Texas Year: 1852
Location: Lamar Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty-six residents of Lamar County request that Bob, a free man of color, be allowed to remain in the state. They explain that Bob has a wife and children that belong to the estate of Elisha Owens and that the heirs of said estate are minors and "not prepared to take Management" of the slave children as well as Bob "could do himself were he permited to reside permanently within the state of Texas.” They therefore pray Congress will pass "Special Legislature in his behalf that he can remain and enjoy the priviledge of a Citizen of the State So far as his Color will admit, under its Constitutional provisions."

PAR Number 11585307

State: Texas Year: 1853
Location: Austin Location Type: County

Abstract: Samuel William Shields, a minor, "desires to releive his Estate from the Expenses of further Guardianship." Recounting that he inherited "an Estate of Lands & Negroes" from his late father in 1839, Shields seeks permission to transport his slaves to live with his uncle in Falls County "where they may be placed upon a Plantation, under the Joint care and supervision of himself & uncle." In this way, Shields will avoid the "evils growing out of promiscuous Hiring [of slaves] to the highest bidder as required by Law." He therefore prays that a law be passed "authorizing him, under such limitations as may be deemed proper, to take charge of & manage his property ... as though he were of legally mature age."

PAR Number 11585402

State: Texas Year: 1854
Location: Panola Location Type: County

Abstract: Edward P. Black states that he married Rebecca A. Jarnegan in DeSoto County, Mississippi, in 1844, whereupon they moved to Texas and inherited eleven slaves, valued at $4,500, from the estate of Rebecca's deceased father; Black laments that his wife died in childbirth a year later. He charges that three of his wife's brothers, "armed with pistols made an attack on petitioner and drove off said eleven negros then being in the possession of petitioner and also took at the same time said child the issue of said marriage." Black recounts that "in the defense of said child and said property of said child petitioner opposed force to force and for doing which petitioner was indicted in said County for the crime of murder," for which he was later acquitted. He reports that he then "was obliged to sue for said property and did so in said County." Black points out he has lately been appointed guardian of his son's estate and that said estate "is fully able to pay said expenses" of prosecuting the said matter. He therefore prays "the passage of an act allowing him to pay out of said estate" the expenses incurred in the recovery of his son's property.

PAR Number 11585502

State: Texas Year: 1855
Location: Gonzales Location Type: County

Abstract: Nineteen-year-old John H. White "believes that He is fully competent and that it is greatly to his interest that He should have the entire control and management of his property & Business." He states that "he is a married man and is now living with his family on his Plantation with his Slaves Ten in number." He therefore prays that "he may by special act of your Honorable Body be allowed to transact business as though He were of full age."

PAR Number 11586001

State: Texas Year: 1860
Location: Gonzales Location Type: County

Abstract: Nineteen-year-old John Blackwell petitions the legislature for the authority to control his own affairs. Blackwell, a farmer, "feels and believes that he is competant to attend to his own business, and to exercise all the rights, privilleges, and functions of a free man." He further explains that "he is the legal owner of property that is suffering and accumulating him nothing by reason of the opportunities being with-holden from him, of availing himself of higher wages a healthful location -- prudent care of his slaves and a higher rate of interest on money." He states that "some of his Slaves being old, and many of them little children that require the fostering hand of a good Master instead of the abuse and neglect to which a hired condition subjects them." Blackwell therefore prays that "your Honorable Body will enfranchise him, and confer on him the powers and privileges of a free man, to possess himself of the control of his estate."

PAR Number 11678002

State: Virginia Year: 1780

Abstract: Anne Bennet, a minor, asks that the petition for freedom of Will, a slave held by the late Ann Colvin, be rejected. She states that her grandmother made a codicil to her last will and testament whereby she ordained "the said Will, to be free, and not Subject to Slavery in Consideration of the long and faithful Service done to her, by him." Bennet believes "that the Codicil to her grandmothers will was made on account of the fear which she Entertained of receiving some Personal Injury from him, rather than on account of any gratitude for his past Services." The petitioner therefore prays "that this honourable house will reject a petition of the Said will for his freedom now lying before it" so as not "to bestow Liberty on an undeserving man and deprive her of the only Slave to whom She is Entitled."

PAR Number 11678005

State: Virginia Year: 1780
Location: Middlesex Location Type: County

Abstract: The executors of the William Roan estate join the guardian of William Murray to request that Gilbert and Juba, their respective slaves, be allowed to return; Juba and Gilbert attempted to escape to Lord Dunmore's fleet and were sentenced to work in the lead mines. The petitioners argue that the slaves have suffered sufficient punishment to deter future escape attempts and that further service in the mines will be "of little value to the owners." They therefore "pray that the Honorable House will be pleased to order that the said slaves be delivered to your Petitioners and that a reasonable Hire be allowed for the same for the Time they have been in the service of the State."

PAR Number 11680915

State: Virginia Year: 1809
Location: Fluvanna Location Type: County

Abstract: Some time before 1800, Samuel Ferguson Jr., then a child, received from his father, a native of Culpeper County, Virginia, the gift of a slave named Jonas. In 1800, the elder Ferguson moved to Kentucky, taking Jonas with him because young Samuel was still "an Infant under the age of 21 years." The understanding was that, when Samuel came of age, he would be induced to travel to Kentucky to visit his parents and, at the same time, retrieve his slave. Some time in 1804 or 1805, one Jesse Baskett, a neighbor of young Samuel traveling to Kentucky, was charged with bringing Jonas back to Virginia. However, the plan was scrapped because Baskett was supposed to travel by another route. Instead, three years passed before Samuel, who had by then reached the age of majority, was able to go to Kentucky, in December 1808, and bring his slave back to Virginia. Six months later, Samuel Ferguson Jr. was informed by the Clerk of Fluvanna County Court that Jonas had been brought into the state "Contrary to Law" and he therefore had to turn him over to the authorities. He asks the legislative body to pass a law authorizing him "to retain the right in said Boy unmolested."

PAR Number 11681115

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Free black Thomas Brewster acquired his freedom some time before the passage of 1806 law, but due to "causes which it was not in his power to prevent" he obtained his emancipation deed only recently. The law requires that he emigrate, but he hopes to remain in Virginia. Brewster modestly informs the court that it "does not become him to speak of his character; but he will beg leave to refer to the testimonies accompanying" his petition of "a number of the most respectable inhabitants of the city of Richmond." We learn from a related document that, as early as 1802, one William Austin had told of his intention to purchase Thomas Brewster, then known as Tom, for the purpose of emancipating him, but that he could not do so "untill some Orphan children come of age to whom the said Thos belonged."

PAR Number 11681309

State: Virginia Year: 1813
Location: Henrico Location Type: County

Abstract: When he moved to North Carolina, George T. Kennon, a physician, took along three slave shoemakers--one owned by him and the other two by his mother and brother--as hirelings. Unaware of the law regulating slaves taken out of the state, when he receives an appointment as a Navy surgeon and returns to Virginia, he discovers he did not register the slaves as required by law and now his family stands to lose the three slaves they inherited from General Richard Kennon. The shoemakers are natives of Virginia, he explains, and currently hired out in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. He asks to hold the slaves "free from any penalty or interruption."

PAR Number 11681401

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Brunswick Location Type: County

Abstract: Godfree, formerly the slave of William Brown of Surry County, was bequeathed by Brown to his daughter, a minor. The young woman has recently married John T. Bowdoin, who has now emancipated him for "various considerations," especially his "long and faithful services." Godfree's wife and children are slaves in the same county. According to the law of Virginia regulating the emancipation of slaves, he is faced with the prospect of leaving them or surrendering his liberty. He asks for permission to remain in the state.

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