Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11681104

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: As a slave, Fincastle Sterrett was sent to distant points, from Baltimore to New Orleans, to transact business for his owner, William King, a merchant. Sterrett was entrusted to handle large sums of money without "the slightest suspicion of improper conduct." King frequently assured Sterrett that "he should have his Freedom;" and, in anticipation of that moment, he even allowed Sterrett "to purchase Real property and enjoy the Benefits of it; in no one respect did he treat him as a slave." But "not withstanding this Humane and Benignant intention," King died "without having made his contemplated provision for" Sterrett's freedom. Sterrett was sold, but he was purchased by a relative of King, who set him free. "In the first emotions of Freedom," Sterrett tells the court, "he joyfully fancyd he would date his existence from that period," only to find out that he must now leave the state "that gave him Birth, and abandon forever a family to which he is attached by the sacred ties of Friendship and Gratitude." "To return to a state of slavery the thought is dreadfull but between that and the sacrifice your petitioner will have to make in order to save himself and injoy the Blessing of the Haven he had in view, there is very little or no difference." He asserts that "Could he certainly be a Slave to the indulgent Family who raised him he would prefer it to the expatriation that awaits him but he fondly hopes his Country will interfere and mitigate the rigor of a Rule destructive to One who tho a slave has been raised the companion of freemen & who tho a Man of Color possesses Character, Integrity, & Sensibility." He begs to be permitted to stay in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681108

State: Virginia Year: 1811

Abstract: James L. Clowney seeks permission to retain his slave Isaac, a gift from his father in South Carolina. Clowney informs the court that, "feeling himself attached to the government and laws of Virginia in general-the climate and productions of the soil-the customs and manners of the inhabitants and more particularly from the matrimonial connection which he has formed here, he is induced to prefer a residence in this Commonwealth." He therefore brought Isaac into the state in the spring of 1810, and remained determined "never to part with him by selling him out of this state inasmuch as it would be a violation of feelings which your petitioner cannot think of committing either as it respects himself or the aforesaid Slave."

PAR Number 11681112

State: Virginia Year: 1811

Abstract: As owners of three thousand acres of land in Virginia, Thomas Beall and George Washington seek to transfer about fifty slaves back and forth between Maryland and Virginia "as their interest require." It would be an "act of inhumanity" to sell the slaves, since they had been "raised" by Thomas Beall, and possessed "family connections among themselves." The petitioners claim that they "are the more encouraged to make this application form the liberal indulgence of the Virginia Legislature already extended to others in similar situations, particularly to a person by the name of Hardage Lane which the acts of the Virga assembly will fully demonstrate."

PAR Number 11681116

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Fluvanna Location Type: County

Abstract: On 17 December 1810, Henry Martin reluctantly agreed to his wife's removal to Kentucky to be with relatives who were pressuring her to go live with them. Henry and Lucy Martin had been married thirty years, but Lucy's behavior had become strange and Henry agreed to the trip "with a view of its restoring her mind to its usual state and dignity." He allowed her to take four slaves to accompany her on the journey--Paul, Nelly, Cuzza, and Peter. Since that time, "it has been the will of providence to convey her [Lucy's] spirit to its immortal home," and Henry now wants to bring his slaves back to Virginia. He is very much attached to the slaves, he informs the legislature, as they have been "raised by him and in the family." He asks that they be permitted to return.

PAR Number 11681121

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

Abstract: John Osborne informs the court that, a few years prior to the filing of his petition, he purchased a slave named James Butler of Prince George County, for one hundred eighty pounds, from Captain Richard Williams. As part of the sale contract, Osborn agreed to allow James Butler to purchase himself "from the proceeds of his own labor and exertions" and "to emancipate him if required so to do." Though born a slave, Osborne says, James possesses the "honor and integrity of a freeman;" he has earned "the affection of his owners and the goodwill and esteem of all the people to whom he was known." James, who is "waxing old in years, has "faithfully and honorably paid the last farthing of the sum which was to entitle him to emancipation." However, the petitioner explains, if he frees James the latter will be forced by the "law this time in operation" to leave the state and his family. Osborne therefore asks an exception to the law and that James be freed, and permitted to remain in Virginia with his wife and children "to enjoy his freedom in his latter days."

PAR Number 11681123

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Ohio Location Type: County

Abstract: Having purchased a farm in Ohio County, Virginia, many years before, Robert Hardcastle now plans to move from Talbot County, Maryland, where he has "no family to detain him," to Virginia. He is desirous to settle his grandson on his farm, for the boy is the "only one of his offspring" in the state of Virginia "with whom he intends spending the remainder of his days," which can be "but few according to the causes of nature he being upwards of seventy two years of age." Hardcastle has brought with him from Maryland "one Male Slave a lad of about Sixteen years" to whom he is very much attached, having "raised" him from childhood, who is attached to him as well, and whose services are much needed in his old age. Hardcastle therefore prays that the legislature will "grant him the priviledge to continue his slave without incurring the penalty of the Law."

PAR Number 11681128

State: Virginia Year: 1811
Location: Southampton Location Type: County

Abstract: Joé Booth, a free man of color, was emancipated by the will of his late owner, James Booth, to whom he was "born a slave" and with whom he remained untill the latter's death. Joé explains that he was emancipated in consideration of his "long & faithful services" to the late James Booth. However, Joé explains, he is an old man and "the priviledge of freedom will be of no enjoyment" to him if he cannot remain with his wife and children and is forced to leave Virginia as the law requires. He therefore asks permission to "remain unmolested" in Virginia "with his family and friends" for what is left of his life.

PAR Number 11681201

State: Virginia Year: 1812
Location: Westmoreland Location Type: County

Abstract: William Spence, a former Virginia resident who moved to North Carolina eleven years ago, seeks to return to Westmoreland County to assist his aging father, who is now "unable to undergo the fatigue and Labour so necessary for the comfort and Support of a very numerous Family many of whom are Infants of very tender years." Spence states, however, that he will be unable to discharge this duty "unless he can be allowed to bring with him into this State" five slaves, "who from your Petitioners Humanity to them have become attached to him." He therefore prays "that a Law may be passed authorising your Petitioner to bring with him into this State the aforesaid Negroes, John, Gideon, Jack and Mary and Mary's Infant Child."

PAR Number 11681415

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

Abstract: Patrick Michie, the executor of the estate of the late John Bourn, seeks to free two of Brown's long-time, faithful slaves, as stipulated in his will. According to Michie, the late Bourn "was remarkably attached" to the two men. Michie explains, however, that the two slaves, James Barrett and Ludowick Muckleton, do not wish to leave Virginia--"they appear unwilling to accept emancipation on the terms of exile." Michie therefore asks that James and Ludowick be freed and allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681501

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Frederick Location Type: County

Abstract: "Hurried off" by a "fatal and malignant disorder," slave owner Bennett Taylor did not have time to make arrangements for his slave Isaac's emancipation. Arguing that the master had always intended to free him, Isaac, also called Isaac Harris, petitions to have his late owners' intentions executed and to receive permission to remain in Virginia. In a related document, Bennett Taylor's widow testifies that Isaac's "most faithful services" had been "frequent subjects" of Bennett's "observation and had made so deep an impression on his feelings that for many years before his death he appeared resolved to avail himself of the power which his affluence would give him of emancipating Isaac without affecting the future of his representatives." The widow adds that Bennett "would have done it in his lifetime but that as Isaac had belonged to the family of his father, some of whose slaves had not been very subornidate, he feared lest such an act might render them ore unruly than before." Nevertheless, the widow testifies that it was her husband's wish on his death bead that Isaac be emancipated after his death.

PAR Number 11681520

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Louisa Location Type: County

Abstract: Slave owner John Bourn died in 1813, stipulating in his will that his two male slaves--James Barrett and Ludwick Muckleton--should be emancipated, and that his executor should apply to the legislature for their freedom. The executor, Patrick Michie, states that he is probably entitled to the slaves if they are not freed, but he asks that they be emancipated and allowed to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681611

State: Virginia Year: 1816
Location: Henrico Location Type: County

Abstract: Charles Crenshaw represents that Capt. Izard Bacon died on 8 January 1815, having previously expressed his desire to emancipate his slaves "as soon as a law can be obtained giving them leave to remain in the state." Crenshaw reveals that Bacon "manifested great concern at the alteration of the law putting it out of his power to execute his steady & known intention." The petitioner further discloses that said slaves "are willing & anxious to leave the State rather than remain in their present situation." He notes that "it is believed to be the policy of the Legislature & the interest of the state to diminish its black population & that consequently a law liberating them upon condition of leaving the state would have for its broad basis the humane will of their master living & dying, the anxious desire of his faithful Slaves, the policy of the Legislature & the interest of the state, the passage of which is therefor hereby solicited." The petitioner also requests that a trustee be appointed "to take charge of these People with power to collect the money due for their services since the death of their Master, as a fund to defray the expenses of their removal & to assist them in settling."

PAR Number 11681703

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Austin petitions the legislature to authorize her to free her slave Amanda when the latter reaches the age of eighteen or before, should she die before Amanda reaches that age. Mary Austin explains that as an infant Amanda had her mother "taken from her" and was gravely ill for a long time. Mary nursed her back to health, and consequently formed, "perhaps unfortunately, a strong, and from its continuance, it seems, a lasting attachment for her." It would be "most abhorrent and distressing," Mary informs the legislature, if Amanda were to remain a slave. The language of the petition makes it unclear whether Amanda's mother was sold away from her or died.

PAR Number 11681706

State: Virginia Year: 1817
Location: Campbell Location Type: County

Abstract: On a trip to Kentucky, slaveholder George Whitlocke took along his personal servant Edmund, but when Edmund misbehaved Whitlocke left him behind in Kentucky "as a method of punishment." Several years later, Edmund is still in Kentucky, but, Whitlocke says, he has expressed "great contrition for the offence he had committed" and is very anxious to return to Virginia. For his part, Whitlocke, who inherited Edmund from his parents, is loathe to leave him in Kentucky. And "he was about to give orders for" Edmund's return, "when he was told, to his surprise, that he could not do so without violating a law of the commonwealth." Edmund, Whitlocke avers, "was raised with great care & tenderness by your petitioners parents, with whom he was always a great favorite, & at their death, was left as a specific legacy to your petitioner. Your petitioner regards him, in this point of view, as a memorial of parental affection peculiarly interesting to his feelings, & it would be a subject of deepest regret to him thro his whole life if, by the stern inflexibility of the law, co-operating with his own unfortunate ignorance, the sacred intention of the authors of his existence should be frustrated." Whitlocke seeks permission to bring Edmund back to his "native country."

PAR Number 11682606

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

Abstract: Ben, a free man of color, set free, together with his seven-year-old daughter, by the last will and testament of his late owner, Jacob Warwick asks for an act of the legislature authorizing him and his daughter to remain in Virginia. Ben explains that not only did Warrick set him and his daughter free but he bequeathed to them three hundred acres of land. Ben explains that he is "tenderly attached" to the relatives of his late owner and begs to be allowed "to live in the enjoyment of the estate bequeathed to him by the bounty of his master, and avert the doom of Banishment."

PAR Number 11683212

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

Abstract: Thirty-six residents of Scott County represent that John Martin emancipated thirty-four-year-old Clara and her four-year-old daughter Maryah in 1828. They recount that "said Martin unfortunately lost his wife, who died leaving an infant a few days old, which infant was afterwards suckled and raised by the said Clara, by which she has become greatly attached to the said child, and is desirous of living with the said Martin (with whom she has lived ever since she was liberated)." Avowing that Clara "is a girl of good honest character, peaceable and inclined to stay at home," the petitioners put forth "that in this part of the Commonwealth, there is no possible danger as they believe from permitting such coloured persons to remain in the State, as there are but few slaves or free negroes here." They therefore pray that the legislature pass an act "permitting the said Clara and her said infant child Maryah to remain in this County."

PAR Number 11683507

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

Abstract: Some twelve to fifteen years prior to the filing of his petition, Fontaine Wells of Albemarle County purchased a female slave named Yarico from his father's debt-ridden estate. He explains to the legislature that, after his mother's death, Yarico "had supplied as far as was practicable her loss to her children by a constant watchful and affectionate care." From her "long and faithful services to the family," Yarico had become, "as was natural, an object of interest & affection with those who had witnessed & profited from her." For some time Wells explains, he has permitted Yarico to "receive, principally, if not entirely, the earnings of her own labor." She is "an honest and harmless and unoffending creature," Wells and others argue. He is desirous of setting her free and asks that she be allowed to remain in Virginia. Fifty-four citizens of the county join him in support of his request on behalf of Yarico.

PAR Number 11683809

State: Virginia Year: 1838
Location: Accomack Location Type: County

Abstract: Patty, a forty-year-old free woman of color, represents that "she was emancipated in the year 1831" by the will of the late Catharine Coward. She admits "that she has ever done or performed any one act of extraordinary merit, but she can safely appeal to a numerous list of most worthy and respectable citizens of the county of Accomack ... to support the fact that she has ever sustained the character of a servant distinguished for peculiar and uncommon faithfulness -- always the confidant, the intimate, the nurse and friend of her master, mistress, and their children." Patty further states that "she is a half-blood, her father a white man, and never was the associate or companion of negro-slaves, except in the superintendance of them in place of her mistress whom she relieved." The petitioner therefore prays, "in consideration of this continued character for life of exemplary moral worth," that "your honourable bodies to pass an act to exempt her from the operation of the general laws of the commonwealth compelling free negroes to depart from its limits."

PAR Number 11683915

State: Virginia Year: 1839
Location: Albemarle Location Type: County

Abstract: The widow and three adult children of the late Elijah Hamm represent that they "have been forced to the conclusion that their own interests as well as the interests of the infant legatees would be greatly promoted by selling the real estate instead of the slaves for the payment of debts." They assert that "it is doubtful whether the slaves, if sold, would be sufficient to satisfy and discharge" the estate's indebtedness. The heirs further state that said slaves "are family negroes and could not be conveniently spared, for without their labour, it will be utterly impracticable to support and maintain the testator's younger children, much less to educate them as directed by his will." The petitioners therefore "ask for the enactment of some appropriate law authorising the sale of the real estate."

PAR Number 11684308

State: Virginia Year: 1843
Location: Albemarle Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1833, George Rives, having inherited from his father about thirty slaves for whom he "felt all the peculiar ties of duty & attachment as is common under like circumstances," moved to Mississippi and acquired a cotton plantation. After two years, he discovered he had overestimated the potential profits and decided to bring his slaves back to Virginia. His creditors, however, initiated a suit, and he was delayed for a number of years. He has now settled with his creditors, and seeks permission to bring the "remnant" of his slaves, for whom he has great attachment, back to Virginia.

PAR Number 11684405

State: Virginia Year: 1844
Location: Kanawha Location Type: County

Abstract: William Davis represents that "he was emancipated by the last will and testament of his master, the late Judge Lewis Summers of Kanawha County." Davis states that "during the whole period that his beloved master held the office of Judge, being upwards of twenty-four years, your Petitioner was his body servant." The petitioner further notes that Summers bestowed "the gift of freedom" because of his "long and faithful services." Davis "desires now, first and above all things, to be permitted to remain in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to this end he prays the enactment of such statute as will confer on him that privilege."

PAR Number 11684501

State: Virginia Year: 1845
Location: Nelson Location Type: County

Abstract: Nelson Tinsley represents that, "with a view to a permanent settlement, he sent to the State of Missouri, sometime in the fall of 1839 in charge of his son William H. Tinsley sundry slaves." The petitioner discloses that his son has died and that, due to "the unhealthiness of the climate and other causes," he has "abandoned all idea of removing himself to the state of Missouri." Tinsley states that said slaves "were either given to him by his father or raised by himself and for whom he has a more than ordinary attachment" and that "he is desirous to bring them back to Virginia." Aware that "the existing laws of the Commonwealth" prevent his ability to do so, the petitioner prays "of your honourable body the passage of such a law ... as will enable him to bring back from the state of Missouri to the state of Virginia the slaves."

PAR Number 11685103

State: Virginia Year: 1851
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: Elleanor Vaughan and her six children join Dicey Vaughan, "a favorite of her master," in professing their desire "to remain within the limits of the state of Virginia." They report that the late Craddock Vaughan executed a last will and testament "by which he emancipated your petitioners." The Vaughans further disclose that the said Craddock fathered Elleanor's six children and that "the said Testator in his lifetime nourished and raised them as his own children and paid them every regard which a paternal care for their interest seemed to require"; they also aver that they are "in truth much more than three fourths white so far as blood is concerned." The petitioners note that they "are now taken by the laws to be noted as Free negroes" but that they believe that "they are themselves in their own estimation beyond the sphere of the Free negro class generally so degraded" and "among whom their lot is now most unfortunately cast." Citing their unusual circumstances, they declare that "they have been respectfully raised, know how to conduct themselves and have always conducted themselves well ... for they know perfectly well how much their welfare depends upon their own good conduct." They therefore pray that a law be passed allowing them to remain in Virginia. A related document reveals that Dicey’s husband and five children are among the seven slaves held by Craddock Vaughan’s estate.

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 20183401

State: Alabama Year: 1834
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: Thomas Lowry, guardian of William E. Gardner, states that twenty years ago Abner Eason died in Bertie County, North Carolina, bequeathing "a life interest" in two slaves, Kate and Harry, and Kate's future issue to his daughter, Penelope Gardner, and "that at her decease the same should belong to her heir." In 1832 when Penelope died, Kate's increase amounted to eleven children and grandchildren, who, according to the provisions in Eason's will, descended to Penelope's only son, William E. Gardner. Lowry asserts that William Daughtry, administrator of the estate and Penelope's second husband, and Nathan Smith, William Gardner's guardian at the time, contrived to deprive William E. Gardner of his rightful inheritance by dividing the slaves among themselves. Lowry contends that Daughtry, who received six slaves, sold Harry to William Vesey and has attempted to sell the other slaves and has "made preparation to remove" some of the slaves "to parts unknown with a view of preventing the recovery of them for said Ward, and that for that purpose he has manacles in readiness to force them away contrary to their will also, they being anxious to be restored to their rightful Master." Since the partition, the slave Hester has died in Daughtry's possession. Lowry asks the court to nullify the partition and the sale and requests that the slaves be returned to the possession of his ward. In addition, he asks Daughtry and Vesey to account for and pay to his ward for the hiring out of the slaves.

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