Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10381825

State: Delaware Year: 1818
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Reading purchased three slaves at a sale in Cecil County, Maryland, in the summer of 1817. Noting that "said negroes were purchased for your Petitioner for her sole use," Reading states that the slaves "have ever since remained in the said state, and out of possession of your Petitioner, by reason of the Laws of this State operating to prevent the introduction of Slaves into the said State." She therefore prays that an act be passed "authorising and impowering her to bring the said negroes into this state and retain them as such."

PAR Number 11280809

State: North Carolina Year: 1808
Location: Person Location Type: County

Abstract: Lucy Crockett charges that her husband William abandoned her shortly after their marriage and that "she was possessed of several valuable slaves and other property" that the said William "in a few months squandered and sold." Lucy further reveals that she was pregnant and poor when William left her "to wander about." Noting that her husband has been jailed "for the passing of Counterfeit Bank Notes," the petitioner prays that a law be passed to secure to her "all property which she may hereafter acquire free from the controul of said William Crockett" and that William "not be allowed to disturb or molest her property hereafter acquired, nor have any more controul over her or her property than if they had never been married."

PAR Number 11280811

State: North Carolina Year: 1808
Location: Anson Location Type: County

Abstract: Lucy Cook Self seeks to secure her right to a slave named Tisha. Before she went to the "western Country" with her husband in 1803, Self states that her father gave her "a Certain Negro wench Named tisha which sd wench was by virtue of the sd Deed of Gift to be my property at my fathers Decease which sd Negro Remains in my fathers possession." Lamenting that she lost her eyesight about 1806 and her husband "Departed from her & Left her in that Doleful Situation & Never Returned to Dwell with her any more," the petitioner prays that she be granted "some Releif by Securing to her the aforesaid Negro wench together with Such other property as She may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11280903

State: North Carolina Year: 1809

Abstract: Frances Murdin reveals that her husband David "fled & left in the most dependant and wretched situation your petitioner with three children without a morsel of support" and "took with him all the negroes about eight." She states that she and David married in 1798 and that "by a constant round of dissipation and extravagance he was embarrassed by debts." Murdin fears that "without your Legislative interposition this unfeeling monster will return from Georgia ... and again rob your petitioner of the scanty necessaries of life by her manual labour she has collected." She therefore prays that "your Honoble Body in tender consideration [will] be pleased to enact such a law as will secure to your Petitioner what little she at present possesses or may hereafter obtain by her own labour, by gift or Inheritance free from the debts or power of her Husband."

PAR Number 11281006

State: North Carolina Year: 1810
Location: Duplin Location Type: County

Abstract: Barbara Wilkinson, the widow of Robert Dickinson, laments that her present husband, Dr. John Wilkinson, abandoned her and "left her destitute of almost every means of support, without Provisions, Scarcely a Bed to lie on, or cloaths to wear." Barbara recounts that she was, at the death of Dickinson, left in "Comfortable and oppulent Circumstances." She regrets, however, that she heeded the advice of her friends and married the said Wilkinson, who was "much Esteemed by those who were acquainted with him." Barbara confesses that "her felicity was of short duration" and that she discovered "she was not the object of his affection" and "found herself in many Respect treated more like his Servant than his wife." The petitioner therefore prays that the legislature "will devise and adapt such Means ... best Calculated to Secure her in future from being again Stripped of her all by the said John Wilkinson."

PAR Number 11281202

State: North Carolina Year: 1812
Location: Perquimans Location Type: County

Abstract: Rhoda Wynns states that she was left "in affluent circumstances, possessed of Lands, Houses, Negroes, and Stock" upon the death of her husband eight years ago. She laments, however, that four years ago she married a certain Benjamin Wynns, whose "deceptive tongue induced your petitioner to believe she had married a Gentleman and a man of fortune." Rhoda reveals that her husband has beaten her so much that she "was obliged to bind him to the peace to protect my life from his cruel hands." Noting that said Benjamin has disposed of or sold her property and has "returned to the County from whence he came," Rhoda prays that she be granted "such relief in the premises as will enable her to possess quietly such property as she may obtain by donation, industry, or otherwise." Affidavits disclose that Rhoda took refuge "at a Negro man's house by the name of Dick" when she fled from her husband's assaults.

PAR Number 11281401

State: North Carolina Year: 1814
Location: Gates Location Type: County

Abstract: Love Brady laments that her husband Mills "did beat and Iltreat" her and that he "Spent and Wasted the whole of the property," which included "Negroes and other things" that she owned prior to her marriage. The petitioner further confides that her husband has abandoned her "without any thing to Subsist on, other than the Charity of Friends and took up with a Certain Selah Eure with whom he lives." She therefore prays that a law be passed "Vesting any property in your Memorialist that She may hereafter acquire by Industry, Gift ... or otherwise and barring Said Brady from any Claim on property so acquired by your Memorialist."

PAR Number 11281601

State: North Carolina Year: 1816
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriet Laspeyre seeks a separation from her husband Bernard, "late of the Island Hispaniola." Laspeyre laments that she "discovered to her infinite mortification that her property trifling as it was had been the primary object of his warmest affection." She further confesses that she "was too soon made sensible of his fixed determination to compell her by every diabolical scheme & the brutality of his manners and the malignity of his heart could devise to a surrender of every thing she held in her own right." In addition, she confides that she "was at length stripped of the right that every woman claims" as she was "divested of her keys," thereby "deprived of the authority of a mistress, her negroes forbidden to obey her orders under penalty of the severest punishment." Laspeyre charges that "the profits arising from the labor of her Slaves, which ought to have been appropriated, to the support and education of her children, she had the extreme vexation to see wantonly lavished on his black and mulatto mistresses." Having left her house under a serious apprehension "of an attempt upon her life," the petitioner therefore prays "your Honourable body in tender consideration of her wretched and desolate condition, to pass an act to separate her from her said husband and to secure to her the residue of her little property and what she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11281703

State: North Carolina Year: 1817
Location: Sampson Location Type: County

Abstract: Bernard Laspeyre asks that an act passed in favor of his wife Harriet be repealed. Bernard contends that the charges contained in "that obscene Instrument" constitute "a Virulent and Infamous Libel, under the name of a Petition" and that Harriet's petition "cannot be the production of that fallen Angel, once the ornament of her Sex"; said petition accused Bernard of committing adultery with her slaves and marrying her solely for her property. He further asserts that Harriet abandoned him "in a fit of Jealousy" and that he urged "her by the tenderest terms and manner to return to your Memorialist house and family"; instead, he complains that she inveigled "from his Service all his negroes which by a Marriage Settlement are under his Sole controll." The petitioner therefore prays that "you will be pleased to Repeal the act passed Last session in favour of his Wife, as being Ruinous to your Memorialist and family and being Subversive of the most Sacred Institutions of Society." If not checked, Bernard believes that "before long the tables of Both houses [will be] covered with Petitions from Jealous and discontented Wifes, who are now on the tiptoe of expectation to see the issue of this petition."

PAR Number 11281705

State: North Carolina Year: 1817
Location: Bertie Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hassell laments that her husband Benjamin "has betaken to himself as a wife & companion a negro woman, the slave & lawful property of your petitioner." Hassell admits that she has removed herself from her husband, "who is looked upon as disgraceful ... by every upright & virtuous member of civil society," in order "to relieve herself from the odious embraces of a man so entirely destitute of all the finer feelings of sensibilities." Seeking to secure to herself "the remnant of property yet remaining" and to protect any future acquisitions "from the cruel & rapacious grasp of the monster," the petitioner implores the legislature to pass an act protecting the property still “in her possession, & all that she may ever hereafter acquire, either by her own industry or inheritance."

PAR Number 11281902

State: North Carolina Year: 1819
Location: Duplin Location Type: County

Abstract: Rebecca Newkirk, wife of Alexander Newkirk, prays "that a law may be passed at your present Session securing to her such property and effects as she may hereafter acquire in such manner as will effectually prevent such property and Effects being subject or liable to the discharge or payment of any Debt heretofore contracted or that may be hereafter contracted by her said Husband." Newkirk admits that "it wounds her very soul" to state that all of her "Good Property consisting of Land and Negroes" has "been sold to discharge her said Husbands Debts" and "a great amount" of debts still remains unpaid.

PAR Number 11282001

State: North Carolina Year: 1819
Location: New Hanover Location Type: County

Abstract: British citizen Mary Ann Sansum, traveling from the West Indies to Florida, was shocked when her two body servants--a black and "mulatto" couple--as well as their four children, were seized at the port of Wilmington; the family was taken up shortly after the boat arrived, as the importation of slaves was prohibited. Sansum asserts that the United States consul in Martinique assured her that she could travel with her slaves without interference. The petitioner therefore prays "such relief as the peculiar embarrassments of her situation require either by arresting the sale or refunding the proceeds" from said sale.

PAR Number 11282302

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

Abstract: Jane Welborn informs the General Assembly that she married her husband John in 1776 and remained with him until 1793 when she "was compelled to separate herself" from him due to his intolerable "abusive treatment and dissipated habits." Welborn relates that "her said Husband since the time of their separation has been stroling about the Country without being of much benefit to himself of any person else." The petitioner reveals that she inherited a life interest in five slaves from her stepfather William Bell but she laments that "the lifetime right in said slaves has been sold to satisfy said Husband's debts." Welborn therefore prays that a law be passed "securing to her such estate as she may hereafter acquire by gift descent or her own industry."

PAR Number 11283204

State: North Carolina Year: 1832
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Reid seeks a divorce from her husband Elias. Mary, also called Polly, confides that the said Elias, shortly after their marriage, told her "that altho she was his wife he had no regard for her" and that he "had married her alone for the property which she brought him;" said property consisted of "a very large personal estate consisting mostly of negro slaves." She further states that her husband banished her "from his house & placed her at his negro quarter where she was deprived of all the conveniences as well as necessaries of life beyond a bare sufficiency to support existence." Mary maintains "that while at the said negro quarter her provisions were measured out to her in the same way as if she had been a field labourer." Having abandoned her husband and "now destitute," the petitioner prays that "the tie which binds her to her husband" be dissolved and that she be granted "all the relief which her case shall require."

PAR Number 11283301

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

Abstract: Gatsey Stevenson laments that her husband Silas is "unfortunately addicted to habits of intemperance" and that his "fits of intoxication" forced her to "quit his society" and to take "shelter under the roof of her father." Gatsey further confesses that the said Silas "took into his house a profligate woman ... & is now living in adulterous intercourse." She reveals that said woman "by some device has procured title" to her husband's plantation and she has thus been "cast upon the world utterly destitute." Gatsey therefore prays "that a law may be passed ... securing to her such property as she may hereafter acquire."

PAR Number 11482107

State: Tennessee Year: 1821
Location: Sumner Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Street asks for a divorce from her husband, James Street. She confides that "in about two years after our marriage he sold a negroe the only one we had, and then went off and left your petitioner." Street further laments that "in his absence the ballance of our property was taken by his creditors." She also discloses that the said James "was continually abusing her" and "was subject to intoxication and frequently would stay from home drunk two or three weeks at a time." With five children to support, Street prays "your honorable body to grant her a divorce from the bonds of matrimony" and that any property she may acquire be protected from satisfying the debts of the said James.

PAR Number 11482911

State: Tennessee Year: 1829
Location: Williamson Location Type: County

Abstract: Martha Smith Green seeks a divorce and the "right of all the Property She may hereafter acquire by honest Industry or donation of friends." Green charges that her husband Thomas abused and beat her and that he accused "your Petitioner of being Intimate and guilty with his Negro man Jim, to the great mortifycation of your Petitioners feelings." She further confesses that her said husband severely beat her "in such a Manner that she carried the markes of his violence on her body for twenty weeks." Green further represents that her husband admitted "that he was Carnally guilty with [a] negro girl." The petitioner therefore prays that an act be passed for her benefit, divorcing her from the said Thomas and securing her right to property she may acquire hereafter.

PAR Number 11484601

State: Tennessee Year: 1846
Location: Humphreys Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Hunt Larkins, the widow of slaveholder Spencer T. Hunt, seeks to nullify a provision in his will giving "a large Portion of his Estate to the Counties of Humphrey and Dickson for Common School purposes." Larkins states that she married Hunt in 1820 and that "at the time of the marriage the said Hunt was in indigent circumstances." She asserts that "by the joint labour economy & industry of your petitioner & the said Hunt they soon accumulated a large portion of Real & personal property." The petitioner points out, however, that her late husband "Bequeathed nearly all of his property to your petitioner during her life or Widowhood and then to the counties of Humphreys & Dickson which Bequest your petitioner considers unjust." Larkins "therefore prays your Honorable Body to pass an act for her Special benefit in as much as the citizens of Humphreys and Dickson Counties are all willing to relinquish all claims that they may have to the property Bequeathed to the two counties by the last Will of her husband Spencer T Hunt."

PAR Number 11484907

State: Tennessee Year: 1849
Location: Fayette Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixty-five "Ladies of Fayette County Tennessee" ask that "the personal estates of females be placed upon a similar basis as their Real estate, & so protected & secured that it cannot be sold, & taken from them without their consent & in a manner prescribed by law." They lament that under current laws "the competent estates descended to them from the estates of their deceased fathers which often in one or two years after marriage, are totally wasted & taken from the wife & children, reducing them to want & suffering, in consequence of the disipation or improvident management of thoughtless husbands." The petitioners further note "that with our peculiar southern institutions & customs it is in most cases a much greater privation & inconvenience to the married ladies to be deprived of their slaves than of their land."

PAR Number 11484919

State: Tennessee Year: 1849
Location: Maury Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixty-two male citizens of Maury County propose the passage of a law "Securing to every free white man or woman (who has a Family) a freehold Estate including the Homestead or Dwelling house to the value of $600 free from Execution." They believe such a law would benefit "the greate mass of the good people of Tennessee" and would negate the "supposed necesity of passing a Law Sacuring to married Women their property." The petitioners assert that "if such a Law, as last mentioned should pass it would protect the rich and not the poor" and "a few would have Secured to them (by sd Law) large estates to be handed down through the Female part of their Families in all time to Come, amounting to a Legalised and Oppressive monopoly of wealth."

PAR Number 11680607

State: Virginia Year: 1806
Location: Brunswick Location Type: County

Abstract: Mary Peebles of Brunswick County informs the court that in the past "she has been in the habit of working her slaves primarily on her own plantation but sometimes sent "such of them as were then considered as supernumeraries" to her son in "Carolina." By an "act of providence," however, she has now lost virtually all of her male slaves and needs the slaves in her son's possession to work her land in Virginia. She contends that without them she will be forced to abandon her land. She asks from an exemption from the amended law passed 25 January 1806 in order to be authorized to bring her slaves and their descendants back to Virginia.

PAR Number 11680701

State: Virginia Year: 1807
Location: Culpeper Location Type: County

Abstract: John Cooke asks the legislature for an exemption from the law prohibiting the transportation of slaves into Virginia. He informs the court that he was formerly a resident of the state of Maryland where he and his wife were married, but that he has lived in the state of Virginia for twenty-two years. He explains that his wife's father recently departed this life and that his wife has inherited from him "certain Negroes" to whom she is "much attached" and does "not wish" sold "if she can enjoy them otherwise." Cooke asks the legislature to pass a law authorizing him to bring the "negroes bequeathed to his Wife into this State."

PAR Number 11680805

State: Virginia Year: 1808
Location: Loudon Location Type: County

Abstract: William L. Lewis seeks permission to bring into Virginia four slaves that had belonged to his new wife, the former Ann Dunnington of Maryland. Lewis says he will use the slaves himself, and does not wish "to part with them on any terms whatever."

PAR Number 11680809

State: Virginia Year: 1808
Location: Dinwiddie Location Type: County

Abstract: In his will Samuel Major's father loaned a slave named Nancy to his daughter, Nancy Major. According to the will, Nancy Major would have the use of the slave during her "natural life" and at her death the slave would go to her children or, should she die without issue, to her siblings. In due time, Nancy Major married a man named John Cabe who soon thereafter moved with his wife to North Carolina, taking with him the slave Nancy "as by law he had a right to do." Nancy Major Cabe has now died childless and the slave Nancy and her children have been divided among her siblings, including her brother Samuel, the petitioner in this case. Samuel is desirous to bring his share of his sister's inheritance to Virginia but is unable to do so because of the law prohibiting the importation of slaves into the state. Samuel Major therefore asks the legislature to consider his case and to allow him to bring his slaves into "his native place of residence."

PAR Number 11680903

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

Abstract: In April 1808, Virginia slaveholder Thomas Bayly died leaving his daughter, Margaret Ker Robins, six slaves, Jack, Peter, Ladock, Rachel, Agnes, and an infant Letty. Immediately after Bayly's death, Bowdoin Robins, Margaret's husband and a resident of Maryland, took into his possession Jack and Rachel, both house servants, and after the crop was finished in the fall he received the others. Bowdoin Robins's land was on the boundary line between Virginia and Maryland, and their dwelling was located in the state of Maryland. In February 1809, Bowdoin Robins died, bequeathing the slaves to Margaret. Immediately after her husband's death, Margaret went "to her friends in the County of Acomac in the state of Virginia and brought with her the said slaves," unknowingly violating the law prohibiting the importation of slaves into the state of Virginia. When she discovered her error, Margaret also learned that, as a penalty, the slaves might be "taken from her by the overseers of the poor and sold." At the same time, she was advised by counsel that she would further compound her error by returning the slaves to Maryland, where they would be entitled to their freedom. Margaret Robins, desirous to remain in the county of Acomac with her friends and relations, pleads with the court to allow her "to retain" her slaves "that she does possess and raised in her father's family."

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