Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11083005

State: Mississippi Year: 1830
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Working and saving for many years, free man of color Jeremiah Gill purchased his wife, Amy, and daughter, Betsey, from one Caleb Reed. Now being "advanced in years," Jeremiah Gill asks the legislature for an act of emancipation for his family. He feared that if he were to die his wife and daughter might "through the tyranick grasp and relentless cupidity of some unfeeling wretch, be deprived of that portion of liberty, which the sweat of your petitioner's humble brow has purchased for them." In a related petition, filed the same year, one Theodore Richey presented Amy, whom he calls Ama, for emancipation, claiming her as his property. In this petition, Jeremiah Gill's prayer is granted; Amy and Betsey are set free and are given the last name of Gill. At the same time, the legislature also grants freedom to another slave named Rachel, whose emancipation was sought by one Lewis L. Glover.

PAR Number 11083006

State: Mississippi Year: 1830
Location: Wilkinson Location Type: County

Abstract: As executor of Patrick Foley's estate, Francis Evans asks for the emancipation of "a certain negro Slave named Burwell." In his will Foley had stipulated that, five years after his death, the slave should be freed. Evans is complying with this stipulation.

PAR Number 11083007

State: Mississippi Year: 1830
Location: Jefferson Location Type: County

Abstract: Eleven Jefferson County residents ask for the emancipation of Elizabeth, a sixty- or seventy-year-old slave. Elizabeth's owner, Isaac Corey, said on his death bed that he wished her to be freed and that after his debts were paid the residue of his estate should be paid to her. The citizens seek to carry out Corey's final wish. "What language can speak," the petitioners explain, "or logic point out more Cogent reasons for the liberation of a human being born, by Nature to enjoy the Vital air as free as it blows, what bosom Can feel an unfriendly sentiment to the unchaining of but a morsel of an Old age in bondage—Nature in a few years more will Claim & take her Own."

PAR Number 11083009

State: Mississippi Year: 1830
Location: Claiborne Location Type: County

Abstract: E. W. Haring asks the legislature to free his slave Rose Alston, who "has been a very faithful and obedient Servant to me for some years, and has through her industry and Economy procured money enough to partly pay for herself."

PAR Number 11378309

State: South Carolina Year: 1783
Location: All Saints Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: In May 1779, Samuel Hasford and several other residents of All Saints Waccamaw were "robbed of a number of their negroes, by a party of the British." The British took the slaves aboard a ship bound for a British port, but two American ships from Massachusetts captured the ship and the slaves; the slaves were carried to Boston. Hasford and several other owners fitted out a vessel "at a considerable Expense" and journeyed to the North to retrieve their slaves but were unable to do so because under the laws of Massachusetts the slaves were entitled to their freedom. The petitioner argues "that such Proceedings on the part of the said supreme Court of Massachusetts Bay are contrary to the Spirit, and Subversive of the Intention and meaning of the Articles of the Confederation." Furthermore, such actions "are highly detrimental to the property of the Inhabitants of this State, and if acceded to ... will inevitably tend to the certain ruin and annihilation of the planting-Interest, by holding out a Temptation to the Slaves, to take refuge in the State of Massachusetts Bay, where they will remain secure in their Liberty." Hasford prays for "such relief as to your Honourable House shall seem just, and Expedient."

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 11385701

State: South Carolina Year: 1857
Location: Charleston Location Type: District/Parish

Abstract: Peter Desverneys, a free person of color "now very much advanced in years" and "enfeebled by the failure of health combined with the decrepitude of age," seeks an increase in his "annuity of Fifty Dollars," which he received as remuneration for his part in the betrayal of the insurrection plotted by Denmark Vesey in 1822. With a large family to support and "now no longer able to work for their support," the petitioner "ventures to appeal to the generosity of the State to increase in his old age that bounty, which they voluntarily and of their own accord tendered to him in his youth."

PAR Number 11583801

State: Texas Year: 1838
Location: Houston Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Walling states that he emigrated to Texas with the belief that he "Could Emancipate Three Negro Slaves." He informs the legislature that he found he was "prohibited by the constitution of this republic to Emancipate those Slaves without the consent of Congress." He therefore prays "Congress to Grant me the liberty to set free or emancipate my Slaves," a twenty-four-year-old woman and her two children. Walling notes that he has "Conscientious scruples of holding in Bondage Said Woman and her two children."

PAR Number 11584902

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

Abstract: The executors of Daniel L. Richardson's estate seek to emancipate twenty-year-old Marcellus and four-year-old Clara. Richardson provided for the emancipation of the slaves, children of the slave of Laura, in his will. The petitioners note that they are compelled to petition the legislature since "section 1st Article 8th of the Constitution" states that "Emancipation cannot take place without the consent of your Honorable Bodies." They therefore pray that "you may pass a Bill granting the requisite Relief."

PAR Number 11678502

State: Virginia Year: 1785
Location: Halifax Location Type: County

Abstract: Two hundred sixty "Free inhabitants of Halifax County" argue that "the Enemies of our Country" are attempting to deny Americans the right to own property. They purport that "a very subtle and daring Attempt is on Foot to deprive us of a very important Part of our Property ... to wrest from us our Slaves by an Act of the Legislature for a general Emancipation of them." They charge that their designs are covered "with the Veil of Piety and Liberality of Sentiment But it is unsupported by the Word of God, and will be ruinous to Individuals and to the Public." Asserting that "Slavery was permitted by the Deity himself," the petitioners pray "that you will discountenance and utterly reject every Motion and Proposal for emancipating our Slaves."

PAR Number 11678503

State: Virginia Year: 1785
Location: Pittsylvania Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred forty-four inhabitants of Pittsylvania County argue that "the Enemies of our Country" are attempting to deny Americans the right to own property. They purport that "a very subtle & daring Attempt is on Foot to dispossess us of a very important Part of our Property ... to wrest from us our Slaves by an Act of the Legislature for a General Emancipation of them." They charge that their designs are covered "with the Veil of Piety and Liberality of Sentiment But it is unsupported by the Word of God, and productive of Ruin to this State." Asserting that "Slavery was permitted by the Deity himself," the petitioners pray "that you will Discountenance and utterly reject every Motion and Proposal for emancipating our Slaves."

PAR Number 11678504

State: Virginia Year: 1785
Location: Brunswick Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred thirty-eight inhabitants of Brunswick County declare that "We have a right to retain such Slaves as We have justly and legally in possession." They are "of opinion That it was ordained by the Great and wise Disposer of all Things that some Nations should serve others; and that all Nations have not been equally free." Citing several "Texts of Scripture," the petitioners plead "the inexpediency, the impolicy, and the impracticability" of "An Act to authorize the Manumission of Slaves." They therefore pray "that no Act may ever pass in this Assembly, for the general Emancipation of Slaves and that one Act passed May 6th 1782 ... be immediately and totally Repealed."

PAR Number 11678508

State: Virginia Year: 1785
Location: Mecklenburg Location Type: County

Abstract: One hundred ninety-two inhabitants of Mecklenburg County argue that "the Enemies of our Country" are attempting to deny Americans the right to own property. They purport that "a very subtle & daring Attempt is on Foot to dispossess us of a very important Part of our Property ... by wresting from us our Slaves by an Act of the Legislature for a general Emancipation of them." They charge that their designs are covered "with the Veil of Piety and Liberality of Sentiment But it is equally without any support from the Word of God, and pregnant with evil Consequences to this State." Asserting that "Slavery was permitted by the Deity himself," the petitioners pray "that you will discountenance and utterly reject every Motion and Proposal for emancipating our Slaves."

PAR Number 11678902

State: Virginia Year: 1789

Abstract: Benjamin Stevenson states that he "removed from the state of Maryland into the District of Kentucky and brought with him a few Negro Slaves" in 1787. He laments, however, that "he never was informed or heard that it behooved him to take any Oath concerning the importation of his Negroes into the State of Virginia" and that "by neglecting to take the Oath prescribed by law his Negroes were entitled to freedom." With the Legislature "his only prospect for relief," Stevenson "prays that the peculiarity of his situation may be taken into Consideration, and such relief granted as will secure to him the possession of the hard earnings of many Years industry, and deliver his beloved Wife and Children from that poverty which otherwise will be unavoidable."

PAR Number 11680003

State: Virginia Year: 1800
Location: King and Queen Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirty white citizens of King and Queen County argue that the law allowing the emancipation of slaves has created a "disturbed & Distressed Situation." True liberty, they contend, consists of "doing as we please" except when "our actings and doings prejudice others." They argue that "a general emancipation" of the slaves "in their present condition is impossible with our safety beside a commixture to our minds is abhorrent." They suggest that slaves be emancipated only for "meritorious services."

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."

PAR Number 11680923

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

Abstract: Amelia County residents seek to emancipate the family of Frank Gowen, an industrious free black man who purchased his wife and children, with whom he then lived "in peace and quietude." Gowen has recently died and although "no individual claim whatever has been or can be made to his family— Patience and the children Philemon, Elizabeth and Henry—the four slaves are nevertheless liable to be sold by the Overseers of the Poor. Patience and the children are honest, peaceful, and respectable, and deserve special consideration, the petitioners assure the legislative body.

PAR Number 11682404

State: Virginia Year: 1824
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Lewis Bolah, a free man of color, represents that he was born in Richmond, Virginia, and was sold, "in consequence of the pecuniary embarrassments of his former owner," to Waters Clarke of the City of New Orleans. He further recounts that he betrayed an insurrection plot among slaves, free people of color, and "a few abandoned and lawless white persons" in 1812; he surmises that had he not disclosed said "horrible conspiracy," there would have been a "general scene of conflagration, murder and robbery & the City of New Orleans and the surrounding Country if possible would have exhibited a spectacle of ruin and desolation exceeding anything which formerly transpired in St Domingo." Bolah states that the legislature of Louisiana was "pleased to consider the conduct of your Petitioner & some others as useful and meritorious" and "passed an act to purchase and emancipate them." Fearing for his safety, Bolah reports that he returned the following year to Richmond. The petitioner therefore "humbly prays the Legislature to pass an act authorizing and permitting him to remain and reside within this Commonwealth."

PAR Number 20379006

State: Delaware Year: 1790
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Joseph Sawyer, who is "by the Laws of the Delaware State a Freeman," states that Abraham Saunders, "his pretended Master," holds and detains him as a slave. Sawyer asks the court to summon Saunders "to answer your Petitioners Complaint."

PAR Number 20379009

State: Delaware Year: 1790
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Hope, a "Freeman," states that Boaz Walston, "his pretended Master," holds and detains him as a slave. Apprehending "that he is intitled to his Freedom," Hope asks the court to summon Walston "to answer your Petitioner's Complaint."

PAR Number 20379205

State: Delaware Year: 1792
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: George Pinkston, a Negro, states that David Maxwell, "his pretended Master," holds and detains him as a slave. Apprehending "that he is intitled to his Freedom," Pinkston asks that Maxwell be summoned "to answer your Petioners complaint."

PAR Number 20379514

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Jack, "a negro man," states that Jacob Biddle, Levin Henry, and "a certain Morton," do "pretend to be his master." He seeks a summons commanding them to appear in court "to shew cause if any they have why your Petitioner should not be decreed a freeman."

PAR Number 20379519

State: Delaware Year: 1795
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Suing by her next friend John Edmondson, "Negro Rose" states that James Godwin claims her as a slave. Apprehending "that she is entitled to her Freedom," Rose seeks a summons, commanding Godwin to answer the charges.

PAR Number 20380051

State: Delaware Year: 1800
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Henny Warner, a woman of color, states that she and her children--Susanna, Sophia, Rachel, Samuel, Polly, Mariah, Goldsborough, Emaline--and her grandchildren--Sarah, Basil, Hariott, Emory, Jonathan, John--are unjustly held as slaves by William Moss, Hewitt Smith, James Britton, Frederic Armington and Elizabeth Moss, "of the State of Maryland." Apprehending that she and her kin are "entitled to their liberty by the Laws of the land," Warner asks that the defendants be summoned "to shew cause of any they have, why your Petitioner, her Children and grand-Children afsd. should not be declared free."

PAR Number 20486241

State: District of Columbia Year: 1862
Location: Washington Location Type: County

Abstract: On 16 April 1862, Congress passed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Owners were required to file a schedule of slaves with the court, which issued certificates of freedom. On 12 July 1862, another act permitted minor or absentee owners and slaves themselves to file for certificates of freedom. Harriet Liveless, a female of "Dark Color," about thirty-two years of age, and George Liveless, a male of "Dark Color," about six years of age, state that they are owned by Amelia Gray, of Prince George's County, Maryland. They seek their freedom.

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