Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 10379002

State: Delaware Year: 1790
Location: New Castle Location Type: County

Abstract: Sluyter Bouchell represents that "he was altogether ignorant of any Law whatever forbidding the bringing Slaves in the State under any circumstances." Dr. Bouchell admits that, while administrating the estate of Thomas Witherspoon, "he found it necessary to purchase some additional Slaves whom he brought over about the time of his removal into this State from the State of Maryland." Noting that Abraham, Edward, William, and Rainy have "since instituted their actions for their Freedom," the petitioner asserts "that the Slaves all came willingly into the service of your Petitioner and as he believes are still content to serve him but as they have been instigated by some officious persons to apply for there Freedoms." Bouchell asks the legislature to assist him in preventing “the loss of said Slaves.”

PAR Number 10381001

State: Delaware Year: 1810
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Thirteen petitioners represent that they "have long considered certain parts of the law relative to the petitions of Negroes for their freedom as unjust and oppressive to their Masters." They assert that the filing process "produces an inevitable loss of service for that time beside the risk of an entire loss of such slave by affording him an opportunity of escaping beyond the reach of apprehension." In addition, they complain that "in every case whatever may be the decision and however unfounded the pretensions to freedom the Master is compelled to pay all costs of suit beside suffering other great expense and trouble." They therefore "respectfully suggest that so long as our Laws admit Slavery and the distinction of Master and Servant to exist they should be founded on principles of impartiality and equal justice towards both."

PAR Number 10381101

State: Delaware Year: 1811

Abstract: William Pearce, a resident of Kent County in Maryland, owns woodlands in Newcastle County, Delaware. He states that he is desirous for his slaves to cut firewood, timber, and rails in Delaware and transport the same into Maryland. Pearce informs the court, however, that "he is advised that by so doing his Slaves might be entitled to their Freedom by the existing Laws of your State." Seeking "to enjoy the benefit of the land he owns in the State of Delaware," the petitioner asks an "especial Act in his favour" to be passed, authorizing him "to employ his own Slaves and those of others in his employ ... in cutting and drawing firewood, timber, & rails" from his Delaware land into Maryland” and that said slaves "shall not be entitled to his, her or their freedom, in consequence of his, her, or their going into, returning from or remaining in the State of Delaware."

PAR Number 10383702

State: Delaware Year: 1837

Abstract: In 1809, Delaware resident John Cooper manumitted several slaves, including a woman named Lydia. By 1826, Lydia had married John Hawkins, a free man of color, and the couple had three children (Charity, Sally, and John) and were living in Caroline County, Maryland. However, John Cooper's son-in-law, John Willoughby, convinced Cooper that the Delaware manumissions were not valid in Maryland and that Cooper faced prosecution for allowing his former slaves to move there. Willoughby thus "seduced" Cooper to sign a deed conveying Lydia and her children to Willoughby, to Cooper's son, Richard, and to other relatives. Soon after, Willoughby and Richard Cooper took Lydia and her children to the Sussex County jail with "the intention to selling them to southern traders." John Cooper and another of his sons learned of this and demanded the former slaves be released, which they were. The freed slaves were never bothered again during John Cooper's life, the petitioner states. In April 1836, however, Willoughby and a gang of armed men kidnapped Hawkins' three children and the children of others freed by John Cooper and carried them to the jail in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Willoughby's objective was to sell them to "foreign traders, or carry them to the south himself." The case of their freedom is still pending in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Hawkins seeks an act that would affirm the legality of the manumission of his wife and children.

PAR Number 10384513

State: Delaware Year: 1845
Location: Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: Maryland resident John Black states that he plans to move to Delaware, that he owns lands in both states, and "that he is also the owner of slaves with which it is his wish and design to cultivate those lands." Citing that "his interests will be greatly impaired unless he can have the privilege of removing his said Slaves into or out of the said state of Delaware (as occasion may require) at his pleasure," Black "therefore prays for the passage into a Law" that will permit him to move his slaves between the two states at will.

PAR Number 10384911

State: Delaware Year: 1849
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: Twenty-two citizens of Sussex County "most Respectfully do Represent; that an Act of the General Assembly of the State of Delaware; passed in the year 1760 ... Entitled a further suppliment to the Act entitling an act for the better regulation of servants and slaves, within this Government; is essentially wrong and should in the opinion of the public, long since been repealed or amended." They "therefore pray your Honorable body to amend said Act, so that all petitions for freedom shall be by a next friend, the said next friend to be a free white citizen of the county where the petition is filed; that in all cases of a petition for freedom where matters of fact are involved, the case shall be decided by a Jury if not submitted by the parties to the decision of the Court; and that in all the decisions of the cases on petition for freedom, the costs of suit shall follow the decision of the case in the same manner as costs follow other causes decided in the Superior Court.”

PAR Number 10384912

State: Delaware Year: 1849

Abstract: Thirty-two citizens of Sussex County "most Respectfully do Represent; that an Act of the General Assembly of the State of Delaware; passed in the year 1760 ... Entitled a further suppliment to the Act entitling an act for the better regulation of servants and slaves, within this Government; is essentially wrong and should in the opinion of the public, long since been repealed or amended." They "therefore pray your Honorable body to amend said Act, so that all petitions for freedom shall be by a next friend, the said next friend to be a free white citizen of the county where the petition is filed; that in all cases of a petition for freedom where matters of fact are involved, the case shall be decided by a Jury if not submitted by the parties to the decision of the Court; and that in all the decisions of the cases on petition for freedom, the costs of suit shall follow the decision of the case in the same manner as costs follow other causes decided in the Superior Court.”

PAR Number 11000004

State: Mississippi
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: "Jerry a Man of Colour" was born a slave and asks for his freedom as stipulated in the will of Colonel Benajah Osmun. Jerry quotes the following clause from the will: "Item for the faithful services of my boy Jerry, I hereby manumit and set him the said Jerry free from slavery, from and after my decease."

PAR Number 11080601

State: Mississippi Year: 1806
Location: Adams Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1804 Israel Leonard purchased a slave named Samuel for $600. A few months later, however, Samuel sued for his freedom. The sheriff took the slave into custody, but Samuel escaped. Leonard sued the sheriff but the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the sheriff, alleging that the poor conditions of the jail for safekeeping were not the responsibility of the sheriff but the county. They advised that Leonard should seek compensation from the county. Leonard asks the legislature to force the county to pay him for the loss of his slave.

PAR Number 11279205

State: North Carolina Year: 1792

Abstract: Charlotte Green, "the daughter of a Free Woman who by her Industry & hard Labour purchased her Liberation," states that she "is yet in Bondage, altho' by the Interposition of a kind Providence she has it in her Power to seek an Honest Livelyhood in the World on her own footing." She "humbly prays that your Honours would take her case into consideration, & if you should see fit, to pass a Bill of Emancipation for her relief."

PAR Number 11279206

State: North Carolina Year: 1792

Abstract: John Waite states that he holds "a legal Bill of Sale" for twenty-year-old Charlotte Green, who has petitioned the Legislature for her freedom. Waite expresses that his "consent is hereby given, and it also my request, being desirous that she may be rewarded with the Blessings of Freedom for her Honesty and good Conduct." The petitioner attests that Green "is very able to get her own living, so that it is not probable the State will be ever burthened by your good Intentions." Waite states that it is his "wish that she may be Emancipated by the name of Elizabeth Johnston."

PAR Number 11283302

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

Abstract: Joseph Hostler, a barber in Fayetteville belonging to the estate of David Smith, reports that Smith allowed him "to purchase his own freedom" and that he has "paid to the said Smith & his Executrix ... the full sum of Five hundred Dollars, the sum required of him"; he also states that he has paid $96 "per year for about Four years and a half." The petitioner therefore "prays that he may be emancipated and admitted to the privileges of free men of Colour in this state."

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 11283306

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

Abstract: One-hundred-fifty-three residents of Williamston ask that the petition of Ned Hyman "for an act of manumission ... be passed by your Honorable Body in his favor and for his benefit." They further state, "that altho they know of no extraordinary meritorious services performed by Ned in saving the life of his owners in imminent peril," they "believe from what they know of Ned that no slave or free man would scarcely go further to deserve the good opinion of the public in any act that he could do than your petitioner Ned." They strongly insist that "Ned has been, and still is, a very uncommon and extraordinary Negro," in addition to being "remarkably industrious, frugal and prudent."

PAR Number 11283407

State: North Carolina Year: 1834
Location: Rowan Location Type: County

Abstract: Daniel Macay, a forty-five-year-old slave held by William S. Macay, represents "that it is his anxious wish and desire to become a Free man." He reports that "by means of great exertion and industry he has been able to acquire enough money (without at all neglecting his duty to his master,) to pay for himself." The petitioner therefore prays "that your Honorable body will permit him to be emancipated, according to the wish of his master, and on such terms as your Honorable body will prescribe."

PAR Number 11284401

State: North Carolina Year: 1844

Abstract: Jacob, Mary, Patsey, Meriwether, and Matilda, free blacks in Halifax County, Virginia, ask to settle in North Carolina. They explain that they were freed by the will of their late master, Phillip E. Vass [the younger]; said will directed that $2,000 be used to purchase at least 250 acres of land in North Carolina where the manumitted slaves would settle. The petitioners avow that "they are very poor and entirely destitute of the means to remove to any of the United States or to any other Country in which the laws would suffer them to reside and unless they can have the benefit of the provision made for them in the will aforesaid they are at all times liable by the laws of Virginia to be sold as slaves." They "therefore cast themselves on the indulgence of your Honourable body and humbly entreat that the benevolent intentions of their former master towards them may be suffered to be carried into execution by removing the restrictions which now prevent their availing themselves of all the benefits of the provision made for them by his will."

PAR Number 11485504

State: Tennessee Year: 1855
Location: Stewart Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixty-five-year-old Lizy joins her six grown children in requesting that the family be permitted to remain in Tennessee. They point out that they were formerly "the slaves of the late William Crouse," citing that "for many years prior to his death his mind was anxiously engaged upon the subject of emancipating your petitioners." They reveal, however, that they "fell into the hands of false and pretended friends," who kept them in bondage until they instituted a suit for their freedom in the chancery court in 1852; the court ruled in their favor and granted them freedom "upon the condition that they be sent out of the Country to the western coast of Affrica, as is provided by the act of the General Assembly of Tennessee passed 24 February 1854 during the pendency of their bill." Acknowledging the advanced age and infirmity of some of the family members, the petitioners pray that they be granted "the privilege of remaining citizens of Stewart County."

PAR Number 11485508

State: Tennessee Year: 1855
Location: Stewart Location Type: County

Abstract: Sixty-five-year-old Lizy joins her six grown children in requesting that the family be permitted to remain in Tennessee. They point out that they were formerly "the slaves of the late William Crouse," citing that "for many years prior to his death his mind was anxiously engaged upon the subject of emancipating your petitioners." The petitioners reveal, however, that they "fell into the hands of false and pretended friends," who kept them in bondage until they instituted a suit for their freedom in the chancery court in 1852; the court ruled in their favor and granted them freedom "upon the condition that they be sent out of the Country to the western coast of Affrica, as is provided by the act of the General Assembly of Tennessee passed 24 February 1854 during the pendency of their bill." Acknowledging the advanced age and infirmity of some of the family members, the petitioners pray that they be granted "the privilege of remaining citizens of Stewart County."

PAR Number 11585903

State: Texas Year: 1859
Location: Walker Location Type: County

Abstract: W. E. Price states that his slave Cuggoe "absconded from his servis in the state of Alabama on or about … 1835 and that your petioner came across him in Texas in the year 1856 and Acquired posesion of said negro." Price charges that James Davis of Polk County conspired with Cuggoe to file his petition for freedom on the grounds that the black man was in Texas under the Mexican government before the Texas Declaration of Independence. Price argues that this is "holy contrary to the constitution of the Republic of Texas." He prays that a law be passed requiring "all persons of color that was slaves Before they came to Texas Eather By absconding or Runing away from the legal owner and came to Texas Before the Declaration of Independance of Texas shall Be Delivered up to the Legal owner with Damage on Satisfacttary proof that such negro was Realy A Slave Before he came to Texas and that his Being in Texas Before the independence Shall not Be so Construed as to give him his freedom."

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 11678301

State: Virginia Year: 1783

Abstract: Ann Rose, the "bosom friend" of the late Walter Robertson, and Margaret Rose, her daughter by the said Walter, represent that they "were Slaves to the late Walter Robertson." They further report that "they petitioned the Court of Halifax, which said Court are of Opinion, that your Petitioners ought to be free, under a late Act of Assembly, as the said Court conceive it to be the desire of the said Walter, as declared by his said Will" and the said Court "did order that your Petitioners should become free persons." The petitioners admit, however, that "Doubts have arisen, with respect to the Legallity of the order of the said Court." They therefore pray "that your honourable House, will Enact a Law that shall secure to us our Freedom."

PAR Number 11678506

State: Virginia Year: 1785
Location: Williamsburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Abraham Peyton Skipwith petitions for his freedom. Skipwith asserts that Thomas Bentley, his late owner, expressed "a uniform intention to grant your petitioner his freedom, and in his last illness frequently declared the same intention." He further avers that he "obtained the confidence and regard of his said master insomuch that he was rather regarded as a Clerk and assistant than in the unfortunate character of a slave." The petitioner therefore prays that "an act may pass for granting to your petitioner the blessing of freedom."

PAR Number 11678601

State: Virginia Year: 1786
Location: New Kent Location Type: County

Abstract: James, "a slave belonging to Will Armistead of New Kent county," represents that, "with an honest desire to serve this country," he served as a spy for the Marquis Lafayette. James recounts that "he often at the peril of his life found means to frequent the British Camp by which means he kept open a channel of the most useful communication to the army of the state." The petitioner therefore "intreats that he may be granted that Freedom, which he flatters himself he has in some degree contributed to establish." James further requests that "his present master shall be made adequate compensation for the loss of a valuable workman."

PAR Number 11679202

State: Virginia Year: 1792
Location: Norfolk Location Type: County

Abstract: Saul, "the property of Geo Kelly Esqr," represents that "in the beginning of the late War, that gave America Independence, your Petitioner shouldered his musket and repaired to the American Standard Regardless of the Invitation trumpeted forth by British Proclamation, for the slaves to Emancipate themselves by becoming the assassins of their owners." He further asserts that he served in two capacities: "in the American Army, as a Soldier, In the British Army, as a spy." Saul submits that "in this double profession, your petitioner flatters himself that he rendered essential service to his Country." He therefore hopes "the Legislators of a Republick will take his case in consideration and not suffer him any longer to remain a transferable property."

PAR Number 11679401

State: Virginia Year: 1794

Abstract: David Baker represents that he was a slave in 1781 and "was delivered up as a free man and substitute for Lawrence Baker his former owner to serve under Capt Chandler the commander of the State Boat Patriot." David further states that he was later levied upon and purchased by Capt. Mallory Todd "who was apprised of your petitioners situation and purchased him your petitioner with his eyes open having been forewarned in publick company by your petitioner in the purchase." Baker therefore "humbly prays that this [honorable] Body will pass an act declaring your petitioner to be free."

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