Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 11679902

State: Virginia Year: 1799
Location: Bedford Location Type: County

Abstract: A number of years prior to the institution of his suit, Zachariah Neal purchased a slave named Amey, also known as Amey Jones, from one Lewis Davis. Following the purchase, Amey had several children and Neal paid a "considerable sum of money into" the "Treasury for the Tax on the supposed Slaves." But Amey Jones instituted a suit and won her freedom and that of her children, and she left Neal, as he claims, "old & infirm in Indigent Circumstances." Neal now seeks reimbursement of the taxes paid on the family over those many years.

PAR Number 11680506

State: Virginia Year: 1805
Location: Norfolk Location Type: County

Abstract: In March 1804, Norfolk County sheriff James Browne delivered a summons to Mathew Whiting, instructing him to appear in court and answer the charges of twenty-nine black people suing for "the establishment" of their freedom. When Whiting ignored the summons and refused to give bond, Browne took possession of twenty-six of the petitioners in accordance with the law that holds that people claiming to be free are to considered as such during the trial of the case and therefore cannot be kept enslaved. While the black people were in his possession, Whiting provided for them out of his own pocket because for a number of reasons he presents to the court his boarders could not be hired out to earn their keep. After a few months, Browne realized that "there was no certainty of what period the cause would have an end." In September, he submitted his account to the court and made an application for compensation of his expenses. Recognizing the justice of his claim, the court considered that the Commonwealth of Virginia "was chargable therewith" and "ordered to be certified to the auditor of public accounts for payment." The auditor rejected the court order "alledging that the case was not provided for by law." Browne went back to the court but to no avail; the court has directed the state to pay but will not itself assume the burden of compensating him. Browne pleads that he is "entirely without remedy unless by the aid of the Legislature;" he therefore prays that the "Honorable body will take his case into mature consideration and extend to him suitable relief."

PAR Number 11680905

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

Abstract: About 1798 or 1799, Travers Daniel Sr. of Stafford County advanced the money to a man named William Simmons for the purchase of a young slave named George Simmons from his then owner, Enoch Mason. The express purpose of the transaction was for young George's future emancipation when he reached the legal age of twenty-one. It was agreed that George would work for Daniel to reimburse him for the price of his purchase. In 1806, William Simmons died, leaving a will specifically stating that he wished his son emancipated and bequeathing to him all that he owned. However, the will was never properly signed by the testator and was never probated. George Simmons fears that, in the absence of a properly probated will, he will be robbed of his freedom by "some person or persons pretending to be the heirs of his father." He contends that Daniel is fully satisfied that he has been reimbursed for the money advanced to William Simmons and that nobody else has a claim on him. He therefore prays that "his right to liberty may be declared by law that he may not be deprived of that right which constitutes the greatest blessing and that the wishes of his father may not be defeated." Furthermore, he asks an exemption from the law requiring freed slaves to leave the state and to be allowed to remain in "his native state."

PAR Number 11681002

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Petersburg Location Type: City

Abstract: "[Y]our petitioner was born, and to this hour remains, a Slave," James Butler began. Having always conducted himself to gain the good will and esteem of whites, and having paid his master for his freedom, Butler asks for an act of emancipation. He "is now considerably advanced in years" and had long hoped to enjoy freedom in his latter days. But to leave his family within twelve months as the law requires would put him in a state "infinitely more galling" than bondage. He seeks permission to remain in Virginia. John Osborne, Butler's current owner, joins in his "prayer" to the legislature and various citizens of the county offer a certificate of good conduct.

PAR Number 11681003

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Albemarle Location Type: County

Abstract: Emancipated by Peter Lott of Albemarle County in his 1801 will, James Lott was nonetheless sold as a slave by the administrator of Peter Lott's estate to pay outstanding debts. It was James Lott's good fortune that Major Zachariah Carr, "knowing of the hardship of the case generously advanced the money for which he sold and waited" until James, "by his labour," had repaid him. By the time James was able to do so and he "fondly imagined he had arrived at the end of his Sufferings," an "act to amend the several laws concerning slaves" had been passed, which threatened to reduce him into "a State of servitude once more." James Lott prays that the legislature will pass a law confirming him in his freedom. Although, not specifically mentioned by James Lott, the law referred to in this petition probably is the law requiring all freed slaves to leave the state within one year of their emancipation.

PAR Number 11681022

State: Virginia Year: 1810
Location: Sussex Location Type: County

Abstract: Jacob, "a dutiful and faithful slave, & invariably obedient to the Commands of his much lamented Master, Mr. John Holt, late of Sussex County," represents that "for his long and meritorious Services his aforesaid Master, by his last will & Testament, bequeathed to your Petitioner his freedom, if the Honorable Legislature would, by a law, sanction it." The petitioner therefore prays "that a law may pass carrying into effect, the benevolent Request aforesd."

PAR Number 11681127

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

Abstract: Prior to his trial, conviction, and execution for murder, a slave named Will or William had instituted a suit in "forma pauperis" against his owner, Salley Pegram, "for the recovery of his freedom." The murder case was therefore remanded by the Dinwiddie County Court to the Superior Court where Will was tried as a free man. Pegram claims that, as part of the court decree, Will's value was assessed at $500. However, when Pegram applied to the auditor for compensation on the loss of her slave, the auditor consulted with the Attorney General who decreed that slaves suing for their freedom could not be tried and convicted as slaves; therefore the assessment of Will as a slave was inappropriate and compensation was refused. Pegram claims that, at the time of his death, Will was still her slave and she should therefore be compensated in the amount that Will was assessed.

PAR Number 11681134

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

Abstract: By his 1802 last will and testament, the late John Owen dictated that his slave, Jacob, should be freed after the death of his wife and the payment of all debts on his estate. Now in 1811, both "events having taken place," the slave Jacob petitions for his freedom. He explains to the "honorable Legislature" that he has contributed "by his great exertions" since his owner's death to extinguishing all the debts against the estate. He adds that he has been a "discreet, honest and industrious man," as is attested by "the certificate of a number of the most respectable people of the neighbourhood in which has always lived."

PAR Number 11681301

State: Virginia Year: 1813
Location: Petersburg Location Type: City

Abstract: As the "principal miller" in Richard Bate's "manufacturing mill," James Butler was promised his freedom by his owner who was "well pleased with his sobriety, honesty and general good conduct." However, before Bate made good on his promise, James Butler was seized, "with divers other slaves," on "an action of retinue" by his second owner, Captain Richard Williams; in other words James was seized to pay for Bate's debts. Williams, his new owner, "feeling for James's disappointment," promised that he would cause James to be emancipated if James paid him $600 from "his honest labour." Accordingly he executed a bill of sale to John Osborne, James's present owner, "a gentleman in whose entegrety and honor" James "reposed the fullest confidence, on a trust distinctly understood by all parties to the transaction." True to their word, James has now paid Osborne the value of his purchase "to the last farthing." But before he could make the last payment, an "act of assembly pas passed restricting the rights of entire emancipation of slaves at the discretion of their owners." James has now learned he would have to choose between leaving Virginia or remain a slave. He is now an old man--"in a few years the grave will close over his person"--and he wishes to remain near his children and friends. He asks for a law conferring on him the "rights of a free person," and permission to remain in Virginia.

PAR Number 11681304

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

Abstract: Nancy and her daughter Sophia are entitled to their freedom by the will of their late owner, Henry Holloway. However, Nancy informs the court, she and Sophia are "precluded from availing themselves (should they remain in the state) of the benefits intended to be confered on them by" their late owner because of "the provisions of the act entitled 'an act to amend the several Laws Concerning Slaves' passed on the Twenty fifth day of January 1806," which requires freed slaves to leave the state of forfeit their freedom. To venture to an unknown land, Nancy explains, "in the midst of Strangers, cut off from the society & aid of relations & friends," would be unbearable. She asks the legislature to give her permission "to remain within the limits of Virginia and to enjoy the immunities & priviledges to which they are entitled, under the Will of" their late master.

PAR Number 11681306

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

Abstract: When his master, Nathaniel Wheeler, decided to move from Prince William County, Virginia, to Tennessee, in 1808, Jacob struck a bargain to purchase himself and remain with his wife and children, slaves in Fairfax County. He paid for himself but before he received his deed of manumission, he explains, the General Assembly prohibited the emancipation of slaves within the commonwealth. Unable to fulfill the contract, Wheeler executed a bill of sale to Christopher Trickey, whom Jacob had chosen as his guardian, "with the condition that" Jacob "should have and enjoy the privileges of a free man." Accordingly, Jacob presented himself to the courthouse of Fairfax County to register as a free person of color. He was rejected. "Far advanced in life," he now turns to the legislature, asking that "in tender compassion for his age, and for the feelings of a faithful old negro" the legislators will "pass an act to enable" him "to spend his few remaining days within the Commonwealth." He would rather die, he says, than leave his wife and children "whom he tenderly loves." A related document reveals that his white guardian, Christopher Trickey, presented an affidavit to the legislature asserting that Jacob "was never designed" to be his slave and presenting himself as "exceedingly desirous" that Jacob be "legally emancipated & allowed to remain in this Commonwealth."

PAR Number 11681314

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

Abstract: In 1805, Simon Binns executed a deed setting his slave Daniel free. However the deed was not recorded until after the passage of the 1806 law prohibiting freed slaves from remaining in Virginia. Daniel now asks the legislature to him the privileges that were in effect according to the law when the deed was written, rather than when it was recorded. A related document reveals that the deed referred to by Daniel was executed in December 1805 and it directed that Daniel would be set free nine years after its execution, that is Daniel would be set free in December 1814.

PAR Number 11681405

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

Abstract: Following the sudden and unexpected death of slave owner Benjamin Harrison Esq., Nick Scott, Harrison's body servant, seeks to be emancipated and remain in Virginia. It was his owner's wish that he be freed, and the owner's son, also Benjamin Harrison Esq., is supportive of his request. Scott contends that he has conducted himself properly and can earn a living by "honest industry." He has a family in Buckingham County.

PAR Number 11681406

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

Abstract: Freed by the will of his late owner, John Fowler, four-year-old Willis seeks to remain in the state protected by his "friends." In his will, not only did Fowler free Willis, his mother Bett, and his two siblings, but he also bequeathed to them his plantation and some money. However Bett and two of her children died before the provisions of the will could be executed. Willis is now an orphan.

PAR Number 11681407

State: Virginia Year: 1814
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Hembro and Dilsy Gallego represent that Joseph Gallego executed deeds of manumission for Hembro on 15 December 1807 and for Dilsy on 7 July 1801. They recount that they have "possessed themselves of some valuable real and personal property which has been acquired by honest Industry." The couple further represents that they have a son named Phil, who "was born in Bondage," and that they "purchased him of his owner." They therefore "look with anxiety to Your Honourable Bodies to sustain their Petitioners, and that their Prayer may be granted, which is, that Phil their only Son, and only Child, may be emancipated from the Shackles of his Parents Successors, and that he may be enabled to inherit, at the Death of Your Petitioners, the property they may possess, and hold the same to all interests and purposes, as tho he had been born originally free."

PAR Number 11681411

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

Abstract: In 1805, Jacob contracted with his owner, Nathan Wheeler of Fauquier County, to purchase himself for fifty-six pounds and five shillings. It was Wheeler's intention to resettle in the "western country" and Jacob was unwilling to leave his wife and children behind. The money was to be paid through the hands of Christopher Trickey of Prince William County. Jacob paid twenty five pounds within a short time, but before he could pay the total amount the General Assembly had passed a law prohibiting emancipated slaves from remaining in Virginia. When Wheeler finally left Virginia, it was arranged that Jacob would be "sold" to Trickey, who became his nominal master, promising to free him whenever he wished. Now Jacob seeks emancipation and permission 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 11681510

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: The petitioners, slaves of Peyton Drew, are well aware of the law prohibiting emancipation within Virginia. But, they argue, the prohibition originated out of the "evils consequent upon an indiscriminate emancipation" and should not apply to virtuous slaves. Considering themselves "uniformly good & meritorious," they ask to be emancipated, and to remain in Virginia. They represent that Peyton Drew has "expressed a desire to have them emancipated and given a certificate to that effect."

PAR Number 11681512

State: Virginia Year: 1815
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Having faithfully served his deceased master, Captain John F. Price, for many years--"in Health, and Sickness, and in all vicisitudes"--William, alias William Yancey, asks for his freedom as authorized in Price's will. He also asks to remain in Virginia. Yancey believes that the legislature has the right to deny freedom to those who are not worthy, but argues that "limited & circumscribed" emancipation, based on merit, as in his own case, represents sound policy.

PAR Number 11681513

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

Abstract: Emancipated in his deceased owner's will, Joseph asks for an act of emancipation and permission to remain "in his native place free and unmolested."

PAR Number 11681521

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

Abstract: Thirty-year-old Harry Minor, a barber in Falmouth, has saved enough to purchase his freedom from his owner, Thomas Seddon. According to Minor, Seddon "is willing to emancipate him." Minor asks for permission to remain in Virginia. His wife and children are slaves "to whom he is tenderly attached and with whom he wishes to remain being unable to purchase them."

PAR Number 11681524

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

Abstract: Arguing that he was freed in the will of James Campbell, Esq., written prior to the law requiring freed slaves to emigrate, Caesar, a black man, asks to remain in Virginia. His wife and children are slaves, and his loyalty to James Campbell has never been questioned. A related document reveals that Caesar was freed in October 1815, less than three months to the filing of this petition. At the time Caesar received his freedom, he was the property of Stephen Sanders, one of the executors of Campbell's will, to whom he had been sold by James Campbell's widow, Mary.

PAR Number 11681901

State: Virginia Year: 1819
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: In May 1806, free black barber Caesar Hope, who cut hair in Williamsburg when it was the seat of government, and later in Richmond when it became the capital, wrote a will providing for the purchase and emancipation of his slave children, one of whom is the petitioner, Judith Hope, and the other a boy since deceased. Following Caesar Hope's death, Judith was purchased by her mother who executed a deed of emancipation in accordance with her husband's will. However, in 1807, shortly after Caesar Hope had made his will, a law was passed requiring freed slaves leave the state after acquiring freedom; more recently, in 1816, the law has been relaxed, but it still restricts to slaves emancipated for "extraordinary merit" the privilege of remaining in the state. Judith realizes that she cannot make such a claim, and "the longest life of utility and quiet good conduct," such as hers, can only be "rewarded with banishment for all that can bind a sentient and rational creature to life." She cannot resign herself to such a fate and to severing "every connection and every habit and partiality of her life." As dear as freedom is she could not accept it "above all price." She prays that "by the indulgence of the honorable the Legislature" to be "permitted to live and enjoy the blessings of freedom within the Commonwealth of Virginia." A related document reveals that the name of Judith's mother was Tener Hope.

PAR Number 11682002

State: Virginia Year: 1820
Location: Richmond Location Type: City

Abstract: Judith Hope, a woman of color, informs the court that her father, the late Caesar Hope, a free man of color and a barber who cut hair in Williamsburg when it was the seat of government, and later in Richmond when it became the capital, wrote a will providing for the purchase and emancipation of his slave children. A number of years prior to his death, Caesar had purchased his wife and later freed her; it was his desire to "bestow the same advantages" upon his children, who had been born while his wife was still a slave and thus born in slavery. At the time of his death, they were still slaves. In order to see his wish accomplished, Caesar instructed his executor, Edmund Randolph, to purchase the children and emancipate them. However, the law of 1806 requiring "the removal from the commonwealth of all persons who should be emancipated after the 1st day of may next succeeding the date of that act under penalty of an absolute forfeiture of freedom" is forcing Judith to make a choice: give up "the blessings of liberty" or be separated "from every friend and natural connexion upon earth." Although the law has recently made provisions to exempt slaves who have "rendered distinguished public service" from the emigration requirement, Judith realizes she cannot avail herself of this exemption, for she is among those who have led "a long life of humble," yet undistinguished, "usefulness." She nevertheless prays that her mother, "who in obedience to the will and with a portion of the effects of the late Caesar Hope," has purchased her, will be permitted to manumit her, "exempt from the hard condition of perpetual exile. For to leave would be to give up "every friend and natural connexion upon earth, to sunder every habit and association which years have fostered and matured," says Judith Hope. Under such conditions freedom would become a "cruel mockery." A related document reveals that Caesar Hope's will had been written in 1806.

PAR Number 11682111

State: Virginia Year: 1821
Location: Williamsburg Location Type: City

Abstract: Judith Hope, a slave, petitions the legislature because she believes that the bill of complaint she previously submitted and which had been granted "was lost in the branch of the Legislature." She reminds the court of the circumstances of her request. Her father, she explains, the late Caesar Hope, a free man of color and a barber who cut hair in Williamsburg when it was the seat of government, and later in Richmond when it became the capital, wrote a will providing for the purchase and emancipation of his slave children. A number of years prior to his death, Caesar had purchased his wife and later freed her; it was his desire to "bestow the same advantages" upon his children, who had been born while his wife was still a slave and thus born in slavery. At the time of his death, they were still slaves. In order to see his wish accomplished, Caesar instructed his executor, Edmund Randolph, to purchase the children and emancipate them. However, the law of 1806 requiring "the removal from the commonwealth of all persons who should be emancipated after the 1st day of may next succeeding the date of that act under penalty of an absolute forfeiture of freedom" is forcing Judith to make a choice: give up "the blessings of liberty" or be separated "from every friend and natural connexion upon earth." Although the law has recently made provisions to exempt slaves who have "rendered distinguished public service" from the emigration requirement, Judith realizes she cannot avail herself of this exemption, for she is among those who have led "a long life of humble," yet undistinguished, "usefulness." She nevertheless prays that her mother, "who in obedience to the will and with a portion of the effects of the late Caesar Hope," has purchased her, will be permitted to manumit her, "exempt from the hard condition of perpetual exile. For to leave would be to give up "every friend and natural connexion upon earth, to sunder every habit and association which years have fostered and matured," says Judith Hope. Under such conditions freedom would become a "cruel mockery." Judith once more invokes "the clemency of those who hold her destinies in their power, humbly hoping that the circumstances distinguishing her case, particularly the fact that a portion of her little property has been vested in this favorite purpose, together with the testimonies of her character will induce a more favorable result." related document reveals that Caesar Hope's will had been written in 1806.

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