Virginians Petition to Prevent the Emancipation of Slaves
The spirit of the American Revolution inspired some slaveholders to manumit, or free, their slaves. In 1782, Virginia passed a law that allowed slaveholders to set slaves free in their wills, where before manumission required a special act of the state legislature. In response to the 1782 law, over 1,200 Virginians petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for its repeal. Some spelling changes and edits have been made to improve clarity.
To the [honorable] General Assembly of Virginia…
When the British Parliament [took away the] right to dispose of our property without our consent, we [broke away from our] parent country, and established a Constitution and form of government of our own, that our property might be secure, in future. [To do this] we risked our lives and fortunes, and waded through seas of blood.
[Because of God’s favor] our attempt was crowned with success. We were put in the possession of our rights of liberty and property… But [despite] this, we understand a very subtle and daring attempt is made [to take away] 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.
[This is] an attempt unsupported by Scripture or [wise] policy.
It is unsupported by Scripture…
It is also [very unwise because this law would cause]
Want, poverty, distress, and ruin to the free citizen;
Neglect, famine and death to the black infant and [elderly] parent;
The horrors of all the rapes, murders and outrages, which a vast multitude of unprincipled, unpropertied, revengeful, and remorseless [outlaws] are capable of perpetrating;
Inevitable bankruptcy…and consequently breach of public faith, and loss of credit with foreign nations;
and, lastly, sure and final ruin to this now flourishing free and happy country.
We therefore…pray you will…reject every motion and proposal for emancipating our slaves…
November 8, 1785 in Mecklenburg County by 223 people
November 10, 1785 in Amelia County by 22 people
November 10, 1785 in Pittsylvania County by 54 people]
Creator | Various
Item Type | Pamphlet/Petition
Cite This document | Various, “Virginians Petition to Prevent the Emancipation of Slaves,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed June 12, 2021, https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1647.