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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]  

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]

Source | Citizens of Mecklenburg, Amelia and Pittsylvania Counties (Virginia), To the honourable the General Assembly of Virginia, the Remonstrance and Petition of the Free Inhabitants of Amelia County, 8-10 November 1785, (Richmond, VA: Legislative Petitions, 1784—1785, Virginia State Library).
Creator | Various
Item Type | Pamphlet/Petition
Cite This document | Various, “Virginians Petition to Prevent the Emancipation of Slaves,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed February 25, 2024,

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