Laws Pertaining to Slaves and Servants, Virginia 1629-1672

From William Waller Hening, editor. The statutes at large; being a collection of all the laws of Virginia, from the first session of the Legislature in the year 1619, vol. 1. New York: Printed for the editor, 1819-23. vol. 1. 146, 226, 552, 361, 396, 26, 118-119, 143, 155, 170, 260, 267, 280-281, 283, 515, 288, 296, 299-300.


September 17th, 1630.
Hugh Davis to be soundly whipped, before an assembly of Negroes and others for abusing himself to the dishonor of God and shame of Christians, by defiling his body in lying with a negro; which fault he is to acknowledge next Sabbath day.

January 1639/40-ACT X.
ALL persons except negroes to be provided with arms and ammunition or be fined at pleasure of the Governor and Council.

1640
Robert Sweet to do penance in church according to laws of England, for getting a negroe woman with child and the woman whipt.

March 1655/6-ACT I. An Induction to the Acts concerning Indians
If the Indians shall bring in any children as gages of their good and quiet intentions to us and amity with us, then the parents of such children shall choose the persons to whom the care of such children shall be intrusted and the countrey by us their representatives do engage that wee will not use them as slaves, but do their best to bring them up in Christianity, civillity and the knowledge of necessary trades; And on the report of the commissioners of each respective country that those under whose tuition they are, do really intend the bettering of the children in these particulars then a salary shall be allowed to such men as shall deserve and require it.

March 1660/1-ACT XXII. English running away with negroes.
BEE itt enacted That in case any English servant shall run away in company with any negroes who are incapable of makeing satisfaction by addition of time, Bee it enacted that the English so running away in company with them shall serve for the time of the said negroes absence as they are to do for their owne by a former act.

March 1661/2-ACT CV. Against trading with servants.
WHEREAS diverse ill disposed persons doe secretly and covertly track and trade with other mens servants and apprentices who to the greate injury of their masters are thereby induced and encouraged to steale perloyne and imbezell their masters goods, Bee it therefore enacted that what person or persons soever shall buy, sell, trade or truck with any servant for any comodity whatsoever without lycense or consent of the said servants master, he or they soe offending against the premisses, shall suffer one months imprisonment without baile or mainprise, give bond with security for his good behaviour, and also forfeite to the master of the said servant fower times the value of the things soe bought, sold, trucked or traded for.

March 1661/2-ACT CXXXVIII. Concerning Indians.
And be it further enacted that what Englishman, trader, or other shall bring in any Indians as servants and shall assigne them over to any other, shall not sell them for slaves nor for any longer time than English of the like ages should serve by act of assembly.

March 1661/2
METAPPIN a Powhatan Indian being sold for life time to one Elizabeth Short by the king of Wainoake Indians who had no power to sell him being of another nation, it is ordered that the said Indian be free, he speaking perfectly the English tongue and desiring baptism.

December 1662-ACT XII. Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the mother.
WHEREAS some doubts have arrisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ fornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the fines imposed by the former act.

September 1663-ACT XVIII. An act prohibiting servants to go abroad without a lycence.
FOR better suppressing the unlawful meetings of servants, it is thought fitt and enacted by this present grand assembly and the authority thereof that all masters of ffamilies be enjoyned and take especiall care that their servants doe not depart from their houses on Sundayes or any other dayes without perticuler lycence from them, and that the severall respective counties (as they find cause) to take espetiall care to make such by laws within themselves, as by the act dated the thrid of December 1662, they are impowred as may cause a further restraint of all unlawfull meetings of servants and punish the offenders.

September 1667-ACT III. An act declaring that baptisme of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage.
WHEREAS some doubts have risen whether children that are slaves by birth, and by the charity and piety of their owners made pertakers of the blessed sacrament of baptisme, should by vertue of their baptisme be made ffree; It is enacted and declared by this grand assembly, and the authority thereof, that the conferring of baptisme doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or ffreedome; that diverse masters, ffreed from this doubt, may more carefully endeavour the propagation of christianity by permitting children, though slaves, or those of greater growth if capable to be admitted to that sacrament.

October 1669-ACT I. An act about the casuall killing of slaves.
WHEREAS the only law in force for the punishment of refractory servants resisting their master, mistris or overseer cannot be inflicted upon negroes, nor the obstinacy of many of them by other then violent meanes supprest, Be it enacted and declared by this grand assembly, if any slave resist his master (or other by his masters order correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not be accompted ffelony, but the master (or that other person appointed by the master to punish him) be acquit from molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepensed malice (which alone makes murther ffelony) should induce any man to destroy his owne estate.

October 1670-ACT IV. Noe Negroes nor Indians to buy christian servants.
WHEREAS it hath beene questioned whither Indians or negroes manumited, or otherwise free, could be capable of purchasing christian servants, It is enacted that noe negroe or Indian though baptised and enjoyned their owne ffreedome shall be capable of any such purchase of christians, but yet not debarred from buying any of their owne nation.

October 1670-ACT XII. What tyme Indians to serve.
WHEREAS some dispute have arisen whither Indians taken in warr by any other nation, and by that nation that taketh them sold to the English, are sevants for life or terme of yeares, It is resolved and enacted that all servants not being christians imported into this colony by shipping shalbe slaves for their lives; but what shall come by land shall serve, if boyes or girles, untill thirty yeares of age, if men or women twelve yeares and no longer.

1670-Enquiries to the Governor of Virginia from the Lords Commissioners of Foreign Plantations. Answered by Sir William Berkeley in 1671

15. What number of planters, servants and slaves; and how many parishes are there in your plantation?
Answer. We suppose, and I am very sure we do not much miscount, that there is in Virginia above forty thousand persons, men, women, and children, and of which there are two thousand black slaves, six thousand christian servants, for a short time, the rest are born in the country or have come in to settle and seat, in bettering their condition in a growing country.

16. What number of English, Scots, or Irish have for these seven yeares last past come yearly to plant and inhabite within your government; as also what blacks or slaves have been brought in within the said time?
Answer. Yearly, we suppose there comes in, of servants, about fifteen hundred, of which, most are English, few Scotch, and fewer Irish, and not above two or three ships of negroes in seven years.

17. What number of people have yearly died, within your plantation and government for these seven years last past, both whites and blacks?
Answer. All new plantations are, for an age or two, unhealthy, 'till they are thoroughly cleared of wood; but unless we have a particular register office, for the denoting of all that died, I cannot give a particular answer to this query, only this I can say, that there is not often unseasoned hands (as we term them) that die now, whereas heretofore not one of five escaped the first year.

September 1671-ACT IV. An act providing how negroes belonging to orphants of intestates shall be disposed of.
WHEREAS in the former act concerning the estates of persons dying intestate, it is provided that sheep, horses, and cattle should be delivered in kind to the orphant, when they came of age, according to the several ages the said cattle were of when the guardian took them into his possession, to which some have desired that negroes may be added; this assembly considering the difficulty of procureing negroes in kind as alsoe the value and hazard of their lives have doubted whither any sufficient men would be found who would engage themselves to deliver negroes of equall ages if the specificall negroes should dye, or become by age or accident unserviceable; Be it therefore enacted and ordayned by this grand assembly and the authority thereof that the consideration of this be referred to the county courts who are hereby authorized and impowred either to cause such negroes to be duly apprized, sold at an outcry, or preserved in kind, as they then find it most expedient for preservation, improvement or advancement of the estate and interest of such orphants.

September 1672-ACT VIII. An act for the apprehension and suppression of runawayes, negroes and slaves.
FORASMUCH as it hath beene manifested to this grand assembly that many negroes have lately beene, and now are out in rebellion in sundry parts of this country, and that noe meanes have yet beene found for the apprehension and suppression of them from whome many mischeifes of very dangerous consequence may arise to the country if either other negroes, Indians or servants should happen to fly forth and joyne with them; for the prevention of which, be it enacted by the governour, councell and burgesses of this grand assembly, and by the authority thereof, that if any negroe, molatto, Indian slave, or servant for life, runaway and shalbe persued by the warrant or hue and crye, it shall and may be lawfull for any person who shall endeavour to take them, upon the resistance of such negroe, molatto, Indian slave, or servant for life, to kill or wound him or them soe resisting...And if it happen that such negroe, molatto, Indian slave, or servant for life doe dye of any wound in such their resistance received the master or owner of such shall receive satisfaction from the publique for his negroe, molatto, Indian slave, or servant for life, soe killed or dyeing of such wounds; and the person who shall kill or wound by virtue of any such hugh and crye any such soe resisting in manner as aforesaid shall not be questioned for the same...



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