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that their numbers are continually increasing in Virginia, though their importation was prohibited in 1786, by an act of the legislature. In 1788, the law was repealed, which subjected a master, who killed his slave by wanton punishment, only to the penalty of manslaughter. In December 1792, the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes, and mulattoes, were reduced into one; and it was thereby enacted, that no persons should be deemed slaves, except such as were in this condition in the year 1785, and the descendants of the female slaves. Slaves imported into the commonwealth, and kept therein for one year, are entitled to their freedom. The person by whom they were imported is subject to a penalty of 200 dollars; and the buyer or seller to one-half of this sum, but from the operation of the act are excepted slaves brought by emigrants into the state, or belonging to travellers, or to citizens who claim them by descent, devise, or marriage. A slave may be emancipated by will and testament, or any instrument in writing, executed in a legal manner, of which he must be furnished with a copy, otherwise he may be committed to prison in travelling out of the county. They are nevertheless subject to be taken in execution for the debts of their former master; by whose estate they are to be supported and maintained, if not of sound mind and body, above the age of forty-five, or, being males, under twenty-one, or females, under eighteen years. Free negroes and mulattoes, who reside in, or who are employed within the limits of any city, borough, or town, are registered and numbered, and each is annually
furnished with a copy of the register. The commissioners of the revenue return an annual list of all free negroes and mulattoes within their particular districts. The negroes, or mulattoes, convicted of having given a copy of the register of their freedom to a slave, are adjudged as felons. Free persons convicted of harbouring slaves are liable to the penalty of ten dollars; and also, free negroes and mulattoes, who, if unable to pay, are to receive corporal chastisement, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes. The penalty of bringing one of this class into the state is 100 pounds; that for carrying a slave out of its limits, without the owner's consent, is 300 dollars; for a servant, one-half of this
A slave cannot go from his master's tenements without a pass; if found on the plantation of another, without permission of his master, he is liable to the punishment of ten lashes. The masters of slaves, who suffer them to go at large, and trade as freemen, are liable to a fine of thirty dollars; and if they hire themselves out, they may be apprehended, and sold by the sheriff, after a notice of twenty days. Every person is considered as a mulatto, who has one-fourth or more of negro blood, or whose grandfather or grandmother was a negro. A white person who marries a negro or mulatto, bond or free, is liable to imprisonment during six months, and a fine of thirty dollars; and the penalty of the minister, for marrying in such a case, is 250 dollars. *
Neither negroes nor mulattoes are allowed to keep or carry arms, except those who
* Chap 104.
are free, and who live on the frontiers, who may pro cure this privilege by licence from a justice of the peace of the county. The punishment for lifting the hand against a white person, except when wantonly assaulted, is thirty lashes. If a slave attempt to ravish a white woman, the county or corporation court may order his castration; and if he die through negligence of the operating surgeon, the owner may bring an action for his loss. Outlying slaves, or those who lurk in swamps, woods, or obscure places, are liable to imprisonment and trial.
Any conspiracy for revolt, or murder, is punished by death, without benefit of clergy. The same punishment is reserved for those who prepare, exhibit, or administer, any medicine, but they are acquitted if it is not done with ill intent, or attended with bad consequences.
For all criminal offences, slaves are tried by the justices of the county, or corporation, five at least in number, without jury; and not less than five nor more than ten days after the offender has been committed to jail. The slave is allowed counsel, whose fee, amounting to five dollars, is paid by the owner; and, except in case of conspiracy, insurrection, or rebellion, he is not to be executed until the expiration of thirty days after conviction; and, after death, the owner receives his value from the public funds. No person having an interest in a slave can sit upon his trial. The confession of the offender, the oath of one or more credible witnesses, or the convincing testimony of negroes or mulattoes, whether bond or free, is considered as legal evidence. When convicted of an offence within the benefit of clergy,
the offender, whether male or female, is burned in the hand by the jailor in open court, and suffers such other corporal punishment as the court may inflict, except where the benefit of this act was already experienced, in which case death is inflicted. False testimony is punished by nailing one ear to the pillory, and cutting it off after the expiration of an hour ; the other in like manner; after which, thirty-nine lashes are inflicted at the public whipping-post, or such other punishment, not extending to life or limb, as the court may think
proper. Free persons, convicted of exciting slaves to insurrection or murder, are adjudged guilty of felony. A slave, under sentence of death for conspiracy, insurrection, or other crimes, may be reprieved and sold by the executive government, provided he be transported out of the state, and the owner receives his value as if he had been executed. A slave may be admitted as a witness against a free
negro or mulatto. *
* Revised Code, acts concerning slaves, Richmond, 1803.
The following remarks on the condition of the blacks were com. municated to the author by an intelligent correspondent.
Slavery is the only unpleasant circumstance connected with the situation of a Virginia planter, which in every other respect offers all the rational and solid pleasures of life; but the condition of the blacks is far from being so degraded and unfortunate as is generally supposed. If the master be cruel towards them, he loses much of his consideration in society; he also loses their affections, and it is his interest to be humane. If their food and clothing be bad and scanty, their task of labour unreasonable, and their hut uncomfortable, they hate both master and overseer, and fly to the woods, where they conceal themselves for entire weeks, and some.
Debtors, who make a faithful delivery of all property and effects, are released from confinement, and discharged from all debts previously contracted; but their creditors have a claim on any property they may
times escape to distant places. It is with negroes as with children; some masters never find it necessary to employ the lash, others persuade themselves that nothing else can enforce obedience. At Monticello, the seat of Mr Jefferson, the household slaves seemed attached to the family; they were well clothed, and their robust appearance indicated a wholesome nourishment. Those of the farm are fed with the flour of Indian corn, potatoes, Alesh meat, and salt fish. They may consume as many apples as they please. They have liberty to keep poultry, to cultivate a piece of ground with sweet potatoes, maize, or esculent roots. Their huts, constructed of logs, and the interstices filled with clay, may dered very comfortable. When sick, they are treated with great attention. The household slaves have tea or coffee to breakfast; and, when their friends visit them, they ask for flour and sugar, which are never refused. It is remarked, that those who become free never acquire industrious habits, never exercise any manual art, but live by a kind of barter with slaves, and that the free mulatto girls are generally of loose morals. Some of this class have three or four wives. The house provisions are not locked from them, as they seldom steal any other article than spirituous liquors, of which they are fond to excess. They prefer a partner Lelonging to another plantation, which affords them an opportunity of running occasionally from home. With regard to their phy. sical qualities, they bear heat, but not cold, better than the whites. They are more healthy, and live equally long. Few can read or write. Those who become religious are generally Baptists, and are allowed to assemble on Sunday for spiritual exercises. The price of the best male slave is 500 dollars; of the best females, 400; that of a boy who can catch a horse and make a fire, 300; and one less advanced, 200 dollars.