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fect, under the seal of the state. In the early periods of this colony, all who wished to be naturalized, had only to swear allegiance before the governor, who gave a certificate of the fact under the public seal. Artižans and mechanics migrating to the state are exempt from all taxes, except the land tax, for the space of five years.
Expatriation is obtained by a declaration before a court, or written act, stating, that the person emigrating divests himself of the political and civil rights belonging to a citizen of the state. All conveyances of land must be registered in the general court, or in the court of the county in which they are situated, otherwise they are void as to creditors or subsequent purchasers.
Slaves were first introduced in the year 1620; the laws regulating their condition, previous to 1662, are lost, but, in the last mentioned year, we find a law declaring that all children born in the country should be bond or free, according to the condition of the mother. In 1667, it was enacted that this condition was not altered by the rite of baptism; and afterwards, in 1669, that the death of a slave, occasioned by the correction of a master, or resisting his orders, should not be accounted felony. * Slaves, like lands, pass by descent and dower. They perform all the labours of agriculture, under the inspection of proprietors or overseers. They are now treated with more humanity than fornierly. As a proof of this, it may be mentioned,
* Tucker's Dissertation on Slavery, &c. p. 34.
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 In 1788, the law was repealed, which subjected a master, who killed his slave by wanton punishment, only to the penalty of manslaughter.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 sum. 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 them. selves 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 procure 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 own er receives his value as if he had been executed. A slave may be admitted as a witness against a free negro pr mulaţto. *
* Revised Code, acts concerning slaves, Richmond, 1803.
The following remarks on the condition of the blacks were com. inunicated 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