RCC Honors History Project

Virginia Slave Laws

Posted by christaleni on October 7, 2009

Virginia Slavery Legislation (1630 -1691)
From William Hening, ed., The Laws of Virginia, 1619-1792

[1630] Hugh David 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.

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

[1661] Be it enacted That in case any English servant shall run away in company with any negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by addition of time, Be 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 own by a former act.

[1668] Whereas some doubts, have arisen whether negro women set free were still to be accompted tithable according to a former act, It is declared by this grand assembly that negro women, though permitted to enjoy their Freedom yet ought not in all respects to be admitted to a full fruition of the exemptions and impunities of the England, and are still liable to payment of taxes.

[1669] Whereas the only law in force for the punishment of refractory servants resisting their master, mistress or overseer cannot be inflicted upon negroes, nor the obstinancy of many of them by other than violent means supprest, Be it enacted and declared by this grand assembly, if any slave resist his master (or other by his master’s order correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not be accompted Felony, 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 murder Felony) should induce any man to destroy his own estate.

[1680] It is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the publication of this law, it shall not be lawful for any negro or other slave to carry or arm himself with any club, staff, gun, sword, or any other weapon of defence or offence, nor to go to depart from his master’s ground without a certificate from his master, mistress or overseer, and such permission not to be granted but upon particular and necessary occasions; and every negro or slave so offending not having a certificate as aforesaid shall be sent to the next constable, who is hereby enjoined and required to give the said negro twenty lashes on his bare back well laid on, and so sent

home to his said master, mistress or overseer. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any negro or other slave shall presume to lift up his hand in opposition against any christian, shall for every such offense, upon due proof made thereof by the oath of the party before a magistrate, have and receive thirty lashes on his bare back well laid on.

[1691] It is hereby enacted, that in all such cases upon intelligence of any such negroes, mulattoes, or other slaves lying out, two of their majesties’ justices of the peace of that county, whereof one to be of the quorum, where such negroes, mulattoes or other slave shall be, shall be impowered and commanded, and are hereby impowered and commanded, to issue out their warrants directed to the sheriff of the same county to apprehend such negroes, mulattoes, and other slaves, which said sheriff is hereby likewise required upon all such occasions to raise such and so many forces from time to time as he shall think convenient and necessary for the effectual apprehending such negroes, mulattoes and other slaves, and in case any negroes, mulattoes or other slave or slaves lying out as aforesaid shall resist, run away, or refuse to deliver and surrender him or themselves to any person or persons that shall be by lawful authority employed to apprehend and take such negroes, mulattoes or other slaves that in such cases it shall and may be lawful for such person and persons to kill and destroy such negroes, mulattoes, and other slave or slaves by gun or any other ways whatsoever.

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