In 1867 The Rev. Robert Dabney (Presbyterian) insisted that because Africans brought to North America were already enslaved and could not be returned to Africa, many colonists “were prompted by genuine compassion . . . to rescue them from their pitiable condition,” which made the Africans very grateful.
Anthony Johnson, Elizabeth Key, who successfully sued for her freedom in the 1650s on the grounds that she was a baptized Christian, and other Africans all influenced African-European interaction in early Virginia. These people were active participants in the Old Dominion’s development.
Conflict guaranteed—for example, religious conflict.
Baptism Law, 1667 Hening, Statutes at Large, II, 260
Causal Killing Law, 1669 Hening, Statutes , II, 270
Edward L. Bond, Damned Souls in a Tobacco Society (Macon, Ga., 2000), 198-202; John M. Fout, “The Explosive Cleric: Morgan Godwyn, Slavery and Colonial Elites in Virginia and Barbados, 1665-1685,” M.A. Thesis, Va. Commonwealth Univ., 2005; Alden T. Vaughan, Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience (New York, 1995), 55-81.
Religious control; slave control 1680: Governor Culpeper informed The Council of Virginia that a planned slave revolt in the Northern Neck had been quashed. The Council partly blamed masters for allowing slaves too much free time on Saturdays and Sundays, enabling them to “meete in great Numbers in making and holding of Funeralls for Dead Negroes,” which allegedly allowed the slaves to conspire. The remedy: require stricter execution of the laws “relateing to Negroes” and command “all Masters of families having any Negro Slaves, not to permit them to hold or make any Solemnity or Funeralls for any deceased Negroes.” Billings, Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century , 160.
June 1680-ACT X. An act for preventing Negroes Insurrections.
WHEREAS the frequent meeting of considerable numbers of negroe slaves under pretence of feasts and burialls is judged of dangerous consequence; for prevention whereof for the future, Bee it enacted by the kings most excellent majestie by and with the consent of the generall assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the publication of this law, it shall not be lawfull for any negroe or other slave to carry or arme himselfe with any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defence or offence, nor to goe or depart from of his masters ground without a certificate from his master, mistris or overseer and such permission not to be granted but upon perticuler and necessary occasions . . . . And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any negroe or other slave shall presume to lift up his hand in opposition against any christian, shall for every such offence, upon due proofe made thereof by the oath of the party before a magistrate, have and receive thirty lashes on his bare back well laid on. Source: Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large , vol. 2, pp. 481-482.
November 1687-Proclamation from Governor Effingham.
By His Excellency a Proclamacon-
Whereas by the prudent care of the Genll. Assembly a most necessary and good law was thereby made, to deter and prevent the insurrection of Negroe slaves for want of due observance whereof, and by the too frequent remissnesse of Masters of families in not restraining their Negroes from walking and rambling on broad on Satterdayes and Sundayes, by such liberty given them the opportunities of meetings in great tumults, to consentt and advise by all maner of wicked meanes and contrivances to hope by such plottings to putt themselves into a capacity to extende their bloody purposes on their Masters and Mistrisses and by the execution of their sins, blood, plotts and designes to exempt and free themselves from their present slavery which of late yeares has beene too frequently notoriously made manifest threatning the total ruine and subversion of the inhabitants of this his Majties. governmt. if by Gods providence a timely discovery had not beene made of such plotts and designes and to the intent for the future that better care and diver observance may bee had and paid unto that wholesome and necessary law entituled an act preventing Negroes insurrections, I Francis Lord Howard Baron of Effingham his Majties. Leiut. and Governor Genll. of Virginia by and with the consent and advice of the councell of state have thought fitt that for the future noe Negroes slaves bee suffered to carry or arme himselfe with any staffe, clubb, gunn, sword, or other weapon, offensive or defensive, nor presume to depart from off his Master or Mistress grownd without the permission of his Master, Mistress or overseer and that to bee made manifest by certificate under the Master, Mistress or overseer hand . . . .
Source: York County Deeds, Orders, and Wills (8) 99-100, 24 January 1687/8.
July 26, 1690-Proclamation Issued by Governor Nicholson.
By the Right Honorable their Majties Leiut Governor
Whereas there are divers good lawes made in England & Va restraining the profaining the Sabbath day & agt the wicked sins of cursing, swearing, drunkenesse & debauchery & for the good govermt of this country & amonge the rest of the good & wholesome lawes there are severall acts made for the well ordering of Negroes particularly 1 made at a genll assembly begun June 8, 1680 to prevent the rambling about of Negroes (which must frequently happen on the Sabbath day) & agt Masters of families & overseers that shall entertaine or suffer them to be in their plantacons. And whereas there is an act made that enjoynes the haveing grand juries in every county that all offenders may be presented & a due course taken for their punishmts to deter the like offences for the future. Now to the end that the Sabbath day may be kept holey, & that all prophainenesse & debaucheryes of what sort soever may be discouraged & deterred that the judgmts of God Almighty bee not drawne down upon all heads & that the good & wholesome lawes concerning the same be put in execution & all other lawes for the good governmt of this country . . . .
Whereas the lawes concerning Negros & other slaves have not had the good effort by them intended for want of being duly executed & particularly one Act of Assembly made at James City the 8th day of June 1680 Entituled an Act for preventing Negros Insurrections in which it is provided that it shall not be lawful for any Negro or any other slave to carry or arme himselfe with any club, staffe, gun, sword or any other wepon of defense or offense nor to go nor part from his masters ground without certificate from his master mistresse or overseer . . . .
Had enough? Still, notice what’s missing.
Oyer and Terminer Law, 1692 Hening’s Statutes, III, 102
The Christian “escape hatch”– for European Americans
April 1695-William Cattilla's Petition.
Willm Catillah servant to Mrs Margrett Booth haveing sumonsed his sd mistres to this Court to answer his complainant who saith that whereas he was the son of a free woman & was baptized into the Christian faith haveing honestly & truly served his mistres aforesd to his full age of 24 years praying order for his freedom together with his corne & cloathes accord. to law with costs the same is accordingly granted & the next Court to be confirmed if the dft his sd mistress then faile personally to appear & shew just cause to the contrary.
Source: York County Deeds, Orders, and Wills (10) 137, 6 April 1695.
Ira Berlin’s Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (1998) is acutely conscious of the African and Atlantic consciousness of enslaved Americans, while Mechal Sobel’s The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (1987) probed the influence Africans and African Americans later had on European Americans, including religious beliefs and practices.
Why did Virginia still have the largest number of slaves in 1860?
I. For preventing the farther importation of slaves into this commonwealth Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That from and after the passing of this act, no slave or slaves shall hereafter be imported into this Commonwealth by sea or land, nor shall any slaves so imported be bought or sold by any person whatsoever.
II. Every person hereafter importing slaves into this Commonwealth contrary to this act, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand pounds for every slave so imported, and every person selling or buying any such slaves, shall in like manner forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred pounds for every slave so bought or sold, one moiety of which forfeitures shall be to the use of the Commonwealth, and the other moiety to him or them that will sue for the same, to be recovered by action of debt or information in any court of record.
III. And be it further enacted, That every slave imported into this Commonwealth, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, shall, upon such importation, become free."
Hening, Statutes , IX, 471: October 1778
Virginia Gazette , September 22, 1772 Virginia Gazette , July 10, 1762
Minimal for most white Virginians, a gain for some.
White leaders sometimes claimed selling away enslaved people improved Virginia.
There is no possible measurement. But see Edward Baptist, “The Absent Subject: African-American Masculinity and Forced Migration to the Antebellum Plantation Frontier.” In Southern Masculinities , Craig T. Friend and Lorri Glover, eds., 135-173. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004.
First African Baptist Church Gregg Kimball, American City, Southern Place , 135
Frederick Douglass on the Richmond Slave Jails
Douglass speech, Halifax, Eng., December 7, 1859: “Slave marts and churches stood in the same market place. The groans of the slaves being sold in the shambles of Richmond were sometimes drowned by the pious shouting of their masters in the church close by.” Frederick Douglass Papers , Ser. 1, vol. 3 (1864-1880), 284.