Bacon’s Rebellion (1675-76)


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June 1680-ACT X. An act for preventing Negroes Insurrections.

[This law represents an attempt to restrict the freedom and personal rights of enslaved persons. The members of the Assembly also decided that a slave who resisted a white individual was to be punished. The statute designated the punishments for three crimes: leaving a plantation without the permission of one’s master, raising a hand against a Christian, and resisting capture after running away.]

WHEREAS the frequent meeting of considerbale 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.

April 1691-ACT XVI. An act for suppressing outlying slaves.

[This document contains the first legal restriction on the manumission of slaves. The law required a master to transport an emancipated slave out of the colony within six months. In addition, partners in an interracial marriage could not stay in Virginia more than three months after they wed. Lawmakers did not want white women to bear mulatto children because the free black population would increase. They decided to punish white women who gave birth to mulattos and to require a longer term of servitude (until the age of thirty) for these children than they did for poor orphans or illegitimate white boys (until the age of twenty-one) and girls (until the age of eighteen). Finally, in this law, the General Assembly first used the term “white” as an additional way to legally separate the English and Europeans from Africans and Native Americans.]

For prevention of that abominable mixture and spurious issue which hereafter may encrease in this dominion, as well by negroes, mulattoes, and Indians intermarrying with English, or other white women, as by their unlawfull accompanying with one another, Be it enacted by the authoritie aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, that for the time to come, whatsoever English or other white man or woman being free shall intermarry with a negroe, mulatto, or Indian man or woman bond or free shall within three months after such marriage be banished and removed from this dominion forever, and that the justices of each respective countie within this dominion make it their perticular care that this act be put in effectuall execution. And be it further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That if any English woman being free shall have a bastard child by any negro or mulatto, she pay the sume of fifteen pounds sterling, within one moneth after such bastard child be born, to the Church wardens of the parish where she shall be delivered of such child . . . and that such bastard child be bound out as a servant by the said Church wardens untill he or she shall attaine the age of thirty yeares, and in case such English woman that shall have such bastard child be a servant, she shall be sold by the said church wardens, (after her time is expired that she ought by law to serve her master) for five yeares, and the money she shall be sold for divided as is before appointed, and the child to serve as aforesaid.

And forasmuch as great inconveniences may happen to this country by the setting of negroes and mulattoes free, by their either entertaining negro slaves from their masters service, or receiveing stolen goods, or being grown old bringing a charge upon the country; for prevention thereof, Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no negro or mulatto be after the end of this present session of assembly set free by any person or persons whatsoever, unless such person or persons, their heires, executors or administrators pay for the transportation of such negro or negroes out of the countrey within six moneths after such setting them free.

April 1692-ACT III. An act for the more speedy prosecution of slaves committing Capitall Crimes.

[This statute decreed that enslaved individuals were not permitted to own horses, cattle, and hogs after December 31, 1692.]

And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all horses, cattle and hoggs marked of any negro or other slaves marke, or by any slave kept, and which shall not by the last day of December next, be converted by the owner of such slave to the use and marke of the said owner, shall be forfeited to the use of the poore of the parish wherein such horse, beast, or hogg shall be kept, seizable by the church wardens thereof.

October 1705-CHAP. XLIX. An act concerning Servants and Slaves.

[This statute included a definition of who would become a slave upon entering Virginia and repeated previous restrictions placed upon enslaved persons in addition to new constraints. The law contained some modifications on the punishments placed on white women who bore a mulatto child and white individuals who married a person of color in 1691. The legislators made it clear that Christianity was not the path to freedom for a slave.]

IV. And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all servants imported and brought into this country, by sea or land, who were not christians in their native country, (except Turks and Moors in amity with her majesty, and others that can make due proof their being free in England, or any other christian country, before they were shipped, in order to transportation hither) shall be accounted and be slaves, and as such be here bought and sold notwithstanding a conversion to christianity afterwards.

VI. Provided always, That a slave’s being in England, shall not be sufficient to discharge him of his slavery, without other proof of his being manumitted there.

VII.And also be in enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all masters and owners of servants, shall find and provide for their servants, wholesome and competent diet, clothing, and lodging, by the discretion of the county court; and shall not, at any time, give immoderate correction; neither shall, at any time, whip a christian white servant naked, without an order from a justice of the peace: And if any, notwithstanding this act, shall presume to whip a christian white servant naked, without such order, the person so offending, shall forfeit and pay for the same, forty shillings sterling to the party injured.

XIX. And for a further prevention of that abominable mixture and spurious issue, which hereafter may increase in this her majesty’s colony and dominion, as well by English, and other white men and women intermarrying with negroes or mulattos, as by their unlawful coition with them, Be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That whatsoever English, or other white man or woman, being free, shall intermarry with a negro or mulatto man or woman, bond or free, shall, by judgment of the county court, be committed to prison, and there remain, during the space of six months, without bail or mainprize; and shall forfeit and pay ten pounds current money of Virginia, to the use of the parish, as aforesaid.

XX. And be it further enacted, That no minister of the church of England, or other minister, or person whatsoever, within this colony and dominion, shall hereafter wittingly presume to marry a white man with a negro or mulatto woman; or to marry a white woman with a negro or mulatto man . . . .

1723—An Act directing the trial of Slaves, committing capital crimes; and for the more effectual punishing conspiracies and insurrections of them; and for the better government of Negros, Mulattos, and Indians, bond or free

XVII. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That no negro, mullatto, or indian slaves, shall be set free, upon any pretence whatsoever, except for some meritorious services, to be adjudged and allowed by the governor and council, for the time being, and a licence thereupon first had and obtained. −− And that, where any slave shall be set free by his master or owner, otherwise than is herein before directed, it shall and may be lawful for the churchwardens of the parish, wherein such negro, mullatto, or indian, shall reside for the space of one month, next after his or her being set free, and they are hereby authorized and required, to take up, and sell the said negro, mullatto, or indian, as slaves, at the next court held for the said county, by public outcry. . . .

XXII. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That where any female mullatto, or indian, by law obliged to serve ’till the age of thirty or thirty-one years, shall during the time of her servitude, have any child born of her body, every such child shall serve the master or mistress of such mullatto or indian, until it shall attain the same age the mother of such child was obliged by law to serve unto.

XXIII. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted and declared, That no free negro, mullatto, or indian whatsoever, shall hereafter have any vote at the election of burgesses, or any other election whatsoever.


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