Slavery and the Law in Seventeenth-Century Virginia

1662

General Assembly determines “Negro women’s children to serve according to the condition of the mother.”

1667

General Assembly passes “An act declaring the baptisme of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage.”

1669

Virginia passes an act regarding the casual killing of slaves: “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.”

1670

Assembly determined that “Noe Negroes nor Indians to buy Christian servants.”

1672

“An act for the apprehension and suppression of runaways, Negroes and slaves” states: “If any Negroe, mulatto, Indian slave, or servant for life, runaway and shall be pursued by the warrant or hue and cry, it shall and may be lawful for any person who shall endeavour to take them, upon the resistance of such Negro, mulatto, Indian slave, or servant for life, to kill or wound him or them so resisting. . . . And if it happen that such Negroe, mulatto, Indian slave, or servants for life doe dye of any wound in such their resistance received the master or owner of such shall receive satisfaction from the public.”

1680

General Assembly passes “An act for preventing Negroes’ Insurrections”: “Whereas the frequent meeting of considerable numbers of Negroe slaves under pretence of feasts and burials is judged of dangerous consequence . . . it shall not be lawful for any Negroe or other slave to carry or arm himself with any club, staff, gun, sword, or any other weapon of defense or offense, not to goe or depart from his master's ground without a certificate from his master . . . and such permission not to be granted but upon particular and necessary operations; and every Negroe or slave so offending not having a certificate . . . [will receive] twenty lashes on his bare back well laid. . . . If any Negroe or other slave shall absent himself from his master’s service and lie hid and lurking in obscure places . . . it shall be lawful . . . to kill the said Negroe or slave.”

1682

Virginia passes “An additional act for the better preventing insurrections by Negroes”: “No master or overseer knowingly permit or suffer . . . any Negroe or slave not properly belonging to him or them, to remain or be upon his or their plantation above the space of four hours at any one time.”

1691

Virginia votes to banish any white man or woman who marries a black, mulatto, or Indian. Any white woman who gives birth to a mulatto child is required to pay a heavy fine or be sold for a five-year term of servitude.

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