Slave Rules of Virginia



Slave rules of Virginia related to intermarriages, trials & emancipation.

The slave rules of Virginia for suppressing outlying slaves, contains the first provision to be found in the Virginia laws on the subject of the inter-mixture of the races; "For the prevention of that abominable mixture and spurious issue which hereafter may increase in this dominion, as well by negroes, mulattoes, and Indians intermarrying with English or other white women, as by their unlawful accompanying with one another," any free white man or woman intermarrying with a negro, mulatto, or Indian, was to be forever banished -- a punishment changed a few years after to six months' imprisonment and a fine of ten pounds. White women having mulatto children without marriage were to pay fifteen pounds sterling, or be sold for five years, that period, if they were servants, to take effect from the expiration of their former term, the child to be bound out as a servant till thirty years of age.

Slave Auction in Richmond, Virginia, 1856

Slave Auction in Richmond, Virginia, 1856
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Another clause of the slave rules of Virginia placed a serious restraint upon emancipation, by enacting that no negro or mulatto slave shall be set free, unless the emancipator pay for his transportation out of the country within six months. Yet the manumission was not void. The idea of reducing again to slavery persons once made free was not yet arrived at. A violation of the act exposed to a penalty of ten pounds, to be appropriated toward the transportation out of the colony of the freed slave.

Slaves Waiting to Be Sold, Virginia, 1856

Slaves Waiting to Be Sold, Virginia, 1856
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The practice of special summary tribunals for the trial of slaves charged with crimes was not first introduced -- another remarkable deviation from the English law. And slave guilty of any offense punishable by the law of England with death or loss of member, was to be forthwith committed to the county jail, there to be kept "well laden with irons," and upon notice of the fact, the governor was to issue a commission to any persons of the county he might see fit, before whom the prisoner was to be arraigned, indicted, tried "without the solemnity of a jury," and on the oath of two witnesses, or one witness "with pregnant circumstances" or confession, was to be found guilty and sentenced The same act, by another section, forbade slaves to keep horses, cattle, or hogs. It also provided that the owner should be liable for damage done "by any negro or other slave living at a quarter where there is no Christian overseer."

Old Slave Block, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Old Slave Block, Fredericksburg, Virginia
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These laws indicate the start which the slave-trade has recently received, and the rapid increase in Virginia of slave population.

A fifth revision of the slave rules of Virginia, in progress for the last five years by a committee of the council and burgesses, was completed in 1705. This code provided that "all servants imported or brought into this country by sea or land, show were not Christians in their native country, (except Turks and Moors in amity with her majesty, and other show can make due proof of their being free in England or any other Christian country before they were shipped in order to transportation thither,) shall be accounted, and be slaves, notwithstanding a conversion to Christianity afterward" or though they may have been in England; "all children to be bond or free, according to the condition of their mothers."

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