Virginia: Laws Passed, March 15, 1832
Not all of Virginia’s legislators supported the bill to amend the state slave code that was debated during the 1831-32 session of the General Assembly. When the House of Representatives voted on the passage of the bill, 48 assemblymen opposed it, while 74 voted in its favor. During the legislative process, numerous clauses were struck out of the bill, and proposed punishments for several offenses were lessened.
In the end, however, the code of laws that passed made it clear that free black residents of Virginia would enjoy even fewer rights than they had before the revolt, and in some respects they were classed with slaves (as, for example, they were to be tried by the separate court of oyer and terminer, established for slaves, unless the offense was murder).
CHAP. XXII.—An act to amend an act entitled, “an act reducing into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes, and for other purposes.”
[Passed March 15th, 1832.]
1. Be it enacted by the general assembly, That no slave, free negro, or mulatto, whether he shall have been ordained or licensed, or otherwise, shall hereafter undertake to preach, exhort or conduct, or hold any assembly, or meeting, for religious or other purposes, either in the day time, or at night; and any slave, free negro or mulatto, so offending, shall for every such offence, be punished with stripes, at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes; and any person desiring so to do, shall have authority, without any previous written precept or otherwise, to apprehend any such offender, and carry him before such justice.
2. Any slave, free negro, or mulatto, who shall hereafter attend any preaching, meeting, or other assembly, held, or pretended to be held, for religious purposes, or other instruction, conducted by any slave, free negro or mulatto preacher, ordained or otherwise; and any slave who shall hereafter attend any preaching in the night time, although conducted by a white minister, without a written permission from his or her owner, overseer or master or agent of either of them, shall be punished by stripes at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes, and may for that purpose be apprehended by any person, without any written or other precept: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to prevent the masters or owners of slaves, or any white person to whom any free negro or mulatto is bound, or in whose employment, or on whose plantation or lot such free negro or mulatto lives, from carrying or permitting any such slave, free negro or mulatto, to go with him, her, or them, or with any part of his, her, or their white family to any place of religious worship, conducted by a white minister, in the night time: And provided also, That nothing in this, or any former law, shall be so construed as to prevent any ordained or licensed white minister of the gospel, or any layman licensed for that purpose by the denomination to which he may belong, from preaching, or giving religious instruction to slaves, free negroes and mulattoes, in the day time; nor to deprive any masters or owners of slaves of the right to engage, or employ any free white person whom they may think proper, to give religious instruction to their slaves; nor to prevent the assembling of the slaves of any one owner or master together, at any time for religious devotion.
3. No free negro or mulatto shall hereafter be capable of purchasing or otherwise acquiring permanent ownership, except by descent, to any slave, other than his or her husband, wife or children; and all contracts for any such purchase are hereby declared to be null and void.
4. No free negro or mulatto, shall be suffered to keep or carry any firelock of any kind, any military weapon, or any powder or lead; and any free negro or mulatto, who shall so offend, shall, on conviction before a justice of the peace, forfeit all such arms and ammunition to the use of the informer; and shall moreover be punished with stripes, at the discretion of the justice, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes. And the proviso to the seventh section of the act entitled “an act reducing into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes,” passed the second day of March, one thousand eight hundred and nineteen, authorizing justices of the peace, in certain cases, to permit slaves to keep and use guns or other weapons, powder and shot; and so much of the eighth section of the said recited act as authorizes the county and corporation courts to grant licenses to free negroes and mulattoes to keep or carry any firelock of any kind, any military weapon, or any powder or lead, shall be, and the same are hereby repealed.
5. No slave, free negro or mulatto, shall hereafter be permitted to sell, give, or otherwise, dispose of any ardent or spirituous liquor at or within one mile of any muster, preaching, or other public assembly of black or white persons; and any slave, free negro or mulatto, so offending, shall be punished by stripes, at the discretion of a justice of the peace, not exceeding thirty-nine.
6. If any slave, free negro, or mulatto, shall hereafter, wilfully [sic] and maliciously assault and beat any white person, with intention in so doing to kill such white person; every such slave, free negro or mulatto, so offending, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged and deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death without benefit of clergy.
7. If any person shall hereafter write, print, or cause to be written or printed, any book, pamphlet or other writing, advising persons of colour within this state to make insurrection, or to rebel, or shall knowingly circulate, or cause to be circulated, any book, pamphlet or other writing, written or printed, advising persons of colour in this commonwealth to commit insurrection or rebellion; such person if a slave, free negro or mulatto, shall, on conviction before any justice of the peace, be punished for the first offence with stripes, at the discretion of the said justice, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes; and for the second offence, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and on due conviction, shall be punished with death without benefit of clergy; and if the person so offending be a white person, he or she shall be punished on conviction, in a sum not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars.
8. Riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, trespasses and seditious speeches, by free negroes or mulattoes, shall hereafter be punished with stripes, in the same mode, and to the same extent, as slaves are directed to be punished by the twelfth section of the before recited act.
9. If any free negro or mulatto shall hereafter commit simple larceny, of any money, bank note, goods, chattels, or other thing of the value of twenty dollars or less, he or she, for every such offence, shall be tried and punished in the same manner as slaves are directed to be tried and punished by the fifth section of the act, entitled “an act concerning the trial and punishment of slaves, free negroes, and mulattoes, in certain cases,” passed the twelfth day of February, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight.
10. If any white person, free negro or mulatto, shall hereafter receive from any slave, free negro or mulatto, any stolen goods, knowing the said goods to have been stolen, he or she shall be adjudged guilty of larceny of the said goods, and punished in the same manner, and to the same extent, as if the receiver had actually stolen the said goods; but nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to prevent the prosecution, conviction and punishment of the person who actually shall have stolen them, as heretofore.
11. Free negroes and mulattoes shall hereafter be prosecuted, tried, convicted, and punished for any felony, by justicies of oyer and terminer, in the same manner as slaves are now prosecuted, tried, convicted and punished: and any court summoned or adjourned for such trial, shall have and exercise all the powers and incidents of a court summoned or adjourned for the trial of a slave, except that in cases of homicide, and in cases where the punishment shall be death, the mode of trial shall remain as heretofore.
12. Nothing in this act contained shall be so construed as to bar or conclude any prosecution for any offence committed previously to this act going into operation, but the same shall be so conducted, decided and executed, as if this act had never passed.
13. It shall be the duty of the several judges of this commonwealth, and presiding justices of the county and corporation courts, constantly to give this act in charge to the grand juries; and it is moreover made the duty of all attornies [sic] prosecuting for the commonwealth in any court therein, who may know of, or have good reason to suspect any violation of this act, to lodge information thereof before the proper prosecution for his or her conviction.
14. This act shall commence and be in force from and after the first day of July next.
Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Richmond (Richmond: Thomas Ritchie, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1832), 20-22.