Petition of Richard Porter, December 12, 1831
To the members of the General Assembly of Virginia
The petition of Richard Porter of the county of Southampton respectfully represents – that during the late insurrection of the slaves in this county two of his to wit, Jacob aged 22 and Moses aged 19 and one belonging to his ward Jasper J. Porter named Aaron were killed as will more fully appear by the annexed affidavits as also that the said slaves were all actually engaged in open insurrection and rebellion and [were] destroyed by those employed in suppressing them.
Your petitioner humbly prays that due compensation may be made by an act of the legislature for the loss of property he has thus sustained— He will not pretend to enter into a minute course of reasoning with a body as enlightened in order to do demonstrate the justice of his claim— The people of Virginia have at all times been renowned for a generous sympathy with individual sufferers and he feels assured that there is not a man among them who would not rather impose a small tax upon himself than that an innocent person should suffer such a heavy loss of property—
In resorting to former acts of the assembly in relating to such subjects it seems that such has been the invariable policy of the state—
As far back as the year 1691 an act was passed “for suppressing outlying slaves” in which it was made the duty of the sheriff of the county acting under warrant from two justices of the peace to kill & destroy such as [?] ran away or refused to surrender and allowing to the owners 4000 lbs of tobaco [sic] for each slave so destroyed—
The act making compensation to the owners of slaves tried and convicted and condemned for capital offenses was passed many years afterwards—
Your petitioner considers the case of a slave killed in open and actual rebellion as presenting much stronger grounds for relief to the owner than either of the above – At such a time when the object of the slaves is to throw off all authority it is not to be expected that this owner can exercise any control over them or should be held responsible for their criminal acts – nor could they under stuch circumstances of excitement and apprehension extend protection eve to such as came under suspicion of desighns [sic] so destructive to society – It would be vain for the owners of slaves so destroyed to look to the individuals who destroyed them for redress. Even where they could be designated & were of sufficient ability it is not probable that juries would award damages against persons supposed to be acting under a sense of duty and with a view to the public safety – The slaves killed in pursuit and known insurgents your petitioner presumes were rightly slain and where the evidence of guilt was apparent those captured would have been inevitably convicted and executed –
It is a known and recognized rule of constitutional law that whenever private property is taken or condemned for public uses the owners are entitled to adequate compensation – And your petitioner hopes that his case will not be made an exception to this universal and equitable rule.
[other side of petition]
The petition of
Dec. 12th 1831
refd to select
Jany 3. Rejected