Virginia: Proposed Black Codes Debated in the General Assembly, 1831-32

 

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Virginia General Assembly, House of Delegates, Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (Richmond:  Thomas Ritchie, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1831).

 

 

[BILL No. 13.]

 

A BILL,

 

To amend an act, entitled “an act reducing into one, the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes,” and for other purposes.

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          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 the first offence be punished with stripes, at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding 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. And any such slave, free negro, or mulatto, so offending a second time, shall be held guilty of felony, and prosecuted as slaves are now tried for felony, and on conviction, shall, if a slave, and if a free person of colour, shall be sold as a slave, and transported beyond the limits of the United States, in the manner prescribed by law for the sale and transportation of slaves under sentence of death.

 

          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, in the night time, although conducted by a white minister, ordained or otherwise; and if a slave, although he or she shall have a written permission from his or her owner, shall be punished by stripes at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding lashes, and may for that purpose be apprehended by any person, as above authorized: 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. It shall not be lawful hereafter for any free negro or mulatto to go out of the county or corporation in which he or she resides and is registered, without a certificate in writing signed by some justice of the peace of the said county, stating to what other county or corporation, and for what time, the bearer desired to go. Nor shall it be lawful for any free negro or mulatto, who shall have thus gone from the county or corporation in which he had theretofore resided, into any other, to remain in the latter more than one month, without having obtained permission to that effect, from the county or corporation court, where he shall have gone, entered on record; which order of permission may at any time be revoked by the court, within one year next after it shall have been granted. And any free negro or mulatto, found out of the county or corporation of his proper residence, otherwise than as aforesaid, shall be punished by stripes, at the discretion of a justice of the peace, not exceeding lashes, and may for that purpose, be apprehended by any person as above authorized, and shall be liable to the same punishment once in every week he or she shall continue to remain in such county or corporation, contrary to law, unless it shall manifestly appear, that he or she had been prevented from removing by sickness or other physical inability. It shall not be lawful for any free negro or mulatto, whether he or she shall have previously emigrated from this state or not, to migrate into this commonwealth, or to come into it, whether with a view to permanent residence, or temporary sojourn, or for any object or purpose whatsoever; and every free negro or mulatto, who shall come into this commonwealth by land or by water, contrary to this act, shall and may be apprehended, and carried by any citizen before some justice of the peace of the county where he shall be taken; which justice is hereby authorized to examine, send and remove, every such free negro or mulatto out of this commonwealth, into that state, or country, or island, from whence it shall appear, he or she last came; and for this purpose, the sheriff or other officer, or any other person or persons, may by such justice be employed within this state, upon the same terms as are by law directed in the removal of criminals from one county to another; and the expenses and charges of such removal, to be audited and paid out of the treasury, as other public charges. And every free negro or mulatto, who shall have come, or have been brought into this commonwealth by water, from any country, state, or island, may and shall be exported to the place from whence he or she came or was brought, and the charges attending the same shall be paid by the importer; to be recovered by motion in the name of the commonwealth, upon ten days previous notice thereof, in any court of record; and any such free negro or mulatto, may, by the order of the justice taking cognizance of the case, at his discretion, be punished by stripes in the first instance, if it shall appear to him to have been an intentional and known violation of this act, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes; and every free negro or mulatto, so removed or exported, and thereafter returning into this commonwealth, (unless it be in consequence of shipwreck or other unavoidable necessity,) shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall be prosecuted therefor [sic], as slaves are now tried for felonies, and on conviction, shall be sold as a slave, and transported beyond the limits of the United States, in the manner prescribed by law, for the sale and transportation of slaves under sentence of death. And so much of the sixty-sixth section of the before recited act, as authorizes masters of vessels to bring into this state, any free negro or mulatto, employed on board, and belonging to such vessel, and who shall therewith depart, shall be and the same is hereby repealed. And it shall not be lawful for any master or owner of any vessel about to sail from any Atlantic port in this commonwealth, to any other port in the United States, north thereof, to employ on board such vessel, any slave, free negro or mulatto; and any master or owner of such vessel, as shall offend herein, shall forfeit and pay one thousand dollars, to be recovered in the same manner and to the same uses as aforesaid.

 

          4.  No free negro or mulatto, shall hereafter be capable of purchasing, or otherwise acquiring title to any real estate of any description, in fee, for life, or for a longer term than year: or of purchasing, hiring, or otherwise acquiring title or ownership, permanent or temporary, to any slave; and all contracts, for any such purchase, hire, or other acquisition, are hereby declared to be null and void.

 

          5.  It shall not hereafter be lawful for any free negro, or mulatto, to sell, or transfer otherwise, to any person, any ting whatever, without having procured, and exhibiting at the time of such sale, or transfer, a written certificate of two freeholders of the county or corporation, in which he, or she resides, enumerating the commodities to be sold, and the quantity or number, and stating that the article, if of agricultural production, stock, or fowls, was in the belief of the certifiers, raised, and then owned by such free negro, or mulatto; and if any other article, their belief that he or she had honestly acquired it. And if any person shall purchase, or receive, of any free negro, or mulatto, any vendible commodity whatever, without the production of such certificate, he shall be held guilty of a misdemeanor, and forfeit and pay the sum of dollars, to be recovered by information, or indictment, in any court of record, one half to the informer, and the other half to the use of the commonwealth.

 

          6. 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.

 

          7. No free negro or mulatto, tradesman or mechanic, shall, after an opportunity has been presented to him, on public means, or means other than his own, of removing from the state of Virginia to Liberia, or any other place without the limits of the United States, at which free persons of colour from Virginia may be colonized, be permitted to work at, or carry on his trade, or handicraft, in this commonwealth, except by special permission of the court or corporation, in which he may reside, entered of record, and which license may be revoked, or again renewed, by the said courts at pleasure. And no such free negro, or mulatto tradesman, or mechanic, shall, under any circumstances, b hereafter allowed to take apprentices, or to teach their trade, or art, to any other person, except that coloured barbers may take apprentices. Nor shall any slave, free negro, or mulatto, hereafter be employed, or act, as a musician to any military company in this commonwealth. And any free negro or mulatto, who shall violate any of the provisions of this act, shall pay a fine not exceeding dollars, to be adjudged of by any justice of the peace to whom the information is given, one half to the informer, and the other half to the commonwealth, and moreover shall be punished by stripes, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes, at the discretion of the justice of the peace.

 

          8.  No white person, free negro, or mulatto, shall buy, sell, or receive of, to, or from a slave, any commodity whatsoever, without the written consent of the master, owner, or overseer of such slave, specifying what articles and quantity or number the slave is allowed to sell, or what amount of money to expend; and if any person shall presume to deal with any slave without such written consent, he or she so offending, shall forfeit and pay to the master or owner of such slave, four times the value of the thing so bought, sold, or received, to be recovered with costs, by warrant, without regard to the amount, before a justice of the peace, in the same manner as other debts, not exceeding twenty dollars, are recovered; and shall also forfeit and pay the further sum of twenty dollars, recoverable with costs, in like manner, to any person who will warrant for the same, or receive on his or her bare back thirty-nine lashes, well laid on; and shall, nevertheless, be liable to pay the costs of such warrant. And if any white person shall sell any ardent spirit to a slave, without such written permission as aforesaid, specifying also the quantity of spirituous liquor, which the slave is authorized to purchase, he or she so offending, in addition to the penalties above imposed, shall also forfeit the sum of one hundred dollars, to be recovered to the use of the commonwealth, by presentment, information, or indictment, in any court of record.

 

          9. 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; and if the offender be a slave, the master, or owner of such slave, whether consenting to such violation of law or not, shall forfeit and pay the sum of dollars, to be recovered with costs, by any person who will sue for the same, by warrant before a justice of the peace, in the same manner as other debts, not exceeding twenty dollars.

 

          10. If it shall be proved to the satisfaction of any court of record, or justice of the peace, that any person hath been guilty of buying, selling, or receiving, to or from any slave, free negro or mulatto, without such license, permission, or certificate, as is by this act required, and contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, it shall be lawful for such court or justice, to rule such person to give security for his or her good behaviour, for one year or longer, at the discretion of such court or justice; and on failure of such person to give the security required, he or she shall be committed to jail, there to remain until the security be given, or he or she be otherwise, discharged by due course of law.

 

          11. 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.

 

          12. If any person, shall hereafter write, print, or cause to be written, or printed, any book, pamphlet or other writing, advising, or inciting 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, or inciting 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 [sic]

 

          13. 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.

 

          14. 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.

 

          15. The fourth section of the last recited act, repealing so much of the several previous acts as provided that for certain offences, free negroes and mulattoes should be punished with stripes, transportation, and sale, shall be, and the same is hereby repealed, and the said several acts, repealed by the said fourth clause, are hereby revived, and declared valid.

 

          16. All persons, whether white, free negroes, or mulattoes, who shall hereafter receive any stolen goods, knowing the said goods to have been stolen, 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.

 

          17. 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; and the governor shall have the same power and authority to effect the sale and transportation of any free negro or mulatto, who may be under sentence of death, as if the person so convicted, were a slave, and in all cases, the money thus received, shall be accounted for to the commonwealth.

 

          18. Hereafter, no court or other authority shall grant any license to any person whatever, to keep a tavern, or to retail groceries, unless the party applying for such license will make oath before the court, a copy of which is to be entered on record, that he or she had not sold or delivered any spirituous liquor, to any slave, contrary to the provisions of this act, since its passage, and that he or she would not do so during the continuance of the license so applied for.

 

          19. 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.

 

          20. 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 attorneys 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 court or grand jury, and to institute forthwith the proper prosecution for his or her conviction.

 

          21. This act shall commence and be in force from and after the [the text of the bill ends here]                                

 

 

 

From Virginia. General Assembly. House of Delegates, Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (Richmond:  Thomas Ritchie, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1831).

 

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=_WJNAAAAYAAJ&q=free+negro+or+mulatto#v=snippet&q=free%20negro%20or%20mulatto&f=false

 

 

p. 188 – ordered to be read a third time

p. 199 – read a third time and “sundry blanks therein were filled” – Mr. Chandler wanted to reconsider the vote – nay.

 

p. 200:

 

“The question then recurred upon the passage of the said bill, and was determined in the affirmative.—Ayes 74, noes 48. . . .

 

Resolved, That the bill do pass, and that the title be ‘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.’”

 

p. 235

House agreed to amendments proposed by the Senate.