Category: Revolution and Early Republic (1763–1823)

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“A List of Negroes at College” (ca. 1780)

This list of enslaved people owned by the College of William and Mary, circa 1780, includes both those who were at the College at that time and those who were hired out. 

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“A Memorial and Remonstrance” by James Madison (1785)

“A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” anonymously authored by James Madison and published on or about June 20, 1785, argues against a resolution by the House of Delegates, adopted on November 11, 1784, to levy a so-called General Assessment to benefit all Christian sects, including dissenters against the established Church of England. The resolution excited such opposition, and petitions like Madison’s such support, that Madison was emboldened to reintroduce Thomas Jefferson‘s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which passed the General Assembly on January 16, 1786.

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“A strange dream this day”; an excerpt from the diary of Landon Carter (1776–1777)

In this excerpt from the diary he kept for more than twenty-five years, Landon Carter notes that several of his slaves have run away following a proclamation by the royal governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, promising freedom to slaves who joined British forces during the American Revolution (1775–1783). Carter repeatedly voices his dislike for Patrick Henry and his belief that he (Carter), and not Henry, had taken the lead in opposing the Stamp Act (1765). Finally, he gives evidence of strained relations at home with his son and wife, and brags of his abilities as a physician.

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“An ACT concerning patroles” (1801)

In “An ACT concerning patrols,” passed on January 16, 1801, the General Assembly explicitly empowered local magistrates to send out patrols, making special mention of Petersburg and Fredericksburg. This came in wake of Gabriel’s Conspiracy (1800).

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“An Act declaring tenants of lands or slaves in taille to hold the same in fee simple” (1776)

In “An Act declaring tenants of lands or slaves in taille to hold the same in fee simple,” passed in the October 1776 session of the General Assembly, legislators abolish the feudal English property rule of entail, which protected land from answering any debts accumulated by spendthrift offspring. Thomas Jefferson complained in his Autobiography that the result of this and primogeniture, or automatically passing inheritances to the eldest son, was the “accumulation and perpetuation of wealth, in select families.” As part of his attempt at a comprehensive legal reform, he authored this bill.

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“An act for regulating conveyances” (1785)

In “An act for regulating conveyances,” passed in the October 1785 session of the General Assembly, legislators clarify the means by which land is transferred. Among other things, the act abolished the feudal English property rule of primogeniture, which automatically passed inheritances to the eldest son. Thomas Jefferson complained in his Autobiography that the result of this and entail, which protected land from answering any debts accumulated by spendthrift offspring, was the “accumulation and perpetuation of wealth, in select families.” As part of his attempt at a comprehensive legal reform, he authored the original version of this bill.

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