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.
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.
In “An ACT providing additional protection for the slave property of citizens of this commonwealth,” passed on March 17, 1856, the General Assembly seeks to prevent slaves from escaping Virginia ports via the Underground Railroad by providing for rigorous inspections of ships.
In “An ACT to amend an act, intituled, ‘An act to reduce into one the several acts concerning slaves, free negroes and mulattoes, and for other purposes,’” passed on December 25, 1795, the General Assembly updateds several of its laws relating to slaves, and primarily disputes over their legal ownership. The law’s preamble implies the existence of a network to assist fugitive slaves, perhaps a precursor of what came to be known as the Underground Railroad.
In this account of the arguments on the floor of the General Assembly on December 21, 1871, John Freeman proposes to abolish corporal punishment at the whipping post. No such bill passed the General Assembly until 1882 when all acts and parts of acts relating to “punishment by stripes” in the criminal code of 1878 were repealed.
In "Lynch Law," an excerpt from his final address to the General Assembly, dated December 6, 1893, Governor Philip W. McKinney speaks out for the first time against lynching. In Roanoke, seven members of a white lynch mob had recently been killed in clashes with authorities; a black suspect was later hanged.
In Kinney v. the Commonwealth, decided on October 3, 1878, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upholds Virginia’s laws prohibiting interracial marriage and affirms the priority of Virginia law over that of other jurisdictions. The case stems from the marriage between Andrew Kinney, a black man, and Mahala Miller, a white woman.
In Loving v. Commonwealth, decided on March 7, 1966, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upholds the state’s antimiscegenation laws. The Court also sets aside the original conviction of Richard and Mildred Loving, finding that a sentence requiring the defendants, after having illegally lived as man and wife in Virginia, to leave the state is “unreasonable.” The Lovings appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.