PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“An act directing the emancipation of certain slaves who have served as soldiers in this state, and for the emancipation of the slave Aberdeen.” (October 20, 1783)

SUMMARY

This act, passed during the October 1783 session of the General Assembly, grants enslaved people their freedom in recognition of their military service on behalf of free people during the American Revolution. Among them was Aberdeen, who served in the Virginia Navy. A year earlier, in May 1782, the General Assembly passed a law that allowed enslavers to manumit their slaves at will, without government approval. During the Revolution, thousands of enslaved people fought for the British after they were promised freedom for their service, and beginning in 1783, more than 3,000 of these soldiers were resettled in Nova Scotia.

FULL TEXT

CHAP. III.

An act directing the emancipation of certain slaves who have served as soldiers in this state, and for the emancipation of the slave Aberdeen.

I. WHEREAS it hath been represented to the present general assembly, that during the course of the war, many persons in this state had caused their slaves to enlist in certain regiments or corps raised within the same, having tendered such slaves to the officers appointed to recruit forces within the state, as substitutes for free persons, whose lot or duty it was to serve in such regiments or corps, at the same time representing to such recruiting officers that the slaves so enlisted by their direction or concurrence were freemen; and it appearing further to this assembly, that on expiration of the term of enlistment of such slaves that the former owners have attempted again to force them to return to a state of servitude, contrary to the principles of justice, and to their own solemn promise.

II. And whereas it appears just and reasonable that all persons enlisted as afosesaid, who have faithfully served agreeable to the terms of their enlistment, and have thereby of course contributed towards the establishment of American liberty and independence, should enjoy the blessings of freedom as a reward for their toils and labours; Be it therefore enacted, That each and every slave, who by the appointment and direction of his owner, hath enlisted in any regiment or corps raised within this state, either on continental or state establishment, and hath been received as a substitute

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for any free person whose duty or lot it was to serve in such regiment or corps, and hath served faithfully during the term of such enlistment, or hath been discharged from such service by some officer duly authorized to grant such discharge, shall from and after the passing of this act, be fully and compleatly emancipated, and shall be held and deemed free in as full and ample a manner as if each and every of them were specially named in this act; and the attorney-general for the commonwealth, is hereby required to commence an action, in forma pauperis, in behalf of any of the persons above described who shall after the passing of this act be detained in servitude by any person whatsoever; and if upon such prosecution it shall appear that the pauper is entitled to his freedom in consequence of this act, a jury shall be empannelled to assess the damages for his detention. III. And whereas it has been represented to this general assembly, that Aberdeen a negroe man slave, hath laboured a number of years in the public service at the lead mines, and for his meritorious services is entitled to freedom; Be it therefore enacted, That the said slave Aberdeen shall be, and he is hereby emancipated and declared free in as full and ample a manner as if he had been born free.

CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
General Assembly. “An act directing the emancipation of certain slaves who have served as soldiers in this state, and for the emancipation of the slave Aberdeen.” (October 20, 1783). (2021, October 28). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/an-act-directing-the-emancipation-of-certain-slaves-who-have-served-as-soldiers-in-this-state-and-for-the-emancipation-of-the-slave-aberdeen-october-20-1783.
MLA Citation:
General Assembly. "“An act directing the emancipation of certain slaves who have served as soldiers in this state, and for the emancipation of the slave Aberdeen.” (October 20, 1783)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (28 Oct. 2021). Web. 30 Nov. 2021
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