“An act for the purchase and manumitting negro Cæsar.” (November 14, 1789)


This act, passed during the October 1789 session of the General Assembly, grants Caesar, an enslaved man, freedom in recognition of his service in the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. He was one of many enslaved men serving on vessels charged with protecting Virginia from the British. Caesar was a crew member of the Patriot. He joined the Virginia Navy in 1776 or 1777 and continued to serve after the British surrender. He remained enslaved by the Tarrant family in Hampton until this act, when the General Assembly purchased him in order to manumit him from his enslaver. He continued working as a river pilot and was able to purchase the freedom of his wife and one of his three children; his wife purchased the freedom of another after his death.


(Passed the 14th of November, 1789.)

WHEREAS it is represented to this Assembly, that Mary Tarrant of the county of Elizabeth City, hath her life in a negro named Cæsar, who entered very early into the service of his country, and continued to pilot the armed vessels of this state during the late war; in consideration of which meritorious services it is judged expedient to purchase the freedom of the said Cæsar; Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that the executive shall appoint a proper person to contract with the said Mary Tarrant for the purchase of the said Cæsar, and if they should agree, the person so appointed by the executive shall deliver to the said Mary Tarrant a certificate expressing such purchase and the sum, and upon producing such certificate to the auditor of accounts, he shall issue a warrant for the same to the treasurer, to be by him paid out of the lighthouse fund. And be it further enacted, that from and after the execution of a certificate aforesaid, the said Cæsar shall be manumitted and set free to all intents and purposes.

APA Citation:
General Assembly. “An act for the purchase and manumitting negro Cæsar.” (November 14, 1789). (2021, August 17). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
General Assembly. "“An act for the purchase and manumitting negro Cæsar.” (November 14, 1789)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (17 Aug. 2021). Web. 19 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, October 28
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