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Historical Document
Pro-slavery petitions in Virginia

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For Southern delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, one of the most important liberties was the right to own slaves, who in some counties of Virginia accounted for more than half the population.

In the years immediately preceding the Convention, Virginians gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions in protest of the "very subtle and daring dispossess us of a very important Part of our Property...TO WREST US FROM OUR SLAVES, by an act of Legislature for general emancipation." In 1784 and 1785 alone, 1,244 signatures were amassed on various petitions.

Virginians were particularly alarmed by the "great number of slaves taken by the British passing in this country as freemen." They predicted "final Ruin" to the country if slaves were emancipated, citing "Want, Poverty, Distress, and Ruin to FREE citizens, Neglect Famine and Death to the black Infant...The Horrors of all Rapes, Murders, and Outrages which a vast multitude of unprincipled unpropertied, revengeful and remorseless Banditti are capable of perpetrating."

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Related Entries:
The Quock Walker case: "Instructions to the Jury"
A Memorial to the South Carolina Senate
Cato's letter and petition to the Pennsylvania Assembly

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