Proslavery Petition, November 10, 1785
To the honourable the General Assembly of Virginia the Remonstrance and Petition of the Free Inhabitants of Halifax County.
When the British Parliament usurped a Right to dispose of our Property without our Consent, we dissolved the Union with our Parent Country, and established a Constitution and Form of Government of our own, that our Property might be secure in Future. In Order to effect this, we risked our Lives and fortunes, and waded through Seas of Blood. Divine Providence smiled on our Enterprize, and crowned it with Success. And our Rights of Liberty and Property are now as well secured to us, as they can be by any human Constitution and Form of Government.
But notwithstanding this, we understand, a very subtle and daring Attempt is on Foot to deprive us of a very important Part of our Property. An Attempt carried on by the Enemies of our Country, Tools of the British Administration, and supported by a Number of deluded Men among us, to wrest from us our Slaves by an act of the Legislature for a general Emancipation of them. They have the Address, indeed to cover their Design, with the Veil of Piety and Liberality of Sentiment. But is unsupported by the Word of God, and will be ruinous to Individuals and to the Public.
It is unsupported by the World of God. Under the Old Testament Dispensation, Slavery was permitted by the Deity himself. Thus it is recorded, in Levit. Chap. 25. Ver. 44, 45, 46. 'Both they Bond-men, and Bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the Heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy Bond-men and Bond-maids. Moreover, of the Children of the Strangers, that do sojourn among you of them shall ye buy, and of their Families that are with you, which they beget in your Land, and they shall be your Possession, and ye shall take them, as an Inheritance for your Children after you, to inherit them for a Possession; they shall be your Bond-men forever.' This Permission to possess and inherit Bond Servants, we have Reason to conclude, was continued through all the Revolutions of the Jewish Government, down to the Advent of our Lord. And we do not find, that either he or his Apostles abridged it. On the Contrary, the Freedom which the Followers of Jesus were taught to expect, was a Freedom from the Bondage of Sin and Satan, and from the Dominion of their Lusts and Passions; but as to their outward Condition, whatever that was, wether Bond or Free, when they embraced Christianity, it was to remain the same afterwards. This Saint Paul hath expressly told us 1 Cor. Chap. 7. Ver. 20th. where he is speaking directly to this very Point; 'Let every Man abide in the same Calling, wherein he is called'; and at Ver. 24. 'Let every Man wherein he is called therein abide with God.' Thus it is evident the above Attempt is unsupported by the Divine Word.
It is also ruinous to Individuals and to the Public. For it involves in it, and is productive of Want, Poverty, Distress, and Ruin to the Free Citizen; Neglect, Famine, and Death to the helpless black Infant and superannuated Parent; the Horrors of all the Rapes, Murders, and Outrages, which a vast Multitude of unprincipled, unpropertied, vindictive, and remorseless Banditti are capable of perpetrating; inevitable Bankruptcy to the Revenue, and consequently Breach of public Faith, and Loss of Credit with foreign nations; and lastly Ruin to this now free and flourishing Country.
We therefore your Remonstrants and Petitioners do solemnly abjure and humble pray you, that you will discountenance and utterly reject every Motion and Proposal for emancipating our Slaves; that as the Act lately made, empowering the Owners of Slaves to liberate them has been and is still productive, in some Measure, of sundry of the above pernicious Effects, you will immediately and totally repeal it; and that as many of the Slaves, liberated by the said Act, have been guilty of Thefts and Outrages, Insolence and Violences destructive to the Peace, Safety, and Happiness of Society, you will make effectual Provision for the due Government of them.
And your Remonstrants and Petitioners shall ever pray, etc.