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title:“Petition from Fairfax County Slaveholders”
authors:George Mason
date written:1789-10-20

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:26 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 4, 2024, 2:39 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Petition from Fairfax County Slaveholders." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 3. Ed. A Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 1175-77. Print.
Manuscript, Legislative Petitions, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Va.

Petition from Fairfax County Slaveholders (October 20, 1789)

20 October 1789
To the honourable the Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Delegates of Virginia The Petition of the Subscribers, Inhabitants of the County of Fairfax
Humbly sheweth
THAT Your Petitioners have severally, at different times since the Year 1778, removed from the State of Maryland, with their Familys into the Commonwealth of Virginia, and become Citizens thereof; that several of them have purchased Lands here, and others of them have leased Lands, upon which they now live, and work the Slaves which they brought hither with them, and that they have, ever since their Removal, and Settlement here, regularly paid Taxes for their said Slaves. But being Strangers, and as such, unacquainted with the particular Laws of this Commonwealth, at their first coming into it, they did not know, until the time had elapsed, that the Act passed in the Year 1778, entitled "An Act for preventing the further Importation of Slaves" required them, within the Space of ten Days after their Removal into this Commonwealth, to take a particular Oath, therein prescribed, respecting the Slaves they had brought with them. And being advised that after the Expiration of the said Term of ten Days, such Oath wou'd be ineffectual; Your Petitioners, without any willful Fault or Neglect on their Part, are in Danger, not only of incurring grievous Penalties, but of forfeiting also the most valuable Part of their Property; to the utter Ruin of themselves and their Familys; and have no Remedy, but thro' the Intervention of the General Assembly.
AND your Petitioners beg Leave further to represent to this honourable House.
THAT they humbly conceive the Provisoe in the said recited Act, in favour of Persons removing into and becoming Citizens of this Commonwealth, is extreamly defective, in not prescribing some Mode of perpetuating the Evidence of the Affidavit therein prescribed having been duly taken, by requiring a Certificate thereof to be registered in a Court of Record. For as the Slaves brought into this Commonwealth, contrary to the said Act, are to become free, your Petitioners apprehend their Claim wou'd not be barred by any Length of Time; altho' in the Course of a Few Years it wou'd, in many Instances, become impossible, from their being no Record of the Fact, for their Owners to prove that the legal Requisition had been performed.
AND THAT, from the frequent and constant Migration of People to the Lands on the 'Western Waters, Experience has shewn that great Numbers of the old Settlements and Plantations are annually deserted, and wou'd remain desolate, and this Part of the Country be depopulated, were not the Vacancys filled up by Emigrants from the neighbouring State of Maryland; from which Circumstances it is notorious, that a considerable and respectable Number of People, who by their Removal hither, have contributed to encrease the Wealth Strength and Population of the Commonwealth, are now in a similar Situation with your Petitioners; and whether Justice and sound Policy cloth not require, that they, as well as future Emigrants, shou'd be effectually secured in the Possession of their Property, is most humbly submitted to the Wisdom of this honourable House.
YOUR Petitioners therefore humbly hope, that in tender Consideration of the Premises, an Act of General Assembly may pass to secure to your Petitioners, and others in similar Circumstances, their Property in the Slaves so removed into this Commonwealth, by granting a further Time for making the Affidavit prescribed in the said recited Act; and directing the Certificates of such Affidavits to be entered of Publick Record—OR that such other effectual Relief in the Premises may be granted, as to this honourable House shall seem just.
And your Petitioners will ever pray.

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