Virginia Slave and Indenture Laws


MARCH, 1642-3--18th CHARLES 1st. ACT XXII. 1: 254.


 WHEREAS there are divers loytering runaways in the collony who very often absent  themselves from their masters service, And sometimes in two or three monthes cannot be  found… Be it therefore enacted  and confirmed that all runaways that shall absent themselves from their said masters  service shall be lyable to make satisfaction by service at the end of their tymes by indenture (vizt.) double the tyme of service soe neglected, And in some cases more if the  comissioners for the place appointed shall find it requisite and convenient…  it further also enacted that if any servant running away as aforesaid shall carrie either peice, powder and shott, And leave either  all or any of them with the Indians, And being thereof lawfully convicted shall suffer  death as in case of felony.


MARCH, 1660-1, 13th Charles II, ACT XXII, 2:26.

            English running away with negroes.


BEE itt enacted That in case any English servant shall run away in company with  any negroes who are incapable of makeing satisfaction by addition of time, Bee itt  enacted that the English so running away in company with them shall serve for the time  of the said negroes absence as they are to do for their owne by a former act.


MARCH, 1661-2, ACT CII, 14th Charles II,  2:116.



And if the negroes be  lost or dye in such time of their being run away, the christian servants in company with  them shall by proportion among them, either pay fower thousand five hundred pounds of tobacco and caske or fower yeares service for every negroe soe lost or dead.


December 1662 - 14th Charles II, 2:170, Act XII.

Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the  mother.


WHEREAS some doubts have arrisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro  woman should be slave or ffree, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present  grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only  according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ  ffornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee so offending shall pay double the  ffines imposed by the former act.


September 1667 - 19th Charles II, ACT III, 2:260. 

An act declaring that baptisme of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage.


WHEREAS some doubts have risen whether children that are slaves by birth, and by the  charity and piety of their owners made pertakers of the blessed sacrament of baptisme,  should by vertue of their baptisme be made ffree; It is enacted and declared by this  grand assembly, and the authority thereof, that the conferring of baptisme doth  not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedome; that diverse masters,  ffreed from this doubt, may more carefully endeavour the propagation of christianity by  permitting children, though slaves, or those of growth if capable to be admitted to that  sacrament


September 1668 - 20th Charles II, Act VII (1668), 2:267.

            Negro women not exempted from tax.


WHEREAS some doubts, have arisen whether negro women set free were still to be  accompted tithable according to a former act, It is declared by this grand assembly  that negro women, though permitted to enjoy their freedome yet ought not in all respects  to be admitted to a full fruition of the exemptions and impunities of the English, and are  still lyable to payment of taxes.


October 1669 - 21st Charles II, 2:270, Act I. 

            An act about the casuall killing of slaves.


WHEREAS the only law in force for the punishment of refreactory servants (a)  resisting their master, mistris or overseer cannot be inflicted upon negroes, nor the  obstinacy of many of them by other then violent meanes supprest, Be it enacted and  declared by this grand assembly, if any slave resist his master (or othe by his  masters order correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die,  that his death shall not be accompted ffelony, but the master (or that other person  appointed by the master to punish him) be acquit from molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepensed malice (which alone makes murther ffelony) should induce any man  to destroy his owne estate.


October 1670 - 22nd Charles II, Act V, 1670,2:280.

            Noe Negroes nor Indians to buy christian servants.


Whereas it hath beene questioned whither Indians or negroes manumited, or otherwise  free, could be capable of purchasing christian servants, It is enacted that noe  negro or Indian though baptised and enjoyned their owne freedome shall be capable of any  such purchase of christians, but yet not debarred from buying any of their owne nation.


June 1680 - 32nd Charles II, Act X, 2.481.

            An act for preventing Negroes Insurrections.


WHEREAS the frequent meeting of considerable numbers of negroe slaves under pretence of  feasts and burialls is judged of dangerous consequence; for prevention whereof for the  future, Bee it enacted by the kings most excellent majestie by and with the consent of  the generall assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid,  that from and after the publication of this law, it shall not be lawfull for any negroe or  other slave to carry or arme himselfe with any club, staffe, gunn, sword or any other weapon of defence or offence, nor to goe or depart from of his masters ground without a  certificate from his master, mistris or overseer, and such permission not to be granted  but upon perticuler and necessary occasions; and every negroe or slave soe offending not  haveing a certificate as aforesaid shalbe sent to the next constable, who is hereby  enjoyned and required to give the said negroe twenty lashes on his bare back well layd on,  and soe sent home to his said master, mistris or overseer. And it is further  enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any negroe or other slave shall presume or  lift up his hand in opposition against any christian, shall for every such offence, upon  due proofe made thereof by the oath of the party before a magistrate, have and receive  thirty lashed on his bare back well laid on. And it is hereby further enacted by the  authority aforesaid that if any negroe or other slave shall absent himself from his masters service and lye hid and lurking in obscure places, comitting injuries to the  inhabitants, and shall resist any person or persons that shalby any lawfull authority be  imployed to apprehend and take the said negroe, that then in case of such resistance, it  shalbe lawfull for such person or persons to kill the said negroe or slave soe lying out  and resisting, and that this law be once every six months published at the respective  county courts and parish churches within this colony.


October 1705 - 4th Anne, Chap XXIII, 3.333.

An act declaring the Negro, Mulatto, and Indian slaves within this dominion, to be real estate.


I. FOR the better settling and preservation of estates within this dominion,

II. Be it enacted, by the governor, council and burgesses of this present general  assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same; That from and  after the passing of this act, all negro, mulatto, and Indian slaves, in all courts of  judicature, and other places, within this dominion, shall be held, taken, and adjudged, to  be real estate (and not chattels;) and shall descend unto the heirs and widows of persons  departing this life, according to the manner and custom of land of inheritance, held in  fee simple.


October 1705 - 4th Anne. CHAP. KLIX. 3.447.

            An act concerning Servants and Slaves.


I. Be it enacted, by the governor, council, and burgesses, of this present general  assembly,and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, That all servants  brought into this country without indenture, if the said servants be christians, and of  christian parentage, and above nineteen years of age, shall serve but five years; and if  under nineteen years of age, ‘till they shall become twenty-four years of age, and no  longer.


IV. And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesiad, and it is hereby enacted,  That all servants imported and brought into this country, by sea or land, who were not  christians in their native country, (except Turks and Moors in amity with her majesty, and  others that can make due proof of their being free in England, or any other christian  country, before they were shipped, in order to transporation hither) shall be accounted  and be slaves, and as such be here bought and sold notwithtanding a conversion to christianity afterwards.


 VII. And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted,  That all masters and owners of servants, shall find and provide for their servants,  wholesome and competent diet, clothing, and lodging, by the discretion of the county  court; and shall not, at any time, give immoderate correction; neither shall, at any time,  whip a christian white servant naked, without an order from a justice of the peace: And if  any, notwithstanding this act, shall presume to whip a christian white servant naked...


XI. And for a further christian care and usage of all christian servants, Be it also  enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no negros,  mulattos, or Indians, although christians, or Jews, Moors, Mahometans, or other infidels,  shall, at any time, purchase any christian servant, nor any other, except of their own  complexion, or such as are declared slaves by this act…


XVIII.  …And if a free christian white woman shall have such bastard child, by a  negro, or mulatto, for every such offence, she shall, within one month after her delivery  of such bastard child, pay to the church-wardens for the time being, of the parish wherein  such child shall be born, for the use of the said parish fifteen pounds current money of Virginia, or be by them sold for five years to the use aforesaid: And in both the said  cases, the church-wardens shall bind the said child to be a servant, until it shall be of  thirty one years of age.


XX. And be it further enacted, That no minister of the church of England, or  other minister,or person whatsoever, within this colony and dominion, shall hereafter  wittingly presume to marry a white man with a negro or mulatto woman; or to marry a white  woman with a negro or mulatto man, upon pain of forfeiting and paying, for every such  marriage the sum of ten thousand pounds of tobacco; one half to our sovereign lady the  Queen, her heirs and successors, for and towards the support of the government, and the  contingent charges thereof; and the othe half to the informer; To be recovered, with  costs, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any court of record within this  her majesty’s colony and dominion, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law,  shall be allowed.


XXXV. And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted,  That no slave go armed with gun, sword, club, staff, or other weapon, nor go from off the  plantation and seat of land where such slave shall be appointed to live, without a  certificate of leave in writing, for so doing, from his or her master, mistress, or  overseer: And if any slave shall be found offending herein, it shall be lawful for any  person or persons to apprehend and deliver such slave to the next constable or  head-borough, who is hereby enjoined and required, without further order or warrant, to give such slave twenty lashes on his or her bare back, well laid on, and so send him or  her home…


XXXVI. And also it is hereby enacted and declared, That baptism of slaves doth  not exempt them from bondage; and that all children shall be bond or free, according to  the condition of their mothers, and the particular directions of this act.


XXXVIII. Provided always, and it is further enacted, That for every slave killed, in pursuance of this act, or put to death by law, the master or owner of such  slave shall be paid by the public: