Petition #11680506


In March 1804, Norfolk County sheriff James Browne delivered a summons to Mathew Whiting, instructing him to appear in court and answer the charges of twenty-nine black people suing for "the establishment" of their freedom. When Whiting ignored the summons and refused to give bond, Browne took possession of twenty-six of the petitioners in accordance with the law that holds that people claiming to be free are to considered as such during the trial of the case and therefore cannot be kept enslaved. While the black people were in his possession, Whiting provided for them out of his own pocket because for a number of reasons he presents to the court his boarders could not be hired out to earn their keep. After a few months, Browne realized that "there was no certainty of what period the cause would have an end." In September, he submitted his account to the court and made an application for compensation of his expenses. Recognizing the justice of his claim, the court considered that the Commonwealth of Virginia "was chargable therewith" and "ordered to be certified to the auditor of public accounts for payment." The auditor rejected the court order "alledging that the case was not provided for by law." Browne went back to the court but to no avail; the court has directed the state to pay but will not itself assume the burden of compensating him. Browne pleads that he is "entirely without remedy unless by the aid of the Legislature;" he therefore prays that the "Honorable body will take his case into mature consideration and extend to him suitable relief."

Result: Rejected.

31 people are documented within petition 11680506

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Citation information

Repository: Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia