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Document of the Month

January 2004

Payment to Bushrod Washington for Executed Slave, November 4, 1823


This document is taken from the microfilm reel, "Condemned Blacks Executed or Transported Records, 1823-1832 -- Condemned Slaves, Court Orders and Valuations, Auditor of Public Accounts." According to Virginia law in 1792, "The value of a slave condemned and executed, or dying before execution, shall be paid by the public to the owner" (see Guild, Black Laws of Virginia, p. 160).

Hannah was convicted of attempted murder and executed for her crime. According to this document, she tried to poison the family of Leland Seale in Fairfax County. Her owner, Bushrod Washington, was paid $50.00 in 1823. Most of the payments reported during the early 1820s range from $350 to $500. We might conclude that Hannah was an older person whose value was decidedly less. The transcript does not explain Hannah's relationship to the Seales.

Bushrod Washington was George Washington's nephew. A founding member of the American Colonization Society, he served as its first president from 1817 until his death in 1829. The Society was dedicated to organizing a colony in Africa to which free blacks could be sent. Its strategy included lobbying the Federal government for funding.

In 1821, Bushrod Washington received harsh criticism for selling 54 Mount Vernon slaves and transporting them to Louisiana away from their families (see Malone, Dictionary of American Biography, p, 509).

Note: Click on each image to view a transcript.

Related Sources
  • Bradley Chapin. Criminal Justice in Colonial America, 1606-1660
  • Richard Heath Dabney. Slave Insurrections in Virginia
  • June Purcell Guild. Black Laws of Virginia: A Summary of the Legislative Acts of Virginia Concerning Negroes from Earliest Times to the Present
  • Sally E. Hadden. Twice Condemned: Slaves and the Criminal Laws of Virginia, 1705-1865
  • Marie Tyler McGraw. The American Colonization Society in Virginia, 1816-1832: A Case Study in Southern Liberalism
  • Dumas Malone (editor). Dictionary of American Biography, vol. X, Troye-Zunser
  • Samuel N. Pincus. The Virginia Supreme Court, Blacks and the Law, 1870-1902
  • Arthur P. Scott. Criminal Law in Colonial Virginia

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