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'Bee it Enacted'
Old Dominion Servant Laws: Virginia Statutes 1658-61

March 1658

Whereas divers ill disposed persons do secretly and covertly trade and truck with other mens’ servants and aprentices which tendeth to the great injurie of masters of ffamilies their servants being thereby induced and invited to purloine and imbezill the goods of their said masters, Bee it therefore enacted for redresse of the like disorders and abuses hereafter that what person or persons shall buy, sell, trade or truck with any servant, for any comoditie whatsoever without lycence or consent of the master of any such servant hee or they so offending against the premises shall suffer one monthes imprisonment without bail or mainprize and also shall forfeite and restore to the master of the said servant fower times the value of the things so bought, sold, trucked or traded for.


The parliamentary debates on selling Englishmen into slavery are concluded in favor of enslavement, with a conformation that political dissidents may be trafficked along with the poor and the debtor class. This decision will inform the next 16 years of Virginia history by placing politically astute, active and literate persons in bondage, essentially gifting the white slaves of Virginia with a leadership cadre.

March 1661

Bee it enacted That in case any English servant shall run away in company with any negroes who are incapable of making satisfation by addition of time [1], Bee it 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.

1. Indicates that some, not all, negroes were serving for life. It was not until such time as it was normal for a negro to serve for life that the term slave and negro became synonymous. At the writ of this statute Virginia was still a generation away from comprehensive enslavement of blacks on a racial basis.

March 1661

Whereas the barbarous usage of some servants by cruell masters bring soe much scandall and infamy to the country in generall, that people who would willingly adventure themselves hither, are through feare thereof diverted, and by that meanes the supplies of particuler men [1] and the well seating of his majesties country very much obstructed, Be it therefore enacted that every master shall provide for his servants compotent dyett, clothing and lodging, and that he shall not exceed the bounds of moderation in correcting them beyond the meritt of their offences; and that it shalbe lawfull for any servant giving notice to their masters (haveing just cause of complaint against them) for harsh and bad usage, or else of want of dyett or convenient necessaries to repaire to the next commissioner to make his or their complaint, and if the said commisioner shall find by just proofes that the said servants cause of complaint is just the said commissioner is hereby required to give order for the warning of such master to the next county court where the matter in difference shalbe determined, and the servant have remedy for his grievances.

1. The King of England was scandalized to discover that 2 of every 3 soldiers in New England were white slaves. Also, 1660 saw Virginia Planters so short on servants, from working them to death, that they began buying free whites from Indians in large quantities.

Yes, read that last sentence again.

2. Isaac friend led 40 white servants in an uprising in York County

So Her Master May Have Her Again

A History of Runaway White Slaves in Plantation America: Part Two

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