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TideWriters Tales
Unusual Petition
By Catherine C. Brooks

     When I began research about national post offices, I approached Chesapeake Bay Writers’ Club members for any outstanding item they could provide for my book. Soon after the request, I sat at the table with Patricia Perkinson, Topping, Virginia, at the the Chesapeake Bay Writers’ Conference at Rappahannock College, Glenns. “Pat” told me she had an unusual petition, concerning one of her ancestors, that she would be glad to loan me. I gave her my card that included my address. In a short time, I received a typewritten copy of the legal document from 1797 General Assembly in the mail. I welcomed anything to give my book life. So I copied the original and returned it to “Pat.” This section of my book reads:

     Petition: In response to action that effected citizens from Tappahannock, Virginia, to Gloucester and beyond.

     “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”    Benjamin Franklin

     Slaves were ordered to take mail from one plantation to another before 1865. However, during the days when Mathews’ County citizens fetched their overland mail from Gloucester Court House, documentation proves trustworthy slaves did long overland hauls. Patricia Perkinson of Topping, Virginia, has been kind in permitting me to use a typed copy of a handwritten petition made by her great-great-great-grandfather, Judge Churchill Blakey. (Judge, Middlesex County). The original petition is in the Virginia State Archives:


     To the honorable Speaker and members of the House of Delegates of the commonwealth of Virginia-
The petition of Hannah Thacker Lorimer and Thomas Fauntleroy and divers citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia respectfully shew? that James Thacker Lorimer of the county of Middlesex, an infant under the age of twenty-one years and orphan of George Lorumer, dec’d, is possessed of a Negro slave named “Sam” as his absolute property, who was employed for the purpose of conveying public mail from Fredericksburg to Gloucester Courthouse, some time about the 17th day of November 1797, as your petitioners have good reason to believe, and was attacked on the public highway by two persons who attempted to dispossess him of the said mail, but the said Sam with the utmost fortitude and intrepidity resisted the attack until he was relieved from the violence offered by the said persons by some other persons who casually discovered the _______ inconsequence of which resistance and a faithful adherence regard to the trust reposed in him the said slave received several dangerous wounds and languished under them for a considerable space of time thereafter; that many of the citizens of this Commonwealth disposed and _________ to reward the integrity and fortitude of said slave by emancipation and to that end would most willingly pay to his owner the value of said slave by voluntary contributions and your petitioners Hannah T. Lorimer, who is the mother of James H. T. Lorimer, and your petitioner Thomas Faultleroy, who intermarried with the only sister of said James H. T. Lorimer, who hath no brother living, not only wish that the said slave could be emancipated, but would perform any reasonable act to accomplish the same, but as the said James is an infant under the age of twenty-one years and incapable to perform any act which would be requisite for that purpose, your petitioners are advised that the said slave cannot be emancipated without the interposition of the legislature; therefore your petitioners pray that an act may be passed to emancipate the said slave on the payment of such sum of money to the guardian of said James as may be ascertained to be the value of said slave in such a manner as your honorable body may direct or that such mode for his emancipation may be adopted as may be thought most reasonable and consistent with the interest of the proprietor and you petitioners will pray-
Twenty-two signatures: Churchill Blakey. (Judge Middlesex County) is the first signature.
I’m often asked if Sam received the freedom, which he deserved. No one has ever found the record of the action of the General Assembly. Most records of that period were burned at the closing of the Civil War. 

© 2005 Catherine C. Brooks All rights reserved. 

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