Lot 1: Rare 1795 Virginia “Slave Non-Importation” certificate
12th February 2017
(African-American, 1795), Richard Conway, Rare Virginia “Slave Non-Importation” certificate, [Alexandria], Virginia, Feb. 20, 1795. Richard Conway. Autograph Document Signed (and certified on verso by a court official). Feb. 20, 1795. 2pp. (front and verso), 7 x 8". Rare. We can find no record of another Virginia "non-Importation" certificate having appeared at auction in recent years."I Lanty Crowe do swear that my removal to the State of Virginia was with no intent to evade the Act for preventing the further Importation of Slaves within this Commonwealth nor have I brought with me, nor will cause to be brought, any slave with an intention of Selling them, nor have any of the Slaves who in my possession been imported from Africa or any of the West India Islands since the year one thousand, seven hundred and seventy eight...The names of the Slaves I have brought into this State re Mima, William, Eleanor..." Conway, a close relative of James Madison's. was Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia at the end of the Revolutionary War and one of the city's wealthiest citizens. Lanty Crowe was actually an Alexandria resident long before he received this document - in 1792, both he and Conway signed a petition to the Governor asking, on humanitarian grounds, that a slave sentenced to death be instead deported to the West Indies. Perhaps, when his 32 year-old wife died in 1794, Crowe moved (with his slaves) to another state before returning to Virginia. Before his death in 1801, Crowe sold a slave named "Nelly" - possibly the Eleanor named here - to someone in Washington, D.C., who carried her to Maryland, where she gave birth to several children. Thirty years after that, one of Nelly's daughters petitioned the Courts to declare her free-born, because her mother had been taken to Maryland illegally. Laws restricting the interstate movement of slaves (highlighted in the 1856 Dred Scott case) were complex as early as the Revolutionary War. During the Revolution, all the rebellious colonies - including those in the South - banned or suspended the international slave trade as a measure of economic warfare, because most slaves had arrived in America from the coast of Africa on ships of their British enemy. After Independence, while slave-holders guarded their legal right to "import" more slaves, most Southern states, including Virginia, maintained the slave trade ban until Congress finally outlawed the trade nationally in 1808. Condition: Very good.
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