Primary Resource

General Court Responds to Runaway Servants and Slaves (1640)

The following two General Court cases, from July 1640, are a sampling of the Virginia colonial government's response to the problem of runaway indentured servants and slaves. Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.

Transcription from Original

9th of July, 1640.

Whereas Hugh Gwyn hath by order from this Board Brought back from Maryland three servants formerly run away from the said Gwyn, the court doth therefore order that the said three servants shall receive the punishment of whipping and to have thirty stripes apiece one called Victor, a Dutchman, the other a Scotchman called James Gregory, shall first serve out their times with their master according to their Indentures, and one whole year apiece after the time of their service is Expired. By their said Indentures in recompense of his Loss sustained by their absence and after that service to their said master is Expired to serve the colony for three whole years apiece, and that the third being a negro named John Punch shall serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere.

— page 467 —

July 22, 1640.

Whereas complaint has been made to this Board by Capt Wm Pierce Esqr that six of his servants and a negro of Mr Reginolds has plotted to run away unto the Dutch plantation from their said masters and did assay to put the same in Execution upon Saturday night being the 18th day July 1640 as appeared to the Board by Examinations of Andrew Noxe, Richd Hill, Richd Cookeson and John Williams and likewise by confession of Christopher Miller, Peter Wilcocke, and Emanuel the foresaid Negro who had at the fore said time, taken the skiff of the said Capt Wm Pierce their master, and corn powder and shot and guns, to accomplish their said purposes, which said p[er]sons sailed down in the said skiff to Elizabeth river where they were taken and brought back again, the Court taking the same into consideration, as a dangerous p[re]cident for the future time (if unpunished) did order that Christopher Miller a dutchman (a prince agent in the business) should receive the punishment of whipping and to have thirty stripes, and to be burnt in the cheek with the letter R and to work with a shakle on his legg for one whole year, and longer if said master shall see cause and after his full time of service is Expired with his said master to serve the colony for seven whole years, and the said Peter Wilcocke to receive thirty stripes and to be Burnt in the cheek with the letter R and, after his term of service is Expired with his said master to serve the colony for three years and the said Richd Cookson after his full time expired with his master to serve the colony for two years and a half, and the said Richd Hill to remain upon his good behaviour until the next offence and the said Andrew Noxe to receive thirty stripes, and the said John Williams a dutchman and a Chirugeon after his full time of service is Expired with his master to serve the colony for seven years, and Emanuel the Negro to receive thirty stripes and to be burnt in the cheek with the letter R. and to work in shakle one year or more as his master shall see cause, and all those who are condemned to serve the colony after their times are expired with their masters, then their said masters are required hereby to p[re]sent to this board their said servants so condemned to the colony.