An act concerning Servants and Slaves

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The Virginia Slave Codes of 1705 (formally entitled An act concerning Servants and Slaves), were a series of laws enacted by the Colony of Virginia's House of Burgesses in 1705 regulating the interactions between slaves and citizens of the crown colony of Virginia. The enactment of the Slave Codes is considered to be the consolidation of slavery in Virginia, and served as the foundation of Virginia's slave legislation.[1]

These codes effectively embedded the idea of slavery into law by the following devices:[2]

  • Established new property rights for slave owners
  • Allowed for the legal, free trade of slaves with protections granted by the courts
  • Established separate courts of trial
  • Prohibited slaves from going armed, without written permission[3][4]
  • Whites could not be employed by any blacks
  • Allowed for the apprehension of suspected runaways

The law was devised to establish a greater level of control over the rising African slave population of Virginia. It also served to socially segregate white colonists from black enslaved persons, making them disparate groups hindering their ability to unite. A unity of the commoners was a perceived fear of the Virginia aristocracy which had to be addressed, and who wished to prevent a repeat of events such as Bacon's Rebellion, occurring 29 years prior.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bush, Jonathan A. (2002). "The British Constitution and the Creation of American Slavery". In Finkelman, Paul (ed.). Slavery & the Law. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-7425-2119-3.
  2. ^ Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History, W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, p. 100
  3. ^[bare URL PDF]
  4. ^ "Hening's Statutes at Large, Volume 3, Page 459 – Encyclopedia Virginia".
  5. ^ Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Nation Books, 2016, p. 53-54, 67-68