The authority of slave owners to free slaves was severely restricted in many Southern colonies until after the Revolution. While colonial Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland allowed owners to free their slaves at will, Virginia required the owner to prove in court that a slave had provided "meritorious service."
When Thomas Jefferson was first elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769, he seconded a motion by Richard Bland to allow slave owners to free slaves without legislative approval. The rest of the House, not yet radicalized by the struggle against the crown, shouted down the bill. Bland was denounced as "an enemy of his country" for proposing that slave owners should be free to dispose of their property by manumission.1
In Notes on the State of Virginia ( 1785), Jefferson expressed his desire for gradual abolition that would train the next generation of slaves for freedom--though not within the United States. Jefferson's wished to free the slaves, but he also believed that they should be colonized outside the boundaries of the United States because of, "Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties,____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Black Demographic Data, 1790-1860:A Sourcebook. Contributors: Clayton E. Cramer - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 19.