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Price Realized: $1,375 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2441 Lot 2
(SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) REVOLUTIONARY WAR. Trial of Billy, "a mulatto slave late of County of Prince William for treason in joining the Enemy of the Commonwealth.' Long folio leaf from the Virginia court records; signed at the bottom, by Judge H[enry] Lee. Prince William County, VA, May 1781
Estimate $1,500 - 2,500
a manuscript copy from the ledger recording the proceedings of the prince william county court of oyer and terminer, recording the exceedingly important case of billy, a slave of john tayloe. In 1781, Billy, who had apparently runaway, was listed as part of the estate of the late John Tayloe, a planter and member of the Governor's Council. The Prince William County Court indicted Billy, alias Will, alias William for 'feloniously and traitorously waging war on the Commonwealth of Virginia from an armed vessel against the new state of Virginia.' Many slaves joined the British who promised freedom in exchange for defending the Crown (which promise they largely reneged on). Billy however claimed that he was essentially kidnapped and brought aboard against his will. On May 8, 1781 four of the six judges convicted Billy and sentenced him to hang. They placed an astonishing value on his head of 27,000 pounds. Within a week of the verdict, Henry Lee (1729-1787) and William Carr, two dissenting judges, and Mann Page, one of John Tayloe's executors argued to Governor Thomas Jefferson that a slave, "not being admitted to the privileges of a Citizen, owes the State no Allegiance," and therefore a non-citizen could not commit treason. Billy was exonerated and made his mark on history, because his trial forced white leaders to confront the rather illogical logic of the very peculiar institution of slavery.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $1,375