Virginia Slave Codes of 1705

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The Virginia Slave Codes of 1705 were a series of laws enacted by the Colony of Virginia's House of Burgesses regulating activities related to 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 white supremacy 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 blacks, regardless of free status, from owning arms [weapons]
  • Whites could not be employed by blacks
  • Allowed for the apprehension of suspected runaways

These new laws exhibited a grand departure from business as it once was, stripping from blacks many previously held rights.[citation needed] Before this, indentured servants, while they served their term, and slaves were almost equals in their plight. Now, a racial divide was a legal mandate.[citation needed]

Historians generally agree that this law was devised to establish a greater level of control over the surging African slave population of Virginia.[citation needed] It also served to socially segregate white colonists from black slaves making them disparate groups hindering their ability to unite.[citation needed] 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.

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 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009), p. 100.