Nathaniel Bunch of Louisa, Virginia is a cousin to my Nathaniel. In researching my family line, I found some interesting documents about this Nathaniel as it pertained to his slaves. While I have found quite a few of my southern ancestors were slave owners, very few indicated any mixed feelings about slave ownership or asked that their slaves be freed.
In his will, Nathaniel specified that after the last crop on his plantation was harvested, 13 of his 14 slaves - Adam, Pleasant, John, Henry, Angelina, Ann, Maria, Milly, Elizabeth, Nancy, Billy, John Sharp, and Peter - were to be freed. Only an 11 year old boy named Andrew was not freed; he was to remain a slave until he turned 21 for the use of Nathaniel's sister-in-law and nephew, and "was to be treated with that kindness of humanity that is due from the master to the slave." Nathaniel's slaves were appraised at a value of $4,105 at his death.
"It is to be understood that my said negroes are to be employed in the cultivation of said crops and are to be treated as slaves during that time," his will specified. Once the corn, tobacco, hemp, hay, oats and wheat had been harvested, his 627 acre plantation was to be sold and part of the proceeds used to pay the traveling expenses of the newly freed slaves to the African nation of Liberia, a new colony created for emancipated slaves. If they did not wish to leave the country, he directed his executors to "remove them to some place in the United States where they can enjoy their freedom." They were also to receive $30 to help them begin their new lives; that's over $800 in 2015.
How many of the slaves chose to go to Liberia, or where any of them relocated to, is not known. A year later, Adam petitioned the Virginia legislature for permission to remain in the state to be near his wife and children (who were presumably enslaved on another plantation) "for whom he has the strongest regard and of whom he is unable to effect a purchase." Adam indicated that he was "a blacksmith, in the prime of life, capable of supporting himself and rendering much service to this neighborhood." The legislature denied his request.
Nathaniel may have experienced guilt over his slave ownership, but he didn't act on it until the end of his life when he knew he would not need their service any longer. He never married, so whether or not his actions would have been different if he had a family is unknown.
|Registration of Adam and Henry from Louisa County Free Black Registry Book|