Your petitioners feels themselves Americans.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

A petition from William Smith & others – free person of colour, praying to be colonized in some of the territory of the United States

Jan 14th 1851 — To the Honourable Assembly of the State of North Carolina.

The time has come where a portion of your people deem it necessary and prudent to cast themselves at your feet.  This portion is the free coloured people in the State of North Carolina.  Who in judging the future by the past do Humbly unite in praying and in petitioning this Honourable Assembly to [illegible] Congress in their behalf, to grant them a portion of the western Territory as a colony.  Your petitioners feel themselves much at a loss for proper words and language to express their feelings and apprehensions.  But their motive being pure they hope to find favor and clemency in your honourable wisdom.

Your petitioners are well aware of the importance of this petition, But the point they are activated by is reciprocal.  Many of your petitioners are the off springs of those who yielded their all in the revolutionary struggle But the blessings of which from political policy are withheld from them.

Your petitioners feels themselves Americans knowing no other clime nor soil and that pride has made it difficult for them to Beg abroad when they can ask at home.  While it is equilly hard to alienate their feelings.  Altho state policy may induce them to ask for a separation.  Should this meet your favor your petitioners hope to carry in their Bosoms parental and filial regard.

The law requires that your petitioners shall live alone praise the punish. But when success ennurns labour the public feelings pays, that the pressing influence has an injurious and gives a false stimulus to an other class.  Under this sense of fear, your petitioners have been constrained to be very vigilant in inactivity until that virtue has become a vice and now a source of public complaint.  Thus your petitioners find themselves in the condition of duress and punished for not labouring.  Your petitioners are no Aggressors on states rights nor policy.  Yet they regreat to see that they used as the whip in hand to flush the offenders into [illegible]; still the knel is constant on the public Ear – that your petitioners are the Eating cancers and the morbid incubus on the public purce. Your petitioners feel and behold with regreat the strong and painfull effort now making which  [illegible] them in the spirit of peace to ask for a Separation in the name and meaning of a colony.

Your petitioners are some what aware of the magnitude of the subject but fully persuaded of the good resulting will compensate for the hardships they may encounter.  Were your petitioners strangers they would hesitate to express a choice in this matter.  But being children of the American soil and traind to mechanical and farming arts they would dare that choice and if this should meet with favor in your wisdom they pray that your kindness will urge a salubrious clime and a productive soil, that the milk flowing there from may redound to the glory of the giver.  Like the infant sucking at its mothers Breast which every suction it makes draws from the springs of affection.

Your petitioners think they feel and see in this their prayer much Balm to heal the growing malidy and a spirit that may give peace and happiness to themselves and country.  The free people of this state numbers about 35,000 — some of the southern states more and some less.  Should your Wisdom decide in favor of a state or a general colony.  Your petitioners disdains to mention any theory but facts known better by your honours than themselves On presenting this petition they deem is unnecessary to say that they are proscribed.  This fact is known to your honours.  They now affix their names to this prayer in the presence of Each other and by proxy for many But all in the presence of God.

/s/ William Smith, James Dunn, Oscar Halston, Marcus L. Gervis, Branch Hughes, Thomas Roe, Henry J. Patterson, John Malone, Wyatt Copland, A. Payne, Lewis S. Leary, Lewis S. Chester, John E. Patterson, M. N. Leary 

Legislative Papers for 1851-1852, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.