"To the Honorable": Divorce, Alimony, Slavery, and the Law in Antebellum North Carolina

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Loren L. Schweninger, Emeritus Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: In both style and substance, the petition of Harriet Laspeyre was similar to many other memorials presented to the North Carolina General Assembly and, in subsequent years, to the superior courts of the state concerning divorce, alimony, and slavery during the antebellum era. Other petitioners began with salutations "To the Honorable" members of the General Assembly or "To the Honorable Judge of the Superior Court," went on to summarize or present in great detail why their marriages could not be salvaged, and "prayed" for some sort of redress. Harriet Laspeyre requested a special act allowing her to keep what was left of her estate as well as any property she might acquire in the future, either through her own efforts or by inheritance. She also requested a separation from her husband, whom she described as haughty, immoral, and tyrannical. His sexual proclivities toward black women were well known to everyone in the community, she said, and eventually he left their farm, moved to the town of Wilmington, and set up housekeeping with his "Negro wench," extending to her "all the rights and authorities of a Wife."

Additional Information

Schweninger, Loren. “„To the Honorable?: Divorce, Alimony, Slavery and the Law in Antebellum North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review 84 (April 2009) 127-179.
Language: English
Date: 2009
History, American South, Marriage, Slavery, Slaveholders

Email this document to