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date: 02 March 2021

Billy locked

(fl. 1781),
  • William Seraile

Extract

a mixed race slave, also known as Will or William, was the subject of an alleged treason case during the American Revolution. Nothing is known about Billy's birth, family, or childhood.

The Billy, or Will, of the treason case was the slave of Colonel John Tayloe, a resident of Richmond County, Virginia. Billy and others were arrested and convicted of seizing an armed vessel on 2 April 1781 to wage war against Virginia. He was condemned to death by the court of Oyer and Terminer in Prince William County on 8 May. Henry Lee and William Carr, dissenting justices, noted that he was not a citizen and owed no allegiance to Virginia. Furthermore, Billy argued that others had forced him onto the vessel, and there was no evidence that he had gone aboard voluntarily.

Only Governor Thomas Jefferson could grant Billy a reprieve Jefferson was profoundly ambivalent ...

A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.

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