The Carter Manumission and Deed of Gift

After the death of his wife, Frances Ann Tasker Carter, in 1787, Carter embraced the Swedenborgian faith and freed almost 500 slaves from his Nomini Hall plantation and large home in Westmoreland County. By a “Deed of Gift” filed with the county courts in 1791, he began the process of manumitting slaves in his lifetime and continued after his death. His manumission is the largest known release of slaves in North American history prior to the American Civil War and the largest number ever manumitted by an individual in the US.

From Baptist and Swedenborgian influences, Carter concluded that human slavery was immoral. He instituted a program of gradual manumission of all slaves attached to his estate. He designed the program to be gradual to reduce the resistance of white neighbors. Frequently, Carter rented land to recently freed slaves, sometimes evicting previous white tenants in the process. Toward the end of his life, Carter moved from Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. In part he wanted some distance from family and neighbors who looked askance at his Swedenborgian faith and program of manumission.


  1. My family tree begins with King Carter. I’m proud to be a descendant of the great emancipator, Robert Carter III.

    • Hi Philip! I am a descendent of King Carter as well. His son Robert Carter III was my 8x great grandfather’s half brother. My 8x great grandfather was Baptist Billy Burke, one of the slaves freed by Robert Carter III.

      • Hi Deanna – I’m doing genealogical research for a friend of mine whose 8x grandfather was also Baptist Billy. Do you have any additional information on his wife and/or descendants? Thanks! Julie Clark

  2. Robert Councillor Carter might’ve freed all of his slaves by gradual emancipation,but he was also know for going to court in order to get permission to have the toes of runaway slaves cut off.This was done not only to punish runaways,but also as a warning to others.

  3. I am amazed at what I am reading. I am a descendent of King Carter. My family’s home place is in Prince William County, Virginia. Learning about this website means a great deal to me. I have had my genealogy done. This is how I found this information. Thank you for allowing me to have access to this site.

  4. Hello, I have been researching my dads side of the family has I recently reconnected with him after 30 years of not seeing him, and i have discovered my family were slaves at Carters Grove, does anyone know where i can get a list of the names of the ones who were freed?

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