In 1791 Robert Carter III decided to free his slaves.
Carter had been part of the royal governor’s council of Virginia under King George, and then later a firm supporter of the Revolution. Carter owned more than 6,500 acres of land and kept more than 500 people in slavery. He was rich, powerful, and influential. He and Thomas Jefferson knew each other well.
When he started freeing his slaves, began paying them wages, and even giving them land, the other white Virginians tarred and feathered Robert Carter and forced him to abandon his plantation and live exiled in Baltimore.
To quell the troubles Carter sold the rest of the slaves to his lawyer for $1, with the understanding that he would quietly finish off the freeing. This lawyer was then severely beaten.
Carter died in 1804 while the freedom of the people he was trying not to own was tied up in court battles. His appeal was granted in 1808. It took 17 years for an owner of private “property” to try to give it away. No one made such a large scale attempt again till the Emancipation Proclamation.