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Slave Trade

Page Two~Documents, Photos & Slave Stories

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Stories

Chancery Sale

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This ad describes the sale of 8 slaves on January 8, 1859. The Chancery Court of Robertson County is selling them to settle a dispute between the McIntosh and Roberts families vs. James Woodard, guardian for the slaves.

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Public Sale of Negroes

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This is a newspaper ad for a slave auction which took place on March 5, 1833 in Charleston, SC.

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The Emancipation Proclamation

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Since most slaves were unable to read, they were at the mercy of people who were not in a hurry to tell them they were free. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and read this document to the slaves.  The 19th of June became a day of JUBILEE and was celebrated every year as "JUNETEENth."

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$50 Reward for Sarah

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Sarah poisoned a stud horse & set a stable and a stockyard on fire before escaping in handcuffs.

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$50 Reward for Severn Black

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1861 ad from Princess Anne, MD newspaper for the capture of 20 yr. old Severn Black

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A Law of New York

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Negro, Mulatto and Indian slaves over 14 years of age were told what rules to follow when walking the streets of New York after dark.

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Caution (Colored People of Boston)

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1851 warning to the colored people of Boston that care should be used to avoid contact with kidnappers and slave catchers.
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Railroad Notice

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Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad warns colored people they will only be allowed to travel with a "responsible white person"

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Slave Raffle

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Raffles allowed people who could not afford to buy slaves the privilege of still owning slaves

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The Willie Lynch Letter

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This speech was delivered by a whiteslave owner, William Lynch, in 1712. Lynch spoke to the slave owners to share with them his method for controlling slaves and promised them that if they used his method (pitting slaves against slaves), the Black slave would carry on with this indoctrination  for hundreds of years ... maybe thousands.  Was he right?

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The Slave Trade Publication

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Following the publication in 1791-2 of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, radicals in Britain eagerly embraced the view that every individual possessed inalienable natural rights. Yet an inquiry conducted in the same year showed that Britain was playing a leading role in the slave trade, although ownership of slaves constituted a complete denial of the most basic human rights. As a result, the anti-slavery movement gathered momentum, and evangelical and nonconformist groups led a long-standing campaign to abolish slavery.

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Poor Law Reform

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Another important piece of social legislation during this period was the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Previously, help for the poor had been administered in parishes by locally appointed overseers and monitored by the local Justices of the Peace. In 1834 the government attempted to centralise the provision of poor relief. The new system was influenced by the utilitarian view that poor relief encouraged laziness - those wanting help now had to enter the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately harsh.

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Richard Allen

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Richard Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and the Free African Society. He was born a slave in Philadelphia and with his family was sold to Stockley Sturgis, the owner of a plantation near Dover Delaware.

With the permission of his master, Allen joined the Methodist Society, learned to read and write and started to preach at Methodist meetings. After his conversion, Allen said that he worked harder to prove that religion did not make slave worse servants. At Allen's request, a Methodist meeting was held in the Sturgis home. The sermon that day was "Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting." Sturgis converted to Methodism and then decided that slave holding was wrong. In January of 1780 Sturgis agreed that Allen could hire himself out and purchase his freedom for $2000. It took Allen five years to raise that sum of money.

Allen preached at meetings to blacks and whites in Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He was requested to serve at the St. George's Church in Philadelphia where he quickly increased the black membership. He immediately saw the need for a separate place of worship for Africans but was insulted by the white elder at St. George's when he suggested it to him.

Richard Allen and Absalom Jones organized the Free African Religious Society in 1787. Some five years later, the black members of St. George's walked out when Absalom Jones, who was praying in the front of the church, was asked to get up off his knees and move to the rear of the church. This made it more clear that they needed a separate place of worship. The Free African Society took the lead in raising the money to create a church for the African members of the congregation.
The new church was called "The African Church of Philadelphia" and it became a part of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America. Richard Allen along with eleven other members were committed to the principles of Methodism and formed the Bethel African Church. By 1816 there were several African Methodist Churches around the country and that year they met to form the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. On April 11, 1816 Richard Allen was name the first bishop of this church.

In addition to his role as a church leader, Allen vigorously responded to white verbal attacks against the black community. He challenged the American Colonization Society, founded a day school and published articles in Freedoms Journal. Allen operated businesses and as a result was able to serve the church without collecting a salary.

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Virginia Slave Document

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State(s): Virginia Years: April 1, 1815"Two Slaves of the following description, Male 1 under 12 years, Female 1 between 12 and 50 years, Valued at $500."
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Hugh Crow~Slave Trader

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 Liverpool slave trade captain
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1841 DATED HANDWRITTEN TAX LEVY RECEIPT

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1841 DATED HANDWRITTEN TAX LEVY RECEIPT FOR TAXES PAID FOR THE VALUE OF A SLAVE: Another interesting early slave related document, this receipt is dated January 8th , 1841, for taxes paid for the tax year 1840 for one slave valued at $400. The receipt names the tax payer, and the tax collector, with handwritten entries written into the preprinted form.
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Printed Broadside~Anti-Slave Meeting

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A printed broadside intended to be filled out for a specific event, it reads: "Union with Freemen--No Union with Slaveholders. ANTI-SLAVERY MEETINGS! Anti-Slavery Meetings will be held in this place, to commence on... at... in the.... To be Addressed by Agents of the Western ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY. Three millions of your fellow beings are in chains -- the Church and Government sustains the horrible system of oppression. Turn Out! AND LEARN YOUR DUTY TO YOURSELVES, THE SLAVE AND GOD. EMANCIPATION or DISSOLUTION, and a FREE-NORTHERN REPUBLIC!" The Western Anti-Slavery Society was headquartered in Salem, Ohio and was one of the more radical abolitionist groups, active on the Underground Railroad and the publisher of the Anti-Slavery Bugle. The group hosted numerous meetings featuring such speakers as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.
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Slave Shackles

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Slave Shackles. A pair or iron shackles bound together with three links, overall 16" in length, used for restraining slaves. Shackles like these were often the tools of the trade for slave dealers and auctioneers to restrain their "property" during transport. Includes original key which fits into the cylinder on each side. The centers of the iron links have been further reinforced with bands of sheet metal to prevent prying. Minimal corrosion, wear. A most poignant relic of one of the most shameful periods in our nation's history.
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John Brown's Grave

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"John Brown's Grave, North Elba, Essex Co., N.Y."

 buried together with his son Oliver who was killed at Harper's Ferry.

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ARMSTRONG, Samuel Chapman. (1839-1893)

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Civil War volunteer commissioned colonel of Ninth Regiment, distinguished as Union Commander of an all Black Regiment. At end of War, received brevet rank of brigadier general. Given his visible and widely-acclaimed successes commanding African American soldiers, Armstrong received an appointment as an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau placed in charge of emancipated slaves near Hampton, VA. Recognizing a need to provide a practical education for Blacks requiring industrial and technical skills, Armstrong founded the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute in 1868. Autograph Letter Signed "S.C. Armstrong" on "The Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute" stationery, Hampton, VA, May 14, 1889. Armstrong sends his friend, Mr. Ward, Editor of the Independent, an article on the Hawaiian Islands, noting "The matter of a good American Minister at these Islands is of great importance(?) and you can help it by calling attention to it."
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The Fugitive Slave Act & The Missouri Compromise.

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Reading, Penn., August, 20, August 25, and October 4, 1856 (one letter partial), mostly concerning contemporary politics. In small part: "...Now what did Fillmore do when acting president by the will of God - that he should receive bitter curses... upon his silvery head by the northern Republican Disunionists? Why he signed that Fugitive Slave Act. Supposing he had not signed that act. What would have been our condition as a people now! Would we have been the prosperous & growing people we really are. No... I love Mr. Fillmore not because he is a friend to the north nor the south, but because he is a friend to our whole country..."
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Amanda Smith

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Amanda Smith, 1837-1915 Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa as an Independent Missionary.
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ALLEN PARKER'S OBITUARY

BORN SLAVE; DIES FREE.

Widely Known Among School Children, Allen Parker Passes Away.

Allen Parker, 17 Orchard street, known as "Pop" Parker, and one of the best known colored men in Massachusetts, died at his home yesterday morning. He was 66 years old. Bright's disease was the cause of his death, and he had been sick for nine weeks.

Mr. Parker was well known to the boys and girls of Worcester, to whom he has sold popcorn at different schools. He was seldom seen on the street without a basket hanging on his arm, which contained popcorn and homemade candies. He not only sold his wares to schoolchildren but canvassed from house to house, and also had called at various places of business. He was always the same, whether business was good or bad, and made many friends by his winning ways.

When he entered the school yard at noon or recess the girls and boys flocked about him and relieved him of a portion of his goodies. Occasionally they would cut up pranks, but no matter what happened "Pop" Parker was always good natured, and most always whistling southern melodies.

Mr. Parker was a former slave, and was born March 23, 1840, on a plantation of 900 acres on Albemarle sound, North Carolina, near the town of Edenton. The property was owned by Peter Parker, from whom Allen Parker took his name. The former Parker died when Allen was but three months old. In his will he directed that none of the slaves should be sold from the estate. Peter Parker had a daughter, Annie, who was born a week after Allen. Peter Parker's widow married again and had other children, but Allen Parker became the property of the daughter Annie.

Allen Parker scarcely knew who his father or mother were. His father was owned on another plantation and his mother went to work in the fields shortly after Allen was born.

When Mr. Parker became a young man his mistress rented him out to people that had small places and did not keep slaves and needed work done.

Mr. Parker often used to tell of how the white people tried to keep the slave in ignorance of the fact that there was going to be a war. He said that they used every possible measure before the outbreak of the war to keep the slaves from learning that trouble was brewing. Mr. Parker did not blame the younger generation of slave owners, for he said that they were taught from their birth that it was right to own slaves and the slaves, for the most part, were left to them by their relatives.

Mr. Parker was fortunate enough to have a kind mistress, and she put confidence in him. When the war broke out many of the slaves were sent to Raleigh or Newbern to work on fortifications, for the southern soldiers did not do any of that kind of work. The neighbors of Parker's mistress often urged her to send him to the army, but she refused.

Despite the comparatively good home he had, for a slave, Parker decided that liberty would be better, and planned to make his escape. In 1863 the federal forces sent gunboats up the James River on patrol duty, to prevent the planters from sending provisions to the confederate army. About once a week a gunboat would come up the river and pass within two miles of the Parker plantation. When a gunboat came up the river, the white men would take to the woods. This gave the colored people an opportunity to escape. I took Allen sometime to get up enough courage to make a break for liberty, for already a number of slaves in his vicinity had attempted to escape and were caught and shot.

One night, about 6 o'clock, when he heard a gunboat coming up the river, throwing an occasional shell into the woods on each side, Allen and three others made up their minds to escape. About 9 o'clock that night they rolled up a little bundle of clothing apiece, and walked down the main road to the river. There was not much danger to be met on the road, as the white men kept pretty quiet and out of sight when the boat came up the river.

When they reached the river, they found a dugout that belonged to a white family that lived in a house close by, locked to the bank. While Mr. Parker was at work breaking the boat from the fastenings, the other three members of the party patrolled up and down the bank with a stick over their shoulders, so if any whites saw them the would think that they were colored soldiers.

The four were soon paddling for a gunboat, which was but a short distance away. When they reached the gunboat they were questioned as to who they were and where they came from and were then permitted to go aboard, which insured their safety.

After Mr. Parker left the gunboat, he landed at Newbern, where he worked for Col. Hawkins of Hawkins souave fame. He also worked about a hospital there for a while, and later enlisted in the navy as a landsman, and was assigned for duty at a magazine near Newbern.

He left the navy at the end of a year and went to Brooklyn. Since he had lived in many cities of the North, and came to Worcester during the administration of Gen. Grant.

Mr. Parker was married in New Haven while he was living at Meriden, Ct. He and his wife lived at different times in Springfield, Westfield, Northampton, Chelsea and Lynn. They left Worcester and came back during the second administration of President Grover Cleveland. Two years ago Mr. Parker made a trip to London and back.   Several years ago he published a small pamphlet, which told of his life as a slave. He disposed of a number of copies among his aquaintances.

He was a member of the Pleasant-street Baptist church and a frequent attendant at the Belmont-street A.M.E. Zion church. He was also a member of the George H. Ward post, G.A.R. and was a charter member of the United order of Gallilean fishermen.

The funeral will be from the house at 2 o'clock Thursday afternoon. Rev. B.W. Swain, pastor of the A.M.E. Zion church, will officiate. Burial will be in Hope cemetery.

He is survived by a widow, a son-in-law, Charles Coates, and a daughter-in-law, Lillian R. Wilkins.

SOURCE:
Worcester Daily Telegram; 19 June 1906, Page 5

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Peter Parker~Slave Owner

Peter Parker was a modest planter whose plantation, Martinique, was located between the Rockyhock and Ballard's Bridge areas of Chowan County.

Due to the brevity of his life, not much is known of him.

He was born about 1808 at Martinique, the family home. Upon the death of his father Elisha in 1830, Peter inherited 300 acres and the home that comprised the plantation. According to the 1830 census of Chowan County, Peter was head of household living with his mother and two of his sisters at Martinique. According to the same census, 11 slaves were working Martinique in that year.

After the Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831, Peter and his brother Jacob were summoned to appear before the Chowan County Court on several occasions between October and December to testify on behalf of Sandy, a slave from the neighboring plantation of Wingfield. Charges were eventually dropped against the slave and he was sent home to his master, Richard Brownrigg.

Peter is mentioned in county records again in 1833 when he married Elizabeth B. Skinner. Elizabeth was from Perquimans county, the daughter of Henry Skinner and Sarah Roberts. She and Peter had three children together: Elisha, Sarah Elizabeth, and Annie Felicia. Only Annie survived her father's death. Elisha Norfleet, Sarah Elizabeth, and Peter died within a week of each other probably of a particularly contagious illness.

Peter died intestate at the age of 31 in February of 1839. His widow was 26 years old and his daughter Annie an infant. They continued to live at Martinique with Peter's mother and sisters, Elizabeth and Sarah. When Annie reached her majority, the plantation became hers. Edenton Gazette, Edenton, North Carolina, 6 May 1830; When Annie reached her majority, the plantation became hers.

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Alabama Slave Document

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State(s): Alabama Years: 1826"Negro girl named or called Nelly. Negro girl named or called July."
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Alabama Slave Document #2

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State(s): Alabama
"hire of a negro man Kame"
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Alabama Slave Document #3

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State(s): Alabama Years: 1847-48
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Alabama Slave Document #4

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State(s): Alabama "To making coffin for Negro
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The Will of George Washington

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Slave Lists

The list of Mount Vernon slaves which GW drew up, probably some time in June 1799, included those slaves owned by him outright, those who were controlled by him as part of Martha Washington's dower, and a number who were rented by him in 1786 by contract with Mrs. Penelope French at the time he acquired her life rights to land she owned on Dogue Run.

The list details the adult and child slaves on each of the Mount Vernon farms, usually giving ages, occupations, and other pertinent information. [Note: the list has been divided into seven parts for on-line distribution.] Washington's list of 317 slaves, printed immediately below, includes the names of 124 who belonged to him outright and were to be freed when Martha Washington died, 153 who were Martha Washington's dower slaves and at her death would go to the Custis heir-at-law, her grandson George Washington Parke Custis, and forty others leased by GW from his neighbor Penelope Manley French. Of the 277 slaves belonging to Washington in his own right or by marriage, 179 were 12 years old or older, eighteen of whom were "Passed labor." The remaining ninety-eight were children under the age of 12. Of those twelve years old and over, ninety-five were females and eighty-four were males. Shortly after Washington's death, Bushrod Washington recommended to Martha Washington that she get "clear of her negroes" at Mount Vernon. According to Eugene Prussing, she "was made unhappy by the talk in the [slave] quarters of the good time coming to the ones to be freed as soon as she died." He reported that "many did not wait for the event" but took off at once. In any case, all the slaves that Washington owned outright were freed after Martha's death, and the accounts of the executors of Washington's will show an expenditure by 1833 of more than $10,000 to the pensioned former slaves who remained at Mount Vernon or lived nearby (Bushrod Washington to Martha Washington, Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, 328-31; Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 158-60).

The slaves Washington owned in his own right came from several sources. He was left eleven slaves by his father's will; a portion of his half-brother Lawrence Washington's slaves, about a dozen in all, were willed to him after the death of Lawrence's infant daughter and his widow; and Washington purchased from time to time slaves for  himself, mostly before the Revolution.

Washington also hired for varying periods of time individual slaves, usually skilled artisans, from neighbors and acquaintances. These do not appear on this slave list.

Only one other complete roll of the slaves at Mount Vernon has been found. In February 1786 Washington recorded in his diary all the Mount Vernon slaves, dower and personal, the farms on which they lived, and their jobs. The total at that time came to 216; it did not include Mrs. French's slaves, the use of whom Washington acquired later in the year.

There are also in the Washington Papers at the Library of Congress Washington's lists of his tithables in Truro and Fairfax parishes (where Mount Vernon lies) for every year from 1760 through 1774. These have been printed in the Papers, Colonial Series. These lists name slaves living at Mount Vernon but do not include children under the age of sixteen and a few elderly slaves who were not tithed. The lists of tithables also include the names of indentured white servants, hired slaves, and other whites living on the farms, including GW's overseers and managers.

 

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George Washington and Slavery

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George Washington was born into a world in which slavery was accepted. He became a slave owner when his father died in 1743. At the age of eleven, he inherited ten slaves and 500 acres of land. When he began farming Mount Vernon eleven years later, at the age of 22, he had a work force of about 36 slaves. With his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, 20 of her slaves came to Mount Vernon. After their marriage, Washington purchased even more slaves. The slave population also increased because the slaves were marrying and raising their own families. By 1799, when George Washington died, there were 316 slaves living on the estate.

The skilled and manual labor needed to run Mount Vernon was largely provided by slaves. Many of the working slaves were trained in crafts such as milling, coopering, blacksmithing, carpentry,and shoemaking. The others worked as house servants, boatmen, coachmen or field hands. Some female slaves were also taught skills, particularly spinning, weaving and sewing, while others worked as house servants or in the laundry, the dairy, or the kitchen. Many female slaves also worked in the fields. Almost three-quarters of the 184 working slaves at Mount Vernon worked in the fields, and of those, about 60% were women.

The workday for slaves was from sun-up to sun-down, six days a week. Sunday was a day of rest.

Although George Washington was born into a world where slavery was accepted, his attitude toward slavery changed as he grew older. During the Revolution, as he and fellow patriots strove for liberty, Washington became increasingly conscious of the contradiction between this struggle and the system of slavery. By the time of his presidency, he seems to have believed that slavery was wrong and against the principles of the new nation.

As President, Washington did not lead a public fight against slavery, however, because he believed it would tear the new nation apart. Abolition had many opponents, especially in the South. Washington seems to have feared that if he took such a public stand, the southern states would withdraw from the Union (something they would do seventy years later, leading to the Civil War). He had worked too hard to build the country to risk tearing it apart.

Privately, however, Washington could -- and did -- lead by example. In his will, he arranged for all of the slaves he owned to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha. He also left instructions for the continued care and education of some of his former slaves, support and training for all of the children until they came of age, and continuing support for the elderly.

 

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"That Species of Property"

Washington's Role in the Controversy Over Slavery By Dorothy Twohig

Although both Jefferson and Washington were lifelong slaveholders, as were the previous generations of Washingtons in Virginia, the master of Mount Vernon has scarcely received a fraction of the criticism on the subject that has fallen on Jefferson since the 1960s. Jefferson spoke eloquently on the evils of the peculiar institution, especially in his Notes on the State of Virginia, his only book. Washington said less about slavery, and what he said was expressed privately. There is no reason to think that either man thought that Africans, if free and given opportunities to advance, could have become the intellectual equals of whites. At least a handful of American saw that as a possibility, including Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson's critics rightly see inconsistency between his words and deeds, not only in his eloquent phrases about the evils of human bondage but, equally significant, in his efforts to promote his image as a champion of liberty. Washington never claimed to be a spokesman for human rights; besides, it was Jefferson who principally wrote the Declaration of Independence. Washington did free his slaves, as provided in his will. And there has never been, to date at least, creditable evidence that he fathered slave children at Mount Vernon. Although both the British during the War of Independence and the Republicans in the 1790s spread scurrilous stories about Washington's private life, the rumors died almost as quickly as they appeared. Jefferson, on the other hand, suffered genuine embarrassment over newspaperman James Callender's accusations that he had several children by his slave Sally Hemings. In the last twenty-five years, two scholars, Fawn Brodie in 1974 and Annette Gordon-Reed in 1996, produced serious if controversial books that pointed to the strong probability of Jefferson's paternity of the Hemings children. The year 1999 brought DNA testing to the subject. According to the results, Jefferson probably sired at least one of these offspring. And, of course, Jefferson's will provided only for manumitting Hemingses.

In 1796 George Washington received a letter from Edward Rushton, a prominent English antislavery advocate. It was hardly the polite, respectful missive that the president of the United States normally received.

It will generally be admitted, Sir, and perhaps with justice, that the great family of mankind were nevermore benefited by the military abilities of any individual, than by those which you displayed during the American contest. . . . By the flame which you have kindled every oppressed nation will be enabled to perceive its fetters. . . . But it is not to the commander in chief of the American forces, nor to the president of the United States, that I have ought to address. My business is with George Washington of Mount Vernon in Virginia, a man who not withstanding his hatred of oppression and his ardent love of liberty holds at this moment hundreds of his fellow being in a state of abject bondage--Yes: you who conquered under the banners of freedom--you who are now the first magistrate of a free people are (strange to relate) a slave holder. . . . Shame! Shame! That man should be deemed the property of man or that the name of Washington should be found among the list of such proprietors. . . . Ages to come will read with Astonishment that the man who was foremost to wrench the rights of America from the tyrannical grasp of Britain was among the last to relinquish his own oppressive hold of poor unoffending negroes. In the name of justice what can induce you thus to tarnish your own well earned celebrity and to impair the fair features of American liberty with so foul and indelibile a blot.

In his disillusion with what he regarded as Washington's lack of political courage, Edward Rushton spoke not only for his fellow opponents of slavery but for scores of later critics of the South's peculiar institution. To historians of succeeding generations not only Washington's ownership of slaves but his failure to speak out publicly against slavery in the face of his own growing opposition to the institution or to bring the weight of his enormous prestige to bear against it has sometimes eclipsed his reputation as the first man of his age. Why did he not from the platform of his enormous prestige and public veneration speak out publicly against a system that his private correspondence reveals he had gradually come to regard with distaste and apprehension? Virtually all of Washington's comments on slavery were expressed privately. On no occasion did he reveal publicly his own antipathy toward the institution or his privately expressed hopes that it would either wither naturally or be abolished by legislative action. On a less emotionally charged issue Washington's silence would call for little comment since he rarely expressed publicly his views on other controversial issues. His reticence in general on public matters was a matter of considerable discussion during his presidency. In fact, en route to his role of American icon Washington had developed a quality rare among American politicians of any era. He had learned from painful experience as early as his service in command of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War that it would not be necessary to retract or explain or apologize later for what he had not said in the first place. By the time he reached the presidency, it had become habit. Washington remained throughout his career very conscious of the speed with which both public and private sectors could turn on their unsuccessful servants. John Adams noted that Washington had "the gift of silence." Whatever difficulties this attribute has created for historians, it contributed immensely to his reputation for wisdom. On slavery, as on many other matters, later generations can only interpret Washington's views from the meager private comments he made on the institution and conjecture the reasons for his public silence.

During the pre-Revolutionary years Washington's views toward slavery were conventional, reflecting those of a typical Virginia planter of his time. If he was perhaps more concerned than some planters with his slaves' welfare, his principal interest was still their contribution to the economic life of the plantation. His slave inventories indicate the number of slaves employed at Mount Vernon at various times: in 1759 he owned 24 slaves under the age of sixteen; in 1786 he owned slightly over 100 slaves on his own, with 113 dower slaves; in 1799 there were 164 Washington slaves and 153 dower slaves.  Partly because it was to his advantage to do so, he paid considerable attention to his slaves' welfare. Washington, like many Virginia planters, was deeply involved in their lives. "It is foremost in my thoughts," he wrote his Mount Vernon manager in 1792, "to desire you will be particularly attentive to my Negros in their sickness; and to order every Overseer positively to be so likewise; for I am sorry to observe that the generality of them, view these poor creatures in scarcely any other light than they do a draughthorse or Ox; neglecting them as much when they are unable to work; instead of comforting & nursing them when they lye on a sickbed."

Scholarly research into the conditions of slavery on the Mount Vernon plantations is just beginning and may well reveal serious discrepancies between what Washington said and what actually happened. It appears, however, from his correspondence with his managers that as a matter of plantation policy, Washington did not want slaves worked when they were ill and provided competent medical care for them when they were ailing. Food, clothing, and housing seem to have been at least adequate; even though families often worked on separate plantations, they were not separated by sale or purchase. There are such occasional exceptions as Washington's acceptance in 1775, in settlement for a debt, of a slave in Maryland who put up a spirited resistance to being separated from his family. Before the Revolution, Washington may have sold the occasional slave, but he had mixed feelings about the procedure. As he wrote his manager early in 1779, in spite of his "reluctance in offer these people at public venue . . . if these poor wretches are to be held in a State of Slavery I do not see that a change of masters will render it more irksome, provided husband & wife, and Parents & children are not separated from each other, which is not my intention to do."

In both his military and political life, Washington adopted generally a hands-on policy, and this carried over to his management of Mount Vernon. Except for his long absences during the war and the presidency, Washington managed his own plantations and was well acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of individual slaves. He was not impressed with them as a labor force. There are frequent comments in his correspondence with his managers on their irresponsibility and indolence, although he believed their poor work habits to be a result of the system itself. As early as 1778 his correspondence indicates his disillusion with the system. Writing his manager Lund Washington from White Plains during the Revolution, he expressed his hope to exchange slaves for land. "I had rather give Negroes--if Negroes would do. for to be plain I wish to get quit of Negroes." It was, he felt, a system that prevented the best use of new farming methods and machinery and hindered agricultural progress. His correspondence with his white managers contains stern instructions concerning the role slaves were to play in specific aspects of the farming of the estate and on the dire consequences of dereliction of duty. But on his journeys home, especially during the presidency, it is evident that personal appeals and complaints from his slaves frequently mitigated his demands. Indeed, Washington's erratic mixture of sternness and indulgence inevitably created a certain amount of chaos in plantation management. Although he appreciated the inefficiency of the institution, there is little evidence that the moral and ethical considerations of slavery troubled Washington to any considerable degree before the Revolution. In 1772 he was a member of the House of Burgesses which drafted a petition to the throne labeling the importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa "a trade of great inhumanity" that would endanger the "very existence of your Majesty's American dominions." And two years later he was certainly involved in the composition of the July 1774 Fairfax Resolves, one of which recommended that no slaves should be imported into the British colonies. The resolutions took the opportunity of "declaring our most earnest Wishes to see an entire Stop forever put to such a wicked cruel and unnatural Trade."  On the other hand, in 1772 Washington himself purchased five additional slaves for use on his plantations.

When he assumed command of the army at Cambridge in June 1775, Washington for the first time faced the necessity of creating some kind of public policy regarding slaves, free blacks, and the recruiting policies of the Continental army. Like most southerners he had strong objections to using blacks as soldiers. And, again like most southerners, he was too conscious of the possibility of slave revolts to look easily upon the distribution of guns into the hands of slaves. His initial reluctance was bolstered by a long colonial tradition of prohibiting slaves to bear arms. On November 12, 1775, he signed orders excluding blacks together with underage boys and old men as recruits for service since they would be "unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign." After Lord Dunmore's proclamation of November 7, 1775, encouraging indentured servants and free blacks to enlist in British service, Virginia blacks began to flee to British lines in the mistaken belief that British views on slavery differed from those of the slaves' Virginia masters. Most slaves and free blacks who fled to the British continued to be employed in a service capacity, chiefly working as military laborers. The emergence of Dunmore's plan to enlist slaves and offer them their freedom and Washington's own desperate need for men in the aftermath of failed recruiting policies and massive desertions forced him and Congress to reconsider their initial positions at least in regard to free blacks. In fact, early in the war an important distinction came to be made in recruiting policies between slaves and free blacks. By the end of December 1775, Washington had altered his views to accommodate the situation, issuing orders that because "Numbers of free Negroes are desirous of inlisting, he gives leave to the recruiting Officers, to entertain them, and promises to lay the matter before the Congress, who he doubts not will approve of it."  By 1778 Washington went so far as to permit Joseph Varnum of Rhode island to raise a battalion of African-Americans. Washington continued to use former slaves in a number of more menial capacities during the course of the war. That he retained his prewar opinions on the unreliability of slave labor is indicated by his suggestion to Congress that although blacks should be hired to solve the difficulty of obtaining waggoners, the recruits should be freemen and not slaves, which "could not be sufficiently depended on. It is to be apprehended that they would too frequently desert to the enemy to obtain their liberty; and for the profit of it, or to conciliate a more favorable reception, would carry off their waggon-horses with them."

In 1778 and 1779 John Laurens of South Carolina, one of Washington's aides-de-camp, with the qualified approval of his father, Henry Laurens, concocted a scheme to persuade the legislatures of South Carolina and Georgia to raise several battalions of slaves for service in the army, rewarding them with their freedom in exchange for their services. Washington, fond of his young aide, gave very guarded approval to the project. "The policy of our arming slaves is in my opinion a moot point, unless the enemy set the example," he wrote Henry Laurens. "I am not clear that a discrimination will not render Slavery more irksome to those who remain in it--Most of the good and evil things of this life are judged of by comparison, and I fear comparison in this Case will be productive of Much discontent in those, who are held in sevitude--but as this is a subject that has never employed much of my thoughts, these are no more than the first crude Ideas that have struck me upon the occasion." Washington was well aware of the dismay with which the plan would be received by southern slaveholders. That his reservations were justified is evidenced by the fact that the anger of South Carolina's leaders over the resolutions passed in Congress approving the scheme led to the threat that South Carolina would remain neutral during the war. When Laurens scheme eventually failed, Washington was not surprised. "That Spirit of Freedom which at the commencement of this contest would have gladly sacrificed every thing to the attainment of its object has long since subsided, and every selfish Passion has take its place--it is not the public but the private Interest which influences the generality of Mankind nor can the Americans any longer boast an exception--under these circumstances, it would rather have been surprizing if you had succeeded."

At the end of the war, Washington made halfhearted efforts to send back slaves who had run away from their masters to enlist and to order courts of inquiry for those who were now claimed by their masters. In 1783 when the British embarked from New York, he objected to British plans to take with them bondsmen who had served with the king's army, arguing that the provisional articles of peace prohibited such removal. He did on occasion exhibit some care that blacks enlisted in Continental and state regiments not be summarily repossessed by unscrupulous former owners. On the other hand, he approached one of the agents overseeing the embarkation of the British from New York, contending that some of his own slaves and those of his wartime manager Lund Washington might be in New York, and enlisted the agent's aid in seeking their return.

Generally speaking, during the war Washington had taken great care to give the impression that he considered the military subservient to civilian authority in suggesting changes in policy. But if, at this stage of his career, he had entertained convictions about slavery strong enough to deviate from this position, his best opportunity presented itself when in his closing circular to the governors of the states--probably, except for the Farewell Address, his best known public document--he abandoned his usual deferential posture toward civilian authority to issue what was in effect his final policy statement. In announcing to the states his resignation as commander in chief, he presented a vista of the limitless opportunities available to the new nation, advocated the establishment of an "indissoluble Union of the states under one Federal Head," and warned that according to the policies the states "shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall. . . . It is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse . . . [and] not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn Millions be involved." In the circular there is no mention of slavery per se or its impact on the nature of the new Republic, except for a vague injunction that it was essential to the "well being" of the United States that its citizens forget their local prejudices and policies, make concessions necessary for the general good, and be willing "in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community."

Washington returned to Mount Vernon in time for Christmas in 1783, determined to enjoy a quiet life on his plantation. He was charmed with the idea that he had returned, as he said on more than one occasion, to his "vine and fig tree"--to the cultivation of his acres. "I am now a private Citizen on the banks of the Potomac," he wrote in 1784, "meditating amidst Frost & snow . . . upon the structure of walks for private life." Contemporary views of Washington were, as some of his biographers have noted, beginning to constitute a kind of secular religion. Although his incoming correspondence and the steady stream of foreign and domestic visitors to Mount Vernon in the postwar years kept him very well informed as to the state of the new nation (and his comments on political affairs, especially the need for a stronger union, are frequently frank and critical), he deliberately refrained from taking public positions on issues. But if Washington sincerely believed that he would be able to withdraw from public life, he underestimated the role he had been drafted to play in the new Republic.

Mount Vernon was always his passion, and he had endless plans for its improvement and adornment and for the increase of its acreage. When he returned to managing his plantations in 1784, his already low opinion of the deficiencies of the slave system were immediately confirmed. His own problems with slave labor at Mount Vernon made him well aware of the inefficiencies of the slave system, but at least some of his growing opposition is attributable to the principles of the Revolutionary War years, with their emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of men. One can only speculate how much this contributed to his meager comments on slavery during the 1780s. Occasional remarks reveal his changing attitudes toward the system. He wrote John Francis Mercer in September of 1786 "I never mean (unless some particular circumstance should compel me to it) to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by the legislature, by which slavery in this Country may be abolished by slow, sure & imperceptible degrees." In the same year he wrote of slavery to his friend Robert Morris, "I can only say, that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it--but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, & that is by Legislative authority; and this as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting." Oddly, in view of his obsession with the West, Washington seems not to have devoted much consideration to the possibility of expanding slavery to the frontier or to have regarded the abundance of land to the west as a solution to the wasteful results of slave cultivation in the East.

When Lafayette, an outspoken opponent of the system, wrote Washington from France in 1783 suggesting they cooperate in an experimental settlement for freed slaves, Washington responded cordially, as he always did to Lafayette, but without committing himself to any course of action. Lafayette proposed that he and Washington "Unite in Purchasing a Small Estate Where We May try the Experiment to free the Negroes, and Use them only as tenants. Such an Example as Yours Might Render it a General Practice." In February 1786 Lafayette informed Washington that he had bought a plantation in Cayenne for a "Hundred and twenty five thousand French livres . . . and am going to free my Negroes in order to make that Experiment which you know is my Hobby Horse." Washington praised the project, writing, "Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country, but I dispair of seeing it . . . . To set them afloat at once would, I really believe, be productive of much inconvenience & mischief; but by degrees it certainly might, & assuredly ought to be effected & that too by Legislative authority." Yet in the end he lent Lafayette only moral support.  Washington seems to have been little impressed by the embryonic colonization movement. His lack of enthusiasm may have resulted partly from the fate of the settlement of free blacks in Nova Scotia after the Revolution and in Sierre Leone on the west African coast during the 1780s and 1790s.

It is evident that Washington expressed his private opinions rather widely. Francis Asbury, first bishop of the Methodist Church in America, for example, visited Mount Vernon in 1785 and noted in his diary that General Washington had given his visitors "his opinion against slavery."  But whatever his changing views, Washington, like many of his antislavery contemporaries, still let his own economic interests rule when they interfered with his principles. Not only did he still need slaves to work his own plantation, he must have been at least somewhat aware that much of the golden age of economic and social expansion in the Cheaspeake had rested on black bondsmen. Washington himself was an avid partaker in the Anglicization of Chesapeake society with its emphasis on creature comforts and the acquisition of consumer goods, much of which was dependent on a slave economy.  In fact it is difficult to discern from his meager comments whether Washington's disgust with slavery rests on moral grounds (although there are some indications that this is so) or primarily on the grounds of the institutions's economic inefficiencies. Although he probably never exposed his sentiments to the wrenching self-examination that Jefferson did, it is reasonable to project to Washington at least some of Jefferson's painful attempts to justify the inconsistencies of preaching freedom for the rebelling colonies and still defend the fetters that kept another race enslaved. Jefferson's moral struggles, even if, as Bernard Bailyn suggests, they led him into a reluctant and apologetic racism, are more enlightening than Washington's, if only because we know more about them.  Washington cut back sharply on his purchases of slaves during the Confederation years, but he occasionally continued to acquire them. In 1786 he accepted five slaves in payment for a debt owed him by the Mercer family, even though, as he wrote Mercer, "I have great repugnance to increasing my slaves by purchase." A little later he wrote Henry Lee requesting him to purchase a bricklayer for him because "I have much work in this way to do this Summer."

On April 16, 1789, Washington left Mount Vernon to begin his journey to New York City to assume the presidency. He went, he said, "to the chair of government, with "feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution, so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties."  Over the preceding months he had conducted an extensive correspondence with friends, countering their unanimous urgings that he accept the presidency with his own agonizing reluctance to risk his hardwon reputation on the uncertainties of the new government.  All along the route to the capital, he passed through cheering throngs to whom he seemed the embodiment of the patriot leader. Gouverneur Morris probably echoed the views of most Americans when he wrote Washington in 1788 that "You alone can awe the Insolence of opposing Factions & the greater Insolence of assuming Adherents. . . . You will become a Father to more than three Millions of Children."  Washington brought with him from his service in the Revolution, an unblemished reputation for honor and integrity, for being above the struggles of political life, for dedication to duty and to the state.  Both at home and abroad he was the man of the century.

Critics of Washington have insisted that if there was a time before the Civil War when slavery as an institution might have been successfully attacked, Washington could have seized this moment if he had given leadership to the antislavery forces. There is no indication that he ever considered any such course. No one understood better than he the fragility of the framework that bound the states together. During the Confederation years his faith in the new nation he had given almost ten years of his life to create had faltered. "I see," he wrote Lafayette, "one head gradually changing into thirteen." He confided to John Jay in 1786 that in his opinion virtue had "in a great degree, taken its departure from our Land." "We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation," he wrote in in the mid-1780s, adding that men would not "adopt & carry into execution, measures the best calculated for their own good without the intervention of a coercive power."  The convention of 1787 restored his optimism. "I begin to look forward," he wrote Sir Edward Newenham in 1788, "with a kind of political faith, to scenes of National happiness, which have not heretofore been offered for the fruition of the Most favoured Nations. The Natural, political, and Moral circumstances of our Nascent empire justify the anticipation."

But Washington was a political realist. Presiding over the Constitutional Convention left him fully aware of the specter slavery had presented at the convention. Although it had not seemed an important factor when sessions began in Philadelphia, by the end of the summer it had permeated every phase of the deliberations. In the convention the strongest supporters of the Constitution were willing to take a stand on matters they felt essential to the success of the enterprise--to the making of a new government; but, as Washington had observed, they were not willing to sink their ship by taking on North and South Carolina and Georgia on the subject of slavery. In many of the debates the delegates trod so delicately that they employed euphemisms to avoid even the use of the word; slaves were disguised as "persons," or "persons held to Service or Labour"; the slave trade became "migrations." Day after day Washington sat in the president's chair listening attentively to the debates, although there is no evidence he spoke out on slavery or indeed on many other matters.  The reception given to the strong antislavery speeches of Gouverneur Morris of New York and the diatribes against slavery by George Mason of Virginia were not lost on Washington. Delegates such as Charles C. Pinckney contended that "the property of the Southern States was to be as sacredly preserved, and protected to them, as that of land, or any other kind of property in the Eastern States were to be to their citizens. Property in slaves should not be exposed to danger under a government instituted for the protection of property. Even staunch supporters of the Constitution like Pierce Butler of South Carolina retrenched when slavery was threatened. "The security the Southern States want," Butler said, "is that their negroes may not be taken from them, which some gentlemen within or without doors have a very good mind to do."

The experience of the Convention may well have shown Washington that there would be little substantive support from antislavery spokesmen if he had decided to take a vigorous position on the question. As William Lee Miller has observed, when the New Englanders were needed at the Convention to inject fortitude into the discussions on slavery, "New England was in the backrooms of the taverns making deals, and then on the floor of the convention prefacing its part in those deals by saying that of course it had never owned slaves and disapproved of the slave trade and knew slavery to be a moral evil." In return for their support of the new government, the slave-owning southerners got most of what they wanted in the convention. The three-fifths clause gave them extra representation in Congress; the electoral college gave their votes for president more potency than the votes from the North; the prohibition on export taxes favored the products of slave labor; the slave trade clause guaranteed their right to import new slaves for at least twenty years; the fugitive slave clause gave slave owners the right to repossess runaway slaves in free states; in the event of a slave rebellion the domestic violence clause promised the states federal aid. As Charles C. Pinckney pointed out in the South Carolina Ratifying Convention, "considering all circumstances, we have made the best terms for the security of this species of property it was in our power to make. We would have made better if we could, but, on the whole, I do not think them bad."

The climate of the presidential years was equally unpromising. By the mid-1780s it was evident that the idealism of the 1770s had turned out to be an illusion. As Washington well knew, the last decades of the century witnessed a reversal in states like Virginia, where during the war there had been widespread public attacks on slavery and embryonic plans for the abolition of the institution. Proslavery petitions proliferated in Virginia; over twelve hundred signatures appearing in such petitions to the assembly, testifying to considerable opposition to manumission and to deepening hostility toward the antislavery activities of the Quakers, Methodists, and others. The Deep South tightened legislation regarding slaves. There were sporadic objections to slavery on moral grounds, some northerners pointing out as early as 1790 the immorality of aristocrats living off the sweat of their slaves. On occasion northern intellectuals may have espoused a free-labor ideology, but they failed to advance their cause by overt action. Even the North profited by slavery in terms of its economic connections with the South, and except for occasional lip service from societies to promote manumission, there was little mainstream opposition from that quarter.  In considering ratification of the Constitution, not one state which held conventions in the late 1780s introduced any amendment concerning slavery. And in fact there was little vocal support for the antislavery movement. Among Washington's peers, critics of slavery like Hamilton and Jay were active in manumission societies but offered few public comments. Madison, a lifelong opponent of the institution, confined his musings on the contradictions between the ideals of the Revolution and the existence of slavery to his memoranda. Jefferson made relatively few public statements on the institution, except for his agonized soul-searching concerning the eligibility of blacks for full citizenship. Benjamin Franklin, especially through the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, gave more impressive leadership. Patrick Henry opposed slavery but kept his own slaves because, as he said, of the "general Inconvenience of living here without them."

Washington was aware organized opposition to slavery had never come from a wide spectrum of the population. Postwar clerical arguments against slavery had made little headway and less impact on southern owners. Certainly such mainstream questioning of the validity of the institution as did exist tended to center on the contention that slavery had been foisted by Great Britain on unwilling colonies who now had to deal with the resulting evils. Washington, like many others of his post-Revolutionary generation, still blamed Britain for hanging slavery around colonial necks. Even the opposition itself was fragmented. Most of the opponents of slavery were Quakers and members of other benevolent religious groups, and slavery was only one of their interests. Early in the eighteenth century Quaker opponents of slavery had concentrated their efforts on the conditions of slavery and on the sect's religious duties toward the slaves. Not until the late l760s and early 1770s was there strong opposition to the foreign and domestic slave trade, and recent research has suggested serious conflicts among Quakers regarding the freeing of slaves. Quakers generally shared Washington's strongest objection to the institution--that the buying and selling of slaves broke up families. The fact that by the end of the Revolution slaveholders had an enormous economic stake in the preservation of the institution while advocates of abolition had nothing to lose was certainly not lost on Washington. 

Washington shared the determination of most of his own generation of statesmen not to allow slavery to disturb their agenda for the new Republic. Antislavery sentiment came in a poor second when it conflicted with the powerful economic interests of proslavery forces. To Washington as to many Americans, even some whose opinions on slavery were far more radical than his own, the institution had become a subject so divisive that public comments were best left unsaid. Washington himself was far from being an egalitarian. In spite of the Revolution's rhetoric, the United States was still a society of deference and Washington never seriously questioned the political and social validity of the prevailing ideas of rule by an elite any more than he questioned his own position in such a society. Publicly no comments came from him on slavery. For Washington, as for most of the other founders, when the fate of the new republic was balanced against his own essentially conservative opposition to slavery, there was really no contest. And there was a widely held, if convenient, feeling among many opponents of slavery that if left alone, the institution would wither by itself. Ironically, the clause of the Constitution barring the importation of slaves after 1808 fostered this salve to the antislavery conscience by imparting the feeling that at least some progress had been made.

A major factor in Washington's failure to put his growing opposition to slavery into practice in the 1790s was certainly his own conception of his presidential role. He assumed the office on a wave of bipartisan support and reverence. Even the meager criticism his support of the Constitution had evoked from its detractors--one critic had called him the Trojan horse in which the designs upon the liberty of the nation were being smuggled into the new Republic--redounded to his credit as a man willing to risk his reputation for the good of his country. But he went into office with scarcely a specific blueprint for his presidency. At the convention none of the delegates except possibly Hamilton, James Wilson, and Gouverneur Morris had clearly formulated ideas as to the kind of executive that would emerge. Washington was certainly aware of--and to a certain extent shared--the general whig bias of the Revolutionary generation against the concentration of power in the executive. To many of the delegates at the convention in Philadelphia, the provisions of Article II were based on the assumption that Washington would accept the office of president. Pierce Butler noted the presidential powers were "full great and greater than I was disposed to make them", and that members would not have expanded Article II had they not "cast their eyes toward General Washington as President, and shaped their Ideas of the Powers to be given to a President, by their opinions of his virtue." Washington was well aware of the general public uneasiness concerning executive power and other aspects of the new government. He had carefully created his role of a national icon--John Adams called him "the best actor of the presidency that we have ever had"--and he had an extraordinary grasp of the symbolic function of his office as a unifying force for the new nation.  Even the most cursory examination of the political correspondence of the period indicates how important Washington was in holding the fabric of the new nation together. At some point in his journey he had become a precarious symbol for a chimerical American consensus. He was not about to risk this role in what he certainly regarded as a quixotic attempt to challenge the South's peculiar institution.

As president, Washington proceeded tentatively and with his customary caution. "To form a new government," he had written John Washington in 1776, "requires infinite care & unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad . . . . A matter of such moment cannot be the Work of a day." He believed, as he wrote Rochambeau in the summer of 1790, that "in a government which depends so much in its first stages on public opinion, much circumspection is still necessary for those who are engaged in its administration."  He cherished the approval of his peers and of the public; he had worked hard to deserve it. But probably more than any other of the Founders, he was acutely aware how fragile it all was and how easily the slavery controversy could destroy it. Through both of his administrations he feared the new Republic was still on experimental ground.

Washington's few private comments during the presidential years regarding slavery have been widely quoted. Clearly his own economic necessities seconded his political caution. He wrote Tobias Lear in 1794 giving elaborate instructions on the sale of land to put his financial affairs in order. "I have no scruple to disclose to you, that my motives to these sales . . . are to reduce my income, be it more or less, to specialties, that the remainder of my days may, thereby, be more tranquil & freer from cares; and that I may be enabled . . . to do as much good with it as the resource will admit; for although, in the estimation of the world I possess a good, & clear estate, yet, so unproductive is it, that I am oftentimes ashamed to refuse aids which I cannot afford unless I was to sell part of it to answer the purpose." Washington added a coda to the letter, which, ever cautious, he marked "Private": "Besides these, I have another motive which makes me earnestly wish for the accomplishment of these things, it is indeed more powerful than all the rest. namely to liberate a certain species of property--which I possess, very repugnantly to my own feelings; but which imperious necessity compels . . . until I can substitute some other expedient, by which expences not in my power to avoid (however well disposed I may be to do it) can be defrayed." In the same year he told Alexander Spotswood: "With respect to the other species of property, concerning which you ask my opinion, I shall frankly declare to you that I do not like even to think much less talk of it. However, as you have put the question, I shall, in a few words, give you my ideas of it. Were it not then, that I am principled agt selling Negroes, as you would Cattle in the market, I would not, in twelve months from this date, be possessed of one as a slave. Most frequently quoted is his remark to David Stuart after the failure of one of the myriad Quaker petitions to Congress: "The memorial of the Quakers (& a very mal-apropos one it was) has at length been put to sleep, from which it is not <illegible> it will awake before the year 1808." Stuart had reported to Washington the growing feeling in Virginia that a "Northern phalanx" was bearing down on the state and that it was said that "many who were warm Supporters of the government, are changing their sentiments, from a conviction of the impracticability of Union with States, whose interests are so dissimilar with those of Virginia." The Quaker petitions to Congress, Stuart contended had given "particular umbrage" in Virginia as had the fact that the "Quakers should be so busy in this business. That they will raise up a storm against themselves, appears to me very certain."

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Charles Hill Letter

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1863 Civil War letter on training
Black soldiers: "we shall begin to prosper just as soon as we are humble enough to accept help from the negro..."

Six page missive by Charles Hill, 5th MA Vol. Inf., February 18, 1863, to his wife from Camp Newbern, NC. In part: "Those who have seen them say that they drill very well. I have full confidence in the ability of the negro, as he is seen here at least, to make soldiers. And I believe that we shall begin to prosper just as soon as we are humble enough to accept help from the negro, and not before...The blacks are hungering after knowledge. I hope some means will be devised by which they will be educated. It must be done. I should love to undertake it [Hill had been a teacher in New England before joining the army.] It is a private school. There were sixteen present today...it is taught in one room of a private house, very much such a room as you acquired your teaching experience in...The teacher, a North Carolina lady, appeared somewhat embarrassed, but talked quite intelligently. She said she used to teach before the place was taken. The scholars [students] were from about six to twelve years of age...I do not know whether study was a part of the programme or not. I did not see any while I was in. I only heard spelling classes, so could not judge of scholarship...The teacher was very mild in her discipline. And the scholars seemed to have a good time generally."

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A Statement

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A significant historical record... the "cross-roads" of early political organization in our country and the involvement of African Americans as subjects to be tallied. This is the census report for New York with details on the number of "Free Persons" as well as slaves for each county. Printed document, one page, 8 x 13", circa 1801-02, New York City, being A Statement "Shewing the Aggregate Number of Persons in each of the Wards of the City of New-York, in each of the Counties in this State, including, however, no more than three-fifths of the whole number of Slaves." Followed by a detailed account of each of the Wards and Counties with a record of "Free Persons", the number indicating "Three-fifths of Slaves" and the "Aggregate" amounts. The population recorded is 578,349 persons which includes a total 12,362 as three-fifths of the slaves.
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(BLACK AMERICANA) Ohio Court Case

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Ohio court case involving a man assaulted by a mob for impregnating a Black woman. Fine content collection of manuscript court documents, 15p., 1822-1823, Jefferson County, OH for a case involving John Hutchinson who in 1820 "...Got a negro woman with Child..." This didn't go well with members of the community according to one witness in a deposition: "...a set of said Hutchinson's Country men followed him to Give him a beating for having to do with a negro woman..." Hutchinson then fled abandoning the woman and his child. In this case, Hutchinson is suing James McCurdy for spreading libelous statements about Hutchinson's past. A series of depositions attests to the veracity of McCurdy's statements. According to one deponent asked about "...The said John Hutchison nocking [sic] up a black or Negro woman", the witness stated "...That Said Hutchison had got a Black Woman with child and that George Ashbridge [the slave's owner] kept one hundred dollars of the said Hutchison's money for the sake of the child..." According to another, "...Hutchison told me while he lived at Geo. Ashbridges that a woman came to him and that he could not get shut of her till he had to do with her and that she proved with child ....The said woman had a husband at the same time but he had 'Listed and had gone to the Army... I was [also] informed by Alexander Hutchison that said Hutchison was charged with getting a black woman with child while he... Lived at George Ashbridges... Ashbridge detained upwards of one hundred dollars of said Hutchison's money on account of the black woman being with child to him..." Another deponent asserts that "a set of said Hutchison's countrymen followed him to give him a beating for having to do with a Negro woman, and said Hutchison left them parts on account of the same..."
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Two Senate Speeches of Henry Wilson

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Speeches by abolitionist Senator and future Vice President Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. Includes: Aggressions of the Slave Power, a speech delivered January 26, 1860 "In Reply to Hon. Jefferson Davis" titled wraps, fine. Together with Speech of Hon. Henry Wilson. of Mass., In the Senate, March 27, 1862, On the Bill to Abolish Slavery in the District of Columbian, Introduced by him...
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TWO OLD 1817 PULASKI COUNTY GEORGIA SLAVE DOCUMENTS

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Photo:

Two related documents as follows: --

The first slavery-related paper is a 1-page document 5.5 x 7.5” on old LAID PAPER. It concerns an agreement to hire two slaves belonging to James Bryan and is transcribed as follows: “On or before the first day of January Eighteen Hundred and Seventeen we or each of us do promise to pay Jas Bryan or bearer the sum of one hundred and seventy eight dollars for THE HIRE OF TWO NEGROS upon condition of the said Negroes continuing with us twelve months from the date this 11th of January 1816. Sam Fowle J. Reid” This document has a number of small slits & holes along an upper horizontal fold line (see scan) but is in no danger of separating and is otherwise in good condition on paper of fine old rag content. --The second related slavery paper in this lot is a larger 4-page legal document 8.5 x 12” from Pulaski, County, GA recording the details of a lawsuit that arose over this slave hire debt in the first paper above. The first two pages of this second document read in part as follows: “Pulaski County, Georgia. The petition of James Bryan showeth that Samuel Fowle and Joseph Reid . . . promised to pay J. Bryan (your petitioner) or bearer the sum of one hundred and seventy eight dollars for THE HIRE OF TWO NEGROS upon condition of the said Negroes continuing with us twelve months from the date of the aforesaid note, and your petitioner affirms(?) that said two negroes hired as aforesaid did continue with said Samuel and Joseph for the term of twelve months . . . said Samuel & Joseph being so indebted though often requested, have never paid your petitioner said sum of money or any part thereof, but so to do they have refused . . . Wherefore your petitioner prays process may (?) requiring said Samuel Fowle and Joseph Reid, personally or by attorney to be and appear at the next Superior Court to be held in and for the County of Pulaski, there suffer to answer your petitioner in an action upon the case.” The document is signed by Richard Jones (an attorney?). The third page of this second slave paper is a note directing the SHERIFF OF PULASKI COUNTY to detain the two defendants, signed by Edward Smith Clerk in the name of Judge Christopher B. Strong. The fourth page of the paper has several different notes & annotation written upon it, including another note from Richard Jones. There is also a statement “Personally served each of the Defendants with a copy of the writ. 22nd March 1817”signed by B. Barker, Sheriff. There is also the following note: “WE THE JURY FIND FOR THE PLAINTIFF THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED & SEVENTY EIGHT DOLLARS WITH INTEREST & COST OF SUIT,” Signed Stephen Mitchell, Juror.

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Nathaniel Gordon~Slave Trader

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Documents related to the conviction of the slave trader Nathaniel Gordon, who was the only slave trader to be executed for violating the slave law of 1820.
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Report of Sale~Slave Henry

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Report of sale of slave Henry at auction before the court house door. The term "administrator de bonis non" means, in this case, the administrator appointed as a result of the death of John B Herring.

Pursuant to an order of the Callaway County Court direct to me as administrator De Bonis Non of the Estate of Benjamin Herring deceased to sell a slave belonging to said estate, a boy named Henry about fifteen years old. I did on the 21st November 1842 after having advertised the sale of said boy proceed? to sell him at public sale before the Court house door in the town of Fulton while the Callaway County Court was in session and he was struck off to William Nichols at the sum of four Hundred and fifty two dollars and fifty Cents on a credit of twelve months said Nichols being the highest and last bidder
Respectfully
(signed) Daniel Nolley
Administrator De Bonis Non of the Estate of Benjamin Herring Deceased

The foregoing is a Correct account of the Sale of the Slave Henry mentioned ?going to the Estate aforesaid made by Daniel Nolley Administrator aforesaid
(signed) Alfred? George Griert? Clerk
Sworn and subscribed before me ? 22nd February 1843.
(signed) J B Frank? J. P.

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Land Sale~Josine~1783

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15 Oct 1783 Land sale from Josine, free mulattresse, with consent of her husband, Louis Richard, to Hoffpauer.

Aujourd'hui quinzieme jour du mois d'octobre de l'annee mil sept cent quatre vingt trois par devant nous Alexandre Chev. De Clouet Lt. Colonel, Commandant civil et militaire des postes Attakapas et Opeloussas fut presente en personne la nommee Josine mulatresse libre qui de son bon gre propre mouvement, dans la meilleure forme possible, avec garantie de toutes hipotheques et du consentement du nomme Louis Ricard mulatre libre son mari, vend et transport au Sr. Hoffbauer une terre de sept arpents et demi de face sur la profondeur ordinaire attenant d'un cote a Madm Marcantel, et de l'autre au Sr George Miller, ladite terre situe au coteaux pour prix et somme de deux cents piastres payable dans le courant du mois de juillet de l'annee prochaine en argent [des vaches creusers??} marchandes et au prix du cour - livrables dans le parc du dit Sr. Hoffbauer qui a ces clauses et conditions jouira lui et les siens de ladite terre comme bien en propre et sans aucun trouble de qui que se soit.

Fait et passe a notre domicile de commandement en presence des Sieurs De Villier, Florentin[?], [Joviet?] et Brunet on signe et nous Commandant civil et militaire ce meme jour et an -- Marque ordinaire Marque ordinaire

X X

de josine [M--?] de Louis Recard

Florantin[?] [Joviet?] Hoffpauer Brunet

Albt [?] de Villiers

L Ch de Clouet

The first paragraph is quite a run-on sentence so I will insert punctuation where needed to make sense:

Today, fifteenth day of the month of October of the year one thousand seven hundred eighty-three, before us Alexander Chevalier De Clouet * Lt. Colonel, civil and military Commander of the posts Attakapas and Opelousas, was present in person the named Josine, free mulatress who of her good will, own accord, in the best form possible, with warranty [against?] all mortgages and with the consent of the named Louis Ricard, free mulatto, her husband, sells and transports to Sieur Hoffbauer a [piece of] land of seven and a half arpents wide with the usual depth, bordering on one side to Madame Marcantel, and on the other to Sieur George Miller, the said land situated on the hill; for the price and sum of two hundred piastres payable in the course of the month of July next year in money, [cows?], [plows?], goods and at the [court price?] ** - deliverable on the grounds of the said Sieur Hoffbauer, who with these provisions and conditions shall enjoy he and his*** the said land as his own possession and without trouble from anybody.

Done and passed at our house of command in the presence of the Sieurs De Villier, Florentin[?], [Joviet?] and Brunet [who] have signed with us, civil and military Commander, this same day and year -

Usual mark X of Josine [illegible]

Usual mark X of Louis Recard

[remainder of signatures]

* Alexandre De Clouet was a Chevalier (Knight) and was using the "editorial we" when he refers to himself as "us." His signature "Le Ch de Clouet" = the Knight De Clouet. The British just use the prefix Sir in front of the names of persons who have been knighted.

Barbara Hill <bhill@uclink4.berkeley.edu> writeFooterFP();

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Slave Sale~Hoffbauer to Ouinisime

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25 Jul 1785

 Slave sale from Thomas Hoffbauer to Nathaniel Ouinisime

French:

Aujourd'hui vingt cinquieme jour du mois de Juillet de l'annee mil sept cent quatre vingt cinq par devant Nous Alexandre Chev. De Clouet Lt Colonel, Commandant [des?] Attakapas et Opeloussas fut present en personne le Sr. Thomas Hoffbauer qui de son bon gre, propre mouvement, dans la meilleure forme possible et avec garantie d'hipotheque - vend, cede et transporte au Sr. Nathaniel [Quinisime?] une [Negresse/Mulatresse] nomme Marie Louise, agee d'environ quinze ans, creole et imbecille telle qu'elle se comporte et sans autre garantie pour prix et somme de quatre cent piastres dont la moitiee payable dans le courant du mois de fevrier prochain et le restant au mois de fevrier mil sept cent quatre vingt sept en argent ou monnaie du Prince.

A ce clause et condition - mondit Sr. [Quinisime] jouira de ladite esclave comme bien a lui en propre et sans aucun trouble de qui que se soit.

Fait et passe en notre Domicile de commandement en presence des Sieurs [Bellai?] Collins et Brunet qui avec les Sieurs Hoffbauer et [Quinisime] ont signe et nous commandant ce meme jour et an que de l'autre part. -

marque ordinaire Hoffpauer

x Brunet

de Nat'el [Quinisime] Will: Collins

Le Chev. De Clouet

English:

Today twenty-fifth day of the month of July of the year one thousand seven hundred eighty five before Us Alexandre Chev. De Clouet, Lt. Colonel, Commander of Attakapas and Opeloussas, was present in person Sieur Thomas Hoffbauer who of his good will, own accord, in the bestform possible and with warranty [against?] morgage - sells, cedes and transports to Sieur Nathaniel [Quinisime?] a Negress/Mulatress [both words were written in the same place and I can't tell which one was written first and which was the correction written over it] named Marie Louise, aged about fifteen years, Creole and imbecile as to her behavior, without [any] other guarantee, for the price and sum of four hundred piastres, of which half [to be] payable in the course of the month of next February, and the remainder in the month of February one thousand seven hundred eighty-seven in money or "monnaie du Prince." **

To this clause and condition - my said Sr. [Quinisime] will have possession of the said slave as his own property and without any trouble from anybody.

Done and passed at our house of command in the presence of the Sieurs [Bellai?], Collins and Brunet, who with the Sieurs Hoffbauer and [Quinisime] have signed and Us Commandant this same day and year [on the other hand?].

Usual mark of Nath'l [Quinisime?] (other signatures)

Barbara Hill <bhill@uclink4.berkeley.edu>

 

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Slave with Iron Muzzle

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When persons being held as slaves were accused by their masters of insubordination, or of eating more than their allotment of food, they might expect to be fitted with an iron muzzle. In his autobiography, Olaudah Equiano described his first encounter with such a device in the mid-1700s. . .

"I had seen a black woman slave as I came through the house, who was cooking the dinner, and the poor creature was cruelly loaded with various kinds of iron machines; she had one particularly on her head, which locked her mouth so fast that she could scarcely speak, and could not eat or drink. I [was] much astonished and shocked at this contrivance, which I afterwards learned was called the iron muzzle."

Slave with Iron Muzzle is an illustration from the 1839 publication, Souvenirs d'un aveugle, by Jacques Etienne Victor Arago.

Image Credit: The Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages, Mandeville Special Colections Library, University of California, San Diego
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Sale of Slave Peter

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This deed documents the sale of a slave named Peter, from William Waitt to James Dalton, 29 July 1747. Dalton, who died in 1783, was a well-to-do shipmaster who settled in Boston and engaged in shipping, real estate, and mercantile pursuits. The present-day Congress Street in Boston was previously known as Dalton Street, where his residence was located.
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Runaway Slave Poster

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Poster made to recapture a runaway slave. This law, passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, denied escaped slaves the right to a jury trial and did not allow them to testify in court. Anyone who helped a slave escape could be fined $1,000 and jailed for six months. Slave catchers even received $10 for every African-American they kidnapped in the North and brought to the South. Before the new fugitive slave law, slavery had existed far from the North. But now, northerners were in contact with the slave hunters as they came north, seeking escaped slaves. Even free blacks were sometimes sent to slave owners in the South. The fugitive slave law made things more difficult between the North and South. Northerners were upset with the South due to the cruelty of the law, and the southerners were outraged with the North for breaking the Compromise of 1850. Many people became much more stubborn in their view of slavery.
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A List of Free Negroes

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86th. Infantry
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James Martin Gibbons [Receipt] Book

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Towards the middle of the very small, fragile receipt book are pages that read "Things that Bristol has carried to Market." Among the items enumerated are potatoes, peas, and fennel. The listing is dated for trucking on April 12, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, et cetera. Was this Bristol a slave? Yes. In the document "Negroes...Shoes..." 1789 in the William Gibbons, Jr. Papers a receipt shows that Tom--whom previous receipts show delivering rice to Savannah--and Bristol--whom previous receipts show trucking goods to market--were Gibbons' slaves.
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Personal Profile & Documents Regarding Slave Billy

Billy, William, or Will, property of John Tayloe of Richmond County, was around twenty years of age when he ran away from the Neabsco Iron Furnace in March 1774. Described as a "light coloured mulatto," Billy also served as a personal servant, traveling with his master or Tayloe's agent Thomas Lawson throughout Virginia and Maryland. A "very likely young fellow," Billy had a swagger in his gait, and had the "surprising knack ... of gaining the good graces of almost every body who will listen to his bewitching and deceitful tongue." The personable young man may also have been the person mentioned in Tayloe's 1771 letter to his neighbor Landon Carter, in which he complains that Carter's "Patroll do not do their duty." Apparently numbers of Tayloe's slaves, including Billy, had been meeting with Carter's bondpersons in late-night "Entertainments." Billy, whom Tayloe described to Carter as "your favorite," was suspected of taking Tayloe's horse to join the party. In 1781 Billy was captured in Prince William County while fighting for the British against the Virginia troops. Tried for treason, he was convicted and sentenced to hang, but Governor Thomas Jefferson was persuaded to issue a reprieve based on problems with the evidence against him and the argument that a slave, as a non-citizen, could not be guilty of treason. Billy's subsequent fate remains unknown.

Letter: [Col. John Tayloe to Col. Landon Carter]

March 31, 1771]
Dear Col.
I hoped you had been satisfied about the fence as you was assured no representations could prejudice me, but to make all things easy, I will as soon as I hasten to attend, take the matter in hand myself, & try to have such a fence made on the lines between us, as shall even defy a deer to get over.

Now give me leave to complain to you, that your Patroll do not do their duty, my people are rambling about every night, the last my saddle shews, a barbarous use [illeg.] allso, your favorite; my man Billie was out, he says he rode no horse of Masters, & that he only was at Col. Carter's, by particular invitation, so that the Entertainment was last night at Sabine hall, & may probably be at Mt. Airy this night, if my discoverys do not disconcert the Plan, these things could not be so I think, if the Patrollers did the duty they are paid for. I thank you for your neighbourly intentions, but we cannot command times, or Seasons, & from such weather can only pray, Good Lord deliver us
Yrs Afftly
John Tayloe
Easter Sunday

[Note: Tayloe's "man Billie" is possibly the same personal servant who ran off again in 1774, when Tayloe advertised for his capture. Billie, or Billy, or Will, belonging to Tayloe, also fought for the British during the Revolution, and was tried before the Prince William County Court in 1781.]

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Major Revolts and Escapes

1663First serious slave conspiracy in Colonial America, Sept. 13. Servant betrayed plot of White servants and Negro slaves in Gloucester County, Va.

 

1712Slave revolt, New York, April 7. Nine Whites killed. Twenty-one slaves executed.

 

1730Slave conspiracy discovered in Norfolk and Princess Anne counties, Va.

 

1739Slave revolt, Stono, S.C., Sept 9. Twenty-five Whites killed before insurrection was put down.

 

1741Series of suspicious fires and reports of slave conspiracy led to general hysteria in New York City, March and April. Thirty-one slaves, five Whites executed.

 

1773Massachusetts slaves petitioned legislature for freedom, Jan. 6. There is a record of 8 petitions during Revolutionary War period.

 

1791Haitian Revolution began with revolt of slaves in northern province, Aug 22.

 

1800Gabriel Prosser plotted and was betrayed. Storm forced suspension of attack on Richmond, Va., by Prosser and some 1,000 slaves, Aug. 30. Conspiracy was betrayed by two slaves. Prosser and fifteen of his followers were hanged on Oct 7.

 

1811Louisiana slaves revolted in two parishes about 35 miles from New Orleans, Jan. 8-10. Revolt suppressed by U.S. troops. The largest slave revolt in the United States.

 

1816Three hundred fugitive slaves and about 20 Indian allies held Fort Blount on Apalachicola Bay, Fla., for several days before it was attacked by U.S. Troops.

 

1822Denmark Vesey plotted and was betrayed. 'House slave' betrayed Denmark Vesey conspiracy, May 30. Vesey conspiracy, one of the most elaborate slave plots on record, involved thousands of Negroes in Charleston, S.C., and vicinity. Authorities arrested 131 Negroes and four whites. Thirty-seven were hanged. Vesey and five of his aides hanged at Blake's Landing, Charleston, S.C., July 2.

 

1829Race riot, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 10. More than 1,000 Negroes left the city for Canada.

 

1831Nat Turner revolt, Southampton County, Va., August 21-22. Some 60 Whites were killed. Nat Turner was not captured until October 30. Nat Turner was hanged, Jerusalem, Va., Nov. 11.

 

1838Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Sept. 3.

 

1839Amistad mutiny led by Joseph Cinquez, captured. After trial in Conn., returned to Africa.

 

1841Slave revolt on slave trader 'Creole' which was en route from Hampton, Va., to New Orleans, La., Nov 7. Slaves overpowered crew and sailed vessel to Bahamas where they were granted asylum and freedom.

 

1848Ellen Craft impersonated a slave holder, William Craft acted as her servant in one of the most dramatic slave escapes--this one from slavery in Georgia, Dec 26.

 

1849Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in Maryland, summer. She returned to South 19 times and brought out more than 300 slaves.

 

1851Negro abolitionist crashed into courtroom in Boston and rescued a fugitive slave, Feb 15.

Negroes dispersed group of slave catchers Sept 11 in Christiana, Pa., conflict. One White man was killed, another wounded.

Negro and White abolitionists smashed into courtroom in Syracuse, N.Y., and rescued a fugitive slave Oct 1.

 

1859Five Negroes with 13 Whites with John Brown attacked Harpers Ferry, Va., Oct 16-17. Two Negroes killed, 2 captured, one escaped. John Copeland and Shields Green hanged at Charlestown, Va., Dec 16.

 

Nat Turner's rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in the summer of 1831, threw the slaveholding South into a panic, and into a determined effort to bolster the security of the slave system. Turner, claiming religious visions, gathered about seventy slaves who went on a rampage from plantation to plantation, murdering at least fifty-five men, women, and children. They gathered supporters but were captured as their ammunition ran out. Turner and perhaps eighteen others were hanged.

Denmark Vesey
Vesey won a lottery and purchased his freedom in the year of Gabriel Prosser's defeat (Aug. 30, 1800). From that date he worked as a carpenter in Charleston, S.C.

He accumulated money and property and was respected by Negroes and whites.

He was, by his own admission, satisfied with his own condition yet he risked everything in a bold effort to free other men.

There burned in Vesey's breast a deep and unquenchable hatred of slavery and slaveholders. A brilliant, hot-tempered man, he was for some twenty years the slave of a slave trader. He traveled widely and learned several languages; he learned also that slavery was evil and that man was not meant to slave for man.

The conspiracy this firebrand conceived is one of the most elaborate on record.

"Men," he said, "must not only be dissatisfied; they must be so dissatisfied they will act." Denmark Vesey was interested in action. He told slaves their lives were so miserable that even death would be an improvement.


Gabriel Prosser

He stood six feet-two and he wore his hair long in imitation of his Biblical idol Samson.

Like most leaders of American Negro slave revolts, Prosser was a deeply religious man. He meditated upon the Bible and dreamed dreams of a Negro state-not in the Caribbean but in Virginia, the land of Jefferson and Washington. He laid plans for his uprising in the spring and summer of 1800. He plotted and was betrayed.

 

From Before the Mayflower, by Lerone Bennett

 

 

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Africans Make a Mark

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Detail from a letter in support of the Governor of Cape Coast Castle from 1749, showing enslaved Africans' marks on the page.
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Slaves of Jamaica

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Detail from an account of the sales of enslaved Africans at Jamaica, c1713, showing the huge profits the slavers made.
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