A Social History of the American Negro
Benjamin Brawley

Part 1 out of 9

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Leonard D Johnson and PG Distributed

American Negro






* * * * *

_These all died in faith, not having received
the promises, but having seen them afar off_.

Norwood Penrose Hallowell was born in Philadelphia April 13, 1839. He
inherited the tradition of the Quakers and grew to manhood in a
strong anti-slavery atmosphere. The home of his father, Morris L.
Hallowell--the "House called Beautiful," in the phrase of Oliver Wendell
Holmes--was a haven of rest and refreshment for wounded soldiers of the
Union Army, and hither also, after the assault upon him in the Senate,
Charles Sumner had come for succor and peace. Three brothers in one
way or another served the cause of the Union, one of them, Edward
N. Hallowell, succeeding Robert Gould Shaw in the Command of the
Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. Norwood Penrose
Hallowell himself, a natural leader of men, was Harvard class orator in
1861; twenty-five years later he was the marshal of his class; and in
1896 he delivered the Memorial Day address in Sanders Theater. Entering
the Union Army with promptness in April, 1861, he served first in
the New England Guards, then as First Lieutenant in the Twentieth
Massachusetts, won a Captain's commission in November, and within the
next year took part in numerous engagements, being wounded at Glendale
and even more severely at Antietam. On April 17, 1863, he became
Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, and on May 30
Colonel of the newly organized Fifty-Fifth. Serving in the investment
of Fort Wagner, he was one of the first to enter the fort after its
evacuation. His wounds ultimately forced him to resign his commission,
and in November, 1863, he retired from the service. He engaged in
business in New York, but after a few years removed to Boston, where he
became eminent for his public spirit. He was one of God's noblemen, and
to the last he preserved his faith in the Negro whom he had been among
the first to lead toward the full heritage of American citizenship. He
died April 11, 1914.



1. African Origins
2. The Negro in Spanish Exploration
3. Development of the Slave-Trade
4. Planting of Slavery in the Colonies
5. The Wake of the Slave-Ship


1. Servitude and Slavery
2. The Indian, the Mulatto, and the Free Negro
3. First Effort toward Social Betterment
4. Early Insurrections


1. Sentiment in England and America
2. The Negro in the War
3. The Northwest Territory and the Constitution
4. Early Steps toward Abolition
5. Beginning of Racial Consciousness


1. The Cotton-Gin, the New Southwest, and the First Fugitive Slave Law
2. Toussaint L'Ouverture, Louisiana, and the Formal Closing of the
3. Gabriel's Insurrection and the Rise of the Negro Problem


1. Creek, Seminole, and Negro to 1817: The War of 1812
2. First Seminole War and the Treaties of Indian Spring and Fort Moultrie
3. From the Treaty of Fort Moultrie to the Treaty of Payne's Landing
4. Osceola and the Second Seminole War


1. The Ultimate Problem and the Missouri Compromise
2. Colonization
3. Slavery


1. Denmark Vesey's Insurrection
2. Nat Turner's Insurrection
3. The _Amistad_ and _Creole_ Cases


1. Walker's "Appeal"
2. The Convention Movement
3. Sojourner Truth and Woman Suffrage


1. The Place and the People
2. History
(a) Colonization and Settlement
(b) The Commonwealth of Liberia
(c) The Republic of Liberia
3. International Relations
4. Economic and Social Conditions


1. Current Tendencies
2. The Challenge of the Abolitionists
3. The Contest






1. The Problem
2. Meeting the Problem
3. Reaction: The Ku-Klux Klan
4. Counter-Reaction: The Negro Exodus
5. A Postscript on the War and Reconstruction


1. Political Life: Disfranchisement
2. Economic Life: Peonage
3. Social Life: Proscription, Lynching


"THE VALE OF TEARS," 1890-1910
1. Current Opinion and Tendencies
2. Industrial Education: Booker T. Washington
3. Individual Achievement: The Spanish-American War
4. Mob Violence; Election Troubles; The Atlanta Massacre
5. The Question of Labor
6. Defamation; Brownsville
7. The Dawn of a To-morrow


1. Character of the Period
2. Migration; East St. Louis
3. The Great War
4. High Tension: Washington, Chicago, Elaine
5. The Widening Problem


1. World Aspect
2. The Negro in American Life
3. Face to Face


In the following pages an effort is made to give fresh treatment to the
history of the Negro people in the United States, and to present this
from a distinct point of view, the social. It is now forty years since
George W. Williams completed his _History of the Negro Race in America_,
and while there have been many brilliant studies of periods or episodes
since that important work appeared, no one book has again attempted to
treat the subject comprehensively, and meanwhile the race has passed
through some of its most critical years in America. The more outstanding
political phases of the subject, especially in the period before the
Civil War, have been frequently considered; and in any account of
the Negro people themselves the emphasis has almost always been upon
political and military features. Williams emphasizes this point of view,
and his study of legal aspects is not likely soon to be superseded. A
noteworthy point about the history of the Negro, however, is that laws
on the statute-books have not necessarily been regarded, public opinion
and sentiment almost always insisting on being considered. It is
necessary accordingly to study the actual life of the Negro people in
itself and in connection with that of the nation, and something like
this the present work endeavors to do. It thus becomes not only a Social
History of the race, but also the first formal effort toward a History
of the Negro Problem in America.

With this aim in mind, in view of the enormous amount of material,
we have found it necessary to confine ourselves within very definite
limits. A thorough study of all the questions relating to the Negro in
the United States would fill volumes, for sooner or later it would touch
upon all the great problems of American life. No attempt is made to
perform such a task; rather is it intended to fix attention upon the
race itself as definitely as possible. Even with this limitation there
are some topics that might be treated at length, but that have already
been studied so thoroughly that no very great modification is now likely
to be made of the results obtained. Such are many of the questions
revolving around the general subject of slavery. Wars are studied not so
much to take note of the achievement of Negro soldiers, vital as that
is, as to record the effect of these events on the life of the great
body of people. Both wars and slavery thus become not more than
incidents in the history of the ultimate problem.

In view of what has been said, it is natural that the method of
treatment should vary with the different chapters. Sometimes it is
general, as when we touch upon the highways of American history.
Sometimes it is intensive, as in the consideration of insurrections and
early effort for social progress; and Liberia, as a distinct and much
criticized experiment in government by American Negroes, receives very
special attention. For the first time also an effort is now made to
treat consecutively the life of the Negro people in America for the last
fifty years.

This work is the result of studies on which I have been engaged for
a number of years and which have already seen some light in _A Short
History of the American Negro_ and _The Negro in Literature and Art_;
and acquaintance with the elementary facts contained in such books as
these is in the present work very largely taken for granted. I feel
under a special debt of gratitude to the New York State Colonization
Society, which, cooeperating with the American Colonization Society and
the Board of Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia, in 1920
gave me opportunity for some study at first hand of educational and
social conditions on the West Coast of Africa; and most of all do I
remember the courtesy and helpfulness of Dr. E.C. Sage and Dr. J.H.
Dillard in this connection. In general I have worked independently
of Williams, but any student of the subject must be grateful to that
pioneer, as well as to Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, who has made contributions in
so many ways. My obligations to such scholarly dissertations as those
by Turner and Russell are manifest, while to Mary Stoughton Locke's
_Anti-Slavery in America_--a model monograph--I feel indebted more than
to any other thesis. Within the last few years, of course, the _Crisis_,
the _Journal of Negro History_, and the _Negro Year-Book_ have in their
special fields become indispensable, and to Dr. Carter G. Woodson and
Professor M.N. Work much credit is due for the faith which has prompted
their respective ventures. I take this occasion also to thank Professor
W.E. Dodd, of the University of Chicago, who from the time of my
entrance upon this field has generously placed at my disposal his
unrivaled knowledge of the history of the South; and as always I must
be grateful to my father, Rev. E.M. Brawley, for that stimulation and
criticism which all my life have been most valuable to me. Finally, the
work has been dedicated to the memory of a distinguished soldier, who,
in his youth, in the nation's darkest hour, helped to lead a struggling
people to freedom and his country to victory. It is now submitted to the
consideration of all who are interested in the nation's problems, and
indeed in any effort that tries to keep in mind the highest welfare of
the country itself.

BENJAMIN BRAWLEY. Cambridge, January 1, 1921.




1. _African Origins_

An outstanding characteristic of recent years has been an increasing
recognition of the cultural importance of Africa to the world. From all
that has been written three facts are prominent: (1) That at some time
early in the Middle Ages, perhaps about the seventh century, there was
a considerable infiltration of Arabian culture into the tribes living
below the Sahara, something of which may to-day most easily be seen
among such people as the Haussas in the Soudan and the Mandingoes along
the West Coast; (2) That, whatever influences came in from the outside,
there developed in Africa an independent culture which must not be
underestimated; and (3) That, perhaps vastly more than has been
supposed, this African culture had to do with early exploration and
colonization in America. The first of these three facts is very
important, but is now generally accepted and need not here detain us.
For the present purpose the second and third demand more attention.

The development of native African art is a theme of never-ending
fascination for the ethnologist. Especially have striking resemblances
between Negro and Oceanian culture been pointed out. In political
organization as well as certain forms of artistic endeavor the Negro
people have achieved creditable results, and especially have they been
honored as the originators of the iron technique.[1] It has further been
shown that fetichism, which is especially well developed along the
West Coast and its hinterland, is at heart not very different from the
manitou beliefs of the American Indians; and it is this connection that
furnishes the key to some of the most striking results of the researches
of the latest and most profound student of this and related problems.[2]

[Footnote 1: Note article "Africa" in _New International Encyclopedia_,
referring especially to the studies of Von Luschan.]

[Footnote 2: Leo Wiener: _Africa and the Discovery of America_, Vol. I,
Innes & Sons, Philadelphia, 1920.]

From the Soudan radiated a culture that was destined to affect Europe
and in course of time to extend its influence even beyond the Atlantic
Ocean. It is important to remember that throughout the early history of
Europe and up to the close of the fifteenth century the approach to the
home of the Negro was by land. The Soudan was thought to be the edge of
the then known world; Homer speaks of the Ethiopians as "the farthest
removed of men, and separated into two divisions." Later Greek writers
carry the description still further and speak of the two divisions as
Eastern and Western--the Eastern occupying the countries eastward of the
Nile, and the Western stretching from the western shores of that river
to the Atlantic Coast. "One of these divisions," says Lady Lugard, "we
have to acknowledge, was perhaps itself the original source of the
civilization which has through Egypt permeated the Western world....
When the history of Negroland comes to be written in detail, it may be
found that the kingdoms lying toward the eastern end of the Soudan were
the home of races who inspired, rather than of races who received, the
traditions of civilization associated for us with the name of ancient

[Footnote 1: _A Tropical Dependency_, James Nisbet & Co., Ltd., London,
1906, p. 17.]

If now we come to America, we find the Negro influence upon the Indian
to be so strong as to call in question all current conceptions of
American archaeology and so early as to suggest the coming of men from
the Guinea Coast perhaps even before the coming of Columbus.[1] The
first natives of Africa to come were Mandingoes; many of the words
used by the Indians in their daily life appear to be not more than
corruptions or adaptations of words used by the tribes of Africa; and
the more we study the remains of those who lived in America before 1492,
and the far-reaching influence of African products and habits, the more
must we acknowledge the strength of the position of the latest thesis.
This whole subject will doubtless receive much more attention from
scholars, but in any case it is evident that the demands of Negro
culture can no longer be lightly regarded or brushed aside, and that as
a scholarly contribution to the subject Wiener's work is of the very
highest importance.

[Footnote 1: See Wiener, I, 178.]

2. _The Negro in Spanish Exploration_

When we come to Columbus himself, the accuracy of whose accounts has so
recently been questioned, we find a Negro, Pedro Alonso Nino, as the
pilot of one of the famous three vessels. In 1496 Nino sailed to Santo
Domingo and he was also with Columbus on his third voyage. With two men,
Cristobal de la Guerra, who served as pilot, and Luis de la Guerra,
a Spanish merchant, in 1499 he planned what proved to be the first
successful commercial voyage to the New World.

The revival of slavery at the close of the Middle Ages and the beginning
of the system of Negro slavery were due to the commercial expansion of
Portugal in the fifteenth century. The very word _Negro_ is the modern
Spanish and Portuguese form of the Latin _niger_. In 1441 Prince Henry
sent out one Gonzales, who captured three Moors on the African coast.
These men offered as ransom ten Negroes whom they had taken. The Negroes
were taken to Lisbon in 1442, and in 1444 Prince Henry regularly began
the European trade from the Guinea Coast. For fifty years his country
enjoyed a monopoly of the traffic. By 1474 Negroes were numerous in
Spain, and special interest attaches to Juan de Valladolid, probably the
first of many Negroes who in time came to have influence and power over
their people under the authority of a greater state. He was addressed as
"judge of all the Negroes and mulattoes, free or slaves, which are in
the very loyal and noble city of Seville, and throughout the whole
archbishopric thereof." After 1500 there are frequent references to
Negroes, especially in the Spanish West Indies. Instructions to Ovando,
governor of Hispaniola, in 1501, prohibited the passage to the Indies of
Jews, Moors, or recent converts, but authorized him to take over Negro
slaves who had been born in the power of Christians. These orders were
actually put in force the next year. Even the restricted importation
Ovando found inadvisable, and he very soon requested that Negroes be not
sent, as they ran away to the Indians, with whom they soon made friends.
Isabella accordingly withdrew her permission, but after her death
Ferdinand reverted to the old plan and in 1505 sent to Ovando seventeen
Negro slaves for work in the copper-mines, where the severity of the
labor was rapidly destroying the Indians. In 1510 Ferdinand directed
that fifty Negroes be sent immediately, and that more be sent later; and
in April of this year over a hundred were bought in the Lisbon market.
This, says Bourne,[1] was the real beginning of the African slave-trade
to America. Already, however, as early as 1504, a considerable number
of Negroes had been introduced from Guinea because, as we are informed,
"the work of one Negro was worth more than that of four Indians." In
1513 thirty Negroes assisted Balboa in building the first ships made on
the Pacific Coast of America. In 1517 Spain formally entered upon the
traffic, Charles V on his accession to the throne granting "license
for the introduction of Negroes to the number of four hundred," and
thereafter importation to the West Indies became a thriving industry.
Those who came in these early years were sometimes men of considerable
intelligence, having been trained as Mohammedans or Catholics. By 1518
Negroes were at work in the sugar-mills in Hispaniola, where they seem
to have suffered from indulgence in drinks made from sugarcane. In 1521
it was ordered that Negro slaves should not be employed on errands as
in general these tended to cultivate too close acquaintance with the
Indians. In 1522 there was a rebellion on the sugar plantations in
Hispaniola, primarily because the services of certain Indians were
discontinued. Twenty Negroes from the Admiral's mill, uniting with
twenty others who spoke the same language, killed a number of
Christians. They fled and nine leagues away they killed another Spaniard
and sacked a house. One Negro, assisted by twelve Indian slaves, also
killed nine other Christians. After much trouble the Negroes were
apprehended and several of them hanged. It was about 1526 that Negroes
were first introduced within the present limits of the United States,
being brought to a colony near what later became Jamestown, Va. Here the
Negroes were harshly treated and in course of time they rose against
their oppressors and fired their houses. The settlement was broken up,
and the Negroes and their Spanish companions returned to Hispaniola,
whence they had come. In 1540, in Quivira, in Mexico, there was a
Negro who had taken holy orders; and in 1542 there were established at
Guamanga three brotherhoods of the True Cross of Spaniards, one being
for Indians and one for Negroes.

[Footnote 1: _Spain in America_, Vol. 3 in American Nation Series, p.

The outstanding instance of a Negro's heading in exploration is that of
Estevanico (or Estevanillo, or Estevan, that is, Stephen), one of the
four survivors of the ill-fated expedition of De Narvaez, who sailed
from Spain, June 17, 1527. Having returned to Spain after many years of
service in the New World, Pamfilo de Narvaez petitioned for a grant, and
accordingly the right to conquer and colonize the country between the
Rio de las Palmas, in eastern Mexico, and Florida was accorded him.[1]
His force originally consisted of six hundred soldiers and
colonists. The whole conduct of the expedition--incompetent in the
extreme--furnished one of the most appalling tragedies of early
exploration in America. The original number of men was reduced by half
by storms and hurricanes and desertions in Santo Domingo and Cuba, and
those who were left landed in April, 1528, near the entrance to Tampa
Bay, on the west coast of Florida. One disaster followed another in the
vicinity of Pensacola Bay and the mouth of the Mississippi until at
length only four men survived. These were Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca;
Andres Dorantes de Carranza, a captain of infantry; Alonzo del Castillo
Maldonado; and Estevanico, who had originally come from the west
coast of Morocco and who was a slave of Dorantes. These men had most
remarkable adventures in the years between 1528 and 1536, and as a
narrative of suffering and privation Cabeza de Vaca's _Journal_ has
hardly an equal in the annals of the continent. Both Dorantes and
Estevanico were captured, and indeed for a season or two all four men
were forced to sojourn among the Indians. They treated the sick, and
with such success did they work that their fame spread far and wide
among the tribes. Crowds followed them from place to place, showering
presents upon them. With Alonzo de Castillo, Estevanico sojourned for
a while with the Yguazes, a very savage tribe that killed its own male
children and bought those of strangers. He at length escaped from these
people and spent several months with the Avavares. He afterwards went
with De Vaca to the Maliacones, only a short distance from the Avavares,
and still later he accompanied Alonzo de Castillo in exploring the
country toward the Rio Grande. He was unexcelled as a guide who could
make his way through new territory. In 1539 he went with Fray Marcos of
Nice, the Father Provincial of the Franciscan order in New Spain, as a
guide to the Seven Cities of Cibola, the villages of the ancestors of
the present Zuni Indians in western New Mexico. Preceding Fray Marcos
by a few days and accompanied by natives who joined him on the way, he
reached Hawikuh, the southern-most of the seven towns. Here he and all
but three of his Indian followers were killed.

[Footnote 1: Frederick W. Hodge, 3, in _Spanish Explorers in the
Southern United States_, 1528-1543, in "Original Narratives of Early
American History," Scribner's, New York, 1907. Both the Narrative of
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and the Narrative of the Expedition of
Coronado, by Pedro de Castenada, are edited by Hodge, with illuminating

3. _Development of the Slave-Trade_

Portugal and Spain having demonstrated that the slave-trade was
profitable, England also determined to engage in the traffic; and as
early as 1530 William Hawkins, a merchant of Plymouth, visited the
Guinea Coast and took away a few slaves. England really entered the
field, however, with the voyage in 1562 of Captain John Hawkins, son of
William, who in October of this year also went to the coast of Guinea.
He had a fleet of three ships and one hundred men, and partly by the
sword and partly by other means he took three hundred or more Negroes,
whom he took to Santo Domingo and sold profitably.[1] He was richly
laden going homeward and some of his stores were seized by Spanish
vessels. Hawkins made two other voyages, one in 1564, and another,
with Drake, in 1567. On his second voyage he had four armed ships, the
largest being the _Jesus_, a vessel of seven hundred tons, and a force
of one hundred and seventy men. December and January (1564-5) he spent
in picking up freight, and by sickness and fights with the Negroes he
lost many of his men. Then at the end of January he set out for the
West Indies. He was becalmed for twenty-one days, but he arrived at the
Island of Dominica March 9. He traded along the Spanish coasts and on
his return to England he touched at various points in the West Indies
and sailed along the coast of Florida. On his third voyage he had five
ships. He himself was again in command of the _Jesus_, while Drake
was in charge of the _Judith_, a little vessel of fifty tons. He got
together between four and five hundred Negroes and again went to
Dominica. He had various adventures and at last was thrown by a storm on
the coast of Mexico. Here after three days he was attacked by a Spanish
fleet of twelve vessels, and all of his ships were destroyed except the
_Judith_ and another small vessel, the _Minion_, which was so crowded
that one hundred men risked the dangers on land rather than go to
sea with her. On this last voyage Hawkins and Drake had among their
companions the Earls of Pembroke and Leicester, who were then, like
other young Elizabethans, seeking fame and fortune. It is noteworthy
that in all that he did Hawkins seems to have had no sense of cruelty or
wrong. He held religious services morning and evening, and in the spirit
of the later Cromwell he enjoined upon his men to "serve God daily, love
one another, preserve their victuals, beware of fire, and keep good
company." Queen Elizabeth evidently regarded the opening of the
slave-trade as a worthy achievement, for after his second voyage she
made Hawkins a knight, giving him for a crest the device of a Negro's
head and bust with the arms securely bound.

[Footnote 1: Edward E. Hale in Justin Winsor's _Narrative and Critical
History of America_, III, 60.]

France joined in the traffic in 1624, and then Holland and Denmark, and
the rivalry soon became intense. England, with her usual aggressiveness,
assumed a commanding position, and, much more than has commonly been
supposed, the Navigation Ordinance of 1651 and the two wars with the
Dutch in the seventeenth century had as their basis the struggle for
supremacy in the slave-trade. The English trade proper began with the
granting of rights to special companies, to one in 1618, to another in
1631, and in 1662 to the "Company of Royal Adventurers," rechartered
in 1672 as the "Royal African Company," to which in 1687 was given the
exclusive right to trade between the Gold Coast and the British colonies
in America. James, Duke of York, was interested in this last company,
and it agreed to supply the West Indies with three thousand slaves
annually. In 1698, on account of the incessant clamor of English
merchants, the trade was opened generally, and any vessel carrying the
British flag was by act of Parliament permitted to engage in it on
payment of a duty of 10 per cent on English goods exported to Africa.
New England immediately engaged in the traffic, and vessels from Boston
and Newport went forth to the Gold Coast laden with hogsheads of rum. In
course of time there developed a three-cornered trade by which molasses
was brought from the West Indies to New England, made into rum to be
taken to Africa and exchanged for slaves, the slaves in turn being
brought to the West Indies or the Southern colonies.[1] A slave
purchased for one hundred gallons of rum worth L10 brought from L20 to
L50 when offered for sale in America.[2] Newport soon had twenty-two
still houses, and even these could not satisfy the demand. England
regarded the slave-trade as of such importance that when in 1713 she
accepted the Peace of Utrecht she insisted on having awarded to her for
thirty years the exclusive right to transport slaves to the Spanish
colonies in America. When in the course of the eighteenth century the
trade became fully developed, scores of vessels went forth each year
to engage in it; but just how many slaves were brought to the present
United States and how many were taken to the West Indies or South
America, it is impossible to say. In 1726 the three cities of London,
Bristol, and Liverpool alone had 171 ships engaged in the traffic, and
the profits were said to warrant a thousand more, though such a number
was probably never reached so far as England alone was concerned.[3]

[Footnote 1: Bogart: _Economic History_, 72.]

[Footnote 2: Coman: _Industrial History_, 78.]

[Footnote 3: Ballagh: _Slavery in Virginia, 12_.]

4. _Planting of Slavery in the Colonies_

It is only for Virginia that we can state with definiteness the year
in which Negro slaves were first brought to an English colony on the
mainland. When legislation on the subject of slavery first appears
elsewhere, slaves are already present. "About the last of August
(1619)," says John Rolfe in John Smith's _Generall Historie_, "came in a
Dutch man of warre, that sold us twenty Negars." These Negroes were
sold into servitude, and Virginia did not give statutory recognition to
slavery as a system until 1661, the importations being too small to make
the matter one of importance. In this year, however, an act of assembly
stated that Negroes were "incapable of making satisfaction for the time
lost in running away by addition of time"; [1] and thus slavery gained a
firm place in the oldest of the colonies.

[Footnote 1: Hening: _Statutes_, II, _26_.]

Negroes were first imported into Massachusetts from Barbadoes a year or
two before 1638, but in John Winthrop's _Journal_, under date February
26 of this year, we have positive evidence on the subject as follows:
"Mr. Pierce in the Salem ship, the _Desire_, returned from the West
Indies after seven months. He had been at Providence, and brought some
cotton, and tobacco, and Negroes, etc., from thence, and salt from
Tertugos. Dry fish and strong liquors are the only commodities for those
parts. He met there two men-of-war, sent forth by the lords, etc., of
Providence with letters of mart, who had taken divers prizes from the
Spaniard and many Negroes." It was in 1641 that there was passed in
Massachusetts the first act on the subject of slavery, and this was the
first positive statement in any of the colonies with reference to
the matter. Said this act: "There shall never be any bond slavery,
villeinage, nor captivity among us, unless it be lawful captives, taken
in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are
sold to us, and these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages
which the law of God established in Israel requires." This article
clearly sanctioned slavery. Of the three classes of persons referred to,
the first was made up of Indians, the second of white people under the
system of indenture, and the third of Negroes. In this whole matter, as
in many others, Massachusetts moved in advance of the other colonies.
The first definitely to legalize slavery, in course of time she became
also the foremost representative of sentiment against the system. In
1646 one John Smith brought home two Negroes from the Guinea Coast,
where we are told he "had been the means of killing near a hundred
more." The General Court, "conceiving themselves bound by the first
opportunity to bear witness against the heinous and crying sin of
man-stealing," ordered that the Negroes be sent at public expense to
their native country.[1] In later cases, however, Massachusetts did not
find herself able to follow this precedent. In general in these early
years New England was more concerned about Indians than about Negroes,
as the presence of the former in large numbers was a constant menace,
while Negro slavery had not yet assumed its most serious aspects.

[Footnote 1: Coffin: _Slave Insurrections_, 8.]

In New York slavery began under the Dutch rule and continued under the
English. Before or about 1650 the Dutch West India Company brought some
Negroes to New Netherland. Most of these continued to belong to the
company, though after a period of labor (under the common system of
indenture) some of the more trusty were permitted to have small farms,
from the produce of which they made return to the company. Their
children, however, continued to be slaves. In 1664 New Netherland became
New York. The next year, in the code of English laws that was drawn
up, it was enacted that "no Christian shall be kept in bond slavery,
villeinage, or captivity, except who shall be judged thereunto by
authority, or such as willingly have sold or shall sell themselves." As
at first there was some hesitancy about making Negroes Christians, this
act, like the one in Massachusetts, by implication permitted slavery.

It was in 1632 that the grant including what is now the states of
Maryland and Delaware was made to George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore.
Though slaves are mentioned earlier, it was in 1663-4 that the Maryland
Legislature passed its first enactment on the subject of slavery. It was
declared that "all Negroes and other slaves within this province, and
all Negroes and other slaves to be hereinafter imported into this
province, shall serve during life; and all children born of any Negro
or other slave, shall be slaves as their fathers were, for the term of
their lives."

In Delaware and New Jersey the real beginnings of slavery are unusually
hazy. The Dutch introduced the system in both of these colonies. In the
laws of New Jersey the word _slaves_ occurs as early as 1664, and acts
for the regulation of the conduct of those in bondage began with the
practical union of the colony with New York in 1702. The lot of the
slave was somewhat better here than in most of the colonies. Although
the system was in existence in Delaware almost from the beginning of the
colony, it did not receive legal recognition until 1721, when there was
passed an act providing for the trial of slaves in a special court with
two justices and six freeholders.

As early as 1639 there are incidental reference to Negroes in
Pennsylvania, and there are frequent references after this date.[1] In
this colony there were strong objections to the importing of Negroes in
spite of the demand for them. Penn in his charter to the Free Society of
Traders in 1682 enjoined upon the members of this company that if they
held black slaves these should be free at the end of fourteen years,
the Negroes then to become the company's tenants.[2] In 1688 there
originated in Germantown a protest against Negro slavery that was "the
first formal action ever taken against the barter in human flesh within
the boundaries of the United States." [3] Here a small company of
Germans was assembled April 18, 1688, and there was drawn up a document
signed by Garret Hendericks, Franz Daniel Pastorius, Dirck Op den
Graeff, and Abraham Op den Graeff. The protest was addressed to the
monthly meeting of the Quakers about to take place in Lower Dublin.
The monthly meeting on April 30 felt that it could not pretend to take
action on such an important matter and referred it to the quarterly
meeting in June. This in turn passed it on to the yearly meeting, the
highest tribunal of the Quakers. Here it was laid on the table, and
for the next few years nothing resulted from it. About 1696, however,
opposition to slavery on the part of the Quakers began to be active. In
the colony at large before 1700 the lot of the Negro was regularly
one of servitude. Laws were made for servants, white or black, and
regulations and restrictions were largely identical. In 1700, however,
legislation began more definitely to fix the status of the slave. In
this year an act of the legislature forbade the selling of Negroes out
of the province without their consent, but in other ways it denied the
personality of the slave. This act met further formal approval in 1705,
when special courts were ordained for the trial and punishment of
slaves, and when importation from Carolina was forbidden on the ground
that it made trouble with the Indians nearer home. In 1700 a maximum
duty of 20s. was placed on each Negro imported, and in 1705 this was
doubled, there being already some competition with white labor. In 1712
the Assembly sought to prevent importation altogether by a duty of L20
a head. This act was repealed in England, and a duty of L5 in 1715 was
also repealed. In 1729, however, the duty was fixed at L2, at which
figure it remained for a generation.

[Footnote 1: Turner: _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, 1.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., 21.]

[Footnote 3: Faust: _The German Element in the United States_, Boston,
1909, I, 45.]

It was almost by accident that slavery was officially recognized in
Connecticut in 1650. The code of laws compiled for the colony in this
year was especially harsh on the Indians. It was enacted that certain of
them who incurred the displeasure of the colony might be made to serve
the person injured or "be shipped out and exchanged for Negroes." In
1680 the governor of the colony informed the Board of Trade that "as for
blacks there came sometimes three or four in a year from Barbadoes, and
they are usually sold at the rate of L22 apiece." These people were
regarded rather as servants than as slaves, and early legislation was
mainly in the line of police regulations designed to prevent their
running away.

In 1652 it was enacted in Rhode Island that all slaves brought into the
colony should be set free after ten years of service. This law was not
designed, as might be supposed, to restrict slavery. It was really a
step in the evolution of the system, and the limit of ten years was by
no means observed. "The only legal recognition of the law was in the
series of acts beginning January 4, 1703, to control the wandering of
African slaves and servants, and another beginning in April, 1708, in
which the slave-trade was indirectly legalized by being taxed."[1] "In
course of time Rhode Island became the greatest slave-trader in the
country, becoming a sort of clearing-house for the other colonies."[2]

[Footnote 1: William T. Alexander: History of the Colored Race in
America, New Orleans, 1887, p. 136.]

[Footnote 2: DuBois: Suppression of the Slave-Trade, 34.]

New Hampshire, profiting by the experience of the neighboring colony of
Massachusetts, deemed it best from the beginning to discourage
slavery. There were so few Negroes in the colony as to form a quantity
practically negligible. The system was recognized, however, an act being
passed in 1714 to regulate the conduct of slaves, and another four years
later to regulate that of masters.

In North Carolina, even more than in most of the colonies, the system
of Negro slavery was long controlled by custom rather than by legal
enactment. It was recognized by law in 1715, however, and police
regulations to govern the slaves were enacted. In South Carolina the
history of slavery is particularly noteworthy. The natural resources
of this colony offered a ready home for the system, and the laws here
formulated were as explicit as any ever enacted. Slaves were first
imported from Barbadoes, and their status received official confirmation
in 1682. By 1720 the number had increased to 12,000, the white people
numbering only 9,000. By 1698 such was the fear from the preponderance
of the Negro population that a special act was passed to encourage white
immigration. Legislation "for the better ordering of slaves" was passed
in 1690, and in 1712 the first regular slave law was enacted. Once
before 1713, the year of the Assiento Contract of the Peace of Utrecht,
and several times after this date, prohibitive duties were placed on
Negroes to guard against their too rapid increase. By 1734, however,
importation had again reached large proportions; and in 1740, in
consequence of recent insurrectionary efforts, a prohibitive duty
several times larger than the previous one was placed upon Negroes
brought into the province.

The colony of Georgia was chartered in 1732 and actually founded the
next year. Oglethorpe's idea was that the colony should be a refuge for
persecuted Christians and the debtor classes of England. Slavery was
forbidden on the ground that Georgia was to defend the other English
colonies from the Spaniards on the South, and that it would not be able
to do this if like South Carolina it dissipated its energies in guarding
Negro slaves. For years the development of Georgia was slow, and the
prosperous condition of South Carolina constantly suggested to the
planters that "the one thing needful" for their highest welfare was
slavery. Again and again were petitions addressed to the trustees,
George Whitefield being among those who most urgently advocated the
innovation. Moreover, Negroes from South Carolina were sometimes hired
for life, and purchases were openly made in Savannah. It was not until
1749, however, that the trustees yielded to the request. In 1755 the
legislature passed an act that regulated the conduct of the slaves, and
in 1765 a more regular code was adopted. Thus did slavery finally gain a
foothold in what was destined to become one of the most important of the
Southern states.

For the first fifty or sixty years of the life of the colonies the
introduction of Negroes was slow; the system of white servitude
furnished most of the labor needed, and England had not yet won
supremacy in the slave-trade. It was in the last quarter of the
seventeenth century that importations began to be large, and in the
course of the eighteenth century the numbers grew by leaps and bounds.
In 1625, six years after the first Negroes were brought to the colony,
there were in Virginia only 23 Negroes, 12 male, 11 female. [1] In 1659
there were 300; but in 1683 there were 3,000 and in 1708, 12,000. In
1680 Governor Simon Bradstreet reported to England with reference to
Massachusetts that "no company of blacks or slaves" had been brought
into the province since its beginning, for the space of fifty years,
with the exception of a small vessel that two years previously, after a
twenty months' voyage to Madagascar, had brought hither between forty
and fifty Negroes, mainly women and children, who were sold for L10,
L15, and L20 apiece; occasionally two or three Negroes were brought from
Barbadoes or other islands, and altogether there were in Massachusetts
at the time not more than 100 or 120.

[Footnote 1: _Virginia Magazine of History_, VII, 364.]

The colonists were at first largely opposed to the introduction of
slavery, and numerous acts were passed prohibiting it in Virginia,
Massachusetts, and elsewhere; and in Georgia, as we have seen, it had at
first been expressly forbidden. English business men, however, had no
scruples about the matter. About 1663 a British Committee on
Foreign Plantations declared that "black slaves are the most useful
appurtenances of a plantation," [1] and twenty years later the Lords
Commissioners of Trade stated that "the colonists could not possibly
subsist" without an adequate supply of slaves. Laws passed in the
colonies were regularly disallowed by the crown, and royal governors
were warned that the colonists would not be permitted to "discourage a
traffic so beneficial to the nation." Before 1772 Virginia passed not
less than thirty-three acts looking toward the prohibition of the
importation of slaves, but in every instance the act was annulled by
England. In the far South, especially in South Carolina, we have seen
that there were increasingly heavy duties. In spite of all such efforts
for restriction, however, the system of Negro slavery, once well
started, developed apace.

[Footnote 1: Bogart: _Economic History_, 73.]

In two colonies not among the original thirteen but important in the
later history of the United States, Negroes were present at a very early
date, in the Spanish colony of Florida from the very first, and in the
French colony of Louisiana as soon as New Orleans really began to grow.
Negroes accompanied the Spaniards in their voyages along the South
Atlantic coast early in the sixteenth century, and specially trained
Spanish slaves assisted in the founding of St. Augustine in 1565. The
ambitious schemes in France of the great adventurer, John Law, and
especially the design of the Mississippi Company (chartered 1717)
included an agreement for the importation into Louisiana of six thousand
white persons and three thousand Negroes, the Company having secured
among other privileges the exclusive right to trade with the colony for
twenty-five years and the absolute ownership of all mines in it. The
sufferings of some of the white emigrants from France--the kidnapping,
the revenge, and the chicanery that played so large a part--all make
a story complete in itself. As for the Negroes, it was definitely
stipulated that these should not come from another French colony without
the consent of the governor of that colony. The contract had only begun
to be carried out when Law's bubble burst. However, in June, 1721, there
were 600 Negroes in Louisiana; in 1745 the number had increased to
2020. The stories connected with these people are as tragic and wildly
romantic as are most of the stories in the history of Louisiana. In
fact, this colony from the very first owed not a little of its abandon
and its fascination to the mysticism that the Negroes themselves brought
from Africa. In the midst of much that is apocryphal one or two events
or episodes stand out with distinctness. In 1729, Perier, governor at
the time, testified with reference to a small company of Negroes who
had been sent against the Indians as follows: "Fifteen Negroes in whose
hands we had put weapons, performed prodigies of valor. If the blacks
did not cost so much, and if their labors were not so necessary to the
colony, it would be better to turn them into soldiers, and to dismiss
those we have, who are so bad and so cowardly that they seem to have
been manufactured purposely for this colony[1]." Not always, however,
did the Negroes fight against the Indians. In 1730 some representatives
of the powerful Banbaras had an understanding with the Chickasaws by
which the latter were to help them in exterminating all the white people
and in setting up an independent republic[2]. They were led by a strong
and desperate Negro named Samba. As a result of this effort for freedom
Samba and seven of his companions were broken on the wheel and a woman
was hanged. Already, however, there had been given the suggestion of the
possible alliance in the future of the Indian and the Negro. From the
very first also, because of the freedom from restraint of all the
elements of population that entered into the life of the colony, there
was the beginning of that mixture of the races which was later to tell
so vitally on the social life of Louisiana and whose effects are so
readily apparent even to-day.

[Footnote 1: Gayarre: _History of Louisiana_, I, 435.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., I, 440.]

5. The Wake of the Slave-Ship

Thus it was that Negroes came to America. Thus it was also, we might
say, that the Negro Problem came, though it was not for decades, not
until the budding years of American nationality, that the ultimate
reaches of the problem were realized. Those who came were by no means
all of exactly the same race stock and language. Plantations frequently
exhibited a variety of customs, and sometimes traditional enemies became
brothers in servitude. The center of the colonial slave-trade was the
African coast for about two hundred miles east of the great Niger River.
From this comparatively small region came as many slaves as from all the
rest of Africa together. A number of those who came were of entirely
different race stock from the Negroes; some were Moors, and a very few
were Malays from Madagascar.

The actual procuring of the slaves was by no means as easy a process as
is sometimes supposed. In general the slave mart brought out the most
vicious passions of all who were in any way connected with the traffic.
The captain of a vessel had to resort to various expedients to get his
cargo. His commonest method was to bring with him a variety of gay
cloth, cheap ornaments, and whiskey, which he would give in exchange for
slaves brought to him. His task was most simple when a chieftain of
one tribe brought to him several hundred prisoners of war. Ordinarily,
however, the work was more toilsome, and kidnapping a favorite method,
though individuals were sometimes enticed on vessels. The work was
always dangerous, for the natives along the slave-coast soon became
suspicious. After they had seen some of their tribesmen taken away, they
learned not to go unarmed while a slave-vessel was on the coast, and
very often there were hand-to-hand encounters. It was not long before it
began to be impressed upon those interested in the trade that it was not
good business to place upon the captain of a vessel the responsibility
of getting together three or four hundred slaves, and that it would be
better if he could find his cargo waiting for him when he came. Thus
arose the so-called factories, which were nothing more than warehouses.
Along the coast were placed small settlements of Europeans, whose
business it was to stimulate slave-hunting expeditions, negotiate for
slaves brought in, and see that they were kept until the arrival of the
ships. Practically every nation engaged in the traffic planted factories
of this kind along the West Coast from Cape Verde to the equator; and
thus it was that this part of Africa began to be the most flagrantly
exploited region in the world; thus whiskey and all the other vices of
civilization began to come to a simple and home-loving people.

Once on board the slaves were put in chains two by two. When the ship
was ready to start, the hold of the vessel was crowded with moody and
unhappy wretches who most often were made to crouch so that their knees
touched their chins, but who also were frequently made to lie on their
sides "spoon-fashion." Sometimes the space between floor and ceiling
was still further diminished by the water-barrels; on the top of these
barrels boards were placed, on the boards the slaves had to lie, and
in the little space that remained they had to subsist as well as they
could. There was generally only one entrance to the hold, and provision
for only the smallest amount of air through the gratings on the sides.
The clothing of a captive, if there was any at all, consisted of only
a rag about the loins. The food was half-rotten rice, yams, beans, or
soup, and sometimes bread and meat; the cooking was not good, nor was
any care taken to see that all were fed. Water was always limited, a
pint a day being a generous allowance; frequently no more than a gill
could be had. The rule was to bring the slaves from the hold twice a
day for an airing, about eight o'clock in the morning and four in the
afternoon; but this plan was not always followed. On deck they were made
to dance by the lash, and they were also forced to sing. Thus were born
the sorrow-songs, the last cry of those who saw their homeland vanish
behind them--forever.

Sometimes there were stern fights on board. Sometimes food was refused
in order that death might be hastened. When opportunity served, some
leaped overboard in the hope of being taken back to Africa. Throughout
the night the hold resounded with the moans of those who awoke from
dreams of home to find themselves in bonds. Women became hysterical, and
both men and women became insane. Fearful and contagious diseases broke
out. Smallpox was one of these. More common was ophthalmia, a frightful
inflammation of the eyes. A blind, and hence a worthless, slave was
thrown to the sharks. The putrid atmosphere, the melancholy, and the
sudden transition from heat to cold greatly increased the mortality,
and frequently when morning came a dead and a living slave were found
shackled together. A captain always counted on losing one-fourth of his
cargo. Sometimes he lost a great deal more.

Back on the shore a gray figure with strained gaze watched the ship fade
away--an old woman sadly typical of the great African mother. With her
vision she better than any one else perceived the meaning of it all. The
men with hard faces who came to buy and sell might deceive others, but
not her. In a great vague way she felt that something wrong had attacked
the very heart of her people. She saw men wild with the whiskey of the
Christian nations commit crimes undreamed of before. She did not like
the coast towns; the girl who went thither came not home again, and a
young man was lost to all that Africa held dear. In course of time she
saw every native craft despised, and instead of the fabric that her own
fingers wove her children yearned for the tinsel and the gewgaws of the
trader. She cursed this man, and she called upon all her spirits
to banish the evil. But when at last all was of no avail--when the
strongest youth or the dearest maiden had gone--she went back to her hut
and ate her heart out in the darkness. She wept for her children and
would not be comforted because they were not. Then slowly to the
untutored mind somehow came the promise: "These are they which came out
of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in
the blood of the Lamb.... They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any
more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb
which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them
unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from
their eyes."



The Negroes who were brought from Africa to America were brought hither
to work, and to work under compulsion; hence any study of their social
life in the colonial era must be primarily a study of their life under
the system of slavery, and of the efforts of individuals to break away
from the same.

1. _Servitude and Slavery_

For the antecedents of Negro slavery in America one must go back to the
system of indentured labor known as servitude. This has been defined
as "a legalized status of Indian, white, and Negro servants preceding
slavery in most, if not all, of the English mainland colonies."[1] A
study of servitude will explain many of the acts with reference to
Negroes, especially those about intermarriage with white people. For the
origins of the system one must go back to social conditions in England
in the seventeenth century. While villeinage had been formally abolished
in England at the middle of the fourteenth century, it still lingered in
remote places, and even if men were not technically villeins they might
be subjected to long periods of service. By the middle of the fifteenth
century the demand for wool had led to the enclosure of many farms
for sheep-raising, and accordingly to distress on the part of many
agricultural laborers. Conditions were not improved early in the
sixteenth century, and they were in fact made more acute, the abolition
of the monasteries doing away with many of the sources of relief. Men
out of work were thrown upon the highways and thus became a menace to
society. In 1564 the price of wheat was 19s. a quarter and wages were
7d. a day. The situation steadily grew worse, and in 1610, while wages
were still the same, wheat was 35s. a quarter. Rents were constantly
rising, moreover, and many persons died from starvation. In the course
of the seventeenth century paupers and dissolute persons more and more
filled the jails and workhouses.

[Footnote 1: _New International Encyclopaedia_, Article "Slavery."]

Meanwhile in the young colonies across the sea labor was scarce, and it
seemed to many an act of benevolence to bring from England persons who
could not possibly make a living at home and give them some chance in
the New World. From the very first, children, and especially young
people between the ages of twelve and twenty, were the most desired. The
London Company undertook to meet half of the cost of the transportation
and maintenance of children sent out by parish authorities, the
understanding being that it would have the service of the same until
they were of age.[1] The Company was to teach each boy a trade and when
his freedom year arrived was to give to each one fifty acres, a cow,
some seed corn, tools, and firearms. He then became the Company's
tenant, for seven years more giving to it one-half of his produce, at
the end of which time he came into full possession of twenty-five acres.
After the Company collapsed individuals took up the idea. Children under
twelve years of age might be bound for seven years, and persons over
twenty-one for no more than four; but the common term was five years.

[Footnote 1: Coman: _Industrial History_, 42.]

Under this system fell servants voluntary and involuntary. Hundreds of
people, too poor to pay for their transportation, sold themselves for
a number of years to pay for the transfer. Some who were known as
"freewillers" had some days in which to dispose of themselves to the
best advantage in America; if they could not make satisfactory terms,
they too were sold to pay for the passage. More important from the
standpoint of the system itself, however, was the number of involuntary
servants brought hither. Political offenders, vagrants, and other
criminals were thus sent to the colonies, and many persons, especially
boys and girls, were kidnapped in the streets of London and "spirited"
away. Thus came Irishmen or Scotchmen who had incurred the ire of the
crown, Cavaliers or Roundheads according as one party or the other was
out of power, and farmers who had engaged in Monmouth's rebellion; and
in the year 1680 alone it was estimated that not less than ten thousand
persons were "spirited" away from England. It is easy to see how such
a system became a highly profitable one for shipmasters and those in
connivance with them. Virginia objected to the criminals, and in 1671
the House of Burgesses passed a law against the importing of such
persons, and the same was approved by the governor. Seven years later,
however, it was set aside for the transportation of political offenders.

As having the status of an apprentice the servant could sue in court and
he was regularly allowed "freedom dues" at the expiration of his term.
He could not vote, however, could not bear weapons, and of course
could not hold office. In some cases, especially where the system was
voluntary, servants sustained kindly relations with their masters, a few
even becoming secretaries or tutors. More commonly, however, the lot of
the indentured laborer was a hard one, his food often being only coarse
Indian meal, and water mixed with molasses. The moral effect of the
system was bad in the fate to which it subjected woman and in the
evils resulting from the sale of the labor of children. In this whole
connection, however, it is to be remembered that the standards of the
day were very different from those of our own. The modern humanitarian
impulse had not yet moved the heart of England, and flogging was still
common for soldiers and sailors, criminals and children alike.

The first Negroes brought to the colonies were technically servants, and
generally as Negro slavery advanced white servitude declined. James II,
in fact, did whatever he could to hasten the end of servitude in order
that slavery might become more profitable. Economic forces were with
him, for while a slave varied in price from L10 to L50, the mere cost
of transporting a servant was from L6 to L10. "Servitude became slavery
when to such incidents as alienation, disfranchisement, whipping, and
limited marriage were added those of perpetual service and a denial of
civil, juridical, marital and property rights as well as the denial of
the possession of children."[1] Even after slavery was well established,
however, white men and women were frequently retained as domestic
servants, and the system of servitude did not finally pass in all of its
phases before the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

[Footnote 1: _New International Encyclopaedia_, Article "Slavery."]

Negro slavery was thus distinctively an evolution. As the first Negroes
were taken by pirates, the rights of ownership could not legally be
given to those who purchased them; hence slavery by custom preceded
slavery by statute. Little by little the colonies drifted into the
sterner system. The transition was marked by such an act as that in
Rhode Island, which in 1652 permitted a Negro to be bound for ten years.
We have already referred to the Act of Assembly in Virginia in 1661 to
the effect that Negroes were incapable of making satisfaction for time
lost in running away by addition of time. Even before it had become
generally enacted or understood in the colonies, however, that a child
born of slave parents should serve for life, a new question had arisen,
that of the issue of a free person and a slave. This led Virginia in
1662 to lead the way with an act declaring that the status of a child
should be determined by that of the mother,[1] which act both gave to
slavery the sanction of law and made it hereditary. From this time
forth Virginia took a commanding lead in legislation; and it is to be
remembered that when we refer to this province we by no means have
reference to the comparatively small state of to-day, but to the richest
and most populous of the colonies. This position Virginia maintained
until after the Revolutionary War, and not only the present West
Virginia but the great Northwest Territory were included in her domain.

[Footnote 1: Hening: _Statutes_, II, 170.]

The slave had none of the ordinary rights of citizenship; in a criminal
case he could be arrested, tried, and condemned with but one witness
against him, and he could be sentenced without a jury. In Virginia
in 1630 one Hugh Davis was ordered to be "soundly whipped before an
assembly of Negroes and others, for abusing himself to the dishonor of
God and the shame of Christians, by defiling his body in lying with a
Negro."[1] Just ten years afterwards, in 1640, one Robert Sweet was
ordered "to do penance in church, according to the laws of England, for
getting a Negro woman with child, and the woman to be whipped."[2] Thus
from the very beginning the intermixture of the races was frowned upon
and went on all the same. By the time, moreover, that the important acts
of 1661 and 1662 had formally sanctioned slavery, doubt had arisen
in the minds of some Virginians as to whether one Christian could
legitimately hold another in bondage; and in 1667 it was definitely
stated that the conferring of baptism did not alter the condition of a
person as to his bondage or freedom, so that masters, freed from
this doubt, could now "more carefully endeavor the propagation of
Christianity." In 1669 an "act about the casual killing of slaves"
provided that if any slave resisted his master and under the extremity
of punishment chanced to die, his death was not to be considered a
felony and the master was to be acquitted. In 1670 it was made clear
that none but freeholders and housekeepers should vote in the election
of burgesses, and in the same year provision was taken against the
possible ownership of a white servant by a free Negro, who nevertheless
"was not debarred from buying any of his own nation." In 1692 there
was legislation "for the more speedy prosecution of slaves committing
capital crimes"; and this was reenacted in 1705, when some provision was
made for the compensation of owners and when it was further declared
that Negro, mulatto, and Indian slaves within the dominion were "real
estate" and "incapable in law to be witnesses in any cases whatsoever";
and in 1723 there was an elaborate and detailed act "directing the
trial of slaves committing capital crimes, and for the more effectual
punishing conspiracies and insurrections of them, and for the better
government of Negroes, mulattoes, and Indians, bond or free." This
last act specifically stated that no slave should be set free upon
any pretense whatsoever "except for some meritorious services, to be
adjudged and allowed by the governor and council." All this legislation
was soon found to be too drastic and too difficult to enforce, and
modification was inevitable. This came in 1732, when it was made
possible for a slave to be a witness when another slave was on trial
for a capital offense, and in 1744 this provision was extended to civil
cases as well. In 1748 there was a general revision of all existing
legislation, with special provision against attempted insurrections.

[Footnote 1: Hening: _Statutes_, I, 146.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., I, 552.]

Thus did Virginia pave the way, and more and more slave codes took on
some degree of definiteness and uniformity. Very important was the
act of 1705, which provided that a slave might be inventoried as real
estate. As property henceforth there was nothing to prevent his being
separated from his family. Before the law he was no longer a person but
a thing.

2. 737 _The Indian, the Mulatto, and the Free Negro_

All along, it is to be observed, the problem of the Negro was
complicated by that of the Indian. At first there was a feeling that
Indians were to be treated not as Negroes but as on the same basis as
Englishmen. An act in Virginia of 1661-2 summed up this feeling in the
provision that they were not to be sold as servants for any longer time
than English people of the same age, and injuries done to them were to
be duly remedied by the laws of England. About the same time a Powhatan
Indian sold for life was ordered to be set free. An interesting
enactment of 1670 attempted to give the Indian an intermediate status
between that of the Englishman and the Negro slave, as "servants not
being Christians, imported into the colony by shipping" (i.e., Negroes)
were to be slaves for their lives, but those that came by land were to
serve "if boys or girls until thirty years of age; if men or women,
twelve years and no longer." All such legislation, however, was
radically changed as a result of Nathaniel Bacon's rebellion of 1676, in
which the aid of the natives was invoked against the English governor.
Henceforth Indians taken in war became the slaves for life of their
captors. An elaborate act of 1682 summed up the new status, and Indians
sold by other Indians were to be "adjudged, deemed, and taken to be
slaves, to all intents and purposes, any law, usage, or custom to the
contrary notwithstanding." Indian women were to be "tithables,"[1] and
they were required to pay levies just as Negro women. From this time
forth enactments generally included Indians along with Negroes, but of
course the laws placed on the statute books did not always bear close
relation to what was actually enforced, and in general the Indian was
destined to be a vanishing rather than a growing problem. Very early in
the eighteenth century, in connection with the wars between the English
and the Spanish in Florida, hundreds of Indians were shipped to the West
Indies and some to New England. Massachusetts in 1712 prohibited
such importation, as the Indians were "malicious, surly, and very
ungovernable," and she was followed to similar effect by Pennsylvania in
1712, by New Hampshire in 1714, and by Connecticut and Rhode Island in

[Footnote 1: Hurd, commenting on an act of 1649 declaring all imported
male servants to be tithables, speaks as follows (230): "_Tithables_
were persons assessed for a poll-tax, otherwise called the 'county
levies.' At first, only free white persons were tithable. The law of
1645 provided for a tax on property and tithable persons. By 1648
property was released and taxes levied only on the tithables, at
a specified poll-tax. Therefore by classing servants or slaves as
tithables, the law attributes to them legal personality, or a membership
in the social state inconsistent with the condition of a chattel or

If the Indian was destined to be a vanishing factor, the mulatto and the
free Negro most certainly were not. In spite of all the laws to prevent
it, the intermixture of the races increased, and manumission somehow
also increased. Sometimes a master in his will provided that several of
his slaves should be given their freedom. Occasionally a slave became
free by reason of what was regarded as an act of service to the
commonwealth, as in the case of one Will, slave belonging to Robert
Ruffin, of the county of Surry in Virginia, who in 1710 divulged a
conspiracy.[1] There is, moreover, on record a case of an indentured
Negro servant, John Geaween, who by his unusual thrift in the matter of
some hogs which he raised on the share system with his master, was able
as early as 1641 to purchase his own son from another master, to the
perfect satisfaction of all concerned.[2] Of special importance for
some years were those persons who were descendants of Negro fathers and
indentured white mothers, and who at first were of course legally free.
By 1691 the problem had become acute in Virginia. In this year "for
prevention of that abominable mixture and spurious issue, which
hereafter may increase in this dominion, as well by Negroes, mulattoes
and Indians intermarrying with English or other white women, as by their
unlawful accompanying with one another," it was enacted that "for the
time to come whatsoever English or other white man or woman being free
shall intermarry with a Negro, mulatto, or Indian man or woman, bond
or free, shall within three months after such marriage be banished
and removed from this dominion forever, and that the justices of each
respective county within this dominion make it their particular care
that this act be put in effectual execution."[3] A white woman who
became the mother of a child by a Negro or mulatto was to be fined L15
sterling, in default of payment was to be sold for five years, while the
child was to be bound in servitude to the church wardens until thirty
years of age. It was further provided that if any Negro or mulatto was
set free, he was to be transported from the country within six months
of his manumission (which enactment is typical of those that it was
difficult to enforce and that after a while were only irregularly
observed). In 1705 it was enacted that no "Negro, mulatto, or Indian
shall from and after the publication of this act bear any office
ecclesiastical, civil or military, or be in any place of public trust or
power, within this her majesty's colony and dominion of Virginia"; and
to clear any doubt that might arise as to who should be accounted a
mulatto, it was provided that "the child of an Indian, and the child,
grandchild, or great-grandchild of a Negro shall be deemed, accounted,
held, and taken to be a mulatto." It will be observed that while the act
of 1670 said that "none but freeholders and housekeepers" could vote,
this act of 1705 did not specifically legislate against voting by a
mulatto or a free Negro, and that some such privilege was exercised for
a while appears from the definite provision in 1723 that "no free Negro,
mulatto, or Indian, whatsoever, shall hereafter have any vote at the
election of burgesses, or any other election whatsoever." In the same
year it was provided that free Negroes and mulattoes might be employed
as drummers or trumpeters in servile labor, but that they were not to
bear arms; and all free Negroes above sixteen years of age were declared
tithable. In 1769, however, all free Negro and mulatto women were
exempted from levies as tithables, such levies having proved to be
burdensome and "derogatory to the rights of freeborn subjects."

[Footnote 1: Hening: _Statutes_, III, 537.]

[Footnote 2: _Virginia Magazine of History_, X, 281.]

[Footnote 3: The penalty was so ineffective that in 1705 it was changed
simply to imprisonment for six months "without bail or mainprise."]

More than other colonies Maryland seems to have been troubled about the
intermixture of the races; certainly no other phase of slavery here
received so much attention. This was due to the unusual emphasis on
white servitude in the colony. In 1663 it was enacted that any freeborn
woman intermarrying with a slave should serve the master of the slave
during the life of her husband and that any children resulting from
the union were also to be slaves. This act was evidently intended to
frighten the indentured woman from such a marriage. It had a very
different effect. Many masters, in order to prolong the indenture of
their white female servants, encouraged them to marry Negro slaves.
Accordingly a new law in 1681 threw the responsibility not on the
indentured woman but on the master or mistress; in case a marriage took
place between a white woman-servant and a slave, the woman was to be
free at once, any possible issue was to be free, and the minister
performing the ceremony and the master or mistress were to be fined ten
thousand pounds of tobacco. This did not finally dispose of the problem,
however, and in 1715, in response to a slightly different situation, it
was enacted that a white woman who became the mother of a child by a
free Negro father should become a servant for seven years, the father
also a servant for seven years, and the child a servant until thirty-one
years of age. Any white man who begot a Negro woman with child, whether
a free woman or a slave, was to undergo the same penalty as a white
woman--a provision that in course of time was notoriously disregarded.
In 1717 the problem was still unsettled, and in this year it was enacted
that Negroes or mulattoes of either sex intermarrying with white people
were to be slaves for life, except mulattoes born of white women, who
were to serve for seven years, and the white person so intermarrying
also for seven years. It is needless to say that with all these changing
and contradictory provisions many servants and Negroes did not even
know what the law was. In 1728, however, free mulatto women having
illegitimate children by Negroes and other slaves, and free Negro
women having illegitimate children by white men, and their issue, were
subjected to the same penalties as in the former act were provided
against white women. Thus vainly did the colony of Maryland struggle
with the problem of race intermixture. Generally throughout the South
the rule in the matter of the child of the Negro father and the
indentured white mother was that the child should be bound in servitude
for thirty or thirty-one years.

In the North as well as in the South the intermingling of the blood of
the races was discountenanced. In Pennsylvania as early as 1677 a white
servant was indicted for cohabiting with a Negro. In 1698 the Chester
County court laid it down as a principle that the mingling of the races
was not to be allowed. In 1722 a woman was punished for promoting a
secret marriage between a white woman and a Negro; a little later the
Assembly received from the inhabitants of the province a petition
inveighing against cohabiting; and in 1725-6 a law was passed positively
forbidding the mixture of the races.[1] In Massachusetts as early as
1705 and 1708 restraining acts to prevent a "spurious and mixt issue"
ordered the sale of offending Negroes and mulattoes out of the colony's
jurisdiction, and punished Christians who intermarried with them by a
fine of L50. After the Revolutionary War such marriages were declared
void and the penalty of L50 was still exacted, and not until 1843 was
this act repealed. Thus was the color-line, with its social and legal
distinctions, extended beyond the conditions of servitude and slavery,
and thus early was an important phase of the ultimate Negro Problem

[Footnote 1: Turner: _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, 29-30.]

Generally then, in the South, in the colonial period, the free Negro
could not vote, could not hold civil office, could not give testimony in
cases involving white men, and could be employed only for fatigue
duty in the militia. He could not purchase white servants, could not
intermarry with white people, and had to be very circumspect in his
relations with slaves. No deprivation of privilege, however, relieved
him of the obligation to pay taxes. Such advantages as he possessed were
mainly economic. The money gained from his labor was his own; he might
become skilled at a trade; he might buy land; he might buy slaves;[1] he
might even buy his wife and child if, as most frequently happened,
they were slaves; and he might have one gun with which to protect his
home.[2] Once in a long while he might even find some opportunity
for education, as when the church became the legal warden of Negro
apprentices. Frequently he found a place in such a trade as that of
the barber or in other personal service, and such work accounted very
largely for the fact that he was generally permitted to remain in
communities where technically he had no right to be. In the North his
situation was little better than in the South, and along economic lines
even harder. Everywhere his position was a difficult one. He was most
frequently regarded as idle and shiftless, and as a breeder of mischief;
but if he showed unusual thrift he might even be forced to leave his
home and go elsewhere. Liberty, the boon of every citizen, the free
Negro did not possess. For all the finer things of life--the things that
make life worth living--the lot that was his was only less hard than
that of the slave.

[Footnote 1: Russell: _The Free Negro in Virginia_, 32-33, cites from
the court records of Northampton County, 1651-1654 and 1655-1658, the
noteworthy case of a free negro, Anthony Johnson, who had come to
Virginia not later than 1622 and who by 1650 owned a large tract of land
on the Eastern Shore. To him belonged a Negro, John Casor. After several
years of labor Casor demanded his freedom on the ground that from the
first he had been an indentured servant and not a slave. When the case
came up in court, however, not only did Johnson win the verdict that
Casor was his slave, but he also won his suit against Robert Parker, a
white man, who he asserted had illegally detained Casor.]

[Footnote 2: Hening: _Statutes_, IV, 131.]

3. _First Effort for Social Betterment_

If now we turn aside from laws and statutes and consider the ordinary
life and social intercourse of the Negro, we shall find more than one
contradiction, for in the colonial era codes affecting slaves and free
Negroes had to grope their way to uniformity. Especially is it necessary
to distinguish between the earlier and the later years of the period,
for as early as 1760 the liberalism of the Revolutionary era began to be
felt. If we consider what was strictly the colonial epoch, we may find
it necessary to make a division about the year 1705. Before this date
the status of the Negro was complicated by the incidents of the system
of servitude; after it, however, in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and
Massachusetts alike, special discrimination against him on account of
race was given formal recognition.

By 1715 there were in Virginia 23,000 Negroes, and in all the colonies
58,850, or 14 per cent of the total population.[1] By 1756, however,
the Negroes in Virginia numbered 120,156 and the white people but
173,316.[2] Thirty-eight of the forty-nine counties had more Negro than
white tithables, and eleven of the counties had a Negro population
varying from one-fourth to one-half more than the white. A great many of
the Negroes had only recently been imported from Africa, and they were
especially baffling to their masters of course when they conversed in
their native tongues. At first only men were brought, but soon women
came also, and the treatment accorded these people varied all the way
from occasional indulgence to the utmost cruelty. The hours of work
regularly extended from sunrise to sunset, though corn-husking and
rice-beating were sometimes continued after dark, and overseers were
almost invariably ruthless, often having a share in the crops. Those who
were house-servants would go about only partially clad, and the slave
might be marked or branded like one of the lower animals; he was not
thought to have a soul, and the law sought to deprive him of all human
attributes. Holiday amusement consisted largely of the dances that the
Negroes had brought with them, these being accompanied by the beating of
drums and the blowing of horns; and funeral ceremonies featured African
mummeries. For those who were criminal offenders simple execution was
not always considered severe enough; the right hand might first be
amputated, the criminal then hanged and his head cut off, and his body
quartered and the parts suspended in public places. Sometimes the
hanging was in chains, and several instances of burning are on record.
A master was regularly reimbursed by the government for a slave legally
executed, and in 1714 there was a complaint in South Carolina that
the treasury had become almost exhausted by such reimbursements. In
Massachusetts hanging was the worst legal penalty, but the obsolete
common-law punishment was revived in 1755 to burn alive a slave-woman
who had killed her master in Cambridge.[3]

[Footnote 1: Blake: _History of Slavery and the Slave-Trade_, 378.]

[Footnote 2: Ballagh: _Slavery in Virginia_, 12.]

[Footnote 3: Edward Eggleston: "Social Conditions in the Colonies," in
_Century Magazine_, October, 1884, p. 863.]

The relations between the free Negro and the slave might well have given
cause for concern. Above what was after all only an artificial barrier
spoke the call of race and frequently of kindred. Sometimes at a later
date jealousy arose when a master employed a free Negro to work with
his slaves, the one receiving pay and the others laboring without
compensation. In general, however, the two groups worked like brothers,
each giving the other the benefit of any temporary advantage that it
possessed. Sometimes the free Negro could serve by reason of the greater
freedom of movement that he had, and if no one would employ him, or if,
as frequently happened, he was browbeaten and cheated out of the reward
of his labor, the slave might somehow see that he got something to eat.
In a state of society in which the relation of master and slave was the
rule, there was of course little place for either the free Negro or the
poor white man. When the pressure became too great the white man moved
away; the Negro, finding himself everywhere buffeted, in the colonial
era at least had little choice but to work out his salvation at home as
well as he could. More and more character told, and if a man had made
himself known for his industry and usefulness, a legislative act might
even be passed permitting him to remain in the face of a hostile law.
Even before 1700 there were in Virginia families in which both parents
were free colored persons and in which every effort was made to bring up
the children in honesty and morality. When some prosperous Negroes found
themselves able to do so, they occasionally purchased Negroes, who might
be their own children or brothers, in order to give them that protection
without which on account of recent manumission they might be required to
leave the colony in which they were born. Thus, whatever the motive, the
tie that bound the free Negro and the slave was a strong one; and in
spite of the fact that Negroes who owned slaves were generally known
as hard masters, as soon as any men of the race began to be really
prominent their best endeavor was devoted to the advancement of their
people. It was not until immediately after the Revolutionary War,
however, that leaders of vision and statesmanship began to be developed.

It was only the materialism of the eighteenth century that accounted for
the amazing development of the system of Negro slavery, and only this
that defeated the benevolence of Oglethorpe's scheme for the founding
of Georgia. As yet there was no united protest--no general movement for
freedom; and as Von Holst said long afterwards, "If the agitation had
been wholly left to the churches, it would have been long before men
could have rightly spoken of 'a slavery question.'" The Puritans,
however, were not wholly unmindful of the evil, and the Quakers were
untiring in their opposition, though it was Roger Williams who in 1637
made the first protest that appears in the colonies.[1] Both John Eliot
and Cotton Mather were somewhat generally concerned about the harsh
treatment of the Negro and the neglect of his spiritual welfare.
Somewhat more to the point was Richard Baxter, the eminent English
nonconformist, who was a contemporary of both of these men. "Remember,"
said he, in speaking of Negroes and other slaves, "that they are of as
good a kind as you; that is, they are reasonable creatures as well as
you, and born to as much natural liberty. If their sin have enslaved
them to you, yet Nature made them your equals." On the subject of
man-stealing he is even stronger: "To go as pirates and catch up poor
Negroes or people of another land, that never forfeited life or liberty,
and to make them slaves, and sell them, is one of the worst kinds of
thievery in the world." Such statements, however, were not more than the
voice of individual opinion. The principles of the Quakers carried them
far beyond the Puritans, and their history shows what might have been
accomplished if other denominations had been as sincere and as unselfish
as the Society of Friends. The Germantown protest of 1688 has already
been remarked. In 1693 George Keith, in speaking of fugitives, quoted
with telling effect the text, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master
the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee" (Deut. 23.15).
In 1696 the Yearly Meeting in Pennsylvania first took definite action
in giving as its advice "that Friends be careful not to encourage the
bringing in of any more Negroes; and that such that have Negroes, be
careful of them, bring them to meetings, have meetings with them in
their families, and restrain them from loose and lewd living as much as
in them lies, and from rambling abroad on First-days or other times."[2]
As early as 1713 the Quakers had in mind a scheme for freeing the
Negroes and returning them to Africa, and by 1715 their efforts
against importation had seriously impaired the market for slaves
in Philadelphia. Within a century after the Germantown protest the
abolition of slavery among the Quakers was practically accomplished.

[Footnote 1: For this and the references immediately following note
Locke: _Anti-Slavery in America_, 11-45.]

[Footnote 2: _Brief Statement of the Rise and Progress of the
Testimony of the Religious Society of Friends against Slavery and the
Slave-Trade_, 8.]

In the very early period there seems to have been little objection to
giving a free Negro not only religious but also secular instruction;
indeed he might be entitled to this, as in Virginia, where in 1691 the
church became the agency through which the laws of Negro apprenticeship
were carried out; thus in 1727 it was ordered that David James, a free
Negro boy, be bound to Mr. James Isdel, who was to "teach him to read
the Bible distinctly, also the trade of a gunsmith" and "carry him to
the clerk's office and take indenture to that purpose."[1] In general
the English church did a good deal to provide for the religious
instruction of the free Negro; "the reports made in 1724 to the English
bishop by the Virginia parish ministers are evidence that the few free
Negroes in the parishes were permitted to be baptized, and were received
into the church when they had been taught the catechism."[2] Among
Negroes, moreover, as well as others in the colonies the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was active. As early as 1705,
in Goose Creek Parish in South Carolina, among a population largely
recently imported from Africa, a missionary had among his communicants
twenty blacks who well understood the English tongue.[3] The most
effective work of the Society, however, was in New York, where as early
as 1704 a school was opened by Elias Neau, a Frenchman who after several
years of imprisonment because of his Protestant faith had come to New
York to try his fortune as a trader. In 1703 he had called the attention
of the Society to the Negroes who were "without God in the world, and of
whose souls there was no manner of care taken," and had suggested the
appointment of a catechist. He himself was prevailed upon to take up the
work and he accordingly resigned his position as an elder in the French
church and conformed to the Church of England. He worked with success
for a number of years, but in 1712 was embarrassed by the charge that
his school fomented the insurrection that was planned in that year. He
finally showed, however, that only one of his students was in any way
connected with the uprising.

[Footnote 1: Russell: _The Free Negro in Virginia_, 138-9.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., 138.]

[Footnote 3: C.E. Pierre, in _Journal of Negro History_, October, 1916,
p. 350.]

From slave advertisements of the eighteenth century[1] we may gain many
sidelights not only on the education of Negroes in the colonial era,
but on their environment and suffering as well. One slave "can write a
pretty good hand; plays on the fife extremely well." Another "can both
read and write and is a good fiddler." Still others speak "Dutch and
good English," "good English and High Dutch," or "Swede and English
well." Charles Thomas of Delaware bore the following remarkable
characterization: "Very black, has white teeth ... has had his left leg
broke ... speaks both French and English, and is a very great rogue."
One man who came from the West Indies "was born in Dominica and speaks
French, but very little English; he is a very ill-natured fellow and has
been much cut in his back by often whipping." A Negro named Simon who in
1740 ran away in Pennsylvania "could bleed and draw teeth pretending to
be a great doctor." Worst of all the incidents of slavery, however, was
the lack of regard for home ties, and this situation of course obtained
in the North as well as the South. In the early part of the eighteenth
century marriages in New York were by mutual consent only, without the
blessing of the church, and burial was in a common field without any
Christian office. In Massachusetts in 1710 Rev. Samuel Phillips drew up
a marriage formulary especially designed for slaves and concluding as
follows: "For you must both of you bear in mind that you remain still,
as really and truly as ever, your master's property, and therefore
it will be justly expected, both by God and man, that you behave
and conduct yourselves as obedient and faithful servants."[2] In
Massachusetts, however, as in New York, marriage was most often by
common consent simply, without the office of ministers.

[Footnote 1: See documents, "Eighteenth Century Slave Advertisements,"
_Journal of Negro History_, April, 1916, 163-216.]

[Footnote 2: Quoted from Williams: Centennial Oration, "The American
Negro from 1776 to 1876," 10.]

As yet there was no racial consciousness, no church, no business
organization, and the chief cooeperative effort was in insurrection.
Until the great chain of slavery was thrown off, little independent
effort could be put forth. Even in the state of servitude or slavery,
however, the social spirit of the race yearned to assert itself, and
such an event as a funeral was attractive primarily because of the
social features that it developed. As early as 1693 there is record of
the formation of a distinct society by Negroes. In one of his manuscript
diaries, preserved in the library of the Massachusetts Historical
Society,[1] Cotton Mather in October of this year wrote as follows:
"Besides the other praying and pious meetings which I have been
continually serving in our neighborhood, a little after this period
a company of poor Negroes, of their own accord, addressed me, for my
countenance to a design which they had, of erecting such a meeting for
the welfare of their miserable nation, that were servants among us. I
allowed their design and went one evening and prayed and preached (on
Ps. 68.31) with them; and gave them the following orders, which I insert
duly for the curiosity of the occasion." The Rules to which Mather here
refers are noteworthy as containing not one suggestion of anti-slavery
sentiment, and as portraying the altogether abject situation of the
Negro at the time he wrote; nevertheless the text used was an inspiring
one, and in any case the document must have historical importance as
the earliest thing that has come down to us in the nature of the
constitution or by-laws for a distinctively Negro organization. It is
herewith given entire:

Rules for the Society of Negroes. 1693.

We the Miserable Children of Adam, and of Noah, thankfully Admiring
and Accepting the Free-Grace of GOD, that Offers to Save us from our
Miseries, by the Lord Jesus Christ, freely Resolve, with His Help,
to become the Servants of that Glorious LORD.

And that we may be Assisted in the Service of our Heavenly Master,
we now join together in a SOCIETY, wherein the following RULES are
to be observed.

I. It shall be our Endeavor, to Meet in the _Evening_ after the
_Sabbath_; and Pray together by Turns, one to Begin, and another to
Conclude the Meeting; And between the two _Prayers_, a _Psalm_ shall
be sung, and a _Sermon_ Repeated.

II. Our coming to the Meeting, shall never be without the _Leave_ of
such as have Power over us: And we will be Careful, that our Meeting
may Begin and Conclude between the Hours of _Seven_ and _Nine_; and
that we may not be _unseasonably Absent_ from the Families whereto
we pertain.

III. As we will, with the help of God, at all Times avoid all
_Wicked Company_, so we will Receive none into our Meeting, but
such as have sensibly _Reformed_ their lives from all manner of
Wickedness. And, therefore, None shall be Admitted, without the
Knowledge and Consent of the _Minister_ of God in this place; unto
whom we will also carry every Person, that seeks for _Admission_
among us; to be by Him Examined, Instructed and Exhorted.

IV. We will, as often as may be, Obtain some Wise and Good Man, of
the English in the Neighborhood, and especially the Officers of the
Church, to look in upon us, and by their Presence and Counsel, do
what they think fitting for us.

V. If any of our Number fall into the Sin of _Drunkenness_, or
_Swearing_, or _Cursing_, or _Lying_, or _Stealing_, or notorious
_Disobedience_ or _Unfaithfulness_ unto their Masters, we will
Admonish him of his Miscarriage, and Forbid his coming to the
Meeting, for at least _one Fortnight_; And except he then come with
great Signs and Hopes of his _Repentance_, we will utterly Exclude
him, with Blotting his _Name_ out of our list.

VI. If any of our Society Defile himself with _Fornication_, we will
give him our _Admonition_; and so, debar him from the Meeting, at
least half a Year: Nor shall he Return to it, ever any more, without
Exemplary Testimonies of his becoming a _New Creature_.

VII. We will, as we have Opportunity, set ourselves to do all the
Good we can, to the other _Negro-Servants_ in the Town; And if any
of them should, at unfit Hours, be _Abroad_, much more, if any of
them should _Run away_ from their Masters, we will afford them
_no Shelter_: But we will do what in us lies, that they may be
discovered, and punished. And if any of _us_ are found Faulty in
this matter, they shall be no longer of _us_.

VIII. None of our Society shall be _Absent_ from our Meeting,
without giving a Reason of the Absence; and if it be found, that any
have pretended unto their _Owners_, that they came unto the Meeting,
when they were otherwise and elsewhere Employed, we will faithfully
_Inform_ their Owners, and also do what we can to Reclaim such
Person from all such Evil Courses for the Future:

IX. It shall be expected from every one in the Society, that he
learn the Catechism; And therefore, it shall be one of our usual
Exercises, for one of us, to ask the _Questions_, and for all the
rest in their Order, to say the _Answers_ in the Catechism; Either,
The _New English_ Catechism, or the _Assemblies_ Catechism, or the
Catechism in the _Negro Christianised_.

[Footnote 1: See _Rules for the Society of Negroes_, 1693, by Cotton
Mather, reprinted, New York, 1888, by George H. Moore.]

4. Early Insurrections

The Negroes who came to America directly from Africa in the eighteenth
century were strikingly different from those whom generations of
servitude later made comparatively docile. They were wild and turbulent
in disposition and were likely at any moment to take revenge for the
great wrong that had been inflicted upon them. The planters in the South
knew this and lived in constant fear of uprisings. When the situation
became too threatening, they placed prohibitive duties on importations,
and they also sought to keep their slaves in subjection by barbarous and
cruel modes of punishment, both crucifixion and burning being legalized
in some early codes. On sea as well as on land Negroes frequently rose
upon those who held them in bondage, and sometimes they actually
won their freedom. More and more, however, in any study of Negro
insurrections it becomes difficult to distinguish between a clearly
organized revolt and what might be regarded as simply a personal crime,
so that those uprisings considered in the following discussion can only
be construed as the more representative of the many attempts for freedom
made by Negro slaves in the colonial era.

In 1687 there was in Virginia a conspiracy among the Negroes in the
Northern Neck that was detected just in time to prevent slaughter, and
in Surry County in 1710 there was a similar plot, betrayed by one of the
conspirators. In 1711, in South Carolina, several Negroes ran away from
their masters and "kept out, armed, robbing and plundering houses and
plantations, and putting the inhabitants of the province in great
fear and terror";[1] and Governor Gibbes more than once wrote to the
legislature about amending the Negro Act, as the one already in
force did "not reach up to some of the crimes" that were daily being
committed. For one Sebastian, "a Spanish Negro," alive or dead, a reward
of L50 was offered, and he was at length brought in by the Indians and
taken in triumph to Charleston. In 1712 in New York occurred an outbreak
that occasioned greater excitement than any uprising that had preceded
it in the colonies. Early in the morning of April 7 some slaves of the
Carmantee and Pappa tribes who had suffered ill-usage, set on fire the
house of Peter van Tilburgh, and, armed with guns and knives, killed and
wounded several persons who came to extinguish the flames. They fled,
however, when the Governor ordered the cannon to be fired to alarm the
town, and they got away to the woods as well as they could, but
not before they had killed several more of the citizens. Some shot
themselves in the woods and others were captured. Altogether eight or
ten white persons were killed, and, aside from those Negroes who had
committed suicide, eighteen or more were executed, several others being
transported. Of those executed one was hanged alive in chains, some were
burned at the stake, and one was left to die a lingering death before
the gaze of the town.

[Footnote 1: Holland: _A Refutation of Calumnies_, 63.]

In May, 1720, some Negroes in South Carolina were fairly well organized
and killed a man named Benjamin Cattle, one white woman, and a little
Negro boy. They were pursued and twenty-three taken and six convicted.
Three of the latter were executed, the other three escaping. In October,
1722, the Negroes near the mouth of the Rappahannock in Virginia
undertook to kill the white people while the latter were assembled in
church, but were discovered and put to flight. On this occasion, as on
most others, Sunday was the day chosen for the outbreak, the Negroes
then being best able to get together. In April, 1723, it was thought
that some fires in Boston had been started by Negroes, and the selectmen
recommended that if more than two Negroes were found "lurking together"
on the streets they should be put in the house of correction. In 1728
there was a well organized attempt in Savannah, then a place of three
thousand white people and two thousand seven hundred Negroes. The plan
to kill all the white people failed because of disagreement as to the
exact method; but the body of Negroes had to be, fired on more than
once before it dispersed. In 1730 there was in Williamsburg, Va., an
insurrection that grew out of a report that Colonel Spotswood had orders
from the king to free all baptized persons on his arrival; men from all
the surrounding counties had to be called in before it could be put

The first open rebellion in South Carolina in which Negroes were
"actually armed and embodied"[1] took place in 1730. The plan was for
each Negro to kill his master in the dead of night, then for all to
assemble supposedly for a dancing-bout, rush upon the heart of the city,
take possession of the arms, and kill any white man they saw. The plot
was discovered and the leaders executed. In this same colony three
formidable insurrections broke out within the one year 1739--one in St.
Paul's Parish, one in St. John's, and one in Charleston. To some extent
these seem to have been fomented by the Spaniards in the South, and in
one of them six houses were burned and as many as twenty-five white
people killed. The Negroes were pursued and fourteen killed. Within two
days "twenty more were killed, and forty were taken, some of whom
were shot, some hanged, and some gibbeted alive."[2] This "examplary
punishment," as Governor Gibbes called it, was by no means effective,
for in the very next year, 1740, there broke out what might be
considered the most formidable insurrection in the South in the whole
colonial period. A number of Negroes, having assembled at Stono, first
surprised, and killed two young men in a warehouse, from which they then
took guns and ammunition.[3] They then elected as captain one of their
own number named Cato, whom they agreed to follow, and they marched
towards the southwest, with drums beating and colors flying, like a
disciplined company. They entered the home of a man named Godfrey, and
having murdered him and his wife and children, they took all the arms he
had, set fire to the house, and proceeded towards Jonesboro. On their
way they plundered and burned every house to which they came, killing
every white person they found and compelling the Negroes to join them.
Governor Bull, who happened to be returning to Charleston from the
southward, met them, and observing them armed, spread the alarm, which
soon reached the Presbyterian Church at Wilton, where a number of
planters was assembled. The women were left in the church trembling with
fear, while the militia formed and marched in quest of the Negroes, who
by this time had become formidable from the number that had joined them.
They had marched twelve miles and spread desolation through all the
plantations on their way. They had then halted in an open field and too
soon had begun to sing and drink and dance by way of triumph. During
these rejoicings the militia discovered them and stationed themselves
in different places around them to prevent their escape. One party then
advanced into the open field and attacked the Negroes. Some were
killed and the others were forced to the woods. Many ran back to the
plantations, hoping thus to avoid suspicion, but most of them were taken
and tried. Such as had been forced to join the uprising against their
will were pardoned, but all of the chosen leaders and the first
insurgents were put to death. All Carolina, we are told, was struck with
terror and consternation by this insurrection, in which more than twenty
white persons were killed. It was followed immediately by the famous and
severe Negro Act of 1740, which among other provisions imposed a duty of
L100 on Africans and L150 on colonial Negroes. This remained technically
in force until 1822, and yet as soon as security and confidence were
restored, there was a relaxation in the execution of the provisions
of the act and the Negroes little by little regained confidence in
themselves and again began to plan and act in concert.

[Footnote 1: Holland: _A Refutation of Calumnies_, 68.]

[Footnote 2: Coffin.]

[Footnote 3: The following account follows mainly Holland, quoting

About the time of Cato's insurrection there were also several uprisings
at sea. In 1731, on a ship returning to Rhode Island from Guinea with a
cargo of slaves, the Negroes rose and killed three of the crew, all the
members of which died soon afterwards with the exception of the captain
and his boy. The next year Captain John Major of Portsmouth, N.H., was
murdered with all his crew, his schooner and cargo being seized by the
slaves. In 1735 the captives on the _Dolphin_ of London, while still on
the coast of Africa, overpowered the crew, broke into the powder room,
and finally in the course of their effort for freedom blew up both
themselves and the crew.

A most remarkable design--as an insurrection perhaps not as formidable
as that of Cato, but in some ways the most important single event in the
history of the Negro in the colonial period--was the plot in the city
of New York in 1741. New York was at the time a thriving town of
twelve thousand inhabitants, and the calamity that now befell it was
unfortunate in every way. It was not only a Negro insurrection, though
the Negro finally suffered most bitterly. It was also a strange compound
of the effects of whiskey and gambling, of the designs of abandoned
white people, and of prejudice against the Catholics.

Prominent in the remarkable drama were John Hughson, a shoemaker and
alehouse keeper; Sarah Hughson, his wife; John Romme, also a shoemaker
and alehouse keeper; Margaret Kerry, alias Salinburgh, commonly known
as Peggy; John Ury, a priest; and a number of Negroes, chief among whom
were Caesar, Prince, Cuffee, and Quack.[1] Prominent among those who
helped to work out the plot were Mary Burton, a white servant of
Hughson's, sixteen years of age; Arthur Price, a young white man who
at the time of the proceedings happened to be in prison on a charge of
stealing; a young seaman named Wilson; and two white women, Mrs. Earle
and Mrs. Hogg, the latter of whom assisted in the store kept by her
husband, Robert Hogg. Hughson's house on the outskirts of the town was a
resort for Negroes, and Hughson himself aided and abetted the Negro men
in any crime that they might commit. Romme was of similar quality. Peggy
was a prostitute, and it was Caesar who paid for her board with the
Hughsons. In the previous summer she had found lodging with these
people, a little later she had removed to Romme's, and just before
Christmas she had come back to Hughson's, and a few weeks thereafter she
became a mother. At both the public houses the Negroes would engage in
drinking and gambling; and importance also attaches to an organization
of theirs known as the Geneva Society, which had angered some of the
white citizens by its imitation of the rites and forms of freemasonry.

[Footnote 1: The sole authority on the plot is "A Journal of the
Proceedings in the Detection of the Conspiracy formed by Some White
People, in Conjunction with Negro and other Slaves, for Burning the City
of New York in America, and Murdering the Inhabitants (by Judge Daniel
Horsemanden). New York, 1744."]

Events really began on the night of Saturday, February 28, 1741, with
a robbery in the house of Hogg, the merchant, from which were taken
various pieces of linen and other goods, several silver coins, chiefly
Spanish, and medals, to the value of about L60. On the day before, in
the course of a simple purchase by Wilson, Mrs. Hogg had revealed to the
young seaman her treasure. He soon spoke of the same to Caesar, Prince,
and Cuffee, with whom he was acquainted; he gave them the plan of the
house, and they in turn spoke of the matter to Hughson. Wilson, however,
when later told of the robbery by Mrs. Hogg, at once turned suspicion
upon the Negroes, especially Caesar; and Mary Burton testified that she
saw some of the speckled linen in question in Peggy's room after Caesar
had gone thither.

On Wednesday, March 18, a fire broke out on the roof of His Majesty's
House at Fort George. One week later, on March 25, there was a fire at
the home of Captain Warren in the southwest end of the city, and the
circumstances pointed to incendiary origin. One week later, on April
1, there was a fire in the storehouse of a man named Van Zant; on the
following Saturday evening there was another fire, and while the people
were returning from this there was still another; and on the next day,
Sunday, there was another alarm, and by this time the whole town had
been worked up to the highest pitch of excitement. As yet there was
nothing to point to any connection between the stealing and the fires.
On the day of the last one, however, Mrs. Earle happened to overhear
remarks by three Negroes that caused suspicion to light upon them; Mary
Burton was insisting that stolen goods had been brought by Prince and
Caesar to the house of her master; and although a search of the home of
Hughson failed to produce a great deal, arrests were made right and
left. The case was finally taken to the Supreme Court, and because of
the white persons implicated, the summary methods ordinarily used in
dealing with Negroes were waived for the time being.

Peggy at first withstood all questioning, denying any knowledge of the
events that had taken place. One day in prison, however, she remarked
to Arthur Price that she was afraid the Negroes would tell but that she
would not forswear herself unless they brought her into the matter. "How
forswear?" asked Price. "There are fourteen sworn," she said. "What,
is it about Mr. Hogg's goods?" he asked. "No," she replied, "about the
fire." "What, Peggy," asked Price, "were you going to set the town on
fire?" "No," she replied, "but since I knew of it they made me swear."
She also remarked that she had faith in Prince, Cuff, and Caesar. All
the while she used the vilest possible language, and at last, thinking
suddenly that she had revealed too much, she turned upon Price and with
an oath warned him that he had better keep his counsel. That afternoon
she said further to him that she could not eat because Mary had brought
her into the case.

A little later Peggy, much afraid, voluntarily confessed that early in
May she was at the home of John Romme, where in the course of December
the Negroes had had several meetings; among other things they had
conspired to burn the fort first of all, then the city, then to get all
the goods they could and kill anybody who had money. One evening just
about Christmas, she said, Romme and his wife and ten or eleven Negroes
had been together in a room. Romme had talked about how rich some people
were, gradually working on the feelings of the Negroes and promising
them that if they did not succeed in their designs he would take them
to a strange country and set them free, meanwhile giving them the
impression that he bore a charmed life. A little later, it appeared,
Caesar gave to Hughson L12; Hughson was then absent for three days,
and when he came again he brought with him seven or eight guns, some
pistols, and some swords.

As a result of these and other disclosures it was seen that not only
Hughson and Romme but also Ury, who was not so much a priest as an
adventurer, had instigated the plots of the Negroes; and Quack testified
that Hughson was the first contriver of the plot to burn the houses of
the town and kill the people, though he himself, he confessed, did fire
the fort with a lighted stick. The punishment was terrible. Quack and
Cuffee, the first to be executed, were burned at the stake on May
30. All through the summer the trials and the executions continued,
harassing New York and indeed the whole country. Altogether twenty white
persons were arrested; four--Hughson, his wife, Peggy, and Ury--were
executed, and some of their acquaintances were forced to leave the
province. One hundred and fifty-four Negroes were arrested. Thirteen
were burned, eighteen were hanged, and seventy-one transported.

* * * * *

It is evident from these events and from the legislation of the era
that, except for the earnest work of such a sect as the Quakers, there
was little genuine effort for the improvement of the social condition
of the Negro people in the colonies. They were not even regarded as
potential citizens, and both in and out of the system of slavery were
subjected to the harshest regulations. Towards amicable relations with
the other racial elements that were coming to build up a new country
only the slightest measure of progress was made. Instead, insurrection
after insurrection revealed the sharpest antagonism, and any outbreak
promptly called forth the severest and frequently the most cruel



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