« VorigeDoorgaan »
set at nought in numberless instances. Negroes were hired in some cases for one hundred years. Habersham, who succeeded Whitefield in the care of the Orphan House, having experienced many difficulties in procuring white servants, at length employed negroes. The emigrants from Germany and the Highlands of Scotland, were earnest in their opposition to its introduction. A clergyman, by the name of Boltzius, honorably distinguished himself by writing a warm remonstrance to George Whitefield. This celebrated preacher advocated the expediency of introducing slaves on account of the practical difficulties experienced in the want of them, and from the superior opportunities which this country presented over Africa, for their instruction in Christianity.* So great was the excitement on account of the supposed hardship of not being permitted to hold slaves, that the proprietors at length summoned a convention to consider the subject. In 1747, twenty-three delegates met in Savannah, and opened the door to the unrestrained introduction of slaves, with the proviso, more honored in the enactment than in the observance, that the slaves should be educated and religiously instructed, and should not be punished with inhumanity. Lady Huntingdon stocked a large plantation for the support of the Orphan House.
By his acquisition of the Delaware territory, it is probable that William Penn, on coming to the possession of his American domains, found the system of negro slavery already established within them. During his first visit, it appears that a few negroes were imported into Pennsylvania, and were purchased by the Quakers as well as by the other settlers. While the scarcity of laborers enforced the temptation to this practice, the kindness of Quaker manners, contributed to soften its evil and veil its iniquity; and it was not till the year 1688, that the repugnance of slavery to the tenets of Christianity, was first suggested to the Pennsylvanians by the emigrants, who had resorted to them from Germany. In compliance with a suggestion of the Germans, a resolution declaratory of the inconsistency between slavery and Christianity, was passed in the same year by the annual meeting
* The infirmity of human nature was never more impressively exhibited than in the conduct of John Locke, George Whitefield, and Lady Huntingdon, in behalf of slavery. The loftiest and holiest human minds are sometimes the dupes of the most miserable sophistry.
+ See McCall's History of Georgia, vol. i.
of the Quakers of Pennsylvania. In 1996, they repeated their former declaration, adding to it an carnest admonition to the members of their society to refrain from all farther importation of negro slaves. On his second arrival in the country, Penn, perceiving the evils which had resulted from the institution, presented two bills to the assembly for regulating the morals and punishments of the slaves. One of them was rejected, and the other adopted. At the same time, by his ecclesiastical authority, Penn introduced several provisions into the discipline of the Friends, which were very salutary in their effects on the negrocs. A sense of what was due to this injured class of men, was thus gradually cherished in the general body of the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and which obtained for the slaves a treatment far more equitable than they enjoyed in any other colony. Notwithstanding the encouragement afforded by the British government to the importation of negroes into all the American settlements, the slaves in Pennsylvania never formed more than a very insignificant fraction of the whole population of the province. Slavery acquired a firmer hold in Delaware. At what precise period, and by what class of persons, slavery was introduced into New Jersey, it is difficult to determine. The Quakers, as in Pennsylvania, became proprietors of slaves. As early as 1696, the members of the sect in both provinces, united in an effort to stay the further importation of slaves.
In the State of New York, slavery was introduced at an early period. By a law, passed in 1702, slaves were forbidden to meet together in greater number than three, except when assembled for labor. Masters were enjoined by law to baptize their slaves, and encouraged to do so by a provision that their baptism should not entitle then to freedom. Manumission was discouraged by a heavy fine. Slaves were disqualified from bearing evidence against any persons but slaves, and no negro, Indian, or mulatto, though free, could possess lands or hereditaments. By an act passed in 1702, and confirmed in 1708, a reward of twenty shillings was offered to every Christian, and half that sum to every Indian and slave, for killing a wolf in the provincial territory. In 1712, there was a very formidable insurrection of slaves in New York city. It is horrible to look back on the details and results of the trials. A number of these unhappy men were burned at the stake! Nineteen in all were executed.
The climate of New England, rather than any other cause, seems to have been a barrier to the prevalence of slavery. It is supposed that no more than three ships belonging to Boston, were ever employed in the slave traffic in one year. No other port in that colony was at all concerned. At one time a joint trade in run and slaves was carried on with Barbadoes. The earliest mention of slavery in the colonial histories is in 1639; one Samuel Maverick, of Noddle's Island, being in possession of two slaves. The number of Africans, mostly slaves, in Massachusetts including Maine, in 1763, was 5,214; in 1776, 5,249; and in 1784, 4,377.* Rhode Island, particularly the towns of Bristol and Newport, were extensively concerned in the importation of slaves. The degree in which Connecticut was implicated, we are not able to ascertain.
The commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have the honor of leading the way in the ABOLITION of slavery. The efforts of William Penn for the accomplishment of this object have been already recited. Before the year 1641, the general court of Massachusetts re-enacted some of the most benevolent provisions of the Mosaic code, touching this subject. In 1615, a Mr. Williams of Piscataqua, was required to give up a slave who had been kidnapped on the coast of Guinea. In 1645, the same legislature inhibited the trade in slaves. The disputes with Great Britain seemed to have awakened an extensive sympathy for the negroes. Remonstrances were sent to the British government, previously to the Declaration of Independence. In 1770, there was a decision in the supreme court, which was highly favorable to a slave. Nathaniel Appleton and James Swan, eminent merchants, and judge Sewall, gave a zealous and enlightened support to the friends of freedom. On the 1st day of March, 1780, the assembly of Pennsylvania passed a bill with this expressive title, “ An act for the gradual abolition of slavery.” “We esteem it a peculiar blessing granted to us,” say the legislature, “that we are enabled this day to add one more step to universal civilization, by removing as much as possible, the sorrows of those who have lived in un
See Dr. p's answers to the inquiries of judge Tucker of Virginia, in the second volume of the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
deserved bondage, and from which, by the assumed authority of the kings of Great Britain, no effectual relief could be obtained.* Weaned by a long course of experience from those narrow prejudices and partialities we had imbibed, we find our hearts enlarged with kindness and benevolence towards men of all conditions and nations; and we conceive ourselves at this particular period extraordinarily called upon, by the blessings we have received, to manifest the sincerity of our profession, and to give a substantial proof of our gratitude.” “And whereas the condition of those persons who have been heretofore denominated negro and mulatto slaves, has been attended with circumstances which not only deprived them of the common blessings that they were by nature entitled to, but has cast them into the deepest afflictions by an unnatural separation and sale of husband and wife from each other, and from their children—an injury, the greatness of which can only be conceived by supposing that we were in the same unhappy case. In justice, therefore, to persons so unhappily circumstanced, &c. Be it enacted, That all persons, as well negroes and mulattoes as others, who shall be born within this State from and after the passing of this act, shall not be deemed and considered as servants for life, or slaves; and that all servitude for life, or slavery of children in consequence of the slavery of their mothers, in the case of all children born within this State from and after the passing of this act as aforesaid, shall be, and hereby is UTTERLY TAKEN AWAY, EXTINGUISHED,
ABOLISHED.” No person, then a slave, could be retained when over twentyeight years of age, unless registered previously to November of that year. The abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, takes its date one day later than the date of the abolitionlaw of Pennsylvania. It resulted in Massachusetts as a consequence of the primary article in the bill of rights, prefixed to the constitution of the State—the language of which article is, “ all men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and lib
* The most signal effort here alluded to on the part of the general assembly of Pennsylvania, when a colony, to prevent the importation of slaves, was an act passed June 12, 1712, but disallowed and accordingly repealed by Queen Anne, on the 20th of February, 1713. This is one of numerous instances, showing that the government of the mother country were determined at all events to fasten slavery on their colonies.
erties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness." This clause was inserted, not as expressing a general truth, but with a particular application to the colored people. Some slaves immediately assumed their freedom. In 1783, a decision of the supreme court in favor of a colored man, gave a death blow to the system. The legislature of Connecticut, at a special session held in January, 1784, for the purpose of revising and amending the code of laws, agreed to incorporate this section ; “ No negro or mulatto child, that shall after the first day of March, 1784, be born within this State, shall be held in servitude longer than until they arrive at the age of twenty-five years, notwithstanding the mother or parent of such child was held in servitude at the time of its birth, but such child, at the age aforesaid, shall be free.” According to the census of 1830, there were twentyfive slaves in Connecticut About the same time the legislature of Rhode Island enacted a law on the same subject, varying in a slight degree from that of Connecticut, yet fixing the same day as the period at which hereditary servitude should cease. Sixteen slaves are enumerated in the last census. The importation of slaves into Connecticut was prohibited in October, 1774, and in Rhode Island, it is believed, at a period equally remote. New Hampshire having in her constitution, which was finally ratified on the eighth day of February, 1792, inserted a provision of similar import, and comprised indeed in nearly the same words with that already cited from the constitution of Massachusetts, has, by implication, also abolished slavery within her territory. The citizens of Vermont, not contented with implication on such a momentous subject, established by distinct enunciation, the inference as well as the principle, in their constitution formed in July, 1793. The following are the words of the inference ; " "Therefore, no male person born in this country or brought over from sea, ought to be holden by law to serve any person as a servant, slave, or apprentice, after he arrives at the age of twenty-one years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives at the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent after they arrive at such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like."
The first act of the State of New York on the subject, bears date the 29th of March, 1799, and provides, “ That all