George W. Williams.

History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens online

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on each slave imported, over and above the twenty shillings required
by previous acts.

In 1742 the tax was continued, because it was "necessary" "to
discharge the public debts."[169] And again, in 1745, it was still
believed to be necessary "for supporting the public expense."[170] The
act, in a legal sense, expired by limitation, but in spirit remained
in full force until revived by the acts of 1752-53.[171] In the spring
of 1755 the General Assembly increased the tax on imported slaves
above the amount previously fixed by law.[172] The duty at this time
was ten per centum on each slave sold into the colony. The same law
was reiterated in 1757,[173] and, when it had expired by limitation,
was revived in 1759, to be in force for "the term of seven years from
thence next following."[174]

Encouraged by the large revenue derived from the tax imposed on
servants and slaves imported into the colony from foreign parts, the
General Assembly stood for the revival of the impost-tax. The act of
1699 required the tax at the hands of "the importer," and from as many
persons as engaged in the slave-trade who were subjects of Great
Britain, and residents of the colony; but the tax at length became a
burden to them. In order to evade the law and escape the tax, they
frequently went into Maryland and the Carolinas, and bought slaves,
ostensibly for their own private use, but really to sell in the local
market. To prevent this, an act was passed imposing a tax of twenty
per centum on all such sales;[175] but there was a great outcry made
against this act. Twenty per centum of the gross amount on each slave,
paid by the person making the purchase, was a burden that planters
bore with ill grace. The question of the reduction of the tax to ten
per centum was vehemently agitated. The argument offered in favor of
the reduction was three-fold; viz., "very burthensom to the fair
purchaser," inimical "to the settlement and improvement of the lands"
in the colony, and a great hinderance to "the importation of slaves,
and thereby lessens the fund arising upon the duties upon
slaves."[176] The reduction was made in May, 1760; and, under
additional pressure, the additional duty on imported slaves to be
"paid by the buyer" was taken off altogether.[177] But in 1766 the
duty on imported slaves was revived;[178] and in 1772 an act was
passed reviving the "additional duty" on "imported slaves, and was
continued in force until the colonies threw off the British yoke in
1775."[179]

In all this epoch, from 1619 down to 1775, there is not a scrap of
history to prove that the colony of Virginia ever sought to prohibit
in any manner the importation of slaves. That she encouraged the
traffic, we have abundant testimony; and that she enriched herself by
it, no one can doubt.

During the period of which we have just made mention above, the slaves
in this colony had no political or military rights. As early as
1639,[180] the Assembly _excused_ them from owning or carrying arms;
and in 1705 they were barred by a special act from holding or
exercising "any office, ecclesiastical, civil, or military, or any
place of publick trust or power,"[181] in the colony. If found with a
"gun, sword, club, staff, or other weopon,"[182] they were turned over
to the constable, who was required to administer "twenty lashes on his
or her bare back." There was but one exception made. Where Negro and
Indian slaves lived on the border or the colony, frequently harassed
by predatory bands of hostile Indians, they could bear arms by first
getting written license from their master;[183] but even then they
were kept under surveillance by the whites.

Personal rights, we cannot see that the slaves had any. They were not
allowed to leave the plantation on which they were held as chattel or
real estate, without a written certificate or pass from their master,
which was only granted under the most urgent circumstances.[184] If
they dared lift a hand against any white man, or "Christian" (?) as
they loved to call themselves, they were punished by thirty lashes;
and if a slave dared to resist his master while he was correcting him,
he could be killed; and the master would be guiltless in the eyes of
the law.[185] If a slave remained on another plantation more than four
hours, his master was liable to a fine of two hundred pounds of
tobacco.[186] And if any white person had any commercial dealings with
a slave, he was liable to imprisonment for one month without bail, and
compelled to give security in the sum of ten pounds.[187] If a slave
had earned and owned a horse and buggy, it was lawful to seize
them;[188] and the church-warden was charged with the sale of the
articles. Even with the full permission of his master, if a slave were
found going about the colony trading any articles for his or master's
profit, his master was liable to a fine of ten pounds; which fine went
to the church-warden, for the benefit of the poor of the parish in
which the slave did the trading.[189]

In all the matters of law, civil and criminal, the slave had no
rights. Under an act of 1705, Catholics, Indian and Negro slaves, were
denied the right to appear as "witnesses in any cases whatsoever,"
"not being Christians;"[190] but this was modified somewhat in 1732,
when Negroes, Indians, and Mulattoes were admitted as witnesses in the
trial of slaves.[191] In criminal causes the slave could be arrested,
cast into prison, tried, and condemned, with but one witness against
him, and sentenced without a jury. The solemnity and dignity of "trial
by jury," of which Englishmen love to boast, was not allowed the
criminal slave.[192] And, when a slave was executed, a value was fixed
upon him; and the General Assembly was required to make an
appropriation covering the value of the slave to indemnify the
master.[193] More than five slaves meeting together, "to rebel or make
insurrection" was considered "felony;" and they were liable to
"suffer death, and be utterly excluded the benefit of clergy;"[194]
but, where one slave was guilty of manslaughter in killing another
slave, he was allowed the benefit of clergy.[195] In case of burglary
by a slave, he was not allowed the benefit of the clergy, except "said
breaking, in the case of a freeman, would be burglary."[196] And the
only humane feature in the entire code of the colony was an act passed
in 1772, providing that no slave should be condemned to suffer "unless
four of the judges" before whom he is tried "concur."[197]

The free Negroes of the colony of Virginia were but little removed by
law from their unfortunate brothers in bondage. Their freedom was the
act of individuals, with but one single exception. In 1710 a few
recalcitrant slaves resolved to offer armed resistance to their
masters, whose treatment had driven them to the verge of desperation.
A slave of Robert Ruffin, of Surry County, entered into the plot, but
afterwards revealed it to the masters of the rebellious slaves. As a
reward for his services, the General Assembly, on the 9th of October,
1710, gave him his manumission papers, with the added privilege to
remain in the colony.[198] For the laws of the colony required "that
no negro, mulatto, or indian slaves" should be set free "except for
some meritorious services." The governor and council were to decide
upon the merits of the services, and then grant a license to the
master to set his slave at liberty.[199] If any master presumed to
emancipate a slave without a license granted according to the act of
1723, his slave thus emancipated could be taken up by the
church-warden for the parish in which the master of the slave resided,
and sold "by public outcry." The money accruing from such sale was to
be used for the benefit of the parish.[200] But if a slave were
emancipated according to law, the General Assembly paid the master so
much for him, as in the case of slaves executed by the authorities.
But it was seldom that emancipated persons were permitted to remain in
the colony. By the act of 1699 they were required to leave the colony
within six months after they had secured their liberty, on pain of
having to pay a fine of "ten pounds sterling to the church-wardens of
the parish;" which money was to be used in transporting the liberated
slave out of the country.[201] If slave women came in possession of
their freedom, the law sought them out, and required of them to pay
taxes;[202] a burden from which their white sisters, and even Indian
women, were exempt.

If free Colored persons in the colony ever had the right of franchise,
there is certainly no record of it. We infer, however, from the act of
1723, that previous to that time they had exercised the voting
privilege. For that act declares "that no free negro shall hereafter
have any vote at the election."[203] Perhaps they had had a vote
previous to this time; but it is mere conjecture, unsupported by
historical proof. Being denied the right of suffrage did not shield
them from taxation. All free Negroes, male and female, were compelled
to pay taxes.[204] They contributed to the support of the colonial
government, and yet they had no voice in the government. They
contributed to the building of schoolhouses, but were denied the
blessings of education.

Free Negroes were enlisted in the militia service, but were not
permitted to bear arms. They had to attend the trainings, but were
assigned the most servile duties.[205] They built fortifications,
pitched and struck tents, cooked, drove teams, and in some instances
were employed as musicians. Where free Negroes were acting as
housekeepers, they were allowed to have fire-arms in their
possession;[206] and if they lived on frontier plantations, as we have
made mention already, they were permitted to use arms under the
direction of their employers.

In a moral and religious sense, the slaves of the colony of Virginia
received little or no attention from the Christian Church. All
intercourse was cut off between the races. Intermarrying of whites and
blacks was prohibited by severe laws.[207] And the most common
civilities and amenities of life were frowned down when intended for a
Negro. The plantation was as religious as the Church, and the Church
was as secular as the plantation. The "white christians" hated the
Negro, and the Church bestowed upon him a most bountiful amount of
neglect.[208] Instead of receiving religious instruction from the
clergy, slaves were given to them in part pay for their ministrations
to the whites, - for their "use and encouragement."[209] It was as late
as 1756 before any white minister had the piety and courage to demand
instruction for the slaves.[210] The prohibition against instruction
for these poor degraded vassals is not so much a marvel after all. For
in 1670, when the white population was forty thousand, servants six
thousand, and slaves two thousand, Sir William Berkeley, when inquired
of by the home government as to the condition of education in the
colony, replied: -

"The same course that is taken in England out of
towns, - every man according to his ability instructing his
children. We have forty-eight parishes, and our ministers
are well paid, and by my consent should be better _if they
would pray oftener and preach less_. But of all other
commodities, so of this, _the worst are sent us_, and we had
few that we could boast of, since the persecution of
Cromwell's tyranny drove divers worthy men hither. But I
thank God, _there are no free schools nor printing_, and I
hope we shall not have these hundred years: for _learning_
has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the
world; and _printing_ has divulged them, and libels against
the best government. God keep us from both!"[211]

Thus was the entire colony in ignorance and superstition, and it was
the policy of the home government to keep out the light. The
sentiments of Berkeley were applauded in official circles in England,
and most rigorously carried out by his successor who, in 1682, with
the concurrence of the council, put John Buckner under bonds for
introducing the art of printing into the colony.[212] This prohibition
continued until 1733. If the whites of the colony were left in
ignorance, what must have been the mental and moral condition of the
slaves? The ignorance of the whites made them the pliant tools of the
London Company, and the Negroes in turn were compelled to submit to a
condition "of rather rigorous servitude."[213] This treatment has its
reflexive influence on the planters. Men fear most the ghosts of their
sins, and for cruel deeds rather expect and dread "the reward in the
life that now is." So no wonder Dinwiddie wrote the father of Charles
James Fox in 1758: "We dare not venture to part with any of our white
men any distance, as we must have a watchful eye over our negro
slaves."

In 1648, as we mentioned some pages back, there were about three
hundred slaves in the colony. Slow coming at first, but at length they
began to increase rapidly, so that in fifty years they had increased
one hundred per cent. In 1671 they were two thousand strong, and all,
up to that date, direct from Africa. In 1715 there were twenty-three
thousand slaves against seventy-two thousand whites.[214] By the year
1758 the slave population had increased to the alarming number of over
one hundred thousand, which was a little less than the numerical
strength of the whites.

During this period of a century and a half, slavery took deep root in
the colony of Virginia, and attained unwieldy and alarming
proportions. It had sent its dark death-roots into the fibre and
organism of the political, judicial, social, and religious life of the
people. It was crystallized now into a domestic institution. It
existed in contemplation of legislative enactment, and had high
judicial recognition through the solemn forms of law. The Church had
proclaimed it a "sacred institution," and the clergy had covered it
with the sanction of their ecclesiastical office. There it stood, an
organized system, - the dark problem of the uncertain future: more
terrible to the colonists in its awful, spectral silence during the
years of the Revolution than the victorious guns of the French and
Continental armies, which startled the English lion from his hurtful
hold at the throat of white men's liberties - black men had no country,
no liberty - in this new world in the West. But, like the dead body of
the Roman murderer's victim, slavery was a curse that pursued the
colonists evermore.


FOOTNOTES:

[119] News comes to us from Egypt that Arabi Pacha's best artillerists
are Negro soldiers.

[120] R. Beverley's History of Virginia, pp. 35, 36.

[121] See Campbell, p. 144; Burk, vol. i. p. 326.

[122] Smith, vol. ii pp. 38, 39.

[123] Smith's History of Virginia, vol. ii. p. 39.

[124] Virginia Company of London, p. 117, _sq._

[125] Campbell, p. 144.

[126] Burk, vol. I. p. 319.

[127] Neill, p. 120.

[128] Smith, vol. II. p. 37.

[129] There were two vessels, The Treasurer and the Dutch man-of-war;
but the latter, no doubt, put the first slaves ashore.

[130] Campbell, p. 144.

[131] Burk, Appendix, p. 316, Declaration of Virginia Company, 7th
May, 1623.

[132] See Burk, vol. i. p. 326.

[133] Stith, Book III. pp. 153, 154.

[134] Beverley, 235, _sq._

[135] Campbell, 147.

[136] Beverley, p. 248.

[137] Court and Times of James First, ii. p. 108; also, Neill p. 121.

[138] Bancroft, vol. i. p. 468.

[139] Neill, p. 121.

[140] Hist. Tracts, vol. ii. Tract viii.

[141] Beverley, p. 236.

[142] Campbell, p. 145.

[143] Hening, vol. i. p. 146; also p. 552.

[144] Hening, vol. i. p 226.

[145] Bancroft, vol. i. p. 178.

[146] Hening, vol. i. p. 540.

[147] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 84.

[148] Hening, vol. i. p. 396.

[149] Burk, vol. ii. Appendix, p. xxiii.

[150] Beverley, p. 235.

[151] Hening, vol. ii. p. 170; see, also, vol. iii. p. 140.

[152] Beverley, p. 195.

[153] Hening, vol. i. p. 396.

[154] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 283.

[155] Campbell, p. 160; also Bacon's Rebellion.

[156] Hening, vol. ii. pp. 490, 491.

[157] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 260; see, also, vol. iii. p. 460.

[158] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 333.

[159] Hening, vol. iii. pp. 334, 335.

[160] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 448; see, also, vol. v. p. 548.

[161] Hildreth, in his History of the United States, says that the law
making "Negroes, Mulattoes, and Indians" real estate "continued to be
the law so long as Virginia remained a British colony." This is a
mistake, as the reader can see. The law was repealed nearly a quarter
of a century before Virginia ceased to be a British colony.

[162] Hening, vol. v. p. 432, _sq._

[163] Beverley, p. 98.

[164] Hening, vol. iii, pp. 193, 194.

[165] Hening, vol. iii. p. 195.

[166] Burk, vol. ii. Appendix, p. xxii.

[167] Hening, vol. iv. p. 394.

[168] Ibid., vol, v. pp. 92, 93.

[169] Ibid., vol. v. pp. 160, 161.

[170] Ibid., vol. v. pp. 318, 319.

[171] Ibid., vol. vi. pp. 217, 218.

[172] Ibid., vol. vii. p. 466.

[173] Ibid., vol. vii. p. 81.

[174] Ibid., vol. vii. p. 281.

[175] Hening, vol. vii, p. 338.

[176] Ibid., vol. vii. p. 363.

[177] Ibid., vol. vii. p. 383.

[178] Ibid., vol. viii. pp. 190, 191, 237, 336, 337.

[179] Ibid., vol. viii, pp. 530, 532.

[180] Ibid., vol. i. p. 226.

[181] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 251.

[182] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 459; also vol. iv. p. 131, vol. vi. p. 109,
and vol. ii. p. 481.

[183] Hening., vol. vi. p. 110.

[184] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 481.

[185] Ibid., vol. ii p. 270.

[186] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 493.

[187] Ibid., vol. iii, p. 451.

[188] Ibid., vol. iii. pp. 459, 460.

[189] Ibid., vol. viii. p. 360.

[190] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 298.

[191] Ibid., vol. iv. p. 327.

[192] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 103.

[193] Ibid., vol. iii, p. 270, and vol. iv. p. 128.

[194] Hening, vol. iv. p. 126, and vol. vi. p. 104, _sq._

[195] Ibid., vol. viii. p. 139.

[196] Ibid., vol. viii. p. 522.

[197] Ibid., vol. viii. p. 523.

[198] Ibid., vol. viii. pp. 536, 537.

[199] Ibid., vol. iv. p. 132.

[200] Ibid., vol. vi, p. 112.

[201] Hening, vol. iii. pp. 87, 88.

[202] Ibid., vol. ii. p. 267.

[203] Ibid., vol. iv. pp. 133, 134.

[204] Ibid., vol. iv, p. 133.

[205] Ibid., vol. vii. p. 95; and vol. vi. p. 533.

[206] Ibid., vol. iv. p. 131.

[207] Ibid., vol. iii. p. 87.

[208] Campbell, p. 529.

[209] Burk, vol. ii. Appendix, p. xiii.

[210] Foot's Sketches, First Series, p. 291.

[211] Hening, vol. ii. p. 517.

[212] Hening, vol. ii. p. 518.

[213] Campbell, p. 383.

[214] Chalmers's American Colonies, vol. ii. p. 7.




CHAPTER XIII.

THE COLONY OF NEW YORK.

1628-1775.

SETTLEMENT OF NEW YORK BY THE DUTCH IN 1609. - NEGROES
INTRODUCED INTO THE COLONY, 1628. - THE TRADE IN NEGROES
INCREASED. - TOBACCO EXCHANGED FOR SLAVES AND MERCHANDISE.
GOVERNMENT OF THE COLONY. - NEW NETHERLAND FALLS INTO THE
HANDS OF THE ENGLISH, AUG. 27, 1664. - VARIOUS CHANGES. - NEW
LAWS ADOPTED. - LEGISLATION. - FIRST REPRESENTATIVES ELECTED
IN 1683. - IN 1702 QUEEN ANNE INSTRUCTS THE ROYAL GOVERNOR IN
REGARD TO THE IMPORTATION OF SLAVES. - SLAVERY
RESTRICTIONS. - EXPEDITION TO EFFECT THE CONQUEST OF CANADA
UNSUCCESSFUL. - NEGRO RIOT. - SUPPRESSED BY THE EFFICIENT AID
OF TROOPS. - FEARS OF THE COLONISTS. - NEGRO PLOT OF
1741. - THE ROBBERY OF HOGG'S HOUSE. - DISCOVERY OF A PORTION
OF THE GOODS. - THE ARREST OF HUGHSON, HIS WIFE, AND IRISH
PEGGY. - CRIMINATION AND RECRIMINATION. - THE BREAKING-OUT OF
NUMEROUS FIRES. - THE ARREST OF SPANISH NEGROES. - THE TRIAL
OF HUGHSON. - TESTIMONY OF MARY BURTON. - HUGHSON HANGED. - THE
ARREST OF MANY OTHERS IMPLICATED IN THE PLOT. - THE HANGING
OF CÆSAR AND PRINCE. - QUACK AND CUFFEE BURNED AT THE
STAKE. - THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR'S PROCLAMATION. - MANY WHITE
PERSONS ACCUSED OF BEING CONSPIRATORS. - DESCRIPTION OF
HUGHSON'S MANNER OF SWEARING THOSE HAVING KNOWLEDGE OF THE
PLOT. - CONVICTION AND HANGING OF THE CATHOLIC PRIEST
URY. - THE SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED TERMINATION OF THE
TRIAL. - NEW LAWS MORE STRINGENT TOWARD SLAVES ADOPTED.


From the settlement of New York by the Dutch in 1609, down to its
conquest by the English in 1664, there is no reliable record of
slavery in that colony. That the institution was coeval with the
Holland government, there can be no historical doubt. During the
half-century that the Holland flag waved over the New Netherlands,
slavery grew to such proportions as to be regarded as a necessary
evil. As early as 1628 the irascible slaves from Angola,[215] Africa,
were the fruitful source of wide-spread public alarm. A newly settled
country demanded a hardy and energetic laboring class. Money was
scarce, the colonists poor, and servants few. The numerous physical
obstructions across the path of material civilization suggested cheap
but efficient labor. White servants were few, and the cost of securing
them from abroad was a great hinderance to their increase. The Dutch
had possessions on the coast of Guinea and in Brazil, and hence they
found it cheap and convenient to import slaves to perform the labor of
the colony.[216]

The early slaves went into the pastoral communities, worked on the
public highways, and served as valets in private families. Their
increase was stealthy, their conduct insubordinate, and their presence
a distressing nightmare to the apprehensive and conscientious.

The West India Company had offered many inducements to its
patroons.[217] And its pledge to furnish the colonists with "as many
blacks as they conveniently could," was scrupulously performed.[218]
In addition to the slaves furnished by the vessels plying between
Brazil and the coast of Guinea, many Spanish and Portuguese prizes
were brought into the Netherlands, where the slaves were made the
chattel property of the company. An urgent and extraordinary demand
for labor, rather than the cruel desire to traffic in human beings,
led the Dutch to encourage the bringing of Negro slaves. Scattered
widely among the whites, treated often with the humanity that
characterized the treatment bestowed upon the white servants, there
was little said about slaves in this period. The majority of them were
employed upon the farms, and led quiet and sober lives. The largest
farm owned by the company was "_cultivated by the blacks_;"[219] and
this fact was recorded as early as the 19th of April, 1638, by "Sir
William Kieft, Director-General of New Netherland." And, although the
references to slaves and slavery in the records of Amsterdam are
incidental, yet it is plainly to be seen that the institution was
purely patriarchal during nearly all the period the Hollanders held
the Netherlands.

Manumission of slaves was not an infrequent event.[220] Sometimes it
was done as a reward for meritorious services, and sometimes it was
prompted by the holy impulses of humanity and justice. The most cruel
thing done, however, in this period, was to hold as slaves in the
service of the company the children of Negroes who were lawfully
manumitted. "All their children already born, or yet to be born,
remained obligated to serve the company as slaves." In cases of
emergency the liberated fathers of these bond children were required
to serve "by water or by land" in the defence of the Holland
government.[221] It is gratifying, however, to find the recorded
indignation of some of the best citizens of the New Netherlands
against the enslaving of the children of free Negroes. It was severely
denounced, as contrary to justice and in "violation of the law of
nature." "How any one born of a free Christian mother" could,
notwithstanding, be a slave, and be obliged to remain such, passed
their comprehension.[222] It was impossible for them to explain it."
And, although "they were treated just like Christians," the moral
sense of the people could not excuse such a flagrant crime against
humanity.[223]

Director-General Sir William Kieft's unnecessary war, "without the
knowledge, and much less the order, of the XIX., and against the will
of the Commonality there," had thrown the Province into great
confusion. Property was depreciating, and a feeling of insecurity
seized upon the people. Instead of being a source of revenue, New
Netherlands, as shown by the books of the Amsterdam Chamber, had cost
the company, from 1626 to 1644, inclusive, "over five hundred and
fifty thousand guilders, deducting the returns received from there."
It was to be expected that the slaves would share the general feeling



Online LibraryGeorge W. WilliamsHistory of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens → online text (page 16 of 57)