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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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 24 of 57)
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case he should become poor (without which, by the province
law, he is not manumitted), or to pay him the legacy.

_Query_. Can he recover the legacy, and how?

I have just observed that in your last you desire me to say
something towards discouraging you from removing to
Providence; and you say, any thing will do. At present, I
only say, you will do well enough where you are. I will
explain myself, and add something further, in some future
letter. I have not time to enlarge now, for which I believe
you will not be inconsolably grieved. So, to put you out of
pain, your hearty friend,


Mr. Adams replied as follows: -

"Now. _En mesure le manner_. The testator intended plainly
that his negro should have his liberty and a legacy;
therefore the law will presume that he intended his executor
should do all that without which he could have neither. That
this indemnification was not in the testator's mind, cannot
be proved from the will any more than it could be proved, in
the first case above, that the testator did not know a fee
simple would pass a will without the word heirs; nor than,
in the second case, that the devise of a trust, that might
continue forever, would convey a fee-simple without the like
words. I take it, therefore, that the executor of this will
is, by implication, obliged to give bonds to the town
treasurer, and, in his refusal, is a wrongdoer; and I cannot
think he ought to be allowed to take advantage of his own
wrong, so much as to allege this want of an indemnification
to evade an action of the case brought for the legacy by the
negro himself.

But why may not the negro bring a special action of the case
against the executor, setting forth the will, the devise of
freedom and a legacy, and then the necessity of
indemnification by the province law, and then a refusal to
indemnify, and, of consequence, to set free and to pay the

Perhaps the negro is free at common law by the devise. Now,
the province law seems to have been made only to oblige the
master to maintain his manumitted slave, and not to declare
a manumission in the master's lifetime, or at his death,
void. Should a master give his negro his freedom, under his
hand and seal, without giving bond to the town, and should
afterwards repent and endeavor to recall the negro into
servitude, would not that instrument be a sufficient
discharge against the master?"[371]

It is pleaded in extenuation of this Act, that it was passed to put a
stop to the very prevalent habit of emancipating old and decrepit
Negroes after there was no more service in them. If this be true, it
reveals a practice more cruel than slavery itself.

In 1702 the representatives of the town of Boston were "desired to
promote the encouraging the bringing of White servants and to put a
period to Negroes being slaves."[372] This was not an anti-slavery
measure, as some have wrongly supposed.[373] It was not a resolution
or an Act: it was simply a request; and one that the "Representatives"
did not grant for nearly a century afterwards.

"In 1718, a committee of both Houses prepared a bill
entitled 'An Act for the Encouraging the Importation of
White Male Servants, and the preventing the Clandestine
bringing in of Negroes and Molattoes.'"

It was read in Council a first time on the 16th of June, and "sent
down recommended" to the House; where it was also read a first time on
the same day. The next day it was read a second time, and, "on the
question for a third reading, decided in the negative."[374] In 1706
an argument or "Computation that the Importation of Negroes is not so
profitable as that of White Servants," was published in Boston.[375]
It throws a flood of light upon the Act mentioned above, and shows
that the motives that inspired the people who wanted a period put to
the holding of Negroes as slaves were grossly material and selfish. It
was the first published article on the subject, and is worthy of
reproduction in full. It is reprinted from "The Boston News-Letter,"
No. 112, June 10, 1706, in the New-York Historical Society.

"By last Year's Bill of Mortality for the Town of _Boston_,
in _Number 100 News-Letter_, we are furnished with a List of
44 Negroes dead last year, which being computed one with
another at 30_l._ per Head, amounts to the Sum of One
Thousand three hundred and Twenty Pounds, of which we would
make this Remark: That the Importing of Negroes into this or
the Neighboring Provinces is not so beneficial either to the
Crown or Country, as White Servants would be.

"For Negroes do not carry Arms to defend the Country as
Whites do.

"Negroes are generally Eye-Servants, great Thieves, much
addicted to Stealing, Lying and Purloining.

"They do not People our Country as Whites would do whereby
we should be strengthened against an Enemy.

"By Encouraging the Importing of White Men Servants,
allowing somewhat to the Importer, most Husbandmen in the
Country might be furnished with Servants for 8, 9, or 10_l._
a Head, who are not able to launch out 40 or 50_l._ for a
Negro the now common Price.

"A Man then might buy a White Man Servant we suppose for
10_l._ to serve 4 years, and Boys for the same price to
Serve 6, 8, or 10 years; If a White Servant die, the Loss
exceeds not 10_l._ but if a Negro dies, 'tis a very great
loss to the Husbandman; Three years Interest of the price of
the Negro, will near upon if not altogether purchase a White
Man Servant.

"If necessity call for it, that the Husbandman must fit out
a Man against the Enemy; if he has a Negro he cannot send
him, but if he has a White Servant, 'twill answer the end,
and perhaps save his son at home.

"Were Merchants and Masters Encouraged as already said to
bring in Men Servants, there needed not be such Complaint
against Superiors Impressing our Children to the War, there
would then be Men enough to be had without Impressing.

"The bringing in of such Servants would much enrich this
Province, because Husbandmen would not only be able far
better to manure what Lands are already under Improvement,
but would also improve a great deal more that now lyes waste
under Woods, and enable this Province to set about raising
of Naval Stores, which would be greatly advantageous to the
Crown of England, and this Province.

"For the raising of Hemp here, so as to make Sail-cloth and
Cordage to furnish but our own shipping, would hinder the
Importing it, and save a considerable sum in a year to make
Returns for which we now do, and in time might be
capacitated to furnish England not only with Sail-cloth and
Cordage, but likewise with Pitch, Tar, Hemp, and other
Stores which they are now obliged to purchase in Foreign

"Suppose the Government here should allow Forty Shillings
per head for five years, to such as should Import every of
these years 100 White Men Servants, and each to serve 4
years, the cost would be but 200_l._ a year, and a 1000_l._
for the 5 years. The first 100 Servants, being free the 4th
year they serve the 5th for Wages, and the 6th there is 100
that goes out into the Woods, and settles a 100 Families to
Strengthen and Baracado us from the Indians, and also a 100
Families more every year successively.

"And here you see that in one year the Town of Boston has
lost 1320_l._ by 44 Negroes, which is also a loss to the
Country in general, and for a less loss (if it may
improperly be so called) for a 1000_l._ the Country may have
500 Men in 5 years time for the 44 Negroes dead in one year.

"A certain person within these 6 years had two Negroes dead
computed both at 60_l._ which would have procured him six
white Servants at 10_l._ per head to have Served 24 years,
at 4 years apiece, without running such a great risque, and
the Whites would have strengthened the Country, that Negroes
do not.

"'Twould do well that none of those Servants be liable to be
Impressed during their Service of Agreement at their first

"That such Servants being Sold or Transported out of this
Province during the time of their Service, the Person that
buys them be liable to pay 3_l._ into the Treasury."

Comment would be superfluous. It is only necessary for the reader to
note that there is not a humane sentiment in the entire article.

But universal liberty was not without her votaries. All had not bowed
the knee to Baal. The earliest friend of the Indian and the Negro was
the scholarly, pious, and benevolent Samuel Sewall, at one time one of
the judges of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, and afterwards the
chief justice. He hated slavery with a righteous hatred, and early
raised his voice and used his pen against it. He contributed the first
article against slavery printed in the colony. It appeared as a tract,
on the 24th of June, 1700, and was "Printed by Bartholomew Green and
John Allen." It is withal the most remarkable document of its kind we
ever saw. It is reproduced here to show the reader what a learned
Christian judge thought of slavery one hundred and eighty-two years


"By the Hon'ble JUDGE SEWALL in New England.

"FORASMUCH _as_ LIBERTY _is in real value next unto Life;
None ought to part with it themselves, or deprive others of
it, but upon most mature consideration._

"The Numerousness of Slaves at this Day in the Province, and
the Uneasiness of them under their Slavery, hath put many
upon thinking whether the Foundation of it be firmly and
well laid; so as to sustain the Vast Weight that is built
upon it. It is most certain that all Men, as they are the
Sons of _Adam_, are Co-heirs, and have equal Right unto
Liberty, and all other outward Comforts of Life. GOD _hath
given the Earth [with all its commodities] unto the Sons of
Adam, Psal., 115, 16. And hath made of one Blood all Nations
of Men, for to dwell on all the face of the Earth, and hath
determined the Times before appointed, and the bounds of
their Habitation: That they should seek the Lord. Forasmuch
then as we are the Offspring of_ GOD, &c. _Acts, 17, 26, 27,
29_. Now, although the Title given by the last ADAM doth
infinitely better Men's Estates, respecting GOD and
themselves; and grants them a most beneficial and inviolable
Lease under the Broad Seal of Heaven, who were before only
Tenants at Will; yet through the Indulgence of GOD to our
First Parents after the Fall, the outward Estate of all and
every of their Children, remains the same as to one another.
So that Originally, and Naturally, there is no such thing as
Slavery. _Joseph_ was rightfully no more a slave to his
Brethren, than they were to him; and they had no more
Authority to _Sell_ him, than they had to _Slay_ him. And if
_they_ had nothing to do to sell him; the _Ishmaelites_
bargaining with them, and paying down Twenty pieces of
Silver, could not make a Title. Neither could _Potiphar_
have any better Interest in him than the _Ishmaelites_ had.
_Gen. 37, 20, 27, 28_. For he that shall in this case plead
_Alteration of Property_, seems to have forfeited a great
part of his own claim to Humanity. There is no proportion
between Twenty Pieces of Silver and LIBERTY. The Commodity
itself is the Claimer. If _Arabian_ Gold be imported in any
quantities, most are afraid to meddle with it, though they
might have it at easy rates; lest it should have been
wrongfully taken from the Owners, it should kindle a fire to
the Consumption of their whole Estate. 'Tis pity there
should be more Caution used in buying a Horse, or a little
lifeless dust, than there is in purchasing Men and Women:
Whereas they are the Offspring of GOD, and their Liberty is,

... _Auro pretiofior Omni._

"And seeing GOD hath said, _He that Stealeth a Man, and
Selleth him, or if he be found in his Hand, he shall surely
be put to Death._ Exod. 21, 16. This Law being of
Everlasting Equity, wherein Man-Stealing is ranked among the
most atrocious of Capital Crimes: What louder Cry can there
be made of that Celebrated Warning

_Caveat Emptor!_

"And all things considered, it would conduce more to the
Welfare of the Province, to have White Servants for a Term
of Years, than to have Slaves for Life. Few can endure to
hear of a Negro's being made free; and indeed they can
seldom use their Freedom well; yet their continual aspiring
after their forbidden Liberty, renders them Unwilling
Servants. And there is such a disparity in their Conditions,
Colour, and Hair, that they can never embody with us, & grow
up in orderly Families, to the Peopling of the Land; but
still remain in our Body Politick as a kind of extravasat
Blood. As many Negro Men as there are among us, so many
empty Places are there in our Train Bands, and the places
taken up of Men that might make Husbands for our Daughters.
And the Sons and Daughters of _New England_ would become
more like _Jacob_ and _Rachel_, if this Slavery were thrust
quite out of Doors. Moreover it is too well known what
Temptations Masters are under, to connive at the
Fornication of their Slaves; lest they should be obliged to
find them Wives, or pay their Fines. It seems to be
practically pleaded that they might be lawless; 'tis thought
much of, that the Law should have satisfaction for their
Thefts, and other Immoralities; by which means, _Holiness to
the Lord_ is more rarely engraven upon this sort of
Servitude. It is likewise most lamentable to think, how in
taking Negroes out of _Africa_, and selling of them here,
That which GOD has joined together, Men do boldly rend
asunder; Men from their Country, Husbands from their Wives,
Parents from their Children. How horrible is the
Uncleanness, Mortality, if not Murder, that the Ships are
guilty of that bring great Crowds of these miserable Men and
Women. Methinks when we are bemoaning the barbarous Usage of
our Friends and Kinsfolk in _Africa_, it might not be
unreasonable to enquire whether we are not culpable in
forcing the _Africans_ to become Slaves amongst ourselves.
And it may be a question whether all the Benefit received by
_Negro_ Slaves will balance the Accompt of Cash laid out
upon them; and for the Redemption of our own enslaved
Friends out of _Africa_. Besides all the Persons and Estates
that have perished there.

"Obj. 1. _These Blackamores are of the Posterity of Cham,
and therefore are under the Curse of Slavery_. Gen. 9, 25,
26, 27.

"_Ans._ Of all Offices, one would not beg this; viz.
Uncall'd for, to be an Executioner of the Vindictive Wrath
of God; the extent and duration of which is to us uncertain.
If this ever was a Commission; How do we know but that it is
long since out of Date? Many have found it to their Cost,
that a Prophetical Denunciation of Judgment against a Person
or People, would not warrant them to inflict that evil. If
it would, _Hazael_ might justify himself in all he did
against his master, and the _Israelites_ from _2 Kings 8,
10, 12_.

"But it is possible that by cursory reading, this Text may
have been mistaken. For _Canaan_ is the Person Cursed three
times over, without the mentioning of _Cham_. Good
Expositors suppose the Curse entailed on him, and that this
Prophesie was accomplished in the Extirpation of the
_Canaanites_, and in the Servitude of the _Gibeonites. Vide
Pareum_. Whereas the Blackmores are not descended of
_Canaan_, but of Cush. Psal. 68, 31. _Princes shall come out
of Egypt_ [Mizraim]. _Ethiopia_ [Cush] _shall soon stretch
out her hands unto God_. Under which Names, all _Africa_ may
be comprehended; and their Promised Conversion ought to be
prayed for. _Jer. 13, 23. Can the Ethiopian change his
Skin?_ This shows that Black Men are the Posterity of
_Cush_. Who time out of mind have been distinguished by
their Colour. And for want of the true, _Ovid_ assigns a
fabulous cause of it.

_Sanguine tum credunt in corpora summa vocato
Æthiopum populos nigrum traxisse colorem_. Metamorph. lib. 2.

"Obj. 2. _The_ Nigers _are brought out of a Pagan Country,
into places where the Gospel is preached_.

"_Ans._ Evil must not be done, that good may come of it. The
extraordinary and comprehensive Benefit accruing to the
Church of God, and to _Joseph_ personally, did not rectify
his Brethren's Sale of him.

"Obj. 3. _The Africans have Wars one with another: Our Ships
bring lawful Captives taken in those wars_.

"_Answ._ For aught is known, their Wars are much such as
were between _Jacob's_ Sons and their Brother _Joseph_. If
they be between Town and Town; Provincial or National: Every
War is upon one side Unjust. An Unlawful War can't make
lawful Captives. And by receiving, we are in danger to
promote, and partake in their Barbarous Cruelties. I am
sure, if some Gentlemen should go down to the _Brewsters_ to
take the Air, and Fish: And a stronger Party from _Hull_
should surprise them, and sell them for Slaves to a Ship
outward bound; they would think themselves unjustly dealt
with; both by Sellers and Buyers. And yet 'tis to be feared,
we have no other Kind of Title to our _Nigers. Therefore all
things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you
even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets._
Matt. 7, 12.

"Obj. 4. Abraham _had Servants bought with his money and
born in his House._

"_Ans._ Until the Circumstances of _Abraham's_ purchase be
recorded, no Argument can be drawn from it. In the mean
time, Charity obliges us to conclude, that He knew it was
lawful and good.

"It is Observable that the _Israelites_ were strictly
forbidden the buying or selling one another for Slaves.
_Levit. 25. 39. 46. Jer. 34, 8-22_. And GOD gaged His
Blessing in lieu of any loss they might conceit they
suffered thereby, _Deut._ 15. 18. And since the partition
Wall is broken down, inordinate Self-love should likewise be
demolished. GOD expects that Christians should be of a more
Ingenuous and benign frame of Spirit. Christians should
carry it to all the World, as the _Israelites_ were to carry
it one towards another. And for Men obstinately to persist
in holding their Neighbours and Brethren under the Rigor of
perpetual Bondage, seems to be no proper way of gaining
Assurance that God has given them Spiritual Freedom. Our
Blessed Saviour has altered the Measures of the ancient Love
Song, and set it to a most Excellent New Tune, which all
ought to be ambitious of Learning. _Matt. 5. 43. 44_. _John
13. 34_. These _Ethiopians_, as black as they are, seeing
they are the Sons and Daughters of the First _Adam_, the
Brethren and Sisters of the Last ADAM, and the Offspring of
GOD; They ought to be treated with a Respect agreeable.

"_Servitus perfecta voluntaria, inter Christianum &
Christianum, ex parte servi patientis saepe est licita, quia
est necessaria; sed ex parte domini agentis, & procurando &
exercendo, vix potest esse licita; quia non convenit regulæ
illi generali; Quaecunque volueritis ut faciant vobis
homines, ita & vos facite eis. Matt. 7, 12._

"_Perfecta servitus paenae, non potest jure locum habere,
nisi ex delicto gravi quod ultimum supplicium aliquo modo
meretur: quia Libertas ex naturali æstimatione proxime
accedit ad vitam ipsam, & eidem a multis præferri solet._

"Ames. Cas. Confc. Lib. 5. Cap. 23. Thes. 2. 3."

Judge Sewall's attack on slavery created no little stir in Boston; and
the next year, 1701, Judge John Saffin, an associate of Judge Sewall,
answered it in quite a lengthy paper.[376] Having furnished Judge
Sewall's paper, it is proper that Judge Saffin's reply should likewise
have a place here.


"A Brief and Candid Answer to a late Printed Sheet,
_Entituled_, The Selling of Joseph.

"THAT Honourable and Learned Gentleman, the Author of a
Sheet, Entituled, _The Selling of Joseph, A_ Memorial, seems
from thence to draw this conclusion, that because the Sons
of _Jacob_ did very ill in selling their Brother _Joseph_ to
the _Ishmaelites_, who were Heathens, therefore it is
utterly unlawful to Buy and Sell Negroes, though among
Christians; which Conclusion I presume is not well drawn
from the Premises, nor is the case parallel; for it was
unlawful for the _Israelites_ to Sell their Brethren upon
any account, or pretence whatsoever during life. But it was
not unlawful for the Seed of _Abraham_ to have Bond men, and
Bond women either born in their House, or bought with their
Money, as it is written of _Abraham, Gen. 14. 14._ & 21. 10.
& _Exod. 21. 16._ & _Levit. 25. 44. 45. 46 v._ After the
giving of the law: And in _Josh. 9. 23._ That famous Example
of the _Gibeonites_ is a sufficient proof where there no

"To speak a little to the Gentlemans first Assertion: _That
none ought to part with their Liberty themselves, or deprive
others of it but upon mature consideration_; a prudent
exception, in which he grants, that upon some consideration
a man may be deprived of his Liberty. And then presently in
his next Position or Assertion he denies it, _viz.: It is
most certain, that all men as they are the Sons of_ Adam
_are Coheirs, and have equal right to Liberty, and all other
Comforts of Life_, which he would prove out of _Psal. 115.
16_. _The Earth hath he given to the Children of Men_. True,
but what is all this to the purpose, to prove that all men
have equal right to Liberty, and all outward comforts of
this life; which Position seems to invert the Order that God
hath set in the World, who hath Ordained different degrees
and orders of men, some to be High and Honourable, some to
be Low and Despicable; some to be Monarchs, Kings, Princes
and Governours, Masters and Commanders, others to be
Subjects, and to be Commanded; Servants of sundry sorts and
degrees, bound to obey; yea, some to be born Slaves, and so
to remain during their lives, as hath been proved. Otherwise
there would be a meer parity among men, contrary to that of
the Apostle, I. _Cor. 12 from the 13 to the 26 verse_, where
he sets forth (by way of comparison) the different sorts and
offices of the Members of the Body, indigitating that they
are all of use, but not equal, and of Like dignity. So God
hath set different Orders and Degrees of Men in the World,
both in Church and Common weal. Now, if this Position of
parity should be true, it would then follow that the
ordinary Course of Divine Providence of God in the World
should be wrong, and unjust, (which we must not dare to
think, much less to affirm) and all the sacred Rules,
Precepts and Commands of the Almighty which he hath given
the Sons of Men to observe and keep in their respective
Places, Orders and Degrees, would be to no purpose; which
unaccountably derogate from the Divine Wisdom of the most
High, who hath made nothing in vain, but hath Holy Ends in
all his Dispensations to the Children of men.

"In the next place, this worthy Gentleman makes a large

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 24 of 57)