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 28 of 57)
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Mariners, Owners or Freighters of any such Vessel or
Vessels, as before the said Tenth Day of April next shall
have sailed from any Port or Ports in this Province, for any
Port or Ports not within this Government, for importing or
bringing into this Province any Negro or other Person or
Persons as Slaves who in the prosecution of the same voyage
may be imported or brought into the same. _Provided_ he
shall not offer them or any of them for sale.

"_Provided_ also that this act shall not be construed to
extend to any such Person or Persons, occasionally hereafter
coming to reside within this Province, or passing thro' the
same, who may bring such Negro or other Person or Persons as
necessary servants into this Province provided that the stay
or residence of such Person or Persons shall not exceed
Twelve months or that such Person or Persons within said
time send such Negro or other Person or Persons out of this
Province there to be and remain, and also that during said
Residence such Negro or other Person or Persons shall not be
sold or alienated within the same.

"[Transcriber's Note: Inverted A appears here.] _And be it
further Enacted and declared that nothing in this act
contained shall extend or be construed to extend for
retaining or holding in perpetual servitude any Negro or
other Person or Persons now inslaved within this Province
but that every such Negro or other Person or Persons shall
be intituled to all the Benefits such Negro or other Person
or Persons might by Law have been intituled to, in case this
act had not been made_.

"In the House of Representatives March 2, 1774. Read a first
& second Time. March 3, 1774. Read a third Time & passed to
be engrossed. Sent up for concurrence.

T. CUSHING, _Spkr._

"In Council March 3, 1774. Read a first time. 4. Read a
second Time and passed in Concurrence to be Engrossed with
the Amendment at [Transcriber's Note: Inverted A appears
here.] dele the whole Clause. Sent down for concurrence.


"In the House of Representatives March 4, 1774. Read and

T. CUSHING, _Spkr._"

Like all other measures for the suppression of the slave-trade, this
bill failed to become a law. If Massachusetts desired to free herself
from this twofold cross of woe, - even if her great jurists could trace
the law that justified the abolition of the curse, in the pages of the
royal charter, - were not the British governors of the Province but
conserving the corporation interests of the home government and the
members of the Royal African Company? By the Treaty of Utrecht,
England had agreed to furnish the Spanish West Indies with Negroes
for the space of thirty years. She had aided all her colonies to
establish slavery, and had sent her navies to guard the vessels that
robbed Africa of five hundred thousand souls annually.[412] This was
the cruel work of England. For all her sacrifices in the war, the
millions of treasure she had spent, the blood of her children so
prodigally shed, with the glories of Blenheim, of Ramillies, of
Oudenarde and Malplaquet, England found her consolation and reward in
seizing and enjoying, as the lion's share of results of the grand
alliance against the Bourbons, the exclusive right for thirty years of
selling African slaves to the Spanish West Indies and the coast of
America![413] Why _should_ Gov. Hutchinson sign a bill that was
intended to choke the channel of a commerce in human souls that was so
near the heart of the British throne?

Gov. Hutchinson was gone, and Gen. Gage was now governor. He convened
the General Court at Salem, in June, 1774. On the 10th of June the
same bill that Gov. Hutchinson had refused to sign was introduced,
with a few immaterial changes, and pushed to a third reading, and
engrossed the same day. It was called up on the 16th of June, and
passed. It was sent up to the Council, where it was read a third time,
and concurred in. But the next day the General Court was dissolved!
And over the grave of this, the last attempt at legislation to
suppress the slave-trade in Massachusetts, was written: "_Not to have
been consented_ to by the governor"!

These repeated efforts at anti-slavery legislation were strategic and
politic. The gentlemen who hurried those bills through the House and
Council, almost regardless of rules, knew that the royal governors
would never affix their signatures to them. But the colonists, having
put themselves on record, could appeal to the considerate judgment of
the impatient Negroes; while the refusal of the royal governors to
give the bills the force of law did much to drive the Negroes to the
standard of the colonists. In the long night of darkness that was
drawing its sable curtains about the colonial government, the loyalty
of the Negroes was the lonely but certain star that threw its peerless
light upon the pathway of the child of England so soon to be forced to
lift its parricidal hand against its rapacious and cruel mother.


[380] Felt, vol. ii. p. 416.

[381] Newspaper Literature, vol. i. p. 31.

[382] Lyman's Report, quoted by Dr. Moore.

[383] House Journal, p. 387.

[384] Ibid.

[385] House Journals; see, also, Gen. Court Records, May, 1763, to
May, 1767, p. 485.

[386] Slavery in Mass., pp. 131, 132.

[387] Felt, vol. ii. pp. 416, 417.

[388] Hist. of Leicester, pp. 442, 443.

[389] Freeman's Hist. of Cape Cod, vol. ii. pp. 114, 115.

[390] Boston Gazette, Aug. 17, 1761.

[391] Letters of Mrs. Adams, p. 20.

[392] Adams's Works, vol. ii. p. 200.

[393] Adams's Works, vol. ii, p. 213.

[394] Records, 1768, fol., p. 284.

[395] This is the case referred to by the late Charles Sumner in his
famous speech in answer to Senator Butler of South Carolina; see also
Slavery in Mass., p. 115, 116; Washburn's Judicial Hist. of Mass., p.
202; Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., 1863-64, p. 322.

[396] Records, 1769, fol. p. 196. Gray in Quincy's Reports, p. 30,
note, quoted by Dr. Moore.

[397] Slavery in Mass., pp. 115, 116, note.

[398] Lyman's Report, 1822.

[399] Slavery in Mass., p. 118.

[400] Hist. of Newbury, p. 339.

[401] The Watchman's Alarm, p. 28, note; also Slavery in Mass., p.

[402] Mass. Hist Soc. Coll., vol. iv. 1st Series, pp. 202, 203.

[403] Hildreth, vol. ii. p. 564.

[404] House Journal, p. 85, quoted by Dr. Moore.

[405] House Journal, p. 94.

[406] Slavery in Mass., p. 136.

[407] House Journal, p. 104.

[408] House Journal p. 224.

[409] Ibid., p. 226.

[410] House Journal, Gen Court Records, xxx. pp. 248, 264; also,
Slavery in Mass, p. 137.

[411] Mass. Archives, Domestic Relations, 1643-1774, vol. ix. p. 457.

[412] Ethiope, p. 12.

[413] Bolingbroke, pp. 346-348.




REPLIES. - THE LAWS OF 1723, 1729, 1752. - RIGHTS OF

Up to the 20th of June, 1630, the territory that at present
constitutes the State of Maryland was included within the limits of
the colony of Virginia. During that period the laws of Virginia
obtained throughout the entire territory.

In 1637[414] the first assembly of the colony of Maryland agreed upon
a number of bills, but they never became laws. The list is left, but
nothing more. The nearest and earliest attempt at legislation on the
slavery question to be found is a bill that was introduced "_for
punishment of ill servants_." During the earlier years of the
existence of slavery in Virginia, the term "servant" was applied to
Negroes as well as to white persons. The legal distinction between
slaves and servants was, "servants for a term of years," - white
persons; and "servants for life," - Negroes. In the first place, there
can be no doubt but what Negro slaves were a part of the population of
this colony from its organization;[415] and, in the second place, the
above-mentioned bill of 1637 for the "_punishment of ill servants_"
was intended, doubtless, to apply to Negro servants, or slaves. So
few were they in number, that they were seldom referred to as
"slaves." They were "servants;" and that appellation dropped out only
when the growth of slavery as an institution, and the necessity of
specific legal distinction, made the Negro the only person that was
suited to the condition of absolute property.

In 1638 there was a list of bills that reached a second reading, but
never passed. There was one bill "_for the liberties of the people_,"
that declared "all Christian inhabitants (slaves only excepted) to
have and enjoy all such rights, liberties, immunities, privileges and
free customs, within this province, as any natural born subject of
England hath or ought to have or enjoy in the realm of England, by
force or virtue of the common law or statute law of England, saving in
such cases as the same are or may be altered or changed by the laws
and ordinances of this province."[416] There is but one mention made
of "slaves" in the above Act, but in none of the other Acts of 1638.
There are certain features of the Act worthy of special consideration.
The reader should keep the facts before him, that by the laws of
England no Christian could be held in slavery; that in the Provincial
governments the laws were made to conform with those of the home
government; that, in specifying the rights of the colonists, the
Provincial assemblies limited the immunities and privileges conferred
by the Magna Charta upon British subjects, to Christians; that Negroes
were considered heathen, and, therefore, denied the blessings of the
Church and State; that even where Negro slaves were baptized, it was
held by the courts in the colonies, and was the law-opinion of the
solicitor-general of Great Britain, that they were not _ipso facto_
free;[417] and that, where Negroes were free, they had no rights in
the Church or State. So, while this law of 1638 did not say that
Negroes _should_ be slaves, in designating those who were to enjoy the
rights of freemen, it excludes the Negro, and thereby fixes his
condition as a slave by implication. If he were not named as a
freeman, it was the intention of the law-makers that he should remain
a bondman, - the exception to an established rule of law.[418]

In subsequent Acts reference was made to "servants," "fugitives,"
"runaways," etc.; but the first statute in this colony establishing
slavery was passed in 1663. It was "_An Act concerning negroes and
other slaves_." It enacts section one: -

"All negroes or other slaves within the province, and all
negroes and other slaves to be hereafter imported into the
province, shall serve _durante vita_; and all children born
of any negro or other slave, shall be slaves as their
fathers were for the term of their lives."

Section two: -

"And forasmuch as divers freeborn _English_ women, forgetful
of their free condition, and to the disgrace of our nation,
do intermarry with negro slaves, by which also divers suits
may arise, touching the issue of such women, and a great
damage doth befall the master of such negroes, for
preservation whereof for deterring such free-born women from
such shameful matches, _be it enacted_, &c.: That whatsoever
free-born woman shall intermarry with any slave, from and
after the last day of the present assembly, shall serve the
master of such slave during the life of her husband; and
that all the issue of such free-born women, so married,
shall be slaves as their fathers were."

Section three: -

"And be it further enacted, that all the issues of
_English_, or other free-born women, that have already
married negroes, shall serve the master of their parents,
till they be thirty years of age and no longer."[419]

Section one is the most positive and sweeping statute we have ever
seen on slavery. It fixes the term of servitude for the longest time
man can claim, - the period of his earthly existence, - and dooms the
children to a service from which they were to find discharge only in
death. Section two was called into being on account of the
intermarriage of white women with slaves. Many of these women had been
indentured as servants to pay their passage to this country, some had
been sent as convicts, while still others had been apprenticed for a
term of years. Some of them, however, were very worthy persons. No
little confusion attended the fixing of the legal status of the issue
of such marriages; and it was to deter Englishwomen from such
alliances, and to determine the status of the children before the
courts, that this section was passed. Section three was clearly an _ex
post facto_ law: but the public sentiment of the colony was reflected
in it; and it stood, and was re-enacted in 1676.

Like Virginia, the colony of Maryland found the soil rich, and the
cultivation of tobacco a profitable enterprise. The country was new,
and the physical obstructions in the way of civilization numerous and
formidable. Of course all could not pursue the one path that led to
agriculture. Mechanic and trade folk were in great demand. Laborers
were scarce, and the few that could be obtained commanded high wages.
The Negro slave's labor could be made as cheap as his master's
conscience and heart were small. Cheaper labor became the cry on every
hand, and the Negro was the desire of nearly all white men in the
colony.[420] In 1671 the Legislature passed "_An Act encouraging the
importation of negroes and slaves into_" the colony, which was
followed by another and similar Act in 1692. Two motives inspired the
colony to build up the slave-trade; viz., to have more laborers, and
to get something for nothing. And, as soon as Maryland was known to be
a good market for slaves, the traffic increased with wonderful
rapidity. Slaves soon became the bone and sinew of the working-force
of the colony. They were used to till the fields, to fell the forests,
to assist mechanics, and to handle light crafts along the
water-courses. They were to be found in all homes of opulence and
refinement; and, unfortunately, their presence in such large numbers
did much to lower honorable labor in the estimation of the whites, and
to enervate women in the best white society. While the colonists
persuaded themselves that slavery was an institution indispensable to
the colony, its evil effects soon became apparent. It were impossible
to engage the colony in the slave-trade, and escape the bad results of
such an inhuman enterprise. It made men cruel and avaricious.

It was the motion of individuals to have legislative encouragement
tendered the venders of human flesh and blood; but the time came when
the government of the colony saw that an impost tax upon the slaves
imported into the colony would not impair the trade, while it would
aid the government very materially. In 1696 "_An Act laying an
imposition on negroes, slaves and while persons imported_" into the
colony was passed. It is plain from the reading of the caption of the
above bill, that it was intended to reach three classes of persons;
viz., Negro servants, Negro slaves, and white servants. The word
"imported" means such persons as could not pay their passage, and were
therefore indentured to the master of the vessel. When they arrived,
their time was hired out, if they were free, for a term of years, at
so much per year;[421] but if they were slaves the buyer had to pay
all claims against this species of property before he could acquire a
fee simple in the slave. Some historians have too frequently
misinterpreted the motive and aim of the colonial Legislatures in
imposing an impost tax upon Negroes and other servants imported into
their midst. The fact that the law applied to white persons does not
aid in an interpretation that would credit the makers of the act with
feelings of humanity. A people who could buy and sell wives did not
hesitate to see in the indentured white servants property that ought
to be taxed. Why not? These white servants represented so many dollars
invested, or so many years of labor in prospect! So all persons
imported into the colony of Maryland, "Negroes, slaves, and white
persons," were taxed as any other marketable article. A swift and
remorseless civilization against the stolid forces of nature made men
indiscriminate and cruel in their impulses to obtain. Public sentiment
had been formulated into law: the law contemplated "servants and
slaves" as chattel property; and the political economists of the
Province saw in this species of property rich gains for the
government. It was condition, circumstances, that made the servant or
slave; but at length it was nationality, color.

When, on the threshold of the eighteenth century, "white indentured"
servants were rapidly ceasing to exist under color or sanction of law,
religious bigotry and ecclesiastical intolerance joined hands with the
supporters of Negro slavery in a crusade[422] against the Irish
Catholics. In 1704 the Legislature passed "_An Act imposing three
pence per gallon on rum and wine, brandy and spirits, and twenty
shillings per poll for negroes, for raising a supply to defray the
public charge of this province, and twenty shillings, per poll, on
Irish servants, to prevent the importing too great a number of Irish
papist into this province_." Although this Act was intended to remain
on the statute-books only three years, its life was prolonged by a
supplemental Act, and it disgraced the colony for twenty-one years. As
in New York, so here, the government regarded the slave and Papist
with feelings of hatred and fear. The former was only suited to a
condition of perpetual bondage, the latter to be ostracized and driven
out from before the face of the exclusive Protestants of that period.
Both were cruelly treated; one on account of his face, the other on
account of his faith.

"Unfortunately for the professors of the Catholic religion,
by the force of circumstances which it is not necessary to
detail, their religious persuasions became identified, in
the public mind, with opposition to the principles of the
revolution. Their political disfranchisement was the
consequence. Charles Calvert, the deposed proprietary,
shared the common fate of his Catholic brethren. Sustained
and protected by the crown in the enjoyment of his mere
private rights, the general jealousy of Catholic power
denied him the government of the province."[423]

A knowledge of the antecedents of the master-class will aid the reader
to a more accurate conception of the character of the institution of
slavery in the colony of Maryland.

It is not very pleasing for the student of history at this time to
remember that the British colonies in North America received into
their early life the worst poison of European society, - the criminal
element. From the first the practice of transporting convicts into the
colonies obtained. And, during the reign of George I., statutes were
passed "authorizing transportation as a commutation punishment for
clergyable felonies." These convicts were transported by private
shippers, and then sold into the colony; and thus it became a gainful
enterprise. From 1700 until 1760 this nefarious and pestiferous
traffic greatly increased. At length it became, as already indicated,
the subject of a special impost tax. Three or four hundred convicts
were imported into the colony annually, and the people began to
complain.[424] In "The Maryland Gazette" of the 30th of July, 1767, a
writer attempted to show that the convict element was not to be
despised, but was rather a desirable addition to the Province. He
says, -

"I suppose that for these last thirty years, communibus
annis, there have been at least 600 convicts per year
imported into this province: and these have probably gone
into 400 families."

After answering some objections to their importation because of the
contagious diseases likely to be communicated by them, he further
remarks, -

"This makes at least 400 to one, that they do no injury to
the country in the way complained of: and the people's
continuing to buy and receive them so constantly, shows
plainly the general sense of the country about the matter;
notwithstanding a few gentlemen seem so angry that convicts
are imported here at all, and would, if they could, by
spreading this terror, prevent the people's buying them. I
confess I am one, says he, who think a young country cannot
be settled, cultivated, and improved, without people of some
sort: and that it is much better for the country to receive
convicts than slaves. The wicked and bad amongst them, that
come into this province, mostly run away to the northward;
mix with their people, and pass for honest men: whilst those
more innocent, and who came for very small offences, serve
their times out here, behave well, and become useful

This attempt to justify the _convict trade_ elicited two able and
spirited replies over the signatures of "Philanthropos" and "C.D."
appearing in "Green's Gazette" of 20th of August, 1767, in which the
writer of the first article is handled "with the gloves off."

"His remarks [says Philanthropos] remind me of the
observation of a great philosopher, who alleges that there
is a certain race of men of so selfish a cast, that they
would even set a neighbour's house on fire, for the
convenience of roasting an egg at the blaze. That these are
not the reveries of fanciful speculatists, the author now
under consideration is in a great measure a proof; for who,
but a man swayed with the most sordid selfishness, would
endeavor to disarm the people of all caution against such
imminent danger, lest their just apprehensions should
interfere with his little schemes of profit? And who but
such a man would appear publicly as an advocate for the
importation of felons, the scourings of jails, and the
abandoned outcasts of the British nation, as a mode in any
sort eligible for peopling a young country?"

In another part of his reply he remarks, -

"In confining the indignation because of their importation
to a few, and representing that the general sense of the
people is in favor of this vile importation, he is guilty of
the most shameful misrepresentation and the grossest
calumny upon the whole province. What opinion must our
mother country, and our sister colonies, entertain of our
virtue, when they see it confidently asserted in the
Maryland Gazette, that we are fond of peopling our country
with the most abandoned profligates in the universe? Is this
the way to purge ourselves from that false and bitter
reproach, so commonly thrown upon us, _that we are the
descendants of convicts?_ As far as it has lain in my way to
be acquainted with the general sentiments of the people upon
this subject, I solemnly declare, that the most discerning
and judicious amongst them esteem it the greatest grievance
imposed upon us by our mother country."

The writer felt that a young country could not be settled "without
people of some sort," and that it was better to secure "convicts than
slaves." Upon what grounds precisely this defender of buying convict
labor based his conclusion that he would rather have "convicts than
slaves" is not known. It could not have been that he believed the
convicts of England more industrious or skilful than Negro slaves? Or,
had he theoretical objections to slavery as a permanent institution?

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 28 of 57)