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 37 of 57)
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are put thus tersely. -

"1st. Its expense: which the poor emigrant would be entirely
unable to sustain, either in the first cost of a negro, or
his subsequent keeping. 2d. Because it would induce idleness
and render labour degrading. 3d. Because the settlers, being
freeholders of only fifty-acre lots, requiring but one or
two extra hands for their cultivation, the German servants
would be a third more profitable than the blacks. Upon the
last original design I have mentioned, in planting this
colony, they also based an argument against their admission,
viz., that the cultivation of silk and wine, demanding skill
and nicety, rather than strength and endurance of fatigue,
the whites were better calculated for such labour than the
negroes. These were the prominent arguments, drawn from the
various considerations of internal and external policy,
which influenced the Trustees in making this prohibition.
Many of them, however, had but a temporary bearing, none
stood the test of experience."[516]

It is clear, then, that the founders of the colony of Georgia were not
moved by the noblest impulses to prohibit slavery within their
jurisdiction. In the chapter on South Carolina, attention was called
to the influence of the Spanish troops in Florida on the recalcitrant
Negroes in the Carolinas, the Negro regiment with subalterns from
their own class, and the work of Spanish emissaries among the slaves.
The home government thought it wise to build up Georgia out of white
men, who could develop its resources, and bear arms in defence of
British possessions along an extensive border exposed to a pestiferous
foe. But the Board of Trade soon found this an impracticable scheme,
and the colonists themselves began to clamor "for the use of
negroes."[517] The first petition for the introduction and use of
Negro slaves was offered to the trustees in 1735. This prayer was
promptly and positively denied, and for fifteen years they refused to
grant all requests for the use of Negroes. They adhered to their
prohibition in letter and spirit. Whenever and wherever Negroes were
found in the colony, they were sold back into Carolina. In the month
of December, 1738, a petition, addressed to the trustees, including
nearly all the names of the foremost colonists, set forth the
distressing condition into which affairs had drifted under the
enforcement of the prohibition, and declared that "the use of negroes,
with proper limitations, which, if granted, would both occasion great
numbers of white people to come here, and also to render us capable to
subsist ourselves, by raising provisions upon our lands, until we
could make some produce fit for export, in some measure to balance our
importations." But instead of securing a favorable hearing, the
petition drew the fire of the friends of the prohibition against the
use of Negroes. On the 3d of January, 1739, a petition to the trustees
combating the arguments of the above-mentioned petition, and urging
them to remain firm, was issued at Darien. This was followed by
another one, issued from Ebenezer on the 13th of March, in favor of
the position occupied by the trustees. A great many Scotch and German
people had settled in the colony; and, familiar with the arts of
husbandry, they became the ardent supporters of the trustees. James
Habersham, the "_dear fellow-traveller_," of Whitefield, exclaimed, -

"I once thought, it was unlawful to keep negro slaves, but I
am now induced to think God may have a higher end in
permitting them to be brought to this Christian country,
than merely to support their masters. Many of the poor
slaves in America have already been made freemen of the
heavenly Jerusalem, and possibly a time may come when many
thousands may embrace the gospel, and thereby be brought
into the glorious liberty of the children of God. These, and
other considerations, appear to plead strongly for a limited
use of negroes; for, while we can buy provisions in Carolina
cheaper than we can here, no one will be induced to plant
much."

But the trustees stood firm against the subtle cunning of the
politicians, and the eloquent pleadings of avarice.

On the 7th October, 1741, a large meeting was held at Savannah, and a
petition drawn, in which the land-holders and settlers presented their
grievances to the English authorities in London. On the 26th of March,
1742, Mr. Thomas Stephens, armed with the memorial, as the agent of
the memorialists, sailed for London. While the document ostensibly set
forth their wish for a definition of "the tenure of the lands," really
the burden of the prayer was for "_Negroes_." He presented the
memorial to the king, and his Majesty referred it to a committee of
the "Lords of Council for Plantation Affairs." This committee
transferred a copy of the memorial to the trustees, with a request for
their answer. About this time Stephens presented a petition to
Parliament, in which he charged the trustees with direliction of duty,
improper use of the public funds, abuse of their authority, and
numerous other sins against the public welfare. It created a genuine
sensation. The House resolved to go into a "committee of the whole,"
to consider the petitions and the answer of the trustees. The answer
of the trustees was drawn by the able pen of the Earl of Egmont, and
by them warmly approved on the 3d of May, and three days later was
read to the House of Commons. A motion prevailed "that the petitions
do lie upon the table," for the perusal of the members, for the space
of one week. At the expiration of the time fixed, Stephens appeared,
and all the petitions of the people of Georgia to the trustees in
reference to "the tenure of lands," and for "the use of negroes," were
laid before the honorable body. In the committee of the whole the
affairs of the colony were thoroughly investigated; and, after a few
days session, Mr. Carew reported a set of resolutions, being the sense
of the committee after due deliberation upon the matters before
them: -

"That the province of Georgia, in America, by reason of its
situation, may be an useful barrier to the British provinces
on the continent of America against the French and
Spaniards, and Indian nations in their interests; that the
ports and harbors within the said province may be a good
security to the trade and navigation of this kingdom, that
the said province, by reason of the fertility of the soil,
the healthfulness of the climate, and the convenience of the
rivers, is a proper place for establishing a settlement, and
may contribute greatly to the increasing trade of this
kingdom; that it is very necessary and advantageous to this
nation that the colony of Georgia should be preserved and
supported; that it will be an advantage to the colony of
Georgia to permit the importation of rum into the said
colony from any of the British colonies; that the petition
of Thomas Stephens contains false, scandalous and malicious
charges, tending to asperse the characters of the Trustees
for Establishing the Colony of Georgia, in America."

When the resolution making the importation of rum lawful reached a
vote, it was amended by adding, "As also the use of negroes, who may
be employed there with advantage to the colony, under proper
regulations and restrictions." It was lost by a majority of nine
votes. A resolution prevailed calling Thomas Stephens to the bar of
the House, "to be reprimanded on his knees by Mr. Speaker," for his
offence against the trustees.

On the next day Stephens, upon his bended knees at the bar of the
House of Commons, before the assembled statesmen of Great Britain, was
publicly reprimanded by the speaker, and discharged after paying his
fees. Thus ended the attempt of the people of the colony of Georgia to
secure permission, over the heads of the trustees, to introduce slaves
into their service.

The dark tide of slavery influence was dashing against the borders of
the colony. The people were discouraged. Business was stagnated.
Internal dissatisfaction and factional strife wore hard upon the
spirit of a people trying to build up and develop a new country. Then
the predatory incursions of the Spaniards, and the threatening
attitude of the Indians, unnerved the entire Province. In this state
of affairs white servants grew insolent and insubordinate. Those whose
term of service expired refused to work. In this dilemma many persons
boldly put the rule of the trustees under foot, and hired Negroes from
the Carolinas. At length the trustees became aware of the clandestine
importation of Negroes into the colony, and thereupon gave the
magistrates a severe reproval. On the 2d of October, 1747, they
received the following reply: -

"We are afraid, sir, from what you have wrote in relation to
negroes, that he Honourable Trustees have been misinformed
as to our conduct relating thereto; for we can with great
assurance assert, that this Board has always acted an
uniform part in discouraging the use of negroes in this
colony, well knowing it to be disagreeable to the Trustees,
as well as contrary to an act existing for the prohibition
of them, and always give it in charge to those whom we had
put in possession of lands, not to attempt the introduction
or use of negroes. But notwithstanding our great caution,
some people from Carolina, soon after settling lands on the
Little Ogeechee, found means of bringing and employing a few
negroes on the said lands, some time before it was
discovered to us, upon which they thought it high time to
withdraw them, for fear of being seized, and soon after
withdrew themselves and families out of the colony, which
appeals to us at present to be the resolution of divers
others."[518]

It was charged that the law-officers knew of the presence of Negroes
in Georgia; that their standing and constant toast was, "_the
one thing needful_" (Negroes); and that they themselves had
surreptitiously aided in the procurement of Negroes for the colony.
The supporters of the colonists grew less powerful as the struggle
went forward. The most active grew taciturn and conservative. The
advocates of Negro labor became bolder, and more acrimonious in
debate; and at length the champions of exclusive white labor shrank
into silence, appalled at the desperation of then opponents. The Rev.
Martin Bolzius, one of the most active supporters of the trustees,
wrote those gentlemen on May 3, 1748: -

"Things being now in such a melancholy state, I must humbly
beseech your honors, not to regard any more our of our
friend's petitions against negroes."

The Rev. George Whitefield and James Habersham used their utmost
influence upon the trustees to obtain a modification of the
prohibition against "the use of negroes." On the 6th of December,
1748, Rev. Whitefield, speaking of a plantation and Negroes he had
purchased, wrote the trustees: -

"Upwards of five thousand pounds have been expended in that
undertaking, and yet very little proficiency made in the
cultivation of my tract of land, and that entirely owing to
the necessity I lay under of making use of white hands. Had
a negro been allowed, I should now have had a sufficiency to
support a great many orphans, without expending above half
the sum which has been laid out. An unwillingness to let so
good a design drop, and having a rational conviction that it
must necessarily, if some other method was not fixed upon to
prevent it - these two considerations, honoured gentlemen,
prevailed on me about two years ago, through the bounty of
my good friends, to purchase a plantation in South Carolina,
where negroes are allowed. Blessed be God, this plantation
has succeeded; and though at present I have only eight
working hands, yet in all probability there will be more
raised in one year, and with a quarter the expense, than has
been produced at Bethesda for several years last past. This
confirms me in the opinion I have entertained for a long
time, that _Georgia never can or will be a flourishing
province without negroes are allowed_."[519]

The sentiment in favor of the importation of Negro slaves had become
well-nigh unanimous. The trustees began to waver. On the 10th of
January, 1749, another petition was presented to the trustees. It was
carefully drawn, and set forth the restrictions under which slaves
should be introduced. On the 16th of May following, it was read to the
trustees; and they resolved to have it "presented to His Majesty in
council." They also asked that the prohibition against the
introduction of Negroes, passed in "1735, be repealed." The Earl of
Shaftesbury, at the head of a special committee, draughted a bill
repealing the prohibition. On the 26th of October, 1749, a large and
influential committee of twenty-seven drew up and signed a petition
urging the immediate introduction of slavery, with certain
limitations. The paper was duly attested, and returned to the
trustees. The opposition to the introduction of slavery into the
colony of Georgia had been conquered; and, after a long and bitter
struggle, slavery was firmly and legally established in this the last
Province of the English in the Western world. The colonists were
jubilant.

The charter under which the trustees acted expired by limitation in
1752, and a new form of government was established under the Board of
Trade. The royal commission appointed a governor and council. One of
the first ordinances enacted by them was one whereby "all offences
committed by slaves were to be tried by a single justice, without a
jury, who was to award execution, and, in capital cases, to set a
value on the slave, to be paid out of the public treasury." At the
first session of the Assembly in 1755, a law was passed "_for the
regulation and government of slaves_." In 1765 an Act was passed
establishing a pass system, and the rest of the legislation in respect
to slaves was a copy of the laws of South Carolina.

The history of slavery in Georgia during this period is unparalleled
and incomparably interesting. It illustrates the power of the
institution, and shows that there was no Province sufficiently
independent of its influence so as to expel it from its jurisdiction.
Like the Angel of Death that passed through Egypt, there was no colony
that it did not smite with its dark and destroying pinions. The
dearest, the sublimest, interests of humanity were prostrated by its
defiling touch. It shut out the sunlight of human kindness; it paled
the fires of hope; it arrested the development of the branches of
men's better natures, and peopled their lower being with base and
consuming desires; it placed the "_Golden Rule_" under the unholy heel
of time-servers and self-seekers; it made the Church as secular as the
Change, and the latter as pious as the former: it was a gigantic
system, at war with the civilization of the Roundheads and Puritans,
and an intolerable burden to a people who desired to build a new
nation in this New World in the West.


FOOTNOTES:

[514] Stephens's Journal, vol. iii. p. 281.

[515] Freedom and Bondage, vol. i. p. 310, note.

[516] Stevens's Hist. of Georgia, vol. i. p. 289.

[517] Bancroft, vol. iii. 12th ed. p. 427.

[518] Stevens's Hist. of Georgia, vol. i. p. 307.

[519] Whitefield's Works, vol. ii. pp. 90, 105, 208.




Part III.


_THE NEGRO DURING THE REVOLUTION._




CHAPTER XXVI.

MILITARY EMPLOYMENT OF NEGROES.

1775-1780.

"Many black soldiers were in the service during all stages
of the war." - SPARKS.

THE COLONIAL STATES IN 1715. - RATIFICATION OF THE
NON-IMPORTATION ACT BY THE SOUTHERN COLONIES. - GEORGE
WASHINGTON PRESENTS RESOLUTIONS AGAINST SLAVERY, IN A
MEETING AT FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, VA. - LETTER WRITTEN BY
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO DEAN WOODWARD, PERTAINING TO
SLAVERY. - LETTER TO THE FREEMEN OF VIRGINIA FROM A
COMMITTEE, CONCERNING THE SLAVES BROUGHT FROM
JAMAICA. - SEVERE TREATMENT OF SLAVES IN THE COLONIES
MODIFIED. - ADVERTISEMENT IN "THE BOSTON GAZETTE" OF THE
RUNAWAY SLAVE CRISPUS ATTUCKS. - THE BOSTON MASSACRE. - ITS
RESULTS. - CRISPUS ATTUCKS SHOWS HIS LOYALTY. - HIS SPIRITED
LETTER TO THE TORY GOVERNOR OF THE PROVINCE. - SLAVES
ADMITTED INTO THE ARMY. - THE CONDITION OF THE CONTINENTAL
ARMY. - SPIRITED DEBATE IN THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, OVER THE
DRAUGHT OF A LETTER TO GEN. WASHINGTON. - INSTRUCTIONS TO
DISCHARGE ALL SLAVES AND FREE NEGROES IN HIS ARMY. - MINUTES
OF THE MEETING HELD AT CAMBRIDGE. - LORD DUNMORE'S
PROCLAMATION. - PREJUDICE THE SOUTHERN COLONIES. - NEGROES IN
VIRGINIA FLOCK TO THE BRITISH ARMY. - CAUTION TO THE NEGROES
PRINTED IN A WILLIAMSBURG PAPER. - THE VIRGINIA CONVENTION
ANSWERS THE PROCLAMATION OF LORD DUNMORE. - GEN. GREENE, IN A
LETTER TO GEN. WASHINGTON, CALLS ATTENTION TO THE RAISING OF
A NEGRO REGIMENT ON STATEN ISLAND. - LETTER FROM A HESSIAN
OFFICER. - CONNECTICUT LEGISLATURE ON THE SUBJECT OF
EMPLOYMENT OF NEGROES AS SOLDIERS. - GEN. VARNUM'S LETTER TO
GEN. WASHINGTON, SUGGESTING THE EMPLOYMENT OF NEGROES, SENT
TO GOV. COOKE. - THE GOVERNOR REFERS VARNUM'S LETTER TO THE
GENERAL ASSEMBLY. - MINORITY PROTEST AGAINST ENLISTING SLAVES
TO SERVE IN THE ARMY. - MASSACHUSETTS TRIES TO SECURE LEGAL
ENLISTMENTS OF NEGRO TROOPS. - LETTER OF THOMAS KENCH TO THE
COUNCIL AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, BOSTON, MASS. - NEGROES
SERVE IN WHITE ORGANIZATIONS UNTIL THE CLOSE OF THE AMERICAN
REVOLUTION. - NEGRO SOLDIERS SERVE IN VIRGINIA. - MARYLAND
EMPLOY NEGROES. - NEW YORK PASSES AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE
RAISING OF TWO COLORED REGIMENTS. - WAR IN THE MIDDLE AND
SOUTHERN COLONIES. - HAMILTON'S LETTER TO JOHN JAY. - COL.
LAURENS'S EFFORTS TO RAISE NEGRO TROOPS IN SOUTH
CAROLINA. - PROCLAMATION OF SIR HENRY CLINTON INDUCING
NEGROES TO DESERT THE REBEL ARMY. - LORD CORNWALLIS ISSUES A
PROCLAMATION OFFERING PROTECTION TO ALL NEGROES SEEKING HIS
COMMAND. - COL. LAURENS IS CALLED TO FRANCE ON IMPORTANT
BUSINESS. - HIS PLAN FOR SECURING BLACK LEVIES FOR THE SOUTH
UPON HIS RETURN. - HIS LETTERS TO GEN. WASHINGTON IN REGARD
TO HIS FRUITLESS PLANS. - CAPT. DAVID HUMPHREYS RECRUITS A
COMPANY OF COLORED INFANTRY IN CONNECTICUT. - RETURN OF
NEGROES IN THE ARMY IN 1778.


The policy of arming the Negroes early claimed the anxious
consideration of the leaders of the colonial army during the American
Revolution. England had been crowding her American plantations with
slaves at a fearful rate; and, when hostilities actually began, it
was difficult to tell whether the American army or the ministerial
army would be able to secure the Negroes as allies. In 1715 the royal
governors of the colonies gave the Board of Trade the number of the
Negroes in their respective colonies. The slave population was as
follows: -

NEGROES. | NEGROES.
New Hampshire 150 |Maryland 9,500
Massachusetts 2,000 |Virginia 23,000
Rhode Island 500 |North Carolina 3,700
Connecticut 1,500 |South Carolina 10,500
New York 4,000 | - - -
New Jersey 1,500 | Total 58,850
Pennsylvania and Delaware 2,500 |

Sixty years afterwards, when the Revolution had begun, the slave
population of the thirteen colonies was as follows: -

NEGROES. | NEGROES.
Massachusetts 3,500 |Maryland 80,000
Rhode Island 4,373 |Virginia 165,000
Connecticut 5,000 |North Carolina 75,000
New Hampshire 629 |South Carolina 110,000
New York 15,000 |Georgia 16,000
New Jersey 7,600 | - - - -
Pennsylvania 10,000 | Total 501,102
Delaware 9,000 |

Such a host of beings was not to be despised in a great military
struggle. Regarded as a neutral element that could be used simply to
feed an army, to perform fatigue duty, and build fortifications, the
Negro population was the object of fawning favors of the white
colonists. In the NON-IMPORTATION COVENANT, passed by the Continental
Congress at Philadelphia, on the 24th of October, 1774, the second
resolve indicated the feeling of the representatives of the people on
the question of the slave-trade: -

"2. We will neither import nor purchase, any slave imported
after the first day of December next; after which time, we
will wholly discontinue the slave-trade, and will neither be
concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor
sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are
concerned in it."[520]

It, with the entire covenant, received the signatures of all the
delegates from the twelve colonies.[521] The delegates from the
Southern colonies were greatly distressed concerning the probable
attitude of the slave element. They knew that if that ignorant mass of
humanity were inflamed by some act of strategy of the enemy, they
might sweep their homes and families from the face of the earth. The
cruelties of the slave-code, the harsh treatment of Negro slaves, the
lack of confidence in the whites everywhere manifested among the
blacks, - as so many horrid dreams, harassed the minds of slaveholders
by day and by night. They did not even possess the courage to ask the
slaves to remain silent and passive during the struggle between
England and themselves. The sentiment that adorned the speeches of
orators, and graced the writings of the colonists, during this period,
was "the equality of the rights of all men." And yet the slaves who
bore their chains under their eyes, who were denied the commonest
rights of humanity, who were rated as chattels and real property, were
living witnesses to the insincerity and inconsistency of this
declaration. But it is a remarkable fact, that all the Southern
colonies, in addition to the action of their delegates, ratified the
Non-Importation Covenant. The Maryland Convention on the 8th of
December, 1774; South Carolina Provincial Congress on the 11th
January, 1775; Virginia Convention on the 22d March, 1775; North
Carolina Provincial Congress on the 23d of August, 1775; Delaware
Assembly on the 25th of March, 1775 (refused by Gov. John Penn); and
Georgia, - passed the following resolves thereabouts: -

"1. _Resolved_, That this Congress will adopt, and carry
into execution, all and singular the measures and
recommendations of the late Continental Congress.

"4. _Resolved_, That we will neither import or [nor]
purchase any slave imported from Africa or elsewhere after
this date."

Meetings were numerous and spirited throughout the colonies, in which,
by resolutions, the people expressed their sentiments in reference to
the mother country. On the 18th of July, 1774, at a meeting held in
Fairfax Court-House, Virginia, a series of twenty-four resolutions
was presented by George Washington, chairman of the committee on
resolutions, three of which were directed against slavery.

"17 _Resolved_. That it is the opinion of this meeting,
that, during our present difficulties and distress, no
slaves ought to be imported into any of the British colonies
on this continent; and we take this opportunity of declaring
our most earnest wishes to see an entire stop for ever put
to such a wicked, cruel, and unnatural trade....

"21. _Resolved_, That it is the opinion of this meeting,
that this and the other associating colonies should break
off all trade, intercourse, and dealings with that colony,
province, or town, which shall decline, or refuse to agree
to, the plan which shall be adopted by the General
Congress....

"24. _Resolved_, That George Washington and Charles
Broadwater, lately elected our representatives to serve in
the General Assembly, be appointed to attend the Convention



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 37 of 57)