Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition o.

The present state and condition of the free people of color, of the city of Philadelphia and adjoining districts, as exhibited by the report of a committee of the Pennsylvania society for promoting the abolition of slavery, &c. Read first month (Jan.) 5th, 1838 online

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Online LibraryPennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition oThe present state and condition of the free people of color, of the city of Philadelphia and adjoining districts, as exhibited by the report of a committee of the Pennsylvania society for promoting the abolition of slavery, &c. Read first month (Jan.) 5th, 1838 → online text (page 1 of 5)
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Read First Month (Jan.) 5th, 1838.



No. 7 Carter's Alley.






The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of
Slavery, desirous of obtaining an accurate knowledge of the con-
dition, resources, and capabilities of improvement of the Colored
People of the City and Districts, on the 12th of the First month,
1837, appointed a Committee, consisting of Joseph Parrish, M.D.,
the President of the Society, Isaac Barton, Edward Needles,
James Mott, Joseph M. Truman, Wm. Harned, Daniel Neall,
Peter Wright, Edward Hopper, Joshua Rhoads, M. D.,* L. C.
Gunn, and Isaac Parrish, M. D., to "collect, as far as practicable,
and preserve such statistical and other information as will show the
present condition of the colored population of this city and dis-
tricts," in reference to " Population, value of Real and Personal
Estate, amount of Taxes paid by them, state of Education,
amount of Pauperism and Crime as compared with the white
population, &c. ;" as well as " any other information which the
Committee shall acquire and deem useful to the Society."

The Committee assumed the arduous duty, had frequent meet-
ings, and pursued its investigations with persevering industry.
It employed agents to visit every colored family in the city and
suburbs, to ascertain the requisite facts as nearly as the nature of the
case would admit.

The Committee made the following report to the Society, on the

♦In place of (Jf.oiujk Pknnock, who was unable to serve.


.nil of the First ninntli, ls:<s, and were continued to pursue their
investigations ; and the following resolution was adopted by the

Resolved, That the report be again referred to the Committee,
with instructions to make such additions as they deem necessary,
and have it printed.

JOSEPH PABRI8H, President.

Joshi \ Rbo ids, St i retary.

To the Pennsylvania Society for Proinotin:
the Abolition of Slavery, &c.

The Committee appointed by a resolution of the Society, on
the 12th of First month, 1S37, to collect statistical informa-
tion as to the present state and condition of the people of
color, in the City and adjacent Districts, respectfully


That, soon after their appointment, the Committee was or-
ganized, and commenced the labor assigned to it; and with
occasional intermission, continued to perform it up to the pre-
sent period. Although they found it impracticable, in conse-
quence of the labor and funds it would require, to pursue the
investigation to the full extent of the resolution, they have,
nevertheless, obtained much useful information upon the most
important inquiries proposed by the Society, which they will
now proceed to communicate, under distinct heads, for the
purpose of more convenient reference. In order that the in-
formation sought for should be obtained with as much accuracy
as possible, the Committee deemed it advisable to employ
agents to visit the colored families residing in the City and
Districts; and were fortunate in finding persons whom they
believe, from the satisfactory manner in which they have per-
formed their duty, were fully competent, and whose reports
may be relied upon. The expense incurred beyond the sum ap-
propriated by the Society, has been provided for by private sub-
scriptions. The information obtained by the agents, relates

1. To the Number of the Colored Population.

The Agents report: —

In the City, 2331 families, containing 8462 individuals.

Northern Liberties, 209 do. do. 878 do.

Kensington, 86 do. do. 359 do.

Spring Garden, 13G do. do. 507 do.

Soulhwark, 255 do. do. 931 do.

Moyamensing, 635 do. do. 2454 do.

Making 3652 families do. 13591 individuals,

Being an average of nearly four individuals to each family.


La the agents were confined in their visits to the houses of
iln- colored population, the tbove number of individual is in-
dependent of those who may be at service in while families,
which may account, to those who refer to the census oi 16
for an apparent decrease; that census allotting to those dis-
tricts 1 1,461 colored persons. The Committee, feeling some
anxiety to test the accuracy of the numhers reported by the
agents, resorted to the following reasoning and calculations on
the subject, which to them appear satisfactory and conclusive.
By the United States census m L820, i1 is stated, that there were
in the city and liberties of Philadelphia 10,746 colored per-
sons, of whom 7,646 were then ascertained (by an active
member of this Society, stnet led) to he inmates of

colored families, and 3,100 residing in other families. The
increase of colored persons in this city and districts, between

L820 and 1830, was, according to the last census, about 37

per cent.; a! the same ratio, the increase since 1830, for the
eight years, would he ahout 30 per cent., making a total aug-
mentation at the present time of <>7 per cent,, which will give
the total number of persons in colored families L 2,768, being
hut 823 persons less than that ascertained by the agents — a
difference so small, under the circumstances, as to afford to
the Committee Strong evidence of the accuracy of their report.
These data heing established, the Committee, in the ahsence
of other means, proceed from them to estimate the number of
colored persons at this time not resident in colored families.
In 1820, ihev were ascertained to he 3,100. At the same ratio
ofincreaseasin the colored families, from that time to this, they
should now amount to 5,177, which, added to those residing
in colored families, will give an entire colored population at
this time of 1 -.7'-.

2. Real Estate and Personal Property.
In 1821, the assessors returned (agreeably to report of the
member before referred to,) 229 estates within the city and
liberties, belonging to colored persons, and estimated their
value at Si 12,464. There appears to be no information
from which the value of their personal property at that time
can be ascertained; 1,970 colored persons were then returned,
as subject to taxation; whether the tax was imposed and paid
the Committee have not learned. Neither have the Commit-
tee ascertained what rule the assessors in 1821 adopted in
their valuation of property; but supposing it the same then
as now, viz. 10 per cent, of the real market value, the actual


worth of the real estate held by colored persons would then have
been $281,162. •

The agents have ascertained the real and personal estate
of the colored population at this time, to be

In this City,

Northern Liberties,
Spring Garden, .
Moyamensing, .

Real, Personal.

$241,962 $505,322

26,700 35,539

2,255 3,825

5,935 21,570

15,355 26,848

30,325 74,755

322,532 667,859

Less incumbrances, 12,906


Making an aggregate of $977,485, in real and personal

This amount must, of course, be received as only an ap-
proximation to the truth; for after all, the value of real estate
is a matter of opinion, formed upon the best judgment of the
persons making it, from the information obtained, and from
a knowledge of circumstances affecting the value of pro-
perty. But the committee have reason to believe that it will
be found, from a comparison of facts, to be actually below
the true value, rather than above it — for

1. It appears that the above estimate is only $41,370 more
than the value in 1821, as before ascertained; a difference
certainly not equal to the advance of property since that
period, owing to the gradual improvements of the city, even
supposing that the colored population are not in possession
of more real estate now than they were then.

2. By a memorial* of the colored people to the Legislature
in 1832, it appears, that by reference to receipts of tax pay-
ers, actually produced, they then paid upwards of $2,500
taxes; which, at the same mode of 40 per cent, of the real
market value, would make the capital assessed $357,000, and

3. Again, taking the amount of taxes ascertained by the
agent to have been paid last year, and finding in the same
manner the capital assessed, it would now amount to $463,040.

4. In the above estimate are not included, fifteen meeting

♦Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, vol. ix. p. 361.



houses, and burial grounds, and a public hall; eleven of which,
by the above memorial, were estimated .^ $100,000, in l v
additions have no doubt been made to the other public build-
ings. The Cmmoittee, therefore, feel fully warranted in be-
lieving the real estate owned by tbe colored population to be
worth 5 i" £600,000.

In regard to personal property, the Committee have no offi-
cial documents by which to compare the statements of the
t, which give the amounl <>f 8667,859 divided among
52 families, which will average #183 to each. This esti-
mate embraces no1 onl) household furniture, cash <>n hand,
d, bu1 all other kinds of personal property;
and is confined to those alone who constitute colored families.
li is, therefore, believed to be sufficiently moderate, and mosl
probablj will fall below the real amount To this sum musl
be added some estimate of the personal property of indivi-
duals at service in white families, whom we have before set
down at 5.177. Although it is true, that man} of these possess
no property of value, yet it is known thai some of them art
depositors in savings banks, to the value of several hundred
dollars, or have money invested in stock, bearing interest. It
is believed entirely safe to estimate tbis class at $25 each,
which would make the sum of 0129/125

which added to tbe ascertained amount of those
residing in colored families, viz., 667,859

will make a total of ll '7,284

It will, therefore, probably not exceed the truth if we con-
sider the amount of personal property owned by these two
classes, at ">,000

to which add real estate, 550,000

and we have in real and personal property

3. Taxes.

Tbe agent reports these in the

City, at ....

Northern Liberties,
Kensington, ....
Spring Garden,

Southwark, ....
M yamensing,


$2,184 23

235 30

42 00

86 70

220 25

484 35

.2 83


As this amount corresponds with the taxes paid in 1832, —
as ascertained from an actual exhibition of receipts, before re-
ferred to, allowing for an increase of the value of property —
the Committee consider this item sufficiently correct.

4. House Rents, &c.

It appears from the report of the agent, that they pay for
House rent, .... $161,008 00
Water rents, .... 464 50

Ground rents, .... 5,491 00

Making a total, $166,963 50

The first item averages about $44 per family, which appears
sufficiently moderate, when the comfortable manner in which
many of them live is considered, and making due allowance
for the number living in their own houses who pay no rent.
To these amounts might properly be added the sums ex-
pended by these colored families, in common with other citi-
zens, for the maintenance of their families, which we shall
notice hereafter.

5. Of the Employment of the Colored Population, and
views connected with their labor and support.

That some portion of them may live in idleness, is admitted,
in common with some portion of the whites of the same class;
but that a large proportion of them are usefully and industri-
ously employed, cannot be denied. If other evidence were
wanting, that furnished by our agents would be sufficient to
convince those who have held a different opinion. We here
present a catalogue of the employments as furnished by the

Washing, Bakers,

Laborers, Watermen,

Buiscuit makers, Brickmakers,

Porters, Tayloresses,

Waiters, Plain sewing,

Hatters, Boarding houses,

Seamen, Eating houses,

Cooks, Oyster cellars,

Dress makers, Grocers,

Coachmen, Stewards,

Seamstresses, Sweeps,

White washers, Painters,

Hair dressers t & barbers, Ship carpenters,
Musicians, Bleeders,

Nurses, Dentists,

Brass founders,





Rope makers,

Oil dealers,

Basket makers,

Wall colorers,

Cake bakers,

Barbers and perfumers,

Well diggers,

Tin plate workers, &c.






Sboemakei . Physicians, Mi<l wires.

Clothe* dealers, Cup) Hair workers,

1 - , ..11.-, Hackmen,

Huck- Brashmal Butchers,

nen, ( niifeclioners, Pastrycooks,

Oakum picl Dea Iih1i.ui Doctor*)

blacks, \\ lute smiths, Quiltt rs.

Shopkeepers, Shipping mas; Boatmen,

Tarn.' I : heaven, Wheelwrights,

Blacksmiths, silk dyers, Scythe makers,

Preaclnr-, ami scourers, Nail maker*)

( 'arp. i ' Sail makers,

Cabinet maker*) I >t makers, <• masons,

I i rs, I j lors, PlaistererSi

P rs ami glai

i tin- preceding list, although we are aware that the
iter part (if them are engaged in the most menial services
and severest labors, ye1 it appears that almosl all the branches
of business pura led by the whites, are, to a small extent, car-
ricd on by them; shqwing that, under more favorable cir-
cumstances, they would be competent to undertake any branch
of active industry. But here, as in many other particulars,
they are met In - the prejudict s with which they have to con-
tend, and of which they complain in their memorial before
referred to,) which render it "difficult for them to find places
for their sons, as apprentices, to learn mechanical trades."

What the precise value of the labor performed by the
colored population amounts to, cannot be determined ; yet
the following views may enable us to form some approximate
estimate of it. If the doctrine he true, that the consumer
pays all the expenses of the material, fabrication, and trans-
portation of the article consumed — then must he who occupies
a rented house pay to his landlord, not only the current ex-
penses, including taxation, but also an interest on the amount
of its original cost.

1. It is seen above that the annual rent paid is ©161,000
and it is believed that the average of taxes will be > 17 _ 1Q
found equal to about 1 1 per cent, of the ann. rent, $



Being equal to the interest at 1\ per cent., (which is probably
near that paid by the Real Estate occupied by colored persons,)
on a capital of $1,910,533.

2. The amount required for the support, clothing, and other
wants (exclusive of house rent,) annually, must be very great.


The cost of each pauper in the alms-house is ascertained to be
$58 24. When, therefore, we consider the known conve-
niences and comforts enjoyed by many of the colored families,
the Committee think they cannot be charged with fixing at
too high a rate the expenditures of the 18,76S colored per-
sons at $65 each, which comparatively small sum would
nevertheless produce per year $1,219,920; and supposing

3. A profit on this sum to those who enjoyed their custom,
of 20 per cent., it would yield $243,984 — a sum sufficient to
maintain 244 white families, allowing each $1000 per annum.

4. They contribute further to the general wealth by the
profit which each employer gains upon their labor; as no man
employs another, unless he can render that labor profitable to

These various items, then, taken in the aggregate, form a
very considerable amount, and show that this class of our
population is of much value to the community.

They contribute annually to the public Treasury —

In taxes and water rent on their own houses, $ 3,706
And in rented houses, .... 17,710


And to the wealth of individuals —

In house rent, exclusive of taxes, . $143,290

Family and individual expenditures for food,

clothing, education, &c. &c, . 1,219,920


Making together, §1,384.626

The annual sum contributed by labor of the most useful
kind towards the true wealth and strength of the community,
and by 18,768 individuals, 254 of whom, it has been ascer-
tained, have paid for their own freedom, or that of their
children or relatives, the sum of $70,733; being an average
of $278 each; and of the number of those who have come
here from other States, 273 brought with them money
amounting to $130,626;* and the whole are possessed of

Real estate, worth .... $550,000

Personal estate, .... $800,000


* Individual cases have come to the knowledge of members of the
Committee, which justify them in the belief that these amounts are not


• Upon the subjects of Pauperism and of Crime, in respect to
which we hear such severe denunciations of the colored
people, as being that class of persons which fill our alms-
houses and jails, and are therefore considered to be an oppres-
sive burden upon the community, your Committee will now
make a few observations; to wit:

( >n Pat I'Kki.-m.

In approaching this part of our subject, we are well
aware of the difficulties we have to encounter in obtain-
ing a just estimate of the value of the colored people, as
a component part of the community, when the census of
the alms-house is made the criterion by which they are to be
judged. But when we consider that, owing to tbc feelings
and prejudices of the community, the colored people are
almost altogether deprived of the opportunity of bringing up
their children to mechanical employments, to commercial busi-
ness, or other more lucrative occupations, whereby so many
of our white laborers are enabled to rise above the drudgery
in which they commence their career in life, and in turn, to
become the patrons of their younger or less fortunate fellow
citizens; it is not matter of surprise that a considerable num-
I or of them should be dependant on public support

Under these circumstances it certainly cannot be considered
unreasonable that in a gross population of 1,673 individuals in
our alms house, (on the 30th of Twelfth month, 1837,) there
should be found 235 people of color, being about one-seventh
part of the whole.

Upon strict investigation, founded upon official documents,
it will appear that out of 106 men and boys in the house at
the date above mentioned, there were

Affected with lunacy, paralysis, blindness, and idiocy, > lg

diseases which may be referred to no act of theirs, $
Cripples, frost-bitten, and other diseases, the effects of ? lt
exposure, ....... $

Cases of consumption and rheumatism, from exposure, 9
111 of pleurisy, typhus fever, &.C. .... 12

Destitute boys, ....... 5

Destitute old men, 3

Properly paupers, ....... 32

Not classed, . . . . . - • 13



From the same source, it appears that there were at the
same date, 129 colored females; amongst whom are

Affected with lunacy, insanity, and old age,
Lame, ......


Idiots, .......

Deaf and dumb, .....

Lying-in women, children, and orphans,
Affected with sickness and debility of various
Not classed, ......

May be considered as real paupers,







In regard to age, there were of the men and boys —
Under age, ........

Between 21 and 50,

50 " 75,

Of the females — under age,
Between 18 and 40,


" 50,


" 60,


" 70,


" 80,

Above 100,


Not classed,








In respect to the employments of the males —
Denominated laborers, ...... 44

Having no trade, (of course they are also laborers or

job workers), . • • • • .29

Engaged in various occupations or trades, . . 20
Not classed, 13

From the foregoing facts are deduced the previous argu-
ment, that according to their grade in society, and their man-
ner of occupation, it would be reasonable to expect a large
proportion of their numbers would require pecuniary support.

With regard to the habits of the colored portion of the resi-


dents of the Alms-house, the documents furnish the following
classification, viz.:

Of the males, sel down as temperate, (besides IS

lunatics and 5 boys), . . . . .25

Moderately temperate, ...... 18

Intemperate, ....... 32

Not classed, . . . . . . .13


Of the females, marked as temperate, . . .68

Moderately temperate, . . . . . .25

Intemp< >1 ....... 29

Not cdassed, ....... 7

I :'>

From these statements, derived from official documents, it
appears that 93 are classed as temperate, exclusive of 13 luna-
tics, and 5 boys; being K) per cent, temperate. 13 are mo-
deratelv temperate. 81 are intemperate, including those not
classed; being nearly one-third of the whole number, and even
including the 43 denominated moderate, making 12 1, will not
be cpjite one-half to be set down as intemperate. Whereas, it
is asserted by the Steward, and the fact will, we believe, be
admitted by any of the Managers of the house, that of the
whole number of paupers admitted, eight-tenths arc intemper-
ate; giving to the colored population a decided superiority,
with regard to habits, over the rest of the residents of the
house. , And this character, your Committee think, will be
sustained by the observation of disinterested persons in our
streets, where it is rather uncommon to meet a colored person
intoxicated; while on the other hand, to see a drunken white,
is an every day occurrence.

Upon a review of this part of the subject, therefore, the
Committee conclude, that, taken in connection as was said be-
fore, with their habits and manner of living, the destitution
which poverty so often produces, particularly upon females,
but more especially upon the poor colored woman, and which
is augmented in a terrible ratio by the increase of her family,
the difficulty of providing for which must be severely felt, as
means of employment are greatly diminished, there is less
Pauperism than might reasonably have been expected. These
considerations are, to the feeling mind, arguments strongly in


favor of the colored people; and if duly weighed, would satisfy-
any unprejudiced person, that even without reference to the
deductions of the former argument, wherein we have proved
that they more than indemnify the community, even in a
pecuniary point of view, for all expenses incurred in support
of their proportion of the public paupers, — they are, in a moral
sense, fully deserving of all the labor bestowed upon them,
and of the place they sustain in the estimation of those who
appear as their friends and benefactors.


The Committee, with a view to obtain correct information
on this important inquiry, appointed three of their number to
visit the Moyamensing prison, and another committee to visit
the Eastern Penitentiary, and through the politeness of the
officers of those institutions they have been enabled to collect
and present the following facts:

Moyamensing Prison.

From the keeper of the untried department, the following
statement was received: —

The whole number of prisoners admitted during the months of January,
February, March, July, August, and September, 1837, was 2,005
Of whom were colored males ..... 395

Do. females, 342


Leaving whites, ..... 1268

Of the 737 colored persons, we have been unable to obtain
the ages, as it appears no record is kept of them till after con-
viction, which we think ought to be done, as the age forms a
very interesting feature in all inquiries in relation to crime
and prison discipline. The warden of Connecticut prison says,
" The maximum inclination to crime appears to be at the age
of 25."

The colored persons admitted were charged as follows:

"With burglary and larceny, .... 188

With assault and battery, breaches of the peace, dis-
orderly conduct, vagrancy, &c. . . . 584

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryPennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition oThe present state and condition of the free people of color, of the city of Philadelphia and adjoining districts, as exhibited by the report of a committee of the Pennsylvania society for promoting the abolition of slavery, &c. Read first month (Jan.) 5th, 1838 → online text (page 1 of 5)