Browsing "New England’s Slave Trade"

Slave Trading and Respected Merchants

Slaver Captain Nathaniel Gordon of Portland, Maine and his ship, the Erie, was captured at the mouth of the Congo River by the USS Mohican in 1860. Loaded with nearly 900 slaves, the Erie was built in Swansea, Massachusetts about 1850, and owned by a New York City business partnership.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slave Trading and Respected Merchants

“Ironically, an opportunity for strict enforcement of the slave trade laws was available to the United States almost from the beginning, but it meant collaborating with the British. [In 1807] England, the world’s largest slaving nation, outlawed its own slave trade. Britain’s motives were not especially altruistic [and] in reality, the British were trying to protect the commerce of their colonies by denying slave labor to their competitors, chiefly Spain, France, Portugal, Brazil, and the United States.

Had the United States cooperated with Britain at any point, the slave trade would certainly have ended earlier. As it was, the trade flourished throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, as Yankee captains continued to fit out their ships in Providence; New York City; Portland, Maine; Rio; or any of a dozen other sympathetic ports, and sail to the west coast of Africa for slaves. The Brazilian and Cuban markets were strong, the risks low, and the potential for profits enormous.

Meanwhile, the record of convictions in the courts was as poor as that of seizures at sea. In New York City, where most of the prosecutions took place, only one-sixth of those indicted were convicted. The rest were either acquitted, forfeited bail, escaped from custody, or were released because of hung juries or the court’s unwillingness to prosecute.

From 1837 to 1861 (when Captain [Nathaniel] Gordon alone made at least four slaving voyages), around 125 accused slave traders – officers and crewmen – were prosecuted in New York City; only 20 were given prison sentences, averaging two years apiece. Of these men, 10 received presidential pardons, and 3 more – indicted for capital crimes under the piracy act of 1820 – were allowed to plead to lesser charges. One was briefly convicted of piracy, but the conviction was overturned on a technicality. Clearly, no one in power wanted to hang a man for trafficking in slaves.

[In 1846, the] USS Boxer seized the Malaga, a ship fitted out with all the obvious goods and accoutrements for slaving and chartered to a known Brazilian slave trader. A New England judge ruled that there was nothing illegal about selling goods to a slaver, the charges were dropped, and the Malaga immediately left port on another slaving voyage.

New York had been a slaving city from its inception as a small Dutch settlement. The West India Company delivered eleven Brazilian slaves to tiny New Amsterdam in 1626 . . . New York saw its first slave revolt in 1712, when an armed group of slaves murdered nine whites. Retribution was swift and savage: the gallows claimed thirteen, while three were burned at the stake, one was broken at the wheel, one was starved to death, and another was cooked over a slow fire for an entire day.

Whether in the Caribbean, West Africa, or Madagascar trade, there were always New York slave ships, financed by New York capital. The slave traders were well known to the city’s business community; some ranked among the city’s most prominent members of society, frequently meeting at such places as the Astor House hotel to plan their voyages. The money behind their expeditions was provided secretly by many of New York’s most respected merchants.’

(Hanging Captain Gordon, The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader, Ron Soodalter, Atria Books, 2006, excerpts, pp. 7-9; 43; 70-71)

New York Slaveholding Brought Comfort and Prestige

New York is properly referred to as a former slave State — slaveholding there did not end until the late 1820’s, though the children of slaves remained in bondage for many years after. Rather than lose their investment, New Yorkers sold their chattel to plantations in the South before the deadline. Additionally, the small free-black population which remained in New York found themselves proscribed by Jim Crow laws which erected a minimum property ownership in order to vote, which effectively disenfranchised them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New York Slaveholding Brought Comfort and Prestige

“New York was slow in drawing white settlers until after mid [18th] century, and the shortage of labor led to a considerable use of slaves; indeed it is possible that in the early Dutch days it was slave labor that enabled the colony to survive. Most of the first slaves were not from Africa but were re-imported from Curacao in the Dutch West Indies.

It was a profitable system: in the 1640’s it cost only a little more to buy a slave than to pay a free worker’s wage for a year. After the English took control of New Netherland in 1664, a brisk and highly profitable trade in skilled slaves was carried on. Most slaveholders in the province were flourishing small farmers or small artisans who, in the absence of an adequate supply of free labor, needed moderately skilled help, and were able to pay the rising prices for slaves.

A partial census of 1755 showed a widely diffused slave population, most owners having only one or two slaves, only seven New Yorkers owning ten or more. Among the largest lots held were those of the elder Lewis Morris with 66 slaves on his large estate and the first Frederick Philipse, an affluent landowner, with about 40.

Such men could work gangs of slaves on their manors, but slaves were also sought by other wealthy men for the comfort and prestige a substantial staff of domestic servants would bring. William Smith, for example, was reputed to keep a domestic staff of 12 or more to run his New York City household, and other leading citizens travelled with Negro footmen.

From the first the competition of black labor was resented by whites. Competition in the labor market was intensified by the slave owners’ widespread practice of putting out their slaves for hire, under-cutting white laborers who were paid twice the slaves’ wages.

Slave controls, reflecting persistent nervousness in the white population, were quite rigid. Aside from private punishments that could be administered by masters, such public controls were meant to put sharp limits on the temptations slaves would face. After 1702, flogging was prescribed if three slaves gathered together on their own time . . . nor could they engage in trade without their master’s consent.”

(America at 1750, a Social Portrait, Richard Hofstadter, Vintage Books, 1973, excerpt, pp. 99-101)

New England Puritans and Slavery

Many Puritans departed New England for the South to avoid the oncoming rush of secular Unitarianism. These New Englanders were no strangers to slavery; they had previously conquered and enslaved the Pequot tribe while appropriating their lands, and sent expeditions to the Cape Fear in the late 1600’s. After befriending local Indians who entrusted their children to Puritan care – the children were sent to West Indian slave markets.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Puritans and Slavery

“Into this rich coastal strip came Puritan settlers establishing a remarkable community.  It seemed a strange place for Puritans – one usually thinks of them along New England’s rocky shore or among snow covered valleys – but these Puritans had been wanderers, restlessly seeking the right place for their commonwealth.  Their ancestors had left Dorchester, England, in 1630 for Massachusetts, settling there for five years before moving on to Connecticut where they had remained for sixty years.

In 1695 a colony had left for South Carolina.  There beneath the great oaks and beside the black waters of the Ashley River they had laid out their village and built their meetinghouse.  As with most good Puritans, they had prospered – in spite of a sickly climate – so that within two generations there had been a need for new land.

Commissioners were sent to Georgia and, after some negotiations, a grant of over 31,000 acres had been secured.  In this way a colony of 350 whites accompanied by their 1,500 slaves began in 1752 a southward trek to what would become Liberty County.

These wandering Puritans found the Georgia coast a good place to settle and to at last send down deep roots.  The rich soil and the tidal rivers offered ample opportunity for the cultivation of rice and sea-island cotton.  Yet as God-fearing Calvinists, they were aware of the seductions of such a rich wilderness, and they immediately set about establishing an organized community.

They declared that they had a “greater regard to a compact Settlement and Religious Society than future temporal advantages.”  “We are sensible,” they wrote in the Articles of Incorporation, “to the advantages of good order and social agreement, among any people, both for their Civil and Religious Benefit . . .”

They would not be lonely pioneers facing the wilderness on their own, but members of a well-ordered community.  For these Puritan settlers, the government of such a community would consist of two coordinate branches: the Church and the Society.  The Church would be governed by the male communing members who would administer spiritual affairs; the Society would be composed of all males who would subscribe to the Articles of Incorporation, whether they were communing members of the Church or not, and would administer temporal affairs.

If this were not a “Holy Commonwealth,” it was clearly a Christian Society they wished to establish on the Georgia coast – and not, incidentally, it was just as clearly a society to be governed by white males.”

(“Wrestlin’ Jacob: A Portrait of Religion in Antebellum Georgia and the Carolina Low Country,” Erskine Clarke, University of Alabama Press, 1999, excerpts, pp 4-5)

 

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

The following extract is from Robert Y. Hayne’s 1830 debate with Daniel Webster of the slave-trading State of Massachusetts, on the nature of the federal union. As is seen below, Hayne distinctly delineates the origin of African slavery in the Southern States, who profited from the nefarious trade, and those who did their Christian best with what they had inherited from the British colonial labor system.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

“Sir, when arraigned before the bar of public opinion on this charge of slavery, we can stand up with conscious rectitude, plead not guilty, and put ourselves upon God and our country. We deal in no abstractions. We will not look back to inquire whether our fathers were guiltless in introducing slaves to this country.

If an inquiry should ever be instituted in these matters, however, it will be found that the profits of the slave trade were not confined to the South. Southern ships and Southern sailors were not the instruments of bringing slaves to the shores of America, nor did our merchants reap the profits of that “accursed traffic.” But, sir, we will pass over all this.

If slavery, as it now exists in this country be an evil, we of the present found it ready made to our hands. Finding our lot cast among a people, whom God had manifestly committed to our care, we did not sit down to speculate on abstract questions of theoretical liberty. We met it as a practical question of obligation and duty.

We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us, and to fulfill the high trust which had developed upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land.

We could not send them back to the shores from whence their fathers had been taken; their numbers forbade the thought, even as we did not know that their condition here is infinitely preferable to what it possibly could be among the barren sands and savage tribes of Africa . . .

[With the false philanthropy of Northern abolitionists and the] shedding of tears over sufferings which had existence only in their own sickly imaginations, these “friends of humanity” set themselves systematically to work to seduce the slaves of the South from their masters.

By means of missionaries and political tracts, the scheme was in great measure successful. Thousands of these deluded victims of fanaticism were seduced into the enjoyment of freedom in our Northern cities. And what has been the consequence?

Go to these cities now, and ask the question. Visit the dark and narrow lanes, and obscure recesses, which have been assigned by common consent as the abodes of those outcasts of the world — free people of color. Sir, there does not exist, on the face of the whole earth, a population so poor, so wretched, so vile, so loathsome, so utterly destitute of all the comforts, conveniences and comforts of life as the unfortunate blacks of Philadelphia, and New York and Boston.

Sir, I have had some opportunities of making comparisons between the condition of the free Negroes of the North and the slaves of the South . . . Sir, I have seen in the neighborhood of one of the most moral, religious and refined cities of the North, a family of free blacks, driven to the caves of the rock, and there obtaining a precarious subsistence from charity and plunder.”

(Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830; The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts, pp. 44-46.)

 

 

Brave Deeds Worthy of Harp and Poet

Gen. Jubal Early was held in high esteem by Stonewall Jackson, in whose army the former commanded a division. General Robert E. Lee greatly valued Early as a subordinate commander and tolerated Early’s cursing in his presence. “Old Jube” had an opportunity to capture Washington late in the war, and rather than submit to subjugation at war’s end decided on temporary exile in Canada via Havana. The home he occupied at Niagara-on-the-Lake across from Fort Niagara still stands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Brave Deeds Worthy of the Harp and Poet

“It was my fortune to participate in most of the military operations in which the army in Virginia was engaged both before and after General Lee assumed the command. My operations and my campaign stand on their own merits.

I believe that the world has never produced a body of men superior, in courage, patriotism and endurance, to the private soldiers of the Confederate armies. I have repeatedly seen those soldiers submit, with cheerfulness, to privations and hardships which would appear to be almost incredible; and the wild cheers of our brave men, when their thin lines were sent back opposing hosts of Federal troops, staggering, reeling and flying, have often thrilled every fiber in my heart.

I have seen, with my own eyes, ragged, barefooted, and hungry, Confederate soldiers perform deeds which, if performed in days of yore by mailed warriors in glittering armor, would have inspired the harp of the minstrel and the pen of the poet.

Having been a witness of and participant in great events, I have given a statement of what I saw and did, for the use of the future historian. Having had some means of judging, I will say that, in my opinion, both Mr. [Jefferson] Davis and General Lee, in their respective spheres, did all for the success of our cause which it was possible for mortal men to do and it is a great privilege and comfort for me so to believe. In regard to my own services, I have the consciousness of having done my duty to my country, to the very best of my ability.

During the war, slavery was used as a catch-word to arouse the passions of a fanatical mob, and to some extent the prejudices of the civilized world were excited against us; but the war was not made on our part for slavery.

High dignitaries in both church and state in Old England, and puritans in New England, had participated in the profits of a trade by which the ignorant and barbarous natives of Africa were brought from that country and sold into slavery in the American Colonies.

The generation in the Southern States which defended their country in the late war, found amongst them, in a civilized and Christianized condition, 4,000,000 of the descendants of those degraded Africans. Nevertheless, the struggle made by the people of the South was not for the institution of slavery, but for the inestimable right of self-government, against the domination of a fanatical faction at the North; and slavery was the mere occasion of the development of the antagonism between the two sections. That right of self-government has been lost, and slavery violently abolished.

When the passions and infatuations of the day shall have been dissipated by time, and all the results of the late war shall have passed into irrevocable history, the future chronicler of that history will have a most important duty to perform, and posterity, while poring over its pages, will be lost in wonder at the follies and crimes committed in this generation.”

(Gen. Jubal A. Early: Narrative of the War Between the States, Jubal A. Early, Da Capo Press, 1989 (original 1912), excerpts, pp. viii-x)

 

Rhode Island’s Record of Slaving

The British Royal African Company was primarily responsible for populating North America and the West Indies with African slaves, and despite being near bankrupt from exorbitant expenses was considered too big to fail. After the Revolution, British-imposed slavery was set on a potential track toward abolition, but the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney in the mid 1790’s, along with the rise of New England cotton mills, perpetuated African slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Record of Slaving

“The [British] slave trade was carried on by means of “factories,” or trading establishments, defended by forts on the west coast of Africa. In 1750, the Royal African Company had nine factories, the chief of which was Cape Coast Castle, with a strong fort built on a huge rock that projected into the sea. It was expensive to maintain these forts and trading posts. In fact, the company was prevented from going bankrupt by an annual grant of [10,000 pounds].

The competition of French slave traders, who paid more for their human merchandise than the English company, was especially formidable since the French African Company was heavily subsidized by its government.

During the first half of the eighteenth century Bristol and Liverpool were the great slave trading ports of the British Empire. In 1750, a total of 155 British and colonial ships were engaged in the slave trade, of which 20 came from the American colonies, principally from Rhode Island.

Toward the close of the colonial period, however, there were 150 Rhode Island ships employed in this traffic as compared with 192 English ships, a record to which Southerners pointed during the antislavery controversy.

These ships often were engaged in a triangular trade with England or the American colonies, the west coast of Africa, and the West Indies. To Africa the slave ships carried trading goods, bars of iron, rum –“well-watered” – forearms, lead, beads, and cloth, which they exchanged for slaves.

The later were transported to the sugar islands of the West Indies and exchanged for molasses, run and gold coins. In New England, the molasses was manufactured into rum to exchange for more slaves.”

(A History of the Old South, The Emergence of a Reluctant Nation, Clement Eaton, MacMillan Publishing, 1975, excerpt, page 31)

 

Resisting England’s (and New England’s) Slave Trade

It was “English merchants and factors” and New Englanders who traded their goods for Africans near the coast of West Africa; as few white men could survive entering the interior, Europeans depended upon African tribes to sell them their already-enslaved brethren.  At the feet of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French can also be laid the introduction and perpetuation of slavery here. Both the Virginia and North Carolina colonial legislatures pleaded in vain to the British Crown to cease the importation of Negroes to their shores.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resisting England’s (and New England’s) Slave Trade

“On account of the dangers of navigation off the coast of North Carolina . . . ships engaged in the African slave trade seldom, if ever, brought their cargoes direct to the colony. Relative to these conditions, [Royal] Governor Burrington said:

“Great is the loss this country has in not being supplied by vessels from Guinea with Negroes. In any part of the province the people are able to pay for a shipload; but as none come directly from Africa, we are under necessity to buy the refuse, refractory, and distempered Negroes brought in from other governments.”

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that that on occasion the early planters sent cargoes of tar and pitch to New England to be sold and the proceeds to be invested in young Negroes. English merchants and factors from about 1770 to 1776 did not hesitate to sell Negroes to South Carolina planters on liberal terms, and during those years the colony prospered…”

On the eve of the Revolution an attempt was made to prohibit the slave trade. The Provincial Congress in session at New Bern [North Carolina], August 27, 1774, resolved, “We will not import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next. This resolution was passed in conformity with a resolve of the Continental Congress, and its enforcement was designed to strike a blow at British [slavetrading] commerce.

The first impressive protest from any considerable body of citizens in the colony against the African slave trade was registered by the freeholders of Rowan County [North Carolina] in 1774. They placed themselves on record . . . in the following resolution:

“Resolved that the African slave trade is injurious to this colony, obstructs the population of it, prevents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the balance of trade against the colonies.”

(Slaveholding in North Carolina, An Economic View, Rosser H. Taylor, UNC Press, 1926, excerpt, pp. 21-22)

Emancipation and Repatriation

The American Colonization Society organizers below were well-aware of the origins of the slavery they detested – the avarice of the British who planted their colonial labor system on these shores, though opposed by colonial legislatures – and the perpetuation of the slave-trade by New England merchants.  They knew as well that should a naval force not be positioned off Africa’s coast, those New England merchants would prey upon the newly-emancipated in Liberia.  Note the predominance of Southern men in the Society.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Emancipation and Repatriation

“On December 28, 1816, the colonizers assembled in the hall of the House of Representatives. The constitution drafted by [Francis Scott] Key and his colleagues was adopted; and thus was founded the American Colonization Society. The constitution declared the purpose of the society to be the promotion of “a plan for colonizing (with their consent) the Free People of Colour residing in our country, in Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem expedient.”

The organization of the Society was perfected on January 1, 1817 with the election of officers. Justice Bushrod Washington (kin of George) was elected president.

The following Vice-Presidents were then selected: Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford of Georgia; Speaker [Henry] Clay of Kentucky; William Phillips of Massachusetts; former Governor John Eager Howard, Samuel Smith and John C. Herbert of Maryland; Colonel Henry Rutgers of New York; John Taylor of Virginia; General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee; Attorney General Richard Rush and Robert Ralston of Pennsylvania; General John Mason of the District of Columbia; and Reverend Finley . . . the first name on the board of managers was that of Francis S. Key.

The lawyers, clergymen, members of Congress, and other public men, who organized the American Colonization Society were idealists. Their aim was to eradicate slavery without causing political or economic violence. Statesmen from the North and South were able to stand together on the platform of the Society.

According to some historians, the colonizers were “idealists with troubled consciences.”  Patrick Henry cried . . . “I am drawn along by the inconvenience of living without them. I will not, I cannot justify it . . . Slavery is detested; we feel its fatal effects — we deplore it with all the pity of humanity. But is it practicable, by any human means, to liberate them without producing the most dreadful and ruinous consequences?”

The more practical business men of the country sneered at the scheme. The cold and calculating John Quincy Adams criticized the idea as absolutely visionary. The critics doubted whether the free Negroes would be willing to leave the United States for tropical Africa; and even if they did, whether they would be able to govern themselves after they arrived there.

But the colonizers were not discouraged. They believed that as their purpose was humane it had the approval of Providence, and that if they persevered they would meet with success in the end. They also . . . [believed that] the deported blacks would take with them what they had learned in America and would found in Africa a free and happy commonwealth.

Fortunately [Virginian] James Monroe, who succeeded Mr. Madison in the presidential chair on March 4, 1817, gave his endorsement to the plan of colonization. And in a year or two representatives of the American Colonization Society were on their way to Africa with instructions to explore the west coast of the Dark Continent and to select a location for a colony for the free blacks of America.

Before long auxiliary colonization societies were formed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York . . . Early in 1818 the people of Baltimore contributed several thousand dollars to the cause, and the Legislature of Maryland requested the Governor to urge President Monroe and the members of Congress to negotiate for a colony in Africa by cession or purchase. Similar resolutions were adopted by the Legislatures of Virginia, Tennessee, and other States.

As a result of the pleas of the friends of colonization, the Congress, on March 3, 1818, passed an act directing the United States Navy to capture all African slaves found in the possession of American slave-traders, and empowering the President to appoint agents on the coast of Africa to receive, shelter, feed, clothe, and protect the slaves so captured.

The passage of this law brought cheer to Francis Scott Key and his associates. It meant the cooperation of the United States Government. The coast of Africa was lined with slavers; and without the aid of the Navy the little colony would be at their mercy.”

(Francis Scott Key, Life and Times, Edward S. Delaplaine, Biography Press, 1937, excerpts, pp. 198-201)

 

The Cornerstone of New England’s Prosperity

Author Walter D. Kennedy writes in his “Myths of American Slavery” (Pelican, 2003): “For all practical purposes, the history of slavery in the North lasted approximately 225 years,” and that New England’s involvement with enslaving others began with the Pequot tribe of Indians whose land they were confiscating. Those unfortunate Pequot’s were shipped to the West Indies to work the sugar cane fields. The triangular slave trade across the Atlantic was a New England enterprise.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cornerstone of New England’s Prosperity

”She lay alongside Captain Jim DeWolfe’s wharf that day in 1802, a smart, trim topsail schooner, nearly ready for sea. On her stern was lettered her name, “Sukey,” and below it, Bristol, Rhode Island. As usual, the Bristol waterfront buzzed with feverish activity that day, especially on Captain Jim’s wharf.

Heavy ox carts laden with last minute cargo lumbered slowly across the cobblestones of Thames Street that edged the wharf, and then onto it. Captain Jim and some of his brothers owned the carts and oxen, the distillery on Thames Street from which most of the Sukey’s outward cargo had come, and the countinghouse that was the headquarters for their business.

In the West Indies, or Sugar Islands as they were often called in those days, the deWolfe’s owned plantations to provide the cargo the Sukey would bring back to Bristol on the homeward part of her long voyage. And they owned the Sukey and other ships that sailed in the evil trade in which they were engaged. The Sukey had no trouble getting her clearance papers after an inspection by the Bristol surveyor. [Although the Rhode Island State Assembly had forbid the slave trade, her] trade and that of many another Bristol vessel brought too much prosperity to too many people.

There were the Bristol sailmakers and carpenters, the caulkers who sealed the ships joints with oakum and tar, the ship chandlers who sold provisions and an endless variety of wares needed aboard a vessel, and the owners and workers of the ropes that made cordage — the great number of ropes used in holding, hoisting, lowering and controlling the sails of a ship. And there were many people who depended upon the Bristol ship owners for profit and wages.

If a vessel [returning] from the Sugar Islands was discharging her cargo, there would be [boys who] most Bristol wharf owners would let have their taste of the sweet molasses. But on deWolfe’s wharf that day, when you came close enough to the schooner, there was another smell — a smell that seemed to make your very insides curl up.

It was a smell so vile and horrible that you wondered how the Sukey’s crew could possibly stand it. “You can smell a slaver five miles downwind,” they say on the Guinea Coast. And the Sukey was a slaver.

Probably a fair-sized crowd of the crew’s family and friends were gathered on deWolfe’s wharf as the Sukey sheered gently away, “people on the wharf cried huzza!” and waved their hats. The Sukey was off on her voyage.

In West Africa, she would work her way down the Guinea Coast, probably finding it necessary to stop at port after port as she exchanged her trade goods and precious rum for even more precious black slaves, and perhaps also for gold dust, ivory, ebony and other African products.

At last she would head west, crossing the Atlantic over the infamous Middle Passage to the West Indies. In the islands the slaves would be landed and sold. Then Captain Almy would fill the Sukey chockablock with hogsheads of molasses to be distilled into more rum at Bristol.

This was the evil, cruel business known as the Triangular, or Three-Cornered Trade. It was the cornerstone of much of New England’s prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries. It made many men rich, but it was part of what was to bring disgrace upon white [British and New England] men, misery and oppression upon black people, and untold trouble upon the world.”

(Rum, Slaves and Molasses, Clifford L. Alderman, Crowell-Collier Press, 1972, pp. 1-12)

“Strangers” and New England Slave Property

Well before African slaves populated the American South in any number, New England’s Puritans were enslaving the Indian tribes whose lands they appropriated. Also, the closed society of New England did not welcome non-Puritans, white, red or black, and once the slave’s labor was done they could be sold for profit and to labor elsewhere. This may offer a clue to New England’s future sweeping itself clean of the slave trade they had nourished and profited from, and blame the institution on the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Strangers” and New England Slave Property

“Slavery began in New England during the first years of settlement in Massachusetts, and thus, the Puritans learned how to be slave owners immediately on arrival. As white New Englanders conquered their new settlements, they enslaved Native American populations both to control them and to draw on them for labor. Although John Winthrop did not immediately see Indians as slaves, it dawned on him quickly that they could be.

Winthrop recorded requests for Native American slaves both locally and abroad in Bermuda. Wars with the Narragansett and Pequot tribes garnered large numbers of slaves. The trading of Indian slaves abroad brought African slaves to Massachusetts shores. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother-in-law and a barrister, welcomed a trade of Pequot slaves for African slaves.

However, the enslavement of American Indians had a different tenor than the enslavement of Africans. The indigenous slaves represented an enemy, a conquered people, and a grave threat to [Puritan] society. African slaves represented a trade transaction, laborers without strings attached. Moreover, Indian slaves . . . served as collateral with which to negotiate with Native leaders. Further [Puritan] colonists could expel troublesome Native slaves out of the colony, or they could just control them as slave property.

[In] Massachusetts first legal code, the 1641 Body of Liberties . . . outlawed slavery among the Puritans. However, the exceptions of strangers (foreigners who lacked protection from the king) and war prisoners gave an opening to enslave other human beings.

The exception in the case of war prisoners gave the colonists direct permission to enslave Indians . . . such as in the Pequot war they had just concluded. Conveniently the slave trade had already begun to spread strangers throughout the Atlantic world.

[Most] Puritans sought a homogenous society that made any kind of stranger feel unwelcome [and] Puritans’ efforts to expunge untrustworthy members with white skin were legendary. Men and women from other cultures with different skin tones posed a more complicated dilemma. The cultural differences of Africans and Native Americans automatically made them undesirable additions to the closed Puritan societies.

As King Philip’s War drew to an end in 1678 . . . [it had] brought in a huge number of [Indian] slaves. Hoping to socialize Indian children, Plymouth’s council of war forced them to apprentice in white families. The council sold hundreds more Indians to Spain, Jamaica, and the Wine Islands.”

(Tyrannicide, Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts, Emily Blanck, UGA Press, 2014, excerpts, pp. 12-14)

Pages:«123456»