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American Negro Slavery by Ulrich Bonnell Phillips

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heightening of slave prices at such a rate as to keep the cost of freedom
always greater than the generality of the slaves can pay with their own
accumulated savings or _peculia_. Slave prices in fact, whether in ancient
Rome or in modern America, advanced disproportionately to the advantage
which the owners could derive from the ownership. "This shows that an
element of speculation enters into the valuation of the slave, or that
there is a hypervaluation of the slave. _This is the central phenomenon of_
_slavery_; and it is to this far more than to the indolence of slave labour
that is due the low productivity of slave states, the permanently unstable
equilibrium of the slaveholding enterprise, and its inevitable ruin." The
decline of earnings and of slave prices promotes a more drastic oppression,
as in Roman Sicily, to reduce the slave's _peculium_ and continue the
prevention of his self-purchase. When this device is about to fail of its
purpose the masters may foil the intention of the slaves by changing them
into serfs, attaching the lands to the laborers as an additional thing to
be purchased as a condition of freedom. The value of the man may now
be permitted to fall to its natural level. Finally, when the growth of
population has made land so dear that common laborers in freedom cannot
save enough to buy farms, the occasion for slavery and serfdom lapses.
Laborers may now be freed to become a wage-earning proletariat, to take
their own risks. An automatic coercion replaces the systematic; the labor
stimulus is intensified, but the stress of the employer is diminished. The
laborer does not escape from coercion, but merely exchanges one of its
forms for another.[85]

[Footnote 85: Achille Loria, _The Economic Synthesis_, M. Eden Paul tr.
(London, 1914), PP. 23-26, 91-99.]

Now Loria falls into various fallacies in other parts of his book, as when
he says that southern lands are generally more fertile than northern
and holds that alone, to the exclusion of climate and racial qualities,
responsible for the greater prevalence of slavery ancient and modern in
southerly latitudes; or when he follows Cairnes in asserting that upon the
American slave plantations "the only form of culture practised was spade
culture, merely agglomerating upon a single area of land a number of
isolated laborers"; or when he contends that either slavery or serfdom
since based on force and fraud "destroys the possibility of fiduciary
credit by cancelling the conditions [of trust and confidence] which alone
can foster it." [86] Such errors disturb one's faith. In the presentation
of his main argument, furthermore, he not only exaggerates the cleavage
between capitalists and laborers, the class consciousness of the two groups
and the rationality of capitalistic purpose, but he falls into calamitous
ambiguity and confusion. The central phenomenon of slavery, says he, is
speculation or the overvaluation of the slave. He thereupon assumes that
speculation always means overvaluation, ignoring its downward possibility,
and he accounts for the asserted universal and continuously increasing
overvaluation by reference to the desire of masters to prevent slaves from
buying their freedom. Here he ignores essential historic facts. In American
law a slave's _peculium_ had no recognition; and the proportion of slaves,
furthermore, who showed any firm disposition to accumulate savings for the
purpose of buying their freedom was very small. Where such efforts were
made, however, they were likely to be aided by the masters through
facilities for cash earnings, price concessions and honest accounting
of instalments, notwithstanding the lack of legal requirements in the
premises. Loria's explanation of the "central phenomenon" is therefore
hardly tenable.

[Footnote 86: _Ibid_., pp. 26, 190, 260.]

A far sounder basic doctrine is that of the accountant Gibson, recited
at the beginning of this chapter, that the valuation of a slave is
theoretically determined by the reckoning of his prospective earnings above
the cost of his maintenance. In the actual Southern regime, however, this
was interfered with by several influences. For one thing, the successful
proprietors of small plantations could afford to buy additional slaves at
somewhat more than the price reckoned on _per capita_ earnings, because the
advance of their establishments towards the scale of maximum efficiency
would reduce the proportionate cost of administration. Again, the scale of
slaveholdings was in some degree a measure of social rank, and men were
accordingly tempted by uneconomic motives to increase their trains of
retainers. Both of these considerations stimulated the bidding. On the
other hand conventional morality deterred many proprietors from selling
slaves except under special stress, and thereby diminished the offers in
the market. If the combination of these factors is not adequate as an
explanation, there remain the spirit of inflation characteristic of a new
country and the common desire for tangible investments of a popularly
sanctioned sort. All staple producers were engaged in a venturesome
business. Crops were highly uncertain, and staple prices even more so. The
variability of earnings inured men to the taking of risks and spurred them
to borrow money and buy more of both lands and slaves even at inflated
prices in the hope of striking it rich with a few years' crops. On the
other hand when profits actually accrued, there was nothing available as a
rule more tempting than slaves as investments. Corporation securities were
few and unseasoned; lands were liable to wear out and were painfully slow
in liquidation; but slaves were a self-perpetuating stock whose ownership
was a badge of dignity, whose management was generally esteemed a
pleasurable responsibility, whose labor would yield an income, and whose
value could be realized in cash with fair promptitude in time of need. No
calculated overvaluation by proprietors for the sake of keeping the slaves
enslaved need be invented. Loria's thesis is a work of supererogation.

But whatever may be the true explanation it is clear that slave prices did
rise to immoderate heights, that speculation was kept rife, and that in
virtually every phase, after the industrial occupation of each area had
been accomplished, the maintenance of the institution was a clog upon
material progress. The economic virtues of slavery lay wholly in its making
labor mobile, regular and secure. These qualities accorded remarkably, so
far as they went, with the requirements of the plantation system on the one
hand and the needs of the generality of the negroes on the other. Its vices
were more numerous, and in part more subtle.

The North was annually acquiring thousands of immigrants who came at their
own expense, who worked zealously for wages payable from current earnings,
and who possessed all the inventive and progressive potentialities of
European peoples. But aspiring captains of industry at the South could as
a rule procure labor only by remitting round sums in money or credit which
depleted their working capital and for which were obtained slaves fit only
for plantation routine, negroes of whom little initiative could be expected
and little contribution to the community's welfare beyond their mere
muscular exertions. The negroes were procured in the first instance mainly
because white laborers were not to be had; afterward when whites might
otherwise have been available the established conditions repelled them. The
continued avoidance of the South by the great mass of incoming Europeans in
post-bellum decades has now made it clear that it was the negro character
of the slaves rather than the slave status of the negroes which was chiefly
responsible. The racial antipathy felt by the alien whites, along with
their cultural repugnance and economic apprehensions, intrenched the
negroes permanently in the situation. The most fertile Southern areas when
once converted into black belts tended, and still tend as strongly as ever,
to be tilled only by inert negroes, the majority of whom are as yet perhaps
less efficient in freedom than their forbears were as slaves.

The drain of funds involved in the purchase of slaves was impressive to
contemporaries. Thus Governor Spotswood wrote from Virginia to the British
authorities in 1711 explaining his assent to a L5 tax upon the importation
of slaves. The members of the legislature, said he, "urged what is really
true, that the country is already ruined by the great number of negros
imported of late years, that it will be impossible for them in many years
to discharge the debts already contracted for the purchase of those negroes
if fresh supplys be still poured upon them while their tobacco continues so
little valuable, but that the people will run more and more in debt."[87]
And in 1769 a Charleston correspondent wrote to a Boston journal: "A
calculation having been made of the amount of purchase money of slaves
effected here the present year, it is computed at L270,000 sterling, which
sum will by that means be drained off from this province."[88]

[Footnote 87: Virginia Historical Society _Collections_, I, 52.]

[Footnote 88: Boston _Chronicle_, Mch. 27, 1769.]

An unfortunate fixation of capital was likewise remarked. Thus Sir Charles
Lyell noted at Columbus, Georgia, in 1846 that Northern settlers were
"struck with the difficulty experienced in raising money here by small
shares for the building of mills. 'Why,' say they, 'should all our cotton
make so long a journey to the North, to be manufactured there, and come
back to us at so high a price? It is because all spare cash is sunk here in
purchasing negroes.'" And again at another stage of his tour: "That slave
labour is more expensive than free is an opinion which is certainly gaining
ground in the higher parts of Alabama, and is now professed openly by some
Northerners who have settled there. One of them said to me, 'Half the
population of the South is employed in seeing that the other half do their
work, and they who do work accomplish half what they might do under a
better system.' 'We cannot,' said another,[89] 'raise capital enough for
new cotton factories because all our savings go to buy negroes, or as has
lately happened, to feed them when the crop is deficient."

[Footnote 89: Sir Charles Lyell, _Second Visit to the United States_
(London, 1850), II, 35, 84, 85.]

The planters, who were the principal Southern capitalists, trod in a
vicious circle. They bought lands and slaves wherewith to grow cotton,
and with the proceeds ever bought more slaves to make more cotton; and
oftentimes they borrowed heavily on their lands and slaves as collateral in
order to enlarge their scale of production the more speedily. When slave
prices rose the possessors of those in the cotton belt seldom took profit
from the advance, for it was a rare planter who would voluntarily sell his
operating force. When crops failed or prices fell, however, the loans might
be called, the mortgages foreclosed, and the property sold out at panic
levels. Thus while the slaves had a guarantee of their sustenance, their
proprietors, themselves the guarantors, had a guarantee of nothing. By
virtue, or more properly by vice, of the heavy capitalization of the
control of labor which was a cardinal feature of the ante-bellum regime,
they were involved in excessive financial risks.

The slavery system has often been said to have put so great a stigma on
manual labor as to have paralyzed the physical energies of the Southern
white population. This is a great exaggeration; and yet it is true that the
system militated in quite positive degree against the productivity of the
several white classes. Among the well-to-do it promoted leisure by giving
rise to an abnormally large number of men and women who whether actually
or nominally performing managerial functions, did little to bring sweat
to their brows. The proportion of white collars to overalls and of muslin
frocks to kitchen aprons was greater than in any other Anglo-Saxon
community of equal income. The contrast so often drawn between Southern
gentility and Northern thrift had a concrete basis in fact. At the other
extreme the enervation of the poor whites, while mainly due to malaria
and hookworm, had as a contributing cause the limitation upon their
wage-earning opportunity which the slavery system imposed. Upon the middle
class and the yeomanry, which were far more numerous and substantial[90]
than has been commonly realized, the slavery system exerted an economic
influence by limiting the availability of capital and by offering the
temptation of an unsound application of earnings. When a prospering farmer,
for example, wanted help for himself in his fields or for his wife indoors,
the habit of the community prompted him to buy or hire slaves at a greater
cost than free labor would normally have required.[91] The high price of
slaves, furthermore, prevented many a capable manager from exercising his
talents by debarring him from the acquisition of labor and the other means
of large-scale production.

[Footnote 90: D.R. Hundley, _Social Relations in our Southern States_ (New
York, 1860), pp. 91-100, 193-303; John M. Aughey, _The Iron Furnace, or
Slavery and Secession_ (Philadelphia, 1863), p. 231.]

[Footnote 91: F.L. Olmsted, _Journey through Texas_, p. 513.]

Finally, the force of custom, together with the routine efficiency of slave
labor itself, caused the South to spoil the market for its distinctive
crops by producing greater quantities than the world would buy at
remunerative prices. To this the solicitude of the masters for the health
of their slaves contributed. The harvesting of wheat, for example, as a
Virginian planter observed in a letter to his neighbor James Madison, in
the days when harvesting machinery was unknown, required exertion much more
severe than the tobacco routine, and was accordingly, as he put it, "by
no means so conducive to the health of our negroes, upon whose increase
(_miserabile dictu_!) our principal profit depends."[92] The same
letter also said: "Where there is negro slavery there will be laziness,
carelessness and wastefulness. Nor is it possible to prevent them. Severity
increases the evil, and humanity does not lessen it."

[Footnote 92: Francis Corbin to James Madison, Oct. 10, 1819, in the
Massachusetts Historical Society _Proceedings_, XLIII, 263.]

On the whole, the question whether negro labor in slavery was more or less
productive than free negro labor would have been is not the crux of the
matter. The influence of the slaveholding regime upon the whites themselves
made it inevitable that the South should accumulate real wealth more slowly
than the contemporary North. The planters and their neighbors were in the
grip of circumstance. The higher the price of slaves the greater was the
absorption of capital in their purchase, the blacker grew the black belts,
the more intense was the concentration of wealth and talent in plantation
industry, the more complete was the crystallization of industrial society.
Were there any remedies available? Certain politicians masquerading as
economists advocated the territorial expansion of the regime as a means
of relief. Their argument, however, would not stand analysis. On one hand
virtually all the territory on the continent climatically available for the
staples was by the middle of the nineteenth century already incorporated
into slaveholding states; on the other hand, had new areas been available
the chief effects of their exploitation would have been to heighten the
prices of slaves and lower the prices of crops. Actual expansion had in
fact been too rapid for the best interests of society, for it had kept the
population too sparse to permit a proper development of schools and the
agencies of communications.

With a view to increase the power of the South to expand, and for other
purposes mainly political, a group of agitators in the 'fifties raised a
vehement contention in favor of reopening the African slave trade in full
volume. This, if accomplished, would have lowered the cost of labor, but
its increase of the crops would have depressed staple prices in still
greater degree; its unsettling of the slave market would have hurt vested
interests; and its infusion of a horde of savage Africans would have
set back the progress of the negroes already on hand and have magnified
permanently the problems of racial adjustment.

The prohibition of the interstate slave trade was another project for
modifying the situation. It was mooted in the main by politicians alien to
the regime. If accomplished it would have wrought a sharp differentiation
in the conditions within the several groups of Southern states. An analogy
may be seen in the British possessions in tropical America, where,
following the stoppage of the intercolonial slave trade in 1807, a royal
commission found that the average slave prices as gathered from sale
records between 1822 and 1830 varied from a range in the old and stagnant
colonies of L27 4_s_. 11-3/4_d_. in Bermuda, L29 18_s_. 9-3/4_d_. in the
Bahamas, L47 1_s_. in Barbados and L44 15_s_. 2-1/4_d_. in Jamaica, to L105
4_s_., L114 11_s_. and L120 4_s_. 7-1/2_d_ respectively in the new and
buoyant settlements of Trinidad, Guiana and British Honduras.[93] If the
interstate transfer had been stopped, the Virginia, Maryland and Carolina
slave markets would have been glutted while the markets of every
southwestern state were swept bare. Slave prices in the former would have
fallen to such levels that masters would have eventually resorted to
manumission in self-defence, while in the latter all existing checks to the
inflation of prices would have been removed and all the evils consequent
upon the capitalization of labor intensified.

[Footnote 93: _Accounts and Papers_ [of the British Government], 1837-1838,
vol. 48, [p. 329].]

Another conceivable plan would have been to replace slavery at large by
serfdom. This would have attached the negroes to whatever lands they
chanced to occupy at the time of the legislation. By force of necessity it
would have checked the depletion of soils; but by preventing territorial
transfer it would have robbed the negroes and their masters of all
advantages afforded by the virginity of unoccupied lands. Serfdom could
hardly be seriously considered by the citizens of a new and sparsely
settled country such as the South then was.

Finally the conversion of slaves into freemen by a sweeping emancipation
was a project which met little endorsement except among those who ignored
the racial and cultural complications. Financially it would work drastic
change in private fortunes, though the transfer of ownership from the
masters to the laborers themselves need not necessarily have great effect
for the time being upon the actual wealth of the community as a whole.
Emancipation would most probably, however, break down the plantation system
by making the labor supply unstable, and fill the country partly with
peasant farmers and partly with an unattached and floating negro
population. Exceptional negroes and mulattoes would be sure to thrive upon
their new opportunities, but the generality of the blacks could be counted
upon to relax into a greater slackness than they had previously been
permitted to indulge in. The apprehension of industrial paralysis, however,
appears to have been a smaller factor than the fear of social chaos as a
deterrent in the minds of the Southern whites from thoughts of abolition.

The slaveholding regime kept money scarce, population sparse and land
values accordingly low; it restricted the opportunities of many men of both
races, and it kept many of the natural resources of the Southern country
neglected. But it kept the main body of labor controlled, provisioned and
mobile. Above all it maintained order and a notable degree of harmony in a
community where confusion worse confounded would not have been far to
seek. Plantation slavery had in strictly business aspects at least as many
drawbacks as it had attractions. But in the large it was less a business
than a life; it made fewer fortunes than it made men.

CHAPTER XX

TOWN SLAVES

Southern households in town as well as in country were commonly large, and
the dwellings and grounds of the well-to-do were spacious. The dearth of
gas and plumbing and the lack of electric light and central heating made
for heavy chores in the drawing of water, the replenishment of fuel and the
care of lamps. The gathering of vegetables from the kitchen garden, the
dressing of poultry and the baking of relays' of hot breads at meal times
likewise amplified the culinary routine. Maids of all work were therefore
seldom employed. Comfortable circumstances required at least a cook and
a housemaid, to which might be added as means permitted a laundress, a
children's nurse, a seamstress, a milkmaid, a butler, a gardener and a
coachman. While few but the rich had such ample staffs as this, none but
the poor were devoid of domestics, and the ratio of servitors to the gross
population was large. The repugnance of white laborers toward menial
employment, furthermore, conspired with the traditional predilection of
householders for negroes in a lasting tenure for their intimate services
and gave the slaves a virtual monopoly of this calling. A census of
Charleston in 1848,[94] for example, enumerated 5272 slave domestics as
compared with 113 white and 27 free colored servants. The slaves were more
numerous than the free also in the semi-domestic employments of coachmen
and porters, and among the dray-men and the coopers and the unskilled
laborers in addition.

[Footnote 94: J.L. Dawson and H.W. DeSaussure, _Census of Charleston for
1848_ (Charleston, 1849), pp. 31-36. The city's population then comprised
some 20,000 whites, a like number of slaves, and about 3,500 free persons
of color. The statistics of occupations are summarized in the accompanying
table.]

MANUAL OCCUPATIONS IN CHARLESTON, 1848

Slaves | Free Negroes| Whites
Men | Women Men |Women Men |Women
Domestic servants 1,888 | 3,384 9 | 28 13 | 100
Cooks and
confectioners 7 | 12 18 | 18 ... | 5
Nurses and midwives ...| 2 ... | 10 ... | 5
Laundresses ...| 33 ... | 45 ... | ...
Seamstresses and
mantua makers ... | 24 ... | 196 ... | 125
Milliners ... | ... ... | 7 ... | 44
Fruiterers, hucksters
and pedlers ... | 18 6 | 5 46 | 18
Gardeners 3 | ... ...| ... 5 | 1
Coachmen 15 | ... 4 | ... 2 | ...
Draymen 67 | ... 11 | ... 13 | ...
Porters 35 | ... 5 | ... 8 | ...
Wharfingers and
stevedores 2 | ... 1 | ... 21 | ...
Pilots and sailors 50 | ... 1 | ... 176 | ...
Fishermen 11 | ... 14 | ... 10 | ...
Carpenters 120 | ... 27 | ... 119 | ...
Masons and
bricklayers 68 | ... 10 | ... 60 | ...
Painters and
plasterers 16 | ... 4 | ... 18 | ...
Tinners 3 | ... 1 | ... 10 | ...
Ship carpenters
and joiners 51 | ... 6 | ... 52 | ...
Coopers 61 | ... 2 | ... 20 | ...
Coach makers and
wheelwrights 3 | ... 1 | ... 26 | ...
Cabinet makers 8 | ... ... | ... 26 | ...
Upholsterers 1 | ... 1 | ... 10 | ...
Gun, copper and
locksmiths 2 | ... 1 | ... 16 | ...
Blacksmiths and
horseshoers 40 | ... 4 | ... 51 | ...
Millwrights ... | ... 5 | ... 4 | ...
Boot and shoemakers 6 | ... 17 | ... 30 | ...
Saddle and harness
makers 2 | ... 1 | ... 29 | ...
Tailors and cap makers 36 | ... 42 | 6 68 | 6
Butchers 5 | ... 1 | ... 10 | ...
Millers ... | ... 1 | ... 14 | ...
Bakers 39 | ... 1 | ... 35 | 1
Barbers and hairdressers 4 | ... 14 | ... ... | 6
Cigarmakers 5 | ... 1 | ... 10 | ...
Bookbinders 3 | ... ... | ... 10 | ...
Printers 5 | ... ... | ... 65 | ...
Other mechanics [A] 45 | ... 2 | ... 182 | ...
Apprentices 43 | 8 14 | 7 55 | 5
Unclassified, unskilled
laborers 838 | 378 19 | 2 192 | ...
Superannuated 38 | 54 1 | 5 ... | ...

[Footnote A: The slaves and free negroes in this group were designated
merely as mechanics. The whites were classified as follows: 3 joiners,
1 plumber, 8 gas fitters, 7 bell hangers, 1 paper hanger, 6 carvers and
gilders, 9 sail makers, 5 riggers, 1 bottler, 8 sugar makers, 43 engineers,
10 machinists, 6 boilermakers, 7 stone cutters, 4 piano and organ builders,
23 silversmiths, 15 watchmakers, 3 hair braiders, 1 engraver, 1 cutler, 3
molders, 3 pump and block makers, 2 turners, 2 wigmakers, 1 basketmaker, 1
bleacher, 4 dyers, and 4 journeymen.

In addition there were enumerated of whites in non-mechanical employments
in which the negroes did not participate, 7 omnibus drivers and 16
barkeepers.]

On the other hand, although Charleston excelled every other city in the
proportion of slaves in its population, free laborers predominated in all
the other industrial groups, though but slightly in the cases of the masons
and carpenters. The whites, furthermore, heavily outnumbered the free
negroes in virtually all the trades but that of barbering which they
shunned. Among women workers the free colored ranked first as seamstresses,
washerwomen, nurses and cooks, with white women competing strongly in the
sewing trades alone. A census of Savannah in the same year shows a similar
predominance of whites in all the male trades but that of the barbers, in
which there were counted five free negroes, one slave and no whites.[2]
From such statistics two conclusions are clear: first, that the repulsion
of the whites was not against manual work but against menial service;
second, that the presence of the slaves in the town trades was mainly due
to the presence of their fellows as domestics.

[Footnote 2: Joseph Bancroft, _Census of the City of Savannah_ (Savannah,
1848).]

Most of the slave mechanics and out-of-door laborers were the husbands and
sons of the cooks and chambermaids, dwelling with them on their masters'
premises, where the back yard with its crooning women and romping
vari-colored children was as characteristic a feature as on the
plantations. Town slavery, indeed, had a strong tone of domesticity, and
the masters were often paternalistically inclined. It was a townsman, for
example, who wrote the following to a neighbor: "As my boy Reuben has
formed an attachment to one of your girls and wants her for a wife, this
is to let you know that I am perfectly willing that he should, with your
consent, marry her. His character is good; he is honest, faithful and
industrious." The patriarchal relations of the country, however, which
depended much upon the isolation of the groups, could hardly prevail in
similar degree where the slaves of many masters intermingled. Even for
the care of the sick there was doubtless fairly frequent recourse to such
establishments as the "Surgical Infirmary for Negroes" at Augusta which
advertised its facilities in 1854,[3] though the more common practice, of
course, was for slave patients in town as well as country to be nursed
at home. A characteristic note in this connection was written by a young
Georgia townswoman: "No one is going to church today but myself, as we have
a little negro very sick and Mama deems it necessary to remain at home to
attend to him."[4]

[Footnote 3: _Southern Business Directory_ (Charleston, 1854), I, 289,
advertisement. The building was described as having accommodations for
fifty or sixty patients. The charge for board, lodging and nursing was $10
per month, and for surgical operations and medical attendance "the usual
rates of city practice."]

[Footnote 4: Mary E. Harden to Mrs. Howell Cobb, Athens, Ga., Nov. 13,
1853. MS. in possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens, Ga.]

The town regime was not so conducive to lifelong adjustments of masters
and slaves except as regards domestic service; for whereas a planter could
always expand his operations in response to an increase of his field hands
and could usually provide employment at home for any artizan he might
produce, a lawyer, a banker or a merchant had little choice but to hire
out or sell any slave who proved a superfluity or a misfit in his domestic
establishment. On the other hand a building contractor with an expanding
business could not await the raising of children but must buy or hire
masons and carpenters where he could find them.

Some of the master craftsmen owned their staffs. Thus William Elfe, a
Charleston cabinet maker at the close of the colonial period, had title to
four sawyers, five joiners and a painter, and he managed to keep some of
their wives and children in his possession also by having a farm on the
further side of the harbor for their residence and employment.[5] William
Rouse, a Charleston leather worker who closed his business in 1825 when
the supply of tan bark ran short, had for sale four tanners, a currier and
seven shoemakers, with, however, no women or children;[6] and the seven
slaves of William Brockelbank, a plastering contractor of the same city,
sold after his death in 1850, comprised but one woman and no children.[7]
Likewise when the rope walk of Smith, Dorsey and Co. at New Orleans was
offered for sale in 1820, fourteen slave operatives were included without
mention of their families.[8]

[Footnote 5: MS. account book of William Elfe, in the Charleston Library.]

[Footnote 6: Charleston _City Gazette_, Jan. 5, 1826, advertisement.]

[Footnote 7: Charleston _Mercury_, quoted in the Augusta _Chronicle_, Dec.
5, 1850. This news item owed its publication to the "handsome prices"
realized. A plasterer 28 years old brought $2,135; another, 30, $1,805; a
third, 24, $1775; a fourth, 24, $1,100; and a fifth, 20, $730.]

[Footnote 8: _Louisiana Advertiser_ (New Orleans), May 13, 1820,
advertisement.]

Far more frequently such laborers were taken on hire. The following are
typical of a multitude of newspaper advertisements: Michael Grantland at
Richmond offered "good wages" for the year 1799 by piece or month for six
or eight negro coopers.[9] At the same time Edward Rumsey was calling for
strong negro men of good character at $100 per year at his iron works in
Botetourt County, Virginia, and inviting free laboring men also to take
employment with him.[10] In 1808 Daniel Weisinger and Company wanted three
or four negro men to work in their factory at Frankfort, Kentucky, saying
"they will be taught weaving, and liberal wages will be paid for their
services."[11] George W. Evans at Augusta in 1818 "Wanted to hire, eight or
ten white or black men for the purpose of cutting wood."[12] A citizen of
Charleston in 1821 called for eight good black carpenters on weekly or
monthly wages, and in 1825 a blacksmith and wheel-wright of the same city
offered to take black apprentices.[13] In many cases whites and blacks
worked together in the same employ, as in a boat-building yard on the Flint
River in 1836,[14] and in a cotton mill at Athens, Georgia, in 1839.[15]

[Footnote 9: _Virginia Gazette_ (Richmond), Nov. 20, 1798.]

[Footnote 10: Winchester, Va., _Gazette_, Jan. 30, 1799.]

[Footnote 11: The _Palladium_ (Frankfort, Ky.), Dec. 1, 1808.]

[Footnote 12: Augusta, Ga., _Chronicle_, Aug. 1, 1818.]

[Footnote 13: Charleston _City Gazette_, Feb. 22, 1825.]

[Footnote 14: _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Mch. 18, 1836,
reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 356.]

[Footnote 15: J.S. Buckingham, _The Slave States of America_ (London,
[1842]), II, 112.]

In some cases the lessor of slaves procured an obligation of complete
insurance from the lessee. An instance of this was a contract between
James Murray of Wilmington in 1743, when he was departing for a sojourn in
Scotland, and his neighbor James Hazel. The latter was to take the three
negroes Glasgow, Kelso and Berwick for three years at an annual hire of L21
sterling for the lot. If death or flight among them should prevent Hazel
from returning any of the slaves at the end of the term he was to reimburse
Murray at full value scheduled in the lease, receiving in turn a bill of
sale for any runaway. Furthermore if any of the slaves were permanently
injured by willful abuse at the hands of Hazel's overseer, Murray was to be
paid for the damage.[16] Leases of this type, however, were exceptional.
As a rule the owners appear to have carried all risks except in regard to
willful injury, and the courts generally so adjudged it where the contracts
of hire had no stipulations in the premises.[17] When the Georgia supreme
court awarded the owner a full year's hire of a slave who had died in the
midst of his term the decision was complained of as an innovation "signally
oppressive to the poorer classes of our citizens--the large majority--who
are compelled to hire servants."[18]

[Footnote 16: Nina M. Tiffany ed., _Letters of James Murray, Loyalist_
(Boston, 1901), pp. 67-69.]

[Footnote 17: J.D. Wheeler, _The Law of Slavery_ (New York, 1837), pp.
152-155.]

[Footnote 18: Editorial in the _Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), Dec.
12, 1854.]

The main supply of slaves for hire was probably comprised of the husbands
and sons, and sometimes the daughters, of the cooks and housemaids of the
merchants, lawyers and the like whose need of servants was limited but who
in many cases made a point of owning their slaves in families. On the other
hand, many townsmen whose capital was scant or whose need was temporary
used hired slaves even for their kitchen work; and sometimes the filling of
the demand involved the transfer of a slave from one town to another. Thus
an innkeeper of Clarkesville, a summer resort in the Georgia mountains,
published in the distant newspapers of Athens and Augusta in 1838 his
offer of liberal wages for a first rate cook.[19] This hiring of domestics
brought periodic embarrassments to those who depended upon them. A Virginia
clergyman who found his wife and himself doing their own chores "in the
interval between the hegira of the old hirelings and the coming of the
new"[20] was not alone in his plight. At the same season, a Richmond editor
wrote: "The negro hiring days have come, the most woeful of the year! So
housekeepers think who do not own their own servants; and even this class
is but a little better off than the rest, for all darkeydom must have
holiday this week, and while their masters and mistresses are making fires
and cooking victuals or attending to other menial duties the negroes are
promenading the streets decked in their finest clothes."[21] Even the
tobacco factories, which were constantly among the largest employers of
hired slaves, were closed for lack of laborers from Christmas day until
well into January.[22]

[Footnote 19: _Southern Banner_ (Athens, Ga.), June 21, 1838, advertisement
ordering its own republication in the Augusta _Constitutionalist_.]

[Footnote 20: T.C. Johnson, _Life of Robert L. Dabney_ (Richmond, 1905), p.
120.]

[Footnote 21: Richmond _Whig_, quoted in the _Atlanta Intelligencer_, Jan.
5, 1859.]

[Footnote 22: Robert Russell, _North America_ (Edinburgh, 1857), p. 151.]

That the bargain of hire sometimes involved the consent of more than two
parties is suggested by a New Year's colloquy overheard by Robert Russell
on a Richmond street: "I was rather amused at the efforts of a market
gardener to hire a young woman as a domestic servant. The price her owner
put upon her services was not objected to by him, but they could not agree
about other terms. The grand obstacle was that she would not consent to
work in the garden, even when she had nothing else to do. After taking an
hour's walk in another part of town I again met the two at the old bargain.
Stepping towards them, I now learned that she was pleading for other
privileges--her friends and favourites must be allowed to visit her.[23]
At length she agreed to go and visit her proposed home and see how things
looked." That the scruples of proprietors occasionally prevented the
placing of slaves is indicated by a letter of a Georgia woman anent her
girl Betty and a free negro woman, Matilda: "I cannot agree for Betty to
be hired to Matilda--her character is too bad. I know her of old; she is a
drunkard, and is said to be bad in every respect. I would object her being
hired to any colored person no matter what their character was; and if she
cannot get into a respectable family I had rather she came home, and if she
can't work out put her to spinning and weaving. Her relations here beg she
may not be permitted to go to Matilda. She would not be worth a cent at the
end of the year."[24]

The cooerdination of demand and supply was facilitated in some towns by
brokers. Thus J. de Bellievre of Baton Rouge maintained throughout 1826 a
notice in the local _Weekly Messenger_ of "Servants to hire by the day or
month," including both artizans and domestics; and in the Nashville city
directory of 1860 Van B. Holman advertised his business as an agent for the
hiring of negroes as well as for the sale and rental of real estate.

[Footnote 23: _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 24: Letter of Mrs. S.R. Cobb, Cowpens, Ga., Jan. 9 1843, to
her daughter-in-law at Athens. MS. in the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin,
Athens, Ga.]

Slave wages, generally quoted for the year and most frequently for
unskilled able-bodied hands, ranged materially higher, of course, in the
cotton belt than in the upper South. Women usually brought about half
the wages of men, though they were sometimes let merely for the keep of
themselves and their children. In middle Georgia the wages of prime men
ranged about $100 in the first decade of the nineteenth century, dropped to
$60 or $75 during the war of 1812, and then rose to near $150 by 1818. The
panic of the next year sent them down again; and in the 'twenties they
commonly ranged between $100 and $125. Flush times then raised them in
such wise that the contractors digging a canal on the Georgia coast found
themselves obliged in 1838 to offer $18 per month together with the
customary weekly rations of three and a half pounds of bacon and ten quarts
of corn and also the services of a staff physician as a sort of substitute
for life and health insurance.[25] The beginning of the distressful
'forties eased the market so that the town of Milledgeville could get its
street gang on a scale of $125;[26] at the middle of the decade slaveowners
were willing to take almost any wages offered; and in its final year the
Georgia Railroad paid only $70 to $75 for section hands. In 1850, however,
this rate leaped to $100 and $110, and caused a partial substitution of
white laborers for the hired slaves;[27] but the brevity of any relief
procured by this recourse is suggested by a news item from Chattanooga in
1852 reporting that the commonest labor commanded a dollar a day, that
mechanics were all engaged far in advance, that much building was perforce
being postponed, and that all persons who might be seeking employment were
urged to answer the city's call.[28] By 1854 the continuing advance began
to discommode rural employers likewise. A Norfolk newspaper of the time
reported that the current wages of $150 for ordinary hands and $225 for
the best laborers, together with life insurance for the full value of
the slaves, were so high that prudent farmers were curtailing their
operations.[29] At the beginning of 1856 the wages in the Virginia tobacco
factories advanced some fifteen per cent. over the rates of the preceding
year;[30] and shortly afterward several of these establishments took refuge
in the employment of white women for their lighter processes.[31] In 1860
there was a culmination of this rise of slave wages throughout the South,
contemporaneous with that of their purchase prices. First-rate hands
were engaged by the Petersburg tobacco factories at $225;[32] and in
northwestern Louisiana the prime field hands in a parcel of slaves hired
for the year brought from $300 to $360 each, and a blacksmith $430.[33] The
general average then prevalent for prime unskilled slaves, however, was
probably not much above two hundred dollars. While the purchase price of
slaves was wellnigh quadrupled in the three score years of the nineteenth
century, slave wages were little more than doubled, for these were of
course controlled not by the fluctuating hopes and fears of what the
distant future might bring but by the sober prospect of the work at hand.

[Footnote 25: Advertisement in the Savannah newspapers, reprinted in J.S.
Buckingham, _Slave States_ (London, 1842), I, 137.]

[Footnote 26: MS. minutes of the board of aldermen, in the town hall at
Milledgeville, Ga. Item dated Feb. 23, 1841.]

[Footnote 27: Georgia Railroad Company _Report_ for 1850, p. 13.]

[Footnote 28: Chattanooga _Advertiser_, quoted in the Augusta _Chronicle_,
June 6, 1852.]

[Footnote 29: Norfolk _Argus_, quoted in _Southern Banner_ (Athens, Ga.),
Jan. 12, 1854.]

[Footnote 30: Richmond _Dispatch_, Jan., 1856, quoted in G.M. Weston, _Who
are and who may be Slaves in the U.S._ (caption).]

[Footnote 31: _Hunt's Merchants' Magazine_, XL, 522.]

[Footnote 32: Petersburg _Democrat_, quoted by the Atlanta _Intelligencer_,
Jan., 1860.]

[Footnote 33: _DeBow's Review_, XXIX, 374.]

The proprietors of slaves for hire appear to have been generally as much
concerned with questions of their moral and physical welfare as with the
wages to be received, for no wage would compensate for the debilitation of
the slave or his conversion into an inveterate runaway. The hirers in their
turn had the problem, growing more intense with the advance of costs, of
procuring full work without resorting to such rigor of discipline as
would disquiet the owners of their employees. The tobacco factories found
solution in piece work with bonus for excess over the required stint. At
Richmond in the middle 'fifties this was commonly yielding the slaves from
two to five dollars a month for their own uses; and these establishments,
along with all other slave employers, suspended work for more than a week
at the Christmas season.[34]

[Footnote 34: Robert Russell, _North America_, p. 152.]

The hiring of slaves from one citizen to another did not meet all the needs
of the town industry, for there were many occupations in which the regular
supervision of labor was impracticable. Hucksters must trudge the streets
alone; and market women sit solitary in their stalls. If slaves were to
follow such callings at all, and if other slaves were to utilize their
talents in keeping cobbler and blacksmith shops and the like for public
patronage,[35] they must be vested with fairly full control of their own
activities. To enable them to compete with whites and free negroes in the
trades requiring isolated and occasional work their masters early and
increasingly fell into the habit of hiring many slaves to the slaves
themselves, granting to each a large degree of industrial freedom in return
for a stipulated weekly wage. The rates of hire varied, of course, with the
slave's capabilities and the conditions of business in their trades. The
practice brought friction sometimes between slaves and owners when wages
were in default. An instance of this was published in a Charleston
advertisement of 1800 announcing the auction of a young carpenter and
saying as the reason of the sale that he had absconded because of a deficit
in his wages.[36] Whether the sale was merely by way of punishment or
was because the proprietor could not give personal supervision to the
carpenter's work the record fails to say. The practice also injured the
interests of white competitors in the same trades, who sometimes bitterly
complained;[37] it occasionally put pressure upon the slaves to fill
out their wages by theft; and it gave rise in some degree to a public
apprehension that the liberty of movement might be perverted to purposes of
conspiracy. The law came to frown upon it everywhere; but the device was
too great a public and private convenience to be suppressed.

[Footnote 35: _E. g_., "For sale: a strong, healthy Mulatto Man, about
24 years of age, by trade a blacksmith, and has had the management of a
blacksmith shop for upwards of two years" Advertisement in the Alexandria,
Va., _Times and Advertiser_, Sept. 26, 1797.]

[Footnote 36: Charleston _City Gazette_, May 12, 1800.]

[Footnote 37: _E. g., Plantation and Frontier_, II, 367.]

To procure the enforcement of such laws a vigilance committee was proposed
at Natchez in 1824;[38] but if it was created it had no lasting effect.
With the same purpose newspaper campaigns were waged from time to time.
Thus in the spring of 1859 the _Bulletin_ of Columbia, South Carolina, said
editorially: "Despite the laws of the land forbidding under penalty the
hiring of their time by slaves, it is much to be regretted that the
pernicious practice still exists," and it censured the citizens who were
consciously and constantly violating a law enacted in the public interest.
The nearby Darlington _Flag_ endorsed this and proposed in remedy that
the town police and the rural patrols consider void all tickets issued by
masters authorizing their slaves to pass and repass at large, that all
slaves found hiring their time be arrested and punished, and that their
owners be indicted as by law provided. The editor then ranged further.
"There is another evil of no less magnitude," said he, "and perhaps the
foundation of the one complained of. It is that of transferring slave labor
from its legitimate field, the cultivation of the soil, into that of the
mechanic arts.... Negro mechanics are an ebony aristocracy into which
slaves seek to enter by teasing their masters for permission to learn a
trade. Masters are too often seduced by the prospect of gain to yield their
assent, and when their slaves have acquired a trade are forced to the
violation of the law to realize their promised gain. We should therefore
have a law to prevent slave mechanics going off their masters' premises to
work. Let such a law be passed, and ... there will no longer be need of a
law to prohibit slaves hiring their own time," The _Southern Watchman_ of
Athens, Georgia, reprinted all of this in turn, along with a subscriber's
communication entitled "free slaves." There were more negroes enjoying
virtual freedom in the town of Athens, this writer said, than there were
_bona fide_ free negroes in any ten counties of the district. "Everyone who
is at all acquainted with the character of the slave race knows that they
have great ideas of liberty, and in order to get the enjoyment of it they
make large offers for their time. And everyone who knows anything of the
negro knows that he won't work unless he is obliged to.... The negro thus
set free, in nine cases out of ten, idles away half of his time or gambles
away what he does make, and then relies on his ingenuity in stealing to
meet the demands pay day inevitably brings forth; and this is the way our
towns are converted into dens of rogues and thieves."[39]

[Footnote 38: Natchez _Mississippian_, quoted in _Le Courrier de la
Louisiane_ (New Orleans), Aug. 25, 1854.]

[Footnote 39: _Southern Watchman_ (Athens, Ga.), Apr. 20, 1859.]

These arguments had been answered long before by a citizen of Charleston.
The clamor, said he, was intended not so much to guard the community
against theft and insurrection as to diminish the competition of slaves
with white mechanics. The strict enforcement of the law would almost
wholly deprive the public of the services of jobbing slaves, which were
indispensable under existing circumstances. Let the statute therefore be
left in the obscurity of the lawyers' bookshelves, he concluded, to be
brought forth only in case of an emergency.[40] And so such laws were left
to sleep, despite the plaints of self-styled reformers.

[Footnote 40: Letter to the editor in the Charleston _City Gazette_, Nov.
1, 1825. To similar effect was an editorial in the Augusta _Chronicle_,
Oct. 16, 1851.]

That self-hire may often have led to self-purchase is suggested by an
illuminating letter of Billy Procter, a slave at Americus, Georgia, in 1854
to Colonel John B. Lamar of whom something has been seen in a foregoing
chapter. The letter, presumably in the slave's own hand, runs as follows:
"As my owner, Mr. Chapman, has determined to dispose of all his Painters, I
would prefer to have you buy me to any other man. And I am anxious to get
you to do so if you will. You know me very well yourself, but as I wish
you to be fully satisfied I beg to refer you to Mr. Nathan C. Monroe, Dr.
Strohecker and Mr. Bogg. I am in distress at this time, and will be until I
hear from you what you will do. I can be bought for $1000--and I think that
you might get me for 50 Dolls less if you try, though that is Mr. Chapman's
price. Now Mas John, I want to be plain and honest with you. If you will
buy me I will pay you $600 per year untill this money is paid, or at any
rate will pay for myself in two years.... I am fearfull that if you do not
buy me, there is no telling where I may have to go, and Mr. C. wants me to
go where I would be satisfied,--I promise to serve you faithfully, and I
know that I am as sound and healthy as anyone you could find. You will
confer a great favour, sir, by Granting my request, and I would be
very glad to hear from you in regard to the matter at your earliest
convenience."[41]

[Footnote 41: MS. in the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens, Ga.,
printed in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 41. The writer must have been
well advanced in years or else highly optimistic. Otherwise he could not
have expected to earn his purchase price within two years.]

The hiring of slaves by one citizen to another prevailed to some extent
in country as well as town, and the hiring of them to themselves was
particularly notable in the forest labors of gathering turpentine and
splitting shingles[42]; but slave hire in both its forms was predominantly
an urban resort. On the whole, whereas the plantation system cherished
slavery as a wellnigh fundamental condition, town industry could tolerate
it only by modifying its features to make labor more flexibly responsive to
the sharply distinctive urban needs.

[Footnote 42: Olmsted, _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 153-155.]

As to routine control, urban proprietors were less complete masters even
of slaves in their own employ than were those in the country. For example,
Morgan Brown of Clarksville, Tennessee, had occasion to publish the
following notice: "Whereas my negroes have been much in the habit of
working at night for such persons as will employ them, to the great injury
of their health and morals, I therefore forbid all persons employing them
without my special permission in writing. I also forbid trading with them,
buying from or selling to them, without my written permit stating the
article they may buy or sell. The law will be strictly enforced against
transgressors, without respect to persons[43]."

[Footnote 43: _Town Gazette and Farmers' Register_ (Clarksville, Tenn.),
Aug. 9, 1819, reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 45, 46.]

When broils occurred in which slaves were involved, the masters were likely
to find themselves champions rather than judges. This may be illustrated by
two cases tried before the town commissioners of Milledgeville, Georgia,
in 1831. In the first of these Edward Gary was ordered to bring before the
board his slave Nathan to answer a charge of assault upon Richard Mayhorn,
a member of the town patrol, and show why punishment should not be
inflicted. On the day set Cary appeared without the negro and made a
counter charge supported by testimony that Mayhorn had exceeded his
authority under the patrol ordinance. The prosecution of the slave was
thereupon dropped, and the patrolman was dismissed from the town's employ.
The second case was upon a patrol charge against a negro named Hubbard,
whose master or whose master's attorney was one Wiggins, reciting an
assault upon Billy Woodliff, a slave apparently of Seaborn Jones. Billy
being sworn related that Hubbard had come to the door of his blacksmith
shop and "abused and bruised him with a rock." Other evidence revealed that
Hubbard's grievance lay in Billy's having taken his wife from him. "The
testimony having been concluded, Mr. Wiggins addressed the board in a
speech containing some lengthy, strengthy and depthy argument: whereupon
the board ordered that the negro man Hubbard receive from the marshall ten
lashes, moderately laid on, and be discharged."[44] Even in the maintenance
of household discipline masters were fain to apply chastisement vicariously
by having the town marshal whip their offending servants for a small fee.

[Footnote 44: MS. archives in the town hall at Milledgeville, Ga., selected
items from which are printed in the American Historical Association
_Report_ for 1903, I, 468, 469.]

The variety in complexion, status and attainment among town slaves led to a
somewhat elaborate gradation of colored society. One stratum comprised the
fairly numerous quadroons and mulattoes along with certain exceptional
blacks. The men among these had a pride of place as butlers and coachmen,
painters and carpenters; the women fitted themselves trimly with the
cast-off silks and muslins of their mistresses, walked with mincing tread,
and spoke in quiet tones with impressive nicety of grammar. This element
was a conscious aristocracy of its kind, but its members were more or less
irked by the knowledge that no matter how great their merits they could not
cross the boundary into white society. The bulk of the real negroes on the
other hand, with an occasional mulatto among them, went their own way, the
women frankly indulging a native predilection for gaudy colors, carrying
their burdens on their heads, arms akimbo, and laying as great store in
their kerchief turbans as their paler cousins did in their beflowered
bonnets. The men of this class wore their shreds and patches with an
easy swing, doffed their wool hats to white men as they passed, called
themselves niggers or darkies as a matter of course, took the joys and
sorrows of the day as they came, improvised words to the music of their
work, and customarily murdered the Queen's English, all with a true if
humble nonchalance and a freedom from carking care.

The differentiation of slave types was nevertheless little more than
rudimentary; for most of those who were lowliest on work days assumed
a grandiloquence of manner when they donned their holiday clothes. The
gayeties of the colored population were most impressive to visitors from
afar. Thus Adam Hodgson wrote of a spring Sunday at Charleston in 1820: "I
was pleased to see the slaves apparently enjoying themselves on this day in
their best attire, and was amused with their manners towards each other.
They generally use Sir and Madam in addressing each other, and make the
most formal and particular inquiries after each other's families."[45] J.S.
Buckingham wrote at Richmond fifteen years afterward: "On Sundays, when the
slaves and servants are all at liberty after dinner, they move about in
every thoroughfare, and are generally more gaily dressed than the whites.
The females wear white muslin and light silk gowns, with caps, bonnets,
ribbons and feathers; some carry reticules on the arm and many are seen
with parasols, while nearly all of them carry a white pocket-handkerchief
before them in the most fashionable style. The young men among the
slaves wear white trousers, black stocks, broad-brimmed hats, and carry
walking-sticks; and from the bowings, curtseying and greetings in the
highway one might almost imagine one's self to be at Hayti and think that
the coloured people had got possession of the town and held sway, while the
whites were living among them by sufferance."[46] Olmsted in his turn found
the holiday dress of the slaves in many cases better than the whites,[47]
and said their Christmas festivities were Saturnalia. The town ordinances,
while commonly strict in regard to the police of slaves for the rest of the
year, frequently gave special countenance to negro dances and other festive
assemblies at Christmas tide.

[Footnote 45: Adam Hodgson, _Letters from North America_, I, 97.]

[Footnote 46: J.S. Buckingham, _Slave States_, II, 427.]

[Footnote 47: _Seaboard Slave States_, pp. 101, 103. Cf. also _DeBow's
Review_, XII, 692, and XXVIII, 194-199.]

Even in work-a-day seasons the laxity of control gave rise to occasional
complaint. Thus the acting mayor of New Orleans recited in 1813, among
matters needing correction, that loitering slaves were thronging the grog
shops every evening and that negro dances were lasting far into the night,
in spite of the prohibitions of the law.[48] A citizen of Charleston
protested in 1835 against another and more characteristic form of
dissipation. "There are," said he, "sometimes every evening in the week,
funerals of negroes accompanied by three or four hundred negroes ... who
disturb all the inhabitants in the neighborhood of burying grounds in Pitt
street near Boundary street. It appears to be a jubilee for every slave in
the city. They are seen eagerly pressing to the place from all quarters,
and such is frequently the crowd and noise made by them that carriages
cannot safely be driven that way."[49]

[Footnote 48: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 153.]

[Footnote 49: Letter of a citizen in the _Southern Patriot_, quoted in H.M.
Henry, _Police Control of the Slave in South Carolina_ (Emory, Va., 1914),
p. 144.]

The operations of urban constables and police courts are exemplified in
some official statistics of Charleston. In the year ending September 1,
1837, the slave arrests, numbering 768 in all, were followed in 138 cases
by prompt magisterial discharge, by fines in 309 cases, and by punishment
in the workhouse or by remandment for trial on criminal charges in 264
of the remainder. The mayor said in summary: "Of the 573 slaves fined or
committed to the workhouse nearly the whole were arrested for being out at
night without tickets or being found in the dram shops or other unlawful
places. The fines imposed did not in general exceed $1, and where corporal
punishment was inflicted it was always moderate. It is worthy to remark
that of the 460 cases reported by the marshals for prosecution but 22 were
prosecuted, the penalties having been voluntarily paid in 303 cases, and in
118 cases having been remitted, thus preventing by a previous examination
421 suits." Arrests of colored freemen in the same period numbered 78, of
which 27 were followed by discharge, 36 by fine or whipping, 5 by sentence
to the workhouse, and 10 by remandment.

In the second year following, the slave and free negro arrests for being
"out after the beating of the tattoo without tickets, fighting and rioting
in the streets, following military companies, walking on the battery
contrary to law, bathing horses at forbidden places, theft, or other
violation of the city and state laws" advanced for some unexplained reason
to an aggregate of 1424. Of those taken into custody 274 were discharged
after examination, 330 were punished in the workhouse, 33 were prosecuted
or delivered to warrant, 26 were fined or committed until the fines were
paid, for 398 the penalties were paid by their owners or guardians, 115
were runaways who were duly returned to their masters or otherwise disposed
of according to law, and the remaining 252 were delivered on their owners'
orders.[50]

[Footnote 50: Official reports quoted in H.M. Henry, _The Police Control of
Slaves in South Carolina_, pp. 49, 50.]

At an earlier period a South Carolina law had required the public whipping
of negro offenders at prominent points on the city streets, but
complaints of this as distressing to the inhabitants[51] had brought its
discontinuance. For the punishment of misdemeanants under sentences to hard
labor a treadmill was instituted in the workhouse;[52] and the ensuing
substitution of labor for the lash met warm official commendation.[53]

[Footnote 51: _Columbian Herald_ (Charleston), June 26, 1788.]

[Footnote 52: Charleston _City Gazette_, Feb. 2, 1826.]

[Footnote 53: Grand jury presentments, _ibid_., May 15, 1826.]

In church affairs the two races adhered to the same faiths, but their
worship tended slowly to segregate. A few negroes habitually participated
with the whites in the Catholic and Episcopal rituals, or listened to the
long and logical sermons of the Presbyterians. Larger numbers occupied the
pews appointed for their kind in the churches of the Methodist and Baptist
whites, where the more ebullient exercises comported better with their own
tastes. But even here there was often a feeling of irksome restraint. The
white preacher in fear of committing an indiscretion in the hearing of
the negroes must watch his words though that were fatal to his impromptu
eloquence; the whites in the congregation must maintain their dignity when
dignity was in conflict with exaltation; the blacks must repress their own
manifestations the most severely of all, to escape rebuke for unseemly
conduct.[54] An obvious means of relief lay in the founding of separate
congregations to which the white ministers occasionally preached and in
which white laymen often sat, but where the pulpit and pews were commonly
filled by blacks alone. There the sable exhorter might indulge his peculiar
talent for "'rousements" and the prayer leader might beseech the Almighty
in tones to reach His ears though afar off. There the sisters might sway
and croon to the cadence of sermon and prayer, and the brethren spur the
spokesman to still greater efforts by their well timed ejaculations. There
not only would the quaint melody of the negro "spirituals" swell instead of
the more sophisticated airs of the hymn book, but every successful sermon
would be a symphony and every prayer a masterpiece of concerted rhythm.

[Footnote 54: A Methodist preacher wrote of an episode at Wilmington: "On
one occasion I took a summary process with a certain black woman who in
their love-feast, with many extravagant gestures, cried out that she was
'young King Jesus,' I bade her take her seat, and then publicly read her
out of membership, stating that we would not have such wild fanatics
among us, meantime letting them all know that such expressions were even
blasphemous. Poor Aunt Katy felt it deeply, repented, and in a month I took
her back again. The effect was beneficial, and she became a rational
and consistent member of the church." Joseph Travis, _Autobiography_
(Nashville, 1855), pp. 71, 72.]

In some cases the withdrawal of the blacks had the full character of
secession. An example in this line had been set in Philadelphia when
some of the negroes who had been attending white churches of various
denominations were prompted by the antipathy of the whites and by the
ambition of the colored leaders to found, in 1791, an African church with
a negro minister. In the course of a few years this was divided into
congregations of the several sects. Among these the Methodists prospered
to such degree that in 1816 they launched the African Methodist Episcopal
Church, with congregations in Baltimore and other neighboring cities
included within its jurisdiction.[55] Richard Allen as its first bishop
soon entered into communication with Morris Brown and other colored
Methodists of Charleston who were aggrieved at this time by the loss of
their autonomy. In former years the several thousand colored Methodists,
who outnumbered by tenfold the whites in the congregations there, had
enjoyed a quarterly conference of their own, with the custody of their
collections and with control over the church trials of colored members; but
on the ground of abuses these privileges were cancelled in 1815. A secret
agitation then ensued which led on the one hand to the increase of the
negro Methodists by some two thousand souls, and on the other to the visit
of two of their leaders to Philadelphia where they were formally ordained
for Charleston pastorates. When affairs were thus ripened, a dispute as
to the custody of one of their burial grounds precipitated their intended
stroke in 1818. Nearly all the colored class leaders gave up their papers
simultaneously, and more than three-quarters of their six thousand
fellows withdrew their membership from the white Methodist churches. "The
galleries, hitherto crowded, were almost completely deserted," wrote a
contemporary, "and it was a vacancy that could be _felt_. The absence of
their responses and hearty songs were really felt to be a loss to those so
long accustomed to hear them.... The schismatics combined, and after
great exertion succeeded in erecting a neat church building.... Their
organization was called the African Church," and one of its ministers was
constituted bishop. Its career, however, was to be short lived, for the
city authorities promptly proceeded against them, first by arresting a
number of participants at one of their meetings but dismissing them with a
warning that their conduct was violative of a statute of 1800 prohibiting
the assemblage of slaves and free negroes for mental instruction without
the presence of white persons; next by refusing, on the grounds that both
power and willingness were lacking, a plea by the colored preachers for a
special dispensation; and finally by the seizure of all the attendants at
another of their meetings and the sentencing of the bishop and a dozen
exhorters, some to a month's imprisonment or departure from the state,
others to ten lashes or ten dollars' fine. The church nevertheless
continued in existence until 1822 when in consequence of the discovery of a
plot for insurrection among the Charleston negroes the city government had
the church building demolished. Morris Brown moved to Philadelphia, where
he afterward became bishop of the African Church, and the whole Charleston
project was ended.[56] The bulk of the blacks returned to the white
congregations, where they soon overflowed the galleries and even the
"boxes" which were assigned them at the rear on the main floors. Some of
the older negroes by special privilege then took seats forward in the main
body of the churches, and others not so esteemed followed their example in
such numbers that the whites were cramped for room. After complaints on
this score had failed for several years to bring remedy, a crisis came
in Bethel Church on a Sunday in 1833 when Dr. Capers was to preach. More
whites came than could be seated the forward-sitting negroes refused
to vacate their seats for them; and a committee of young white members
forcibly ejected these blacks At a "love-feast" shortly afterward one of
the preachers criticized the action of the committee thereby giving the
younger element of the whites great umbrage. Efforts at reconciliation
failing, nine of the young men were expelled from membership, whereupon
a hundred and fifty others followed them into a new organization which
entered affiliation with the schismatic Methodist Protestant Church.[57]
Race relations in the orthodox congregations were doubtless thereafter more
placid.

[Footnote 55: E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_ (Washington, 1911),
pp. 134-136.]

[Footnote 56: Charleston _Courier_, June 9, 1818; Charleston _City
Gazette_, quoted in the _Louisiana Gazette_ (New Orleans), July 10, 1818;
J.L.E.W. Shecut, _Medical and Philosophical Essays_ (Charleston, 1819),
p. 34; C.F. Deems ed., _Annals of Southern Methodism for 1856_ (Nashville
[1857]), pp. 212-214, 232; H.M. Henry, _Police Control of the Slave in
South Carolina_, p. 142.]

[Footnote 57: C.F. Deems ed., _Annals of Southern Methodism for 1856_, pp.
215-217.]

In most of the permanent segregations the colored preachers were ordained
and their congregations instituted under the patronage of the whites.
At Savannah as early as 1802 the freedom of the slave Henry Francis was
purchased by subscription, and he was ordained by white ministers at the
African Baptist Church. After a sermon by the Reverend Jesse Peter of
Augusta, the candidate "underwent a public examination respecting his faith
in the leading doctrines of Christianity, his call to the sacred ministry
and his ideas of church government. Giving entire satisfaction on these
important points, he kneeled down, when the ordination prayer with
imposition of hands was made by Andrew Bryant The ordained ministers
present then gave the right hand of fellowship to Mr. Francis, who was
forthwith presented with a Bible and a solemn charge to faithfulness by Mr.
Holcombe."[58] The Methodists were probably not far behind the Baptists in
this policy. The Presbyterians and Episcopalians, with much smaller numbers
of negro co-religionists to care for, followed the same trend in later
decades. Thus the presbytery of Charleston provided in 1850, at a cost of
$7,700, a separate house of worship for its negro members, the congregation
to be identified officially with the Second Presbyterian Church of the
city. The building had a T shape, the transepts appropriated to the use of
white persons. The Sunday school of about 180 pupils had twenty or thirty
white men and women as its teaching staff.[59]

[Footnote 58: Henry Holcombe ed., _The Georgia Analytical Repository_ (a
Baptist magazine of Savannah, 1802), I, 20, 21. For further data concerning
Francis and other colored Baptists of his time see the _Journal of Negro
History_, I, 60-92.]

[Footnote 59: J.H. Thornwell, D.D., _The Rights and Duties of Masters: a
sermon preached at the dedication of a church erected at Charleston, S.C.
for the benefit and instruction of the colored population_ (Charleston,
1850).]

Such arrangements were not free from objection, however, as the
Episcopalians of Charleston learned about this time. To relieve the
congestion of the negro pews in St. Michael's and St. Philip's, a separate
congregation was organized with a few whites included in its membership.
While it was yet occupying temporary quarters in Temperance Hall, a mob
demolished Calvary Church which was being built for its accommodation. When
the proprietor of Temperance Hall refused the further use of his premises
the congregation dispersed. The mob's action was said to be in protest
against the doings of the "bands" or burial societies among the Calvary
negroes.[60]

[Footnote 60: _Public Proceedings relating to Calvary Church and the
Religious Instruction of Slaves_ (Charleston, 1850).]

The separate religious integration of the negroes both slave and free was
obstructed by the recurrent fear of the whites that it might be perverted
to insurrectionary purposes. Thus when at Richmond in 1823 ninety-two free
negroes petitioned the Virginia legislature on behalf of themselves and
several hundred slaves, reciting that the Baptist churches used by the
whites had not enough room to permit their attendance and asking sanction
for the creation of a "Baptist African Church," the legislature withheld
its permission. In 1841, however, this purpose was in effect accomplished
when it was found that a negro church would not be in violation of the law
provided it had a white pastor. At that time the First Baptist Church
of Richmond, having outgrown its quarters, erected a new building to
accommodate its white members and left its old one to the negroes. The
latter were thereupon organized as the African Church with a white minister
and with the choice of its deacons vested in a white committee. In 1855,
when this congregation had grown to three thousand members, the
Ebenezer church was established as an offshoot, with a similar plan of
government.[61]

[Footnote 61: J.B. Earnest, _The Religious Development of the Negro in
Virginia_ (Charlottesville, 1914), pp. 72-83. For the similar trend of
church segregation in the Northern cities see J.W. Cromwell, _The Negro in
American History_ (Washington, 1914). pp. 61-70.]

At Baltimore there were in 1835 ten colored congregations, with slave and
free membership intermingled, several of which had colored ministers;[62]
and by 1847 the number of churches had increased to thirteen or more,
ten of which were Methodist.[63] In 1860 there were two or more colored
congregations at Norfolk; at Savannah three colored churches were paying
salaries of $800 to $1000 to their colored ministers,[64] and in Atlanta
a subscription was in progress for the enlargement of the negro church
building to relieve its congestion.[65] By this time a visitor in virtually
any Southern city might have witnessed such a scene as William H. Russell
described at Montgomery:[66] "As I was walking ... I perceived a crowd
of very well-dressed negroes, men and women, in front of a plain brick
building which I was informed was their Baptist meeting-house, into which
white people rarely or never intrude. These were domestic servants, or
persons employed in stores, and their general appearance indicated much
comfort and even luxury. I doubted if they all were slaves. One of my
companions went up to a woman in a straw hat, with bright red and green
ribbon trimmings and artificial flowers, a gaudy Paisley shawl, and
a rainbow-like gown blown out over her yellow boots by a prodigious
crinoline, and asked her 'Whom do you belong to?' She replied, 'I b'long to
Massa Smith, sar.'"

[Footnote 62: _Niles' Register_, XLIX, 72.]

[Footnote 63: J.R. Brackett, _The Negro in Maryland_, p. 206.]

[Footnote 64: D.R. Hundley, _Social Relations in our Southern States_ (New
York, 1860), pp. 350, 351.]

[Footnote 65: Atlanta _Intelligencer_, July 13, 1859, editorial commending
the purpose.]

[Footnote 66: W.H. Russell, _My Diary North and South_ (Boston, 1863), p.
167.]

CHAPTER XXI

FREE NEGROES

In the colonial period slaves were freed as a rule only when generous
masters rated them individually deserving of liberty or when the negroes
bought themselves. Typical of the time were the will of Thomas Stanford of
New Jersey in 1722 directing that upon the death of the testator's wife
his negro man should have his freedom if in the opinion of three neighbors
named he had behaved well,[1] and a deed signed by Robert Daniell of
South Carolina in 1759 granting freedom to his slave David Wilson in
consideration of his faithful service and of L600 currency in hand paid.[2]
So long as this condition prevailed, in which the ethics of slaveholding
were little questioned, the freed element remained extremely small.

[Footnote 1: _New Jersey Archives_, XXIII, 438.]

[Footnote 2: MS. among the probate records at Charleston.]

The liberal philosophy of the Revolution, persisting thereafter in spite of
reaction, not only wrought the legal disestablishment of slavery throughout
the North, but prompted private manumissions far and wide.[3] Thus Philip
Graham of Maryland made a deed in 1787 reciting his realization that the
holding of his "fellow men in bondage and slavery is repugnant to the
golden law of God and the unalienable right of mankind as well as to
every principle of the late glorious revolution which has taken place in
America," and converting his slaves into servants for terms, the adults
to become free at the close of that year and the children as they reached
maturity.[4] In the same period, upon his coming of age, Richard Randolph,
brother of the famous John, wrote to his guardian: "With regard to the
division of the estate, I have only to say that I want not a single negro
for any other purpose than his immediate liberation. I consider every
individual thus unshackled as the source of future generations, not to say
nations, of freemen; and I shudder when I think that so insignificant an
animal as I am is invested with this monstrous, this horrid power."[5]
The Randolph estate, however, was so cumbered with debts that the desired
manumissions could not then be made. At Richard's death in 1796 he left a
will of the expected tenor, providing for a wholesale freeing as promptly
as it could legally be accomplished by the clearance of the mortgage.[6] In
1795 John Stratton of Norfolk, asserting his "full persuassion that freedom
is the natural right of all men," set free his able-bodied slave, Peter
Wakefield.[7] Robert K. Moore of Louisville mingled thrift with liberalism
by setting free in 1802 two pairs of married slaves because of his
conviction that involuntary servitude was wrong, and at the same time
binding them by indenture to serve him for some fourteen years longer in
consideration of certain small payments in advance and larger ones at the
ends of their terms.[8]

[Footnote 3: These were restricted for a time in North Carolina, however,
by an act of 1777 which recited the critical and alarming state of public
affairs as its occasion.]

[Footnote 4: MS. transcript in the file of powers of attorney, I, 243,
among the county records at Louisville, Ky.]

[Footnote 5: H.A. Garland, _Life of John Randolph of Roanoke_ (New York,
1851), I, 63.]

[Footnote 6: _DeBow's Review_, XXIV, 285-290.]

[Footnote 7: MS. along with many similar documents among the deed files at
Norfolk, Va.]

[Footnote 8: MSS. in the powers of attorney files, II, 118, 122, 127, at
Louisville, Ky.]

Manumissions were in fact so common in the deeds and wills of the men of
'76 that the number of colored freemen in the South exceeded thirty-five
thousand in 1790 and was nearly doubled in each of the next two decades.
The greater caution of their successors, reinforced by the rise of slave
prices, then slackened the rate of increase to twenty-five and finally to
ten per cent. per decade. Documents in this later period, reverting to the
colonial basis, commonly recited faithful service or self purchase rather
than inherent rights as the grounds for manumission. Liberations on a large
scale, nevertheless, were not wholly discontinued. John Randolph's will set
free nearly four hundred in 1833;[9] Monroe Edwards of Louisiana manumitted
160 by deed in 1840;[10] and George W.P. Custis of Virginia liberated his
two or three hundred at his death in 1857.[11]

[Footnote 9: Garland, _Life of Randolph_, II, 150, 151.]

[Footnote 10: _Niles' Register_, LXIII, 245.]

Still other large proprietors while not bestowing immediate liberty made
provisions to bring it after the lapse of years. Prominent among these were
three Louisianians. Julien Poydras, who died in 1824, ordered his executors
to sell his six plantations with their respective staffs under contracts to
secure the manumission of each slave after twenty-five years of service
to the purchaser, together with an annual pension of $25 to each of those
above sixty years of age; and years afterward a nephew of the testator
procured an injunction from the supreme court of the state estopping the
sale of some of the slaves by one of their purchasers in such way as would
hazard the fulfilment of the purpose.[12] Stephen Henderson, a Scotch
immigrant who had acquired several sugar plantations, provided as follows,
by will made in 1837 and upheld by the courts: ten and twenty slaves
respectively were to be chosen by lot at periods five and ten years after
his death to be freed and sent to Liberia, and at the end of twenty-five
years the rest were to fare likewise, but any who refused to be deported
were to be kept as apprentices on the plantations.[13] John McDonogh, the
most thrifty citizen of New Orleans in his day, made a unique bargain with
his whole force of slaves, about 1825, by which they were collectively to
earn their freedom and their passage to Liberia by the overtime work of
Saturday afternoons. This labor was to be done in McDonogh's own service,
and he was to keep account of their earnings. They were entitled to draw
upon this fund upon approved occasions; but since the contract was with the
whole group of slaves as a unit, when one applied for cash the others must
draw theirs _pro rata_, thereby postponing the common day of liberation.
Any slaves violating the rules of good conduct were to be sold by the
master, whereupon their accrued earnings would revert to the fund of the
rest. The plan was carried to completion on schedule, and after some delay
in embarkation they left America in 1842, some eighty in number, with
their late master's benediction. In concluding his public narration in the
premises McDonogh wrote: "They have now sailed for Liberia, the land of
their fathers. I can say with truth and heartfelt satisfaction that a more
virtuous people does not exist in any country."[14]

[Footnote 11: _Daily True Delta_ (New Orleans), Dec. 19, 1857.]

[Footnote 12: Poydras _vs_. Mourrain, in _Louisiana Reports_, IX, 492. The
will is quoted in the decision.]

[Footnote 13: _Niles' Register_, LXVIII, 361. The original MS. is filed in
will book no. 6 in the New Orleans court house.]

[Footnote 14: J.T. Edwards ed., _Some Interesting Papers of John McDonogh_
(McDonoghville, Md., 1898), pp. 49-58.]

Among more romantic liberations was that of Pierre Chastang of Mobile who,
in recognition of public services in the war of 1812 and the yellow fever
epidemic of 1819 was bought and freed by popular subscription;[15] that of
Sam which was provided by a special act of the Georgia legislature in 1834
at a cost of $1,800 in reward for his having saved the state capitol from
destruction by fire;[16] and that of Prince which was attained through the
good offices of the United States government. Prince, after many years as
a Mississippi slave, wrote a letter in Arabic to the American consul at
Tangier in which he recounted his early life as a man of rank among the
Timboo people and his capture in battle and sale overseas. This led Henry
Clay on behalf of the Adams administration to inquire at what cost he
might be bought for liberation and return. His master thereupon freed him
gratuitously, and the citizens of Natchez raised a fund for the purchase of
his wife, with a surplus for a flowing Moorish costume in which Prince
was promptly arrayed. The pair then departed, in 1828, for Washington _en
route_ for Morocco, Prince avowing that he would soon send back money for
the liberation of their nine children.[17]

[Footnote 15: D.W. Mitchell, _Ten Years in the United States_ (London,
1862), p. 235.]

[Footnote 16: Georgia Senate _Journal_ for 1834, p. 25. At a later period
the Georgia legislature had occasion to reward another slave, Ransom by
name, who while hired from his master by the state had heroically saved
the Western and Atlantic Railroad bridge over the Chattahoochee River
from destruction by fire. Since official sentiment was now hostile to
manumission, it was resolved in 1849 that he be bought by the state and
ensured a permanent home; and in 1853 a further resolution directed the
chief engineer of the state-owned railroad to pay him just wages during
good behavior. Georgia _Acts, 1849-1850_, pp. 416, 417; _1853-1854_, pp.
538, 539. Old citizens relate that a house was built for Ransom on the
Western and Atlantic right of way in Atlanta which he continued to occupy
until his death many years after the Civil War. For these data I am
indebted to Mr. J. Groves Cohen, Secretary of the Western and Atlantic
Railroad Commission, Atlanta, Ga.]

[Footnote 17: "Letter from a Gentleman of Natchez to a Lady of Cincinnati,"
in the _Georgia Courier_ (Augusta), May 22, 1828. For a similar instance in
colonial Maryland see the present work, p. 31.]

Most of the negroes who procured freedom remained in the United States,
though all of those who gained it by flight and many of those manumitted
had to shift their location at the time of changing their status. At least
one of the fugitives, however, made known his preference for his native
district in a manner which cost him his liberty. After two years in Ohio
and Canada he returned to the old plantation in Georgia, where he was
welcomed with a command to take up the hoe. Rejecting this implement, he
proposed to buy himself if a thousand dollars would suffice. When his
master, declining to negotiate, ordered him into custody he stabbed one of
the negroes who seized him. At the end of the episode the returned wanderer
lay in jail; but where his money was, or whether in truth he had any, is
not recorded.[18] Among some of those manumitted and sent out of their
original states as by law required, disappointment and homesickness were
distressingly keen. A group of them who had been carried to New York in
1852 under the will of a Mr. Cresswell of Louisiana, found themselves in
such misery there that they begged the executor to carry them back, saying
he might keep them as slaves or sell them--that they had been happy before
but were wretched now.[19]

[Footnote 18: Cassville, Ga., _Standard_, May 31, 1858, reprinted in the
_Federal Union_ (Milledgeville, Ga.), June 8, 1858.]

[Footnote 19: _DeBow's Review_, XIV, 90.]

The slaves manumitted for meritorious service and those who bought
themselves formed together an element of substantial worth in the Southern
free colored population. Testamentary endorsement like that which Abel
P. Upshur gave on freeing his man David Rich--"I recommend him in the
strongest manner to the respect, esteem and confidence of any community in
which he may live"[20]--are sufficiently eloquent in the premises. Those
who bought themselves were similarly endorsed in many instances, and the
very fact of their self purchase was usually a voucher of thrift and
sobriety. Many of those freed on either of these grounds were of mixed
blood; and to them were added the mulatto and quadroon children set free by
their white fathers, with particular frequency in Louisiana, who by virtue
oftentimes of gifts in lands, goods and moneys were in the propertied class
from the time of their manumission. The recruits joining the free colored
population through all of these channels tended, together with their
descendants, to be industrious, well-mannered and respected members of
society.

[Footnote 20: William C. Nell, _The Colored Patriots of the American
Revolution_ (Boston, 1855), pp. 215, 216. For a similar item see Garland's
_Randolph_, p. 151.]

Each locality was likely to have some outstanding figure among these. In
Georgia the most notable was Austin Dabney, who as a mulatto youth served
in the Revolutionary army and attached himself ever afterward to the white
family who saved his life when he had been wounded in battle. The Georgia
legislature by special act gave him a farm; he was welcomed in the tavern
circle of chatting lawyers whenever his favorite Judge Dooly held court
at his home village; and once when the formality of drawing his pension
carried him to Savannah the governor of the state, seeing him pass, dragged
him from his horse and quartered him as a guest in his house.[21] John
Eady of the South Carolina lowlands by a like service in the War for
Independence earned a somewhat similar recognition which he retained
throughout a very long life.[22]

[Footnote 21: George R. Giltner, _Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of
Upper Georgia_ (New York, 1855), pp. 212-215.]

[Footnote 22: Diary of Thomas P. Porcher. MS. in private possession.]

Others were esteemed rather for piety and benevolence than for heroic
services. "Such," wrote Bishop Capers of the Southern Methodist Church,
"were my old friends Castile Selby and John Bouquet of Charleston, Will
Campbell and Harry Myrick of Wilmington, York Cohen of Savannah, and others
I might name. These I might call remarkable for their goodness. But I use
the word in a broader sense for Henry Evans, who was confessedly the father
of the Methodist church, white and black, in Fayetteville, and the best
preacher of his time in that quarter." Evans, a free-born full-blooded
black, as Capers went on to relate, had been a shoemaker and licensed
preacher in Virginia, but while journeying toward Charleston in search
of better employment he had been so struck by the lack of religion and
morality among the negroes in Fayetteville that he determined upon their
conversion as his true mission in life. When the town authorities dispersed
his meetings he shifted his rude pulpit into the woods outside their
jurisdiction and invited surveillance by the whites to prove his lack
of offence. The palpable improvement in the morals of his followers led
erelong to his being invited to preach within the town again, where the
white people began to be numerous among his hearers. A regular congregation
comprising members of both races was organized and a church building
erected. But the white attendance grew so large as to threaten the crowding
out of the blacks. To provide room for these the side walls of the
church were torn off and sheds built on either flank; and these were the
conditions when Capers himself succeeded the aged negro in its pulpit in
1810 and found him on his own score an inspiration. Toward the ruling race,
Capers records, Evans was unfailingly deferential, "never speaking to a
white but with his hat under his arm; never allowing himself to be seated
in their houses.... 'The whites are kind to me and come to hear me preach,'
he would say, 'but I belong to my own sort and must not spoil them.' And
yet Henry Evans was a Boanerges; and in his duty feared not the face of
man." [23]

[Footnote 23: W.W. Wightman, _Life of William Capers_ (Nashville, 1858),
pp. 124-129.]

In the line of intellectual attainment and the like the principal
figures lived in the eighteenth century. One of them was described in a
contemporary news item which suggests that some journalists then were akin
to their successors of more modern times. "There is a Mr. St. George,
a Creole, son to the French governor of St. Domingo, now at Paris, who
realizes all the accomplishments attributed by Boyle and others to the
Admirable Creighton of the Scotch. He is so superior at the sword that
there is an edict of the Parliament of Paris to make his engagement in any
duel actual death. He is the first dancer (even before the Irish Singsby)
in the world. He plays upon seven instruments of music, beyond any other
individual. He speaks twenty-six languages, and maintains public thesises
in each. He walks round the various circles of science like the master of
each; and strange to be mentioned to white men, this Mr. St. George is a
mulatto, the son of an African mother."[24] Less happy was the career of
Francis Williams of Jamaica, a plaything of the human gods. Born of negro
parents who had earned special privilege in the island, he was used by the
Duke of Montague in a test of negro mental capacity and given an education
in an English grammar school and at Cambridge University. Upon his return
to Jamaica his patron sought his appointment as a member of the governor's
council but without success; and he then became a schoolmaster and a poet
on occasion in the island capital. Williams described himself with some
pertinence as "a white man acting under a black skin." His contempt for
his fellow negroes and particularly for the mulattoes made him lonely,
eccentric, haughty and morose. A Latin panegyric which is alone available
among his writings is rather a language exercise than a poem.[25] On
the continent Benjamin Banneker was an almanac maker and somewhat of an
astronomer, and Phyllis Wheatley of Boston a writer of verses. Both
were doubtless more noted for their sable color than for their positive
qualities. The wonder of them lay in their ambition and enterprise, not in
their eminence among scientific and literary craftsmen at large.[26] Such
careers as these had no equivalent in the nineteenth century until its
closing decades when Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B.
DuBois set new paces in their several courses of endeavor.

[Footnote 24: News item dated Philadelphia, Mch. 28, in the _Georgia State
Gazette and Independent Register_ (Augusta), May 19, 1787.]

[Footnote 25: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_ (London, 1774), II,
447-485; T.H. MacDermott, "Francis Williams," in the _Journal of Negro
History_, II, 147-159. The Latin poem is printed in both of these
accounts.]

[Footnote 26: John W. Cromwell, _The Negro in American History_
(Washington, 1914), pp. 77-97.]

Of a more normal but less conspicuous type was Jehu Jones, the colored
proprietor of one of Charleston's most popular hotels who lived in the same
manner as his white patrons, accumulated property to the value of some
forty thousand dollars, and maintained a reputation for high business
talent and integrity.[27] At New Orleans men of such a sort were quite
numerous. Prominent among them by reason of his wealth and philanthropy was
Thomy Lafon, a merchant and money lender who systematically accumulated
houses and lots during a lifetime extending both before and after the
Civil War and whose possessions when he died at the age of eighty-two were
appraised at nearly half a million dollars.[28] Prosperity and good repute,
however, did not always go hand in hand. The keeper of the one good tavern
in the Louisiana village of Bayou Sara in 1831 was a colored woman of whom
Anne Royall wrote: "This _nigger_ or mulatto was rich, owned the tavern and
several slaves, to whom she was a great tyrant. She owned other valuable
property and a great deal of money, as report said; and doubtless it is
true. She was very insolent, and, I think, drank. It seems one Tague [an
Irishman], smitten with her charms and her property, made love to her
and it was returned, and they live together as man and wife. She was the
ugliest wench I ever saw, and, if possible, he was uglier, so they were
well matched."[29] One might ascribe the tone of this description to the
tartness of Mrs. Royall's pen were it not that she recorded just afterward
that a body-servant of General Ripley who was placed at her command in St.
Francisville was "certainly the most accomplished servant I ever saw."[30]

[Footnote 27: W.C. Nell, _Colored Patriots_, pp. 244, 245.]

[Footnote 28: New Orleans _Picayune_, Dec. 23, 1893. His many charitable
bequests are scheduled in the _Picayune_ of a week later.]

[Footnote 29: Anne Royall, _Southern Tour_ (Washington, 1831), pp. 87-89.]

[Footnote 30: _Ibid_., p. 91.]

The property of colored freemen oftentimes included slaves. Such instances
were quite numerous in pre-revolutionary San Domingo; and some in
the British West Indies achieved notoriety through the exposure of
cruelties.[31] On the continent a negro planter in St. Paul's Parish, South
Carolina, was reported before the close of the eighteenth century to have
two hundred slaves as well as a white wife and son-in-law, and the returns
of the first federal census appear to corroborate it.[32] In Louisiana
colored planters on a considerable scale became fairly numerous. Among them
were Cyprien Ricard who bought at a sheriff's sale in 1851 an estate in
Iberville Parish along with its ninety-one slaves for nearly a quarter of
a million dollars; Marie Metoyer of Natchitoches Parish had fifty-eight
slaves and more than two thousand acres of land when she died in 1840;
Charles Roques of the same parish died in 1854 leaving forty-seven slaves
and a thousand acres; and Martin Donato of St. Landry dying in 1848
bequeathed liberty to his slave wife and her seven children and left them
eighty-nine slaves and 4,500 arpents of land as well as notes and mortgages
to a value of $46,000.[33] In rural Virginia and Maryland also there were
free colored slaveholders in considerable numbers.[34]

[Footnote 31: Reverend Charles Peters, _Two Sermons Preached at Dominica,
with an appendix containing minutes of evidence of three trials_ (London,
1802), pp. 36-49.]

[Footnote 32: LaRochefoucauld-Liancourt, _Travels in the United States_
(London, 1799), p. 602, giving the negro's name as Pindaim. The census
returns of 1790 give no such name, but they list James Pendarvis in a group
comprising a white man, a free colored person and 123 slaves, and also a
Mrs. Persons, free colored, with 136 slaves. She may have been Pindaim's
(or Pendarvis') mulatto daughter, while the white man listed in the
Pendarvis item was perhaps her husband or an overseer. _Heads of Families
at the First Census of the United States: South Carolina_ (Washington,
1908), pp. 35, 37.]

[Footnote 33: For these and other data I am indebted to Professor E.P.
Puckett of Central College, Fayette, Mo., who has permitted me to use his
monograph, "_Free Negroes in Louisiana_," in manuscript. The arpent was the
standard unit of area in the Creole parishes of Louisiana, the acre in the
parishes of Anglo-American settlement.]

[Footnote 34: Calvin D. Wilson, "Black Masters," in the _North American
Review_, CLXXXI, 685-698, and "Negroes who owned Slaves," in the _Popular
Science Monthly_, LXXXI, 483-494; John H. Russell, "Colored Freemen as
Slave Owners in Virginia," in the _Journal of Negro History_, I, 233-242.]

Slaveholdings by colored townsmen were likewise fairly frequent. Among the
360 colored taxpayers in Charleston in 1860, for example, 130, including
nine persons described as of Indian descent, were listed as possessing 390
slaves.[35] The abundance of such holdings at New Orleans is evidenced by
the multiplicity of applications from colored proprietors for authority
to manumit slaves, with exemption from the legal requirement that the new
freedmen must leave the state.[36] A striking example of such petitions was
that presented in 1832 by Marie Louise Bitaud, free woman of color,
which recited that in the preceding year she had bought her daughter and
grandchild at a cost of $700; that a lawyer had now told her that in view
of her lack of free relatives to inherit her property, in case of death
intestate her slaves would revert to the state; that she had become alarmed
at this prospect; and she accordingly begged permission to manumit them
without their having to leave Louisiana. The magistrates gave their consent
on condition that the petitioner furnish a bond of $500 to insure the
support and education of the grandson until his coming of age. This was
duly done and the formalities completed.[37]

[Footnote 35: _List of the Taxpayers of Charleston for 1860_(Charleston,
1861), part 2.]

[Footnote 36: Many of these are filed in the record books of manumissions
in the archive rooms of the New Orleans city hall. Some were denied on the
ground that proof was lacking that the slaves concerned were natives of
the state or that they would be self-supporting in freedom; others were
granted.]

[Footnote 37: For the use of this MS. petition with its accompanying
certificates I am indebted to Mr. J.F. Schindler of New York.]

Evidence of slaveholdings by colored freemen occurs also in the bills of
sale filed in various public archives. One of these records that a citizen
of Charleston sold in 1828 a man slave to the latter's free colored sister
at a price of one dollar, "provided he is kindly treated and is never sold,
he being an unfortunate individual and requiring much attention." In the
same city a free colored man bought a slave sailmaker for $200.[38] At
Savannah in 1818 Richard Richardson sold a slave woman and child for $800
to Alex Hunter, guardian of the colored freeman Louis Mirault, in trust for
him; and in 1833 Anthony Ordingsell, free colored, having obtained through
his guardian an order of court, sold a slave woman to the highest bidder
for $385.[39]

[Footnote 38: MSS. in the files of slave sales in the South Carolina
archives at Columbia.]

[Footnote 39: MSS. among the county archives at Savannah, Ga.]

It is clear that aside from the practice of holding slave relatives as a
means of giving them virtual freedom, an appreciable number of colored
proprietors owned slaves purely as a productive investment. It was
doubtless a group of these who sent a joint communication to a New Orleans
newspaper when secession and war were impending: "The free colored
population (native) of Louisiana ... own slaves, and they are dearly
attached to their native land, ... and they are ready to shed their blood
for her defence. They have no sympathy for abolitionism; no love for the
North, but they have plenty for Louisiana.... They will fight for her in
1861 as they fought in 1814-'15.... If they have made no demonstration it
is because they have no right to meddle with politics, but not because they
are not well disposed. All they ask is to have a chance, and they will
be worthy sons of Louisiana."[40] Oral testimony gathered by the present
writer from old residents in various quarters of the South supports the
suggestion of this letter that many of the well-to-do colored freemen
tended to prize their distinctive position so strongly as to deplore any
prospect of a general emancipation for fear it would submerge them in the
great black mass.

[Footnote 40: Letter to the editor, signed "A large number of them," in the
New Orleans _Daily Delta_, Dec. 28, 1860. Men of this element had indeed
rendered service under Jackson in the defence of the city against Pakenham,
as Louisianians well knew.]

The types discussed thus far were exceptional. The main body of the free
negroes were those who whether in person or through their mothers had been
liberated purely from sentiment and possessed no particular qualifications
for self-directed careers. The former slaves of Richard Randolph who were
colonized in accordance with his will as petty landed proprietors near
Farmville, Virginia, proved commonly thriftless for half a century
afterward;[41] and Olmsted observed of the Virginia free negroes in general
that their poverty was not due to the lack of industrial opportunity.[42]
Many of those in the country were tenants. George Washington found one of
them unprofitable as such;[43] and Robert Carter in 1792 rented farms to
several in spite of his overseer's remonstrance that they had no adequate
outfit of tools and teams, and against his neighbors' protests.[44] Not a
few indeed were mere squatters on waste lands. A Georgia overseer reported
in 1840 that several such families had made clearings in the woods of
the plantation under his charge, and proposed that rent be required of
them;[45] and travellers occasionally came upon negro cabins in fields
which had been abandoned by their proprietors.[46] The typical rural family
appears to have tilled a few acres on its own account, and to have been
willing to lend a hand to the whites for wages when they needed service.
It was this readiness which made their presence in many cases welcome in a
neighborhood. A memorial signed by thirty-eight citizens of Essex County,
Virginia, in 1842 in behalf of a freedman might be paralleled from the
records of many another community: "We would be glad if he could be
permitted to remain with us and have his freedom, as he is a well disposed
person and a very useful man in many respects. He is a good carpenter, a
good cooper, a coarse shoemaker, a good hand at almost everything that is
useful to us farmers."[47] Among the free negroes on the seaboard there was
a special proclivity toward the water pursuits of boating, oystering and
the like.[48] In general they found a niche in industrial society much on
a level with the slaves but as free as might be from the pressure of
systematic competition.

[Footnote 41: F.N. Watkins, "The Randolph Emancipated Slaves," in _DeBow's
Review_, XXIV, 285-290.]

[Footnote 42: _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 126.]

[Footnote 43: S.M. Hamilton ed., _Letters to Washington_, IV, 239.]

[Footnote 44: Carter MSS. in the Virginia Historical Society.]

[Footnote 45: _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 155.]

[Footnote 46: _E. g_., F. Cumming, _Tour to the West_, reprinted in
Thwaites ed., _Early Western Travels_, IV, 336.]

[Footnote 47: J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_, p. 153.]

[Footnote 48: _Ibid_., p. 150.]

Urban freemen had on the average a somewhat higher level of attainment than
their rural fellows, for among them was commonly a larger proportion of
mulattoes and quadroons and of those who had demonstrated their capacity
for self direction by having bought their own freedom. Recruits of some
skill in the crafts, furthermore, came in from the country, because of
the advantages which town industry, in sharp contrast with that of the
plantations, gave to free labor. A characteristic state of affairs is shown
by the official register of free persons of color in Richmond County,
Georgia, wherein lay the city of Augusta, for the year 1819[49]. Of the
fifty-three men listed, including a planter and a steamboat pilot, only
seven were classed as common laborers, while all the rest had specific
trades or employments. The prosperity of the group must have been but
moderate, nevertheless, for virtually all its women were listed as workers
at washing, sewing, cooking, spinning, weaving or market vending; and
although an African church in the town had an aged sexton, its minister
must have drawn most of his livelihood from some week-day trade, for no
designation of a preacher appears in the list. At Charleston, likewise,
according to the city census of 1848, only 19 free colored men in a total
of 239 listed in manual occupations were unclassified laborers, while the
great majority were engaged in the shop and building trades. The women
again were very numerous in sewing and washing employments, and an
appreciable number of them were domestic servants outright.[50]

[Footnote 49: _Augusta Chronicle_, Mch. 13, 1819, reprinted in _Plantation
and Frontier_, II, 143-147.]

[Footnote 50: Dawson and DeSaussure, _Census of Charleston for 1848_,
summarized in the table given on p. 403 of the present work.]

In the compendium of the United States census of 1850 there are printed in
parallel columns the statistics of occupations among the free colored males
above fifteen years of age in the cities of New York and New Orleans. In
the Northern metropolis there were 3337 enumerated, and in the Southern
1792. The former had 4 colored lawyers and 3 colored druggists while the
latter had none of either; and the colored preachers and doctors were 21
to 1 and 9 to 4 in New York's favor. But New Orleans had 4 colored
capitalists, 2 planters, 11 overseers, 9 brokers and 2 collectors, with
none of any of these at New York; and 64 merchants, 5 jewelers and 61
clerks to New York's 3, 3 and 7 respectively, and 12 colored teachers to 8.
New York had thrice New Orleans' number of colored barbers, and twice as
many butchers; but her twelve carpenters and no masons were contrasted
with 355 and 278 in these two trades at New Orleans, and her cigar makers,
tailors, painters, coopers, blacksmiths and general mechanics were not in
much better proportion. One-third of all New York's colored men, indeed,
were unskilled laborers and another quarter were domestic servants, not to
mention the many cooks, coachmen and other semi-domestic employees, whereas
at New Orleans the unskilled were but a tenth part of the whole and no male
domestics were listed. This showing, which on the whole is highly favorable
to New Orleans, is partly attributable to the more than fourfold excess
of mulattoes over the blacks in its free population, in contrast with a
reversed proportion at New York; for the men of mixed blood filled all the
places above the rank of artisan at New Orleans, and heavily preponderated
in virtually all the classes but that of unskilled laborers. New York's
poor showing as regards colored craftsmen, however, was mainly due to the
greater discrimination which its white people applied against all who had a
strain of negro blood.

This antipathy and its consequent industrial repression was palpably more
severe at the North in general than in the South. De Tocqueville remarked
that "the prejudice which repels the negroes seems to increase in
proportion as they are emancipated." Fanny Kemble, in her more vehement
style, wrote of the negroes in the North: "They are not slaves indeed,
but they are pariahs, debarred from every fellowship save with their own
despised race, scorned by the lowest white ruffian in your streets, not
tolerated even by the foreign menials in your kitchen. They are free
certainly, but they are also degraded, rejected, the offscum and the
offscouring of the very dregs of your society.... All hands are extended to
thrust them out, all fingers point at their dusky skin, all tongues, the
most vulgar as well as the self-styled most refined, have learned to turn
the very name of their race into an insult and a reproach."[51] Marshall
Hall expressed himself as "utterly at a loss to imagine the source of that
prejudice which subsists against him [the negro] in the Northern states, a
prejudice unknown in the South, where the domestic relations between the
African and the European are so much more intimate."[52] Olmsted recorded
a conversation which he had with a free colored barber on a Red River
steamboat who had been at school for a year at West Troy, New York: "He
said that colored people could associate with whites much more easily
and comfortably at the South than at the North; this was one reason he
preferred to live at the South. He was kept at a greater distance from
white people, and more insulted on account of his color, at the North than
in Louisiana."[53] And at Richmond Olmsted learned of a negro who after
buying his freedom had gone to Philadelphia to join his brother, but had
promptly returned. When questioned by his former owner this man said: "Oh,
I don't like dat Philadelphy, massa; an't no chance for colored folks dere.
Spec' if I'd been a runaway de wite folks dere take care o' me; but I
couldn't git anythin' to do, so I jis borrow ten dollar of my broder an'
cum back to old Virginny."[54] In Ohio, John Randolph's freedmen were
prevented by the populace from colonizing the tract which his executors had
bought for them in Mercer County and had to be scattered elsewhere in the
state;[55] in Connecticut the citizens of New Haven resolved in a public
meeting in 1831 that a projected college for negroes in that place would
not be tolerated, and shortly afterward the townsmen of Canterbury broke up
the school which Prudence Crandall attempted to establish there for colored
girls. The legislatures of various Northern states, furthermore, excluded
free immigrants as well as discriminating sharply against those who were
already inhabitants. Wherever the negroes clustered numerously, from Boston
to Philadelphia and Cincinnati, they were not only brow-beaten and excluded
from the trades but were occasionally the victims of brutal outrage whether
from mobs or individual persecutors.[56]

[Footnote 51: Frances Anne Kemble, _Journal_ (London, 1863), p. 7.]

[Footnote 52: Marshall Hall, _The Two-fold Slavery of the United States_
(London, 1854), p. 17.]

[Footnote 53: _Seaboard Slave States_, p. 636.]

[Footnote 54: _Ibid_., p. 104.]

[Footnote 55: F.U. Quillin, _The Color Line in Ohio_ (Ann Arbor, Mich.), p.
20; _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 143.]

[Footnote 56: J.P. Gordy, _Political History of the United States_ (New
York, 1902), II, 404, 405; John Daniels, _In Freedom's Birthplace_ (Boston,
1914), pp. 25-29; E.R. Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_ (Washington,
1911), pp. 143-168, 195-204, containing many details; F.U. Quillin, _The
Color Line in Ohio_, pp. 11-87; C.G. Woodson, "The Negroes of Cincinnati
Prior to the Civil War," in the _Journal of Negro History_, I, 1-22; N.D.
Harris, _Negro Slavery in Illinois_ (Chicago, 1906), pp. 226-240.]

In the South, on the other hand, the laws were still more severe but the
practice of the white people was much more kindly. Racial antipathy was
there mitigated by the sympathetic tie of slavery which promoted an
attitude of amiable patronage even toward the freedmen and their
descendants.[57] The tone of the memorials in which many Southern townsmen
petitioned for legal exemptions to permit specified free negroes to remain
in their communities[58] found no echo from the corresponding type of
commonplace unromantic citizens of the North. A few Southern petitions were
of a contrasting tenor, it is true, one for example presented to the city
council of Atlanta in 1859: "We feel aggrieved as Southern citizens that
your honorable body tolerates a negro dentist (Roderick Badger) in our
midst; and in justice to ourselves and the community it ought to be abated.
We, the residents of Atlanta, appeal to you for justice."[59] But it may
readily be guessed that these petitioners were more moved by the interest
of rival dentists than by their concern as Southern citizens. Southern
protests of another class, to be discussed below, against the toleration
of colored freedmen in general, were prompted by considerations of public
security, not by personal dislike.

[Footnote 57: Cf. N.S. Shaler, _The Neighbor_ (Boston, 1904), pp. 166,
186-191.]

[Footnote 58: _E. g_., J.H. Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_, pp.
152-155.]

[Footnote 59: J.H. Martin, _Atlanta and its Builders_ ([Atlanta,] 1902), I,
145.]

Although the free colored numbers varied greatly from state to state,
their distribution on the two sides of Mason and Dixon's line maintained
a remarkable equality throughout the antebellum period. The chief
concentration was in the border states of either section. At the one
extreme they were kept few by the chill of the climate; at the other
by stringency of the law and by the high prices of slave labor which
restrained the practice of manumission. Wherever they dwelt, they lived
somewhat precariously upon the sufferance of the whites, and in a more or
less palpable danger of losing their liberty.

Not only were escaped slaves liable to recapture anywhere within the United
States, but those who were legally free might be seized on fraudulent
claims and enslaved in circumvention of the law, or they might be kidnapped
outright. One of those taken by fraud described his experience and
predicament as follows in a letter from "Boonvill Missouria" to the
governor of Georgia: "Mr. Coob Dear Sir I have Embrast this oppertuniny of
Riting a few Lines to you to inform you that I am sold as a Slave for 14
hundard dolars By the man that came to you Last may and told you a Pack
of lies to get you to Sine the warrant that he Brought that warrant was a
forged as I have heard them say when I was Coming on to this Countrey and
Sir I thought that I would write and see if I could get you to do any thing
for me in the way of Getting me my freedom Back a Gain if I had some Papers
from the Clarkes office in the City of Milledgeville and a little Good
addvice in a Letter from you or any kind friend that I could get my freedom
a Gain and my name can Be found on the Books of the Clarkes office Mr Bozal
Stulers was Clarke when I was thear last and Sir a most any man can City
that I Charles Covey is lawfuley a free man ... But at the same time I do
not want you to say any thing about this to any one that may acquaint my
Preseant mastear of these things as he would quickly sell me and there
fore I do not want this known and the men that came after me Carried me to
Mempears tenessee and after whiping me untill my Back was Raw from my rump
to the Back of my neck sent me to this Place and sold me Pleas to ancer
this as soon as you Can and Sir as soon as I can Get my time Back I will
pay you all charges if you will Except of it yours in beast Charles Covey
Borned and Raized in the City of Milledgeville and a Blacksmith by trade
and James Rethearfurd in the City of Macon is my Laller [lawyer?] and can
tell you all about these things."[60]

[Footnote 60: Letter of Charles Covey to Howell Cobb, Nov. 30, 1853. MS. in
the possession of Mrs. A.S. Erwin, Athens, Ga., for the use of which I am
indebted to Professor R.P. Brooks of the University of Georgia. For
another instance in which Cobb's aid was asked see the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1911, II, 331-334.]

In a few cases claims of ownership were resurrected after a long lapse.
That of Alexander Pierre, a New Orleans negro who had always passed as
free-born, was the consequence of an affray in which he had worsted another
black. In revenge the defeated combatant made the fact known that Pierre
was the son of a blind girl who because of her lack of market value had
been left by her master many years before to shift for herself when he had
sold his other slaves and gone to France. Thereupon George Heno, the heir
of the departed and now deceased proprietor, laid claim to the whole Pierre
group, comprising the blind mother, Alexander himself, his sister, and
that sister's two children. Whether Heno's proceedings at law to procure
possession succeeded or failed is not told in the available record.[61] In
a kindred case not long afterward, however, the cause of liberty triumphed.
About 1807 Simon Porche of Point Coupee Parish had permitted his slave
Eulalie to marry his wife's illegitimate mulatto half-brother; and
thereafter she and her children and grand-children dwelt in virtual
freedom. After Porche's death his widow, failing in an attempt to get
official sanction for the manumission of Eulalie and her offspring and
desiring the effort to be renewed in case of her own death, made a nominal
sale of them to a relative under pledge of emancipation. When this man
proved recreant and sold the group, now numbering seventeen souls, and
the purchasers undertook possession, the case was litigated as a suit for
freedom. Decision was rendered for the plaintiff, after appeal to the state
supreme court, on the ground of prescriptive right. This outcome was in
strict accord with the law of Louisiana providing that "If a master shall
suffer a slave to enjoy his liberty for ten years during his residence in
this state, or for twenty years while out of it, he shall lose all right of
action to recover possession of the said slave, unless said slave shall be
a runaway or fugitive."[62]

[Footnote 61: New Orleans _Daily Delta_, May 25, 1849.]

[Footnote 62: E.P. Puckett, "The Free Negro in Louisiana" (MS.), citing the
New Orleans _True Delta_, Dec. 16, 1854.]

Kidnappings without pretense of legal claim were done so furtively that
they seldom attained record unless the victims had recourse to the courts;
and this was made rare by the helplessness of childhood in some cases and
in others by the fear of lashes. Indeed when complexion gave presumption of
slave status, as it did, and custody gave color of ownership, the prospect
of redress through the law was faint unless the services of some white
friend could be enlisted. Two cases made conspicuous by the publication of
elaborate narratives were those of Peter Still and Solomon Northrup. The
former, kidnapped in childhood near Philadelphia, served as a slave some
forty years in Kentucky and northern Alabama, until with his own savings he
bought his freedom and returned to his boyhood home. The problem which he
then faced of liberating his wife and three children was taken off his
hands for a time by Seth Concklin, a freelance white abolitionist who
volunteered to abduct them. This daring emancipator duly went to Alabama
in 1851, embarked the four negroes on a skiff and carried them down the
Tennessee and up the Ohio and the Wabash until weariness at the oars drove
the company to take the road for further travel. They were now captured
and the slaves were escorted by their master back to the plantation; but
Concklin dropped off the steamboat by night only to be drowned in the Ohio
by the weight of his fetters. Adopting a safer plan, Peter now procured
endorsements from leading abolitionists and made a soliciting tour of New
York and New England by which he raised funds enough to buy his family's
freedom. At the conclusion of the narrative of their lives Peter and his
wife were domestics in a New Jersey boardinghouse, one of their two
sons was a blacksmith's apprentice in a neighboring town, the other had
employment in a Pennsylvania village, and the daughter was at school in
Philadelphia.[63]

[Footnote 63: Kate E.R. Pickard, _The Kidnapped and the Ransomed, being the
personal recollections of Peter Still and his wife Vina after forty years
of slavery_ (Syracuse, 1856). The dialogue in which the book abounds is,
of course, fictitious, but the outlines of the narrative and the documents
quoted are presumably authentic.]

Solomon Northrup had been a raftsman and farmer about Lake Champlain until
in 1841 when on the ground of his talent with the fiddle two strangers
offered him employment in a circus which they said was then at Washington.
Going thither with them, he was drugged, shackled, despoiled of his free
papers, and delivered to a slave trader who shipped him to New Orleans.

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