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A Social History of the American Negro by Benjamin Brawley

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1. _Sentiment in England and America_

The materialism of the eighteenth century, with all of its evils, at
length produced a liberalism of thought that was to shake to their very
foundations old systems of life in both Europe and America. The progress
of the cause of the Negro in this period is to be explained by the
general diffusion of ideas that made for the rights of man everywhere.
Cowper wrote his humanitarian poems; in close association with the
romanticism of the day the missionary movement in religion began to
gather force; and the same impulse which in England began the agitation
for a free press and for parliamentary reform, and which in France
accounted for the French Revolution, in America led to the revolt from
Great Britain. No patriot could come under the influence of any one
of these movements without having his heart and his sense of justice
stirred to some degree in behalf of the slave. At the same time it must
be remembered that the contest of the Americans was primarily for the
definite legal rights of Englishmen rather than for the more abstract
rights of mankind which formed the platform of the French Revolution;
hence arose the great inconsistency in the position of men who were
engaged in a stern struggle for liberty at the same time that they
themselves were holding human beings in bondage.

In England the new era was formally signalized by an epoch-making
decision. In November, 1769, Charles Stewart, once a merchant in Norfolk
and later receiver general of the customs of North America, took to
England his Negro slave, James Somerset, who, being sick, was turned
adrift by his master. Later Somerset recovered and Stewart seized him,
intending to have him borne out of the country and sold in Jamaica.
Somerset objected to this and in so doing raised the important legal
question, Did a slave by being brought to England become free? The case
received an extraordinary amount of attention, for everybody realized
that the decision would be far-reaching in its consequences. After it
was argued at three different sittings, Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of
England, in 1772 handed down from the Court of King's Bench the judgment
that as soon as ever any slave set his foot upon the soil of England he
became free.

This decision may be taken as fairly representative of the general
advance that the cause of the Negro was making in England at the time.
Early in the century sentiment against the slave-trade had begun to
develop, many pamphlets on the evils of slavery were circulated, and as
early as 1776 a motion for the abolition of the trade was made in the
House of Commons. John Wesley preached against the system, Adam Smith
showed its ultimate expensiveness, and Burke declared that the slavery
endured by the Negroes in the English settlements was worse than that
ever suffered by any other people. Foremost in the work of protest were
Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, the one being the leader in
investigation and in the organization of the movement against slavery
while the other was the parliamentary champion of the cause. For
years, assisted by such debaters as Burke, Fox, and the younger Pitt,
Wilberforce worked until on March 25, 1807, the bill for the abolition
of the slave-trade received the royal assent, and still later until
slavery itself was abolished in the English dominions (1833).

This high thought in England necessarily found some reflection in
America, where the logic of the position of the patriots frequently
forced them to take up the cause of the slave. As early as 1751 Benjamin
Franklin, in his _Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind_,
pointed out the evil effects of slavery upon population and the
production of wealth; and in 1761 James Otis, in his argument against
the Writs of Assistance, spoke so vigorously of the rights of black men
as to leave no doubt as to his own position. To Patrick Henry slavery
was a practice "totally repugnant to the first impressions of right and
wrong," and in 1777 he was interested in a plan for gradual emancipation
received from his friend, Robert Pleasants. Washington desired nothing
more than "to see some plan adopted by which slavery might be abolished
by law"; while Joel Barlow in his _Columbiad_ gave significant warning
to Columbia of the ills that she was heaping up for herself.

Two of the expressions of sentiment of the day, by reason of their deep
yearning and philosophic calm, somehow stand apart from others. Thomas
Jefferson in his _Notes on Virginia_ wrote: "The whole commerce between
master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous
passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading
submission on the other.... The man must be a prodigy who can retain his
manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances.... I tremble for my
country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice can not sleep
forever; that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a
revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is
among possible events; that it may become probable by supernatural
interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us
in such a contest."[1] Henry Laurens, that fine patriot whose business
sense was excelled only by his idealism, was harassed by the problem and
wrote to his son, Colonel John Laurens, as follows: "You know, my dear
son, I abhor slavery. I was born in a country where slavery had been
established by British kings and parliaments, as well as by the laws of
that country ages before my existence. I found the Christian religion
and slavery growing under the same authority and cultivation. I
nevertheless disliked it. In former days there was no combating the
prejudices of men supported by interest; the day I hope is approaching
when, from principles of gratitude as well as justice, every man will
strive to be foremost in showing his readiness to comply with the golden
rule. Not less than twenty thousand pounds sterling would all my Negroes
produce if sold at public auction to-morrow. I am not the man who
enslaved them; they are indebted to Englishmen for that favor;
nevertheless I am devising means for manumitting many of them, and for
cutting off the entail of slavery. Great powers oppose me--the laws and
customs of my country, my own and the avarice of my countrymen. What
will my children say if I deprive them of so much estate? These are
difficulties, but not insuperable. I will do as much as I can in my
time, and leave the rest to a better hand."[2] Stronger than all else,
however, were the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence: "We
hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Within the years to come these words were to be denied and assailed as
perhaps no others in the language; but in spite of all they were to
stand firm and justify the faith of 1776 before Jefferson himself and
others had become submerged in a gilded opportunism.

[Footnote 1: "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, issued under the
auspices of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association," 20 vols.,
Washington, 1903, II, 226-227.]

[Footnote 2: "A South Carolina Protest against Slavery (being a letter
written from Henry Laurens, second president of the Continental
Congress, to his son, Colonel John Laurens; dated Charleston, S.C.,
August 14th, 1776)." Reprinted by G.P. Putnam, New York, 1861.]

It is not to be supposed that such sentiments were by any means general;
nevertheless these instances alone show that some men at least in
the colonies were willing to carry their principles to their logical
conclusion. Naturally opinion crystallized in formal resolutions or
enactments. Unfortunately most of these were in one way or another
rendered ineffectual after the war; nevertheless the main impulse that
they represented continued to live. In 1769 Virginia declared that the
discriminatory tax levied on free Negroes and mulattoes since 1668 was
"derogatory to the rights of freeborn subjects" and accordingly should
be repealed. In October, 1774, the First Continental Congress declared
in its Articles of Association that the united colonies would "neither
import nor purchase any slave imported after the first day of December
next" and that they would "wholly discontinue the trade." On April 16,
1776, the Congress further resolved that "no slaves be imported into any
of the thirteen colonies"; and the first draft of the Declaration of
Independence contained a strong passage censuring the King of England
for bringing slaves into the country and then inciting them to rise
against their masters. On April 14, 1775, the first abolition society in
the country was organized in Pennsylvania; in 1778 Virginia once more
passed an act prohibiting the slave-trade; and the Methodist Conference
in Baltimore in 1780 strongly expressed its disapproval of slavery.

2. _The Negro in the War_

As in all the greater wars in which the country has engaged, the
position of the Negro was generally improved by the American Revolution.
It was not by reason of any definite plan that this was so, for in
general the disposition of the government was to keep him out of the
conflict. Nevertheless between the hesitating policy of America and the
overtures of England the Negro made considerable advance.

The American cause in truth presented a strange and embarrassing
dilemma, as we have remarked. In the war itself, moreover, began the
stern cleavage between the North and the South. At the moment the rift
was not clearly discerned, but afterwards it was to widen into a chasm.
Massachusetts bore more than her share of the struggle, and in the South
the combination of Tory sentiment and the aristocratic social system
made enlistment especially difficult. In this latter section, moreover,
there was always the lurking fear of an uprising of the slaves, and
before the end of the war came South Carolina and Georgia were very
nearly demoralized. In the course of the conflict South Carolina lost
not less than 25,000 slaves,[1] about one-fifth of all she had. Georgia
did not lose so many, but proportionally suffered even more. Some of the
Negroes went into the British army, some went away with the loyalists,
and some took advantage of the confusion and escaped to the Indians.
In Virginia, until they were stopped at least, some slaves entered the
Continental Army as free Negroes.

[Footnote 1: Historical Notes on the Employment of Negroes in the
American Army of the Revolution, by G.H. Moore, New York, 1862, p. 15.]

Three or four facts are outstanding. The formal policy of Congress and
of Washington and his officers was against the enlistment of Negroes and
especially of slaves; nevertheless, while things were still uncertain,
some Negroes entered the regular units. The inducements offered by the
English, moreover, forced a modification of the American policy in
actual operation; and before the war was over the colonists were so hard
pressed that in more ways than one they were willing to receive the
assistance of Negroes. Throughout the North Negroes served in the
regular units; but while in the South especially there was much thought
given to the training of slaves, in only one of all the colonies was
there a distinctively Negro military organization, and that one was
Rhode Island. In general it was understood that if a slave served in the
war he was to be given his freedom, and it is worthy of note that many
slaves served in the field instead of their masters.

In Massachusetts on May 29, 1775, the Committee of Safety passed an act
against the enlistment of slaves as "inconsistent with the principles
that are to be supported." Another resolution of June 6 dealing with the
same matter was laid on the table. Washington took command of the forces
in and about Boston July 3, 1775, and on July 10 issued instructions
to the recruiting officers in Massachusetts against the enlisting of
Negroes. Toward the end of September there was a spirited debate in
Congress over a letter to go to Washington, the Southern delegates, led
by Rutledge of South Carolina, endeavoring to force instructions to the
commander-in-chief to discharge all slaves and free Negroes in the
army. A motion to this effect failed to win a majority; nevertheless, a
council of Washington and his generals on October 8 "agreed unanimously
to reject all slaves, and, by a great majority, to reject Negroes
altogether," and in his general orders of November 12 Washington acted
on this understanding. Meanwhile, however, Lord Dunmore issued his
proclamation declaring free those indentured servants and Negroes who
would join the English army, and in great numbers the slaves in Virginia
flocked to the British standard. Then on December 14--somewhat to the
amusement of both the Negroes and the English--the Virginia Convention
issued a proclamation offering pardon to those slaves who returned to
their duty within ten days. On December 30 Washington gave instructions
for the enlistment of free Negroes, promising later to lay the matter
before Congress; and a congressional committee on January 16, 1776,
reported that those free Negroes who had already served faithfully in
the army at Cambridge might reenlist but no others, the debate in this
connection having drawn very sharply the line between the North and the
South. Henceforth for all practical purposes the matter was left in the
hands of the individual colonies. Massachusetts on January 6, 1777,
passed a resolution drafting every seventh man to complete her quota
"without any exception, save the people called Quakers," and this was as
near as she came at any time in the war to the formal recognition of the
Negro. The Rhode Island Assembly in 1778 resolved to raise a regiment
of slaves, who were to be freed at enlistment, their owners in no case
being paid more than L120. In the Battle of Rhode Island August 29,
1778, the Negro regiment under Colonel Greene distinguished itself by
deeds of desperate valor, repelling three times the assaults of an
overwhelming force of Hessian troops. A little later, when Greene was
about to be murdered, some of these same soldiers had to be cut to
pieces before he could be secured. Maryland employed Negroes as soldiers
and sent them into regiments along with white men, and it is to be
remembered that at the time the Negro population of Maryland was
exceeded only by that of Virginia and South Carolina. For the far South
there was the famous Laurens plan for the raising of Negro regiments.

In a letter to Washington of March 16, 1779, Henry Laurens suggested
the raising and training of three thousand Negroes in South Carolina.
Washington was rather conservative about the plan, having in mind the
ever-present fear of the arming of Negroes and wondering about the
effect on those slaves who were not given a chance for freedom. On June
30, 1779, however, Sir Henry Clinton issued a proclamation only less
far-reaching than Dunmore's, threatening Negroes if they joined the
"rebel" army and offering them security if they came within the British
lines. This was effective; assistance of any kind that the Continental
Army could now get was acceptable; and the plan for the raising of
several battalions of Negroes in the South was entrusted to Colonel John
Laurens, a member of Washington's staff. In his own way Colonel Laurens
was a man of parts quite as well as his father; he was thoroughly
devoted to the American cause and Washington said of him that his only
fault was a courage that bordered on rashness. He eagerly pursued his
favorite project; able-bodied slaves were to be paid for by Congress at
the rate of $1,000 each, and one who served to the end of the war was
to receive his freedom and $50 in addition. In South Carolina, however,
Laurens received little encouragement, and in 1780 he was called upon
to go to France on a patriotic mission. He had not forgotten the matter
when he returned in 1782; but by that time Cornwallis had surrendered
and the country had entered upon the critical period of adjustment to
the new conditions. Washington now wrote to Laurens: "I must confess
that I am not at all astonished at the failure of your plan. That spirit
of freedom which, at the commencement of this contest, would have gladly
sacrificed everything to the attainment of its object, has long since
subsided, and every selfish passion has taken its place. It is not the
public but private interest which influences the generality of mankind;
nor can the Americans any longer boast an exception. Under these
circumstances, it would rather have been surprising if you had
succeeded; nor will you, I fear, have better success in Georgia."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sparks's _Washington_, VIII, 322-323.]

From this brief survey we may at least see something of the anomalous
position occupied by the Negro in the American Revolution. Altogether
not less than three thousand, and probably more, members of the race
served in the Continental army. At the close of the conflict New York,
Rhode Island, and Virginia freed their slave soldiers. In general,
however, the system of slavery was not affected, and the English were
bound by the treaty of peace not to carry away any Negroes. As late as
1786, it is nevertheless interesting to note, a band of Negroes calling
themselves "The King of England's soldiers" harassed and alarmed the
people on both sides of the Savannah River.

Slavery remained; but people could not forget the valor of the Negro
regiment in Rhode Island, or the courage of individual soldiers. They
could not forget that it was a Negro, Crispus Attucks, who had been the
patriot leader in the Boston Massacre, or the scene when he and one of
his companions, Jonas Caldwell, lay in Faneuil Hall. Those who were at
Bunker Hill could not fail to remember Peter Salem, who, when Major
Pitcairn of the British army was exulting in his expected triumph,
rushed forward, shot him in the breast, and killed him; or Samuel Poor,
whose officers testified that he performed so many brave deeds that "to
set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious." These and many
more, some with very humble names, in a dark day worked for a better
country. They died in faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off.

3. _The Northwest Territory and the Constitution_

The materialism and selfishness which rose in the course of the war to
oppose the liberal tendencies of the period, and which Washington felt
did so much to embarrass the government, became pronounced in the
debates on the Northwest Territory and the Constitution. At the outbreak
of the Revolutionary War the region west of Pennsylvania, east of the
Mississippi River, north of the Ohio River, and south of Canada, was
claimed by Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. This
territory afforded to these states a source of revenue not possessed by
the others for the payment of debts incurred in the war, and Maryland
and other seaboard states insisted that in order to equalize matters
these claimants should cede their rights to the general government. The
formal cessions were made and accepted in the years 1782-6. In April,
1784, after Virginia had made her cession, the most important, Congress
adopted a temporary form of government drawn up by Thomas Jefferson for
the territory south as well as north of the Ohio River. Jefferson's most
significant provision, however, was rejected. This declared that "after
the year 1800 there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude
in any of the said states other than in the punishment of crimes whereof
the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally
guilty." This early ordinance, although it did not go into effect, is
interesting as an attempt to exclude slavery from the great West that
was beginning to be opened up. On March 3, 1786, moreover, the Ohio
Company was formed in Boston by a group of New England business men for
the purpose of purchasing land in the West and promoting settlement; and
early in June, 1787, Dr. Manasseh Cutler, one of the chief promoters of
the company, appeared in New York, where the last Continental Congress
was sitting, for the concrete purpose of buying land. He doubtless
did much to hasten action by Congress, and on July 13 was passed "An
Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States,
Northwest of the Ohio," the Southern states not having ceded the area
south of the river. It was declared that "There shall be neither slavery
nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in
punishment of crimes, whereof the parties shall be duly convicted." To
this was added the stipulation (soon afterwards embodied in the Federal
Constitution) for the return of any person escaping into the territory
from whom labor or service was "lawfully claimed in any one of the
original states." In this shape the ordinance was adopted, even South
Carolina and Georgia concurring; and thus was paved the way for the
first fugitive slave law.

Slavery, already looming up as a dominating issue, was the cause of
two of the three great compromises that entered into the making of the
Constitution of the United States (the third, which was the first made,
being the concession to the smaller states of equal representation in
the Senate). These were the first but not the last of the compromises
that were to mark the history of the subject; and, as some clear-headed
men of the time perceived, it would have been better and cheaper to
settle the question at once on the high plane of right rather than to
leave it indefinitely to the future. South Carolina, however, with able
representation, largely controlled the thought of the convention, and
she and Georgia made the most extreme demands, threatening not to accept
the Constitution if there was not compliance with them. An important
question was that of representation, the Southern states advocating
representation according to numbers, slave and free, while the Northern
states were in favor of the representation of free persons only.
Williamson of North Carolina advocated the counting of three-fifths of
the slaves, but this motion was at first defeated, and there was little
real progress until Gouverneur Morris suggested that representation be
according to the principle of wealth. Mason of Virginia pointed out
practical difficulties which caused the resolution to be made to apply
to direct taxation only, and in this form it began to be generally
acceptable. By this time, however, the deeper feelings of the delegates
on the subject of slavery had been stirred, and they began to speak
plainly. Davie of North Carolina declared that his state would never
enter the Union on any terms that did not provide for counting at least
three-fifths of the slaves and that "if the Eastern states meant to
exclude them altogether the business was at an end." It was finally
agreed to reckon three-fifths of the slaves in estimating taxes and to
make taxation the basis of representation. The whole discussion was
renewed, however, in connection with the question of importation. There
were more threats from the far South, and some of the men from New
England, prompted by commercial interest, even if they did not favor
the sentiments expressed, were at least disposed to give them passive
acquiescence. From Maryland and Virginia, however, came earnest protest.
Luther Martin declared unqualifiedly that to have a clause in the
Constitution permitting the importation of slaves was inconsistent
with the principles of the Revolution and dishonorable to the American
character, and George Mason could foresee only a future in which a just
Providence would punish such a national sin as slavery by national
calamities. Such utterances were not to dominate the convention,
however; it was a day of expediency, not of morality. A bargain was made
between the commercial interests of the North and the slave-holding
interests of the South, the granting to Congress of unrestricted power
to enact navigation laws being conceded in exchange for twenty years'
continuance of the slave-trade. The main agreements on the subject
of slavery were thus finally expressed in the Constitution:
"Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several
states which may be included within this Union, according to their
respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole
number of free persons, including those bound to servitude for a term
of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other
persons" (Art. I, Sec. 2); "The migration or importation of such persons
as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not
be prohibited by the congress prior to the year 1808; but a tax or duty
may be imposed, not exceeding ten dollars on each person" (Art. I, Sec.
9); "No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or
regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall
be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may
be due" (Art. IV, Sec. 2). With such provisions, though without the use
of the question-begging word _slaves_, the institution of human bondage
received formal recognition in the organic law of the new republic of
the United States.

"Just what is the light in which we are to regard the slaves?" wondered
James Wilson in the course of the debate. "Are they admitted as
citizens?" he asked; "then why are they not admitted on an equality with
white citizens? Are they admitted as property? then why is not other
property admitted into the computation?" Such questions and others to
which they gave rise were to trouble more heads than his in the course
of the coming years, and all because a great nation did not have the
courage to do the right thing at the right time.

4. Early Steps toward Abolition

In spite, however, of the power crystallized in the Constitution, the
moral movement that had set in against slavery still held its ground,
and it was destined never wholly to languish until slavery ceased
altogether to exist in the United States. Throughout the century the
Quakers continued their good work; in the generation before the war John
Woolman of New Jersey traveled in the Southern colonies preaching that
"the practice of continuing slavery is not right"; and Anthony Benezet
opened in Philadelphia a school for Negroes which he himself taught
without remuneration, and otherwise influenced Pennsylvania to begin the
work of emancipation. In general the Quakers conducted their campaign
along the lines on which they were most likely to succeed, attacking
the slave-trade first of all but more and more making an appeal to
the central government; and the first Abolition Society, organized in
Pennsylvania in 1775 and consisting mainly of Quakers, had for its
original object merely the relief of free Negroes unlawfully held in
bondage.[1] The organization was forced to suspend its work in the
course of the war, but in 1784 it renewed its meetings, and men of other
denominations than the Quakers now joined in greater numbers. In 1787
the society was formally reorganized as "The Pennsylvania Society
for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, the Relief of Free Negroes
unlawfully held in Bondage, and for Improving the Condition of the
African Race." Benjamin Franklin was elected president and there was
adopted a constitution which was more and more to serve as a model for
similar societies in the neighboring states.

[Footnote 1: Locke: _Anti-Slavery in America_, 97.]

Four years later, by 1791, there were in the country as many as
twelve abolition societies, and these represented all the states from
Massachusetts to Virginia, with the exception of New Jersey, where a
society was formed the following year. That of New York, formed in 1785
with John Jay as president, took the name of the Manumission Society,
limiting its aims at first to promoting manumission and protecting those
Negroes who had already been set free. All of the societies had very
clear ideas as to their mission. The prevalence of kidnaping made them
emphasize "the relief of free Negroes unlawfully held in bondage,"
and in general each one in addition to its executive committee had
committees for inspection, advice, and protection; for the guardianship
of children; for the superintending of education, and for employment.
While the societies were originally formed to attend to local matters,
their efforts naturally extended in course of time to national affairs,
and on December 8, 1791, nine of them prepared petitions to Congress for
the limitation of the slave-trade. These petitions were referred to a
special committee and nothing more was heard of them at the time. After
two years accordingly the organizations decided that a more vigorous
plan of action was necessary, and on January 1, 1794, delegates from
nine societies organized in Philadelphia the American Convention of
Abolition Societies. The object of the Convention was twofold, "to
increase the zeal and efficiency of the individual societies by
its advice and encouragement ... and to take upon itself the chief
responsibility in regard to national affairs." It prepared an address to
the country and presented to Congress a memorial against the fitting out
of vessels in the United States to engage in the slave-trade, and it had
the satisfaction of seeing Congress in the same year pass a bill to this

Some of the organizations were very active and one as far South as that
in Maryland was at first very powerful. Always were they interested
in suits in courts of law. In 1797 the New York Society reported 90
complaints, 36 persons freed, 21 cases still in suit, and 19 under
consideration. The Pennsylvania Society reported simply that it had
been instrumental in the liberation of "many hundreds" of persons. The
different branches, however, did not rest with mere liberation; they
endeavored generally to improve the condition of the Negroes in their
respective communities, each one being expected to report to the
Convention on the number of freedmen in its state and on their property,
employment, and conduct. From time to time also the Convention prepared
addresses to these people, and something of the spirit of its work and
also of the social condition of the Negro at the time may be seen from
the following address of 1796:

To the Free Africans and Other Free People of Color in the United

The Convention of Deputies from the Abolition Societies in the
United States, assembled at Philadelphia, have undertaken to address
you upon subjects highly interesting to your prosperity.

They wish to see you act worthily of the rank you have acquired as
freemen, and thereby to do credit to yourselves, and to justify the
friends and advocates of your color in the eyes of the world.

As the result of our united reflections, we have concluded to call
your attention to the following articles of advice. We trust they
are dictated by the purest regard for your welfare, for we view you
as Friends and Brethren.

_In the first place_, We earnestly recommend to you, a regular
attention to the important duty of public worship; by which means
you will evince gratitude to your Creator, and, at the same time,
promote knowledge, union, friendship, and proper conduct among

_Secondly_, We advise such of you, as have not been taught reading,
writing, and the first principles of arithmetic, to acquire them
as early as possible. Carefully attend to the instruction of your
children in the same simple and useful branches of education. Cause
them, likewise, early and frequently to read the holy Scriptures;
these contain, amongst other great discoveries, the precious record
of the original equality of mankind, and of the obligations of
universal justice and benevolence, which are derived from the
relation of the human race to each other in a common Father.

_Thirdly_, Teach your children useful trades, or to labor with their
hands in cultivating the earth. These employments are favorable to
health and virtue. In the choice of masters, who are to instruct
them in the above branches of business, prefer those who will work
with them; by this means they will acquire habits of industry, and
be better preserved from vice than if they worked alone, or under
the eye of persons less interested in their welfare. In forming
contracts, for yourselves or children, with masters, it may be
useful to consult such persons as are capable of giving you the best
advice, and who are known to be your friends, in order to prevent
advantages being taken of your ignorance of the laws and customs of
our country.

_Fourthly_, Be diligent in your respective callings, and faithful in
all the relations you bear in society, whether as husbands, wives,
fathers, children or hired servants. Be just in all your dealings.
Be simple in your dress and furniture, and frugal in your family
expenses. Thus you will act like Christians as well as freemen, and,
by these means, you will provide for the distresses and wants of
sickness and old age.

_Fifthly_, Refrain from the use of spirituous liquors; the
experience of many thousands of the citizens of the United States
has proved that these liquors are not necessary to lessen the
fatigue of labor, nor to obviate the effects of heat or cold; nor
can they, in any degree, add to the innocent pleasures of society.

_Sixthly_, Avoid frolicking, and amusements which lead to expense
and idleness; they beget habits of dissipation and vice, and thus
expose you to deserved reproach amongst your white neighbors.

_Seventhly_, We wish to impress upon your minds the moral and
religious necessity of having your marriages legally performed; also
to have exact registers preserved of all the births and deaths which
occur in your respective families.

_Eighthly_, Endeavor to lay up as much as possible of your earnings
for the benefit of your children, in case you should die before they
are able to maintain themselves--your money will be safest and most
beneficial when laid out in lots, houses, or small farms.

_Ninthly_, We recommend to you, at all times and upon all occasions,
to behave yourselves to all persons in a civil and respectful
manner, by which you may prevent contention and remove every just
occasion of complaint. We beseech you to reflect, that it is by your
good conduct alone that you can refute the objections which have
been made against you as rational and moral creatures, and remove
many of the difficulties which have occurred in the general
emancipation of such of your brethren as are yet in bondage.

With hearts anxious for your welfare, we commend you to the guidance
and protection of that _Being_ who is able to keep you from all
evil, and who is the common Father and Friend of the whole family of

Theodore Foster, President. Philadelphia, January 6th, 1796.
Thomas P. Cope, Secretary.

The general impulse for liberty which prompted the Revolution and the
early Abolition societies naturally found some reflection in formal
legislation. The declarations of the central government under the
Confederation were not very effective, and for more definite enactments
we have to turn to the individual states. The honor of being the first
actually to prohibit and abolish slavery really belongs to Vermont,
whose constitution, adopted in 1777, even before she had come into the
Union, declared very positively against the system. In 1782 the old
Virginia statute forbidding emancipation except for meritorious services
was repealed. The repeal was in force ten years, and in this time
manumissions were numerous. Maryland soon afterwards passed acts similar
to those in Virginia prohibiting the further introduction of slaves and
removing restraints on emancipation, and New York and New Jersey also
prohibited the further introduction of slaves from Africa or from other
states. In 1780, in spite of considerable opposition because of the
course of the war, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed an act forbidding
the further introduction of slaves and giving freedom to all persons
thereafter born in the state. Similar provisions were enacted in
Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784. Meanwhile Massachusetts was much
agitated, and beginning in 1766 there were before the courts several
cases in which Negroes sued for their freedom.[1] Their general argument
was that the royal charter declared that all persons residing in the
province were to be as free as the king's subjects in Great Britain,
that by Magna Carta no subject could be deprived of liberty except by
the judgment of his peers, and that any laws that may have been passed
in the province to mitigate or regulate the evil of slavery did not
authorize it. Sometimes the decisions were favorable, but at the
beginning of the Revolution Massachusetts still recognized the system
by the decision that no slave could be enlisted in the army. In 1777,
however, some slaves brought from Jamaica were ordered to be set at
liberty, and it was finally decided in 1783 that the declaration in the
Massachusetts Bill of Rights to the effect that "all men are born
free and equal" prohibited slavery. In this same year New Hampshire
incorporated in her constitution a prohibitive article. By the time the
convention for the framing of the Constitution of the United States
met in Philadelphia in 1787, two of the original thirteen states
(Massachusetts and New Hampshire) had positively prohibited slavery, and
in three others (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) gradual
abolition was in progress.

[Footnote 1: See Williams: _History of the Negro Race in America_, I,

The next decade was largely one of the settlement of new territory, and
by its close the pendulum seemed to have swung decidedly backward. In
1799, however, after much effort and debating, New York at last declared
for gradual abolition, and New Jersey did likewise in 1804. In general,
gradual emancipation was the result of the work of people who were
humane but also conservative and who questioned the wisdom of thrusting
upon the social organism a large number of Negroes suddenly emancipated.
Sometimes, however, a gradual emancipation act was later followed by one
for immediate manumission, as in New York in 1817. At first those who
favored gradual emancipation were numerous in the South as well as in
the North, but in general after Gabriel's insurrection in 1800, though
some individuals were still outstanding, the South was quiescent. The
character of the acts that were really put in force can hardly be better
stated than has already been done by the specialist in the subject.[1]
We read:

[Footnote 1: Locke, 124-126.]

Gradual emancipation is defined as the extinction of slavery by
depriving it of its hereditary quality. In distinction from the
clauses in the constitutions of Vermont, Massachusetts, and New
Hampshire, which directly or indirectly affected the condition of
slavery as already existing, the gradual emancipation acts left this
condition unchanged and affected only the children born after
the passage of the act or after a fixed date. Most of these acts
followed that of Pennsylvania in providing that the children of a
slave mother should remain with her owner as servants until they
reached a certain age, of from twenty-one to twenty-eight years, as
stated in the various enactments. In Pennsylvania, however, they
were to be regarded as free. In Connecticut, on the other hand, they
were to be "held in servitude" until twenty-five years of age and
after that to be free. The most liberal policy was that of Rhode
Island, where the children were pronounced free but were to be
supported by the town and educated in reading, writing, and
arithmetic, morality and religion. The latter clauses, however, were
repealed the following year, leaving the children to be supported by
the owner of the mother until twenty-one years of age, and only if
he abandoned his claims to the mother to become a charge to the
town. In New York and New Jersey they were to remain as servants
until a certain age, but were regarded as free, and liberal
opportunities were given the master for the abandonment of his
claims, the children in such cases to be supported at the common
charge.... The manumission and emancipation acts were naturally
followed, as in the case of the constitutional provision in Vermont,
by the attempts of some of the slave-owners to dispose of their
property outside the State. Amendments to the laws were found
necessary, and the Abolition Societies found plenty of occasion for
their exertions in protecting free blacks from seizure and illegal
sale and in looking after the execution and amendment of the laws.
The process of gradual emancipation was also unsatisfactory on
account of the length of time it would require, and in Pennsylvania
and Connecticut attempts were made to obtain acts for immediate

5. _Beginning of Racial Consciousness_

Of supreme importance in this momentous period, more important perhaps
in its ultimate effect than even the work of the Abolition Societies,
was what the Negro was doing for himself. In the era of the Revolution
began that racial consciousness on which almost all later effort for
social betterment has been based.

By 1700 the only cooeperative effort on the part of the Negro was such as
that in the isolated society to which Cotton Mather gave rules, or in a
spasmodic insurrection, or a rather crude development of native African
worship. As yet there was no genuine basis of racial self-respect. In
one way or another, however, in the eighteenth century the idea of
association developed, and especially in Boston about the time of the
Revolution Negroes began definitely to work together; thus they assisted
individuals in test cases in the courts, and when James Swan in his
_Dissuasion from the Slave Trade_ made such a statement as that "no
country can be called free where there is one slave," it was "at the
earnest desire of the Negroes in Boston" that the revised edition of the
pamphlet was published.

From the very beginning the Christian Church was the race's foremost
form of social organization. It was but natural that the first
distinctively Negro churches should belong to the democratic Baptist
denomination. There has been much discussion as to which was the very
first Negro Baptist church, and good claims have been put forth by the
Harrison Street Baptist Church of Petersburg, Va., and for a church
in Williamsburg, Va., organization in each case going back to 1776.
A student of the subject, however, has shown that there was a Negro
Baptist church at Silver Bluff, "on the South Carolina side of the
Savannah River, in Aiken County, just twelve miles from Augusta, Ga.,"
founded not earlier than 1773, not later than 1775.[1] In any case
special interest attaches to the First Bryan Baptist Church, of
Savannah, founded in January, 1788. The origin of this body goes back to
George Liele, a Negro born in Virginia, who might justly lay claim to
being America's first foreign missionary. Converted by a Georgia Baptist
minister, he was licensed as a probationer and was known to preach soon
afterwards at a white quarterly meeting.[2] In 1783 he preached in the
vicinity of Savannah, and one of those who came to hear him was Andrew
Bryan, a slave of Jonathan Bryan. Liele then went to Jamaica and in 1784
began to preach in Kingston, where with four brethren from America he
formed a church. At first he was subjected to persecution; nevertheless
by 1791 he had baptized over four hundred persons. Eight or nine months
after he left for Jamaica, Andrew Bryan began to preach, and at first he
was permitted to use a building at Yamacraw, in the suburbs of Savannah.
Of this, however, he was in course of time dispossessed, the place being
a rendezvous for those Negroes who had been taken away from their homes
by the British. Many of these men were taken before the magistrates
from time to time, and some were whipped and others imprisoned.
Bryan himself, having incurred the ire of the authorities, was twice
imprisoned and once publicly whipped, being so cut that he "bled
abundantly"; but he told his persecutors that he "would freely suffer
death for the cause of Jesus Christ," and after a while he was permitted
to go on with his work. For some time he used a barn, being assisted
by his brother Sampson; then for L50 he purchased his freedom, and
afterwards he began to use for worship a house that Sampson had been
permitted to erect. By 1791 his church had two hundred members, but over
a hundred more had been received as converted members though they
had not won their masters' permission to be baptized. An interesting
sidelight on these people is furnished by the statement that probably
fifty of them could read though only three could write. Years
afterwards, in 1832, when the church had grown to great numbers, a large
part of the congregation left the Bryan Church and formed what is now
the First African Baptist Church of Savannah. Both congregations,
however, remembered their early leader as one "clear in the grand
doctrines of the Gospel, truly pious, and the instrument of doing more
good among the poor slaves than all the learned doctors in America."

[Footnote 1: Walter H. Brooks: _The Silver Bluff Church_.]

[Footnote 2: See letters in Journal of Negro History, January, 1916,

While Bryan was working in Savannah, in Richmond, Va., rose Lott Cary, a
man of massive and erect frame and of great personality. Born a slave in
1780, Cary worked for a number of years in a tobacco factory, leading a
wicked life. Converted in 1807, he made rapid advance in education and
he was licensed as a Baptist preacher. He purchased his own freedom
and that of his children (his first wife having died), organized a
missionary society, and then in 1821 himself went as a missionary to the
new colony of Liberia, in whose interest he worked heroically until his
death in 1828.

More clearly defined than the origin of Negro Baptist churches are
the beginnings of African Methodism. Almost from the time of its
introduction in the country Methodism made converts among the Negroes
and in 1786 there were nearly two thousand Negroes in the regular
churches of the denomination, which, like the Baptist denomination, it
must be remembered, was before the Revolution largely overshadowed
in official circles by the Protestant Episcopal Church. The general
embarrassment of the Episcopal Church in America in connection with the
war, and the departure of many loyalist ministers, gave opportunity to
other denominations as well as to certain bodies of Negroes. The white
members of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia,
however, determined to set apart its Negro membership and to segregate
it in the gallery. Then in 1787 came a day when the Negroes, choosing
not to be insulted, and led by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, left the
edifice, and with these two men as overseers on April 17 organized
the Free African Society. This was intended to be "without regard to
religious tenets," the members being banded together "to support one
another in sickness and for the benefit of their widows and fatherless
children." The society was in the strictest sense fraternal, there being
only eight charter members: Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, Samuel Boston,
Joseph Johnson, Cato Freeman, Caesar Cranchell, James Potter, and William
White. By 1790 the society had on deposit in the Bank of North America
L42 9s. id., and that it generally stood for racial enterprise may be
seen from the fact that in 1788 an organization in Newport known as
the Negro Union, in which Paul Cuffe was prominent, wrote proposing a
general exodus of the Negroes to Africa. Nothing came of the suggestion
at the time, but at least it shows that representative Negroes of the
day were beginning to think together about matters of general policy.

In course of time the Free African Society of Philadelphia resolved into
an "African Church," and this became affiliated with the Protestant
Episcopal Church, whose bishop had exercised an interest in it. Out of
this organization developed St. Thomas's Episcopal Church, organized in
1791 and formally opened for service July 17, 1794. Allen was at first
selected for ordination, but he decided to remain a Methodist and Jones
was chosen in his stead and thus became the first Negro rector in the
United States. Meanwhile, however, in 1791, Allen himself had purchased
a lot at the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets; he at once set about
arranging for the building that became Bethel Church; and in 1794 he
formally sold the lot to the church and the new house of worship was
dedicated by Bishop Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church. With
this general body Allen and his people for a number of years remained
affiliated, but difficulties arose and separate churches having come
into being in other places, a convention of Negro Methodists was at
length called to meet in Philadelphia April 9, 1816. To this came
sixteen delegates--Richard Allen, Jacob Tapsico, Clayton Durham, James
Champion, Thomas Webster, of Philadelphia; Daniel Coker, Richard
Williams, Henry Harden, Stephen Hill, Edward Williamson, Nicholas
Gailliard, of Baltimore: Jacob Marsh, Edward Jackson, William Andrew,
of Attleborough, Penn.; Peter Spencer, of Wilmington, Del., and Peter
Cuffe, of Salem, N.J.--and these were the men who founded the African
Methodist Episcopal Church. Coker, of whom we shall hear more in
connection with Liberia, was elected bishop, but resigned in favor of
Allen, who served until his death in 1831.

In 1796 a congregation in New York consisting of James Varick and others
also withdrew from the main body of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and
in 1800 dedicated a house of worship. For a number of years it had the
oversight of the older organization, but after preliminary steps in
1820, on June 21, 1821, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
was formally organized. To the first conference came 19 preachers
representing 6 churches and 1,426 members. Varick was elected district
chairman, but soon afterwards was made bishop. The polity of this church
from the first differed somewhat from that of the A.M.E. denomination in
that representation of the laity was a prominent feature and there was
no bar to the ordination of women.

Of denominations other than the Baptist and the Methodist, the most
prominent in the earlier years was the Presbyterian, whose first Negro
ministers were John Gloucester and John Chavis. Gloucester owed his
training to the liberal tendencies that about 1800 were still strong in
eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, and in 1810 took charge of the African
Presbyterian Church which in 1807 had been established in Philadelphia.
He was distinguished by a rich musical voice and the general dignity
of his life, and he himself became the father of four Presbyterian
ministers. Chavis had a very unusual career. After passing "through
a regular course of academic studies" at Washington Academy, now
Washington and Lee University, in 1801 he was commissioned by the
General Assembly of the Presbyterians as a missionary to the Negroes. He
worked with increasing reputation until Nat Turner's insurrection caused
the North Carolina legislature in 1832 to pass an act silencing all
Negro preachers. Then in Wake County and elsewhere he conducted schools
for white boys until his death in 1838. In these early years distinction
also attaches to Lemuel Haynes, a Revolutionary patriot and the first
Negro preacher of the Congregational denomination. In 1785 he became the
pastor of a white congregation in Torrington, Conn., and in 1818 began
to serve another in Manchester, N.H.

After the church the strongest organization among Negroes has
undoubtedly been that of secret societies commonly known as "lodges."
The benefit societies were not necessarily secret and call for separate
consideration. On March 6, 1775, an army lodge attached to one of the
regiments stationed under General Gage in or near Boston initiated
Prince Hall and fourteen other colored men into the mysteries of
Freemasonry.[1] These fifteen men on March 2, 1784, applied to the Grand
Lodge of England for a warrant. This was issued to "African Lodge, No.
459," with Prince Hall as master, September 29, 1784. Various delays and
misadventures befell the warrant, however, so that it was not actually
received before April 29, 1787. The lodge was then duly organized May 6.
From this beginning developed the idea of Masonry among the Negroes of
America. As early as 1792 Hall was formally styled Grand Master, and in
1797 he issued a license to thirteen Negroes to "assemble and work" as
a lodge in Philadelphia; and there was also at this time a lodge in
Providence. Thus developed in 1808 the "African Grand Lodge" of Boston,
afterwards known as "Prince Hall Lodge of Massachusetts"; the second
Grand Lodge, called the "First Independent African Grand Lodge of North
America in and for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," organized in 1815;
and the "Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania."

[Footnote 1: William H. Upton: Negro Masonry, Cambridge, 1899, 10.]

Something of the interest of the Masons in their people, and the calm
judgment that characterized their procedure, may be seen from the words
of their leader, Prince Hall.[1] Speaking in 1797, and having in mind
the revolution in Hayti and recent indignities inflicted upon the race
in Boston, he said:

[Footnote 1: "A Charge Delivered to the African Lodge, June 24, 1797, at
Menotomy. By the Right Worshipful Prince Hall." (Boston?) 1797.]

When we hear of the bloody wars which are now in the world, and
thousands of our fellowmen slain; fathers and mothers bewailing the
loss of their sons; wives for the loss of their husbands; towns and
cities burnt and destroyed; what must be the heartfelt sorrow and
distress of these poor and unhappy people! Though we can not help
them, the distance being so great, yet we may sympathize with them
in their troubles, and mingle a tear of sorrow with them, and do as
we are exhorted to--weep with those that weep....

Now, my brethren, as we see and experience that all things here are
frail and changeable and nothing here to be depended upon: Let us
seek those things which are above, which are sure and steadfast,
and unchangeable, and at the same time let us pray to Almighty God,
while we remain in the tabernacle, that he would give us the grace
and patience and strength to bear up under all our troubles, which
at this day God knows we have our share. Patience I say, for were we
not possessed of a great measure of it you could not bear up under
the daily insults you meet with in the streets of Boston; much more
on public days of recreation, how are you shamefully abused, and
that at such a degree, that you may truly be said to carry your
lives in your hands; and the arrows of death are flying about your
heads; helpless old women have their clothes torn off their backs,
even to the exposing of their nakedness; and by whom are these
disgraceful and abusive actions committed? Not by the men born and
bred in Boston, for they are better bred; but by a mob or horde of
shameless, low-lived, envious, spiteful persons, some of them not
long since, servants in gentlemen's kitchens, scouring knives,
tending horses, and driving chaise. 'Twas said by a gentleman who
saw that filthy behavior in the Common, that in all the places he
had been in he never saw so cruel behavior in all his life, and that
a slave in the West Indies, on Sundays or holidays, enjoys himself
and friends without molestation. Not only this man, but many in
town who have seen their behavior to you, and that without any
provocations twenty or thirty cowards fall upon one man, have
wondered at the patience of the blacks; 'tis not for want of courage
in you, for they know that they dare not face you man for man, but
in a mob, which we despise, and had rather suffer wrong than do
wrong, to the disturbance of the community and the disgrace of our
reputation; for every good citizen does honor to the laws of the
State where he resides....

My brethren, let us not be cast down under these and many other
abuses we at present labor under: for the darkest is before the
break of day. My brethren, let us remember what a dark day it was
with our African brethren six years ago, in the French West Indies.
Nothing but the snap of the whip was heard from morning to evening;
hanging, breaking on the wheel, burning, and all manner of tortures
inflicted on those unhappy people, for nothing else but to gratify
their masters' pride, wantonness, and cruelty: but blessed be God,
the scene is changed; they now confess that God hath no respect of
persons, and therefore receive them as their friends, and treat them
as brothers. Thus doth Ethiopia begin to stretch forth her hand,
from a sink of slavery to freedom and equality.

An African Society was organized in New York in 1808 and chartered
in 1810, and out of it grew in course of time three or four other
organizations. Generally close to the social aim of the church and
sometimes directly fathered by the secret societies were the benefit
organizations, which even in the days of slavery existed for aid in
sickness or at death; in fact, it was the hopelessness of the general
situation coupled with the yearning for care when helpless that largely
called these societies into being. Their origin has been explained
somewhat as follows:

Although it was unlawful for Negroes to assemble without the presence
of a white man, and so unlawful to allow a congregation of slaves on
a plantation without the consent of the master, these organizations
existed and held these meetings on the "lots" of some of the law-makers
themselves. The general plan seems to have been to select some one who
could read and write and make him the secretary. The meeting-place
having been selected, the members would come by ones and twos, make
their payments to the secretary, and quietly withdraw. The book of the
secretary was often kept covered up on the bed. In many of the societies
each member was known by number and in paying simply announced his
number. The president of such a society was usually a privileged slave
who had the confidence of his or her master and could go and come at
will. Thus a form of communication could be kept up between all members.
In event of death of a member, provision was made for decent burial,
and all the members as far as possible obtained permits to attend the
funeral. Here and again their plan of getting together was brought into
play. In Richmond they would go to the church by ones and twos and there
sit as near together as convenient. At the close of the service a line
of march would be formed when sufficiently far from the church to make
it safe to do so. It is reported that the members were faithful to each
other and that every obligation was faithfully carried out. This was
the first form of insurance known to the Negro from which his family
received a benefit.[1]

[Footnote 1: Hampton Conference Report, No. 8]

All along of course a determining factor in the Negro's social progress
was the service that he was able to render to any community in which he
found himself as well as to his own people. Sometimes he was called upon
to do very hard work, sometimes very unpleasant or dangerous work;
but if he answered the call of duty and met an actual human need, his
service had to receive recognition. An example of such work was found in
his conduct in the course of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia
in 1793. Knowing that fever in general was not quite as severe in
its ravages upon Negroes as upon white people, the daily papers of
Philadelphia called upon the colored people in the town to come forward
and assist with the sick. The Negroes consented, and Absalom Jones and
William Gray were appointed to superintend the operations, though as
usual it was upon Richard Allen that much of the real responsibility
fell. In September the fever increased and upon the Negroes devolved
also the duty of removing corpses. In the course of their work they
encountered much opposition; thus Jones said that a white man threatened
to shoot him if he passed his house with a corpse. This man himself the
Negroes had to bury three days afterwards. When the epidemic was over,
under date January 23, 1794, Matthew Clarkson, the mayor, wrote the
following testimonial: "Having, during the prevalence of the late
malignant disorder, had almost daily opportunities of seeing the conduct
of Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, and the people employed by them to
bury the dead, I with cheerfulness give this testimony of my approbation
of their proceedings, as far as the same came under my notice. Their
diligence, attention, and decency of deportment, afforded me, at the
time, much satisfaction." After the lapse of years it is with something
of the pathos of martyrdom that we are impressed by the service of
these struggling people, who by their self-abnegation and patriotism
endeavored to win and deserve the privileges of American citizenship.

All the while, in one way or another, the Negro was making advance in
education. As early as 1704 we have seen that Neau opened a school
in New York; there was Benezet's school in Philadelphia before the
Revolutionary War, and in 1798 one for Negroes was established in
Boston. In the first part of the century, we remember also, some Negroes
were apprenticed in Virginia under the oversight of the church. In 1764
the editor of a paper in Williamsburg, Va., established a school for
Negroes, and we have seen that as many as one-sixth of the members of
Andrew Bryan's congregation in the far Southern city of Savannah could
read by 1790. Exceptional men, like Gloucester and Chavis, of course
availed themselves of such opportunities as came their way. All told,
by 1800 the Negro had received much more education than is commonly

Two persons--one in science and one in literature--because of their
unusual attainments attracted much attention. The first was Benjamin
Banneker of Maryland, and the second Phillis Wheatley of Boston.
Banneker in 1770 constructed the first clock striking the hours that was
made in America, and from 1792 to 1806 published an almanac adapted to
Maryland and the neighboring states. He was thoroughly scholarly in
mathematics and astronomy, and by his achievements won a reputation
for himself in Europe as well as in America. Phillis Wheatley, after a
romantic girlhood of transition from Africa to a favorable environment
in Boston, in 1773 published her _Poems on Various Subjects_, which
volume she followed with several interesting occasional poems.[1] For
the summer of this year she was the guest in England of the Countess of
Huntingdon, whose patronage she had won by an elegiac poem on George
Whitefield; in conversation even more than in verse-making she exhibited
her refined taste and accomplishment, and presents were showered upon
her, one of them being a copy of the magnificent 1770 Glasgow folio
edition of _Paradise Lost_, which was given by Brook Watson, Lord
Mayor of London, and which is now preserved in the library of Harvard
University. In the earlier years of the next century her poems
found their way into the common school readers. One of those in her
representative volume was addressed to Scipio Moorhead, a young Negro of
Boston who had shown some talent for painting. Thus even in a dark day
there were those who were trying to struggle upward to the light.

[Footnote 1: For a full study see Chapter II of _The Negro in Literature
and Art_.]



The twenty years of the administrations of the first three presidents of
the United States--or, we might say, the three decades between 1790
and 1820--constitute what might be considered the "Dark Ages" of Negro
history; and yet, as with most "Dark Ages," at even a glance below the
surface these years will be found to be throbbing with life, and we have
already seen that in them the Negro was doing what he could on his own
account to move forward. After the high moral stand of the Revolution,
however, the period seems quiescent, and it was indeed a time of
definite reaction. This was attributable to three great events: the
opening of the Southwest with the consequent demand for slaves, the
Haytian revolution beginning in 1791, and Gabriel's insurrection in

In no way was the reaction to be seen more clearly than in the decline
of the work of the American Convention of Delegates from the Abolition
Societies. After 1798 neither Connecticut nor Rhode Island sent
delegates; the Southern states all fell away by 1803; and while from New
England came the excuse that local conditions hardly made aggressive
effort any longer necessary, the lack of zeal in this section was also
due to some extent to a growing question as to the wisdom of interfering
with slavery in the South. In Virginia, that just a few years before
had been so active, a statute was now passed imposing a penalty of one
hundred dollars on any person who assisted a slave in asserting his
freedom, provided he failed to establish the claim; and another
provision enjoined that no member of an abolition society should serve
as a juror in a freedom suit. Even the Pennsylvania society showed signs
of faintheartedness, and in 1806 the Convention decided upon triennial
rather than annual meetings. It did not again become really vigorous
until after the War of 1812.

1. _The Cotton-Gin, the New Southwest, and the First Fugitive Slave Law_

Of incalculable significance in the history of the Negro in America
was the series of inventions in England by Arkwright, Hargreaves, and
Crompton in the years 1768-79. In the same period came the discovery
of the power of steam by James Watt of Glasgow and its application to
cotton manufacture, and improvements followed quickly in printing and
bleaching. There yet remained one final invention of importance for the
cultivation of cotton on a large scale. Eli Whitney, a graduate of Yale,
went to Georgia and was employed as a teacher by the widow of General
Greene on her plantation. Seeing the need of some machine for the more
rapid separating of cotton-seed from the fiber, he labored until in 1793
he succeeded in making his cotton-gin of practical value. The tradition
is persistent, however, that the real credit of the invention belongs
to a Negro on the plantation. The cotton-gin created great excitement
throughout the South and began to be utilized everywhere. The
cultivation and exporting of the staple grew by leaps and bounds. In
1791 only thirty-eight bales of standard size were exported from the
United States; in 1816, however, the cotton sent out of the country was
worth $24,106,000 and was by far the most valuable article of export.
The current price was 28 cents a pound. Thus at the very time that the
Northern states were abolishing slavery, an industry that had slumbered
became supreme, and the fate of hundreds of thousands of Negroes was

Meanwhile the opening of the West went forward, and from Maine and
Massachusetts, Carolina and Georgia journeyed the pioneers to lay the
foundations of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and Alabama and Mississippi.
It was an eager, restless caravan that moved, and sometimes more than a
hundred persons in a score of wagons were to be seen going from a single
town in the East--"Baptists and Methodists and Democrats." The careers
of Boone and Sevier and those who went with them, and the story of their
fights with the Indians, are now a part of the romance of American
history. In 1790 a cluster of log huts on the Ohio River was named in
honor of the Society of the Cincinnati. In 1792 Kentucky was admitted to
the Union, the article on slavery in her constitution encouraging the
system and discouraging emancipation, and Tennessee also entered as a
slave state in 1796.

Of tremendous import to the Negro were the questions relating to the
Mississippi Territory. After the Revolution Georgia laid claim to great
tracts of land now comprising the states of Alabama and Mississippi,
with the exception of the strip along the coast claimed by Spain
in connection with Florida. This territory became a rich field for
speculation, and its history in its entirety makes a complicated story.
A series of sales to what were known as the Yazoo Companies, especially
in that part of the present states whose northern boundary would be a
line drawn from the mouth of the Yazoo to the Chattahoochee, resulted in
conflicting claims, the last grant sale being made in 1795 by a corrupt
legislature at the price of a cent and a half an acre. James Jackson
now raised the cry of bribery and corruption, resigned from the United
States Senate, secured a seat in the state legislature, and on February
13, 1796, carried through a bill rescinding the action of the previous
year,[1] and the legislature burned the documents concerned with the
Yazoo sale in token of its complete repudiation of them. The purchasers
to whom the companies had sold lands now began to bombard Congress with
petitions and President Adams helped to arrive at a settlement by which
Georgia transferred the lands in question to the Federal Government,
which undertook to form of them the Mississippi Territory and to pay
any damages involved. In 1802 Georgia threw the whole burden upon the
central government by transferring to it _all_ of her land beyond her
present boundaries, though for this she exacted an article favorable
to slavery. All was now made into the Mississippi Territory, to which
Congress held out the promise that it would be admitted as a state as
soon as its population numbered 60,000; but Alabama was separated from
Mississippi in 1816. The old matter of claims was not finally disposed
of until an act of 1814 appropriated $5,000,000 for the purpose. In
the same year Andrew Jackson's decisive victories over the Creeks at
Talladega and Horseshoe Bend--of which more must be said--resulted in
the cession of a vast tract of the land of that unhappy nation and thus
finally opened for settlement three-fourths of the present state of

[Footnote 1: Phillips in _The South in the Building of the Nation_, II,

It was in line with the advance that slavery was making in new territory
that there was passed the first Fugitive Slave Act (1793). This grew out
of the discussion incident to the seizure in 1791 at Washington, Penn.,
of a Negro named John, who was taken to Virginia, and the correspondence
between the Governor of Pennsylvania and the Governor of Virginia with
reference to the case. The important third section of the act read as

_And be it also enacted_, That when a person held to labor in any of
the United States, or in either of the territories on the northwest
or south of the river Ohio, under the laws thereof, shall escape
into any other of the said states or territory, the person to whom
such labor or service may be due, his agent or attorney, is hereby
empowered to seize or arrest such fugitive from labor, and to take
him or her before any judge of the circuit or district courts of the
United States, residing or being within the state, or before any
magistrate of a county, city or town corporate, wherein such seizure
or arrest shall be made, and upon proof to the satisfaction of such
judge or magistrate, either by oral testimony or affidavit taken
before and certified by a magistrate of any such state or territory,
that the person so seized or arrested, doth, under the laws of the
state or territory from which he or she fled, owe service or labor
to the person claiming him or her, it shall be the duty of such
judge or magistrate to give a certificate thereof to such claimant,
his agent or attorney, which shall be sufficient warrant for
removing the said fugitive from labor, to the state or territory
from which he or she fled.

It will be observed that by the terms of this enactment a master had
the right to recover a fugitive slave by proving his ownership before a
magistrate without a jury or any other of the ordinary forms of law. A
human being was thus placed at the disposal of the lowest of courts and
subjected to such procedure as was not allowed even in petty property
suits. A great field for the bribery of magistrates was opened up, and
opportunity was given for committing to slavery Negro men about whose
freedom there should have been no question.

By the close of the decade 1790-1800 the fear occasioned by the Haytian
revolution had led to a general movement against the importation of
Negroes, especially of those from the West Indies. Even Georgia in 1798
prohibited the importation of all slaves, and this provision, although
very loosely enforced, was never repealed. In South Carolina, however,
to the utter chagrin and dismay of the other states, importation,
prohibited in 1787, was again legalized in 1803; and in the four years
immediately following 39,075 Negroes were brought to Charleston, most of
these going to the territories.[1] When in 1803 Ohio was carved out of
the Northwest Territory as a free state, an attempt was made to
claim the rest of the territory for slavery, but this failed. In the
congressional session of 1804-5 the matter of slavery in the newly
acquired territory of Louisiana was brought up, and slaves were allowed
to be imported if they had come to the United States before 1798, the
purpose of this provision being to guard against the consequences of
South Carolina's recent act, although such a clause never received rigid
enforcement. The mention of Louisiana, however, brings us concretely to
Toussaint L'Ouverture, the greatest Negro in the New World in the period
and one of the greatest of all time.

[Footnote 1: DuBois: _Suppression of the Slave-Trade_, 90.]

_2. Toussaint L'Ouverture, Louisiana, and the Formal Closing of the

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, it was not long before its
general effects were felt in the West Indies. Of special importance was
Santo Domingo because of the commercial interests centered there. The
eastern end of the island was Spanish, but the western portion was
French, and in this latter part was a population of 600,000, of which
number 50,000 were French Creoles, 50,000 mulattoes, and 500,000 pure
Negroes. All political and social privileges were monopolized by the
Creoles, while the Negroes were agricultural laborers and slaves; and
between the two groups floated the restless element of the free people
of color.

When the General Assembly in France decreed equality of rights to
all citizens, the mulattoes of Santo Domingo made a petition for the
enjoyment of the same political privileges as the white people--to the
unbounded consternation of the latter. They were rewarded with a
decree which was so ambiguously worded that it was open to different
interpretations and which simply heightened the animosity that for years
had been smoldering. A new petition to the Assembly in 1791 primarily
for an interpretation brought forth on May 15 the explicit decree that
the people of color were to have all the rights and privileges of
citizens, provided they had been born of free parents on both sides. The
white people were enraged by the decision, turned royalist, and trampled
the national cockade underfoot; and throughout the summer armed strife
and conflagration were the rule. To add to the confusion the black
slaves struck for freedom and on the night of August 23, 1791, drenched
the island in blood. In the face of these events the Conventional
Assembly rescinded its order, then announced that the original decree
must be obeyed, and it sent three commissioners with troops to Santo
Domingo, real authority being invested in Santhonax and Polverel.

On June 20, 1793, at Cape Francois trouble was renewed by a quarrel
between a mulatto and a white officer in the marines. The seamen came
ashore and loaned their assistance to the white people, and the Negroes
now joined forces with the mulattoes. In the battle of two days that
followed the arsenal was taken and plundered, thousands were killed
in the streets, and more than half of the town was burned. The French
commissioners were the unhappy witnesses of the scene, but they were
practically helpless, having only about a thousand troops. Santhonax,
however, issued a proclamation offering freedom to all slaves who were
willing to range themselves under the banner of the Republic. This was
the first proclamation for the freeing of slaves in Santo Domingo, and
as a result of it many of the Negroes came in and were enfranchised.

Soon after this proclamation Polverel left his colleague at the Cape and
went to Port au Prince, the capital of the West. Here things were quiet
and the cultivation of the crops was going forward as usual. The slaves
were soon unsettled, however, by the news of what was being done
elsewhere, and Polverel was convinced that emancipation could not be
delayed and that for the safety of the planters themselves it was
necessary to extend it to the whole island. In September (1793) he set
in circulation from Aux Cayes a proclamation to this effect, and at the
same time he exhorted all the planters in the vicinity who concurred in
his work to register their names. This almost all of them did, as they
were convinced of the need of measures for their personal safety; and on
February 4, 1794, the Conventional Assembly in Paris formally approved
all that had been done by decreeing the abolition of slavery in all the
colonies of France.

All the while the Spanish and the English had been looking on with
interest and had even come to the French part of the island as if to aid
in the restoration of order. Among the former, at first in charge of
a little royalist band, was the Negro, Toussaint, later called
L'Ouverture. He was then a man in the prime of life, forty-eight years
old, and already his experience had given him the wisdom that was needed
to bring peace in Santo Domingo. In April, 1794, impressed by the decree
of the Assembly, he returned to the jurisdiction of France and took
service under the Republic. In 1796 he became a general of brigade; in
1797 general-in-chief, with the military command of the whole colony.

He at once compelled the surrender of the English who had invaded his
country. With the aid of a commercial agreement with the United States,
he next starved out the garrison of his rival, the mulatto Rigaud, whom
he forced to consent to leave the country. He then imprisoned Roume, the
agent of the Directory, and assumed civil as well as military authority.
He also seized the Spanish part of the island, which had been ceded to
France some years before but had not been actually surrendered. He then,
in May, 1801, gave to Santo Domingo a constitution by which he not only
assumed power for life but gave to himself the right of naming his
successor; and all the while he was awakening the admiration of the
world by his bravery, his moderation, and his genuine instinct for

Across the ocean, however, a jealous man was watching with interest the
career of the "gilded African." None knew better than Napoleon that
it was because he did not trust France that Toussaint had sought the
friendship of the United States, and none read better than he the logic
of events. As Adams says, "Bonaparte's acts as well as his professions
showed that he was bent on crushing democratic ideas, and that he
regarded St. Domingo as an outpost of American republicanism, although
Toussaint had made a rule as arbitrary as that of Bonaparte himself....
By a strange confusion of events, Toussaint L'Ouverture, because he was
a Negro, became the champion of republican principles, with which he
had nothing but the instinct of personal freedom in common. Toussaint's
government was less republican than that of Bonaparte; he was doing
by necessity in St. Domingo what Bonaparte was doing by choice in

[Footnote 1: _History of the United States_, I, 391-392.]

This was the man to whom the United States ultimately owes the purchase
of Louisiana. On October 1, 1801, Bonaparte gave orders to General Le
Clerc for a great expedition against Santo Domingo. In January, 1802, Le
Clerc appeared and war followed. In the course of this, Toussaint--who
was ordinarily so wise and who certainly knew that from Napoleon he had
most to fear--made the great mistake of his life and permitted himself
to be led into a conference on a French vessel. He was betrayed and
taken to France, where within the year he died of pneumonia in the
dungeon of Joux. Immediately there was a proclamation annulling the
decree of 1794 giving freedom to the slaves. Bonaparte, however, had not
estimated the force of Toussaint's work, and to assist the Negroes in
their struggle now came a stalwart ally, yellow fever. By the end of the
summer only one-seventh of Le Clerc's army remained, and he himself died
in November. At once Bonaparte planned a new expedition. While he was
arranging for the leadership of this, however, the European war broke
out again. Meanwhile the treaty for the retrocession of the territory
of Louisiana had not yet received the signature of the Spanish king,
because Godoy, the Spanish representative, would not permit the
signature to be affixed until all the conditions were fulfilled; and
toward the end of 1802 the civil officer at New Orleans closed the
Mississippi to the United States. Jefferson, at length moved by the plea
of the South, sent a special envoy, no less a man than James Monroe, to
France to negotiate the purchase; Bonaparte, disgusted by the failure
of his Egyptian expedition and his project for reaching India, and
especially by his failure in Santo Domingo, in need also of ready money,
listened to the offer; and the people of the United States--who within
the last few years have witnessed the spoliation of Hayti--have not yet
realized how much they owe to the courage of 500,000 Haytian Negroes who
refused to be slaves.

The slavery question in the new territory was a critical one. It was
on account of it that the Federalists had opposed the acquisition; the
American Convention endeavored to secure a provision like that of the
Northwest Ordinance; and the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends in
Philadelphia in 1805 prayed "that effectual measures may be adopted
by Congress to prevent the introduction of slavery into any of the
territories of the United States." Nevertheless the whole territory
without regard to latitude was thrown open to the system March 2, 1805.

In spite of this victory for slavery, however, the general force of the
events in Hayti was such as to make more certain the formal closing
of the slave-trade at the end of the twenty-year period for which the
Constitution had permitted it to run. The conscience of the North had
been profoundly stirred, and in the far South was the ever-present fear
of a reproduction of the events in Hayti. The agitation in England
moreover was at last about to bear fruit in the act of 1807 forbidding
the slave-trade. In America it seems from the first to have been an
understood thing, especially by the Southern representatives, that even
if such an act passed it would be only irregularly enforced, and the
debates were concerned rather with the disposal of illegally imported
Africans and with the punishment of those concerned in the importation
than with the proper limitation of the traffic by water.[1] On March 2,
1807, the act was passed forbidding the slave-trade after the close of
the year. In course of time it came very near to being a dead letter,
as may be seen from presidential messages, reports of cabinet officers,
letters of collectors of revenue, letters of district attorneys, reports
of committees of Congress, reports of naval commanders, statements
on the floor of Congress, the testimony of eye-witnesses, and the
complaints of home and foreign anti-slavery societies. Fernandina and
Galveston were only two of the most notorious ports for smuggling. A
regular chain of posts was established from the head of St. Mary's River
to the upper country, and through the Indian nation, by means of which
the Negroes were transferred to every part of the country.[2] If dealers
wished to form a caravan they would give an Indian alarm, so that the
woods might be less frequented, and if pursued in Georgia they would
escape into Florida. One small schooner contained one hundred and thirty
souls. "They were almost packed into a small space, between a floor laid
over the water-casks and the deck--not near three feet--insufficient for
them to sit upright--and so close that chafing against each other their
bones pierced the skin and became galled and ulcerated by the motion
of the vessel." Many American vessels were engaged in the trade under
Spanish colors, and the traffic to Africa was pursued with uncommon
vigor at Havana, the crews of vessels being made up of men of all
nations, who were tempted by the high wages to be earned. Evidently
officials were negligent in the discharge of their duty, but even if
offenders were apprehended it did not necessarily follow that they
would receive effective punishment. President Madison in his message
of December 5, 1810, said, "It appears that American citizens are
instrumental in carrying on a traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in
violation of the laws of humanity, and in defiance of those of their own
country"; and on January 7, 1819, the Register of the Treasury made
to the House the amazing report that "it doth not appear, from an
examination of the records of this office, and particularly of the
accounts (to the date of their last settlement) of the collectors of
the customs, and of the several marshals of the United States, that any
forfeitures had been incurred under the said act." A supplementary and
compromising and ineffective act of 1818 sought to concentrate efforts
against smuggling by encouraging informers; and one of the following
year that authorized the President to "make such regulations and
arrangements as he may deem expedient for the safe keeping, support, and
removal beyond the limits of the United States" of recaptured Africans,
and that bore somewhat more fruit, was in large measure due to the
colonization movement and of importance in connection with the founding
of Liberia.

[Footnote 1: See DuBois, 95, ff.]

[Footnote 2: Niles's _Register_, XIV, 176 (May 2, 1818).]

Thus, while the formal closing of the slave-trade might seem to be a
great step forward, the laxness with which the decree was enforced
places it definitely in the period of reaction.

3. _Gabriel's Insurrection and the Rise of the Negro Problem_

Gabriel's insurrection of 1800 was by no means the most formidable
revolt that the Southern states witnessed. In design it certainly did
not surpass the scope of the plot of Denmark Vesey twenty-two years
later, and in actual achievement it was insignificant when compared not
only with Nat Turner's insurrection but even with the uprisings sixty
years before. At the last moment in fact a great storm that came up made
the attempt to execute the plan a miserable failure. Nevertheless coming
as it did so soon after the revolution in Hayti, and giving evidence
of young and unselfish leadership, the plot was regarded as of
extraordinary significance.

Gabriel himself[1] was an intelligent slave only twenty-four years old,
and his chief assistant was Jack Bowler, aged twenty-eight. Throughout
the summer of 1800 he matured his plan, holding meetings at which a
brother named Martin interpreted various texts from Scripture as bearing
on the situation of the Negroes. His insurrection was finally set for
the first day of September. It was well planned. The rendezvous was to
be a brook six miles from Richmond. Under cover of night the force of
1,100 was to march in three columns on the city, then a town of 8,000
inhabitants, the right wing to seize the penitentiary building which had
just been converted into an arsenal, while the left took possession of
the powder-house. These two columns were to be armed with clubs, and
while they were doing their work the central force, armed with muskets,
knives, and pikes, was to begin the carnage, none being spared except
the French, whom it is significant that the Negroes favored. In Richmond
at the time there were not more than four or five hundred men with about
thirty muskets; but in the arsenal were several thousand guns, and the
powder-house was well stocked. Seizure of the mills was to guarantee the
insurrectionists a food supply; and meanwhile in the country districts
were the new harvests of corn, and flocks and herds were fat in the

[Footnote 1: His full name was Gabriel Prosser.]

On the day appointed for the uprising Virginia witnessed such a storm
as she had not seen in years. Bridges were carried away, and roads and
plantations completely submerged. Brook Swamp, the strategic point for
the Negroes, was inundated; and the country Negroes could not get
into the city, nor could those in the city get out to the place of
rendezvous. The force of more than a thousand dwindled to three hundred,
and these, almost paralyzed by fear and superstition, were dismissed.
Meanwhile a slave who did not wish to see his master killed divulged the
plot, and all Richmond was soon in arms.

A troop of United States cavalry was ordered to the city and arrests
followed quickly. Three hundred dollars was offered by Governor Monroe
for the arrest of Gabriel, and as much more for Jack Bowler. Bowler
surrendered, but it took weeks to find Gabriel. Six men were convicted
and condemned to be executed on September 12, and five more on September
18. Gabriel was finally captured on September 24 at Norfolk on a vessel
that had come from Richmond; he was convicted on October 3 and executed
on October 7. He showed no disposition to dissemble as to his own plan;
at the same time he said not one word that incriminated anybody else.
After him twenty-four more men were executed; then it began to appear
that some "mistakes" had been made and the killing ceased. About the
time of this uprising some Negroes were also assembled for an outbreak
in Suffolk County; there were alarms in Petersburg and in the country
near Edenton, N.C.; and as far away as Charleston the excitement was

There were at least three other Negro insurrections of importance in the
period 1790-1820. When news came of the uprising of the slaves in Santo
Domingo in 1791, the Negroes in Louisiana planned a similar effort.[1]
They might have succeeded better if they had not disagreed as to the
hour of the outbreak, when one of them informed the commandant. As a
punishment twenty-three of the slaves were hanged along the banks of the
river and their corpses left dangling for days; but three white men who
assisted them and who were really the most guilty of all, were simply
sent out of the colony. In Camden, S. C, on July 4, 1816, some other
Negroes risked all for independence.[2] On various pretexts men from the
country districts were invited to the town on the appointed night, and
different commands were assigned, all except that of commander-in-chief,
which position was to be given to him who first forced the gates of the
arsenal. Again the plot was divulged by "a favorite and confidential
slave," of whom we are told that the state legislature purchased the
freedom, settling upon him a pension for life. About six of the leaders
were executed. On or about May 1, 1819, there was a plot to destroy the
city of Augusta, Ga.[3] The insurrectionists were to assemble at Beach
Island, proceed to Augusta, set fire to the place, and then destroy the
inhabitants. Guards were posted, and a white man who did not answer when
hailed was shot and fatally wounded. A Negro named Coot was tried as
being at the head of the conspiracy and sentenced to be executed a few
days later. Other trials followed his. Not a muscle moved when the
verdict was pronounced upon him.

[Footnote 1: Gayarre: _History of Louisiana_, III, 355.]

[Footnote 2: Holland: _Refutation of Calumnies_.]

[Footnote 3: Niles's _Register_, XVI, 213 (May 22, 1819).]

The deeper meaning of such events as these could not escape the
discerning. More than one patriot had to wonder just whither the
country was drifting. Already it was evident that the ultimate problem
transcended the mere question of slavery, and many knew that human
beings could not always be confined to an artificial status. Throughout
the period the slave-trade seemed to flourish without any real check,
and it was even accentuated by the return to power of the old royalist
houses of Europe after the fall of Napoleon. Meanwhile it was observed
that slave labor was driving out of the South the white man of small
means, and antagonism between the men of the "up-country" and the
seaboard capitalists was brewing. The ordinary social life of the Negro
in the South left much to be desired, and conditions were not improved
by the rapid increase. As for slavery itself, no one could tell when or
where or how the system would end; all only knew that it was developing
apace: and meanwhile there was the sinister possibility of the alliance
of the Negro and the Indian. Sincere plans of gradual abolition were
advanced in the South as well as the North, but in the lower section
they seldom got more than a respectful hearing. In his "Dissertation on
Slavery, with a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it in the State of
Virginia," St. George Tucker, a professor of law in the University
of William and Mary, and one of the judges of the General Court of
Virginia, in 1796 advanced a plan by which he figured that after sixty
years there would be only one-third as many slaves as at first. At
this distance his proposal seems extremely conservative; at the time,
however, it was laid on the table by the Virginia House of Delegates,
and from the Senate the author received merely "a civil acknowledgment."

Two men of the period--widely different in temper and tone, but
both earnest seekers after truth--looked forward to the future with
foreboding, one with the eye of the scientist, the other with the vision
of the seer. Hezekiah Niles had full sympathy with the groping and
striving of the South; but he insisted that slavery must ultimately be
abolished throughout the country, that the minds of the slaves should
be exalted, and that reasonable encouragement should be given free
Negroes.[1] Said he: "_We are ashamed of the thing we practice_;...
there is no attribute of heaven that takes part with us, and _we know
it_. And in the contest that must come and _will come_, there will be a
heap of sorrows such as the world has rarely seen."[2]

[Footnote 1: _Register_, XVI, 177 (May 8, 1819).]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., XVI, 213 (May 22, 1819).]

On the other hand rose Lorenzo Dow, the foremost itinerant preacher of
the time, the first Protestant who expounded the gospel in Alabama and
Mississippi, and a reformer who at the very moment that cotton was
beginning to be supreme, presumed to tell the South that slavery was
wrong.[1] Everywhere he arrested attention--with his long hair, his
harsh voice, and his wild gesticulation startling all conservative
hearers. But he was made in the mold of heroes. In his lifetime he
traveled not less than two hundred thousand miles, preaching to more
people than any other man of his time. Several times he went to Canada,
once to the West Indies, and three times to England, everywhere drawing
great crowds about him. In _A Cry from the Wilderness_ he more than
once clothed his thought in enigmatic garb, but the meaning was always
ultimately clear. At this distance, when slavery and the Civil War are
alike viewed in the perspective, the words of the oracle are almost
uncanny: "In the rest of the Southern states the influence of these
Foreigners will be known and felt in its time, and the seeds from the
HORY ALLIANCE and the DECAPIGANDI, who have a hand in those grades of
Generals, from the Inquisitor to the Vicar General and down...!!! The
STRUGGLE will be DREADFUL! the CUP will be BITTER! and when the agony is
over, those who survive may see better days! FAREWELL!"

[Footnote 1: For full study see article "Lorenzo Dow," in _Methodist
Review_ and _Journal of Negro History_, July, 1916, the same being
included in _Africa and the War_, New York, 1918.]



It is not the purpose of the present chapter to give a history of the
Seminole Wars, or even to trace fully the connection of the Negro with
these contests. We do hope to show at least, however, that the Negro was
more important than anything else as an immediate cause of controversy,
though the general pressure of the white man upon the Indian would
in time of course have made trouble in any case. Strange parallels
constantly present themselves, and incidentally it may be seen that the
policy of the Government in force in other and even later years with
reference to the Negro was at this time also very largely applied in the
case of the Indian.

1. _Creek, Seminole, and Negro to 1817: The War of 1812_

On August 7, 1786, the Continental Congress by a definite and
far-reaching ordinance sought to regulate for the future the whole
conduct of Indian affairs. Two great districts were formed, one
including the territory north of the Ohio and west of the Hudson, and
the other including that south of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi;
and for anything pertaining to the Indian in each of these two great
tracts a superintendent was appointed. As affecting the Negro the
southern district was naturally of vastly more importance than the
northern. In the eastern portion of this, mainly in what are now
Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and eastern Alabama, were the Cherokees
and the great confederacy of the Creeks, while toward the west, in the
present Mississippi and western Alabama, were the Chickasaws and the
Choctaws. Of Muskhogean stock, and originally a part of the Creeks, were
the Seminoles ("runaways"), who about 1750, under the leadership of a
great chieftain, Secoffee, separated from the main confederacy, which
had its center in southwest Georgia just a little south of Columbus, and
overran the peninsula of Florida. In 1808 came another band under Micco
Hadjo to the present site of Tallahassee. The Mickasukie tribe was
already on the ground in the vicinity of this town, and at first its
members objected to the newcomers, who threatened to take their lands
from them; but at length all abode peaceably together under the general
name of Seminoles. About 1810 these people had twenty towns, the chief
ones being Mikasuki and Tallahassee. From the very first they had
received occasional additions from the Yemassee, who had been driven out
of South Carolina, and of fugitive Negroes.

By the close of the eighteenth century all along the frontier the Indian
had begun to feel keenly the pressure of the white man, and in his
struggle with the invader he recognized in the oppressed Negro a natural
ally. Those Negroes who by any chance became free were welcomed by the
Indians, fugitives from bondage found refuge with them, and while
Indian chiefs commonly owned slaves, the variety of servitude was very
different from that under the white man. The Negroes were comparatively
free, and intermarriage was frequent; thus a mulatto woman who fled
from bondage married a chief and became the mother of a daughter who in
course of time became the wife of the famous Osceola. This very close
connection of the Negro with the family life of the Indian was the
determining factor in the resistance of the Seminoles to the demands of
the agents of the United States, and a reason, stronger even than his
love for his old hunting-ground, for his objection to removal to new
lands beyond the Mississippi. Very frequently the Indian could not give
up his Negroes without seeing his own wife and children led away into
bondage; and thus to native courage and pride was added the instinct of
a father for the preservation of his own.

In the two wars between the Americans and the English it was but natural
that the Indian should side with the English, and it was in some measure
but a part of the game that he should receive little consideration at
the hands of the victor. In the politics played by the English and the
French, the English and the Spaniards, and finally between the Americans
and all Europeans, the Indian was ever the loser. In the very early
years of the Carolina colonies, some effort was made to enslave the
Indians; but such servants soon made their way to the Indian country,
and it was not long before they taught the Negroes to do likewise. This
constant escape of slaves, with its attendant difficulties, largely
accounted for the establishing of the free colony of Georgia between
South Carolina and the Spanish possession, Florida. It was soon evident,
however, that the problem had been aggravated rather than settled. When
Congress met in 1776 it received from Georgia a communication setting
forth the need of "preventing slaves from deserting their masters"; and
as soon as the Federal Government was organized in 1789 it received also
from Georgia an urgent request for protection from the Creeks, who were
charged with various ravages, and among other documents presented was
a list of one hundred and ten Negroes who were said to have left their
masters during the Revolution and to have found refuge among the Creeks.
Meanwhile by various treaties, written and unwritten, the Creeks were
being forced toward the western line of the state, and in any agreement
the outstanding stipulation was always for the return of fugitive
slaves. For a number of years the Creeks retreated without definitely
organized resistance. In the course of the War of 1812, however, moved
by the English and by a visit from Tecumseh, they suddenly rose, and on
August 30, 1813, under the leadership of Weathersford, they attacked
Fort Mims, a stockade thirty-five miles north of Mobile. The five
hundred and fifty-three men, women, and children in this place were
almost completely massacred. Only fifteen white persons escaped by
hiding in the woods, a number of Negroes being taken prisoner. This
occurrence spurred the whole Southwest to action. Volunteers were called
for, and the Tennessee legislature resolved to exterminate the whole
tribe. Andrew Jackson with Colonel Coffee administered decisive defeats
at Talladega and Tohopeka or Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, and
the Creeks were forced to sue for peace. By the treaty of Fort Jackson
(August 9, 1814) the future president, now a major general in the
regular army and in command at Mobile, demanded that the unhappy nation
give up more than half of its land as indemnity for the cost of the war,
that it hold no communication with a Spanish garrison or town, that it
permit the necessary roads to be made or forts to be built in any part
of the territory, and that it surrender the prophets who had instigated
the war. This last demand was ridiculous, or only for moral effect,
for the so-called prophets had already been left dead on the field of
battle. The Creeks were quite broken, however, and Jackson passed on to
fame and destiny at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. In April
of this year he was made commander-in-chief of the Southern Division.[1]
It soon developed that his chief task in this capacity was to reckon
with the Seminoles.

[Footnote 1: In his official capacity Jackson issued two addresses which
have an important place in the history of the Negro soldier. From his
headquarters at Mobile, September 21, 1814, he issued an appeal "To the
Free Colored Inhabitants of Louisiana," offering them an honorable part
in the war, and this was later followed by a "Proclamation to the
Free People of Color" congratulating them on their achievement. Both
addresses are accessible in many books.]

On the Appalachicola River the British had rebuilt an old fort, calling
it the British Post on the Appalachicola. Early in the summer of 1815
the commander, Nicholls, had occasion to go to London, and he took with
him his troops, the chief Francis, and several Creeks, leaving in the
fort seven hundred and sixty-three barrels of cannon powder, twenty-five
hundred muskets, and numerous pistols and other weapons of war. The
Negroes from Georgia who had come to the vicinity, who numbered not less
than a thousand, and who had some well kept farms up and down the
banks of the river, now took charge of the fort and made it their
headquarters. They were joined by some Creeks, and the so-called Negro
Fort soon caused itself to be greatly feared by any white people
who happened to live near. Demands on the Spanish governor for its
suppression were followed by threats of the use of the soldiery of the
United States; and General Gaines, under orders in the section, wrote to
Jackson asking authority to build near the boundary another post that
might be used as the base for any movement that had as its aim to
overawe the Negroes. Jackson readily complied with the request, saying,
"I have no doubt that this fort has been established by some villains
for the purpose of murder, rapine, and plunder, and that it ought to be
blown up regardless of the ground it stands on. If you have come to the
same conclusion, destroy it, and restore the stolen Negroes and property
to their rightful owners." Gaines accordingly built Fort Scott not
far from where the Flint and the Chattahoochee join to form the
Appalachicola. It was necessary for Gaines to pass the Negro Fort in
bringing supplies to his own men; and on July 17, 1816, the boats of the
Americans were within range of the fort and opened fire. There was some
preliminary shooting, and then, since the walls were too stubborn to be
battered down by a light fire, "a ball made red-hot in the cook's
galley was put in the gun and sent screaming over the wall and into the
magazine. The roar, the shock, the scene that followed, may be imagined,
but not described. Seven hundred barrels of gunpowder tore the earth,
the fort, and all the wretched creatures in it to fragments. Two hundred
and seventy men, women, and children died on the spot. Of sixty-four
taken out alive, the greater number died soon after."[1]

[Footnote 1: McMaster, IV, 431.]

The Seminoles--in the West more and more identified with the
Creeks--were angered by their failure to recover the lands lost by the
treaty of Fort Jackson and also by the building of Fort Scott. One
settlement, Fowltown, fifteen miles east of Fort Scott, was especially
excited and in the fall of 1817 sent a warning to the Americans "not
to cross or cut a stick of timber on the east side of the Flint." The
warning was regarded as a challenge; Fowltown was taken on a morning in
November, and the Seminole Wars had begun.

2. _First Seminole War and the Treaties of Indian Spring and Fort

In the course of the First Seminole War (1817-18) Jackson ruthlessly
laid waste the towns of the Indians; he also took Pensacola, and he
awakened international difficulties by his rather summary execution of
two British subjects, Arbuthnot and Ambrister, who were traders to the
Indians and sustained generally pleasant relations with them. For his
conduct, especially in this last instance, he was severely criticized in
Congress, but it is significant of his rising popularity that no formal
vote of censure could pass against him. On the cession of Florida to the
United States he was appointed territorial governor; but he served for a
brief term only. As early as 1822 he was nominated for the presidency
by the legislature of Tennessee, and in 1823 he was sent to the United
States Senate.

Of special importance in the history of the Creeks about this time was
the treaty of Indian Spring, of January 8, 1821, an iniquitous agreement
in the signing of which bribery and firewater were more than usually
present. By this the Creeks ceded to the United States, for the benefit
of Georgia, five million acres of their most valuable land. In cash they
were to receive $200,000, in payments extending over fourteen years. The
United States Government moreover was to hold $250,000 as a fund from
which the citizens of Georgia were to be reimbursed for any "claims"
(for runaway slaves of course) that the citizens of the state had
against the Creeks prior to the year 1802.[1] In the actual execution of
this agreement a slave was frequently estimated at two or three times
his real value, and the Creeks were expected to pay whether the fugitive
was with them or not. All possible claims, however, amounted to
$101,000. This left $149,000 of the money in the hands of the
Government. This sum was not turned over to the Indians, as one might
have expected, but retained until 1834, when the Georgia citizens
interested petitioned for a division. The request was referred to the
Commission on Indian Affairs, and the chairman, Gilmer of Georgia, was
in favor of dividing the money among the petitioners as compensation for
"the offspring which the slaves would have borne had they remained in
bondage." This suggestion was rejected at the time, but afterwards the
division was made nevertheless; and history records few more flagrant
violations of all principles of honor and justice.

[Footnote 1: See J.R. Giddings: _The Exiles of Florida_, 63-66; also
speech in House of Representatives February 9, 1841.]

The First Seminole War, while in some ways disastrous to the Indians,
was in fact not much more than the preliminary skirmish of a conflict
that was not to cease until 1842. In general the Indians, mindful of the
ravages of the War of 1812, did not fully commit themselves and bided
their time. They were in fact so much under cover that they led the
Americans to underestimate their real numbers. When the cession of
Florida was formally completed, however (July 17, 1821), they were found
to be on the very best spots of land in the territory. On May 20, 1822,
Colonel Gad Humphreys was appointed agent to them, William P. Duval as
governor of the territory being ex-officio superintendent of Indian
affairs. Altogether the Indians at this time, according to the official
count, numbered 1,594 men, 1,357 women, and 993 children, a total of
3,944, with 150 Negro men and 650 Negro women and children.[1] In the
interest of these people Humphreys labored faithfully for eight years,
and not a little of the comparative quiet in his period of service is to
be credited to his own sympathy, good sense, and patience.

[Footnote 1: Sprague, 19.]

In the spring of 1823 the Indians were surprised by the suggestion of a
treaty that would definitely limit their boundaries and outline their
future relations with the white man. The representative chiefs had
no desire for a conference, were exceedingly reluctant to meet the
commissioners, and finally came to the meeting prompted only by the hope
that such terms might be arrived at as would permanently guarantee them
in the peaceable possession of their homes. Over the very strong protest
of some of them a treaty was signed at Fort Moultrie, on the coast five
miles below St. Augustine, September 18, 1823, William P. Duval, James
Gadsden, and Bernard Segui being the representatives of the United
States. By this treaty we learn that the Indians, in view of the fact
that they have "thrown themselves on, and have promised to continue
under, the protection of the United States, and of no other nation,
power, or sovereignty; and in consideration of the promises and
stipulations hereinafter made, do cede and relinquish all claim or title
which they have to the whole territory of Florida, with the exception of
such district of country as shall herein be allotted to them." They are
to have restricted boundaries, the extreme point of which is nowhere to
be nearer than fifteen miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The United States
promises to distribute, as soon as the Indians are settled on their new
land, under the direction of their agent, "implements of husbandry, and
stock of cattle and hogs to the amount of six thousand dollars, and an
annual sum of five thousand dollars a year for twenty successive years";
and "to restrain and prevent all white persons from hunting, settling,
or otherwise intruding" upon the land set apart for the Indians, though
any American citizen, lawfully authorized, is to pass and repass
within the said district and navigate the waters thereof "without any
hindrance, toll or exactions from said tribes." For facilitating removal
and as compensation for any losses or inconvenience sustained, the
United States is to furnish rations of corn, meat, and salt for twelve
months, with a special appropriation of $4,500 for those who have made
improvements, and $2,000 more for the facilitating of transportation.
The agent, sub-agent, and interpreter are to reside within the Indian
boundary "to watch over the interests of said tribes"; and the United
States further undertake "as an evidence of their humane policy
towards said tribes" to allow $1,000 a year for twenty years for the
establishment of a school and $1,000 a year for the same period for the
support of a gun- and blacksmith. Of supreme importance is Article 7:
"The chiefs and warriors aforesaid, for themselves and tribes, stipulate
to be active and vigilant in the preventing the retreating to, or
passing through, the district of country assigned them, of any
absconding slaves, or fugitives from justice; and further agree to use
all necessary exertions to apprehend and deliver the same to the agent,
who shall receive orders to compensate them agreeably to the trouble and
expense incurred." We have dwelt at length upon the provisions of this
treaty because it contained all the seeds of future trouble between the
white man and the Indian. Six prominent chiefs--Nea Mathla, John Blunt,
Tuski Hajo, Mulatto King, Emathlochee, and Econchattimico--refused
absolutely to sign, and their marks were not won until each was given
a special reservation of from two to four square miles outside the
Seminole boundaries. Old Nea Mathla in fact never did accept the treaty
in good faith, and when the time came for the execution of the agreement
he summoned his warriors to resistance. Governor Duval broke in upon his
war council, deposed the war leaders, and elevated those who favored
peaceful removal. The Seminoles now retired to their new lands, but Nea
Mathla was driven into practical exile. He retired to the Creeks, by
whom he was raised to the dignity of a chief. It was soon realized by
the Seminoles that they had been restricted to some pine woods by no
means as fertile as their old lands, nor were matters made better by one
or two seasons of drought. To allay their discontent twenty square miles
more, to the north, was given them, but to offset this new cession their
rations were immediately reduced.

3. _From the Treaty of Fort Moultrie to the Treaty of Payne's Landing_

Now succeeded ten years of trespassing, of insult, and of increasing
enmity. Kidnapers constantly lurked near the Indian possessions, and
instances of injury unredressed increased the bitterness and rancor.
Under date May 20, 1825, Humphreys[1] wrote to the Indian Bureau that
the white settlers were already thronging to the vicinity of the Indian
reservation and were likely to become troublesome. As to some recent
disturbances, writing from St. Augustine February 9, 1825, he said:
"From all I can learn here there is little doubt that the disturbances
near Tallahassee, which have of late occasioned so much clamor, were
brought about by a course of unjustifiable conduct on the part of
the whites, similar to that which it appears to be the object of the
territorial legislature to legalize. In fact, it is stated that one
Indian had been so severely whipped by the head of the family which was
destroyed in these disturbances, as to cause his death; if such be the
fact, the subsequent act of the Indians, however lamentable, must be
considered as one of retaliation, and I can not but think it is to
be deplored that they were afterwards 'hunted' with so unrelenting a
revenge." The word _hunted_ was used advisedly by Humphreys, for, as
we shall see later, when war was renewed one of the common means of
fighting employed by the American officers was the use of bloodhounds.
Sometimes guns were taken from the Indians so that they had nothing with
which to pursue the chase. On one occasion, when some Indians were being
marched to headquarters, a woman far advanced in pregnancy was forced
onward with such precipitancy as to produce a premature delivery, which
almost terminated her life. More far-reaching than anything else,
however, was the constant denial of the rights of the Indian in court
in cases involving white men. As Humphreys said, the great disadvantage
under which the Seminoles labored as witnesses "destroyed everything
like equality of rights." Some of the Negroes that they had, had been
born among them, and some others had been purchased from white men
and duly paid for. No receipts were given, however, and efforts were
frequently made to recapture the Negroes by force. The Indian, conscious
of his rights, protested earnestly against such attempts and naturally
determined to resist all efforts to wrest from him his rightfully
acquired property.

[Footnote 1: The correspondence is readily accessible in Sprague,

By 1827, however, the territorial legislature had begun to memorialize
Congress and to ask for the complete removal of the Indians. Meanwhile
the Negro question was becoming more prominent, and orders from the
Department of War, increasingly peremptory, were made on Humphreys for
the return of definite Negroes. For Duval and Humphreys, however, who
had actually to execute the commissions, the task was not always so
easy. Under date March 20, 1827, the former wrote to the latter: "Many
of the slaves belonging to the whites are now in the possession of the
white people; these slaves can not be obtained for their Indian owners
without a lawsuit, and I see no reason why the Indians shall be
compelled to surrender all slaves claimed by our citizens when this
surrender is not mutual." Meanwhile the annuity began to be withheld
from the Indians in order to force them to return Negroes, and a
friendly chief, Hicks, constantly waited upon Humphreys only to find the
agent little more powerful than himself. Thus matters continued through
1829 and 1830. In violation of all legal procedure, the Indians were
constantly _required to relinquish beforehand property in their
possession to settle a question of claim_. On March 21, 1830, Humphreys
was informed that he was no longer agent for the Indians. He had been
honestly devoted to the interest of these people, but his efforts were
not in harmony with the policy of the new administration.

Just what that policy was may be seen from Jackson's special message
on Indian affairs of February 22, 1831. The Senate had asked for
information as to the conduct of the Government in connection with the
act of March 30, 1802, "to regulate trade and intercourse with the
Indian tribes and to preserve peace on the frontiers." The Nullification
controversy was in everybody's mind, and already friction had arisen
between the new President and the abolitionists. In spite of Jackson's
attitude toward South Carolina, his message in the present instance was
a careful defense of the whole theory of state rights. Nothing in the
conduct of the Federal Government toward the Indian tribes, he insisted,
had ever been intended to attack or even to call in question the rights
of a sovereign state. In one way the Southern states had seemed to be an
exception. "As early as 1784 the settlements within the limits of North
Carolina were advanced farther to the west than the authority of the
state to enforce an obedience of its laws." After the Revolution the
tribes desolated the frontiers. "Under these circumstances the first
treaties, in 1785 and 1790, with the Cherokees, were concluded by the
Government of the United States." Nothing of all this, said Jackson, had
in any way affected the relation of any Indians to the state in which
they happened to reside, and he concluded as follows: "Toward this race
of people I entertain the kindest feelings, and am not sensible that the
views which I have taken of their true interests are less favorable to
them than those which oppose their emigration to the West. Years since I
stated to them my belief that if the States chose to extend their laws
over them it would not be in the power of the Federal Government to
prevent it. My opinion remains the same, and I can see no alternative
for them but that of their removal to the West or a quiet submission to
the state laws. If they prefer to remove, the United States agree to
defray their expenses, to supply them the means of transportation and a
year's support after they reach their new homes--a provision too liberal
and kind to bear the stamp of injustice. Either course promises them
peace and happiness, whilst an obstinate perseverance in the effort to
maintain their possessions independent of the state authority can not
fail to render their condition still more helpless and miserable. Such
an effort ought, therefore, to be discountenanced by all who sincerely
sympathize in the fortunes of this peculiar people, and especially by
the political bodies of the Union, as calculated to disturb the harmony
of the two Governments and to endanger the safety of the many blessings
which they enable us to enjoy."

The policy thus formally enunciated was already in practical operation.
In the closing days of the administration of John Quincy Adams a
delegation came to Washington to present to the administration the
grievances of the Cherokee nation. The formal reception of the
delegation fell to the lot of Eaton, the new Secretary of War. The
Cherokees asserted that not only did they have no rights in the Georgia
courts in cases involving white men, but that they had been notified by
Georgia that all laws, usages, and agreements in force in the Indian
country would be null and void after June 1, 1830; and naturally they
wanted the interposition of the Federal Government. Eaton replied at
great length, reminding the Cherokees that they had taken sides with
England in the War of 1812, that they were now on American soil only by
sufferance, and that the central government could not violate the rights
of the state of Georgia; and he strongly advised immediate removal to
the West. The Cherokees, quite broken, acted in accord with this advice;
and so in 1832 did the Creeks, to whom Jackson had sent a special talk
urging removal as the only basis of Federal protection.

To the Seminoles as early as 1827 overtures for removal had been made;
but before the treaty of Fort Moultrie had really become effective they
had been intruded upon and they in turn had become more slow about
returning runaway slaves. From some of the clauses in the treaty of
Fort Moultrie, as some of the chiefs were quick to point out, the

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