The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America - 1638-1870
by W. E. B. Du Bois
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


Volume I Harvard Historical Studies


Longmans, Green, and Co. New York

* * * * *


This monograph was begun during my residence as Rogers Memorial Fellow at Harvard University, and is based mainly upon a study of the sources, i.e., national, State, and colonial statutes, Congressional documents, reports of societies, personal narratives, etc. The collection of laws available for this research was, I think, nearly complete; on the other hand, facts and statistics bearing on the economic side of the study have been difficult to find, and my conclusions are consequently liable to modification from this source.

The question of the suppression of the slave-trade is so intimately connected with the questions as to its rise, the system of American slavery, and the whole colonial policy of the eighteenth century, that it is difficult to isolate it, and at the same time to avoid superficiality on the one hand, and unscientific narrowness of view on the other. While I could not hope entirely to overcome such a difficulty, I nevertheless trust that I have succeeded in rendering this monograph a small contribution to the scientific study of slavery and the American Negro.

I desire to express my obligation to Dr. Albert Bushnell Hart, of Harvard University, at whose suggestion I began this work and by whose kind aid and encouragement I have brought it to a close; also I have to thank the trustees of the John F. Slater Fund, whose appointment made it possible to test the conclusions of this study by the general principles laid down in German universities.



* * * * *



1. Plan of the Monograph 9 2. The Rise of the English Slave-Trade 9


3. Character of these Colonies 15 4. Restrictions in Georgia 15 5. Restrictions in South Carolina 16 6. Restrictions in North Carolina 19 7. Restrictions in Virginia 19 8. Restrictions in Maryland 22 9. General Character of these Restrictions 23


10. Character of these Colonies 24 11. The Dutch Slave-Trade 24 12. Restrictions in New York 25 13. Restrictions in Pennsylvania and Delaware 28 14. Restrictions in New Jersey 32 15. General Character of these Restrictions 33


16. Character of these Colonies 34 17. New England and the Slave-Trade 34 18. Restrictions in New Hampshire 36 19. Restrictions in Massachusetts 37 20. Restrictions in Rhode Island 40 21. Restrictions in Connecticut 43 22. General Character of these Restrictions 44


23. The Situation in 1774 45 24. The Condition of the Slave-Trade 46 25. The Slave-Trade and the "Association" 47 26. The Action of the Colonies 48 27. The Action of the Continental Congress 49 28. Reception of the Slave-Trade Resolution 51 29. Results of the Resolution 52 30. The Slave-Trade and Public Opinion after the War 53 31. The Action of the Confederation 56


32. The First Proposition 58 33. The General Debate 59 34. The Special Committee and the "Bargain" 62 35. The Appeal to the Convention 64 36. Settlement by the Convention 66 37. Reception of the Clause by the Nation 67 38. Attitude of the State Conventions 70 39. Acceptance of the Policy 72


40. Influence of the Haytian Revolution 74 41. Legislation of the Southern States 75 42. Legislation of the Border States 76 43. Legislation of the Eastern States 76 44. First Debate in Congress, 1789 77 45. Second Debate in Congress, 1790 79 46. The Declaration of Powers, 1790 82 47. The Act of 1794 83 48. The Act of 1800 85 49. The Act of 1803 87 50. State of the Slave-Trade from 1789 to 1803 88 51. The South Carolina Repeal of 1803 89 52. The Louisiana Slave-Trade, 1803-1805 91 53. Last Attempts at Taxation, 1805-1806 94 54. Key-Note of the Period 96


55. The Act of 1807 97 56. The First Question: How shall illegally imported Africans be disposed of? 99 57. The Second Question: How shall Violations be punished? 104 58. The Third Question: How shall the Interstate Coastwise Slave-Trade be protected? 106 59. Legislative History of the Bill 107 60. Enforcement of the Act 111 61. Evidence of the Continuance of the Trade 112 62. Apathy of the Federal Government 115 63. Typical Cases 120 64. The Supplementary Acts, 1818-1820 121 65. Enforcement of the Supplementary Acts, 1818-1825 126


66. The Rise of the Movement against the Slave-Trade, 1788-1807 133 67. Concerted Action of the Powers, 1783-1814 134 68. Action of the Powers from 1814 to 1820 136 69. The Struggle for an International Right of Search, 1820-1840 137 70. Negotiations of 1823-1825 140 71. The Attitude of the United States and the State of the Slave-Trade 142 72. The Quintuple Treaty, 1839-1842 145 73. Final Concerted Measures, 1842-1862 148


74. The Economic Revolution 152 75. The Attitude of the South 154 76. The Attitude of the North and Congress 156 77. Imperfect Application of the Laws 159 78. Responsibility of the Government 161 79. Activity of the Slave-Trade, 1820-1850 163


80. The Movement against the Slave-Trade Laws 168 81. Commercial Conventions of 1855-1856 169 82. Commercial Conventions of 1857-1858 170 83. Commercial Convention of 1859 172 84. Public Opinion in the South 173 85. The Question in Congress 174 86. Southern Policy in 1860 176 87. Increase of the Slave-Trade from 1850 to 1860 178 88. Notorious Infractions of the Laws 179 89. Apathy of the Federal Government 182 90. Attitude of the Southern Confederacy 187 91. Attitude of the United States 190


92. How the Question Arose 193 93. The Moral Movement 194 94. The Political Movement 195 95. The Economic Movement 195 96. The Lesson for Americans 196


A. A Chronological Conspectus of Colonial and State Legislation restricting the African Slave-Trade, 1641-1787 199

B. A Chronological Conspectus of State, National, and International Legislation, 1788-1871 234

C. Typical Cases of Vessels engaged in the American Slave-Trade, 1619-1864 306

D. Bibliography 316


* * * * *

Chapter I


1. Plan of the Monograph. 2. The Rise of the English Slave-Trade.

1. Plan of the Monograph. This monograph proposes to set forth the efforts made in the United States of America, from early colonial times until the present, to limit and suppress the trade in slaves between Africa and these shores.

The study begins with the colonial period, setting forth in brief the attitude of England and, more in detail, the attitude of the planting, farming, and trading groups of colonies toward the slave-trade. It deals next with the first concerted effort against the trade and with the further action of the individual States. The important work of the Constitutional Convention follows, together with the history of the trade in that critical period which preceded the Act of 1807. The attempt to suppress the trade from 1807 to 1830 is next recounted. A chapter then deals with the slave-trade as an international problem. Finally the development of the crises up to the Civil War is studied, together with the steps leading to the final suppression; and a concluding chapter seeks to sum up the results of the investigation. Throughout the monograph the institution of slavery and the interstate slave-trade are considered only incidentally.

2. The Rise of the English Slave-Trade. Any attempt to consider the attitude of the English colonies toward the African slave-trade must be prefaced by a word as to the attitude of England herself and the development of the trade in her hands.[1]

Sir John Hawkins's celebrated voyage took place in 1562, but probably not until 1631[2] did a regular chartered company undertake to carry on the trade.[3] This company was unsuccessful,[4] and was eventually succeeded by the "Company of Royal Adventurers trading to Africa," chartered by Charles II. in 1662, and including the Queen Dowager and the Duke of York.[5] The company contracted to supply the West Indies with three thousand slaves annually; but contraband trade, misconduct, and war so reduced it that in 1672 it surrendered its charter to another company for L34,000.[6] This new corporation, chartered by Charles II. as the "Royal African Company," proved more successful than its predecessors, and carried on a growing trade for a quarter of a century.

In 1698 Parliamentary interference with the trade began. By the Statute 9 and 10 William and Mary, chapter 26, private traders, on payment of a duty of 10% on English goods exported to Africa, were allowed to participate in the trade. This was brought about by the clamor of the merchants, especially the "American Merchants," who "in their Petition suggest, that it would be a great Benefit to the Kingdom to secure the Trade by maintaining Forts and Castles there, with an equal Duty upon all Goods exported."[7] This plan, being a compromise between maintaining the monopoly intact and entirely abolishing it, was adopted, and the statute declared the trade "highly Beneficial and Advantageous to this Kingdom, and to the Plantations and Colonies thereunto belonging."

Having thus gained practically free admittance to the field, English merchants sought to exclude other nations by securing a monopoly of the lucrative Spanish colonial slave-trade. Their object was finally accomplished by the signing of the Assiento in 1713.[8]

The Assiento was a treaty between England and Spain by which the latter granted the former a monopoly of the Spanish colonial slave-trade for thirty years, and England engaged to supply the colonies within that time with at least 144,000 slaves, at the rate of 4,800 per year. England was also to advance Spain 200,000 crowns, and to pay a duty of 331/2 crowns for each slave imported. The kings of Spain and England were each to receive one-fourth of the profits of the trade, and the Royal African Company were authorized to import as many slaves as they wished above the specified number in the first twenty-five years, and to sell them, except in three ports, at any price they could get.

It is stated that, in the twenty years from 1713 to 1733, fifteen thousand slaves were annually imported into America by the English, of whom from one-third to one-half went to the Spanish colonies.[9] To the company itself the venture proved a financial failure; for during the years 1729-1750 Parliament assisted the Royal Company by annual grants which amounted to L90,000,[10] and by 1739 Spain was a creditor to the extent of L68,000, and threatened to suspend the treaty. The war interrupted the carrying out of the contract, but the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle extended the limit by four years. Finally, October 5, 1750, this privilege was waived for a money consideration paid to England; the Assiento was ended, and the Royal Company was bankrupt.

By the Statute 23 George II., chapter 31, the old company was dissolved and a new "Company of Merchants trading to Africa" erected in its stead.[11] Any merchant so desiring was allowed to engage in the trade on payment of certain small duties, and such merchants formed a company headed by nine directors. This marked the total abolition of monopoly in the slave-trade, and was the form under which the trade was carried on until after the American Revolution.

That the slave-trade was the very life of the colonies had, by 1700, become an almost unquestioned axiom in British practical economics. The colonists themselves declared slaves "the strength and sinews of this western world,"[12] and the lack of them "the grand obstruction"[13] here, as the settlements "cannot subsist without supplies of them."[14] Thus, with merchants clamoring at home and planters abroad, it easily became the settled policy of England to encourage the slave-trade. Then, too, she readily argued that what was an economic necessity in Jamaica and the Barbadoes could scarcely be disadvantageous to Carolina, Virginia, or even New York. Consequently, the colonial governors were generally instructed to "give all due encouragement and invitation to merchants and others, ... and in particular to the royal African company of England."[15] Duties laid on the importer, and all acts in any way restricting the trade, were frowned upon and very often disallowed. "Whereas," ran Governor Dobbs's instructions, "Acts have been passed in some of our Plantations in America for laying duties on the importation and exportation of Negroes to the great discouragement of the Merchants trading thither from the coast of Africa.... It is our Will and Pleasure that you do not give your assent to or pass any Law imposing duties upon Negroes imported into our Province of North Carolina."[16]

The exact proportions of the slave-trade to America can be but approximately determined. From 1680 to 1688 the African Company sent 249 ships to Africa, shipped there 60,783 Negro slaves, and after losing 14,387 on the middle passage, delivered 46,396 in America. The trade increased early in the eighteenth century, 104 ships clearing for Africa in 1701; it then dwindled until the signing of the Assiento, standing at 74 clearances in 1724. The final dissolution of the monopoly in 1750 led—excepting in the years 1754-57, when the closing of Spanish marts sensibly affected the trade—to an extraordinary development, 192 clearances being made in 1771. The Revolutionary War nearly stopped the traffic; but by 1786 the clearances had risen again to 146.

To these figures must be added the unregistered trade of Americans and foreigners. It is probable that about 25,000 slaves were brought to America each year between 1698 and 1707. The importation then dwindled, but rose after the Assiento to perhaps 30,000. The proportion, too, of these slaves carried to the continent now began to increase. Of about 20,000 whom the English annually imported from 1733 to 1766, South Carolina alone received some 3,000. Before the Revolution, the total exportation to America is variously estimated as between 40,000 and 100,000 each year. Bancroft places the total slave population of the continental colonies at 59,000 in 1714, 78,000 in 1727, and 293,000 in 1754. The census of 1790 showed 697,897 slaves in the United States.[17]

In colonies like those in the West Indies and in South Carolina and Georgia, the rapid importation into America of a multitude of savages gave rise to a system of slavery far different from that which the late Civil War abolished. The strikingly harsh and even inhuman slave codes in these colonies show this. Crucifixion, burning, and starvation were legal modes of punishment.[18] The rough and brutal character of the time and place was partly responsible for this, but a more decisive reason lay in the fierce and turbulent character of the imported Negroes. The docility to which long years of bondage and strict discipline gave rise was absent, and insurrections and acts of violence were of frequent occurrence.[19] Again and again the danger of planters being "cut off by their own negroes"[20] is mentioned, both in the islands and on the continent. This condition of vague dread and unrest not only increased the severity of laws and strengthened the police system, but was the prime motive back of all the earlier efforts to check the further importation of slaves.

On the other hand, in New England and New York the Negroes were merely house servants or farm hands, and were treated neither better nor worse than servants in general in those days. Between these two extremes, the system of slavery varied from a mild serfdom in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to an aristocratic caste system in Maryland and Virginia.


[1] This account is based largely on the Report of the Lords of the Committee of Council, etc. (London, 1789).

[2] African trading-companies had previously been erected (e.g. by Elizabeth in 1585 and 1588, and by James I. in 1618); but slaves are not specifically mentioned in their charters, and they probably did not trade in slaves. Cf. Bandinel, Account of the Slave Trade (1842), pp. 38-44.

[3] Chartered by Charles I. Cf. Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1574-1660, p. 135.

[4] In 1651, during the Protectorate, the privileges of the African trade were granted anew to this same company for fourteen years. Cf. Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1574-1660, pp. 342, 355.

[5] Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1661-1668, Sec. 408.

[6] Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1669-1674, Sec.Sec. 934, 1095.

[7] Quoted in the above Report, under "Most Material Proceedings in the House of Commons," Vol. I. Part I. An import duty of 10% on all goods, except Negroes, imported from Africa to England and the colonies was also laid. The proceeds of these duties went to the Royal African Company.

[8] Cf. Appendix A.

[9] Bandinel, Account of the Slave Trade, p. 59. Cf. Bryan Edwards, History of the British Colonies in the W. Indies (London, 1798), Book VI.

[10] From 1729 to 1788, including compensation to the old company, Parliament expended L705,255 on African companies. Cf. Report, etc., as above.

[11] Various amendatory statutes were passed: e.g., 24 George II. ch. 49, 25 George II. ch. 40, 4 George III. ch. 20, 5 George III. ch. 44, 23 George III. ch. 65.

[12] Renatus Enys from Surinam, in 1663: Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1661-68, Sec. 577.

[13] Thomas Lynch from Jamaica, in 1665: Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1661-68, Sec. 934.

[14] Lieutenant-Governor Willoughby of Barbadoes, in 1666: Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1661-68, Sec. 1281.

[15] Smith, History of New Jersey (1765), p. 254; Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1669-74., Sec.Sec. 367, 398, 812.

[16] N.C. Col. Rec., V. 1118. For similar instructions, cf. Penn. Archives, I. 306; Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, VI. 34; Gordon, History of the American Revolution, I. letter 2; Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 4th Ser. X. 642.

[17] These figures are from the above-mentioned Report, Vol. II. Part IV. Nos. 1, 5. See also Bancroft, History of the United States (1883), II. 274 ff; Bandinel, Account of the Slave Trade, p. 63; Benezet, Caution to Great Britain, etc., pp. 39-40, and Historical Account of Guinea, ch. xiii.

[18] Compare earlier slave codes in South Carolina, Georgia, Jamaica, etc.; also cf. Benezet, Historical Account of Guinea, p. 75; Report, etc., as above.

[19] Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1574-1660, pp. 229, 271, 295; 1661-68, Sec.Sec. 61, 412, 826, 1270, 1274, 1788; 1669-74., Sec.Sec. 508, 1244; Bolzius and Von Reck, Journals (in Force, Tracts, Vol. IV. No. 5, pp. 9, 18); Proceedings of Governor and Assembly of Jamaica in regard to the Maroon Negroes (London, 1796).

[20] Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1661-68, Sec. 1679.

* * * * *

Chapter II


3. Character of these Colonies. 4. Restrictions in Georgia. 5. Restrictions in South Carolina. 6. Restrictions in North Carolina. 7. Restrictions in Virginia. 8. Restrictions in Maryland. 9. General Character of these Restrictions.

3. Character of these Colonies. The planting colonies are those Southern settlements whose climate and character destined them to be the chief theatre of North American slavery. The early attitude of these communities toward the slave-trade is therefore of peculiar interest; for their action was of necessity largely decisive for the future of the trade and for the institution in North America. Theirs was the only soil, climate, and society suited to slavery; in the other colonies, with few exceptions, the institution was by these same factors doomed from the beginning. Hence, only strong moral and political motives could in the planting colonies overthrow or check a traffic so favored by the mother country.

4. Restrictions in Georgia. In Georgia we have an example of a community whose philanthropic founders sought to impose upon it a code of morals higher than the colonists wished. The settlers of Georgia were of even worse moral fibre than their slave-trading and whiskey-using neighbors in Carolina and Virginia; yet Oglethorpe and the London proprietors prohibited from the beginning both the rum and the slave traffic, refusing to "suffer slavery (which is against the Gospel as well as the fundamental law of England) to be authorised under our authority."[1] The trustees sought to win the colonists over to their belief by telling them that money could be better expended in transporting white men than Negroes; that slaves would be a source of weakness to the colony; and that the "Produces designed to be raised in the Colony would not require such Labour as to make Negroes necessary for carrying them on."[2]

This policy greatly displeased the colonists, who from 1735, the date of the first law, to 1749, did not cease to clamor for the repeal of the restrictions.[3] As their English agent said, they insisted that "In Spight of all Endeavours to disguise this Point, it is as clear as Light itself, that Negroes are as essentially necessary to the Cultivation of Georgia, as Axes, Hoes, or any other Utensil of Agriculture."[4] Meantime, evasions and infractions of the laws became frequent and notorious. Negroes were brought across from Carolina and "hired" for life.[5] "Finally, purchases were openly made in Savannah from African traders: some seizures were made by those who opposed the principle, but as a majority of the magistrates were favorable to the introduction of slaves into the province, legal decisions were suspended from time to time, and a strong disposition evidenced by the courts to evade the operation of the law."[6] At last, in 1749, the colonists prevailed on the trustees and the government, and the trade was thrown open under careful restrictions, which limited importation, required a registry and quarantine on all slaves brought in, and laid a duty.[7] It is probable, however, that these restrictions were never enforced, and that the trade thus established continued unchecked until the Revolution.

5. Restrictions in South Carolina.[8] South Carolina had the largest and most widely developed slave-trade of any of the continental colonies. This was owing to the character of her settlers, her nearness to the West Indian slave marts, and the early development of certain staple crops, such as rice, which were adapted to slave labor.[9] Moreover, this colony suffered much less interference from the home government than many other colonies; thus it is possible here to trace the untrammeled development of slave-trade restrictions in a typical planting community.

As early as 1698 the slave-trade to South Carolina had reached such proportions that it was thought that "the great number of negroes which of late have been imported into this Collony may endanger the safety thereof." The immigration of white servants was therefore encouraged by a special law.[10] Increase of immigration reduced this disproportion, but Negroes continued to be imported in such numbers as to afford considerable revenue from a moderate duty on them. About the time when the Assiento was signed, the slave-trade so increased that, scarcely a year after the consummation of that momentous agreement, two heavy duty acts were passed, because "the number of Negroes do extremely increase in this Province, and through the afflicting providence of God, the white persons do not proportionately multiply, by reason whereof, the safety of the said Province is greatly endangered."[11] The trade, however, by reason of the encouragement abroad and of increased business activity in exporting naval stores at home, suffered scarcely any check, although repeated acts, reciting the danger incident to a "great importation of Negroes," were passed, laying high duties.[12] Finally, in 1717, an additional duty of L40,[13] although due in depreciated currency, succeeded so nearly in stopping the trade that, two years later, all existing duties were repealed and one of L10 substituted.[14] This continued during the time of resistance to the proprietary government, but by 1734 the importation had again reached large proportions. "We must therefore beg leave," the colonists write in that year, "to inform your Majesty, that, amidst our other perilous circumstances, we are subject to many intestine dangers from the great number of negroes that are now among us, who amount at least to twenty-two thousand persons, and are three to one of all your Majesty's white subjects in this province. Insurrections against us have been often attempted."[15] In 1740 an insurrection under a slave, Cato, at Stono, caused such widespread alarm that a prohibitory duty of L100 was immediately laid.[16] Importation was again checked; but in 1751 the colony sought to devise a plan whereby the slightly restricted immigration of Negroes should provide a fund to encourage the importation of white servants, "to prevent the mischiefs that may be attended by the great importation of negroes into this Province."[17] Many white servants were thus encouraged to settle in the colony; but so much larger was the influx of black slaves that the colony, in 1760, totally prohibited the slave-trade. This act was promptly disallowed by the Privy Council and the governor reprimanded;[18] but the colony declared that "an importation of negroes, equal in number to what have been imported of late years, may prove of the most dangerous consequence in many respects to this Province, and the best way to obviate such danger will be by imposing such an additional duty upon them as may totally prevent the evils."[19] A prohibitive duty of L100 was accordingly imposed in 1764.[20] This duty probably continued until the Revolution.

The war made a great change in the situation. It has been computed by good judges that, between the years 1775 and 1783, the State of South Carolina lost twenty-five thousand Negroes, by actual hostilities, plunder of the British, runaways, etc. After the war the trade quickly revived, and considerable revenue was raised from duty acts until 1787, when by act and ordinance the slave-trade was totally prohibited.[21] This prohibition, by renewals from time to time, lasted until 1803.

6. Restrictions in North Carolina. In early times there were few slaves in North Carolina;[22] this fact, together with the troubled and turbulent state of affairs during the early colonial period, did not necessitate the adoption of any settled policy toward slavery or the slave-trade. Later the slave-trade to the colony increased; but there is no evidence of any effort to restrict or in any way regulate it before 1786, when it was declared that "the importation of slaves into this State is productive of evil consequences and highly impolitic,"[23] and a prohibitive duty was laid on them.

7. Restrictions in Virginia.[24] Next to South Carolina, Virginia had probably the largest slave-trade. Her situation, however, differed considerably from that of her Southern neighbor. The climate, the staple tobacco crop, and the society of Virginia were favorable to a system of domestic slavery, but one which tended to develop into a patriarchal serfdom rather than into a slave-consuming industrial hierarchy. The labor required by the tobacco crop was less unhealthy than that connected with the rice crop, and the Virginians were, perhaps, on a somewhat higher moral plane than the Carolinians. There was consequently no such insatiable demand for slaves in the larger colony. On the other hand, the power of the Virginia executive was peculiarly strong, and it was not possible here to thwart the slave-trade policy of the home government as easily as elsewhere.

Considering all these circumstances, it is somewhat difficult to determine just what was the attitude of the early Virginians toward the slave-trade. There is evidence, however, to show that although they desired the slave-trade, the rate at which the Negroes were brought in soon alarmed them. In 1710 a duty of L5 was laid on Negroes, but Governor Spotswood "soon perceived that the laying so high a Duty on Negros was intended to discourage the importation," and vetoed the measure.[25] No further restrictive legislation was attempted for some years, but whether on account of the attitude of the governor or the desire of the inhabitants, is not clear. With 1723 begins a series of acts extending down to the Revolution, which, so far as their contents can be ascertained, seem to have been designed effectually to check the slave-trade. Some of these acts, like those of 1723 and 1727, were almost immediately disallowed.[26] The Act of 1732 laid a duty of 5%, which was continued until 1769,[27] and all other duties were in addition to this; so that by such cumulative duties the rate on slaves reached 25% in 1755,[28] and 35% at the time of Braddock's expedition.[29] These acts were found "very burthensome," "introductive of many frauds," and "very inconvenient,"[30] and were so far repealed that by 1761 the duty was only 15%. As now the Burgesses became more powerful, two or more bills proposing restrictive duties were passed, but disallowed.[31] By 1772 the anti-slave-trade feeling had become considerably developed, and the Burgesses petitioned the king, declaring that "The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of great inhumanity, and under its present encouragement, we have too much reason to fear will endanger the very existence of your Majesty's American dominions.... Deeply impressed with these sentiments, we most humbly beseech your Majesty to remove all those restraints on your Majesty's governors of this colony, which inhibit their assenting to such laws as might check so very pernicious a commerce."[32]

Nothing further appears to have been done before the war. When, in 1776, the delegates adopted a Frame of Government, it was charged in this document that the king had perverted his high office into a "detestable and insupportable tyranny, by ... prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us, those very negroes whom, by an inhuman use of his negative, he hath refused us permission to exclude by law."[33] Two years later, in 1778, an "Act to prevent the further importation of Slaves" stopped definitively the legal slave-trade to Virginia.[34]

8. Restrictions in Maryland.[35] Not until the impulse of the Assiento had been felt in America, did Maryland make any attempt to restrain a trade from which she had long enjoyed a comfortable revenue. The Act of 1717, laying a duty of 40s.,[36] may have been a mild restrictive measure. The duties were slowly increased to 50s. in 1754,[37] and L4. in 1763.[38] In 1771 a prohibitive duty of L9 was laid;[39] and in 1783, after the war, all importation by sea was stopped and illegally imported Negroes were freed.[40]

Compared with the trade to Virginia and the Carolinas, the slave-trade to Maryland was small, and seems at no time to have reached proportions which alarmed the inhabitants. It was regulated to the economic demand by a slowly increasing tariff, and finally, after 1769, had nearly ceased of its own accord before the restrictive legislation of Revolutionary times.[41] Probably the proximity of Maryland to Virginia made an independent slave-trade less necessary to her.

9. General Character of these Restrictions. We find in the planting colonies all degrees of advocacy of the trade, from the passiveness of Maryland to the clamor of Georgia. Opposition to the trade did not appear in Georgia, was based almost solely on political fear of insurrection in Carolina, and sprang largely from the same motive in Virginia, mingled with some moral repugnance. As a whole, it may be said that whatever opposition to the slave-trade there was in the planting colonies was based principally on the political fear of insurrection.


[1] Hoare, Memoirs of Granville Sharp (1820), p. 157. For the act of prohibition, see W.B. Stevens, History of Georgia (1847), I. 311.

[2] [B. Martyn, Account of the Progress of Georgia (1741), pp. 9-10.]

[3] Cf. Stevens, History of Georgia, I. 290 ff.

[4] Stephens, Account of the Causes, etc., p. 8. Cf. also Journal of Trustees, II. 210; cited by Stevens, History of Georgia, I. 306.

[5] McCall, History of Georgia (1811), I. 206-7.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Pub. Rec. Office, Board of Trade, Vol. X.; cited by C.C. Jones, History of Georgia (1883), I. 422-5.

[8] The following is a summary of the legislation of the colony of South Carolina; details will be found in Appendix A:—

1698, Act to encourage the immigration of white servants. 1703, Duty Act: 10s. on Africans, 20s. on other Negroes. 1714, " " additional duty. 1714, " " L2. 1714-15, Duty Act: additional duty. 1716, " " L3 on Africans, L30 on colonial Negroes. 1717, " " L40 in addition to existing duties. 1719, " " L10 on Africans, L30 on colonial Negroes. The Act of 1717, etc., was repealed. 1721, " " L10 on Africans, L50 on colonial Negroes. 1722, " " " " " " " 1740, " " L100 on Africans, L150 on colonial Negroes. 1751, " " L10 " " L50 " " 1760, Act prohibiting importation (Disallowed). 1764, Duty Act: additional duty of L100. 1783, " " L3 on Africans, L20 on colonial Negroes. 1784, " " " " L5 " " 1787, Art and Ordinance prohibiting importation.

[9] Cf. Hewatt, Historical Account of S. Carolina and Georgia (1779), I. 120 ff.; reprinted in S.C. Hist. Coll. (1836), I. 108 ff.

[10] Cooper, Statutes at Large of S. Carolina, II. 153.

[11] The text of the first act is not extant: cf. Cooper, Statutes, III. 56. For the second, see Cooper, VII. 365, 367.

[12] Cf. Grimke, Public Laws of S. Carolina, p. xvi, No. 362; Cooper, Statutes, II. 649. Cf. also Governor Johnson to the Board of Trade, Jan. 12, 1719-20; reprinted in Rivers, Early History of S. Carolina (1874), App., xii.

[13] Cooper, Statutes, VII. 368.

[14] Ibid., III. 56.

[15] From a memorial signed by the governor, President of the Council, and Speaker of the House, dated April 9, 1734, printed in Hewatt, Historical Account of S. Carolina and Georgia (1779), II. 39; reprinted in S.C. Hist. Coll. (1836), I. 305-6. Cf. N.C. Col. Rec., II. 421.

[16] Cooper, Statutes, III. 556; Grimke, Public Laws, p. xxxi, No. 694. Cf. Ramsay, History of S. Carolina, I. 110.

[17] Cooper, Statutes, III. 739.

[18] The text of this law has not been found. Cf. Burge, Commentaries on Colonial and Foreign Laws, I. 737, note; Stevens, History of Georgia, I. 286. See instructions of the governor of New Hampshire, June 30, 1761, in Gordon, History of the American Revolution, I. letter 2.

[19] Cooper, Statutes, IV. 187.

[20] This duty avoided the letter of the English instructions by making the duty payable by the first purchasers, and not by the importers. Cf. Cooper, Statutes, IV. 187.

[21] Grimke, Public Laws, p. lxviii, Nos. 1485, 1486; Cooper, Statutes, VII. 430.

[22] Cf. N.C. Col. Rec., IV. 172.

[23] Martin, Iredell's Acts of Assembly, I. 413, 492.

[24] The following is a summary of the legislation of the colony of Virginia; details will be found in Appendix A:—

1710, Duty Act: proposed duty of L5. 1723, " " prohibitive (?). 1727, " " " 1732, " " 5%. 1736, " " " 1740, " " additional duty of 5%. 1754, " " " " 5%. 1755, " " " " 10% (Repealed, 1760). 1757, " " " " 10% (Repealed, 1761). 1759, " " 20% on colonial slaves. 1766, " " additional duty of 10% (Disallowed?). 1769, " " " " " " 1772, " " L5 on colonial slaves. Petition of Burgesses vs. Slave-trade. 1776, Arraignment of the king in the adopted Frame of Government. 1778, Importation prohibited.

[25] Letters of Governor Spotswood, in Va. Hist. Soc. Coll., New Ser., I. 52.

[26] Hening, Statutes at Large of Virginia, IV. 118, 182.

[27] Ibid., IV. 317, 394; V. 28, 160, 318; VI. 217, 353; VII. 281; VIII. 190, 336, 532.

[28] Ibid., V. 92; VI. 417, 419, 461, 466.

[29] Ibid., VII. 69, 81.

[30] Ibid., VII. 363, 383.

[31] Ibid., VIII. 237, 337.

[32] Miscellaneous Papers, 1672-1865, in Va. Hist. Soc. Coll., New Ser., VI. 14; Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries, I. Part II. App., 51.

[33] Hening, Statutes, IX. 112.

[34] Importation by sea or by land was prohibited, with a penalty of L1000 for illegal importation and L500 for buying or selling. The Negro was freed, if illegally brought in. This law was revised somewhat in 1785. Cf. Hening, Statutes, IX. 471; XII. 182.

[35] The following is a summary of the legislation of the colony of Maryland; details will be found in Appendix A:—

1695, Duty Act: 10s. 1704, " " 20s. 1715, " " " 1717, " " additional duty of 40s. (?). 1754, " " " " 10s., total 50s. 1756, " " " " 20s. " 40s. (?). 1763, " " " " L2 " L4. 1771, " " " " L5 " L9. 1783, Importation prohibited.

[36] Compleat Coll. Laws of Maryland (ed. 1727), p. 191; Bacon, Laws of Maryland at Large, 1728, ch. 8.

[37] Bacon, Laws, 1754, ch. 9, 14.

[38] Ibid., 1763, ch. 28.

[39] Laws of Maryland since 1763: 1771, ch. 7. Cf. Ibid.: 1777, sess. Feb.-Apr., ch. 18.

[40] Ibid.: 1783, sess. Apr.-June, ch. 23.

[41] "The last importation of slaves into Maryland was, as I am credibly informed, in the year 1769": William Eddis, Letters from America (London, 1792), p. 65, note.

The number of slaves in Maryland has been estimated as follows:—

In 1704, 4,475. Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, V. 605. " 1710, 7,935. Ibid. " 1712, 8,330. Scharf, History of Maryland, I. 377. " 1719, 25,000. Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, V. 605. " 1748, 36,000. McMahon, History of Maryland, I. 313. " 1755, 46,356. Gentleman's Magazine, XXXIV. 261. " 1756, 46,225. McMahon, History of Maryland, I. 313. " 1761, 49,675. Dexter, Colonial Population, p. 21, note. " 1782, 83,362. Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th ed.), XV. 603. " 1787, 80,000. Dexter, Colonial Population, p. 21, note.

* * * * *

Chapter III


10. Character of these Colonies. 11. The Dutch Slave-Trade. 12. Restrictions in New York. 13. Restrictions in Pennsylvania and Delaware. 14. Restrictions in New Jersey. 15. General Character of these Restrictions.

10. Character of these Colonies. The colonies of this group, occupying the central portion of the English possessions, comprise those communities where, on account of climate, physical characteristics, and circumstances of settlement, slavery as an institution found but a narrow field for development. The climate was generally rather cool for the newly imported slaves, the soil was best suited to crops to which slave labor was poorly adapted, and the training and habits of the great body of settlers offered little chance for the growth of a slave system. These conditions varied, of course, in different colonies; but the general statement applies to all. These communities of small farmers and traders derived whatever opposition they had to the slave-trade from three sorts of motives,—economic, political, and moral. First, the importation of slaves did not pay, except to supply a moderate demand for household servants. Secondly, these colonies, as well as those in the South, had a wholesome political fear of a large servile population. Thirdly, the settlers of many of these colonies were of sterner moral fibre than the Southern cavaliers and adventurers, and, in the absence of great counteracting motives, were more easily led to oppose the institution and the trade. Finally, it must be noted that these colonies did not so generally regard themselves as temporary commercial investments as did Virginia and Carolina. Intending to found permanent States, these settlers from the first more carefully studied the ultimate interests of those States.

11. The Dutch Slave-Trade. The Dutch seem to have commenced the slave-trade to the American continent, the Middle colonies and some of the Southern receiving supplies from them. John Rolfe relates that the last of August, 1619, there came to Virginia "a dutch man of warre that sold us twenty Negars."[1] This was probably one of the ships of the numerous private Dutch trading-companies which early entered into and developed the lucrative African slave-trade. Ships sailed from Holland to Africa, got slaves in exchange for their goods, carried the slaves to the West Indies or Brazil, and returned home laden with sugar.[2] Through the enterprise of one of these trading-companies the settlement of New Amsterdam was begun, in 1614. In 1621 the private companies trading in the West were all merged into the Dutch West India Company, and given a monopoly of American trade. This company was very active, sending in four years 15,430 Negroes to Brazil,[3] carrying on war with Spain, supplying even the English plantations,[4] and gradually becoming the great slave carrier of the day.

The commercial supremacy of the Dutch early excited the envy and emulation of the English. The Navigation Ordinance of 1651 was aimed at them, and two wars were necessary to wrest the slave-trade from them and place it in the hands of the English. The final terms of peace among other things surrendered New Netherland to England, and opened the way for England to become henceforth the world's greatest slave-trader. Although the Dutch had thus commenced the continental slave-trade, they had not actually furnished a very large number of slaves to the English colonies outside the West Indies. A small trade had, by 1698, brought a few thousand to New York, and still fewer to New Jersey.[5] It was left to the English, with their strong policy in its favor, to develop this trade.

12. Restrictions in New York.[6] The early ordinances of the Dutch, laying duties, generally of ten per cent, on slaves, probably proved burdensome to the trade, although this was not intentional.[7] The Biblical prohibition of slavery and the slave-trade, copied from New England codes into the Duke of York's Laws, had no practical application,[8] and the trade continued to be encouraged in the governors' instructions. In 1709 a duty of L3 was laid on Negroes from elsewhere than Africa.[9] This was aimed at West India slaves, and was prohibitive. By 1716 the duty on all slaves was L1 121/2s., which was probably a mere revenue figure.[10] In 1728 a duty of 40s. was laid, to be continued until 1737.[11] It proved restrictive, however, and on the "humble petition of the Merchants and Traders of the City of Bristol" was disallowed in 1735, as "greatly prejudicial to the Trade and Navigation of this Kingdom."[12] Governor Cosby was also reminded that no duties on slaves payable by the importer were to be laid. Later, in 1753, the 40s. duty was restored, but under the increased trade of those days was not felt.[13] No further restrictions seem to have been attempted until 1785, when the sale of slaves in the State was forbidden.[14]

The chief element of restriction in this colony appears to have been the shrewd business sense of the traders, who never flooded the slave market, but kept a supply sufficient for the slowly growing demand. Between 1701 and 1726 only about 2,375 slaves were imported, and in 1774 the total slave population amounted to 21,149.[15] No restriction was ever put by New York on participation in the trade outside the colony, and in spite of national laws New York merchants continued to be engaged in this traffic even down to the Civil War.[16]

Vermont, who withdrew from New York in 1777, in her first Constitution[17] declared slavery illegal, and in 1786 stopped by law the sale and transportation of slaves within her boundaries.[18]

13. Restrictions in Pennsylvania and Delaware.[19] One of the first American protests against the slave-trade came from certain German Friends, in 1688, at a Weekly Meeting held in Germantown, Pennsylvania. "These are the reasons," wrote "Garret henderich, derick up de graeff, Francis daniell Pastorius, and Abraham up Den graef," "why we are against the traffick of men-body, as followeth: Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner?... Now, tho they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or colour they are. And those who steal or robb men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike?"[20] This little leaven helped slowly to work a revolution in the attitude of this great sect toward slavery and the slave-trade. The Yearly Meeting at first postponed the matter, "It having so General a Relation to many other Parts."[21] Eventually, however, in 1696, the Yearly Meeting advised "That Friends be careful not to encourage the bringing in of any more Negroes."[22] This advice was repeated in stronger terms for a quarter-century,[23] and by that time Sandiford, Benezet, Lay, and Woolman had begun their crusade. In 1754 the Friends took a step farther and made the purchase of slaves a matter of discipline.[24] Four years later the Yearly Meeting expressed itself clearly as "against every branch of this practice," and declared that if "any professing with us should persist to vindicate it, and be concerned in importing, selling or purchasing slaves, the respective Monthly Meetings to which they belong should manifest their disunion with such persons."[25] Further, manumission was recommended, and in 1776 made compulsory.[26] The effect of this attitude of the Friends was early manifested in the legislation of all the colonies where the sect was influential, and particularly in Pennsylvania.

One of the first duty acts (1710) laid a restrictive duty of 40s. on slaves, and was eventually disallowed.[27] In 1712 William Southeby petitioned the Assembly totally to abolish slavery. This the Assembly naturally refused to attempt; but the same year, in response to another petition "signed by many hands," they passed an "Act to prevent the Importation of Negroes and Indians,"[28]—the first enactment of its kind in America. This act was inspired largely by the general fear of insurrection which succeeded the "Negro-plot" of 1712 in New York. It declared: "Whereas, divers Plots and Insurrections have frequently happened, not only in the Islands but on the Main Land of America, by Negroes, which have been carried on so far that several of the inhabitants have been barbarously Murthered, an Instance whereof we have lately had in our Neighboring Colony of New York,"[29] etc. It then proceeded to lay a prohibitive duty of L20 on all slaves imported. These acts were quickly disposed of in England. Three duty acts affecting Negroes, including the prohibitory act, were in 1713 disallowed, and it was directed that "the Dep^{ty} Gov^{r} Council and Assembly of Pensilvania, be & they are hereby Strictly Enjoyned & required not to permit the said Laws ... to be from henceforward put in Execution."[30] The Assembly repealed these laws, but in 1715 passed another laying a duty of L5, which was also eventually disallowed.[31] Other acts, the provisions of which are not clear, were passed in 1720 and 1722,[32] and in 1725-1726 the duty on Negroes was raised to the restrictive figure of L10.[33] This duty, for some reason not apparent, was lowered to L2 in 1729,[34] but restored again in 1761.[35] A struggle occurred over this last measure, the Friends petitioning for it, and the Philadelphia merchants against it, declaring that "We, the subscribers, ever desirous to extend the Trade of this Province, have seen, for some time past, the many inconveniencys the Inhabitants have suffer'd for want of Labourers and artificers, ... have for some time encouraged the importation of Negroes;" they prayed therefore at least for a delay in passing the measure.[36] The law, nevertheless, after much debate and altercation with the governor, finally passed.

These repeated acts nearly stopped the trade, and the manumission or sale of Negroes by the Friends decreased the number of slaves in the province. The rising spirit of independence enabled the colony, in 1773, to restore the prohibitive duty of L20 and make it perpetual.[37] After the Revolution unpaid duties on slaves were collected and the slaves registered,[38] and in 1780 an "Act for the gradual Abolition of Slavery" was passed.[39] As there were probably at no time before the war more than 11,000 slaves in Pennsylvania,[40] the task thus accomplished was not so formidable as in many other States. As it was, participation in the slave-trade outside the colony was not prohibited until 1788.[41]

It seems probable that in the original Swedish settlements along the Delaware slavery was prohibited.[42] This measure had, however, little practical effect; for as soon as the Dutch got control the slave-trade was opened, although, as it appears, to no large extent. After the fall of the Dutch Delaware came into English hands. Not until 1775 do we find any legislation on the slave-trade. In that year the colony attempted to prohibit the importation of slaves, but the governor vetoed the bill.[43] Finally, in 1776 by the Constitution, and in 1787 by law, importation and exportation were both prohibited.[44]

14. Restrictions in New Jersey.[45] Although the freeholders of West New Jersey declared, in 1676, that "all and every Person and Persons Inhabiting the said Province, shall, as far as in us lies, be free from Oppression and Slavery,"[46] yet Negro slaves are early found in the colony.[47] The first restrictive measure was passed, after considerable friction between the Council and the House, in 1713; it laid a duty of L10, currency.[48] Governor Hunter explained to the Board of Trade that the bill was "calculated to Encourage the Importation of white Servants for the better Peopeling that Country."[49] How long this act continued does not appear; probably, not long. No further legislation was enacted until 1762 or 1763, when a prohibitive duty was laid on account of "the inconvenience the Province is exposed to in lying open to the free importation of Negros, when the Provinces on each side have laid duties on them."[50] The Board of Trade declared that while they did not object to "the Policy of imposing a reasonable duty," they could not assent to this, and the act was disallowed.[51] The Act of 1769 evaded the technical objection of the Board of Trade, and laid a duty of L15 on the first purchasers of Negroes, because, as the act declared, "Duties on the Importation of Negroes in several of the neighbouring Colonies hath, on Experience, been found beneficial in the Introduction of sober, industrious Foreigners."[52] In 1774 a bill which, according to the report of the Council to Governor Morris, "plainly intended an entire Prohibition of all Slaves being imported from foreign Parts," was thrown out by the Council.[53] Importation was finally prohibited in 1786.[54]

15. General Character of these Restrictions. The main difference in motive between the restrictions which the planting and the farming colonies put on the African slave-trade, lay in the fact that the former limited it mainly from fear of insurrection, the latter mainly because it did not pay. Naturally, the latter motive worked itself out with much less legislation than the former; for this reason, and because they held a smaller number of slaves, most of these colonies have fewer actual statutes than the Southern colonies. In Pennsylvania alone did this general economic revolt against the trade acquire a distinct moral tinge. Although even here the institution was naturally doomed, yet the clear moral insight of the Quakers checked the trade much earlier than would otherwise have happened. We may say, then, that the farming colonies checked the slave-trade primarily from economic motives.


[1] Smith, Generall Historie of Virginia (1626 and 1632), p. 126.

[2] Cf. Southey, History of Brazil.

[3] De Laet, in O'Callaghan, Voyages of the Slavers, etc., p. viii.

[4] See, e.g., Sainsbury, Cal. State Papers; Col. Ser., America and W. Indies, 1574-1660, p. 279.

[5] Cf. below, pp. 27, 32, notes; also Freedoms, XXX., in O'Callaghan, Laws of New Netherland, 1638-74 (ed. 1868), p. 10; Brodhead, History of New York, I. 312.

[6] The following is a summary of the legislation of the colony of New York; details will be found in Appendix A:—

1709, Duty Act: L3 on Negroes not direct from Africa (Continued by the Acts of 1710, 1711). 1711, Bill to lay further duty, lost in Council. 1716, Duty Act: 5 oz. plate on Africans in colony ships. 10 oz. plate on Africans in other ships. 1728, " " 40s. on Africans, L4 on colonial Negroes. 1732, " " 40s. on Africans, L4 on colonial Negroes. 1734, " " (?) 1753, " " 40s. on Africans, L4 on colonial Negroes. (This act was annually continued.) [1777, Vermont Constitution does not recognize slavery.] 1785, Sale of slaves in State prohibited. [1786, " " in Vermont prohibited.] 1788, " " in State prohibited.

[7] O'Callaghan, Laws of New Netherland, 1638-74, pp. 31, 348, etc. The colonists themselves were encouraged to trade, but the terms were not favorable enough: Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, I. 246; Laws of New Netherland, pp. 81-2, note, 127. The colonists declared "that they are inclined to a foreign Trade, and especially to the Coast of Africa, ... in order to fetch thence Slaves": O'Callaghan, Voyages of the Slavers, etc., p. 172.

[8] Charter to William Penn, etc. (1879), p. 12. First published on Long Island in 1664. Possibly Negro slaves were explicitly excepted. Cf. Magazine of American History, XI. 411, and N.Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., I. 322.

[9] Acts of Assembly, 1691-1718, pp. 97, 125, 134; Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, V. 178, 185, 293.

[10] The Assembly attempted to raise the slave duty in 1711, but the Council objected (Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, V. 292 ff.), although, as it seems, not on account of the slave duty in particular. Another act was passed between 1711 and 1716, but its contents are not known (cf. title of the Act of 1716). For the Act of 1716, see Acts of Assembly, 1691-1718, p. 224.

[11] Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, VI. 37, 38.

[12] Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, VI. 32-4.

[13] Ibid., VII. 907. This act was annually renewed. The slave duty remained a chief source of revenue down to 1774. Cf. Report of Governor Tryon, in Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, VIII. 452.

[14] Laws of New York, 1785-88 (ed. 1886), ch. 68, p. 121. Substantially the same act reappears in the revision of the laws of 1788: Ibid., ch. 40, p. 676.

[15] The slave population of New York has been estimated as follows:—

In 1698, 2,170. Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, IV. 420. " 1703, 2,258. N.Y. Col. MSS., XLVIII.; cited in Hough, N.Y. Census, 1855, Introd. " 1712, 2,425. Ibid., LVII., LIX. (a partial census). " 1723, 6,171. Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, V. 702. " 1731, 7,743. Ibid., V. 929. " 1737, 8,941. Ibid., VI. 133. " 1746, 9,107. Ibid., VI. 392. " 1749, 10,692. Ibid., VI. 550. " 1756, 13,548. London Doc., XLIV. 123; cited in Hough, as above. " 1771, 19,863. Ibid., XLIV. 144; cited in Hough, as above. " 1774, 21,149. Ibid., " " " " " " 1786, 18,889. Deeds in office Sec. of State, XXII. 35.

Total number of Africans imported from 1701 to 1726, 2,375, of whom 802 were from Africa: O'Callaghan, Documentary History of New York, I. 482.

[16] Cf. below, Chapter XI.

[17] Vermont State Papers, 1779-86, p. 244. The return of sixteen slaves in Vermont, by the first census, was an error: New England Record, XXIX. 249.

[18] Vermont State Papers, p. 505.

[19] The following is a summary of the legislation of the colony of Pennsylvania and Delaware; details will be found in Appendix A:—

1705, Duty Act: (?). 1710, " " 40s. (Disallowed). 1712, " " L20 " 1712, " " supplementary to the Act of 1710. 1715, " " L5 (Disallowed). 1718, " " 1720, " " (?). 1722, " " (?). 1725-6, " " L10. 1726, " " 1729, " " L2. 1761, " " L10. 1761, " " (?). 1768, " " re-enactment of the Act of 1761. 1773, " " perpetual additional duty of L10; total, L20. 1775, Bill to prohibit importation vetoed by the governor (Delaware). 1775, Bill to prohibit importation vetoed by the governor. 1778, Back duties on slaves ordered collected. 1780, Act for the gradual abolition of slavery. 1787, Act to prevent the exportation of slaves (Delaware). 1788, Act to prevent the slave-trade.

[20] From fac-simile copy, published at Germantown in 1880. Cf. Whittier's poem, "Pennsylvania Hall" (Poetical Works, Riverside ed., III. 62); and Proud, History of Pennsylvania (1797), I. 219.

[21] From fac-simile copy, published at Germantown in 1880.

[22] Bettle, Notices of Negro Slavery, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem. (1864), I. 383.

[23] Cf. Bettle, Notices of Negro Slavery, passim.

[24] Janney, History of the Friends, III. 315-7.

[25] Ibid., III. 317.

[26] Bettle, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem., I. 395.

[27] Penn. Col. Rec. (1852), II. 530; Bettle, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem., I. 415.

[28] Laws of Pennsylvania, collected, etc., 1714, p. 165; Bettle, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem., I. 387.

[29] See preamble of the act.

[30] The Pennsylvanians did not allow their laws to reach England until long after they were passed: Penn. Archives, I. 161-2; Col. Rec., II. 572-3. These acts were disallowed Feb. 20, 1713. Another duty act was passed in 1712, supplementary to the Act of 1710 (Col. Rec., II. 553). The contents are unknown.

[31] Acts and Laws of Pennsylvania, 1715, p. 270; Chalmers, Opinions, II. 118. Before the disallowance was known, the act had been continued by the Act of 1718: Carey and Bioren, Laws of Pennsylvania, 1700-1802, I. 118; Penn. Col. Rec., III. 38.

[32] Carey and Bioren, Laws, I. 165; Penn. Col. Rec., III. 171; Bettle, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem., I. 389, note.

[33] Carey and Bioren, Laws, I. 214; Bettle, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem., I. 388. Possibly there were two acts this year.

[34] Laws of Pennsylvania (ed. 1742), p. 354, ch. 287. Possibly some change in the currency made this change appear greater than it was.

[35] Carey and Bioren, Laws, I. 371; Acts of Assembly (ed. 1782), p. 149; Dallas, Laws, I. 406, ch. 379. This act was renewed in 1768: Carey and Bioren, Laws, I. 451; Penn. Col. Rec., IX. 472, 637, 641.

[36] Penn. Col. Rec., VIII. 576.

[37] A large petition called for this bill. Much altercation ensued with the governor: Dallas, Laws, I. 671, ch. 692; Penn. Col. Rec., X. 77; Bettle, in Penn. Hist. Soc. Mem., I. 388-9.

[38] Dallas, Laws, I. 782, ch. 810.

[39] Ibid., I. 838, ch. 881.

[40] There exist but few estimates of the number of slaves in this colony:—

In 1721, 2,500-5,000. Doc. rel. Col. Hist. New York, V. 604. " 1754, 11,000. Bancroft, Hist. of United States (1883), II. 391. " 1760, very few." Burnaby, Travels through N. Amer. (2d ed.), p. 81. " 1775, 2,000. Penn. Archives, IV 597.

[41] Dallas, Laws, II. 586.

[42] Cf. Argonautica Gustaviana, pp. 21-3; Del. Hist. Soc. Papers, III. 10; Hazard's Register, IV. 221, Sec.Sec. 23, 24; Hazard's Annals, p. 372; Armstrong, Record of Upland Court, pp. 29-30, and notes.

[43] Force, American Archives, 4th Ser., II. 128-9.

[44] Ibid., 5th Ser., I. 1178; Laws of Delaware, 1797 (Newcastle ed.), p. 884, ch. 145 b.

[45] The following is a summary of the legislation of the colony of New Jersey; details will be found in Appendix A:—

1713, Duty Act: L10. 1763 (?), Duty Act. 1769, " " L15. 1774, " " L5 on Africans, L10 on colonial Negroes. 1786, Importation prohibited.

[46] Leaming and Spicer, Grants, Concessions, etc., p. 398. Probably this did not refer to Negroes at all.

[47] Cf. Vincent, History of Delaware, I. 159, 381.

[48] Laws and Acts of New Jersey, 1703-17 (ed. 1717), p. 43.

[49] N.J. Archives, IV. 196. There was much difficulty in passing the bill: Ibid., XIII. 516-41.

[50] Ibid., IX. 345-6. The exact provisions of the act I have not found.

[51] Ibid., IX. 383, 447, 458. Chiefly because the duty was laid on the importer.

[52] Allinson, Acts of Assembly, pp. 315-6.

[53] N.J. Archives, VI. 222.

[54] Acts of the 10th General Assembly, May 2, 1786. There are two estimates of the number of slaves in this colony:—

In 1738, 3,981. American Annals, II. 127. " 1754, 4,606. " " II. 143.

* * * * *

Chapter IV


16. Character of these Colonies. 17. New England and the Slave-Trade. 18. Restrictions in New Hampshire. 19. Restrictions in Massachusetts. 20. Restrictions in Rhode Island. 21. Restrictions in Connecticut. 22. General Character of these Restrictions.

16. Character of these Colonies. The rigorous climate of New England, the character of her settlers, and their pronounced political views gave slavery an even slighter basis here than in the Middle colonies. The significance of New England in the African slave-trade does not therefore lie in the fact that she early discountenanced the system of slavery and stopped importation; but rather in the fact that her citizens, being the traders of the New World, early took part in the carrying slave-trade and furnished slaves to the other colonies. An inquiry, therefore, into the efforts of the New England colonies to suppress the slave-trade would fall naturally into two parts: first, and chiefly, an investigation of the efforts to stop the participation of citizens in the carrying slave-trade; secondly, an examination of the efforts made to banish the slave-trade from New England soil.

17. New England and the Slave-Trade. Vessels from Massachusetts,[1] Rhode Island,[2] Connecticut,[3] and, to a less extent, from New Hampshire,[4] were early and largely engaged in the carrying slave-trade. "We know," said Thomas Pemberton in 1795, "that a large trade to Guinea was carried on for many years by the citizens of Massachusetts Colony, who were the proprietors of the vessels and their cargoes, out and home. Some of the slaves purchased in Guinea, and I suppose the greatest part of them, were sold in the West Indies."[5] Dr. John Eliot asserted that "it made a considerable branch of our commerce.... It declined very little till the Revolution."[6] Yet the trade of this colony was said not to equal that of Rhode Island. Newport was the mart for slaves offered for sale in the North, and a point of reshipment for all slaves. It was principally this trade that raised Newport to her commercial importance in the eighteenth century.[7] Connecticut, too, was an important slave-trader, sending large numbers of horses and other commodities to the West Indies in exchange for slaves, and selling the slaves in other colonies.

This trade formed a perfect circle. Owners of slavers carried slaves to South Carolina, and brought home naval stores for their ship-building; or to the West Indies, and brought home molasses; or to other colonies, and brought home hogsheads. The molasses was made into the highly prized New England rum, and shipped in these hogsheads to Africa for more slaves.[8] Thus, the rum-distilling industry indicates to some extent the activity of New England in the slave-trade. In May, 1752, one Captain Freeman found so many slavers fitting out that, in spite of the large importations of molasses, he could get no rum for his vessel.[9] In Newport alone twenty-two stills were at one time running continuously;[10] and Massachusetts annually distilled 15,000 hogsheads of molasses into this "chief manufacture."[11]

Turning now to restrictive measures, we must first note the measures of the slave-consuming colonies which tended to limit the trade. These measures, however, came comparatively late, were enforced with varying degrees of efficiency, and did not seriously affect the slave-trade before the Revolution. The moral sentiment of New England put some check upon the trade. Although in earlier times the most respectable people took ventures in slave-trading voyages, yet there gradually arose a moral sentiment which tended to make the business somewhat disreputable.[12] In the line, however, of definite legal enactments to stop New England citizens from carrying slaves from Africa to any place in the world, there were, before the Revolution, none. Indeed, not until the years 1787-1788 was slave-trading in itself an indictable offence in any New England State.

The particular situation in each colony, and the efforts to restrict the small importing slave-trade of New England, can best be studied in a separate view of each community.

18. Restrictions in New Hampshire. The statistics of slavery in New Hampshire show how weak an institution it always was in that colony.[13] Consequently, when the usual instructions were sent to Governor Wentworth as to the encouragement he must give to the slave-trade, the House replied: "We have considered his Maj^{ties} Instruction relating to an Impost on Negroes & Felons, to which this House answers, that there never was any duties laid on either, by this Goverm^{t}, and so few bro't in that it would not be worth the Publick notice, so as to make an act concerning them."[14] This remained true for the whole history of the colony. Importation was never stopped by actual enactment, but was eventually declared contrary to the Constitution of 1784.[15] The participation of citizens in the trade appears never to have been forbidden.

19. Restrictions in Massachusetts. The early Biblical codes of Massachusetts confined slavery to "lawfull Captives taken in iust warres, & such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us."[16] The stern Puritanism of early days endeavored to carry this out literally, and consequently when a certain Captain Smith, about 1640, attacked an African village and brought some of the unoffending natives home, he was promptly arrested. Eventually, the General Court ordered the Negroes sent home at the colony's expense, "conceiving themselues bound by y^e first oportunity to bear witnes against y^e haynos & crying sinn of manstealing, as also to P'scribe such timely redresse for what is past, & such a law for y^e future as may sufficiently deterr all oth^{r}s belonging to us to have to do in such vile & most odious courses, iustly abhored of all good & iust men."[17]

The temptation of trade slowly forced the colony from this high moral ground. New England ships were early found in the West Indian slave-trade, and the more the carrying trade developed, the more did the profits of this branch of it attract Puritan captains. By the beginning of the eighteenth century the slave-trade was openly recognized as legitimate commerce; cargoes came regularly to Boston, and "The merchants of Boston quoted negroes, like any other merchandise demanded by their correspondents."[18] At the same time, the Puritan conscience began to rebel against the growth of actual slavery on New England soil. It was a much less violent wrenching of moral ideas of right and wrong to allow Massachusetts men to carry slaves to South Carolina than to allow cargoes to come into Boston, and become slaves in Massachusetts. Early in the eighteenth century, therefore, opposition arose to the further importation of Negroes, and in 1705 an act "for the Better Preventing of a Spurious and Mixt Issue," laid a restrictive duty of L4 on all slaves imported.[19] One provision of this act plainly illustrates the attitude of Massachusetts: like the acts of many of the New England colonies, it allowed a rebate of the whole duty on re-exportation. The harbors of New England were thus offered as a free exchange-mart for slavers. All the duty acts of the Southern and Middle colonies allowed a rebate of one-half or three-fourths of the duty on the re-exportation of the slave, thus laying a small tax on even temporary importation.

The Act of 1705 was evaded, but it was not amended until 1728, when the penalty for evasion was raised to L100.[20] The act remained in force, except possibly for one period of four years, until 1749. Meantime the movement against importation grew. A bill "for preventing the Importation of Slaves into this Province" was introduced in the Legislature in 1767, but after strong opposition and disagreement between House and Council it was dropped.[21] In 1771 the struggle was renewed. A similar bill passed, but was vetoed by Governor Hutchinson.[22] The imminent war and the discussions incident to it had now more and more aroused public opinion, and there were repeated attempts to gain executive consent to a prohibitory law. In 1774 such a bill was twice passed, but never received assent.[23]

The new Revolutionary government first met the subject in the case of two Negroes captured on the high seas, who were advertised for sale at Salem. A resolution was introduced into the Legislature, directing the release of the Negroes, and declaring "That the selling and enslaving the human species is a direct violation of the natural rights alike vested in all men by their Creator, and utterly inconsistent with the avowed principles on which this, and the other United States, have carried their struggle for liberty even to the last appeal." To this the Council would not consent; and the resolution, as finally passed, merely forbade the sale or ill-treatment of the Negroes.[24] Committees on the slavery question were appointed in 1776 and 1777,[25] and although a letter to Congress on the matter, and a bill for the abolition of slavery were reported, no decisive action was taken.

All such efforts were finally discontinued, as the system was already practically extinct in Massachusetts and the custom of importation had nearly ceased. Slavery was eventually declared by judicial decision to have been abolished.[26] The first step toward stopping the participation of Massachusetts citizens in the slave-trade outside the State was taken in 1785, when a committee of inquiry was appointed by the Legislature.[27] No act was, however, passed until 1788, when participation in the trade was prohibited, on pain of L50 forfeit for every slave and L200 for every ship engaged.[28]

20. Restrictions in Rhode Island. In 1652 Rhode Island passed a law designed to prohibit life slavery in the colony. It declared that "Whereas, there is a common course practised amongst English men to buy negers, to that end they may have them for service or slaves forever; for the preventinge of such practices among us, let it be ordered, that no blacke mankind or white being forced by covenant bond, or otherwise, to serve any man or his assighnes longer than ten yeares, or untill they come to bee twentie four yeares of age, if they bee taken in under fourteen, from the time of their cominge within the liberties of this Collonie. And at the end or terme of ten yeares to sett them free, as the manner is with the English servants. And that man that will not let them goe free, or shall sell them away elsewhere, to that end that they may bee enslaved to others for a long time, hee or they shall forfeit to the Collonie forty pounds."[29]

This law was for a time enforced,[30] but by the beginning of the eighteenth century it had either been repealed or become a dead letter; for the Act of 1708 recognized perpetual slavery, and laid an impost of L3 on Negroes imported.[31] This duty was really a tax on the transport trade, and produced a steady income for twenty years.[32] From the year 1700 on, the citizens of this State engaged more and more in the carrying trade, until Rhode Island became the greatest slave-trader in America. Although she did not import many slaves for her own use, she became the clearing-house for the trade of other colonies. Governor Cranston, as early as 1708, reported that between 1698 and 1708 one hundred and three vessels were built in the State, all of which were trading to the West Indies and the Southern colonies.[33] They took out lumber and brought back molasses, in most cases making a slave voyage in between. From this, the trade grew. Samuel Hopkins, about 1770, was shocked at the state of the trade: more than thirty distilleries were running in the colony, and one hundred and fifty vessels were in the slave-trade.[34] "Rhode Island," said he, "has been more deeply interested in the slave-trade, and has enslaved more Africans than any other colony in New England." Later, in 1787, he wrote: "The inhabitants of Rhode Island, especially those of Newport, have had by far the greater share in this traffic, of all these United States. This trade in human species has been the first wheel of commerce in Newport, on which every other movement in business has chiefly depended. That town has been built up, and flourished in times past, at the expense of the blood, the liberty, and happiness of the poor Africans; and the inhabitants have lived on this, and by it have gotten most of their wealth and riches."[35]

The Act of 1708 was poorly enforced. The "good intentions" of its framers "were wholly frustrated" by the clandestine "hiding and conveying said negroes out of the town [Newport] into the country, where they lie concealed."[36] The act was accordingly strengthened by the Acts of 1712 and 1715, and made to apply to importations by land as well as by sea.[37] The Act of 1715, however, favored the trade by admitting African Negroes free of duty. The chaotic state of Rhode Island did not allow England often to review her legislation; but as soon as the Act of 1712 came to notice it was disallowed, and accordingly repealed in 1732.[38] Whether the Act of 1715 remained, or whether any other duty act was passed, is not clear.

While the foreign trade was flourishing, the influence of the Friends and of other causes eventually led to a movement against slavery as a local institution. Abolition societies multiplied, and in 1770 an abolition bill was ordered by the Assembly, but it was never passed.[39] Four years later the city of Providence resolved that "as personal liberty is an essential part of the natural rights of mankind," the importation of slaves and the system of slavery should cease in the colony.[40] This movement finally resulted, in 1774, in an act "prohibiting the importation of Negroes into this Colony,"—a law which curiously illustrated the attitude of Rhode Island toward the slave-trade. The preamble of the act declared: "Whereas, the inhabitants of America are generally engaged in the preservation of their own rights and liberties, among which, that of personal freedom must be considered as the greatest; as those who are desirous of enjoying all the advantages of liberty themselves, should be willing to extend personal liberty to others;—Therefore," etc. The statute then proceeded to enact "that for the future, no negro or mulatto slave shall be brought into this colony; and in case any slave shall hereafter be brought in, he or she shall be, and are hereby, rendered immediately free...." The logical ending of such an act would have been a clause prohibiting the participation of Rhode Island citizens in the slave-trade. Not only was such a clause omitted, but the following was inserted instead: "Provided, also, that nothing in this act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to any negro or mulatto slave brought from the coast of Africa, into the West Indies, on board any vessel belonging to this colony, and which negro or mulatto slave could not be disposed of in the West Indies, but shall be brought into this colony. Provided, that the owner of such negro or mulatto slave give bond ... that such negro or mulatto slave shall be exported out of the colony, within one year from the date of such bond; if such negro or mulatto be alive, and in a condition to be removed."[41]

In 1779 an act to prevent the sale of slaves out of the State was passed,[42] and in 1784, an act gradually to abolish slavery.[43] Not until 1787 did an act pass to forbid participation in the slave-trade. This law laid a penalty of L100 for every slave transported and L1000 for every vessel so engaged.[44]

21. Restrictions in Connecticut. Connecticut, in common with the other colonies of this section, had a trade for many years with the West Indian slave markets; and though this trade was much smaller than that of the neighboring colonies, yet many of her citizens were engaged in it. A map of Middletown at the time of the Revolution gives, among one hundred families, three slave captains and "three notables" designated as "slave-dealers."[45]

The actual importation was small,[46] and almost entirely unrestricted before the Revolution, save by a few light, general duty acts. In 1774 the further importation of slaves was prohibited, because "the increase of slaves in this Colony is injurious to the poor and inconvenient." The law prohibited importation under any pretext by a penalty of L100 per slave.[47] This was re-enacted in 1784, and provisions were made for the abolition of slavery.[48] In 1788 participation in the trade was forbidden, and the penalty placed at L50 for each slave and L500 for each ship engaged.[49]

22. General Character of these Restrictions. Enough has already been said to show, in the main, the character of the opposition to the slave-trade in New England. The system of slavery had, on this soil and amid these surroundings, no economic justification, and the small number of Negroes here furnished no political arguments against them. The opposition to the importation was therefore from the first based solely on moral grounds, with some social arguments. As to the carrying trade, however, the case was different. Here, too, a feeble moral opposition was early aroused, but it was swept away by the immense economic advantages of the slave traffic to a thrifty seafaring community of traders. This trade no moral suasion, not even the strong "Liberty" cry of the Revolution, was able wholly to suppress, until the closing of the West Indian and Southern markets cut off the demand for slaves.


[1] Cf. Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, II. 449-72; G.H. Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts; Charles Deane, Connection of Massachusetts with Slavery.

[2] Cf. American Historical Record, I. 311, 338.

[3] Cf. W.C. Fowler, Local Law in Massachusetts and Connecticut, etc., pp. 122-6.

[4] Ibid., p. 124.

[5] Deane, Letters and Documents relating to Slavery in Massachusetts, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 5th Ser., III. 392.

[6] Ibid., III. 382.

[7] Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, II. 454.

[8] A typical voyage is that of the brigantine "Sanderson" of Newport. She was fitted out in March, 1752, and carried, beside the captain, two mates and six men, and a cargo of 8,220 gallons of rum, together with "African" iron, flour, pots, tar, sugar, and provisions, shackles, shirts, and water. Proceeding to Africa, the captain after some difficulty sold his cargo for slaves, and in April, 1753, he is expected in Barbadoes, as the consignees write. They also state that slaves are selling at L33 to L56 per head in lots. After a stormy and dangerous voyage, Captain Lindsay arrived, June 17, 1753, with fifty-six slaves, "all in helth & fatt." He also had 40 oz. of gold dust, and 8 or 9 cwt. of pepper. The net proceeds of the sale of all this was L1,324 3d. The captain then took on board 55 hhd. of molasses and 3 hhd. 27 bbl. of sugar, amounting to L911 77s. 21/2d., received bills on Liverpool for the balance, and returned in safety to Rhode Island. He had done so well that he was immediately given a new ship and sent to Africa again. American Historical Record, I. 315-9, 338-42.

[9] Ibid., I. 316.

[10] American Historical Record, I. 317.

[11] Ibid., I. 344; cf. Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, II. 459.

[12] Cf. New England Register, XXXI. 75-6, letter of John Saffin et al. to Welstead. Cf. also Sewall, Protest, etc.

[13] The number of slaves in New Hampshire has been estimated as follows:

In 1730, 200. N.H. Hist. Soc. Coll., I. 229. " 1767, 633. Granite Monthly, IV. 108. " 1773, 681. Ibid. " 1773, 674. N.H. Province Papers, X. 636. " 1775, 479. Granite Monthly, IV. 108. " 1790, 158. Ibid.

[14] N.H. Province Papers, IV. 617.

[15] Granite Monthly, VI. 377; Poore, Federal and State Constitutions, pp. 1280-1.

[16] Cf. The Body of Liberties, Sec. 91, in Whitmore, Bibliographical Sketch of the Laws of the Massachusetts Colony, published at Boston in 1890.

[17] Mass. Col. Rec., II. 168, 176; III. 46, 49, 84.

[18] Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, II. 456.

[19] Mass. Province Laws, 1705-6, ch. 10.

[20] Ibid., 1728-9, ch. 16; 1738-9, ch. 27.

[21] For petitions of towns, cf. Felt, Annals of Salem (1849), II. 416; Boston Town Records, 1758-69, p. 183. Cf. also Otis's anti-slavery speech in 1761; John Adams, Works, X. 315. For proceedings, see House Journal, 1767, pp. 353, 358, 387, 390, 393, 408, 409-10, 411, 420. Cf. Samuel Dexter's answer to Dr. Belknap's inquiry, Feb. 23, 1795, in Deane (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 5th Ser., III. 385). A committee on slave importation was appointed in 1764. Cf. House Journal, 1763-64, p. 170.

[22] House Journal, 1771, pp. 211, 215, 219, 228, 234, 236, 240, 242-3; Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts, pp. 131-2.

[23] Felt, Annals of Salem (1849), II. 416-7; Swan, Dissuasion to Great Britain, etc. (1773), p. x; Washburn, Historical Sketches of Leicester, Mass., pp. 442-3; Freeman, History of Cape Cod, II. 114; Deane, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 5th Ser., III. 432; Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts, pp. 135-40; Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, I. 234-6; House Journal, March, 1774, pp. 224, 226, 237, etc.; June, 1774, pp. 27, 41, etc. For a copy of the bill, see Moore.

[24] Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, 1855-58, p. 196; Force, American Archives, 5th Ser., II. 769; House Journal, 1776, pp. 105-9; General Court Records, March 13, 1776, etc., pp. 581-9; Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts, pp. 149-54. Cf. Moore, pp. 163-76.

[25] Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts, pp. 148-9, 181-5.

[26] Washburn, Extinction of Slavery in Massachusetts; Haynes, Struggle for the Constitution in Massachusetts; La Rochefoucauld, Travels through the United States, II. 166.

[27] Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts, p. 225.

[28] Perpetual Laws of Massachusetts, 1780-89, p. 235. The number of slaves in Massachusetts has been estimated as follows:—

In 1676, 200. Randolph's Report, in Hutchinson's Coll. of Papers, p. 485. " 1680, 120. Deane, Connection of Mass. with Slavery, p. 28 ff. " 1708, 550. Ibid.; Moore, Slavery in Mass., p. 50. " 1720, 2,000. Ibid. " 1735, 2,600. Deane, Connection of Mass. with Slavery, p. 28 ff. " 1749, 3,000. Ibid. " 1754, 4,489. Ibid. " 1763, 5,000. Ibid. " 1764-5, 5,779. Ibid. " 1776, 5,249. Ibid. " 1784, 4,377. Moore, Slavery in Mass., p. 51. " 1786, 4,371. Ibid. " 1790, 6,001. Ibid.

[29] R.I. Col. Rec., I. 240.

[30] Cf. letter written in 1681: New England Register, XXXI. 75-6. Cf. also Arnold, History of Rhode Island, I. 240.

[31] The text of this act is lost (Col. Rec., IV. 34; Arnold, History of Rhode Island, II. 31). The Acts of Rhode Island were not well preserved, the first being published in Boston in 1719. Perhaps other whole acts are lost.

[32] E.g., it was expended to pave the streets of Newport, to build bridges, etc.: R.I. Col. Rec., IV. 191-3, 225.

[33] Ibid., IV. 55-60.

[34] Patten, Reminiscences of Samuel Hopkins (1843), p. 80.

[35] Hopkins, Works (1854), II. 615.

[36] Preamble of the Act of 1712.

[37] R.I. Col. Rec., IV. 131-5, 138, 143, 191-3.

[38] R.I. Col. Rec., IV. 471.

[39] Arnold, History of Rhode Island, II. 304, 321, 337. For a probable copy of the bill, see Narragansett Historical Register, II. 299.

[40] A man dying intestate left slaves, who became thus the property of the city; they were freed, and the town made the above resolve, May 17, 1774, in town meeting: Staples, Annals of Providence (1843), p. 236.

[41] R.I. Col. Rec., VII. 251-2.

[42] Bartlett's Index, p. 329; Arnold, History of Rhode Island, II. 444; R.I. Col. Rec., VIII. 618.

[43] R.I. Col. Rec., X. 7-8; Arnold, History of Rhode Island, II. 506.

[44] Bartlett's Index, p. 333; Narragansett Historical Register, II. 298-9. The number of slaves in Rhode Island has been estimated as follows:—

In 1708, 426. R.I. Col. Rec., IV. 59. " 1730, 1,648. R.I. Hist. Tracts, No. 19, pt. 2, p. 99. " 1749, 3,077. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, I. 281. " 1756, 4,697. Ibid. " 1774, 3,761. R.I. Col. Rec., VII. 253.

[45] Fowler, Local Law, etc., p. 124.

[46] The number of slaves in Connecticut has been estimated as follows:—

In 1680, 30. Conn. Col. Rec., III. 298. " 1730, 700. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, I. 259. " 1756, 3,636. Fowler, Local Law, etc., p. 140. " 1762, 4,590. Williams, History of the Negro Race in America, I. 260. " 1774, 6,562. Fowler, Local Law, etc., p. 140. " 1782, 6,281. Fowler, Local Law, etc., p. 140. " 1800, 5,281. Ibid., p. 141.

[47] Conn. Col. Rec., XIV 329. Fowler (pp. 125-6) says that the law was passed in 1769, as does Sanford (p. 252). I find no proof of this. There was in Connecticut the same Biblical legislation on the trade as in Massachusetts. Cf. Laws of Connecticut (repr. 1865), p. 9; also Col. Rec., I. 77. For general duty acts, see Col. Rec., V 405; VIII. 22; IX. 283; XIII. 72, 125.

[48] Acts and Laws of Connecticut (ed. 1784), pp. 233-4.

[49] Ibid., pp. 368, 369, 388.

* * * * *

Chapter V


23. The Situation in 1774. 24. The Condition of the Slave-Trade. 25. The Slave-Trade and the "Association." 26. The Action of the Colonies. 27. The Action of the Continental Congress. 28. Reception of the Slave-Trade Resolution. 29. Results of the Resolution. 30. The Slave-Trade and Public Opinion after the War. 31. The Action of the Confederation.

23. The Situation in 1774. In the individual efforts of the various colonies to suppress the African slave-trade there may be traced certain general movements. First, from 1638 to 1664, there was a tendency to take a high moral stand against the traffic. This is illustrated in the laws of New England, in the plans for the settlement of Delaware and, later, that of Georgia, and in the protest of the German Friends. The second period, from about 1664 to 1760, has no general unity, but is marked by statutes laying duties varying in design from encouragement to absolute prohibition, by some cases of moral opposition, and by the slow but steady growth of a spirit unfavorable to the long continuance of the trade. The last colonial period, from about 1760 to 1787, is one of pronounced effort to regulate, limit, or totally prohibit the traffic. Beside these general movements, there are many waves of legislation, easily distinguishable, which rolled over several or all of the colonies at various times, such as the series of high duties following the Assiento, and the acts inspired by various Negro "plots."

Notwithstanding this, the laws of the colonies before 1774 had no national unity, the peculiar circumstances of each colony determining its legislation. With the outbreak of the Revolution came unison in action with regard to the slave-trade, as with regard to other matters, which may justly be called national. It was, of course, a critical period,—a period when, in the rapid upheaval of a few years, the complicated and diverse forces of decades meet, combine, act, and react, until the resultant seems almost the work of chance. In the settlement of the fate of slavery and the slave-trade, however, the real crisis came in the calm that succeeded the storm, in that day when, in the opinion of most men, the question seemed already settled. And indeed it needed an exceptionally clear and discerning mind, in 1787, to deny that slavery and the slave-trade in the United States of America were doomed to early annihilation. It seemed certainly a legitimate deduction from the history of the preceding century to conclude that, as the system had risen, flourished, and fallen in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, and as South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland were apparently following in the same legislative path, the next generation would in all probability witness the last throes of the system on our soil.

To be sure, the problem had its uncertain quantities. The motives of the law-makers in South Carolina and Pennsylvania were dangerously different; the century of industrial expansion was slowly dawning and awakening that vast economic revolution in which American slavery was to play so prominent and fatal a role; and, finally, there were already in the South faint signs of a changing moral attitude toward slavery, which would no longer regard the system as a temporary makeshift, but rather as a permanent though perhaps unfortunate necessity. With regard to the slave-trade, however, there appeared to be substantial unity of opinion; and there were, in 1787, few things to indicate that a cargo of five hundred African slaves would openly be landed in Georgia in 1860.

24. The Condition of the Slave-Trade. In 1760 England, the chief slave-trading nation, was sending on an average to Africa 163 ships annually, with a tonnage of 18,000 tons, carrying exports to the value of L163,818. Only about twenty of these ships regularly returned to England. Most of them carried slaves to the West Indies, and returned laden with sugar and other products. Thus may be formed some idea of the size and importance of the slave-trade at that time, although for a complete view we must add to this the trade under the French, Portuguese, Dutch, and Americans. The trade fell off somewhat toward 1770, but was flourishing again when the Revolution brought a sharp and serious check upon it, bringing down the number of English slavers, clearing, from 167 in 1774 to 28 in 1779, and the tonnage from 17,218 to 3,475 tons. After the war the trade gradually recovered, and by 1786 had reached nearly its former extent. In 1783 the British West Indies received 16,208 Negroes from Africa, and by 1787 the importation had increased to 21,023. In this latter year it was estimated that the British were taking annually from Africa 38,000 slaves; the French, 20,000; the Portuguese, 10,000; the Dutch and Danes, 6,000; a total of 74,000. Manchester alone sent L180,000 annually in goods to Africa in exchange for Negroes.[1]

25. The Slave-Trade and the "Association." At the outbreak of the Revolution six main reasons, some of which were old and of slow growth, others peculiar to the abnormal situation of that time, led to concerted action against the slave-trade. The first reason was the economic failure of slavery in the Middle and Eastern colonies; this gave rise to the presumption that like failure awaited the institution in the South. Secondly, the new philosophy of "Freedom" and the "Rights of man," which formed the corner-stone of the Revolution, made the dullest realize that, at the very least, the slave-trade and a struggle for "liberty" were not consistent. Thirdly, the old fear of slave insurrections, which had long played so prominent a part in legislation, now gained new power from the imminence of war and from the well-founded fear that the British might incite servile uprisings. Fourthly, nearly all the American slave markets were, in 1774-1775, overstocked with slaves, and consequently many of the strongest partisans of the system were "bulls" on the market, and desired to raise the value of their slaves by at least a temporary stoppage of the trade. Fifthly, since the vested interests of the slave-trading merchants were liable to be swept away by the opening of hostilities, and since the price of slaves was low,[2] there was from this quarter little active opposition to a cessation of the trade for a season. Finally, it was long a favorite belief of the supporters of the Revolution that, as English exploitation of colonial resources had caused the quarrel, the best weapon to bring England to terms was the economic expedient of stopping all commercial intercourse with her. Since, then, the slave-trade had ever formed an important part of her colonial traffic, it was one of the first branches of commerce which occurred to the colonists as especially suited to their ends.[3]

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse