Imágenes de páginas

liness as well as secrecy screened their careers. There may well have been very many lodges among illiterate and moneyless slaves without leaving any tangible record whatever. Those in which the colored freemen mainly figured were a little more affluent, formal and conspicuous. Such organizations were a recourse at the same time for mutual aid and for the enhancement of social prestige. The founding of one of them at Charleston in 1790, the Brown Fellowship Society, with membership confined to mulattoes and quadroons, appears to have prompted the free blacks to found one of their own in emulation. Among the proceedings of the former was the expulsion of George Logan in 1817 with a consequent cancelling of his claims and those ofhis heirs to the rights and benefits of the institution, on the ground that he had conspired to cause a free black to be sold as a slave. At Baltimore in 1835 there were thirty-five or forty of these lodges, with memberships ranging from thirty-five to one hundred and fifty each.85



The tone and purpose of the lodges may be gathered in part from the constitution and by-laws of one of them, the Union Band Society of New Orleans, founded in 1860. Its motto was "Love, Union, Peace"; its officers were president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, marshal, mother, and six male and twelve female stewards, and its dues fifty cents per month. Members joining the lodge were pledged to obey its laws, to be humble to its officers, to keep its secrets, to live in love and union with fellow members, "to go about once in a while and see one another in love," and to wear the society's regalia on occasion. Any member in three months' arrears of dues was to be expelled unless upon his plea of illness or poverty a subscription could be raised in meeting to meet his deficit. It was the duty of all to report illnesses in the membership, and the function of the official mother to delegate members for the nursing. The secretary was to see to the washing of the sick member's clothes and pay for the work from the lodge's funds, as well as the doctor's fees. The marshal was to have charge of funerals, with power to com

T. D. Jervey, Robert Y. Hayne and His Times (New York, 1909), p. 6. "Ibid., pp. 68, 69.

Niles Register, XLIX, 72.

mandeer the services of such members as might be required. He might fee the officiating minister to the extent of not more than $2.50, and draw pay for himself on a similar schedule. Negotiations with any other lodge were provided for in case of the death of a member who had fellowship also in the other for the custody of the corpse and the sharing of expense; and a provision was included that when a lodge was given the body of an outsider for burial it would furnish coffin, hearse, tomb, minister and marshal at a price of fifty dollars all told.88 The mortuary stress in the by-laws, however, need not signify that the lodge was more funereal than festive. A negro burial was as sociable as an Irish wake.

Doubtless to some extent in their lodges, and certainly to a great degree in their daily affairs, the lives of the free colored and the slaves intermingled. Colored freemen, except in the highest of their social strata, took free or slave wives almost indifferently. Some indeed appear to have preferred the unfree, either because in such case the husband would not be responsible for the support of the family or because he might engage the protection of his wife's master in time of need.87 On the other hand the free colored women were somewhat numerously the prostitutes, or in more favored cases the concubines, of white men. At New Orleans and thereabouts particularly, concubinage, along with the well known "quadroon balls," was a systematized practice.88 When this had persisted for enough generations to produce children of less than octoroon infusion, some of these doubtless cut their social ties, changed their residence, and made successful though clandestine entrance into white society. The fairness of the complexions of some of those who to this day take the seats assigned to colored passengers in the street cars of New Orleans is an evidence, however, that "crossing the line" has not in all such breasts been a mastering ambition.

The Southern whites were of several minds regarding the free

The laws and Constitution of the Union Band Society of New
Orleansnized July 22, 1860: Love, Union, Peace (Caption).
ussell, The Free Negro in Virginia, pp. 130-133.
Phelps, Louisiana (Boston, 1905), pp. 212, 213.


colored element in their midst. Whereas laboring men were more or less jealously disposed on the ground of their competition, the interest and inclination of citizens in the upper ranks was commonly to look with favor upon those whose labor they might use to advantage. On public grounds, however, these men shared the general apprehension that in case tumult were plotted, the freedom of movement possessed by these people might if their services were enlisted by the slaves make the efforts of the whole more formidable. One of the Charleston pamphleteers sought to discriminate between the mulattoes and the blacks in the premises, censuring the indolence and viciousness of the latter while praising the former for their thrift and sobriety and contending that in case of revolt they would be more likely to prove allies of the whites. This distinction, however, met no general adoption. The general discussion at the South in the premises did not concern the virtues and vices of the colored freemen on their own score so much as the influence exerted by them upon the slaves. It is notable in this connection that the Northern dislike of negro newcomers from the South on the ground of their prevalent ignorance, thriftlessness and instability 0 was more than matched by the Southern dread of free negroes from the North. A citizen of New Orleans wrote characteristically as early as 1819:01 "It is a melancholy but incontrovertible fact that in the cities of Philadelphia, New York and Boston, where the blacks are put on an equality with the whites, . . . they are chiefly noted for their aversion to labor and proneness to villainy. Men of this class are peculiarly dangerous in a community like ours; they are in general remarkable for the boldness of their manners, and some of them possess talents to execute the most wicked and deep laid plots."


[Edwin C. Holland], A Refutation of the Calumnies circulated against the Southern and Western States respecting the institution and existence of Slavery among them. By a South Carolinian (Charleston, 1822), PP. 84, 85.

E. R. Turner, The Negro in Pennsylvania, p. 158.

"Letter to the editor in the Louisiana Gazette, Aug. 12, 1819.





HE negroes were in a strange land, coercively subjected to laws and customs far different from those of their an

cestral country; and by being enslaved and set off into a separate lowly caste they were largely deprived of that incentive to conformity which under normal conditions the hope of individual advancement so strongly gives. It was quite to be expected that their conduct in general would be widely different from that of the whites who were citizens and proprietors. The natural amenability of the blacks, however, had been a decisive factor in their initial enslavement, and the reckoning which their captors and rulers made of this was on the whole well founded. Their lawbreaking had few distinctive characteristics, and gave no special concern to the public except as regards rape and revolt. Records of offenses by slaves are scant because on the one hand they were commonly tried by somewhat informal courts whose records are scattered and often lost, and on the other hand they were generally given sentences of whipping, death or deportation, which kept their names out of the penitentiary lists. One errs, however, in assuming a dearth of serious infractions on their part and explaining it by saying, "under a strict slave régime there can scarcely be such a thing as crime"; for investigation reveals crime in abundance. A fairly typical record in the premises is that of Baldwin County, Georgia, in which the following trials of slaves for felonies between 1812 and 1832 are recounted: in 1812 Major was convicted of rape and sentenced to be hanged. In 1815 Fannie Micklejohn, charged with the murder of an infant was acquitted; and Tom, convicted of murdering a fellow slave was sentenced to branding on each cheek with the

'W. E. B. DuBois, in the Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science, XVIII, 132.

letter M and to thirty-nine lashes on his bare back on each of three successive days, after which he was to be discharged. In 1816 John, a slave of William McGeehee, convicted of the theft of a $100 bill was sentenced to whipping in similar fashion. In 1818 Aleck was found guilty of an assault with intent to murder, and received sentence of fifty lashes on three days in succession. In 1819 Rodney was capitally sentenced for arson. In 1821 Peter, charged with murdering a slave, was convicted of manslaughter and ordered to be branded with M on the right cheek and to be given the customary three times thirty-nine lashes; and Edmund, charged with involuntary manslaughter, was dismissed on the ground that the court had no cognizance of such offense. In 1822 Davis was convicted of assault upon a white person with intent to kill, but his sentence is not recorded. In or about the same year John, a slave of William Robertson, convicted of burglary but recommended to mercy, was sentenced to be branded with T on the right cheek and to receive three times thirty-nine lashes; and on the same day the same slave was sentenced to death for assault upon a white man with intent to kill. In 1825 John Ponder's George when convicted of burglary was recommended by the jury to the mercy of the court but received sentence of death nevertheless; and Stephen was sentenced likewise for murderous assault upon a white man. In 1826 Elleck, charged with assault with intent of murder and rape, was convicted on the first part of the charge only, but received sentence of death. In 1828 Elizabeth Smith's George was acquitted of larceny from the house; and next year Caroline was likewise acquitted on a charge of maiming a white person. Finally, in 1832 Martin, upon pleading guilty to a charge of murderous assault, was given a whipping sentence of the customary thirty-nine lashes on three successive days.2

A few negro felonies, indeed, resulted directly from the pressure of slave circumstance. A gruesome instance occurred in

"Record of the Proceedings of the Inferior Court of Baldwin County on the Trials of Slaves charged with capital Offences." MS. in the court house at Milledgeville. The record is summarized in the American Historical Association Report for 1903, I, 462-464, and in Plantation and Frontier, II, 123-125.

« AnteriorContinuar »