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Their petition was read June 25, 1773, and committed to a committee of 7, who reported the 28th that the further consideration of it s1ould be deferred to the next session. January 26, 1774, it was read again, together with a memorial of the same petitioners, and committed to a committee of 7. They reported a bill, intitled "An Act to prevent the importation of negroes, and others, as slaves, into this Province."
It was read a first time March 2d, a second time March 3d, A.M., a third time the same day, P.M., and passed to be engrossed, and was sent up. March 4th it was sent down with proposed amendments, which were concurred in by the House, March 5th. On the 8th the engrossed bill was read, and passed to be enacted.
It was probably laid before Governor Hutchinson, for his consent; but, on the next day (March 9th), the court was unexpectedly prorogued, after the Secretary had read a morose message from the Governour, between whom and the two houses there had been no good agreement, either in that or the preceding session. I am, with great respect, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
P. S. The Secretary, previous to the prorogation, said, "His Excellency has not had time to consider the other bills that have been laid before him" (after reading the titles of those the government had consented to).
To the REV. DR. BELKnap.
NATHANIEL APPLETON TO DR. BELKNAP.
26th Feb., 1795.
REVEREND SIR, I herewith return you Mr. Tucker's letter. I have perused it with pleasure. I heartily pitty the Southern States which still suffer the evil of slavery. It will not be possible for them to get rid of it so easily as the Massachusetts did. However, every good mind will exert itself to promote so desirable an end.
I have not yet seen the queries he enclosed you; but, when I
do, I shall endeavour to throw in my small mite to that treasure of happiness. With great respect, I am, sir,
Your friend and humble servant,
To the REV. Dr. Belknap, Boston.
JUDGE JAMES WINTHROP TO DR. BELKNAP.
CAMBRIDGE, 4th March, 1795.
REVEREND SIR, - Yesterday I was favored with your queries, and take the first opportunity to give you all the intelligence I am possessed of on the subject of the slave-trade.
1. I do not know when that trade begun among the citizens of this State, but acts were passed for the regulation of negroes, and their manumission, as early as 1703,
2. When a duty of £4 was exacted for every negro imported; for the payment whereof both master and vessel were answerable.† The whole duty was refunded on re-exportation. I have no certain information, but believe it never was carried on to any considerable extent but by way of Rhode Island.
3. During the late war I have been told that an act was passed in that State for the emancipation of such negroes as should enlist into the army; but what consideration was paid to the master exceeds my information.
4. Slaves were probably most numerous just before the Revolution. After the commencement of hostilities, the depreciation of the paper currency, and a supposed inconsistency between fighting for liberty and restraining others in servitude, prevented them from increasing. Their proportion to the white people at different periods will most probably be ascertained by the returns of population in the Secretary's office.
5. By a misconstruction of our State Constitution, which
* We have no means of knowing whether Mr. Appleton was subsequently furnished with a.copy of these queries, and had an opportunity of answering them. He had, as early as 1767, written a pamphlet on the subject of slavery, a copy of which is in the Library of the Historical Society. He was son of the Rev. Nathaniel Appleton, minister of Cambridge. - Eds.
declares all men by nature free and equal, a number of citizens have been deprived of property formerly acquired under the protection of law.
6. The Constitution begun to operate in 1780.
7. There being now no slavery known here, the negroes generally get a living by entering into domestic service; and one or two in Boston have acquired decent property. At the time of the insurrections, in 1786, they offered their service to Governor Bowdoin to the number of 700; but the Council did not think fit to accept of their aid, as the white officers might be unwilling to serve with them.
8. They are as much under the protection of government, and have the same privileges of schooling, as other people; but they can reither elect or be elected to offices of government.
9. There are a few instances of their appearing as authors, and some of their productions are not contemptible. I have not heard of their dipping into the more abstruse parts of science, and in general they are not estimated for speculative abilities.
10. An act was passed 1705, at the October session of the General Court, to prevent mixing breeds. It established a penalty of £50 for every person officiating to marry a white person and negro, but did not annul the marriage. For fornication, both parties were to be whipped, and the negro sold out of the Province. If the man was white, a fine of £5 was required of him.
11. The same act required a negro to be whipped, if he presumed to strike a Christian. They were expressly allowed to marry among their own colour. By an act passed in 1703, slaves were required to be at home by 9 o'clock in the evening, under the penalty of being whipped at the discretion of a justice of the peace, not exceeding 10 stripes. As slavery is now at an end, this act, of course, ceases; but that relating to marriages remains.
Acts passed on 25 and 26 March, 1788, prohibit the slavetrade, and the construction of the act is such that it must extend the prohibition to every part of the world. The person receiving aboard his vessel a subject of any State in Africa with a view to transport him to any other part of the world (as a slave) is to pay £50 for every person so taken aboard, and the owner is answerable for £200 for every vessel fitted out and
employed in that service. Kidnapping for exportation negroes resident here is forbidden, and a remedy given to the family of the person injured. All negroes not citizens of any State in the Union, but resident here, are required to depart within two months, or apprehended, whipped, and ordered to depart; the process and punishment to be renewed every two months.
I do not recollect any thing further on this subject, but I cannot forbear adding that it would be more worthy of an enlightened legislature to regulate a trade which is woven into our nature, and has been carried on and considered as lawful from the earliest antiquity, than to try to abolish it. If abuses have crept in, they ought to be guarded against; but abuse alone will not justify abolishing a trade which manifestly tends to preserve life and to increase the quantity of productive labor in the whole world. Wars among savages may in some small degree be promoted by the trade, but the lives of the prisoners are saved. I am, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
THOMAS PEMBERTON TO DR. BELKNAP.
BOSTON, March 12, 1795.
REVEREND SIR, — I am in doubt whether this letter will contain any information you are not already possessed of. You will, however, receive it as the best reply I can make to the queries you sent me.
The first mention of slaves in New England I find in the year 1638, when Samuel Mavericke, who was in possession of Noddle's Island at the time the settlement of Massachusetts Bay Colony began, had, it is said, three or four negro slaves in his family. In seven years after, viz., in 1645, a law was enacted by the General Court, to prohibit the buying or selling of slaves, except those taken in lawful war, or reduced to servitude by
* James Winthrop, LL.D, was a graduate of Harvard College in 1769. Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and Register of Probate. He was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Alden Bradford says of him: "We have no hesitation in ranking him among the most learned, useful, and, patriotic citizens of Massachusetts."- EDS.
other means. * From these circumstances, the probability is that slaves were brought into this colony soon after its settlement, and was then disapproved. Whether this law was ever repealed, how soon after it the slave-trade commenced here, and whether it was only connived at, are queries I cannot answer.
We know 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. Some were brought to Boston and Charlestown, and sold to town and country purchasers by the head, as we sell sheep and oxen; not, indeed, for the same purposes of slaying and eating them, but for menial services and hard labour during their lives. This business of importing and selling negroes continued till nearly the time of the controversy with Great Britain. The precise date when it wholly ceased I cannot ascertain; but it declined and drew towards a period about the time the British Parliament attempted to enslave the colonists by arbitrary acts. It was these that stirred up the people more thoroughly to investigate the rights of man, and they now became better understood. The equal right of all and every man to freedom was asserted. It arrested the attention of the people of colour among us. The more knowing ones propagated the doctrine among the black slaves.
The first instance I have heard of a negro requesting his freedom as his right belonged (I am informed) to Dr. Stockbridge, in Plymouth county. His master refused to grant it, but, by the assistance of lawyers, he obtained it. This happened about 1770. I don't know of any more being liberated (but perhaps there might have been a few) till the year 1774, when the first Congress met at Philadelphia. In their first session, the delegates from twelve of the United Colonies (Georgia had not then joined them) agreed for themselves and their constituents wholly to discontinue the slave-trade, neither to import nor purchase any slave imported after the 1st day of December in that year. There was a manifest inconsistency in holding any of their species in bondage whilst they were contending for their
* In the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, adopted in 1641. The writer does not fully describe the ninety-first article in that code. - EDS.