slavery in massachusetts

January 11, 2021 by No Comments

During the 1770's, Mum Bett was a slave in the household of Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, a prominent citizen who at that time also served as a judge of the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. For example, James Otis, a leading proponent of colonial independence, wrote in a highly regarded and influential 1764 pamphlet that "The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black. Thank you. Bett was the first slave to successfully sue for her freedom. . Because Massachusetts slaves were considered both as property and as persons before the law, slaves could institute and prosecute lawsuits in the courts against their master (the defendant) who would be obliged to demonstrate their lawful title to ownership of their slave. New England was not ultimately dependent on slave labor, and the war disrupted patterns of production and trade in the very areas in which slave labor was most heavily engaged; the coastal trade, the provisioning trade with the West Indies, fishing, and shipping in general.". This article became the subject of a series of landmark cases starting in 1781: Brom and Bett vs. Ashley, Jennison vs. Caldwell, Quock Walker vs. Jennison and Commonwealth vs. Jennison, during which two slaves, citing the article, sued their owners for their freedom, with one slave even charging his owner with assault and battery for beating him. "Slavery in Massachusetts" is one of Henry David Thoreau's most important essays. The write ordered Ashley to release Bett and Brom to the Sheriff because they were not Ashley's legitimate property. Writ of Replevin ordering Ashley to release Brett and Brom. tags: politics-of-periodicals. Like “The free men of New England have only to refrain from purchasing and reading these sheets, have only to withhold their cents, to kill a score of them at once.” Whenever slavery is mentioned, I am always so proud of Vermont for outlawing it in their Constitution, and for Uncle Henry who fought at Gettysburg for the Union, and in another battle, was injured, captured, and died in a Richmond prison. The Revolution and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts Africans and African Americans enslaved in 18th-century Massachusetts yearned for freedom. Fiercely anti-slavery, Thoreau spoke out against the practice in lectures and print, famously refused to pay poll tax in part because he did not want to finance slavery, defended John Brown, and was an underground railroad stop. . As discussed in the section of this website entitled John Adams and the Massachusetts Constitution, the Constitution of 1780 was preceded by a constitution drafted by the legislature and rejected by the voters in 1778. Reports of this trial reflect that attorney Levi Lincoln, who represented the Caldwell brothers, centered his argument on the promises of freedom contained in the new Massachusetts Constitution. The Constitution of 1780, in contrast, contained a declaration that "all men are born free and equal, and have . Meltzer, Milton. Massachusetts was the first British colony to legalize slavery. President George Washington appointed Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing to be one of the first justices on the United States Supreme Court in 1790. ", According to later stories often told about Mum Bett, her freedom suit was prompted by her overhearing dinner table conversations in the Ashley home about the new promises of liberty made in the Sheffield Declaration (1773), the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the Massachusetts Constitution (1780). A dynamic table of contents enables to jump directly to the chapter selected. This case was a direct challenge to the very existence of slavery in Massachusetts. We will use this information to improve the site.  This section introduces the legal status of slavery in Massachusetts prior to 1780, the Mum Bett case of 1781, and the Quock Walker case. Each side appealed these contradictory verdicts, and the two cases were placed on the docket of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1781. Upon her death in 1829, Mum Bett was buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge. See also The Honorable Peter Agnes, The Quork [sic] Walker Cases and the Abolition of Slavery in Massachusetts: A Reflection of Popular Sentiment or an Expression of Constitutional Law?, 1992 Boston Bar Journal 8 (1992); Zilversmit, Quok Walker, Mumbet, and the Abolition of Slavery in Massachusetts, 25 The William and Mary Quarterly 614 (1968); Spector, The Quock Walker Cases (1781- 83): Slavery, its Abolition, and Negro Citizenship in Early Massachusetts, 53 The Journal of Negro History 12 (1968); O'Brien, Did the Jennison Case Outlaw Slavery in Massachusetts?, 17 The William and Mary Quarterly 219 (1960); Cushing, supra note 3. In the first case, Walker, with the assistance of leading Worcester County attorneys Levi Lincoln and Caleb Strong, sued Jennison for assault and battery; Walker claimed he had been injured without right, as James Caldwell, his first master, had promised Walker freedom by age 25. "Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns." In short, without resorting to implication in constructing the constitution, slavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence. The first mention of a black person in the colony dates from 1633. This is done through the passage of the Body of Liberties. 11. Slavery there is said to have predated the settlement of Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629, and circumstantial evidence gives a date of 1624-1629 for the first slaves. The following year, in June 1782, Jennison petitioned the General Court (the official name of the Massachusetts legislature) for reinstatement of the case he had lost by default ten months earlier. Conceived and ratified by a unique and democratic process, the Constitution "justified and indeed compelled" judges to act so as to enforce its provisions over laws and customs that otherwise conflicted with it. on Slavery in Massachusetts. As noted, many historians and legal scholars have studied the Quock Walker cases. From 1672-1696 the British Parliament granted the Royal African Company a monopoly in the slave trade. But not before some of those enslaved had been sold back to the Caribbean so an owner could avoid a difficult financial loss.”, Sources: As discussed in the section of this website entitled The Massachusetts Judicial System, the Supreme Judicial Court was both a trial court and an appellate court during its early history. This page, Massachusetts Constitution and the Abolition of Slavery, is, in the scale of 1, Strongly Disagree, to 5, Strongly Agree, Professional Training & Career Development, http://www.masshist.org/longroad/01slavery/bett.htm, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/legal/spotlight.html, http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/ashley-house.html, John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution, John Adams, Architect of American Government. Slaves too were active in seeking the end of slavery in Massachusetts. . Though little is known of Brom's later years, the remainder of Mum Bett's life is well known. Any suggestions as to how I may further my research would be much appreciated. I thought I was the only person of color in my family. Walker became the property of Jennison, who resided in the central Massachusetts town of Barre. As historian John Cushing concluded, there is "ample evidence" that the Quock Walker cases were a significant step toward the end of slavery in Massachusetts. When the case was tried in August 1781 before the County Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington, Sedgwick argued that the Massachusetts Constitution had outlawed slavery. [since Massachusetts last deliberately sent back an innocent man, Anthony Burns, to slavery. Slavery, often recast as indentured servitude (see online display of bill of indenture for Dick Morey), was not unheard of in Massachusetts through the end of the eighteenth century. See also William Nelson, Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review 34-40 (2000) (arguing that several state courts, including Massachusetts, implicitly or explicitly applied the principle of judicial review during 1780-1800). Following England's lead, Lawyer Benjamin Kent represented slaves in … I have a 5th Gr. Native Americans of the Pequot Tribe were being pushed off their land by the European settlements. However, Chief Justice Cushing recorded his charge in his notebooks, and the entire charge is reprinted in Cushing, supra note 3, at 132-133. This section is intended to provide basic information to students and educators, so that a context is provided for the legal cases. www.slavenorth.com provides a brief overview. An essay based on a speech Thoreau gave at an anti-slavery rally at on July 4, 1854, after the reenslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns. Procedurally, the case began in May 1781 when the attorneys for Bett and Brom obtained a writ of replevin, an action for the recovery of property, from the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. As an institution, it died out in the late 18th century through judicial actions litigated on behalf of slaves seeking manumission. As a northern state, Massachusetts had its fair share of abolitionists who were uncomfortable with the state’s role in the slave trade. In 1641 Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first of Britain's mainland colonies to make slavery legal. The constitution proposed in 1778 would have recogn… As a result of lawsuits brought by African Americans, in 1783 Massachusetts courts declared that "the idea of slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct and [the Commonwealth's] Constitution." Hardesty is an associate professor of history at Western Washington University, and the author of "Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in … Bjorklund, Ruth and Stephanie Fitzgerald. Henry David Thoreau: Slavery in Massachusetts (1854) An Address, Delivered at the Anti-Slavery Celebration at Framingham, July 4th, 1854 I lately attended a meeting of the citizens of Concord, expecting, as one among many, to speak on the subject of slavery in Massachusetts; but I was surprised and disappointed to find that what had called my However, she remained known as Mum Bett throughout her life. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society website, it wasn’t long before Massachusetts became engaged in what was called the Triangle Trade: “In 1644 Boston merchants began importing slaves directly from Africa, selling them in the West Indies, and bringing home sugar to make rum, initiating the so-called triangular trade. Lothrop, Lee and Shephard Books, 1999 In early January, 1773, Ashley became moderator of a committee of eleven local citizens, including attorney Theodore Sedgwick, that wrote a document known as the Sheffield Declaration. Other reports suggest that her suit was prompted when Bett's mistress, Mrs. Hannah Ashley, attempted to strike Bett's sister with a hot shovel, but struck and burned Bett when she intervened. Original court records are in the custody of the Supreme Judicial Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation. TABLE OF CONTENTS-01- ABOUT THIS BOOK-02- SLAVERY IN MASSACHUSETTS Oil painting of Governor John Winthrop, by Charles Osgood circa 19th century. William Barton Rogers, our founding president, spent his formative years and much of his professional life surrounded by slaves. 7. The year 1641 saw the passing of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. Three court proceedings followed. This included Maine since it was still part of Massachusetts. Winthrop, a slave owner, helped write the first law legalizing slavery in North America. in-state) slave owner would not prevail in the state courts. The constitution proposed in 1778 would have recognized slavery as a legal institution, and excluded free African Americans from voting. Instead, the high court finally ruled, and then there were debates over semantics until, farm by farm, owner by owner, the practice sputtered, and then failed. Grandfather that is stated as being half negro half Indian in the history of Conway, Massachutsetts. By 1780, nearly thirty slaves had sued their master for their freedom, most during the years following 1764. Latour, Francie. The practice of slavery in Massachusetts was ended gradually, through case law. [T]hese sentiments [that are favorable to the natural rights of mankind] led the framers of our constitution of government - by which the people of this commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves to each other - to declare - that all men are born free and equal; and that every subject is entitled to liberty, and to have it guarded by the laws as well as his life and property. This form only gathers feedback about the website. Sedgwick "Pie" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. See note 3 supra. In 1780, when the Massachusetts Constitution went into effect, slavery was legal in the Commonwealth. “Slavery was a very contentious issue in Massachusetts and he felt it was it causing political problems—it was a divisive force and he wanted … Her tombstone stands in the innermost circle of what is known as the "Sedgwick Pie.". I have not been able to find anything on where he came from or who his parents may have been. Many famous buildings and structures in New England were built with money from Massachusetts’ slave trade, such as Faneuil Hall in Boston, which was constructed by wealthy slave trader and merchant Peter Faneuil, whose family regularly sold slaves in public auctions on nearby Merchants Row. Proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Court were not transcribed at this time. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was signed under President Fillmore, which required the return of escaped slaves residing in free states to their masters. The 1781 Berkshire county case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley, often referred to as the Mum Bett or Elizabeth Freeman case , was unique because it occurred less than one year after the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution and because, in contrast to prior freedom suits, there was no claim that John Ashley, the slave owner, had violated a specific law. Through Ancestry.com I have come this far and found redemption in Caleb. The first certain reference to African slavery was in connection with the bloody Pequot War in 1637. In the words of then-Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing: "[S]lavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges [in the constitution] wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence." Original court records are in the custody of the Supreme Judicial Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation. Massachusetts was the first slave-holding colony in New England, though the exact beginning of black slavery in what became Massachusetts cannot be dated exactly. Thoreau also expresses his contempt for the Governor and states that he does not governor him by any means. The exact date slaves first entered Massachusetts is unknown but many sources suggest Samuel Maverick was the first slaveholder in the colony after he arrived in early Boston in 1624 with two slaves. As historian Zilmersmit notes "[i]t is also possible that a group of prominent residents of Berkshire County selected Elizabeth and a Negro man, Brom, who was associated with her in the suit, in order to determine whether or not slavery was constitutional in Massachusetts after the adoption of the new constitution.". Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2011 Noted books on this subject include Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780 - 1860 (2000) and Arthur Zilversmit, First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North (1967). Slavery in Massachusetts Henry David Thoreau, american author, poet, philosopher (1817-1862) This ebook presents «Slavery in Massachusetts», from Henry David Thoreau. She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior or equal." How much do you agree with the following statements in the scale of 1, Strongly Disagree, to 5, Strongly Agree? However, during the years 1781 to 1783, in three related cases known today as "the Quock Walker case," the Supreme Judicial Court applied the principle of judicial review to abolish slavery. 1754 Massachusetts Slave Census. According to the book Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World, the first slaves imported directly from Africa to Massachusetts arrived in 1634. For example, in 1773, a group of slaves petitioned the General Court (legislature) to end slavery, and directly tied their search for liberty to the colonists' struggles with Great Britain. . They put off the day of settlement indefinitely, and … Mum Bett, aka Elizabeth Freeman, Watercolor on Ivory Painted by Susan Ridley Sedgwick circa 1812. And it is therefore unnecessary to consider whether the promises of freedom to Quaco, on the part of his master and mistress, amounted to a manumission or not. “The Massachusetts Constitution and Abolition of Slavery.” Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/edu-res-center/abolition/abolition1-gen.html ("Slavery in Massachusetts") Basic set up: In this essay, Henry David Thoreau lays out why he's against the Fugitive Slave Act that had been passed in 1850. . Do not include sensitive information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers. In 1696 the British Parliament revoked the monopoly held by the Royal African Company, enabling Massachusetts merchants and shipmasters to engage freely in the slave trade.”. . A few years later, in December of 1638, a slave ship named Desire brought Boston’s first shipment of slaves from Barbados, whom had been exchanged for enslaved Pequot Indians from New England. View all posts by Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, British & American Strategies in the Revolutionary War, Abigail Williams: The Mysterious Afflicted Girl. Fiercely anti-slavery, Thoreau spoke out against the practice in lectures and print, famously refused to pay poll tax in part because he did not want to finance slavery, defended John Brown, and was an underground railroad stop. africaresource.com/rasta/sesostris-the-great-the-egyptian-hercules/the-paper-genocide-of-american-indians/, linkedin.com/pulse/how-jim-crow-practiced-paper-genocide-against-native-american-sonya, google.com/amp/s/imjustheretomakeyouthink.com/2016/08/28/98-of-african-americans-are-in-fact-native-indians-and-are-owed-millions/amp/. Slavery: A World History. The timing of his decision suggests that Ashley may have determined that an appeal was futile following the first ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court in the Quock Walker case (see below). In 1780, when the Massachusetts Constitution went into effect, slavery was legal in the Commonwealth. Not a single newspaper article from the time made note of the end of a century and a half of bondage. The 1790 census recorded no slaves in Massachusetts, but historians disagree over the role of the Quock Walker case in abolishing slavery in Massachusetts. Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns There is no exact date that marks the end of slavery in Massachusetts and no specific law that suddenly brought it to a halt. Da Capo Press, 1993 In 1773, slaves themselves also took a stance against their bondage when a group of Massachusetts slaves petitioned the General Court to end slavery, comparing their desire for freedom to the colonist’s struggle for independence from British government. 0 likes. Despite opposition against it, slavery continued in Massachusetts until the 1780s and even then practice did not end quickly. See Emily Blanck, Seventeen Eighty-Three: The Turning Point in the Law of Slavery and Freedom in Massachusetts, 65 The New England Quarterly 24, 27-28 (2002) (listing all documented freedom suits). Failing to present the required papers gravestone includes the words: `` she was a... Barton Rogers, our founding president, spent his formative years and much of his professional life surrounded by.. 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