Slavery: A World History. 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. 19. . emboldened enslaved persons of color to demand manumission or wage compensation from their owners - [or] simply to walk away from them." Mum Bett worked for many years as a beloved domestic servant in the household of Theodore Sedgwick. Native Americans in the Revolutionary War. 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). Â In doing so, the Court held that laws and customs that sanctioned slavery were incompatible with the new state constitution. Meltzer, Milton. William Barton Rogers, our founding president, spent his formative years and much of his professional life surrounded by slaves. The one is just as sensible a proposition as the other. “African-Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts.” Massachusetts Historical Society, www.masshist.org/endofslavery/index.php. Ashley refused. The jury found "that the said Quork is a Freeman and not the proper Negro slave of [Jennison]," and awarded Walker damages of 50 pounds. Pennsylvania adopted a gradual emancipation law in 1780, as did Connecticut and Rhode Island … Top-requested sites to log in to services provided by the state. Slavery existed in Massachusetts from the earliest Colonial days. 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.â. Agnes, supra note 16 at 11. It is generally agreed that African slaves first arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630's, and slavery was legally sanctioned in 1641. 18. 1. 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. The year 1641 saw the passing of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. Oil painting of Governor John Winthrop, by Charles Osgood circa 19th century. . 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. In 1641 Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first of Britain's mainland colonies to make slavery legal. 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. One such opponent at the time was James Otis who wrote an influential pamphlet in 1764 stating “The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black.”. I have heard repeatedly that it is really difficult to trace Native American Negroes. The Caldwell brothers prevailed in their appeal to the State's high court. Sources From 1672-1696 the British Parliament granted the Royal African Company a monopoly in the slave trade. Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first slave-holding colony in New England, though the exact beginning of black slavery cannot be dated exactly. The 1790 census recorded no slaves in Massachusetts, but historians disagree over the role of the Quock Walker case in abolishing slavery in Massachusetts. 3. I have not been able to find anything on where he came from or who his parents may have been. Thus, the Supreme Judicial Court relied on a brand new state constitution and the emerging principle of judicial review twenty years before the United States Supreme Court articulated this principle in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803). Thoreau believes that the issue in Massachusetts is more a relevant and important topic to discuss at the moment. 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. ("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. Meanwhile, a 1783 court case ended slavery in Massachusetts. Writ ofÂ ReplevinÂ ordering Ashley to release Brett and Brom. Massachusetts was the first state in the new nation to abolish the institution of slavery. As the rhetoric supporting independence of the colonists from Great Britain intensified in the colony of Massachusetts, some noted the glaring inconsistency of arguing for the rights of Englishmen while owning slaves. The Sheffield Declaration has been posted online by The Trustees of Reservations, the organization that owns the John Ashley House.Â http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/ashley-house.html, 15. 5. Thoreau states that there are no slaves in Nebraska but there are nearly a million in their own state, Massachusetts. 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. 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.". Slavery in Massachusetts by Henry David Thoreau "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 … His name is Caleb Sharp, born 1729 died 1799. Three court proceedings followed. In 1763, Caldwell died and his widow married Nathaniel Jennison. Thank you. 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. . Bett was the first slave to successfully sue for her freedom. 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). 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. They who have been bred in the school of politics fail now and always to face the facts. Each side appealed these contradictory verdicts, and the two cases were placed on the docket of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1781. I thought I was the only person of color in my family. "Slavery in Massachusetts" is one of Henry David Thoreau's most important essays. 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. (dated August 22, 1792; Suffolk files 159966). Jennison was indicted in September 1781, though the case did not come before the Supreme Judicial Court until April 1783. And it was a 1783 judicial decision, interpreting the wording of the 1780 constitution, that brought slavery to an end in Massachusetts. Bjorklund, Ruth and Stephanie Fitzgerald. 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." Popular sentiment and the courts were pro-abolition, however. “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 … Sedgwick "Pie" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Still, the New England colonies began to show differences in their approaches to slavery, even as slavery became more common in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island in the 18 th century. However, Chief Justice Cushing recorded his charge in his notebooks, and the entire charge is reprinted in Cushing, supra note 3, at 132-133. 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. View all posts by Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, British & American Strategies in the Revolutionary War, Abigail Williams: The Mysterious Afflicted Girl. A point in the right direction would be amazing. However, she remained known as Mum Bett throughout her life. 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. Sedgwick's daughter, Catharine, wrote a biographical essay about Mum Bett. See Elaine MacEachern, Emancipation of Slavery in Massachusetts: A Reexamination 1770 - 1790, 55 The Journal of Negro History 289 (1970); Zilversmit, supra note 1, at 103 - 105. Harvard Law School was built with money made off the sale of land donated by a wealthy plantation owner, Isaac Royall Jr., and the House of Seven Gables in Salem was built with money from Captain John Turner’s small role in the Triangle Trade of selling fish to Caribbean plantation owners to feed their slaves while importing the sugar they harvested on the plantations (although he didn’t actually ship or sell slaves himself). Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca. See Zilmersmit, supra note 1 at 616-617. Quock Walker, a slave, was purchased as an infant by James Caldwell in 1754. 11. tags: politics-of-periodicals. Historians estimate that between 1755 and 1764, the Massachusetts slave population was approximately 2.2 percent of the total population; the slave population was generally concentrated in the industrial and coastal towns. 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 first slaves were brought to the colony in the early 17th century. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society website, it wasn’t long before Massachusetts became engaged in what was called the Triangle Trade: âIn 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. Latour, Francie. The jury convicted Jennison, and the court ordered him to pay a fine of 40 shillings. The jury determined that Brom and Bett were not Ashley's property. 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.". This document, approved by the Committee on January 12, 1773, expressed anger at how Great Britain was treating her subjects in the colony of Massachusetts, and resolved "[t]hat mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property." Haskins, James and Kathleen Benson. I am passionate about finding out. The legislature took no action. . 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. in journalism. This case was tried before a jury in the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas. In this action, Jennison prevailed, and the jury awarded him damages of 25 pounds. Yankee slavers avoided the monopoly by smuggling slaves in through small coastal harbors. In his charge to the jury, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing announced that slavery was incompatible with the new Massachusetts Constitution: . In 1681, John Saffin and other Boston merchants wrote to the shipmaster William Welstead, warning him that the authorities planned to seize a slave ship heading for Rhode Island, and that he should intercept the vessel and direct it to Nantasket to offload its human cargo. However, after the Quock Walker case, it was clear that a local (i.e. [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. There is not one slave in Nebraska; there are perhaps a million slaves in Massachusetts. In 1754, Governor William Shirley had ordered that an enumeration of all slaves, both male and female, over the age of sixteen be completed by each town. […] In this time of national introspection about prejudice against people of color, perhaps this is a time to revisit the history of slavery in colonial New England, and its aftermath. The Salem Witch Trials Victims: Who Were They? the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties."Â. Anthony Burns was a runaway slave who stowed away on a ship from Richmond to Boston. Justice Cushing remained on that Court until 1810, and participated in deciding the case ofÂ Marbury v. Madison. 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. 8. 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. Bett fled. Massachusetts. 7. ", Historian Joanne Pope Melish observed that "the onset of the Revolution both intensified the attack and weakened the structures and practices that supported the institution [of slavery in New England]. Id. 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). 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. Their measures are half measures and makeshifts merely. 17. Upon her death in 1829, Mum Bett was buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge. The court are therefore fully of the opinion that perpetual servitude can no longer be tolerated in our government, and that liberty can only be forfeited by some criminal conduct or relinquished by personal consent or contract. As noted, many historians and legal scholars have studied the Quock Walker cases. Through Ancestry.com I have come this far and found redemption in Caleb. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. 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. As Lemire shows, the end of slavery in Massachusetts was confused and uncertain. 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. The court set Bett and Brom free and awarded them 30 shillings damages. 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. Both slaves won their cases after the jury agreed that slavery was inconsistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, thus stripping slavery of any legal protection in Massachusetts forever. 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. 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. Universities and colleges in the Americas and Europe are examining their historical ties to the Atlantic slave trade and slavery. In the second case, tried during the same court session, Jennison sued Caldwell's brothers for interfering with his property; Jennison claimed the brothers had unlawfully enticed Walker away for their own benefit. Her gravestone includes the words: "She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years. As a northern state, Massachusetts had its fair share of abolitionists who were uncomfortable with the state’s role in the slave trade. Ashley appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court but abandoned his appeal several months later. Manegold, C.S., “New England’s Scarlet ‘S’ for Slavery.” Boston.com, Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC,,18Â Jan. 2012 It turned on several factors: abandonment by owners (sometimes engineered by slaves themselves), military service, and the interpretation by the Massachusetts Superior Court of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution. 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. In 1781, at the age of 28, Walker fled to the home of Caldwell's sons. 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 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. Though little is known of Brom's later years, the remainder of Mum Bett's life is well known. . The write ordered Ashley to release Bett and Brom to the Sheriff because they were not Ashley's legitimate property. 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. 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. www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/01/18/new_englands_scarlet_s_for_slavery/ Mum Bett identified herself as Elizabeth Freeman in her will. . They put off the day of settlement indefinitely, and … Following England's lead, Lawyer Benjamin Kent represented slaves in … 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. [since Massachusetts last deliberately sent back an innocent man, Anthony Burns, to slavery. Massachusetts was the first British colony to legalize slavery. “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 This form only gathers feedback about the website. Literature regarding the development and abolition of slavery in Massachusetts and other northern states is vast and complex. 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. As most slave owners did not have enough slaves to justify building separate living quarters for them, their slaves often lived with them in their homes. 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. Her tombstone stands in the innermost circle of what is known as the "Sedgwick Pie.". 10. [since Massachusetts last deliberately sent back an innocent man, Anthony Burns, to slavery. ] The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is commencing research on how technical institutions fit into this past. The Revolution and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts Africans and African Americans enslaved in 18th-century Massachusetts yearned for freedom. 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