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Hildreth's History of the United States.
court. Masters are to provide wholesome and competent diet, clothing, and lodging, by the discretion of the county court;' nor shall they at any time give immoderate correction, nor whip a Christian white servant naked,' without an order from a justice of the peace, under penalty of forty shillings to the servant, to be recovered, with costs, on complaint to a justice of the peace, 'without the formal process of an action.' Justices are bound to receive and investigate the complaints of all servants 'not being slaves.' Any resistance or offer of violence on the part of a servant is punishable by an additional year's servitude. Servants are guaranteed the possession of such property as may lawfully come to them by gift or otherwise, but no person may deal with them except by permission of their masters. In case of fines inflicted by penal laws, unless some one would pay the fines for them, servants are to be punished by whipping, at the rate of twenty lashes for every five hundred pounds of tobacco, or fifty shillings sterling-each stroke being thus estimated at about sixty cents. Women servants having bastards are to forfeit to their masters an additional year's service, unless the master were the father, in which case the forfeiture accrues to the church-wardens. In case the father were a negro or mulatto, other penalties are added, as by a law formerly mentioned. The provisions for the arrest of runaways, which are sufficiently stringent, apply equally to slaves and servants, except that outlying slaves might be killed, and irreclaimable runaways dismembered."— Vol. II. pp. 236–237.
Governor Thomas, of Pennsylvania, enlisted the servants, in 1740, into the army, and many of them never returned to their masters, whom the State indemnified for their loss. In 1756, the colonists were much offended because the English government authorized the enlisting of servants, though a compensation was given to their masters. In the revolutionary war, many of the soldiers, enlisted in the middle and southern States, were "redemptioners," or servants. It was proposed in Congress to direct a portion of their pay to compensate the masters for the loss of their services, but at the earnest request of Washington the plan was dropped, and the servants who enlisted were declared freemen. Since the Revolution, we think there have been no servants of this character.
Some curious anecdotes are preserved of the shifts resorted to by servants to escape from their condition. A citizen from Ireland was once "sold to pay his passage" to America, and bought by a farmer in New England, as a servant. The farmer set him to read the Bible one Sunday. He held the book bottom upwards, and could not read. One day he was sent by his master into the woods to chop wood; at night, when
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Hildreth's History of the United States.
he came home, he was asked how much he had cut; he said, "about a bushel." On looking, it appears he cut it up into slivers. When bade to replenish the fire, he did it with water. He was found of no value for any of the common work of the farm, and his master, who lived on the sea-shore, set him to tend the ducks and geese, to keep them from wandering, or being destroyed, thinking it well, we suppose, to set a goose to watch a goose. At night, the servant came home with his charge, and complained that they must all of them be sick, for, he added, "they have not sucked their mothers once all day." His master considered him a fool, and finding him worthless, refused to keep him. The servant pretended that he was afraid somebody would kill him unless his master gave him a legal discharge, renouncing all claim upon him whatever. This was done; and within less than a week the foolish servant opened a school in the very town where he had been bought, and from the office of schoolmaster rose to high political stations in New England, and founded a family still proud of his name.
We cannot pass over the matter of slavery, to which Mr. Hildreth has directed much attention, and which is likely to be an interesting subject for some years to come. At the time of the settlement of America, the idea was beginning to prevail, that it was wrong to hold Christians in bondage, but this objection did not extend to heathens and infidels. It was prudently discovered that the negroes were the descendants of Ham, and the inheritors of the curse of the mythological Noah. Who so fit for bondmen as the negroes? It conduced to "godliness" to make them slaves, as well as to "great gain." The same year in which the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, twenty negroes were brought to Virginia as slaves for life, no doubt to the great comfort of the "gentlemen" there. It is not long before we find them in New England; not long before Boston is concerned in the slave-trade, from which she is not yet become free; for while we are writing this paper, we learn that a ship from Boston, the "Lucy Anne," has lately been seized, loaded with five hundred and forty-seven slaves! Another vessel, from the same port, the "Pilot," is also in British custody for the same offence. The actual seizure of five hundred and forty-seven slaves in Africa is by no means the most infamous part of the support which this city furnishes to slavery, only one of the obvious indications of a spirit well known to exist in Boston, and by no means confined to "illit
erate and profane persons." The laws of Massachusetts, in 1641, justified enslaving "captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold unto us."
In 1662, Virginia revised the rule of the common law, and declared that children should follow the condition of their mother. All the Southern States have since adopted the same iniquitous provision. In 1663, Maryland made a law that the child of a free white woman shall follow the condition of the father if he be a slave: this was repealed a few years later; but a fine of ten thousand pounds of tobacco was imposed on the clergymen or the masters and mistresses who promoted or connived at the marriage of such persons.
In 1667, Virginia declared that Christianity was no bar to slavery - but the slave should not escape from bondage by communion and baptism; killing a slave was declared not felony. Indians" imported by shipping," and not Christians, might be slaves for life. In 1671, there were two thousand "black slaves" in Virginia, and six thousand "Christian servants;" of whom about fifteen hundred were imported yearly. In 1682, all negroes, mulatoes, or Indians, brought into the colony by sea or land, Christians or not, were declared slaves for life, unless they were of Christian parentage or country. In 1692, an "act for suppressing outlying slaves," declares that, if they resist, run away, or refuse to surrender," they may be lawfully killed or destroyed with guns, or any other way whatever." The state was to indemnify the master for the loss, giving four thousand pounds of tobacco for a negro. A thousand pounds of tobacco were offered to any one who should kill a certain runaway—the "negro slave Billy." In 1705, laws were passed to prevent intermarriages between blacks and whites, and against emancipating slaves. Summary tribunals were established for the trial of slaves, "without the solemnity of a jury." They were to be kept in jail, "well laden with irons." Even in Pennsylvania, William Penn could not secure the right of equal marriage for slaves! As slaves increased. and about one thousand were annually imported into Virginia in 1720, and for some time after laws became more rigorous. It was made more difficult to set them free.
South Carolina has always been remarkable for the rigor of her slave laws. In 1670, the "fundamental and unalterable constitution" provided that every freeman "shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves." In 1704,
we find one James Moore, a "needy, forward, and ambitious man," kidnapping Indians to sell as slaves. Many others did the same in 1712, on a large scale, taking eight hundred at one time, and re-annexing Indian villages. A law was made the same year making it the duty of every person to arrest any slave found abroad without a pass, and give him " moderate chastisement." A slave guilty of petty larceny, for the first offence, was to be "publicly and severely whipped; " for the second," one of his ears to be cut off," or "be branded on the forehead with a hot iron;" for the third, he was " to have his nose slit;" for the fourth, to "suffer death, or other punishment," at the discretion of the court. Any two justices of the peace, with three freeholders whom they might summon, formed a court for the trial of any slave, charged with any crime, from "chicken-stealing" to insurrection and murder; . and was competent to sentence the accused to punishment, even if it were death, and have it executed forthwith, on their warrant alone! This mode of trial remains in force in South Carolina till this day. It was a capital crime for a slave to run out of the province, or for a white man to entice him to do
“Any slave running away for twenty days at once, for the first offence was to be 'severely and publicly whipped.' In case the master neglected to inflict this punishment, any justice might order it to be inflicted by the constable, at the master's expense. For the second offence, the runaway was to be branded with the letter R on the right cheek. If the master omitted it, he was to forfeit ten pounds, and any justice of the peace might order the branding done. For the third offence, the runaway, if absent thirty days, was to be whipped, and have one of his ears cut off; the master neglecting ing to do it to forfeit twenty pounds; any justice, on complaint, to order it done as before. For the fourth offence, the runaway, 'if a man, was to be gelt,' to be paid for by the province, if he died under the operation; if a woman, she was to be severely whipped, branded on the left cheek with the letter R, and her left ear cut off. Any master neglecting for twenty days to inflict these atrocious cruelties, was to forfeit his property in the slave to any informer who might complain of him within six months. Any captain or commander of a company, on notice of the haunt, residence, and hiding-place of any runaway slaves,' was 'to pursue, apprehend, and take them, either alive or dead,' being in either case entitled to a premium of from two to four pounds for each slave. All persons wounded or disabled on such expeditions were to be compensated by the public. If any slave under punishment shall
suffer in life or member, which,' says the act, 'seldom happens, no person whatsoever shall be liable to any penalty therefor.' Any person killing his slave out of 'wantonness,' 'bloody-mindedness,' or 'cruel intention,' was to forfeit fifty pounds current money,' or, if the slave belonged to another person, twenty-five pounds to the public, and the slave's value to the owner. No master was to allow his slaves to hire their own time, or, by a supplementary act, two years after, 'to plant for themselves any corn, pease, or rice, or to keep any stock of hogs, cattle, or horses."
"Since charity and the Christian religion which we profess,' says the concluding section of this remarkable act, 'obliges us to wish well to the souls of men, and that religion may not be made a pretence to alter any man's property and right, and that no person may neglect to baptize their negroes or slaves for fear that thereby they should be manumitted and set free,' 'it shall be and is hereby declared lawful for any negro or Indian slave, or any other slave or slaves whatsoever, to receive and profess the Christian faith, and to be thereunto baptized; but, notwithstanding such slave or slaves shall receive or profess the Christian religion, and be baptized, he or they shall not thereby be manumitted or set free.'
"South Carolina, it thus appears, assumed at the beginning the same bad preeminence on the subject of slave legislation which she still maintains."-Vol. II. pp. 273-275.
At this day, no man in South Carolina can be elected as representative to the Assembly, unless legally seized and possessed of ten slaves in his own right.
At first, slavery was not permitted in Georgia; but many of the settlers of that province were taken from workhouses, from debtors' prisons, and even worse places; "selected from the most helpless, querulous, and grasping portion of the community," ," "broken traders and insolvent debtors; men "found in the end as worthless as they were discontented and troublesome." "They were very importunate," says Mr. Hildreth, "for permission to hold slaves, without whose labors they insisted lands in Georgia could not be cultivated."
"Most of the early settlers were altogether unworthy of the assistance they received,' so says Stevens, a recent and judicious native historian of the colony, who has written from very full materials. They were disappointed in the quality and fertility of their lands; were unwilling to labor; hung for support upon the trustees' store; were clamorous for privileges to which they had no right; and fomented discontent and faction where it was hoped