Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 11

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CHAPTER XI

SYSTEM OF LABOR: THE SLAVE

The introduction of the African into Virginia was an event that was certain to occur in time. The institution of slavery sprang up there under the operation of an irresistible economic law, and was to continue in undiminished vigor until it vanished in the conflagration of battle. A few negroes doubtless would have been brought into the Colony in the seventeenth century even if its soil had been incapable of producing tobacco. In this respect, the history of New England would have been repeated. The enlargement of the area under cultivation in that plant in Virginia signified an enormous increase in the number of imported slaves as soon as the proper facilities for their transportation had been established; it was not until the last quarter of the seventeenth century was reached that these facilities had been established on a scale fairly commensurate with the demand for labor in the Colony. The institution of slavery played there but an insignificant part in the course of the greater portion of this century, not because the African was looked on as an undesirable element in the local industrial system, but because the means of obtaining the individuals of this race were very limited. The value of the negro as an agricultural factor was clearly understood. The strongest competitors of Virginia in the production of its principal commodity were the Spanish Colonies in the South, where the plant was cultivated by the slaves imported from the coast of Africa or sprung from parents of African nativity. The climate of Virginia, it is true, was less oppressive to the European laborer than the climate of the West Indies, but the economic reasons which made the negro a more useful and profitable hand in the cultivation of a great staple like tobacco, were just as applicable to him in the valleys of the James and York as in the islands of Cuba and San Domingo.

One of the most serious drawbacks to the employment of indented laborers was the inevitable frequency of change attending this form of service. In a few years, as soon as the time for which the servant had been bound under the articles of his contract or by the custom of the country had come to an end, his place had to be supplied by another person of the same class. Whenever a planter brought in a laborer at his own expense, or purchased his term from the local or foreign merchant who had transported him to the Colony, the planter was compelled to bear in mind the day when he would no longer have a right to claim the benefit of his servant’s energies because his control over him had expired by limitation. He might introduce a hundred willing laborers, who might prove invaluable to him during the time covered by their covenants, but in a few years, when experience had made them efficient, and their bodies had become thoroughly enured to the change of climate, they recovered their freedom, and, if they felt the inclination to do so, as the great majority naturally did, were at liberty to abandon his estate and begin the cultivation of tobacco on their own account, or follow the trades in which they had been educated. Unless the planter had been careful to make provision against their departure by the importation of other laborers, he was left in a helpless position without men to tend or reap his crops or to widen the area of his new grounds. It was not simply the desire to become an owner of a great extent of land that prompted the Virginian in the seventeenth century to bring in successive bands of persons whose transportation entitled him to a proportionate number of head rights. Perhaps in a majority of cases, his object was to obtain laborers whom he might substitute for those whose terms were on the point of expiring. It was this constantly recurring necessity, which must have been the source of much anxiety and annoyance as well as heavy pecuniary outlay, that led the planters to prefer youths to adults among the imported English agricultural servants, for while their physical strength might have been less, yet the periods for which they were bound extended over a longer time.

It can be readily seen that from this economic point of view, the slave was a far more desirable form of property than the white servant. His term was for life, not for a few years. There was no solicitude as to how his place was to be filled, for he belonged to his Master as long as he lived, and when he died he generally left behind him a family of children who were old enough to furnish valuable aid in the tobacco fields. In physical strength he was the equal of the white laborer of the same age, and in power of endurance he was the superior. Whilst some of the negroes imported into the Colony, more especially those snatched directly from a state of freedom in Africa, were doubtless in some measure difficult to manage, the slaves as a rule were docile and tractable, and, when natives of Virginia, not disposed to rebel against the condition of life in which they found themselves. Not only were they more easily controlled than the white servants, but they also throve on plainer fare and were satisfied with humbler lodgings. Nor were they subject to seasoning, a cause of serious loss in the instance of the white laborers. Moreover, they could not demand the grain and clothing which the custom of the country had prescribed in favor of the white servants at the close of their terms, and which constituted an important drain upon the resources of the planters. It is true that the master was required to provide for his slave in old age when he could make no return because incapable of further effort, but the expense which this entailed was insignificant.

It would appear for these reasons that even in the seventeenth century, the labor of slaves after the heavy outlay in securing it had been met, was cheaper than the labor of indented white servants,[1] although the latter class of persons stood upon the same footing as the former as long as their terms continued. This was the opinion of men who had resided in the Colony for many years, and enjoyed the fullest opportunity of observing the operation of the local system of agriculture. The wastefulness of slave labor, which has always been considered to be the most serious drawback attached to it as compared with free labor, was of smaller importance in that age than when the whole area of Virginia had been divided into separate plantations, and the extent of the untouched soil had become limited to a degree demanding more skilful and more careful methods in the cultivation of the ground. In the seventeenth century, there was no element of wealth so abundant as the new lands covered by the fertile mould which had been accumulating on their surface for many thousand years. The planter availed himself of their productiveness in reckless haste, soon reducing the rich loam to barrenness, but in doing so he was pursuing a more profitable course and a more economical plan than if he had endeavored to restore the original quality of the soil. If it had been possible to obtain domestic or imported manures at a small expense, it would still have been cheaper in the end, the volume of the annual crop being considered, to extend the clearings and to leave nature to bring back the abandoned fields to their primæval excellence. The Virginian planter of the seventeenth century was apparently the greatest of agricultural spendthrifts, but in reality he was only adapting himself to surrounding conditions, which were the reverse of those prevailing in the mother country, where art had to be called in to preserve the ground from the destructive effect of long-continued tillage. Introduced into the Colony where the first principle of agriculture was to abuse because the virgin lands were unlimited in quantity, the institution of slavery was not lessened in value from an industrial point of view by the fact that it did not promote economical methods in the use of the soil.

There is, however, serious reason for doubting whether the charge of wastefulness brought against slave labor in Virginia, not only in the colonial period but in the period between the Revolution and the War between the States, was not to be laid at the door of the great staple, tobacco, rather than at the door of the institution of slavery itself. No country devoted exclusively to the cultivation of this staple is likely to present an appearance of thrift, unless its surface should be occupied by small proprietors working their own estates, and making use of every foot of available ground. The tobacco plant requires for its production loam in the greatest quantity and of the highest quality. There is always a disposition on the part of those engaged in its cultivation to widen the plantation, even now, when artificial manures are so effective in bringing back the fertility which has been lost. The newly cleared field is still the soil which is most desired, and there is still and will always be the same inclination to rely on nature for the restoration of land. This is not the fault of inherited carelessness in agriculture, but it is a condition which has descended from the seventeenth to the present century in a form modified only by the growth of population. If the culture of tobacco were very profitable, the tendency to enlarge each estate would be just as strong to-day in Virginia, with labor emancipated, as it was during the existence of slavery. That institution only promoted the extension of the plantation by cheapening labor to the lowest point, which to that degree increased the owner’s returns from his crops, enabling him to invest a greater sum each year in land. During the first sixty years in the history of the Colony, the slave was an insignificant element in the community, and yet during this long period there are to be observed the most marked indications of the tendency to appropriate large tracts. This disposition was manifest from the start, as the result not of the character of the labor system in operation, but of the nature of tobacco itself. The system of labor permitted the exhibition of this disposition but did not create it. The agriculture of Virginia did not reach an extraordinary degree of prosperity until the administration of Spotswood,[2] and this is to be partially explained by the fact that not until one hundred years had passed was the number of slaves imported into the Colony equal to the demand for their services. The most prosperous period in the history of Virginia was perhaps the interval extending from 1710 to 1770. The people during this time had not only a staple that commanded a high price in foreign markets, but also the most inexpensive system of labor, in the light of the peculiar physical conditions prevailing, which could have been adopted. The institution of slavery had not been developed sufficiently in the seventeenth century to bring about results approaching those which were observed in the eighteenth. If for every servant brought into the Colony between 1675 and 1700 a negro had been substituted, the accumulation of wealth by the planters would during this period have been more rapid than it was, not on account of their ability to raise a larger quantity of tobacco for sale, which would have been undesirable, as the supply throughout the century was even larger than the demand, but on account of that curtailment in the cost of production which would have followed from the employment of laborers bound for life and not for a term of years.

There were no scruples in the minds of the English people of that age, whether residents of England itself or citizens of the Colonies, against the enslavement of the negro and the appropriation of the fruits of his toil. Even those most fully informed as to the terrible features of the middle passage were inclined to agree with Sir John Hawkins in his memorable reply to Queen Elizabeth when reproached by her for the horrors attending the trade in human beings which this distinguished Englishman had been the first of his nation to begin. Admitting the correctness of the reports made to his sovereign, he claimed that the condition of the slave in America was less deplorable than the condition of the freeman in Africa, and that in removing the negro from a land of idolatry to a land in which Christianity prevailed, a service had been conferred upon the whole African race.[3] As late as the end of the seventeenth century, the belief was held by many, even in England, that the negro was not a man but a wild beast, marked by an intelligence hardly superior to that of a monkey, and with instincts and habits far more debased.[4] He was considered to be stupid in mind, savage in manners, and brutal in his impulses, and the multitudes that were transported across the ocean justified the apparent harshness of this judgment. It was an age, however, in which little mercy was shown to the lower races by the higher, unless the lower were in a position to inflict injury upon the higher. The Caribs in the West Indian Islands had swiftly melted away under the stress of the unaccustomed tasks which were imposed upon them. The Englishman of the seventeenth century was in no way as cruel as the Spaniard of the sixteenth, but it is not improbable that if the Indian tribes of Virginia had been as mild and tractable in their disposition as their fellows in the islands of the Spanish Main, they would at first have been brought under a yoke at best heavy and exacting. The consideration which the aborigines received from the English settlers was due in the largest measure perhaps, not to a sense of justice and humanity, which, as we have seen, was far from lacking, but to a well-founded apprehension of the savage courage and the restless spirit of the natives. The African was totally devoid of the power to resist, and was easily and permanently subdued by the exercise of force. There was a growing demand for labor in the New World, and thither he was drawn without opposition on his part, to become in time the mudsill upon which the social organization of a large part of the Western Hemisphere was to rest. Not only were there sincere doubts in the minds of many Englishmen as to whether the place of the negro in the general system of life was higher than that of the horse or the ox, but there was a belief that if he were indeed a member of the human family, he belonged to a race of men who, as the descendants of Ham, had been cursed by God himself, and so branded for all time as servants of superior races, without claim to the fruits of their own arduous labor.[5] This was thought to be in itself a justification for African slavery. Its significance was as deeply impressed upon the minds of the colonists in Virginia as it was upon the minds of the colonists in Barbadoes and the Somers Isles.[6] And yet it is a remarkable fact, that not until many years after the introduction of the negro into Virginia, do we find him referred to in the statute book as a slave; in the beginning, he was simply a servant for life, different only from the white servant in the length of his term of service.

The first cargo of negroes brought into Virginia was transported thither without there having been any previous arrangement on the part of the planters to receive them upon their arrival. They were introduced under the impression that they could be disposed of with ease because of the growing demand for labor in the cultivation of tobacco. The system of indented service had by this time been firmly established, and under the wise administration of Sir George Yeardley the Colony itself had entered upon that course of expansion in wealth and population which, with the exception of a brief interval occasioned by the massacre of 1622, was to show a steady progress with the passage of each decade. In 1619, at the moment when the settlers were beginning to feel the first beneficent effects of a milder government, twenty Africans were disembarked from a Dutch privateer, presumably at Jamestown, as the place where a market was most readily found for a cargo of laborers. The ill-fated vessel, which was destined to earn by this single act in its career a sinister immortality in history, was sailing under letters of marque from the Prince of Orange, and had been cruising in the Spanish Main for the purpose of capturing Spanish prizes. The rapacious and unscrupulous Argoll seems to have been indirectly connected with this introduction of the negro into the Colony, and was, therefore, partly, although remotely, responsible for it. Before the close of his term as Governor he had dispatched to the West Indies a ship, sent to him by the Earl of Warwick and sailing under a commission from the Duke of Savoy, to make raids upon Spanish shipping. This vessel was ordered to bring back to the Colony a load of salt and goats, but it was suspected at the time that its real object was to ravage the commerce of Spain.

Argoll during his administration had sought to reduce all the resources of the Colony to his own immediate profit, without regard to public or private interests. It seems probable, therefore, that the introduction of slave labor occurred to him as an enterprise which would be likely to result in gain to himself and his patrons. While cruising in the West Indies, his vessel, the Treasurer, fell in accidentally with a Dutch privateer and remained in company with her. It was from the officers of the Treasurer that the commander of this ship perhaps learned that a market for the sale of negroes could be found in Virginia, for, after touching at the Bermudas, the vessel proceeded to that Colony, which she reached in the month of August, Yeardley in the meanwhile having taken the place of Argoll, who had a few days before the arrival of the new Governor returned by stealth to England. The Treasurer arrived in Virginia in the course of the same summer as the Dutch privateer, but, meeting with a cold reception, she turned back to the Bermudas, carrying with her a number of slaves, who were placed upon the lands which the Earl of Warwick owned in that island.[7] During her stay in the Colony, she seems to have disembarked only one negro, so far as the records shows.[8]

It has been suggested that the first negroes introduced into Virginia after its occupation by the English were imported in the Treasurer, and not in the Dutch privateers.[9] All the evidence which has been published goes to confirm the statement of Rolfe, that the latter and not the former vessel was responsible for this ill-omened addition to the population of the Colony. One of the first acts of Governor Yeardley after his arrival at Jamestown was to inform Sir Edwin Sandys in England, that it was generally believed in Virginia that the only object which those in charge of the Treasurer had in view in their West Indian voyage was to make an incursion upon the Spanish islands in that quarter, a purpose not inconsistent with the character of similar incursions which had been promoted by the Earl of Warwick, the principal owner of the vessel. The attention of the Council was called to the expedition, but that body decided to dismiss the whole matter without prejudice to Warwick, who might have been seriously compromised if it had been shown that he had been engaged in a piratical attack upon the commerce and property of Spanish subjects in the West Indies. The English King was at this time very solicitous to preserve the utmost amity in his relations with Spain. After a short interval, a second communication was received from Governor Yeardley, announcing that the Treasurer had returned to Virginia, but had met with a reception so little cordial that she had soon departed, leaving behind a lieutenant, who had admitted that those in command of the ship were deeply involved in outrageous depredations upon the Spanish possessions in the South.[10] This news created a great commotion in the Council. Sandys had called that body together for the special purpose of inducing it to inform the Spanish Ambassador and the Privy Council of the lawless course which had been pursued by the owners of the Treasurer. It is obvious from these proceedings how determined the new administration in England was that the Colony should not rest under the slightest suspicion that the Company was giving countenance to the piracy of Warwick and Argoll. That Yeardley understood the importance of keeping clear of the same imputation, is proved by the fact that he was so hostile to the vessel upon the strength of rumor alone that the master, in order to evade arrest, set sail instantly when he discovered that Argoll had taken flight.[11] This did not prevent the vigilant Governor from dispatching a full account of all that could be learned about the Treasurer to the authorities of the Company in England. Entertaining this feeling towards the ship, and being fully aware of the extreme peril both to himself and to the safety of the Colony that would arise from showing consideration to a vessel which had excited the violent animosity of the Spanish Power, it seems wholly improbable that he would have entered into negotiations with Captain Elfrith for the purchase of the slaves contained in his ship. To have done so would have been to call down the wrath of the Spaniard upon Virginia at a time when it was the policy of the home as well as the colonial government to avert it. To give a cold reception to the Treasurer was the natural and prudent course to pursue, and that this was done, both Yeardley and Pory assert with equal clearness. If the negroes on board had been withdrawn from the ship by force, Warwick would have advanced the same claim to them which he afterwards advanced to the fourteen whom the Treasurer disembarked at the Bermudas subsequent to her departure from Virginia. No such claim was made. It is equally significant that in the census taken in 1624-25 but one negro is mentioned as having been imported into the Colony in this vessel. If all had arrived in Virginia in her bottom, the same fact would have been stated in connection with each slave. It is equally significant that a large proportion of the Africans introduced in 1619 were placed upon the lands assigned to the office of the Governor. It seems improbable that Yeardley, a man of prudence and discretion, would, even as a feint, send a dispatch to England in open condemnation of the piratical voyage of the Treasurer at the very moment he proposed to reap important benefits from that voyage by purchasing, for the use of tenants in his service, the negroes who constituted the principal prize of the incursion from which the Treasurer had just returned.

In the space of five years immediately following 1619, the number of Africans in the Colony was increased by two. The muster taken of the population in 1624-25 discloses the presence of twenty-two as compared with the twenty brought in by the Dutch privateer, but one of these two additions is accounted for by the fact that the Treasurer had landed a negro in Virginia in 1619, and the other had been imported in the Swan in 1623.[12] The two children included in the lists of the muster, it may be, were born on the North American continent. Their ages are not given, which makes it impossible to state this with confidence.[13] If under five years, they were natives of the Colony, but if over five years, they were born at sea or in the West Indies. While the mind cannot contemplate the birth of the first negro on North American soil with the same emotions as those aroused by the birth of Virginia Dare,[14] the event nevertheless was one which cannot be regarded without a feeling of the profoundest interest when we reflect upon its association with the great events which were to come after. Whichever of these children, if either, was born in Virginia, it was the first of his race who could claim a nativity in the soil and an absolute identification with its history.[15]

It is an interesting fact that no African perished in the massacre of 1622, when three hundred and forty-five of the colonists fell by the tomahawks and arrows of the Indians. This can only be explained on the ground that their color had been influential in saving them from the ferocity of the savages. More than two years had passed since their arrival in Virginia, which allowed a sufficient interval for their partial distribution among the different settlements. Many of the negroes were doubtless still at Jamestown, one of the few places in the Colony from which the massacre was averted, but a number must have been at Fleur de Hundred, which did not escape that terrible visitation. Of the twenty-two negroes in Virginia in 1623, eleven were living at Fleur de Hundred, four at Warrasquoke, two at Elizabeth City, one at Jamestown Neck, three at Jamestown, and one on the plantation on the banks of the Powhatan opposite to that place. Their failure to increase in number during the five years immediately following their introduction was due to the separation of the sexes, as disclosed by the records. Thus, of the eleven at Fleur de Hundred, in 1623, one alone apparently was of the female sex. Two, perhaps all, of the three at Jamestown were women. The only negro at Jamestown Neck was a man. This was also true of the one on the plantation lying across the river from Jamestown. Of the four negroes at Warrasquoke, two were women.[16]

An examination as to the ownership of the negroes in 1625, reveals the fact that there was greater opportunity for their increase at that time than in 1623. On one of the tracts of public land which Governor Yeardley had under cultivation, there were five female slaves and three male. Richard Kingsmill and Captain West respectively were in possession of one male slave. Abraham Piersey, the former Cape Merchant, a man of considerable fortune, was the owner of four male slaves and two female. On the plantation of Captain Tucker, there was a family of slaves composed of a husband, wife, and child. There was also a slave husband and wife on the Bennett estate.[17] The names which these negroes bore would seem to show that they had been captured, as has been suggested, on the high seas, and had after their arrival in the Colony been given English appellations; the name of one alone is of Spanish origin, the negress who had been brought in by the Treasurer being known as Angela. When at a later period slaves were imported into Virginia from the Spanish West Indies, it was the custom of many who bought them as a basis for patents, to retain their Spanish designations. The custom was not always followed, but was observed, as we will show hereafter, with sufficient strictness to give much valuable information as to the origin of the negroes who were entered to secure head rights. The Africans forming the cargo of the Dutch privateer that arrived in 1619 were known after their distribution among the plantations by such English names as Peter, Anthony, Frank, and Margaret, but these might have been the anglicized forms of the original Spanish names.

Five years after the census of 1624-25 was taken, from which it appears that there were twenty-two Africans in the Colony at that time, an important addition was made to the slave population by Captain Grey, who, during a cruise in the ship Fortune of London had encountered a vessel loaded with negroes from the Angola coast, captured her and brought her cargo into Virginia. This cargo he exchanged there for eighty-five hogsheads and five butts of tobacco, which were afterwards transported to England for sale. It would seem that no difficulty was found in disposing of these slaves, although they were rude savages stolen only a few weeks before from their native country. The demand for labor was now so urgent that these untrained barbarians were doubtless purchased in haste.[18]

So far as can now be discovered, all the negroes imported into the Colony in the course of the first half of the seventeenth century were brought in like the cargoes of the Dutch privateer in 1619, and the Fortune in 1629, by independent ships and by individual enterprise. The first charter for the acquisition of slaves which was granted in this century to an organized body by the English Government, was in 1618, when the exclusive privilege was conferred upon the Earl of Warwick and his associates of carrying on a traffic of this kind on the Guinea coast. As has been seen in connection with the Treasurer, which, if not the property of the Company, was owned by its leading members, the restriction to this coast was not strictly observed in its operation. The fact that the vessel, although belonging to men who were licensed to trade in slaves, was turned away from Jamestown in the summer of 1619 without being permitted to dispose of the negroes on board, is an additional indication of how solicitous the Governor at that time was that Virginia should not be drawn into any complication with the Spanish Power. There is no evidence to show that the Fortune, which was commanded by Captain Grey, was connected with the Company over which Warwick pre sided. She was probably an independent vessel engaged in general commerce.

In 1631, the year following the seizure of the Angola slaver, a charter was obtained from Charles the First by an association that went to an extraordinary expense in making every provision for securing the traffic of the Guinea coast, inclusive of the barter in negroes. The importation into Virginia of Africans by the agency either direct or indirect of this Company must have been small, as eighteen years subsequent to the acquisition of its charter the number in the Colony did not exceed three hundred. A part of this number is to be attributed to natural increase, for thirty years had now passed since the negro was first landed in Virginia. A fair proportion of the three hundred, however, had been introduced by planters or shipowners, the principle of the head right having been adjudged to apply to the slave as well as to the indented servant. The first instance recorded in the patents now preserved in the office of the Register at Richmond, of a grant of fifty acres on the basis of a head right allowed for the importation of an African, is that in connection with Angela, who belonged to Richard Bennett.[19] This was in 1635, in which year twenty-six negroes were introduced into Virginia. The person who brought in the largest number was Charles Harmar, who added four men and four women to the slave population.[20] The extent of the increase in 1636 did not exceed seven, the importation by individual planters being in no case larger than two. In 1637, twenty-eight negroes were introduced, Henry Browne being the importer of eight. In 1638, the number amounted to thirty. The planters who obtained head rights on the basis of these thirty slaves included such leading citizens as Francis Epes, John Banister, Randall Crew, Christopher Wormeley, George Menefie, Thomas Harris, John Robbins, and Richard Kemp. Richard Kemp brought in eleven and George Menefie twenty-three.[21] It is stated that the whole number of Africans introduced in this year by the latter were from England. In 1639, only forty-six negroes were added to the slave population of the Colony, of whom fifteen were imported by George Menefie and twelve by Henry Perry.[22] The number in 1642 amounted to seven only; in 1643 to eighteen, and in 1649 to seventeen, of whom a large majority were introduced by Ralph Wormeley.[23] In the interval between 1649 and 1659 there seems to have been little fluctuation in the volume of the importations. The greatest number of negroes brought in one body in this interval were introduced in 1656, when thirty were imported by Tabitha and Matilda Scarborough of the Eastern Shore.[24] In other instances it did not rise above thirteen.

There are many indications that previous to 1650 the Dutch were either directly or indirectly chiefly instrumental in introducing the negro into Virginia. In 1655, Colonel Scarborough, one of the most distinguished planters of the Eastern Shore, is stated to have visited Manhattan, where he purchased many slaves, whom he afterwards transported to his own home.[25] The Dutch vessels, however, were in the habit of landing Africans in the Colony. The trade was doubtless interrupted by the war which broke out in 1653 between Holland and England, but as soon as peace was restored it was resumed, although not to the extent which the landowners desired. In 1659, the General Assembly sought to promote the importation of negroes in Dutch bottoms by granting to Dutch masters the valuable privilege of sending out the tobacco, which had been exchanged for slaves introduced, free from the duty of ten shillings a hogshead which was imposed upon all foreign ships, and subject only to the duty of two shillings required upon the casks exported to England.[26] The action of the Assembly was soon rendered nugatory by the return of the Stuarts, and the rigid enforcement of the Navigation laws. Previous to this event the English merchants who had taken part in the traffic of supplying the American plantations with slaves, had become thoroughly discouraged by the encroachments of the Dutch, who did not hesitate to seize English vessels seeking to participate in the African trade. To prevent the entire exclusion of these merchants, it was found necessary, in 1662, to grant a charter to the Royal African Company, with the exclusive right of importing negroes into the English possessions, the number to be introduced annually not to fall short of three thousand. The Duke of York, brother of the King, was placed at its head. This corporation was authorized to give a license to any English subject to export slaves from Africa to the English Colonies on the payment of three pounds sterling a ton on the tonnage of the vessel used in transporting them. It also received permission to enter into a contract with the Governor of Barbadoes to supply the planters of that island with negroes at the rate of seventeen pounds sterling a head. The slaves to be conveyed to the planters of Antigua and Jamaica, under contracts with the Governors of these Colonies, were to be delivered respectively at eighteen and nineteen pounds sterling apiece. It is worthy of note that the right was not specifically conferred upon the Company at this time to enter into an agreement with the Governor of Virginia as to the rates at which Africans were to be sold to the people of that English possession, an omission due perhaps to the fact that the Colony was not yet regarded as an important market for slave labor.[27]

It is questionable whether in 1663 the slave population of the Colony was in excess of fifteen hundred persons. Eight years later it had risen only to two thousand.[28] In 1671, Berkeley testified that in the course of the previous seven years the importation of negroes into Virginia did not go beyond two or three cargoes.[29] This statement is confirmed by the evidence of the patent books. The founders of powerful colonial families appear in this decade for the first time as the patentees of large tracts of land on the basis of African head rights. In 1662, Richard Lee obtained a grant upon the presentation of a list of persons that included eighty negroes, the largest number which had previous to this time formed a part of the basis of title. In 1665, Carter of Corotoman sued out a patent that included twenty negroes in its lists of head rights. In a list of sixty-nine belonging to the Scarboroughs, which was made the basis of a single grant, thirty-nine were represented by slaves. In some instances the number of such head rights preponderated to the extent of fifteen to five, and in others they constituted the whole list, ranging as high as fifteen.[30]

In 1672, the Royal African Company received a new charter and became in a few years a powerful agency in the exportation of slaves to America. At first, however, it does not appear to have exercised an increased influence in promoting the transportation of negroes to Virginia. The decade between 1670 and 1680 was one of extraordinary commotion in the affairs of the Colony, owing to the insurrection under the leadership of Nathaniel Bacon, an event which was preceded and followed by a state of great impoverishment among the people. In 1679, Culpeper, replying to the instructions from England, which directed him to give an annual account of the number of Africans imported into Virginia, declared that some years previously five or six hundred were introduced every year, but the number now brought in had declined to very small proportions.[31] He was obviously referring to the time which preceded the Rebellion, as in the interval that had passed since its close, the condition of the inhabitants had been such as to prevent their making any purchases. The records of patents, entered between 1670 and 1680, indicate that the increase in the slave population in the course of this period was comparatively insignificant. A striking feature in the character of this interval is the acquisition of the enormous tracts of land upon the basis of head rights represented by white servants almost exclusively. Thus in 1671, a patent to ten thousand acres was obtained by Mr. Smith, yet among the two hundred and one persons forming the list that entitled him to the grant, only four were negroes. Of the one hundred and twenty-two persons who, in 1676, were made the basis by Colonel William Byrd of a patent to seven thousand three hundred and fifty-one acres in Henrico, three alone were Africans, and the proportion was still more insignificant in the list presented by Cadwallader Jones in the same year for the purpose of securing a patent to fourteen thousand one hundred and forty-one acres. In the case of many small grants made during this decade, the proportion was reversed, there being four or five negroes to one or two white servants.[32]

In 1681, Culpeper declared that as yet no slaves had been brought into Virginia by the Royal African Company;[33] but this statement does not appear to have been wholly accurate. There was undoubtedly an arrangement with that corporation for the introduction of negroes into the Colony in 1678; the agent, however, seems to have been a private person, for he was charged with importing a larger number than he was authorized to do.[34] Culpeper was instructed to allow no ship to sail from Virginia to that part of the Guinea coast which lay within the territory of the Royal African Company, with a view to exchanging tobacco for slaves, unless it had received a special license from the Company itself.[35] He denied, in his reply to this instruction, that any Virginian vessel had at any time in the history of the Colony carried on a traffic with the people of that coast.[36] This, however, could not be said of ships from New England which visited Virginia. In 1682, there arrived in the Rappahannock River a Captain Jackson, in command of a vessel belonging to persons who resided in Piscataqua, N. H., among them Mrs. Cutts, a lady of prominence in that community. Having disposed of his merchandise, he expressed to Colonel Fitzhugh, his principal purchaser, a strong desire to furnish him with a cargo of slaves in the following year. The letter which Fitzhugh wrote in reply to this proposition is of unusual interest, as showing the attitude of the people both of Virginia and of New England towards the race which, nearly two centuries later, were to raise so serious a barrier between the North and South. Both Virginian and New Englander, in this case, entered into a contract, in which disposition was to be made of a large number of human beings, in the same spirit as if the objects in which they were trading were so many pipes of wine, casks of rum, or boxes of clothing. In the invoice which was given to Jackson, provision was made for the purchase of a certain number of boys and girls of ages that were not to fall below seven or to rise above twenty-four. These negro youths were to be landed at the wharf of Colonel Fitzhugh, and the payment of the sums agreed upon in return for them was to be secured by bonds, which were to be met within a time carefully prescribed.[37]

There is ground for thinking that the importation of slaves into Virginia through the agency of New England shipowners and merchants increased in importance as the trade with the West Indian Islands enlarged in volume. It will be shown hereafter that a vast quantity of the products of these islands was conveyed to the Colony in New England bottoms and there exchanged for tobacco, which in turn was transported to the mother country. Negroes commanded as ready a sale as rum or sugar in Virginia. It is common to find in the county records, references to the vessels in which young negroes, who had been introduced into court to have their ages adjudged, had been brought into the Colony. The names of New England ships are not infrequently mentioned as the vehicles of their importation.[38] After 1682, there is reason to believe that the Royal African Company became either directly or indirectly the principal agent in increasing the African population of Virginia. In the commission which Culpeper received in the course of this year, it was announced that the English Government had recommended to that corporation to furnish the Colony with slaves at very moderate prices, and in return for this benefit, the authorities there were commanded to enforce the payment of all dues to the Company on the part of planters who had purchased negroes from its representatives. Stress was laid in the commission upon the fact that only in this way could its trade be secured, as it was hardly probable that the Company would continue to carry valuable goods to an unprofitable market.[39] Ships were now arriving in the rivers of Virginia directly from the factories on the African coast. Such a vessel was that which came to anchor in the James in 1686, with a large number of negroes consigned to Colonel Byrd, several of whom were smitten with the small-pox, which was thus introduced into his household with fatal consequences in at least one instance.[40] Fitzhugh, writing to Ralph Wormeley, refers to the fact that several slave-ships were now expected in York River; “I am so remote,” said he, “that before I can have notice, the negroes will all be disposed of, or at least none left but the refuse.” Wormeley was, therefore, requested to perform the friendly office of purchasing for him five or six of these Africans when they should reach the Colony.[41] About the same time, Mr. Samuel Simpson, a prominent merchant residing at Queen’s Creels, received instructions from the local agent of Mrs. Margaret Fellows of England to buy a certain number of negroes from the master of the Lady Francis or the Katherine, whichever of the two vessels should be the first to come to anchor in the York.[42] These were slave-ships. The fact that two such vessels were to arrive nearly simultaneously indicates that the volume of importation into this part of the Colony was not inconsiderable. At a later date, Colonel Byrd expresses much regret that the owner of a certain ship, which was expected in the waters of Virginia with a cargo of slaves, was so slow in his voyage. “I suppose,” Colonel Byrd remarked, “our parts will be supplied long ere he arrives,” a fact that would destroy the market for his human merchandise.[43] Bills for the payment of negroes were now given, to be made good upon the arrival of the first slave-vessel.[44] A habit sprang up at this time among some of the leading colonists of including negroes in the invoices of supplies forwarded to their correspondents in England to be filled. The Royal African Company had its agencies in London, and to them the merchants transferred their orders for slaves.[45] It not infrequently happened that a person residing in Virginia directed under his will that property which he owned in the mother country should be sold and the proceeds invested in negroes, a conversion which was doubtless carried out through the same corporation.[46] Many of the slaves in the Colony were imported directly from the West Indies, there being an extensive trade between Virginia and those islands in grain. When Colonel William Byrd and other prominent planters were in need of negroes, they often forwarded orders to their merchants in Barbadoes to return so many along with the cargoes of rum, sugar, and molasses for which invoices were dispatched, the sex, age, and physical points of the slaves to be sent being as carefully specified as the quality and quantity of the articles for consumption.[47] Merchants of this island were also personally engaged in transporting negroes to Virginia with a view to their sale to casual purchasers.[48]

Instructions were given to Lord Howard, in 1687, to punish with the utmost severity all persons who were discovered to be engaged in importing negroes in violation of the exclusive rights of the Royal African Company.[49] Acting upon the letter and the spirit of these instructions, Howard issued orders to Captain Perry of the guard-ship then cruising in Virginian waters, to bar the entrance of every vessel having slaves on board which could not show a license from that corporation.[50] The promptness with which the Governor sought to enforce the commands received from England was probably due in a measure to an event of the same year, which proved that there were shipmasters who, in the absence of this license, would seek to bring their cargoes of negroes into the Colony by stealth. In October, for want of provisions it was afterwards alleged, one hundred and twenty slaves were landed at a lonely point on the Eastern Shore, from the English ship Society of Bristol, which, we may infer, had come directly from Africa, since a large quantity of elephants’ tusks formed a part of its cargo. The vessel on the same day was allowed to drift on the shore and go to wreck. The Collector of the district seized it, its crew and cargo. The negroes and ivory were sold for tobacco, because they had been forfeited under the law by the failure of their owners to pay the port duties.[51]

In the last decade of the seventeenth century, the number of African head rights in the Patent Books[52] show a notable increase in the importation of slaves. They become now the most important basis of the acquisition of title to land. In numerous cases, the list of names are restricted to negroes, as many as twenty-seven, sixty-four, seventy-nine, and eighty-four being included at one time. The average number, however, was only nine or ten. It had grown now to be a comparative rarity for a patent to be obtained on the basis of head rights representing white servants alone, the proportion of slaves to white servants even in the smaller grants being as high as one-third or even one-fourth. Doubtless, in the greatest number of instances, the negroes who were brought to Virginia from Africa were renamed as soon as they came into the possession of the planters, but this custom is not likely to have been observed so much in the case of slaves who had been drawn from the Spanish islands in the West Indies. The patents from decade to decade are strewn with names of Spanish origin, and traces of African names are also to be detected. Mingo, a contraction of Domingo, was as common at that early date as it was at later periods. Hardly less frequent is the occurrence of such names as Pedro, Sancho, Lopez, Carlos, Francisco, Dago, Magdelena, Andrea, Jubina, Cinchenello, Maria, Palassa, and Antonio, and also Sonora, Rommo, Tomora, Dondo, Wortello, Nandino, Sonero. In several instances whole lists of names are exclusively African in character. The purchaser of imported slaves was evidently frequently at a loss in finding names for his chattels. When they had come from an English Colony in the West Indies, he was in the habit of retaining their English designations, and this accounts in part for the number of Jacks, Kates, Pegs, Toms, Dicks, and Bobs in the lists in the patents. He was, however, in large measure responsible for the Biblical names which are found so frequently, such as Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Daniel, Isaiah, Emanuel, Ruth, Stephen, Hagar, and Jacob. It was also he who drew on the resources of ancient history, as exhibited in the great number of Alexanders, Cæsars, Pompeys, Scipios, Hannibals, and Neros. Modern history was also ransacked, and sable Cromwells, Robin Hoods, and Rosamunds appeared in Virginia. Mythology offered too rich a fund of names to be allowed to remain unused. Jupiter, Juno, Cyclops, Priapus, Hero, Leander, Pallas, Athena, and Minerva, Mars, Vulcan, and Pan were common. Many of these were to undergo in time remarkable transformations owing to the looseness and inaccuracy of pronunciation which distinguished the negro. Traces of the originals are still discoverable in names which would have seemed wholly alien to the Greek and Roman ear. Having peopled the Colony with gods, prophets, and generals so far as names could impart these characters, the planters who in the seventeenth century sued out patents on the basis of negro head rights, turned to inanimate objects as designations for their slaves; thus, there were a number of Baskets and Buckles. Great events in history were also employed, such as the Reformation. Physical features too were used in the construction of the lists of names; Barebones and Rawbones were not uncommon. The name of the place from which the slave had come was sometimes added to his Christian name; among the negroes belonging to John Carter of Lancaster County were Accomac Jack and Barbadoes Dick.[53]

So numerous had the slaves become towards the close of the seventeenth century that a planter, stocking a new estate with slaves, was not compelled to rely entirely on the merchants engaged in importing negroes. They could be secured in the Colony of his fellow-planters. The proportion of those who were born in Virginia must now have been important, and it was this class that was justly regarded as being most desirable. In the inventory of the property of John Carter of Lancaster, one of the largest slaveholders in the Colony, great care was taken to distinguish the negroes of Virginian birth from those who had been imported, and there was a marked difference in their respective appraisements in favor of the former.[54] Colonel Fitzhugh, in a letter which he wrote to a correspondent in London in 1686, mentions incidentally that his plantations were now cultivated by “fine crews” of slaves, the majority of whom were natives of the soil.[55] Some of these had been purchased by him in the Colony. A few years before he had written to William Leigh, who lived in another part of Virginia, to inquire if one hundred pounds sterling, which had been placed in his hands for investment in negroes, could be expended to advantage in this form in the county where Leigh resided. He also conveyed the same request to John Buckner.[56] A memorandum which Fitzhugh gave to his agent, who was about to set out for York, throws still more instructive light on these local purchases of slaves. This agent was directed not to buy more than two women under thirty years of age. The highest price to be paid for a man was twenty pounds sterling, unless he was a negro of extraordinary physical strength. Fifty-four pounds were prescribed as the limit of price for three boys whom a Mr. Walker had expressed a willingness to dispose of, and for two youths whom Major Peyton was prepared to sell, thirty-four were to be offered as the highest figure. The agent was ordered by Colonel Fitzhugh to confine himself strictly to these sums, unless he should find upon inquiry that the ruling prices for slaves were so much greater that he would have to return to Rappahannock with his mission unfulfilled if he persisted in his demands. For the negroes to be purchased, payment was to be made in part in certain bills of exchange drawn in favor of Fitzhugh by local debtors, these bills being turned over to the agent when he started upon his journey.[57]

It is a fact of interest that the value of negroes advanced rather than declined as their number in the Colony increased. In 1640, when the black population of Virginia probably did not exceed one hundred and fifty persons, a male African adult commanded about twenty-seven hundred pounds of tobacco, and a female about twenty-five hundred; this amounted to an average price of about eighteen pounds sterling a head, rating that commodity at a penny and a half a pound. Three years later, two negro women and one negro child were assigned in York by Henry Brooke to Nicholas Brooke, a merchant of London, in return for fifty-five hundred pounds of tobacco.[58] The executors of William Pryor in 1647 sold to Captain Chisman of York County four negro men, two negro women, and two negro children for one hundred and fifty pounds sterling, an average value of eighteen pounds.[59] In 1659, a young negro woman in the same county was held at thirty.[60] Ten years after this, it was declared, in a report drawn up by the Committee for Foreign Plantations, that the average price which the newly imported African slaves commanded in Virginia was twenty pounds sterling a head.[61] In 1671, an old negro woman was appraised in York County at twenty-four pounds, a young negro woman at thirty-two, a child of the same race, whose age did not exceed one year and a quarter, at four.[62] A few years later, in a purchase of slaves which was made by Mr. Bryan Smith of York County, he gave thirty pounds sterling apiece for five men, twenty-five apiece for two women, thirty apiece for two other women, and fifty-three shillings for a child. In 1682, a young negro man in York was appraised at twenty-six pounds sterling, and a young negro woman and child at twenty-seven.[63] In 1695, two negro men who formed part of the estate of Captain John Goodman of the same county were held at sixty pounds sterling together.[64]

The valuations placed upon the slaves of Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., whose inventory was brought into court in 1694, represented doubtless the average appraisement of a large estate in negroes at this time in York. Nine were entered at twenty-eight pounds sterling, ten at twenty-five, three at twenty, one at eighteen, three at sixteen, one at fifteen, one at thirteen, one at twelve, and two at eight.[65] The value of a male child, twelve years old, was placed at twenty pounds sterling; of a girl of ten, at fifteen; one of nine, at twelve; while a girl four years of age was appraised at eight pounds sterling,[66] and another of six years, at ten.[67]

In a letter written by Thomas Howell in Surry County, about 1671, he informs his correspondent that he had just bought a negro therefor twenty-six pounds sterling and twelve shillings; “I suppose,” he adds, “the most that ever has been given in these parts.”[68] In 1680, Colonel Fitzhugh, who resided in the Northern Neck, in a letter addressed to Captain William Partis, states that he had entered into a bargain with Mr. Vincent Goddard to pay twenty-nine pounds sterling for two slaves; it is to be presumed that this sum represented what he gave, not for both, but for each one, unless they were mere youths.[69] In the proposal which he made to Captain Jackson in February, 1682, with reference to the cargo of negroes who were to be consigned to him in the following autumn, he states in detail the prices he was willing to pay for them. Three thousand pounds of tobacco were to be the valuation of every boy and girl whose ages ranged from seven to eleven; while for those whose ages ranged from eleven to fifteen, it was to be four thousand, and for those whose ages ranged from fifteen to twenty-five, five. The price of tobacco at this time was from one penny and a half to two pennies a pound.[70]

When the master of the Society, the Bristol ship which went ashore in Accomac, came to reward the persons who had assisted him in landing the negroes he had on board, he paid James Lamont thirty pounds sterling in the form of a boy and girl.[71] This is found to be the figure at which two African children were appraised in Henrico County in 1697, the value of a negro man on the same occasion being placed at twenty-five pounds.[72] In Elizabeth City, the prices of slaves in the same decade appear to have been substantially the same as in Henrico. In the inventory of the estate of William Marshall, two negro men were entered at fifty pounds sterling, and two negro women at forty-five. A boy, five years of age, was listed at ten pounds, two girls, two and three years of age respectively, at twelve, and an infant seven months of age, at two pounds and ten shillings. In the same year an infant, six months of age, was held at three pounds sterling, and a child, eight years of age, at ten pounds.[73]

In Middlesex County, the prices of slaves seem to have maintained a slightly higher average than in the counties already named. In the estate of Major Robert Beverley, the elder, the inventory being filed in 1687, the value of the men ranged from twenty-six to twenty-eight pounds sterling.[74] Ten years later, the young slaves belonging to the estate of Richard Willis were listed at thirty-one pounds apiece, although in some instances so youthful as to be described as lads. The young women were valued at the same rates.[75] The appraisement of the negroes belonging to Christopher Robinson was still higher. Of the ten who were included in the inventory of his estate, four men were entered at forty pounds apiece, one girl at thirty, and another at twenty-five; one woman at thirty-five pounds, and a woman and child at forty.[76] The valuation of the negroes included in the estate of Ralph Wormeley, the inventory being filed in 1700, was not quite so high. The men and boys were appraised at thirty-five pounds sterling, and the girls at thirty. The prices in Lower Norfolk show no difference from those enumerated in the case of York County. In Rappahannock, in 1695, a negro boy was entered at twenty-six pounds sterling, and a girl at twenty-four. The valuation of adults was perhaps considerably higher.[77] Previous to 1699, the prices at which negroes were held was not increased by a duty on those who were imported. A law, however, was passed in that year, imposing a tax of twenty shillings a head upon each slave introduced into the Colony, to be paid by the master of the ship in which he had been conveyed; and if there was an effort to evade this charge, by landing the negroes without the warrant which had been prescribed in this case, they were to be forfeited and sold for the public benefit. It was stated that the object of this provision was to swell the fund that was required to meet the expense of the erection of a new capitol, the old one having been recently destroyed by fire. There could have been no intention to discourage the introduction of slaves alone, as a duty was also laid upon the white servants brought into Virginia at this time. No tax of this character would have been imposed if the demand for labor in the Colony upon the threshold of the eighteenth century had been as pressing as it had been during so large a part of the seventeenth.[78]

It has already been mentioned that the negro in the seventeenth century was thought to occupy a position in the human family very little removed from that of the ordinary brute. It is interesting to observe the various obstructions, legal as well as moral, which arose when the question of Christianizing him came to be settled. The attitude of many of the planters in the English Colonies in that age towards the moral elevation of the slave through the agency of the church was expressed in the reply of a lady of Barbadoes to Godwyn, the author of the Negro’s and Indian’s Advocate — a work of unusual ability and great humanity,—that he might as well baptize puppies as negroes, an utterance rendered the more significant by the fact that in her own life she was remarkable for her exemplary piety and the care she exhibited in the religious education of her own children. Another woman, who enjoyed a good reputation for character and sense, upon Godwyn’s administering baptism to one of her slaves, remarked that it would have been equally as efficacious if he had sought by the same ceremony to make a Christian of her black bitch.[79] That this feeling did not spring from mere prejudice or self-interest, is revealed in the fact that there was comparatively little opposition on the part of the planters of Barbadoes to the baptism of mulattoes, who as the descendants of white persons on one side were regarded as having been brought within the pale of humanity. In this island, negroes were instructed to avoid the rooms in which religious exercises were holding by the families of their masters, on the ground that they could not be expected to participate in the hopes and promises which the Christian religion extended. An explanation of the course followed by the West Indians in this respect may in many cases be discovered in the belief, that as long as the slave remained unbaptized he was not responsible for his acts in the sight of God, and as he was incapable of leading a pure life, the administration of the sacrament of baptism to him would expose him to certain damnation. A number of masters were influenced by an apprehension that if the negroes were improved in their mental condition by instruction, they might rise up against their owners and deluge the island in blood. Others were moved by the consideration, that if the slave were baptized it would be necessary to show more scruple in governing him, the conscience of each planter as well as the force of public opinion requiring him to furnish his slave with more palatable food and more comfortable lodgings, and to inflict punishments with less severity under the circumstances. It was even supposed by some that the act of baptizing the negro destroyed the right of his owner to his service, and that he was thereafter entitled to all the privileges of an English citizen.

Godwyn declares that the same general views as to the impropriety of Christianizing slaves prevailed in Virginia, and that their conversion was thought to be so idle and unmeaning, that the reputation for good sense of the man who suggested it was seriously impaired. This statement was made by Godwyn in 1681, and seems to have exaggerated the state of feeling in the Colony with reference to the moral elevation of the negroes held there in bondage. It is a fact worthy of note that one of the two African children included in the muster of 1624-25, William, the son of Anthony and Isabel, two negroes who belonged to Captain Tucker, was entered in the general list as having received baptism.[80] This privilege was conferred over half a century before Godwyn published his treatise. A still more interesting case occurred in 1611. John Grawere, who is represented as an African servant of William Evans, was the father of a child by a slave who belonged to Robert Sheppard. He expressed great anxiety that this child should be baptized, and afterwards brought up in the knowledge of religion as taught in the church of England. Being permitted by his master to keep a number of hogs, Grawere was able to accumulate from his annual sales a small fund with which he purchased the freedom of his offspring. The court declared that the disposition and instruction of the child should be left to his father and godfather, who pledged themselves that he should be educated in the Christian belief.[81]

The Council for Foreign Plantations were so much interested in the religious condition of the slaves residing in Barbadoes and Virginia, that in 1661 they directed that a letter should be written to the authorities in those Colonies, commanding them to encourage the introduction of ministers of the Gospel who would devote themselves to the reclamation of the newly imported negroes with a view to preparing them for baptism.[82] The notion that the act of baptizing a slave operated to release him from bondage was certainly prevalent in Virginia at one time, but the indisposition which it created in planters to extend the comforts of religion to their negroes was entirely removed by the passage of the law in 1667, that the administration of the sacrament of baptism to them effected no change in their legal condition.[83] It was expressly stated in this statute that its object was to encourage masters to promote the propagation of Christianity by permitting their slaves to come within the pale of the Christian Church. This law would perhaps have been adopted at an earlier date if the negroes had previously constituted a very important element in the general population. As late, however, as 1648, there were only three hundred persons of African blood in the Colony, and in 1667, the number could not have exceeded eighteen hundred, and very probably fell very much below that number.[84] In the instructions which Culpeper received in 1682 from the English Government, he was enjoined to inquire as to what would be the best means of facilitating the conversion of the slaves to the Christian religion, only it was added that caution was to be shown in taking any steps that tended to throw in jeopardy individual property in the negro, or to render less stable the safety of the Colony.[85]

Under the terms of the statute passed in 1670, all servants who were imported into Virginia who had not been brought up in the Christian religion, and who, therefore, were still unbaptized, were held to be servants for life. It is significant that the word “negro” was not used, although the law was really designed to cover the case of the African slaves, who were now introduced into the Colony in increasing numbers. After an interval of twelve years, in which comparatively few negroes were brought in, in consequence of the poverty of the planters following upon the agitation that led up to and succeeded Bacon’s Rebellion, this statute was repealed on the ground that it seriously obstructed further additions from without to the slave population, because many of the negroes who arrived in Virginia had come from lands where Christianity prevailed, and where they had received the rite of baptism.[86] The owners of such negroes, when they reached the Colony, either had to undergo the complete loss of their property or had to incur the heavy expense of returning them to the country from which they had been exported, or of sending them to some place where converted slaves were bought without any modification of the right to hold them for life. From this time, no discrimination was made in Virginia as to whether imported Africans had been baptized or not. If it happened that a negro who had been in the enjoyment of his freedom in a Christian country was brought into the Colony and sold for life, the person who was guilty of the act was compelled to forfeit double the amount which he had received in disposing of him. The adoption of this provision as a part of the fundamental law indicated that within the lines in which the institution of slavery operated, the General Assembly was determined that no injustice should be done to the negroes who could justly claim their freedom. This regulation was established by the revised code of 1705, but it reflected public sentiment in the latter part of the seventeenth century.[87]

The first dispute as to ownership in an individual negro seems to have arisen in 1625, when an African who had been captured by an English ship from the Spaniards was brought into the Chesapeake. The captain of the vessel died and the question arose as to the ownership of the negro. Did he belong to the heirs of the captain, to the sailors who manned the ship, or to the colonial authorities? The General Court, passing upon the merits of the case, decided that he should become the property of the Governor without regard to any expressed wish by the captain before his death, or any challenge on the part of the ship’s company. The reason for this decision was quite probably that the negro had been seized while the vessel was navigating in a public capacity, and being a prize of war, he belonged to the State and not to the individual.[88]

In the seventeenth century, the slave was classed as personal property and stood upon the same footing as household goods, horses, cows, oxen, and hogs.[89] It was not infrequent for Virginian testators to leave instructions in their wills that certain negroes should be sold for the payment of their debts, directions that had their motive probably in the greater readiness with which this form of personal property could be disposed of with little danger of sacrifice.[90] Under the provisions of the revised code of 1705, which is of importance in our inquiry from the light it throws on public feeling in the seventeenth century, the slave was declared to be real estate unless he was still held by a merchant who was seeking to sell him, in which case he was decided to be personalty. His legal status was highly anomalous under this modification of the original law, which had provided that he should be held to be personalty under all circumstances. Although a form of real estate by the code of 1705, he was nevertheless liable to be sold for the payment of debts, but no record was required to be made of such a sale, a step that was essential in the case of land. If unlawfully carried off, he was recoverable by an action of trover as if he constituted one branch of personal property. He could not be made, like ordinary real estate, the basis of a claim to all the privileges of a freeholder.[91]

The rule was in operation in Virginia from an early date, that the child should follow the condition of the mother, which was the adoption of the English provision, partus sequitur ventrem.[92] The necessity of deciding as to the applicability to the Colony of this provision arose as soon as the first mulatto sprung from a white father was born. Was the condition of the father or the mother to be the condition of the child? Interest as well as the transmitted law of the English people bearing upon the precise point dictated that the child should be a slave, and during the whole existence of the institution of bondage in Virginia, there was no relaxation in the enforcement of this regulation. It was considered to be unjust to place young negroes on the footing of tithables until they had acquired strength to labor in the fields.[93] In 1658, all imported slaves above sixteen were listed for taxation.[94] Twelve years was decided to be the proper age in 1680,[95] but at a later period sixteen was again adopted, and the list of the youthful tithables was made up when the season for working tobacco arrived. All African children brought into the Colony were required to be introduced before the court in three months after they had reached Virginia, in order to have their ages properly adjudged.[96] To ensure absolute accuracy in the returns of young slaves, there was at one time a provision that the birth of every black or mulatto child who first saw the light in the Colony should be entered in the registry of the parish where he or she was born.[97] The negroes remaining in the hands of merchants and factors were exempted from the operation of the levy because they were not in the list of tithables.[98] The penalty for omitting a slave tithable was the loss of the slave.[99]

It is a striking fact that all negresses born in Virginia, when above sixteen years of age, were rated as tithable whether their labors were confined to the house or to the fields, differing very widely in this respect from the white female servants, who were not listed if the work they were called upon to perform was exclusively domestic.[100] There was an indisposition, as we have already seen, on the part of the planters to employ white women in agriculture, however great might be the demand for their assistance in the cultivation of tobacco at certain seasons, and it was only those individuals of the sex who were tarnished in reputation or slatternly in habits who were found engaged in this way. This discrimination between female servants and female slaves has been attributed to various causes. By some, it is thought to have been due to a desire in the colonial authorities to discourage the importation of negroes.[101] This reason seems to be untenable. It would appear to be more probable that the exemption of the white female domestic servants from taxation was at least partly designed to promote the introduction of white women without any reference to female slaves. The number of the former who were brought into Virginia under articles of indenture was necessarily smaller than the number of white men imported who were bound by similar covenants. The Assembly were perhaps anxious to lessen the disproportion, and the law referred to was well calculated to produce the condition desired; such a law might easily have been considered advisable even if the institution of slavery had not obtained a foothold in the Colony. That no discrimination against the African was intended is disclosed in the fact that all Indian female slaves, whether employed indoors or in the fields, were also deemed to be tithables. Doubtless also the negroes, without regard to sex, more especially those who had not been born in Virginia, were in the beginning thought to be unfit for domestic service, being awkward in person and untrained in manners. White women who had been brought from England were numerous, and they were obviously better fitted for household work than the raw female slaves, and but poorly adapted to the heavy tasks of the fields, in which a greater strength and a higher power of endurance gave the negress a marked superiority. In the latter part of the century, however, African domestics became extremely common, there being an increasing number of slaves who had been born in Virginia, from among whom each master could select those who seemed most capable of being trained for household duties. The amiability and docility which they displayed in the fields made them agreeable and attractive also as household servants, and in this character they grew more popular with the progress of each decade. Colonel William Byrd mentions incidentally in his correspondence in 1684, that his wife had often urged him to send their youthful daughter to England, as it was impossible for her to learn anything in a great family of negroes.[102] The households of many other planters of wealth must have been largely constituted of slaves. The wills of this period show that young African women were frequently bequeathed to daughters to serve as their maids.[103] It may be inferred from these facts that if the comparative rarity of female domestic slaves in the beginning was one of the causes leading to the inclusion of all negresses in the list of tithables, that cause ceased to operate by the time the last decade of the century had been reached, but the reasons prompting a desire to promote an increase in the number of the white female servants would still remain in force. It is not improbable, however, that the exemption of white women employed in household service from taxation, was due in the greatest measure to a wish on the part of the Assembly to encourage the withdrawal of all members of that sex and race from the field. By removing the tax from them when thus occupied and at the same time allowing it to remain on the negresses, engaged in the performance of household duties, it was made plainly to the interest of the planter to confine his choice of female domestic servants to individuals of his own color, and this was a consideration which only citizens of fortune could afford to overlook.

The testimony is contradictory as to whether the owner of a negroes was relieved from the payment of the levies in case she became so disabled, either temporarily or permanently, as to be incapable of work. In an instance of this kind, the court of Henrico, in 1697, decided that the law exempting poor and impotent persons from taxation did not apply to such a woman, however grievous the disease from which she was suffering.[104] On the other hand, the court of Lancaster declared that the master of a slave in this condition could not be required to pay the county and public levies on her account.[105]

The principal tax fell upon slaves and servants because the land was thought to be sufficiently burdened already in the payment of quit-rents. Tobacco, on the other hand, was subject to the export duty of two shillings a hogshead, and it was supposed could bear no further imposition. Personal property in the form of horses, hogs, and cattle was looked upon as being of a value too small and uncertain to be made a subject for taxation.[106]

The life which the slaves followed as agricultural laborers could not have differed essentially from that of the white servants engaged in the performance of the same duties; the tasks expected of both were the same, and in the fields, at least, no discrimination seems to have been made in favor of the latter. During the greater part of the seventeenth century, the negro was regarded as a mere servant for life, and as a laborer differed in that particular alone from the white person who was bound for a period of years. The opportunities open to the indented white man were innumerable, but they bore chiefly upon the time when his service would end. He could always entertain a reasonable hope of final improvement in his condition, but, while his term lasted, he stood practically upon the same footing as the meanest slave, in the duties to be performed by him. On the whole, the work of the latter could not have been very burdensome. We have the testimony of those who had observed the operations of both the Virginian and the foreign systems, that the negroes in the Colony were not required to labor for as many hours as the common husbandmen abroad, nor were they pressed as hard in their tasks.[107] Side by side in the field, the white servant and the slave were engaged in planting, weeding, suckering, or cutting tobacco, or sat side by side in the barn manipulating the leaf in the course of preparing it for market, or plied their axes to the same trees in clearing away the forests to extend the new grounds.[108] The same holidays were allowed to both, and doubtless, too, the same privilege of cultivating small patches of ground for their own private benefit. In the matter of food, however, the negro did not enjoy the same advantage as the white servant, the substance of his fare being plainer and less costly;[109] his meals consisted of hominy, mush, maize-bread, pork, potatoes, and other vegetables,[110] —victuals which were, perhaps, more palatable than those in reach of the English day laborer in the same age. The slaves of the seventeenth century had probably more ground for satisfaction in this respect than the slaves of the nineteenth, whose staple food was maize-bread and bacon. The negro of the seventeenth century also required less expensive clothing than the white servant. In the advertisement of a slave who had run away from his master, which was placed on record in York County in 1686, he is described as having been dressed in “red cotton,” and as wearing “a waistcoat, canvas drawers, and a broad brim black hat.”[111] In another case, the clothing of an African slave consisted of a full suit, a doublet, a pair of drawers, a pair of shoes and a cap.[112]

The county records of the seventeenth century show that the negro quarter had become a recognized part of the plantation buildings in the eighth and ninth decades.[113] The contents of the houses were of the simplest character, as may be discovered by an examination of contemporaneous inventories. An instance may be given by way of illustration. In the Stratton inventory brought before the Henrico court in 1697, the furniture and utensils in the cabin of one of the slaves are enumerated, and they consisted of several chairs and a bed, an iron kettle weighing fifteen pounds, a brass kettle, an iron pot, a pair of pot-racks, a pothook, a frying-pan and a beer-barrel.[114] Not only was the slave a source of smaller expense than the white servant in point of food and clothing, and perhaps in lodgings, but it is highly probable in the matter of medical attendance also. The planters incurred very considerable loss from the seasoning through which the white laborers, with few exceptions, passed on their first arrival in Virginia. Valuable time thus slipped away before any return was derived from their labor. The white servants not infrequently died as the result of this attack of illness, and the money or tobacco expended in their purchase was thrown away. The slaves do not appear to have been subject to this form of sickness, and were much less affected by exposure to the oppressive heat of the sun in the months of July, August, and September. It is an interesting fact that of the twenty negroes who were imported in 1619, the first who had arrived in the Colony, not one had died previous to 1624, an indication of the ease with which they stood the deleterious influences of the climate. There was at this time no parallel instance in the history of the white servants.

There is no reason to doubt that the planters were as a body just and humane in their treatment of their slaves. The solicitude exhibited by John Page of York was not uncommon: in his will, he instructed his heirs to provide for the old age of all the negroes who descended to them from him, with as much care in point of food, clothing, and other necessaries, as if they were still capable of the most profitable labor.[115] Occasionally, the records of the county courts reveal instances of great cruelty on the part of unfeeling masters, as when Samuel Gray, a minister of the Gospel, bound his runaway slave, who was still a mere boy, to a tree and compelled another slave to beat him until he died.[116] There were also cases in which children were torn from their mothers at an age when such separation would be a cause of poignant grief to the parent.[117] Suicide among adults was not unknown. In 1690, Bess, a negro woman belonging to Colonel William Byrd, threw herself into Falling Creek and was drowned. There is no light as to her motive.[118]

The increase in the number of negroes in the Colony towards the close of the century, the population of two thousand in 1671 having probably risen to six thousand by 1700, enlarged the opportunities of employment for persons who wished to follow the occupation of an overseer. Many of the slaves who had been imported had been imported directly from Africa, and were savages of a very gross type unaccustomed to any form of restraint. It was observed that those among them who had been important men in their tribes were insolent, haughty, and obstinate, and while this class was necessarily small, their characteristics must have been shared in a measure by such of their fellows as had never before been compelled to labor steadily and continuously. The supervision of an overseer was required, to make them perform the various tasks to which they were set. Even if superintendence had been unnecessary in the case of the white servants, which, as has been seen, it was not, it would have been called for as soon as slaves, whether crude barbarians or men already trained for their work, began to be introduced in any number.

There are indications at an early date of improper sexual relations between white men and slave women, a condition to be expected from the intimate association of members of the two races in the performance of their daily tasks. This immoral intercourse was not, however, confined on the part of the whites to the indented male servants. One of the charges brought against Lawrence, the principal adviser of Bacon in the insurrection of 1676, was that he worshipped the goddess Venus in the person of his female slave, but that his course of conduct was as much disapproved of in that age by the general sentiment of the community as it was in later times, is shown by the great scandal it created at Jamestown.[119] As early as 1630, one Hugh Davis, who was discovered in the same relation with a negress, was roundly lashed in public, and compelled to acknowledge his fault before the congregation with which he worshipped.[120] Nine years later, Robert Sweet, who is described in a patent to him in 1628 as “gentleman,”[121] having been detected in the same offence, was ordered to appear in the church of the parish in which he resided, in a white sheet, according to the English ecclesiastical laws, while the woman who was the other party to the act of self-indulgence received a sound whipping.[122] A case is recorded in Lower Norfolk County in which a white man and his black paramour were required to stand up together in the same situation dressed in white sheets and holding white rods in their hands.[123] The public sentiment of the Colony was not content with leaving the punishment to the operation of church laws; a general statute was passed imposing a heavy fine upon all white men who were guilty of criminal intimacy with female slaves, and this was the regulation at the time when the number of negroes in Virginia did not exceed several hundred.[124] Nevertheless, the permanent relations between white men and negresses were maintained to a more or less open extent. A somewhat remarkable case came to light in 1697. In that year a mulattress entered a petition in the Lancaster court praying that she should be set free. She claimed that she had been purchased by John Beaching from Mrs. Elizabeth Spencer in consideration of his tanning one thousand hides. He had caused her and her child to be baptized, and if the assertion of the petition was to be relied on, had promised to marry her, an evidence that he was the father of her offspring and that he had lived with her without disguise. The jury to whom the question of her freedom was submitted, decided in her favor as against Mrs. Spencer, who was a member of one of the most powerful families in the Colony.[125]

The punishment inflicted upon a white woman for giving birth to a bastard whose father was a negro or a mulatto was stern and emphatic.[126] As has been previously stated, if she were free she was required to pay fifteen pounds sterling, and if unable to do this, she was delivered into the hands of the church wardens of the parish and sold for a period of five years.[127] If, however, she was not in the enjoyment of her freedom, but was a servant whose term had not expired, as soon as it came to an end she was disposed of by the wardens for the same length of time. Her child was appropriated by the parish until he or she was thirty years of age. In addition, the white mothers of negro bastards were frequently taken to the county seat and there publicly whipped by the sheriff. In some cases, the court directed that if such a woman after securing her freedom remained in the county, she was to be banished to the West Indies.[128]

It is no ground for surprise that in the seventeenth century there were instances of criminal intimacy between white women and negroes. Many of the former had only recently arrived from England, and were, therefore, comparatively free from the race prejudice that was so likely to arise upon close association with the African for a great length of time.[129] There must have been, by the middle of the century a number of mulattoes in the Colony, sprung from black mothers, who were less repulsive in person and manners than the average negro. The class of white women who were required to work in the fields belonged to the lowest rank in point of character; not having been born in Virginia and not having thus acquired from birth a repugnance to association with Africans upon a footing of social equality, they yielded to the temptations of the situations in which they were placed. The offence, whether committed by a native or an imported white woman, was an act of personal degradation that was condemned by public sentiment with as much severity in the seventeenth century as at all subsequent periods.[130] Mulattoes were referred to by the law as an “abominable mixture,”[131] and the mere fact that a marriage ceremony had given apparent sanctity to the relations resulting in such births, did not in the eyes of the community at large make this mixture of whites and blacks less odious in its character. So repugnant to popular feeling became all physical commerce between the races that intermarriages between their members were strictly forbidden, and the minister who disregarded the provision to this effect was made subject to a fine of ten thousand pounds of tobacco.[132] If a negress gave birth to a bastard child[133] who was entirely of her own color, proving that its father was of African blood, she was sent by her master to the county seat to be chastised by the sheriff. The child remained the property of her owner. If the mother of a full-blooded negro bastard happened to be free, but was bound for a term of years at the time of its birth, she was required by way of punishment to remain in the same service for an additional period of twenty-four months, and she was also soundly whipped for the offence.[134] The child was placed at the disposal of the church wardens of the parish.

In proportion to the population of African blood, there were as many runaways among the slaves as among the white servants. Maryland seems to have been the province in which the largest number of the fugitives escaping beyond the boundaries of the Colony took refuge. A case may be mentioned which shows the means employed in recovering absconding negroes previous to the middle of the century. In the course of the fourth decade, special permission was granted to John Mottrom and Edward Fleet to use a section of the train bands, with such a quantity of arms and ammunition as they would require, in overtaking certain slaves who had fled from them. The men impressed to take part in this service were to be paid out of the public levy of the counties in which they resided, and satisfaction was to be made in the same manner to the owners of the boats used in the pursuit. The negroes when caught were to be brought back, and after being whipped, were to be put to work again in the field.[135]

Whatever disposition may have existed among the slaves to steal away from the plantations to which they belonged, was due in some measure to the influence and example of the restless or discontented white servants, who were bolder, more energetic, and more enterprising than members of the African race. The list of laborers on every large estate in the last quarter of the seventeenth century included both negroes and white men; brought together in intimate and constant association, the slaves were naturally very susceptible to the improper persuasions of their white companions, and consequently special laws had to be passed to punish the white servants who absconded in company with them. Not all of the negroes, however, who were guilty of the offence of running away were prompted to do so by the influence of individuals of the other race. A large proportion of the slaves, especially in the period following 1670, had only been recently imported into the Colony, and being African savages unaccustomed to a life of labor and restraint, it is not strange that many should have felt and acted upon the impulse to seek freedom by flight. This part of the black population had not yet acquired an attachment to the plantations of their masters owing to their recent importation. One of the most powerful influences that fostered a steady and sober spirit in the negroes who were natives of the soil, was thus entirely absent in the case of the imported slaves unless they had reached the Colony whilst still very young.

It was not until 1672, that we discover indications of open discontent among the negroes of Virginia. An Act of Assembly passed in that year reveals the fact that there were slaves in rebellion in different parts of the Colony at this time, and that it had been found so far impossible to subdue and capture them.[136] There does not appear to have been any movement among them resembling an organized insurrection; it was rather a number of cases in which two or more, or even one, had taken refuge in the fastnesses of the wilderness of forest. Abandoning as hopeless all thought of seizing these fugitives by peaceful means, the House of Burgesses authorized whoever should seek to capture them, whether by legal warrant or by hue and cry, to kill them on the spot if they attempted to resist arrest. The master of every slave who perished under these circumstances received satisfaction for his loss at the public charge to the extent of four thousand five hundred pounds of tobacco. If the successful effort to seize the negro resulted in wounding him, his owner was recouped in proportion to the loss entailed by his sickness, which probably included the medical expense of the cure, payment being made in the form of a certificate, which was to be presented to the General Assembly to be honored. In every instance in which a slave had fled to an Indian town, its chief was required to bring him before the nearest justice of the peace, receiving as a reward a certain amount of roanoke, or merchandise if he preferred.[137] All absconding negroes who were arrested, but whose owners were unknown, were directed by an order of court passed in 1691 to be forwarded to Jamestown, where they remained until claimed, the masters of fugitives sending thither their marks and descriptions.[138] There were cases in which the names of slaves, who had run away and become notorious outlaws by the outrages they committed, were referred to in special laws of the Assembly. Such a case was that of the negro who, about 1700, took refuge in the woods extending over the greater part of the counties of James City, York, and New Kent, and who was charged with ravaging the crops, perpetrating robberies, and carrying the greatest consternation into every community in which he appeared. A reward of one thousand pounds was offered for the body of this runaway, whether produced dead or alive. It was declared to be a felony to entertain him. It would seem from this that a number of white persons were either in collusion with him, or were afraid to arrest him when he came to their houses.[139]

A few years previous to this, a mulatto, who had fled from his master, Ralph Wormeley of Middlesex, concealed himself in the fastnesses of Rappahannock County. He drew around him a number of negro accomplices, and in a short time became an object of popular terror; he carried off numerous hogs, and went so far as to break into one of his master’s stores, from which he took away a quantity of goods, including several carbines. He was at last forced to surrender.[140] All the laws relating to fugitive negroes refer to the number who were at large in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and the evil was so crying in itself, and so likely to lead to worse consequences, that the most summary disposition of runaways; who refused to return to their masters by submitting to arrest, was allowed with the full concurrence of public sentiment.[141] As a slave could not be punished like a servant who had raised his hand against his master, by an extension of his term, his owner was permitted instead to inflict corporal punishment upon him. If he happened to die in consequence of the severity of this punishment, the master was not held to have been guilty of felony, it being the presumption of the law that the act was devoid of malice, as no man would voluntarily and intentionally destroy his own property. This law was one of the first indications in colonial legislation that the increasing importation of negroes was arousing apprehension among the planters of a possible outbreak on the part of the slaves. A still more unmistakable evidence of this feeling appears in a measure passed in 1680,[142] which was the reënactment in a more rigid form of the law of 1689,[143] prohibiting the use by a negro of all instruments of offence or defence, such as clubs, swords, guns, and staffs. If he raised a weapon to strike or shoot a Christian, whether his master or not, he was to be punished by the infliction of thirty lashes on his bare back. Twice during the course of each year the minister of each parish was required after the second lesson in the divine service to read this statute to his congregation,[144] and a failure to do so was an indictable offence.

No slave was allowed to leave the plantation of his master without a certificate of permission to go abroad, and this permission was only to be granted when he was sent off on an important errand. If he was found wandering about without the passport required by law, he was taken before the nearest justice of the peace, who, after giving him a whipping, forwarded him to the constable in the adjacent county, who in his turn repeated the whipping, and then delivered him to the constable beyond, and this course was continued until the slave finally reached the hands of his master. If he was allowed to escape by the carelessness of one of these constables, the owner could recover a large sum in a court of law. No strange negro was suffered to remain on a plantation four hours after his first appearance unless he had in his possession a certificate showing that his absence from home was properly authorizer.[145]

It reveals the great importance attached by the officials to the various laws for the prevention of slave insurrections, that Governor Andros, in 1694, issued a strong proclamation calling attention to the general remissness in their enforcement, in consequence of which, negroes had run together in certain parts of the Colony, causing assemblages so dangerous as to threaten the peace of the whole community. He commanded that no certificates should be given to slaves allowing them to go off the estates of their masters, and in order that this injunction should come to the ears of all the planters, he required that his proclamation should be read in the churches, at the musters and militia meetings, and on every occasion of great publicity.[146] When a slave was guilty of murder, he was arrested by the sheriff of the county in which the felony had occurred, and thrown into jail, and there he remained in irons until his case was brought to trial. The first step to this was the transmission of information to the Governor that the crime had been committed; upon the reception of this information, that official directed that an oyer and terminer be issued to such persons residing in the county where the slave was held, whom he considered to be fit to determine the guilt or innocence of the prisoner. In the inquiry which they at once instituted, the accused could be convicted on the testimony of himself or two reputable witnesses, or one witness whose testimony was supported by strong circumstantial evidence. He could not claim the privilege of a trial by jury.[147] The expenses entailed in supporting the slave during the time of his stay in jail were provided for in the public levy.[148] If he was hung, the justices decided upon his value and returned a certificate embodying their estimate to the General Assembly, who made an appropriation to the master equal to the stated amount.[149] Rape of white women, which has become the most characteristic crime of the African since his emancipation in the nineteenth century, was also committed by him in the seventeenth.[150] An ordinary assault by a slave even upon a white man was punished by a severe whipping only.[151] When the offence was attended by aggravated circumstances and the person guilty of it was a free negro, male or female, the infliction of stripes upon his or her back was followed by imprisonment, which continued until the costs were paid and security for good behavior was given. In 1693, an action of trespass was brought in the county court of York by a well-known planter named Sampson and his wife against a negress and her husband, on the ground that they had made a violent attack upon the person of Mrs. Sampson and threatened to take her life. Of this offence, the negress was convicted. She was whipped by the sheriff of the county until she had received twenty-nine lashes, and was then thrown into jail to remain until she could find some one to go on her bond to keep the peace. Her character was considered to be so dangerous and her life so disorderly, that the court entered a rule that unless she could show that her claim to freedom was capable of the most irrefutable proof, she should be transported from the Colony. Not being able to show this, she was sent out of Virginia as a person whose presence was calculated to disturb the peace of the community. When the act of the slave amounted only to a menace, the person who was the object of this menace could compel the master of the negro to give bond as a security for his good behavior.[152]

The petty offences of negroes involving the interests of their masters only were dealt with in the seventeenth century in the same manner, as a rule, as they were in the eighteenth and nineteenth, their owners being allowed to inflict such punishment as appeared to them to her advisable. An exception seems to have been made in the case of hog-stealing. Upon the commission of the first offence of this kind, the slave was soundly whipped, and for the second, his ears were nailed to the pillory and afterwards severed from his head with a knife. This punishment was severe enough to accomplish the purpose for which it was intended, but like a great majority of the drastic measures passed with reference to the slaves, it was doubtless very much modified when it came to be enforced, if it was not ignored altogether. No traveller in Virginia in the seventeenth century has remarked upon the number of earless negroes in the Colony, and in that age, as in more recent times, it must have been difficult for individuals of this race to have resisted the temptation of running down the many fine young hogs that crossed their path in the forest in whichever direction they might have been proceeding. It is quite unlikely that the master would have been willing to have had a valuable slave lowered in value in case he desired to sell him, as was always possible, by reporting him to the authorities to be subjected to disfigurement for life. Self-interest was alive here even if sentiment was dormant. A negro with two ears was worth more in the market than a dozen hogs, and to remove one of his ears was to proclaim to every planter in the Colony that he was a felon whom it would have been unwise to purchase.[153]

The law required that the same barbarous punishment should be imposed when the slave was convicted of robbing a house or store. He was first lashed by the sheriff until sixty strokes had been received, and was then placed in the pillory with his ears nailed to the posts, in which position he was compelled to remain for half an hour, at the end of which time these members were severed from his head.[154]

There are indications of the presence of free negroes in the Colony at a comparatively early date. They were either the offspring of members of their own race who had been set at liberty, or they were slaves who had been emancipated by their masters. In many cases, the bestowal upon them of all the rights of freedom had been without restriction. This was the course pursued by Colonel Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., with reference to his slave Kate, to whom liberty had been promised by his wife before her death.[155] In other cases, the gift was made subject to certain conditions, either temporary or permanent in their nature. John Farrar, of Henrico, in emancipating a negro who had grown to old age in his service, required that until the following Christmas he was to remain on the estate to which he was then attached, and was to take an active part in producing the crop to be planted in the course of that year.[156] Tony Bowyer, the property of Richard Bennett, was liberated by his master on condition that he should deliver annually eight hundred pounds of tobacco, and the General Court, after the death of Bennett, required Tony to furnish ample security for the payment of this amount.[157] Under the will of Mrs. Beazley, which was admitted to probate about the middle of the century, one of her slaves was devised to a kinsman for a term of eight years, and, at its expiration, he was to be set free, and the customary allowance under the circumstances, of three barrels of Indian corn and a suit of clothes, was to be made to him. The negro was assigned by his mistress to a Mrs. Lucas, who, after compelling him to remain in her employment three years longer than the will of Mrs. Beazley prescribed, at the end of that time forced him to sign a paper binding him to continue with her during the course of twenty years. These facts were embodied in a petition which he entered in court for the purpose of constraining Mrs. Lucas to remunerate him for the three years beyond his legal term which she had forced him to serve.[158]

Nicholas Martian, of York, directed in his will that when the first crop of tobacco had been gathered after the payment of the debts which he left at his decease, his two negroes, Philip and Nicholas, should be set free, and that one cow, three barrels of Indian corn, clothes, and nails should be given to each of them. Each one was also to be permitted during his life to have a certain area of land in which to plant.[159]

Thomas Whitehead, of York, by will emancipated his slave, John, and bequeathed to him a great variety of clothing, and also two cows, ordering that he should be allowed the use of as much ground as he could cultivate, and the possession of a house. So great was his confidence in the discretion and integrity of this negro, that he appointed him the guardian of Mary Rogers, a ward of Whitehead’s and overseer of her property, offices which the court refused to suffer him to fill.[160]

Daniel Parke showed equal generosity to a favorite slave. He instructed his executors to pay to this negro, whom he set free by his will, fifteen bushels of shelled Indian corn, and fifty pounds of dried beef, annually, as long as the man should live. In addition, he was to receive each year from Parke’s estate, a kersey coat, a pair of breeches, a hat, two pairs of shoes, two pairs of yarn stockings, two shirts, a pair of drawers, and an axe and hoe. His levies were also to be paid.[161] Robert Griggs of Lancaster granted by will freedom to all of his slaves, for whose welfare he provided with great liberality. To a mulatto woman owned by him, he bequeathed a heifer and three barrels of Indian corn, and he commanded his executor to allot her a house and a certain area of ground as long as she continued to live with her husband; and she was also to be supplied with one cotton suit every year. Two of his young negroes were to serve for a period of thirty-eight years, and then to be emancipated. All the children in his possession were to remain slaves until they reached their forty-fifth year. Those of his negroes who did not come within these provisions were not to be set free until thirty-nine years had passed since their arrival in the country.[162]

John Carter of Lancaster, one of the largest slaveholders in the Colony, by his will gave freedom to two of his negroes who were married to each other. To each he devised a cow and a calf and three barrels of Indian corn, and instructed his heirs to allow them the use of a convenient house, firewood, timber, and as much land as they could cultivate. He also enjoined that the two young daughters of this couple should receive their liberty when they reached their eighteenth year, and as a provision for them, he gave each one a yearling heifer with its increase, which was to be permitted to run with the cattle of his wife after his death.[163]

A more remarkable instance of generosity on the part of the Virginian slaveholder of the seventeenth century is to be found among the records of Lower Norfolk County. It is not improbable that the beneficiaries in this case were the illegitimate children of the testator. The will of John Nicholls, filed in 1697, disclosed the fact that he had emancipated a mulatto boy and girl belonging to him, children of one of his female slaves. The boy at the time of Nicholls’ death was serving an apprenticeship to a blacksmith in Nansemond County. To the girl, he devised two hundred acres of land in fee simple, and to the boy three hundred and ten acres. To the latter, he also bequeathed a pair of millstones, and all the ironwork necessary for the equipment of a water-mill. He gave both children the cattle which at the time of his death would be running on the lands he had left to them by will, and they were to share alike in the division. To the girl, he bequeathed a feather-bed and bolster, a rug and two blankets, four ewes and one ram, a sow and pig, one woollen and one linen wheel, a pair of wool, a pair of tow, and a pair of cotton cards. To the boy, he bequeathed a feather-bed and bolster, two blankets and a rug, four ewes and a ram, a sow and pig, and a musket. In case either died before he or she came of age, the survivor was to be the heir of the deceased.[164]

The records of the seventeenth century disclose the fact that numerous suits were entered by slaves for the recovery of their freedom, and that the courts showed them the amplest justice. In an action brought in 1695 in Elizabeth City County by a negro against the executors of Colonel John Lear, in which it was alleged that he was entitled to his liberty, the executors failed to make their appearance. An order was adopted that unless Lewis Burwell and Thomas Goddin, who were the representatives of Colonel Lear, attended the next court, the plaintiff should be set free.[165] A similar order was entered in York in the case of Henry Tyler, the administrator of Mr. Martin Gardner, who had emancipated a slave hearing the name of Napho.[166]

In the interval between 1635 and 1700, there were probably a number of persons of African blood in the Colony, who had raised themselves to a condition of moderate importance in the community. There were certainly some who were able to write.[167] It is known that patents to land were obtained by a few. Thus in 1651, one hundred acres lying on Pongoteague River in Northampton County were granted to Richard Johnson, a negro, upon the basis of head rights which were represented by two white men. In the description of this tract, it is stated to have been contiguous to estates owned by John Johnson and Anthony Johnson, both of the African race.[168] Two years later, Benjamin Dole, a member of the same race, received a patent to three hundred acres in Surry County, which was due him for the transportation of six persons.[169] The transfer to negroes of land purchased by them from private grantors was not uncommon; thus in 1668, Robert Jones, a tailor residing in York, sold to John Harris, an African freeman, fifty acres which he possessed in New Kent.[170] The estates of negroes were sometimes sufficiently large to require the appointment by the court of administrators to settle up their affairs.[171]

The pride of the Virginians was shown in the statute which provided that no black freeman should be allowed to secure by indenture the service of white persons to continue for the usual term of years,[172] but he was not forbidden to acquire an interest of that nature in an Indian or an individual of his own race. There seems, however, to be little room for doubt that the free negroes who had obtained an ownership in real estate were allowed to exercise the suffrage in the times when it was based upon a property qualification. When the privilege was thrown open to the freemen of the Colony without restriction, this right was not only enjoyed by the African freeholders, but it would be inferred that there was no discrimination in this respect against any negro who could show that he was not a slave, whether in possession of property or not. All freemen are included in the grant of the right of suffrage under the statutes passed in March, 1655, and in March, 1657, as well as in 1676, when the people had triumphed under Bacon.[173] In no instance is the black freeman excepted from the operation of these statutes by name. In the law of 1699, readopting the property qualification, women sole or covenant, males under the age of twenty-one years, and Popish recusants were denied the voting privilege, but no reference by way of exception is made to negro freeholders.[174] That the free negro, mulatto, or Indian had been given the right of suffrage previous to 1723 is to be inferred from the provision adopted in that session that none of these persons should thereafter be allowed to enjoy it.[175] It would seem to follow logically from the possession of this right by the negro freeman or freeholder, that he was permitted to perform many of the duties expected of white citizens in that age. He was certainly subject to its burdens, such, for instance, as the payment of county levies.[176] In one case, a negro was appointed by the justices of Lancaster a beadle, but it was specially provided that his duties should be restricted to inflicting punishment by stripes on those whom the court should condemn to the lash.[177]

There is no evidence to show that the free negroes of the seventeenth century exhibited as a mass any degree of thrift. It appears from the county records that the largest proportion of them were employed under the provisions of indentures similar to those by which the white servants were bound. Their general lack of prosperity was clearly revealed in the fact that one of the strongest reasons which led to the passage of the famous law of 1699, requiring the exportation of every African freeman within six months after he was emancipated, was that the manumitted slaves became in their old age a charge, upon the country, as they were lacking in the means to support themselves.[178] It is also significant to note that the additional reason was advanced that the free negroes were receivers of goods stolen either by the slaves or the white servants from their masters.[179] Under the provisions of this measure, which was really designed to discourage emancipation, the planter who liberated a negro and failed to send him out of the Colony was liable to a levy on his property to the extent of ten pounds sterling, to be employed in paying the expenses incurred in the freedman’s transportation. If a surplus remained after these expenses had been met, it was to be used by the church wardens of the parish in which his former owner resided, for the benefit of the poor. If the slave had been manumitted by will, the heirs of the testator were exposed to the same penalty for a failure to comply with the requirements of the statute .[180]

We have already given a brief account of the Indian as a servant. He also played a part of considerable importance in the Colony as a slave. He did not, however, appear in this character until 1676, when it was decided by the Assembly, which at that time was under the control of Bacon, to make legal the enslavement of all the aborigines captured in war, under the definition of service for life. In 1661, it had been expressly declared that no Indian who had fallen into the hands of the whites should be disposed of absolutely and permanently, and this provision, in conformity with all of the same kind previously established, had its origin in a desire to promote as far as possible peaceful relations with the surrounding tribes.[181] As late as 1670, it was proclaimed that the youthful members of these tribes, seized during the progress of war, should not be held beyond their thirtieth year.[182] It remained for Bacon to adopt the rule that slavery for life should be the lot of every Indian who should come into the hands of the whites during the period of hostilities, and the Government, after the insurrection was over, followed the policy which he had inaugurated.[183] The scope of the principle was extended in 1682, by the passage of a law permitting the holding in bondage of all Indians who had been captured by tribes at peace with the Colony and sold to the planters, or who had been brought into the country from a distance by persons engaged in trade with the people of Virginia. The regulations established for the management of such slaves were practically the same as those in operation for the control of the African. They were brought within the scope of every measure adopted for the protection of the negro slaves, and morally as well as materially stood precisely upon the same footing in the view of the law. They were, however, valued at somewhat lower rates.

◄Chapter X   Directory of Files   Chapter XII►

and Classics on American Slavery


Notes[edit]

  1. Instructions to Culpeper, 1681-1682; his reply to § 59, McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 155, Va. State Library.
  2. Hugh Jones states that “the Country (Virginia) may be said to be altered and improved in wealth and Polite Learning within these few years since the beginning of Gov. Spotswood’s Government more than in all the Scores of years before that, from its first Discovery.” Present State of Virginia, 1724, p. 53.
  3. Williams’ History of the Negro Race in America, p. 138.
  4. Godwyn’s Negro’s and Indian’s Advocate (1680), pp. 11, 12, 13, 14. Godwyn argues very gravely, “methinks the consideration of the shape and figure of our negroes’ Bodies, their Limbs and Members, their Voice and Countenance in all things according with other Men’s; together with their Risibility and Discourse (Man’s peculiar Faculties) should be a sufficient conviction,” p. 13. This pamphlet throws a curious light upon the general view taken of the negro in the seventeenth century.
  5. “They make them the Posterity of that unhappy son of Noah, who, they say, was together with his whole Family and Race cursed by his father. . . . For from thence, as occasion shall offer they’ll infer their negro’s Brutality; justifie their reduction of him under bondage . . . Godwyn’s Negro’s and Indian’s Advocate, pp. 14, 43.
  6. The Bermudas.
  7. Pory to Carleton, Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, p. 113.
  8. See Census 1624-25, Hotten’s Original List of Emigrants, 1600-1700, p. 224. The name of this negro, who was a woman, was Angela.
  9. Among others by Mr. Alexander Brown in the Genesis of the United States. In his biography of Captain Elfrith, p. 886, he expresses the opinion that the report given of the “cold reception” of the Treasurer was written for the purpose of diverting the attention of the Spaniards, and he states that “he has several documents in the premises (which have never been printed) giving ample information.” I have not had an opportunity of examining these documents.
  10. Manchester Papers, Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx., p. 35.
  11. Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. II, p. 197.
  12. Census of 1624-25, Hotten’s Original List of Emigrants, 1600-1700, p. 258.
  13. If born in Virginia, two of the negroes forming the cargo of 1619 must have died. Of this there is no record. The two additions to the original number, as shown by the census of 1624-25, are accounted for by the two negroes brought in by the Treasurer and Swan, from which it may be reasonably inferred that the two negro children mentioned in the census of 1624-25 had been counted in the importation of 1619. If none had died in the interval, the census of 1624-25 would have shown, in case the two children had been born in Virginia, the presence of twenty-four instead of twenty-two slaves in the Colony.
  14. The first English child born in North America.
  15. The Spaniards are said to have occupied Jamestown Island in the previous century and to have sought to make a permanent settlement there, partly by means of the labors of their negro slaves. See Prof. John Fiske’s valuable and interesting Short History of the United States, pp. 42, 43.
  16. List of the Livinge and Dead in Virginia, Feb. 10, 1623, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 2; Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra., 1874, p. 41. Angela at Jamestown was doubtless the woman brought in by the Treasurer.
  17. See Hotten’s Original Lists of Emigrants to America, 1600-1700, pp. 202-265.
  18. John Ellzeye to Edward Nicholas, Dom. Cor. Charles I, vol. 105, No. 35, Sainsbury Abstracts for 1628, p. 185, Va. State Library. The name appears sometimes as Guy, a misprint probably for Grey.
  19. Va. Land Patents, vol. 1623-1643, p. 187. See also head rights of patent granted to David Jones in the same year.
  20. Ibid., vol. 1623-1643, p. 246.
  21. Ibid., vol. 1623-1643, p. 691.
  22. Ibid., vol. 1623-1643, pp. 705, 771.
  23. Ibid., vol. 1643-1651, p. 171.
  24. Va. Land Patents, vol. 1655-1664, p. 35. It is most probable that in nearly all the cases mentioned, the negroes had not been directly imported by the persons suing out the patents, but had been purchased from shipowners and shipmasters, who had brought in slaves along with ordinary merchandise.
  25. Documents Relating to Colonial History of New York, vol. XII, pp. 93, 94.
  26. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 540. The same privilege was extended to “other forreiners.”
  27. Dom. Cor. Charles II, vol. xlvii, No. 162, p. 36; Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1661-1668, p. 120.
  28. Governor Berkeley’s Replies to Interrogatories of English Commissioners, Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 515.
  29. Replies to Interrogatories of the English Commissioners, Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 516. In 1664, a Dutch slaver was captured by an English privateer, and, with her living cargo, carried to Virginia. Commissioners were sent by Stuyvesant to the Colony to reclaim the ship and the negroes. Documents Relating to Colonial History of New York, vol. II, p. 222.
  30. See Va. Land Patent Books for these years.
  31. Instructions to Culpeper, 1679. His reply to § 51, McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 314, Va. State Library.
  32. See Va. Land Patent Books for these years.
  33. Instructions to Culpeper, 1681-82. His reply to § 59, British State Papers, Virginia, vol. 65; McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 165, Va. State Library.
  34. General Court Orders, Robinson Transcripts, pp. 178, 264.
  35. Instructions to Culpeper, 1679, § 50, McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 314, Va. State Library.
  36. Ibid., 1681-1682. Reply to § 58, British State Papers, Virginia, vol. 45; McDonald Papers, Vol. VI, p. 153, Va. State Library.
  37. Letters of William Fitzhugh, Feb. 11, 1682-1683. Jackson may have been bound for Barbadoes.
  38. Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 432, Va. State Library. The vessel in this case was the Eunice. The following is from the Middlesex Records: “Know all men by these presents that I John Endicott, Cooper, of Boston in New England, have sold unto Richard Medlicott, a Spanish Mulatto, by name Antonio, I having full power to sell for his life time, but at ye request of William Taylor, I do sell him but for ten years from ye day that he shall disembark for Virginia, the ten years to begin, and at ye expiration of ye said ten years, ye said Mulatto to be a free man to go wheresoever he pleases. I do acknowledge to have received full satisfaction of Medlicott.” Original vol. 1673-1685, p. 126.
  39. Commission to Culpeper, 1682, § 57, McDonald Papers, vol. VI, p. 38, Va. State Library.
  40. Letters of William Byrd, Oct. 18, 1686. Most of the ships arriving at this time having slaves on board, doubtless carried mixed cargoes. This is shown by the following extract from a letter of William Byrd, dated June 21, 1684: “Mr. Paggin (a London merchant) sent about a fortnight since into these parts, 34 negroes with a considerable quantity of dry goods and seven or eight tons of rum and sugar, which I fear will bring our people much into debt and occasion them to be careless with the tobacco they make.” Letters of William Byrd. These negroes, it seems, were placed in the hands of Mr. Kennon and Mr. Pleasants for sale.
  41. Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 19, 1681. As showing the demand for negroes at this time, the following from one of Fitzhugh’s letters may be quoted. A relative, who lived in England, had requested the loan of a considerable sum of money. He replied by saying that “he could hardly, with all his tobacco and anything he could part with, except negroes,” supply this person with the sum proposed.
  42. Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 55, Va. State Library.
  43. Letters of William Byrd, May 10, 1686.
  44. Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 569, Va. State Library.
  45. Letters of William Fitzhugh July 21, 1692.
  46. Will of John Smyth, Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 101, Va. State Library.
  47. Letters of William Byrd, Feb. 10, 1685.
  48. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1651, f. p. 116.
  49. Colonial Entry Book, No. 83; McDonald Papers, vol. VII, pp. 97-100, Va. State Library.
  50. Instructions for Captain Perry, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1688, p. 146, Va. State Library.
  51. Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 30.
  52. Va. Land Patents in the Resister’s office at Richmond.
  53. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709, p. 26. Among the negroes owned by Mrs. Sarah Willoughby of Lower Norfolk County was one who was called Pickaninny. He was between twenty and thirty years of age. Original vol. 1666-1675, p. 170.
  54. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709, p. 33.
  55. Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 22, 1686. The number of slaves now held by the wealthiest planters was often very large. Thus Ralph Wormeley was the owner of ninety-one (see Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1703, p. 115); Robert Beverley, of forty-two (see inventory on file in Middlesex); Mrs. Elizabeth Digges, of one hundred and eight (William and Mary College Quarterly, April, 1893, p. 177); Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., of forty (Records of York, 1694-1697, p. 261, Va. State Library); and John Carter, of one hundred and six (Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709).
  56. Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 27, 1682.
  57. Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 5, 1682.
  58. Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 63, Va. State Library.
  59. Ibid., p. 338.
  60. Ibid., vol. 1657-1662, p. 195.
  61. Colonial Entry Book, No. 92, pp. 275, 283; Sainsbury’s Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1661-1668, p. 229.
  62. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 318, Va. State Library
  63. Ibid., vol. 1675-1684, p. 486.
  64. Ibid., vol. 1694-1702, p. 410.
  65. Ibid., vol. 1694-1697, p. 263
  66. Ibid., vol. 1687-1691, p. 378.
  67. Ibid., vol. 1690-1694, p. 178.
  68. Records of Surry County, vol. 1671-1684, p. 41, Va. State Library.
  69. Letters of William Fitzhugh, Dec. 4, 1680.
  70. Ibid., Feb. 11, 1682-83.
  71. Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, Vol. I, p. 30.
  72. Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 134.
  73. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, pp. 276, 300.
  74. See inventory on file among Records of Middlesex County.
  75. Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1698-1713, p. 67.
  76. Ibid., 1694-1706, p. 188.
  77. Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1696-1699, p. 5. The prices of negroes in the two counties on the Eastern Shore did not differ substantially from the prices prevailing elsewhere in the Colony.
  78. Hening’s Statutes, Vol. III, p. 193.
  79. Godwyn’s Negro’s and Indian’s Advocate, p. 38. I am indebted to Godwyn for all the details that follow. See pp. 43 et seq.
  80. Hotten’s Original List of Emigrants, 1600-1700, p. 244.
  81. General Court Orders, March 31, 1641, Robinson Transcripts, p. 30. An additional instance, which occurred in 1655, is preserved in the Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 45, Va. State Library. Ann Barnhouse gave Mihill Gowen a male negro child, born of the body “of my negro Rosa, being baptized by Edward Johnson, Sept. 2, 1655.” William, the name of the child, was the son of Mihill.
  82. British State Papers, Colonial, vol. XIV, No. 59.
  83. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 260.
  84. In 1671 the slave population was estimated by Berkeley at two thousand. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 515.
  85. Commission to Culpeper, 1682, § 65, McDonald State Papers, vol. VI, p. 43, Va. State Library.
  86. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 283, 491.
  87. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 448.
  88. Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, pp. 33, 34.
  89. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 288; Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 457, Va. State Library.
  90. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol., 1666-1675, pp. 68, 106.
  91. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, pp. 333, 334.
  92. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 219. See, also, Green’s Short History of the English People, illustrated, vol. I, p. 28. See, however, the discussion of the relation of Status to Nativity in Vinogradoff’s Villainage in England.
  93. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 479.
  94. Ibid., vol. I, p. 454.
  95. Ibid., vol. II, p. 480.
  96. Ibid., p. 480.
  97. Purvis, 1672, p. 179; Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 296.
  98. On the petition of John Pleasants and the motion of Richard Kennon, consignees of William Paggin and Company, “desiring the resolution of this Right Worshipful Court concerning some negroes of the said Company consigned them to sell, but at ye time of listing tithables, remaining in their possession undisposed of: It is the opinion of the Court that the said Kennon and Pleasants ought not to pay levy for them this year, because the said negroes being goods belonging to merchants in England, ought not in any reasonable time to put them to more charge by taxes than other of their commodities imported hither.” Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 81, Va. State Library.
  99. Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 53.
  100. Hening’s Statutes, Vol. II, p. 296.
  101. This was the view of Mr. Bancroft, the historian.
  102. Letters of William Byrd, March 31, 1684.
  103. See Will of Thomas Cocke, Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1688-1697, p. 687. Cocke bequeathed to his daughter, Agnes Harwood, a mulatto girl, who was to be employed as Mrs. Harwood thought fit, except that she was not to be ordered to “beat at the mortar or to work in the ground.” “My will is that she may be an ease to my daughter’s own person, and that the girl may be well and kindly used, and I also give with her, the weaver’s loom and all the stages and harness to the same, with all other appurtenances thereto, all of which is to be enjoyed by my daughter, to be used by the girl, Sue. At my daughter’s death, the girl and loom to pass to her son Thomas.” Cocke thus concludes: “My will is that ye girl be well used in all her time of service, whoever shall happen to be her master or mistress, for if she shall bee by any of them notoriously abused, my will is that shee shall have liberty to choose which of my sons she pleases for her master to live with.”
  104. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1699, orders June 1, 1697, Va. State Library.
  105. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1680-1686, orders July 8, 1685.
  106. Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 55.
  107. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 220. “I can assure you, with great truth, that generally their slaves are not worked near so hard nor so many hours in a day as the husbandman and day laborers in Eng land.” Again, “The work of their servants and slaves is no other than what every common freeman does,” p. 220.
  108. For an illustration of the intimate association of white servants and negro slaves in their work, see Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 206, Va. State Library.
  109. Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 219.
  110. Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 40.
  111. Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 215, Va. State Library.
  112. Ibid., p. 19.
  113. In an old Survey preserved among the Ludwell Papers, a part of the Manuscript Collections of the Virginia Historical Society, it is stated that one of the lines “stopped at a poplar tree by the negroes’ quarter.” Thus estate belonged to Secretary Ludwell, 1678. The plantations of all the principal landowners were divided into Quarters. See, for examples, the wills and inventories of Ralph Wormeley and Robert Beverley on record or file in the clerk’s office of Middlesex County.
  114. Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 138. See, also, Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 190, Va. State Library.
  115. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 138, Va. State Library. Slaves, it would seem, were not permitted to hold property, as the following regulation shows: “horses, cattle, and hogs marked with the mark of a slave, to be converted by the owner of the slave to the uses and marks of the owner; otherwise forfeited to the Parish.” Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 103.
  116. Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1705, p. 238.
  117. Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1677-1682, p. 20, Va. State Library. In this case, Elizabeth Craik bequeathed to one daughter, Frances by name, a negress and the third child to be born of her; to a second daughter, Elizabeth Moss, the first and second child to be born of the same woman. “I will that the two children the said negro woman shall happen to bear to the use of Elizabeth (Moss), be and remain with the mother until they shall be one year old, and that then they may be taken away.”
  118. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 170, Va. State Library.
  119. The following is from the Archives of Maryland, Court and Testamentary Business, vol. 1649-1657, p. 114: “The complainant prosecuting against the defendant upon an action of defamation, for that the defendant reported here that he had heard one Thomas Gutridge in Virginia say that the plaintiff had got one of his negroes with child, and that he had a black bastard in Virginia, which report the complainant with tends much to his disgrace and defamation, which he values at 20,000 lbs.
  120. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 146.
  121. Va. Land Patents, vol. 1623-1643, p. 70.
  122. Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 552.
  123. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1616-1651, f. p. 113.
  124. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 170.
  125. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1696-1702, p. 43.
  126. See an indictment of such a woman preserved in the Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 420. See also Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 322, Va. State Library.
  127. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 87.
  128. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 83, Va. State Library. The woman in this case was of English birth, Ann Wall by name. She was the mother of two bastards by a negro whom she claimed as her husband. She was brought before court and ordered to pay fifteen pounds sterling, in default of which she was to be sold as a servant for a term of five years. It appears that she was unable to secure the amount necessary, and in consequence was turned over to Mr. Peter Hobson, the court declaring at the same time that if, after she obtained her freedom, “she presumed to come into this county (Elizabeth City) she shall be banished to Island of Barbadoes.” Her bastards were also delivered to Hobson, to be held until they were thirty years of age.
  129. See Richmond Dispatch, Saturday, June 30, 1894. A letter from Warrenton, Va., dated June 29, gives a case occurring in 1894, which shows that the absence of this prejudice, arising from the same fact, leads to the same result occasionally in the present century.
  130. How degraded were the white women who had sexual intercourse with negroes in the seventeenth century is very clearly shown in a revolting series of depositions relating to the case of Mrs. Watkins, preserved in the Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, pp. 191-195, Va. State Library. See the characterization of Mrs. Hyde of York, who is referred to (the exact words are too gross to be quoted) as a woman of such abandoned character that she would admit even a negro to her embraces. Vol. 1694-1697, p. 14, Va. State Library.
  131. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 86.
  132. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 454.
  133. No provision was made by the laws of Virginia in the seventeenth century for the legal marriage of negro slaves. The status then was doubtless the same as it was in the nineteenth; that is to say, the marriages of slaves were not recognized in law. Slaves, however, were married with religious services performed by ministers of the Gospel. A negro bastard was one born either of a slave African mother who had not been married with the ordinary religious ceremony to the father of the child, or of a free African mother who had not been married according to the regulations prescribed by law. The child of a white woman by a negro or mulatto was, under all circumstances, a bastard, as marriage between individuals of the two races was not allowed by law. In the same way, the child of a negress was, under all circumstances, a bastard if its father was a white man.
  134. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 190, Va. State Library.
  135. General Court Orders, June 30, 1640, Robinson Transcripts, p. 13.
  136. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p.299
  137. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 299, 300.
  138. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 110, Va. State Library; Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 267, Va. State Library.
  139. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 210.
  140. Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1680-1691, orders Nov. 9, 1691.
  141. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 86.
  142. Ibid., vol. II, pp. 481, 482.
  143. Ibid., vol. I, p. 226.
  144. Ibid., vol. II, p. 492.
  145. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 481, 493. An instance in which four hundred pounds of tobacco were recovered by a planter on account of the default of a constable under these circumstances is recorded in Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 282, Va. State Library.
  146. Records of York County, vol. 1694-1697, pp. 22, 23, Va. State Library.
  147. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 103.
  148. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 16, Va. State Library.
  149. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 270.
  150. Nov. 25, 1677, General Court Orders, 1677-1682. “Strong measures to be taken for apprehending Robin, a negro who had ravished a white woman.” Robinson Transcripts, p. 264.
  151. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 343, Va. State Library.
  152. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 126, Va. State Library. See also Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 287, Va. State Library.
  153. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 179.
  154. Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1705, p. 140.
  155. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 154, Va. State Library.
  156. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 299, Va. State Library.
  157. Records of the General Court, p. 243.
  158. Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, Vol. I, p. 9. See also Records of the General Court, p. 218.
  159. Records of York County, vol. 1633-1694, p. 109, Va. State Library.
  160. Ibid., vol. 1657-1662, pp. 211, 217.
  161. Ibid., vol. 1687-1691, pp. 278, 279.
  162. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1674-1687, p. 91.
  163. Ibid., 1690-1709, p. 3.
  164. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1695-1703, f. p. 96.
  165. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 107, Va. State Library.
  166. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 328, Va. State Library.
  167. See Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1679-1694, p. 14. See also Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1689-1698, p. 250.
  168. Va. Land Patents, vol. III, p.294. Richard Johnson was a carpenter (see Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1663-1666, p. 54) and a mulatto (Ibid., original vol. 1682-1697, p. 160). We find in the Records of Northampton County entry of a suit by Anthony Johnson for the purpose of recovering his negro servant, who had been appropriated by Robert Parker. See original vol. 1651-1654, p. 226. There seems to leave been some dispute is to the land owned by John Johnson, as the following entry in the Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1651-1664, p. 200, shows: “Whereas John Johnson, Negro, hath this day made his complaint in Court that John Johnson, Sr., detaineth a patent to 450 acres, which John Johnson, Jr., claims, John Johnson, Sr., is ordered to appear in Court.”
  169. Va. Land Patents, vol. 1655-1664, p. 71.
  170. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 327, Va. State Library. Leases for 99 years to negroes were not uncommon; see a lease of 200 acres for this period to Philip Morgan, a negro, by John Parker of Accomac, original vol. 1676-1690, p. 185.
  171. Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 495. Ajudgment for 486 pounds of tobacco against the estate of Edward Jessop, a mulatto, is recorded in Northampton County, original vol. 1683-1689, p. 258. An instance of a negro surety is found in the records of the same county, original vol. 1689-1698, p. 58.
  172. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 280.
  173. Ibid., vol. I, pp. 403, 475; vol. II, p. 356.
  174. Hening’s Statutes, Vol. III, p. 172.
  175. Ibid., vol. IV, pp. 133, 134.
  176. Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 2, Va. State Library.
  177. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1652-1657, p. 213.
  178. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 87.
  179. See, in illustration of this fact, an instance preserved in the Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1689-1698, p. 463.
  180. In 1698, Richard Trotter of York County, by the terms of his will, emancipated two of his slaves, to whom he bequeathed fifteen pounds sterling apiece, to meet the expense of their removal from the Colony. Vol. 1694-1702, pp. 194, 195, Va. State Library.
  181. Hening’s Statutes, Vol. II, p. 143.
  182. Ibid., vol. II, p. 283. “If men or women, twelve years and no longer.
  183. Ibid., pp. 346, 440.