Featured Items "Mumbett" (manuscript draft) by Catharine Maria Sedgwick, 1853 It turned on several factors: abandonment by owners (sometimes engineered by slaves themselves), military service, and the interpretation by the Massachusetts Superior Court of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution. 3. This article became the subject of a series of landmark cases starting in 1781: Brom and Bett vs. Ashley, Jennison vs. Caldwell, Quock Walker vs. Jennison and Commonwealth vs. Jennison, during which two slaves, citing the article, sued their owners for their freedom, with one slave even charging his owner with assault and battery for beating him. Fiercely anti-slavery, Thoreau spoke out against the practice in lectures and print, famously refused to pay poll tax in part because he did not want to finance slavery, defended John Brown, and was an underground railroad stop. . As the rhetoric supporting independence of the colonists from Great Britain intensified in the colony of Massachusetts, some noted the glaring inconsistency of arguing for the rights of Englishmen while owning slaves. I have a 5th Gr. The timing of his decision suggests that Ashley may have determined that an appeal was futile following the first ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court in the Quock Walker case (see below). A few years later, in December of 1638, a slave ship named Desire brought Boston’s first shipment of slaves from Barbados, whom had been exchanged for enslaved Pequot Indians from New England. Bett fled. Agnes, supra note 16 at 11. The year 1641 saw the passing of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. tags: politics-of-periodicals. […] "Slavery in Massachusetts" is one of Henry David Thoreau's most important essays. However, Chief Justice Cushing recorded his charge in his notebooks, and the entire charge is reprinted in Cushing, supra note 3, at 132-133. africaresource.com/rasta/sesostris-the-great-the-egyptian-hercules/the-paper-genocide-of-american-indians/, linkedin.com/pulse/how-jim-crow-practiced-paper-genocide-against-native-american-sonya, google.com/amp/s/imjustheretomakeyouthink.com/2016/08/28/98-of-african-americans-are-in-fact-native-indians-and-are-owed-millions/amp/. Hardesty is an associate professor of history at Western Washington University, and the author of "Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in … . The 1790 census recorded no slaves in Massachusetts, but historians disagree over the role of the Quock Walker case in abolishing slavery in Massachusetts. . Because Massachusetts slaves were considered both as property and as persons before the law, slaves could institute and prosecute lawsuits in the courts against their master (the defendant) who would be obliged to demonstrate their lawful title to ownership of their slave. Anthony Burns was a runaway slave who stowed away on a ship from Richmond to Boston. Latour, Francie. The case was not widely reported, and changing economic conditions and public opinion increasingly hostile to slavery doubtless played an important role in slavery's demise. The Constitution of 1780, in contrast, contained a declaration that "all men are born free and equal, and have . Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. What happened instead was a series of events, starting with the ratification of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which included an article that states: “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”. Though little is known of Brom's later years, the remainder of Mum Bett's life is well known. For example, in 1773, a group of slaves petitioned the General Court (legislature) to end slavery, and directly tied their search for liberty to the colonists' struggles with Great Britain. Following England's lead, Lawyer Benjamin Kent represented slaves in … 17. Winthrop, a slave owner, helped write the first law legalizing slavery in North America. The summary of court proceedings presented here relies primarily on court papers and John Cushing's article on the Quock Walker cases. Reports of this trial reflect that attorney Levi Lincoln, who represented the Caldwell brothers, centered his argument on the promises of freedom contained in the new Massachusetts Constitution. The first slaves were brought to the colony in the early 17th century. Her gravestone includes the words: "She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years. 1. A dynamic table of contents enables to jump directly to the chapter selected. In 1696 the British Parliament revoked the monopoly held by the Royal African Company, enabling Massachusetts merchants and shipmasters to engage freely in the slave trade.”. I have heard repeatedly that it is really difficult to trace Native American Negroes. Would you like to provide additional feedback to help improve Mass.gov? In 1773, slaves themselves also took a stance against their bondage when a group of Massachusetts slaves petitioned the General Court to end slavery, comparing their desire for freedom to the colonist’s struggle for independence from British government. President George Washington appointed Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing to be one of the first justices on the United States Supreme Court in 1790. Upon her death in 1829, Mum Bett was buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge. Thank you. The first slaves were brought to the colony in the early 17th century. Bjorklund, Ruth and Stephanie Fitzgerald. This case was a direct challenge to the very existence of slavery in Massachusetts. 5. Massachusetts. Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first slave-holding colony in New England. In 1754, Governor William Shirley had ordered that an enumeration of all slaves, both male and female, over the age of sixteen be completed by each town. During the 1770's, Mum Bett was a slave in the household of Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, a prominent citizen who at that time also served as a judge of the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. Thoreau believes that the issue in Massachusetts is more a relevant and important topic to discuss at the moment. Slaves too were active in seeking the end of slavery in Massachusetts. As Lemire shows, the end of slavery in Massachusetts was confused and uncertain. Instead, the high court finally ruled, and then there were debates over semantics until, farm by farm, owner by owner, the practice sputtered, and then failed. Theodore Sedgwick had an illustrious legal career, and served an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court from 1802 - 1813. As most slave owners did not have enough slaves to justify building separate living quarters for them, their slaves often lived with them in their homes. Jennison was ruled in default on his appeal for failing to present the required papers. Any suggestions as to how I may further my research would be much appreciated. emboldened enslaved persons of color to demand manumission or wage compensation from their owners - [or] simply to walk away from them." Her tombstone stands in the innermost circle of what is known as the "Sedgwick Pie.". As historian John Cushing concluded, there is "ample evidence" that the Quock Walker cases were a significant step toward the end of slavery in Massachusetts. According to the book Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World, the first slaves imported directly from Africa to Massachusetts arrived in 1634. This case was tried before a jury in the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas. In the first case, Walker, with the assistance of leading Worcester County attorneys Levi Lincoln and Caleb Strong, sued Jennison for assault and battery; Walker claimed he had been injured without right, as James Caldwell, his first master, had promised Walker freedom by age 25. Other reports suggest that her suit was prompted when Bett's mistress, Mrs. Hannah Ashley, attempted to strike Bett's sister with a hot shovel, but struck and burned Bett when she intervened. I have not been able to find anything on where he came from or who his parents may have been. The Sheffield Declaration has been posted online by The Trustees of Reservations, the organization that owns the John Ashley House. http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/ashley-house.html, 15. In 1763, Caldwell died and his widow married Nathaniel Jennison. The graves of Theodore Sedgwick and his wife, Pamela Sedgwick, are in the center. Lothrop, Lee and Shephard Books, 1999 9. Slaves too were active in seeking the end of slavery in Massachusetts. The jury convicted Jennison, and the court ordered him to pay a fine of 40 shillings. As discussed in the section of this website entitled John Adams and the Massachusetts Constitution, the Constitution of 1780 was preceded by a constitution drafted by the legislature and rejected by the voters in 1778. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society website, it wasn’t long before Massachusetts became engaged in what was called the Triangle Trade: “In 1644 Boston merchants began importing slaves directly from Africa, selling them in the West Indies, and bringing home sugar to make rum, initiating the so-called triangular trade. Grandfather that is stated as being half negro half Indian in the history of Conway, Massachutsetts. Each side appealed these contradictory verdicts, and the two cases were placed on the docket of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1781. Universities and colleges in the Americas and Europe are examining their historical ties to the Atlantic slave trade and slavery. ", According to later stories often told about Mum Bett, her freedom suit was prompted by her overhearing dinner table conversations in the Ashley home about the new promises of liberty made in the Sheffield Declaration (1773), the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the Massachusetts Constitution (1780). “Slavery was a very contentious issue in Massachusetts and he felt it was it causing political problems—it was a divisive force and he wanted … Still, the New England colonies began to show differences in their approaches to slavery, even as slavery became more common in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island in the 18 th century. Fiercely anti-slavery, Thoreau spoke out against the practice in lectures and print, famously refused to pay poll tax in part because he did not want to finance slavery, defended John Brown, and was an underground railroad stop. Many famous buildings and structures in New England were built with money from Massachusetts’ slave trade, such as Faneuil Hall in Boston, which was constructed by wealthy slave trader and merchant Peter Faneuil, whose family regularly sold slaves in public auctions on nearby Merchants Row. The following year, in June 1782, Jennison petitioned the General Court (the official name of the Massachusetts legislature) for reinstatement of the case he had lost by default ten months earlier. In 1681, John Saffin and other Boston merchants wrote to the shipmaster William Welstead, warning him that the authorities planned to seize a slave ship heading for Rhode Island, and that he should intercept the vessel and direct it to Nantasket to offload its human cargo. From 1672-1696 the British Parliament granted the Royal African Company a monopoly in the slave trade. Not a single newspaper article from the time made note of the end of a century and a half of bondage. 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