In the second case, tried during the same court session, Jennison sued Caldwell's brothers for interfering with his property; Jennison claimed the brothers had unlawfully enticed Walker away for their own benefit. Massachusetts. In short, without resorting to implication in constructing the constitution, slavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence. Mum Bett identified herself as Elizabeth Freeman in her will. 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. It is generally agreed that African slaves first arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630's, and slavery was legally sanctioned in 1641. in journalism. tags: politics-of-periodicals. Native Americans of the Pequot Tribe were being pushed off their land by the European settlements. 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. If you would like to continue helping us improve Mass.gov, join our user panel to test new features for the site. Universities and colleges in the Americas and Europe are examining their historical ties to the Atlantic slave trade and slavery. They put off the day of settlement indefinitely, and … Slavery, often recast as indentured servitude (see online display of bill of indenture for Dick Morey), was not unheard of in Massachusetts through the end of the eighteenth century. Meanwhile, a 1783 court case ended slavery in Massachusetts. Slaves too were active in seeking the end of slavery in Massachusetts. This included Maine since it was still part of Massachusetts. 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. [T]hese sentiments [that are favorable to the natural rights of mankind] led the framers of our constitution of government - by which the people of this commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves to each other - to declare - that all men are born free and equal; and that every subject is entitled to liberty, and to have it guarded by the laws as well as his life and property. According to an article in the Boston Globe, as a result, slavery was slowly phased out in the state: “The end was neither swift nor definitive. 1. This provided the basis for abolishing slavery in Massachusetts, but it clearly was not the intent of the Legislature to do so. See Emily Blanck, Seventeen Eighty-Three: The Turning Point in the Law of Slavery and Freedom in Massachusetts, 65 The New England Quarterly 24, 27-28 (2002) (listing all documented freedom suits). The exact date slaves first entered Massachusetts is unknown but many sources suggest Samuel Maverick was the first slaveholder in the colony after he arrived in early Boston in 1624 with two slaves. As Lemire shows, the end of slavery in Massachusetts was confused and uncertain. And it is therefore unnecessary to consider whether the promises of freedom to Quaco, on the part of his master and mistress, amounted to a manumission or not. 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. Between the years 1755 and 1764, the slave population in Massachusetts rose to 2.2 percent, with most of these slaves living in industrial and coastal towns. Slavery in Massachusetts by Henry D. Thoreau The Liberator and the Commonwealth were the only papers in Boston, as far as I know, which made themselves heard in condemnation of the cowardice and meanness of the authorities of that city, as exhibited in '51. Thank you. See Zilmersmit, supra note 1 at 616-617. Bett was the first slave to successfully sue for her freedom. Conceived and ratified by a unique and democratic process, the Constitution "justified and indeed compelled" judges to act so as to enforce its provisions over laws and customs that otherwise conflicted with it. ("Slavery in Massachusetts") Basic set up: In this essay, Henry David Thoreau lays out why he's against the Fugitive Slave Act that had been passed in 1850. "Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns." The one is just as sensible a proposition as the other. This is done through the passage of the Body of Liberties. Slavery there is said to have predated the settlement of Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629, and circumstantial evidence gives a date of 1624-1629 for the first slaves. Procedurally, the case began in May 1781 when the attorneys for Bett and Brom obtained a writ of replevin, an action for the recovery of property, from the Berkshire Court of Common Pleas. 21. Slavery: A World History. William Barton Rogers, our founding president, spent his formative years and much of his professional life surrounded by slaves. During the colonial era, numerous laws were passed regulating movement and marriage among slaves, and Massachusetts residents actively participated in the slave trade.  This section introduces the legal status of slavery in Massachusetts prior to 1780, the Mum Bett case of 1781, and the Quock Walker case. This case was tried before a jury in the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas. Meltzer, Milton. Id. Slavery in Massachusetts Henry David Thoreau, american author, poet, philosopher (1817-1862) This ebook presents «Slavery in Massachusetts», from Henry David Thoreau. [since Massachusetts last deliberately sent back an innocent man, Anthony Burns, to slavery. Any suggestions as to how I may further my research would be much appreciated. Each side appealed these contradictory verdicts, and the two cases were placed on the docket of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1781. And it was a 1783 judicial decision, interpreting the wording of the 1780 constitution, that brought slavery to an end in Massachusetts. This page, Massachusetts Constitution and the Abolition of Slavery, is, in the scale of 1, Strongly Disagree, to 5, Strongly Agree, Professional Training & Career Development, http://www.masshist.org/longroad/01slavery/bett.htm, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/legal/spotlight.html, http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/ashley-house.html, John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution, John Adams, Architect of American Government. ― Henry David Thoreau, Slavery in Massachusetts. Upon her death in 1829, Mum Bett was buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge. the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties."Â. How much do you agree with the following statements in the scale of 1, Strongly Disagree, to 5, Strongly Agree? 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. “New England’s Hidden History.” Boston.com,  Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC, 26 Sept. 2010, www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/09/26/new_englands_hidden_history/?page=4 . The court are therefore fully of the opinion that perpetual servitude can no longer be tolerated in our government, and that liberty can only be forfeited by some criminal conduct or relinquished by personal consent or contract. 5. 18. As noted, many historians and legal scholars have studied the Quock Walker cases. ", Historian Joanne Pope Melish observed that "the onset of the Revolution both intensified the attack and weakened the structures and practices that supported the institution [of slavery in New England]. Ashley refused. The jury found "that the said Quork is a Freeman and not the proper Negro slave of [Jennison]," and awarded Walker damages of 50 pounds. Thoreau also expresses his contempt for the Governor and states that he does not governor him by any means. As discussed in the section of this website entitled The Massachusetts Judicial System, the Supreme Judicial Court was both a trial court and an appellate court during its early history. 9. Your feedback will not receive a response. However, these cases were not decided on the basis of any "natural right" to freedom; instead, the courts required a specific point of law to decide in favor of a slave, such as a master's broken promise to grant freedom, or the questionable slave status of the individual's mother. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2011 […] There is extensive literature on the existence and abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. Bjorklund, Ruth and Stephanie Fitzgerald. In his charge to the jury, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing announced that slavery was incompatible with the new Massachusetts Constitution: . . The first slaves were brought to the colony in the early 17th century. The jury determined that Brom and Bett were not Ashley's property. Â. Da Capo Press, 1993 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. Her gravestone includes the words: "She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years. 2. An essay based on a speech Thoreau gave at an anti-slavery rally at on July 4, 1854, after the reenslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns. This was followed by numerous laws governing slaves and their activities, such as marriage laws between slaves, curfews and taxes on slaves imported into Massachusetts. Thoreau states that there are no slaves in Nebraska but there are nearly a million in their own state, Massachusetts. Agnes, supra note 16 at 11. Mum Bett, aka Elizabeth Freeman, Watercolor on Ivory Painted by Susan Ridley Sedgwick circa 1812. The full text of Chief Justice Cushing's remarks is printed in John Cushing, The Cushing Court and the Abolition of Slavery in Massachusetts: More Notes on the "Quock Walker Case," 5 The American Journal of Legal History 118 (1961). Original court records are in the custody of the Supreme Judicial Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation. Justice Cushing remained on that Court until 1810, and participated in deciding the case of Marbury v. Madison. The graves of Theodore Sedgwick and his wife, Pamela Sedgwick, are in the center. Slavery in Massachusetts by Henry David Thoreau "Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of … . This document, approved by the Committee on January 12, 1773, expressed anger at how Great Britain was treating her subjects in the colony of Massachusetts, and resolved "[t]hat mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property." This case - actually a series of three cases -- began as a freedom suit based on a promise of freedom or manumission, but resulted in a sweeping declaration by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing that the institution of slavery was incompatible with the principles of liberty and legal equality articulated in the new Massachusetts Constitution. The first slaves were brought to the colony in the early 17th century. Despite opposition against it, slavery continued in Massachusetts until the 1780s and even then practice did not end quickly. . The Caldwell brothers prevailed in their appeal to the State's high court. Massachusetts was the first slave-holding colony in New England, though the exact beginning of black slavery in what became Massachusetts cannot be dated exactly. 19. 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. Thoreau believes that the issue in Massachusetts is more a relevant and important topic to discuss at the moment. However, during the years 1781 to 1783, in three related cases known today as "the Quock Walker case," the Supreme Judicial Court applied the principle of judicial review to abolish slavery. 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 … One such opponent at the time was James Otis who wrote an influential pamphlet in 1764 stating “The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black.”. 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). Proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Court were not transcribed at this time. Native Americans in the Revolutionary War. "Slavery in Massachusetts" is one of Henry David Thoreau's most important essays. Sedgwick "Pie" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Both slaves won their cases after the jury agreed that slavery was inconsistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, thus stripping slavery of any legal protection in Massachusetts forever. Massachusetts was the first state in the new nation to abolish the institution of slavery. . A dynamic table of contents enables to jump directly to the chapter selected. There are many secondary sources about the Mum Bett case; electronic sources include: http://www.masshist.org/longroad/01slavery/bett.htm; http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/legal/spotlight.html; 12. 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. Quock Walker, a slave, was purchased as an infant by James Caldwell in 1754. Whenever slavery is mentioned, I am always so proud of Vermont for outlawing it in their Constitution, and for Uncle Henry who fought at Gettysburg for the Union, and in another battle, was injured, captured, and died in a Richmond prison. Haskins, James and Kathleen Benson. Her tombstone stands in the innermost circle of what is known as the "Sedgwick Pie.". In 1781, at the age of 28, Walker fled to the home of Caldwell's sons.  In doing so, the Court held that laws and customs that sanctioned slavery were incompatible with the new state constitution. Slavery existed in Massachusetts from the earliest Colonial days. In 1641, Governor John Winthrop, a slave owner himself, helped write the first law legalizing slavery in North America, the Massachusetts Bodies of Liberty, which the General Court passed on December 10, 1641. 3. (dated August 22, 1792; Suffolk files 159966). Would you like to provide additional feedback to help improve Mass.gov? Like “The free men of New England have only to refrain from purchasing and reading these sheets, have only to withhold their cents, to kill a score of them at once.” Literature regarding the development and abolition of slavery in Massachusetts and other northern states is vast and complex. . Do not include sensitive information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers. . I have a 5th Gr. 0 likes. Noted books on this subject include Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780 - 1860 (2000) and Arthur Zilversmit, First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North (1967). 10. This section is intended to provide basic information to students and educators, so that a context is provided for the legal cases. www.slavenorth.com provides a brief overview. However, she remained known as Mum Bett throughout her life. When the case was tried in August 1781 before the County Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington, Sedgwick argued that the Massachusetts Constitution had outlawed slavery. As historian Zilmersmit notes "[i]t is also possible that a group of prominent residents of Berkshire County selected Elizabeth and a Negro man, Brom, who was associated with her in the suit, in order to determine whether or not slavery was constitutional in Massachusetts after the adoption of the new constitution.". Electronic information about the Quock Walker cases is available at The Long Road to Justice, http://www.longroadtojustice.org/topics/slavery/quock-walker.php. The Constitution of 1780, in contrast, contained a declaration that "all men are born free and equal, and have . See note 3 supra. Early practice permitted each of the five justices individually to instruct the jury; however, no other charges have survived. Pennsylvania adopted a gradual emancipation law in 1780, as did Connecticut and Rhode Island … In early January, 1773, Ashley became moderator of a committee of eleven local citizens, including attorney Theodore Sedgwick, that wrote a document known as the Sheffield Declaration. Mass.gov® is a registered service mark of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 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.”. 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