Jordan, Modern Tensions & Origins of Am. Slavery (1962).doc

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Unformatted text preview: Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavgy By maroon? 1). JORDAN Tamas to term 5mm we mow mar manners rinsr caste TO the British continental colonies in 1611}.1 What we do not lmow is exactly when his were first enslaved there. This question has been debated hymfims for the past seventy years, the critical point being whether Negroes were enslaved almost from their first importation or whether they were at first simply servants and only later reduced to the status of slaves. The long duration and vigor of the controversy suggest that more than a simple question of dating has been involved; In fact certain current tensions in American society have complicated the historical problem and eat] heightened its significance. Dating the origins of slavery s t n on a striking modern relevance. Darin the nineteenth century historians assumed almost uni- versally t the first Negroes came to Virginia as slaves. So close was their acquaintance with the problem of racial slavery that it did not occur to them that Negroes could ever have been any- thing but slaves. Philip A. Bmce, the first man to grabs with some thoroughness into the early years of American avery, adopted this view in 1396, although he emphasized that the original dif- ference in treatment between white servants and Negroes was merely that Negroes served for life. Inst six years later, however. came a challenge from a younger, professionally trained historian, james G. Bella . His A History of Slavery in Virginia ap enter! in the Johns Hop ns Unioersitg Studies in Historical andPPolitieol Science, an aptly named series which was to usher in the new era of Scholarl detachment in the writing of institutional history. Ballagh o ere-d a new and difl'erent inte rotation; he took the position that the first Negroes served mererfir as servants and that enslavement did not begin until around 1360, when statute-shear- ing on slavery were passed for the first time.3 1 "About the last of August coma in a dutch mm of warns that sold as twen Negnrs." Smith was quoting oI'm Bella's account. Edward Arbor and A. G. Bra - lay {eds}, Travels and ‘l. o s of Captain John Smith . . . [2 'rols,I Edtnbmsh, 1910). H. 54]. 8Philip 5- Bruce. Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (2 This comes downloaded from _128.113,134.12mhbu, l. I SE]: 2017 I6:ll:29 UTC All use when to hitp:f.=‘abou1.jstor.ory‘tm flqéfil AMERICAN SLAVERY 19 There has since been a cement 0n dating the statutory estab- lishment of slavery, and erences of opimon have centered on when enslavement began in actual practice. Fortunately there has also been general agreement on slavery’ s distinguishing character- istics: service for life and inheritance of like obliggioa by any oEspring. Writing on the free Negro in Virginia for t Johns Hop~ ltiIIs series, ohn [-1. Russell in 1913 tackled the central question and showe that some Negroes were indeed servants but con- cluded that “between 1640 and 1680 slavery was fast becoming an established fact. In this twenty ears the colored pepuletion was divided, part being servants and, part being slaves, and some who were servants defended themselves with increasing difficul from the encroachments of slavery."Ill Ulrich B. Philii s, thou little interested in the matter, in 1918 accepted Russo s can u- sion of early servitude and transition toward slavery after 1540. Helen T. Catterall took much the same position in 1928. On the other hand, in 1921 nines M. Wright, discussing the tree Ne c in Maryland, impli than Negroes were slaves almost freni e beginning, and in 1940 Susie M. Amos reviewed several cases in Virginia which seemed to indicate that genuine slavery had exi3ted well before Balln%nh date of 1560.‘ All this was a very sma academic gale, well insulated from the outside world. Yet despite disagreement on dating enslavement, the earlier writers--Bruce, Bailagh, and missed—shared a' com- mon assumption which, though at the time seemingly irrelevant to the main question, has since proved of considerable importance. They assumed that prejudice against the Negro was natural and almost innate in the white man. It would be surprising if they had felt otherwise in this period of segre tion statutes, overseas im- perialism, immi tion restriction, andfliulhthroated Anglo-Saxon- ism. By the 1 5, however, with the casing of these tensions, the Wis. New York, 1895). 11, 57-130; James C. Ballngh, A History of Slavery in Virginia {Baldn‘lore. 1902), 28-35. njohn H. Russell, The Free Negro in Virginia, 1819-1835 (Baltimore, 1913), 29. ”hid. 23-39; Ulrich B. Pldllips, American Negro Show (New York, 1913), 75-77. and Life and Labor in the OM South (Boston, 1929 . ITO; Hcien '1'. Cat- tcral] (ed-l: Judidai Case: Cancel-oi American Steven and the Negro (5 vols. Washington. 1928-1937}. I. 54-55, -83,- mes M. Wight. The Free Negro In Maryland, 1334-1830 (New York, 1921), L23: Susie M. Amos, Studies of the Virginia Eastern Show in the Seventeenth Century (fliclunend. 1940). 180-106. 5&8 also T. B. Davis, "Negro Sendde in the United States," Iwmi of N :0 His , VIII [july 1923), 247-33, and Edger T. 111cm n, “The Natural in Dry Agricultln-al Labor in the South" in David K. lit-disco tedJ, American Studies in Honor of William Kenneth Boyd (Durham, N. (1., 1940), £27416. This contentdownloaded that 125.118.134.12 on Mon, 11 593320]? 16:112ng All use subject to hnpzihboutjstcrmp‘temn £0 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY assumption of natural prejudice was dropped unnoticed. Yet cull-fr one historian explicitly contradicted that assum tion: Ulrich Ph - lips of Georgia, impressed with the geniallty oljboth slavery and twentieth-century race relations, found no natural prejudice in the white man and tossed his "conviction that Southern racial asperities are met y superficial, and that the two great elements are fundamentally in accord.”is . Only when tensions over race relations intensified once more did the older assumption of natural rejudiee em up again. After World War II American No 063 [gland theme ves beneficiaries of New Deal politics and r arms, wartime need for manpower, world-wide repulsion at racist ere-cams in Nazi German ', and growingly successful colored anticolonialism. With new mi itanc Negroes mounted an attack on the citadel of separate but equ , an soon it became clear that America was in for a period of self- conscious reapparaisal of its racial arrangements. Writin in this period of heig toned tension (1949) a practiced an careful scholar, Wesley F. Craven, raised the old question of the Negro’s original status, suggesting that Negroes had been enslaved at an ear y date. Craven also cautiously resuscitated the idea that white men may have had natural distaste for the Ne 0, an idea which fitted neatly with the suggestion of early one avement. Original antipathy would mean or id dehasement. In the next car (1950 came a sophisticated counterstatement, which contradicted both Craven’s dating and implicitly any sug- gestion of early prejudice. Oscar and Mary F. Handlin in "Origins of the Southern Labor System" offered a case for late enslavement, with servitude as the status of Negroes before about 1660. Origi- nally the status of both Negroes and white servants was far short of ire-adorn, the Haadlins maintained, but Negroes failed to bene- fit from increased freedom for servants in miduoentury and became less free rather than more" Embedded in this description of di- verging status vrere broader im lications: Late and gradual en- slavement undercut the possibility of natural, deep-seated an- tipathy toward Negroes. 0n the contrary, if whites and Negroes could share the same status of half freedom for forty years in the seventeenth century, why could they not share full freedom in the twentieth? I Philhps,‘ American Negro Slavery, viii. iWesley F. (haven. ‘1' Is Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, 1507- 1689 {Baton , 1949 1, 317-19, scams. 7 William and my Quarteri'y, s. 3, VII (April 1950}, 199-222. This comes dmvntoaded fi-cnr usualsttz onlvbn, 11 Selim}? 16:11:29 UTC Ail use subject to hapu'fahoutjrtonmytunu streamer; sasvsar 21 The same implicatioris were rendered more explicit by Kenneth M. Stampp in a major reassessment of Southern slavery published two years after the Supreme Court’s 1954 school decision. Reading physiologv with the e e of faith, Stem p frankly stated his as- sumption “that innat y Negroes are, a all, only white men with black skins, nothing more, nothin less." Closely following the Handlins' article on the ori ’ s o slavery itself, he almost directly denied any pattern of ear )2 and inherent racial antipathy: “. . . Negro and white servants of the seventeenth century seemed to be remarkabl unconcerned about their visible physical diifer- ences.” As for " trend toward special treatment’ of the Negro, “physical and cultural difl'erences provided hand excuses to justify it.” Distaste for the Negro, then, was in beginning scarcely more than an nppurtenance of slavery. 'I'hese views squared nicely with the hopes of those even more directly concerned with the problem of contemporary race rela- tions, sociologists and social psychologists. Liberal on the race question almost to a man, the tended to see slavery as the initial cause of the Negro’s current egradation. The modern Negro was the unhapp victim of long association with base status. Sociolo- gists, thou uninterested in tired questions of historical evidence, could not easily assume a natural prefudice in the white man as the cause of slavery. Natural or innate prejudice would not on] violate their basic assumptions concerning the dominance of on - tare but would undermine the power of their new Baconian sci- ence. For if prefudice was natural there would be little one could do to wipe it out. Prejudice must have followed enslavement, not vine verse, else any liberal program of action would he badly corn— prornised. One prominent social scientist su sted in a UNESCO pamphlet that racial prejudice in the Unite States commenced with the cotton gin! "3 Inst how closely the question of dating had become tied to the 'Konnelh M. Stern , The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante—Belicia South [New York, 1 .vii-viii, s-sa. ' livid” 314-23- 10 Arnold Ital, "The Roots of Hoiudlce" in UNESCO, The Race Question in Modern Science {New York, 1956), 34. For emu ies of die more general view one Frederic]: G. Dotweflor, "The Rise of Modern co Ante onions," American Journal of Snowing, XXXVI! {March 1932}, “Mil; M. F. Ash? Montage, Man’s Mail 3‘ 51h; The Fallacy of Race [New York, 19 ), 10-11, 19%; Gunner Mfidal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern De- moon-neg { ew Yea-k, 194-1), 83-39, 97; Paul chshcmetl, "I‘he Hydrological Thom-y oi Prejudice: Does it Li's-denote the Role of Social History?“ Commentary, XVIII (October 1951}, 384-66. Thiscomentdmnaoaded Eon]. 118.l18.13'i-.l2 edition, i15ep201716:11:29 UTC Alluse subject tohnpu'iaboulgnernrglterms 33 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY practical matter of action against racial rein-dice was made ap— parent b the su tions of still another istorian. Carl N. Dealer grappl with t e dating problem in an article frankly anti :1 Slavery and the Genesis of American Race F‘reiu.1dice."ll The article appeared in 1959, a time when Southern resistance to school decei‘egation scorned more adamant than ever and the North’s hen none too clean, a period of discouragement for those hoping to end racial discrimination. Prejudice against the Negro now appeared firm and rice -seated, less easily eradicated than had been supposed in, say, 1 4. It was Degler's view that enslavement began early, as a result of white settlers' prejudice or antipathy toward the first Ne rues. Thus not only were the sociologists contradicted but the ting problem was now overtly and consciously tied to the broader uestion of whether slavery caused pre'udice or prejudice caused 5 every. A new self-conscious- ness over t e American racial dilemma had snatched an arid his— torical controversy from the hands of an unsuspectin earlier oration and had tossed it into the arena of current d ate. ronic ere mi t ave een no tor controversy a all if every storian dealing with the subject had exercised greater care with facts and greater restraint in late rotation. Too often the debate entered the realm of inference andfhssumption. For the crucial early years after 1619 there is simply not enough evidence to indicate with any certainty whether Negroas were treated like white servants or not. No historian has found anything resembling proof one way or the other. The first Ne nor were sold to the English settlers, yet so were other Englis on. It can he said, hon-ever, that Negroes were set apart from white men by the word Negroes, and a distinct name is not attached to a group unless it is seen as dlflcrent. The earliest Virginia census reports plainly distinguished Negroes from white men, sometimes giving Negroes no personal name; and In 1829 every commander of the several iantations was ordered to “take a general] muster of all the in- bitants men woemcn and Children as well Englislle as No- oer.”la Difference, however, might or might not involve in- griority. ' 1' Corn line Studies in Society and History, II {October 1959}, 49-60. See also or. Out of Our Past: The Force: that Shaped Modern America If New Torin]. LEG-39. H H. R. McIlwatnc {ed}, Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, 16224832, rerodc'fo (Richmond. 1924}. 198. Soc the lists and masters of 1324 and 1525 in John C. l-lotten (ed), The Original Lists of Persons of Quality . . . {New York, 1850]. 189-265. This content dmvnlonded from} 25. 1 I113“: on Min, 1 1 Sep 201? 16:11:29 erc All use allure! to httparnboutjaarnryiams AMERICAN SLAVER? 23 The first evidence as to the actual status of Negroes does not appear until about 1640. Then it becomes clear that some Negroes Were serving for life and some children inheriting the same obli- gation. Here it is necessary to suggest with some candor that the Handlins’ statement to the contrary rests on unsatisfactory docu- mentation.“ That some Negroes Were held as slaves after about 1640 is no indication, however, that American slavery popped into the world fully develo ed at that time. Many historians, most eo ently the Handlins, ave shown slavery to have been a grad- u devel ment, a process not completed until the eighteenth century. complete d rivation of civil and personal rights, the Iegal conversion of the fi’egro into a chattel, in short slavery as Americans came to know it, was not aeooncElished ovemight. Yet these developments practically and Iogi Iy depended on the practice of hereditary lifetime service, and it is certainly possible to find in the 1640's and 1650’s traces of slaveiy’s most essential featme.“ The first definite trace appears in 1340 when the Virginia Gen- eral Court pronounced sentence on three servants who had been retaken after running away to Maryland. Two of them, a Dutch— man and :1 Scot, were ordered to serve their masters for one addi- tional year and than the colon for three more, but “the third be- ing a ne 0 named John Pour: shall serve his said master or his assigns r the time of his natural life here or else where.” No “"1114: status at N was that of servants; and so they were Identified and treated flown to the 1 s.” ("Brighter 90:1.) The footnote in this statement reads. “For disciplinary and revenue laws in Virginia that did not discriminate Ne from other servants. see He Shrinks, I, 174. 198, 200, 243, 308 [1831-1 3.” But pp. 200 and 243 of W iarn Waller Honing {oil}, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia . . . (2nd ed. at vols. 1-4, New York. 1323}, I. in fact contain nothing about either servants or Negroes, while a is: provision 011mg 242 Emmott“? diserhn' inates against N woman. The reve- nue act on p. lists 8 number of pounds of tobacco outed on land. cattle. sheep horses, etc, and on tiihahle persons, and protridos for collection of lists of theahoveso that tllecolonyeancom teitstuaprngmm; nothingelsc issuid of servants and tithahles. To say. as the endlins did in the same note, that Negroes, 13w servants, and horses. etc. Were listed all together in some early Virginia in s, with the implication that Negroes and English caveats were regarded as alike in status, is hardly correct unless one is to assume that the horses mm sharing this status as well. (For complete bib! mlphical iuiormation on Honing [ell]. Statutes. see E.)G. Swen, Virginie Histories rider [2 vols, Roanoke, Va., 1934-1906], I. sir-xvi. 1* Lathumnericen Negroes did not lose all civil and personal rights, did not be- me more chattels. yet we speak of "slavery" in Latin marina Without hesitation. See Funk Tannenhunn, Since and Citizen.- The N to in the Americas (New York, 1947), and Gilberto Fayre, The Matters and. e Slaves.- A Study in the Deoelopmeni of Brazilian Civilisation {New York. 1948}. This content dmvnicadsd him _128. ”8.13432 ooh-bu. li Sep 301? 16:11:29 UTC All use subject to https’r’ahoutjstwmgrim 24 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY white servant in America, so far as is known, ever received a like sentence.“ Later the same month a Negro was again singled out from a mop of recaptured runaways; six of the seven were as- signed additional time while the Negro was 'ven none, presuma- bly because he was already serving for lilgel.” After 1640, too, county court records began to mentiori Negroes, in part because there were more of them than previously—about two per cent of the Virginia population in 1349.” Sales for life, often including on),r future progeny, were recorded in urunistakuble language. In 1648 Francis I’ott sold a Ne woman and boy to Stephen Charl- ton "to the use of him . . r giver." Similarly, six years later Wil- liam Whittington sold to John I’ott “one Negro girle named Iowan; aged aborit Ten yeeres and with her Issue and produce durhige her (or either of them) for their Life tyme. And their Successors forever"; and a Maryland man in 1649 deeded two ngro men and a woman "and all their issue both male and Fe- m e." The executors o! a York County estate in 1647 di ad of eight Negroes—four men, two women, and two chil —to Ca. tain Iohn Chismnn “to have hold occupy posesse and inioy an every one of the alterementioned N oes forever[.]"" The will of Rowland Bumham of “flu nhanocfi,” mode in 1357, dis» ensed his considerable number Negroes and white servants in enguage which clearly dill'erentiated between the two by specify- ing that the whites were to serve for their “full terme of tyme” and the Negroes "for ever."“’ Nor did anything In the will indicate that this distinction was one tionol or novel. In addition to these ear indications that some Negroes Were owned for life, there were cases of Negroes held for terms for 1‘ “Deeistom oi the General Court," Virginia Ma ne mfliflorgnand Biogra- phy, V ( urinary 1898), 238. Abbot Emerson in stun id work an servitude America, Colanim in Band e.- White Smitude and Convict labor in Amer-toe, 1607-1176 {Chapel Hill, 19-! J', 17], says that "there was never any such thing as perpetual slavery for any_w|1ite men in anglrdEngliah colony." There were instances in the enrollment]: century of white men so into "slavery, ' but this was when the meaning of the term was still indefinite and often equated with servitude. 5“ "Decisions of the General Court,” 233-37. "A on! Decor-drum of Vtr lfltfl' . . . (Dilation, 1849), reprinted in Peta Fm (ed. .Tracte... (note, ushington. 13334843}, n. "Them {our cases may be found in Nerll'nmpton County Deeds. Wills 6w. {Virginia State Library. Richmond), No. 4 (1351-1654). 23 (mtrnumbered 29}. 124: Atrium of Muyiand (69 vole. Baltimore- 13-83-1961}, ELI, Bill-GE; York Coun...
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