pools, the exuvial, the worn-out skins of slave- holders. (T)hey are the meanest, and lowest, and worst of all creation. Like starved wharf rats, they are out nights, creeping into slave cabins, to see if they have an old bone there; they drive out husbands from their own beds, and then take their places (Clarke, 1846: 114). Despite the harshness and immediacy of punish- ment as well as the likelihood of discovery, slaves con- tinued with the same behavior that brought about slave patrols in the first place. In fact, they added activities of specific irritation to the patrollers (or, as they were variously known, padaroe, padarole, or patteroller). Preventive measures like warning systems, playing ignorant and innocent when caught and learning when to expect a patrol were typically used. More assertive measures included building trap doors for escape from their cabins, tying ropes across roads to trip approach- ing horses, and fighting their way out of meeting places (Genovese, 1972: 618–619; Rose, 1976: 249–289). As have victims in other terrifying situations, the slaves occasionally resorted to humor as a source of strength. One version of a popular song makes that point: Run, nigger, run; de patter-roller catch you; Run, nigger, run, its almost day. Run, nigger, run; de patter-roller catch you; Run, nigger, run, and try to get far away. De nigger run, he run his best; Stuck his hand in a hornet’s nest. Jumped de fence and run through de pastor; Marsa run, but nigger run faster. (Goodman, 1969: 83) In an ironic sense the resistance by slaves should have been completely understandable to American patri- ots. Patrols were allowed search powers that the colonists later found so objectionable in the hands of British authorities (Foner, 1975: 221). Add to that the accompa- nying lack of freedoms to move, assemble, and bear arms, and the slave resistance seems perfectly appropriate. Problems with the Slave Patrols In addition to the difficulties presented by the slaves themselves, the patrols throughout the South experi- enced a variety of other problems. Many of these were similar to problems confronting colonial militia: training was infrequent; the elites often avoided duty; and those that did serve were often irresponsible (Anderson, 1984; Osgood, 1957; Shy, 1980; Simmons, 1976). In addition, the patrols had some unique concerns. One of the first problems was the presence of free Blacks. Understandably, slaves caught by patrollers would try to pass themselves off as free persons. The problem was particularly bad in some of the cities where many free Blacks existed. In 1810, for example, the Charleston census showed 1,783 free Negroes (Henry, 1968: 50). Special acts eventually allowed the patrol to whip even free Negroes away from their home or employer’s business unless they produced “free papers.” In all but one of the slave states a Black person was presumed to be a slave unless she or he could prove differently. The sole exception to this procedure was 8 Rawick (1972: 61–65) provides interesting recollections of patrols by ex-slaves in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
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- Fall '19
- Stanley Tippins
- Police Department, London Metropolitan Police