1. THE first Introduction of Negroes or other slaves in Massachusetts?
2. Whether the African trade was carried on thither? at what Period it
commenced ? to what ex-
tent it was carried on ? when it began to decline ? and when it was wholly discontinued ?
3. Whether it was carried on by European or American adventurers ? by what
means its declension
first began ? whether from legislative discouragement or other causes? & to what causes its abo-
lition is to be ascribed?
4. The State of Slavery in
Massachusetts when slaves were most numerous? their number when
numerous? their proportion to the Number of white persons at that period?
5. The mode by which Slavery hath been abolished there? Whether by a general
emancipation? or at different periods ? or whether by declaring all persons born after a particu-
lar period free ?
6. At what period slavery was wholly abolished? what were their numbers and
proportion to the
whites at that period ?
7. What is the condition of emancipated negroes? Is any & what,
provision made for their educa-
tion & maintenance, during infancy, or in a state of decrepitude, age, or insanity?
8. What are their political rights or disabilities? if there be any
discrimination between them and
white persons ?
9. Is there any perceptible difference between the general, moral, or
social conduct of emancipated
persons or their descendants, and others ?
10 Are intermarriages frequent between blacks and whites ? if so, are such
alliances more frequent
between black men & white women, or the contrary?
11. Does harmony in general prevail between the blacks and white citizens?
do they associate freely
together? or is there a preeminence claimed by the one, and either avowedly or tacitly admitted
by the other?
The above queries are sent to me by a gentlemen in
Virginia, whose view appears to be to assist
in removing the difficulties, which attend the question of general emancipation of slaves in that
Being desirous of collecting the best information for him, I beg leave to
submit the queries to
your consideration, asking the favour of you to furnish me, as soon as may be, with your senti-
ments on any of them which it is in your power to answer.
Boston, February 17, 1795.[Pages 2-4 contain John Eliot's letter. This page count is based on the fact that the item is a folded sheet and considers page 1 to be the printed circular. The letter begins on page 3 and finishes on page 2. Page 4 is comprised of the address and endorsement.]
I have looked over your Queries with some attention
but am unable to say, When this introduction of Negros to Mast: first
took place --
2. the African trade was carried on -- and commenced at an
period: to a small extent compared with R. Island, but it made
a considerable branch of our commerce (to judge from the number
of our still houses & Masters of vessels now living who have been in
the trade) -- It declined very little till the revolution -- Some excellent
writings were diffused previously to this & the sentiment of the people
were was against it, but the Merchants who had been engaged in the busi-
ness still continued sending their vessels for Slaves, till the trade
was prohibited by an Act of the Court 1787 --
3 -- If by European Adventurers be intended persons disconnected with
American Merchants, they were few in number. The cause of abolition of
Slaves in the State, may be traced entirely to the Sentiment of the people;
-- but of the trade -- to the Act of the Legislature.
4. Slaves were never in a state of hard bondage: It is difficult to tell
exact proportion of blacks to whites, because if we judge by the funerals, they were more
infirm & sick, & died in more than equal numbers, compared with the inhabitants.
Some persons may have proper data, to answer this query.
The 5th, 6th -- will be answered by the above &c and looking into the
7 -- Answer -- Wretched, with a few exceptions -- but owing to
-- every encouragement is given to them to work -- A subsistence is easi-
ly obtained, & they have the same priviledges with whites from infancy
to manhood -- This includes the 8. query.
9. There is a perceptible difference; owing perhaps to their habits of Life
They have been Slaves -- Some who were born free & well educated are here
to be excepted.
10. There cannot be intermarriages by our laws -- It is very seldom
a thing has happened -- Between Blacks & Molattoes more frequent --
11. There is much harmony between Blacks & Whites. We seldom have
tentions, except in houses of ill fame, where some very depraved white fe-
males get among the blacks -- this has issued in the pulling down such houses
at times, & caused several actions at Justice Courts these two years past.
Otherwise, they do not associate -- Even religious societies, those not
public fellowship, are separate in the town of Boston -- And what is
their lodges --
The African Lodge in Boston, tho' possessing a charter from England, signed by
the Earl of Effingham, and countersigned by the Duke of Cumberland, meet by themselves,
-- and white Masons, not more skilled in Geometry than their black brethren will not
acknowledge them. The reason given is that the Blacks were made clandestinely, in the
first place, which being known would have prevented them from receiving a Charter. But
this inquiry would not have been made about White Lodges, many of which have not conform-
ed to the rules of Blacks Masonry. The truth is, They are ashamed of being on an equality
with Blacks. Even the fraternal kiss of France given to merit without distinction of colour doth not influ-
ence Massachusett Masons to give an embrace less emphatical, or tender & affectionate
to their black brethren. These, on the other hand, valuing themselves upon their knowledge
of the Craft, think themselves better Masons in other respects than the Whites, because
Masonry considers all men equal who are free; and Massachusetts laws admit of no
kind of Slavery. It is evident from this that Neither "avowedly nor tacitly do
the Blacks admit the preheminence of the Whites; But as evident that the
preheminence is claimed by the Whites.
In addition to the answer of 4th. Query -- Tho'
the Slaves were not in hard Bondage, yet
one thing implies the contrary, to our Reason & feelings. Lover & friends were separated
& their children given away with the same indifference as little Kittens & young puppies: Upon
the whole they were less favourites --