Cambridge 4 March 1795

Rev. Sir,

Yesterday I was favored with your queries, & take the
first opportunity to associate give you all the intelligence I am possessed
of on the subject of the Slave trade. --

1 -- I do not know when that trade begun among the citizens of this
State, but acts are were passed for the regulation of Negroes, and their manu-
2 -- mission, as early as 1703, when a duty of £4, was exacted for every ne-
2. gro imported; for the payment whereof both master & vessel were
answerable. The whole duty was refunded on re-exportation I have no certain information, but believe it never
was carried on to any considerable extent but by way of Rhode --

3 -- Island. During the late War I have been told that an act
was passed in that State for the emancipation of such negroes
as should inlist into the Army; but what consideration was
paid to the Master exceeds my information --

4. -- Slaves were probably most numerous just before the Revo-
lution. After the Commencement of hostilities, the depreciation
of the paper currency, & a supposed inconsistency between
fighting for liberty & restraining others in servitude, prevented
them from increasing. Their proportion to the White people at
different periods will most probably be ascertained by the returns
of population in the Secretary's office --

5 -- By a Misconstruction of our State Constitution, which declares all men
by nature free & equal, a number of citizens have been deprived of
property formerly acquired under the protection of law. The Constitu-
6. -- tion begun to operate in 1780. --

7 -- There being now no slavery known here, the negroes generally get
a living by entering into domestic service, & one or two in Boston
have acquired decent property. At the time of the Insurrections in
1786, they offered their service to Governor Bowdoin to the
number of 700, but the Council did not think fit to accept of
their aid, as the white officers might be unwilling to serve
8 with them. They are as much under the protection of government
and have the same privileges of schooling as other people, but
they can neither elect or be elected to offices of government.

9. There are a few instances of their appearing as authors, &
some of their productions are not contemptible. I have not heard
of their dipping into the more abstruse parts of Science, & in
general they are not estimated for speculative abilities.

10 -- An act was passed 1705 at the October Session of the General Court
to prevent mixing breeds. It established a penalty of £50 for
every person officiating to marry a white person & negro, but
did not annul the marriage. For fornication both parties were
to be whipped & the negro sold out of the Province. If the Man
was white a fine of £5 was required of him. The same act
11. required a negro to be whipped, if he presumed to strike a
christian, at the directio They were expressly allowed to marry
among their own color. By an act passed in 1703 Slaves were
required to be at home by nine o'clock in the evening, under the
penalty of being whipped at the discretion of a Justice of the
peace, not exceeding 10 stripes. As Slavery is now at an end
this act of course ceases, but that relating to marriages remains.

5 Acts passed on 25 & 26 March 1788 prohibit the Slave trade,
& the construction of the act is such that it must extend the
prohibition to every part of the world. The person receiving aboard
his vessel a subject of any State in Africa with a view to
transport him to any other part of the World (as a slave) is to pay
£ 50 for every person so taken aboard, and the Owner is answerable
for £200 for every vessel fitted out & employed in that service. Kid-
8 napping for exportation Negroes resident here is forbidden, & a
remedy given to the family of the person injured. All Negroes
8 not citizens of any State in the Union, but resident here, are
required to depart within two months or apprehended, whip-
ped, & ordered to depart; the process & punishment to be re-
newed every two months.

I do not recollect any thing further on this subject, but
I cannot forbear adding, that it would be more worthy of an
enlightened Legislature to regulate a trade which is woven into
our Nature, & has been carried on, & considered as lawful, from
the earliest antiquity, than to try to abolish it. If abuses
have crept in, they ought to be guarded against; but abuse alone
will not justify abolishing a trade which manifestly tends to
preserve life and to increase the quantity of productive

labor in the whole world. Wars among Savages may in some small
degree be promoted by the trade, but the lives of the prisoners are
saved.

I am sir,
Your most obedient servant
James Winthrop

[Endorsement]

Mr Winthrop

[Address]

Reverend Doctor Belknap
Boston

31.5 cm x 19.5 cm

From the Jeremy Belknap papers