Salem March 19th. 1795
My numerous avocations must be my excuse
for suffering Yours of the 17th. ult to remain unanswered.
The Subject of your Queries is a Matter I have never
much attended to, am therefore but indifferently
qualified to return any satisfactory Answer.
I have endeavoured however to recollect every
thing material, that my Memory can furnish.
But several of the Queries I can scarcely answer
at all, and several others but with hesitation; If
however any thing I have offered shall give You
or Your Friend the Querist any Satisfaction,
or assist in emancipating so large a Number of
our Species as the Negroes in Virginia, from the
State of Degradation to which they are re-
duced I shall be very happy. But I confess
the difficulties in the Way appear to Me, if
not absolutely insuperable, yet certainly do very
nearly approximate to it.
Revd sir Your very humble servt.
Progress, & Abolition of Slavery in Massachusetts.
Qu. 1st. Tho' I believe the Period uncertain,
yet Slaves must
have been introduced very early. And as the Inhabitants
of Massachusetts were much connected with Barba-
does, which was settled but 3 or 4 Years before us, &
several Families went from hence to establish
themselves there, it is probable Negroes might be
first introduced from that Quarter. I believe
Instances of indian Slaves, were at every Period very
rare in this State, & those few we had, were bro't
from the W. Indies -- I never knew of more than 5
or 6 indian Slaves.
2d. Yes; but never I believe to any great Extent: When it
comenced [the "m" with a line over it] I know not, nor when it began to decline;
but few Cargoes I believe have been brot. in here, with-
in this 35 or 40 Years. The elder Merchants in Bos-
ton can best answer this Question.
3d The Slaves which were brot. here, directly
came for the most part I believe in american Vessels.
But the trade was not generally agreeable to the People
& several openly expressed their Disapprobation of it.
Judge Sewall about the latter End of the last Cen-
tury, published a small Tract against it, intitled
Joseph sold, a Memorial. I do not recollect any
Regulations made by the Legislature to discourage
the Business, before Slavery was suppressed among us,
(about the beginning of the american War) as it
were by common Consent. It was no uncommon Thing
for our W. India Merchants to import a few, from Time
to Time from the W. I. Islands; perhaps nearly half
which were imported, came in this Channel.
4th The State of Slavery among Us, was always I believe
as easy & as tolerable, as can well be imagined; & in
very many Instances, scarcely deserved the Name;
especially in the Country Towns, where the Negroes,
were nearly upon an equal Footing with the Rest of the Families
in which they lived. As to their Numbers & Propor-
tions to the Whites, 'tis probable a pretty exact Account
the Secretarys Office, in which if I do not mistake
Servants for Life (or Negroes) always made a distinct
Article: As they were always an Article of Taxation.
5th. I do not know of any Legislative Acts abolishing
Slavery, before the People at large had given up the
Idea. But I am not able to give this Query a full Answer.
6th. About the Beginning of the american War, or soon after,
the People in general: abandoned the Idea of holding
their fellow Creatures in Slavery; feeling perhaps the
Inconsistency of doing this, at a Time when they were
strenuously asserting the Cause of Liberty for themselves.
Numbers however were loth to lose their Property,
& in several Instances, it was not till a legal Process
was commenced by the Negroes against their Masters (which always
issued in Favour of the former*) that they were allowed
their Freedom. As to the Proportion they bore to the
Whites, at that or any other Period, consult the old
7th. Their Condition is in general pretty miserable. They
have generally as I am informed, left the Country Towns,
& resorted to the Seaports, where tho' they might all
of them be constantly employed, & most of them are,
yet many are not industrious, & Frugality many of
them seem to be utterly unacquainted with: and having
been educated in Families where they had contracted
Habits of a more luxurious Mode of living, than they
can support in their present Situation, they are much
more uncomfortable (as they confess) than in their former
State of Slavery. As to the public Provision for them
'tis I believe the same as for other poor Persons.
8th As to their political Rights, I suppose they stand upon
the same Ground with their fairer complexioned neigh-
bours: And, if otherwise qualified, may be chosen
into the highest Offices of the State. A strange
Oversight surely, in the Legislature! I never have
heard however, of any one chosen into any Office at all.
9th Their Conduct both moral and social, is pretty much
the same with that of the lowest Order of poor in the
Comunity ["m" with a line over it] .
10th No Intermarriages; if any extremely rare; I have not heard
11th The lowest of the People sometimes associate with them;
but I believe they generally consider it as an Act of
* The Courts before which these Actions were brot. I understand
determined, that there was no Law or Statute, which permitted
any Person to hold any one in Slavery, and as it was con-
trary to common Law, they always decided in Favour of