Section #2 - A new Constitution is adopted and government operations start up
Chapter 10: The Plight Of Those Enslaved
Slavery Continues to Wither Away In The North
As of 1790, there are some 698,000 enslaved people living in America alongside another 57,000 who are “freed men and women.”
Black Population In America In 1790
But by that time, six of the eight Northern states have already banned slavery.
Dates Of Northern States Bans On Slavery
|1777||Vermont||Constitution bans immediately|
|1780||Penn||Current slaves kept for life, but their children are free|
|1783||NH||Current gradually freed; children born free|
|1783||Mass||All freed immediately|
|1784||Conn||All 25+ years old and new borns freed immediately|
|1784||RI||All freed immediately|
|1799||NY||Current freed in 1827; children born free|
|1804||NJ||Current slaves kept for life, but their children are free|
The result being that only 40,000 slaves remain up North, with the majority of them in New York and New Jersey.
The Black Population In The Eight Northeastern States In 1790
|Free Black People||4,785||6,567||2,762||2,924||5,463||3,397||271||631||26,800|
The end of slavery in the region is reflected by the journey of the roughly 2,700 slaves still remaining in Connecticut. By 1774, some 6500 slaves remain, with the Puritans justifying the practice based on various Bible verses and on the notion that captivity had enabled the enslaved people to learn about Christianity.
To control these slaves, Connecticut passes “Black Codes” in 1730 that outline a series of “whipping offenses:” being outside after 9PM without a signed pass; drinking liquor or selling goods without written permission; disturbing the peace or threatening a white person.
The Puritans tend to treat their slaves in a paternalistic fashion. Many act as household servants rather than field hands, and they are allowed to attend church services with their owners, albeit sitting in segregated pews. Some black children are also allowed to attend local schools.
While voluntary “manumission” occurs from time to time, the formal movement away from slavery begins in Connecticut in 1774 with a ban on the importation of Africans, in response to complaints from white laborers looking for work. When the war with England breaks out in 1776, some black people join the Continental Army, fight in integrated units, and gain their freedom as a result of their service. Others find ways to accumulate the money needed to purchase freedom from their owners.
Then, in 1784, a Connecticut state law grants freedom at age 25 years to all future newborn slaves, and by the 1820 census, only 97 slaves are remaining.
Meanwhile, in 1790, the picture across the South is radically different. The region accounts for 94% of all those in bondage, and in four states, slaves make up over one-third of the state’s total population.
The Black Population In The Six Southern States In 1790
|Total||Virginia||S. Carolina||Maryland||N. Carolina||Georgia||Delaware|
|% Of State Pop||18%||39%||43%||32%||26%||35%||15%|
Jefferson’s Stereotypical Views Of His Slaves
By 1790 native Africans have lived among white Americans for well over 150 years. The practice of slavery has gradually withered away in the North and the total black population there has leveled off at around 67,000, with some 27,000 living as “manumitted” or free men. Not so in the South, where upwards of 650,000 slaves are critical to the economic prosperity of the region.
Despite these different outcomes, what is common among white men both North and South is a stereotypical view of all black people as an inferior “sub species” to be contained and controlled and feared.
No one articulates these prejudices more clearly than Thomas Jefferson, the Squire of the Monticello Plantation. They are best captured in his 1785 book, Notes on the State of Virginia where, in clinical fashion, he discusses the differences between black people and white people, and why these will never be reconciled.
Jefferson goes on to wonder what could explain the differences between himself and the over 100 African slaves who surround him on a daily basis.
In the end, all he can conclude is that, perhaps, black people represent a different species from white people.
Herein lies the basis for much of the anti-black racism that infects the white population, both South and North. It argues that the Africans are “a distinct race” and “inferior in both body and mind.” In other words, they are sub-human beings by no means created equal, and incapable of ever rising beyond their present station.
The “American Dream” is for white men, not for the black people. So saith the man who will serve as America’s third president.
1619 and Forward
The Daily Suffering Of Those Enslaved In The South
While white American are striving to get ahead in 1790, enslaved people are left simply trying to survive.
Standing in bug and worm infested dirt or mud or ankle deep water to cultivate rice, tobacco or cotton becomes their lot. It is punishing labor and intensely monotonous. It is marked by fear at any moment of the lash, delivered by a displeased or arbitrarily sadistic overseer. It is also endless. The only way out is death, and death is all around, in the faces of the young and the old, all accelerated by meager rations, run-down living quarters and flimsy attire.
Their later recorded testimonials tell of hard lives marked by back-breaking labor, gnawing hunger, physical punishment and constant fear of being uprooted from the solace offered by their families and fellow captives.
In 1790, one in every four North Carolinians are slaves. Here are their stories;
Moses Grandy of Camden, NC:
Moses Roper of Caswell, NC:
Harriet Jacobs of Edenton, NC:
James Curry of Person County, NC: