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1810 Massachusetts's 11th congressional district special election

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A special election was held in Massachusetts's 11th congressional district on October 8, 1810 to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of William Stedman (F) on July 16, 1810.[1]

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  • ✪ The Antislavery Bulwark: The Antislavery Origins of the Civil War – Session 1
  • ✪ United States Presidents and The Illuminati Masonic Power Structure
  • ✪ Illuminati The Rothschild Bloodline Financial Wizzards & Wealthy Cults


- Good morning. I'm John Stauffer, I was asked by Jim Oakes to help organize this conference, and it was a great pleasure and honor for me to be able to work with Jim. Before I give a brief introduction this morning, I'd like to thank a number of people for making this conference this morning, and the workshop yesterday possible. First, Don Robothom, from the Advanced Research Collective at the Graduate Center. Second, Provost Louise Lennihan, from the Graduate Center. President of the Graduate Center, Chase Robinson, who introduced David Blythe last night. Former Chancellor William Kelly of CUNY. Louise Mirrer from the New York Historical Society. Joe Murphy, a graduate student in history, also part of this panel today, and the workshop yesterday, make sure you are here for his presentation. And Michael Washburn of CUNY, and Harvard University for contributing as well. What's new about the antislavery origins of the Civil War? I ask because after all, for the past 50 years of so, scholars have acknowledged, at some level, the centrality of slavery in the coming of the Civil War. But most Americans continue to deny the antislavery origins of the war. In 2011, on the eve of the anniversary of the Civil War, a major poll asked adults throughout the nation, what the war was fought over. A majority of respondents, including 2/3 of white southerners, said states rights were the essential cause. Moreover, although we now consecrate the abolitionist cause, as Andy Delbanco has noted, we are only beginning to treat abolitionists with the historical empathy that they deserve. Joseph Yannielli said in his recent prize-winning essay, that most scholars continue to disparage white abolitionists. They were cultural imperialists, promulgating a proto-bourgeois ideology. Or their attempts to empathize with slaves and black were exploitative, engendering a pornography of pain that was repulsive and obscenely titillating. The upshot is that scholars for a long time have created rigid dichotomies between abolitionists and pragmatic antislavery politicians. They have also created rigid dichotomies between the early abolitionists and modern or immediate abolitionists. They have ignored the degree to which antislavery politicians interpreted the Constitution as antislavery, recognizing no property in humans, and protecting slavery only at the local or state level. They have dismissed as irrational antislavery people's hatred of the slave power, consisting of the wealthy and powerful 1% of their day. And they have not treated seriously the Republican platform of containing slavery, cordoning it off in the existing states, which would lead to its ultimate extinction. Scholars have instead emphasized the Republicans' devotion to the Union and their willingness to sacrifice other goals to preserve it. They highlight Republicans' determination to claim new territories for free labor, or they view the Republican ideal of free labor as a form of exploitative capitalism, rather than a moral antidote to slavery. The war thus stemmed from irreconcilable political and economic differences, rather than moral differences, between sections. Or the war stemmed from conflicts over western territories, or from bad leaders. Now slaves and slavery have been integral to each of these arguments over the past 50 years, but antislavery has remained incidental to the conflict in most of the scholarship. The papers in this conference highlight the Republican platform of freedom as national, slavery as sectional, inspired by the Somerset decision from England. They draw attention to the continuities between first and second wave abolitionists that included blacks and whites, men and women. They reveal the degree to which antislavery men and women sought to contain slavery and create a cordon of freedom around the slave states. They break down the rigid dichotomies between abolitionists and anti-slavery advocates, and between antislavery politicians and Garrisonians. Garrisonians recognized, in one sense, that disunion would undermine slavery, which explains why they embraced the Republican war effort after Fort Sumter, including emancipation in the rebel states and pressure on loyal states to end slavery. These antislavery strategies brought war, emancipation, and the Reconstruction Amendments. Now, the earliest histories highlighted the antislavery origins of the war. Henry Wilson's magisterial three-volume History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, and Hermann Von Holst's eight-volume Constitutional and Political History of the United States, both begun, their first volumes published in the 1870s, draw attention to the institutional power of slaveholders, the violence at the heart of slavery, the South's suppression of civil liberties, and the bulwark against slavery that originated in the Revolutionary era. And that term, bulwark against slavery, or antislavery bulwark, was everywhere in the literature among antislavery men and women of the day. Von Holst emphasized that the permanence of slavery hinged less on interests, political, economic or otherwise, than on whether slavery could be acquitted in what could be called the tribunal of morals. Without the weight of morals, the scales of justice would be empty vessels. The antislavery bulwark eventually convinced most northerners that slavery was deeply immoral, and they needed to do something about it. In the 20th century, however, writers have erased the institutional and economic power of slavery, and the violence on which it hinged. Instead, they have cast it, through most of the century, as a comparatively benign institution that would soon die out. The century's opening coincided with the racist downgrading of the negro by white historians, owing to their need for reconciliation between sections, and the desire to strike a posture of impartiality, fairness, detachment, and objectivity, according to Peter Novak and David Blythe. In the preface to his first 1918 edition of American Negro Slavery, U. B. Phillips described with relief how Southern redemption, Jim Crow segregation and lynching, became a metaphor of slavery. He recounted witnessing a Southern segregated army camp, in which great harmony existed between blacks and whites. The scene reminded him of the friendly black-white relations on plantations during slavery. "A generation of freedom has wrought less transformation "in the bulk of the blacks than might casually be supposed," he concluded. This was for him a good thing, for the South had finally solved what he called the problem of treating slaves as both persons and property. In the face of such perceptions about slavery and blacks, abolitionists were seen as dangerous fanatics. For much, if not most of the 20th century, a potent pro-Southern bias dominated American history and literature scholarship, according to Hugh Tulloch, in his historiography. I'd like to draw attention to one such Southern writer, C. Vann Woodward, who was among the most beloved and influential historians of the last 80 years. A brilliant ironist and extraordinary mentor, a beautiful writer, and a dazzling evangelist of the discipline, Woodward's letters have just been published to great acclaim and they are very much worth reading. Woodward was, for a Southerner, comparatively balanced toward the abolitionists. But he scoffed at scholars who accepted at face value what the abolitionists wrote. "Serious history is the critique of myths, "not the embodiment of them," he emphasized. This included the antislavery myth, you could call it the antislavery bulwark, which cast abolitionists in a positive light and treated the North as morally superior to, and less racist than, the South. Woodward shared with his good friend, Robert Penn Warren, a disdain for what Warren called "the treasury of virtue." Moral superiority or arrogance, that David Blythe drew attention to in his brilliant keynote last night. Woodward greatly admired scholarship that undermined or exploded the antislavery myth, including Leon Litwack's North of Freedom, which cast the free states as deeply racist, more racist than the slave states, and David Donald's derisive portrait of Charles Sumner. But Woodward revealed special disdain for Dwight Dumond's Antislavery, the Crusade of Freedom in America, for its embodiment of the antislavery myth. Now, Dumond's book echoes the arguments of Henry Wilson and Von Holst, and it anticipates the themes of this conference. For Woodward, the whole sectional conflict that eventually erupted in the Civil War is construed by Dumond in terms of right versus wrong, North versus South. He finds outrageous the idea that there was a coordination by the Congress, the President, and the field commanders of the army in their mutual determination to abolish slavery at the earliest possible moment. Of course, Jim Oakes describes a similar coordination in Freedom National. The antislavery myth has become accepted and highly respected history. I find it ironic that neither Woodward nor Warren subscribe to the warnings against the treasury of virtue. In The Legacy of the Civil War, Warren said that the Confederate Constitution, quote, "implied that slavery itself was an evil." And Woodward considered the book one of the fairest and best assessments of the war he had read. I also find it interesting that black writers have not been much concerned about succumbing to a treasury of virtue. But as David Blythe emphasized last night, Warren was right to warn against a moral absolutism that leads people to ignore the unintended consequences of their action. Perhaps the challenge, then, is to acknowledge the ironies, contradictions, tragedies, within the antislavery bulwark, but without distorting the face value of the sources. We will now begin. (audience applauding) - Morning everyone. So I'm Chris Brown, I teach history up at Columbia University, and I'm really grateful to have had the invitation to chair this first session on antislavery in the Revolutionary and early national periods. I have to say that when I first started to work on this subject, quite a while ago, I was told at the time that there was nothing new to say about the subject, it had all been said. And I think what you're going to hear this morning will show that we are actually, just the opposite, even many years on, at the front edge of what is going to be some really important and path-breaking work on early antislavery thought and action. Our first speaker is John Blanton, he's a doctoral candidate in American history, here at eh CUNY Grad Center. He is completing his dissertation, titled This Species of Property, Slavery and the Properties of Subjecthood in Anglo-American Law and Politics, 1619 to 1772, the Colonial period, which looks at the place of law in Massachusetts and Virginia, both in the construction of slavery, but also in the challenges to slavery. It's a very original and very promising subject. He's the recipient of among other awards the EP Thompson Dissertation Fellowship of 2013, which I know is a very competitive award. And he is also co-chair of the Graduate Center's Early American Republic Seminar. Our second speaker is Sarah Groeningstaetter, did I get that right, in the neighborhood? Okay. I was practicing on the way down here. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the McNeil Center, holding the Barra Fellowship there, and will be there I guess for two years before she takes up a full-time position at CalTech, in Pasadena. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago, I believe earlier this year, is that right? Working with Amy Drew Stanley, Thomas Holt, among others. Her dissertation, which has a very long title and I won't read it, has a kind of rethinking of the definition, the parameters and the legacies of gradual emancipation, with especial attention to New York, and you'll be hearing, I think, a little bit about that in her talk. And then our third speaker is David Gary. He is the Kaplanoff Librarian for American History at Yale, where he also researches and teaches in history, American studies, and African-American studies. He received his doctorate from the CUNY Grad Center in 2013, writing a dissertation titled Rufus King and the History of Reading. And he is currently at work, at least in the early stages of a project on the history of the acknowledgement page in American history books, which sounds like a really wonderful topic. So we're gonna go in alphabetical order, we will start with John Blanton, each of our speakers will have about 15 minutes, and then we'll open it up for questions. John. - I just wanna thank Professors Oakes and Stauffer for having me here and Joe for all his incredibly hard work, maybe we'll see you an ear's meeting sometime in the future. (audience laughing) The problem with slavery, we are told, is that for quite some time it was not seen as particularly problematic. Anglophone settler societies throughout the New World eagerly embraced African slavery as a profitable, morally unproblematic solution to persistent labor shortages, while imperial planners back in London lavished political and economic support on their profitable plantation colonies. Though shaken by the ideological and military conflict surrounding American independence, slavery survived the American Revolution, and thrived under the new republic largely unopposed. In the few places where abolition did occur in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was a gradual, conservative process, that left freed Africans only somewhat more independent, still economically marginalized and politically voiceless. No one, save a few fringe radicals, and of course the enslaved people themselves, saw this as a problem. The problem with this narrative is that it sidesteps one of the central legal issues facing any slave society: the definition of slaves as property, not persons, under law, and the intense debates that property and men provoked. Indeed there were always voices in the Anglophone Atlantic speaking out against the ownership of persons as property. It was the chattel principle, they argued, that underpinned all the brutality of slave labor regimes, that destroyed so many enslaved families, that allowed for the unlimited sexual access of masters to enslaved women, that precluded even the barest recognition of basic human rights for the enslaved. People have rights: to their persons, to their labor, to their families, to protection in courts of justice. Articles of property do not. To reduce human beings to mere chattels was to render them socially dead, subject to the absolute and arbitrary power of their masters, with no recourse to any higher authority. As one English antislavery activist put it, the basic problem with the chattel principle, was that it put slaves, quote "to a twofold use. "First to brutify them, then to deprive them of all "both temporal and spiritual rights "which their manhood, notwithstanding their being slaves, "would otherwise infer." The solution our commentator recommended was simple. Quote: "Some wholesome and good law must be passed "recognizing that right which we naturally have "to be ranked within the degree and species of men, "and guaranteeing that a slave have as good a plea "and just claim to necessaries, both for his soul and body, "as his master has to his strength and industry." Formerly enslaved persons would inhabit a servile status, as many English subjects did, but the law would recognize them as persons, not property, and they would be restored to their basic natural rights. Masters might still control their strength and industry, but the enslaved would own their own souls and bodies. Interpose the power of the state between master and slave, limit the power of the former and recognize the humanity of the latter, and slavery ceases to exist. This pointed critique of chattel slavery came not in the heady days of British imperial abolition, or from the heated republican rhetoric of American independence, but in a 1681 pamphlet by Anglican missionary Morgan Godwin. Godwin, like many later abolitionists, paid dearly for his convictions. He died under suspicious circumstances, not long after delivering a resounding antislavery sermon at James II's coronation. Luckily, Godwin's was not the only English voice raised against the chattel principle. Many Civil War parliamentarians believed that all persons had certain basic rights, especially access to the courts, and should be able to consent to the forms of governance they lived under, both in the household and in the realm as a whole. Again, after the Glorious Revolution, a number King's Bench decisions reaffirmed that English air uniquely free, and denied that persons could be property, at least in England itself. Arguments about slavery's incompatibility with English law even survived the unprecedented growth of plantation slavery and the slave trade, in the middle half of the 18th century. Clearly, at least a few men and women in the Anglophone world saw slavery as a problem. Perhaps the real problem has been that we have not taken this early antislavery argument on its own terms. To early modern English antislavery thinkers, the opposite of slavery was not freedom, a notoriously nebulous and ill-defined concept even in our time, but legal personhood. Recognized as persons, slaves could no longer be treated as articles of property. The labor of Afro-Britons might still be compelled, as the labor of many white subjects was, but they would have access to the basic rights of all persons living in an English jurisdiction. They could marry and raise families. The King's Justice would protect their persons and property. They could press claims on the imperial state through the courts, and some form of consent would be a necessary component of any labor arrangements they entered into. In short, recognition of enslaved persons' humanity would make slavery simply another unfree labor status, among the myriad forms of English bound labor, not a property relation. Though it may ring hollow in our ears, attuned as they are to calls for more substantive freedoms, this fundamental assertion of self-ownership was, and remains, a radically moral position. No one can own me, I am my own person, no one can take that from me without my consent or due process. Without the acceptance of these simple propositions, calls for a more substantive equality, for basic human rights, fall to pieces. This resilient English opposition to property in men informed perhaps the most important moment in the history of Anglo-American slave law, the 1772 Somerset decision, in which Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of King's Bench, declared slavery odious to English common law, and established that only local, positive law could support the peculiar institution. The Somerset case has, quite rightly, received extensive attention from scholars in recent years, and the facts of the case are too well-known to bear repeating here. As Holly Brewer has recently argued, however, too close a focus on Somerset occludes the long and vibrant legal debate over slavery in the English empire. With Professor Brewer's intervention in mind, this paper will use arguments presented by counsel for James Somerset as a window onto a much longer English antislavery argument. The arguments presented on Somerset's behalf were hardly novel. Indeed hints of English antislavery sentiment date back to at least the mid 16th century, when Cartwright's case laid down the oft-quoted maxim, that quote: "the air of England was too pure "for a slave to breathe in." The task facing Somerset's counsel was to explain why this was so, and they relied on three interlocking arguments to prove their case. First, they refuted proslavery claims that villeinage gave legal cover to slavery, and argued that while an English subject might own another person's labor, they could never own his or her person. They all flatly denied that the chattel principle was operative in England. Second, they argued that as persons, Africans on English soil must have access to the basic rights of imperial subjects. Finally, they sought to draw a line of freedom around the British Isles, making them a zone of law rather than violence, where enslaved Africans might obtain and enjoy basic human rights and freedoms. In making each of these arguments, Somerset's legal team had ample precedent to draw upon. In his opening remarks, Sergeant William Davy flatly denied that a slave could, quote: "be the subject of property, no more than you or me, "or any man." Francis Hargrave, a rising star in the English legal scene, echoed his co-counsel, claiming that English Common Law, quote: "disapproves of slavery, and considers its operation "dangerous and destructive to the whole community." Sergeant John Glynn hoped to buttress this line of argument, by citing, quote: "great authorities and determinations "that trover or trespass does not lie for a negro." Here Glynn referred to a number of remarkable decisions issued by the King's Bench under the leadership of Chief Justice John Holt in the years immediately following the Glorious Revolution. In three landmark decision, Chamberlain v. Harvey, Smith v. Brown and Cooper, and Smith v. Gould, Holt consistently reaffirmed that, quote: "as soon as a negro comes into England, "he becomes free." this manifestly did not mean that slaves in England were released from all service, however. As Holt explained in all three cases, upon entering England, a slave became "a slavish servant," though masters could not claim slaves as property, they could still gain compensation for lost labor through trespass writs, the same procedures used to compel labor from English servants. Though later decisions would challenge them, the Holt court's rulings enshrined the central premise of English antislavery thought in law: a person's labor could be owned in England, but their person could not. Having established that James Somerset was a person, not property under law, James Mansfield, a young barrister who would later go on to become the Chief Justice of Common Pleas, argued that the alleged slave must therefore have access to the basic rights of all persons living in English jurisdictions. England was, quote: "a country where the laws of liberty "are known and regarded," and the young barrister knew of no reason why Somerset should, quote: "not be protected by the laws, "but carried away again to be sold." In some ways, the question was moot. If James Somerset did not have access to the rights of English subjects, his case would never have come before the court in the first place. Somerset v. Stewart was initiated by a writ of habeas corpus protesting Somerset's wrongful detention. Had Mansfield wished, he could've rejected the writ outright on the grounds that Somerset was a slave. One did not file a habeas to retrieve lost property. Yet there James Somerset stood before the highest court in the empire, invoking the most basic protections royal justice accorded a subject: protection of his person, and recognition of his self-ownership. Particularly given recent scholarly focus on the exclusivity of the English empire, it might seem strange that a man held as a slave in North America would have standing as an English subject in the metropole's highest court. In terms of access to political rights, the English were indeed an exclusive lot, but in other ways the empire could be remarkably welcoming. Every colonial charter contained clauses easing the processes of endenization and naturalization for residents, and parliamentary naturalization procedures were liberalized in England over the colonial period as well. Though they could not own real property, even strangers could expect protection in English courts. Of course, anyone born in English dominions was a natural subject of the monarch. Calvin's case in 1607 was to establish that sovereign and subject were naturally connected through a dual and reciprocal bond. Subjects owed allegiance in service, and in return the sovereign owed protection and justice. Subsequent case law and parliamentary statute confirmed that all persons born anywhere in English dominions were natural subjects. What then of Africans born in the English colonies? Were they natural born subjects? Where they were defined locally as property, the answer was clearly no. But in some places, particularly in the 17th century, conversion to Christianity, one of the key elements of English subjecthood, offered potent evidence of African humanity, and made slavery difficult to justify. Antislavery jurists certainly argued that conversion made slavery illegitimate. In his argument in Butts v. Penny in 1677, a King's Bench case that defined slaves as chattels for some purposes, Penny's solicitor argued that the slaves in question should, quote: "go to an administrator, until they become Christians, "and thereby they are enfranchised." A key component of Morgan Godwin's antislavery thought was the belief that baptism and conversion prove the humanity of the enslaved. In Chamberlain v. Harvey, counsel for Harvey argued that as a Christian in England, Chamberlain's slave, quote: "should thereby acquire the privileges and immunities "enjoyed by those of the same religion "and be entitled to the laws of England." By the mid-18th century, a number of factors combined to make religious conformity a difficult basis for claims to subjecthood. But birth within English dominions, and allegiance to the imperial sovereign, remained crucial qualifications. In place of heathenism, proslavery ideologues increasingly turned to race as a justification for their property rights. But this too was an unstable foundation for exclusion. Chief Justice Holt took special notice of the race of the alleged slaves who came before his bench, but never took their blackness of irrefutable proof of enslavement. Indeed, Holt said, quote: "a Common Law takes no notice "of negroes being different from other men." Perhaps moved by the presence of a mixed-race ward in his own household, Mansfield himself declared, in a 1771 case, Lewis v. Stapleton, that quote: "being black will not prove the property." Likely aware that the Chief Justice was not receptive to racial arguments, counsel for Stewart never presented Somerset's race as proof of his status. The greatest obstacle to James Somerset's freedom was jurisdictional. All English lawyers agreed that colonial law could diverge from Common Law, so long as it was not repugnant. As one of Somerset's lawyers put it, slavery was, quote: "a new species of tyranny, "created entirely by colony government." Luckily, this colonial legal diversity could cut both ways. If Somerset was in Virginia, quote: "there he might be the subject of property, "but not here in England." As John Alleyne, a freshly-minted barrister, recently added to Somerset's legal team argued, slavery was, quote: "not a natural but a municipal relation, "an institution therefore confined to certain places "and necessarily dropped by passage into a country "where such municipal regulations do not subsist." As Holt had said, quote: "as soon as the negro "comes into England, he becomes free." The growing consensus that slavery was a local colonial institution could certainly operate to protect the plantation colonies from outside interference. But the same jurisdictional diversity could also allow antislavery jurists to cordon off pockets of free soil. This was precisely what Somerset's legal team hoped Mansfield's decision would do, once and for all, for England. Somerset's legal team, as we have seen, drew on centuries of English precedent to craft a sophisticated argument against the legitimacy of property in men. Lord Mansfield, despite any personal misgivings he may have had, laid down a very clear ruling in the case. Quote: "the power of a master of his slave "has been different in different countries. "The state of slavery is so odious "that nothing can be suffered to support it "but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, "may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case "is allowed or approved by the law of England, "and therefore the black must be discharged." With that simple statement, the legitimacy of slave property under English Common Law was finally and definitively voided. Arguments against the chattel principle first developed in the earliest days of colonization had finally carried the day. Despite the clarity of Mansfield's decision, there has been extensive scholarly debate about what exactly the Somerset decision did. Critics have pointed out that masters could still claim labor from their "slavish servants" through coerced indentures or apprenticeship agreements. If we define freedom as full access to political and social rights, then Mansfield's ruling certainly falls well short of the mark, and continues to do so today. Besides, there were relatively few slaves in England itself. The Somerset left colonial slavery, established and protected by positive law, entirely intact. If we take Mansfield on his own terms, however, and situate the Somerset decision in the context of a long English antislavery argument, the outcome of the case appears far more radical. What Mansfield did with the Somerset decision was precisely what generations of English antislavery thinkers had advocated. He interposed the power of the state between master and slave, breaking the property relation between them, and legally transforming slavery into a form of servitude. As the use of a habeas corpus writ in Somerset illustrates, this definition of slaves as persons opened up numerous legal ways to limit the physical power of masters, and allowed African servants to make claims on the English state through the courts. This was exactly what Morgan Godwin had agitated for, at the cost of his life in the 1680s; what Chief Justice Holt had enshrined in law at the turn of the 18th century; what thousands of slaveholders throughout the empire dreaded and millions of enslaved persons longed for. The same principles upon which Mansfield based his ruling informed the first state abolition movements in the Revolutionary and early national North, the place of slavery in the Federal Constitution, and the contours of antislavery agitation down to the Civil War, all of which I'd be happy to discuss further during questions. (audience laughing) This long English antislavery argument, then, formed a sturdy foundation for an American antislavery bulwark. Thank you. (audience applauding) - Good morning. Before I begin, let me just thank Jim Oakes and John Stauffer and John Murphy for putting together this conference, it's fantastic, and it's really a privilege to be here. So my talk this morning is driven by a desire to answer two interrelated questions. First, how and why did it matter that black children were placed at the center of Northern gradual emancipation laws? And second, how did the unraveling of Northern slavery on the ground affect contemporary legislative politics and the ongoing development of the American antislavery movement? To begin answering these questions, let me describe a very average night for a group of seven white gentlemen abolitionists who happened to be serving on the New York Manumission Society's Standing Committee in late 1810. On this particular night, an enslaved boy named Sylvester visited the committee. And according to the notes of the secretary, he showed wounds he had received from his master, who had imported him here from Haiti. The boy was never registered. Sylvester hoped that the committee might cajole his abusive master into granting him freedom, or, barring the master's cooperation, sue him in court for violating the paperwork requirements of New York's importation law. The committee could not have been surprised to hear Sylvester's tale. Over the past several years they had encountered case after case of horrible physical abuse, and illegal slave importation. They would, in fact, hear that very evening another story of violence. A woman named Hannah reported that her master had, quote: "cut her head badly with a knife." When the committee met again, about a month later, Sylvester had been freed, and a suitable place had been provided for him. As for Hannah, the committee could obtain little satisfaction: Hannah remained enslaved. As the fates of Sylvester and Hannah suggest, slavery in New York at this juncture, was illegal in some cases and not in others. Since the Revolution, the legislature had made it harder for masters to retain absolute property rights over their slaves. In 1785, the importation of slaves for sale was made illegal. Exports were outlawed in 1788. In 1799, New York passed an act for the gradual abolition of slavery. This law, which was modeled upon similar laws in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, declared that all children born to slave mothers, after July Fourth of that year, would be, quote: "born free," but nevertheless required to serve as servants for their mother's masters into adulthood. Together, these statutes comprised an effort to end slavery on a gradual basis. But as emancipation progressed, abolitionists, slaves, servants and free blacks tried hard to make the process go faster. As a result of these efforts, the legal architecture of emancipation faced constant scrutiny and redevelopment. And so, a few days after Hannah learned she would have to stay in the house of her knife-wielding master, the entire Manumission Society resolved to combat the violence that frequently rained down on slaves. The abolitionists drafted model legislation to submit to the State Legislature, and formed a committee to collect signatures form the local citizenry. But a few months later, the society received news of a far more exciting possibility. At a hastily-called meeting, the membership was informed that the upcoming legislature might consent to a statute that went far beyond tamping down on physical cruelty. It might agree to abolish slavery altogether, with, quote: "an act for general abolition of slavery "throughout this state." On one set date, in other words, slavery would end immediately. I narrate this particular series of events from 1810 to 1811 in order to suggest several of the ways we might revise some of the commonplace characterizations of early American emancipation, and of the period's antislavery movement. Instead of viewing subsequent antebellum abolitionism solely as a rejection of, or a correction to, this earlier American moment, I propose we search for origins, legacies and continuities. I make two claims. First, that important modes of antebellum abolitionism, including the principles of immediatism, were in many respects the product of gradual emancipation. And second, that the legal and political day-to-day realities of this earlier emancipation fundamentally shaped a visible and vocal generation of black abolitionists. In the 1830s, the generation of black New Yorkers who were born and raised during gradual emancipation took the lead in lobbying the legislature for equal citizenship and antislavery laws. In essence, they along with their white allies, took over the work of the previous generation. These black men and women, a generation I like to call the children of gradual emancipation, became particularly vital figures in the increasingly visible and the increasingly national immediate abolition movement that occurred before the Civil War. This rising generation inherited a legacy of legal and political action from an older cohort of white philanthropists and enslaved mothers and fathers. They made the newer movement their own, and yes they were more radical than their forebears, but they hardly rejected whole-cloth the strategies and alliances of their past. From their perspective, and from their life stories, emancipation was one long process, a legal and political movement that originated in the individual states, and that would, through their efforts, continue to effect victories. Their powerful and populous home state had demonstrated well past the heady years of the Revolution what was still and yet possible. In the aftermath of the 1827 general abolition, the the children of gradual emancipation took it upon themselves to do for the nation what their black and white forebears had done for them. So for time's sake I'm not gonna narrate the efforts of the Manumission Society to ensure the passage of the general abolition bill, but I will note that these conservative white abolitionists were explicit in what they intended. In 1813 they sent delegates to the American Convention of Abolition Societies in Philadelphia, with the report promising that for the next meeting of our legislature, we are going to press for the total abolition of slavery throughout this state. In 1814, the society's legal committee asked for more manpower to pursue, quote: "the immediate relief of those held in slavery." and I find it fascinating, this is 1814, they want the immediate relief of those held in slavery. In 1817, just weeks before the desired law was passed, the president of the society published an editorial throughout the state arguing that gradual emancipation had gone on long enough, and now it was time, as he phrased it, to fix the period of emancipation. In March, the bill was signed into law. The statute declared that every slave in the state would be free on July Fourth 1827. 1827, though, was far away, and it was farther away than the abolitionists wanted, and it was certainly farther away than slaves and servants wanted. But slaves and servants did what they could to achieve freedom even more quickly. In particular, child servants found a number of ways to escape their masters' control with the help of various statutes related to their youth-oriented labor status. Just as Sylvester had used the state's anti-import laws to achieve freedom in 1810, the children of gradual emancipation used a variety of legal rules, especially those regarding servants' education, to their advantage. In 1825, for example, an 18-year-old named Betsy reported that she had had but one month of schooling, and she was soon enjoying freedom. Servants like Betsy shared what they knew with their friends. Ann Ingerson, for example, reported that she'd been in the habit of being hired out and her master had taken her wages, until lately, when she left by the advice of some of her friends, her master found her and demanded her wages, but she had not had the necessary schooling, and she was freed. This generation of black New Yorkers was keenly aware of the importance of state law, and the effect of political activity on their daily existence. For all of the moments of disappointment and failure, gradual emancipation oriented them towards law and political action in ways that were positive if nonetheless cautious. They discovered repeatedly the potential of appealing to legislative statutes, the importance of sharing legal knowledge with friends, and the upside of working with white allies. They carried these lessons into their adulthood. So when July Fourth 1827 finally dawned, black New Yorkers celebrated. In Albany, the colored population marched through the streets and heard a black minister named Nathaniel Paul claim that "every act of ours "is more or less connected with the general cause "of emancipation in every part of the world." Paul's audience carried banners bearing the names of Manumission Society members. One banner read "the legislature of 1817." In New York City, a crowd gathered at Zion Church to hear William Hamilton, a black abolitionist whose sons, Thomas and Robert, would soon become famous abolitionists in their own right. Hamilton praised New York for regenerating herself, and called upon "the youth of my people" to redeem the race. Samuel Cornish, the editor of the nation's first black newspaper, wrote: "the total annihilation of slavery in the union "depends very much on the conduct "of the colored people of New York. "I rejoice the prospects begin to brighten." Cornish made a point to emphasize the role that the children of gradual emancipation would play in the next chapters of a more nationalized, more black-led antislavery movement, calling them the rising color generation. They were the sons, daughters and proteges of leaders like himself. They were former students of the Manumission Society's African Free School. They were the former slaves and servants of white masters. These young New Yorkers were not simply important because they would step into the shoes of their elders. They were important because they were the first generation to enter adulthood in a free state. To be sure, they faced severe difficulties as second-class citizens: limited voting rights, segregation in the labor market, everyday racism and violence, but unlike previous generations, they did not have to focus on ending slavery for themselves. They could focus on ending the enslavement of others. 1827 was significant for white Americans as well. Accounts of New York's general abolition demonstrate how the antislavery politics of the founding era bled into 19th-century discussions of emancipation. New York's newspapers from across party lines praised the moment. The Commercial Advertiser wrote that "the usual joy of celebrating July Fourth "would be twofold this year, "because slavery becomes extinct." The Daily Advertiser hoped that New York's emancipation would spurn broader action, Delaware and Maryland, might without unnecessary delay, follow the example of their eastern associates. This public commentary fostered the notion that ending slavery through the political process could be a virtuous state-by-state endeavor. New Yorkers who would soon be voting for the Liberty Party, the Free Soil Party and the Republican Party in such high numbers, had heard this public discourse in 1827. This July Fourth discourse included white speeches. In Albany, a young lawyer named Salem Dutcher spoke in the Capitol Building before the Mayor, state officers, the judiciary, Senate, and Members of Congress. "This day's effect will be great, "and will continue to be felt until "not one of the sons of Africa shall wear fetters," he said. He anticipated the day when slavery in this country is extinct forever. He offered an inclusive vision of what this slavery-purged nation would look like. He made strong references to black citizenship, and did not mention anything along the lines of colonization. Historians have often made the point that dyed-in-the-wool abolitionists made up a tiny portion of the population, and this is very true. But this vital observation should not lead us to ignore the modern antislavery outlook that persisted among a wide swath of the citizenry, and especially the political elite. From John Jay to William Seward, emancipationist proclivities among white New Yorkers never fully ceased, and black New Yorkers, for their part, carried the torch high, reminding white citizens over and over of their moral, political and legal interest in promoting abolition. I will stress in addition how widely New York's general abolition was reported throughout the general press and celebrated by black Americans up and down the Eastern Seaboard. These reports helped create both a free North identity, and a sense that immediate emancipation was possible. As the Boston-based minister, Noel Worcester concluded: "never before in our country has there been "such a number of slaves emancipated at one time. "This experiment may prepare the way "for the emancipation of many thousands of slaves "in other states." The black New Yorkers who entered maturity in the aftermath of this successful experiment were particularly crucial figures in the multi-faceted abolition movement that contributed to sectionalism and to the outbreak of Civil War. These children of gradual emancipation included among their numbers some of the most prominent abolitionists of the era: Henry Highland Garnet, Samuel Ringgold Ward, Alexander Cromwell, Sojourner Truth, Austin Stewart, James McEwen Smith, Robert and Thomas Hamilton. In the 1840s, Frederick Douglass himself settled in New York, strengthening alliances with men and women who'd spent their childhoods in the state. Harriet Tubman is another key figure who later settled in New York. But this generation also included in their numbers thousands of black New Yorkers whose names are not known, including men and women like Sylvester, Betsy and Ann, obscure former servants and slaves who had, during their youth, made use of law and politics to free themselves, their friends, and strangers. These were the abolitionists in the everyday who ran the underground railroad, mobbed courthouses during fugitive slave trials, patronized black newspapers, schools, and churches, gathered in county-based political meetings to lobby the state legislature to pass stronger personal liberty laws and free soil laws, protested slavery extension in the West, and insisted to the public, to politicians, and to judges, that they merited equal citizenship. It is certainly true that black New Yorkers of this generation disseminated ideas that might have shocked the abolitionists of old. In 1843, for example, Henry Highland Garnet famously and controversially urged slaves to rebel against heir masters using violence if necessary. But it is also true that Garnet had, for the past several years, led the charge in organizing a statewide petition movement with the object of convincing the legislature to enact stronger antislavery laws. Just like the men of the Manumission Society, Garnet visited legislator's in their offices, and testified before legislative committees about the various reasons why new measures were necessary. In 1840 and 1841, New York passed three new laws: an act ensuring alleged fugitives access to jury trials, an act authorizing the governor to use state funds to rescue blacks who were kidnapped, and an act that made it illegal for any visiting master to hold a slave on New York soil. These were precisely the sort of statutes that enraged Southern masters, editors and politicians. In the 1840s and 50s, fire-eaters referred to such laws, and to the controversial court cases and interstate conflicts that these laws provoked, as legitimate causes for Southern fear and aggression. It was Garnet and thousands of ordinary black New Yorkers who pressed the state to pass and then uphold such laws. Using their political instincts and knowledge, this generation inflamed the Slave Power. In closing, I will reiterate that we will not fully understand the rise of immediatism, antebellum black abolitionism, and mainstream antislavery party politics, without recognizing how the day-to-day unraveling of slavery during gradual emancipation affected and politicized ordinary people, and without taking stock of the legitimate victories scored on behalf of the abolitionist cause at the state level in the 1700s and early 1800s. The nation's first emancipation was not a distant and separate event from the string of sectional tensions that led to the rise of the Confederacy, nor a distant and separate event from the emancipatory moments that occurred during the 1860s. Without the first emancipation, there would've been now free North, and there would've been no Civil War. (audience applauding) - Well before I begin I'd like to thank Jim Oakes and John Stauffer for inviting me to the conference, and Joe Murphy for taking care of the logistics, it's a real pleasure to be here, and thank you to everyone for taking the time to listen to me today. So, my talk will delve into the radical antislavery speeches of Rufus King during the Missouri Crisis of February 1820. Just so we're all on the same page, Rufus King was a signer of the US Constitution, a fourth-term Federalist US Senator, a US minister to Great Britain, and an outspoken opponent of slavery. It was his forthright opposition to slavery that made King a pariah in the South, and a vivid example of this can be found in a death threat sent to King in August 1822, in the aftermath of the so-called slave revolt led by Denmark Vesey in Charleston, South Carolina, in July 1822. It consisted of an address leaf with the words R. King hanging from a crudely-drawn gallows. Folded inside was an article from a Charleston newspaper blaming Missouri Question agitators like King for quote: "rendering the slave discontented with his station." during the examination of Vesey and his allies after the plot was revealed, it was discovered that Vesey read aloud the printed pamphlet of King's Missouri Crisis speeches in 1819 to recruit supporters. This speech challenged the extension of slavery into Missouri, the first state of the Lousisana Purchase territory asking for admission into the union as a slave state. King took a constitutional perspective in those 1819 speeches, using Article IV Section III of the Constitution to claim that Congress could regulate slavery in Missouri, arguing against the 3/5 Clause, and turning to the Preamble's notion of the common good to protect the union from the dangers of slavery. It's not a publication that would obviously spark an emotional response, but it did among Charleston slaves. If King's words in 1819 contributed to a planned slave uprising, his oratory in 1820 was truly revolutionary. It was so radical, in fact, that King declined to have it published. That is why historians have not given the speech the place it deserves in 19th-century antislavery politics history. But the speech notes survive, and although they are disorganized, messy, and difficult to read, they can be used to reconstruct his arguments. And while written notes do not equate to public utterance, we can be relatively certain that his notes contain the substance of his comments, because of newly-discovered notes made by Ninian Edwards, the Democratic Senator from Illinois, during King's February 11th speech. Looked at in full, these notes demonstrate that King based his antislavery politics on a radical morality that set a standard for the later generations to live up to. A few snippets of King's speech are widely known. Most famously in South Carolina Senator William Smith's response to King. King expressed concern that, King proclaimed, quote: "I have yet to learn that one man "can make a slave of another. "If one man cannot do so, no number of individuals "have any better right to do it, "and I hold that all laws or compacts "imposing any such condition upon any human being "are absolutely void, because contrary to the law of nature, "which is the law of God, by which he makes his ways "known to man and is paramount to all human control." David Brian Davis provocatively noted that, "so far as I know up to that time, "no statesman or political leader in the world "had publicly made such a radical declaration "of slavery's illegality." I'm arguing that Davis is correct, but there is much more to unpack from this speech. In his efforts to restrict slavery from Missouri, King announced a plan to cordon off slavery from the new territories using existing constitutional structures based on the law of nature. It was an early articulation of the freedom national, freedom sectional ideology that the Republican party used to attack slavery in the 1850s. This led to Abraham Lincoln's election and eventually the secession of the South, so there is a direct line from King, the Federalist party leader, to Lincoln, the standard-bearer of the Republican party. So why does this one speech matter and what did it say? Briefly we'll start with the significance. It matters because he championed Federalist notions of the importance of the use of the state to protect freedom. He wanted to couple Jeffersonian idealism and Hamiltonian statism, and this deeply frightened slaveholders. He was willing to publicly say what others only hinted at. And the slaveholders understood this as a call to war. The fear he caused was partially responsible for the submersion of strident antislavery arguments until the early 1830s. The speech contained three particularly radical points that I'll get into, and then a plan to manage the transition from slavery to freedom. To begin, the first of my three points. He said that the Constitution was a radical antislavery document that had a built-in plan to contain slavery. The Constitution always bent toward freedom, and King said, quote: "The Constitution should not be imaginary, "nor a mere fanciful refinement, "and that too against liberty in favor of slavery." King was adamant that he would not interfere in slavery in the states that permitted it in local positive law, but he also noted that Congress had obligations to regulate the territories to preserve them for freedom. This was a point the Republicans of the 1850s continuously made. He justified this by discussing the Constitution as a treaty or a compact, but in a way that was menacing to the slaveholders. The treaty embedded in the Constitution was between the federal government and the states, and that meant the former could not interfere with the sovereignty of the latter. King noted that this was based upon the branch of the law of nations called the voluntary law. But he went on to note that there was another branch of the law of nations called the necessary law. It made direct reference to the open-ended notion of a law of nature in a way that the voluntary law did not, and it provided standards by which one party could condemn a bad treaty. In essence, King argued that the admission of Missouri would pollute the treaty embedded in the Constitution, and that he could rely on the higher law of the law of nations to challenge the slaveholders. Southerners had direct experience with the antislavery implications of the law of nations, when they argued for compensation for their slaves taken by the British during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, ultimately failing to gain any satisfaction. This was a shot across the bow. Second, King pointed out that slavery was like a form of internal warfare in the republic. This internal enemy continuously undermined America's international standing, and the move to block slavery was an attempt to deal with this form of war and improve America's worldwide reputation. He was clear that, quote: "Slaves increase insurrection "and lessen the public strength." So King took notes on the 17th century Dutch law of nations jurist Hugo Grotius's On The Law of War and Peace to help him think about this notion. So King recorded Grotius's argument that nations had the right to demand satisfaction if they were presented with a vile state of affairs. In fact, they had an obligation to act, and with force if necessary. So King recorded Grotius's comment that: "odious are such treaties as lay greater burdens on one than the other party." In other words, if Missouri was allowed to enter the union as a slave state, the treaty embedded in the Constitution would be unbalanced, providing the South greater future advantages by allowing slavery to continue to thrive at the expense of the majority of free men of the North. King used the law of nations and nature to describe the state of war that slavery represented, to demonstrate that rights had to be used as a weapon to combat the institution, and to justify the use of those weapons in any confrontation with the slaveholders. Those rights, or weapons, could be found in the Constitution, King contended, and while, quote: "the Southern states came in "to enjoy slavery, in spirit, the Constitution operates "to destroy slavery, and the direct effect "is universal emancipation, as no act of slavery is valid." By turning to notions of war, the laws of war and their emancipating power could be brought into the discussion. Instead of a shot across the bow, this was a full blast at the slave owners. Third, King turned to the Declaration of Independence and the law of nature to flail those who wanted to extend slavery. King told his audience that no one should be surprised that he reached for this branch of law, because, quote: "in the construction of treaties, "Constitutions and broad questions of policy, "the only rule or standard is the law of nature." The law of nature was the highest of all laws, since it came directly from God. It was timeless, promoted universal justice, and provided the only basis for morality. It was the font of all law, and provided the moral standard that all other laws could be measured against. If any human authority opposed the law of nature, it must be challenged, King said, and this was the basis of his objection to the anti-restrictionists. King was saying that the natural law, that the law of nature gave him natural rights, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that he had a duty to use those rights to act to preserve God's plan. Slaveholders couldn't act any way they wanted, King said, and he had an obligation to restrain their immoral action. So this moral order was worth preserving, King said. He understood America as carrying on a long tradition of freedom that stretched back to the Magna Carta, and that now flourished in the Declaration, whose radical call for equality of man was folded into the Constitution. King told his listeners that while the Declaration did not have the force of law, it quote: "may be understood as the expression of the hope "that the time would come that natural rights "would be adopted and allowed by all the states. "Because all men were born free, and due life, "liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." End quote. So King indicated, those notions were not new, but as old as the law given by God at creation, and that a plurality of the states in 1787 embraced the quote: "principles which are proclaimed "in the memorable act of 1776." This was a reference to the gradual emancipation in the North, and the blocking of slavery from the Northwest Territory. The trend was supposed to be toward freedom, and Missouri's admission would thwart that, he said. While the laws of nations and war called for King to act, it was really the enlightened aspect of the founding documents that gave him a tool to bludgeon the slaveholders. This wasn't a shot across the bows or frontal blast, but a true strike at the heart of slavery. So it's relatively easy to attack an institution on the floor of the Senate, but what could actually be done to get the slaves into civil society with minimal social disruption? The plan that King detailed on the Senate floor is seemingly conservative on its face, but building on John Blanton's analysis, I'm arguing that it was strikingly radical. To begin, he blasted the notion that confusion would create a better situation for the slaves and the nation. The laws of population growth would mean an increased number of slaves, and King argued, quote: "if the evil is to be arrested, "the sooner it is to be attempted, "the more likely to succeed. "The smaller number of slaves, the easier the experiment." Instead, he called for a removal of the property status from the slaves, and demanded that they simply be burdened with a labor status. As John's paper has noted, this change is immensely important. It acknowledged the humanity of slaves, and offered an opening for the law to provide relief. It makes slaves socially alive, and gives them an opportunity to demand that their natural rights be respected. If this status change was made, King pointed out that the slaves would be like villeins, a status that had its origins in feudalism. The villeins would be tied to the land they were living on, meaning the master had to sell both villeins and the real estate to a new owner. In addition, King hoped that a plan of profit-sharing between villeins and masters could be developed to begin to give the former slaves access to the benefits of private property. In this way, King hoped that the villeins would, quote: "be enabled to form permanent connections, "to cultivate social affections, "take an interest in everything around them, "and they will be better improved "in their mental and moral faculties. "After this they shall have vastly improved." End quote. So this feudal status seems awful to our 21st-century mindset, it's easy to criticize it as another elitist Federalist ploy to keep social change from occurring. Even though this plan does advocate placing slaves in a hierarchical feudal system, it at least puts them on the hierarchy. As slaves, they had no such place. Once they were on the hierarchy, they would become rights-bearing humans that couldn't be sold at will, who could marry, and who could reap some benefits from their work. It's certainly not perfect, but in this status they could have access to legal remedies, in case owners of labor violated their rights. Once a wedge was opened, a better status could be fought for. While villeins were improving themselves, King wanted free laborers to move west and begin the process of slowly incorporating the frontier into the union. King believed free labor was more efficient than slave labor, and the success of immigrants, who would form a ring around the slave states, would show the slave owners the errors of their ways, which would eventually lead them to free their bondsmen. Arguments for slavery's positive good startled King, because it required a belief in, quote: "the degraded condition of free men who till the earth "or who perform manual offices, and this seems to me "to be ill-judged and impolitick." what he hoped to promote was the settlement of the West with free laborers who were like himself: stable, debt-free, improving agriculturalists who rejected slavery. After the villeins had improved themselves, King noted that the process of colonization to some place outside the US had to begin. It's not clear how serious King was about this. He mocked the American Colonization Society when he first heard about it in 1816, believing that logistical problems of such a project would be impossible to manage. But he could not conceive of an America that could move beyond its racism and accept the former slaves as equal citizens. Did King make this proposal in order to manage the political realities of his time? He was willing to make compromises to get the institution of slavery on the road to destruction. It's possible he called for colonization to make his proposals more palatable to the nation, with the thought that colonization would be too difficult to put into practice, although this is only speculation. But he was a politician with a strong sense of history, who thought not in election cycles, by generational cycles. He was a strategic thinker constantly looking towards the horizon. He would do his small part to put slavery on the course to destruction, but others would have to complete the job. Starting the process was the most important point. If problems such as racial prejudice of the American populace could not be dealt with, if problems such as racial prejudice of the American populace could be dealt with through rhetorical gestures to colonization, he would do it. Anything within the law to block the spread of slavery. King and his allies would ultimately lose the political battle in 1820. The Missouri Compromise kept the area north 36 degrees 30 minutes latitude free from slavery, except for Missouri, and brought Maine into the union as a slave state. A second crisis developed in 1821 when Missouri drew up a constitution that excluded free blacks from the new state, potentially impairing the privileges and immunities of some US citizens. This too was compromised away. The federal government would ignore the exclusionary clause as long as Missouri did not treat it as law. But King did not bring the same emotion to the second Missouri compromise, claiming its, quote: "effect is small, and unimportant in comparison "with the extension and establishment of slavery "in the region." it was really the cordon that mattered to King in this situation. He was angry and dejected over the extension of slavery, but the fight would be carried forward by another generation. Despite the loss, the restrictionists could still claim that there was no federal right to own slaves. The problem was not with the state, it was with the government. To reclaim the government, the North would have to find a way to unify, and keep the South from peeling away dough faces from their voting block. It would take until 1860 for this to happen, but antislavery activists would use his ideas and rhetoric that he put into the public sphere throughout the antebellum period. Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans would use the same mixture of Jeffersonian idealism and Hamiltonian statism that King promoted to begin the process of eliminating slavery after secession. Thank you. (audience applauding) - Well, three terrific papers. I particularly wanna thank the panel for keeping to time, allowing us to have a good conversation afterwards. We'll be happy to field questions. - [Audience Member] Thank you very much, my question is for Sarah. You talked about the education laws, and how those were used to emancipate slaves. And I believe that was in New York, if I'm not mistaken. Can you talk about those education laws, how they came on the books, and how they were used, and approximately how many people were freed through those mechanisms? - So the laws applied only to child servants, and not slaves. The origins of this really came, when gradual emancipation was conceived, the idea was that these children would be quote "born free," and they would become servant children as though they were paupers. I mean that's literally in the law. And so, this is sort of around the time too, there's a lot of reform in terms of pauper education, what do we do with poor children. And this idea that a master is supposed to train an apprentice. Both in a certain set of skills, but also teach them how to read and write. And the abolitionists were quite active in pushing the state legislature to make sure that these black servant children were treated the same as white servant children. And part of this was that they were supposed to be educated. And this is part of the thing, too, that I think can get lost sometimes, is that the abolitionists are going to the legislature every year and trying to reform the laws. And they get harsher, more stringent education laws, that basically say that if the children are not sent to four quarters of schooling, by the time they're 18, they can be released from service early. And servants get wind of this, their parents get wind of it, their brothers and sisters get wind of it. So often you'll see 18-year-olds coming to, they come to local lawyers and judges and say, I haven't had my education yet. And by the letter of the law, this allows them to be freed. I don't know exactly how many children this, how many were able to find freedom. I doubt it's hundreds and hundreds. I mean it is significant that some of them get freed, I think the larger point I'm trying to make is that there's this consciousness that develops amongst the children that there are certain ways they can use the law, and that they can push state politicians to enlarge the scope of freedom. But I should be clear, it's the servant children, not the slaves, who are eligible for this. - [Audience Member] Hi, just to follow up, I enjoyed all the papers, but I would like to follow up on this, Sarah, with would you comment on the way in which the law divided these people into females and males, and how and why that gender issue was introduced, if it was truly, simply, to have them reach adulthood, which was a term you used in the longer paper, I'm wondering how does the fact that there were different ages upon which emancipation would affect these groups? - So the original 1799 law in New York stipulates that women will be freed at 25, and men will be freed at 28. Which is far past the ages, traditionally, that apprentices would be freed. The usual ages, this goes back to Poor Laws pre the Revolution, is 18 for women and 21 for men. So it's sort of across Anglo-American law, there's this sense that women reach maturity more quickly than men. And eventually the 1817 law actually changes this so that women are freed at 18 and men at 21. But the entire time in New York, women get freed earlier. And what's interesting about this is, actually let me correct that, the 1817 law says they'll all be freed at 21, which is an oddly gender-neutral moment in labor law. But what's interesting about the women becoming, there are two things that are interesting things about this, women in gradual emancipation. One, they become free earlier, which actually sort of allows them to enter the free black community earlier. And also, slavery in New York and throughout the North, it's often urban slavery, or household slavery, it's women who in many ways are creating most of the sort of problems. A lot of black men, boys, servants, slaves, they find work on the docks and out at sea. William Bolster's done great work showing that, is it William Bolster or Geoffrey Bolster? Geoffrey, thank you, Geoffrey Bolster. You know, at times 25% of the enslaved, or servant or black population of New York are actually off at sea, among men. So it's women in many ways, who are the ones, they're setting kitchen fires, they're getting freed earlier. The African Free School is co-educational from the 1780s, which is, I mean, again these conservative abolitionists are opening a co-ed school for black children that's free in the 1780S, and women are there from day one. So, you know, part of when I talk about this generation, the women are as much a part of this and in some ways at the forefront of it. In part because of the legal issue of they get freed earlier, and also just because of the nature of what slavery looked like in New York to begin with. - [Audience Member] I have a question for Mr Blanton, specifically. You make very much about the Holt court, and I would like to understand, I would like you to tell us, what the exact political context was in which the Holt court was making these sorts of decisions. And why they were so radical in that larger political context. - Thank you, that's a big question. I think a good place to start here would be to just reference some excellent work that Holly Brewer has recently done on the changes in Virginia, or attempts at changes in Virginia in the 1690s. For example, John Locke's sitting on the Board of Trade at this time, there are attempts by the Board of Trade to restructure the distribution of land in Virginia, the abolished the head rate system. So it seems to me that there's a, in this moment, post Glorious Revolution, there's a real push to reconfigure the meaning of slavery in the colonies. The end result of this, it seems to me, had the Board of Trade succeeded, and obviously this is overturned after Queen Anne ascends to the throne, basically and you get asientos, renewed focus on slavery and the slave trade. But in this brief moment following the Glorious Revolution, had this plan succeeded, it seems to me that Virginia may have been transformed, structurally. If you get smaller and smaller parcels of landowning, you're not gonna have the same plantation economy. There's also a possibility, I'm not completely convinced of this yet, that these Board of Trade reforms were attempting to treat slaves as servants under English law. So I think there's this tension between what's going on in the metropole, the decisions that are coming out of the Holt court, the policy prescriptions that are being handed down by the Board of Trade, and the existing state of affairs on the ground in these slave colonies. So it's a, the ideological legacy of the Glorious Revolution is pretty complex and highly contested, so I don't want to come down and say that this is the principles of the Glorious Revolution enacting these changes, but there is certainly something about the political instability of that moment that allowed at least the possibility of a broader imperial legal challenge to the system of slavery. - [Audience Member] So I have a question for the panel. Largely positive account of early antislavery, which I'm certainly morally sympathetic to. However, one of he themes that comes up is this early radicalism, and I'd like to sort of push you guys on that. The first paper presented the possibility of the movement from property to personhood, but then when all of you get into what is the personhood that's being thought of for the formerly enslaved, it's some other type of restricted status. It's a pauper, it's a child. So in the end, how radical are we, at this stage of the game? And to what extent are we sort of moving from one unequal status to another? - It's a great question. And I think, in some ways, I've been trying to sort of say conservative and radical in quotes, because I don't know that the words are still helpful sometimes. I think the fact that children are put into this apprenticeship status, and again, an apprentice is not an entirely free person either. And it also sort of hearkens to this idea of later 19th century ideas that if you free slaves they need to be apprenticed before they can be, I mean the West Indies proposals during the Civil War, there's a long history of, okay you're not technically a slave anymore, but you're not equal, and you're not really free, and we don't know that you can be fully independent. And I mean, it's true. The thing about gradual emancipation is it's messy and it's complicated and it's neither one or the other, but I think, and maybe won't speak for them, but I think there's a general sort of, we're trying to push a little bit back at the historiography that sort of only emphasizes the conservatism, and look at what is being broken down. These abolitionists do go, starting in the 1810s, to ask for the immediate relief of slavery from the state government. These are democratically elected politicians. You know, in 1817, right before Daniel Tompkins, he's governor, he goes up to the Vice President of the United States, he's asking the state legislature to pass an immediate abolition law. So I'm interested in how are they moving, how are they getting better, and how much are they pushed, from the ground, by the very people who are being put into these semi-free categories. - I say with King, it's really about politics and what's possible. So he was doing whatever he could to get to an antislavery position. So I know that the villeinage system is not the ideal situation. But it did create a status where the priority word for slaves would be people, and they would have access to the courts, and they could eventually get into the system to fight for their rights, or to have others fight for their rights. So, I think really, it's just a matter of King trying to create that wedge in the system, that was the key, so it was very political. - I would just add to this that, particularly in the colonial period, which is my focus at this moment, many, many, many English subjects inhabited some form of servile status. In fact Robert Steinfeld's work basically argues that even a short-term labor contract is viewed as a form of property ownership. As soon as you make even an oral commitment to harvest crops off of a landowner's fields, that landowner has a property interest in your labor power which is enforceable in court. So in this time period, the early modern English context, this personhood argument is really salient. It would make African slaves just like these English servants whose labor can be compelled, but whose person they own, self-ownership. And it's that that opens up all these legal possibilities to approach the courts, to press the state for rights, and recognition of personhood. So I think in that sense, in this colonial, or colonial and early modern period, this is a truly radical move. It may seem less so once we get into the late colonial period simply because white indentured servitude is fading away. And white colonists and the vast majority of white males, at least in the new republic, are not happy with servile statuses anymore. So I think that helps to explain why this seems like such a conservative move, but coming out of this longer tradition, to me at least, it seems, and again, I'm with you Sarah, on this radical, conservative might not help very much. But in that context, this is a huge step. It's from that basis of personhood that any further claims are gonna come. And the definition of slaves as property absolutely denies even that possibility. - [Audience Member] Sarah, can you tell us where the political disability provisions, the deprivation of voting, or the imposition of property requirements in the 1817 law, where did that come from, what's the history there? - So the original New York constitution of 1777 enacts property requirements for voting, but there's no mention of race. So it's actually very interesting, in the early 1800s, black voters, there's an increasingly free population, and Shane White's book has actually shown a lot of this, that even before gradual emancipation as it's happening, slaves are able in various ways to negotiate with masters to become more free. And Paul Polger's work is good on this too, that there's about 15 or 20 years where black men are voting and it is all over the newspapers, it's being spoken about. I mean this isn't like one guy's voting here or there, this is black men, especially in the ward system, tipping elections. In 1817 this is still the case. So when they decide that they're going to enact this immediate abolition, black men can still vote, same conditions as white men. It's 1821, there's a new constitution, there's a constitutional convention in New York, and all the property requirements are basically dropped for white men, and they're kept for black men. So after 1821, black men can only vote with an incredibly high level of property. They're essentially, most black men in the state are disenfranchised. And this becomes an ongoing campaign among black New Yorkers, and the children of gradual emancipation, I mean this is one of their big issues in the 1840s and 50s, and part of what I'm trying to show in the longer view is, when they get to the Civil War, and there's this question of oh we're going to have this 13th Amendment, it's going to abolish slavery, these black New Yorkers are like, no, that's not enough. We know what it's like to not have the vote, we need the vote too. So they sort of practiced this. They've been through disfranchisement, they've had people say that we can be free but not totally equal citizens. So between 1821 and until the passage of the 15th Amendment, New Yorkers can't vote on an equal basis to whites. - [Audience Member] I think that the, especially from your talk, the conjuncture of race and class is really interesting here, because more than likely, although I certainly couldn't argue for sure, those politicians probably felt pressured by the fact that these free or semi-free blacks were pushing for the abolition of slavery, because in New York, even though John Jay was the head of the Manumission Society, he himself had slaves. And even by the Civil War, Fernando Wood, who was the Mayor of New York, was a Democrat and supported slavery. And the bankers would, when the plantation owners would come up to New York, they would wine and dine them, and clearly there was tremendous sympathy on the part of the bankers and the shipowners for the maintenance of slavery in the United States, because the American economy was really very much based on the export of cotton. So that once again, your discussion, and presentation, sort of cemented in my mind more, the fact that class has everything to do with the maintenance of reactionary and backward institutions that were maintained in New York even up until 1865, or 61 I should say. - [Audience Member] These are terrific papers, and I'm struck by the possible convergence between John Blanton and David Gary's paper, and I want to know what you think of this. As far as I understand it, slavery in New England, especially the further north, but New England as a whole, much more resembles villeinage, or slavish servitude. Where they have personalty. And this is, of course, you know, the existence of the freedom suits beginning in the mid 1760s, we all know about that in Massachussetts, but Jim Stewart's recent edited edition on Bencher Smith makes it clear. And just as in England, just with white servants, it might be pretty hard to go to court, you know it's not a level playing field, but you can. So my thought was, was that a man like Rufus King, remembering that he's from Maine, which appears to me has a stronger tradition here, the Maine district, than anywhere else. I think Rufus King may have been in fact simply building on the sense that men like him had, radical conservatives if you want, Federalists like him had. But I had one more thought, and again I wanna hear what you think, especially about this connection about King, I'm not totally convinced that what King said in that notorious speech, that you know, made the slaveholders gnaw their teeth, Adams tells us, I'm not convinced this was the first and most radical statement. To me at least, the language of what George Thatcher proposed, again a Maine Federalist in 1798, proposing to cut off all slavery in the Mississippi Territory, to extend the Northwest Ordinance is just as radical. He said, I hold that something that is a fundamental evil, that violates the law of nature, is not legal, and we have a right to abolish it to preserve our government. And I note that he was supported by two of the most important emerging leaders of the Republican party, Albert Gallatin and Will Farnham, who would become, eventually, Speaker of the House under Jefferson. So I actually think, that only got 12 votes, but 12 votes is not bad in 1798. (audience laughing) And it stopped there. But I think there is a tradition there, and coming out of a very anglophone understanding of what the law had really said, by men who had all gone to Harvard and studied the law. And I wanna know what you think about this possible upper New England connection. - I think you're spot-on. I probably can't say it any better myself. I think that, my understanding of the way in which slavery is constructed in the colonial period, is the removal of state power from the master-slave relation. So in that sense, this Federalist mobilization of state power, is legitimately antislavery. Now, in Massachusetts, I think you're also right to point out that because of, there's already this division within Massachusetts, that slaves are being classed as property, let's be clear, from 1695 on, slaves in Massachusetts are classified as chattel properties, as personal property. But a 1698 statute, ironically, Massachusetts's first miscegenation statute, also recognizes the right of enslaved persons to marry legally within the state of Massachusetts. So at the same moment that slave property is being configured, slave personhood is also being recognized and enacted through law. So that, as you said very nicely, creates this foundation from which slaves can bring freedom suits. It's almost inconceivable to me that this could've happened any other way. So in that sense, I think that there's absolutely a straight line here. What English antislavery activists are calling for is state action. You need to interpose the authority of the state in that master-slave relation. And once you do so, Morgan Godwin said this, it's transformed into a form of servitude. I'll also say, I had to pull a lot of my favorite quotes from this paper, that Morgan Godwin also calls slavery in the British empire, if the English are to establish slavery throughout their empire in the 1680s, which they're obviously doing, he calls this a pact with hell. So we don't need to wait for Garrison to get radical moral language in Anglophone antislavery. I think it's there from the beginning and it's always associated with this relatively robust use of state power. - I agree. I think that King's Massachusetts origins, Maine origins, are extremely important for this, for his understanding of how he gets to 1820. So King is born in Maine, but he starts attending Harvard in 1773, a year before the Somerset case, he would've been hearing about that. When he went to go for his oral exams to get into Harvard, there was a very important debate between the graduating class involving law of nature. So he was hearing this stuff from a very early age. He graduates Harvard 1777 and he goes to work with Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport, who has antislavery proclivities himself. He studies the law, he would've understood all the things that John was talking about, all those cases. He read all those Patel, Pufendorf, Grotius, read all the common law books. He had that understanding about all those cases. I can't prove exactly that he was drawing on every single one, but he knew about all of them. And then, in 1783, he's one of a handful of lawyers in Massachusetts at the time, he would've been intimately involved with what was going on around the Quock Walker cases, so yes he knew about all of that. And then, the second part of the question, dealing with, is this the most radical moment. You know, Thatcher, James Hillhouse, they say really radical things, I agree with you. But I think the context matters here, Missouri is really that the stakes are high. There's a chance to make a really big statement here. Almost, he could've won, there was an opportunity here that wasn't available in the other situations. So I think it's really the sort of high point that matters. That if you look at it in context, the stakes were so high, he was essentially declaring war on the slaveholders in 1820, this situation makes it that much more radical. So if you take the context into effect I think you can understand maybe a little bit more. - [Chris] So we're approaching the end of our time. There are three questions, and I actually wanna get to all three questions. I'm just gonna ask if you could just ask your questions quickly, and we'll let the panel respond as they'd like to. Please. - [Audience Member] To what extent, either overtly or covertly, do you feel that the success of the Haitian Revolution in 1804 did motivate Northern abolitionists? - I'm gonna ask you to hold for a second, let's get the other questions. - [Audience Member] Mine is not exactly specific to the panelists or to the day as a whole. But it begins with this panel that we're seeing the transformation of dependency relations, which have been the norm for human relations, relations of domination and dependency shift to understandings of freedom. Much of the conference, all the papers are very concerned with the difference between property and person, and personhood and freedom. I guess my question is, and I think it's not for you all specifically, but for us all to grapple with. Where does marriage fit in to all of this? - [Audience Member] My question was for Mr Gary. You talked about how King had this vision for expanding free labor through expanding and colonizing the West. I was wondering if you could elaborate his positions on what would come to be known as Manifest Destiny that would give us everything from Tyler's Treaty on Texas to the Wilmot Proviso, and whether he just saw that as some kind of vehicle for Southern empire, or if he actually wanted to utilize it at some point. - [Chris] So I'll give you a minute or two to respond to any one of these three questions in whatever way that you would like. - Okay, a couple things very briefly. I think one of the reasons the Haitian Revolution is particularly important in New York, and the first boy I talked about, Sylvester, he's from Haiti. I mean there's a huge refugee community that ends up in New York, Rebecca Scott's done great work on this, there was Martha Jones. I mean those, literally just in terms of people, a lot of Haitian refugees, both masters and slaves, end up in New York, and I do think it's important. And James McEwen-Smith later tries to raise money for the Colored Orphan Asylum. And he gives an amazing speech about the Haitian Revolution. So yes, important, I should also say very briefly. 1817, that law, and 1827, the celebration of emancipation in New York, they talk about Haiti. It's one of the other moments that they see immediate emancipation has worked in the New World. And the other thing I will say, Amy really briefly, there's a law passed in New York in 1809 that allows slaves to marry, which is fascinating. I mean this sort of idea that one of the hallmarks of being a slave is that you can't get married, you can't be property and also be able to make contracts. But 1809 they allows slaves to marry in part because they want this new generation of children to be able to inherit property from their parents. So marriage does play in an interesting way. - I'll just add on the Haiti issue, I'm a little bit out of my time period here, especially in the last few years, but getting into the early 19th-century abolitionism that I've looked at tends to focus on the republican aspects of the Haitian Revolution, that this establishes a republic wherein Africans are, Afro-Caribbeans, are citizens. They're political actors, where they have access to rights. And that seems to be, from at least my reading, much of what the antislavery and abolitionist movements are interested in with the Haitian Revolution. It seems to me to be much more the Southerners who are interested in the violence and gore of the Haitian Revolution. - And just so I can talk about the Haitian thing. Rufus King is extremely afraid of violence, I think that's a key thing. Just building on what Rachel Hope Cleves says about the Federalist fear of violence is, I think, a central aspect of this. That's why is plan is quote conservative, because he was trying to do whatever he could to make these things happen without roiling up the social order. And then the question about Manifest Destiny. So King thought that, he was very concerned with the notion, he said as soon as the Missouri Compromise goes forward, the next thing the slave owners are gonna want is Texas. He was very concerned about Florida becoming a slave state. The Adams-Onis Treaty has just happened right before this. So he's very worried about the slave owners just going forward and taking over the West. I think what he was trying to do was to cordon it off and give the free men the opportunity, in 1820, to start doing this. Basically, I believe he thought that this moment was lost, this was the time that he could do it, and now there's this great fear that now the slaveholders are gonna go out West. And they did, what he feared happened. Texas became part of the United States, and it was problematic for him. - Can I just add on Professor Stanley's question too? Marriage as a civil status in English law goes back to the English Civil War. Marriage as a civic right, separated from ... - Terrific three papers, thank you. Let's thank the panel. (audience applauding)

Election returns

Candidate Party Votes[2] Percent
Abijah Bigelow Federalist 2,123 72.3%
Timothy Whiting Democratic-Republican 790 26.9%
Moses White Democratic-Republican 23 0.8%

Bigelow took his seat December 14, 1810[1]

See also


This page was last edited on 19 December 2019, at 18:07
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