Monday, October 12, 2015

Indian Slavery in Colonial Times Within the Present Limits of the United States Pt. 2

Lauber, Almon Wheeler

104 105


To arrive at any knowledge of the exact number of Indian slaves in any of the English colonies is impossible. Census reports and other vital statistics are infrequent or lacking, especially in the early colonial period; and often in such statistics as are extant Indian slaves either receive no mention, or are classed with negro slaves without distinction. From existing records, however, one is able to obtain a knowledge of the comparative numbers in the different groups of colonies, and to some extent in the individual colonies, during the colonial period. New England and the southern colonies were the sections that employed Indian slave labor most extensively, the south taking precedence, for climatic conditions there were more favorable, and economic conditions made necessary a larger quantity of servile labor than was required in the north.1 Yet New England made use of the natives as slaves as long as they lasted,2 and drew further supplies from Maine,3 the Carolinas,4 and other districts.5

Among the English colonies, the Carolinas stood first
1 Doyle, English Colonies in America, The Puritan Colonies, ii, p. 506.
2 I. e., until after the Pequot and King Philip Wars.
3 Freeman, The History of Cape Cod, p. 72.
4 Connecticut Colonial Records, 1715, p. 516.
5 Coffin, A Sketch of the History of Newbury, etc., p. 337; Essex Institute Historical Collections, vii, p. 73; Connecticut Colonial Records, 1711, p. 233.


in the use of Indians as slaves. Such use began with the founding of the colony. The need for laborers was great; the source of supply was near at hand and the colonists availed themselves of their opportunity. Probably captives of the Stono War became the Indian slaves mentioned in the inventory of Captain Valentine Byrd, “one of the grandees of the time.”1 In a report on conditions in the colony, made to the proprietors, September 17, 1708, by Governor Nathaniel Johnson and his council, the number of Indian men slaves was given as 500, Indian women slaves, as 600, Indian children slaves, as 300, a total of 1400 Indian slaves. The number of negroes at the same time was stated as 4100, of indentured servants, 120, and of free whites, 3960. The governor gave the cause of the rapid increase in the number of the Indian slaves during the five preceding years, as “our late conquest over the French and Spanish, and the success of our forces against the Appalaskys and in other Indian engagements.”2

Only a small portion of the whole number of Indians enslaved were kept in the colony.3 Yet, in 1708, it was estimated that the native population furnished one-fourth of the whole number of slaves in South Carolina.4 The public records of that colony contain a list of ninety-eight Indian slaves with their owners’ names, taken by the Spaniards and their allies in 1715, during the Indian
1 Hawks, History of North Carolina, etc., second edition, ii, p. 577.
2 Bancroft Papers Relating to Carolina, in New York City Public Library, MSS. vol. i, 1662-1769; Rivers, A Sketch of the History of South Carolina to the Close of the Proprietary Government, etc., p. 232; South Carolina Historical Society Collections, ii, p. 217; Thomas, The Indians of North America, etc., p. 95; Schaper, Sectionalism in South Carolina, p. 263.
3 Logan, A History of the Upper Country of South Carolina, i, p. 189.
4 Rivers, A Sketch of the History of South Carolina to the Close of Proprietary Government, etc., p. 231.


war, and carried to St. Augustine. The number of these slaves belonging to individual persons varied from one to ten.1 A report of 1723 mentions the number of slaves in South Carolina and Georgia as ranging from 16,000 to 20,000, “chiefly negroes and a few Indians.”2 Another report of the following year estimates the number of slaves as 32,000, “mostly negroes”,3 In 1728, the population of St. Thomas’ parish, South Carolina, consisted of 565 whites, 950 negro slaves, and 60 Indian slaves.4 From
1 Public Records of South Carolina, 1711-1716, vi, p. 276; British Public Record Office, Am. N. I., vol. 620.
2 Hewat, An Historical Account of the Rise of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia, i, p. 309.
3 Glenn, A Description of South Carolina, etc., p. 81; Charleston Year Book, 1883, p. 407. (A quotation from a pamphlet entitled, “The Importance of the British Plantations in America to this Kingdom,” London, 1731).
4 Dalcho, An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, p. 287; Humphreys, An Historical Account of the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, etc., edition of 1730, pp. 103-105.
As the result of the intermingling of negroes and Indians, which came about when the coast tribes dwindled and the small number of remaining members moved inland, associated and intermarried with the negroes until they finally lost their identity and were classed with that race, a considerable portion of the blood of the southern negroes is unquestionably Indian. Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1897-1898, p. 233. It was these mixed bloods, as well as the pure blood Indians, to which the statutes referred by the terms “Indian slaves” and “mustee,” or “mestee,” slaves. Occasional mention is made in the colonial newspapers of slaves of the mixed red and black races. American Weekly Mercury, October 24, 1734. The opinion has even been advanced that, in certain of the colonies, there never were any pure blood Indian slaves. Mr. W. B. Melius of Albany, New York, asserts; “I do not believe the pure Indian was sold as a slave (in New York), I believe the Indian who was the slave was not without mixture.” New York State Library Bulletin, History, No. 4, May, 1900. One instance of the mixture of the Indians and negroes in New York is found in a complaint made in 1717, that negro slaves ran away, and were secreted by the Minisink with whose women they intermarried. Ibid., No. 4, May, 1900.


these statistics, it will be seen that the number of Indian slaves was much smaller than the number of negroes, and that it was growing smaller toward the middle of the eighteenth century, while that of negroes was constantly increasing.

The early history of Indian slavery in Georgia is so bound up with that of Carolina, the Indian wars, and the difficulties with the Spaniards of Florida, as to require but little especial attention. After the settlement of Georgia as a separate colony, occasional mention is made of Indian slaves.1 In 1759, as the basis for a tax bill, the number of slaves was placed at 2500, but a committee of the legislature declared the number to have been underestimated. How many of this number were Indians is not known. The colony was settled at a time when Indian slavery was passing out of existence. So it is safe to state that the number of such slaves was small.

The number of Indian slaves in Virginia, also, was small, owing largely to the number of indentured servants, and to the early introduction and fitness of the negroes for the labor of the colony. In 1671, Berkeley reported the whole population of the colony as 40,000, the number of indentured servants as 6000, and that of slaves as 2000. But no division of slaves according to color was made. In certain sections but few slaves were used. The Scotch-Irish and the Germans preferred their own labor to that of slaves. Some Indians were taken in war, but they were inconsiderable when compared with the number captured in the Carolinas. Occasional mention of Indian slaves is found well into the eighteenth century.

Indian slavery in Massachusetts began early. Following
1 Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, vi, p. 259, mentions an Indian slave in 1749.
2 Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, etc., p. 134.


the Pequot War, 1637, forty-eight captives were retained as slaves in the colony,1 After King Philip’s War, 1675, also, certain of the captives were made slaves,2 but no record exists of the exact number. The various records and histories of the Massachusetts towns show a general distribution of Indian slaves throughout the colony during the colonial period, such as existed following the two Indian wars above noted. Mere mention may be made of some of these: Plymouth,3 Boston,4 Roxbury,5 Ipswich,6 Quincy,7 Charleston,8 Malden,9 Haverhill,10 Milton.11 None of the official reports on the condition of New England makes mention of Indian slaves.12 But statistics show the number of slaves in Massachusetts in 1720 to have been 2000, including a few Indians.13 In 1790, according to the
1 Winthrop, Journal History of New England, i, p. 225, in Original Narratives of Early American History.
2 See Chapter V.
3 “It seems probable that there were no Indian slaves in Plymouth before the division of land in 1623.” Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, series 4, iii, p. 114.
4 Boston News Letter and other newspapers.
5 Ellis, The History of Roxbury Town, p. 136.
6 Felt, The History of Ipswich, pp. 306, 320; Boston Weekly Mercury, October 2, 1735.
7 Wilson, Where American Independence Began, p. 154.
8 Corey, The History of Malden, p. 416.
9 Ibid.
10 Chase, The History of Haverhill, pp. 239, 248.
11 Earle, Customs and Fashions in Old New England, p. 84.
12 Doyle, English Colonies in America, The Puritan Colonies, ii, p. 68. In 1708, Governor Dudley made a report on slaves and the slave trade to the Board of Trade, in which he stated that there were 400 negro slaves in Massachusetts. No mention was made of Indians. Historical Magazine, x, p. 52.
13 American Antiquarian Society Proceedings, 1885-1887, new series, iv, p. 216.


United States census report, the number of slaves in the state was 6,001, which number included about 200 half breed Indians.1 Since Massachusetts took the lead in the two Indian wars of New England, it seems likely that the number of Indian slaves in that colony exceeded that in either Connecticut or Rhode Island.2

The Rhode Island laws from 1636 to 1704 make no mention of Indian slaves. Yet they were held in the colony before 1704. The records of Block Island show them there in sufficient numbers, in 1675, to warrant the town council regulating their action. Captives taken in King Philip’s War were retained in the colony temporarily as slaves. The Boston newspapers occasionally mention runaway Indian slaves of Block Island.3 Both negro and Indian slavery reached a development in colonial Narragansett unusual in the northern colonies.4 In 1730, South Kingston had a population of 935 whites, 333 negroes and 223 Indian slaves. Eighteen years later, the proportion of races was nearly the same: 1405 whites, 380 negroes, and 193 Indians.5 As late as 1778, the laws of Rhode Island mentioned Indian slaves.6

Indian slavery in Connecticut began almost with the founding of the colony, and came about as a result of the Pequot War (1636). The captives taken in the war were
1 American Statistical Association Collections, i, pp. 208-214; Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, series 1, iv, p. 199.
2 Livermore, A History of Block Island, etc., p. 60.
3 New England Courant, June 17, 1723—A Spanish Indian runaway from Newport; Boston Gazette, October 28, 1728—An Indian runaway slave from Warwick, Rhode Island.

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