Thursday, September 18, 2008

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

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 2000.2 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.
4 Channing, The Narragansett Planters, p. 10, in Johns Hopkins University Studies, iv.
5 Ibid., p. 10.
6 Colonial Records of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, viii, p. 359.


assigned directly to the colony and were retained and distributed among the inhabitants.1 The colonists appear to have held a greater number of such slaves then than at any later period. Certain Indians, also, were kept in the colony as slaves following King Philip’s War, but the number is unknown.2 Local histories show them in different towns well into the eighteenth century.3 An answer sent to a query from the Board of Trade in 1680 states that there were then thirty slaves in Connecticut, but no mention is made of Indian slaves though they existed in the colony.4

The number of Indian slaves in New Hampshire was undoubtedly very small. During the Pequot War and King Philip’s War, New Hampshire remained at peace with the Indians, and the statement has been made that no New Hampshire merchant or captain, during the Indian wars, kidnapped natives or consciously broke faith with them.5 The close connection with Massachusetts, however, made inevitable the existence of Indian slaves in the former colony,6 and the Boston newspapers occasionally mention such slaves as late as approximately 1750.7
1 Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, p. 342, in Original Narratives of Early American History.
2 See pp. 130-131, 150.
3 Caulkins, History of New London, pp. 330, 335, mentions Indian slaves in 1711 and 1735; An Indian woman slave lived in Westbury until her death in 1774. Steiner, History of Slavery in Connecticut, p. 21, in Johns Hopkins University Studies, xi.
4 Steiner, op. cit., p. 12, in Johns Hopkins University Studies, xi.
5 Sanborn, New Hampshire, an Epitome of Popular Government, p. 137.
6 Sanborn, op. cit., p. 151, states that in 1720, hardly an Indian remained in New Hampshire, except, perhaps, an enslaved captive.
7 The Boston Postboy, May 2, 1743, advertises a runaway Indian slave from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The same paper, July 25, 1743, advertises another runaway Indian slave from New Castle, in the same colony.


In the middle group of colonies, the number of Indian slaves was never large, and, in comparison with that in either the southern or New England groups, it was conspicuously small. There appear to have been more of such slaves in New York than in any other colony of the group, a condition due to its greater trade with the colonies which exported them. The English colony, furthermore, took over no Indian slaves from its Dutch predecessor.1
1 “In theory, at least, the Hollander considered the Indian a man like himself, with analogous rights to life, liberty and possessions.” Consequently, “Indians were not enslaved in New Netherland.” Van Rensselaer, History of the City of New York in the Seventeenth Century, i, p. 63. These statements are rather difficult to prove. Holding Indians as slaves who had been enslaved elsewhere and then brought into the colony, and making slaves in the colony and then sending them out of it, were practices that unquestionably existed, even if on a small scale. The declaration of the governor and council of New York in 1680 that “all Indians here have always been, and are, free, and not slave, except such as have been formerly brought from the Bay and Foreign Ports,” (Brodhead, History of the State of New York, first edition, ii, p, 331), shows the presence of some Indian slaves in the Dutch colony.
The records of New Netherland contain accounts of manumission in that colony of slaves called Spaniards and bearing Spanish names. Whether these individuals were Spanish Indians, or negroes from the Spanish Islands, is not specified in the records. One such person received his freedom in 1645, by payment of 300 carolus guilders. O’Callaghan, Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, pt. i, p. 45. Another received his freedom in 1646, in return for his long and faithful services. O’Callaghan, op. cit., pt. i, p. 105. Two others, slaves in the Company’s service, were freed in 1664. O’Callaghan, op. cit., pt. i, p. 264. Still others, belonging presumably to individual owners, received freedom in this same year. O’Callaghan, op. cit., pt. i, p. 269.
Two incidents of enslavement of Indians in New Netherland are noteworthy, even if the individuals concerned were subsequently sent out of the colony. The first instance occurred in 1644, in connection with the Indian troubles of that time. At the close of the difficulties, some of the Indian prisoners were sent by Governor Kieft to the Bermudas “as a present to the English governor.” Still others were given to the “oldest and most experienced soldiers,” who, at [footnote continues on p. 113] that time, were allowed to go to Holland. Brodhead, History of the State of New York, revised edition, i, p. 396; New York Colonial Documents, i, p. 215; Van Rensselaer, op. cit., i, p. 235. The second instance was connected with the Esopus Indians. On May 25, 1660, a resolution was taken in the council to transport to CuraƧao all but two or three of the lately acquired Esopus Indians, “to be employed there, or at Buenaire, with the negroes in the Company’s service.” Brodhead, op. cit., revised edition, i, p. 676; O’Callaghan, Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, pt. i, p. 295. On June 29th, Stuyvesant issued an order and arranged for their passage. O’Callaghan, op. cit., pt. i, p. 214. O’Callaghan, History of New Netherland, etc., ii, p. 420, gives the number transported as eleven. Schoonmaker, The History of Kingston, p. 16, states it as twenty. Those retained in the colony on this occasion were not enslaved, but were to be punished “as might be thought proper or as necessity might demand.” Schoonmaker, op. cit., p. 16. The relations with the Iroquois had prevented any serious Indian wars in the colony, and because of this relation Stuyvesant’s act was considered highly impolitic. His course, which was perhaps patterned after the action of the English following the Pequot War, he sought to justify in his declaration that “their enlargement would have a tendency to create disaffection toward our nation. Our barbarian neighbors would glory, as if they had inspired us with terror.” Schoonmaker, op. cit., p. 16. In 1661 these Indians were recalled from slavery. O’Callaghan, Calendar of Historical Manuscripts, etc., pt. i, p. 295.


The inhabitants of New York, under Dutch or English rule, never waged any war on the order of those in New England against the Indian tribes. Nor did the distribution of New England captives affect this colony to any great extent. A few Indian slaves were introduced from foreign parts, but the selling and holding of Indians as slaves was never a general custom.1 The existence of Indian slaves, however, was recognized by a decree of the governor and council in 1680.2 An Indian slave was sold
1 Van Rensselaer, History of the City of New York in the Seventeenth Century, i, p. 193.
2 Brodhead, History of the State of New York, revised edition, i, p. 193.


July 30, 1687, in Hempstead, Long Island.1 The narrative of grievances against Jacob Leisler includes the following: “The same night, December 23, 1689, an Indian slave, belonging to Philip French, was dragged to the Fort (New York), and there imprisoned.”2 In July, 1703, the governor received a petition regarding an Indian slave.3 The will of William Smith, of the manor of St. George, Suffolk County, April 23, 1704, divided a number of negro and Indian slaves among his children.4 In 1715, certain Indians complained that the whites were enslaving native children entrusted to them for instruction.5 Arent Schuyler of New York, 1724, gave to each of his two daughters, in his will, an Indian slave woman.6 The same year the Reverend Mr. Jenny reported: “There are a few negro and Indian slaves in my parish.”7 On July 3, 1726, the Reverend Mr. Vesey of New York, in a letter to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, stated that in the colony there were “about one thousand and four hundred Indian and negro slaves,”8 but told nothing about the proportion of each. Colonel Johnson’s letter to Governor Clinton, January 22, 1750,9 and William Johnson’s letter
1 Records of the Towns of North and South Hempstead, Long Island, ii, p. 60.
2 Northrup, Slavery in New York, in New York State Library Bulletin, History, No. 4, May, 1900, p. 305.
3 O’Callaghan, Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, pt. ii, p. 314.
4 New York Historical Society Collections, 1892, i, p. 413,
5 New York Colonial Documents, v, p. 433.
6 Schuyler, Colonial New York, ii, p. 193. Note that April 27, 1699, Bellomont reported to the Lords of Trade: “They have no other servants in this country but negroes.”
7 Scharf, History of Westchester County, etc., ii, p. 667.
8 Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York, iv, p. 2357; Dix, History of the Parish of Trinity Church in the City of New York, i, p. 203.
9 New York Colonial Documents, vi, p. 546.


to G. W. Banyar, June 28, 1771,1 the former relating to Indian children held as slaves, and the latter mentioning a Pawnee Indian slave in New York, show the existence of such slaves until a late date. Occasional mention is found in the newspapers of the time of runaway Indian slaves.2 From the evidence the conclusion is that although the existence of Indian slavery was continuous in New York throughout the colonial period, the number of Indian slaves, in comparison with that of individual colonies in New England and the south, was small.

William Penn, speaking of his purpose in founding a colony in America said: “I went thither to lay the foundation of a free colony for all mankind.” Yet in Pennsylvania existed the indentured servant, the negro slave and the Indian slave. Considering the attitude and the relations of Penn and his followers toward the red men one would hardly expect to find the Indians enslaved. In the absence of wars with the natives,3 no Indian captives were reduced to servitude. The Indian slaves used were brought from other colonies. The newspapers contain accounts of their being bought and sold, and of their running
1 O’Callaghan, Documentary History of New York, ii, p. 984; Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections, xxx, p. 596.
2 New York Gazette, July 23, 1733 (a runaway Indian slave from Flushing); March 3, 1734 (a runaway Indian slave from Westchester); February 13, 1739 (a runaway slave from New York City). New York Weekly Mercury, October 27, November 3, and November 10, 1740 (a runaway Indian slave from New York); August 16, 1756 (a runaway Indian slave from Long Island); May 30 and June 13, 1757 (a runaway Indian slave from “the mines near Second River”); June 12, June 19, June 26, July 3, 1758 (a runaway Indian slave from Newcastle, Westchester County).
3 The Delaware Indians had been conquered by the Iroquois, and so humbled that they were glad to accept the friendship of the Quakers and live in peace. Parkman, The Conspiracy of Pontiac, etc., sixth edition, i, p. 82.


away, as in the other colonies.1 The leading men of the colony owned them. Penn’s own deputy, Governor William Markham, owned one, born in 1700, who, by the terms of Markham’s will, was to be freed at the age of twenty-five.2 In a bill of sale of the personal effects of Sir William Keith, dated May 26, 1726, an Indian woman and her son were mentioned among the seventeen slaves listed.3

In 1780, a farmer of East Nottingham, Chester County, registered, at the county seat, the names of an Indian girl, aged twenty-four years, a slave for life, and of an Indian man in slavery until he arrived at the age of thirty-one years.4 The action of the Friends’ Yearly Meeting in 1719, also, shows that Indian slaves, as well as negro slaves, were owned by the members of that religious society.5

It has been said that slavery in New Jersey was more prevalent among the Dutch settlements and the plantations of South Jersey than in the Calvinistic towns of East Jersey.6 Since the number of negro slaves throughout the Dutch possessions of America was considerable, it may be
1 The Pennsylvania Gazette, April 20, 1737, October 5, 1738, March 16, 1731. The American Daily Mercury, March 24, 1720; May 24, 1726; August 28, 1729; July 30, 1730; August 16, 1733; July 8, 1771. The Pennsylvania Journal, June 18, 1726.
2 Scharf, History of Delaware, i, p. 180; Smith, History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, p. 219.
3 Martin, Chester and its Vicinity, p. 189.
4 Smith, History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, p. 335; Martin, Chester and its Vicinity, p. 189; Futhey and Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, etc., p. 424. The registration was made in accordance with the terms of the act of 1780, which provided for the registration of all negro and mulatto slaves and servants for life.
5 Report of the Friends’ Yearly Meeting of Pennsylvania and the Jersies, from the 19th to the 24th of the 7th month, 1719, p. 211.
6 Lee, New Jersey as a Colony and as a State, i, p. 199.


concluded that the scarcity of Indian slaves was due to conditions rather than to scruples, though the presence of a Quaker element may have affected the situation. The proximity of the powerful Iroquois, also, by shutting off the source of possible supply, may have had something to do with the matter. The number of Indian slaves in New Jersey was very small, yet the newspapers of the time show the presence of such a servile class in the colony throughout the colonial period.1

In Maryland, there appears to have been even a smaller number of Indian slaves than in New Jersey. There were no Indian wars to furnish captives,2 and the Indians from the Carolinas were sent to ports in New England where the demand for them was greater. In Maryland indentured servants largely supplied the need for laborers and so minimized the use of the natives as slaves.

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