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Theodore Sedgwick had an illustrious legal career, and served an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court from 1802 - 1813. Â. In the first case, Walker, with the assistance of leading Worcester County attorneys Levi Lincoln and Caleb Strong, sued Jennison for assault and battery; Walker claimed he had been injured without right, as James Caldwell, his first master, had promised Walker freedom by age 25. Meltzer, Milton. As discussed in the section of this website entitled The Massachusetts Judicial System, the Supreme Judicial Court was both a trial court and an appellate court during its early history. Slaves too were active in seeking the end of slavery in Massachusetts. “African-Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts.” Massachusetts Historical Society, www.masshist.org/endofslavery/index.php. As historian John Cushing concluded, there is "ample evidence" that the Quock Walker cases were a significant step toward the end of slavery in Massachusetts. Slavery in Massachusetts by Henry David Thoreau "Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of … Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca. Any suggestions as to how I may further my research would be much appreciated. The following year, in June 1782, Jennison petitioned the General Court (the official name of the Massachusetts legislature) for reinstatement of the case he had lost by default ten months earlier. The graves of Theodore Sedgwick and his wife, Pamela Sedgwick, are in the center. . The 1781 Berkshire county case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley, often referred to as the Mum Bett or Elizabeth Freeman case , was unique because it occurred less than one year after the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution and because, in contrast to prior freedom suits, there was no claim that John Ashley, the slave owner, had violated a specific law. “The Massachusetts Constitution and Abolition of Slavery.” Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/edu-res-center/abolition/abolition1-gen.html As Lemire shows, the end of slavery in Massachusetts was confused and uncertain. When the case was tried in August 1781 before the County Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington, Sedgwick argued that the Massachusetts Constitution had outlawed slavery. Jennison was indicted in September 1781, though the case did not come before the Supreme Judicial Court until April 1783. It is generally agreed that African slaves first arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630's, and slavery was legally sanctioned in 1641. In 1763, Caldwell died and his widow married Nathaniel Jennison. The first slaves were brought to the colony in the early 17th century. Many famous buildings and structures in New England were built with money from Massachusetts’ slave trade, such as Faneuil Hall in Boston, which was constructed by wealthy slave trader and merchant Peter Faneuil, whose family regularly sold slaves in public auctions on nearby Merchants Row. The constitution proposed in 1778 would have recogn… . 10. The year 1641 saw the passing of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties. Slavery there is said to have predated the settlement of Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629, and circumstantial evidence gives a date of 1624-1629 for the first slaves. Upon her death in 1829, Mum Bett was buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge. Writ of Replevin ordering Ashley to release Brett and Brom. We will use this information to improve the site. on Slavery in Massachusetts. A point in the right direction would be amazing. Henry David Thoreau: Slavery in Massachusetts (1854) An Address, Delivered at the Anti-Slavery Celebration at Framingham, July 4th, 1854 I lately attended a meeting of the citizens of Concord, expecting, as one among many, to speak on the subject of slavery in Massachusetts; but I was surprised and disappointed to find that what had called my […] This was followed by numerous laws governing slaves and their activities, such as marriage laws between slaves, curfews and taxes on slaves imported into Massachusetts. Under section 91 it states: There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, or captivity amongst us unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us. emboldened enslaved persons of color to demand manumission or wage compensation from their owners - [or] simply to walk away from them." In 1780, when the Massachusetts Constitution went into effect, slavery was legal in the Commonwealth. The case was not widely reported, and changing economic conditions and public opinion increasingly hostile to slavery doubtless played an important role in slavery's demise. Noted books on this subject include Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780 - 1860 (2000) and Arthur Zilversmit, First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North (1967). 13. africaresource.com/rasta/sesostris-the-great-the-egyptian-hercules/the-paper-genocide-of-american-indians/, linkedin.com/pulse/how-jim-crow-practiced-paper-genocide-against-native-american-sonya, google.com/amp/s/imjustheretomakeyouthink.com/2016/08/28/98-of-african-americans-are-in-fact-native-indians-and-are-owed-millions/amp/. “New England’s Hidden History.” Boston.com,  Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC, 26 Sept. 2010, www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/09/26/new_englands_hidden_history/?page=4 Walker became the property of Jennison, who resided in the central Massachusetts town of Barre. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was signed under President Fillmore, which required the return of escaped slaves residing in free states to their masters. 17. The jury convicted Jennison, and the court ordered him to pay a fine of 40 shillings. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society website, it wasn’t long before Massachusetts became engaged in what was called the Triangle Trade: “In 1644 Boston merchants began importing slaves directly from Africa, selling them in the West Indies, and bringing home sugar to make rum, initiating the so-called triangular trade. Mum Bett, aka Elizabeth Freeman, Watercolor on Ivory Painted by Susan Ridley Sedgwick circa 1812. Bjorklund, Ruth and Stephanie Fitzgerald. In 1681, John Saffin and other Boston merchants wrote to the shipmaster William Welstead, warning him that the authorities planned to seize a slave ship heading for Rhode Island, and that he should intercept the vessel and direct it to Nantasket to offload its human cargo. Fiercely anti-slavery, Thoreau spoke out against the practice in lectures and print, famously refused to pay poll tax in part because he did not want to finance slavery, defended John Brown, and was an underground railroad stop. Slavery, often recast as indentured servitude (see online display of bill of indenture for Dick Morey), was not unheard of in Massachusetts through the end of the eighteenth century. The timing of his decision suggests that Ashley may have determined that an appeal was futile following the first ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court in the Quock Walker case (see below). Your feedback will not receive a response. As historian Zilmersmit notes "[i]t is also possible that a group of prominent residents of Berkshire County selected Elizabeth and a Negro man, Brom, who was associated with her in the suit, in order to determine whether or not slavery was constitutional in Massachusetts after the adoption of the new constitution.". The Sheffield Declaration has been posted online by The Trustees of Reservations, the organization that owns the John Ashley House. http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/ashley-house.html, 15. Would you like to provide additional feedback to help improve Mass.gov? "Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns." Winthrop, a slave owner, helped write the first law legalizing slavery in North America. 1641 Massachusetts becomes the first colony to legalize slavery. This case was tried before a jury in the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas. This document, approved by the Committee on January 12, 1773, expressed anger at how Great Britain was treating her subjects in the colony of Massachusetts, and resolved "[t]hat mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property." Both slaves won their cases after the jury agreed that slavery was inconsistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, thus stripping slavery of any legal protection in Massachusetts forever. Slavery in Massachusetts is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns In 1781, at the age of 28, Walker fled to the home of Caldwell's sons. 1754 Massachusetts Slave Census. Original court records are in the custody of the Supreme Judicial Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation. Narrow by town or county Showing 305 results 11. Lothrop, Lee and Shephard Books, 1999 Fiercely anti-slavery, Thoreau spoke out against the practice in lectures and print, famously refused to pay poll tax in part because he did not want to finance slavery, defended John Brown, and was an underground railroad stop. There is extensive literature on the existence and abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. For example, in 1773, a group of slaves petitioned the General Court (legislature) to end slavery, and directly tied their search for liberty to the colonists' struggles with Great Britain. Bound for America: Forced Migration of Africans to the New World. Despite opposition against it, slavery continued in Massachusetts until the 1780s and even then practice did not end quickly. Instead, the high court finally ruled, and then there were debates over semantics until, farm by farm, owner by owner, the practice sputtered, and then failed. 8. The jury found "that the said Quork is a Freeman and not the proper Negro slave of [Jennison]," and awarded Walker damages of 50 pounds. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. See Zilmersmit, supra note 1 at 616-617. As discussed in the section of this website entitled John Adams and the Massachusetts Constitution, the Constitution of 1780 was preceded by a constitution drafted by the legislature and rejected by the voters in 1778. Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first slave-holding colony in New England, though the exact beginning of black slavery cannot be dated exactly. During the colonial era, numerous laws were passed regulating movement and marriage among slaves, and Massachusetts residents actively participated in the slave trade. TABLE OF CONTENTS-01- ABOUT THIS BOOK-02- SLAVERY IN MASSACHUSETTS See also William Nelson, Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review 34-40 (2000) (arguing that several state courts, including Massachusetts, implicitly or explicitly applied the principle of judicial review during 1780-1800). Still, the New England colonies began to show differences in their approaches to slavery, even as slavery became more common in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island in the 18 th century. [T]hese sentiments [that are favorable to the natural rights of mankind] led the framers of our constitution of government - by which the people of this commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves to each other - to declare - that all men are born free and equal; and that every subject is entitled to liberty, and to have it guarded by the laws as well as his life and property. The legislature took no action. If you would like to continue helping us improve Mass.gov, join our user panel to test new features for the site. The summary of court proceedings presented here relies primarily on court papers and John Cushing's article on the Quock Walker cases. The one is just as sensible a proposition as the other. There is not one slave in Nebraska; there are perhaps a million slaves in Massachusetts. Original court records are in the custody of the Supreme Judicial Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation. When Ashley sought to reclaim his "property," Bett reportedly sought help from prominent local attorney Theodore Sedgwick, who had often visited the Ashley home and was clerk of the committee that had drafted the Sheffield Declaration. In 1696 the British Parliament revoked the monopoly held by the Royal African Company, enabling Massachusetts merchants and shipmasters to engage freely in the slave trade.”. As a northern state, Massachusetts had its fair share of abolitionists who were uncomfortable with the state’s role in the slave trade. Popular sentiment and the courts were pro-abolition, however. Massachusetts was the first British colony to legalize slavery. The Sheffield Declaration requested its local representative to the General Court in Boston to consider the Declaration and to use "every constitutional means in his power that the grievances complained of may be redressed. I thought I was the only person of color in my family. Her tombstone stands in the innermost circle of what is known as the "Sedgwick Pie.". See, e.g., Zilversmit, supra note 1 at 100 - 103. Each side appealed these contradictory verdicts, and the two cases were placed on the docket of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1781. A few years later, in December of 1638, a slave ship named Desire brought Boston’s first shipment of slaves from Barbados, whom had been exchanged for enslaved Pequot Indians from New England. They put off the day of settlement indefinitely, and … This provided the basis for abolishing slavery in Massachusetts, but it clearly was not the intent of the Legislature to do so. She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior or equal." In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was signed under President Fillmore, which required the return of escaped slaves residing in free states to their masters. 9. Justice Cushing remained on that Court until 1810, and participated in deciding the case of Marbury v. Madison. Six years before ratification of the United States Constitution in 1789, and 20 years before Marbury v. Madison firmly established the principle of judicial review on a national level in 1803, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized the supremacy of the Massachusetts Constitution. The Salem Witch Trials Victims: Who Were They? In this action, Jennison prevailed, and the jury awarded him damages of 25 pounds. . Between the years 1755 and 1764, the slave population in Massachusetts rose to 2.2 percent, with most of these slaves living in industrial and coastal towns. View all posts by Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, British & American Strategies in the Revolutionary War, Abigail Williams: The Mysterious Afflicted Girl. Sedgwick "Pie" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. As the rhetoric supporting independence of the colonists from Great Britain intensified in the colony of Massachusetts, some noted the glaring inconsistency of arguing for the rights of Englishmen while owning slaves. Mum Bett worked for many years as a beloved domestic servant in the household of Theodore Sedgwick. . . Since New England’s climate was not suitable for large-scale farming, most slaves in Massachusetts were laborers for merchants and tradesman or domestic servants for wealthy families, although some did work as farm hands. This included Maine since it was still part of Massachusetts. www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/01/18/new_englands_scarlet_s_for_slavery/ The Caldwell brothers prevailed in their appeal to the State's high court. The write ordered Ashley to release Bett and Brom to the Sheriff because they were not Ashley's legitimate property. 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