Border Skirmish: Neither Wages nor the Whip

  • Seymour Drescher


I have been insisting on a sharp differentiation of social relations between metropolitan Britain and the frontier colonies during the first century of the British Atlantic slave system. Yet some recent historians of black people in Britain would insist that black slavery was in fact an institution in England itself and remained legal, with qualifications, until the Emancipation Act of 1833. There is no dearth of evidence that blacks were being bought and sold in the metropolis. Advertisements for runaways insisted on their status as the property of their masters and were accompanied by warnings of prosecution for any who dared to harbour them. They were collared like dogs. Couples were separated by indifferent or petulant masters.1


Eighteenth Century Habeas Corpus Free Black Slave Status Black Slave 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    See F. O. Shyllon, Black Slaves in Britain (London, 1974), Chapter 1;Google Scholar
  2. F. O. Shyllon Black People in Britain, 1555–1833 (Oxford, 1977), Chapter 1;Google Scholar
  3. J. Walvin, Black and White: The Negro and English Society, 1555–1945 (London, 1973), Chapters 7, 8, esp. 135–141;Google Scholar
  4. Betty Fladeland, Abolitionists and Working-Class Problems in the Age of Industrialization (London, 1984), 179 note 1;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. D. B. Davis, Slavery in … Revolution (Ithaca, New York, 1984), 498. Advertisements offering or asking for blacks or Indians were publicized in London coffee houses throughout the eighteenth century before 1770.Google Scholar
  6. See Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses: A Reference Book (London, 1963), 89, 211, 282, 385, 465, 693, 695. The dates ranged from 1660 to 1769.Google Scholar
  7. For the most extensive survey of the variety of sales in eighteenth-century English ports see Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London and Sydney, 1984), 58–64.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    Calendar of State Papers, Colonial America and West Indies, 1677–1680, 102; Butts v. Penny (1677), in H. T. Catterall (ed.), Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro, 5 vols (Washington, 1926–36), 1, 9.Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), 22–3; also Moses Finley, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    Bernard Bailyn, ‘The Challenge of Modern Historiography’, American Historical Review, 87, 1 (February 1982), 10–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 7.
    Smith v. Gould, in Catterall, Judicial Cases, 1, 11–12. Contrary to other established forms of authority, like villeinange and wardship, ‘the law took no notice of a Negro’. This was the opinion of Judge Powell in Smith v. Brown and Cooper (1706), and was reaffirmed by Chief Justice John Holt (1706): ‘the common law takes no notice of negroes being different from the other men’. See Carol P. Bauer, ‘Law, Slavery and Sommerset’s Case’, PhD dissertation, New York University, 1976, 11–16.Google Scholar
  12. Charles Molloy, De Jure Maritimo (London, 1676), Book III, 338, denied the validity of any contract where the provision of service extended to heirs.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    See The British Merchant: A Collection of Papers Relating to the Trade and Commerce of Great Britain and Ireland, 2nd edn, 3 vols (London, 1743), 1, 73–5; Samuel Foster, A Digest of all the Laws relating to Customs, to Trade and Navigation (London, 1727), esp. 119, 240.Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    See Jus Imperij et Servitutis or, the Law Concerning Masters, Apprentices, Bayliffs, Receivers, Stewards (London, 1707); [C.S.] Legal Provisions for the Poor (London, 1710); M. Dutton, The Law of Masters and Servants in Ireland (Dublin, 1723);Google Scholar
  15. [George Meriton], A Guide for Constables, Churchwardens, and Overseers of the Poor, etc. (London, 1682).Google Scholar
  16. 10.
    Justice Mansfield estimated the number of slaves in England at 14 000 or 15 000 valued at £50 each for a total of £700 000 sterling (Howell’s, State Trials, 33 vols (London, 1814), 20, 79. The Gentleman’s Magazine, 34 (1767), 493, set the number of slaves at 20 000 in London alone. Fletcher Norton, a London lawyer, offered the same London figure (P. Hoare, Memoirs of Granville Sharp (London, 1820) Appendix II, vi). Edward Long’s initial estimate was 3000 for England but he raised the number to 15 000 in a postscript:Google Scholar
  17. E. Long, Candid Reflections Upon the Judgement … in Westminster-Hall on what is Commonly Called the Negro-Cause, by a Planter (London, 1772), 51, 75–76. A correspondent of Liverpool’s General Advertiser, 26 June 1772, set the total at 1400. Finally 15 000 became the most used figure. Sharp privately adopted 20 000 as the national total. Paul Edwards and James Walvin accept Sharp’s higher figure as an informed guess of a sympathetic contemporary: Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade (Baton Rouge, 1983), 18–19. Howard Temperley, F. O. Shyllon, and Peter Fryer favour a lower-end figure of 10 000. At the beginning of the abolition debate Jamaica’s House of Assembly offered a figure for the outward flow of slaves from Jamaica until 1787. It set the total (including both escapees and departures with masters) at 13 000. Assuming that there were no escapees, that all slaves who accompanied their masters went to Britain, and that the flow of blacks to Britain from Jamaica was proportionate to the island’s share of the total West Indian slave population, the Caribbean flow to Britain for the period 1670 to 1770 was c. 28 000. What was then the maximum number of potential slaves in Britain 1770? With plausible mortality tables there were around 9000 in England in 1770. The assertion, in 1772, that property rights to 14 000 persons in Britain were at risk seems to have involved the notion that all blacks were to be counted as chattels.Google Scholar
  18. 12.
    Stephen J. Braidwood, ‘Initiatives and Organisation of the Black Poor’, Slavery and Abolition, 3, 3 (December 1982), 212–13. I surveyed the Daily Advertiser employment advertisements for three-month intervals in the years 1772, 1773, 1775 and 1783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 14.
    American colonies routinely taxed slaves both as imports and as slaves. Robert A. Becker, Revolution, Reform and the Politics of American Taxation 1763–1783 (Baton Rouge, 1980), 44 ff.Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    A Bristol merchant left his ‘negro boy’ to a Mrs Mary Becher. It is unclear from the published account whether the legacy was deemed a capital asset or a form of a guardianship. See John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century (n. p. 1893), 15. Otherwise the evidence of English blacks bequeathed as property is quite slim. At least one English master took his Negro ‘to be in the nature and quality of my goods and chattels’ (Walvin, Black and White, 42). Slave colliers in Scotland, on the other hand, were regularly valued as chattel assets:Google Scholar
  21. Baron F. Duckham, A History of the Scottish Coal Industry, 2 vols (Newton Abbot, 1970), 1, 245. Compared with runaway advertisements in England those in America show a much greater institutional articulation.Google Scholar
  22. See Lathan A. Windley (ed.), Runaway Slave Advertisements, 4 vols (Westport, Conn./London, England, 1983), 2, 352.Google Scholar
  23. 17.
    On Packwood’s advertisements, see N. McKendrick, The Birth of a Consumer Society (Bloomington, 1982), 155–6.Google Scholar
  24. 18.
    See St James’s Chronicle 30 August-1 September, 4–6, 6–8 September, 4–6 October 1764; 8–10 January 1765 on the ‘swarming’ Scots; The London Chronicle 28 September-1 October 1765 on the Irish; and ibid., 19–22 October 1765, on Negro and East India servants; the Gazetteer, 21 April 1767, and Lloyds Evening Post 4–6 January 1769 on the French. When Somerset was before Mansfield in 1771–2, it was the Jews who were being singled out for public hostility. One newspaper correspondent remarked that they ‘now swarm in divers parts of the country’. Others called for deprivation of due process, registration, special taxation and collective liability. (See The Westminster Journal and London Political Miscellany, 14 and 28 December 1771; 29 February 1772; The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 7, 20, 25 and 28 December 1771; The Public Advertiser, 24 December 1771; Baldwin’s London Weekly Journal, 3 October 1772. Disliked foreigners risked being taken for even more disliked foreigners. A French teacher was attacked as a Jew and only saved from lynching by a soldier (Westminster Journal, 14 December 1771). While Somerset was legally resisting his deportation in the Courts, Sir John Fielding was also quite legally deporting Jews (Westminster Journal, 28 December-4 January 1772). There were other parallels between blacks and Jews. The ‘middle passage’ of Continental Jews to England was sufficiently brutal to elicit a protest in Lloyds Evening Post, 24–7 January 1769. Calls for the expulsion of black people from England were rare but not entirely absent before the Somerset case. The decision itself stimulated a call for expulsion. See Fryer, Staying Power, 155–6. A decade later, London Unmask’d or the New Town Spy (1783), 45, 117, took notice of the ‘scum and filth of the world’ swallowed by London: Jews, Italians, Frenchmen, Germans, Scots and Irishmen. It made no mention of blacks. Despite many instances of mistreatment, blacks were not the prime targets of collective violence during the eighteenth century: ‘And who are all those whom the mob treat uncivil?/Why Dutchmen, and Scotchmen and Jews and the Devil’ (lines from a poem: ‘Conversation between two heads upon Temple Bar’, published in the Gazetteer, 27 March 1769).Google Scholar
  25. 19.
    Walvin, Black and White, 111–12. Bauer also maintains that the majority of the people believed that slavery was a valid institution in Britain. (Bauer, ‘Law, Slavery’, 45). However, the lawyers who advised Equiano when he was still a slave clearly disagreed with that conclusion. Major legal compendia, published both before and after Yorke-Talbot, also disagreed. Thomas Wood’s New Institute of Imperial or Civil Law (London, 1704), 31, stated unequivocally that slaves might claim their freedom as soon as they entered England. None of his Institutes of the Laws of England, whether published before or after the Yorke-Talbot opinion stated or inferred that trover would lie for a slave (compare the edition of 1720 with the 10th edition of 1772). T. Cunningham’s law dictionary, published the year before Sharp’s first major tract, declared: ‘Trover lies not for a Negro; for men may be owners, and therefore not the subject of property’, (cited in Bauer, ‘Law, Slavery’, 63–4). Mansfield himself was cautious about the possible inaccuracy of this 1729 opinion. Howell’s State Trials (London, 1814), 20, 70.Google Scholar
  26. 24.
    An Abridgement of the Laws of England in Force and Use in Her Majesty’s Plantations (London, 1704), 7, made it clear that baptism in the colonies did not confer freedom. On the tradition of runaways seeking baptism as a form of patronage, see also T. Clarkson, History of The Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of The Abolition of The African Slave Trade (London, 1808), 1, 64.Google Scholar
  27. One version of an early legal decision (Butts v. Penny, 1677), following the precedent of Calvin’s case (1607) in which infidels as ‘perpetual enemies’ might be enslaved, stated that Negroes might be held ‘until they become Christians; and thereby they are enfranchised’. (See Bauer, ‘Law, Slavery’, 5–6; also the arguments in Chamberline v. Harvey ibid., 12.) The uncertainty continued throughout the century before abolitionism. Already in 1680 Godwyn wrote of many Creoles who brought blacks to England, and fashionably baptized them. Then, taking them back to the islands, they untwisted ‘as it were that Web, they seemed to weave in England’.Google Scholar
  28. (M. Godwyn, The Negro’s and Indians Advocate (London, 1680), 37, 103. Lloyds Evening Post, of 3–5 November 1760, 433, published the following account: Last week a Negro girl about nine years old, having eloped from her mistress on account of ill usage, was brought to a Church in Westminster by two housekeepers, to be baptised. But the mistress of the girl, getting intelligence of it, while the Minister was reading the churching service, seized upon her in the face of the congregation, and violently forced her out of the Church, regardless of her cries and tears; telling the people about her that she was her slave, and would use her as she pleased. We should be glad to be informed, first, whether, it is in the power of a master or mistress of a Negro slave to prevent her being baptized after her arrival in England? Secondly, whether in this free country such a Negro still continues a slave after baptism? Lastly, whether upon complaint of ill usage, it is not in the power of a Justice of the Peace to discharge such a Negro from her slavery? No reply was forthcoming, but one may note that in this world of private enforcement it would be far more difficult for a child or a woman to escape from control than an adult male. Peter Fryer maintains that masters baptized blacks only when it was clear that baptism did not mean freedom (Staying Power, 74). He does not consider that freedom may sometimes have accompanied baptism as part of a mutually desired social change. In other words the link between incorporation into the Christian community and recognition of personal liberty may have been as implicit for those who allowed baptism as for those who prohibited it. One correspondent to the Gazetteer (14 February 1772) believed that baptism by leave of the master was a public declaration of freedom by ‘admitted custom’, but that baptism without consent had no effect on the situation. On the widespread denial of baptism by masters see the letter of ‘Z.Y.P.’ in the Gazetteer, 22 February 1772. Another writer maintained that public opinion held that baptism conferred freedom. London Evening Post, 23–5 June 1772. Baptism was used as a rite of passage into enslavement for native-born Scottish colliers. ‘Slavery in Modern Scotland’, 121.Google Scholar
  29. 25.
    Sir John Fielding described the rapid social process. The West Indians brought their trained servants to England as cheap Servants, having no Right to Wages; they no sooner arrive here than they put themselves on a Footing with other Servants, become intoxicated with Liberty, grow refractory and either by Persuasion of others, or from their own inclinations, begin to expect Wages according to their own opinion of their Merits; and as there are already a great number of black Men and Women who have made themselves so troublesome and dangerous to the Families who brought them over as to get themselves discharged, these enter into Societies, and make it their business to corrupt and dissatisfy the mind of every fresh black Servant that comes to England, first by getting them christened or married, which they inform them makes them free (tho’ it has been adjudged by our most able Lawyers, that neither of these circumstances alter the Master’s Property in a Slave). However it so far answers their purpose, that it gets the Mob on their side and makes it not only difficult but dangerous to the Proprietors of these Slaves to recover the Possession of them, when once they are spirited away; and indeed, it is the less Evil of the two, to let them go about their business (From Sir John Fielding, Extracts from … the Penal Laws … of this Metropolis (London, 1768), 144, my italics)Google Scholar
  30. The market, the mob, the general lack of regulations for domestics (ibid., 141), and the leeway afforded by London to autonomous black social organization show why it was ultimately the masters who hoped that the higher courts might give them some institutional leverage to hold onto their disappearing property rights.Google Scholar
  31. The London Justices had given the masters little relief: ‘Magistrates are frequently applied to, to cause such Negroes as run away to be apprehended; this is a mistake, for Justices have nothing to do with Blacks but when they offend against the Law, by the commission of Fraud, Felony or Breach of the Peace’ (ibid., 145). (Peter Fryer logically concludes from this passage that the poor had helped to make London a centre of black resistance by the 1760s: Staying Power, 72.) The case of Jonathan Strong, in 1767, reinforces Fielding’s observation. The Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Kite, discharged Strong because ‘the lad… was not guilty of any offense, and was therefore at liberty to go away’. Granville Sharp also threatened Strong’s claimant with assault if he took any private action and agreed with Fielding on the role of magistrates. He identified all but one London Justice of the Peace as non-enforcers of slavery. G. Sharp, A Representation of the Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery (London, 1769), 7. For corroboration from a hostile witness see note 34, below. In France blacks could apparently be thrown into prison on the whim of their masters. (S. McCoy, The Negro in France (Lexington Ky., 1961), 45.)Google Scholar
  32. 26.
    On casual notices of intermarriage see London Chronicle, 9–11 September 1766, and Chester Chronicle, 2 December 1791. In 1827 the Edinburgh Review noted that unlike the West Indies, ‘in England white women not unfrequently marry black men’ (Tapers Relating to Captured Negroes’ in ibid., 45 (March, 1827), 394). At the time of the Parliamentary slave-trade debates of 1792, ‘Gustavus Vassa (Equiano Olaudah), the African, well known in England as the champion and advocate for procuring a suppression of the Slave Trade, was married at Soham, in Cambridgeshire to Miss [Susan] Cullen daughter of Mr. [James] Cullen of Ely, in the same County, in the presence of a vast number of people assembled on the occasion.’ (General Evening Post, 19–21 April 1792). This item appeared without implying any sense of norm-breaking on the part of the couple, or hostility on the part of the audience. For a fuller discussion of Equiano’s life, see Paul Edward’s introduction to The Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vasa the African (London, 1969). Equiano had earlier advocated, without creating any public furor, the institutionalization of racial intermarriage. (letter to The Public Advertiser, 28 January 1788, a reply to J. T.’s ‘Cursory Remarks’). See also Herbert Marshall and Mildred Stock, Ira Aldridge: The Negro Tragedian (London, 1958) 119. On the rights of blacks in Britain before Somerset see John Fothergill to Sharp (1769), B. C. Corner and C C. Booth (eds), Chain of Friendship: Selected Letters of Dr. John Fothergill of London, 1735–1780 (Cambridge, Mass. 1971), 33.Google Scholar
  33. 27.
    Cobbett’s Political Register, 5 (1804), 438–9; ibid., 7 (1805), 366–72; for a reader’s objection to Cobbett’s racial hostility,Google Scholar
  34. see ibid., 6 (1804), 178. Blacks were apparently so well integrated into British popular culture that they participated in wife sales. Cobbett reported a wife ‘sold for 6d to a Mulatto, the long drummer, belonging to the barracks. Do we denounce this trade?’Google Scholar
  35. Ibid., 7 (1805), 446. Visiting American blacks spoke of a great difference of attitudes in Britain: Black Abolitionist Papers, 1, 73–74, Charles Lenon Remond to Charles B. Ray, 30, June 1840.Google Scholar
  36. 29.
    Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, 1, 176–9. Relevant passages are also reprinted in Paul Edwards and James Walvin (eds), Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade (Baton Rouge, 1983), 130–3. Equiano’s belief about his freedom was widely shared. See letter of ‘Anglicanus’ in the London Chronicle, 29 September-2 October 1764. Generally, slaves who had left wives and children behind in the colonies found it more difficult to refuse to return. (See Long, Candid Reflections, 49.) Granville Sharp recognized this private world of sales, detentions, imprisonments and transportation. (The Injustice, 28–9, 87–8.)Google Scholar
  37. 30.
    On the growing difficulty of compelling either return to the islands or to service in England, see the case of John Hylas and his wife (1768), in Granville Sharp’s Letterbook, York Minster Library, 18. The tenuous legal status of the Yorke-Talbot opinion was widely publicized during the Somerset hearings. (See the letter from ‘Negro’ in The Craftsman, 6 June 1772, regarding Lord Hardwicke’s opinion: ‘the law pays no respect to persons, much less to obiter sayings;’ see also General Evening Post, 6–9 June 1772). Adam Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence, 466, indicate that the power of repatriation was crucial for slaveowners in Scotland too. A Negro servant was otherwise ‘entitled to the privileges of a freeman while he is here.’Google Scholar
  38. 32.
    William Blizard, Desultory Reflections on Police (London, 1785), 46.Google Scholar
  39. 35.
    Reginald Coupland, The British Anti-Slavery Movement (London, 1933), 55.Google Scholar
  40. 36.
    For recent reaffirmations of this view see, inter alia, John Pollock, Wilberforce (New York, 1977), 52; andGoogle Scholar
  41. William Reilley, William Pitt the Younger (New York, 1979), 251.Google Scholar
  42. 39.
    Mansfield’s general objective was ‘to make the law more serviceable to the commercial community’ and ‘to incorporate large areas of commercial practice into law’. See P. S. Atiyah, The Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract (Oxford, 1979), 122–3.Google Scholar
  43. 41.
    G. Sharp, The Just Limitation of Slavery in the Laws of God, compared with the unbounded Claims of the African Traders and British Slaveholders (London, 1776), appendix 8. Antiabolitionists were equally certain that Mansfield had made it clear that the only choice the courts had was either to remand Somerset or to discharge him.Google Scholar
  44. See Samuel Estwick’s Considerations on the Negro Cause (London, 1773), ix, xi. All versions agree on the unconditional discharge of Somerset.Google Scholar
  45. 44.
    Shyllon, Black Slaves, Chapter 11; Davis, Slavery inRevolution, 500–1. A recent social history of eighteenth century England concludes that ‘despite the much trumpeted Somerset ruling of 1772, even the rights to own Negro slaves in England remained stubbornly secure through the whole of the [eighteenth] century’. Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1982) 153. Fryer, Staying Power, 132, more correctly observes that slavery ‘had in practice almost entirely disappeared’ from Britain several decades before the end of colonial slavery in 1834.Google Scholar
  46. 45.
    Shyllon, Black Slaves, 167–8; Charles Stuart, A Memoir of Granville Sharp (New York, 1836 reprinted Westport, Conn., 1970), 32. Even Edward Long was under the impression that Mansfield had decided not only that a master could not transport his servant out of the kingdom, but also could not reclaim his ‘fugitive slave’. See Long, Candid Observations, 56.Google Scholar
  47. According to Long’s account (ibid., 46–8), this actually meant little more than a ratification of the de facto situation. Samuel Estwick also understood that by Mansfield’s decision the laws did not allow Somerset to be either sold or remanded, and hence he was discharged (Considerations, xi). Mansfield made quite clear to Stuart’s counsel that this particular master/servant situation was irrelevant to ‘every idea of a contract between parties’ (The Craftsman, 16 May 1772). Mansfield reiterated this point in his summary. The West Indians were equally clear that there was no contract between master and man, no indenture, and no written or oral agreement: See Estwick, Considerations, 68.Google Scholar
  48. 49.
    M. Godwyn, A Supplement to the Negro’s and Indians Advocate (London, 1681), 6–9.Google Scholar
  49. 52.
    Immediately after 1772, Mansfield’s decision was interpreted broadly even in the courts. In Cay v. Crichton (1773), the court refused to enforce a will transferring a black, even though the benefactor had died in 1769, before the Mansfield judgment. Both sides accepted the premise that there were no slaves in England. In terms of claims to property even the ex post facto exemption applied by Mansfield to wages was not followed. In an Admiralty Court case in 1776, the judge, again ruling in favour of the black, drew a clear distinction between the commercial world and British law: The practice of buying and selling slaves was certainly very common in England before the case of Somersett… but however it might have been the law of the “Royal Exchange,” I hope it never was the law of England.’ (Bauer, ‘Law, Slavery’, 157.) ‘Mandingo’, writing in the Morning Chronicle on 1 September 1772, correctly located the crucial point of the decision, ‘that all relations between man and man must arise from municipal law, or from a contract agreeable thereto.’ Since no law covered any part of Somerset’s service, which did not arise from municipal law, he was not bound to any form of uncontracted service. Soon after the Somerset decision a London play had an Irish widow informing her two white footmen that the laws had lately made her third servant, a black man, their equal. (The Gazetteer, 26 October 1772.) A long series of abolitionist letters and sermons began and ended with the premise, never contradicted, that every slave landing in Britain was free. See, for example, Norwich Mercury, 7 August and 27 November 1787, and Robert Robinson, A Sermon (n.p. 1788), 19. On the equally ‘broad’ libertarian interpretation of the Somerset decision in Ireland, see the Dublin Evening Post, 17 January 1788: Tis not more than 17 years since the blacks, or slaves from Africa, were liberated in Great Britain.’Google Scholar
  50. 54.
    Davis, Slavery in… Revolution, 500. Had Mansfield allowed back-wages to black servants it is difficult to know just how the average cost would have been calculated. Presumably, the oft-cited ‘£50’ of property at risk was derived from an overseas average price, which included the cost of maintaining a domestic slave over a lifetime. However, a back-wages claim might conceivably have been assessed by using the average annual wages offered to London footmen. A footman’s annual wage in London, in 1785, was estimated at £14, plus livery. (See Dr Trusler, The London Adviser and Guide, Useful also to Foreigners (London, 1786), 49.) In 1762 a French Court of Admiralty awarded a freed black back wages of 100 livres a year from the day of his arrival in France. (McCloy, The Negro in France, 45.) It was again clear from the case of King v. Thames Ditton in 1785, that black servants without indentures were no longer under any constraint to serve. The servant in question had simply abandoned her master’s wife five or six months after the death of her master. Mansfield would not allow that such service had been a ‘hiring’. She could therefore neither claim wages nor claim a parish under the rules for settlement. Catterall, Judicial Cases, 1, 20. Other justices also refused to grant back wages unless (or until) the two parties had entered into a contract or promise of wages.Google Scholar
  51. There was no implicit original contract. Ibid., 2–23, Alfred v. Marquis of Fitz James (1799).Google Scholar
  52. 55.
    Catterall, Judicial Cases, 1, 23, Williams v. Brown (1802).Google Scholar
  53. 63.
    On the self-perception of black people as free in Britain, see the collective letter to Granville Sharp in Shyllon, Black People, appendix 2, 267. On a West Indian acknowledgement of the finality of Mansfield’s decision see G. Turnbull, An Apology for Negro Slavery (London, 1786), 15–16. An antiabolitionist letter published in St James’s Chronicle 9–12 February 1788, purported to record an interview with ‘an African Black slave now living at Bath’ named John Williams. To the question of whether he would prefer to live as a slave in the West Indies or a day labourer in Britain, Williams replied: ‘A Slave in the West Indies is infinitely superior to the Day Labourer’s condition here. My foolish Countrymen think when they get here they are Freemen. They are so, but such of them as have a good Master are fools for taking it.’ Whether Williams’s interview was real or fictional, he certainly imagined that the choice was the servant’s.Google Scholar
  54. The testimony was repeated in a letter from ‘M. M.’ ibid., 25–7 March 1788. A letter from ‘Veritas’ the same day asked how many hundreds have come with masters, ‘knew they were on free ground and returned?’Google Scholar
  55. 64.
    Ellen Gibson Wilson, The Loyal Blacks (New York, 1976);Google Scholar
  56. Mary Beth Norton, The British Americans: The Loyalist Exiles in England 1774–1789 (Constable, 1974).Google Scholar
  57. 69.
    Fryer, Staying Power, 132, 203–7, does assign an ideological supporting role to the popular libertarian heritage. An ideological constant which spans the entire eighteenth century, however, can not really go very far in explaining why black slavery rose and fell against this popular backdrop. Rebelliousness in defence of custom could only operate sporadically and locally against specific intrusions of imported slavery, like the Portuguese crowd of 1444. (See E. P. Thompson, ‘Eighteenth-century English society: class struggle without class’, Social History, 3 (1978), 154, 158, 165.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 76.
    Leon F. Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790–1860 (Chicago, 1961).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Seymour Drescher 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seymour Drescher
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PittsburghUSA

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