Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833

By John Saillant | Go to book overview

1
A Further Liberty in 1776

The first moments of Lemuel Haynes's life are worth reconstructing with the modest tools we have in hand for the task. The information available is slight but evocative. In 1753, in West Hartford, Connecticut, a white woman, reputed in Haynes's lifetime to be of “respectable” New England ancestry, gave birth, not in her own home or that of her father or husband but in the house of a man named Haynes, possibly an acquaintance who had agreed to shelter her during the birth of a spurious child. The newborn boy so resembled his father, reputed in Haynes's lifetime to be of “unmingled African extraction,” that the woman decided to leave her infant in the care of others. Her recognition of the father even in the newborn's skin and face was accurate, for the boy would come to think of himself, as would others, as African, black, mulatto, and Negro. Later in life, he would also hear racial slurs aimed at him. Haynes's acquaintances reported that he learned the identity of his mother and met her, only to be spurned; he himself left no explicit comment on his parentage. Haynes was thought by contemporaries to have felt that “the tincture of his skin” was “an obstacle to his being identified in interest and in life with those among whom he dwelt.” 1

Haynes's father seems to have melted into the past by the time of the parturition, yet it is possible that he was known to parties present at the birth but was removed by his contemporaries from his son's life. If he conceived the child in New England, as seems likely, he was probably one of the free black men or slaves living in Connecticut, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island in the mid-eighteenth century or a traveling servant or a mariner, possibly African or West Indian by birth, who sojourned long enough in a New England city or town to impregnate a woman. A New England woman could have encountered a black man of any of those descriptions about 1750, and quite easily at that in the circuit of cities and towns like Boston, Massachusetts; Newport

-9-

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Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • Chronology of Lemuel Haynes's Life xi
  • Black Puritan, Black Republican *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - A Further Liberty in 1776 9
  • 2 - Republicanism Black and White 47
  • 3 - The Divine Providence of Slavery and Freedom 83
  • 4 - Making and Breaking the Revolutionary Covenant 117
  • 5 - American Genesis, American Captivity 152
  • Notes 189
  • Index 229
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