Daughter of the Revolution: The Major Nonfiction Works of Pauline E. Hopkins

By Pauline E. Hopkins; Ira Dworkin | Go to book overview

II.
Sojourner Truth
A Northern Slave Emancipated
by the State of New York, 1828

All our ideas of slavery are connected with the South. Very few people of this generation realize that slavery actually existed in all its horrors, within the very cities where, perhaps, we enjoy the fullest liberty today; but so it was. The details of the life of one who experienced all the horrors of Northern servitude are peculiarly interesting.

Negro slavery was in reality forced upon the country under the colonial systems of Holland and Great Britain. It developed injustice, dread suspicion and cruelty attendant upon the peculiar institution. By the Assiento Treaty with Spain, at the peace of Utrecht, 1713, England, in the words of Bancroft (Vol. III, 411), “extorting the privilege of filling the New World with Negroes,” had secured with the Spanish colonies a monopoly of the trade in slaves, to the extent of bringing from the African coast an average of 30,000 a year to be sold in the American market.13 Of these but a small proportion came to New York. In 1741, at the date of the famous “Negro plot” in New York city, there were about 1,500 slaves located there out of a population of about 8,000 souls. During the time of the excitement attendant upon the discovery of the plot thirteen Negroes were publicly burned to death over a slow fire. The legislature of the State also declared at that time that “all encouragement should be given to the direct importation of slaves; that all smuggling of slaves should be condemned as an eminent discouragement to the fair trader”14

It is also interesting to note that in 1807, no less than fifty-nine of the vessels engaged in that trade were sent out from the State of Rhode Island, which then could boast of but 70,000 inhabitants.

The history of slavery and slave trading in Massachusetts is one of the most surprising volumes ever issued by the American press. New Hampshire, too, held slaves. General Washington himself, while President of the United States, hunted a slave woman and her child all the way into that State. Vermont had a fugitive case in 1808. But the brave Judge Harrington stunned the

13. George Bancroft's (1800–1891) ten-volume History of the United States from the Discovery of the Amer-
ican Continent (1856–1874) was published in several revised editions. Volume 3 addresses slavery and the
slave trade in the British colonies in the Americas.

14. Olive Gilbert, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave Emancipated from Bodily Servitude by the
State of New York, in 1828 (Boston: J. B. Yerrinton and Son, 1850), 138.

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