A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era

By Elaine Forman Crane | Go to book overview

7
The Black Community

NEWPORT'S UNIQUE INTEREST IN SLAVING earned it a dubious reputation as "the main port of the New England slave trade." 109 At the same time, this traffic in humans gave the townspeople easy access to slaves for their personal use, and since the town found its growth and prosperity quite compatible with slaveholding, the number of bondsmen grew steadily until after mid-century. Although the white population continued to increase until the Revolution, the 1774 census indicates that the black population had remained remarkably stable over the preceding twenty years. 110 The percentage of blacks in the total population, therefore, had declined over two decades. 111 Despite this decline, slaveholding was more pervasive in Newport than one might have expected in a northern city on the eve of the Revolution.


TABLE V
Growth of White, Black, and Indian Population
in Newport, 1730-1774
WHITE BLACK INDIAN
Year Number % of
pop.
Number % of
pop.
Number % of
pop.
Total pop.
1730 3843 82.82 649 13.98 148 3.18 4640
1748 5335 81.97 1105 16.97 68 1.04 6508
1755 5519 81.72 1234 18.27 -- -- 6753
1774 7917 85.97 1246 13.53 46 .49 9209
Source: Valuation of the Cities and Towns in the State of Rhode Island from 1860-1869
for Purposes of Taxation. Together with the Census of the Colony in 1730 and 1775
and Other Statistics
, ed. Elisha Dyer ( Providence, 1871); Account of the People of the
Colony of Rhode Island, Whites and Blacks Together with the Quantity of Arms and

-76-

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A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Abbreviations and Short Titles vi
  • Editorial Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Tables viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface to the Paperback Edition xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • I - A Good Voyage and Safe Return"" 9
  • 1 - Any Scheme of Trade"" 11
  • 2 - The First Wheel of Commerce"" 16
  • Reflections 34
  • II - An Interdependent People 47
  • 3 - A Mercantile Metropolis 49
  • 4 - The World of the Wealthy 53
  • 5 - Dependent People, Helping Hands 63
  • 6 - The Cruel Sea 69
  • 7 - The Black Community 76
  • 8 - A Lawless Rabble 84
  • Reflections 91
  • III - A Dependent People 107
  • 9 - Economic Arguments and Mob Rule 109
  • 10 - A Town at War with Itself 126
  • Reflections 141
  • Epilogue 157
  • Notes 166
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 187
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