Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quaker Masters and Their Property

The slave trade of New England increased as its maritime fleet competed with the mother country for the West Indian trade. By 1750, Providence, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of the transatlantic slave trade, and populated the West Indies and the American South with slaves purchased from African tribes in exchange for Yankee notions and rum.

Southern colonies tried to restrict the slave imports, and “Resolutions were passed in various Virginia counties against the African trade on the ground that it prevented manufacturers and other useful migrants from settling in the colony and instead increased the colony’s unfavorable balance of trade.”

Additional resistance to stopping the slave trade came from the British Crown, which overrode the Virginia and North Carolina colonial assemblies.
www.Circa1865.org  The Great American Political Divide

Quaker Masters and Their Property

“At all times the respectable complained that the wages of labor were too high. “Tis the poor that make the rich,” one writer frankly admitted in John Peter Zenger’s New-York Weekly Journal. [John] Logan complained to [William] Penn in 1705 that Pennsylvania was in depression because England with its cheap labor could undersell Pennsylvania in the provision trade in the West Indies. If only more people could be brought in to “lower the prices of labor,” the colony would prosper.

Penn’s view of indentured servants as property was still retained. The influential Quaker preacher, Thomas Story, exclaimed in 1741 that bought servants are as much “the property of their masters, as their lands, goods, money or clothing.” Without them the masters “could not cultivate their lands or maintain their families.” Therefore the governor is “infringing the just liberty and property of the people” in allowing the servants to enlist in the war emergency.

The assembly and council added that this “unconstitutional” practice injures the masters whose servants have not enlisted, for they “must humor them in everything lest they enlist.” Thus they grow “idle, neglectful, insolent and mutinous.”

The enlightened [Thomas] Mayhew of Massachusetts envied Pennsylvania her mass of German indentured servants. These, he declared in an election sermon in 1754, made Pennsylvania as rich and populous in a few years as the greatest and most opulent of colonies.

Even Washington, endeavoring to people his frontier lands for his own gain and his country’s protection in the cheapest, most effectual manner, thought strongly for a time of obtaining a “parcel of these people.”

(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Volume I, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 117-119)


  1. My biological ancestors (i.e., I was adopted) were Quakers, John Trueblood and Agnes Fisher, from Shoreditch, London, England, who immigrated to North Carolina in 1692.

    (His father, Arnold of Cripplegate, died in Lincoln Gaol for refusing to pay Tithes to the Church of England.)

    The history of the Trueblood family in America is also the history of the Quakers, and they were very influential in North Carolina, with a Quaker eventually becoming Governor of that state.

    The Quakers in North Carolina, including the Trueblood family, held slaves.

    However, the leadership of the Society of Friends (i.e., the "Quakers) ordered all members to immediately free their slaves, or be excommunicated from the Society of Friends.

    Quakers in North Carolina were reluctant to do this, for they were known for treating their slaves humanely, and feared that neighboring farmers would kidnap the freed slaves and treat them much more harshly.

    So, the majority of the Quakers took their freed slaves with them, leaving North Carolina, and moving to Southern Indiana, where they became involved in operating the Underground Railroad.

    It was while operating the Underground Railroad, that my family history records the incident of a runaway slave who was, "a mysterious white boy who never spoke".

    I'm guessing the "mysterious white boy who never spoke" may have been one of the kidnapped Scottish orphans, written about by Robert Louis Stevenson in his famous novel, "KIDNAPPED", and who never spoke because his native language was Gaelic, and not English.

    One of my ancestors, Jonathan Trueblood, remained in North Carolina, where he was conscripted into the Confederate Army, being placed in the Confederate Senior Reserves, due to his advanced age, in a unit that guarded Union prisoners-of-war.

    His son did go to Indiana, and served in the Union Army, seeing lots of action in a Mounted Infantry unit.

    At the outbreak of war, the residents of Southern Indiana were so outraged by President Lincoln's impending invasion of Southern states, that they threatened to secede, but were prevented from doing so by the quick response of federal troops.

    All of this, and more, is recorded in the book, "THE TRUEBLOOD FAMILY IN AMERICA: 1692 - 1962", by Beulah Trueblood Watson.

    There is a very good Hollywood movie about this period in history, "FRIENDLY PERSUASION", made in 1956, starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins, and Robert Middleton.

    It's one of my favorites (obviously)!

    1. Thank you for the interesting history and I assume you have it saved in black and white.