More scans from The Public Notice. The one above is a poster advertising sale and leasing of slaves, from the West Indies in 1829. Although I was obviously aware that slaves were sold on to other owners, it never previously occurred to me that they’d also be rented out just like horses were (“On the usual conditions of the Hirer finding them in Food, Clothing and Medical –––––––––ance”: the latter word is mostly unreadable). The slaves for sale were Hannibal, “an excellent House Servant of Good Character”, William, curtly described as “a Labourer”, and Nancy, “an excellent House Servant and Nurse”. The slaves listed as “To be let” are also mostly divided into “House Servants” and “Labourers”, the latter being considered worth much less money, and commonly referred to as field negroes/niggers. Notice also the final item on the bill is “that celebrated English horse, Blucher”.
A similarly blasé, callous elision of the difference between owning horses and owning humans is demonstrated in another announcement reproduced in The Public Notice: an 1850 poster for an American raffle in which a dollar stake put you in the way of winning the first prize, which was “a dark bay horse” called Star. Second prize was “a mulatto girl” called Sarah.
Slave trading was abolished and made illegal in the British Empire from 1807 (via the Slave Trade Act), although slavery itself – i.e. the keeping of slaves already owned– was not abolished until 1834, with some slaves not emancipated until as late as 1840, due to various fudges and technicalities. The British government also handsomely compensated former slave owners for the loss of their “property”. This was still better than the situation in North America, where the continuance by the southern states of slave trading and keeping led to the Civil War. Britain and the British Empire was most definitely no utopia for black people, but the six years that some British slaves waited to be free after the abolition of slavery seems relatively paltry and liberal considering there was nearly a century between the 1865 abolition of slavery throughout the USA and the civil rights movement of the 1960s that finally began to sweep away the last legal forms of disenfranchisement, segregation and institutionalised abuse of African-Americans.
Here’s another example of political correctness gone mad, this time from the delightfully racist and brutal Founding Fathers for whom England needs to take at least some of the blame. Boston, 1775… New England, just like the old England except with a load of non-white people already living there, which was exceedingly inconvenient:
“The Indians of the Norridgewock, Arresaguntacook, Weweenock and St. John’s Tribes… the Penobscots only excepted… embrace all Opportunities of pursuing, captivating [sic], killing and destroying all and any of the aforesaid Indians, the Penobscots excepted.” I seriously doubt that many colonists stopped to check– or particularly cared– if the Indian families they were capturing or slaughtering were Penobscots when the Massachusetts Bay authorities were offering £50 for a “Male Indian Prisoner above the Age of Twelve Years”, £40 for a “Scalp, brought in as Evidence of their being killed.” For women and male children taken prisoner, £25 was on offer. £20 was the reward for a male child or a woman’s scalp. Girls apparently had no value at all either as prisoners or scalps, so we can probably imagine what the fate of these poor children was when their brothers, mothers and fathers were taken. It’s really difficult to do straightforward conversions of historical money to modern equivalents, but a New England teacher in the 1770s might earn £50-£60 a year, making it clear (if it wasn’t already) that £40 for killing and mutilating one Native American man was probably worth the trouble for those who were willing and able.
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