Archiver > NEW-HAMPSHIRE > 2002-11 > 1036884272

From: Liz Boulais <>
Subject: [NEW-HAMPSHIRE] Slavery in New Hampshire
Date: Sat, 09 Nov 2002 18:24:07 -0800

While looking for information for my sons school report, I came across
interesting sites concerning slavery in New Hampshire (and other New
England states). We don't often think about slavery in the north, but
happened and here are some brief historys about it

New Hampshire

African slaves were noted in New Hampshire by 1645. They concentrated in
area around Portsmouth.

As across the North, wartime attrition destroyed slavery as a viable
institution. Between 1773 and 1786, the number of New Hampshire slaves
from 674 to 46.

The 1783 state constitution declared "all men are born equal and
This was the language that led, via the courts, to the end of slavery in

Massachusetts. But there are no judicial records from New Hampshire to
indicate that this was construed there as ending slavery. Many clearly
felt it
did, but whether for all slaves, or only to children of slaves born
after 1783, is
not clear.

Slaves were removed from the rolls of taxable property in 1789, but the
appears to have been for taxing purposes only. The 1790 census counted
slaves; but in 1800, there were only 8. Portsmouth traders participated
in the slave trade until 1807. No slaves were counted for the state in
1810 and
1820, but three are listed in 1830 and one in 1840.

A commonly accepted date for the end of slavery in New Hampshire is
when an act was passed stating that "No person, because of decent,
should be
disqualified from becoming a citizen of the state." The act is
interpreted as
prohibiting slavery. By a strict interpretation, however, slavery was
only on Dec. 6, 1865, when the 13th ammendment went into effect.
by New Hampshire July 1, 1865.)


The history of slavery in New Hampshire

As European settlers entered the shores of New Hampshire in the late
and early 1700s, material wealth increased since many of them were of
merchant class. Slave ownership, while not as economically expedient as
was in the Southern colonies, was an accepted practice in New England.
as embraced as it was in the South, but adopted nonetheless.

There may have been religious convictions involved in slavery not
getting a real
foothold in New England, but often for all the wrong reasons. In 1645,
African was brought to Portsmouth from Guinea. His capture, and the
of others, came after the murder of about 100 people in his area, but
the only
wrongdoing the General Court found was that this slave was kidnapped and

murder was done on the Sabbath.

This was not acceptable to the Puritan beliefs of the time, and he was
returned to his homeland. It had nothing to do with the act of slavery,
bondage was legal in the colonies, but rather that this heinous act was
committed on a Sunday.

"Slavery grew out of shipping. These merchants owned land, were involved
international shipping and trade. They held acreage and farms," said
resident Carol Aten, former president of the American Independence
in Exeter.

Ergo, they had the ability to purchase slaves. While Portsmouth is the
documented for its involvement in slavery in New Hampshire, it actually
fewer slaves per capita than Exeter did.

In 1767, Exeter had a total population of 1,690, of which 50 were
That number was reduced to 38 slaves in a town of 1,741 inhabitants in
but it wasn't until after the American Revolution that Exeter saw a
change. In 1790, there were only two people still in bondage, and a
total of
81 were free men. This was accomplished, in part, by slaves offering to
fight in
the Revolution with the understanding that upon the completion of
they would be freed.

In some localities, however, that promise took years to be fulfilled.

Charles H. Bell's book, "The History of Exeter, N.H.," chronicles
several of
the lives of these "Colored Patriots."

Tobias Cutler died in Exeter in 1834. He had been born into slavery in
in the household of Col. Enoch Hale. With his master's consent, he
enlisted in
the Continental Army, served his time, was freed and then moved to

Another, Oxford Tash, is believed to have been a slave who also bartered
way to freedom through service during the Revolution. To put one's life
on the
line to obtain what most took for granted proves how dearly freedom was

According to the American Independence Museum, a slave, "a Negro Boy
nam'd Bob," was valued at 15 pounds in 1779 and lived at the Ladd-Gilman

House, owned by Nicholas Gilman Sr. He probably remained at that
household until Gilman's death in 1783.

"We do mention this on our tour," said Debby Kanner, of the American
Independence Museum. "We point out Nicholas Gilman's probate. Bob and
'his time' is mentioned. That leads us to wonder whether he was a slave
or an
indentured servant. Often, people are surprised to learn that slavery
took place in the North and in Exeter. I guess it was nothing they
thought about, but it was not that uncommon."

There is also the interesting story of Harry Manjoy of Exeter. He was
to Exeter by Capt. Noah Emery, apparently not directly from Africa but
bought at some other foreign port, though his roots were in Africa. To
the end
of his days, Manjoy insisted he was a prince in Africa, and he may well

According to "The History of Exeter, N.H.," he "lived with Captain Emery

until the latter's death, and afterwards supported himself by his labor.
He was
industrious and respectable, and lived to a good old age."

The slaves in the Seacoast area were certainly treated far better than
slaves of the South or the dreaded Caribbean islands; they participated
in their
own "Negro Court" (based upon African and European traditions); often
converted to Christianity (whether through true belief or simple
expediency is
hard to say, but it must be stated that their beliefs, as old as
Christianity, were
often ridiculed in this foreign land); and always faced the fact that
they were
somebody's "property."

Newspaper ads of the time stated:

"RUNAWAY NEGRO ... named Caesar, about 32 years of age, about five
feet high; a thick set fellow; speaks good English. Wore a gray homespun

coat, old gray breeches & gray stockings ... cash reward ... commit him
any gaol. Samuel Langdon."

"To be sold by Mrs. Dorcas Bradford, a likely Negro woman about 30 years

of age, suitable for any business."

New Hampshire abolished slavery in 1789, stating that "slaves cease to
known and held as property." While this was laudable, economic pressures

were what made it a reality. In the adoption of the New Hampshire
Constitution in 1783, no mention was made about the liberation of slaves
was slave trade in any way restricted. Come 1789, the Seacoast had
a recession and it simply became economically unprofitable to own

Not unlike the Medieval serfs of Europe who bargained for their own
after the Black Death, New Hampshire slaves now had economic leverage
that they used, and used wisely. Most appeared to have continued to work
the households of their former masters, but were now paid wages or a
combination of wages and goods.

Exeter, like many other New England towns, had a vibrant and healthy
Abolitionist movement, which got under way in the late 1820s. It counted

among its ranks, Woodbridge Odlin, Henry Shute, James G. Page, Joshua
Getchell, Samuel Tilton, Ira Burnham and Betsey Clifford.

They met in the Methodist meeting house on Portsmouth Avenue and later
in a
back room of a building on Water Street. Frequently, their meetings were

disrupted by the violence of a small mob of townspeople who disagreed
their agenda. There was definite opposition to their ideas until the
attempted to institute slavery in Texas and the new territories, at
which point
more and more local residents found themselves agreeing with the
Abolitionists. Despite the newfound freedom that blacks should have
during this period, many found the doors of opportunity closed to them.

Starting about 1850, many blacks left the Exeter area largely because,
apparent literacy and skills, they could not find work in the mills
around town,
which preferred to hire illiterate immigrants rather than skilled black
Many left for the greener pastures of larger cities in New England that
offer work and greater social acceptance than in the small town of

By 1900, Exeter's black population had dwindled to a mere 30 and by
only 11 remained. While slavery had ended many years before, the stigma
the institution remained and changed the course of life of many, black
white alike.

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