"A class of people neither freemen nor slaves": from Spanish to American race relations in Florida, 1821-1861.
This essay examines northeast Florida after Spain departed in 1821. It argues that Americans replaced a mild and flexible system of race relations with a severe definition of slavery which viewed African Americans as degraded members of a despised race, and which erected institutional and social barriers between whites and all persons of African descent. African American slaves were seen as inferior beings incapable of existing independently in a civilized society. Free blacks were thought of as aberrations: inherently inferior like their slave brethren, according to the dogma, yet feared as threatening contradictions to pro-slavery theory and incendiary inspirations for slave insurrections. Social control laws passed to regulate slaves were generally applied to free blacks as well. The United States brought a harsh, two-caste system of slavery with rigid racial dimensions to the new Florida territory.
Spanish Three-Caste Race Policies
Jane Landers' recent study of race relations in Spanish St. Augustine, 1784-1821, provides a solid base for comparisons. Following in the tradition of Frank Tannenbaum, Landers shows that slavery in St. Augustine was regulated by a complex code of laws sanctioned by ancient precedent. An African slave in St. Augustine was considered a victim of fate or war, an unfortunate whom the Almighty created and endowed with a precious soul and a moral personality. Spanish laws protected slaves and gave them rights; courts and judges in St. Augustine enforced these laws. Some Spanish Florida slaves owned property and initiated lawsuits against their owners. (1)
Landers shows that Catholic priests in St. Augustine baptized slaves, sanctified their marriages, and accepted them as church members. Both Church and Crown encouraged owners to free their slaves. Miscegenation was not unusual in the provincial capital, and the children born of these unions were often freed, acknowledged and educated by their white fathers.
Slaves in St. Augustine were freed by the government and by their owners for meritorious acts or for military service. They could also initiate manumission proceedings under the Spanish principle of "coartacion"--the right to freedom through self-purchase--and could appeal to the courts if owners refused to cooperate. The 1794 case of Philip Edimboro, a slave of wealthy planter and merchant Francis Xavier Sanchez, is instructive. As father to eight mulatto children, Sanchez might have been expected to show sympathy to a slave seeking freedom, but self-interest led him to obstruct Edimboro's initiative. Edimboro appealed to the governor, who conducted an inquiry and prescribed conditions for self-purchase. As a free man Edimboro became the owner of land and slaves, and a member of the free colored militia. Landers' evidence is convincing that Spanish laws and institutions were effective avenues to freedom. (2)
The free blacks of East Florida lived mainly in St. Augustine, yet they also became owners of rural settlements and of slaves. Some claimed land under Spanish "homestead" policies. Others had escaped from British loyalist owners during the hectic evacuations of 1783-84 to the unsettled frontier, where some joined bands of Seminole Indians. In addition, there were black refugees from South Carolina and Georgia who, prior to 1790, were granted freedom under a Spanish sanctuary policy dating back to the seventeenth century. Still others were veterans of Spain's hemispheric wars; brought to Florida to counter rebellions and invasions, they stayed to establish settlements. (3)
With Spain's attention and resources directed to wars in Europe and independence revolutions in its colonies, East Florida depended on free black militia companies and Indian allies to supplement a weak military garrison. Recognizing these deficiencies, some of the planters embraced Spain's liberal manumission policies, believing they would produce an essential caste of free people of color to unite with their white neighbors to defend against foreign invaders and suppress internal slave rebellions. (4)
There were, therefore, significant economic and political conditions that joined with Spanish custom and law to shape the three-caste race relations policies in East Florida. Spanish manumission laws and customs continued to function, although the frequency declined over time, resulting in a significant population of free blacks who attended schools and worked as artisans and laborers in a wide variety of jobs. Some became land owners and slave owners, married and recorded their unions in parish registers, and attended church and served in militias, without facing the severe formal discrimination and demeaning prohibitions that would come to St. Augustine along with United States sovereignty. (5)
Outside the provincial capital, at the large cotton and rice plantations between St. Augustine and the Georgia border, rural slaves were baptized during periodic visits by priests, but it is doubtful that either Church or Crown had more than an occasional and theoretical impact on their lives. No churches existed in the rural area, and as Susan Parker has shown, the British loyalist refugees who constituted East Florida's rural settlers between 1784 and 1790 were 90 percent Protestant, and 83 percent born in a British North American colony. (6)
After 1790 East Florida experienced a major agricultural boom when Spain decided to open East Florida's borders to foreign and non-Catholic immigrants, and to give them fifty acres from the government's huge reserve of unclaimed land for every family member or worker they brought into the colony. Within months, 300 whites with 1,000 slaves moved into the province. Between 1790 and 1804, approximately 750 immigrant heads of families took loyalty oaths in St. Augustine, a requirement necessary to initiate the land grant procedure. Almost exclusively of European ancestry, more than eight in ten were either born in a British North American colony (by then part of the United States), or in England, Scotland or Ireland. Another ten percent came from France. Among the oath takers were 270 slave owners, who brought with them nearly 5,000 slaves and more than 800 family members or white workers and overseers. (7)
In 1803 alone, 63 owners brought in 2,270 slaves. Among the major importers were Charles Ash, with 100 slaves, John Kelsall with 222, Santiago Main with 190, Daniel McNeill with 400, and Daniel O'Hara with 300. Of the importers of 25 or more slaves, five were born in the United States, four in Ireland, three in Scotland, and one each in Minorca and England. By 1813 there were more black slaves in St. Augustine than there were white residents; on Amelia Island nearly seven in ten residents were black. (8)
In 1809, Englishman John Fraser brought 370 Africans for his plantations on the St. Johns and St. Marys Rivers. The mainly young male laborers were shipped from the Rio Pongo River in West Africa (today, north of Conakry, Guinea), where Fraser was a partner in a slave trading enterprise. Another African trader, Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr., had arrived in 1803; he acquired several plantations in East Florida, including Laurel Grove and Springfield, where over 100 "prime selected African negroes" worked primarily at cotton production. Nearby at Ortega plantation and at Ft. George Island, John Houston McIntosh employed 140 slaves, mainly women, at cotton and corn production. Another 68 men were on the St. Marys River cutting timber, an activity that brought McIntosh clear profits of $36,000 for 1810. (9)
The lure of free land and huge profits drew these men to East Florida, and in the early years the colony did not disappoint them. Kingsley described the decade preceding 1812 as East Florida's most profitable era. For the African merchants, the closing of the trade in slaves from Africa to the United States in 1808 created additional opportunities.
Cuba and East Florida Compared
While Spain's brief second attempt to develop East Florida was underway, more significant events were in motion at her nearby sugar colony in the Caribbean. Events there raise important questions concerning East Florida's experiences with slavery and the status of free persons of color. In Sugar Is Made with Blood, Robert L. Paquette has described transformation of post-1800 Cuba from a "sluggish, undersettled, largely self-sufficient outpost to a booming plantation society of masters and slaves." Sugar production, with its huge profits, massive slave imports, and "brutal use of African labor on an unprecedented scale" characterized Cuban agriculture in the early decades of the nineteenth century. (10) The status of Cuba's large, free colored population plummeted in rhythm with the ascendancy of sugar production. Although racial prejudice existed before the sugar boom, liberal manumission policies had prevailed, and free people of color fit into a seignorial caste system that left them room to educate their children, serve in militia units, and prosper in the skilled trades. The sugar boom, however, led to what Paquette calls "new discriminatory barriers ... and a color prejudice more virulent than they had known before." (11)
If Paquette's insights regarding Cuba are relevant for East Florida as well, a steep decline in the status of free blacks should also have occured in the St. Augustine-based colony. Race prejudice certainly existed, but free people of color retained their places in the seignorial caste system of East Florida. This situation can be directly related to the chronic instability in the province that postponed the agricultural boom until decades later--in the 1850s when Florida was part of the United States. Internal rebellions, and more importantly, intrigue and invasions from across the northern border, stymied the promising expansion efforts.
In 1794, East Florida's government reacted to the threat of an invasion from Georgia with a scorched-earth policy that devasted many of the settlements north of St. Augustine. Free black militia companies, supplemented by attached slave units, were effective in stemming the invasion. They also provided invaluable assistance during the 1800-1803 guerrilla warfare provoked by an invasion by William Augustus Bowles and his Indian allies. During the 1812-1814 invasion from Georgia fomented by United States authorities but known as the "Patriot Rebellion," John Fraser's plantations were destroyed and he was drowned as he tried to escape the invaders. Kingsley's Laurel Grove was burned and 44 of his Africans were abducted. McIntosh's plantations and his timbering business suffered heavy losses. When the "Patriots" were driven from St. Augustine, free colored militia units were largely responsible. (12)
Two years later, Zephaniah Kingsley petitioned the Spanish governor concerning the "deplorable state of this province owing to the total decay of commerce and agriculture." Conditions were still so insecure, Kingsley said, that "very frequently the slaves desert to the Indians who protect them and also to other vagabonds of the interior, and in this manner several inhabitants have lost the greater part of their slaves." (13) From a thriving estate with more than 370 Africans, Fraser's properties had been reduced to a pair of idle plantations with only 159 slaves remaining. When Kingsley offered to purchase the slaves still held by the estate, Governor Jose Coppinger approved, saying, "it appears evident that the flight of the slaves to the Indians is ... without any possibility of hindering it." (14)
While these invasions disrupted expansion in East Florida, the sugar boom in Cuba continued without incident. Independence movements swept away much of its empire, yet Spain clung to Cuba by promoting massive slave imports, condoning lax enforcement of protective slave codes, and encouraging what Paquette calls "secular racism" among Cuban liberals to intentionally escalate the anti-free colored hysteria of the 1840s. In East Florida, however, survival of the colonial government and the plantation elites depended to a large extent on the vitality of the intermediate caste. This comparison appears to substantiate the observation made by David B. Davis nearly thirty years ago that variations within each slave society were as significant as over-arching metropolitan laws and institutions. (15)
Before the decade ended there would be two more invasions, prompting Spain to cede Florida to the United States in 1821. During the Spanish evacuation of St. Augustine, 145 free blacks decided to emigrate. (16)
Race Policies Under the United States
Once Florida became a territory of the United States, there were immediate efforts to institutionalize a two-caste system of race relations. Delegates at early sessions of the territorial council passed a series of laws that restricted the activities of free African Americans. Blaming them for creating discontent among slaves, the territorial council in 1827 barred free blacks from entering Florida. In 1828 they were forbidden to assemble or give seditious speeches, sell intoxicating beverages to slaves, or conduct any commercial sales activities on Sundays. Rights to carry firearms were restricted in 1825 and 1828, and were taken away entirely in 1833. Free blacks were disenfranchised, barred from jury service, and from testifying against whites in court proceedings. Florida law prohibited interracial marriages and made children of inter-racial couples ineligible to inherit their parents' estates. White men found guilty of fornicating with African American women could be fined up to $1000 and stripped of their civil and political rights. Discriminatory head taxes were levied on all free black males over fifteen years of age; supplemental taxes were assessed in subsequent years by both state and municipal governments. (17)
The council also moved aggressively to outlaw manumission. An 1829 law required owners to forfeit $200 for each person emancipated, and to post a security bond equal to the value of the slave. Within thirty days of emancipation all freedmen were required to permanently emigrate from Florida. Freedmen found in non-compliance with any provision of the 1829 law could be seized by a sheriff and sold back into slavery. Free blacks already in the general population could also be sold into slavery to satisfy debts and fines arising from misdemeanor convictions. In 1842 all free blacks were required to place themselves under a white guardian. When the guardian law was strengthened in 1848 and 1856 many free blacks emigrated, including over 150 from Pensacola who moved to Mexico. "It was a painful sight," the Pensacola Gazette reported, "to see them parting from their friends and native country to seek homes in a foreign land." St. Johns County lost almost half its free black population in a five year period, as their numbers declined from 164 in 1845 to only 86 in 1850. Ten years later the total was 82. (18)
In municipalities like Jacksonville, flee blacks were impressed for manual labor projects, whipped for misdemeanor offenses, restricted to a 9:00 p.m. curfew unless they carried passes from guardians, and were forbidden to congregate without a permit from the mayor. They paid a $5 annual fee to register with their guardians or faced between ten and twenty-nine lashes with a cowhide whip. In 1852 the fee increased to $10.50 and the punishment to 39 lashes. (19)
Free blacks tried to block passage of the discriminatory laws, and they later protested enforcement. In St. Johns County they petitioned the territorial council in 1823, wrote letters to newspaper editors, and sought justice in the courts. St. Augustine resident Robert Brown's 1824 letter to the East Florida Herald is especially compelling. Calling himself a man of "common sense" born in East Florida, and a land owner, Brown said he had asked his white neighbors about the precedent for the $8 annual poll tax levied by the county on free blacks at age fifteen (whites paid only $1, at age twenty-one). The common replies were: "such is the case in Georgia, an old and well regulated state," and that whites were expected to provide more services to the government than free blacks. Brown disagreed, calling the poll taxes "unequal" and "consequently unconstitutional," and suggested that Georgia's laws had been passed to "fence and shore up" the evil of slavery in that state. "Whites as well as colored men of this country," Brown said, "ought to deprecate precedents from the negro laws of Georgia, as they would from the blue laws of Connecticut, that tried witches by dunking and flogged husbands for kissing their wives on Sunday." (20)
Brown conceded that free blacks had none of the burdens that came with "elections and legislations," but pointed out that they also were barred from any participation in self-government. Speaking for others of his caste, Brown continued
If we have none of the burdens of jurors neither are we tried by our
peers. If we have none of the cares, labours, responsibilities and dangers
of civil and military offices neither have we any of their profits and
honors. But they say we have more time. This is True. But how is it so?
Why they have taken all else to themselves and left us only time as the
consideration. It is not that we would not take our part in all these and
glad of the opportunity of doing so but we are declared so far degraded as
to be rendered incapable. They would have us to pay for the degradation
that has been laid on us? This would be the effect of any taxation or
contribution bearing unequally on us. (21) At least one white official in East Florida agreed that the new poll taxes were discriminatory. In November 1824, County Court Judge Joseph L. Smith ruled on a petition from James Clarke, a free black from St. Augustine, seeking to stop St Johns County from collecting a "discriminatory and unconstitutional" poll tax. The Herald reported: "Judge Smith has decided in favour of the petitioner." (22)
After the territorial legislature passed a law in 1828 authorizing counties to impose poll taxes on free blacks, James Clarke again challenged its constitutionality. This time, his brothers George, Joseph, John, and William were co-plaintiffs, and his father, George J. F. Clarke, was the principal supporting witness. (23)
There were other whites who tried to deter the rash of legislation. Zephaniah Kingsley served on the 1823 territorial council, but was unable to persuade other delegates to adopt Spanish race policies. Kingsley addressed the council as a concerned citizen in 1828, and wrote a persuasive essay on the benefits slaveowners could expect if they continued the three-caste system of the Spanish era. His efforts again failed, and by 1829 a two-caste system of race relations was on the statute books in Florida. (24)
Circumvention of the New Laws
Enforcement of the new laws, however, would not become uniform at the local level until the 1850s. Unable to stop the new American residents from establishing the legal framework for a two-caste system of race relations, influential Spanish subjects who stayed in Florida dug their heels in the sand and fought a futile rear guard action.
For the first decade and beyond, the major slaveowners in northeast Florida were nearly all holdovers from the Spanish era. They owned much of the best land, often in large blocks situated on the principal waterways. Along with economic power they held key political offices, serving as delegates to the territorial legislature, justices of the peace, sheriffs, clerks of court, and judges. Some worked vigorously to persuade territorial legislators to retain the liberal and flexible Spanish race relations policies. When their efforts failed, these holdover planters scorned the new laws while continuing to observe their older traditions.
Anti-miscegenation statutes were ignored, as well as the manumission prohibitions of the 1829 law. Clerks of court in both Duval and St. Johns Counties issued emancipation papers without receipt of security bonds and without enforcement of the mandatory thirty-day emigration provision. Some owners freed and lived openly with their mixed-race families. Judges and sheriffs upheld the validity of emancipation papers despite the obvious contravention of the 1829 law. Even after their mortal influence expired, slaveowners emancipated through their wills.
In 1830 more than one-third of Florida's 844 free blacks lived in three northeastern coastal counties. The majority (172) lived in or near St. Augustine, in St. Johns County, with an additional 86 in Duval and 46 in Nassau. Over the next thirty years the total population of these counties would increase from 6,019 to 13,722, yet the free black population increased only from 304 to 308, their percentage of the total population declining from 5% to 2%. Slave percentages also declined, from 47% to 38%, as whites in the region increased from a minority status in 1830 to 60% of the population in 1860. St. Johns County's free Negro population dropped from 172 to 82; in Duval it climbed from 86 to 171 and in Nassau from 46 to 55. Most growth came outside St. Johns County, especially in Duval where total population more than tripled. (25)
The main form of wealth in the region was human property, owned primarily by the holdover planters. In 1830, eighty-eight owners in Duval County, or one of every three heads of household, held 1,018 African Americans in bondage. Only forty-seven individuals had slaveholdings in excess of five, and nearly all were holdovers from the Spanish era.
Zephaniah Kingsley was one of the most influential. Born in Scotland of Quaker parents, Kingsley spent much of his youth in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father was a merchant. Loyalists during the American Revolution, the Kingsleys settled in New Brunswick after the war. Zephaniah, Jr., eventually became a West Indies trader and lived for extended periods in the West Indies and Brazil. For several years he was an African trader, familiar with ports from Senegal to Mozambique and Zanzibar. In 1803 he initiated a four-decade career as a Florida planter.
In 1811 Kingsley emancipated Anna Madgigine Jai and her three children, testifying that he had purchased her in the port of Havana, Cuba (probably in 1806) from a slave merchant who had just brought her from the African coast. Anna was taken immediately to Kingsley's St. Johns River plantation (Laurel Grove), where she became his principal wife. A native of Senegal, Anna Jai was eighteen when emancipated; within one year she would become a planter and slave owner in her own right, and continue to hold slaves in Duval County until the Civil War. (26)
Capitalizing on the generous land grant policies of the Spanish government, Kingsley acquired numerous cotton and rice plantations and staffed them with Africans. He also became a merchant in the Florida Indian trade and a ship builder. A serious parent, he educated his children and arranged their marriages to promising whites in the area. His son, George, became a planter and slave-owner in Florida and Haiti before drowning in a boating accident in 1847. Martha married Oran Baxter, a ship builder and planter of Scottish descent. Widowed in the 1840s, Martha managed a St. Johns River plantation and was among the five wealthiest citizens of Duval County in 1860. Mary's husband, John S. Sammis, was one of the leading citizens in the area, a merchant, and the owner of several plantations and a large slave force.
Kingsley objected strenuously to the two-caste system of race relations, particularly the anti-emancipation provisions. He argued instead that whites should unite with free persons of color as a means of controlling the slaves in the territory. Based on his experiences in the Caribbean and Brazil, Kingsley was an advocate of liberal manumission laws to encourage the growth of a large free black class. If made "secure from insult," encouraged to acquire real and personal property, including slave property, and permitted to have "undisturbed enjoyment of all moral and municipal rights except that of being eligible for public offices," self interest would propel free blacks toward alliance with whites. Kingsley warned Americans not to close off manumission lest they "detach and neutralize" the free blacks and turn them into "our decided enemies by degrading them to the rank of our slaves." (27)
With a climate that "brings sugar and other tropical productions to a state of perfection," and "considerable large bodies of very rich land," Florida offered unique opportunities to achieve great wealth through planting, Kingsley told the legislators. But that same climate was also an impediment to development, since it formed an "environmental barrier to the cultivation of our soil by white people, whose health sinks under the toils of agriculture." In Kingsley's opinion, whites had two alternatives in Florida: either abandon the land or employ large numbers of blacks. But without a back country populated with small-scale white settlers who could be called on to put down slave rebellions, Florida's white planters were doomed unless they found allies. "Personal safety," Kingsley argued, as well as the security of slave property, depended on liberal manumission and the creation of policies which would convince "the free colored population to be attached to good order and have a friendly feeling towards the white population." (28)
An advocate of humane treatment of slaves, which included permitting them to live in family units and perpetuate their African customs, Kingsley saw slavery as a patriarchal arrangement controlled by white elites but supported by free people of color. The supporting caste would enjoy personal and property rights, and would only be restricted from participation in government. Together, these two castes could control the much larger group of black laborers who created the riches that justified the system.
When Kingsley failed to block the rash of laws restricting the rights of free blacks, he joined with eleven other holdover planters, all fathers of free black children, in an 1833 petition to the federal government denouncing the prejudices of the territorial assembly. The petitioners warned that the rights of "free colored" people should not be "extinguished at once by intolerance and persecution or any other moral or political fanaticism." (29)
By this time Kingsley had freed several slaves, including several mistresses and children from his various plantations, and had instituted a self-purchase policy for slaves who paid him one-half of their value. He later permitted his Florida slaves to earn freedom by working for nine years at his estate in Haiti. Between 1837 and 1843, the year of his death, Kingsley transported at least 53 of his former slaves to a colony near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. (30)
Growing old and worried that he would not be able to protect his family, Kingsley moved Anna Madgigine Jai and her sons, along with his other mistresses and children, to Haiti, while denouncing the "illiberal and inequitable laws of this territory [which] will not afford to them and to their children that protection and justice [due] in civilized society to every human being." (31) He cautioned those who remained in Florida to keep a legally executed will at hand until they could emigrate "to some land of liberty and equal rights, where the conditions of society are governed by some law less absurd than that of color." (32)
There were other planters in northeast Florida who agreed with Kingsley. Francis Richard, a refugee sugar planter from Haiti, left a will providing for his large "colored" family, as well as for his white son, Francis. Richard added that his "colored children will soon all reside in the Island of Hayti." (33)
Some of Richard's family did migrate to Haiti but others remained in northeast Florida. Cornelia married John Taylor, a white planter, and managed a large Duval County estate after his death. Fortune owned a 370 acre plantation on Little Pottsburgh Creek. John was a successful blacksmith in Jacksonville until 1862, when he joined the Union Army." (34)
Joshua Hickman, another Spanish era settler, also permitted slaves to purchase freedom. Receipts in his 1837 probate file record that Bella and Sally each paid $50 to complete payments, entitling them to freedom. After paying $101.37 "to account for his freedom" Josiah was manumitted. By October of 1842, Tena had paid $92 to estate executors, but before payments were completed she and four others were sold at auction to settle a claim against the estate. (35)
John F. Brown left instructions for executors to free three of his twenty-seven slaves following his death in 1835. Six years later, Mary Hobkirk, the daughter of a Spanish era planter, made unusual provisions for three slaves. Charlotte was to "be sold to some good master of her selection." Harry was also to be sold, with "his father Harry King of St. Marys [a free black] to have the preference among the purchasers." Hagar was to "be sold ... for a trifling sum not exceeding $75, on condition that as soon as she, or any for her shall pay to the purchaser the sum of money for which she is sold she shall be free, her own slave and the property of no one...." (36) Although her presence was clearly a violation of the 1829 law, Hagar Hobkirk was living in Jacksonville in 1850, a free woman, employed in a white household.
There was another provision for quasi-freedom in the will of Michael Slone, directing that Mary become the property of Thomas M. Hagen of Mandarin under the condition that she have "the uncontrollable use of her time, during her lifetime and ... the liberty to choose for herself the place of her abode." (37) One way to evade the anti- manumission law was to depend on a trustworthy friend to permit the slave to live as free.
Sophia and George Fleming lived at Hibernia plantation on the St. Johns River for decades (Sophia's father, Francis P. Fatio, arrived in East Florida in the 1770's). In 1830 she and her son George (George, St., died in 1821) owned 41 slaves, but 13 free blacks also lived with them. In 1835, Lewis Fleming freed a slave and named him overseer of Hibernia. George Jr. freed a slave in 1851. It seems that manumission was a family tradition the Flemings continued whether Florida was a Spanish possession or part of the United States. (38)
In neighboring St. Johns County slaveowners also continued to free human chattel in violation of the law. Although the records are incomplete, evidence exists for at least twelve emancipations in 1844. John M. Fontane, for example, freed Josefa and her two children upon receipt of $1060 paid by Peter Ysnarde, "A free man of colour" residing in Matanzas, Cuba. Josefa, Peter and Jane were listed as residents of St. Augustine in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. (39)
In 1848 Cyrus Forrester purchased his freedom in St. Johns County, settled in Magnolia, married, and raised five children. By 1860 he had acquired $2000 in real estate and $400 in personal estate. (40)
In 1849 Hannah Sanchez paid $175 to purchase her freedom from Jose Pomar. Later that year Charles Hill, an elderly free black, manumitted Sally for $10 and "love and faithful service to me." Charles and Sally were St. Augustine residents in 1850. George Papy paid $475 to purchase his freedom from Benjamin A. Putnam, an event occurring in 1855, long after the 1829 law and court rulings on its validity. (41)
George J. F. Clarke's life represents the classic statement on the three-caste system of race relations in Spanish Florida. Born in British St. Augustine in 1774, Clarke remained when Spanish rule resumed, and prospered. In 1797, Clarke purchased and emancipated Flora and her child Philis, the first of their eight children. A widower by 1821, Clarke settled in St. Augustine near his children, who by then had become educated and respected citizens and landowners. (42)
By the time of his death in 1836 Clarke had another slave family. His will left most of his wealth to his first eight children, but the most valuable property was to be sold and the money used to purchase and emancipate Hannah, his second wife, and her four children. Clarke wanted his family moved from Fernandina to a "small snug house and lot" in St. Augustine where his children could be educated. All excess funds were to go to Hannah. (43)
From the settlement of a claim against the United States government, Clarke wanted $2000 invested "in healthy grown negroes, and conveyed to said Hannah and her children," [because] "the hire of negroes in these southern countries [is] the most lucrative sane and simple investment of property that can be found." Hannah's brother Antonio was "to be among the first slaves purchased."
Clarke was still following the three-caste system of race relations of the Spanish era. To Clarke, slavery lacked a harsh racial dimension; it was an unfortunate and temporary legal circumstance which an economic transaction could terminate, and the freed person could merge into society. That had happened with Clarke's first family; he willed the same for Hannah and her children. But in 1836 Florida was no longer Spanish. Anglo-American race relations prevailed and emancipation was all but forbidden. For Clarke's second family to gain freedom would require local officials willing to ignore the law.
On April 1, 1844, John M. Fontane paid $1,800 from Clarke's estate to Catalina Hernandez Benet, who in turn emancipated Hannah, age 40, and Thomas, Philip, Eulogio, and Cicilia, ages 18 through 8. Hanna stayed in St. Augustine despite the mandatory migration provision of the 1829 emancipation law, and was listed in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. (44)
Judging from extant county records, Hannah Clarke's path to freedom was not unusual; there were several dozen emancipations in northeast Florida in the 1830s and 1840s that failed to comply with the 1829 law. For nearly three decades, sympathetic officials ignored the new laws and permitted the more flexible mores and folkways of the previous government to continue extralegally. The newly freed persons, generally mistresses or children of the grantors of liberty, stayed in Florida, again in violation of the law. They would find only a temporary refuge, however, as mounting racial tensions would soon make their security tenuous.
Anti-Manumission Becomes the General Will
There is abundant evidence that by the 1850s circumvention of the anti-manumission laws had become decidedly unpopular. In a decade that encompassed significant economic and demographic changes, and sectional crisis and secessionist movements, free African Americans became the victims of race hysteria.
These escalating race tensions paralleled an increasing demand for slaves that led to a doubling of slave values during the decade. In the late 1840s, slave prices as recorded in newspaper ads, evaluations of estates in probate, and prices paid at auctions began to show significant increases. Local newspapers denounced criminals who stole slaves for resale and abducted free blacks and sold them into bondage. There was even talk of reopening the African trade. It was, therefore, not coincidental that legatees began to question parental decisions to emancipate when their own inheritances were markedly diminished. Brothers and sisters of the deceased challenged wills and instituted lawsuits to re-enslave individuals previously freed by estate executors. (45)
In the classic study of free blacks in the antebellum South, Ira Berlin finds that such challenges were frequent throughout the South in the 1850s, when commitment to slavery intensified as cotton cultivation spread across the region. High profits and slave shortages drove up prices, resulting, Berlin says, in "bitter relatives, fuming over the loss of their inheritance, [who] often went to court and deprived slaves of their promised freedom." (46) From 1830 to 1861 there were attempts to eliminate manumission entirely in all southern states, culminating in laws that Eugene Genovese says "invited free Negroes to enslave themselves." (47) Florida's 1859 law encouraging free Negroes to choose masters and to enslave themselves was in line with South-wide trends.
In 1846, eighty-year old John Sutton hired a Jacksonville attorney to draw up a will to free his slave wife and their fourteen children and grandchildren in compliance with Florida law. Sutton wanted the proceeds of his estate given to his family, along with instructions to choose a place of refuge and to migrate there within thirty days. But after Sutton died the family stayed at their Black Creek home. According to neighbor John Moore, "The negroes said they would stay here and maybe nobody would trouble them." But Shadrack Sutton, a resident of Georgia, contested the will and staked a claim to his brother's family. At the ensuing inquiry the Sutton elders told the probate judge they would prefer to remain in Florida, but that they would emigrate rather than become slaves of their uncle. (48)
The following year a shocking case in Duval County focused attention on the difficult legal as well as moral dilemmas involved in enforcement of Florida's manumission laws. On December 7, a Jacksonville newspaper reported the murder of elderly planter Jacob Bryan by a slave woman. While at work in a field she used a hoe to "cut open his skull so as to produce instant death." (49) Subsequent articles identified her as Celia; it is probable she was Bryan's daughter.
In June, 1848, Florida's Eastern Circuit Court found Celia guilty of manslaughter, and Judge Thomas Douglas sentenced her to death. (50) The September 22nd issue of The News reported
The Slave Celia, who was convicted at the last term of the Circuit Court,
in this County, of the murder of her master, Mr. Jacob Bryan, an aged
planter of this vicinity, suffered the dread penalty of the law.... She
met her fate without the least remorse for the crime she had committed,
and, up to the last moment, denounced her mother as the cause of her
death. After having hung for an hour, the body was taken down and
While the trial was underway the widow and children of Jacob Bryan were jailed as slaves even though they held manumission papers issued by the clerk of court in 1842. On the day of the murder Sheriff Thomas L. Ledwith inventoried the estate and found personal property valued at $3,997. Counted as slaves and valued at $3,800 were Bryan's common-law wife Susan, age 60, and her eleven children (including Celia) and grandchildren. (51)
Over the next seventeen months Judge of Probate William Crabtree supervised two additional investigations by prominent slaveholders with ties to the Spanish era. After examining a deed in possession of the family, James Plummer and Robert Pritchard decided: "we have no doubt that they are free." Isaiah D. Hart, the clerk of court who had signed the manumission papers, said that Susan's kin were "acknowledged by the deceased in his lifetime to be his children [that] he did emancipate." (52)
The Bryan family would have continued as free persons had not white kin of the deceased filed a lawsuit. On December 12, 1848, John Bryan and his sister Mrs. Amaziah Archer, saying they were the only "legal" heirs of Jacob Bryan's estate, claimed ownership of Susan and her family. (53)
For weeks Judge Crabtree pondered the moral and legal issues. Bryan had obtained a deed of manumission, that issue was unquestioned, but he had been a small farmer, unable to pay the bond and forfeiture penalties. The second requirement of the law presented a more difficult obstacle: to have moved the emancipated out of the state within thirty days would have meant losing either his family or his homestead. Already barred from marrying Susan by Florida's rigid anti-miscegenation laws, Jacob followed a common law and illegal cohabitation approach to family.
On March 16, 1849, Crabtree awarded freedom to Susan Bryan and her children. A few months later a census official found the Bryan family living near Jacksonville, but soon after John Bryan appealed Crabtree's ruling. Judge Thomas Douglas heard the appeal for Florida's Eastern Circuit Court, finally deciding on November 26, 1851, to free Dennis and Mary, but to return the eldest, Sarah, to slavery. Born outside of Florida, Sarah was subject to a different interpretation of the law. She was sold in February, 1852, at a public auction conducted in front of the courthouse in Jacksonville. If Dennis and Mary were watching the sale, they must have shared the fear that they might soon follow Sarah to the auction block. John Bryan had already appealed Judge Douglas' ruling; he intended to collect his inheritance. (54)
Judge Albert G. Semmes wrote the majority opinion for Florida's highest court, ruling emphatically that Dennis and Mary, and by implication all in the family, had never been legally free. Since Jacob Bryan had not met any of the requirements of the 1829 law, the emancipation papers were invalid. After researching the debates in 1829 to "ascertain the will of the legislature," Semmes concluded
The conviction upon the public mind is settled and unalterable as to the
evil necessarily attendant upon this class of population, and although
treated by out laws humanely, they have always been regarded with a
distrust bordering on apprehension--a class of people who are neither
freemen nor slaves, their presence at all times deletorious and often
dangerous to the public welfare. (55)
Judge Semmes' ruling clarified the ambiguity in local-level enforcement of manumission prohibitions and announced that a two- caste system of race relations was inevitable. It is also an example of what Eugene Genovese has called the hegemonic function of law. By interpreting the 1829 law as an expression of the will of the legislature, Semmes informed Floridians that their individual consciences had to be subordinated, in Genovese's words, "to the collective judgment of society. It [the law] may compel conformity by granting each individual his right of private judgment, but it must deny him the right to take action based on that judgment when in conflict with the general will." (56) Decry it as they might, the Spanish era planters knew from Semmes ruling that they represented a minority opinion; the 1829 law represented the new order and the general will. In subsequent years, manumissions would be exceedingly rare. (57)
The last emancipations on record in Duval County were initiated by Isaiah D. Hart, probably the last of the Spanish era holdovers to die. His 1861 will directed executors to free Jerome, Patty, and Susan. (58) Hart then closed his will with the curious adieu: "Farewell Amy. Farewell my children. Farewell my servants and friends. Farewell, Farewell." Amy was a slave purchased by Hart at auction in 1850, who became his mistress and was emancipated. She remained in Jacksonville and was bequeathed $2,000 in cash and extensive other properties in Hart's will. It seems that this former resident of Spanish East Florida never accepted the Anglo- American system of race relations. (59)
In the 1820s and 1830s men like Kingsley and Clarke had risked little more than gossip and ostracism for emancipating and living openly with their cross-racial spouses and children. By uniting with their slave women and rearing their children in familial relationships of some stability, these men implicitly questioned the legitimacy of the dividing lines between white and black. When the two-caste system of race relations was imposed they ignored public opinion and Florida law and finished their lives without facing undue hostility.
The lives of Sutton and Bryan were not significantly different, but by the late 1840s a hardening of racial divisions had occurred. They had become threats to the general will of their society; if their examples were contagious then others might begin to "literally blur and thereby soften the line between black and white," as Carl Degler described conditions in Brazil where manumissions were common and a large free Negro class evolved. "In such circumstances," Degler wrote, "white men begin to see Negroes as less different and strange...." (60)
Floridians, however, wanted rigid lines with racial differences emphasized rather than blurred, as a wealthy sawmill owner from Nassau County learned when his neighbors condemned him for an "outrage of disrespect to the South." What had judge Edwin E. Alberti done to earn the sobriquet "abolitionist and total nuisance to the feelings of the South"? (61) He had freed Jessie Acker, a sixteen year old mulatto slave, travelled with her to New York where she married a white man, and then sent a Jacksonville newspaper an announcement of the wedding which referred to the bride as "Miss" Jessie Acker and omitted reference to her race.
Defending himself against attacks printed in the Florida Republican, Alberti explained that after a six year trial period he and his wife had freed Jessie in 1849, testifying to her "moral worth, purity of conduct, strict integrity, and unwavering veracity." She stayed with them to work for wages, and they made "very sufficient provisions" for her in their wills. (62)
Intent on missionary work in Liberia, Jessie had become ill and sailed to New York for treatment. Upon arrival, however, Alberti's former overseer, a white man from Maine, claimed Jessie as his secret lover during his years in Florida. Alberti said his inability to stop them from marrying caused him "a deep and abiding mortification and sorrow of heart." For referring to Jessie as "Miss" in a previous newspaper article Alberti apologized "exceedingly" for having introduced "a word which caused so much sensation." (63)
Apologies would not suffice. On August 5, 1855, residents of the area met and denounced Alberti as "an enemy to the South," and advised him "to rest beside his protegee." (64) Wealth and status were insufficient insurance against enraged white men intent on enforcing the general will of their society. (65)
Race Tensions in the Turbulent Fifties
Between Kingsley's era and 1861, Northeast Florida experienced dramatic economic and demographic changes, accentuated in the final decade by sectional crisis and heightened attachment to white supremacy. Slave numbers increased substantially, but the white population nearly tripled, growing to 60 percent of the total in 1860. During the 1850s, Clay County became a yeoman farming area with a population that was 73 percent white, 93 percent born in slave states. Only 19 percent of the heads of Clay County households owned slaves, and more than half of all bondsmen were held at only 6 estates. In the 1820s, Kingsley had lamented the absence of whites in the back country to help control the slave majority; in 1860, white yeoman allies were there in abundance.
White population also increased in Jacksonville during the 1850s, from 1,045 to 2,128. Whites comprised 53 percent of the residents in 1860, with one in three adults born outside the South. Approximately 40 percent of all Duval County residents lived in Jacksonville, reflecting the rapid expansion of the region's economy. Fernandina, with 1,360 residents in 1860, showed similar patterns.
Arch F. Blakey has described the transformation of the back country that became Clay County after 1842, when the forced Seminole exodus opened rich cotton lands for cultivation. High cotton prices drew planters from South Carolina and Georgia to Florida ports, while steamships carried out thousands of bales collected at the new towns of Middleburg and Whitesville. (66) There also were record agricultural exports from nearby Jacksonville in 1850, plus the nearly four million feet of sawed timber and thousands of squared pine, cedar and oak logs that left the St. Johns River. (67)
A record 530 vessels carried exports from Jacksonville in 1855. Reports of huge profits and of streets jammed with wagons and carts loaded with cotton and other plantation produce prompted the editor of the News to boast in 1856 that Florida's "crop is greater in quantity of cotton, and aggregate value, than any State in proportion to its population." (68)
In 1842 there were three steam powered sawmills on the St. Johns River; in 1854 there were twenty, making Jacksonville, one newsman said, "the largest lumber market in the South." (69) With comparable mills on Nassau and St. Marys Rivers and Black Creek, lumber from northeast Florida was being exported throughout the world. Late in the decade railroads tapped new timber lands, sustaining a boom of major proportions, and intensifying a serious labor shortage. (70)
Throughout the 1850s employers advertised for black or white laborers, and by mid-decade Irish immigrants were found in local crews. F. F. L'Engle's wife complained in 1857 that her husband had "failed in every quarter in getting Negroes to carry on the work" despite offering $20 monthly wages, while a rival had attracted "a large gang and is grading with Irishmen [who] are feeding on Hams and Eggs and other dainties." (71)
The labor shortage triggered an influx of workmen, but not without opposition. Dr. Joseph D. Mitchell, a migrant from Maine, wrote in his diary of the savage stabbing of an unarmed Northern man, followed by threats from the attackers "that every northern mechanic must leave town or they will drive them away." (72) News of another assault led a Charleston man to warn that Jacksonville was gaining a bad reputation in northern cities "on account of that bowie-knife business last spring." (73)
Every issue of the local newspapers carried notices of slave runaways, and in several instances chilling accounts of slaves arrested for murdering their owners. Fears of slave rebellions became common after the shock that spread through the South following the Nat Turner rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Only four years later the second Seminole war began. Blacks in the ranks of the Indian warriors created special terrors among Florida slaveholders. They proved implacable foes in combat, conspired in Seminole attacks on plantations, and escaped to remote Indian retreats. Retaining slave property became precarious. (74)
St. Augustine residents were alarmed when slaves and free blacks from their town conspired in a Seminole raid on a nearby plantation in 1836. Militia commanders in Jacksonville, fearful of "internal enemies," kept under detention all slaves and free blacks not under the direct supervision of their owners. (75)
Political passions of the 1850s added to social tensions in northeast Florida. At town meetings in 1850 speakers denounced northern born residents as abolitionists and called on fellow citizens to defend "Southern rights and dissolve the Union," rather than compromise on the rights of slaveholders to carry their human property into the western territories. (76) Any further compromise, fire-brand Oscar Hart declaimed, would encourage the North to "place about our necks the galling chains of perpetual servitude and slavery." (77) The controversy over admission of Kansas and Nebraska to the Union so inflamed local men that meetings were held to answer the call "bleeding Kansas makes upon us." Edward Hopkins recruited a company of 100 armed men to go to Kansas to protect "our just and legal rights." (78)
Following a runaway attempt by three sawmill slaves in 1852, angry citizens met to lash at "abolitionists and their tools" who were "attempting to entice our slave population to abscond." (79) New laws were called for to further restrict the town's slaves and free blacks. White working men supported hefty license fees for free black laborers, as well as prohibitions on slaves arranging their own employment and living apart from their owners. Despite a rapid influx of northern and foreign born, the flourishing urban labor force was still majority black, prompting fears of servile insurrections unless blacks could be "kept and restrained within their proper limits." (80)
Years before Confederate guns opened fire on Fort Sumter, therefore, northeast Floridians had reached a political fever pitch and called passionately for separation and even war to protect their "peculiar institution." Xenophobic fears of Northerners, racial hysteria and class conflict surfaced throughout the 1850s; liberal Spanish slave codes and a three-caste system of race relations had long since lost relevancy. The largely southern born white population of northeast Florida viewed slaves as inherently inferior and potentially dangerous. "To keep them [slaves] in a proper degree of subjection," Florida Supreme Court Justice Leslie A. Thompson ruled in 1853, it was important that
"the superiority of the white race over the African negro should be ever
demonstrated and preserved [and] the degraded caste should be continually
reminded of their inferior position.... There is an obvious propriety in
visiting their offenses with more degrading punishment." (81)
Free African Americans were scarred with the same brand. They were, St. Augustine's Ancient City said in 1851: "useless" trouble makers, "hopeless, degraded, wretched, and forbidden outcasts." (82) Largely the children and grandchildren of Kingsley, Richard, and other Spanish era planters, the free blacks of northeast Florida clung precariously to a degraded intermediate status. In the 1840s it was a prescient Mary Hobkirk who freed Hagar with the proviso: "she shall be free, her own slave and the property of no one." (83)
Department of History Jacksonville, Florida 32216
(1.) Jane Landers, "Black Society in Spanish St. Augustine, 1784-1821," (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, 1988). Beginning with Frank Tannenbaum, in Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas (New York, 1947), two generations of historians have compared slave systems in the Americas. See Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life, Third Edition (Chicago, 1976); Herbert Klein, Slavery in the Americas: A Comparative Study of Cuba and Virginia (Chicago, 1967); David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene, eds., Neither Slave Nor Free: The Freedman of African Descent in the Slave Societies of the New World (Baltimore, 1972); Laura Foner, "The Free People of Color in Louisiana and St. Domingue: A Comparative Portrait of Two Three-Caste Societies," Journal of Social History, III (1970): 406-30; Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas (New York, 1964); Winthrop D. Jordan, The White Man's Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States (New York, 1974); Barbara Jeanne Fields, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century (New Haven, Conn., 1985); Franklin Knight, Slave Society in Cuba; during the Nineteenth Century (Madison, Wisconsin, 1970); Ira Berlin, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York, 1976); Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll; The World the Slaves Made (New York, 1976); Carl Degier, Neither White Nor Black; Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States (New York, 1971).
(2.) Landers, "Black Society," 149-158; Bruce Chappell, "A Report on the Documentation Relating to the History of the Diego Plains Region in Second Spanish Period Florida," typescript, P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History [PKY hereafter], University of Florida, 1976.
(3.) Landers, "Black Society," 146-170; and "Spanish Sanctuary: Fugitives in Florida, 1687-1790," Florida Historical Quarterly 62 (January 1984): 296-313.
(4.) See the discussion on Zephaniah Kingsley later in the paper.
(5.) Landers, "Black Society," 214-220.
(6.) Susan Parker, "Men Without God or King: Rural Settlers of East Florida, 1784-1790," Florida Historical Quarterly 69 (October, 1990): 135-155.
(7.) Works Progress Administration, Spanish Land Grants in Florida (Tallahassee, 1942), Vol. 1; Jane Landers, "Black Society," 20-25, 58, uses census data. James Cusick, transcriber, "Oaths of Allegiance, East Florida Papers, 1793-1804" (unpublished manuscript in the PKY). Data in these two paragraphs come from the author's quantification of the Cusick manuscript, which is based on East Florida Papers, Reel 163, Bundle 350U4. East Florida Papers are at the Library of Congress; microfilm copies at PKY.
(9.) Memorial Petition to Superior Court for the District of East Florida, Claims of John Fraser, Zephaniah Kingsley, and John H. McIntosh, 1812-13, vault, PKY. Hereafter East Florida Claims.
(10.) Robert L. Paquette, Sugar Is Made with Blood: The Conspiracy of La Escalera and the Conflict between Empires over Slavery in Cuba (Middletown, Conn., 1988), 30, 35. For contrasting views see Klein, Slavery in the Americas, and Knight, Slave Society in Cuba. Also important are Arthur F. Corwin, Spain and the Abolition of Slavery in Cuba, 1817-1886 (Dallas, Texas, 1967); Hubert H. S. Aimes, A History of Slavery in Cuba (New York, 1907); and Roland T. Ely, Cuando reinaba su majestad El Azucar: Estudio Historico--Sociologico de una tragedia latino-americana (Buenos Aires, 1963).
(11.) Ibid., 105.
(12.) Robert E. Rutherford, "Settlers From Connecticut in Spanish Florida: Letters of Ambrose Hull and Stella Hull, 1808-1816," Florida Historical Quarterly XXX (April, 1952): 41; Richard K. Murdoch, The Georgia-Florida Frontier, 1793-1796: Spanish Reaction to French Intrigue and American Designs (Berkeley, 1951); Janice Borton Miller, "The Rebellion in East Florida in 1795," Florida Historical Quarterly LVII (October 1978): 173-186; Rembert Patrick, Florida Fiasco: Rampant Rebels on the Florida-Georgia Border, 1810-1815 (Athens, Ga., 1951). On free black militias, Jane Landers, "Black Society," 174-206, is essential. On British East Florida, see Daniel L. Schafer, "Plantation Development in British East Florida: A Case Study of the Earl of Egmont," Florida Historical Quarterly 62 (October 1984): 172-183.
(13.) East Florida Papers, Reel 145: Testamentary Records, the estate of John Fraser.
(15.) David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966).
(16.) Landers, "Black Society," 200-204.
(17.) Russel Garvin, "The Free Negro in Florida Before the Civil War," Florida Historical Quarterly 46 (July 1967): 9-17; Thelma Bates, "The Legal Status of the Negro in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly 7 (January 1928);" and Jesse J. Jackson, "The Negro and the Law in Florida, 1821-1921," (unpublished M. A. thesis, Florida State University, 1960).
(18.) Leslie A. Thompson, comp., Florida. Laws, Statutes, etc.: A Manual or digest of the statute law of the state of Florida ... (1821-1847) (Boston, 1847), 533; Julia Floyd Smith, Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1860 (Gainesville, 1973), 119-121; Linda and Lucius Ellsworth, Pensacola; The Deep Water City (Tulsa, 1982) 45-6; and Ruth B. Barr and Modeste Hargis, "The Voluntary Exile of Free Negroes of Pensacola," Florida Historical Quarterly 17 (July 1938): 3-14. The 1845 census of St. Johns County was reported in the Jacksonville News, February 27, 1846.
(19.) The Jacksonville Courier, December 24, 1835, January 7, 22, 1836; The Florida News (Jacksonville), May 7, 1847, July 23, 1853; The Jacksonville Standard, May 5, 1859. Also, Julia Smith, Slavery and Plantation Growth, 51, 107, 110-13, and 118-21.
(20.) St. Augustine, East Florida Herald, October 23, 1824.
(22.) East Florida Herald, November 20, 1824.
(23.) Florida Herald, March 25, 1829; James F. Clarke v. Francis J. Avice, Records of the Superior Court, St. Johns County, 1829, box 129, file 103, stored at the St. Augustine Historical Society; and Sidney Walter Martin, Florida during the Territorial Days (Athens, Georgia, 1944), for information on Florida courts, 1821-1845. Also, George W. Clarke vs. State of Florida, Jan. 12, 1846, Records of the Circuit Court, St. Johns County, box 98, file 58, for a similar challenge by the mulatto son of Charles Clarke (a cousin of the earlier plaintiffs).
(24.) East Florida Herald, June 7, 1823; Alten Morris and Amelia Rea Maguire, "Beginnings of Popular Government in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly 55 (July, 1978): 19-38; Sidney Walter Martin, Florida during the Territorial Days (Athens, Ga., 1944), 25-47; William Graham Davis, "The Florida Legislative Council, 1822-1838," (unpublished Master's thesis, Florida State University, 1970); Julie Ann Lisenby, "The Free Negro in Antebellum Florida," (unpublished Master's thesis, Florida State University, 1967).
Kingsley can best be understood through his own writings: A Treatise on the Patriarchal or Cooperative System of Society as it Exists in Some Governments and Colonies in America, and in the United States, under the Name of Slavery, with its Necessity and Advantages (Freeport, New York, 1971 reprint of an 1829 publication); "Address to the Legislative Council of Florida on the Subject of its Colored Population," typescript, circa 1829, Florida State Park Service Archives, Tallahassee; The Rural Code of Haiti; Literally Translated from a Publication by the Government Press; Together with Letters from that Country concerning its Present Condition, by a Southern Planter (Middletown, New Jersey, 1837).
See also Philip S. May, "Zephaniah Kingsley, Nonconformist," Florida Historical Quarterly 23 (January, 1945): 145-159; Charles Bennett, "Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr.," Twelve on the St. Johns (Jacksonville, Fla., 1989), 89-113; Lydia Maria Child, Letters from New York (New York, 1943); Jean B. Stephens, "Zephaniah Kingsley and the Recaptured Africans," El Escribano; The St. Augustine Journal of History 15 (1978): 71-76.
(25.) Manuscript returns of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth United Stares Census (1830-1860), Clay, Dural, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties (population schedules: free and slave). Hereafter 1850 census, etc. Clay County split off from Duval in 1858.
(26.) East Florida Papers, Reel 172, Bundle 378, number 21. Between March 1 and 6, 1811, Kingsley emancipated Anna and her three children, as well as Ebram, age 25, a mulatto who had been born and reared in his household, and Fatima, age 4, also born in his household, the daughter of his slave Muncilna McGundo Special thanks to Joan Peters for bringing this source to my attention. See also 1860 Census; Duval County Tax Roll 1858, Florida State Archives, Tallahassee; probate file of Anna Kingsley, Duval County Courthouse, number 1210 (which includes a will drawn in 1860); Florida Republican, January 3, 1850; East Florida Claims: Case of Anna Kingsley; and St. Johns County Deed Records, Book 32, p.135, and Book I-J, 389.
(27.) "Address to the Legislative Council," op. cit.
(29.) Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Florida, III (Washington, 1959-62), 800-02.
(30.) Kingsley freed a slave carpenter and his wife and five children in his will; as did his son George: probates 1203, Sept.1843, and 1206, Dec. 21, 1846. In March, 1828, in St. Johns County, Kingsley freed Sophy Chidgegane, a Jalof woman, and her daughter Flora Hanahan (Deed Book B, 93). Flora was not Kingsley's daughter; she subsequently became his mistress. In 1823, he freed Patty, his child by Sophy (Deed Book Book, B, 93). Douglas, Kingsley's son by his slave Molly, was freed in 1826 (Book F, 324). In 1833 Kingsley placed six children living at Camp New Hope under protection of his son George. See Book I-J, 328. See also Jose Augusto Puig Ortiz, Emigracion de Libertos Notre Americanos a Puerto Plata en la Primera Mitad del Siglo XIX (Dominican Republic: La Iglesia Metodista Wesleyana, 1978), especially p. 32.
(31.) Will of Zephaniah Kingsley, probate file 1203.
(33.) The will is dated August 19, 1837. See probate file 1756, which commenced in 1839.
(34.) Richards's free black mistress, Teresa, their children Lewis, Michael, and Christiana, along with Josephine (all named in his will), migrated to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. See Ortiz, Emigracion de Libertos 53, 117-118. The Florida News, March 5, 1847, carries a sheriff's notice for a $250 reward for John, who had escaped from jail. Fortune's property was sold at a sheriff's auction. See News, December 19, 1845. Fortune lived in Jacksonville until the Civil War. For John's service in the Union Army, see Daniel L. Schafer, "Freedom was as Close as the St. Johns River; The Blacks of Northeast Florida and the Civil War," in El Escribano; The St. Augustine Journal of History 23 (1986-1991):116.
(35.) Probate file 850 (August 29, 1837). For sale of Tena see Florida Republican, January 3, 1850.
(36.) Probate file 853 (Jan. 19, 1841). Hagar's residence is in the 1850 Census. For John F. Brown, probate file 79.
(37.) Probate file 1906 (Feb. 8, 1860).
(38.) 1830 Census; Arch F. Blakey, Parade of Memories: A History of Clay County (Orange Park, Florida, 1976) 37-38; Duval County Probate File for George Fleming, Jr. (no. 911, March 29, 1851).
(39.) Judge's Order Book A, 1-9, has emancipation records for Francisco Sabate (by his father Andrew Sabate), Emilia (by Sarah P. Anderson), Cyrus (by a "local man of colour" through a white army officer), Kate (by Washington M. Ives), and Petrona and sons Roman and Jose (by a free black, Geronimo Alvarez). P.B. Dumas and David R. Dunham were the Clerks of the Circuit Court During these years. In 1841, Richard Weightman directed executors to give freedom and a horse and saddle to Manuel. See Wills and Letters of Administration, No. 1, page 58. See the 1850 and 1860 Censuses for Josefa Fontane's residence in St. Augustine.
(40.) Ibid., 5; and the 1860 Census of Clay County. Magnolia is now known as Green Cove Springs. George J. F. Clarke and Benjamin A. Putnam were the intermediaries.
(41.) Ibid., 5-6. The 1850 Census gives Charles's age as 100 years, and Sally's as 48. Sally was born in Africa.
(42.) Louise Biles Hill, "George J. F. Clarke, 1774-1836," Florida Historical Quarterly 21 (January, 1943): 197-235.
(43.) George Clarke, biographical folder, SAHS. Clarke's brother Charles also married a free black, Patty Wiggins. See the Patriot War Papers; MC-31, 1812-1846, Folder 48 (SAHS).
(44.) In 1850 she was Hannah Bennet, age 45, a washerwoman with a daughter, Cecelia Clark. In 1860 she lived in Palatka, Putnam County, listed as 52, a mulatto washerwoman, and an "idiot," living with Cicella, 20, also a mulatto washerwoman, and Margareth, age 2.
George Clarke's extended family can be traced through the St. Johns County censuses from 1830-1860. Felicia (Philis) married a white man, William Garvin, and as his widow became a substantial property owner. The 1830 census lists her as living in the City Barracks section of St. Augustine, the head of a household with seven other residents. In St. Augustine were thirty free Negroes, all members of Clarke's extended family. Deaths, and emigration to Trinidad, Dominican Republic, and Cuba, reduced the numbers significantly by 1860, when only William, the youngest son of George and Flora, still resided in St. Augustine. See the typescript by Louise B. Hill in Clarke's biographical folder, SAHS.
(45.) In Duval County, John Haddock's 1856 probate records show three-year rental income of $1,400 from fourteen slaves, and a $3,000 jump in slave evaluation. See the News, January 23, 1846; the Republican, December 14, 1848, July 4, October 3, November 14, 1850, February 6, 1851, December 3, 1856, January 28, 1857; Gainesville, Cotton States, February 9, 1861; and Jacksonville Standard, January 29, 1859.
(46.) Berlin, Slaves Without Masters, 141.
(47.) Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll, 401.
(48.) Probate file 1876 (May 16, 1846).
(49.) The Jacksonville News, December 10, 1847. The tool was described as a knife attached to a hoe handle. Additional articles appeared in The News on June 3, July 29, and September 23, 1848. Jacob Bryan's probate file is number 99.
(50.) The News, June 3, 1848. The jury recommended clemency, prompting protests. Governor William D. Mosely commuted the sentence for three months, while he reviewed Celia's "great hardship." The News, on September 22, reported black residents overjoyed by the delay, but warned them not to entertain a false sense of security.
(51.) Probate file 99 is incomplete, yet it contains hand-written notes of witnesses and officials.
(54.) "The other slaves," as the siblings were called in court documents, disappeared. Florida Republican, January 1, 1851; "heirs of Jacob Bryan Vs. Dennis, Mary, and Others," in David P. Hogue, Reporter, Florida Reports: Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of Florida at Terms held in 1852 IV, 2 (Tallahassee, 1852), 445-456; "An act for the relief of the heirs of Jacob Bryan," Journal of :he Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Florida, at its Fifth Session (Tallahassee, 1851), 71, 100, 109,133, and 157; Journal of the Proceedings of the Senate (Tallahassee, 1853), 134.
(55.) "Heirs of Jacob Bryan." In 1853 the court awarded $900 to Mrs. Archer as reimbursement for the value of Dennis, who escaped after being released from jail when prominent white men guaranteed a $4000 security bond. Mary was not named in the 1853 case and was probably sold back into slavery. See "Amaziah W. Archer, Appellant, Vs. Isaiah D. Hart and John S. Sammis, Appellees," in Mariano D. Papy, Reporter, Florida Reports (Tallahassee, 1854): 234-260.
(56.) Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll, 27.
(57.) For these rare manumissions see Duval County, Sophia Fleming, probate file 627 (June 26, 1848); Lewis Christopher, no.355 (1860); and Mariah Doggett, 1854, no. 500. St. Johns County, Susan Murphy, 1855, in Wills and Letters of Administration, No.1, page 297; John M. Fontane, 1855, in Order Book A, page 7, and Inventories, Old 3, p. 200; and Clarissa Anderson, 1860, in Anderson Papers, SAHS.
(58.) Probate file 900 (September 4, 1861). Will is dated March 20, 1861. Hart was 69 when he died.
(59.) For materials that have disappeared from Isaiah D. Hart's probate file, see copies in the Dorothy Dodd Room, Florida State Archives. Hart's son Oscar, embarrassed by the bequest to Amy and by his own modest inheritance, destroyed his father's will. Eldest son Ossian B. Hart, elected governor of Florida in 1872, provided a copy. See also the probate file of Joshua Hickman, cited earlier, and Florida Republican, January 3, 1850.
(60.) Degler, Neither White Nor Black, 225-7.
(61.) Jacksonville, The Florida Republican, August 9, 1855.
(62.) The Florida Republican, July 19, 1855. The first attack came in a June 14th letter to the editor from "Veritas," denouncing "such dark proceedings that our negro girls be classed upon a footing with young ladies of the South, who are generally termed Miss or Misses." In 1847 Alberti deeded a young slave woman to a preacher, and provided for her two daughters to be freed when they reached age eighteen. But first they had to prove they had "maintained their chastity, for prospective freedom to them and theirs is offered as an incentive to virtue." Nassau County Public Records, Book A, pages 197-198 (April 14, 1847).
(63.) Ibid., August 9, 1855.
(65.) Alberti was born in Pennsylvania, his wife Ernestine in New York. Their ages were 52 and 39 in 1850; they owned 40 slaves. Thomas W. Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment (New York, 1962), 95-98, has interesting detail on the Alberti estate during Civil War.
(66.) Blakey, Parade of Memories, 47, 49-51.
(67.) The Florida Republican, June 27, 1850; February 13, 1851.
(68.) December 18, 1856; and November 15, December 20, 1855. Also, Republican, December 24, 1856. On December 4, 1855, the News reported migrants from other states were rushing to Florida because of high cotton prices. For Columbia County, see the Republican, February 7, 1850.
(69.) October 11, 1851. Also, September 9, 16, 1854.
(70.) Ibid., October 7, 1854. Also, Republican, April 24, 1851. For railroads, Jacksonville Standard, May 12, 1859.
(71.) To Edward L'Engle, January 29, 1857, L'Engle Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. See also F. F. L'Engle to Edward L'Engle, September 27, 1856, regarding his crew of 14 Irish, 18 native born whites, and 8 black slaves. Relevant newspaper ads are the News, December 13, 1851, October 13, 1855; Florida Republican, January 31, 1856; Jacksonville Standard, February 24, March 10, 1859. In 1860 the Florida Railroad Company had an Irish crew of 89 men laying track in Nassau County. See the 1860 Census.
(72.) The Diary of Joseph Mitchell, March 23, 1853, PKY. For negative reaction to northern mechanics, see the Republican, April 4, 1850.
(73.) The News, October 9, 1851..
(74.) John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835- -1842 (Gainesville, 1967); Kenneth W. Porter, "Negroes and the Seminole War," Journal of Southern History 30 (1964): 427-50. For a settler's account of the terror arising from a red/black conspiracy see Jane Murray Sheldon, untitled and undated memoir, longhand manuscript, Jacksonville Beaches Historical Society.
The Jacksonville Courier reported citizen's fears of slave rebellions like the "tragic scenes of Hayti," and of abolitionist plots "to deluge our country with blood." There were demands for stricter limits on free Negroes, including severe punishments for anyone "who may attempt to teach any colored person to read or write." Nat Turner, blacks among the Seminoles, free persons of color and northern abolitionists were all thought to be tangled together in conspiracy. Relevant Courier issues a re August 7, September 3, 17, October 8, 1835.
(75.) George E. Buker, "The Americanization of St. Augustine, 1821- 1865," in Jean Parker Waterbury, The Oldest City: St. Augustine, Saga of Survival (St. Augustine, 1983), 165. The Jacksonville Courier, December 1835 and January 1836, carried repeated accounts of Seminole and plantation slave conspiracies and slave runaways, as well as military orders to round up and confine the slaves and free blacks of the town. See also, Blakey, Parade of Memories, 39-33.
(76.) The Republican, March 7, October 30, 1850. The editor of the News discredited the automatic association of northern birth with abolitionism, but urged voters to reject candidates "so mean and cowardly" and so "perfectly rotten" as to be sympathetic to the radical cause.
(77.) The News, August 7, 1850.
(78.) The Republican, September 17 & 24, 1856.
(79.) The slave runaways were first reported in the News, May 15, 1862. Reports of three public meetings and the municipal code revisions appeared May 22, 29, and June 5. The slave "self hire-out" restriction was repealed in 1859, following lobbying efforts by large slaveholders. See the Jacksonville Standard, May 5, 1859. Slave mechanics were required to pay an annual license fee of $10.50, laborers paid $5.50, and female laborers $3.50.
(81.) "Luke, a Slave, Plaintiff in Error, Vs. The State of Florida," in Florida Reports V, 1 (1853): 185-96. Special thanks to Debbi Landi for bringing this case to my attention.
(82.) July 12, 1851 (from Blakey, Parade of Memories, 59-50).
(83.) Duval County, probate file 850. Emphasis added.
Daniel L. Schafer University of North Florida
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|Author:||Schafer, Daniel L.|
|Publication:||Journal of Social History|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1993|
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