White over black: American attitudes toward the Moores, 1550-1812

White over black: American attitudes toward the Moores, 1550-1812

 

“As suggested by Sandys’s remark, an equation had developed between African Negroes and slavery. Primarily, the associations were with the Portuguese and Spanish, with captivity, with buying and selling in Guinea and in America. While the Negro’s exact status in America was not entirely clear, neither was it conceived as an off-brand of apprenticeship or servitude: Hawkins assumed as his crest a “demi-Moor” (plainly Negroid) “captive and bound.”

“Nor was Portuguese or Spanish slavery regarded as being of a mild, protective sort:

The Portuguese doe marke them as we doe Sheepe with a hot Iron, which the Moores call Crimbo, the poore slaves stand all in a row … and sing Mundele que sumbela he Carey ha belelelle, and thus the poore rogues are beguiled, for the PortugaIs make them beleeve that they that have not the marke is not accounted a man of any account in Brasil or in Portugall, and thos they bring the poore Moores to be in a most damnable bondage under the colour of love. “

“Slavery, therefore, frequently appeared to rest upon the “perpetual enmity” which existed between Christians on the one hand and “infidels” and “pagans” on the other. sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Englishmen at home could read Scores of accounts concerning the miserable fate of Englishmen and other Christians taken into “captivity” by Turks and Moors and oppressed by the “verie worst manner of bondmanship and slaverie.”

 

 

“An Entire Commentary upon the Whole Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians • . . (London, 16[41-]43), 694-95 (italics mine). Too late for incorporation in the text. I came across a discussion published in 1627 which described five varieties of “servants.” The author, a minister, used that term except for one category, the “semi belli, as these that are taken slaves in the wars.” In this context he explained that “this curse to be a servant was laid. first upon a disobedient sonne Cham, and wee see to this day, that the Moores, Chams posteritie. are sold like slaves yet.” This passage suggests how dearly defined a condition slavery was for Englishmen and that they associated it with Negroes, but of course it fails to disclose who is selling Negroes as slaves “yet.” John Weemse [Le., Weemes]. The Portraiture of the Image of God in Man . . • (London. 1627) , 279.

“The Body of Liberties made equally clear that captivity in a just war constituted legitimate grounds for slavery.The practice had begun during the first major conflict with the Indians,the Pequot War of 1637. Some of the Pequot captives had been shipped aboard the Desire, to Providence Island; accordingly,the first in England arrived in exchange for men taken captive in a just That this provenance played an important role in shaping Jews about Negroes is suggested by the first recorded plea by an Englishman on the North American continent for the establishment of an African slave trade. Emanuel Downing, in a letter to his brother-in-law John Winthrop in 1645, described the advantages: “If upon a Just warre [with the Narragansett Indians] the Lord should deliver them into our hands, wee might easily have men women and children enough to exchange for Moores, which will be more gaynefull pillage for us then wee conceive, for I doe not see how wee can thrive untill wee get into a stock of slaves sufficient to doe all our business, for our children’s children will hardly see this great Continent filled with people, soe that our servants will still desire freedom to plant for themselves, and not stay but for verie great wages. And I suppose you know verie well how wee shall mayneteyne 20 Moores cheaper than one Englishe servant.” 

“These two facets of justifiable enslavement-punishment for crime and captivity in war-were closely related. Slavery as punishment probably derived from analogy with captivity, since presumably a king or magistrates could mercifully spare and enslave a man whose crime had forfeited his right to life. The analogy had not been worked out by commentators in England, but a fairly clear linkage between crime and captivity seems to have existed in the minds of New Englanders concerning Indian slavery. “

“A contemporary account of Bacon’s Rebellion caustically described one of the ringleaders, Richard Lawrence, as a per­ l son who had eclipsed his learning and abilities “in the dark embraces of a Blackamoore, his slave: And that in so fond a Maner, … to the noe mean Scandle and alfrunt of all the Vottrisses in or 82 about towne.”

“From the first, then, vis-a.-vis the Negro the concept embedded in the term Christian seems to have conveyed much of the idea and feeling of we as against they: to be Christian was to be civilized, rather than barbarous, English rather than African, white rather than black. The term Christian itself proved to have remarkable, elasticity, for by the end of the seventeenth century it was being used to define a species of slavery which had altogether lost any connection with explicit religious difference.”

“In the Virginia code of 1705, for example, the term sounded much more like a definition of race than of religion: “And for a further christian care and usage of all christian servants, Be it also enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That no Negroes, mulatto, or Indians, although Christians, or Jews, Moors, Mahometans, or other infidels, shall, at any time, purchase any christian servant, nor any other, except of their own complexion, or such as are declared slaves by this act.” By this time “Christianity” had somehow become intimately and explicitly linked with complexion.”

“The 1705 statute S declared “That all servants imported and brought into this country, by sea or land, who were not Christians in their native country, (except Turks and Moors in amity with her majesty, and others that can make due proof of their being free in England, or any other christian country. before they were shipped, in order to transportation hither) shall be accounted and be slaves, and as such be here bought and sold notwithstanding a conversion to Christianity after wards.” 

As late as 1753 the Virginia slave code anachronistically defined slavery in terms of religion when everyone knew that slavery had for generations been based on the racial and not the religious difference. In significant contrast, the colonists referred to Negroes and by the eighteenth century to blacks and to Africans, but almost never to Negro heathens or pagans or savages. Most suggestive of all, there l’1 L.t  I’ seems to have been something of a shift during the seventeenth century in the terminology which Englishmen in the colonies ap­ tt1 plied to themselves. From the initially most common term Christian, at mid-century there was a marked drift toward English and \-..V free. After abou¡, taking the colonies as a whole, a new term appeared-white. 

By 1676 it was possi. ble in Virginia to assail a man for “eclipsing” himself in the “darke imbraces of a Blackamoore” as if “Duty consisted all together in the Antiphety of Complexions.” In Maryland ‘l–revised law miscegenation (1692) retained white and English but dropped the term Christian-a symptomatic modification. As early as 1664 a Bermuda statute (aimed, ironically, at protecting Negroes from  brutal abandonment) required that the “last Master” of senile Negroes “provide for them such accommodations as shall be convenient for Creatures of that hue and color until their death.” By the end of the ­tenth century dark had become an independent rationale’ for enslavement: in 1709 Samuel Sewall noted in his diary that a “Spaniard” had petitioned the Massachusetts Council for freedom but that “Capt. Teat alleged that all of that Color were Slaves.” 123 Here was a barrier between “we” and which was visible and permanent: the Negro could not become a white man. Not, at least, as yet.

It is worth making still closer scrutiny of the terminology which Englishmen employed when referring both to themselves and to the two peoples they enslaved, for this terminology affords the best single means of probing the content of their sense of difference. The terms Indian and Negro were both borrowed from the Hispanic languages, the one originally deriving from (mistaken) geographical locality and the other from human complexion. When referring to the Indians the English colonists either used that proper name or called them savages, a term which reflected primarily their view of Indians as uncivilized, or occasionally (in Maryland especially) pagans, which gave more explicit expression to the missionary urge. When they to the colonists occasionally spoke of themselves as Christians but after the early years almost always as English.

          Source: White over black: American attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812 by Winthrop D. Jordan

 

El Aemer El Mujaddid

American born Moor, Author, History Researcher, Modernist, 720 Entrepreneur/ Corporate Mogul in the making; who observes & analyzes human nature for data mining purposes. Knowing is Half the Battle, Wisdom is needed for appropriate application of knowledge and right reasoning.

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