Skip to main content

Full text of "... The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865"

See other formats

Book T3 P'H- 


University of Texas Bulletin 

No. 2205: February 1, 1922 





Adjunct Professor of Government in the University of Texas 




.T3 ?!!, 

The benefits of education and of 
useful knowledge, generally diffused 
through a community, are essential 
to the preservation of a free govern- 

Sam Houston 


Cultivated, mind is the guardian 
genius of democracy. ... It is the 
nly dictator that freemen acknowl- 
|edge and the only security that free- 
men desire. 

Mirabeau B. Lamar 


Preface 7- 8 

I. Introduction of Slavery into Tennessee 9- 24 

I. The status of the negro in North Carolina, 

1693-1790 12- 21 

A. Privileges 12- 18 

B. Restrictions 18- 21 

II. The status of the negro in the Franklin 

State, 1785-1788 22- 23 

III. The status of the negro in the Southwest 

Territory, 1790-1796 23- 24 

II. The Status of the Slave in Tennessee, 1796-1865 25- 58 

I. The Privileges of Slaves 25- 30 

A. Hunting 25- 26 

B. Travel 26 

C. Suits for freedom 26- 28 

D. Trial by Jury _ 28- 30 

II. Disabilities of Slaves 30- 33 

III. Relations of Master and Society 34- 38 

A. Liabilities of the master to society.... 34- 36 

1. For his own acts 34- 35 

2. For the acts of his slaves 35- 36 

B. Liabilities of society to the master.... 36- 38 

IV. The Patrol System. ._ 38- 41 

V. Special Problems of Slave Government 41- 52 

A. The runaway 41- 43 

B. Importation of slaves 43- 44 

C. The stealing of slaves 44- 45 

D. Trading with slaves 46- 49 

E. Insurrections 49- 50 

F. Unlawful assembly of slaves 50- 51 

G. Punishment of slaves 51- 52 

VI. Title of Slaves 52- 55 

VII. The Law of Increase 55- 56 

^ VIII. The Legal Status of the Slave 56- 58 

III. Economics of Slavery in Tennessee 59- 79 

I. Slavery an Expression of the Soil 59- 64 

II. The Management of the Plantation 64- 72 

III. Was Slavery Profitable in Tennessee? 72- 79 

IV. Anti-Slavery Societies 80-101 

I. The Tennessee Manumission Society 80- 89 

II. The Humane Protecting Society 89 

III. The Emancipation Labor Society 89- 91 

4 Contents 

IV. The Moral, Religious Manumission Society 

of West Tennessee 91- 94 

V. The Tennessee Colonization Society 94-101 

V. The Religious and Social Aspects of Slavery 102-152 

1. The Methodists 104-125 

II. The Baptists 125-131 

III. Cumberland Presbyterians 131-136 

IV. The Friends 136-139 

V. The Presbyterians 139-148 

VI. The Episcopalians 148-152 

VI. The Legal Status of the Free Negro 153-175 

I. The Establishment of a Policy 153-160 

A. The policy of North Carolina 153 

B. The policy of Tennessee in 1831 153 

C. Changes in the policy from 1831 to 

1865 153-160 

II. System of Registration of Free Negroes.... 161-162 

III. Protection of Free Negroes 162 

IV. Suffrage for Free Negroes 162-173 

A. In North Carolina 162-164 

B. In the Convention of 1796 164-167 

C. From 1796 to 1834 167-168 

D. Its abolition by the Convention of 

1834 168-173 

V. Limitations upon the freedom of free 

negroes 173 

VI. The Status of the Free Negro 174-175 

Vn. Abolition 176-198 

I. Private Abolition 176-180 

A. Methods 176-179 

(1) By Deed. 

(2) By Will. 

(3) By Bill of Sale. 

(4) By Implication. 

(5) By Effect of Foreign Laws. 

B. E.xtent of Emancipation in Tennessee 179-180 
II. Anti-slavery Leaders 180-185 

III. Abolition Literature 185-187 

IV. Petitions to the Legislature for Abolition.... 187-189 
V. Abolition in the Convention of 1934 189-195 

VI. .\b()lition Sentiment after 1834 195-198 

VIII. Conclusions 199-202 

IX. Bibliography 202-209 

Contents 5 

X. Appendices 209-213 

A. Anti-Slavery Societies of Tennessee 209 

B. Tennessee Colonization Society 209 

C. Anti-Slavery Leaders in Tennessee 210 

D. List of Emigrants 210-211 

E. Vice-President of American Colonization So- 

ciety from Tennessee 211 

F. Comparative List of Manumission Societies 

and Members in the United States 211 

G. Slave and Free Negro Population in Tennessee 212 
H. Comparative Value of Land and Slaves in the 

Three Divisions of Tennessee, 1859 212 

L Approximate Value of Property, Slaves, Land, 

and Cotton in Tennessee, 1859 212 

J. Classification of Slave-holders in Tennessee 
and the United States, on the basis of num- 
ber of slaves held, 1860 213 


This work was undertaken to discover the exact status 
of the negro in one of the border states. An effort has 
been made to give definite information as to the legal, social, 
economic, and religious condition of the negro from his in- 
troduction into slavery in Colonial Western North Carolina 
to the abolition of slavery in Tennessee in 1865. 

The study reveals the struggles of the slave from a status 
of servitude under the common law through the institution 
of slavery regulated by an extensive slave-code into the 
final condition of an almost helpless citizen with a responsi- 
bility for which he was only partially prepared. 

The status of the free negro is also established in his rela- 
tions to both the slave and the whites. It was rather dis- 
appointing to find that the free negro was more disadvan- 
tageously situated than the slave. He never attained either 
civil or political equality, although he exercised the suf- 
frage until 1834. He was subject to a special code different 
from either the slave code or the regular code. 

It is clear, however, that the negro, whether slave or free, 
was making progress. He was receiving an industrial 
training without which he could never have sustained him- 
self without help, when freedom came. His training for 
active participation in the body politic was negligible. He 
was taught the lesson of being obedient to law. 

A constructive part of the study is the disclosure of a 
large body of loyal friends of the negro in all his stages of 
development. These consisted of not only the abolitionists, 
the Friends, and the anti-slavery forces generally, but of 
more conservative individuals who saw that the negro could 
be fitted for freedom only by a gradual process. The courts 
of the state deserve special mention in this connection. 

The study has been a diflicult one to make because of the 
scarcity of the sources and the deplorable condition of those 
that were available. The county records of Tennessee have 
either been burned, thrown away, or thrown together in 
heaps in the basement of county court houses. The state 

8 University' of Texas Bulletin 

archives are in the attic of the Tennessee Capitol, covered 
with dust, and are practically inaccessible for any thorough 
study. The statutes of the state, records of courts, reports 
of anti-slavery societies, church minutes, petitions, slave 
codes, periodicals, travels, reminiscences, and newspapers 
are the principal sources consulted. A goodly number of 
general, state, and church histories and biographies proved 
useful for general information. 

The work was begun under the direction of Professors 
Jernegan and Dodd of the University of Chicago, and con- 
tinued under the guidance of Professor Albert Bushnell Hart 
of Harvard, Professor U. B. Phillips of the University of 
Michigan, and Professor William A. Dunning of Columbia 
University. Professor B. B. Kendrick of Columbia Uni- 
versity was especially helpful in organizing the material. 
But for the stimulating and sympathetic assistance of these 
men. the study could not have been completed. The author 
alone is responsible for any errors of fact and the con- 

Caleb Perry Patterson. 

The University of Texas, Austin, Texas. 



The introduction of slavery into Tennessee was a part of 
the westward movement of colonization. It had passed the 
experimental stage of its development in North Carolina 
before Tennessee acquired an independent political exist- 
ence.' Its economic, social, and legal aspects had largely 
been determined before Tennessee was even settled.- As a 
system of labor, it had proved a valuable adjunct to the 
sturdy pioneers in converting the wilderness of North Caro- 
lina into a growing community that began immediately to 
look forward to statehood.' As a social institution, it had 
been left primarily to the regulation of custom. As a prob- 
lem of government, an elaborate code had been enacted for 
its control. Its establishment and regulation in North Car- 
olina prior to 1790 constitute, therefore, the genesis of this 

Negro slaves were brought into North Carolina in 166."] 
by Virginia immigrants who planted a settlement on the 
Albemarle River.^ A group of more thrifty Virginians, 
with a large number of slaves, settled in the central part of 
the state about the middle of the eighteenth century.^' A 
number of small farmers came to the western part of the 
state with their slaves at about the same time." It is im- 

iTennessee belonged to Virginia from 1607 to 1663, to Carolina 
from 1663 to 1693, and to North Carolina from 1693 to 1790. Gar- 
rett, W. R., and Goodpasture, A. V., History of Tennessee, p. 14. 

-The first settlements in Tennessee were made in 1769 and 1772. 
Ibid., pp. 49-52. 

■■'•The settlements of western North Carolina became the State of 
Franklin in 1785, the Southwest Territory in 1790, and the State of 
Tennessee in 1796. Ibid., pp. 91, 105, and 127. 

*Doyle, J. A., The English Colonies in America, I, 331. 

'^^Bassett, John Spencer, Johns Hopkins University Studies, Vol. 14. 
p. 18. 

'■Ibid., p. 19. 

10 Universitu of Texas Bulletin 

possible to state the exact number of slaves owned by these 
early settlers. 

The opportuneness of these settlements is shown by a 
number of conditions. The contest between negro slavery 
and white servitude had been settled in favor of slavery. 
The Tuscorora Indians, the implacable enemies of negroes, 
were driven out of the colony in 1772. The moral evils of 
slavery had not appeared.' The English government in 
1663, by chartering the Royal African Company to engage 
in the slave trade, became interested in the development of 
slavery, and, thereafter, discouraged the importation of 
indented servants into the colonies in order that this com- 
pany might have a larger market for slaves."' It was early 
recognized that the industrial life of the colonies offered 
practically no place to the white servant at the expiration 
of his indenture. He was not financially able to purchase 
land and white servants or negro slaves, necessary to farm- 
ing, nor could he find employment in the villages and small 
towns, because they were "not sufficiently industrialized at 
this time to offer such opportunities. 

These influences produced a rapid increase in the slave 
population of the colonies. In 1709, Rev. John Adams, a 
missionary, reported 800 slaves in North Carolina.' In 
1717, there were 1,100 slaves out of a taxable population of 
2,000."^ Governor Burrington stated that there were 6,000 
in 1730." The census of 1754 showed a population of 9,128 
slaves. In 1756, there were 10,800 negro taxables and as 
the ratio of taxable negroes (those of the age of twelve 
and above) to the total negro population was about ten to 
eighteen, there must have been, at this time, approximately 
20,000 slaves in the colony. There were 39,000 in 1767.'- 

"Doyle, I, 389. 

"Colonial Entry Book, No. Ixxxii, p. 129. (Quoted bv Dovle, I, 

■'Bassett, Op. Cit., p. 20. 
'"N. C. Col. Records, II, 17. 
I'Ibid., V. 320. 
'-Ibid.. VII. r)391. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 11 

It is probable that the first slave was brought into Ten- 
nessee in 1766.' ■• There are court records which show that 
slaves were a part of an estate in Washington County in 
1788.^-^ When John Sevier moved to Nollichucky in 1788, 
he owned slaves.' • James Robertson brought a "negro fel- 
low" to Nashville in 1119^-' John Donelson was accom- 
panied by negroes on his famous voyage to Nashville in the 
winter of 1779-80.^ ■ A court record, dated November, 1788, 
at Jonesboro, Tennessee, shows that Andrew Jackson owned 
a slave when he was only twenty-one years of age.'* On the 
sixth of September, 1794, a negro belonging to Peter Turner 
was stolen by the Indians near the Sumner Court House.^^ 
Miss Jane Thomas, who came with her parents to Nashville 
in 1804, tells an interesting story of a prominent negro, who 
was highly regarded by the whites.^" There was also in 
Nashville in 1805, a famous "Black Bob" who ran a tavern. 
So it is seen that slaves accompanied the westward move- 
ment into Tennessee, and that some of them became rather 
prominent free negroes. In 1796, when the census of the 
Southwest Territory was taken to ascertain if it contained 
sufficient inhabitants to be admitted into the Union as a 
state, it had a population of 77,262, of which 10,613 were 
slaves.^' The population of East Tennessee was 65,339, 
of which twelve and one-half per cent were slaves. The 

isHale, W. J., and Merritt, D. L., History of Tennessee, II, 292. 

i4"A bill of sale from Micajah to Andrew Jackson, Esquire, for a 
negro woman named Nancy about eighteen or twenty years of age 
was proven in open court by the oath of David Allison, a subscribing 
witness, and ordered to be recorded." Record of the Court of Pleas 
and Quarter Sessions, Jonesboro, Tennessee, for November Term, 

i^Haywood, John, The Civil and Political History of the State of 

Tennessee, 406. 

i«(He) "was a very prominent negro. He had a garden, and sup- 
plied a great many people with vegetables. His oldest daughter mar- 
ried Graham, a barber. She had a big wedding and invited all the 
prominent white people in town, and they all went. He was a very 
respectable, upright, humble negro. General Andrew Jackson at- 
tended the wedding, and Dr. McNairy danced the reel with the bride." 
Hale and Merritt, II. 293. 

I'Ramsey, J. G. M., The Annals of Tennessee, 648. 

12 University of Texas Bulletin 

population of West Tennessee (now Middle Tennessee) was 
11,824, of which twenty per cent were slaves,'^ 

The legal basis of slavery developed contemporary with 
the expansion of settlement toward the western part of the 
colony. The famous law of 1741 is regarded as the basis 
of the slave code of North Carolina, although the Act of 
1715 marks the beginning of slave legislation in this colony. 
The laws of North Carolina were, in 1790, made the legal 
basis of the government of the Southwest Territory,^^ which 
became the State of Tennessee in 1796. These laws consti- 
tute the beginnings of the slave code of Tennessee. The com- 
mon law status of the negro was, in this introductory period, 
gradually changed to a statutory basis. This development 
took, primarily, the form of granting privileges to, and plac- 
ing restrictions upon, the negro. There were three political 
organizations that participated in this development : North 
Carolina, the State of Franklin, and the Southwest Terri- 

I. The Status of the Negro in North Carolina from 


A. privileges — 

1. Hunting: Slaves were permitted to hunt on their 
masters' plantations, but, by the Act of 1729, were prohib- 
ited from hunting elsewhere unless they were accompanied 
by a white man.-" If the slaves violated this restriction, the 
master paid a fine of twenty shillings to the owner of the 
land on which the slaves were hunting. Slaves were not 
permitted to be armed in any way, or hunt anywhere, un- 
less they held a certificate from their master, granting this 
privilege. Any citizen could seize an armed slave and de- 
liver him to a constable whose duty it was to administer 
twenty lashes on the slave's naked back. The master was 
charged a fee on recovering such a slave. -^ 

'■-Hale and Merritt, II, 294. 

"'Iredell, James, Laws of State of North Carolina, p. 85. 

•;"Acts of G. A. of N. C, 1729, Ch. 5, Sec. 7. 

-'Acts of 1741, Ch. 24. Sec. 40. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 13 

The master was permitted to send a slave on business 
missions, or to designate one slave to hunt on his plantation, 
to care for his stock, or to kill game for his family ; but this 
could only be done by the master's securing, from the Chair- 
man of the County Court, a permit which specified the slave 
that was granted such privileges. This was an ineffectual 
regulation, and in 1753, the master was required to give 
bond to the County Court, with good security, to guarantee 
the county against damages that might be done by a slave 
enjoying any special privileges.-- Such permission was 
granted only during the time of cultivation or harvesting 
of crops. 

This act empowered the justices of the county courts to 
district their counties and appoint three free-holders as 
searchers in each district, who, under a very strict oath,'-- 
were to disarm the slaves of their district. These persons 
were exempted from services as constables, jurors, on the 
roads, and in the militia, and from the payment of county 
and parish taxes. -^ This legislation laid the foundation 
for the patrol system of North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Slaves were especially prohibited from killing wild deer, 
either on their own initiative or by command of their 
masters or overseers.-"' For violation of this inhibition, 
they suffered punishment in the first instance, and their 
masters or overseers in the second. This prohibition was 
constantly strengthened by later legislation.-" These re- 
strictions were intended to prevent damages to crops, and to 
limit the opportunities of the slaves to run away and 
organize insurrections. By these acts, masters were made 

2-'Acts of 1753, Ch. VI, Sees. 2-3. 

•■i^^This oath read: "I, A. B., do swear that I will, as searcher for 
g-uns, swords, and other weapons among the slaves of my district, 
faithfully, and as privately as I can, discharge the trust reposed in 
me, as the law directs, to the best of my power. So help me God." 
Acts of 1753, Ch. VI, Sec. 4. 

■i^Acts of 1753, Ch. VI, Sec. 6. 

2'^^Acts of 1738, Ch. X, Sees. 1-3. . 

-•fiActs of 1745, Ch. 3, Sec. 3; Acts of 1768, Ch. 13, Sec. 2; Acts of 
1784, Ch. 33, Sec. 2. 

14 University of Texas Bulletin , 

very largely responsible for the peace and welfare of the 

2. Travel: The slave was permitted to travel, in the 
daytime, "the most usual and accustomed road" ; but he sub- 
jected himself to a whipping, not exceeding forty lashes, if 
he violated this restriction.-' He was not permitted to 
travel at night or visit the quarters of other slaves. He was 
subject to forty lashes, and the visited slave twenty lashes, 
for violation of this regulation. Masters, however, were 
not prohibited from sending their slaves on business mis- 
sions with written permits. In 1741, an exception to the 
above regulation was made for negroes wearing liveries.-* 

3. Possession of Propertu: Slaves at first were per- 
mitted, not by law but by custom, to own horses, hogs, cattle, 
sheep, poultry and to cultivate small areas for their own 
use. Thej' frequently acquired sufficient property to buy 
themselves. They were protected from professional traders 
by law.-'' It soon developed, however, that this privilege 
increased their disposition to steal, and multiplied their 
opportunities of contact with outsiders. The accessibility 
of plantations by means of creeks, bays, and rivers stim- 
ulated illicit trade. This situation finally caused them to 
be prohibited by law from owning property.'*^ 

4. Protection: The Locke Constitution of 1669 for the 
Carolinas stated that "Every freeman of Carolina shall have 
absolute power and authority over his slaves, of what opin- 

-"Acts of 1729, Ch. 5, Sec. 8. 

-■'^Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sec. 43. 

-•'Anyone tradinjr with slaves "without the license or consent in 
writinj? under the head of his or her or their master or owner... 
shall forfeit treble the value of the thing: bouprht, sold, or traded, 
trucked or borrowed or lent." .\cts of 1715, Ch. 46, Sec. 10. 

•'"No slave was "pemiitted, on any pretense whatever, to raise 
any horses, cattle or hopfs; and all horses, cattle and hogs that, six 
months from the date thei-eof, shall belong to any slave, or of any 
slave's work in this government, shall be seized and sold by th*; 
church wardens of the Parish where such horses, cattle or hogs shall 
be, and the profit thereof be applied, one-half to the use of the said 
Parish and the other half to the Informer." Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, 
Sec. 44; see also Acts of 1771), Ch. 5, Sec. 6. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 15 

ion or religion soever."'^ This was done to counteract the 
theory that a Christian could not be a slave. This estab- 
lished the government of the master over the slave. The 
master became the agent of the government in the control 
of his slaves, and it became the government's duty to see 
that its agents dealt humanely with the slaves. The gov- 
ernors of North Carolina tried in vain to secure the passage 
of laws that would offer the proper protection to slaves.-- 
In 1754, Governor Dobbs made an unsuccessful effort to 
accomplish this result. ^'^ . In 1773, William Hooper secured 
the passage of a bill to prevent the wilful and malicious 
killing of slaves, but the Governor vetoed it because "it was 
inconsistent with His Majesty's instruction to pass it, as it 
does not reserve the fines imposed by it pursuant to their 
instruction."-* In 1774 it was made a criminal offense to be 
guilty of willingly and maliciously killing a slave. The 
penalty for first offense was twelve months' imprisonment, 
and death without benefit of clergy for the second offense.""' 
5. Trial of Slaves: A special courr\vas established for 
the trial of slaves. In 1741, a court of two or more justices 
of the peace and four free-holders, who were slave-holders, 
was empowered to try all manner of crimes and offenses 
committed by slaves.'" Negroes, mulattoes, and Indians, 
bond or free, could be witnesses. The chairman of the 
court always charged the witness before the examination to 
tell the truth.-'" The master of the slave could appear at his 
trial and defend him before the court.-'" In 1783, a single 
justice was constituted a court for the trial of non-capital 
offenses.^^ For capital offenses, four slave-holders re- 
mained a part of the court as provided by the Act of 1741. 

siActs of 1741, Ch. 31, Sec. 2. 

s--Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sec. 48. 

:^=Ibid., Sec. 51. 

■nbid., Sec. 52. 

■■■•■Acts of 1774, Ch. 31. Sec. 2. 

36Acts of 1741, Sec. 48, Ch. 24. 

-Ibid., Sec. 51. 

ssibid.. Sec. 52. 

s^Acts of 1783, Ch. 14, Sec. 2. 


16 University' of Texas Bulletin 

This difference in the mode of the trial of the two classes of 
offenses is evidently due to economic influences. 

Since this court was not one of the regular courts, it sat 
at any time and thus prevented the master from suffering 
excessive loss of the slave's time between terms of court. 
This court had rather free procedure and broad juris- 

6. Witness: The slave was permitted to be a witness in 
the trial of other slaves, free negroes, and mulattoes.^^ He 
was not permitted to give testimony in court in a case to 
which a white man was a party.*- His paganism was a 
partial basis for denying him this privilege.' • His moral 
depravity and social prejudice were, undoubtedly, the main 
forces in making this restriction a universal law of slavery. 

The slave was cautioned against false swearing because 
he generally had little regard for his word. If he was con- 
victed of false swearing, one ear was nailed to the pillory 
for one hour and then cut off. The other ear was treated 
in the same way ; and to complete this inhuman punishment. 
the slave was given thirty-nine lashes on his back." 

7. Manumission: Manumission was the door of escape 
from slavery that was constantly open to the slave. At 
common law, a master could free his slaves on the basis of 
any agreement that he might make with them. The owner 

■•"It was directed "to take for evidence the confession of the of- 
fender, the oath of one or more credible witnesses, or such testimony 
of negroes, mulattoes or Indians, bond or free, with pregnant cir- 
cumstances as to them shall seem convincing-, without solemnity of 
jury; and the offender being then found guilty, to pass such judg- 
ment upon the offender, according to their discretion, as the nature 
cf the offense may require; and on such judgment to award execu- 
tion." Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sees. 48-52. 

^'Ibid., Sec. 48. 

^-"All negroes, mulattoes, bond or free, to the third generation, 
and Indian servants and slaves, shall be deemed to be taken as per- 
sons incapable in law to be witnesses in any case whatsoever, except 
against each other." Acts of 174G, Ch. 2, Secc. 50. 

^•'Bassett, Op. Cit., p. 30. 

"Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Secc. 50. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 17 

of a slave could dispose of him like any other piece of prop- 
erty. The spirit of manumission was so promoted by the 
churches and by the doctrine of natural rights of the Amer- 
ican Revolution that the State, in self defense, placed a 
limitation on the common law method of manumission.*'' 
After 1777, slaves could be freed only on a basis of meritori- 
ous service, of which the county -court was the judge.^" 
Slaves freed by any other method could be resold into slavery 
by the court. 

The "pernicious practice" of manumitting slaves at com- 
mon law continued,*' and the county court began to resell 
such negroes into slavery. The power of the court to give 
valid title in such sales was doubted, and the legislature was 
forced by special act to guarantee the validity of the sale 
of illegally liberated slaves, made by the county courts.*' 
The preamble to this measure states that "many negroes 
are now going at large, to the terror of the good people of 
this state."*-^ This law was weak in that the power of ap- 
prehending illegally liberated slaves was optional in free- 
holders only. In 1788, the state gave any freeman the 
power to inform a justice of the peace of any such slave, 
and required such justice to issue to the sheriff a warrant 
for the arrest of the slave." This legislation indicates a 
growth of the manumission movement in the face of legal 
restrictions, and, also, registers a protest against the con- 
servative forces of society. 

-'"'The preamble to this act reads: "Whereas the evil and pernicious 
practice of freeing slaves in this state, ought at this alarming and 
critical time to be guarded against by every friend and well-wisher to 
his country." Acts of 1777, Ch. 6, Sec. 1. 

•*«Acts of 1777, Ch. 6, Sec. 2. 

*""Whereas before the passing of the said act, and since the six- 
teenth day of April, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-five, 
divers evil-minded persons, intending to disturb the public peace, did 
liberate and set free their slaves, notwithstanding the same was ex- 
pressly contrary to the laws of this state." Acts of 1779, Ch. 12, 
Sec. 1. 

^-^Acts of 1779, Ch. 12, Sec. 2. 

^"Ibid., Sec. 3. 

■•"Acts of 1788, Ch. 20, Sec. 1. 

18 University of Texas Bulletin 

8. Suffrage: It does not appear that the slave ever pos- 
sessed the right of suffrage. The free negro, however, 
voted throughout the period of colonial history in North 
Carolina. The Declaration of Rights of North Carolina, 
adopted December 17, 1776, gave the franchise to "all free- 
men."'^ The Constitution of the State, adopted the next 
day, gave the franchise to "all freemen" with certain qual- 
ifications as to age, residence, property, and taxes. - This 
constitution remained in force until 1835, during which time 
the free negro voted in North Carolina. 


1. Marriage: The slave never acquired legal marriage. 
It was generally held that the slave regarded marriage 
lightly, and that, therefore, the separation of husband and 
wife was not a serious matter. This philosophy was largely 
true, but, at the same time, it fitted into the economics of 
slavery very advantageously. 

It is not to be inferred from the above that the slave did 
not have formal marriage. He was usually married with 
considerable ceremony by either his own minister or a 
white clergyman. Special preparation was generally made 
for the wedding, which frequently took place in the dining- 
room of the master's mansion. It may well be contended 
that this religious sanction was more sacred to the slave, 
who was of a very religious nature, and, therefore, more 
binding than a civil marriage would have been. 

Slaves were forbidden to intermarry with free negroes or 
mulattoes, except by the written permission of the master, 
attested by two justices of the peace.'' Marriage of ne- 
groes, bond or free, with white persons was prohibited.'* 
The white person of such a marriage, and the minister wiio 
performed the marriage rite, were fined fifty pounds each.'"''^ 

2. Social and Economic Relations: The slave's relations 

•'•^Declaration of Rights of North Carolina, Sec. 6. 
•"•-Constitution of 1776 of N. C, Sees. 7, 8, and 9. 
•"-■'Acts of 1787, Ch. 6, Sec. 3. 
•'•■•Acts of 1741, Ch. 1, Sec. 13. 
^•'•Ibid., Sec. 14. ■ 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 19 

with the outside world were carefully guarded because they 
might lead to run-aways, marriages, or insurrections. No 
free negro or mulatto was permitted to entertain a slave in 
his home "during the Sabbath, or in the night between sun- 
set and sunrise."^'' The penalty for violating this act was 
twenty shillings for the first offense, and forty shillings! for 
each succeeding offense. If the offender could not pay his 
fine, he was forced to work it out. A free negro or mulatto 
was prohibited from marrying or cohabiting with a slave 
unless the master's consent, attested by two justices, was 
obtained. =' The free negro or mulatto, and not the slave, 
was fined, for violation of this act, ten pounds or one year's 
service for the master. No master of a vessel was permitted 
to entertain a slave on board, who did not hold a pass from 
his master or a justice of the peace.^* Such harboring of a 
slave indicated either an illicit trade relation, or an intention 
of stealing the slave. For violation of this act, the master 
of the vessel was fined five pounds for the first, and ten 
pounds for each succeeding, offense. 

Traffic with slaves was a very difficult matter to control. 
At first, a person trading with a slave was required to pay 
treble for the article purchased, and six pounds proclama- 
tion money.^^ Finally, traffic with slaves was permitted 
only on the basis of a written permission from the master, 
describing the article for sale. A person convicted for vio- 
lation of this law was fined ten pounds, and the slave re- 
ceived not exceeding thirty-nine lashes. °° If such a person 
did not have sufficient property to satisfy the fine, he was 
committed to jail. Traffic with slaves became more dif- 
ficult to regulate as the slavery system expanded. 

The slave was not permitted to engage his services to 
anyone, nor could the master hire him out. For violation of 
this regulation, the slave might be taken in charge by a 
magistrate or free-holder and set to work for the county. 

sGActs of 1787, Ch. 6, Sec. 2. 

"Ibid., Sec. 3. 

=8lbid., Ch. 1, Sec. 1. 

■'9Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sec. 14. 

«'Acts of 1788, Ch. 7, Sees. 1-2. 

20 University of Texas Bulletin 

for the benefit of the poor, for a period not exceeding twenty 
days ; "any law, usage or custom to the contrary notwith- 

It is noticed that these restrictions pertained primarily 
to the relations of the slaves with free negroes, Indians, 
traders, and poor whites, who were as a rule more or less in- 
clined to disturb the order of the plantation. Their associa- 
tion with the whites in the home and at church was a mat- 
ter of unwritten law. The domestic servants were more 
intimately associated with the whites and were frequently 
cultured.''-' There was very little effort on the part of the 
masters, in the early stages of the development of slavery, 
to teach or christianize the slaves. Many of them, how- 
ever, learned to read, and joined churches, but they' were not 
permitted to have separate church organizations.'''' 

3. The Runaway: The runaway was one of the most 
difficult problems of slave government. The wild life of the 
slave in Africa, and the hardships of frontier American slav- 
ery naturally created a disposition in the slave to run away 
from his master's plantation. Organized bands of slave- 
stealers, poor whites, and free negroes constantly took ad- 
vantage of this attitude of the slave. This was one method 
by which the slave could, at least temporarily, break the 
bonds of slavery ; and he did not always find life more severe 
in the camp than on the plantation. 

Runaways, aside from the economic loss to the slave- 
owners involved, might congregate and start an insurrec- 
tion. Any outside contact made possible conspiracies, and 
created a real danger to the community. It was, therefore, 
a heavy fine for anyone to harbor a slave; and it was the 
duty of all citizens to arrest runaways."^ The law against 
the aiding and harboring of runaways was made more 
severe by increasing the fine for its violation. Finally, to 

'■'Acts of 1777, Ch. 6, Sec. 5. 

"-Brickell. John. Natural History of North Carolina. 272. 

'•'Acts of 1715, Ch. 46, Sec. 18. 

•■^Ibid., Sees. 6-8. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 21 

promote the escape of a slave from the colony became a 
felony and might involve the loss of life.' '' 

This law also gave to the justices of the peace the power, 
by proclamation, to outlaw any runaway who was in hiding, 
committing injuries to the inhabitants of the community. 
It was then lawful for any one to kill such a slave."" Any 
runaway who was caught was forced to wear a yoke around 
his neck until he gave sufficient evidence of good behavior.''" 

Sheriffs and constables were strictly charged with the safe 
keeping of all runaways who were committed to their care. 
If they negligently or wilfully permitted any to escape, 
they were liable for damages to the master at common law 
with costs. "^ To encourage the police officials to execute the 
law, they were exempted from the payment of all public, 
county, and parish levies for their own persons. The 
keepers of ferries were required to give immediate passage 
to officers charged with conducting runaways.''" 

No feature of the slave code shows more progressively the 
attitude of the whites toward the negro than the law on 
runaways. As the slaves developed the means for evading 
the law, it was made increasingly rigid. White men could 
be sold into temporary servitude to pay fines for persuading 
the slave to run away."" Anyone convicted for attempting 
to steal and convey a slave out of the colony was required 
to pay the owner twenty-five pounds. If he could not pay 
this fine he was forced to serve the master for five years. '^ 
The idea in these laws is not necessarily harshness to the 
slave, but rather the security of the bondage of the slave. 

('••Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sees. 25-33. 

'>(>Ibid., Sec. 43. 

6-Ibid., Sec. 46. 

esBrickell, Op. Cit., 270. 

69 Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sec. 36. 

■Pibid., Sec. 37. 

•'Ibid., Sec. 25. 

22 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

FROM 1785 TO 1788 

The State of Franklin'- was included in the western part 
of North Carolina, which later became the Southwest Terri- 
tory and the State of Tennessee. The independent action 
of its people is significant, therefore, not only as an expres- 
sion of their own position on slavery, but also as a prophecy 
of the attitude of the state of Tennessee. 

The constitution proposed by the Greenville Convention, 
November 14, 1785, established a liberal suff'rage.' • Sec- 
tion 4 of this constitution states that "Every free mala 
inhabitant in this state six months immediately preceding 
the day of election, shall participate in electing all officers 
chosen by the people, in the county where he resides."'* 
The Declaration of Rights uses the terms "freeman," "the 
people," and "every man," synonomously. There was no 
property or religious qualification for the suff'rage. The 
slave, by emancipation, would have voted under this con- 
stitution on the same basis as other citizens. This consti- 
tution was finally rejected and that of North Carolina with 
few changes was adopted.'"' The above proposal is inter- 
esting as a typical frontier attitude on the suffrage question. 

North Carolina never recognized the independence of the 
Franklin State. There were two factions in North Caro- 
lina politics on this question.'" One of these, led by John 
Sevier, the Governor of Franklin, advocated independence ; 
and the other, led by John Tipton, demanded the downfall 
of Frankhn. The Tipton faction won, and the Franklin 
State came to an end in 1788. 

'-Earlier historians used the name Frankland (the land of the 
free), but letters from officials of the state indicate that it was named 
after Benjamin Franklin. See footnote p. 263, Vol. I, McMaster, 
John B., History of the United States. 

••''A copy of this constitution is now in the State Archives. 

'■»Ramsey, J. G. M., Annals of Tennessee, 327. 

''American Historical Magazine, I, 63. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 23 

TORY FROM 1790 TO 1796 

The western part of North Carolina continued to demand 
a separate political existence, and in February, 1790, it was 
ceded to the National Government by North Carolina. The 
Act of Cession provided that "the laws in force and in use 
in the State of North Carolina at this time, shall be and 
continue in full force within the territory hereby ceded 
until the same shall be repealed or otherwise altered by the 
legislative authority of the said territory" ; and also, "that 
no regulations made or to be made by congress shall tend to 
emancipate slaves."" The cession was accepted by Con- 
gress April 2, 1790, on the above condition ;■ " and when 
Congress, on May 26, 1790, organized the government for 
the Southwest Territory, it mentioned the conditions laid 
down in the Act of Cession. '-' 

The provisions of the Act of Cession show how slavery, 
as it had developed in North Carolina by 1790, was trans- 
planted and legalized in the territory that became Tennessee 
in 1796. There is no recorded protest on the part of the 
people of the territory. The contract between the National 
Government, North Carolina, and the Southwest Territory, 
shows that the economic importance of slavery was already 

•'■Phelan, James, History of Tennessee, 299. 

"Scott, I, 437. 

-^I Stat. U. S., 106; Scott, I, 439. 

■^This act states that the territory "for the purposes of temporary 
government, shall be one district, the inhabitants of which shall enjoy 
all privileges, benefits, and advantages set forth in the Ordinance of 
the late Congress for the government of the Territory of the United 
States northwest of the River Ohio, and that the government of the 
said Territory shall be similar to that which is now exercised in the 
Territory northwest of the Ohio; except so far as it is otherwise 
provided in the conditions expressed in an Act of Congress of the 
present session, entitled, 'An Act to Accept a Cession of Western 
Territory.' " Kurd, John Cadman, Law of Freedom and Bondage, 
II, 90. 

24 University of Texas Bulletin 

The legislation of the Territory on slavery consists of one 
act, relating to the negro's participation in court procedure. 
Negroes, whether bond or free, were permitted to be wit- 
nesses for and against each other, but denied this privilege 
in cases to which a white man was a party. Persons of 
mixed blood, descended from negroes or Indians, inclusive 
of the third generation, suffered a similar restriction. No 
person of mixed blood to any degree whatever, who had 
been held in slavery, could be a witness against a white 
person within twelve months of his liberation."" 

This preliminary study suggests the general lines along 
which the institution of slavery developed in the succeeding 
decades. The social and religious phases of the negro's life 
were given less attention than the economic and legal. His 
common law status was constantly changing to a statutory 
basis. He was exchanging the status of a servant at com- 
mon law for that of a mere chattel at statute law. His 
place in judicial procedure was determined. It was in this 
connection that racial prejudice made its appearance. The 
foundation for a comprehensive patrol system was estab 
lished. The state asserted its right to limit manumission. 
Free negroes had not become sufficiently numerous by 1796 
to call for the serious consideration that they later received. 
Consequently, there w^as a relatively small amount of legis- 
lation concerning them prior to this date. Some restric- 
tions, however, were made on their relations with the slave 
and on the process of manumission. On the whole, it may 
be concluded that there had been laid a fairly secure foun- 
dation, for the status of both the slave and the free negro, 
which future events onlv modified. 

^"Acts of the Southwest Territory for 1794, Ch. I, Sec. 32. See 
also Scott, I, 471; and Meigs and Cooper's Code of 1858. Sees. 3808- 



Tennessee inherited from North CaroHna a liberal policy 
toward the slave, a policy which was fittingly expressed by 
Chief Justice Taylor in the following words : 

It would be a subject of regret to every thinking 
person, if courts of Justice were restrained, by any 
austere rule of judicature, from keeping pace with 
the march of benignant policy and provident hu- 
manity, which for many years has characterized 
every legislative act relative to the protection of 
slaves, and which Christianity, by the mild dif- 
fusion of its light and influence, has contributed to 

It will be seen throughout the study of the slave code that 
the slave in Tennessee enjoyed a privileged status, that he 
was more than a mere chattel, and that his disabilities, 
characteristic of slavery in many of the states, were con- 
siderably modified. 

I. The Privileges of Slaves — 

A. Hunting. At the request of the master, the county 
courts permitted one slave on each plantation to hunt with 
a gun during the cultivation or harvesting of crops. They 
issued to such a slave a certificate, describing him and grant- 
ing this privilege, and requested him, when he hunted, to 
carry it with him to prevent his arrest for being unlawfully 
armed. The master was financially responsible for any 
damage done by such a slave.-' The courts more fully 
granted authority to the slaves to hunt with dogs, and were 
limited in such matters only by the degree of responsibility 
that the master would assume. Slaves were whipped not 
exceeding thirty lashes if they were caught hunting unlaw- 

1 State V. Hale, 2 Hawks, 585 (1823). 

2Meigs and Cooper's Code of 1858, Sees. 2603-9. 

26 Universitif of Texas Bulletin 

fully."* The slave was not allowed to hunt at night by fire- 
light with a gun. If he was duly convicted, before a justice 
of the peace, of violating this restriction, his owner was 
fined fifteen dollars.* 

B, Travel. The travel of slaves in their immediate 
community was regulated by a system of passes issued by 
the masters or their representatives. No slave, except a 
domestic servant, was supposed to leave his, master's prem- 
ises without a pass, explaining the cause of his absence.' 
No stage driver, captain of a steamboat, or railroad con- 
ductor could receive a slave passenger for an extended 
journey unless he produced a pass from a county clerk, 
giving instructions for such a journey and a description 
of the slave.'' One could be imprisoned six months and 
fined five hundred dollars for violating this regulation, unless 
he could prove that the transportation of the slave took 
place without his knowledge. The slave in such instances, 
if he was discovered, was arrested, placed in the nearest 
jail, and advertised as a runaway." 

C. Suits for Freedom. 

1. Of the Action. The proper action at law to be taken 
by ar slave in a suit for his freedom was trespass, false im- 
prisonment, or assault and battery." Judge Catron, in the 
case of Harris v. Clarissa, held that a female and her chil- 
dren, being held in slavery, could institute joint action to 
establish their freedom.' The defendant would in such suits 
claim that the plaintiff was his slave. In such cases, the 
slave did not sue the master, the court merejy tried the 
fact, whether the plaintiff was a slave. "- 

■M. & C, Sees. 2610-11. 
*Ibid., Sees. 2612-13. 
■■Ibid., Sec. 2603. 
•■Acts of 1833, Ch. 3, See. 1. 
■M. & C, Sees. 2666-68. 
^Stewart v. Miller, 1 Meigs, 174 (1838). 

■'Harris v. Clarissa, C Yerger, 227 (1834); Blackmore v. Negro 
Phill, 7 Yerger, 452 (1835). 

loMatilda v. Crenshaw, 4 Yerger, 299 (1833). 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 27 

2. Of the Evidence. In a suit for freedom, the onus 
probcuidi rested upon the plaintiif. What evidence was 
admitted? How could a slave prove that he was free if 
there were no court records to show that the State had as- 
sented to his freedom? How could he prove that he was 
descended from free parents and that he was being held in 
false imprisonment? Judge Crabb, in the case of Vaughan 
V. Phebe, answered these questions by saying that "He may, 
perhaps, procure testimony that he, or some ancestor, was 
for some time in the enjoyment of freedom; that he has 
acted as a freeman ; that he has been received as a freeman 
into society; and very soon will find himself under the ne- 
cessity of increasing in proportion to the distance he has 
to travel into time past, for want of other evidence, to use 
hearsay; that he, or his ancestor was commonly called a 
freeman, or commonly reputed a freeman, or, in other 
words, evidence of common reputation."" 

The courts of Tennessee in their considerr.tion of suits by 
slaves for their freedom gave unmistakable evidence that 
they realized the seriousness of adding another negro voter 
to the body politic. Free negroes voted in Tennessee until 
1834." This made the matter of manumitting a slave have 
far reaching consequences. Judge Crabb, in Vaughan v. 
Phebe, pointed out very forcibly the results to the slave and 
society that attended the freeing of a slave. ^^ 

"Vaughan v. Phebe, I Martin & Yerger, 1 (1827). 

i2"Freedom in this country," said Judge Crabb, "is not a mere 
name — a cheat with which the few gull the many. It is something- 
substantial. It embraces within its comprehensive grasp, all the use- 
ful rights of man; and it makes itself manifest by many privileges, 
h-nmunities, e ternal public acts. It is not confined in its operation 
to privacy, or to the domestic circle. It walks abroad in its opera- 
tions — transfers its possessor, even if he be black, or mulatto, or 
copper colored, from the kitchen and the cotton field, to the court 
house and the election ground, makes him talk of Magna Charta and 
the constitution; in some states renders him a politician — brings 
him acquainted with the leading citizens — busies himself in the po- 
litical canvass for office — takes him to the ballot box; and, above all, 
rocures to him the enviable and inestimable privilege of trial by jury. 

28 University of Texas Bulletin 

3. Of the Damages. A negro held in slavery beyond the 
agreed time of emancipation could maintain an action of 
trespass for his wages, after he had established his freedom. 
He could recover wages for the time the suit for freedom 
was pending and also the cost of the suit.' • 

4. Of the Judgment. The judgment in favor of the free- 
dom of a maternal ancestor of a plaintiff was received by 
the Tennessee courts as evidence in a suit for freedom to 
show the basis of the right claimed. Judge Crabb, in ad- 
mitting the records of a previous trial as evidence, said: 
"We consider the solemn verdict of a jury, with proofs pro- 
duced to them many years ago, and with the judgment of 
the court upon it, fully as good evidence, to say the least of 
it, of what was considered the truth in those days."^^ 

It sometimes happened that defendants in suits for free- 
dom would send the plaintiff out of the jurisdiction of the 
court in which the suit had been instituted. To prevent 
this, an act was passed, requiring defendant to give security 
that the plaintiff would not be removed from the limits of 
the county.'' "The powers of a court of chancery were 
more than those of a court of law," said Judge Green in the 
case of Sylvia and Phillis v. Covey, holding that a suit for 
freedom in chancery could be maintained regardless of the 
change of venue."- 

D. Trial of Slaves. The most ordinary court for the 
trial of slaves was composed of justices and freeholders, 
who were slaveholders.'' Their crimes were usually sepa- 

Can it be said, that there is nothing of a public nature in a right, that 
thus, from its necessary operation, places a man in many respects on 
an equality with the richest, and the greatest, and the best in the land, 
and brings him in contact with the whole community?" Vaughan v. 
Phebe, 1 Martin & Yerger, 1 (1827). 

'•'Matilda v. Crenshaw, 1 (1827). 

iWaughan v. Phebe, 1 Martin & Yerger. 1 (1827). 

'•"■Acts of 1817, Ch. 103, Sec. 1. 

"'Sylvia and Phillis v. Covey, 4 Yerger. 27 (1883). 

I'Acts of 1715, Ch. 19. Sec. 9; Acts of 1741. Ch. 24, Sec. 48. 

The Negro m Tennessee, 1790-1865 29 

rated into corporal and capital, and a single justice was 
generally permitted to try the misdemeanors.''^ 

The first effort at legislation in Tennessee on the trial 
of slaves was an attempt in 1799 to establish trial by jury 
of twelve freeholders, unrelated to the owner of the slave 
by either affinity or consanguinity. Free legal counsel for 
slaves whose masters were unknown or outside of the state 
was proposed. This measure passed the House of Rep- 
resentatives, but was defeated by the Senate on the third 
reading.'-' This failure only delayed the accomplishment 
of the object of this bill. 

Three justices and nine freeholders, who were slave- 
holders, were in 1815 empowered to try slaves for all of- 
fences.'-'' In 1819, the freeholders were increased to 
twelve-'. By 1825, the jury might contain non-slave- 
holders, if twelve slaveholders could not be secured. Their 
verdict, however, was invalid, if it could be shown that the 
non-slaveholders divided the jury.-- The owner by this act 
had the right of appeal to the circuit court in case of con- 
viction, by giving bond in the sum of twice the value of the 
slave for his appearance at the next term of court. In 
1831, right of appeal was limited to capital cases.-- 

By act of 1835, the trial of slaves was completely recon- 
structed. Special courts for the trial of slaves were abol- 
ished. Right of appeal from justice's court was established 
in all cases. The circuit court was given exclusive original 
jurisdiction of all offences punishable by death. No slave 
was to be tried by a jury until an indictment had been 
found against him by a grand jury in the regular way. 
The State provided counsel for the slave if the master did 
not. Section 11 of this measure reads: ''AH persons who 
would be competent jurors to serve on the trial of a free 
person, shall be competent jurors on the trial of any slave 

i^Acts of 1783, Ch. 14, Sec. 2. 
I'-'Manuscripts in State Archives. 
20Acts of 1815, Ch. 138, Sec. 1. 
•■^lActs of 1819, Ch. 35, Sec. 2. 
•■^•^Acts of 1825, Ch. 24, Sec. 1. 
•■^:^Acts off 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 6. 

30 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

or slaves."-* By this piece of humanitarian legislation, 
Tennessee became one of the five slave states which granted 
the slave trial by jury.-' 

By this act, the attorney employed by the State for the 
slave could sue the master for his fee. This provision was 
repealed in 1838, and the county became liable for the cost 
of the suit, unless the prosecution appeared frivolous or 
malicious, in which case the prosecutor paid the cost of 

Toward the close of the second quarter of the nineteenth 
century, there were some changes made in the legal pro- 
cedure adopted in 1835. The right of appeal in all cases 
from the justice's court was restored to the master by an 
act of 1848.^" The state in 1858 reverted to a former 
method of indictment of the slave.-" Five creditable per- 
sons could file an accusation of insurrection or conspiracy 
to kill against a slave, and the judge of the circuit court 
could empower the jury to try the slave without waiting for 
a regular term of the court. These changes in the slave's 
legal status were the delayed response of legal institutions 
to the movements in politics, economics, and religion in 
vogue in the early thirties.'-'" 

II. Disabilities of Slaves. — 

A. To nmke a Contract. The slave could not make a 
legal contract except for his freedom or with his master's 
consent. The slave in such contracts was regarded as the 
agent of the master.-" The courts, however, would enforce 
a contract made by a slave with his masters for his freedom. 
In the case of Porter v. Blackmore, the supreme court of 
the state held that such a contract established a vested right 

2*Acts of 1835, Ch. 9, Sees. 9-11. 

-'•Kentucky, Maryland, Georgia, and Alabama were the other four, 
See footnote, Wheeler, Op. Cit.. 213. 
^f-'Acts of 1838, Ch. 133, Sec. 1. 
^'Act.s of 1848, Ch. 50, Sec. 1. 
2sActs off 1858, Ch. 86, Sees. 1-2. 
•-'«Infra, pp. .59-79; 102-152. 
•■^''Wheeler, Op. Cit., 190. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 31 

to freedom, and that "no one but the State can take ad- 
vantage of it, not even the owner or master, after the right 
is once, vested. A court of chancery, if the right is once 
vested, will interpose to prevent its defeat."'*' 

B, To Take Propertij by Devise, Descent, or Purchase. 
The slave was regarded as personal property in Tennessee 
and what he owned belonged to the master. '- He could not 
receive property by inheritance or donation, nor buy, sell, 
or dispose of anything, unless his master consented. ""' 
Washington Turner, a free negro, died in 1853, leaving his 
estate to his wife and children. The children were the 
issue of a slave mother. Judge McKinney, in a case involv- 
ing the will of Turner, said : "It is clear that the children 
of the testator being slaves, with no rights of freedom, pres- 
ent or prospective, are incapable in law of taking any ben- 
efit under the will." ■' A slave while in a state of inchoate 
freedom could lay claim to either personal or real property.^^ 
Judge Catron maintained that it was inconsistent with the 
liberal slave code of the State not to consider a slave's 
rights to property in connection with a claim to freedom."" 

-iPorter v. Blackmore, 2 Caldwell, 555 (1865) ; see also 5 Caldwell, 
209; 3 Heiskell, 662; and 10 Lea, 663. 

32Judge Catron held that "what is earned by the slave belongs to 
the master by the common law, the civil law, and the recognized rules 
of property in the slave-holding states of this Union." University v. 
Cambreling, Yerger, 86 (1834). 

33Acts of 1803, Ch. 13, Sec. 4. 

s^Turner v. Fisher, 4 Sneed, 210 (1856). 

"'Judge Green held that "A slave is not in the condition of a horse 
cr an ox. His liberty is restrained, it is true, and his owner controls 
his actions and claims his services. But he is made of the image of 
the Creator. He has mental capacities, and an immortal principle in 
his nature, that constitutes him equal to his owner but for the acci- 
dental position in which fortune has placed him. The owner has 
acquired conventional rights to him, but the laws under which he i? 
held as a slave have not and can not extinguish his high-born nature 
nor deprive him of many rights which are inherent in man. Thus 
while he is a slave, he can make a contract for his freedom, and by 
the same will he can take personal or real estate." Ford v. Ford, 
7 Humphrey, 95-96 (1846). Cf. Miller v. Miller, 5 Heiskell, 734 

■•'■■Stephenson v. Harrison, 3 Head, 733 (1859). 

32 University of Texas Bulletin 

C. To Be a Witness. The slave never acquired the right 
of being- a witness against a white man. ■ The denial of 
this right was based on the slave's light regard for his 
word, his ignorance, and racial prejudice. His paganism 
was also a factor.'" 

The slave gradually acquired a stronger position in cases 
in which the white man was not a party. By 1784, he could 
be a witness in cases where other slaves were being tried.''" 
By 1813, he could testify against free persons of color born 
in slavery.^" By 1839, his testimony was permitted in cases 
where persons of mixed blood were tried. ^' This increased 
capacity of the slave as a witness resulted from efforts to 
restrict his relations with free negroes and mulattoes. 
Illicit trade relations were difficult to prevent, especially in 

D. To Be a Party in a Suit. There were only two in- 
stances in which a slave could be a party to a suit. He 
could sue for his freedom and for property interests which 
a grant of freedom involved.^- In Stephenson v. Harrison, 
Judge Caruthers held that "No other suit but for freedom, 
in which may be embraced claim to property, can be brought 
by slaves, while they are such, except where rights may be 
endangered, which are connected with a certain grant of 
freedom to take effect in the future. And this being that 
kind of case, the slaves have a standing in court."*' It is 
observed that in such cases the court for the time being, re- 
garded the slave as being in a state of inchoate freedom. 

There was no reason why the slave needed to be a party to 
a suit. He owned nothing. He could not recover any- 
thing. He could be whipped for anything that he did. The 
master did not want to kill him. If he did not want him, 
he could sell him. Under such circumstances, it would 

-Wheeler, Op. Cit., 194. 

=<"Supra, 16. 

s'JActs of 1794, Ch.'l, Sec. 32. 

^"Acts of 1813, Ch. 135, Sec. 5. 

"Act^ of 1839, Ch. 7, Sec. 1. 

^-Wheeler, Op. Cit., 197. 

^•'Stephenson v. Harrison, 3 Head, 733 (1859), 

The Negro in Teyinessee, 1790-1865 33 

have been a mere mockery for the slave to be a party to a 

E. To Contract Matrimony. There was no process of 
law involved in the marriage of slaves with each other or 
their separation. Their marriage with mulattoes or with 
free negroes was a matter of statutory regulation. In the 
case of Andrews v. Page, it was held that "Slaves were not 
married to each other without the consent of their owners, 
as a general rule. By the act of 1787, Ch. 6, Sec. 3, a free 
negro or mulatto was prohibited from intermarrying with 
a slave, without the consent of his or her master, had in 
writing."** When the master for his slave agreed to a mat - 
riage with a free negro or mulatto, it was regarded by the 
courts as a contract.*"' 

If a free negro woman was married to a slave, their chil- 
dren were free. The issue of a free woman of color fol- 
lowed the condition of their mother, and w^ere born free.- 
This principle was carried so far that when a female slave 
was to be emancipated by the concession of the master and 
assent of the State, but was to be held subject to service for 
a definite time, and a child was born to her after such eman- 
cipation but during such subjection to service, it was held 
that the child was freeborn. 

While it cannot be said that the marriage relation between 
slaves was a contractual one at law, it had the sanction of 
an unwritten law that the state respected. In the case of 
Andrews v. Page, the court held that it was 

"established beyond controversy that there were 
circumstances under w^hich the courts of this State 
recognized the relation of husband and wife and 
the ties of consanguinity, as existing among slaves, 
as well as among free persons, and free persons of 
color ; and we hold that a marriage between slaves, 
with the consent of their owners, whether con- 
tracted in common law form or celebrated under 
the statute, always was a valid marriage in this 

^^Andrews v. Page, 3 Heiskell, 665 (1870). 
4-Haitsell v. George, 3 Humphrey, 255 (1842). 

34 University of Texas Bulletin 

state, and that the issue of such marriages were not 

III. Relation of the Master and Society — 

A. Liabilities of the Master to Society. 

1. For His Ovm Acts. The master was responsible to 
society for the treatment of his slaves. He was required 
to feed, clothe, and house them.^' It was his duty to furnish 
them competent medical aid.^^ If an employer of a slave 
was unable to pay for medical attention, the master was 
liable. He was expected to superintend the trials of his 
slaves to see that they received justice. In capital cases, 
he was allowed thirty-five challenges.^'' He could give bail 
for their appearance at court and prosecute writs of error 
for them.'"''^ 

There is considerable evidence that the slaves of Ten- 
nessee were rather well treated. Rev. William Dickey, 
writing from Bloomingburgh, Ohijo, July 23, 1845, stated 
that the negroes were clean, well-fed, and clothed and that 
considerable attention was given their minds."' Judge 

^'-'Andrews v. Page, 3 Heiskell, 666 (1870). 

4- Act of 1753, Ch. 6, Sec. 10. 

4*M. & C, Sees. 2563-64. 

«Acts of 1825, Ch. 24, Sec. 2. 

■'OJbid., Sees. 3-5. 

"^Thomas, T. Ebenezer, Anti-Slavery Correspondence. 71. The let- 
ter reads as follows: "Has the anti-slavery cause injured the condi- 
tion of the slaves? Surely not. In my late journey through Ken- 
tucky and Tennessee, I did not see one dirty, ragged negro. The 
squads of little negroes I used to see naked as the pigs and calves 
with which they gamboled in the same grove, were now clad like 
human beings in shirts and pants or slips, and many of them had 
straw hats, such as my own little boys put on ; nor did I see, as for- 
merly, boys and girls waiting at the table, in a state of stark nudity." 

"I was happy to acknowledge that a great change had taken place 
since I was conversant about Nashville, fifty-five years ago, when 
iiegroes were naked and ignorant. I said I was pleased to see so 
much attention paid to their bodies and their minds, and I wished 
that the people of Tennessee might go ahead of the people in Ohio 
in good offices to the negro. God speed you, dear friends, in this 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 35 

Catron, in the case of Loftin v. Espy, refused to let a family 
of slaves be separated to satisfy a debt against an estate, 
and, in rendering the decree, he said : 

The servants and slaves constitute a part of the 
family, entitled to, and receiving, if they be worthy, 
the affections of the master to a great extent ; this 
disposition towards this unfortunate class of peo- 
ple it is the policy of the country to promote and 
encourage ; without it, good conduct on the part of 
the slave, and benevolent and humane treatment 
on the part of the master is not to be expected . . . 
Nothing can be more abhorrent to these poor peo- 
ple, or to the feelings of every benevolent indi- 
vidual, than to see a large family of slaves sold at 
sheriff's sale; the infant children, father, and 
mother to different bidders. - 

2. Fo7' the Acts of His Slaves. 

a. For Contracts Made by the Slave. The law of 
principal and agent, as adopted by the common law, did not 
apply to master and slave in all instances, but in the ordinary 
domestic relations it was generally held that the master 
could do business through the agency of his slaves and that 
he was bound by their acts in such cases. The rule separat- 
ing the two types of cases seems to have been that, where 
skill and mentality were requisite for the performance of 
the task, the law would not imply a contract on the part of 
the master.^^ 

b. For Negligence of the Slave Resulting in Injury 
to Others. The master was not liable for the negligence of 
his slaves in the performance of unauthorized acts, but was 
responsible for the faithful performance of their duties 
when they were acting as tradesmen or carriers under his 

c. For Torts and Crimes Committed by Slaves. The 
master was responsible for damage done by slaves carrying 

"Loftin V. Espy, 4 Yerger, 92 (1833). 

•'^^•■Wheeler, Op. Cit., 225; University v. Cambreling, 6 Yerger, 79 
(1834) ; Craig v. Leiper, 2 Yerger, 193 (1828) ; Pinson and Hawkins 
V. Ivey, 1 Yerger, 303 (1830). 

36 University of Texas Bulletin 

guns with his permission.^* He was subject to indictment 
and fine at the discretion of the court for permitting a slave 
to practice medicine or heal the sick.^^ He was liable for 
at least a fifty-dollar fine for permitting his slave to sell 
spiritous liquors.''" He was held responsible for the slave's 
acts even if a state of inchoate freedom existed. "The 
master," said Judge Green, "by failing to petition the county 
court and give bond according to law, remains liable to all 
the penalties of the law as though he had never consented 
to his freedom. In view of the law, the negro is not a free- 
man until the State, through the proper tribunal, consents 
to his freedom. 

Until that is done the master may be indicted for per- 
mitting him to act as a freeman, and is liable to all the 
other consequences that would have existed if he had not 
consented to the defendant's freedom."^" 

B. Liabilities of Society to the Master for Abusing His 

1. For Beating or Harboring Him. It was a criminal 
offense for anyone to abuse wantonly the slave of another. 
Any such person was subject to indictment in the circuit 
court, under the same rules and subject to the same penalties 
as if the offense had been committed against a white per- 
son.=s Enticing a slave to absent himself from his owner 
subjected one to a forfeiture of fifty dollars to be recovered 
as an action of debt by the owner of the slave. It was a 
fine of one hundred pounds to harbor a slave and cause a 
loss of service to the master.--' If a master of a vessel en- 
tertained on board a slave without a permit from the owner 
or a justice of the Peace, he was liable to a fine of $12.50 

54Acts of 1741, Ch. 24, Sec. 40; Acts of 1753, Ch. 6, Sec. 2. 

■"Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 3. 

•'^«Acts of 1835, Ch. 57, Sec. 2. 

'^^" James v. State, 9 Humphrey, 310 (1848). 

5-^Acts of 1813, Ch. 56, Sec. 1. 

59Acts of 1779, Ch. 11, Sec. 4. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 37 

for the first offense, and $25 for each succeeding offense."^ 
It was finally made a penitentiary offense to harbor a slave 
with intent to steal him or carry him beyond the borders of 
the state."' Also, one was subject to imprisonment for a 
term of not less than three nor more than ten years fop de- 
liberately harboring- a runaway. "- 

2. For Maiming or Killing Him. Any person, wil- 
fully or maliciously killing a slave, was guilty of murder 
and suffered death without benefit of clergy. If the slave did 
not belong to the oflfender, ''his goods, chattels, lands and 
tenements" could be sold to pay for the slave."^^ Killing a 
slave without malice was manslaughter. In the case of 
Fields v. The State of Tennessee, the court said, "that law 
which says thou shalt not kill, protects the slave ; and he is 
within its very letter. Law, reason, Christianity and com- 
mon humanity all point out one way."*'* No individual had 
the right to become the avenger of the violated law."'' 

3. For Trading ivith Him. No one was permitted to 
trade with a slave unless he had a permit. The slave was 
permitted to sel! articles of his own manufacture without a 
permit. Any one who violated this act was subject to a 
fine of not less than five nor more than ten dollars to be 
recovered before any justice of the peace of the county in 
which the offense was committed. One-half of the fine was 

eoActs of 1787, Ch. 6, Sec. 1. 

eiActs of 1835, Ch. 58, Sec. 1. 

62lbid., Ch. 65, Sec. 2. 

«-=Acts of 1799, Ch. 9, Sec. 2. 

f'^Fields V. The State of Tennessee, 1 Yerger, 156 (1829). 

•''■^"If a slave commits a criminal offense while in the services of 
the hirer," said Judg-e McKinney, "it would be sufficient cause to 
discharge him. And if the hirer desires to have him punished for 
f-uch offense the law has pointed out the mode, and he has the right 
to pursue it, but he has no right to become himself the avenger of 
the violated law, much less to depute another person in his stead. 
And for a battery committed on the slave under such circumstances, 
the owner may well maintain an action against the wrong-doer, in 
which the jury would be justified in giving exemplary damages in a 
proper case." James v. Carper, 4 Sneed, 404 (1857). 

38 University- of Texas Bulletin 

paid to the master of the slave.''" If the offender was a 
free person of color born in slavery, the slave could be a 
witness in the case.''" 

4. For Using Improper Language Before Him or Per- 
mitting Him to Visit Yoitr Home. To inflame the mind of 
any slave or incite him to insurrection by using improper 
language in his presence subjected one, on conviction, to a 
fine of ten dollars to be recovered as an action of debt be- 
fore any court having jurisdiction. The fine was equally 
divided between the county and the person instituting suit.^^ 
It was equally a violation of the law to permit slaves to 
assemble at one's residence or negro houses.^^ 

IV. The Patrol System — 

A. Searchers. Bj^ act of 1753, searchers were appointed 
by the county courts to visit slave quarters four times a 
year in search of guns.'" Only reliable persons could be 
searchers. By 1779, they were required to search for guns^ 
once a month.'' These officers were the beginning of the 
patrol system in Tennessee. 

B. Patrols. In 1806, the ssarcherr^. were converted into 
patrols and a very elaborate system of police was devised. 
Captains of militia were empowered to appoint patrols for 
the counties, determine their number and the frequency of 
their ridings.'- Commissioners of the towns w^re directed 
to appoint patrols for the towns, whether incorporated or 
unincorporated.'-^ In 1817, justices of the peace were given 
the power to suggest the appointment of patrols to captains 
of militia in their districts.'' In 1831, they were empow- 
ered to appoint patrols for their district in case captains of 

'•■"Acts of 1813, Ch. 135, Sec. 3. 

"'"Ibid., Sec. 5. 

'••«Acts of 1803, Ch. 13, Sec. 11. 

""Ibid., Sec. 3. 

'"Acts of 1753, Ch. VI, Sec. 4. 

■•Acts of 1779, Ch. 7, Sec. 3. 

■■•^Acts of 1806, Ch. 32. Sec. 5. 

"Ibid., Sees. 6-7. 

■*Acts of 1817, Ch. 184, Sec. 3. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 39 

militia neglected to do so.'' In 1856, masters, mistresses, 
and overseers were made patrols over their own premises.'"'^ 

Patrols were paid from the county treasury. A tax was 
levied on the taxable slaves for this purpose." The patrol 
swore to his account before a justice of the peace, who car- 
ried the account to the county court, which decided how 
much the patrolman should receive.''' By act of 1856, 
patrols were allowed $1.00 per night or day for their serv- 
ices.'' If the masters or mistresses served as patrols, they 
received nothing for their services.®" 

Patrol service was obligatory upon all citizens. Anyone 
refusing to serve as a patrol was fined $5.00 for each re- 
fusal.- ^ A person serving as a patrolman for three months 
was exempted from musters, road-working, and jury service 
for twelve months.-- They were paid $5.00 for every slave 
they returned to his master. 

The powers and duties of patrols were rather extensive. 
Once each month, they were to search for guns and other 
weapons and turn such as they found over to the county 
court or return the same to the owner.""-' They searched 
all suspected places for slaves without permission of the 
owners. They could punish, with fifteen stripes on the bare 
back, any negro, bond or free, that they found away from 
home, without a pass from his master."* 

The patrols sometimes abused their powers. In 1859, 
the supreme court held that 

"It is of great importance to society that these 
police regulations connected with the institution 
of slavery, should be firmly maintained; the well- 
being and safety of both master and slave demand • 

"•■Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 2. 
•'•Acts of 1858, Ch. 3, Sec. 1. 
"Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 10. 
"M. & C, Sees. 2577-2580. 
'«Acts of 1856, Ch. 30, Sees. 1-4. 
s"M. & C, Sec. 2576. 
^'Acts of 1806, Ch. 32, Sec. 8. 
-^Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 10. 
83M. & C, Sec. 2575. 
8<M. & C, Sec. 2576. 

40 U7iiversit}j of Texas Bulletin 

it. The institution and support of the night watch 
and patrol on some plan are indispensable to good 
order, and the subordination of slaves, and the best 
interest of their owners. But the authority con- 
ferred for these important objects must not be 
abused by those upon whom it is conferred, as it 
sometimes is by reckless persons. If they exceed 
the bounds of moderation in the injury inflicted 
and transcend the limits prescribed by law for the 
office of patrol, if it be found that they were not 
entitled to that justification, then they will be 
liable under a verdict to that effect.""^' 

Proper pass regulations were an important feature of 
the patrol system. This is shown in the case of Jones v. 
Allen. A slave attended a corn-shucking without a pass. 
In the course of the festivities the slave was killed. The 
master of the slave brought suit for damages equal to the 
value of the slave against the man who gave the husking. 
The lower court gave damages to the master on the ground 
that the slave should not have been permitted to remain at 
the husking without a pass. The supreme court reversed 
the case, holding that it was customary for slaves to attend 
such gatherings without passes if a white man was superin- 
tending them."*'' 

C. Sheriffs and Constables. It was the business of 
sheriffs and constables to apprehend runaway slaves, place 
them in jail, and advertise them that they might be returned 
to their owners. They assisted in the enforcement of the 
powers of the patrols, who were really a part of the police 
system of the state. The patrol system was supposed to be 
maintained by the taxation of slaves, but since it involved 
also the general system of police of the state, it was to some 
extent a burden upon the general public. 

Slavery created a real problem of government. "For 
reasons of policy and necessity," said Judge McKinney in 
1858, "it has been found indispensable, in every slave-hold- 
ing community, to provide various police and patrol regu- 
lations, giving to white persons, other than the owner, the 

s'^^Tomlinson v. Doerall, 2 Head, 542 (1859). 
i^sjones V. Allen, 1 Head, 627 (1858). 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 41 

right, and making- it the duty, under certain circumstances, 
to exercise a control over other slaves. The safety of the 
community, the protection of the person and property of 
individuals, and the safety of the owner's property in his 
slaves, alike demand the enactment of such la^^'s."~'' 

The constant fear of insurrections, the ever-present run- 
away, and the carelessness of masters in granting passes 
were the main reasons why society maintained such a rigid 
system of control. Of course, the interests of the owners 
of slaves were conserved by such a system. 

V. Special Problems of Slave Government — 

A. The Runaivay. The runaway was a great source of 
worry and expense to the master and somewhat of a terror 
to the community. The police system of slavery was never 
able to prevent runaways. If a runaway were caught out- 
side the limits of a corporation, he was taken before a 
justice of the peace and asked for his master's name. If he 
refused to give this information, he was placed in jail and 
advertised by a placard on the court-house door and in the 
newspapers. ""^ If the slave was not claimed within twelve 
months, the sheriff of the county, on thirty days' notice, 
sold him at the courthouse to the highest bidder, the net 
proceeds of the sale going to the county. The county court 
gave title of the slave to the purchaser. 

The county jailer, with the consent of the county court 
or two of the justices of the peace, could hire out a run- 
away to either a private individual or an incorporated 
town.''-' To release the county from obligation, he placed 
around the negro's neck a collar, on which was stamped 
"P. G."'"' The wages of the slave went into the county 
treasury to be disposed of by the county court. 

If an incorporated town or city hired the runaway, it 
gave bond to the sheriff of the county for double the value 
of the slave. This was the bond of the corporation to the 

**-Jones V. Allen, 1 Head, 636 (1858). 

S8M. & C, Sees. 2581-3. 

S9lbid., Sec. 2586. 

"op. G. was an abbreviation for public jail. 

42 University- of Texas Bulletin 

State of Tennessee for the safekeeping, good treatment, and 
delivery of the slave to the owner or jailer at the completion 
of the contract. The wages of the slave went to the 
county.'" The corporation made a very careful description 
of the slave to use in case of escape. 

A runaway arrested in an incorporated city was taken by 
a patrolman or policeman to the police-station. He was 
released to his owner on payment of one dollar. If he was 
not called for, he was hired to the city authorities, advertised 
and sold at public auction to the highest bidder. The pro- 
ceeds of the sale went to the city and the city authorities 
made a deed of sale to the purchaser. 

After 1819, the runaway could no longer be outlawed and 
killed by anyone who had the opportunity.'- By act of 
1825, a runaway was advertised one year before he was 
sold at public auction. If the owner, within two years from 
the date of sale, proved that the slave was his, he could re- 
cover the net proceeds of the sale or the slave himself by 
paying the purchaser the amount paid for the slave. ' Any 
one who arrested a runaway and delivered him to the owmer 
or jailer, was entitled to the sum of five dollars for his ser- 
vices..''* After 1831, it was not required by law to make a 
proclamation concerning a runaway at church "on the 
Lord's day."'" By act of 1844, sheriffs were given author- 
ity to hire out a runaway in their custody to municipal au- 
thorities, who, however, were required to execute bond twice 
the value of the slave for proper treatment of him.'"' It 
seems that sheriffs, constables, and patrolmen abused the 
power given them by act of 1831, relative to the arrest of 
runaways for which they received five dollars. Masters 
were subject to useless fees for the arrest of slaves who 
were not runaways. In 1852, the arrest and confinement 

">M. & C, Sees. 2596-8. 
«^Acts of 1819, Ch. 35, Sec. 1. 
"■^Acts of 1825, Ch. 79, Sees. 1-2. 
o^Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, See. 8i 
o-'Ibid., Sec. 9. 
»«Acts of 1844, Ch. 129, Sec. 1. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 43 

of slaves in county jails in the towns and vicinities of their 
masters was forbidden.''' 

B. Importation of Slaves. North Carolina, by act of 
1786, placed a duty of fifty shillings on slaves under seven 
years of age and over forty ; five pounds between the ages 
of seven and twelve, and thirty and forty; and ten pounds 
on ages between twelve and thirty.''^ This regulation be- 
came ineffective when North Carolina ratified the constitu- 
tion in 1790. The importation of slaves into Tennessee as 
merchandise was prohibited in 1812.'"^ This act did not 
prohibit people from moving to the state with their slaves, 
nor did it prevent citizens from bringing into the state 
slaves which they had acquired by descent, devise, marriage, 
or purchase. Persons, moving into the state with their 
slaves, were required within twenty days to take oath be- 
fore a justice of the peace that they were not violating the 
spirit of the law.'"" Such persons were required to deliver 
to a justice of the peace an inventory of their slaves, giving 
their number, age and description. This inventory was filed 
in the office of the county court clerk. The slaves of any 
one violating this act were seized and sold to the highest 
bidder at public auction.'"' By act of 1815, such slaves were 
advertised twenty days before date of sale.'"- 

The permanent law of importation was the act of 1826, 
It retained the features of the above acts and in addition 
forbade the importation into the state for any purpose con- 
vict slaves from territories or states whose laws transmuted 
the crimes of such slaves upon their removal.'"' Any one 

9- Acts, of 1852, Ch. 117, Sec. 2. 

9sActs of 1786, Ch. 5, Sec. 1. 

99Acts of 1812, Ch. 88, Sec. 1. 

loofhis oath reads: "I, A. B., do solemnly swear or affirm that I 
have removed myself and slaves to the State of Tennessee, with the 
full and sole view of becoming a citizen therof, and that I have not 
brought my slave or slaves to this state with any view to the security 
of the same against any I'ebellion or apprehension of rebellion. So 
help me God." Acts of 1812, Ch. 88, Sec. 2. 

loiActs of 1812, Ch. 88, Sec. 3. 

io2Acts of 1815, Ch. 65, Sec. 1. 

lo^Acts of 1826, Ch. 22, Sec. 2. 

44 University- of Texas Bulletin 

violating this act was ordered before a justice of the peace, 
who might require him to give bond with two good securities 
for his appearance with the slaves at the next term of the 
circuit court. If he were convicted of violating this act, his 
slaves were sold at public auction to the highest bidder/^* 
It is to be noticed, however, that a professional slave-dealer 
could afford to lose a few slaves occasionally, because he paid 
only the transportation for convict slaves and received from 
five hundred to eight hundred dollars for each slave that he 
successfully smuggled through. 

There was no change in the laws of importation until 1855. 
The act passed in that year permitted the importation of 
slaves other than convicts as articles of merchandise, and 
thus replaced the acts of 1815 and 1826 in this respect.^"^ 
This indicates a revolution on this subject. West Tennes- 
see, the black belt paii; of the state, began to be settled in 
1819 and was being put into cultivation in the second quarter 
of the nineteenth century. The abolition forces in the state 
were defeated in the constitutional convention of 1834.^°*' 
The demand for slaves had increased as is shown by the in- 
crease in price from $584 in 1836 to $854.65 in 1859."'' The 
old Whig areas had become Democratic by the early fifties, 
and Middle and West Tennessee were pro-slavery. The 
press and the churches had become more favorable in their 
attitude toward slavery. 

C. The Stealing of Slaves. Slaves were constantly 
stolen by individuals and organizations of professional slave 
thieves. This was one of the most difficult problems of 
slave government, and demanded very rigid laws for its 
regulation. By act of 1799, a person stealing a slave, a 
free negro, or mulatto, for his own use or to sell was guilty 
of a felony and suffered death without benefit of clergy.^^^ 
The penalty for this offence in 1835 was reduced to not less 

lo^Acts of 1826, Ch. 22, Sec. 3. 

lo^Acts of 1855, Ch. 64, Sec. 1. 

loujournal of the Constitutional Convention of 1834, 87-147. 

lO'Comptroller's Report to General Assembly, 1859-60, 17. 

ii'^Acts of 1799, Ch. 11, Sec. 2. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 45 

than three nor more than ten years in the penitentiary.^"'' 
The penalty was the same for harboring a slave with intent 
to steal him, or for persuading a slave to leave his master. ^^° 
The following advertisement from a religious magazine 
shows how society was aroused at times on the stealing of 
slaves and how it proposed to recover them : 

A more heart-rending act of villainly has rarely 
been committed than the following: on Monday, 
the 30th of May last, three children, viz., Elizabeth, 
ten years of age, Martha, eight, and a small boy, 
name forgotten, all bright mulattoes, were vio- 
lently taken from the arms of their mother, Eliza- 
beth Price, a free woman of color, living in Fayette 
County, Tennessee. Strong suspicion rests upon 
two men, gone from thence to the state of Mis- 
souri; and it is ardently hoped that the citizens 
of that state will interest themselves in the appre- 
hension of the robbers and the restoration of the 
children. A handsome subscription has been raised 
in the neighborhood to reward any person who 
may restore them. Editors of papers, and espe- 
cially such as are in and contiguous to the state of 
Missouri, are requested to give the aboye an inser- 

One of the greatest organizations in the South for the 
stealing of negroes had its headquarters in West Tennessee 
and was managed by John A. Murrell. This organization 
consisted of 450 persons and operated throughout the Mis- 
sissippi Valley. This organization was in collusion with 
slaves. It stole the same slaves repeatedly and sold them 
sometimes to their own masters. Murrell's last stealing 
was two slaves from Rev. John Hennig, of Madison County, 
Tennessee. He was caught in 1835, tried, convicted, and 
sentenced for the maximum term of ten years in the state 

io9Acts of 1835, Ch. 58, Sec. 1. 

iioibid., Sec. 2. 

^"Christian Advocate and Journal, Bolivar, July 4. 1831. 

ii-Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine, II, 105-6. 

46 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

D. Trading With Slaves. The foundation for the reg- 
ulation of traffic with slaves was laid by the acts of 1741 
and 1787, passed by the Colony and State of North Caro- 
lina."' In 1799, all traffic with slaves was forbidden un- 
less they had a permit from their masters, designating time 
and place of the proposed transaction."^ It was a ten dol- 
lar fine to be convicted of violating this regulation. If a 
slave forged a pass as a basis for such a transaction, he 
was corporally punished at the discretion of a justice of the 
peace. Trading with slaves was made a more serious mat- 
ter in 1803." ■ The pass by this act was required to specify 
the articles to be traded. Any one violating it was punish- 
able by a fine of not less than ten nor more than fifty dol- 
lars. In 1806, it was made unlawful for a white person, 
free negro, or mulatto to be found in the company of a 
slave for any purpose without the consent of the owner."" 
In 1813, the restrictions on trading with slaves were made 
more lenient. The fine for trading in violation of the law 
was reduced to not less than five nor more than ten dollars 
and slaves might trade articles of their own make without 
passes from their masters."' 

The liquor traffic was the most difficult part of trading 
with slaves to regulate. The North Carolina code left whis- 
key in the same category with other articles, but in 1813 
Tennessee made it punishable by a fine of not less than five 
nor more than ten dollars to sell it to slaves."^ If a person 
was convicted of violating this regulation and could not 
pay his fine, he went to jail until he could pay it with cost. 
By act of 1829, a slave was given from three to ten lashes 
for having whiskey in his possession and from five to ten 
for selling it to another slave."" Any merchant, tavern- 
keeper, distiller, or any other person, who sold whiskey 

ii^Supra, pp. 18-19. 

ii*Acts of 1799, Ch. 28, Sec. 1. 

11 ""Acts of 1803, Ch. 13, Sec. 4. 

ii"Acts of 1806, Ch. 32, Sec. 4. 

"■Acts of 1813, Ch. 135, Sec. 3. 

"■-Ibid., Sec. 1. 

I'i'Acts of 1829, Ch. 74, Sees. 1-2. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 47 

to a slave without permit from his master, was guilty of a 
misdemeanor, and, on being convicted, was subject to a 
fine of fifty dolars.'-" 

The laws regulating this traffic became increasingly 
strict. By act of 1832, a dealer in order to secure a license 
to sell whiskey was required to take an oath not to sell a 
slave unless he had a written permit from his master.^ -^ 
Clerks in liquor houses, not considering themselves dealers, 
continued to sell whiskey to slaves ; so in 1846, the oath was 
modified to include sales within the knowledge of the person 
receiving the license. i-- In 1842, the punishment for selling 
whiskey to slaves or letting a free negro be intoxicated on 
one's premises was made imprisonment for a period of noc 
exceeding thirty days.^-- 

The policy of the state toward the liquor traffic with slaves 
was forcibly expressed by Judge Caruthers in the case of 
Jennings v. the State, as follows : 

Under no circumstances, not even in the pres- 
ence, or by permission in writing or otherwise, can 
spirits be sold or delivered to a slave for his own 
use, but only for the use of the master, and even 
in that case, the owner or master must be present 
or send a written order, specifying that it is for 
himself, and the quantity to be sent ... A general 
or indefinite order, such as those exhibited in this 
case, is of no avail. An order can cover only a 
single transaction, and then it is exhausted.'-^ 

It is noticed that this law applied to everybody and not 
merely to licensed liquor dealers. 

The laws on traffic with slaves finally concluded: "Any 
person who sells, loans, or delivers to any slave, except for 
his master or owner, and then only in such owner or mas- 
ter's presence, or upon his written order, any liquor, gun. 

i20Acts of 1829, Ch. 74, Sec. 4. 
i2iActs of 1832, Ch. 34, Sec. 2. 
i22Acts of 1846, Ch. 90, Sec. 3. 
i23Acts of 1842, Ch. 141, Sec. 1. 
i24jennings v. the State, 3 Head, 519-520 (1859) 

48 University' of Texas Bulletin 

or weapon ... is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be fined 
not less than fifty dollars, and imprisoned in the county jail 
at the discretion of the court."^-^ Judge Caruthers, com- 
menting on this law, said : "This is intended to cut up the 
offense by the roots, and prescribes a penalty calculated to 
deter those that milder punishment had been found insufti- 
cient to restrain from the injury or destruction of their 
neighbor's property."^-^ 

Municipalities usually supplemented the laws of the state 
with special regulations of their own. The Board of Com- 
missioners of Nashville, June 7, 1805, 

Resolved, That it shall be the duty of the town 
sergeant to inspect each slave he may discover 
trading in town, and require of them a permit 
from their master or mistress, or the person under 
whose care they are, specifying the commodity 
which they may have for sale. And if such slave 
has no permit, the town sergeant shall immediately 
seize on the commodity he may have for sale, and 
take it with the slave before some justice of the 
peace, and make oath that such slave had trans- 
gressed the by-laws for the regulation of the town 
in the manner above described. The town ser- 
geant shall then immediately expose to sale such 
commodity to the highest bidder for cash at the 
market house; one-half of the amount of such 
sales to go to the use of the town, and the other 
half to the use of the sergeant for his services.'-" 

Traffic with slaves was very important for several rea- 
sons. The slave had very little sense of value, in the first 
place. He frequently exchanged the most valuable farm 
products for a pittance in order to obtain money with which 
to gamble or buy whiskey. The liquor traffic still more 
vitally touched the life of the plantation. An intoxicated 
slave was not only incapacitated, but he was inclined to raise 
trouble with other slaves. This might end in slaves being 
killed or an insurrection. Again, the element of society 

i"M. & C, Sec. 4865. , 

i26jennings v. State, 3 Head, 522 (1859). 

i27Tennessee Gazette and Mero District, Vol. 5, No. 22, July 3, 1805. 

The Negro m Tennessee, 1790-1865 49 

that engaged in the liquor traffic with slaves was usually 
the poor whites, free negroes, or mulattoes, who were op- 
posed to slavery and did not hesitate to propagate ideas of 
insurrection and freedom among slaves. The best way to 
keep slaves happy and contented and, consequently, efficient, 
was to have complete severance of relations between them 
and outsiders. Finally, it is noticed that traffic with slaves, 
in all its ramifications, seriously endangered property in- 

E. Insurrections. No one was permitted to speak dis- 
respectfully of the owner in a slave's presence, or to use lan- 
guage of an insurrectionary nature. ^-^^ Words in favor of 
emancipation, rebellion, or conspiracy came under this head. 
The penalty was a fine of $10, one-half to the county and 
the other to the reporter. 

A person knowingly aiding in circulating any printed 
matter that fostered discontent or insubordination among 
slaves or free persons of color, was guilty of felony, and 
might suffer an imprisonment of ten years for first offense 
and twenty for the second.^-" The same punishment was 
prescribed for addresses, or sermons of an inflammatory 

There were only two instances of threatend insurrection 
in the slave history of Tennessee. The first one of these 
occurred in 1831, and was nipped in the bud by information 
secured from a female slave. '^° It resulted in a petition 
being sent to the legislature signed by 108 people, asking 
for a better patrol system. The second was planned in 
1857, and seems to have included the states of Kentucky, 
Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.'" 
The scheme was discovered in November of 1857 among the 
slaves employed at the Cumberland Iron Works in Tennes- 
see just before they were ready to execute it. One account 

i^>-Acts of 1803, Ch. 13, Sec. 1. 

i^^Acts of 1836, Ch. 44, Sec, 2. 

i30Niles Register, Vol. 41, pp. 340-1. 

"i24th and 25th Annual Report of American Anti-Slavery Society. 

50 University' of Texas Bulletin 

says, "more than sixty slaves in the Iron Works were im- 
plicated, and nine were hung, four by the decision of the 
court and five by a mob." The Missouri Democrat of De- 
cember 4 states that "For the past month, the Journals from 
different Southern states have been filled with numberless 
alarms respecting contemplated risings of the negro pop- 
ulation. In Tennessee, in Missouri, in Virginia, and in 
Alabama, so imminent has been the danger that the most 
severe measures have been adopted to prevent their congre- 
gating or visiting after night, to suppress their customary 
attendance at neighborhood preachings and to keep a vig- 
ilant watch upon all their movements, by an efficient pa- 
trolling system. This is assuredly a most lamentable con- 
dition for the slave states, for nothing causes such terror 
upon the plantations as the bare suspicion of these insur- 
rections. ^"- 

F. The Assembly of Slaves. All slave gatherings on 
the master's plantation were exclusively under his control, 
as he was 'responsible for the results. It was considered 
dangerous to society, however, for slaves to collect miscel- 
laneously. By act -of 1803, it was made a ten-dollar fine 
for any one to permit the slaves of another to congregate 
on his premises without passes from their master.^ '^^ To 
aid the justices of the peace in enforcing this act, the fine 
was equally divided between the county and the reporter of 
its violation. There was so much zeal shown in the enforce- 
ment of this act that the Ifihe was reduced in 1813 to not less 
than five nor more than ten dollars.^ ■* 

The insurrections over the country in the early thirties 
and rumors of an insurrection in Tennessee in 1831, com- 
bined with the abolition propaganda, gave added signif- 
icance to the meetings of slaves. It now became necessary 
to punish slaves for participating in unlawful assemblies 
as well as to fine those permitting them. 

1857-58, 76-78. 

i'*-24th and 25th Annual Reports of American Anti-Slavery Society, 
1857-58, p. 78. 

'-^Acts of 1803, Ch. 13, Sec. 3. 

'•'■•Acts of 1812, Ch. 135, Sec. 1. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 51 

The act of 1831 empowered justices of the peace, con- 
stables and patrols to disperse such meetings and to inflict 
twenty-five lashes upon the slaves engaged, if necessary. 
The fine for permitting unlawful assemblies was now left 
to the discretion of the court/'' The amount of litigation 
likely to result from the enforcement of this measure made 
it necessary to define the terms unlawful assembly.^^'^ 

G. Punishment of Slaves — 

1. Offenses Punishable hy Stripes. Trading without 
permits from their masters or forging passes was punish- 
able by stripes by act of 1799. The number of stripes was 
left to the discretion of the justice but was not to exceed 
'thirty-nine.'-^' In 1806, riots, unlawful assemblies, tres- 
passes, seditious speeches, insulting language to whites, 
were made offenses punishable by stripes at the discretion 
of the justice."^ By act of 1813, the slave was whipped for 
selling any article not made by himself.^'" The number of 
stripes was not less than five, nor more than thirty. He 
was punished for selling whiskey or keeping it at some 
other place than his own home. This offense was punish- 
able by not less than three nor more than ten lashes."' It 
is interesting to notice the leniency in the punishment for 
selling this particular article. Conspiracy, which was pun- 
ishable by death alone in the act 1741, might by act of 1831 
be punished by whipping, pillory, or imprisonment."^ 
Death still remained a proper punishment for this offense, 
but one of the others could be substituted at the discretion 
of the justice, depending on the character and extent of the 
conspiracy. By act of 1844, the runaway could be worked 

i35Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 1. 

i36Unlawful assemblies was defined by the act of 1831 as being 
"all assemblages of slaves in unusual numbers, or at suspicious times 
and places not expressly authorized by their owners." 

i37Acts of 1799, Ch. 28, Sec. 1. 

issActs of 1801, Ch. 32, Sec. 3. 

i39Acts off 1813, Ch. 135, Sec. 6. 

"oActs of 1829, Ch. 74, Sec. 1. 

i^Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 4. 

52 University' of Texas Bulletin 

on the streets of an incorporated town and his wages went to 
the poor.^^- 

2. Capital Offences. By act of 1741, killing of horses, 
hogs, or cattle without a permit from the master was pun- 
ishable by death for second offense.'^' In 1819, murder, 
arson, rape, burglary, and robbery were made capital of- 
fenses and punishment in all other cases was not to extend 
to life or limb.^" By this act the suffering of death by 
being outlawed as a runaway was abolished. By act of 
1835, intent to commit rape upon a whits woman was pun- 
ishable by hanging/*^ The burning of a barn, a bridge, or 
a house with intent to kill was a capital offense.^^'' 

3. Offenses Punishable at the Discretion of the Jury. 
The burning of barns, houses, bridges, steamboats, manu- 
facturing plants, and valuable buildings or property of any 
kind were offenses for which the jury could punish at their 
discretion, provided such punishment did not extend to life 
or limb. All offenses of slaves for which there was not a 
specific punishment fixed by law were left to the discretion 
of the jury.^*' The cutting off of ears, standing in the pil- 
lory, and brandmg were some of the older punishments for 
which whipping came to be a substitute. 

VI. Title to Slaves — 

A. By Deed. There was no statutory restriction upon 
the sale or transfer of slaves from one person to another'*^ 
Secret and fraudulent transfers became so numerous that 
sales of slaves and deeds of gifts were in 1784 required to 
be in writing attested by at least one creditible witness and 
recorded within nine months thereafter.'' ' By an act of 
1801, such transfers were no longer required to be recorded 

■'^Acts of 1844, Ch. 129, Sec. 1. 
•*:'Acts of 1741, Ch. 8, Sec. 10. 
"lActs of 1819, Ch. 35, Sec. 1. 
"-^Acts of 1835, Ch. 19, Sec. 10. 
*6M. & C, Sees. 2625-28. 
4"Acts of 1831, Ch. 103, Sec. 4. 
4^Wheeler, Op. Cit., 41. 
^'JActs of 1784, Ch. 10, Sec. 7. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 53 

if possession accompanied the sale or gift.''" in the case 
of Davis V. Mitchell, Judge Green charged the jury that "a 
deed registered is only necessary where possession does not 
accompany gift or sale.' ' A bill of sale of slaves by a per- 
son indebted, who still retained possession of the slaves, 
after the execution of the bill of sale, was void against 
creditors, although a valuable consideration was received. 
A conveyance of personality presupposed a transfer of pos- 
session. ^^'- 

B. By Devise. The transfer of slaves by will followed 
the same procedure as real estate. A will, valid in either 
law or equity, had to be in the handwriting of the deceased 
and signed by him or some other person in his presence 
representing him and by two witnesses. Such a devise was 
in fee simple unless an estate of less dignity was definitely 
conveyed.' '•• If the deceased left no will, the slaves became 
the property of the widow for life, the widow being required 
to give bond to the county that such slaves with their in- 
crease would be returned at her death to the administrators 
of her deceased husband's estate. In absence of the wife, 
the slaves were equally distributed among the children.' ^^ 
By act of 1796, half bloods were inherited equally with full 
brothers and sisters. In the absence of such brothers and 
sisters, the law of distribution was followed among the col- 
lateral heirs.""' By act of 1819, foreigners who had settled 
in Tennessee and had not been naturalized inherited in the 
same manner as natural born citizens.' ''''' 

C. By Parol Contract, and Gifts to Children in Consider- 
ation of Marriage. Conveyance of slaves was required to 
be in writing and properly attested by witnesses. There 

isoActs of 1801, Ch. 2, Sec. 11. 

isiDavis V. Mitchell, 5 Yerger, 281 (1833); See also Cains and 
Wife V. Marley, 2 Yerger, 582 (1831) ; and Battle v. Stone, 4 Yerger, 
168 (1833). 

i52Ragan v. Kennedy, I Overton, 91 (1804). 

i53Acts of 1784, Ch. 22, Sec. 11. 

i54ibid., Ch. 10, Sec. 4. 

issActs of 1796, Ch. 14, Sec. 1. 

i56Acts of 1819, Ch. 36, Sec. 1. 

54 University' of Texas Bidleti^i 

could be no transfer of title by parol and no deed of gift 
was recognized unless it was proved and registered.^ '• By 
act of 1805, the transfer of slaves in consideration of mar- 
riage, to be valid against creditors, had to be acknowledged 
by the grantor or proved by two credible witnesses and re- 
corded in the county of the grantor within nine months.^^^ 

D. By Statute of Limitation. In Tennessee, three years 
of adverse possession invested the title of a slave in the pos- 
sessor by virtue of the statute of limitation -''' By the 
statute of limitation, a gift of parol, which is absolutely void, 
would, after the lapse of three years' possession, convey 
title.'"' Judge Green in Davis v. Mitchell, held that an in- 
fant might hold adverse possession of a slave, either by 
himself or through a guardian, and that three years of such 
possession invested the title of the slave in him.'" Three 
years of uninterrupted possession not only invested title, 
but the right to convey that title. '"- 

E. By Statute of Frauds and Fraudulent Conveyances. 
All gifts, grants, loans, alienations or conveyances made 
with fraudulent purposes were valid only between the par- 
ties making them and their heirs, assigns, and administra- 
tors, and in no way barred the action of creditors.'"'" A 
conveyance of goods or chattels, without a valuable consid- 
eration, was considered fraudulent, unless it was made by 
a will duly proved and recorded or a deed acknowledged 
and proved. By act of 1805, such recording had to be done 
within nine months to be valid against creditors or future 
purchasers."'* In Tennessee the want of possession was 
only prima facie evidence of fraud, and might be ex- 
plained."'' If a father represented a slave to be his son's 

i^Young V. Pate, 4 Yerger, 164 (1833). 
I'isActs of 1805, Ch. 16, Sec. 2. 
^■'^Kcts of 1715, Ch. 27, Sec. 5. 

i^oHardeson v. Hays, 4 Yerger, 507 (1833) ; Kegler v. Miles, 1 
Martin & Yerger, 426 (1825) ; Partee v. Badget, 4 Yerger, 174 (1833). 
leiDavis V. Mitchell, 5 Yerger, 281 (1833). 
i62Kegler v. Miles, 1 Martin & Yerger, 426 (1825). 
if'^Acts of\ 1801, Ch. 25, Sec. 2. 
i-'-'Acts of 1805, Ch. 16, Sec. 2. 
i«''Callen v. Thompson, 3 Yerger, 475 (1832). 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 55 

delivered possession and permitted possession to continue 
during the lifetime of the son, who also claimed the slave 
as his own, it was a gift. The acknowledgment of the son 
that the slave belonged to the father would not bar the 
claim of the widow."''' 

F. Bij Prescription. Prescription passed the title and 
possession of slaves in Tennessee."'" In the case of Andrews 
V. Hartsfield, Judge Green held that a bona fide loan of 
slaves by a father to a married daughter for five years sub- 
jected the slaves to sale for the debts of her husband.^"* 

VII. The Law of Increase — 

A. As to Condition of Increase. Tennessee adopted the 
rule of nature, pertaining to human creatures, in declaring 
that the condition of the mother should be that of the child. 
Children born of a mother emancipated at a future date re- 
ceived their freedom with the mother. In the case of Har- 
ris V. Clarissa, who was to receive her freedom at the age 
of twenty. Judge Catron, speaking of the condition of her 
children born after the bequest of her freedom, said : "Had 
she been a slave forever, their condition would have been 
the same, she being a slave for years, their condition could 
not be worse. The child before born is a part of the mother, 
and its condition the same; birth does not alter its 
rights.""" Children born of a mother conditionally man- 
umitted were held to be slaves. '"" 

B. As to the Ownership of the Increase. Tennessee held 
that there was only one title to mother and child. If a 
negro woman were devised to one person for life, with the 
remainder to another, and during the life estate, she gave 
birth to children, they belonged not to the tenant for life, 
but to the remainder man.^'' The first legatee held only a 

lecHooper's Administratrix v. Hooper, 1 Overton, 187 (1801). 
i67Acts of 1801, Ch. 25, Sec. 2. 

I'^^Andrews v. Hartsfield, 3 Yerger, 39 (1832); see also Peters v, 
Chores, 4 Yerger, 176 (1833). 

leyHarris v. Clarissa, 6 Yerger, 227 (1834). 
I'OHope V. Johnson, 2 Yerger, 123 (1826). 
I'lPreston v. McGaughery, 1 Cook, 115 (1812). 

56 University' of Texas Bulletin 

particular interest, while the second held absolute title.^'^ 
If the first devisee received an absolute estate, the increase 
went to him.'"' The term increase was usually qualified 
by the word "future" in order to restrict its application to 
only the issue after the bequest of freedom to the mother.'-* 

VIII. The Legal Status of the Slave — 

What, then, in conclusion, was the legal status of the 
slave? Was he a chattel? Or was he a responsible per- 
son? By the civil law, the slave was a chattel; by the 
common law he was a person. Both of these systems of 
jurisprudence were combined into a compromise that ac- 
tually represented the legal status of the slave in Tennes- 
see. The slave was both a chattel and a person. 

A. As a Chattel. The slave was personal property. 
He, therefore, could neither own property, nor make a 
commercial contract. He had neither civil marriage nor 
political rights. His movements in the community were 
under the control of his master. He could not be a party 
to a law suit in ordinary matters. He had no control over 
his time or labor. His punishments were usually whip- 
ping. Like a chattel, he was an article of merchandise 
to be sold to the highest bidder. He had no control over 
his children at law, and could not be a witness against a 
white man. 

B. As a Person. The slave was emancipated and given 
his full rights at law. He could be a party to a suit for his 
freedom and for property that his freedom involved. He 
could represent his master as agent. His marriage, while 
not a civil one, was held binding by the courts. The chil- 
dren of a recognized marriage were not illegitimate, and 
took the legal status of the mother. He could make a bind- 
ing contract with his master for his freedom. He was held 
responsible at law for murder. His intellectual and moral 
qualities were recognized at times. He eventually acquired 
the right of trial by jury. 

i72Caines and Wife v. Marley, 2 Yerger, 586 (1831). 
I'SSmith V. Bell and Wife. 1 Martin & Yerger, 302 (1827), 
I'-iWheeler, Op. Cit., 225. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 57 

This compromise legal basis of slavery in Tennessee was 
well stated by Judge Nelson in the case of Andrews v. Page, 
as follows : 

While the institution of slavery existed it was 
generally held in the slaveholding states that the 
marriage of slaves was utterly null and void; be- 
cause of the paramount ownership in them as 
property, their incapacity to make a contract, and 
the incompatibility of the duties and obligations 
of husband and wife with relation to slavery . . . 
But we are not aware that this doctrine ever was 
distinctly and explicitly recognized in this state.^'"' 

In another connection in the same case, Judge Nelson 


The numerous authorities above cited show that 
slaves, although regarded as property and subject 
to many restrictions, never were considered by the 
courts of this state as standing on the same foot- 
ing^ as horses, cattle, and other personal prop- 

Judge McKinney, in Jones v. Allen, said : 

We are not to forget, nor are we to suppose, 
that it was lost sight of by the legislature, that, 
under our modified system of slavery, slaves are 
not mere chattels, but are regarded in the two-fold 
character of persons and property ; that is, as per- 
sons they are considered by our laws as account- 
able moral agents, possessed of volition and loco- 
motion, and that certain rights have been con- 
ferred upon them by positive law and judicial de- 
termination, and other privileges and indulgences 
have been conceded to them by the universal con- 
sent of their owners. By uniform and universal 
usage, they are constituted the agents of their 
owners, and are sent on their business without 
written authority; and in like manner they are 
sent to perform those neighborly good offices com- 
mon in every community. Tbey are not at all times 
in the service of their owners, and are allowed by 

i-^Andrew^ v. Page, 3 Heiskell, 661 (1868). 
i-6lbid., 662. 

University of Texas Bulletin 

universal sufferance, at night, on Sundays, holi- 
days, and other occasions, to go abroad, to attend 
church, to visit those to whom they are related by 
nature, though the relation may not be recognized 
by municipal law; and to exercise other innocent 
enjoyments without its ever entering the mind of 
any good citizen to demand written authority of 
them. The simple truth is, such indulgences have 
been so long and so uniformly tolerated that public 
sentiment upon the subject has acquired almost 
the force of positive law,^'' 

i"Andrews v. Page, 3 Heiskell, 662-3 (1868). 


Economics of Slavery in Tennessee 

I. Slavery an Expression of the Soil. 

Someone has said, "The rocks determine our poHtics." 
The rocks make the soil, which in turn determines the agri- 
cultural products that a section can produce with profit, 
and, hence, the labor system. Slavery nowhere in the 
United States reflected physiographic features more dis- 
tinctly than in Tennessee. The three sections of the state 
have always differed very largely in their agriculture, in 
their sympathy with various sections of the country, and in 
their politics. In fact, there are almost three peoples and 
three civilizations in Tennessee. Physiography has been 
the biggest factor in the differentiation. The human re- 
sponse to the soil is very clearly shown. The differences 
in the sections of the state on the subject of slavery were 
due mainly to geography, since differences in climate were 
not sufficiently marked to promote or create any special at- 
titude of mind toward slavery. 

East Tennessee remained throughout the slavery regime 
mainly a section of small farmers. It was only the river 
valleys of the French Broad, the Watauga, the Holston, and 
the Tennessee that yielded with advantage to agriculture. 
These valleys were mostly of limestone formation, and pro- 
duced a loamy soil that was very fertile. 

The counties^ in these river valleys produced considerable 
quantities of wheat and corn, but very little cotton. In 1850 
East Tennessee produced one bale of cotton, ten hogsheads 
of tobacco, 1,813,338 bushels of wheat, and 10,998,654 bush- 
els of corn.- In 1840, the counties containing the largest 
number of slaves were Knox, numbering 1934; Hawkins, 

^Knox, Bledsoe, Bradley, Granger, Greene, Hawkins, McMinn, Mon- 
roe, Roane, and Hamilton were counties noted for their production of 
corn and wheat. 

-Comptroller's Report for 1850, p. 44. 

60 University of Texas Bulletin 

1499; Jefferson, 1282; and McMinn, 1241. There were six 
counties with slightly over one thousand each, six in the 
six hundred column, and the others ranged from 150 to 
450 each.-' In 1860 there were four counties in East Ten- 
nessee with 2000 slaves in each. In the same year, there 
were 27,560 slaves in East Tennessee. ■ 

In 1856 there were only 28 farms in East Tennessee con- 
taining one thousand acres or more. There were 164 con- 
taining from 500 to 1000 acres, 1,173 having from 100 to 
500 acres, 7,117 having 50 to 100 acres, and 6,920 contain- 
ing less than fifty acres. There were only 192 farms which 
contained more than 500 acres. It is seen from these figures 
that East Tennessee was populated essentially by small far- 
mers who raised wheat and corn and live stock,^ 

In 1840 there were 19,915 slaves in East Tennessee, val- 
ued at $10,813,845.' In 1850 there were 22,187 valued at 
$11,248,809; and in 1860 there were 27,560 slaves valued at 
$23,536,240.^^ There were in 1856 only 4,784 slaveholders 
in East Tennessee. Of these, one held between 200 and 
300 slaves, 3 between 70 and 100, 4 between 50 and 70. 
12 between 40 and 50, and only 718 owned more than ten 
slaves, and 1207 owned only one ; 719 owned two slaves. 
Practically half the slaveholders of East Tennessee owned 
either one or two slaves. The average price of land per acre 
in East Tennessee was $4.62, slightly more than half of what 
it was for middle and West Tennessee.' The value of the 
slave in 1859 ranged from $563 in Johnson County, which 
is in the northeastern part of the state, in the mountains, 
to $953 in Blount County, which is bordered by the Tennes- 
see River and is traversed by some of its branches. 

Middle Tennessee was more adapted to the slavery sys- 
tem than East Tennessee. It contained the rich Central 
Basin, traversed by the Cumberland River, and also por- 
tions of the valley of the Tennessee. Slaveiy was profitable 

•^Census of 1850, Population I, p. 63. 
•^Comptroller's Report for 1856, p. 44. 
sComptroller's Report for 1857-8, p. 165. 
^Comptroller's Report for 1859-60, p. 22. 
^Comptroller's Report for 1859, p. 30. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 61 

in Middle Tennessee, especially for the cultivation of to- 
bacco and cotton. Middle Tennessee in 1856 raised 19,621 
bales of cotton and 4,511 hogsheads of tobacco. It pro- 
duced 1,825,423 bushels of wheat and 21,968,114 bushels of 
corn.- The big cotton counties were Lincoln, producing 
2,558 bales; Williamson, 3,167 bales; Maury, 4,623 bales: 
and Rutherford, 4,623 bales. All these counties are in the 
Central Basin. The big tobacco counties were Robertson, 
producing 1083 hogsheads, Smith, 1050 hogsheads, and Wil- 
liamson, 1179 hogsheads. 

There were 74 farms in Middle Tennessee, containing 
more than one thousand acres each and 299 farms having 
beween 500 and 1000 acres each. The counties having 
plantations of more than 500 acres were Wilson, with 24, 
Davidson, 27, Bedford, 33, Montgomery, 23, Williamson, 
49, Lincoln, 50, Rutherford, 52, and Giles, 60. Most of 
these counties are located in the Central Basin, and have 
a rich, loamy soil. The response was the big plantation 
and a dense slave population. 

The slave population of Middle Tennessee, increased from 
106,640 in 1840, to 131,666 in 1850 and to 148,028 by 1860. 
Land was very valuable in the cotton and tobacco counties, 
ranging in value from $13.54 in Giles County to $18.84 pe;-' 
acre in Williamson. The slave in Giles County was worth 
$797 while in Williamson County he was valued at $855. 
Both of these counties were rural and produced cotton. The 
average value of land for this section was only $8.82 per 
acre while the average value of slaves was $838. The total 
value of slaves in Middle Tennessee in 1860 was $126,488,- 

There were 18,524 slaveholders m Middle Tennessee in 
1856; of this number, 14,145 held less than ten slaves; only 
one owned more than 300 slaves ; about four thousand held 
only one slave. There were practically no large slavehold- 
ers in Middle Tennessee. 

West Tennessee along the Mississippi River was a part of 
the Black Belt, and was more suitable for the production 

^Comptroller's Report for 1856, p. 44. 

62 University' of Texas Bulletin 

of cotton than either of the other two divisions of the state. 
There were 13,536 slaveholders in West Tennessee in 1856.-' 
West Tennessee had larger slaveholders in proportion to 
the total number than either of the other divisions of the 
state. In East Tennessee those who owned one slave were 
one-fourth of the total number of slaveholders ; in Middle 
Tennessee about the same proportion prevailed ; and in West 
Tennessee this ratio was reduced to 1:5. In East Tennes- 
see there was only one person owning more than one hun- 
dred slaves ; in Middle Tennessee there were twenty-five ; i; 
West Tennessee there were eighty-five. 

The plantations in West Tennessee were larger and more 
numerous, in spite of the fact that West Tennessee was not 
settled before 1820. Fayette County had 74 plantations 
containing between 500 and 1000 acres each, and 15 con- 
taining more than 1000 acres each. Fayette County in 1860 
contained 15,473 slaves, all of whom had been acquired since 
1830.^" Shelby had a slave' population of 16,953, which had 
been acquired since 1830. Some of the most productive parts 
of the Black Belt in West Tennessee, such as Lake County, 
were not in cultivation by 1860. The counties along the 
divide between the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers were 
very poor, and therefore not suitable for the production of 
cotton in large quantities. Counties like Hardin, Hender- 
son, McNairy, Chester, Decatur, Carroll, Weakley, and Gib- 
son were cultivated by small farmers, many of whom owned 
no slaves at all, while others owned only one or two slaves. 
In these counties, farmers worked their crops by themselves, 
or by the side of their slaves. 

The leading crops of West Tennessee were cotton, corn, 
wheat, and tobacco. Cotton was the chief crop, and to- 
bacco was raised in only the poorer counties, like Benton, 
Carroll, Weakley, Gibson, Haywood, and Lauderdale. Fay- 
ette and Shelby were the big cotton counties. West Ten- 
nessee produced in 1856 four times as much cotton as Middle 

^Comptroller's Report for 1856, p. 44. 
loTenth Census, I, Population, p. 63. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 63 

Tennessee, and 3,144 hogsheads of tobacco against 4,511 
produced by Middle Tennessee.'' 

Taking the state as a whole, it was never more than a 
state of small farmers. The plantation system as it existed 
in Mississippi or South Carolina never prevailed in Ten- 
nessee. The soils of Tennessee were not sufficiently pro- 
ductive to make slavery profitable on a large scale. It was 
more profitable to own from one to halt a dozen slaves and 
work with them than to have an overseer. Of the 33,864 
slaveholders in the state in 1850, 26,512 owned less than 
ten slaves each, and 18,198 owned less than five each. There 
were only 22 persons in the state who owned more than one 
hundred slaves. By 1856 this number had increased to one 
hundred and six. 

The distribution of the slaves over the state was deter- 
mined by the crops raised. In East Tennessee the ratio of 
slaves to whites was about 1 to 12 ; in Middle Tennessee, 
1 to 3 ; and in West Tennessee, 3 to 5. In no county in East 
Tennessee was the ratio greater than 1 to 6, while in several 
counties it was 1 to 60, and in two-thirds of them it ranged 
from 1 to 20, to 1 to 60.'- This, of course, was a matter of 
the soil. These factors reflected themselves in social life 
education, religion, and politics. Slavery produced aris- 
tocracy and classes of society wherever it appeared. It 
made for the private school in education, Whiggery in poli- 
tics, and the southern division among the Protestant 
churches that split. East Tennessee in Andrew Jackson's 
time was the democratic part of the state. West Tennes- 
see, the seat of the Black Belt, was the home of the Whig 
aristocracy. When the Whigs became Democrats in the 
decade between 1850 and 1860, the free farmers and small 
slaveholders. Democrats of East Tennessee, became Union- 
ists and later Republicans. This same formula worked 
out over the entire state. There are Republican islands 
in Dsmocratic sections, and Democratic islands in Repub- 

iiComptroller's Report for 1856, p. 44. 

i^Martin, A. E., Tennessee Historical Magazine, I, No. 4, p. 279. 

64 University' of Texas Bulletin 

lican sections. East Tennesse remained loyal to the Meth- 
odist Church, and West Tennessee went into the Methodist 
Church, South. These divisions were not peculiar alone to 
the three grand divisions of the state, but are found in the 
various counties. 

For instance, in the Presidential elections of 1844 between 
Clay and Polk, Tennessee went for Clay. The big Demo- 
cratic counties of today were Whig then. Fayette's vote 
was 1217 to 1060 in favor of Clay; Shelby's, 1828 to 1607 in 
favor of Clay; Madison's, 1562 to 737 in favor of Clay; Gib- 
son's, 1423 to 688 in favor of Clay. These counties are nov.- 
the big Democratic counties of West Tennessee. They stood 
the same way in 1848 on the election between Taylor arid 
Cass. They voted overwhelmingly for the Whig candidate 
for Governor in 1847.^^ 

Present Republican counties of East Tennessee went Dem- 
ocratic. Washington, 1225 to 881 in favor of Polk; Sulli- 
van, 1533 to 350 in favor of Polk; Greene, 1701 to 1031 in 
favor of Polk. The same line-up expressed itself in 1847 
and in the Presidential election of 1848.^* 

There are certain counties in West Tennessee today that 
are quite as overwhelmingly Republican as any in East Ten- 
nessee. These counties are in full sympathv with the point 
of view of the North in politics and toward life generally. 
The northern branches of the churches, together with their 
schools, are found in these counties. They prefer school 
teachers from the North and send their children to northern 
colleges. The human response to the soil that determined 
their attitude toward slavery is mainlj^ responsible for 
these results. It was this force that made poor whites out 
of some and slaveholders out of others. 

II. The Management of the Plantation. 

Plantation life in Tennessee was more humane than is 
Generally supposed. Great care was taken in establishing 
the negro quarters. There were several reasons for this. 

i^Whig Almanac for 1844. 
i-'Whig Almanac for 1848. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 65 

Tiot especially peculiar to Tennessee. Health is an indis- 
pensable factor in the life of an efficient laborer. It saved 
or reduced the expense of medical attention. Sanitary 
quarters for the negroes produced contentment and thus 
lessened the problem of government. They prevented the 
spread of disease, and a consequent heavy death rate. They 
diminished crime among the slaves and on the whole made a 
good reputation for the master. Respect for the master 
v^as no inconsiderable force in the proper functioning of a 
plantation. The slaveholders discussed these sujajects in 
the agricultural fairs and read papers on how to build 
proper slave quarters. 

In an issue of the Practical Farmer and Mechanic, pub- 
lished at Somerville, Tennessee, the county seat of the most 
densely slave-populated county in the state, are given the 
following instructions relative to the establishment of the 
plantation buildings : 

In the selection of his farm, he (the master) 
should have an eye to health, convenience of water, 
and a soil with such a substratum as to retain 
manures. His home should be neat but not costly 
— erected on an elevated situation — with a suffi- 
cient number of shade trees to impart health and 
comfort to its inmates. His negro quarters should 
be placed a convenient distance from his dwelling 
on a dry, airy ridge — raised two feet from the 
ground — so they can be thoroughly ventilated un- 
derneath, and placed at distances apart of at least 
fifty yards to ensure health. In this construction, 
they should be sufficiently spacious so as not to 
crowd the family intended to occupy them — with 
brick chimneys and large fire-places to impart 
warmth to every part of the room. More diseases 
and loss of time on plantations are engendered 
from crowded negro cabins than from almost any 
other cause. The successful pl?nter should there- 
fore have an especial eve to the comfort of his 
negroes, in not nermitting them to be over- 
crowded in their sleeping quarters.''' 

^■•The Practical Farmei* and Mechanic, October 0- 1857. 

66 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

This was an ideal that was regarded as a model. There 
was pride among masters as to the character and appear- 
ance of their plantations. In a description of a plantation 
in Haywood County, the following elaborate set of buildings 
is given : dwelling-house, kitchen, washhouse, storehouse, 
ofRce, smokehouse, servants' houses about the dwelling of 
the master, weaving, ice, and poultry houses, gin house, 
grist mill, flouring mill, wheat granary, stables, corn crib, 
overseer's house, seven double negro cabins, thirty-six feet 
by fourteen, with large brick chimneys, closets, and other 
conveniences, all of which buildings are annually white- 
washed.^'' If one family was to occupy the cabin, it was 
usually about 16 feet by 20 feet in its dimensions.'' An 
effort was made to locate cabins among shade trees. If 
this condition was not met, trees were planted. Comfort- 
able housing of the slaves was one of the real problems of 
slave management, and it seems that an honest effort in 
most cases was made to solve it. Proper bedding with plenty 
of blankets was furnished in the winter, and close attention 
was given to the food of the slaves. Weekly allowances 
were usually made, yet some fed in common. Five pounds 
of good, clean bacon, one quart of molasses, a sufficiency of 
bread and coffee with sugar were usually distributed to 
each slave on some designated night each week. Family ra- 
tions were put together. Single hands received their ra- 
tions separately, and then united in squads and masses. 
Some woman was detailed to cook their meat or make their 
coffee. The bread was cooked in the bakery for the entire 

Two suits of cotton for spring and summer; two suits of 
woolen for winter ; four pairs of shoes, and three hats made 
up the clothing allowance. The slave was encouraged to be 
neat in his dress. 

The slaves were supposed to go to work by sunrise. They 
rested from one to two hours at noon and then worked until 
night. In summer, the plan frequently v/as to work from 

"■-Comptrollev's Report for 1855-6, p. 431. 
I'De Bow's Review, XVII. 423. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 67 

sunrise to 8 :00 o'clock a.m., then breakfast, work until 12 :00 
o'clock at noon, rest two hours, and then work until night. 
They always quit work at noon on Saturday to prepare for 

Various plans were used to stimulate the slaves to work. 
One of the most effective was ''task week." The negroes 
varied among themselves considerably as to the rapidity 
with which they coulH perform their labor. It was this 
very fact that constituted the basis of the ''task" system. 
According to this system, a slave could work for himself 
or play when he had finished his assigned task. Some mas- 
ters permitted the slaves to cultivate a few acres for them- 

Prompt attention in case of sickness was a vastly impor- 
tant matter among slaves. Masters, mistresses, and over- 
seers usually knew a great many home remedies which, if 
given in time, would suffice for a large number of com- 
plaints. A good amount of red pepper was used in the veg- 
etables. This was supposed to stimulate the system, pre- 
vent sore throat, and render the system less liable to chills 
and fevers. 

Good plantation management contained a number of ad- 
ditional interesting features. A weekly dance was an event 
to be looked forward to. For the master and mistress to 
chaperon these occasions made a strong impression on the 
slaves. Family prayers in which the slaves participated 
had a bracing effect on the negro's character. It was wise 
to have an employed preacher for the slaves. Religion ap- 
pealed to the negro's character, and it was a psychological 
factor in his control. 

One of the most interesting features of plantation life 
was the raising of poultry by the old slaves who were in- 
capacitated for hard work. An old negro man, giving most 
zealous attention to his brood, his negro assistants careful 
to plea"Se him in every detail, and the "happy family," con- 
sisting of everything from a bob white and turkey gobbler 

68 Uriiversitij of Texas Bulletin 

to a mockingbird, made one of the most beautiful pictures of 
plantation life.^'' 

The duties of the master was a subject that was kept be- 
fore the community even if economic interests were not 
sufficient to control such matters. J. P. Williams, in a 
prize essay on plantations and their management, urged 
that the master should give his personal attention to his 
negroes. He thought that such supervision would not 
only pay in financial returns but would largely solve the 
problem of discontent and insubordination frequently due 
to mistreatment of slaves by an overseer.'^ 

isThe following is a description of "a master in Haywood County, 
who, having the Shanghai mania, raised one year over eight hundred 
of them, under the careful attention and supervision of an old man, 
who had numbered his three score years, and was very infirm, but 
who, after proper preparation in the several coops and houses, with 
suitable places as depositories for their food, took great pleasure in 
his charge, and, with the negroes assisting him, it was pleasing to 
see the delight he manifested in the care of his brood, and with what 
pride he would discourse on their good qualities to his respective 
visitors. Upwards of one hundred pair were given away, and from 
the sales of others at five dollars the pair, the old negro's labor con- 
tributed to the income of the farm more than two hundred dollars. 
To suppress the romantic suggestions that his rural pursuits in his 
retirement might lead to, he would exhibit his 'happy faimly' uncaged 
to his visitors, when he pointed to the fowl, the duck, the turkey, the 
pea-fowl, the pigeon, the partridge, the dove, the jaybird, the squir- 
rel, the rabbit, the red bird, the woodpecker, the humming and mock- 
ing bird, as they occupied their respective places in the forest before 
his dwelling, and frequently several of them might be seen eating to- 
gether, feeling instinctively conscious, from habit long indulged, that 
they had a protector over them, that prevented their being wantonly 

Comptroller's Report 1855-6, p. 432. 

i9"He should see," said Williams, "that their cabins are kept clean 
and free from all kinds of filth, and that their hours of retiring 
should be regular and at an early period of the night.. Their food 
should be nourishing and weH cooked, with plenty of vegetables in 
heat of summer. 

"He should have his negroes comfortably clad, winter and summer. 
and see that their persons as well as their clothing are kept clean and 
nice, and that they are not driven out in unsuitable weather (which is 
too often the case by over-bearing overseers), if he expects them to 
enjoy health or live to an age to be profitabh ,o their masters. He 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 69 

The master's relation to the overseer was an important 
factor in the management of the plantation. It was a 
good policy to pay any overseer well. This gave the master 
the right to demand his entire time, and usually ended in 
efficiency and satisfactory relations of overseer to both 
master and slaves. 

"An employer," said Jas. C. Lusby, in a paper read before 
the Agricultural and Mechanical Society of Fayette County, 
September 2, 1855, "should never ask a negro any ques- 
tions whatever about the business of the plantation, or the 
condition of the crops; nor say anything in the presence 
of the negroes about the overseer, for they are always ready 
to catch any word that may be dropped, and use it if pos- 
sible to cause a disturbance between the master and the 
overseer."-" It seems that there was a common practice 
among masters to have one or two trusties among the ne- 
groes to act as spies upon the overseer. "Negroes," said 
Lusby, "in two-thirds of the cases, are the cause of em- 
ployers and overseers falling out."-^ The successful planter 
was one who gave sufficient time and thought to the man- 
agement of his farm to enable him to be his own judge 
as to the character and efficiency of his overseer. 

The overseer was the most important factor in the man- 
agement of the large plantation. His indifference toward 
the interests of either master or slaves broke down the 
system, because there was perfect unity of interests in- 
herent in the system, and the successful overseer recog- 
nized this ideal. It was the business of the overseer to be 

should attend to their morals and instruct them himself, or employ 
others to do so, as regards their duties and obligations to their master 
and their Creator — so they may thoroughly understand the full nature 
of vice and crime, and their consequent punishment here and here- 
after. These instructions will make them better servants by teaching 
them their true and relative positions, and prevent cases of insub- 
ordination which so often arise from ignorance and neglect. Let 
their treatment be mild and humane, at the same time stern and 
uncompromising in the punishment of offenses." — The Practical 
Farmer and Mechanic, October 6, 1857. 

-oComptroller's Report for 1855-6, p. 525. 

2ilbid., p. 526. 

70 University' of Texas Bulletin 

present at the beginning of ever\^ important work, not 
merely because he was paid to do so, but because the ne- 
groes always took advantage of his absence. It was his 
business to ring a bell or blow a horn in the morning for 
breakfast, because it was unsafe to entrust this duty to a 
negro driver for the reason that it was almost impossible 
to find a negro sufficiently regular in his habits to be re- 
liable. If the breakfast hour was a failure, the entire day's 
work was seriously damaged. 

The overseer had to see that the negroes were up by four 
o'clock in the winter and about half past three in the spring 
and summer. This gave time to prepare victuals, arrange 
clothes and shoes, to see that horses and mules were prop- 
erly fed, that crib doors were shut, that fires were built 
for the children, and that everybody was ready to go to 
work by daylight. -- 

The overseer accompanied the slaves to the field and saw 
that the day's work was properly begun. He could then 
return to his house for breakfast. Following breakfast, 
he was free to make a general inspection of the plantation. 
He inspected the cabins to see that they were neatly kept, 
that the clothes of the negroes were washed, that the negro 
nurses were properly looking after the children, that the 
common bakery, boot-and-shoe shop, carpenters, mechanics, 
and tailors were eflficiently functioning. 

He inspected fences, ditches, gates, and stock occasion- 
ally. He visited the cabins two or three times a week at 
night to see that the negroes were at home and that no 
strange negroes were on the premises. The nature of the 
negro was to gad about, and to keep improper hours. It 
was the duty of the overseer to prevent- this. He had to 
look after the farming implements, and, after the crops 
were harvested, to gather up the tools of the plantation 
and have them repaired and properly housed during the 

The overseer had constantly to plan work two or three 
weeks in advance to have the greatest success. He had to 

-'•-Comptroller's Report for 1855-6, p. 527. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 71 

keep in close touch with the master, especially concerning 
work after the crops were finished. "I consider it to be 
the duty of the overseer," said Lusby, "to do anything that 
the employer wishes him to do, right or wrong."-' 

Lusby advocated that an overseer should be a model of 
personal appearance. He should keep himself close-shaven, 
wear good clothes, "hold his head up equal to his employer, 
ride a good, sprightly horse, and have one of the hands 
to attend to him, and saddle him in the morning."-' An 
overseer was rated by the slaves very largely according to 
the manner in which he conducted himself. His personal 
conduct was a determining factor in the degree of control 
that he was able to exercise. This factor either made or 
undid all his efforts. 

An overseer who was a success in the employment of a 
master was usually able to buy land and negroes for him- 
self in a few years. In an address given at an agricultural 
fair in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1855, an account is given 
of a planter in Haywood County, who had had only four 
overseers from 1838 to 1855. One of these in six years, 
with a large family, accumulated nineteen hundred dol- 
lars which he invested in lands and negroes in Texas, and 
was soon doing well. Another accumulated in seven years 
more than two thousand dollars, and was ready to go to 
Arkansas and invest his capital in lands and negroes. The 
other two had similar success.-^ 

The slaves in Tennessee undoubtedly were, on the whole, 
humanely treated. Rev. Arthur Howard says in his his- 
tory of the Episcopal Church in Tennessee that "it is im- 
possible to deny that the negroes of the South were hap- 
pier, and better cared for, physically and morally, under the 
system of slavery existing in the South, than they have been 
at any time since they obtained their freedom and were 

-•^Comptroller's Report for 1855-6. p. 527. 
-*Ibid., p. 431. 

72 University' of Texas Bulletin 

suddenly, without any training, endowed with the right of 

Rev. J. N. Pendleton, of the Baptist Church, said: 
I take great pleasure in testifying that slavery 
in Kentucky and Tennessee, and I was not ac- 
quainted with it elsewhere, was of the mild type. 
When I went North, nothing surprised me more 
than to see laborers at work in the rain and snow. 
In such weather, slaves in Kentucky and Tennessee 
would have been under shelter.-^ 

III. Was Slavery Profitable in Tennessee? 

There is a great deal of evidence that slavery was profit- 
able, and some that it was not. Slavery increased very 
rapidly in the first two decades of the history of the state. 
From 1790 to 1800 there was an increase of 297.54 per 
cent, and from 1800 to 1810 an increase of 229.31 per 
cent.-' Slave population increased only 79.06 per cent 
in the next decade, and only 244.19 per cent from 1820 to 
1860. This decrease in percentage from 1820 to 1860 is 
in face of the fact that West Tennessee, the Black Belt 
part of the state, was settled and populated during this 
period. This evidently means that slavery was not making 
much progress in East and Middle Tennessee. 

Slaves increased in value very rapidly in Tennessee from 
1790 to about 1836. They were worth only $100 each in 
1790, but by 1836 they were valued at $584.-^ They de- 
creased in value to $413.72 by 1846. They reached the 1836 
mark again in 1854, and by 1860 were valued, for purposes 
of taxation, at $900.-' This valuation was largely controlled 
by the price of cotton. The average price of cotton for the 
decade ending 1830 was 13.3 cents per pound; for the 
decade ending 1840, 12.4 cents ; for the decade ending 1850, 

•-■^'Howard, Rev. Arthur, History of the Church in the of 
Tennessee, p. 177. 

-■"Pendleton, J. N., Reminiscences of a Long Life, p. 127. 
-'■Statistical Abstract of U. S., 1906, p. 32. 
2>^Comptroller's Report for 1857-8, p. 165. 
-^Comptroller's Report for 1859-60, p. 22. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 73 

8.2 cents; and for the five years ending 1855, 9.6 cents."" 
The values and prices of Tennessee slaves and cotton only 
roughly corresponded to those of the United States at the 
same time. In 1792, the average value of a slave in the 
United States was $300, and in 1835 it was $900, and $600 
in 1844. ■' Upland cotton was worth I71/2 cents per pound 
in New York City in 1835 and 71/2 cents in 1844. It was 
generally held that a difference of one cent a pound in the 
price of cotton made a difference of $100 in the price of 
slaves, but this could not apply to the above prices. 

Slavery was undoubtedly very profitable in Middle and 
West Tennessee. F. A. Michaux in travelling from Nash- 
ville to Knoxville in 1802 says: "Between Nashville and 
Fort Blount (above Nashville on the Cumberland River 
about sixty miles) the plantations, although isolated in the 
woods always, are nevertheless, upon the road, within two 
or three miles of each other. The inhabitants live in com- 
fortable log houses; the major part keep negroes, and ap- 
pear to live happy and in abundance."'- He says West Ten- 
nessee (Cumberland), now Middle Tennessee, produced a 
very fine grade of cotton and that manufacture was en- 
couraged by the legislature. •' "Emigrants to Tennessee," 
he continues, "by at least the third year have gone over to 
the cotton crop." He says that a man and his wife could, 
aside from raising sufficient Indian corn for sustenance 
"cultivate four acres (of cotton) with the greatest ease." 
This would yield a net produce of two hundred and twelve 
dollars. "This light sketch," he says, "demonstrates with 
what facility a poor family may acquire speedily, in West 
Tennessee, a certain degree of independence, particularly 
after having been settled five or six years, as they procure 
the means of purchasing one or two negroes, and of an- 
nually increasing this number."^* 

Lilly Buttrick, travelling in Tennessee from 1812 to 1819, 

soStirling, James, Letters from the Slave States, p. 305. 
3iPolitical Science Quarterly, XX, p. 267. 
32Thwaites, III, 257. 
33Ibid., 277. 
3*Ibid., 278. 

74 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

speaks of stopping with an Indian slave owner by the name 
of Talbot, who lived on the bank of the Tennessee. "This 
man," he says, "was said to be very rich, in land, cattle, and 
negro slaves, and also to have large sums of money in the 

The culture of cotton was profitable from the very be- 
ginning of the state down to 1860. As early as July, 1797, 
Mr. Miller of the firm of Miller and Whitney, proposed to 
his partner that they send an agent to Knoxville, "where 
we were informed that cotton was valuable," and to Nash- 
ville and the Cumberland settlements to gather information 
concerning the culture of cotton in those parts and the mode 
of cleaning it."' As soon as the people of these frontier 
settlements learned that the cotton gin was a success, they 
held public meetings and petitioned the legislature of Ten- 
nessee to buy the patent rights of Miller and Whitney to 
the saw-gin within the limits of Tennessee. Andrew Jack- 
son presided at some of these meetings. ■• In accordance 
with the wishes of the people, the legislature purchased the 
patent rights for the gin within the limits of Tennessee in 
1803, and the state began to encourage the growth of cot- 
ton. "Cotton production in this state," says Hammond, 
"with the exception of a few years in the 40's, continued to 
increase at a uniform rate until the outbreak of the Civil 

A. D. Murphrey, a North Carolinian, travelling through 
West Tennessee in 1822, and writing to his friend, Thomas 
Ruffin, left the following account of the soil and the profits 
in farming in West Tennessee: "Since I wrote you last I 
have been through nearly one-half of the Chickashaw Pur- 
chase, and if I was disappointed as to old Tennessee. I was 
still more as to the Purchase; but my disappointment was 
of another kind. I have never seen such a beautiful coun- 
try before, nor one where industry can be so well rewarded. 

■*'Thwaites, VIII, 73. 

■■'•■American Historical Review, October, 1897 (Letter of Phineas 
Miller to Eli Whitney, July 21, 1797). 

•'•Aurora and General Advertiser, September 3, 1802. 
•■''"Hammond, M. B., The Cotton Industry, p. 70. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 75 

It is very much like Mecklenburg and Cararrus were, I ex- 
pect, a hundred years ago, in their appearance ; but there is 
a fertility in its poorest soil that I have seen nowhere else. 
Except the swamp, there is really no poor land, if we are to 
judge from its production; for on the poorest ridges that 
I have seen, six and eight barrels of corn, or 1000 pounds 
of cotton is the ordinary crop. What is there called good 
land brings upon an average 10 barrels of corn or 1300 
pounds of cotton to the acre ; and one hand will tend more 
land than two in any part of North Carolina west of Ra- 
leigh. I have just left the house of a Mr. Morgan on 
Sandy River, who is now working his second crop and 
works four hands. He has prepared 80 acres of this ground 
since Xmas, 1821 (this was July, 1822), and his crop of 
corn, without severe disaster, will be 1000 barrels . . . 
The soil is rich, black land, varying in depth from four to 
ten inches ; then comes a good clay — not a stone or pebble 
to be seen."^^ 

The Nashville Banner in 1833, in a discussion on the 
prosperity of Tennessee, boasted that "the profits alone" 
on the crop of cotton, in the present year, "will pay the 
whole aggregate debt of Tennessee and leave a large bal- 
ance in favor of the country."**' 

In the reports made to the Comptroller, and inventories 
given in the proceedings of the county and district fairs, 
there are numerous examples of individuals who, with a 
few slaves, purchased lands, cleared and stocked them, and 
made big money in farming. The following is a detailed 
account of what a Middle Tennessee planter did, who in 
1838 had twenty-two negroes, only fifteen of whom were 
field hands: "He cleared nine hundred acres of land . . . 
made all his improvements, consisting of a dwelling house, 
kitchen, washhouse, storehouse, office, smokehouse, the nec- 
essary negro houses for servants' houses about his dwell- 
ing, weaving, ice and poultry houses, a gin house forty 
by sixty feet, a building forty feet square with driving 

^^Publications of the North Carolina Historical Commission, I, p. 

o'Nashville Banner, November 16, 1833. 

76 Univeisitij' of Texas Bulletin 

power attached," from which was propelled the following 
machinery: a flouring mill which ground and bolted from 
seventy to eighty bushels of wheat per day, a corn mill which 
ground from ninety to one hundred bushels of corn per day, 
a knife that cut food for his stock, a corn sheller, a wheat 
thresher, with a 300-bushel capacity per day for wheat and 
200 bushels for rye, a saw mill that cut from one to two 
thousand feet of lumber per day; "barns, stables, cribs, 
overseer's home, negro cabins, and outhouses."*' This 
planter furnished the flour for his family and negroes and 
sold a surplus to cotton planters sufficient to pay the cost 
of his machinery and the salary of his overseer. He raised 
all the live stock that the plantation needed, and sold im- 
mense quantities of horses, mules, cattle, sheep, and swine. 
His capital increased at the rate of 169 per cent per an- 
num, yet "he never made a speculation of any kind what- 
ever during all this time of prosperity, to buy and sell 
again. He lived generously, while some of his friends 
charged him with extravagance in many things. His farm- 
ing interest did it all, under its own progression, and is 
entitled as a pursuit or business, after the support of him- 
self and family, w^hich under the peculiar visitations of 
Providence, added necessarily to his expenses, to all the 
credit. "'- 

This planter was active in politics, and acted as admin- 
istrator of the estates of several of his friends. He man- 
aged his plantation so successfully that he never gave cause 
for a change of overseers, nor did he have any trouble with 
his slaves. He was a type of the Middle Tennessee plant- 

This planter was Mark C. Cockrill. He was famous for 
the grade of wool that he grew. He exhibited a wool at the 
World's Fair in London that for its texture, quality, and 
fineness excelled the wool from Saxony, from which the 
best English broadcloths have been made. He returned 

41 Comptroller's Report for 1855-6, p. 432. 
4-Ibid., p. 433. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 11 

with the premium, certificates, and medals to be still fur- 
ther rewarded by the legislature of his own state with a 
gold medal for his enterprise and the prosperity he had 
brought to the wool-growers of the state.'- 

There were equally famous public-spirited cotton plant- 
ers of West Tennessee, Pope, Holmes, Poynor, and Bond, 
planters of Fayette County and Shelby County, at this 
same World's Fair, who changed the classification and 
commercial character of American cottons. They were able 
to place Tennessee cotton next to the Georgia Sea Island, 
giving it the highest grade of upland cotton. This meant 
considerable wealth to Tennessee. Both Pope and Holmes 
received medals at the fair. These planters, in cooperation 
with David Park, a cotton factor of Memphis, distributed 
among several factories of the East a large amount of 
Tennessee cotton to be experimented with, in order to test 
its superior grade. This gave Tennessee cotton a great 
reputation, and made Memphis a joint distributing-point 
for the sale of cotton. Cotton began to come up the Mis- 
sissippi to Memphis to be distributed over the entire world. 
This was the beginning of the movement that has finally 
made Memphis the greatest inland cotton market in the 

Comparing these cotton planters with the Middle Ten- 
nessee planter referred to above, James C. Coggesball, the 
author of this paper, says, "I must certainly be permitted to 
speak as to the circumstances of several whose success sur- 
passes his in a four-fold extent. "^^ "And just here," he 
says, "permit me to add as my opinion that there is not to 
be found a location in the United States where a farming 
community, taking them as a body, is as independent and 
intelligent as they are in the western district. The public 
days at the county seats exhibit but few scenes of impro- 
priety emanating from them, while the sheriff's and con- 
stable's advertisements seldom have reference to their 

^^Comptroller's Report for 1855-6, p. 434. 

78 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

The planters of Tennessee realized that slavery was prof- 
itable, and were jealous of all forces that threatened its ex- 
istence. They knew that the cotton system depended on 
slave labor. The slaveholding sections of the state were the 
strong supporters of colonization societies, not in the sense 
of anti-slavery, but as a protection to slavery. "The ex- 
istence of colored freedom in the midst of a slave popula- 
tion," said their petitions, ''has a tendency to impair the 
value and utility of that description."^' It will cause "those 
who might have considered bondage as one of the decrees 
of Fate, or provisions of superior power, imposed upon their 
sable race, where all were placed in a like condition . . . 
to view with jealousy and discontent the elevation of some 
of their own family to a grade so far above their reach."**' 
This memorial suggested the expediency of abolishing col- 
ored freedom, which was actually attempted in the later 

"The farmer should remember," said Coggesball,^' "that 
he has not merely farmers' duties to attend to, but that, 
as a slaveholder, and as a member of society, he has per- 
sonal and political rights to watch over and protect. Will 
he look at the assembled combinations that are against him ; 
at the encroachments upon his homestead, who are advanc- 
ing with torch in hand and fanatic cry of freedom, even 
at the price of extermination of the white race of slave- 
holders? And see that they are headed by the pulpit, com- 
posed of its three thousand clergy, with the anti-Christ mo- 
tive of a Judas Iscariot marked upon their physiognomy, 
and instigated by the price of thirty shekels of silver, from 
England's commercial schemers, swearing in their fanatical 
zeal that the Bible itself is not the Word of God, they rec- 
ognize in the establishment and the sustaining of this re- 
lation, and reading their homilies on the other side of 
Mason and Dixon's line, to the mob collections from the 
purlieus of their cities, who, like themselves aspire to the 

^-^Comptroller's Report for 1855-6, p. 435. 

■^'Memorial from the Cononization Society of Tennessee, 1832 
(State Archives). 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 79 

distinction given to the Beecher family, by some way, who 
lately discovered that in this world there were three distinct 
classes of people, to-wit: the saint, the sinner, and the 
Beecher family." 

As the pressure became more intense, the planters be- 
came more intolerant of any discussion on the slavery ques- 
tion. The conclusion of Coggesball's discussion gives the 
frame of mind that most of the slaveholders had acquired 
by 1860. "For myself," he said, "my relation to slavery is 
one that I allow no man, even my neighbor, who is a non- 
slaveholder, to counsel me respecting. So sinister and 
heartless has the northern public become, they but elucidate 
the fact that there is no tyranny like that of the full-blooded 
fanatic. I have no missionary ground in my heart for them 
to reach ; my duty is a responsible one. God and my coun- 
try recognize it, and I care not what others think of me re- 
specting it. I believe that slavery is a blessing to the slave 
in the largest extent, produced by the wisdom of God, and 
retained as such by his overruling providence, and that the 
Christian slaveholder is the true friend of the black man."*^ 

46Comptroller's Report for 1855-6, p. 439. 


Anti-slavery Societies 

The attitude of the people of Tennessee toward the negro 
expressed itself not only in legislation and judicial decision, 
but also in organized societies, such as manumission and 
colonization societies, in the churches and in an abolition 
literature that is unique in American histor5\ It is the 
purpose of this chapter to give the organzation and work of 
the manumission and colonization societies. 

The abolition forces made a determined effort to abolish 
slavery in the constitutional convention of 1796, and, fail- 
ing in this, they straightway decided to establish anti- 
slavery societies. There is some doubt as to when the first 
manumission society was organized in Tennessee. It is 
clear that an effort was made to organize such a society in 
1797. The Knoxville Gazette of January 23, 1797, pub- 
lished a letter from Thomas Embree in which it is stated 
that a number of the citizens of Washington and Greene 
counties were to meet in March, 1797 and organize abolition 
societies patterned after those of Philadelphia, Baltimore, 
Richmond, and Winchester.^ The purpose of the society 
was to work for a more liberal basis of emancipation and 
for complete abolition as soon as the slaves by education 
could be prepared for it. Joshua W. Caldw^ell, aufhor of 
The Constitutional History of Tennessee, claims that either 
a Tennessee Manumission Society was organized in 1809, or 
that the one mentioned above was still in existence.- It is 
not corroborated by historical evidence that there was or- 
ganized a manumission society in Tennessee in either 1797 
or 1809. 

There was a preliminary organization of an anti-slavery 
society in December, 1814, at the home of Elihu Swain, the 
father-in-law of Charles Osborn, who was the moving spirit 

'The Knoxville Gazette, January 23, 1797. 
-American Historical Review, V, 599. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 81 

of the organization.' Rachel Swain, later Rachel Davis, 
a daughter of Elihu Swain, said she was present at the 
organizing of the society.' The temporary organization 
was made permanent at the first session of the society, held 
at Lost Creek meeting house, Jefferson County, Tennessee, 
February 25, 1815.* 

At this first meeting, the society was given the name of 
the Tennessee Society for Promoting the Manumission of 
Slaves, and a constitution was adopted. The constitution 
consisted of a preamble and four aricles.^ The motto of the 

^Indiana Historical Society Publication, Vol. 12, p. 236. 

^Publication of Vanderbilt Southern Historical Society, No. 2, p. 11. 

'^"We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, having met for the 
purpose of taking into consideration the case of the people of color 
held in bondage in an highly favored land, are of opinion that their 
case calls aloud for the attention and sympathy of Columbia's free 
born sons, and for their exertions in endeavoring, by means calculated 
to promote and preserve the good of government to procure for that 
oppressed part of the community that inestimable jewel, freedom, the 
distinguishing glory of our country; without which all other enjoy- 
ments of life must become insignificant." 

"And while we highly esteem the incomparable Constitution of our 
country, for maintaining this great truth 'That freedom is the natural 
right of all men, we desire that the feelings of our countrymen may be 
awakened, and they stimulated to use every lawful exertion in their 
power td advance that glorious day wherein all may enjoy their nat- 
ural birthright. As we conceive this the way to ensure to our country 
the blessings of heaven, we think it expedient to form into a society, 
to be known by the name of the "Tennessee Society for Promoting 
the Manumission of Slaves" and adopt the following: 


Article I 

Each member to have an advertisement in the most conspicuous 
part of his house, in the following words, viz.: Freedom is the natural 
right of all men; I therefore acknowledge myself a member of the 
Tennessee Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves. 

Article II 

That no member vote for governer, or any legislator, unless we be- 
lieve him to be in favor of emancipation. 

82 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

society was, "That freedom is the natural right of all men," 
and each member displayed a placard to this effect in some 
conspicuous place in his home. The society went at once 
into politics by pledging its members to vote for only those 
candidates for office in the state government who favored 

There were several anti-slavery societies organized in 
Tennessee during this same year. They soon discovered 
the unity of their purpose and decided in 1815 to federate. 
For this purpose, these societies held a general convention 
at Lost Creek Meeting House of Friends'"' in Greene County, 
November 21, 1815, and organized the Tennessee Manumis- 
sion Society on a federated basis. There were twenty-two 
branches of this society." By 1827, there were twenty-five 
anti-slavery societies in Tennessee, and 130 in the United 
States. Of this number, one hundred and six were in the 
Southern States, Tennessee ranking second in the list."* 
The Tennessee society numbered one thousand members.^ 
Its officers were a president, vice-president, secretary, and 
treasurer. At the suggestion of Mr. Elihu Embree, a com- 

Article III 

That we convene twelve times a year at Lost Creek meeting-house; 
the first on the 11th of the 3rd month next; which meeting shall pro- 
ceed to appoint a president, clerk and treasurer, who shall continue 
in office for twelve months. 

Article IV 

The requisite qualifications of our members are true republican 
principle, patriotic, and in favor of emancipation; and that no im- 
moral character be admitted into the society as a member." — P. of V. 
S. H. S., No. 2, p. 12. 

"The Friends were the moving spirit in the organization of these 
early societies. 

'The Genius of Universal Emancipation, IV, 184. 

^These societies were distributed as follows: 8 in Virginia; 11 in 
Maryland; 2 in Delaware; 2 in District of Columbia; 8 in Kentucky; 
25 in Tennessee, and 50 in North Carolina. Poole, William Frederick, 
Anti-Slavery Opinion before 1800, p. 72. 

••'The Genius, October 13, 1827. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 83 

mittee of inspection was provided to censor the publications 
of the society.^" The dues of this society were 121/2 cents 
per year.^^ 

The qualifications for membership were republicanism, 
patriotism, abolitionism, and morality. The society held its 
annual meetings at Lost Creek Meeting House. Its work 
consisted in memorializing legislatures and congresses, pro- 
tecting runaway negroes, fostering the spirit of manumis- 
sion, addressing the churches on slaveholding and opposing 
the domestic and foreign slave trade. ^- 

The society repeatedly memorialized Congress on the 
subject of slavery. These memorials prayed the abolition 
of slavery in the District of Columbia, the prohibition of the 
interstate slave trade and separation of families, the pro- 
scription of slavery in the territories, and finally the aboli- 
tion of slavery in the United States. ^^ These petitions were 
presented by Tennessee congressmen, and referred to the 
judiciary committee, which never reported on them.^* 

In 1821, the society petitioned the state legislature to 
grant easier terms for manumission, to establish a plan of 
gradual emancipation, to urge upon those owning slaves 
to teach them the Scriptures, and to prohibit "the inhuman 
practice of separating husbands and wives, within the lim- 
its of this state."^" 

The legislative committee to which this memorial was re- 
ferred dealt with it frankly. It advocated easier terms for 
manumission, but desired to restrict them to the emancipa- 
tion of the young, healthy slave in order to prevent avari- 
cious masters from freeing the aged slaves who would 
become a charge to society. It believed that the state should 
devise a policy for freeing the slaves unborn, and recom- 
mended the passing of a law, prohibiting the separation of 

lop. of V. S. H. S., No. 2, p. 13. 

i^Article 2, Constitution of the Tennessee Manumission Society. 
i^Temple, O. P., East Tennessee and the Civil War, 109ff. 
i^Annals of Congress, 17th Congress, 1st Session, pp. 642 and 709; 
the 18th Congress, 1st Session, p. 931. 
'^The Genius, I, 142; Ibid., IV, 66. 
I'lbid.. I, 173-4. 

84 University' of Texas Bulletin 

husband and wife. The committee reported unanimously, 
but the senate laid its report or^ the table. ^^ 

James Jones, president of the society, stated at its eighth 

i^This is one of the most important documents in the history of 
slavery in Tennessee. The committee reported, "that they have had 
that subject (slavery) under examination, and on the first proposi- 
tion contained in said petition, to-wit : allowing masters, convinced of 
the impropriety of holding the man of color in slavery, to emancipate 
such, on terms not involving masters or their estates, provided such 
slave offered for emancipation is in a situation to provide for him or 
herself, express it as their opinion that it is consistent with the rights 
of freemen, guaranteed by the Constitution, to have, and exercise 
the power of yielding obedience to the dictates of conscience and hu- 

"That in all cases where chance or fortune has given the citizen 
dominion over any part of the human race, no matter of what hue 
and whose reflection has taught him to consider an exercise of that 
dominion inhuman, unconstitutional, or against the religion of his 
country, ought to be permitted to remove that yoke without the tram- 
mels at present imposed by law. 

"Your committee beg leave to state that, while they feel disposed 
to amend the law and guarantee the right, they wish it not to be 
perverted to the use of the unfeeling and avaricious, who, to rid 
themselves of the burden of supporting the aged slave whose life has 
been devoted to the service of such a master would seize the oppor- 
tunity of casting such on the public for support. 

"Your committee beg leave further to state that very few cases 
have occurred where slaves freed in the State of Tennessee have be- 
come a county charge. 

"Your committee, therefore, recommend an amendment, grantin-j; 
the prayer of the petition, so far as respects the young healthy slave, 
not likely to become a county charge. 

"On the second point, your committee are of opinion that it is 
worthy the consideration of the legislature, to examine into the 
policy of providing for the emancipation of those yet unborn. . . 
Liberty to the slave has occupied the research of the moral and 
philosophical statesmen of our own and other countries ; a research 
into this principle extends wide into the evil, whose root is perhaps 
dangerously entwined with the liberty of the only free governments. 
On a subject so interesting, it cannot be improper to inquire; there- 
fore, as a question of policy, it is recommended to the sober consid- 
eration of the General Assembly. 

"Your committee also advise a provision by law, if the same be 
practicable, to prevent, as far as possible, the separating husband 
and wife."— The Genius, I, 71-2. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 85 

annual meeting that the objects of the society should be: 
First, to obtain the support of the people to the abolition 
propaganda because the people rule ; second, to establish as 
many branches as possible to obtain this end ; third, to rec- 
ommend to all friends of humanity to use their suffrage to 
place men in the legislature who would support gradual 

At the tenth annual meeting of the society, a memorial 
was addressed to the churches of Tennessee which showed 
the inconsistency of religion and slavery and bitterly ar- 
raigned society for the crime of slavery. This criticism 
of the church, society, and government in this petition was 
the strongest condemnation of slavery made by the society 
during its existence.^^ 

"The Genius, II, 24. 

i^This memorial was as follows: 

"The Manumission Society of Tennessee wish to address you again 
on the important subject of slavery. In calling your attention to this 
subject, in which we feel a most serious concern, we wish to use that 
sincerity and candor which become friends travelling through a world 
of error and sin, in which they are to make preparation for eternity. 
We therefore beg you to pause a moment, and let us compare the 
principles of slavery, as it exists among us, with the holy religion 
we profess, and the divine precepts of our common Lord. What is 
our religion? Our Divine Master has told us, that the most prom- 
inent features were, to love the Lord our God, with all our heart, 
mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And 
it is also written in His holy book, as a rule of duty, to honor all and 
to abound in love one to another. We are also there taught to con- 
sider the whole human race as one family, descended from the same 
original parent; and that God made of one blood all nations who 
dwell upon the earth. We are also taught, that as all mankind are 
equally free, for one man to deprive another of liberty and to keep 
him in that condition, is an enormous crime. And he that stealeth 
a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely 
be put to death. Exodus, XXI, 16. The man stealer is enrolled by 
the apostle amongst the other notorious criminals.. Tim., I, 10. 

"Now let us ask what slavery is, as it stands between Africa, 
America, and the Supreme Judge of Nations. Is it not injustice, 
cruelty, robbery, and murder, reduced to a practical system? The 
dreadful answer is, that hosts of the disembodied, spirits of unof- 
fending Africans have taken their flight to eternity from the dark 
holds of American slave ships, and their last quivering groans have 

86 University' of Texas Bulletin 

The minutes of the eleventh annual meeting in 1825 show- 
that the society was still active. There were at this time 
twenty-two branches, eleven of which reported a member- 
ship of 570.'-' This meeting was well attended and ap- 
pointed a committee, consisting of James Jones, Thomas 
Hodge, Jr., and Thomas Doane to begin the publication of a 
quarterly journal to be called the manumission journal.-** 
Thomas Hodge, Jr. was made editor of the journal, which 
was to be published at Greenville, Tennessee. The society 
drafted memorials to Congress and to the churches of the 
United States, and appointed James Lundy as delegate to 
the Annual Convention of the American Abolition Societies 
in Philadelphia.-" 

Interest in the society seems to have begun to wane after 
1825. The convention in 1826 was not well attended. Only 
ten branches were represented at this meeting.-' The state 
was beginning to be alarmed at the increased number of 
free negroes resulting from emancipation and immigra- 

The thirteenth meeting in 1827 was a rather important 
one. It sent the usual memorials to Congress, legislature 
of Tennessee, and to the churches of the country.-- It made 
expulsion a penalty for aiding slaves to escape. The branch 
organizations were to try those accused of misconduct. This 

descended on high to call for vengeance on the murderous deed, that 
stained the earth and ocean with their blood. When we ask what 
slavery is, we are answered by the civil wars existing in Africa — 
by the thousands slain by the bands of their brethren — by the cap- 
tive's last look of anguish at his native shore — and by the blood and 
groans of the sufferers on the seas — by the sighs of men driven like 
herds of cattle to market — by the tears that furrow the woe-worn 
cheek of sorrow, as oppression moulders down the African's system." 
The Genius, IV, 73-4. 

i-'The branches were: The Greene Branch, Maryville, Bethesda, 
Hickory Valley, Nolachucky, Washington, French Broad, Dumplin 
Creek, Jefferson Creek. Holston, Sullivan, Powell Valley, Knoxville> 
Colter's Station, Turkey Creek, Chestoody. The Genius, IV, 204. 

•■^oThe Genius, IV, 185. 

-'Ibid., VI, 160. 

-•2lbid., VII, 194. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 87 

regulation indicates pernicious activities on the part of some 
members of the society. 

This meeting was noted for an address made by Thomas 
Doane in which he made a very serious criticism of slavery. 
He said : 

Slavery is unfriendly to a genuine course of 
agriculture, turning in most cases the fair and 
fertile face of nature into barren sterility. It is 
the bane of manufacturing enterprise and inter- 
nal improvements; injurious to mechanical pros- 
perity; oppressive and degrading to the poor and 
laboring classes of the w^hite population that live 
in its vicinity ; the death of religion ; and finally, 
it is a volcano in disguise, and dangerous to the 
safety and happiness of any government on earth 
when it is tolerated.--^ 

This convention also appointed a committee of which 
James Jones was chairman to prepare a report to the 
American Convention. Jones, in this report, expressed pri- 
marily his own feelings and showed his earnestness as one 
of the greatest anti-slavery leaders of his time. He urged 
religious and benevolent societies and all friends of freedom 
throughout the Union to join in petitioning Congress to 
abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and to use its 
power of regulating interstate commerce to suppress the 
interstate slave traffic. "It is time," he said, "for people to 
be aroused to their duty, and ask their rulers to abolish 
such things in plain, explicit terms. "-^ 

Jones not only saw the injury that slavery was causing 
to society, socially, economically, and politically, but he also 
foresaw what the final catastrophe would be unless some 
constructive policy of abolition was instituted for the na- 
tion. He said in a letter in 1830 to Benjamin Lundy: "For 
if Congress will not listen to the voice of humanity until 
destruction cometh, I wish posterity to know that some 
among us now are desirous to have justice done."-'' 

23The Genius, VIII, 93. 

■-^Minutes of American Convention for 1828, p. 27. 

-'••The Genius, XI, 3. 

88 University of Texas Bulletin 

Several branches of the society were active in creating- 
sentiment for emancipation by means of public meetings, 
addresses, and memorials to various organizations. The 
Jefferson Branch, located in Jefferson County, the seat of 
the state society, led the work in the local societies. In 
1821, in an address delivered before the Jefferson Society, 
the speaker took the following optimistic attitude toward 
manumission : 

When we compare the public sentiment relative 
to slavery at this period, with what it was, even a 
few years ago, have we not reason to hope that a 
propitious epoch is now at hand for benevolent 
humanity to exert itself in the cause of the afflicted 
innocence? Is not the evil which avarice and cu- 
pidity have drawn around our senses, gradually 
vanishing? Is not the monster of cruelty beheld 
more generally in his native form? We hail the 
increase of this sentiment as the beginning of au- 
spicious consequence both to ourselves and the un- 
fortunate sons of Africa. We hope that the senti- 
ment will spread until we become a willing people 
to forsake our iniquity, and let the sufferers go; 
not by a miraculous interposition do we look for 
it to be accomplished with precipitation; but by 
such means as deliberate counsel and the direction 
of Providence may dictate, to be conformable with 
Justice to those who claim their services, and to 
the circumstances of those in servitude, by alle- 
viating their wretched condition, and instilling 
into their minds such instruction as may prepare 
them for assuming their proper rank and station 
among rational beings, when the universal prin- 
ciples of propriety, justce, and equity, shall sanc- 
tion it.-" 

It has already been pointed out that interest in manu- 
mission began to wane in 1825. In 1827, the annual con- 
vention of the state society was poorly attended. No rec- 
ords of its life and activities after 1830 have been found.'-" 
A definite change of policy toward the free negro was being 

28The Genius, I, 173. 

-■Tennessee History Magazine, I, 272. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 89 

formulated during this period and it found expression in 
the Exclusion Act of 1831. This change of policy of the 
state meant the death of manumission as an organized move- 

There were also some independent anti-slavery societies 
in the state. November 21, 1920, the Humane Protecting 
Society was organized in Greene County. Its purpose was 
to extend the rights of man to all, irrespective of race and 
color, and protect those "unlawfully oppressed." The qual- 
ifications for membership were good moral character, 
friendship toward the government of the United States, 
and agreement to pay ten cents on the hundred dollar's 
worth of one's unencumbered estate as dues.-- 

In 1826, there was organized at Nashoba, Shelby County, 
West Tennessee, the Emancipating Labor Society, by Miss 
Frances Wright of Scotland. In 1825, she bought eight 
tracts of land, aggregating 1,940 acres, lying on both sides 
of Wolf River, in the vicinity of Germantown and Ridge- 
way, paying $6,000 for the land.-"-^ The society was man- 
aged by a board of trustees under certain restrictions.'^ 

Admission to the society was to be strictly individual, ex- 
cept in case of children under fourteen years of age, who 
might be admitted with one or both parents, reared and ed- 
ucated until twenty years of age, and emancipated at twenty- 
one. The society planned to buy slaves from those people 

^«The Genius, IV, 69. 

-9Goodspeed, 802. Cf. The Genius, VI, 177, which gives the fol- 
lowing trustees: George Flower, James Richardson, Frances Wright, 
Camilla Wright, and Richardson Whitbey. 

■^oGoodspeed, 802. The trustees consisted of General Lafayette, 
William McClure, Robert Owen, Camilla Wright, Cadwallader, U. 
Flanary, and James Richardson, who, together with their successors 
were to hold these lands in perpetual trust for the negro race, and 
were subject to the following limitations: 

(1) A school for colored children was always to be maintained. 

(2) All slaves emancipated from the society were to be sent out 
of the United States. 

(3) The Trustees were never to let their number fall below five, 
three of whom should constitute a quorum. 

(4) Coadjutors, with unanimous consent of trustees, might be ap- 
pointed, if they had lived six months on the lands of Nashoba. 

90 University of Texas Bulletin 

who wished to emancipate their slaves but who felt thai 
they could not sustain such expense. The society did not 
buy old men, women, and children ; but would take them and 
support them. In 1827, Miss Wright presented the society 
with eight slaves and the work of a family of females.^^^ 
The economics of the scheme were typical of the com- 
munistic philosophers of the period. The slaves were 
charged with the capital invested on which they were ex- 
pected to pay six per cent interest; the farm equipment, 
consisting of farming implements and live stock, was loaned 
them on the condition that they constantly replace the same 
from their earnings. One-half of the produce of the plan- 
tation was placed to their credit, and purchased by the so- 
ciety at the market price. They shared equally with the 
society the proceeds derived from the sale of all live stock 
raised on the plantation. By a system of weekly accounts 
of income and expenses, they knew their financial status at 
the end of each week. As soon as any slave had a credit 
equal to what the society had paid for him, he was eman- 
cipated. If he wanted to leave the state for Hayti or Li- 
beria, he was given the privilege of remaining in the society 
until he had sufficient means to pay his transportation to 
one of these colonies. ■'- 

The character of the management of this society is very 
interesting. The slaves were hot put under an overseer 
and lashed to work, but were directed in their work as if 
they were free laborers. The idea was to make men and 
women who would voluntarily develop habitual industry 
under advice and encouragement, rather than to exact labor 
from them by a decree of force. They were to be fitted for 
a state of freedom by being developed into self-governing 
men and women, and responsibility was substituted for dis- 
cipline just as rapidly as self-initiative could be developed. 

The negroes were fed, clothed, and housed. Those who 
showed any interest in acquiring information were taught. 
A constant aim of the organization was to improve their 

'■'Goodspeed, 803. 
•■i-The Genius, VI, 177. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 91 

habits and conduct. The organization's chief purpose was 
to develop humanity, rather than to net the society any pe- 
cuniary gain. ••• The society was not a success because of 
Miss Wright's absence in Europe and the impracticability 
of the plan. The trustees resigned in 1831. Miss Wright 
emancipated the slaves and sent them to Hayti. The trus- 
tees redeeded the plantation to Miss Wright in 1832. The 
estate became involved in court and some minor points re- 
mained in controversy as late as 1886.^* 

A fourth anti-slavery society was the Moral Religious, 
Manumission Society of West Tennessee, which was organ- 
ized December 18, 1824, at Columbia, Maury County, Ten- 
nessee.'"' The spirit of this society is well known in the 
following extract from the preamble of its constitution : 

We, the undersigned, having fully considered the 
subject of Tyranny and Slavery as practiced by 
individuals on their brethren in our neighborhood, 
and elsewhere in America ; and being fully con- 
vinced that it exceeds any other crime in magni- 

1st. In motive — being moved thereto by the 
"world, flesh and the devil," or with pride and 

2nd. In the execution, it is cruel and unjust. 

3rd. In the consequences, ignorance, hardness 
of heart and inhumanity are produced. This ig- 
norance of right and wrong is manifested in the 
words and actions of tyrant and slave and all of 
those who approve of the practice in others. They 
go forth in practical infidelity and irrelieion. which 
tend to destroy the blessings of Christianitv and 
republicanism as they exist in this otherwise 
happly land.'" 

This society limited its membership to fifteen, none of 
whom could be slaveholders.'' Any additional membership 
constituted a branch societv. The oflficers of the societv 

33The Genius, V, 366. 
3*Goodspeed, 821. 
3f'The Genius, IV, 77. 
36lbid., 76. 
3-Ibid., 77. 

92 University of Texas Bulletin 

consisted of a board of directors, one of whom was desig- 
nated as chairman. Majority vote of the membership de- 
termined the policy of the society on any question. No 
levy for funds was made on the membership, but its rev- 
enues consisted of contributions and donations. The di- 
rectors were trustees of such funds. The society met quar- 
terly at the Republican Meeting House about six miles from 
Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee.^"* One of these quar- 
terly meetings was held on the Fourth of July, and was 
regarded as the annual meeting of the society. The con- 
stitution was rather elaborate, consisting of twelve articles, 
and could be amended by the consent of two-thirds of its 
members.'^'' The policy of the society was not so radical 
in method as might have been expected from the general 
tenor of its documents. The constitution in articles 6 and 7 
states that the acceptance of Christianity would destroy in 
the tyrant "the will to enslave" and would therefore elim- 
inate personal slavery. It was the will of "men of talents" 
to tyrannize that had to be controlled, and argument was 
the leading means to use to accomplish this purpose. The 
society, therefore, proposed to circulate copies of "The 
Genius of Universal Emancipation" through their several 
communities, the state, and the nation, to issue addresses, 
to petition churches and legislative bodies, and to preach 
the Gospel of humanity to slaveholders. 

This society issued in 1824 a memorial to the Methodist 
Episcopal Conference which met that year at Columbia, 
Tennessee. The conference agreed to the anti-slavery spirit 
of the memorial and to a cooperation with the society in the 
realization of its aims.'- March 22, 1825, the society at its 
thirtieth quarterly meeting sent an address to the Manu- 
mission Societies of America, making suggestions for the 
celebration of Fourth of July, 1826, as Jubilee Day.*^ 

•-The Genius, IV, 143. 

3'Jlbid., 77. 

4oGoodspeed, 670. 

•i'The following recommendations were made in substance: 

1. That all the manumission societies in the United States pro- 
claim it as the Christian American Jubilee. 

2. That the different societies encourage the keeping of the day, 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 93 

The Moral, Religious Manumission Society sent an ad- 
dress to the American Convention in 1826 that was too rad- 
ical for publication.*- The society seems to have been dis- 
solved about 1827.*^ 

The manumission societies came to realize that the state 
would not tolerate a large element of free negroes within its 
borders. They saw that their success was conditioned on 
the colonization of the free negroes as rapidly as they were 
emancipated. The Tennessee Manumission Society in its 
memorial of 1816 to the churches of the United States ad- 
vocated in regard to free negroes, "that a colony be laid off 
for their reception as they became free."^* The Presby- 
terian Synod of Tennessee in session at the Nashville church 
the following year, adopted resolutions favoring coloniza- 
tion, and congratulated the society for its efforts in this di- 
rection.*'' A colonization society seems to have been or- 

as a Jubilee, by publishing essays, songs, etc., showing the utility 


3. That those societies celebrate the Fourth of July, next, with 
preaching, prayer, and singing as a Christian Jubilee. 

4. That those who are sensible of the evil of slavery, form them- 
selves into Christian Manumission Societies, excluding slaveholders 
from their number. 

5. That they send forth missionaries to preach the acceptable 
year of the Lord to slaveholders. 

6. That all these societies establish a correspondence with each 
other through the Genius of Universal Emancipation. The Genius, 
IV, 143. 

42Minutes of the American Convention for 1826, p. 48. 

^3Tennessee History Magazine, I, 276. 

44Niles Register, XIV, 321. 

45"We wish you, therefore, to know, that within our bounds the 
public sentiment appears clearly and decidedly in your favor, and 
that the more vigorously and perseveringly you combine and extend 
your exertions on the plan you have adopted, the more you are likely 
to be crowned with the approbation of the people as well as with the 
higher rewards of doing good. While, then the heralds of salvation 
go forth in the name and strength of their Divine Master, to preach 
the Gospel to every creature, we ardently wish that your exertions 
and the best influence of all philanthropists may be united, to amelio- 
rate the condition of human society, and especially of its most de- 
graded classes, till liberty, religion, and happiness shall be the en- 
joyment of the whole family of man." Tenth Annual Report of 
American Colonization Society, 67-8. 

94 University' of Texas Bulletin 

ganized in 1822, but there is no evidence of its continued 
existence.^" The Tennessee Manumission Society, in its re- 
port to the American Convention for the year 1823, sug- 
gested that Congress make an appropriation for the pur- 
chase of a parcel of land on the American continent for the 
colonization of free negroes.^' In 1825, the legislature of 
Tennessee advised its senators and representatives in Con- 
gress to use their influence in promoting a scheme of col- 
onization of the free people of color. *^ In this same year, 
James Jones, president of the Tennessee Manumission So- 
ciety, wrote Benjamin Lundy that he was much gratified 
at the progress being made to colonize the free people of 
color in the Haytian Republic,*'^ and he quotes the resolu- 
tion of the Tennessee Manumission Society, favoring the 
Haytian Republic as a rendezvous for free negroes.''*^ Two 
years later, the legislature of Tennessee, in response to me- 
morials and petitions of manumission societies and churches 
again instructed the Tennessee representatives in Congress 
to give their aid to the government of the United States in 
carrying into effect a plan of colonizing the free people of 
color. ■'^^ From 1816 to 1829, there was constant agitation in 
Tennessee for a colonization society. 

In 1829 the American Colonization Society w^orked out a 
plan for state societies. The state societies were to be aux- 
iliaries to the national society, and were themselves to be a 
confederacy of county societies which in turn were to be 
composed of town and district societies. The town and dis- 
trict societies were to hold regular annual meetings and 
send delegates to the annual meeting of the state society, 
which was to be represented at the annual meeting of the 

■iGFifth Annual Report of American Colonization Society, 119. 

^'Minutes of the American Convention for 1825, p. 18; Eighth An- 
nual Report of American Society for Colonization of the Free People 
of Color, p. 39. 

^^Eighth Annual Report of American Society for Colonization of 
the Free People of Color, p. 29. 

*nThe Genius, IV, G6. 

•■^^Ibid., 67. 

"'Tenth Annual Repoi't of American Colonization Society of the 
Free People of Color, 1827, 61-2. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 95 

national society.'- In accordance with this plan Mr. Josiah 
F. Polk, agent for the American Colonization Society for the 
states of Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and Alabama, on De- 
cember 21, 1829, organized, at Nashville, the Tennessee 
Colonization Society, consisting of sixteen members. A 
president and one vice-president were elected. The mem- 
bership soon increased to seventy-three and a fund of one 
hundred dollars was collected. '•• 

The society held its first meeting on January 1, 1830, and 
elected a complete set of ofl!icers. Rev. Philip Lindsley, 
D.D., president of the University of Nashville, was made 
president of the society; R. H. McEwen, recording secre- 
tary; Henry A. Wise, corresponding secretary; and Orville 
Ewing, treasurer. Six vice-presidents and a board of six 
managers, consisting of prominent citizens, were elected.'^* 
The society at this time numbered about one hundred and 
twenty members- "' and contained twenty auxiliaries.-'^*' These 
auxiliaries had a large membership, and a list of strong 
ofl[icers of the most prominent people of the state. Andrew 
Jackson was much interested in colonization. He was vice- 
president of the American Colonization Society from 1819 
to 1822.''" Polk, in reporting on his work to the American 
Colonization Society, in 1829, said that much might be ex- 
pected from the Tennessee Society.'"' Henry A. Wise, who 
was secretary of the Tennessee Colonization Society, made 
a very flattering report of its work to the national society 
in 1830. '■' "We may expect," said the African Repository, 
"benefits of the most important character, from the energy 

'-Twelfth Annual Meeting of American Colonization Society, 1829, 

53African Repository, VI, 75. 

s*American Colonization Society Report, VI, 178. 

s^African Repository, VI, 75; Ibid., V, 378. 

'"American Colonization Society Report, VI, 178; Auxiliaries at 
Bolivar, Somerville, Memphis, Covington, Jackson, Paris, Clarksville, 
Columbia, Shelbyville, Winchester, Murfreesboro, Gallatin, Knox- 
ville, Marysville, New Market, Jonesboro, and Kingsport. 

•'•"Tenth Annual Report for American Society for Colonizing the 
Free People of Color, 1829, p. 61. 

'■^African Repository, VI, 76. 

96 Universitij' of Texas Bulletin 

and liberality of the citizens of Tennessee. It cannot be 
forgotten that the legislature of this state was among the 
first to express its approbation of our scheme, as meriting 
the countenance and aid of the National Government."^^ 
"Believing as I do," said a Tennessee correspondent of the 
African Repository, "that under Providence it is the only 
feasible and judicious plan to ameliorate the condition of 
the free people of color in these states, and that it is a 
cause in which patriotism and humanity, are largely em- 
barked, I shall do all I can to aid its progress ; and I hear, 
with pleasure, of its continued prosperity. "°'^ Polk, in his 
report of 1830, states that "The colored population is con- 
sidered by the people of Tennessee and Alabama in general, 
as an immense evil to the country — but the free part of it, 
by all, as the greatest of all evils."" A correspondent of 
the African Repository from Tennessee stated in 1831 that 
"the colonization movement had many friends in Tennessee 
and that they were determined to make every possible effort 
to aid the good cause."*'- 

The society at its meeting on November 8, 1831, appointed 
a committee of seven to solicit funds to defray the expenses 
of sending free negroes to Liberia. A committee of three 
was appointed to memorialize the legislature of Tennessee to 
make an appropriation for the aid of the society.''' The leg- 
islature appointed a committee on colonization to consider 
the petition of the society, and, on September 30, 1833, 
passed two resolutions, requesting this committee to inves- 
tigate the expediency of asking Congress for an annual ap- 
propriation of $100,000 and the general assembly for $5,000 
to aid in colonizing free negroes in Liberia.''* In response 
to this request, the legislature in 1833 passed a law, giving 
ten dollars to the state society for every free negro sent to 

'^African Repository, V, 878. 

coibid., 379. 

•■-'Ibid., VI, 276. 

«=Ibid., VII, 145. 

63Ibid., 313. 

'•"Ibid., IX, 282; Niles Register, Vol. 45, p. 182. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 97 

Liberia, provided that not more than $500 was expended in 
any one year.""' 

The society held its annual meeting in the Hall of Repre- 
sentatives at the State Capitol, October 14, 1833, and was 
addressed by James G. Birney, of Alabama, agent of the 
American Colonization Society, "We admire this institu- 
tion," said the Nashville Banner, "and feel the utmost ven- 
eration and respect for the humane motives of its founders, 
and for those who are engaged in promoting its objects. 
It would afford us unfeigned pleasure to see all its generous 
designs crowned with complete success."^® 

The petitions received by the legislature in 1832 and 1833 
from the State Colonization Society and its auxiliaries con- 
tain the leading reasons advanced by these societies for 
colonization. The memorialists said : 

We take it to be self-evident general proposi- 
tion, that the benefits of government, should be ex- 
tended alike to all its citizens; we are compelled, 
however, by our peculiar circumstances, to violate 
this general principle, by withholding from that 
class of citizens, the exercise of many political 
rights. They are excluded from the ordinary 
means of education, on the ground of prejudices 
which are quite natural, and which will probably 
never be removed. Nor is it at all likely for the 
same reasons, that they will be suffered to partici- 
pate to any great extent if at all, in the benefits 
of an enlarged system of common schools, when 
carried into effect in our State; they must there- 
fore of necessity remain ignorant, and by conse- 
quence vicious. 

Their intercourse, and association with certain 
classes of our white population is calculated to 
produce, and does produce, in the estimation of 
your memorialists, serious evils to the country. 
But the preceding considerations are light, and 
trivial, when compared with the injury sustained 
by the slaveholder, from this class of persons, as 
must be obvious to every member of your hon- 
orable body ; Nor should the eminent danger to our 

''Acts of 1833, Ch. 64, Sec. 1. 

sThe Nashville Banner, October 15, 1833. 

98 University' of Texas Bulletin 

social and political condition, by their presence, 
be overlooked, which arises from the fact, that 
there neither does, or can exist, between them, and 
our white population, any common bond of patriot- 
ism or private regard.'" 

The Colonization Society had an intermittent career. A 
sentiment for colonization, however, persisted in Tennessee 
to 1860, but it did not remain organized. '"There is some- 
thing in this position of the cause of Tennessee." said the 
African Repository in 1846, "which we cannot understand. 
There are many friends of colonization in the state. We 
have applications from many of the colored people for trans- 
portation to Liberia. Many slaves have been manumitted 
for the purpose of being sent there, and yet little or no 
money can be raised for the advancement of the enter- 
prise."'^" The next year the Repository stated that "We are 
gratified to perceive that Tennessee is beginning to awake 
on the subject of African colonization. Between eighty anfl 
one hundred free people of color are now preparing to emi- 
grate from that state to Liberia. They wish to go in the 
vessel that leaves New Orleans in December next; and the 
means to take them will probably be raised in the state. A 
writer in the Record proposes to be one of fifty who will give 
one hundred dollars each to purchase territory to be called 
Tennessee in Africa.""^ The average expense of sending a 
free negro to Liberia and supporting him for six months 
was $50. Shortly after the meeting of 1846, the "Roth- 
schild" sailed from New Orleans with emigrants from Ten- 
nessee lor Liberia. 

A minister of the Gospel in Tennessee, writing to the 
Repository in 1847, advocated colonization for substantially 
the following reasons : 

1. It means ultimately the complete removal of 
the negro. 

e^Petitions to the Legislature. 1832-33. State Archives. 
esAfrican Repository, XXII, 39. 
69lbid., XXV, 28. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 99 

2. It benefits the negro by placing him in an en- 
vironment that erects no barriers to his develop- 

3. It affords the Christian an opportunity to 
give up his slaves. 

4. It lays claim to the noblest feelings of the 
patriot, and of the whole-souled philanthropist. 
Its tendency is good, only good, and that contin- 
ually. If it has not accomplished all that its friends 
desire, what agency has? 

West Tennessee was more interested in colonization than 
either East or Middle Tennessee. In fact, colonization was 
largely anti-free-negro rather than anti-slavery, especially 
so in West Tennessee, where it was regarded as a means of 
eliminating the free negro from among the slaves. West 
Tennessee was not nearly so anti-slavery in sentiment as 
East Tennessee. There was organized a separate coloniza- 
tion society at Memphis, June 12, 1848, largely through the 
efforts of the Presbyterian Church. It adopted a consti- 
tution of six articles, and elected a president, vice-president, 
secretary, treasurer, and twelve directors who constituted 
a boai:d of managers.''^ It was an auxiliary of the American 
Colonization Society. It was to accomplish its object "by 
the contribution of money to the Parent Society by the dis- 
semination of intelligence concerning the operations, ob- 
jects, and prosperity of the colonization enterprise."^" A 
campaign was waged in Memphis for funds to support the 

The Tennessee Colonization Society was incorporated on 
February 8, 1850.'- Philip Lindsey, president of the Uni- 
versity of Nashville, was made its president. It now be- 
came a corporation and a body politic. It could sue and be 
sued, and was permitted to receive gifts of money, goods, 
and real estate, provided the total value of such gifts did not 
exceed $10,000 in any one year. It used its own seal.''- 

'OConstitution of the Society, Art. 2; African Repository, XXIV, 
71 African Repositary, XXIV, 288. 
'-'Acts of 1850, Ch. 130, Sees. 5 and 8. 

100 University' of Texas Bulletin 

In 1852, Frederick P. Stanton, of Tennessee, in an address 
before the American Colonization Society, advocated the re- 
moval of the free negroes to Africa. He believed this step 
would eliminate sectionalism and largely solve the problem 
of the runaway which, he thought, was mainly due to the 
influence of the free negro over the slave. He was also ap- 
prehensive of the political influence which the free negroes 
might come to have."^ He maintained that the national gov- 
ernment could remove the negroes as well as the Indians."* 

Senator John Bell, of Tennessee, in a letter to James R. 
Doolittle, October 18, 1859, advocated the acquisition by 
Congress of some territory south of the United States to be 
set aside as an asylum for emancipated negroes. He be- 
lieved that such a settlement of the problem would be a 
"concordant" between the North and the South. ^^ 

In 1860, Hon. N. G. Taylor, of Tennessee, in an address 
before the American Colonization Society, advocated the 
colonization of the free blacks for moral and commercial 
reasons. He believed that the negro should be returned 
to his native home and that Africa colonized by American 

"•■^He quoted from "the celebrated Texas letter of Robt. J. Walker 
published in 1844," which estimated "that according to the rate of 
increase from 1790 to 1840, there would be in the six states of New 
York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois alone, 
no less than 400,000 free blacks in 1853; 800,000 in 1865; and 1,600,- 
000 in 1890. The number of free blacks in the slave states is even 
greater than in the free states." This o-i-eat number of free blacks 
will have a powerful moral influence for good or evil upon every 
interest in the country. 

"I refrain from pursuing the subject further. I will not look to 
that dark but not distant futui'e, when in some of the largest of the 
free states, this population shall have grown powerful in numbers, 
demanding the elective franchise, and when perhaps political parties, 
in the frenzy of their excitement shall bid for their influence ar.d 
make them a power in the State. They may hold the balance of 
power in these larger States, and through them in the Union. With 
all their capacity for mischief, through the mistaken sympathy they 
are calculated to inspire for the slave of the South, it is impossible 
to estimate the amount of discord and of injury they must inevitably 
produce among the states." 

■'Annual Report of American Colonization Society for 1852, 62-65. 

'American Historical Magazine, IX, 275. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 101 

negroes would naturally become a great commercial ally 
of the United States.'" 

It is seen from the arguments of these distinguished Ten- 
nesseaiis that colonization of the free blacks was to them a 
pro-slavery, rather than an anti-slavery, movement. It was 
pro-slavery in that it made for the security of slavery, but 
it was anti-slavery in that, in Tennessee after 1831, eman- 
cipation could take place only on the condition of removal 
from the state. The prophecy that the negroes would re- 
ceive the franchise is interesting in the light of what ac- 
tually happened. Undoubtedly, the removal of the free 
blacks from the United States would have lessened friction 
between the North and the South. 

The colonization movement in Tennessee was a failure 
either as an abolition or as a colonizing agency. There 
were only 287 free negroes sent to Liberia from Tennessee 
from 1820 to 1866." A few went to Hayti. Manumission 
was able to number only 7,300 free negroes in the state in 
1860. Of course, free negroes were constantly leaving the 
state, especially after 1831, but not in any considerable 
number. The greatest good that came from these move- 
ments was the fostering of a humanitarian spirit toward 
the negro. 

^6"For, sir," said he, "the day is not far distant, when, Instead of 
scores of tons, there will be hundreds and thousands of tons, floating 
from the shores of Africa to every country upon the face of the hab- 
itable globe. Your report tells us that the agriculture of Liberia is 
ah-eady in a flourishing condition, and that manufactures, to some 
extent, are springing up in the country." Annual Report of American 
Colonization Society for 1860, 28-9. 

••Annual Report of the American Colonization Society for 1867, 
p. 56. 



The Protestant churches in America approached the ques- 
tion of Christianizing the negro very cautiously. There 
were several reasons for this attitude/ It was generally be- 
lieved that paganism was the basis of slavery, that a Chris- 
tian slave was a paradox, that Christianizing the slave would 
destroy his humble qualities and lessen his economic value, 
that it would add an element in the cost of maintaining the 
institution, that an idea of equality prevailed in the slave's 
attending church and participating in communion with the 
master, and that this idea would add to the difficulty of 
governing him. Of course, there was the social relation 
that came into the problem that was very obnoxious. It 
was unpleasant to commune with a freshly imported brother 
from Africa ; even a Stowe, or a Garrison would likely have 

The church, being a human institution, could not disre- 
gard its environment. It worked its way out of all the 
complexities of the situation, its position varying somewhat 
as to section and as to sect. With the exception of the 
Friends, there was very little difference in the attitude of 
the Protestants toward slavery, until after the Revolution. 
They were, in general, anti-slavery in sentiment, were will- 
ing to baptize slaves and receive them into the church. The 
Friends in this early period were the only religious body 
in America that saw any inconsistency in Christians hold- 
ing slaves.- There were a great many slave communicants 
in all the churches prior to the Revolution. ■ 

The general background can be made a bit more specific 
for Tennessee by particular reference to the relation of the 
churches to slavery in Colonial North Carolina since this 

iJernegan, M. W., Slavery and Conversion in the Colonies, pp. 

-Ibid., p. 576. 
•^Ibid., p. 514. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 103 

was the parent state of Tennessee. The Lord Proprietors 
in the Fundamental Constitution of 1663 declared that con- 
version did not free nor enfranchise the negro.* This pro- 
vision was kept in the new constitution of 1698. ■ It is no- 
ticeable here that this was primarily a political question — 
a question of freedom and suffrage — a question of state, not 
of church. The state was declaring its right to state the 
effect of conversion on the slave. It is well to note this 
point in the beginning, because the splits and schisms in 
the various churches in the period immediately preceding 
the Civil War came up over this point. James Adams, a 
clergyman, of the Episcopal Church of North Carolina, de- 
clared in 1709 that the masters would "by no means permit 
(their slaves) to be baptized, having a false notion that a 
Christian slave is by law free.'"^ 

This attitude of the slaveholders did not last long in North 
Carolina, because Rev. Marsden in 1735 speaks of baptizing 
at Cape Fear "about 1300 men, women, and children, be- 
sides some negro slaves."' In 1742 a missionary speaks 
of baptizing nine negro slaves.^ Through a series of mis- 
sionary reports, it is noticeable that, as the idea becomes 
fixed, that baptism does not free the slaves nor give them 
the suffrage, the number of baptized blacks increases. In 
1765, a report speaks of 40 blacks that were baptized" ; an- 
other report, 46 ;'" and a third, 51.^ ' In 1771 a report states 
that 65 were taken into the church and in 1772 a Rev. Taylor 
states that in thirteen months he had baptized 174 whites 
and 168 blacks. 

The attitude of the Protestant churches on slavery de- 
pended very largely on the strength of their organic connec- 
tion with the South. All the churches that were strong in 

4Col. Recs., I, 204. 
-^Ibid., 857. 
►■■Ibid., 720. 
-Ibid., IV, 13. 
^Ibid., 794. 
«Ibid., VII. 126. 
loibid., 424. 
"Ibid., 705. 

104 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

the South preserved a compromise policy so long as it was 
possible. The Congregational and Unitarian churches, be- 
ing Northern only, could without friction readily become 
anti-slavery. The Episcopal church was primarily a South- 
ern church and was made up of the slaveocracy of the South. 
It remained more indifferent toward slavery than any of the 
other churches.^- It is my purpose now to make a study of 
the anti-slavery activities of these churches in Tennessee in 
the order of the effectiveness of their work. 

I. The Methodists. 

Methodism came to America in 1766. '•' There were two 
wings of it from the beginning. Wesleyan Methodism in 
Maryland and New York was anti-slavery, while Whitefield 
Methodism in Georgia was pro-slavery.'* Methodism spread 
rapidly from these centers and became national in its or- 
ganization by 1773, when the first General Conference was 
held at Philadelphia.^'^ 

The anti-slavery history of Methodism may be divided 
into the following periods: 1766-1784, a period in which 
there was a growth of anti-slavery feeling in the church that 
reached a high water mark in 1784; from 1784 to 1816, a 
period of reaction, culminating in the compromise law of 
1816; from 1816 to 1836, a period of practically no change 
in legislation, although the church in the North was becom- 
ing more anti-slavery in sentiment, and in the South, more 
pro-slavery; from 1836 to 1844, a period of conflict with 
1840 as the date of the greatest compromise; from 1844 to 
1860. the period of two branches of Methodism. 

1 -Matlock, L. C, The Anti-slavery Struggle and Triumph in the 
Methodist Episcopal Church, 17. 

'■■American Church History, XI, 1. 

i^Tyerman, L., Life of Whitefield, II, 272. Whitefield is reported 
as having said: "I should think myself highly favored if I could 
purchase a good number of slaves in oixler to make their lives more 
comfortable and lay a foundation for bringing up their posterity in 
the nature and admonition of the Lord." He died owning 75 slaves. 
American Church History, XI, 5. 

' 'Jernegan, op. cit., 515. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 105 

A brief characterization of these periods forms a fitting 
background for the anti-slavery history of Tennessee Metho- 

A. From 1776 to 1784. This was a period of little dis- 
sension on the slavery question.'" It was characterized by 
an increasing anti-slavery feeling, expressing itself first in 
1780- " and more effectively in 1784, when the Baltimore Con- 
ference enacted a general code of regulations for both lay- 
men and preachers, prohibiting "'the buying or selling the 
bodies and souls of men, women or children with the inten- 
tion of enslaving them,'"" and requiring abolition of the 
slaves of its members within one or two years. This was to 
be done, however, conformably to the laws of the various 
states. This was the high water mark of anti-slavery Meth- 

B. From 1784 to 1816. This period is marked by con- 
cession to slaveholders, finally ending in the adoption in 1808 
of the policy of letting the annual conferences regulate slav- 
gj.y 19 'pj^g church here definitely recognized that it could 

leMatlock, op. cit., 17. 

i^Minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Conferences, 1773-1813, I, 5-6. 

i^The first paragraph of this law shows the general tenor of these 
regulations : 

1. Every member of our society who has slaves in his possession 
shall, within twelve months after notice given to him by the Assistant 
(which the assistants are required immediately, and without any de- 
lay, to give to their respective circuits), legally execute and record 
an instrument whereby he emancipates and sets free every slave ia 
his possession who is between the ages of forty and forty-five imme- 
diately, or at farthest when they arrive at the age of forty-five; and 
every slave who is between the ages of twenty-five and forty imme- 
diately, or at farthest at the expiration of five years from the dat-? 
of said instrument; every slave who is between the ages of twenty- 
one and twenty-five immediately or at farthest wnen they arrive a^ 
the age of thirty; and every slave under the age of twenty as soon 
as they arrive at the age of twenty-five at farthest; and every infan\ 
born in slavery after the above-mentioned rules are complied with 
immediately on its birth. McTyeire, Holland M., History of Method- 
ism, II, pp. 375-378. 

^^Minutes of the General Confei-ences, 1796-1844, pp. 40-1; Journal 
of the General Conference of 1800, pp. 37-44; American Church His- 
tory, XI, 7. 

106 University of Texas Bulletin 

not enforce requirements upon its members in violation of 
the civil lava's of the states. This really amounted to a split 
in the church on this question, because it meant the estab- 
lishment of two policies, one conformable to the free states 
of the North, and the other to the slave states of the South. 
This change in the policy of the church was a victory for 
the slaveholders. 

C. From 1816 to 1836. The conference of 1816 adopted 
the famous compromise law by which slaveholders in free 
states could not be officers in the church. This prohibition 
did not apply to the slave states.-" The conference of 1836 
with absolutely no dissent expressed a determined opposi- 
tion to abolition.-^ 

D. From 1836 to 1844. During this period the anti- 
slavery forces were organizing to break the grip of the 
slavocracy of the church. In 1840, the pro-slavery forces 
registered their greatest victory in the history of the strug- 
gle. The result w^as the secession of 1842 and the formation 
of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America at Utica, New 
York in 1843, with a non-slave-holding membership.--' It 
was now seen that the church could no longer pursue a 
compromise policy. The annual conferences began to adopt 
resolutions condemning either anti-slavery fanatics or slave- 
holding thieves. It was now impossible for officers of the 
church to be administrators in sections of the country with 
which their views on slavery did not agree. 

E. From 1845 to 1860. It was early seen that the Gen- 
eral Conference of 1844 would likely divide on the question 
of slavery. The contest of 1844 related to Bishop Andrews, 
whose wife was a slaveholder, and ended in the passing of 

-"Journal of the General Conference of 1816. p. 170. 

•-'"Resolved, by the delegates of the Annual Conferences in General 
Conference assembled, That they are decidedly opposed to modern 
abolition, and wholly disclaim any right, wish, or intention, to inter- 
fere in the civil and political relation between master and slave as it 
exists in the slave-holding states of this Union." Journal of the 
General Conference of 1836, pp. 446-7. 

--Journal of the General Conference of 1840. pp. 136-6. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 107 

the Finley Resolution by the decisive vote of 110 to 68, de- 
posing Bishop Andrews from the Episcopacy,-' although 
he had violated no law of the church.-* The Southern del- 
egates attempted in vain to have this action of the confer- 
ence interpreted as merely advisory in character.-' 

The general conference of the church finally agreed to 
its reorganization under two general conferences. This plan 
was accepted almost unanimously, and led to the organiza- 
tion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, at the con- 
vention of the delegates of the Southern Methodist churches 
in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1845.-'" 

The purpose of this brief sketch of the anti-slavery his- 
tory of Methodism in general is, first, to give a reflection 
of Tennessee Methodism, which, like that in the nation gen- 
erally, was divided on the slavery question ; and, secondly, to 
form a background for a comparative study of Tennessee 
Methodists in particular. 

The Methodists were among the pioneers of Tennessee, 
when it was customary to attend church with the shot- 
pouch well filled and the rifle in trim. Among their pioneer 
preachers were Jeremiah Lambert, who came to Holston 
circuit in 1783, Rev. Benjamin Ogden, who in 1786 carried 
Methodism to John Donelson's settlement on the Cumber- 
land, and Rev. John McGee, who arrived in Tennessee in 

-^The Finley Resolution was: "Whereas, the discipline of one 
church forbids the doing anything calculated to destroy an itinerant 
general superintendency ; and, whereas, Bishop Andrew has become 
connected with slavery by marriage and otherwise, and this having 
drawn after it circumstances which, in the estimation of the General 
Conference, will greatly embarrass the exercise of his office as an 
itinerant general superintendent, if not in some places entirely pre- 
vent it; therefore, Resolved that it is the sense of this General Con- 
ference that he desist from the exercise of this office so long as this 
impediment exists." Journal of General Conference of 1844, p. 85. 

-^Bedford, A. H., History of the Organization of the Methodist 
Episcopal Church, South, p. 207. 

2^Journal of the General Conference of 1844, p. 85. 

26Bedford, pp. 418-503; see also Wightman, W. M., Life of William 
Capers, pp. 398-425; Smith, G. G., Life and Letters of James Osgood 
Andrew, pp. 336-385. 

108 University' of Texas Bulletin 

1798.-' The Methodists were leaders in the famous revi- 
vals from 1800 to 1810.-* 

In 1797, one-fourth of the membership of the Methodist 
church was negroes.-^ Of the 11,280 negroes in the church 
in 1797, 10,824 were in the Southern States. There were 
42 slaves in the Methodist church in Tennessee in 1797.-'' 

The Tennessee Methodists were a part of the Kentucky 
conference until 1801, and were strongly anti-slavery, be- 
cause only the mountainous portion of these states was set- 
tled at this time. In 1801, Tennessee became a part of the 
Western Conference, and remained so until 1812. It was 
in the first meeting of this conference in 1808 that Ten- 
nessee Methodists first expressed themselves on the question 
of slavery.^° 

It will be remembered that the General Conference of 
1808 gave the annual conference the power to legislate on 
the question of slavery.^^ In accordance with this plan, the 
Western Conference, which met at Liberty Hill, near Nash- 
ville, Tennessee, in 1808, took the most drastic action against 
slaveholding to be found in the annals of Methodism. This 
conference instructed the Quarterly Conference to summon 
before them all persons speculating in slaves and expel from 
the church those found guilty. It further declared that any 
member of the church "who should buy or sell a slave un- 
justly, inhumanly, or covetously," was subject to excom- 

-'Garrett and Goodpasture, p. 156; Goodspeed, p. 647. 

-"Ibid., p. 157. 

-•'Harrison, W. P., The Gospel Among the Slaves, p. 61. 

•'■•'^^'McFerrin, J. B., History of Methodism in Tennessee. I. pp. 26, 
470, 523; Vol. II, pp. 132, 159, 262; see also McTyeire, p. 462; ami 
Goodspeed, pp. 664, 667. 

Note: The minutes of the Annual Conference of the Methodists in 
Tennessee were burned with the Methodist Publishing: House in Nash- 
ville, February, 1872. The publishing: house has never been able to 
find another copy. McFerrin's History of Methodism in Tennessee, 
which contain? copious quotations from these minutes, is the only 
available source. 

siSupra. p. 105. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 109 

munication.'- This rule of the conference prevailed until 
1812.'''' Some of the presiding elders and circuit riders 
were even more strongly anti-slavery than was the confer- 
ence. Rev. James Axley and Rev. Enoch Moore refused to 
license slaveholders to preach, or even to grant them the 
privilege of exhorting or leading in prayer. They denounced 
slaveholders as thieves and robbers. 

The Tennessee Conference, which was a division of the 
Western Conference, held its first annual meeting at Foun- 
tain Head, Tennessee, in 1812. This conference made some 
interesting changes in the regulations for slaveholders that 
remind one of the compromise policy of the general confer- 
ences.^* The phrase, "unjustly, inhumanly, and covet- 
ously," used by the conference of 1808 with reference to the 
buying and selling of slaves, was changed to "justice and 
mercy." The slaves of officers of the church w^ere to be 
emancipated when practicable.^^ 

An elaborate system of trial for violations was estab- 
lished. The quarterly conference was made the court of 
first instance. If the president of this conference differed 
from the majority, he could refer the case to the annual 
conference, or the accused could appeal his case to the an- 
nual conference. At this conference, a slaveholder made 
application to preach, but he was not admitted to the min- 
istry until he had given security that he would emancipate 
his slaves as soon as it was practicable."' 

The conferences of 1813 and 1814 did not raise the ques- 
tion of slavery, but in 1815, the conference held at Beth- 
lehem Meeting House in Wilson County, Tennessee, adopted 
a policy with the laws of the states. This was simply a 

32Asbury, Thomas, Journal of Rev. Francis Asbury, Vol. 3, p. 290; 
Cartwright, Peter, Fifty Years as a Presiding Elder, pp. 53ff. ; Good- 
speed, pp. 663-667; Temple, O. P., East Tennessee and Civil War, pp. 

33Goodspeed, p. 667. 

34Supra, p. 106. 

s^McFerrin, II, 261, 283; Goodspeed, pp. 667, 668. 

sGMcFerrin, II, 261. 

110 University' of Texas Bulletin 

recognition of the fact that the church should not under- 
take to control civil matters. The committee on slavery 
made the following report : 

We most sincerely believe, and declare it as our 
opinion, that slavery is a moral evil. But as the 
laws of our country do not admit of emancipation 
without a special act of the Legislature, in some 
places, nor admit of the slave so liberated to enjoy 
freedom, we cannot adopt any rule by which we 
can compel our members to liberate their slaves ; 
and as the nature of cases in buying and selling are 
various and complex, we do not think it possible to 
devise any rule sufficiently specific to meet them. 
But to go as far as we can, consistent with the laws 
of our country and the nature of things, to do away 
with the evil, and remove the curse from the 
Church of God, it is the resolution of this confer- 
ence that the following resolutions shall be 
adopted : 

"1. If any member of our Society shall buy or 
sell a slave or slaves in order to make gain, or shall 
sell to any person who buys to sell again for that 
purpose, such member shall be called to an account 
as the Discipline directs, and expelled from our 
Church ; nevertheless, the above rule does not af- 
fect any person in our Society, if he or she make it 
appear that they bought or sold to keep man and 
wife, parents and children, together. 

"2. No person, traveling or local, shall be eli- 
gible to the office of a deacon in our church, unless 
he assures us sentimentally, in person or by letter, 
that he disapproves slavery and declares his will- 
ingness and intention to execute, whenever it is 
practicable, a legal emancipation of such slave or 
slaves, conformably to the laws of the State in 
which he lives.'' 

This report was adopted and ordered to be copied into the 
Steward's Book of the Circuit. 

3-McFerrin, II, 401. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 111 

The Conference of 1817 dealt very extensively with slav- 
ery. "^ It made provision for the buying and selling of 

:^-The Code of 1817 is as follows: 

"If a local elder, deacon, or preacher, in our Church, shall purchase 
a slave or slaves, he shall lay his case before the Quarterly-Meeting 
Conference of his circuit as soon as practicable, which Quarterly- 
Meeting Conference shall say how long such slave or slaves serve 
as a remuneration to the purchaser; and on the decision of the Quar- 
terly-Meeting Conference, touching the time the slave or slaves shall 
serve, the purchaser shall, without delay, enter into a written obliga- 
tion to the Quarterly-Meeting Conference to emancipate such slave 
or slaves at the expiration of the term of servitude, if the law of the 
State will admit; and such obligation shall be entered on the Journals 
of the Quarterly-Meeting Conference. But should the laws of the 
State continue rigidly to oppose the emancipation of slaves, so that 
their freedom, as above contemplated, should prove impracticable, 
during the term and at the end of the slave's or slaves' servitude, as 
determined by the Quarterly-Meeting Conference, he, the said elder, 
deacon, or preacher, shall, at the end of the time of servitude, again 
lay his case before the Quarterly-Meeting Conference, which Quar- 
tei-ly-Meeting Conference shall determine it according to the then 
existing slave rule of the Annual Conference to which he belongs; and 
should the said elder, deacon, or preacher, be dissatisfied with the 
decision of the Quarterly-Meeting Conference, he shall be allowed an 
appeal to the ensuing Annual Conference, provided he then signifies 
his intention of so appealing. 

"2. If a private member in our society buy a slave or slaves, the 
preacher who has charge of the circuit shall summon a committee, 
of which he shall be president, or at least three disinterested male 
members from the class of which he or she is a member; and if a 
committee cannot be elected from the class to which the slave pur- 
chaser belongs, in such case the preacher may make up the commit- 
tee from a neighboring class or classes, which committee shall deter- 
mine the length of time such slave or slaves shall serve as a com- 
pensation to the purchaser, and immediately on the determination of 
the committee, touching the slave's or slaves' time of servitude, he 
or she, the purchaser, shall bind himself or herself in a written obli- 
gation to the church to have the emancipation of such slave or slaves, 
at the expiration of the given time, recorded as soon as practk-able, 
if the laics of the States in ichich he or she lii^e will admit of ei)ia)i- 
cipation: and such obligation shall be filed among the papers of the 
Quarterley-Meeting Conference of the circuit in which he or she 
lives. B2(t shoiild the laws of the State in ivhich the purchaser lives 
render it impracticable to emancipate said slave or slaves, during the 
time of servitude fixed by the committee for said slave or slaves, the 

112 Universitif of Texas Bulletin 

slaves. It prohibited the selling of slaves into perpetual 
bondage on penalty of forfeiture of membership in the 
church. The quarterly conference was given the power to 
regulate the term of slavery for which a member of the 
church could sell his slave. The preacher of each congre- 
gation was empowered to appoint a committee of three to 

preacher having charge of the circuit or station shall call a second 
committee at the end of the time of servitude who shall determine the 
case according to the then existing slave rule of the Annual Confer- 
ence to which he or she belongs; and if he or she feel him or herself 
aggrieved, he or she shall be allowed an appeal to the ensuing Quar- 
terly-Meeting Conference of his or her circuit. In all cases relative 
either to preachers or private members, the colored or bond-children 
born of slaves purchased, after their purchase and during the time 
of their bondage, male and female, shall be free at the age of twenty- 
five, if the law admit of emancipation; and if not, the case of those 
hot-n of purchased slaves in bondage to said elder, deacon, or preacher, 
shall be cognizable by the Quarterly-Meeting Conference, and in the 
case of those born of purchased slaves in bondage to private members, 
shall be cognizable by a committee of the above-mentioned kind, which 
Quarterly-Meeting Conference and committee shall decide in such case 
as the then existing slave rule shall or may direct; provided, never- 
theless, the above rules be not so construed as to oblige an elder, 
deacon, preacher, or private member, to give security for the good 
behaviour and maintenance of the slave or slaves emancipated, should 
the court require it. If an elder, deacon, preacher, or private mem- 
ber, among us, shall sell a slave or slaves into perpetual bondage, they 
shall thereby forfeit their membership in our church. Therefore, in 
case an elder, deacon, or preacher sell a slave or slaves, he sliall first 
submit the case to the Quarterly-Meeting Conference of which he is a 
member, and said Quarterly-Meeting Conference shall say for what 
term of years he shall sell his slave, or slaves, which term being fixed, 
the seller shall immediately record his, her, or their emancipation in 
the county court; and a private member selling a slave or slaves shall 
first acquaint the preacher having the charge of the circuit with his 
design, who shall summon a committee of the above-mentioned kind, 
of which he, the said preacher, shall be President. Said Committee 
shall say, for what term of years, he, she, or they shall sell his, her or 
their slave or slaves, and the seller shall be required immediately to 
record the emancipation of such slave or slaves in the county court. 
An elder, deacon, preacher, or private member among us, refusing to 
comply with the above rules, shall be dealt with as in other casfs of 
immorality, and expelled." McFerrin. II 462-466. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1 S65 113 

judge of the length of service that slaves purchased by mem- 
bers could be required to render. All of these requirements 
were conditioned on practicability, the consent of the state, 
violation of justice and mercy, and assumption of financial 
responsibility against charge of emancipated slaves. The 
conditions of the execution of these regulations show what 
a travesty the whole procedure was. 

The case of Hardy M. Cryer, which came before the con- 
ference of 1817, illustrates the difficulty that the church 
faced in trying to enforce its policy. Mr. Cryer was secre- 
tary of the conference of 1817. He had failed to emanci- 
pate his slaves according to a promise made the previous 
conference. He had in the meantime bought a negro boy. 
He was able to make satisfactory explanation of his con- 
duct to the conference, and was appointed elder. In other 
words, he was able to show the conference that his conduct 
had been consistent with "justice and mercy" and that its 
requirements as to emancipation were "impracticable."''*' 

One of the most eminent of Tennessee historians made the 
following comment on the action of the church in the con- 
ference of 1817 : 

Such was the legislation of a body of ministers 
with reference to a subject over which they had 
no control, provided the laws themselves did not 
admit of emancipation, which they themselves as- 
sumed to be the fact. Hence, the adoption of a 
proviso which in every case, taking things as they 
were, either nullified the rule or made it easy for 
a member or a minister to retain his slaves ; for 
whenever he determined to own slaves it was easy 
to make it appear that it was in accordance with 
justice and mercy to retain those already in pos- 
session, or that under the law it was impracticable 
to set them free. Such legislation would seem to 
be sufficiently absurd, but it is amazing that an in- 
telligent body of men should gravely attempt to 
compel a preacher or member to emancipate a 
slave at an expiration of a term of years after 
having surrendered ownership and control of 

39McFerrin, II, p. 467. 

114 University- of Texas Bulletin 

same. The only theory conceivable that can re- 
lieve the conference of the accomplishment of a 
solemn mockery is the supposition that they, hav- 
ing confidence in the justice of the future, must 
have believed themselves to be anticipating civil 
legislation — that the legal emancipation of the 
slave v^as an event which the immediate future 
must produce. However, the attitude of the con- 
ference on this subject is of great historical value, 
bringing into clear relief, as it does, the strong 
conviction of the Methodist body of Christians 
that slavery was a great moral evil, the existence 
of which was deplorable, and to be opposed by 
every means attached to which there was any hope 
of its gradual abolishment. *° 

The conference of 1818, which met at Nashville, repealed 
the regulations of the conference of 1817, and decided that 
the "printed rules on slavery, in the form of discipline" 
was full and sufficient on that subject.*' 

The conference of 1819 also met at Nashville and decided 
"that no man who is known to hold slaves is to be admitted 
to the office of deacon or elder."*- Peter Burum and Gilbert 
D. Taylor, who were recommended for admission to the 
ministry, were rejected by this conference because they were 
slaveholders.'- Several applicants for deacon's orders were 
rejected for the same reason. 

The conference of 1819 witnessed a determined contest 
between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces, caused by 
an accusation made by Peter Cartwright,** that a number 
of ministers in the state were "living in constant violation 
of the discipline of the church."* ' Felix Grundy and An- 
drew Jackson represented the two factions. "The discus- 
sion of the subject of slavery," said Peter Cartwright, 

^•^Goodspeed, p. 669. 
■iiMcFerrin, III, 19-20. 
*2lbid., p. 161. 
«Goodspeed, p. 670. 

**Ibid., p. 669; Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods 
Preacher, p. 195. 

^'^Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, p. 195. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 115 

"worked up some bad feeling, and as we had at this confer- 
ence to elect our delegates to the general conference which 
was to hold its session in Baltimore in May, 1820, these 
slaveholding preachers determined to form a ticket to ex- 
clude every one of us who were for the Methodist Discipline 
as it was, and is to this day. As soon as we found out their 
plans we formed an opposite ticket, excluding all advocates 
of slavery, and we elected every man on the ticket."''^ 

Sixteen local preachers filed the following protest against 
the action of the conference in refusing to admit slavehold- 
ers to the office of deacon or elder: 

We deprecate the course taken as oppressively 
severe in itself and ruinous in its consequences, 
and we disapprove of the principle as contrary to 
and in violation of the order and discipline of our 
church. We, therefore, do most solemnly, and in 
the fear of God, as members of this conference, 
enter our protest against the proceedings of the 
conference as it related to the above-mentioned 
course and principle.*'' 

This protest was supported by the slaveholders, and laid 
before the general conference in 1820, but no definite action 
was ever taken on it.*^ 

The period from 1819 to 1824 was a transition period to 
some extent. There was no important action by any of the 
conferences during this period. Rev. John Johnson in 1820 
proposed that the church recognize slavery as a municipal 
institution and try to humanize it.*" This was the position 

^♦^'Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, p. 196. 

4"Goodspeed, pp. 669-670. 

4SMcFerrin, II, 195. 

*9He proposed the following program for the church on slavery: 

1. That every householder in our church shall provide a comfort- 
able house, vidth sufficient bed and bedding, for every slave in his pos- 

2. That each slave shall be clothed in decent apparel in summer 
and warm clothing in winter, and shall have plenty of good and 
wholesome food, and time to eat it. 

3. That every slave over. . . .years of age shall be taught to read 
the Holy Scriptures. 

116 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

that most of the churches had already taken on slavery. 
The struggle over slavery in Missouri revealed the earnest- 
ness of the forces on both sides. Anti-slavery leaders began 
to leave the state. Among the Methodists were Wesley 
Harrison, an influential layman, who went to Ohio ; James 
Axley, iv presiding elder; and Enoch Moore, a strong anti- 
slavery preacher.'" It was in this period, says McFerrin, 
that "the church came to a standstill, and was in a measure 
paralyzed and powerless for good. As a means of averting 
greater evils, and saving the church if possible, colonization 
and emancipation societies were formed, and it was believed 
by many that such organizations did a great deal to prevent 
a serious rupture in the church till the storm passed over."" 
The conference of 1824, in response to a memorial on 
slavery presented by the Moral and Religious Manumission 
Society of West Tennessee, declared "that slavery is an evil 
to be deplored and that it should be counteracted by every 
judicious and religious exertion.'"- It is noticed that while 
slavery was condemned as an evil, it was to be handled 
"judiciously." What did "judiciously" mean in the eyes of 
the slaveholders? "This resolution," says McFerrin, "was 

4. That every slave over. .. .years of age shall be permitted to 
attend the worship of God. . . .times in every 

5. That every slave shall attend family worship twice a day. 

6. That every slave shall be allowed one hour for reading in 

7. That no master shall inflict more than. . . .stripes for any on«^ 
offense, nor any stripes on any one who is over. . . .years of age. 

8. That no slave shall be compelled to marry against his will. 

9. No master shall suffer man and wife, parent and child, to be 
parted without their consent when it is in his power — he being the 
owner of one — to prevent it by buying or selling at a fair price. 

10. On any complaint being made against a member for violation 
of these rules let the preacher appoint a committee of . . . .to investi- 
gate the facts and report to the society. 

11. Any member violating or refusing to comply with the above 
rules shall be dealt with as in other cases of immorality. — Recollec- 
tions of Rev. John Johnson and His House, .A.n Autobiography, 30.5-6. 

'■^McFerrin, II, 95. 

•'Ibid., 494. 

5-'Ibid., 261; Goodspeed, 668. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 117 

proposed by two members, who themselves or their parents 
were slaveholders. "■• Evidently, this was a modified at- 
titude of the church. "What a misfortune," says McFerrin, 
"that this sentiment had not always obtained, treating the 
matter in a religious manner, and not intermeddling with it 
as a civil question."'' 

From 1824 to 1834 was a period of growth of pro-slavery 
sentiment in Tennessee. Anti-slavery workers from all de- 
nominations left the state. Manumission societies died. 
The colonization movement was a failure. Abolition lit- 
erature was discontinued. Exclusion policy was adopted 
in 1831. * Slaveholders began to advocate preaching to the 
slaves, and made heavy contributions for this purpose. 
Separate negro churches were established after the master 
ceased to be suspicious of the preachers, and missions were 
established among the slaves at the expense of the masters. 
"Owners of large plantations," says Harrison, "coming to 
the knowledge of this change in the disposition of the 
Methodist preachers, and finding many of them following 
the example of the illustrious bishop, then Mr. Capers, and 
seeing the good effects produced by the preaching to the 
negroes on the plantations of their neighbors, ultimately 
gave their consent to permit their slaves to hear the gospel 
from the lips of capable white missionaries."'"' 

The Methodist Church had always had slave members in 
it. In 1791, there were 12,844; in 1803, there were 22,453, 
most of whom were in the South."* In 1824, there were 
1749 negro members in the Methodist church in Tennessee ; 
in 1840, there were 8,820 ; and in 1846, there were 18,122. •■ 
Following the lead of the missionary movement to slaves 
begun by Bishop Capers in 1829," the Tennessee annual 
conference of 1832 established two missions to which were 

ssMcFerrin, III, 271. 

s^Infra, pp. 153-5. 

s^Harrison, p. 151. 

^■«Ibid., pp. 61-2; Wightman, pp. 288-302. 

^'Goodspeed, p. 676. 

■'•^Harrison, p. 155. 

59lbid., p. 161. 

118 Univej'sitij' of Texas Bulletin 

sent Thomas M. King and Gilbert D. Taylor. By the close 
of 1832 these missions numbered 190 members/'" Mission- 
ary work among the slaves in Tennessee expanded conser- 
vatively until 1844. By 1839, Tennessee had nine missions 
v^ith 2,316 members and ten missionaries, and was paying 
$2,700 to missions among the slaves. "^^ 

Some very strong preachers developed among the slaves. 
Probably the greatest negro preacher in all Methodism, it 
not in all Christendom, was Pompey. He was probably a 
native of Africa, and in his youth was a slave of Rev. N. 
Moore, brother-in-law of Bishop McKendree. He traveled 
as a servant with Rev. Moore, and at one of his revivals was 
converted. He then became interested in the Gospel, and 
soon learned to read. He gave close attention to his mas- 
ter's sermons and sometimes suggested improvements. "He 
ventured to tell his master one day," says Rev. H. H. Mont- 
gomery, "that he felt, or believed, he could have made a 
better sermon than he did the day before. Tomp, do you 
think you could preach?' 'Yes, master, I have felt and 
thought a great deal about it.' Then, Pompey, you shall 
preach tomorrow.' He preached the next day and his mas- 
ter thought so well of the sermon that he set Pompey f ree."^^ 

Pompey studied the Scriptures very closely, and became 
able to quote freely from them. He was a very popular 
preacher to both whites and blacks. He preached in both 
Tennessee and Mississippi. Rev. Montgomery gives the 
following account of his preaching: 

The first time I remember to have seen him was 
in the Christmas holidays of 1832. The weather 
was very cold, but the congregation was so large 
that old "Center" church could not hold the people 
by one-half. So they adjourned to the camp- 
ground, where the vast congregation listened at- 
tentively to an evangelical and powerful sermon 
for an hour from him. I was a boy of thirteen 
years, but a very deep impression was made on my 

fi"Harrison, p. 194. 
eilbid., p. 195. 
«^McFerrin, III, 387. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 119 

mind. He related the circumstances of his awak- 
ening, repentance, and conversion. There seemed 
to be scarcely one that was not weeping. And when 
he described the simplicity of that faith by which 
he received pardon and salvation, and the great 
change of heart and feeling which he realized, and 
everything was new — so new that he could hardly 
realize that it was Pompey, till he looked at his 
hands and felt of his wool, and found it was Pom- 
pey's skin and Pompey's wool, but it was Pompey 
with a new heart — there was a burst of glory and 
praise that went up from many of that congre- 

There were, in the state, other negro preachers of unusual 
ability, among them Emanuel Mark of Fayette County. He 
was given a pass by his master to preach anywhere. He 
preached to both white and black. Silas Phillips of La 
Grange, Tennessee, was another remarkable negro preacher. 
Simeon Hunt was also a negro preacher of wonderful elo- 

After the defeat of the anti-slavery forces in 1834, it was 
recognized that slavery was a fixed institution in society, 
and that it would require violence to overthrow it. The 
Methodists had gradually been reaching this conclusion. 
It was easy for them, therefore, to adopt a slightly different 
attitude toward it. Their position was well phrased by Dr. 
A. L. P. Green, who said he favored the institution, "when 
it was properly controlled, and regarded it as a blessing to 
the slave. He believed the negro incompetent and unfitted 
for self-government, and hence a wise, good master was a 
necessity."''-^ The Methodists were forced either to adopt 
this attitude or see the slaveholders withdraw their slaves 
to churches whose attitude toward slavery was more favor- 
able. The missionary spirit of the church saw that the 
slaves offered a great field for domestic missions, and the 
Christian slaveholder came to be regarded as a blessing.'"' 

63McFerrin, III, 389-90. 

^Harrison, 338-34.3. 

esGreen, Wm. M., Life of A. L. P. Green, 167. 

66Bedford, pp. 214-5; 301. 

120 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

The eleven delegates from the three conferences in Ten- 
nessee — Holston, Tennessee, and Memphis — to the general 
conference in 1844, sharing the above feeling, voted solidly 
against the Finley Resolution. These annual conferences 
at their next meeting sustained the action of their delegates. 
The Holston conference said, "That our delegates to the last 
General convention merit the warmest expression of our 
thanks, for their prudent, yet firm, course in sustaining 
the interests of our beloved Methodism in the South.""' The 
Tennessee conference said, "That we do most cordially ap- 
prove the course of our delegates, in the late general con- 
ference."^* The Memphis conference said, "That we do 
heartily approve the entire course pursued by our delegates 
at the late general conference.""" These resolutions also 
demanded that the convention at Louisville establish a co- 
ordinate branch of Methodism under a general conference 
in accordance with the plan adopted by the conference of 
1844, "and, in so doing," they said, "we positively disavow 
secession, but declare ourselves, by the act of the general 
conference, a coordinate branch) of the Methodist Episcopal 

Tennessee Methodists sent twenty-two delegates to the 
Louisville convention of 1845.'' They voted for the follow- 
ing resolution, which the conference adopted without a dis- 
senting vote, as its interpretation of the law of the church 
on slavery : 

That under the provisional exception of the gen- 
eral rule (or law) of the church, on the subject of 
slavery, the simple holding of slaves, or mere own- 
ership of slave property in states or territories 
where the laws do not admit of emancipation and 
permit the liberated slave to enjoy freedom, con- 
stitutes no legal barrier to the election or ordina- 
tion of ministers to the various grades of office 
known in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal 

•■'Bedford, p. 601. 
G^Ibid., p. 603. 
«9Ibid., p. 605. 
"oibid., p. 600. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 121 

Church, and cannot, therefore, be considered as 
operating any forfeiture of rights, in view of such 
election and ordination, •- 

After the organization of the Southern branch of Meth- 
odism, strong efforts were made along the border confer- 
rences to induce them to go with the Northern branch. The 
Holston Conference, which included East Tennessee, with 
only one dissenting vote, resolved to cast its lot with the 
new organization. This one dissenter later joined the M. E. 
Church, South.'-' There was no question of loyalty fn. the 

•'Bedford, p. 423. 

'-'Ibid., p. 449. 

"•■'These resolutions show the frame of mind of these people: 

"Whereas, the long-continued agitation on the subject of slavery 
and abolition in the Methodist Episcopal Church did, at the General 
Conference of said church, held in the city of New York, in May, 
1844, result in the adoption of certain measures by that body which 
seriously threatened a disruption of the Church; and to avert this 
calamity, said General Conference did devise and adopt a plan con- 
templating the peaceful separation of the South and the North; and 
constituting the conferences in the slaveholding States, the sole 
judges of the necessity for such separation; and, whereas, the con- 
ferences in the slaveholding States, in the exercise of the right ac- 
corded to them by the General Conference, did, by their representa- 
tives in convention at Louisville, Ky., in May last, decide that sepa- 
ration was necessary, and proceeded to organize themselves into a 
separate and distinct ecclesiastical connection, under the style and 
title of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, basing their claim 
to a legitimate relation to the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 
United States upon their unwavering adherence to the Plan of Sepa- 
ration adopted by the General Conference of said church in 1844, 
and their devotion to the doctrines, discipline, and usages of the 
church as they received them from their fathers. 

And as the Plan of Separation provides that the conferences bor- 
dering on the geographical lines of separation shall decide their re- 
lation by the votes of the majority . . . and also that ministers of 
every grade shall make their election North or South without censure 
— therefore, 

1. Resolved, That we now proceed to determine the question of 
our eccleciastical relation by the vote of the conference. 

2. That we, the members of the Holston Annual Conference, claim- 
ing all the rights, powers, and privileges of an Annual Conference of 
the Methodist Church in the United States, do hereby make an 
election with, and adhere to, the Methodist Episcopal Church. South. 

122 Universitij^ of Texas Bulletin 

other conferences. There were Methodists throughout the 
state who still adhered to the "Old Church." Even in West 
Tennessee, in certain counties there were strong organiza- 
tions of the "Old Church" that still persist. 

The Southern Methodists increased their activities 
among the slaves after 1845. The slaveholders were now 
assured that no insurrectionary doctrines would be taught 
to their slaves. "Masters and mistresses, even little chil- 
dren," says Harrison, "helped with the work."^^ In 1846, 
the Southern Methodists had 29 missions in Tennessee with 
7,100 members in charge of 34 missionaries who received 
$7,762 ;■'■ in 1863 there were 41 missions with 5,947 mem- 

3. That while we thus declare our adherence to the Methodist 
Episcopal Church, South, we repudiate the idea of secession in any 
schismatic or offensive sense of the phrase, as we neither give up 
nor surrender anything which we have received as constituting any 
part of Methodism, and adhere to the Southern ecclesiastical organi- 
zation. Plan of Separation, adopted by the General Conference of 
the Methodist Episcopal Church at its session in New York in May, 

4. That we are satisfied with our Book of Discipline as it is on 
the subject of slavery, as recorded in that book; and that we will 
not tolerate any change whatever, except such verbal and unimpor- 
tant alterations as may, in the judgment of the General Conference, 
facilitate the work in which we are engaged, and promote uniformity 
and harmony in our administration. 

5. That the journals of our present session, as well as all our 
official business, be henceforth conformed in style and title to our 
ecclesiastical relation. 

6. That it is our desire to cultivate and maintain fraternal rela- 
tions with our brethren of the North. And we do most sincerely 
deprecate the continuance of paper warfare either by editors or cor- 
respondents, in our official church papers, and devoutly pray for th? 
speedy return of peace and harmony in the Church, both North and 

7. That the Holston Annual Conference most heartily commend 
the course of our beloved Bishops, Saule and Andrew, during the 
recent agitations which have resulted in the territorial and jurisdic- 
tional separation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and that we 
tender them our thanks for their steady adherence to principle and 
the best interests of the slave population. — Bedford, pp. 500-503. 

•♦Harrison, 302. 
-••Ibid., 318. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 123 

bers in charge of 39 missionaries receiving $1 1,748.46. "'• 
The difference in the attitude of the Methodist slaveholders 
after the organization of the Southern church is shown by 
the fact that from 1829 to 1844 Tennessee Methodist spent 
$23,208.01 on slave missions, but from 1844 to 1864 they 
spent $213,736.62. ■■. The Southern Methodists numbered 
18,122 negro members in 1846 r^ 18,045 in 1848 ;■« 18,940 
in 1850 r 18,748 in 1842 ;^^ 19,239 in 1860.^' From 1860 to 
1864 there was a gradual loss of negro membership, due, of 
course, to the various influences and tendencies of the war 
period.'- Some of the conferences did not meet regularly 
during the war, and some met in other states. The statis- 
tics are incomplete and inaccurate.*^ 

The interpretation of the laws of the church on slavery 
remained unchanged to 1858. In that year, the General 
Conference of the M. E. Church, South, met in the House of 
Representatives at Nashville, with 151 accredited delegates. 
This conference declared "that slavery is not a subject of 
ecclesiastical legislation. It is not the province of the 
church to deal with civil institutions in her legislative ca- 
pacity. . . . We have surrendered to Caesar the things that 
are Caesar's, and holding ourselves to be debtors to the wise 
and the unwise, the bond and the free. We can now preach 
Christ alike to master and the servant, secure in the con- 
fidence and affection of the one and the other . . . The 
salvation of the colored race in our midst, as far as human 
instrumentality can secure it, is the primary duty of the 
southern church."^* They struck from their Discipline at 

"'•Harrison, 324. 

"Ibid., 326. 

'^Minutes of the Annual Conferences of M. E. Church, South. I, 
1845-1859, 16-25. 

-sibid., 167, 172, 181. 

soibid., 273, 290, 295. 

silbid., 385, 392, 403. 

82lbid., II, 214, 218, 223. 

ssMinutes of the Annual Conference of M. E. Church, South, II, 
1845-1859, 214, 218, 203. 

^*American Church History, XI, pp. 66-7. 

124 University' of Texas Bulletin 

this meeting by a vote of 140 to 8 the rule forbidding "the 
buying and selling of men, women, and children, with in- 
tention to enslave them."^"' 

The social side of the relations of the two races in their 
religious life is very interesting. The two races came very 
close together. The negroes were called together by a horn 
or a bell once a day for family prayer in which the master, 
mistress, and the children participated. Sometimes the 
master conducted the services, and sometimes a slave would 
do it. Slaves sang at these services, and frequently became 
so religious as to embrace their master and mistress before 
the close of service. In their religious life, slaves became 
little children indeed. 

On Sunday as a rule, the slaves attended church with the 
white folks. They either sat in the galleries or had a 
special portion of the church set apart for them. They 
were given the communion after the white people had been 
served. There was usually in the afternoon on Sunday a 
special service for the slaves, conducted by the pastor of the 
church, and there was generally a separate business meet- 
ing for the slaves. At these separate services, the slaves 
practically had charge. Their own leaders, exhorters, and 
preachers were merely directed by the white pastor. It was 
in these meetings that they received their greatest training 
and had their truest religious experience."' 

Few men knew the negro so well as the Methodist 
preacher, or did so much to elevate his character. He pre- 
sided ?A their church trials, of which one of their number 
was secretary. He was the general umpire to whom all 
their church difficulties were referred. He baptized them, 
married them, visited them in their cabins, comforted them 
in their distress, prayed with them when on beds of sick- 
ness, was their counsellor, friend, and spiritual guide, and 
he preached their funerals when they died.""" 

The Methodist people did more for the negro than any 

" ^eth Annual Report of American Anti-slavery Society, 1859, 115. 

^••McTyeire, III, 536. 

•^'Milburn. W. H., Ten Years of a Preacher's Life, 337. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 125 

other denomination, whether for abolition or for their gen- 
eral improvement. Peter Cartwright once said that the 
Methodist Episcopal Church had "been the cause of the 
emancipation of more slaves in these United States than all 
other religious denominations put together.""" "It is a 
notorious fact," said Cartwright, "that all the preachers 
from the slaveholding states denounced slavery as a moral 
evil ; but asked of the General Conference mercy and for- 
bearance on account of the civil disabilities they labored 
under so that we got along tolerably smooth. I do not recol- 
lect a single Methodist preacher at that day that justified 
slavery. . . . Methodist preachers in those days made it a 
matter of conscience not to hold their fellow creatures in 
bondage, if it was practicable to emancipate them, conform- 
ably to the laws of the state in which they lived. Meth- 
odism increased and spread, and many Methodist preachers, 
taken from comparative poverty, not able to own a negro, 
and who preached loudly against it, improved and became 
popular among slaveholding families, and became person- 
ally interested in slave property. They then began to apol- 
ogize for the evil; then to justify it, on legal principles; 
then on Bible principles."'^'' 
II. The Baptists. 

The Baptists were among the original settlers in Tennes- 
see. They were strong in North Carolina by 1750,'"' and 
by 1780 were coming into Tennessee from both Virginia 
and North Carolina in great numbers." They settled in 
the Holston country and on Boone's Creek, but they were 
not so numerous in these early days as the Presbyterians 
and Methodists.''- In 1784 there were 400 Baptists in Ten- 
nessee; 900 in 1792, and 11,325 in 1812«^ 

"sCartwright, Fifty Years a Presiding Elder, p. 24. 
s9Cartwright, Autobiography, p. 157. 
ooCol. Recs., Ill, p. 48. 
9^Garrett and Goodpasture, p. 156. 

^••^Newman, A. H., History of Baptist Churches in United States, 
p. 338. 

osBriggs, Charles A., American Presbyterianism, pp. 59-60. 

126 Universitij' of Texas Bulletin 

The Baptists were anti-slavery in the early period of 
American history, just as were the Methodists. 1783 the 
Baptists said : 

It is the duty of every master of a family to give 
his slaves liberty to attend the worship of God in 
his family, and likewise it is his duty to convince 
them of their duty ; and then to leave them to their 
own choice.^' 

In 1789 John Leland proposed the following resolution in 
the Triennial Convention, which was adopted: 

Resolved, That slavery is a violent deprivation 
of the rights of nature, and inconsistent with a re- 
publican government, and therefore recommend 
it to our brethren, to make use of every legal mea- 
sure to extirpate this horrid evil from the land; 
and pray Almighty God that our honorable legis- 
lature may have it in their power to proclaim the 
great Jubilee consistent with the principles of good 

This protest, while very strong in its declaration, was in- 
effective. The Baptists were no exception to mankind as 
to slaveholding. The Baptists became slaveholders in large 
numbers, and adopted the policy that it was the work of 
the church to mitigate slavery into a humane institution.^^ 

The Baptists were more successful in adding negroes to 
the church than any other denomination. There are more 
negroes in the Baptist church today than in all other 
churches combined. One out of every five Southern negroes 
is a Baptist."" In 1813, there were 40,000 negro Baptists, 
mostly in the South, among whom were a great many negro 
preachers and exhorters.^^ 

Among the attractive features of the Baptist faith to the 
negroes were immersion, the congregational form of gov- 

-'^Newman, p. 305. 

9"Ibid., p. 338. 

a-sPius, N. H., An Outline of Baptist History, p. 131. 

^•Harrison, pp. 65, 91. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 127 

ernment. which gave them participation in church meetings, 
the liberahty of the Baptists in permitting them to preach, 
and the Baptist method of communion, which did not dis- 
criminate against them."^ These advantages of Baptism^^ 
caused negroes to withdraw from other churches/"" 

The Baptists despite the advantages that a form of local 
church government gave them in handling the slavery ques- 
tion, were not able to prevent its frequent discussion. It 
was not so difficult for the individual congregations to settle 
the matter by a majority vote and select a preacher whose 
views agreed with the majority. But it was inevitable that 
the forces that finally united the Southern Methodists would 
produce the same effect upon the Southern Baptists. The 
Southern Baptists were among the largest slaveholders of 
the South, and in due time came to be defenders of slavery, 
while Northern Baptists became increasingly anti-slavery."^ 

That separation was inevitable was evident to many of 
the leaders, although both Northern and Southern Baptists 
tried to relegate slavery to the background. Rev. Richard 
Fuller was one of the first to see this impending division 
in the church, and he hastened to take steps to prevent it. 
He tried to distinguish between the church as an organiza- 
tion and its membership. In the Triennial Convention of 
1844 he secured the adoption of a resolution to the effect 
that as a church they should disclaim all sanction of slavery 
or anti-slavery, either expressed or implied, but that as in- 
dividuals they should have the freedom both to express and 
to promote their views on these subjects in a Christian 
manner and spirit.^°- 

This v»-as apparently a happy solution of the question, a 
philosophical way to handle the problem, but slavery would 
not down. The incident that most of all precipitated the 
organization of the Southern Baptist Convention was the 

9*Col. Recs. VIII, 164. 

99Buckley, James M., History of Methodism, I, 373, 375. 
looHarrison, 58. 

101 Riley, B. F., History of the Baptists in Southern States East of 
the Mississippi, p. 199. 
lO'-^Ibid., p. 201. 

128 University' of Texas Bulletin 

attitude of the Board of Foreign Missions of the church. 
This board, apparently on its own initiative, adopted in 
1844 a resolution to the effect that, 

In the thirty years in which the board has ex- 
isted, no slaveholder, to our knowledge, has applied 
to be a missionary. And as we send out no do- 
mestics, or servants, such an event as a missionary 
taking slaves with him, were it morally right, could 
not, in accordance with all our past arrangements 
and present plans, possibly occur. If, however, 
anyone should offer himself as a missionary, hav- 
ing slaves, and should insist on retaining them as 
his property, we can never be a party to any ar- 
rangements which would imply approbation of 

The American Baptist Home Missionary Society in April, 
1845, found itself in the same predicament that the Foreign 
Missionary Society was facing. This board said : "We de- 
clare it expedient that members shall hereafter act in sepa- 
rate organizations, at the South and at the North, in pro- 
moting the objects which were originally contemplated by 
the society,'""'- 

This announcement of policy was regarded by the South- 
ern Baptists as a violation of the rights of the convention 
of the church. This policy was soon put into effect by the 
rejection of Rev. James E. Reeves, a slaveholder and appli- 
cant to become a missionary.^^'' This was a challenge that 
was immediately accepted. The Southern Baptists said: 
"This is forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles ... We will 
never interfere with what is Caesar's. We will not com- 
promise what is God's."'"* 

The Southern Baptist Convention was organized at Au- 
gusta, Georgia, in the summer of 1845. There were 377 
delegates present. They said that "a painful division has 
taken place in the missionary operations of the American 
Baptists . . . They differ in no article of the faith. They 
are guided by the same principles of gospel order."'"' 

'('•'Riley, p. 205. 

"^•♦Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1845, pp. 18, 19. 

lo^iley, p. 211. 

The Negro iyi Tennessee, 1790-1865 129 

The Tennessee Baptists were, like the Baptists as a whole, 
divided on the question of slavery. In general, the attitude 
of the National Triennial Convention down to 1845 reflects 
the opinion of Tennessee Baptists. There are no local his- 
tories nor any minutes of local bodies that give us any in- 
sight into the particular feelings of different groups of 
Baptists in Tennessee. Tennessee Baptists went with the 
Southern Convention in 1845, but there were anti-slavery 
Baptists scattered throughout the state. 

One of the most noted of the anti-slavery Baptists in Ten- 
nessee was Professor J. M. Pendleton, of Union University, 
Murfreesboro, Tennessee (now at Jackson, Tennessee). 
Professor Pendleton was born in Virginia in 1811. He 
moved to Kentucky in 1817 and to Tennessee in 1857. He 
was in 1858 professor of theology at Union, and joint editor 
with Rev. A. C. Dayton of the Tennessee Baptist, published 
at Nashville, and was one of the editors of the Southern 
Baptist Review. ^"^ 

In 1858, Dr. Dawson, editor of the Alabama Baptist, ac- 
cused him of being an abolitionist. He was brought before 
the board of trustees of Union. Professor Pendleton ex- 
plained the charge in the following way: "I suppose he 
(Dawson) made no distinction between an 'Abolitionist' 
and 'Emancipationist.' The latter was in favor of doing 
away with slavery gradually, according to state constitution 
and law ; the former believed slavery to be a sin in itself, 
calling for immediate abolition without regard to conse- 
quences. I was an Emancipationist . . . but I was never 
for a moment an Abolitionist."'"' He frankly stated his 
views before the board, and was acquitted.'"^ 

lospendleton, J. M., Reminiscenes of a Long Life, p. 112. 

lo^lbid., 113. 

losprofessor Pendleton remained at Union Univei'sity during the 
war and was a loyal unionist. He preached on Sunday and worked 
on the farm during the week. He constantly expected to be taken 
from his home and hanged. He always prepared at night a method 
of escape, yet he, despite proposals by the citizens of the community 
to hang him, never had to execute his plans. He lived in constant 
fear untill the Army of the Cumberland occupied Murfreesboro in 
1863.— Pendleton, op. cit., 127. 

130 University' of Texas Bulletin 

The Southern Baptists made special effort to evangelize 
the slaves after their separate organization was accom- 
plished. "This department of our labor," says the report 
of 1845, "is increasing in interest every year. Whenever 
it is practicable, the missionaries of the board hold separate 
services for the special benefit of the slaves. And all bear 
favorable testimony to the happy influence of the Gospel 
upon the hearts and lives of that people. Their owners 
are becoming more and more awake to their special wants. 
Some are erecting houses of worship on their plantations, 
others are making liberal donations to sustain the ministry 
among them."''"'' The general proposition of the convention 
to any local church was that it would pay half the expense 
of a mission among the negroes if the church would pay the 
other half. In 1855, the Baptists had missions at Rogers- 
ville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cumberland Mountains, Hunt- 
ingdon, and Memphis."" 

The convention of 1859 said : 

Our slaves, too, demand our attention. They 
form part of our families, speak our language, are 
easy of access, and are impressible beyond any 
other people. They number more than three and 
a half million, and out of this multitude scarcely 
more than three or four hundred thousand are pro- 
fessed Christians."^ 

The character of the slave converts as given by Rev. Pen- 
dleton, seemed to justify the efforts of the church. He said, 
"I saw among them in the days of slavery as pious Chris- 
tians as I ever saw anywhere. They attended church, oc- 
cupied the place assigned them in the meeting-hou'^e, and 
partook of the Lord's Supper with their white brethren."'-- 
The special training that the negroes received in the Bap- 
tist church largely prepared them to establish and manage 
their own churches. "The first negro Baptist church in 

J<'''Proceedinp:s of Southern Baptist Convention, 1845. p. 35. 
i"'Ibid., p. 28. 

"'Proceedingrs of Southern Baptist Convention, 1859-60, p. 89. 
ii-Pendleton, p. 127. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 131 

Tennessee," says Pius, "was the Mt. Lebanon Baptist 
Church, organized at Columbia, October 20, 1843.""' This 
church now has a membership of 200 and property worth 
$15,000. In 1853, Spruce Street Baptist Church was built 
at Nashville. Beal Street Church at Memphis was also 
one of the early negro churches. 

III. Cumberland Presbyterians. 

The Cumberland Presbyterians present the interesting 
situation of a church originating in a slave state after 
slavery was rather substantially established. This church 
was organized in Tennessee in 1810 in the log cabin of 
Samuel McAdoo. Samuel McAdoo, Finis Ewing, and Sam- 
uel King, all ordained ministers of the Presbyterian church, 
were the constituent founders of the first Presbytery."* 
Of these three cofounders, Ewing was a slaveholder, but he 
soon emancipated his slaves."^' 

One would expect this church, born of the environment 
of slavery, to be rather mild in its opposition to slavery, if, 
indeed, not pro-slavery, but, as a matter of fact, it was 
strongly anti-slavery. Ewing, after freeing his slaves, 
boldly preached against "the traffic in human flesh." He 

But where shall we begin? Oh ! is it indeed true 
that in this enlightened age, there are so many pal- 
pable evils in the church that it is difficult to know 
where to commence enumerating them? The first 
evil which I shall mention is a traffic in human 
flesh and human souls. It is true that many pro- 
fessors of religion, and, I fear, some of my Cum- 
berland brethren, do not scruple to sell for life 
their fellow-beings, some of whom are brethren 
in the Lord. And what is worse, they are not 
scrupulous to whom they sell, provided they can 
obtain a better price. Sometimes husbands and 
wives, parents and children, are thus separated. 

"3pius, p. 61. 

ii^Garrett an4 Goodpasture, 160. 

"'"'McDonald, B. W., History of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 
p. 411. 

132 University- of Texas Bulletin 

and I doubt not their cries reach the ears of the 
Lord of Sabbath . . , Others who constitute a part 
of the visible Church half feed, half clothe, and 
oppress the servants. Indeed, they seem by their 
conduct toward them, not to consider them fellow- 
beings. And it is to be feared that many of them 
are taking no pains at all to give their servants 
religious instruction of any kind, and especially 
are they making no efforts to teach them or cause 
them to be taught to read that Book which testifies 
of Jesus, whilst others permit, perhaps require, 
their servants to work, cook, etc., while the white 
people are praying around the family altar.^^^ 

He says again, "I have determined not to hold, nor to 
give, nor to sell, nor to buy any slave for life. Mainly from 
the influence of that passage of God's word which says, 
'Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and 
equal.' '"'' 

Samuel McAdoo, one of the three founders of the church, 
and a Cumberland preacher, was a most outspoken oppo- 
nent of slavery. He did not want his family through mar- 
riage or inheritance or otherwise to become connected with 
it. To accomplish this he joined the contingent of anti- 
slavery leaders that Tennessee contributed to the North- 
west. He moved to Illinois, where he could preach his 
convictions without fear and trembling.''" 

Some of the early Cumberland preachers, who were very 
conscientious on the subject of slavery, wanted to free their 
slaves, but they did not believe they could be self-sustaining 
and independent members of society. Rev. Ephriam Mc- 
Lean was one of these who decided that he would perform 
the experiment of giving his slaves a chance to demonstrate 
that they could be self-supporting. He gave his slaves the 
use of a farm, farming implements, and live stock adequate 
for their purposes, and set them free to work for them- 
selves. In a few years idleness and drunkenness brought 

"«Cossitt, Franceway Ranna, The Life of Rev. Finis Ewing, p. 273. 
ii^McDonald, p. 411. 

The Negro in Teimessee, 1790-1865 133 

them to suffering, and they begged him to take them back. 
He did so.^^^ 

Rev. Robert Donnel, a Cumberland minister, inherited 
slaves. He taught his slaves the Scriptures and called them 
to family prayer daily. He v^anted to free his slaves, but 
they did not wish freedom, because they did not w^ant to go 
to Liberia."" The free states at the North did not want 
them. He could not drive them to Africa. The state would 
not let him free them unless he sent them outside of it, so 
he did not know how to dispose of them."'^ 

Southern anti-slavery men would buy the slaves of their 
own brothers to keep them from being sold separately to pay 
their debts. Such men would intend to emancipate these 
slaves, but they would soon discover that the slaves had 
rather die than be sent to Canada or Africa. They re- 
mained slaveholders because they had a real interest in 
negroes. In 1855, Dr. Beard, a leading Cumberland Pres- 
byterian minister, said, "the longer I live the more deeply 
I regret that I ever became involved in it. My heart always 
hated it, and now loathes it more and more every day."^-*^ 

Not only were the leading ministers in the Church anti- 
slavery, but the literature of the Church denounced slavery, 
and the legislation of the Southern' States. The Revivalist, 
a Cumberland paper published at Nashville from 1830 to 
1836, speaking of legislation of South Carolina upon slavery, 
said : ''Such acts are foul blots upon the records of a free 
people, which our posterity will blush to behold. They are 
not only unjust and cruel but actually impolitic." 

"The extensive slaveholder," said the Revivalist, "is at 
too great a remove from the slave to learn the workings of 
his mind and the feelings of his heart. There is no contact 
of feeling, no interchange of sympathies between most 
Southern planters and their servants. They govern, con- 
trol, and direct their slaves by proxy ; and too many masters 

ii^Letters furnished by Hon. F. E. McLean (Quoted by McDonald, 

"^McDonald, p. 412. 

i20Diary of Beard, A. J., July 11, 1855. 

134 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

are dependent upon their representatives of heartless over- 
seers for a knowledge of the character and disposition of 
their own slaves. Southern planters, who govern by proxy, 
are, therefore, unprepared to do justice to the African 

The Revivalist exhorted slaveholders to teach their slaves 
to read and to give them moral and religious instruction. 
This, it said, "will not only make better men of them but 
better servants." '--' 

The Cumberland Presbyterian, of Nashville, mother organ 
of the Church, said in 1835: "We proclaim it abroad we do 
not own slaves. We never shall. We long to see the black 
man free and happy, and thousands of Christians who now 
hold them in bondage entertain the same sentiments."'-* 

It will be shown in the chapter on abolition that a change 
of attitude toward slavery followed the action of the Con- 
vention of 1834. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church 
was no exception to this rule. The action of a Pennsylvania 
Synod in 1847 precipitated the issue. This Synod met and 
rescinded its action at a previous session declaring that the 
relation between it and American slavery to be such as to 
require "no action thereon," and adopted the resolution, 
"That the system of slavery in the United States is contrary 
to the principles of the Gospel, hinders the progress thereof, 
and ought to be abolished."'-* 

The General Assembly of the Church of 1848, which met 
at Memphis, appointed a committee to review the action of 
the Pennsylvania Synod. This committee in its report re- 
gretted the action of the Synod and disapproved "any at- 
tempt by jurisdiction of the church to agitate the exciting 
subject of slavery," closing with the observation that "the 
tendency of such resolutions, if persisted in, we believe is to 
gender strife, produce distraction in the church, and thereby 
hinder the progress of the Gospel."'" 

i-'McDonald, p. 414. 

i-'^Ibid., 415. 

i-*The Cumberland Presbyterian, August 19, 1835. 

i-*McDonald, p. 417. 

!••;•' Minutes of the Assembly of 1848, pp. 12, 13. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 135 

The General Assembly of 1851, which met at Pittsburg, 
received six memorials on slavery from Ohio and Pennsyl- 
vania with about one hundred and fifty signatures.'-"- The 
committee to whom these memorials were referred made 
the following report, which was adopted : 

The Church of God is a spiritual body, whose 
jurisdiction extends only to matters of and 
morals. She has no power to legislate upon sub- 
jects on which Christ and his apostles did not leg- 
islate, nor to establish terms of union, w^here they 
have given no express warrant. Your committee, 
therefore, believe that this question on which you 
are asked by the memorialists to take action, is one 
which belongs rather to civil than ecclesiastical leg- 
islation ; and we are all fully persuaded that legis- 
lation on that subject in any of the judicatories of 
the church, instead of mitigating the evils con- 
nected with slavery, will only have a tendency to 
alienate feeling between brethren ; to engender 
strife and animosities in your church ; and tend, 
ultimately to a separation between brethren who 
hold a common faith, an event leading to the most 
disastrous results, and one which we believe ought 
to be deprecated by every true patriot and Chris- 

But your committee believe that members of the 
church holding slaves should regard them as ra- 
tional and accountable beings, and treat them as 
such, affording them as far as possible the means 
of grace. 

Finally, your committee would recommend the 
adoption of the following resolutions : 

1. That inasmuch as the Cumberland Presby- 
terian Church was originally organized and has 
since existed and prospered under the conceded 
principle that slavery was not and should not be 
regarded as a bar to communion ; we, therefore, 
believe that it should not now be so regarded. 

2. That, having entire confidence in the hon- 
esty and sincerity of the memorialists and cherish- 
ing the tenderest regard for their feelings and 
opinions, it is the conviction of this General As- 

i2cMinutes of the Assembly of 1851, p. 16. 

136 University of Texas Bulletin 

sembly that the agitation of this question which 
has already torn asunder other branches of the 
church, can be productive of no real benefit to 
master or slave. We would, therefore, in the fear 
of God, and with the utmost solicitude for the 
peace and welfare of the churches under our care, 
advise a spirit of mutual forbearance and broth- 
erly love ; and, instead of censure and proscription, 
that WT endeavor to cultivate a fraternal feeling 
one toward another.^-' 

This platform remained the orthodox position of the 
Church to the abolition of slavery. The Cumberland 
Church was primarily a Southern church, and, therefore, 
never divided on the question. It would have suffered very 
little loss of either membership or property by a division. 

The Cumberland Church, it appears, took the most sens- 
ible position on the slavery question of any of the churches 
in Tennessee. It always preached abolition and ultimate 
freedom as the final solution of the problem, but, at no 
time did it overlook the entire set of facts connected with 
the institution. It recognized that slavery had been forced 
on the forefathers, that it had become the central institution 
of Southern society, that, therefore, it would be violent revo- 
lution to abolish the institution at one stroke of the pen. 
It appreciated the fact that only a small part of the slave 
population was ready for freedom and a responsible place 
in the body politic. The Cumberland Presbji;erians be- 
lieved that slavery was an evil, but denied responsibility 
for it. They thought that slavery was an educating insttu- 
tion, that the rights of the slave should be restored to him 
as fast as his evolution would permit, but that in this process 
the welfare of society as a whole was the major considera- 

IV. The Friends. 

The Quakers led decidedly in the movement of abolition. 
As early as 1770 in their annual meeting attention was 

^-"Minutes of the Assembly of 1851, pp. 56, 57. This committee 
consisted of LeRoy Woods, Ind., A. J. Beard, Ky., J. J. Meek, Miss., 
N. P. Modrall, Tenn., J. H. Coulter, Ohio, S. E. Hudson, Penn., and 
J. C. Henson, Ind. 

The Negro in TennesseB, 1790-1865 137 

called to the treatment of the slave and to "the iniquitous 
practice of importing negroes."' -*" In 1772 it was decided 
in their annual meeting that no Friend should buy a slave 
of any other person than a Friend in unity. This regulation 
might be violated if it was to unite husband and wife or 
mother and children, or for other reasons if approved by 
monthly meeting.'-^ Advance was made again in 1774 and 
in 1775 when the yearly meeting decided "That Friends in 
unity shall neither buy nor sell a negro without the consent 
of the monthly meeting to which they belong."^-'^ In 1776 
the Friends reached complete abolition.^ ^^ The yearly 
meeting advised with unanimity that the members of the 
Friends' Society "clear their hands" of the slaves as rapidly 
as possible. By the close of the Revolution the Friends were 
practically rid of slaves. In the year 1787 there was not a 
slave in the possession of an acknowledged Quaker.^^- They 
never recanted on this proposition. 

The attitude of the Southern Quakers was at first amelio- 
ration of the condition of the slave. They were interested 
in the physical condition of the negro, possibly as much for 
economic reasons as for altruistic motives."^ In North 
Carolina, where the immediate background of Tennessee 
Quakerism is found, the question of slavery was slow in ris- 
ing, but soon thereafter became a very stubborn question. ^'^ 
The yearly meetings of 1758 and 1770 took decidedly hostile 
attitude toward the buying and selling of slaves, and de- 
manded that those that were inherited be treated well.'^^ 

The Quakers in North Carolina worked personally among 
the Friends for abolition and as an organization they peti- 
tioned the Legislature of the State to modify its laws in the 

i28Weeks, S. B., Southern Quakers and Slavery, p. 199 (Baltimore, 

i29Ibid., p. 207. 

isoibid., 207-8. 

isilbid., 208. 

i32American Church History, XII, 245. 

i33Weeks, 201. 

i3ilbid., 206. 

i35lbid., 207. 

138 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

direction of justice and mercy. They protested bitterly 
against free negroes, who had been given their freedom by 
conscientious masters, being taken to other states and sold 
into slavery.'^'' 

The harshness of North Carolina law created a modified 
Quakerism not to be found elsewhere. The yearly meeting 
created agents to take charge of slaves that masters wanted 
to manumit, and look after them. By this method they pro- 
posed to give virtual freedom to the slaves when legal free- 
dom was not recognized by the state.' ■■' This practice con- 
tinued to the Civil War. 

The Friends in Tennessee not only refrained from owning 
slaves themselves, but by manumission societies, by petitions 
to legislatures, and by abolition literature, sought to abolish 
slavery. Reference is made in a previous chapter to the 
work of such men as Embree, Osborn, and Lundy, who, if 
they had remained in Tenessee with all the Friends, instead 
of going to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, might have helped to 
bring about a different result. Charles Osborn, who was 
the leader in organizing the Tennessee Manumission Society, 
and who moved to Ohio and began publishing the Philan- 
thropist, an anti-slavery paper, later moved to Indiana, 
whither he was followed by Jesse Wills and John Underbill, 
Friends who had helped to organize manumission societies 
in Tennessee. The Emancipator, Embree's publication, re- 
ferring to these emigrations to the North, said : 

Thousands of first-rate citizens, men remarkable 
for their piety and virtue, have within twenty 
years past removed' from this and other slave 
states, to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, that their eyes 
may be hid from seeing the cruel oppressor lacerate 
the back of his slaves, and that their ears may not 
hear the bitter cries of the oppressed. I have often 
regretted the loss of so much virtue from these 
slave states, which held too little before. Could 
all those who have removed from slave states on 
that account, to even the single state of Ohio, have 

i.w Weeks, 221. 
i-'"Ibid., 225. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 139 

been induced to remove to, and settle in Tennessee 
with their high toned love for universal liberty 
and aversion to slavery, I think that Tennessee 
v^^ould ere this have begun to sparkle among the 
true stars of liberty."'' 

From about 1809 to 1834, the Friends in Tennessee were 
regularly petitioning the Legislature of the State. Their 
petitions usually asked for the abolition of slavery, if pos- 
sible; if not, to mitigate the evil "of separating husbands, 
wives, and children.'"'*'' They believed that the elimination 
of this practice would make the slaves more virtuous and 
increase their respect for the marriage relation. They 
petitioned against the domestic slave trade as they saw this 
was increasing the grip of slavery on the state. 

The Friends were the most vigilant anti-slavery workers 
in the State. If all the Protestant churches had been as 
devoted to the cause of freedom in the early days of the 
State before there were many slaves in the state and before 
West Tennessee was settled, the story of the Convention of 
1834 would likely be different. The Friends like the other 
religionists had to succumb to the superior pro-slavery 
forces that always controlled the state government. 

V. The Presbyterians. 

The Presbyterians were the first denomination to cross 
the frontier line into Tennessee. Rev. Charles Cummings 
and Rev. John Rhea, both of this church, were the first 
preachers in Tennessee.'^" "It was the custom of Mr. 
Cummings on Sunday morning," says Goodspeed, "to dress 
himself neatly, put on his shot pouch, shoulder his rifle, 
mount his horse, and ride to church, where he would meet 
his congregation, each man with his rifle in his hand." In 
1778 Samuel Doak was called to the congregations, Concord 
and Hopewell, in what is now Sullivan County. Rev. Doak 

i:^**Hoss, E. E., Elihu Enibree, Abolitionist, p. 11. 
i3'jpetition of Society of Friends, 1817 (Archives of State). This 
petition was signed by Elihu Embree and nine other Friends. 
""Goodspeed, p. 645. 

140 University' of Texas Bulletin 

in 1785 chartered Martin Academy, first educational insti- 
tution west of the Alleghanies. In 1775 Abingdon Presby- 
tery was founded, and it became the gateway of Presby- 
terianism to the other portions of the State. Thos. B. 
Craighead and Rev. William McGee, brother of the Meth- 
odist John McGee, were also among the early ministers of 
this denomination/^^ 

The Presbyterians, like all the denominations that were 
national, could not in the very nature of things remain a 
unit on the slavery question. The question came up in 
various synods in 1774, 1780, and 1787, when the synods of 
New York and Philadelphia declared in favor of training 
the slaves for freedom. ^^- 

The question reached the General Assembly in 1793 and 
1795, when it was decided that as there were differences of 
opinion relative to slavery among the members of the church, 
"notwithstanding which they live in charity and peace ac- 
cording to the doctrine and practice of the apostles, it is 

i^iGoodspeed, p. 646. 

i*-Gillet, E. H., History of Presbyterian Church in United States 
of America, I, 201. These synods said: 

"We do highly approve of the general principles in favor of uni- 
versal liberty that prevail in America, and of the interest which 
many of the states have taken in promoting the abolition of slavery. 
Yet, inasmuch as men, introduced from a servile state to a participa- 
tion of all the privileges of civil society, without a proper education, 
and without previous habits of industry, may be, in some respects, 
dangerous to the community; therefore, they earnestly recommend 
it to all the members belonging to their communion to give those 
persons, who are at present held in servitude, such good education 
as may pi-epare them for the better enjoyment of freedom. And 
they moreover recommend that masters, whenever they find servants 
disposed to make a proper improvement of that privilege, would give 
them some share of property to begin with, or grant them sufficient 
time and sufficient means of procuring, by industry, their own lib- 
erty; and at a moderate rate, that they may thereby be brought into 
society with those habits of industry that may render them useful 
citizens; and, finally, they recommend it to all the people under their 
care, to use the most prudent measures consistent with the interest 
and the state of civil society in the parts where they live, to procure 
eventually the final abolition of slavery in America." 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 141 

hereby recommended to all conscientious persons, and espe- 
cially to those whom it immediately respects, to do the 

At this same assembly, a committee made a strong rec- 
ommendation, urging religious education of the slave. The 
assembly rejected the report of the committee, and said 
they "have taken every step which they deem expedient or 
wise to encourage emancipation, and to render the state of 
those who are in slavery as mild and tolerable as pos- 
sible."'" The assembly referred the members of the church 
to its action of 1787 and 1793 for its position on slavery. 

This action settled the question for 20 years. It came be- 
fore the assembly again in 1815, due to the action of the 
Synod of Ohio.^^' This assembly urged religious education 
and the use of prudent measures to prevent the slave traf- 
fic."^ The assembly of 1816 asked that masters who were 
members of the church present the children of parents in 
servitude for baptism. ^^'■' 

The sale of a slave member of the church provoked rather 

i*3Minutes of the Assembly of 1795, Quoted by Gillet, I, 284. 

i^Ibid., p. 285. The committee reported that "a neglect of this 
(religious education) is inconsistent with the character of a Christian 
master, but the observance might prevent, in great part, what is really 
the moral evil attending slavery — namely, allowing precious souls 
under the charge of masters to perish for lack of knowledge." 

i45Gillett, I, 453. The assembly urged religious education on the 
slaves "that they may be prepared for the exercise and enjoyment of 
liberty when God in his providence may open a door for their eman- 
cipation." As to buying and selling of slaves, it Recommended 
"Presbyteries and Sessions under their care to make use of all pru- 
dent measures to prevent such shameful and unrighteous conduct." 

T^46lbid., II, pp. 239-41. The assembly said: "We consider the vol- 
untary enslaving of one part of the human race by another, as a 
gross violation of the most precious and sacred rights of human 
nature, as utterly inconsistent with the laws of God, which requires 
us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and as totally irreconcilable 
with the spirit and principles of the gospel of Christ, which enjoins 
that all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye 
even so to them." 

142 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

drastic action by the Assembly of 1818,'^' but in the same 
proceedings it expressed its sympathy for those upon whom 
slavery had been entailed as "a great and most virtuous 
part of the community abhor slavery, and wish its extermi- 
nation as sincerely as any others. "'^=* 
The Assembly of 1825 said : 

We notice with pleasure the enlightened atten- 
tion which has been paid to the religious instruc- 
tion and evangelization of the unhappy slaves and 
free people of color of our country in some regions 
of our church ... No more honored name can be 
conferred on a minister of Jesus Christ than that 
of Apostle to the American Slaves ; and no service 
can be more pleasing to the God of Heaven or more 
useful to our beloved country than that which this 
title designates. ^*- 

The slavery question came up again in 1836 when the 
church was pretty well divided. There was a majority re- 
port which recommended taking no action, and a minority 
report which strongly opposed slavery. The majority re- 
port was accepted by the assembly.'^" Twenty-eight mem- 
bers protested this action of the assembly. The Presby- 
terians had an anti-slavery element all along that they could 
not control. This element separated from the church in 
1821 and called itself the Associated Reformed Presbyterian 
Church.'^' There was a second element, calling itself the 
New School, that based its action very largely on slavery. 
This element kept up an anti-slavery propaganda, repeating 
in 1846 and in 1849, the slavery declaration of 1818. The 
southern and more conservative element was able to control 
the assembly, and in 1853 the New School element withdrew 

i^'Gillett, II, 241. 

'■•^Ibid., 242. See also Fourth Annual Report of American Anti- 
slavery Society, 1837, p. 62; and Patton, Jacob Harris, Popular His- 
tory of the Presbyterian Church, p. 444. 

"■'Thompson, R. E., History of Presbyterian Churches in the 
United States, p. 123. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 143 

from the church.'" This was the last division in the 
church until the guns fired on Fort Sumpter. 

The attitude of the Tennessee Presbyterians on slavery 
was well expressed by the Synod of Tennessee in 1817, in 
an address to the American Colonization Society. This 
memorial, after congratulating the society upon its pur- 
pose, said : 

We wish you, therefore, to know, that within 
our bounds the public sentiment appears clearly 
and decidedly in your favor . . . We ardently wish 
that your exertions and the best influence of all 
philanthropists may be united, to meliorate the 
condition of human society, and especially of its 
most degraded classes, till liberty, religion, and 
happiness shall be the enjoyment o f the whole 
family of man/-' 

There were several very prominent anti-slavery Presby- 
terian leaders in Tennessee, among both the laymen and the 
clergymen. Judge S. J. W. Lucky was a prominent example 
of a layman who was an active anti-slavery worker. Hon. 
John Blair, who was a ruling elder and representative oC 
his district in Congress for twelve years, became convinced 
that slavery was wrong, and offered to give a bill of sale of 
his slaves to Dr. David Nelson. He was unable to see any 
practical way out of slavery. ^■'- 

Among the ministers were three who did valuable service 
in the cause of freedom. Rev. John Rankin's work as an 
anti-slavery leader has been noticed in another connection. 
He was one of the pioneers in the cause. Rev. Dr. David 
Nelson, a native of Washington County, and brother-in-law 
of Chief Justice James W. Frederick, was one of the mpst 
determined anti-slavery men in the country.''- He had to 

1 ''OThirteenth Annual Report of American and Foreign Anti- 
slavery Society, 1827. pp. 67-8. 

I'lTenth Annual Report of American Colonization Society, 1827, 
pp. 67-8. 

1 •■^Quarterly Review of the M. E. Church, South, April, 1892, 119- 

1' 'Methodist Quarterly Review, Ixiii, 132. 

144 University' of Texas Bulletin 

be saved from a mob for proposing to his congregation to 
take a subscription with which to buy and colonize slaves. 
He was eloquent in promoting colonization.'^* Rev. E. T. 
Brantley, a West Tennessee Presbyterian minister, said of 
him: "He cordially disapproved of slavery. He found no 
justification of it anywhere. All look forward to the ex- 
tinction of slavery ... If the North could be aware of the 
progress of anti-slavery sentiment at the South, particularly 
among Christians, they would think the day of emancipa- 
tion had already dawned."^' ' Rev. Dr. Ross, of Tennessee, 
was one of the most able leaders in Presbyterianism in the 
South. He was the spokesman of Southern Presb>i:erian- 
ism in the general assembly, which met at Buffalo in May, 
1853. It was in this assembly that the committee on slav- 
ery recommended that a committee consisting of one mem- 
ber from each of the synods of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mis- 
souri, and Virginia, be appointed to investigate the slave- 
holding members of the church on the following points, and 
report to the next general assembly : 

1. The number of slaveholders in connection 
with the churches, and the number of slaves held 
by them. 

2. The extent to which slaves are held, from an 
unavoidable necessity imposed by the laws of the 
States, the obligation of guardianship, and the de- 
mands of humanity. 

3. Whether the Southern churches regard the 
sacredness of the marriage relation as it exists 
among the slaves ; whether baptism is duly admin- 
istered to the children of the slaves professing 
Christianity; and, in general, to what extent, and 
in what manner, provision is made for the religious 
well-being of the enslaved.' '*■• 

Dr. Ross warmly opposed this action, asserting emphat- 
ically that the South never submitted to a scrutiny. He pro- 

i54Quarterly Review of the M. E. Church, South, April, 1892, 120. 
i55Thirteenth Annual Report of the American and Foreign Anti- 
slavery Society, 1853, p. 80. 
I'^Gibid., p. 71. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 145 

posed a substitute motion to the effect that "a commitee 
from each of the Northern synods ... be appointed to report 
to the next general assembly on the following points : 

1. The number of Northern church members 
who traffic with slaveholders, and are seeking to 
make money by selling them negro clothing, hand- 
cuffs, and cowhides. 

2. How many Northern church members are 
concerned, directly or indirectly, in building and 
fitting out ships for the African slave trade, and 
the slave-trade between the States? 

3. How many Northern church members have 
sent orders to New Orleans and other Southern 
cities, to have slaves sold, to pay debts coming to 
them from the South? (See Uncle Tom's Cabin.) 

4. How many Northern church members buy 
the cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, oranges, pine- 
apple, figs, ginger, cocoa, melons, and a thousand 
other things, raised by slave labor? 

5. How many Northern church members have 
intermarried with slaveholders, and have become 
slaveholders themselves, or enjoy the wealth made 
by the blood of the slaves, especially if there be any 
Northern ministers of the Gospel in such a pre- 

6. How many Northern church members are 
descendants of the men who kidnapped negroes 
in Africa, and brought them to Virginia and New 
England, in former years? 

7. What is the aggregate and individual wealth 
of church members thus decended, and what action 
is best to compel them to disgorge this blood- 
stained wealth, or to make them give dollar for 
dollar in equalizing the loss of the South by eman- 

8. How many Northern church members, min- 
isters especially, have advocated murder in resist- 
ance to the laws of the land. 

9. How many Northern church members own 
stock in underground railroads, running off fugi- 
tive slaves, and Sabbath-breaking railroads and 

10. That a special committee be sent up Red 
River, to ascertain whether Legree, who whipped 
Uncle Tom to death (and a Northern gentleman). 

146 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

be not still in connection with some Northern 
church, in good and regular standing. 

11. How many Northern church members attend 
meetings of Spiritual Roppers, are Bloomers, or 
Woman's Rights Conventionalists? 

12. How many are cruel husbands? 

13. How many are henpecked husbands?'" 

Dr. Ross said : "He did not desire discussion on this sub- 
ject, but still he had no opposition to make if others wished 
to discuss it. As a citizen of the state of Tennessee, a state 
which partakes of the fire of the South and the prudence of 
the North, he was perfectly calm on the subject. ^''^ He 
said again, "If anyone would present him with a handsome 
copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin, he would keep it on his center- 
table, and show it to all his visitors."''" 

The Presbyterians had a large number of slaves as mem- 
bers, but in their reports there is no distinction made be- 
tween whites and blacks. "In many places," says Rev. 
James H. McNeilly, "separate houses of worship were pro- 
vided for them, and in a great many churches large galleries 
with comfortable seats were assigned to them. Often the 
planters on large plantations built neat and commodious 
chapels for them, and in these chapels the planter and his 
family frequently worshipped with their servants. In the 
cities and towns the white people gave up their churches 
to the negroes for Afternoon service." Dr. McNeilly says: 
"I remember that in 1855 the Presbyterian General Assem- 
bly met in the First Presbyterian Church at Nashville, Tenn. 
Dr. Edgar, the pastor, gave some of the Northern commis- 
sioners opportunity to see and preach to some of the negro 
congregations. These ministers were surprised to see the 
the fine dressing, the happy faces, the apparent devotion 
of the people, and were much gratified to find the evidence 
of the interest of the churches in the spiritual welfare of 
the slaves.""'" 

^"''Thirteenth Annual Report of American and Foreign Anti-slavery 
Society, 1853, pp. 73-4. 
i-'^Ibid., pp. 67-8. 
I'i'Ibid., p. 82. 
i(;o]vicNeilly, James H., Religion and Slavery, p. 42. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 147 

"In the spring of 1860," says Dr. McNeilly, "I was li- 
censed to preach by the Presbytery of Nashville and spent 
nearly six months in preaching in two counties of Middle 
Tennessee. The members of my congregation owned a con- 
siderable number of slaves, to whom I preached regularly 
every Sabbath afternoon, although most of them were mem- 
bers of Methodist and Baptist churches,"""' 

The Presbyterians were profoundly interested in the wel- 
fare of the slaves. In the Synods of Kentucky, Virginia, 
North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Tennessee, "it is," 
says Harrison, "the practice of a number of ministers to 
preach to the negroes separately once on the Sabbath or dur- 
ing the week.""' There were Sabbath Schools also, and, 
with few exceptions, a number of negroes formed a portion 
of every Sabbath congregation. 

The Presbyterians did not let the negroes preach as much 
as the Baptists and Methodists did. These denominations 
had real preachers with their congregations, but the Pres- 
byterian conception of the character of a preacher practi- 
cally excluded the negro. They had, however, negro exhort- 
ers. In fact, the negroes did not want a preacher they could 
understand. Even a white preacher, if he tried to simplify 
his language to suit them, would become unpopular with 
them. They liked big words, and would always praise the 
Lord when a high-sounding word was used. Rev. McNeilly 
tells of a young theologian who began his sermon to the 
negroes thus, "Primarily we must postulate the existence 
of a duty." After a short pause, some old colored patriarch 
fervently responded, "Yaas, Lord, dat's so. Bless de Lord. "'**■- 

The Tennessee Presbyterians voted against the Spring 
Resolutions in the general assembly at Philadelphia, and 
participated in the convention at Atlanta in August, 1861, 
which adopted among other resolutions, the following: 
"Our connection with the non-slaveholding states, it cannot 
be denied, was a great hindrance to the systematic perform- 
ance of the work of evangelization of the slave population. 

i62jjarrison, p. 91. 
ifi^ibid., p. 92. 

148 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

Is is true that the northern portion of the Presbyterian 
Church professed to be conservative, but their opposition to 
our social economy was constantly increasing,"^"' The 
synods of Memphis and Nashville, together with various 
Presbyteries, participated in the convention at Augusta, 
Georgia, in December, 1861, which organized the Southern 
Presbyterian Church. Tennessee has remained a strong 
center of Southern Presbyterianism to the present. 

VI. The Episcopalians. 

The Episcopal Church from the beginning of its work in 
America stressed the improvement of the condition of the 
slaves. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 
Foreign Parts was incorporated under William III, in 1701, 
and on investigation it was decided that the work in Amer- 
ica "consisted of three great homilies : the care and instruc- 
tion of our people settled in the colonies, the conversion of 
the Indian savages, and the conversion of the negroes."'"* 
Rev. Samuel Thomas, the first missionary, who was sent to 
North Carolina in 1702, reported that "he had taken much 
pains also in instructing the negroes and learned twenty 
of them to read."^" The Episcopal Church, like the Pres- 
byterian, did not report as a rule separate statistics for 
colored members of the church. In 1817 there were 828 
colored members in the Episcopal churches at Charleston. ^"^^ 
In 1822 there were 200 colored children in their Sunday 
Schools. ''■•= 

The Episcopal Church had a sort of philosophical atti- 
tude toward the negroes. It was never the church of feel- 
ing, like the Methodists and Baptists. In 1823 Rev. Dr. 
Dalcho of the Episcopal Church at Charleston issued a 
pamphlet entitled, "Practical Considerations, Founded on 
the Scriptures, Relative to the Slave Population of South 
Carolina." The church was vitally interested in the wel- 
fare of the slave throughout the South. 

"^Goodspeed, p. 683. 
^•'"^Harrison, p. 40. 
i65lbid., 67. 
leeibid., 73. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 149 

The Episcopal Church did not establish itself in Tennes- 
see until anti-slavery feeling was on the wane. The first 
Episcopal Church in Tennessee was established at Franklin, 
Williamson County, August 25, 1827, by Rev. James H. 
Otey.'"" He began to preach occasionally at Columbia and 
Nashville, and by 1830 there were two additional clergy. 
In this same year, on July 1, the first convention of the 
church was held at Nashville, and in this year the Diocese 
of Tennessee was formed. There were about fifty commu- 
nicants at this time in Tennessee.^ ''- 

The church grew very slowly. The state was still in a 
frontier condition. The inhabitants were democratic, and 
were already members for the most part of the Methodist 
and Baptist churches. What aristocracy there was belonged 
to the Presbyterian Church. There was no American bishop 
in the Episcopal Church to consecrate candidates for the 
ministry. They were forced to go to England for the lay- 
ing-on of hands. Again, the War of 1812 had further in- 
tensified the prejudice against the English church. 

Rev. Otey was a persistent worker, and after his conse- 
cration in 1834 he began to lay the foundation for educa- 
tional and religious expansion of this church. Mercer Hall, 
a school for boys, was opened in his home in 1836.^'° Colum- 
bia Female Institute was founded in the same year, and 
preparations were begun to found a university the same 
year, but were not successful until 1857, when the Univer- 
sity of the South was established in the Cumberland Moun- 
tains about ten miles from Winchester at Sewanee, Tenn. 
Bishop Otey became its first president. 

By 1844 there were thirteen resident clergymen in the 
state besides Rev. Otey. The number of communicants had 
grown from 117 in 1834 to 400."^^' In 1860, the last year 
of the Journal of the Convention for the South until after 
the war, there were 27 members of the clergy, 26 parishes, 
and 1500 communicants, 

iGTGoodspeed, p. 694. 

"sibid., p. 697. 

i69lbid., p. 698. 

150 University' of Texas Bulletin 

The Episcopal Church in Tennessee was practically syn- 
onomous with Bishop Otey, who directed and controlled its 
policy. He owned a plantation out from Memphis and a 
number of slaves. He was a typical Southern, Christian 
slaveholder. He believed that patriarchal slavery was a 
great institution for the negro. He felt that the North 
misunderstood the institution, and was in its agitation do- 
ing irreparable damage to the nation and the South. Writ- 
ing to the Northern clergymen. May 17, 1861, he said: 

As to your coming South, let me just here state, 
for all, that you wholly misapprehend the spirit of 
our people. We ask not one thing of the North 
which has not been secured to us by the Constitu- 
tion and laws since they were established and en- 
acted, and which has been granted to us until with- 
in a few years past. We demand no sacrifice nor 
the surrender of Northern rights and privileges. 
The party that elected Mr. Lincoln proclaimed un- 
compromising hostility to the institution of slav- 
ery — an institution which existed here, and has 
done so from its beginning, in its patriarchial char- 
acter. We feel ourselves under the most solemn 
obligations to take care of, and to provide for, 
these people who cannot provide for themselves. 
Nearly every free-soil state has prohibited them 
from settling in their territory. Where are they 
to go? 

Here the bishop is seen as a defender of Southern institu- 
tions and ideals, yet he was loyal to the Union as an old 
Whig just as long as he could be. He wrote letters to mem- 
bers of the cabinet, begging caution and consideration. But 
when he felt that the South had been unnecessarily attacked, 
he fully identified himself and the Tennessee Episcopalians 
with the cause of the South. Writing to his daughter, May 
24, 1861, he said, "And now, my dear child, you ask me if I 
think the cause of the South just, and that God will favor 
us and defends us. I answer, in very deed, I do."'"" 

When his slaves were set free in 1862, he called them into 
his parlor and gave them a father's advice. He said: "I do 

^'"Memoirs of Rt. James H. Otey, p. 94. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 151 

not regret the departure of my servants, except Lavinia and 
Nora (children of eight and seven years of age) ; I pity 
them — I have endeavored to treat them always humanely. 
They had as comfortable rooms, and as many necessary com- 
forts as myself. If they can do better by leaving me, they 
are free to do so."'"- 

It is undoubtedly true that the general spirit of frontier 
life was against slavery. It was always opposed to conven- 
tion and privilege. In the early period of Tennessee pol- 
itics when the anti-slavery feeling was strongest, frontier 
conditions prevailed. These pioneers, in the period fron? 
1790 to 1834, were fighting for the suffrage, representation, 
and the right to hold office. These privileges were enjoyed 
only by property holders. Under such conditions, opposi- 
tion to slaveholders, who primarily stood for privilege, was 
inevitable. The anti-slavery attitude of the churches was 
partly a result of these conditions as well as of religious 
sentiment. These people could express themselves through 
churches and independent societies more freely than through 
politics, which was generally dominated by slaveholders. 

In estimating the work of the churches as a whole, one 
is compelled to acknowledge the value of their services to 
the negro. Practically all of the outstanding anti-slavery 
leaders were prominent churchmen. The anti-slavery lit- 
erature of the early period was published under the inspira- 
tion of the church. The churches constantly advocated 
manumission to the masters, and sought easier terms from 
the legislature for emancipation. They preached against 
the slave traffic and the inhuman practice of separating 
families. Their influence also softened the character of the 
slave code in both its make-up and administration. In the 
later forties and fifties when the negroes came into the 
churches in increased numbers, their field of service was 
increased. There was almost as large a percentage of slaves 
belonging to the churches in 1860 as there is of negroes in 
the church today.''- 

'^'^Mevioirs of Rt. James H. Otey, p. 93. 
^'^Harrison, 304. 

152 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

The church was given a freer hand with the slaves, mis- 
sions were established, church houses were built, and many 
of the slaves learned to read under the guidance of the 
church. Their characters were improved. The influence 
of the churches was always directed toward better living 
conditions, better food and clothing, and better treatment 
generally. Their influences were felt directly by the ne- 
groes as well as indirectly through Christian masters. 

The individual churches in Tennessee differed consider- 
ably in their attitude toward slavery in the early period. In 
the order of their degree of hostility to slavery, the Friends 
should have first place, the Methodists second, Cumberland 
Presbyterians third, Baptists fourth, Presbyterians fifth, 
and Episcopalians sixth. From point of service, the Metho- 
dists should rank first, and the Baptists second. These 
two churches represented the masses of the slaveholders and 
contained the majority of the slaves that belonged to the 
church. It is difficult to estimate the work of the Baptists 
because there are no records of their local associations or 
their individual congregations. Through biographies and 
actions of Tennessee delegations to the Southern Convention 
after 1845, one can find convincing evidence that Tennessee 
Baptists did a valuable work for the negro. The sources 
for the study of the Methodists are much more abundant. 
It appears, therefore, that their work assumed larger pro- 
portions than that of any other denomination. "High and 
low alike," says Harrison, "entered into this noble work. 
There was no phase of it too humble, no duty connected 
with it too unpleasant to deter the most earnest and pains- 
taking effort. Bishop McTyeire, of the Methodist Epis- 
copal Church, South, declared that during a long ministerial 
life there was nothing connected with it in which he took 
more pride and satisfaction than the remembrance of the 
more than three hundred services he had preached to negro 

i"Harrison, 304. 



I. The Establishment of a Policy. 

A. The Policy of North Carolina. The original policy of 
North Carolina towards manumission was that the owner 
of slaves could free them by deed, will, or contract. He was 
at liberty to renounce his title to them absolutely or in a 
modified manner, if he thought proper.^ In 1777, the state 
asserted its control over emancipation by conferring on the 
county courts the power to grant petitions for freedom on 
a basis of meritorious services.- The reasons for this change 
were that it was thought necessary to protect the public 
against being charged for the maintenance of manumitted 
slaves, and that free negroes were a menace to the body 

B. The Policy of Tennessee to 1831. This policy worked 
a hardship in practice because it limited the courts to cases 
of meritorious services. It frequently separated families 
because all members were seldom entitled to freedom at the 
same time. In 1801, Tennessee removed the limited jurisdic- 
tion of the courts by giving them practically plenary power 
over manumission.' The only restriction on the courts was 
that they sustain the policy of the state. Of course, the 
legislature could by special act grant freedom in any par- 
ticular case. This was the policy of Tennessee to 1831. 

C. Changes in the Policy. There were several factors 
that produced the change of 1831. The number of free 
negroes had increased from 361 in 1801 to 4,555 in 1831.* 
Since free negroes voted at this time, this meant that they 
were a factor in politics. Manumission societies had been 
active during this period, and had created opposition to free 
negroes. Abolition literature had flourished. The cotton 

iWheeler, p. 279. 

2Acts of North Carolina, 1777, Ch. 6, Sec. 2. 

3Acts of 1801, Ch. 27, Sec. 1. 

154 Uiiiversitij of Texan Bulletin 

industry had developed by virtue of the settlement of West 
Tennessee, a portion of the Black Belt. Fear of servile in- 
surrections had increased. There had been Gabriel's insur- 
rection in Virginia in 1800 ; the Vessey insurrection in South 
Carolina in 1822 ; the Nat Turner insurrection in Virginia 
in 1831 ; and an attempt at insurrection in Tennessee at the 
same time. ■ The liberal policy of the state prior to 1831 
had caused an influx of free negroes from other states. 
The governor, in a message to the legislature in 1815, stated 
that fifty free negroes had come into the state that year from 
Virginia and as many more were expected the next year.*"^ 

In 1831, the legislature forbade "any free person of color 
(whether he be born free, or emancipated, agreeably to the 
laws in force and use, either now, or at any other time, in 
any state within the United States or elsewhere), to re- 
move himself to this state and to reside therein, and remain 
therein twenty days."' 

If a free negro was convicted of entering the state in vio- 
lation of this act, he was subject to a fine of not less than 
ten nor more than fifty dollars and an imprisonment of one 
or two years, at the discretion of the judge. If he did not 
remove from the state within thirty days after the expira- 
tion of the term of imprisonment, he was again subject to 
indictment as before, and upon conviction was imprisoned 
for double the maximum time for first offense. No pe- 
cuniary fine was attached in the second instance. 

There were only two ways by which a free negro could 
legally enter the state after 1831. This, of course, is bar- 
ring special act of the legislature. If a free negro and a 
slave of another state were married, and the owner of the 
slave decided to move to Tennessee, he was permitted to 
bring the free negro along with the slave, by giving a bond 
of $500 to the county in which he chose to reside, guarantee- 
ing that the free negro would keep the peace and vrould not 

■*U. S. Census, 1870, I, Population, 62. 

•'The Genius, II, 136; The Western Freeman, Shelbyville, Tennes- 
see, Sept. 6, 1831. 

"Hale and Merrit, II, 296. 
'Acts of 1831, Ch. 102, Sec. 1. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 155 

become a charge to the county.'^ If a free negro of another 
state married a slave of Tennessee with the master's con- 
sent, he was permitted to come into the state if the master 
of the slave would make bond to the county for his good 
conduct.'' The state, however, reserved the right to order 
such free negroes to remove, if their conduct proved unsatis- 
factory. If they refused to do so, they were subject to the 
punishment provided by the Act of 1831J° 

Emancipation was prohibited except on the express con- 
dition that such slave or slaves shall be immediately removed 
from the state." The owner was required to give bond 
with good security in value equal to that of the emancipated 
slave, guaranteeing to send the negro out of the state and to 
provide sufficient funds to pay his transportation charges 
to Africa and support him for six months. Only age and 
disease exempted slaves from the operation of this act.^- 

Chief Justice Nicholson in discussing this change of pol- 
icy said : 

The policy of the state on the subject of emanci- 
pation was marked by great liberality until the 
year 1831, when the public mind began first to be 
agitated by discussions in the Northern states of 
the question of abolishing slavery ... A more rigid 
policy commenced in 1831, when it was enacted, 
that no slaves should be emancipated except upon 
the condition of removal from the State. This 
policy was based upon the belief that the peace 
of the State would be endangered by an increase 
of the number of free colored persons. ^^ 

Judge Catron said : "The policy of the act of 1831 is not 
to permit a free negro to come into the state from abroad ; 
and secondly not to permit a slave, freed by our laws, to be 
manumitted upon any other condition than that of being 

^^M. & C, Sec. 2711. 

^Ibid., Sec. 2712. 

loibid., Sec. 2703. 

iiActs of 1831, Ch. 102, Sec. 2. 

12M. & C, Sees. 2704-6. 

^3Jameson v. McCoy, 5 Humphrey, 118 (1871). 

156 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

forthwith transported from the state, to which, by the first 
section, he dare not return."^* 

He justified the restrictions on emancipation by saying 
it meant "adopting into the body politic a new member; a 
vastly important measure in every community, and espe- 
cially in ours, where the majority of free men over twenty- 
one years of age govern the balance of the people together 
with themselves ; where the free negro's vote at the polls 
is as of high value as that of any man . . . The highest act 
of sovereignty a government can perform is to adopt a new 
member, with all the privileges and duties of citizenship. 
To permit an individual to do this at pleasure would be 
wholly inadmissible."'^ 

Judge Catron said the reasons for the policy of exclusion 
were fear of rebellion among the slaves incited by free ne- 
groes, the immoral influence of free negroes among slaves, 
the injustice of forcing free negroes upon either the slave 
or free states, and, finally, justice to the negro. He said : 

All the slaveholding states, it is believed, as well 
as many non-slaveholding, like ourselves, have 
adopted the policy of exclusion. The consequence 
is the free negro cannot find a home that promises 
even safety in the United States and assuredly 
none that promises comfort.^' 

Judge Nelson, speaking of this change in policy, said : 

Before the unjust, unwarrantable, unconstitu- 
tional, and impertinent interference of enthusiasts 
and intermeddlers in other states with this domes- 
tic relation, rendered it necessary for the State to 
guard against the effect of their incendiary pub- 
lications, and to tighten the bonds of slavery by 
defensive legislation, against persistent and un- 
tiring efforts to produce insurrection, the uniform 
course of decision in the State was shaped with a 
view to ameliorate the condition of the slave, and 

i^Fisher's Negroes v, Dabbs, 6 Yerger, 129 (1834). 
i^Ibid., 130. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 157 

to protect him against the tyranny and cruelty of 
the master and other persons."' 

The act of 1831 did not accompHsh its intended purpose. 
It was passed largely in the interest of colonization. It 
also failed to consider those slaves who had made contracts 
for their freedom prior to its passage, but who had not 
obtained the consent of the state, and those who had been 
freed by will, but whose masters were not yet deceased. 
The disabilities were removed from these two classes of 
slaves by the act of 1833, which excepted them from the 
operation of the act of 1831.^' This policy was further 
modified in 1842, when the state again placed the problem 
of emancpaton entrely n the hands of the county courts.^^ 
Judge McKinney held that this act empowered the county 
court "to adjudge whether or not it would be consistent 
with the interest and policy of the state to permit any man- 
umitted slave or free persons of color to reside in this state," 
and that their decisions were "not subject to the supervi- 
son and control of the superior judicial tribunals."''' He 
maintained that the courts were acting as administrative 
agents of the state and that the matter was wholly political 
and not judicial.-" 

This meant that the policy of exclusion was considerably 
modified. Any slave on manumission had the privilege of 
petitioning the county court to be permitted to remain in 
the state. The conditions that had to be met by the slaves 
were : "First, proof of good character ; second, that it would 
violate the feelings of humanity to remove the applicant; 
third, a bond with satisfactory security for good behavior."-^ 

This liberal change in the policy adopted in 1831 was 
soon eliminated. In 1849, the state reverted to the policy 
of exclusion. The discretionary power granted to the county 
courts in 1842 was taken away and emancipation was pro- 

isAndrews v. Page, 3 Heiskell, 660 (1870). 

I'Acts of 1833, Ch. 81, Sees. 1-2. 

isActs of 1842, Ch. 191, Sec. 1. 

isThe Case of F. Gray, 9 Humphrey, 515 (1848). 

2oihid., 516. 

2ilbid., 515. 

158 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

hibited "except upon the terms and conditions imposed by 
the act of 1831, Ch. 102.""' Judge Caruthers, explaining 
this shifting poHcy of the legislature, said : 

It is a vexed and perplexing question, upon which 
public opinion, acting upon the representatives of 
the people, has been subject to much vibration be- 
tween sympathy and humanity for the slave and 
the safety and well-being of society. Hence, the 
frequent changes in our legislation on the subject,'--^ 

Masters continued to emancipate their slaves regardless 
of this prohibition. A class of negroes grew up that were 
neither slave nor free. They were free from their masters, 
but the state had not consented to their emancipation and 
continued residence within its borders. In 1852, the county 
courts were instructed to appoint trustees for these negroes. 
These trustees hired them out, and used their wages to sup- 
port the negroes.-^ The negroes preferred to remain in a 
state of semi-slavery than to go to Africa. This act was 
really an admission that the policy of exclusion was failing 
and it also made provision for continued evasion. 

The weaknesses of the measure were remedied in 1854 
and a more rigid policy of exclusion was adopted. If the 
masters did not provide the means to send the manumitted 
slaves to Africa, such slaves were hired out by the clerks 
of the county courts until sufficient funds were raised and 
turned into the state treasury. The governor was then re- 
quired to provide for their transportation to Africa.- ' This 
act abolished the exclusive jurisdiction of the county courts 
over emancipation, and permitted the slave to file his peti- 
tion for freedom in any court. He could appeal his case 
to a higher court if he desired. 

This act established the policy pursued by the state until 
the Civil War. Judge Caruthers, speaking of the difficulty 
of establishing a satisfactory policy, said : 

-'^Acts of 1849, Ch. 107, Sec. 1. 

23Bridge Water v. Pride, 1 Sneed, 197 (1863), 

•-^^Acts of 1852, Ch. 300, Sec. 3. 

2^Acts of 1854, Ch. 50, Sec. 1. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 159 

The struggle has been to devise some plan which 
would be just to the slave, and not inconsistent 
with the interests of society — that would sustain 
his right to liberty, and at the same time save the 
community from the evils of a free negro popula- 

This, it is believed, has been more effectually ac- 
complished by the late act than at any time before 
. . . We regard this as the most wise and judicious 
plan which has been yet devised; and, with some 
amendments, it should become the settled policy of 
the state. '-'^ 

The free negro continued to be regarded as a menace to 
society. In 1858, a bill was introduced into the legislature 
to banish all free negroes from the state, but the better 
element of the state defeated its passage. Judge Catron, 
who had been a member of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, 
and who was now a member of the Supreme Court of the 
United States, speaking of this measure, said : 

This bill proposes to commit an outrage, to per- 
petrate an oppression and cruelty, and it is idle to 
mince words to soften the fact. This people who 
were born free and lived as free persons, will 
preach rebellion everywhere that they may be 
driven to by this unjust law, whether it be amongst 
us here in Tennessee or South of us on the cotton 
and sugar plantations, or in the abolition meetings 
of the free states. Nor will the women be the least 
effective in preaching a crusade, when begging 
money in the North, to relieve their children, left 
behind in this State, in bondage. We are told it is 
a popular measure. Where is it popular ? In what 
nook or corner of the State are the principles of 
humanity so deplorably deficient that a majority 
of the whole inhabitants would commit an outrage 
not committed in a Christian country of which his- 
toiy gives any account . . . Numbers of the people 
sought to be enslaved or driven out are members of 
our various churches, and in full communion. That 
these great bodies of Christian men and women 
will quietly stand by and see their humble co- 
workers sold on the block to the negro-trader is 

-'GBoon V. Lancaster, 1 Sneed, 583-4 (1854). 

160 University' of Texas Bulletin 

not to be expected; nor will any set of men be 
supported, morally, or politically, who are the au- 
thors of such a law.-' 

Since colonization had failed, and efforts at banishment 
had been defeated, the only remaining alternative that 
would dispose of the free negro was re-enslavement. In 
this same year, provision was made for the voluntary re- 
enslavement of the free negro. Any free negro eighteen 
years of age might convey himself into slavery by filing a 
petition to this effect in the circuit or chancery court, signed 
by himself and witnessed by two persons. The petition 
named the master selected. After due publication, the pe- 
titioner and the master appeared in court and asked the 
granting of the petition. If the court granted the petition, 
it named a commission of three men to value the slave. The 
future master paid one-tenth of this value to the county 
to be added to the public school fund. The master by giving 
bond to the court, guaranteeing that the negro would never 
become a charge to any county in the state, received title 
to the slave. -^ 

Voluntary re-enslavement did not accomplish the results 
desired by its friends. So in the session of 1859-60, an at- 
tempt was made to force free negroes into slavery. This 
measure was known as the "Free Negro Bill." It provided 
that all free negroes, except certain minors, who did not 
leave the state by May 1, 1861, would be sold into slavery, 
the supporters of this bill contending that the free negro 
had no rights except those given him by statutes, which 
could be repealed. The opponents of the bill maintained 
that the vested "rights of the negro could not be taken from 
him because it would be an impairment of contract and that 
the legislature could not touch his natural rights."-^ The 
bill was finally defeated after a prolonged contest. 

-'Twenty-seventh Annual Report of the American Anti-Slavery 
Society, 1861, pp. 215-6. 

-sActs of 1858, Ch. 45, Sees. 1-4. 
-9Hale and Merritt, II, 300-301. 


The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 161 

II. Registration of Free Negroes. 

In the first decade of the history of the state, there was 
no notice taken of the movements of free negroes. They 
enjoyed complete freedom in their going and coming in the 
community. But as their numbers and importance increased 
the state began to want to know about their movements. 
In 1806, provision was made for the registration of the free 
negroes of the state by the county court clerks. This was 
a sort of Dooms Day Book of free negroes. A minute de- 
scription, including age, name, color, and record of any 
scars on hand, face, or head, was made of them. It was 
also noted by what court of authority they were emanci- 
pated, or whether they were born free. Two copies of 
each registration were made, certified by the county court 
clerk and attested by a justice of the peace.'" One of these 
was filed in the clerk's office, and the other was given the 
free negro. 

In 1807, this registration certificate was made the pass- 
port for the free negro in changing counties. If he chose 
permanently to reside in a new county, he was required to 
have this certificate duplicated. If he were caught without 
it, he was arrested and put in jail unless he made bond. If 
he lost it, and could not find record of his registration, he 
was required to produce evidence of his emancipation or 
free birth. If he failed in this, he v/as sold as a runaway 
by the county court.'^' As poorly as county records were 
kept, as difficult as it was for the negro to preserve such a 
record, and as abundant as kidnappers and slave-stealers 
were, the free negro constantly faced the possibility of 
losing his freedom. 

By act of 1825, free negroes coming from other states 
were required to bring their registration papers with them 
and have them recorded in some court of record in the 
county in which they chose to reside. '- 

The registration policy was given further significance in 

soActs of 1806, Ch. 32^ Sec. 1. 
3iActs of 1807, Ch. 100, Sec. 1. 
s^Acts of 1825, Ch. 79, Sec. 3. 

162 University' of Texas Bulletin 

1842 by an act which required all registration certificates to 
be renewed every three years. ■-• At the time of each re- 
newal, an inquistion was made into the negro's character 
and conduct. If the county court saw fit, it could refuse to 
renew the registration certificate. This compelled the free 
negro to leave the state within twenty days, except for sick- 
ness or unavoidable hindrance. If he refused to leave the 
state, within twenty days, he became subject to the penalties 
of the act of 1831.-* This system of registration was not 
only a severe restriction upon the travel of the free negro, 
but it gave chances in its workings for considerable collusion 
of corrupt officials with agents of the slave traders. 

III. Protection of Free Negroes. 

It was a $500 fine to bring into the state a free negro 
convict and sell him as a slave. Such a person was also 
subject to an imprisonment for not exceeding six months.^^ 
Knowingly to steal and sell any free negro was a peniten- 
tiary offense and was punishable by not less than five nor 
more than fifteen years in the state prison.^- 

The children of free negroes were not permitted to re- 
main destitute and suffer. The county courts engaged their 
services to suitable persons in the best and wisest terms, if 
their parents did not support them. ' 

IV. The Suffrage for Free Negroes. 

A. The Suffrage for Free Negroes in North Carolina. 
The historical background for negro suffrage in Tennessee 
is found in the laws and practices of colonial North Caro- 
lina. The charter that established the Assembly in North 
Carolina empowered the proprietors to govern the province 
"with the advice, assent and approbation of the Freemen 
of the said Province.'- The next paragraph of this charter 

"•'Acts of 1842, Ch. 191, Sec. 5. 
2iActs of 1831, Ch. 102, Sec. 1. 
•■^-■Acts of 1826, Ch. 22, Sec. 6. 
3'--Acts of 1829, Ch. 23, Sec. 21. 
-Acts of 1852, Ch. 158, Sec. 1. 

ssMcDonald, William, Select Charters Illustrative of American 
History, 1606-1775, 122, S. 5. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 163 

refefrs to the "assemblies of free holders."'^" There is no 
exclusion on the basis of color in either of these references. 
"In 1703, servants, negroes, aliens, Jews and common sailors 
voted for members of the General Assembly."*" The act 
of 1715 made it lawful for "the inhabitants and free men in 
each precinct ... to choose two freeholders ... to sit and 
vote in the said Assembly."^" It is noticed here that the 
terms, inhabitants, free men, and freeholders, included free 
negroes. Hence, to exclude them, the act specifically stated 
that no negro, mulatto, or Indian could vote for members of 
the Assembly.^- This act remained the basis of suffrage 
to 1835. 

Efforts were made by the royal governors to restrict the 
suffrage to freeholders. They repeatedly received royal in- 
structions to this effect, but the law of 1715 prevailed, and 
freemen continued to vote.^^ 

In 1735, a new basis for the suffrage was established. 
Freemen were disfranchised, but the suffrage was indis- 
criminately given to freeholders who owned fifty acres of 
land.^- The exclusion of negroes, mulattoes, and Indians 
prevalent in the act of 1715, was abolished. Land-holding 
and not color was the basis of the suffrage. The only ad- 
ditional change in the suffrage qualification before the Revo- 
lution was made by the act of 1751, which required free- 
holders to be twenty-one years of age in order to vote.*^ 

The North Carolina constitution of 1776 granted the fran- 
chise to all free men without regard to race or color with 
the single limitation of residence." This was the franchise 
law that was extended to the Southwest Territory by the 
Act of Cession of 1790, which stated, "that the laws in force 

39McDonald, Op Cit., 123, Sec. 6. 

^Col. Recs. of North Carolina, I, 639; State Recs. of N. C, XXIV, 

«Ibid., Ill, 93, 560. 

42lbid., IV, 106; Davis, James, Laws of North Carolina, 79. 

«Davis, 177-180. 

**North Carolina Constitution of 1776, Sees, 7, 8, and 9; Col. Recs., 
XXIII, 881. 

164 University' of Texas Bulletin 

and use in the state of North Carolina at the time of passing 
the act, shall be, and continue in full force until the same 
shall be repealed, or otherwise altered by the legislative au- 
thority of the said Territory."*'' Congress accepted the Ter- 
ritory on the above condition.-"' The suffrage was not 
changed by the legislature of the Southwest Territory. 

The basis of the suffrage remained unchanged from the 
establishment of the Constitution of North Carolina in 1776 
to the establishment of the Constitution of Tennessee in 
1796. However, the Revolutionary State of Franklin, which 
flourished in western North Carolina from 1784 to 1788, 
proposed a constitution that gave the suffrage "to every 
free male inhabitant" who was twenty-one years old.*' 
This is significant because it was an independent expression 
of the people in the territory that later became Tennessee. 

B. Suffrage in the Convention of 1796. Several propo- 
sitions relative to suffrage were made in the Convention of 
1796. February 1, Mr. Henderson, delegate from Hawkins 
County, moved that the first section in Article HI be made 
to read, "All citizens of this state, possessing of a freehold 
in their own right, and all persons who have done duty in 
the militia, shall be entitled to vote at any election, in the 
county where the freehold lies, or where he resides. "*"- This 
motion failed but it is noticed that the suffrage is not based 
on color. If the motion had prevailed, it would have dis- 
franchised all freemen, both white and black, who had not 
done miltary service. Mr. Outlaw, of Jefferson County, 
moved that "all persons liable by law to militia duty should 
be allowed to vote."^*^ If this motion had prevailed, it 
would have given all freemen the suffrage with no limita- 
tion, because by Section 26, the freemen were liable to 
militia duty. The Convention finally gave the suffrage to 
all freemen. Article III, Section 1, of the Constitution of 

■i-'U. S. Statutes at Large, I, 108. 

•»«Ibid., First Congress, 1790; Chap. VI, Sec. II, pp. 106-9. 
■^'Constitution of Frankland, Sec. 4; Ramsey, J. G. M., Annals of 
Tennessee, p. 327. 

■*«Journal of the Convention of 1796, p. 21. 
4»Ibid., p. 22. 

The Negto in Tennessee, 1790-1865 165 

1796, declared that "all freemen of the age of twenty-one 
years and upwards, possessing a freehold in the county 
where they may vote, and being inhabitants of this state, 
and all freemen who have been inhabitants of any one 
county within the state for a period of six months imme- 
diately preceding the date of election, shall be entitled to 
vote for members of the general assembly, for the county in 
which they respectively reside/'^ 

It is worth noticing in this connection that, while the 
suffrage was given to all freemen, representation in the 
legislature was based on the number of free whites. The 
constitution declared that "representation shall be regulated 
according to numbers, to be apportioned to each county by 
law, upon such ratio, as that the number of senators and 
representatives . . , shall not exceed thirty-nine until the 
number of free white persons shall be two hundred thou- 
sand."''^ The convention in its various discussions used 
the terms, "freemen," "freeholders," "all citizens," "all 
persons," and "free white persons." This clearly shows 
that the convention was carefully discriminating between 
these terms when it used them. Why did the convention 
use "free white persons" as the basis of representation? 
It knew that the term, "freemen," would give representa- 
tion to free negroes. The Constitution of the United States 
gave representation to three-fifths of the slaves. The Ken- 
tucky constitution of 1799 stated that, "In all elections for 
representatives every free male citizen (negroes, mulattoes 
and Indians excepted) shall enjoy the right of election. ""^- 
It is distinctly shown here that it was understood that "free 
male citizen" included "free negro." Hence, if he is not 
to be enfranchised, he must be excepted. Why would this 
term be so well understood in Kentucky and not in Ten- 
nessee ? 

Again, it must not be overlooked that the onstitution of 
1796 in Tennessee was drafted by a committee of very able 

•"^oConstitution of 1796, Art. Ill, Sec. 1; see also Journal of the 
Convention of 1796, p. 16. 
■ilbid., Art. I, Sec. 1. 
^^Kentucky Constitution of 1799, Art. 2, Sec. 8. 

166 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

statesmen, among whom were such distinguished men as 
Andrew Jackson, William Cocke, Joseph Anderson, Wil- 
liam Blount, W. C. C. Claiborne, and John Rhea.^' Andrew 
Jackson was a very prominent leader in the Convention ; 
William Cocke had participated in founding the Franklin 
State, and was, also, one of the founders of the Transylvania 
Republic, twice a Senator of the United States from Ten- 
nessee, and a leader in the Mississippi Territory. Joseph 
Anderson was one of the territorial Judges for sixteen 
years. United States Senator and Comptroller of the Treas- 
ury of the United States. William Blount had been gov- 
ernor of the Southwest Territory. William C. C. Claiborne 
was Judge of the Superior Court of the State, the successor 
of Andrew Jackson in Congress, first Governor of the ter- 
ritory of Mississippi, Governor of Louisiana, and United 
States senator-elect at the time of his death. John Rhea 
was for eighteen years a member of Congress. It is un- 
reasonable to suppose that these men together with their 
colleagues did not know the meaning of the word "freemen" 
in the Constitution of 1796."* They certainly knew that the 
free negro had been voting in Colonial North Carolina, that 
he continued to vote under her constitution of 1776, and that 
he would vote in Tennessee as he had been doing before the 
separation from North Carolina unless he was disfran- 

The contention of this thesis is that the free negro was in- 
tentionally and deliberately enfranchised by the Convention 
of 1796. The proof may be summarized as follows: 1st, 
that the terms ''freemen" and "freeholders" were the sub- 
ject of discussion throughout Colonial North Carolina with 
thorough understanding as to their meaning ; 2nd, that the 
act of 1715 specifically excepted the negro from the term 
"freemen," thus disfranchising him ; 4th, that the act of 
1735 re-enfranchised him ; 5th, that the North Carolina 
constitution of 1776 enfranchised him; 6th, that the con- 
vention of 1796 in Tennessee used the terms "freemen," 

■''^Journal of the Convention of 1796, pp. 5-6. 

^*Caldwell, Joshua W., Constitutional History of Tennessee, 132. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 167 

"freeholders," and "free white persons," showing that it 
must have knowingly used these terms ; 7th, that these terms 
were carefully used in contemporary constitutions ; and 8th, 
that it is inconceivable that the able and experienced states- 
men that framed the Tennessee Constitution were not con- 
versant with these terms. 

C. Suffrage from 1796 to 1834. From 1796 to 1834 
there was a complete revolution in the attitude of Tennessee 
people toward the negro. This has already been pointed 
out in the discussion of the churches, manumission societies, 
and the policy of exclusion adopted in 1831. Attention has 
already been called to the growing economic importance of 
slavery in the period and the consequent opposition to the 
free negro. 

The political influence of the free negro was also a factor 
in this change. From 1810 to 1820 there was an increase 
of 108 per cent in free negroes and 266 per cent increase 
in the period from 1820 to 1830. In 1830, there were twenty 
counties containing almost one hundred free negroes each; 
five, two hundred each; four, two hundred and fifty each; 
three, three hundred each ; two, four hundred each ; and one 
containing about five hundred. The greatest number of 
free negroes in any one county was in Davidson County, 
and it was a delegate from this county that made the motion 
in the convention of 1834 to disfranchise the free negro. 
There were at this time about six hundred free negroes 
in Davidson County, and there were 471 in 1830 and 794 
in 1840."' 

Hon. John Petit, United States Senator from Indiana, 
said on the floor of the Senate, May 25, 1854, in the debate 
on the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, that "Old Cave Johnson, an 
honored and respectable gentleman, formerly Postmaster- 
General, and for a long time a member of the other house, 
told me, with his own lips, that the first time he was elected 
to Congress from Tennessee, it was by the vote of free 
negroes, and he was an iron manufacturer, and had a large 
number of free negroes, as well as slaves, in his employ. 

^-•U. S. Census, 1870, I, Population, p. 12. 

168 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

I well recollect the number he stated. One hundred and 
forty-five free negroes in his employ, went to the ballot box, 
and elected him to Congress the first time he was elected. "'^'^ 
Charles Sumner said he heard John Bell make the same con- 
fession with regard to his election.' It is further claimed 
that, during political campaigns in Tennessee, 'The oppos- 
ing candidates for the nonce, oblivious of social distinction 
and intent only on catching votes, hobnobbed with the men 
and swung corners all with dusky damsels at election 
balls. ""'^ The fact that the Constitutional Convention of 
1834 by resolution excluded the free negro from voting on 
ratification of the constitution shows that his vote was a 
factor in close elections. Judge Catron in the case of Fish- 
er's Negroes v. Dabbs said : "The free negro's vote at the 
polls is of as high value as that of any man."^^ 

D. Suffrage in the Convention of 183 J).. The contest over 
disfranchising the free negro in the convention of 1834 pre- 
sents the final phase of the suffrage problem. Amendments 
to the constitution of 1796, favoring and opposing negro 
suffrage, were introduced in the convention and by June 26 
were being debated in the committee of the whole. One of 
the strongest advocates of suffrage for the negro was Mr. 
Cahall, who said he was "unwilling to disfranchise any man 
black or white, who had enjoyed the right of suffrage under 
the present constitution. ""^ 

Mr. Cahall's position was as follows : first, he would let 
the free negroes then in the state continue to vote ; second, 
he believed that an unqualified suffrage for free negroes 
would make the state an asylum for free negroes; third, 
he contended that the suffrage was a conventional and not 
a natural right. He said that our government was a "con- 
stitutional and not a natural one."*'^ 

^''Congressional Globe, 1st Session, 33d Congress, 1805; 2nd Session, 
38th Congress, 284. 

'■The Works of Charles Sumner, X, 192. 

'^Buxton, Rev. Jarvis Bury, Reminiscences of the Bench and Fay- 
etteville Bar, p. 93. 

•'^^Fisher's Negroes v. Dabbs, 6 Yerger, 126 (1834). 

fioNashville Republican, July 10, 1834. 

ciNashville Republican and State Gazette, July 1, 1834. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 169 

Mr. Allen, June 27, speaking of the third article of the 
constitution, in the committee of the whole, said: "I am 
against inserting the word white before the word freeman, 
in this clause of the constitution, because it goes to exclude 
a description of persons from the right of voting, that has 
exercised it for thirty-eight years under the present con- 
stitution, without any evil ever having grown out of it."*^- 

On June 27, the following resolution was introduced into 
the committee of the whole : 

That every free male person of color, being an 
inhabitant six months previous to the day of elec- 
tion, of any county in this State six months imme- 
diately preceding the election, shall be entitled to 
vote in said county in which he has so resided, for 
Governor, members of Congress, members of Gen- 
eral Assembly, and other ofRcers.®^ 

Mr. Purdy introduced the following amendment to the 
above motion : 

That every free man of color possessing in his 
own right in the county in which he may reside and 
propose to vote, a freehold or personal property of 
$200, on which he has paid a tax that has been as- 
sessed at least six months previous to the day of 
election, and being an inhabitant of this State at 
least twelve months previous to the day of election, 
shall be entitled to vote for members to the General 
Assembly for the county or district in which he 
shall reside provided no free person emigrating to 
this State after the adoption of this Constitution, 
shall be entitled to exercise the right of suffrage.*'- 

This amendment was rejected. 

Mr. Marr offered the following amendment to the motion : 

That no person, who is not a citizen of the 
United States and of this State, has a right in any 
election in this State.*^-'* 

This motion was laid on the table, and the original resolu- 
tion was adopted by the committee of the whole. June the 

62Nashville Republican and State Gazette, June 28, 1834. 

170 University of Texas Bidletiyi 

28th, Mr. Marr, delegate from Weakley and Obion counties, 
introduced the following resolutions : 

Resolved, that free persons of color, including 
mulattoes, mustees, and Indians were not parties 
to our political compact, nor were they represented 
in the Convention which formed the evidence of 
the compact, under which the free people of the 
State, and of the United States, are associated for 
civil government. Nor, are they recognized by our 
political fabrics as subjects of our naturalization 
laws ; but on the contrary, are, by the Constitution 
and laws of the United States, prohibited from 
being brought to the United States, either as prop- 
erty, or as being within the scope and meaning of 
our provision relating to naturalization and citizen- 
ship and hence their supposed claim to the exercise 
of the great right of free suffrage is and, shall be. 
not only not recognized, but prohibited. Resolved 
that all free white men of the age of twent>--one 
and upwards, who are natural born citizens of this 
State, or of any one of the United States, and all 
who have been naturalized and admitted to the 
rights and privileges as citizens of the United 
States by our laws, and who, being inhabitants of 
this State, and who have a fixed or known resi- 
dence in the county or election district, six months 
immediately preceding the day of election, shall be 
entitled to vote for members of either house of the 
General Assembly, in and for the county or dis- 
trict in which they may reside.'^'- 

These resolutions were referred to the committee of the 

July 1, Mr. Loving, in the committee of the whole, said: 

That when this question was first taken up by 
the committee he then believed he should content 
himself with giving his silent vote, and he re- 
mained of that opinion until he ascertained that 
the friends of free persons of color, were much 
more numerous than he had first supposed ; he was 
truly astonished and regretted to see old members, 
yes, Mr. Chairman, old gray headed gentlemen in 

^''Journal of the Convention of 1834, p. 107. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 171 

plaintive and importuning language, contending 
for a proposition to let free negroes, mulattoes, 
etc., exercise the highest right and privilege in a 
free government — that of the right of suffrage. 
He would have supposed that those old members 
could ere this have seen the impolicy of such a 
course as he v^-^as gratified to see that there v^ere 
some, who had long since condemned that feature 
on our constitution and who were now ready and 
even ably contending with him to expunge that 
odious and very objectionable feature from the 

Mr. Loving's arguments against the suffrage for free ne- 
groes were about as follows : 

1. He objected to making the suffrage a nat- 
ural right, an inalienable and inherent right. He 
said it did not belong to the state of society, but 
grew out of the body politic. 

2. He said that he knew of free colored men of 
respectability, probity, and merit, but that partic- 
ular cases of merit did not justify a policy of let- 
ting free negroes vote. 

3. He said some gentlemen contended that Ten- 
nessee should let them vote because North Carolina 
did. He pointed out in this connection that North 
Carolina and Tennessee were the only states in 
the Union that let the negroes vote, and that North 
Carolina was calling a convention that would dis- 
franchise them. 

4. He thought that the suffrage, being a con- 
ventional right, should be in the hands of those 
who possess the greatest degree of moral and in- 
tellectual cultivation. 

5. He pointed out that the same argument that 
was being made in behalf of the free negroes would 
give the suffrage to women and children. 

6. He did not think that because some negroes 
fought for American Independence in 1776, they 
were entitled to the suffrage.*'* 

July 15, Mr. Marr opposed giving the free negro the suf- 
frage for the following reasons : 

eiNashville Republican and State Gazette, July 5, 1834. 

172 University- of Texas Bulletin 

1. He did not think the convention of 1796 in- 
tended to give him the suffrage, and he opposed 
it now for that reason. 

2. He maintained that black and white men 
could not live together on terms of equality ; they 
must separate or one rule the other. 

3. He contended that Tennessee did not have 
the power to emancipate her slaves ; the Constitu- 
tion of the United States prevented it. 

4. He concluded that the voice of the people, 
the admonitions of prudence and the want of 
power, all directed that this convention should not 
give, nor attempt to give, negroes, mulattoes, or 
Indians the suffrage.'"' 

Mr. Newton Cannon of Williamson County, who was 
chairman of the committee of the whole, reported the con- 
stitution in its first form to the convention, July 25, 1834.^^ 
Article II, Section 1, said: 

Every free man of the age of twenty-one years 
and upwards, being a citizen of the United States, 
and an inhabitant of the county of this state where- 
in he may offer his vote, six months immediately 
preceding the day of election, shall be entitled to 
vote for members of the General Assembly and . 
other civil officers, for the county in which he may 
reside. "^'^ 

It is noticed that at this time the forces for suffrage for the 
free negro had won. 

The constitution was now reported as a whole to the con- 
vention, which began to consider in in detail. By July 31, 
Article III, Section 1, was reached. Mr. Robert Weakley, 
delegate from Davidson County, moved that the word, 
"white," be inserted after the word "free" in Article III, 
Section 1. This motion was carried by a vote of 33 to 23."' 
Mr. Mathew Stephenson of Washington County moved "that 
no freeman who is now a resident of this state and who has 
heretofore exercised the right of voting shall hereafter be 

o^Nashville Republican and State Gazette, July 15, 1834. 
♦"'"Journal of the Convention of 1834, p. 171. 
e^Ibid., p. 28. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 173 

debarred from that privilege." This motion failed by a vote 
of 34 to 22."" A change of six votes on the first motion 
would have given the free negro the suffrage. The liberal 
forces in Tennessee politics at this date were stronger than 
history has usually acknowledged. 

V. Limitations Upon the Freedom of Free Negroes. 

The free negro was forbidden to entertain a slave in his 
home at night or during the Sabbath. For violation of this 
restriction, he was fined $2.50 for the first and $5.00 for 
each succeeding oflense."" This fine was increased to $20 
in 1806.'" If he could not pay these fines, he was hired out 
by the constable of his district until his wages amounted to 
the fines and all costs. 

There was no restriction on marriage between free ne- 
groes, but a free negro could not marry a slave without the 
master's consent, given in writing and attested by two jus- 
tices of the peace. He was fined $25 for an illegal marriage 
with a slave, and, if he could not pay the fine, he was forced 
to serve the master of the slave for one year.'^ 

It was a misdemeanor for a free negro to keep a tippling 
house, and subjected him to not less than a fifty dollar fine. 
He was also forbidden to sell, give, or loan a slave a gun, 
pistol, or sword without the consent of the owner of the 
slave.'- He could not associate with slaves except with the 
permission of their owners.'-' 

The free negro was required to carry a copy of his reg- 
istration with him wherever he went. He could be sus- 
pected at any time or might be stolen. His registration cer- 
tificate was his surest guarantee of personal freedom. In 
the mere matter of travelling in the community, he was con- 
stantly subject to this limitation. If he crossed county lines, 
the certificate was absolutely required.'' 

eslbid., p. 209. 
69 Acts of 1787, Ch. 6, Sec. 2. 
TOActs of 1806, Ch. 32, Sec. 4. 
7iActs of 1787, Ch. 6, Sec. 3. 
"Acts of 1835, Ch. 58, Sec. 2. 
"Acts of 1806, Ch. 32, Sec. 4. 
74Acts of 1807, Ch. 100, Sec. 1. 

174 University> of Texas Bulletin 

VI. The Legal Status of the Free Negro. 

What, then, was the legal status of the free negro? He 
was only a quasi-free man. He could sue and be sued. He 
could make a contract and inherit property. He enjoyed 
legal marriage. He could buy and sell. He could not be a 
witness against a white man. He could not vote after 1834. 
He was ineligible for office. He was a sort of inmate on 
parole. His conduct was frequently guaranteed by bond. 
He enjoyed certain privileges and immunities, which the 
state might take away from him if it saw fit. He was not 
a citizen in the sense in which the term is used in the Con- 
stitution of the United States, and, therefore, was not en- 
titled to all the privileges and immunities of the several 
states. Judge Green, speaking of the free negro's rights in 
the case of the State v. Claiborne, said : "The laws have never 
allowed the enjoyment of equal rights, or the immunities of 
the free white citizen."" 

He had no place in society, socially or economically. He 
could not associate with the whites. He could keep the com- 
pany of slaves only by permission. His own class was so 
small that his opportunities were very limited there. Pov- 
erty, ignorance, oppression, discrimination, and hostility of 
both slave and white man made his position in actual life 
much worse than his legal status. In the industrial world 
there was no place for him. The labor was done by slaves. 
There was no factory work for him. He could farm if he 
could rent or buy land. He was usually not wanted in the 

The black man, in the United States, said Judge 
Catron, is degraded by his color, and sinks into 
vice and worthlessness from want of motive to vir- 
tuous and elevated conduct. The black man in 
these states may have the power of volition. He 
may go and come when it pleases him, without a 
domestic master to control the actions of his per- 
son; but to be politically free, to be the peer and 
equal to the white man, to enjoy the offices, trusts, 
and privileges our institutions confer on the white 

^State V. Claiborne, 1 Meigs, 337 (1858), 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 175 

men, is hopeless now and ever. The slave who re- 
ceives the protection and care of a tolerable master 
holds a condition here superior to the negro who is 
freed from domestic slavery. He is a reproach and 
a by-word with the slave himself, who taunts his 
fellow slave by telling him "he is as worthless as a 
free negro." The consequence is inevitable. The 
free black man lives amongst us without motive 
and without hope. He seeks no avocation ; is sur- 
rounded with necessities, is sunk in degredation ; 
crime can sink him no deeper, and he commits it, 
of course. This is not only true of the free negro 
residing in the slaveholding states of the Union. 
In non-slaveholding states of this Union the people 
are less accustomed to the squalid and disgusting 
wretchedness of the negro, have less sympathy for 
him, earn their means of subsistence with their own 
hands, and are more economical in parting with 
them than he for whom the slave labors, for which 
he is entitled the proceeds and of which the free 
negro is generally the participant, and but too 
often in the character of the receiver of stolen 
goods. Nothing can be more untrue than that the 
free negro is more respectable as a member of 
society in the non-slaveholding states than in the 
slaveholding states. In each he is a degraded out- 
cast, and his fancied freedom a delusion. With 
us the slave ranks him in character and comfort, 
nor is there a fair motive to absolve him from his 
duties incident to domestic slavery if he is to con- 
tinue amongst us. Generally, and almost univer- 
sally, society suffers and the negro suffers by man- 

'Fisher's Negroes v. Dabbs, 6 Yerger, 131 (1834), 



There was throughout the period of slavery in Tennessee 
a determined minority that favored its abolition. This mi- 
nority was not confined to the non-slaveholders, but as late 
as 1834 slave-holders hoped that some method of abolition 
would finally be devised. This abolition sentiment ex- 
pressed itself in various ways. 

I. Private Abolition. 

A. METHODS. (1) Bij Deed. There were three steps 
in the process of emancipation by any method. Two of 
these were taken by the owner and one by the state. The 
owner renounced his right of property in the slave and then 
gave bond with good security for his conduct and mainte- 
nance. To complete the process of emancipation, the state's 
consent was necessary. This was given exclusively by the 
county courts until 1829,' when the Legislature gave the 
chancery courts jurisdiction of cases involving wills.- After 
1854, a petition for emancipation could be filed in any court 
of record.^ Of course, the legislature by virtue of its ple- 
nary power could and did grant petitions for freedom 
throughout the period of slavery.'* The county court could 
not consider a petition for emancipation unless nine or a 

^Acts of 1777, Ch. 6, Sec. 2. 

^Acts of 1829, Ch. 29, Sec. 1. A special legislative grant was requi- 
site for a valid emancipation in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, 
and Mississippi. See James' Dig., 398, Act of 1820; Prince's Dig., 
456, Act of 1801; Toulman's Dig., 632; Mississippi Rev. Code, 386. 
In North Carolina and Tennessee, the courts granted emancipation — 
Haywood's Manual, 525; Act of 1801, Ch. 27. In Kentucky, Mis- 
souri, Virginia, and Maryland, the master exercised this power under 
rules and regulations established by the statutes of these states. 2 Litt. 
and Swi., 1155; 2 Missouri Laws, 744; 1 Rev. Code of Virginia, 433; 
Maryland Laws, Act of 1809, Ch. 171. 

:^Acts of 1854, Ch. 50, Sec. 1. 

^Petitions in State Archives. 

The Negro in Temiessee, 1790-1865 177 

majority of the court were present and the consent of two- 
thirds of those present was necessary to grant the petition.^ 
The clerk of the court made a record of the emancipation 
and gave the slave a copy." 

One way by which the master could relinquish his prop- 
erty rights in the slave was by deed. A deed of freedom 
to a slave was valid only between him and the owner or 
his representatives. It did not operate against the claim of 
creditors. A deed of emancipation had to be witnessed and 
recorded before it was binding upon the master." Judge 
Catron, speaking of a deed of manumission, in the case of 
Fisher's Negroes v. Dabbs, said: 

It is binding on the representatives of the divi- 
sor in the one case, and the grantor in the other, 
and communicates a right to the slave ; but it is an 
imperfect right, until the state, the community of 
which such emancipated person is to become a 
member, assents to the contract between the mas- 
ter and the slave. - 

(2) Bij Will. A bequest of freedom by will was bind- 
ing between the master or his representative and the slave, 
but, until 1829, the slave could not institute suit to complete 
the process of freedom in case the representative of the mas- 
ter failed to take such action. Administrators of estates 
took advantage of this weakness of the law. The result 
was that either such a negro, being helpless, was reduced to 
slavery again, or was left in a state of semi-freedom. In 
1829, the state gave the chancery courts jurisdiction of such 
cases and gave such a negro the privilege of bringing suit 
for his freedom through his next friend.'' Children born of 
a mother who had been emancipated by will but who did not 
receive her freedom until the expiration of a term of years 

sActs of 1801, Ch. 27, Sec. 3. 

eibid.. Sec. 4. 

'Acts of 1784, Ch. 10, Sec. 7. 

^Fisher's Negroes v. Dabbs, 6 Yerger, 119 (1834), 

oActs of 1829, Ch. 29, Sec. 1. 

178 University' of Texas Bulletin 

received their freedom at the same time the mother received 

(3) By Contract. The slave could enter into a contract 
with his master for his freedom and the courts would en- 
force such a contract." This contract might be by parol.^- 
A contract between purchaser and seller to the effect that a 
slave be emancipated at a certain date was binding between 
the owner and the slave, and invested the slave with the 
right to complete the process of freedom after 1829. Such 
a contract did not weaken the claim of creditors, nor did it 
compel the state to grant the freedom of the slave. The ob- 
taining of the state's consent, while conditioned on the in- 
itiate step of the master, was entirely a separate procedure. 

(4) By Bill of Sale. The owner could sell a slave to an 
individual or a society, who wanted to emancipate him. 
Slaves frequently bought themselves. A free negro some- 
times bought husband or wife and children, and then pe- 
titioned the state to free them. All bills of the sale of slaves 
had to be in writing and attested by at least one creditable 
witness. If the bill of sale was contested, two witnesses 
were required.'^ Philanthropic individuals and societies 
could have emancipated a great many slaves, if the state 
had not made its consent a necessary part of such manumis- 
sion. When one considers how the benevolence of slave 
owners or the generosity of societies might have flooded a 
community with stupid, ignorant, and vicious negroes, he 
can easily see why society asserted the right to regulate the 
ownership of this kind of property. 

(5) By Implication. If the master by his acts or treat- 
ment of a slave, or in conversation with another, indicated 
that he meant to give a slave his freedom, the courts would 
recognize this as a basis for a suit for freedom.^* The insti- 

^f'Harris v. Clarissa, 6 Yerger, 227 (1834). 

"Acts of 1833, Ch. 81, Sec. 2. 

i-Lewis V. Sinionton, 8 Humphrey, 189 (1847). 

i:^Acts of 1784, Ch. 10, Sec. 7. 

"Lewis V. Simonton, 8 Humphrey, 189 (1847). 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 179 

tution of a suit against a slave was an implication of his 
freedom, otherwise the bequest had no effect.'' 

(6) Bi) the Effect of Foreign Laws. If a slave owner 
of Tennessee moved to a free state with his slaves to reside 
permanently, this would indicate his intention to free them. 
If on entering such a state with his slaves, he agreed to free 
them at a certain future date, this would give the slaves a 
cause for a suit of freedom if he should later decide to re- 
turn to Tennessee before the expiration of the time set for 
their emanicpation."' Of course, Tennessee laws permitted 
a free negro to adopt a master and convey himself into slav- 
ery, but this was voluntary on his part.^" 


It is seldom credited to southern slaveholders that they 
gave up as much property as the records show that they 
did. The slaveholding states practiced real abolition while 
New England and the other great abolition sections of the 
country were agitators of abolition rather than practition- 
ers of it. None of their legislation shook the shackles from 
a singly slave, according to eminent authority,^" but merely 
abolished slavery that did not exist ; that is, these acts said 
slaves yet unborn would be free at birth, or at certain age. 
This was not abolishing slavery by freeing those actually 
held in slavery. As a matter of fact, those held in slavery 
at the time of the passing of these acts were retained as 
slaves until they died, or were sold to Southerners. Of 
course, all over the country there was abolition by private 
individuals, but the point is, the Southern slaveholders were 
the real abolitionists. They actually gave up their prop- 
erty, and turned loose their slaves. There were 7,300 free 
negroes in Tennessee in 1860. Considering the fact that 
hundreds of free negroes went to Liberia, Haiti, Canada, 
and the free states, from Tennessee, and that hundreds of 
free negroes died in the period from 1796 to 1860, it is safe 
to say that, at $1000 each, more than ten million dollars' 

^=^ Wheeler, p. 385. 

isjbid., p. 335. 

i^Supra, p. 160. 

isphillips, Ulrich Bonnel, American Negro Slavery, p. 120. 

180 Universit}/' of Texas Bulletin 

worth of property was surrendered by the abolitionists of 
Tennessee. It was largely the small farmer slave-holders 
that made this sacrifice for their convictions. 

II. Anti-slavery Leaders. 

Tennessee made a substantial contribution to the anti- 
slavery leadership of the nation. There were two groups 
of these men. One of them left the state for a larger field 
of activity, and might be called Separatists, while the mem- 
bers of the other group remained at home and fought in 
the ranks. These might be called Puritans. Jesse Mills, 
Elihu Swain, John Underbill, Jesse Lockhart, Rev. John 
Roy, Peter Cartwright, Charles Osborn, and Rev. John Ran- 
kin are examples of those who left the state for abolition 

Rev. John Roy was a Methodist preacher who rode Green 
circuit in Tennessee. He w^as a man of considerable ability, 
strong feeling, full of courage, with an iron will. He was 
strongly anti-slavery in his sentiment, and for this reason 
moved to Indiana, where he died in 1837 in his 69th year.-° 

Peter Cartwright was one of the greatest preachers of 
Methodism. He was a native Virginian, but entered the 
Western Conference in 1804. He gave a great part of his 
life to the services of the church in Tennessee. He was a 
man of great humor and wit, and was a fighter against 
slavery. He finally decided that his labors would be more 
appreciated in an anti-slavery state, and moved to Illinois 
in 1824. He became increasingly bitter against slave- 
holders in his old age, and as a delegate from Illinois to the 
Methodist Conference in 1844, he voted for the division of 
the church. 

Charles Osborn was one of the greatest of these leaders 
who left the state. He was born in North Carolina, August 
21, 1795. At the age of 19, he moved with his parents to 
Tennessee, where he became a Quaker minister. In De- 
cember, 1814 he organized the manumission movement in 
Tennessee, and was its leader until 1816, when he moved 

"Nile's Weekly Register, Vol. 14, pp. 321ff. 
20McFerrin, I, 150. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 181 

to Ohio, where he did his greatest work.-^ George Wash- 
ington Julian makes Osborn the undoubted leader in the 
abolition movement of the Northwest, of which Ohio was 
the center and one of the two centers of the abolition move- 
ment in the nation. Osborn laid the foundation for his 
work in his new field, for which Tennessee had prepared 
him by environment and previous service, by establishing 
at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, in 1817, the Philanthropist, which 
Julian regards as the first anti-slavery publication in the 
United States.-- In 1818, Osborn removed to Indiana, 
where he lived the remainder of his life. 

Rev. John Rankin was possibly the greatest of those 
leaders who saw fit to leave the State to find an environ- 
ment more in harmony with his attitude toward slavery. 
He was a Presbyterian minister, "who was destined, dur- 
ing the three decades preceding the Civil War, to occupy a 
position of first importance among the anti-slavery workers 
of the United States. In 1825, he published his famous 
Letters 07i Slavery, which went through many editions and 
exerted a very great influence. Many western men have 
called him the 'father of abolition,' and it was not an un- 
common thing in the thirties to hear him spoken of as 'the 
Martin Luther of the Cause'."--- Rev. Rankin said that in 
his early boyhood a majority of the people of East Tennessee 
were abolitionists.-* The first issue of the Emancipator, 
referring to the loss of anti-slavery leadership in Tennessee, 

Thousands of first-rate citizens, men remarkable 
for their piety and virtue, have within twenty 
years past, removed from this and other slave 
states to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, that their eyes 
may be hid from seeing the cruel oppressor lac- 
erate the back of his slaves, and that their ears 
may not hear the bitter cries of the oppressed. 
I have often regretted the loss of so much virtue 

2iSouthern History Association Publications, II, 108. 
22lndiana Historical Society Publications, Vol. 2, pp. 233ff. 
-^Tennessee History Magazine, Vol. 1, p. 264. 
2*Indiana Historical Society Publications, Vol. 2, p. 246. 

182 University' of Texas Bulletin 

from these slave states, which held too httle be- 
fore. Could all those who have removed from 
slave states on that account, to even the single state 
of Ohio, have been induced to remove to, and settle 
in Tennessee, with their high-toned love for uni- 
versal liberty and aversion to slavery, I think that 
Tennessee would ere this have begun to sparkle 
among the true stars of liberty.- ■ 

James Jones, Samuel Doak, Mr. R. G. Williams, Rev. Phil- 
lip Lindsey, and Elihu Embree were the most eminent of 
the group of leaders in abolition who chose to stand their 
ground and fight straight from the shoulder. James Jones 
was another member of the Society of Friends, who were 
really the leaders in the anti-slavery movement in Tennessee. 
Jones was thoroughly devoted to the cause of abolition, 
wrote several addresses for the Tennessee Manumission So- 
ciety, and was for several years its president.-'' His un- 
timely death in 1830 was a serious loss to the cause of hu- 
manity and undoubtedly was the death of the Tennessee 
Manumission Society. Benjamin Lundy paid the following 
tribute to him at his death : 

A great man has fallen, one of the brightest 
stars in the galaxy of American philanthropists 
has set, has set to rise no more, James Jones, 
President of the Manumission Society of Tennes- 
see — the steady, ardent and persevering friend of 
universal emancipation, is numbered among the 
dead . . . No language can impress upon the mind 
an adequate idea of his many virtues. Suffice it to 
say that few men living can fill the station that he 
held, with equal honor and usefulness. Long shall 
the poor oppressed African mourn for his irrep- 
arable loss.-*^ 

Rev. Samuel Doak was the leader of that strong and able 
Presbyterian contingent that came from North Carolina into 
Tennessee in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. 
"He was also the leading educator of the State in his day.-' 

2-'Hoss, E. E., P. of V. S. H. S., No. 2, p. 11. 

26The Genius, II, 2. 

2'Southern History Association Publication, II, 103. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 183 

He was a graduate of Princeton, and founded in Tennessee 
the first institution of learning in the Mississippi Valley.-^ 
He was a prominent abolitionist from 1800 to 1830, and 
from 1818 he taught immediate abolition. Among his pu- 
pils was Sam Houston, who opposed secession, John Rankin, 
and Rev. Jesse Lockhart, who preached and lectured on abo- 
lition in Southern Ohio.-" 

Dr. Philip Lindsey, who was President of the University 
of Nashvilla from 1825 to 1850, was the leader in organizing 
the Tennessee Colonization Society. He was its president 
for a number of years and was connected with it until his 
death. His educational leadership gave the colonization 
movement a prestige and influence that could not have come 
through any other channel. The University of Nashville in 
this period was the leading educational institution of the 
State, if not of the South. ^^° 

Mr. R. G. Williams was one of the anti-slavery leaders who 
helped to make Maryville, in East Tennessee, the seat of 
Maryville Seminary, now Maryville College, one of the great 
anti-slavery centers of the nation, a forerunner of Oberlin 
in Ohio. "We are rejoiced to know," said The Emancipator 
of New York, "that in East Tennessee and directly in the 
very centter of the slave-holding country, among the fast- 
nesses of the American Alps, God has secured a little Spar- 
tan band of devoted abolitionists of the best stamp, whom 
neither death nor danger can turn,'"' and a later issue of 
The Emancipator, quoting the letter of a student of Mary- 
ville College, said, "We take the liberty to uphold and de- 
fend our sentiments, whether it is agreeable or not to the 
selfishness of the slave-holder. We would thankfully receive 
any communication on the subject. We have some friends 
in the country around, among whom we have the privilege 
of distributing without fear a considerable number of 
pamphlets. About thirty students in the Theological Sem- 
inary at this place are preparing for the minstry, of whom 

-"^Phelan, p. 233. 

29Southern History Association Publications, II, 104. 
^f>The Emancipator, March 8, 1838, p. 175. 
s'lbid., March 16, 1838, p. 178. 

184 University' of Texas Bulletin 

twelve are abolitionists.""- This same issue, quoting a let- 
ter of Mr. R. G. Williams, said: "We could form a good 
Anti-slavery Society in this part of the state, but we choose 
to work in an unorganized manner a while yet, before we 
set ourselves up as a target, notwithstanding the strict laws 
of Tennessee. We meet through the country and discuss 
the merits of abolition and colonization ; the former is ably 
defended by Rev. T. S. Kendall, pastor of the Seceder 
Church in this county (Blount), and several others."^- 

The most eminent anti-slavery leader in the state was 
Elihu Embree. He was a Quaker, son of Thomas and Es- 
ther Embree, of Pennsylvania, born November 11, 1782. 
He moved to Tennessee at an early age, and became an iron 
manufacturer in East Tennessee. He early espoused the 
cause of freedom, and began at Jonesboro, Tennessee, in 
1819, the publication of the Manumission Intelligencer as 
the mouth-piece of the manumission societies of Tennessee. 
He continued this publication until his untimely death in 

Embree was a radical, outspoken, and uncompromising 
abolitionist. He was the leader of the Society of Friends 
in their work for abolition in Tennessee. Embree's writing 
and lecturing on abolition did more to advertise the state as 
an abolition center in the twenties than the work of all the 
others combined. In Garrison's Life, by his children, there 
is an account of the work of Embree, "to whom," it says, 
"must be accorded the honor of publishing the first period- 
ical in America of w^hich the one avowed object was oppo- 
sition to slavery. "'•■ Mr. Embree said he "spent several 
thousand dollars ... in some small degree abolishing, and in 
endeavoring to facilitate the general abolition of slavery."-^* 

Embree had owned seven or eight slaves, but in discuss- 
ing his connection with slavery, he said : 

I repent that I ever owned one. And indeed the 
crime is of such a hue, that the time may yet come, 
that a man who has, in a single instance, gone 

32The Emancipator, March 16, 1838, p. 178. 
^^Garrison's Garrison, I, 88. 
3*P. of V. S. H. S., No. 2, p. 8. 

The Negro m Tennessee, 1790-1865 185 

astray thus far, may never be able in his life time 
to regain public confidence ; and should this change 
of public sentiment take place in my day, and ren- 
der me disqualified to act in the promotion of this 
glorious cause, I hope to acquiesce in, and be re- 
signed to suffer the just judgment, and be more 
humble under a sense of my past misconduct; 
meanwhile I shall doubtless have the pleasure of 
rejoicing at seeing this stigmia on our religious 
professions, and scar upon our national escutch- 
eon, eradicated by men of clean hands. ^^ 

III. Abolition Literature. 

The first issue of the Manumission Intelligencer w^as pub- 
lished in March, 1819, at Jonesboro, Tennessee. It was a 
weekly at first, and, in this form, about fifty issues were 
published, eight or ten copies of which are in the possession 
of various individuals in Washington County.'''^ In 1820, 
Embree changed the paper to a monthly octavo and called it 
The Emancipator.'" Due to Embree's death, December 12, 
1820, The Emancipator was forced to discontinue, after a 
very prosperous existence of eight months, during which 
time a subscription list of 2000 had been secured.^" The 
numbers issued were bound in one volume of one hundred 
and twenty pages, a copy of which is in the possession of 
Esq. Thomas J. Wilson, who married Mr. Embree's daugh- 

Embree said that the purpose of 'This paper is especially 
designed by the editor to advocate the abolition of slavery, 
and to be a repository of tracts on that interesting and im- 
portant subject. It will contain all the necessary informa- 
tion that the editor can obtain of the progress of the aboli- 
tion of slavery of the descendants of Africa, together with a 
concise history of their introduction into slavery, collected 
from the best authority."^* 

35P. of V. S. H. S., No. 2, p. 22. 
36Temple, O. P., p. 91. 

s^Weeks, S. R., Southern Quakers and Slavery, p. 239; see also 
Martin, A. E., Tennessee History Mag'azine, Vol. I, p. 267. 
3SH0SS, E. E., P. of V. S. H. S.. No. 2, p. 7. 

186 University' of Texas Bulletin 

Mr. Embree, in discussing the progress of abolition in 
Tennessee and his pubhcation, said : 

Twenty years ago, the cause of abohtion was so 
unpopular in Tennessee that it was at the risk of a 
man's life that he interfered or assisted in estab- 
lishing the liberty of a person of color that was 
held in slavery, though held contrary to law. The 
lives of some of my intimate acquaintances, I well 
recollect to have been threatened, who had felt it 
their duty to aid some out of their unlawful thrall- 
dom. And it was sufficient in those times to pro- 
cure a man the general hatred of his neighbors, 
although he never even succeeded, and the case 
made plain that the poor negro was not lawfully a 
slave. But by little and little, times are much 
changed here, until societies of respectable citizens 
have arisen to plead the cause of abolition ; and in- 
stead of it being a disgrace to a man to be a mem- 
ber of these societies, it is rather a mark of the 
goodness of his heart, and redounds to his honor. 
I have no hestitation in believing that less than 
twenty years agq a man would have been mobbed, 
and the printing office torn down for printing and 
publishing anything like the Emancipator ; where- 
as it now meets the approbation of thousands, and 
is patronized perhaps at least equal to any other 
paper in the State. •■' 

There was a very close connection between Embree's pub- 
lication and those of Lundy and Garrison. Lundy was a 
contributor to Osborn's Philanthropist, published at Mount- 
Pleasant, Ohio, and made two trips to see Osborn about be- 
coming connected with his publication. The contest over 
the admission of Missouri attracted Lundy's interest, and 
before this matter was settled, Osborn had sold his paper. 
Meanwhile. Embree had established at Jonesboro, Tennes- 
see, The Emancipator. Lundy now abandoned the idea of 
an anti-slavery journal, but. on learning of Embree's death 
in 1820, he decided that the anti-slavery forces must have 
an organ. In July, 1821. at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, he issued 
the first number of The Genius of Universal Emancipation. 

•■"'S. H. A. P., II, p. 104. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 187 

Lindsay Swift, in his life of Garrison, said : "It was the le- 
gitimate successor in spirit of Elihu Embree's Emancipator, 
started the year previous in Tennessee."'" Lundy pub- 
lished only eight numbers of The Genius in Ohio, when he 
was persuaded by Embree's friends to remove The Genius 
to Tennessee and publish it on Embree's press." He, ac- 
cordingly, bought Embree's press and the subscription list 
to his Emancipator, and published The Genius in Tennessee 
for nearly three years.'- Lundy in a letter, dated March 16, 
1823, said : ''My paper circulates well. If any person had 
told me when I commenced that I should be as successful 
under all my disadvantages as I have been, I could not have 
believed him."* • 

Tennessee is really the mother of abolition literature in 
the United States. She was the original home of The Manu- 
mission Intelligencer and The Emancipator, became the seat 
of The Genius of Universal Emancipation, and sent out 
Osborn who established The Philanthropist in Ohio. Of 
course, Lundy was the inspiration of Garrison, who decided 
to establish The Liberator after his association with Lundy, 
and this publication is just as truly a continuation of The 
Genius as it was the prolonged life of The Emancipator. In- 
stead of assigning first place to the work of Garrison, as 
Johnson's Life of Garrison, Greeley's History of American 
Conflict, Wilson's History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave 
Power, and Von Hoist's Constitutional and Political History 
of the United States do, it seems that this pioneer work of 
Embree really made possible the work of Lunday and Gar- 

IV. Petitions to the Legisature for Abolition. 

From 1815 to 1834, the legislature was constantly peti- 
tioned by the abolitionists of the state. These petitions 
prayed for easier conditions of emancipation, better treat- 
ment of slaves, prevention of separation of husband and 

•♦"Swift, Lindsay, Life of Garrison, p. 60. 

•*iEarl, Thomas, Life of Benjamin Lundy, pp. 16-20. 

4-Temple, p. 91. 

«Earl, p. 21. 

188 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

wife, prohibition of the entrance of slaves into the state, 
and some plan of disestablishment of slavery. The Scrip- 
tures, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of 
Rights, Declaration of Independence, and the laws of na- 
ture were usually made the basis of these petitions. 

In 1817, one of the most suggestive of these petitions was 
presented. This petition proposed that the courts be em- 
powered in granting petitions for freedom to require the 
master to "give to those he is discharging a lease on lands 
for years, free of rent, charge and taxes, with provisions 
adequate for the first year, with a limited portion of stock 
and articles of husbandry."" "For years," it states, "we 
have seen monied aristocracies rising in our land; and 
wealth attaching reverence, and creating distinction; in 
proportion as these evils shall increase, will men's con- 
sciences be seared and their minds turned against the rights 
and liberties of those, who constitute an essential part of 
their wealth." It also called attention to the need for addi- 
tional protection for free negroes, and suggested that it be 
made a felony to steal and sell a free negro into slavery. 
It also pointed out that the young free negroes with neither 
father nor mother alive or free should be attached to suit- 
able persons, preferably their emancipators, to be "reared 
to habits of industry, and prepared for the duties of life."*^ 
This petition was signed by eighty-eight citizens, among 
whom was Jno. H. Eaton, later Andrew Jackson's Secretary 
of War. 

In 1815, there was a petition presented to the legislature, 
signed by four hundred and four citizens, of whom twenty- 
two were slaveholders, asking that a general plan for dis- 
establishing slavery be enacted.^" There were thirty-six 
petitions, signed by 2153 persons, presented to the legisla- 
ture in 1817,*" and twenty-one petitions signed by 2253 per- 
sons in 1819.^" The Manumission Society of Tennessee pre- 
sented a petition to the legislature in 1819, asking that the 

^•iPetitions of 1817, State Archives. 
^sPetitions of 1815, State Archives, 
repetitions of 1817, State Archives. 
4'Petitions of 1819, State Archives. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 189 

children of slaves be emancipated at a certain age, that 
slaves capable of supporting themselves be manumitted 
without the assumption of heavy obligations by their mas- 
ters, and that the "inhuman and barbarous practice of trad- 
ing in slaves be prohibited." 

These petitions became more numerous in the later twen- 
ties. In 1825, there were 497 petitions presented to the 
legislature; in 1827, there were 2818, and 1328 in 1829. 
These petitions were signed by hundreds. In addition to 
these circulated petitions, there were many individual re- 
quests for the permission to emancipate entire families 
without security, or with permission for the negroes to re- 
main in the state. 

V. Abolition in the Convention of 1834. 

"It is supposed," said the Nashville Republican, February 
20, 1834, "that efforts will be made to insert a provision for 
the gradual abolition of slavery, and perhaps the coloniza- 
tion of our colored population. Upon the propriety of this 
step we shall not at present decide. Much would depend 
upon the nature of the provision, whether well adapted to 
our present and future condition. The legislature of Ten- 
nessee has already taken up the cause of colonization, and 
made, perhaps, as liberal provision for it as our finances 
permitted. The nature of things, the march of public opin- 
ion, the voice of religion, all have said that American slav- 
ery must have an end. What shall be the legislative meas- 
ures to that effect, and where they shall begin, are ques- 
tions for prudence to determine."** 

In accordance with this prophecy, as '•roon as the conven- 
tion was organized, petitions were presented, proposing 
the following amendment to the constitution : 

All slaves born within the limits of the state of 
Tennessee from and after the first day of January, 
1835, shall be free, together with their issue, upon 
the said slaves, so born, as aforesaid, arriving at 
the age of twenty-one years, and upon condition 
that within one year after their so arriving at the 

4SThe Nashville Republican, February 20, 1834. 

190 University of Texas Bulletin 

age of twenty-one years, they, together with their 
issue, remove without the limits of the state of 
Tennessee, and never return to reside therein — 
and that any slave or slaves who reside without 
the limits of the state of Tennessee, on or after 
the first day of January, 1835, and who may after- 
wards be brought within the limit of the said state 
to reside, or who remain within the said limits for 
a term of more than sixty days under any pre- 
tence whatever, such slave or slaves shall be free, 
and all slaves who shall have attained the said age 
of twenty-one years, and who shall not have re- 
moved without the limits of said state within 12 
months thereafter, shall be hired out by some au- 
thority, prescribed by the legislature for one, two, 
or three years, and the proceeds of their labor, ap- 
propriated for defraying the expense of removing 
them to Liberia, in Africa, or to such places with- 
out the limits of the United States as may be con- 
sidered suitable for their reception, and for pro- 
viding for their substance for twelve months after 
their arrival at their new home.^^ 

The convention, despite the efforts of a determined mi- 
nority, well backed by its constituency, steadily refused to 
consider these memorials on slavery. They were at first 
merely read and laid on the table. On May 30, Mr. Stephen- 
son, of Washington County, moved the appointment of a 
committee of thirteen, one from each congressional district, 
to whom the memorials should be referred, and who should 
report to the convention a plan for the disestablishment of 
slavery. This motion was lost on June 2.'" June 6, Mr. 
Allen, of Sumner County, moved the appointment of a com- 
mittee of three, one from each division of the state, to draft 
resolutions, giving reasons why the convention refused to 
consider the petitions of the memorialists. After vain at- 
tempts to amend the motion, it prevailed. The president of 
the convention appointed a committee of three, consisting 
of Messrs, Allen, John A. McKinney, and Huntsman. ' Mr, 
Fogg of Davidson County, was substituted on the commit- 

49Petitions of 1834, State Archives. 
''"Journal of the Convention, p. 72. 
"Ibid., p. 89. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 191 

tee for Mr. Allen, and Mr. McKinney was made chairman. 
On motion of Mr. McKinney, the memorial on slavery was 
turned over to the committee. 

June 19, the committee reported through its chairman, 
Mr. John A. McKinney. The report is very clever in its 
arguments and significant for its admissions and profes- 
sions. It was really a polite apology for slavery. It gave 
the following as the main reasons that the convention re- 
fused to consider the memorials on slavery: 

1. That if Tennessee were to say that the chil- 
dren of all slaves born after a specified time would 
become free at a certain age, it would mean either 
that these slaves would be sold to other slave states 
before they became free, or that their masters 
would go there with them.'-' 

2. That such congregating of slaves would ag- 
gravate their situation and tend toward a servile 

3. "That in Tennessee, slaves are treated with 
as much humanity as in any part of the world, 
where slavery exists. Here they are well clothed 
and fed, and the labor they have to perform is not 
grievous nor burdensome."^* 

4. That the slaves of Tennessee do not want to 
leave the state and that, if their wishes are re- 
spected, the prayers of the memorialists will not be 

This report admits that slavery is a great evil and utters 
the following prophecy of its abolition : "The ministers of 
our holy religion will knock at the door of the hearts of the 
owners of slaves, telling every one of them to let his bonds- 
man and his bondswoman go free, and to send them back 
to the land of their forefathers, and the voice of these holy 
men will be heard and obeyed, and even those who lend a 
deaf ear to the admonitions in the hour of death, will, on a 
bed of sickness and at the approach of death, make provi- 
sion for the emancipation of their slaves, and for their 

•'^Journal of the Convention, p. 89. 
53Ibid., p. 90. 
-*Ibid., p. 91. 

192 University' of Texas Bulletin 

transportation to their home on the coast of Africa."^^ 
This report was adopted by the convention by a vote of 44 
to 10. 

Mathew Stephenson, of Washington County, supported 
by John McGoughey, Richard Bradshaw, and James Gil- 
lespey, prepared a protest to the committee's report in which 
they said : 

We believe that the importance of the subject, 
deeply involving the interest and safety of the 
State, both in a political and moral point of view, 
together with the number and respectability of the 
memorialists, merited from this convention a more 
respectful notice and consideration, than merely 
to appoint a committee of three, with instructions 
to give reasons why the convention would not take 
up and consider the matter.^® 

This protest from members of the Convention was sup- 
ported by petitions from the anti-slavery forces in the state, 
A petition from the citizens of Jefferson called attention to 
some of the weaknesses of the report of the committee of 
three, such as the admission of the great evil of slavery, its 
subversiveness of republican institutions, the selling of 
slaves to the more southern slave-holding states, the pitiable 
condition of the free negroes, which was equally applicable 
to white men, and the fallacy of the argument that Tennes- 
see would ever be more favorable to emancipation. 

The protest of this committee, re-enforced by these "loud 
and reiterated calls, for at least some prospective relief from 
the evils" of slavery, persuaded the convention to make a 
more detailed analysis of the memorials of slavery in order 
to make its position clear to the people of the state. On 
July 9, a motion was adopted to re-commit the memorials 
on slavery to the committee of three for a second report. 

The second report of the Committee of three showed that 
there were 1804 signatures to the memorials and that only 
105 of these were designated as slave-holders."' The report 

•"'^'Journal of the Convention, p. 93. 
soibid., p. 102. 
"Ibid., p. 125. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 193 

admitted that there might be some signatures of slave-hold- 
ers not so designated, but that such a number was likely in- 
considerable. The report showed that the slave-holding pe- 
titioners did not represent the "owners of five hundred 
slaves, and probably not of half that number,"" while the 
owners of one hundred and fifty thousand slaves were un- 
represented by the memorialists. 

The memorialists represented the counties of Washington, 
Greene, Jefferson, Cocke, Sevier, Blount, McMinn, Monroe, 
Knox, Rhea, Roane, Overton, Bedford, Lincoln, Maury, and 
Robertson, distributed as follows : two hundred and seventy- 
three in Washington; three hundred and seventy-eight in 
Greene; thirty-three in Maury; sixty-seven in Overton; 
twenty-four in Robertson ; one hundred and five in Lincoln ; 
one hundred and thirty-nine in Bedford ; and smaller num- 
bers in the other nine counties from which the petitions 
were presented.-'' The number of memorialists was rather 
small as compared with the five hundred and fifty thousand 
population of the state, and was almost entirely unrepre- 
sentative of the slavocracy of the state. 

The committee further showed that almost all the pe- 
titions presented a plan of emancipation. About one-half 
of the memorialists asked that all slave children born after 
1835 be made free, and that all slaves in the state be made 
free by 1855. They asked that all negroes be sent out of 
the state. The other memorials asked that all the slaves 
be emancipated by 1866 and colonized. 

The committee thought, "to assert that the hundred and 
fifty thousand slaves now in this state, together with their 
increase, could be emanicpated and colonized in the short 
term of twenty-one or even thirty-two years, with the aid of 
means at the command of the State, is a proposition so full 
of absurdity, that no person in his sober senses, who had 
taken any time to reffect on the subject, would possibly 

''^Journal of the Convention, p. 126. 
^"9-Ibid., p. 127. 

194 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

This report was followed by another protest, July 21. 
made by a committee consisting of Mathew Stephenson, 
Richard Bradshaw, and John McGoughey, to the effect that 
the memorialists were not fairly treated by the convention, 
and that the committee of three rather labored in its report 
to ridicule their petitions instead of answering them by pro- 
posing some constructive plan of abolition. 

Mr. Joseph Kincaid protested against the reference made 
in the second report of the committee to the free negro. 
The report stated that, "Unenviable as is the condition of the 
slave,unlovely as is slavery in all its aspects, bitter as the 
draught may be that the slave is doomed to drink, never- 
theless, his condition is better than the condition of the free 
man of color, in the midst of a community of white men 
with whom he has no common interest, no fellow-feeling, 
no equality."'"^ "From the above conclusions, which the 
committee arrived at in their report, it would seem," said 
Mr. Kincaid, "that they hold slavery to be a more enviable 
situation, than that of freedom under the above circum- 
stances : Therefore, it would seem to follow, that those col- 
ored people, who are now free, should be subjected to slav- 
ery, in order to better their condition — and that slavery 
should be rendered perpetual."^^ 

Despite the persistent efforts of a small though respect- 
able minority in behalf of abolition, it cannot be said that the 
convention at any stage of its proceedings evinced any pro- 
nounced anti-slavery attitude. It was more anti-negro than 
anti-slavery. It deplored the existence of slaverj% and in- 
dicated that in the course of time colonization might elim- 
inate slavery. In anticipation of a possible conpensated 
emancipation, the convention inserted a clause in the consti- 
tution by a vote of 30 to 27, forbidding the legislature to 
abolish slavery without the consent of the owners and with- 
out paying them a money equivalent for the slaves eman- 
cipated.''- It was later attempted to place a constitutional 

'''^'Journal of the Convention, p. 89. 
eilbid., p. 225. 

«-Ibid., p. 201; Constitution of 1834, Art. II, Sec. 31. 
Sec. 31. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 195 

prohibition on compensated emancipation, but it failed by 

a vote of 3 to 20.'- 

VI. Abolition Sentiment After 1834. 

There continued to be anti-slavery forces in the state as 
long as slavery existed. In 1835, there was organized at 
Rock Creek, in East Tennessee, an abolition society that ad- 
vocated immediate abolition. It v^as one of three aboli- 
tion societies at this time in the entire South, the other two 
being in Virginia and Kentucky. This society lasted only 
two years. '^^ In 1836, fifty-five citizens of Rhea County 
sent a petition to the legislature, protesting against a law 
that the legislature had passed making it a penitentiary of- 
fence to receive abolition literature. This protest states, 
"that said law is too bloody, too tyrannical and too despotic 
to govern a free people which we profess to be in practice 
and should be in theory." The petitioners further state 
that they are "opposed to the manner in which such law 
has curtailed our most sacred privileges, the free commu- 
nication of thought upon any subject provided we tell the 
truth."''* The Maryville Intelligencer, issued at the seat 
of Maryville College, published reports of the synods of the 
Presbyterian Church, yet the editor remarked that "this 
publication, we must remember, is after a law making it 
penal in Tennessee to receive any anti-slavery paper or 
pamphlet, yes, making it a penitentiary offense to receive 
this very report of the Kentucky Synod.""'' Hon. John M. 
Lea made one of the last anti-slavery addresses in Tennessee 
before the Apprentices' Union at Nashville in 1841. '■'■ In 
1849, the Jonesboro Whig said : "In Tennessee, the residence 
of James K. Polk, especially in East Tennessee, anti-slavery 
sentiments are strong and decided.""' The Knoxville Trib- 
une at this same time was publishing a series of papers on 

63The Liberator, July 25, 1835; American Anti-Slavery Almanac, 
December, 1836, p. 47. 

6*Petitions of 1836, State Archives. 

GsQuarterly Anti-slavery Magazine, II, 364. 

c'Hale and Merritt, II, 300. 

ti' Ninth Annual Report of American and Foreign Anti-slavery So- 
ciety, 1849, p. 52. 

196 University^ of Teo:as Bulletin 

abolition, advocating the calling of a constitutional conven- 
tion to amend the constitution to "open the way for the full 
and final redemption of thd state.""' 

A correspondent from Tennessee in the New York Ob- 
server, writing on abolition in the state, said in 1849 : 

The question is being a good deal agitated, and 
fully discussed. Many who own slaves oppose the 
institution, and non-slaveholders almost to a man. 
In my neighborhood of some five miles square, 
there are about eighty families, and a number of 
them own slaves, and there is but one advocate of 
slavery. A slaveholder said, "It is of no use to 
avoid the question any longer. The sooner it is 
settled the better, for God has declared that right 
shall prevail, and slavery must end." Another in- 
dividual who occupies a high station in society said, 
"Agitate the question and anti-slavery will pre- 
vail." I might produce hundreds, yes, thousands 
of expressions of opinion equally strong and de- 
cisive. The great difficulty seems to be as to the 
means of getting ridlof the evil.'"'^ 

While there was this anti-slavery minority expressing 
itself in an intermittent way after 1834, the great majority 
of the state was thoroughly pro-slavery. In 1835, Rev. 
Amos Dresser, an active member of the Abolition Society 
of Ohio, was arrested in Nashville for publishing and cir- 
culating pamphlets among the slaves to incite them to in- 
surrection. The Committee of Vigilance and Safety, con- 
sisting of sixty-two citizens, tried him and found him guilty. 
He was sentenced to receive twenty stripes on his bare 
back and to leave the city within twenty-four hours. He 
received the flogging, and did not wait for the expiration 
of the twenty-four hours.''' 

Public meetings were generally held, denouncing such 
insurrectionists and their accomplices. It was reported 
that Arthur Tappan and others of New York City had fur- 
nished funds to aid the circulation of abolition literature 

esHale and Merritt, II, 299. 
<-'nh\A., p. 300. 

The Negro (71 Tennessee, 1790-1865 197 

in the state."" At one of these meetings held by the Com- 
mittee of Vigilance and Safety, the merchants of Tennessee 
were requested to boycott Arthur Tappan and Company and 
all other abolitionists. These incidents were largely re- 
sponsible for the Act of 1836 mentioned above and the Gag 
Resolution in Andrew Jackson's administration. In the 
debate in the Senate on the Calhoun Resolution, both of the 
senators from Tennessee, Hugh Lawson White and Felix 
Grundy, defended the flogging of Rev. Dresser. Senator 
Grundy advocated a "summary disposal of such abolition- 

Tennessee was never a unit on the slavery question. There 
were scattered groups of abolitionists throughout the state 
as long as slavery existed, while East Tennessee was almost 
solidly anti-slavery. The contest over slavery in the con- 
vention of 1834, in the churches, and in politics created di- 
visions among the people of the state that have had a per- 
manent influence upon the life of the state. 

It is singularly true, however, that Tennessee did finally 
abolish slavery by popular vote. She was the only one of 
the Confederate States that was excepted from President 
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863'^ and that 
abolished slavery by its own act. There was an attempt 
to hold a convention of Union men in Nashville in the fall 
of 1864, but the Confederate army in the vicinity of Nash- 
ville made it unsafe for the convention to meet. It did meet 
January 8, 1865, and on the ninth recommended that Article 
II, Section 31, of the Constitution of 1834, to the effect that 
*'the General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws 
for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their 
owner or owners," be abrogated and that slavery be abol- 
ished forever, and the legislature be forbidden to re-establish 
property in man. These proposed constitutional changes 
were submitted to popular vote of the Union men, February 

■<^Fifth Annual Report of American Anti-slavery Society, 1838, 
pp. 72-73. 

■1 Andrews v. Page, 3 Heiskell, 658 (1870). 

198 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

22, 1865, and Andrew Johnson as military governor of 
Tennessee announced that the amendments had been adopted 
and that "the shackles have been formally stricken from 
the limbs of more than 275,000 slaves in the state, "'- 

"The amended constitution of the State of Tennessee 
adopted on the 22nd of February, 1865," said Judge Shack- 
elford in 1865, "prohibits slavery or voluntary servitude, 
in the State of Tennessee, and it has forever ceased to ex- 
ist."'-' It is clear, then, that his amendment was not the 
ratification of President Lincoln's Proclamation, which did 
not apply to Tennessee, but was itself the act of emancipa- 
tion by which the slaves of Tennessee ceased to be property 
and became free men. 

-2Acts of 1865, pp. IX-XIII. 

■3Nelson v. Smithfeter, 2 Caldwell, 14 (1865). See also Graves v. 
Keaton, 3 Caldwell, 14 (1866); Wharton v. The State, 5 Caldwell, 3 
(1867); Bedford v. Williams, 3 Caldwell, 210 (1867). 



The periods in the development of slavery in Tennessee 
are rather well defined. The institution made no remark- 
able progress before 1790. Its growth was slow and grad- 
ual. There were no special forces contributing to its de- 
velopment. Only the mountainous part of the state was 
being settled, and the cotton industry had not developed. 
The pioneers w^ere not in thought or manner of living favor- 
able to slavery. They either did their work single-handed, 
or combined with their neighbors in the performance of the 
heavier phases of it. Slavery was not a controlling factor, 
in a pioneer life characterized largely by hunting, fishing, 
trading, and small farming. It was more or less a useless 
luxury, which only the more fortunately situated could af- 
ford. Whatever progress slaverj' made during this period 
was due to purely natural forces and conditions. There 
were only 3,417 slaves in the state in 1790, and their value 
was less than $100 each. 

From 1790 to 1835, slavery expanded very rapidly. In 
the first decade of this period, the slave population in- 
creased 297.54 per cent; in the second, 227.84 per cent; in 
the third, 79.87 per cent; and in the fourth, 76.76 per cent. 
There were 183,059 slaves in the state in 1840. Frontier 
conditions were largely supplanted by a more prosperous 
society. Cotton became the chief agricultural product of 
the state. West Tennessee, the part of the state especially 
adapted to the production of cotton, was settled during this 
period. Tobacco was profitably grown in Middle Tennes- 
see, with the aid of slave labor. The river valleys of East 
Tennessee became cotton producing areas. Slavery in this 
period proved to be a profitable labor system in by far the 
larger portion of the state. This period is especially char- 
acterized by the growing economic importance of slavery 
and the weakening of the abolition sentiment. The slave 
was worth about $550 in 1835. The state reversed its 

200 University' of Texas Bulletin 

policy toward the free negro in 1831, disfranchised him in 
1834, and refused in the convention of 1834 even to con- 
sider abolition. 

From 1835 to 1855, there was practically one opinion in 
the state on the slavery question. There was a dissenting 
minority, but it was so inconsiderable as to be almost neg- 
ligible. The prevailing opinion was that abolition was im- 
practicable. The slaves were not regarded as being able 
to sustain themselves. They were not prepared for the 
duties of citizenship. The state was not financially able to 
purchase them and colonize them. It was held that any 
policy the state might adopt would in its execution require 
the cooperation of the other slaveholding states. The more 
seriously the problem was attacked, the larger the propor- 
tions which it assumed. Slavery appeared from every angle 
to be a permanent institution. This conclusion led to a 
policy of safeguarding its interests, and improving the con- 
dition of the slaves. Legislation restricting emancipation, 
preventing influx of free negroes, and establishing volun- 
tary enslavement was enacted. The change in the attitude 
of the churches during this period enabled them to have 
more influence over the slaveholders and to establish closer 
relations with the slaves. The churches constantly insisted 
upon a humane treatment of the slaves. 

There are several outstanding features of Tennessee slav- 
ery that deserve special emphasis. The state, until the 
early thirties, may be ranked along with Ohio and New- 
England as an abolition center. Tennessee had more aboli- 
tion societies in 1825 than any other state in the Union ex- 
cept North Carolina. In 1840, there were 5,524 free ne- 
groes in the state. Maryville College, at Maryville, Ten- 
nessee, was a center of abolition propaganda. Union Uni- 
versity, at Murfrecsboro, Tennessee, numbered active abo- 
litionists in its faculty. The state was the birth-place of 
the first out-right abolition paper published in the United 
States, and it became the connecting-link between Lundy 
and Garrison. The state sent a number of anti-slavery 
leaders into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The Tennessee 
churches were uniformly anti-slavery until they saw- they 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 201 

were losing their membership and were being ostracized 
from the proper contact with the slaves. As long as slavery 
existed in the state, manumission continued, despite legal 
restriction, as an expression of an active anti-slavery sen- 

The slave's legal status in Tennessee was exceptionably 
favorable. The law guaranteed to him shelter, food, cloth- 
ing, and medical attention. It protected him against the 
violence of his master and of society. It prevented avari- 
cious masters from emancipating him when he ceased to be 
productive and gave him the right to institute suit for his 
freedom. It permitted him to contract for his freedom 
against administrators of estates who were seeking to hold 
him in slavery. It furnished free counsel for his defense 
when his interests were in jeopardy. It also gave him trial 
by the same jury that the white man had. 

The patrol system was an elaborate system of govern- 
ment for a non-citizen class. It was, however, a govern- 
ment of law. Its administrative agents included searchers, 
patrols, magistrates, sheriffs, constables, masters and mis- 
tresses. Every citizen was subject to patrol duty. These 
agents enforced a code that reduced almost every activity 
and relation of the slave to a basis of law. T]ie patrol sys- 
tem was characterized by a careful consideration of the 
slave's weaknesses and, with its patriarchal supervision, 
gave him a respect for authority that partially prepared 
him to be a citizen in a government of law. It is singularly 
true that Tennessee negroes today enjoy a greater participa- 
tion in politics than any other Southern negroes. The 
background for this status and friendly attitude is to be 
found in the ante-bellum politics of the state. 

The finest expression of Tennessee's attitude toward the 
negro slave is found in the genuinely humane treatment ac- 
corded him. He was well fed, clothed, and housed. The 
evils of the absentee landlord system with its overseer and 
slave-driver were never prevalent. The small farmer was 
considerate of his welfare. The churches constantly sought 
to improve his condition. They reached him indirectly 
through their services. Their influence manifested itself 

202 University' of Texas Bulletin 

in charity, in marriage ceremonies, at the sick-bed, in man- 
umission societies, in the halls of legislation, and in the be- 
nevolent philosophy of the Christian judge. Efforts at 
harsh legislation were either defeated at the time or mod- 
ified later by more considered enactments. It has been 
abundantly shown, however, that it was the courts of Ten- 
nessee that constituted the bulwark of protection for the 
slave. They dealt with him not as a chattel but as a man. 
The slave code became in their hands an opportunity and a 
means to humanize the institution. They could not annul 
the law of slavery, but they did largely abolish it in fact by 
their interpretation of it. 

The condition of the free negro was never promising. He 
was largely always subject to certain legal restrictions. 
The system of registration adopted in 1806, the exclusion act 
of 1831, and his disfranchisement in 1834 were expressions 
of an increasing hostility toward him. He was always a 
possible avenue through which the abolitionists might reach 
the slave. This made him a menace to society. His asso- 
ciation, therefore, with slaves was forbidden by law. He 
was practically a social outcast. The slaves regarded him 
as worthless. Finally, provision was made- for his re-en- 

A. Sources. 

I. Records. 

1. Colonial Papers 1661. 

2. Colonial Entry Book No. 73. 

3. Colonial Records of North Carolina, I-X (1662-1776). 

4. State Records of North Carolina, XI-XXVI (1776- 

6. Journal of the Legislative Council of the Southwest 
Territory (1794-1796). 

6. Journal of the House of Representatives of the South- 

west Territory (1794-1795). 

7. Annals of Congress, 17th Congress, 1st Session. 

8. Annals of Tennessee, Ramsey, J. G. M., Philadelphia, 


9. Whig Almanac for the years 1836, 1844, and 1848. 

10. American Anti-slavery Almanac for 1836. 

11. Congressional Globe, 1st Session, 33rd Congress; and 

2nd Session, 38th Congress. 


The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 203 

II. Documents. 

1. The Constitution of North Carolina, 1776. 

2. The Constitution of Franklin, 178.5. 

3. The Constitution of the United States, 1787. 

4. The Constitution of Kentucky, 1799. 

5. The Constitution of Tennessee, 1796. 

6. The Constitution of Tennessee, 1834. 

7. The Constitution of Tennessee, 1870. 

8. Thorpe, Francis Newton, Federal and State Constitu- 

tions, 7 vols., Washington, 1909. 

9. MacDonald, William, Select Charters Illustrative of 

American History, New York, 1904. 

10. United States Census of 1850, I, Population. 

11. Statistical Abstract of United States, 1906. 

12. United States Statutes at Large, I. 

13. United States Census of 1870, I, Population. 

14. Colonial and State Statutes of North Carolina, Colo- 

nial Records, Vols. XXIII-XXV (1715-1790). 

15. Statutes of the Southwest Territory, 1790-1795. 

16. Acts of Tennessee. 

a. Public Acts. 

1st Sess. (1799), 1st Sess. (1801), 1st Sess. 
(1803), 1st Sess. (1806), 1st Sess. (1807), 1st 
Sess. (1813), 1st Sess. (1815), 1st Sess. (1817), 
1st Sess. (1819), 1st Sess. (1821), 1st Sess. 
(1823), 1st Sess. (1825), Extra Sess. (1826), 
1st Sess. (1827), 1st Sess. (1829), 1st Sess. 
(1831), 1st Sess. (1832), 1st Sess. (1833), 1st 
Sess. (1835-6), 1st Sess. (1837-8), 1st Sess. 
(1839), 1st Sess. (1839), 1st Sess. (1842), 1st 
Sess. (1843-4), 1st Sess. (1846), 1st Sess. (1847- 
8), 1st Sess. (1849-50), 1st Sess. (1851-2), 1st 
Sess. (1853-4), 1st Sess. (1855-6), 1st Sess. 
(1857-8), 1st Sess. (1861), 1st Sess. (1865). 

b. Private Acts. 

Called Sess. (1824), 1st Sess. (1833). 

III. General Slave Treatises. 

1. Dobb, T. R. R., Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery 

in the United States. Philadelphia, 1858. 

2. Goodell, William, The American Slave Code in Theory 

and Practice, New York, 1853. 

3. Hurd, John Codman, Laws of Freedom and Bondage, 

2 Vols., Boston, 1858-1862. 

4. Straud, George M., Sketch of the Laws Relating to 

Slavery, Philadelphia, 1856. 

5. Wheeler, Jacob D.. A Practical Treatise on the Law 

of Slaverv, New York, 1837. 

204 Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

IV. North Cai'olina Codes. 

1. Davis, James, Laws of North Carolina (this is really 

an edition of Swann's Laws), New Berne, 1752. 

2. Iredell, James, Laws of North Carolina, Edenton, 


3. Swann, Samuel, Laws of North Carolina, New Berne, 


V. Codes of Tennessee. 

1. Caruthers, R. L., Laws of Tennessee, Nashville, 1810. 

2. Caruthers, R. L., and Nicholson, A. O. P., Statutes of 

Tennessee (1786-1836). 

3. Haywood, John, Laws of Tennessee, Nashville, 1810. 

4. Haywood, John, and Cobb, Robt. L., Laws of Tennes- 

see, Nashville, 1831. 

5. Meigs, Return J., and Cooper, William F., Code of 

Tennessee, Nashville, 1858. 

6. Nicholson, A. O. P., Laws of Tennessee, Nashville 


7. Scott, Edward, Laws of Tennessee (1715-1820). 

VI. Court Reports of North Carolina and Tennessee. 

1. Caldwell, Thomas H., 7 Vols. (1860-1870), Columbia. 

Mo., 1906. 

2. Hawks, Francis L., 3 Vols. (1821-1825), Winston, 

N. C, 1897. 

3. Head, John W., 3 Vols. (1858-1859), Columbia, Mo., 


4. Heiskell, Joseph B., 12 Vols. (1870-1874), Louisville, 

Ky., 1903. 

5. Humphrey, West H., 11 Vols. (1839-1851), Louisville, 

Ky., 1903. 

6. Lea, Benjamin J., 16 Vols. (1878-1886), Louisville, 

Ky., 1902. 

7. Martin, John H., and Yerger, George S.. 1 Vol. (1827- 

1828), Louisville, Ky., 1903. 

8. Meigs, Return J., 1 Vol. (1838-1839), Louisville. Ky., 


9. Sneed, John L. T., 5 Vols. (1853-1858), Columbia. Mo., 

10. Yerger, George S., 10 Vols. (1818-1837), Columbia. 
Mo., 1912. 

VII. Reports of the Comptroller to the General Assembly for the 
years 1850, 1855-6, 1856, 1857-8, and 1859-60. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 205 

VIII. Repoi-ts, Proceeding's, and Minutes. 

1. Minutes of the American Convention for the years 

1822, 1823, 1825, 1827, 1829, 1830, 1848. 1852, 1860. 
and 1867 (1818-1867). 

2. Minutes of the General Methodist Conferences, 1773- 


3. Minutes of the General Conferences of the Methodist 

Church South, 1845-1865. 

4. Minutes of the Annual Conferences of ihe Methodists 

in Tennessee, 1813-1865 (Quoted in McFerrin, His- 
tory of Methodism in Tennessee). 

5. Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1845- 


6. Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Assembly, 


7. Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian 

Church, 1795-1865. 

8. The Fifth and Twenty-seventh Annual Reports of the 

American Anti-slavery Society. 

9. The Ninth and Thirteenth Annual Reports of the 

American and Foreign Anti-slavery Society for the 
years 1849 ad 1853. 

IX. Periodicals. 

The Genius of Universal Emancipation, Vols. I, II, IV, V, 

American Historical Magazine, II, IX, XXI. 

Publications of Vanderbilt Southern Historical Society, 
No. 2. 

Indiana Historical Society Publications, Vol. 2. 

The Tennessee History Magazine, Vols. 1, 2, and 4. 

Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine, Vols. 1, 2, and 4. 

Niles Register, Vols. 1-75 (1811-1849), Washington, Bal- 
timore, and Philadelphia. 

De Bow, J. D. B., Commercial Review of the South and 
West, 39 Vols. (1846-1870), New Orleans. 

African Repository, Vols. V, VI, VII, IX. XXII. XXIIT. 

American Historical Review, Vols. Ill, V. 

Publications of North Carolina Historical Commission, I. 

Political Science Quarterly, Vols. IX, XX. 

Southern History Association Publications, II. 

Quarterly Review of the M. E. Church, South, April, 

Methodist Quarterly Review, Vols. LVII and LXIII. 

The Liberator, July 25, 1835. 

The Emancipator (New York), March 8 and 16, 1838. 

206 University^ of Texas Bulletin 

X. Newspapers. 

The Aurora and General Advertiser, Memphis, Septem- 
ber 3, 1802. 

Nashville Banner, Nashville, October 15 and November 
16, 1833. 

The Knoxville Gazette, Knoxville, January 23, 1797. 

Christian Advocate and Journal, Bolivar, 1831. 

Tennessee Gazette and Mero District, Nashville, Novem- 
ber 22, 1805. 

The Practical Farmer and Mechanic, Somerville, 1857. 

Nashville Republican and State Gazette, Nashville, July 
1, 5, 10, 15, 28, 1834. 

The Western Freeman, Shelbyville, September 6, 1831. 

The Charleston Mercury, Charleston, S. C, April 30, 1861. 

Memphis Avalanche and Memphis Appeal, Memphis, May 
9, 10, and 11, 1861. 

Randolph Recorder, Vol. I, Covington, 1834. 

Memphis Equirer, Vols. I and II, Memphis, 1836-1837. 

The Weekly American Eagle, Vols. 11-V, Memphis, 1843- 

The Memphis Daily Eagle, Vols. III-VII, 1846-1850. 

The Tri-Weekly Memphis Enquirer, IV, 1846, Memphi.=;. 

Memphis Daily Appeal, V, 1855, Memphis. 

XI. Petitions in the State Archives at Nashville in Manuscript 
covering period 1809-1834. 

XII. Personal Writings and Reminiscences. 

1. Cartwright, Peter, Autobiography, Edited by W. P. 

Strickland, New York, 1892-1897. 

2. Jefferson, Thomas, Writings, Edited by P. L. Ford, 10 

Vols., New York, 1892-1897. 

3. Johnson, Rev. John and His House, Recollections, An 

Autobiography, Edited by Mrs. Susannah Johnson, 
Nashville, 1869. 

4. Otey, Rt. Rev. James H., Memoirs, Edited by W. M. 

Green, New York, 1885 

5. Pendleton, James Madison. Reminiscences of a Long 

Life, Louisville, 1891. 

6. Sumner, Charles, Works, 15 Vols., Boston. 1874-1883. 

7. Stirling, James, Letters from the Slave States, Lon- 

don, 1857. 

8. Thomas, Thomas Ebenezer, Cori-espondence Mainly 

Relative to the Anti-slavery Conflict in Ohio, es- 
pecially in the Presbyterian Church. Dayton, 1909. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 207 

B. Secondary Works. 

I. State Histories. 

1. Caldwell, Joshua W., Constitutional History of Ten- 

nessee, Cincinnati, 1895. 

2. Caldwell, Joshua W., The Bench and Bar of Tennessee, 

Knoxville, 1898. 

3. Garret, W. R., and Goodpasture, A. V., History of 

Tennessee, Nashville, 1900. 

4. Goodspeed, History of Tennessee, Nashville, 1886. 

5. Hale, William T. and Merrit, Dixon L., History of 

Tennessee, Vol. 2, Chicago and New York, 191.3. 

6. Phelan, James, History of Tennessee, Boston, 1888. 

7. Putnam, A. W., History of Middle Tennessee, Nash- 

ville, 1859. 

8. Temple, Oliver P., East Tennessee and the Civil War, 

Cincinnati, 1899. 

II. General Histories. 

1. Adams, Alice D., Neglected Period of Anti-slavery in 

America, 1808-1831, Boston, 1908. 

2. Brickell, John, Natural History of North Carolina. 

Dublin, 1911. 

3. Doyle, J. A., The English Colonies in America. 5 

Vols., New York, 1888. 

4. Hammond, M. B., The Cotton Industry. New York, 


5. Ingraham, J. H., The Sunny South, Philadelphia. 1860. 

6. Lecky, W. E. H., History of England in the Eighteenth 

Century, 8 Vols., London, 1878-1890. 

7. May, Sir Thomas Erskine, Constitutional History of 

England, 3 Vols., New York. 1910. 

8. Phillips, Ulrich Bonnei, Americant Negro Slavery, 

New York, 1918. 

9. Poole. William Frederick, Anti-slavery Opinions be- 

fore 1800, Cincinnati, 1873. 

10. Rhodes, James Ford, History of the United States, 

8 Vols., New York, 1900-1919. 

11. Roosevelt, Theodore, The Winning of the West, 4 

Vols. (Statesman Edition), New York, 1904. 

III. Biography. 

1. Cartwright, Peter, Fifty Years a Presiding Elder, 

Cincinnati. 1871. 

2. Cossit, Franceway Ranna, The Life and Times of 

Rev. Finis Ewing. Louisville, 1853. 

3. Du Bose, Horace M., Life of Francis Asbury, Nash- 

ville, 1909. 

208 University' of Texas Bulletin 

4. Earl, Thomas, Life of Benjamin Lundy, Philadelphia, 


5. Garrison, Wendell Phillips and J. F., The Life of 

William Loyd Garrison, New York, 1885. 

6. Green, Wm., Life and Letters of Rev. A. L. P. Green, 

Nashville, 1877. 

7. Milburn, W. H., Ten Years of a Preacher's Life, 

Nashville, 1859. 

8. Paine, Robert, Life and Times of William McKendree, 

Nashville, 1869. 

9. Parton, James, Life and Times of Benjamin Frank- 

lin, 2 Vols., Boston, 1867. 
10. Smith, G. G., The Life and Letters of James Osgood 
Andrew, Nashville, 1883. 
; 11. Swift, Lindsay, Life of Garrison, Philadelphia, 1911. 

12. Tyerman, L., Life of Whitefield, New York, 1873. 

13. Wightman, W. M., Life of William Capers, Nashville, 


IV. Church History. 

1. American Church History Series, XI, XII, New York, 
] 1894. 

2. Bedford, A. H., History of the Organization of the 

Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Nashville, 1871. 
8. Briggs, Charles A., American Presbyterianism, New 
York, 1885. 

4. Buckley, James M., History of Methodism, 2 Vols., 

New York and London, 1898. 

5. Curtis, George L., Manual of Methodist Episcopal 

Church History, New York, 1840. 

6. Emory, John, History of the Discipline of the Meth- 

odist Episcopal Church, New York, 1840. 

7. Finley, J. B., Sketch of Western Methodism. Cincin- 

nati, 1854. 

8. Gillet, E. H., History of Presbyterian Church in the 

United States of America, Philadelphia, I and II, 
no date. 

9. Harrison, W. P., The Gospel among the Slaves, Nash- 

ville, 1893. 

10. Matlock, L. C, The Anti-slavery Struggle and Tri- 

umph in the Methodist Episcopal Church, New 
York, 1881. 

11. Matlock, L. C, The History of American Slavery and 

Methodism, 1780-1849, New York, 1849. 

12. McConnell, S. D., History of American Episcopal 

Church, New York, 1897. 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 209 

13. McDonald, B. W., History of Cumberland Presbyte- 

rian Church, Nashville, 1888. 

14. McFerrin, J. B., History of Methodism in Tennessee, 

3 Vols., Nashville, 1869. 

15. McNeilly, James H., Religion and Slavery, Nashville, 


16. McTyeire, H. N., History of Methodism, Nashville, 


17. NeM^man, A. H., History of Baptist Churches in the 

United States, New York, 1894. 

18. Patton, Jacob Harris, Popular History of the Pres- 

byterian Church, New York, 1900. 

19. Pius, N. H., An Outline of Baptist History, Nash- 

ville, 1911. 

20. Price, R. N., Holston Methodism, 5 Vols., Nashville, 


21. Riley, B. F., History of the Baptists in Southern 

States East of the Mississippi, Philadelphia, 1898. 

22. Thompson, Robert Ellis, History of Presbyterian 

Churches in the United States, New York, 1895. 

23. Weeks, S. B., Southern Quakers and Slavery, Balti- 

more, 1896. 


A. Anti-slavery Societies of Tennessee. 

I. Tennessee Manumission Society 1815. 

County Branches: Blount, Greene, Washington, Jefferson, 

Local Branches: Bethesda, Beaver Creek, Carter's Station, 
Chestooy, Dumplin Creek, French Broad, Hickory Creek, 
Holston, Knoxville, Little River, Maryville, Middle Creek, 
Mount Gilead, Nolichucky, Powell's Valley, Stock Creek, 
Turkey Creek, and Rock Creek. 
IL Humane Protection Society of Tennessee, 1821. 
in. Moral, Religious Manumission Society of Tennessee, 1821. 
IV. Emancipating Labor Society, 1826. 

B. Tennessee Colonization Society, 1829. 

Branches: Boliver, Somerville. Memphis, Covington, Jackson, 
Paris, Clarksville, Columbia, Shelbyville, Winchester, Murfrees- 
boro, Gallatin, Knoxville, Marysville. New Market, Jonesboro. 
Kingsport, Rutherford, Franklin. 


Universitij of Texas Bulletin 

C. Anti-slavery Leaders in Tennessee. 

Anderson, Robert 
Brazelton, Santy 
Boyd, James 
Brooks, Stephen 
Buckhart, George 
Caldwell, James 
Cain, Joseph 
Callen, Archibald 
Campbell, Alexander 
Canaday, John 
Cartwright, Peter 
Coppock, Aaron 
Coulson, John 
Cowan, Andrew 
Criswell, Andrew 
Cummings, James 
Daily, Hiram 
Dalzel, David 
Earnest, Lawrence 
Earnest, Wesley 
Embree, Elihu 
Embree, Elijah 
Frazier, Abner 
Galbraith, James 
Garrett, William 
Gray, Asa 
Hackney, Aaron 
Hammer, Aaron 
Hammer, Isaac 
Hammer, Elisha 
Harrison, Isaiah 
Harris, John 

Hocige, Thomas 
Hooks, John 
Houston, James 
Huffaker, Justice 
Kerr, John 
Kendall, T. S. 
Kennedy, James 
Lee, William 
Lee, Ephriam 
Leeper, Allen 
Lindsey, Philip 
Lockhart, Jesse 
Logan, Alexander 
Lundy, Benjamin 
Malcum, William 
Mainess, Samuel 
Marshall, John 
Maulsby, David 
McCampbell, James 
McClellan, James 
McCarkle, Francis 
McKeen, Thomas H. 
Deadrick, David 
Doak, Samuel 
Dean, Thomas 
Eggleston. Elijah 
Newman, Joseph 
Osborn, Charles 
Osborn, J. 
Pardae, Joiiii 
Pickering, Ellis 
Pickering, Enos 

Rankin, John 
Rencan, Thomas 
Roberts, William 
Roy, Rev. John 
Jones, James 
Jones, Isaac 
Jones, Isaiah 
Jones, Thomas 
Johnson, Josiah 
Smith, Isaac 
Snoddy, William 
Stanfield, David 
Swain, Elihu 
Swain, John 
Swan, John 
Tuckers, Joseph 
Underbill, Richard 
Undehill, Jesse 
McNees, Samuel 
Milliken, William 
Moore, John 
Morgan, John 
Wilkins, J. H. 
Williams, John 
Williams, Richard 
Willis, Jesse 
Wills, George 
Wilson, P. N. 
Woods. W. W. 
Yerkley, Henry 

D. List of Emigrants to Liberia from Tennessee, 1820-1866. 

Ship Datcr No. of Emigrants 

Ship Harriet January, 1829 2 

Brig Liberia December, 1823 13 

Ship Roanoke December, 1832 1 

Brig Ajax May, 1833 5 

Schooner Oriental May, 1837 34 

Brig Rudolph Gronning February, 1841 10 

Barque Union May, 1841 10 

Ship Mariposa June, 1842 84 

Barque Rothschild January, 1846 25 

Schooner D. C. Foster March, 1850 35 


The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 211 

Liberia Packet December, 1850 15 

Brig Alida February, 1851 18 

Liberia Packet December, 1851 26 

Brig Julia Ford January, 1852 18 

Brig Zebra December. 1852 28 

Bark Adeline June, 1853 96 

Brig General Pierce December, 1853 

Ship Sophia Walker May, 1854 

Brig Harp June, 1854 21 

Brig General Pierce December, 1854 17 

Bark Cora May, 1855 13 

Bark Cora November, 1855 31 

Ship Elvira Owen May, 1856 42 

Ship M. C. Stephens December, 1856 13 

Ship M. C. Stephens May, 1857 23 

Ship M. C. Stephens November, 1859 21 

Ship M. C. Stephens May, 1860 8 

Golconda November, 1866 144 

E. Vice-Presidents of American Colonization Society from 


Andrew Jackson 1819-1822 

Rt. Rev. Bishop Otey 1840-1863 

Rev. Dr. Edgar 1845-1861 

Rev. P. Lindsley, D.D 1845-1854 

Bishop Soule, D.D 1848-1867 

Hon. Frederick P. Stanton 1851-1858 

Hon. John Bell 1861-1868 

F. Comparative List of Manumission Societies and Members in 

United States. 

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York 

Pennsylvania (East) 

Pennsylvania (West) 



District of Columbia 





North Carolina 

130* 6,625 

^Exclusive of ten or twelve societies in Illinois. Observe that 106 
of these societies were in slaveholding states. 























212 Universit]/' of Texas Bulletin 

G. Slave and Free Negro Population in Tennessee from 1790- 

1790 3,417 361 

1800 13,584 309 

1810 44,734 1,318 

1820 80,105 2,739 

1830 141,647 4,511 

1840 183,059 5,524 

1850 239,439 6,442 

1860 275,719 7,300 

H. Comparative Value of Land and Slaves in the Three Divi- 
sions OF Tennessee, 1859. 

Land Town Lots Slaves Property Aggregate 

nessee $ 46,127,012 $ 3,044,802 $ 10,470,926 $ 4,333,845 $ 64,186,514 
Mid. Ten- 
nessee 114,053,549 5,832,718 55,850,579 13,229,968 188,867,004 
West Ten- 
nessee 52,640,432 20,893,338 44,638,752 5,030,225 124,155,123 

212,820,993 29,770,858 110,960,257 22,594,038 377,208,641 

L Approximate Value of Property, Slaves, Land, and Cotton in 


Year Property Slaves Per Acre Per Lb. 

Land Cotton 

1836 $117,845,136 $584.00 $4.00 $.17y2 

1838 125,013,756 540.00 3.82 .131/2 

1840 122,957,624 543.00 3.84 .09 

1842 118,847,672 509.00 3.56 .08 

1844 109,178,121 420.00 3.35 .07V^ 

1846 113,176,959 413.72 3.03 .05% 

1848 129,510,043 467.44 3.06 .09% 

1850 159,558,183 506.93 3.25 .12 

1852 186,621,119 547.26 3.84 .11 

1854 219,011,047 605.52 4.60 .12 

1856 260,319,611 689.00 5,49 .I2V2 

1858 320,398,012 792.23 7.04 .14 

1859 377,208,641 854.65 8.19 .15 

The Negro in Tennessee, 1790-1865 213 

J. Classification of Slave Holders in Tennessee and the United 
States, I860.* 

Holders of Tennessee United States 

1 7,820 76,670 

2 4,738 45,934 

3 3,609 34,747 

4 3,012 28,907 

5 2,536 24,225 

6 2,066 20,600 

7 1,783 17,235 

8 1,565 14,852 

9 1,260 12,511 

10 to 15 3,779 40,367 

15 to 20 1,744 21,315 

20 to 30 1,623 20,789 

30 to 40 643 9,648 

40 to 50 284 5,179 

50 to 70 219 5,217 

70 to 100 116 3,149 

100 to 200 40 1,980 

200 to 300 6 224 

300 to 500 1 74 

500 to 1000 13 

1000 and over 1 

^These figures are for the United States, exclusive of territories 

and District of Columbia.