Book T3 P'H-
University of Texas Bulletin
No. 2205: February 1, 1922
THE NEGRO IN TENNESSEE, 1790-1865
CALEB PERRY PATTERSON
Adjunct Professor of Government in the University of Texas
PUBLISHED BY THE UNIVERSITY FOUR TIMES A MONTH, AND ENTERED AS
SECOND-CLASS MATTER AT THE POSTOFFICE AT AUSTIN. TEXAS,
UNDER THE ACT OF AUGUST 24. 1912
The benefits of education and of
useful knowledge, generally diffused
through a community, are essential
to the preservation of a free govern-
Cultivated, mind is the guardian
genius of democracy. ... It is the
nly dictator that freemen acknowl-
|edge and the only security that free-
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
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
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
V. Limitations upon the freedom of free
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
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.
'■Ibid., p. 19.
10 Universitu of Texas Bulletin
possible to state the exact number of slaves owned by these
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
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
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,
^-^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.
B. RESTRICTIONS —
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
11. THE STATUS OF THE NEGRO IN THE STATE OF FRANKLIN
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
III. THE STATUS OF THE NEGRO IN THE SOUTHWEST TERRI-
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,
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-
THE LEGAL STATUS OF THE SLAVE IN TENNESSEE
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-
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.
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
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
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-
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
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-
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.
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
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-
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,
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
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).
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
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
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
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 Dioce.se 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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-
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.
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
'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
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
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
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-
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
•■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
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.
3f'The Genius, IV, 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.
•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,
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.
"'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.
•■-'Ibid., VI, 276.
«=Ibid., VII, 145.
'•"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-
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
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
^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,
RELIGIOUS AND SOCIAL ASPECTS OF SLAVERY
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., IV, 13.
«Ibid., VII. 126.
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
'^Minutes of the Annual Conferences of M. E. Church, South. I,
-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,
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
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.
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
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.
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-
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,
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
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-*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 fai.th 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
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.
i32American Church History, XII, 245.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
^"''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
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.
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
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.
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
LEGAL STATUS OF THE FREE NEGRO
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
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).
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).
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
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
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.
**North Carolina Constitution of 1776, Sees, 7, 8, and 9; Col. Recs.,
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-
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
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
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-
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-
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
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.^"
B. THE EXTENT OF EMANCIPATION IN TENNESSEE.
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
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-
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
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
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.
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,
■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-
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-
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
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
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
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.
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,
5. Humphrey, West H., 11 Vols. (1839-1851), Louisville,
6. Lea, Benjamin J., 16 Vols. (1878-1886), Louisville,
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.
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
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.
The Genius of Universal Emancipation, Vols. I, II, IV, V,
VI, VII, VIII.
American Historical Magazine, II, IX, XXI.
Publications of Vanderbilt Southern Historical Society,
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
The Aurora and General Advertiser, Memphis, Septem-
ber 3, 1802.
Nashville Banner, Nashville, October 15 and November
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,
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-
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,
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-
8. Temple, Oliver P., East Tennessee and the Civil War,
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.
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.
1. Cartwright, Peter, Fifty Years a Presiding Elder,
2. Cossit, Franceway Ranna, The Life and Times of
Rev. Finis Ewing. Louisville, 1853.
3. Du Bose, Horace M., Life of Francis Asbury, Nash-
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,
7. Milburn, W. H., Ten Years of a Preacher's Life,
8. Paine, Robert, Life and Times of William McKendree,
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,
2. Bedford, A. H., History of the Organization of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Nashville, 1871.
8. Briggs, Charles A., American Presbyterianism, New
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-
8. Gillet, E. H., History of Presbyterian Church in the
United States of America, Philadelphia, I and II,
9. Harrison, W. P., The Gospel among the Slaves, Nash-
10. Matlock, L. C, The Anti-slavery Struggle and Tri-
umph in the Methodist Episcopal Church, New
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-
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-
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.
Kendall, T. S.
McKeen, Thomas H.
Roy, Rev. John
Wilkins, J. H.
Wilson, P. N.
Woods. W. W.
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
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York
District of Columbia
^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
nessee 114,053,549 5,832,718 55,850,579 13,229,968 188,867,004
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.
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
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.