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OTTISSIPPI Ch. 12: Northern Slavery, part 1

By Cheryl Morgan

The role of historians is to discover facts, whatever they may be, and truth as discerned from facts. When the historian is more concerned with presenting a desired conclusion rather than facts and truth, he is a demagogue and a liar (Gay Mathis).

Cultural amnesia is when the truth is being deliberately forgotten or lost.

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In 1632, a physician named Hebert was the first settler in New France, now Canada, and received the first slave of the French Colony, a Black boy from the West Indies.

Slavery was common. The Indians also had slaves taken from enemy raids.

Slavery was actively practiced in New France, in the St. Lawrence Valley, and in the Louisiana Territory, for two centuries. In the late 1600s, the French took captives from the British Colonies brought from Louisiana Territory and the Caribbean.

The majority of Native American slaves, were given to the French as tokens of friendship. By early 1700, the buying and selling of captives like merchandise was common. (C. Moore, The History of MI)

The hidden history of northern slaves and plantations is ignored or forgotten. Manors, estates, and full-fledged plantations were provisioning operations for owner’s properties in the Caribbean. It was a high state of cultivation through forced labor of slaves.

There was slave labor on the plantations near Detroit and in the masters’ houses. The traders had slaves to do the work and moving goods (Palmer, Friend, 1906).

The foul stain of African slavery has been blotted out and erased from our constitution and laws by an enlightened public conscience. The Colored man’s legal status as human, instead of brutes and cattle, has been established and enforced. This article also deals with religion, slavery, fraud, the elite, and government. (An early Commentary on the United States. D.C, Walker MPHC VOL.28).

Slavery was a gigantic traffic which every family engaged in. The wealthy realized half of the profits. They sold slaves for molasses, sugar, rum, and salt. Rum was manufactured in the colonies, and it was shipped to Africa with other merchandise, and exchanged for slaves (D.C. Walker).

Cotton was king, there were tremendous profits from slavery, without thought for the human misery and degradation it caused. There was unrest and a burning desire to be free from slavery.

The Underground Railroad and Canada permitted them (the slaves) to construct a complete new life. There were strong family units and learning. There were skilled tradesmen, articulate and outspoken (Stanley, From Whence We Came, 1977).

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King

During the many wars between France and England, and England and America, and British Canadians and British Americans, and Indians, and all the others, many slaves were captured and sold as booty. These were of all the nations, including imported Blacks.

Many workers took molasses home and made rum for the Colonists. Ministers of the gospel were often partners in the profits of the distilleries erected in every hamlet. Slavery and intemperance were tolerated and defended from the Sacred Desk (D.C. Walker).

Most residents, who could afford to, owned slaves. Two or three per family was average. Many prominent people fought the idea of freeing slaves in the North (Wm. Macomb owned 26).

Many slaves were brought from Virginia, New York, and Indiana and sold to the inhabitants of Detroit, such as Major Joseph Campau, Judge George McDougal, Jacques Duperon Baby, Indian Agent and Fur Trader Abbott, Finchley, John Askin, John R. Williams, Lewis Cass, Baubien, Alexander McComb, John Hamtramck, Elijah Brush, James Abbott, C. Gouin, James May, and more (Detroit Pioneer Society, 1872, Slavery in the Early 1800s, Detroit, Michigan, J.A. Girardin).

The slaves were well treated by their owners and educated. Many were baptized, but in the old records, the first name was unknown. Several negroes received donation lots, and many spoke French fluently.

American slaves fled to Canada; Canadian slaves fled to Detroit. There were so many ex-Canadian slaves in Detroit in 1805 that Governor Hull formed a Militia of Black Canadian Runaways. Many fought in wars. They were then given freedom.

The Ordinance of 1787 was a clause to prevent slavery Northwest of the Ohio River. The residents paid little attention to it. Most every prominent man had a slave or two, especially merchants.

Detroit and the vicinity was a haven of slave trade with the Indians.

In 1793, there was Abolition of Slavery in Upper Canada. Upper Canada included East Michigan. It was a gradual abolition; children born to slaves were free after age 25. No slaves were to be imported. Slaves could still be exported across borders.

There were a large number, of slaves in and about Detroit, in 1793. More than 300 slaves were in the Detroit District (Palmer, 1922).

Canadian slaves in Michigan (ruled by the British until 1796) began to cross the river in the hope of reaching freedom. There was great dislike of any law that set them free and deprived the owners of their property (Palmer, Friend, 1922, The City of Detroit, 1701 – 1922, www).

In 1807, Detroit Judge Augustus Woodward ruled that all slaves living on May 23, 1793, and in the possession of a Detroiter, must continue to be a slave for the rest of their life. Children of slaves must continue as a slave until their 25th birthday, or be set free immediately, depending on the date of birth.

On one hand, slavery was deplored. But the freedom from slavery, still denied the people, the benefits of the Constitution, and their worth as Human Beings.

Mrs. John Howard, in her diary, wrote:

I have seen many young men and young women prisoners of the Indians come into Detroit. The Traders and a few of the Citizens would gather around them and try to buy them from the Indians. They could purchase them for tobacco and whiskey. They succeeded in buying all I ever saw except one. This was a tall young man about sixteen years of age. They would not let him go for anything. They kept him in place of one whom they had lost. Tears rolled down his face but it was all in vain. They seemed to feel sorry and think a great deal of him but were not willing to let him go.

In 1814, I saw a Man by the name of McMillan brought in from the commons, where he had been for his cows, with a hole through his breast and his scalp removed. (Nancy Howard Diary, MI Room, SCC library, P.H. MI).

Many of the older citizens had one or more slaves (Farmer 1884).

Pompey was a well-known property of James Abbott. Judge May had a faithful slave for 25 years to pay a debt owed by Granchin.

Joseph Campau was a large Trader and had 10 slaves. Crow was dressed in scarlet and performed gymnastic tricks. He was purchased at Montreal by Mr. Campau. He was a faithful slave for many years and married Patterson, also a slave. Mnlet was one of the most honest and faithful of all slaves. Mr. Campau employed him as a confidential clerk. He died at an advanced age, respected and esteemed, for his great integrity and fidelity. Tetro, a favorite of Major Campau, was faithful and honest as the day is long. Hector, a faithful and trustworthy slave, was in charge of the newspaper, The Oakland Chronicle, owned by Colonel Mack, General John R. Williams, and Major Campau. This paper merged into the Detroit Free Press.

Joseph Drouillard of Petite Cote gave two slaves to a daughter as a marriage portion.

Slaves were a chattel, possession or property. Several French families on both sides of the Strait had one or more. Slaves were generally liberated after some years or sold out of the territory. Indians said the French keep their slaves to death (Girardin 1872, Detroit Pioneer Society, Slavery in the Early 1800’s, Detroit, MI).

Most slave masters were very attached to their sambo (slave of African or mixed with Native American heritage) and required a great price to buy him (J.A. Girardin).

Both African and Native Americans were sold at auction. There were southern and northern markets. Sometimes they tore the clothes off women and girls (Metis History, Canadian History a Distinct Viewpoint. www). Young girls were traded.

The West Indian Company had a huge monopoly in slavery. 

Slaves were common. In Canadian history, there were 4,092 slaves; 2,692 were Indians and 1,400 were Blacks (Moore, History of MI).

In 1641, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia permit slavery of Indians, Whites, and Negroes.

Women and children were sold into slavery in the Caribbean.

Seasoning the slaves by taking away their identity breaking them to do what they are told gained a 52% higher profit. Jamaica was notorious. (African Holocaust).

Slaves were denied fundamental freedoms. There were Black Codes (laws restricting and suppressing freedoms and work in labor based on low wages or debt) to preserve slavery. The same tactics were used on Indian reservations.

British slaves fled in 1684 to the Spanish Colony of La Florida, thousands flee for freedom and established St. Augustine, Florida.

The Florida Whites killed 200 Apalaches and sold more than 1,400 captives into slavery.

The Europeans’ law (was) “Might is Right” (Metis History, www).

The Church takes in slaves to convert. The Church slaves do not abandon their Holy Spirit God. The Black Robes beg the savages to abandon their Holy Spirit God (Metis History, www).

Indians took captives to adopt for replacing lost loved ones. They also kept slaves who were treated as family members. Children born to slaves were born free.

In 1719, the Louisiana Slave Trade came from Africa.       

Slavery began almost with the beginning of settlement. The Indians who gathered near the Fort brought with them captives taken in battle, and some of these were transferred to the French, some as gifts and some were bought in trade. In 1760, there were both Indian and African slaves in Detroit. Most of the slaves were from the Pawnee tribe, a few from the Osage, Choctaw, and other Western tribes who had been captured in war and sold to the French and English residents. The Indians made excellent servants and commanded good prices. At the time of the capitulation, it was stipulated that the French inhabitants should keep their Negroes, but they were to restore those belonging to the English (Farmer 1884).

In 1780, Negro slaves were brought to Montreal by the Indians and sold. They were valuable; there were many Negro slaves in Canada. The Indians also had many Panis or Pawnee slaves. There were also White slaves (The Slave in Canada, Journal of Negro History, 1920).

The Catholic Church was said to be the largest slaveholders in New France. The French kept their slaves until death.

Far from the oppressive life they were forced to live, keeping them uneducated, very poor, and abused in many ways. And the stereotypes perpetrated on the race. Many Blacks were skilled workers when they were brought into slavery by the British and Americans. This is why they were captured, to do the trade work of silversmithing and growing plants.

In 1775, the British Court ruled that slaves could not be held in the United Kingdom. Fearing the ruling would apply to the American colonies, the ruling government in the south got behind the north in the revolution to leave British aggression (Liberty Law Site, www).

In 1773, there were 96 slaves at the settlement along the Detroit. In 1782, there were 179 slaves along the Detroit.

Slaves of the LaForce family, captured in Kentucky and brought to Detroit in 1779, some of them were Scipo, who was given to Simon Girty; Joseph and Keggy, given to Captain Elliott; Job to Mr. Baby; Candis to Captain Mckee; Ester to Henry Bird; and Hannah to Fisher. The Indians took Bess, Grace, Rachael, and Patrick (Riddell, Life of Wm. Dummer Powell, First Judge of Detroit, 1924).

The promise of freedom was given for Blacks who fought in the Revolutionary War. The Black Loyalist Forces were granted freedom from the British Government. Thousands were taken to Nova Scotia, Jamaica, and Sierra Leone in Africa. In 1783, the U.S. Congress ordered George Washington to retrieve the Americans’ property. Slave owners went north to take back their slaves. Many were sent back into slavery and punished severely. 

Many Black villages were established in Canada. The main Black settlements are Owen Sound, Amherstburg (Sandwich), Windsor, Chatham, Elgin, Dawn, Dresden, Niagara Peninsula, Toronto, and Hamilton.

In 1807, slavery was abolished in the British Colonies, though it continued under many schemes devised by the owners. Indentured slavery was one of many ways to keep workers in servitude.

Black men also fought in the War of 1812, and many were taken back when the troops evacuated from Charleston and other Ports.

The Book of Negroes, written in late 1780s Canada, records the names of thousands of Blacks who came to Canada for freedom.

Black Loyalists, on the www (world wide web) is the Story of Freed Black Slaves in Canada.

The Ordinance of 1787, had provided that slavery should not exist in the Northwest Territory. The importation of slaves was discontinued after September 17, 1792, the Canadian Parliament by law directing that no slaves should be introduced, and that all born thereafter should be free at the age of 25. Governor Simcoe, an advocate on the side of liberty, but due to opposition from motives of interest, they could carry the subject no further than liberty at 25 to all born after this date (MPHC vol. 17, 1793 Expedition to Detroit, Friends Miscellany).

At that time, this region was not under the control of the American government and there was no barrier to the holding of slaves at Detroit. After the surrender in 1796, of the region to the Americans, slave owners at Detroit yet held their slaves under the Jay Treaty of 1794, which provided that the inhabitants of the territory would be protected in their property. This changed in 1807 when the Northwest Territory was established.

The importation of slaves was abolished in 1808. This led to the rampant abuse of the masters impregnating their slave girls and women to continue breeding their fortunes. The smuggling of slaves continued.

“We were told the Americans were to take our males, young and old, and castrate them, then a horde of Negro men, were to be brought from the South, to whom our wives and sisters and daughters were to be given, for raising a stock of slaves to supply the demand in this country where Negros are scarce” (Taimah, Fox Chief 1832. Indian Oratory 1971, Virginia Irving Armstrong).

In 1830, there were 32 slaves in Michigan; by 1836, all the slaves were either dead or manumitted (free). Advertisements for runaway slaves appeared in The Gazette as late as 1827.

In 1834, slavery was outlawed in Michigan, and all slaves became free.

The Detroit Antislavery Society was organized in 1837 (Farmer 1884, Slavery and the Colored Race pg. 345, 346, History of Detroit and MI).

The Panis or Pawnee were docile slaves. The French preferred the Panis.

The Pawnees or Punnins were Captives, taken by the Chippewa from the Sioux, or Pawnee Nations. The Pawnees of the Missouri River Basin taken captive were called “Panis”. Panis or Pawnee became the generic name for any Aboriginal slave. Esckave Panis – Panis or slave” in French. But it is sorrowful to think that in a British Government so famed for liberty, they and a number of the African race, are held in bondage during life (MPHC vol. 17, 1793 Expedition to Detroit, Friends Miscellany).

This human chattel created immense fortunes for many prominent Northern families. The British-English settlers and UEL – Loyalists or Tories – brought in their African slaves. 

Lord Dunsmore’s proclamation in 1775 in Britain led to the Revolution. He ruled slavery illegal in England, and that the land West of the Alleghenies was to be left to the Indians.

This was unacceptable to the colonies, who believed they owned the land as far as the Pacific. It was a great mess, as the Indians were the occupants, The Crown claiming rule over all and the colonies claiming the land by Charters of the King.

There were many Indian Slaves in South Carolina, 1,400.

If the Black men fought with the military, they were to become free. When the Union evacuated the South, they took thousands of freed slaves with them.

Over 4,000 Black men fought in the War of 1812. Upon becoming free, many went to the West Indies and Florida, where they were hunted down by former masters.

Cotton was the national currency. Cotton created New York. There were hundreds of northern cotton mills. Raw cotton made up half of all U.S. exports sent to Liverpool, England. In 1850, there were 75,000 cotton plantations in the South. The North was also profiting from the slave trade (Liberty law site, www).

Some Blacks were free men and did well on their own. Their economic success led to the Ku Klux Klan forming to undermine Black economic interests and force Blacks into sharecropping on unfair terms. Black communities were targeted for acts of terror, whose purpose was to enforce economic apartheid.

Due to “Northern Amnesia”, the truth has not been widely known. There was slavery in Detroit for over 120 years. There is a great deal of denial by Whites and others about the whole thing. They don’t want to confront it. It’s painful to acknowledge what really happened.

Slavery ended in Michigan in the 1830s, yet the law was evaded with indenture laws. Indentured slaves owed the slaver master for some purchase – land, a wife, etc., though not all of the people were against slavery. Lewis Cass, the Irish, and the Free Press all fought the idea of freeing slaves (Liberty Law Site, www).

Slavery in Canada was abolished in 1834, and there was a gradual emancipation over 25 years.

The Dred Scott Decision of the Court in 1857 made the Black people not persons but property. Further, Congress now has no authority to outlaw slavery in any territory.

Slaves left their British Masters and sought freedom in Michigan and Canada. There were many Negro villages near Amherstburg, Ontario.

Sojourner Truth had her headquarters at Battle Creek, Michigan (Moore). She was a former slave in New York, an abolitionist, a preacher, and advocate of women’s rights. She traveled the country for 40 years as an advocate of human rights. She had five owners and walked to freedom carrying her baby in 1826. She was illiterate but a fierce speaker for human rights of all kinds. Her grandson could read and write; Sammy Banks traveled with her and was an invaluable companion.

Several people owned slaves at Port Huron, Michigan (MPHC vol. 11, 1887, Wm. l. Bancroft).

“The English came to steal our riches and make slaves of the people as they did in England. Those lacking property at home would have new lands to lord over. Merchants would have exotic products to sell. The clergy could convert the savages to Christianity. The landless poor would have opportunity to rise up from their poverty” (Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State University).

The Northern onslaught on slavery was no more than a cover-up of desire for economic control of Southern states (Charles Dickens 1862). Slavery was about Northern profits, enslaving all Americans. It was a tyrannical government of propaganda. The Kansas and Nebraska Act fueled the formation of the Republican Party. Who were against making new slave states when the U.S. purchased the land west of the Mississippi from the Spanish.

Freedom was national in Federal Territory and on the high seas. Slavery was local with the States having jurisdiction.

Slavery was abolished in the North by 1834, with a gradual emancipation. It did continue, (however), in many creative ways for long after this date.

The slavery system of economics created unimaginable wealth in North America and Europe. Slavery set the framework for the modern global economy (Liberty Law Site, www).

Blacks who were sold into slavery were not ignorant but having desirable skills, such as growing crops, working metals, and many other types of skilled labor. In America, many were kept in ignorance and denied an education to perpetuate the slave economy.

Slaves were taken to the Caribbean Islands to be “seasoned”, then sold to the mainland for working the plantations and other trades. Fresh slaves could not be trusted.

President Lincoln and the Republicans entered upon the war with no intention of attacking slavery. The Union turned to emancipation reluctantly to advance the war efforts.

They used servile insurrection and Black slaves to kill White Southerners. The slaves themselves were then being killed by local militias – the “kill two birds with one stone” strategy.

Even after slavery was outlawed here in America, it continued in Brazil and Cuba under the U.S. flag. The crops were sugar, cotton, salt, rum, coffee, rice, and tobacco.

It was legal, economic, and social discrimination, the people kept desperately poor, denied equal access to education, and segregated (The Truth about Slavery, www).

In the Virginia Company of London, planters worked for a piece of land in servitude as indentured servants. Servants of the company had no real freedom and were kept by force. They had no choice but to accept any charges the government or Company decided to make, including extension of their contracts. So, many literally were worked to death in very poor conditions. Letters were destroyed to family members, and minor offenses were dealt with severely. There were continual whippings, as well as hangings, shootings, breakings on the wheel, and even people being burnt alive. Some tried to escape to live with the Indians, but they were hunted down and tortured, killed or any other atrocity.

The Indians grew the food, farmed, and sold to and shared. The colonists begged, bullied, or bought corn from the Indians, whom they continually cheated and mistreated.

The English saw vast lands to develop and were rigorous in using raw materials, searching out natural resources wealth, (and) stealing by force huge timber stands (and) teeming rivers. There was a tremendous amount of physical labor involved in pioneer days (Thomas J. Davis, AZSU, Africans in America). They needed labor to strip the land. The people were held captive, labor exploited, then dumped them and went on to lie, cheat, and steal from the next wealthy place.

The English came with a fully developed system of slavery (Charles Jayne). The Royal African Company was an English Crown-owned slave trade company. The great triangle of slavery started with slaves being taken to the Caribbean to make sugar for rum and salt, the rum went to the Colonies and Northwest where it was traded for furs. The furs were then taken to Europe, and the money bought slaves from Africa. Riches were made all around.

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This book came about after a visit to the library where I could not find local Indian History. I grew up in the St. Clair and Black River area of Michigan, fishing on all the area waters with my father and brothers. I loved books, libraries, horses and puzzles; I was not a tech person. I love to cook, garden, travel, and camp. I was determined to find and share the truth. This has been a difficult journey in every way. I give you, the reader, the truth and blessings I also reaped. Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan lives near Port Huron, Michigan with her husband Tom and dog Fred.

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