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« Plumbophobia (Sujatha) | Main | Man and Monster (Anna) »

October 08, 2007


A fascinating look at the records of all runaway slaves/servants/deserters at this link. John Newton is listed twice, once on July 13, 1776, and again on July 19, 1776 (in which he is described as being 'much addicted' to liquor).

Very interesting! For some reason I found this passage especially moving: "Whoever takes up the said Servant, and secures him in Gaol, giving me information thereof, so that I may get him again, shall have eight dollars." Eight bucks for a fellow human's freedom. I've heard of "Life is cheap here in Casablanca." Sometimes freedom is cheap too.

Eight dollars would have been a small fortune converted to today's terms, similar to the rewards offered in the most recent 'Wanted' ads. A man's daily wage in the 1760's had been estimated at under 40 cents, probably translating to several hundred dollars in today's terms. This fellow appears to be the earliest runaway of East Indian extraction listed on the site.
"RAN away from Col. John Lewis's, in Gloucester County, on the 17th Inst. a square, strong made, [illeg.] jaw'd Mulatto Fellow, named George. He had on a brown Cotton jacket, and went away on a light Bay Horse, belonging to his Master, branded with a Heart. The Horse has a Black Mane and Tail. RAN away in Company with the above-mentioned, an East-Indian, belonging to Mr. Heylin, Merchant, in Gloucester : He is a well-made, small young Fellow, wore his own Hair (which he may have cut off in order to disguise himself:) He is supposed to have on an Olive-colour'd German Serge Coat, with Brass Buttons. He went away on a strong well-made Grey Stallion, branded with a Dott, belonging to his Master. They went from Col. Lewis's to Gloucester Town, where they robb'd a House, and took a Pair of Pistols, a Horse Whip, and 'tis supposed some other Things. They were seen on Monday going up King and Queen County. Whoever secures either of the fore-mentioned Servants, shall receive as a Reward, Two Pistoles ; for both of them, Four Pistoles, and for the Grey Stallion Two Pistoles; to be paid by John Lewis, and John Heylyn."
Evidently this master regarded his horse and his servant as being of equivalent value.
This may be the earliest reference to an East Indian servant, published in the Virginia Gazette dated April 15, 1737. Indentured runaways who were captured were subject to a variety of punishments which were rarely extreme though the law did provide for harsh penalties.

I imagine that Karen Hess, the late author of The">">The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection would have loved this information when putting together that amazing book of recipes and food lore. It has been a while since I read it--wish I still had a copy--but I remember lengthy discussions of how the methods of rice cooking used in the colonial Carolinas were traceable back to the subcontinent, along with a few very tasty (albeit largely masala-free) pickle recipes. Her theory was that these techniques had come via a slow trickle across Africa. This article, however, at least suggests the possibility of a more direct route...

The British had the reputation of being very good judges of the strengths and weaknesses of its subjects. This begs the following question. What were they thinking when they decided to use Indians for slave labor? :)
Check out this clip from Indian-Canadian comic Russell Peters.

PS Nice article. Thanks.

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