Tag Archives: 18th Century
Ordinance of 1787

The South and the Ordinance of 1787

The drawing above shows men in colonial dress nailing a broadside onto a tree. Other figures, including some which appear to represent historical figures such as George Washington and Patrick Henry, and some Indians, watch. The drawing probably refers to the 1787 Northwest Ordinance which created the Northwest Territory as a part of the United States. The artist was James Henry Beard (1812-1893).

The Ordinance of 1787

We have been accustomed to attribute the unanimity with which the Ordinance of 1787 was enacted, to the prevalend of Anti-Slavery sentiment in the country at the time of its passage. The Richmond Whig seems anxious to divest the South of all credit on this score.

Read the following:

“We have never been able, satisfactorily, to account for the extraordinary unanimity with which the Southern members of Congress supported this famous Ordinance – by which slavery was excluded from the Northwestern Territory. It is explained, however, by a paragraph in a letter from Colonel William Grayson, one of the members of Congress from Virginia at that time, (which we find in the New York Tribune,) addressed to one of his colleagues. He writes: ‘The clause respecting Slavery was agreed to by the Southern members, for the purpose of preventing Tobacco and Indigo,’ (the former the great staple of Virginia, and the latter of South Carolina,) from being made on the Northwest side of the Ohio, as well as for several other political reasons.’

“What those ‘political reasons’ were, however, we are unable to conjecture. That class of reasons now exert a contrary influence.”

It is painful to see this anxiety on the part of a leading Virginia paper to ascribe one of the noblest acts of Virginia and the Southern States, to merely selfish motives.

One is tempted, after reading such a paragraph, to believe that there was too much truth in the imputation made in the Convention that framed the Federal Constitution, that the efforts of Virginia to obtain an immediate prohibition of the foreign slave trade, were stimulated by a disposition to monopolize the business of supplying Georgia and South Carolina with slaves. But, no! we will not follow the example of the Whig, and offer such an indignity to the State which, through its delegates in the Federal Convention, stood pre-eminent in its opposition to slavery.

Whatever the public sentiment in Virginia now, once she had a Washington, who deplored Slavery as a crime, declared that it ought to be abolished by law, and that, so far as his suffrage could go in obtaining such a law, it should not be wanting.

Whatever the political or economical reasons which influenced the action of the Southern States, in 1787, this much is certain – they were unanimous in the passage of an ordinance prohibiting Slavery in the only Territory possessed by the United States.

The fact that they gave changed their policy, and that “that class of reasons exert a contrary influence,” does not make the prohibition of Slavery now, in United States’ territory, unconstitutional, or render it proper now that the other sections of the Union should change their minds – unless, indeed, it be claimed, that the fluctuating views of a few slaveholders, in relation to the interests of Indigo, Tobacco, Rice, Cotton, and Sugar, should decide what is constitutional, just, and politic, for twenty millions of people.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: The National Era, February 17, 1848

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Runaway Slave

Runaway Slave Notices in the South Carolina Gazette

The South Carolina Gazette (1732–1775)  was South Carolina’s first successful newspaper was begun in 1732 by Thomas Whitemarsh in Charles Town, and released its final issue in December, 1775. A “middle of the road” paper, the Gazette printed news of Europe, what the royalty had worn at the last formal event, news of the colony, notices of births, deaths, marriages and estate auctions, and advertisements, including those for runaway slaves.

These runaway slave notices appeared on October 7, 1756:

Runaway Run away, a yellow Wench named Sue, Bermuda born, (belonging to Louis Outerbridge) about 32 years of age, of a middle size, estimable to be fair, with a pretty large scar on the right side of her neck; she took all her clothes with her, amongst which were a red petticoat, striped jacket and gown, and an oznabrug glow; and it is supposed she signs privately to get on board some vessel bound to Bermuda. Whoever delivers her to the warden of the work house, shall have a reward of 20 pounds and whoever will prove by whom she is or has been harboured, shall receive the like reward.

Run away from the subscriber,a negro fellow named Winter, about 30 years,of age, formerly belonging to Mr. Samuel Wainwright,and is supported to conceal himself aboutGoose-Creek. Whoever delivers him to me, or the warden of the work house shall have 10 pounds reward, and reasonable charges.


Martha Jefferson Randolph

The Presiding Ladies of the White House

I was doing some research on Martha Jefferson Randolph, the older of President Jefferson’s two daughters, and I stumbled a short little book published by the United States Bureau of National Literature and Art in 1903. The book provides portraits of each of the women who presided over the White House household staff from the time of Martha Washington through Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt as well as short one or two paragraph biographies.

The book is Presiding Ladies of the White House Containing Biographical Appreciations Together with a Short History of the Executive Mansion and a Treatise on its Etiquette and Customs by Lila G. A. Woolfall with an Introduction by Margaret E. Sangster.

This volume is not suitable for serious academic or historical research but it is still a lovely book with wonderful illustrations that is fun to leaf through. We have posted the women’s portraits on the Accessible Archives Facebook Page.

I have included an excerpt from Mrs. Sangster’s introduction here and below that you can page through the book.

Margaret E. Sangster’s Introduction

Margaret E. Sangster

Margaret E. Sangster

There are two attributes of the American woman which are undeniably predominant in her nature, and these are adaptability and individuality.

They are displayed by the members of all ranks and classes, but probably the twenty-five women who form the coterie of “First Ladies of the Land” in our republican court at Washington, have had as great, if not greater, opportunities for exercising these qualities than any who have entered only into court life abroad.

Noblesse oblige” is true in all stations of life, whether it be the nobility of honorable living or of high social birth, but in royal circles there is a code of etiquette which is enforced from generation to generation, just as royal sons and daughters are born to royal parents, and so its followers abide by its mandates as a matter of course. In a democratic country like America, no such rule obtains, for the children of a President of the United States, after their father’s term expires, may relapse into social inconspicuousness and seldom appear before the public, instead of, as in royalty, inheriting their father’s official greatness.

The wife of a President may have been born in affluence and social prominence, or she may have passed her early years in the humblest environment, as was the case with a number of the women who have presided at the White House, but in every instance the duties of hostess have been faithfully and creditably discharged, while natural ease, grace and tact, combined with this wonderful power of adaptation, have rendered the hospitality of the White House unquestionably refined, and marked by the highest breeding.

Some of the women who have held this exalted position have been called to it while little more than young girls, and others have assumed its responsibilities and obligations late in life, yet all have upheld the dignity of the nation of whose social life they were, for the time being, the highest exponents.

The individuality of each hostess has left its imprint upon the history of her time from the pomp and ceremony of Martha Washington’s regime, to the greater freedom from restraint of that of “Dolly” Madison. We hear also of the extreme “simplicity” of Jefferson’s administration and the social festivities which marked Mrs. Grant’s residence at the White House. Mrs. Polk abolished dancing, while Mrs. Hayes banished wine, from their entertainments. Mrs. Fillmore founded the library, for of books there were none when she was installed as mistress of the White House; and Mrs. McElroy marked the administration of her brother, Chester A. Arthur, with the acme of refined hospitality.

The author who has with marvelous industry and good taste, written these condensed biographies of our country’s most eminent women, deserves the thanks of all; yet such short sketches as are embodied in this volume, can give but little knowledge of facts concerning lives with so much interest attaching to them that a history of each would offer absorbing entertainment to the lover of biography, but they can serve to enlighten every intelligent reader sufficiently to arouse a desire for more information relating to these women, famous in the story of their country’s social and political events, and to awaken a feeling of pride that these queens of a republican court have no peers in any foreign realm.

Presiding Ladies

Am I not a man and a brother?

The Case of Somersett from Freedom’s Journal

Somerset (Somersett), a black slave, had been brought to England, in November, 1769, by his master, Mr. Charles Stewart, and in process of time left him. Stewart found an opportunity of seizing him unawares; and he was conveyed on board the Ann and Mary, Captain Knowles, in order to be carried to Jamaica, and there to be sold for a slave.

Mr. Serjeant Davy brought the case into court before Lord Mansfield on the 24th of January, but professed the cause to be of so high importance, that he requested it might be deferred till another term in order to give him time to prepare fully for its support.

This request Lord Mansfield declined granting, but fixed the hearing for that day fortnight, apprising Serjeant Davy at the same time, that “if it should come fairly to the general question, whatever the opinion of the court might be, even if they were all agreed on one side or the other, the subject was of so general and extensive concern, that, from the nature of the question, he should certainly take the opinion of all the judges upon it.


John Forbes

His Majesty’s Desertions from Autumn 1758

The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the United States’ most prominent newspapers from 1728—before the time period of the American Revolution–until 1800. Published in Philadelphia from 1728 through 1800, The Pennsylvania Gazette is considered The New York Times of the 18th century.

Recent Desertions

Deserted from his Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Foot, commanded by Brigadier General John Forbes, now quartered at Philadelphia,

  • October 30, 1758. Thomas Shortale, private Soldier in Lieut. Col. Arthur Morris’ Company, aged about 20 Years, 5 Feet 8 Inches high, fair Complexion, round smooth Face, light brown Hair, has a stoop in his Shoulders, born in Kilkeany, in Ireland, by Trade a Barber, went off in his Regimentals.
  • November 4. 1758. George Edwards, private Soldier in Lieut. Col. Arthur Morris’ Company, aged about 35 Years, 5 Feet 7 Inches high, swarthy Complexion, round Face, black Hair, very round Shoulder, Short necked, born at the Town of Stafford, in England, a labouring Man, went off in a blue Jacket, Regimental Breeches, and the Brim of his Hat cut very narrow.
  • November 6. 1758. Uriah Brooks; private Soldier in Captain John Vaughan’s Company, aged about 26 Years, 5 Feet 8 Inches high, fair Complexion, pitted with the Smallpox, dark brown Hair, short necked, born at Reading, in England, a labouring Man, went off with his Firelock, Steel mounted, and his Regimental Coat cut short in the Skirts, and the Brim of his Hat cut very narrow.

Whoever secures, any of the said Deserters, and can confines them in any of his Majesty Jails, and gives Notice thereof to the Commanding Officer of the said Regiment, at Philadelphia shall receive Twenty Shillings Sterling reward for return of them; and whoever shall be detected in harbouring or concealing any of the said Deserters, will be prosecuted according to Law.


Collection: The Pennsylvania Gazette
Publication: The Pennsylvania Gazette
Date: November 9, 1758
Title: Deserted from his Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Foot…