Slavery, Servitude, and British Representations of Colonial North America

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    GSTalbert1
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    Not that anyone will read this but I'm short on time and I'll fix this so it's not so much an ugly word salad laters.

    It has a variety of examples from 1600s-1700s that range from real life court cases to popular depictions in fiction of slavery and race from the time.

    by Matthew Mason

    In the late-seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, British literature’s
    divided conception of America tilted decidedly towards the negative. At all
    levels of the literary food chain, from popular fiction to obscure poetry and
    memoir, British authors depicted the colonies as a place to which only
    scoundrels or the desperate would willingly go. These characterizations fed on
    the accompanying perception that few people did go willingly. Indeed, for
    metropolitan observers, a basic reason the colonies were so loathsome and
    fearsome was the exploitative labor systems that prevailed there, from indentured
    servitude and convict labor to chattel slavery. This literature was more
    anti-colonial than antislavery. But it was a vital medium whereby colonial
    America’s systems of bondage fed metropolitan Britons’ disdain for the inhabitants
    of their colonies in the century preceding the American Revolution.
    This had not always been the dominant metropolitan view of the colonies.
    Early writers portrayed them in glowing terms, hoping to induce England’s
    growing population of “sturdy beggars” to emigrate to the New World. This
    view comported with Europeans’ long-running view of the New World as an
    earthly paradise in which mankind might start anew. And inasmuch as new
    colonial ventures arose at intervals well into the eighteenth century, promotional
    literature continued to come before the English reading public. And as
    late as the 1770s, multitudes of Britons were pulled as much as pushed to the
    American colonies and dreams of opportunity there.1 But by the late-seventeenth century America’s disparagers outnumbered and outweighed her boosters. After the 1660s, a declining birthrate, plague, and new labor needs ended worries about any surplus population. Many leading
    Britons were loath to see England’s population – which they now saw as
    a vital national resource – drained to the colonies, and they took a dimmer
    view of emigration. As Britain’s aristocratic elite felt challenged by men of
    more mercantile wealth in the eighteenth century, they placed on colonial
    parvenus much of their defensive snobbery. Both the rising urban commercial
    classes at home and the wealthy planters of the colonies staked their claims
    to gentility, but the colonists came in for the harshest rebuffs from Britain’s
    oligarchs. They were “a race of convicts,” Samuel Johnson railed, “and ought
    to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging.” Certainly such
    men should not expect admittance to polite society!2 Those who demeaned the New World tapped into their own long-running European tradition, what
    historian Howard Mumford Jones called the “anti-image” to the Edenic
    “image.” In this view the New World was a frightening place, where the terrors
    and extremes of nature found their consequent companion in the greed
    and cruelty of native and newcomer alike.3 When even Virginia’s Governor
    William Berkeley wrote in 1663 that “none but those of the meanest quality
    and corruptest lives” arrived in his colony from England, one can hardly
    expect many Englishmen to have painted a rosy picture.4

    Travel and adventure accounts both factual and fictional were enormously
    popular in the late-seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Britain,
    and as various scribblers plied this trade they drew on the burgeoning “antiimage”
    of the colonies for stories set there. From giants like Aphra Behn and
    Daniel Defoe to literary Lilliputians, they pursued common themes and even
    plots when they wrote about America. A voyage to America came only after
    a misspent or misfortunate youth in England. Characters often redeemed
    themselves there, but only a reverse emigration would complete the redemption.
    That so many authors followed this line probably owed less to some conspiracy
    or dictation from above than to the fact that the pejorative was in the
    ascendancy, becoming formulaic in this sort of literature. Few writers actually
    visited the New World, and those who did thus shaped the imaginations of
    others who relied on travel accounts and especially fiction for their impressions
    of the colonies.

    In 1690, a leading literary light, Aphra Behn, followed up her successful
    1688 novel Oroonoko with the play The Widow Ranter. “The first English play
    to be set in the American colonies,” The Widow Ranter influenced subsequent
    imaginative works in this genre. Behn not only pioneered this setting, but she
    also wrote with authority, having the rare distinction of having actually visited
    the colonies – Surinam and possibly Virginia. Her play painted what
    became the usual picture of the colonies: the desperate or troubled in England
    go there and prosper, but manifest all the failings of the nouveau riche.
    Drunkenness, for instance, was rampant, even among the recently elevated
    magistrates. Virginia needed “well-born” inhabitants and rulers if it were to
    prosper, the aristocratic Behn concluded.5 On its face this was a hopeful conclusion;
    the colonies might achieve their paradisiacal potential if people of
    quality would go there. But that people of such rank would cast their lot in
    such a place seemed an unlikely prospect, especially after such a description.
    Behn’s representation of the colonists echoed in the satirical 1708 poem
    The Sot-Weed Factor, by Ebenezer Cook. The protagonist of the poem is “forc’d”
    to leave his “Native soil” on “Albion’s Rocks” and go on a ship,
    “Freighted with Fools,” to Maryland. The minute he lands he is accosted by
    an ill-clad “Crew” of “Sot-weed Planters” who strike him as “Figures so strange” that “no God design’d” them “to be a part of Humane kind.” His further experience only confirms his opinion that “no good Sense is found” in Maryland, for the men and even the women are greedy, brutal barbarians. Like Behn, Cook portrayed “the planting Rabble” as forever drunk, including
    when they sat in judgment in court. Furthermore, the main character
    finds Maryland an exotic land, but not in a good way, as he is beset at night
    by “Hoarse croaking Frogs” whose “Peals the Dead to Life wou’d bring,” a
    rattlesnake, and “curst Muskitoes.” When a British fleet appears he runs at
    “full speed” to leave “this Cruel, this Inhospitable Shoar,” with a “dreadful
    Curse” on Maryland on his lips.6

    Daniel Defoe, whose writings set the gold standard for fictional travel literature,
    followed in this vein. Many parts of his popular 1722 novel Moll
    Flanders are set in Virginia, whence the heroine is transported after leading
    an abandoned, criminal life in England. She is one of many characters in
    the novel who end up there, and they are all drawn from the down and out
    and criminal classes of the English population. Even the condemned criminals
    among them fear “the plantations,” and one frankly states that he
    “could much easier submit to be hanged” than to be transported there. As
    for Moll, she mends her moral constitution and worldly prospects in
    Virginia. Defoe proclaimed that one moral to this story was that “all the
    unfortunate creatures who are obliged to seek their re-establishment
    abroad, whether by the misery of transportation or other disaster,” might by
    “diligence and application” reclaim their fortunes and character, “even in
    the remotest part of the world.” But this was hardly a ringing endorsement
    of the colonies, and upon achieving material success Moll returns to
    England, where she is able to “enjoy” her newfound wealth.7 Clearly, no one
    could “enjoy” their wealth and status until they fled this undesirable fringe
    of the empire.
    The New World action in Defoe’s less successful novel published in the
    same year, Colonel Jack, proceeds along the same plan. The main character
    sails to Virginia with a group of other unfortunates only because they
    have been hoodwinked. Jack reconciles himself to this fate, thinking of
    how servitude in the New World will give him the opportunity to break
    the criminal habits of his youth in England. But upon reaching freedom
    and prosperity, he realizes just how provincial and isolated the
    Chesapeake is. Situated far from Europe, the center of civilized life, even
    his plantation’s wealth cannot provide for him “the life of a gentleman.”
    So he returns to England.8

    The non-fictional tale of an indentured servant’s adventures conformed to
    many of the essentials of this standard storyline. In 1743, Englishman William
    Moraley published an account of his ne’er-do-well youth in England, servitude in America, and return to England. Much like Colonel Jack and Moll
    Flanders, Moraley both suffered misfortune and squandered opportunities in
    England. At his lowest ebb, “not caring what became of me, it entered into
    my Head to . . . sell myself for a Term of Years into the American Plantations.”
    After enduring the hardships of servitude in Pennsylvania and dim prospects
    for prosperity even after his term of indenture was finished, he eagerly sailed
    back to England.9 Moraley’s narrative was certainly not a best-seller like
    Defoe’s works.10 But it was one more weight on the negative side of Britons’
    scale of colonial judgment.

    In the 1740s and 1750s, Edward Kimber, a British adventurer, compiler
    and novelist, joined this chorus. This middling-sort Londoner had traveled to
    British North America under the proud title of a “gentleman adventurer” in
    Georgia in the early 1740s, and subsequently authored both a travel account
    and a novel, The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson (1754),
    based on his experiences. Although Kimber witnessed colonies from Georgia
    to New York firsthand, he saw them through the lens of preconceived
    notions, a mix of both “image” and “anti-image.” Travel literature describing
    North America’s natural wonders likely attracted his attention to visiting
    America in the first place, and once there he was drawn to those features
    which confirmed the image of the New World as exotic and picturesque. He
    rhapsodized at length in his travel account, for instance, on the “Charms” of
    “Nature” in Georgia, which were “romantically pleasing.” Everything he saw,
    from the flora and fauna to the Native American and African populations
    (noble savages), confirmed the romance of America, even as he longed for his
    home in England.11 As for the white population, the common folk were hospitable
    enough, but the planters were contemptible. This middling Londoner
    mocked their military pretensions and attempts at opulent grandeur. “Almost
    every considerable Man keeps an Equipage,” Kimber sniffed, but “they have
    no Concern about the different Colours of their Coach Horses, driving frequently
    black, white, and chestnut, in the same Harness.”12 From the setting
    to the people, then, firsthand experience with the colonies had not changed
    Kimber’s point of view; the former was picturesque and the latter were backward
    provincials at best.

    Neither did the New World action in Kimber’s novel Mr. Anderson, which
    comprises most of the work, depart appreciably from customary forms. The
    story begins when the hero Tom Anderson, as a little boy, is kidnapped from
    the London streets by a Bristol slave trader. After experiencing his own
    Middle Passage on this slaving vessel, in which he is sexually abused by his
    abductor, little Tommy is sold in Maryland as a slave for life. His new owner,
    the planter Mr. Barlow, is a petty tyrant, as are nearly all the planters in the
    novel. Along the way he meets people of quality, especially women. Most of them had been driven by desperation to the New World, and found that their
    “good sense, learning, and politeness” were not “in so much request” as they
    would be were not this society ruled by the semi-literate, boorish planters.
    With their aid he educates himself and eventually secures his freedom. After
    a series of adventures he marries Barlow’s daughter Fanny, as heaven’s watchcare
    and true love conquer the machinations of her father and a fellow
    planter named Carter to force her into a match with Carter’s son. The triumphant
    hero and heroine, quite naturally, live happily ever after not in
    Maryland but in England.13 Kimber could have written much the same novel
    had he never left England.

    Chesapeake planters, such as the Old Dominion luminary Robert Carter,
    chafed under such condescension from denizens of the metropole, perhaps
    especially from the middling sorts there.14 There is no evidence that anyone
    in North America read Kimber’s travel writings or fiction, unlike other British
    writers whose novels were set in the colonies.15 But in a tantalizing irony,
    Carter’s library contained two works from Kimber: his lists of Scottish and
    English Peerages.16 Both planter and writer, it appears, admired Britain’s
    ancient aristocracy, yet Kimber disdained the likes of Carter as a set of vulgar,
    vicious parvenus. This treatment of the colonial grandee at the hands of an
    obscure middle-class English scribbler was like a miniature version of the general
    snubbing the colonial gentry experienced at the hands of the mother
    country.17 And indeed, Kimber’s novel encapsulated the treatment they
    received in that mother country’s literature.

    These planters’ exploitation of bound laborers underwrote their portrayal
    in this literature as well as their position in the colonies. Mid-eighteenth-century
    writers like Kimber inherited a tradition of treating slave, servant, and
    convict labor as the heart of colonial society.

    This tradition, like its related general outlook on the colonies, had gained
    strength in the late-seventeenth century. In 1680, for instance, Londoners
    read the story and confession of one Thomas Hellier, an English servant in
    Virginia executed in that year for murdering his master and mistress. This
    account was not calculated to improve the English public’s impressions of
    Virginia. In an early nonfictional version of what would soon become the typical
    tale, Hellier’s prodigal youth in England rendered him vulnerable to the
    misfortune of sailing for America. When a scoundrel posing as a ship captain
    proposed to take him to Virginia, Hellier replied, “I had heard so bad a character
    of that Country, that I dreaded going thither.” But with “fair promises”
    the supposed captain persuaded the desperate lad to go. Upon arrival he was
    sold to a tyrannical master and mistress, proprietors of the almost incredibly
    aptly named plantation “Hard Labour.” By “ill-usage,” they made his life a
    “Hell on Earth,” provoking him to murder them.18 The anonymous Virginian who published this pamphlet and offered his own pious reflections on Hellier’s life and death insisted that Virginia was a good place, if only for those who were willing to work hard. However, he presented Hellier being duped to sail for the Chesapeake as “Celestial Vengeance” for his wicked ways. He
    urged masters in his audience to refrain from “Tyrannizing over Christians, as
    Turks do over Galley-slaves.” And in Hellier’s own confession he pled with
    masters to stop treating servants like “Dogs,” for they “are professed
    Christians, and bear Gods Image.”19

    These sermons to masters only confirmed the very image the preachers would have them reverse. Also in 1680, a transported convict railed in print on the planters’
    exploitation of their white laborers. James Revel, an English criminal sentenced
    to fourteen years’ labor in Virginia, recounted his experiences in verse.
    Revel took no pains to distinguish his lot from that of the slaves with whom
    he worked – far from it. He described his sale in Virginia in terms reminiscent
    of the slave trade, including planters “Examening” them “like Horses,” to see
    “if we’re sound.” At the plantation he was given coarse clothing “in which I
    was to slave,” and sent out to hoe tobacco all day. His “fellow slaves” included
    five fellow transported criminals and eighteen “Negroes,” and he found
    that “We and the Negroes both alike did fare, / Of work and food we had an
    equal share.” When his “inhuman brutal master” died two years before his
    term was out, he and the other servants and slaves were all put up for another
    degrading auction, “put like Sheep into a fold, / There unto the best bidder
    to be sold.”20

    Moraley’s account of his servitude was set in the middle colonies and
    decades later, but painted much the same picture. Like Revel, he declined to
    parse the distinctions between slavery and servitude. He described himself
    and his fellow shipmates as “Voluntary Slaves” who were “sold of[f]” much
    like black slaves. After sale, both “the Negroes and bought Servants” wore
    similarly uncomfortable clothing and were generally lumped together as inferior
    parts of the households they labored in. The slaves’ status and condition
    might have been slightly worse than that of the servants, but these were small
    matters of degree rather than of kind in Moraley’s narrative.21
    British fiction writers also placed servitude at the center of their vision of
    America, in part by regularly setting their narratives in the Chesapeake. It
    made sense for Behn to place her tale of a black slave in Oroonoko in Surinam
    rather than on the North American mainland. But given that a high percentage
    of white servants and the vast majority of transported convicts from
    England ended up in Maryland and Virginia,22 the Chesapeake formed the
    natural stage for stories involving white servitude. Accordingly, the
    Chesapeake colonies contain the bulk of the New World action in the writings
    of the likes of Defoe and Kimber.23 The extreme degradation of laborers made America a grotesque place in this literature. Kimber communicated this when he placed Tom and his wife
    and mother in a proper “coach and six” to London at the end of Mr. Anderson.
    This was a far cry from the young Carter’s perverse promise to Fanny that as
    his wife she would be so wealthy that her “coach shall be drawn by Negroes
    instead of horses.”24 In his travel account Kimber stopped at noting American
    planters’ unmatched horses, but for full literary effect his fictional planters’
    dream was to substitute degraded humans for horses. In the juxtaposition of
    these two carriage scenes his readers could see the colonies as an abhorrent
    foil for the normalcy of England.

    Kimber’s choice of Maryland as the scene of the hero’s slavery in Mr.
    Anderson was particularly interesting. On first blush, he seems to have confused
    Maryland with Virginia, such as when he named one of the planter families
    Carter. The Carters were one of the first families not of Maryland but of
    Virginia. But Kimber had visited Maryland, not Virginia, and might have felt
    more confident writing about the former. Perhaps he relied on the British public’s
    unwillingness or inability to distinguish the colonies; Defoe, for instance,
    unapologetically conflated Virginia and Maryland in Colonel Jack, “for
    Maryland is Virginia, speaking to them at a distance.”25
    But we might venture to give Kimber more credit than this, for a Maryland
    setting was ideal for drawing the planters as despots. The laws of Maryland
    regulating the treatment and control of slaves and servants gave them fewer
    rights and protections than those of Virginia and other neighboring
    provinces. Historian Abbot E. Smith examined this difference and could
    account for it in no other way than to speculate that “the planters of
    Maryland were a harsher breed than those of Virginia and Pennsylvania.”26
    These laws may have contributed to an even more negative profile for
    Maryland than for Virginia among those who cared to differentiate between
    the two. If we dare to attribute such a deft literary maneuver to the likes of
    Kimber, we might say that having his hero serve Barlow in Maryland
    enhanced the horrors of his debasement.

    Having little Tommy sold as a slave for life also heightens the drama of his sufferings,
    but it accords less neatly with the realities of colonial life. Smith, still
    unsurpassed as a scholar of white servitude in colonial America, concluded that
    “there was never any such thing as perpetual slavery for any white man in any
    English colony.”27 To be sure, colonial labor recruiters abducted hundreds of
    white Britons. Several cases of kidnapping grabbed headlines in England, and led
    to legal prohibitions on the recruiting agents (known as “spirits” for their dubious
    and clandestine practices).28 Defoe wrote of a regular trade in kidnapped
    children from England to Virginia.29 Having young Tommy kidnapped off the
    streets of London, then, was no grand distortion on Kimber’s part. But having him sold for life in Maryland did not square with the colonial racial divide: white
    colonists truly enslaved only people of African or Native American descent.
    Kimber, however, was not alone in failing to draw a line between the term
    of unfreedom white colonists served and the lifetime bondage black slaves
    suffered. Non-fictional writers Hellier, Revel, and Moraley all joined in reviling
    planters who treated white servants and black slaves much the same.
    Cook applied the word “Slave” to an indentured servant woman he met, as
    well as more generically to the knaves of Maryland.30 Defoe also used the
    terms “slave” and “servant” interchangeably. In Moll Flanders the heroine
    laments being “bound to Virginia, in the despicable quality of transported
    convicts destined to be sold for slaves.”31 He also had Colonel Jack sold and
    put in the field alongside slaves in Virginia. He and his fellow white servants
    “worked hard, lodged hard, and fared hard” in the “miserable condition of a
    slave.”32 Nor were these writers alone, for all Britons tended to talk of the spirits’
    victims as “slaves.”33 A popular play produced in London in the late 1750s
    features a colonial agent attempting to kidnap an Irishman, who laments
    being sent “into the other world to be turn’d into a black negro.” And a
    Yorkshire newspaper complained that indentured servants were sold in
    America “for slaves at public sale. . . They might as well fall into the hands of
    the Turks, [for] they are subject nearly to the same laws as the Negroes and
    have the same coarse food and clothing.”34

    Such well-publicized characterizations elevated coerced emigration to the
    colonies in the public consciousness far above its demographic share in the
    westward exodus.35 Placing Tom Anderson in lifetime bondage, then, was misleading,
    but it was merely an exaggeration of the negative aura surrounding
    emigration and emigration agents in Kimber’s England. Hardly anyone in his
    audience would have protested his failure to draw a line between colonial
    servitude and slavery; it was a fine distinction that a suspicious public was not
    disposed to make.
    But while these authors used colonial bondage and tyrannical slave drivers
    to dramatic effect, it would be hard to brand their writings as abolitionist
    or even strongly antislavery.36 Given their publication dates, it would be
    unreasonable to expect that they would be. No sustained antislavery movement,
    outside of the crusades of marginal Quaker activists, appeared in the
    Western world before the era of the American Revolution beginning in the
    1760s. Whether in Britain, her colonies, or anywhere else, it was not until the
    concept of liberty was on every tongue that large numbers of people adjudged
    slavery an abomination.37

    The former servants turned writers did not translate their hardships in
    servitude into denunciations of human bondage, especially for people of
    African descent. Revel appreciated the “pity the poor Negroe slaves bestowed” on him when he fell sick. But he clearly deemed working alongside slaves as much a disgrace as being sold and examined like an animal.38 Hellier (and the Virginian who presented his story to the world) pointedly appealed for masters to improve their treatment of the “professed Christians” among their servants.39 Given that the vast majority of slaves were unbaptized, this
    religious distinction also carried a racial meaning. As for Moraley, he considered
    both slavery and indentured servitude necessities in light of the scarcity
    of labor in the colonies. He recognized that “the condition of the Negroes is
    very bad,” but maintained that “there is a Necessity of using them hardly,
    being of an obdurate, stubborn Disposition” and “extremely cruel” whenever
    they get the upper hand through successful rebellion.40

    Neither did the novelists evince the spirit of abolitionism in their treatments
    of colonial slavery and servitude. Behn’s Oroonoko is remarkable in part
    because its hero and heroine are slaves, but no outrage with the institution of
    slavery per se moves her plot. She is matter-of-fact in her brief allusions to
    slavery in Africa and the slave trade to West Indian sugar islands.41 She does
    present the sale of the heroine as a slave to a distant country as a “cruel sentence,
    worse than death.” But what makes it so is for a woman of her quality
    to be sold “like a common slave.” The noble hero himself, Oroonoko, can “by
    no means endure slavery,” but has no compunctions about selling his own war
    captives to an English slave trader, or offering to buy his freedom once
    enslaved either by “gold, or a vast quantity of slaves.” Throughout her tale,
    Behn is careful to distinguish between the “noble slaves” – people “of quality”
    – and the common bondsmen, who are “by nature slaves.” Oroonoko
    instigates a slave revolt at the plot’s climax, calling his fellow bondsmen’s
    attention to “the miseries, and ignominies of slavery.” But he declares their
    bondage ignominious because they had not been fairly captured in battle.42
    Her sympathy with slave rebels and some of their utterances, taken alone,
    might hint at an antislavery spirit in Behn’s masterwork. But they are juxtaposed
    with the notion that most bondspeople are slaves by nature, with the
    hero’s own slave trading, with the implication in his speech that some forms
    of slavery are perfectly legitimate. In short, the novel’s pervading message is
    that the great injustice was that Oroonoko, and some of his virtuous associates,
    were slaves. Her message emphasized inner nobility wronged more than
    any notion that slavery itself was wrong.

    Of all these writings, Kimber’s Mr. Anderson most nearly approaches a spirit
    of opposition to slavery. In one scene, Tom questions how he could be a
    slave given that “we are all naturally born free, and, as Englishmen, have an
    excellent constitution that protects every individual in his freedom.”43 His
    tutor, himself a former servant, agrees that Tom is legally free by virtue of having
    been “born free,” but urges that it is “not yet” prudent for him “to assert that freedom.”44 Later in the plot Tom plays the liberator when he frees all the
    servants and slaves he inherits from a later master and benefactor. These
    “worthy creatures” are transported with joy and gratitude.45 While detained
    at the Carter plantation for the son to woo her, Fanny is shocked to see a slave
    brutally whipped in front of her, and then to hear the father and son “laughing
    and joking at their late exploit.” Fanny’s outrage swells at this, “for I ever
    consider’d the poor wretches as a part of my own species and not upon the
    level of the brute creation.” Indeed, these “monsters” “exhibited such acts of
    unfeeling, obdurate inhumanity to their wretched negroes, that I wonder not
    the judgment of heaven overtook, at length, the perpetrators of such enormous
    crimes.”46

    The way in which Kimber had this judgment overtake the Carters constitutes
    the most extraordinary passage in the novel. Their cruelties lead their
    slaves to plot a revolt, and they begin the insurrection at the very moment
    young Carter is about to rape Fanny to force her into marriage. The villainous
    Carters all die at the hands of their slaves, and their plantation home also
    burns down. As the mansion burns around her, Fanny is saved by two white
    men from Carter’s plantation, and sheltered at a neighbor’s home. Sixty
    rebels escape into “the fastnesses of the mountains,” “the rest being killed by
    their pursuers.” In recounting this dramatic incident, Fanny declares this an
    instance of “how heaven ordered things in our favour,” and admits – “Heaven
    forgive me!” – to having “wished the Negroes might prevail and punish my
    unworthy foes.” And upon receiving her daughter safe and sound, the virtuous
    Mrs. Barlow is so aggravated with the Carters “that she could not help
    even shewing some satisfaction at their punishment; but soon check’d herself
    by a more Christian spirit of thinking.” As for Mr. Barlow, he takes the
    Carters’ fate as a warning and treats his slaves more kindly in the future.47
    Having the reader cheer (however sheepishly) for slave insurgents was potentially
    subversive. Kimber resisted the most radical implications of this scene
    by having two white men become Fanny’s direct rescuers, and having the
    uprising fail to overthrow slavery. But at the very least this scene demonstrated
    how alien Kimber’s sensibilities were from the planters he depicted in
    such negative terms. Amazing for 1754, this plot device would be remarkable
    in about any age. Certainly it forms the opposite of such modern tales as the
    influential 1913 movie “The Birth of a Nation,” in which the Ku Klux Klan
    saves the damsel in distress.

    But despite these features of the novel, it is no abolitionist tract. The passages
    on Tom’s right to freedom might be unfriendly to slavery by implication,
    but it is unclear whether he is speaking of natural rights, English liberties, or
    both. Kimber leaves not only the ideas themselves vague, but also their consequences,
    so that they might be read as opposed to any slave trade taking people born free into slavery, or just hostile to poor Tom’s kidnapping. At one point, Tom as disappointed lover sighs that “to be abused by a villain, to be treated with all the marks of slavery and subjection, are trifles, mere trifles” compared with his love-sickness!48 It is all so confoundingly unclear that, as
    with Oroonoko, the most unambiguous moral of the story is that it is wrong
    for the hero of the tale to be enslaved. The crying evil was when people of
    quality entered the degradation of slavery. Slavery in the specific, not the
    abstract, was what concerned the likes of Kimber and Behn.

    If Mr. Anderson makes any plea in reference to slavery, it is for remedying
    its abuses. In one passage Tom liberates slaves, but in another scene he is
    made overseer over some of Barlow’s slaves, and his sensible and gentle
    nature produces humane treatment of what remain enslaved people. The
    slaves respond with love, loyalty, and – most importantly – better tobacco
    production. In Fanny’s speech after the whipping, she calls for slaveholders to
    give “indulgent kindness,” not freedom, to their human property. After
    Barlow’s epiphany, he “us’d his servants and Negroes . . . tenderly,” but did not
    free them. Indeed, one of the “honest” characters’ happy ending is to buy “a
    pretty plantation,” and to “stock it,” presumably with slave laborers. Kind
    treatment within the system, not the removal of the system itself, was what
    Kimber preached.49 In this he followed other British writers, including Defoe,
    whose Colonel Jack also rises from servitude to mastery and shows the practical
    superiority of humanity over brutality in slave management.50
    Furthermore, Kimber’s attitude contained much more hatred for the
    planters than love for the slaves. His travel writings suggest that he did not
    relish the presence or even particularly value the lives of the actual black
    people he encountered in his travels. During a harrowing passage from New
    York to Maryland, the sufferings of the black people on board his ship seemed
    not to have touched his sympathies very deeply. When they lost limbs to
    frostbite, he could only coolly observe that “Negroes . . . are the most awkward,
    ungain [sic] Wretches, in cold Weather, that can be met with.” When
    the ship ran perilously low on provisions, the white people on board “forebore
    to see after the Negroes” below deck, “but nail’d down the Hatches, and left
    them to the Mercy of Providence.” When these unfortunate people died, the
    worst part of their horrible deaths for Kimber seems to have been the smell of
    their corpses.51 In Mr. Anderson, Kimber had Tom call Carter’s slaves “loathsome.”
    Part of Tom’s degradation is to be whipped with a cowskin “with which
    they usually discipline their Negroes.” Most of the novel’s slaves are more like
    extras in a movie than fully drawn characters.52 Yet this same Kimber rhapsodized
    on the exotic charms of a black girl he met in Maryland in the poem
    “Fidenia.” He did this even as he protested his racial solidarity with white
    English women and spoke of refining the noble savage Fidenia.53 He thus showed himself, like so many then and since, to be a mess of contradictions
    on both slavery and race.

    In the late-eighteenth century, abolitionists used the negative reputation
    of colonial planters to great effect. The image of the American colonies as a
    scene of degeneracy helped move Britons in the center of the empire against
    the slavery that abolitionists insisted nurtured such moral conditions.54 Only
    in this indirect way did Kimber and his kind contribute to antislavery sentiment
    in eighteenth-century Britain, a sentiment they did not share or anticipate.
    But their condemnation of the colonies had framed the view across the
    Atlantic of generations of Englishmen. And educated colonists were all too
    aware of the way they were being represented. Thus the literature’s and the
    American planters’ resentment of it, had real consequences for the British
    empire as its fragmentation neared.55

    NOTES
    1 For a good discussion of early promotional literature, see Howard Mumford Jones, O
    Strange New World ( 1964), 179-192. For the attractions of North America for many late-colonial
    emigrants, see Bernard Bailyn, Voyagers to the West (1986), esp. ch. 1-2, 5, 11-16. For useful
    comments on earlier drafts of this paper, I acknowledge and thank Jenny Hale Pulsipher,
    Brett Rushforth, and participants in the Tenth Anniversary Conference of the Harvard
    Atlantic Seminar in August 2005. Eric Slauter and Neil L. York deserve special thanks for not
    only perceptive critiques but also referring me to vitally important source material.
    2 Michal J. Rozbicki, The Complete Colonial Gentleman (1998), esp. ch. 1, 3; 96 (quotation).
    In this valuable book, Rozbicki demonstrates how pervasive the pejorative view
    of colonial planters was, and advances these suggestive arguments as to the cause of this
    view. For more on both the facts and the causation, see Abbot Emerson Smith, Colonists
    in Bondage (1947), 6, 45-46, 54-55; James G. Basker, ed., Amazing Grace (2002), 1-81;
    Anthony S. Parent, Jr., Foul Means (2003), 58-59.
    3 Jones, O Strange New World, chs. 1-2.
    4 Quoted in Jenny Hale Pulsipher, “The Widow Ranter and Royalist Culture in
    Colonial Virginia,” Early American Literature (2004), 41.
    5 Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, ed. Janet Todd (1992), esp. 4-5, 253-260, 287, 290; quotations
    5, 256.
    6 Ebenezer Cook, The Sot-weed Factor (1708). For Cook and his literary works, as well
    as a publication history of this, his most famous poem, see Edward H. Cohen, Ebenezer
    Cooke (1975).
    7 Daniel Defoe, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (1722; repr.
    1989); quotations 228, vii-viii, 116. In contrast to my interpretation here, Michal
    Rozbicki sees Defoe’s colonial glass as at least half full. He argues that Defoe and other
    socially mobile people like him in England (the “Defoeans”) celebrated the fact that
    failed English people made good in the colonies, for that made the New World a central front in his war against gentility by inheritance alone. But Rozbicki also shows how
    ambivalent Defoe himself was about the traditional form of genteel status; idem,
    Complete Colonial Gentleman, 28-75, 137. I would suggest that this same ambivalence
    about true gentility in England extended for Defoe to the colonies, and speculate that
    the “Defoeans” may have displaced the contempt they felt from the aristocracy onto the
    colonists. Edward Kimber’s disdain for the likes of Robert Carter, discussed below, is evidence
    beyond the speculative for this latter proposition.
    8 Daniel Defoe, The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Colonel Jack
    (1722; repr. 1967), 122-128, 163-184; 182 (quotation). Later he has Colonel Jack refer
    to Virginia as “home,” and retire there, but only after many years in Europe; see Ibid., 214
    (quotation), 259-260. Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy has demonstrated the British loyalties
    of West Indian whites in the eighteenth century, depicting them convincingly as the
    stereotypical New World fortune-seekers bent on returning from “exile” to England as
    fast as possible. He suggests – but does not demonstrate – that this differentiated them
    from settlers on mainland North America, which he characterizes as “a creole society of
    committed settlers” by the mid-eighteenth century; idem, An Empire Divided (2000), 1-
    33; 6 (quotation). If we accept O’Shaughnessy’s depiction of this difference, it appears
    that Defoe and the host of writers in his train merged the realities of Chesapeake and
    West Indian planters into one image.
    9William Moraley, The Infortunate, eds. Susan E. Klepp and Billy G. Smith (1992; orig.
    publ. 1743), esp. 49-54, 110-111; 49-50 (quotation).
    10 Ibid., 147-148.
    11 Edward Kimber, Itinerant Observations in America, ed. Kevin J. Hayes (1998; orig.
    publ. 1745-46), 11-12, 28-32, 56-62, 70-77, 92; 30 (quotations). See also idem, The
    History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson (1754), 76-78.
    12 Kimber, Itinerant Observations, esp. 62-63.
    13 Kimber, Mr. Anderson, 27 (quotation).
    14 Rozbicki, Complete Colonial Gentleman, ch. 3.
    15 Contemporary novels, especially of the travel-adventure variety, were far from absent
    in the offerings of colonial booksellers. But contemporary fiction paled as a category compared
    to others in the colonial book trade from England. See Stephen Botein, “The Anglo-
    American Book Trade before 1776: Personnel and Strategies,” in William L. Joyce et al.,
    eds., Printing and Society in Early America (1983), 48-82; Elizabeth Carroll Reilly, “The
    Wages of Piety: The Boston Book Trade of Jeremy Condy,” in Ibid., esp. 126-131; Cynthia
    Z. Stiverson and Gregory A. Stiverson, “The Colonial Retail Book Trade: Availability and
    Affordability of Reading Material in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Virginia,” in Ibid., 132-173.
    My inability to document the Itinerant Observations or Mr. Anderson crossing the Atlantic is
    also based on research in colonial booksellers’ notices from Kimber’s time; see Imported in
    the last Ships from London, and to be sold by David Hall . . . (1754); Catalogue of BOOKS sold
    by Garrat Noel, at the Bible in Dock-street (1754 or 1755); BOOKS Just Imported from LONDON,
    and to be Sold by William Bradford . . . (1755); A Catalogue of Books in History, Divinity,
    Law, Arts and Sciences, and the several Parts of Polite Literature; To be Sold by Garrat Noel, Bookseller in Dock-street, New-York (1755); A Catalogue of Books . . . To be Sold, By Garrat
    Noel . . . (1759); BOOKS Imported in the last Vessel from LONDON, and to be sold by David
    Hall . . . (c.1760); Books and Stationary, Just Imported from LONDON… (1760). Both Defoe
    and especially Behn, however, were staples in these advertisements.
    16 See “A Catalogue of Books: In the Library of ‘Councillor’ Robert Carter, at Nomini
    Hall, Westmoreland County, Virginia,” William and Mary College Quarterly Historical
    Magazine 11 (1902), 21.
    17 For background on Kimber, see Ibid.
    18 The Vain Prodigal Life and Tragical Penitential Death of Thomas Hellier (1680), 5-15;
    quotations 10, 11, 12.
    19 Ibid., 23-32, 36; quotations 23, 31, 36.
    20 Basker, ed., Amazing Grace, 22-24.
    21 Moraley, Infortunate, 64, 71, 82, 96-97; quotations 64, 71.
    22 Smith, Colonists in Bondage, 116-117, 124.
    23 Franco Moretti has written a stimulating discussion of how setting matters in fiction
    – “Half methodological manifesto, half pragmatic example,” – shows that “geography is
    not an inert container, is not a box where cultural history ‘happens’, but an active force,
    that pervades the literary field and shapes it in depth”; idem, Atlas of the European Novel
    (1998), quotations 6, 3.
    24 Kimber, Mr. Anderson, 240, 286.
    25 Defoe, Colonel Jack, 162.
    26 Smith, Colonists in Bondage, 276-277; 277 (quotation).
    27 Ibid., 171; see also 158, 362 n4.
    28 Ibid., 61-62, 67-86.
    29 Defoe, Colonel Jack, 23.
    30 Cook, Sot-weed Factor, 7, 26.
    31 Defoe, Moll Flanders, 235.
    32 Ibid., 126-130.
    33 Smith, Colonists in Bondage, 70, 72.
    34 Bailyn, Voyagers to the West, chs. 9-10; quotations 299, 324.
    35 For data and reflections on the share of bound laborers in the overall emigrant population,
    see Ibid., esp. 355.
    36 My interpretation in this section of the article clashes with that of Michal Rozbicki,
    who ascribes metropolitan aspersions against the moral corruption of colonial wealth to the
    rise of antislavery sensibilities as early as the late-seventeenth century; idem, Complete
    Colonial Gentleman, 111-124. To my mind Rozbicki employs an indefensibly loose usage of
    the term “antislavery” which I seek to narrow in this section. Furthermore, he reads
    Kimber’s writings selectively, quoting only his more antislavery-sounding exclamations; see
    Ibid., 116-117.
    37 See, for starters, the two masterpieces of David Brion Davis: The Problem of Slavery in
    Western Culture (1966), and The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (1974).
    38 Basker, ed., Amazing Grace, 22-24; quotation 24.
    39 Vain Prodigal Life, 31, 36.
    40 Moraley, Infortunate, 93-97; quotations 94, 96.
    41 Behn, Oroonoko, 78, 82.
    42 Ibid., 96-97, 101-103, 105-108, 113, 125-126, 130.
    43 Kimber, Mr. Anderson, 29.
    44 Ibid., 39.
    45 Ibid., 138-139; quotation 139.
    46 Ibid., 236-237.
    47 Ibid., 261-278; quotations 263, 269, 276.
    48 Ibid., 87.
    49 Ibid., 72-74, 236 (first quotation), 278 (second quotation), 284 (third quotation).
    See also Kimber, Itinerant Observations, 37-43, 48-49.
    50 Defoe, Colonel Jack, 129-158.
    51 Kimber, Itinerant Observations, 37-43; quotations 40, 41.
    52 Kimber, Mr. Anderson, quotations 57, 19; see also 14, 47, 232.
    53 Kimber, Itinerant Observations, 75-77.
    54Srividhya Swaminathan, “Developing the West Indian Proslavery Position after the
    Somerset Decision,” Slavery and Abolition (2003), 49-50.
    55 For a suggestive discussion of this dialectic, see the new Preface to the Second
    Paperback Edition in T.H. Breen, Tobacco Culture (2001), xvi-xxiv. It was from this new
    preface that I first learned of the writings of Edward Kimber.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PUBLISHED WORKS CITED
    Bailyn, Bernard. 1986. Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve
    of the Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
    Basker, James G., ed. 2002. Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems About Slavery, 1660-
    1810. New Haven: Yale University Press.
    Behn, Aphra. 1992. Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works. Ed. Janet Todd. New York:
    Penguin Books. Orig. publ. 1688.
    Books and Stationary, Just Imported from LONDON, And to be Sold by W. Dunlap . . . 1760.
    Philadelphia: William Dunlap.
    BOOKS Imported in the last Vessel from LONDON, and to be sold by David Hall . . . 1760.
    Philadelphia: B. Franklin and D. Hall.
    BOOKS Just Imported from LONDON, and to be Sold by William Bradford . . . 1755.
    Philadelphia: William Bradford.
    Botein, Stephen. 1983. “The Anglo-American Book Trade before 1776: Personnel and
    Strategies.” In Printing and Society in Early America. Eds. William L. Joyce, David
    D. Hall, Richard D. Brown, and John B. Hench. Worcester, Mass.: American
    Antiquarian Society: 48-82.
    Breen, T. H. 2001. Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve
    of Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
    Cohen, Edward H. 1975. Ebenezer Cooke: The Sot-weed Canon. Athens: University of
    Georgia Press.
    Cook, Ebenezer. 1708. The Sot-weed Factor: Or, a Voyage to Maryland. A Satyr. In which is
    describ’d, The Laws, Government, Courts, and Constitutions of the Country; and
    also the Buildings, Feasts, Frolicks, Entertainments and Drunken Humours of the
    Inhabitants of that Part of America. London: D. Bragg.
    “A Catalogue of Books: In the Library of ‘Councillor’ Robert Carter, at Nomini Hall,
    Westmoreland County, Virginia.” 1902. William and Mary College Quarterly
    Historical Magazine 11: 21.
    Catalogue of BOOKS sold by Garrat Noel, at the Bible in Dock-street. 1754. New York:
    Garrat Noel.
    A Catalogue of Books in History, Divinity, Law, Arts and Sciences, and the several Parts of
    Polite Literature; To be Sold by Garrat Noel, Bookseller in Dock-street, New-York
    1755. New York: H. Gaine.
    A Catalogue of Books . . . To be Sold, By Garrat Noel . . . 1759. New York: H. Gaine.
    Davis, David Brion. 1966. The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
    University Press.
    ______. 1974. The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823. Ithaca, NY:
    Cornell University Press.
    Defoe, Daniel. 1967. The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Colonel Jack.
    London: The Folio Society. Orig. publ. 1722.
    ______. 1989. The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders. New York:
    Bantam Books. Orig. publ. 1722.
    Hellier, Thomas. 1680. The Vain Prodigal Life and Tragical Penitential Death of Thomas
    Hellier. London: Sam Crouch.
    Imported in the last Ships from London, and to be sold by David Hall . . . 1754. Philadelphia:
    B. Franklin and D. Hall.
    Jones, Howard Mumford. 1964. O Strange New World: American Culture: The Formative
    Years. New York: The Viking Press.
    Kimber, Edward. 1754. The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson; Containing
    His Strange Varieties of Fortune in Europe and America. London: W. Owen.
    ______. 1998. Itinerant Observations in America. Ed. Kevin J. Hayes. Newark, Delaware:
    University of Delaware Press.
    Moraley, William. 1992. The Infortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, an
    Indentured Servant. Eds. Susan E. Klepp and Billy G. Smith. University Park, Pa.:
    Pennsylvania State University Press.
    Moretti, Franco. 1998. Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900. London: Verso.
    O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. 2000. An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and
    the British Caribbean. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    Parent, Jr., Anthony S. 2003. Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia,
    1660-1740. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
    Pulsipher, Jenny Hale. 2004. “The Widow Ranter and Royalist Culture in Colonial
    Virginia.” Early American Literature 39, 1: 41-66.
    Reilly, Elizabeth Carroll. 1983. “The Wages of Piety: The Boston Book Trade of Jeremy
    Condy.” In Printing and Society in Early America. Eds. William L. Joyce, David D.
    Hall, Richard D. Brown, and John B. Hench. Worcester, Mass.: American
    Antiquarian Society: 126-131.
    Rozbicki, Michal J. 1998. The Complete Colonial Gentleman: Cultural Legitimacy in
    Plantation America. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
    Stiverson, Cynthia Z. and Gregory A. Stiverson. 1983. “The Colonial Retail Book Trade:
    Availability and Affordability of Reading Material in Mid-Eighteenth-Century
    Virginia.” In Printing and Society in Early America. Eds. William L. Joyce, David
    D. Hall, Richard D. Brown, and John B. Hench. Worcester, Mass.: American
    Antiquarian Society: 132-173.
    Smith, Abbot Emerson. 1947. Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in
    America, 1607-1776. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
    Swaminathan, Srividhya. 2003. “Developing the West Indian Proslavery Position after the
    Somerset Decision.” Slavery and Abolition 24, 3: 49-60
     
  2. SWfan

    SWfan
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    tl ; dr Not even autists write #shitposts this long.
     
  3. GSTalbert1

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  4. SWfan

    SWfan
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    Not as mad as the spic in dat image.
     
  5. Dr. Rice

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    Excellent posting about slavery. tl;dr, slavery sucks and the first slaves en masse in the Americas were "indentured servants."