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Belinda Sutton's Post-enslavement Petitions

2016-12-14 | 🔗

After she became a free woman, Belinda Sutton successfully petitioned for compensation for her years of enslaved labor. This was one of many legal efforts of enslaved and formerly enslaved people to advocate for themselves in Massachusetts courts.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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people are make us out like that, live like this. The trip for funding, but now it was a trip to basically go on a video recording extravaganza field trip with two of our house. Tat works, video crew, Casey in Paul and the four of US spent a lot of time over three days. Interviewing people according videos in seeing amazing historical sites. It was both fund and exhausting super exhausting, but soon profound yeah, I think even more exhausting for Casey Appall, they did So much of the heavy lifting by nature of being the video and sound as both literally and figuratively, they did a laudable every living thing. Yes, yes, you, when I helped carry whenever we could, but you know we can't be in front of the camera and also holding it that of really work with our set up. So the first stop
main was at the Royal house and slave quarters and Medford Massachusetts, and the Royal House was home to Isaac Royal and his family during eighteenth century and the royal where the largest slave only slave owning family in Massachusetts, and they haven't enslaved workforce both at their Medford home and on sugar. When patients in Antigua, which is a big part of how the Royals made Money. There is ready, a video on our website that tells more of the story of the Royals and their enslaved worked workforce and how those lives intertwined together, the property and we're going to put a link to it in the shouts and on our social media and all of that kind of stuff. When this up said comes out, there are also some more videos already out and coming soon from that trip, which we really excited about and will also be sharing on our website and social media as those are ready. Today's episode of the pod
It is also inspired by our trip to the Royal House Museum. There's a lot You don't know about the people who were enslaved when it was still a home and there's documentation for about sixty enslaved people. Overt new generations of royal ownership there, I'm in Massachusetts Property, but the actual number was probably quite a lot higher one enslaved woman in particular, stands out. Belinda Sutton, whose success The petition for compensation were her years of enslaved labour on the royal property and by the time Belinda Petition for com. Station. The royal family was already incredibly wealthy and just for clarity, I feel it I should point out that when we say the Royals again, it's our oh, why a l, l its proper name yet ensure that his name was Isaac Royal. We just want to make entirely clear. They were not actual royalty
family was by this point incredibly wealthy, but they did not start out credibly wealthy Isaac right senior born. Sixteen seventy two came from a new England, family of relatively modest means, but that changed after he purchased a sugar plantation in Antigua This was during the era of the triangle trade that interconnected trading system that relied on enslaved Africans, crops like sugar in cotton and products made from those crops like Rome and Cloth by trading mainly in Rome, sugar and enslave Africans, Isaac Royal Senior became very wealthy if the common misperception in North Amerika. Only the southern economy relied on slavery but in reality, a lot of the wealth in New England and other leather, whether we areas was connected directly to the slave trade and on into is that relied on slave labour for a time. The royal
we actually lived in Antigua, but in seventeen. Thirty Isaac, Senior decided to relocate back to New England and his reasons for so we're not specifically recorded, but we do know that the year, but, Were a series of gruesome executions have been carried out on Antigua in response to the threat of a slave revolts this revolt really was in. The works continues to be the subject of some historical debate and its certainly would not have been the first occurrence of a slave resistance effort on the island if it was an inch, saved man, known as Prince class confessed, planned a massive uprising that would not only have overthrown islands planters, but also what massacred its white population how, There isn't much physical evidence to support the idea that such a vast uprising was really imminent,
So, while some historians are completely convinced that it was other suspect that the white slave owners and the court who were vastly out heard by the island's enslaved population, exaggerated is actually a much smaller threat, possibly as a product of their own fear. The Situations, however, were definitely real, with five people being broken on a wheel, six gibbeted and seventy seven burned at the stake. One of the royals enslaved overseers was among those burned at the store. And another was reprieved at the stake. In exchange for information, he had so it while it's not, down anywhere exactly what prompted them to go back You do New England, it's pretty reasonable to suspect that the royals went back because they feared for their safety to prepare for the families arrival back in Massachusetts, Isaac Royal,
senior bought a piece of property in Medford, just called ten hills farm, and this was a five hundred acre property that how's the colonial farmhouse, which was expanded into a three story. Georgian mansion, along with Barnes and other outbuildings there, also a slave quarters which still stands today and is the only free standing slave housing still left in the north. The structure that became the slave quarters started out as an out kitchen or a separate kitchen that would allow people to cook in hot weather, without heating up house, and that was standing before the rest of the quarters were added. Aren't you it there the M on the property that today includes both the mansion and the slave quarters. And when the Royals took up residence there at ten hills farm, they had at least twenty seven enslaved Africans with them Isaac senior died in seventeen. Thirty nine and Isaac Junior one of his two surviving children inherited most of the estate. At this point, the Royals,
one of the wealthiest families of Massachusetts and Isaac. Junior and his wife Elizabeth were very prominent in society, living life of absolute luxury and holding lavish parties and for Isaacs part. Also. holding public office with the approach of the revolutionary war. Isaac Junior fled Massachusetts, leaving his mansion most of his physical property and more than twenty enslaved people behind. Apparently, he had sympathies with the cause for independence, but he also had a lot of financial reasons to stay loyal to the crown he tried to get passage back to Antigua, but he couldn't, and instead he went to Nova Scotia just before the battle of Lexington in seven seventy five. A year later, he joined his daughters, families in England and he died there of smallpox in seventeen eighty one. his will Isaac Junior left money to harboured which was used to endow the universities first law professorship. The shield
relax school was for this reason of modeled. After the royal family coat of arms, the royal professorship still exists, but the last school agreed retire, the sealed and replace it with a new one in March, twenty sixteen and as part of the same protests that led to this decision, students actually also occupied a lounge on campus and renamed Belinda Hall after Belinda sudden, who will we talking more about a moment? basically now that we will be talking more about her. The moment has arrived. Belinda was chained in Isaac Juniors will as well saying quote. I do give unto my said daughter, my negro woman Belinda in case she does not choose her freedom if she'd Choose her freedom to have it, provided that she gets security She shall not be charged to the town of Medford, and he also instructed his executor to pay Belinda thirty pounds for three years.
however, by the time of his death, Isaac, Junior actually no longer had a lot of his property in Massachusetts. A lot of it had been confiscated during the war and some of the people who had been slave. There had had been enslaved, there had been freed and others had been sold elsewhere, and later documents Belinda, who was reference, well, is called Belinda Sutton, a widow. but we don't actually know who her husband was when she married him, some of the early documents that reference her present her last name is royal, but it was common for info People to be given their owners, surnames, Belinda, at least two children, a sun named Joseph. and a daughter were guessing on the pronunciation of whether its pride or prime aim, but its p r I and II, who were baptized in Medford in seventeen sixty and it appears that her son was sold away from her, possibly at the same time that she was freed. Although the commonwealth did
we met Belinda, along with at least some of the other people who were confiscated from the royal estate. I didn't really make provisions first, her survival afterward, and we will talk about how that led. Her petition after a quick word from a sponsor Bulgaria class. Well, a car leasing, one o one. Today's lesson is price negotiation. First, take out your phones and go on the road or app pick. A car and you'll see the price. All the discounts, taxes and fees are included Crystal clear surprises. Ok, that's the end of a lesson in the questions. Yes, Jackson, that's it! That's it next! Yes, Sir Way, so we don't have to negotiate a price nope Roto takes care of it. All. Ok,
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of her life working for no pay Belinda had essentially nothing to live on and no way to support herself. In her daughter on February fourteen seventeen, eighty three Belinda presented a petition to the Massachusetts General Court. It began quote commonly Massachusetts to the honourable, the Senate and the House of Representatives in General Court assembled the petition of Belinda, an African humbly shoes that seventy have rolled away said she on the banks of the Rio Devout their received her existence, the mountains covered with spicy forests. The valleys loaded with the richest fruits spontaneously produced joined to that happy temperature of air to exclude excess. would have yielded her. The most complete felicity had not her mind received early impressions of the cruelty of men whose faces were like them.
And whose bows and arrows were like the thunder and the lightening of the clouds there Malta is what's called the Volta River today, what was it that point known as the gold coasts and its now, Ghana, that was wearable they had lived until about the age of twelve, whereas she described in the petition. She was Anna Sacred Grove with her parents paying devotions two or each end quote an arm. the band of white men driving many of her countrymen in chains ran in the hallowed CHE shade, referring to herself in the third, person she goes on quote. She was ravished bosom of her country from the arms of her friends. While the advanced age of her parents rendered I'm unfit for servitude, cruelly separated her from them forever after she describes her path,
crossed the Atlantic and her arrival on a continent. She states that she worked for fifty years for Isaac Royal until after the war before concluding quote. The face of your petition is now marked with the furrows of time and her frame, we bending under the oppression of years, while she Laws of the land is denied the enjoyment of one morsel of that immense wealth apart. Whereof has been accumulated by her own industry and the whole augmented by her servitude, wherefore casting herself at the feet of your honours as to a body of men formed the extirpation of vassalage for the reward of virtue and the just return of honest industry. She plucked she praise that such allowance, maybe her out of the estate of Colonel Royal, as will prevent and her more infirm, daughter from misery in the greatest extreme and scatter comfort over the short and down
the path of their lives and she will ever pray so five paragraphs Belinda describes her childhood in Ghana. Her capture, the middle passage her arrival and the fact that she spent most of her life helping to build the wealth of the royal family when she heard was not allowed any portion of that wealth or even to own any property, and she ends by asking for operations, a payment of damages for having been wronged specifically to be taken out of the estate of the man. She worked for without being compensated for all that time. Some of the petitions path, is aren't necessarily meant to be read completely literally. For example, the word or each year is Yorba and it's a word that means deity But you ll ever was spoken a little farther west than the gold coast where Belinda would have been from so it's not entirely clear way
Belinda or perhaps the person who helped her right. This petition might have learned or how they might have used it. The description of below capture also specifies that her captors were white. However, far more likely that she was initially captured by other Africans, further inland before being taken to the coast and sold to white slave traders, you can learn more about this aspect of the slave trade. In our past podcast on Dahomey and the royal palaces of abode may describing her abductors is white may have been an intentional effort to appeal to the moral sensibilities of judges or to resist attempts to shift the blame for slavery onto Africans who captured the slaves rather than on the Europeans who created the demand for them. You will still see people trying to make this argument on the internet today. Likely. Belinda herself was illiterate. Her signature on this and other petitions as an axe and her most likely assisted increase.
Eating. This petition was a man named Prince Hall. He had been enslaved from birth around seventeen thirty five, and then he had been freed in seventeen. Seventy after become afraid he became an activist and an abolitionist in Boston where he was also the founder of an African Masonic Lodge. He helped author at least, to petition for a general manumission and men in Massachusetts, and we will talk a little bit more about these other petitions. They were all presented during Belinda's life and around the same time, a little bit later in the show Belinda's I also quickly became part of a growing body of anti slavery. Literature Quaker mission is distributed copies and the New Jersey Gazette reprinted it
its entirety on June eighteenth of seventeen eighty three soon, this petition was being reprinted in other newspapers and anti slavery, journals on both sides of the Atlantic in at least one british case. There were quite a number of creed of liberties, basically rewriting this legal petition into Slave narrative, in the first person in terms of the ruling Belinda's petition, was successful when seventeen eighty the court awarded her and her daughter and annual pension of fifteen pounds, twelve shillings to be paid out of the profits of the royal estate. How were the estate only paid this pension for a year and then ignored. Belinda's repeated requests for it in seventeen B, seven Belinda, went back to court to try to force the royal estate to pay the pension as ordered, and the court once again found in her favour. The estate did make its payments for three
years before stopping again leading Belinda back to court in seventeen, ninety and after payments stopped once again she had to submit yet another petition in seventeen. Ninety three and once again the ruling was in her favour. from where there is really no record of her until Willis Hall, who had been executor of Isaac, royalty nears estate, requested that he be granted the rest of the money in the state Treasury, saying quote to family servants who were left behind them had been died. Presumably one of the people he is talking about was Belinda, and that was in seventeen. Ninety nine and Belinda's petition was by far not the first, nor the only petition connected to slavery to be presented in Massachusetts Courts, as you mentioned just a moment ago, and we're gonna talk more about this topic after we first pause forward from one of our fantastic sponsor
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the car right to your house so hit the road, the easy way with road out I believe this petition was part of ongoing legal efforts of enslaved and formerly enslaved people to advocate for themselves through Massachusetts courts. A lot of these workers, funds for freedom. There were enough of those that there are definitely sources that Mr Report Belinda's possess a petition as being one for her freedom, which it was not the end I slavery petitions Massachusetts diverse at Harvard has a huge the action of anti slavery and anti segregation documents. Waiting, Belinda's petitions online as early as seventeen. Seventy individual enslaved people in Massachusetts, pursuing their owners in court for their own freedom or for compensation for their labour or for both, and some of these suits, were in fact successful.
Petitions for general freedom for all people and Massachusetts started before the revolutionary. as well enslaved people submitted six different petitions for general emancipation, but in seventeen. Seventy three and seventeen seventy seven alone, Prince Hall, who probably helps Belinda craft. Her petition had submitted two of these in the late seventeen seventies, asking for a general emancipation protection against being kidnapped back into slavery, financial help for former slaves who wanted to settle in Africa and public education access for black students. Many of these early, but
and were connected directly to the language, the Patriot cause was using to frame the Revolutionary war and the wish for the colonies to be freed from british rule. They called on the course to recognise that the inalienable right to freedom was not limited only to white people. These seventeen seventies petitions prompted one bill to abolish slavery in Massachusetts, although it was ultimately unsuccessful. Some of the petitions also drew from the Bible citing old testament passages requiring the freedom, the freeing of slaves every seven years with those freedoms being compensated. In one case, petitioners submitted a pamphlet by James Swan, who was a member of the sons of liberty and a participant in the Boston Tea Party which attacks slavery from numerous angles, including the biblical one. It's possible that Belinda's petition was
patterned after or inspired by the petition of Anthony Vassal of Cambridge Massachusetts, he had submitted a petition in seventeen eighty one requesting the title to land owned by his former owner John Basle, as compensation for his years of unpaid labour before being enslaved under John Basle, Anthony and his wife had lived Medford, where they had been owned by Isaac, Royal Junior sister, Penelope, vassal, John so was a loyalist, is had been exiled and here's a state had been prosecuted and Anthony successfully are that. He was owed, reparations for having worked on that land, where his wife and their children had also been enslaved. Although he was awarded the child to the land that he asked work.
Was granted an annual pension of twelve pounds out of the proceeds of the estate, it was in fact court rulings that would eventually end slavery in Massachusetts. In seventeen. Eighty one, Elizabeth Freeman, then known as mum bet successfully shoot her owner for freedom under the grounds that the newly adopted Massachusetts Constitution forbade it in article one quote: all men are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned with the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties. That, of course,
Ring possessing had protecting property in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness that same year and enslaved man known as Squawk Walker escaped from the Daniel Genesis and when Jettison found Walker, he beat him leading Walker to see him for assault on battery. This led to a series of counter suits, ending with Commonwealth Verses Jensen in seventeen. Eighty three, during the instructions to the jury, chief justice, Cushing, stated quote and upon this ground. Our constitution of government, by which the peace full of the cause of this commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves sets out with declaring that all men are born, free and equal, and that every subject is entitled to liberty and the havoc. guided by the laws as well as life and property and, in short, is totally repugnant to the idea of being born slaves. This being the case, I think that idea of slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct. An com
to use in. There can be no such thing as perpetual servitude of a rational creature unless his liberty is forfeited by some critical criminal conduct or given up by personal consent or contract common, versus Jemison, effectively ended slavery in Massachusetts, although there continue to be some people and slave for some time, afterward, particularly under the guise of indentured servitude. That is Belinda's petition. There are a lot of people in articles that describe Belinda's first petition as the first petition for four reparations for slavery to exist in the United States. I think that's a little over simplified to fault. Anybody, in that A lot of these petitions were really difficult to access until that big, Harvard database that we talked about a little
earlier was on, and it became a lot easier to search through them. I it made those documents a lot more accessible to people but Belinda's, but definitely is part of a much greater legal effort that was ongoing in Massachusetts for years to try to at least on an individual basis compensate some some previously in slaved people for basically the damage that was done by having them be part of building their own. wealth while forbidden to do you know a key late any wealth or possessions of their own how's. The listener look at this time around I've got some less Norman you. This is from Christina, as a little bit of information to our recent podcast on the deck. A war and the whites downhill massacre, and she says I sort of listening to your pack ass. The sun
and I adore them. I was excited to listen to your recent pie cast on the Dakota WAR of eighteen. Sixty two. As I finished writing a novel, last year, as I am sure you know from your research. The topic is both interesting and emotionally difficult to study. The brutalities on both sides were hard to stomach twenty three care he's in Minnesota were virtually depopulated up to three hundred Dakota died at fort knowing that winter and six thousand were removed from Minnesota permanently. Some estimates as to the death toll of the war range as high as eight hundred civilians, the moon civilians killed on american soil as the result of hostile action only exceeded by on eleven I was also aim, A visit southern Minnesota, the seer, including new home and the ruins of Fort richly there's a monument there to the fort civilian defenders, including several women. He ran into the thick of battle to collect, spent bullets
down and make more the fact that hundreds of civilians and soldiers survive on those two weeks in a form that originally I even have a wall surrounding the buildings is incredible. My book focused on the stories of heroism from both settlers Amber Dakota. Many of the Peace Party were christian and lived quote. Instead, with this in before the war, meaning that they lived like the white settlers, they were scornfully, referred to, as quote cut hairs by other, tried members and were forced to join the uprising under threat of death. These peaceful Dakota, sheltered captives lead other captives to freedom and fought with the white soldiers against the war party. If you want more information from that, the quota side of things
highly recommend through Dakota eyes, narrative accounts of the Minnesota Indian WAR of eighteen, sixty two edited by Gary Clayton Anderson and Alan are Woolworth. I appreciate your dedication to sharing your love and knowledge of history to all your listeners, Michael in writing, is to put the story back into history, and you, ladies display, that perfectly in your pod casts and then she said, couple of podcast ideas. Thank you so much Christina. I will see if I can find a link to wear folks can find that book and I will put a link to it in our show notes. If you would like to write to us about this or any other podcast weaker history, pike ass, it has two weeks: dot com were also on Facebook, at Facebook, dot, com flashes than history and on twitter I missed in history. Our tumblr is MR history that tumblr dot com and we are also on Pinterest and Instagram, missed in history,
you can come to our appearance companies website, which is how stuff works. A cop and learn a whole lot about anything. Your heart desires and you think, I'm too our website which, as MR history dot com, where you will find, showed it to all of our episodes The video we talked about at the top of the show and more videos that we are working on now, you can find archive. Also ever report, as we have learned, so we can do all that. a lot more. But how stuff works, dark arm or missed in history that the more on this and thousands of other topics The house work, Stockholm. I'm pretty sure. I'm America's number one gossip column is. I
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