Archive for the ‘North Carolina’ Category

“land … they cultivate … better than their Master”

JANET SCHAW was a formidable Scotswoman who traveled across the Atlantic in 1774 to deliver three young relatives to their father John Rutherfurd who was a merchant and plantation owner in North Carolina. The journal she kept describing her voyage and experiences in the American South are invaluable resources. In honor of Martin Luther King Day I thought it would be informative to add to our knowledge of the nature and practice of slavery by presenting some of Schaw’s comments on these subjects. She found the largesse of nature in the area to be impressive, but criticized the character and indolent behavior of the white inhabitants who seemed disinclined to take advantage of it. She had praise, albeit grudging, for the slaves who made better use of this natural abundance than their white masters.

The congress has forbid killing Mutton, veal or lamb, so that little variety is to be had from the domestick animals; but indulgent nature makes up for every want, by the vast quantities of wild birds, both of land and water. The wild Turkeys, the wild pigeon, a bird which they call a partridge, but above all the rice-bird, which is the Ortalon in its highest perfection, and from the water the finest ducks that possibly can be met with, and so plenty that when on wing sixteen or eighteen are killed at a shot. The beauty of the Summer-duck makes its death almost a murder. The deer now is large, but not so fat as it will be some time hence; it is however in great plenty, and makes good soup. The rivers are full of fine fish, and luxury itself cannot ask a boon that is not granted. Do not however suppose by this that you meet elegant tables, far from it; this profusion is in general neglected. The gentlemen indeed out of idleness shoot deer, but nothing under a wild turkey is worth a shot. As they are now on the eve of a War, or something else I dare not name, perhaps they save their powder for good reasons. . . .

The Negroes are the only people that seem to pay any attention to the various uses that the wild vegetables may be put to. For example, I have sent you a paper of their vegetable pins* made from the prickly pear, also molds for buttons made from the calabash [a type of squash], which likewise serves to hold their victuals. The allowance for a Negro is a quart of Indian corn pr day (an infant has the same allowance with its parents as soon as born), and a little piece of land which they cultivate much better than their Master. There they rear hogs and poultry, sow calabashes, &c and are better provided for in every thing than the poorer white people with us. They steal whatever they can come at, and even intercept the cows and milk them. They are indeed the constant plague of their tyrants, whose severity or mildness is equally regarded by them in these Matters.

*Clothing was generally pinned together rather than sewn allowing for variety: sleeves were attached to a bodice with straight pins, for example. (See this post for more information.) As safety pins had not been invented, baby diapers were also held together with pins. Metal pins were typically used but these were expensive and also in short supply as American boycotts of British products took effect. Substitutes were sought, hence Shaw’s reference.

The excerpt can be found on page 139 of In the Words of Women.

posted January 18th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Farming,Food,North Carolina,Schaw, Janet,Slaves/slavery

“the order . . . wounds us with the most sincere distress”

Anne Hooper was the wife of William Hooper—one of the three delegates from North Carolina who signed the Declaration of Independence. Hooper, the son of a minister, had been born in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Educated at Harvard, he studied law with the radical James Otis but decided to move to Wilmington, North Carolina, to practice as he thought that Boston had too many lawyers. He married Anne Clark, daughter of a well-to-do merchant and plantation owner, built a plantation house called Finian, and continued his political activities. When the British took Wilmington in 1781, they took revenge on Hooper by burning a house he had in town and shelling Finian. Mrs. Hooper was forced to flee to her brother for shelter. Her husband wrote to his friend James Iredell that

she . . . and others had been expelled from Wilmington, and suffered to carry with them nothing but their wearing apparel; that some of the ladies had sought shelter near Wilmington, but that Mrs. Hooper and Mrs. Allen had been seen with their families in wagons . . . moving towards Hillsboro. . . . I then resolved to . . . to secure, if possible, some of my negroes, and to collect what I could from the wreck of my property. I found that Mrs. Hooper had managed . . . to carry off all our household linen, blankets, and all the wearing apparel of herself and children [leaving] behind all her furniture . . . . The British had borne off every article of house and kitchen furniture, knives, forks, plates, and spoons an almost general sweep; nor had they the spared the beds . . . My library, except as to law books, is shamefully injured, and above 100 valuable volumes taken away . . . You know my partiality to my books.

In 1782, with the preliminary articles of peace drawn up in Paris, Americans regained control of Wilmington and determined to retaliate for the treatment of patriots and their property under the British by doing the same to Loyalist families and possessions. Anne Hooper did not think this was proper as it affected women and children who had little to do with the political positions and activities of their husbands. She and several other women took it upon themselves to petition the governor urging that this punitive policy not be carried out.

Anne Hooper, Sarah Nash, Mary Nash, and others, to His excellency Gov. Alex Martin and the
Members of the Honorable Council
We, the subscribers, inhabitants of the town of Wilmington, warmly attached to the State of North Carolina, and strenuously devoted to our best wishes and endeavours to the achievements of its independence, feeling for the honor of, and desirous that our Enemies should not have the smallest pretext to brand them as cruel or precipitate, that the dignity of our public characters may not be degraded to the imitation of examples of inhumanity of
our Enemies,
Humbly shew to His Excellency, the Governor, and the honorable the council, that we have been informed that orders have issued from your honorable board that the wives and children of Absentees should depart the State with a small part of their property in forty eight hours after notice given them
It is not the province of our sex to reason deeply upon the policy of the order, but as it must affect the helpless and innocent, it wounds us with the most sincere distress and prompts our earnest supplication that the order may be arrested, and officers forbid to carry it into execution. If it is intended as retaliation for the expulsion of some of us, the subscribers, by the British from the Town of Wilmington, and to gratify a resentment which such inhumanity to us may be supposed to have excited, its object is greatly mistaken.
Those whom your proclamation holds forth as marks of public vengeance, neither prompted the British nor aided the execution of it. On the contrary, they expressed the greatest indignation at it, and with all their power strove to mitigate our sufferings. Still some instances attended which made the execution of it less distressing to us than yours must be to those upon whom it is intended to operate. We were ordered without the British Lines and then our friends were ready to receive us. They received us with a cordial welcome, and ministered to our wants with generosity and politeness. With pleasure we bear this public testimony. But our Town women now ordered out must be exposed to the extreme of human wretchedness. Their friends are in Charles Town; they have neither carriages nor horses to remove them by land, nor vessels to transport them by water, and the small pittance allotted them of their property, could they be procured, would be scarce equal to the purchase of them. It is beneath the character of the independent State of North Carolina to war with women and children. The authors of our ill treatment are the proper subjects of our own and the resentment of the public. Does their barbarity strike us with abhorrence? Let us blush to imitate it; not justify by our own practice what we so justly condemn in others. To Major Craig, and him alone, is to be imputed the inhuman edicts, for even the British Soldiers were shocked at it.
If we may be allowed to claim any merit with the public for our steady adherence to the Whig principles of America; if our sufferings induced by the attachment have given us favor and esteem with your honorable body, we beg leave to assure you that we shall hold it as a very signal mark of your respect for us if you will condescend to suffer to remain amongst us our old friends and acquaintances whose husbands, though estranged from us in political opinions, have left wives and children much endeared to us, and who may live to honor the State and to Society if permitted to continue here. The safety of this State, we trust in God, is now secured beyond the most powerful exertions of our Enemies, and it would be a system of abject weakness to fear the feeble efforts of women and children.
And as in Duty bound we shall ever pray.
Anne Hooper, Ann Towkes, Mary Allen, M. Hand, Sarah Nash, S. Wilkings, Mary Nash, M. Lord, Mary Moore, Isabella Read, E. Nash, Sally Read, Sarah Moore, Mary Granger, M. Loyd, Jane Ward, Catharine Young, Hannah Ward, J.M. Drayton, Kitty Ward, E. Wilkings,

Information about William Hooper and his letter to James Iredell can be found HERE. The Women’s Petition is in the Executive Letter Book, Colonial & State Records, vol. 16, pp. 467–69.

posted April 9th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Hooper, Anne Clark,Hooper, William,North Carolina

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