Massachusetts, John Ashley, Elizabeth Freeman discussed on The History of American Slavery


We don't know Elizabeth freemen's zapping birthday but it was probably in seventeen forty two. She's born in Claver New York to enslaved parents whose origins are lost to us as an infant she was sold to the magistrate and soldier. John Ashley in the Western Massachusetts town of Sheffield during her enslaved life. She was known as bent. No last name later. After she had a daughter she came to be known as Mum Bet John. Ashley's house was a place where people talked with. Great Passion about the new ideas in the air. In those revolutionary days of natural law and the ideas of Locke Montesquieu and other enlightenment philosophers attending to Ashley's Table Freeman discussions of the Sheffield resolves which were locally published precursor to the Declaration of Independence and of the new Massachusetts constitution which was adopted in seventeen eighty later. She attended a public reading of Jefferson. Speculation in Sheffield Freeman. Wondered why these new ideas didn't apply to her own life. She came to the conclusion that her enslavement was wrong. Under Massachusetts new laws after coming into conflict with their mistress one too many times she left the house and asked an abolition minded lawyer. Theodore Sedgwick to help her sue for freedom. Another enslaved servants in the Ashley House joined Hirsute. Sedgwick brought the case to the county. Court were exceeded. It became an important precedent to a later Superior Court case that established the illegality of slavery in Massachusetts After Winning Hirsute. Mamba took the name. Elizabeth Freeman the Ashley. Asked her to come back and serve in their household as a paid servant. She declined and said she worked for the SEDGWICK's the family of her lawyer. She died in eighteen. Twenty nine at age eighty five her children inscribed this on her gravestone in the stockbridge cemetery. She was born a slave and remains a slave for nearly thirty years. She could neither read nor write yet in her own sphere. She had no superior or equal. She neither wasted time nor property. She never violated a trust nor failed to perform a duty and every situation of domestic trial she was the most efficient helper and the tenders friend. Good mother farewell in today's episode. We are talking about the shape of slavery in the revolutionary period. How the enlightenment? Ideas that shape the revolution and held founder government also inhibited encourage the spread of slavery in the entire United States. And then from there. We'll talk about the ways in which northern and southern states handled slavery in their courts and in their legal systems. But before we do any of that we're going to talk a bit about Elizabeth Freeman High Rebecca. Hey so that sounds like a really remarkable life indeed stories like this always makes me wonder you know we get a lot of movies about the same kind of person in American history. Lots of movies about Founding Fathers Series about were heroes. But we don't really get the see very many people like her. I would love to see her movie. There is so many ins and outs in her life and so much courage and strength. It'd be a great subject for script. Why why did he choose the story? And where did you find it? He wants money as I can't even remember where I came across it. It might actually have been dug. Edgerton book that one of our guest today but you know as soon as I read you know. This is all men who although she was you know nominally. On the periphery of life in Massachusetts. She also was absorbing everything around her thinking about everything that was happening and put the new ideas that She was finding out about into practice quickly and really changed things for people in Massachusetts. I had certain preconception before. I read a lot of stuff that I read for this series about what with slavery during the Revolutionary War. And right afterward. I was always sort of tot that controversy over slavery at the Constitutional Convention. Decisions were made by a bunch of white guys in a stuffy room and a sort of fought over what they were gonNA put into the Charter for the New Nation but the Mumbai has made me. Thank you know things were happening? On a lot of different levels there is happening at the local level in people's conversations. Like on the street in and they're drawing rooms and in the tavern discussions in state legislatures people are just talking about it everywhere and of course it makes perfect sense that somebody like that. Who's a smart person? Who's around a lot of smart ideas? Being discussed would be thinking about it and talking about it and taking action. Did you have preconceived ideas about what happened with slavery during the war? I don't actually think I had any preconceived idea I mean. Partly there's a product of my own knowledge gaps. My knowledge of slavery really kind of begins after the war of eighteen twelve. I know just from schools from high school that we have talked about slavery in the colonial period is almost an afterthought for me. All of this raises a couple of questions to I. I wonder if y colonials were concerned about what might happen with the revolution in with the institution of slavery. Because I mean imagine that you have revolution in the air. People are fighting. You know all sorts of disruption happened And you have. At certain point British officials saying combined for us. And you'll get your freedom. What about those slaves? You take the offer. Seriously what do colonial white colonial Americans think about that? How did they react? It also really pinpoints the sort of geographical difference between what it meant to be enslaved in the north and what it meant to be enslaved in the south. 'cause you have these ideas circulating in both places and enslaved people hearing them and thinking about what to do but the cases are really different and the consequences for what people in these different places are really different. That is interesting to me as well. That's right different. People are GonNa make different kinds of calculations about how to achieve their interest and that that includes both people who own slaves and the enslaved themselves and then sort of like to know more about those calculations in those choices. Yeah exactly after the break. We're GONNA talk a little bit more about how slavery for into some of the other intellectual discussions that were going on about the rights of Man. Well as three min was listening.

Coming up next