2.1.2. The Mid-Atlantic States (1624-1776): Slavery in the Mid-Atlantic Colonies


  • Slavery was an established institution in the mid-Atlantic colonies throughout the colonial era.  There were few slaves in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but slaves made up as much as 20% of New York’s population in the mid-1700s. 
  • Mid-Atlantic colonists, like their counterparts in the southern colonies, were concerned about the threat of slave and servile rebellions.  New York and New Jersey enacted slave codes and also harsh restrictions on free blacks in order to try to forestall that threat.  Pennsylvania enacted few slave laws due mainly to the fact that Quakers, who were a powerful political force in colonial Pennsylvania, adamantly opposed slavery.

 

New York

New Jersey

Pennsylvania

1664 – statutory recognition of slavery

1702 – slave code:  owners can punish slaves freely, “not extending to life or member”; slaves not allowed to meet in groups larger than 3 except for work

1712 – Slave insurrection

1712 – Slaveowners must provide bond for slaves’ expenses as condition of freeing slaves

1741 – Slave insurrection

1773 – Slaveowners who free aged slaves without means of support are penalized

1713 – slave code:  slaves could not travel without a pass; slaveowners must provide bond for slaves’ expenses as condition of freeing slaves; free blacks not allowed to own property

1743 – Slave insurrection plans discovered and quashed

1761 – Slaves not allowed to meet in groups larger than 5

1725 – Slaveowners must provide bond for slaves’ expenses as condition of freeing slaves

1726 – Miscegenation prohibits; slaves could not travel without a pass

 


First slave auction at New Amsterdam, 1655 (Howard Pyle) - courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“It is found by Experience, that the free Negroes of this colony are an Idle slothfull people and prove very often a charge on the place where they are.”  -
New York Slave Code, 1712
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