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Manumission, or enfranchisement, is the act of freeing slaves by their owners. Different approaches to manumission were developed, each specific to the time and place of a particular society. Jamaican historian Verene Shepherd states that the most widely used term is gratuitous manumission, "the conferment of freedom on the enslaved by enslavers before the end of the slave system".
The motivations for manumission were complex and varied. Firstly, it may present itself as a sentimental and benevolent gesture. One typical scenario was the freeing in the master's will of a devoted servant after long years of service. A trusted bailiff might be manumitted as a gesture of gratitude. For those working as agricultural laborers or in workshops, there was little likelihood of being so noticed.
Such feelings of benevolence may have been of value to slave owners themselves as it allowed them to focus on a "humane component" in the human traffic of slavery. In general, it was more common for older slaves to be given freedom once they had reached the age at which they were beginning to be less useful. Legislation under the early Roman Empire put limits on the number of slaves that could be freed in wills ( Lex Fufia Caninia , 2 BCE), which suggests that it had been widely used.
Freeing slaves could serve the pragmatic interests of the owner. The prospect of manumission worked as an incentive for slaves to be industrious and compliant. Roman slaves were paid a wage ( peculium ), which they could save up to buy themselves freedom. Manumission contracts found, in some abundance at Delphi (Greece), specify in detail the prerequisites for liberation.
Manumission was not always charitable or altruistic. In one of the stories in the Arabian Nights , in the Richard Francis Burton translation, a slave owner threatens to free his slave for lying to him. The slave says, "thou shall not manumit me, for I have no handicraft whereby to gain my living". Burton notes: "Here the slave refuses to be set free and starve. For a master to do so without ample reason is held disgraceful".
A History of Ancient Greece explains that in the context of Ancient Greece, affranchisement came in many forms.A master choosing to free his slave would most likely do so only "at his death, specifying his desire in his will". In rare cases, slaves who were able to earn enough money in their labour were able to buy their own freedom and were known as choris oikointes. Two 4th-century bankers, Pasion and Phormio, had been slaves before they bought their freedom. A slave could also be sold fictitiously to a sanctuary from where a god could enfranchise him. In very rare circumstances, the city could affranchise a slave. A notable example is that Athens liberated everyone who was present at the Battle of Arginusae (406 BCE).
Even once a slave was freed, he was not generally permitted to become a citizen, but would become a metic. The master then became a prostatès. [ citation needed ] Sometimes, extra payments were specified by which a freed slave could liberate himself from such residual duties.[ citation needed ] However, ex-slaves were able to own property outright, and their children were free of all constraint.The former slave could be bound to some continuing duty to the master and was commonly required to live near the former master (paramone). Breaches of these conditions could lead to beatings, prosecution at law and re-enslavement.
Under Roman law, a slave had no personhood and was protected under law mainly as his or her master's property. In Ancient Rome, a slave who had been manumitted was a libertus (feminine liberta) and a citizen.Manumissions were taxed.
The soft felt pileus hat was a symbol of the freed slave and manumission; slaves were not allowed to wear them:
The cap was an attribute carried by Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who was also recognized by the rod (vindicta or festuca),used ceremonially in the act of manumissio vindicta, Latin for "freedom by the rod" (emphasis added):
A freed slave customarily took the former owner's family name, which was the nomen (see Roman naming conventions) of the master's gens . The former owner became the patron (patronus) and the freed slave became a client (cliens) and retained certain obligations to the former master, who owed certain obligations in return. A freed slave could also acquire multiple patrons.
A freed slave became a citizen. Not all citizens, however, held the same freedoms and privileges. In particular contrast, women could become citizens, but female Roman citizenship did not allow anywhere near the same protections, independence, or rights as men, either in the public or private spheres. In reflection of unwritten, yet strictly enforced contemporary social codes, women were also legally prevented from participating in public and civic society. For example: through the illegality of women voting or holding public office.
The freed slaves' rights were limited or defined by particular statutes. A freed male slave could become a civil servant but not hold higher magistracies (see, for instance, apparitor and scriba ), serve as priests of the emperor or hold any of the other highly respected public positions.
If they were sharp at business, however, there were no social limits to the wealth that freedmen could amass. Their children held full legal rights, but Roman society was stratified. One of the most famous Romans to have been the son of a freedman was the poet Horace, who enjoyed the patronage of Augustus.
A notable character of Latin literature is Trimalchio, the ostentatiously nouveau riche freedman in the Satyricon , by Petronius.
In colonial Peru, the laws around manumission were influenced by the Siete Partidas a Castilian law code. According to the Siete Partidas, a master who manumitted their slaves should be honored and obeyed by their former slaves for giving such a generous gift.As in other parts of Latin America under the system of coartación, slaves could purchase their freedom by negotiating with their master for a purchase price and this was the most common way for slaves to be freed. Manumission also occurred during baptism, or as part of an owner's last will and testament.
In baptismal manumission, enslaved children were freed at baptism. Many of these freedoms came with stipulations which could include servitude often until the end of an owner's life.Children freed at baptism were also frequently the children of still enslaved parents. A child who was freed at baptism but continued to live with enslaved family was far more likely to be reenslaved. Baptismal manumission could be used as evidence of a person's freed status in a legal case but they did not always have enough information to serve as a carta de libertad.
Female slave owners were more likely than males to manumit their slaves at baptism.The language used by women slave owners who freed their slaves also differed substantially from that of men, with many women using the phrasing “for the love I have for her” as well as other expressions of intimacy as part of the reasoning for freeing their slaves as written on the baptismal record or carta de libertad. Male slave owners were far less likely to speak in intimate terms about their reasoning for freeing their slaves.
Many children manumitted at baptism were likely the illegitimate children of their male owners though this can be difficult to determine from the baptismal record and must be assessed through other evidence.Although slave owners often characterized these baptismal manumissions as a result of their generous beneficence, there are records of payments by parents or godparents to ensure the child's freedom. Mothers were almost never manumitted alongside their children, even when the mothers gave birth to their master's own children. Manumitting a slave's children at baptism could be one way for owners to ensure the loyalty of the children's still enslaved parents.
Enslaved people could also be freed as part of a slave owner's last will and testament. Testamentary manumission frequently involved expressions of affection on the part of the slave owner to the enslaved person as part of the rationale behind manumission.Slave owners also frequently cited a desire to die with a clear conscience as part of their reasoning for freeing their slaves. Testamentary manumission could often be disputed by heirs claiming fraud, or that an enslaved person had preyed upon a relative's weak mental or physical condition. Legally testamentary manumissions were usually respected by the courts, who understood enslaved people as part of their owner's property to distribute as they wished. Relatives who claimed fraud had to provide evidence of their claims or they would be dismissed. As in baptismal manumission, conditions of ongoing servitude were sometimes placed upon the enslaved person, by obligating them to care for another relative.
In Iberoamerican law, a person had discretion over one-fifth of their estatewith the rest going to children, spouses, and other relatives. An enslaved person could be sold in order to cover debts of the estate, but not if they had already paid part of their purchase price towards manumission as this was considered a legally binding agreement. As long as a person had not disinherited his children or spouse, a slave owner could manumit their slaves as they wished.
Manumission laws varied between the various colonies in the Caribbean. For instance, the island of Barbados had some of the strictest laws, requiring owners to pay £200 for male slaves and £300 for female slaves, and show cause to the authorities. In some other colonies, no fees applied. It was not uncommon for ex-slaves to purchase family members or friends in order to free them. For example, ex-slave Susannah Ostrehan became a successful businesswoman in Barbados and purchased many of her acquaintances.
African slaves were freed in the North American colonies as early as the 17th century. Some, such as Anthony Johnson, went on to become landowners and slaveholders themselves in the colonies. Slaves could sometimes arrange manumission by agreeing to "purchase themselves" by paying the master an agreed amount. Some masters demanded market rates; others set a lower amount in consideration of service.
Regulation of manumission began in 1692, when Virginia established that to manumit a slave, a person must pay the cost for them to be transported out of the colony. A 1723 law stated that slaves may not "be set free upon any pretence whatsoever, except for some meritorious services to be adjudged and allowed by the governor and council".In some cases, a master who was drafted into the army would send a slave instead, with a promise of freedom if he survived the war. The new government of Virginia repealed the laws in 1782 and declared freedom for slaves who had fought for the colonies during the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783. The 1782 laws also permitted masters to free their slaves of their own accord; previously, a manumission had required obtaining consent from the state legislature, which was arduous and rarely granted.
However, as the population of free Negroes increased, the state passed laws forbidding them from moving into the state (1778)and requiring newly-freed slaves to leave within one year unless they had special permission (1806).
In the Upper South in the late 18th century, planters had less need for slaves, as they switched from labor-intensive tobacco cultivation to mixed-crop farming. Slave states such as Virginia made it easier for slaveholders to free their slaves. In the two decades after the American Revolutionary War, so many slaveholders accomplished manumissions by deed or in wills that the proportion of free Black people to the total number of Black people rose from less than 1% to 10% in the Upper South.In Virginia, the proportion of free Black people increased from 1% in 1782 to 7% in 1800. Together with several Northern states abolishing slavery during that period, the proportion of free Black people nationally increased to ~14% of the total Black population. New York and New Jersey adopted gradual abolition laws that kept the free children of slaves as indentured servants into their twenties.
After the 1793 invention of the cotton gin, which enabled the development of extensive new areas for cotton cultivation, the number of manumissions decreased because of increased demand for slave labor. In the 19th century, slave revolts such as the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, and especially, the 1831 rebellion, led by Nat Turner, increased slaveholders' fears, and most Southern states passed laws making manumission nearly impossible until the passage of the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," after the American Civil War. In South Carolina, to free a slave required permission of the state legislature; Florida law prohibited manumission altogether.
Of the Founding Fathers of the United States, as defined by the historian Richard B. Morris, the Southerners were the major slaveholders, but Northerners also held slaves, generally in smaller numbers, as domestic servants. John Adams owned none. George Washington freed his own slaves in his will (his wife independently held numerous dower slaves). Thomas Jefferson freed five slaves in his will, and the remaining 130 were sold to settle his estate debts. James Madison did not free his slaves, and some were sold to pay off estate debts, but his widow and her son retained most to work Montpelier plantation. Alexander Hamilton's slave ownership is unclear, but it is most likely that he was of the abolitionist ideal, as he served as an officer of the New York Manumission Society. John Jay founded the society and freed his domestic slaves in 1798; the same year, as Governor of New York, he signed the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery . John Dickinson freed his slaves between 1776 and 1786, the only Founding Father to do so during that time.
Slavery in the Ottoman Empire gradually became less central to the functions of Ottoman society throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Responding to the influence and pressure of European countries in the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire began taking steps to curtail the slave trade, which had been legally valid under Ottoman law since the beginning of the empire.
Ottoman Empire policy encouraged manumission of male slaves, but not female slaves.The most telling evidence for this is found in the gender ratio; among slaves traded in Islamic empire across the centuries, there were roughly two females to every male.
Sexual slavery was a central part of the Ottoman slave system throughout the history of the institution, and the most resistance to change. Outside of explicit sexual slavery, most female slaves had domestic occupations, and often, this also included sexual relations with their masters. This was a lawful motive for their purchase, and the most common one. It was similarly a common motivation for their retention.
The Ottoman Empire and 16 other countries signed the 1890 Brussels Conference Act for the suppression of the slave trade. However, clandestine slavery persisted well into the 20th century. Gangs were also organized to facilitate the illegal importation of slaves.Slave raids and the taking of women and children as "spoils of war" lessened but did not stop entirely, despite the public denial of their existence, such as the enslavement of girls during the Armenian Genocide. Armenian girls were sold as slaves during the Armenian genocide of 1915. Turkey waited until 1933 to ratify the 1926 League of Nations convention on the suppression of slavery. However, the illegal sales of girls were reported in 1930s. Legislation explicitly prohibiting slavery was adopted in 1964.
Gabriel, today commonly known as Gabriel Prosser, was a literate enslaved blacksmith who planned a large slave rebellion in the Richmond, Virginia area in the summer of 1800. Information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, and he and twenty-five followers were hanged.
The Stono Rebellion was a slave revolt that began on 9 September 1739, in the colony of South Carolina. It was the largest slave rebellion in the Southern Colonies, with 25 colonists and 35 to 50 Africans killed. The uprising was led by native Africans who were likely from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo, as some of the rebels spoke Portuguese.
In the British colonies in North America and in the United States before the abolition of slavery in 1865, free Negro or free Black described the legal status of African Americans who were not enslaved. The term was applied both to formerly enslaved people (freedmen) and to those who had been born free.
Historically, slavery has been regulated, supported, or opposed on religious grounds.
Islamic views on slavery represent a complex and multifaceted body of Islamic thought, with various Islamic groups or thinkers espousing views on the matter which have been radically different throughout history. Slavery was a mainstay of life in pre-Islamic Arabia and surrounding lands. The Quran and the hadith address slavery extensively, assuming its existence as part of society but viewing it as an exceptional condition and restricting its scope. Early Islamic dogma forbade enslavement of free members of Islamic society, including non-Muslims (dhimmis), and set out to regulate and improve the conditions of human bondage. The sharīʿah regarded as legal slaves only those non-Muslims who were imprisoned or bought beyond the borders of Islamic rule, or the sons and daughters of slaves already in captivity. In later classical Islamic law, the topic of slavery is covered at great length. Slaves, be they Muslim or those of any other religion, were equal to their fellow practitioners in religious issues.
Partus sequitur ventrem was a legal doctrine passed in colonial Virginia in 1662 and other English crown colonies in the Americas which defined the legal status of children born there; the doctrine mandated that all children would inherit the legal status of their mothers. As such, children of enslaved women would be born into slavery. The legal doctrine of partus sequitur ventrem was derived from Roman civil law, specifically the portions concerning slavery and personal property (chattels).
Slavery in ancient Rome played an important role in society and the economy. Besides manual labour, slaves performed many domestic services and might be employed at highly skilled jobs and professions. Accountants and physicians were often slaves. Slaves of Greek origin in particular might be highly educated. Unskilled slaves, or those sentenced to slavery as punishment, worked on farms, in mines, and at mills.
The New-York Manumission Society was an American organization founded in 1785 by U.S. Founding Father John Jay, among others, to promote the gradual abolition of slavery and manumission of slaves of African descent within the state of New York. The organization was made up entirely of white men, most of whom were wealthy and held influential positions in society. Throughout its history, which ended in 1849 after the abolition of slavery in New York, the society battled against the slave trade, and for the eventual emancipation of all the slaves in the state. It founded the African Free School for the poor and orphaned children of slaves and free people of color.
The institution of slavery in North America existed from the earliest years of the colonial history of the United States until 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment permanently abolished slavery throughout the entire United States. It was also abolished among the sovereign Indian tribes in Indian Territory by new peace treaties which the US required after the war.
A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, enslaved people were freed by manumission, emancipation, or self-purchase. A fugitive slave is a person who escaped slavery by fleeing.
The Bible contains many references to slavery, which was a common practice in antiquity. Biblical texts outline sources and legal status of slaves, economic roles of slavery, types of slavery, and debt slavery, which thoroughly explain the institution of slavery in Israel in antiquity. The Bible stipulates the treatment of slaves, especially in the Old Testament. There are also references to slavery in the New Testament.
An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, passed by the Fifth Pennsylvania General Assembly on 1 March 1780, prescribed an end for slavery in Pennsylvania. It was the first act abolishing slavery in the course of human history to be adopted by a democracy. The Act prohibited further importation of slaves into the state, required Pennsylvania slaveholders to annually register their slaves, and established that all children born in Pennsylvania were free persons regardless of the condition or race of their parents. Those enslaved in Pennsylvania before the 1780 law came into effect remained enslaved for life. Pennsylvania's "gradual abolition"—rather than Massachusetts's 1783 "instant abolition"—became a model for freeing slaves in other Northern states.
Slavery in Maryland lasted over 200 years, from its beginnings in 1642 when the first Africans were brought as slaves to St. Mary's City, to its end after the Civil War. While Maryland developed similarly to neighboring Virginia, slavery declined here as an institution earlier, and it had the largest free black population by 1860 of any state. The early settlements and population centers of the province tended to cluster around the rivers and other waterways that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland planters cultivated tobacco as the chief commodity crop, as the market was strong in Europe. Tobacco was labor-intensive in both cultivation and processing, and planters struggled to manage workers as tobacco prices declined in the late 17th century, even as farms became larger and more efficient. At first, indentured servants from England supplied much of the necessary labor but, as their economy improved at home, fewer made passage to the colonies. Maryland colonists turned to importing indentured and enslaved Africans to satisfy the labor demand.
Slavery in Virginia began with the capture and enslavement of Native Americans during the early days of the English Colony of Virginia and through the late eighteenth century. They primarily worked in tobacco fields. Africans were first brought to colonial Virginia in 1619, when 20 Africans from present-day Angola arrived in Virginia aboard the ship The White Lion.
William Ellison Jr., born April Ellison, was a U.S. cotton gin maker and blacksmith in South Carolina, and former African-American slave who achieved considerable success as a slaveowner before the American Civil War. He eventually became a major planter and one of the medium property owners, and one of the wealthiest property owners in the state. According to the 1860 census, he owned 63 black slaves, making him the largest of the 171 black slaveholders in South Carolina. He held 40 slaves at his death and more than 1,000 acres (400 ha) of land. From 1830-1865 he and his sons were the only free blacks in Sumter County, South Carolina to own slaves. The county was largely devoted to cotton plantations, and the majority population were slaves.
Freedom suits were lawsuits in the Thirteen Colonies and the United States filed by enslaved people against slaveholders to assert claims to freedom, often based on descent from a free maternal ancestor, or time held as a resident in a free state or territory.
Slavery in Cuba was a portion of the larger Atlantic Slave Trade that primarily supported Spanish plantation owners engaged in the sugarcane trade. It was practiced on the island of Cuba from the 16th century until it was abolished by Spanish royal decree on October 7, 1886.
Joe Thompson vs Walter Clarke was decided in December 1817.
Cariye or Cariyes was a title and term used for category of enslaved women concubines in the Islamic world of the Middle East. They are particularly known in history from the era of the Ottoman Empire, where they legally existed until the mid-19th century.
Margaret Morgan was an African American woman who was born to former slaves. They were considered free by their slaveholder, but they had not received an official deed of manumission. They lived on their former slaveholder's property, where they then had a daughter, Margaret. After she was married and had children, her family was taken from her home in the middle of the night around late March of 1837 at the request of the former slaveholder's widow, Margaret Ashmore. Morgan became the subject of legal cases at the county, state and national level from 1837 to 1842. Prigg v. Pennsylvania was tried before the United States Supreme Court and the four men who apprehended Morgan and her children were found to be not guilty.
Manumission was encouraged by law and commonly practiced.