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which were settled in the order in which they are named, in 1636, 1638, 1639, and 1642, respectively. Until 1647, each town was governed independently. The situation of each is plainly designated upon the map to-day, but where, asks the enquirer after truth, are the Providence Plantations? Except for that preamble to the constitution and certain legal forms, they have no existence. Of their rival plantations, those of the Narragansett country, there is still a remnant and a reminder. They were unequalled in Rhode Island in their day, both for their extent and for the unique society that developed upon them. Dividing that fertile territory that lies to the west of Narragansett Bay, in what was King's and is now Washington County, they were principalities, the extent of which was measured, not by acres, but by miles. The estate of Richard Smith comprised about twenty-seven square miles. Robert Hazard, one of the great proprietors, had under cultivation a tract containing twelve thousand acres, while not a few of his neighbours were the proprietors of equally large holdings. Let it not be supposed that these great planters were simply the nominal lords of a wilderness, over the forests and streams of which they might hunt or fish after the modern method. The plantations were under cultivation, their products as famous throughout the country for excellence as the houses of their lords were for luxury.
The labour upon the great Narragansett estates was
performed for the most part by Indians and negro
slaves. I have elsewhere spoken particularly of the slave trade, that was one of the lucrative industries of Rhode Island. Slave labour was as much a part of Rhode Island life as it was of Virginia life at that day, and the effort that has sometimes been made to gloss it over or make little of it, is unworthy of any careful historian.
Slavery in Rhode Island was in many respects a more "peculiar institution" than elsewhere in the American Colonies. The slaves were allowed certain privileges that in time led to curious embarrassments. There was one day of the year that was set apart for what was commonly known as "nigger election" and upon that day the black people enjoyed a liberty that I believe was without parallel in any part of the world. From far and near the slaves gathered at Kingston, or some other central place, to elect a Governor—a negro Governor—for themselves, and this personage, while he had no actual authority nor legal status, yet enjoyed an almost unbounded influence over the people of his own colour, and was the referee in most of their private differences. At the election the negroes assumed for the time the importance of their masters and supported the dignity of their exalted " families " in very much the same way that the great planters themselves would have done. John, or Peter, or Sambo, was arrayed in fine clothing, furnished by his owner, he was permitted to ride his master's horse and provided with money to fling about as befitted a gentleman of property and rank. The election feast became in time a very sumptuous and exceedingly expensive function, the races and games that followed rivalled those of the white people, ostentation was the order of the day—and the masters of those who revelled footed the bills. In time this absurd festival, the extravagance of which was somehow supposed to reflect credit upon the planters, became a real burden to many a slave-owner. The wealth of the planters was mainly in lands and personal property and though they had more cash than most Americans of their day, yet the longest purse was not by any means limitless. It is told that one great landowner, whose personal campaign expenses had been somewhat huge, had a slave who had stood as a gubernatorial candidate at the ni<jcrer election. The white man called the black one into his office and said, thoughtfully: "John, these elections are costing me too much. One or the other of us will have to give up politics."
In 1730 South Kingstown contained 965 whites, 333 negroes, and 193 Indians. A few years later, though the population had increased, the proportion remained nearly the same. A good evidence of the presence of numerous slaves is found in the stringent slave laws that were enacted, though many of these in time became practically a dead letter. "No negroes or Indians, freemen or slaves," we read, "are to be abroad at night on penalty of not exceeding fifteen stripes." No housekeeper might entertain a negro slave without consent of the owner first received. No housekeeper