Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery

Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery

by Margaret Ellen Newell

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In Brethren by Nature, Margaret Ellen Newell reveals a little-known aspect of American history: English colonists in New England enslaved thousands of Indians. Massachusetts became the first English colony to legalize slavery in 1641, and the colonists' desire for slaves shaped the major New England Indian wars, including the Pequot War of 1637, King Philip's War of 1675–76, and the northeastern Wabanaki conflicts of 1676–1749. When the wartime conquest of Indians ceased, New Englanders turned to the courts to get control of their labor, or imported Indians from Florida and the Carolinas, or simply claimed free Indians as slaves.

Drawing on letters, diaries, newspapers, and court records, Newell recovers the slaves’ own stories and shows how they influenced New England society in crucial ways. Indians lived in English homes, raised English children, and manned colonial armies, farms, and fleets, exposing their captors to Native religion, foods, and technology. Some achieved freedom and power in this new colonial culture, but others experienced violence, surveillance, and family separations.

Newell also explains how slavery linked the fate of Africans and Indians. The trade in Indian captives connected New England to Caribbean and Atlantic slave economies. Indians labored on sugar plantations in Jamaica, tended fields in the Azores, and rowed English naval galleys in Tangier. Indian slaves outnumbered Africans within New England before 1700, but the balance soon shifted. Fearful of the growing African population, local governments stripped Indian and African servants and slaves of legal rights and personal freedoms. Nevertheless, because Indians remained a significant part of the slave population, the New England colonies did not adopt all of the rigid racial laws typical of slave societies in Virginia and Barbados. Newell finds that second- and third-generation Indian slaves fought their enslavement and claimed citizenship in cases that had implications for all enslaved peoples in eighteenth-century America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801434150
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 05/21/2015
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 1,208,697
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Margaret Ellen Newell is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University. She is the author of From Dependency to Independence: Economic Revolution in Colonial New England.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Problem of Indian Slavery in Early America1. "Davids warre": The Pequot War and the Origins of Slavery in New England2. "I doe not see how wee can thrive untill wee gett into a stock of slaves": Slavery in the Puritan Atlantic World3. "Indians we have received into our houses": Pequot War Captives in New England Households4. "Such a servant is part of her Master's estate": Acculturation, Resistance, and the Making of a Hybrid Society5. "An Indian to help in the work": The Importance of Indian Labor in the New England Economy6. "We sold...47 Indians, young and old for 80£. in money": Enslavement in King Philip’s War7. "As good if not better then the Moorish Slaves": Law, Slavery, and the Second Native Diaspora8. "Free men subjects to the king": The Search for Enslavable Indians in the Northeast and Southeast9. To be sold "in any part of ye kings Dominyons": Judicial Enslavement of New England IndiansEpilogue: Indians and the Origins of American Slavery—and AbolitionismAbbreviations

What People are Saying About This

Joanne Pope Melish

"Brethren by Nature offers a well-researched and beautifully written examination of the evolution of Indian slavery in New England from its inception to its decline by 1800, its effects on English and indigenous societies, and its key role in the larger Atlantic world of commerce and labor exchange. This book makes an important contribution to scholarship on colonial, early national, Native American, and Atlantic World history as well as to studies of race and slavery."

Daniel Mandell

"In Brethren by Nature, Margaret Ellen Newell aims to put Indian slavery into the forefront of the economic and legal history of colonial New England and show how it was an important aspect of the larger development of slavery in the western Atlantic world. Newell clearly and even brilliantly succeeds in that goal."

Peter Mancal

"Margaret Ellen Newell's vibrant Brethren by Nature recovers an almost lost history of slavery and servitude in colonial New England. Through poignant stories and insights gleaned from legal records she proves that unfree labor was ubiquitous in early America."

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