Author Archives: riley1617

The Connection Between Elizabeth Freeman and Theodore Sedgwick.

Mum Bett was born a slave in 1742, and worked  in Colonel John Ashley’s house in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Ashley was a local leader, a merchant and very prominent in his community. He was also married to Hannah Ashley. Mum Bet was born a slave and was owned by the Ashley residence for 40 years. One day, Hannah Ashley struck and hit Bet in the face with a burning shovel. This badly scarred her face. After the incident, she decided she was going to use her natural rights, that “all men are born free and equal,” and fight for her freedom.

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John Ashley’s House

She later became the first African American slave to be free in the state of Massachusetts. She then went to Stockbridge to Theodore Sedgwick’s household. Sedgwick was an attorney and a lawyer, and agreed to help Mum Bett in her freedom suit fight. How did Mum Bet know that Theodore Sedgwick would help her though? After research, the answer has been found. Theodore Sedgwick used to live in Sheffield Massachusetts and knew John Ashley. They were both very prominent and wealthy in the community. Actually, Sedgwick often visited the Ashley home along with a group of men who put together the Sheffield Resolves. The Sheffield resolves, in short

was a Colonial American petition against British tyranny and manifesto for individual rights, drawn up as a series of resolves approved by the Town of Sheffield, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1773 and printed in The Massachusetts Spy, Or, Thomas’s Boston Journal on February 18, 1773. It is said that the meeting took place in the Colonel John Ashley House” (Document 2).

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Drawing of Mum Bett

Sedgwick and Ashley sat together in the Ashley’s living room and agreed on a petition against their individual rights, yet Ashley still had multiple slaves working for his family. This is what most New England families stood for. They believed they should rebel against the British, and fight for their lives yet they were still enslaving other humans who should have also had those rights. Sedgwick believed in natural rights for African Americans, while Ashley did not. This may be because of his education and upbringing.

Sedgwick was born in West Hartford, Connecticut and was born into an immigrant ancestor family. He attended Yale College, where he studied law. Although he did not finish, he “read law” with Mark Hopkins. Mark Hopkins was an American educator and later went on to be the president of Williams College. Sedgwick was surrounded by liberal teachings. He understood the difficulty of being an immigrant because of his family. His relative, Robert Sedgwick actually came over on the “Truelove” boat in 1635. He studied at very liberal colleges and learned from liberal teachers, like Mark Hopkins.

Ashley, on the other hand, also attended Yale to study law but did not finish. Instead, he took a different path and settled for being a town merchant instead. He spent ten years in the military at first, and became very prominent in his town. He later became one of the town lawyers.

These two men had very different upbringings, making them different in many ways. This infers that is why they have different opinions about African American rights. Mum Bet was working during one of their meetings, and happened to overhear the part about natural rights. She knew Sedgwick and what he stood for, which is why she had the confidence to knock on his door that day.

After a successful court case and a mark in history, a friendship between Theodore and Mum Bett  bloomed. After Bett won her freedom she changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman and tried to start a new life. The problem was, trying to build a life as the only free African American women in Western Massachusetts became very challenging. In her words, trying to live in a racist world was close to impossible. Elizabeth decided to turn to Sedgwick for help again. Considering their wonderful friendship, Sedgwick hired Freeman to work for his family.

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Elizabeth Freeman’s Grave

They built her a home on their property, so she could raise her daughter. Elizabeth worked for their family for the rest of her life. She died in Stockbridge December 28, 1829 and was buried in the Stockbridge cemetery. She actually was buried in the Sedgwick family’s part of the cemetery because they really did consider her one of their own.

 

 

 

 

Places:  “Colonel John Ashley House,” 2017.

http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/berkshires/ashley-house.html

 

Documents: Sjc. “The Mum Bett Case.” Court System. N.p., 09 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 May 2017.<http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/sjc/edu-res-center/abolition/abolition-4-gen.html&gt;.

“Sheffield Declaration (1773).” Constitution Society: Everything Needed to Decide Constitutional Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.constitution.org/bcp/sheffield_declaration.html&gt;.

Cori Urban | Special to The Republican. “Favorite Place: Ashley House in Sheffield Tells Stories of Landowners, Slaves Who Lived There.” Masslive.com. Masslive.com, 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.masslive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2012/09/favorite_place_ashley_house_in.html&gt;.

Sedgwick, Dennis. SEDGWICK.ORG – Major General Robert Sedgwick (1613 – 1656). N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.sedgwick.org/na/families/robert1613/sedgwick-robert1613.html>.

 

Book: Rudolph, Frederick. Mark Hopkins and the Log: Williams College, 1836-1872. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1957. Print.

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The Significance of Suffield’s 1774 Resolves

In response to the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts. The Coercive Acts, also referred to as the Intolerable Acts by the Colonists, were four laws passed in protest to the Colonists rising rebellion, with the hope of restoring order. Among these acts was the Massachusetts Government Act, which provided the British Parliament full control over any elections, and prohibited town meetings.The Colonists protested these acts in many ways, including the creation of The Committee of Correspondence, which was started in 1772 by Samuel Adams. Small towns of Massachusetts and Connecticut  joined in on this, creating their own committees, including Suffield. The town of Sheffield was one of the first to create Resolves, and was the template for other towns. Their resolves petitioned against British tyranny and manifesto for individual rights, and were approved on January 12th, 1773. A month later on February 18th, the Sheffield resolves were printed in the Massachusetts Spy, also known as Thomas’s Boston Journal. Having these resolves printed in a newspaper allowed them to be shared and seen all around the colonies. Of their resolutions, one stands out the most, “Mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property,” this resolution foreshadows a huge part of the Declaration of Independence and the Colonies fight for freedom and independence.

In August of 1774 a committee was formed in Suffield, Connecticut, by Gideon Granger, Alexander King, and Joseph Pease. These three men were all influential men in the community and crucial for the fight for freedom in Suffield. Gideon Granger trained young men to attend Yale and become lawyers. Joseph Pease was a strong supporter and extremely wealthy. He had a diary, and there is specific evidence that shows town residents were ready to go to Boston in the fall of 1774 during the false alarm.

They composed their own resolves and sent it to Boston where the Committee of Correspondence met. The small text, “Suffield and the Lexington Alarm in April, 1775” by H.S. Sheldon described the resolves perfectly.

“A year previous, many of the Towns had, like Suffield, passed Resolutions of condolence with the suffering inhabitants of Boston, and of resistance to the tyrannical acts of the British Parliament. It is worth of comment, that the ‘Resolves’ were conceived two years before the Declaration of Independance, and are in some respects similar in spirit and language.”

The resolves are the clearest description of a peek into the mindset of the town in 1774, and rather than just investigating how the country reacted, we can learn about how the town we live in responded to the Boston Tea Party.

There are many significant aspects of the Suffield resolves.

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Original Sheffield Resolves

This collective claim gives the class a better understanding of how the people throughout the thirteen colonies felt about the closing of the ports, as well as the British influence, as the resolves were written in order to support the residents of Boston. These resolves fought to reject the Massachusetts Government Act, and boycott all imported British goods with the hope of having the Coercive Acts repealed. Another important aspect of the resolves was the fact that it inspired many people. For instance, slave Elizabeth Freeman, better known as Mum Bett was so inspired by the resolves that it gave her the courage to sue for her freedom in 1781. Once she gained her freedom other slaves such as Quack Walker decided to sue as well. The resolves helped people gain strength to fight for what they believed in.

The town of Suffield had many influential visitors such as John Adams and George Washington.Both of these men were strong patriots and had a very noticeable impact on the town, as so many rallied behind them and supported their fight for freedom. George Washington stopped in Suffield on his way to take over the army. This suggests that Suffield was a force that had to be acknowledged.

In a diary entry written by John Adams, while passing through Suffield, he recalls seeing a group of militiamen trained with a man in a green coat.

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John Adam’s Diary Regarding Suffield

This goes against what most people know about the revolutionary war. This is because most people thought the militiamen were just untrained soldiers who did guerrilla warfare.  This diary entry from John Adams shows us that the Suffield men were in fact trained, even if it was just for a small period of time.

Committees from Suffolk, Middlesex, and Essex counties all met in Boston to create a formal response on August 26th, 1774, showing great representation and initiative from all the small towns working together, including Suffield. The declaration, formally made on September 9th, 1774, rejected the Massachusetts Government Act and boycotted imported goods from Britain, unless the intolerable acts were repealed. These resolutions showed great foresight for the Declaration of Independence, as one of the main arguments was a man’s right to life, liberty, and happiness.

 

Places:

“Suffield Historical Society,” 2016.

http://www.suffieldhistoricalsociety.org/

“Suffield Town Hall,” 2017.

http://www.suffieldct.gov

 

Documents:

“Suffield.” NYPL Digital Collections. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2017. <https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/87721580-da40-0132-1544-58d385a7b928>.

“Boston Committee of Correspondence Records 1772-1784 D.” Boston Committee of Correspondence Records. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2017. <http://archives.nypl.org/mss/343#overview>.

“Voices of the Revolution: Sons of Liberty.” The Sons of Liberty. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2017. <https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-declaration-of-independence/sons-of-liberty/>.

Documentary History of Suffield : In the Colony and Province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England, 1660-1749. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2017. <https://archive.org/stream/documentaryhisto00shel#page/22/mode/2up/search/harry+roco&gt;.

 

Books:

Egerton, Douglas R. “Mum Best Takes a Name.” Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 150-90. Print.

Digging into Thaddeus Leavitt’s Historical Records

Working in a project-based learning environment, our class was challenged to investigate colonial times in Suffied. In 1773, The Boston Tea Party split the colonies into factions. The year after the Tea Party, 1774, was called America’s “Pivotal Year.” Judging from our research so far, our local town of Suffield participated in this national pivot as well. Mum Bett, a Massachusetts slave gained her independence that year, which was a turning point for slaves in gaining their independence in Connecticut. Our class is researching

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Thaddeus Leavitt’s house built in 1800s

if Suffield’s population supported the patriots. Also, what did these effects have on Suffield’s four individual slaves, what was their lives like? Our class collaborates and comes up with different evidence and stories to support our claims. So far, I have looked into Mum Bett’s Massachusetts’s case and how she gained her independence by using the argument that her freedom was a “constitutional right.” I then decided that Connecticut slaves heard about her independence by the word of mouth, and it must have been a trend. I then took a jump and started researching Thaddeus Leavitt’s connection to the New London Port. Reading his diaries, I found out he was an extremely wealthy man who had a boat that transported goods from the New London Port from here to the West Indies. This meant that he was part of the triangle trading system, which is very prominent. Now, I want to start researching what types of goods he transported, and what distributor he had. I also would like to know what slaves he owned, if any. Digging into Leavitt’s life would potentially open a lot of doors for our research. Researching in depth about Leavitt’s life I did not find exactly what I thought I would. I was researching whether or not Leavitt owned slaves, which was a lot more difficult then I assumed it was. I still did not find any evidence that he did own slaves, but I found this claim from an article,

“Slavery was common throughout the Connecticut River Valley during the eighteenth century, and the 1774 Census for the Colony of Connecticut listed 37 slaves in Suffield. Throughout the Connecticut valley, wealthy merchants, tavern owners and town ministers owned slaves.” (1)

Considering that Thaddeus was a wealthy merchant, it is assumed that Thaddeus owned a family slave, yet our research showed that he did not own slaves according to the 1790s census. Another interesting thing that I found was that Thaddeus was also an inventor. He invented an early improved version of a “Cotton Gin.” By definition, a cotton gin is “a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, allowing for much greater productivity than manual cotton separation.” (2)

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Thaddeus Leavitt’s drawing of an early improved version of a cotton gin.

This makes me realize that in fact, Leavitt was a very successful businessman and was very intelligent. He helped invented a machine to make his business ahead of everyone else, and was smart enough to write in a diary for everyone else to hear. Later down the road, this machine made Leavitt become a familiar man to people across seas, which made trade a lot easier for him. The last thing was his diary. Although I have read his diaries before, I never realized that he wrote down different receipts, or instructions for things. This gives me a better idea of how what he was learning he probably learned it through trade or networking with people outside of his town. Receipts for “taking film off a horses eyes” or “a cure for a Cancer” told me that Thaddeus Leavitt was not alone; he had a whole network behind him. To further my research, I will start to research his family and their settlements in Ohio and how the family position’s Suffield’s wealth in the early 19th century, which involved real estate venture in the west. In an article I was reading, it read that “Thaddeus Leavitt and Suffield businessmen Oliver Phelps (then the largest landowner in America), Gideon Grander, Luther Loomis and Asahel Hatheway owned between them one quarter of all the lands assigned to Connecticut in the Western Reserve.” (4+5) This combined wealth encourages our class to look into these families more. On my next HOT Log, that is what I will be digging into!

Sources:

  1. “WikiVisually.com.” WikiVisually. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <http://wikivisually.com/wiki/Thaddeus_Leavitt>.
  2. WikiVisually.com.” WikiVisually. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <http://wikivisually.com/wiki/Cotton_gin>.
  3. “Leavitt Diary Page 21.” Leavitt Diary Page 21. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. <http://www.suffield-library.org/history/leavitt/page21.htm&gt;.
  4. American Journal of Education (1855–1882), Vol. VI, Henry Barnard (ed.), Printed by F. C. Brownell, Hartford, Ct., 1859
  5. Jump up 
^ J. Hammond Trumbull (1886). The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut, 1633-1884. BiblioLife LLC.

Thaddeus Leavitt – What was his connection to the New London port?

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Connecticut Western Reserve – Thaddeus Leavitt was one of the original eight purchasers.

On my previous HOT Log, I researched in detail “Mum Bett” and how she was able to publically gain freedom. Her freedom was made possible because of the Sheffield resolves. This got me thinking about the different classes, and wondering what the higher classes had to do with slavery. Our class then found Thaddeus Leavitt. He was born in 1750, and by 1774 he was a shop owner and entrepreneur in Suffield. His family was very well known. He married Elizabeth King, daughter of Ensign William King and Lucy Hatheway of Suffield. All three of these last names are very prominent in our research toward 1774. While I researched more, my classmate, Tanner, found diaries of Leavitts. That is when I decided to do some detailed research. I found out that he had a great partnership with individuals from Windsor, importing lots of goods from West Indies. He included receipts and whooping cough medicine ingredients and where exactly he imported the goods from. My initial question was if he ever went to the New London port to sell goods. After in depth researching in his diaries, I soon realized that on March 16th 1786 in his 5th diary entry that they were doing business! It reads,“I this day hear that the Brigg Mercury (his boat) has arrived at New London exceeding fine weather – as pleasant and warm as is usual on the 1st of May.”This indicates that he did business there, as well as repeated business. It seems that Brigg Mercury arrived at New London around this time yearly. From his diaries, I seemed to have found out that he owned a boat, Brigg Mercury, and was selling to and receiving goods from the West Indies. Next, I would like to get further in depth with how exactly he is getting the goods.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaddeus_Leavitt

Source: http://www.suffield-library.org/history/leavitt/index.htm

 

Mum Bet’s Freedom

Mum Bet watercolor on ivory by Susan Anne Livingston 

The class of American Studies this term has been discussing the freedom of slaves in Connecticut in response to the Boston Tea Party in the year of 1774. This is a time period of change. Slavery started to become less tolerated because slaves were suing for their freedom. This is when our class started researching Elizabeth Freeman, better known as Mum Bet. Our class started discussing Elizabeth Freeman and how she was able to fight for freedom. Some students specifically chose Suffield slaves, but I wanted to start off by trying to fully understand Elizabeth’s story and why she was able to do this. Elizabeth and her slave partner Brom were the first African American people to be freed in Massachusetts in 1780. This means that during 1774, Elizabeth was still a slave, but instead, overhearing the Ashley’s arguments about freedom. She then decided, that she should receive freedom as well. A local man who believed slave’s should be freed believed in Mum Bet, and decided to fight for her which is what inspired her to be free.  Moving forward, I would like to find the first free slave in Connecticut and how they fought for their freedom. I then started researching Connecticut slavery. It looked like slaves stopped becoming free in 1774, which is peculiar. I came across this paragraph on Slave North, which I found interesting.

“The largest increase came in the period 1749-1774. By the latter year, New London County had become the greatest slaveholding section of New England, with almost twice as many slaves as the most populous slave county in Massachusetts. New London was both an industrial center and the site of large slave-worked farms; with 2,036 slaves, it accounted for almost one-third of all the blacks in Connecticut. New London town itself, with 522 blacks and a white population of 5,366, led the state in number of slaves and                             percentage of black inhabitants.” 2

Further researching, I realized that the slave got $300 in modern day, which is not a lot. The slaves solely focused on fighting for freedom, and 1774 is when the change began, all because of Mum Bet.

Sources:

  1. This source shows great information about the importance of Mum Bet. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p39.html

2. This source discusses slavery in Connecticut. These two sources are how I connected Mum Bet with slavery In Connecticut.

http://slavenorth.com/connecticut.htm