Tag Archives: Religion in Suffield CT in 1774

Do Religious Morals Help Challenge Slavery or Make The Institution More Tolerable?

Connecticut, as well as the rest of the new world, heavily followed religion, specifically the Christian faith and its principles. Religion in Connecticut in the 1700’s was also in some ways was a social thing. As a matter of fact, in the article I found, it put religion under the titled paragraph “Social Conditions”. In that paragraph it explained that Connecticut was ranked at the bottom of the Puritan society. It also states that African Americans in Connecticut had some place in social order, and they followed Christian principles and attended the same churches as their owners or masters. Suffield was not one of the most religiously affluent towns in the new world. Because Suffield quickly became a wealthy, business oriented town, religion was not at the forefront of the lives of Suffield residents in comparison to the work residents did for benefits of money. After speaking with the tour guide at the King home this became very clear to me and helped me to understand why Suffield did not participate in early Puritanical beliefs. One of the biggest questions I ask in regards to religion and slavery is how early white citizens could justify their enslavement of blacks while they were fighting for their freedom because of a growing dissatisfaction with the British government and if religion ever helped to cause some sort of reconciliation to slavery. It turns out however, religion did not completely help with the sad use of slavery but it did in some ways bring slaves and their masters together because slaves did often attend church alongside their masters. With that being said, some religious leaders did speak out about slavery like Reverend Levi Hart of Connecticut in the year 1775. Hart wrote a 23-page letter to Samuel Hopkins who resided in Rhode Island that is sometimes called the “blueprint” to the abolition of slavery in the north. This letter questions the morality of slavery and also includes a possible payment formula for slavery. Hart mentions in his note in the Hartford Courant that slaves stealing was starting to become more and more of an issue and that he thinks that it is a result of the restrains put on the slaves by not only their masters, but the government as well. To better explain his concept here is a quote from the Hartford Current article

“As to their growing more vicious and disorderly and, in particular, more given to stealing by being made free, the prospect is, I think, quite the contrary, for then they will be members of the community and have a common interest with others in support of good order and preservation of private property, whereas now they have no property to be exposed and so no interest in good order.”

Because of the words of people like Hart, I know that slavery was indeed controversial although to some people more than others. As the population of African American people in Connecticut continued to grow, servitude became lifelong slavery. Because of the growth of slavery, religious leaders were eventually called upon to justify it so as a result unfortunately, many Puritan leaders turned to the parts within the bible that comprised slavery.

Another question I had asked myself was if there were differences in the treatment of black, mixed and Native American slaves. So far what I have found states that mixed people, mostly products of slave masters and their female black slaves would actually not be recognized by their fathers as white at all. In fact, they would be left for their mother to raise them and would be born into slavery and take the role of a slave in that particular home often, as their mothers did. Some of these children were so light skinned that to a common eye one would not be able to classify their skin as black. It also turns out that all three groups of people had to be off streets by 9 o’clock at night and stay in the towns they lived in because black people were not trusted. Perhaps for reasons like they would steal from their masters, which as Reverend Hart recognized was probably the outcome of their poor life conditions.