SOURCE: Thomas Hutchinson Meets Dido Belle

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray

J. L. Bell of Boston 1775 posts Thomas Hutchinson description of meeting Dido Belle in 1779:

A Black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap, and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel—pert enough. I knew her history before, but my Lord mentioned it again. Sir Jno. Lindsay having taken her mother prisoner in a Spanish vessel, brought her to England, where she was delivered of this girl, of which she was then with child, and which was taken care of by Lord M., and has been educated by his family. He calls her Dido, which I suppose is all the name she has. He knows he has been reproached for shewing a fondness for her—I dare say not criminal.

A few years ago [in 1771-1772] there was a cause before his Lordship bro’t by a Black [James Somerset] for recovery of his liberty. A Jamaica planter being asked what judgment his Ldship would give? “No doubt,” he answered, “he will be set free, for Lord Mansfield keeps a Black in his house which governs him and the whole family.” She is a sort of Superintendent over the dairy, poultry yard, &c., which we visited, and she was called upon by my Lord every minute for this thing and that, and shewed the greatest attention to everything he said.

I took occasion to mention that all the Americans who had brought Blacks had, as far as I knew, relinquished their property in them, and rather agreed to give them wages, or suffered them to go free. His Ldship remarked that there had been no determination that they were free, the judgment (meaning the case of Somerset) went no further than to determine the Master had no right to compel the slave to go into a foreign country, &c. I wished to have entered into a free colloquium, and to have discovered, if I am capable of it, the nice distinctions he mast have had in his mind, and which would not make it equally reasonable to restrain the Master from exercising any power whatever, as the power of sending the servant abroad; but I imagined such an altercation would rather be disliked, and forbore.

Read the rest – Boston 1775: Thomas Hutchinson Meets Dido Belle.

ARTICLE/CONF: Cleall Reviews 2012 Legacies of British Slave-Ownership Conference at University College of London

Esmé R. Cleall. “Emancipation, Slave-Ownership and the Remaking of The British Imperial World, University College London, 29–31 March 2012.” History Workshop Journal 75, no. 1 (April 1, 2013): 307–310.

Excerpt:

This conference came out of the ESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-Ownership Project (LBS) at University College London. Since April 2009 the LBS group has been investigating the legacies of British slavery, and in particular, the afterlife of the £20 million paid to slave-owners in compensation for the loss of their ‘property’ on the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. Nick Draper has been exploring the financial and economic legacies of the £20 million, including its reinvestment in the railways and the financial City of London. Catherine Hall has been tracing the cultural memory of slave-ownership and the rewriting of histories of Britain’s involvement in slavery over the course of the nineteenth century, particularly in the writings of the descendants of slave-owners. Keith McClelland has been tracing the political legacies of the slave-owners, including the enduring power of those who had received compensation money in the British Parliament, their representation of themselves as victims of abolition, the rewriting of their history to align themselves with anti-slavery and their search for new forms of labour and work discipline. With Rachel Lang and Ben Mechan the group have also constructed an online public database of slave-owners at the point of abolition; held six public-engagement workshops across Britain to bring together academic, community and family historians of slavery; and curated an exhibition on the ‘Slave-owners of Bloomsbury’. Katie Donnington’s forthcoming PhD on the Hibbert Family is also a valuable part of this project as is the Encyclopaedia of British Slave-ownership, based on the group’s findings, which will be published shortly. The conference was thoughtfully constructed to share, discuss and extend some of the core questions raised by the LBS research group – What was the character of the British imperial state? What happened to the planters and slave economy after slavery had been abolished? What free forms of labour were established? And how can historians connect with the public, museums and artists to explore these issues?

Read the rest.

ARTICLE: Hayes on Peter and King, Benjamin Franklin’s Slaves

Kevin J. Hayes. “New Light on Peter and King, the Two Slaves Benjamin Franklin Brought to England.” Notes and Queries (March 27, 2013). 

Excerpt:

“WHEN Benjamin Franklin went to London on behalf of the Pennsylvania assembly in 1757, his son William accompanied him. In addition, they brought along two slaves. Peter served as personal servant to Benjamin Franklin, and William brought King to serve him in the same capacity. From their arrival in England on 17 July 1757 through their departure in August 1762, Peter remained with Benjamin Franklin. King, on the other hand, ran away from the Franklins. A previously neglected newspaper notice advertising for the apprehension and return of a slave named ‘King’ may significantly alter our understanding of Benjamin Franklin’s relationship to slavery.

Before getting to the text of this advertisement, let’s recall the general story of Peter and King in England, a story beset with a major problem from the outset. By 1750, Benjamin and Deborah Franklin owned a slave couple, Peter and Jemima. In addition, the Franklins had another slave in their household during the 1750s, a ‘Negro Child’, who was inoculated for smallpox in 1756.1 Gary B. Nash theorizes that this child could have been Othello, the male slave who helped Deborah around the house after her husband went to England in 1757…”

Read the rest ($$).