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.

Fryd and Joy on Slavery, Race in United States

Volume 10 (July 2010) of the Common-Place has two features on slavery and race in the United States:

Vivien Green Fryd Lifting the veil of race at the U.S. Capitol
Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom

Natalie Joy
Cherokee Slaveholders and Radical Abolitionists
An unlikely alliance in antebellum America

Read in full at The Common-Place