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- 1. Slavery existed in Connecticut from the 1640s to 1848.
- 2. In the beginning blacks enjoyed very few of the social, economic, and political rights of whites.
- 3. In the early 18th century laws were passed which restricted the activities of slaves and free blacks.
- 4. Children born of slave mothers after March 1, 1784 could not be held in slavery beyond the age of 25. This age was reduced in 1797 to twenty-one.
- 5. In 1848 slavery became illegal in Connecticut.
- 6. As blacks gained freedom, they rarely, if ever, obtained social, economic, or political status equal to that of whites.
- 7. The desire of blacks to achieve equal rights and status was enthusiastically supported by only a small group of whites. While many of Connecticut’s residents were sympathetic to the idea of ending slavery, there was not a correspondingly strong desire to grant blacks equal rights and status after slavery.
- 8. The majority of whites were indifferent, intolerant, or vehemently opposed to policies that would improve the position of blacks.
1. As a two-week unit on slavery and the struggle for black equality.
2. As individual lessons which the teacher uses to supplement existing units.
A lesson has been included that describes the problems faced by blacks in Connecticut while in bondage and after emancipation. 1 have excerpted and rewritten the story of a Connecticut slave, James Mars, found in Five Black Lives edited by Anna Bontemps, which illustrates many of the difficulties encountered by Connecticut blacks in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Appropriate questions accompany the reading.
The Prudence Crandall case is used to examine the gamut of feelings of whites toward blacks in the early 19th century which ranged from ardent support to equally ardent opposition. A mock trial has been staged in which students will assume the roles and ideological positions of some of the key participants in the case.
Finally, a time line is offered which includes key dates and events in the struggle for black equality in Connecticut up to 1870. Accompanying questions will help students understand important legislations, patterns, and, issues.
The first slaves in Connecticut were Indians who were taken prisoner after battles. They were found too troublesome and exchanged for blacks. Although it is not documented as to when or how slavery began in Connecticut, slavery was recognized by courts and mentioned in several laws. As early as 1643, the United New England Colonies, of which Connecticut and New Haven were members, enacted a law that required runaway slaves be returned to their masters.1 Although this law applied more to Indian slaves at the time the Connecticut Code of 1645 recognized Negro slavery, as well.2
Despite the fact that there were few blacks in Connecticut, in the 17th century, laws were passed to control and restrict their movement. Blacks, unlike whites, were relieved from compulsory military duty after 1660,3 presumably because they could not be trusted with arms. October, 1690 marked the beginning of a Connecticut black code similar to those found in Southern colonies. If a Negro, mulatto, or Indian servant were found wandering out of bounds of the town to which he belonged without a pass from his owner or from a magistrate, he could be seized and returned to his master who had to pay any costs incurred. To discourage anyone abetting an escape, a fine was levied against any ferryman if he transported a slave without a pass. The black code wasn’t limited to just slaves. Even a free black without a pass had to pay costs if stopped and brought before a magistrate.4
Restrictive laws continued in the 18th century. In 1703 a law was passed which prohibited innkeepers, or retailers of strong drink from “suffering any one’s sons, apprentices, servants, or negroes to sit drinking in his house or have any manner of drink there, without special order from parents or masters.” The black code was expanded in 1723 when it was decided a slave caught out of doors after nine without order from his master or mistress could receive up to ten lashes unless his master paid a ten shilling fine securing his release. In 1730 the black code was completed when it was enacted that if a slave spoke words for which a free person would be liable, he should receive not more than forty lashes. He could also be sold for court costs unless his master paid them. One measure was given to slaves in that they were allowed to make pleas and offer evidence in court the same as free men.5
From 1730 to 1774 very few laws were passed in Connecticut concerning slavery. Then in 1774 after more than 100 years of laws which strengthened the institution of slavery, a momentous change took place. The General Assembly declared that any person who brought or imported an Indian, Negro, or mulatto slave into Connecticut would be subject to a $100 fine.6 The legislation did not reflect a sudden humanitarian interest in ending slavery. The prohibition banned the importation of slaves in part at least, for economic reasons. Poor whites has been thrown out of work when they couldn’t compete against slavery.7
Although slaves were treated a little better in the New England colonies than in the Middle Atlantic and significantly better than in the Southern, they did not enjoy an advantageous existence. The status of slaves in Connecticut in the late 18th century was not greatly different from those of other northern states. In numbers, Connecticut had more blacks than any other New England colony, but nevertheless Negroes accounted for only about three percent of the population. This is about the same percentage as Massachusetts’s two percent and more than New Hampshire and Vermont which had very few and far less than Rhode Island. The Middle Colonies were substantially higher than Connecticut with New York having fourteen percent and New Jersey eight percent. One New Jersey master, for instance, dressed his slaves in rags and forced them to go barefoot in winter. 9
All the colonies passed laws to restrict the free activity of blacks. Laws were passed in the northern colonies to limit the movement of blacks, especially at night, to prevent assembly, and to punish anyone helping blacks to escape. Strict corporal punishments were set up in the North to deter crimes by blacks. 10 Although black slaves were treated poorly in the North, they enjoyed some rights. A master could be sued by a slave for wounding, beating, or using immoderate chastisement; he could also receive the same punishment for killing a slave as a free man. A slave was allowed to hold property if it was bequeathed to him, and he could take legal action against his master if he should try to take the property away. 11
However, Connecticut slaves didn’t necessarily agree that they enjoyed special advantages. William Grimes, an escaped Southern slave, wrote, “To be put in irons and dragged back to a state of slavery, and either leave my wife and children in the street, or take them into servitude, was a situation in which my soul now shudders at the thought of having been placed . . . if there is any man in God’s creation, who will say . . . that there are any possible circumstances in which it is just that he should be at the capricious disposal of a fellow being . . . that man lies!”12 Other black feelings against slavery ran much stronger. The Reverend G. W. Offley recounts that when he was young, his father, a black freeman, attempted to buy his three children who were about to be placed into bondage until their twenty-fifth year. A white family told the father that they would shoot him dead if he attempted to buy his children’s freedom. Offley’s mother said that if anyone but their father bought any one of the children, she would cut the throats of all three children.13Slavery was so repugnant that she would defy Solomon’s judgement in order to save her children from bondage.
Segregation of the races existed from the meeting house to the graveyard. Those blacks fortunate enough to be admitted to a church were relegated to a separate gallery, usually in the back. In Torrington the black gallery seats were boarded up so that blacks could see and be seen by no one. Attempts of blacks to sit in seats other than in their gallery could result in excommunication from the Church. 14 Black slaves could not travel or stay out after nine without passes. Rarely could they receive formal education, and they could not vote or participate in the government.15 Even in death blacks were segregated in a remote part of the cemetery away from whites.16
I was born into slavery in North Canaan, Connecticut on March 3, 1790. My father was born in New York and owned by three different masters there. He was sold to a man in Salisbury, Connecticut and finally to the Reverend Mr. Thompson of North Canaan. My mother was born in Virginia and moved to North Canaan when her mistress married the Reverend Thompson. Mr. Thompson ministered to the people of North Canaan while slaves worked his farm.
After a while the minister’s wife became unhappy living in the North and persuaded her husband to move to the South. My mother and father ran the farm in their absence.
Reverend Thompson returned when I was about eight and wanted to sell the farm and take the slaves back to Virginia. Father refused to go since he had heard stories of terrible treatment of slaves in the South. My mother said that she had often seen her mother tied up and whipped until the blood ran across the floor in the room.
The parson sold the farm with the exception of a wagon, horses, and a few other articles. My father, although a slave without education, watched the movements of the minister but kept all he saw to himself, steadily planning our escape. Thirty-six hours before we were to be taken to Virginia, my father hitched up the parson’s team in the still of the night. We quietly departed the farm and escaped to nearby Norfolk arriving about one o’clock in the morning. My father returned the carriage because he was an honest man and because the minister needed it to travel South.
The citizens of Norfolk were a great help. A man named Phelps let us stay in an unoccupied house in a remote area. We cleaned the house and stayed out of sight.
Weeks went by, and we felt safe since we were sure the minister was in the South by now. However, we learned that the minister hadn’t gone South but had vowed to have the two boys in the family, me and my brother Joseph. I was taken to stay in an even more remote area, and my brother was taken to Massachusetts. I would not see my brother again for two years.
(James and his family were relentlessly pursued by the minister and at one point, agreed to return to the farm with him. Not trusting him, they again escaped to Norfolk.)
We hid in the woods for several days narrowly avoiding the minister and fourteen pickets he sent out looking for us. The first night we didn’t know what we would do for something to eat. But, between sundown and dark a man passed by the edge of the woods, whistling as he went. After he had passed on, father went up where the man went along and came back with a basket. In it was our supper. Each day we spent in the woods the man brought food for us.
After several days, I, being the most wanted by the parson, was hidden in a house. The minister proposed a deal to my parents. He would give my father, mother, and sister freedom if the two boys could be sold to acceptable owners in the North. My parents reluctantly agreed, and I was sold by the Reverend to Mr. Munger for 100 pounds on the condition that I would be freed at age twenty-five. I was informed by the people hiding me that I had been sold, and that I must go live with Mr. Munger. I didn’t know him but the thought of being sold and not knowing whether I was to see my parents, or brother, or sister again was more than I could endure. The thought that I was sold was hard to think of, but I did not even know where my parents were.
The next morning (Sept. 13, 1798) I was told to go to Mr. Munger’s house for he had bought me. I thought of my parents. Should I ever see them again?
As I was taught to obey my superiors, I set out; it was a little over a mile. The way was long. I was alone. Tears ran down my cheeks. I then felt for the first time that I was alone in the world, no home, no friends, and no one to care for me. But on my way to my new home, much to my surprise, I saw my father. I will not attempt to describe my feelings when he told me he had taken rooms in the same neighborhood and should be near me. That made the rough way smooth. 1 went on then cheerful and happy.
(James described his bondage with Mr. Munger. Unfortunately, he was not a strong man and James was forced to work long and hard. Much to his great regret he wasn’t able to get much of an education. As James got older, he decided he would end his bondage at age twenty-one (which was the law) instead of age twenty-five. This brought hard feelings between James and Mr. Munger but James eventually bought his freedom for ninety dollars at age twenty-one.
As a freeman he married and had eight children. He also became involved in a court case concerning a slave named Nancy Jackson who was brought to Connecticut from the South by a man named Bullock as a servant for his daughter. When Bullock attempted to return Nancy to the South after two years, James filed a writ of habeas corpus, and the case eventually came to trial. The Supreme Court of Errors ruled that Nancy did not have to return to the South. As a former slave, James probably sympathized when he learned that Nancy had brought two large opium pills to the court and had intended to commit suicide rather than return.
Toward the end of his life he wrote an account of his experiences. He had found that some people were unaware that Connecticut, the land of good works and steady habits much to its shame, had slavery. At the close of his story he wrote, “Connecticut I love thy name but not thy restrictions. I think the time is not far distant when a colored man will have his rights in Connecticut.”)
During the Colonial Period opportunities for blacks to become freemen were few. However, the American Revolution provided an opportunity for several Connecticut blacks to achieve freedom. Each town had a quota of men to supply for military service and was subject to fines for failure to raise the required number. Since military service might prove to be an economic hardship or result in death, slaveowners were permitted to emancipate their slaves to serve in their place.17 Approximately three to four hundred free Connecticut blacks and emancipated slaves fought in the Revolutionary War.18 Although Connecticut had two all non-white units (the officers were white) the rest of the units were integrated.19 Most evidence seems to indicate that the black soldiers did enjoy fairly equal status, provisions, pay, and duties.20
- 1. From the reading, describe attitudes toward blacks that were positive. Describe those that were negative. Slaveowners in the North rationalized slavery saying that slaves were happy and content. Cite evidence from the reading which would contradict this viewpoint.
- 2. What hardships did the constant threat of sale bring upon slave families?
- 3. James Mars was born in 1790 and sold Sept. 12, 1798 to Mr. Munger for service until his twenty-fifth birthday. What laws were violated?
Most slaveowners seemed to have honored their word to free slaves in return for military service. One notable exception is Jack Arabas. With his master’s consent Arabas had enlisted in the Continental Army and fought in the American Revolution. After his discharge his former owner, Thomas Ivers, tried to reclaim him. The court upheld Arabas’s claim that he was a freeman on the grounds that assent to enlistment implied emancipation.21
By the late 18th century, slavery was beginning to decline. In 1784 it was declared that no black born after March 1, 1784 should be held as a slave after reaching the age of twenty-five. This was amended in 1797 to lower the age of freedom to twenty-one.22 Laws were also passed in 1788, 1792, and 1798 providing for heavy fines for those caught transporting slaves in or out of Connecticut.23 The reasons for these laws are probably mixed. The growth of new political ideas, the questionable economics of slavery in Connecticut, and also the libertarian ideology of the Revolutionary era all contributed. How could good Americans demand freedom from Great Britain while enslaving blacks? The hypocrisy was painfully evident. Some students have rejected the claim that slavery was abolished for any noble notion of religion, morality, or humanity. It was, they claim, a matter of simple economics. After the Revolutionary War, agriculture was no longer profitable in Connecticut. Older slaves would be taken care of by their masters; younger ones would learn how to take care of themselves and be gradually phased into the economy.24
By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, several northern states began to abolish slavery altogether or by degrees. Vermont (1777), Ohio (1802), Illinois (1818), and Indiana (1816) banned slavery in their constitutions; Massachusetts by judicial decision (1783); New Hampshire by constitutional interpretation. Acts providing for gradual abolition were passed in Pennsylvania (1780), Rhode Island (1784), Connecticut (1784 and 1797), New York (1799 and 1817), and New Jersey (1804).25 The census of 1790 showed the number of slaves and free blacks in Connecticut to be roughly equal, 2,759 to 2,801. By 1800 the figures showed a dramatic drop in the number of slaves to 951 and a rise in free blacks to 5,330. There was a steady decline in the number of slaves until only a handful remained in 1848 when Connecticut totally abolished slavery.26
However, the period from 1784 to 1848 was not filled with remarkable achievements in equality for blacks in Connecticut. White treatment of blacks contained strange contradictions. The abolition of slavery was a relatively popular crusade in the North after the 1830’s, but living with blacks on an equal basis was an entirely different matter. Blacks were disenfranchised by statute in 1814 and by the Connecticut Constitution of 1818.27 Yet, in 1838 the Connecticut legislature very nobly passed resolutions against the annexation of Texas and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and also passed an act, which for all practical purposes, invalidated the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.28 However, in 1845 Connecticut reaffirmed the inferior status of its own blacks by continuing white suffrage in an amendment to its Constitution that removed the property requirement for voting. The reaction to Congress’s Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 revealed again the righteous opposition Connecticut residents felt about slavery. The law, part of the California Compromise of 1850, required that runaway slaves be returned to their masters. Governor H.B. Harrison introduced a bill in 1854 which made the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act almost impossible in Connecticut.30
The abolition of slavery in 1848 did little to improve the status of blacks in Connecticut. The abject and disgraceful position of blacks was looked upon as normal. Blacks were considered by most white Americans to be “by nature shiftless, slovenly, childlike savage, and incapable of assimilation as equals into white society.”31 The Reverend Mr. Easton, a black minister, while traveling in New England was amazed and dismayed to hear people make derogatory remarks about him. Children asked him in the streets “Hey nigger, where’d you get so much clothes?” They also made fun of his fat lips and flat nose. “Nigger” was a word used in polite society, and “nigger” and blackness were used to scare children. In country schools in Connecticut the dunce stool was sometimes called the “nigger seat” and punishment for whites consisted of being forced to sit with blacks.32 Blacks were forced to live in the worst conditions and work at the lowest jobs. Since housing was scarce in cities and since most people did not want black tenants, blacks usually had to live in the most deplorable conditions. In New Haven, they lived in segregated sections or with poor whites. While it was not uncommon in the early 1800s for whites to live in homes with wallpaper, carpeting, and sufficient heat, blacks lived in filthy, crowded, poorly heated homes. Since many blacks were servants and lived with their masters, they owned no homes.33
More than housing was segregated. Blacks were educated in separate public schools, and were excluded from good eating houses, public lectures, and transportation, except for stagecoaches on which they were required to ride outside.34
Employment was difficult for blacks since it was hard to acquire trades and to practice them. Artisans were not likely to take black apprentices and black workmen faired poorly when competing for jobs especially after the Irish immigrations of the 1830s and 40s. Consequently blacks were forced into the poorest jobs. In New Haven nine of ten black adults were menials or laborers.35
The treatment of blacks in Connecticut in the 19th century was typical of that of the other northern states. In 1840 blacks could vote only in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. In northern states ninety-three percent of the free black population had a limited right to vote or none at all. Schools, prisons, and hospitals were segregated. Blacks were excluded from or put in separate sections of entertainment halls and public transportation. Not only in Connecticut, but throughout the North, hostility from native and immigrant white workers resulted in blacks being excluded from trade unions and working at the lowest-paid, unskilled jobs. Blacks everywhere lived in the worst sections of towns.36
Prudence Crandall was arrested on the morning of June 27, 1833 for harboring and boarding, for the purpose of educating, black girls who were not inhabitants of the state of Connecticut. Crandall was intentionally defying a statute which had been passed by the legislature four weeks earlier at the instigation of the citizens of Canterbury, Connecticut.37 The law in part read:.
Whereas, attempts have been made to establish literary institutions in this state, for the instruction of colored persons belonging to other states and countries, which would tend to the great increase of the colored population of the state, and thereby to the injury of the people: Therefore, Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly convened, that no person shall set up or establish in this state any school, academy, or other literary institution for the instruction or education of colored persons, who are not inhabitants of this state, nor instruct or teach . . . or harbor or board . . . any person who is not an inhabitant of this state without the consent in writing, first obtained of a majority of the civil authority, and also of the select-men . . .”38In order to force the situation, Prudence asked her friends not to post bail. She felt that it might help her cause more by embarrassing town officials who would feel less than satisfied with putting a woman in a jail cell, especially one last occupied by a convicted murderer. Prudence spent the night in jail, and the next day bond was posted.39
The crisis that Prudence Crandall faced in 1833 had begun quite innocuously in the autumn of 1831 when Prudence Crandall started a school in Canterbury for the daughters of Canterbury’s white prominent citizens. Town leaders established credit at the local stores for the school, arranged for wood for heat and cooking, and helped finance the mortgage for the school in a fine home on the southwest corner of the green.40
The school was successful and popular and a source of pride to the town fathers. However, in September, 1832 Sarah Harris, a seventeen year old black girl, asked for admission to the school. Prudence was torn. She knew that the towns people would never consent to educate their daughters alongside black girls. There would be either tremendous resistance to the black girl’s entrance, or the school would be closed. On the other hand, her Quaker upbringing had made Crandall aware of mistreatment of blacks. This situation could provide a marvelous opportunity to alleviate a sorry social problem. After much agonizing soul searching, Crandall made her decision. She would accept the Harris girl.41
The reaction of the townspeople was immediate and negative. As she had expected, the white families threatened to remove their daughters if a black girl was admitted. At least one townsperson feared that an interracial school would only encourage “leveling principles” which would eventually result in intermarriage between whites and blacks. Prudence’s brusque reply, “Moses had a black wife” did very little to allay fears or help her cause.42
The leading townspeople in opposition to the school were Daniel Frost, Rufus Adams, Dr. Andrew Harris, R.Fenner, and Andrew T. Judson. They feared that “the black bourgeoisie of the entire nation would flood the little country village with hundreds of black, brown, and beige young females who would crown the church, promenade the lanes, frequent the stores, and inveigle the flower of Canterbury youth into miscegenetic relationships. The village would become uninhabitable, real estate values would collapse, and black blight would spread from town to town all across the state.”43
The most active antagonist in the situation proved to be Canterbury’s leading politician, Andrew T. Judson. His initial strategy would be to use the state’s old pauper law, a device by which poor transients were warned to leave town or face serious punishment, usually whipping. If that failed, he would use his influence to have the legislature pass a law which would end the school.
Although Prudence enjoyed little support in the town, she was not on her own. Samuel May and George Benson of nearby Brooklyn provided great help. Most influential, however, was William Lloyd Garrison who enlisted the support of many important abolitionists such as Arnold Buffum and Arthur Tappan. They provided moral and financial assistance greatly needed by Prudence in the crisis. This outside support was used against Prudence by her enemies who claimed that she was being unwittingly used as a pawn by Garrison and abolitionists to further their cause.45
On May 24, 1833 the Connecticut “Black Law” was signed by Governor Edwards. On June 27, 1833 Prudence and her sister Almira were arraigned. The case would begin on August 23, 1833 and come before three different courts by July 24, 1834.
The presiding judge in the Windham County Court on August 23 was Joseph Eaton who had not only been a member of the legislature that passed the Crandall law, but was also one of the committee members who wrote it. Andrew T. Judson, Jonathon Welch, and Ichabod Bulkley appeared as counsel for the state. Judson claimed that blacks were not citizens in states where they were not enfranchised. The defense attorneys, William W. Ellsworth, Calvin Goddard, and Henry Strong, claimed that the law conflicted with Article IV, section 2 of the United States Constitution which grants citizens of one state equal rights in others. Not surprisingly Judge Eaton charged the jury that the law was constitutional. However, very surprisingly, the jury, after deliberating was deadlocked, seven for conviction and five for acquittal. Eaton declared a hung jury and dismissed them. The case would automatically come before a new jury in December.46
Judson and the prosecution did not wait for a new trial in December. In an extremely rare move, Judson had an entirely new case brought before Superior Court in October. It happens rarely, if ever, that a case is brought before the Superior Court while it is still being resolved by the County Court.47 Judge Daggett of the Superior Court charged the jury saying that it would be a perversion of the term citizen to include slaves, free blacks and Indians as citizens of the United States. The jury agreed and gave a verdict against Prudence Crandall.48
Defense counsel appealed to the Supreme Court of Errors. The case was heard in July 1834 and this time the court dismissed it on a technicality. Although Crandall and her supporters were happy with the verdict, they were disappointed that the court had failed to rule on the constitutional question, that of black citizenship. That issue would be decided in the Dred Scott case in 1857 in which Roger Taney declared that blacks were not citizens. Taney cited Daggett’s ruling as a precedent in writing the decision.49
The problem did not end for Prudence and her school. Courts can make decisions but they can’t necessarily change feelings. Animal dung was thrown into the school well, and neighbors refused to give water to the girls. Groups of boys followed Prudence and the girls around town beating drums and making noise.50 Combustible materials were stuffed in a corner of the house in an attempt to burn it down.
The final blow came on September 9 when a group of men attacked the house with iron bars and clubs. They smashed the sides of the house and the doors, destroyed five window sashes and shattered ninety panes of glass. Prudence then sent the girls home and closed the school.51
The case came before the County Court, the Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Errors before finally being dismissed on a technicality. In order to include all the legal issues of the case in this simulation, some aspects of the Supreme Court trial have been added to the lower court proceedings. Testimony of people who were not actually witnesses at the trial has been added in order to present the issues more fully. The testimony is based on actual opinions and/or statements of each individual. The testimonies of some witnesses as well as the roles of supporting attorneys have been omitted as they are superfluous. Roles may be assigned in the following manner:
- 1. Prudence Crandall violated a state law by boarding black girls from out-of-state in her home for the purpose of education
- 2. Prudence Crandall contended that the law in question was unconstitutional.
Judge Joseph Eaton presiding justice Windham County Court
Andrew T. Judson prosecuting attorney
Philip Pearl-witness for the prosecution
Levi Kneeland witness for the prosecution
William W. Ellsworth defense attorney
Samuel May witness for the defense
Prudence Crandall the accused
the rest of the class to act as jury members
- 1. Prosecution opening statement
- 2. Defense opening statement
- 3. Prosecution witnesses
- ____A. Prosecution questions each prosecution witness
- ____B. Defense cross examines after each witness
- 4. Defense witnesses
- ____A. Defense questions each defense witness
- ____B. Prosecution cross examines after each witness
- 5. Defense gives closing statement
- 6. Prosecution gives closing statement
- 7. Judge charges the Jury
- 8. Jury deliberates
- 9. Jury foreman announces verdict
Instructions to the Teacher
- 1. select students to play the roles of judge, attorneys, and witnesses. If additional lawyers are desired, the names of the supporting attorneys are included in the essay.
- 2. brief students concerning background of the case.
- 3. allow lawyers and witnesses time to prepare testimony.
- 1. begin courtroom procedure as described.
- 1. finish courtroom procedure if necessary and discuss the trial as it actually took place, as well as the eventual outcome of the school.
Instructions to the Lawyers
- 1. Prepare your opening statement
- ____The jury knows very little about the case in order that they remain impartial. It is your responsibility to inform them of the facts of the case. Explain clearly the issues of the case and emphasize the position you intend to prove. As a result of your opening statement the jury should be able to understand the nature of the charges, your position, and how you intend to prove that position.
- 2. Prepare the testimony of your witnesses
- ____Assume the jury knows nothing. You will provide most of the information through your witnesses. Therefore, it is critical to your case to ask questions that will clearly prove your points. Avoid irrelevant and confusing questions. Make sure your witnesses understand the purpose of their testimony so that they avoid answers under cross examination that may be harmful to your case.
- 3. Prepare your closing statement
- ____Sum up to the jury the important points you have made through your statements and through witness testimony. Be logical and specific and try to make the jury believe that your reasoning is absolutely correct.
- 4. Special Instructions
- ____At any time object to the judge if you think your opposing lawyers are doing something unfair such as putting words in the witness’s mouth, badgering the witness, or doing anything which you think is improper.
Instructions to the Judge
- 1. Maintain order in the court.
- 2. Resolve disputes between lawyers. Sustain objections if you agree with them; overrule if you disagree.
- 3. Follow courtroom procedure.
- 4. Give instructions to the jury.
- 5. Ask the foreman to announce the verdict.
Instructions to the Witnesses
- 1. Make sure you understand the reason for your testimony and the points you’re trying to make to the jury.
- 2. Work with the lawyers in making the questions you will be asked so that you will have a clear understanding of your testimony.
- 3. Try to anticipate questions that the opposition may ask you under cross-examination. Prepare answers in advance to avoid confusion on the witness stand.
- Instructions to the Bailiff
- 1. Arrange the court
- ____(figure available in print form)
- 2. Swear in each witness
- ____The Participants
(Adapted from Report of the Arguments of Counsel in the Case of Prudence Crandall, Plaintiff in Error vs. State of Connecticut, Before the Supreme Court of Errors, pp. 15-22, and Prudence Crandall by Christopher Collier, unpublished)
- 1. The Connecticut General Assembly in May, 1833 passed an act which read, “That no person shall set up or establish in this state any school, academy, or literary institution or harbor or board, for the instruction or education of colored persons, who are not inhabitants of this state . . . without the consent in writing, first obtained of a majority of the civil authority, and also of the select-men of the town in which such school, academy, or literary institution is situated.” If it is proven that Prudence Crandall boarded and instructed one colored girl not from the state of Connecticut, she is guilty of violating the law.
- 2. According to the United States Constitution, the federal government has no control over education. The state governments have always exercised this power. The General Assembly has controlled Connecticut Schools since 1717.
- 3. The framers of the Constitution did not include blacks as citizens.
- 4. The right to vote is not a guaranteed privilege. In Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and many other states blacks cannot vote. In Connecticut, Negroes do not have the right to vote and therefore are not citizens.
- 5. Citizens in the United States are not entitled to participate in all the rights which belong to the citizens of any other state. States have the right to set up restraints for the general good of the whole. States have the right to protect their citizens from the overwhelming effects of bad population and pauperism.
- 6. The purpose of the law which Prudence Crandall is accused of violating is to prevent colored people from other states from intruding into any Connecticut town without the permission of the local authorities.
- 7. A school for colored girls in the midst of Canterbury will destroy real estate values and do harm to the town’s prosperity.
(Adapted from Prudence Crandall, by Christopher Collier Unpublished)
- 1. Local Baptist minister who allowed the girls at Miss Crandall’s school to worship in his church when they were refused elsewhere.
- 2. An unwilling witness testifying only under the threat of imprisonment.
- 3. Reluctantly told the court that he had prayed with the girls at the school several times, had eaten with them and had heard them recite lessons. He was under the impression that some of the girls were from New York and Rhode Island.
(Adapted from Statement of Facts Respecting the School for Colored Females, pp. 8-10)
- 1. He was not a witness at the trial but had headed the legislative committee that wrote the school law. His views reflect those of many Canterbury and Connecticut residents of the time, and therefore his testimony has been included.
- 2. Slavery had started centuries ago and has brought much suffering to Negroes. The State of Connecticut began in 1784 a gradual abolition of slavery.
- 3. The Constitution and laws of the state of Connecticut have given Negroes all rights and privileges of white citizens except the right to vote. Blacks enjoy a very favorable position. They have equal rights in education, persons, and property, as well as freedom to choose any occupation.
- 4. Connecticut has no duty to educate those from other states or countries, many of whom would take up residence in Connecticut. It is a fact confirmed by painful and long experience that colored persons are an appalling source of crime and pauperism. The great number of Negroes in criminal courts, prisons, and asylums for the poor show us clearly the reason to legislate against the education of blacks from out of state.
- 5. Although we should help Negroes, we also have a greater obligation to protect our own citizens from a host of colored emigrants who would rush from every quarter when invited to our colleges, and schools. If there may be circumstances where it might be advisable to admit Negroes to a school, that decision should be left up to the civil authority and select-men of that town.
William W. Ellsworth, Defense Attorney
(Adapted from Report of the Arguments of Counsel, in the case of Prudence Crandall, Pleff. in Error, vs. State of Connecticut Before the Supreme Court of Errors)
- 1. The record shows that pupils were born in the state of Pa., N.Y., R.I. of free parents. Black students have come here to pursue the acquisition of learning in a manner open, common, and lawful to all our population, white or colored.
- 2. These pupils are citizens of their respective states. As citizens, the Constitution of the United States secures to them the right of residing in Connecticut and pursuing the acquisition of knowledge.
- 3. If these students were white, it would be conceded that they were citizens. We have seen mo distinction in color in previous laws.
- ____—the Common Law of England boasts equal principles
- ____—the Declaration of Independence reads “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
- ____—the Constitution of Connecticut declares, “All men when they enter into a social compact are equal in rights, and that no men or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.”
- 4. Blacks fought for liberty in the Revolutionary War.
- 5. Writers of law agree that all who are born within the jurisdiction of a state are natives and all others aliens.
- 6. Our government expects allegiance from our colored population and therefore blacks should expect protection and equal application of the laws from the government. They are not citizens when they have to obey, and aliens when they demand protection.
- 7. Even if the right to vote is denied blacks, that doesn’t mean they aren’t citizens. Women and children don’t vote, and they are citizens.
- 8. Article 4, Section 2 “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”
(Adapted from Prudence Crandall by Edmund Fuller and Prudence Crandall by Christopher Collier, unpublished)
- 1. One of Prudence Crandall’s friends and strongest supporters. He did not testify at the actual trial.
- 2. There are certain inalienable rights of man that are not restricted to color. Education is one of these. The question in this case is not whether thirty or forty girls should be educated in Canterbury but whether all blacks enjoy the rights of American citizens.
- 3. Negroes must be permitted to find their intellectual and moral worth or else they will be kept down in hopeless degradation.
- 4. Article 4, section 2 of the United States Constitution says “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.” The law against the school is clearly unconstitutional. Blacks are citizens and the state of Connecticut cannot deprive those in other states from one of the privileges of citizenship, education.
- 5. There is no such thing as an intermediate citizenship. A person either has all the rights of citizenship or none.
- 1. She was charged with boarding and educating Negroes from out of state. She did not testify on her own behalf.
- 2. A very religious, respectable Baptist schoolmistress, formerly a Quaker.
- 3. Started a school in Canterbury in 1831 at the request of wealthy and prominent citizens, who had daughters of school age.
- 4. Admitted Sarah Harris, a black girl to the school in 1832 realizing there would be many objections by the community. She felt a moral obligation to help blacks improve their position in society.
- 5. When the white citizens of Canterbury threatened to withdraw their daughters from the school, she recruited black girls from other states since there weren’t enough locally to keep the school open.
- 6. In May, 1833 largely through the instigation of Andrew T. Judson a law was passed by the state of Connecticut making it illegal to board for the purpose of educating in Connecticut, residents of other states. Prudence felt that the law was wrong and allowed herself to be arrested, put in jail, and tried in order to prove that the law was immoral and unconstitutional.
Judge Eaton, Charge to the Jury
(Adapted from Report of the Trial of Miss Prudence Crandall Before the County Court of Windham County, p. 20)
Read the following to the jury.
(Statement 1 is a direct quote. Statement 2 and 3 are paraphrased except for the last sentence which was added for the purposes of the mock trial. Judge Eaton said that if the law was unconstitutional, a higher court would decide that issue.)
- 1. “Prudence Crandall is charged in the information before you, with a violation of a certain statute of law of this state, forbidding the setting up of a school for the instruction of colored persons, not inhabitants of this state, boarding or harboring them for the purpose of instruction.”
- 2. The State Legislature and this Court think that this law is constitutional. The defense thinks that it is unconstitutional and that the State Legislature has no right to pass it.
- 3. If you feel that the law is constitutional and that the prosecution has proven that Prudence Crandall violated that law, you must find her guilty. If, however, you feel that either the law is unconstitutional or that it was not proven that Prudence Crandall violated the law, you must find her innocent.
The incident began in April, 1839 when Cinque and several other members of the Mendi tribe were captured in Africa and shipped to Havana, Cuba. In June they were resold to two Cubans, Pedro Montez and Jose Ruiz. Since Spanish law prohibited the importation of slaves, the sale was illegal. Slaves were technically free as soon as they set foot on Cuban shore. Montez and Ruiz loaded their slaves on the schooner Amistad, which means friendship, and headed for Puerto Principe.
Conditions were terrible on the Amistad. A day’s ration for the slaves consisted of one plantain, some bread and one cup of water. The Africans frequently requested more food and water, and one was severely flogged when he tried to take some water for himself. Slaves were allowed on deck only to eat. The rest of the time they were chained by the neck below decks.
They suffered greatly due to the harsh conditions. The Africans chose to revolt when the cook told them they would be killed and eaten. Not understanding that he was joking, they decided to fight for their lives.
Cinque, their leader, broke the chain that bound them below decks with a nail he had found earlier. They armed themselves with cane knives and surprised the cook and the captain. Cinque killed the cook with one blow. The captain put up a fierce struggle killing one African and wounding two others before being killed himself. The rest of the crew except for Antonio, the cabin boy, Montez, and Ruiz went overboard in a life boat.52 The Africans wished to sail home and so kept the Spaniards alive to navigate. During the daytime Montez held an easterly course at a slow speed. However, at night he headed the ship north westward hoping to reach the coast of the United States. They sailed for about two months in this manner and were spotted by various ships and persons on shore. Their erratic sailing aroused interest, and they became the object of much speculation. Some thought the ship to be a pirate ship; others thought her to be the fabled Flying Dutchman. Ships set out to search for the mystery ship but failed to find her.53
Finally on August 26 the Amistad landed near Montauk Point, Long Island. Two sea captains, Henry Green and Peletiah Fordham, were startled when they came across four nearly naked black men. While negotiating a deal to trade the Africans’ gold for food and water, Green and Fordham were very annoyed to see the U.S.S. Washington come into sight. They had wanted to claim salvage rights to the vessel, but Lieutenant Gedney, commander of the Washington boarded her first. He seized the crew when he realized that the ship had been taken over by the blacks. The Amistad was then towed to New London, the nearest port, and the Africans were turned over to the United States Marshall.54
Several legal problems mow came to the fore. Gedney put in a claim for salvage rights. Montez and Ruiz claimed the slaves as their property. The Spanish government claimed that the blacks were murderers and pirates and should be turned over to Spain under provisions agreed to in the 1795 treaty between Spain and the United States. The blacks claimed to be free and wanted to return to Africa.55 Under Spanish law “negroes latinos”, or long time residents of Cuba, were slaves. “Bozal negroes”, or those imported after 1820 were free. Since the Africans had only been kidnapped within the past year(1839), they had been sold in Cuba illegally.56 Abolitionists saw this as an opportunity greatly to further their cause. This incident had generated a lot of interest, and they could take action to help slaves without meddling in the affairs of the South. Joshua Leavitt, editor of the abolitionist newspaper, The Emancipator; Simeon Jocelyn, formerly the white pastor of a black New Haven church; William Jay, son of John Jay; and Lewis Tappan, wealthy New York abolitionist formed the Committee for the Defense of the Africans of the Amistad. They made immediate appeals for financial and legal assistance.
The case was very complex and would be tied up in the courts for over a year and a half. In 1839 criminal cases involving piracy and murder were heard directly in Circuit Court. Those involving salvage and property claims went to District Court. The Amistad case, therefore, had to be brought before both courts. After hearing arguments in Circuit Court from William S. Holabird representing the United States government and Seth Staples and Roger Baldwin representing the prisoners, Judge Smith Thompson ruled that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction over murder and mutiny committed on a Spanish ship in Spanish waters. He then referred the property claims to District Court. Judge Andrew T. Judson of the District Court set the date of the trial for the third Tuesday in November.58
During the fall the Africans remained under loose custody in the New Haven jail. They were tutored in English by Yale divinity students, became celebrities, and developed much popular sympathy. Their popularity was not shared, unfortunately, by some members of President Van Buren’s administration who wanted the Africans extradited to Spain. They decided not to press the issue since the case was to be heard by Andrew T. Judson of the Prudence Crandall case fame. Since he was known to be no friend to blacks, it was thought that he would quickly turn the slaves over to the Spanish. Van Buren was so confident that Judson would rule against the blacks that he sent the naval schooner Grampus to New Haven under Lieutenant Paine with orders to put the blacks in irons and take them to Cuba after the trial.59
Because of the complexity of the case, Judson’s decision had to deal with many points. He ruled in favor of Lieutenant Gedney’s claim for salvage and against Captain Green’s, since Green never boarded the Amistad. He ruled that there could be no salvage rights regarding the slaves since in Connecticut slaves were not salable. Most importantly, he decided that the Africans were not slaves or Spanish subjects and should be transported back to Africa.60 His decision might be viewed as a personal inconsistency in light of the Crandall case. However, the decision is consistent with his beliefs in that the blacks, if declared free, would be returned to Africa.
Cinque and his group were not free, however, since the case was appealed to the Circuit Court and eventually to the United States Supreme Court. John Quincy Adams, former President, was persuaded to act as defense counsel with Roger Baldwin before the Supreme Court. Adams, among other things, emphasized the point that the blacks were free men since Spain had banned the importation of slavery. On March 9, 1841 the Supreme Court announced that the blacks on the Amistad were kidnapped Africans, and not slaves. In addition, Lieutenant Gedney and his crew were granted salvage rights to one-third of the value of the cargo.61
Although the Supreme Court declared the blacks free, there was no provision made for their passage back to Africa. They stayed in Farmington, Connecticut while money was raised and preparations were made for the journey home. The Yale divinity students continued instruction in English, mathematics, and religion, the hope being that this group would return home as Christian missionaries. Several Africans were taken on tour to various northern cities to raise money. As time passed, the Africans became more homesick for their native country as well as restless and rebellious. A few altercations with local whites made the Amistad committee realize that the blacks had to return to their homeland.62
In November, 1842 the Africans in an emotional farewell left Farmington. Hundreds of citizens turned out and amid much crying and hugging saw them off. Only thirty-five of the original fifty-three had survived their trip to America. After seven weeks at sea, they landed in Freetown, Sierra Leone.63
That the people of Connecticut would come to the assistance of Cinque and the other Africans is praiseworthy. That they would continue to treat their own native blacks in a disgraceful and discriminatory way is not. When the Civil War ended in 1865, a great deal of attention was drawn toward ending racial policies in the South. However, as late as 1865 all Connecticut public schools were segregated. In that same year an amendment to the Connecticut Constitution proposing black suffrage was put on the ballot and was defeated by over 6000 votes.64 Although the United States Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted all rights and privileges of citizenship to former slaves, it could not legislate the right to vote.65
Not until after the Civil War did Connecticut’s blacks get equal protection under the law and the right to vote when the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (1868 and 1870) to the United States Constitution were passed. It is significant to note that these freedoms were not granted to Connecticut blacks by the initiative of the state of Connecticut but rather by the federal government. Amendments designed to protect black freedom in the racist South succeeded in accomplishing the same in supposedly more tolerant Connecticut. Connecticut may have been ahead of the southern states in abolishing the institution of slavery, but Connecticut had made little progress in overcoming the evils of that institution. Blacks were discriminated against in voting, housing, education, and employment. Connecticut’s active opposition to slavery did very little to alleviate the day to day treatment of free blacks. It seemed perfectly normal to Connecticut’s whites to oppose slavery while favoring a society that maintained the inferior status of blacks. At least on paper after almost 230 years, blacks had finally achieved political equality in Connecticut. Economic and social equality still remain an issue.
|1640||Slavery established in Connecticut.|
|1690||Beginning of state’s black code. A slave caught out after dark without a pass was returned to his owner who had to pay a fine. This law applied to free blacks also, the only difference being that if they were caught, they had to pay the fine.|
|1723||Black code expanded. A slave caught out of doors after nine without an order from his master could receive up to ten lashes unless his master agreed to pay a ten shilling fine.|
|1730||Black code completed. If a slave spoke words for which he could be sued if he were white, he would receive up to forty lashes. He could be sold for costs unless his master paid them. Slaves were allowed to make pleas to court and enter evidence the same as free men.|
|1774||Indian, Negro, or Mulatto slaves could not be imported into Connecticut. Violators were subject to a $100 fine.|
|1776||Connecticut slaves were given freedom if they would fight|
|1783||in the place of their masters during the Revolutionary War. An estimated 300 to 400 fought. An accurate number of how many attained freedom in this manner is not known.|
|1784||All slaves born after March 1, 1784 would become free upon reaching age 25.|
|1788||Illegal for Connecticut citizens to engage in foreign slave trade.|
|1792||Transporting a slave out of Connecticut forbidden.|
|1797||The age for attaining freedom determined in 1784 was lowered to twenty-one.|
|1814||Connecticut legislature passed law which excluded blacks from voting.|
|1818||Connecticut Constitution that allowed only white males to vote.|
|1831||Attempt to set up black college in New Haven failed. Prudence Crandall opened her school.|
|1832||Prudence Crandall admitted blacks to her school.|
|1833||Law was passed making the education of out-of-state blacks illegal in Connecticut. Prudence Crandall was arrested for violating the law.|
|1834||Connecticut Superior Court, after hearing Crandall’s appeal, found that blacks were not citizens. Supreme Court of Errors dismissed the Crandall case on a technicality.|
|1839||The Amistad Affair. Blacks kidnapped in Africa and sold illegally in Cuba rose up and took over the ship Amistad that was carrying them to captivity. After a year and one half of trials and appeals, they were allowed to return to Africa.|
|1848||Slavery abolished in Connecticut.|
|1866||Federal Civil Rights Act passed.|
|1868||Fourteenth Amendment passed.|
|1870||Fifteenth Amendment passed.|
- 1. What events were positive steps which furthered black equality?
- 2. What events limited progress toward black equality?
- 3. Why is there a movement to end slavery at the end of the 18th century?
- 4. In the Antebellum period Colonizationist and Abolitionists differed in their thinking concerning black freedom. Colonizationists felt that blacks should be liberated and returned to Africa. Abolitionists felt that blacks should be freed and given complete equality. What events would support Colonizationist viewpoint? What events support the Abolitionists viewpoint?
- 5. Was legislation passed in the interest of blacks or whites?
Cable, Mary. Black Odyssey: The Case of the Slave Ship Amistad. New York: The Viking Press, 1971. Enjoyable, easy to read account of the Amistad affair.
Catterall, Helen. Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro. Vol. IV. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1902. Contains summaries of cases related to slavery in Connecticut.
Collier, Christopher. Prudence Crandall. Unpublished. Excellent insight into attitudes and personalities of people involved in the Prudence Crandall case.
Fowler, William C. The Historical Status of the Negro in Connecticut. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor, 1875. Rationalized the inferior position of blacks in Connecticut.
Fuller, Edmund. Prudence Crandall: An Incident of Racism in Nineteenth Century Connecticut. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1971. Short, easy to read account of the case.
Greene, Lorenzo J. The Negro in Colonial New England. New York: Athenaeum, 1968. A standard work containing much information about blacks in New England and Connecticut.
Kimball, John C. Connecticut’s Canterbury Tale. Hartford: Plimpton Print, 1888. A brief emotional description of the Prudence Crandall incident. Contains some minor inaccuracies.
Litwack, Leon. North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961. Wealth of information concerning northern slavery. Well-documented.
Owens, William A. Black Mutiny: The Revolt on the Schooner Amistad. Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1968. Dramatic rendering of the Amistad affair based on factual information.
Report of the Arguments of Counsel in the Case of Prudence Crandall, Plaintiff in Error, vs. the State of Connecticut Before the Supreme Court of Errors. Boston: Garrison and Knapp, 1834. Contains background of the Crandall case and summaries of the witnesses’ testimonies.
Report of the Trial of Miss Prudence Crandall Before the County
Court for Windham County. Brooklyn, Connecticut: Unionist Press, 1833. Gives a summary of the witness testimony, the complete opening statements of both sides and the background of the case.
Statement of Facts Respecting the School for Colored Females in Canterbury, Connecticut Together With a Report of the Late Trial of Miss Prudence Crandall. Brooklyn, Connecticut: Advertiser Press, 1833. Contains full arguments of the prosection and defense.
Steiner, Bernard. “History of Slavery in Connecticut,” Slavery in the States. ed. Negro Universities Press, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1893. Standard work on Connecticut slavery.
Strother, Horatio T. The Underground Railroad in Connecticut. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1962. Contains information about the underground railroad and important events in pre-Civil War Connecticut black history.
Warner, Robert Austin. New Haven Negroes: A Social History. New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1969. Good source of information concerning the lack of equality suffered by blacks in New Haven and Connecticut in general.
White, David 0. Connecticut’s Black Soldiers 1775-1783. Chester, Connecticut: Pequot Press, 1973. Part of the Connecticut Bicentennial Series. Very informative about Connecticut’s blacks during the Revolutionary period.
Silversmith. The First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967. Contains much information about the status and treatment of blacks in the North prior to the abolition of slavery.
Contents of 1981 Volume on Connecticut History | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute