Finding Our Place in Revolutionary History

Finding Our Place in Revolutionary History
Karen Parker

All human beings want to feel like they belong to something bigger. This is
especially true when students reach adolescence, their whole psyche revolves around being liked, accepted, and belonging to a group. The importance of that “place” that they hold is the driving force held together by peers, social media, cliques, fashion, and home. Relating part of their place to history and pique that sense of belonging to that history, not feeling left out of it as a spectator, not feeling odd or different from the people and feeling like they are connected with the locations, can be the key to the level of engagement. Luckily, in New Jersey, it is not difficult to find Revolutionary era connections in our backyards and neighborhoods.

There is a disconnect with children during their education of history. Students often feel disconnected because of the difficulties in relating to elapsed time, distant places, and unfamiliar habits and customs. As educators, it is our challenge to create as many opportunities for connections as possible, to have the students relate to some “thin and brittle” threads of familiarities, and often we can wrestle grudging interest in the topics presented.

History, unlike active experimentation in science and the excitement of fiction in
language arts, is unsurprisingly often deposited toward the end of the favorite subject list, to muddle around in student’s heads where they view the facts as dull lists of events and dates of forced importance with scattered entertaining facts – more so if they relate to a holiday that includes time off from school.

To connect with people from generations past, it is important to find that common ground with today. Where I grew up in Morris County, I lived a short drive from an active and preserved area of Revolutionary history, spending many hours of my childhood roaming the woods and fields of Revolutionary significance, taking short field trips to Jockey Hollow, Fort Nonsense, and the Ford Mansion. Where I teach in Hunterdon County, the most notable area is Washington’s Crossing State Park, with which many of my students are completely unfamiliar, and the war to them
seems very distant. It is important to find nearby locations and people that are
connected to the Revolution era.

In my research for the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies, I was looking
for information on people from Hunterdon County who were actively involved in the
Revolutionary War. There were many references to soldiers, the Commissary General for Washington’s army and the local militia, but I came across one primary
source that I thought might catch the interest of my students.

Through researching into the life of this average local person, James Parker, reading about his daily missives on the management of the property, connections to the effects that the war had on the common people became evident. Parker’s
connections began as a proprietor whose primary residence was in one of the colonial capitals, Perth Amboy. He was a major landowner in Hunterdon County, owning land in what is now Kingwood, Union, Bethlehem, and Tewksbury Townships and built a large stone house in Union Township called Shipley. It is interesting to note that many people in this local area were not following the political patriots, but many had loyalist leanings or were ambivalent.

Mr. Parker was one of those who did not support the patriotic feelings and was
sentenced and jailed by the New Jersey Council of Safety during the summer of 1777, in Morristown, for refusing to take an oath renouncing loyalty to Britain. He was paroled and exchanged for a Patriot held in New York in 1778. At this time, he spent
more and more of his time in Hunterdon County, overseeing his lands. Some think
that he was avoiding the political climate of the large shore town of Perth Amboy,
though he documents in his farm journal his travels back and forth to his original home for proprietor meetings.

Some other examples of Parker’s political leanings come from an entry in his journal that appeared sympathetic to a local loyalist family, the Voughts who lived in Clinton, known then as Hunt’s Mill, about three miles away from Parker’s home in Pittstown.. On December 18, 1778, Doc Smith took his contribution to a relief fund for women, wives of people gone into the British line and had all of their effects sold. This is the same date that the Voughts had all of their belongings auctioned off. These families were considered traitors by the New Jersey Legislature, which allowed all of their property and possessions to be confiscated. At this time, a large amount of the British army and many of their sympathizers occupied areas of New York and Staten
Island) (Gigantino 2015)

The farm journal expresses many tasks that most would take for granted at the
time, documented in amazing detail, though commonplace and ordinary back then.
These entries in this primary source give glimpses of insight on the challenges of
conducting business during the Revolutionary War. He notes that on July 1, 1778, he was in the meadow with great firing heard at a distance, “Regulars and Continental troops engaged in general or skirmishes since Sunday last.” He notes that it was a “severe engagement” and we can assume that he was hearing the Battle of Monmouth and he must have been at Perth Amboy to be in the proximity to hear the
fighting, even though he does not mention it. There are no references of any major
engagement during this time period anywhere near his lands in Hunterdon County.

Financial struggle, even for wealthy proprietors, was a part of daily life. The
farm journal mentions the use of many different denominations of hard currency:
Continental Dollars, Johannes and Moidore, which were Portuguese gold coins, English Guineas, New York Currency, English Pounds and Spanish dollars. In January of 1779, Parker discusses an issue with the prevalence of counterfeiting, by mentioning that he was buying land from Abraham Bonnell. He could not confirm if the money he was paying with was counterfeit. Bonnell said he didn’t believe any was, due to being very careful to examine the bills and that the mark of a printer was not necessarily a proof of authenticity. At one point he mentions, “Paid for bushel of wheat in hard money.”

This may have been noted because of the general lack of coinage and the use of
continental paper money. He noted on March 5, 1780 that taxes were collected but there was a scarcity of money, and on March 13 taxes were collected on his Bethlehem property, and he complains about having no money until he could collect on his debts. On March 23, taxes were collected on Tewksbury property, and he mentions that he is owed more money than he can pay; he can’t pay the taxes until his debtors pay. For the same year, he was taxed on 200 acres, was able to pay three-quarters of the bill but had no continental money, so he borrowed it.

Everyone knows that Continental and British troops moved all around New Jersey. It is common knowledge that they were located near the famous areas of conflict such as Monmouth, Trenton, Princeton, and Washington’s Crossing at the Delaware River. Troops on both sides of the war marched through Hunterdon County and
stopped to rest their soldiers and horses.

On December 4, 1778, Parker mentions being told by Moore Furman, a local miller and merchant who was well connected as a Deputy Quartermaster General for New Jersey, that Gen. Burgoyne’s army was marching to Virginia and would be quartered in the neighborhood as they marched along. On December 5, troops of the 1st Division came down with three companies of men, eight officers. He notes little business was conducted due to attending the troops. On December 6th, the 1st Division “marcht” off and the 2nd division came in. Charles Stewart (local and
the Commissary General of Washington’s army) spared a gallon of spirits. On
December 7th the 2nd division left, no others came, on December 8th, the 3rd
division troops came with six companies and five officers of the 62nd regiment, on
December 9th, the 3rd division left. Parker noted that the Brunswick troops arrived with three officers and 78 men on the 10th and that little work was accomplished when troops were there. December 11th was active with part of a company of ‘foreign troops” that were there with a major, two horses, a baggage wagon with four more horses; this group left on December 13th.

Imagine the disruption of regular life and business when these troops had been
quartered on the property. May 15, 1779 brought troops from the Continental army through the Pittstown area. James Parker notes that the Regiment of the New Jersey Brigade, commanded by Colonel Ogden, marched to Pittstown on the way to Easton with 300-350 men. The Continental troops pastured horses in local fields. Parker notes that he put into pasture twelve Continental horses, then took on
seven more Continental horses, ending the day with a total of twenty. On August 25th, he received from Nehemiah Dunham, who built the stone mill in nearby Clinton, five barrels of flour for Continental service. On August 25th, he put into pasture 12 Continental horses. On August 26th he took seven more Continental horses, September 4th put up nine more Continental horses and on September 18th, all Continental horses left.

In today’s military, food and supplies are provided by the government, but back in
Revolutionary times, troops were expected to be supplied by local people, sometimes
with promissory notes, sometimes by donation with no recompense. Sometimes a
tax was paid to help sponsor troops. In Parker’s journal he mentions that on July
12,1779, he paid Adam Hope a tax toward raising a state regiment, as assessed by
Colonel Beavers and Charles Coke, of 45 dollars. On August 25th, he received from
Nehemiah Dunham of Clinton five barrels of flour for Continental service. He noted a meeting in Pittstown on January 18, 1780, “Spent day in Pittstown where residents met to deliver cattle and grain collected for the army.”

Students need to imagine for themselves that not all of the population of New Jersey followed the Patriot cause, most sources agree that in the colonies they made up only about thirty to forty percent of the population. They believe that around twenty
percent were acknowledged Loyalists, while the remaining population were neutral.
There were many risks on both ends of the political spectrum, with neighbors who
harassed or reported neighbors, or turned their coats when it was to their benefit.

They need to experience the feelings of taking sides, or remaining neutral in situations. It is important to realize that everyone in New Jersey was involved in the Revolutionary War because it influenced their ordinary lives in ways that did not directly involve battles, shooting, famous officers and other incidents memorialized with statues and National Parks. The areas right around the corner, a barn down the street, an old house, mill or tavern, a name of a road in New Jersey, may have been owned or named after ordinary people whose stories were intimately intertwined with the Revolutionary War.

The decisions of James Parker and others were difficult for them and they have
relevance for us today whenever we receive criticism for our decisions.


References
Gigantino, J.J. (2015). The American
Revolution in New Jersey: Where the
Battlefront Meets the Home Front. Rutgers
University Press.


Stevens, S.B. (2015). All Roads Lead to
Pittstown. Hunterdon County Historical
Commission

New York State’s Birthday and First Constitution

New York State’s Birthday and First Constitution

Bruce W. Dearstyne

Social studies and history teachers routinely cover the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution in their courses. But every state also has a “birthday” (the day it got started as a state) and its own state constitution. The origins of states and their first constitutions can be very useful teaching tools, adding a new dimension to students’ historical insight and understanding.

New York State is an outstanding example. April 20 is New York’s Birthday! That was the date in 1777 when the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York, an ad hoc group elected the previous year to guide New York’s Revolutionary War efforts and develop its first constitution, finished work on that document.

The story of New York’s first state constitution is a dramatic one. New York had moved from steadfast loyalty to Britain to reluctant rebelling colony to a full-scale push for independence through the actions of three Provincial Congresses, the first elected in 1775, to guide New York in the growing alienation from Britain. The “Convention of Representatives” had been elected the year before as New York’s fourth Provincial Congress. Meeting initially in White Plains, they authorized New York’s representatives to the Continental Congress to approve the Declaration of Independence in early July, then, to keep out of reach of British forces, fled north to Fishkill and finally to Kingston where they completed their work. Along the way, they changed their name from Provincial Congress to Convention of Representatives of the State of New York. 

When they began their work it wasn’t entirely clear just what a “state” was. People knew about colonies/provinces (New York had been one), and nations or nation-states as they were sometimes called (such as Britain). There were few precedents of models to draw on. Other colonies-becoming-states were writing their own first constitutions. The Articles of Confederation, which would link the new states together, was not completed until November 1777. The U.S. Constitution was a decade in the future. The creative New York drafters drew on their own experience in colonial government, their knowledge of European writers on the concepts of natural rights and representative government, and  a few American leading-edge advocates such as Massachusetts’ John Adams. But mostly they drew on their own creativity and improvisation.

The delegates worked in haste and approved the final draft of their document, which still had strikeouts and marginal notes when they signed it. There was no time to make a clean copy before sending the document to the printer. They took a day off but the next day, April 22, the convention’s secretary mounted a flour barrel outside the court house where the group had worked and read it aloud to Kingston citizens.

New York State had in effect proclaimed itself into existence.

The document began by quoting the Declaration of Independence. This connected New York with the other colonies asserting their independence. It stated that the convention acting “in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State doth ordain, determine, and declare that no authority shall on any pretense whatever shall be exercised over the people or members of this State, but such as shall be derived from and granted by them.” In 1777, a document purporting to represent the consensus and will of the people, and their right to govern themselves,  was a startling, radical departure from the past.

The original copy of the first constitution is preserved in the State Archives.   The Archives has provided a scanned version at https://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/index.php/Detail/objects/10485.You can read it online in typed form at the Yale Law School Avalon Project. William A. Polf’s 1777:  The Political Revolution and New York’s First Constitution, also available online, provides a good introduction. It is also described in Peter Galie, Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York and in my book, The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History.

The 1777 constitution is just over 5000 words in length, It outlined the structure and purposes of state government but did not provide much detail.

It created a two-house legislature — one house, the Assembly, to be more numerous and more broadly representative of the people, and the other, the Senate, to be smaller and more attuned to the interests and property. That basic structure is still in place today.

It declared that “the supreme executive power and authority of this State shall be vested in a governor” who “shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed.” That wording is similar to what exists in the current State Constitution. But the 1777 writers had had enough experience with the King of England and some colonial governors who had over-asserted their power that they hedged the authority of New York State’s governor. Instead of giving the governor veto power over bills passed by the legislature, they created a “Council of Revision” consisting of the governor, chancellor, and judges of the supreme court with veto power. Rather than giving the governor sole appointment power, they vested that in a “Council of Appointment,” consisting of the governor and four senators chosen annually by the Assembly,  to approve all appointments.

The document made only a brief reference the courts; fleshing that out later would require legislative action. Voting rights were restricted to men who met certain property-holding or other requirements.

The Constitution was not very long but it was a sound beginning. Hastily-organized elections were held in the spring and summer. The first legislature assembled in Kingston in September and got to work. The newly-elected governor, General George Clinton, had to await a lull in the fighting to come to Kingston, take the oath office, make  the first gubernatorial address, and then hurry back to lead troops again.

The fledgling government did not have tranquility for long. It had to flee as British troops arrived and assaulted and burned Kingston on October 16. The legislature soon re-assembled in Poughkeepsie and resumed work. By then, patriot forces had defeated British incursions from the west (at Oriskany, August 6), the east (at Bennington, on August 16) and the north (at Saratoga, October 17, a major victory that became the turning point of the Revolution).

1777 turned out to be something of a “miracle year.” New York State was here to stay. The new constitution endured without major changes until 1821.

There are many ways of approaching the use of the first State Constitution in social studies and history courses. Some possibilities:

*It is an inspiring, against-the-odds story. It is a story of people determined to control their own collective affairs through representative government.  At the beginning of 1777, the odds of New York’s success did not seem great. By the end of the year, New had written a constitution, established a government, held elections, fended off invasions from three directions, and survived invasion and destruction of its capital.

*It represented compromise and consensus. The writers had a number of disagreements and varying viewpoints and perspectives going into the process. But along the way they put aside their differences, compromised, and came together to develop a consensus document. That process is worthy of study now, when too often it seems difficult to reach agreement on divisive political issues.

*It was successful, flexible, and enduring. The first constitution proved to be a viable framework for years when New York grew remarkably fast. Even when the first major revisions came in 1821, the structural changes were relatively modest. The revisions abolished the Council of Revision and the Council of Appointment and replaced them with procedures more similar to what we have today.

*It left important work undone. The convention discussed abolishing the horrible practice of slavery but in the end it did not. That had to await legislation in 1799 and slavery was not formally abolished until 1827. Restrictions on men’s voting rights were gradually abolished in ensuing decades. Women finally got the right to vote in 1917. The constitution had no bill of rights other than protection of freedom of religion. The legislature enacted a bill of rights in 1787 and they were embodied in the 1821 constitutional revision. Since then, the constitution has been revised, updated, changed, and amended many times. That is a reminder that constitutions are subject to update and change over time, with voters’ approval.

*It was influential. The New York constitution includes some of the principles that were embodied in the U.S. Constitution a decade later, 1787. New York led the way in a sense. That is not surprising because New York patriot Gouverneur Morris was one of the principal writers of the New York document and a decade later, then a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Pennsylvania, he was also one of the writers of the U.S. Constitution.

*It is a source for teaching about self-government, constitutional law, and civic responsibilities. The constitution could be a source for deepening students’ understanding of self-government and their roles and  responsibilities as citizens. Educating for American Democracy , a recent report on civics education, notes that students need more study of “the social, political, and institutional history of the United States in its founding era, as well as the theoretical underpinnings of our constitutional design. The state constitutions and the federal 1787 Constitution, as amended, form diverse peoples and places into an American people: one overarching political community.”

An Educator’s Perspective on Teaching the Voices of Enslaved People in NewJersey as Part of Local History

An Educator’s Perspective on Teaching the Voices of Enslaved People in New
Jersey as Part of Local History

by Robert Fenster

Few high school history textbooks have much to say about Black people in the northern colonies and states. While coverage of the evils of slavery has dramatically increased since I was a student in the 1980s, the focus has predominantly been on enslaved people in the south and not enslaved northerners nor free Black people. Slavery is mentioned 14 times in the New Jersey Student Learnings Standards from 2020, but the only connection to slavery in New Jersey is 6.1.8.History CC.4.a: “Explain the growing resistance to slavery and New Jersey’s role in the Underground Railroad.”[1] The standard implies that New Jersey was a hotbed of abolitionism instead of the dark reality: the gradual abolition law in 1804 maintained slavery for life for those born before its passage[2], and the so-called Act to Abolish Slavery in 1846 replaced slavery with apprenticeship for life. The ratification of the 13th Amendment didn’t merely free the slaves in states that were in rebellion, but also 16 people who remained enslaved in New Jersey in December of 1865.[3]

            Is it at all surprising that most students graduate high school in New Jersey unaware of the enduring nature of this institution or the experience of Blacks in the north? Although it might be argued that malignant forces are behind a whitewashing of New Jersey history, it seems more likely that a collective reductionism is at work here. There are only so many days to “cover” the curriculum, so some simplification is necessary. It’s easier for students to understand the binary depiction of the southern enslaver states being evil while the north is celebrated as the home of abolition. That sort of teaching is oversimplified and not only does injustice to actual history, but to the lives of thousands of men and women who were enslaved in New Jersey, as well as the lives of free Black people. This essay shares my ongoing pedagogical journey, and provides some suggestions for my fellow educators who wish to improve student understanding of the history of Black people in New Jersey.

Although modern textbooks include the death of biracial Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre, overall Black participation in the actual American Revolution is typically relegated to a sidebar or absent altogether. Graham Russell Hodges describes the American Revolution as a Black revolution, “the largest slave revolt before the Civil War.” Hodges indicates there is documentation for at least 18,000 Black individuals who fought for the British, with the possibility of tens of thousands more having served in an effort to throw off the oppressive shackles of the colonial governments.[4]

            At a week-long National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on Slavery in the Colonial North in 2020 at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, New York run by Leslie Harris and Jacqueline Simmons, I saw the buildings where enslaved people toiled, and heard from expert tour guides who shared how historians pieced together so much of the history of the manor. It inspired me to focus more on slavery in New Jersey. I went to my county clerk’s office and found birth certificates and manumission records of enslaved people from our town and prepared a lesson plan incorporating these primary sources. My students were taken aback especially to see names familiar to them among the enslavers. In addition to discussing how the descendants of the enslaved people might feel about their history, the students also considered what the descendants of enslavers might think about their family’s past. That lesson in and of itself was impactful, but I was acutely aware it didn’t do enough to explore the lives of enslaved men and women.

            Well-intentioned teachers sometimes make cringe-worthy mistakes. There are lessons I did early in my career (and, truth be told, even more recently) that were tone deaf at best. It seems as if every year there’s another incident where a misguided teacher somewhere in the United States steps knee deep into controversy by running a slavery simulation. The vast majority of teachers know such a lesson has no pedagogical value and runs the risk of inducing trauma. A cursory search for lesson plans online still finds dozens of “walk a mile in their shoes” lessons, where educators think they can responsibly and effectively get students to learn by pretending they understand what an enslaved person went through, usually done through some kind of journaling activity. Although I believe it can be useful to consider what enslaved people might have been feeling, it’s ultimately presumptuous and reductive to suggest students would be able to have that level of empathy and understanding. The temptation to work solely in the affective domain when dealing with slavery and other atrocities should be resisted.

            Many enslaved people were actively prevented from learning how to write, creating a dearth of first-person documents in comparison to white contemporaries who kept journals and wrote letters. There are a number of insightful enslaved person narratives, but when trying to keep to New Jersey history it is a bit challenging. There are a handful of narratives written by white contemporaries, like William Allinson’s Memoir of Quamino Buccau, A Pious Methodist. Although Allinson is an abolitionist, he uses his subject as a prop to further his political cause rather than illuminate the individual he is writing about. This focus belies an utter lack of interest in the enslaved person’s internal life and somewhat limits the usefulness of the text.[5] Historians are left to construct meaning out of other resources like fugitive notices, laws, tax registers, censuses, travel logs, registers of free Black people, and manumission records. New Jersey has a fairly robust set of available documents, making the work of historians easier than in several neighboring states.[6]

My evolving goal as a history teacher is three-fold: depict enslaved people as complex individuals who exercised their agency in a variety of ways, examine the ugly reality of slavery in our town, county, and state, and empower students to become historians themselves by examining the wealth of resources available to them on local history.

# # #

The study of agency is absolutely essential to shift student understanding from a one-dimensional conception of hapless victims to recognizing the humanity and complexity of individuals. Enslaved people’s agency was exhibited on a daily basis in a wide variety of ways. When students would ask me “Why didn’t they fight back?” I used to foolishly accept their premise and engage in a conversation about weaponry, psychology, and geography. Although those are all worthy of examination in a larger conversation on the subject, the fact is they fought back in innumerable ways. Agency was exhibited through armed revolt, breaking equipment, arson, working slowly or poorly, poisoning, feigning illness, self-harm, self-liberation, negotiation, and the development of an enslaved culture through language, families, community, religion, and music.

Jigsaw lesson plans are best used when the specific content is less important than the larger concepts. Examining the organized rebellions of enslaved people is an excellent opportunity to use this approach to its maximum efficacy. Students can research the Stono Rebellion, the New York Conspiracy of 1741, Gabriel’s Conspiracy, the German Coast Uprising, and Nat Turner’s Rebellion, for example. I have my students identify key figures, provide a description of the events, and then require them to find a way to frame the event as a successful endeavor. Students, of course, recognize the limits to their success, but by going beyond the reductionism of “Were they emancipated as a result of their rebellion?” it provides a key lesson.

Incidents of self-harm present a challenge to educators. We want students to understand the lengths to which enslaved people would go to assert their agency, but want to be careful about triggering existing trauma on the subject of self-harm. I’m still grappling with how much focus to put on the subject, but have used some narratives of enslaved people and newspaper articles to at least touch on the subject, if not dwell on it. The National Humanities Center has a collection of suicide-related items for teachers to consider using in their curriculum.[7] There are also an array of primary and secondary accounts of self-mutilation, such as the report of the “Desperate Negro Woman” in the Staunton Vindicator who “deliberately cut three of her fingers off, taking two licks at them” with an axe.[8] Needless to say, educators should tread lightly in this area, keeping a keen eye out for the reactions of their students.

Small acts of sabotage are more challenging to document as they likely would be chalked up to accidents or the natural wear and tear on equipment when tools would break. I don’t use any primary sources for this, but there are quite a few descriptions in narratives of enslaved people describing particular incidents that occurred prior to their emancipation. More dramatic forms of resistance like arson tend to capture students’ imagination such as the Albany fires of 1793.[9]

We used to speak of “runaway slaves,” but both terms have undergone a transition for similar reasons. As Katy Waldman pointed out, “To reduce the people involved to a nonhuman noun was to reproduce the violence of slavery on a linguistic level; to dispense with it amounted to a form of emancipation.”[10] Similarly, Daina Ramey Berry writes about the self-liberated: “[T]heir emancipation reflected a level of agency—a public showing of their personhood—and for them, escape was not a crime.”[11] Students can benefit by examining enslavers’ advertisements about the self-liberated which reveal so much about their assumptions and beliefs about their “property,” and often unintentionally expose the skills and accomplishments of the individuals in question.[12]

Giles Wright wrote that the American Revolution was “the cultural metamorphosis of Africans into African Americans.”[13] However, students rarely consider the creation of a common culture to be a form of resistance without being led to that conclusion.  I’m still working on developing plans to help students see enslaved people as something more than one-dimensional figures. I found the Historic Hudson Valley’s People Not Property interactive website particularly useful in helping students make the connection.[14] Modules on the poetry of Phylis Wheatley, the celebration of Pinkster, and the role of extralegal marriages help students better understand how oppressed people can offer resistance through assertions of their own humanity. It helps students understand that these individuals were not passive victims who allowed their oppressors to defeat them at every turn.

# # #

            When I was given the opportunity to participate in the New Jersey Council For Social Studies grant “Telling our Story: Living in New Jersey in the 1770s” focusing on the lives of lesser known individuals during the American Revolution, I knew from the outset I wanted to research Black people from Somerset County, and ideally, from Hillsborough, the town I teach in. I’d read Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills’ powerful book If These Stones Could Talk. The Revolutionary War service of William Stives gets particular attention along with his decision to settle near Hillsborough after the war.[15] The Sourland Mountain ridge runs 17 miles from Lambertville to the western end of Hillsborough, so my students would recognize various geographic locations from his life story. However, since the authors’ work had gained significant attention, I wasn’t sure my focusing on his life would do much to elevate Stives’ story.

            I spent several afternoons at the Somerset County Library in Bridgewater, poring over their local history holdings. Having never done much in the way of local history research, it took awhile to orient myself as to what was available, but before long I encountered a number of promising leads. The most significant came from the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, an outstanding publication compiling historical essays and primary source documents, which ran from 1912 to 1919. It was all I could do not to get lost reading unrelated articles about Hillsborough and nearby towns. However, the article entitled “Revolutionary War Record of a Somerset County Slave” in the 1914 edition utterly captivated me.[16] The story of an enslaved man named Samuel who served as a substitute for his enslaver in exchange for the promise of freedom takes several awful, though not surprising twists. Samuel’s two years of service, including fighting at the battles of Long Island, Princeton, Monmouth — and the very local Millstone — ended in two leg wounds and the broken promise of his enslaver. Decades later, in his mid-80s, Samuel sought a pension for his service, but was repeatedly denied his just due because the pensions board claimed he had not proven his service. Ultimately, the New Jersey legislature passed a law specific to Samuel, providing him $50 a year for the remaining few years of his life.

            Chasing down information on Samuel Sutphen (as he came to be called later in his life) was both challenging and invigorating. It’s been decades since I was a college student doing research in the basement of Alexander Library at Rutgers University. I had hoped to revisit the same location for both nostalgic and practical reasons (the holdings at Rutgers are quite impressive), but Hurricane Ida made that an impossibility. Instead I relied mostly on internet-based research and was able to gain enough materials to prepare a structured academic controversy for my students. The activity incorporated materials on the multiracial Marbleheaders, and Black participants Benjamin Whitecuff, Colonel Tye, and Prime. Frankly it is a work in progress in need of development, but my students saw the breadth of Black participation in the war instead of merely seeing the battles through the eyes of the white officers.

            When I mentioned my desire to learn about enslaved people in Hillsborough, I was pointed towards the biography of Silvia Dubois, a formerly enslaved woman who received her freedom after a physical altercation with her enslaver. Dubois self-liberated after the encounter and negotiated her freedom in exchange for promising never to return.[17] Her story is remarkable, but chronologically was outside the purview of the grant. Nonetheless I read a series of items about her story and took notes for a future lesson plan. In the meantime, I encountered an article about her grandfather Harry Compton written by Kenneth E. Marshall. In turn, this led me to Marshall’s book Manhood Enslaved: Bondmen in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth Century New Jersey, in which he focuses on the lives of three enslaved men, including the aforementioned Quamino Buccau. I liked the idea of examining a second Black man from the time period who had not served, but instead experienced changing circumstances during the American Revolution. With many enslavers off serving in the militia or Continental Army, numerous enslaved people used the opportunity to liberate themselves, negotiate better conditions for themselves, or rebel in other ways.

            In examining the experiences of various individuals based on limited and sometimes questionable documentation, it is crucial that students understand that there are limits to what we can definitively know. Many students struggle with history because they struggle with nuance, wanting everything to be crystal clear. For me, the shades of grey are what make history fascinating, and the use of deductive reasoning a great and wonderful challenge. The best conversations in the classroom are the ones where students have honest disagreements about historical interpretations with equally compelling logical arguments to support their positions. What we can do to help them is to identify particular facts and events that serve as anchors. Quamino Buccau, in his teens, was forced to watch executions of enslaved people accused of arson and other crimes.[18] Because Allinson never bothered to ask his subject how he felt about his experiences, we are left to speculate about how such experiences would impact an individual and their subsequent behavior. When he converts to Christianity after hearing what he believed to be the voice of God, a fascinating dichotomy occurs. Some, like Allinson, hold him up to be a model enslaved person, the very proof the abolitionist is seeking to demonstrate the notion that Black people could become responsible citizens imbued by their faith in religion. His subsequent enslaver, however, looked at his religiosity as something inappropriate and suspect. Kenneth Marshall raises fascinating questions about how an enslaved person might show interest in Christianity to curry favor with their enslaver, and how that in and of itself might be an assertion of agency.[19] There’s a lot to unpack here and it may be something that cannot be easily converted into a one- or two-day lesson plan. That being said, a discussion of religion and agency is definitely important in the coverage of slavery.

            Conducting this type of research and lesson planning is simultaneously rewarding and humbling. Even as I create a useful lesson plan that I will share with other educators and likely use for the rest of my career, I reflect on how many years I didn’t adequately address the subject matter in my classes. And I recognize that despite including them in the opening paragraphs of the essay, I have yet to develop resources and lessons on the lives of free Blacks in New Jersey. There is always more work to do, but at least we’re going in the right direction.

# # #

We want our students to be more than passive receptacles of knowledge that we distill. There are myriad critical thinking activities we can provide, but perhaps nothing could surpass doing the actual work of historians. There are thousands of primary and secondary source documents available online, in historical society archives, and in government offices. For example, in West Hartford, Connecticut, students participated in the Witness Stones Project, researching their town’s sordid history in connection to slavery. Beginning with an Advanced Placement US History class and then spreading out to lower grade levels, students dug into historical archives to learn more about the lives of enslaved people, commemorate their lives, and create lasting tributes through the placement of historical markers.[20] Although Covid-19 continues to present obstacles for some research, there’s no reason that our students here in New Jersey can’t start doing similar work to the West Hartford students in an effort to elevate the stories and voices of forgotten people from our local communities.

References


[1]New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Social Studies, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.state.nj.us/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-SS.pdf.

[2]An Act For the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (1804), accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.0990100b/?sp=1; Selected New Jersey Laws related to slavery and Free People of Color, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.montclair.edu/anthropology/wp-content/uploads/sites/36/2021/06/Slavery-in-New-Jersey-Literature-Review-Appendix-B-Slave-Codes_Remediated.pdf

[3] Julia Martin, “Slavery’s legacy is written all over North Jersey, if you know where to look,” NorthJersey.com, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/essex/montclair/2021/02/28/american-dream-paramus-nj-part-north-jersey-slavery-legacy/4212248001. In addition, the work of James J. Gigantino Jr. provides extensive resources on this subject.

[4] Hodges, Graham Russell. Interview with the author. Bob’s Just Asking podcast, January 27, 2022.

[5]Kenneth E. Marshall, Manhood Enslaved: Bondmen in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century New Jersey (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2011), 18

[6] Hodges Interview.

[7]National Humanities Center, “Suicide among Slaves: A “Very Last Resort,” accessed February 5, 2022, http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai/emancipation/text2/suicide.pdf.

[8]PBS, Slavery and the Making of America, “Responses to Enslavement,” accessed February 5, 2022,  https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/slavery/experience/responses/docs8.html

[9]New York State Education Department, “The Conflagration of 1793,” accessed February 5, 2022, https://exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov//albany/doc/fire1793.html

[10] Katy Waldman, “Slave or Enslaved Person? It’s not just an academic debate for historians of American slavery,” Slate, May 19, 2015, https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/05/historians-debate-whether-to-use-the-term-slave-or-enslaved-person.html.

[11] Daina Ramey Berry, “The Truth About Black Freedom,” The Atlantic, June 18, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/06/what-freedom-really-meant-juneteenth/619239.

[12]Arlene Balkansaky, “Runaway! Fugitive Slave Ads in Newspapers,” Library of Congress, accessed February 5, 2022,  https://blogs.loc.gov/headlinesandheroes/2019/10/runaway-fugitive-slave-ads-in-newspapers/

[13] Giles Wright, “Moving Toward Breaking the Chains: Black New Jerseyans and the American Revolution,” in New Jersey in the American Revolution, ed. Barbara J. Mitnick (New Brunswick, NJ, Rivergate Books, 2005), 113.

[14]Historic Hudson Valley, “People Not Property: Stories of Slavery int he Colonial North,” accessed February 6, 2022, https://peoplenotproperty.hudsonvalley.org.

[15] Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, If These Stones Could Talk: African American Presence in the Hopewell VAlley, Sourland Mountain, and Surrounding Regions of New Jersey, (Lambertville, NJ, Wild River Books, 2018).

[16] Abraham Van Doren, “Revolutionary War Record of a Somerset County Slave,” Somerset County Historical Society, Volume III (1914), accessed February 6, 2022, http://hdl.handle.net/10929/46268.

[17] Greg Gillette, “The View From Hillsborough: Silvia Dubois,” My Central Jersey, February 4, 2016, https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/view-from-hillsborough/2017/02/07/silvia-dubois/97586960.

[18] William Allinson, Memoir of Quamino Buccau, A Pious Methodist, accessed February 6, 2022, https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/allinson/allinson.html, 4-5.

[19] Marshall, 100.

[20] Witness Stones Project: Students Find and Share an Untold History of the Enslaved People of West Hartford, accessed February 6, 2022, https://we-ha.com/witness-stones-project-students-find-and-share-an-untold-history-of-the-enslaved-people-of-west-hartford.

Decision Activity: Quamino, New Brunswick, NJ, Somerset County, 1789

Decision Activity: Quamino

Somerset County, NJ 1789

Quamino was born near New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1762. Young Quamino had a complete family unit when he was living in Somerset County. Despite describing Quamino as “compliant,” his contemporary biographer William Allinson described a horrific episode where young Quamino was forced to watch a fellow enslaved person burned at the stake as punishment for alleged crimes. At no point in the memoir or in any other documentation is Quamino described as rebellious or uncooperative. Much of this is attributed to his religious conversion and subsequent piety. Allinson essentially uses Quamino as the model version of a benign, non-threatening Black man as a means of condemning the institution of slavery, consistent with Allinson’s abolitionist views. Allinson’s book is described as a memoir, including numerous quotations directly from Quamino, but neglects to offer a physical description of the man, the names of his siblings, or many of his inner emotions and rationale for his behavior.

At age nine, Quamino was essentially rented out to an enslaver in Poughkeepsie, New York. He was separated from his family and upon the commencement of the Revolutionary War was unable to have any communication with his “master” (and thereby his family). From roughly age 9 to 18, he remained in New York, but in 1780 was unexpectedly returned to his original enslaver and reunited with his family. Allinson wrote, “Overcome with this too sudden announcement, he burst into a violent and uncontrollable fit of crying, and for hours cried aloud as though he had been beaten — unable to answer questions, or to stay his emotions at the kindest efforts to pacify him.”[2]

How do you think each of the following may have contributed to his uncontrollable response to the news?

  1. Shock that his situation would ever improve.
  2. Joy at the prospect of being reunited with his family.
  3. Separation from his family caused emotional deprivation.
  4. The experience of enslavement is a form of mental and physical torture.

Consider the implications of each of the items in a response of two or three sentences.

Back in Somerset County, Quamino had a religious experience, claiming that God had spoken to him, thus beginning his period of devout faith in the Methodist religion. His enslaver looked suspiciously upon enslaved people’s faith, believing it could interfere with maintaining a degree of ignorance and thus make them less “serviceable” as workers. He even suspected Quamino’s position was a pose, designed to gain a level of respect from others in the community. Consequently, he would criticize and may have beaten Quamino for participating in religious services, but Quamino accepted the consequences and maintained his personal beliefs.

As there is only one source for this information, we have no idea of how sincere Quamino’s religious conversion was, but either way, one could argue that maintaining his faith was an exercise of autonomy and personal agency.

Two Options to Consider:

A. Quamino was wholly genuine in his religious conversion, and was willing to deal with any obstacles in his path to exercise his faith.

B. Quamino was less than 100% genuine in his conversion, but believed that some degree of deception would provide him some degree of social standing.

Describe in two to three sentences how each of the options would mean that Quamino was exercising personal agency.

In 1788, he married Sarah, an enslaved woman who lived nearby. She was soon sold and moved five miles away, allowing them to see one another as infrequently as once a week. When Quamino’s enslaver died around 1789, he was passed onto one of the enslaver’s sons. Several years later, he was beaten by his enslaver. Quamino told him he refused to work for him further, a tactic that some other enslaved people had used to demand being sold to a new owner. In some locations, the relationship between enslaver and enslaved was perceived as a sort of social contract with obligations flowing in both directions. “Unjustified” abuse might be grounds for “slave quitting” depending on local customs. Although enslaved people might be aware of instances of slave quitting via word of mouth, nothing was in the law, thus employing this tactic was enormously risky for Quamino.

Consider the possible outcomes of this risky decision.

Three Possible Outcomes to Consider:

A. His enslaver could have rejected the claim and then worsened his treatment of Quamino.

B. His enslaver could agree to sell him to a new enslaver whose treatment of Quamino could be the same (or worse).

C. His enslaver could agree to sell him to a new enslaver whose treatment of Quamino would be an improvement.

Which of the following seems the most likely outcome?

If you think the outcome would have been A or B, would Quamino have regretted his decision of refusing to work?

Why was it difficult for Black Americans to enjoy the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as stated in the Declaration of Independence?

Quamino was sold to a new enslaver, who did not seem to have used physical violence against those he enslaved. Quamino even arranged for his new enslaver to purchase Sarah, allowing the couple to live together as husband and wife.  In 1806, Quamino was manumitted through an elaborate process that included having to testify before a committee to demonstrate that his freedom would not be a burden upon the state of New Jersey. Sarah died in 1842 and Quamino lived to around 1850 (age 88). They had at least two sons together, although it appears at least one of them was sold as an infant.


[1] Frontispiece of William Allinson, Memoir of Quamino Buccau, A Pious Methodist

[2] Allinson, page 6.

Decision Activity: James Parker – Perth Amboy, NJ Middlesex County, 1777

Decision Activity: James Parker

Perth Amboy, Middlesex County, NJ – 1777

My name is James Parker and the year is 1777. I am sitting in my living room in my large home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the state capitol of New Jersey.  I own large areas of land in eastern New Jersey in Middlesex and Hunterdon counties.   My family has served the colony of New Jersey for the British government for many generations, having opportunities and wealth that could not have been obtained in Britain. I have worked directly as a councilor under the Royal Governor of New Jersey, William Franklin, and my brother-in-law, Cortlandt Skinner, served as Royal Attorney General for New Jersey before joining the Loyalist forces in 1776.

The political climate is tense in New Jersey, it is changing with the loud majority supporting the Patriot cause.  I oppose the actions of people using intimidating tactics to coerce people to agree with the more radical Patriot factions.   You may agree that the taxes are burdensome, but as a former merchant, property owner, landlord, lawyer and having also served as the Mayor of Perth Amboy, you have a solid perspective of the complexity of trying to manage multiple ventures and properties with the associated financial responsibilities.  You are trying not to be bold with your political feelings, but are well known in your associations.

The new patriot led state government, having set up a Council of Safety to protect the people who disagreed with the British government, is asking you to swear an Oath of Abjuration, swearing allegiance to the patriotic government. You still feel that all of the benefits you have were due to Britain opening up settlement in the colonies.   Do you take this oath to protect yourself from being fined or even jailed, or do you stand by your principles?

Debate with yourself (or another person) by examining both choices and considering the positive and negative impacts of each.  Write a short paragraph regarding your choice, explaining your rationale as well as the potential consequences. Consider explaining what would happen if you made the opposite choice. Think about the following:

A. How might your family react?

B. How might your neighbors and town of Perth Amboy react?

C. What might be the physical consequences?

d. What might be the moral consequences?

James Parker refused the oath and was sent to jail in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1778, he was paroled in exchange for a patriot held in New York.  Possibly fearing for his family’s safety, he chose to move his family to Union Township in Hunterdon County, where he owned a large amount of property and a home. However, he still needed to conduct his business as a proprietor and maintain his family’s historical residence by traveling frequently to Perth Amboy, one of the two capital cities of New Jersey at the time. 

To financially conduct business during colonial times different denominations of money were used.  There was a definite lack of hard cash.  The saying “cold, hard cash” back then meant coins, because they were metal and the only legal tender.  You may have had to deal with coins as James Parker did. He mentions using Continental dollars, “Johannes”, which were Portuguese gold coins, English pounds, shillings, Guineas, New York currency, New Jersey money. The weights were measured and a considered a reliable method of measuring the purity of a coin.  A moidore, an English version of a Portuguese term for a gold coin, was equivalent to 27 shillings.

One of the problems with using the paper Continental currency was counterfeiting. James Parker notes in his farm journal on January 19, 1779 that he was paying for a piece of property from Abraham Bonnell and felt it important enough to mention that he could not confirm if the bills he used were counterfeited. He also noted that Bonnell said that he did not believe so and said he didn’t believe any of it was counterfeited, as he had been careful to examine, though he had heard that a mark of a printer was not necessarily proof of authenticity.  Parker also notes that he “Paid for a bushel of wheat in hard money”.  Write a short paragraph describing how you would keep track of the different currencies.  

What difficulties would you have as a landowner during this time with handling currency? Consider the following:

A. The different denominations and origins of the currencies at the time

B. Values of Continental money and ease of counterfeiting

It is December of 1778. You will be expected to help quarter General Burgoyne’s troops as they pass through your town on their way to Virginia. It could take a week or more for them to bring all of the divisions of soldiers through. 

How would this affect your business, how you feel and what will you do? Write a few sentences describing how your farm operations would be affected and how you feel about hosting the soldiers on your property and feeding and housing the British officers.

You have heard of a Loyalist family by the last name of Vought, who were suffering due to their allegiance to the crown. The father, John Vought, was particularly well known because of his participation in a violent uprising against the local Patriots in 1776. After being fined heavily, John joined the British army later that year. In the summer of 1778, the Council of Safety confiscated all of their property in Clinton, Hunterdon County and auctioned it off about three miles from your home.

Write a few sentences about how you feel about this woman being left without any belongings while her husband was serving in the British Army?  Would you do anything to help or would you be afraid that your help might bring reprisals from your neighbors?  Would your good standing in the community counter any harmful reactions?

James Parker was asked to contribute to a relief fund by Dr. Isaac Smith, who was collecting various items and livestock for Mrs. Vought.

How difficult and important is it to choose a path of humanitarian support following your religious and moral beliefs, even when they are in conflict with popular sentiment?

Decision Activity: Philip Freneau – Matawan, NJ, Monmouth County, 1778

Decision Activity: Philip Freneau

Matawan, NJ. Monmouth County – 1778

Parents throughout history want what is best for their children, sometimes they try to pressure their children into decisions that may be against what the child wants to do.  An example of this was Philip Freneau, whose family moved from New York in 1762 to what is now known as Matawan, Monmouth County, New Jersey.  He attended the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, beginning in 1768 and majored in theology at the urging of his parents.  While attending, Philip became acquainted and made friends with people who would be very influential in the impending conflict with England.  Some of the notable people included the president of the college, Reverend John Witherspoon who was delegate to the Continental Congress from New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Freneau’s roommate was James Madison, future father of the Constitution and President of the United States.  His good friend, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, was a teacher, newspaper editor, chaplain in the Continental Army, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, and influential in Thomas Jefferson’s campaign for President.  Aaron Burr and “Lighthorse” Henry Lee also attended Princeton University while Philip was there.

Philip Freneau and Hugh Henry Brackenridge became notorious for writing poetry which included the mistreatment of the colonies by Britain. This debate was intensified by two campus organizations, the American Whig Society and the Clio-Sophic Society, which the Whigs referred to as the “Tories”. Philip enjoyed writing and composing poetry, yet was influenced by the stories from his father, who was a merchant in the wine trade sailing from the colonies to Madeira off the coast of northwest Africa, to the Caribbean and back to the colonies.

Making a decision about a future career can be difficult.  If you had the choice to pursue a steady and sustainable career in the ministry or education, or chasing the romantic, adventurous stories of your father, which would you choose and why?

Freneau chose to begin his career as a teacher in New York, perhaps a career more in line with his parent’s expectations but lasting only thirteen days. “Those who employed me were some of the gentlemen from New York; some of them are bullies, some merchants, others scoundrels.  They sent me eight children, the eldest of whom was ten years old.  Some could read, others spell, and a few stammer over a chapter of the Bible – these were my pupils and over these I was to preside” (Griswold)

He realized that he was unsuited for teaching school and yet failed to return the money he received as a retainer for employment.  After spending time at his mother’s farm, called Mount Pleasant, in Matawan, New Jersey, he realized that he was also not particularly fond of the farming life and accepted an invitation from his friend, Henry Brackenridge to come to Maryland as a teacher in his school. He taught there for three years before heading home to Mount Pleasant and then moving to New York to pursue his love of writing and publishing poetry. 

How do you think he felt with his lack of success?

Freneau continued to publish poems for little or no profit, using this medium to express his feelings on the political climate which was difficult due to the occupation of British forces in New York.  His writing expressed his hope for reconciliation with Britain, but also the idea of liberty. Poetry at this time was read as entertainment and at times used to verbally and satirically discredit and attack public figures.  Poems were published in newspapers, broadsides, and books. Earning a living from publishing was difficult due to the expenses of printing and binding books.

An excerpt from Freneau’s poem:

TO THE AMERICANS On the Rumoured Approach of the Hessian Forces, Waldeckers, & c. (Published 1775)

If Britain conquers, help us, heaven, to fly:

Lend us your wings, ye ravens of the sky;—

If Britain conquers—we exist no more;

These lands will redden with their children’s gore,

Who, turned to slaves, their fruitless toils will moan,

Toils in these fields that once they called their own!

To arms! to arms! and let the murdering sword

Decide who best deserves the hangman’s cord:

Nor think the hills of Canada too bleak

When desperate Freedom is the prize you seek;

For that, the call of honour bids you go

O’er frozen lakes and mountains wrapt in snow:

No toils should daunt the nervous and the bold,

They scorn all heat or wave-congealing cold.

Haste!—to your tents in iron fetters bring

These slaves, that serve a tyrant and a king;

So just, so virtuous is your cause, I say,

Hell must prevail if Britain gains the day.

How does this poem try to influence the reader’s opinion? What examples of influential vocabulary is he using?  How would you write a poem about the Boston Massacre that would influence your audience to follow your perspective of the incident if you were a Boston resident?

For male citizens in the eighteenth century, militia duty was often required; if you were at sea for business, you would be exempt.  Freneau used his family’s connections to go to sea and gained valuable career experience by staying in Santa Cruz, now known as St. Croix.  He observed the effects of plantation slavery, having previously only been exposed to the few house and field slaves owned by his family.  He was thoroughly disgusted by the treatment Caribbean slaves received and wrote poetry reflecting his feelings.  He then traveled on ships to islands and in Bermuda he fell in love with a local woman, who unfortunately became ill and died.  He returned home in 1778 and joined the New Jersey militia, serving as a lookout by patrolling and scouting the shore area for British ships. 

Philip took every opportunity to sail ships, serving as a privateer, sailing between Philadelphia and the West Indies.  He participated in successfully capturing the British Ship Brittanie on December 30, 1779. At the end of his militia duty he continued his privateering activities as a civilian on the ship Aurora,  while trading tobacco in the Caribbean.  His ship was attacked by the British Ship Iris and all of his belongings were confiscated and he was held captive on a British prison ship in New York Harbor.  He was held in miserable and filthy conditions for three weeks before becoming ill and taken to a hospital ship where conditions were not much better.

Imagine being locked in a cell on a rotting and filthy ship, not knowing when and if you would be included in a prisoner exchange?  How would you pass the time?  Would you give up and sink into misery, why or why not?  How would you find ways to try to occupy your mind to keep your spirits up in hopes for release? 

Freneau later wrote a poem about his experiences called The British Prison Ship.

THE various horrors of these hulks to tell,

These Prison Ships where pain and penance dwell,

Where death in tenfold vengeance holds his reign,

And injur’d ghosts, yet unaveng’d, complain;

This be my task —ungenerous Britons, you

Conspire to murder whom you can’t subdue. —

No masts or sails these crowded ships adorn,

Dismal to view, neglected and forlorn;

Here, mighty ills oppress’d the imprison’d throng,

Dull were our slumbers, and our nights were long——

From morn to eve along the decks we lay

Scorch’d into fevers by the solar ray;

No friendly awning cast a welcome shade,

Once was it promis’d, and was never made;

No favours could these sons of death bestow,

‘Twas endless vengeance, and unceasing woe:

Immortal hatred does their breasts engage,

And this lost empire swells their souls with rage.

He was released after six weeks and needed to decide how he should pursue a career. Philip moved to Philadelphia and became a writer for the Freeman’s Journal, an anti-British publication.  At the time, it was a frequent practice for writers to take pseudonyms in order to avoid persecution over political statements.  Words were used as political pressure and were often combined with entertainment using satire.  Freneau’s writings would often be targeted as well as a target for more conservative publications such as The Pennsylvania Packet and The Pennsylvania Gazette and his brutal criticism and biting satire made so many enemies that he was pressured to resign as editor.

After the Revolutionary War was over, he went back to sea in 1784, but was shipwrecked in a storm off the coast of Jamaica. He survived and made it to land and returned to Philadelphia.  He tried his hand at publishing yet again, but could not earn enough money to survive, so he went back to sea on a ship owned by his brother in Charleston, South Carolina.  He continued writing and publishing poetry. 

How would you feel about your writing if you had a group of critics and opponents just waiting for an opportunity to argue with your work? What should Freneau do?

The shipping business struggled and Philip returned to his mother’s farm. He continued writing and publishing. While in Matawan, he married Eleanor and acquired more land to add to his family holdings.

To augment the income from the farm and support his growing family, he became an editor of a New York paper The Daily Advertiser. With the relocation of the nation’s capital to Philadelphia, New York was no longer a profitable market for newspapers and he moved back to New Jersey and started his own newspaper, The Monmouth Gazette. The newspaper followed his anti-federalist views, agreeing with the principles of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Through James Madison, Freneau was offered the position of clerk for foreign languages in the new capital city. He.  He was also offered a position with The National Gazette, through his connection with Thomas Jefferson.

Were these appointments ethical?  Why or why not?

Philip took the opportunity afforded by his editorial position with the National Gazette to antagonize the Federalists in the Executive Branch, especially targeting Alexander Hamilton and comparing Washington’s presidency to a monarchy. In a letter to Henry Lee in 1793, Washington states:

 “The publications in Freneau’s and Beach’s Papers are outrages on common decency; and they progress in that style, in proportion as their pieces are treated with contempt, & passed by in silence by those, at whom they are aimed.” (Washington, n.d.)

The National Gazette continued in publication through the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, but the exodus from the city of Philadelphia eventually led to a decline in subscriptions and the end of the paper.  Freneau resigned as editor as well as Clerk of Translation, as he was highly unqualified, knowing only English and French.  He spent a majority of his money paying other people to translate for him and returned to Matawan with little income. 

How would you feel if it seemed that the careers you tried for success kept failing? What would you do next?

Philip began his own local paper, The Monmouth Almanac, which communicated important local events such as the schedule of the New Jersey Supreme Court, Quaker Church meeting places and times, and the weather. He also published poetry and sold subscriptions with moderate success. For more income he began to publish The New Jersey Chronicle which promoted his Republican agenda. Unfortunately, this publication failed.

Persevering, Freneau found a partner in Alexander Menut in 1797, to co-print a newspaper in New York called The Time Piece and Literary Companion. This paper, like Freneau’s previous, attempted to influence the citizenry of New York toward his Republican ideals.  He criticized the XYZ affair in 1797, which resulted in many canceled subscriptions and financial losses.

While in New York, Freneau was enlisted by Deborah Sampson Gannett to petition Congress for a pension.  Mrs. Gannett had enlisted as a soldier in the Revolutionary War by disguising herself as a man from May of 1782 to being honorably discharged in October of 1783. She had been wounded in battle and claimed disability due to her injury.  Freneau used his knowledge of her situation to write an ode that channeled his displeasure with the Federalists. As a result, Deborah Gannett did not receive her pension for many years, eventually receiving it in 1805.

Career and financial misfortune followed. He returned to his land with a loan and a financial gift from his brother in order to stay out of debtor’s prison.  He needed money to pay dowries for the weddings of his daughters and for running the farm. He sold property to raise money.  In October 1818, a fire burned the Freneau home to the ground, including many unpublished poems.  He and his wife settled in a new house under construction on the property.  In his family Bible it states:

“The old house at Mount Pleasnt accidentally took fire on Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock October 18th – 1818 precisely one year after my mother’s decease. It was consumed to the ground with a large part of property therein. The following day we began to remove into the New House, which was partial finished. The Old House was built in 1752 by my father – 42 feet in length and 24 in breadth.” (Ryer, n.d.)

In his elder days Philip Freneau was seen roaming the roads to Freehold and the local hills wearing worn clothing and was well known for frequenting the local taverns, libraries and country store. The lack of money forced his family to sell off more property and the Freneau’s poverty led them to move to an abandoned house belonging to Eleanor’s brother.  Philip had a reputation for excessive drinking which may have led to his final demise. On December 18, 1832 he had been at the local country store, meeting with friends and died of exposure when walking home alone; he was found the following day.  Philip Freneau is buried in the locust grove in Matawan near his mother.

References:

Freneau, Philip. n.d. “To James Madison from Philip Freneau, 22 November 1772.” Founders Online. Accessed March 4, 2022. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-01-02-0016 .

LEWIS, FRED. n.d. “The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Poems of Philip Freneau (Volume I).” Project Gutenberg. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38475/38475-h/38475-h.htm

“Press Attacks · George Washington’s Mount Vernon.” n.d. Mount Vernon. Accessed March 4, 2022. https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/press-attacks/

Ryer, James B. n.d. “History of Freneau’s house in Matawan.” Philip Freneau’s home Philip Freneau house in Matawan. Accessed March 4, 2022. http://philipfreneau.com/history.html

“To George Washington from Anonymous, March 1792.” n.d. Founders Online. Accessed March 4, 2022. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-10-02-0108

Washington, George. n.d. “From George Washington to Henry Lee, 21 July 1793.” Founders Online. Accessed March 4, 2022. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-13-02-0176

Young, Alfred F. 2005. Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier. N.p.: Vintage Books.

Decision Activity: Dr. William Leddel, Morristown, NJ, January 1779

Decision Activity: Dr. William Leddel

Morristown, NJ, Winter 1779

I am the son of William Leddel, a French naval surgeon who settled in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, born in 1747. Upon my father’s death in 1766, I (William Jr.), moved to Mendham, New Jersey and apprenticed myself to Dr. Ebenezer Blachy. I established myself as a physician and practiced in Mendham for the remainder of my life.

I chose to be active in military matters, serving as a lieutenant in the Morris County Troop of Light Horse during the Revolution. I participated in the Battles of Connecticut Farms (Elizabeth) and Springfield and in the retreat of George Washington from New York.

I married Phoebe Wick, the daughter of Henry Wick, in 1770 and we settled at Washington Corner on a part of the Wick tract in Mendham. It was here that we raised our five children: Mary (1774-1780), Henry (1776-1799), Tempe (1779-1810), Eliza (1781-1803), and John (ca.1784-1865).

I also used my medical skills to tend to Washington’s troops during their stay in Morristown in the winter of 1779-1780. Later, I was a major in the forces that put down the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 and served as a captain of the cavalry during the War of 1812.

I served two terms as Morris County’s sheriff from 1783-1785 and tried cases before the Justices of the Peace.

Decision Activity 1:

The Leddel family had a lot to lose in this fight. He was a well-established doctor in the prosperous colony of East Jersey and living on a large property in Mendham with three young children. During the war, they faced many risks to their lives and property. When Dr. Leddel provided medical care to General Washington’s army during their retreat through Morristown, the conflict was brought to the doorstep of their home. 

1. Should Dr. William Leddel join the Continental Army in 1776?

2. Should Dr. Leddel join as a foot soldier, medical doctor, or in another capacity?

3. Should his wife, Phoebe, encourage him to remain at home in Mendham or to join the Continental Army?

Decision Activity 2:

Dr. Leddel’s father left France during a time of conflict, high taxes, and economic difficulty. As the son of immigrants who came to New Jersey in search of a better life, how might his family’s story have influenced his decision to support the ideals of the American Revolution?  

1.During the winter of 1779, Tempe was born and her five year old sister, Mary, was ill.  General Washington’s troops, his entire army of about 13,000 troops, are at Jockey Hollow and in need of medical care. Should Dr. Leddel leave his family and provide care for the soldiers?

2. What are some possible challenges the Leddel family faced, as a family from France, when they moved to New Jersey?  Write a few sentences about the possible challenges they faced, especially during the years of the French and Indian War.

 3.  How did the events of the French and Indian War impact the urgency of the decision? How could the relationships and attitudes change between the colonists and England deteriorate so quickly? How should Dr. Leddel and his family handle the impact of prejudice against colonists of French heritage?

 4. Explain the implications or consequences for the Leddel family. How were they impacted socially, economically, professionally and politically?

Talking point and Comparison of modern conflicts (Writing Prompt):

Dr. Leddel and his family risked everything in his decision to support the American Revolution. The Wick family, he married into, was a leading family in Morris County.  This made for a very contentious debate within the family.  His wife, Phoebe’s sister supported the Loyalists. In 1780, after the death of Tempe’s father, her mother became seriously ill and asked Tempe to get Dr. Leddel to care for her. How did the Revolution bring conflict within families and how do you think families dealt with these divided positions of support? Were they able to trust each other?

Home of Henry Wick, Morristown, NJ, circa 1750. (1930’s image)

Wick House – Henry Wick built this Cape Cod Style house around 1750. His 1,400 acre farm, most of which was covered by forest, made him the largest landowner in Morristown. Henry Wick’s trees attracted Washington’s army to the area as a winter encampment site because they needed logs to build cabins for shelter and wood to burn for heating and cooking. During the winter of 1779-1780 the army chopped down over 600 acres of his trees on Mr. Wick’s property and more on the neighbor’s property. Additionally, Major General Arthur St. Clair, commander of 2,000 Pennsylvania soldiers, made his quarters in Mr. Wick’s home for the winter. Today the house is furnished to portray its use as a general’s headquarters.

Decision Activity: Samuel Sutphen, Hunterdon County, NJ, 1778, 1832

Decision Activity: Samuel Sutphin

Hunterdon County, NJ 1778,1832

After a month’s service in the militia, Casper Berger had had enough. He was in his 50s and the physical labor and drudgery were beyond him after a career as a stonemason. Given a break from service, he returned to his home in Readington, desperate for a way out of the remaining months of his obligation. He was more than willing to pay his way out of service and return to his current vocation as a tavern operator.

Berger’s neighbor, Guisbert Bogart, enslaved a man in his late 20s named Samuel. Berger knew that it was legal to provide an able-bodied substitute for militia service, so he inquired with Bogart whether he could purchase Samuel. The two arrived at a payment of $92.10, but Berger knew that Samuel would need to be at least somewhat willing to serve as a substitute. An unwilling enslaved person would be rejected, as the militia wouldn’t have time to deal with forcing someone to work. Berger promised Samuel his freedom at the war’s end in exchange for consenting to the deal.

It would be inappropriate and presumptuous for individuals in the 21st century to try to imagine what it was like to be an enslaved person — let alone second guess their decisions — but Samuel’s options were limited:

  1. Consent to the deal based on the promise of freedom when the war eventually ends.
  2. Reject the deal.

Describe the potential ramifications of each in 2 to 3 sentences.

Reflecting on this decision, Samuel said, “I believed the white man’s word, hoping to be free when the fight was over. I took no paper to show the bargain, but trusted to my master.”

Samuel fought in the Battle of Long Island (August 1776), the Battles of Princeton (January 1777), the Battle of Millstone, where he captured a prisoner of war (January 1777), and the Battle of Monmouth (June 1778), among others. On sentry duty at West Point in New York, he was shot twice in his leg, one wound driving a bullet into his leg, thereby ending his active militia service. At the end of the war he asked his enslaver Casper Berger to grant him his freedom as promised. Berger had three choices:

  1. Grant Samuel his freedom as promised.
  2. Renege on the deal and sell Samuel to a new owner.
  3. Renege on the deal and keep a disgruntled enslaved person in his service.

Describe the potential ramifications of each in 2 to 3 sentences.

Despite support from neighbors and fellow veterans, Samuel’s enslavement would continue for another 20 years as Berger opted to sell him to Peter Sutphen. Eventually, Samuel was allowed to purchase his freedom using money he saved up by selling rabbit, raccoon, and muskrat fur.

An Act of Congress in 1832 provided a pension to enlisted men who had served for at least two years. Although the federal government wanted to do right by veterans, it also required adequate proof that the claims were valid. According to the pension board, “It must, in every case, be clearly shown under what officers the applicant served: the duration of each term of engagement; the particular place or places where the service was performed; that the applicant served with an embodied corps called into serve by competent authority; that he was either in the field or in garrison; and for the time during which the service was performed, he was not employed in any civil pursuit.”

Samuel first applied for a pension in 1832 at age 85, but a lack of specificity in his testimony, perhaps compounded by a failing memory, led to a series of rejections from the pension board. Samuel’s name did not appear on any official roster, though it is unknown what last name he might have been listed under. In 1775 Samuel also only spoke broken English, using primarily Dutch to communicate up to that point. That he would have difficulty remembering specific names is unsurprising as a result, particularly at his advancing age.

In 1834, former Congressman Lewis Condict offered his support. Condict, who was also a doctor, examined Samuel’s scars and testified that they were wholly consistent with the injuries Samuel had described in his previous testimony. Witnesses even testified seeing him at particular battles and many of his neighbors testified as character witnesses.

DECISION ACTIVITY

Imagine you are a member of the pension board. Select one option and explain your answer in 4 to 6 sentences.

  1. Abide by the guidelines provided by the War Department and reject any claim that does not meet the letter of the law.
  2. Appeal to your superiors to approve the pension based on the particular circumstances and weight of the evidence.
  3. Grant the pension and suffer whatever consequences might arise as a result of your bending of the rules.

Samuel’s fifth petition was ultimately denied, but some important individuals became aware of his plight. Both Dr. Condict and New Jersey Governor Peter Vroom took up his case, and the New Jersey General Assembly passed an act providing Samuel a pension of $50 per year until his death in 1841.

Decision Activity: Theodosia Ford, Morris County, NJ, January 1777

Decision Activity: Theodosia Ford

Morris County, NJ January 1777

Today is Friday, January 10, 1777 and it is the worst day of my life. The war for independence has been going on for over a year, although the fighting only began in New York City about four months ago and my area of Morristown has not been attacked as has Fort Lee.  The battle at Princeton was only last Friday and you would think that I would be feeling encouraged with the British Hessians fleeing to New Brunswick. However, we are quartering 35 Patriot soldiers from Delaware in our home this winter and all of them are tired, depressed, and will likely bring sickness into our new home. General Washington’s army is now less than 1,000 men as some have deserted the cause of liberty and young men re not enlisting. We also have 30 Hessian soldiers staying on the property of our gunpowder ill in New Hope. Fortunately, John Jacob Faesch speaks German as he is from Switzerland.

I was born 36 years ago in Southampton, Long Island to a preacher, Pastor Timothy Johnes  at the First Presbyterian Church here in Morristown.  I am the mother of  five children, two girls and three boys. Elizabeth DeSaussure, Jacob Ford, III, Timothy Ford, Phebe Ford, Gabriel Hogarth Ford. After the death of my first husband, I married Jacob on January 27, 1762 at the age of 21. He was a wonderful man and a caring father to my daughter, Elizabeth.

My husband and I believe in a consumer economy. We can both read and write and my husband is skilled in understanding the mining of iron and its importance to our economy. The war has changed everything and iron and gunpowder are very scarce and materials needed to win the war for liberty.

Today, my husband, Jacob, died of pneumonia at the age of 38.  He had been working long hours trying to finish building our dream home whole overseeing the gunpowder mill.  This tragedy destroyed me and challenged my commitment to the American cause for liberty and independence. But two weeks later, my father-in-law, will also become ill and die.  Death freaks me out!  But within a few weeks my mother-in-law, Hannah will die as will my precious two-year old daughter, Phoebe. I am devastated with grief, in spite of my devotion and faith in God.

What should Theodosia do in the middle of a Revolution and civil war in New Jersey?

a. Remarry to provide for her family.

b. Hire local men to continue producing gunpowder at the secret mill?

c. Move to another area of NJ in an attempt to remain healthy and care for her children

d. Continue to live at her new home with Isaac and Hannah Till as her servants.

e. Encourage my oldest son, Jacob, age 17, to enlist.

f. Other

How will Theodosia and her children view the Declaration of independence during the war?

  1. With the personal loss of her husband, his parents, and her young daughter, liberty has little meaning to Theodosia and she will not and should not risk her life for it.
  2. Theodosia likely understands the personal sacrifices made by her husband and others and values liberty and freedom for her children. She will support the Patriots and Continental Army.

What do you think Theodosia Ford should do?

  1. Put the needs of her family before her country and leave New Jersey for a safer area?
  2. Place her faith in God and conscience and remain in New Jersey?
  3. Risk her life and daily needs by freeing her enslaved workers, Isaac and Hannah?

Decision Activity: Samuel Allinson, Burlington County, NJ, July 1778

Decision Activity: Samuel Allinson

Burlington County, NJ, July 1778

Have you ever stood up for what you believe in?

My name is Samuel Allinson. I was born in 1739, and lived in Burlington County New Jersey. Professionally, I was a lawyer who was considered to be very talented during my career. I was an abolitionist and Quaker. During the Revolution, I was a supporter of Loyalist ideals because enslaved peoples who were able to get to England in the late 1700s would be offered freedom. In my life, I worked to manumit the enslaved with my father-in-law, David Cooper. I worked hard to give freedom to Catherine and her daughter Esther in 1774. In 1782, I manumitted Jean and her three children Deborah, Violetta, and Edward. 

As a prominent member of the Quaker community in Burlington County, I led meetings in the 1780s to help members of my religion understand the immorality of slavery. More importantly, I used these meetings as an opportunity to help educate free blacks in my community-an unprecedented option at the time. 

During the revolution, I wrote letters to two well-known founding fathers: William Livingston and Patrick Henry. In my letter to Livingston, I explained why the institution of slavery was immoral. I was hoping that New Jersey would lead the way of abolition for the new nation, but unfortunately, Governor Livingston would not be able to do this during his time in office. I didn’t know Patrick Henry, but my words to him were adamant about the abolition of slavery.

So, knowing all of this about me, I ask you: When have you taken a stand for what you know is morally right?

Why did Samuel Allinson decide to contact prominent men during the Revolutionary War era?

   

Did Samuel Allinson’s decision to speak out against slavery have any benefit?

     

If you could ask Samuel Allinson one question today, what would it be?

     

What causes do you believe in or support?

What factors influence our decisions to stand up for what is morally right?