The Issue of Slavery
The slavery question seems to have
been a major issue in the migrations of the Bolejack/Bolerjack family. Often, families moved and sometimes split to
either avoid or maintain slavery.
The importation of slaves was
encouraged by many of the early colonies.
In 1663 North Carolina offered each new settler twenty acres of land for
every male slave and ten acres for every female (Franklin 60).
Count Zinzendorf had no doubts that
God himself had created slavery, and to challenge God's will was not
advisable. Man's concept of the universe
at the time was very mechanistic, with everything in its place, like the
workings of a giant clock set in motion by God.
Although Zinzendorf clearly felt that Blacks were inferior, the church
still held that once they had accepted salvation, they would no longer be
slaves to the Devil, but would still remain slaves to their fellow man.
In Bethlehem (PA), slaves co-existed with and
were members of the church. They ate,
worked and slept with the Brethren and were treated with respect. The Moravians preferred to lease slaves
rather than them buy because they could quickly return
one who proved to be a problem. Blacks
were never referred to as slaves but rather "Negroes." Five of the early settlers of Wachovia in
1753 were slaves. However, slaves were
not an established part of Wachovian life.
They were expensive, and the Brethren feared ruining the spiritual haven
they hoped to create in the wilderness.
However, as increased demand for
laborers persisted, slaves became a partial solution. A female slave was leased for Bethabara's
tavern in 1763 and a second in 1764. By
1769 the Oeconomy purchased Sam who had been in Wachovia for three years and
had been leased by the settlement for several years. When he expressed a desire to join the Moravian Church and be purchased by them, the
Board agreed. They purchased four others
by 1771. According to the autobiography
of Anna Catherina Antes, black were treated as children would be treated, with
respect, but with obedience a requirement.
All purchases by individuals had to be approved by the governing
board. The settlement tended to use
slaves for heavy labor.
The struggle of the American
colonies for freedom seemed to be a turning point for the issue of slavery in America. To many, fighting England on the grounds that the
colonies had a basic, natural right to freedom seemed incongruous with holding
slaves. In the fall of 1774 the
Continental Congress passed an agreement not to import any more slaves after 01
Dec 1775. However, this act was passed
more as a means to hurt English slave trade than a true desire to ban slavery.
In May 1775 the Committee on Safety
decided that only free Blacks could serve in the Continental Army. However, this rule was not strictly enforced
as there were slaves as well as free Blacks in the Battle
of Bunker Hill.
When General Washington took command
of the Continental forces on 09 Jul 1775, it was decided that Blacks would not
be needed and therefore would not be enlisted.
There were some efforts to remove those already serving.
On 07 Nov 1775, Virginia's English Governor John Murray,
Lord Dunmore, offered freedom to all slaves who would fight against the
colonists in the rebellion. This sent a
shock wave through the colonies already struggling to defend themselves. Even Thomas Jefferson lost 30 slaves who
escaped, most of them joining the British.
Not yet knowing of Lord Dunmore's
order, General Washington prohibited the enlistment of all Blacks on 12 Nov
1775. After many slaves fled to the
British cause, on 31 Dec 1775, Washington
partially reversed himself by allowing the enlistment of Blacks. On 16 Jan 1776 the Continental Congress
approved the return of those Blacks who had already served, but did not allow
any new enlistments. Eventually the law
was softened to allow the enlistment of slaves and free Blacks. Some states allowed Blacks to serve as
substitutes for those who had been drafted.
In 1778 North Carolina passed strict
laws against fugitive slaves, but these laws were not to be applied to
liberated slaves in the service of North Carolina
or the United States. Of the 300,000 soldiers who served during the
Revolutionary War, an estimated 5,000 were Black (Franklin 93). There were some all Black corps, but most
Blacks were integrated into the regular army.
The Black population of many
Southern States decreased dramatically between 1770 and 1790. South Carolina's
population decreased by over 15% during those years.
The Moravians do not seem to have
softened on the issue of slavery. On 2
Jul 1776 when the Moravian slave Jacob was considered for membership in the
congregation, he was reminded that "this does not mean that he becomes
free and the equal of this master" (Salem
Boards). However, Jacob had a rather bad
habit of stealing and so it was decided to sell him as quickly as
possible. He was sold on 23 Sep 1779 for
100 bushels of oats, 6 bulls, 125 bushels of corn, 2000 pounds of hog meat, and
130 bushel of rye for a total value of ,105.
The Northern States seemed to offer
the most resistance against slavery. The
1777 Constitution of Vermont
outlawed slavery. Pennsylvania's law of 1780 provided that all
future-born slaves would be freed at age twenty-eight and up to that age s/he
was to be treated as an indentured servant.
A lawsuit filed in Massachusetts by
Blacks ended with a ruling in 1783 that the Massachusetts Constitution did not permit
The anti-slavery sentiment of the
new nation seemed to ebb and flow, depending on the economic needs of the
moment and the state. North
Carolina increased the importation fee on slaves from Africa to ,15 for each male age 12-30.
However, this law was repealed in 1790.
In 1787 the Northwest Ordinance
abolished slavery in the Northwest Territory of the Ohio Valley
and beyond. However, at the
Constitutional Convention of 1787, the minority slave advocates managed to
prohibit the banning of slave trading for twenty years, allowing the
labor-starved Southern States to import thousands of new slaves. More slaves were brought to America between 1787 and 1807 than
during any other time in the country's history.
The Constitutional Convention also avoid the use of the word "slavery," resorting to
euphemisms to conceal the issue. They
also allowed owners to reclaim run-away slaves and the counting of each slave
as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of determining representation in
Congress, thus giving additional powers to Southern States.
However the number of free Blacks
continued to rapidly increase. The
number of free Blacks in the United
States went from 59,466 (7.9% of all Blacks)
in 1790 to 186,446 (13.5% of all Blacks) in 1810 (Kolchin 81). Most of these freed slaves were in the
Northern States where nearly three-fourths were free in 1810 while only 3.9%
were free in the Southern States. At the
same time the number of slaves increased from 697,897 in 1790 to 1,191,354 in
1810 (Kolchin 93).
Ironically, life for free Blacks was
not easy in the North. They were often
excluded from public schools and churches and denied the right to vote. The attitude toward Blacks in general was
often hostile. A
significant population of the free Blacks in the South were wealthy and
well-treated within their limited society.
Although tobacco cultivation was
labor-intensive, most often using slaves, the invention of the cotton gin by
Eli Whitney in 1ญญ793 launched a new crop in the deep
South, and with it, a new demand for slave labor. Cotton became America's number one export in the
years before the Civil War.
The question of slavery did not seem
to be a predominate problem in North Carolina until the start of the 19th
century. As the land became increasingly
settled and cash crop farming became more developed, the demand for cheap labor
augmented the slave trade economy. The
Bolejack family was centered in Stokes/Surry Co., NC. None of the Bolejack families owned slaves in
the first United States
census of 1790 although several of the families who later intermarried with the
Bolejack family were listed as slave owners in 1790.
By 1790 Kentucky
were being rapidly settled even though they were not yet states. With some new settlers came their
On 02 Dec 1806 Congress passed a law
that prevented the importation of any African slave after 01 Jan 1808. However, this law was so weak and enforcement
was so lax that many African slaves were brought into the South.
As new lands on the frontiers were
settled and news of the possibility of good profits from agriculture,
especially cotton, filtered back to the settled states, a strong westward
By 1818 settlers began moving in
greater numbers to Tennessee which had been
carved out of North Carolina
in 1792. Most used the Yadkin, Watauga
and French Broad Rivers
to pass through the Smokey Mountains into Tennessee. Tennessee,
being less developed, did not require the massive slave labor force that the
older states required. Part of the early
migration to Tennessee
can be attributed to avoiding the slavery issue while most of its settlement
can be attributed to larger tracts of cheaper land. Farmers in the eastern part typically did not
own slaves while those in then central and western parts used slaves. The Bolejack/Bolerjacks in the 1830 and 1840 Tennessee censuses did
not own slaves.
As Tennessee developed, so did the
slave labor force, starting another migration out of the state to the newly
opened lands of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, including Ohio, Michigan,
Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The
river and canal routes into this region made it possible to migrate to the new
territories and still take the few earthly possessions that most of the
settlers had managed to acquire.
applied for admission to the Union in 1818,
the balance of free and slave state Senators was even at 22. If Missouri
were admitted, the slave states would have an advantage. With the passage of the Missouri
Compromise in 1820, Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri
was admitted as a slave state on 10 Aug 1821.
In 1848 the Congress passed the Oregon Territory
bill which prohibited slavery in the territory.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act
repealed the Missouri
Compromise of 1820.
By 1860 there were 3,953,760 slaves
in the United States,
almost exclusively in the South where the slave population represented
one-third of the total population (Kolchin 93).
Because the importation of slaves had been banned in 1808, most of the
increase in the slave population resulted from natural increase in population
although slaves were still smuggled into the United States because of the high
demand. In the early 1800's a strong
farm laborer would sell for $350. By
1860 the slave might sell for as much $1,500.
(See the history of
Samuel Bolejack for a view of
their lives in the Kansas/Missouri area during this time period.)
After the Civil War, the former
slaves were released. Sometimes they
took the name of their former master because that was the only name they
knew. Other who were
treated cruelly took any name except that of their former masters.
In the 1870 and 1880 censuses of Tennessee, there is a
large population of blacks with the Bolejack/Bolyjack name. Many of them were freed slaves from the North Carolina and Tennessee
branches of the family. Several family
stories from North Carolina tell of slaves
being given money which they used to go to Kentucky
to settle and buy land.
The question of slavery seems to
have been at least partially responsible for the migrations of the
Bolejack/Bolerjack families either to Northern or Southern states.