[Ads-l] wench

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Thu Mar 31 19:25:37 UTC 2016

This is a partial answer, for New England.  After various of the wars between the English settlers of New England and the Native Americans, captured Native Americans were sold for transportation to the Southern colonies or to the West Indies, where they surely would become slaves.  Others were kept as slaves in New England.  This was permitted by one of the two exceptions in the 1641 Massachusetts "Body of Liberties" to the prohibition of slavery ("bond slaves"), which allowed enslavement of persons "taken in just wars".
(The other exception in Liberty 91 essentially undid the prohibition -- while Massachusettsians could not enslave others, they could buy slaves sold to them.  And there were New England shippers in the slave trade -- but they would fit under the exemption if they had not actually enslaved their cargoes but rather had bought them in Africa and sold them in the New World.)

Liberty 91 is silent about "race", so it would seem to allow the presence of Native American slaves to the same extent as African slaves.

For Joanne Pope Melish's evaluation of enslavement of Native Americans (and others), see her _Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and "Race" in New England, 1780–1860_, Google Books (preview), search for "Indian" (sort by Pages and look at the first 3 or 4 hits) and for "Body of Liberties".  

I do not have definite knowledge for the Middle Atlantic and Southern colonies, but I would bet there were Native American slaves there.  George cites an example from New York, and there probably were similar in the Virginia (Williamsburg) and South Carolina (Charleston) newspapers.


      From: James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM>
 Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2016 2:09 PM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] wench
Something that appears to have overlooked in this thread:  in the 17th century both Africans and Native Americans were used as household servants.  The blacks were usually slaves (slavery was practiced in all 13 Colonies until circa 1780).  I do not know if Native Americans could also be slaves (can anyone enlighten me?)  

If in the 17th and 18th centuries in the Colonies the term "wench" generally meant "slave woman", it would still frequently be necessary to specify if a particular wench were African, Native American, or mixed-race.  

Off-topic: "wench", long archaic, is enjoying a micro-revival in George R. R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series, set in a universe quite similar to our Middle Ages, in which "Wench" is Jaime Lannister's disparaging term of address to Brienne of Tarth.

- Jim Landau

Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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