Slaves and Masters

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Winthrop, Usher, Royall, Shippen, Saffin, Belcher, Whetcombe, Jeffries, Oliver, Temple, Payne, Brattle, DeWolf, Warren…. The list is long. Almost everyone of any pedigree who passed through Ten Hills Farm owned slaves or was somehow engaged in the trade. This pattern was not confined to the elite. Rather, almost anyone of means in Boston owned slaves by the mid 1700s. Winthrop, who was “given leave to keep” several Narragansett Indians, formalized the practice in the colony’s first body of laws. His eldest son and namesake owned and traded slaves. So did John Usher, who helped smuggle a shipment of Africans into New England in defiance of a monopoly then held by the English Royal African Company.

John  Winthrop: Portrait from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Isaac Royall, Sr: Born in Maine and raised in Dorchester, spent 40 years amassing a fortune in Antigua, then retired to Ten Hills Farm with 27 slaves to do his bidding.

Isaac Royall, Jr.: Inherited the Antigua estate and Ten Hills Farm. At his death, he gave the slave Belinda her freedom and granted Harvard College money that it used to found Harvard Law School.

Henry and Penelope Vassall: Isaac Jr.’s sister Penne married the son of a Jamaican planter and settled on Brattle Street with a handful of slaves.

Thomas Oliver: Isaac and Penelope’s nephew by their half-sister Ann built the gracious riverside estate called Elmwood where he lived with his family and many slaves until the eve of the American Revolution.

Elizabeth Mcintosh: Married Isaac Royall, Jr. and vastly expanded his estate by adding properties in Bristol, R.I. and a sprawling sugar plantation in Surinam.

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