The London Review of Books has a review by Fara Dabhoiwala of a book by Simon Newman called Freedom Seekers: Escaping from Slavery in Restoration London which heavily features Samuel Pepys.

(UPDATE: You can download the book for free from the University of London Press)

The article begins:

On Valentine’s Day​ 1661 Elizabeth Pepys and her husband, Sam, rose early and walked from their house behind the Tower of London down Seething Lane. They were to visit one of Sam’s superiors, William Batten, surveyor of the navy. The custom was that women should take the first man they saw as their Valentine, so long as he was no relation. The previous year, Elizabeth had selected her own beau; this time it was all planned to further Sam’s new career as clerk of the acts to the Navy Board. Elizabeth was to be paired up with the elderly Batten; Sam was assigned to Batten’s daughter Martha. He knocked at the front door, ‘but would not go in till I had asked whether they that opened it was a man or a woman’. From behind the door, ‘Mingo, who was there, answered “a Woman”, which, with his tone, made me laugh.’ Pepys didn’t bother in his diary to explain who Mingo was but evidently they knew each other.

Read the article at the LRB or more about Mingo in the Encyclopedia.

This also makes me wonder whether we should more accurately refer to Mingo and Jack as slaves, rather than servants?


Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A very worthwhile read, which includes Pepys information beyond the Diary. Apparently Wayneman wasn't the only one sent off to Barbados by Pepys.

I expected it to be a downer, but didn't find it so -- Simon Newman included births, deaths and marriages information as well as advertisements for runaways and Diary and letter entries to illustrate the variety of experiences enslaved people encountered.

The word 'servant' was used to describe people of all colors, enslaved, indentured and free. In the 17th century London, they mostly wanted young boys as pages ... it's when the boys became men that problems arose.

Lots of statistics about the growth of London, trade and demographics of who did what where when, if you're interested in that.

When I started to research the people mentioned, I found some were MPs, details omitted by Newman, which I found curious. But omitted in their Parliamentary bios. was the fact that they were slaver traders and/or owners -- all were politely described as "traders", a word that will forever be suspect for me now.

It's good to confront the dead imperial elephant in the living room; it has enlightening stories to share of days gone by.
It's the entrepreneurial little elephants living next door that we are responsible for; more people are enslaved today than in the 18th century. That's what we need to be woke about.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Society of Antiquarians: Salon: Issue 506
22 February 2023

"The role of the Church of England in the transatlantic slavery economy was complex and varied. Missionaries sent to work in the Caribbean and the Americas documented the harsh conditions of daily life on the plantations. Enslaved people were not allowed basic Christian rights such as baptism and marriage in case these rights damaged the property and legal rights of the owners.

"Some voices were raised against enslavement including Revd. Morgan Godwyn, an Anglican missionary to Virginia and Barbados. He wrote in 1680 appealing to William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, to allow Anglican priests to baptize enslaved people."

After the Diary, yes, but in Pepys' lifetime. I wonder what Sancroft did with the letter besides file it?

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The UPDATE line in the original article says you can download the entire book at that link; sadly it no longer takes you to the book. Other interesting books, yes, but FREEDOM SEEKERS has moved on.

I did find an article of the same name at…

"Read the article at the LRB" -- that still takes you to the story about Pepys, Elizabeth and Mungo on Valentine's morning.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

De facto slavery was practiced in Scotland during the 17th century, according to this book. I've corrected the scanning errors and updated the spellings I could guess; otherwise I've left the puzzlers. Scots and the law are not my forte:

From "The Annals of Duddingston and Portobello"



The extent to which the trade with other countries was growing seems to have so alarmed the Government, lest the [COAL] supply should become exhausted, that by an Act passed in 1563 the transporting of coals "furth of the realm" was prohibited, but afterwards commuted so far by an Act of the Privy Council that "smiddy coal" was allowed to be exported.

In process of time these Acts came to be disregarded, until in 1609 a proposal was made by the Scottish Privy Council that the foreign coal trade should be legalized.
King James would listen to nothing of the kind.
In a long letter, dated Whitehall, 28 April 1609, he fully relates the reasons for his refusal, viz., his fear 'That as it is notorious that the coals both in that and this kingdom do daily decay, so that their is no hope of any sudden new growth; and as by the use of these coals the woods and growing timber throughout all the land shall be spared and uncut and undestroyed," and seeing "that coals are at this instant almost unbuyable for dearth," he considered it "a shameful thing that the private gain of some two or three individuals should be put in the balance, not only with the weele [WELFARE?] of the whole kingdom, bat even of this whole yle." [but even of this old earl?]

In all probability it was considerably before the reign of the Modern Solomon [KING JAMES VI AND I] who indited this sapient epistle that the coal pits of Duddingston were opened near to Joppa, as we find a charter of Kelso Abbey, dated 1538, by which the lands of Easter and Wester Duddingston were granted to Robert Barton, where mention is made of his right to the coal and coal-heughs on the Barony.

From an early period until 1790, coal had continued to be extracted, and that in considerable quantity from the 3 or 4 pits wrought in that neighborhood. At the end of the century 13 seams of coal had been discovered and partly wrought; several being of first-rate quality.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


"The inclinations and dips of the minerals were to the west, and nearly all at an angle of forty-five degrees from the horizon to the east, which always rendered the working of the coal an extremely difficult and dangerous process, and which in the end was the cause of the mines being given up, as they could not be kept clear of water."
Hugh Miller, who knew the geological configuration of the neighborhood of these mines, gives an excellent description of their coal measures in his Geological Features of Edinburgh and its Neighborhood. The pits were closed long before his day, but from a careful examination of the strata laid bare in the quarry between Joppa and Easter Duddingston and other places further inland, he formulated his theory of the Midlothian coal basin.

Hugh Miller continues: ''The coal measures fill a great basin, which occupies the comparatively level space between the western slopes of the Garleton Hills, near Haddington, and the eastern slopes of Arthur Seat and the Pentlands. The surface is comparatively level, because the basin is full; ..."
[The Garleton Hills, in East Lothian, Scotland, are a range of igneous hills, to the north of Haddington.-SDS]

"The workings of the several pits at Joppa followed the various seams in all directions, even to a considerable distance below the bed of the sea; and although the shafts have been long since filled up, frequent subsidences of the soil in recent years amply confirm the extensive nature of the workings. The influx of water, whether from the sea or otherwise, seems to have been a continual source of annoyance and expense.

“It is not yet fully 80 years” says Hugh Miller, writing in about 1855, “since they were slaves, as firmly bound to the soil as the serfs of Russia, and transferable, like the huts in which they dwelt or the minerals amid which they burrowed, from the hands of one proprietor to another. ... Profoundly ignorant — kept apart, by their underground profession and their peculiar habits, from the other people of the country — and withal not very formidable from their numbers, their liberty seems to have been taken from them piecemeal, mainly during the 17th century, by the Acts of Parliaments, in which, of course, they were wholly unrepresented, and by the decisions of a Court in which no one ever appeared for their interests.

“It was the old Scottish Parliament and our present Court of Session that made the colliers slaves; and the salters or salt makers of the north-eastern shores of Midlothian were associated with them in bondage."

There seems to be no doubt that this was so, and it arose from the immense territorial power of the coal proprietors, who were virtually the authors of the Acts and the prompters of the decisions, and in proof of this we quote a few passages from these iniquitous laws bearing out our statement.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


In 1606, it was statute and ordained, under a penalty of £100, that no person within the realm should hire or employ colliers, coal bearers, or salters, unless furnished with a sufficient testimonial from the master whom he had last served; and further, "that sae mony colliers, coal bearers, and salters," as without such testimonial received such "fore wages and fees, should be esteemed, repute, and holden as thieves and punished in their bodies"
"Pretty well," says Hugh Miller, "as a specimen of the class legislation of the good old times!''

This Act, however stringent as it may seem, was found insufficient; there was a class of persons employed in the pits whom it did not include; and so in 1661, it was further enacted, "that because watermen, who lave and draw water in the coal-heugh-heads, and gatesmen who work the ways and passages in the said heughs, are as necessary to the owners and masters of the said coal heugha as the coal hewers and coal bearers, it is therefore statute and ordained, that they should come under exactly the same penalties as the others, in the event of quitting their masters without certificate; and that it should be equally illegal, in the lack of such a document, for any person to employ them."

But even that was not considered sufficient. The poor coaI worker, discontented and miserable, grumbled at his lot, and wanted wages; but such an unreasonable demand, while it was nominally complied with, was practically denied, for it was further enacted that it should "not be lawful for any coal master in the kingdom to give any greater fee than the sum of twenty merks in fee or bountith" — a clause which, according to the interpretation of Lord James, fixed the large sum of 1/. 2 s. as the yearly wages of colliers and salters.

It was found that at times the poor men became uncontrollable, and refused to work on any terms, and so there was a further clause devised to deal with the difficulty, which ran as follows: "Because coal hewers within the kingdom, and other workers within coal heughs, with salters, do lie from their works at Pasche, Yule, Whitsunday, and certain other times of the year, which times they employ in drinking and debauching to the ffrecLt offence of God and prejudice of their masters, it is therefore statute and ordained that the said coal hewers and salters, and other workmen in coal heughs in the kingdom, work all the 6 days of the week, except the time of Christmas."

Thus were these poor people — men and women — treated.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


That ignorance and vice were characteristics of such a condition of society goes without saying. It was inevitable when we remember the women were veritably yoke fellows with their husbands and brothers in this degrading service.

Here is evidence of an eyewitness to their work, which was to carry up to the surface in baskets or creels the coal hewn from the same, from which they were called “coal bearers."
"Each bears a lamp fastened to her head to light the long upward ascent, and, laden with more than a hundredweight of coal, and bent forward at nearly a right angle to avoid coming in contact with the low roof, they ascend slowly along the flights of steps, and through the narrow galleries, and lastly up the long stair of the shaft; and when they have reached the surface, they unload at the coal heap and return. And such is the employment of females for 12, and sometimes 15 hours together."

It was estimated by Robert Bald, the distinguished mining engineer, that an ordinary day's work was equal to carrying of a hundredweight from sea level to the top of Ben Lomond.

These collier women — the coal bearers of the old Scotch Acts — were even more strongly marked by the slave nature in this part of the country than the men.

Hugh Miller says: “I have seen them crying like children when toiling, nearly exhausted under the load, along the steep upper stages of their journeys to the surface, and then returning with empty creels, scarce a minute after, singing with glee.

They were marked by a peculiar type of mouth; both the upper and under lip drooped forward, swollen, meaningless, void of marks indicative of compressive control of mind. It was the mouth of the savage in that humblest and least developed condition of which great weakness is an even more deplorable trait than the prevailing rudeness and barbarism.

I describe a state of things which has become obsolete in the district. Women are no longer employed as ^MiinuLltt of burden in our Scottish coal pits. The drooping mouth already has disappeared from among our collier population.

My description might be regarded as one of the fossils of the coal measures — a memorial of a condition of things become extinct — and such is the character borne by even the comparatively recent history of our Scottish colliers in general. It bears upon its front the stamp of obsolete ages, and of states of society long gone by.

This verse of a song, called "The Coal-Bearer's Lamentation," is said to have been often sung by the poor women of Duddingston and neighboring parishes when at their toilsome work:
“When I was engaged a coal bearer to be.
When I was engaged a coal bearer to be.
Through all the coal pits I maun wear the dron brats.
If my heart it should break, I can never won free!”

Let us be thankful that not only in our parish, but throughout the British Empire so deplorable a condition of society has forever ceased to be tolerated.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

From the same book, the salt makers were similarly treated.

Salt was known to the Romans, and was made by evaporating sea water. This required a lot of fuel. Scotland's supply of timber for firewood began to fail as early as the 13th centiry, and the discovery of coal in Midlothian made the production of salt possible.

Hugh Miller's comments above regarding the Act of 1606, and the conditions endured by these endentured serfs apply to the makers of salt as much as they do to the coal miners.

The degraded condition of the laboring population of the district, and especially of the salt workers and colliers of Joppa has already been referred to; but it is rather startling in this 19th century to have the evidence of slavery existing within 4 miles of the capital [EDINBURGH] told us by an eyewitness of the fact:

William Chambers' evidence is remarkable. “The small smoke-dried community of these Salt Pans," he says, "was socially interesting. Along with the colliers in the neighboring tiled hamlets, the salt makers — at least the elderly among them — had at one time been serfs, and in that condition they had been legally sold along with the property on which they dwelt. I conversed with some of them on the subject. They and their children had been heritable fixtures to the spot. They could neither leave at will, nor change their profession. In short, they were in a sense slaves.

"I feel it to be curious," he continues, ''that I should have seen and spoken to persons in this country who remembered being legally in a state of serfdom; and such they were till 1799, when an Act of Parliament abolished this last remnant of slavery in the British Islands."

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