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The Underground Railroad In Hudson County - Part Two

By Alexander Maclean

Edited by GET NJ, Copyright 2002

Slaves were brought into New Jersey at the same time as the arrival of English settlers

It will be sufficient to touch on the tops of the stepping-stones in the current of our history, to show how the slavery question became a part of American politics, and created bitterness, continually enhanced by disappointments and vituperation. Nor is it desirable to consider the whole underground system, which extended from the Mason and Dixon line and the Valley of the Ohio on the South, to the Canadian border on the North. The four routes which were in New Jersey, all converging in Jersey City, are those which now interest us.

In the general glance required to understand the growth of the abolition movement, it will be seen that during the first half of the seventeenth century there were no questions about the moral wrong of slavery. Slaves were brought into New Jersey at the same time as the arrival of English settlers.

The first act of our legislative body prohibiting harboring or transporting slaves, was passed in 1675 -- thus showing that slavery had become so general by that time that regulations were required, and the more stringent laws of 1682 show that Native Americans as well as people of African descent were held as slaves.

From 1702 a sort of trust was created in England, that secured a monopoly of the slave trade for New Jersey. It was known as the Royal African Company, and part of tis duty was to provide a constant and sufficient supply of merchantable slaves at moderate rates.

In 1714 a law was enacted to limit the number of slaves, in order to encourage white immigration. This law placed a tax of ten pounds per capita on all slaves imported into New Jersey.

It was about this time that opposition to slavery began to develop. One faction opposed slavery on the ground that forced labor was not profitable -- and the other faction on the ethical and moral grounds.

The head tax act expired in 1721, and for nearly half a century thereafter, the live issue in politics throughtout the State was the regulation and restriction of slavery.

The leader on the ethical side was John Woolman, a Quaker preacher. He easily won the aid of the Society of Friends, who were quite numerous in South and West Jersey. By 1738 slavery, so far as the Quakers were concerned, was practically abolished in this State.

Part Three

Hudson County Facts  by Anthony Olszewski
Hudson County, New Jersey is a place of many firsts - including genocide and slavery.
Political corruption is a tradition here.
First issue in a series by Anthony Olszewski
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