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‘To the Whipping Post’
The Plight of a Slut Servant


Orders 1735-38

p.440, Zachary Lewis, Churchwarden of St. George Parish, presents Ann Jones, a servant [1] belonging to John West, who declared that Pompey an East Indian (slave) [2] belonging to William Woodford, Gent., was the father of sd child which was adjudged of by the Court that she was not under the law having a Mullato child, that only relates to Negroes and Mullatoes and being Silent as to Indians, carry sd. Ann Jones to the whipping post. [3]


1. The designation “servant” without a racial qualification in colonial documents is an indication that this person was white, as were most unfree people. For this reason the terms Negro and Indian are attached to servant, never white.

2. Masters were careful never to call servants slaves, though white servants called themselves slaves often. This period saw the rise of the semantic effort to attach the word slave to negroes only and was accompanied by numerous rulings on behalf of courts that East Indians could not be held to a lifetime of servitude. By this period, being the second quarter of the 18th century, the term slave meant one thing to slave masters and quite another to their unfree property, but was now legally being used as a term for servant for life, where before it was a pejorative, a complaint or referred to someone from Europe being taken off to North Africa by Barbary Pirates.

3. Ann would have received 30-40 lashes with the cat-o-nine-tails, with 100-200 judged sufficient to kill a man. These lash limits were set by colonial administrators serving the British Crown and were much resented by Plantation masters and generally ignored. 30 was the upper limit for an owner to apply. 40 was the upper limit for a court to apply. According to a 1726 Virginia statute, Ann’s baby would be given over by the church wardens to a master for 31 years of servitude. Had it been a mulatto child it would have been sold for life. In New England being impregnated by a nonwhite would have been a death sentence up until 1692. A condition of servitude which was universal throughout the American colonies was that adultery—being the only way to have sex other than rape in a setting that prohibited marriage—was punishable by removal of the child from the parent[s] and an extension of the term of service of each parent, with additional corporal punishment, depending on statutes and rulings.

Books by James LaFond

Add Comment
JRJanuary 4, 2017 9:44 PM UTC

JRJanuary 4, 2017 9:41 PM UTC

What's an East Indian? Slaves were taken from East India?
responds:January 5, 2017 12:45 PM UTC

I am finding records of "East Indians" of "dark," "India Indians" and "yellow" complexion in Maryland and Virginia in the 1670-1770 range. Obviously these were not all from India. It surprised me, but should not have, as the British stocked Trinidad and Tobago with Indian slaves. I have met some of the women and they have those big Brahmin babe eyes and long straight hair.

It seems like most of those sold as chattel in Maryland and Virginia had been recruited to fill domestic positions in London, but ended up being sold here, kind of like being hired to be a butler in Manhattan and getting sold to a west Virginia coal mine.