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Were White or Black Slaves More Violent?
Maryalnd, 1726-75

The figures below come from the hanging period. Before 1700 burning, quartering and other brutal means were used to kill restive servants and Negros [the two terms used by the masters of the period] had been superseded by hanging.

In the 49 year period for which records survive, there were recorded, 268 executions in Maryland, or over five per year.There were certainly many private executions of servants and negroes as well as fatalities from the regular and severe beatings, which were rarely recorded. The population of Maryland went from about 70,000 around 1730 to roughly 170,000 in 1775, with the number of negroes roughly 40%, being less in early years and more as the years wore on.

there was 1 burning [possibly alive]

there were 267 hangings

Of 268 People Executed

1 Indian servant

11 servants

52 convict servants

58 free whites [1]

146 Negros and mulattos

This is 121 whites hanged to 146 negroes, which indicates that the negroes either committed more capital offenses, were punished more harshly, or both. Blacks and mixed race people were slightly less numerous [40%] than whites and were punished slightly more. This indicates that a black or mixed race person in colonial Maryland was roughly twice as likely to be found guilty of a capital offense.

Currently, in Maryland, blacks are roughly 100 times more likely to commit a capital offense.

We might also consider that a capital offense in Colonial times was as likely as not to fall short of murder.

This rough estimation would translate to modern black Marylanders being 50 times more likely to commit crime than their ancestors. This information suggests that, as the centuries have passed in Maryland, whites have become less unruly and blacks more so.

13 Hanging Offenses


attempted murder

breaking and entering



rape arson


conspiring to stage an insurrection

attempted insurrection

passing counterfeit money

receiving stolen goods

breaking jail



1. The high number of free whites executed is not to be confused with farmers and land owners and such being hung. For instance, many servants who had worked off their time and were turned loose without tools, hope of employment in a slave economy or money turned to theft and horse stealing. Also, many "free" whites might be abducted if they were found without freedom papers. If a man was stopped who had been freed or had escaped from New York, or who worked his way across the Atlantic as a sail-maker and had no freedom papers, he was fair game for the gaolor, who might take him and sell him. If this "free" white man were to try and defend himself with a deadly weapon, he might face the noose.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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