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‘Is Full of Impudence’
The Search for a Drunken Slave Girl

If you were explicitly owned property, and could be beaten daily, and raped at your master’s leisure, even as you worked from dawn until dusk without a penny in payment, wouldn’t you want to get drunk, or otherwise alter your consciousness?

In our time, most wage slaves in our more advanced debt-based economy are addicted to multiple drugs. In this writer’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, the coroner’s office must dispose of up to 2,000 unclaimed bodies per year—many of them opiate overdoses. This is just in reaction to sophisticated, free-range debt slavery.

Now imagine if your boss could beat you every day, if he could rape you without consequence—for there is no record of a master being convicted of any crime short of murder of a servant or slave, and in that case, the murdering master and mistress were simply forbidden to buy more servants—and if you were never paid by your boss, but had to steal or work side jobs to get money. If that was our lot, how many of us would be drug addicts and alcoholics then?

Perhaps this explains the famous Irish penchant for drunkenness.

January 3, 1771

The Pennsylvania Gazette

FOUR DOLLARS Reward. RUN away, the 9th of December, 1770, from the subscriber, living in Oxford township, Chester county, an Irish servant woman, named Mary Proctor, of a middle stature, about 25 years of age, black haired, talks a little on the brogue, is full of impudence, loves strong liquor, and will get drunk, when she has an opportunity;

she is a good seamstress, and professes to be a mantua [1] maker;

had on, and took with her, an old blue bonnet, red silk handkerchief, redish calicoe gown, white linen apron, a mixed lincey petticoat, a plad ditto, and flat heeled shoes;

she says she was born in the city of Cork, in Ireland, and came from thence about a year or two ago, but it is supposed she has been longer in this country; she has been acquainted with both Workhouse and Barracks [2] in Philadelphia, and is of a very ordinary conduct.

Whoever takes up said servant, and secures her, so that I may have her again, shall have the above reward, and reasonable charges, paid by me WILLIAM STERRITT.

N.B. She may change her name, and also her clothes.


1. Mantua, the Italian fortress city in the Republic of Venice, was a silk-working center, where it appears that this elegant, loose over-gown, that came into fashion to replace rigid bodices in the 1680s was developed. A woman who could make a mantua would be a valuable piece of property.

2. At “about 25 years” this woman seems to be on her third term of service and it is not believed that she freely immigrated. Until Mary is acquired by an owner, who then releases her with freedom papers, she may be bought or sold by any free man or woman.

A Bright Shining Lie at Dusk

A Partial Exhumation of the American Dream

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