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‘A Very Good Scholar’
A Long Term War Veteran Turned School Teacher Runs Away? How Bad Must Colonial Children Have Been?

March 16, 1769

The Pennsylvania Gazette


RUN away, about the 16th of November last, a servant man, named JAMES DAVENPORT, about 30 years of Age, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, a dark complexion, [1] hollow eyes, long black hair, tied behind;

had on, when he went away, a good castor hat, a grey lappelled coat, a blue waistcoat, buckskin breeches, old shoes, and pinchbeck buckles;

also took with him, a claret coloured coat and waistcoat, and a red silk waistcoat;

he says, he was born in London, and has been 11 years in the service, and got his discharge in Cork, in Ireland; [2]

he is a very good scholar, and has taught school two years and a half in Sadsbury township, Chester county, and took with him a certificate, signed by several of his employers.

Whoever takes up and secures said servant, [3] in any goal, or brings him to the subscriber, living in the township aforesaid, shall have the above reward, and reasonable charges, paid by me JAMES BOYD.


1. An increase in the number of “dark” servants out of Ireland and England brings one to wonder if black women were being used as sex slaves in the home countries.

2. Discharged British servicemen were almost always destitute, many having been simply kidnapped or otherwise impressed into service to begin with. During this period, across Europe, armies and navies were used in place of extensive prison systems to dispose of men of the lower classes.

3. It has become unusual, since the mid 1760s, for any servant to be referred to as an indenture. There is now little allusion made to them having sold themselves or having been sold by their parents. Simply being unemployed or homeless was a capital crime.

So Her Master May Have Her Again

A History of Runaway White Slaves in Plantation America: Part Two

Add Comment
LynnOctober 14, 2017 12:58 AM UTC

The genetic evidence says "no" to number 1.

I think noticing fairly small differences in phenotype might be a British thing. I can tell you it features prominently in Austen and Wodehouse. In Wodehouse a young man is always trying to get a closer look at a girl to decide if her eyes are blue or gray.
responds:October 14, 2017 4:02 PM UTC

The advertisers of the time would have named him a mulatto if he seemed to have a trace of African ancestry. However, there are the "dark Irish" to consider, with their ancestry traced along the Atlantic down to Spain and back to Carthaginian times.