30 Pounds and Pottery for a Slave

in by Warren

Date: June 28, 1770

“I the Subscriber having this day purchas’d a Negro Boy of Joshua Green have made the followg: conditions with him viz. That I will add Ten Pounds Lawfull Money to be paid in Potter’s Ware manufactur’d in this Town in three years to the Thirty pounds first agreed for if in 3 Months from this date I shall think the negro worth the money & if I do not think him worth the additional ten pounds I will reconvey him to sd: Green he returng the two Notes I gave him for the negro, one for 17.£ & the other for 13.£, both of them bearing date herewith. —

Joseph Warren

[Page 2] It is also further agreed that in case of my decease that the within mention’d negro shall become the property of said Green; he deliverg up my two notes. —

[Page 3, Endorsement] Dr: Warren’s Obl: to pay 10.£ in Pott: Ware

June 1773 — ”

Source: In Samuel A. Green Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston. A graphic of the document can be seen here.

Commentary: A few months following the Boston Massacre, as evidenced by this receipt, Joseph Warren buys an unnamed slave boy for £30 plus £10 more in domestically manufactured kind, three years hence. Name, origins, duties, and fate of this boy do not survive. By autumn of 1770 Joshua Green became Warren’s landlord of a rental property on Hanover Street, which home became Warren’s residence and medical office for the rest of his life. The purchase of this slave boy from Joshua Green may have had something to do with Warren’s real estate situation, but the context of the slave transaction cannot be known with certainty from scanty surviving records. Joseph Warren’s estate papers make no reference to slaves, so the boy had been freed or otherwise left sometime in the intervening years.

Some Boston Whigs, like Samuel Adams and James Otis, decried slavery of black Africans, while others owned them prior to the Revolution. By the early 1780s Massachusetts court decisions had effectively ended the institution. It was the first province to do so.

Two black slaves lived on the Warren farm in Roxbury, as documented in an estate inventory following his father’s 1755 death.

Warren is a surname of some modern New England African Americans. It is unknown to me if this last name is linked to the 18th century Roxbury Warrens, arose from association with other Warren families, was adopted over the years, or reflects some combination of the three.

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