Next day passed through a barren corner of Harrison Co. It is destitute of both wood and water. Poor soil covered with low brush. The roads alternately good and bad.Crossed Blue River at Fredericksburg. Next day passed through a poor country, and a small town called Pool [Paoli] The county seat of Washington [Orange] County. Roads very steep and hilly. Encamped at Pistareens.*
Slavery was allowed when the land that would become Indiana was annexed to the United States in 1783. What became the ‘Northwest Territory’ was annexed to the United States had already been controlled by the French for the previous 20 years. In 1787 Congress organized the territory with the Northwest Ordinance which prohibited slavery by stating “that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory“. It would later be decided that anyone who purchased a slave outside of the territory could enter and reside there with their slaves. Many who were from Virginia, like the Campbells, McCluers and Alexanders, living in the territory interpreted the Ordinance as allowing them to have slaves. The Ordinance stated that the Virginians “shall have their possessions and titles confirmed to them, and be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberties.” Many had decided to keep enslaved people as their property. Fear of French rebellion had kept the courts from acting against slavery, as did the violent actions of those who would kidnap escaped slaves. A court ruling of 1807 stated that pre-existing slavery could still exist under the Northwest Ordinance, only served to continue the practice of the ‘peculiar institution’ as some liked to refer to as slavery.
Many of the Northwest Territory’s early settlers came from the southern states, those who were anti-slavery settled in Ohio where a strong anti-slavery movement was already underway. The land was given as bounty for our Revolutionary War military service. The immigrants in favor of slavery generally moved to Indiana. When they relocated to the Indiana Territory, they brought what few slaves they owned with them. An 1810 census recorded 393 free blacks and 237 slaves in the Indiana Territory. After the Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark and his soldiers, all Virginians, had been given land grants in southern Indiana. Those who settled in Indiana brought their Southern ideals with them, as many of the territory’s early settlers had come from the southern states.
In 1809, Dennis Pennington, one of the most outspoken anti-slavery men and a friend of Henry Clay, was elected to the legislature and became speaker in the assembly. His prominence allowed him to dominate the legislature. Before the Indiana Constitutional Convention in 1816, Pennington was quoted as saying “Let us be on our guard when our convention men are chosen that they be men opposed to slavery.“ At the Constitutional Convention, the anti-slavery party was able to take control, electing Jennings as the President of the convention. It was by their actions that slavery was banned by the first Constitution. Despite slavery and indentures becoming illegal in 1816 due to the state Constitution, the 1820 federal census listed 190 slaves in Indiana. Many slaveholders felt that the 1816 constitution did not cover preexisting slavery; others would not care if it was illegal.
In 1829, as William Campbell and the 25 enslaved people with him slowly traveled across the state, slavery was still accepted by many of Indiana’s residents, even though Indiana was considered a “free” state. This would have been 23 year-old Archer’s first encounter with that glorious ability of freedom for all of the black people in the state. The desire for such freedom, was surely growing within him…
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. This journal is located in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and for which we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. Editor is Dorris Keeven-Franke.
Twenty-three year old Archer Alexander is a member of this caravan. He is also the face of freedom on the Emancipation Monument. Please sign our Petition to keep this monument standing where the enslaved erected it as a tribute to Lincoln!
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