Description[Indian Slavery] Thomas Pryor Document Signed for the Sale of an Indian Boy. Two pages including integral blank, written on recto of first page only, 7.5" x 12", Philadelphia, April 3, 1708. Docketed on verso of second page. Little is known of Thomas Pryor, other than that he was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1669, and removed to Pennsylvania where he operated a bolting mill (a grist grinding machine for sifting flour, meal, etc.) in Solebury Township, Bucks County. He was said to have had many differences with his neighbors, customers, and creditors. This handsomely penned item documents the sale, for the sum of "forty pounds current money . . . paid by Toby Leech," of a young Indian boy. The document states that Pryor "has bargained, sould [sic] and Delivered . . . unto Said Toby Leech one Indian Boy called Harford, To Have and to Hould [sic]".
Native American slavery was practiced by the English in the Carolinas who sold Native American captives into slavery on the English plantations in the Caribbean. It is estimated that the number of Native Americans in southeast America sold in the British slave trade from 1670-1715 is between 30,000 and 50,000. Thousands of Indians were exported from ports such as Boston and Salem, and, on a much smaller scale, by the French from New Orleans. These totals will surely rise as we learn more about the thousands who were not exported from their region but lived out their lives as slaves on plantations in Virginia or as farm laborers in Connecticut. Although the scale of Indian enslavement pales in comparison to the African slave trade, it is notable, for instance, that from 1670 to 1717, far more American Indians were exported from Charleston than Africans were brought in. Scholars long have known about the Indian slave trade, but the scattered nature of the sources prevented a systematic examination. We are just learning of the trade's massive extent and its central role in the lives of early Americans and in the colonial economy.
Pryor's bold signature is offset by his red wax seal. Document is moderately age toned with a small area of dampstaining along the right margin. With minor separations at folds and two small bits of paper loss thereat. Although slave sale receipts are not uncommon, they are usually dealing with the sale of a black slave and date from the 19th Century. This manuscript is the first we have seen for an Indian slave, and is especially unique for its early date.
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