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    Revolutionary War Slave Soldiers: 1st Rhode Island Regiment Pay Vouchers (7) which Includes Rhode Island Slave Soldiers, Accompanied by Related Accounting Document. Two pay vouchers (all near 8" x 6.5") are dated January 1, 1788, and five are dated January 1, 1789. All read in part, "State of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations. By virtue of an Act of the General Assembly of the State aforesaid, providing for the Payment of the Money due to the Soldiers who inlisted [sic] into the Continental Battalions of this State, for Depreciation of their Wages, and as General Treasurer of said State, I promise to pay to ____, or Bearer, the Sum of ____ Lawful Silver money, which Sum is payable on Demand with Interest at the Rate of Six percent, per Annum, from this Date." Each lists the amount due and is made payable to either Leicester Wheeler, Jack Greene, John Crandall, Robert Gorham, Boston Wilbur, Benedict Aaron, or Scipio D. Wolfe. Two of those, Jack Greene (owned by Philip Greene and enlisted May 22, 1778) and Boston Wilbur (owned by John Wilbur and enlisted April 14, 1778) were slaves. Each pay voucher is signed by Joseph Clarke as Rhode Island's general treasurer.

    The accounting sheet, 8" x 5.5" with the heading "Soldiers notes due from the State of Rhode Island", contains columns for names (eight are listed), pay, and dates (all January 1, 1788, or January 1, 1789). All seven soldiers from the accompanying pay vouchers are listed plus one: Cato Vernon, the slave of Newport, Rhode Island, slave trader William Vernon (William Vernon was chosen by the Continental Congress to serve on the Eastern Naval Board). Cato enlisted on April 21, 1778, at Newport. Vouchers and accounting sheet are on toned sheets with folds. Some foxing exists.

    In February 1778, Rhode Island's General Assembly passed an unprecedented law allowing slaves to join a battalion being raised to serve in the Continental Army. It was a desperate time in that state's history (Newport was under the control of the British) and the the American patriotic cause (Washington's army was still at Valley Forge). Rhode Island, desperate for enlistments, promised to slaves who enlisted equal pay to that of whites and, more importantly, freedom (the owners of all slaves who enlisted were compensated by the state for their loss of property). Eight months after the Rhode Island law passed in February 1778, seventy-four slaves enlisted, including the three listed above.

    The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, in which the slaves enlisted, had racially segregated companies (the only such regiment in the Continental Army) and was incorporated into the Continental Army. When the regiment was disbanded, the soldiers, like so many others, left without receiving pay. In the years following the war, the veterans of the 1st Regiment, including the former slaves, petitioned the Rhode Island Assembly for their wages due. These vouchers, each for a different amount, are for those long delayed wages. From the Papers of William Vernon.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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