Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other African American History Offerings


1764 New York Bill of Sale for 20-year old Caesar
Click to enlarge:

[NEW YORK SLAVERY]. Manuscript Document Signed by Theodorus VanWyck, Theodorus VanWyck, Jr., and Thomas Langdon [Jr.], March 5, 1764, Dutchess Co., NY, wherein Theodorus and William VanWyck, executors of the Last Will & Testament of Thomas Langdon, Sr., deceased, sell to Joseph Horton “one Negro Boy Named Ceesar [sic] aged Twenty years,” for “one Hundred and Twenty pounds Current Money of New York.” 1 p. 7 1/4 x 11 7/8 in.

Inventory #21947       Price: $950

Historical Background

Thomas Langdon, Sr. was a son of Thomas Langdon, who died in Jerusalem, Hempstead, Long Island, in 1734.  Thomas married in the Reformed Dutch Church at Fishkill, October, 20, 1734, Peternella/Neeltje (Davidts), daughter of Andries & Cornelia (Van Vliet) Davidts.  In March of 1757, he marched as Captain Langdon of militia to Albany when Fort William Henry was attacked.  He was a resident of Fishkill and Hopewell, NY. 

Thomas Langdon, Jr., (1741-1784) who signs this document as a witness, married in 1766, Femmetje/Phebe (Adriance), daughter of Abraham & Aeltje (Brinckerhoff) Adriance.   He was a Loyalist during the Revolution.

Joseph Horton’s 1752 home in Wappinger Falls, NY, known as the “Old Hundred,” is on the historic register.

Slavery in New York:

Systematic use of black slaves in New Netherland began in 1626, when the first cargo of 11 Africans was unloaded by the Dutch West India Company. From the 1630s to the 1650s, the Company was unquestionably the dominant European slave trader in Africa. In 1644 alone, it bought 6,900 captives on the African coast. Most of these went to the company’s colonies in the West Indies, but from its stations in Angola, the company imported slaves to New Netherland to clear the forests, lay roads, build houses and public buildings, and grow food. It was company-owned slave labor that laid the foundations of modern New York, built its fortifications, and made agriculture flourish in the colony so that later white immigrants had an incentive to turn from fur trapping to farming.

Between 1636 and 1646 the price of able-bodied men in New Netherland rose about 300 percent. By 1660, slaves from Angola were selling for 300 guilders and those from Curaçao for about 100 guilders more. By the time the British took over the colony in 1664, slaves sold in New Amsterdam for up to 600 guilders. This was still a discount of roughly 10 percent over what they would have brought in the plantation colonies, but the West India Company had been subsidizing slavery in New Netherland to promote its economic progress. The Hudson Valley, where the land was monopolized in huge patroon estates that discouraged free immigration, especially relied on slaves.

The purely economic status of slaves in New Netherland contrasted with the malignant and sometimes bizarre racism of the religious British citizens who followed the Dutch into the north Atlantic colonies. Free blacks in New Netherland were trusted to serve in the militias, and slaves, given arms, helped to defend the settlement during the desperate Indian war of 1641-44. They were even used to put down the Rensselaerswyck revolt of white tenants. Blacks and whites had coequal standing in the colonial courts, and free blacks were allowed to own property. They intermarried freely with whites and in some cases owned white indentured servants.

Slaves who had worked diligently for the company for a certain length of time were granted a “half-freedom” that allowed them liberty in exchange for an annual tribute to the company and a promise to work at certain times on company projects such as fortifications or public works. This allowed individual slaveowners to be free of the cost and nuisance of owning slaves year-round that they could only use in certain seasons.

The takeover of New Amsterdam by England in 1664, brought a shift in policy: whereas the Dutch had used slavery as part of their colonial policy, the British used the colony as a market for slaves. From 1701 to 1726, officially, some 1,570 slaves were imported from the West Indies and another 802 from Africa. As it had under the Dutch, the colony continued to import relatively few slaves from Africa directly, except occasional cargoes of children under 13. The actual numbers were much higher, because smugglers made liberal use of the long, convoluted coast of Long Island. In some years illegal shipment of slaves on a single vessel outnumbered the official imports to the whole colony.

As a result, New York soon had had the largest colonial slave population north of Maryland. From about 2,000 in 1698, the number of the colony’s black slaves swelled to more than 9,000 adults by 1746 and 13,000 by 1756. Between 1732 and 1754, black slaves accounted for more than 35 percent of the total official immigration through the port of New York. In 1756, slaves made up about 25 percent of the populations of Kings, Queens, Richmond, New York, and Westchester counties.

The slave trade became a cornerstone of the New York economy. As with Boston and Newport, profits of the great slave traders, or of smaller merchants who specialized in small lots of skilled or seasoned slaves, radiated through a network of port agents, lawyers, clerks, scriveners, dockworkers, sailmakers, and carpenters.

The Dutch legacy left its mark on New York slavery, even after the British occupation. The British at first handled slaves in New York on the same relatively humane terms the Dutch had set. The population already was racially mixed, and slavery in New York at first was passed down not exactly by race, but by matrilineal inheritance: the child of a male slave and a free woman was free, the child of a female slave and a free man was a slave. By the 18th century, through this policy, New York had numerous visibly white persons held as slaves.

But after 1682, as the number of slaves rose (in many places more rapidly than the white population) fears of insurrection mounted, restrictions were applied, and public controls began to be enacted. By that year, it had become illegal for more than four slaves to meet together on their own time; in 1702 the number was reduced to three, and to ensure enforcement each town was required to appoint a “Negro Whipper” to flog violators. In a place where slaves were dispersed in ones and twos among city households, this law, if enforced, would have effectively prohibited slaves from social or family life.

In 1712, some slaves in New York City rose up in a crude rebellion that could have been much more deadly, had it been better planned. As it was, it was among the most serious slave resistances in American history, and sparked a vicious backlash by the authorities. As in other Northern colonies, blacks in New York faced special, severe penalties for certain crimes.

In 1788, the slave trade in New York was banned outright (but with important loopholes), and the special courts which had held power of life and death over slaves for 80 years were abolished. The loosening of restrictions filtered down to the municipal level, and Albany abolished the custom of flogging slaves for curfew violations. The New York Manumission Society, based in the Quaker population of Long Island and headed by the most prominent and wealthy men in the state, had formed in 1785. It kept up a relentless pressure of economic intimidation. This effort, along with a booming birth rate and a flood of white workers from other states who did not have to be maintained during periods of unemployment and were willing to work for low wages, made slavery economically obsolete.

In 1799 the Legislature passed “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery,” providing for gradual manumission on the Pennsylvania model, which allowed masters to keep their younger slaves in bondage for their most productive years, to recoup their investment. The law freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but not at once. The males became free at 28, the females at 25. Till then, they would be the property of the mother’s master. Slaves already in servitude before July 4, 1799, remained slaves for life, though they were reclassified as “indentured servants.” The law sidestepped all question of legal and civil rights, thus avoiding the objections that blocked earlier bills.

The activity of kidnappers and cheats in selling slaves out of the state in spite of the laws fostered the 1817 statute that gave freedom to New York slaves who had been born before July 4, 1799 – but not until July 4, 1827. Slavery was still not entirely repealed in the state, because the new law offered an exception, allowing nonresidents to enter New York with slaves for up to nine months, and allowing part-time residents to bring their slaves into the state temporarily. Though few took advantage of it, the “nine-months law” remained on the books until its repeal in 1841, when slavery had become the focus of sectional rivalry and the North was re-defining itself as the “free” region.

The state’s slaveholders had seen the writing on the wall after 1785. And part of their response was to sell their slaves south while they still could. As early as the 1780s, after commissions and insurance costs, an able-bodied New York slave could be sold south for a profit of at least £40. Owners avoided the ban on the slave trade by disguising purchases as long-term leases or indentures (one importer brought a “free” black over from New Jersey under a 99-year “indenture”). Free blacks were victimized, too, sold into slavery for debt or under terms of fraudulent contracts or apprenticeships. The New York Manumission Society rescued 33 blacks from such schemes in 1796 alone; uncounted others certainly slipped past their vigilance.

In A History of Negro Slavery in New York [1966], Edgar J. McManus writes that an analysis of census figures shows an extremely sharp drop in the growth rate of New York’s black population after 1800. Many blacks must have left the state, he writes, and few left voluntarily. “The conclusion is inescapable,” McManus writes, “that the exodus was largely the work of kidnapers and illegal traders who dealt in human misery.”

[the foregoing extracted from “Slavery in New York.”]


“Emancipation in New York.”  Slavery in the North.

FamilySearch. The Settlers of the Beekman Patent (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), (Orig. Pub. by Frank J. Doherty, Pleasant Valley, NY. Frank J. Doherty, The Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, New York: An Historical and Genealogical Study of All the 18th Century Settlers in the Patent, six volumes. 1990–2001)

“Slavery in New York.”  Slavery in the North.


Some fold separations; marginal tears and losses at edges; fading to roughly two lines of text.

Add to Cart Ask About This Item Add to Favorites