James Madison Papers

James Madison to the Editor of the Farmers’ Register, 22 March 1836

Richmond, March 22d, 1836.

You expressed a wish (page -- vol. III,) to obtain information in relation to the history of the emancipated people of color in Prince Edward; I presume those emancipated by the late Richard Randolph more especially.

More than twenty-five years ago, I think, they were liberated, at which time they numbered about one hundred, and were settled upon small parcels of land, of perhaps 10 to twenty-five acres, to each family. As long as the habits of industry, which they had acquired while slaves, lasted, they continued to increase in numbers, and lived in some degree of comfort--but as soon as this was lost, and most of those who had been many years in slavery either died, or became old and infirm, and a new race, raised in idleness and vice, sprang up, they began not only to be idle and vicious, but to diminish instead of increasing, and have continued to diminish in numbers very regularly every year--and that too, without emigration; for they have almost without exception, remained together in the same situation as at first placed, to this day. Idleness, poverty, and dissipation, are the agents which continue to diminish their numbers, and to render them wretched in the extreme, as well as a great pest, and heavy tax upon the neighborhood in which they live. There is so little of industry, and so much dissipation amongst them, that it is impossible that the females can rear their families of children--and the consequence is, that they prostitute themselves, and consequently, have few children--and the operation of time, profligacy and disease, more than keep pace with any increase among them. Whilst they are a very great pest and heavy tax upon the community, it is most obvious, they themselves are infinitely worsted by the exchange from slavery to liberty--if, indeed, their condition deserves that name.

James Madison

Printed letter (Farmers’ Register, vol. 4 (1837), pages 3-4) .

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