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A Planter Proposes A Slave Regiment in the Continental Army

In this letter, John Laurens asks his father, South Carolina slaveowner Henry Laurens, to give him several slaves in lieu of his inheritance, so that he can arm them to fight in the Continental army.

January 14, 1776.

I barely hinted to you, my dearest father, my desire to augment the Continental forces from an untried source. I wish I had any foundation to ask for an extraordinary addition to those favours which I have already received from you. I would solicit you to cede me a number of your able bodied men slaves, instead of leaving me a fortune.

I would bring about a two-fold good; first, I would advance those who are unjustly deprived of rights of mankind to a state which would be proper gradation between abject slavery and perfect liberty, and besides I would reinforce the defenders of liberty with a number of gallant soldier. Men, who have the habit of subordination almost indelibly impressed on them, would have one very essential qualification of soldiers. I am persuaded that if I could obtain authority for the purpose, I would have a corps of such men trained, uniformly equip’d and ready in every respect to act at the opening of the next campaign.

Source | John Laurens, The Army Correspondence of Colonel John Laurens in the Years 1777-8, ed. William G. Simms (New York: 1867), 108; see also Fritz Hirschfeld, ed., George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal (Columbia,Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1997), 129-130.
Creator | John Laurens
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | John Laurens, “A Planter Proposes A Slave Regiment in the Continental Army,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 21, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/677.

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