Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Our Quaker Roots #3: The Manumitter NATHAN BEAKES, Jr.

NATHAN BEAKES, Jr. 1760-1831 (nephew of 7th GGMother Sarah Beakes Potts)  grandson of 1683 immigrant William Beakes, Jr. and great grandson of immigrants Mahlon Stacy and William Beakes, Sr.

"Oh, make Thou us, through centuries long,
In peace secure, in justice strong;
Around our gift of freedom draw
The safeguards of Thy righteous law
And, cast in some diviner mould,
Let the new cycle shame the old!"
(John Greenleaf Whittier, v.6 of "Centennial Hymn")
With the signature shown above, Nathan Beakes Jr. legally manumitted a slave in his household on 30th December 1793.  The handwritten New Jersey document reads:
"I Nathan Beakes of the Township of Trenton in the County of Hunterdon* do hereby certify that I have manumitted and set free and by these presents do manumit and set free my Negro Slave named Caesar, discharging him from all further services to me as a slave.  In witness whereof I have [  ] set my hand & seal this thirtieth Day of December one thousand seven Hundred and ninety three ~ Nathan Beakes  ...Sealed and delivered in the presence of  [two signatures]"
* (Hunterdon County was founded in 1714, from northern part of West Jersey, including part of Burlington County)
As a fourth-generation Quaker, cousin Nathan was part of an early American movement to abolish slavery that began at the table of another ancestor, Thones Kunders over a century before.   After the Revolutionary War, New Jersey passed legislation called "An Act to prevent the Importation of Slaves into the State of New Jersey, and to authorize the Manumission of them under certain Restrictions, and to prevent the Abuse of Slaves,"
This 1786 state law was seen as a victory for the abolitionist movement and set in motion a process that allowed slave-holders like Nathan a legal right to free his slaves under certain conditions, which he met by this additional document that states:
from the New Jersey State Archives
"Hunterdon County [  ]  We do hereby certify, that on this thirtieth Day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven Hundred and ninety three Nathan Beakes of the Township of Trenton in the said County of Hunterdon brought before us two of the overseers of the poor of [  ] said Township and two of the Justices of the Peace of the said County, his slave named Caesar, who on view and Examination appears to us to be sound in mind, and not under any bodily Incapacity of attaining a Support, and also is not under twenty-one years of Age nor above thirty five:  In witness whereof we have hereunto set our Hands the thirtieth day of December one Thousand Seven hundred and ninety three  (Overseers of the Poor of the Township of Trenton:  Jos. Brimley, James B. Nachett) and (Justices of the Peace of the County of Hunterdon:  Jas. Simm, [  ?  ]"
Only five years later, the law was repealed to raise the upper age for legal manumission to forty years.  In 1804 new laws were passed to further define New Jersey's plan for "Gradual Abolition of Slavery" and then were repealed in 1820 but continued the manumission process which required that children of slaves born after the 4th of July 1804 were declared "free" but bound as servants to the owners of their mothers for a period of twenty-five years* for males and twenty-one years for females. In the 1830 Hunterdon County Federal Census, the household of Nathan Beakes is listed:
Free White Persons -Males- 30 thru 39: 1 (possibly Nathan's son Morgan, age 35)
Free White Persons -Males- 70 thru 79: 1 (Nathan, age 70)
Free White Persons -Females- 60-69: 1 (his wife Mary [Trent], age 68)
Free Colored Persons -Males- 36-54: 1 (possibly Caesar)
Free Colored Persons -Females- Under 10: 1
Free Colored Persons -Females- 24 thru 35: 1
Slaves -Males- 24 thru 35: 1*
Total Free White Persons: 3
Total Free Colored Persons: 3
Nathan Beakes, Jr. died the following year, at which time the one male slave in his household was probably of legal age to be free, as were the rest of the former slaves who remained -as many did- working for their former 'owners.'  
Neither Nathan nor his wife would live long enough to see the end of slavery in New Jersey with the 1846 "Act to Abolish Slavery" or national abolition legislation, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865.  The Quaker poet Whittier celebrated the centennial of our nation's freedom with a message of hope and reform for the people of that nation: 
"...Let the new cycle shame the old"

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