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Thomas Smallwood detailed the circumstances of his enslavement and life as a free Black man living in Washington City in his autobiography published in 1851. As a result of laws preventing enslaved people from learning to read and write, firsthand accounts such as these are both rare and important to reference while reconstructing the history of slavery in the President’s Neighborhood. Thomas Smallwood was born into slavery in Prince George's County, Maryland, on February 22, 1801.1 His enslavers, Reverend John B. Ferguson and the reverend’s wife, taught him how to read and write.2 Smallwood recorded in his narrative that his literacy amazed the white people living nearby.3 In fact, they were so astounded, his neighbors invited Smallwood into their homes to recite the alphabet and spell words like “baker’ and “cider.”4

By the terms of the will bequeathing Smallwood to the reverend’s wife, Smallwood would have been freed in 1831. While the reverend paid $500 to “interested parties” to free him earlier, Smallwood continued to work for the Fergusons to pay off the debt.5 Although legally free, Smallwood paid the reverend an additional $60 a year to start hiring himself out when he turned twenty-five.6

Nineteenth-century map of Washington, D.C. (c. 1835)

Library of Congress

Once a member of American Colonization Society, Smallwood rejected their mission and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad in the President’s Neighborhood with his wife Elizabeth and Reverend Charles Torrey.7 Smallwood came into contact with Washington City’s early police and recorded their treatment of Black people. He shared these perspectives about the police through newspapers and his narrative, writing for the Albany Weekly Patriot on June 6, 1843:

Don't let the people forget these scoundrels! They have established a new branch of business;--it is, to station themselves in the streets, near the meeting houses of the coloured people, and watch if any are later than ten o'clock in returning home, to compel them to pay fines if they are free, or else send them to the work-house. If they are slaves their masters must pay, or they are whipped, for the CRIME of attending on the public worship of GOD, a few moments later than ten o'clock!8

The early urban police force serving Washington City developed as a slave patrol, enforcing legal codes that restricted the movements of both enslaved and free Black people. Patrols came in many forms, such as citizen volunteers, formal police forces, guards, and state militias, their organization and compensation varying between states.9 Regardless of their name, Gladys-Marie Fry states these patrols were a “fundamental part of the evolving system of control of the Blacks socially and economically.”10 Slave patrols formed across the southern colonies to prevent slave insurrections, an ever-present terror for white slave owners, using violence to control and intimidate both enslaved and free Black people, making it more difficult for them to travel, gather, or escape to freedom.11 These colonial laws from Maryland formed the basis of Washington City’s slave codes and informed the practice of their early police forces, helping to preserve slavery in the President’s Neighborhood. Rowdy demonstrations at the White House during President John Tyler’s administration prompted Congress to formalize the night watch, increasing slave code enforcement; however, patrols never fully prevented enslaved individuals from using their own agency to resist and evade these police forces, as in the case of Thomas Smallwood, who helped ferry approximately 159 enslaved individuals out of Washington to freedom. While these early police forces were dissolved in 1861 and restructured into the modern Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, many slave patrol practices were engrained in the white conscious through centuries of violent enforcement.12 Click here to learn more about the enslaved households of President John Tyler.

President John Tyler

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

Established in 1661 to catch runaway slaves, murderers, and thieves, constables in Maryland started performing the role of slave patrollers in 1723.13 It was ordered that justices of the peace and county courts "appoint the constable of every hundred, where the said justices, at their discretion, shall think proper and expedient, to suppress the assembling and tumultuous meeting of negroes and other slaves.”14 Every month, constables were required to check places where enslaved people were suspected to gather, and if any were found on another plantation without their owners’ permission, “were required, to whip every such negro on the bare back, at his discretion, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes.”15 To execute this law, constables were empowered to deputize as many citizens as they needed to join their slave patrols.16 As a supplement to this law in 1751, the colony made it a capital crime to be involved with the planning and execution of a rebellion.17

In her study of slave patrols, Sally E. Hadden found that the “systematic use of violence against African Americans” in white Southern culture was an integral part of patrols’ efforts to control enslaved persons and maintain slavery, working in tandem to supplement masters’ violence on plantations.18 As punishment for crimes such as being off their plantations at night, or riding a horse during the day without permission, justices of the peace could immediately order the whipping of enslaved people, crop their ears, or brand their check with an “R”.19 As a stipulation in the law, the punishment could not be so severe as to prevent them from working.20 Though not directly stated in the law, such severe punishment likely would have been considered an interference with enslavers’ ability to extract labor from their work force, thereby creating a financial loss and an infringement of their rights as property owners.

While patrollers could practice almost unbridled violence against enslaved people, their victims were not allowed to resist or retaliate against patrollers in Virginia or Maryland.21 In fact, if a Maryland patroller killed a resistant enslaved person while they enforced the law, the public was required to pay for the patroller’s court fees.22

Congress claimed legislative jurisdiction over the District of Columbia in 1801.23 However, Maryland’s slave code passed before cessation were still in effect in Washington County, which included the settlements of Georgetown and Washington City.24 As a result, Maryland’s constable-led slave patrol laws served as the legal foundation for policing in the new capital city, and with its other slave codes, formed Washington City’s slave code with additional laws passed by Congress, the local corporate government.

On May 3, 1802, nearly two years after Gabriel’s Rebellion in nearby Virginia, Washington City claimed the power to create its own "night watches, or patroles" in its first act of incorporation, establishing the power to appoint constables to the city’s wards in order to enforce its laws in a supplemental charter enacted on February 24, 1804.25 Comprising Washington City’s early police, these constables and patrols were empowered to enforce a May 4, 1812 law “to restrain and prohibit the nightly and other disorderly meetings of slaves, free negroes and mulattoes.”26 Those found violating the law were punished based on their condition of servitude. Enslaved people were whipped a maximum of forty times or served a prison sentence of at most six months.27 Free Black people were fined a maximum of $20, or sent to a workhouse for at most six months if they could not pay the fine.28 Patrols were specifically empowered to take violators into custody and punish them physically or economically.29

In 1827, this act was modified to prohibit all meetings and impose a 10 o’clock nighttime curfew.30 Like colonial slave codes intended to prevent insurrection threats, these laws restricted the movements of free Black people in Washington City, requiring them to first receive permission from a white person in order to gather or travel freely. Under this act, free Black people needed to first obtain permits from the mayor before having an assembly at their own residence, stating in their requests when and where the gathering would be held, and how many people would be there, imposing a $10 fine for unpermitted gatherings.31 Free Black people in the city were also required to obtain a pass from the justice of the peace to travel after curfew.32 Initially, an exception was made for those who might be returning home, for example, from church or errands, but was later repealed.33 Violators of the curfew law were fined $10 and put in lock-up overnight.34

While patrollers could practice almost unbridled violence against enslaved people, their victims were not allowed to resist or retaliate against patrollers in Virginia or Maryland.

These ordinances bore similarities to Maryland’s slave patrol laws and those passed in other southern towns, which appeared first as curfew ordinances passed between 1803 and 1833 in the Carolinas and Virginia.35 As was the case elsewhere, Washington City’s slave patrol was required to punish enslaved individuals in order to intimidate Black people and prevent prohibited travel or gatherings, setting a nearly identical thirty-nine upper-limit for lashings and similarly compensating constables fifty cents for punishing them in this way.36

That said, it is unclear how well these laws were enforced in Washington City. According to Richard Sylvester, the force of constables was “quite small” and prior to 1842, “discharged their duties in a sort of ‘go-as-you-please’ style.”37 Additionally, these constables served during the day, meaning curfew laws and those restricting night-time travel in Washington’s slave codes were much more likely to be enforced when night patrols were mustered; however, these patrols were called irregularly and only in response to an emergency, such as a possible slave insurrection or outbreaks of rioting.38

The first such patrol was called after the British invaded Washington on August 24, 1814, burning the White House, Capitol, and other public buildings, as well as the Navy Yard.39 Writing to President James Madison at 7 am on August 27, 1814, Mayor James H. Blake reported that he patrolled the city throughout the night, and that there was a relative calm and residents were starting to return to the city.40 Blake exercised Washington City’s power granted in its charter to create a night watch, calling for citizens gathered at McKeowin's Hotel to form a patrol to protect the city against the specter of a slave revolt that might take advantage of the militia’s retreat from Washington and join the British forces.41 He was accompanied by Vice President Gerry Eldridge’s son, Gerry Eldridge Jr., and members of Congress.42 Click here to learn more about the enslaved households of President James Madison.

Washington City experienced a series of riots during the 1830s, following the 1831 Nat Turner Rebellion, also known as the Southampton Insurrection. This was also a period of extensive economic, social, and cultural growth for the city’s free Black population. This fostered resentment with the city’s white, working-class population, and fueled the 1835 Snow Riot.43 In response to the Snow Riot, Mayor William Bradley issued a proclamation on August 12, 1835 “requiring of the Police the utmost vigilance and activity in preventing any assemblage or meeting of colored persons, bond or free, and also preventing any of that description of persons from going abroad after 10 o’clock at night.”44 Police were instructed to deputize as many citizens as needed to prevent rioting.45 By August 14, a citizen guard assembled at the jail and White House, targeted by a white mob on the hunt for free Black man named Beverly Snow after destroying his restaurant, and based on their suspicion that Black people there had been circulating abolitionist papers like the Emancipator.46 Letters were sent to President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet, threatening to destroy federal buildings unless Black employees were fired from their departments, prompting those buildings to receive protection as well.47 Finally, after three nights of citizen patrols, President Andrew Jackson called in marines from Fort Washington, who, combined with bad weather, ended the mob’s rioting and threats.48 Click here to learn more about the enslaved households of President Andrew Jackson.

Drawing depicting the location of the Snow Riot (1835) in a local newspaper

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.)

After the Snow Riot, changes were made to Washington City’s ordinances on October 29, 1836. This new act, referred to in Thomas Smallwood’s 1843 complaint against the police, prohibited all meetings after 10 pm.49 To enforce the new law, the city made it “the duty of any police constable of any ward to enter into the house or upon the premises where such unlawful assemblage may be held, and use and employ all lawful and necessary means immediately to disperse the same.”50 This law left an open-ended possibility for constables to use violence while conducting warrantless searches in the homes of Black people, a violation of private property rights harkening back to colonial slave patrols.

While it is unclear if they were summoned by a mayor’s proclamation, after rumors of a possible insurrection in September 1840, Washington’s constables were once again on night watch with “several discreet and respectable citizens, patrolling the streets and minutely examining suspicious person and places, where such disorder and danger were presumed to exist.”51 According to the Baltimore Sun, the only arrests made in this pursuit were a “very small number of colored persons” violating curfew.52 The paper described members of the patrols as “commendable” and expected them to continue their night time patrolling until the city established a regular watch.53

Calls to establish a regular, permanent night watch had previously been considered by the city council in 1837, but were ultimately rejected, possibly due to lack of funds.54 The need for night patrols arose again in September 1839 when groups of people in the Third Ward woke residents up at night with yelling, pounding on homes, and turning over carts outside.55 However, it was not until this rowdy behavior arrived at the White House during President John Tyler’s administration that the city’s informal, episodic slave patrol developed into a professional, regular night-time police force called the Auxiliary Guard.56

Tyler had an adversarial relationship with his own Whig Party in Congress after succeeding President William Henry Harrison, the first president to die in office. Tyler became so unpopular over his August 16, 1841 Bank of United States’ re-charter veto that he was burned in effigy by a mob of drunken demonstrators outside the White House who also threw stones at the building and fired guns.57 When a drunk printer, also referred to as a painter, threw a stone at President Tyler through the fence as he walked on the White House Grounds, Congress decided the recent series of demonstrations near public buildings and elected officials necessitated the establishment of a regular night patrol.58

Congress established Washington’s first permanent night patrol on August 23, 1842, for the "protection of public and private property against incendiaries, and for the enforcement of the police regulations of the city of Washington."59 The city’s mayor appointed the guard’s captain, who in turn selected fifteen officers for the force. Struggling in the past to raise the funds to make this transition like other southern cities, Washington’s night guard was made possible with Congressional appropriations from the United States Treasury to pay this professional force.

John H. Goddard became the force’s first captain, headquartered at the Washington D.C. Center Market’s scale-house, located roughly at the midway point between the White House and the Capitol Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. This building served as a guard house, lock-up, and had a whipping post.60 As a nod to earlier incidents of night patrols’ disorderly conduct, a rule was established that being drunk on the job even once would result in firing.61 The guard worked from 9 pm to 4 am, and according to Richard Sylvester, was a small but “effective” group.62

Center Market c. 1880-1883

Library of Congress

The Auxiliary Guard immediately began enforcing Washington’s slave codes. According to Smallwood, Auxiliary Guard members John Little and William Cox, identified by Sylvester as members of Captain Goddard’s first guard, were “active in this business” of lying in wait to arrest Black parishioners for breaking curfew as the returned home from church services.63 The city’s white population was roughly three and one-half times as large as its Black population in 1840, but in their first two weeks, the guard reportedly arrested eighteen white people and twenty-eight Black people, including two enslaved persons who were whipped.64 According to Sylvester, these enslaved persons would have been whipped by officers either at the guard’s headquarters or nearby Judiciary Square.65 Where constables and irregular patrols may have been limited before, the over-representation of Black residents in the Auxiliary Guard’s early arrests shows their pre-occupation with actively enforcing Washington city’s slave codes as a formalized slave patrol, restricting the movements and liberties of the city’s Black population.66

The Smallwood family planned their efforts to help enslaved individuals escape based on the schedule of the curfew bell and the night watch’s schedule, aware that the guard left their posts at 4 am.67 Using strategies such as these, the Smallwoods and Reverend Charles Torrey successfully freed 159 enslaved persons through the Washington Underground Railroad between March 1842 and June 1843 before the Smallwoods were forced to escape to Toronto in October 1843.68 Before leaving the city, Thomas Smallwood had an encounter with Goddard and his watch that was indicative of their policing methods based in slave patrol practices, and Smallwood’s ability to evade them:

[M]y house was surrounded early on the night preceding the morning I was to start with my family, by the watch, and Goddard, their Captain at their head. I was seated in the front door when a police man with whom I was acquainted came to me and said, "Thomas I have been instructed in consequence of information that you intend starting for Canada with some slaves to come and search your house[”], I invited him to do so, after doing so he left the inside of the house but did not leave the premises until searching the house a second and third time, the last of which the blackguard Goddard came in and said, "Smallwood, I understand you are going off to Canada and intend to take slaves with you." He then proceeded to examine those in the house as to whether they were chattels or free negroes; there were ten or twelve persons present in the house at the time preparing to leave for Canada the next morning, and take a final leave of such beautiful scenes of republican freedom. It is true that I had another slave woman concealed in my house and for whom I for sometime had been trying to make a way of escape, but I had no intention of taking this woman or any other slaves with me, for I had made arrangements with confidential friends to take and keep her until a way of escape could be made. But to get her out of the house unperceived was a matter of great importance. However, that was speedily accomplished by some females, who took her through a back door into the garden, and concealed her in some corn.69

Shortly after escaping to Canada, Smallwood returned with Torrey to Washington for one last attempt to rescue four families with another free Black man named John Bush, living just outside the city.70 However, their plans were thwarted when Bush and ten enslaved people were captured by Captain Goddard.71 Smallwood fled back to Canada while Torrey continued to free enslaved persons through the Underground Railroad before being arrested and sent to a Maryland prison where he died in 1846.72

The Smallwoods and Reverend Charles Torrey successfully freed 159 enslaved persons through the Washington Underground Railroad between March 1842 and June 1843 before the Smallwoods were forced to escape to Toronto in October 1843.

Goddard became Chief of Police in June 1858, and the following year was restored to his role as Captain of the Auxiliary Guard, having been replaced in 1854 when Mayor John Towers took office.73 Goddard led the city’s daytime and nighttime forces until they were officially dissolved on September 1, 1861, and replaced with the Metropolitan Police, nineteen years after he was appointed captain of the Auxiliary Guard.74

The Metropolitan Police, the District of Columbia’s modern police force, was created by Congress on August 6, 1861.75 The law restructured and expanded the existing police force, allowing a maximum of one hundred fifty patrolmen to serve under ten sergeants appointed to each of the newly formed police precincts, and all reporting to one superintendent.76 President Abraham Lincoln selected the first commissioners for this police force, summoning Commissioner Zenas C. Robbins to the White House for an exploratory mission to study New York’s police system, which had been recently reformed with influence from the system in London.77 Click here to learn more about the household of President Abraham Lincoln.

It is unclear how much influence New York or London’s policing practices ultimately had on the District of Columbia’s modern police force. However, it is quite likely that at least during its early years this new force continued to reflect its slave patrol heritage dating back to colonial Maryland and Virginia. According to Sylvester, “One of the first instances of breach of discipline which was called to the attention of the Board was that of a sergeant, who was arraigned for accepting twenty dollars for the arrest and return to his master of a fugitive slave.”78 Officers likely engaged in this behavior before the police force modernized as well, Smallwood similarly accusing Auxiliary Guard member John Little of being a “negro hunter,” suggesting he might have been a fugitive slave catcher like the sergeant.79 For a brief period, the Metropolitan Police also would have been responsible for enforcing Washington’s slave codes against its Black population, laws that were in place until slavery was formally abolished there in 1862. It is also probable that the Metropolitan Police recruited former Auxiliary Guard members and constables, officers who would have been trained to enforce slave codes with violence if necessarily required by laws that composed policing practices throughout the region for over a century.

Most importantly, the system of violence and control that helped to maintain slavery in the Chesapeake region for two centuries had become part of southern white culture, meaning it could not be expunged overnight through the restructuring of a police force. The legacy of slave patrols in the President’s Neighborhood continued to influence the evolution of D.C.’s modern police force and its treatment of the city’s growing free Black population after the Civil War.80

This article was originally published September 14, 2020

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Thomas Smallwood, A Narrative of Thomas Smallwood, (Coloured Man:) Giving an Account of His Birth--The Period He Was Held in Slavery--His Release--and Removal to Canada, Etc. Together With an Account of the Underground Railroad. Written by Himself (Toronto: James Stephens, 5, City Buildings, King Street East, 1851), 13, https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/smallwood/smallwood.html.
  2. Smallwood, 13–14.
  3. Smallwood, 14.
  4. Smallwood, 14.
  5. Smallwood, 13.
  6. Smallwood, 13.
  7. Smallwood, 15–18.
  8. Smallwood, 63.
  9. Gladys-Marie Fry, “The Patrol System,” in Night Riders in Black Folk History, Revised Edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 84–85; Sally E. Hadden, “Supervising Patrollers in Town and County,” in Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003), 54–56.
  10. Fry, “The Patrol System,” 84.
  11. William M. Wiecek, “The Statutory Law of Slavery and Race in the Thirteen Mainland Colonies of British America,” The William and Mary Quarterly 34, no. 2 (1977): 271-72.
  12. Law enforcement in early District of Columbia was also carried out by several other organizations including the United States Marshals Service, Park Police, and Capitol Police. Washington City’s constables, officers, night watch, and Auxiliary Guard were consolidated, restructured, and replaced by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia in 1861; Slave patrols have been considered the antecedent to modern policing by authors such as Sally E. Hadden, see Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, 4-5, 166-68, 202, 218-20. However, Turner, Giacopassi, and Vandiver found in their review of textbooks related to policing and law enforcement published between 1974 and 2005 that there was insufficient discussion of slavery and slave patrols’ role in early policing, depriving its readers of a historical perspective necessary to understand the role of policing in enforcing racial inequality. See: David E. Barlow and Melissa Hickman Barlow, “A Political Economy of Community Policing,” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 22 (1999): 646–74; K. B. Turner, David Giacopassi, and Margaret Vandiver, “Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice Texts,” Journal of Criminal Justice Education 17, no. 1 (April 1, 2006): 181–95, https://doi.org/10.1080/10511250500335627.
  13. Jonathan L. Alpert, “The Origin of Slavery in the United States-The Maryland Precedent,” The American Journal of Legal History 14, no. 3 (1970): 213, https://doi.org/10.2307/844413; The Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, Together with Notes and Judicial Decisions Explanatory of the Same (Washington: L. Towers & Co., Printers, 1862), 24, https://www.loc.gov/resource/llsc.002/?sp=1&st=gallery.
  14. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 24.
  15. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 24.
  16. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 24.
  17. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 26.
  18. Sally E. Hadden, “Colonial and Revolutionary Era Slave Patrols of Virginia,” in Lethal Imagination: Violence and Brutality in American History, ed. Michael A. Bellesiles (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 69, 82.
  19. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 27–28.
  20. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 28.
  21. Hadden, “Colonial and Revolutionary Era Slave Patrols of Virginia,” 82.
  22. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 29.
  23. William A. Davis, The Acts of Congress, in Relation to the District of Columbia, from July 16, 1790, to March 4th, 1831, Inclusive. And of the Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland ..., vol. 1 (Washington City: Wm. A. Davis, Pennsylvania Avenue, 1831), 51–52.
  24. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 2.
  25. William A. Davis, Laws of the United States, 1:138, 161; Enslaved blacksmith Gabriel planned a slave uprising for August 30, 1800 and by his estimates had five hundred to six hundred enslaved supporters throughout Virginia. Following a delay caused by rain, a conspirator named Pharoah revealed the plot to his enslaver Mosby Sheppard and Governor Monroe was alerted and activated the state militia by the following day. Ultimately, Gabriel and twenty-five other were executed. See: Douglas R. Egerton, Gabriel’s Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 71–75, 177.
  26. William A. Davis, Laws of the United States, 1:249.
  27. William A. Davis, Laws of the United States, 1:249.
  28. William A. Davis, Laws of the United States, 1:249.
  29. William A. Davis, Laws of the United States, 1:250.
  30. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 30–31.
  31. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 31; This permit requirement only applied to Washington’s Black population.
  32. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 31.
  33. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 31.
  34. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 31; Black men could find work as messengers for federal government officials in Washington, and while their wages are not reported in Morley’s Snow-Storm in August, a white messenger’s annual salary in Washington was $350, or approximately $6.73 weekly. This indicates that a $10 fine would be greater than a free laborer’s weekly wage. See: Jefferson Morley, Snow-Storm in August: The Struggle for American Freedom and Washington’s Race Riot of 1835, Reprint edition (Anchor, 2013), 16.
  35. Hadden, “Supervising Patrollers in Town and County,” 53.
  36. Sylvester, District of Columbia Police, 24; “Patrol Regulations for the County of Rowan; Printed by Order of the County Court, at August Term, Anno Domini 1825.” (Philo White, 1825), 6, https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/rowan/rowan.html; Thirty-nine lashes are referenced as a punishment in both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs’s slave narratives taking place in Maryland and Virginia, both referencing it as a punishment for learning how to read and write. Jacobs also recalls a slave patrol captain calling for her family members to receive thirty-nine lashes out of spite when they could not find any contraband in their home, and constables compensated fifty cents for whipping enslaved people. See: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself (Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, No. 25 Cornhill, 1845), 82, https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/douglass/douglass.html; Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself, ed. L. Maria Child (Boston, 1861), 102, 108, https://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/jacobs/jacobs.html#jac13.
  37. Richard Sylvester, District of Columbia Police: A Retrospect of the Police Organizations of the Cities of Washington and Georgetown and the District of Columbia, with Biographical Sketches ... and Historic Cases. Pub. for the Benefit of the Policemen’s Fund (Washington, D.C: Gibson Bros., Printers and Bookbinders, 1894), 27.
  38. Sylvester, 27; Hadden found that informal, citizen-led night watches like those in Washington were also ineffective at preventing enslaved people’s movements at night in southern towns. See: Hadden, “Supervising Patrollers in Town and County,” 52–53; Abolitionist newspapers reported second-hand accounts of night patrols in Washington committing egregious abuses while engaged in drunken, disorderly conduct following Nat Turner’s Rebellion. See: “More ‘Libelling!’--Doings at Washington!!,” Genius of Universal Emancipation, April 1832, unpaginated 2; While constables in Washington were subject to fines for failing to enforce slave codes, it is unclear how many were punished under those terms, or for their misbehavior after the Nat Turner Rebellion.
  39. Sylvester, District of Columbia Police, 12–13.
  40. “To James Madison from James H. Blake, [27 August 1814]” (University of Virginia Press, August 27, 1814), The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 8, July 1814–18 February 1815 and supplement December 1779–18 April 1814, National Archives: Founders Online, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/03-08-02-0144.
  41. “To James Madison,” n1; Sally E. Hadden, “In Times of Crisis: Patrols during Rebellions and Wars,” in Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003), 163.
  42. Sally E. Hadden, “In Times of Crisis: Patrols during Rebellions and Wars,” 163; Fry, “The Patrol System,” 91.
  43. Michael Shiner, “The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869” (2017), 60n52, 61n53, http://public2.nhhcaws.local/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/d/diary-of-michael-shiner.html; In 1810 with a population of 8,208, Washington City became the largest corporation in the District of Columbia, and 14th most populous in the US. By 1850 census the city’s population increased to 40,001. Throughout this period, the share of white and Black population remained stable, the white population representing a supermajority of city’s population in each census, falling between 71% and 74%. While proportions of Black and white population remained stable, the free Black population comprised a steadily increasing share of Washington City’s Black population. Starting at 37.6% of the Black population in 1810 and rising by about 10% each census after 1810, its largest increase of 16.4% occurred between the 1830 and 1840 census. The free Black population subsequently grew by much smaller proportion over time, likely a result of increasingly restrictive laws passed by Washington City that created steeper financial barriers for them to live there. See: Campbell Gibson and Kay Jung, “Historical Census Statistics On Population Totals By Race, 1790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For Large Cities And Other Urban Places In The United States,” Working Paper (Washington, D.C: U.S. Census Bureau: Population Division, February 2005), fig. 9, https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0076/twps0076.pdf.
  44. “Article 1 -- No Title,” Nashville Republican, August 25, 1835.
  45. “Article 1.”
  46. “Washington City.: The Remedy,” New York Evangelist, August 22, 1835; A formerly enslaved man from Virginia, Beverly Snow moved to Washington when he turned thirty and was friends with Black abolitionists Isaac Cary and John Francis Cook, opponents of the American Colonization Society. See: Morley, Snow-Storm in August.
  47. “Washington City”; Shiner, “Diary of Michael Shiner,” 60n52.
  48. “Washington City”; Shiner, “Diary of Michael Shiner,” 60n52.
  49. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 33; This prohibition only applied to Washington’s Black population.
  50. Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 34; Washington City seemingly bowed to mob demands after the Snow Riot. In addition to passing stricter laws regarding gatherings, the October 1836 ordinance essentially forced free black people to work in service of white people, making it illegal for current free black residents to obtain any licenses except to transport people and goods, or to operate businesses such as taverns, shops, and restaurants, carrying a maximum $20 fine. See: Slavery Code of the District of Columbia, 33.
  51. “The Insurrectionary Rumors from Washington,” The Sun, September 8, 1840.
  52. “Insurrectionary Rumors.”
  53. “Insurrectionary Rumors”; As southern cities grew along with their enslaved population, white residents became increasingly concerned they were vulnerable to slave insurrection and crime, viewing their segregated white neighborhoods as easy targets. Unsatisfied with unprofessional night watches, they demanded greater protection from regular night watches. See: Sally E. Hadden, “Supervising Patrollers in Town and County,” 52–53.
  54. T., “City Night Watch,” National Intelligencer, May 29, 1837.
  55. “Washington,” The Sun, September 17, 1839.
  56. Gabriel’s Rebellion in 1800 also led to the establishment of a regular night patrol, established by Governor John Monroe as the Public Guard in Richmond, Virginia. This guard was similarly tasked with enforce curfew laws for black people and protect property in the state’s capital. See: Hadden, “Supervising Patrollers in Town and County” 41-70.
  57. “Veto on the Bank Bill: Message of the President of the United States,” New York Tribune, August 18, 1841; “President Tyler and the Federalists,” Detroit Free Press, September 2, 1841; “Summary of News,” Farmer’s Register, A Monthly Publication, September 30, 1841.
  58. Sylvester, District of Columbia Police, 28.
  59. “An Act to Establish an Auxiliary Watch for the Protection of Public and Private Property in the City of Washington ... Approved, August 23, 1842. Rules and Regulations Prepared by the Undersigned for the Auxiliary Guard of the City of Washington | Library of Congress,” https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.19702600/.
  60. Sylvester, District of Columbia Police, 28.
  61. Sylvester, 28.
  62. Sylvester, 28.
  63. Smallwood, Narrative of Thomas Smallwood, 63.
  64. Sylvester, District of Columbia Police, 30; See: Gibson & Jung, “Historical Census Statistics On Population Totals By Race,” fig. 9.
  65. Sylvester, 29. Sylvester generally speaks of this police force in neutral, if not glowing, terms, without reference to their role as a slave patrol upholding the city’s slave codes, their abuses, or disorderly and predatory behavior detailed in abolitionist papers and Thomas Smallwood’s narrative. He refers to Washington’s slave codes just twice in his policing tome as a brief recitation of facts, stating that constables were compensated for whipping enslaved person in 1918, and that the Auxiliary Guard whipped them for breaking curfew at the Center Market and Judiciary Square.
  66. In 1840, Washington City was 72.1% white and 27.9% Black. See: Gibson & Jung, “Historical Census Statistics On Population Totals By Race,” fig. 9; Of those arrested by the Auxiliary Guard in the first two weeks, 39% were white and 61% Black, meaning Black people were arrested at a rate more than twice as great as their share of the city’s population.
  67. For an example of plans to help an anonymous enslaved man escape, See: Smallwood, A Narrative of Thomas Smallwood, 28-30.
  68. Stanley Harrold, “On the Borders of Slavery and Race: Charles T. Torrey and the Underground Railroad,” Journal of the Early Republic 20, no. 2 (2000): 284–85, https://doi.org/10.2307/3124704.
  69. Smallwood, Narrative of Thomas Smallwood, 33–34.
  70. Harrold, “On the Borders of Slavery and Race,” 285–86.
  71. Harrold, 286; “Runaway Slaves,” Daily Herald, December 6, 1843.
  72. Harrold, “On the Borders of Slavery and Race,” 286, 290.
  73. Sylvester, District of Columbia Police, 32.
  74. Sylvester, 39.
  75. Sylvester, 35.
  76. Sylvester, 35.
  77. Sylvester, 38.
  78. Sylvester, 47.
  79. Smallwood, Narrative of Thomas Smallwood, 63; Other constables in Washington D.C. were accused of being fugitive slave catchers and traders, referred to as “man-hunters” in abolitionist literature. See: “Man-Hunters in Washington, D. C.,” Emancipator and Free American, October 13, 1842.
  80. The evolution from slave patrols to modern police forces in Washington D.C. is part of a general trend identified by Sally Hadden, see Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, 4-5, 166-68, 202, 218-20. Modern policing’s origins in slave patrols is also discussed in Barlow & Barlow, “A Political Economy of Community Policing”; Turner, Giacopassi, & Vandiver, “Ignoring the Past.”

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