A Negro’s Offer

From John Gabriel Stedman’s 1796 book “Narrative Of A Five Years’ Expedition Against The Revolted Negroes Of Surinam”.

On the morning of the 22d, an elderly negro-woman, with a black girl about fourteen, entering my apartment, it would be difficult to express my astonishment when she gravely presented me her daughter, to become what she was pleased to term my wife. I had so little gallantry, however, as to reject the offer with a loud laugh; but at the same time accompanied the refusal with a small but welcome present, with which they appeared perfectly satisfied, and departed with every possible demonstration of gratitude and respect. The girls here, who voluntarily enter into these connections, are sometimes mulattoes, sometimes Indians, and often negroes. They all exult in the circumstance of living with an European, whom in general they serve with the utmost tenderness and fidelity, and tacitly reprove those numerous fair-ones who break through ties more sacred and solemn. Young women of this description cannot indeed be married, or connected in any other way, as most of them are born or trained up in a state of slavery; and so little is the practice condemned, that while they continue faithful and constant to the partner by whom they are chosen, they are countenanced and encouraged by their nearest relations and friends, who call this a lawful marriage, nay, even the clergy avail themselves of this custom without restraint; witness the Rev. Mr. S—dh—s, Mr. T—ll—t, &c. Many of the sable-coloured beauties will however follow their own penchant without any restraint whatever, refusing with contempt the golden bribes of some, while on others they bestow their favours for a dram or a broken tobacco-pipe, if not for nothing.


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