Sabe and Rose
  • Home
  • Downloads
  • Privacy Policy
  • Return to Portal
  • Freedom but Not Independence

    Sabe and Rose remained tied to Elias Hasket Derby through the early 19th century. 1783, the same year as the Quock Walker court decision, Derby paid for schooling for Sabe in Salem. Five years later, Derby paid for the schooling of Rose. 

    With the end of slavery in New England, came apprehension among whites that newly freed people of African-decent would become a burden on society, subsisting off of public welfare and residing in town funded poor houses.

    While Derby’s efforts to educate Sabe and Rose may at first appear humanitarian or paternalistic, it’s also true that if the man and woman Derby had enslaved became dependent on public welfare and other town resources, it would have reflected poorly on the Derby family name. So by providing schooling for Sabe and Rose, Derby may have been hoping to prepare them for a successful life in freedom, or ensure they had a means to provide for themselves, or, Derby may have believed that schooling would make Sabe and Rose more useful "servants."

    Derby employed both Sabe and Rose as adults. But unfortunately for freed people, wages from employment did not always lead to independence. There were no banks in Salem until 1818, so free people may have left their wages in their employer's care. Following Elias Hasket Derby’s death in 1799, Sabe was paid two years’ worth of back wages and interest from the estate settlement. By this financial arrangement, Sabe and Rose remained dependent on Derby and with limited access to their own money.

    When Elias Hasket Derby died, his will stated:

    I do hereby give & bequeath unto my Negro man Saba [sic] the sum of two hundred & fifty dollars.

    I do hereby give and bequeath unto my young Negro woman Rose the sum of two hundred & fifty dollars.

    Derby's will did not order the money to be left directly to Sabe and Rose. Instead, Derby's daughter, Martha, was given the money to:

    pay over to the said Saba & Rose the principal Sum and Interest in such proportions and at such Times, as she may think proper.

    What was the effect of this order in Derby's will? There is no evidence that Martha immediately gave the money to Sabe and Rose. Certainly then, Derby's orders meant that Sabe and Rose remain tied to and dependent on the Derby family. Leaving Salem or the employment of the Derbys, may have meant abandoning the chances of actually receiving this legacy.

    Image Description

    Elias Hasket Derby's 1799 will.

    Derby Family Papers, MSS 37, Box 19, Folder 1, Philips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.