‘Scotchmen, in the West Indies, became slaveholders. They were severely exacting and oppressive.’
Samuel Ringgold Ward (1817-1866) was a self-emancipated individual who had been born into slavery in Maryland and who went on to become a world-renowned author, antislavery radical and social justice campaigner. In his work, ‘Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro: His Anti-Slavery Labours in the United States, Canada, & England’ that he published in London in 1855 he named and shamed white Scottish enslavers as ‘severely exacting and oppressive.’ He was unequivocal in his condemnation, noting that the ‘names of their perpetrators, would be the largest, blackest roll and record of infamy that ever disgraced the Scottish name or blighted Scottish character.’
‘Scotchmen, in the West Indies, became slaveholders. They were severely exacting and oppressive. It was just like them to demand, and, if possible, to receive, the last "baubee," from the unpaid toil of their slaves. They required the exhibition of Scottish energy from their bondmen; if they did not receive it, they were prepared to exhibit Scotch energy in forcing it out of them. Instances of this sort are to be remembered of many Scotch slaveholders (and, alas! by many Negroes, who were their slaves) to this day. The record of them, and the names of their perpetrators, would be the largest, blackest roll and record of infamy that ever disgraced the Scottish name or blighted Scottish character. It is therefore most fit that there should be in their native country a fearless, persevering band, who are redeeming the name and character of the nation, disgraced by such recreants. It is true, also, that among the thousand and one vices into which no inconsiderable number of our fellow subjects from the North fell, when slaveholders, was that which violated the seventh commandment. Like others, they treated their children of African blood as half-castes, and denied them social equality with whites--raising them above the condition of their mothers, depressing them beneath that of their fathers-- them a silly, supercilious, unmanly, half-race, unfit for any social position, alike uncomfortable among whites or blacks. But while it is true that, in these matters, Scotchmen showed themselves but human beings, it is also true that, unlike Yankee slaveholders, they did not, as a rule, trade in the persons of their own children! They would not disown them; they would and did educate them, and settle property upon them. This is, I believe, commonly true of Scotch slaveholders in America--more commonly than of any others. A Yankee will sell his own child quite as readily as one of his black neighbour's; and with as little remorse or concern. He can do that and belong to Church, and remain "in good and regular standing." A Scotchman, as a rule, says practically, "I canna do that"!
I must do Scotchmen the justice to add, too, that in America they do not forget, so soon as other men from these islands, the fact that they were born in a land of freedom and equality as to races and colours. They do not so easily learn to trample upon a free Negro, and to tread his rights in the dust. I do not deny that there are most lamentable cases of this description, but I do affirm that they are not nearly so frequent and so numerous as is true of other British nationalities. Perhaps I shall be excused for stating a case of some prominence, which illustrates my idea.’