Do You Know About John Hart?


Did you know that John Hart, New Jersey Declaration of Independence Signer, was a slave owner? Slavery is one of the few complex issues in American history because of the human relationships involved.  We always hear the bad things about slavery like beatings, starvings, and rapes.  To be sure, slavery is a horrific experience for anyone but there is also another side to this issue and that is the relationships that developed between owners and their enslaved persons. We cannot forget that the relationships that developed between owner and slave are complicated human relationships that encompass the bad and the good. John Hart purchased a slave, name Jack, in 1753 to help run his plantation, as his oldest son was not old enough to run it himself.  This slave would later steal from him and run away.  Family members wanted the slave to be punished, but Hart refuses to do that and forgives him instead.  It is a rare story which has been handed down and seems to be corroborated by an article which appears in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1759 which reports the running away of a total of 4 slaves.  Jack would stay with Hart until the latter passed away.  Jack would not be freed when Hart passed away but through the accounts of Dr. Van Kirk, who had previously administered medical services to John Hart and others on the plantation, Jack was a free man in 1780.

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