Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. (December 4, 1765 – September 14, 1843) was a Quaker, born in England, who moved as a child with his family to South Carolina, and became a planter, slave trader, and merchant. He built several plantations in the Spanish colony of Florida in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. He served on the Florida Territorial Council after Florida was acquired by the United States in 1821. Kingsley Plantation, which he owned and where he lived for 25 years, has been preserved as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, run by the United States National Park Service.
|Died||September 14, 1843 (aged 77)|
New York City, US
|Citizenship||United Kingdom (1765–1793), United States (1793–1798),: 34 Denmark (1798–1803),: 22 Spain (1803–1836), Haiti (1836–1843)|
|Occupation||Slave trader, plantation owner|
|Known for||Promoted and practiced mixed marriage as step toward ending slavery|
|A treatise on the patriarchal, or co-operative system of society as it exists in some gangs, and colonies in Americana, and in the United States under the name of slavery, with its necessity and advantages, 1828|
|Title||Member Florida Territorial Council|
|Spouse(s)||Polygamous. Legal wife: Anna Kingsley. Common-law wives, co-wives, or concubines: Flora Kingsley, Sarah Murphy, and Munsilna McGundo (all slaves at time of marriage)|
|Relatives||Grandnephew James Whistler|
Kingsley was a relatively lenient slaveholder, who allowed his slaves the opportunity to be hired out and purchase their freedom. He was in favor of "interracial" marriage, which produced, he explained in a pamphlet Treatise, healthy, beautiful children. He followed his own advice, and took four enslaved African women as concubines or common-law wives, practicing polygamy. He claimed to have married one of them, and the marital status of the others does not seem to have ever been an issue. Certainly they could not marry under Territorial Florida law, but since the women were enslaved, what Kingsley did with them was not unusual. He had nine mixed-race children with these wives, and no white children. He educated his children to high standards and worked to ensure he could settle his estate on them and his wives
His first wife, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, was 13 years old when Kingsley purchased her in Havana; he remarked on the convenience of buying a wife. He said that he had married her, which he never said of his three other concubines or common-law wives. But it was not a legal, Catholic marriage, as that would have produced documentation; if it did take place, it was some African ceremony, performed in Cuba. He emancipated Anna Jai when she turned 18, and trusted her with running his plantation when he was away on business.
His interracial family and his business interests resulted in Kingsley being deeply invested in the Spanish system of slavery and society. As in the French colonies, certain rights were provided to a class of free people of color, and multiracial natural children were allowed to inherit property from white fathers. "In the Spanish Floridas free people of color... enjoyed tremendously elevated status when compared to virtually any other person of African descent in North America.": 61
Kingsley became a member of the territorial legislature when, in 1821, Spanish Florida became Florida Territory. He argued in favor of continuing the status of "free negro", as in the Spanish or French colonies, tried to persuade the new territorial government to maintain the special status of the population of free people of color, who were mostly "multi-racial". He was unsuccessful in this effort, and in 1828 he published a pamphlet that defended a system of slavery that would allow slaves to purchase their freedom, and give rights to free blacks and free people of color. Faced with American laws that forbade interracial marriage, and discouraged "free people of color" (see Free Negro#Free Negroes unwelcome) being allowed to stay or settle in the state, between 1835 and 1837 Kingsley relocated his large family to Haiti. (Kingley's former plantation, Mayorasgo de Koka, is today in the Dominican Republic.) After his death, his estate in Florida was the subject of dispute between his widow Anna Jai and other members of Kingsley's family, but she was successful in gaining the estate he had bequeathed to her.
Kingsley casually changed nationalities. Born British, at different moments in his life he was a citizen of the United States, Spain (Spanish Florida), and Denmark (the latter because it facilitated his slave trading business).
Early life and educationEdit
Kingsley was born in Bristol, England, the second of eight children, to Zephaniah Kingsley Sr., a Quaker from London, and Isabella Johnstone of Scotland. The elder Kingsley moved his family to the Colony of South Carolina in 1770. His son grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where the father became a successful merchant.: 1–2 At the age of 15 he was sent to London for his education; Zephaniah Kingsley Sr. purchased a rice plantation near Savannah, Georgia, and several other properties throughout the colonies and Caribbean islands. In total, he owned probably around 200 slaves in all, and thousands of acres of land. Like other British loyalists, Kingsley Sr. was forced to leave South Carolina with his family, and his properties and business were confiscated by the new government.: 2 He relocated to New Brunswick, Canada, in 1782 following the American Revolutionary War, where the Crown provided him some land in compensation for his losses, and he again became a successful merchant.: 2 
His son Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. returned to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1793, swore his allegiance to the United States, and began a career as a shipping merchant. His first ventures were in Saint-Domingue, during the Haitian Revolution, where coffee was his main interest as an export crop. He lived in Haiti for a brief period while the fledgling nation was working to create a society based on former slaves transitioning into free citizens. Kingsley traveled frequently, prompted by recurring political unrest among the Caribbean islands.
The instability affected his business interests. Development of new cotton plantations in the Deep South in the United States, especially after Indian Removal, sharply increased the domestic demand for slaves. Kingsley began to travel to West Africa to procure Africans to be traded as slaves between America, Brazil, and the West Indies. In 1798 he became a Danish citizen, in the Danish West Indies. He continued to make his living trading slaves and shipping other goods into the 19th century, although the US prohibited the African slave trade in 1807, effective in 1808. Kingsley became a citizen of Spanish Florida in 1803, and many African slaves were smuggled into the U.S. through Florida.
Spain was offering land to settlers in order to populate Florida, so Kingsley petitioned the governor for land but was turned down. After waiting, he decided to purchase a 2,600-acre (11 km2) farm for $5,300 ($75,931 in 2009). It was named Laurel Grove, and its main entrance was a dock on Doctors Lake, south of where Orange Park is located today. Kingsley arrived with 10 slaves and began to cultivate the property immediately. Another source stated he received a substantial land grant because he brought 74 slaves to Florida. The plantation grew oranges, sea island cotton, corn, potatoes, and peas.
Kingsley's first slaves were brought from his family's plantation in South Carolina. By 1811, he had acquired a total of 100 slaves at Laurel Grove, obtained from Africa via Cuba, as Spain continued with the slave trade in its colonies. Kingsley trained the slaves at Laurel Grove in agricultural vocations to prepare them for future sale; he provided slave buyers with skilled artisans, which allowed him to charge 50 percent more than market price per slave. At Laurel Grove, slaves were trained in blacksmithing, carpentry, and cotton ginning, as well as field work.
Kingsley opposed allowing the slaves to participate in Christian religious worship. "All the late insurrections of slaves, he claimed, are to be traced to influential preachers of the gospel.": 105
In 1806, Kingsley, called "one of Florida's most flamboyent slaveholders",: 105 took a trip to Cuba, where he purchased Anna Madgigine Jai (born as Anta Majigeen Ndiaye), a 13-year-old Wolof girl from what is now Senegal. He married her, he said (there is no documentation), in an African ceremony in Havana soon after purchasing her. It certainly was not a Catholic marriage, and it was not legally recognized by Spanish Florida or the United States during their lives. Kingsley returned with Anna to Laurel Grove and gradually depended on her to run the plantation in his absence. although Mark Fleszar writes that interpretation of how much Anna managed Laurel Grove "deserves caution". It comes from a remark of Kingsley to abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, but other details of his life he gave her are questionable.
In 1811, Kingsley petitioned the colonial Spanish government to free Anna and their three mixed-race children, and the request was granted. The Laurel Grove plantation during one year earned $10,000 ($128,940 in 2009), which was an extraordinary amount for Florida. With his earnings, Kingsley purchased several locations on the opposite side of the St. Johns River, including St. Johns Bluff, San Jose, and Beauclerc in what is now Jacksonville, and Drayton Island farther south near Lake George.
Zephaniah Kingsley became involved in the shipping industry, including the coastwise trade, related to his large-scale domestic slave trading, which continued in the US after the Atlantic trade was prohibited. While at Laurel Grove, Kingsley was attempting to smuggle in 350 slaves (the international slave trade was abolished in 1807) when the ship was captured by the U.S. Coast Guard. Not knowing what to do with so many indigent people, the Coast Guard turned them over to Kingsley, who was the only person in the area who could care for such a number.
During an insurgency that became known as the Patriot Rebellion, in an attempt to annex Florida to the United States, American forces, American-supplied Creek, and renegades from Georgia crossed the border into the Spanish colony and began raiding the few settlements in northeast Florida. They enslaved the black people they captured. In 1813, the Americans captured Kingsley and forced him to sign an endorsement of the rebellion. John McIntosh, owner of the Fort George Plantation before Kingsley, accused him in 1826 of financially supporting the war. The accusation was likely politically motivated, as Kingsley suddenly resigned his position on the Territorial Council, and McIntosh was angry about the public treatment he had received since the war for his role in it.
The insurgents occupied Laurel Grove, using it as a base to raid other plantations and nearby towns. Kingsley left the area. After assuring her safety with the Spanish forces, Anna Jai burned the plantation down so the rebels could not use it; she took her children and a dozen slaves aboard a Spanish gunboat to escape the conflict. For her loyalty, Anna Jai was rewarded with a grant of 350 acres (1.4 km2) from the Spanish colonial government.
Fort George IslandEdit
In 1814, Kingsley and Anna moved to a plantation on Fort George Island at the mouth of the St. Johns River; they lived there for 25 years. Anna and Kingsley's fourth and last child was born on Fort George Island in 1824.
Kingsley took three younger enslaved women as common-law wives (or concubines) and fathered children with at least two of them, totaling nine children in all. He eventually freed each of the slave women: they were named Flora Kingsley, Sarah Kingsley, who brought her son Micanopy; and Munsilna McGundo, who brought her daughter Fatima. The Kingsley family was, according to historian Daniel Stowell, "complex at best". In his will, the only woman Kingsley named as his wife was Anna. Primary documentation by Kingsley is scarce, but historians consider Flora, Sarah, and Munsila as "lesser wives", or "co-wives" with Anna. Stowell suggests "concubines" is a more accurate description of their status. Kingsley lavished all his children with affection, attention, and luxury. They were educated with the best European teaching he could afford. When he entertained visitors at his Fort George plantation, Anna sat "at the head of the table"; they were "surrounded by healthy and handsome children" in a parlor decorated with portraits of African women.
The plantation featured a main house and a two-story structure called the "Ma'am Anna House". It had a kitchen on the ground floor and living quarters on the second. Anna lived there with her children, as was the custom among the Wolof people.
The plantation produced oranges, sea island long-staple cotton, indigo, okra, and other vegetables. Approximately 60 slaves were managed under the task system: each slave had a quota of work to do per day. When they were finished, they were allowed to do what they wished. Some slaves had personal gardens which they were allowed to cultivate, and from which they sold vegetables.
Thirty-two cabins were constructed for and by the slaves, made from tabby, which made them durable, insulated, and inexpensive, although labor-intensive. The cabins were located about a quarter of a mile (400 m) from the main house. Slaves were allowed to padlock their cabins and build porches that faced away from the main house. Both of these features were unusual for slave quarters in the antebellum South.
Kingsley was a lenient slave owner:
I never interfered with their connubial concerns, nor domestic affairs, but let them regulate these after their own manner. I taught them nothing but what was useful [religion was to Kingsley "not useful"] and what I thought would add to their physical and moral happiness. I encouraged as much as possible dancing, merriment and dress, for which Saturday afternoon and night, and Sunday morning were dedicated; and, after allowance, their time was usually employed in hoeing their corn, and getting a supply of fish for the week. ... They were perfectly honest and obedient, and appeared quite happy, having no fear but that of offending me; and I hardly had occasion to apply other correction then shaming them. If I exceeded this, the punishment was quite light, for they hardly ever failed in doing their work well.: 14
"A patriarchal feeling of affection is due to every slave from his owner, who should consider the slave as a member of his family.": 16
Restrictions under a new governmentEdit
Following the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821, Florida's Territorial Council began to establish an American government. The Council focused primarily on allowing immigrants to Florida access to the 40,000,000 acres (160,000 km2) ceded by Spain, and removing the Seminole to Indian Territory in keeping with the extinguishing of Indian land claims in other parts of the Southeast in this period. Americans settled in the central portion of north Florida and built productive plantations worked by slaves. The Americans imposed the binary racial caste system that they had developed throughout the Southeastern U.S. This system contrasted with the standing practice in which Kingsley was invested, which, based on Spanish law as implemented in Florida, supported three social tiers: whites, free people of color, and slaves. The Spanish government recognized interracial marriages and allowed mixed-race children to inherit property.
Territorial Governor William P. Duval recommended to President Monroe in 1822 that Kingsley be appointed to the new Council, but Monroe did not appoint him until the following year. He was also recommended by Joseph Marion Hernandez, Florida's nonvoting delegate to Congress before the territory was admitted as a state.: 5
On June 2, Kingsley was appointed to a three-person committee "to consider the duties of masters of slaves and the duties of slaves and free persons of color, and the regulations necessary for their government".: 5 On June 19 Kingsley reported that the committee could not agree and asked that it be discharged.: 6 Kingsley's position was that Florida should be receptive, like Spain, to free people of color, that they should have some rights, even though less than those of whites. As he stated in a published Address to the Council, "I consider that our personal safety as well as the permanent condition of our Slave property is intimately connected with and depends much on our good policy in making it the interest of our free colored population to be attached to good order and have a friendly feeling towards the white population.": 30
When it became apparent to Kingsley that the Council would not agree to rights for free blacks and mixed-race people, he resigned his position. In 1824 he was no longer a member.: 6 Through the 1820s the council began to enact strict laws separating the races, and Kingsley became worried about his future and the rights of his family. (Like other Southern states, Florida by 1860 abhorred free blacks as a threat to slavery, made their lives difficult, and encouraged them to leave the state.)
To address these issues, in 1828 Kingsley published a pamphlet, titled A Treatise on the Patriarchal or Co-operative System of Society as it Exists in some Governments and Colonies in America, and in the United States, under the Name of Slavery, with its Necessity and Advantages. The first edition was published without his name, signed simply "An inhabitant of Florida". His name was added in the 2nd edition, with the note that he is a "slave owner", who has lived "by planting in Florida for the last twenty-five years, disavow[ing] all other motives but that of increasing the value of his property." The pamphlet had a second edition in 1829 and was reprinted again in 1833 and 1834, showing significant readership.
In it, he wrote:
Slavery is a necessary state of control from which no condition of society can be perfectly free. The term is applicable to and fits all grades and conditions in almost every point of view, whether moral, physical, or political.
Kingsley asserted that when slavery is associated with cruelty it is an abomination; when it is joined with benevolence and justice, it "easily amalgamates with the ordinary conditions of life".
He wrote that Africans were better suited than Europeans for labor in hot climates (a shared stereotype), and that their happiness was maximized when they were rigidly controlled; their contentment was greater than whites of a similar class. He asserted that people of mixed race were healthier and more beautiful than either Africans or Europeans, and considered mixed-race children, such as his own, a step against an impending race war.
Although his pamphlet was published four times, reception to it was mixed. While some Southerners used it to defend the institution of slavery, others believed that Kingsley's support of a free class of blacks was a prelude to abolition of slavery. Abolitionists considered Kingsley's arguments for slavery weak and wrote that logically, the planter should conclude that slavery must be eradicated. Lydia Child, a New York-based abolitionist, included Kingsley in 1836 on a list of people perpetuating the "evils of slavery".
Although Kingsley was wealthy, learned, and powerful, the treatise is believed to have contributed to the decline of his reputation in Florida. He became embroiled in a political scandal with Florida's first governor, William DuVal. The governor was quoted in newspapers making scathingly critical remarks about Kingsley's motives and his mixed-race family after the planter petitioned to have DuVal removed from his office for corruption.
After trying to persuade the new government of Florida to provide for rights for free people of color, including the right of mixed-race children to inherit property from their fathers, Kingsley began to think that the independent republic of Haiti was more conducive to what he wanted to achieve. Haiti's government was actively recruiting free blacks from across the Americas to settle the island, offering them land and citizenship.
Kingsley highlighted its successes as a nation of free blacks in his treatise, writing
... under a just and prudent system of management, negroes are safe, permanent, productive and growing property, and easily governed; that they are not naturally desirous of changes, but are sober, discreet, honest and obliging, are less troublesome, and possess a much better moral character than the ordinary class of corrupted whites of a similar condition.
Kingsley's praise of Haiti's new system—which outlawed slavery—combined with his defense of slavery, is notable to historian Mark Fleszar. He says that the paradox in Kingsley's thinking indicated a "disordered worldview". Kingsley was determined to create the society he had written about and defended.
By 1835 Kingsley realized that his marriage to Anna might not be recognized in the United States, and, in the event of his death, holdings in the name of Anna, Flora, Sarah, McGundo, and their mixed-race children might be confiscated. Kingsley's son George and six of his slaves traveled to Haiti to scout for land. He found a suitable location on the northeastern shore of the island, in what is today the Puerto Plata Province of the Dominican Republic. He started a plantation named Mayorasgo de Koka, which was worked by more than 50 slaves transplanted from the Fort George Island plantation. In Haiti, the workers were contracted to work as indentured servants, who would earn full freedom after nine years of labor. Over the next two years, Kingsley relocated to Haiti with most of his extensive and complicated family. Two of his daughters stayed in Florida, as they had married local white planters.
Death and property disputesEdit
After visiting his family in Haiti in 1843, Kingsley boarded a ship going to New York City to conduct business there. His death on the ship of pulmonary disease at 78 years old was recorded after arrival in New York City, where Kingsley was buried in a Quaker cemetery. He left much of his land to his wives and children, a bequest which was immediately contested on racial grounds by his white relatives. Kingsley's niece, Anna McNeill (who married George Whistler; their son James Whistler became a noted artist) was among the family members who tried to have all of Kingsley's family of African descent excluded from his will. Kingsley's will stipulated that no remaining slaves should be separated from their families, and that they should be given the opportunity to purchase their freedom at half their market price. Anna Madgigine Jai, who kept her African name through the marriage, returned to Florida in 1846 to oppose Kingsley's white relatives in court in Duval County. Arguing her case within the dictates of the Adams–Onís Treaty, she was successful; it was an extraordinary achievement in light of the state and local policy that was hostile toward freed slaves or blacks of any status.
After a brief period in Florida during the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865), Anna Jai fled to New York, as she supported the Union. After the war, she returned to Florida. Anna Madgigine Jai died in April or May 1870 on a farm in the Arlington neighborhood of Jacksonville. She was buried there in an unmarked grave.
The Fort George plantation was sold soon after Kingsley's death. After the Civil War, the Freedmen's Bureau controlled the island until 1869, when it was purchased by another planter. The island changed hands under private ownership until 1955, when it was acquired by the Florida Park Service. Kingsley's house, "the oldest standing plantation house in Florida", Ma'am Anna House, and the barn survived the years relatively intact. Most of the slave quarters did as well. The National Park Service established the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in 1988 and acquired 60 acres (0.24 km2) of land surrounding the Kingsley Plantation buildings in 1991.
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- Stowell, Daniel W., ed. (2000), "Introduction", Balancing evils judiciously : the proslavery writings of Zephaniah Kingsley, University Press of Florida
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