In contrast to the other Southeastern Indians, the Seminoles practiced a form of slavery that was entirely unique across all of North America. The Seminole system had no slave codes or harsh mechanisms for punishment. Black Seminoles did not work for their masters on a daily basis. In general, they were simply required to render annual tribute and to be available to defend the community. General Edmund Gaines, who knew the system as well as any white man, described it as a primitive form of feudalism. The maroons, he said, served as "black vassals and allies" of the Indians. Gad Humphreys, the government agent to the Seminoles in the 1820s, called the blacks, "Slaves but in name; they work only when it suits their inclination." Lt. George McCall seconded these observations after visiting a black village in
"They are chiefly runaway slaves from Georgia, who have put themselves under the protection of Micanopy, or some other chief, whom they call master; and to whom, for this consideration, they render a tribute of one-third of the produce of the land, and one-third of the horses, cattle, and fowl they may raise. Otherwise they are free to go and come at pleasure."
Porter Negro 239, American State Papers: Military Affairs 7:427, McCall 160.
Part 1, Early Years: l