Bermudians and Columbia’s Tuition: How Thaddeus Outerbridge and his Family Benefited from International Slavery

By Anthony Howell

Slavery has always been a sensitive and somewhat taboo subject to discuss in America. There has been a divide amongst the public, with certain elements disregarding the serious impact that slavery has had on the African-American population, even generations after its end. These segments of American society characterize slavery as a mere minor issue, refusing to acknowledge the long-term effects that it had, especially for African-Americans. These same people criticize African-Americans and others, who can see the lingering ramifications of slavery, as “clinging to the past,” “embellishing the history,” “not being personally affected, as slavery was a long time ago,” and that “people should get over it.” These are the same people whose ancestors, using slave labor, built some of the greatest institutions in the country, and these are the same people that sought to marginalize African-Americans by barring them entry into these very institutions.

These institutions have played a significant role in the dynamic of slavery and its aftermath. Blacks were not afforded the same opportunities to go to these institutions, such as universities, to obtain the qualifications to allow them to be as competitive as white students, whom were establishing themselves in society via the networking opportunities they received at these schools. However, these institutions have been extremely reluctant to own up to their history, or emphasize their bigotry and racial discriminatory practices. In fact, they have done much to hide the unethical actions that were committed on their premises.

Columbia University is one such institution. Being one of the oldest and most prominent colleges in America, it has been a nucleus for many prejudicial practices, which has for centuries, stifled people of color who sought to gain admittance to the university. The renown of Columbia allowed it to become a beacon for those families who were in support of suppressing “Negroes’ and colored people; a safe haven for them to send their children. These would have been families who had earned wealth and status, benefitting off of the backs of their slaves and servants. Their children would be exposed and intertwined with like-minded people.

However, what is often neglected, is the remembering that slavery itself is very much an international system. Within America, there is a strong disconnect in recognizing that the practice of slavery existed even before there was an America. The Atlantic slave trade involved many countries and was a complex system that involved millions of people with transportation, trade, and sales all across Europe, Africa, South America, Central America, North America, and the Caribbean.

Many Americans view slavery mostly as an American phenomena, seeing it more so as an internal mechanism. This is not the case. Slavery, aside from the importation of Africans, has always been an international system, and even the slavery mechanics in the U.S. are heavily linked to the occurrences of other countries. This aspect of slavery immensely impacted the United States because businessmen and merchants’ operations, trade, diplomacy, and war, were not an internal mechanism, but rather an external mechanism. The great European powers have engaged with America in slavery to help ensure the success of their own colonies in the Americas. Slavery itself is not contained to one particular area, such as the U.S., and as there have been many Americans who have earned wealth as slave owners, there have been many who have earned great success outside of America through the efforts of their slaves. These families have used this wealth to advance their own social status, and interestingly enough, some have used this family wealth to enroll in Columbia University.

One example of this is a Dr. Thaddaeus Aubrey Outerbridge[1] of the distinguished Outerbridge family of the British colony of Bermuda, who was enrolled at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, and graduated in 1848. Thaddaeus was born into this prominent family, which was known for its trading, shipbuilding, and privateering. The family built considerable wealth and held notable positions within the Bermuda government, and was very influential in the island’s early development.

Since its early beginnings in Bermuda in 1620, the family relied on slaves to not only run basic household operations, but to learn everything about the sea, as they were often sent in accompaniment with captains to far off locations to conduct trade, as evident in various manifest lists and custom logs. Thaddeus, as a young boy, would have been raised in this atmosphere and would have benefited tremendously from the labor of the family slaves. In fact, according to his daughter Mary Ann’s own words, it can be assumed that Thaddeus himself was granted a slave when he was young, as this was a tradition in the Outerbridge family. This ownership of people and practice of slavery would continue until 1834 with the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire, including Bermuda.

However, interestingly, Thaddeus resided in the U.S. during the height of slavery during his studies in Columbia University. Although there is no evidence of his view on the continued application of slavery in the U.S., it is without a doubt that he was able to afford his tuition to Columbia by the money earned off of the efforts of his family’s slaves, even after the abolition of slavery, as it was with their help that the family was able to build successful businesses. Further, even after emancipation, the slave owners would still benefit off of their former slaves in the form of reparations, which was awarded by the British government and paid for by the taxpayers. The former slaves however, would struggle in a world of prejudice and uncertainty. This paper endeavors to explore the correlation between how international slavery allowed foreign students to attend prominent universities by using Thaddeus Outerbridge and Columbia University as the case study.

However, before Thaddeus attended Columbia, even before there was a Columbia University, there was Bermuda. Bermuda is a tiny island situated 600 miles off of the coast of North Carolina, and is the oldest remaining British colony. It was claimed by the English after Sir George Somers, who was under royal charter to lead seven vessels from England to their colony in Jamestown, Virginia, was caught in a storm and was shipwrecked on the reef system that surrounds the island. All crew members survived and decided to make a settlement there on the island whilst building two ships to sail them on to Virginia. However, the settlement on the island would continue to grow, and in 1612, they built the first town and capital of the island, St. George’s, which is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the Western hemisphere. It is here that the Outerbridge family would earn their wealth and success, and it is here that the journey begins.

The family’s Bermuda lineage starts with Thomas Outerbridge, although, the family can trace the lineage back to the reign of King Edward I of England in 1297.[2] Thomas Outerbridge came to Bermuda from England in 1619 with his wife and children.[3] Due to incomplete records, it is not sure how exactly he arrived to the island, although, it is speculated that he arrived on one of the regular supplying vessels that frequented the island. It is also not clear why he chose Bermuda, the motivation (although speculating it would be to earn wealth as many in the new world sought to do), or how much money he had had already.[4] It is known that he was a member of the assembly on the island, a tobacco planter,[5] as he had farmland in Hamilton parish, and a shipbuilder, as evident from surviving records, which discussed a town levy to pay for the ships he had built, as well as his own will, which in it, he bequeathed his wife the ships he had built.[6]

The community of prominent families in Bermuda were rather small in its early history, and because of their efforts, they were able to monopolize large acreage of land through purchases and inheritance. In Bermuda, there was a common practice of marrying into other prominent families in order to maintain or expand the social circle. This practice at first made sense, as the well-to-do colonists numbers were pretty low starting out in the colony. By the time of the increase in population, the dynastic families had already established their reputations on the island and usually sought to marry other upstanding individuals from pedigreed families.

An example would be Thomas Outerbridge (Thomas Outerbridge’s grandson) marrying the daughter of John Stowe who was a close friend to his grandfather and was instrumental in the shipping business in Bermuda. The genealogy of the family would intertwine into so many prominent families over the generations that it is difficult to keep track of them. The family also has instances where there were marriages of distant cousins and cousins by marriage, even those that shared the same last name.

The Outerbridge family held many important roles in Bermuda. Many of them have been involved in military or government affairs and have had some type of input on to how certain changes in law would affect the island. William Outerbridge (grandson of the first Thomas Outerbridge) was a Member of Council, Captain of Militia, and Member of the Court of Vice Admiralty. His son, named William as well, was a Member of the Assembly, Magistrate, Judge of Court of Vice Admiralty, Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer, Member of Council, and was Chief Justice of Bermuda. These are just a few examples, as many other members of the family were Members of the House of Assembly, Majors and Captains in the Militia, and Assistant Judge to the Supreme Court.[7] These influential positions were made possible by the success of the family, which in no small part, was due to the hard work and efforts of their slaves, whom have been forgotten by time.

Although the Outerbridge family would be involved in the cultivation of cash crops, such as tobacco, onions and lilies, it would be shipbuilding and venturing out onto the sea that would bring them their opportunity to obtain much more wealth, with much of this wealth coming via the efforts of their slaves.[8] Bermuda, being an island, was heavily dependent upon trade and maritime commerce. The maritime industry was vitally important to Bermuda’s early years for their economic growth. The skills of the Bermudian shipbuilders and the vessels that they built were, at the time, world renowned.[9]

A commonality for small shipbuilding communities is to rely on the help of kin and friends to raise capital to build ships or for gathering supplies for future voyages. The early shipbuilders pooled their resources, knowledge and labor to build these vessels. Once completed, those family members that contributed received shares for the vessel for its journeys. This was actually a risk management strategy that allowed families to spread around the risks for the cargoes of the ships. At the time, the Bermudians did not have adequate access to formal maritime insurance before the 1780’s through insurance underwriting, and therefore, were responsible for any loss of a vessel or cargo. Diffusing the risk was more appealing, since less money was on the line, any loss would not financially ruin a single individual. This also allowed for multiple income streams upon completion of the trade for the ships and opened up multiple commercial opportunities. This would create streams of residual income for families to use in other areas and contribute to the Bermuda economy.[10]

The Outerbridge were one of the premier shipbuilding families in Bermuda. They were instrumental in the building of many vessels, as they owned a shipyard in Bailey’s Bay, which is located in Hamilton Parish, where the ships could be launched from their slips into Castle Harbour.[11] Shipbuilding was a very important skill to have in Bermuda, and many had roles as captains, privateers, merchants, shipbuilders, and fishing. One of the earliest shipbuilders in Bermuda was Thomas Outerbridge (the grandson). He was Hamilton Parish’s earliest recorded shipwright, being active around the 1670’s, and building the foundation of a long line of shipbuilders that would stretch well into the mid-1860’s, before steamships disrupted the building of Bermudian sail ships. Captain Thomas Outerbridge[12] used the Bermuda built sloops to engage in privateering[13] and trade with other merchants around the Atlantic. The connection between the Outerbridge family and Columbia is not isolated and goes beyond just sending a descendant to the school.[14] The Outerbridge’s engaged with trade with New York City, using their fast clipper ships to import and export goods between the two places.[15]

Privateering was legitimate piracy under the sanction of the king or governor of the land. Bermuda was known for its privateering, with ships patrolling the waters along the eastern seaboard of America from Nova Scotia to Florida, the Caribbean, and even Africa, from the northern coast to the island of Madagascar. The Outerbridge family engaged in privateering, as there were much rewards to be earned. They not only engaged in privateering but they also funded ventures. One such venture was that of a pirate named Thomas Tew, who in 1691, came to Bermuda and purchased a share in a Bermuda sloop called Amity. This ship was owned by merchants and officials on the island that included Thomas Hall, Richard Gilbert, John Dickinson, Colonel Anthony White, and of course, William Outerbridge, who also happened to be a Member of the Governor’s Council.[16]

A privateering commission was granted to the crew and they sailed off towards Africa. The commission issued by the governor was to capture a French trading post that was on a river near Gambia, however, a severe storm separated the Amity from an accompanying vessel. With their supporting ship gone, Tew decided to look elsewhere for riches. He sailed around the Cape of Good Hope of South Africa, and near the Red Sea, observed a richly laden Arabian vessel, carrying three hundred soldiers and tons of gold. He and his men took the vessel without losing a single man. The wealth was so large the each man’s share was three thousand pounds sterling.

After this, Tew ran into another famous French pirate, Captain Mission, who invited him to his pirate settlement, called Libertatia, on Madagascar. Tew and his crew were very pleased with the settlement and were treated well. Mission put Tew in command of an expedition to acquire more recruits by intercepting slave ships and freeing the slaves so they could join them in Madagascar. After some more jobs, Tew felt it was time to go back to Bermuda, as he still owed the investors their shares of his spoils. Due to bad weather, he ended up in Newport, but dispatched his account of what had occurred and asked for a Bermudian agent to come collect their money. Captain Stone (of the shipbuilding Stone family) was selected, and upon his return, brought the shareholders their money. William Outerbridge received over three thousand pounds for his investment and the other Bermudians did just as well.[17] 

It was quite common for the Outerbridge men to take to the seas, even at early ages. There is a story that was recorded by Anna Maria Outerbridge, the daughter of Dr. Thaddeus Aubrey Outerbridge, about her grandfather, William Outerbridge, and his early experience with the sea. When he was sixteen, his mother’s cousin, Perient Trott, was going to go on an expedition to the fishing banks of Newfoundland for cod, and William wanted to go. His mother gave Trott’s slaves a bed blanket for William, so that he may be comfortable. When Trott saw it, he ordered them to take it back and tell her that “any boy worth their salt and expect to become a sailor, could sleep in a coil of rope and if Tommy [Williams nickname due to his middle name being Thomas] was going with him, he intended him to do just that”.[18]

Due to not knowing how to cure the fish properly, all the fish spoiled on the return trip to Bermuda, making the trip a financial failure. William ended up falling overboard and found it difficult to swim due to the weather. Trott ended up throwing a coop of fowl overboard so that William could grab it to stay afloat at the costs of the fowl’s lives. It became a joke amongst friends that the only profit Trott made from the voyage was the money received from William as recompense for the fowls that were lost.[19]  Later, William would go on another adventure with Perient to the West Indies during the war between the English and the French, and was employed by the English to carry stores for the navy.[20] He would later marry Perient’s only child, Mary Trott.[21]

Even those who have bouts of seasickness, and do not find it pleasant on the high seas, still went, such as Joseph Outerbridge, who built Bermuda’s first clipper ships. In the span of eleven years, he and Thomas Davis built five of them at their shipyard in Shelly Bay. The first of these ships was the Sir George F. Seymour that was 108 foot long and 267 tons. On her maiden voyage to the West Indies, Outerbridge went along to observe the ship’s behavior, but due to inclement weather, he suffered from bouts of seasickness.[22]

The quality of the ships were so sound in fact, the Royal Navy contracted several builders, including John Outerbridge in the 1790’s to 1800’s to construct 400-ton Bermuda-class sloops.[23] These ships, four built in total, were to be used to patrol the coast of the U.S. with a base in Halifax.[24] However, it is noted that the credit for construction fall to the white, head of the family, even though they had scores of slaves who were really the backbone of the construction of these numerous sailing vessels.[25] This was not uncommon, as many of the slaves in service were seen as property, with many not even having last names, as seen with civil and church registries that list slaves by first name, or in many cases, by no name at all. The population count in the entire island did not even count the blacks who lived there as part of their population during a census check.[26]

Shipbuilding in Bermuda was an interesting effort. Bermudian shipwrights would build a ship without using plans or a draft of the ship. This technique was called “working by the eye,” and relied on the intergenerational transmission of information and knowledge to be passed on through apprenticeship and instruction. This was typically done from father to son or in a lot of cases, master to slave, as was the case with the Outerbridge family. Not many records exist on the slaves of the Outerbridge family, however, records available concerning them and other families that were dynastic shipbuilders, such as Cox, Hills, Stone, and Tyne, show that the slaves were integral to every aspect of construction from the keel up.[27]

Slavery in Bermuda, as with the entire New World, has its roots in the ambition of the colonists. Those who sought wealth would at first hire workers but gradually, to earn more profits, turned to using indentured or involuntary servants. The services of these individuals would be set for a specific time period, usually several years or longer, and they would typically be in a service that would yield great returns to land owners. In some cases, the servants would work for a share of the profits, and if they made enough, could buy out the rest of their time. However, the use of long-term servitude would segue into using slave labor, which redefined the dynamics of the Atlantic world for the next three hundred years.

In regards to slavery, Bermuda was not a commercial hub for the importing/exporting of slaves, and due to its small size and lack of arable land, slaves on the island numbered only in the thousands, although it was still disproportionally high when compared to the white colonists. However, slavery was widespread and the start of it began early, merely a few years after the settlement of the island. The first Black and Indian residents arrived in 1616 as specialized workers, with skills that the settlers did not possess. Their expertise was initially sought for diving for pearls, as Bermuda lacked gold or silver. The colonists still wanted to earn riches. The first recording of these individuals were those brought from the West Indies who were “an Indian (probably a Carib Indian) and a Negro (the first the islands ever had)”, as stated by then Governor Tucker.[28] However, by 1699, most of the Blacks and Indians on the island were slaves and made up about 38 per cent of the population.

The early black workers brought to the islands by privateers are seldom described as either being free (merely indentured for a certain length of time with the opportunity to complete their service or buy their way out of the contract) or slaves. It is thought, especially with the case of the specialized workers, that they were indentured, as an example can be seen with a black indentured servant, Hugh Wentworth, buying his freedom in 1620, and going on to join the Bermuda Council in 1627. He later was an agent for the Earl of Warwick, and was a leading trader in servants, both black and white.[29] For the first part of the seventeenth century, the blacks on the island were not listed as slaves, and in some cases had equivalent status to whites on the island.

There was also a reluctance to refer to blacks as slaves on the island. Instead, the euphemism “indenture servant” was widely applied. Now although there were white indentured servants on the island, the condition of their service typically varied from 5 to 10 years. However, for the black and Indian servants, their contracts, except for rare cases, would usually say “four score and 19 years,” which is 99 years of servitude. This technicality, that they could live to see freedom, did not mar the word “servitude” by calling it slavery, even though it was essentially a life sentence. However, over time, this feeling of avoidance slowly slipped away, and “slave” became a common word heard in Bermuda.[30] This was due primarily to the nonexistent laws that would enslave blacks. However, this would change starting in the 1640’s.[31]

The first Outerbridge in Bermuda, Thomas, does not to appear to have owned any slaves, as his will did not offer any to his issues or heirs. However, his son in fact did possess quite a few slaves, as his will mentions. Being that the patriarch, Thomas Outerbridge, died in 1629, while his sons were still rather young, it is unlikely that he benefited from slavery, although it is a possibility he had slaves or indentured workers on the tobacco fields he owned. It is a strong possibility there could have been slaves or servants from other families working in the tobacco fields, as well. The former explanation holds weight due to the nature of indentured servitude not technically being ‘slavery’, even if the workers were indentured for 99 years. If this were the case, then in his will, Thomas would not add the workers, as they were not considered property, but rather just simply workers, tending to the fields and ships.

However, it is with his son William, which the trend of slave owning is first seen in the Outerbridge family, as he is the first one known to have slaves. The slaves were listed in his will and recorded by the executor.[32] He passed “two of his best negroes” on to his son William Outerbridge, and although there is not an accurate count of how many slaves he held, it had to be numerous, as it appears that he leaves over ten to his descendants via his will. However, it can only be inferred how many slaves William had as there are no accurate numbers available that counted the number of slaves in his possession. In his will, William specifically stated that his son William could have two of his best Negros, implying that he had several to choose from. It continues to state that his other son, Thomas, shall have four [slaves] and a chest.

Further, the will goes on and gives “five [slaves] to his grandchildren, and the rest to be divided equally amongst his children except William.” By using this count, it is clear he has, at minimum, 11 slaves but definitely more as he states that the “rest should be divided equally amongst his children”, implying at least having more than one additional slave, with a minimum of two. This would bring his total to over 13 slaves at least.[33] This is also seen with Thomas and his will, as he has a number of slaves in his household. Thomas even states in his will that a specific slave, named Dick[34], was to be given to his wife, and upon her death, granted freedom and can still stay in the home of whichever of his sons he liked best.[35] His list of personal effects listed ten slaves in his household.[36]

It is known that the Outerbridge family owned and purchased slaves. Anna Maria acknowledges her grandfather buying a slave named Harry Simmons (Simons or Simonds, as she uses all three ways of spelling), after his second marriage, and as he settles down from a seafaring life to a business life.[37] This sale occurred from a business venture, in which during the War of 1812, he supplied British naval ships stationed in Bermuda with liquor. However, not being a drinking man himself, he was unaware of the qualities of the liquor and sought help with this dilemma. He turned to Captain Daniel Callingham, an Irishman, who had married into the Outerbridge family. He sold to Outerbridge a slave who, according to his praise, “was an excellent man in every way and was undoubtedly the best judge of liquor in Bermuda.”[38]

Also, it should be remembered that slaves were treated as property, and therefore, were considered transferable. There were probably many prominent slave importers related to the Outerbridge family that left slaves to their relatives that married into the family. One example is John Stowe, whose daughter, Martha, had married into the affluent Outerbridge family by marrying Thomas Outerbridge.[39] John Stowe was a prominent slave trader and merchant, as seen with his ship Elizabeth and Anne making a voyage to Barbados in 1659, and bringing back blacks to sell in Bermuda,[40] and although his will has been mostly lost, he mentions Martha’s name in receiving part of his estate, and it is possible she received a slave.[41]

What is not known is how the Outerbridge’s treated their slaves. One of the major issues with slavery, other than the fact of taking somebody’s freedom away and enslaving them, has always been the treatment of slaves. In fact, blacks have always been ungraciously targeted with disdain and prejudice during this period, whether slave or free. In Bermuda, for example, although the 1674 law prohibited the importation of blacks, Bermuda’s growing black population, especially the free blacks, concerned the colony officials, who in 1676 stated that “all free negroes and mulattoes may depart the island unless they are willing to be servants to other men,” and all free blacks “depart the islands unless they put themselves under masters.” This obviously had little effect, as the population continued to grow, with some of this increase coming from the illegal slave trade that was occurring throughout the island.[42]

The atrocities inflicted on slaves is well recorded, and yet, there are people who truly believe that there were people who wanted to be enslaved. This is prevalent not only in the U.S. but across all of the America’s. In Bermuda, many blacks were ill-treated, as made evident in the autobiographical book, Mary Prince, who was a slave in Bermuda and experienced some of the most horrendous abuse and beatings for decades, until she was able to leave her “owners” while in London. In fact, it was her story that pushed the abolitionist groups in London to have abolition passed throughout the empire in 1834.

However, for many black Bermudians, they had limited options in escaping their circumstances. Being an island, there was no place to run to. Runaways could only hope to board a vessel and leave the island, otherwise, it was very likely that they would be caught and returned to their owner. The ads in the Royal Gazette[43] had rewards out for runaway slaves, and the small population made blending in and disappearing very hard.

            Anna Maria Outerbridge gives an interesting account of slavery within her family. How true it is, is unknown. Due to it being a personal account, there exists reason to embellish or falsify information. However, her story is as follows: In her grandfather’s household (William Outerbridge), each child received a young slave as their own personal property, as soon as they could comprehend the relationship between master and slave. She also states that this went on in every family of note in Bermuda.[44] If this account is true, then it would mean that her father, Thaddeus Outerbridge, would have grown up with a slave for quite some time before emancipation set them free.[45]

She goes on explaining the relationship and treatment of the slaves in her family. She cannot recall any record of any slave or crew of slaves on trading vessels sent overseas, deserting their masters, but she knows of many stories of them returning home to Bermuda and their bondage when their ships are wrecked on foreign shores.[46] She notes how her uncle treated a slave boy named Peter by reinforcing his education from school with further work and when emancipation was enacted, he took up a position at the Society for Propagating the Gospel, to “teach his ignorant fellow servants.” She stated that their family avoided treating slaves badly as the Bermudian families who did were looked down in society.[47]

It is interesting to note that many slaves at the time of emancipation, took the surnames of the families that they worked for. This was a common practice throughout most slave holding areas. However, the slaves under the ownership of the Outerbridge family did not adopt their surnames. It is not known why they decided not to adopt “Outerbridge” as their surnames and it is not known what family names they decided to adopt. However, the patriarch of the Trimingham family, another prominent Bermudian family with slaves, informed the Outerbridge’s that most likely their slaves did not take their name because they could not or had difficulty pronouncing it. He and his family had experienced a similar incident with his former slaves who did not want to take the last name Trimingham because they could not pronounce it.[48]

How believable or accurate this is, is unknown, as to is the reason that the slaves did not want to adopt these names. The black Bermudians with the last name Outerbridge are all descended from one boy that was the child of Samuel Cornelius Outerbridge’s grandfather, who had relations with a colored woman.[49] This son was baptized and called Outerbridge and was given a small outhouse at Mount Wyndham.[50]

Not much is known about the life of Dr. Thaddeus Aubrey Outerbridge before he attended Columbia. It can only be inferred to what his life was like growing up during slavery in Bermuda to a prominent family, which possessed slaves, and most likely having a young slave of his own. He would have also been old enough to recognize the effects that emancipation would have on his family in Bermuda in 1834 and he also attended school in the U.S. during the height of slavery. Very little information has been recorded over the years, which limits the ability to conduct comprehensive research. All that is really known is that he attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons for two years, graduating in 1848. Very little is known about him even after he graduated, except that he returned to Bermuda, married and had a daughter, Anna Maria Outerbridge in 1848, and went on to have a successful practice.

Unfortunately, there are no records (as far as this author could ascertain) to show his opinions on the practice of slavery either before or after emancipation, nor any opinions on the subject concerning the practice in the U.S. There are not even any records to determine how he paid for school, although, it is safe to assume that he did so with the full financial backing of his family, and their money that was obtained with the help of slaves. After all, for nearly two-hundred years, from the 1640’s until 1834, slaves had been paramount to the success of the Outerbridge family.

Even at the end of slavery, slave owners still profited off of their now former slaves. With the enforcement of emancipation, and freedom to all of those enslaved, the slave owners petitioned for compensation, as this directly was going to hinder their business operations. After all, they were going to be inconvenienced by losing their free labor force, and be forced to pay workers. The British government decided to look into each claim, and if there were evidence that the individual should be compensated, then they were. This decision was reached because the main proponents that were pushing for it were based off of the vested interests which were represented in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Emancipation was held hostage unless compensation was offered.[51]

Since the end of slavery, there has been call for compensation or reparations for former slaves and their descendants for their centuries of unpaid work and horrible treatment. Many challenge the idea that reparations could be of any benefit to them, believing that reparations are an ineffective method at solving underlying issues, and there has been push back on the idea seen even today. However, the slave owners, including the Outerbridge’s were compensated for each slave they had by the U.K. government in 1836. Their payoff when put into perspective is staggering.

Of the 18 family members that were awarded reparations from the government, there were a total of 83 slaves between them. The highest compensation was paid to Stephen Outerbridge, who owned 14 slaves and received £178. When this is adjusted for inflation,[52] as of today, he received an equivalent of £19,100 or $26,000. In total, the family received nearly £1,200 in 1836, which today would equate to almost £129,000 or $175,000, all paid for by the taxpayers.[53]

Their former slaves on the other hand received only their freedom, condemnation and destitution, and many were forced to work in even worse conditions with the incorporation of an apprenticeship, which was just another name for indentured servitude. This inequality would persist well into the 1960’s and 1970’s, coinciding with the U.S.’s Civil Rights movement in which civil unrest plagued the island. This would eventually culminate in the assassination of Sir Richards Sharples and his aide-de-camp, Captain Hugh Sayers, by members of a black militant group and lead to the 1977 Bermuda Riots. Even today, there exist a disparity highlighting disadvantaged position of black Bermudians compared to white Bermudians.[54]

In a study put forward by Keith Lawrence and Raymond Codrington regarding racial disparity in Bermuda, they saw the largest discrepancies within employment, educational access, and criminal justice. According to their findings:

“White Bermudians and non-Bermudians disproportionately earn higher incomes than black Bermudians, despite the latter’s predominance in the labor force. The median earnings of skilled and professional non-Bermudian workers surpass those of similar black Bermudians in many job categories. Most white students attend privately funded schools and most black students attend public schools, and this racial sorting coincides with lower achievement levels among black students. White Bermudians are much more likely to be college-educated, which gives them greater access to lucrative business sector jobs. Black youth is at much greater risk of arrest, prosecution and incarceration than white peers.”[55]

This unfortunately shows the lingering negative impact that slavery has had on the black community in Bermuda and supports the notion that much more should be done to compensate this group.

Dr. Thaddeus Aubrey Outerbridge is just one example out of the unknown number of families who have been able to afford to send their children to universities, or even afford them better opportunities in life, based of the strenuous work of their slaves. There will never be a way to accurately account for all of these individuals, and it is also impossible to quantify the costs of the labor that the slaves produced to help these individuals advance in life. There will also never be a way to accurately identify all of the slaves who suffered, toiled, and died under such repressive circumstances, and it is equally as hard to determine a way to compensate their descendants.

If these people cannot be compensated via reparations, then we can at least compensate their memory, to ensure that their struggle is not forgotten nor in vain. Slavery has been one of the most troubling and disturbing practices humans have ever engaged in. However, the more troubling trend has been the refusal of individuals and institutions to acknowledge the ramifications of slavery, and continually suppressing the information, or downplaying the significance or role of slavery.

Columbia University, like many universities and other institutions, has downplayed or ignored the role of slavery in its history. However, with the efforts of the dedicated people who wish to emphasize and highlight slavery’s role in Columbia, and vice versa, the information is steadily being exposed. Institutions should never ignore its history, but rather acknowledge it and show how they have learned from it for the better. When this done, the institution can create a better environment for future generations, and perhaps, one day they will be able to discover a way to properly compensate those who descended from the slaves that were exploited by these very institutions.


Bermuda Archive

History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas. March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier. 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

Secondary Sources

Bermuda National Trust. 2002. Bermuda's Architectural Heritage Series: Hamilton Parish. Hamilton: Bermuda National Trust.

Bernhard, Virginia. 1999. Slaves and Slaveholders in Bermuda 1616-1782. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Jarvis, Michael. 2012. In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783. Chapel hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Lawrence, Keith, and Raymond Codrington. 2014. Racial Dynamics in Bermuda in the 21st Century: Progress and Challenges. Roundtable on Community Change, Hamilton: The Aspen Institute.

Smith, Jonathan. 2015. Island Flames: Murder, Execution and Racial Enmity: The Real Story of Bermuda's 1977 Riots. Hamilton: Ten-Ten Publications.

Zuill, William. 1946. Bermuda Journey: A Leisurely Guidebook. New York: Coward-McCann Inc.



[1] There is a slight discrepancy with the spelling of his middle name. According to the alumni list per the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, it is spelled Aubry but according to personal documents, its spelled Aubrey.

[2] The last name Outerbridge is a variant of the original spelling, which itself varies depending on pronunciation and other regional factors.  The Outerbridge of Bermuda use the Anglican spelling, and it has been passed down the family without any further variations. Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier, p. 2, 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda.

[3] It needs to be noted that complicated patterns in marriages with the marriage of cousins, remarrying widows/widowers, remarrying and not changing maiden names or lack of a recorded surname as well as a host of other inconsistencies create confusion especially among identifying descendants, as children are often named after direct family members (especially the males) that share the same name without the use of suffixes to indicate which generation is being referred to. This is circumnavigated by using dates, such as dates of birth, death, marriage, burials, and baptisms, however, there can be issues with dates either being inaccurate or not recorded.

[4] There is a theory on why he did choose to come to Bermuda, although there is no substantiated evidence to support it. This theory was placed in a file in the Outerbridge family folder in the Bermuda Archives. It was part of a genealogy report, most likely written by a Dr. William Robert Outerbridge, which was donated to the Bermuda Archives and since which has been updated by David Ker. The theory states that some of the earliest and now prominent families in Bermuda, Outerbridge, Peniston, and Hall, were influenced to go there by Lucy, the Countess of Bedford. Her husband, the Earl of Bedford was against any ventures to Bermuda while Lucy supported it. Her title, and being the daughter of Lord John Hannington, allowed her autonomy and financial independence of her husband, allowing her to freely talk about Bermuda. The couple owned a home in Yorkshire, not far from Hatfield where Outerbridge, Peniston, and Hall lived, and it could be likely that during a festivity, they interacted with one another, and she regaled them with descriptions of the ‘sunny’ Bermuda colony, as well as the Virginia colony. Being that the three lived in close proximity of one another, it is not far fetched to believe that they planned a venture to Bermuda. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 32, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[5] Although Bermuda is a small island roughly 20 miles long and 1 mile wide, it was used to grow tobacco, which was a cash crop of significant importance to the Americas, and very profitable when sold in England.

[6] Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier, p. 4, 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda.

[7] History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 19, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[8] Samuel Cornelius Outerbridge was a successful onion grower and exporter as well as being on the Board of Agriculture while Eugene Worrall Outerbridge was a famous grower and seller of the lily flowers that were introduced to Bermuda by a missionary from Japan who happened to have some (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 18-20

[9] (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 16

[10] (Jarvis 2012), 142

[11] (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 16

[12] This is most likely referring to the grandson of Thomas Outerbridge.

[13] (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 18

[14] Although, according to the alumni list of Columbia University, there were a few more Bermudian students who attended. There was a John Peter Burchall (spelled Burchal on the alumni list) Foggo who also attended the College of Physicians and surgeons at Columbia University in 1852 and there is a strong possibility that another student, Nathaniel Foggo, who received his medical degree from there as well in 1819 is Bermudian. There may be some relatives of the Outerbridge family that previously attended as well, but perhaps under a different surname obtained through marriage.

[15] (Zuill 1946), 156

[16] (Zuill 1946), 119

[17] (Zuill 1946), 120-122

[18] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 36, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[19] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 36, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[20] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 36, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[21] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 49, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[22] (Zuill 1946), 155

[23] (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 21

[24] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 50, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda.

[25] (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 19

[26] (Bermuda National Trust 2002), 21

[27] (Jarvis 2012), 143

[28] (Bernhard 1999), 19

[29] (Bernhard 1999), 21-22

[30] (Bernhard 1999), 49

[31] (Bernhard 1999), 48

[32] Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier, p. 3, 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[33] Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier, p. 3, 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[34] It is quite possible that Dick may have been a slave of his father passed down to him, which is why he decided to grant him his freedom after his wife’s death, due to his long and hard work for the family.

[35] Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier, p. 4, 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[36] Notes compiled by William Henry Corbusier, p. 7, 1920. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[37] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 37, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[38] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 52, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[39] (Bernhard 1999), 164

[40] (Bernhard 1999), 164

[41] (Jarvis 2012), 49

[42] (Bernhard 1999), 192

[43] The local newspaper of Bermuda.

[44] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 51, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[45] He was born in 1822 and emancipation was 1834 meaning he would have had a personal slave for at least a few years, and if not a personal slave, then he would have been at least exposed to the slaves of his parents and other relatives.

[46] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 51, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[47] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 51, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda. As a note, it was common for slave owners and descendants to minimize ill treatments of slaves or in some cases refute it altogether.

[48] Apparently, the newly emancipated slaves had a difficult time pronouncing the surnames of the Trimingham family and may also had some difficulty spelling it. It may be because of this reason that they decided to adopt an easier to pronounce name. This story was shared from the head of the Trimingham family with members of the Outerbridge family, who could not understand why their former slaves did not want to take their surnames as was custom at the time. There is no evidence to support the validity of the statement made by the Trimingham family, however, it is a valid theory as to why the freed slaves did not want to take the last name. A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 52, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[49] Her name and whether or not she was his slave or not or was even a free black person is unknown.

[50] A story recounted by Anna Maria. History and Genealogy of the Most Ancient Family of Outerbridge of Hatfield, Yorkshire, England and Later of the Bermudas, p. 52, March 29, 2008. Outerbridge records, Bermuda Archives, Hamilton, Bermuda

[51] Context page from the University of London website discussing reparations to slave owners in the British Empire.

[52] As of May 2018.

[53] Sums gathered by adding up all of the money received.

[54] (Smith 2015), 15-17

[55] (Lawrence and Codrington 2014), 7