Obadiah Wells, a dry goods merchant, increased his slave trading operation from New York City, to Kings County, after noting a substantial increase in profits. The internal trade in New York State was immune to most forms of taxation. However, external trade was taxed regularly after 1701.
As a result, the smuggling of slaves into caves and inlets on Long Island increased. Only one ship was libeled for slave smuggling during the entire colonial era.
The growing number of slaves in Kings County, increased at a faster rate than the white population. Previously mentioned, in 1698, the slave population consisted of 15 percent and in 1738 there was an increase to 21 percent. During the eighteenth century, slaves in Kings County were taught many trades and skills. They worked as tobacconists, caulkers, carpenters, shoemakers, blacksmiths, millers, weavers, candle makers, and many other occupations. They knew several languages and were able to transact business in the city for their white masters. Slaves were hired out for any length of time to farmers who could not afford to purchase slaves of their own.
The profits to the owner of course, advanced the hiring system. But after 1770, the demand for hired slaves exceed the supply. By 1760, an adult slave rented for 60 pounds ($300) per year or more depending upon the slave's skill and training.
White workers, on the other hand, earned a daily wage of 5.6 shillings (1.25). and as the supply decreased the demand increased, which resulted in the raising of prices.
In 1755, Lieutenant Governor de Lancey, noted: The price of labor has now become so high, and hence the owner of slaves reap such advantage, that they cannot reasonably complain of a tax. Twenty years after English occupation of New York, Blacks were legally slaves, but somewhat protected by the laws of the State. Also during this period, slaveswere allowed to testify against whites in all New York courts. Yet by 1682, the tide turned. Several police statutes were established that subjected Black bondsment to special public controls.
They no longer qualified as witnesses against whites, and masters were given complete power over them. Slaves were also restricted from meeting publicly in groups of more than four. In 1702 the number was reduced to three. In the same year, each town was required to maintain a "Negro Whipper" to flog violators. John Doughty was the first Negro Whipper for Brooklyn.
With the slave owner having total control over his chattel, he was able to lent or sell his property any time he wished, and punish his slave as he saw fit, for committing private offenses, running away, slowing down work, or disobeying a command. The level of punishment varied according to the character and temper of the master. The police statutes were concerned with the safety of the community, more than with the rights of the slave holders. Whites were forbidden to sell liquor to slaves, trade with them without the master's consent, or steal another man's slave. The latter was punishable by death. A slave stealer or "Negro Jockey" was universally detested. When a slave committed a crime against white people, he could expect capital punishment.
A statute passed in 1706, stipulated that punishment could be "in such a manner and with such circumstances, as the aggravation and enormity of the crime shall merit." Two slaves were sentenced to death for the murder of a white family on Long Island in 1707. A witness to the execution revealed, "the slaves were put to all manner of torment possible."