Yankee Slave Trader Gordon

In late February 1862, Yankee slaver trader Nathaniel Gordon of Portland, Maine, was hung in the stone courtyard of the Tombs, in New York City, convicted of “piratically confining and detaining Negroes with the intent of making them slaves.” Ironically, New York’s own Declaration of Independence signer, Phillip Livingston, made his own vast fortune in the slave trade, as did many other New Englanders. A further irony is that soon Lincoln would be formulating a plan to foment race war in the American South, replicating the emancipation edicts of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in 1775, and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane in 1814. It was England and New England that brought shiploads of enslaved Africans to work Southern and South American plantations, and both would later demand liberty and the rights of man for those they had placed in bondage. See: Hanging Captain Gordon, Ron Soodalter, 2006 for deeper reading.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Yankee Slave Trader Gordon

“In November 1861 a Yankee slave trader was captured on the high seas with a boat load of slaves bound for the West Indies. Trading in slaves had been illegal for years, although the New England slave ships had been carrying on clandestine slave trading with considerable success for Cuba and Brazil but not the South, which was not interested.

It is commonly but erroneously assumed that slave trading was a Southern occupation, but in fact almost all slave trading, when it was legal and later illegal, was from ships of New England registry with Northern crews.

The Yankee slave trader Nathaniel Gordon, who was originally from Maine, was tried before a federal judge in New York and sentenced to be hanged on 7 February 1862. It was the first and only time such a sentence was handed down and carried out.

Realizing the undue harshness of the sentence, 25,000 New Yorkers petitioned Lincoln to commute Gordon’ sentence to one of life imprisonment. There was nothing to be lost by Lincoln doing this, but Lincoln refused to commute the sentence. (Later, when another slave trader was caught, Lincoln went to the other extreme and granted a pardon).

There were many vociferous abolitionists who called for the hanging to be carried out, and Lincoln yielded to their demands. He did, however, grant a cruel delay of thirteen days so that the execution would not take place until 20 February. Lincoln explained his course of action in these words: “In granting this respite [thirteen days] it becomes my painful duty to admonish the prisoner that relinquishing all expectation of pardon by human authority, he refer himself alone to the mercy of the common God and Father of all men.”

It would seem that mercy from God, to be realistic, would have to come through men, and in this case, Lincoln. Where was the “mercy of the common God” when Lincoln had him hanging from a rope until dead? What is the logic of this cruelty?”

(When in the Course of Human Events, Arguing the Case for Secession, Charles Adams, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000, excerpts pp. 209-210)

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

There is little question that the origins of the American Revolution, and the later War Between the States, are rooted in New England’s illicit trade in slaves and molasses, and England’s efforts to stop the maritime competition with the mother country. By 1750, Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic slave trade, surpassing Liverpool for the dubious honor.

The author below writes: “nine-tenths of the colonial merchants and skippers had become smugglers as the break with England neared. Such men as John Hancock, a prince of contraband traders, on the eve of Paul Revere’s ride had for counsel before the Admiralty Court in Boston none other than John Adams, answering for him a half-million dollar suit in penalties as a smuggler.” He went on that “One-quarter of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were bred to commerce, to the command of ships and to contraband trade.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

“In accord with the spirit of the times the British Parliament passed a series of statutes in 1633 providing, among other things, that nothing could be brought into the colonies that wasn’t carried there in British ships, “whereof the master and three-fourths of the crew are English.”

[Concerned about the rise of illicit maritime trade of New England] the shipbuilders of the Thames district met in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complained to the Lords of Trade:

“In the eight years ending in 1720 we are informed that seven hundred sail of ships were built in New England, and that in years since, as may if not more; and that the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on the work [in England].”

Linked inseparably with the venture south to the [West] Indies the colonists’ brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling “Black Ivory.” For the Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses. Together they comprised the foundation for more ships and hence more trouble than all the politicians ashore put together.

The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637 . . . and more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in the West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of this all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly prized among Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgment to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport [Rhode Island] and on south.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whiskey for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. The tribal chiefs . . . in 1726, begged without avail to have the sale of firewater to the young braves stopped.

It is hardly surprising, then, that among the first real troublemakers of all the British efforts to raise money [to support the colonies] was a new Molasses Act, for it was molasses brought in from the French West Indies from which New England rum was made. To put teeth into the effort Parliament authorized the use of writs of assistance, a sort of search warrant covering an entire community that gave British customs officials the right to search any ship, warehouse or even private home for smuggled goods.

When the harried Board of Trade and Plantations finally decided to act, its attempt to enforce the Navigation Acts [to restrict New England’s rum and slave triangle] was the spark in the touchhole that set the guns to booming.”

(Yankee Ships, an Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 39; 43-44; 49-51)

Jul 14, 2018 - Antebellum Economics, Economics, New England History, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Sharp Yankees, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

The Fells Point shipyard of Baltimore builder William and George Gardner built many fast merchantmen during the 1830s, as well as for the slave and opium trade. One Fell’s Point free black carpenters was Fred Bailey (later Fred Douglass) who helped build the slavers Delorez, Teayer, Eagle at Price’s Shipyard, plus the Laura at Butler & Lamdin yard in the same city. In 1844, Bostonians George and John Dixwell of Augustine Heard & Co. ordered fast clippers built by the Gardner’s to carry Bombay opium to China, where it was outlawed. One of their most notorious opium clippers built for the Dixwell’s was the “Frolic,” despite an 1844 treaty forbidding American ships carrying in into China.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

“Probably the most notorious slave ship ever built in the United States, the Venus, was widely discussed in the newspapers at the time. On July 4, 1838, the Venus reached completion at Fells Point . . . the Venus was neither a warship nor a merchantman, but a slave ship in disguise. Indeed, like the merchant traders of New England, Baltimore shipbuilders had a long tradition of employing ruses to conduct their craft in defiance of the law.

The Gardner’s were careful; to protect themselves by selling the slave ships they built to foreign buyers. These transactions through intermediaries, though contrived and transparent, sufficed to enable the Gardners and other Baltimore builders to construct the world’s most profitable slavers while remaining officially and legally ignorant.

As soon as the Venus was ready to be launched, [owner] Lambert Giddings [transferred] the vessel to Jose Mazorra, a notorious [Cuban] slave trader. As the Venus left Havana “with equipment for the slave trade,” we may assume that during her nineteen-day layover in Cuba carpenters were busy fitting her out with platforms in her hold and tons of iron shackles and chains.

On November 5, the Venus, still under the American flag, arrived at Lagos on the West African coast . . . and departed Lagos with a cargo of about 1,150 slaves. The American flag and papers had provided protection for the vessel until the slaves were driven aboard, whereupon the vessel was given over to an agent of Jose Mazzora who carried . . . fraudulent papers . . . disguised as a wholly different vessel.

Continued “foreign” orders for slavers during 1838 and 1839 helped the Gardners’ business survive the financial panic of 1837. [The slaver Venus] would bring international recognition to the Gardners – and ultimately an order for two opium clippers from John and George Dixwell of Augustine Heard & Co. [of Canton, China and Ipswich, Massachusetts].”

(The Voyage of the Frolic: New England Merchants and the Opium Trade, Thomas N. Layton, Stanford University Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 41-43)

 

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

An 1845 congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, to be naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. This immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system. There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union. What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings. Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

The war of 1861-1865 seemed a violent replay of the 1800 election between Federalist John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson – and settling the question of whether New England or Virginia would dominate and guide the country. Author Russell Kirk observed in 1953 that “The influence of the Virginia mind upon American politics expired in the Civil War,” and that it would take 100 years for the ideas of a limited central government and free market ideas to begin a recovery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

“Beginning with the modern civil-rights movement in the late 1950s, it became popular and “politically correct” to proclaim that the Civil War was fought for the purpose of abolishing slavery and therefore was a just and great war. This gave the civil-rights movement much of its momentum, but it also served to injure race relations severely, and further, to mask the immense and disastrous costs of the Civil War, which included the deaths of 620,000 soldiers.

The destruction of the South and its Jeffersonian ideals of a free market, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and a limited central government were replaced by the ideals of Hamilton, thereby completely transforming the American government created by its founders.

The Civil War was, in effect, a new constitutional convention held on the battlefield, and the original document was drastically amended by force in order to have a strong centralized federal government, which was closely allied with industry in the North.

Foreign policy would now become heavily influenced by the economic interests of big business rather than by any concern for the freedom of the individual. Domestic policies of regulation, subsidy and tariff would now benefit big business at the expense of small business and the general population.

Beginning with the end of the Civil War, the American mind and policy would become molded into the image of Hamilton rather than Jefferson.”

(The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, editor, 1999, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 27-28)

Jul 8, 2018 - Antebellum Economics, Bringing on the War, Jeffersonian America, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Virginians and the Exploration of the West

Virginians and the Exploration of the West

Tutorial schooling by local pastors was the rule in the Virginia Piedmont of Meriwether Lewis’s youth. Parson William Douglas had taught three American Presidents in their childhood – Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. Lewis was tutored 1789-1790 by Parson Matthew Maury in a rude log building, Albemarle’s Classical School, on the lawn of Edgeworth Farm. Maury was the father of the renowned Matthew Fontaine Maury of naval and hydrographic fame.

Captain Meriwether Lewis and his Corps of Discovery were to depart on his epic journey West by the end of June, 1803, but it was July 4th when he actually left Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Virginians and the Exploration of the West

“The expeditionaries carried tomahawks and scalping knives . . . the [.69 caliber] horse pistols were probably of the North and Cheney Model of 1799. Lewis was meticulous in his choice of rifles for the expedition . . . and [designed his own] “Harper’s Ferry Rifle” which resembled the Kentucky rifle but he had the easily damaged stocks reduced to half-length and the overall length of the .54 caliber piece was only 47 inches.

So efficient was Captain Lewis’s design that the rifles were used as models for the first “mass-produced” Army rifle in the United States. On May 25, 1803, the Secretary of War found the new rifle so functional that he ordered 4,000 of them manufactured for the troops.

Historians have wrangled for decades over just what was Jefferson’s intent in sending Lewis and Clark – exploration, commerce or conquest? It was clear enough to Lewis from his orders. While he awaited Clark’s decision [to join him] before contacting his second choice as a companion, Lieutenant Moses Hook, he read and reread the amended instructions drawn up and given him by the President.

“The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principal stream of it as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.”

Jefferson ordered Lewis to fix, by coordinates of longitude and latitude, all “remarkable” points on the Missouri, such as rapids, islands, and the mouths of tributaries, the variations of the compass, the exact location of the portage between the Mississippi and Pacific drainages. He urged Lewis to make his observations with great care and to record them, as well as all of his notes, in several copies for safety against loss.

The President ordered him to become acquainted with the Indian nations, to determine their numbers and the extent of their possessions. He wished to know their languages, traditions and occupations, including agriculture, fishing, hunting, war and the arts. He was interested in their relationship with other tribes, their food, clothing and tools, their diseases and remedies, their laws and customs and the articles of commerce they possessed or desired, all to encourage future trade and their ultimate civilization by the United States.

Jefferson insisted that Lewis’s entry into the Far West be a peaceful one. “In all your intercourse with the natives, treat them in the most friendly and conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies . . . [and convey] our wish to be neighborly, friendly and useful to them . . .”

(Meriwether Lewis, a Biography, Richard Dillon, Coward-McCann, Inc., 1965, excerpts pp. 14; 42-44; 50)

Military Mission Against South Carolina

The North’s war against the South could be said to have truly begun in 1854 Kansas, or Harper’s Ferry in 1859, or when the James Buchanan-ordered “Star of the West” left its dock at New York Harbor. This passenger ship had 200 officers and men concealed below decks along with munition of war, and escorted by the warship USS Brooklyn.  This episode brings up the question of treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution: “. . . shall consist only in levying war against Them.” Buchanan was levying war against one of “Them,” a State. Lincoln would do the same.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Military Mission Against South Carolina

“When historians talk of the “first shot” of the Civil War it is a matter of disagreement. The men on the spot in Charleston Harbor Jan. 9, 1861, thought they knew when the first shot came. It was fired when a Citadel cadet at a battery half-concealed in the sand hills of Morris Island sent a ball whistling across the bow of a steamer named “Star of the West.”

The “Star of the West” wore a huge US ensign on her foretruck when he steamed up the Main Ship Channel . . . Her ‘tween decks were crowded with US soldiers. Otherwise, she was out of character as a ship employed on a vital military mission.

The “Star of the West” was a passenger liner, diverted from her run between New York and New Orleans for this business of bringing reinforcements to Maj. Robert Anderson in Fort Sumter.

That is why Gen. Winfield Scott, the aging general-in-chief at Washington had picked her for this task. Gen. Scott had an idea the “Star of the West” could do what a warship could not do – steam into Charleston Harbor without arousing the suspicions of South Carolinians.

Army headquarters had ordered strict security thrown about the “Star’s” mission, but somebody had leaked the news. The politicians had it first, and then the newspapers. Long before the “Star of the West” arrived off Charleston Bar, it was gossip on the streets of Charleston that the Yankees had decided to send reinforcements to Fort Sumter.

The newly-erected battery which Citadel cadets had just built near the northern end [of Morris Island] was alerted. [At first light] the “Star” steamed boldly across the bar, flushing the South Carolina guardship “Gen. Clinch” before her [which signaled] the alarm with flares and rockets.

With daylight coming on, Lt. Charles J. Woods, commander of the troops aboard the [Star”], took pains to make the ship look like a peaceful merchantman. A swish and a splash announced the arrival of a shot across the bow . . . [shortly afterward a] shot struck the side of the “Star” below the feet of the leadsman. To reach Sumter, the “Star” would have to pass within a thousand yards of [the Fort Moultrie gunners].

A gun was fired from Moultrie. Lt. Woods looked at Sumter hoping for a sign of recognition or assistance . . . but no gunfire came from Sumter’s walls. Another shot from Moultrie. Another.

Woods decided not to take the chance. [The Star’s] Capt. McGowan, shaken by the encounter with the battery in the dunes, ordered the wheel to put over [and steam northward].”

(Steamer Fails to Aid Sumter, Arthur M. Wilcox, The Civil War at Charleston, A.W. Wilcox & Warren Ripley, 1966, excerpts pp. 10-11)

Havoc in 1864 New York City

In mid-July of 1864, opposition to Lincoln’s oppressive regime made him see his reelection as improbable, despite offering prestigious governmental posts to newspaper opponents. Even Thurlow Week, recognized as a great political seer in New York, told Lincoln in early August 1864 “that his reelection was an impossibility.” Though Lincoln’s faction-ridden party was collapsing in the face of McClellan’s candidacy and wide support, the War Department’s manipulation of the soldier vote, and monitored election polls, resulted in Lincoln’s victory.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Havoc in 1864 New York City

“Francis P. Blair, Lincoln’s friend, support and father of Montgomery Blair, the postmaster general, went to New York City in the hope of waylaying [General George B.] McClellan’s [presidential] candidacy. [Publisher] James Gordon Bennett . . . advised Blair, “Tell him [Lincoln] to restore McClellan to the army and he will carry the election by default.”

The month of August 1864 was so depressing for the Republicans that the Democrats had good reason to dream of glory. [Former New York City Mayor] Fernando Wood . . . had said “that the national [Democratic Party] was unqualifiedly opposed to the further prosecution of the war of emancipation and extermination now being waged against the seceded States, and will continue to demand negotiation, reconciliation and peace.”

The more moderate August Belmont sounded no less harsh when he addressed the Chicago convention. “Four years of misrule,” he said, “by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party have brought our country to the very verge of ruin.” Four more years of Lincoln would bring “utter disintegration of our whole political and social system amidst bloodshed and anarchy.”

Also in August the Confederates dealt a demoralizing blow to New York City. The Confederate steamer Tallahassee audaciously captured two Sandy Hook pilot boats off New York Harbor, bringing the war close to home. The rebel ship laid in wait for outbound vessels and in less than two weeks, according to official records, destroyed or damaged more than thirty ships. Some estimates ran as high as fifty-four ships destroyed, and insurance men shivered over the consequences.

John Taylor Wood, grandson of President Zachary Taylor and captain of the Tallahassee . . . longed to create havoc in New York. He knew which ships were in port from newspapers he had taken from captured ships, and he hoped to set fire to the ships in the harbor, blast the navy yard in Brooklyn, and then escape into Long Island Sound.

During these unpleasant days, [Lincoln] called for five hundred thousand more men for the army. [This] prompted John Mullaly to publish an article called “The Coming Draft” in his paper . . . which resulted in his arrest for counseling Governor Seymour and others to resist the draft. [Mullaly] . . . continued to express his belief that the South had the right to select its own government and that the North “in the endeavor to force her into a compulsory Union is violating the principle of universal suffrage, which we claim to be the foundation of our democratic system. By this right we shall continue to stand, for it is a right older and more valuable than the Union itself.”

(The Civil War and New York City, Ernest A. McKay, Syracuse University Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 269-270; 272-273)

Jul 4, 2018 - Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on What if Lee Had Been in Command?

What if Lee Had Been in Command?

Brigadier-General David Twiggs, a 70-year-old native Georgian, assumed command of the Department of Texas from Colonel Robert E. Lee on 13 December 1860. The War of 1812 and Mexican War veteran naturally assumed that upon the withdrawal of Texas from the Union, he would relinquish control of the Alamo arsenal. Writing the War Department, he requested to be relieved of command in mid-January 1861, though orders were not issued till 28 January, and then sent by slow courier. While awaiting these orders, Twiggs was confronted on 16 February by Texas Col. Ben McCulloch leading upwards of 1000 militia men under the Lone Star flag, demanding the Alamo be surrendered to Texas forces, which was done peacefully.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

What if Lee Had Lee Been in Command?

“Had Robert E. Lee rather than David Twiggs been in command of the Department of Texas, the Civil War might very well have commenced in San Antonio on 16 February 1861 rather than two months later at Fort Sumter. Although fond of Texas and as unwilling as Twiggs to fire upon Americans, Lee’s first loyalties were to Virginia and to the United States Army.

Never a secessionist and still undecided about the rectitude of the Southern cause even after Virginia left the Union, Lee would almost surely have made at least a token resistance at San Antonio and perhaps, as some observers suggested at the time, would have tried to fight his way north of the Red River.

Blood would have been spilled on both sides, and the nation might well have been hurled into its fratricidal war before the secession of the Upper South and before the week-old Confederacy had established the means to fight.

How this might have affected the course of the war and subsequent American history is only the subject of speculation, but surely the restraint exercised by the armed me on both sides of the conflict at the Alamo is commendable and bought a precious little time for statesmen to attempt to avert the coming disaster.”

(Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition, Thomas W. Cutrer, UNC Press, 1993, excerpts pp. 186-187)

 

Joseph Davis Encourages Black Entrepreneurs

As a young man, Jefferson Davis learned life at the feet of his older brother Joseph Emory Davis (1784-1870) the management skills necessary to operate his own Mississippi plantation, “Hurricane.” As described below by author Hudson Strode, Jefferson “was convinced that servitude was a necessary steppingstone to the Negro’s eventual freedom and “measurable perfectibility,” and that those brought from Africa “were benefited by their contact with white civilization and Christianity.” Further, he viewed “the instrument of supplying cotton to the textile industry, which meant better employment in England and on the Continent, as well as New England, the Negro made a real contribution to world prosperity.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Joseph Davis Encourages Black Entrepreneurs

“In one special characteristic Jefferson was deemed a spiritual son of his brother: “he could hardly comprehend anyone’s differing from him in political policy after hearing reasons on which his opinion was based.”

While Jefferson reveled in Joseph’s talk and Joseph’s books in the evenings, by day he was diligent in the pursuit of agriculture. He carefully remarked his brother’s methods of slave management and agronomic techniques. In Natchez with Joseph sand James Pemberton, he had bought ten carefully selected slaves. He had put his faithful body servant in charge of them . . . Pemberton, with a shrewd understanding of both the black man’s and white man’s psychology, [and who was] indispensable.

But even more so was Joseph, who was noted throughout Mississippi for his model plantation. Strange as it may seem, the democratic plutocrat Joseph had been influenced by the utopian philosophy of the socialist Robert Owen, whose “A New View of Society” he had read before meeting him on the stagecoach in 1824.

As Joseph’s Negroes testified both before and after the War Between the States, they were mostly kindly treated. No overseer was ever given the right to punish them. The Negroes enjoyed a kind of self-rule devised by Joseph, in which the older or more settled ones acted as the jury for offenders. Though the Negroes themselves set the penalty, the master reserved the right to pardon or mitigate the severity of the sentence, which Jefferson noted he did more than often.

The slaves were encouraged to be thrifty, resourceful and inventive. They could raise their own vegetables and produce their own eggs to supplement their weekly rations. Eggs bought by the big house were paid for at market prices, though they could also be sold at any market.

When a slave could do better at some other employment than daily labor, he was allowed to do so, paying for the worth of regular field service out of his earnings. One of the slaves ran a variety shop, and sometimes he would buy the entire fruit crop from the Davis estates to sell and ship. Joseph chose his favorites from among the Negroes for advancement according to their qualities and aptitudes. Any individual talent that revealed itself was nurtured.

Jefferson was particularly impressed by a responsible and gifted Negro named Benjamin Thornton Montgomery, whose father, John, had been born a slave in Loudon County, Virginia. John had been taught to write by his master’s young son . . . John’s bent was carpentry, he became an expert in building. Then he took up civil engineering, devising his own instruments.

John passed on his knowledge of reading and writing to his son Ben Montgomery, who had acquired a little library of his own by the time Jefferson came to Hurricane. As the Montgomery boys grew up they helped Joseph with his large correspondence, business and political.”

(Jefferson Davis, American Patriot: 1808-1861, a Biography of the Years Before the Great Conflict, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955, excerpts pp. 111-113)

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