“Bill Arp” was the nom de plume of Georgia writer and politician Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903), who enjoyed educating Atlanta Constitution readers unfamiliar with the history of New England. As a Confederate major during the War Between the States, he served on the staff of several generals including Francis Bartow. Below, he answers a letter to the editor from a Northerner castigating Georgians for the sin of slavery.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Bill Arp on New England History
“Now, here is a gentleman of more than ordinary intelligence and education who does not know that the sin of slavery began in New England among his forefathers — not ours — and from there was gradually crowded Southward until it got to Georgia, and that Georgia was the first State to prohibit their importation. See Appleton’s Cyclopedia (Slavery and the Slave Trade.)
He does not know that long after New England and New York had abolished slavery, their merchantmen continued to trade with Africa and sold their cargoes secretly along the coast, and . . . one, the “Wanderer,” was seized and confiscated and its officers arrested. The “Wanderer” was built at Eastport, Maine, was equipped as a slaver in New York and officered there and a crew employed.
He does not know that Judge Story, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, when presiding in Boston in 1834, [stated to a] Grand Jury that although Massachusetts had freed their slaves, yet the slave trade was still going on and Boston merchants and Boston Christians were steeped to their eyebrows in its infamy. He does not know that when our national existence began the feeling against slavery was stronger in the Southern States than in the Northern.
Georgia was the first to prohibit it, but later on the prohibition was repealed. New England carried on the traffic until 1845 — and is doing it yet if they can find a market and can get the rum to pay for them. The last record of a slaver caught in the act was in 1861, off the coast of Madagascar, and it was an Eastport vessel. The slave trade with Africa was for more than a century a favorite and popular venture with our English ancestors.
King James II and King Charles II and Queen Elizabeth all had stock in it, and though Wilberforce and others had laws passed to suppress it, they could not do it. New England and old England secretly carried it on (see Appleton) long after slavery was abolished in the colonies. They could afford to lose half their vessels and still make money.
It is sad and mortifying that our young and middle-aged men, and our graduates from Southern colleges know so little of our antebellum history. The Northern people are equally ignorant of the origin of slavery and the real causes that precipitated the civil war. Most of them have a vague idea that slavery was born and just grew up in the South — came up out of the ground like the seventeen-year-old locusts—and was our sin and our curse.
Not one in ten-thousand will believe that the South never imported a slave from Africa, but got all we had by purchase from our Northern brethren. I would wager a thousand dollars against ten that not a man under fifty nor a schoolboy who lives North of the line knows or believes that General Grant, their great military hero and idol, was a slaveholder and lived off the hire and their services while he was fighting us about ours.
Lincoln’s proclamation of freedom came in 1863, but General Grant paid no attention to it. He continued to use them as slaves until January, 1865. (See his biography by General James Grant Wilson in Appleton’s Encyclopedia.) General Grant owned these slaves in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived.
How many of this generation, North or South know, or will believe, that as late as November, 1861, Nathaniel Gordon, master of a New England slave ship called the Erie, was convicted in New York City of carrying on the slave trade? (See Appleton.)
Just think of it! In 1861 our Northern brethren made war upon us because we enslaved the Negroes we had bought from them; but at the same time they kept on bringing more from Africa and begging us to buy them. How many know that England, our mother country, never emancipated her slaves until 1843, when twelve millions were set free in the East Indies and one hundred millions of dollars were paid to their owners by act of Parliament?
It is only within the last half-century that the importation of slaves from Africa has generally ceased. Up to that time every civilized country bought them and enslaved them. English statesmen and clergymen said it was better to bring them away than to have them continue in their barbarism and cannibalism.
(From The Uncivil War to Date, 1865 to 1903, Bill Arp, Hudgins Publishing Company. 1903, pp 347-353)