Browsing "Antebellum Realities"

The Abolitionists Mad and Fatal Course

Henry Clay, the “great compromiser,” pleaded with the abolitionists to cease their incendiary activities which threatened to disrupt the Union in a speech before the United States Senate in February 1839. The States he labels as “free” were former slave and slave trading States which were offering no peaceful and practical solutions to the African slavery they helped nurture and perpetuate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Abolitionists Mad and Fatal Course

“. . . Abolition should no longer be regarded as an imaginary danger. The abolitionists, let me suppose, succeed in their present aim of uniting the inhabitants of the free States, as one man, against the inhabitants of the slave States. Union on one side will beget union on the other.

And this process of reciprocal consolidation will be attended with all the violent prejudices, embittered passions, and implacable animosities, which ever degraded or deformed human nature. A virtual dissolution of the Union will have taken place, while the forms of its existence remain.

The most valuable element of union, mutual kindness, the feelings of sympathy, the fraternal bonds, which now happily unite us, will have been extinguished for ever.

One section will stand in menacing and hostile array against the other. The collision of opinion will be quickly followed by the clash of arms. I will not attempt to describe scenes which now happily lie concealed from our view. Abolitionists themselves would shrink back in dismay and horror at the contemplation of desolated fields, conflagrated cities, murdered inhabitants, and the overthrow of the fairest fabric of human government that ever rose to animate the hopes of civilized man.

Nor should these abolitionists flatter themselves that, if they can succeed in uniting the people of the free States, they will enter the contest with a numerical superiority that must insure victory. All history and experience proves the hazard and uncertainty of war. And we are admonished by Holy Writ, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But if they were to conquer, whom would they conquer?

A foreign foe – one who had insulted our flag, invaded our shores, and laid our country waste? No, sir; no, sir. It would be a contest without laurels, without glory; a self, a suicidal conquest; a conquest of brothers over brothers, achieved by one over another portion of the descendants of common ancestors, who, nobly pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, had fought and bled, side by side, in many a hard battle on land and ocean, severed our country from the British crown, and established our original independence.

The inhabitants of the slave States are sometimes accused by their Northern brethren with displaying rashness and sensibility to the operations and proceedings of the abolitionists.

[But] Let me suppose that the people of the slave States were to form societies, subsidize presses, make large pecuniary contributions, send forth numerous missionaries throughout all their borders, and enter into machinations to burn the beautiful capitals, destroy the productive manufactories, and sink in the ocean the gallant ships of the Northern States. Would these incendiary proceedings be regarded as neighborly and friendly, and consistent with the fraternal sentiments which should ever by cherished by one portion of the Union toward the other?

Would they excite no emotion? Occasion no manifestations of dissatisfaction? Nor lead to any acts of retaliatory violence?

I beseech the abolitionists themselves, solemnly to pause in their mad and fatal course….let them select some one more harmless, that does not threaten to deluge our country in blood. I entreat that portion of my countrywomen, who have given their countenance to abolition, to….reflect that the ink which they shed in subscribing with their fair hands abolition petitions, may prove but the prelude to the shedding of the blood of their brethren.

I adjure all the inhabitants of the free States to rebuke and discountenance, by their opinion and their example, measures which must inevitably lead to the most calamitous consequences.”

(The South, A Documentary History, Ina Woestemeyer Van Noppen, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958, pp. 258-260)

Spending the Money of Future Generations

Robert Hayne of South Carolina followed Jefferson’s admonition that the national debt was not something to be passed on to future generations; it was considered immoral for a president not to pay the debts incurred under their administrations before leaving office. In encouraging an unending public debt, Daniel Webster, on the other hand, Webster was promoting the American System of Whig politician Henry Clay which would give the government an endless supply of money with which to buy influence and power.  

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Spending the Money of Future Generations

“The gentleman from Massachusetts [Webster], in alluding to a remark of mine that before any disposition could be made of the public lands, the national debt (for which they stand pledged) must be first paid, took occasion to intimate (that Southerners desire to pay the national debt) “arises from a disposition to weaken the ties which bind the people to the Union.”  

But, adds he gentleman, “so far as the debt may have an effect in binding the debtors to the country, and thereby serving as a link to hold the States together, he would be glad that it should exist forever.” Surely then, sir, on the gentleman’s own principles, he must be opposed to the payment of the debt.

Sir, let me tell that gentleman that the South repudiates the idea that a pecuniary dependence on the Federal Government is one of the legitimate means of holding the States together. A monied interest in the Government is essentially a base interest . . . it is opposed to all the principles of free government and at war with virtue and patriotism. In a free government, this principle of abject dependence if extended through all the ramifications of society must be fatal to liberty. Already we have made alarming strides in that direction.

The entire class of manufacturers, the holders of stocks with their hundreds of millions in capital, are held to the Government by the strong link of pecuniary interests; millions of people, entire sections of the country, interested, or believing themselves to be so, in the public lands and the public treasure, are bound to the Government by the expectation of pecuniary favors.

If this system is carried on much further, no man can fail to see that every generous motive of attachment to the country will be destroyed, and in its place will spring up those low, groveling, base and selfish feelings which bind men to the footstool of despots by bonds as strong and as enduring as those which attach them to free institutions. 

(The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 42-43. Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830) 

 

Jackson's Centralized Popular Democracy

Andrew Jackson, the leveling-democrat, set in motion the elevation of the federal agent above its creators. His view that a common and even unfit man could ascend to the presidency predictably misled many others into believing the same. With the Founding generation in their graves, the democracy they feared would transform the republic they wrought.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jackson’s Centralized Popular Democracy

“Last of the Revolutionary generation to hold the Presidency, the last chief to wear a queue and smallclothes, was the self-effacing Virginian, James Monroe. [Andrew] Jackson, duelist, frontiersman, romantic lover, had no illusions about his abilities. “Do they think I am such a damned fool as to consider myself fit for the Presidency?”

But like other military heroes, before and since, he was drafted into the job. He had been a hero in the old Creek War, living on scorns and holding off mutiny with oaths and an unloaded rifle. He had been a fourteen-year-old soldier of the Revolution, watching the slaughter of the Battle of Camden through the logs of a prison stockade.

He was the peoples’ president. It was under Jackson, not Lincoln, that our modern, centralized popular democracy was born. Jackson first gave the laboring man a voice and vote in the ranks of the Democratic party.

Jackson, in his war with the United States Bank, dramatically demonstrated that the power of Big Business could only be countered by big government in Washington.

Jackson called the bluff on the belief of the Southern Nullifiers that the power of a State was superior to that of the general government. Jackson himself was living proof of Jefferson’s doctrine of the natural aristocracy. Yet he perverted that doctrine. He failed to see the genius in himself. He felt that if he, a common man, could handle the Presidency, so could any other common man.

This was a belief highly-acceptable to the proponents of all-out majority rule. It marked the start of the lowering and leveling process which eventually tainted all national leadership, education and mass entertainment. Not since Jackson’s time has the goal of “Jeffersonian democracy” been to ferret out the natural leadership. Instead, the aim has been to prove literally that all men are equal, and to press all down into a single mold of conformity.”

(The Molders, Margaret L. Coit, This Is the South, Robert West Howard, editor. Rand McNally, 1959, pp. 92-93)

 

Andrew Jackson's Pernicious Doctrine

Andrew Jackson may have been another “fire-bell in the night” warning to Americans of presidential power in the hands of someone with independent views of their authority. The grave of Jefferson was barely cold before the Founders’ barriers to democracy had eroded and presidential power predictably increased under vain men; another twenty-eight years beyond Jackson’s Force Bill found a new American republic forming at Montgomery, Alabama.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Andrew Jackson’s Pernicious Doctrine

“But when it came right down to the legality of nullifying the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832 [Senator John] Tyler was far less sure of himself. What he attempted to do was discover and occupy a middle ground on an issue which had no detectable middle. On one extreme of the question Calhoun maintained the legality of both nullification and secession and the unconstitutionality of Jackson’s Force Bill.

[Daniel] Webster, on the other hand, consistently upheld the illegality of secession and nullification and argued the propriety of using force in the circumstance. Tyler upheld the right of secession while denying the right of nullification. But he also denied the right of the federal government to employ force against nullification when it occurred.

Even firm States’ rights Virginians like St. George Tucker could not accept this peculiar dichotomy in Tyler’s thinking. It was a question of either submitting or seceding, and since South Carolina had not seceded, the federal government had no alternative but to compel the State to comply with federal legislation.

. . . Tyler informed Virginia’s Governor John Floyd on January 16, the day Jackson asked for a congressional authorization of force, that:

“If S. Carolina be put down, then may each of the States yield all pretensions to sovereignty. We have a consolidated govt. and a master will soon arise. This is inevitable. How idle to talk of me serving a republic for any length of time, with an uncontrolled power over the military, exercised at pleasure by the President . . . What interest is safe if the unbridled will of the majority is to have sway?”

By February 2 Tyler had warmed further to the theme that General Jackson was seeking to establish a military dictatorship in American. The old 1819 vision of the Man on Horseback returned. “Were men ever so deceived as we have been . . . in Jackson?” He asked Littleton Tazewell. “His proclamation has swept away all the barriers of the Constitution, and given us, in place of the Federal government, under which we fondly believed we were living, a consolidated military despotism . . . I tremble for South Carolina. The war-cry is up, rely upon it . . . The boast is that the President, by stamping like another Pompey on the earth, can raise a hundred thousand men.”

A few days later, on February 6, 1833, Tyler delivered his Senate speech against the Force Bill.

“Everything, Mr. President, is running into nationality. The government was created by the States, and may be destroyed by the States; yet we are told this is not a government of the States . . . The very terms employed in the Constitution indicate the true character of the government. The pernicious doctrine that this is a national and not a Federal Government, has received countenance from the late proclamation and message of the President.

The people are regarded as one mass, and the States as constituting one nation. I desire to know when this chemical process occurred . . . such doctrines would convert the States into mere petty corporations, provinces of one consolidated government. These principles give to this government authority to veto all State laws, not merely by Act of Congress, but by the sword and bayonet.

They would pace the President at the head of the regular army in array against the States, and the sword and cannon would come to be the common arbiter . . . to arm him with military power is to give him the authority to crush South Carolina, should she adopt secession.”

(And Tyler Too. A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler, Robert Seager, II, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963, pp. 92-93)

 

New England Unitarians and Universalists

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a sterling example of serious religious differentiation between North and South as he resigned his pastorate in Boston due to an inability “to conceal disbelief in traditional creeds.” His “emancipated spirit soared” as he demonstrated that a philosopher could attain great heights in intellectual adventures, and believing one’s own thoughts before religious orthodoxy. To “realize the divine in every man, to be a nonconformist, with virtues that were more than penances . . . was his religion.” It would not take long for people like this to ignite open warfare.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

New England Unitarians and Universalists

“The deists of the late colonial period and of the infant republic were usually political radicals as well. They advocated independence, fought in the Revolution, and ended their careers supporting the French Revolution and Jeffersonian democracy. Indeed, Jefferson himself was the arch-deist, and for that reason all the more detested by the New England orthodox Federalist of the Fisher Ames sort.

Unitarianism was even more destructive of orthodoxy than was deism. In New England it cut across both Episcopal and Congregational-Presbyterian churches, taking over many whole congregations complete with clergy and church property. In 1785, the Episcopalian King’s Chapel in Boston turned Unitarian under its pastor, James Freeman, and when Freeman was refused ordination by the Episcopal Church he received it from his own congregation acting as an independent religious organization.

The English traveler, Thomas Hamilton, summarized the usual British estimate of Unitarianism:

“Unitarianism is the democracy of religion. Its creed makes fewer demands on the faith or the imagination, than that of any other Christian sect. It appeals to known reason in every step of its progress, and while it narrows the compass of miracle, enlarges that of demonstration. Its followers have less bigotry than other religionists, because they have less enthusiasm. A Unitarian will take nothing for granted but the absolute and plenary efficacy of his own reason in matters of religion. He is not a fanatic, but a dogmatist . . . and [chooses] religion as one does a hat, because it fitted him.”

Their importance and leadership however, were out of proportion to their numbers, for they were largely of the middle and upper classes, representing both wealth and learning. They were strong in the literary and cultural centers of New England.

If Unitarianism was the faith of the well-to-do, well-educated dissenters from the doctrines of Calvin, the poorer New Englanders with liberal ideas, adopted the Universalism brought to American by John Murray in 1770. There was little difference in theology between the two sects; the Universalist merely placed their emphasis on the denial of hell and the doctrine of universal salvation. There were few Universalist churches in the Eastern cities, but they were numerous in the country districts.

Yale College became a hotbed of radicalism — at least in the eyes of conservative divines. Students called each other by the names of French radicals and met to discuss the progress, perfection, and the rights of man. In the words of the author of a history of a neighboring college, “the dams and dykes seemed to be swept away, and irreligion, immorality, skepticism, and infidelity came in like a flood.”

In 1799 only four or five Yale undergraduates professed religion, and in 1800 there was only one church member in the graduating class. “A young man who belonged to the church in that day was a phenomenon — almost a miracle.” By the end of the century, with the appointment of Henry Ware to the Hollis Professorship of theology, Unitarianism was fairly entrenched in the old training school for Puritan divines.”

(Freedom’s Ferment, Alice Felt Tyler, University of Minnesota Press, 1944, pp. 26-29)

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

In the small plantation communities where African slaves lived and labored it was Southern men like Presbyterian Rev. Charles Colcock Jones who brought them from heathenism to Christianity.  The elder Roswell King mentioned below was a Connecticut native who came South to manage the large antebellum estates of Pierce Butler in Glynn County, Georgia. The son, also named Roswell King, later moved to northern Georgia to establish cotton and woolen mills and the town of Roswell, Georgia still bears his name.  It was Northerner Eli Whitney who made large scale cotton production profitable — which supplied slave-produced material to hungry New England mills.  Manhattan bankers provided easy credit to enable land acquisition for more cotton production.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

“My experience with these people [African slaves] was very large, having been for long years the contract physician on the river plantations where religious opportunities were very limited. In many cases, the Negro preacher or watchman (as they were called) was the only teacher and leader they had. Though on a few of the larger estates, salaried chaplains were employed.

I recollect many years ago being engaged in correspondence on the subject. The Reverend Jones spent many years of his useful life, and liberally of his private resources, in endeavoring to do good to these ignorant and dependent people by religious teaching and preaching.

To reassure him in the self-sacrifice of time and means, he addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Roswell King of Butler’s Island, where there were nearly a thousand slaves, [asking] whether those professing religion were more orderly and faithful than the others.

I commended the pious work in which he was engaged, but it being often at night and involving a long ride, and his health not being strong, I begged him to assign his labors to some lesser light in the church who was more physically able.

There were wider and more congenial fields waiting for him where his education, talents, eminent piety, and zeal in his Master’s service made him an honored and distinguished name to his life’s end.”

(Dr. Bullie’s Notes, Reminiscences of Early Georgia, James Holmes, Cherokee Publishing Company, 1976, pp. 161-163)

Preaching Principles of Extreme Democracy

Contrary to mainstream historical accounts, New England was not friendly toward the abolitionists in their midst and saw them as radical agitators. This region was no stranger to slavery as Providence, Rhode Island was by 1750 the transatlantic slaving center of North America after surpassing Liverpool; Yankee notions and rum were in high demand by African tribes eager to sell their slaves to New England merchants.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Preaching the Principles of Extreme Democracy

“In 1837, not a single meeting house or hall of any size could be obtained for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. It met in the loft of a hotel stable which enabled [William] Garrison to declare, “Abolition today, as on every day, stands upon a stable foundation.” Northern merchants and manufacturers with anti-slavery tendencies were boycotted. A black list of New York Abolition merchants was made out by a committee, and the South was told to withdraw its patronage from these destroyers of the Union.

In most financial circles, a pocket nerve was touched by the outcries of people who had cotton to sell and heavy orders to give. When the South called on the North to stay the Abolition frenzy to meet the wishes of their Southern friends, the first men of Boston called a meeting for August 21, 1835 in Fanueil Hall to discountenance the seditious principles of what even John Quincy Adams at that time wrote down as “a small, shallow, and enthusiastic party, preaching the abolition of slavery on the principles of extreme democracy.”

Miss Prudence Crandall, a Quaker, who was conducting a Ladies Academy at Canterbury, Connecticut, accepted Sarah Harris, a colored girl, as a pupil. The white parents objected and threatened to withdraw their children if Miss Harris were allowed to remain, as they “would not have it said their daughters went to school with a nigger girl.” “The school may sink,” Miss Crandall said, “but I will not give up Sarah Harris.” The white children were withdrawn.

Twenty colored girls arrived at Miss Crandall’s school . . . The irate Canterbury citizens invoked against her the Pauper and Vagrancy Law, one of the early “blue laws” of Connecticut colony. This law required people not residents of the town pay a fine…and if …not paid or the person not gone in ten days, he was to be whipped on the naked body not exceeding ten stripes.

A warrant was issued against one Negro pupil, Eliza Ann Hammond, from Providence.  As Miss Crandall still held here ground . . . a new law was enacted by the Connecticut legislature on May 24, 1833, called the Black Law, prohibiting under severe penalties the instruction of any Negro from outside the State without the consent of the town authorities. When the new law was passed, bells were rung and cannon fired for half an hour. When the [black] students walked out, horns were blown and pistols fired.”

(Prophet of Liberty, Wendell Phillips, Oscar Sherwin, Bookman Associates, pp. 48-52).

Intolerant New Englanders

Upon regaining their moral compass after years of shipping captured Native Americans into West Indian slavery and dominating the transatlantic slave trade, New Englanders found slavery in the South reprehensible and vowed to stamp it out. The Joseph R. Hawley mentioned below became a Northern major general, served as Connecticut governor 1866-67, and then purchased the Hartford Currant newspaper of Thomas M. Day.  Hawley and Day held blacks, Catholics, foreigners and distilled spirits in low regard.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Intolerant New Englanders

“His [editor Day’s] first editorial, January 1, 1855, ran a full column . . . he proposed to “encourage every judicious effort to stay the encroachments of the slave power”; to uphold the prohibition of liquor; to help check the influence of immigrants at the polls; to support a high protective tariff; and to expect little good from President [Franklin] Pierce or his cabinet.

The editor praised the Native American party for going into political battle with the war-cry of “America for the Americans.” He praised the party’s twin aims: “a refusal to be governed by foreigners — a determination not to allow Romanism to decide our elections.” He criticized other editors for not seeing that Irish and German immigrants could undermine the American labor market.

With even greater assurance he wrote: “We believe the Caucasian variety of the human species superior to the Negro variety; and we would breed the best stock . . . the Caucasian variety is intrinsically a better breed, of better brain, better moral traits, better capacity every way, than the Negro, or the Mongolian, or the Malay, or the Red American.”

The Native American motto “America for the Americans” had a different effect on some of the newspaper readers in the Courant’s distribution area. They believed the issues of freedom and human bondage to be far more profound than those of native birth, and they began to look about for a political organization to give force to their view. Their search led directly to the founding of the present Republican party in Connecticut and to the establishment of a newspaper, the Hartford Evening Press, that was destined to merge with The Courant and to infuse new vitality into the old paper.

Day was still blustering at non-Americans when . . . on a cold Monday, February 3, 1856, Joseph R. Hawley, a local attorney who years later was to become one of the owners of The Courant, and John F. Morris, cashier of the Charter Oak Bank, met at the corner of Main and Asylum Streets in downtown Hartford. Both were deeply concerned about the possible spread of slavery into the territories of the West. Morris . . . abruptly asked: “Hawley, isn’t it time that a Republican organization was formed here?” “Yes it is,” Hawley replied, “full time and we must be about it.”

(Older Than the Nation, Life and Times of the Hartford Courant, John Bard McNulty, Pequot Press, 1964, pp. 69-71)

In God's Name, Let Them Go Unmolested

The State of Delaware was a slaveholding State in early 1861 and Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs of Georgia expected that State to adhere to the South in its new experiment in government. Congressmen James A. Bayard and William G. Whiteley were two Delawareans who advocated peace between the sections and sympathy for Southerners seeking a more perfect union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

In Gods Name, Let Them Go Unmolested

“Congressman Whiteley [of Wilmington, Delaware] served on the Committee of Thirty-Three and signed a minority report of that Committee. The minority report was signed by five congressmen, all from either Southern or border States. Whiteley and these congressmen advocated peaceful secession. They believed that:

“. . . the doctrine of the indissolubility of the general government has no foundation in the public law of the world . . . ”

Also, . . .”that no power has been conferred upon the general government, by the Constitution . . . to keep a State in the Union.” They became specific when they stated that: “You cannot coerce fifteen sovereign States . . . That a separation, which has become inevitable, shall be bloodless.”

Whiteley signed a statement advocating the secession of all slaveholding States, including Delaware. Specifically, it proposed that there should be no war, but peaceful separation. Succinctly, they stated their position:

“Whether any State has or has not the right to seceded under the Constitution, it is a matter of fact that four States have already seceded; and that in a few short months — perhaps weeks — all of the other slaveholding States will have in like manner seceded, with the purpose of maintaining their new position, by force of arms, if no adjustment is made of the differences between them and the non-slaveholding States.”

After the firing on Fort Sumter, William G. Whiteley held to his previous position. On June 27 at a mass meeting in Dover he stated:

“In God’s name, let them go unmolested . . . Would Delaware give money or men to hold States as conquered provinces? . . . Could the South be subjected? Never!”

(The Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States, William C. Wright, Associated University Presses, 1973, pp. 86-87)

Impending War Against the American South

Frederick Douglas was an admitted confidant of the murderous John Brown, and escaped into Canada after Brown’s 1859 raid to avoid prosecution for his part as an accessory to violent insurrection against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Douglas followed the path of other abolitionists by fomenting hatred and murder, rather than peaceful and practical efforts to solve the riddle of African slavery established by the British colonial system and perpetuated by New England slavers, cotton mills and Manhattan bankers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Impending War Against the American South

“In a letter to the American Slaves from those who have fled from American slavery, “ [Frederick] Douglas asserted, “When the insurrection of the Southern slaves shall take place, as take place it will, unless speedily prevented by voluntary emancipation, the great mass of the colored men of the North, however much to the grief of us, will be found by your side, with deep-stored and long-accumulated revenge in their hearts, and with death-dealing weapons in their hands . . . We tell you these things not to encourage, or justify your resort to physical force; but simply, that you may know, be it your joy or sorrow know it, what your Northern brethren are, in these important respects.”

The vast majority of black New Yorkers supported John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. In New York, leading black abolitionists such as Douglas, Garnet and McCune Smith had been informed of Brown’s plan. After the raid, black abolitionists published some of the most thoughtful justifications of the right to rebellion against Southern slaveholders.

Douglas argued eloquently, “They have by the single act of slave-holding, voluntarily placed themselves beyond the laws of justice and honor, and have become only fitted for companionship with thieves and pirates — the common enemies of God and mankind.”

(Slavery in New York, Ira Berlin and Leslie Harris, editors, The New Press, 2005, pp. 258-259)