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Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

Author M.E. Bradford wrote that in America, “race (at last as far as the Negro is concerned) has proved to be an almost indestructible identity,” and has led to us stepping away from cherished liberties. He goes on that despite its ill-effect upon our original principles, it was predictable “that liberty, as our tradition understands the term, should begin to reassert its original hegemony, that the oldest of liberties honored among us – rights grounded in the fundament of English inheritance” shall return to favor, “though in new disguises.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

“Jefferson’s fire bell sounded in the legislative darkness, tolling the “knell” of the Union he had so much helped to shape. After Missouri, States achieved full membership in the federal compact only after meeting federally determined prescriptions concerning the status of blacks within their boundaries – conditions not imposed upon the original thirteen and without real precedent in the Northwest Ordinance.

Predictably, Jefferson’s Union did die – in 1861. And in the latter stages of its ruin, the connection between blacks and American millennialism intensified. With Equality (capital E) the new Republic played some verbal and opportunistic games. I leave aside for the moment the merits and demerits of this “second founding.”

For, once completed . . . the Trojan horse of our homegrown Jacobinism was rolled away to some back stall within the stable of received American doctrines. Emancipation appeared to have changed nothing substantial in the basic confederal framework. Neither did it attempt any multiracial miracles.

Most certainly, New England has had its high expectations of a City on a Hill; likewise, even the South owed, from its earliest days, some inertia to a hope of Eden over the sea. Moreover, in company with the frontier States, both regions drew comfort from the idea of a “manifest destiny.” Yet the total nation has, characteristically, despised and rejected who or whatever aspired to dragoon its way to such beatitudes through the instruments of Federal policy.

The only full exception to this rule, I insist, is the “civil rights revolution” of the past thirty years. In connection with the difficult question of the Negro’s place within our social compact, an imperative was discovered, stronger than any ever pressed upon us before: there discovered because the Negro’s lot within that compact was so difficult (and so slow) to improve.

With it we have made fair to force the issue, even if liberty (and its correlatives: law, localism and personalism) loses much of its authority as a term of honor: is diminished especially insofar as it applies to that nondescript but substantial many who captain, man and propel the ship of state.

Of course, as Lenin wrote, the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally. And Lenin’s advice does not function inside our curious native dialect. The only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before a law with limited scope.

In 1820 . . . we took an initial step away from liberty; in 1861-1877, a few more. And from these examples, from our uneasiness at the – to the millennialist sensibility — greatest of built-in American “scandals,” in the post-World War II era we arrived at converting at least one feature of millennialism into a positive goal. To use the late William Faulkner’s idiom we set out to “abolish” the Negro we knew, both as a presences and a problem. The results begin to speak for themselves, the fresh set of insoluble dilemmas which, with each dawning day, cry out for more potent magic than the cures for yesterday’s injustice which spawned them into existence in the first place.”

(Remembering Who We Are; Observations of a Southern Conservative, M.E. Bradford, UGA Press, 1985, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan of New York wrote Calhoun in 1848 that “The feeling toward [the Negro] in the North is decidedly that of hostility. There is no respect for them. No wish for their elevation; but on the contrary a strong desire to prevent the multiplication of the race as far as it is possible to do so . . .” Former New York Governor (and later Union Major-General] John Adams Dix spoke of the “inferior caste” in free States: “Public opinion at the North – call it prejudice if you will – presents an insuperable barrier against its elevation in the social scale . . . A class thus degraded . . . will not multiply . . .” Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot in mid-1846 introduced a bill to ban African slavery from land acquired from Mexico.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

“Closely interwoven with the northern fear of [Southern political] dominance was fear of the Negro himself, and the [Wilmot] Proviso, commonly called the “White Man’s Resolution” by the free-soilers, seems to have expressed a northern desire to keep the territories free not only of slaves, but of the black race.

The rhetoric of the free-soil movement is replete with expressions of hostility toward the Negro. One of the most notable instances occurs in James Russell Lowell’s allegorical treatment of the territorial issue in his enormously popular “Bigelow Papers.”

In this poem Lowell represents the Negroes as “long-legged swine” who ruin the territories, making them uninhabitable for the northern farmer. Anti-Negro expressions also found their way into free-soil platforms, albeit in muted form. The Barnburners Utica [New York] Convention called for preserving the western land “for the Caucasian race,” or in the more popular parlance of Thomas Hart Benton “keeping the territory clean of Negroes.”

One free-soiler assured the House of Representatives that he had little concern for “the degraded and degenerate blacks.”

Northern hostility toward the Negro is likewise revealed in the vehement response to a proposal by Governor William Smith of Virginia to export the State’s freedmen to the North. In his speech representing the great dangers involved in rejecting the Wilmot Proviso, [New York Congressman] George Rathbun referred incidentally to Governor Smith’s proposal.

“What do we say [to it]?” asked Rathbun. He gave the answer: “That there is no territory in the free States belonging to them [the Negroes]; that there is no place for them. As far as New York is concerned, should the refuse part of the population of Virginia reach our territory, we will carry them back to Virginia.”

Smith’s proposal caused such consternation in Ohio that the Democratic minority in the State legislature was almost able to force through a law prohibiting Negro immigration altogether. One Democratic congressman from Ohio . . . appealing to the fear and hatred of the Negro in the North, used Smith’s proposal as a justification for bowing to the will of the South on the Proviso question.

In the North, where the Negro population was relatively small, the means of assuring white supremacy was to exclude the Negro, and when he could not be physically excluded, he was excluded from civic life.

The key to the strong emotional commitment in the North to free soil was the overwhelming fear of the extension of an alien race, as well as of an alien institution, to the point where it would directly affect the Northern people. The Wilmot Proviso had such a strong appeal precisely because it expressed the Northern determination to prevent the spread not only of slavery but of the despised Negro as well.”

(Democratic Politics and Sectionalism, the Wilmot Proviso Controversy, Chaplain W. Morrison, UNC Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 70-73)

Grecian Horses into the Southern Troy

Jefferson Davis served as both a United States Representative and Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War, 1853-1857 under President Franklin Pierce, and President of the Confederate States, 1861-1865. He was a staunch Southern Unionist who strived to find peaceful solutions to the sectional controversies that would lead to secession of the Southern States.  The “Know-Nothingism” mentioned below was a Northern nativist political party of the late 1840s and 1850s which opposed the immigration of Irish and German Catholics — Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts and New Yorker Millard Fillmore were leaders of the party.  The following is excerpted from Jefferson Davis’ address of October 2, 1857 at Mississippi City.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grecian Horses into the Southern Troy

“Colonel Davis rose . . . and referred to various events in the early history of Mississippi . . . that she had never violated the compact of our Union, and unresistingly borne disproportionate burthens for the support of the general government in peace . . . [and] at the first call for soldiers to maintain the honor of the national flag, had, like a Spartan mother, girded the sword upon her sons, who knew well they could never return to the maternal embrace unless they came covered with honorable fame or wrapped in the shroud of death.

[Regarding incessant Northern aggressions borne by the South, were] we to have more compromises to gather further disappointment, and sink still lower from the equality which our Fathers maintained, and transmitted to us? Fraternity and mutual alliance for the interests of each was the motive and purpose for which the Union was formed.

Preparation in the South to maintain her rights in any contingency which the future might and was likely to bring forth, would best serve to strengthen her Northern allies, if they remained true; and would best enable her to dispense with their services, if they should desert.

It was not upon mere party relation that his hopes were founded; it was upon the elevating, purifying power of the doctrine of State rights and strict construction [of the United States Constitution] – the Shibboleth which none but Democrats can pronounce.

In the earlier, and might well be said, in the purer days of the Republic, Mr. Jefferson pronounced the Northern Democracy the neutral allies of the South, and if that alliance was broken there was surely no other on which to rely.

From the foundation of the Government, the party opposed to the Democracy, under its various names and issues had always evinced its tendency to centralization by the latitudinous construction of the powers delegated to the Federal Government.

As examples, he cited the charter of the United States Bank, the enactment of a tariff for protection, a system of internal improvements, a genera distribution of public lands and of public treasure, and last, lowest in tone, and, as its name implied, in intelligence, Know-Nothingism, with its purpose to concede to the Federal Government the power to prescribe the terms on which naturalized citizens should be invested with the right of suffrage in the States.

He said that he considered every departure from strict construction of grants to the Federal Government, as the introduction of another Grecian horse into our Southern Troy, and he invoked every Mississippian to united and vigilant resistance to every such measure.

The South, as a minority section, can alone be secure in her rights by resolutely maintaining the equality and independence of the States, and thus alone could we hope to make our Union perpetual and effective for the great purposes for which it was ordained and established.

He then urged the necessity of home education, of normal schools, and Southern school-books, as the next step after the mother’s pious training in the formation of that character which was essential to progress toward that high destiny to which his anticipation pointed.

If, as was sometimes asserted, Governments contain within themselves the elements of their own destruction, as animate beings have their growth, their maturity to decay; if ours, the last, best hope of civil liberty was, like the many experiments which preceded it, to be engulfed in the sea of time . . . [he hoped] Mississippi would stand conspicuous for all that was virtuous and noble; that through the waves of fanaticism, anarchy and civil strife, her sons would be the Levites who would bear the ark of the Constitution, and when unable to save it from wreck, that in the pile of its sacred timbers their bones would be found mingled.”

(Speech at Mississippi City; The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 6, 1856-1860, L. Crist/M. Dix, editors, LSU Press, 1989, excerpts, pp. 138-139; 153-155)

Dec 4, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Jeffersonian America, Lost Cultures, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

One of the South’s greatest historians, Clement Eaton, viewed Code Duello as evidence of Southerners military-mindedness, cult of virility, and disinclination to use courts to deal with matters of personal honor. Often cited was Andrew Jackson’s mother’s advice to her son: “Never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anyone for slander or assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself!”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sword Cane Versus Jim Bowie’s Knife

“Another hero of the old Southwest was James Bowie, born in Tennessee in 1795, killed in action at the Alamo if 1836. His father, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, operated a small plantation near Elliot Springs, growing cotton, corn, sugar cane, and tobacco. When James was seven years old, the Bowies moved further into the Southwest, seeking more productive soil, bringing their half-dozen slaves along with them. They finally settled outside Opelousas, in Louisiana, and here they prospered.

James and his brothers John and Rezin, Jr., became known as “those wild Bowies,” because of the way they hunted wild cattle with lasso and knife, instead of using the conventional long spear and pistol. Rezin invented the famous Bowie knife, with its ten-inch long, single edged, slightly curved blade, and its guard at the handle. Jesse Cliffe, his blacksmith friend, first made it. But Brother James brought it fame.

The Bowie boys teamed up in 1818 with Jean Lafitte, the pirate leader who had distinguished himself at the Battle of New Orleans. Lafitte, during this period, was operating out of Galveston, in Spanish Mexico; his business was the smuggling of slaves into the United States.

But the most repeated stories concerning James Bowie dealt with his famous knife, which ornamented numerous encounters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For example, there was the fracas of September 18, 1827, which started at Natchez-under-the-Hill, rendezvous of brawlers, gamblers and worse. Eleven Louisianans, bent on arranging a duel between two of their group, met at Natchez to complete plans.

After picking up two doctors they recrossed the river to Louisiana near the village of Vidalia. The duelists were Colonel Samuel Welles and Dr. Thomas Maddox, bitter political opponents in a recent campaign. James Bowie was acting as a second. Pistols were decided upon for weapons.

The duel proper turned into a fiasco when two shots, fired on each side, went wild. The politicians were about to shake hands and forget it all but the spectators had been stirred by the proceedings to remember certain grievances they had against one another.

Suddenly, a Colonel Crain fired at Jim Bowie without warning and wounded him in the thigh; another of Bowie’s enemies, Major Wright, attacked him with a sword cane. Calmly, Jim drew the famous knife and sliced the cowardly Major to the backbone. “Damn you Bowie, you have killed me,” remarked the Major and expired.”

(Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweis, LSU Press, 1949, pp. 196-197)

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

Jefferson Davis, Ardent Unionist

The author below points out that all of Jefferson Davis’ Congressional speeches featured a “strong and outspoken national feeling,” while New England politicians whipped up sectional animosity at every turn. This was seen as well in the war with Mexico as Davis spoke often of the national devotion and heroism of American soldiers in that conflict, though a prominent Northern politician bespoke for the American army, “a welcome with bloody hands to hospitable graves.” Massachusetts refused military honors to Captain George Lincoln, killed at Buena Vista and son of an ex-governor of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Davis, Ardent Unionist

“On the 29th of December [1845], Mr. Davis spoke in a very earnest and impressive manner upon Native Americanism, which he strongly opposed . . . in opposition to [federal] appropriations for improvement of rivers and harbors; upon the Oregon question, and in favor of a resolution of thanks to General [Zachary] Taylor and his army.

On February 6, 1846, the House [of Representatives] . . . having under consideration the joint resolution of notice to the British Government concerning the abrogation of the Convention . . . respecting the territory of Oregon, [was addressed by Mr. Davis]:

“Sir, why has the south been assailed in this discussion? Has it been with the hope of sowing dissentions between us and our Western friends? Thus far, I think, it has failed. Why the frequent reference to the conduct of the South on the Texas question?

Sir, those who have made reflections on the South as having sustained Texas annexation from sectional views have been of those who opposed that great measure and are most eager for this. The suspicion is but natural in them.

But, sir, let me tell them that this doctrine of political balance between different portions of the Union is not Southern doctrine. We, sir, advocated the annexation of Texas from high national considerations. Nor sir, do we wish to divide the territory of Oregon; we would preserve it for the extension of our Union. It is, as the representative of a high-spirited and patriotic people, that I am called on to resist this war clamor.

[If war with Britain ensues] . . . Mississippi will come. And whether the question be one of Northern or Southern, of Eastern or Western aggression, we will not stop to count the cost, but act as becomes the descendants of those who, in the war of the Revolution, engaged in unequal strife to aid our brethren of the North in redressing their injuries . . .

With many of the officers now serving on the Rio Grande he had enjoyed a personal acquaintance, and hesitated not to say that all which skill, and courage, and patriotism could perform, [and] might be expected from them.

“Those soldiers, to whom so many [in New England] have applied depreciatory epithets, upon whom it has been so often said no reliance could be placed, they too will be found, in every emergency renewing such feats as have recently graced our arms, bearing the American flag to honorable triumphs, or falling beneath its folds, as devotees to our common cause, to die a soldier’s death.”

(The Life of Jefferson Davis, Frank H. Alfriend, National Publishing Co., 1868, excerpts, pp. 38-40; 45-46)

 

New England’s Industrial Slaves

Apparently missing the brutal industrial slavery that flourished among them, New England abolitionists, “looking about with an eye long-trained to detect sinners,” began a moral crusade against the aristocrats of the American South who they imagined were mistreating their own laborers. All the ills of Northern society, social, agricultural and financial, were found to originate with the evil slaveholders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England’s Industrial Slaves

“[The] first significant result of the coming of finance-industrial capitalism to [New England] in the years between 1815 and 1844, was the rise of a new and powerful group of business leaders, and the creation of a new and uniquely dependent body of workers.

A decline in commerce made capital available and scattered cotton mills about wherever water power could be found. Profits soared. Successful groups . . . bought up power sites, built machine shops, laid out and built whole factory towns, speculated in lands, projected canals and railroads, and found use for their surplus capital in banking and insurance.

[The Northern merchants] harsh old Calvinistic beliefs gave way to more rational and dignified ones, and their political needs found expression in the conservative doctrines of the Whig party. A new aristocracy of growing wealth and power had come into being.

The young folks who came down from the country to work in the mills soon learned that their move meant . . . Long hours . . . in a poorly ventilated, lint-filled room spent at a single task . . . They also learned that bitter competition between factories in period of depression meant longer hours, more spindles to tend, and reduced wages. To protest or to strike brought lockouts and black lists. By 1844 most New England girls had chosen the latter course, and French Canadian and Irish girls had taken their places.

Workers looked “round them upon the princely palaces and gaudy equipages of the rich” who consumed the fruits of the poor man’s labor without adding to “the common stock a grain of wheat or a blade of grass.”

And when the right to organize was denied by the courts, workers solemnly proclaimed that “the freemen of the North are now on a level with the slaves of the South, with no other privilege than laboring, that drones may fatten on your life blood.”

Sympathy for the workers was [intense]. “There is not a State’s prison or house of correction in New England where the hours of labor are so long, the hours for meals so short, and the ventilation so neglected as in the cotton mills with which I am acquainted,” wrote Dr. Josiah C. Curtis in his report to the American Medical Association.

“Where is the humanity,” asked another. “It is swallowed up in gain – for the almighty dollar, and for this, poor girls are enslaved and kept in a state little better than machinery, [but when they become unable to work they] are laid to one side and new [human] machinery procured.”

And what became of the girl who was laid aside? The Daily Democrat tells us that “while those who reaped the profits” dropped “their heads on the cologne-scented handkerchiefs on prayer and thanksgiving every Sabbath day,” the poor mill-girl came “to Boston to die in the brothel.”

“ . . . At the North, the master has a lash more potent than the whipthong to stimulate the energies of his white slaves: fear of want.” And because the Northern worker did not see his chains, he was none the less a slave.

As one man put it: “When capital has gotten thirteen hours of labor daily out of a being it can get nothing more. It would be a very poor speculation in an industrial point of view to own the [laborers], for the trouble and expense of providing for times of sickness and old-age would more than counterbalance the difference between the price of wages and the expense of boarding and clothing . . . “

“Wages,” added Orestes Brownson, “is a cunning device of the devil for the benefit of the tender conscience, who would retain all the advantages of the slave system, without the expense, trouble and odium of being slaveholders.”

(The Civil War in the Making, Avery O. Craven, LSU Press, 1959, excerpts, pp. 9-16)

“Strangers” and New England Slave Property

Well before African slaves populated the American South in any number, New England’s Puritans were enslaving the Indian tribes whose lands they appropriated. Also, the closed society of New England did not welcome non-Puritans, white, red or black, and once the slave’s labor was done they could be sold for profit and to labor elsewhere. This may offer a clue to New England’s future sweeping itself clean of the slave trade they had nourished and profited from, and blame the institution on the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Strangers” and New England Slave Property

“Slavery began in New England during the first years of settlement in Massachusetts, and thus, the Puritans learned how to be slave owners immediately on arrival. As white New Englanders conquered their new settlements, they enslaved Native American populations both to control them and to draw on them for labor. Although John Winthrop did not immediately see Indians as slaves, it dawned on him quickly that they could be.

Winthrop recorded requests for Native American slaves both locally and abroad in Bermuda. Wars with the Narragansett and Pequot tribes garnered large numbers of slaves. The trading of Indian slaves abroad brought African slaves to Massachusetts shores. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother-in-law and a barrister, welcomed a trade of Pequot slaves for African slaves.

However, the enslavement of American Indians had a different tenor than the enslavement of Africans. The indigenous slaves represented an enemy, a conquered people, and a grave threat to [Puritan] society. African slaves represented a trade transaction, laborers without strings attached. Moreover, Indian slaves . . . served as collateral with which to negotiate with Native leaders. Further [Puritan] colonists could expel troublesome Native slaves out of the colony, or they could just control them as slave property.

[In] Massachusetts first legal code, the 1641 Body of Liberties . . . outlawed slavery among the Puritans. However, the exceptions of strangers (foreigners who lacked protection from the king) and war prisoners gave an opening to enslave other human beings.

The exception in the case of war prisoners gave the colonists direct permission to enslave Indians . . . such as in the Pequot war they had just concluded. Conveniently the slave trade had already begun to spread strangers throughout the Atlantic world.

[Most] Puritans sought a homogenous society that made any kind of stranger feel unwelcome [and] Puritans’ efforts to expunge untrustworthy members with white skin were legendary. Men and women from other cultures with different skin tones posed a more complicated dilemma. The cultural differences of Africans and Native Americans automatically made them undesirable additions to the closed Puritan societies.

As King Philip’s War drew to an end in 1678 . . . [it had] brought in a huge number of [Indian] slaves. Hoping to socialize Indian children, Plymouth’s council of war forced them to apprentice in white families. The council sold hundreds more Indians to Spain, Jamaica, and the Wine Islands.”

(Tyrannicide, Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts, Emily Blanck, UGA Press, 2014, excerpts, pp. 12-14)

Jim Crow’s New England Origins

Indian and African slavery was a primary factor in the development of New England commercial economic prosperity, “the key dynamic force,” as colonial historian Bernard Bailyn wrote. He added that “Only a few New England merchants actually engaged in the [transatlantic] slave trade, but all of them profited by it, lived off it.” With the influx of African slaves into Puritan society, laws and codes had to be developed to cope with the “strangers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jim Crow’s New England Origins

“The rapid rise in the number of slaves at the dawn of the eighteenth century caused Massachusetts leaders to take action. Spiritually, slavery proved an obstacle for the local ministers, as some congregants began to question whether a Christian should own another Christian.

In 1693, Cotton Mather took on the challenge of Christianizing the heathen population without ending enslavement. In his 1701 pamphlet, The Negro Christianized, Mather assured nervous masters that conversion did not free the slave. Mather’s vision of slavery . . . idealized the relationship between master and enslaved . . . [and] promised that if owners mistreated their slaves “the Sword of Justice” would sweep through the colony.

In 1701, Boston, which had the largest slave population in the colony, began passing municipal laws aimed at setting standard limits on slave behavior . . . They could not drink alcohol, start fires, or assemble. So as to not hamper slave owners’ profits of property rights, slaves were whipped rather than imprisoned, a punishment that few whites suffered in the early eighteenth century.

As slaves became more numerous . . . the colony of Massachusetts responded in similar fashion to Boston by passing legislation to control the behavior of African slaves. The legislature feared that a “turbulent temper in spirit” would grow into “an opposition to all government and order.” The law targeted assemblies at night, begging, and starting fires. In the eyes of the legislators, blacks, free and enslaved, posed the greatest threat to the good order of society.

Having children was also difficult for enslaved women from New England. Masters found childbirth inconvenient and actively discouraged it, which contributed to the low birth rate among African Americans in Massachusetts.”

(Tyrannicide, Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts, Emily Blanck, UGA Press, 2014, excerpts, pp. 15-16)

Slaves Doing the Business of New England

The scale of New England trade to the West Indian sugar plantations was nothing short of astonishing, with nearly 80 percent of all overseas exports supporting slave-labor sugar production. By this time as well, the Narragansett region of Rhode Island and neighboring Connecticut both developed their own plantation systems employing African slaves as forced labor.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slaves Doing the Business of New England

“At the same time that John Winthrop left England to establish his city on the hill, another group of Puritans left England for the Caribbean. While the New England colonists shipped beaver pelts, codfish, and timber back across the Atlantic, the West Indies group ended up on Providence Island raising tobacco and cotton, using slave labor.

Europeans . . . prized sugar [that was slave-produced in the West Indies]. The crop roared its way across the Atlantic like an agricultural hurricane. It denuded islands of their forests and siphoned hundreds of thousands of Africans into slavery to feed a boundless, addicted market.

Between 1640 and 1650, English ships delivered nearly 19,000 Africans to work the fields in Barbados. By 1700, the cumulative total had reached 134,000. The pattern was repeated on other islands. Jamaica, barely populated when the English invaded it in 1655, had absorbed 85,000 African slaves by 1700. The Leeward Islands, including Antigua, took 44,000.

That same year a Boston ship made one of the earliest known New England slave voyages to Africa, delivering its cargo to Barbados. The Puritans thought about using captive labor for themselves. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother-in-law, advised Winthrop: “I do not see how we can thrive until we get a stock of slaves sufficient to do all our business.”

Although residents of New England and Middle Atlantic States owned slaves and trafficked in slaves, they profited more from feeding the increasingly large numbers of Africans in the West Indies and providing the materials to operate the sugar plantations and mills.

The flow of commerce between America, Africa and the West Indies entered history as the Triangle Trade. In its classic shape, Northern colonies sent food, livestock, and wood (especially for barrels) to West Indian sugar plantations, where enslaved Africans harvested the cane that fed the refining mills.

Sugar, and its by-product molasses, was then shipped back North, usually in barrels made of New England wood and sometimes accompanied by slaves. Finally, scores of Northern distilleries turned the molasses into rum to trade in Africa for new slaves, who were, in turn, shipped to the sugar plantations.”

 

(Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, Profited from Slavery, Farrow, Lang, Frank, Ballantine Books, 2006, excerpts, pp. 46-49)