Browsing "Emancipation"

Blackout of Honest Government

Even Northerners saw the ill-effects of a vindictive postwar Reconstruction which reduced a free people to bondage and political despotism. It appears that Northern army commanders also felt remorse at what they had wrought in the destruction of the American South. A minority report of a Congressional committee declared that “History, till now, gives no account of a conqueror so cruel as to place his vanquished foes under the domination of their former slaves. That was reserved for the radical [Republican] rulers in this great Republic.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Blackout of Honest Government

“Psychologically and in every other respect the Negroes were fearfully unprepared to occupy positions of ruler-ship. Race and color came to mean more to them than any other consideration, whether of honest government, of justice to the individual, or even of ultimate protection of their own rights.

Negroes on juries let color blind them, and the rejected the wisest counsel, Northern and Southern, against banding together politically, instead of dividing on issues and policies of government . . . but Negroes proscribed their own race if any voted Democratic — their preachers excommunicating them, their womenfolk bringing all their feminine powers to play against them, and Loyal Leagues intimidating and doing violence to them.

Their idea of the new order was “De bottom rail’s on de top, An we’s gwine to keep it dar.”

Carpetbaggers were as little desirous of promoting Negroes into high office in the South as their Northern colleagues were in their States; and Scalawags, actuated by racial antipathies more than Carpetbaggers, objected to Negroes holding any offices. Both were quite desirous that Negroes vote – but not for Negroes.

A Georgia Negro wrote [Massachusetts Senator] Charles Sumner [in 1869] that there was no other place in the Union where there were so “many miserable hungry unscrupulous politicians . . . and if they could prevent it no colored man would ever occupy any office of profit or trust.” Even so, Negroes frequently held offices far beyond their capacity to administer them.

Radical leaders imposed their views on the Negroes . . . [the Dalton Georgia Citizen wrote on 10 September 1868 that] ”every man knows that the Republican party, under the lead of God, President Lincoln and General Grant, freed the whole colored race from slavery; and every man knows anything, believes that the Democratic party will, if they can, make them slaves again.”

A Carpetbagger characterized Henry M. Turner, preacher, politician and [who] presided at many Negro conventions, as a “licentious robber and counterfeiter, a vulgar blackguard, a sacreligous profaner of God’s name, and a most consummate hypocrite. Yet the Negroes elected him to the Georgia legislature — if he had received his deserts, he would have gone to the penitentiary; he was a thief and a scoundrel, and yet they voted for him.”

“If the colored people have not the elements of morality among them sufficiently to cry down on such shameless characters, they should not expect to command the respect of decent people anywhere.”

General William S. Rosecrans, amidst a [postwar] Confederate atmosphere at White Sulphur Springs, asked General Lee, in writing, whether he thought the South must in reality be ruled by “the poor, simple, uneducated, landless freedmen” under the corrupt leadership of whites still worse. Lee and thirty-one other prominent Southerners signed an answer declaring their opposition, basing it on no enmity toward the freedmen, “but from a deep-seated conviction that at present the Negroes have neither the intelligence nor other qualifications which are necessary to make them depositories of political power.”

As for Federal commanders, Rosecrans, Sherman, George H. Thomas, George G. Meade, Winfield S. Hancock, George B. McClellan, Don Carlos Buell, Henry W. Slocum, John A. McClernand, William S. Franklin and others either were silently ashamed or expressed their abhorrence of what was going on. The editor of Scribner’s Monthly saw Southerners in despair and he blamed the Federal government: “They feel that they were wronged, that they have no future, and they cannot protect themselves, and that nothing but death or voluntary exile will give them relief.”

The editor of The Nation by 1870 had come to view the South with a different light from that of 1865. In the South the people had forgotten “that in free countries men live for more objects than the simple one of keeping robbers’ hands off the earnings of the citizen.” There people were worse off than they were in any South American republic; for in the latter place tyrants could be turned out through the right of revolution, but the South with the army on its back could no longer resort to this ancient remedy.

Southerners must continue to suffer enormities “which the Czar would not venture toward Poland, or the British Empire toward the Sautals of the Indian jungle.” The North with all its charities had done less good than the Carpetbaggers had done harm.

[Carl] Schurz had learned much since his first visit to the South in 1865. He saw fearful acts perpetrated against the South, all in the name of patriotism, and particularly in Louisiana, “a usurpation such as this country has never seen, and probably no citizen of the United States has ever dreamed of.”

(History of the South, Volume VIII: The South During Reconstruction, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947, (142-146; 160-161)

No Sacrifice Too Great for Independence

Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin was one of the most vocal advocates of arming the slaves to fight the North and offering freedom in return for defending their country. He said in February 1865, “Let us say to every Negro who wishes to go into the ranks on condition of being made free, “Go and fight – you are free.” Let us imitate [the Yankees] in this. I would imitate them in nothing else.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Sacrifice Too Great for Independence

“On 12 October [1864] a radical editorial appeared in the [Richmond] Sentinel. Probably influenced by [Judah P.] Benjamin, it wrote that the South “would sooner sacrifice slavery a thousand times than to be conquered by the Yankees and have it sacrificed by them. If it becomes necessary we can enlist the Negro element on our side. We can make all the offers that the Yankees can, and some they cannot.”

Other editorials in somewhat similar vein followed on 14 and 24 November – after Lincoln had been re-elected and Sherman was marching to the sea. In the latter editorial the Sentinel flatly advocated the arming of the slaves in case General Lee and the other military authorities felt it was necessary for Southern success.

The Negroes who fought in the ranks were to be given their freedom at the end of the war. For it was not a case, the Sentinel said, where the Confederate people could cling to pre-conceived notions and prejudices about slavery. If they did not arm the Negroes to fill their depleted ranks, they were likely to lose their independence, and no sacrifice was too great to keep them from getting under the Yankee yoke.

Simultaneously with the appearance of these editorials the Confederate Congress had assembled on 7 November, and Jefferson Davis, reputedly on Benjamin’s suggestion, recommended the employment of 40,000 slaves in the army but not to be used as soldiers except in the last extremity; after the war they were to be emancipated.

It was an opening wedge for the use of large numbers of Negro troops in the Confederate ranks . . . [and] General Lee, Governor Smith of Virginia, Senator Brown and Benjamin argued ably for the measure on the ground of military necessity. In a letter on 21 December to his old college-mate Frederick Porcher of Charleston, who had written him primarily to urge the arming of the slaves, Benjamin indicated that President Davis was only waiting for public opinion to ripen on the subject.

Early in February, 1865, the Confederate peace commissioners, Judge Campbell, Alexander H. Stephens, and R.M.T. Hunter, returned from their unsuccessful meeting with Lincoln and Seward at Fortress Monroe. A mass meeting was then held in the African Church at Richmond on 9 February to rally the people for a further desperate effort. The African Church, then the largest auditorium in Richmond, was frequently borrowed from its Negro members for such assemblies.

{Judah Benjamin spoke] “I want all the bacon, everything which can feed soldiers, and I want it as a free gift to the country. Talk of rights! What rights do the arrogant invaders leave you? Look to the trenches below Richmond. Is it not a shame that men who have sacrificed all in our defence should not be reinforced with all the means in our power? Is it any time now for antiquated patriotism to argue refusal to send them aid, be it white or black?

I wish to call your attention to some figures, which I wish you to seriously ponder. In 1860 the South had 1,664,000 arms-bearing men. How many men have the Yankees send against us? In 1861, 654,000; in 1862, 740,000; in 1863, 700,000; in 1864 they called out 1,500,000.

Here you have the figures that they brought out 3,000,000 men against 1,664,000 Confederates., who lived at the beginning of the war to draw sword in their country’s service. Our resources of white population have greatly diminished, but you had 680,000 black men of the same ages, and could Divine prophesy have told us of the fierceness of the enemy’s death grapple at our throats, could we have known what we now know, that Lincoln has confessed, that without 200,000 Negroes which he stole from us, he would be compelled to give up the contest, should we have entertained any doubts upon the subject?”

Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman, Robert Douthat Meade, Oxford University Press, 1943, pp. 305-307)

 

Black Soldiers on Both Sides

The first black unit, including black line officers, in the War Between the States was the Louisiana Native Guards of New Orleans, accepted into State service by Governor Thomas D. Moore on May 2, 1861. The Daily Crescent assured its readers that “They will fight the Black Republicans with as much determination and gallantry as any body of white men in the service of the Confederate States.”  The author below illustrates that black men served on both sides.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Soldiers on Both Sides

“Chapter XX: In Which is Recalled the Fact Negroes Served on Both Sides In That War and Yankee Recruiters Fished a Long Way From Home and Hardly Got Their Bait Back.

The Civil War wasn’t entirely a white man’s fight. Negroes served in both the Federal and Confederate forces. Soon after Edmund Ruffin pulled the trigger at Charleston, Negroes tried to enlist in both the Northern and Southern armies but their services, as was the case in the Revolution, were at first declined.

This attitude changed rather quickly in the North. The Federal Congress, in July of 1862, passed a law permitting the enlistment of Negro troops. Their pay at first was fixed at $10 a month compared to $16.50 for white troops. Fred Douglas protested to Lincoln and Old Abe told him that if he were a Negro he’d be glad to fight for his freedom free of charge. Douglas and the other Negro leaders continued to protest and the pay differential was wiped out.

Negro troops were used in the main by the North for garrison duty and labor forces and, after Appomattox, for occupation duty in the South; but they saw action in 250 battles and skirmishes, including the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg in which Negro troops were scheduled to have led the charge after that mine was exploded. They missed the assignment due to a foul-up in orders.

Northern governors sent 1,405 agents into captured areas of the South in an attempt to recruit Negro slaves to help fill their State draft quotas but business was mighty poor. They worked for several months but got only 5,052 recruits. When the war ended there were 178,975 Negroes in the Yankee armies, comprising 116 regiments.

In the South, free Negroes came forward at first in large numbers to offer their services to the Confederacy. Richard Kennard of Petersburg gave $100. Jordan Chase, of Vicksburg, gave a horse and authorized the government to draw on him for $500. Down in New Orleans, Thomy Lafon gave $500. An Alabama Negro gave 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. At Charleston a little Negro girl gave twenty-five cents. Confederate war bonds found many Negro subscribers (The Negro in the Civil War, Quarles).

Negroes by the thousands were employed in Southern war factories. Free Negroes were paid the prevailing wage. Slaves impressed into service were given food, shelter and clothing and their owners paid $25 a month. If a slave ran away or died, the owner was paid $354.

Negroes in the South rendered their greatest service to the Confederacy by tilling the farms and taking care of the folks at home while the white men were at the front. The slaves could have ended the War overnight had they chosen to rise in rebellion. Southern armies would have headed back home en masse at even the rumor of such a development.

As the War dragged on, the need for men became finally so desperate the Confederate Congress, acting on the recommendation of General Lee and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, passed a law in March of 1865 authorizing enlistment of Negroes, both slave and free.

They were to be paid the same as white troops; and slaves, if they remained loyal through the War, were to be set free. President Davis signed the law on March 13. It was less than a month before Lee’s surrender.”

(Then My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 49-50)

Martin Van Buren and Racialized New York Politics

Free black persons in the antebellum North lived under what could be termed “Jim Crow” laws, with New York machine politician Martin Van Buren leading the way to disenfranchise free blacks by creating discriminatory property holding requirements for their race. Van Buren was the son of Abraham Van Buren of Kinderhook—tavern keeper, Revolutionary War veteran, and New York slaveholder.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Martin Van Buren and Racialized New York Politics

“But some Southern blacks also realized the limits of freedom and equality in New York City. James P. Thomas, an enslaved black barber in Nashville, was more independent than most . . . [operating] his own business [and] returning a set portion of his earnings to his owner. When a white patron in Tennessee offered a generous payment if Thomas would accompany him and his family on a Northern sojourn in the 1840’s, Thomas agreed, hoping to save sufficient funds to secure freedom for himself and for several other family members.

In his post-Reconstruction autobiography, Thomas conveys a sharp sense of the awkward position in which black Southerners found themselves in free New York. He wrote of New York with a mixture of admiration for the vitality of city life and an unexpected sense of anger over the status and treatment of black Northerners. In particular, Thomas was enraged at being ousted from a theater, remembering, “I felt as though I would like to meet another man who would have the affrontry to advise me to run away to live in New York.”

The State’s 1821 constitutional convention — which enfranchised all New York’s adult white men while simultaneously maintaining the property requirements for African American men — racialized New York politics. The new political landscape, which would soon lead to the ascendancy and then dominance of the Democratic party in New York and nationally, rested upon the bedrock of racial exclusion.

Convention delegates, led by future president of the United States Martin Van Buren, justified the removal of property qualifications for most of New York’s property-less men by enacting a $250 property-holding requirement that applied exclusively to New York’s African American men. Van Buren, in particular, argued that “democracy” only made sense with racial exclusion. Thus the coming of mass democracy in New York . . . coincided with the designation of African Americans as a politically subordinate caste.”

(Slavery In New York, Ira Berlin & Leslie Harris, editors, The New Press, 2005, pp. 274-275)

 

 

New Masters from New England

The Northern abolitionists and the African slave met for the first time at Beaufort, South Carolina, and the former came face to face with what Jefferson Davis earlier pondered regarding what to do with the emancipated slave. The planters warned their hands “that the Yankees would treat them as slaves and sell them to Cuba,” a prediction that nearly became true.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

New Masters from New England

“The revolution began with considerable destruction of property. The Negroes on many plantations . . . broke the cotton gins [and] in other cases they began looting their master’s houses and furniture, and activity which the federal soldiers took up enthusiastically . . .

The [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase’s] correspondence during the months following the fall of Port Royal showed him that the government would gain the support of an ever-increasing segment of the public through sterner war measures: “Wagons, cattle, Horses, Provisions, Negroes not excepted, in short everything useful to our army ought to be appropriated . . . advised one correspondent, who sharply criticized the government for looking “more to a peace through compromise, than to a . . . . victory of arms.”

Certainly [President Lincoln’s] cautious treatment of the issue in his message to Congress offered little encouragement. He threw the problem of defining the new status of the Negroes at Port Royal and others in their situation into the lap of Congress, and then asked that provisions be made to colonize the liberated Negroes “in a climate congenial to them.” Small wonder it was that Chase turned his first attention to contraband cotton rather than to contraband Negroes.

The rapid change in their status was not working to the advantage of many Sea Island Negroes . . . as the [Northern] army had made free use of plantation food stores, leaving many in the slave communities with little to eat. Commodore DuPont reported than numbers of the nearly ten thousand Negroes on the islands were by late winter “almost starving and some naked or nearly so . . .

Having no place to turn, they flocked to the neighborhood of the army camps [where] they were as often treated badly as offered employment and help. The New York Tribune’s correspondent reported that one enterprising and unscrupulous [Northern] officer was caught in the act of assembling a cargo of Negroes for transportation and sale in Cuba, thus giving one example of to bolster the late slave-masters’ prediction.

Something had to be done. If the land should lie fallow and the Negroes idle for long past the middle of February, there would be no cotton in 1862, and the Negroes would have to be supported by the government or charity, thus giving the opponents of emancipation a very good argument.

[Some saw in the Northern oversight of continued cotton production] arrangements the outlines of a typical graft opportunity, to achieve its classic form in the “company store” of a later day . . . and it was “of the utmost importance” that [the Negroes] should be kept busy “at the work which they have been accustomed to do . . . “

[One Northern agent] reported that the Sea Island Negroes knew all the steps involved in the cotton culture and that the great majority of them were ready to work, “with proper inducements.” They needed the help and protection of white men, however, in [his] opinion, and a good system of management. The Negroes were no longer slaves . . . Although they were “as yet in large numbers unprepared for the full privileges of citizens . . . “

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction, The Port Royal Experiment, Willie Lee Rose, Vintage Books, 1964, excerpts, pp. 16; 18-25; 29)

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island

The aristocratic landholders who were unwilling to share the vote in Rhode Island were among those who made their fortunes in the slave trade of Providence and Bristol, exchanging New England rum for African slaves on the Ivory Coast. They saw their ill-gotten fortunes and all public monies become the target of the newly-enfranchised democrats, both natives and recent immigrants. Neither wealthy or poor-white Rhode Islanders viewed free black citizens as worthy of voting rights.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island:

“[April 17, 1842]:  I was struck with the lively interest he [William Ellery Channing, Unitarian minister, of Boston] took in the political affairs of Rhode Island, — a neighboring State, containing about 110,00 inhabitants, and now convulsed by a revolutionary movement [the Dorr Rebellion] in favor of an extension of the suffrage. The sympathies of Dr. Channing appeared to lean strongly to the popular party, which, in his opinion, had grievances to complain of, however much, by their violent proceedings they had put themselves in the wrong.

Although the State has been flourishing, it is entirely free from debt, a large majority of the people have, for the last forty years, called loudly on the privileged landholders to give up their exclusive right to voting, and to extend the suffrage to all adult males, in accordance with the system established in all the neighboring States. Their demands did not differ very materially from those which the legislature was willing to concede, except that the democrats claimed the suffrage, not only for every American-born citizen, but also for the new-comers, or the settlers of a few years standing. Both parties agreed to exclude the free blacks.”

(Sir Charles Lyell, Travels in North America in the Years 1841-1842, (New York, 1845), I, pp. 83-84)

 

Antebellum Abolition in North Carolina

The British colonial labor system of African slavery was on the wane after the Revolution, and North Carolinians were active in emancipation and colonization efforts.  The latter operation desired a return of Africans to their homeland, from which they were removed by British and New England slavers.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Antebellum Abolition in North Carolina:

“So far as the records show, it was not until 1715 that the General Assembly acknowledged the existence of slavery in the [British] Province [of North Carolina] and gave it a definite legal status. In 1774 . . . the Assembly passed a law which made the willful and malicious killing of slaves punishable upon conviction in the Superior Court by twelve months imprisonment for the first offence, and death without benefit of clergy for the second.

This law was amended in 1791, so as to render one convicted of the willful and malicious killing of a slave guilty of murder for the first offence and subject to the same penalty as for the murder of a free man . . . in 1817, “the offence of killing a slave” was “denominated and considered homicide” [as in] common law.”

Trial by jury was not extended to slaves until 1793 . . . Crimes trivial in their nature, not deserving punishment greater than a whipping, were entrusted to a single magistrate; crimes partaking of a greater degree of turpitude were committed to the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions . . . ”

F.L. Olmsted, perhaps the closest observer of the slave regime in the [1850’s], remarked that slavery in North Carolina had more of a patriarchal character than in any other State. The humanization of the slave code as regards his life and members of slaves may be attributed to numerous causes. In the first place, the increasing monetary value of the slave caused him to be an object of greater solicitude to his master.

In the second place . . . The Quakers [in North Carolina] were almost constantly importuning the legislature to provide more liberal emancipation laws. The American Colonization Society, with several branches in North Carolina, not only worked for the uplift of the free Negro, but after 1825 was equally interested in securing the emancipation of slaves for the purpose of colonizing them in Liberia. The work of the American Colonization Society was ably supplemented by the North Carolina Manumission Society until about 1834, when, as a result of abolition activity in the State this society ceased to exist.

From 1783 to 1830, it was not uncommon for distinguished North Carolinians to condemn slavery as a moral and economic blight and to express the desire of seeing it put in the way of ultimate extinction. James Iredell, speaking in behalf of ratifying the Federal Constitution in 1788, went as far as to say that the entire abolition of slavery would be “an event which must be pleasing to every generous mind and every friend of human nature.”

The editor of the Raleigh Register, in answering the query “Ought slavery to exist?” said: “We presume but few would answer in the affirmative, and still fewer would be found to advocate the practice as being right in itself or to justify it except on the broad plea of necessity. That it would conduce equally to the interest and happiness of the slaveholding States to get rid of this part of our population none will deny.”

Humanizing the Slave Code, R.H. Taylor, North Carolina Historical Review, July, 1925, pp. 323-330)

Nov 17, 2014 - Emancipation    No Comments

The First Emancipation Proclamation in America

The first emancipation proclamation in America was issued by Lord Dunmore in 1775 to acquire needed troops and incite race war among the American colonists and African slaves.  The second emancipation proclamation in America was issued by Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane on 2 April, 1814 for the same purpose. The third came from Abraham Lincoln who was probably aware of the first two.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The First Emancipation Proclamation in America

“John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia . . . In April, 1775, when a patriot throng was threatening to seize a store of ammunition in Williamsburg . . . suggested that slaves who rose up against their patriot masters and bore arms for the king might gain their freedom. “By the living God, if an insult is offered to me or those who have obeyed my orders,” the governor warned, “I will declare freedom to the slaves and lay the town in ashes.”

A recurring fear among wealthy landowners of the South was that a ferocious slave rebellion would explode across the region. Janet Schaw commented in the summer of 1775 that the Whigs were insisting that the British had promised “every Negro that would murder his Master and family that he should have his Master’s plantation.” In June of that year the Wilmington Committee of Safety sent out “Patroles to search for & take from Negroes all kinds of Arms whatsoever.”

On November 7, 1775, safely aboard ship in Norfolk Harbor, the governor issued a proclamation announcing that all able-bodied, male slaves in Virginia who abandoned their Whig masters and took up arms for the king would be free . . . ”Negroes and others (appertaining to Rebels) free, that are able to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper sense of duty to His Majesty’s crown and dignity . . . ” “Hell itself could not have vomited anything more black than this design of emancipating our slaves,” wrote a patriot newspaper correspondent.

In May 1775 . . . South Carolina [Whigs] reported that word had arrived from friendly sources in London that the British were concocting a slave uprising and an Indian assault against the colonists. “Words, I am told, cannot express the flame that this occasioned amongst all ranks and degrees; the cruelty and savage barbarity of the scheme was the conversation of all companies,” proclaimed William Bull, Royal governor of South Carolina.

Moderates such as Robert Carter Nicholas in Virginia, who had been most reluctant to sever his ties with Great Britain, became convinced of the need for separation because of Lord Dunmore’s disregard for the right of property . . . Even the yeoman farmers of Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, most of who had no expectation of owning slaves, were now more likely to accept characterizations of the Virginia governor as a sneering, leering tyrant who epitomized the insolent, uncaring British bureaucrat.”

(Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, Dan L. Morrill, N&A Publishing, 1993, pp. 31-33)

 

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