Browsing "Emancipation"

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)