Browsing "Enemies of the Republic"

Not Knowing What Free Government Was

In 1876, the anti-Catholic Senator James G. Blaine of Maine introduced an amendment to the Constitution that would prevent States from establishing an official religion, especially Catholicism. Blaine regularly expressed hatred toward the South and was notorious for his “bloody shirt” tirades in Congress. His proposed amendment failed to muster sufficient votes after a Senator from Kentucky explained free government to Blaine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Not Knowing What Free Government Was

“[Proposed] Article XVI:  No STATE shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under any State.”

Mr. Randolph, of New Jersey said: “The amendment proposed by the Judiciary Committee is an altogether different affair from that the people have asked for or the press discussed. It opens, if adopted, many grave questions . . . I can take no part in any such legislation, save to attempt to prevent it.”

Mr. Kernan, of New York said:  “I ask the attention of Senators to the leading principle or idea which the wise men who framed the Constitution of the United States followed in framing it. The framers . . . believed . . . that it was wiser and better that the people of the several States should reserve to themselves and exercise all those powers of government which related to home rights, if I may use that term, to the internal affairs of the State, to the regulating of domestic relations . . . in a word, that the people of each State should have the exclusive power to manage their local and internal affairs as they thought best for their own happiness and prosperity.

I think all experience shows how wise this was and is. I will answer frankly that I believe that the matter of educating children may be wisely left to the people of each State.  [This amendment] in my judgment, instead of allaying strife and dissention, it will increase them and bring evil to our schools, to our institutions, and to the people of our country.

Mr. Whyte, of Maryland said: “[T]he first amendment to the Constitution prevents the establishment of religion by congressional enactment; it prohibits the interference of Congress with the free exercise thereof, and leaves the whole power for the propagation of [religion] with the States exclusively . . .”

Mr. Stevenson, of Kentucky said: “While I impugn no man’s motives here, a religious discussion, appealing to passions which do not in my judgment belong to a deliberative body . . . seems to be out of taste, and to be accompanied by no practical good.  Friend as he was of religious freedom, [Jefferson] would never have consented that the States which brought the Constitution into existence, upon whose sovereignty this instrument rests . . . should be degraded and that the government of the United States, a government of limited authority, a mere agent of the States with proscribed powers, should undertake to take possession of their schools and of their religion; and had the speech of the honorable Senator . . . been uttered before Mr. Jefferson, he would have told him that he did not know what free government was.

No sir; this power is not in the Federal Government. Kentucky does not want New England and other States to dictate to her what her schools shall be or what her taxes shall be, and least of all what her religion shall be . . . But when you undertake to bring to the Federal Government the power of making the States hewers of wood and drawers of water you destroy the whole foundation-stone upon which this government was reared and upon which only it can be preserved.”

(Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia, 1876, US Congress, D. Appleton & Company, 1881, pp.176-180)

 

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).

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

Ample evidence suggests that exterminating Southerners and repopulating their lands with New Englanders was desired by abolitionist radicals like Eli Thayer and Parson Brownlow. The latter wanted Negro troops under Ben Butler to drive Southern men, women and children into the Gulf of Mexico to clear the way for those loyal to Lincoln’s government to settle on confiscated Southern lands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Destruction, Confiscation and Genocide

“For many [Southern] manufacturers, the personal and financial losses of the Civil War were truly overwhelming. At Roswell, Georgia, [Northern-born] Barrington King found upon his return from refugeeing farther South, away from Sherman’s destructive swath across that State, that “going towards the creek to see the destruction of our fine mills, all destroyed, the loss of two sons, another wounded, & one with a broken wrist, all caused by the late unnatural war, made me sad indeed.”

Duncan Murchison, the former proprietor of the Little River factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina, lamented, “the fortunes of war have snatched away nearly the whole of my property – my cotton factory, store house, ware-houses, turpentine distillery, with all the stock on hand, were burned by Genl Sherman’s army, and my grain, provisions and stock taken by the two contending armies.”

With six bullet wounds himself, William H. Young of Columbus’s [Georgia] burned Eagle factory also “suffered much and heavily in the recent war by the loss of children and property.”

Ralph Brinkley, who fled the Memphis Wolfe Creek mill upon the entrance of federal troops into Tennessee, wrote the president that he “suffered heavily by the war, and by the loss of two lovely children” and was weighted down with grief and affliction.” The psychological and economic trauma was made more acute by the uncertain political atmosphere in the North.

Eli Thayer, once a confidant of John Brown, wrote [President Andrew] Johnson that Confederate lands should quickly be confiscated and immigrants settled on them. The president at times seemed to endorse treason trials and massive confiscations.

Following the complete occupation of the former Confederacy in the summer of 1865, Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch approved extensive seizures of property that fell under the terms of [the Northern confiscation acts since 1861]. Secretary McCulloch, responsive to Andrew Johnson’s insistence that treason be made odious, ruled that State and locally-owned properties in the South were also alienated and liable for confiscation by virtue of their use in the rebellion.

In North Georgia, [Barrington] King observed, as did others across the South, that many freedmen were “leaving their masters’ plantations, crops ruined, no one to do the work – all flooding to the cities and towns, expecting to be supported by Govt.” Although accommodating to free labor, he believed that “without some law compelling the Negroes to work for wages, there will be trouble in another year, as the poor creatures expose themselves, become sickly & fast dying off.”

Then high mortality rate for freed people in the summer of 1865 convinced King and many managers that blacks could not survive without supervision.”

(Confederate Industry, Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War, Harold S. Wilson, University of Mississippi Press, 2002, excerpts, pp. 234-237; 252-253)

 

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)

The South More Cheated Than Conquered

The enemies of the American South fought to preserve a fraternal Union which no longer existed, and forced that South under despotic Northern rule with bayonets. The North’s politicians claimed that the Southern States had not left the Union and only had to send its representatives back Washington — and all would be as before. The following is an excerpt from Senator B.H. Hill’s 18 February 1874 address to the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South More Cheated than Conquered

“[The] Northern States and people were not satisfied with [slavery abolished throughout the South]. The war being over, our arms surrendered, our government scattered, and our people helpless, they now determined not only to enlarge the issues made by the war and during the war, but they also determined to change those issues and make demands which had not before been made . . . they now made demands which they had, in every form, declared they could have no power or right to make without violating the Constitution they had sworn to support, and destroying the Union they had waged war itself to preserve.

Over and over during the war they proclaimed in every authoritative form to us and to foreign governments, that secession was a nullity, that our States were still in the Union; and that we had only to lay down our arms, and retain all our rights and powers as equal States in the Union.

We laid down our arms, and immediately they insisted our States had lost all their rights and powers in the Union, and while compelled to remain under the control if the Union, we could only do so with such rights and powers as they might accord, and on such terms and conditions they might impose.

Over and over again during the war they, in like authoritative forms, proclaimed that our people had taken up arms in defense of secession under misapprehension of their purposes toward us, and that we only had to lay down our arms and continue to enjoy, in the Union, every right and privilege as before the mistaken act of secession.

We laid down our arms and they declared we were all criminals and traitors, who had forfeited all rights and privilege, and were entitled to neither property, liberty or life, except through their clemency!

Over and over again during the wat they, in like authoritative forms, proclaimed that the seats of our members in Congress were vacant, and we had only to return and occupy them as it was both our right and duty to do.

Our people laid down their arms and sent on their members, and they were met with the startling proposition that we neither had the right to participate in the administration of the Union, nor even to make law or government for our own States!

Addressing this Society in Virginia, during the last summer, Mr. (Jefferson) Davis said: “We were more cheated than conquered into surrender.”

The Northern press denounced this as a slander, and some of our Southern press deprecated the expression as indiscreet! I aver tonight, what history will affirm, that the English language does not contain, and could not form a sentence of equal size which expressed more truth. We were cheated not only by our enemies; but the profuse proclamations of our enemies, before referred to, were taken up and repeated by malcontents in our midst – many of them too, who had done all in their power to hurry our people into secession.

Oh, my friends, we were fearfully, sadly, treacherously, altogether cheated into surrender! If the demands were made, after the war was over, had been frankly avowed while the war was in progress, there would have been no pretexts for our treacherous malcontents; there would have been no division or wearying among our people; there would have been no desertions from our armies, and there would have been no surrender of arms, nor loss of our cause. Never! Never!”

(Southern Secession and Northern Coercion, the Spitefulness of Reconstruction, Senator Benjamin H. Hill, Society for Biblical and Southern Studies, 2001 (original 1874), pp. 9-11)

The Inscrutable William Seward

It has been said that antebellum Southern politics were for the most part honest and ruled by responsible statesmen, but Reconstruction forced Southern leaders to unfortunately descend into the mud in order to successfully oppose carpetbag regimes and Radicals. The high-toned sense of serving the public good can be seen in Jefferson Davis, who acted from conviction alone; while William Seward was more interested in manipulating public opinion and serving his own twisted ends. The former was an American patriot who struggled to save the Constitution and Union of the Founders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Inscrutable William Seward

“It was on one of these visits that Mr. Seward said a most remarkable thing to me. We were speaking of the difficulty men generally had in doing themselves justice, if not cheered on by the attention and sympathy of the audience. Mr. Seward said . . . it is rather a relief to me to speak to empty benches.”

I exclaimed, “Then, whom do you impersonate?” [Seward replied] “The [news]papers . . . I speak to the papers, they have a much larger audience than I, and can repeat a thousand times if need be what I want to impress upon the multitude outside; and then there is the power to pin my antagonists down to my exact words, which might be disputed if received orally.”

Another day he began to talk on the not infrequent topic among us, slavery . . . I said, “Mr. Seward, how can you make, with a grave face, those piteous appeals for the Negro that you did in the Senate; you were too long a schoolteacher in Georgia to believe the things you say?”

He looked at me quizzically, and smilingly answered: “I do not, but these appeals, as you call them, are potent to affect the rank and file of the North.” Mr. Davis said, very much shocked by Mr. Seward’s answer, “But Mr. Seward, do you never speak from conviction alone?”  “Never,” answered he. Mr. Davis raised up his . . . head, and with much heat whispered, “As God is my judge, I never spoke from any other motive.”

After this inscrutable human moral, or immoral, paradox left us, we sat long discussing him with sincere regret, and the hope that he had been making a feigned confidence to amuse us. He [Seward] frankly avowed that truth should be held always subsidiary to an end, and if some other statement could sub serve that end, he made it. He said, again and again, that political strife was a state of war, and in war all stratagems were fair.

About this time Mr. Seward came forward into greater prominence, and became the most notable leader of the Republican party. Mr. [James] Buchanan said: “He was much more of a politician than a statesman, without strong convictions; he understood the art of preparing in his closet and uttering before the public, antithetical sentences, well-calculated to both inflame the ardor of his anti-slavery friends and exasperate his pro-slavery opponents . . . he thus aroused passions, probably without so intending, which it was beyond his power to control.”

(Jefferson Davis, A Memoir By His Wife Varina, N&A Publishing, 1990, excerpts, pp. 580-652)

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

Of German and English parentage, Lincoln’s chief of staff Henry W. Halleck married the granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and in early 1861 was worth $500,000 from a career in railroads and banking. He predicted that the North “will become ultra anti-slavery, and I fear, in the course of the war will declare for emancipation and thus add the horrors of a servile war to that of a civil war.” While Halleck directed the propaganda war and often withheld casualty figures from the Northern press, Lincoln’s Secretary of State William H. Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries to fight against Americans struggling for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Propaganda to Sustain the Northern War Effort

“Politically, Old Brains served Lincoln well. When the President decided to fire a general he had Halleck sign the order; thus the general’s supporters blamed Halleck for the dismissal. Lincoln liked to assume a pose of weakness and simplicity and to give the impression that others were controlling him. When friends enquired about a military move, Lincoln would say, “I wish not to control. That I now leave to General Halleck,” or “You must call on General Halleck, who commands.”

To Horatio G. Wright, commander of the [Northern] garrison at Louisville, Kentucky, Halleck clarified the issue: “The Government seems determined to apply the guillotine to all unsuccessful generals.” Ruefully he added: “It seems rather hard to do this where a general is not in fault, but perhaps with us now, as in the French revolution some harsh measures are required.” Halleck’s realization demonstrated his growing insight of the necessary interrelation of war and politics in a democracy.

[Halleck] struggled for efficiency against [an] entrenched and powerful enemy, the [Republican] politicians, who wanted to include the army in the spoils system.

Writing to a civilian who was active in army reforms, Francis Lieber, Halleck expressed a fear that the governors would build up a “northern States rights party that would eventually overpower all Federal authority.” He had cautioned Lincoln, but “no heed [was] given to the warning,” and now “approaching danger is already visible.”

Since the North was in legalistic confusion during the war, there were other areas where Halleck needed [Prussian liberal Francis Lieber]. The government’s official policy that the Southern States had not withdrawn from the Union, meant that the Confederate armies were mere rebellious mobs and were therefore not protected by established rules of civilized warfare.

But Union generals could not slaughter every captured Confederate, or their own men would receive similar treatment when they were seized. The Northern populace needed a heavy diet of propaganda to sustain their fighting spirit and the government had to cater to them. The Confederacy’s inadequate prison camps . . . were the soup de jour on the propagandists’ menu.

Halleck contributed his share of atrocity stories. In his annual report for 1863, he said that the North treated Rebel prisoners with “consideration and kindness,” while the Confederates stripped Union officers of blankets, shoes even in winter, confined them in “damp and loathsome prisons,” fed them on “damaged provisions, or actually starved [them] to death.”

Others were murdered “by their inhuman keepers,” and the “horrors of Belle Isle and Libby Prison exceed even those of “British [floating prison] Hulks” or the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” Southerners [he claimed] applauded these “barbarous” acts as a “means of reducing the Yankee rank.” Laws of war justified retaliation and the “present case seems to call for the exercise of this extreme right,” he concluded.

[Halleck’s] General Orders No. 100 were entitled] “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field,” [and] Southerners denounced it for legalizing crime [committed by Northern forces]. [Lieber, like Clausewitz] believed that total war could not and should not be limited [and] said that restrictions on violence – such as General Orders 100 – were “hardly worth mentioning.”

(Halleck, Lincoln’s Chief of Staff, Stephen E. Ambrose, LSU Press, 1990 (original 1962), pp. 65; 88; 102; 104; 128-131)

Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder

As one of Lincoln’s cabinet members, Gen. Henry Halleck advised him in mid-1862 that enlistments had ceased and few new volunteers were to be had. A new system was devised to attract “patriots” and the large enlistment bounties paid by New York State alone accumulated a bounty-debt of $26 million, and the overall Northern debt from bounties was nearly $3.5 billion. In addition, Ireland, England and Europe were scoured for Lincoln’s patriots.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Searching for Irish Cannon-Fodder

“The Federal government encouraged [the Irish immigration] movement not only to relieve labor shortages but to replenish the ranks of the Union army, which by 1863 had been seriously depleted by casualties and desertions (It is important to note that General Halleck had admitted in 1862 that enlistments had ceased, and few new volunteers were to be had) . . . There is no doubt that the North relied heavily on immigrant soldiers. The best evidence of this lies in a study of the correspondence between [Secretary of State William] Seward and Federal representatives abroad. In May 1861, Henry S. Sanford, American Minister to Belgium, suggested to Seward that as the Lincoln administration apparently intended to rely primarily on volunteers for the army, it was not too early to look abroad for recruits . . . and the Confederates quickly took note of it [as] Dudley Mann, Southern Commissioner to Belgium, informed his government that Federal agents were busy in Ireland and Central Europe.

On August 22, 1862, Thomas A. Dudley, US Consul at Liverpool, informed Sanford that an agent, E. Bell, would guarantee fifty thousand Irish recruits — for a consideration — and urged Sanford to come to Liverpool to close the deal.

John Bigelow, American consul general at Paris advised Seward late in August 1862 to send all Federal consuls in Europe full particulars about bounties paid to volunteers . . . Mercenary soldiers were uppermost in Seward’s mind, for on September 19, 1862 he wrote Bigelow that “to some extent this civil war must be a trial between the two parties to exhaust each other. The immigration of a large mass from Europe would of itself decide it.” While it was an easy matter to entice Irishmen to the United States, it was equally easy to enlist them on arrival. Simply informing the penniless immigrants of the large bounties was often sufficient. Even more attractive were the large sums offered by speculators who secured substitutes for Northerners who wished to avoid the draft.

[Often] the immigration authorities simply detained unwilling prospective recruits for specious reasons until they were either destitute or desperately in debt to unscrupulous loan sharks. At this point the enlistment bounties became indispensable to the immigrant. Confederate counteractivity was intensified in July 1863 when Secretary of State Judah Benjamin dispatched Lt. J.L. Capston as a special agent to Ireland. A native of Ireland . . . Capston was to inform the Irish masses by every means he could “of the true purposes of those who seek to induce them to emigrate.”

(The Unequal Duel: Union Recruiting in Ireland, 1863-1864, Charles P. Cullop, Civil War History, June 1967, Volume 13, Number 2; pp. 101-107)

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

In early 1926 a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Pennsylvania protested placing a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol near George Washington. Lee surpassed the latter as a military leader as he fought the grand armies whose intentions were destroying the very republic Washington helped create.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

“The following, taken from the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, disposes of the recent emanations from that GAR Post in Pennsylvania which seemed to feel the need of getting before the public in some vicious way. Doubtless this was soothing:

“Somebody ought to take up a collection and transport to Washington the members of that GAR Camp in Pennsylvania which recently declared that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country and the military leader of an armed rebellion against the government of the United States having as its object the destruction of the Union, and if Robert E. Lee had received his just dues he would have been hanged and the scaffold preserved as a monument to his infamy.

Those provincial fire-eaters would find that, with the approval of the Congress of the United States of America, representing forty-eight sovereign States, the statue of Robert E. Lee stands near to that of George Washington — par nobile fratum — in the Capitol in Washington. In all the history of the world there have not been two great men so much alike.

Indeed, as has been said, “Washington was lonesome in heaven until Lee arrived.” Both were rebels against authority; both fought honorably.  If Washington had lost, he still would have been the great figure he is. Lee’s fame rises higher because of failure to attain his objective, because in defeat he had a nobility and grandeur unequaled except by that of Washington in victory.

If Lee was an “arch traitor,” so was George Washington. It is good company, and the superheated Pennsylvanians will live to see the day they will be ashamed of their resolution.”

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

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)