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Unwelcome in Chicago

The wartime and post-World War One migration of Southern black’s northward in search of work revealed that the racial diversity common to the South was unwelcome in Chicago, and black people in that city endured untold violence to keep them out.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unwelcome in Chicago

“The Negro has ceased to invade Chicago from the South in the overwhelming numbers of the war and post-war years. A measure of stability is being achieved by the Negro population of Chicago which ranges somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000. Decline of the southern migration has tempered the anxiety of the white neighbors of the Negro. The colored man has shown a greater capacity for amicable citizenship than his more apprehensive white neighbors believed him capable of.

The colored man refused to be confined within a ghetto defined by his white neighbors and he defied all the economic and social pressure applied to keep him there. He demonstrated that he had the money to invade territory once monopolized by whites and the courage to stay there in the face of bombs which wrecked his homes, churches and business places. He persisted in the face of cold-shouldering from his neighbors.

Negroes are therefore to be found in all parts of the city. Hundreds of Negro families live in health-destroying abodes but that is due to lack of income which to avail themselves of the numerous dwelling places open to them – not to excess of home-seekers over homes.

There are still neighborhood efforts to keep the Negroes out of certain sections of the south side – out of the region south of 60th Street and east of South Parkway, for example . . . Such exclusion efforts as are made seem to be along economic lines – that is, by preserving property values. Bombings are almost unheard of and the check upon Negro invasion of white territory is in part imposed by Negro leaders, who feel that the race has “taken over” as much territory as it can wholesomely assimilate for some years to come.

Dr. George Cleveland Hall and Alexander L. Jackson, Negro property holders with extensive knowledge of south side business and social conditions, take issue with the widely-held view that Negro penetration of a district means depreciation of property values. “Panic stricken white property holders in a changing district often let alarmist realtors talk them into selling their property at a loss “because the Negroes are coming in,” Dr. Hall conceded. “Dealers have made fortunes by fanning these fears and then reselling the property at enormous profit . . . ”

In the slum districts one will see many tenements which the Negro residents do not keep up as neat as the even those uninspiring abodes might be made. These are better homes which indicate deterioration under Negro occupancy. Negroes deplore this, but observe that these shiftless tenants have their white prototypes.

All along Calumet, Prairie, Indiana and Michigan Avenues, sand blasters are at work cleaning up the houses which once were reckoned the city’s finest, but have not enjoyed a face-washing for twenty years.”

(Notes by Carroll Binder on Chicago and the New Negro, Journal of Negro History, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts, pp. 214-215; 220-221)

The South to Receive a Proper Education

After conquering and humiliating the South, the North’s next step was to re-educate the rising generations of Southern youth while herding the freedmen into the Republican Party to ensure political supremacy in the conquered region. The South’s history had to be rewritten; “its history was tainted by slavery and must be abjured,” and Southern children must learn to speak of “our Puritan fathers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

“For ten years the South, already ruined by the loss of nearly $2 billion invested in its laborers, with its lands worthless, its cattle and stock gone, its houses burned, was turned over to the three millions of slaves, some of whom could still remember the taste of human flesh and the bulk of them hardly three generations removed from cannibalism. These half-savage blacks were armed.

Their passions were roused against their former masters by savage political leaders like Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania], who advocated the confiscation of all Southern lands for the benefit of the Negroes, and extermination, if need be, of the Southern white population; and like Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts], whose chief regret had been that his skin was not black.”

Not only were the blacks armed, they were upheld and incited by garrisons of Northern soldiers; by Freedmen’s Bureau officials, and by Northern ministers of the gospel, and at length they were given the ballot while their former masters were disarmed and, to a large extent, disenfranchised.

For ten years, ex-slaves, led by carpetbaggers and scalawags, continued the pillages of war, combing the South for anything left by the invading armies, levying taxes, selling empires of plantations under the auction hammer, dragooning the Southern population, and visiting upon them the ultimate humiliations.

After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished with peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different – something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit.

That too must be invaded and destroyed; So there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write “error” across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.

Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University, regarded the South as “the new missionary ground for the national school-teacher,” and President Hill of Harvard looked forward to the task for the North “of spreading knowledge and culture over the regions that sat in darkness.”

The older generations, the hardened campaigners under Lee and Jackson, were too tough-minded to re-educate. They must be ignored. The North must “treat them as Western farmers do the stumps in their clearings, work around them and let them rot out,” but the rising and future generations were to receive a proper education in Northern tradition.”

(The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley; I’ll Take My Stand, The South and the Agrarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners, LSU Press, 1977 (original 1930), pp. 62-63)

Uncontrolled Power of the Radicals

While the Northern States held African slaves there was no external anti-slavery agitation that threatened them with slave revolt and race war — those States settled their slavery question peacefully and in their own time. The American South wanted to peacefully resolve the question as well but faced relentless agitation fomenting slave revolt and race war by Northern fanatics. After crushing the South militarily, assuring Northern political control of the country required harnessing the freedmen to the Republican Party, and the notorious Union League was the vehicle to accomplish this. The Ku Klux Klan was the predictable result of the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncontrolled Power of the Radicals

“While [President Jefferson] Davis was suffering . . . in his prison cell . . . like a dark cloud in the sky was the determination of the Northern Radicals to prevent [Andrew Johnson’s] moderate policy [toward the defeated South]. In a letter to Thomas F. Bayard, on 11 November 1865, Benjamin, referring to the grave Negro problem which had remained after the emancipation of the slaves, said:

“If the Southern States are allowed without interference to regulate the transition of the Negro from his former state to that of a freed man they will eventually work out the problem successfully, though with great difficulty and trouble, and I doubt not that the recuperative energy of the people will restore a large share of their former material prosperity much sooner than it is generally believed.”

Yet he added this warning:

“But if [the Southern people] are obstructed and thwarted by the fanatics, and if external influences are brought to bear on the Negro and influence his ignorant fancy with wild dreams of social and political equality, I shudder for the bitter future which is now in store for my unhappy country.”

A year afterwards, in late October 1866, Jefferson Davis was being treated more humanely, but Benjamin wrote [James H.] Mason that he greatly feared “an additional rigorous season, passed in confinement should prove fatal.” And he added bitterly:

“It is the most shameful outrage that such a thing should be even possible, but I have ceased hope anything like justice or humanity demands from the men who seem now to have uncontrolled power over public affairs in the United States. I believe [Andrew] Johnson would willingly release Mr. Davis, but he is apparently cowed by the overbearing violence of the Radicals and dare not act in accordance with his judgment.”

(Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman, Robert Douthat Meade, Oxford University Press, 1943, excerpts, pp. 340-342)

 

Terror, Looting and Banishment in Tennessee

The General Payne (Paine) below was an Ohio lawyer and prewar friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was formally reprimanded for brutality toward civilians in Kentucky, and known to have allowed Southern prisoners to ride away on old horses and chasing them down to be killed.    Mrs. T.J. Latham later became president of the Tennessee Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy and State Agent for the Jefferson Davis Monument Fund. She also raised funds for the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Terror, Looting and Banishment in Tennessee

“Mrs. Latham was married at her home in Memphis just at the beginning of the war to T.J. Latham, a young attorney and Unionist of Dresden, Tenn., their home till the close of war.

Dresden was debatable ground, subject to raids by “bushwhackers” and “guerillas,” one week by one side, and the next week by the other. These incursions, frequent and without notice, were sometimes to arrest “disloyal” citizens and always to secure every good horse, or any moveable article they could make available.

From these harassing surroundings, Mr. Latham sought refuge by making Paducah his home, but passing much of his time in New York. The notorious Gen. [Eleazer A.] Payne was in charge at Paducah, and soon became a terror to every one suspected of being a Southern sympathizer. Soon after the famous Forrest raid into Paducah, Payne’s reign became much more oppressive and unbearable. Nero in his prime did not exceed him in heartless cruelty.

The couple with whom Mr. and Mrs. Latham boarded also came from Dresden. They were highly estimable people and had a son in the army. [The gentleman] was quite old and feeble, and under excitement subject to apoplectic attacks. Payne had him arrested. [His wife] fainted and he became alarmingly excited, appealing to Mrs. Latham to go with him, fearing, he said, that Payne’s Negroes would shoot him.

She went, and the first sight that confronted her at headquarters was a lovely woman at on her knees at Payne’s feet, praying for the release of her son, who was arrested the day before while plowing in the field a few miles from the city. Being refused, she asked what in deepest anguish: “What will you do with him?”

“Have him shot before midnight, Madam, for harboring his brother, who is a Forrest Rebel,” and executed his threat.

Mrs. Latham was more fortunate, securing the release of her friend; but Gen. Payne then, addressing her, said he would pardon her and furnish carriage and the best white escort, if she would return to her home in Dresden and point out the Rebels.

Instantly she replied: “Never! Sooner than betray my country and three brothers in the army, I would die!”

Turning savagely to Mrs. Latham, he said: “You will hear from me soon, and T.J. Latham though now in New York, will be attended to. He is a fine Union man to have the impudence to visit Gen. [Napoleon] Dana, at Memphis, my commanding officer; and, with others, induce him to annul my order that no person having sons or brothers in the Southern army should engage in business of any kind in the Paducah district. I will teach him a lesson in loyalty he will remember.”

Next morning a lieutenant went to Mrs. Latham’s and ordered her to get ready, as Gen. Payne had banished her with about ten other women to Canada. He advised her that he had selected Negro soldiers as a guard. The white captain wired for meals for his “prisoners.” At Detroit the militia was ordered out to insure the safe transportation of a dozen women and children prisoners across to Windsor. On landing, John [Hunt] Morgan and many of his men and others gave them a joyous greeting, and at the hotel they sang Dixie war songs till a late hour.

Thence Mrs. Latham went to New York to join her husband. Mrs. Payne advised [her husband and others] of Payne’s despotic rule, and it was soon known to “honest old Abe” and Gen. Grant. A committee of investigation and a court-martial soon followed, with the speedy relief of Paducah of the most obnoxious and cruel tyrant.

In [Gen. Payne’s] desk were found letters [to his subordinates] saying: “Don’t send any more pianos or plated silver or pictures; all the kin are supplied. But you can send bed linen and solid silverware.”

(United Daughters of the Confederacy, Annual Convention at Montgomery, Alabama; Confederate Veteran, December, 1900, pp. 522-523)

 

Effecting a Change of Masters

The examples of Jamaica and Haiti were clear to most in the antebellum period, though the abolitionists seemed unconcerned with the predictable result of emancipation in America. With the result of Lincoln’s revolution, the African slave had only changed masters as he became the chattel and ward of the now all-powerful federal government at Washington. The Republican party now needed the freedmen’s vote to ensure their victory at the polls, and worked ruthlessly through its Union League to keep Republican ballots in black hands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Effecting a Change of Masters

“It is scarcely in the power of human language to describe the enthusiastic delight with which the abolitionists, both in England and in America, were inspired by the spectacle of West India Emancipation. We might easily adduce a hundred illustrations of the almost frantic joy with which it intoxicated their brains [but we might also illustrate] how indignant [the abolitionist] became that others were not equally disposed to part with their sober senses.

In one day, probably seven hundred thousand of human beings were rescued from bondage to full, unqualified freedom. The crowning glory of this day was the fact that the work of emancipation was wholly due to the principles of Christianity. The West Indies were freed, not boy force, or human policy, but by the reverence of a great people for justice and humanity.

[The good people of the free States] did not go into raptures over so fearful an experiment before they had some little time to see how it would work. They did, no doubt, most truly and profoundly love liberty. But then they had some reason to suspect, perhaps, that liberty may be one thing, and abolitionism quite another. Liberty, they knew, was a thing of light and love; but as for abolitionism, it was, for all they knew, a demon of destruction.

We shall begin with Jamaica. The very first year after the complete emancipation of the slaves of this island, its prosperity began to manifest symptoms of decay. The abolitionist not only closed his eyes on every appearance of decline in the prosperity of the West Indies, he also seized with avidity every indication of the successful operation of his [emancipation] scheme, and magnified it to both himself and to the world.

[But] “Shipping has deserted her ports; her magnificent plantations of sugar and coffee are running to weeds; her private dwellings are falling to decay . . .”It is impossible [to not arrive] at the conclusion that the freedom granted to the negro has had little effect except that of enabling him to live at the expense of the planter so long as anything remained. Sixteen years of freedom did not appear to its author to have “advanced the dignity of labor or of the laboring classes one particle,” while it had ruined the land, and this great damage had been done to the one class without benefit of any kind to the other.”

In relation to Jamaica, another witness says: “The marks of decay abound . . . People who have nothing, and can no longer keep up their domestic establishments, take refuge in the abodes of others, where some means of subsistence are still left;. . . the lives of crowded thousands appear to be preserved from day to day by a species of miracle.

We might fill volumes with extracts to the same effect. We might in like manner point to other regions, especially to Guatemala, to the British colony on the southern coast of Africa, and to the island of Hayti, in all of which emancipation was followed by precisely similar events. By the act of emancipation, Great Britain paralyzed the right arm of her colonial industry. The laborer would not work except occasionally, and the planter was ruined. The morals of the Negro disappeared with his industry, and he speedily retraced his steps toward his original barbarism. All this had been clearly foretold.

Precisely the same thing had been foretold by the Calhoun’s and Clays of this country. The calmest, the profoundest, the wisest statesman of Great Britain likewise forewarned the agitators of the desolation and the woes they were about to bring upon the West Indies. But the madness of the day would confide in no wisdom except its own, and listen to no testimony except the clamor of fanatics. Hence the frightful experiment was made . . .

But what is meant by freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases.”

The magnificent colony of St. Domingo did not quite perish . . . the entire white population soon melted, like successive snowflakes of snow, in a furnace of that freedom that Robespierre had kindled. The atrocities of this awful massacre have had, as the historian has said, no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the [white] male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.”

The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had themselves roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.

[In the new independent Negro state, the lands] were divided out among the officers of the army, while the privates were compelled to cultivate the soil under their former military commanders . . . No better could have been expected except by fools or fanatics. The blacks might preach equality, it is true, but yet, like the more enlightened ruffians of Paris, they would of course take good care not to practice what they had preached.

Hence, by all the horrors of their bloody revolution, they had only effected a change of masters. The white man had disappeared, and the black man, one of their own race and color, had assumed his place and his authority.”

(Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1856, pp. 229-278; reprinted 2000 by www.confederatereprint.com)

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

The carpetbagger class was not the only alien fixture of postwar Texas. Edmund J. Davis was a former district judge in Texas who raised a regiment of Texas cavalry for the enemy and led the postwar “radical faction” of blacks and Texas scalawags. Davis was widely despised and one who, in the words of one loyal Texan, “led armies to sack and pillage their own State.”  The North’s Union League organized freedmen into a solid political bloc to support Republican candidates for office; the Ku Klux Klan was organized to oppose the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

“Passed over [President Andrew] Johnson’s veto on March 2, 1867, the First Reconstruction Act divided the former Confederate States, except [Johnson’s home State of] Tennessee, into five military districts and declared the existing civil governments in these States to be only provisional. Congress combined Texas with Louisiana into the Fifth Military District under the command of General Philip H. Sheridan.

The advent of Congressional Reconstruction shocked and angered Texas conservatives. Disregarding the four years of Civil War just ended, the Conservatives, or Democrats, now charged the northern Republicans with unleashing with “fanatical malignity” a “stupendous revolutionary scheme.” [To add fuel to the fire] Freedmen’s Bureau agents throughout the State continued to chronicle the many “sad complaints” of the freedmen and the routine “fearful state of things” in their respective districts.

[Texas freedmen and] often influential, newly arrived northerners (mostly former or current United States soldiers or officers whom Conservatives called “carpetbaggers”) held mass meetings of blacks and formed secret local Union Leagues for mobilizing the black Republican electorate.

Republican fortunes depended squarely on the leadership of the most stouthearted of the freedmen. Republican hopes also hinged on excluding from the voting lists every unqualified ex-Confederate. [Republicans leaders] denied that problems had arisen in some counties in finding competent registrars who could take the required “ironclad oath” that they had never voluntarily supported the Confederacy. (The vast majority of Texas white men in 1867 would not have been able to take this oath.)

[By] the end of January 1868, local boards throughout the State had registered about 89 percent of the black adult males, or 49,550 freedmen. A common charge made by Conservatives . . . was that blacks had been “registered with little regard for age.”

[Republican mobilization] of the freedmen had been a success. Texas blacks flocked to the polls and voted in large enough numbers to validate the holding of the constitutional convention. On the days of the election when blacks arrived en masse to vote, many county seats had the look of what one observer called an “African settlement.”

In Travis County, a group of Webberville blacks, dramatically led by their leader holding a sword and the national flag, came to the polls armed and on horseback. Upon their arrival, the local postmaster handed their leaders “Radical” ballots stamped on the back with “the United States Post Office stamp” so that the illiterate among their followers would be able to identify them as genuine Republican tickets.

White registrants avoided the polls in droves: over two-thirds i=of them sat out the referendum balloting. The turnout showed that most Texas whites did not consider that they had a genuine voice in the election or that they simply did not care.

(The Shattering of Texas Unionism, Politics in the Lone Star State During the Civil War Era, Dale Baum, excerpts, pp. 161-163; 172; 175)

British Philanthropic Hypocrisy

Replying to Hinton Helper’s “Impending Crisis,” Elias Peissner chastised the British for the hypocrisy of emancipating African slaves while still oppressing its Hindu subjects in India. John C. Calhoun in 1844 saw British emancipation as combining philanthropy, profit and power, and a belief that free labor would reduce overhead and increase profit. In British Jamaica, freedmen bankrupted plantations by not being industrious, and England then promoted wholesale emancipation to cripple or destroy her more successful trade rivals, the French and Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

British Philanthropic Hypocrisy

“We are not yet through with the Testimony of England, who is always loudest in condemning our Slavery. We will give her a fair hearing. How closely she watches those poor Hindoos! How effectually she keeps them down, whenever they express any dissatisfaction with the happiness she forces upon them!

She has instituted among those “half-naked barbarians” an awful solidarite’, by which the province is responsible for the labor of all its men and women. But still, England is philanthropic! She has carried rails and Bibles, free-schools and steamboats, telegraphs and libraries to India, all for the benefit of those half-naked barbarians!

And should telegraphs and Bibles not have the requisite effect of happyfying, opium will be administered to them, and to “all the world, and to the rest of mankind.” She will no longer permit those savage Hindoos to roast as witches wrinkled old women, for she knows too well from her own experience, the unfairness of such proceedings; nor does she, in these days, allow anywhere the Hand of Justice to cut the ears of those who speak against State or Church. Now, this is decided progress!

England is the civilizer and Christianizer of the world! To be sure, there is still robbing and flogging, murdering and starving enough in the “dominions of the Gracious Queen, where the sun never setteth;” but England, nevertheless, dislikes Slavery in general, and Negro Slavery in the United States in particular, and her lords and ladies are ever ready to eat and drink with the poor commoners of the West, eager of philanthropic royalty!

But England emancipated her slaves in the West India Islands! She expended 20,000,000 [pounds], we suppose, from sheer philanthropy, and may we ask: Whom did her philanthropic measure benefit? Jamaica, that brilliant island, saw her land and people degenerate, says H.C. Carey; the planter sold cheaply and left, the slave did not work.

Such must be the effect of all revolutionary or sudden abolition; and, though the emancipated lands may gradually recover from the ill-advised blow, they can only do so with much loss of property and at the cost of much human misery.”

(The American Question, in its National Aspect, Elias Peissner, Negro Universities Press, 1970, pp. 64-65, originally published in 1861)

The North’s Union League Created the Klan

To paraphrase Southern leaders during Reconstruction hearings in Congress, if they would disband the northern Union and Loyal Leagues that set black against white in the South, the Klan would disappear from the face of the earth. It is clear from literature of the day that the disarmed South saw the Klan as a defensive measure against the Union League; the Klansmen flew no flag.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Union League Created the Klan

“The nocturnal secrecy of the gatherings, the weird initiation ceremonies, the emblems of virtue and religion, the songs, the appeal to such patriotic shibboleths as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, and the Union, the glittering platitudes in the interest of social uplift — all these characteristics of the League had an irresistible appeal to a ceremony-loving, singing, moralistic and loyal race.

That the purposes of the order, when reduced to the practical, meant that the Negro had become the emotional and intellectual slaves of the white Radical did not dull the Negro’s enthusiasm, he was accustomed to be a slave to the white man” [South Carolina During Reconstruction, Simkins & Woody, page 7].

The Union League gave the freedmen their first experience in parliamentary law and debating . . . [they] were active in the meetings, joining in the debate and prone to heckle the speakers with questions and points of order. Observers frequently reported the presence of rifles at political rallies, usually stacked in a clump of bushes behind the speaker’s platform, sometimes the womenfolk left to guard them.

In the autumn of 1867, a League chapter made up mostly of blacks, but with a white president named Bryce, was holding a meeting with its usual armed sentries on the perimeter. When a poor white named Smith tried to enter the meeting, shots were fired; there followed a general alarm and, subsequently, a melee with a white debating club nearby. The Negroes rushed out; Smith fled, hotly pursued to the schoolhouse; the members of the debating club broke up in a panic and endeavored to escape; a second pistol was fired and a boy of fourteen named Hunnicutt, the son of a respectable [white] citizen, fell dead.

[Northern officer John W. De Forest wrote]: “The Negroes, unaware apparently that they had done anything wrong, believing, on the contrary, that they were re-establishing public order and enforcing justice, commenced patrolling the neighborhood, entering every house and arresting numbers of citizens. They marched in double file, pistol in belt and gun at the shoulder, keeping step to the “hup, hup!” of a fellow called Lame Sam, who acted as drill sergeant and commander. By noon of the next day they had the country for miles around in their power, and the majority of the male whites under their guard.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 29-32)

Mr. Tubman of Liberia

The country of Liberia was founded by the American Colonization Society, mostly Southerners and ably led by President James Monroe of Virginia. The intent was to settle freed slaves in their homeland and to plant responsible, republican government on that continent.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Mr. Tubman of Liberia

“The president of Liberia is a plausible and enterprising man in his middle fifties named William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, sometimes called by the nickname “Shad.” The Honorable Mr. Tubman has been Chief Executive of Liberia since 1944, and will probably remain president for a considerable time to come. He is a character of the utmost originality and interest, who gives forth a certain waggish note.

Liberia is sui generis — unique. I could use any of several adjectives about it — odd, wacky, phenomenal, or even weird. It is, as is well known, one of the five independent countries in Africa, and for a great many years (until Egypt became a republic in 1953) it was the only republic on the continent. Haiti in the West Indies aside, it is the only Negro republic in the world.

Monrovia, the capital, was named for President Monroe, and is practically the only city I have seen without either taxis or buses. The people are too poor, too mercilessly exploited. A village in Uganda or in the wastes of northern Nigeria will have bicycles in profusion, but not the capital of Liberia. There was no successful telephone service in Monrovia until last year [1954], and the system does not extend beyond the city.

Liberia is roughly the size of Ohio or Tennessee, but the entire country has only ten miles of paved road, five of which are in the capital. Liberia never had a road until 1916 when an enterprising American diplomat built one in Monrovia itself so that he could use an automobile that had arrived there by mistake, the first ever to be seen in the country.

Consider health and education. Only two native Liberians have ever become doctors. There are also two naturalized Haitian MD’s, but in the whole country there are probably not more than a half-dozen reputable physicians outside of Firestone and the [Christian] missions. Infant mortality runs as high as 75% in some areas . . . [and] no public health service at all existed until 1931—and Liberia had been an independent republic since 1847!

More than 90 percent of the population is illiterate . . . in 1946 the total sum allotted to education in the national budget was only around $50,000 (80% of education was taken care of by missionaries); it is substantially higher now, roughly $1.5 million out of a budget of $10,088,810.

Liberia College, the chief institution of “higher” learning in the country where several of its leading contemporary citizens were educated, had for years no library, laboratories or scientific equipment; a former head of this school calmly appropriated all its funds on one occasion, and with his loot sent his daughters to be educated in Italy.

Thievery — the cities swarm with thieves — is most conspicuous during the rains. First, rice is short then and people are hungry. Second, the noise of the rain makes it easy for thieves to get around. Stealing is, however, by no means confined to professional criminals or to the poor, who are so miserable that petty theft may easily be forgiven — it is almost a national sport. Newspapers talk openly of “wholesale stealing” in government departments . . . [and] recently the Italian delegation lost, of all things, its safe.

In the field of political corruption Liberia has some wonderful distinctions. One president of the republic (not Mr. Tubman) got 243,000 votes in a certain election, though only 15,000 persons were privileged to vote.

Most educated Africans in neighboring countries pay lip service to Liberia because it is an independent republic created by freed Negro slaves, but they despise it inwardly because it constitutes a betrayal of what modern Africans stand for. Even Ethiopia has higher standards. Liberia might almost be called a kind of perverse advertisement for imperialism since although the country is free, the people are so badly off compared to those in most French and British colonies.

One brief word on Liberian history. Liberia was created by the American Colonization Society, a private organization (its first president was a nephew of George Washington) formed in 1816 to transport freed American slaves to Africa, where they might settle and start a new life on their own.

The motive was only humanitarian in part. A good many American slaveowners wanted to get freed slaves out of the country; it was dangerous to have them around. Also in 1819, the American navy was empowered to seize slave ships on the high seas, free any slaves found and return them to Africa, as part of an attempt to suppress what remained of the organized slave trade.

Out of Slavery — Slavery

One of the most horrifying official documents I have ever read has to do with Liberia, the report made in 1931 by an international commission inquiring into the slave traffic.

For years rumors had been heard, which the Monrovia government persistently denied, that Liberia tolerated organized slavery. At last in 1929 pressure, largely from the United States forced an investigation. Henry Stimson, secretary of state at the time, wrote to the Liberian authorities: “It would be tragically ironic if Liberia, whose existence was dedicated to the principle of liberty should succumb to practices so closely akin to those its founders sought forever to escape.”

Facts uncovered by the commission were — and are — appalling. It found that “slavery as defined by the 1926 anti-slavery convention” existed in the country, that contract laborers “were recruited under conditions of criminal compulsion scarcely distinguishable from slave-raiding and slave trading,” and that high officials of the Liberian government not only connived at this traffic but made money out of it.

Mr. Tubman, current president of Liberia, was a Senator during this period and is mentioned twice in the commission report, each time in connection with the receipt of fees from native chiefs.”

(Inside Africa, John Gunther, Harper & Collins, 1955, excerpts, pp. 843-849; 860-861)

 

 

 

Those Yankees!

Thomas Jefferson, a Southerner, proposed the prohibition of slavery in the Northwest Territory (belonging to Virginia) though Congress failed to approve the plan by one vote. “Thus,” Jefferson wrote, “we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment.” Seven years later, a Massachusetts man invented the cotton gin that inspired New England mill owners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Yankees!

“If it hadnt been for cotton and Yankee inventiveness, chattel slavery would have died a natural death in the South, as it did in the North, long before the [War Between the States]. In the years following the Revolution, the accent throughout the Colonies was on freedom. More and more leaders in the South were speaking out against slavery and being listened to with respect.

In 1791 William and Mary College conferred the degree of LL.D on Granville Sharp, a noted Abolitionist from England. As late as 1832, a bill to provide for the emancipation of slaves was passed by one House of the Virginia Legislature and defeated in the other by only one vote. Manumission societies were springing up everywhere.

The movement wasn’t exactly a matter of ethics. It was mostly economic. Tobacco and indigo and rice just couldn’t support a wasteful slave economy. There was cotton and the South could grow a lot of it . . . but getting out the pesky seed killed off the profit.

A program of gradual emancipation under which the children of slave parents were to be freed at the age of 25 was gaining momentum when a Yankee school-teacher down in Georgia by the name of Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. The year was 1791. Everyone went cotton crazy and slavery, instead of dying out, was tremendously expanded. Many Southern States passed laws forbidding manumission. Those Yankees!

Virginia was our first slave State . . . and the biggest. During the War, forty-eight counties in western Virginia split off from Virginia and remained loyal to the Union with a slave population of 18,371.

All the Negroes were not slaves. There were 260,000 free Negroes in the South owning property valued at more than $25,000,000. About one in every one-hundred of these owned Negro slaves. Most of them owned just two or three but there were some big Negro slave-owners too.  Cypian Ricard, of Macon [Georgia], had a big plantation and 91 slaves. Charles Roges had 47 and Marie Metoyer had 58. The richest man and the biggest slave-owner in Jefferson County. Virginia, was a Negro.

Negroes were in business in the South too, other than farming. Solomon Humphries of Macon, was the town’s leading grocer. Jehu Jones was proprietor of one of Charleston’s best hotels. Thomy Lafon down in New Orleans, was worth half a million dollars. He contributed so much to the city the State legislature ordered a bust to be carved and set up in a public building in his honor.”

(My Old Kentucky Home, Chapter XVI, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 38-39)