Browsing "Freedmen and Liberty"

Jefferson's Debatable Equality

Jefferson’s idealistic preamble passage regarding “all men are created equal” has been problemmatic though most agree that creation is where the equality ends — subsequent political equality is established by men.  Regarding the status of blacks at the time of the Constitution being ratifed, Chief Justice Taney found in his Dred Scott decision that Africans were indeed persons but not included in “the political people” of the United States and without standing as citizens. New York’s 1821 suffrage requirement for blacks mentioned below is considered by many to be the origin of “Jim Crow Laws.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jefferson’s Debatable Equality

“In one matter [of antebellum views of democracy] there was a definite reactionary movement. This was the issue of free Negro suffrage. Virginia and North Carolina joined Maryland and Kentucky in taking from the free Negro the ballot he had theretofore possessed. In like manner, all new States of the period, North as well as South, denied suffrage to free Negroes.

The action of the old Southern States was paralleled by that of the Northern States. Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania took the ballot from the Negro. And New York in 1821 limited Negro suffrage by requiring that he possess a freehold valued at two hundred and fifty dollars over and above all indebtedness. Hence only five of the Northern States granted equal suffrage to Negroes.

Whether or not Jefferson, Mason, and other Revolutionary proponents of natural rights philosophy intended to include Negroes in the statement “all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights” is a debatable question, but in actual practice the American people had decided by their constitutional provisions that Negroes were not included in the political people. From the very day of the Declaration of Independence the race problem had caused the American people to make an exception to the doctrine that “all men are created equal.”

(Fletcher M. Green, Democracy in the Old South, paper written for the 1945 Southern Historical Association presidential address. The Pursuit of Southern History, George Brown Tindall, editor, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 186-187)

Vance Resists the Party of Misrule and Ignorance

Under the pretense of ensuring the purity of elections the South, the Republican party in 1890 proposed a Force Bill to reinstitute federal interference at the polls in the South as had been done during Reconstruction. Below Senator Zebulon Vance of North Carolina addresses his Republican colleagues.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ1865.com

 

Vance Resists the Party of Misrule and Ignorance

“The title of this [Force] bill reads: “An act to prevent force and fraud in elections of the House of Representatives of the United States . . . and to insure the lawful and peaceable conduct of such elections.”

“[Senator Vance]: The object then, of the bill is to restore the purity of elections!

I presume that no one will doubt that this is desirable, nay, that it is indispensable. But the manner in which the Senator and his associates propose to bring about this purity is what strikes us with wonder.

When this [Republican] party presents itself as the defender of public virtue, and by reason of its high pretensions claims that only through its agency can this beatitude be reached, a prudent man would naturally inquire into its history for proof of its exalted qualifications.

Let us take this method for a moment and see who is, and what is the Republican party, as represented by the supporters of this bill. We shall find that it is the same party, which inaugurated Reconstruction. By Reconstruction, it will be remembered one-fifth of the votes in eleven States was suppressed by law. The punishment of disfranchisement was freely inflicted as a punishment for crime without trial and conviction.

Thousands upon . . . thousands of other votes were suppressed by fraud, the returns being counted and canvassed in secret by men not sworn or in any way responsible to anybody, acting in States far distant from the places where the votes were cast. In addition to this there were received and counted the ballots of those who were not entitled to suffrage under any law known to American history or tradition.

In this way eleven Southern States were subjected to the control of this fountain of purity. The Republican party took full charge of them and their destinies. Behind and in support of their leaders stood the Army of the United States and all the moral power of the government then under the control of this great party whose chief desire is the purity and freedom of elections.

The carnival of corruption and fraud, the trampling down of decency, the rioting in the overthrow of the traditions of a proud people, the chaos of hell on earth which took place beggars the descriptive powers of plain history . . . I believe a committee of Congress, who took some testimony on this subject, estimated in 1871 the amount of plunder which was extracted from the Southern people in about 5 short years — some $300 millions of dollars in the shape of increased debt alone, to say nothing of the indirect damage inflicted by the many ways of corruption and misrule which can not be estimated in money.

The trick by which Republicans fastened itself for a term of years upon the downtrodden States was one which could only have been originated with a party devoted to the highest morality and the purest elections.

In the formation of new governments primarily, the Negro who had no right to vote was permitted to do so by military force. The historical inquirer will likewise learn that during the time the South was being thus plundered by the carpetbaggers through the ignorance of the Negroes in the Southern department of the party of purity and free elections, the home office was doing a business, which reflected no mean luster on the active and energetic Southern branches.

The system of levying contributions upon all Federal officeholders for corrupt political purposes was inaugurated and set going with efficiency and success.

Grants of the public domain equal to the area of many great nations were jobbed away to companies of loyal speculators. The Credit Mobilier was born and with incredible rapidity became the scandal of Christendom. Whiskey rings fastened their thievish grip upon the revenues. The Black Friday conspiracy shook the credit of the continent and made businessmen lose faith in human integrity.

As soon as there began to appear any necessity for it, that is to say, so soon as there appeared a feeble and languid rallying of political virtue in the dazed public mind, this pure and virtuous party began to provide against the reaction with a system of gerrymander. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and various other States were so arranged in their Congressional and legislative districts as to completely drown the will of the majority and suppress their votes.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the dominant majority in both Houses of this Congress is the legitimate result of this suppression of the popular will by the methods of gerrymandering, aided and supplemented by a skillful application of the “fat” fried out of the tariff beneficiaries and used for the purposes of floating voters in blocks of five, by the very party leader who here says that the [Force] bill is intended to defend the Constitution of the United States against those who . . . are in the habit of substituting “processes of fraud, intimidation and bribery” [for honest elections].

At the present moment there are in the Union but twelve Republican States, representing some 9,000,000 of people, whilst there are thirty Democratic States containing 53,000,000 of people; yet the 9,000,000 control both Houses of Congress and every department of government . . .

The bill is not intended to preserve purity in elections. It is not intended to defend the Constitution of the United States against those who would substitute “processes of fraud, intimidation and bribery” for honest elections.

It is intended to resurrect, if possible, the Republican party and restore its hold on power. To do this, it is intended by this bill to subject the people of the South once more to the domination of their recent slaves. The objects at which the provisions of this bill are aimed are the Democratic South, the great Democratic cities of the North, and all naturalized citizens.

The policy of subjecting the intelligence and property of the South to the control of ignorance and poverty is not a new one. It has been tried. To the candid man who really desires the welfare of his country, the experiment resulted in a failure so disastrous that he would never desire to see it repeated.

The carpetbag rulers were infinitely worse than the Negroes. The evil propensities of the one were directed by intelligence, and the ignorance of the other became simply the instrument by which the purposes of the white leaders were carried out. The material and moral ruin wrought under this infernal conjunction of ignorance and intelligent vice was far greater than that inflicted by war. The very foundations of public virtue were undermined, and the seeds of hatred were thickly sown between the races.

In this great struggle to escape Negro rule and restore our State governments to the control of those who made them, and whose ancestors had established their principles in their blood, we had both the aid and the sympathy of Northern Democrats everywhere. We had neither from you.

You did not even stand by with indifference. You upheld the party of misrule and ignorance in every way you could. You kept the Army of the United States in the South to overcome the struggling whites as long as you dared. You sorrowed when the plundering of our people was stopped, and you received to your arms as martyrs the carpetbag fugitives expelled by the indignation of an outraged people.

In 1865, the property of North Carolina assessed for taxation was $121,000,000; in 1860 it had been $292,000,000, showing a loss of $171,000,000. In 1865, the debt of the State was $10,899,000; in 1871 the debt of the State was $34,887,000. Taxation in 1860 for State and county purposes was $799,000; in 1870 taxation for State and county purposes was $2,083,000 per annum.

But such were the recuperative powers of our people when freed from the corrupt yoke of strangers and permitted to manage their own affairs, that our taxable property is now assessed at about $230,000,000. Best of all, under the influence of the kindly associations of these years of labor and recuperation, race asperities have become softened and white and black have grown closer to each other in the recognition of the fact that the interest of one is inseparably connected with the other.

The direct effect, if not the object of this bill will be to disturb this prosperity and peace. There is made no secret of the fact that it is intended to secure the domination of the black voters of the South wherever they can be persuaded or morally coerced by this army of Federal officers into voting the Republican ticket. It [the bill] is a scheme for managing elections in the interest of a party as purely as was ever framed by designing politicians.”

(Excerpts of Speech by Senator Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina in the Senate of the United States, December 15, 1890)

 

 

Exceeding All Other Nations at Political Corruption

During the 1890 Congressional debate on the election Force Bill, Southern representatives saw the farce of Northern oversight of Southern elections for what it was — a return to the corrupt Reconstruction measures which used racial hostility to gain political ascendancy and power. The political descendants of Tammany Hall and corrupt Northern machine politics were in no position to lecture the South on political ethics and propriety.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Exceeding All Other Nations at Political Corruption

“Speech (excerpts) of Honorable J.Z. George of Mississippi:

The Senate being in Committee of the Whole and having under consideration the bill (H.R. 11045) to amend and supplement the election laws of the United States, and to provide for the more efficient enforcement of such laws, and for other purposes—

Mr. George said:

“Thus Virginia, in the act of acceding to the Union which had been already formed, led and guided by the ablest and most eminent men in the United States — her own illustrious sons . . . and yet Mr. President, we see Virginia to-day, struggling, through her Senators and Representatives, to prevent the exercise of this power [of election supervision in the South by] Massachusetts, who seeks to impose its infliction upon her.

Virginia’s great son, James Madison, persuaded the State to ratify the Constitution . . . because the regulations to be made by Congress would operate impartially on all the States. He did not foresee the evil day when the great power of Virginia would have departed, when her great services would be forgotten, and when an alien and barbarian race, against her protest, had been elevated to citizenship.

He could not foresee . . . this power [of granting citizenship] would be exercised by Senators and Representatives from other States, who, whilst securing exemption to their own States from this burden, would seek through it to subjugate the land of Washington, Madison, Marshall and Jefferson, to a domination never imposed on a civilized people.

Rhode Island had contributed her full share to the success of the Revolution. Her great son, Nathaniel Greene was a Quaker, yet second only to Washington in his merits as a military commander. [After] freeing the Southern States from the British arms, and witnessing the final triumph of the American cause, he became a citizen of Georgia.

Is Rhode Island prepared to-day to repudiate her principles, her solemn declarations, and join in placing a yoke upon her Southern sisters, which, in the very act of joining the Union, she declared should not be placed on herself?

Mr. President, New England, against the protest of Virginia in the Federal Convention of 1787, voted to legalize the African slave trade for twenty years. Rhode Island, far more than any other State, was enriched by that trade.

Rhode Island persisted in this trade to the very last moment, introducing into Charleston, S.C. in the years 1804-1807 seven thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight slaves, to two thousand and six by all other States and countries. As late as 1822, she manifested her tolerance of this traffic by electing to this body James DeWolf, who had continued the slave trade up to the last moment allowed by law.

Will she now, for mere party purposes, engage in forcing on Virginia as New England had forced on her the slave trade in 1787, the ignorant and incompetent rule of the very barbarians whom Rhode Island deemed unfit for freedom even, so largely contributed to plant in her bosom?

Mr. President, in 1870, 1871 and 1872 a wide departure from the previous practice was inaugurated. Negro suffrage had been ordained by the Federal power. It was known that these . . . dependent wards who had been invested with political power would not understand how to exercise their newly conferred rights, except as Mr. Fessenden had said, “under such good advice as might be given,” and so provision for the good advice was made in the appointment of supervisors and deputy marshals at election precincts.

Mr. President, in those years, in the very midst of reconstruction, constitutional limitations and constitutional restraint constituted no hindrance to [Republican] partisan action; especially where the Southern States were concerned and the rights of the Negro were involved. That was the era of the civil rights act and other laws to perpetuate Negro supremacy, which had been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The dominant [Republican] party had just succeeded in grafting in the Constitution the fifteenth amendment, securing Negro suffrage. This was done in direct violation of the pledges of the leaders of that party, and also of the solemn pledge of the party in their national convention which nominated General Grant for the presidency.

The party was flush with victory, not only in arms, but in subsequent elections. It had added to the electoral body of the Union more than a million of ignorant . . . noncitizens, and incapable of being made citizens but by a change of the Constitution.

If these could be made real and effectual suffragists, their enfranchisement would be no less than placing . . . automatons in the hands of the leaders of the Republican party. With this addition, the leaders could safely rely on victory when there was a majority of nearly a million white voters against them. Besides — and this was the essence of the political bonanza they had struck by amending the Constitution — the black voter was a blind, unreasoning follower whose allegiance had been secured by emancipation . . . certain to march in line to whatever destination he should be commanded.

[At this time] . . . Public men were enriched through measures for which they had voted; official virtue and fidelity had become bywords; Congressmen, judges, State and Federal and Cabinet officers were bought and sold as slaves in the market. To such an extent had this debasement gone that it was no longer concealed or attempted to be concealed. Our corruption had a world-wide fame.

To such a pitch had this gone that a distinguished member of the [Republican] party then and now in power . . . felt authorized to say that in the World’s Fair in Paris, the only product in which American had excelled all other nations was the corruption of her Government.”

(Federal Election Bill, Speech of Honorable J.Z. George of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, December 10, 1890, Washington-GPO, 1890)

 

"We Are All Southerners Now"

The late Southern writer and historian Sam Francis noted often the war against traditional American culture and that the Southern symbols were first because they were easier targets. He understood that “those pushing these attacks are driven by their own racial and class hatreds . . . [and] feels little identity with most of American history and regards it largely as a nightmare from which it is trying to awaken.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“We Are All Southerners Now”

“What is also going on with the attack on the Confederate flag, on the part of the groups like the NAACP and the blacks it represents, is a kind of racial secession from American society. When blacks say that George Washington is the equivalent of David Duke or denounce or reject the major icons of our history as bigots and hatemonger, they are in effect saying that they are not part of the society that adopts these symbols.

What demonstrators in the NAACP’s march against the flag in South Carolina carried signs that said: “Your Heritage is Our Slavery,” they are essentially announcing that they rejected the heritage of the State and indeed the nation, and in rejecting the heritage they were also rejecting the nation itself.

But many of the blacks are not really announcing their secession from the nation. What they are announcing is their intention to reconfigure the nation, to use political power based on their own racial solidarity to redefine the nation and its heritage in terms that will be acceptable to them.

At the same time blacks also demand racial integration, affirmative action, and reparations, they are also demanding that the whites with whom they are to be integrated and from whom they are demanding special privileges give up their own symbols and heroes and actually adopt those of blacks – Arthur Ashe, civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, etc.

What we are seeing in this concerted and protracted attack on Southern and even national and other ethnic symbols, my friends, is nothing less than a crusade for the overthrow of any symbol that suggests white – dare I say the real – heritage and history of this country and their replacement by their own symbols and their own racial propaganda and mythology.

The slogans of “color blindness” and racial neutrality that lay behind the rhetoric of the civil rights movement have failed and have been abandoned by the blacks themselves. What is now being asserted is not the demand to be accepted into white institutions but the demand that white institutions be turned over to non-whites and that non-whites occupy the same positions of dominance that whites once held.

[In much] of the white South and the rest of the country, [blacks] are able to play on white guilt and cowardice to gain their demands. Hispanics also are increasing playing it, especially in areas like California where they will soon be a majority of the population.

Unless whites – Southerners as well as non-Southerners – learn to have the courage to demand that the symbols of their heritage and their identity be respected and honored in the places where they have always been respected and honored, what we can expect to see, as whites cease to be a majority in the country, is the continuing destruction of those symbols and with them the heritage and identity they symbolize.

It is really a war against the entire nation, and the entire civilization and the people that formed them, and we can win that war only when we make others in the nation and civilization grasp that they are next, that the symbols that define their identity are no more immune from being denounced as “racist” than ours are.

In a word, what we need to teach those who are now among our enemies but who should be on our side is that we are all Southerners now.”

(Shots Fired, Sam Francis on America’s Culture War, Peter B. Gemma, editor, FGF Books, 2006, excerpts, pp. 285-286)

"Ever-Present, Ever-Crushing Negro Hate" Up North

The underground railroad myth claims that the North was the land of freedom and equality for the black man who would run away from his home in the South, despite the reality of the former slaveholding North not wanting the black man in their midst. The evidence shows Jim Crow laws proscribing black voters in New York, Ohio passed laws against black emigration, and segregated transportation was common – and Frederick Douglass stated that Philadelphia was the most segregated city in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“Ever-Present, Ever-Crushing Negro Hate” Up North

“Samuel R. Ward . . . was born on a plantation on the eastern shore of Maryland to slave parents in 1817. The family escaped to Greenwich, New Jersey in 1820, and removed six years later to New York City. In New York Ward’s father was a house painter, whose experience in slavery seems to have induced in the son a resonance to abolitionism.

Poverty compelled Ward to work, “but inclination led [him] to study.” He was placed in a public school and taught “by Mr. Adams, a Quaker gentleman.” Thus in spite of poverty, Ward was able to make some progress in learning.

Poverty, however, was not the only obstacle for a black lad in New York City. There was also “the ever-present, ever-crushing Negro-hate.” [He wrote:] “As a servant it denied me a seat with my white fellow servants . . . the idea of employing a white clerk was preposterous . . . So if I sought a trade, white apprentices would leave, if I were admitted. I found all the Negro-hating usages and sentiment of general society [in New York] encouraged and embodied in the Negro [church] pew . . . I know of more than one colored person driven to a total denial of all religion, by the religious barbarism of white New Yorkers . . . ”

Henry Highland Garnet was born into slavery in New Market, Maryland . . . in 1815. In 1824, his parents, after receiving permission to leave the plantation to attend a funeral, escaped with him to Pennsylvania and moved to New York City in 1826. Between 1826 and 1828, Garnet was educated at African Free Schools of the city.

In 1855 Garnet went to Canaan Academy, New Hampshire. Henry did not escape “Negro-hate” in this rural community. A mob using ninety-five oxen and working two days pulled down the building which housed the academy out of line of the other buildings and burned it to the ground. “The mob further attacked Garnet in the home of Mr. Kimball with whom Garnet was boarding.”

Charles Ray was born on 25 December 1807 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where his father was a mail carrier. Charles was educated at schools and academies of his native town. Afterwards he worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm in Westerly, Rhode Island.

In the early 1830s, Ray, financed by the abolitionists, studied at Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. [White] students raised objections to his presence at the university, calling it “inexpedient.” Charles was forced to leave.”

(The New York Abolitionists, A Case Study of Radical Politics, Gerald Sorin, Greenwood Publishing, 1971, pp. 85-93)

Securing the Political Obedience of Freedmen

South Carolina’s first reconstruction governor was former Northern General Robert K. Scott, who accomplished a tripling of the State debt through corruption and fraudulent bonds; his legislature voted itself a full-time saloon and restaurant at taxpayer expense. Scott’s successor, former Northern army officer Daniel H. Chamberlain was determined “to make his elected position pay,” though feeble attempts were made toward reform and Republican patronage which enraged black Republicans expecting favors for votes delivered.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Securing the Political Obedience of Freedmen

“There is ample evidence of both black domination and the exercise of controls over black leadership by the white [Republican] leadership. South Carolina was unique among the reconstructed States in that blacks constituted about 60 percent of the population. This population advantage was converted into a substantial numerical advantage in the legislature, where Negroes held a two-to-one majority in the lower house and a clear majority on joint ballot of House and Senate throughout the nine-year period of Reconstruction.

During this same period they held the office of secretary of state (from 1868 t0 1877), lieutenant-governor and adjutant-general (after 1870), secretary of treasury, Speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate (after 1872).

On the other hand, Negroes never held the governorship, the office of US senator, any of the eight circuit judgeships, the offices of comptroller general, attorney general, superintendent of education, or more than one of the three positions on the State supreme court.

Furthermore, there were recorded instances of black officeholders serving as mere pawns of shrewder white [Republican] colleagues. The northern-born county treasurer of Colleton County boasted to Governor [Robert K.] Scott that he “could control every colored man’s vote in St. Paul’s Parish and St. Bartholomew Parish.” The Negro treasurer of Orangeburg County found himself in jail charged with malfeasance in office, while the white mentor who had gotten him the appointment and directed his peculations went free.

On another occasion it was alleged that the white [Republican] political boss of Colleton County engineered the removal from the county auditor’s position of a well-educated Negro political enemy, replacing him with another Negro who was illiterate. The latter was expected to be auditor in name only, while another white crony performed the duties of office.

[The] reactions of historians to [traditional images of racial relationships often betray] more emotion than analysis . . . [WEB] DuBois, for example, accepted the idea of the essential powerlessness of blacks in South Carolina’s Reconstruction government in order to minimize the culpability of blacks for the corruption of that government, even though [this actually] contradicts his thesis of black labor’s control of the government.

However, the key advantage of the white Republicans probably lay in their presumed or real contacts in the North which enabled them to promise and sometimes deliver funds, patronage or protection. White Northerners often passed themselves off as representing the “powers at Washington” in order to secure the political obedience of the Negroes, according to [carpetbagger] ex-Governor [Daniel H.] Chamberlain.

Just after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, a committee of South Carolina’s Negro political leaders made a secret trip to Washington to confer with Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner about the formation of a political organization.

But many white Republicans continued to advocate efforts to attract native whites into the Republican party and the appointment of northern whites to sensitive positions. This policy reflected their lack of confidence in black officeholders . . . “There is not enough virtue and intelligence among the Blacks to conduct the government in such a way as will promote peace and prosperity” [wrote one Republican].

In other instances, white Republican officeholders urged the governor to replace with whites those black colleagues whom they considered “un-businesslike” or incompetent.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, (excerpts) pp. 96-104)

Black Guards for Southern Prisoners

Deadly hatred toward white Southerners was instilled in black troops by their new Northern friends, and the same would continue in the postwar as victorious Republicans needed the freedmen’s political dominance in the South to remain in power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Guards for Southern Prisoners

“As a general rule, the treatment by the white soldiers was not so bad, and it would have been much better, no doubt, had it not been for the cruel policy of the United States Government, and the stringent orders to have that policy carried out.

The colored troops were very harsh in their treatment of us, and they we no doubt urged to do this by their officers, who were certainly the meanest set of white men that could be found anywhere. The Negroes never let an opportunity pass to show their animosity and hatred towards us, and the man who shot a Rebel was regarded as a good soldier. They carried their authority to the extreme, and would shoot upon the slightest provocation.

If a prisoner happened to violate even one of the simplest regulations, he was sure to be shot at, and should he be so unfortunate as to turn over in his sleep, groan, or make any noise, which some were apt to do while sleeping, the tent in which he lay would be fired into.

For instance, one night in Company G, Fourth division, some one happened to groan in his sleep. The Negro patrol was near, heard it, and fired into the tent, killing two and wounding several others. These were killed while sleeping and were unconscious of having committed any offence whatever.

None of these patrols were punished, but were praised for vigilance. Scores of incidents, similar in character and result, might be given . . . Suffice it to say that a man’s life was in more danger than upon a picket line, for he was completely at the mercy of the cruel and malignant Negro soldiery.

Shooting into the tents of prisoners became so common that the officers of the white regiments protested at last against their [the colored troops] being allowed in camp, and accordingly they were withdrawn at night, and white patrols substituted.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Prison Experience (Point Lookout), James T. Wells, Volume VII, pp. 397-398)

Few Black Volunteers at Hilton Head

Northerners thought that emancipation and arming the blacks would create “a more terrible [and] effective weapon against the Southerners,” alluding to the result of a Santo Domingo-style race war in the South. In reality, black men were enticed off plantations to deny the agricultural South its laborers, who were then recruited into regiments to serve as lowly paid laborers and servants.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Few Black Volunteers at Hilton Head

“The man chosen to fill the office [military governor at Hilton Head] was Rufus B. Saxton, a newly-breveted brigadier general. A native of Deerfield, Maine, a graduate of West Point and a career officer in the army, Saxton came to Hilton Head with the assault force as a captain in the Quartermaster Corps. His father had been an enthusiastic abolitionist, yet Saxton took his assignment with reluctance and out of loyalty rather than out of sympathy for the Negro.

In the summer of 1862, Laura Towne, one of the Northern teachers on St. Helena, was pleased to find him “truly anti-slavery.” Major General David M. Hunter [at that time served on Hilton Head as], commanding general of the Department of the South.

Hunter, acting on his own authority . . . forced the issue by beginning the recruitment of a regiment of Negro soldiers. [He] was able to muster 150 Negroes into the service as the First South Carolina Volunteers. Thereafter, however, recruiting proceeded slowly. Most of the volunteers probably were refugees from the mainland without employment [and] those who remained on the plantations and were engaged in planting their crops were far from enthusiastic.

On St. Helena, it was reported that only one man volunteered, and the missionaries generally agreed that the Negroes were afraid of “being made to fight.” On St. Helena, Laura Towne observed that the plantation hands generally regarded the maneuver as “a trap to get the able-bodied and send them to Cuba to sell . . .”  Miss Towne asserted that “nearly all are eager to go there again and serve in the forts,” but they did not want to fight.

Whereas many Negroes volunteered “willingly” in the first few days of Saxton’s recruiting campaign, some offered themselves with “dismal forlornness,” and others not at all.

When two officers appeared at a church on St. Helena on October 23 [1862] to seek recruits, all able-bodied males declined to attend. On the following Sunday, Sergeant Prince Rivers, a Negro veteran of the Hunter Regiment, visiting the island on the same mission, suffered the same disappointment.”

(After Slavery, The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, pp. 13-17)

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

Grant won his 1868 presidential victory by a 307,000 vote margin enabled by the 500,000 enfranchised freedmen organized by Republican organizations like the Freedmen’s Bureau, Union League and Loyal League, and using black militia to suppress white votes in the South. In North Carolina, former Northern general and notorious carpetbagger Milton S. Littlefield had been elected president of North Carolina’s Union League, making him “Chief of Black Republicanism” under scalawag Governor Holden and charged with delivering the State to Grant, which was done.

Bernhard Thuersam,www.circa1865.org

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

“Most Reconstruction legislators in South Carolina – white as well as black – were political novices when they first arrived in Columbia. Democrats who had held State office before and during the war shunned any association with the new regime and left the field largely to less-experienced men. The northern white Republicans were former army officers, teachers and missionaries.

In one sense or another they were men on the make and, as such, not likely to have left successful political offices in the North for an uncertain competition in the war-torn South. And of course the Negroes had had little opportunity to gain experience in partisan politics . . . in most northern States they had not been able to vote, much less run for political office.

The Freedmen’s Bureau . . . was simply another patronage job [for many Northerners] to which they were attracted for strictly pecuniary reasons. Not only were many of them not moved by abolitionist sentiments, but some were described as being “more pro-slavery than the rebels themselves. Doing justice seems to mean, to them, seeing that the blacks don’t break a contract and compelling them to submit cheerfully in the whites do,” complained one northern teacher.

[For most black Reconstruction] legislator’s military service had bestowed benefits other than the glory of battle and the red badge of courage. Sergeant Richard H. Humbert sought to apply his expertise for direct political advantage during the postwar years. After his election to the lower house in the summer of 1868, Humbert wrote to the newly-inaugurated Governor Robert K. Scott to inform him that he had organized two militia companies in Darlington County, and that he planned to form several others in preparation for the presidential elections that fall.

He saw his previous military experience as essential to this enterprise and requested [an officer’s] commission from the governor. Humbert did not mince words when he stated that “the organization of the militia will be of great benefit to the Republican Party in this district.”

When [slave] Prince Rivers [enlisted] in the [Northern] First South Carolina Volunteers [he] was made first sergeant of the regiment and taken to New York City by General David Hunter in an attempt to gain support for his policy of enlisting black troops.

There was considerable antiwar and antiblack feeling in New York City, which would be the scene of the bloody draft riots in [July] 1863. White New Yorkers were incensed at the sergeant’s chevrons on the arm of the tall, proud, “jet-black” ex-slave; as he walked down Broadway, they attacked him viciously. However, Rivers managed to hold off the mob until police arrived to escort him away.

Robert Smalls had a somewhat similar experience with northern racism when he took his ship to Philadelphia for repairs. He became involved in that city’s . . . segregated public accommodations when he refused to surrender his seat on the streetcar to a white rider and move to the platform reserved for blacks.”

(Black over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 72; 78-79)

The North's Soulless Captain of Industry

The Northern wage system was creeping southward in antebellum times and doomed the plantation system if the question of the emancipated freemen’s position could be determined. That wage system, more cruel but more efficient and cost-effective, would replace the plantation socialism which cared for its workers from cradle to grave.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The North’s Soulless Captain of Industry

“It was not until fanatics, like William Lloyd Garrison, began to burn the Constitution, preach secession and denounce as fiends all Southern slaveholders that the South began to defend slavery and stand on their rights under organic law. To stand by their dignity as men and repel insults by force of arms if need be. My father believed that slavery would die of its own weakness in the South, as it had died in the North, unless meddling fools should provoke a war over it. As they did.

He held no illusions of the moral superiority of the Northern wage system. It had been introduced into the mills of the South and he had studied it at close range. He knew that slavery was doomed because of the superior cruel efficiency of the wage system, a far deadlier instrument of oppression if used without conscience. The Yankee had discovered this tremendous fact and applied it to his whole economic system.

They could hire an able bodied white man to work in the mills for 80 [cents] a day, a woman for 30 [cents]. Working every day in the year a man could earn $200, out of which he must pay his rent, his food, his clothes and his doctor’s bills. It cost my father $300 a year to feed, clothe, and house and care for each slave and then it took two slaves to do the work one white man was doing in the North.

My father knew that no human being could live on this earth and reproduce his kind on 80 [cents] a day. And for this reason he never believed in the moral superiority of this new master who used the wage system. In the South they called a slave a slave. In the North they called him a wage earner. He knew that ethics had nothing to do with the abolition of slavery in the North. It was abolished by the Captain of Industry, not the preacher or the agitator.

The Captain established the wage system because it became a mightier weapon in his hand for producing riches and paying dividends. It was subject to but one law . . . the iron law of wage . . . of supply and demand. The system was scientific, soulless. The wage earner, driven by hunger and cold, by the fear of loss of life itself, was always more efficient in his toil than the care-free Negro in the South, who was assured bread, clothes, fuel, shelter and the doctor’s care.”

(Southern Horizons, The Autobiography of Thomas Dixon, IWV Publishing, 1984, pp. 5-6)

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