Browsing "Freedmen and Liberty"

"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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