Browsing "From Africa to America"

The Wise But Unschooled Uncle Remus

The antebellum plantation culture informally educated the African workers in European trades and agriculture, customs and traditions; the postwar Southern economy needed people informally schooled in the useful arts of agriculture and mechanics, and little if any use for workers with advanced university degrees and speaking Latin or Greek. Thus Booker T. Washington’s method was far more acceptable and productive than DuBois’ method of political agitation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Wise But Unschooled Uncle Remus

“Southern historians, trapped by the belief that education is a cure-all, have exaggerated the accomplishments of formal schooling. They like to prove that Sir William Berkeley was inaccurate when he said that there were no free schools in seventeenth-century Virginia. They are dazzled that today we have “a triumphant “progressive” education which progresses even faster than the North.” They gloss over the defects of our much-praised educational system.

The historians would be wise to admit the defects of Southern education as measured by the proclaimed goals of American public schools; indeed they might be skeptical of these goals. They might admit that Berkeley was not a complete fool when he inveighed against schools and presses.

In New England the Prussian-type school was loaded with antislavery sentiments and with notions of social reform repulsive to a region of Christians not dominated by hopes of earthly perfection. The leveling tendencies of the new schools ran counter to the Old South’s conception of hierarchy. Their content was more suited for those who need guidance in town life than for a people whose chief task was to subdue a wilderness and to establish farms.

Someone should tell that the South’s resistance to formal schooling did not grow out of laziness or stupidity. Their resistance was vital part of the region’s attempt to survive as a social and cultural entity. The South unconsciously fought against the idea that the school be allowed to iron out provincial differences in order to make the Southern States into undifferentiated units of the republic.

Southerners have preserved their folkways and ancestral superstitions. Thereby they have avoided the fate of the people of Hawaii, a people who have deliberately escaped their ancestral heritage in order to become Americanized through the public schools. Such a people lack creative originality.

Our chroniclers of the past should quit being ashamed of the cloud of illiteracy which once hung over their province. They should wake up to the fact that Uncle Remus was among the wisest Southerners. They have stressed to such a degree the benefits of the schools that they have neglected the triumphs of informal training outside the school.

This informal education was good because it was useful. Our colonial and frontier ancestors put the art of subduing the wilderness first; they learned to use the ax and the rifle extremely well. With some justice they regarded formal education as an adornment of the upper classes.

The dark spot on Southern civilization of denying formal education to the slaves can be wiped out by an understanding of what was accomplished in the so-called school of the plantation in which the barbarian captive of Africa was Anglicized. This was a type of training more effective than anything the South had experienced since.

The slave was so well inoculated with Anglo-American culture that almost all elements of his African background disappeared. The Negro imbibed the rich heritage of European folklore and became so skilled in English handicrafts and in the intricate practices of plantation agriculture that he was perhaps better educated in the industrial arts than those Negroes who had lived since the time of Booker T. Washington.

(Tolerating the South’s Past, Francis Butler Simkins, Address in Columbia, South Carolina, November 12, 1954, The Pursuit of Southern History, George Tindal, editor, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 319-320)

Rhode Island’s Slave Trade

Like the other New England colonies, Rhode Island was outraged by the British Sugar Acts aimed at curtailing their illicit molasses trade with the West Indies. That molasses was an essential ingredient in making New England rum, which was shipped to Africa along with locally-produced Yankee notions to trade for slaves held by African tribes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Slave Trade

“[The] early industries in Newport were farming, fishing and shipbuilding. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the trade in rum and molasses brought about an intense local activity; distilling, sugar refining, brewing, and the making of sperm oil and spermaceti candles, created a prosperous Newport.

The one shadow on this happy picture was the African slave trade in which Rhode Island was more concerned than any other Colony, with Newport the chief Rhode Island trade center. In 1708, the British Board of Trade addressed a circular to all the Colonies relative to trade in Negro slaves, which read in part: “It is absolutely necessary that a trade so beneficial to th3e kingdom should be carried to the greatest advantage.”

In 1707-08, the Colony laid an import tax of [3 pounds] on each Negro imported. The proceeds were large; in 1729, some of the money was appropriated for paving the streets of Newport, and some for constructing bridges.

Many fortunes were amassed in the slave trade. Fifty or sixty vessels were engaged in this traffic, and their owners were among the leading merchants of the city. After 1750, many wealthy English planters from the West Indies found their way here for extended visits.

The Newport of that period lingered in the visitors memory as a place of gay entertainment, of scarlet coats and brocade, lace ruffles and powdered hair, high-heeled shoes and gold buckles, delicate fans and jeweled swords, delicately bred women and cultured men. Even in Europe the town was noted for the elegance of its society. Every indication seemed to point to it as a future metropolis of the New World.”

(Rhode Island, A Guide to the Smallest State, WPA Federal Writers’ Project, Louis Cappelli, Chairman, Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1937, pp. 205-206)

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

In the small plantation communities where African slaves lived and labored it was Southern men like Presbyterian Rev. Charles Colcock Jones who brought them from heathenism to Christianity.  The elder Roswell King mentioned below was a Connecticut native who came South to manage the large antebellum estates of Pierce Butler in Glynn County, Georgia. The son, also named Roswell King, later moved to northern Georgia to establish cotton and woolen mills and the town of Roswell, Georgia still bears his name.  It was Northerner Eli Whitney who made large scale cotton production profitable — which supplied slave-produced material to hungry New England mills.  Manhattan bankers provided easy credit to enable land acquisition for more cotton production.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

“My experience with these people [African slaves] was very large, having been for long years the contract physician on the river plantations where religious opportunities were very limited. In many cases, the Negro preacher or watchman (as they were called) was the only teacher and leader they had. Though on a few of the larger estates, salaried chaplains were employed.

I recollect many years ago being engaged in correspondence on the subject. The Reverend Jones spent many years of his useful life, and liberally of his private resources, in endeavoring to do good to these ignorant and dependent people by religious teaching and preaching.

To reassure him in the self-sacrifice of time and means, he addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Roswell King of Butler’s Island, where there were nearly a thousand slaves, [asking] whether those professing religion were more orderly and faithful than the others.

I commended the pious work in which he was engaged, but it being often at night and involving a long ride, and his health not being strong, I begged him to assign his labors to some lesser light in the church who was more physically able.

There were wider and more congenial fields waiting for him where his education, talents, eminent piety, and zeal in his Master’s service made him an honored and distinguished name to his life’s end.”

(Dr. Bullie’s Notes, Reminiscences of Early Georgia, James Holmes, Cherokee Publishing Company, 1976, pp. 161-163)

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

Southerners replied to abolitionist tirades with examples of the civilizing aspects of African slavery, as well as reminding them that their own fathers had shipped the Africans in chains to the West Indies and North America. The invention of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney along with the hungry cotton mills of that State, perpetuated slavery, and new plantation expansion into the Louisiana territory was fueled by Manhattan lenders – all of whom could have helped end African slavery in North America. The following is excerpted from the introduction of “Cotton is King,” E.N. Elliott, editor (1860), and from “Liberty and Slavery,” Albert Taylor Bledsoe.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

“Geographical partisan government and legislation . . . had its origin in the Missouri [Compromise] contest, and is now beginning to produce its legitimate fruits: witness the growing distrust with which the people of the North and South begin to regard each other; the diminution of Southern travel, either for business or pleasure, in the Northern States; the efforts of each section to develop its own resources, so as to render it independent of the other; the enactment of “unfriendly legislation,” in several of the States, toward other States of the Union, or their citizens; the contest for the exclusive possession of the territories, the common property of the States; the anarchy and bloodshed in Kansas; the exasperation of parties throughout the Union; the attempt to nullify, by popular clamor, the decision of the supreme tribunal of our country; the existence of . . . a party in the North organized for the express purpose of robbing the citizens of the Southern States of their property; . . . the flooding of the whole country with the most false and malicious misrepresentations of the state of society in the [Southern] States; the attempt to produce division among us, and to array one portion of our citizens in deadly array to the other; and finally, the recent attempt to incite, at Harper’s Ferry, and throughout the South, an insurrection, and a civil and servile war, with all its attendant horrors.

All these facts go to prove that there is a great wrong somewhere, and that a part, or the whole, of the American people are demented, and hurrying down to swift destruction.

The present slave States had little or no agency in the first introduction of Africans into this country; this was achieved by the Northern commercial States and by Great Britain. Wherever the climate suited the Negro constitution, slavery was profitable and flourished; where the climate was unsuitable, slavery was unprofitable, and died out. Most of the slaves in the Northern States were sent southward to a more congenial clime.

Upon the introduction into Congress of the first abolition discussions, by John Quincy Adams, and Joshua Giddings, Southern men altogether refused to engage in debate, or even to receive petitions on the subject. They averred that no good could grow out of it, but only unmitigated evil.”

(The South: A Documentary History, Ina Woestemeyer Van Noppen, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958, pp. 265-266)

Protesting British and New England Slave Trading

During the colonial period it was common for North Carolina planters needing labor to trade cargoes of tar and pitch to New Englanders for the slaves they imported. On the eve of the Revolution the North Carolina Provincial Congress resolved that “We will not import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next [1774].”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Protesting British and New England Slave Trading

“So far as can be determined, no tax was levied on the importation of slaves into North Carolina prior to the Revolution. On the other hand, the Virginia Assembly made numerous attempts to discourage the importation of slaves by imposing from time to time a tax on all slaves brought in from Maryland, North Carolina, the West Indies, and Africa.

The first impressive protest for any considerable body of citizens of the colony against the African slave trade was registered by the freeholders of Rowan County [North Carolina] in 1774. They placed themselves on record against the African slave trade in the following resolution:

“Resolved that the African slave trade is injurious to this colony, obstructs the population of it, prevents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the balance of trade against the colonies.”

Due in part to the dearth of labor occasioned by the Revolution, there was a resumption of the slave trade after the war. It was not, in fact, until 1787 that the General Assembly took the initial step in taxing the traffic, basing its action on the general ground that the importation of slaves “into this State is productive of evil consequences and highly impolitic.”

Whatever the motive, a duty of 5 [pounds] was levied on all slaves brought in by water. Slaves between the ages of thirty and forty were made subject to the same duty, while those between the ages of twelve and thirty were subject to a duty of 10 [pounds]. In addition, a general head tax of five pounds was imposed on all slaves imported from the coast of Africa. The act of 1787 did not prohibit, but no doubt discouraged, the slave trade.

Due presumably to the ratification of the Federal Constitution by North Carolina in 1789, the act of 1787 was repealed in 1790, and there was no restriction on the importation of slaves until 1794 . . . and in that year a heavy fine was imposed on the importation of slaves. [Its] passage might have been further delayed had not a terrifying Negro insurrection occurred in San Domingo in 1791. This insurrection thoroughly aroused the people of the State to a realization of the potential danger of a large Negro population.

[In] 1795 the legislature placed a further restriction on the importation of slaves by making it unlawful for any person removing to the State, “with intent to settle or otherwise,” from any of the West Indian or Bahama Islands to bring with him any Negroes or people of color above the age of fifteen years, under penalty of 100 [pounds] for each and every slave or person of color brought in.

To many public men of the time the danger from this source seemed imminent; so much so that, in 1798, Governor Samuel Ashe issued a proclamation calling on the people of the State to prevent the landing of slaves or free persons of color. He stated in his proclamation that several shiploads of San Domingan Negroes had set sail, and that one shipload had arrived in Charleston.

Despite precautions, West Indian Negroes found their way into the State. The landing of a number of emancipated Negroes from the island of Guadaloupe at Wilmington in 1803 so alarmed the inhabitants of the town that they memorialized Congress to take action to prevent the introduction into the United States of any persons of that class.”

(Slaveholding in North Carolina, An Economic View, Rosser Howard Taylor, Negro Universities Press, 1969 (original UNC Press, 1926), pp. 23-26)

 

Henry Clay Prophesies the Success of Abolition

Henry Clay, an officer of the American Colonization Society, predicted the collision which would follow total emancipation in the American South. Others of that time saw this logical result as well; Jefferson Davis of Mississippi saw the dilemma that if African slavery were extinguished, what would become of its carcass? Could people unfamiliar with Anglo-Saxon law, traditions and customs and without European heritage become full participants in American government?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Henry Clay Prophesies the Success of Abolition

“In the slave States the alternative is, that white men must govern the black, or the black the white. In several of these States the number of slaves is greater than that of the white population. An immediate abolition of slavery in them, as these ultra-abolitionists propose, would be followed by a desperate struggle for immediate ascendancy of the black race over the white race, or rather it would be followed by instantaneous collision between the two races, which would break out into a civil war that would end in the extermination or subjugation of the one race or the other.”

(Freedom’s Ferment, Alice Felt Tyler, University of Minnesota Press, 1944, page 479)

 

 

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

Major Joseph A. Engelhard points out below that the American South did not populate itself with African slaves, this was done by others.  It is true that Providence, Rhode Island was the slave trading capital of North America by 1750, wresting this dubious honor from Liverpool.  Further, the voracious cotton mills of antebellum New England needed slave-produced raw material and Manhattan bankers advanced attractive loans to Southern planters to expend their operations.  Engelhard served in the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment 1861-65, was elected North Carolina Secretary of State in 1876, and in 1878 encouraged young Southern men at the University of North Carolina to be proud of their forefathers and the country and constitution they created.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

“If in any part of the United States there exists moral deformity, or outrage, or unseemly appearance of social or political evil, you can say that no portion of it can be traced to our door. It is true, we have been charged with the error and evil of Slavery, but history and the verdict of all men must be that slavery was introduced here against our will, first by the Dutch and afterwards by the Slave Merchants of the North.

Upon the garments of the South there is no stain of the “Slave Trade.” Those infamies and the profits of that traffic alike, belong to others.

Our lot has been to civilize, to humanize, to Christianize the victims of the avarice of others. Like men we fought for the institution, not, however, for its sake, but because through it all our sacred rights were assailed. The men who proclaimed victory at Mecklenburg; the men who fought seven years for it afterwards; the men who built the country’s strongest entrenchments in the Constitution; who extended most widely its area; who illustrated it with most honor in the National Councils, and who exposed and lost all to defend every approach of danger to it, never – never could be truly charged with the responsibility for human Slavery.

One thing all men must say of us, that the Southern people in two hundred years did more to elevate and render good and happy the African than all the world in all time ever did. And upon that record we stand.”

(Address of the Hon. Joseph A. Engelhard, Before the Philanthropic and Dialectic Societies of the University of North Carolina, June 1878, Edwards & Broughton & Co., 1879, pp. 11-12)

An Infernal Traffice Originating in Avarice

Virginia had fully one-third of the entire slave population of the Union within her borders in 1787, enabled by the British crown and New England slave traders – and despite her protests to cease importation. Georgia originally banned slaves under James Oglethorpe but British avarice eventually overcame his vision of a free colony. No flags of the American Confederacy were observed flying over those slave ships.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Infernal Traffic Originating in Avarice

“The supreme opportunity for suppressing the importation of slaves and thus hastening the day of emancipation came with the adoption of the Federal Constitution. [With] every increase in the number of slaves [imported] the difficulties and dangers of emancipation were multiplied. The hope of emancipation rested in stopping their further importation and dispersing throughout the land those who had already found a home in our midst.

To put an end to “this pernicious traffic” was therefore the supreme duty of the hour, but despite Virginia’s protests and appeals the foreign slave trade was legalized by the Federal Constitution for an additional period of twenty years.

The nation knew not the day of its visitation – with blinded eye and reckless hand it sowed the dragon’s teeth from which have sprung the conditions and problems which even to-day tax the thought and conscience of the American people.

The action of the [constitutional] convention is declared by Mr. Fiske, to have been “a bargain between New England and the far South.”

“New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut,” he adds, “consented to the prolonging of the foreign slave trade for twenty years, or until 1808; and in return South Carolina and Georgia consented to the clause empowering Congress to pass Navigation Acts and otherwise regulate commerce by a simple majority of votes.”

Continuing, Mr. Fiske says, “This compromise was carried against the sturdy opposition o Virginia.” George Mason spoke the sentiments of the Mother-Commonwealth when in a speech against this provision of the constitution, which reads like prophecy and judgment, he said:

“This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British Government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerns, not the importing States alone, but the whole Union . . . Maryland and Virginia, he said, had already prohibited the importation of slaves expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this would be in vain if South Carolina and Georgia were at liberty to import.

The Western people are already calling out for slaves for their new lands; and will fill that country with slaves if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia.

Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of cause and events, Providence punishes National sins by National calamities.

He lamented that some of our Eastern [New England] brethren had, from a lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic.”

“But these prophetic words of George Mason,” adds Mr. Fiske, “were powerless against the combination of New England and the far South. Governor Randolph and Mr. Madison earnestly supported their colleague . . . and the latter asserting: “Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be more dishonorable to the American character than to say nothing about it in the constitution.

Thus it was by the votes of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and against the votes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia, that the slave trade was legalized by the National Government for the period from 1787 to 1808.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly B. Mumford, L.H. Jenkins, 1909, pp. 29-31)

Christianizing the Victims of New England Slavers

Reverend Dr. Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863) was the son of a Georgia merchant and planter, born at Liberty Hall in Liberty County. While studying for the ministry in Pennsylvania, he agonized over the Africans brought to these shores by New England slavers and dedicated his life to caring for the slaves spiritual welfare.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Christianizing the Victims of New England Slavers

“In the county of Liberty, in Georgia, a Presbyterian minister has been for many years employed exclusively in laboring for the moral enlightenment of the slaves, being engaged and paid for this especial duty by their owners. From this circumstance, almost unparalleled as it is, it may be inferred that the planters of the county are as a body remarkably intelligent, liberal, and thoughtful for the moral welfare of the childlike wards Providence has placed in their care and tutorship.

I have heard them referred to with admiration of their reputation in this particular even as far away as Virginia and Kentucky.     I believe that in no other district has there been displayed as general and long-continued an interest in the spiritual well-being of the Negroes. It must be supposed that nowhere else are their circumstances more happy and favorable to Christian nurture.”

In promoting the spiritual welfare of the Negro population of Liberty County and throughout the South no man was more active or zealous than the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones, “Apostle to the Blacks,” a lifelong member of Midway Church, who now lies buried in the historic graveyard directly across the way. This extraordinary man . . . was a rich planter, a gentleman of liberal education, and a Presbyterian clergyman of radiant Christian character, aptly described by his son in law as “one of the noblest men God ever made.”

In May 1831 he was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Savannah, where he labored earnestly and successfully for eighteen months. But the cry of the Negroes of his native county was too urgent for him to resist; to their needy spiritual state he had been drawn while a student at Princeton, and he now felt constrained to devote himself to their evangelization as well as to their moral and social uplift.

His brother in law, the Rev. John Jones, later recalled his missionary efforts in some detail . . . :

“As a good brother, in allusion to his work among the colored people, once said, he seems to be the apostle to that portion of the gentiles. And he succeeded to a remarkable extent in awakening an interest in this neglected people . . . and annual reports of his labors he under God did more than any other man in arousing the whole church of this country to a new interest in the spiritual welfare of the Africans in our midst.

And the general results of his labors were seen in other communities and regions beyond;a decided attention to the physical as well as the moral condition of the race; the erection of neighborhood and plantation chapels; the multiplying of family and plantation schools in which Jones’s catechism was taught; a greater devotion of time to the Negroes by pastors and churches; and an emphatic awakening throughout the South to the duty of systematic religious instruction to the blacks.”

(The Children of Pride, A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, Robert Manson Myers, Yale University Press, 1972, pp. 11-16)

Britain's Inhumane Slave Trade

The transatlantic slave trade which populated the America’s with Africans was chartered and encouraged by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of York oversaw the Royal African Company, a slave trading concern. These British slavers were only surpassed in efficiency by the slavers of New England; Providence, Rhode Island became the slaving capital of North America by 1750.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Britain’s Inhumane Slave Trade:

“On the 1st of April, 1772 the [Virginia] House of Burgesses addressed a hot petition to the crown, “imploring his Majesty’s paternal assistance in averting a calamity of a most alarming nature.” It proceeds: “The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of inhumanity, and under its present encouragement we have too much reason to fear will endanger the very existence of your Majesty’s American dominions. We are sensible that some of your Majesty’s subjects may reap emoluments from this sort of traffic…we most humbly beseech your Majesty to remove all those restraints on your Majesty’s governors of the colony which inhibit their assenting to such House of Burgesses] laws as might check so very pernicious a traffic.

When the vote was taken in the Federal Congress on the resolution to postpone the prohibition of the [slave] trade to the year 1808, Virginia used all her influence to defeat the postponement, and it was carried by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The final prohibition of the slave trade by act of Congress was brought about through the influence of President Jefferson and by the active efforts of Virginians.

And greatly to the labors of the representatives from Virginia was due the final extinction of the vile traffic [of England and New England] through the act of Congress declaring it to be piracy, five years before Great Britain took similar action with regard to her subjects. Such is the actual record of the much-vilified South relating to the African slave trade, taken from official records.

The gradual system of emancipation adopted at the North had undoubtedly led to many of the slaves being shipped off to the South and sold. When, therefore, after this “abolition,” the movement, from being confined to the comparatively small band of liberators who were actuated by pure principle, extended to those who had been their persecutors, it aroused suspicion at the South which blinded it to a just judgment of the case.

The statutory laws relating to slavery at the South are held up as proof of the brutality with which they were treated even under the law. But these laws were not more cruel than the laws of England at the period they were enacted…and, at least, Southerners never tolerated wholesale burning at the stake as a legal punishment, as was done in New York as late as 1741, when fourteen Negroes were burnt at the stake on the flimsy testimony of a half-crazed servant girl; and as was done in Massachusetts as late as 1755, when a Negro was burnt for murder.”

(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, pp. 29-32)

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