Browsing "Jeffersonian America"

Jefferson’s View of the North’s Slave Trade

Well aware that the perilous “wolf by the ears” predicament facing the United States in his time was greatly the fault of New England’s penchant for slave trading profits, Jefferson saw the North sell its slaves southward and then proclaim themselves “free States” and morally superior to the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson’s View of the North’s Slave Trade

“Mr. Jefferson’s opposition to slavery was known then, as it is now. Undoubtedly appreciating the fact that slavery, as prevalent then in the South, was extremely expensive to the masters, far more than “slavery” subsequently maintained by the Northern manufacturer, he stated his grievance upon this matter in the original draft of the Declaration [of Independence], but subsequently crossed out this paragraph.

In a courteous, yet Voltaire-like manner, he caustically refers to the slave-trade of the pious Yankee, and, rather than cause a disruption, he omitted that clause from his draft. Thus, while there was chance of earning a few dollars, the North was fully willing to accept the conditions and to continue the [slave] trade. Indeed, when certain Southern States prohibited the importation of slaves, it was New England which arose in defense of that trade.

“Times change and we with them.” After selling their slaves into the South, the same people suddenly changed their minds as to slavery, and, lifting up their hands in horror, described the Southern slave owner as an inhuman brute, a cruel oppressor, etc. The abolition societies and various fanatics, sincere and insincere, voluntary fanatics and paid fanatics, suddenly discovered supposedly crying needs of the “poor, downtrodden black brother,” and by various means and devices, attempted his emancipation. No crime and injustice was omitted in their acts.

And yet, simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, white too, were held in a more inhuman bondage in the North than the black man down South. Living under the most deplorable and miserable conditions, working long hours with hardly enough food to keep body and soul together, that mob of inhumanity was called free!

Truly they were free, free to die!”

(Secession, W.A. Lederer, Philadelphia, Confederate Veteran Magazine, September 1930, excerpt, pg. 338)

New England Rules and Saves!

New England opposed the 1812 war with England by refusing troops and supplying the enemy; their Hartford Convention of 1814 would have led to its secession from the United States. Andrew Jackson’s victory in New Orleans ended that war before New England seceded. One can see in the War Between the States the rematch of Jeffersonian Republicanism versus New England Federalists, with the latter returned to power in Washington in 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Rules and Saves!

“In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was elected President by the combined votes of the middle States, the coastal South and he Southern highlands, against the entrenched opposition of New England which still strongly supported [John] Adams.

This new Jeffersonian coalition of Virginia, Pennsylvania and the backcountry was destined to dominate American politics for a quarter-century (1801-1825). Its ideology was a complex and unstable combination of three different ideas of liberty, which derived not from “classic republicanism” in Europe but from the inherited folkways of British America.

Jeffersonians in the middle and northern States believed in reciprocal liberty; the backcountry thought more in terms of natural liberty; Tidewater Virginians drew upon their heritage of hegemonic liberty. The Republican leaders – Jefferson himself, Madison and Gallatin – had their own highly-developed principles. Together they created a pluralist libertarian movement.

But even as Jefferson espoused different libertarian ideals, they all opposed New England’s idea of ordered liberty, which most Americans believed was a contradiction in terms. The major legislation of the Adams presidency was repealed: the Alien Friends Act, the Sedition Act, the Naturalization Act, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800, the Judiciary Act of 1801, and the new tax measures were all overturned.

Support for [Adam’s] Federal party dwindled everywhere except New England. The purchase of Louisiana (1803) and the annexation of West Florida (1810) vastly enlarged the backcountry, and promised to shift the balance of regional power toward the South and West.

Now it was New England’s turn to think about disunion. In the period from 1804 to 1814, a separatist movement gathered strength in that region . . . [with] sermons and town meetings which talked of God’s Providence for his chosen people. Yankee children were taught to sing (to the tune of Rule Britannia!): “Rule, New England! New England rules and saves!”

The Federalist leader Fisher Ames believed that New England was “of all the colonies that were ever founded, the largest, the most assimilated, and to use the modern jargon, nationalized, the most respectable and prosperous, the most truly interesting to America and humanity, more unlike and more superior to other people (the English excepted).”

New England Republicans shared this nascent sense of Yankee nationalism. James Winthrop, for example, praised the determination of New Englanders to “keep their blood pure.” He added, . . .“the eastern States have, by keeping separate from the foreign mixtures, acquired their present greatness in a century and a half, and have preserved their religion and morals.”

(Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989, excerpts, pp. 844-845)

Ridding the South of the Incubus

In 1819, Rev. Moses Waddel “was induced to give up his academy business” and take the reins of the University of Georgia. Born in North Carolina, educated in the ministry in Virginia and a preacher in Georgia, he had taught young John C. Calhoun and became the first native-born Southerner to fill the University presidency. It was not unusual then to hear open and reasoned discussion on ending the New England slave trade and repatriating Africans to their homeland.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ridding the South of the Incubus

“Athens [Georgia] and he Lower South at this time [1810] were in the midst of laying the foundations of that social order and culture, beautiful and polished yet seamy, captivating the elite Englishman and practical Yankee who touched it, the admiration of some, the curse of some . . .

In the excitement of the Federal Constitutional Convention, Georgia had stood for the foreign slave trade, but she no sooner won it than she freely flung it away. In 1819 at a banquet in Athens this toast was drunk: “The [Foreign] Slave Trade – The scourge of Africa; the disgrace of humanity. May it cease forever, and may the voice of peace, of Christianity and of Civilization, be heard on the savage shores.”

At this time the whole subject of slavery was discussed in the Georgia papers with reason and dispassion, and in 1824 the president of the University “heard the Senior Forensic Disputation all day on the policy of Congress abolishing Slavery – much fatigued but amused.” Apparently the students were doing some thinking also.

The trustees, were, likewise not opposed to a possible disposition of slavery, for [Rev. Robert] Finley, whom they had just elected president of the University, had been one of the organizers of the American Colonization Society. He was, indeed, present in Washington at its birth and had been made one of its vice-presidents; and so vital did his work appear to one friend that he later wrote,

“If this colony [Liberia] should ever be formed in Africa, great injustice will be done to Mr. Finley, if in the history of it, his name be not mentioned as the first mover, and if some town or district in the colony be not called Finley.” He, indeed, never lost interest in the project to his dying day – and then it “gave consolation to his last moments.”

The South was genuinely interested in ridding itself of this incubus, realizing, with Henry Clay, that Negroes freed and not removed were a greater menace than if they remained in slavery.”

(College Life in the Old South, E. Merton Coulter, UGA Press, 1983 (original 1928), pp. 27-28)

Southern Academies and the Spirit of Christianity

Moses Waddel’s school at Lillington, South Carolina “was a simple frontier academy of the period which taught grammar, syntax, antiques of Greece and Rome, geography of the ancients, Greek and Latin. Waddel’s graduates included many governors and future statesmen to include John C. Calhoun, William H. Crawford, Hugh S. Legare, A.B. Longstreet, James L. Petigru, George Crawford, Preston Brooks, Thomas W. Cobb, Pierce M. Butler, and George R. Gilmer. It was later said of Waddel’s reason for taking the presidency of the University of Georgia was first to “raise the University and give it a respectability and usefulness in the State; and second, to communicate to public education the spirit of Christianity.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Academies and the Spirit of Christianity

“In an article printed in the Atlantic Monthly, November, 1929, Count Hermann Keyserling expressed the belief that the South is the only section of America where a real culture can be produced. Only in this region have complete individuals lived. Here and only here can a uniqueness, an individuality which leads to a development of complete souls, flourish.

Writing in a similar vein John Crowe Ransom, a Nashville poet, says, “The South is unique on this continent for having founded and defended a culture which was according to European principles of culture; and the European principles had better look to the South if they are to be perpetuated in this country.”

The same point of view characterizes a symposium entitled “I’ll Take My Stand, by Twelve Southerners,” which has lately been published by Harpers. In the field of education these thinkers criticize our public schools, and desire a return to the ante-bellum system of formal training. Indeed, a great glorification of the academy, which was the most characteristic school of the pre-war South, is presented. With the lapse of the educational system of the Colonial Period . . .

“the South found a means of transmitting to its own people the essential of a good classical education, by the growth of an institution that never, to the same degree, affected the North. This institution was the academy. It was by its means and operation that the older Southern life and culture became what it was, and remained until the catastrophe of 1861-5 . . . The academies solved the problem of the gap between the mere acquisition of mere knowledge and the “acquisition of power for independent work” by putting the pupils into direct contact, not with undisputed masses of information and up-to-date apparatus, but with such teachers as could be found.

Their object was to teach nothing that the teacher himself had not mastered, and could not convey to his pupils. Their training was therefore classical and humanistic, rather than scientific and technical – as most of the available teachers were products of the older European and American schools.”

In America the academy was a “product of the frontier period of national development and the laisse faire theory of government.” Frequently it was motivated by “denominational interest and sectarian pride.” In the South the academies were of two types, the modest local institution which was sometimes called the “old field school,” and the more pretentious, more permanent school with a wider patronage. While fees were commonly charged, the academies were democratic in character, and usually the idea of individual development was dominant. Generally speaking the schools served the educational needs of the entire community.”

(Moses Waddel and the Lillington Academy, Ralph M. Lyon, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, January, 1931, pp. 284-285)

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

Antebellum Southern concepts of manners and personal honor set a very high standard in education with the logical expectation that this would result in a more enlightened society and government.  Even code duello was seen to have a “decorous influence” on manners, as it made men careful in their conduct toward each other through personal honor and accountability.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

“[The official historian of the University of Virginia noted that the bulk of pre-Civil War graduates] . . . were of “the planting class.” Analysis of their post-college careers and modes of life led him to say that they were men who “kept alive in their country homes that loyal devotion to family, that chivalrous respect for womanhood, that considered tenderness for weakness, that high recognition of the claims of hospitality, that reverence for religion, and that quick sensitiveness upon all questions of personal integrity and honor, which they had inherited from their fathers.”

The cult of manners in the Old Dominion was so intertwined with the concepts of personal honor and integrity that all appeared part of a single theme. The diary notes of a young Virginian, attending VMI, contained the following passage, inserted as a kind of conclusion to the entries for the year 1842. It was set off in quotation marks:

“Among the many branches of education, that which tends to make deep impressions of virtue ought to be a fundamental object in a well-regulated government. For depravity of manners will render ineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, what other means to prevent such depravity, but only a virtuous discipline?”

In this climate of opinion, with its emphasis on manners and personal integrity, the famous “Honor System” of American academic life first appeared. The founders were two professors at the University of Virginia; George Tucker, romantic litterateur before his appointment to the chair of moral philosophy; and his relative, Henry St. George Tucker, distinguished jurist before settling at Charlottesville as a teacher of law.

Judge Tucker submitted the epochal resolution to the faculty in 1842 that, at all future written examinations, the students should certify on their honor the receiving of no improper assistance. Later, this pledge was extended to include the imparting as well as the accepting of aid.

While visiting Richmond in 1853, Frederick Law Olmsted observed the importance of the cult of manners there. He added this observation to his travel diary, “In manners, I notice that between man and man, more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversations than well-bred people commonly use at the North.”

(Romanticism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweiss, LSU Press, 1971, excerpt, pp. 87-88)

Early Southern Concerns of Northern Domination

The ratification of the Constitution was a difficult and contentious process, and those in the American South saw it primarily to the benefit of the North. Rawlins Lowndes declared in South Carolina’s 1788 convention that he was satisfied with the Articles of Confederation, and assailed the Constitution because it would lead to monarchy, and that Northern majorities in Congress would cause injury to South Carolina’s interests.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Early Southern Concerns of Northern Domination

“It is a little strange, but the textbooks in general American history and political science used in American colleges and universities do not say that ratification of the Constitution was opposed in the South on sectional as well as other grounds. This even though the historians of Virginia have pointed out time and time again that fears for Southern interests played a most important role in the convention of 1788 of that State.

Perhaps the narrators of the nation’s history, being often Northerners, are not acquainted with the chronicles of the Old Dominion. Perhaps they are not so familiar even with their Jefferson as they would have us believe, for Jefferson declared that the struggle over ratification was sharper in the South than elsewhere – because of the fact that Southerners believed the Constitution did not offer sufficient protection against Northern domination.

Perhaps they have relied too much upon the Federalist Papers, which refer only briefly, although pointedly, to Southern sectionalism, saying that failure to put the Constitution into effect would probably lead to the formation of a Southern confederacy.

George Mason, sending to Northern Anti-federalists arguments against the Constitution, carefully omitted his Southern dissatisfactions, which would hardly have given strength to the enemies above the Mason-Dixon line. In Virginia he was ardent, and in Virginia the great decision regarding the Constitution was made. The issue was long doubtful in the Old Dominion; and had Virginia said nay, North Carolina would have persisted in her negative vote.

It is hardly necessary to say that an American union without the two States could hardly have been formed, could hardly have endured.”

(The First South, John Richard Alden, LSU Press, 1961, excerpt, pp. 99-100)

Emancipation and Repatriation

The American Colonization Society organizers below were well-aware of the origins of the slavery they detested – the avarice of the British who planted their colonial labor system on these shores, though opposed by colonial legislatures – and the perpetuation of the slave-trade by New England merchants.  They knew as well that should a naval force not be positioned off Africa’s coast, those New England merchants would prey upon the newly-emancipated in Liberia.  Note the predominance of Southern men in the Society.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Emancipation and Repatriation

“On December 28, 1816, the colonizers assembled in the hall of the House of Representatives. The constitution drafted by [Francis Scott] Key and his colleagues was adopted; and thus was founded the American Colonization Society. The constitution declared the purpose of the society to be the promotion of “a plan for colonizing (with their consent) the Free People of Colour residing in our country, in Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem expedient.”

The organization of the Society was perfected on January 1, 1817 with the election of officers. Justice Bushrod Washington (kin of George) was elected president.

The following Vice-Presidents were then selected: Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford of Georgia; Speaker [Henry] Clay of Kentucky; William Phillips of Massachusetts; former Governor John Eager Howard, Samuel Smith and John C. Herbert of Maryland; Colonel Henry Rutgers of New York; John Taylor of Virginia; General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee; Attorney General Richard Rush and Robert Ralston of Pennsylvania; General John Mason of the District of Columbia; and Reverend Finley . . . the first name on the board of managers was that of Francis S. Key.

The lawyers, clergymen, members of Congress, and other public men, who organized the American Colonization Society were idealists. Their aim was to eradicate slavery without causing political or economic violence. Statesmen from the North and South were able to stand together on the platform of the Society.

According to some historians, the colonizers were “idealists with troubled consciences.”  Patrick Henry cried . . . “I am drawn along by the inconvenience of living without them. I will not, I cannot justify it . . . Slavery is detested; we feel its fatal effects — we deplore it with all the pity of humanity. But is it practicable, by any human means, to liberate them without producing the most dreadful and ruinous consequences?”

The more practical business men of the country sneered at the scheme. The cold and calculating John Quincy Adams criticized the idea as absolutely visionary. The critics doubted whether the free Negroes would be willing to leave the United States for tropical Africa; and even if they did, whether they would be able to govern themselves after they arrived there.

But the colonizers were not discouraged. They believed that as their purpose was humane it had the approval of Providence, and that if they persevered they would meet with success in the end. They also . . . [believed that] the deported blacks would take with them what they had learned in America and would found in Africa a free and happy commonwealth.

Fortunately [Virginian] James Monroe, who succeeded Mr. Madison in the presidential chair on March 4, 1817, gave his endorsement to the plan of colonization. And in a year or two representatives of the American Colonization Society were on their way to Africa with instructions to explore the west coast of the Dark Continent and to select a location for a colony for the free blacks of America.

Before long auxiliary colonization societies were formed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York . . . Early in 1818 the people of Baltimore contributed several thousand dollars to the cause, and the Legislature of Maryland requested the Governor to urge President Monroe and the members of Congress to negotiate for a colony in Africa by cession or purchase. Similar resolutions were adopted by the Legislatures of Virginia, Tennessee, and other States.

As a result of the pleas of the friends of colonization, the Congress, on March 3, 1818, passed an act directing the United States Navy to capture all African slaves found in the possession of American slave-traders, and empowering the President to appoint agents on the coast of Africa to receive, shelter, feed, clothe, and protect the slaves so captured.

The passage of this law brought cheer to Francis Scott Key and his associates. It meant the cooperation of the United States Government. The coast of Africa was lined with slavers; and without the aid of the Navy the little colony would be at their mercy.”

(Francis Scott Key, Life and Times, Edward S. Delaplaine, Biography Press, 1937, excerpts, pp. 198-201)

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

John Taylor of Caroline viewed the economic life of the country as being local in character and only under the jurisdiction of the individual States – that is, popular institutions. Therefore he concluded: “The entire nationalistic program of the Federal Government as to banking, funding, tariff, and internal improvements is unconstitutional.” If one sidesteps the victor’s claim that they fought to end slavery 1861-1865, one finds that the Hamiltonian drive for concentrated federal power was underlying reason for war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

“The States, located in the center of the political landscape, perform a stabilizing function with sufficient power to protect the whole [federal] structure from the onslaughts of inimical forces that attack from two directions. They are essentially buffer States.

They represent a compromise between two types of concentrated power – one in the Federal Government, the other in the people, the turbulence of whom may lead to the reintroduction of monarchy such as followed the French Revolution.

Mobs and tyrants generate each other. Only the States can prevent the clashes of these two eternal enemies. Thus, unless the States can obstruct the greed and avarice of concentrated power, the issue will be adjudicated by an insurrectionary mob.

The States represent government by rule and law as opposed to government by force and fraud, which characterizes consolidated power whether in a supreme federal government, in the people, in factions, or in strong individuals.

Republicanism is the compromise between the idea that the people are a complete safeguard against the frauds of governments and the idea that the people, from ignorance or depravity, are incapable of self-government.

The basic struggle in the United States is between mutual checks by political departments and an absolute control by the Federal Government, or between division and concentration of power. Hamilton and Madison presented an impressive case for a strong national government, supreme over the rights of States.

They are supported by all the former Tories who benefit from the frauds of the paper system. Those who take this view are referred to as variously as monarchists, consolidators, and supremacists. The basic fallacy of their way of thinking is that they simply refuse to recognize “the primitive, inherent, sovereignty of each State” upon which basis only a federal form of government can be erected.

They assume the existence of an American Nation embracing the whole geographical reach of the country, on which they posit their argument for a supreme national government. But this is merely a fiction . . . The Declaration, the [Articles of] Confederation, and the Constitution specifically recognize the existence of separate and sovereign States, not of any American Nation or consolidated nation or people of the United States or concentrated sovereignty in the Federal Government. The word “America” designates a region on the globe and does not refer to any political entity.”

(The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene Tenbroeck Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, pp. 65-66)

Jefferson Reflects Upon Massachusetts

New England, and Massachusetts in particular, was supplying the French as General James Wolfe was enroute to the Plains of Abraham in 1759. In 1814 and the United States at war with the British, New England’s Federalist Party refused troops to repel the enemy, contemplated a separate peace with England, and came near secession from the Union in the December, 1814 Hartford Convention.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Reflects Upon Massachusetts

“Oh Massachusetts! How I have lamented the degradation of your apostasy!

Massachusetts, with whom I went with pride in 1776, whose vote was my vote on every public question, and whose principles were then the standard of whatever was free or fearless. But she was then under the counsels of the two Adams’; while Strong, her present leader, was promoting petitions for submission to British power and British usurpation.

But should the State, once more, buckle on her republican harness, we shall receive her again as a sister, and recollect her wanderings among the crimes only of the parricide [Federal] party, which would have basely sold what their fathers so bravely won from the same enemy. Let us look forward, then, to the act of repentance, which, by dismissing her venal traitors, shall be the signal of return to the bosom, and to the principles of her brethren; and, if her late humiliation can just give her modesty enough to suppose that her Southern brethren are somewhat on par with her in wisdom, in patriotism, in bravery, and even in honesty, although not in psalm-singing, she will more justly estimate her own relative momentum in the Union.

With her ancient principles, she would really be great, if she did not think herself the whole.”

(Letter to General Henry Dearborn, March 1815; The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnall’s Company, 1900, pg. 5)

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

To Jefferson, the Revolution meant “not merely independence from British rule but also escape from the British system of government into republicanism.” He also abhorred political parties, or what he called sects,” and saw that all Americans as “federalists” – i.e., supporters of the Constitution and virtually all republicans, i.e., “believers in a republic rather than a monarchy.” And the States were the line of defense against government tendencies to consolidate power around itself.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidation Generates Monarchy

“On the eclipse of federalism, although not its extinction, [New England] leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing geographical division of parties, which might ensure them the next President.

The people of the north went blindfolded into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up.

To that has now succeeded a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms, which immediately go to a separation.

The line of division now is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy.

Although this division excites, it is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.”

(Thomas Jefferson, to Marquis Lafayette, November 1823, Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, John P. Foley, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900, excerpt, pp. 760)

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