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Who First Brought African Slaves to America?

Referred to below is Bartholomew de Las Casas (1474-1566), a chaplain assigned to the Spanish armies invading Cuba. He witnessed the horrible massacre of the native Arawaks of Cuba at the hands of his countrymen and he returned to Spain to present his case to end those atrocities.  Those Spanish ships did not fly any flags of the American Confederacy, though New England slavers did fly the flag of the United States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Who First Brought African Slaves to America?

”Do you know how it came about that African slavery was first introduced into the New World?

We warrant you not one in ten of the Negro-philists of Europe or this country can properly answer this question. We warrant you also that fully half the enemies of the peculiar institution do not know that Negroes have always in all lands been held as slaves, from times so remote that the memory of man runneth not to the contrary; but firmly believe, that the whole blame of the great oppression rests upon the heads of the slaveholders of the present generation.

To all such allow us to say, the introduction of African slavery into America originated in the humane breast of Las Casas. At that period the aborigines of this country, the poor untutored “savages,” were sorely oppressed by the discoverers and conquerors of the land who used the poor creatures like so many beasts of burden, not even sparing their lives on occasions. Having been accustomed, before the coming of the pale faces, to the utmost freedom, devoting their time to idleness and hunting, they soon proved unequal to the misfortunate change, being incapable of performing the tasks imposed upon them by their new masters, and so perished miserably by the thousands.

To remedy so great an evil, Las Casas bethought him of the experiment of removing the Negroes from Africa to the New World that they might take the place of the poor “savages.” The Negroes were already slaves in their own country — slaves to masters whose authority was absolute — and had been such from time immemorial. Not only were they slaves to men; they were doubly the slaves of every species of degradation as well.

Sunk in the most deplorable barbarism, and guilty of all the wickednesses of the cities of the plain, they also waged incessantly cruel wars amongst themselves, tribe against tribe, and village against village. [African] chiefs built their huts of human skulls, drank the blood of their enemies out of human skulls, and yearly offered up whole hecatombs of human sacrifices; and on the death of every headman of a tribe, hundreds of his slaves were butchered over his grave that they might accompany and serve their dead master in the other world.

Surely, thought the humane Las Casas, there can be no harm in removing such wretches from the thralldom of their heathen masters to the milder sway of civilized men.

And at the time, all humane men every where were of the same opinion. Catholics, churchmen, non-conformists of every persuasion, and infidel philosophers also, all regarded the move as both philanthropic and evangelic.

Certainly good men reprobated on the horrors of the Middle Passage then, as earnestly as they do at the present time; but when they reflected on the horrors left behind — the man-eaters and the bloody human sacrifices — the constant wars between the different tribes — their spiritual degradation and mental darkness — they felt constrained to look upon even the horrors of the Middle Passage as an advance from the darker horrors of the accursed country, whence the poor creatures were being removed.

And so our own New England Puritans became the leading traffickers in slaves, and Boston one of the best slave-marts in the country.”

(Social Relations in Our Southern States, Daniel R. Hundley, 1860, pp.292-294)

Witness to Sorrow

Though opposed to his State’s secession, South Carolinian William J. Grayson saw the true face of the Northern-dominated union as Lincoln’s army murdered and plundered his neighbors. In like manner, North Carolina Unionist Edward Stanly, Lincoln’s proconsul in occupied New Bern, lost faith in the conquerors as he witnessed Northern troopships returning north laden with stolen furniture, artwork and jewelry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witness to Sorrow

“For this calamity, this crime of War between North and South, Northern people are chiefly chargeable. The cupidity and intermeddling spirit of New England were the main causes of dissention. Her greedy tariff exaction, her perpetual irritating interference with Negro slavery in the Southern States, her avaricious monopolists & political priests sowed the seed of which we are reaping the natural harvest.

If ever a people destroyed their own prosperity it is the people of New England. They are accustomed to call the brain of New England the brain of the Union — it is the brain of a lunatic who cuts his own throat. No chain of cause and effect in all history is more clearly traceable than the destruction of the Federal Union by Northern folly and madness.

If they succeed in the war they will be the rulers over insurgent provinces ready at the first opportunity to renew the contest. The restoration of the union is an impossibility. There must succeed to it another government with standing armies, enormous taxes and despotic power beneath whose influence Northern liberty will wither and perish. In the early part of November [1861] the Northern government began a series of predatory expeditions on the Southern coast. The first under Sherman and Dupont disembarked at Port Royal. They presented to the world a striking evidence of the ease with which men strain at gnats and swallow camels.

They were prosecuting as felons in New York the captured privateersmen of the South, and were seizing all the cotton and other property of widows, children and noncombatants on the islands of South Carolina, contrary to every usage of civilized war.

The robbery has been approved and applauded throughout the Northern States. They talk with exultation of cultivating the plantations of Port Royal on Federal account as a sort of financial appendage to the Washington government. The rights of the owners are disregarded.

To the people of St. Helena parish and the adjoining country the disaster was incalculable. They lost everything; houses, plantations, Negroes, furniture, clothing. They became fugitives. Northern men engaged formerly in surveying the coast served as guides for the marauding parties. With their wives and children they had spent months in the families of the planters, had eaten dinners and drank wine, and now they acted as pioneers of plunder to the scenes of the feast.

They were better able to discover the stores of old Madeira from having frequently joined the owners in drinking it. Their first question asked of the servants on entering a house from which their cannon had driven the owner was — “where is the wine kept?”

There was something indescribably mean in the conduct of these parties but very characteristic of the people whose officers they were. They are a thrifty race, not scrupulous about the means if their end be attained. Our worthy friends of Massachusetts treat us (as) they did the Indians, witches, Quakers, Baptists and other heretics of earlier times. There are many pious Christians but not a voice is heard in favor of peace. So far as we can judge from their acquiescence in Sewardism, they have fallen into the strange delusion that Christian Charity is consistent with rape, rapine and murder.

They pray and preach not for peace, but for the more earnest prosecution of a bloody war and the enactment of general confiscation acts. They [Northerners] exulted . . . a manifest judgment of Providence on the home of rebels and traitors. They believed that Heaven had put the torch to Southern homesteads to avenge the abolition party and support the cause.”

(Witness to Sorrow, the Antebellum Autobiography of William J. Grayson. University of South Carolina Press, 1990, pp 185-201)

The Yankee Rebels of 1815

Not only did New England advance secession from the Union at 1814’s Hartford Convention, but the sharp Yankees found that trading with the enemy was a highly profitable venture.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Yankee Rebels of 1815

Diary Entry: January 9, 1864

“A remarkable parallel is found between the law proposed in our [Confederate] Congress to prevent trade with the enemy and one enacted by the United States Congress in 1815 to stop the Yankees from trading with the British — a business in which New England was largely and constantly engaged. Judge [John A.] Campbell tells me he knew intimately an old gentleman, who lived at that time in the same house with Amos Lawrence and who narrated to him particularly how that . . . Yankee and his brother brought vast quantities of goods from Canada to Lake Champlain in enormous trains of sleighs.

The country was a wilderness and there was small risk of detection, except by those [Yankees] who sympathized with the trade. At the same time, Yankee rebels were carrying supplies to Wellington in Spain under licenses from the British Admiral on the North Atlantic station.

(Inside the Confederate Government, The Diary of Robert Garlick Hill Kean, LSU Press, 1993, pp. 131-132)

New England’s “Kill-Devil”

By 1750 New England dominated the transatlantic slave trade. Slavers constructed there carried Yankee notions and rum to the Gulf of Benin to be traded to African chiefs for his already enslaved brethren, and thence transported in the slavers to the West Indies sugar plantations.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England’s “Kill-Devil”

“In the trade between New England and the [West Indies] island colonies, the main exports of the former were provisions, timber in various shapes and horses. These last, according to the governor of Virginia, were useful in turning the machinery in the sugar mills and carrying the custom officers out of the way when smugglers wished to land their goods.

In return for these commodities, the northern plantations imported rum, sugar and molasses, the latter the basis of the important distilling business of Rhode Island and Massachusetts producing a liquid known among New England’s less ardent contemporary admirers as “Kill-Devil.”

(The History of New England, Vol. II; Revolutionary New England, 1691-1776, James Truslow Adams, Little, Brown and Company, 1941, pg. 149)

New England’s Merchant Aristocracy

The merchant aristocracy of New England prospered greatly by evading British law, and “It is almost certain that almost no New England merchant carried on his business without indulging in smuggling on a considerable scale . . .” and this included the slave trade. This smuggling and avoidance of British law invited the navigation acts which were aimed solely at New England, and eventually dragged the other colonies into war.  The same merchant aristocracy was no friend of democracy as John Adams relates below.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England’s Merchant Aristocracy

“The great bulk of [New Englanders] were poor, the poorest being found in the lower classes in the towns and among the frontiersmen. The strength of New England lay in her farming class of the more settled sections, but even in their case, wealth consisted almost wholly in land.

Many contemporary observers agree moreover in commenting upon their dishonesty, pointing particularly . . . to the Rhode Islanders, though one Southerner admitted that “for rural scenes and pretty frank girls” Newport was the pleasantest place he had found in his travels. Even in such a Massachusetts town as Worcester in 1755, John Adams reported that all the conversation he could find was “dry disputes upon politics and rural obscene wit.”

As a matter of fact, a great gulf had widened between the rich town merchant or other capitalist and the ordinary colonist. The more or less cultured men and women of the socially elect who had servants and fine houses, whose portraits hung on their walls, and both sexes of whom went clothed in “the rich, deep, glaring splendor” of their silks and satins, velvets and brocades, had little in common with the barefoot farmer and his equally barefoot wife, or with the artisan of the towns.

As we are apt to think of New England as thrifty, simple and homespun in contrast with the “cavalier” luxury of the South, it may be illuminating to quote what a North Carolina planter wrote home as to the life of the young girls of fifteen or so in his own social class as he found it in Boston at this time.

“You would not be pleased,” he wrote, “to see the indolent way in which” they “generally live. They do not get up even in this fine Season till 8 or 9 o’clock. Breakfast is over at ten, a little reading or work until 12, dress for dinner until 2, afternoon making or receiving Visits or going about the Shops. Tea, Supper and Chat closes the Day and their Eyes about 11.”

Wealth was increasing, but with even more rapidity it was concentrating. In Boston, in 1758, Charles Apthorp died leaving over 50,000 [pounds], and there were others equally or even more wealthy. Fortunes were fast being built up to enormous figures for that day by the privateering merchants of Rhode Island, while in New Hampshire Benning Wentworth, who had been bankrupt in 1740, had acquired a hundred thousand acres of land and a fortune in money twenty years later, and was living in princely style in a palatial mansion of fifty-two rooms.

Demagogues were not lacking to add fuel to the as yet smoldering fires. “wrote one regarding the Excise tax in Boston, “must Men therefore make them poorer still, to enrich themselves?”

“There is an overweening fondness,” wrote John Adams in 1817, “for representing this country as a scene of liberty, equality, fraternity, union, harmony and benevolence. But let not your sons or mine deceive themselves. This country, like all others, has been a theatre of parties and feuds for nearly two hundred years.”

(The History of New England, Vol. II; Revolutionary New England, 1691-1776, James Truslow Adams, Little, Brown and Company, 1941, pp. 252-254)

A Tradition of Trading with the Enemy

During the French and Indian War New England merchants carried on illicit trade with the French West Indies; during the War of 1812 New England merchants did the same with the British, withheld troops from United States forces and threatened secession at its Hartford Convention of 1814.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Tradition of Trading with the Enemy

“As the [French and Indian] war progressed and the price of goods and provisions rose, the temptation [for smuggling] became greater. The routes and methods of forwarding cargoes became as varied and devious as were the dealings with officials, and the wrath of the [British] military and naval authorities increased proportionately as they saw their efforts thwarted and neutralized by the acts of colonial merchants.

In the latter part of 1759 General Crump wrote to Pitt that in the previous eight months not a single vessel had been able to reach the French West Indies from Europe, and that the islands were sustained wholly by the illegal American [New England] trade. Admiral Coates called this trade “iniquitous, and Commodore Moore described those who were engaged in it as “traitors to their country.”

It has been asserted that the commercial supremacy in the West Indies was the central point of Pitt’s policy . . . [though] the fruits of the war he had waged so brilliantly could not be gathered unless the French possessions in the islands were conquered, and what prevented them from falling into his hands was the support they received from the colonists – to a great extent, the New Englanders.

Its only cure seemed to be the enforcement of the act of 1733, and in 1760 he sent a circular letter to the colonial governors stating that the enemy was “principally, if not alone, enabled to sustain, and protract, this long and expensive war” by means of “this dangerous and ignominious trade,” and calling upon them to take every lawful step to bring the offenders to “exemplary and condign punishment.”

Although the trade was notorious, and although at the very time, a few months previously, when Wolfe was battling for Quebec, Boston merchants were ferreting out a new way of trading with the enemy through New Orleans, a committee of the Massachusetts Council reported on Pitt’s dispatch that “they cannot find that there is any illegal trade . . . Governor Fitch of Connecticut wrote that he had been unable to find any evidence of trade with the enemy among his people.”

(The History of New England, Vol. II; Revolutionary New England, 1691-1776, James Truslow Adams, Little, Brown and Company, 1941, pp. 267-268)

Fomenting the Alleged Boston Massacre

Bostonian John Adams noted in early 1770 that “Endeavors had been systematically pursued for many months by certain busy characters, to excite quarrels, recounters and combats . . . between the inhabitants of the lower class and the soldiers, and at all risks to enkindle an immortal hatred between them.” He and others laid the cause of the fatal confrontation at the feet of the irresponsible press and the mob it inflamed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Fomenting the Alleged Boston Massacre

“There is plenty of evidence that the [New England] radicals set about fomenting trouble between the soldiers and the people in order to bring about a forced withdrawal, and they must share to a very great extent the guilt for the blood soon to be shed.

On the 2nd of March [1770], as a result of provocation by some workmen at a ropewalk, a serious affray occurred between the military and the laborers. On the evening of the 5th, the very day on which the repeal of the Townsend Acts was moved in Parliament, occurred the fatal affray ever since known, quite unfittingly, as the “Boston Massacre.”

During the early hours, groups both of citizens and soldiers wandered about the streets as if anticipating something out of the ordinary. About eight o’clock a bell was rung as the usual signal of fire. At once a crowd assembled near King Street and insulted the sentry posted at the Custom House.

A sergeant and six men were hastily ordered out to protect the sentry, Captain Preston immediately following to prevent rash action.

The mob, however, increased and assaulted the soldiers with sticks and stones, daring them to fore. Nevertheless, they did not do so until one [soldier] who had been knocked down with a club struggled to his feet and at once shot his musket into the crowd. [Captain] Preston had given no order.

The crowd was shouting tauntingly “Fire, fire” and “Why don’t you fire?”

It is impossible to say whether in the confusion the soldiers mistook the cry of someone in the crowd for an order or whether they fired in the mere excitement of self-defense. There is also the question as to whether shots may have been fired from the nearby Custom House.

Three men were killed outright and two mortally wounded. Regrettable as the incident was, it was without intention on the part of the authorities. The mob, led by a half-breed Negro, had been the aggressor. The wisdom of the English government of posting troops in the town may well have been at fault, but the local authorities had unquestionably been unable or unwilling to maintain order and to protect the citizens in their lives and property.

Whatever the larger aspects of the case, the immediate blame for the occurrence must be laid at the door of those radicals who in the newspapers and speeches had been doing their utmost to kindle resentment and ill-feeling against the soldiers and to bring on just such a clash as occurred.

Captain Preston and his little squad at once surrendered themselves to the civil authorities, and some months later, after a very fair trial which reflects credit on the town, and in which they were defended by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, Junior, all of the prisoners were found not guilty with the exception of two who were convicted of homicide and given a comparatively slight penalty.”

(The History of New England, Vol. II; Revolutionary New England, 1691-1776, James Truslow Adams, Little, Brown and Company, 1941, pp. 375-377)

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