Browsing "New England’s Cultural Imperialism"

The Blot on New England’s Escutcheon

Most authorities agree that the first mention of Negro slaves in New England was in John Winthrop’s diary in 1638, stating that “Mr. Pierce in his Salem ship, Desire, has been at Providence [West Indies] and brought some cotton and tobacco and Negroes from there, and salt from Tertugos.”

Negro slaves are found in New Haven, Connecticut as early as 1644, six years after the colony was founded, though it is recorded that “John Pantry of Hartford owned a slave in 1633.”

Slaves are mentioned in New Hampshire in 1646, as well as Rhode Island in 1652. The latter colony became the center of New England’s infamous transatlantic slave trade, surpassing Liverpool’s slave trade by 1750.

Blot on New England’s Escutcheon

“. . . Negro slavery in New England reflected that institution as it existed in the hey-day of the plantation era in the sugar, cotton and tobacco States. There was the same horror of the slave trade, the same spectacle of gangs of manacled blacks deposited on the wharves of Boston and Newport, and the same selling of human chattel at auction.

Nor was the tearing of wife from husband, nor the separation of children from both, nor the existence of the slave code, peculiar only to the Middle and Southern Colonies. It was applicable to New England as well; and in some instance, New England even led the way.

The Puritan settlements of New England enjoyed, either contemporaneously or separately, the three forms of servitude common in that day, namely; indentured servants, Indian slaves, and Negro slaves.

Indentured servants date from the founding of Massachusetts; indeed they even preceded the settlement of the Puritans at Salem, having been sent in advance to prepare homes and food against the coming of the settlers in 1630. Unfree labor existed, however, throughout the remainder of the colonial period.

The indentured servants soon proved insufficient in numbers to satisfy the colonists increasing demand for laborers. A new source of supply was soon found, however, for Indian warfare began about 1636, and the captives were promptly sold into slavery. The women and children were usually employed in the colonies; the warriors were carried to th West Indies and there sold as slaves.

The barbarous treatment of the Pequots by the New Englanders in their ruthless war of extermination against them, must ever remain a blot upon New England’s escutcheon. However, the pious Puritans easily dismissed any qualms of conscience which might have arisen, by the simple fact that “a gracious Providence had been pleased to deliver the heathen Indians into their hands.”

Thus the redskin and not the black man, was the first slave in New England. Even the much vaunted saintliness of Roger Williams, was not sufficient to deter him from writing John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay, asking that a small Indian boy be sent to him as a servant. Indian slavery was, however, soon to be supplemented by Negro servitude, for the redskin was considered lazy, intractable, vindictive, and inclined to run away.”

(Slave-Holding in New England and Its Awakening, Lorenzo J. Greene; Journal of Negro History, Vol. XIII, Number 2, April 1928, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts pp. 492-494)

Stereotypes and White Trash in Little Rock

The Little Rock episode of government force used in the integration of Arkansas schools caused little damage to Governor Orval Faubus as he easily secured reelection in 1958, and served three more terms.

Hollywood used Little Rock to advance their stereotypes of the Southern citizenry, with “A Face in the Crowd” described below, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.”

The latter two paint a damning picture of poor Southern white people with the Ewell family depicted as untrustworthy “poor white trash”; Gregory Peck provided “a pale imitation of the primal Cajun doing his dance to drumbeats.” “Redneck” and “white trash” were often used interchangeably; “hillbilly” was waiting in the wings if the other two did not suffice.

Stereotypes and White Trash in Little Rock

“Little Rock was the most important domestic news story of 1957. It transformed the Central High neighborhood into a newsroom, attracting reporters from the major newspapers, magazines and television networks. By the end of September, the number of press people had grown from a handful to 225 highly visible journalists and cameramen. The standoff between the courts and the governor – the “crisis” environment swirling around the school grounds – grabbed the world’s attention.

The media easily slipped into Southern stereotypes, depicting “many in overalls,” “tobacco-chewing white men,” or as one New York Times article highlighted, a “scrawny redneck man” yelling insults at the soldiers. Local Arkansas journalists similarly dismissed the demonstrators as “a lot of rednecks.” Unruly women who stood by became “slattern housewives” and “harpies.” One Southern reporter said it outright: “Hell, look at them. They’re just poor white trash, mostly.”

In Nashville, mob violence erupted that same month after the integration of an elementary school. There, a Time [magazine] reporter had a field day trashing the women in the crowd: “vacant-faced women in curlers and loose-hanging blouses,” not to mention a rock-throwing waitress with a tattooed arm.

These were all predictable motifs, serving to distance rabble-rousers from the “normal” good people of Arkansas and Tennessee. By 1959, the Times Literary Supplement acknowledged that it was the “ugly faces” of “rednecks, crackers, tar-heels and other poor white trash” that would be forever remembered from Central High.

In the same year that Little Rock consumed the news media, Hollywood produced a feature-length film that capitalized on the redneck image. Starring Andy Griffith and directed by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd was . . . “a dark drama that followed “Lonesome Rhodes,” a down-and-out man discovered playing guitar in an Arkansas jail, and traced his rapid rise into the national limelight as a powerful and ruthless TV star.

For reviewers, Griffith’s performance was a cross between Huey Long and Elvis Presley – a hollering, singing “redneck gone berserk with power.”

(White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg, Viking Press, 2016, excerpts pp. 251-252)

TR’s American Exceptionalism and Eugenics

“Roosevelt the First,” as Mencken referred to Theodore, accidentally became president upon the assassination of William McKinley. Though his mother was Georgia-born and he proclaimed a Confederate pedigree, this “New York politico proved himself fairly inept a navigating the rocks and shoals of Southern politics.”

Roosevelt was an early believer in eugenics and praised the famous eugenicist, Charles Davenport, a Connecticut-born descendant of abolitionist Puritans. Davenport was a Harvard-trained biologist, and established what would become the Eugenics Record Office at Long Island’s Spring Harbor in 1904.

Further, Davenport was an influential member of the eugenics section of the American Breeders Association, and his second in command, Harry Laughlin of Iowa, advanced forced human sterilization and shaped the 1924 Immigration Act. Davenport “described the best female breeders as women with wide hips, using the same thinking that animal breeders had employed for centuries to describe cows.”

TR’s American Exceptionalism and Eugenics

“Roosevelt, a patrician, had little choice but to joist with his redneck foes. In 1905, during his Southern tour . . . One newspaper joked that the president’s entourage was wise to travel through Mississippi at night, so that [Mississippi Governor James K.] Vardaman wouldn’t have to shoot him.

Roosevelt also ruffled the feathers of the proud white women of the South when he had dared to class Jefferson Davis with Benedict Arnold. When he did that, one incensed Georgia woman declared that the president had dishonored his mother’s blood.

Blood was thicker than water for Roosevelt, but not in the way the testy Georgia woman would have viewed the matter. His understanding of race and class remained rooted in evolutionary thinking, and he believed that blacks were naturally subordinate to the Anglo-Saxon . . . and never abandoned the premise that racial traits were carried in the blood, conditioned by the experiences of one’s ancestors.

As an ardent exponent of “American Exceptionalism,” Roosevelt argued that the nineteenth-century frontier experience had transformed white Americans into superior stock. Roosevelt’s motto can be summed up in three words: “work-fight-breed.” There is clear evidence that he was influenced by the mountaineers’ myth, by which good Saxon stock was separated from the debased Southern poor white. History was written in blood, sweat and “germ protoplasm” – the turn-of-the-century term for what we now refer to as genes.

The ills attending modernity could be corrected . . . A man could return to the wilderness – as Roosevelt did when he hunted big game in Africa . . ; War – the raw fight for survival – was a second means of bringing forth ancestral Saxon traits. Washington, Lincoln and Grant were his heroes, men who lived active, virtuous lives, rejecting comfort and complacency. In the final analysis, the president opined, the Confederate generation and their heirs had contributed “very, very little toward anything of which Americans are now proud.”

He could be confident in the future because Roosevelt was an unabashed eugenicist. He used the bully pulpit of his office to insist that women had a critical civic duty to breed a generation of healthy and disciplined children. He first endorsed eugenics in 1903, and two years later he laid out his beliefs in a speech before the Congress of Mothers. Worried about “race suicide,” as he put it, he recommended that women of Anglo-American stock have four to six children.

In 1913, Roosevelt wrote supportively to the leading eugenicist Charles Davenport that it was the patriotic duty of every good citizen of superior stock to leave his or her “blood behind.” Degenerates, he warned, must not be permitted to reproduce their kind.”

(White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg, Viking Press, 2016, excerpts pp. 190-193)

Tampering with New England’s Slave Trade

Much of Britain’s difficulty with its American colonies came from New England smuggling and dependence upon French West Indies molasses which it distilled into rum, which in turn fueled its slave trade. In his last years, Boston’s John Adams “saw the Revolution, at least in part, as a struggle over molasses. He said “I know not why we should blush to confess that molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence.

It takes no great imagination to conclude that without British and New England populating the American colonies with African slaves, and perpetuating this into the mid-nineteenth century, the war which destroyed the American republic in 1861 might not have occurred.

Tampering with New England’s Trade in Slaves

“[The Molasses Act of 1733 enacted by the British Parliament] was introduced as a result of complaints from the British islands in the West Indies, whose economy was based on the production of sugar, against the competition of the French sugar islands – St. Dominique, Guadeloupe and Martinique. The British West Indies – Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Monserrat and St. Christopher – were such an immense source of wealth that they were considered at the time to be more important to the empire than the North American colonies.

Molasses, a by-product of the islands’ sugar mills, was turned into rum in New England. There were so many distilleries in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut that they were known as the Rum Coast. Rum, to a degree hard to believe in a later and much different world, was essential to the New England economy.

It was one of the main means of profitable exchange for furs from the Indians and slaves and ivory from Africa. Some of the greatest early New England fortunes were based on the rum trade, most of which was carried on illegally. Boston alone was said to have about fifty distilling houses. Nothing could set off a panic in New England more surely than tampering with this trade.

The trouble arose because the British islands could not supply all the molasses needed by the North American distilleries or supply them as cheaply as the French islands. The French West Indian molasses manufacture and the New England rum production were as if made for each other. By [Sir Robert] Walpole’s time, an immensely important trade had developed between the French islands and the New England colonies. Everyone benefited, except the British sugar islands.

The result was the Molasses Act, which was designed to cut off the [French-New England] trade by putting a 100 percent duty upon non-British sugar. The agent of Massachusetts and Connecticut in London foretold funereally that the act was bound to ruin “many thousand families there.” Richard Partridge, the New York agent in London, brought up the argument of nonrepresentation in Parliament to denounce the act . . .”

By passing the act, [Walpole] legally appeased the British East West Indian planters. By doing little or nothing to enforce it, he appeased New England rum merchants. Smuggling was not a particularly American vice. Even when Secretary at War he had been engaged in smuggling his wines up the Thames.”

(The Struggle for Power: The American Revolution, Theodore Draper, Vintage Books, 1997, excerpts pp. 95-96)

Capitalism Instigated by the Devil

The writer below asks the question: “Should the South become a replica of the industrialized North, with all the advantages and disadvantages that go with that way of life? Or does the South have something essential and unique which is worth preserving? Does Birmingham want to be another Pittsburgh, Richmond another Chicago, Raleigh another Newark, or Charleston another Detroit?” Calhoun biographer Margaret Coit pondered “Whether the South of today [1950], in the throes of warborn prosperity, will sacrifice the remaining values of its way of life by accepting the industrial democracy against which Calhoun fought . . .?”

Capitalism Instigated by the Devil

“The not quite immoveable object is, of course, the Southern way of life. It arises more from instinct than philosophy; back of it are the ancient traits and ingrained habits of a people who are notoriously set in their ways.

Suspicion of the Calvinistic-Puritanical-Yankee notion of “work for work’s sake” is one of those traits. A Calhounistic “wise and masterly inactivity” is more to the Southern taste as a general rule. When Southerners read the tributes of Northern poets to work, such as James Russell Lowell’s “and blessed are the horny hands of toil,” they doubt whether either writer had enough callouses on his hands to know what he was talking about.

Such pep talk makes Southerners tired; they have to go somewhere and lie down to digest it. One reason the South loves cotton farming so much is that it gives them about six months of each year to loaf and invite their souls. If the soul refuses the invitation, they just loaf.

The South has had a long and deep-seated suspicion of industrialization. It wants the fruits of industry, but not the tree. This attitude goes back to Thomas Jefferson, if not further. Southerners have always been convinced that the planter is the nobler work of God than the manufacturer, the farmer than the mill hand. While the Southerner may not remember the exact words which Jefferson used in the Notes on Virginia in 1785, the sentiment is bred in his bone:

“Those who labor the earth are the chosen people of God . . . while we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths are wanting in husbandry, but, for the general operation of manufacture, let our workshops remain in Europe . . . The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body.”

In the 1850s Southerners talked about the evils of capitalism with its “wage slaves” as bitterly as if they had been Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, though to be sure it was not the capitalism of the Southern planter, but the capitalism of the Northern manufacturer to which they objected.

This is the South which not only likes the Negro “in his place” but likes every man in his place and thinks there is a certain place providentially provided for him. To this South, industrialism, with its shift from status to contract and its creation of a new-rich, rootless and pushing class of people, is plainly instigated by the devil.”

(Southern Accent: From Uncle Remus to Oak Ridge, William T. Polk, William Morrow and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 243-245)

Intolerance

“Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrims fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom, have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?”

Robert E. Lee, to Mary Custis Lee, Christmas, 1856

The South Forced to Obey the New Union

The war of 1861-1865 created a new union of the North and a forced South, with the mercantile former dictating terms, policies and allegiance to the latter as an economic colony. The Republican party oligarchy then ushered in the Gilded Age of political bosses, bought politicians and a vote-rigging press. The Founders’ Union of equal and sovereign States was but a distant memory.

The South Forced to Obey the New Union

“Remember money breeds money, which in turn brings more,” said Benjamin Franklin. “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,” wrote Thomas Jefferson.

If these two attitudes may be considered the respective mainstream philosophies of the North and the South, then it becomes obvious there can be no way to blend the two into a single national spirit ant more than Cain could live by Abel’s side. “We the people,” as famous a phrase as it may be, is a dupery.

Understanding it as such seems to me the key to the history of the United States both before and after 1865.

When the American colonists started debating their merging into a single political unit, the obviously central issue was that of States’ rights – i.e., what sovereignty would be left to the States once a federal power, endowed with a sovereignty of its own, had been established.

Since none of their representatives appears to have called for the States to forfeit their sovereignty entirely, it seems obvious that the new union, it tighter than the one obtaining under the Articles of Confederation, was nevertheless to be that of a federation in which the federal power was rigorously construed, strictly limited, and States’ rights sternly asserted. Such a view was never unanimous.

The Federalists, men of the North already, opposed it immediately, (hence the Tenth Amendment) and never relented until they overcame at the price of open war. In between they had constantly waged one by other means, kindling the fires of conflict with self-interested issues (internal improvements, tariffs, a central bank), the last of which was the rather contrived issue of slavery. (The South ended up fighting as one man while the only a fourth of Southern households actually owned slaves . . . As for the Yankees, once victorious they abandoned the freed slaves to a rather dubious fate.)

So the fateful war was fought, and union proclaimed to have been restored.

A scurrilous claim: It is symbolic that the South could be reinstated as a member of the Union only after a team of Northern generals had razed it. The new union, instead of resulting from the regulated intercourse of political bodies, was forced down the throats of half of them, and the unity prevailing between Americans became that which obtains between colonizers and colonized.

Lincoln showed himself to be a faithful disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s method for regenerating France: “to prevent the union from being an empty word, it must be disposed that whoever is rebellious to the people’s will must be forced to obey it, which only means forcing him to be free. From such deviousness was born a new type of nation, indeed.”

(1865: The True American Revolution, Claude Polin, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pg. 14; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

The Aftermath of New England’s Thanksgiving

The Pequot tribe inhabited the coastline of southeastern Connecticut before the arrival of the Dutch in 1614, and shortly afterward, the English. The Pequots did not welcome strangers who settled on their land, took their wild game, and infected the tribe with smallpox — warring between the tribe and the strangers soon commenced. Early on the morning of June 5, 1637, the English “murmured their prayers,” descended upon a sleeping village, set fire to the wigwams and killed some 400 Pequots. “The brutality of burning people alive did not faze the English” and one commander wrote “Sometimes the scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.” After finally extinguishing the Pequots in 1638, the English turned upon their Indian allies to continue their efforts to make New England safe for European settlement, selling many into slavery in the West Indies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Aftermath of New England’s Thanksgiving

“The English were now determined to eradicate the remnants of the Pequots . . . The first band . . . were captured without resistance, and 40 of them were murdered by the English in cold blood. Some 80 of the women were handed over to the Narragansetts to become part of their tribe. The remainder were bound up and sent to Massachusetts Bay Colony to be sold as slaves, destined for the cane fields of the Caribbean.

Ultimately, according to [Commander John] Mason, some 700 additional Pequots were killed or captured in various groups. Those that had escaped became marked men. Hardly a week passed . . . that [English ally] Narragansetts or Mohegans didn’t appear with yet another grisly trophy. It brought joy to colonial leaders, who proclaimed gratefulness “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen to heaven.”

On October 1, 1638, in a document styled the “Treaty of Hartford,” the colonial government of Connecticut, along with its Indian allies, passed final judgement on the Pequots. Under the terms of the treaty, the remaining living Pequots were divided among the Narragansetts and Mohegans . . . [and] the Pequots could never again live in their homeland and could never again use the name Pequot.

The French traveler and historian Alexis de Toqueville recorded their extermination for the world after travelling New England in 1833. “All the Indian tribes who once inhabited the territory of New England – the Narragansetts, the Mohicans, the Pequots – now live only in men’s memories,” he wrote in Democracy in America after returning home.

Much of the 500 square miles of land that had once been under the domain of the Pequots was awarded to the winning commanders in the Pequot War. John Mason and Lion Gardiner were given huge plantations in what is now southeastern Connecticut. Thousands of settlers from the Massachusetts and Plymouth Colonies streamed into what today is the metropolitan area of Hartford.

Before the war, the body of water that flowed to Norwich was known as the Pequot River. The nostalgic English, after the war, renamed the waterway the Thames River.”

(The Revenge of the Pequots: How a Small Native American Tribe Created the World’s Most Profitable Casino, Kim Isaac Eisler, Simon & Schuster, 2001, excerpts 33-39)

 

Fake News from Crusading Correspondents

Criticizing Northern writers who claimed to report objectively on conditions in the South, novelist William Faulkner wrote in March 1956 that “The rest of the United States knows next to nothing about the South. The present idea and picture which they hold of a people decadent and even obsolete through inbreeding and illiteracy . . . The rest of the United States assumes that this condition . . . is so simple and so uncomplex that it can be changed tomorrow by the simple will of the national majority backed by legal edict.”

The book excerpted below was dedicated by the author to David Lawrence, well-respected and truthful editor of the US News and World Report in the 1950s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fake News from Crusading Corrrespondents

“[Most] of the writers who have poured into the South in race-baiting assignments had neither admitted nor allowed for their prejudices. They have listened, with varying degrees of politeness, to the explanations and protestations of their white Southern informants, and have discounted what they heard. A considerable number . . . “have left a bad taste, sometimes repaying with ill-humored misrepresentations the courtesy of their Southern hosts.

The Northern correspondents who “invaded” the South to make first-hand reports on the segregation situation made the local newspaper their first call, there to “pick the brains” of fellow-journalists who had been living there for years. Almost invariably – until Southern patience began to wear thin under the constant friction of misrepresentation, omission and distortion of the reports which appeared as a result of such interviews – the Northerners were accorded every courtesy . . .

If the crusading correspondent ran out of reportorial adjectives with which to color his dispatches, he could always turn to the stock cast of characters which fill the “literary” works of those apostate Southerners who have found profit in despoiling their own heritage.

But one Southerner who made his mark without wallowing too much in such garbage is Robert C. Ruark, a North Carolinian who paid his respects in January 1957 to the “realistic” writers who achieved notoriety through serving up an adulterated potion of “po white trash.” Ruark wrote:

“One of these days . . . I am going to write a book about the South which is not littered with clay-eaters, lint-headed mill hands, idiots, itinerant preachers, juvenile delinquents, morons, slatterns, cripples, freaks and other characters who don’t wash, live off sardines and soft drinks, hang around bus stations, and breed merrily within the family . . .

. . . It is possible to grow up in the South without a full chorus of nymphomaniacs, drunkards, Negro-lynchers, randy preachers, camp meetings, hookworm, albinos, dirty hermits, old mad women, and idiot relatives to form your early impressions. But the literary output of the last 25 years wouldn’t have it so . . .”

(The Case for the South, William D. Workman, Jr., Devin-Adair Company, 1969, excerpts pp. 69-70; 72-73)

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

Early in the war, radical Republicans in Congress exerted great pressure upon Lincoln to wage total war against the South – these were the same ones who refused to enter into compromise with Southern congressmen to avoid war. Austin Blair of Michigan declared that “No property of a rebel ought to be free from confiscation . . . the Union forces should be hurled like a thunderbolt at the rebels: pay the soldiers from the rebel’s property, feed them from his granaries, mount them upon his horses.” The South was to be turned into a devastated wasteland, its people impoverished, and the new colony governed by military law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

By the beginning of 1862 the abolitionists had grown disgusted with Lincoln’s cautious Border State policy. Not all the developments of 1861 had been to their liking, and they began the new year with a new determination to destroy slavery, to rid the nation of the dangers of Southern domination, and to control the South.

“The thing we seek,” explained a Massachusetts colonel to Governor [John] Andrew, “is permanent dominion: & what instance is there of a permanent dominion without changing, revolutionizing, absorbing, the institutions, life and manners of the conquered peoples?”

And he added with scorn: “They think we mean to take their slaves. Bah! We must take their ports, their mines, their water power, the very soil they plow, and develop them by the hands of our artisan armies . . . We are to be a regenerating, colonizing power, or we are to be whipped. Schoolmasters with howitzers, must instruct our Southern brethren that they are a set of d—d fools in everything that relates to modern civilization.” The migration and settlement of Yankees on Southern soil, explained the colonel, must follow success in battle.

Thus the lure of loot infused a crusade whose banners bore the words of freedom. On the day after New Year’s, Horace Greeley [proclaimed in Washington that] the real object of the war must be slavery’s destruction. The audience, fully packed with an abolitionist claque, applauded loudly . . . and it gave vehement approval to the orator’s assertion that “rebels have no right to own anything.”

“The world moves and the Yankee is Yankeeized,” added the Chicago Tribune as it urged its readers to write their congressmen.

In Congress, where the radical Committee on the Conduct of the War was preparing to launch its career as director of the abolitionist crusade, men heard repeated talk about reducing the Southern States to territories, appointing Northern governors to rule over them, and maintaining an army of occupation to implement the eventual exploitation of the conquered land.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, excerpts pp. 199-233-234)