Browsing "New England’s Slave Trade"

Emancipation and Colonization

The antebellum idea of compensated emancipation for slaves never gained traction as the North would not agree to help fund the repatriation of Africans’ they themselves had grown wealthy importing to the Americas for 100 years or more. Abraham Lincoln was an avid proponent of colonization once his armies overran the South and created refugees, knowing the North would not accept them flooding northward. Lincoln’s Caribbean colonization schemes are mentioned below and further detailed in the soon-to-be-released “Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here: Key West’s Civil War,” by Bernhard Thuersam.  www.shotwellpublishing.com.

Emancipation and Colonization

Hugh Talmadge Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome well-explained antebellum views toward slavery in their History of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1954). They wrote that slavery was the most serious antebellum controversy between North and South with people in both sections criticizing it as a moral, economic and social evil. But importantly, the United States Constitution recognized those held to labor and left the States with complete authority over the question within their own borders. Though every Northern State took action to begin gradual emancipation by 1804 – with many selling their slaves southward – no Southern State followed suit because of economic, social and racial considerations.

Lefler and Newsome wrote that “Many Southerners opposed slavery and realized its dangerous possibilities, but most of the early Southern opposition to the slavery was conditioned upon the “antislavery” idea of gradual emancipation to owners, and colonization to Africa or elsewhere. The colonization plan, sponsored by various manumission societies, proved impractical, though Liberia on the African coast was begun as a result of a few thousand Negroes being colonized there by the joint efforts of these societies and acts of Congress.”

The question of colonization was on the mind of Abraham Lincoln once his 1861 invasion destroyed Upper South plantations and produced numerous black refugees.  It was Lincoln’s early intention to emancipate by decree through constitutional amendments and compensating owners – but this failed to gain support in his fractious party.

Author Michael J. Douma has written extensively of Lincoln’s colonization plans and noting that “Historians have long known that in the summer of 1862 Lincoln announced his intention to negotiate with foreign powers concerning the colonization of freedmen abroad.” For the next two years federally-funded initiatives arose to settle freedmen in Chiriqui [Panama] and Haiti – in addition to the British Honduras, Guiana and Dutch Surinam. These talks were quite serious and continued even after the war, anticipating the transport of freedmen to these islands as laborers.

The Danes also expressed interest in colonizing unwanted contrabands to work their plantations on St. Croix, now the US Virgin Islands. In 1862 Seward signed an agreement with the Danes to take all captured aboard slave ships in the Atlantic to St. Croix to work as plantation labor despite Danish acknowledgement that workers on the island would not find conditions much different from previous slavery, but they would be technically “free.” To facilitate the process of removal the Lincoln authorized Danish ships to sail down the US east coast to recruit freedmen. The Danish minister viewed South Carolina as a highly fertile recruiting ground which was seconded by Secretary of State Seward. The Dutch were also fascinated with freedmen and actively sought them as labor for their colony of Suriname on South America’s northeast coast.

Lincoln and Seward were not the only proponents of colonization as they were ably supported by leading Republicans Charles Sumner, Francis Blair, Preston King and Benjamin Wade. Though supportive before 1863, all became aware of the value of black troops used to invade the South as white volunteers became hard to find or had to be paid astronomical financial bounties to enlist. Few black men stepped forward and many had to be coerced, but by war’s end the colonization to the Caribbean regained speed.

 

New England’s Black Ivory

The American South could not have become the destination for Africans enslaved by their own people without the ships of the Portuguese, Spaniards, French, British – and New Englanders. The latter had become a notorious smuggling center by 1750 as it surpassed Liverpool in the outfitting of slave ships in the infamous rum triangle.

It can be accurately stated that Britain’s Navigation Acts after the Seven Years’ War were aimed directly at New England smugglers and their African-West Indian trade, which helped bring on the American Revolution.

New England’s Black Ivory

Well-before the American Revolution, New England had engaged in smuggling goods to the other colonies and West Indies in violation of British law. This traffic left little for British merchants to import into the colonies and led Parliament to keep a watchful eye on its New England colonies. Author Reese Wolfe in his 1953 “”Yankee Ships” wrote:

“Shipbuilding, especially for New England’s triangular trade for African slaves, was sufficiently profitable for the shipbuilders of the Thames district to meet in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complain to the Lords of Trade: “. . . the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on [our] work.”

Linked inseparably with New England’s ventures south to the West Indies was its brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling black ivory. For the West Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses.

Like so many momentous occasions in history, the start of the slave trade had been an offhand sort of occurrence. A Dutch privateer found itself with twenty Negroes taken from a Spanish ship and, not knowing what to do with them, dropped anchor in the river at Jamestown in 1619, a year before Plymouth Rock. The Negroes were offered cheap as laborers, and the Virginia settlers decided to trade tobacco for them. The swap was made and the Dutch sailed away, leaving behind them a cancerous growth that was to bring the parent body close to death before the disease was arrested.

Meanwhile, the Virginians did not call them slaves; as late as 1660 Virgnia court records still referred to Negroes as indentured servants. The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637, and a more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in New England’s West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of the all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly-prized among the native Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgement to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport and on south. Or most of the way south. Foreign ships for the most part maintained the supply in the deep South.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whisky for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. New England rum, it is generally agreed, had more to do with the destruction of the Indian tribes on the eastern seaboard than all the wars in which they were engaged put together.”

(Yankee Ships: An Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, pp. 42-44)

 

Feb 23, 2022 - From Africa to America, New England History, New England's Slave Trade    Comments Off on Devout Puritan Slave Traders

Devout Puritan Slave Traders

Devout Puritan Slave Traders

“The first American slave ship shown in the records was the Rainbow which sailed from Boston for Africa in 1645. On the Guinea Coast her captain found a shortage of slaves at the trading posts. With the help of the captains of several English ships also waiting in vain for slaves, an expedition was organized to go into the interior. The slave hunters took along a “murderer,” a light cannon also called a swivel gun as it was mounted to be easily swung in any direction. With it they attacked a native village, killed many of its people and managed to capture a few slaves.

The Rainbow’s captain got only two for his share, but with his meager cargo he sailed back to Boston since there was a good market for slaves there. In Boston his troubles continued. The ship’s owner learned that the raid on the African village had taken place on a Sunday.

In the eyes of the stern Puritans this was a shocking crime and the captain was arrested, tried for murder, man-stealing and Sabbath-breaking. He was acquitted however, since the Massachusetts Bay court decided it had no power to punish a man for something that happened outside the colony. The two slaves were seized by the government and sent home to Africa, so this first American slaving voyage on record was a dismal failure.”

(Rum, Slaves and Molasses: The Story of New England’s Triangular Trade, Clifford L. Alderman, Crowell-Collier Press, 1972, pg. 19-20)

 

Paving the Way for Final Catastrophe

John Brown’s deadly insurrection at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 destroyed the South’s belief that conservative gentlemen ruled the North and understood the slavery they had been saddled with. After all, New England merchants and their ships had profited greatly from the many Africans brought to these shores, who raised the raw cotton spun in New England mills. The Brown raid changed all that – DeBow’s Review wrote that the North “has sanctioned and applauded theft, murder, treason”; a Baltimore editorial asked how the South could any longer afford” to live under a government, a majority of whose subjects or citizens regard John Brown as a martyr and a Christian hero?” Not mentioned below among those fleeing to Canada was Frederick Douglass, who was to join Brown as a “liaison officer” to the slaves expected to join his band.

Notably, Brown was sentenced to hang for committing treason against Virginia, one of “them” (States) identified in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Paving the Way for Final Catastrophe

“Although more than 400 miles lay between Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts, John Brown’s raid made that distance seem much shorter. A number of prominent Boston men had been associated with John Brown over the past three or four years, and now it looked as though they were implicated in a criminal conspiracy. It was well known that industrialists such as Amos A. Lawrence, William Appleton and Edward Atkinson had sent both money and guns to “Captain” Brown during his military exploits in Kansas. George Luther Stearns, a wealthy Boston businessman, had made unlimited funds available to Brown and was later found to be one of the “Secret Six” who had conspired to assist Brown in his new undertaking.

Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, prominent physician and reformer, had become one of Brown’s closest associates in the East; preachers such as Unitarian Thomas Wentworth Higginson and the Transcendentalist Theodore Parker had also become ardent Brown supporters; Wendell Phillips, the “golden trumpet” for Garrison’s abolition movement, spoke out on his behalf; and young Franklin B. Sanborn, a Concord schoolteacher just recently out of Harvard, was a disciple of the Old Man from Kansas.

Suddenly Senator Jefferson Davis, the Mississippi statesman who had been wined and dined in Boston only a year earlier, became nemesis in the North, avenger of the South.

Some of Brown’s supporters remained steadfast in supporting their hero during the Senate’s investigations. Theodore Parker was still in Europe, but wrote back his approval of what Brown [had] done; Thomas Wentworth Higginson dared the Southern senators to call him to the witness stand. But many more feared losing their good names, their businesses, and quite possibly their freedom. Franklin Sanborn, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, George Luther Stearns, and several other Boston residents suddenly decided it was time to pay a visit to Canada “for reasons of health.”

Conservatives throughout Boston were appalled by the aftereffects from John Brown’s raid. Mournfully, Edward Everett warned his friend Robert C. Winthrop that this event would surely pave the way for “final catastrophe.” The most influential figure in the Emigrant Aid Society, Amos A. Lawrence, still would not join the Republican party. Lawrence feared that the Republican party, with its openly sectional appeal, would further alienate the South and endanger the Union.”

(Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield, Thomas O’Connor, Northeastern University Press, 1997, pp. 38-40)

The South Delivered Up to the Care of the North

When the Articles of Confederation were put to the States for ratification in November, 1776, the preparatory debates revealed very strong warnings of sectionalism. These clear and distinct divisions eventually produced threats of New England secession in 1814, economic fissures by the 1820s, talk of Southern secession by 1850, and eventually an all-out shooting-war in 1861 which ended the experiment in free government.

The South Delivered Up to the Care of the North

“The Congress debated the Articles throughout the summer of 1776. There were three main arguments. One was on whether each colony should have a single vote, and issue of large versus small States. The second was States’ rights, whether the confederation had authority to limit territorial expansion of individual States. Third was the method of apportioning taxation. The North wanted to tax according to total population. The South was opposed to taxing slaves.

The latter issue began one of the enduring sectional debates of the first American century. Were slaves part of the general population? Or were they property? The South held for property and Rutledge of South Carolina said that if ownership of slaves was to be taxed, then so should the ownership of the Northern ships that carried the slaves.

There were several strictly sectional votes on the subject with the bloc of seven Northern States lined up against the six-State Southern bloc. It was finally compromised that taxes would be apportioned according to the private ownership of land and the improvements thereon.

In November 1776 the Articles were sent to the States for ratification. The hottest opposition came from the Southern States (with the exception of Virginia) . . . The reaction of William Henry Drayton, chief justice of South Carolina, was typical of the eighteenth-century South. Drayton felt the Articles gave too much power to the central government and States’ rights would be run over roughshod. He observed that there was a natural North-South division among the States, arising “from the nature of the climate, soil and produce.”

He felt the South’s opportunities for growth would be crippled by the Articles because “the honor, interest and sovereignty of the South, are in effect delivered up to the care of the North.”

(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday and Company, 1977, pg. 74)

Slavery and Secession

Though the British discovered a peaceful path to end African slavery in its empire, no practical or peaceful solutions to end slavery in the United States came from New England abolitionists. Rather than look back at their section’s role in the transatlantic slave trade which brought Africans traded for Yankee notions and rum to the West Indies and the South, Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s gin and New England cotton mills which perpetuated slavery, and New England’s threatened secession since 1804, blaming the South for slavery became popular. They would also have found that New England’s financial basis for its industrial revolution was acquired through its African slave trade, which helped Providence, Rhode Island surpass Liverpool as the center of that transatlantic slave trade by 1750.

Slavery and Secessionists

“Soon after the assassination of President Lincoln, the Rev. Daniel C. Eddy of the Baldwin Place Congregational Church in Boston spoke of the fundamental differences he perceived between the South and the North:

“Argue as we may, our Southern people are a different race. Slavery has given them a different idea of religion . . . Slavery has barbarized them, and made them a people with whom we have little in common. We had an idea of Southern civilization when Judge Hoar was driven out of Charleston . . . when Sumner was bleeding in the Federal Senate . . . when ornaments were made for Southern ladies of the bones of the brave soldiers killed at Bull Run . . . in the atrocities perpetrated upon our poor soldiers . . . And now we have another exhibition of it in the base, wanton, assassination of the President.”

In the antebellum years some Northern clergy looked upon the South as a distasteful part of the Union that they advocated the Garrisonian position whereby the South should separate itself from the South. In 1851 Charles G. Finney, coming to the realization that revivalism was not going to bring an end to slavery, suggested “the dismemberment of our hypocritical union.” Finley detested the thought of living in a nation where slavery existed. It was better to separate from such an evil.

In two sermons delivered in 1854, Eden B. Foster, a Congregationalist minister from Lowell, Massachusetts, proposed the secession of the North from the Union as a last resort to check the spread of slavery. Inherent in the slavery system, said Foster, were such evils as cruelty, ignorance immorality and sin. On April 4, 1861, less than two weeks before the cannons at Charleston began to bombard Fort Sumter, [Boston preacher] . . . Eddy urged the North to free itself from the burden of Union with the South so that the North might more fully “develop all those forces of a high-minded Christian civilization.”

Later that month, on April 28, after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Eddy changed his mind and advocated war to save the Union.”

(God Ordained This War: Sermons on the Sectional Crisis, 1830-1865, David B. Chesebrough, University of South Carolina Press, 1991, excerpt pp. 58-59)

Virginia’s Effort to Abolish the Slave Trade

In the first Congress under the United States  Constitution, Josiah Parker of Virginia attempted to insert a clause in the Tariff Bill to levy a ten dollar tax on every slave brought into this country on foreign ships, and especially those of New England.  Parker was supported in this by two other Virginians, Theodoric Bland and James Madison.  In a March 1790 Virginia petition to Congress, the slave trade was denounced as “an outrageous violation of one of the most essential rights of human nature.”

In an unclean bargain to extend the slave trade until 1808, the commercial interests of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut allied with South Carolina and Georgia rice planters – while Virginia strenuously protested. The slave traders of New England continued their nefarious traffic until the eve of the Civil War.

Virginia’s Efforts to Abolish the Slave Trade

“Despite Virginia’s failure to secure the immediate suppression of the foreign slave trade, her sons were active in their efforts to restrict its growth and at the earliest possible moment to drive the slave ships from the seas.

“ . . . James Madison [declared] . . . By expressing a national disapprobation of that trade it is hoped we may destroy it, and so save ourselves from reproaches and our posterity from the imbecility ever attendant on a country filled with slaves.”

In his message to Congress, at its session 1806-07, Mr. Jefferson, then President, brought to the attention of that body the fact that under the Constitution the time was at hand when the African slave trade could be abolished, and urged a speedy enactment of such a law. He said:

I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of a period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have so long been continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe.”

[Later], In his message to Congress, December 5, 1810, President [James] Madison declares: “Among the commercial abuses still committed under the American flag . . . it appears that American citizens are instrumental in carrying on the traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in violation of the laws of humanity and in defiance of those of their own country.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly Munford, L.H. Jenkins, 1909, excerpts pp. 33-35)

 

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

Fearing slave rebellion from its highly concentrated black population, the South wanted free access to the Territories to lessen this; the North wanted to restrict black people to the South and open the Territories to white-only immigration. A great irony of history is the blame the American South receives for African slavery: the South did not bring the black man to America, British and New England slave ships did after purchasing their human cargoes from African chieftains.

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

“The initial sympathy of the British people for the North because of the belief that the South had seceded to set up a slave state and that the North stood for freedom of the slave was soon to be destroyed, and a strong conviction arose that the freedom of the slave was not an issue in the war. One can hardly escape the logic of events which forced this conclusion upon the English mind.

During the winter of [early] 1861, it will be recalled, numerous compromises of the American troubles were discussed, the most important of which was the Crittenden compromises conceding a permanent share of the territories to slavery. The Economist upon hearing of such proposals spoke of the measures as iniquitous, and was not willing to believe that Lincoln would yield to them.

But the final disillusionment came when in his inaugural address Lincoln said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where is exists . . . I believe I have no lawful right to do so and I have no intention to do so. “

This was, in truth, the death knell of British sympathy based upon the moral righteousness of the Northern cause. If freedom was not the cause, then what was it?

The Economist late in the summer of 1861 pronounced a little stronger upon the issue of the war: It was not for freeing the slave on the part of the North or preserving slavery on the part of the South, but was for dominion and power on the part of the one and the right of self-government on the part of the other.

After Lincoln’s message to Congress, which was as tender of the rights of slavery as had been in his inaugural, the Economist was completely convinced, if there had been any doubts, that Lincoln and the North would be more than glad to continue or restore the old Federal union on the basis of slavery and all its abuses if the South would only return.

The inevitable conclusion was that the war was “a war of conquest and not of philanthropy.”

(King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America, Frank L. Owsley, University of Chicago Press, 1931, pp. 187-188)

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

Born at sea while his family sailed from Ireland to America, John Newland Mafffitt was destined for a life on the water. Having just relinquished command of the USS Crusader at New York on March 1, 1861, after several years capturing New England-captained and financed slavers off Cuba, the country he had left had become something different.

Soon to become one of the most famed of blockade runners and privateers, he had, by his account, in the first three of his four captures of slavers, rescued 789 Africans from their cramped holds.

The Wilmington Daily Journal of 25 September 1863 remarked, “It is a curious fact, for those who maintain the civil war in America is founded upon the slave question, that [Maffitt] should be the very man who has distinguished himself actively against the slave trade.”  

Though describing himself as a “slave holder” due to a modest interest in land he had inherited from his wife’s family, Maffitt found the newly-rediscovered morality of New Englanders disingenuous.

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

“The news of Fort Sumter reached Washington in the early evening of April 13, causing intense excitement within the city. Maffitt now faced his terrible decision of allegiance. He could hear the tramp of soldiers and the roll of artillery wagons day and night outside his house. Southern families departed daily; resignations were announced “in language of gall and bitterness.” Maffitt’s relatives were in the South. His property was partly in the North – his Washington home with its valuable furnishings and fine library; and partly in the South interest in land he inherited . . .

He recoiled against a people who sold slaves to Southerners and then became puritanical in their attitudes:

‘I fancied that New England, with her well-developed secession proclivities, would offer no material objection to the course of the South. In truth it was natural to presume that fanatical abolitionism would hail with joy the departure of the un-Godly, slaveholding section of the country from her unwelcome participation in the Union. But material interest gave zest to patriotism, and her war course would lead the world to suppose that she never contemplated a severance from the Union and forming a Northern Confederation.”

(High Seas Confederate: The Life and Times of John Newland Maffitt, Royce Shingleton, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, excerpts pp. 30; 32-33)  

Diversity Among Louisiana Slave Owners

It was not uncommon for Northerners to own Southern plantations worked by black slaves. Obviously the climate in the South allowed a longer growing season and larger acreage than available in Northern States, and New Englanders were already familiar with black slave labor in their own State, as well as their infamous transatlantic slave trade.  Further, Massachusetts mills since the War of 1812 needed slave-produced cotton which perpetuated African slavery in this country.

 Diversity Among Louisiana Slave Owners

“By the time of the Civil War, Louisiana’s population exceeded 700,000, of which almost half were black slaves or freedmen. A review of the census during the period immediately prior to the Civil War reveals some interesting facts.

There were 13,500 plantations and farms owned by Anglo-Saxon Protestants, French and Spanish Catholics, Jews and Negroes. There were approximately 1,640 large slaveholders who tilled 10 percent of the total acreage planted. A large slaveholder was one who owned 50 or more slaves. Therefore, 90 percent of the planted acreage in Louisiana was farmed by small slaveholders, non-slaveholders, and free blacks.

There were Negro slaveholders throughout the South but more in Louisiana than any other State.  In 1830 there were 10 Negroes who had 50 or more slaves. By 1860, only 6, who together owned 493 slaves or an average of 82 each. There were a considerable number of Negro slave owners who were not classed as large slaveholders; Natchitoches parish for instance had 14 Negro slaveholders.

Many Northerners and Europeans who had money to invest settled Louisiana to enjoy its prosperity. The census reveals that in 1850 among the largest slaveholders were 9 from Connecticut; 9 from Massachusetts; 7 from Ohio, 6 from Missouri; 6 from New Hampshire; 5 from Maine; 4 from Indiana; 4 from New Jersey; 3 from Vermont; 1 from Delaware; 2 from Rhode Island; 2 from the District of Columbia; 17 from Pennsylvania; 20 from New York; 33 from Maryland; 12 from Ireland; 6 from Scotland; 5 from England; 2 from Germany; 2 from Santo Domingo; 1 from Canada; 1 from Austria, 1 from Wales; 1 from Jamaica; and 17 from France.

The attraction to Louisiana was the same as it is today – prosperity. The ancient plantation system, patterned after the English manorial system, found its ultimate fruition in the South and especially in Louisiana.  

Fewer than one-third of the men who fought for the South during the Civil War came from families who had slaves. Therefore one can readily dismiss the idea that every Confederate was a planter sipping bourbon or gin on his spacious veranda while his minions in the field brought in his wealth. The majority of Southern people were hard-working small farmers, carving a niche in the wilderness, intent upon attaining some security in a troublesome world.

Emotional Northerners, reflected the claim that the war was fought solely for slavery. But Lincoln himself stated that if it would save the Union, he would rather see the United States all-slave, part-slave or slave-free, depending on the recipe needed for the preservation of the United States. Even the Emancipation Proclamation clearly exempted those Southern Sates held by Union forces.”

(Louisiana Legacy: A History of the State National Guard, Evans J. Casso, Pelican Publishing, 1976, excerpt pp. 76-77)