Browsing "New England’s Slave Trade"

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

The former slave-trading and slave-holding North forgot it was theirs and British ships which brought the African to America, a Massachusetts inventor who perpetuated slavery with his gin, and Massachusetts mills which sought large supplies of slave-produced cotton. Had New Englanders wished to end slavery, they had only to end their demand for slave-produced cotton. The extract below is from Mr. Hayne’s 1830 debate with Daniel Webster on the nature of the federal union, and Hayne clearly delineates the origin of African slavery in the Southern States, who profited from the nefarious trade, and who did their Christian best with what they had inherited.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

“Sir, when arraigned before the bar of public opinion on this charge of slavery, we can stand up with conscious rectitude, plead not guilty, and put ourselves upon God and our country. We deal in no abstractions. We will not look back to inquire whether our fathers were guiltless in introducing slaves to this country. If an inquiry should ever be instituted in these matters, however, it will be found that the profits of the slave trade were not confined to the South.

Southern ships and Southern sailors were not the instruments of bringing slaves to the shores of America, nor did our merchants reap the profits of that “accursed traffic.” But, sir, we will pass over all this.

If slavery, as it now exists in this country be an evil, we of the present found it ready made to our hands. Finding our lot cast among a people, whom God had manifestly committed to our care, we did not sit down to speculate on abstract questions of theoretical liberty. We met it as a practical question of obligation and duty.

We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us, and to fulfill the high trust which had developed upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land.

We could not send them back to the shores from whence their fathers had been taken; their numbers forbade the thought, even as we did not know that their condition here is infinitely preferable to what it possibly could be among the barren sands and savage tribes of Africa . . .

[With the false philanthropy of Northern abolitionists and the] shedding of tears over sufferings which had existence only in their own sickly imaginations, these “friends of humanity” set themselves systematically to work to seduce the slaves of the South from their masters. By means of missionaries and political tracts, the scheme was in great measure successful. Thousands of these deluded victims of fanaticism were seduced into the enjoyment of freedom in our Northern cities. And what has been the consequence?

Go to these cities now, and ask the question. Visit the dark and narrow lanes, and obscure recesses, which have been assigned by common consent as the abodes of those outcasts of the world — free people of color. Sir, there does not exist, on the face of the whole earth, a population so poor, so wretched, so vile, so loathsome, so utterly destitute of all the comforts, conveniences and comforts of life as the unfortunate blacks of Philadelphia, and New York and Boston.

Sir, I have had some opportunities of making comparisons between the condition of the free Negroes of the North and the slaves of the South . . . Sir, I have seen in the neighborhood of one of the most moral, religious and refined cities of the North, a family of free blacks, driven to the caves of the rock, and there obtaining a precarious subsistence from charity and plunder.”

(The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 44-46. Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830)

 

New England Slavocracy

The New England Puritans were quick to enslave anyone standing in their way, and later found large profits in the transatlantic slave trade. By the mid-1700s Rhode Island had surpassed England in the slave trade, and English merchants complained that their shipwrights were being attracted to New England by higher wages for building slave ships. Over two centuries later, the Pequot tribe was given a gambling casino to forgive Puritan offenses.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Slavocracy

“It is not a coincidence that a justice from Massachusetts concluded that liberty was more important than property. His conclusion was rooted deeply in the history of slavery in the colony. To begin with, labor relationships in Massachusetts spanned a very broad spectrum of bonded or forced labor. Massachusetts depended not only on slaves but also indentured servants and enslaved Native Americans, who had a slightly different status than black slaves did.

Slavery began in New England during the first years of settlement in Massachusetts, and thus, the Puritans learned how to be slave owners immediately on arrival. As white New Englanders conquered their new settlements, they enslaved the Native American populations to both control them and to draw on them for labor. As John Winthrop did not immediately see Indians as slaves, it dawned on him quickly that they could be.

Winthrop recorded requests for Native American slaves both locally and abroad in Bermuda. Wars with the Narragansett and Pequot tribes garnered large numbers of slaves. The trading of Indian slaves abroad brought African slaves to Massachusetts shores. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother in law and a barrister, welcomed a trade of Pequot slaves for African slaves.

However, the enslavement of American Indians had a different tenor than the enslavement of Africans. The indigenous slaves represented an enemy, a conquered people, and a grave threat to [Puritan] society. African slaves represented a trade transaction, laborers without strings attached. Moreover, Indian slaves were part of peace negotiations and control of the region. They served as collateral with which to negotiate with Native leaders. Further, colonists could expel troublesome Negro slaves out of the colony, or they could just control them as slave property.

[In Massachusetts the first] slave law[was] written in the Americas, only two years after African slaves set foot in the colony. This law, appearing in Massachusetts first legal code, the 1641 Body of Liberties, was unique in its proscription. Rather than legalizing slavery outright, it outlawed slavery among the Puritans. However, the exceptions of stranger (foreigners who lacked protection from the king) and war prisoners gave an opening to enslave other human beings.

The exception in the case of war prisoners gave the colonists direct permission to enslave Indians captured in war, such as in the Pequot war they had just commenced. Conveniently, the slave trade had already begun to spread strangers throughout the Atlantic world.”

 

(Tyrannicide, Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts, Emily Blanck, UGA Press, 2014, pp. 11-13)

Where, Then, Did Jim Crow Come From?

What is known as “Jim Crow” began in the antebellum North and spread southward after Reconstruction. In a region already hostile to black participation in social and political life, New York in the 1820’s proscribed free black votes by raising property requirements and essentially disenfranchising them. They fared no better in Philadelphia which Frederick Douglas referred to as the most racist city in the US.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Where, Then, Did Jim Crow Came From?

“Before the War, Savannah had Negro units in the local militia and Negro volunteer fire departments. Negro ministers preached from the pulpits of city, as well as rural, churches. Frederick Law Olmstead’s concise “Journey in the Seaboard Slave States” reported Negro passengers in the coaches of railroad train across Virginia and “Negro passengers admitted without demur.”

An Englishwoman, the Hon. Miss Murray, touring prewar Alabama, wrote: “From what we hear in England, I imagined Negroes were kept at a distance. That is the case in the Northern States, but in the South they are at your elbow everywhere and always seek conversation.”

Where, then, did “Jim Crow” come from?

Describing a train ride from Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts in 1842, Charles Dickens wrote: “There are no first and second class carriages with us; but there is a gentleman’s car and a ladies’ car; the main distinction between which is that, in the first, everybody smokes; and in the second, nobody does. As a black man never travels with a white one, there is also a Negro car, which is a great blundering clumsy chest such as Gulliver put to sea in from the Kingdom of Brobdignag.”

That was thirteen years after Garrison founded the “Liberator,” a few blocks from Boston’s North Station, and eight years before Mrs. Stowe would ride in the same Jim Crow’d trains to Brunswick, Maine, to start work on Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Eli Whitney had died in 1825. But the assembly line firearms he perfected “back home” in New Haven would eventually become standard equipment for Federal armies during the War.

Now, in the sordid years of Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” finally migrated from Boston, too, down past [Eli] Whitney’s grave . . . Slave ships – gin — “Uncle Tom” — Whitney & Ames rifles — Jim Crow. The Yankee cycle was complete.”

(King Cotton, George Hubert Aull, This is the South, Robert West Howard, editor, Rand McNally, 1959, pp. 145-146)

 

 

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)

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)

Rhode Island’s Slave Trade

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Slave Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

Major Joseph A. Engelhard served in the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He was elected North Carolina Secretary of State in 1876, and in 1878 encouraged young Southern men at the University of North Carolina to be proud of their forefathers, and the country and constitution they created. Engelhard died in office in 1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

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

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

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

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

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

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

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

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

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

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

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

Pages:«123456»