Browsing "New England’s Slave Trade"

Emerson the Northern Secessionist

Wanting to depart Boston should New England ever “surrender to the slave trade,” the idealistic abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson must have forgotten that Massachusetts was the linchpin in the transatlantic slave trade and that Lowell Mills was amassing a fortune processing slave-produced raw cotton. Emerson was ready for the secession of New England from the Union if Buchanan won election in 1856 instead of Fremont.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emerson the Northern Secessionist              

“The events of the fifties confirmed Emerson’s fears of Southern political power. It was “the ascendancy of Southern manners” that drew public men into the support of the South. At the same time, his attitude toward the North grew more sentimental and less critical. He drew more sharply the line between the slave states and the free states. Expressions such as “party of darkness” versus “party of light,” “aristocracy” versus “plebian strength” began to appear in his journals and addresses. Like his fellow-abolitionists, he assumed that the goodness of the individual was simply lost in the badness of the slavery system.

Emerson maintained that no slaveholder could be free. He fell into the abolitionist assumption that nobility and sincerity were inevitable concomitants to the Negro’s ignorance and simplicity. Those who ran away were fleeing from plantation whips and hiding from hounds.

Those who cooperated with the South were stigmatized. Any judge who obeyed the Fugitive Slave Law by returning a runaway slave to the South made of his bench an extension of the planter’s whipping post. Emerson’s anger over [Preston] Brooks assault on [Charles] Sumner led him to exaggerate uncritically his account of both Northern and Southern values:

“Life has not parity of value in the free state and in the slave state. In one, it is adorned with education, with skillful labor, with arts, with long prospective interests, with sacred family ties, with honor and justice. In the other, life is a fever; man is an animal, given to pleasure, frivolous, irritable, spending his days in hunting and practicing with deadly weapons to defend himself against his slaves and against his companions brought up in the same idle and dangerous way. Such people live for the moment, they have properly no future, and readily risk on every passion a life which is of small value to themselves or others.”

Emerson’s letter to his brother William in June of 1856 revealed the extent of his pessimism. He stated that he was looking at the map to find a place to go with his children when Boston and Massachusetts should surrender to the slave trade. “If the Free States do not obtain the government next fall, which our experience does not entitle us to hope, nothing seems left, but to form a Northern Union, & break the old.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831-1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 57-59)

 

Christianizing the Victims of New England Slavers

Reverend Dr. Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863) was the son of a Georgia merchant and planter, born at Liberty Hall in Liberty County. While studying for the ministry in Pennsylvania, he agonized over the Africans brought to these shores by New England slavers and dedicated his life to caring for the slaves spiritual welfare.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Christianizing the Victims of New England Slavers

“In the county of Liberty, in Georgia, a Presbyterian minister has been for many years employed exclusively in laboring for the moral enlightenment of the slaves, being engaged and paid for this especial duty by their owners. From this circumstance, almost unparalleled as it is, it may be inferred that the planters of the county are as a body remarkably intelligent, liberal, and thoughtful for the moral welfare of the childlike wards Providence has placed in their care and tutorship.

I have heard them referred to with admiration of their reputation in this particular even as far away as Virginia and Kentucky.     I believe that in no other district has there been displayed as general and long-continued an interest in the spiritual well-being of the Negroes. It must be supposed that nowhere else are their circumstances more happy and favorable to Christian nurture.”

In promoting the spiritual welfare of the Negro population of Liberty County and throughout the South no man was more active or zealous than the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones, “Apostle to the Blacks,” a lifelong member of Midway Church, who now lies buried in the historic graveyard directly across the way. This extraordinary man . . . was a rich planter, a gentleman of liberal education, and a Presbyterian clergyman of radiant Christian character, aptly described by his son in law as “one of the noblest men God ever made.”

In May 1831 he was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Savannah, where he labored earnestly and successfully for eighteen months. But the cry of the Negroes of his native county was too urgent for him to resist; to their needy spiritual state he had been drawn while a student at Princeton, and he now felt constrained to devote himself to their evangelization as well as to their moral and social uplift.

His brother in law, the Rev. John Jones, later recalled his missionary efforts in some detail . . . :

“As a good brother, in allusion to his work among the colored people, once said, he seems to be the apostle to that portion of the gentiles. And he succeeded to a remarkable extent in awakening an interest in this neglected people . . . and annual reports of his labors he under God did more than any other man in arousing the whole church of this country to a new interest in the spiritual welfare of the Africans in our midst.

And the general results of his labors were seen in other communities and regions beyond;a decided attention to the physical as well as the moral condition of the race; the erection of neighborhood and plantation chapels; the multiplying of family and plantation schools in which Jones’s catechism was taught; a greater devotion of time to the Negroes by pastors and churches; and an emphatic awakening throughout the South to the duty of systematic religious instruction to the blacks.”

(The Children of Pride, A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, Robert Manson Myers, Yale University Press, 1972, pp. 11-16)

Britain's Inhumane Slave Trade

The transatlantic slave trade which populated the America’s with Africans was chartered and encouraged by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of York oversaw the Royal African Company, a slave trading concern. These British slavers were only surpassed in efficiency by the slavers of New England; Providence, Rhode Island became the slaving capital of North America by 1750.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Britain’s Inhumane Slave Trade:

“On the 1st of April, 1772 the [Virginia] House of Burgesses addressed a hot petition to the crown, “imploring his Majesty’s paternal assistance in averting a calamity of a most alarming nature.” It proceeds: “The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of inhumanity, and under its present encouragement we have too much reason to fear will endanger the very existence of your Majesty’s American dominions. We are sensible that some of your Majesty’s subjects may reap emoluments from this sort of traffic…we most humbly beseech your Majesty to remove all those restraints on your Majesty’s governors of the colony which inhibit their assenting to such House of Burgesses] laws as might check so very pernicious a traffic.

When the vote was taken in the Federal Congress on the resolution to postpone the prohibition of the [slave] trade to the year 1808, Virginia used all her influence to defeat the postponement, and it was carried by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The final prohibition of the slave trade by act of Congress was brought about through the influence of President Jefferson and by the active efforts of Virginians.

And greatly to the labors of the representatives from Virginia was due the final extinction of the vile traffic [of England and New England] through the act of Congress declaring it to be piracy, five years before Great Britain took similar action with regard to her subjects. Such is the actual record of the much-vilified South relating to the African slave trade, taken from official records.

The gradual system of emancipation adopted at the North had undoubtedly led to many of the slaves being shipped off to the South and sold. When, therefore, after this “abolition,” the movement, from being confined to the comparatively small band of liberators who were actuated by pure principle, extended to those who had been their persecutors, it aroused suspicion at the South which blinded it to a just judgment of the case.

The statutory laws relating to slavery at the South are held up as proof of the brutality with which they were treated even under the law. But these laws were not more cruel than the laws of England at the period they were enacted…and, at least, Southerners never tolerated wholesale burning at the stake as a legal punishment, as was done in New York as late as 1741, when fourteen Negroes were burnt at the stake on the flimsy testimony of a half-crazed servant girl; and as was done in Massachusetts as late as 1755, when a Negro was burnt for murder.”

(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, pp. 29-32)

Bill Arp on New England History

“Bill Arp” was the nom de plume of Georgia writer and politician Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903), who enjoyed educating Atlanta Constitution readers unfamiliar with the history of New England.  As a Confederate major during the War Between the States, he served on the staff of several generals including Francis Bartow. Below, he answers a letter to the editor from a Northerner castigating Georgians for the sin of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Bill Arp on New England History

“Now, here is a gentleman of more than ordinary intelligence and education who does not know that the sin of slavery began in New England among his forefathers — not ours — and from there was gradually crowded Southward until it got to Georgia, and that Georgia was the first State to prohibit their importation. See Appleton’s Cyclopedia (Slavery and the Slave Trade.)

He does not know that long after New England and New York had abolished slavery, their merchantmen continued to trade with Africa and sold their cargoes secretly along the coast, and . . . one, the “Wanderer,” was seized and confiscated and its officers arrested. The “Wanderer” was built at Eastport, Maine, was equipped as a slaver in New York and officered there and a crew employed.

He does not know that Judge Story, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, when presiding in Boston in 1834, [stated to a] Grand Jury that although Massachusetts had freed their slaves, yet the slave trade was still going on and Boston merchants and Boston Christians were steeped to their eyebrows in its infamy. He does not know that when our national existence began the feeling against slavery was stronger in the Southern States than in the Northern.

Georgia was the first to prohibit it, but later on the prohibition was repealed. New England carried on the traffic until 1845 — and is doing it yet if they can find a market and can get the rum to pay for them. The last record of a slaver caught in the act was in 1861, off the coast of Madagascar, and it was an Eastport vessel. The slave trade with Africa was for more than a century a favorite and popular venture with our English ancestors.

King James II and King Charles II and Queen Elizabeth all had stock in it, and though Wilberforce and others had laws passed to suppress it, they could not do it. New England and old England secretly carried it on (see Appleton) long after slavery was abolished in the colonies. They could afford to lose half their vessels and still make money. 

It is sad and mortifying that our young and middle-aged men, and our graduates from Southern colleges know so little of our antebellum history. The Northern people are equally ignorant of the origin of slavery and the real causes that precipitated the civil war. Most of them have a vague idea that slavery was born and just grew up in the South — came up out of the ground like the seventeen-year-old locusts—and was our sin and our curse.

Not one in ten-thousand will believe that the South never imported a slave from Africa, but got all we had by purchase from our Northern brethren. I would wager a thousand dollars against ten that not a man under fifty nor a schoolboy who lives North of the line knows or believes that General Grant, their great military hero and idol, was a slaveholder and lived off the hire and their services while he was fighting us about ours.

Lincoln’s proclamation of freedom came in 1863, but General Grant paid no attention to it. He continued to use them as slaves until January, 1865. (See his biography by General James Grant Wilson in Appleton’s Encyclopedia.) General Grant owned these slaves in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived.

How many of this generation, North or South know, or will believe, that as late as November, 1861, Nathaniel Gordon, master of a New England slave ship called the Erie, was convicted in New York City of carrying on the slave trade? (See Appleton.)

Just think of it! In 1861 our Northern brethren made war upon us because we enslaved the Negroes we had bought from them; but at the same time they kept on bringing more from Africa and begging us to buy them. How many know that England, our mother country, never emancipated her slaves until 1843, when twelve millions were set free in the East Indies and one hundred millions of dollars were paid to their owners by act of Parliament?

It is only within the last half-century that the importation of slaves from Africa has generally ceased. Up to that time every civilized country bought them and enslaved them. English statesmen and clergymen said it was better to bring them away than to have them continue in their barbarism and cannibalism.

(From The Uncivil War to Date, 1865 to 1903, Bill Arp, Hudgins Publishing Company. 1903, pp 347-353)

 

Barbarous Blot on New England's Escutcheon

African slavery in North America began with a Portuguese ship with slaves to sell, and a Virginia free black man who sued in court to retain a black man as a slave in 1654. Further north, New Englander’s were engaged in enslaving Indians who resisted their settlements, and developing a transatlantic slave trade that surpassed Liverpool’s dominance.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circ1865

 

Barbarous Blot on New England’s Escutcheon

“Negro slavery in New England was a peculiar admixture of servitude and bondage. There was the same horror of the [plantation-era] 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 the wife from husband, nor the separation of children from both, nor the existence of a slave code, peculiar only to the Middle and Southern Colonies. It was applicable in New England as well; and, in some instances, New England 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 . . . [and a] new source of [servants] 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 the 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, not the black man, was the first slave in New England. As such they were eagerly sought by the Puritans for their labor. Even the much-vaunted saintliness of Roger Williams, was not sufficient to deter him from writing John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts, asking that a small Indian boy be sent to him as a servant. He had just previously written Winthrop (1636), protesting against the cruel treatment of the Indians by the whites, and praying that “they be used kindly and have houses and fields given them.”

Indian slavery was, however, soon to be supplemented by Negro servitude, for the redskin was considered lazy, intractable, vindictive, and inclined to run away. [Most] authorities agree that the mention of Negro slaves by John Winthrop in his diary, in the year 1638 is the earliest authentic testimony of black slaves in New England. There were Negro slaves in New Haven [Connecticut] as early as 1644, six years after the founding of the colony. It is known that John Pantry of Hartford owned a slave in 1653. In New Hampshire [mention of black slaves mentioned in 1646].

The Eighteenth Century . . . saw the rise of the New England colonies as the greatest slave carriers of America. Quick to see the unprofitableness of the Negro slave as a laborer in such an environment, when the price of the slave was greater than the labor returned, the ingenious Yankee soon found a market in the West Indies for slaves, exchanged for rum, sugar and molasses on the Guinea Coast.

Massachusetts early assumed a commanding position in this trade. Peter Faneuil, whose “whole lineage is held in peculiar honor” in Boston, was typical of the many possessors of comfortable fortunes amassed from profits of this traffic.”

(Slave-Holding in New England and Its Awakening, Lorenzo J. Greene, Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 4, October, 1928, pp. 492-496)

 

Northern Commercial Interests Desire Cuba

It is often thought that antebellum Southern slave interests desired Cuban annexation, though Northern commercialism more actively promoted this acquisition. It is noteworthy that US Navy Lt. John Newland Maffitt, later a famed naval captain of the Confederacy, pursued and captured many New England slavers off Cuba in the late 1850’s.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Northern Commercial Interests Desire Cuba:

“The United States became especially dependent on shipments of Cuban sugar, for Louisiana plantations in the early nineteenth century could only accommodate about one-third of the national demand for the product. Not only did this trade contribute significantly to the commercial growth of New York City — which became a center for sentiment favoring the annexation of the island — but commercial interests all over the eastern United States were dependent on it.

Many Americans took it for granted that sooner or later the island would gravitate toward the United States . . . and perhaps lead to a more effective suppression of the slave trade, since Cuba was a key station in that traffic. Even in the 1850’s, when the questions of slavery and Cuba became virtually inseperable, two Northern presidents — Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire and James Buchanan of Pennsylvania — made determine efforts to purchase Cuba from Spain.

In the late 1840s . . . proannexation elements were investigating a number of ways of getting Americans involved in their cause. [Venezuelan revolutionary] Narciso Lopez . . . emerged as [the Cuban exiles in America] leader . . . [and] Lopez’s main body of troops was with him in New York. [Though Lopez’s efforts failed], he had gained considerable support in New York City and elsewhere in the North. Northerners, as well as exiled Cubans and European revolutionary refugees, had made substantial contributions to his movements in terms of manpower and financing.”

(The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, Robert E. May, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts, pp. 16-30)

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