Browsing "New England’s Slave Trade"

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Georgia was the first to prohibit it, but later on the prohibition was repealed.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)

Pages:«123456