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A National Institution

The author of the 1928 source below notes that as of that date, “Liberia, the country of free Negroes, there are over two hundred thousand slaves. In Sierra Leone, the other freemen’s colony, slavery was abolished on January 1 of this year, by decree of the Legislative Council.”

A National Institution

“It would be a task of many pages if I attempted to give a full account of the origin and causes of slavery in Africa. As a national institution, it seems to have existed always. Africans have been bondsmen everywhere: and the oldest monuments bear their images linked with menial toils and absolute servitude.

England to-day, with all her philanthropy, sends, under the Cross of St. George, to convenient magazines of lawful commerce on the [African] coast, Birmingham muskets, Manchester cottons, and Liverpool lead, all of which are righteously swapped at Sierra Leone, Acra, and on the Gold Coast, for Spanish or Brazilian bills on London.

Yet what British merchant does not know the traffic on which those bills are founded, and for whose support his wares are purchased?  France . . . dispatches her Rouen cottons, Marseille brandies, flimsy taffetas, and indescribable variety of tinsel geegaws. Germany demands a slice for her looking-glasses and beads; while multitudes of our own worthy [Boston] traders, who would hang a slaver as a pirate when caught, do not hesitate to supply him indirectly with tobacco, powder, cotton, Yankee rum, and New England notions, in order to bait the trap in which he may be caught. It is the temptation of these things, I repeat, which feeds the slave-making wars of Africa, and forms the human basis of those admirable bills of exchange.

Such may be said to be the predominating influence that supports the African slave trade; yet, if commerce of all kinds were forbidden with that continent, the customs and laws of the natives would still encourage slavery as a domestic affair, though of course in a very modified degree.

A slave is a note of hand that may be discounted or pawned; he is still a bill of exchange that carries him to his destination and pays the debt bodily . . . Thus, slavery is not likely to be surrendered by the Negroes themselves as a national institution.”

(Adventures of a Slave Trader: Being an Account of the Life of Captain Theodore Canot, Trader in Gold, Ivory &Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as Told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer, Garden City Publishing, 1928, excerpts pp. 126-128)

Red Shirts, Black and White

After his election in 1876, Gov. Wade Hampton of South Carolina promoted a hiring policy for State employees which “depended on a man’s competency and his conduct, if he was capable and did his duty faithfully to retain him, black or white.” The “Hampton party” was Democratic and included both races in its ranks. The Republican party continued its policy of racial discord in an effort to retain political power in the South.

Red Shirts, Black and White

“Negro Congressman Robert Smalls was hampered in his campaign by the interference of the Red Shirts.  At a meeting in Blackville there were only three hundred Negro supporters of Smalls and an approximate equal number of Red Shirts, some of who were Negroes.

In the new county of Hampton he attempted to make a speech at Gillisonville. When he arrived at ten in the morning he found about forty Negro men gathered at the meeting place and groups coming up the street to attend the meeting when suddenly a large group of Red Shirts rode into town, giving the “real rebel yell,” or as Smalls described it, “whopping like Indians.” They drew up on the outskirts of the crowd and remained still . . . Smalls with some difficulty restrained the Negro men from counterattacking.

Then the leader of the white group insisted that he be given halftime at the meeting. Smalls refused to speak at all on the grounds that it was a Democratic meeting, but the Democrats insisted that there should be a joint session and gave Smalls ten minutes in which to make up his mind to hold the meeting.

During this time he withdrew with some of his supporters into a nearby outbuilding, where they were surrounded by Red Shirts who fired several shots into the building and threatened to set it afire. However, as the alarm was spread in all directions, Negroes from the countryside, armed with guns, axes, and hoes, began to converge on the town and the Red Shirts galloped away. A major riot was narrowly averted.”

(South Carolina Negroes, 1877-1900, George Brown Tindall, University of South Carolina Press, 1952, excerpts pp. 34-35)

Filling the South’s Decimated Ranks

The enlistment or outright conscription of black troops by Northern commanders was applauded in the North as they were credited to the State which captured and claimed them. Additionally, the black recruits and their families could not vote so Northern politicians feared no election retribution from constituents who avoided military service.

On the other hand, the South considered black agricultural workers essential to the war effort as Southern armies needed the foodstuffs they produced. But as the Northern armies relentlessly grew from infusions of foreigners and black soldiers, however obtained, the South determined to enlist black men who would fight for their homes and freedom.   

Filling the South’s Decimated Ranks

“[Samuel Clayton of Georgia wrote in January 1865: “We should . . . promptly take hold of all the means God has placed within our reach to help us through this struggle – a bloody war for the right of self-government.  Some say Negroes will not fight. I say they will fight. The enemy fights us with Negroes, and will do very well to fight the Yankees.”

Judah Benjamin stated . . . “It appears to me enough to say that the Negroes will certainly be made to fight us if not armed for our defense . . . I further agree with you that if they are to fight for our freedom, they are entitled to their own.  Public opinion is fast ripening on the subject.”

[Jefferson] Davis in a letter to John Forsythe in February 1865: “It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are now reduced to choosing whether the Negroes shall fight for us or against us, and that all arguments as to the positive advantage or disadvantage of employing them are beside the question, which is simply one of relative advantage between having their fighting element in our ranks or in those of the enemy.”

The Confederate Congress authorized on March 3rd, 1865, the raising of 300,000 blacks as soldiers. On April the 28th, the major-general commanding in Florida directed ten prominent citizens of Florida each “to proceed at once to raise a company of Negroes to be mustered into the service of the Confederate States for the War.”  But Lee and Johnston had already surrendered. The dissolution of the Confederacy defeated this last desperate measure to recruit the decimated ranks of the Southern army.

The black recruit was sought in Florida assiduously for the Union army after the first year of the war. When the Federal forces quit [Jacksonville’s occupation] in the autumn [of 1862] they carried some Negroes away with them.  Invasion of East Florida by Negro troops under Colonel [T.W.] Higginson quickly followed. “The object of this expedition, “ reported General Saxton, Higginson’s chief, “was to occupy Jacksonville and make it the base of operations for arming the Negroes and securing in this way possession of the entire State of Florida” – in other words, inciting servile insurrection.

The Federal army failed to obtain many black recruits, but Higginson concluded that black troops “were the key to the successful prosecution of the war for the Union.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William Watson Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 227-228)

Bringing Down the Vengeance of Heaven

In 1620 a Dutch trading vessel entered Virginia’s James River with twenty Negroes aboard, and sold them to the settlers as laborers. But it was not in Virginia that a legal basis for slave ownership was first created, as Massachusett’s “Body of Liberties” promulgated in 1641, held that “There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, nor captivity among us, unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves, or are sold, unto us.” And from this came New England’s domination of the transatlantic slave trade.

Bringing Down the Vengeance of Heaven

“Taking a hint apparently from the Mahommetans, the clergy had denounced it as a scandalous and outrageous thing for one Christian to hold another in slavery; and their preaching on this point had been so successful, that about the time of the discovery of America it had come to be considered a settled matter, not in England only, but throughout Western Europe, that no Christian ought to be, or lawfully could be, held as a slave.

But with the customary narrowness of that age, this immunity from slavery was not thought to extend to infidels and pagans. While the emancipation of serfs was going on, black slaves, brought by the Portuguese from the coast of Guinea, became common in the south of Europe, and a few found their way to England.

The first Englishman to be engaged in this business was Sir John Hawkins, who, during the reign of Elizabeth, made several voyages to the coast of Guinea for Negroes, whom he disposed of to the Spaniards of the West Indies.

The Queen granted several patents to encourage this traffic; yet she is said to have expressed to Hawkins her hope that the Negroes went voluntarily from Africa, declaring that if any force were used to enslave them, she doubted not it would bring down the vengeance of Heaven upon those guilty of such wickedness.

The newly discovered coasts of America were also visited by kidnappers. Few, if any, of the early voyagers scrupled to seize the natives, and to carry them home as slaves. Sir Ferdinando Gorges, so active and so conspicuous in the early settlement of New England, had a number of these captured natives, whom he claimed as his property, kept under restraint, and employed as guides and pilots. The practice of the early English settlers in America, and their ideas of the English law on the subject, corresponded exactly with . . . Jewish provisions, indeed it would seem to have been regulated by them.

Thus they took with them, or caused to be brought out, a large number of indented Christian servants, whose period of bondage was limited to seven years, and who, till after the Revolution, constituted a distinct class in the community. Indeed, of the white immigrants to America preceding that era, the larger portion would seem to have arrived there under this servile character.

But while the servitude of Christians was thus limited, the colonists supposed themselves justified in holding Negroes and Indians as slaves for life.”

(Despotism in America: An Inquiry into the Nature, Results and Legal Basis of the Slave-Holding System in the United States, Richard Hildreth, John P. Jewett and Company, 1854, excerpts pp. 178-180)

Republican Party Deportation Movement

The Republican party’s platform of 1860 was not antislavery, but aimed at restricting those of African descent to the American South and not allowing blacks into western lands reserved for their European immigrant constituency. When their war caused displaced Africans to flood northward and threaten the jobs of white workers, Republicans admitted northern race prejudice and responded with unrealistic assurances to their voters as well as a deportation plan for the black race.

Republican Deportation Movement

“Following a familiar pattern, antislavery politicians and editors of every rank and persuasion cried that emancipation would staunch the flow of colored immigrants from the South; that it was bondage rather than freedom that was driving them into the North. Free the slaves, they said, and a warm climate, a sentimental attachment to their native land, and northern race prejudice would induce them to stay on southern soil.

Many went further, predicting the same forces would send all or most of the northern Negroes rushing southward. Two optimistic radicals, Congressman George W. Julian of Indiana and Albert J. Riddle of Ohio, expected that freedom in the South would drain the North and Canada of their colored populations. They were joined in this soothing refrain by their colleagues from Pennsylvania including the leading radical Republican in the House, Thaddeus Stevens.

In reply to a Missouri congressman’s accusation that Indiana would not receive Negro immigrants, Representative Albert G. Porter of Indiana retorted that black labor was not needed in his State; that Hoosiers had “elected in favor of the white race by prohibiting slavery”; that Missouri had chosen slavery and thereby agreed to accept its disadvantages; and that if any “inconveniences” should follow emancipation “the duty to be just to the freedmen is yours, and you cannot fairly shift either the burden or the duty to us.”

Yet after listening to [proposed solutions to emancipation] the Republican party finally adopted a voluntary Negro colonization as its official policy. The blacks that were to be freed and who consented to leave were to be sent outside the United States. Before the Civil War there had been active, if ineffective, colonization societies in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. War revived the nation’s flagging interest in the scheme.

In his message to Congress in December 1861, President Lincoln recommended that slaves seized under a confiscation act passed in August of 1861 and those that might be freed by State action be removed to “some place, or places, in a climate congenial to them,” and asked lawmakers to consider also including free Negroes who were willing to depart.

A deportation movement now got underway in earnest with a vanguard of Midwestern Republicans” Senators Lyman Trumbull, John Sherman, James R. Doolittle, Orville H. Browning of Illinois, Henry S. Lane of Indiana, and Secretary of the Interior Caleb B. Smith of Indiana.”  

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 20-23)

Apr 26, 2020 - Economics, Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Republican Party    Comments Off on A National Characteristic

A National Characteristic

Early in the war and with displaced black people migrating northward threatening white northerners jobs, Midwest Republicans proposed the use of federal power to insure that the freedmen would remain in the South, suggesting “that the blacks be colonized in Florida, or placed in the Indian territories of the southwest, or apprenticed on confiscate plantations, or restrained and employed in the South by the government.” Senator Doolittle below was Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee 1861-1866, and carried out the hanging of 38 Sioux in 1862.  

A National Characteristic

Senator [James R.] Doolittle, leading advocate of colonization in the Senate, explained, “The question of race is a more troublesome one than the question of condition [slavery] in the truth.” In August of 1862, President Lincoln reminded a group of colored men that the broad “physical difference” between the two races is “a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence.”

They were just as sure that anti-Negro prejudice was a national characteristic which would not be dispelled by universal emancipation, as some abolitionists thought it would.

A House committee, headed by Albert S. White, an Indiana Republican, endorsed emancipation and colonization, and reported that a belief in the inferiority of the Negro was “indelibly fixed upon the public mind . . . There are irreconcilable differences between the two races which separate them, as with a wall of fire . . . [The] Anglo-American never will give his consent that the Negro, no matter how free, shall be elevated to such equality.” Genuine concern for the welfare of the Negroes, as well as racial antipathy, nourished the deportation movement.

Republican colonizationists knew well that all men aspired to equality, and they truly sympathized with the condition of the Negro, free or slave. They urged – since history and the evidence on every hand indicated that white Americans would not admit black men to full equality – that emancipation be accomplished by the voluntary resettlement of the freedmen in foreign lands where they could enjoy equal rights and govern themselves. Such a course would benefit both races, they said. The whites would profit from the departure of an alien people; the blacks would escape from domination and oppression.”

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pg. 23)

Restless Yankees Infested with Guilt

One of the great conundrums of American history is the “treasury of virtue” claimed by New England as it allegedly struck the chains of slavery off the black man. Though the war was begun by Lincoln as simply one to “save the Union,” with Massachusetts troops conspicuously rushing to his side, New England abolitionists were quick to morph the war into an abolition crusade.

In truth, the ancestors of the crusading abolitionists grew wealthy in the transatlantic slave trade which exchanged Yankee notions and rum for enslaved Africans, then sailed to the West Indies and North America to deposit those that survived the murderous middle passage.  The exploitation of the black man continued with Eli Whitney’s invention, cotton-hungry New England mills, and Manhattan banks which revived a dying and unwanted peculiar institution. It is then fair to state that the original “slave power” was New England.

Restless Yankees Infested with Guilt

During the Victorian Age, an aphorism held that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”  In England the adage may have been coined to salve the consciences of plutocrats wallowing in wealth gained at the expense of a wretched factory proletariat, but in the United States, at least, it had broader connotations. 

When times were hard and the struggle to make ends meet the Yankees accepted their lot uncomplainingly, as if that was what God had destined for them.

When times were good and life was easy, they became restless and infested with feelings of guilt. In such circumstances, their tendency was to look around for evil and band together to strike it out.  [The] years after the 1849 gold rush were a period of unprecedented prosperity that lasted almost a decade. Fads and fancies proliferated, but most commonly, Yankees focused their reforming energies upon slavery, or, more properly, upon which they perceived as the slave power.”

(States’ Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, Forrest MacDonald, University of Kansas Pres, 2000, excerpts pg. 165)

“The Massachusetts Idea”

On September 22, 1864, the Illinois State Register reported “A new feature . . . We noted the sale of three likely able-bodied men yesterday – color not stated, as it is immaterial to Uncle Abe – at $400, $450 and $600 respectively . . . They were bought to fill a Woodford County order.” Only three days later the paper wrote “the demand for substitutes seems to be on the increase. Yesterday their par value averaged $700 to $900. About a dozen, most of them Negroes, were picked up and are already in the service of Father Abraham.”   

 Milton S. Littlefield was a prewar Republican organizer in Illinois, and was later sent by Lincoln to fervent abolitionist Gen. David Hunter in South Carolina as “an agent and symbol of altering Presidential idea about the Negro and the war.” Littlefield was notorious for shaving enlistment bounties into his own pocket, and in the postwar was renowned for his railroad bond frauds in North Carolina.

The Massachusetts Idea”

 “[Lincoln secretary] John Hay called the procedure “the Massachusetts idea” in a talk about it with Sherman and Grant, neither of whom liked it. Sherman, indeed had defied an act of Congress, passed on July 4, 1864, authorizing Northern governors to send agents into the South to recruit Negroes “who shall be credited to the State which may procure the enlistment.”

When some such agents had asked Sherman where they might begin to receive their colored men, he had named eight cities all in Confederate territory far from any Union troops.  The idea was not limited to Massachusetts though it had been part of that State’s motivation . . . [and] had been a part of the Massachusetts purpose in forming the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which the doomed young Shaw led off to war to the applause of abolitionists and poets in Boston, and the 55th which furnished the man hanged in Jacksonville [for rape].

President Lincoln, in the message in which he announced and Amnesty and Reconstruction Proclamation which preceded the ill-fated expedition to Olustee, mentioned as one of the advantages of enlisting Negro soldiers that of “supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men.”

Nothing could be more clear than Littlefield’s statement in his appeal for enlistments on the Florida expedition calling attention to the Federal bounty each recruit would receive and another bounty “from the State to which he will be accredited.”  (There was a gap between the $300 he promised and the $700 Jefferson County [New York] paid.)

Perhaps as the officer “charged with the payment of all bounties to colored recruits” in the Department of the South, he was partial to Jefferson County. Also it is possible that some of the bounty money stuck to his hands or those of his cousin, friends and associates there.

The process in which he took part, however, was not a rare deal but a plan publicly blessed by local taxpayers and high public officials. During the war the Northern States paid nearly $300,000,000 in bounties for recruits.”

(Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1958, excerpts pp. 103-104)

The War Power is All Power

A bill to establish a Bureau of Freedmen’s Affairs was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 17, 1864, by Massachusetts Republican Rep. Thomas D. Eliot. Democrat Rep. Samuel S. “Sunset” Cox of Ohio responds to the bill, in part, below.

The War Power is All Power

“Mr. Cox said: “Mr. Speaker . . . the member who introduced it [Mr. Eliot] recalled to our minds the fact that we opposed the confiscation bill for its inhumanity. This bill is founded in part on the confiscation system. If that were inhuman, then this is its aggravation. The former takes the lands which are abandoned by loyal or disloyal whites, under the pressure of war; while the present system turns these abandoned lands over to the blacks.

The effect of former legislation has been, in his opinion, to bring under the control of the Government large multitudes of freedmen who “had ceased to be slaves, but had not learned how to be free.” To care for these multitudes he presents this bill, which, if not crude and undigested, yet is sweeping and revolutionary.

It begins a policy for this Federal Government of limited and express powers, so latitudinarian that the whole system is changed. If the acts of confiscation and the proclamations, on which this measure is founded, be usurpations, how can we who have denounced them favor a measure like this?

This is a new system. It opens a vast opportunity for corruption and abuse. It may be inaugurated in the name of humanity; but I doubt, sir, if any Government, much less our Government of delegated powers, will ever succeed in the philanthropic line of business such as is contemplated by this bill.

The gentleman from Massachusetts appeals to us to forget the past, not to enquire how these poor people have become free, whether by law or by usurpation, but to look the great fact in the face “that three million slaves have become and are becoming free.” Before I come to that great fact, let me first look to the Constitution.

My oath to that is the highest humanity. By preserving the Constitution amidst the rack of war, in any vital part, we are saving for a better time something of those liberties, State and personal, which have given so much happiness for over seventy years to so many millions; and which, under a favorable Administration, might again restore contentment to our afflicted people. Hence the highest humanity is in building strong the ramparts of constitutional restraint against such radical usurpations as is proposed to be inaugurated by measures kindred to this before the House.

If the gentleman can show us warrant in the Constitution to establish this eleemosynary system for the blacks, and for making the Government a plantation speculator and overseer, and the Treasury a fund for the Negro, I will then consider the charitable light in which he has commended his bill to our sympathies.

The gentleman refers us for the constitutionality of this measure to the war power [of Lincoln], the same power by which he justifies the emancipation proclamation and similar measures. We upon this [Democratic] side are thoroughly convinced of the utter sophistry of such reasoning.

If the proclamation be unconstitutional, how can this or any measure based on it be valid?

The gentleman says, “If the President had the power to free the slave, does it not imply the power to take care of him when freed?”

Yes, no doubt. If he had any power under the war power, he has all power.

Under the war power he is a tyrant without a clinch on his revolutions. He can spin in any orbit he likes, as far and as long as he pleases.”

(Eight Years in Congress, 1857-1865: Memoir and Speeches of Samuel S. Cox, Samuel S. Cox, D. Appleton and Company, 1865, excerpts pp. 354-356)

Radical Experiment in the District

On January 4, 1867, President Andrew Johnson was preparing his veto of the District [of Columbia] Suffrage Bill, telling his cabinet of issues with the Bill. He pointed out that “New York Negroes were obliged to comply with property requirements not necessary for white voters”, while other Northern States like Pennsylvania and Indiana excluded them from voting altogether.”

Johnson added that “the representatives of States where suffrage is either denied the colored man or grant [voting rights on qualifications being met] . . . should compel the people of the District of Columbia to try an experiment which their own constituents have thus far shown an unwillingness to test for themselves . . .” It was clear to Johnson that the motivation for Negro suffrage was the voting potential they held, and the potential for Republican Party political hegemony in the future. This led to virtually unbroken Republican national rule until Woodrow Wilson.

It is noteworthy that when the Emancipation Bill of April 1862 provided freedom for colored people in the District, which also compensated their owners, Lincoln insisted that the measure be coupled with a $100,000 appropriation to settle the freedmen in Haiti and Liberia.

Radical Experiment in the District

“The question of voting by Negroes had become by this time a burning national issue and one on which the Republican Party was by no means unanimous. Even in the North only six States permitted Negro suffrage without restrictions. Negroes were not permitted to vote in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and . . . New York still maintained property qualifications for Negro voters.

The Radical wing of the Party, led by [Charles] Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, was, however, adamant on this issue. It was essential in their opinion that the colored man should be permitted to vote . . . [and] the control of the Southern States by the Republican Party could be maintained by the Negro vote, since it was quite inconceivable that the vast majority of Negroes would vote for any other Party than the Republicans who had freed them.

Realizing the difficulties of achieving Negro suffrage in the States, the leaders of the Radical Wing of the Republican Party began to turn their attention to the District of Columbia over which Congress had jurisdiction.

If Negro suffrage could be achieved in the District, with its large colored population, that would set the standard which some of the Southern States might be eventually be persuaded or compelled to follow.

Thus the municipal politics of Washington and Georgetown were to become a vital issue in the struggle for power between the Radical Republicans in Congress and Andrew Johnson, the Conservative Democrat in the White House.”

(The Uncivil War: Washington During the Reconstruction, 1865-1878, James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts pg. 37)

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