Browsing "Race and the North"

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)

Frederick Douglas, Disunionist

Frederick Douglas was an admitted confidant of the murderous John Brown, and fled to Canada after Brown’s 1859 raid to avoid prosecution for his part as an accessory to violent insurrection against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Douglas followed the path of radical abolitionists by fomenting hatred and murder, rather than peaceful and practical efforts to solve the riddle of African slavery established by the British and perpetuated by New England slavers — the ancestors of his new friends up North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Frederick Douglas, Disunionist

“In a letter to the American Slaves from those who have fled from American slavery, “ [Frederick] Douglas asserted, “When the insurrection of the Southern slaves shall take place, as take place it will, unless speedily prevented by voluntary emancipation, the great mass of the colored men of the North, however much to the grief of us, will be found by your side, with deep-stored and long-accumulated revenge in their hearts, and with death-dealing weapons in their hands . . . We tell you these things not to encourage, or justify your resort to physical force; but simply, that you may know, be it your joy or sorrow know it, what your Northern brethren are, in these important respects.”

The vast majority of black New Yorkers supported John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. In New York, leading black abolitionists such as Douglas, Garnet and McCune Smith had been informed of Brown’s plan. After the raid, black abolitionists published some of the most thoughtful justifications of the right to rebellion against Southern slaveholders.

Douglas argued eloquently, “They have by the single act of slave-holding, voluntarily placed themselves beyond the laws of justice and honor, and have become only fitted for companionship with thieves and pirates — the common enemies of God and mankind.”

(Slavery in New York, Ira Berlin and Leslie Harris, editors, The New Press, 2005, pp. 258-259)

 

North Illustrates Little Regard for the Union

Northern anti-slavery agitators fomented discord and disunion long before 1861 and did their utmost to cause the South to seek a more perfect union. And that South rightly asked why the North agreed to the Compromise of 1850 when it had no intentions of abiding by it. If the abolition of slavery was indeed their crusade, why did abolitionists not encourage the example of the British with compensated emancipation, thus averting war and wanton destruction?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North Illustrates Little Regard for the Union

“In the North, sincere if fanatical abolitionists and opportunists alike used the slavery issue for political advancement. In the South, the voices . . . grew more passionate in their crusades for independence. Northern agitators gave them the ammunition.

When the Southern States had adopted the Compromise of 1850, the Georgia legislature summarized the attitude of them all. Serving notice that the preservation of the Union depended on the Northern States’ faithfully abiding by the terms of the Compromise, the Georgia delegates stressed its particular application to the federal laws regarding fugitive slaves.

This was a very real issue to the planters, and nothing so impressed the individual Southerner with Northern hostility as the protection given runaways in the North and the actual attacks on federal officials trying to enforce the laws on stolen property. On this last point, the Georgians stated, “It is the deliberate opinion of this convention that upon the faithful execution of the fugitive-slave bill depends the preservation of our much-loved Union.”

Yet in the North, many people continued to repudiate and defy the fugitive slave laws, which constituted about the only thing the South got out of the Compromise. To the Southerners trying to promote secession, this breach of faith served to illustrate the little regard in which the North held Union.

Then Northern literature erupted into what amounted to an anti-Southern propaganda mill. In 1851 appeared Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that inflammable work of the imagination, to start the decade in a spirit of recriminations. With the pamphlets and literature which took up where Mrs. Stowe left off, newspapers joined in the denunciations of their fellow Americans. To support the fictional pictures of the benighted Southerners, the New York Tribune stated flatly that plantations were “little else than Negro harems,” and that, of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Tyler (who was still living) “hardly one has failed to leave his mulatto children.”

Even Virginia, which produced these Presidents, had been brought to ruin by “pride and folly and . . . [Negro] concubinage . . . ” while South Carolina, with its “chivalry-ridden inhabitants,” like the other States, “is a full thousand years behind the North in civilization.” Emerson and Longfellow, Lowell and Whittier, the new literary pillars of that civilization, conjured up pictures of the vileness of their Southern neighbors.”

(The Land They Fought For, The Story of the South as the Confederacy, 1832-1865, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday and Company, 1955, pp. 44-45)

Heart of the Race Relations Problem

The disruption of Southern race relations by federal authorities, the Supreme Court and imported agitators, has done more harm than good, according to author William D. Workman, Jr. He writes that “In many respects, the refusal of the North to leave the South alone has had a harmful effect upon the very individuals about whom the Northerners profess most concern – that is, the Southern Negro.” As they “helped” the Southern Negro, they also ruined his good relations with the white neighbors he had to live with.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Heart of the Race Relations Problem

“More [problems] can be expected in the future if Northern integrationists, with or without political backing, continue to pillory the white South under the guise of helping the black South.

Meanwhile, the harried Southern Negro, who may or may not agree with the fulminations made in his behalf, stands to lose more than he gains. In most of the South, he is now possessed of all the purely legal rights which are coming his way, and continued agitation from the North can add little to his political status . . . [and] On the other hand, and this has become quite apparent in the last few years, the Negro becomes – willingly or unwillingly – the object of the white Southerner’s resentment.

Basically, the white Southerner has little quarrel with his Negro neighbor, and frankly despises the Northern propagandists – including the Supreme Court of the United States – with far greater intensity than is ever directed toward the Negro.

When the Northerner preaches the “brotherhood of man,” the Southerner calls for “freedom of association” and proceeds to sever longstanding ties which formerly linked him amicably with his Negro fellow-Southerners.

The net result is that the Northern action brings about almost the reverse reaction from that desired. Instead of bringing Southern whites and Negroes closer together, it drives them farther apart since, in the eyes of the white Southerner, the Negro is identified with those forces which seek to pillory and persecute the South.

The heart of the problem lies in the achievement of community acceptance of whatever pattern of race relations seems best for that community. [Where] there is not acceptance, no amount of pressure – federal, religious, or otherwise – will bring about a satisfactory situation. The matter of race relations is too close a thing . . . and not a thing to be handled by impersonal formula and governmental edict . . . .

In the years preceding the Supreme Court decision of 1954, and in a diminishing degree since then, Southern communities were making notable progress in the expansion of not only racial amity but of bi-racial achievement. The pressures which have built up following the desegregation decision, however, tended in large measure to “freeze” things as they were, and indeed in many cases to undo the good that had been accomplished by slow, patient work over the years.

Florida’s Gov. LeRoy Collins had this to say on March of 1956:

“For as long as I can remember, the Florida A&M [Negro] University choir on Sunday afternoons has held vesper services open to the general public. Many white citizens have over the years attended these concerts with great admiration for the excellence of these Negro voices singing the spirituals of their race. But this has almost completely stopped, I am advised. The singing still goes on each Sunday, and it is as good as it has ever been, but there are no longer white listeners. Fear of being labeled integrationists has intimidated them into staying away . . .

These things don’t make good sense but they are happening nevertheless. They signal not just a halt in the advancement of good race relations, but actually a decided move backward. They show the insidious results when our people are pulled by one side or the other into the fighting pit of the extremists . . . “

(The Case For the South, William D. Workman, Jr., Devin-Adair, 1960, pp. 134-138)

Ivey League Educated Black Segregationists

Below, author Langston Hughes recalls the distinct line of segregation drawn by black Americans between upper and lower classes, educated versus ill-educated, lightness and darkness of skin hue, and even between those with comfortable government employment and those not so blessed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Ivy League Educated Black Segregationists

“. . . Washington colored people, as they called themselves, drew rigid class and color lines within the race against Negroes who worked with their hands, or who were dark in complexion and had no degrees from colleges. These upper class colored people consisted largely of government workers, professors and teachers, doctors, lawyers, and resident politicians. They were on the whole as unbearable and snobbish a bunch of people as I have ever come in contact with anywhere.

They lived in comfortable home, had fine cars, played bridge, drank Scotch, gave exclusive “formal” parties, and dressed well, but seemed to me altogether lacking in real culture, kindness, or good common sense. Lots of them had degrees from colleges like Harvard and Dartmouth and Columbia and Radcliffe and Smith, but God knows what they learned there.

They had all the manners and airs of reactionary, ill-bred nouveaux riches – except that they were not really rich. Just middle class.”

(The Big Sea, Autobiography of Langston Hughes, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1986 (original 1940), pp. 206-207)

Freedmen Intoxicated with the Idea of Power

Not content with devastating the American South and destroying its political power, the vindictive Radicals in Washington considered the conquered States as mere territories to be ruled by Northern proconsuls. To establish a veneer of democracy, blacks were herded to the polls by the notorious Union League to elect Northern men; the freedmen were instructed to burn the barns and homes of white citizens to keep them from the polls.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Freedmen Intoxicated With the Idea of Power

“It was to The Shrubs, the home of his former classmate, Judge Thomas M. Dawkins of Union [county], that Governor McGrath moved the State Capitol with the officials and archives just before General Sherman reached Columbia. There daily reports were received of the burning of Columbia, the position of Sherman’s and Cheatham’s armies, and finally the surrender of Lee and the flight of Jefferson Davis through Union.

In her diary Mrs. Dawkins wrote: “Young people were hopeful to the last so when soldiers were with us, music, dancing, charades, etc., made many enjoyable evenings never to be forgotten. There was a bon ami, a comradeship born of the situation very fascinating and rare.”

After surrender Mrs. Dawkins wrote, “We had 11 servants in the yard, and many of them were there. I said “I have told you, you are free and of course can leave at any time but would rather you wait and let us settle you comfortably.”

My seamstress Milly was Abraham Dogan’s wife, the carriage driver. He became a member of the Legislature. It was with difficulty we could get them to move out of the yard.

Finally in January 1866 Judge Dawkins hired for them a house and settled them with pig provisions, but poor ignorant creatures, they were intoxicated with the idea of power, and always fond of idleness began to steal and destroy property. Scarcely a night without burning. There was no redress, no law, and the Ku Klux Klan was formed to frighten the Negroes, so sensational superstition — all done to this point – masks, coffins, etc. This was done as patiently as possible for 10 years from 1866 to 1876. Then our hero, General Hampton came forward to help us.”

Thus Mrs. Dawkins, born in England, an imported schoolteacher from the North, married to a member of the aristocracy in Union [county], spoke to future generations through her diary of the tensions and problems of a tragic episode in American history.”

(Plantation Heritage in Upcountry, South Carolina, Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, Biltmore Press, 1965, page 107)

Preaching Principles of Extreme Democracy

Contrary to mainstream historical accounts, New England was not friendly toward the abolitionists in their midst and saw them as radical agitators. This region was no stranger to slavery as Providence, Rhode Island was by 1750 the transatlantic slaving center of North America after surpassing Liverpool; Yankee notions and rum were in high demand by African tribes eager to sell their slaves to New England merchants.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Preaching the Principles of Extreme Democracy

“In 1837, not a single meeting house or hall of any size could be obtained for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. It met in the loft of a hotel stable which enabled [William] Garrison to declare, “Abolition today, as on every day, stands upon a stable foundation.” Northern merchants and manufacturers with anti-slavery tendencies were boycotted. A black list of New York Abolition merchants was made out by a committee, and the South was told to withdraw its patronage from these destroyers of the Union.

In most financial circles, a pocket nerve was touched by the outcries of people who had cotton to sell and heavy orders to give. When the South called on the North to stay the Abolition frenzy to meet the wishes of their Southern friends, the first men of Boston called a meeting for August 21, 1835 in Fanueil Hall to discountenance the seditious principles of what even John Quincy Adams at that time wrote down as “a small, shallow, and enthusiastic party, preaching the abolition of slavery on the principles of extreme democracy.”

Miss Prudence Crandall, a Quaker, who was conducting a Ladies Academy at Canterbury, Connecticut, accepted Sarah Harris, a colored girl, as a pupil. The white parents objected and threatened to withdraw their children if Miss Harris were allowed to remain, as they “would not have it said their daughters went to school with a nigger girl.” “The school may sink,” Miss Crandall said, “but I will not give up Sarah Harris.” The white children were withdrawn.

Twenty colored girls arrived at Miss Crandall’s school . . . The irate Canterbury citizens invoked against her the Pauper and Vagrancy Law, one of the early “blue laws” of Connecticut colony. This law required people not residents of the town pay a fine…and if …not paid or the person not gone in ten days, he was to be whipped on the naked body not exceeding ten stripes.

A warrant was issued against one Negro pupil, Eliza Ann Hammond, from Providence.  As Miss Crandall still held here ground . . . a new law was enacted by the Connecticut legislature on May 24, 1833, called the Black Law, prohibiting under severe penalties the instruction of any Negro from outside the State without the consent of the town authorities. When the new law was passed, bells were rung and cannon fired for half an hour. When the [black] students walked out, horns were blown and pistols fired.”

(Prophet of Liberty, Wendell Phillips, Oscar Sherwin, Bookman Associates, pp. 48-52).

Intolerant New Englanders

Upon regaining their moral compass after years of shipping captured Native Americans into West Indian slavery and dominating the transatlantic slave trade, New Englanders found slavery in the South reprehensible and vowed to stamp it out. The Joseph R. Hawley mentioned below became a Northern major general, served as Connecticut governor 1866-67, and then purchased the Hartford Currant newspaper of Thomas M. Day.  Hawley and Day held blacks, Catholics, foreigners and distilled spirits in low regard.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Intolerant New Englanders

“His [editor Day’s] first editorial, January 1, 1855, ran a full column . . . he proposed to “encourage every judicious effort to stay the encroachments of the slave power”; to uphold the prohibition of liquor; to help check the influence of immigrants at the polls; to support a high protective tariff; and to expect little good from President [Franklin] Pierce or his cabinet.

The editor praised the Native American party for going into political battle with the war-cry of “America for the Americans.” He praised the party’s twin aims: “a refusal to be governed by foreigners — a determination not to allow Romanism to decide our elections.” He criticized other editors for not seeing that Irish and German immigrants could undermine the American labor market.

With even greater assurance he wrote: “We believe the Caucasian variety of the human species superior to the Negro variety; and we would breed the best stock . . . the Caucasian variety is intrinsically a better breed, of better brain, better moral traits, better capacity every way, than the Negro, or the Mongolian, or the Malay, or the Red American.”

The Native American motto “America for the Americans” had a different effect on some of the newspaper readers in the Courant’s distribution area. They believed the issues of freedom and human bondage to be far more profound than those of native birth, and they began to look about for a political organization to give force to their view. Their search led directly to the founding of the present Republican party in Connecticut and to the establishment of a newspaper, the Hartford Evening Press, that was destined to merge with The Courant and to infuse new vitality into the old paper.

Day was still blustering at non-Americans when . . . on a cold Monday, February 3, 1856, Joseph R. Hawley, a local attorney who years later was to become one of the owners of The Courant, and John F. Morris, cashier of the Charter Oak Bank, met at the corner of Main and Asylum Streets in downtown Hartford. Both were deeply concerned about the possible spread of slavery into the territories of the West. Morris . . . abruptly asked: “Hawley, isn’t it time that a Republican organization was formed here?” “Yes it is,” Hawley replied, “full time and we must be about it.”

(Older Than the Nation, Life and Times of the Hartford Courant, John Bard McNulty, Pequot Press, 1964, pp. 69-71)

Indispensable African Slaves

In his message to Congress on 29 April 1861, President Jefferson Davis cited the Northern threat to the South’s labor system as a cause of withdrawal from political union with the North. The murderous raid of John Brown in 1859 had convinced the South of the North’s violent intentions, which were supported by influential and wealthy men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Indispensable African Slaves

“As soon . . . as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves . . .

Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra-fanaticism, and whose business was . . . to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States, by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of . . . reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority.

In the meantime, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction.

Under the supervision of a superior race, their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South . . . and the productions of cotton, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man.

With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, editor, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 134-135)

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)

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