Browsing "Race and the North"

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

Lincoln receives insufficient credit for his part in defeating the compromise measures of 1860-61 which would have averted war, whose effects are still felt today. The author below asserts that slavery had reached its natural limits and was “a cumbersome and expensive system [that] could show profits only as long as it could find plenty of rich land to cultivate” and a market that would take the product. He adds that “the free farmers in the North who dreaded its further spread had nothing to fear. Even those who wished [slavery] destroyed had only to wait a little while – perhaps a generation, probably less. It was summarily destroyed at a frightful cost to the whole country and one-third of the nation was impoverished for forty years.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

“In the forefront of that group of issues which, for more than a decade before the secession of the cotton States, kept the Northern and Southern sections of the United States in irritating controversy and a growing sense of enmity, was the question of whether the federal government should permit and protect the expansion of slavery into the western territories . . . It was upon this particular issue that a new and powerful sectional party appeared in 1854, that the majority of the Secessionists of the cotton States predicated their action in 1860-1861, and it was upon this also that President-elect Lincoln forced the defeat of the compromise measures in the winter of 1860-61.

It seems safe to say that had this question been eliminated or settled amicably, there would have been no secession and no Civil War . . .

Disregarding the stock arguments – constitutional, economic, social and what-not – advanced by either group, let us examine afresh the real problem involved. Would slavery, if legally permitted to do so, have taken possession of the territories or of any considerable portion of them?

The causes of the expansion of slavery westward from the South Atlantic coast are now well-understood. The industrial revolution [in the North and in England] and the opening of world markets had continually increased the consumption and demand for raw cotton, while the abundance of fertile and cheap cotton lands in the Gulf States had steadily lured cotton farmers and planters westward. Where large-scale production was [possible, the enormous demand for a steady supply of labor had made the use of slaves inevitable, for a sufficient supply of free labor was unprocurable on the frontier . . . and slave labor was usually not profitable in growing grain.

This expansion of the institution was in response to economic stimuli . . . [and the] movement would go on as long as far as suitable cotton lands were to be found or as long as there was a reasonable expectation of profit from slave labor, provided, of course, that no political barrier was encountered.

But by 1849-50 . . . and by the time the new Republican party was formed to check the further expansion of slavery, the westward march of the cotton plantation was evidently slowing down. The only possibility of a further westward extension of the cotton belt was in Texas. In that alone was the frontier line of cotton and slavery still advancing . . .

In New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican labor is cheaper than Negro labor, as has always been the case since the acquisition of the region from Mexico. It was well-understood by sensible men, North and South, in 1850 that soil, climate, and native labor would form a perpetual bar to slavery in the vast territory then called New Mexico. [By 1860], ten years after the territory had been thrown open to slavery, showed not a single slave; and this was also true of Colorado and Nevada. Utah, alone of all these territories, was credited with any slaves at all . . . [and] the census of 1860 showed two slaves in Kansas and fifteen in Nebraska.

The Northern anti-slavery men held that a legal sanction of slavery in the territories would result in the extension of the institution and domination of the free North by the slave power; prospective immigrants in particular feared that they would never be able to get homes in this new West. Their fears were groundless; but in their excited state of mind they could see neither the facts clearly nor consider them calmly.

In the cold facts of the situation, there was no longer any basis for excited sectional controversy over slavery extension . . . [but] the public mind had so long been concerned with the debate that it could not see that the issue had ceased to have validity. In the existing state of the popular mind, therefore, there was still abundant opportunity for the politician to work to his own ends, to play upon prejudice and passion and fear.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 86-91)

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

Northeastern North Carolina suffered enemy occupation early in the war – those that could left the area. The occupation troops had little consideration for the African race they were emancipating, and seemed to consider the people of North Carolina their subjects and whose land would become resorts for Northerners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

“With their young men away at war, Washington and most of Beaufort County came under the heel of the Union Army. They found the town evacuated by its defenders and abandoned by about three-quarters of its inhabitants. All who could possibly leave, and find refuge with friends and relatives further inland, had done so.

The occupation force included units of the 24th Massachusetts Cavalry; 3rd New York Artillery; 3rd New York Cavalry; and some Marine artillery. Gunboats anchored across the river, off the town. Union forces continued to occupy Washington from the end of March 1862, until 20 April 1864.

On March 30, Captain Murrey, commander of the gunboat Commodore Hull, invited six of the older men who had remained in Washington, to dinner on his vessel. He is alleged to have gotten them drunk, then proposed a toast: “To the reconstruction of the Federal Union, a plantation in Georgia with a hundred niggers, and a summer residence in North Carolina.” It is recorded these men all drank with zest to this toast.

During this period, conditions in Washington were growing steadily worse. Older men who were compelled to remain with their business, had sent their wives and families away. Food was scarce. Though the freed Negroes who had collected in the town were given better food than the inhabitants could procure, bands of these Negroes roamed the streets at night, pillaging and stealing. Strong protests were made by the representatives of eastern North Carolina to President Davis, to return North Carolina troops from Virginia, to clear Union forces from their homes.”

(History of Beaufort County, C. Wingate Reed, Edwards & Broughton, 1962, pp. 184-188)

The Union League of the Republican Party

In the midst of the mostly inflammatory influence of the Republican’s Union League upon the freedmen, the Ku Klux Klan emerged in the immediate postwar. To underscore the Union League’s destructiveness, an 1870 Congressional Committee report provided this indictment of Republican rule over the conquered South: “[The] hatred of the white race was instilled [by the League] into the minds of these ignorant people by every art and vile that bad men could devise; when the Negroes were formed into military organizations and the white people of these States were denied the use of arms; when arson, rape, robbery and murder were things of daily occurrence, . . . and that what little they had saved from the ravages of war was being confiscated by taxation . . . many of them took the law into their own hands and did deeds of violence which we neither justify or excuse. But all history shows that bad government will make bad citizens.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Union League of the Republican Party

“The nocturnal secrecy of the gatherings, the weird initiation ceremonies, the emblems of virtue and religion, the songs, the appeal to such patriotic shibboleths as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, and the Union, the glittering platitudes in the interest of social uplift — all these characteristics of the League had an irresistible appeal to a ceremony-loving, singing, moralistic and loyal race. That the purposes of the order, when reduced to the practical, meant that the Negro had become the emotional and intellectual slaves of the white Radical did not dull the Negro’s enthusiasm, he was accustomed to be a slave to the white man” [South Carolina During Reconstruction, Simkins & Woody, page 7].

The Union League gave the freedmen their first experience in parliamentary law and debating . . . the members were active in the meetings, joining in the debate and prone to heckle the speakers with questions and points of order. Observers frequently reported the presence of rifles at political rallies, usually stacked in a clump of bushes behind the speaker’s platform, sometimes the womenfolk left to guard them.

In the autumn of 1867, a League chapter made up mostly of blacks, but with a white president named Bryce, was holding a meeting with its usual armed sentries on the perimeter. When a poor white named Smith tried to enter the meeting, shots were fired; there followed a general alarm and, subsequently, a melee with a white debating club nearby. The Negroes rushed out; Smith fled, hotly pursued to the schoolhouse; the members of the debating club broke up in a panic and endeavored to escape; a second pistol was fired and a boy of fourteen named Hunnicutt, the son of a respectable [white] citizen, fell dead.

[Carpetbagger John W. De Forest wrote]: “The Negroes, unaware apparently that they had done anything wrong, believing, on the contrary, that they were re-establishing public order and enforcing justice, commenced patrolling the neighborhood, entering every house and arresting numbers of citizens. They marched in double file, pistol in belt and gun at the shoulder, keeping step to the “hup, hup!” of a fellow called Lame Sam, who acted as drill sergeant and commander. By noon of the next day they had the country for miles around in their power, and the majority of the male whites under their guard.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 29-32)

 

War Fever with Japan, 1913

 

Without the spreading of American influence to Hawaii and the Philippines under Republican administrations, the tension with Japan mentioned below would probably not have occurred.  It is noteworthy that Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of War Jonathan Daniels were both Southerners who exhibited a conservative political nature. Wilson, despite his promise to not send American men to die in Europe, was bullied into intervention by T.R. Roosevelt and his Navy League propagandists, financed by American steelmakers and munitions makers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War Fever with Japan, 1913

“[The] California Assembly on April 16 [1913] passed an alien land bill that prohibited Japanese landownership in the indirect manner that [Woodrow] Wilson suggested. Underneath the surface, however, an international crisis of the first order was in the making.

The Japanese representatives in Washington and the American Charge’ in Tokyo had repeatedly warned the State Department of the inevitable Japanese reaction; but it was not until public opinion in Japan erupted in full fury around the middle of April that the Washington government awoke to the realization that the two countries might be moving toward a break in relations.

The crisis was made all the more acute, moreover, when the leaders in the California Senate announced on April 21 that they intended to ignore the cautiously worded Assembly bill and to substitute a measure aimed specifically at the Japanese, by prohibiting land ownership by all persons “ineligible to citizenship.” This, and a rising war fever in Japan, impelled [President Wilson] at last to take a hand.

Firstly, on April 22 he addressed a public appeal to Californians, urging them to exclude Japanese from landownership only by polite and indirect means, and not to embarrass the federal government by making the bill openly discriminatory.

Meanwhile, relations with the Japanese government were rapidly approaching the point of tension. On May 9, the day the California legislature passed the alien land bill, the Japanese Ambassador, Viscount Chinda, lodged his government’s protest with the State Department.

The American naval chiefs, fearful of a surprise attack on the Philippines, on May 13 urged the immediate dispatch of three American warships in the Yantze River to those islands. The following day, the Joint Board of the Army and Navy reiterated the recommendation and Admiral Bradley A. Fiske warned that war with Japan was “not only possible, but even probable.”

These recommendations precipitated a spirited discussion in the Cabinet on May 16. Garrison favored strong action and approved the Joint Board’s recommendation, while [Secretary of the Navy Jonathan] Daniels argued that moving the warships would only irritate the Japanese without making it possible to defend the Philippines if war occurred.

The spreading of the First World War to the Far East, a development that Bryan tried unsuccessfully to prevent, brought a new tension in the troubled relations between Japan and America.”

(Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917, Harper and Brothers, 1954, pp. 85-87)

Northern Race Riots, Conscription and Substitutes

In mid-1863, Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed found a way to settle the hated draft issue, give Lincoln his cannon fodder, and buy immigrant votes. Tweed brokered a deal with New York City politicians to find substitute recruits for drafted city residents, use the city treasury to pay whatever signing bonus the market would require, and tap a special $2 million “substitute” fund financed by bonds to be sold on Wall Street. If a New York City resident got caught in Lincoln’s draft, he could either use the fund to buy his way out, or join the army and keep the money. With this deal, Lincoln used Tammany Hall to run his draft in New York.

Author Kenneth Ackerman wrote in his biography of Boss Tweed: “His county recruitment drive for the army would attract scandal: abusive bounty brokers, unqualified soldiers — either prisoners from local jails or immigrants literally straight from New York harbor — and middlemen stealing fortunes in graft. But it hardly raised an eyebrow compared to the epidemic of war profiteering that had infected the country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Race Riots, Conscription and Substitutes 

“For four days terror reigned [in New York City], marked by a series of grisly lynchings [of black residents]. A mob even swarmed onto a British ship in the harbor, and despite the Captain’s protests, cruelly beat up the foreign Negroes among the crew. The police were barely able to save the Tribune Building from total destruction. Men searched for the Tribune’s editor, singing, “We’ll hang Horace Greeley from a sour apple tree.”

A Negro orphanage on Fifth Avenue was burned to the ground. Looters had a field day, among them screeching women who opposed [military] conscription.

Troops were rushed from Gettysburg [immediately after the battle]; cadets from West Point came to aid the police; the entire naval force in the region was called upon to quell the disturbance. Finally, in desperation, the military raked the streets with cannon fire. But what really stopped the rioting was a posted notice: “the draft has been suspended in New York City and Brooklyn.”

The newspapers carried the word in huge print. Order was finally restored. According to the Tribune of July 25, some 350 people had been killed; but other estimates went much higher. Casualties, including the injured, amounted to 1,000 and private property damage was estimated at $1,500,000.

Republican newspapers claimed the outbreak had been sparked by Confederate agents. But Democratic Party feeling and a sincere desire for peace were mingled with race prejudice and resentment against what the anti-Lincoln papers called the “incompetence” of the Administration. Men resented fighting against their convictions and were indignant at “governmental “frauds and profiteering.”

Apparently, from the magnitude of the outbreak, the London Times had not been far wrong in predicting that if the South won in Pennsylvania, Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee would receive a rousing welcome along Broadway.

Soon after the tumult subsided, the Democratic City Council of New York voted that the exemption [from military service] money of four hundred dollars for impecunious draftees would be paid from the city treasury. To meet Governor Seymour’s charge that the conscription as practiced was “unequal, fraudulent and a disgrace,” President Lincoln reduced the New York quotas [for troops].

When the draft was resumed a month later, he took the precaution of sending 10,000 infantrymen and three artillery batteries from the Army of the Potomac to see that the business went off quietly.

During New York’s bloody pandemonium, [British Colonel Arthur] Freemantle had been surprised to hear everyone talking of the “total demoralization of the Rebels.” To him it sounded absurd, since only a few days previously he had left Lee’s army “as full of fight as ever,” much stronger and more efficient from every military point of view than when it had crossed the Potomac to invade Maryland the previous September.

In the Colonel’s opinion, Lee’s army had “not lost any of its prestige at the battle of Gettysburg, in which it had most gallantly stormed strong entrenchments defended by the whole Army of the Potomac.”   Freemantle took ship for England and completed his book of observations at sea. “The mass of respectable Northerners,” he wrote, “though they may be willing to pay, do not very naturally feel themselves called upon to give their blood in a war of aggression, ambition and conquest . . . The more I think of all I have seen in the Confederate States of the devotion of the whole population, the more I feel inclined to say with General Polk — “How can you subjugate such a people as this?”

[And] even supposing that their extermination were a feasible plan, as some Northerners have suggested, I never can believe that in the nineteenth century the civilized world will be condemned to witness the destruction of such a gallant race.”

(Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, Hudson Strode, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1959, pp. 458-460)

 

 

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)

 

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

The entrance of the United States into the game of imperialism came after an unnecessary war with Spain and the seizure of the latter’s former imperial possessions of Cuba and the Philippines. The promise of independence for the natives was soon realized to be empty, and the standard procedure of installing US-friendly regimes in conquered regions began — and continues today.

As articulated below, it is worth pondering if exploitation by the dominant Tagalogs after the US military departed was worse than exploitation by American carpetbaggers. The latter believed, and still seem to believe, that all people of the world are really hard-working New England Puritans in native clothing and if taught to master the art of democratic town hall meetings they could be left alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

“The problem of giving self-government to the Filipinos was made difficult by the existence of several distinct tribes speaking different languages and cherishing race enmities among themselves. The most important tribe was the Tagalogs, numbering 1,466,000 out of a population of nearly 8,000,000. They exceeded the others in culture and in the will to dominate the islands. If left to themselves it was believed that they would establish supremacy over the islands both political and economic. This policy has weighed down our policy in the islands.

Whatever the reasons why the United States should withdraw from the conduct of government there, it would be against the spirit of our promises to all the people if by so doing the large majority of the natives were left to the exploitation of the Tagalogs.

[In 1900], a governmental commission was appointed, with William H. Taft at the head, with instructions to introduce civil government as far and as rapidly as possible. The commission itself was at the top of the system with wide executive and law-making powers. It was directed to establish schools and create courts of justice.

Provision was made that the language of the United States should be taught in the schools, and that the officials should be taken from the natives as far as possible. These instructions were written by Secretary of War [Elihu] Root after a careful study of conditions in the Philippines.

The next step in developing government for the Philippines was McKinley appointing Taft Governor] and made him with the other members of his commission a Council to assist him in governing. At the same time three of the ablest natives were added to the membership of the Council, in which they were a minority.

Taft’s first care was to establish local self-government in the provinces . . . The suffrage for this process was awarded to persons who had held office in the islands, or owned a specified amount of property, or who spoke, read, and wrote Spanish or English. Elections were held in 1907, and the Assembly fell at once into the hands of a nationalist party.

The natives, that is, the Tagalog ruling class, were disappointed that no larger share of the government of their own country was given them, and they likened themselves to the [American] South when it was ruled by carpetbag officials from the North.

When President [Warren] Harding came into authority he sent General [Leonard] Wood and Lieutenant-Governor General Forbes to investigate and give advice on the withdrawal of the United States from the islands. They reported, in 1921, that the natives were not ready for self-government and advocated the continuance of the existing system. The natives were disappointed at the decision of the commissioners and continued to protest against the continuance of United States authority over them.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 103-107)

Radical Reconstruction and Negro Suffrage

The victorious Radicals in the North were faced with a practical dilemma as they punished the South for seeking political independence. Should the freedmen be left alone with their former masters they would vote with them and possibly remove the Republicans from power. The infamous Union League was then unleashed on Southern blacks to hold their white neighbors in contempt and vote against their interests – a sad result still in evidence today. In 1868, Grant was narrowly elected over Democrat Samuel Tilden with 500,000 freedmen-provided  votes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Radical Reconstruction and Negro Suffrage

“The reconstruction of the Southern States . . . is one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of government. As a demonstration of political and administrative capacity, it is no less convincing than the subjugation of the Confederate armies as an evidence of military capacity.

The Congressional leaders – Trumbull, Fessenden, Stevens, Bingham and others – who practically directed the process of reconstruction, were men of as rugged a moral and intellectual fiber as Grant, Sherman and the other officers who crushed the material power of the South.

In the path of reconstruction lay a hostile white population in the South, a hostile executive at Washington, a doubtful if not decidedly hostile Supreme Court, a divided Northern sentiment in respect to Negro suffrage and an active and skillfully-directed Democratic Party.

With much the feelings of the prisoner of tradition who watched the walls of his cell close slowly in from day to day to crush him, the Southern whites saw in the successive developments of Congress’ policy the remorseless approach of Negro rule. The fate of Southern whites, like that of the prisoner of tradition, may excite our commiseration; but the mechanism by which the end was achieved must command an appreciation on its merits.

The power of the national government to impose its will upon the rebel States, irrespective of any restriction as to means, was assumed when the first Reconstruction Act was passed, and this assumption was acted upon to the end.

That the purpose of reconstruction evinced as much political wisdom as the methods by which it was attained, is not clear. To stand the social pyramid on its apex was not the surest way to restore the shattered equilibrium in the South.

The enfranchisement of the freedmen and their enthronement in political power was as reckless a species of statecraft as that which marked “the blind hysterics of the Celt,” in 1789-95. But the resort to Negro suffrage was not determined to any great extent by abstract theories of equality.

Though Charles Sumner and the lesser lights of his school solemnly proclaimed, in season and out, the trite generalities of the Rights of Man, it was a very practical dilemma that played the chief part in giving the ballot to the blacks.

By 1867 it seemed clear that there were three ways available for settling the issues of the war in the South: first, to leave the [Andrew] Johnson governments in control and permit the Southern whites themselves, through the Democratic Party, to determine either chiefly or whole the solution of existing problems; second, to maintain Northern and Republican control through military government; and third, to maintain Northern and Republican control through Negro suffrage.

The first expedient was . . . grotesquely impossible. The choice had to be made between indefinite military rule and Negro suffrage. It was a cruel dilemma. The traditional antipathy of the English race toward military rule determined resort to the second alternative. It was proved by the sequel that the choice was unwise. The enfranchisement of the blacks, so far from removing, only increased, the necessity for military power.

Seven unwholesome years [to 1877] were required to demonstrate that not even the government which had quelled the greatest rebellion in history could maintain the freedmen in both security and comfort on the necks of their former masters. ”

(Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction and Related Topics, William A. Dunning, The Macmillan Company, 1898, pp. 247-252)

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)

White and Black Servants in Early America

Quoting John Rolfe’s account of the event, John Smith noted that “About the last of August came in a Dutch manne of warre that sold us twenty Negars.” Thus began the importation of Africans to America though their early status of servants or slaves may still be questioned.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

White and Black Servants in Early America

“Thanks to John Smith we know that Negroes first came to the British continental colonies in 1619. What we do not know is exactly when Negroes were first enslaved there. This question has been debated by historians for the past seventy years, the critical point being whether Negroes were enslaved almost from their first importation or whether they were at first simply servants and only later reduced to the status of slaves.

During the nineteenth century historians assumed almost universally that the first Negroes came to Virginia as slaves. So close was their acquaintance with the problem of racial slavery that it did not occur to them that Negroes could ever have been anything but slaves.

Philip A. Bruce, the first man to probe with some thoroughness into the early years of American slavery, adopted this view in 1896, although he emphasized that the original difference in treatment between white servants and Negroes was merely that Negroes served for life.

James C. Ballagh . . . took the position that the first Negroes served merely as servants and that enslavement did not begin until around 1660, when statutes bearing on slavery were passed for the first time. Writing on the free Negro in Virginia for the Johns Hopkins series, John H. Russell in 1913 tackled the central question and showed that some Negroes were indeed servants but concluded that “between 1640 and 1660 slavery was fast becoming an established fact. In this twenty years the colored population was divided, part being servants and part being slaves, and some who were servants defended themselves with increasing difficulty from the encroachment of slavery.”

Ulrich Philips of Georgia, impressed with the geniality of both slavery and twentieth-century race relations, found no natural prejudice in the white man and expressed his “conviction that Southern racial asperities were mainly superficial, and that the two great elements are fundamentally in accord.”

[Sociologists and social psychologists] . . . “Liberal on the race question almost to a man, [tended] to see slavery as the initial cause of the Negro’s current degradation. The modern Negro was the unhappy victim of long association with base status. Sociologists, though uninterested in tired questions of historical evidence, could not easily assume a natural prejudice in the white man as the cause of slavery. Prejudice must have followed enslavement, not vice versa; else any liberal program of action would be badly compromised.

Ironically there might have been no historical controversy [regarding when racial prejudice began] if every historian dealing with the subject had exercised greater care with facts and greater restraint in interpretation. Too often the debate entered the realm of inference and assumption. For the crucial years after 1619 there is simply not enough evidence to indicate with any certainty whether Negroes were treated like white servants or not. No historian has found anything resembling proof one way or the other. The first Negroes were sold to the English settlers, yet so were other Englishmen.

That some Negroes were held as slaves after about 1640 is no indication, however that American slavery popped into the world fully developed at that time. Many historians . . . have shown slavery to be a gradual development, a process not completed until the eighteenth century. [Some] Negroes served only the term usual for white servants, and others were completely free. One Negro freeman, Anthony Johnson, himself owned a Negro. Obviously the enslavement of some Negroes did not mean the immediate enslavement of all.”

(Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery, Winthrop D. Jordan, Journal of Southern History, Volume XXVIII, February, 1962, pp. 18 -25)