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An Aristocracy of Color

Antebellum North Carolina was home to an aristocracy of industrious free-black merchants, craftsmen and farmers, such as barber John Caruthers, “Barber Jack” Stanly of New Bern.  Stanly invested his profits into plantations and town property, making him one of Craven County’s most prosperous citizens with over $40,000 in personal wealth. Free-black brick mason Donom Mumford of the same community owned ten slaves.  Also, Virginia-born, free-black Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina, owned fourteen slaves and was an acclaimed master cabinetmaker in the 1850’s with an extensive clientele.  See: The Free Negro in North Carolina, John Hope Franklin, UNC Press, 1943.

An Aristocracy of Color

“The diary which William Tiler Johnson kept from 1835 to his death in 1851 reveals the remarkable life of this exceptional free Negro in a Southern community.

In the 1830s William made profits of $15 to $20 a day from his barber shop and eventually accumulated an estate worth $25,000. He invested capital in two stores which he rented out, made loans to white residents and owned a farm, which he named “Hardscrabble.”

To work his farm William owned fifteen slaves and employed a white overseer to direct their daily work. A gun owner, he hunted regularly, enjoyed the theater where he sat in the colored gallery among friends, attended horse races, and subscribed to five or six newspapers. He took a keen interest in city affairs, politics, criminal court, militia musters as well as fireman’s parades.

Maintaining terms of friendship with several of his barber patrons, William respected the community standards of the day against dining or drinking with white people. He belonged to the aristocracy of the free people of color, avoiding “darky dances and parties.”

(The Growth of Southern Civilization: 1790-1860, Clement Eaton, Harper & Row, 1961, pg. 92-93)

The South Delivered Up to the Care of the North

When the Articles of Confederation were put to the States for ratification in November, 1776, the preparatory debates revealed very strong warnings of sectionalism. These clear and distinct divisions eventually produced threats of New England secession in 1814, economic fissures by the 1820s, talk of Southern secession by 1850, and eventually an all-out shooting-war in 1861 which ended the experiment in free government.

The South Delivered Up to the Care of the North

“The Congress debated the Articles throughout the summer of 1776. There were three main arguments. One was on whether each colony should have a single vote, and issue of large versus small States. The second was States’ rights, whether the confederation had authority to limit territorial expansion of individual States. Third was the method of apportioning taxation. The North wanted to tax according to total population. The South was opposed to taxing slaves.

The latter issue began one of the enduring sectional debates of the first American century. Were slaves part of the general population? Or were they property? The South held for property and Rutledge of South Carolina said that if ownership of slaves was to be taxed, then so should the ownership of the Northern ships that carried the slaves.

There were several strictly sectional votes on the subject with the bloc of seven Northern States lined up against the six-State Southern bloc. It was finally compromised that taxes would be apportioned according to the private ownership of land and the improvements thereon.

In November 1776 the Articles were sent to the States for ratification. The hottest opposition came from the Southern States (with the exception of Virginia) . . . The reaction of William Henry Drayton, chief justice of South Carolina, was typical of the eighteenth-century South. Drayton felt the Articles gave too much power to the central government and States’ rights would be run over roughshod. He observed that there was a natural North-South division among the States, arising “from the nature of the climate, soil and produce.”

He felt the South’s opportunities for growth would be crippled by the Articles because “the honor, interest and sovereignty of the South, are in effect delivered up to the care of the North.”

(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday and Company, 1977, pg. 74)

Escorting President Davis

Thomas Goode Jones (1844-1914), was a boy of fifteen when he enrolled in Virginia Military Institute in 1860, and served under then-Major Thomas J. Jackson as drillmaster of troops in Richmond. Jones was wounded in battle, complimented for bravery, and with the rank of Major, led his men in the last charge at Appomattox. On April 9, 1865, he physically carried the flag of truce on his sword to enemy lines for General Lee. Major Jones’ ancestors were of Welsh extraction, the most famous being Pocahontas and John Jones of the Virginia Militia during the first War of Independence. He was elected Governor of Alabama in 1890.

Escorting Jefferson Davis

“As a conservative, Thomas Goode Jones seems to have accepted institutions as they existed. Growing up in a slave-holding family amid a slave-holding society, he never seems to have questioned the institution of slavery while he was growing up or while he served the Confederacy. And yet . . . his family treated their slaves well.

While Jones was serving as reporter for the Alabama Supreme Court at the time when it was dominated by Reconstruction Republicans, the Justices agreed to march in a 4th of July procession of “carpetbaggers” and blacks, and Jones agreed to ride with them. Twenty years later, this was used against him in his race for Governor.

[At] the 1901 [Alabama Constitutional] Convention, the issue of race relations arose several times, and on each occasion [Governor] Jones emerged as the spokesman for moderation. [He argued for the militia to be comprised of both white and black men, stating] “I remember well, Mr. President, in the dark days, when the sun of the Confederacy was setting around us . . . that the Confederate Congress, under the inspiration of Robert E. Lee, passed an act authorizing the employment of Negroes in the Confederate army.”

[Jones continues] “Mr. President, on one occasion I had the honor to command the escort for President Jefferson Davis in his last tour through Alabama and Georgia. We came to the little town of Albany in Georgia. While we were there, a Negro captain of a Negro company came up and asked to have the privilege of escorting the carriage of Mr. Davis.

I said to him that I would refer his request to Mr. Davis, and I did so. Mr. Davis said he would be glad to have him, “he was glad to see that spirit exhibited on their part towards him and the whites, and he wanted to encourage it.”

If Jefferson Davis could take that position, surely it is not a matter of reproach to myself or [former Governor] William C. Oates that we are of the same opinion.”

(Warrior, Statesman, Jurist for the South: The Life, Legacy and Law of Thomas Goode Jones, John A. Eidsmoe, Sprinkle Publications, 2003, excerpts pp. 189; 196)

Military Government Perfected

“Lee, indeed, saw an analogy between the Revolution of 1776 and the Revolution of 1861. In ’76 the Colonists threw off the yoke of Great Britain, in ’61 eleven Southern States threw off the yoke of the North. In each instance the act was one on revolution. Lee maintained that a government held together by coercion – such as Lincoln’s call for troops would create – was but a semblance of a government. He remembered that Washington himself had declared, “There is nothing which binds one country or one state to another but interest.”

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made an impression upon Robert E. Lee. He understood the significance. Lincoln intended to win the war and to preserve the Union regardless of consequences.  When he was inaugurated he had affirmed that he had neither the power nor the disposition to interfere with slavery. He had now reversed himself. But thereby his military government was made perfect.

This view Lee expressed to [President Jefferson] Davis. “The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamation of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of [the Northern] people, unless dead to the feelings of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.”

Yet while Lee was penning this letter to Davis he was signing and delivering a deed of manumission to the three hundred Custis slaves [he had inherited through marriage]. This act antedated Lincoln’s proclamation by three days; Lincoln’s proclamation became operative January 1, 1863, Lee’s manumission papers had been in effect since December 29 previous.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 96; 208-209)

Jul 4, 2020 - Antebellum Economics, Antebellum Realities, Economics, Historical Accuracy, Race and the South, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and the Dole

Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and the Dole

The feudal lord of the manor mentioned below could have been European, Asian, Arab or African owners of serfs or slaves.  A North German serf in Mecklenburg belonged to and worked the land of his lord, owning little more than his clothes and cooking utensils. But he and other serfs were essential to the lord for agricultural production, as in the American South and elsewhere in the world, and thus could not be abandoned.  

Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and The Dole

“The feudal lord of the manor was quite as much a property owner as the millionaire under modern capitalism. He had property rights in the tools of production, and often directed the processes of production. But unlike the man of property under modern capitalism, he could never make a decision in respect of his property rights, one of the results of which, would be widespread unemployment and destitution, for, as a practical matter, he could not expel the serf from the land or deny him the use of the land and some elementary capital for the production of food, shelter and clothing.

Modern capitalism is the first important system of property rights to allow property owners to make decisions which result in large scale unemployment. The much vaunted freedom of modern capitalism is largely a matter of the freedom of property owners from social responsibility for the consequences of their economic choices.  It is a matter of the freedom of property owners not to invest their savings if the profit incentive is not considered sufficient.

To say that it is also a matter of the freedom of the worker to abstain from work is to utter a shallow mockery of human necessity. The rich man is, in a practical sense, free to withhold his savings from investment. The poor man is never free in any but a legal sense and absurd sense to withhold his labor from the highest bidder, however low the bid, if, as the principles of sound capitalism require, so to withhold his labor is to starve.

At the present time, one of the fundamental rules of sound capitalism is being violated by the payment of the dole, which prevents a man from starving and thus enables him to withhold his labor from the highest bidder if the bid is not materially higher than the amount obtainable from the dole.”  

 (The Coming American Fascism: The Crisis of Capitalism, Lawrence Dennis, Harper & Brothers, 1936, excerpt pp. 22-23)

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)

Lincoln’s Lights

By capturing, confiscating and conscripting black men for his war effort, Lincoln greatly succeeded where earlier British emancipation efforts to thwart American independence failed.  Had Cornwallis won victory at Yorktown, would George III and Parliament have hung Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Henry and the rest of American leadership, and rewarded black slaves with political rights and the land of rebels?

Lincoln was certainly appreciative of the black military labor gained from captured Southern territory, and depriving the South of agricultural workers which was the primary target of earlier British emancipation efforts in 1775 and 1814. At the same time Lincoln had to face political reality once the Southern armies and leadership were dispensed with, and the votes of his freedmen were required to insure permanent Republican party hegemony.

Lincoln’s Lights

“While there is endless speculation about how Lincoln felt in the recesses of his heart and about what he would have done had he lived, it is usually agreed that he never gave his support to full equality for Negroes. Nor is there one shred of credible evidence that he ever modified his fundamental racial attitudes, in spite of his gentle nature, his kind feelings for Negroes, and his appreciation for their military prowess.

Beyond signing the bills that came before him and aiding the struggle to equalize military pay rates, the President generally stood aloof from the campaign being waged in Congress for more rights and advancement for Negroes.

Moreover, he never so much as hinted that the ballot be given to Negroes living in the North, and he apparently assumed no leadership in the battle to eliminate the Black Laws in Illinois and elsewhere in the Middle West.

Although he assented to the repeal of his colonization program in 1864, it is likely he never gave up the idea completely. As prospects for deportation dimmed, he suggested at various times that an apprenticeship system ought to be established to prepare for racial coexistence.

But it was the need to found a loyal political organization in the South, rather than his compassion for the Negro, that absorbed most of his attention, and the party he envisaged was to have a white base.  At one time the President suggested that the Unionist government in Louisiana might consider enfranchising “some of the colored people . . .”; but he steadily turned down demands that equal suffrage be imposed on the South and used his influence in Congress to block such legislation.

According to his lights, the freedmen were to be entrusted to the care of those conservative white Southerners whom he hoped would control politics in the new South. As Kenneth M. Stammp has said, “The Negroes, if they remained, would be governed by the white men among whom they lived, subject only to certain minimum requirements of fair play.”

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 168-169)

Capturing Sea Island Volunteers

While it is generally reported that black recruits in the occupied Sea Islands of South Carolina flocked to the Union standard, the truth is that many ran from Northern State agents sent to enlist them for their State quota of troops.  While many enlisted voluntarily, it was due to generous enlistment bounties offered, much of which stuck to the recruiter’s hands, and the possibility of being forced into service or shot for refusal.  During the war the Northern States paid nearly $300,000,000 in bounties for recruits to fill the blue ranks.

The writers below were ardent antislavery New England men at Port Royal, both Harvard men just out of college. Their 1864 observations are telling.

Capturing Sea Island Volunteers

“The next group of letters returns to the subject of Negro recruitment. By this time various Northern States, in despair of finding enough men at home to make out the number of recruits required of them by the general Government, were getting hold of Southern Negroes for the purpose, and their agents had appeared in the Department of the South, competing for freedmen with offers of large bounties.  At the same time, General Foster made up his mind that all able-bodied Negroes who refused to volunteer, even under these [bounties], should be forced into the service. If the conscription methods of the Government up to this time had not been brutal, certainly no one can deny that adjective to the present operations.

From CPW

Aug. 9. Lieutenant-Colonel Rice, agent for Massachusetts, has come. After looking about a little, he does not think the prospect of getting recruits very brilliant, but his agents are at work in Beaufort streets, and may pick up a few men. He intends to send native scouts on to the main to beat up recruits; $35 a man is offered for all they will bring in.

Colonel Rice intended to come down here to-day, but had to go and see General [John G.] Foster and Colonel [Milton] Littlefield, Superintendent of Recruiting. (He, Colonel L., calls it recruiting to conscript all he can lay hands on.) There is to be, not a draft, but a wholesale conscription, enforced here. Lieutenant-Colonel Strong of the First South [Carolina Colored Volunteers] (Thirty-third USCT) enrolled all colored men last month.  

It is possible, if the men can be made to understand this, that a few can be induced to volunteer, but I hardly think than many will be secured, either by enlistment or draft.

From WCG

Sept 23. They are carrying out the draft with excessive severity, not to say horrible cruelty. Last night three [black] men were shot, — one killed, one wounded fatally, it is thought, and the other disappeared over the boat’s side and has not been seen since, — shot as they were trying to escape the guard sent to capture all men who have not been exempted by the military surgeons. The draft here is mere conscription, — every able-bodied man is compelled to serve, — and many not fit for military service are forced to work in the quartermaster’s department.

Oct. 12. You ask more about the draft. The severity of the means employed to enforce it is certainly not to be justified, nor do the authorities attempt to do so, — after the act is done. The draft is carried on by military, not civil, powers. We have no civil laws, courts, officers, etc. The only [lawful] agents to be employed are necessarily soldiers, and the only coercion is necessarily that of guns and arbitrary arrests.

The Massachusetts recruiting agents, of course, have nothing to do with enforcing the draft. But their presence seems to have increased its activity and their bounty money contributes to its success.

(Letters From Port Royal: Written at the Time of the Civil War, Elizabeth Ware Pearson, editor, W.B. Clarke Company, 1906, excerpts pp. 281-284)

Southern Abolition Societies

Southern colonists were greatly alarmed at the great influx of African slaves being transported into their midst by British and New England ships by the mid-1700s. Both Virginia and North Carolina taxed the importation of slaves to discourage the practice, only to be overruled by the King who sought productive colonial plantations.

By 1750, Rhode Island was the center of the transatlantic slave trade, which continued to at least 1859. When discussing the antebellum period it is more accurate to speak of all the States as free, and the Northern States properly referred to as former slaveholding States, along with some being former slave trading States.

Southern Abolition Societies

“Slavery continued to be recognized within the South as a grave social problem. Perhaps Southerners were less concerned about it than they had been in the Revolutionary period, but during the course of the Missouri debate, responsible Southern spokesmen openly admitted that slavery was evil; and ten years later there occurred the greatest and most searching discussion of the nature and problem of slavery that was ever held in the South, the debate in the Virginia legislature in 1832.

Several antislavery journals appeared in the slave States: The Emancipator, founded in East Tennessee in 1820; The Genius of Universal Emancipation, which was moved to Tennessee from Ohio in 1821 and was later moved to Baltimore; and the Abolition Intelligencer, founded in Kentucky in 1822.

Benjamin Lundy, editor of the Genius of Universal Emancipation, estimated in 1827 that there were 106 antislavery societies with 5,150 members in the slave States whereas there were only 24 such societies with 1,475 members in the free States, not counting 10 or 12 in Illinois about which he could get no information.

But these facts by no means indicate that Southerners generally were conscience-stricken over slavery . . . [and] the hostility of some Southerners to slavery was founded on something very different from sympathy for the oppressed. When Governor David Holmes of Mississippi warned that “The evils arising from this odious practice [the slave trade] are constantly . . . increasing,” and there would be serious results “unless the traffic is wholly prohibited,” his concern was for the welfare of the Mississippi white man.

Governor [Thomas Mann] Randolph of Virginia put the matter very bluntly. He deplored the “error of our ancestors in copying a civil institution from savage Africa,” because as he reasoned, “The want of moral motives and a defect of intelligence, the too common absence of settled character, that marks the race [degraded] by slavery, if not by nature,” was injurious to the State of Virginia.

There was much support throughout the South in the 1820s for plans to deport Negroes . . . Haiti, Africa and unsettled parts of the western territories of the United States were suggested as possible places to which Negroes could be sent, but the only serious effort that came out of the discussion was the organization in Washington in 1817, of the American Colonization Society.”

(The Development of Southern Sectionalism, 1819-1848, Volume V, A History of the South, Charles S. Sydnor, LSU Press, 1948, excerpts pp. 95-96)