Browsing "Race and the South"

Mr. Tubman of Liberia

The country of Liberia was founded by the American Colonization Society, mostly Southerners and ably led by President James Monroe of Virginia. The intent was to settle freed slaves in their homeland and to plant responsible, republican government on that continent.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Mr. Tubman of Liberia

“The president of Liberia is a plausible and enterprising man in his middle fifties named William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, sometimes called by the nickname “Shad.” The Honorable Mr. Tubman has been Chief Executive of Liberia since 1944, and will probably remain president for a considerable time to come. He is a character of the utmost originality and interest, who gives forth a certain waggish note.

Liberia is sui generis — unique. I could use any of several adjectives about it — odd, wacky, phenomenal, or even weird. It is, as is well known, one of the five independent countries in Africa, and for a great many years (until Egypt became a republic in 1953) it was the only republic on the continent. Haiti in the West Indies aside, it is the only Negro republic in the world.

Monrovia, the capital, was named for President Monroe, and is practically the only city I have seen without either taxis or buses. The people are too poor, too mercilessly exploited. A village in Uganda or in the wastes of northern Nigeria will have bicycles in profusion, but not the capital of Liberia. There was no successful telephone service in Monrovia until last year [1954], and the system does not extend beyond the city.

Liberia is roughly the size of Ohio or Tennessee, but the entire country has only ten miles of paved road, five of which are in the capital. Liberia never had a road until 1916 when an enterprising American diplomat built one in Monrovia itself so that he could use an automobile that had arrived there by mistake, the first ever to be seen in the country.

Consider health and education. Only two native Liberians have ever become doctors. There are also two naturalized Haitian MD’s, but in the whole country there are probably not more than a half-dozen reputable physicians outside of Firestone and the [Christian] missions. Infant mortality runs as high as 75% in some areas . . . [and] no public health service at all existed until 1931—and Liberia had been an independent republic since 1847!

More than 90 percent of the population is illiterate . . . in 1946 the total sum allotted to education in the national budget was only around $50,000 (80% of education was taken care of by missionaries); it is substantially higher now, roughly $1.5 million out of a budget of $10,088,810.

Liberia College, the chief institution of “higher” learning in the country where several of its leading contemporary citizens were educated, had for years no library, laboratories or scientific equipment; a former head of this school calmly appropriated all its funds on one occasion, and with his loot sent his daughters to be educated in Italy.

Thievery — the cities swarm with thieves — is most conspicuous during the rains. First, rice is short then and people are hungry. Second, the noise of the rain makes it easy for thieves to get around. Stealing is, however, by no means confined to professional criminals or to the poor, who are so miserable that petty theft may easily be forgiven — it is almost a national sport. Newspapers talk openly of “wholesale stealing” in government departments . . . [and] recently the Italian delegation lost, of all things, its safe.

In the field of political corruption Liberia has some wonderful distinctions. One president of the republic (not Mr. Tubman) got 243,000 votes in a certain election, though only 15,000 persons were privileged to vote.

Most educated Africans in neighboring countries pay lip service to Liberia because it is an independent republic created by freed Negro slaves, but they despise it inwardly because it constitutes a betrayal of what modern Africans stand for. Even Ethiopia has higher standards. Liberia might almost be called a kind of perverse advertisement for imperialism since although the country is free, the people are so badly off compared to those in most French and British colonies.

One brief word on Liberian history. Liberia was created by the American Colonization Society, a private organization (its first president was a nephew of George Washington) formed in 1816 to transport freed American slaves to Africa, where they might settle and start a new life on their own.

The motive was only humanitarian in part. A good many American slaveowners wanted to get freed slaves out of the country; it was dangerous to have them around. Also in 1819, the American navy was empowered to seize slave ships on the high seas, free any slaves found and return them to Africa, as part of an attempt to suppress what remained of the organized slave trade.

Out of Slavery — Slavery

One of the most horrifying official documents I have ever read has to do with Liberia, the report made in 1931 by an international commission inquiring into the slave traffic.

For years rumors had been heard, which the Monrovia government persistently denied, that Liberia tolerated organized slavery. At last in 1929 pressure, largely from the United States forced an investigation. Henry Stimson, secretary of state at the time, wrote to the Liberian authorities: “It would be tragically ironic if Liberia, whose existence was dedicated to the principle of liberty should succumb to practices so closely akin to those its founders sought forever to escape.”

Facts uncovered by the commission were — and are — appalling. It found that “slavery as defined by the 1926 anti-slavery convention” existed in the country, that contract laborers “were recruited under conditions of criminal compulsion scarcely distinguishable from slave-raiding and slave trading,” and that high officials of the Liberian government not only connived at this traffic but made money out of it.

Mr. Tubman, current president of Liberia, was a Senator during this period and is mentioned twice in the commission report, each time in connection with the receipt of fees from native chiefs.”

(Inside Africa, John Gunther, Harper & Collins, 1955, excerpts, pp. 843-849; 860-861)

 

 

 

Those Yankees!

Thomas Jefferson, a Southerner, proposed the prohibition of slavery in the Northwest Territory (belonging to Virginia) though Congress failed to approve the plan by one vote. “Thus,” Jefferson wrote, “we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment.” Seven years later, a Massachusetts man invented the cotton gin that inspired New England mill owners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Yankees!

“If it hadnt been for cotton and Yankee inventiveness, chattel slavery would have died a natural death in the South, as it did in the North, long before the [War Between the States]. In the years following the Revolution, the accent throughout the Colonies was on freedom. More and more leaders in the South were speaking out against slavery and being listened to with respect.

In 1791 William and Mary College conferred the degree of LL.D on Granville Sharp, a noted Abolitionist from England. As late as 1832, a bill to provide for the emancipation of slaves was passed by one House of the Virginia Legislature and defeated in the other by only one vote. Manumission societies were springing up everywhere.

The movement wasn’t exactly a matter of ethics. It was mostly economic. Tobacco and indigo and rice just couldn’t support a wasteful slave economy. There was cotton and the South could grow a lot of it . . . but getting out the pesky seed killed off the profit.

A program of gradual emancipation under which the children of slave parents were to be freed at the age of 25 was gaining momentum when a Yankee school-teacher down in Georgia by the name of Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. The year was 1791. Everyone went cotton crazy and slavery, instead of dying out, was tremendously expanded. Many Southern States passed laws forbidding manumission. Those Yankees!

Virginia was our first slave State . . . and the biggest. During the War, forty-eight counties in western Virginia split off from Virginia and remained loyal to the Union with a slave population of 18,371.

All the Negroes were not slaves. There were 260,000 free Negroes in the South owning property valued at more than $25,000,000. About one in every one-hundred of these owned Negro slaves. Most of them owned just two or three but there were some big Negro slave-owners too.  Cypian Ricard, of Macon [Georgia], had a big plantation and 91 slaves. Charles Roges had 47 and Marie Metoyer had 58. The richest man and the biggest slave-owner in Jefferson County. Virginia, was a Negro.

Negroes were in business in the South too, other than farming. Solomon Humphries of Macon, was the town’s leading grocer. Jehu Jones was proprietor of one of Charleston’s best hotels. Thomy Lafon down in New Orleans, was worth half a million dollars. He contributed so much to the city the State legislature ordered a bust to be carved and set up in a public building in his honor.”

(My Old Kentucky Home, Chapter XVI, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 38-39)

 

Sep 2, 2016 - Abolitionists & Disunionists, From Africa to America, New England's Slave Trade, Race and the South, Slavery Comes to America    Comments Off on New Englander’s Must Look to Their Consciences

New Englander’s Must Look to Their Consciences

 

Thomas Roderick Dew ‘s father was a slaveholder in antebellum Virginia, who provided for his education at the College of William and Mary. After graduation in 1820, he travelled Europe and returned to teach political economy at his alma mater. He later responded eagerly to the Virginia legislature’s request for a disquisition on the abolition of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New Englander’s Must Look to Their Consciences

“In 1831 it still was the custom of the Virginia legislature to look to the college of William and Mary for guidance. In that year the Assembly made a request of Professor Thomas Roderick Dew that he produce for them a summary of the long controversy on the abolition of slavery.

The professor began by casting his eyes back through history. Where were the great civilizations? He saw them in Greece, in Rome, along the Nile. Captives, instead of being put to death, were put to work. The arts, architecture, freedom, private property, leisure – in fact the true civilizations – flourished only where there was slavery.

This was Dew’s preamble. He proceeded then to prove that slavery benefitted the Negro. Unfitted for freedom by nature, slavery gave him protection, care, and security. His lot was much more desirable, the professor found, than that of the miserable free worker who was exploited and meagerly paid in the North where materialistic clamor and vulgar commercialism made civilization impossible.

Nor did the Scriptures condemn slavery or in any manner suggest the slave owner had committed any offense against God or man. New England traders had bought them – English regulations and, later, the laws of the new Republic, required their retention. Let those responsible for this look to their consciences. The slave owner need not feel any twinges. God approved. It was foreordained to be.

As for freeing them, or sending them to Liberia, that would be worse than slavery. As free men they would be exploited as wretched wage slaves. They would lack all protection, care and security. In Liberia quick death awaited them.

So well pleased were [members of the legislature] that, at their suggestion, he had his paper published in Richmond, title, Review of the Debate [on the abolition of slavery] in the Virginia Legislature of 1831-1832. So popular was it that a second edition was required. Soon other legislatures were repeating it. Pulpits rang with it. Newspapers printed large excerpts with extravagant endorsement.”

(The South and the Southerner, Ralph McGill, University of Georgia Press, 1992, pp. 113-115)

 

Aug 20, 2016 - America Transformed, Emancipation, Lincoln Revealed, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the South    Comments Off on Lincoln Palming Off Freedmen to the Danish West Indies

Lincoln Palming Off Freedmen to the Danish West Indies

In the official letter below, Secretary of State Judah Benjamin advises his diplomat in Brussels of an agreement between Denmark and the United States, and his suspicion that Lincoln would remove slaves captured in the South to the Danish West Indies. Lincoln was well-known to hold views deporting Africans from the US to other countries.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Palming Off Freedmen to the Danish West Indies

From:

Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State

No. 4, Department of State, Richmond, August 14, 1862

To:

Honorable Dudley Mann, etc., Brussels, Belgium.

Sir:

We are informed that an arrangement has been recently concluded between the Government of the United States and that of Denmark for transferring to the Dutch colonies in the West Indies, Africans who may be captured from slavers and brought into the United States.

We are not informed of the precise terms of this agreement, and can, of course, have no objection to offer to its execution if confined to the class of persons above designated—that is, to Africans released by the United States from vessels engaged in the slave trade in violation of laws and treaties. It has been, however, suggested to the President that under cover of this agreement the United States may impose upon the good faith of the government of Denmark, and make it the unwitting and innocent participant in the war now waged against us.

The recent legislation of the Congress of the United States and the action of its military authorities, betray the design of converting the war into a campaign of indiscriminate robbing and murder. I inclose herewith a letter of the President to the General-in-Chief commanding our armies, and a general order on the subject of the conduct of Major General Pope now commanding the enemy’s forces in northern Virginia, that you may form some faint idea of the atrocities which are threatened.

The act of Congress of the United States decreeing the confiscation of the property of all persons engaged in what that law terms a rebellion includes, as you are aware, the entire property of all the citizens of the Confederacy. The same law decrees substantially the emancipation of all our slaves, and an executive order of President Lincoln directs the commanders of his armies to employ them as laborers in the military service.

It is well known, however, that notwithstanding the restrictive terms of this order, several of his generals openly employ the slaves to bear arms against their masters, and have thus inaugurated, as far as lies in their power, a servile war, of whose horrors mankind has had a shocking example within the memory of many now living. The perfidy, vindictiveness, and savage cruelty with which the war is waged against us have had but few parallels in the annals of nations.

The Government of the United States, however, finds itself greatly embarrassed in the execution of its schemes by the difficulty of disposing of the slaves seized by its troops and subjected to confiscation by its barbarous laws. The prejudice against the Negro race is, in the Northern States, so intense and deep-rooted that the migration of our slaves into those States would meet with violent opposition both from their people and local authorities.

Already riots are becoming rife in the Northern cities, arising out of conflicts and rivalries between their white laboring population and the slaves who have been carried from Virginia by the Army of the US, yet these slaves are an unappreciable fraction of the Negro population of the South. It is thus perceived that the single obstacle presented by the difficulty of disposing of the slaves seized for confiscation, is of itself sufficient to check, in a very great degree, the execution of the barbarous policy inaugurated by our enemies.

The repeated instances of shameless perfidy exhibited by the Government of the United States during the prosecution of the war justify us in the suspicion that bad faith underlies every act on their part having a bearing, however remote, on the hostilities now pending.

When, therefore, the President received at the same time information on two important facts — one, that the United States was suffering grave embarrassments from the presence within their limits of the slaves seized from our citizens; the other, that the United States had agreed to transfer to Denmark, for transportation to the Danish West Indies, all Africans captured at sea from slave-trading vessels — he felt that there was just reason to suspect an intimate connection between these facts, and that the purpose of our treacherous enemy was to impose on the good faith of a neutral and friendly power by palming off our own slaves, seized for confiscation by the enemy, as Africans rescued at sea from slave-traders.

You are specially instructed to observe that the President entertains no apprehension that the Government of Denmark would for one moment swerve from the observance of strict neutrality in the war now raging on this continent; still less that it would fail disdainfully to reject any possible complicity, however remote, in the system of confiscation, robbery and murder which the United States have recently adopted under the sting of defeat in their unjust attempt to subjugate a free people.

His only fear is that the Cabinet at Copenhagen may (as has happened to ourselves) fail to suspect in others a perfidy of which they themselves are incapable. His only purpose in instructing you, as he now does, to communicate the contents of this dispatch to the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs (and, if deemed advisable, to furnish a copy of it) is to convey the information which has given rise to the suspicions entertained here.

The President hopes thus to prevent the possibility of success in any attempt that may be made to deceive the servants of His Danish Majesty, by delivering to them for conveyance to the West Indies, our slaves seized for confiscation by the enemy instead of Africans rescued on the high seas. You are requested to proceed to Copenhagen by the earliest practicable conveyance, and execute the President’s instructions on this matter without unnecessary delay.

I am, sir, respectfully, etc.

J.P. Benjamin, Secretary of State.”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, James D. Richardson, Volume II, US Publishing Company, 1905, pp. 311-313)

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

The passage below describes the surrender and occupation of Smithville, now Southport, North Carolina in late January 1865 after Fort Fisher had fallen to Northern forces. The town’s public offices were plundered by the troops and those like Uncle Gibb suffered ill-treatment from soldiers who sought buried valuables.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

“Now Smithville [North Carolina] had relapsed into its state of quiet, but not the quiet of former days . . . Negroes however reaped a rich harvest in the shape of clothing from soldiers and blankets of which the forest was strewn.

A large assembly of Negro men, women and children had collected at the boat in order to greet their “saviors,” and to fall upon their necks and kiss them if such liberties should be allowed. [Northern] Captain [William] Cushing then addressed the sable crowd and informed them that they were free, that they were in all respects equal to the whites and would be so treated. In order to make that this was true he directed that they [the Negroes] should form a procession and give three cheers which they did saying, “God bless Massa Lincum, we’re free” and “Massa Lincum is cumin in a day or two to bring each of us a mule and deed for forty acres of land.”

The procession then started to move, and wild cheering for “Massa Lincum.” There were some small United States flags scattered among the crowds which they waved frantically in the air, crying “hallelujah, hallelujah.” The procession then moved through the garrison to Moore Street, a motley crowd dressed in every conceivable style bearing banners of anything that was bright color and they started down Moore Street amid cheering for “Massa Lincum.”

In the procession which had marched around town was “Uncle Gibb,” and in his posterity “Uncle Gibb” had been treated during his entire life as kindly as any white citizen in the town. He had a house to live in, plenty of food and clothes, and a horse and dray; and it was difficult to perceive how he had bettered his condition by freedom; but he soon found out as he was brought a prisoner into the [Northern army] Garrison for some alleged offense.

Here he was tied up by the thumbs to an oak tree which stood there, and hoisted till his toes barely touched the ground. This was done in full view of his own sister who was cooking in an adjoining kitchen, and who fainted and fell at the awful sight. We thus had an opportunity to find out whether the new friends of the colored race were any better than the old friends who had treated him with such kindness.

The ceremony attending the surrender [of Smithville] having been completed, the boat containing the plunder was dispatched back to the [USS] Monticello, and there being apparently nothing to do on shore, the sailors were given liberty and the officers proceeded to enjoy themselves.

The sailors spread themselves over the town, and proceeded first to inspect the public buildings. They broke open the court house and its offices, tore up such papers as they found lying around, among which happened to be the entire record of the Court of Equity and scattered them about the streets. They went to the Academy building in which was a Masonic Hall, and stole the jewels of the Order, and carried them to the ship.”

(Reminiscences, Dr. D.W. Curtis, Special Collections, W.M. Randall Library, UNCW, pp. 33-37)

Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism

A youth of fifteen when Fort Sumter fell, Walter Clark rose to the rank of major in the 35th North Carolina Regiment by the end of the war. Like most Southern men at the end of the war, he went back to his farm to eke out a living amongst the devastation. He found that an undependable labor supply would not bode well for the economic future of the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism

“[At the close of the war] . . . the former slaves were thoroughly confused. These Negroes were being deceived by the report that Lincoln had promised to give each family a mule and forty acres of land and that they as free citizens would not have to work for anyone. Thus demoralized and imbued with false hopes, they staged the first great “sit down strike.” In an effort to secure dependable labor for the plantation, Clark visited Raleigh, Baltimore and even New York, but with little success.

On December 2nd 1865 he wrote [to the Raleigh Sentinel]:

“The picture of abandoned farms, stagnated business, a dejected people and open lawlessness is fearful to contemplate. We must rid ourselves of the dead body of slavery, and with it dispose of the perplexing problems of Negro suffrage and Negro equality forever. We have fertile lands, navigable rivers, inexhaustible mines, and a brave and generous people. We need labor to develop these resources and improve our advantages. To do this, however, the labor must be dependable. The conduct of the newly emancipated freedmen is a problem yet to be solved by the future. The prosperity of a great State should not depend upon a contingency.”

Clark pointed out that if the resolution for the abolition of slavery introduced in the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures in 1831 and 1832 had not been defeated by the menacing tide of [abolitionist] fanaticism, our own interests would have long since led us to abolish a system which is “at variance with the spirit of our institutions and the genius of the age and has been fraught with the most baneful effects.”

He strongly urged the importation of free white labor and advocated the industrial development of the State, saying: “The broad fertile fields, unexplored mines, unimproved waterpower and dwarf cities of North Carolina are imperiously calling for the influx of population.”

(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp.37-39)

 

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)

 

To hold that African slavery was central to the South’s move to independence is far too simplistic and superficial; one could better conclude that the political partnership of two vastly different people and regions begun during the Revolution had fully unraveled after 80-some years. The constant agitation of violent slave insurrection in the South by fanatic abolitionists led to Southern secession, and the secession of the South caused the North to initiate war, invade and conquer the South, and then treat it as a subject economic colony.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unionism and Secession in the South

One further caveat in thinking about Southern Unionism. Virtually all historians, including this one, are agreed today on the centrality of slavery in explaining the road to secession. Yet if we would understand the nature of Southern Unionism we cannot stop there in accounting for the abandonment of Unionist by sufficient Southerners to create the Confederacy. Human motivation and loyalties are more complex than that. A concern about the future of slavery was more often in the background than in the forefront of Southerners’ thinking about the Union.

Certainly it is difficult to show a clear causal line between direct involvement with slavery and attitudes toward secession. For one thing, too many unconditional Unionists . . . were slaveholders. For such persons the ownership of slaves was not sufficient reason for supporting secession. For another, most of the Southerners who made up the Confederacy were not directly connected with slavery at all. The majority of white Southerners, after all, did not own a single slave. Their concern for the institution of slavery could at best have been only an indirect motive for supporting secession and later the Confederacy.

It makes much more sense to see slavery as a shaper of Southern civilization and values than as an interest. The anxiety about the future of slavery was there because the future of the South was intimately tied up with the institution. But the role of slavery in moving individual Southerners from Unionism to secession was neither simple nor obvious. Precisely at what point an individual Southerner decided that he or she could no longer support the Union when it came into conflict with region depended upon many things, not only upon his or her immediate relationship to slavery.”

(The Other South, Southern Dissenters in the Nineteenth Century, Carl N. Degler, Harper & Row, 1974, page 122)

 

Union Davis, Radical Lincoln

Jefferson Davis was the conservative who tried vainly to save the Union in the face of Republican attempts to pit North against South, and force the South to seek a more perfect union without the North. The greatest ironies of that era was Rhode Island being the slave trading center of North America by 1750; Yankee inventor Eli Whitney making cotton planting more productive and thus perpetuating slavery; and the cotton mills of Massachusetts with their ravenous appetite for slave-produced cotton – they could have ended slavery easily.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unionist Davis, Radical Lincoln

“Davis appeared as a politician in 1843, and, indeed, as leader of the Democratic [Conservative] party of Mississippi. We pass over the different phases of the internal political life of the Union, in which the chasm which separated North and South was growing wider.

We can refer to only one incident and two speeches, the first of which Davis made on the occasion of his defense of the new railroad line, Mississippi-still Ocean, and in which he with glowing patriotism praised the strength of the bond which held together States of the Union; and the other of which was made by a man who, as a genuine radical, had opposed the war against Mexico as unnecessary and unconstitutional.

This other speaker said in a certain way eloquently giving momentum for the secession of the Southern States: Every people who have the will and power for it possess also the right to rise, shake off their government and establish a new one which suits them better. This is an invaluable, sacred right which will at some time free the world.

And who . . . was this man who in a certain manner pressed into the hands of the Southern States the right of throwing off a hated government? It was Abraham Lincoln, who made this speech on the 12th of February, 1858 in the House of Representatives. The one who praised and invoked the concord of the Union was, by his contemporaries, stigmatized as a traitor. The other is esteemed and venerated to-day by many, as the defender and preserver of the Union!

Only as a curious fact for the superficial critics of the whole conflict, it may here be stated that at the beginning of the settlement of the country, the Southern States had a greater aversion to slavery than the Northern States.

From 1720 to 1760, South Carolina unceasingly protested against the introduction of slave labor. Georgia forbade it by law. Virginia decidedly opposed it and levied a tax of ten dollars on each Negro. They were originally forced to adopt this [labor] system through the avarice of English merchants, and the despotism of the English ministers which had later, certainly for the South, its demoralizing features.

It was the South also which at first prohibited the slave trade, and Virginia at the head. When Jefferson Davis was born, the slave trade was in the hands of only Northern merchants who had made terms with the slave planters of South Carolina.

Other curious facts may here be introduced. A statue of Lincoln was executed, which represented him as loosing the chains of the slave. What would the beholder say if the following words he wrote after the secession of South Carolina were chiseled on the pedestal:

“Does the South really fear that a Republican administration could directly or even  indirectly interfere in its slave affairs? The South would in this matter be just as safe as in the time of Washington.”  Or, that he wrote on the 4th of May, 1861: “I have not the intention of attacking the institution of slavery; I have no legal right, and certainly no inclination to do it, etc, etc.”

(Jefferson Davis, Southern Historical Papers, R.A. Brock, Editor, Volume XIX, 1891, pp. 409-410)

 

 

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)

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