Browsing "Slavery Comes to America"

Rhode Island’s Slave Trade

Like the other New England colonies, Rhode Island was outraged by the British Sugar Acts aimed at curtailing their illicit molasses trade with the West Indies. That molasses was an essential ingredient in making New England rum, which was shipped to Africa along with locally-produced Yankee notions to trade for slaves held by African tribes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Slave Trade

“[The] early industries in Newport were farming, fishing and shipbuilding. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the trade in rum and molasses brought about an intense local activity; distilling, sugar refining, brewing, and the making of sperm oil and spermaceti candles, created a prosperous Newport.

The one shadow on this happy picture was the African slave trade in which Rhode Island was more concerned than any other Colony, with Newport the chief Rhode Island trade center. In 1708, the British Board of Trade addressed a circular to all the Colonies relative to trade in Negro slaves, which read in part: “It is absolutely necessary that a trade so beneficial to th3e kingdom should be carried to the greatest advantage.”

In 1707-08, the Colony laid an import tax of [3 pounds] on each Negro imported. The proceeds were large; in 1729, some of the money was appropriated for paving the streets of Newport, and some for constructing bridges.

Many fortunes were amassed in the slave trade. Fifty or sixty vessels were engaged in this traffic, and their owners were among the leading merchants of the city. After 1750, many wealthy English planters from the West Indies found their way here for extended visits.

The Newport of that period lingered in the visitors memory as a place of gay entertainment, of scarlet coats and brocade, lace ruffles and powdered hair, high-heeled shoes and gold buckles, delicate fans and jeweled swords, delicately bred women and cultured men. Even in Europe the town was noted for the elegance of its society. Every indication seemed to point to it as a future metropolis of the New World.”

(Rhode Island, A Guide to the Smallest State, WPA Federal Writers’ Project, Louis Cappelli, Chairman, Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1937, pp. 205-206)

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

Major Joseph A. Engelhard served in the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He was elected North Carolina Secretary of State in 1876, and in 1878 encouraged young Southern men at the University of North Carolina to be proud of their forefathers, and the country and constitution they created. Engelhard died in office in 1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

“If in any part of the United States there exists moral deformity, or outrage, or unseemly appearance of social or political evil, you can say that no portion of it can be traced to our door. It is true, we have been charged with the error and evil of Slavery, but history and the verdict of all men must be that slavery was introduced here against our will, first by the Dutch and afterwards by the Slave Merchants of the North.

Upon the garments of the South there is no stain of the “Slave Trade.” Those infamies and the profits of that traffic alike, belong to others.

Our lot has been to civilize, to humanize, to Christianize the victims of the avarice of others. Like men we fought for the institution, not, however, for its sake, but because through it all our sacred rights were assailed. The men who proclaimed victory at Mecklenburg; the men who fought seven years for it afterwards; the men who built the country’s strongest entrenchments in the Constitution; who extended most widely its area; who illustrated it with most honor in the National Councils, and who exposed and lost all to defend every approach of danger to it, never – never could be truly charged with the responsibility for human Slavery.

One thing all men must say of us, that the Southern people in two hundred years did more to elevate and render good and happy the African than all the world in all time ever did. And upon that record we stand.”

(Address of the Hon. Joseph A. Engelhard, Before the Philanthropic and Dialectic Societies of the University of North Carolina, June 1878, Edwards & Broughton & Co., 1879, pp. 11-12)

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

Southerners replied to abolitionist tirades with examples of the civilizing aspects of African slavery, as well as reminding them that their own fathers had shipped the Africans in chains to the West Indies and North America. The invention of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney along with the hungry cotton mills of that State, perpetuated slavery, and new plantation expansion into the Louisiana territory was fueled by Manhattan lenders – all of whom could have helped end African slavery in North America. The following is excerpted from the introduction of “Cotton is King,” E.N. Elliott, editor (1860), and from “Liberty and Slavery,” Albert Taylor Bledsoe.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

“Geographical partisan government and legislation . . . had its origin in the Missouri [Compromise] contest, and is now beginning to produce its legitimate fruits: witness the growing distrust with which the people of the North and South begin to regard each other; the diminution of Southern travel, either for business or pleasure, in the Northern States; the efforts of each section to develop its own resources, so as to render it independent of the other; the enactment of “unfriendly legislation,” in several of the States, toward other States of the Union, or their citizens; the contest for the exclusive possession of the territories, the common property of the States; the anarchy and bloodshed in Kansas; the exasperation of parties throughout the Union; the attempt to nullify, by popular clamor, the decision of the supreme tribunal of our country; the existence of . . . a party in the North organized for the express purpose of robbing the citizens of the Southern States of their property; . . . the flooding of the whole country with the most false and malicious misrepresentations of the state of society in the [Southern] States; the attempt to produce division among us, and to array one portion of our citizens in deadly array to the other; and finally, the recent attempt to incite, at Harper’s Ferry, and throughout the South, an insurrection, and a civil and servile war, with all its attendant horrors.

All these facts go to prove that there is a great wrong somewhere, and that a part, or the whole, of the American people are demented, and hurrying down to swift destruction.

The present slave States had little or no agency in the first introduction of Africans into this country; this was achieved by the Northern commercial States and by Great Britain. Wherever the climate suited the Negro constitution, slavery was profitable and flourished; where the climate was unsuitable, slavery was unprofitable, and died out. Most of the slaves in the Northern States were sent southward to a more congenial clime.

Upon the introduction into Congress of the first abolition discussions, by John Quincy Adams, and Joshua Giddings, Southern men altogether refused to engage in debate, or even to receive petitions on the subject. They averred that no good could grow out of it, but only unmitigated evil.”

(The South: A Documentary History, Ina Woestemeyer Van Noppen, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958, pp. 265-266)

Protesting British and New England Slave Trading

During the colonial period it was common for North Carolina planters needing labor to trade cargoes of tar and pitch to New Englanders for the slaves they imported. On the eve of the Revolution the North Carolina Provincial Congress resolved that “We will not import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next [1774].”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Protesting British and New England Slave Trading

“So far as can be determined, no tax was levied on the importation of slaves into North Carolina prior to the Revolution. On the other hand, the Virginia Assembly made numerous attempts to discourage the importation of slaves by imposing from time to time a tax on all slaves brought in from Maryland, North Carolina, the West Indies, and Africa.

The first impressive protest for any considerable body of citizens of the colony against the African slave trade was registered by the freeholders of Rowan County [North Carolina] in 1774. They placed themselves on record against the African slave trade in the following resolution:

“Resolved that the African slave trade is injurious to this colony, obstructs the population of it, prevents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the balance of trade against the colonies.”

Due in part to the dearth of labor occasioned by the Revolution, there was a resumption of the slave trade after the war. It was not, in fact, until 1787 that the General Assembly took the initial step in taxing the traffic, basing its action on the general ground that the importation of slaves “into this State is productive of evil consequences and highly impolitic.”

Whatever the motive, a duty of 5 [pounds] was levied on all slaves brought in by water. Slaves between the ages of thirty and forty were made subject to the same duty, while those between the ages of twelve and thirty were subject to a duty of 10 [pounds]. In addition, a general head tax of five pounds was imposed on all slaves imported from the coast of Africa. The act of 1787 did not prohibit, but no doubt discouraged, the slave trade.

Due presumably to the ratification of the Federal Constitution by North Carolina in 1789, the act of 1787 was repealed in 1790, and there was no restriction on the importation of slaves until 1794 . . . and in that year a heavy fine was imposed on the importation of slaves. [Its] passage might have been further delayed had not a terrifying Negro insurrection occurred in San Domingo in 1791. This insurrection thoroughly aroused the people of the State to a realization of the potential danger of a large Negro population.

[In] 1795 the legislature placed a further restriction on the importation of slaves by making it unlawful for any person removing to the State, “with intent to settle or otherwise,” from any of the West Indian or Bahama Islands to bring with him any Negroes or people of color above the age of fifteen years, under penalty of 100 [pounds] for each and every slave or person of color brought in.

To many public men of the time the danger from this source seemed imminent; so much so that, in 1798, Governor Samuel Ashe issued a proclamation calling on the people of the State to prevent the landing of slaves or free persons of color. He stated in his proclamation that several shiploads of San Domingan Negroes had set sail, and that one shipload had arrived in Charleston.

Despite precautions, West Indian Negroes found their way into the State. The landing of a number of emancipated Negroes from the island of Guadaloupe at Wilmington in 1803 so alarmed the inhabitants of the town that they memorialized Congress to take action to prevent the introduction into the United States of any persons of that class.”

(Slaveholding in North Carolina, An Economic View, Rosser Howard Taylor, Negro Universities Press, 1969 (original UNC Press, 1926), pp. 23-26)

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

Major Joseph A. Engelhard points out below that the American South did not populate itself with African slaves, this was done by others.  It is true that Providence, Rhode Island was the slave trading capital of North America by 1750, wresting this dubious honor from Liverpool.  Further, the voracious cotton mills of antebellum New England needed slave-produced raw material and Manhattan bankers advanced attractive loans to Southern planters to expend their operations.  Engelhard served in the Thirty-third North Carolina Regiment 1861-65, was elected North Carolina Secretary of State in 1876, and in 1878 encouraged young Southern men at the University of North Carolina to be proud of their forefathers and the country and constitution they created.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Healing the Victims of the Avarice of Others

“If in any part of the United States there exists moral deformity, or outrage, or unseemly appearance of social or political evil, you can say that no portion of it can be traced to our door. It is true, we have been charged with the error and evil of Slavery, but history and the verdict of all men must be that slavery was introduced here against our will, first by the Dutch and afterwards by the Slave Merchants of the North.

Upon the garments of the South there is no stain of the “Slave Trade.” Those infamies and the profits of that traffic alike, belong to others.

Our lot has been to civilize, to humanize, to Christianize the victims of the avarice of others. Like men we fought for the institution, not, however, for its sake, but because through it all our sacred rights were assailed. The men who proclaimed victory at Mecklenburg; the men who fought seven years for it afterwards; the men who built the country’s strongest entrenchments in the Constitution; who extended most widely its area; who illustrated it with most honor in the National Councils, and who exposed and lost all to defend every approach of danger to it, never – never could be truly charged with the responsibility for human Slavery.

One thing all men must say of us, that the Southern people in two hundred years did more to elevate and render good and happy the African than all the world in all time ever did. And upon that record we stand.”

(Address of the Hon. Joseph A. Engelhard, Before the Philanthropic and Dialectic Societies of the University of North Carolina, June 1878, Edwards & Broughton & Co., 1879, pp. 11-12)

An Infernal Traffice Originating in Avarice

Virginia had fully one-third of the entire slave population of the Union within her borders in 1787, enabled by the British crown and New England slave traders – and despite her protests to cease importation. Georgia originally banned slaves under James Oglethorpe but British avarice eventually overcame his vision of a free colony. No flags of the American Confederacy were observed flying over those slave ships.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Infernal Traffic Originating in Avarice

“The supreme opportunity for suppressing the importation of slaves and thus hastening the day of emancipation came with the adoption of the Federal Constitution. [With] every increase in the number of slaves [imported] the difficulties and dangers of emancipation were multiplied. The hope of emancipation rested in stopping their further importation and dispersing throughout the land those who had already found a home in our midst.

To put an end to “this pernicious traffic” was therefore the supreme duty of the hour, but despite Virginia’s protests and appeals the foreign slave trade was legalized by the Federal Constitution for an additional period of twenty years.

The nation knew not the day of its visitation – with blinded eye and reckless hand it sowed the dragon’s teeth from which have sprung the conditions and problems which even to-day tax the thought and conscience of the American people.

The action of the [constitutional] convention is declared by Mr. Fiske, to have been “a bargain between New England and the far South.”

“New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut,” he adds, “consented to the prolonging of the foreign slave trade for twenty years, or until 1808; and in return South Carolina and Georgia consented to the clause empowering Congress to pass Navigation Acts and otherwise regulate commerce by a simple majority of votes.”

Continuing, Mr. Fiske says, “This compromise was carried against the sturdy opposition o Virginia.” George Mason spoke the sentiments of the Mother-Commonwealth when in a speech against this provision of the constitution, which reads like prophecy and judgment, he said:

“This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British Government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerns, not the importing States alone, but the whole Union . . . Maryland and Virginia, he said, had already prohibited the importation of slaves expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this would be in vain if South Carolina and Georgia were at liberty to import.

The Western people are already calling out for slaves for their new lands; and will fill that country with slaves if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia.

Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of cause and events, Providence punishes National sins by National calamities.

He lamented that some of our Eastern [New England] brethren had, from a lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic.”

“But these prophetic words of George Mason,” adds Mr. Fiske, “were powerless against the combination of New England and the far South. Governor Randolph and Mr. Madison earnestly supported their colleague . . . and the latter asserting: “Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be more dishonorable to the American character than to say nothing about it in the constitution.

Thus it was by the votes of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and against the votes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia, that the slave trade was legalized by the National Government for the period from 1787 to 1808.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly B. Mumford, L.H. Jenkins, 1909, pp. 29-31)

America's Inescapable Tragedy

The American South did not invent African slavery. It did inherit a British colonial labor system which populated both North and South with African labor; New England’s slave trading and cotton mills helped greatly in perpetuating that labor system as well as Manhattan bankers who extended credit to planters for expansion westward. The great tragedy is that the South was not left to solve the riddle itself, and Northern abolitionists never offered a practical and peaceful solution to what they expressed so much concern over.

Berhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

America’s Inescapable Tragedy

“There has been a tendency, stubbornly persistent even in our time, to mistake the planter aristocracy for the entire South. It is therefore important to point out that if one could identify an average Southerner of the eighteen-fifties, statistics would demand that he be, at least by plurality of numbers, a non-slaveholding white farmer who cultivated a few acres with the help of his wife and children. A small nucleus, about 4 percent of all slaveholders, held on hundred or more slaves. Yet it was the large slaveholder, fictionalized by partisan pens, that has constituted popular portraits of the South.

Moreover, a sense of history was conspicuously lacking in antebellum Northern views of the South. It is not inappropriate here to recall that the beginnings of slavery coincide with the first English settlements in America. During the seventeenth century slave-traders of many nations joined in establishing in America, North and South, an institution which was not to become “peculiar” in anyone’s eye’s for nearly two centuries.

No generation was alone responsible for the enslavement of men; but no generation could escape the mounting social tensions and moral complexities that accompanied its growth. By the time prevailing ideologies of the world had become expressly opposed to slavery, most Southerners had come to consider it indispensible to either their economic or their social well-being. To understand the tragedy of the South is to realize that it is inescapably America’s tragedy.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831 to 1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. viii-ix)

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