Browsing "Uncategorized"
Nov 8, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Abolition Attempts in the South

The American South was in the forefront of emanicipation efforts following the Revolution and the momentum was in evidence toward dismantling the slave-labor system established by the  the British.  New England slavers had populated the South with millions of slaves while the North gradually sold off its slaves to Southern plantations raising cotton for New England mills, a highly profitable enterprise enabled by Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney.

Bernhard Thuersam Circa1865

 

Abolition Attempts in the South

“The American Revolution swelled the ranks of the tiny Southern free black population. In the years following the Revolution, the number of free Negroes increased manyfold, so that by the end of the first decade of the nineteenth centruy there were over 100,000 free Negroes in the Southern States . . . The free Negro caste had grown from a fragment of the colonial population to a sizable minority throughout the South.

[In] the North, abolition met stiff opposition. In Rhode Island and Connecticut, which had the largest proportion of Negroes in New England, antislavery forces could enact only gradual-emancipation laws. Pennsylvania enacted a gradual-emanicipation act in 1780, but, despite of its many Quakers, never legislated immediate abolition.

Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey, where the ratio of blacks to whites was three times that of Pennsylvania, repeatedly rebuffed antislavery forces and refused to enact even gradual emancipation for another twenty years. Significantly, emancipation laws in both New York and New Jersey compensated slaveholders for their property. Only after property rights were satisfied were human rights secured.

In 1782, Virginia repealed its fifty-nine year-old prohibition on private acts of manumission. Slaveholders were now free to manumit any adult slave under forty-five by deed or will. North Carolina slaveholders could free their slaves . . . for meritorious service and with the permission of the county court. Liberalized provisions for manumissions were extended to the new States and territories of the South.

Kentucky adopted the Virginia law in 1792, and the Missouri Territory accepted a similar rule in 1804. Almost immediately slaveholders took advantage of the greatly liberalized laws. Throughout the South, but especially in the upper South, hundreds of masters freed their slaves. Although manumission at times had nothing to do with anti-slavery principles, equalitarian ideals motivated most manumitters in the years following the Revolution.

Beginning in 1792, the revolt on Saint-Domingue sent thousands of refugees fleeing toward American shores. Most were white, but among them were many light-skinned free people of color who had been caught on the wrong side of the ever-changing lines of battle . . . [though Southerners] feared the influx of brown emigres. The States of the lower South, ever edgy about slave rebellions, quickly barred West Indian free people of color from entering their boundaries, and other States later followed their lead. A mass meeting in Charleston urged the expulsion of “the French Negroes” . . . [and] In Savannah, nervous official barred any ship that had touched Saint-Domingue from entering the harbor.”

(Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South, Ira Berlin, The New Press, 1974, excerpts pp. 15-36)

 

Oct 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Secession Doctrine Taught by New Englanders

Historically the Democratic party, created in 1792 as a Southern reaction to Northern control of the federal government, was so successful that every major political party since has been a reaction to it.  The Federalists of New England, once unseated in 1800, reacted by formulating plans to secede from the union.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

Secession Doctrine Taught by New Englanders

“The final political phenomenon to arise out of the North-South competition of the 1790s was the doctrine of Secession. It represented the death rattle of the Federalist party.

The pivotal year was 1800 when the Democratic leaders [Thomas] Jefferson and [Aaron] Burr succeeded in putting together a coalition of the have-nots of the country – the agriculturalists of the South and the proletarians of the Northern cities.  They won control of the nation.  They took the Senate with eighteen seats to fourteen Federalist, and the House with sixty-nine seats to thirty-six Federalist.

They took the presidency by an equally comfortable margin, although the quirks of the Electoral College arrangement caused Jefferson and his vice presidential candidate Burr to receive an equal number of electoral votes for President.  The Federalist party survived another sixteen years, although it would never again won control the House, Senate, or presidency.

It did not take defeat well. Barely three years after the Democratic rout, Northern Federalists began arguing for the secession of the New England States from the Union.  It would be their sullen tom-tom call, a summons to defect, until they passed from the national scene in 1816.

There was nothing understated about their secessionist position. It was widespread, and if it could not be done peaceably, they said, it should be done violently.

Listen to one of the many secessionists, Josiah Quincy III, scion of the New England Quincy’s, future mayor of Boston and future president of Harvard University. In 1811 he was a thirty-eight year-old congressman standing opposed to the admission of Louisiana as a State.

“It is my deliberate opinion,” he said, “that if this bill passes, the bonds of this union are virtually dissolved, that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some to prepare, definitely, for a separation; amicably if they can; violently if they must.”

One man who listened carefully that year was a freshman congressman from South Carolina.  He was John C. Calhoun, who had been taught the secessionist doctrine in the law schools of New England, who had listened to it in the Congress, and who would one day carry it back down South . . .

Meanwhile, it is an unfair strike that history has identified the South with secession when in fact the earliest and clearest argument against it were proposed by Jefferson and Madison [, both Southerners]. The creators of secession doctrine, and the teachers of it from 1800 to 1817, were New England Federalists.”

(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, A Revisionist History, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday, 1977, pp. 115-116)

Oct 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Empire State Slavocracy

New York’s experience as a slave State is little discussed as is New England’s role in the infamous slave trade. From the very beginning the Puritans solved their labor shortage by enslaving Indians – in 1645 Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother-in-law, hoped that slaves could be supplied because the colony would never thrive “until we get . . . a stock of slaves sufficient to do all our business.” Highly recommended for further reading on this topic is Leon F. Litwack’s “North of Slavery,” University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

Empire State Slavocracy

“New York was slow in drawing white settlers until after mid- [eighteenth] century, and the shortage of labor led to a considerable use of slaves; indeed it is possible that in the early Dutch days it was slave labor that enabled the colony to survive.

Most of the first slaves were not from Africa but were re-imported from Curacao in the Dutch West Indies.  It was a profitable system: in the 1640’s it cost only a little more to buy a slave than to pay a free worker’s wages for a year.

After the English took control of New Netherland in 1664, a brisk and highly profitable trade in skilled slaves was carried on.  Most slaveholders in the province were flourishing small farmers or small artisans who, in the absence of an adequate supply of free labor, needed moderately skilled help, and were able to pay the rising prices for slaves.

A partial census of 1755 showed . . . most owners having only one or two slaves, only seven New Yorkers owning ten or more.  Among the largest lots held were those of elder Lewis Morris with 66 slaves on his large estate and the first Frederick Philipse, an affluent landowner, with about 40.  William Smith . . . was reputed to keep a domestic staff of 12 or more to run his New York City household, and other citizens travelled with Negro footmen.

From the first the competition of black labor was resented by the whites.  Competition in the labor market was intensified by the slave owners’ widespread practice of putting out their slaves for hire, under-cutting white laborers who were paid twice the slaves’ wages.

Miscegenation, which began in New York under the Dutch, yielded such a number of persons of mixed blood in the colony that by the end of the seventeenth century slave status had to be defined not by color but by the status of the mother.  Some light-colored runaways won freedom by passing into the white population . . . Yet even under the relatively open system of slavery that prevailed, family structure was weak and there were a large number of broken and female-headed families.

The New York slave, suspended in an awkward equipoise between complete bondage and half-freedom, was often restive.  After 1702, flogging was prescribed if three slaves gathered together on their own time. They were not permitted to gamble or to buy liquor . . . nor could they engage in trade without their masters’ consent.

Fires were a frightening problem in the eighteenth-century towns and blacks were commonly suspected of arson . . . [and the] penalty for committing arson was death.  The killing of a white person by a black was punished by torture followed by execution, a sentence that courts did not hesitate to impose.”

(America at 1750, A Social Portrait, Richard Hofstader , Vintage Books, 1973, pp. 99-101)

Oct 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Remarkable Robert E. Lee

In March of 1870 General Robert E. Lee began his two-month journey to visit two family graves – daughter Annie and that of his father, “Light Horse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame.  He wrote his son Fitzhugh that “I wish to witness Annie’s quiet sleep . . . and to feel that her pure spirit is waiting in bliss in the land of the blessed.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

The Remarkable Robert E. Lee

“The train now puffed into North Carolina . . . With only a ninth of the South’s population, North Carolina had furnished a fifth of all the soldiers who fought, and a fourth of all that died in action. [Scalawag Reconstruction Governor] Holden would be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” found guilty and removed from office.  [A staunch Republican] admitted: “One of the greatest evils affecting society in North Carolina is the incompetent and worthless State and federal officials now in power. They are for the most part pestiferous ulcers feeding upon the body politic.”

[At Charlotte] the ovation was overwhelming. By now, word had been flashed ahead by railroad telegraphers. The General, moving south on the Charlotte, Columbia, and Augusta Railroad, would soon be in South Carolina.  On they rolled over the clicking track, into the deeply wounded and largely unreconstructed Deep South.  Lee watched the landscape change, smelled the west spring flowers, saw the woodlands rich in magnolia trees and red buds . . .

If the physical situation was lovely, the human landscape was not.  Sidney Andrews, an early visitor, had found in South Carolina “enough woe and want and ruin and ravage to satisfy the most insatiate heart.” [The enemy] had done more damage in South Carolina, pillaging a path across the State forty miles wide.

A New York Herald correspondent who followed the whole campaign wrote:

“As for wholesale burnings, pillage and devastation committed in South Carolina, magnify all I have said of Georgia some fifty-fold, and then throw in an occasional murder, ‘jis to bring an old hard-fisted cuss to his senses,” and you have an idea of the whole thing.”

Corruption still permeated Statehouse, courthouse, courtroom and city hall.  Dixie had been subject to such immorality and private plundering that government seemed transformed into an engine of destruction.

The antics of the South Carolina [Reconstruction] legislature scandalized the nation. Having installed two hundred six richly embossed cuspidors, the carpetbaggers and Negroes stripped he cupboard clean.  “They took everything they desired,” noted the Senate clerk, Josephus Woodruff, “from swaddling cloth and cradle to the coffin and the undertaker.” The “Rule of the robbers” had begun and it would last long after General Lee had come and gone.

Lack of ability, as well as lack of morality, brought on the sorry mess. In South Carolina’s 1868 Convention, seventy-six of the delegates were newly-emancipated Negroes, of whom only seventeen were taxpayers.  Their governor, Ohio-born R.K. Scott, was induced to sign one of the more notorious pieces of legislation while he was intoxicated.

Knowing some of these things, Lee must have been sick at heart as he pulled into decimated Columbia.  Rain was pouring down.  Confederate veterans, used to rainy musters, defied the weather and marched smartly to the railroad station. Alexander Haskell, who had commanded the Seventh South Carolina Cavalry, was there; so was General Porter Alexander who had conducted the Gettysburg bombardment preceding Pickett’s Charge.

After the usual acclaim and bravado, the train continued its journey westward through Lexington and Aiken counties toward the Georgia border. Besides all her man-inflicted woes, Georgia had suffered almost total crop failures in 1865 and 1866.  Natives had tried to survive on roots and berries; the weak had starved to death.  The stately rice plantations had disappeared, along with the larger cotton plantations. The problem was not how to plant new crops, but how to survive at all.

One thing, at least, was left to those who crowded to the stations whenever the train stopped; their respect for Robert E. Lee. What a burden it must have been for him to have realized this! That he could see this, understand it, and yet not be puffed up by pride, is one of the remarkable and admirable features of Robert E. Lee.”

(Lee After the War, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1963, pp. 188-192)

Oct 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

What A Brave Fight the South Has Made

Canadian political leader John A. McDonald was a lawyer born in Scotland; he believed the American system of government to be “immoral” and “horrid.” He had attended an 1856 American political convention and was shocked at the floor lobbying, “which meant that “talent and worth counted for little and low trickery very much.’

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865

 

What a Brave Fight the South Has Made

“MacDonald had an enormous feel for statecraft and was an unrivalled leader of men [with] a talent for using the system to his advantage. When it came to the United States, MacDonald had what American author Robin Winks has described as “a bundle of anti-American prejudices.” It is true that he disliked the American system of government. He saw the electoral process as a popularity contest between candidates and the separation of the executive and legislative branches as inefficient and lacking the checks and balances found in the parliamentary system.

He disliked Lincoln’s suspension of civil rights, including habeas corpus, which allowed for arrest and detention without trial. He believed the war was a result of the defects in the way Americans had devised their Constitution and wanted to ensure that it did not happen in Canada.

George-Etienne Cartier, MacDonald’s Quebec lieutenant . . . favored Confederation. Like MacDonald, he thought poorly of republican government and felt that if French Canada had to choose between the evils of the English and the Americans, they would choose the English.

He believed in the constant possibility of an American invasion, and saw the Confederacy as a way to distract the Northern States from such a move. If the South were victorious it removed the possibility entirely.

[The Canadian federation framers] believed that the Confederate States had been encouraged in their rebellion by the fatal clause in the American Constitution that provided that all powers not specifically assigned to the federal government were reserved by the States. This error could be avoided by doing the opposite – investing the federal government with all powers not vested with the provinces.

[Macdonald pushed for Canadian Confederation and told an audience that] they could make a great nation, capable of defending itself, and he reminded them of “the gallant defence that is being made by the Southern Republic – at this moment they have not much more than four millions of men – not much exceeding our own numbers – yet what a brave fight they have made.”

(Dixie and the Dominion, Canada, the Confederacy, and the War for the Union, Adam Mayers, The Dundurn Group, 2003, pp. 92; 95-98)

Oct 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

Though Gen. Robert E. Lee trusted Joseph E. Johnston in command in North Carolina, his continued retreat in front of Sherman greatly alarmed Lee, who wrote “Should you be forced back in this direction [Richmond] both armies would certainly starve. You must judge what the probabilities will be of arresting Sherman by battle. A bold and unexpected attack might relieve us.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Seeking to Seriously Wound Sherman

“Sherman came on irresistibly – like Lord Cornwallis – North Carolinians were reminded. The feeling of dread, of terror, may have been comparable to the folk tales of their grandparents, but not the speed, the destructive power, the calamitous results. Compared to Sherman’s, Cornwallis’s invasion during the Revolution was child’s play.

Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, fell on February 17; Charleston, the following morning; Wilmington, on the twenty-second. Richmond had looked to Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard to coordinate defensive efforts and obstruct Sherman’s advance . . . [though he resorted] to heady 1861 rhetoric; concentrate 35,000 Confederates at Salisbury, North Carolina and fight Sherman there, “crush him, then to concentrate all forces against Grant, and then to march on Washington to dictate a peace.”

[Once Robert E. Lee was appointed] commander-in-chief of all Confederate armies . . . Lee turned to President Jefferson Davis and asked that Joseph E. Johnston be retrieved from oblivion. With greatest reluctance, Davis acquiesced [though concerned that the] General will not risk a battle unless he has all the chances in his favor.” Lee wired Johnston on February 22. “Concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.”

The controversial Johnston had worked a miracle before – when he gathered fragments of two defeated Confederate armies at Dalton, Georgia, in early 1864, and fashioned them into an effective fighting force that proceeded to frustrate Sherman’s heavier numbers and resources for three months.

Sherman’s strategy by the last week of February 1865 was becoming clear to the Confederates. He would continue to push through the Carolinas, up into Virginia, and there unite with Grant against Lee. Lee doubted that Sherman would move northwest via Charlotte . . . rather, Lee expected him to turn toward Goldsboro and the coast – to snap the vital [Wilmington &] Weldon railroad and unite with Schofield.

On February 24, Johnston went to Charlotte, assumed command from Beauregard, and immediately held a review. [The troops cheered the General] and this feeling of confidence in Johnston and enthusiasm over his return to command swept through the ranks and the officer’s corps of the Army of Tennessee. They loved the man. He could redeem them. They knew it.

Once [Johnston combined his disparate forces into one, he] would possess a sizable fore, admittedly less than half of Sherman’s numbers but sufficient to cause mischief, perhaps even to wound his adversary seriously. If Sherman’s army could be caught divided and fought in fractions, certainly before he united with [his other wing], there might be hope of checking, perhaps defeating, part of his force – an isolated column perhaps. Once this had been accomplished, other positive opportunities would present themselves.”

(Bentonville, The Final Battle of Sherman & Johnston, Nathaniel C. Hughes, Jr., UNC Press, 1996, pp. 21-24)

Pages:«12