Abolitionists on the Road to War

Forgotten by the New England abolitionists was their own section’s experience with enslaving the Pequot Indians their fathers had not killed, and the transatlantic slave trade those same fathers had enriched themselves by.  The onus was on the abolitionists to discover a practical and peaceful solution to a problem New England had done much to create.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolitionists On the Road to War:

“As with the anti-liquor and anti-foreign movements [in the North], emotion was the basic quality of the renewed anti-slavery drive. While each of the three had social and economic background, especially this was true of the anti-slavery crusade.

This renewal of the anti-slavery campaign did not, however, represent a belated Abolition triumph. From the time of the Nat Turner insurrection, the Abolitionists’ chief effect upon the North had been to excite distaste and opposition, while in the South they had aroused a frenzy of resentment and fear.

While William Lloyd Garrison’s imprisonment in Baltimore gave satisfaction in Philadelphia, New York and Boston, as well as in Richmond, Charleston and Mobile. When William Lloyd Garrison denounced the Constitution as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell,” great Northern groups were horror-struck. Attempts to give political instrumentation to Abolition policies became increasingly ineffective, and after 1840, the word came to be used to represent a demand for solution of the slave problem by other than political means.

Examination of Abolition speeches, sermons, pamphlets and books during these ‘Thirties and ‘Forties affords a ready understanding of these reactions. For, in the deep black of Southern turpitude the Abolitionists could see no good, no redeeming trait, no shade of gray. The formula of attack was almost standard: The Negro was God’s image in ebony. White and black were brothers, equals, and slavery was a sin against God. The Declaration of Independence asserted that all men were created equal, and so slavery was a breach of the Declaration as well as an affront to Almighty God.

There could be no honest slave-holder, the Abolitionist insisted, all such were thieves, robbers and man-stealers. The slave-holder underfed his chattels, housed them in hovels and punished them like wild animals. Tales of savage cruelty and bestial lust were eagerly repeated. Abolitionist lecturers went into every hamlet of the North painting tales of unmentionable horrors of the South. The entire Southern social system was indicted along with slavery. All Southern white men were portrayed as lazy, drunken, lustful braggarts. Their society was an oligarchy, a slavocracy destructive of American democracy.”

The Eve of Conflict, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, pp. 160-161)

New England's Foul Traffic

Below, author Robert L. Dabney arraigns New England for perpetuating the slave trade and populating the American South with its “foul traffic.” He notes that “When the late Confederate Government adopted a constitution, although it was composed exclusively of slaveholding States, it voluntarily did what the United States has never done: it placed an absolute prohibition of the foreign slave trade in its organic law.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circ1865

 

New England’s Foul Traffic

“The government of Virginia was unquestionably actuated, in prohibiting the slave trade, by a sincere sense of its intrinsic injustice and cruelty. Mr. Jefferson, a representative man, in his “Notes on Virginia,” had given indignant expression to this sentiment. And the reprobation of that national wrong, with regret for the presence of the African on the soil, was the universal feeling of that generation which succeeded the Revolution; while they firmly asserted the rightfulness of that slavery which they had inherited.

[The Founders’] . . . were sober, wise and practical men, who felt that to protect the rights, purity, and prosperity of their own country and posterity, was more properly their task, than to plead the wrongs of a distant and alien people, great although those wrongs might be.

They deprecated the slave trade, because it was peopling their soil so largely with an inferior and savage race, incapable of union, instead of with civilized Englishmen. This was precisely their apprehension of the enormous wrong done the colony by the mother country . . . the colonies felt that the forcing of the Africans upon them was as much a political as a social wrong.

The contrast between the policy and principles of Virginia and of the New England colonies will be concluded with two evidences. Mr. Jefferson, the author [of the Declaration of Independence], states that he had inserted in the enumeration of grievances against the King . . . a paragraph strongly reprobating his arbitrary support of the slave trade, against the remonstrances of some of the colonies.

When the Congress discussed the paper, this paragraph was struck out . . . [with Georgia, South Carolina and Massachusetts opposing. Our Northern brethren . . . felt a little tender . . . for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. Thus New England assisted to expunge from that immortal paper a testimony against the slave trade, which Virginia endeavored to place there.

In the Convention of 1787, which framed the Constitution of the United States, [the question] concerning African slaves caused dissension. Upon the supreme right of the States over the whole subject of slavery within their own dominions, upon the recognition of slaves as property protected by the federal laws, wherever slavery existed, and upon the fugitive slave law, not a voice was raised in opposition.

[New England’s policy was] simply mercenary [and] prompted by her sense of her own interests, and not of the rights of the Negro. The people of that section renewed their activity on the African coast, with a diligence continually increasing up to 1808. Carey, in his work on the slave trade, estimates the importation into the thirteen colonies between 1771 and 1790 [at 34,000]; but that between the institution of the federal government and 1808, he places it at seventy thousand.

His estimate here is unquestionably far too low; because forty thousand were introduced at the port of Charleston . . . alone, the last four years, and within the years 1806 and 1807, there were six hundred arrivals of New England slavers at that place. [By] 1860, six hundred and twenty-five thousand more slaves in the United States than would have been found here, had not New England’s cruelty and avarice assisted to prolong the slave trade nineteen years after Virginia and the federal government would otherwise have arrested it.

In this illicit trade, no Virginian (and indeed, no Southern) ship or shipmaster has ever been in a single case implicated, although our State had meantime begun no inconsiderable career of maritime adventure. But adventurers from New England and New York were continually sharing the lion’s portion of the foul spoils.”

(A Defense of Virginia and the South, Robert L. Dabney, E.J. Hale & Son, 1867, pp. 53-60)

The Confederacy's Open Sea Blockade of the North

The destructive effect of Southern raiders over Northern commerce during the war is seldom recognized as Confederate cruisers drove the Northern merchant marine shipping from the seas, a defeat from which it never recovered in postwar years.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Confederacy’s Open Sea Blockade of the North

“The mediation enthusiasm in Great Britain during the autumn of 1862 was the nearest thing to intervention undertaken by the European powers during the Confederate war, although in reality diplomatic circumstances were a bit more volatile afterwards than historians have often assumed. The Powers had not declared irrevocable neutrality; they were determined to watch and wait.

If there should be a significant alteration in the American situation, both Britain and France were prepared to reassess. During the first half of 1863 the Confederates had reason to believe that there were significant alterations in the South’s position, especially vis a vis the British.

By turns that spring the Confederates and then their Northern enemies injected new elements into the international situation on the seas. At long last it seemed that the success of Southern cruisers in what Secretary [Stephen] Mallory termed “commercial warfare” would make the Confederate navy a factor in Atlantic diplomacy. In effect the Confederates established an open-sea blockade; using foreign ships, they roamed the seas in search of Union commercial vessels, whose cargoes they captured or destroyed.

The architect of the Confederate commercial war was James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Georgian who had served in the “old navy.” Bulloch spent the war period, and the rest of his life, in England as a purchasing agent for the Navy Department.

Not only did he contract for ships and oversee their construction, he undertook the more difficult task of running the diplomatic blockade of European neutrality. Bulloch managed to launch the most important of the South’s nineteen commerce raiders. His greatest success was the Alabama. Built at the Laird shipyards, the ship was disguised as the merchant vessel Enrica until its maiden voyage in July 1862.

[Under] the command of Captain Raphael Semmes . . . the Alabama began preying upon United States commerce. Although the Alabama never entered a Confederate port during its extended cruise of twenty-two months, it destroyed or captured more than sixty Northern ships. It and the other Confederate raiders were responsible for the doubling of marine shipping rates in the North.

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 182-183)

Nov 8, 2014 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Agitators Driving the South to Madness

Author Howard R. Floan noted the “tendency, stubbornly persistent even in our own time, to mistake the planter aristocracy for the entire South, to envision the Southerner simply as the slaveholder.”  His study of the New England abolitionist aristocracy shows a radical, idealistic clique of utopians divorced from reality who had little, if any understanding of the slavery inherited from the English colonists.  Doing nothing to help find a practical and peaceful end to African slavery, abolitionists hands were stained with the blood of a million Americans who perished in the war they did much to ignite.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Agitators Driving the South to Madness

“In the job of molding public opinion, [William Lloyd] Garrison needed help.  The need of a platform personality to carry the cause directly to the people was answered, unsolicited, by Wendell Phillips.  At a meeting in 1837, young Phillips rose from the audience, denounced the murderers of Elijah Lovejoy, the antislavery editor, of Alton, Illinois . . . A Bostonian once reported that during a Phillips speech he had heard a man in the audience applauding, stamping his feet, and exclaiming enthusiastically, “The damned old liar! The damned old liar!

Phillips strove to foster a public opinion hostile to slaveholding . . . Phillips battleground was the Northern mind. His eye was on the North, though his shots appeared to be aimed at the South. To arouse Northern awareness of danger, Phillips emphasized the political threat of the South by pointing to its wealth and its continued success in Washington.

For all practical purposes, Phillips said, the slave power was the South; there could be no other South until the North created one. The image of the South which Phillips labored to evoke in the Northern mind embodied deformities that were designed to call up repugnance, anger and fear. It violated the cherished ideals of the North. He conjured up a land of whipping posts and auction blocks, a feudal society in which newspapermen, politicians, and clergymen were vassals.  “The South is the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.”

Phillips . . . often spoke of the possibility of armed rebellion in the South. “I can imagine the scenes of blood through which a rebellious slave-population must march to their rights.”

The agitator must continually intensify his attack if he is to maintain the appearance of vitality. With the years, Phillips grew more vitriolic.  In 1853, surveying the achievements of the abolition movement, he said: “To startle the South to madness, so that every step she takes in her blindness, is one more step toward ruin, is much. This we have done.”

Nothing shows more clearly that Phillips had become a victim of his own program. By this time he could summarize his view of the South in one image: the South was “one great brothel where half a million women are flogged to prostitution, or, worse still, are degraded to believe it honorable.”

By the time of the [John Brown] Harpers Ferry incident, Phillips was able to say that Brown had more right to hang [Virginia] Governor Wise than the Governor had to hang Brown.  As Phillips grew more outspoken, some of his listeners became indignant, and the abolitionists were forced to form bodyguards.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831 to 1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 11-14)

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)

 

Abolition Crusade Ends in the Sword

The cause of the War Between the States was not slavery but irresponsible agitation by fanatic abolitionists and their wealthy Northern contributors who went into hiding after John Brown’s insurrection. Not ever forthcoming from abolitionists was a practical, peaceful solution to African slavery in this country which would have saved a million lives.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolition Crusade Ends in the Sword:

“Montevideo, Monday, November 7th, 1859

[Rev. C.C. Jones to Mr. Charles C. Jones, Jr.]

“The Harpers Ferry affair proves to be more serious than at first it appeared to be—not in reference to the Negro population, for that had nothing to do with it; but in reference to the hostility of large numbers of men of all classes in the free States to the slaveholding States, even unto blood, and their readiness to aid and abet such attempts with counsels and money, and to employ reckless agents to carry them out.

There is a covert, cowardly, assassin-like heart in these men. Why do they not arm and come to the field in open day? From the tone of the abolition press in the free States, both secular and religious, there is great sympathy for the prisoners at Harpers Ferry. Some go so far as to justify the act, and only condemn the time and manner of it! The whole abolition crusade which has been preached for thirty years ends in the sword. The volunteering of counsel for the prisoners from the free States is another proof of sympathy in their crime, and an insult to the justice of the South.

Some of the papers friendly to the South hope that the South will be forbearing and magnanimous! Against the miserable lives of these men who have plotted arson, robbery, murder and treason over a vast portion of our country, who may weigh millions of property, millions of lives, the virtue, the order, the peace and happiness of our people, the majesty of the laws, the sacredness of religion, our constitution and our Union?

There is no place left for forbearance—no ground for compromises. The magnanimity of the South must not be exercised towards public criminals of the deepest dye, but towards herself in all her greatest and best interests, and towards our common country. Such sparks like these, struck to produce a universal conflagration, should be stamped out immediately. Such enemies should be met and overwhelmed without quarter in a moment.

If the conservative and loyal men of the free States, who we believe do now possess the power, are willing and ready to rule down this spirit of treasonable and violent aggression upon an unoffending and invaluable section of our country, we shall be most happy to see them do it.”

(The Children of Pride, Robert Manson Myers, editor, Yale University Press, 1974, excerpt, pp. 525-526)

Nov 7, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    2 Comments

Constitution Unable to Control Man's Nature

The most prescient of the Founders, Patrick Henry discerned the predictable result of ratifying a Constitution which he viewed as nothing more than consolidating the States into one centralized government. He challenged the Federalists of his day: “let me appeal to the candor of the committee, if the want of money be not the source of all our misfortunes.” He maintained that the new government was a consolidated one, and that its advocates sought “splendor” – not liberty.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Constitution Unable to Control Man’s Nature

“Man,” Patrick Henry warned, “is a fallen creature, a fallible being, and cannot be depended upon without self-love.” Certainly, a large measure of Henry’s ideas of the type of government which would serve the true function of government, the preservations of liberty, were based upon this idea of the nature of the human species. Indeed, the best government would be one which would be one which made the most effective provisions against this.

One of the primary modes in which this “self-love” manifested itself was in a desire for power because “human nature never will part from power.” The human temptation was present in all men . . . Henry deduced, for “the characteristic of the good or great Man is not that he has been exempted from the evils of life, but that he surmounted them.”

The annals of history pointed this out, for “can the annals of mankind exhibit one single example, where rulers overcharged with power willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited and requested most earnestly?” In fact, “a willing relinquishment of power is one of those things which human nature never was, nor will ever be capable of.”

What was there about this new government which did not provide for this innate weakness of man? Why had the men at the Constitutional Convention created a new government? Was it because the government of the Articles of Confederation was so weak that they were faced with the alternatives of drastic action or anarchy? Patrick Henry did not think so.

The Confederation had won the war; it had saved the West. He protested that history was replete with examples, “instances of people losing their liberties by their own carelessness and the ambition of a few.” Was this not the real reason for the proposed change in government?

Also disturbing to Henry’s mind was the fact that in many States which had ratified the new Constitution, the masses had not been awarded the opportunity to vote on the election of new delegates to the ratification conventions. He protested, “. . . only 10,000 were represented in Pennsylvania although 70,000 had a right to be represented. Is this not a serious thing?”

If the people did not want a change in their government, why then did the Philadelphia Convention write the new Constitution?”

(The Christian Philosophy of Patrick Henry, James M. Wells, Carris J. Kocher, editor, Bill of Rights Bicentennial Committee, 2004 (original 1960), pp. 58-59)

Nov 7, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

Preaching Higher Law Treason

If the United States Constitution is the highest authority of law, then it follows that those who undermine or resist it commit treason against the United States.  Those like William Seward of New York who asserted a higher law than the Constitution fall within this definition.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Preaching Higher Law Treason

“It was against Seward and his followers that the South directed its “higher law” attack in the later fifties. On October 19, 1858, Jefferson Davis delivered a stirring address in New York City upon this subject, and in the course of his daring denunciation of the advocates of this theory, he declared:

“You have among you politicians of a philosophical turn, who preach a higher morality; a system of which they are the discoverers . . . They say, it is true the Constitution dictates this, and the Bible inculcates that; but there is a higher law than those, and they call upon you to obey that higher law of which they are the inspired givers.

Men who are traitors to the compact of their fathers—men who have perjured the oaths they have themselves taken . . . these are the moral law-givers who proclaim a higher law than the Bible, the Constitution, and the laws of the land . . . These higher law preachers should be tarred and feathered, and whipped by those they have thus instigated . . . The man who . . . preaches treason to the Constitution and the dictates of all human society, is a fit object for a Lynch law that would be higher than any he could urge.”

The South As A Conscious Minority, Jesse T. Carpenter, New York University, 1930, pp. 159-160)

Nov 7, 2014 - Jeffersonian America    No Comments

Return the Compact to Original Principles

Below, Jefferson seemed to be warning of the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Return the Compact to Original Principles:

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions…..may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. (Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900, page 191)

Nov 7, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Sherman Desires Bloody Results

No friend of the South, the African, or Indian, Sherman was given a free hand by Lincoln to cleanse the United States of those who would impede Republican party policies and the march of progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sherman Desires Bloody Results

“Fort Sumter was fired upon, and now the sulking Achilles came out to fight; and with him blood and iron would play a part from the very beginning. In May [1861] he declared: “the greatest difficulty in the problem now before the country is not to conquer, but so conquer to impress upon the real men of the South a respect for their conquerors.” As the war got under way Sherman became hypnotized by it . . . and refused to be diverted by those who would minimize the task or mollify it by soft considerations of the claims of humanity or too close adherence to the rule book.

As condemnation of his prodigality in the use of men began to come in, he replied that the war could not be fought with breath, but that hundreds of thousands of lives must perish, and he added, “Indeed do I wish I had been killed long since.”   [He] began “to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash – and it may be well that we become so hardened.”

[In 1862 he wrote] the Secretary of the Treasury, “The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all the South are enemies of all in the North.”

As to the large number of people who were being arrested [for disloyalty] in Kentucky, he would send them “to the Dry Tortugas, or Brazil, every one of those men, women and children, and encourage a new breed.”

“To secure the navigation of the Mississippi River [to Northern shipping] I would slay millions. On that point I am not only insane, but mad.” For every shot fired at a [Northern] river steamer he would return “a thousand 30-pound Parrotts into every helpless town on Red, Ouchita, Yazoo, or wherever a boat can float or a soldier march.”

But for no reason beyond the fact that the South was opposing the North, he would set stark starvation loose upon the land. Before beginning his Meridian campaign early in 1864, he wrote his wife, “We will take all provisions, and God help the starving families.”

[In 1863 he insisted] on war, pure and simple, with no admixture of civil compromises . . . [and] considered it unwise at that time “or for years to come” to give the southern people “any civil government in which the local people have much to say . . . All the Southern States will need a pure military Government for years after resistance has ceased.”

By the summer of 1864 . . . [Sherman] offered this advice to General Sheridan, who might find it useful in the Shenandoah Valley: “I am satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory . . . Therefore I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results.”

He wrote Grant his well-known article of faith, “Unless we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it; but the utter destruction of roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources . . . After he had reached Savannah he wrote to Halleck, “ We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and we must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.”

When he found himself on one of Howell Cobb’s plantations in Georgia, he instructed his army “to spare nothing,” and on the march through South Carolina, one chilly night he consumed in the blazing fireplace the furniture of “one of those splendid South Carolina estates where the proprietors had formerly dispensed hospitality that distinguished the regime of that proud State.”

His first disagreement with the Radical reconstructionists grew out of his long-standing attitude toward the Negro. He had spurned abolitionism in 1861, and during the war he had shown his contempt for Negro soldiers. He wrote in May, 1865, “. . . I do not favor the scheme of declaring the Negroes of the South, now free, to be loyal voters, whereby politicians may manufacture just so much more pliable electioneering material . . . they are no friends of the Negro who seek to complicate him with new prejudices.”

Sherman set down as an article of faith, “The white men of this country will control it, and the negro, in mass, will occupy the subordinate place as a race.”

[His postwar belief regarding Radical Reconstruction is summed up with] “The South is ruined and appeals to our pity. To ride the people down with persecutions and military exactions would be like slashing away at the crew of a sinking ship.”

(Sherman and the South, E. Merton Coulter, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, January 1931, excerpts, pp. 46-53)