Browsing "Emancipation"

Lincoln’s Dark Days

Many European observers saw Lincoln’s early proclamation of September 1862 as simply imitating the actions of Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore eighty-six years earlier. In the face of “insurrection,” Dunmore demanded loyalty oaths from colonists while proclaiming African slaves “free.” A desperate Lincoln did the same.

Lincoln’s Dark Days

“The war had indeed approached a crisis in late July [1861]. There had been little encouraging news from the Western theater since April, when the victory at Shiloh had been followed by the occupation of New Orleans. These victories were disappointing in that they seemed to be leading nowhere. The high hopes accompanying McClellan’s advance up the peninsula below Richmond had been cruelly dashed.

Waiting for victories, [Lincoln’s] Cabinet received news in late August of the most humiliating defeat of the entire war. General John Pope allowed his army to be trapped at Manassas, Virginia, practically on the doorstep of the Capitol, between the armies of Longstreet and Jackson; it was hurled back toward Washington in a retreat that was actually a rout.

When the full impact of this latest disaster was at last known in the North, a real desperation gripped the public. “That we are in serious danger of being whipped cannot be denied” wrote Edward Atkinson, “and there is scarce a man now in Boston, who would not thank God to hear of a serious insurrection among the slaves, such a change has this disaster wrought.”

Dr. Milton Hawks, perhaps the most fanatical missionary at Port Royal [South Carolina], repeated his belief that, unless emancipation were the goal of the war, the South would establish her independence. “The greatest kindness that a man could do this government today,” he wrote furiously, “would be to assassinate Pres. Lincoln – He stands directly in the way.”

Lincoln’s course was mysterious to the general public [but after the dubious victory at Antietam], the President seized the slim occasion for his [preliminary emancipation] Proclamation . . .”

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment. Willie Lee Rose. Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 184-185)

Antebellum Race Relations

Antebellum Race Relations

Clifton Rodes Breckinridge (1846-1932) was the son of former US Congressman, Vice President and Major-General John C. Breckinridge (1821-1875). Clifton served in the war under his father and in the CS Navy; was elected to the House of Representatives from Arkansas and served as US Minister to Russia.

The following is excerpted from his early May 1900 address to the Southern Society for the Promotion of the Study of Race Conditions and Problems in the South,” held in Montgomery, Alabama.

“Take the period of slavery. For generations, and under conditions generally considered the most trying, the races lived together in peace. If we had reason to believe that, with the great and permanent racial differences which exist, the nature of the races, or the nature of either of them, were truculent, then, indeed, would the future be dark.

But during all that period the relations of the races were not only peaceful, but, in the main, they were most kindly. Side by side with the assured power of the law, there were the associations of childhood, the sports and domestic service of later life, the care of sickness and old age, uniform consideration for good character of old age, and the respect and fidelity which were fit reflections of the manly honor, womanly care and refined and elevated rule which generally marked the domestic authority of the times.

All had their influence. All were developed under and enlightened construction of the Christian religion, and the aggravated crimes of later days were absolutely unknown.”

(Published in the Negro Universities Press, 1969, pp. 171-172)

Saving “Uncle George” MacDonald

Saving “Uncle George” MacDonald

“The Osceola (Missouri) Democrat raised money to send “Uncle” George McDonald of St. Clair County, a colored Confederate veteran, to the Confederate Reunion at Columbia last month. In 1861 “Uncle” George went off with the men of St. Clair County and fought in several engagements.

At Wilson’s Creek a Minie ball plowed through his hip and buckshot struck him in the face. George lay groaning upon the ground when he was found by Owen Snuffer, a lieutenant of his company. Snuffer stooped down, examined the black man’s wounds and stanched the flow blood from them. “For God’s sake,” cried the suffering negro, “give me a drink of water.”

Snuffer’s canteen was empty but midway between the firing lines was a well. To reach it the lieutenant was to become the target of sharpshooters, and it meant almost certain death. But with bullets falling all around him like hailstones he pushed forward until the well was reached. And then he discovered that the bucket had been taken away and the windlass removed. The water was far down and the depth unknown.

The well was old-fashioned – stone-walled. Owen pulled off his long cavalry boots and taking one in his teeth he let himself down slowly, hand over hand until the water was reached and the boot filled. He then climbed up, straddling the well and clutching with hands and feet the rocky walls. Reaching the surface again he picked up the other boot and safely made his way back to his lines and brought water to “Uncle George.”

Returning from the war, “Uncle George” settled near Monegaw Springs and has reared an intelligent, honest and industrious family. One of his children educated himself, graduated the Smith University in Sedalia, and is now the pastor of a church in Kansas. Another child is a waiter at the Commercial Hotel in Osceola, an establishment known for high integrity.”

(Confederate Veteran, Volume XI, November 1903, pg. 494)

Britain, Slavery and Emancipation

As did George Washington before him, President Jefferson Davis in early 1865 agreed to the enlistment of 300,000 emancipated Africans into the army of the Confederate States. Recognizing that the Constitution he held office under limited federal authority and that he had no power regarding the institution, Davis correctly saw emancipation the purview of those who could – and did – free Africans for military service.

Britain, Slavery and Emancipation

“If the institution of African slavery gained first a foothold, then an entrenched position, the greed of the British crown was largely responsible. As early as 1726, the planters of Virginia became alarmed at the growth of the Negro population and imposed a tax on slave importations. Britain’s Royal African Company interfered and had the law repealed. South Carolina restricted slave imports in 1760 only to be rebuked by London. In 1712 the Pennsylvania legislature moved to curb the increase in Africans, but the law was annulled by the Crown.

Briain’s Queen Anne, who personally held a quarter of the stock of the Royal African Company, the chartered organization which monopolized the slave trade, ordered it to provide New York and New Jersey with Africans and directed the governors of these colonies to give it full support.

Thomas Jefferson charged the British crown with forcing African slavery on the colonies; James Madison asserted that England had checkmated every attempt by Virginia “to put a stop to this infernal traffic”; Bancroft taxed Britain with “steadily rejecting every colonial restriction on the slave trade and instructing the governors, on pain of removal, not to give even a temporary assent to such laws.” In the words of the rabidly anti-Southern historian and politician, Henry Wilson: “British avarice planted slavery in America; British legislation sanctioned and maintained it; British statesmen sustained and guarded it.”

Virginian George Washington, at first opposed permitting Africans, whether slave or free, to serve in the American armed forces. Later, expediency and Alexander Hamilton’s powers of persuasion made him change his mind.”

(The Negro in American Civilization. Nathaniel Weyl. Public Affairs Press, 1960; pp. 25-26)

 

 

Northern Democrat Thorn in Lincoln’s Side

Ohio congressman Samuel S. Cox stood out in the north as one who repeatedly challenged Lincoln’s wartime policies. A prewar Ohio newspaper editor in Columbus, he entered Congress in 1857 and served through 1865. As a War Democrat who wanted to somehow preserve the union, his efforts were directed toward effecting a rapid conclusion of the war before extreme bitterness had cut too deeply – and conciliation might still be possible.

Northern Democrat Thorn in Lincoln’s Side

“In the postwar, Cox said in retrospect: Could not this union have been made permanent by a timely settlement, instead of being cemented by fraternal blood and military rule? By an equitable adjustment of the territory this was possible . . . the Crittenden proposition . . . the Republican Radicals denounced . . . They were determined to prevent a settlement. Those who thought to counteract the schemes of secession were themselves checkmated by the extreme men of the Republican party.

Early in January 1862 Cox wanted to obtain from Lincoln his view regarding prisoner exchanges with the South. Asking if he would look to the safety of captured northern soldiers & sailors, Lincoln replied “You will have me recognize those [Southern] pirates as belligerents?” This was, then, the sum of his reasoning against the exchange or prisoners. It had in it no element of humanity or international law. With Cox’s prodding, an official agreement was established with the Confederacy in mid-1862.

By the spring of 1862 the tempo of fighting had increased along with the temper of northern politics, as the Radical Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania pressed for the confiscation of Southern property and emancipation of the South’s slaves. Congress had already in August 1861 enacted a confiscation act for property used for “insurrectionary purposes.” Stevens now wanted confiscation of the property of all “enemies,” slaves of all persons supporting the rebellion to be “forever free of servitude.” Cox denounced this proposal on June 3rd and urged Lincoln to reassure the public mind as to the purpose of the war. Playing upon the fears of the northern fears of freedmen flooding northward he asked: “will Ohio troops fight at all if the result should be the movement of the black race by the millions to their own State?”

Pressing his point, he said: “I would protect against this ambiguous policy” of professing a war to preserve the union but actually fighting a war to abolish slavery.  As for the cause of the war, he argued: “Slavery is the occasion, but not the cause . . . but slavery agitation, north and South, is the cause.”

Rep. Cox noted that “Indiana and Illinois, the latter Lincoln’s home State, already forbade the entrance of Negroes into their States. Ohio Republican legislators, resenting Cox’s obstructionist attacks on Lincoln’s administration, proceeded to redistrict the State under the new federal reapportionment act that cut Ohio’s representation from 21 to 19. Cox’s district was redrawn to make his reelection impossible.

The October 1862 Republican congressional defeats can be traced to waning enthusiasm for Lincoln’s stalemated war, waning enlistments and threatened conscription, arbitrary arrests of citizens and newspaper editors, and fear that his emancipation crusade would flood the north with freedmen in search of cheap wages. The Democrats were victorious in 14 of the Republican-redrawn 19 congressional seats.

Cox, outraged by Republican charges of disloyalty against northern Democrats, retorted: “Who brought on this war and then dragooned Southern Negroes to fight battles in which they would not even risk their own lives? How many abolitionists were hiding from the draft or paying for substitutes to fight for them?

In a mid-December 1862 speech Cox blamed Lincoln’s administration for the Radical rule that had resulted in a divided country, a national debt of $2,500,000,000, a tariff paying “millions into the pockets of capitalists from consumers,” the destruction of “the rights of personal liberty,” and the deaths of “at least 150,000 of the best youth of the country.”

During 1863 congressional Democrats steadily opposed the actions of Lincoln’s Administration, citing New England’s responsibility for the war, the unconstitutionality of federal emancipation, and the arbitrary despotism of the President.”

(Sunset Cox: Irrepressible Democrat. David Lindsey. Wayne State University Press, 1959, pp. 52-70)

A Great Evil to the Cause of Human Liberty Itself

A Great Evil to the Cause of Human Liberty Itself

“We must remember that by 1860 a “Cold War” had been in progress between the North and the South for some thirty years. There were political and ideological extremists on both sides. If Southern leaders were determined that the US Constitution would be followed to the letter or they would withdraw, Northern extremists were just as determined to dominate the South and force it to remain in the 1789 federation.

Politically the South felt she was being “frozen out” of a voice in the federal government. The Democratic party was split between opposing views of its Northern and Southern wings, and there appeared no way of resolving their differences. The Whig party was dying as an audible voice in government with no hope of recovery. The new Republican party was controlled by radical leaders who were bent upon winning an election with the surest way being the destruction of the South’s labor system of African bondage. This institution was already in its twilight years for in 1860 only 10 percent of Southerners owned slaves. Only one man in the South owned over 1000 slaves with 187,356 owning less than five Negro servants.

However, the great majority of Southerners felt that the Constitution gave no authority to Congress to interfere with a State’s internal labor system – North or South. But if slavery were to be legalized out of existence, there should be some way for the country as a whole to assume the responsibility for dissolving the institution without putting the burden or the stigma upon one section where slave-labor happened to form a basis of its economic system. The slave-labor system was essentially mass-production agriculture and New England mills hummed with the product of this labor system.

That said, the slave-labor system in the South did not arise because the Englishmen who settled Virginia were particularly committed to the enslavement of their fellow human beings. It arose for the same reason and at the same time that the transatlantic slave trade arose in New England – because it was profitable. Slavery came to the South for the same reason that cattle-raising came to Texas, cattle-slaughter to Chicago, the exploitation of Okies to California, and the exploitation of immigrants to Northern factory owners. It came because, in a new and vast land where everyone had come for opportunity. The soil and the climate of the American South were peculiarly adapted to the use of chattel labor imported from the hot climate of Africa.

From 1831 to 1861 Southerners were aroused to defense by the vindictiveness of the fanatics who were as callously indifferent to the means as they were irresponsible for the ends.

To Northern abolitionists, the emancipation of slaves achieved the goal of “freedom”; to all Southerners, four million black people in a society of five and a half million whites created an appalling problem. It was a problem that Lincoln, contrary to the myth of a logical progression toward human liberty, understood very well. He wrote on slavery: “I think no wise man has yet perceived how it could be at once eradicated without producing a great evil even to the cause of human liberty itself.”

(Martin County During the Civil War. James H. McCallum, M.D., Enterprise Publishing Co., 1971, pp. 4-6)

Lincoln’s Caribbean Colonization Plan

The passage below records Lincoln’s narrow, sectional view of the reason war came in 1861. The war came not because the black man was in America, but due to Lincoln raising an unconstitutional army with troops from equally guilty Republican governors and invading Virginia. Three months lapsed before Congress met to review what the new president had done without authority, with the latter approving his actions under threat of arrest and confinement by Lincoln’s private military.

Lincoln’s colonization scheme for black “contrabands” who were not wanted in the north, revealed his true feeling toward the black race. This naïve plan ran into difficulty as speculators overextended themselves and as the existing countries of the region threatened war against what they saw as a clever scheme of Yankee imperialism. This scheme of colonization is well-covered in the recent book “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here” (Thuersam) from Shotwell Publishing.

Lincoln’s Caribbean Colonization Plan

“In August 1862, a committee of free blacks headed by Edward M. Thomas, president of the Anglo-African Institution for the Encouragement of Industry and Art, was invited to the White House. Introduced to Lincoln by the Reverend James Mitchell, the federal Commissioner of Emigration, the committee was there to hear the president’s arguments for black colonization.

Waiving the question of right or wrong, and implying that blacks were as much at fault as whites, Lincoln pointed to the long-standing and apparently permanent antipathy between the races.  Each race, in his opinion, suffered from the presence of the other. Not only were the vast majority of blacks held as slaves, but even free blacks were not treated as equals by white men, not could they ever expect to be. “The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.”

Overlooking the inability of his own race to confront the reciprocal problems of slavery and equality, Lincoln then blamed the blacks for the fact that whites were “cutting one another’s throats” in a civil war. “But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or another.”

Physical removal seemed the best solution. Urging blacks to emulate George Washington’s sacrifices during the Revolution and asking for colonization leaders “capable of thinking as white men,” Lincoln painted a glowing picture of the attractions of founding a colony in Central America. The region Lincoln had in mind, a site on the Isthmus of Chiriqui in the Caribbean, was far closer to the United States than the original black colony of Liberia in Africa.

The site was thought to contain rich coal deposits to provide jobs for black settlers and profits for the Northern speculators who had an interest in these mines. In what he hoped would clinch his case, Lincoln told his black audience that there would be no color prejudice in racially-mixed Central America and that the climate would be beneficial to what Northerners assumed was the peculiar adaptability of blacks to the tropics.”

(Flawed Victory – A New Perspective on the Civil War. William L. Barney. University Press of America, 1980, pp. 60-62)

Jul 2, 2022 - Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Historical Accuracy    Comments Off on South to the Promised Land

South to the Promised Land

The newest federal holiday was to recognize the June 19, 1865, emancipation of enslaved black people in Texas. On that date northern Gen. Gordon Grainger of New York told black slaves who were not already aware of how to gain their freedom, of their new status in the US. These remaining slaves in Texas had not already taken advantage of the well-known “Mexican Caanan” a short distance southward.

South to the Promised Land

“Historian Alice Baumgartner states ‘After independence from Spain, in 1821, ‘Mexico passed these really radical antislavery laws, and Mexicans at all levels of society were serious about enforcing them. This was well-known to enslaved people on the US side of the border.’

In 1849, Mexico’s Congress decreed foreign slaves free “by the act of stepping on the national territory.” This soon became common knowledge among enslaved people in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and what would later become Oklahoma.  They envisioned what historian calls a “Mexican Canaan” across the Rio Grande – a promised land where they could be free.

They made the arduous journey through Texas . . . In the 1850s a dozen slaves were reaching Matamoros, Mexico every month. Two-hundred seventy arrived in Laredo, in Tamaulipas, just across the border from Laredo, Texas.”

(South to the Promised Land, Richard Grant. Smithsonian Magazine, July/August 2022, pg. 82; 84-85)

Emancipation and Colonization

The antebellum idea of compensated emancipation for slaves never gained traction as the North would not agree to help fund the repatriation of Africans’ they themselves had grown wealthy importing to the Americas for 100 years or more. Abraham Lincoln was an avid proponent of colonization once his armies overran the South and created refugees, knowing the North would not accept them flooding northward. Lincoln’s Caribbean colonization schemes are mentioned below and further detailed in the soon-to-be-released “Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here: Key West’s Civil War,” by Bernhard Thuersam.  www.shotwellpublishing.com.

Emancipation and Colonization

Hugh Talmadge Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome well-explained antebellum views toward slavery in their History of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1954). They wrote that slavery was the most serious antebellum controversy between North and South with people in both sections criticizing it as a moral, economic and social evil. But importantly, the United States Constitution recognized those held to labor and left the States with complete authority over the question within their own borders. Though every Northern State took action to begin gradual emancipation by 1804 – with many selling their slaves southward – no Southern State followed suit because of economic, social and racial considerations.

Lefler and Newsome wrote that “Many Southerners opposed slavery and realized its dangerous possibilities, but most of the early Southern opposition to the slavery was conditioned upon the “antislavery” idea of gradual emancipation to owners, and colonization to Africa or elsewhere. The colonization plan, sponsored by various manumission societies, proved impractical, though Liberia on the African coast was begun as a result of a few thousand Negroes being colonized there by the joint efforts of these societies and acts of Congress.”

The question of colonization was on the mind of Abraham Lincoln once his 1861 invasion destroyed Upper South plantations and produced numerous black refugees.  It was Lincoln’s early intention to emancipate by decree through constitutional amendments and compensating owners – but this failed to gain support in his fractious party.

Author Michael J. Douma has written extensively of Lincoln’s colonization plans and noting that “Historians have long known that in the summer of 1862 Lincoln announced his intention to negotiate with foreign powers concerning the colonization of freedmen abroad.” For the next two years federally-funded initiatives arose to settle freedmen in Chiriqui [Panama] and Haiti – in addition to the British Honduras, Guiana and Dutch Surinam. These talks were quite serious and continued even after the war, anticipating the transport of freedmen to these islands as laborers.

The Danes also expressed interest in colonizing unwanted contrabands to work their plantations on St. Croix, now the US Virgin Islands. In 1862 Seward signed an agreement with the Danes to take all captured aboard slave ships in the Atlantic to St. Croix to work as plantation labor despite Danish acknowledgement that workers on the island would not find conditions much different from previous slavery, but they would be technically “free.” To facilitate the process of removal the Lincoln authorized Danish ships to sail down the US east coast to recruit freedmen. The Danish minister viewed South Carolina as a highly fertile recruiting ground which was seconded by Secretary of State Seward. The Dutch were also fascinated with freedmen and actively sought them as labor for their colony of Suriname on South America’s northeast coast.

Lincoln and Seward were not the only proponents of colonization as they were ably supported by leading Republicans Charles Sumner, Francis Blair, Preston King and Benjamin Wade. Though supportive before 1863, all became aware of the value of black troops used to invade the South as white volunteers became hard to find or had to be paid astronomical financial bounties to enlist. Few black men stepped forward and many had to be coerced, but by war’s end the colonization to the Caribbean regained speed.

 

Emancipation Explained

Perhaps in anticipation of emancipation, in 1862 the constitutional convention in Illinois proposed in Article XVII that “No Negro or mulatto shall migrate or settle in this State; No Negro or mulatto shall have the right of suffrage or hold any office in the State; The general assembly shall pass all laws necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this article.”

Emancipation Explained

“As incident to the war of 1861 “and as a fit and necessary war measure” in September 1862, was issued a paper which (with a sequel 100 days later) is called “proclamation of emancipation.” By this in portions of the country called rebellious, slaves were made free, unless by the 1st of January 1863, said communities ceased to rebel. Slave ownership was to be the reward of loyalty, slave abolition the penalty of rebellion.

This might be translated: “Negroes shall continue to be slaves to their masters if only their masters will be slaves to us. Let us have in peace the jobs which are in sight and your slaves may reap in peace your harvests, taxed only by our tariffs. We will let you have your slaves if you will let us have your freedom.”

After this offer had been made and rejected, who had the right to say that the South was fighting to preserve slavery, or Lincoln for the slave’s freedom? As in the South construed, the motive was not to free the slave but to enslave the free.

In October 1863, Lord Brougham (an abolitionist ab initio) referring to this proclamation said: “Hollow we may well call it for those who proclaimed emancipation confess that it was a measure of hostility to the whites and designed to produce slave insurrection from which the much enduring nature of the unhappy Negro saved the country.”

(Brilliant Eulogy on Gen. W.H. Payne from Good Old Rebels Who Don’t Care, Leigh Robinson, Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXXVI, R.A. Brock, ed., 1991, Broadfoot Publishing, pp. 328-331)

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