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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)

New York City Schools – Circa 1957

Policemen in School Corridors?

The US News & World Report, December 6, 1957, pg. 94.

“Juvenile crime in New York public schools no becomes so serious that a grand jury wants to put police inside each school. “Blackboard jungles,” mostly in Negro and Puerto Rican areas, give most difficulty. Crime complaints exceed 2100 this year. Must schools be policed? A top official says, “We do not want Little Rock in New York City.” Yet trouble is mounting.”

NEW YORK CITY – Serious trouble in the public schools of the nation’s largest city broke into the open last week with a recommendation for drastic action.

Delinquency of all kinds had been growing with 1280 arrests made on New York City school grounds thus far this year. These had been for offenses ranging from petty thievery to rape and murder. A special grand jury investigating lawlessness in Brooklyn’s public schools came up on November 25 with this terse recommendation:

“This grand jury recommends that a uniformed New York City policeman be assigned to all schools throughout the city to patrol the corridors, the stairways and the recreation yards as a preventative measure.”

Reaction to the proposal was swift. New York City Superintendent of Schools William Jansen called it “unthinkable.”

Nevertheless, there was agreement that the situation was serious and close to being out of hand. The judge presiding over the grand jury, Samuel Leibowitz stated that “conditions were alarming and that school authorities have been utterly incapable of coping with the situation.”

Most of the “difficult” schools as listed by the city’s Board of Education are situated in predominantly Negro and Puerto Rican neighborhoods. Student achievement levels there are generally below the average for the city and discipline is a major problem. Teachers are reported to be frequently defied by pupils and, in some instances, to be threatened with physical harm by gang members who invade the classrooms.

The at-school crime that finally touched off the grand jury probe occurred in September at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn. There, a 17-year-old Negro boy hurled a bottle of lye into a classroom, partially blinding one boy and splattering 18 other pupils and the teacher.

Fear of being assigned to a difficult school has hurt teacher recruiting efforts although the extent of the damage cannot be measured. The facts now coming to light about New York’s school problem indicate that troubles here run deep, and serious school problems, it appears, are not confined to the American South.”

 

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.

 

Subjugated Hostile and Belligerent Enemies

The idea of some States using military force to coerce another into remaining in the political union against its will, and ”reconstructing” if it dared exercise independence, would have bewildered the Founders. The Tenth Amendment itself, inserted for the express purpose of stating that any authority or power not specifically delineated in the Constitution as a power of the federal government, was reserved to the States.

Fielding its first presidential candidate in 1854, it required only 6 years for the new Republican party to drive one State out of the Union, and one month more for several others to depart as well. Its first presidential candidate gained victory through a plurality of 39% and more votes cast against rather than for him. Thus installed in the White House, this new President waged war upon the States, which is treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution he was sworn to uphold.

Subjugated Hostile and Belligerent Enemies

“In April, 1862, [Michigan] Congressman Fernando Beaman claimed that as a consequence of rebellion a Southern State “ceased to be a member of the Union . . . as a State.” Therefore, Beaman reasoned, Congress must establish a provisional or territorial government in each of the seceding States, before it could again exercise full power. One of the first to take “an advanced and correct position on the question of reconstruction,” Beaman was congratulated by Charles Sumner for his views.

Because of its emphasis on the presidential role in Reconstruction, Lincoln’s 10% plan inspired scant respect among Michigan congressmen. John Longyear claimed that . . . only Congress had the authority to admit new States. The Southerners, stated Longyear, should be treated as subjugated enemies. Until a majority became loyal, [Senator Jacob] Howard advocated keeping the South out of the Union and in “tutelage” up to twenty years.” Howard reasoned that a hostile and belligerent community could not claim the right to elect members of Congress. “Are public enemies,” he asked, “entitled to be represented in the Legislature of the United States?”

[Senator Zachariah Chandler growled], “a secessionist traitor is beneath a Negro. I would let a loyal Negro vote. I would let him testify; I would let him fight; I would let him do any other good thing, and I would exclude a secession traitor.”

[Like other Radicals who disliked Lincoln], Senator Chandler reacted [to his death] in a calculating manner. “I believe that the Almighty continued Mr. Lincoln in office as long as he was useful . . .” Had Lincoln’s policy been carried out, he believed that Jefferson Davis and his followers would be back in the Senate; “but now, gloated the Senator, “their chance to stretch hemp [is] better than for the Senate . . .”

Radical Republican Motivation: A Case History, George M. Blackburn, Journal of Negro History, Vol. LIV, No. 2, April 1969, pp. 111-113)

A Triton Among Minnows

Northern Capt. John William DeForest of Connecticut was employed in the postwar as an officer in the Freedmen’s Bureau at Greenville, South Carolina.  A man fully unsuited to his task and condescending to his charges, he referred to his district as “his satrapy” and fully-acknowledged his “native infamy as a Yankee” among South Carolinians who understandably despised he and his government. Nonetheless, he did recognize those at the top of the South’s social scale — “chivalrous Southrons.” He knew that this aristocracy – not unlike this own aristocracy in Connecticut – enjoyed the advantages of tradition and breeding. He appreciated their sense of noblesse oblige, consideration of others, grace of bearing, genuine courtesy, and personal courage. And he did not miss the hot tempers which he termed “pugnacity,” and emphasis on virility.

A Triton Among Minnows

“Southern chivalry, you see, Madame,” said Mr. Calhoun Burden of Greenville, South Carolina to the wife of a United States surgeon.

Mr. Burden, a stoutish, middle-aged gentleman, richly flavored with Durham tobacco and Pickens whiskey, and as proud of himself in his suit of homespun as if it were broadcloth, had called in a reconstructing spirit on the Yankee family and in the course of conversation had found it desirable to put a question to the colored servant-girl.

Making a solemn bow to the mistress of the house, he said, “With your permission, Madame”; then added, in an impressive parenthesis, “Southern chivalry, you see, Madame”; then delivered his query.

That no such delicate behavior was known among the Vandals north of Mason and Dixon’s line; that it could not easily be matched in Europe except among the loftiest nobility; that it was especially and eminently Southern chivalry – such was the faith of Mr. Calhoun Burden.

It was a grotesque and yet not a very exaggerated exhibition of the ancient sectional and personal pride of the Southerner. He never forgot that he represented a high-type of humanity and that it was his duty not to let that type suffer by his representation. In the company of Yankees and foreigners he always bore in mind that he was a triton among minnows, and he endeavored to so carry himself as that the minnows should take note of the superiority of the triton character.

In men of native intelligence and high breeding this self-respect produces a very pleasing manner, an ease which is not assumption, a dignity which is not hauteur, consideration for the vanity of others, grace of bearing, and fluency of speech.”

(A Union Officer in the Reconstruction, J. Croushore/David Potter, Archon Books, 1968, pp. 173-174)

 

 

An Aristocracy of Color

Antebellum North Carolina was home to an aristocracy of industrious free-black merchants, craftsmen and farmers, such as barber John Caruthers, “Barber Jack” Stanly of New Bern.  Stanly invested his profits into plantations and town property, making him one of Craven County’s most prosperous citizens with over $40,000 in personal wealth. Free-black brick mason Donom Mumford of the same community owned ten slaves.  Also, Virginia-born, free-black Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina, owned fourteen slaves and was an acclaimed master cabinetmaker in the 1850’s with an extensive clientele.  See: The Free Negro in North Carolina, John Hope Franklin, UNC Press, 1943.

An Aristocracy of Color

“The diary which William Tiler Johnson kept from 1835 to his death in 1851 reveals the remarkable life of this exceptional free Negro in a Southern community.

In the 1830s William made profits of $15 to $20 a day from his barber shop and eventually accumulated an estate worth $25,000. He invested capital in two stores which he rented out, made loans to white residents and owned a farm, which he named “Hardscrabble.”

To work his farm William owned fifteen slaves and employed a white overseer to direct their daily work. A gun owner, he hunted regularly, enjoyed the theater where he sat in the colored gallery among friends, attended horse races, and subscribed to five or six newspapers. He took a keen interest in city affairs, politics, criminal court, militia musters as well as fireman’s parades.

Maintaining terms of friendship with several of his barber patrons, William respected the community standards of the day against dining or drinking with white people. He belonged to the aristocracy of the free people of color, avoiding “darky dances and parties.”

(The Growth of Southern Civilization: 1790-1860, Clement Eaton, Harper & Row, 1961, pg. 92-93)

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

Author Howard Ray White writes in his new “Rebirthing Lincoln” that Northern forces concentrating black refugees together in “contraband camps” promoted sickness and disease. He notes as well a smallpox epidemic “was first noted in 1862 among black congregations in Washington, DC . . . It subsequently spread south reaching epidemic levels among blacks and arriving in Texas in 1868.” This excellent and timely book is available in print or audiobook formats at www.Amazon.com.

The book helps make it clear that had the war been avoided through patience, diplomacy and a constitutional convention of States to solve their differences peacefully, the lives noted below would have been saved and the Founders’ republic perpetuated. Or perhaps two or more American republics, as Jefferson anticipated.

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

“The December 2011 issue of Civil War History, a scholarly journal published quarterly be The Kent State University Press, presented a highly-praised, 41-page census quantitative study by J. David Hacker, titled “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War Dead.” Hacker, presently at the University of Minnesota, reports that his study indicates that our ancestors suffered 750,000 soldier deaths instead of the 620,000 traditional number, an increase of 130,000.  He believes the Confederate deaths from disease and accidents have been seriously undercounted.

Due to the North’s scorched-earth policy, food, clothing and shoes were often scarce, increasing the death rate from exposure and disease, so we assign 70% of those 130,000 deaths to Confederates, elevating their death total from 260,000 to 350,000. The death toll for Lincoln’s invaders rises to 400,000. Hacker’s figures include war injuries that resulted in death up to 4 years after surrender.

A death toll of 350,000 Southern men represents 30 percent of the white male population, aged 18 to 48, that were living in the seceded States when Lincoln launched his invasion. And a death toll of 400,000 Northern men, many, many just-arriving immigrants, represents 9 percent of that population, aged 18 to 48.

Applying 30 percent to today’s American population (2010 census), calculates to 21 million deaths – a war death toll that today’s Americans cannot comprehend. Only the region between the Rhine and Volga in World War II suffered greater mortality.

White civilian deaths during Lincoln’s invasion and the first four years of the political Reconstruction that followed are a very sad historical story. William Cawthon estimated that 35,000 white civilians died. Historian James McPherson calculates that the North’s war against civilians destroyed two-thirds of the assessed value of wealth in the Confederate States, two-fifths of their livestock and over half of their farm machinery, resulting in a destitute people, struggling to find enough to eat, unable to control their future.”

(Rebirthing Lincoln: A Biography, Howard Ray White, Southern Books, 2021, excerpt pg. 258)

Seward on God’s Poor

It is erroneous that the Republican party of Lincoln was an “anti-slavery” party and hostile to slavery. The party depended greatly upon new and recent immigrant votes, those who wanted cheap or free land and no labor competition from black people. The western territories were to be reserved for immigrant whites, the South was not to be allowed to bring their workers to the west.  The war of course destroyed the South’s economy and political strength, forced Southerners to accept Northern decrees, and to keep its black people in the South where they could not take jobs from white Northerners.

Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, viewed black people as did Lincoln, who, when asked of their postwar future stated that they must “root-hog or die.” And he meant that they had to do this in the South and nowhere else in the country. This would quickly change with Radical Republican control of the party and the imperative that Grant be elected president in 1868. To effect this they enfranchised 500,000 illiterate men to vote against New York’s Horatio Seymour, who lost that election by some 300,000 votes.

Seward on God’s Poor

“But Seward viewed the Black Codes as an issue of secondary importance. He was now concerned more with reconciliation between the white majorities, North and South, than he was with the fate of the blacks, for whom the war had already brought freedom. In April, 1866 he gave an interview to Charles Eliot Norton and Edwin Godkin, publishers of the influential magazine Nation.

According to Seward there should be no question about re-admitting the South to full representation in Congress; it had as much right to representation as did the North. He then responded to a question about the blacks:

“The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. They are God’s poor; they always have been and always will be so everywhere . . . the laws of political economy will determine their position and the relations of the two races.”

(William Henry Seward: Lincoln’s Right Hand, John M. Taylor, Harper Collins, 1991, excerpt pg. 260)

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

The path of Sherman’s army across Georgia was strewn with “outrages and barbarities of the most repulsive nature” wrote Southern newspapers, with the Macon Telegraph claiming that “Southern women had been overpowered by the “lustful appetites of the hell-hounds.” The “cesspools of Northern infamy and corruption” had been dredged, it said, “in order to collect the infamous spawn of perdition sent out to despoil our country.” Sherman, by the acts of hiss men, had earned “the fame of the ravisher, the incendiary and the thief.” His men did not draw a color line as black “comfort women” followed his army.

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

“[Sherman’s] army continued to support its burden of Negro followers . . . despite Sherman’s admonitions. Altogether, about twenty-five thousand – four Negroes for every ten soldiers – tagged along, but about three fourths of them became disillusioned by their new “freedom” and, after a few days of starting out, began the weary trek back to their home places. When Sherman and his men came within sight of the coast, the horde had dwindled to sixty-eight hundred.

[They] were fascinated by the guns and volunteered to “tote” them for the men. In camp they looked after the pots and pans and helped out with the cooking. At night they entertained their “liberators” with their plaintive plantation melodies. And the good-looking women peddled sex.

Sherman naturally was reluctant to take on these added appetites to be satisfied. And he had a strong personal dislike for colored people. (Damn the n****r! he once exploded.)

A large number of Negroes lost their lives in a few minutes of horror and hysteria at Ebeneezer Creek. Upon approaching the creek, General Jeff Davis of the XIV Corps . . . ordered the [bridge] pontoons taken up, leaving the Negroes on the west bank. In desperation, the Negroes attempted a mass crossing. Even the few who could swim had great trouble making it . . . many were drowned.

[When] the Christian Commission asked Sherman to allow its agents – distributing literature and conducting religious services – to carry on their work among the troops, he shot back, “Certainly not . . . Crackers and oats are more necessary for the army than any moral and religious agency, and every regiment has its chaplain.”

(Those 163 Days: A Southern Account of Sherman’s March from Atlanta to Raleigh, John M. Gibson, Bramhall House, 1961, excerpts pp. 73-75)

 

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina

Col. Joseph Newton Brown led the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers in the Gregg-McGowan Brigade at Gettysburg, and later at Spotsylvania. At Gettysburg’s Seminary battle his regiment lost heavily from enemy artillery, losing over 200 in killed and wounded out of 475 carried into action.  After the war Col. Brown became Anderson, South Carolina’s first millionaire, who built an imposing home on three acres of land on North Main Street in 1890. It was demolished in August, 1953.

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina, Nov. 11, 1861

“Dear Mother, We marched from Pocotaligo yesterday and arrived at dark. This place is a junction of two roads which the enemy must pass in going to Charleston if they land anywhere east of the Salt River Ferry. We are ordered to retreat from this point in case of an attack by an overwhelming force. We passed [some] poor fellows yesterday evening . . . [who] barely escaped from being taken prisoners and had to leave all their baggage, tents and provisions and in fact brought nothing but their muskets with them.

But the worst remains to be told. The terror stricken inhabitants have left their homes and property in the possession of the enemy. We met them all the way and with tears in their eyes they encouraged us to strike for their homes and fireside. The ladies would talk to the meanest looking private and tell him the enemy was in his front and to meet them as became Carolinians.  The richest and finest dressed lady would ask the soldier if he was willing to fight for her.

You cannot imagine the dreadful state of things existing here. Plantations are deserted and Negroes by hundreds wandering through the country without a master or anyone to tell them what to do or where to go. The railroad trains are all crowded with women and children and the men have shouldered their guns, leaving all things else to take care of themselves.

Beaufort is deserted by the inhabitants and the enemy occupies it at his pleasure. The Negroes were left in the town and as soon as the whites had departed they broke open the stores and groceries and are now reveling in drunkenness and disorder. One man left his little children and went to hunt a place for their safety and on his return found a drunken Negro beating one of them nearly to death. The promise of freedom will ruin many a one which the master has depended on as faithful.

Direct [your letters] to Pocotaligo, Beaufort District, S.C. My love to all. Trusting that the God of Sumter and Manassas will be with South Carolina’s sons in the conflict before us, we will put our reliance in Him. I will write as often as circumstances will permit.

Your affectionate son, Joseph N. Brown

(A Colonel at Gettysburg and Spotsylvania, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, pp. 39-40)

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