Browsing "New England History"

South Carolina’s Devotion to the Union

Famed orator and debater Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina served as South Carolina Senator 1823-1832, governor of that State 1832-1834, and mayor of Charleston 1836-1837.  He famously debated Daniel Webster of Massachusetts in Congress in early 1830 over concerns that the federation’s government was attracting too much revenue, accumulating too much debt and trending toward consolidation. Hayne further reminded Webster of New England’s infamous trading with the enemy and threats of secession during the War of 1812.

South Carolina’s Devotion to the Union

“If there be one State in this Union (and I say it not in a boastful spirit) that may challenge comparison with any other for a uniform, zealous, ardent and uncalculating devotion to the Union, that State is South Carolina.

Sir, from the very commencement of the Revolution, up to this hour, there is no sacrifice, however great, she has not cheerfully made; no service she has ever hesitated to perform.”

“What sir, was the conduct of the South during the Revolution? Sir, I honor New England for her conduct in the glorious struggle . . . [but] I think equal honor is due the South. Favorites of the mother country, possessed of neither ships nor seamen to create commercial rivalship, they might have found in their situation a guarantee that their trade would be forever fostered and protected by Great Britain. But trampling on all considerations, either of interest or of safety, [the South] rushed into the conflict, and, fighting for principle, periled all in the sacred cause of freedom. Never was there exhibited, in the history of the world, higher examples of noble daring, dreadful suffering and heroic endurance, than by the whigs of Carolina, during that Revolution.”

And the War of 1812, called in derision by New England, said Hayne, “the southern war,” what was the conduct of South Carolina? The war was for the protection of northern shipping and New England seamen.

‘What interest had the South in that contest? If they sat down coldly to calculate the value of their own interests involved in it, they would have found they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. But sir, with that generous devotion to country so characteristic of the South, they only asked if the rights of any portion of their fellow-citizens had been invaded; and when told that northern ships and New England seamen had been arrested on the common highway of nations, they felt that the honor of the country was assailed . . . they resolved to seek, in open war, for a redress of those injuries which it did not become freemen to endure.’

The conduct of Massachusetts, declared Hayne, was in that war so unpatriotic and disgraceful, her acts in opposing the war so shameless, that “her own legislature, but a few years ago, actually blotted them out from the records as a stain upon the honor of the country.”

(The True Daniel Webster. Sydney George Fisher. J.B. Lippincott Company. 1911, pp. 254-255)

A Second Boston Massacre

New York’s Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democrat, firmly believed that conscription was unconstitutional as the federal government was to depend upon the States to furnish needed troops. He charged Lincoln’s draft with bringing disgrace upon the American name and shamed his administration. Seymour further declared that neither the President nor the Congress had a right ‘to force men to take part in the ungodly conflict which is distracting the land.’ Seymour also charged – and proved – that Lincoln levied higher draft quotas upon New York’s Democratic voting districts as part of a ‘manifest design to reduce the Democratic majority of voters.’ In short, the draft was designed, it appeared to Seymour, ‘to take Democrats into the army and exempt Republicans.’

New York City’s bloody draft riot which began July 11, 1863, ended the lives of some 120 residents as blue-coated soldiers hurried from Gettysburg opened fire on them with muskets and cannon. At least five black men were hung as demonstrators denounced Lincoln’s emancipation war. Strong anti-draft riots occurred across the State to include Buffalo, and throughout the north.

In Boston, though the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment was available, Gov. John Andrew feared that the sight of colored soldiers might excite his white citizenry. This colored regiment contained nearly 400 men enticed mostly from Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania to count toward Massachusetts troop quota and leave white residents at home. Only 22 soldiers were Massachusetts residents; 3 were Canadians. The black soldiers were hurried away and replaced with white men.

The governor’s fears were realized on July 14, 1863, when nearly a thousand angry residents – many of them women and children – gathered in front of the city’s Cooper Street Armory. After they hurled paving bricks at the wooden doors, a nervous officer inside ordered a field cannon loaded with grapeshot wheeled to the door and opened fire on the crowd, killing at least 14 and maiming many more.

This senseless slaughter of civilians recalled the massacre just over 93 years earlier, when British soldiers fired into a crowd of three hundred jeering and rock-throwing Boston residents. Eight were killed and five wounded. The post-riot investigation featured future US president John Adams representing the British soldiers.

(Lincoln and the War Governors. William B. Hesseltine. Alfred A. Knopf. 1948, pg. 305)

 

 

Colorphobia at New Orleans

In early 1863 Gen. Nathaniel Banks commanded occupied New Orleans and had to deal with problems between his New England troops and colored soldiers of the former Louisiana Native Guards – reconstituted as “Gen. Butler’s Native Guards.” The original Louisiana Native Guards of the city, officers and men, were all free, and in May 1861 were mustered into State service. They became the first black unit in the Civil War, serving a Confederate State. After conquering New Orleans Butler worked to change this during his tenure with most free blacks leaving the unit and replaced by contrabands.

Butler’s replacement, Gen. Banks, was a Waltham, Massachusetts native who shared the deep prejudices of his fellow New Englanders.

Colorphobia at New Orleans

“British-born Colonel Leonard Currie of the 133rd New York Infantry told his men “to continue in the performance of their duty until such time as the regiment is brought in contact with [black soldiers] by guard duty, drills or otherwise.” If that happened, he promised to march them back to their camp so as not to cause “their self-confidence or manliness to be lowered by contact with an inferior race.” The colonel’s prejudices were shared by the post commander, Brigadier General Cuvier Grover, who refuse to recognize Butler’s Native Guards 3rd Regiment as part of the Union army and would not allow it to draw clothing, blankets, or pay.

The volatile situation exploded within days of the 3rd Regiment’s arrival when a black captain reported for duty as officer of the day. The guard was composed of white soldiers from the 13th Maine Regiment of Colonel George Foster Shepley, a Saco, Maine native and Harvard graduate. When the black captain arrived to inspect the guard, the soldiers refused to recognize his authority. The white soldiers were willing to “obey every order consistent with their manhood,” a news correspondent reported, “but as to acknowledging a [black man] their superior, by any virtue of the shoulder straps he might wear, they would not.” The situation quickly turned ugly. The black officer pressed his authority; the white soldiers grounded their rifles in protest and threatened to kill him should he attempt to coerce their obedience.” (National Anti-Slavery Standard, February 28, 1863).

Gen. Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts, the new department commander at New Orleans, soon heard of the episode but did not punish the mutinous white soldiers from the 13th Maine. Banks called the black officers for an interview, listened to their grievances, then instructed them that it was not the government’s policy to commission blacks as officers in the US Army. Banks then recommended they all resign to avoid the embarrassment of being kicked out. Uncertain of their future, the black officers agreed and all sixteen resigned and to their surprise soon found that their white replacements had already been named to take their place.”

(Louisiana Native Guards, James G. Hollandsworth, LSU Press, 1995, pp. 44-45)

Apr 26, 2023 - America Transformed, New England History, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Rebel Shipbuilders: The Brothers Tift

Rebel Shipbuilders: The Brothers Tift

The American war of 1861-1865 revealed the depth of the irreparable schism between the sections as well as the unusual sectional allegiances it produced. None was more unusual than Mystic, Connecticut born brothers Asa and Nelson Tift who arrived on the island of Key West with their parents and siblings in 1826. Asa remained on the island to run the family chandlery business while Nelson departed in 1830 to pursue his fortune in Georgia. They were both well-acquainted with Stephen Mallory who would become Confederate Secretary of the Navy, and with whom they helped develop the South’s ironclad navy.

Ironclad designer Nelson Tift became south Georgia’s antebellum economic prosperity machine – Tift County and the city of Tifton are namesakes. Asa returned to Key West postwar to rebuild his business and in 1876 constructed a “West Indian Creole” mansion at 907 Whitehead Street complete with an ironclad-shaped planter in the entrance walkway. The home was later purchased by Ernest Hemingway about 1931.

The following is excerpted from “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” The book is available from Shotwell Publishing,  www.maryjanesclosetfloridakeys.com and www.amazon.com.

Rebel Shipbuilders: The Brothers Tift

How two Mystic, Connecticut natives came to put their lives and fortunes on the line for the American South can be explained only through the culture they adopted, families and many friendships made over time. Nelson, Asa and Charles all had profited greatly in business while absorbing and coming to understand the rich, patriarchal culture around them. With Southern wives and families, they all risked their lives and fortunes in defense of the South and were among the many who deeply believed that secession could be accomplished peacefully. After all, President James Buchanan opposed the withdrawal of States but was aware that his constitutional powers did not include waging war against any of “them,” as stated in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution.  Like their Southern neighbors who surrounded them, Asa, Nelson and Charles all understood that the citizens of a sovereign State, North or South, had every right to decide its own political future.

Nelson designed a simple green-pine vessel with triangular ends that could be cheaply built along the South’s coast, armed with 16-cannon, 8 per side, and one end reinforced for ramming. He and Asa travelled to Richmond in August 1861 to present a scale-model for review by Key West-friend and now Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory, and the Confederate Navy’s Board of Naval Officers, which included chief naval constructor John L. Porter and his engineer. The brothers received resounding approval and support.

In a letter to Mallory in late August the brothers proposed to superintend construction of Nelson’s warship employing ordinary carpenters who could be easily found, pledging to cede their ironclad invention to the Confederacy without compensation or profit other than reimbursement for their material and labor expenses, and travel costs, which was approved.

Arriving at New Orleans in mid-September 1861 with brother Charles attending to Nelson’s business interests at Albany after late October, the Tift brothers went to work on their ship, the CSS Mississippi, locating their shipyard – which had to be created with a sawmill, blacksmith shop, hull berths, and sheds for workers – on the Mississippi’s left bank above New Orleans at Jefferson City. Likely through Mallory’s influence former-US Navy paymaster Felix Senac from Key West was assigned as paymaster for both ironclads.

Fully aware that the CSS Mississippi was nearly complete, Capt. David Porter of the US Navy thought her “strong enough to drive off the whole Union fleet,” as it was “the most splendid specimen . . . the world had ever seen (a sea-going affair), and had she been finished and succeeded in getting to sea, the whole American navy would have been destroyed.”

(Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam. Shotwell Publishing, 2022. Excerpts pp. 114-119)

 

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)

Feb 3, 2023 - Antebellum Realities, New England History, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Riding Connecticut’s ‘Jim Crow’ Railroad in 1852

Riding Connecticut’s ‘Jim Crow’ Railroad in 1852

Riding Connecticut’s “Jim Crow” Railroad in 1852

“We recently noticed the statement of an occurrence on a Connecticut railroad, where a lady from the South, travelling with her child and its colored nurse, were surprised at an order to the latter to get out of the lady’s car and take her place in the ‘n****r’ car.

The Southern lady remonstrated, informed the conductor that she had paid full fare for her servant, who was there simply as a servant, and would trouble no one. She said she could not be separated from her child in such a place and was unable from habit to take proper care of her – but all was to no avail.

‘That n****r must go out or I shall put her out’ said the conductor, so the lady had no choice but to seat herself with her child and servant in the ‘Jim Crow’ car, paying double price for it! The traveler said such treatment would not be endured in Carolina or Mississippi.” The Boston Investigator.

(Source: American Historical Newspaper Database – 1850-1860)

New England’s Black Ivory

The American South could not have become the destination for Africans enslaved by their own people without the ships of the Portuguese, Spaniards, French, British – and New Englanders. The latter had become a notorious smuggling center by 1750 as it surpassed Liverpool in the outfitting of slave ships in the infamous rum triangle.

It can be accurately stated that Britain’s Navigation Acts after the Seven Years’ War were aimed directly at New England smugglers and their African-West Indian trade, which helped bring on the American Revolution.

New England’s Black Ivory

Well-before the American Revolution, New England had engaged in smuggling goods to the other colonies and West Indies in violation of British law. This traffic left little for British merchants to import into the colonies and led Parliament to keep a watchful eye on its New England colonies. Author Reese Wolfe in his 1953 “”Yankee Ships” wrote:

“Shipbuilding, especially for New England’s triangular trade for African slaves, was sufficiently profitable for the shipbuilders of the Thames district to meet in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complain to the Lords of Trade: “. . . the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on [our] work.”

Linked inseparably with New England’s ventures south to the West Indies was its brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling black ivory. For the West Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses.

Like so many momentous occasions in history, the start of the slave trade had been an offhand sort of occurrence. A Dutch privateer found itself with twenty Negroes taken from a Spanish ship and, not knowing what to do with them, dropped anchor in the river at Jamestown in 1619, a year before Plymouth Rock. The Negroes were offered cheap as laborers, and the Virginia settlers decided to trade tobacco for them. The swap was made and the Dutch sailed away, leaving behind them a cancerous growth that was to bring the parent body close to death before the disease was arrested.

Meanwhile, the Virginians did not call them slaves; as late as 1660 Virgnia court records still referred to Negroes as indentured servants. The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637, and a more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in New England’s West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of the all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly-prized among the native Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgement to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport and on south. Or most of the way south. Foreign ships for the most part maintained the supply in the deep South.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whisky for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. New England rum, it is generally agreed, had more to do with the destruction of the Indian tribes on the eastern seaboard than all the wars in which they were engaged put together.”

(Yankee Ships: An Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, pp. 42-44)

 

The Triumph of Industrialism

Prior to 1861 the American union was a federation of member States which jealously guarded their own territory and sovereignty to decide upon their own internal affairs. This also included determining whether or not to continue membership in that federation and departing it for another as was done in 1789. Also, by 1861 the North had become a far different region that the American South through industrialization and the relentless immigration of foreigners lacking an understanding of American republicanism.

The Triumph of Industrialism

“The ordeal which beset the United States in 1861 was related to the upheaval on the continent in 1848, and to the spasm which shook England in 1832. In a veiled and confused yet crucial way it, too, was a test of strength between the industrial way of life and the agrarian.

When the Machine first reached this country it took root in the North, and there alone it was able to make even slow headway. The ruling elements in the South were inclined to despise the innovation, for they had black slaves to do their hard labor. In this they were merely repeating history.

The slave owners in ancient Greece had had a similar attitude toward machinery; so had the slave owners in ancient Rome and China and Mexico. These, it must be realized had not lacked the cunning to invent mechanical devices. A Greek mathematician named Hero who lived in the First Century actually built a working steam engine. But did it occur to him to put the contraption to practical use? It did not.  Instead, he installed it in a temple to amaze the worshippers by the way it worked the doors.

That was typical. The clock and the compass, gunpowder and the printing press – these were all invented in relatively ancient times. Yet until relatively modern times they were kept as mere playthings. Ingenious patricians with time on their hands were continually thinking up cunning devices; but never with the idea of applying them to save toil. They themselves did not toil, neither did any of their friends. They had slaves for that. So why bother? And that was precisely the attitude of the white gentry of the South and in their eyes an interest in machinery was vulgar.

In the North, however, the very opposite held true. Bondage had long since been outlawed in that section in part for climatic and other reasons it had too obviously failed to pay. Having no slave labor, the Northerners had naturally been forced to try to save labor. Since this could be done more easily in industry than agriculture, there had been an equally natural compulsion to favor the factory over the farm. The great boom of the 1850s was almost entirely confined to the North and it equipped that region with so much new machinery that it was able to manufacture six times as much merchandise as the South. As a result, the interests of the North, especially New England, became increasingly wrapped up in the fortunes of industrialism.

But as the collapse of that boom had revealed, those fortunes were increasingly insecure. When the Panic of 1857 finally waned and the Yankee industrialists began to pick themselves up from the dust, there was blood in their eyes.

They felt they had been betrayed. For years the industrialists had been complaining that their foreign rivals had them at a disadvantage and pleaded with Congress to come to their aid. They demanded these things: higher tariff walls to keep out cheap foreign merchandise; lowered immigration standards to admit cheap foreign labor; increase subsidies to shippers carrying Northern merchandise overseas; advance more generous loans to railroad companies; create one currency to replace the various State bank notes; and lastly, change the African slave into a free consumer who would spend his money buying Northern products.

But the Southerners had opposed that program to a man. Moreover, being superior politicians, they had always been able to make Congress vote their way. Now, however, the Northerners had their dander up and forged a political alliance with the radical farmers of the West and elected a cagey frontier lawyer named Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. Whereupon, there was war.

The South decided to secede from the 1789 Union. They decided they would rather have half a continent of their own than a whole one run by damn Yankees. Like agrarians everywhere else, their outlook on life had remained essentially provincial. They believed that a citizen’s first loyalty belonged not so much to his country as to his immediate countryside.

Rather than let the South gain independence, the North was ready to lay it to waste. With the Government furnishing the capital, and patriotism the incentive, they rushed to lay hold of more and more machinery. At the time it was called the “Civil War,” and later this somewhat sinister name was softened to the “War Between the States.” In effect, however, it was the “Second American Revolution.” The first had secured the triumph of republicanism on these shores; the second insured the triumph of industrialism.”

(Something Went Wrong: A Summation of Modern History, Lewis Browne, MacMillan Company, 1942, excerpts pp. 113-116)

Feb 23, 2022 - From Africa to America, New England History, New England's Slave Trade    Comments Off on Devout Puritan Slave Traders

Devout Puritan Slave Traders

Devout Puritan Slave Traders

“The first American slave ship shown in the records was the Rainbow which sailed from Boston for Africa in 1645. On the Guinea Coast her captain found a shortage of slaves at the trading posts. With the help of the captains of several English ships also waiting in vain for slaves, an expedition was organized to go into the interior. The slave hunters took along a “murderer,” a light cannon also called a swivel gun as it was mounted to be easily swung in any direction. With it they attacked a native village, killed many of its people and managed to capture a few slaves.

The Rainbow’s captain got only two for his share, but with his meager cargo he sailed back to Boston since there was a good market for slaves there. In Boston his troubles continued. The ship’s owner learned that the raid on the African village had taken place on a Sunday.

In the eyes of the stern Puritans this was a shocking crime and the captain was arrested, tried for murder, man-stealing and Sabbath-breaking. He was acquitted however, since the Massachusetts Bay court decided it had no power to punish a man for something that happened outside the colony. The two slaves were seized by the government and sent home to Africa, so this first American slaving voyage on record was a dismal failure.”

(Rum, Slaves and Molasses: The Story of New England’s Triangular Trade, Clifford L. Alderman, Crowell-Collier Press, 1972, pg. 19-20)

 

A Civil War in the North?

Connecticut’s Hartford Times of November 7, 1860, after referring to the danger that the Southern States would “form a separate confederacy, and retire peaceably from the Union,” proceeds to say “If they do decide and act, it will be useless to attempt any coercive measures to keep them within the voluntary co-partnership of States . . . We can never force sovereign States to remain in the Union when they desire to go out, without bringing upon our country the shocking evils of civil war, under which the Republic could not, of course, long exist.”

The misunderstanding of “treason” is noted in the text below, but its actual definition is found in Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” It is clear then, whoever waged war upon the several seceding States (them) was guilty of treason. Outgoing President James Buchanan understood this and admitted no authority to wage war against a State, as did his Attorney-General.

A Civil War in the North?

“Prominent supporters of Mr. Lincoln asserted that “secession is treason, and must be treated by the government as treason,” and that “the government has the right and the power to compel obedience.” A considerable number of Republicans, while they emphatically denied the right of secession, questioned the policy of forcibly preventing it. They held, that, if an undoubted majority of the adult population of any State deliberately pronounced for separation, the rest of the States, though they might legally compel that State to remain, would do better to assemble in national convention, and acquiesce in her departure from the Union. Withdrawal under these sanctions is the only secession ever deemed valid or permissible by any number of the supporters of Mr. Lincoln. Many who had voted against him also concurred in this view.

Some of the opponents of the President-elect denied the right of secession, but claimed there was no constitutional remedy against it. The greater part held that the recusant States were theoretically if not practically right; that the United States was simply a confederation of sovereign States, any one of which possessed a constitutional right to withdraw whenever it should consider the arrangement no longer profitable. They deemed an attempt to coerce a State, in order to vindicate the supreme authority of the Federal Government and to preserve the territorial integrity of the Union, to be both illegal and useless.

The opponents of Mr. Lincoln . . . asserted that the Southern people had abundant provocation for their . . . conduct. They . . . declared that the conservatives of the North would never consent to coercion; adding the not infrequent menace, that, “if war is to be waged, that war will be fought in the North.”

(History of Connecticut During the War of 1861-1865; W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill Publisher, 1869, pp. 30-32)

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