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 Britain’s Royal African Company interfered and had the law repealed.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)