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A Southern View of History: The War for Southern Independence
Part III: SERVITUDE, SLAVERY, ABOLITIONISTS
In Part Three we briefly examine the nature of servitude, slavery and the abolitionist movement in America. Nowadays the entire Southern culture is condemned and our ancestors villainized for the practice of slavery by a small percentage of the population. About 7% of the population of the South owned slaves at the outbreak of the Northern Invasion of the South, yet 100% of the people who lived in that era and their descendants are continually labeled as racists, evil, white devils and other salacious adjectives.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans nor this document’s purpose is to try to present slavery as acceptable in this day and age nor to either attack or defend its practice in the past. Instead, what we present a capsule of the history of slavery in America, conceptions of society regarding slavery, slaves and Africans prior to the war, and laws regarding slavery of the time. Slavery was legal protected by the US Constitution until 1865. Scholars of the time, while now considered racist, presented their “facts” to society in many textbooks and studies that helped shape beliefs of the day by the populous. Volumes have been writing about the slave trade and slavery in America, but here are a few facts that are often forgotten, ignored or simply cast off.
The image at left is from “Types of Mankind: Ethnological Researches based upon the ancient monuments, paintings, sculptures, and crania of races, and upon their natural, geographical, philological and Biblical history: illustrated by selections from the inedited papers of Samuel George Morton, late President of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadephia and by additional contributions from Prof. L. Agassiz, LL. D., W. Usher, M. D., and Prof. H. S. Patterson, M. D. By J. C. # and Geo. R. Gliddon., Nott, Josiah Clark” a text published in London and Philadelphia was in its seventh edition by 1855. In its day and age it was used to educate students regarding the races and evolution. In those times it was thought to be modern, accurate, scientific, unbiased and authoritative. Today it is absurd to consider this work scholarly and it is offensive rather than unbiased. This becomes just one example of how we know more now than they did 150 years ago, yet we must appreciate that this was considered the norm then. It is unfair to condemn ancestors of the past who had a limited knowledge of science, society, and education when using toady’s knowledge base. It is easy to know better now, but it is difficult to prove that our ancestors acted with malicious intent. It was just the way the world was perceived in their day. Having an understanding of the past as perceived from those who lived in that era is what history is all about. It is about understanding those of the past, not about condemnation of them.
A noted abolitionist of the time Horace Greeley, considered an articulate and proper Northern citizen in his book, The American Conflict, “The Negroes, uncouth and repulsive, could speak no word intelligible to British or Colonial ears . . . Some time in the middle of the Seventeenth Century, a British Attorney-General, having the question formally submitted to him, gave his official opinion, that Negroes, being pagans, might justly be held in slavery, even in England itself.” This speaks of what was considered fact among educated people of the time.
Attitudes and laws about right and wrong, whether it regarding the raising of children, practice of medicine, personal health and hygiene, nutrition or the use of slave labor was different in the first 100 years in America, then they are now. Africans captured other Africans for the slave trade and since slavery can still be found there, the African Continent and her people, rather than the Confederate States and her people, have a much better claim to be the symbol of the institution of slavery. The vilification of the Southern people by the hypocritical revisionist historians and politicians over slavery has been used as justification for elimination of all things Confederate, a green light for Southern Heritage and History, a Confederate/Southern genocide if you will. It is perhaps the main reason that most of this curriculum is necessary in order to present the Southern side of the story. We ask that one approaches their education of this subject matter with an open mind, basing opinions on facts gathered and presented, rather than emotional and often erroneous politically correct propaganda supplied in other history tomes.
Objective: To develop an understanding of laws and culture of the American States prior to 1865 regarding servitude and slavery and to bring awareness of interpretation of actions based on the society of the time, rather than using hindsight condemnation of history by current standards, knowledge and beliefs.
A. Indentured Servitude
In 1607 three English ships arrived safely at Jamestown, Virginia, to found the first permanent English colony in the New World. Most of the passengers, other than the officers and gentlemen, were indentured to work for the Virginia Company for seven years. At the end of that period they could either return to England or take up land for themselves in Virginia and work for the company as free laborers. The Virginia Company devised this system of indentured servitude to finance the recruitment and transport of workers from England to the colony. Those unable to afford an Atlantic passage could borrow the needed funds. In return for their passage, maintenance during their service, and certain freedom dues at the end of the term, servants signed contracts or indentures to work for their masters for a fixed number of years. Servitude played a major role in the settlement of the colonies. During the colonial era, some 200,000 to 300,000 servants came to British North America, accounting for one-half to two-thirds of all European immigrants
In a country where land was cheap and plentiful and resources abundant, the paramount need was for a large labor supply.
Consequently, a system was adopted whereby people coming from Europe could be indentured to individuals as well as a Company. As an inducement to the colonists in the early years, for each indentured servant they brought in, they were granted a “head-right” of fifty acres of land free. Although the practice of granting fifty acres to the importer, and generally to the servant at the end of his period of indenture, gradually died out. Indentured servants, each of whom signed a contract to work for a master for a specified number of years, usually three to five, in return for his passage and room and board in the New World. After successful service of his term, he would be given a certain amount of clothes and other provisions to help him begin life on his own, along with various amounts of land if he so desired.
Indentured servitude is sometimes thought of as an adaptation of apprenticeship, but it more closely resembled service in husbandry, a major source of agricultural labor in early modern England. Typically, farm servants were boys and girls from poor families who left home in their early teens to work for more prosperous farmers until they married. They usually lived in their master’s household, agreed to annual contracts for wages, food, and lodging, and changed places frequently, often every year. Given the pervasiveness of this form of life-cycle service, it is a likely antecedent for the indenture system and was a major source of recruits for American plantations.
But indentured servitude was harsher and more restrictive than apprenticeship or service in husbandry. Servants entered into their labor contracts voluntarily, although arguments could be raised that there were no other alternatives. They could not marry without their master’s consent, and they had little control over the terms or conditions of their labor and living standards, although custom and local law did set limits and provide for certain minimums. Terms varied substantially, from four years for skilled adults to a decade or more for unskilled minors. And all could find their terms extended if they ran away or became pregnant. Servants could be sold without their consent, a necessity given the distance and terms involved. In addition to these voluntary systems, penal servitude became an important source of labor in the eighteenth century when some fifty thousand convicts were shipped to the colonies.
As the colony grew and prospered, the number of indentured servants continually increased. Out of almost 5,000 settlers in 1635, about half had arrived indentured to furnish the necessary labor to tame the wilderness turning it into farms and plantations. By 1671 the number had grown to 6,000 and ten years later there were 15,000 indentured workers in Virginia alone. With the gradual development of the other colonies the demand increased proportionately, and it is generally estimated that indentured servants comprised over 60 percent of all immigrants into the colonies up to 1776.
Indentured servants played an important role in the British colonial economy. They worked in all regions in a variety of tasks throughout the colonial period. Initially, servants were concentrated in the staple-producing colonies, working as field hands to produce labor intensive crops. As demand for labor grew and servant prices rose, planters found that they could employ African slaves more profitably in their fields but continued to use servants as plantation craftsmen and domestics and in supervisory positions. As slaves learned English and plantation work routines, they eventually displaced servants in those positions as well. The establishment of the Royal African Company in 1662 with its encouragement and official support of slavery, doomed the indentured servant system in the southern colonies. The tobacco and cotton crops demanded a huge supply of cheap labor which the indenture system could not supply. Slavery also had other major economic advantages for entrepreneurs of the era. The slave was owned for life, not just a few years, so he would not have to be continually replaced. Consequently, by 1800 there were virtually no indentured servants in the South.
In the Middle and New England colonies, however, where slavery was not economically feasible, there was a strong demand for indentured servants, particularly during the first half of the 18th century. Massachusetts in 1710 passed an act offering 40 shillings a head to any captain who brought in a male servant from age 8 to 25. Particularly needed were skilled workers such as experienced seamen, carpenters, blacksmiths, silversmiths, coopers, weavers, and bricklayers. Consequently Europeans came by the thousands, particularly Germans, who freely bonded themselves for a number of years in return for learning a trade of even just the language and customs of the new country.
Between 1737 and 1746 sixty-seven ships landed 15,000 Germans at Philadelphia alone. It was remarkable that any of them survived the crossing. Packed into unsafe and unsanitary ships “like so many herrings,” they died by the score. The horrible conditions of these floating hells equaled those of the infamous “middle passage” for the African slave trade. Food was inadequate and often so rotten as to be inedible. In many instances the immigrants fought for the bodies of rats and mice in order to stay alive. On at least one ship cannibalism was reported and the bodies of six dead humans were consumed before another vessel brought relief to the maddened passengers. Disease and sickness were rife in the filthy holds of the ships as dysentery, smallpox, and typhus swept through them. Statistics indicate that in 1711, for example, only one out of three survived the crossing.
This high mortality often caused extra hardship for many of the survivors, as all passengers, living and dead, had to be paid for before the ship’s captains would release the immigrants. Thus it was not unusual to see a widow sold to pay for her husband’s passage as well as her own, meaning she would have to serve double the normal time of indenture. Children were sold to pay for deceased or unwell parents. Consequently, families were often broken up, just as in the slave trade, never to meet again.
By the early eighteenth century, indentured servants played only a marginal role in the plantation districts. Thereafter, they were concentrated in a few industries in the Mid-Atlantic region demanding particular skills such as iron making, shipbuilding, and construction and in colonial towns where they worked in various service trades or at artistic crafts.
In the northern colonies, where the indentured immigrants served mostly as house servants and apprentices, they were usually treated fairly. After becoming freemen, they usually had every opportunity to succeed. A good example was Paul Revere, whose father had come to Massachusetts as an indentured servant.
By 1770 the colonies found it cheaper to hire native-born youngsters as apprentices, rather than pay the passage for indentured servants. As a result, and particularly after the Revolution, with its emphasis on equality, the system gradually died out and by the early 19th century had virtually ceased to exist in the North. Isolated cases of indentured servitude among European immigrants appear as late as the 1830s, but the institution was unimportant in the United States after 1800.
References and Details:
“Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution” by Bernard Bailyn
“White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic Analysis” by David W. Galenson,
“Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607-1776” by Abbot Emerson Smith
“White Servitude in the Colony of Virginia. James Curtis Ballagh
“White Servitude in Colonial South Carolina” by Warren B. Smith
“War for What?” by Francis W. Springer, Chapter 2.
“Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South” by Grady McWhiney.
B. The Slavery Issue
6800 BC The world’s first city grows up in Mesopotamia. With the ownership of land, and the beginnings of technology comes warfare in which enemies are captured and forced to work slavery begins in human history. It continues to be found in writings of great civilizations such as that of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is noted many times in the bible. Slavery is often thought of belonging to ancient times, and later purported to be the cause of the War Between the States, but the whole history, including modern slavery today is often lost.
The Atlantic slave trade flourished from 1440 to 1870 as a filthy business. For more than 200 years, Northern slave traders made enormous profits that furnished the capitol for future investments into mainstream industries. From 1641, when Massachusetts first legalized slavery, until 1865, when the Confederate struggle for independence ended, slavery was a legal institution in America. Even though the slavery issue was not the direct cause of regional conflict, it became a factor, a catalyst for friction between the two regions. Pictured at below is a copy of the Stowage of the British Slave Ship Brookes.
As early as 1444 Spain was engaged in selling African slaves in Europe. Christopher Columbus is credited as being the first slaver to land in the Western Hemisphere in the 1492. In 1513, King Ferdinand declared: “the servitude of the Indians was warranted by the laws of God and man.” The slave trade was so large that European merchants, entrepreneurs and aristocrats often would speculate in it, and profit by it, without ever seeing a single slave, the same as the trade of commodities of sugar, gold, and coffee today. Such distinguished authors as John Locke, Edward Gibbon, and Voltaire drew income from it. Voltaire was especially hypocritical. His view was that it is less immoral for a European to buy Africans than it is for other Africans to sell them. He even delighted to have a slave ship named after himself.
It has been documented that more than 11,000,000 Africans were brought to the New World, while about 2,000,000 died of miserable conditions in the overcrowded ships en route. Fewer than 5% about 500,000 Africans were brought to America. Some 4,000,000 were taken to Brazil by the Portuguese, 2,500,000 to Spanish possessions, 2,000,000 to the British West Indies, and 1,600,000 to the French West Indies.
All this puts something of a damper on the assumption that slavery was a sin specific or peculiar to the Southern States. The slaves were Africans sold to European merchants by other Africans who had enslaved them in the first place. Several of Africa’s empires were built on the slave trade. For centuries Africa’s chief export was human captured and sold into slavery. Slavery was an African institution long before it spread to the South, and there was no abolition movement to question it. When Europe finally banned the slave trade, African economies reeled. The African Continent rather than the Southern States and the Confederacy has a much better claim to be such a symbol of the institution of slavery as slavery still exists there, in Sudan and Mauritania and elsewhere.
The British opened their slave trade in 1562 on the coast of Guinea. The next year 1563 they began to import Negro slaves into the West Indies for profit. In 1619 when a British ship flying a Dutch flag landed off the coast of Jamestown, Virginia and unloaded twenty Negroes. The Virginians accepted these people not as slaves, but as indentured servants. One of this number was a man known as Anthony Johnson. In 1623 Anthony Johnson served four years as an indentured servant and was now a free man. Through his own diligence and hard work he became a prosperous land owner in seventeenth century Virginia. He imported servants of his own. In 1658, one of his servants, a Negro named John Castor, complained to the authorities that Mr. Johnson had kept him past his servitude release date, an act which was a serious offense. (Johnson vs. Parker, Northampton County) Johnson, frightened by the threat of censure, released all claims on Castor. Johnson then found out that Castor had bound himself to a Mr. Parker who had helped Castor gain his freedom from Johnson. Johnson filed a lawsuit against Parker claiming that he (Johnson), was entitled to lifetime service from Castor. Johnson won the case and set the precedent for lifetime Negro slavery in the British Colony of Virginia in North America. Slavery, therefore was established in 1654, when Anthony Johnson, convinced the court that he was entitled to the lifetime services of John Castor. This was the first judicial approval of life servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Johnson started a colony of free Negroes in Virginia, some time after 1660.
The interesting fact of this case is that Anthony Johnson himself was a Negro. He was one of the original 20 Negroes who landed in 1619 and had earned his freedom in 1623 and acquired some acreage in Accomac. He imported some servants of his own and established a community of free Negroes. Blacks as well as whites practiced slavery. Blacks and whites both were enslaved as well. Indentured servitude was a major method of people obtaining transportation to the colonies from Europe.
In 1650, there were only 300 Negroes in Virginia, about 1% of an estimated 30,000 population. They were not slaves, any more than were the approximately four thousand white indentured “servants” working out their loans for passage money to Virginia, and who were granted 50 acres each when freed from their indentures, so they could raise their own tobacco.
Africans were brought by Northern slave traders to be used in northern industry, long before the antebellum South or the Confederacy ever existed. The first American colony to legalize slavery was Massachusetts in 1641, only 17 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The slave trade became very profitable to the shipping colonies such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire. They financed many ships in the triangular trade scheme. A moral argument against slavery arose early in the New England shipping colonies but it could not withstand the profits of the trade and soon died out. The first legislation of slavery occurred in 1642 in the colony of Massachusetts. Many of the Puritans there argued that it was “God’s will” that they bring the slaves to the colonies from Africa because of the heinous conditions in which they were “rescuing” them from.
There were no slave ships ever chartered from a Southern port. The charters came from London, Seville, Lisbon, Boston, and New York just to name a few. The Assiento Treaty of 1714 created a company for the prosecution of African Slave Trade. Twenty-five percent of the stock went to King Philip of Spain. Queen Anne took twenty-five percent for herself and the rest went to the nobility of England. Quoting Bancroft: ” thus did the sovereigns of England and Spain become the largest slave-merchants in the world.”
When James Oglethorp founded the Georgia Colony in 1730, its original charter outlawed slavery. In the year 1775 the people of the Colony of Georgia in congress wrote the Darden resolutions. Quoting from the Darden resolutions, June 12, 1775:
“To show the world that we are not influenced by any contracted or interested motive, but a general philanthropy for all mankind, of whatever climate, language, or complexion, we hereby declare our disapprobation and abhorrence of the unnatural practice of slavery in America. A practice founded in injustice and cruelty, upon a very wrong foundation. We therefore resolve at all times to use our utmost efforts for the manumission of our slaves in this colony upon the most safe and equitable footing for the masters and themselves.”
When the original colony of Georgia ceded the lands that now form the states of Alabama and Mississippi, she stipulated in the agreement that the new states enter the Union of States as a free states with no slaves.
Thomas Jefferson condemned the slave trade in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but the New England slave traders lobbied to have the clause stricken. In a short eleven year period form 1755 to 1766, no fewer than 23,000 slaves landed in Massachusetts. By 1787, Rhode Island had taken first place in the slave trade to be unseated later by New York. Before long, millions of slaves would be brought to America by way of Northern slave ships. There were no Southern slave ships involved in the triangular trade of slaves. The New England Yankee who brought slaves to America were interested in getting money, not in helping their cargo make a fresh start in the New World. New Englanders not only sold blacks to Southern planters but also kept slaves for themselves as well as enslaving the local Indian population.
Slavery did not appear in the South until Northern settlers began to migrate South, bringing with them their slaves. It was soon discovered that while slaves were not suited to the harsh climate and working conditions of the north, they were ideal sources of cheap labor for the newly flourishing economy of Southern agricultural. Of the 9.5 million slaves brought to the Western Hemisphere from 1500 – 1870, less than 6% were brought to the United States. This means that Spanish, British and French neighbors to the south owned over 94% of the slaves brought to the New World. In the South, less than 7% of the total population ever owned a slave. In other words, over 93% of Southerners did not own any slaves.
The motive for slavery was Northern profits. Most of what the North did was motivated by profit, regardless of the cost to others. Whether it was officially encouraged, as in New York and New Jersey, or not, as in Pennsylvania, the slave trade flourished in colonial Northern ports. But New England, by far, was the leading slave merchant of the American colonies. The first systematic venture from New England to Africa was undertaken in 1644 by an association of Boston traders, who sent three ships in quest of gold dust and black slaves. One vessel returned the following year with a cargo of wine, salt, sugar, and tobacco, which it had picked up in Barbados in exchange for slaves. But the other two ran into European warships off the African coast and barely escaped in one piece. Their fate was a good example of why American traders stayed out of the slave trade in the 17th century.
Slave voyages were profitable, but Puritan merchants simply lacked the resources, financial and physical, to compete with the vast, armed, quasi-independent chartered corporations that were battling to monopolize the trade in black slaves on the west coast of Africa. The superpowers in this struggle were the Dutch West India Company and the English Royal African Company. The Boston slavers avoided this by making the longer trip to the east coast of Africa, and by 1676 the Massachusetts ships were going to Madagascar for slaves. Boston merchants were selling these slaves in Virginia by 1678. But on the whole, New England participation in the 17th century slave trade was slight, and it was limited to Massachusetts. Then, around 1700, the picture changed. First the British got the upper hand on the Dutch and drove them from many of their New World colonies, weakening their demand for slaves and their power to control the trade in Africa. Then the Royal African Company’s monopoly on African coastal slave trade was revoked by Parliament in 1696. Finally, the Assiento and the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 gave the British a contract to supply Spanish America with 4,800 slaves a year. This combination of events was a great incentive to the New England slave traders, and they responded aggressively. Within a few years, the famous “Triangle Trade,” and its notorious “Middle Passage” were in place. Rhode Islanders began including slaves among their cargo in a small way as far back as 1709. But the trade began in earnest in the 1730s. Despite a late start, Rhode Island soon surpassed Massachusetts as the chief colonial carrier.
After the Revolution, Rhode Island slavers had no serious American competitors. Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves. Slave-trading, of course, was not isolated, but was wrapped into the entire regional economy of New England. Boston and Newport were the chief slave ports, but nearly all the New England seaports: Salem, Providence, Middletown, New London, were involved. At its peak in 1740, slaving interests in Newport owned or managed 150 vessels engaged in all manner of trading. The fortunes of individual merchants and whole towns were intimately bound up in the slave trade. In Rhode Island colony, as much as two-thirds of the merchant fleet and a similar fraction of sailors were engaged in slave traffic. The colonial governments of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all, at various times, derived money from the slave trade by levying duties on black imports. Tariffs on slave import in Rhode Island in 1717 and 1729 were used to repair roads and bridges. After the 1750 revocation of the Assiento, the complexion of the slave trade changed dramatically. The system that had been set up to provide thousands of slaves to Spanish America now needed another market, and colonial slave ships began to steer northward. From 1750 to 1770, African slaves flooded the Northern docks. Merchants from began to ship large lots (100 or more) in a single trip. Wholesale prices of slaves in New York fell 50% in six years. On the eve of the Revolution, the slave trade “formed the very basis of the economic life of New England. When the British proposed a tax on sugar and molasses, Massachusetts merchants pointed out that these were staples of the slave trade, and the loss of that would throw 5,000 seamen out of work in the colony and idle almost 700 ships. Even non-shipping industries fed into the trade.
In 1763, the Massachusetts slave trade employed some 5,000 sailors, as well as coopers, tanners, sail makers, and others associated with sailing ships. Countless agents, insurers, lawyers, clerks, and scriveners handled the paperwork for slave merchants. Colonial newspapers drew much of their income from advertisements of slaves for sale or hire. New England-made rum, trinkets, and bar iron were exchanged for slaves. Millions of gallons of cheap rum, manufactured in New England, went to Africa and bought black people. Rhode Island alone had more than 30 distilleries, 22 of them in Newport. In Massachusetts, 63 distilleries produced 2.7 million gallons of rum in 1774. Some was for local use: rum was ubiquitous in lumber camps and on fishing ships. “But primarily rum was linked with the Negro trade, and immense quantities of the raw liquor were sent to Africa and exchanged for slaves. So important was rum on the Guinea Coast that by 1723 it had surpassed French and Holland brandy, English gin, trinkets and dry goods as a medium of barter.” Upper New England loggers, Grand Banks fishermen, and livestock farmers provided the raw materials shipped to the West Indies on that leg of the slave trade. A list of the leading slave merchants is almost identical with a list of the region’s prominent families: the Fanueils, Royalls, and Cabots of Massachusetts; the Wantons, Browns, and Champlins of Rhode Island; the Whipples of New Hampshire; the Eastons of Connecticut. To this day, it’s difficult to find a New England institution of any antiquity that wasn’t financially involved with slavery. That’s a great embarrassment to modern, progressive New Englanders.
Ezra Stiles imported slaves while president of Yale. Six slave merchants served as mayor of Philadelphia. Even a liberal bastion like Brown University was in the slave trade. Named for the Brown brothers — Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses — manufacturers and traders who shipped salt, lumber, meat and slaves. And like many business families of the time, the Browns had indirect connections to slavery via rum distilling, etc.
“The effects of the New England slave trade were momentous,” according to the pioneer historian of New England history. “It was one of the foundations of New England’s economic structure; it created a wealthy class of slave-trading merchants, while the profits derived from this commerce stimulated cultural development and philanthropy.” The spirit of Yankee thrift discovered that the slave ships were most economical with only 3 feet 3 inches of vertical space to a deck and 13 inches of surface area per slave, the human cargo laid in carefully like spoons in a silverware case. Even after slavery was outlawed in the North, ships out of New England continued to carry thousands of Africans to the U.S. South. Some 156,000 slaves were brought to the United States in the period 1801-08, almost all of them on ships that sailed from New England ports that had recently outlawed slavery. Rhode Island slavers alone imported an average of 6,400 slaves into America in the years 1805 and 1806.
Attempts to outlaw the slave trade in the north only increased the profits of smuggling. In 1858, only two years prior to the birth of the Confederacy, Stephen Douglas noted that over 15,000 slaves had been smuggled into New York alone, with over 85 vessels sailing from New York in 1859 to smuggle even more slaves. Perhaps it was their own guilt that drove the abolitionists of the day to point an accusing finger at the South, while closing their eyes to the slavery and the slave trade taking place in their own back yards.
Most, but not all, Northern states had abolished slavery by the mid-1800’s. The Northern states had done away with slavery because they found it was not profitable in their new industrial society. When they did away with slavery, there was not a mass emancipation of the slaves. Instead most of the slaves were simply sold southward. This allowed the northern slave-owner to recuperate his financial investment in the slave and use that capital for further development of his enterprises. Economics, not morality fueled the major “de-slaving” of the North. One of the dirty little secrets that Northerners don’t like to have mentioned is that laws freeing slaves in Northern states during the period 1780-1860 almost universally allowed the owners to sell their slaves to slave-owners in Southern states, rather than freeing their slaves outright. Some of those state laws also forbade freed slaves from living in that same state.
The North found it more profitable to import European immigrants on labor contracts and to tap into these families children to work in the fields, mines and immerging factories. These immigrants would work 16 hour days and more, for pennies a day. They would live in poverty in company housing and could only afford to buy goods, most often on credit, from the company store. There were no safety laws nor personal nor health protection. There are many writings of this period that enumerate the impoverished conditions in which these immigrants lived. Under these situations the immigrant worker was forced to fend for himself and his family. Their lives belonged to the company in which they worked. Many of these immigrants were obligated under a labor contract to these factories before they even left the shores of Europe. The cheap labor supply, continually fed from Europe, was a great impendence for Northern industrialism. Immigrants proved better than slaves for the industrialists greed. Immigrants came without the investment nor an obligation to care for needs of food, clothing, housing, medical care. In Robert Whyte’s “The Journey of an Irish Coffin Ship 1847”, the conditions suffered by immigrants in the passage from Europe to North America and the prejudice and poor treatment by the sponsors, the northern industrialist is outlined.
Another motivating factor behind the North’s abolition of slavery is that many Northerners did not want black people living amongst them. Northern racial sentiment is often glossed over by absolutist prose. Many northern states passed laws prohibiting blacks from entering their states. Massachusetts once passed a law that stated that if a Negro, Native American or mulatto entered their state and stayed for more than two months they would be publicly flogged.
One Northern state after another stigmatized the free Negroes by excluding them from its borders. The states of Illinois and Ohio banned the legal entry of slaves as well as freemen into their states. Ohio also required newcomers to post a prohibitively high financial bond to keep out the unwanted. When Illinois drew up its constitution in 1848 it contained a clause prohibiting the entry of black people, and the legislature five years later not only made it a misdemeanor for any Negro to enter with the purpose of settling, but provided that the offender might be fined and his time sold for a sufficient period to pay the penalty. Iowa, in 1851, severely penalized any free Negro who set foot upon her soil. Indiana placed a Negro-exclusion article in her constitution of 1851, which the people approved it by a landslide vote of more than five to one. Oregon adopted a constitution in 1857 stipulating that no free colored people should enter, that those who came should be forcibly removed, and that anybody who harbored or employed them should be punished. It also forbade the Negroes already there to hold real estate, make contracts, or prosecute suits. Proposals for a general expulsion of free blacks were frequent in the border states and by no means unknown farther north.
Governor Washington Hunt unemotionally pointed out to the New York legislature in 1852 that “the free Negroes were excluded from most institutions of religion and learning, were shut out from social intercourse, and were condemned to lives of servility and drudgery”; a condition which, as he said, “crushed the spirit of manhood and made improvement morally impossible. Uttering not a word of reproach to them, and recommending not a single reform of a domestic character”. He urged simply that the Negroes for their own good be deported to Liberia.
The general public assumption in the North was that Negroes were inferior creatures who naturally fell into degradation and whom it was hopeless to assist. Many Northerners protested that whites in their states were having to compete with blacks for jobs. Thus, the Northerners removed most slaves by 1840 to the South, recouping their capital and eliminating competition for jobs, had they been emancipated.
Every slave that ever entered into this country came in on a northern built, owned and operated slave ship, or a European slave ship. Slave ships would primarily enter the U.S. into major northern ports, such as New York and Boston. The early financial infrastructure of those cities were built primarily on the slave trade. These ships would take northern made rum into Africa and trade the rum with African tribes for slaves that these tribes had captured during tribal wars.
The census of 1850 listed only eleven persons who owned five hundred or more slaves, and only 254 who owned two hundred or more each. Indeed, in all the vast range of the slave states from Delaware to Florida and from North Carolina to Texas, there were not eight thousand men who owned fifty or more slaves apiece. Among those who owned or hired slaves, the vast majority possessed fewer than ten apiece, and a clear majority fewer than five apiece. The “big-wigs” of whom Frederick Law Olmstead heard so much while traveling in the lower Mississippi Valley, the wealthy planters who figured so largely in the eyes of the North, constituted a very restricted body indeed.
Of the 6,184,477 white people in the slave states, only 347,525 were listed by the census of 1850 as slave-owners, and even this number gave an exaggerated impression of the facts. When a single person owned slaves in different counties, or in different states, he was entered in the returns more than once. Moreover, the census included slave-hirers as well as slave-owners, and unquestionably there were tens of thousands of hirers. Hinton Rowan Helper estimated the true number of slaveholders as “certainly less than two hundred thousand.” The immediate families of these owners represented, at an average of five persons each, about 1,500,000 people; and if a generous allowance is made for overseer’s families and other white employees on large estates, still those directly concerned with the ownership and management of slaves probably did not exceed 2,000,000.
Not one-third of the population of the South and border states had any direct interest in slavery as a form of property. This is a fact of great importance when we attempt to estimate the effect of slaveholding upon the culture and outlook of the Southern people. If not one-third of the people had any direct interest in slaveholding in 1850, not one-fourth had such an interest in 1860.
The slavery issue began to grow as time went on. Many Southerners felt that the North was simply trying to antagonize the South with this issue. The fact was that more than 90% of Southerners never owned slaves. Several plantations in the South were actually owned by citizens of northern states and some Northerners owned slave operated plantations on Caribbean islands.
According to the census of 1850, the total number of fugitive slaves was 1,011. According to the census of 1860 the total number was 803. These numbers were out of a slave population of 3,200,000 in 1850 and 3,950,500 in 1860.
As westward expansion continued, the slavery issue was brought up as each new state entered into the union. The abolitionists of the North representing an extremely small number of people, said that slavery should not be allowed in the new western states. The South felt that the decision should be left up to the people of those states, once again referring to the belief of state sovereignty as expressed in the Constitution.
The South was in favor of gradual emancipation of the slaves whereas northern abolitionists demanded immediate emancipation. The South knew that a sudden emancipation of several million slaves could not be possible without a disastrous impact on the region economically. This impact would affect both the white and black populations. The South also favored gradual emancipation so that the slaves themselves would be prepared to support themselves once freed. Southerners knew that as the South became more mechanized slavery would die a natural death. At that point, slavery in the South would become a financial liability as had become earlier in the North, as new technologies were introduced. Late in the struggle for its independence, the Confederacy expressed its willingness to abolish slavery in exchange for recognition by European powers, and the South adopted its own emancipation plans.
There are those who will tell you the War Between the States had everything to do with slavery and those who will say it had nothing to do with slavery. Issues of slavery were involved, but were certainly not the only reason for hostilities. Many of the large Southern plantation owners did not favor secession. Under the existing U.S. Constitution slavery was protected and could not be infringed upon unless a 2/3’rds majority vote could be reached, which would have been extremely difficult to achieve. The Supreme Court had ruled favorably on the legality and constitutionality of slavery. Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln both promised many times, that they would not interfere with the practice of slavery. New laws were recently put on the books protecting slave owners from loss of slave property due to theft or runaways. Add to that, the fact that the Confederate states constituted the fifth wealthiest region in the world. The slave owning states had all of these things and more. So why on earth would Southern states secede from the United States? Surely, no one believes that the South would have left the security of the Union and gone to fight a war for something they already had! Countries do not fight wars for the things they have, they fight wars to obtain the things they do not have.
What the South did not have was financial freedom. Southerners were economic and political slaves to the industrial demands of the north, just as blacks were slaves to the agricultural demands of the South. Growth potential was severely limited in the South, so long as the north continued to levy heavy tariffs on things that Southerners needed to purchase and heavy taxes on those things that Southerners produced. In the words of South Carolina senator John C. Calhoun in 1850, “The north has adopted a system of revenue and disbursements, in which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed on the South, and an undue proportion of its proceeds appropriated to the north … The South as the great exporting portion of the Union has, in reality, paid vastly more than her due proportion of the revenue,”. Unfair taxation drove Americans to war with Britain in 1775 and against each other in 1861.
Slavery was not an exclusively Southern institution. Almost 400,000 slaves lived in Northern states at the start of the war. Many of those slaves were not freed until the 13th Amendment was passed. In fact, it is commonly accepted that the last slaves freed were in Delaware, a staunchly Union state. The 13th Amendment, passed after the war ended, was approved by Southern states who had already seen their capital assets stripped away without compensation and who were considered occupied enemy territory by the Northern States at that time. North had slavery after the war at least until 1866 due to some holdouts.
Union General Ulysses S. Grant was a slaveholder of record. He refused to give up his slaves until the passage of the 13th Amendment. The Grant’s wife Julia confirms having slaves through 1863 as she wrote in her Personal Memoirs, that:
“Eliza, Dan, Julia, and John belonged to me up to the time of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. When I visited the General during the war, I nearly always had Julia with me a nurse. She came near being captured at Holly Springs”
One of Grant’s slave’s name was William Jones. In 1858, while attempting to make a go in civilian life as a farmer near St. Louis, Missouri, Ulysses S. Grant bought the slave, William Jones, from his brother-in-law. Grant’s also became the owner of record of his wife’s inheritance of four slaves, but as was the case at the time, women could not actually own slaves, so they were under the control of Grant. No record has been found of these slaves having been freed prior to emancipation in Missouri in 1865.
In 1862, U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant’s army had become encumbered by runaway slaves. Grant decided to go into the cotton business, using the runaway slaves to pick cotton in the Mississippi fields. Gen. Grant did pay them a small wage which was just enough to cover the cost of their food that was provided (sold) to them. The cotton was shipped back to factories in the North, with Grant collecting the profit. Grant did not own the land or the crops! General Grant owned slaves that were not freed until the passage of the 13th Amendment. It is interesting to note some of the thoughts of General Grant. Grant informed his family that his only desire was, “…to put down the rebellion. I have no hobby of my own with regard to the Negro, either to effect his freedom or continue his bondage. I am using them as teamsters, hospital attendants, company cooks and so forth thus saving soldiers to carry the musket. . . . it weakens the enemy to take them from them.”
Robert E. Lee personally owned at least one slave, an elderly house servant that he inherited from his mother. It is said that Lee continued to hold the slave as a kindness, since he was too feeble to have made his way as a free man. Although it is commonly believed that Lee owned the Arlington Plantation and the associated slaves, these and two other plantations totaling over 1,000 slaves were the property of Lee’s father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis. Upon Mr. Custis’s death in 1858, Lee did not personally inherit either the plantations or slaves, but was named the executor of the estate. Mr. Custis willed that his slaves should be freed within 5 years. Legal problems with the fulfillment of other terms of the will led Lee to delay in the execution of the terms of manumission until the latest specified date. On 29 Dec 1862, Lee executed a deed of manumission for all the slaves of the Custis estate who were still behind Confederate lines. Arlington was in Union hands by that time in history. Lee declared that slavery was “a moral and political evil.”, and the best men in the South oppose this system.” He was quoted as saying “the mild and melting influences of Christianity, rather than war, would solve the problem”
European Christians and their descendants in America had some conscience concerns about slavery. They wrestled with the question of whether Africans had immortal souls and natural rights. Even those who justified slavery as a positive good felt that it needed some kind of justification in society. Pagans from Africa had no such qualms. They no more felt they needed to justify owning slaves than owning livestock. Slavery was a fact of life for them and their culture. Saves could be killed, mutilated, and even eaten without a concern of conscience
Slavery was a world-wide institution whose days were numbered, at least in Western civilizations. If the South had won the War, slavery would have disappeared anyway. More than anything, the rise, decline and fall of slavery in the US must be viewed in economic terms. Slavery existed in the US, just as it had in other nations, for economic reasons. It disappeared for the same reason. A perspective on the historical role of slavery is called for in order to get a true understanding of the issues of the time. Unfairly the South and her people frequently receives the blame for slavery in America. Slavery continued for decades after the War in other parts of the world and is still found in parts of the world today. There are three types of modern slavery that are common enough to have their own names.
Chattel slavery is closest to the old form of slavery. A person is captured, born, or sold into slavery, and ownership is often asserted. The slave’s children are normally treated as property as well. Most often found in North and West Africa and some Arab countries, chattel slaves are now relatively few in number. In Sudan, a radical ruling regime has revived a racially-based slave trade, arming militia forces to raid civilian villages for slaves. In Mauritania, slave raids 800 years ago began a system of chattel slavery that continues to this day, with Arab-Berber masters holding as many as one million black Africans as inheritable property.
Debt bondage is the most common form of slavery in the modern world. A person pledges himself/herself against a loan, but the length and nature of their work is not defined, nor does their work reduce the debt. The debt can be passed down, enslaving offspring. Ownership is not normally asserted, but there is complete control over the slave. Debt bondage is most common in the Indian sub-continent.
Contract slavery occurs when a contract is offered for employment, perhaps in a workshop or factory, but the worker is then enslaved. The contract tricks them into slavery. The slave is under threat of violence, has no freedom and is paid nothing. This is the most rapidly growing form of slavery and probably the second largest form today. Contract slavery is often found in South-east Asia, Africa, some Arab states and some parts of India.
Sex Slavery is form of slavery most common in South Asia where girls forced into prostitution by their own husbands, fathers, and brothers earn money for the men in the family to pay back local-money lenders. Others are lured by offers of good jobs and then beaten and forced to work in brothels.
Other types of slavery exist that account for a smaller number of slaves, for example war-related slavery, domestic slavery and Religious slavery. According to a National Geographic Magazine (September 2003) article by Andrew Cockburn, “There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.” For further information on modern slavery and what action you can take contact Anti-Slavery International, Free the Slaves/Anti-Slavery International, or the United States Department of State.
References and Details:
“The Slave Trade“, by Hugh Thomas
“Truths of History“, by Mildred Lewis Rutherford Chapter 4.
“War for What“, by Francis W. Springer Chapters 2-12.
“The South Was Right“, by James R. Kennedy and Walter D. Kennedy Chapter 2.
“A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States“, by Samuel A. Ashe, Chapter 1-2.
“Facts the Historians Leave Out“, by John S. Tilley, pages 7-23.
“The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776“, by Lorenzo Johnston Greene
“For Good and Evil: the Impact of taxes on the Course of Civilization”, by Charles Adams
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapters 2 & 4
“The Lincoln Reader“, by Paul Angle.
“Story of the Confederacy“, by Joseph T. Derry, Part 2 Chapter 3.
“Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government“, by Jefferson Davis
“The South Under Siege 1830-2000” by Frank Conner, Chapter 5
“Lee & Grant“, by Gene Smith.
“The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts“, by Burke Davis;
“Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and Politics of War and Reconstruction“, by Brooks D. Simpson.
“Hildreth’s History of the United States”
“Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South 1861-1865“, by George Edmonds
“A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln and Vindication of the South“, by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Anti-Slavery International, Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard, Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL
Free the Slaves/Anti-Slavery International, 1326 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005
United States Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520
For 35 years, 1830-1865, William Lloyd Garrison published a newspaper, The Liberator, the foremost voice for Abolitionism. Garrison gained a reputation for being the most radical of abolitionists. He alienated almost all Southerners and many Northerners with his ravenous, hate-filled vendetta against the white South. The key point made by abolitionists of the antebellum period, which remained a minority in the North throughout the entire pre-war period, was that the fight against slavery was “not only a struggle to free the Negro from bondage, but one to remove as a dominant force in American life the threat of a well-organized, aggressive, threatening slave power conspiracy” They charged, a secret agreement among Southern slave-holders not only to maintain slavery but to impose it on the nation by extending it to the territories and free states and even possibly to whites, to destroy civil liberties, control the policies of the Federal government and complete the formation of a nation-wide ruling aristocracy based on a slave economy. In 1839 the National Convention of Abolitionists, meeting at Albany, resolved that “the events of the last five or six years leave no room for doubt that the slave power is now waging a deliberate and determined war against the liberties of the free states,” and by 1845 repetitions of the charge became common. After 1850, when they began to publicize the charge in earnest, they pointed to congressional compromises as proof of its existence. Since slavery, reasoned the abolitionists was founded upon a violation of the principles of liberty and free government, it followed that by the simple fact of its existence slavery was a constant threat to those principles. Most in the North were relatively uninterested in the Negro’s freedom, but the emotional appeal of the charge of slave power conspiracy was strong for immigrants, laborers, farmers and lower and middleclass workmen. They were suspect of the motives of the rich and powerful having seen the northern greed, corruption and economic oppression first hand. The abolitionist movement failed to develop a feasible plan to emancipate blacks in the north or south. Their call for the immediate emancipation with no concern to financial, social, education or vocational considerations were ludicrous. All their efforts further infuriated the people of the South, of which 93% were non-slave holders. It was another example of the Northern Yankees trying to tell everyone how to live and think. On the other hand, it incited some of the mentally less stable in the north, such as John Brown and his followers.
References and Details:
“The Slave Power Conspiracy, 1830-1860,” by Russell B. Nye
“The South Was Right” by James and Walter Kennedy, Chapter 3
“The Secret Six : John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement“, by Otto Scott
“The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired With John Brown“, by Edward J. Renehan
“Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derrey, Part 2 Chapter 3,
“When in the Course of Human Events“, by Charles Adams, Chapter 9
“The South Under Siege 1830-2000” by Frank Conner, Chapter 5
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapters 2 & 4
D. Books That Inflame Tensions.
There was a book written and published in 1852 that must be reckoned with as a factor in the many causes that started the War Between The States. That book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly ” was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a novel, a fictional story that greatly exaggerated the slavery system of the South. Stowe, an ardent abolitionist, came from a deeply religious New England family that included several Protestant ministers. Her novel was meant to show that slaveholding was a deep moral wrong, inconsistent with Christian practice, a view that was by no means universally accepted at the time. Her long, winding story first appeared as a magazine serial published in forty serial issues of the abolitionist weekly the “National Era” beginning in June of 1851. It was published as a two-volume book by John Punchard Jewett in March of 1852. In her story, even kind Southern whites who care about Uncle Tom and other slaves suffer the ill effects of being slave owners. The novel was an instant bestseller and by year’s end had sold an astonishing 1.5 million copies worldwide. Forty different publishers printed it in England alone, and it was quickly translated into 20 languages. Harriet Beecher Stowe had never been to the South nor seen slave holders, slave operations, or even met with non-slave holding Southerners, but that did not stop her from conjuring images of slavery for the book that would further her abolitionist agenda. Besides her own imagination, she could only rely on other writings and word of mouth anecdotes to draw from when writing her story. Stowe’s opponents argued that her portrayal of slavery was misleading and exaggerated. Her critics began publishing books and articles to refute the facts presented in the novel. Stowe responded by releasing her own book, The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which provided alleged documentation on the assumed facts in her novel, naming books and people that served as her sources of information. Stowe’s sources remain controversial, since she conducted her research on slavery to support her novel only after the book was published. The novel was made into a number of touring theatrical shows. Stowe held no copyright to prevent stage adaptations, which were done without her approval and without compensation. Of course as much theatrical license as needed was used by the showmen to exaggerate the characterizations even further distort the image of the Southern people. It has been estimated that nearly 500 “Uncle Tom traveling shows” were performing around the country, including one by showman P.T. Barnum. These shows removed some characters in the book, enlarged the roles of others, and added song and dance, even comedy, to conform the story to the elements popular in the minstrel shows of the day. Entertainment for profit, rather than accurate historical information was the motive for these shows.
In 1857 a book was published that had a greater effect in fueling the fire, leading to war, than did any other book. The book, “The Impending Crisis of the South and How to Meet It.,” written by Hinton Rowan Helper, an anti-slavery North Carolinian, has been called “one of the most diabolical books ever published.” In this book Helper declared “Never were the poorer classes of a people, and these classes so largely in the majority, and all inhabiting the same country, so basely duped, so adroitly swindled, or so damnably outraged.” Then again, “Except among the non-slaveholders, who besides being kept in the grossest ignorance, are under the restraints of iniquitous laws, patriotism has ceased to exist within her border.”
In this statement Helper ascribed to the Southern slaveholder a virtual superiority, and that there were millions of non-slaveholders across the South who had no sense. Helper, in his book, stated “We contend that slaveholders are more criminal than common murderers.” “…Were it possible for the whole number to be gathered together and transformed into four equal gangs of licensed robbers, ruffians, thieves, and murderers, society would suffer less from the atrocities than it does now.”
But the most crucial part of Helper’s book that fed the fire of coming secession was in threatening violence and insurrection. The South was well aware of the slave insurrections that had taken place in Haiti. Since the 1790’s when slaves rebelled in Santo Domingo and slaughtered 60,000 people, Southerners realized that their own slaves might rise up against them. A number of slave revolt conspiracies were uncovered in the South between 1820 and 1831 but none frightened Southerners as much as Nat Turner’s rebellion.
The Nat Turner rebellion was also on the minds of Southerners. Early in the morning of August 22, 1831, a band of eight Black slaves, led by a lay preacher named Nat Turner, entered the Travis house in Southampton County, Virginia and killed five members of the Travis family. This was the beginning of a slave uprising that was to become known as Nat Turner’s rebellion. Over a thirty-six hour period, this band of slaves grew to sixty or seventy in number and slew fifty-eight White persons in and around Jerusalem, Virginia before the local community could act to stop them. This rebellion raised southern fears of a general slave uprising and had a profound influence on the attitude of Southerners towards slavery.
Helper threatened such an event when he wrote “Henceforth, Sirs, we are demandants, not supplicants. It is for you to decide whether we are to have justice peaceably or by violence, for whatever consequences may follow, we are determined to have it one way or another.” “Do you aspire to become the victims of white non-slaveholders vengeance by day and of barbarous massacre by Negroes at night?” “Would you be instrumental in bringing upon yourselves, your wives, and your children, a fate too terrible to contemplate? Shall history cease to cite, as an instance of unexplained cruelty, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, because the World – the South – shall have furnished a more direful scene of atrocity and carnage?”
The Republican party used his book. They titled a copy “A Manifesto of the Impending Crisis,” distributing it throughout the North and West in batches of 100,000 copies. Sixty-four Republican members of Congress officially endorsed Helper’s book. Helper’s suggestion of a slave insurrection may very well have encouraged John Brown to make his attempt to overtake Harper’s Ferry and lead a slave revolt against Southern slave-owners. Helper’s book inflamed both the slaveholder and non-slaveholder of the South.
References and Details:
“Truths of History” by Mildred Lewis Rutherford Chapter 5 & 17
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 4.
“A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States” by Samuel A. Ashe, Chapter 9.
“Facts the Historians Leave Out” by John S. Tilley, pages 14-16
“The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It“, by Hinton Rowan Helper
The Richmond Enquirer 1831 edition
E. John Brown
John Brown was an abolitionist that promoted bloody violence against the Southern Society. He was born in Torrington, Connecticut 9 May 1800, but spent much of his youth in Ohio, where he was taught to resent compulsory education, to revere the Bible and hate Southern Society and to hate the institution of slavery. In time he became a violent and militant abolitionist.
By the time he was 50, Brown was entranced by visions of promoting slave uprisings, during which the “Southern society would pay horribly for their sins”. Brown came to regard himself as commissioned by God to make that vision a reality. He dedicated much of his time and energy for the next nine years to propagate an uprising of slaves, which he encouraged to the murder every Southern family in their path. The Nat Turner Rebellion and subsequent murders of August 1831 would be expanded throughout all slave-holding states under Brown’s plan.
In August 1855 Brown followed five of his sons to Kansas to help make the state a haven for anti-southern settlers. Tensions between pro Southern and pro North factions of settlers was punctuated with many acts of random violence. Brown soon became a leader in and a promoter of lawlessness during these troubles in Kansas, undertaken, as he himself confessed, for the purpose of inflaming the public mind on the subject of slavery, that he might perfect organizations to bring about servile insurrections in the slave States, collected a number of young men in that territory, including several of his sons, and, with the use of funds and arms that had been furnished for his Kansas operations, placed these men under military instruction, at Springdale, in Iowa.
In 1856 the pro-Southern men had enough of the harassing raids and violent acts by the pro-Northern factions using Lawrence, KS as a sanctuary. The pro-Southern “militia” sought out criminals and perpetrators of violence. Subsequently parts of Lawrence were put to the flame. This action increased Brown’s hostility toward the Southerners and their supporters. Having organized his own militia unit within the Osawatomie River colony, Brown led his followers on a mission of revenge. On the evening of 23 May 1856, he and six followers, including four of his sons, visited the homes of pro-Southern men along Pottawatomie Creek, dragged the unarmed inhabitants into the night, and hacked them to death with long-edged swords. At once, “Old Brown of Osawatomie” as he was to be called became one of the most dangerous and feared individuals in the Kansas.
In autumn 1856, still committed to his vision of a slave insurrection, Brown returned to Ohio. There and during two subsequent trips to Kansas, he developed a grandiose plan to free slaves throughout the South. Provided with moral and financial support from prominent New England abolitionists, Brown began by raiding plantations in Missouri but accomplished little.
In the summer of 1859 he transferred his operations to western Virginia, Brown, under the assumed name of Isaac Smith, appeared in the neighborhood of Harper’s Ferry 1 July 1859, and there is evidence to show that he extended his examination of the country for future strategic purposes, as far up the Shenandoah valley as Staunton, concealing his purposes by giving out that he was a farmer from New York, with his two sons and a son-in-law, desiring to rent or purchase land.
Soon after his arrival at Harper’s Ferry he rented the small Kennedy farm in Maryland, some four and a half miles from Harper’s Ferry, where he did some little farming, and, to explain his secret movements, said he was accustomed to mining operations, and expected to find valuable mineral deposits in that mountain region. In the meantime he kept two or three of his party, under assumed names, at Chambersburg, PA who there received arms, ammunition, and other military stores, which had been collected for use in Kansas, and forwarded them from time to time to Brown’s habitation.
On October 10, 1859, from “Headquarters War Department, Provisional Army, Harper’s Ferry,” John Brown, commander-in-chief, issued his “General Order No. 1,” organizing “the divisions of the provisional army and the coalition,” providing for company, battalion, regiment, brigade and general staff organization. At the time of issuing this order Brown had with him at the Kennedy farm, his whole band of followers and there formulated his final plans of invasion; and that soon thereafter he removed to a schoolhouse nearer Harper’s Ferry, the hundreds of carbines, pistols, spears or pikes, and a quantity of cartridges, powder, percussion caps, and other military supplies, that he had gathered for arming the Negroes when they rose to insurrection in response to his call and movements.
About 11 p.m., Sunday, 16 October 1859, Brown, accompanied by 14 white men from Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maine, Indiana and Canada, and 5 Negroes from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, all fully armed, crossed the Potomac into Virginia at Harper’s Ferry, overpowered the watchmen at the Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridge, the United States armory and arsenal near the Baltimore & Ohio, and the rifle factory above the town on the Shenandoah, and placed guards at those points and at the street corners of the town.
He then sent six men to seize the principal citizens in the neighborhood and incite the Negroes to rise in insurrection. This party broke into the house of Col. L. W. Washington, about five miles from Harper’s Ferry, about 1:30 am of the 17th, and forced him and four of his servants to accompany them to Harper’s Ferry, he in his own carriage and followed by one of his farm wagons. On their way back, at about 3:00 am, they captured Mr. Allstadt and six of his servants, placing arms in the hands of the latter. On reaching Harper’s Ferry, Cook and five of the captured slaves were sent with Colonel Washington’s four-horse wagon to bring forward the arms deposited at the schoolhouse in Maryland.
In the meantime Brown halted, for a time, an eastbound passenger train on the Baltimore & Ohio, one of his men killing the railroad guard at the bridge; he also captured, as they appeared on the streets in the early morning, some 40 citizens of Harper’s Ferry, whom he confined, with Messrs. Washington and Allstadt, in one room of the gate or engine house which he had selected as his fort or point of defense.
News of these occurrences spread rapidly, and citizens and militia with arms, hastened from all the surrounding parts of Virginia and Maryland to resist this invasion of their homes. About 11:00 am, of the 17th, the Jefferson Guards, from Charlestown, arrived, soon followed by the Hamtramck and the Shepherdstown troop, and Alburtis’ company from Martinsburg. These, under the command of Col. R. A. Baylor, forced the insurgents within the armory enclosure. Brown then withdrew his men into the gate house, which he proceeded to loophole and fortify, taking with him ten of the most prominent of his Virginia and Maryland captives, which he termed “hostages,” to insure the safety of his band. From openings in the building the insurgents fired upon all people that came in sight.
After sunset of the 17th, a detachment of United States Marines accompanied by Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, who had been ordered to take command at Harper’s Ferry, and to recapture the government armory and arsenal, and restore order. Soon after daylight of the 18th, after having posted the volunteer troops so as to completely invest the armory grounds, and prepared for an assault upon Brown’s fort by the marines, Lee, under a flag by Lieutenant Stuart, made a written demand upon Brown to surrender himself, his associates and the prisoners they had taken, with the assurance that “if they will peaceably surrender themselves and restore the pillaged property, they shall be kept in safety..and..if he is compelled to take them by force he cannot answer for their safety.”
As Lee expected, Brown spurned the offered terms of surrender. Lee then ordered the Marines to break in the doors. The whole affair was over in a few minutes, and the captured citizens and slaves were released. A party of marines under Lt. J.E.B. Stuart was then sent to the Kennedy farm, which captured over 1000 pikes intended to be used to arm slaves, and blankets, tools, tents, and other necessaries for a campaign, which Brown had there stored. A party of Maryland troops secured from the schoolhouse, where Brown had deposited boxes of carbines and revolvers, and the horses and wagon of Colonel Washington, which Brown had sent there to bring his military supplies to Harper’s Ferry. The fighting ended with 10 of Brown’s people killed and 7 captured. The Brown insurgents had killed four men, Mr. F. Beckham, the mayor of Harper’s Ferry, Mr. G. W. Turner, one of the first citizens of Jefferson county, and Private Quinn of the Marine corps, and a Negro railroad porter; they wounded eight citizens and one Marine corps.
Brown, having been turned over to the civil authorities of Jefferson county, was brought to trial at Charlestown on the following Thursday, October 20th. A grand jury indicted him upon the charges of treason and murder. His trial lasted nearly a month, and, as Brown himself admitted, was fair and impartial. He was condemned to be executed on the 2nd of December.
In concluding his report, Colonel Lee expressed his thanks to Lieutenants Stuart and Green and Major Russell “for the aid they afforded me, and my entire commendation of the conduct of the detachment of marines, who were at all times ready and prompt in the execution of any duty. The promptness with which the volunteer troops repaired to the scene of disturbance, and the alacrity they displayed to suppress the gross outrage against law and order, I know will elicit your hearty approbation.” He enclosed to Cooper a printed copy of the provisional constitution and ordinances for the people of the United States, of which there was found a large number prepared for issue by the insurgents. The blacks whom he forced from their homes in this neighborhood, as far as I could learn, gave him no voluntary assistance. The servants… retained at the armory, took no part in the conflict . . . and returned to their homes as soon as released. The result proves the plan was the attempt of a fanatic or madman, which could only end in failure; and its temporary success was owing to the panic and confusion he succeeded in creating by magnifying his numbers. After the condemnation of Brown and his associates, fearing from published threats that an attempt might be made by Northern sympathizers to rescue them, Governor Wise ordered Virginia troops to Charlestown to guard the prisoners until after their execution.
On the day of Brown’s execution, bells were tolled and minute guns fired in many places in the North, and church services and public meetings were held for the purpose of glorifying his deeds and sanctifying the cause he represented, recognizing in him a martyr to the teachings of the abolitionists. The psychopath John Brown and his men were knowingly sponsored both for their murderous trip to Kansas and their bloody visit to Harpers Ferry by an abolitionist group of six of the most-prestigious men in New England, including famous pastors, wealthy landowners, and a man world-renown for his work with the handicapped:
Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a minister and abolitionist. In 1854, he tried to free a captured runaway slave, Anthony Burns, from the Boston Court House. He openly supported John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, but was never called to testify before the Senate committee investigating the raid. In 1863, during the Civil War, he became the colonel of one of the first colored regiments to be enlisted in the Union Army, the First South Carolina.
Samuel Gridley Howe held a degree in medicine from Harvard University and is the founder of the Perkins School for the Blind, and co-founder of the Clarke School for the Deaf. After John Brown’s botched attempt to free slaves in Virginia, Howe worked to provide for Brown’s defense. Later, he and George Luther Stearns, fearing arrest by federal marshals because they had both provided Brown with money and arms for the raid, fled to Canada. They returned after Brown’s execution, and both men testified before the Senate committee investigating the Harper’s Ferry raid. During the War, Howe served on the U.S. Sanitary Commission and helped found a committee to put pressure on Lincoln and other politicians to free the slaves. Once Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Howe served on a national committee called the Freedmens Inquiry Commission, the precursor of the Freedmens’ Bureau. His wife was the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Theodore Parker was a Unitarian minister in West Roxbury, Massachusetts actively seeking out slave catchers who came to Boston and telling them to leave town before they got killed or worse. At the time of John Brown’s raid, Parker was staying in Florence, Italy, dying of consumption. He died soon after penning an angry letter defending Brown’s actions.
Franklin Benjamin Sanborn taught school in Concord, Massachusetts, around the time John Brown was fighting in Kansas. He was also secretary of the Kansas Aid Society in Massachusetts when Brown came to the committee seeking guns and money. After Brown’s raid was put down, Sanborn panicked and burned all his correspondence with Brown. He also vigorously resisted all attempts to remove him to Washington to testify before the Senate committee charged with determining if Brown was involved in a conspiracy with northern abolitionists.
Gerrit Smith was an American philanthropist and would be politician. In the late 1840’s, he hit upon a scheme to help himself get elected to public office. Since only landowners could vote in New York, and he owned large tracts of land around Lake Placid, he decided to give away 40 acre lots to free African Americans who would in turn vote of him. John Brown approached Smith in 1850 to purchase a 200+ acre farm in the area of Lake Placid so that he could farm the land, survey his neighbors’ property, and help the freedmen, who were largely tradesmen, coach driver, barbers, learn how to run a farm. When Smith learned that John Brown and his men had been captured at Harper’s Ferry, Smith had a nervous breakdown and was placed in an asylum. When he emerged, he had conveniently forgotten that he had ever known John Brown.
George Luther Stearns was the chairman of the Kansas Aid Society in Massachusetts when John Brown approached him seeking arms and money to fight against the extension of slavery into the western territories and to free slaves. Stearns testified before the Senate committee investigating Brown’s raid, and defended Brown’s actions. On January 1, 1863, he held a party celebrating the signing of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. At the gathering, he unveiled a bust of John Brown he had commissioned from sculptor Edwin Brackett.
In reference to Brown’s invasion of Virginia, Honorable Alexander H. Stephens, in his history of the United States, says: “This act greatly inflamed the Southern mind, especially as it was lauded by the official authorities of those Northern States which had refused to comply with their obligations under the Constitution in the matter of the rendition of fugitive slaves.”
References and Details:
“Confederate Military History, The Civil History of the Confederate States, The New Anti-National Movement”, Vol. 1. Chapter 1,
“The Secret Six : John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement” by Otto Scott
“The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired With John Brown“, by Edward J. Renehan
“The History of the Confederacy 1832-1865” by Clifford Dowdey Section 1 Chapter 3,
“Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derrey, Part 2 Chapter 3,
“The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 4
“History of the United States” by Alexander Hamilton Stephens
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1885.
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XVI. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1888.
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XXVIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1900.
Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XXXVIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1910.
Part 3 Questions:
In short essay format give and support an opinion for at least six of these questions:
1. How would books like “Types of Mankind” and newspaper commentators such as Horace Greeley have influence an average citizen in their thinking about ethnic, racial and societal in the 1850’s?
2. Why was the indentured servant system considered so important to the formation of the colonies?
3. What factors caused African slave trade to begin in America?
4. If most Northern slave owners were allowed to recoup their investment by selling slaves south, what plan could have been implement to allow the Southern slave owners the same opportunity?
5. Explain the most interesting fact you discovered about the issue of slavery by completing this unit.
6. Compare and contrast the North’s use of immigrant and child labor and their “company store and housing policies” vs the institution of slavery in the South.
7. Compare and contrast the believes and actions of Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant regarding slaves, slavery, and the black man.
8. Why would common people of the North be concerned with the abolitionist slave power conspiracy?
9. How valid was the use of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as an instrument of abolition?
10. How did Hinton Rowan Helper’s book incite further tensions in the South?
11. What was the significance of the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry?
12. Knowing what we do today, what would have been a solution to elimination of slavery without warfare or extreme economic hardship?
13. It has been documented that about 7% of Southerners owned slaves. How would some of the abolitionist charges, the slave rebellions, and the anti-Southern books published in the era effected you as a non slave holder? What would your reaction to the north be?