The Project Gutenberg eBook of History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880. Vol. 2

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Title: History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880. Vol. 2

Author: George Washington Williams

Release date: June 18, 2007 [eBook #21851]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Mark C. Orton, Richard J. Shiffer and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Transcriber's Note

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to correct an obvious error is noted at the end of this ebook.




FROM 1619 TO 1880.









1800 TO 1880.








[Pg iii]


This second volume brings the History of the Negro Race In America from 1800 down to 1880. It consists of six parts and twenty-nine chapters. Few memories can cover this eventful period of American history. Commencing its career with the Republic, slavery grew with its growth and strengthened with its strength. The dark spectre kept pace and company with liberty until separated by the sword. Beginning with the struggle for restriction or extension of slavery, I have striven to record, in the spirit of honest and impartial historical inquiry, all the events of this period belonging properly to my subject. The development and decay of anti-slavery sentiment at the South; the pious efforts of the good Quakers to ameliorate the condition of the slaves; the service of Negroes as soldiers and sailors; the anti-slavery agitation movement; the insurrections of slaves; the national legislation on the slavery question; the John Brown movement; the war for the Union; the valorous conduct of Negro soldiers; the emancipation proclamations; the reconstruction of the late Confederate States; the errors of reconstruction; the results of emancipation; vital, prison, labor, educational, financial, and social statistics; the exodus—cause and effect; and a sober prophecy of the future,—are all faithfully recorded.

After seven years I am loath to part with the saddest task ever committed to human hands! I have tracked my bleeding countrymen through the widely scattered documents of American history; I have listened to their groans, their clanking chains, and melting prayers, until the woes of a race and the agonies of centuries seem to crowd upon my soul as a bitter reality. Many pages of this history have been blistered with my tears; and, although having lived but a little more than a generation, my mind feels as if it were cycles old.

The long spectral hand on the clock of American history points to the completion of the second decade since the American slave became an American citizen. How wondrous have been his strides, how marvellous [Pg iv]his achievements! Twenty years ago we were in the midst of a great war for the extinction of slavery; in this anniversary week I complete my task, record the results of that struggle. I modestly strive to lift the Negro race to its pedestal in American history. I raise this post to indicate the progress of humanity; to instruct the present, to inform the future. I commit this work to the considerate judgment of my fellow-citizens of every race, "with malice toward none, and charity for all."


Hoffman House, New York City, Dec. 28, 1882.

[Pg v]


Part 4.




Commencement of the Nineteenth Century.—Slave Population of 1800.—Memorial presented to Congress calling Attention to the Slave-trade to the Coast of Guinea.—Georgia cedes the Territory lying West of her to become a State.—Ohio adopts a State Constitution.—William Henry Harrison appointed Governor of the Territory of Indiana.—An Act of Congress prohibiting the Importation of Slaves into the United States or Territories.—Slave Population of 1810.—Mississippi applies for Admission into the Union with a Slave Constitution.—Congress besieged by Memorials urging more Specific Legislation against the Slave-trade.—Premium offered to the Informer of every illegally imported African seized within the United States.—Circular-letters sent to the Naval Officers on the Sea-coast of the Slave-holding States.—President Monroe's Message to Congress on the Question of Slavery.—Petition presented by the Missouri Delegates for the Admission of that State into the Union.—The Organization of the Arkansas Territory.—Resolutions passed for the Restriction of Slavery in New States.—The Missouri Controversy.—The Organization of the Anti-slavery Societies.—An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in New Jersey.—Its Provisions.—The Attitude of the Northern Press on the Slavery Question.—Slave Population of 1820.—Anti-slavery Sentiment at the North




Employment of Negroes as Soldiers in the War of 1812.—The New York Legislature authorizes the Enlistment of a Regiment of Colored Soldiers.—Gen. Andrew Jackson's Proclamation to the Free Colored Inhabitants of Louisiana calling them to Arms.—Stirring Address to the Colored Troops the Sunday before the Battle of New Orleans.—Gen. Jackson anticipates the Valor of his Colored Soldiers.—Terms of Peace at the Close of the War by the Commissioners at Ghent.—Negroes placed as Chattel Property.—Their Valor in War secures them no Immunity in Peace




No Proscription against Negroes as Sailors.—They are carried upon the Rolls in the Navy without Regard to their Nationality.—Their Treatment as Sailors.—Commodore Perry's Letter to Commodore Chauncey in Regard to the Men sent him.—Commodore Chauncey's Spirited Reply.—The Heroism of the Negro set forth in the Picture of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie.—Extract of a Letter from Nathaniel Shaler, Commander of a Private Vessel.—He cites Several Instances of the Heroic Conduct of Negro Sailors


[Pg vi]

Part 5.




The Security of the Institution of Slavery at the South.—The Right to hold Slaves questioned.—Rapid Increase of the Slave Population.—Anti-slavery Speeches in the Legislature of Virginia.—The Quakers of Maryland and Delaware emancipate their Slaves.—The Evil Effect of Slavery upon Society.—The Conscience and Heart of the South did not respond to the Voice of Reason or the Dictates of Humanity




The Antiquity of Anti-slavery Sentiment.—Benjamin Lundy's Opposition to Slavery in the South and at the North.—He establishes the "Genius of Universal Emancipation."—His Great Sacrifices and Marvellous Work in the Cause of Emancipation.—William Lloyd Garrison edits a Paper at Bennington, Vermont.—He pens a Petition to Congress for the Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia.—Garrison the Peerless Leader of the Anti-slavery Agitation.—Extract from a Speech delivered by Daniel O'Connell at Cork, Ireland.—Increase of Anti-slavery Societies in the Country.—Charles Sumner delivers a Speech on the "Anti-slavery Duties of the Whig Party."—Marked Events of 1846.—Sumner the Leader of the Political Abolition Party.—Heterodox Anti-slavery Party.—Its Sentiments.—Horace Greeley the Leader of the Economic Anti-slavery Party.—The Aggressive Anti-slavery Party.—Its Leaders.—The Colonization Anti-slavery Society.—American Colonization Society.—Manumitted Negroes colonize on the West Coast of Africa.—A Bill establishing a Line of Mail Steamers to the Coast of Africa.—It provides for the Suppression of the Slave-trade, the Promotion of Commerce, and the Colonization of Free Negroes.—Extracts from the Press warmly urging the Passage of the Bill.—The Underground Railroad Organization.—Its Efficiency in freeing Slaves.—Anti-Slavery Literature.—It exposes the True Character of Slavery.—"Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe, pleaded the Cause of the Slave in Twenty Different Languages.—The Influence of "Impending Crisis."




Intelligent Interest of Free Negroes in the Agitation Movement.—"First Annual Convention of the People of Color" held at Philadelphia.—Report of the Committee on the Establishment of a College for Young Men of Color.—Provisional Committee appointed in each City.—Conventional Address.—Second Convention held at Benezet Hall, Philadelphia.—Resolutions of the Meeting.—Conventional Address.—The Massachusetts General Colored Association.—Convention of Anti-slavery Women of America at New York.—Prejudice against admitting Negroes into White Societies.—Colored Orators.—Their Eloquent Pleas for their Enslaved Race




The Negro not so Docile as supposed.—The Reason why he was kept in Bondage.—Negroes possessed Courage but lacked Leaders.—Insurrection of Slaves.—Gen. Gabriel as a Leader.—Negro Insurrection planned in South Carolina.—Evils of, revealed.—The "Nat. Turner" Insurrection in South Hampton County, Virginia.—The Whites arm themselves to repel the Insurrectionists.—Capture and Trial of "Nat. Turner."—His Execution.—Effect of the Insurrection upon Slaves and Slave-holders


[Pg vii]



The Spanish Slaver "Amistad" sails from Havana, Cuba, for Porto Principe.—Fifty-four Native Africans on Board.—Joseph Cinquez, the Son of an African Prince.—The "Amistad" captured and taken into New London, Conn.—Trial and Release of the Slaves.—Tour through the United States.—Return to their Native Country in Company with Missionaries.—The Anti-slavery Cause benefited by their Stay in the United States.—Their Appreciation of Christian Civilization


Part 6.




Violent Treatment of Anti-slavery Orators.—The South misinterprets the Mobocratic Spirit of the North.—The "Garrisonians" and "Calhounites."—Slave Population of 1830-1850.—The Thirty-first Congress.—Motion for the Admission of New Mexico and California.—The Democratic and Whig Parties on the Treatment of the Slave Question.—Convention of the Democratic Party at Baltimore, Maryland.—Nomination of Franklin Pierce for President.—Whig Party Convention.—Nomination of Gen. Winfield Scott for the Presidency by the Whigs.—Mr. Pierce elected President in 1853.—A Bill introduced to repeal the "Missouri Compromise."—Speech by Stephen A. Douglass.—Mr. Chase's Reply.—An Act to organize the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska.—State Militia in the South make Preparations for War.—President Buchanan in Sympathy with the South.




Stringent Laws enacted against Free Negroes and Mulattoes.—Fugitive-slave Law respected in Ohio.—A Law to prevent Kidnapping.—The First Constitution of Ohio.—History of the Dred Scott case.—Judge Taney's Opinion in this Case.—Ohio Constitution of 1851 denied Free Negroes the Right to vote.—The Establishment of Colored Schools.—Law in Indiana Territory in Reference to Executions.—An Act for the Introduction of Negroes and Mulattoes into the Territory.—First Constitution of Indiana.—The Illinois Constitution of 1818.—Criminal Code enacted.—Illinois Legislature passes an Act to prevent the Emigration of Free Negroes into the State.—Free Negroes of the Northern States endure Restriction and Proscription




Nominal Rights of Free Negroes in the Slave States.—Fugitive Slaves seek Refuge in Canada.—Negroes petition against Taxation without Representation.—A Law preventing Negroes from other States from settling in Massachusetts.—Notice to Blacks, Indians, and Mulattoes, warning them to leave the Commonwealth.—The Rights and Privileges of the Negro restricted.—Colored Men turn their Attention to the Education of their own Race.—John V. De Grasse, the first Colored Man admitted to the Massachusetts Medical Society.—Prominent Colored Men of New York and Philadelphia.—The Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal and Colored Baptist Churches.—Colored Men distinguish themselves in the Pulpit.—Report to the Ohio Anti-slavery Society of Colored[Pg viii] People in Cincinnati in 1835.—Many purchase their Freedom.—Henry Boyd, the Mechanic and Builder.—He becomes a Successful Manufacturer in Cincinnati.—Samuel T. Wilcox, the Grocer.—His Success in Business in Cincinnati.—Ball & Thomas, the Photographers.—Colored People of Cincinnati evince a Desire to take Care of themselves.—Lydia P. Mott establishes a Home for Colored Orphans.—The Organization effected in 1844.—Its Success.—Formation of a Colored Military Company called "The Attucks Guards."—Emigration of Negroes to Liberia.—The Colored People live down much Prejudice




The Possibilities of the Human Intellect.—Ignorance Favorable to Slavery.—An Act by the Legislature of Alabama imposing a Penalty on any one instructing a Colored Person.—Educational Privileges of the Creoles in the City of Mobile.—Prejudice against Colored Schools in Connecticut.—The Attempt of Miss Prudence Crandall to admit Colored Girls into her School at Canterbury.—The Indignation of the Citizens at this Attempt to mix the Races in Education.—The Legislature of Connecticut passes a Law abolishing the School.—The Building assaulted by a Mob.—Miss Crandall arrested and imprisoned for teaching Colored Children against the Law.—Great Excitement.—The Law finally repealed.—An Act by the Legislature of Delaware taxing Persons who brought into, or sold Slaves out of, the State.—Under Act of 1829 Money received for the Sale of Slaves in Florida was added to the School Fund in that State.—Georgia prohibits the Education of Colored Persons under Heavy Penalty.—Illinois establishes Separate Schools for Colored Children.—The "Free Mission Institute" at Quincy, Illinois, destroyed by a Missouri Mob.—Numerous and Cruel Slave Laws in Kentucky retard the Education of the Negroes.—An Act passed in Louisiana preventing the Negroes in any Way from being instructed.—Maine gives Equal School Privileges to Whites and Blacks.—St. Francis Academy for Colored Girls founded in Baltimore in 1831.—The Wells School.—The First School for Colored Children established in Boston by Intelligent Colored Men in 1798.—A School-house for the Colored Children built and paid for out of a Fund left by Abiel Smith for that Purpose.—John B. Russworm one of the Teachers and afterward Governor of the Colony of Cape Palmas, Liberia.—First Primary School for Colored Children established in 1820.—Missouri passes Stringent Laws against the Instruction of Negroes.—New York provides for the Education of Negroes.—Elias Neau opens a School in New York City for Negro Slaves in 1704.—"New York African Free School" in 1786.—Visit of Lafayette to the African Schools in 1824.—His Address.—Public Schools for Colored Children in New York.—Colored Schools in Ohio.—"Cincinnati High School" for Colored Youths founded in 1844.—Oberlin College opens its Doors to Colored Students.—The Establishment of Colored Schools in Pennsylvania by Anthony Benezet in 1750.—His Will.—"Institute for Colored Youths" established in 1837.—"Avery College" at Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, founded in 1849.—Ashmun Institute, or Lincoln University, founded in October, 1856.—South Carolina takes Definite Action against the Education or Promotion of the Colored Race in 1800-1803-1834.—Tennessee makes no Discrimination against Color in the School Law of 1840.—Little Opportunity afforded in Virginia for the Colored Man to be enlightened.—Stringent Laws enacted.—History of Schools for the Colored Population in the District of Columbia




John Brown's Appearance in Kansas.—He denounces Slavery in a Political Meeting at Osawatomie.—Mrs. Stearns's Personal Recollection of John Brown.—Kansas infested by Border Ruffians.—The Battle of Harper's Ferry.—The Defeat and Capture of Captain John Brown.—His Last Letter written to Mrs. Steams.—His Trial and Execution.—His Influence upon the Anti-slavery Question at the North.—His Place in History


[Pg ix]

Part 7.




Increase of Slave Population in Slave-holding States from 1850-1860.—Products of Slave Labor.—Basis of Southern Representation.—Six Seceding States organize a New Government.—Constitution of the Confederate Government.—Speech by Alexander H. Stephens.—Mr. Lincoln in Favor of Gradual Emancipation.—He is elected President of the United States.—The Issue of the War between the States




The First Call for Troops.—Rendition of Fugitive Slaves by the Army.—Col. Tyler's Address to the People of Virginia.—General Isaac R. Sherwood's Account of an Attempt to secure a Fugitive Slave in his Charge.—Col. Steedman refuses to have his Camp searched for Fugitive Slaves by Order from Gen. Fry.—Letter from Gen. Buell in Defence of the Rebels in the South.—Orders issued by Generals Hooker, Williams, and Others, in Regard to harboring Fugitive Slaves in Union Camps.—Observation Concerning Slavery from the "Army of the Potomac."—Gen. Butler's Letter to Gen. Winfield Scott.—It is answered by the Secretary of War.—Horace Greeley's Letter to the President.—President Lincoln's Reply.—Gen. John C. Fremont, Commander of the Union Army in Missouri, issues a Proclamation emancipating Slaves in his District.—It is disapproved by the President.—Emancipation Proclamation by Gen. Hunter.—It is rescinded by the President.—Slavery and Union joined in a Desperate Struggle




Negroes employed as Teamsters and in the Quartermaster's Department.—Rebel General Mercer's Order to the Slave-holders issued from Savannah.—He receives Orders from the Secretary of War to impress a Number of Negroes to build Fortifications.—The Negro proves himself Industrious and earns Promotion




Congress passes an Act to confiscate Property used for Insurrectionary Purposes.—A Fruitless Appeal to the President to issue an Emancipation Proclamation.—He thinks the Time not yet come for such an Action, but within a Few Weeks changes his Opinion and issues an Emancipation Proclamation.—The Rebels show no Disposition to accept the Mild Terms of the Proclamation.—Mr. Davis gives Attention to the Proclamation in his Third Annual Message.—Second Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln January 1, 1863.—The Proclamation imparts New Hope to the Negro




The Question of the Military Employment of Negroes.—The Rebels take the First Step toward the Military Employment of Negroes.—Grand Review of the Rebel Troops at New Orleans.—General Hunter Arms the First Regiment of Loyal Negroes at the South.—Official Correspondence between the Secretary of War and General Hunter respecting the Enlistment of the Black Regiment.—The Enlistment of Five Negro Regiments authorized by the President.—The Policy of General Phelps in Regard to the Employment[Pg x] of Negroes as Soldiers in Louisiana.—A Second Call for Troops by the President.—An Attempt to amend the Army Appropriation Bill so as to prohibit the Further Employment of Colored Troops.—Governor John A. Andrew, of Massachusetts, authorized by Secretary of War to organize Two Regiments of Colored Troops.—General Lorenzo Thomas is despatched to the Mississippi Valley to superintend the Enlistment of Negro Soldiers in the Spring of 1863.—An Order issued by the War Department in the Fall of 1863 for the Enlistment of Colored Troops.—The Union League Club of New York City raises Two Regiments.—Recruiting of Colored Troops in Pennsylvania.—Major George L. Stearns assigned Charge of the Recruiting of Colored Troops in the Department of the Cumberland.—Free Military School established at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.—Endorsement of the School by Secretary Stanton.—The Organization of the School.—Official Table giving Number of Colored Troops in the Army.—The Character of Negro Troops.—Mr. Greeley's Editorial on "Negro Troops."—Letter from Judge-Advocate Holt to the Secretary of War on the "Enlistment of Slaves."—The Negro Legally and Constitutionally a Soldier.—History records his Deeds of Patriotism.




Justification of the Federal Government in the Employment of Slaves as Soldiers.—Trials of the Negro Soldier.—He undergoes Persecution from the White Northern Troops, and Barbarous Treatment from the Rebels.—Editorial of the "New York Times" on the Negro Soldiers in Battle.—Report of the "Tribune" on the Gallant Exploits of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.—Negro Troops in all the Departments.—Negro Soldiers in the Battle of Port Hudson.—Death of Captain Andre Callioux.—Death of Color-Sergeant Anselmas Planciancois.—An Account of the Battle of Port Hudson.—Official Report of General Banks.—He applauds the Valor of the Colored Regiments at Port Hudson.—George H. Boker's Poem on "The Black Regiment."—Battle of Milliken's Bend, June, 1863.—Description of the Battle.—Memorable Events of July, 1863.—Battle on Morris Island.—Bravery of Sergeant Carney.—An Account of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment by Edward L. Pierce to Governor Andrew.—Death of Col. Shaw.—Colored Troops in the Army of the Potomac.—Battle of Petersburg.—Table showing the Losses at Nashville.—Adjt.-Gen. Thomas on Negro Soldiers.—An Extract from the "New York Tribune" in Behalf of the Soldierly Qualities of the Negroes.—Letter received by Col. Darling from Mr. Aden and Col. Foster praising the Eminent Qualifications of the Negro for Military Life.—History records their Deeds of Valor in the Preservation of the Union




The Military Employment of Negroes Distasteful to the Rebel Authorities.—The Confederates the First to employ Negroes as Soldiers.—Jefferson Davis refers to the Subject in his Message, and the Confederate Congress orders All Negroes captured to be turned over to the State Authorities, and raises the "Black Flag" upon White Officers commanding Negro Soldiers.—The New York Press calls upon the Government to protect its Negro Soldiers.—Secretary Stanton's Action.—The President's Order.—Correspondence between Gen. Peck and Gen. Pickett in Regard to the Killing of a Colored Man after he had surrendered at the Battle of Newbern.—Southern Press on the Capture and Treatment of Negro Soldiers.—The Rebels refuse to exchange Negro Soldiers captured on Morris and James Islands on Account of the Order of the Confederate Congress which required them to be turned over to the Authorities of the Several States.—Jefferson Davis issues a Proclamation outlawing Gen. B. F. Butler.—He is to be hung without Trial by any Confederate Officer who may capture him.—The Battle of Fort Pillow.—The Gallant Defence by the Little Band of Union Troops.—It refuses to capitulate and is assaulted and captured by an Overwhelming Force.—The Union Troops butchered in Cold Blood.—The Wounded are carried into Houses which are fired and burned with their Helpless Victims.—Men are nailed to the Outside of Buildings through their Hands and Feet and burned alive.—The Wounded and Dying are brained where they lay in their Ebbing Blood.—The Outrages are renewed in the Morning.—Dead and Living find a Common Sepulchre in the Trench.—General Chalmers orders the Killing of a[Pg xi] Negro Child.—Testimony of the Few Union Soldiers who were enabled to crawl out of the Gilt-Edge, Fire-Proof Hell at Pillow.—They give a Sickening Account of the Massacre before the Senate Committee on the Conduct of the War.—Gen. Forrest's Futile Attempt to destroy the Record of his Foul Crime.—Fort Pillow Massacre without a Parallel in History


Part 8.




The War over, Peace restored, and the Nation cleansed of a Plague.—slavery gives Place to a Long Train of Events.—Unsettled Condition of Affairs at the South.—The Absence of Legal Civil Government necessitates the Establishment of Provisional Military Government.—An Act establishing a Bureau for Refugees and Abandoned Lands.—Congressional Methods for the Reconstruction of the South.—Gen. U. S. Grant carries these States in 1868 and 1872.—Both Branches of the Legislatures in all the Southern States contain Negro Members.—The Errors of Reconstruction chargeable to both Sections of the Country




The Apparent Idleness of the Negro Sporadic rather than Generic.—He quietly settles down to Work.—The Government makes Ample Provisions for his Educational and Social Improvement.—The Marvellous Progress made by the People of the South in Education.—Earliest School for Freedmen at Fortress Monroe in 1861.—The Richmond Institute for Colored Youth.—The Unlimited Desire of the Negroes to obtain an Education.—General Order organizing a "Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands."—Gen. O. O. Howard appointed Commissioner of the Bureau.—Report of all the Receipts and Expenditures of the Freedman's Bureau from 1865-1867.—An Act Incorporating the Freedman's Savings Bank and Trust Company.—The Business of the Company as shown from 1866-1871.—Financial Statement by the Trustees for 1872.—Failure of the Bank.—The Social and Financial Condition of the Colored People in the South.—The Negro rarely receives Justice in Southern Courts.—Treatment of Negroes as Convicts in Southern Prisons.—Increase of the Colored People from 1790-1880.—Negroes susceptible of the Highest Civilization




Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.—The Legal Destruction of Slavery and a Constitutional Prohibition.—Fifteenth Amendment granting Manhood Suffrage to the American Negro.—President Grant's Special Message upon the Subject.—Universal Rejoicing among the Colored People.—The Negro in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.—The Negro in the Diplomatic Service of the Country.—Frederick Douglass—His Birth, Enslavement, Escape to the North, and Life as a Freeman.—Becomes an Anti-slavery Orator.—Goes to Great Britain.—Returns to America.—Establishes the "North Star."—His Eloquence, Influence, and Brilliant Career.—Richard Theodore Greener.—His Early Life, Education, and Successful Literary Career.—John P. Green.—His Early Struggles to obtain an Education.—A Successful Orator, Lawyer, and Useful Legislator.—Other Representative Colored Men.—Representative Colored Women


[Pg xii]



Its Origin, Growth, Organization, and Excellent Influence.—Its Publishing House, Periodicals, and Papers.—Its Numerical and Financial Strength.—Its Missionary and Educational Spirit.—Wilberforce University




Founding of the M. E. Church of America in 1768.—Negro Servants and Slaves among the First Contributors to the Erection of the First Chapel in New York.—The Rev. Harry Hosier the First Negro Preacher in the M. E. Church in America.—His Remarkable Eloquence as a Pulpit Orator.—Early Prohibition against Slave-holding in the M. E. Church.—Strength of the Churches and Sunday-schools of the Colored Members in the M. E. Church.—The Rev. Marshall W. Taylor, D.D.—His Ancestors.—His Early Life and Struggles for an Education.—He Teaches School in Kentucky.—His Experiences as a Teacher.—Is ordained to the Gospel Ministry and becomes a Preacher and Missionary Teacher.—His Settlement as Pastor in Indiana and Ohio.—Is given the Title of Doctor of Divinity by the Tennessee College.—His Influence as a Leader, and his Standing as a Preacher




The Colored Baptists an Intelligent and Useful People.—Their Leading Ministers in Missouri, Ohio, and in New England.—The Birth, Early Life, and Education of Duke William Anderson.—As Farmer, Teacher, Preacher, and Missionary.—His Influence in the West.—Goes South at the Close of the War.—Teaches in a Theological Institute at Nashville, Tennessee.—Called to Washington.—Pastor of 19th Street Baptist Church.—He occupies Various Positions of Trust.—Builds a New Church.—His Last Revival.—His Sickness and Death.—His Funeral and the General Sorrow at his Loss.—Leonard Andrew Grimes, of Boston, Massachusetts.—His Piety, Faithfulness, and Public Influence for Good.—The Completion of his Church.—His Last Days and Sudden Death.—General Sorrow.—Resolutions by the Baptist Ministers of Boston.—A Great and Good Man Gone


Part 9.




The Beginning of the End of the Republican Governments at the South.—Southern Election Methods and Northern Sympathy.—Gen. Grant not Responsible for the Decline and Loss of the Republican State Governments at the South.—A Party without a Live Issue.—Southern War Claims.—The Campaign of 1876.—Republican Lethargy and Democratic Activity.—Doubtful Results.—The Electoral Count in Congress.—Gen. Garfield and Congressmen Foster and Hale to the Front as Leaders.—Peaceful Results.—President Hayes's Southern Policy.—Its Failure.—The Ideas of the Hon. Charles Foster on the Treatment of the Southern Problem.—"Nothing but Leaves" from Conciliation.—A New Policy demanded by the Republican Party.—A Remarkable Speech by the Hon. Charles Foster at Upper Sandusky, Ohio.—He calls for a Solid North against a Solid South.—He sounds the Key-note for the North and the Nation responds.—The Decay[Pg xiii] and Death of the Negro Governments at the South Inevitable.—The Negro must turn his Attention to Education, the Accumulation of Property and Experience.—He will return to Politics when he shall be Equal to the Difficult Duties of Citizenship




The Negroes of the South delight in their Home so Long as it is Possible for them to remain.—The Policy of abridging their Rights Destructive to their Usefulness as Members of Society.—Political Intimidation, Murder, and Outrage disturb the Negroes.—The Plantation Credit System the Crime of the Century.—The Exodus not inspired by Politicians, but the Natural Outcome of the Barbarous Treatment bestowed upon the Negroes by the Whites.—The Unprecedented Sufferings of 60,000 Negroes fleeing from Southern Democratic Oppression.—Their Patient Christian Endurance.—Their Industry, Morals, and Frugality.—The Correspondent of the "Chicago Inter-Ocean" sends Information to Senator Voorhees respecting the Refugees in Kansas.—The Position of Gov. St. John and the Faithful Labors of Mrs. Comstock.—The Results of the Exodus Beneficent.—The South must treat the Negro Better or lose his Labor




The Three Grand Divisions of the Tribes of Africa.—Slave Markets of America supplied from the Diseased and Criminal Classes of African Society.—America robs Africa of 15,000,000 Souls in 360 Years.—Negro Power of Endurance.—His Wonderful Achievements as a Laborer, Soldier, and Student.—First in War, and First in Devotion to the Country.—His Idiosyncrasies.—Mrs. Stowe's Errors.—His Growing Love for Schools and Churches.—His General Improvement.—The Negro will endure to the End.—He is Capable for All the Duties of Citizenship.—Amalgamation will not obliterate the Race.—The American Negro will civilize Africa.—America will establish Steamship Communication with the Dark Continent.—Africa will yet be composed of States, and "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her Hands unto God."


[Pg 1]


Part 4.



Commencement of the Nineteenth Century.—Slave Population of 1800.—Memorial Presented to Congress calling Attention to the Slave-trade to the Coast of Guinea.—Georgia cedes the Territory lying West of her to become a State.—Ohio adopts a State Constitution.—William Henry Harrison appointed Governor of the Territory of Indiana.—An Act of Congress prohibiting the Importation of Slaves into the United States or Territories.—Slave Population of 1810.—Mississippi applies for Admission into the Union with a Slave Constitution.—Congress besieged by Memorials urging more specific Legislation against the Slave-trade.—Premium offered to the Informer of every illegally imported African seized within the United States.—Circular Letters sent to the Naval Officers on the Seacoast of the Slave-holding States.—President Monroe's Message to Congress on the Question of Slavery.—Petition presented by the Missouri Delegates for the Admission of that State into the Union.—The Organization of the Arkansas Territory.—Resolutions passed for the Restriction of Slavery in New States.—The Missouri Controversy.—The Organization of the Anti-slavery Societies.—An Act for the Gradual Abolition Of Slavery in New Jersey.—Its Provisions.—The Attitude of the Northern Press on the Slavery Question.—Slave Population of 1820.—Anti-slavery Sentiment at the North.

Return to Table of Contents

THE nineteenth century opened auspiciously for the cause of the Negro. Although slavery had ceased to exist in Massachusetts and Vermont, the census of 1800 showed that the slave population in the other States was steadily on the increase. In the total population of 5,305,925, there were 893,041 slaves. The subjoined table exhibits the number of slaves in each of the slave-holding States in the year 1800.[Pg 2]


District of Columbia3,244
Indiana Territory135
Mississippi Territory3,489
New Jersey12,422
New Hampshire8
New York20,343
North Carolina133,296
Rhode Island381
South Carolina146,151

On the 2d of January, 1800, a number of Colored citizens of the city and county of Philadelphia presented a memorial to Congress, through the delegate from that city, Mr. Waln, calling attention to the slave-trade to the coast of Guinea. The memorial charged that the slave-trade was clandestinely carried on from various ports of the United States contrary to law; that under this wicked practice free Colored men were often seized and sold as slaves; and that the fugitive-slave law of 1793 subjected them to great inconvenience and severe persecutions. The memorialists did not request Congress to transcend their authority respecting the slave-trade, nor to emancipate the slaves, but only to prepare the way, so that, at an early period, the oppressed might go free.

Upon a motion by Mr. Waln for the reference of the memorial to the Committee on the Slave-trade, Rutledge, Harper, Lee, Randolph, and other Southern members, made speeches against such a reference. They maintained that the petition requested Congress to take action on a question over which they had no control. Waln, Thacher, Smilie, Dana, and Gallatin contended that there were portions of the petition that came within the jurisdiction of the Constitution, and, therefore, ought to be received[Pg 3] and acted upon. Mr. Rutledge demanded the yeas and nays; but in such a spirit as put Mr. Waln on his guard, so he withdrew his motion, and submitted another one by which such parts of the memorial as came within the jurisdiction of Congress should be referred. Mr. Rutledge raised a point of order on the motion of the gentleman from Pennsylvania that a "part" of the memorial could not be referred, but was promptly overruled. Mr. Gray, of Virginia, moved to amend by adding a declaratory clause that the portions of the memorial, not referred, inviting Congress to exercise authority not delegated, "have a tendency to create disquiet and jealousy, and ought, therefore, to receive the pointed disapprobation of this House." After some discussion, it was finally agreed to strike out the last clause and insert the following: "ought therefore to receive no encouragement or countenance from this House." The call of the roll resulted in the adoption of the amendment, with but one vote in the negative by Mr. Thacher, of Maine, an uncompromising enemy of slavery. The committee to whom the memorial was referred brought in a bill during the session prohibiting American ships from supplying slaves from the United States to foreign markets.

On the 2d of April, 1802, Georgia ceded the territory lying west of her present limits, now embracing the States of Alabama and Mississippi. Among the conditions she exacted was the following:

"That the territory thus ceded shall become a State, and be admitted into the Union as soon as it shall contain sixty thousand free inhabitants, or at an earlier period, if Congress shall think it expedient, on the same conditions and restrictions, with the same privileges, and in the same manner, as provided in the ordinance of Congress of the 13th day of July, 1787, for the government of the western territory of the United States: which ordinance shall, in all its parts, extend to the territory contained in the present act of cession, the article only excepted which forbids slavery."

The demand was acceded to, and, as the world knows, Alabama and Mississippi became the most cruel slave States in the United States.

Ohio adopted a State constitution in 1802-3, and the residue of the territory not included in the State as it is now, was designated as Indiana Territory. William Henry Harrison was appointed governor. One of the earliest moves of the government[Pg 4] of the new territory was to secure a modification of the ordinance of 1787 by which slavery or involuntary servitude was prohibited in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. It was ordered by a convention presided over by Gen. Harrison in 1802-3, that a memorial be sent to Congress urging a restriction of the ordinance of 1787. It was referred to a select committee, with John Randolph as chairman. On the 2d of March, 1803, he made a report by the unanimous request of his committee, and the portion referring to slavery was as follows:

"The rapid population of the State of Ohio sufficiently evinces, in the opinion of your committee, that the labor of slaves is not necessary to promote the growth and settlement of colonies in that region. That this labor—demonstrably the dearest of any—can only be employed in the cultivation of products more valuable than any known to that quarter of the United States; that the committee deem it highly dangerous and inexpedient to impair a provision wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the northwestern country, and to give strength and security to that extensive frontier. In the salutary operations of this sagacious and benevolent restraint, it is believed that the inhabitants of Indiana will, at no very distant day, find ample remuneration for a temporary privation of labor and of emigration."

After discussing the subject-matter embodied in the memorial from the territory of Indiana, the committee presented eight resolves, one of which related to the subject of slavery, and was as follows:

"Resolved, That it is inexpedient to suspend, for a limited time, the operation of the sixth article of the compact between the original States and the people and the States west of the river Ohio."

Congress was about to close its session, and, therefore, there was no action taken upon this report. At the next session it went into the hands of a new committee whose chairman was Cæsar Rodney, of Delaware, who had just been elected to Congress. On the 17th of February, 1804, Mr. Rodney made the following report:

"That taking into their consideration the facts stated in the said memorial and petition, they are induced to believe that a qualified suspension, for a limited time, of the sixth article of compact between the original States and the people and States west of the river Ohio, might be productive of benefit and advantage to said territory."

[Pg 5]

After discussing other matters contained in the Indiana petition, the committee says, in reference to slavery:

"That the sixth article of the ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery within the said territory, be suspended in a qualified manner for ten years, so as to permit the introduction of slaves born within the United States, from any of the individual States: provided, that such individual State does not permit the importation of slaves from foreign countries; and provided further, that the descendants of all such slaves shall, if males, be free at the age of twenty-five years, and, if female, at the age of twenty-one years."

The House did not take up and act upon this report, and so the matter passed for the time being. But the original memorial, with several petitions of like import, came before Congress in 1805-6. They were referred to a select committee, and on the 14th of February, 1806, Mr. Garnett, of Virginia, the chairman, made the following favorable report:

"That, having attentively considered the facts stated in the said petitions and memorials, they are of opinion that a qualified suspension for a limited time, of the sixth article of compact between the original States and the people and States west of the river Ohio, would be beneficial to the people of the Indiana Territory. The suspension of this article is an object almost universally desired in that Territory.

"It appears to your committee to be a question entirely different from that between Slavery and Freedom; inasmuch as it would merely occasion the removal of persons, already slaves, from one part of the country to another. The good effects of this suspension, in the present instance, would be to accelerate the population of that Territory, hitherto retarded by the operation of that article of compact, as slave-holders emigrating into the Western country might then indulge any preference which they might feel for a settlement in the Indiana Territory, instead of seeking, as they are now compelled to do, settlements in other States or countries permitting the introduction of slaves. The condition of the slaves themselves would be much ameliorated by it, as it is evident, from experience, that the more they are separated and diffused, the more care and attention are bestowed on them by their masters—each proprietor having it in his power to increase their comforts and conveniences, in proportion to the smallness of their numbers. The dangers, too (if any are to be apprehended), from too large a black population existing in any one section of country, would certainly be very much diminished, if not entirely removed. But whether dangers are to be[Pg 6] feared from this source or not, it is certainly an obvious dictate of sound policy to guard against them, as far as possible. If this danger does exist, or there is any cause to apprehend it, and our Western brethren are not only willing but desirous to aid us in taking precautions against it, would it not be wise to accept their assistance?

"We should benefit ourselves, without injuring them, as their population must always so far exceed any black population which can ever exist in that country, as to render the idea of danger from that source chimerical."

After a lengthy discussion of matters embodied in the Indiana memorial, the committee recommended the following resolve on the question of slavery:

"Resolved, That the sixth article of the ordinance of 1787, which prohibits slavery within the Indiana Territory, be suspended for ten years, so as to permit the introduction of slaves born within the United States, from any of the individual States."

The report and resolves were made the special order for the following Monday, but were never called up.

At the opening of the next session, Gen. Harrison presented another letter, accompanied by several resolves passed by the Legislative Council and House of Representatives, urging the passage of a measure restricting the ordinance of 1787. The letter and enclosures were received on the 21st of January, 1807, and referred to the following select committee: Parke, of Indiana, chairman; Alston, North Carolina; Masters, New York; Morrow, Ohio; Rhea, Tennessee; Sandford, Kentucky; Trigg, Virginia.

On the 12th of February, 1807, the chairman, Mr. Parke, made the following report in favor of the request of the memorialists [the third]. It was unanimous.

"The resolutions of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives of the Indiana Territory relate to a suspension, for the term of ten years, of the sixth article of compact between the United States and the Territories and States northwest of the river Ohio, passed the 13th July, 1787. That article declares that there shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said Territory.

"The suspension of the said article would operate an immediate and essential benefit to the Territory, as emigration to it will be inconsiderable for many years, except from those States where Slavery is tolerated.[Pg 7]

"And although it is not considered expedient to force the population of the Territory, yet it is desirable to connect its scattered settlements, and, in admitted political rights, to place it on an equal footing with the different States. From the interior situation of the Territory, it is not believed that slaves could ever become so numerous as to endanger the internal peace or future prosperity of the country. The current of emigration flowing to the Western country, the Territories should all be opened to their introduction. The abstract question of Liberty and Slavery is not involved in the proposed measure, as Slavery now exists to a considerable extent in different parts of the Union; it would not augment the number of slaves, but merely authorize the removal to Indiana of such as are held in bondage in the United States. If Slavery is an evil, means ought to be devised to render it least dangerous to the community, and by which the hapless situation of the slaves would be most ameliorated; and to accomplish these objects, no measure would be so effectual as the one proposed. The Committee, therefore, respectfully submit to the House the following resolution:

"Resolved, That it is expedient to suspend, from and after the 1st day of January, 1808, the sixth article of compact between the United States and the Territories and States northwest of the Ohio, passed the 13th day of July, 1787, for the term of ten years."

Like its predecessor this report was made a special order, but was never taken up.

On the 7th of November, 1807, the President laid a letter from Gen. Harrison [probably the one already referred to], and the resolves of his Legislature, before Congress, and that body referred them to a select committee consisting of Franklin, of North Carolina; Ketchel, of New Jersey; and Tiffin, of Ohio.

On the 13th of November, Mr. Franklin made the following adverse report:

"The Legislative Council and House of Representatives, in their resolutions, express their sense of the propriety of introducing Slavery into their Territory, and solicit the Congress of the United States to suspend, for a given number of years, the sixth article of compact, in the ordinance for the government of the Territory northwest of the Ohio, passed the 13th day of July, 1787. That article declares: 'There shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude within the said Territory.'

"The citizens of Clark County, in their remonstrance, express their sense of the impropriety of the measure, and solicit the Congress of the United States not to act on the subject, so as to permit the introduction[Pg 8] of slaves into the Territory; at least, until their population shall entitle them to form a constitution and State government.

"Your Committee, after duly considering the matter, respectfully submit the following resolution:

"Resolved, That it is not expedient at this time to suspend the sixth article of compact for the government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio."

Thus ended in defeat the stubborn effort to secure a restriction of the ordinance of 1787, and the admission of slavery into the Territory lying west of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, now comprising the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

In his message to Congress at the commencement of the session of 1806-7, President Jefferson suggested to that body the wisdom of abolishing the African slave-trade. He said in this connection:

"I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority, constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have so long been continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interest of our country have long been eager to proscribe."

This portion of the message was referred to a select committee; and in due time they reported a bill "to prohibit the importation or bringing of slaves into the United States or the territories thereof after the 31st day of December, 1807."

Mr. Early, of Georgia, the chairman of the committee, inserted a clause into the bill requiring that all slaves illegally imported "should be forfeited and sold for life for the benefit of the United States." A long debate ensued and was conducted with fiery earnestness from beginning to end. It was urged in support of the above regulation, that nothing else could be done but to sell them; that it would never do to release them in the States where they might be captured, poor, ignorant, and dangerous. It was said by the opponents of the measure, that Congress could not regulate the matter, as the States had the reserved authority to have slavery, and were, therefore, competent to say who should be free and who bond. It was suggested, farther along in the debate, that Congress might order such slaves into such States[Pg 9] as prohibited slavery, where they could be bound out for a term of years. After a great many able speeches the House refused to strike out the forfeiture clause by a vote of sixty-three to thirty-six. When the act was called up for final passage, it was amended by inserting a clause imposing a fine of $20,000, upon all persons concerned in fitting out a vessel for the slave-trade; and likewise a fine of $5,000, and forfeiture of the vessel for taking on board any Negro or Mulatto, or any person of color, in any foreign port with the intention of selling them in the United States.

During these efforts at restriction the slave population was growing daily. The census of 1810 showed that within a decade the slave population had sprung from 893,041, in 1800, to 1,191,364,—an increase of 33 per cent. The following table exhibits this remarkable fact:


District of Columbia5,395
Rhode Island108
New Jersey10,851
New York15,017
North Carolina168,824
South Carolina196,365
Mississippi Territory17,088
Indiana Territory237
Louisiana Territory3,011
Illinois Territory168
Michigan Territory24

On the 10th of December, 1817, Mississippi applied for admission into the Union with a slave constitution. The provisions relating to slavery dispensed with grand juries in the indictment of slaves, and trial by jury was allowed only in trial of capital cases.[Pg 10]

During the session of 1817-8, Congress was besieged by a large number of memorials praying for more specific legislation against the slave-trade. During the session the old fugitive-slave act was amended so as to make it more effective, and passed by a vote of eighty-four to sixty-nine. In the Senate, with several amendments, and heated debate, it passed by a vote of seventeen to thirteen; but upon being returned to the House for concurrence, the Northern members had heard from their constituents, and the bill was tabled, and its friends were powerless to get it up.

In 1818-9, Congress passed an act offering a premium of fifty dollars to the informer of every illegally imported African seized within the United States, and twenty-five dollars for those taken at sea. The President was authorized to have such slaves removed beyond the limits of the United States, and to appoint agents on the West Coast of Africa to superintend their reception. An effort was made to punish slave-trading with death. It passed the House, but was struck out in the Senate.

On the 12th of January, 1819, the Secretary of the Navy transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives copies of circular letters that had been sent to the naval officers on the various stations along the sea-coast of the slave-holding States. The following letter is a fair sample of the remainder:[1]

"Navy Department, January 22, 1811.

"Sir:—I hear, not without great concern, that the law prohibiting the importation of slaves has been violated in frequent instances, near St. Mary's, since the gun-boats have been withdrawn from that station.

"We are bound by law, by the obligations of humanity and sound policy, to use our most strenuous efforts to restrain this disgraceful traffic, and to bring those who shall be found engaged in it to those forfeitures and punishments which are by law prescribed for such offences.

"Hasten the equipment of the gun-boats which, by my letter of the 24th ultimo, you were directed to equip, and as soon as they shall be ready, despatch them to St. Mary's with orders to their commanders to use all practicable diligence in enforcing the law prohibiting the importation of slaves, passed March 2, 1807, entitled 'An Act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States from and after the 1st day of January, 1808.'[Pg 11] The whole of this law, but especially the 7th section, requires your particular attention; that section declares, that any ship or vessel which shall be found in any river, port, bay, or harbor, or on the high seas, within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, or hovering on the coast thereof, having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of color, for the purpose of selling them as slaves, or with intent to land the same in any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, contrary to the prohibition of the act, shall, together with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, and the goods and effects which shall be found on board the same, be forfeited and may be seized, prosecuted, and condemned in any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof.

"It further authorizes the President of the United States to cause any of the armed vessels of the United States to be manned and employed to cruise on any part of the coast of the United States, or territories thereof, and to instruct and direct the commanders to seize, take, and bring into any port of the United States, all such ships or vessels; and, moreover, to seize, take, and bring into any port of the United States, all ships or vessels of the United States, wherever found on the high seas, contravening the provisions of the act, to be proceeded against according to law.

"You will, therefore, consider yourself hereby especially instructed and required, and you will instruct and require all officers placed under your command, to seize, take, and bring into port, any vessel of whatever nature, found in any river, port, bay, or harbor, or on the high seas, within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, or hovering on the coast thereof, having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of color, for the purpose of selling them as slaves, or with intent to land the same, contrary to law; and, moreover, to seize, take, and bring into port, all ships or vessels of the United States, wheresoever found on the high seas or elsewhere, contravening the provisions of the law. Vessels thus to be seized, may be brought into any port of the United States; and when brought into port, must, without delay, be reported to the district-attorney of the United States residing in the district in which such port may be, who will institute such further proceedings as law and justice require.

"Every person found on board of such vessels must be taken especial care of. The negroes, mulattoes, or persons of color, are to be delivered to such persons as the respective States may appoint to receive the same. The commanders and crews of such vessels will be held under the prosecutions of the district-attorneys, to answer the pains and penalties prescribed by law for their respective offences. Whenever negroes, mulattoes, or persons of color shall be delivered to the persons appointed to receive the same, duplicate receipts must be taken[Pg 12] therefore, and if no person shall be appointed by the respective States to receive them, they must be delivered 'to the overseers of the poor of the port or place where such ship or vessel may be brought or found,' and an account of your proceedings, together with the number and descriptive list of such negroes, mulattoes, or persons of color, must be immediately transmitted to the governor or chief magistrate of the State. You will communicate to me, minutely, all your proceedings.

"I am, sir, respectfully, etc.

Paul Hamilton.

"H. G. Campbell, Commanding Naval Officer,
Charleston, S. C."

On the 17th of December, 1819, President Monroe sent the following message to Congress on the subject of the slave-trade:


"To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

"Some doubt being entertained respecting the true intent and meaning of the act of the last session, entitled 'An Act in addition to the Acts prohibiting the slave-trade,' as to the duties of the agents, to be appointed on the coast of Africa, I think it proper to state the interpretation which has been given of the act, and the measures adopted to carry it into effect, that Congress may, should it be deemed advisable, amend the same, before further proceeding is had under it.

"The obligation to instruct the commanders of all our armed vessels to seize and bring into port all ships or vessels of the United States, wheresoever found, having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of color, in violation of former acts for the suppression of the slave-trade, being imperative, was executed without delay. No seizures have yet been made, but, as they were contemplated by the law, and might be presumed, it seemed proper to make the necessary regulations applicable to such seizures for carrying the several provisions of the act into effect.

"It is enjoined on the executive to cause all negroes, mulattoes, or persons of color, who may be taken under the act, to be removed to Africa. It is the obvious import of the law, that none of the persons thus taken should remain within the United States; and no place other than the coast of Africa being designated, their removal or delivery, whether carried from the United States or landed immediately from the vessels in which they were taken, was supposed to be confined to that coast. No settlement or station being specified, the whole coast[Pg 13] was thought to be left open for the selection of a proper place, at which the persons thus taken should be delivered. The executive is authorized to appoint one or more agents, residing there, to receive such persons; and one hundred thousand dollars are appropriated for the general purposes of the law.

"On due consideration of the several sections of the act, and of its humane policy, it was supposed to be the intention of Congress, that all the persons above described, who might be taken under it, and landed in Africa, should be aided in their return to their former homes, or in their establishment at or near the place where landed. Some shelter and food would be necessary for them there, as soon as landed, let their subsequent disposition be what it might. Should they be landed without such provision having been previously made, they might perish. It was supposed, by the authority given to the executive to appoint agents residing on that coast, that they should provide such shelter and food, and perform the other beneficent and charitable offices contemplated by the act. The coast of Africa having been little explored, and no persons residing there who possessed the requisite qualifications to entitle them to the trust being known to the executive, to none such could it be committed. It was believed that citizens only, who would go hence, well instructed in the views of their government, and zealous to give them effect, would be competent to these duties, and that it was not the intention of the law to preclude their appointment. It was obvious that the longer these persons should be detained in the United States in the hands of the marshals, the greater would be the expense, and that for the same term would the main purpose of the law be suspended. It seemed, therefore, to be incumbent on me to make the necessary arrangements for carrying this act into effect in Africa, in time to meet the delivery of any persons who might be taken by the public vessels, and landed there under it.

"On this view of the policy and sanctions of the law, it has been decided to send a public ship to the coast of Africa with two such agents, who will take with them tools and other implements necessary for the purposes above mentioned. To each of these agents a small salary has been allowed—fifteen hundred dollars to the principal, and twelve hundred to the other. All our public agents on the coast of Africa receive salaries for their services, and it was understood that none of our citizens possessing the requisite qualifications would accept these trusts, by which they would be confined to parts the least frequented and civilized, without a reasonable compensation. Such allowance, therefore, seemed to be indispensable to the execution of the act. It is intended, also, to subject a portion of the sum appropriated, to the order of the principal agent, for the special objects above stated,[Pg 14] amounting in the whole, including the salaries of the agents for one year, to rather less than one third of the appropriation. Special instructions will be given to these agents, defining, in precise terms, their duties in regard to the persons thus delivered to them; the disbursement of the money by the principal agent; and his accountability for the same. They will also have power to select the most suitable place on the coast of Africa, at which all persons who may be taken under this act shall be delivered to them, with an express injunction to exercise no power founded on the principle of colonization, or other power than that of performing the benevolent offices above recited, by the permission and sanction of the existing government under which they may establish themselves. Orders will be given to the commander of the public ship in which they will sail, to cruise along the coast, to give the more complete effect to the principal object of the act.

"James Monroe.

"Washington, December, 17, 1819."

In March, 1818, the delegate from Missouri presented petitions from the inhabitants of that territory, praying to be admitted into the Union as a State. They were referred to a select committee, and a bill was reported for the admission of Missouri as a State on equal footing with the other States. The bill was read twice, when it was sent to the Committee of the Whole, where it was permitted to remain during the entire session. During the next session, on the 13th of February, 1819, the House went into the Committee of the Whole with Gen. Smith, of Maryland, in the chair. The committee had two sittings during which they discussed the bill. Gen. Tallmadge, of New York, offered the following amendment directed against the life of the clause admitting slavery:

"And provided that the introduction of slavery, or involuntary servitude, be prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes whereof the party has been duly convicted, and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be declared free at the age of twenty-five years."

A long and an able discussion followed, in which the authority of the government to prohibit slavery under new State governments was affirmed and denied. On coming out of the Committee of the Whole, the yeas and nays were demanded on the amendment prohibiting the introduction of slavery into Missouri, and resulted as follows: yeas, 87,—only one vote from the[Pg 15] South, Delaware; nays, 76,—ten votes from Northern States. Upon the latter clause of the amendment—"and that all children of slaves, born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be declared free at the age of twenty-five years": yeas, 82,—one vote from Maryland; nays, 78,—fourteen from Northern States. And thus the entire amendment of Gen. Tallmadge was sustained, and being reported to the House, passed by a vote 98 to 56.

The bill reached the Senate on the 17th of February, and after its second reading was referred to a select committee. On the 22d of February, the chairman, Mr. Tait, of Georgia, reported the bill back with amendments, striking out the Tallmadge restriction clauses. The House went into the Committee of the Whole on the 27th of February, to consider the bill, when Mr. Wilson, of New Jersey, moved to postpone the further consideration of the bill until the 5th of March. It was rejected. The committee then began to vote upon the recommendations of the select committee. Upon striking out the House amendment, providing that all the children of slaves born within said State should be free, etc., it was carried by a vote of 27 to 7, eleven Northern Senators voting to strike out. The seven votes against striking out were all from free States.

Upon the clause prohibiting servitude except for crimes, etc., 22 votes were cast for striking out,—five being from Northern States; against striking out, 16,—and they were all from Northern States.

Thus amended, the bill was ordered to be engrossed, and on the 2d of March—the last day but one of the session—was read a third time and passed. It was returned to the House, where the amendments were read, when Mr. Tallmadge moved that the bill be indefinitely postponed. His motion was rejected by a vote of: yeas, 69; nays, 74. But upon a motion to concur in the Senate amendments, the House refused to concur: yeas, 76; nays, 78. The Senate adhered to their amendments, and the House adhered to their disagreement by a vote of 76 to 66; and thus the bill fell between the two Houses and was lost.

The southern portion of the territory of Missouri, which was not included within the limits of the proposed State, was organized as a separate territory, under the designation of the Arkansas Territory. After considerable debate, and several attempts to insert an amendment for the restriction of slavery,[Pg 16] the bill creating the territory of Arkansas passed without any reference to slavery, and thus the territory was left open to slavery, and also the State some years later.

The Congressional discussion of the slavery question aroused the anti-slavery sentiment of the North, which found expression in large and earnest meetings, in pungent editorials, and numerous memorials. At Trenton, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other places, the indignation against slavery was great. On December 3, 1819, a large meeting was held in the State House at Boston, when a resolution was adopted to memorialize Congress on the subject of "restraining the increase of slavery in new States to be admitted into the Union." The memorial was drawn by Daniel Webster, and signed by himself, George Blake, Josiah Quincy, James T. Austin, and others. The New York Legislature passed resolutions against the extension of slavery into the territories and new States; and requested the Congressmen and instructed the Senators from that State not to vote for the admission of any State into the Union, except such State should pledge itself to unqualified restriction in the letter and spirit of the ordinance of 1787. These resolutions were signed on January 17, 1820.

On the 24th of January the New Jersey Legislature followed in the same strain, with six pertinent resolves, a copy of which the governor was requested to forward "to each of the senators and representatives of this State, in the Congress of the United States."

Pennsylvania had taken action on the 11th of December, 1819; but the resolves were not signed by Gov. William Findlay until the 16th of the month. The Legislature was composed of fifty-four Democrats and twenty Whigs, and yet there was not a dissenting vote cast.

Two Southern States passed resolutions,—Delaware and Kentucky: the first in favor of restriction, the last opposed to restriction.

The effort to secure the admission of Missouri with a slave constitution was not dead, but only sleeping. The bill was called up as a special order on the 24th of January, 1820. It occupied most of the time of the House from the 25th of January till the 19th of February, when a bill came from the Senate providing for the admission of Maine into the Union, but containing a rider authorizing the people of Missouri to[Pg 17] adopt a State constitution, etc., without restrictions respecting slavery. The bill providing for the admission of Maine had passed the House during the early days of the session, and now returned to the House for concurrence in the rider. The debate on the bill and amendments had occupied much of the time of the Senate. In the Judiciary Committee on the 16th of February, the question was taken on amendments to the Maine admission bill, authorizing Missouri to form a State constitution, making no mention of slavery: and twenty-three votes were cast against restriction,—three from Northern States; twenty-one in favor of restriction,—but only two from the South.

Mr. Thomas offered a resolution reaffirming the doctrine of the sixth article of the ordinance of 1787, and declaring its applicability to all that territory ceded to the United States by France, under the general designation of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude, etc. But on the following day he withdrew his original amendment, and submitted the following:

"And be it further enacted, That in all the territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, north latitude, excepting only such part thereof as is included within the limits of the State contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall be and is hereby forever prohibited. Provided always, that any person escaping into the same, from where labor or service is lawfully claimed in any State or territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid."

Mr. Trimble, of Ohio, offered a substitute, but it was rejected. The question recurring upon the passage of the amendment of Mr. Thomas, excluding slavery from all the territory north and west of Missouri, it was carried by a vote of 34 to 20.

Thus amended, the bill was ordered to engrossment by a vote of 24 to 20. On the 18th of February the bill passed, and this was its condition when it came to the House. By a vote of 93 to 72 the House agreed not to leave the Missouri question on the Maine bill as a rider; but immediately thereafter struck out the Thomas Senate amendment by a vote of 159 to 18. The House[Pg 18] disagreed to the remaining Senate amendments, striking out the clause restricting slavery in Missouri by a vote of 102 to 68.

Thus rejected, the bill was returned to the Senate shorn of its amendments. After four days of debate in the Senate it was decided not to recede from the attachment of the Missouri subject to the Maine bill; not to recede from the amendment prohibiting slavery west of Missouri, and north of 36° 30´ north latitude, and insisted upon the remaining amendments without division.

When the bill was returned to the House a motion was made to insist upon its disagreement to all but section nine of the Senate amendments, and was carried by a vote of 97 to 76.

The Senate asked for a committee of conference upon differences between the two Houses, which was cheerfully granted by the House. On the 2d of March, Mr. Holmes, of Massachusetts, as chairman, made the following report:

"1. The Senate should give up the combination of Missouri in the same bill with Maine.

"2. The House should abandon the attempt to restrict Slavery in Missouri.

"3. Both Houses should agree to pass the Senate's separate Missouri bill, with Mr. Thomas's restriction or compromising proviso, excluding Slavery from all territory north and west of Missouri.

"The report having been read,

"The first and most important question was put, viz.:

"Will the House concur with the Senate in so much of the said amendments as proposes to strike from the fourth section of the [Missouri] bill the provision prohibiting Slavery or involuntary servitude in the contemplated State, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes?"

The vote resulted as follows: For giving up restriction on Missouri, yeas, 90; against giving up restriction of slavery in Missouri, 87.

Mr. Taylor, of New York, offered an amendment to include Arkansas Territory under the prohibition of slavery in the territory west and north of Missouri, but his amendment was cut off by a call for the previous question. Then the House concurred in the Senate amendment excluding forever slavery from the territory west and north of Missouri by a vote of 134 to 42! And on the following day the bill admitting Maine into the Union was passed without opposition.

Thus the Northern delegates in Congress were whipped into[Pg 19] line, and thus did the South gain her point in the extension of slavery in violation of the sacred compact between the States contained in the ordinance of 1787.

But the struggle was opened afresh when Missouri presented herself for admission on the 16th of November, 1820. The constitution of this new State, adopted by her people on the 19th of July, 1820, contained the following resolutions which greatly angered the Northern members, who so keenly felt the defeat and humiliation they had Suffered so recently:

"The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws, first, for the emancipation of Slaves without the consent of their owners, or without paying them, before such emancipation, a full equivalent for such slaves so emancipated; and second: to prevent bona-fide emigrants to this State, or actual settlers therein, from bringing from any of the United States, or from any of their Territories, such persons as may there be deemed to be Slaves, so long as any persons of the same description are allowed to be held as Slaves by the laws of this State.

... "It shall be their duty, as soon as may be, to pass such laws as may be necessary,

"First, to prevent free negroes and mulattoes from coming to, and settling in, this State, under any pretext whatever."

Upon the motion to admit the State the vote stood: yeas, 79, nays, 93. Upon a second attempt to admit her, with the understanding that the resolution just quoted should be expunged the vote was worse than before, standing: yeas, 6; nays, 146!

The House now rested, until a joint resolve, admitting her with but a vague and ineffective qualification, came down from the Senate, where it was passed by a vote of 26 to 18—six Senators from Free States in the affirmative. Mr. Clay, who had resigned in the recess, and been succeeded, as Speaker, by John W. Taylor, of New York, now appeared as the leader of the Missouri admissionists, and proposed terms of compromise, which were twice voted down by the Northern members, aided by John Randolph and three others from the South, who would have Missouri admitted without condition or qualification. At last, Mr. Clay proposed a joint committee on this subject, to be chosen by ballot—which the House agreed to by a vote of 101 to 55; and Mr. Clay became its chairman. By this committee it was agreed, that a solemn pledge should be required of the Legislature of Missouri, that the constitution of that State should not be construed[Pg 20] to authorize the passage of any act, and that no act should be passed "by which any of the citizens of either of the States should be excluded from the enjoyment of the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled under the Constitution of the United States." The joint resolution, amended by the addition of this proviso, passed the House by 86 yeas to 82 nays; the Senate concurred (Feb. 27, 1821) by 26 yeas to 15 nays—(all Northern but Macon, of N. C.). Missouri complied with the condition, and became an accepted member of the Union. Thus closed the last stage of the fierce Missouri controversy, which for a time seemed to threaten—as so many other controversies have harmlessly threatened—the existence of the Union.

By this time there was scarcely a State in the North but that had organized anti-slavery, or abolition, societies. Pennsylvania boasted of a society that was accomplishing a great Work. Where it was impossible to secure freedom for the enslaved, religious training was imparted, and many excellent efforts made for the amelioration of the condition of the Negroes, bond and free. A society for promoting the "Abolition of Slavery" was formed at Trenton, New Jersey, on the 2d of March, 1786. It adopted an elaborate constitution, which was amended on the 26th of November, 1788. It did an effective work throughout the State; embraced in its membership some of the ablest men of the State; and changed public sentiment for the better by the methods it adopted and the literature it circulated. On the 15th of February, 1804, it secured the passage of the following Act for the gradual emancipation of the slaves in the State:

"An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery.

"Section 1. Be it enacted by the Council and General Assembly of this State, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That every child born of a slave within this State, after the fourth day of July next, shall be free; but shall remain the servant of the owner of his or her mother, and the executors, administrators, or assigns of such owner, in the same manner as if such child had been bound to service by the trustees or overseers of the poor, and shall continue in such service, if a male, until the age of twenty-five years, and if a female, until the age of twenty-one years.

"2. And be it enacted, That every person being an inhabitant of this State, who shall be entitled to the service of a child born as aforesaid, after the said fourth day of July next, shall within nine months after[Pg 21] the birth of such child, cause to be delivered to the clerk of the county whereof such person shall be an inhabitant, a certificate in writing, containing the name and station of such person, and the name, age, and sex of the child so born; which certificate, whether the same be delivered before or after the said nine months, shall be by the said clerk recorded in a book to be by him provided for that purpose; and such record thereof shall be good evidence of the age of such child; and the clerk of such county shall receive from said person twelve cents for every child so registered; and if any person shall neglect to deliver such certificate to the said clerk within said nine months, such person shall forfeit and pay for every such offence, five dollars, and the further sum of one dollar for every month such person shall neglect to deliver the same, to be sued for and recovered by any person who will sue for the same, the one half to the use of such prosecutor, and the residue to the use of the poor of the township in which such delinquent shall reside.

"3. And be it enacted, That the person entitled to the service of any child born as aforesaid, may, nevertheless, within one year after the birth of such child, elect to abandon such right; in which case a notification of such abandonment, under the hand of such person, shall be filed with the clerk of the township, or where there may be a county poor-house established, then with the clerk of the board of trustees of said poor-house of the county in which such person shall reside; but every child so abandoned shall be maintained by such person until such child arrives to the age of one year, and thereafter shall be considered as a pauper of such township or county, and liable to be bound out by the trustees or overseers of the poor in the same manner as other poor children are directed to be bound out, until, if a male, the age of twenty-five, and if a female, the age of twenty-one; and such child, while such pauper, until it shall be bound out, shall be maintained by the trustees or overseers of the poor of such county or township, as the case may be, at the expense of this State; and for that purpose the director of the board of chosen freeholders of the county is hereby required, from time to time, to draw his warrant on the treasurer in favor of such trustees or overseers for the amount of such expense, not exceeding the rate of three dollars per month; provided the accounts for the same be first certified and approved by such board of trustees, or the town committee of such township; and every person who shall omit to notify such abandonment as aforesaid, shall be considered as having elected to retain the service of such child, and be liable for its maintenance until the period to which its servitude is limited as aforesaid.

"A. Passed at Trenton, Feb. 15, 1804."

The public journals of the larger Northern cities began to[Pg 22] take a lively interest in the paramount question of the day, which, without doubt, was the slavery question. Gradual emancipation was doing an excellent work in nearly all the Northern States, as may be seen by the census of 1820. When the entire slave population was footed up it showed an increase of 30 per cent. during the previous ten years, but when examined by States it was found to be on the decrease in all the Northern or free States, except Illinois. The slave population of Virginia had increased only 8 per cent.; North Carolina 21 per cent.; South Carolina 31 per cent.; Tennessee 79 per cent.; Mississippi 92 per cent.; and Louisiana 99 per cent. The slave population by States was as follows:


District of Columbia6,377
New Jersey7,557
New York10,088
North Carolina205,017
Rhode Island48
South Carolina258,475
Arkansas Territory1,617

The anti-slavery sentiment of the Northern States was growing, but no organization with a great leader at its head had yet announced its platform or unfurled its banner in a holy war for the emancipation of the Bondmen of the Free Republic of North America.


[1] I have in my possession large numbers of official orders and letters on the suppression of the slave-trade, but the space appropriated to this history precludes their publication. There are, however, some important documents in the appendix to this volume.

[Pg 23]


Employment of Negroes as Soldiers in the War of 1812.—The New York Legislature authorizes the Enlistment of a Regiment of Colored Soldiers.—Gen. Andrew Jackson's Proclamation to the Free Colored Inhabitants of Louisiana calling them to Arms.—Stirring Address to the Colored Troops the Sunday before the Battle of New Orleans.—Gen. Jackson anticipates the Valor of his Colored Soldiers.—Terms of Peace at the Close of the War by the Commissioners at Ghent.—Negroes placed as Chattel Property.—Their Valor in War secures them no Immunity in Peace.

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WHEN the war-clouds gathered in 1812, there was no time wasted in discussing whether it would be prudent to arm the Negro, nor was there a doubt expressed as to his valor. His brilliant achievements in the war of the Revolution, his power of endurance, and martial enthusiasm, were the golden threads of glory that bound his memory to the victorious cause of the American Republic. A lack of troops and an imperiled cause led to the admission of Negroes into the American army during the war of the Revolution. But it was the Negro's eminent fitness for military service that made him a place under the United States flag during the war in Louisiana. The entire country had confidence in the Negro's patriotism and effectiveness as a soldier. White men were willing to see Negroes go into the army because it reduced their chances of being sent forth to the tented field and dangerous bivouac.

New York did not hesitate to offer a practical endorsement of the prevalent opinion that Negroes were both competent and worthy to fight the battles of the Nation. Accordingly, the following Act was passed authorizing the organization of two regiments of Negroes.

"An Act to Authorize the Raising of Two Regiments of Men of Color; passed Oct. 24, 1814.

"Sect. 1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, That the Governor of the State be,[Pg 24] and he is hereby, authorized to raise, by voluntary enlistment, two regiments of free men of color, for the defence of the State for three years, unless sooner discharged.

"Sect. 2. And be it further enacted, That each of the said regiments shall consist of one thousand and eighty able-bodied men; and the said regiments shall be formed into a brigade, or be organized in such manner, and shall be employed in such service, as the Governor of the State of New York shall deem best adapted to defend the said State.

"Sect. 3. And be it further enacted, That all the commissioned officers of the said regiments and brigade shall be white men; and the Governor of the State of New York shall be, and he is hereby, authorized to commission, by brevet, all the officers of the said regiments and brigade, who shall hold their respective commissions until the council of appointment shall have appointed the officers of the said regiments and brigade, in pursuance of the Constitution and laws of the said State.

"Sect. 4. And be it further enacted, That the commissioned officers of the said regiments and brigade shall receive the same pay, rations, forage, and allowances, as officers of the same grade in the army of the United States; and the non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates of the said regiments shall receive the same pay, rations, clothing, and allowances, as the non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates of the army of the United States; and the sum of twenty-five dollars shall be paid to each of the said non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates, at the time of enlistment, in lieu of all other bounty.

"Sect. 5. And be it further enacted, That the troops to be raised as aforesaid may be transferred into the service of the United States, if the Government of the United States shall agree to pay and subsist them, and to refund to this State the moneys expended by this State in clothing and arming them; and, until such transfer shall be made, may be ordered into the service of the United States in lieu of an equal number of militia, whenever the militia of the State of New York shall be ordered into the service of the United States.

"Sect. 6. And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for any able-bodied slave, with the written assent of his master or mistress, to enlist into the said corps; and the master or mistress of such slave shall be entitled to the pay and bounty allowed him for his service; and, further, that the said slave, at the time of receiving his discharge, shall be deemed and adjudged to have been legally manumitted from that time, and his said master or mistress shall not thenceforward be liable for his maintenance.

"Sect. 7. And be it further enacted, That every such enrolled person, who shall have become free by manumission or otherwise, if he shall thereafter become indigent, shall be deemed to be settled in the town in which the person who manumitted him was settled at the time[Pg 25] of such manumission, or in such other town where he shall have gained a settlement subsequent to his discharge from the said service; and the former owner or owners of such manumitted person, and his legal representatives, shall be exonerated from his maintenance, any law to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.

"Sect. 8. And be it further enacted, That, when the troops to be raised as aforesaid shall be in the service of the United States, they shall be subject to the rules and articles which have been or may be hereafter established by the By-laws of the United States for the government of the army of the United States; that, when the said troops shall be in the service of the State of New York, they shall be subject to the same rules and regulations; and the Governor of the said State shall be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to exercise all the power and authority which, by the said rules and articles, are required to be exercised by the President of the United States."[2]

Gen. Andrew Jackson believed in the fighting capacity of the Negro, as evidenced by the subjoined proclamation:

"Headquarters of 7th Military District,
"Mobile, September 21, 1814.

"To the Free Colored Inhabitants of Louisiana:

"Through a mistaken policy you have heretofore been deprived of a participation in the glorious struggle for national rights in which our country is engaged. This no longer shall exist.

"As sons of freedom, you are now called upon to defend our most inestimable blessing. As Americans, your country looks with confidence to her adopted children for a valorous support, as a faithful return for the advantages enjoyed under her mild and equitable government. As fathers, husbands, and brothers, you are summoned to rally around the standard of the eagle, to defend all which is dear in existence.

"Your country, although calling for your exertions, does not wish you to engage in her cause without amply remunerating you for the services rendered. Your intelligent minds are not to be led away by false representations. Your love of honor would cause you to despise the man who should attempt to deceive you. In the sincerity of a soldier and the language of truth I address you.

"To every noble-hearted, generous freeman of color, volunteering to serve during the present contest with Great Britain, and no longer, there[Pg 26] will be paid the same bounty in money and lands, now received by the white soldiers of the United States, viz.: one hundred and twenty-four dollars in money, and one hundred and sixty acres of land. The non-commissioned officers and privates will also be entitled to the same monthly pay and daily rations, and clothes, furnished to any American soldier.

"On enrolling yourselves in companies, the major-general commanding will select officers for your government from your white fellow-citizens. Your non-commissioned officers will be appointed from among yourselves.

"Due regard will be paid to the feelings of freemen and soldiers. You will not, by being associated with white men in the same corps, be exposed to improper comparisons or unjust sarcasm. As a distinct, independent battalion or regiment, pursuing the path of glory, you will, undivided, receive the applause and gratitude of your countrymen.

"To assure you of the sincerity of my intentions, and my anxiety to engage your invaluable services to our country, I have communicated my wishes to the Governor of Louisiana, who is fully informed as to the manner of enrollment, and will give you every necessary information on the subject of this address.

"Andrew Jackson, Major-General Commanding."[3]

Just before the battle of New Orleans, General Jackson reviewed his troops, white and black, on Sunday, December 18, 1814. At the close of the review his Adjutant-General, Edward Livingston, rode to the head of the column, and read in rich and sonorous tones the following address:

"To the Men of Color.—Soldiers! From the shores of Mobile I collected you to arms; I invited you to share in the perils and to divide the glory of your white countrymen. I expected much from you, for I was not uninformed of those qualities which must render you so formidable to an invading foe. I knew that you could endure hunger and thirst and all the hardships of war; I knew that you loved the land of your nativity, and that, like ourselves, you had to defend all that is most dear to man. But you surpass my hopes. I have found in you, united to these qualities, that noble enthusiasm which impels to great deeds.

"Soldiers! The President of the United States shall be informed of your conduct on the present occasion; and the voice of the representatives of the American nation shall applaud your valor, as your general now praises your ardor. The enemy is near. His sails cover the lakes.[Pg 27] But the brave are united; and if he finds us contending among ourselves, it will be for the prize of valor, and fame, its noblest reward."[4]

But in this war, as in the Revolutionary struggle, the commissioners who concluded the terms of peace, armed with ample and authentic evidence of the Negro's valorous services, placed him among chattel property.

And in no State in the South were the laws more rigidly enforced against Negroes, both free and slave, than in Louisiana. The efficient service of the Louisiana Negro troops in the war of 1812 was applauded on two continents at the time, but the noise of the slave marts soon silenced the praise of the "Black heroes of the battle of New Orleans."


[2] Laws of the State of New York, passed at the Thirty-eighth Session of the Legislature, chap. xviii.

[3] Niles's Register, vol. vii. p. 205.

[4] Niles's Register, vol. vii. pp. 345, 346.

[Pg 28]


No Proscription against Negroes as Sailors.—They are carried upon the Rolls in the Navy without Regard to their Nationality.—Their Treatment as Sailors.—Commodore Perry's Letter to Commodore Chauncey in Regard to the Men sent him.—Commodore Chauncey's Spirited Reply.—The Heroism of the Negro set forth in the Picture of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie.—Extract of a Letter from Nathaniel Shaler, Commander of a Private Vessel.—He cites several Instances of the Heroic Conduct of Negro Sailors.

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IT is rather a remarkable fact of history that Negroes were carried upon the rolls of the navy without reference to their nationality. About one tenth of the crews of the fleet that sailed to the Upper Lakes to co-operate with Col. Croghan at Mackinac, in 1814, were Negroes. Dr. Parsons says:—

"In 1816, I was surgeon of the 'Java,' under Commodore Perry. The white and colored seamen messed together. About one in six or eight were colored.

"In 1819, I was surgeon of the 'Guerrière,' under Commodore Macdonough; and the proportion of blacks was about the same in her crew. There seemed to be an entire absence of prejudice against the blacks as messmates among the crew. What I have said applies to the crews of the other ships that sailed in squadrons."[5]

This ample and reliable testimony as to the treatment of Negroes as sailors, puts to rest all doubts as to their status in the United States navy.

In the summer of 1813, Captain (afterwards Commodore) Perry wrote a letter to Commodore Chauncey in which he complained that an indifferent lot of men had been sent him. The following is the letter that he wrote.

"Sir:—I have this moment received, by express, the enclosed letter from General Harrison. If I had officers and men—and I have no[Pg 29] doubt you will send them—I could fight the enemy, and proceed up the lake; but, having no one to command the 'Niagara,' and only one commissioned lieutenant and two acting lieutenants, whatever my wishes may be, going out is out of the question. The men that came by Mr. Champlin are a motley set—blacks, soldiers, and boys. I cannot think you saw them after they were selected. I am, however, pleased to see any thing in the shape of a man."[6]

Commodore Chauncey replied in the following sharp letter, in which he gave Captain Perry to understand that the color of the skin had nothing to do with a man's qualifications for the navy:

"Sir:—I have been duly honored with your letters of the twenty-third and twenty-sixth ultimo, and notice your anxiety for men and officers. I am equally anxious to furnish you; and no time shall be lost in sending officers and men to you us soon as the public service will allow me to send them from this lake. I regret that you are not pleased with the men sent you by Messrs. Champlin and Forrest; for, to my knowledge, a part of them are not surpassed by any seamen we have in the fleet; and I have yet to learn that the color of the skin, or the cut and trimmings of the coat, can affect a man's qualifications or usefulness. I have nearly fifty blacks on board of this ship, and many of them are among my best men; and those people you call soldiers have been to sea from two to seventeen years; and I presume that you will find them as good and useful as any men on board of your vessel; at least, if I can judge by comparison; for those which we have on board of this ship are attentive and obedient, and, as far as I can judge, many of them excellent seamen: at any rate, the men sent to Lake Erie have been selected with a view of sending a fair proportion of petty officers and seamen; and, I presume, upon examination it will be found that they are equal to those upon this lake."[7]

Perry was not long in discovering that the Negroes whom Commodore Chauncey had sent him were competent, faithful, and brave; and his former prejudice did not prevent him from speaking their praise.

"Perry speaks highly of the bravery and good conduct of the negroes, who formed a considerable part of his crew. They seemed to be absolutely insensible to danger. When Captain Barclay came on board the 'Niagara,' and beheld the sickly and party-colored beings[Pg 30] around him, an expression of chagrin escaped him at having been conquered by such men. The fresh-water service had very much impaired the health of the sailors, and crowded the sick-list with patients."[8]

These brave Negro sailors served faithfully through all the battles on the Lakes, and in the battle of Lake Erie rendered most effective service. Once more the artist has rescued from oblivion the heroism of the Negroes; for in the East Senate stairway of the Capitol at Washington, and in the rotunda of the Capitol at Columbus, in the celebrated picture of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie, a Negro sailor has a place among the immortalized crew.

The following testimony to the bravery of Colored sailors is of the highest character.

"Extract of a letter from Nathaniel Shaler, Commander of the private-armed Schooner 'Gov. Tompkins,' to his Agent in New York, dated—

"At Sea, Jan. 1, 1813.

. . . . . . . . .

"Before I could get our light sails in, and almost before I could turn round, I was under the guns, not of a transport, but of a large frigate! and not more than a quarter of a mile from her.... Her first broadside killed two men, and wounded six others.... My officers conducted themselves in a way that would have done honor to a more permanent service.... The name of one of my poor fellows who was killed ought to be registered in the book of fame, and remembered with reverence, as long as bravery is considered a virtue. He was a black man, by the name of John Johnson. A twenty-four-pound shot struck him in the hip, and took away all the lower part of his body. In this state, the poor brave fellow lay on the deck, and several times exclaimed to his shipmates: 'Fire away, my boys; no haul a color down.' The other was also a black man, by the name of John Davis, and was struck in much the same way. He fell near me, and several times requested to be thrown overboard, saying he was only in the way of others.

"When America has such tars, she has little to fear from the tyrants of the ocean."[9]

After praise of such a nature and from such a source, eulogy is superfluous.


[5] Livermore, pp. 159, 160.

[6] Mackenzie's Life of Perry, vol. i. pp. 165, 166.

[7] Mackenzie's Life of Perry, vol. i. pp. 186, 187.

[8] Analectic Magazine, vol. iii. p. 255.

[9] Niles's Weekly Register, Saturday, Feb. 26, 1814.

[Pg 31]

Part 5.



The Security of the Institution of Slavery at the South.—The Right to hold Slaves questioned.—Rapid Increase of the Slave Population.—Anti-slavery Speeches in the Legislature of Virginia.—The Quakers of Maryland and Delaware emancipate their Slaves.—The Evil Effect of Slavery upon Society.—The Conscience and Heart of the South did not respond to the Voice of Reason or Dictates of Humanity.

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AN awful silence succeeded the stormy struggle that ended in the violation of the ordinance of 1787. It was now time for reflection. The Southern statesmen had proven themselves the masters of the situation. The institution of slavery was secured to them, with many collateral political advantages. And, in addition to this, they had secured the inoculation of the free territory beyond the Mississippi and Ohio rivers with the virus of Negro-slavery.

If the mother-country had forced slavery upon her colonial dependencies in North America, and if it were difficult and inconvenient to part with slave-labor, who were now responsible for the extension of the slave area? Southern men, of course. What principle or human law was strong enough to support an institution of such cruel proportions? The old law of European pagans born of bloody and destroying wars? No; for it was now the nineteenth century. Abstract law? Certainly not; for law is the perfection of reason—it always tends to conform thereto—and that which is not reason is not law. Well did Justinian write: "Live honestly, hurt nobody, and render to every[Pg 32] one his just dues." The law of nations? Verily not; for it is a system of rules deducible from reason and natural justice, and established by universal consent, to regulate the conduct and mutual intercourse between independent States. The Declaration of Independence? Far from it; because the prologue of that incomparable instrument recites: "We hold these truths to be self-evident—that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." And the peerless George Bancroft has added: "The heart of Jefferson in writing the Declaration, and of Congress in adopting it, beat for all humanity; the assertion of right was made for all mankind and all coming generations, without any exception whatever; for the proposition which admits of exceptions can never be self-evident." There was but one authority for slavery left, and that was the Bible.

Many slave-holders thought deeply on the question of their right to hold slaves. A disturbed conscience cried aloud for a "Thus saith the Lord," and the pulpit was charged with the task of quieting the general disquietude. The divine origin of slavery was heard from a thousand pulpits. God, who never writes a poor hand, had written upon the brow of every Negro, the word "Slave"; slavery was their normal condition, and the white man was God's agent in the United States to carry out the prophecy of Noah respecting the descendants of Ham; while St. Paul had sent Onesimus back to his owner, and had written, "Servants, obey your masters."

But apologetic preaching did not seem to silence the gnawing of a guilty conscience. Upon the battle-fields of two great wars; in the army and in the navy, the Negroes had demonstrated their worth and manhood. They had stood with the undrilled minute-men along the dusty roads leading from Lexington and Concord to Boston, against the skilled redcoats of boastful Britain. They were among the faithful little band that held Bunker Hill against overwhelming odds; at Long Island, Newport, and Monmouth, they had held their ground against the stubborn columns of the Ministerial army. They had journeyed with the Pilgrim Fathers through eight years of despair and hope, of defeat and victory; had shared their sufferings[Pg 33] and divided their glory. These recollections made difficult an unqualified acceptance of the doctrine of the divine nature of perpetual slavery. Reason downed sophistry, and human sympathy shamed prejudice. And against prejudice, custom, and political power, the thinking men of the South launched their best thoughts. Jefferson said: "The hour of emancipation is advancing in the march of time. It will come, and whether brought on by the generous energy of our own minds, or by the bloody process of St. Domingo, excited and conducted by the power of our present enemy [Great Britain], if once stationed permanently within our country and offering asylum and arms to the oppressed [Negro], is a leaf in our history not yet turned over." These words, written to Edward Coles, in August, 1814, were still ample food for the profound meditation of the slave-holders. In his "Notes on Virginia" Mr. Jefferson had written the following words: "Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever. That, considering numbers, nature, and natural means, only a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events. That it may become probable by supernatural interference. The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest."[10]

The eloquence of Patrick Henry and the logic and philosophy of Madison and Jefferson rang in the ears of the people of the slave-holding States, and they paused to think. In forty years the Negro population of Virginia had increased 186 per cent.—from 1790 to 1830,—while the white had increased only 51 per cent. The rapid increase of the slave population winged the fancy and produced horrid dreams of insurrection; while the pronounced opposition of the Northern people to slavery seemed to proclaim the weakness of the government and the approach of its dissolution. In 1832, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, a grandson of Thomas Jefferson, lifted up his voice in the Legislature of Virginia against the institution of slavery.

Said Mr. Jefferson:—"There is one circumstance to which we are to look as inevitable in the fulness of time—a dissolution of this Union. God grant it may not happen in our time or that of our children; but, sir, it must come sooner or later, and when it does come, border war follows it, as certain as the night follows the day. An enemy upon[Pg 34] your frontier offering arms and asylum to this population, tampering with it in your bosom, when your citizens shall march to repel the invader, their families butchered and their homes desolated in the rear, the spear will fall from the warrior's grasp; his heart may be of steel, but it must quail. Suppose an invasion in part with black troops, speaking the same language, of the same nation, burning with enthusiasm for the liberation of their race; if they are not crushed the moment they put foot upon your soil, they roll forward, an hourly swelling mass; your energies are paralyzed, your power is gone; the morasses of the lowlands, the fastnesses of the mountains, cannot save your wives and children from destruction. Sir, we cannot war with these disadvantages; peace, ignoble, abject peace,—peace upon any conditions that an enemy may offer, must be accepted. Are we, then, prepared to barter the liberty of our children for slaves for them?... Sir, it is a practice, and an increasing practice in parts of Virginia to rear slaves for market. How can an honorable mind, a patriot and a lover of his country, bear to see this ancient Dominion, rendered illustrious by the noble devotion and patriotism of her sons in the cause of liberty, converted into one grand managerie, where men are to be reared for market like oxen for the shambles. Is this better, is it not worse, than the Slave-Trade, that trade which enlisted the labor of the good and the wise of every creed and every clime to abolish it?"

Mr. P. A. Bolling said:—

"Mr. Speaker, it is vain for gentlemen to deny the fact, the feelings of society are fast becoming adversed to slavery. The moral causes which produce that feeling are on the march, and will on until the groans of slavery are heard no more in this else happy country. Look over this world's wide page—see the rapid progress of liberal feelings—see the shackles falling from nations who have long writhed under the galling yoke of slavery. Liberty is going over the whole earth—hand-in-hand with Christianity. The ancient temples of slavery, rendered venerable alone by their antiquity, are crumbling into dust. Ancient prejudices are flying before the light of truth—are dissipated by its rays, as the idle vapor by the bright sun. The noble sentiment of Burns:

'Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That man to man, the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that'—

is rapidly spreading. The day-star of human liberty has risen above the dark horizon of slavery, and will continue its bright career, until it smiles alike on all men."

[Pg 35]

Mr. C. J. Faulkner said:—

"Sir, I am gratified that no gentleman has yet risen in this hall, the advocate of slavery. * * * Let me compare the condition of the slave-holding portion of this commonwealth, barren, desolate, and scarred, as it were, by the avenging hand of Heaven, with the descriptions which we have of this same country from those who first broke its virgin soil. To what is this change ascribable? Alone to the withering, blasting effects of slavery. If this does not satisfy him, let me request him to extend his travels to the Northern States of this Union, and beg him to contrast the happiness and contentment which prevail throughout that country—the busy and cheerful sound of industry, the rapid and swelling growth of their population, their means and institutions of education, their skill and proficiency in the useful arts, their enterprise and public spirit, the monuments of their commercial and manufacturing industry, and, above all, their devoted attachment to the government from which they derive their protection, with the division, discontent, indolence, and poverty of the Southern country. To what, sir, is all this ascribable? 'T is to that vice in the organization of society by which one half of its inhabitants are arrayed in interest and feeling against the other half; to that unfortunate state of society in which free men regard labor as disgraceful, and slaves shrink from it as a burden tyrannically imposed upon them. 'To that condition of things in which half a million of your population can feel no sympathy with the society in the prosperity of which they are forbidden to participate, and no attachment to a government at whose hands they receive nothing but injustice.' In the language of the wise, prophetic Jefferson, 'you must approach this subject, YOU MUST ADOPT SOME PLAN OF EMANCIPATION, OR WORSE WILL FOLLOW.'"

In Maryland and Delaware the Quakers were rapidly emancipating their slaves, and the strong reaction that had set in among the thoughtful men of the South began to threaten the institution. Men felt that it was a curse to the slave, and poisoned the best white society of the slave-holding States. As early as 1781, Mr. Jefferson, with his keen, philosophical insight, beheld with alarm the demoralizing tendency of slavery. "The whole commerce," says Mr. Jefferson, "between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unrelenting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it—for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he[Pg 36] is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive, either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion toward his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present. But generally, it is not sufficient. The parent storms; the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose tongue to the worst of passions, and, thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who, permitting one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriæ of the other!"[11]

And what was true in Virginia, as coming under the observation of Mr. Jefferson, was true in all the other States where slavery existed. And indeed it was difficult to tell whether the slave or master was injured the more. The ignorance of the former veiled from him the terrible evils of his condition, while the intelligence of the latter revealed to him, in detail, the baleful effects of the institution upon all who came within its area. It was at war with social order; it contracted the sublime ideas of national unity; it made men sectional, licentious, profligate, cruel,—and selfishness paled the holy fires of patriotism.

But notwithstanding the profound reflection of the greatest minds in the South, and the philosophic prophecies of Jefferson, the conscience and heart of the South did not respond to the dictates of humanity. Cotton and cupidity led captive the reason of the South, and, once more joined to their idols, the slave-holders no longer heard the voice of prudence or justice in the slave marts of their "section."


[10] Jefferson's Writings, vol. viii, p. 404.

[11] Jefferson's Writings, vol. viii. p. 403.

[Pg 37]


The Antiquity of Anti-slavery Sentiment.—Benjamin Lundy's Opposition to Slavery in the South and at the North.—He establishes the "Genius of Universal Emancipation."—His Great Sacrifices and Marvellous Work in the Cause of Emancipation.—William Lloyd Garrison edits a Paper at Bennington, Vermont.—He pens a Petition to Congress for the Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia.—Garrison the Peerless Leader of the Anti-slavery Agitation.—Extract from a Speech delivered by Daniel O'Connell at Cork, Ireland.—Increase of Anti-slavery Societies in the Country.—Charles Sumner delivers a Speech on the "Anti-slavery Duties of the Whig Party."—Marked Events of 1846.—Sumner the Leader of the Political Party.—Heterodox Anti-slavery Party.—Its Sentiments.—Horace Greeley the Leader of the Economic Anti-slavery Party.—The Aggressive Anti-slavery Party.—Its Leaders.—The Colonization Anti-slavery Society.—American Colonization Society.—Manumitted Negroes colonize on the West Coast of Africa.—A Bill establishing a Line of Mail Steamers to the Coast of Africa.—It provides for the Suppression of the Slave-trade, Promotion of Commerce, and the Colonization of Free Negroes.—Extracts from the Press warmly urging the Passage of the Bill.—The Underground Railroad Organization.—Its Efficiency in freeing Slaves.—Anti-slavery Literature.—It exposes the True Character of Slavery.—"Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe, pleaded the Cause of the Slave in Twenty Different Languages.—The Influence of "Impending Crisis."

Return to Table of Contents

ANTI-SLAVERY sentiment is as old as the human family. It antedates the Bible; it was eloquent in the days of our Saviour; it preached the Gospel of Humanity in the palaces of the Cæsars and Antonies; its arguments shook the thrones of Europe during the Mediæval ages. And when the doctrine of property in man was driven out of Europe as an exile, and found a home in this New World in the West, the ancient and time-honored anti-slavery sentiment combined all that was good in brain, heart, and civilization, and hurled itself, with righteous indignation, against the institution of slavery, the perfected curse of the ages! And how wonderful that God should have committed the task of blotting out this terrible curse to Americans! And what "vessels of honor" they were whom the dear Lord chose "to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound!" Statesmen like Franklin, Rush, Hamilton, and Jay; divines like Hopkins, Edwards, and Stiles; philanthropists like Woolman, Lay, and[Pg 38] Benezet! And the good Quakers—God bless them!—or Friends, which has so much tender meaning in it, did much to hasten the morning of freedom. In the poor Negro slave they saw Christ "an hungered," and they gave Him meat; "thirsty," and they gave Him drink; "a stranger," and they took Him in; "naked," and they clothed Him; "sick," and they visited Him; "in prison," and they came unto Him. Verily they knew their "neighbor."

They began their work of philanthropy as early as 1780. In Maryland,[12] Pennsylvania, and New Jersey the Friends emancipated all their slaves. At a single monthly meeting in Pennsylvania eleven hundred slaves were set at liberty. Nearly every Northern State had its anti-slavery society. They were charged with the humane task of ameliorating the condition of the Negro, and scattering modest literary documents that breathed the spirit of Christian love.

But the first apostle of Abolition Agitation was Benjamin Lundy. He was the John Baptist to the new era that was to witness the doing away of the law of bondage and the ushering in of the dispensation of universal brotherhood. He raised his voice against slave-keeping in Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Maryland. In 1821 he established an anti-slavery paper called "The Genius of Universal Emancipation," which he successively published in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington City,—and frequently en route during the tours he took through the country, wherever he could find a press. Once he made a tour of the free States, like another Apostle Paul, stirring up the love of the brethren for those who were in bonds, lecturing, obtaining subscribers, writing editorials, getting them printed where he could, stopping by the wayside to read his "proof," and directing and mailing his papers at the nearest post-office. Then, packing up his "column-rules," type, "heading," and "directing-book," he would journey on, a lone, solitary "Friend." He said in 1830:—

"I have, within the period above mentioned (ten years), sacrificed several thousands of dollars of my own hard earnings; I have travelled[Pg 39] upwards of five thousand miles on foot and more than twenty thousand in other ways; have visited nineteen States of this Union, and held more than two hundred public meetings; have performed two voyages to the West Indies, by which means the emancipation of a considerable number of slaves has been effected, and I hope the way paved for the enfranchisement of many more."

He was a slight-built, wiry figure; but inflamed by a holy zeal for the cause of the oppressed, he was almost unconscious of the vast amount of work he was accomplishing. As a Quaker his methods were moderate. His journalistic voice was not a whirlwind nor the fire, but the still, small voice of persuasiveness. Though it was published in a slave mart, his paper, a monthly, was regarded as perfectly harmless. But away up in Vermont there was being edited, at Bennington, a paper called "The Journal of the Times." It was started chiefly to advocate the claims of John Quincy Adams to the Presidency, but much space was devoted to the subject of anti-slavery. The young editor of the above-named journal had had experience with several other papers previous to this—"The Free Press," of Newburyport, Mass., and "The National Philanthropist," of Boston. "The Genius of Universal Emancipation," was among the exchanges of "The Journal of the Times," and its sentiments greatly enthused the heart of the Vermont editor, who, under God, was destined to become the indefatigable leader of the Anti-slavery Movement in America, William Lloyd Garrison! To his advocacy of "temperance and peace" young Garrison added another excellent principle, intense hatred of slavery. He penned a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, which he sent to all the postmasters in Vermont, beseeching them to secure signatures. As the postmasters of those days paid no postage for their letters, many names were secured. The petition created a genuine sensation in Congress. The "Journal of Commerce" about this time said:

"It appears from an article in 'The Journal of the Times,' a newspaper of some promise, just established in Bennington, Vt., that a petition to Congress for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia is about to be put in circulation in that State.

"The idea is an excellent one, and we hope it will meet with success. That Congress has a right to abolish slavery in that District seems reasonable, though we fear it will meet with some opposition, so[Pg 40] very sensitive are the slave-holding community to every movement relating to the abolition of slavery. At the same time, it would furnish to the world a beautiful pledge of their sincerity if they would unite with the non-slave-holding States, and by a unanimous vote proclaim freedom to every soul within sight of the capital of this free government. We could then say, and the world would then admit our pretence, that the voice of the nation is against slavery, and throw back upon Great Britain that disgrace which is of right and justice her exclusive property."

Charmed by the originality, boldness, and humanity of Garrison, the meek little Quaker went to Boston by stage; and then, with staff in hand, walked to Bennington, Vt., to see the young man whose great heart-throbs for the slave he had felt in "The Journal of the Times." There, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, swept by the free air, and mantled by the pure snow, the meek Quaker communed with the strict Baptist, and they both took sweet counsel together. The bright torch that Garrison had held up to the people in Vermont was to be transferred to the people of Baltimore, who were "sitting in darkness." So, as a result of this conference, Garrison agreed to join Lundy in conducting "The Genius of Universal Emancipation." Accordingly, in September, 1829, Garrison took the principal charge of the Journal, enlarged it, and issued it as a weekly. Lundy was to travel, lecture, and solicit subscribers in its interest, and contribute to its editorial columns as he could from time to time.

Both men were equally against slavery: Lundy for gradual emancipation and colonization; but Garrison for immediate and unconditional emancipation. Garrison said of this difference: "But I wasn't much help to him, for he had been all for gradual emancipation, and as soon as I began to look into the matter, I became convinced that immediate abolition was the doctrine to be preached, and I scattered his subscribers like pigeons."

But the good "Friend" contemplated the destructive zeal of his young helper with the complacency so characteristic of his class, standing by his doctrine that every one should follow "his own light." But it was not long before Garrison made a bold attack upon one of the vilest features of the slave-trade, which put an end to his paper, and resulted in his arrest, trial for libel, conviction, and imprisonment. The story runs as follows:

"A certain ship, the 'Francis Todd,' from Newburyport, came to Baltimore and took in a load of slaves for the New Orleans market.[Pg 41] All the harrowing cruelties and separations which attend the rending asunder of families and the sale of slaves, were enacted under the eyes of the youthful philanthropist, and in a burning article he denounced the inter-State slave-trade as piracy, and piracy of an aggravated and cruel kind, inasmuch as those born and educated in civilized and Christianized society have more sensibility to feel the evils thus inflicted than imbruted savages. He denounced the owners of the ship and all the parties in no measured terms, and expressed his determination to 'cover with thick infamy all who were engaged in the transaction.'"

Then, to be sure, the sleeping tiger was roused, for there was a vigor and power in the young editor's eloquence that quite dissipated the good-natured contempt which had hitherto hung round the paper. He was indicted for libel, found guilty, of course, condemned, imprisoned in the cell of a man who had been hanged for murder. His mother at this time was not living, but her heroic, undaunted spirit still survived in her son, who took the baptism of persecution and obloquy not merely with patience, but with the joy which strong spirits feel in endurance. He wrote sonnets on the walls of his prison, and by his cheerful and engaging manners made friends of his jailer and family, who did everything to render his situation as comfortable as possible. Some considerable effort was made for his release, and much interest was excited in various quarters for him.[13]

Finally, the benevolent Arthur Tappan came forward and paid the exorbitant fine imposed upon Garrison, and he went forth a more inveterate foe of slavery. This incident gave the world one of the greatest reformers since Martin Luther. Without money, social influence, or friends, Garrison lifted again the standard of liberty. He began a lecture tour in which God taught him the magnitude of his work. Everywhere mouths were sealed and public halls closed against him. At length, on January 1, 1831, he issued the first number of "The Liberator," which he continued to edit for thirty-five years, and discontinued it only when every slave in America was free! His methods of assailing the modern Goliath of slavery were thus tersely put:

"I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill, and in the birthplace of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it[Pg 42] float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe; yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble; let their secret abettors tremble; let all the enemies of the persecuted Black tremble. Assenting to the self-evident truths maintained in the American Declaration of Independence,—'that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population.

. . . . . . . . .

"I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present! I am in earnest. I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch. And I will be Heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

"It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question, my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment to a considerable extent; and it shall be felt in coming years—not perniciously, but beneficially,—not as a curse, but as a blessing; and POSTERITY WILL BEAR TESTIMONY THAT I WAS RIGHT. I desire to thank God that He enables me to disregard 'the fear of man which bringeth a snare,' and to speak truth in its simplicity and power; and I here close with this dedication:

. . . . . . . . .

"Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,
And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow;
By thy soul-withering glance I fear not now—
For dread to prouder feelings doth give place,
Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace
Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,
I also kneel—but with far other vow
Do hail thee and thy herd of hirelings base;
I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,
Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,
Thy brutalizing sway—till Afric's chains
Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land,
Trampling Oppression and his iron rod;
Such is the vow I take—so help me, God!"

[Pg 43]

There never was a grander declaration of war against slavery. There never was a more intrepid leader than William Lloyd Garrison. Words more prophetic were never uttered by human voice. His paper did indeed make "Southern oppression tremble," while its high resolves and sublime sentiments found a response in the hearts of many people. It is pleasant to record that this first impression of "The Liberator" brought a list of twenty-five subscribers from Philadelphia, backed by $50 in cash, sent by James Forten, a Colored man!

One year from the day he issued the first number of his paper, William Lloyd Garrison, at the head of eleven others, organized The American Anti-Slavery Society. It has been indicated already that he was in favor of immediate emancipation; but, in addition to that principle, he took the ground that slavery was supported by the Constitution; that it was "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell"; that as a Christian it was his duty to obey God rather than man; that his conscience was paramount to the Constitution, and, therefore, his duty was to work outside of the Constitution for the destruction of slavery. Thus did Garrison establish the first Anti-slavery Society in this country to adopt aggressive measures and demand immediate and unconditional emancipation. It is not claimed that his methods were original. Daniel O'Connell was perhaps the greatest agitator of the present century. In a speech delivered at Cork, he said:—

"I speak of liberty in commendation. Patriotism is a virtue, but it can be selfish. Give me the great and immortal Bolivar, the savior and regenerator of his country. He found her a province, and he has made her a nation. His first act was to give freedom to the slaves upon his own estate. (Hear, hear.) In Colombia, all castes and all colors are free and unshackled. But how I like to contrast him with the far-famed Northern heroes! George Washington! That great and enlightened character—the soldier and the statesman—had but one blot upon his character. He had slaves, and he gave them liberty when he wanted them no longer. (Loud cheers.) Let America, in the fulness of her pride wave on high her banner of freedom and its blazing stars. I point to her, and say: There is one foul blot upon it: you have negro slavery. They may compare their struggles for freedom to Marathon and Leuctra, and point to the rifleman with his gun, amidst her woods and forests, shouting for liberty and America. In the midst of their laughter and their pride, I point them to the negro children screaming for the mother from whose bosom they have been torn.[Pg 44] America, it is a foul stain upon your character! (Cheers.) This conduct kept up by men who had themselves to struggle for freedom, is doubly unjust. Let them hoist the flag of liberty, with the whip and rack on one side, and the star of freedom upon the other. The Americans are a sensitive people; in fifty-four years they have increased their population from three millions to twenty millions; they have many glories that surround them, but their beams are partly shorn, for they have slaves. (Cheers.) Their hearts do not beat so strong for liberty as mine.... I will call for justice, in the name of the living God, and I shall find an echo in the breast of every human being. (Cheers.)"[14]

But while Garrison's method of agitation was not original, it was new to this country. He spoke as one having authority, and his fiery earnestness warmed the frozen feeling of the Northern people, and startled the entire South. One year from the formation of the society above alluded to (December 4, 5, and 6, 1833), a National Anti-Slavery Convention was held in Philadelphia, with sixty delegates from ten States! In 1836 there were 250 auxiliary anti-slavery societies in thirteen States; and eighteen months later they had increased to 1,006. Money came to these societies from every direction, and the good work had been fairly started.

William Lloyd Garrison created a party, and it will be known in history as the Garrisonian Party.

While Mr. Garrison had taken the position that slavery was constitutional, there were those who held the other view, that slavery was unconstitutional, and, therefore, upon constitutional grounds should be abolished.

The Whig party was the nearest to the anti-slavery society of any of the political organizations of the time. It had promised, in convention assembled, "to promote all constitutional measures for the overthrow of slavery, and to oppose at all times, with uncompromising zeal and firmness, any further addition of slave-holding States to this Union, out of whatever territory formed.[15] But the party never got beyond this. Charles Sumner was a member of the Whig party, but was greatly disturbed about its indifference on the question of slavery. In 1846 he delivered a speech before the Whig convention of Massachusetts on "The Anti-Slavery Duties of the Whig Party." He declared[Pg 45] his positive opposition to slavery; said that he intended to attack the institution on constitutional grounds; that slavery was not a "covenant with death or an agreement with hell"; that he intended to do his work for the slave inside of the Constitution. He said:—

"There is in the Constitution no compromise on the subject of slavery of a character not to be reached legally and constitutionally, which is the only way in which I propose to reach it. Wherever power and jurisdiction are secured to Congress, they may unquestionably be exercised in conformity with the Constitution. And even in matters beyond existing powers and jurisdiction there is a constitutional mode of action. The Constitution contains an article pointing out how at any time amendments may be made thereto. This is an important article, giving to the Constitution a progressive character, and allowing it to be moulded to suit new exigencies and new conditions of feeling. The wise framers of this instrument did not treat the country as a Chinese foot, never to grow after its infancy, but anticipated the changes incident to its growth."

He proposed to the Whigs as their rallying watchword, the "Repeal of slavery under the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government." Discussing the methods, he continued:—

"The time has passed when this can be opposed on constitutional grounds. It will not be questioned by any competent authority that Congress may by express legislation abolish slavery, first, in the District of Columbia; second, in the territories, if there should be any; third, that it may abolish the slave-trade on the high seas between the States; fourth, that it may refuse to admit any new State with a constitution sanctioning slavery. Nor can it be doubted that the people of the free States may, in the manner pointed out by the Constitution, proceed to its amendment."

Thus did Charles Sumner lay down a platform for a Political Abolition Party, and of such a party he became the laurelled champion and leader.

The year 1846 was marked by the most bitter political discussion; Garrison the Agitator, the Mexican war, and other issues had greatly exercised the people. At a meeting held in Tremont Temple, Boston, on the 5th of November, 1846, Mr. Sumner took occasion to give his reasons for bolting the nominee of[Pg 46] the Whig party for Congress, Mr. Winthrop.[16] Mr. Sumner said that he had never heard Mr. Winthrop's voice raised for the slave; and that, judging from the past, he never expected to hear it. "Will he oppose," asked Mr. Sumner, "at all times, without compromise, any further addition of slave-holding States? Here, again, if we judge him by the past, he is wanting. None can forget that in 1845, on the 4th of July, a day ever sacred to memories of freedom, in a speech at Faneuil Hall, he volunteered, in advance of any other Northern Whig, to receive Texas with a welcome into the family of States, although on that very day she was preparing a constitution placing slavery beyond the reach of Legislative change."[17]

Here, then, was another party created—a Political Abolition Party—for the suppression of slavery.

In 1848, Mr. Sumner left the Whig party, and gave his magnificent energies and splendid talents to the organization of the Free-Soil Party, upon the principles he had failed to educate the Whigs to accept.

Charles Sumner was in the United States Senate, where "his words were clothed with the majesty of Massachusetts." The young lawyer who had upbraided Winthrop for his indifference respecting the slave, and opposed the Mexican war, was consistent in the Senate, and in harmony with his early love for humanity. He closed his great speech on freedom national, slavery sectional, in the following incisive language:—

"At the risk of repetition, but for the sake of clearness, review now this argument, and gather it together. Considering that slavery is of such an offensive character that it can find sanction only in positive law, and that it has no such 'positive' sanction in the Constitution; that the Constitution, according to its Preamble, was ordained to 'establish justice,' and 'secure the blessings of liberty'; that in the convention which framed it, and also elsewhere at the time, it was declared not to 'sanction'; that according to the Declaration of Independence, and the address of the Continental Congress, the nation was dedicated to 'Liberty' and the 'rights of human nature'; that according to the principles of common law, the Constitution must be interpreted openly, actively, and[Pg 47] perpetually for Freedom; that according to the decision of the Supreme Court, it acts upon slaves, not as property, but as persons; that at the first organization of the national government under Washington, slavery had no national favor, existed nowhere on the national territory, beneath the national flag, but was openly condemned by the nation, the Church, the colleges, and literature of the times; and finally, that according to an amendment of the Constitution, the national government can only exercise powers delegated to it, among which there is none to support slavery;—considering these things, sir, it is impossible to avoid the single conclusion that slavery is in no respect a national institution, and that the Constitution nowhere upholds property in man."

This speech set men in the North to thinking. Sumner was now the acknowledged leader of the only political party in the country that had a wholesome anti-slavery plank in its platform.

Daniel Webster and the Whig party were in their grave. After the Democratic Convention had met and adjourned without mentioning Webster, a Northern farmer exclaimed when he had read the news, "The South never pay their slaves!"

During all these years of agitation and struggle, the pulpit of New England maintained an unbroken silence on the slavery question. Doctor Lyman Beecher was the acknowledged leader of the orthodox pulpit. Dr. William E. Channing was the champion of Unitarianism and the leader of the heterodox pulpit. Dr. Beecher was fond of controversy, enjoyed a battle of words upon every thing but the slavery question. He proclaimed the doctrine of "immediate repentance"; was earnest in his entreaties to men to quit their "cups" at once; but on the slavery question was a slow coach. He was for gradual emancipation. He frowned not a little upon the vigorous editorials in "The Liberator." He regarded Mr. Garrison as a hot-head; "having zeal, but not according to knowledge." Abolitionism received no encouragement from this venerable divine.

Dr. Channing was a gentle, pure-hearted, and humane sort of a man. He dreaded controversy, and shunned the agitation and agitators of anti-slavery.

The lesser lights followed the example of these bright stars in the churches.

But all could not keep silent,—for slavery needed apologists in the North. Stewart, of Andover; Alexander, of Princeton; Fisk, of Wilberham, and many other leading ministers endeavored to prove the Divine Origin and Biblical Authority of Slavery.[Pg 48]

The silence of the pulpit drove out many anti-slavery men who, up to this time, had been hoping for aid from this quarter. Many went out of the Church temporarily, hoping that the scales would drop from the eyes of the preachers ere long; but others never returned-were driven to infidelity and bitter hatred of the Christian Church. Dr. Albert Barnes said: "That there was no power out of the Church that would sustain slavery an hour if it were not sustained in it."

Among the leaders of the HETERODOX ANTI-SLAVERY PARTY—those who attacked the reticency, silent acquiescence, or act of support the Church gave slavery,—were Parker Pillsbury, James G. Birney, Stephen S. Foster, and Samuel Brooke. The platform of this party was clearly defined by Mr. Pillsbury:—

"That slavery finds its surest and sternest defence in the prevailing religion of the country, is no longer questionable. Let it be driven from the Church, with the burning seal of its reprobation and execration stamped on its iron brow, and its fate is fixed forever. Only while its horrors are baptized and sanctified in the name of Christianity, can it maintain an existence.

"The Anti-Slavery movement has unmasked the character of the American Church. Our religion has been found at war with the interests of humanity and the laws of God. And it is more than time the world was awakened to its unhallowed influence on the hopes and happiness of man, while it makes itself the palladium of the foulest iniquity ever perpetrated in the sight of heaven."[18]

This was a bold movement, but it was doubtless a sword that was as dangerous to those who essayed to handle it, as to the Church whose destruction it was intended to effect. The doctrine that was to sustain and inspire this party can be briefly stated in a sentence: THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD, AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN.

Once outside the orthodox church, Theodore Parker gave himself wholly to this idea. He preached the "Gospel of Humanity"; and, standing upon a broad platform, preaching a broad doctrine, bound by no ecclesiastical law, his claims to a place in the history of his county, and in the gratitude of his countrymen can be fairly audited when his work for the emancipation of evangelical churches from the thraldom of slavery is[Pg 49] considered. He did more in his day to rupture the organic and sympathetic relation existing between the Northern and Southern churches, and, thereby, hasten the struggle between the sections for the extension or extinction of domestic slavery, than any other man in America. The men who found themselves on the outside of the Church gathered about Parker, and applauded his invective and endorsed his arraignment of the churches that had placed their hands upon their mouths, and their mouths in the dust, before the slave power. He touched a chord in the human heart, and it yielded rich music. He educated the pew until an occasional voice broke the long silence respecting the bondman of the land. First, the ministers were not so urgent in their invitations to Southern ministers to occupy their pulpits. This coldness was followed by feeble prayer and moderate speech on behalf of those who were bound. And the churches themselves began to feel that they were "an offence" to the world. Every note of sympathy that fell from the pulpit was amplified into a grand chorus of pity for the slave. And thus the leaven of human sympathy hid in the orthodox church of New England, leavened the whole body until a thousand pulpits were ablaze with a righteous condemnation of the wrongs of the slaves. Even Dr. Channing came to the conclusion that something should be "So done as not to put in jeopardy the peace of the slave-holding States!"[19]

THE ECONOMIC ANTI-SLAVERY PARTY was headed by the industrious and indomitable Horace Greeley. His claim to the feelings of humanity should never be disputed; but as a practical man who sought to solve the riddle of every-day life he placed his practical views in the foreground. As a political economist he reasoned that slave labor was degrading to free labor; that free labor was better than slave labor, and, therefore, he most earnestly desired its abolition. Wherever you turn in his writings this idea gives the edge to all his arguments concerning slavery. "But slavery," wrote Mr. Greeley, "primarily considered, has still another aspect—that of a natural relation of simplicity to cunning, of ignorance to knowledge, of weakness to power. Thomas Carlyle, before his melancholy decline and fall into devil-worship, truly observed, that the capital mistake of Rob Roy was his failure to comprehend that it was cheaper[Pg 50] to buy the beef he required in the Grassmarket at Glasgow than to obtain it without price, by harrying the lowland farms. So the first man whoever imbibed or conceived the fatal delusion that it was more advantageous to him, or to any human being, to procure whatever his necessities or his appetites required by address and scheming than by honest work—by the unrequited rather than the fairly and faithfully recompensed toil of his fellow-preachers—was, in essence and in heart, a slave-holder, and only awaited opportunity to become one in deed and practice.... It is none the less true, however, that ancient civilization, in its various national developments, was habitually corrupted, debauched, and ultimately ruined by slavery, which rendered labor dishonorable, and divided society horizontally into a small caste of the wealthy, educated, refined, and independent, and a vast hungry, sensual, thriftless, and worthless populace; rendered impossible the preservation of republican liberty and of legalized equality, even among the nominally free. Diogenes, with his lantern, might have vainly looked, through many a long day, among the followers of Marius, or Catiline, or Cæsar, for a specimen of the poor but virtuous and self-respecting Roman citizen of the days of Cincinnatus, or even of Regulus."[20]

But Mr. Greeley's philosophy was as destructive as his logic was defective. He wished the slave free, not because he loved him; but because of the deep concern he had for the welfare of the free, white working-men of America. He was willing the Negro should be free, but never suggested any plan of relief for his social condition, or prescribed for his spiritual and intellectual health. He handled the entire Negro problem with the icy fingers of the philosopher, and always applied the flinty logic of abstract political economy. He was an anti-slavery advocate, but not an abolitionist. He was opposed to slavery, as a system at war with the social and commercial prosperity of the nation; but so far as the humanity of the question, in reaching out after the slave as an injured member of society, was concerned, he was silent.

THE AGGRESSIVE ANTI-SLAVERY PARTY had its birth in the pugnacious brains of E. P. Lovejoy, James G. Birney, Cassius M. Clay, and John Brown. All of the anti-slavery parties had[Pg 51] taught the doctrine of non-resistance; that if "thy enemy smite thee on thy cheek, turn the other also." But there were a few men who believed they were possessed of sacred rights, and that it was their duty to defend them, even with their lives. It was not a popular doctrine; and yet a conscientious few practised it with sublime courage whenever occasion required. In 1836 James G. Birney, editor of The Philanthropist, published at Cincinnati, Ohio, defended his press, as best he could, against a mob, who finally destroyed it. And on the 7th of November, 1837, the Rev. Mr. Lovejoy sealed the sacred doctrine of the liberty of the press with his precious blood in the defence of his printing-press at Alton, Illinois. Cassius M. Clay went armed, and insisted upon his right to freely and peaceably discuss the cause of anti-slavery.

But these men only laid down a great, fundamental truth; it was given to John Brown to write the lesson upon the hearts of the American people, so that they were enabled, a few years later, to practise the doctrine of resistance, and preserve the Nation against the bloody aggressions of the Southern Confederacy.

THE COLONIZATION ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY ante-dated any of the other organizations. Benjamin Lundy was one of the earliest advocates of colonization. The object of colonizationists was to transport to Liberia, on the West Coast of Africa, all manumitted slaves. Only free Negroes were to be colonized. It was claimed by the advocates of the scheme that this was the only hope of the free Negro; that the proscription everywhere directed against his social and intellectual endeavors cramped and lamed him in the race of life; that in Liberia he could build his own government, schools, and business; and there would be nothing to hinder him in his ambition for the highest places in Church or State. Moreover, they claimed that the free Negro owed something to his benighted brethren who were still in pagan darkness; that a free Negro government on the West Coast of Africa could exert a missionary influence upon the natives, and thus the evangelization of Africa could be effected by the free Negro himself.[21]

[Pg 52]

To this method Henry Clay, of Kentucky, Horace Mann, of Massachusetts; Rev. Howard Malcom, of Pennsylvania; Rev. R. R. Gurley, of New York; and many other persons of distinction, gave their endorsement and assistance. The American Colonization Society was organized in 1817. Its earliest supporters were from the Southern and Middle States. A fair idea can be had of the character of the men who sustained the cause of colonization by an examination of the following list of officers elected in March, 1834.

"President.James Madison, of Virginia.

"Vice-Presidents.—Chief-Justice Marshall; General Lafayette, of France, Hon. Wm. H. Crawford, of Georgia; Hon. Henry Clay, of Lexington, Kentucky; Hon. John C. Herbert, of Maryland; Robert Ralston, Esq., of Philadelphia; Gen. John Mason, of Georgetown, D. C.; Samuel Bayard, Esq., of New Jersey; Isaac McKim, Esq., of Maryland; Gen. John Hartwell Cocke, of Virginia; Rt. Rev. Bishop White, of Pennsylvania; Hon. Daniel Webster, of Boston; Hon. Charles F. Mercer, of Virginia; Jeremiah Day, D.D., of Yale College; Hon. Richard Rush, of Pennsylvania; Bishop McKendree; Philip E. Thomas, Esq., of Maryland; Dr. Thomas C. James, of Philadelphia; Hon. John Cotton Smith, of Connecticut; Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey; Hon. Louis McLane, of Washington City; Gerrit Smith, of New York; J. H. M'Clure, Esq., of New Jersey; Gen. Alexander Macomb, of Washington City; Moses Allen, Esq., of New York; Gen. Walter Jones, of Washington City; F. S. Key, Esq., of Georgetown, D. C.; Samuel H. Smith, Esq., of Washington City; Joseph Gales, Jr., Esq., of Washington City; Rt. Rev. Wm. Meade, D.D., Assistant Bishop of Virginia; Hon. Alexander Porter, of Louisiana; John McDonough, Esq., of Louisiana; Hon. Samuel L. Southard, of New Jersey.

"Managers.—Rev. James Laurie, D.D.; Gen. Walter Jones; Francis S. Key; Rev. Wm. Haley; John Underwood; William W. Seaton; Walter Lowrie; Dr. Phineas Bradley; Dr. Thomas Sewall.

"Secretaries.—Rev. Ralph R. Gurley, William H. Macfarland.

"Treasurer.Joseph Gales, Senior.

"Recorder.Phillip R. Fendall."

[Pg 53]

The Colonization Society was never able to secure the sympathy of the various anti-slavery societies of the country; and was unable to gain the confidence of the Colored people to any great extent. But it had the advantage of being in harmony with what little humane sentiment there was at the South. It did not attempt to agitate. It only sought to colonize on the West Coast of Africa all Negroes who could secure legal manumission. Nearly all the Southern States had laws upon their statute-books requiring all emancipated slaves to leave the State. The question as to where they should go was supposed to be answered by the Colonization Society. It had much influence with Congress, and did not hesitate to use it. A Mr. Joseph Bryan, of Alabama, petitioned Congress for the establishment "of a line of Mail Steam-ships to the Western Coast of Africa," in the summer of 1850. The Committee on Naval Affairs reported favorably the following bill:

"A Bill to Establish a Line of War Steamers to the Coast of Africa. [Report No. 438.]

"In the House of Representatives, August 1, 1850. Read twice, and committed to the Committee of the whole House on the State of the Union.

"Mr. F. P. Stanton, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, reported the following bill:—A bill to establish a line of war steamers to the coast of Africa, for the suppression of the slave-trade, and the promotion of commerce and colonization:

Sec. 1. "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Navy, immediately after the passage of this act, to enter into contract with Joseph Bryan, of Alabama, and George Nicholas Saunders, of New York, and their associates, for the building, equipment, and maintenance of three steam-ships to run between the United States and the coast of Africa, upon the following terms and conditions, to wit:

"The said ships to be each of not less than four thousand tons burden, to be so constructed as to be convertible, at the least possible expense, into war steamers of the first class, and to be built and equipped in accordance with plans to be submitted to and approved by the Secretary of the Navy, and under the superintendence of an officer to be appointed by him, two of said ships to be finished and ready for sea in two and a half years, and the other within three years after the date of the contract, and the whole to be kept up by alterations, repairs,[Pg 54] or additions, to be approved by the Secretary of the Navy, so as to be fully equal to the exigencies of the service and the faithful performance of the contract. The said Secretary, at all times, to exercise such control over said ships as may not be inconsistent with the provisions of this act, and especially to have the power to direct, at the expense of the Government, such changes in the machinery and internal arrangements of the ships as he may at any time deem advisable.

"Each of said ships to be commanded by an officer of the Navy, who with four Passed Midshipmen to act as watch officers, and any mail agents who may be sent by the Government, shall be accommodated and provided for in a manner suitable to their rank, at the expense of the contractors. Each of said ships, if required by the Secretary, shall receive two guns of heavy calibre, and the men from the United States Navy necessary to serve them, who shall be provided for as aforesaid. In the event of war the Government to have the right to take any or all of said ships for its own exclusive use on payment of the value thereof; such value not exceeding the cost, to be ascertained by appraisers chosen by the Secretary of the Navy and the contractors.

"Each of said ships to make four voyages per annum; one shall leave New Orleans every three months; one shall leave Baltimore every three months, touching at Norfolk and Charleston; and one shall leave New York every three months, touching at Savannah; all having liberty to touch at any of the West India Islands; and to proceed thence to Liberia, touching at any of the islands or ports on the coast of Africa; thence to Gibraltar, carrying the Mediterranean mails; thence to Cadiz, or some other Spanish port to be designated by the Secretary of the Navy; thence to Lisbon; thence to Brest, or some other French port to be designated as above; thence, to London, and back to the place of departure, bringing and carrying the mails to and from said ports.

"The said contractors shall further agree to carry to Liberia so many emigrants being free persons of color, and not exceeding twenty-five hundred for each voyage, as the American Colonization Society may require, upon the payment by said Society of ten dollars for each emigrant over twelve years of age, and five dollars for each one under that age, these sums, respectively, to include all charges for baggage of emigrants and the daily supply of sailors' rations. The contractors, also, to carry, bring back, and accommodate, free from charge, all necessary agents of the said Society.

"The Secretary of the Navy shall further stipulate to advance to said contractors, as the building of said ships shall progress, two thirds of the amount expended thereon; such advances to be made in the[Pg 55] bonds of the United States, payable thirty years after date, and bearing five per cent. interest, and not to exceed six hundred thousand dollars for each ship. And the said contractors shall stipulate to repay the said advances in equal annual instalments, with interest from the date of the completion of said ships until the termination of the contract, which shall continue fifteen years from the commencement of the service. The Secretary of the Navy to require ample security for the faithful performance of the contract, and to reserve a lien upon the ships for the sum advanced. The Government to pay said contractors forty thousand dollars for each trip, or four hundred and eighty thousand dollars per annum.

"Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States shall cause to be issued the bonds of the United States, as the same may, from time to time, be required by the Secretary of the Navy to carry out the contract aforesaid."

Public sentiment, North and South, was greatly in favor of the measure. T. J. Durant, Esq., of New Orleans, in an elaborate letter addressed to the "Commercial Bulletin" of New Orleans, under date of September 12, 1850, answered objections, and warmly urged the passage of the bill. The Chaplain of the U. S. Senate, Rev. R. R. Gurley, wrote a letter on the 10th of October, 1850, to George N. Saunders, Esq., urging the measure as of paramount importance to both America and Africa. The press of the country generally endorsed the bill, and commented upon the general good to follow in numerous editorials. A scheme of such gigantic proportions poorly set forth the profound thought that harassed the public mind in regard to the crime of keeping men in slavery. A few extracts from the papers will suffice to show how the matter was regarded.


"The Report of the Naval Committee to the House of Representatives in favor of the establishment of a line of mail steam-ships to the Western Coast of Africa, and thence via the Mediterranean to London, has been received by the public press throughout the Union with the warmest expressions of approbation. The Whig, Democratic, and neutral papers of the North and South, in the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States, with a very few exceptions, appear to vie with each other in pressing its consideration upon the public attention. This earnest and almost unanimous support of the measure by the organs of public opinion, without respect to party or section, shows the deep hold[Pg 56] which the objects it proposes to effect have upon the public favor. Those objects are to promote the emigration of free persons of color from this country to Liberia; also to increase the steam navy, and to extend the commerce of the United States,—all, it will be almost universally conceded, desirable objects. The desirableness of the objects being admitted, the question is, does the mode proposed for promoting them recommend itself to the sanction of Congress? We are forced to the conclusion that it does. We are aware that while all agree as to the expediency of increasing our steam navy—some are in favor of the Government's building its own steam-ships, and others advocate the encouragement of lines of steam-packets, to be established by private enterprise under the auspices of Government....

"The considerations, however, which in our opinion should commend this measure to the favorable attention of Congress are so obvious, and have been so clearly and strongly presented in the report of the committee, that we need not here repeat them. If the voice of the press, of all sections and of all parties, be any indication of popular opinion, we are free to say, that it would be difficult for Congress to pass a measure which would be received with more general satisfaction by the people of the United States."[22]

"African steam-lines.—The entertainment by the Government of Great Britain of a project for the establishment of a powerful line of steam-vessels between that country and the African coast, ostensibly for the conveyance of a monthly mail, and the more effectual checking of the slave-traffic, is strong proof, we think, of the value that the commerce between the two countries is capable of becoming. It may, in addition, be regarded as corroborative of the justness of the position taken by the advocates of a mail-steamer line between this country and Africa. We are by no means disposed to look invidiously on the enterprising spirit exhibited abroad for securing a closer connection with a country, the great mercantile wealth of which is yet, comparatively speaking, untouched. This spirit should have on us no other than a stimulating effect. Besides, for years, if not ages, to come, the trade with Africa can admit of no very close competition. The promised vastness of this trade, whilst excluding all idea of monopoly, must continue to excite the new enterprise by its unlimited rewards. It is unnecessary that we should exhibit statistics to show her how largely England has been benefited by persevering though frequently interrupted communication with the interior parts of that great continent; nor to make plain how, with better knowledge and more ready means of access, mercantile risks will be lessened and mercantile profits enlarged. It will be remembered that the Congressional committee to[Pg 57] whom the question of establishing mail steamers between this country and Africa was referred, adverted in their report to the aid its adoption would afford in the consummation of the plans of the Colonization Society. On the intimate relation between the one and the other, it was supposed that a good part of the required success was dependent. It is something singular that the colored race—those in reality most interested in the future destinies of Africa—should be so lightly affected by the evidences continually being presented in favor of colonization. He will do a service to this country as well as Africa who shall do any thing to open the eyes of the colored race to the advantages of emigration to the fertile and, to them, congenial shores of Africa."[23]

"Africa and steam-ships.—If but a single line of steam-ships is to be authorized this Session—and the state and prospects of the finances must counsel frugality and caution,—we think a line to Africa fairly entitled to the preference. That continent on its western side is comparatively proximate and accessible; it is filled with inhabitants who need the articles we can abundantly fabricate, and it is the ancestral soil of more than three millions of our people—of a race on whose account we are deeply debtors to justice and to heaven. That race is more plastic and less conservative than the Chinese; their soil produces in spontaneous profusion many articles which are to us comforts and luxuries, while nearly every thing we produce is in eager demand among its inhabitants, if they can but find the wherewithal to pay for them. Instead of being a detriment and a depression to our own manufacturing and mechanical industry, as the trade induced by our costly steam-ship lines to Liverpool, Bremen, and Havre mainly is, all the commerce with Africa which a more intimate communication with her would secure, would be advantageous to every department of American labor. Her surplus products are so diverse from ours, that no collision of interests between her producers and ours could ever be realized, while millions' worth of her tropical products which will not endure the slow and capricious transportation which is now their only recourse, would come to us in good order by steam-ships, and richly reward the labor of the gatherers and the enterprise of the importers.

"But the social and moral aspects of this subject are still more important. We are now expending life and treasure, in concert with other nations, to suppress the African slave-trade, and it is now generally conceded that such suppression can never be effected by the means hitherto relied on. The colonization of the Slave Coast, with direct reference to its Christianization and civilization, is the only sure means of putting an end to this inhuman traffic. And this colonization, all who are interested in the work seem heartily to agree, would[Pg 58] be immensely accelerated by the establishment of a line of African steam-ships. Liberia, now practically distant as Buenos Ayres, would, by such a line, be brought as near us as Bremen, and the ports regularly visited by our steamers could not fail rapidly to assume importance as centres of commerce and of increasing intelligence and industry."[24]

"The colony of liberia and its prospectus.—By every arrival from Liberia we learn that the colony of free negroes from the United States is progressing at a rate truly astonishing, and that before many years it promises to be a strong and powerful republic. The experiment of self-government has been completely successful; the educational interests of the inhabitants are duly cared for; civilization is making great headway among the aborigines; and, by means of Liberia, there is a very flattering prospect of the slave-trade on the coast of Africa being entirely destroyed. Governor Roberts, a very intelligent colored man, of mixed blood, goes even so far as to say that Liberia is destined to rival the United States, and that both republics, by a unity of action, can civilize and Christianize the world, and especially benighted Africa. We are pleased to hear such good accounts from Liberia, and we shall always be pleased to hear of its success, and of the progress and welfare of its inhabitants. Founded, as it has been, by American philanthropists, and peopled by our emancipated slaves, the United States will ever watch its progress with interest, and aid and assist it as far as it possibly can."[25]

But notwithstanding the apparent favor the cause of colonization received from the press, it was an impractical, impossible, wild, and visionary scheme that could not be carried to the extent its projectors designed. It lost strength yearly, until all were convinced that the Negro would be emancipated here and remain here; that it was as impossible to colonize a race of people as to colonize the sun, moon, and stars.

The underground railroad organization was perhaps one of the most useful auxiliaries the cause of agitation had. It could scarcely be called an organization. Unlike the other societies, it did not print its reports.[26] Like good Samaritans, its conductors did not ask passengers their creed; but wherever they found human beings wounded in body and mind by slavery,[Pg 59] they gave them passage to the "Inn" of Freedom on Canadian soil.

In a sense, the Underground Railroad was a secret organization. This was necessary, as the fugitive-slave law gave the master the right to pursue his slave when "fleeing from labor and service in one State into another," and apprehend him by due process of Federal law. The men who managed this road felt that they should obey God rather than man; that the slave's right to his freedom was greater than any law the nation could make through its representatives. So the Underground Railroad was made up of a company of godly men who stretched themselves across the land, from the borders of the sunny slave States to the snow-white shores of Canada. When men came up out of the hell of slavery gasping for a breath of free air, these good friends sheltered and fed them; and then hastened them off in the stillness of the night, with the everlasting stars as their ministers, toward Canada. The fugitives would be turned over to another conductor, who would conceal them until nightfall, when he would load his living freight into a covered conveyance, and drive all night to reach the next "station"; and so on until the fugitives found themselves free and safe under the English flag in Canada.

This was the safety-valve to the institution of slavery. As soon as leaders arose among the slaves, refusing to endure the yoke, they came North. Had they remained, the direful scenes of St. Domingo would have been enacted, and the hot, vengeful breath of massacre would have swept the South as a tornado, and blanched the cheek of the civilized world.

Anti-slavery literature wrought mightily for God in its field.[27] Frederick Douglass's book, "My Bondage and My Freedom"; Bishop Loguen's, "As a Slave and As a Freeman"; "Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro," by the Rev. Samuel Ringgold Ward; "Twenty-two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman," by the Rev. Austin Stewart; "Narrative of Solomon Northup," "Walker's Appeal,"—all by eminent Negroes, exposed the true character of slavery, informed the public mind, stimulated healthy thought, and touched the heart of two continents with a sympathy almost divine.

But the uncounted millions of anti-slavery tracts, pamphlets,[Pg 60] journals, and addresses of the entire period of agitation were little more than a paper wad compared with the solid shot "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was to slavery. Written in vigorous English, in scintillating, perspicuous style; adorned with gorgeous imagery, bristling with living "facts", going to the lowest depths, mounting to the greatest altitudes, moving with panoramic grandeur, picturing humanity forlorn and outraged; giving forth the shrillest, most despairing cries of the afflicted, and the sublimest strains of Christian faith; the struggle of innocent, defenceless womanhood, the subdued sorrow of chattel-babyhood, the yearnings of fettered manhood, and the piteous sobs of helpless old age,—made Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" the magnifying wonder of enlightened Christendom! It pleaded the cause of the slave in twenty different languages; it engrossed the thought of philosophers, and touched the heart of youth with a strange pity for the slave. It covered audiences with the sunlight of laughter, wrapt them in sorrow, and veiled them in tears. It illustrated the power of the Gospel of Love, the gentleness of Negro character, and the powers and possibilities of the race. It was God's message to a people who had refused to listen to his anti-slavery prophets and priests; and its sad, weird, and heart-touching descriptions and dialogues restored the milk of human kindness to a million hearts that had grown callous in an age of self-seeking and robbery of the poor.

In a political and sectional sense, the "Impending Crisis," by Helper, exerted a wide influence for good. It was read by merchants and politicians.

Diverse and manifold as were the methods of the friends of universal freedom, and sometimes apparently conflicting, under God no honest effort to rid the Negro and the country of the curse of slavery was lost. All these agencies, running along different lines, converged at a common centre, and aimed at a common end—the ultimate extinction of the foreign and domestic slave-trade.


[12] In the Library of the New York Historical Society there is "An Oration Upon the Moral and Political Evil of Slavery. Delivered at a Public Meeting of the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes and Others Unlawfully Held in Bondage, Baltimore, July 4, 1791. By George Buchanan, M.D., Member of the American Philosophical Society. Baltimore: Printed by Phillip Edwards, MDCCXCIII."

[13] Men of our Times, pp. 162, 163.

[14] Speech delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Cork Anti-Slavery Society, 1829.

[15] Sumner's Works, vol. i. p. 336.

[16] At the election that took place on the 9th of November, 1846, the vote stood as follows: Winthrop (Whig), 5,980; Howe (Anti-Slavery), 1,334; Homer (Democrat), 1,688; Whiton (Independent), 331. The number of tickets in the field indicated the state of public feeling.

[17] Sumner's Works, vol. 1. p. 337.

[18] Church As It Is, etc., Introduction.

[19] Channing's Works, vol. ii. p. 10, sq.

[20] American Conflict, vol. i. pp. 25, 26.

[21] The following were the objects of the Colonization Society:

"1st. To rescue the free colored people of the United States from their political and social disadvantages.

"2d. To place them in a country where they may enjoy the benefits of free government, with all the blessings which it brings in its train.

"3d. To spread civilization, sound morals, and true religion through the continent of Africa.

"4. To arrest and destroy the slave-trade.

"5. To afford slave-owners who wish, or are willing, to liberate their slaves an asylum for their reception."

[22] The Republic, Sept. 11, 1850.

[23] National Intelligencer, October 23, 1850.

[24] Tribune, December 25, 1850.

[25] Herald, December, 17, 1850.

[26] It is to be regretted that William Still, the author of the U. G. R. R., failed to give any account of its origin, organization, workings, or the number of persons helped to freedom. It is an interesting narrative of many cases, but is shorn of that minuteness of detail so indispensable to authentic historical memorials.

[27] Judge Stroud, William Goodell, Wendell Phillips, William Jay, and hundreds of other white men contributed to the anti-slavery literature of the period.[Pg 61]


Intelligent Interest of Free Negroes in the Agitation Movement.—"First Annual Convention of the People of Color" held at Philadelphia.—Report of the Committee on the establishment of a College for Young Men of Color.—Provisional Committee appointed in each City.—Conventional Address.—Second Convention held at Benezet Hall, Philadelphia.—Resolutions of the Meeting.—Conventional Address.—The Massachusetts General Colored Association.—Convention of Anti-slavery Women of America at New York.—Prejudice against admitting Negroes into White Societies.—Colored Orators.—Their Eloquent Pleas for their Enslaved Race.

Return to Table of Contents

THE free Negroes throughout the Northern States were not passive during the agitation movement. They took a lively interest in the cause that had for its ultimate end the freedom of the slave. They did not comfort themselves with the consciousness that they were free; but thought of their brethren who were bound, and sympathized with them.

"The First Annual Convention of the People of Color" was held in Philadelphia from the 6th to the 11th of June, 1831. Its sessions were held "in the brick Wesleyan Church, Lombard Street," "pursuant to public notice, ... signed by Dr. Belfast Burton and William Whipper." The following delegates were present:

Philadelphia—John Bowers, Dr. Belfast Burton, James Cornish, Junius C. Morel, William Whipper.

New York—Rev. Wm. Miller, Henry Sipkins, Thos. L. Jennings, Wm. Hamilton, James Pennington.

Maryland—Rev. Abner Coker, Robert Cowley.

Delaware—Abraham D. Shad, Rev. Peter Gardiner.

Virginia—Wm. Duncan.

The following officers were chosen:

President—John Bowers.

Vice-Presidents—Abraham D. Shad, William Duncan.

Secretary—William Whipper.

Assistant Secretary—Thos. L. Jennings.

[Pg 62]

The first concern of this convention was the condition of that class which it directly represented—the "free persons of color" in the United States. A committee, consisting of Messrs. Morel, Shad, Duncan, Cowley, Sipkins, and Jennings, made the following report on the condition of the free persons of color in the United States:

"Brethren and Fellow-Citizens:

"We, the Committee of Inquiry, would suggest to the Convention the propriety of adopting the following resolutions, viz.:

"Resolved, That, in the opinion of this Convention, it is highly necessary that the different societies engaged in the Canadian Settlement be earnestly requested to persevere in their praiseworthy and philanthropic undertaking; firmly believing that, at a future period, their labors will be crowned with success.

"The Committee would also recommend this Convention to call on the free people of color to assemble annually by delegation at such place as may be designated as suitable.

"They would also respectfully submit to your wisdom the necessity of your deliberate reflection on the dissolute, intemperate, and ignorant condition of a large portion of the colored population of the United States. They would not, however, refer to their unfortunate circumstances to add degradation to objects already degraded and miserable; nor, with some others, improperly class the virtuous of our color with the abandoned, but with the most sympathizing and heartfelt commiseration, show our sense of obligation as the true guardians of our interests, by giving wholesome advice and good counsel.

"The Committee consider it as highly important that the Convention recommend the necessity of creating a general fund, to be denominated the Conventional Fund, for the purpose of advancing the objects of this and future conventions, as the public good may require.

"They would further recommend, that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United Stales be read in our Conventions; believing, that the truths contained in the former are incontrovertible, and that the latter guarantees in letter and spirit to every freeman born in this country, all the rights and immunities of citizenship.

"Your Committee with regret have witnessed the many oppressive, unjust, and unconstitutional laws which have been enacted in the different parts of the Union against the free people of color, and they would call upon this Convention, as possessing the rights of freemen, to recommend to the people, through their delegation, the propriety of memorializing the proper authorities, whenever they may feel themselves aggrieved, or their rights invaded, by any cruel or oppressive laws.[Pg 63]

"And your Committee would further report, that, in their opinion, Education, Temperance, and Economy are best calculated to promote the elevation of mankind to a proper rank and standing among men, as they enable him to discharge all those duties enjoined on him by his Creator. We would, therefore, respectfully request an early attention to those virtues among our brethren who have a desire to be useful.

"And lastly, your Committee view with unfeigned regret, and respectfully submit to the wisdom of this Convention, the operations and misrepresentations of the American Colonization Society in these United States.

"We feel sorrowful to see such an immense and wanton waste of lives and property, not doubting the benevolent feelings of some individuals engaged in that cause. But we cannot for a moment doubt, but that the cause of many of our unconstitutional, unchristian, and unheard-of sufferings emanate from that unhallowed source; and we would call on Christians of every denomination firmly to resist it."[28]

The convention was in session for several days. It attracted public attention on account of the intelligence, order, and excellent judgment which prevailed. It deeply touched the young white men who had, but a few months previous, enlisted under the broad banner Wm. Lloyd Garrison had given to the breeze. They called to see Colored men conduct a convention. The Rev. S. S. Jocelyn, of New Haven, Connecticut; Arthur Tappan, of New York; Benjamin Lundy, of Washington, D. C.; William Lloyd Garrison, of Boston, Massachusetts; Thomas Shipley and Charles Pierce, of Philadelphia, visited the convention and were cordially received. Messrs. Jocelyn, Tappan, and Garrison were invited to address the convention. They delivered stirring addresses, and especially urged the necessity of establishing a college for the education of "Young Men of Color." At the suggestion of the speaker the convention appointed a committee with whom the speaker conferred. The report of the committee was as follows:

"That a plan had been submitted to them by the above-named gentlemen, for the liberal education of Young Men of Color, on the Manual-Labor System, all of which they respectfully submit to the consideration of the Convention, are as follow:

"The plan proposed is, that a College be established at New Haven, Conn., as soon as $20,000 are obtained, and to be on the Manual-Labor[Pg 64] System, by which, in connection with a scientific education, they may also obtain a useful Mechanical or Agricultural profession; and (they further report, having received information) that a benevolent individual has offered to subscribe one thousand dollars toward this object, provided that a farther sum of nineteen thousand dollars can be obtained in one year.

"After an interesting discussion, the above report was unanimously adopted; one of the inquiries by the Convention was in regard to the place of location. On interrogating the gentlemen why New Haven should be the place of location, they gave the following as their reasons:—

"1st. The site is healthy and beautiful.

"2d. Its inhabitants are friendly, pious, generous, and humane.

"3d. Its laws are salutary and protecting to all, without regard to complexion.

"4th. Boarding is cheap and provisions are good.

"5th. The situation is as central as any other that can be obtained with the same advantages.

"6th. The town of New Haven carries on an extensive West India trade, and many of the wealthy colored residents in the Islands, would, no doubt, send their sons there to be educated, and thus a fresh tie of friendship would be formed, which might be productive of much real good in the end.

"And last, though not the least, the literary and scientific character of New Haven, renders it a very desirable place for the location of the college."

The report of the Committee was received and adopted. The Rev. Samuel E. Cornish was appointed general agent to solicit funds, and Arthur Tappan was selected as treasurer. A Provisional Committee was appointed in each city, as follows:

"Boston—Rev. Hosea Easton, Robert Roberts, James G. Barbadoes, and Rev. Samuel Snowden.

"New York—Rev. Peter Williams, Boston Cromwell, Philip Bell, Thomas Downing, Peter Voglesang.

"Philadelphia—Joseph Cassey, Robert Douglass, Sr., James Forten, Richard Howell, Robert Purvis.

"Baltimore—Thomas Green, James P. Walker, Samuel G. Mathews, Isaac Whipper, Samuel Hiner.

"New Haven—Biars Stanley, John Creed, Alexander C. Luca.

"Brooklyn, L. I.—Jacob Deyes, Henry Thomson, Willis Jones.

"Wilmington, Del.—Rev. Peter Spencer, Jacob Morgan, William S. Thomas.[Pg 65]

"Albany—Benjamin Latimore, Captain Schuyler, Captain Francis March.

"Washington, D. C.—William Jackson, Arthur Waring, Isaac Carey.

"Lancaster, Pa.—Charles Butler and Jared Grey.

"Carlisle, Pa.—John Peck and Rowland G. Roberts.

"Chambersburg, Pa.—Dennis Berry.

"Pittsburgh—John B. Vashon, Lewis Gardiner, Abraham Lewis.

"Newark, N. J.—Peter Petitt, Charles Anderson, Adam Ray.

"Trenton—Samson Peters, Leonard Scott."

The proceedings of the convention were characterized by a deep solemnity and a lively sense of the gravity of the situation. The delegates were of the ablest Colored men in the country, and were conversant with the wants of their people. The subjoined address shows that the committee that prepared it had a thorough knowledge of the public sentiment of America on the subject of race prejudice.


"Respected Brethren and Fellow-Citizens:

. . . . . . . . .

"Our attention has been called to investigate the political standing of our brethren wherever dispersed, but more particularly the situation of those in this great Republic.

"Abroad, we have been cheered with pleasant views of humanity, and the steady, firm, and uncompromising march of equal liberty to the human family. Despotism, tyranny, and injustice have had to retreat, in order to make way for the unalienable rights of man. Truth has conquered prejudice, and mankind are about to rise in the majesty and splendor of their native dignity.

"The cause of general emancipation is gaining powerful and able friends abroad. Britain and Denmark have performed such deeds as will immortalize them for their humanity, in the breasts of the philanthropists of the present day; whilst, as a just tribute to their virtues, after-ages will yet erect unperishable monuments to their memory. (Would to God we could say thus of our own native soil!)

"And it is only when we look to our own native land, to the birthplace of our fathers, to the land for whose prosperity their blood and our sweat have been shed and cruelly extorted, that the Convention has had cause to hang its head and blush. Laws, as cruel in themselves as they were unconstitutional and unjust, have in many places been enacted against our poor unfriended and unoffending brethren; laws, (without a shadow of provocation on our part,) at whose bare recital[Pg 66] the very savage draws him up for fear of the contagion,—looks noble, and prides himself because he bears not the name of a Christian.

"But the Convention would not wish to dwell long on this subject, as it is one that is too sensibly felt to need description.

"We would wish to turn you from this scene with an eye of pity, and a breast glowing with mercy, praying that the recording angel may drop a tear, which shall obliterate forever the remembrance of so foul a stain upon the national escutcheon of this great Republic.

"This spirit of persecution was the cause of our Convention. It was that first induced us to seek an asylum in the Canadas; and the Convention feels happy to report to its brethren, that our efforts to establish a settlement in that province have not been made in vain. Our prospects are cheering; our friends and funds are daily increasing; wonders have been performed far exceeding our most sanguine expectations; already have our brethren purchased eight hundred acres of land—and two thousand of them have left the soil of their birth, crossed the lines, and laid the foundation for a structure which promises to prove an asylum for the colored population of these United States. They have erected two hundred log-houses, and have five hundred acres under cultivation.

"And now it is to your fostering care the Convention appeals, and we appeal to you as to men and brethren, yet to enlarge their borders.

"We therefore ask of you, brethren,—we ask of you, philanthropists of every color and of every kindred,—to assist us in this undertaking. We look to a kind Providence and to you to say whether our desires shall be realized and our labors crowned with success.

"The Convention has done its duty, and it now remains for you, brethren, to do yours. Various obstacles have been thrown in our way by those opposed to the elevation of the human species; but, thanks to an all-wise Providence, his goodness has as yet cleared the way, and our advance has been slow but steady. The only thing now wanted, is an accumulation of funds, in order to enable us to make a purchase agreeable to the direction of the first Convention; and, to effect that purpose, the Convention has recommended, to the different Societies engaged in that cause, to preserve and prosecute their designs with double energy; and we would earnestly recommend to every colored man (who feels the weight of his degradation), to consider himself in duty bound to contribute his mite toward this great object. We would say to all, that the prosperity of the rising generation mainly depends upon our active exertions.

"Yes, it is with us to say whether they shall assume a rank and standing among the nations of the earth, as men and freemen, or whether they shall still be prized and held at market-price. Oh, then, by a brother's love, and by all that makes man dear to man, awake in time![Pg 67] Be wise! Be free! Endeavor to walk with circumspection; be obedient to the laws of our common country; honor and respect its lawmakers and law-givers; and, through all, let us not forget to respect ourselves.

"During the deliberations of this Convention, we had the favor of advising and consulting with some of our most eminent and tried philanthropists—men of unblemished character and of acknowledged rank and standing. Our sufferings have excited their sympathy; our ignorance appealed to their humanity; and, brethren, we feel that gratitude is due to a kind and benevolent Creator, that our excitement and appeal have neither been in vain. A plan has been proposed to the Convention for the erection of a college for the instruction of young men of color, on the manual-labor system, by which the children of the poor may receive a regular classical education, as well as those of their more opulent brethren, and the charge will be so regulated as to put it within the reach of all. In support of this plan, a benevolent individual has offered the sum of one thousand dollars, provided that we can obtain subscriptions to the amount of nineteen thousand dollars in one year.

"The Convention has viewed the plan with considerable interest, and, after mature deliberation, on a candid investigation, feels strictly justified in recommending the same to the liberal patronage of our brethren, and respectfully solicits the aid of those philanthropists who feel an interest in sending light, knowledge, and truth to all of the human species.

"To the friends of general education, we do believe that our appeal will not be in vain. For the present ignorant and degraded condition of many of our brethren in these United States (which has been a subject of much concern to the Convention) can excite no astonishment (although used by our enemies to show our inferiority in the scale of human beings); for, what opportunities have they possessed for mental cultivation or improvement? Mere ignorance, however, in a people divested of the means of acquiring information by books, or an extensive connection with the world, is no just criterion of their intellectual incapacity; and it had been actually seen, in various remarkable instances, that the degradation of the mind and character, which has been too hastily imputed to a people kept, as we are, at a distance from those sources of knowledge which abound in civilized and enlightened communities, has resulted from no other causes than our unhappy situation and circumstances.

"True philanthropy disdains to adopt those prejudices against any people which have no better foundation than accidental diversities of color, and refuses to determine without substantial evidence and incontestible fact as the basis of her judgment. And it is in order to remove these prejudices, which are the actual causes of our ignorance, that we have appealed to our friends in support of the contemplated institution.[Pg 68]

"The Convention has not been unmindful of the operations of the American Colonization Society, and it would respectfully suggest to that august body of learning, talent, and worth, that, in our humble opinion, strengthened, too, by the opinions of eminent men in this country, as well as in Europe, that they are pursuing the direct road to perpetuate slavery, with all its unchristianlike concomitants, in this boasted land of freedom; and, as citizens and men whose best blood is sapped to gain popularity for that institution, we would, in the most feeling manner, beg of them to desist; or, if we must be sacrificed to their philanthropy, we would rather die at home. Many of our fathers, and some of us, have fought and bled for the liberty, independence, and peace which you now enjoy; and, surely, it would be ungenerous and unfeeling in you to deny us an humble and quiet grave in that country which gave us birth!

"In conclusion, the Convention would remind our brethren that knowledge is power, and to that end, we call on you to sustain and support, by all honorable, energetic, and necessary means, those presses which are devoted to our instruction and elevation, to foster and encourage the mechanical arts and sciences among our brethren, to encourage simplicity, neatness, temperance, and economy in our habits, taking due care always to give the preference to the production of freemen wherever it can be had. Of the utility of a General Fund, the Convention believes there can exist but one sentiment, and that is for a speedy establishment of the same. Finally, we trust our brethren will pay due care to take such measures as will ensure a general and equal representation in the next Convention


"Belfast Burton,
"Junius C. Morel,
"William Whipper,
"Publishing Committee."

Encouraged by the good results that followed the first convention, another one was called, and assembled in Philadelphia, at Benezet Hall, Seventh Street, June 4, 1832. The following delegates were admitted to seats in the convention:


Pittsburgh—John B. Vashon.

Philadelphia—John Bowers, William Whipper, J. C. Morel, Benjamin Paschal, F. A. Hinton.

Carlisle—John Peck.

Lewistown, Miffin County—Samuel Johnson.[Pg 69]


New York City—William Hamilton, Thomas L. Jennings, Henry Sipkins, Philip A. Bell.

Brooklyn—James Pennington.


Wilmington—Joseph Burton, Jacob Morgan, Abm. D. Shad, William Johnson, Peter Gardiner.


Baltimore—Samuel Elliott, Robert Cowley, Samuel Hiner.


Gloucester—Thomas D. Coxsin, Thomas Banks.

Trenton—Aaron Roberts.


Boston—Hosea Easton.

New Bedford—Nathan Johnson.


Hartford—Paul Drayton.

New Haven—Scipio C. Augustus.


Providence—Ichabod Northrop.

On the following day the convention adjourned to the "First African Presbyterian Church." The following report was adopted:

"Resolved, That in the opinion of this Committee, the plan suggested by the first General Convention, of purchasing land or lands in Upper Canada, for the avowed object of forming a settlement in that province, for such colored persons as may choose to emigrate there, still merits and deserves our united support and exertions; and further, that the appearances of the times, in this our native land, demand an immediate action on that subject. Adopted.

"Resolved, That in the opinion of this committee, we still solemnly and sincerely protest against any interference, on the part of the American Colonization Society, with the free colored population in these United States, so long as they shall countenance or endeavor to use coercive measures (either directly or indirectly) to colonize us in any place which is not the object of our choice. And we ask of them respectfully, as men and as Christians, to cease their unhallowed persecutions[Pg 70] of a people already sufficiently oppressed, or if, as they profess to have our welfare and prosperity at heart, to assist us in the object of our choice.

"Resolved, That this committee would recommend to the members of this Convention, to discountenance, by all just means in their power, any emigration to Liberia or Hayti, believing them only calculated to distract and divide the whole colored family."

In accordance with a resolution of the previous day the Rev. R. R. Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization Society, was invited to address the convention. He endeavored to offer an acceptable explanation of the Society, and to advocate its principles. But the Colored people, almost to a man, were opposed to colonization; and most of the anti-slavery societies regarded colonization as impracticable and hurtful to the cause of emancipation. William Lloyd Garrison happened to be present, and followed Gurley in a speech that destroyed the hopes of the friends of colonization, and greatly delighted the convention.

While the Colored people opposed colonization they regarded Canada as a proper place to go. They felt that as citizens they had the right to decide where to go, and, when they got ready, to go on their own account. Canada had furnished an asylum to their flying, travel-soiled, foot-sore, and needy brethren,—was not so very far away, and, therefore, it was preferred to the West Coast of Africa. The committee having under consideration this subject, made the following comprehensive report:

"Resolved, That the members of this Convention take into consideration the propriety of effecting the purchase of lands in the province of Upper Canada, as an asylum for those of our bretheren who may be compelled to remove from these United States, beg leave, most respectfully to report:

"That, after due consideration, they believe the resolution embraces three distinct inquiries for the consideration of this Convention, which should be duly weighed before they can adopt the sentiments contained in the above-named resolution. Therefore, your Committee conceive the resolution premature, and now proceed to state the enquiries separately.

"First.—Is it proper for the Free people of color in this country, under existing circumstances, to remove to any distant territory beyond these United States?

"Secondly.—Does Upper Canada possess superior advantages and conveniences to those held out in these United States or elsewhere?[Pg 71]

"Thirdly.—Is there any certainty that the people of color will be compelled by oppressive legislative enactments to abandon the land of their birth for a home in a distant region?

"Your Committee, before examining those enquiries, would most respectfully take a retrospective view of the object for which the Convention was first associated, and the causes which have actuated their deliberations.

"The expulsory laws of Ohio, in 1829, which drove our people to seek a new home in Upper Canada, and their impoverished situation afterward, excited a general burst of sympathy for their situation, by the wise and good, over the whole country. This awakened public feeling on their behalf, and numerous meetings were called to raise funds to alleviate their present miseries. The bright prospects that then appeared to dawn on the new settlement, awakened our people to the precariousness of their situations, and, in order more fully to be prepared for future exigencies, and to extend the system of benevolence still further to those who should remove to Upper Canada, a circular was issued by five individuals, viz.:—the Rev. Richard Allen, Cyrus Black, Junius C. Morel, Benjamin Pascal, and James C. Cornish, in behalf of the citizens of Philadelphia, calling a convention of the colored delegates from the several States, to meet on the 20th day of September, 1830, to devise plans and means for the establishment of a colony in Upper Canada, under the patronage of the general Convention, then called.

"That Convention met, pursuant to public notice, and recommended the formation of a parent society, to be established, with auxiliaries in the different towns where they had been represented in general convention, for the purpose of raising moneys to defray the object of purchasing a colony in the province of Upper Canada, for those who should hereafter wish to emigrate thither, and that immediately after its organization, a corresponding agent should be appointed to reside at or near the intended purchase.

"Our then limited knowledge of the manners, customs, and privileges, and rights of aliens in Upper Canada, together with the climate, soil, and productions thereof, rendered it necessary to send out agents to examine the same, who returned with a favorable report, except that citizens of these United States could not purchase lands in Upper Canada, and legally transfer the same to other individuals.

"The Convention resolved to reassemble on the first Monday in June, 1831, during which time the order of the Convention had been carried into operation, relative to establishing Societies for the promotion of said object; and the sum and total of their proceedings were, that the Convention recommended to the colored people generally, when persecuted as were our brethren in Ohio, to seek an Asylum in[Pg 72] Upper Canada. During which time, information having been received that a part of the white inhabitants of said province had, through prejudice and the fear of being overburthened with an ejected population, petitioned the provincial parliament to prohibit the general influx of colored population from entering their limits, which threw some consternation on the prospect. The Convention did not wholly abandon the subject, but turned its attention more to the elevation of our people in this, our native home.

"The recent occurrences at the South have swelled the tide of prejudice until it has almost revolutionized public sentiment, which has given birth to severe legislative enactments in some of the States, and almost ruined our interests and prospects in others, in which, in the opinion of your Committee, our situation is more precarious than it has been at any other period since the Declaration of Independence.

"The events of the past year have been more fruitful in persecution, and have presented more inducements than any other period of the history of our country, for the men of color to fly from the graves of their fathers, and seek new homes in a land where the roaring billows of prejudice are less injurious to their rights and privileges.

"Your Committee would now approach the present Convention and examine the resolution under consideration, beginning with the first interrogatory, viz.: Is it proper for the Free people of color in this country, under existing circumstances, to remove to any distant territory beyond the United States?

"If we admit the first interrogatory to be true, as it is the exact spirit of the language of this resolution, now under consideration, it is altogether unnecessary for us to make further preparation for either our moral, intellectual, or political advancement in this our own, our native land.

"Your Committee also believe that if this Convention shall adopt a resolution that will, as soon as means can be obtained, remove our colored population to the province of Upper Canada, the best and brightest prospect of the philanthropists who are laboring for our elevation in this country will be thwarted, and they will be brought to the conclusion that the great object which actuated their labors would now be removed, and they might now rest from their labors and have the painful feeling of transmitting to future generations, that an oppressed people, in the land of their birth, supported by the genuine philanthropists of the age, amidsts friends, companions, and their natural attachments, a genial clime, a fruitful soil,—amidst the rays of as proud institutions as ever graced the most favored spot that has ever received the glorious rays of a meridian sun,—have abandoned their homes on account of their persecutions, for a home almost similarly precarious, for an abiding-place among strangers![Pg 73]

"Your Committee further believe that any express plan to colonize our people beyond the limits of these United States, tends to weaken the situation of those who are left behind, without any peculiar advantage to those who emigrate. But it must be admitted, that the rigid oppression abroad in the land is such, that a part of our suffering brethren cannot live under it, and that the compulsory laws and the inducements held out by the American Colonization Society are such as will cause them to alienate all their natural attachments to their homes, and accept of the only mode left open, which is to remove to a distant Country to receive those rights and privileges of which they have been deprived. And as this Convention is associated for the purpose of recommending to our people the best mode of alleviating their present miseries,

"Therefore, your Committee would, most respectfully, recommend to the general Convention, now assembled, to exercise the most vigorous means to collect monies through their auxiliaries, or otherwise, to be applied in such manner, as will advance the interests, and contribute to the wants of the free colored population of this country generally.

"Your Committee would now most respectfully approach the second inquiry, viz.:—Does Upper Canada possess superior advantages and conveniences to those held out in the United States or elsewhere?

"Your Committee, without summing up the advantages and disadvantages of other situations, would, most respectfully answer in the affirmative. At least they are willing to assert that the advantage is much in favor of those who are obliged to leave their present homes. For your more particular information on that subject we would, most respectfully, refer you to the interesting account given by our real and indefatigable friend, Benjamin Lundy, in a late number of the "Genius of Universal Emancipation." Vide "Genius of Universal Emancipation," No. 10, vol. 12.

"From the history there laid down, your Committee would, most respectfully, request the Convention to aid, so far as in their power lies, those who are obliged to seek an asylum in the province of Upper Canada; and, in order that they may more effectually carry their views into operation, they would respectfully request them to appoint an Agent in Upper Canada, to receive such funds as may be there transmitted for their use.

"Your Committee have now arrived at the third and last inquiry, viz.:—Is there any certainty that we, as a people, will be compelled to leave this our native land, for a home in a distant region? To this inquiry your Committee are unable to answer; it belongs to the fruitful events of time to determine. The mistaken policy of some of the friends of our improvement, that the same could be effected on the shore of Africa, has raised the tide of our calamity until it has overflowed[Pg 74] the valleys of peace and tranquillity—the dark clouds of prejudice have rained persecution—the oppressor and the oppressed have suffered together—and we have yet been protected by that Almighty arm, who holds in his hands the destinies of nations, and whose presence is a royal safeguard, should we place the utmost reliance on his wisdom and power.

"Your Committee, while they rejoice at the noble object for which the Convention was first associated, have been unable to come to any conclusive evidence that lands can be purchased by this Convention and legally transferred to individuals, residents of said colony, so long as the present laws exist. But, while they deem it inexpedient for the Convention to purchase lands in Upper Canada for the purpose of erecting a colony thereon, do again, most respectfully, hope that they will exercise the same laudable exertions to collect funds for the comfort and happiness of our people there situated, and those who may hereafter emigrate, and pursue the same judicious measures in the appropriation of said funds, as they would in procuring a tract of land, as expressed by the resolution.

"Your Committee, after examining the various circumstances connected with our situation as a people, have come, unanimously, to the conclusion to recommend to this Convention to adopt the following resolution, as the best mode of alleviating the miseries of our oppressed brethren:

"Resolved, That this Convention recommend the establishment of a Society, or Agent, in Upper Canada, for the purpose of purchasing lands and contributing to the wants of our people generally, who may be, by oppressive legislative enactments, obliged to flee from these United States and take up residence within her borders. And that this Convention will employ its auxiliary societies, and such other means as may lie in its power, for the purpose of raising monies, and remit the same for the purpose of aiding the proposed object.

[Signed]"Robert Cowley,"Benj. Paschal,}Committee."
"John Peck,"Thos. D. Coxsin,
"Wm. Hamilton,"J. C. Morel,
"Wm. Whipper,

This convention's work was carefully done, its plans were laid upon a broader scale, and the Colored people, beholding its proceedings, took heart, and went forward with zeal and courage seeking to increase their intelligence and wealth, and improve their social condition. In their address the convention did not fail to give the Colonization Society a parting shot.[Pg 75]


"To the Free Colored Inhabitants of these United States:

"Fellow-Citizens: We have again been permitted to associate in our representative character, from the different sections of this Union, to pour into one common stream, the afflictions, the prayers, and sympathies of our oppressed people; the axis of time has brought around this glorious, annual event. And we are again brought to rejoice that the wisdom of Divine Providence has protected us during a year whose autumnal harvest has been a reign of terror and persecution, and whose winter has almost frozen the streams of humanity by its frigid legislation. It is under the influence of times and feelings like these, that we now address you. Of a people situated as we are, little can be said, except that it becomes our duty strictly to watch those causes that operate against our interests and privileges; and to guard against whatever measures that will either lower us in the scale of being, or perpetuate our degradation in the eyes of the civilized world.

"The effects of Slavery on the bond and Colonization on the free. Of the first we shall say but little, but will here repeat the language of a high-minded Virginian in the Legislature of that State, on the recent discussion of the slave question before that honorable body, who declared, that man could not hold property in man, and that the master held no right to the slave, either by a law of nature or a patentee from God, but by the will of society; which we declare to be an unjust usurpation of the rights and privileges of men.

"But how beautiful must the prospect be to the philanthropist, to view us, the children of persecution, grown to manhood, associating in our delegated character to devise plans and means for our moral elevation, and attracting the attention of the wise and good over the whole country, who are anxiously watching our deliberations.

"We have here to inform you, that we have patiently listened to the able and eloquent arguments produced by the Rev. R. R. Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization Society, in behalf of the doings of said Society, and Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Esq., in opposition to its action.

"A more favorable opportunity to arrive at truth seldom has been witnessed, but while we admire the distinguished piety and Christian feelings with which he so solemnly portrayed the doctrines of that institution, we do now assert, that the result of the same has tended more deeply to rivet our solid conviction, that the doctrines of said Society are at enmity with the principles and precepts of religion, humanity, and justice, and should be regarded by every man of color in these United States as an evil, for magnitude, unexcelled, and whose doctrines aim at the entire extinction of the free colored population and the riveting of slavery.[Pg 76]

"We might here repeat our protest against that institution, but it is unnecessary; your views and sentiments have long since gone to the world; the wings of the wind have borne your disapprobation to that institution. Time itself cannot erase it. You have dated your opposition from its beginning, and your views are strengthened by time and circumstances, and they hold the uppermost seat in your affections. We have not been unmindful of the compulsory laws which caused our brethren in Ohio to seek new homes in a distant land, there to share and suffer all the inconveniences of exiles in an uncultivated region; which has led us to admire the benevolent feelings of a rival government in its liberal protection to strangers; which has induced us to recommend to you, to exercise your best endeavors, to collect monies to secure the purchase of lands in the Canadas, for those who may by oppressive legislative enactments be obliged to move thither.

"In contributing to our brethren that aid which will secure them a refuge in a storm, we would not wish to be understood as possessing any inclination to remove, nor in the least to impoverish, that noble sentiment which we rejoice in exclaiming—

"This is our own,
Our native land.

"All that we have done, humanity dictated it; neither inclination nor alienated feelings to our country prescribed it, but that power which is above all other considerations, viz.: the law of necessity.

"We yet anticipate in the moral strength of this nation, a final redemption from those evils that have been illegitimately entailed on us as a people. We yet expect, by due exertions on our part, together with the aid of the benevolent philanthropists of our country, to acquire a moral and intellectual strength that will unshaft the calumnious darts of our adversaries, and present to the world a general character that they will feel bound to respect and admire.

"It will be seen by a reference to our proceedings, that we have again recommended the further prosecution of the contemplated college, proposed by the last Convention, to be established at New Haven, under the rules and regulations then established. A place for its location will be selected in a climate and neighborhood where the inhabitants are less prejudiced to our rights and privileges. The proceedings of the citizens of New Haven, with regard to the erection of the college, were a disgrace to them, and cast a stigma on the reputed fame of New England and the country. We are unwilling that the character of the whole country should sink by the proceedings of a few. We are determined to present to another portion of the country not far distant, and at no very remote period, the[Pg 77] opportunity of gaining for them the character of a truly philanthropic spirit, and of retrieving the character of the country, by the disreputable proceedings of New Haven. We must have colleges and high-schools on the manual-labor system, where our youth may be instructed in all the arts of civilized life. If we ever expect to see the influence of prejudice decrease, and ourselves respected, it must be by the blessings of an enlightened education. It must be by being in possession of that classical knowledge which promotes genius, and causes man to soar up to those high intellectual enjoyments and acquirements, which place him in a situation to shed upon a country and a people that scientific grandeur which is imperishable by time, and drowns in oblivion's cup their moral degradation. Those who think that our primary schools are capable of effecting this, are a century behind the age when to have proved a question in the rule of three was considered a higher attainment than solving the most difficult problem in Euclid is now. They might have at that time performed what some people expect of them now, in the then barren state of science; but they are now no longer capable of reflecting brilliancy on our national character, which will elevate us from our present situation. If we wish to be respected, we must build our moral character on a base as broad and high as the nation itself; our country and our character require it; we have performed all the duties from the menial to the soldier,—our fathers shed their blood in the great struggle for independence. In the late war between Great Britain and the United States, a proclamation was issued to the free colored inhabitants of Louisiana, September 21, 1814, inviting them to take up arms in defence of their country, by Gen. Andrew Jackson. And in order that you may have an idea of the manner in which they acquitted themselves on that perilous occasion, we will refer you to the proclamation of Thomas Butler, Aid-de-Camp.

"You there see that your country expects much from you, and that you have much to call you into action, morally, religiously, and scientifically. Prepare yourselves to occupy the several stations to which the wisdom of your country may promote you. We have been told in this Convention, by the Secretary of the American Colonization Society, that there are causes which forbid our advancement in this country, which no humanity, no legislation, and no religion can control. Believe it not. Is not humanity susceptible of all the tender feelings of benevolence? Is not legislation supreme—and is not religion virtuous? Our oppressed situation arises from their opposite causes. There is an awakening spirit in our people to promote their elevation, which speaks volumes in their behalf. We anticipated at the close of the last Convention, a larger representation and an increased number of delegates; we were not deceived, the number has been tenfold. And we have a[Pg 78] right to expect that future Conventions will be increased by a geometrical ratio, until we shall present a body not inferior in numbers to our State Legislatures, and the phenomenon of an oppressed people, deprived of the rights of citizenship, in the midst of an enlightened nation, devising plans and measures for their personal and mental elevation, by moral suasion alone.

"In recommending you a path to pursue for our present good and future elevation, we have taken into consideration the circumstances of the free colored population, so far as it was possible to ascertain their views and sentiments, hoping that at a future Convention, you will all come ably represented, and that your wishes and views may receive that deliberation and attention for which this body is particularly associated.

"Finally, before taking our leave, we would admonish you, by all that you hold dear, beware of that bewitching evil, that bane of society, that curse of the world, that fell destroyer of the best prospects and the last hope of civilized man,—Intemperance.

"Be righteous, be honest, be just, be economical, be prudent, offend not the laws of your country,—in a word, live in that purity of life, by both precept and example,—live in the constant pursuit of that moral and intellectual strength which will invigorate your understandings and render you illustrious in the eyes of civilized nations, when they will assert that all that illustrious worth which was once possessed by the Egyptians, and slept for ages, has now arisen in their descendents, the inhabitants of the New World."

Excellent as was the work of these conventions of men of color, they nevertheless became the magazines from which the pro-slavery element secured dangerous ammunition with which to attack the anti-slavery movement. The white anti-slavery societies were charged with harboring a spirit of race prejudice; with inconsistency, in that while seeking freedom for the Negro by means of agitation, separate efforts were put forth by the white and black anti-slavery people of the North. And this had its due effect. Massachusetts and other States had abolition societies composed entirely of persons of Color. "The Massachusetts General Colored Association" organized in the early days of the agitation movement. It had among its leading men the most intelligent and public-spirited Colored citizens of Boston. James G. Barbadoes, Coffin Pitts, John E. Scarlett, the Eastons, Hosea and Joshua; Wm. C. Nell, Thomas Cole, Thomas Dalton, Frederick Brimley, Walker Lewis, and John T. Hilton were a few of "the faithful." In January, 1833, the following communication was sent to the white anti-slavery society of New England.[Pg 79]

"Boston, January 15, 1833.

"To the Board of Managers of the New-England Anti-Slavery Society:

"The Massachusetts General Colored Association, cordially approving the objects and principles of the New-England Anti-Slavery Society, would respectfully communicate their desire to become auxiliary thereto. They have accordingly chosen one of their members to attend the annual meeting of the Society as their delegate (Mr. Joshua Easton, of North Bridgewater), and solicit his acceptance in that capacity.

"Thomas Dalton, President,
"William C. Nell, Vice-President.

"James G. Barbadoes, Secretary."

The request was granted, but a few hints among friends on the outside sufficed to demonstrate the folly and hurtfulness of anti-slavery societies composed exclusively of men of color. Within the next two years Colored organizations perished, and their members took their place in the white societies. Such Colored men as John B. Vashon and Robert Purvis, of Pennsylvania; David Ruggles and Philip A. Bell, of New York; and Charles Lenox Remond and Wm. Wells Brown, of Massachusetts, were soon seen as orators and presiding officers, in the different anti-slavery societies of the free States. Frederick Douglass, the Rev. Samuel Ringgold Ward, James McCune Smith, M.D.; James W. C. Pennington, D.D.; Henry Highland Garnett, D.D.; Alexander Crummell, D.D.; and other Colored men were eloquent, earnest, and effective in their denunciation of the institution that enslaved their brethren. In England and in Europe a corps of intelligent Colored orators was kept busy painting, to interested audiences, the cruelties and iniquities of American slavery. By association and sympathy these Colored orators took on the polish of Anglo-Saxon scholarship. Of the influence of the American Anti-slavery Society upon the Colored man, Maria Weston Chapman once said, it is "church and university, high school and common school, to all who need real instruction and true religion. Of it what a throng of authors, editors, lawyers, orators, and accomplished gentlemen of color have taken their degree! It has equally implanted hopes and aspirations, noble thoughts, and sublime purposes, in the hearts of both races. It has prepared the white man for the freedom of the black man, and it has made the black man scorn the thought of enslavement, as does a white man, as far as its influence has extended.[Pg 80] Strengthen that noble influence! Before its organization, the country only saw here and there in slavery some 'faithful Cudjoe or Dinah,' whose strong natures blossomed even in bondage, like a fine plant beneath a heavy stone. Now, under the elevating and cherishing influence of the American Anti-slavery Society, the colored race, like the white, furnishes Corinthian capitals for the noblest temples. Aroused by the American Anti-slavery Society, the very white men who had forgotten and denied the claim of the black man to the rights of humanity, now thunder that claim at every gate, from cottage to capitol, from school-house to university, from the railroad carriage to the house of God. He has a place at their firesides, a place in their hearts—the man whom they once cruelly hated for his color. So feeling, they cannot send him to Coventry with a horn-book in his hand, and call it instruction! They inspire him to climb to their side by a visible, acted gospel of freedom. Thus, instead of bowing to prejudice, they conquer it."

In January, 1836, Rev. Mr. Follen offered the following resolution in a meeting of the New England Anti-slavery Society:

"Resolved, That we consider the Anti-slavery cause the cause of philanthropy, with regard to which all human beings, white men and colored men, citizens and foreigners, men and women, have the same duties and the same rights."

In support of his resolution, he said:

"We have been advised, if we really wished to benefit the slave and the colored race generally, not unnecessarily to shock the feelings, though they were but prejudices, of the white people, by admitting colored persons to our Anti-slavery meetings and societies. We have been told that many who would otherwise act in unison with us were kept away by our disregard of the feelings of the community in this respect.... But what, I would ask, is the great, the single object of all our meetings and societies? Have we any other object than to impress upon the community this one principle, that the colored man is a man? And, on the other hand, is not the prejudice which would have us exclude colored people from our meetings and societies the same which, in our Southern States, dooms them to perpetual bondage?"

In May, 1837, the Anti-slavery Women of America met in convention in New York. In a circular issued by the authority of the convention, and signed by Mary S. Parker, President,[Pg 81] Angelina E. Grimkie, Secretary, another attack was made upon proscription in anti-slavery societies. There was a Colored lady named Sarah Douglass on the Central Committee. The following paragraphs from the circular are specimens sufficient to show the character of the circular; and the poetry at the end, written by a Colored member. Miss Sarah Forten, justified the hopes of her white sisters concerning the race:

"Those Societies that reject colored members, or seek to avoid them, have never been active or efficient. The blessing of God does not rest upon them, because they 'keep back a part of the price of the land,'—they do not lay all at the apostle's feet.

"The abandonment of prejudice is required of us as a proof of our sincerity and consistency. How can we ask our Southern brethren to make sacrifices, if we are not even willing to encounter inconveniences? First cast the beam from thine own eye, then wilt thou see clearly to cast it from his eye.

"We are thy sisters. God has truly said
That of one blood the nations He has made.
O Christian woman! in a Christian land,
Canst thou unblushing read this great command?
Suffer the wrongs which wring our inmost heart,
To draw one throb of pity on thy part?
Our Skins may differ, but from thee we claim
A sister's privilege and a sister's name."

Every barrier was now broken down inside of anti-slavery organizations; and having conquered the prejudice that crippled their work, they enjoyed greater freedom in the prosecution of their labors.

The Colored orators wrought a wonderful change in public sentiment. In the inland white communities throughout the Northern States Negroes were few, and the majority of them were servants; some of them indolent and vicious. From these few the moral and intellectual photograph of the entire race was taken. So it was meet that Negro orators of refinement should go from town to town. The North needed arousing and educating on the anti-slavery question, and no class did more practical work in this direction than the little company of orators, with the peerless Douglass at its head, that pleaded the cause of their brethren in the flesh before the cultivated audiences of New England, the Middle and Western States,—yea, even in the capital cities of conservative Europe.


[28] The Minutes, in possession of the author.

[Pg 82]


The Negro not so Docile as supposed.—The Reason why he was kept in Bondage.—Negroes possessed Courage but lacked Leaders.—Insurrection of Slaves.—Gen. Gabriel as a Leader.—Negro Insurrection planned in South Carolina.—Evils Of Slavery revealed.—The "Nat. Turner" Insurrection in South Hampton County, Virginia.—The Whites arm themselves to repel the Insurrectionists.—Capture and Trial of "Nat. Turner."—His Execution.—Effect of the Insurrection upon Slaves and Slave-holders.

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THE supposed docility of the American Negro was counted among the reasons why it was thought he could never gain his freedom on this continent. But this was a misinterpretation of his real character. Besides, it was next to impossible to learn the history of the Negro during the years of his enslavement at the South. The question was often asked: Why don't the Negroes rise at the South and exterminate their enslavers? Negatively, not because they lacked the courage, but because they lacked leaders [as has been stated already, they sought the North and their freedom through the Underground R. R.] to organize them. But notwithstanding this great disadvantage the Negroes did rise on several different occasions, and did effective work.

"Three times, at intervals of thirty years, has a wave of unutterable terror swept across the Old Dominion, bringing thoughts of agony to every Virginian master, and of vague hope to every Virginian slave. Each time has one man's name become a spell of dismay and a symbol of deliverance. Each time has that name eclipsed its predecessor, while recalling it for a moment to fresher memory; John Brown revived the story of Nat. Turner, as in his day Nat. Turner recalled the vaster schemes of Gabriel."[29]

Mention has been made of the insurrection of slaves in South Carolina in the last century. Upon the very threshold of the[Pg 83] nineteenth century, "General Gabriel" made the master-class of Virginia quail with mortal dread. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence; and his plans were worthy of greater success. The following newspaper paragraph reveals the condition of the minds of Virginians respecting the Negroes:

"For the week past, we have been under momentary expectation of a rising among the negroes, who have assembled to the number of nine hundred or a thousand, and threatened to massacre all the whites. They are armed with desperate weapons, and secrete themselves in the woods. God only knows our fate; we have strong guards every night under arms."

The above was communicated to the "United States Gazette," printed in Philadelphia, under date of September 8, 1800, by a Virginia correspondent. The people felt that they were sleeping over a magazine. The movement of Gabriel was to have taken place on Saturday, September 1st. The rendezvous of the Negro troops was a brook, about six miles from Richmond. The force was to comprise eleven hundred men, divided into three divisions. Richmond—then a town of eight thousand inhabitants—was the point of attack, which was to be effected under cover of night. The right wing was to fall suddenly upon the penitentiary, lately improvised into an arsenal; the left wing was to seize the powder-house; and, thus equipped and supplied with the munitions of war, the two columns were to assign the hard fighting to the third column. This column was to have possession of all the guns, swords, knives, and other weapons of modern warfare. It was to strike a sharp blow by entering the town from both ends, while the other two columns, armed with shovels, picks, clubs, etc., were to act as a reserve. The white troops were scarce, and the situation, plans, etc., of the Negroes were admirable.

"... the penitentiary held several thousand stand of arms; the powder-house was well-stocked; the capitol contained the State treasury; the mills would give them bread; the control of the bridge across James River would keep off enemies from beyond. Thus secured and provided, they planned to issue proclamations summoning to their standard 'their fellow-negroes and the friends of humanity throughout the continent.' In a week, it was estimated, they would have fifty thousand men on their side, with which force they could easily[Pg 84] possess themselves of other towns; and, indeed, a slave named John Scott—possibly the dangerous possessor of ten dollars—was already appointed to head the attack on Petersburg. But in case of final failure, the project included a retreat to the mountains, with their newfound property. John Brown was therefore anticipated by Gabriel sixty years before, in believing the Virginia mountains to have been 'created, from the foundation of the world, as a place of refuge for fugitive slaves.'"[30]

The plot failed, but everybody, and the newspapers also, said the plan was well conceived.

In 1822 another Negro insurrection was planned in Charleston, S. C. The leader of this affair was Denmark Vesey.[31] This plot for an insurrection extended for forty-five or fifty miles around Charleston, and intrusted its secrets to thousands. Denmark Vesey, assisted by several other intelligent and trusty Negroes, had conceived the idea of slaughtering the whites in and about Charleston, and thus securing liberty for the blacks. A recruiting committee was formed, and every slave enlisted was sworn to secrecy. Household servants were rarely trusted. Talkative and intemperate slaves were not enlisted. Women were excluded from the affair that they might take care of the children. Peter Poyas, it was said, had enlisted six hundred without assistance. There were various opinions respecting the number enlisted. Some put it at hundreds, others thousands; one witness at the trial said there were nine thousand, another six thousand. But no white person ever succeeded in gaining the confidence of the black conspirators. Never was a plot so carefully guarded for so long a time.

"During the excitement and the trial of the supposed conspirators, rumor proclaimed all, and doubtless more than all, the horrors of the plot. The city was to be fired in every quarter, the arsenal in the immediate vicinity was to be broken open, and the arms distributed to the insurgents, and an universal massacre of the white inhabitants to take place. Nor did there seem to be any doubt in the mind of the people that such would actually have been the result, had not the plot fortunately been detected before the time appointed for the outbreak. It was believed, as a matter of course, that every black in the city would join in the insurrection, and that, if the original design had been attempted,[Pg 85] and the city taken by surprise, the negroes would have achieved a complete and easy victory. Nor does it seem at all impossible that such might have been or yet may be the case, if any well-arranged and resolute rising should take place."[32]

This bold plot failed because a Negro named William Paul began to make enlistments without authority. He revealed the secret to a household servant, just the very man he should have left to the skilful manipulations of Peter Poyas or Denmark Vesey. As an evidence of the perfection of the plot it should be stated that after a month of official investigation only fifteen out of the thousands had been apprehended!

"The leaders of this attempt at insurrection died as bravely as they had lived; and it is one of the marvels of the remarkable affair, that none of this class divulged, any of their secrets to the court. The men who did the talking were those who knew but little."

The effect was to reveal the evils of slavery, to stir men to thought, and to hasten the day of freedom.

"Nat." Turner combined the lamb and lion. He was a Christian and a man. He was conscious that he was a man and not a "thing"; therefore, driven by religious fanaticism, he undertook a difficult and bloody task. Nathaniel Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia, October 2, 1800. His master was one Benjamin Turner, a very wealthy and aristocratic man. He owned many slaves, and was a cruel and exacting master. Young "Nat." was born of slave parents, and carried to his grave many of the superstitions and traits of his father and mother. The former was a preacher; the latter a "mother in Israel." Both were unlettered, but, nevertheless, very pious people. The mother began when Nat. was quite young to teach him that he was born, like Moses, to be the deliverer of his race. She would sing to him snatches of wild, rapturous songs, and repeat portions of prophecy she had learned from the preachers of those times. Nat. listened with reverence and awe, and believed every thing his mother said. He imbibed the deep religious character of his parents, and soon manifested a desire to preach. He was solemnly set apart to "the Gospel Ministry" by his father, the Church, and visiting preachers. He was quite low in stature, dark, and had the genuine African features. His eyes[Pg 86] were small, but sharp, and gleamed like fire when he was talking about his "mission," or preaching from some prophetic passage of Scripture. It is said that he never laughed. He was a dreamy sort of a man, and avoided the crowd. Like Moses, he lived in the solitudes of the mountains and brooded over the condition of his people. There was something grand to him in the rugged scenery that nature had surrounded him with. He believed that he was a prophet, a leader raised up by God to burst the bolts of the prison-house and set the oppressed free. The thunder, the hail, the storm-cloud, the air, the earth, the stars, at which he would sit and gaze half the night, all spake the language of the God of the oppressed. He was seldom seen in a large company, and never drank a drop of ardent spirits. Like John the Baptist, when he had delivered his message, he would retire to the fastness of the mountain, or seek the desert, where he could meditate upon his great work.

At length he declared that God spake to him. He began to dream dreams and to see visions. His grandmother, a very old and superstitious person, encouraged him in his dreaming. But, notwithstanding, he believed that he had communion with God, and saw the most remarkable visions, he denounced in the severest terms the familiar practices among slaves, known as "conjuring," "gufering," and fortune-telling. The people regarded him with mixed feelings of fear and reverence. He preached with great power and authority. He loved the prophecies, and drew his illustrations from nature. He presented God as the "All-Powerful"; he regarded him as a great "Warrior." His master soon discovered that Nat. was the acknowledged leader among the slaves, and that his fame as "prophet" and "leader" was spreading throughout the State. The poor slaves on distant plantations regarded the name of Nat. Turner as very little removed from that of God. Though having never seen him, yet they believed in him as the man under whose lead they would some time march out of the land of bondage. His influence was equally great among the preachers, while many white people honored and feared him. His master thought it necessary to the safety of his property, to hire Nat. out to a most violent and cruel man. Perhaps he thought to have him "broke." If so, he was mistaken. Nat. Turner was the last slave to submit to an insult given by a white man. His new master could do nothing with him. He ran off, and spent thirty[Pg 87] days in the swamps—but returned. He was upbraided by some of his fellow-slaves for not seeking, as he certainly could have done, "the land of the free." He answered by saying, that a voice said to him: "Return to your earthly master; for he who knoweth his Master's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." It was no direction to submit to an earthly master, but to return to him in order to carry out the will of his Heavenly Master. He related some of the visions he saw during his absence. "About that time I had a vision, and saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle; and the sun was darkened, the thunder rolled in the heavens, and blood flowed in streams; and I heard a voice saying: 'Such is your luck, such are you called on to see; and let it come, rough or smooth, you must surely bear it.' It was not long after this when he saw another vision. He says a spirit appeared unto him and spake as follows: "The serpent is loosened, and Christ has laid down the yoke he has borne for the sins of men; and you must take it up and fight against the serpent, for the time is fast approaching when the first shall be last, and the last shall be first." These visions and many others enthused Nat., and led him to believe that the time was near when the Blacks would be "first" and the whites "last."

The plot for a general uprising was laid in the month of February, 1831. He had seen the last vision. He says: "I was told I should arise and prepare myself, and slay my enemies with their own weapons." He was now prepared to arrange the details of his plot. He appointed a meeting, to which he invited four trusted friends, Sam. Edwards, Hark Travis, Henry Porter, and Nelson Williams. A wild and desolate glen was chosen as the place of meeting, and night the time when they could perfect their plans without being molested by the whites. They brought with them provisions, and ate while they debated among themselves the methods by which to carry out their plan of blood and death. The main difficulty that confronted them was how to get arms. Nat. remembered that a spirit had instructed him to "slay my enemies with their own weapons," so they decided to follow these instructions. After they had decided upon a plan, "the prophet Nat." arose, and, like a great general, made a speech to his small but brave force. "Friends and brothers," said he, "we are to commence a great work to-night! Our race is to be delivered from slavery, and God has appointed us as the[Pg 88] men to do his bidding; and let us be worthy of our calling. I am told to slay all the whites we encounter, without regard to age or sex. We have no arms or ammunition, but we will find these in the houses of our oppressors; and, as we go on, others can join us. Remember, we do not go forth for the sake of blood and carnage; but it is necessary that, in the commencement of this revolution, all the whites we meet should die, until we have an army strong enough to carry on the war upon a Christian basis. Remember that ours is not a war for robbery, nor to satisfy our passions; it is a struggle for freedom. Ours must be deeds, not words. Then let's away to the scene of action!"

The blow was struck on the night of the 21st of August, 1831, in Southampton County, near Jerusalem Court-House. The latter place is about seventy miles from Richmond. Not only Southampton County but old Virginia reeled under the blow administered by the heavy hand of Nat. Turner. On their way to the first house they were to attack, that of a planter by the name of Joseph Travis, they were joined by a slave belonging to a neighboring plantation. We can find only one name for him, "Will." He was the slave of a cruel master, who had sold his wife to the "nigger traders." He was nearly six feet in height, well developed, and the most powerful and athletic man in the county. He was marked with an ugly scar, extending from his right eye to the extremity of the chin. He hated his master, hated slavery, and was glad of an opportunity to wreak his vengeance upon the whites. He armed himself with a sharp broadaxe, under whose cruel blade many a white man fell. Nat.'s speech gives us a very clear idea of the scope and spirit of his plan. We quote from his confession at the time of the trial, and will let him tell the story of this terrible insurrection.

"On returning to the house, Hark went to the door with an axe, for the purpose of breaking it open, as we knew we were strong enough to murder the family should they be awakened by the noise; but, reflecting that it might create an alarm in the neighborhood, we determined to enter the house secretly, and murder them whilst sleeping. Hark got a ladder and set it against the chimney, on which I ascended, and, hoisting a window, entered and came down stairs, unbarred the doors, and removed the guns from their places. It was then observed that I must spill the first blood, on which, armed with a hatchet and accompanied by Will., I entered my master's chamber. It being dark, I could not give a death-blow. The hatchet glanced from his head; he sprang[Pg 89] from his bed and called his wife. It was his last word. Will. laid him dead with a blow of his axe."

After they had taken the lives of this family, they went from plantation to plantation, dealing death-blows to every white man, woman, or child they found. They visited vengeance upon every white household they came to. The excitement spread rapidly, and the whites arose and armed themselves in order to repel these insurrectionists.

"The first news concerning the affair was in the shape of a letter from Col. Trezvant, which reached Richmond Tuesday morning, too late for the columns of the (Richmond) "Enquirer," which was a triweekly. The letter was written on the 21st of August, and lacked definiteness, which gave rise to doubts in reference to the 'insurrection.' It was first sent to Petersburgh, and was then immediately dispatched to the Mayor of Richmond.

. . . . . . . . .

"Arms and ammunition were dispatched in wagons to the county of Southampton. The four volunteer companies of Petersburgh, the dragoons and Lafayette artillery company of Richmond, one volunteer company from Norfolk and one from Portsmouth, and the regiments of Southampton and Sussex, were at once ordered out. The cavalry and infantry took up their line of march on Tuesday evening, while the artillery embarked on the steamer 'Norfolk,' and landed at Smithfield.... A member of the Richmond dragoons, writing from Petersburgh, under date of the 23d, after careful examination, thought that 'about two hundred and fifty negroes from a camp-meeting about the Dismal Swamp had murdered about sixty, persons, none of them families much known.'"[33]

Will., the revengeful slave, proved himself the most destructive and cruel of Nat.'s followers. A hand to hand battle came. The whites were well armed, and by the force of their superior numbers overcame the army of the "Prophet,"—five men. Will. would not surrender. He laid three white men dead at his feet, when he fell mortally wounded. His last words were: "Bury my axe with me," believing that in the next world he would need it for a similar purpose. Nat. fought with great valor and skill with a short sword, and finding it useless to continue the struggle, escaped with some of his followers to the swamps, where he defied the vigilance of the military and the patient watching of the[Pg 90] citizens for more than two months. He was finally compelled to surrender. When the Court asked: "Guilty or not guilty?" he pleaded: "Not guilty." He was sustained during his trial by his unfaltering faith in God. Like Joan of Arc, he "heard the spirits," the "voices," and believed that God had "sent him to free His people."

In the impression of the "Enquirer" of the 30th of August, 1831, the first editorial, or leader, is under the caption of The Banditte. The editor says:

"They remind one of a parcel of blood-thirsty wolves rushing down from the Alps; or, rather like a former incursion of the Indians upon the white settlements. Nothing is spared: neither age nor sex respected—the helplessness of women and children pleads in vain for mercy.... The case of Nat. Turner warns us. No black-man ought to be permitted to turn a Preacher through the country. The law must be enforced—or the tragedy of Southampton appeals to us in vain."[34]

A remarkable prophecy was made by Nat. The trial was hurried, and, like a handle on a pitcher, was on one side only. He was sentenced to die on the gallows. He received the announcement with stoic indifference, and was executed at Jerusalem, the county seat of Southampton, in April, 1831. He died like a man, bravely, calmly; looking into eternity, made radiant by a faith that had never faltered. He prophesied that on the day of his execution the sun would be darkened, and other evidences of divine disapprobation would be seen. The sheriff was much impressed by Nat.'s predictions, and consequently refused to have any thing to do with the hanging. No Colored man could be secured to cut the rope that held the trap. An old white man, degraded by drink and other vices, was engaged to act as executioner, and was brought forty miles. Whether it was a fulfilment of Nat.'s prophecy or not, the sun was hidden behind angry clouds, the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed, and the most terrific storm visited that county ever known. All this, in connection with Nat.'s predictions, made a wonderful impression upon the minds of the Colored people, and not a few white persons were frightened, and regretted the death of the "Prophet."

The results of this uprising, led by a lone man—he was alone,[Pg 91] and yet he was not alone,—are apparent when we consider that fifty-seven whites and seventy-three Blacks were killed and many were wounded.

The first reliable list of the victims of the "tragedy" was written on the 24th of August, 1831.

"List of the dead that have been buried:—At Mrs. Whiteheads', 7; Mrs. Waller's, 13; Mr. Williams', 3; Mr. Barrows', 2; Mr. Vaughn's, 5; Mrs. Turner's, 3; Mr. Travis's, 5; Mr. J. Williams', 5; Mr. Reice's, 4; Names unknown, 10; Total, 57."

Then there was a feeling of unrest among the slaves and a fear among the whites throughout the State. Even the proceedings of the trial of Nat. were suppressed for fear of evil consequences among the slaves. But now all are free, and the ex-planters will not gnash their teeth at this revelation. Nat. Turner's insurrection, like all other insurrections led by oppressed people, lacked detail and method. History records but one successful uprising—San Domingo has the honor. Even France failed in 1789, and in 1848. There is always a zeal for freedom, but not according to knowledge. No stone marks the resting-place of this martyr to freedom, this great religious fanatic, this Black John Brown. And yet he has a prouder and more durable monument than was ever erected of stone or brass. The image of Nat. Turner is carved on the fleshy tablets of four million hearts. His history has been kept from the Colored people, at the South, but the women have handed the tradition to their children, and the "Prophet Nat." is still marching on.

Of the character of this remarkable man, Mr. Gray, the gentleman to whom he made his confession, had the following to say:—

"It has been said that he was ignorant and cowardly, and that his object was to murder and rob, for the purpose of obtaining money to make his escape. It is notorious that he was never known to have a dollar in his life, to swear an oath, or drink a drop of spirits. As to his ignorance, he certainly never had the advantages of education; but he can read and write, and for natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension, is surpassed by few men I have ever seen. As to his being a coward, his reason, as given, for not resisting Mr. Phipps, shows the decision of his character. When he saw Mr. Phipps present his gun, he said he knew it was impossible for him to escape, as the woods were full of men; he therefore thought it was better for him to surrender, and trust to fortune for his escape.[Pg 92]

"He is a complete fanatic, or plays his part most admirably. On other subjects he possesses an uncommon share of intelligence, with a mind capable of attaining any thing, but warped and perverted by the influence of early impressions. He is below the ordinary stature, though strong and active, having the true negro face, every feature of which is strongly marked. I shall not attempt to describe the effect of his narrative, as told and commented on by himself, in the condemned hole of the prison: the calm, deliberate composure with which he spoke of his late deeds and intentions; the expression of his fiend-like face, when excited by enthusiasm; still bearing the stains of the blood of helpless innocence about him, clothed with rags and covered with chains, yet daring to raise his manacled hands to Heaven, with a spirit soaring above the attributes of man. I looked on him, and the blood curdled in my veins."

In the "Richmond Enquirer," of September 2, 1831, appeared the following: "It is reported that a map was found, and said to have been drawn by Nat. Turner, with polk-berry juice, which was a description of the county of Southampton."

The influence of this bloody insurrection spread beyond the Old Dominion, and for years afterward, in nearly every Southern State the whites lived in a state of dread. To every dealer in flesh and blood the "Nat. Turner Insurrection" was a stroke of poetic justice.


[29] Atlantic Monthly, vol. x. p. 337.

[30] Atlantic Monthly, vol. x. p. 339.

[31] Atlantic Monthly, vol. vii. pp. 728, 744.

[32] Atlantic Monthly, vol. vii. p. 737.

[33] Richmond Enquirer, August 26, 1831.

[34] Richmond Enquirer, August 26 and 30, 1831.

[Pg 93]


The Spanish Slaver "Amistad" sails from Havana, Cuba, for Porto Principe.—Fifty-four Native Africans on Board.—Joseph Cinquez, the Son of an African Prince.—The "Amistad" captured and taken into New London, Conn.—Trial and Release of the Slaves.—Tour through the United States.—Return to their Native Country in Company with Missionaries.—The Anti-slavery Cause benefited by their Stay in the United States.—Their Appreciation of Christian Civilization.

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ON the 28th of June, 1839, the "Amistad," a Spanish slaver (schooner), with Captain Ramon Ferrer in command, sailed from Havana, Cuba, for Porto Principe, a place in the island of Cuba, about 100 leagues distant. The passengers were Don Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz, with fifty-four Africans just from their native country, Lemboko, as slaves. Among the slaves was one man, called in Spanish, Joseph Cinquez,[35] said to be the son of an African prince. He was possessed of wonderful natural abilities, and was endowed with all the elements of an intelligent and intrepid leader. The treatment these captives received was very cruel. They were chained down between the decks—space not more than four feet—by their wrists and ankles; forced to eat rice, sick or well, and whipped upon the slightest provocation. On the fifth night out, Cinquez chose a few trusty companions of his misfortunes, and made a successful attack upon the officers and crew. The captain and cook struck down, two sailors put ashore, the Negroes were in full possession of the vessel. Montes was compelled, under pain of death, to navigate the vessel to Africa. He steered eastwardly during the daytime, but at night put about hoping to touch the American shore. Thus the vessel wandered until it was cited off of the coast of the United States during the month of August. It was described as a "long, low, black schooner." Notice was sent to all the collectors of the ports along the Atlantic Coast, and a steamer and several revenue[Pg 94] cutters were dispatched after her. Finally, on the 26th of August, 1839, Lieut. Gedney, U. S. Navy, captured the "Amistad," and took her into New London, Connecticut.

The two Spaniards and a Creole cabin boy were examined before Judge Andrew T. Judson, of the United States Court, who, without examining the Negroes, bound them over to be tried as pirates. The poor Africans were cast into the prison at New London. Public curiosity was at a high pitch; and for a long time the "Amistad captives" occupied a large place in public attention. The Africans proved to be natives of the Mendi country, and quite intelligent. The romantic story of their sufferings and meanderings was given to the country through a competent interpreter; and many Christian hearts turned toward them in their lonely captivity in a strange land. The trial was continued several months. During this time the anti-slavery friends provided instruction for the Africans. Their minds were active and receptive. They soon learned to read, write, and do sums in arithmetic. They cultivated a garden of some fifteen acres, and proved themselves an intelligent and industrious people.

The final decision of the court was that the "Amistad captives" were not slaves, but freemen, and, as such, were entitled to their liberty. The good and liberal Lewis Tappan had taken a lively interest in these people from the first, and now that they were released from prison, felt that they should be sent back to their native shores and a mission started amongst their countrymen. Accordingly he took charge of them and appeared before the public in a number of cities of New England. An admission fee of fifty cents was required at the door, and the proceeds were devoted to leasing a vessel to take them home. Large audiences greeted them everywhere, and the impression they made was of the highest order. Mr. Tappan would state the desire of the people to return to their native land, appeal to the philanthropic to aid them, and then call upon the people to read the Scriptures, sing songs in their own language, and then in the English. Cinquez would then deliver an account of their capture, the horrors of the voyage, how he succeeded in getting his manacles off, how he aided his brethren to loose their fetters, how he invited them to follow him in an attempt to gain their liberty, the attack, and their rescue, etc., etc. He was a man of magnificent physique, commanding presence, graceful manners, and effective[Pg 95] oratory. His speeches were delivered in Mendi, and translated into English by an interpreter.

"It is impossible," wrote Mr. Tappan from Boston, "to describe the novel and deeply interesting manner in which he acquitted himself. The subject of his speech was similar to that of his countrymen who had spoken in English; but he related more minutely and graphically the occurrences on board the "Amistad." The easy manner of Cinquez, his natural, graceful, and energetic action, the rapidity of his utterance, and the remarkable and various expressions of his countenance, excited admiration and applause. He was pronounced a powerful natural orator, and one born to sway the minds of his fellow-men. Should he be converted and become a preacher of the cross in Africa what delightful results may be anticipated!"

A little fellow called Kali, only eleven years of age, pleased the audience everywhere he went by his ability not only to spell any word in the Gospels, but sentences, without blundering. For example, he would spell out a sentence like the following sentence, naming each letter and syllable, and recapitulating as he went along, until he pronounced the whole sentence: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Of their doings in Philadelphia, Mr. Joseph Sturge wrote:

"On this occasion, a very crowded and miscellaneous assembly collected to see and hear the Mendians, although the admission had been fixed as high as half a dollar, with the view of raising a fund to carry them to their native country. Fifteen of them were present, including one little boy and three girls. Cinque, their chief, spoke with great fluency in his native language; and his action and manner were very animated and graceful. Not much of his speech was translated, yet he greatly interested his audience. The little boy could speak our language with facility; and each of them read, without hesitation, one or two verses in the New Testament. It was impossible for any one to go away with the impression, that in native intellect these people were inferior to the whites. The information which I privately received from their tutor, and others who had full opportunities of appreciating their capacities and attainments, fully confirmed my own very favorable impressions."

But all the while their sad hearts were turning toward their home and the dear ones so far away. One of them eloquently declared: "If Merica men offer me as much gold as fill this cap[Pg 96] full up, and give me houses, land, and every ting, so dat I stay in this country, I say: 'No! no! I want to see my father, my mother, my brother, my sister.'" Nothing could have been more tender and expressive. They were willing to endure any hardships short of life that they might once more see their own, their native land. The religious instruction they had enjoyed made a wonderful impression on their minds. One of them said: "We owe every thing to God; he keeps us alive, and makes us free. When we go to home to Mendi we tell our brethren about God, Jesus Christ, and heaven." Another one was asked: "What is faith?" and replied: "Believing in Jesus Christ, and trusting in him." Reverting to the murder of the captain and cook of the "Amistad," one of the Africans said that if it were to be done over again he would pray for rather than kill them. Cinquez, hearing this, smiled and shook his head. When asked if he would not pray for them, said: "Yes, I would pray for 'em, an' kill 'em too."

These captives were returned to their native country in the fall of 1841, accompanied by five missionaries. Their objective point was Sierra Leone, from which place the British Government assisted them to their homes. Their stay in the United States did the anti-slavery cause great good. Here were poor, naked, savage pagans, unable to speak English, in less than three years able to speak the English language and appreciate the blessings of a Christian civilization.


[35] Sometimes written Cinque.

[Pg 97]

Part 6.



Violent Treatment of Anti-slavery Orators.—The South misinterprets the Mobocratic Spirit of the North.—The "Garrisonians" and "Calhounites"—Slave Population of 1830-1850.—The Thirty-first Congress.—Motion for the Admission of New Mexico and California.—The Democratic and Whig Parties on the Treatment of the Slave Question.—Convention of the Democratic Party at Baltimore, Maryland.—Nomination of Franklin Pierce for President.—Whig Party Convention.—Nomination of Gen. Winfield Scott for the Presidency by the Whigs.—Mr. Pierce elected President in 1853.—A Bill introduced to repeal the "Missouri Compromise."—Speech by Stephen A. Douglass.—Mr. Chase's Reply.—An Act to organize the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska.—State Militia in the South make Preparations for War.—President Buchanan in Sympathy with the South.

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THE arguments of anti-slavery orators were answered everywhere throughout the free States by rotten eggs, clubs, and missiles. The public journals, as a rule, were unfriendly and intolerant. Even Boston could contemplate, with unruffled composure, a mob of her most "reputable citizens" dragging Mr. Garrison through the streets with a halter about his neck. Public meetings were broken up by pro-slavery mobs; owners of public halls required a moneyed guarantee against the destruction of their property, when such halls were used for anti-slavery meetings. Colored schools were broken up, the teachers driven away, and the pupils maltreated.

The mobocratic demonstrations in the Northern States were the thermometer of public feeling upon the subject of slavery. The South was, therefore, emboldened; for the political leaders in that section thought they saw a light from the distance that[Pg 98] encouraged them to entertain the belief and indulge the hope that their present sectional institution could be made national. Southerners thought slavery would grow in the cold climate of the North, excited into a lively existence by the warmth of a generous sympathy. But the South misinterpreted the real motive that inspired opposition to anti-slavery agitation in the North. The violent opposition came from the mercantile class and foreign element who believed that the agitation of the slavery question was a practical disturbance of their business affairs. The next class, more moderate in opposition to agitation, believed slavery constitutional, and, therefore, argued that anti-slavery orators were traitors to the government. The third class, conservative, did not take sides, because of the unpopularity of agitation on the one hand, and because of an harassing conscience on the other.

There were two classes of men who were seeking the dissolution of the Union. The Garrisonians sought this end in the hope of forming another Union without slavery.

In an address delivered by Wm. Lloyd Garrison, July 20, 1860, at the Framingham celebration, he declares:

"Our object is the abolition of slavery throughout the land; and whether in the prosecution of our object this party goes up or the other party goes down, it is nothing to us. We cannot alter our course one hair's breadth, nor accept a compromise of our principles for the hearty adoption of our principles. I am for meddling with slavery everywhereattacking it by night and by day, in season and out of season (no, it can never be out of season)—in order to effect its overthrow. (Loud applause.) Higher yet will be my cry. Upward and onward! No union with slave-holders! Down with this slave-holding government! Let this 'covenant with death and agreement with hell' be annulled! Let there be a free, independent, Northern republic, and the speedy abolition of slavery will inevitably follow! (Loud applause.) So I am laboring to dissolve this blood-stained Union as a work of paramount importance. Our mission is to regenerate public opinion."

The Calhounites sought the dissolution of the Union in order that another Union might be formed with slavery as its chief corner-stone. Inspired by this hope and misguided by the apparent sympathy of the North, Southern statesmen began preparations to dissolve the Union of the United States.

During these years of agitation and discussion, although the[Pg 99] foreign slave-trade had been suppressed, the slave population increased at a wonderful ratio.


District of Columbia6,119
New Jersey2,254
North Carolina245,601
South Carolina315,401

Now, this was the year the agitation movement began. Instead of the slave population decreasing during the first decade of anti-slavery discussion and work, it really increased 478,412![36]


District of Columbia4,694
New Jersey674
New York4

[Pg 100]


North Carolina245,817
South Carolina327,038

During the next decade the slave population swept forward to an increase of 716,858. The entire population of slaves was 3,204,313; 2,957,657 were unmixed Africans, and 246,656 were Mulattoes. The free Colored population amounted to 434,495, of whom 275,400 were unmixed, and 159,095 mixed or Mulatto. The total number of families owning slaves in 1850 was 347,525.


District of Columbia3,687
New Jersey236
North Carolina288,548
South Carolina384,984
Utah Territory26

The Thirty-first Congress was three weeks attempting an organization, and at last effected it by the election of a Southerner to the Speakership, the Hon. Howell Cobb, of Georgia. President Zachary Taylor had called the attention of Congress to the admission of California and New Mexico into the Union, in his message to that body upon its assembling. On the 4th of January, 1850, Gen. Sam. Houston, United States Senator from Texas, submitted the following proposition to the Senate:[Pg 101]

"Whereas, The Congress of the United States, possessing only a delegated authority, has no power over the subject of negro slavery within the limits of the United States, either to prohibit or to interfere with it in the States, territories, or districts, where, by municipal law, it now exists, or to establish it in any State or territory where it does not exist; but as an assurance and guarantee to promote harmony, quiet apprehension, and remove sectional prejudice, which by possibility might impair or weaken love and devotion to the Union in any part of the country, it is hereby

"Resolved, That, as the people in territories have the same inherent rights of self-government as the people in the States, if, in the exercise of such inherent rights, the people in the newly acquired territories, by the annexation of Texas and the acquisition of California and New Mexico, south of the parallel of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes of north latitude, extending to the Pacific Ocean, shall establish negro slavery in the formation of their State governments, it shall be deemed no objection to their admission as a State or States into the Union, in accordance with the Constitution of the United States."

On the 29th of January, Henry Clay, of Kentucky, submitted to the United States Senate the following propositions looking toward an amicable adjustment of the entire slavery question:

"1. Resolved, That California, with suitable boundaries, ought, upon her application, to be admitted as one of the States of this Union, without the imposition by Congress of any restriction in respect to the exclusion or introduction of slavery within those boundaries.

"2. Resolved, That as slavery does not exist by law, and is not likely to be introduced into any of the territory acquired by the United States from the republic of Mexico, it is inexpedient for Congress to provide by law either for its introduction into, or exclusion from, any part of the said territory; and that appropriate territorial governments ought to be established by Congress in all the said territory not assigned as within the boundaries of the proposed State of California, without the adoption of any restriction or condition on the subject of slavery.

"3. Resolved, That the western boundary of the State of Texas ought to be fixed on the Rio del Norte, commencing one marine league from its mouth, and running up that river to the southern line of New Mexico, thence with that line eastwardly, and so continuing in the same direction to the line as established between the United States and Spain, excluding any portion of New Mexico, whether lying on the east or west of that river.[Pg 102]

"4. Resolved, That it be proposed to the State of Texas, that the United States will provide for the payment of all that portion of the legitimate and bona-fide public debt of that State contracted prior to its annexation to the United States, and for which the duties on foreign imports were pledged by the said State to its creditors, not exceeding the sum of—— dollars, in consideration of the said duties so pledged having been no longer applicable to that object after the said annexation, but having thenceforward become payable to the United States; and upon the condition, also, that the said State of Texas shall, by some solemn and authentic act of her Legislature, or of a convention, relinquish to the United States any claim which she has to any part of New Mexico.

"5. Resolved, That it is inexpedient to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia whilst that institution continues to exist in the State of Maryland, without the consent of that State, without the consent of the people of the District, and without just compensation to the owners of slaves within the District.

"6. But Resolved, That it is expedient to prohibit within the District, the slave-trade in slaves brought into it from States or places beyond the limits of the District, either to be sold therein as merchandise, or to be transported to other markets without the District of Columbia.

"7. Resolved, That more effectual provision ought to be made by law, according to the requirement of the Constitution, for the restitution and delivery of persons bound to service or labor in any State, who may escape into any other State or territory in the Union. And

"8. Resolved, That Congress has no power to prohibit or obstruct the trade in slaves between the slave-holding States, but that the admission or exclusion of slaves brought from one into another of them, depends exclusively upon their own particular laws."

Senator Bell, of Tennessee, offered a series of resolutions on the same question on the 28th of February, containing nine resolves. As usual, on all propositions respecting slavery, the debate was protracted, earnest, and able. The Clay resolutions attracted most attention. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, said:

"Sir, we are called upon to receive this as a measure of compromise! As a measure in which we of the minority are to receive nothing. A measure of compromise! I look upon it as but a modest mode of taking that, the claim to which has been more boldly asserted by others; and, that I may be understood upon this question, and that my position may go forth to the country in the same columns that convey the sentiments[Pg 103] of the Senator from Kentucky, I here assert, that never will I take less than the Missouri compromise line extended to the Pacific Ocean, with the specific recognition of the right to hold slaves in the territory below that line; and that, before such territories are admitted into the Union as States, slaves may be taken there from any of the United States at the option of the owners. I can never consent to give additional power to a majority to commit further aggressions upon the minority in this Union, and will never consent to any proposition which will have such a tendency, without a full guaranty or counteracting measure is connected with it."

A number of very able speeches were made on the resolutions of Mr. Clay, but the most characteristic one—the one most thoroughly representing the sentiment of the South—was made by John C. Calhoun. He said:

"The Union was in danger. The cause of this danger was the discontent at the South. And what was the cause of this discontent? It was found in the belief which prevailed among them that they could not, consistently with honor and safety, remain in the Union. And what had caused this belief? One of the causes was the long-continued agitation of the slave question at the North, and the many aggressions they had made on the rights of the South. But the primary cause was in the fact, that the equilibrium between the two sections at the time of the adoption of the Constitution had been destroyed. The first of the series of acts by which this had been done, was the ordinance of 1787, by which the South had been excluded from all the northwestern region. The next was the Missouri compromise, excluding them from all the Louisiana territory north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, except the State of Missouri,—in all 1,238,025 square miles, leaving to the South the southern portion of the original Louisiana territory, with Florida, to which had since been added the territory acquired with Texas,—making in all but 609,023 miles. And now the North was endeavoring to appropriate to herself the territory recently acquired from Mexico, adding 526,078 miles to the territory from which the South was, if possible, to be excluded. Another cause of the destruction of this equilibrium was our system of revenue (the tariff), the duties falling mainly upon the Southern portion of the Union, as being the greatest exporting States, while more than a due proportion of the revenue had been disbursed at the North.

"But while these measures were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections, the action of the government was leading to a radical change in its character. It was maintained that the government itself[Pg 104] had the right to decide, in the last resort, as to the extent of its powers, and to resort to force to maintain the power it claimed. The doctrines of General Jackson's proclamation, subsequently asserted and maintained by Mr. Madison, the leading framer and expounder of the Constitution, were the doctrines which, if carried out, would change the character of the government from a federal republic, as it came from the hands of its framers, into a great national consolidated democracy."

Mr. Calhoun also spoke of the anti-slavery agitation, which, if not arrested, would destroy the Union; and he passed a censure upon Congress for receiving abolition petitions. Had Congress in the beginning adopted the course which he had advocated, which was to refuse to take jurisdiction, by the united voice of all parties, the agitation would have been prevented. He charged the North with false professions of devotion to the Union, and with having violated the Constitution. Acts had been passed in Northern States to set aside and annul the clause of the slavery question, with the avowed purpose of abolishing slavery in the States, which was another violation of the Constitution. And during the fifteen years of this agitation, in not a single instance had the people of the North denounced these agitators. How then could their professions of devotion to the Union be sincere?

Mr. Calhoun disapproved both the plan of Mr. Clay and that of President Taylor, as incapable of saving the Union. He would pass by the former without remark, as Mr. Clay had been replied to by several Senators. The Executive plan could not save the Union, because it could not satisfy the South that it could safely or honorably remain in the Union. It was a modification of the Wilmot proviso, proposing to effect the same object, the exclusion of the South from the new territory. The Executive proviso was more objectionable than the Wilmot. Both inflicted a dangerous wound upon the Constitution, by depriving the Southern States of equal rights as joint partners in these territories; but the former inflicted others equally great. It claimed for the inhabitants the right to legislate for the territories, which belonged to Congress. The assumption of this right was utterly unfounded, unconstitutional, and without example. Under this assumed right, the people of California had formed a constitution and a State government, and appointed Senators and Representatives. If the people as adventurers had conquered the territory and established their independence, the sovereignty of the country would have been vested in them. In that case they would have had the right to form a State government, and afterward they might have applied to Congress for admission into the Union. But the United States had conquered and acquired California; therefore, to them belonged the sovereignty[Pg 105] and the powers of government over the territory. Michigan was the first case of departure from the uniform rule of acting. Hers, however, was a slight departure from established usage. The ordinance of 1787 secured to her the right of becoming a State when she should have 60,000 inhabitants. Congress delayed taking the census. The people became impatient; and after her population had increased to twice that number, they formed a constitution without waiting for the taking of the census; and Congress waived the omission, as there was no doubt of the requisite number of inhabitants. In other cases there had existed territorial governments.

Having shown how the Union could not be saved, he then proceeded to answer the question how it could be saved. There was but one way certain. Justice must be done to the South, by a full and final settlement of all the questions at issue. The North must concede to the South an equal right to the acquired territory, and fulfil the stipulations respecting fugitive slaves; must cease to agitate the slave question, and join in an amendment of the Constitution, restoring to the South the power she possessed of protecting herself, before the equilibrium between the two sections had been destroyed by the action of the government.

Here was a clear statement of the position and feelings of the South respecting slavery. The ordinance of 1787 and the Missouri compromise of 1820 "were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections!" And the anti-slavery agitation, "if not arrested, would destroy the Union!" The sophistry of Calhoun sought a reasonable excuse for the South to dissolve the Union. In a speech of his, written during a spell of sickness, and read by Mr. Mason, of Virginia, he referred to Washington as "the illustrious Southerner." When it was read in the Senate Mr. Cass said:

"Our Washington—the Washington of our whole country—receives in this Senate the epithet of 'Southerner,' as if that great man, whose distinguished characteristic was his attachment to his country, and his whole country, who was so well known, and who, more than any one, deprecated all sectional feeling and all sectional action, loved Georgia better than he loved New Hampshire, because he happened to be born on the southern bank of the Potomac. I repeat, sir, that I heard with great pain that expression from the distinguished Senator from South Carolina."

There was certainly no ground for reasonable complaint on the part of the South. From the convention that framed the[Pg 106] Federal Constitution, through all Congressional struggle, and in national politics as well, the South had secured nearly all measures asked for. And the discussion in Congress at this time was intended to divert attention from the real object of the South. Another fugitive-slave law was demanded by the South, and the Northern members voted them the right to hunt slaves upon free soil. The law passed, and was approved on the 18th of September, 1850.

It was difficult to choose between the Democratic and Whig parties by reading the planks in their platforms referring to the subject of slavery. On the 1st of June, 1852, the Democratic Convention, at Baltimore, Maryland, nominated Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire, for the Presidency, on the forty-ninth ballot. This plank defined the position of that party on the question of slavery.

"That Congress has no power under the Constitution to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several States, and that such States are the sole and proper judges of every thing appertaining to their own affairs, not prohibited by the Constitution; that all efforts of the abolitionists, or others, made to induce Congress to interfere with questions of slavery, or to take incipient steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences; and that all such efforts have an inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people, and endanger the stability and permanency of the Union, and ought not to be countenanced by any friend of our political institutions.

"That the foregoing proposition covers, and was intended to embrace, the whole subject of slavery agitation in Congress; and therefore the Democratic party of the Union, standing on this national platform, will abide by and adhere to a faithful execution of the acts known as the compromise measures settled by the last Congress—the act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labor included; which act being designed to carry out an express provision of the Constitution, can not with fidelity thereto be repealed, nor so changed as to destroy or impair its efficiency.

"That the Democratic party will resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made."

The Whig party, at the same city, in convention assembled, on the 16th of June, 1852, nominated Gen. Winfield Scott, for the Presidency, on the fifty-third ballot. The Whig party declared its position on the slavery question as follows:[Pg 107]

"That the series of acts of the Thirty-first Congress—the act known as the fugitive-slave law included—are received and acquiesced in by the Whig party of the United States, as a settlement in principle and substance of the dangerous and exciting question which they embrace; and so far as they are concerned, we will maintain them and insist on their strict enforcement, until time and experience shall demonstrate the necessity of further legislation, to guard against the evasion of the laws on the one hand, and the abuse of their powers on the other, not impairing their present efficiency; and we deprecate all agitation of the question thus settled, as dangerous to our peace; and will discountenance all efforts to continue or renew such agitation whenever, wherever, or however the attempt may be made; and we will maintain this system as essential to the nationality of the Whig party of the Union."

The political contest ended in the autumn in favor of Mr. Pierce. The public journals in many parts of the country thought the end of the "slavery question" had come, and that as the Whigs were determined to "discountenance all efforts to continue or renew" the agitation of the subject, there was no fear of sectional strife.

In his inaugural address, March 4, 1853, President Pierce said:

"I believe that involuntary servitude is recognized by the Constitution. I believe that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions. I hold that the compromise measures of 1850 are strictly constitutional, and to be unhesitatingly carried into effect. And now, I fervently hope that the question is at rest," etc.

In the month of December, upon the assembling of Congress, the President, in his message to that body, again referred to slavery as "a subject which had been set at rest by the deliberate judgment of the people." But on the 15th of December, nine days after the message of the President had been received by Congress, Mr. Dodge, of Iowa, submitted to the Senate a bill to organize the territory of Nebraska, which was referred to the Committee on Territories. After some discussion in the committee, it was finally reported back to the Senate by Mr. Douglass, of Illinois, with amendments. The report was elaborate, and raised considerable doubt as to whether the amendments did not repeal the Missouri compromise. A special report was made on the 4th of January, 1854, so amending the bill as to remove all doubt; and, contemplating the opening of all the vast territory secured[Pg 108] forever to freedom, startled the nation from the "repose" it had apparently taken from agitation on the slavery question, and opened an interminable controversy.

On the 16th of January, Mr. Dixon, of Kentucky, gave notice that he would introduce a bill clearly repealing the Missouri compromise. The first champion of the repeal of the compromise of 1820 was a Northern Senator, Stephen A. Douglass, of Illinois. He hung a massive argument—excelling rather in quantity than in quality—upon the following propositions:

"From these provisions, it is apparent that the compromise measures of 1850 affirm, and rest upon, the following propositions:

"First.—That all questions pertaining to slavery in the territories, and the new States to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the decision of the people residing therein, by their appropriate representatives, to be chosen by them for that purpose.

"Second.—That 'all cases involving title to slaves,' and 'questions of personal freedom,' are to be referred to the adjudication of the local tribunals, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

"Third.—That the provision of the Constitution of the United States in respect to fugitives from service, is to be carried into faithful execution in all 'the original territories,' the same as in the States.

"The substitute for the bill which your committee have prepared, and which is commended to the favorable action of the Senate, proposes to carry these propositions and principles into practical operation, in the precise language of the compromise measures of 1850."

Mr. Douglass said:

"The legal effect of this bill, if passed, was neither to legislate slavery into nor out of these territories, but to leave the people to do as they pleased. And why should any man, North or South, object to this principle? It was by the operation of this principle, and not by any dictation from the Federal government, that slavery had been abolished in half of the twelve States in which it existed at the time of the adoption of the Constitution."

On the 3d of February, Mr. Chase, of Ohio, moved to amend by striking out the words, "was superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compromise measures, and," so that the clause would read: "That the Constitution, and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable,[Pg 109] shall have the same force and effect within the said territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, 1820, which is hereby declared inoperative."

Mr. Chase then proceeded to reply to Mr. Douglass. He called attention to that part of the President's message which referred to the "repose" of the subject of slavery, and then said:

"The agreement of the two old political parties, thus referred to by the Chief Magistrate of the country, was complete, and a large majority of the American people seemed to acquiesce in the legislation of which he spoke. A few of us, indeed, doubted the accuracy of these statements, and the permanency of this repose. We never believed that the acts of 1850 would prove to be a permanent adjustment of the slavery question. But, sir, we only represented a small, though vigorous and growing party in the country. Our number was small in Congress. By some we were regarded as visionaries, by some as factionists; while almost all agreed in pronouncing us mistaken. And so, sir, the country was at peace. As the eye swept the entire circumference of the horizon and upward to mid-heaven, not a cloud appeared; to common observation there was no mist or stain upon the clearness of the sky. But suddenly all is changed; rattling thunder breaks from the cloudless firmament. The storm bursts forth in fury. And now we find ourselves in the midst of an agitation, the end and issue of which no man can foresee.

"Now, sir, who is responsible for this renewal of strife and controversy? Not we, for we have introduced no question of territorial slavery into Congress; not we, who are denounced as agitators and factionists. No, sir; the quietists and the finalists have become agitators; they who told us that all agitation was quieted, and that the resolutions of the political conventions put a final period to the discussion of slavery. This will not escape the observation of the country. It is slavery that renews the strife. It is slavery that again wants room. It is slavery with its insatiate demand for more slave territory and more slave States. And what does slavery ask for now? Why, sir, it demands that a time-honored and sacred compact shall be rescinded—a compact which has endured through a whole generation—a compact which has been universally regarded as inviolable, North and South—a compact, the constitutionality of which few have doubted, and by which all have consented to abide."

But notwithstanding the able and eloquent speech of Mr. Chase, his amendment only received thirteen votes. The debate[Pg 110] went on until the 3d of March, when the bill was placed upon its passage, and even then the discussion went on. When the vote was finally taken, the bill passed by a vote of 37 yeas to 14 nays. The bill went to the House, where it was made a substitute to a bill already introduced, and passed by a vote of 113 yeas to 100 nays as follows:

"Representatives from free States in favor of the bill,     44.
"Representatives from slave States in favor of the bill,    69.

"Representatives from free States against the bill,         91.
"Representatives from slave States against the bill,         9.

And thus, approved by the President, the measure became a law under the title of "An Act to Organize the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska."

Congress had violated the sublimest principles of law, had broken faith with the people; had opened a wide door to slavery; had blotted from the map of the United States the last asylum where the oppressed might seek protection; had put the country in a way to be reddened with a fratricidal war, and made our flag a flaunting lie in the eyes of the civilized world. There was nothing to be done now but to let the leaven of sectional malice work, that had been hurled into the slavery discussions in Congress. The bloodless war of words was now transferred to the territory of Kansas, where a conflict of political parties, election frauds, and assassination did their hateful work.

The South began to put her State militia upon a war footing, and to make every preparation for battle. The Administration of President Buchanan was in the interest of the South from beginning to end. He refused to give Gov. John W. Geary, of Kansas, the military support the "border ruffians" made necessary; allowed the public debt to increase, our precious coin to go abroad, our treasury to become depleted, our navy to go to the distant ports of China and Japan, our army to our extremest frontiers, the music of our industries to cease; and the faith of a loyal people in the perpetuity of the republic was allowed to faint amid the din of mobs and the threats of secession.


[36] There were nearly 500 slaves held in Northern States not placed in this census.

[Pg 111]


Stringent Laws enacted against Free Negroes and Mulattoes.—Fugitive-slave Law respected in Ohio.—A Law to prevent Kidnapping.—The First Constitution of Ohio.—History of the Dred Scott case.—Judge Taney's Opinion in this Case.—Ohio Constitution of 1851 denied Free Negroes the Right to vote.—The Establishment of Colored Schools.—Law in Indiana Territory in Reference to Executions.—An Act for the Introduction of Negroes and Mulattoes into the Territory.—First Constitution of Indiana.—The Illinois Constitution of 1818.—Criminal Code enacted.—Illinois Legislature passes an Act to Prevent the Emigration of Free Negroes into the State.—Free Negroes of the Northern States endure Restriction and Proscription.

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ALTHOUGH slavery was excluded from all the new States northwest of the Ohio River, the free Negro was but little better off in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois than in any of the Southern States. From the earliest moment of the organic existence of the border free States, severe laws were enacted against free Negroes and Mulattoes. At the second session of the first Legislature of the State of Ohio, "An Act to Regulate Black and Mulatto Persons"[37] was passed.

Sec. 1. That no black or mulatto person shall be permitted to settle or reside in this State "without a certificate of his or her actual freedom."

2. Resident blacks and mulattoes to have their names recorded, etc. (Amended in 1834, Jan. 5 1, Curwen, 126.) Proviso, "That nothing in this act contained shall bar the lawful claim to any black or mulatto person."

3. Residents prohibited from hiring black or mulatto persons not having a certificate.

4. Forbids, under penalty, to "harbor or secrete any black or mulatto person the property of any person whatever," or to "hinder or prevent the lawful owner or owners from re-taking," etc.

5. Black or mulatto persons coming to reside in the State with a legal certificate, to record the same.[Pg 112]

6. "That in case any person or persons, his or their agent or agents, claiming any black or mulatto person or persons that now are or hereafter may be in this State, may apply, upon making satisfactory proof that such black or mulatto person or persons are the property of him or her who applies, to any associate judge or justice of the peace within the State, the associate judge or justice is hereby empowered and required, by his precept, to direct the sheriff or constable to arrest such black or mulatto person or persons, and deliver the same, in the county or township where such officers shall reside, to the claimant or claimants, or his or their agent or agents, for which service the sheriff or constable shall receive such compensation as he is entitled to receive in other cases for similar services."

7. "That any person or persons who shall attempt to remove or shall remove from this State, or who shall aid and assist in removing, contrary to the provisions of this act, any black or mulatto person or persons, without first proving, as herein before directed, that he, she, or they is or are legally entitled so to do, shall, on conviction thereof before any court having cognizance of the same, forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars, one half to the use of the informer and the other half to the use of the State, to be recovered by the action of debt quitam or indictment, and shall moreover be liable to the action of the party injured."

So here upon free soil, under a State government that did not recognize slavery in its constitution, the Negro was compelled to produce a certificate of freedom. Thus the fugitive-slave law was recognized, but at the same time an unlawful removal of free Negroes from the State was forbidden.

At the session of 1806-7, "An Act to Amend the Act Entitled 'an Act Regulating Black and Mulatto Persons,'" was passed amending the old law. The first act simply required "a certificate of freedom"; the amended law required Negroes and Mulattoes intending to settle in Ohio to give a bond not to become a charge upon the county in which they settled. Section four reads as follows:

"4. That no black or mulatto person or persons shall hereafter be permitted to be sworn or give evidence in any court of record or elsewhere in this State, in any cause depending or matter of controversy where either party to the sale is a white person, or in any prosecution which shall be instituted in behalf of this State, against any white person."[38]

[Pg 113]

But this law did not apply to persons a shade nearer white than Mulatto [the seven-eighths law].[39] Their testimony was admissible, while that of Negroes and Mulattoes was not admitted against them. In Jordan vs. Smith [1846], 14, Ohio, p. 199: "A black person sued by a white, may make affidavit to a plea so as to put the plaintiff to proof."

Attention has been called to the fact that the fugitive-slave law was respected in Ohio. In 1818-19, a law was passed to prevent the unlawful kidnapping of free Negroes, which, in its preamble, recites the provisions of the law of Congress, passed February 12, 1793, respecting fugitives from service and labor.[40] And in 1839 the Legislature passed another act relating to "fugitives from labor," etc., paving the way by the following recital:

"Whereas, The second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States declares that 'no person' [etc., reciting it]; and whereas the laws now in force within the State of Ohio are wholly inadequate to the protection pledged by this provision of the Constitution to the Southern States of this Union; and whereas it is the duty of those who reap the largest measure of benefits conferred by the Constitution to recognize to their full extent the obligations which that instrument imposes; and whereas it is the deliberate conviction of this General Assembly that the Constitution can only be sustained as it was framed by a spirit of just compromise; therefore."

Sec. 1. Authorizes judges of courts of record, "or any justice of the peace, or the mayor of any city or town corporate," on application, etc., of claimant, to bring the fugitive before a judge within the county where the warrant was issued, or before some State judge with certain cautions as to proving the official character of the officer issuing the warrant; gives the form of warrant, directing the fugitive to be brought before, etc., "to be be dealt with as the law directs."[41]

J. Peck, Esq. [9, Ohio, p. 212], refers to the laws of 1818-19, and 1830-31, as a recognition by the State of Ohio of the power of Congress to pass the act of 1793, though that the act was not specially mentioned.

The first constitution of Ohio [1802] restricted the right of suffrage to "all white male inhabitants." "In all elections, all white male inhabitants above the age of twenty-one years, having[Pg 114] resided in the State one year next preceding the election, and who have paid or are charged with a State or county tax, shall enjoy the right of an elector," etc.[42] This was repeated in the Bill of Rights adopted in 1851.[43]

Article iv., Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States says: "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." The question as to whether free Negroes were included in the above was discussed at great length in the Dred Scott case, where Chief-Justice Taney took the ground that a Negro was not a citizen under the fourth article of the Constitution. But the fourth article of the Articles of Confederation [1778] recognized free Negroes as citizens. It is given here:

"Art. 4.—The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States—paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted—shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof, respectively; provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, from any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided, also, that no imposition, duty, or restriction shall be laid by any State on the property of the United States, or either of them."[44]

By this it is evident that "paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice" were the only persons excluded from the right of citizenship. The following is the history of the Dred Scott case:

"In the year 1834, the plaintiff was a negro slave belonging to Dr. Emerson, who was a surgeon in the army of the United States. In that year, 1834, said Dr. Emerson took the plaintiff from the State of Missouri to the military post at Rock Island, in the State of Illinois, and held him there as a slave until the month of April or May, 1836. At the time last mentioned, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff from said military post at Rock Island to the military post at Fort Snelling, situate on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in the territory known as Upper Louisiana, acquired by the United States of France,[Pg 115] and situate north of the latitude of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north, and north of the State of Missouri. Said Dr. Emerson held the plaintiff in slavery at said Fort Snelling, from said last-mentioned date until the year 1838.

"In the year 1835, Harriet, who is named in the second count of the plaintiff's declaration, was the negro slave of Major Taliaferro, who belonged to the army of the United States. In that year, 1835, said Major Taliaferro took said Harriet to said Fort Snelling, a military post, situated as herein before stated, and kept her there as a slave until the year 1836, and then sold and delivered her as a slave at said Fort Snelling unto the said Dr. Emerson herein before named. Said Dr. Emerson held said Harriet in slavery at said Fort Snelling until the year 1838.

"In the year 1836, the plaintiff and said Harriet at said Fort Snelling, with the consent of said Dr. Emerson, who then claimed to be their master and owner, intermarried, and took each other for husband and wife. Eliza and Lizzie, named in the third count of the plaintiff's declaration, are the fruit of that marriage. Eliza is about fourteen years old, and was born on board the steamboat 'Gipsey,' north of the north line of the State of Missouri, and upon the river Mississippi. Lizzie is about seven years old, and was born in the State of Missouri, at the military post called Jefferson Barracks.

"In the year 1838, said Dr. Emerson removed the plaintiff and said Harriet and their said daughter Eliza from said Fort Snelling to the State of Missouri, where they have ever since resided.

"Before the commencement of this suit, said Dr. Emerson sold and conveyed the plaintiff, said Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie to the defendant, as slaves, and the defendant has ever since claimed to hold them and each of them as slaves.

"At the time mentioned in the plaintiff's declaration, the defendant, claiming to be owner as aforesaid, laid his hands upon said plaintiff, Harriet, Eliza, and Lizzie, and imprisoned them, doing in this respect, however, no more than what he might lawfully do if they were of right his slaves at such times.

. . . . . . . . .

"It is agreed that Dred Scott brought suit for his freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County; that there was a verdict and judgment in his favor; that on a writ of error to the Supreme Court the judgment below was reversed, and the same remanded to the Circuit Court, where it has been continued to await the decision of this case.

"In May, 1854, the cause went before a jury, who found the following verdict, viz.: 'As to the first issue joined in this case, we of the jury find the defendant not guilty; and as to the issue secondly above[Pg 116] joined, we of the jury find that before and at the time when, etc., in the first count mentioned, the said Dred Scott was a negro slave, the lawful property of the defendant; and as to the issue thirdly above joined, we, the jury, find that before and at the time when, etc., in the second and third counts mentioned, the said Harriet, wife of said Dred Scott, and Eliza and Lizzie, the daughters of the said Dred Scott, were negro slaves, the lawful property of the defendant.'

"Whereupon, the court gave judgment for the defendant.

"After an ineffectual motion for a new trial, the plaintiff filed the following bill of exceptions.

"On the trial of this cause by the jury, the plaintiff, to maintain the issues on his part, read to the jury the following agreed statement of facts (see agreement above). No further testimony was given to the jury by either party. Thereupon the plaintiff moved the court to give to the jury the following instructions, viz.:

"'That, upon the facts agreed to by the parties, they ought to find for the plaintiff.' The court refused to give such instruction to the jury, and the plaintiff, to such refusal, then and there duly excepted.

The court then gave the following instruction to the jury, on motion of the defendant:

"'The jury are instructed, that upon the facts in this case, the law is with the defendant.' The plaintiff excepted to this instruction.

"Upon these exceptions, the case came up to the Supreme Court, December term, 1856."[45]

Judge Taney gave the following opinion:

"The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights and privileges and immunities guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen? One of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution.

"It will be observed that the plea applies to that class of persons only whose ancestors were negroes of the African race, and imported into this country, and sold and held as slaves. The only matter in issue before the court, therefore, is, whether the descendants of such slaves, when they shall be emancipated, or who are born of parents who had become free before their birth, are citizens of a State, in the sense in which the word citizen is used in the Constitution of the United States. And this being the only matter in dispute on the pleadings, the[Pg 117] court must be understood as speaking in this opinion of that class only, that is, of those persons who are the descendants of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves.

. . . . . . . . .

"We proceed to examine the case as presented by the pleadings.

"The words 'people of the United States' and 'citizens' are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power and conduct the government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the 'sovereign people, and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty. The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty. We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizen' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate [405] and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them.

"It is not the province of the court to decide upon the justice or injustice, the policy or impolicy, of these laws....

"In discussing this question, we must not confound the rights of citizenship which a State may confer within its own limits, and the rights of citizenship as a member of the Union. It does not by any means follow, because he has all the rights and privileges of a citizen of a State, that he must be a citizen of the United States. He may have all of the rights and privileges of the citizen of a State, and yet not be entitled to the rights and privileges of a citizen of any other State. For, previous to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, every State had the undoubted right to confer on whomsoever it pleased the character of citizen, and to endow him with all its rights. But this character of course was confined to the boundaries of the State, and gave him no rights or privileges in other States beyond those secured to him by the laws of nations and the comity of States. Nor have the several States surrendered the power of conferring these rights and privileges by adopting the Constitution of the United States. Each State may still confer them upon an alien, or any one it thinks proper, or upon any class or description of persons; yet he would not be a citizen in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution of the[Pg 118] United States, nor entitled to sue as such in one of its courts, nor to the privileges and immunities of a citizen in the other States. The rights which he would acquire would be restricted to the State which gave them. The Constitution has conferred on Congress the right to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and this right is evidently exclusive, and has always been held by this court to be so. Consequently no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can, by naturalizing an alien, invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the [406] rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.

"It is very clear, therefore, that no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States. It cannot make him a member of this community by making him a member of its own. And, for the same reason, it cannot introduce any person or description of persons who were not intended to be embraced in this new political family, which the Constitution brought into existence, but were intended to be excluded from it.

"The question then arises, whether the provisions of the Constitution, in relation to the personal rights and privileges to which the citizen of a State should be entitled, embraced the negro African race, at that time in this country, or who might afterwards be imported, who had then or should afterwards be made free in any State; and to put it in the power of a single State to make him a citizen of the United States, and indue him with the full rights of citizenship in every other State without their consent. Does the Constitution of the United States act upon him whenever he shall be made free under the laws of a State, and raised there to the rank of a citizen, and immediately clothe him with all the privileges of a citizen in every other State and in its own courts?

"The court think the affirmative of these propositions cannot be maintained. And if it cannot, the plaintiff in error could not be a citizen of the State of Missouri, within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and, consequently, was not entitled to sue in its courts."[46]

This decision of the Supreme Court on the plea in abatement that the plaintiff (a Negro, Dred Scott) was not a citizen in the sense of the word in Article iii, Sec. 2 of the Constitution, was[Pg 119] based upon an erroneous idea respecting the location of the word citizen in the instrument. The premise of the court was wrong, and hence the feebleness of the reasoning and the false conclusions. Article iii, Section 2 of the Constitution, extends judicial power to all cases, in law and equity, "between citizens of different States, between citizens of the same State," etc. But Article iv, Section 2, declares that "citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." The plea in abatement was brought under Article iii, but all the judges, except Justice McLean, built their decision upon the word citizen as it stood in Article iv.

By the constitution of Ohio, adopted in 1851, free Negroes were not only denied the right to vote, but were excluded from the militia service. This law was not repealed until 1878.

Neither the constitution of 1802, nor that of 1851, discriminated against free Negroes in matters of education; but separate schools have been maintained in Ohio from the beginning down to the present time, by special acts of the Legislature.

In the territory of Indiana there were quite a number of Negroes from the beginning of the century. Some were slaves. In 1806, the first Legislature, at its second session, passed a law in reference to executions, as follows:

"Sec. 7. And whereas doubts have arisen whether the time of service of negroes and mulattoes, bound to service in this territory, may be sold on execution against the master, Be it therefore enacted that the time of service of such negroes or mulattoes may be sold on execution against the master, in the same manner as personal estate, immediately from which sale the said negroes or mulattoes shall serve the purchaser or purchasers for the residue of their time of service; and the said purchasers and negroes and mulattoes shall have the same remedies against each other as by the laws of the territory are mutually given them in the several cases therein mentioned, and the purchasers shall be obliged to fulfil to the said servants the contracts they made with the masters, as expressed in the indenture or agreement of servitude, and shall, for want of such contract, be obliged to give him or them their freedom due at the end of the time of service, as expressed in the second section of the law of the territory, entitled 'Law concerning servants,' adopted the twenty-second day of September, eighteen hundred and three. This act shall commence and be in force from and after the first day of February next."[47]

[Pg 120]

This was bold legislation; but it was not all. Negroes were required to carry passes, as in the slave States. And on the 17th of September, 1807, "An Act for the Introduction of Negroes and Mulattoes into" the territory was passed.

"Sec. 1. That it shall and may be lawful for any person being the owner or possessor of any negroes or mulattoes of and above the age of fifteen years, and owning service and labor as slaves in any of the States or territories of the United States, or for any citizens of the said States or territories purchasing the same to bring the said negroes and mulattoes into this territory.

"Sec. 2. The owners or possessors of any negroes or mulattoes as aforesaid, and bringing the same into this territory, shall, within thirty days after such removal, go with the same before the clerk of Court of Common Pleas of proper county, and in presence of said clerk the said owner or possessor shall determine and agree to, and with his or her negro or mulatto, upon the term of years which the said negro or mulatto will and shall serve his or her said owner or possessor, and the clerk shall make a record.

"Sec. 3. If any negro or mulatto removed into this territory as aforesaid shall refuse to serve his or her owner as aforesaid, it shall and may be lawful for such person, within sixty days thereafter, to remove the said negro or mulatto to any place [to] which by the laws of the United States or territory from whence such owner or possessor may [have come] or shall be authorized to remove the same. (As quoted in Phœbe v. Jay, Breese, Ill. R., 208.)

"Sec. 4. An owner failing to act as required in the preceding sections should forfeit all claim and right to the service of such negro or mulatto.

"Sec. 5. Declares that any person removing into this territory and being the owner or possessor of any negro or mulatto as aforesaid, under the age of fifteen years, or if any person shall hereafter acquire a property in any negro or mulatto under the age aforesaid, and who shall bring them into this territory, it shall and may be lawful for such person, owner, or possessor to hold the said negro to service or labor—the males until they arrive at the age of thirty-five, and females until they arrive at the age of thirty-two years.

"Sec. 6. Provides that any person removing any negro or mulatto into this territory under the authority of the preceding sections, it shall be incumbent on such person, within thirty days thereafter, to register the name and age of such negro or mulatto with the clerk of the Court of Common Pleas for the proper county.

"Sec. 7. Requires new registry on removal to another county."[Pg 121]

"Secs. 8, 9. Penalties by fine for breach of this act.

"Sec. 10. Clerk to take security that negro be not chargeable when his term expires.

"Sec. 12. Fees.

"Sec. 13. That the children born in said territory of a parent of color owning service or labor, by indenture according to law, should serve the master or mistress of such parent—the males until the age of thirty, and the females until the age of twenty-eight years. (As quoted in Boon v. Juliet, 1836, 1, Scammon, 258.)

"Sec. 14. That an act respecting apprentices misused by their master or mistress should apply to such children. (See the statute cited in Rankin v. Lydia, 2, A. K. Marshall's Ky., 467; and in Jarrot v. Jarrot, 2, Gilman, 19.) This act was repealed in 1810."[48]

Under the first constitution of Indiana, adopted in 1816, Negroes were not debarred from the elective franchise. In Article i, Section 1, of the Bill of Rights, this remarkable language occurs: "That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights," etc. But the very next year the primal rights of the Negro as a citizen were struck down by the following: "No negro, mulatto, or Indian shall be a witness, except in pleas of the State against negroes, mulattoes, or Indians, or in civil cases where negroes, mulattoes, or Indians alone shall be parties."[49]

In 1819 [March 22d], an execution law was passed by which the time of service of Negroes could be sold on execution against the master, in the same manner as personal estate. From the time of the sale, such Negroes or Mulattoes were compelled to serve the buyer until the expiration of the term of service.[50]

In 1831, an act regulating free Negroes and Mulattoes, servants and slaves, declared:

"Sec. 1. Negroes and mulattoes emigrating into the State shall give bond, etc.

"Sec. 2. In failure of this, such negro, etc., may be hired out and the proceeds applied to his benefit, or removed from the State under the poor law.

"Sec. 3. Penalty for committing such without authority.

"Sec. 4. Penalty for harboring such who have not given bond.

"Sec. 5. That the right of any persons to pass through this State,[Pg 122] with his, her, or their negroes or mulattoes, servant or servants, when emigrating or travelling to any other State or territory or country, making no unnecessary delay, is hereby declared and secured."[51]

In 1851 the new constitution limited the right of franchise to "white male citizens of the United States." "No negro or mulatto shall have the right of suffrage."

"Art. xii., Sec. 1. The militia shall consist of all able-bodied white male persons, between, etc.

"Art. xiii., Sec. 1. No negro or mulatto shall come into, or settle in the State after the adoption of this Constitution.

"Sec. 2. All contracts made with any negro or mulatto coming into the State contrary to the foregoing section shall be void; and any person who shall employ such negro or mulatto or encourage him to remain in the State shall be fined not less than ten, nor more than five hundred dollars.

"Sec. 3. All fines which may be collected for a violation of the provisions of this article, or of any law hereafter passed for the purpose of carrying the same into execution, shall be set apart and appropriated for the colonization of such negroes and mulattoes and their descendants as may be in the State at the adoption of this Constitution and may be willing to emigrate.

"Sec. 4. The General Assembly shall pass laws to carry out the provisions of this article."

Other severe laws were enacted calculated to modify and limit the rights of free persons of color.

The first constitution of the State of Illinois, adopted in 1818, limited the [Art. ii, Sec. 27] elective franchise to "free white" persons. Article v, Sec. 1, exempted "negroes, mulattoes, and Indians" from service in the militia. In March, 1819, "An Act Respecting Free Negroes, Mulattoes, Servants, and Slaves" passed. Sec. 1 required Negro and Mulatto persons coming into the State to produce a certificate of freedom. Sec. 2 required them to register their family as well as themselves. Sec. 3 required persons bringing slaves into the State, for the purpose of emancipating them, to give bonds. Passes were required of Colored people, and many other hard exactions. The bill above referred to contained twenty-five sections.[52]

[Pg 123]

On the 6th of January, 1827, a criminal code was enacted for offences committed by Negroes and servants, which contained many cruel features. On the 2d of February a law was passed declaring that all Negroes, Mulattoes, and Indians were incompetent to be witnesses in any court against a white person; and that a person having one fourth part Negro blood shall be adjudged a Mulatto. This law was re-enacted in 1845.[53] In 1853, February 12th, the Legislature of Illinois passed "An Act to Prevent the Immigration of Free Negroes into this State."

"Secs. 1, 2. Fine and imprisonment for bringing slave, for any purpose, into the State. Proviso: 'That this shall not be construed so as to affect persons or slaves, bona fide, travelling through this State from and to any other State in the United States.'

"Sec. 3. Misdemeanor for negro or mulatto, bond or free, to come with intention of residing.

"Sec. 4. Such may be prosecuted and fined or sold, for time, for fine and costs.

"Secs. 5, 6, 7. If such do not afterwards remove, increased fine and like proceedings, etc., etc. Appeal allowed to the circuit.

"Sec. 8. If claimed as fugitive slave, after being thus arrested, a justice of the peace, 'after hearing the evidence, and being satisfied that the person or persons claiming said negro or mulatto is or are the owner or owners of and entitled to the custody of said negro or mulatto, in accordance with the laws of the United States passed upon this subject,' shall give the owner a certificate, after his paying the costs and the negro's unpaid fine, 'and the said owner or agent so claiming shall have a right to take and remove said slave out of the State.'

"Sec. 9. Punishment of justice for nonfeasance, and of witness falsely accusing negro."[54]

While slavery had no legal, constitutional existence in the three border States, there were, in fact, quite a number of slaves within their jurisdiction during the first generation of their existence. And the free people of Color were, first, denied the right of citizenship; second, excluded from the militia service; third, ruled out of the courts whenever their testimony was offered against a white person; fourth, could not come into the free border States without producing a certificate of freedom; and, fifth, were annoyed by many little, mean laws in the exercise of the few rights they were suffered to enjoy. A full[Pg 124] description of the infamous "Black Code" of these States would occupy too much space, and, therefore, the dark subject must be dismissed. Posterity shall know, however, how patiently the free Negroes of the Northern States endured the restrictions and proscriptions which law and public sentiment threw across their social and political pathway!


[37] 1, Chase, p. 393, sects. 1-7.

[38] 1, Chase, p. 555.

[39] Jeffries vs. Ankeny, 11, Ohio, p. 375.

[40] 2, Chase L., p. 1052.

[41] Curwen, p. 533.

[42] Revised Statutes of Ohio, vol. i. p. 60.

[43] Ibid., p. 111.

[44] Elliot's Debates, vol. i. p. 79.

[45] Sanford's Dred Scott Case, pp. 397-399.

[46] Howard's Reports, vol. xix. pp. 403-405, sq.

[47] Hurd, vol ii. p. 123.

[48] Terr. laws 1807-8, p. 423.

[49] Laws of 1817, ch. 3, sec. 52.

[50] See Hurd, vol. ii. p. 129.

[51] Revised Laws of Indiana, 1838.

[52] Session Laws, 1819, p. 354. R. S., 1833, p. 466.

[53] R. S., 1845, p. 154.

[54] Rev. St. of 1856, p. 780.

[Pg 125]


Nominal Rights of Negroes in the Slave States.—Fugitive Slaves seek Refuge in Canada.—Negroes petition against Taxation without Representation.—A Law preventing Negroes from other States from settling in Massachusetts.—Notice to Blacks, Indians, and Mulattoes, warning them to leave the Commonwealth.—The Rights and Privileges of the Negro restricted.—Colored Men turn their Attention to the Education of their own Race.—John V. DeGrasse, the first Colored Man admitted to the Massachusetts Medical Society.—Prominent Colored Men of New York and Philadelphia.—The Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal and Colored Baptist Churches.—Colored Men distinguish themselves in the Pulpit.—Report to the Ohio Anti-slavery Society of Colored People in Cincinnati in 1835.—Many purchase their Freedom.—Henry Boyd, the Mechanic and Builder.—He becomes a Successful Manufacturer in Cincinnati.—Samuel T. Wilcox, the Grocer.—His Success in Business in Cincinnati.—Ball and Thomas, the Photographers.—Colored People of Cincinnati evince a Desire to take Care of themselves.—Lydia P. Mott establishes a Home for Colored Orphans.—The Organization effected in 1844.—Its Success.—Formation of a Colored Military Company called "The Attucks Guards."—Emigration of Negroes to Liberia.—The Colored People live down much Prejudice.

Return to Table of Contents

IN 1850 there were 238,187 free Negroes in the slave States. Their freedom was merely nominal. They were despised beneath the slaves, and were watched with suspicious eyes, and disliked by their brethren in bondage.

In 1850 there were 196,016 free Negroes in the Northern States. Their increase came from [chiefly] two sources, viz.: births and emancipated persons from the South. Fugitive slaves generally went to Canada, for in addition to being in danger of arrest under the fugitive-slave law, none of the State governments in the North sympathized with escaped Negroes. The Negroes in the free States were denied the rights of citizenship, and were left to the most destroying ignorance. In 1780, some free Negroes, of the town of Dartmouth, petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts for relief from taxation, because they were denied the privileges and duties of citizenship. The petition set forth the hardships free Negroes were obliged to endure, even in Massachusetts, and was in itself a proof of the fitness of the petitioners for the duties of citizenship.[Pg 126]

"To the Honorable Council and House of Representatives, in General Court Assembled, for the State of Massachusetts Bay, in New England:

"The petition of several poor negroes and mulattoes, who are inhabitants of the town of Dartmouth, humbly showeth:

"That we being chiefly of the African extract, and by reason of long bondage and hard slavery, we have been deprived of enjoying the profits of our labor or the advantage of inheriting estates from our parents, as our neighbors the white people do, having some of us not long enjoyed our own freedom; yet of late, contrary to the invariable custom and practice of the country, we have been, and now are, taxed both in our polls and that small pittance of estate which, through much hard labor and industry, we have got together to sustain ourselves and families withall. We apprehend it, therefore, to be hard usage, and will doubtless (if continued) reduce us to a state of beggary, whereby we shall become a burthen to others, if not timely prevented by the interposition of your justice and power.

"Your petitioners further show, that we apprehend ourselves to be aggrieved, in that, while we are not allowed the privilege of freemen of the State, having no vote or influence in the election of those that tax us, yet many of our color (as is well known) have cheerfully entered the field of battle in the defence of the common cause, and that (as we conceive) against a similar exertion of power (in regard to taxation) too well known to need a recital in this place.

"We most humble request, therefore, that you would take our unhappy case into your serious consideration, and, in your wisdom and power, grant us relief from taxation, while under our present depressed circumstances; and your poor petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray, etc.

"John Cuffe,
"Adventur Child,
"Paul Cuffe,
"Samuel Gray, [his x mark.]
"Pero Rowland, [his x mark.]
"Pero Russell, [his x mark.]
"Pero Coggeshall.

"Dated at Dartmouth, the 10th of February, 1780.
"Memorandum in the handwriting of John Cuffe:

"This is the copy of the petition which we did deliver unto the Honorable Council and House, for relief from taxation in the days of our distress. But we received none.

John Cuffe."[55]

[Pg 127]

Not discouraged at the failure that attended the above petition, the indefatigable Paul Cuffe, addressed the following to the selectmen of his town the next year.


"To the Selectmen of the Town of Dartmouth, Greeting:

We, the subscribers, your humble petitioners, desire that you would, in your capacity, put a stroke in your next warrant for calling a town meeting, so that it may legally be laid before said town, by way of vote, to know the mind of said town, whether all free negroes and mulattoes shall have the same privileges in this said Town of Dartmouth as the white people have, respecting places of profit, choosing of officers, and the like, together with all other privileges in all cases that shall or may happen or be brought in this our said Town of Dartmouth. We, your petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray,


"John Cuffe,
"Paul Cuffe,

"Dated at Dartmouth, the 22d of the 4th mo., 1781,"

As early as 1788 Massachusetts passed a law requiring all Negroes who were not citizens, to leave the Commonwealth within two months from the date of the publication of the law. It has been said, upon good authority, that this law was drawn by several of the ablest lawyers in the Bay State, and was intended to keep out all Negroes from the South who, being emancipated, might desire to settle there. It became a law on the 26th of March, 1788, and instead of becoming a dead letter, was published and enforced in post-haste. The following section is the portion of the act pertinent to this inquiry.

"V. Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid [the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled], that no person being an African or Negro, other than a subject of the Emperor of Morocco, or a citizen of some one of the United States (to be evidenced by a certificate from the Secretary of the State of which he shall be a citizen), shall tarry within this Commonwealth, for a longer time than two months, and upon complaint made to any Justice of the Peace within this Commonwealth, that any such person has been within the same more than two months, the said Justice shall order the said person to depart out of this Commonwealth, and in case that the said African or Negro shall not depart as aforesaid, any Justice of the[Pg 128] Peace within this Commonwealth, upon complaint and proof made that such person has continued within this Commonwealth ten days after notice given him or her to depart as aforesaid, shall commit the said person to any house of correction within the county, there to be kept to hard labor, agreeable to the rules and orders of the said house, until the Sessions of the Peace, next to be holden within and for the said county; and the master of the said house of correction is hereby required and directed to transmit an attested copy of the warrant of commitment to the said Court on the first day of their said session, and if upon trial at the said Court, it shall be made to appear that the said person has thus continued within the Commonwealth, contrary to the tenor of this act, he or she shall be whipped not exceeding ten stripes, and ordered to depart out of this Commonwealth within ten days; and if he or she shall not so depart, the same process shall be had and punishment inflicted, and so toties quoties."[56]

The following notice, with the subjoined names, shows that the cruel law was enforced.


The Officers of Police having made return to the Subscriber of the names of the following persons, who are Africans or Negroes, not subjects of the Emperor of Morocco nor citizens of the United States, the same are hereby warned and directed to depart out of this Commonwealth before the 10th day of October next, as they would avoid the pains and penalties of the law in that case provided, which was passed by the Legislature, March 26, 1788.

Charles Bulfinch,

By Order and Direction of the Selectmen.

Portsmouth—Prince Patterson, Eliza Cotton, Flora Nash.

Rhode Island—Thomas Nichols and Philis Nichols, Hannah Champlin, Plato Alderson, Raney Scott, Jack Jeffers, Thomas Gardner, Julius Holden, Violet Freeman, Cuffy Buffum, Sylvia Gardner, Hagar Blackburn, Dolly Peach, Polly Gardner, Sally Alexander, Philis Taylor.

Providence—Dinah Miller, Salvia Hendrick, Rhode Allen, Nancy Hall, Richard Freeman, Elizabeth Freeman, Nancy Gardner, Margaret Harrison.

Connecticut—Bristol Morandy, John Cooper, Scipio Kent, Margaret Russell, Phoebe Seamore, Phoebe Johnson, Jack Billings.[Pg 129]

New London—John Denny, Thomas Burdine, Hannah Burdine.

New York—Sally Evens, Sally Freeman, Cæsar West and Hannah West, Thomas Peterson, Thomas Santon, Henry Sanderson, Henry Wilson, Robert Willet, Edward Cole, Mary Atkins, Polly Brown, Amey Spalding, John Johnson, Rebecca Johnson, George Homes, Prince Kilsbury, Abraham Fitch, Joseph Hicks, Abraham Francis, Elizabeth Francis, Sally Williams, William Williams, Rachel Pewinck, David Dove, Esther Dove, Peter Bayle, Thomas Bostick, Katy Bostick, Prince Hayes, Margaret Bean, Nancy Hamik, Samuel Benjamin, Peggy Ocamum, Primus Hutchinson.

Philadelphia—Mary Smith, Richard Allen, Simon Jeffers, Samuel Posey, Peter Francies, Prince Wales, Elizabeth Branch, Peter Gust, William Brown, Butterfield Scotland, Clarissa Scotland, Cuffy Cummings, John Gardner, Sally Gardner, Fortune Gorden, Samuel Stevens.

Baltimore—Peter Larkin and Jenny Larkin, Stepney Johnson, Anne Melville.

Virginia—James Scott, John Evens, Jane Jackson, Cuffey Cook, Oliver Nash, Robert Woodson, Thomas Thompson.

North Carolina—James Jurden, Polly Johnson, Janus Crage.

South Carolina—Anthony George, Peter Cane.

Halifax—Catherine Gould, Charlotte Gould, Cato Small, Philis Cole, Richard M'Coy.

West Indies—James Morfut and Hannah his wife, Mary Davis, George Powell, Peter Lewis, Charles Sharp, Peter Hendrick, William Shoppo and Mary Shoppo, Isaac Johnson, John Pearce, Charles Esings, Peter Branch, Newell Symonds, Rosanna Symonds, Peter George, Lewis Victor, Lewis Sylvester, John Laco, Thomas Foster, Peter Jesemy, Rebecca Jesemy, David Bartlet, Thomas Grant, Joseph Lewis, Hamet Lewis, John Harrison, Mary Brown, Boston Alexander.

Cape François—Casme Francisco and Nancy his wife, Mary Fraceway.

Aux Cayes—Susannah Ross.

Port-au-Prince—John Short.

Jamaica—Charlotte Morris, John Robinson.

Bermuda—Thomas Williams.

New Providence—Henry Taylor.

Liverpool—John Mumford.

Africa—Francis Thompson, John Brown, Mary Joseph, James Melvile, Samuel Bean, Hamlet Earl, Cato Gardner, Charles Mitchel, Sophia Mitchel, Samuel Frazier, Samuel Blackburn, Timothy Philips, Joseph Ocamum. France—Joseph ——

Isle of France—Joseph Lovering.[Pg 130]


The following persons from several of the United States, being people of colour, commonly called Mulattoes, are presumed to come within the intention of the same law, and are accordingly warned and directed to depart out of the Commonwealth before the 10th day of October next.

Rhode Island—Peter Badger, Kelurah Allen, Waley Green, Silvia Babcock.

Providence—Polly Adams, Paul Jones.

Connecticut—John Brown, Polly Holland, John Way and Nancy Way, Peter Virginia, Leville Steward, Lucinda Orange, Anna Sprague, Britton Doras, Amos Willis, Frank Francies.

New London—Hannah Potter.

New York—Jacob and Nelly Cummings, James and Rebecca Smith, Judith Chew, John Schumagger, Thomas Willouby, Peggy Willouby, John Reading, Mary Reading, Charles Brown, John Miles, Hannah Williams, Betsy Harris, Douglass Brown, Susannah Foster, Thomas Burros, Mary Thomson, James and Freelove Buck, Lucy Glapcion, Lucy Lewis, Eliza Williams, Diana Bayle, Cæsar and Sylvia Caton, —— Thompson, William Guin.

Albany—Elone Virginia, Abijah Reed and Lydia Reed, Abijah Reed, Jr., Rebecca Reed and Betsy Reed.

New Jersey—Stephen Boadley, Hannah Victor.

Philadelphia—Polly Boadley, James Long, Hannah Murray, Jeremiah Green, Nancy Principeso, David Johnson, George Jackson William Coak, Moses Long.

Maryland—Nancy Gust.

Baltimore—John Clark, Sally Johnson.

Virginia—Sally Hacker, Richard and John Johnson, Thomas Stewart, Anthony Paine, Mary Burk, William Hacker, Polly Losours, Betsy Guin, Lucy Brown.

Africa—Nancy Doras.[57]

The constitutions of nearly all the States, statutes, or public sentiment drove the Negro from the ballot-box, excused him from the militia, and excluded him from the courts. Although born on the soil, a soldier in two wars, an industrious, law-abiding person, the Negro, nevertheless, was not regarded as a member of political society. He was taxed, but enjoyed no representation; was governed by laws, and yet, had no voice in making the laws.[Pg 131]

The doors of nearly all the schools of the entire North were shut in his face; and the few separate schools accorded him were given grudgingly. They were usually held in the lecture-room of some Colored church edifice, or thrust off to one side in a portion of the city or town toward which aristocratic ambition would never turn. These schools were generally poorly equipped; and the teachers were either Colored persons whose opportunities of securing an education had been poor, or white persons whose mental qualifications would not encourage them to make an honest living among their own race; there were noble exceptions.

A deeply rooted prejudice shut the Negro out from the trades. He could not acquire the art of setting type, civil engineering, building machinery, house carpentering, or any of the trades. The schools of medicine, law, and theology were not open to him; and even if he secured admission into some gentleman's office, or instruction from some divine, the future gave him no promise. The white wings of hope were broken in an ineffectual attempt to move against the bitter winds of persecution, under the dark sky of hate and proscription. Corporations, churches, theatres, and political parties made the Negro a subject of official action. If a Negro travelled by stage coach, it was among the baggage in the "boot," or on top with the driver. If he were favored with a ride on a street car, it was in a separate car marked, "This car for Colored people." If he journeyed any distance by rail, he was assigned to the "Jim Crow" car, or "smoker," where himself and family were subjected to inconvenience, insult, and the society of the lowest class of white rowdies. If he were hungry and weary at the end of the journey, there was "no room for him in the inn," and, like his Master, was assigned a place among the cattle. If he were so fortunate as to get into a hotel as a servant, bearing the baggage of his master, he slept in the garret, and took his meals in the kitchen. It mattered not who the Colored man was—whether it was Langston, the lawyer, McCune Smith, the physician, or Douglass, the orator—he found no hotel that would give him accommodations. And forsooth, if some host had the temerity to admit a Negro to his dining-room, a dozen white guests would leave the hotel rather than submit to the "outrage!"

The places of amusements in all the large cities in the North excluded the Negro; and when he did gain admission, he was[Pg 132] shown to the gallery, where he could enjoy peanut-hulls, boot-blacks, and "black-legs." Occasionally the side door of a college was put ajar for some invincible Negro. But this was a performance of very rare occurrence; and the instances are easily remembered.

When courts and parties, corporations and companies had refused to accord the Negro the rights that were his due as a man, he carried his case to the highest earthly court, the Christian Church. He felt sure of sympathy and succor from this source. The Church had stood through the centuries as a refuge for the unfortunate and afflicted. But, alas! the Church shrank from the Negro as if he had been a reptile. If he gained admission it was to the "Negro pew" in the "organ loft." If he secured the precious "emblems of the broken body and shed blood" of his Divine Master, it was after the "white folks" were through. If the cause of the Negro were mentioned in the prayer or sermon, it was in the indistinct whisper of the moral coward who occupied the sacred desk. And when the fight was on at fever heat, when it was popular to plead the cause of the slave and demand the rights of the free Negro, the Church was the last organization in the country to take a position on the question; and even then, her "moderation was known to all men."

If the Negro had suffered from neglect only, had been left to solve the riddle of his anomalous existence without further embarrassment, it would have been well. But no, it was not so. Studied insolence jostled Colored men and women from the streets of the larger cities; mobocratic violence broke up assemblages and churches of Colored people; and malice sought them in the quiet of their homes—outraged and slew them in cold blood. Thus with the past as a haunting, bitter recollection, the present filled with fear and disaster, and the future a shapeless horror, think ye life was sweet to the Negro? Bitter? Bitter as death? Ay, bitter as hell!

Driven down from the lofty summit of laudable ambitions into the sultry plains of domestic drudgery and menial toil, nearly every ray of hope had perished upon the strained vision of the Negro. The only thing young Colored men could aspire to was the position of a waiter, the avocation of a barber, the place of a house-servant or groom, and teach or preach to their own people with little or no qualifications. Denied the opportunities and facilities of securing an education, they were upbraided[Pg 133] by the press and pulpit, in private gatherings and public meetings, for their ignorance, which was enforced by a narrow and contracted public prejudice.

But "none of these things moved" the Negro. Undismayed he bowed to his herculean task with a complacency and courage worthy of any race or age of the world's history. The small encouragement that came to him from the conscientious minority of white men and women was as refreshing as the cool ocean breeze at even-tide to the feverish brow of a travel-soiled pilgrim. The Negro found it necessary to exert himself, to lift himself out of his social, mental, and political dilemma by the straps of his boots. Colored men turned their attention to the education of themselves and their children. Schools were begun, churches organized, and work of general improvement and self-culture entered into with alacrity and enthusiasm. Boston had among its teachers the scholarly Thomas Paul; among its clergymen Leonard A. Grimes and John T. Raymond; among its lawyers Robert Morris and E. G. Walker; among its business men J. B. Smith and Coffin Pitts; among its physicians John R. Rock and John V. DeGrasse; among its authors Brown and Nell; and among its orators Remond and Hilton. Robert Morris was admitted to the bar in Boston, on Thursday, June 27, 1850, at a meeting of the members of the Suffolk County Bar. The record is as follows:

"Resolved, That Robert Morris, Esq., be recommended for admittance to practice as a Counsellor and Attorney of the Circuit and District Courts of the United States.

"(Signed)      Ellis Gray Loring, Chairman.
"Chas. Theo. Russell, Secretary."

John V. DeGrasse, M.D., an eminent physician of Boston was perhaps the most accomplished Colored gentleman in New England between 1850-1860. The following notice appeared in a Boston journal in August, 1854:

"On the 24th of August, 1854, Mr. DeGrasse was admitted in due form a member of the 'Massachusetts Medical Society.' It is the first instance of such honor being conferred upon a colored man in this State, at least, and probably in the country; and therefore it deserves particular notice, both because the means by which he has reached this distinction are creditable to his own intelligence and perseverance, and because others of his class may be stimulated to seek an elevation which[Pg 134] has hitherto been supposed unattainable by men of color. The Doctor is a native of New York City, where he was born in June, 1825, and where he spent his time in private and public schools till 1840. He then entered the Oneida Institute, Beriah Green, President, and spent one year; but as Latin was not taught there, he left and entered the Clinton Seminary, where he remained two years, intending to enter college in the fall of 1843. He was turned from this purpose, however, by the persuasions of a friend in France, and after spending two years in a college in that country, he returned to New York in November, 1845, and commenced the study of medicine with Dr. Samuel R. Childs, of that city. There he spent two years in patient and diligent study, and then two more in attending the medical lectures of Bowdoin College, Me. Leaving that institution with honor in May, 1849, he went again to Europe in the autumn of that year, and spent considerable time in the hospitals of Paris, travelling, at intervals, through parts of France, England, Italy, and Switzerland. Returning home in the ship 'Samuel Fox,' in the capacity of surgeon, he was married in August, 1852, and since that time he has practised medicine in Boston. Earning a good reputation here by his diligence and skill, he was admitted a member of the Medical Society, as above stated. Many of our most respectable physicians visit and advise with him whenever counsel is required. The Boston medical profession, it must be acknowledged, has done itself honor in thus discarding the law of caste, and generously acknowledging real merit, without regard to the hue of the skin."

The Colored population of New York was equal to the great emergency that required them to put forth their personal exertions. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet, Dr. Charles B. Ray, and the Rev. Peter Williams in the pulpit; Charles L. Reason and William Peterson as teachers; James McCune Smith and Philip A. White as physicians and chemists; James Williams and Jacob Day among business men, did much to elevate the Negro in self-respect and self-support.

Philadelphia early ranked among her foremost leaders of the Colored people, William Whipper, Stephen Smith, Robert Purvis, William Still, Frederick A. Hinton, and Joseph Cassey. From an inquiry instituted in 1837, it was ascertained that out of the 18,768 Colored people in Philadelphia, 250 had paid for their freedom the aggregate sum of $79,612, and that the real and personal property owned by them was near $1,500,000. There were returns of several chartered benevolent societies for the purpose of affording mutual aid in sickness and distress, and[Pg 135] there were sixteen houses of public worship, with over 4,000 communicants. And in Western Pennsylvania there were John Peck, John B. Vashon, Geo. Gardner, and Lewis Woodson. Every State in the North seemed to produce Colored men of marked ability to whom God committed a great work. Their examples of patient fortitude, industry, and frugality, and their determined efforts to obtain knowledge and build up character, stimulated the youth of the Negro race to greater exertions in the upward direction.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized as early as 1816. Its churches grew and its ministry increased in numbers, intelligence, and piety, until it became the most powerful organization of Colored men on the continent. The influence of this organization upon the Colored race in America was excellent. It brought the people together, not only in religious sympathy, but by the ties of a common interest in all affairs of their race and condition. The men in the organization who possessed the power of speech, who had talents to develop, and an ambition to serve their race, found this church a wide field of usefulness.

The Colored Baptists were organized before the Methodists, [in Virginia,] but their organization has always lacked strength. The form of government, being purely Democratic, was adapted to a people of larger intelligence and possessed of greater capacity for self-government. But, notwithstanding this fact, the "independent" order of Colored Baptists gave the members and clergymen of the denomination exalted ideas of government, and abiding confidence in the capacity of the Negro for self-government. No organization of Colored people in America has produced such able men as the Colored Baptist Church.

In Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, Colored men distinguished themselves in the pulpit, in the forum, in business, and letters. William Howard Day, of Cleveland, during this period [1850-1860] Librarian of the Cleveland Library and editor of a newspaper; John Mercer Langston, of Oberlin; John Liverpool and John I. Gaines, of Cincinnati, Ohio, were good men and true. What they did for their race was done worthily and well. At the Ohio Anti-Slavery Convention, held at Putnam on the 22d, 23d, and 24th of April, 1835, the committee on the condition of the "people of Color," made the following report from Cincinnati:[Pg 136]

The number of Colored people in Cincinnati is about 2,500. As illustrating their general condition, we will give the statistics of one or two small districts. The families in each were visited from house to house, taking them all as far as we went:

Number of families in one of these districts                       26
  "    of individuals                                             125
  "    of heads of families                                        49
  "    of heads of families who are professors of religion         19
  "    of children at school                                       20
  "    of heads of families who have been slaves                   39
  "    of individuals who have been slaves                         95
Time since they obtained their freedom, from 1 to 15 years;
average, 7 years.
Number of individuals who have purchased themselves                23
Whole amount paid for themselves                               $9,112
Number of fathers and mothers still in slavery                      9
  "    of children                                                 18
  "    of brothers and sisters                                     98
  "    of newspapers taken                                          0
  "    of heads of families who can read                            2


  Common laborers and porters                                       7
  Dealers in second-hand clothing                                   1
  Hucksters                                                         1
  Carpenters                                                        2
  Shoe-blacks                                                       6
  Cooks and waiters                                                11
  Washer-women                                                     18

Five of these women purchased themselves from slavery. One paid four hundred dollars for herself, and has since bought a house and lot worth six hundred dollars. All this she has done by washing.

Another individual had bargained for his wife and two children. Their master agreed to take four hundred and twenty dollars for them. He succeeded at length in raising the money, which he carried to their owner. "I shall charge you thirty dollars more than when you was here before," said the planter, "for your wife is in a family-way, and you may pay thirty dollars for that or not take her, just as you please."[Pg 137] "And so," said he (patting the head of a little son, three years old, who hung upon his knee), "I had to pay thirty dollars for this little fellow six months before he was born."

Number of families in another district                             63
  "    of individuals                                             258
  "    of heads of families                                       106
  "    of families who are professors of religion                  16
  "    of heads of families at school                              53
  "    of newspapers taken                                          7
Amount of property in real estate                              $9,850
Number of individuals who have been slaves                        108
  "    of heads of families who have been slaves                   69
Age at which they obtained their freedom, from 3 months to
  60 years; average, 33 years.
Time since they obtained their freedom, from 4 weeks to 27
  years; average, 9 years.
Number of heads of families who have purchased themselves,         36
Whole amount paid for themselves                           $21,515.00
Average price                                                 $597.64
Number of children which the same families have already
  purchased                                                        14
Whole amount paid for these children                        $2,425.75
Average price                                                 $173.27
Total amount paid for these parents and children           $23,940.75
Number of parents still in slavery                                 16
  "    of husbands or wives                                         7
  "    of children                                                 35
  "    of brothers and sisters                                    144

These districts were visited without the least reference to their being exhibited separately. If they give a fair specimen of the whole population (and we believe that to be a fact), then we have the following results: 1,129 of the Colored population of Cincinnati have been in slavery; 476 have purchased themselves, at the total expense of $215,522.04, averaging for each, $452.77; 163 parents are still in slavery, 68 husbands and wives, 346 children, 1,579 brothers and sisters.

There are a large number in the city who are now working out their own freedom—their free papers being retained as security. One man of our acquaintance has just given his master seven notes of one hundred dollars each, one of which he intends to pay every year, till he has paid them all; his master promises then to give him his free papers. After paying for himself, he intends to buy his wife and then his children.[Pg 138] Others are buying their husbands or wives, and others again their parents or children. To show that on this subject they have sympathies like other people, we will state a single fact. A young man, after purchasing himself, earned three hundred dollars. This sum he supposed was sufficient to purchase his aged mother, a widow, whom he had left in slavery five years before, in Virginia. Hearing that she was for sale, he started immediately to purchase her. But, after travelling five hundred miles, and offering all his money, he was refused. Not because she was not for sale, nor because he did not offer her full value. She had four sons and daughters with her, and the planter thought he could do better to keep the family together and send them all down the river. In vain the affectionate son pleaded for his mother. The planter's heart was steel. He would not sell her, and with a heavy heart the young man returned to Cincinnati. He has since heard that they were sold in the New Orleans market "in lots to suit purchasers."

Cincinnati produced quite a number of business men among her Colored population.


was born in the State of Kentucky, on the 14th day of May, 1802. He received some instruction in reading and writing. He was bound out to a gentleman, from whom he learned the cabinet-making trade. He developed at quite an early age a genius for working in all kinds of wood—could make any thing in the business. He came to Ohio in 1826, and located in Cincinnati. He was a fine-looking man of twenty-four years, and a master mechanic. He expected to secure employment in some of the cabinet shops in the city. Accordingly, he applied at several, but as often as he applied he was refused employment on the ground of complexional prejudice. In some instances the proprietor was willing that a Colored man should work for him, but the white mechanics would not work by the side of a Colored man. In other cases it was quite different. The proprietors would not entertain the idea of securing the services of a "Black mechanic." So it was for weeks that Mr. Boyd sought an opportunity to use his skill in the direction of his genius and training; but he sought in vain. Disappointed, though not disheartened, he turned to the work of a stevedore, which he did for four months. At the expiration of this time he found employment with a house-builder. Within six months from the time he began[Pg 139] work as a builder he had so thoroughly mastered the trade that he quit working as a journeyman, formed a co-partnership with a white man, and went into business. The gentleman with whom he joined his fortunes was a mechanic of excellent abilities, and acknowledged the superior fitness of Boyd for the business.

As a builder he succeeded first-rate for four years. But his color was against him. His white partner would make the contracts, secure the jobs, and then Boyd would come forward when the work was to be done. He had an abundance of work, and always finished it to the entire satisfaction of his patrons. It is impossible to estimate just how many houses he built, but the number is not small. He had made a beginning, and secured some capital. He did not like the builder's trade, and only entered it at the first from necessity—as a stepping-stone to his own trade, for which he had a great deal of enthusiasm. In 1836, ten years after his arrival in Cincinnati, he engaged in the manufacture of bedsteads. For six years he carried on this business—found a ready market and liberal pay. He brought to his business some of the oldest buyers in the bedstead line, and had a trade that kept him busy at all seasons of the year. His very excellent business habits won for him many friends, and through their solicitations he enlarged his business by manufacturing all kinds of furniture. He put up a building on the corner of Eighth Street and Broadway, where he carried on his manufacturing from 1836 till 1859, a period of twenty-three years. His business required four large buildings and a force of skilful workmen, never less than twenty, frequently fifty. He used the most approved machinery and paid excellent wages.

His manufactory presented, perhaps, what was never seen in this country before or since. His workmen represented almost all the leading races. There were Negroes, Americans, Irishmen, Scotchmen, Englishmen, Frenchmen, and men of other nationalities. And they didn't bite each other! Their relations were pleasant.

He was burned out three times, but he rebuilt and went ahead. He was doing such an extensive business that some thought it advisable to destroy his buildings. His losses were very heavy, yet he kept right on, and kept up his business for some time; but finally had to yield at the last fire, when he had no insurance.[Pg 140]

He invented a machine to turn the rails of a bed, but being a Colored man he could not take out a patent. He, therefore, had one taken out in the name of a white gentleman. "The Boyd bedstead" sold throughout the United States then, and was popular for many years after he quit the business.

He has been engaged in several different businesses since he quit manufacturing, and for the last nine years has been in the employ of the city.


In 1850 Samuel T. Wilcox decided to embark in some business venture in Cincinnati. Accordingly he built a store on the northeast corner of Broadway and Fifth streets. He at once occupied it as a grocer. In those days fancy groceries were not kept. But Mr. Wilcox opened a new era in the business. He introduced fancy articles, such as all varieties of canned fruit, choice liquors, cigars, first quality of hams, all kinds of dried fruit, the best brands of sugars, molasses, and fine soaps. He made a specialty of these, and succeeded admirably.

His trade was divided between two classes—the finest river packets and the best families of the city. His customers were the very best families—people of wealth and high standing. And perhaps no grocer of his times in Cincinnati did so large a business as Samuel T. Wilcox.

His business increased rapidly until he did about $140,000 of trade per year! This continued for six years, when his social habits were not favorable to permanent success. He had been sole owner of the business up to this time. He sold out one half of the store to Charles Roxboro, Sr.; thus the firm name became "Wilcox & Roxboro." The latter gentleman was energetic and business-like in his habits. He cast his courage and marvellous tact against the high tide of business disaster that came sweeping along in the last days of the firm. He resorted to every honorable and safe expedient in order to avert failure. But the handwriting was upon the wall. He failed. Wilcox had begun business with $25,000 cash. He had accumulated $60,000 in real estate, and had transacted $140,000 of business in a single year! He failed because his life was immoral, his habits extravagant, and his attention to business indifferent.[Pg 141]


This gentleman came to Cincinnati in 1852, where he made the acquaintance of a Colored gentleman of intelligence, J. P. Ball, who was in the daguerrian business at Nos. 28 and 30 West Fourth Street. Mr. Thomas became affianced to Miss Elizabeth Ball, sister of J. P. Ball; and after they were married, Mr. Thomas accepted the position of reception clerk for his brother-in-law. He filled this position with credit and honor for the space of one year. It was now 1853. Daguerrotypes were all the "rage." Photography was unknown. Mr. Ball had an excellent run of custom, and was making money rapidly.

As operator, Mr. Ball soon discovered that Mr. Thomas was a man of quick perception, thorough, and entirely trustworthy. He soon became familiar with the instrument, and in 1854 began to "operate." He continued at the instrument during the remainder of the time he spent at 28 West Fourth Street. He shortly acquired the skill of an old and well-trained operator; and his success in this department of the business added greatly to the already well-established reputation of the gallery.

Mr. Thomas was not satisfied with being a successful clerk and first-class operator. He wanted to go into business for himself. Accordingly he opened a gallery at No. 120 West Fourth Street, near the "Commercial," under the firm name of "Ball & Thomas." The rooms were handsomely fitted up, and the building leased for five years.

In May, 1860, a severe tornado passed over the city, destroying much property and several lives. The roof of the Commercial [Potter's Building] was carried away; part passed over the gallery of Ball & Thomas, while part went through the operating room, and some fragments of timber, etc., penetrated a saloon in the rear of the photographic gallery, and killed a child and a woman. The gallery was a complete wreck, the instruments, chemicals, scenery, cases, pictures, carpets, furniture, and every thing else, were ruined. This was in the early days of the firm. All their available capital had been converted into stock, used in fitting up the gallery. Ball & Thomas were young men—they were Colored men, and were financially ruined. Apparently their business was at an end. But they were artists; and many white families in Cincinnati recognized them as such. Their white friends came to the rescue. The gallery was fitted up again most elaborately, and was known as "the finest photographic gallery west of the Alleghany Mountains."[Pg 142]

This marked a distinct era in the history of the firm, and many persons often remarked that the luckiest moment in their history was when the roof of the Commercial building sat down upon them. For years the best families of the city patronized the famous firm of Ball & Thomas. They had more business than they could attend to at times, and consequently had to engage extra help. These were years of unprecedented success. One hundred dollars a day was small money then. The firm became quite wealthy. After spending fifteen years at 120 they returned to 30 West Fourth Street, where they remained until May, 1874.

Photographers move considerable, and it is seldom that men in this business remain in one street or building as long as Ball & Thomas. They passed twenty-one of the best years of the firm in Fourth Street. This is both a compliment to the public and themselves. It shows, on the one hand, that Colored men can conduct business like white men, and, on the other hand, if Colored men have ability to carry on any kind of business, white people will patronize them.

The old stand at 30 West Fourth Street was fitted up anew, and business began with all the wonted zeal and desire to please the public which characterized the firm in former years. The rooms were at once elegant and capacious. Their motto was to do the best work at the cheapest rates. But as in all other businesses, so in photographic art, there was competition. And rather than do poor work at the low rates of competitors, they decided to remove to another locality. Accordingly, in May, 1874, they moved into No. 146 West Fifth Street. The building was leased for a term of years. It was in no wise adapted to the photographic business. The walls were cut out, doors made, stairs changed, skylight put in, chemical rooms constructed, gas-fixtures put in, papering, painting, and graining done, carpets and new furniture ordered. It cost the firm more than $2,800 to enter this new stand.

The first year at the new stand was characterized by liberal custom and excellent work. The old customers who were delighted with the work done at 30 West Fourth Street, were convinced that the firm had redoubled its artistic zeal, and was determined to outdo the palmy days of Fourth Street. The business, which at this time was in a flourishing condition, was destined to suffer an interruption in the death of Thomas Carroll[Pg 143] Ball, the senior member of the firm. It was at a time when the trade demanded the energies of both gentlemen. But Death never tarries to consider the far-reach of results or the wishes of the friends of his subject. The business continued. Ball Thomas, the son of Mr. A. S. Thomas, who had grown up under the faithful tuition of his father, now became a successful retouching artist. For the last two years Mr. Thomas has conducted the business alone. He is now doing business at 166 West Fifth Street, and it is said that he is doing a good business.

The Colored people of Cincinnati evinced not only an anxiety to take care of themselves, but took steps early toward securing a home for the orphans in their midst.

In ante-bellum days there was no provision made for Colored paupers or Colored orphans. Where individual sympathy or charity did not intervene, they were left to die in the midst of squalid poverty, and were cast into the common ditch, without having medical aid or ministerial consolation. There was not simply studious neglect, but a strong prohibition against their entrance into institutions sustained by the county and State for white persons not more fortunate than they. At one time a good Quaker was superintendent of the county poorhouse. His heart was touched with kindest sympathy for the uncared-for Colored paupers in Cincinnati. He acted the part of a true Samaritan, and gave them separate quarters in the institution of which he was the official head. This fact came to the public ear, and the trustees of the poorhouse, in accordance with their own convictions and in compliance with the complexional prejudices of the community, discharged the Quaker for this breach of the law. The Colored paupers were turned out of this lazar-house on the Sabbath. The time to perpetuate this crime against humanity was indeed significant—on the Lord's day. The God of the poor and His followers beheld the streets of Christian Cincinnati filled with the maimed, halt, sick, and poor, who were denied the common fare accorded the white paupers! There was no sentiment in those days, either in the pulpit or press, to raise its voice against this act of cruelty and shame.

Lydia P. Mott, an eminent member of the Society of Friends and an able leader of a conscientious few, espoused the cause of the motherless, fatherless, and homeless Colored children of this community. She attracted the attention and won the confidence[Pg 144] of the few Abolitionists of this city. She determined to establish a home for these little wanderers, and immediately set to work at a plan. The late Salmon P. Chase was then quite young, a man of brilliant abilities and of anti-slavery sentiments. He joined himself to the humane movement of Lydia P. Mott, with the following persons: Christian Donaldson, James Pullan, William Donaldson, Robert Buchanan, John Liverpool, Richard Phillips, John Woodson, Charles Satchell, Wm. W. Watson, William Darnes, Michael Clark, A. M. Sumner, Reuben P. Graham, Louis P. Brux, Sarah B. McLain, Mrs. Eustis, Mrs. Dr. Stanton, Mrs. Hannah Cooper, Mrs. Mary Jane Gordon, Mrs. Susan Miller, Mrs. Rebecca Darnes, Mrs. Charlotte Armstrong, Mrs. Eliza Clark, Mrs. Ruth Ellen Watson, and others. Six of the gentlemen and four of the ladies were white. Only six of this noble company are living at this time.

The organization was effected in 1844, and the act of incorporation was drawn up by Salmon P. Chase. It was chartered in February, 1845, the passage of the act having been assured through the personal influence of Mr. Chase upon the members of the Legislature.

The first Board of Trustees under the charter were William Donaldson, John Woodson, Richard Phillips, Christian Donaldson, Reuben P. Graham, Richard Pullan, Charles Satchell, Louis P. Brux, and John Liverpool. But one is alive—Richard Pullan.

The first building the Trustees secured as an asylum was on Ninth Street, between Plum and Elm. They paid a rental of $12.50 per month. The building was owned by Mr. Nicholas Longworth, but the ground was leased by him from Judge Burnet. The Trustees ultimately purchased the building for $1,500; and in 1851 the ground also was purchased of Mr. Groesbeck for $4,400 in cash.

During the three or four years following, the institution had quite an indifferent career. The money requisite to run it was not forthcoming. The children were poorly fed and clothed, and many times there was no money in the treasury at all. The Trustees were discouraged, and it seemed that the asylum would have to be closed. But just at this time that venerable Abolitionist and underground railroader, Levi Coffin, with his excellent wife, "Aunt Kitty," came to the rescue. He took charge of the institution as superintendent, and his wife assumed the duties of matron. Through their exertions and adroit management they[Pg 145] succeeded in enlisting the sympathy of many benevolent folk, and secured the support of many true friends.

It was now 1866. The asylum building presented a forlorn aspect. It was far from being a comfortable shelter for the children. But a lack of funds forbade the Trustees from having it repaired. They began to look about for a more desirable and comfortable building. During the closing year of the Rebellion a large number of freedmen sought the shelter of our large Northern cities. Cincinnati received her share of them, and acted nobly toward them. The government authorities built a hospital for freedmen in a very desirable locality in Avondale. At this time (1866), the building, which was very capacious, was not occupied. The Trustees secured a change in the charter, permitting them, by consent of the subscribers, to sell the Ninth Street property, and purchase the hospital building and the accompanying six acres in Avondale. The Ninth Street property brought $9,000; the purchase in Avondale, refitting, etc., cost $11,000, incurring a debt of $2,000.

During the first twenty-two years of the institution much good was accomplished. Hundreds of children—orphans and friendless children—found shelter in the asylum, which existed only through the almost superhuman efforts of the intelligent Colored persons in the community, and the unstinted charity of many generous white persons. The asylum has been pervaded with a healthy religious atmosphere; and many of its inmates have gone forth to the world giving large promise of usefulness. An occasional letter from former inmates often proves that much good has been done; and that some of these children, without the kindly influence and care of the asylum, instead of occupying places of usefulness and trust in society, might have drifted into vagrancy and crime.

Amidst the struggle for temporal welfare, the Colored people of Cincinnati were not unmindful of the interests and destinies of the Union. A military company was formed, bearing the name of Attucks Guards. On the 25th of July, 1855, an association of ladies presented a flag to the company. The address, on the part of the ladies, was delivered by Miss Mary A. Darnes. Among many excellent things, she said:

"Should the love of liberty and your country ever demand your services, may you, in imitation of that noble patriot whose name you bear,[Pg 146] promptly respond to the call, and fight to the last for the great and noble principles of liberty and justice, to the glory of your fathers and the land of your birth.

"The time is not far distant when the slave must be free; if not by moral and intellectual means, it must be done by the sword. Remember, gentlemen, should duty call, it will be yours to obey, and strike to the last for freedom or the grave.

"But God forbid that you should be called upon to witness our peaceful homes involved in war. May our eyes never behold this flag in any conflict; let the quiet breeze ever play among its folds, and the fullest peace dwell among you!"

While the great majority of the Colored people in the country were bowing themselves cheerfully to the dreadful task of living among wolves, some of the race were willing to brave the perils of the sea, and find a new home on the West Coast of Africa. Between the years of 1850-1856, 9,502 Negroes went to Liberia, of whom 3,676 had been born free. In 1850, there were 1,467 manumitted, while 1,011 ran away from their masters.

Notwithstanding the many disadvantages under which the free Negroes of the North had to labor, they accomplished a great deal. In an incredibly short time they built schools, planted churches, established newspapers; had their representatives in law, medicine, and theology before the world as the marvel of the centuries. Shut out from every influence calculated to incite them to a higher life, and provoke them to better works, nevertheless, the Colored people were enabled to live down much prejudice, and gained the support and sympathy of noble men and women of the Anglo-Saxon race.


[55] This is inserted in this volume as the more appropriate place.

[56] Slavery in Massachusetts, pp. 228, 229.

[57] Massachusetts Mercury, vol. xvi. No. 22, Sept. 16, 1780.

[Pg 147]


The Possibilities of the Human Intellect.—Ignorance Favorable to Slavery.—An Act by the Legislature of Alabama imposing a Penalty on any one Instructing a Colored Person.—Educational Privileges of the Creoles in the City of Mobile.—Prejudice against Colored Schools in Connecticut.—The Attempt of Miss Prudence Crandall to admit Colored Girls into her School at Canterbury.—The Indignation of the Citizens at this Attempt to Mix the Races in Education.—The Legislature of Connecticut passes a Law abolishing the School.—The Building assaulted by a Mob.—Miss Crandall arrested and imprisoned for teaching Colored Children against the Law.—Great Excitement.—The Law finally repealed.—An Act by the Legislature of Delaware taxing Persons who brought into, or sold Slaves out of, the State.—Under Act of 1829 Money received for the Sale of Slaves in Florida was added to the School Fund in that State.—Georgia prohibits the Education of Colored Persons under Heavy Penalty.—Illinois establishes Separate Schools for Colored Children.—The "Free Mission Institute" at Quincy, Illinois, destroyed by a Missouri Mob.—Numerous and Cruel Slave Laws in Kentucky retard the Education of the Negroes.—An Act passed in Louisiana preventing the Negroes in any Way from being instructed.—Maine gives equal School Privileges to Whites and Blacks.—St. Francis Academy for Colored Girls founded in Baltimore in 1831.—The Wells School.—The First School for Colored Children established in Boston by Intelligent Colored Men in 1798.—A School-house for the Colored Children built and paid for out of a Fund left by Abiel Smith for that Purpose.—John B. Russworm one of the Teachers and afterward Governor of the Colony of Cape Palmas, Liberia.—First Primary School for Colored Children established in 1820.—Missouri passes Stringent Laws against the Instruction of Negroes.—New York provides for the Education of Negroes.—Elias Neau opens a School in New York City for Negro Slaves in 1704.—"New York African Free School" in 1786.—Visit of Lafayette to the African Schools in 1824.—His Address.—Public Schools for Colored Children in New York.—Colored Schools in Ohio.—"Cincinnati High School" for Colored Youths founded in 1844.—Oberlin College opens its Doors to Colored Students.—The Establishment of Colored Schools in Pennsylvania by Anthony Benezet in 1750.—His Will.—"Institute for Colored Youths" established in 1837.—"Avery College," at Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, founded in 1849.—Ashmun Institute, or Lincoln University, founded in October, 1856.—South Carolina takes Definite Action against the Education or Promotion of the Colored Race in 1800-1803-1834.—Tennessee makes no Discrimination against Color in the School Law of 1840.—Little Opportunity afforded in Virginia for the Colored Man to be enlightened.—Stringent Laws enacted.—History of Schools for the Colored Population in the District of Columbia.

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THE institution of American slavery needed protection from the day of its birth to the day of its death. Whips, thumbscrews, and manacles of iron were far less helpful to it than the thraldom of the intellects of its hapless victims. "Created a little lower than the angels," "crowned with glory and honor,"[Pg 148] armed with authority "over every living creature," man was intended by his Maker to rule the world through his intellect. The homogeneousness of the crude faculties of man has been quite generally admitted throughout the world; while even scientists, differing widely in many other things, have united in ascribing to the human mind everywhere certain possibilities. But one class of men have dissented from this view—the slave-holders of all ages. A justification of slavery has been sought in the alleged belief of the inferiority of the persons enslaved; while the broad truism of the possibilities of the human mind was confessed in all legislation that sought to prevent slaves from acquiring knowledge. So the slave-holder asserted his belief in the mental inferiority of the Negro, and then advertised his lack of faith in his assertion by making laws to prevent the Negro intellect from receiving those truths which would render him valueless as a slave, but equal to the duties of a freeman.


had an act in 1832 which declared that "Any person or persons who shall attempt to teach any free person of color or slave to spell, read, or write, shall, upon conviction thereof by indictment, be fined in a sum not less than $250, nor more than $500." This act also prohibited with severe penalties, by flogging, "any free negro or person of color" from being in company with any slaves without written permission from the owner or overseer of such slaves; it also prohibited the assembling of more than five male slaves at any place off the plantation to which they belonged; but nothing in the act was to be considered as forbidding attendance at places of public worship held by white persons. No slave or free person of color was permitted to "preach, exhort, or harangue any slave or slaves, or free persons of color, except in the presence of five respectable slave-holders, or unless the person preaching was licensed by some regular body of professing Christians in the neighborhood, to whose society or church the negroes addressed properly belonged."

In 1833, the mayor and aldermen of the city of Mobile were authorized by an act of the Legislature to grant licenses to such persons as they deemed suitable to give instruction to the children of free Colored Creoles. This applied only to those who resided in the city of Mobile and county of Baldwin. The instruction was to be given at brief periods, and the children had to secure a[Pg 149] certificate from the mayor and aldermen. The ground of this action was the treaty between France and the United States in 1803, by which the rights and privileges of citizens had been secured to the Creoles residing in the above places at the time of the treaty.


so far as her laws appear, did not prohibit the education of Negroes; but a study of her laws leaves the impression that the Negroes there were practically denied the right of instruction.


never legislated against educating Colored persons, but the prejudice was so strong that it amounted to the same thing. The intolerant spirit of the whites drove the Colored people of Hartford to request a separate school in 1830. Prejudice was so great against the presence of a Colored school in a community of white people, that a school, established by a very worthy white lady, was mobbed and then legislated out of existence.

"In the summer of 1832, Miss Prudence Crandall, an excellent, well-educated Quaker young lady, who had gained considerable reputation as a teacher in the neighboring town of Plainfield, purchased, at the solicitation of a number of families in the village of Canterbury, Connecticut, a commodious house in that village, for the purpose of establishing a boarding and day school for young ladies, in order that they might receive instruction in higher branches than were taught in the public district school. Her school was well conducted, but was interrupted early in 1833 in this wise: Not far from the village a worthy colored man was living, by the name of Harris, the owner of a good farm, and in comfortable circumstances. His daughter Sarah, a bright girl, seventeen years of age, had passed with credit through the public school of the district in which she lived, and was anxious to acquire a better education, to qualify herself to become a teacher of the colored people. She applied to Miss Crandall for admission to her school. Miss Crandall hesitated, for prudential reasons, to admit a colored person among her pupils; but Sarah was a young lady of pleasing appearance and manners, well known to many of Miss Crandall's present pupils, having been their classmate in the district school, and was, moreover, a virtuous, pious girl, and a member of the church in Canterbury. No objection could be made to her admission, except on acount of her complexion, and Miss Crandall decided to receive her as a pupil.[Pg 150] No objection was made by the other pupils, but in a few days the parents of some of them called on Miss Crandall and remonstrated; and although Miss Crandall pressed upon their consideration the eager desire of Sarah for knowledge and culture, and the good use she wished to make of her education, her excellent character, and her being an accepted member of the same Christian church to which they belonged, they were too much prejudiced to listen to any arguments—'they would not have it said that their daughters went to school with a nigger girl.' It was urged that if Sarah was not dismissed, the white pupils would be withdrawn; but although the fond hopes of success for an institution which she had established at the risk of all her property, and by incurring a debt of several hundred dollars, seemed to be doomed to disappointment, she decided not to yield to the demand for the dismissal of Sarah; and on the 2d day of March, 1833, she advertised in the 'Liberator' that on the first Monday in April her school would be open for 'young ladies and little misses of color.' Her determination having become known, a fierce indignation was kindled and fanned by prominent people of the village and pervaded the town. In this juncture, the Rev. Samuel J. May, of the neighboring town of Brooklyn, addressed her a letter of sympathy, expressing his readiness to assist her to the extent of his power, and was present at the town meeting held on the 9th of March, called for the express purpose of devising and adopting such measures as 'would effectually avert the nuisance or speedily abate it if it should be brought into the village.'

"The friends of Miss Crandall were authorized by her to state to the moderator of the town meeting that she would give up her house, which was one of the most conspicuous in the village, and not wholly paid for, if those who were opposed to her school being there would take the property off her hands at the price for which she had purchased it, and which was deemed a reasonable one, and allow her time to procure another house in a more retired part of the town.

"The town meeting was held in the meeting-house, which, though capable of holding a thousand people, was crowded throughout to its utmost capacity. After the warning for the meeting had been read, resolutions were introduced in which were set forth the disgrace and damage that would be brought upon the town if a school for colored girls should be set up there, protesting emphatically against the impending evil, and appointing the civil authority and select-men a committee to wait upon 'the person contemplating the establishment of said school, and persuade her, if possible, to abandon the project.'

"The resolutions were advocated by Rufus Adams, Esq., and Hon. Andrew T. Judson, who was then the most prominent man of the town, and a leading politician in the State, and much talked of as the Democratic[Pg 151] candidate for governor, and was a representative in Congress from 1835 to 1839, when he was elected judge of the United States District Court, which position he held until his death in 1853, adjudicating, among other causes, the libel of the 'Amistad' and the fifty-four Africans on board. After his address on this occasion, Mr. May, in company with Mr. Arnold Buffum, a lecturing agent of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, applied for permission to speak in behalf of Miss Crandall, but their application was violently opposed, and the resolutions being adopted, the meeting was declared, by the moderator, adjourned.

"Mr. May at once stepped upon the seat where he had been sitting, and rapidly vindicated Miss Crandall, replying to some of the misstatements as to her purposes and the character of her expected pupils, when he gave way to Mr. Buffum, who had spoken scarcely five minutes before the trustees of the church ordered the house to be vacated and the doors to be shut. There was then no alternative but to yield.

"Two days afterward Mr. Judson called on Mr. May, with whom he had been on terms of a pleasant acquaintance, not to say of friendship, and expressed regret that he had applied certain epithets to him; and went on to speak of the disastrous effect on the village from the establishment of 'a school for nigger girls.' Mr. May replied that his purpose was, if he had been allowed to do so, to state at the town meeting Miss Crandall's proposition to sell her house in the village at its fair valuation, and retire to some other part of the town. To this Mr. Judson replied: 'Mr. May, we are not merely opposed to the establishment of that school in Canterbury, we mean there shall not be such a school set up anywhere in the State.'

"Mr. Judson continued, declaring that the colored people could never rise from their menial condition in our country, and ought not to be permitted to rise here; that they were an inferior race and should not be recognized as the equals of the whites; that they should be sent back to Africa, and improve themselves there, and civilize and Christianize the natives. To this Mr. May replied that there never would be fewer colored people in this country than there were then; that it was unjust to drive them out of the country; that we must accord to them their rights or incur the loss of our own; that education was the primal, fundamental right of all the children of men; and that Connecticut was the last place where this should be denied.

"The conversation was continued in a similar strain, in the course of which Mr. Judson declared with warmth: 'That nigger school shall never be allowed in Canterbury, nor in any town of this State'; and he avowed his determination to secure the passage of a law by the Legislature then in session, forbidding the institution of such a school in any part of the State.[Pg 152]

"Undismayed by the opposition and the threatened violence of her neighbors, Miss Crandall received, early in April, fifteen or twenty colored young ladies and misses from Philadelphia, New York, Providence, and Boston, and the annoyances of her persecutors at once commenced: all accommodations at the stores in Canterbury being denied her, her pupils being insulted whenever they appeared on the streets, the doors and door-steps of her house being besmeared, and her well filled with filth; under all of which, both she and her pupils remained firm. Among other means used to intimidate, an attempt was made to drive away those innocent girls by a process under the obsolete vagrant law, which provided that the select-men of any town might warn any person, not an inhabitant of the State, to depart forthwith, demanding $1.67 for every week he or she remained after receiving such warning; and in case the fine was not paid and the person did not depart before the expiration of ten days after being sentenced, then he or she should be whipped on the naked body, not exceeding ten stripes.

"A warrant to that effect was actually served upon Eliza Ann Hammond, a fine girl from Providence, aged seventeen years; but it was finally abandoned, and another method was resorted to, most disgraceful to the State as well as the town. Foiled in their attempts to frighten away Miss Crandall's pupils by their proceedings under the obsolete 'pauper and vagrant law,' Mr. Judson and those who acted with him pressed upon the Legislature, then in session, a demand for the enactment of a law which should enable them to accomplish their purpose; and in that bad purpose they succeeded, by securing the following enactment, on the 24th of May, 1833, known as the 'black law.'

"'Whereas, attempts have been made to establish literary institutions in this State for the instruction of colored persons belonging to other States and countries, which would tend to the great increase of the colored population of the State, and thereby to the injury of the people: therefore,

"'Be it enacted, etc., That no person shall set up or establish in this State any school, academy, or other literary institution for the instruction or education of colored persons, who are not inhabitants of this State, or harbor or board, for the purpose of attending or being taught or instructed in any such school, academy, or literary institution, any colored person who is not an inhabitant of any town in this State, without the consent in writing, first obtained, of a majority of the civil authority, and also of the select-men of the town in which such school, academy, or literary institution is situated,' etc.

"'And each and every person who shall knowingly do any act forbidden as aforesaid, or shall be aiding or assisting therein, shall for the first offense forfeit and pay to the treasurer of this State a fine of $100, and for the second offense $200, and so double for every offense of[Pg 153] which he or she shall be convicted; and all informing officers are required to make due presentment of all breaches of this act.'

"On the receipt of the tidings of the passage of this law, the people of Canterbury were wild with exultation; the bells were rung and a cannon was fired to manifest the joy. On the 27th of June, Miss Crandall was arrested and arraigned before Justices Adams and Bacon, two of those who had been the earnest opponents of her enterprise; and the result being predetermined, the trial was of course brief, and Miss Crandall was 'committed' to take her trial at the next session of the Supreme Court at Brooklyn, in August. A messenger was at once dispatched by the party opposed to Miss Crandall to Brooklyn, to inform Mr. May, as her friend, of the result of the trial, stating that she was in the hands of the sheriff, and would be put in jail unless he or some of her friends would 'give bonds' for her in a certain sum."

The denouement may be related most appropriately in the language of Mr. May:

"I calmly told the messenger that there were gentlemen enough in Canterbury whose bond for that amount would be as good or better than mine, and I should leave it for them to do Miss Crandall that favor. 'But,' said the young man, 'are you not her friend?' 'Certainly,' I replied, 'too sincerely her friend to give relief to her enemies in their present embarrassment, and I trust you will not find any one of her friends, or the patrons of her school, who will step forward to help them any more than myself.' 'But, sir,' he cried, 'do you mean to allow her to be put in jail?' 'Most certainly,' was my answer, 'if her persecutors are unwise enough to let such an outrage be committed.' He turned from me in blank surprise, and hurried back to tell Mr. Judson and the justices of his ill success.

"A few days before, when I first heard of the passage of the law, I had visited Miss Crandall with my friend, Mr. George W. Benson, and advised with her as to the course she and her friends ought to pursue when she should be brought to trial. She appreciated at once and fully the importance of leaving her persecutors to show to the world how base they were, and how atrocious was the law they had induced the Legislature to enact—a law, by the force of which a woman might be fined and imprisoned as a felon in the State of Connecticut for giving instruction to colored girls. She agreed that it would be best for us to leave her in the hands of those with whom the law originated, hoping that, in their madness, they would show forth all their hideous features.

"Mr. Benson and I, therefore, went diligently around to all who he knew were friendly to Miss Crandall and her school, and counselled[Pg 154] them by no means to give bonds to keep her from imprisonment, because nothing would expose so fully to the public the egregious wickedness of the law and the virulence of her persecutors as the fact that they had thrust her into jail.

"When I found that her resolution was equal to the trial which seemed to be impending, that she was ready to brave and to bear meekly the worst treatment that her enemies would venture to subject her to, I made all the arrangements for her comfort that were practicable in our prison. It fortunately happened that the most suitable room, unoccupied, was the one in which a man named Watkins had recently been confined for the murder of his wife, and out of which he had been taken and executed. This circumstance we foresaw would add not a little to the public detestation of the black law. The jailer, at my request, readily put the room in as nice order as was possible, and permitted me to substitute for the bedstead and mattrass on which the murderer had slept, fresh and clean ones from my own house and Mr. Benson's.

"About 2 o'clock, P.M., another messenger came to inform me that the sheriff was on the way from Canterbury to the jail with Miss Crandall, and would imprison her unless her friends would give the required bail. Although in sympathy with Miss Crandall's persecutors, he saw clearly the disgrace that was about to be brought upon the State, and begged me and Mr. Benson to avert it. Of course we refused. I went to the jailer's house and met Miss Crandall on her arrival. We stepped aside. I said: 'If now you hesitate—if you dread the gloomy place so much as to wish to be saved from it, I will give bonds for you even now.' 'Oh, no,' she promptly replied, 'I am only afraid they will not put me in jail. Their evident hesitation and embarrassment show plainly how much they deprecated the effect of this part of their folly, and therefore I am the more anxious that they should be exposed, if not caught in their own wicked devices.

"We therefore returned with her to the sheriff and the company that surrounded him, to await his final act. He was ashamed to do it. He knew it would cover the persecutors of Miss Crandall and the State of Connecticut with disgrace. He conferred with several about him, and delayed yet longer. Two gentlemen came and remonstrated with me in not very seemly terms: 'It would be a —— shame, an eternal disgrace to the State, to have her put into jail—into the very room that Watkins had last occupied.'

"'Certainly, gentlemen,' I replied, 'and this you may prevent if you please.'

"'Oh!' they cried, 'we are not her friends; we are not in favor of her school; we don't want any more —— niggers coming among us. It is your place to stand by Miss Crandall and help her now. You and[Pg 155] your —— abolition brethren have encouraged her to bring this nuisance into Canterbury, and it is —— mean in you to desert her now.'

"I rejoined: 'She knows we have not deserted her, and do not intend to desert her. The law which her persecutors have persuaded our legislators to enact is an infamous one, worthy of the dark ages. It would be just as bad as it is whether we would give bonds for her or not. But the people generally will not so soon realize how bad, how wicked, how cruel a law it is unless we suffer her persecutors to inflict upon her all the penalties it prescribes. She is willing to bear them for the sake of the cause she has so nobly espoused. If you see fit to keep her from imprisonment in the cell of a murderer for having proffered the blessings of a good education to those who in our country need it most, you may do so; we shall not.'

"They turned from us in great wrath, words falling from their lips which I shall not repeat.

"The sun had descended nearly to the horizon; the shadows of night were beginning to fall around us. The sheriff could defer the dark deed no longer. With no little emotion, and with words of earnest deprecation, he gave that excellent, heroic, Christian young lady into the hands of the jailer, and she was led into the cell of Watkins. So soon as I had heard the bolts of her prison door turned in the lock, and saw the key taken out, I bowed and said: 'The deed is done, completely done. It cannot be recalled. It has passed into the history of our nation and our age.' I went away with my steadfast friend, George W. Benson, assured that the legislators of the State had been guilty of a most unrighteous act, and that Miss Crandall's persecutors had also committed a great blunder; that they all would have much more reason to be ashamed of her imprisonment than she or her friends could ever have.

"The next day we gave the required bonds. Miss Crandall was released from the cell of the murderer, returned home, and quietly resumed the duties of her school until she should be summoned as a culprit into court, there to be tried by the infamous 'Black Law of Connecticut.' And, as we expected, so soon as the evil tidings could be carried in that day, before Professor Morse had given to Rumor her telegraphic wings, it was known all over the country and the civilized world, that an excellent young lady had been imprisoned as a criminal—yes, put into a murderer's cell—in the State of Connecticut, for opening a school for the instruction of colored girls. The comments that were made upon the deed in almost all the newspapers were far from grateful to the feelings of her persecutors. Even many who, under the same circumstances, would probably have acted as badly as Messrs. A. T. Judson & Co., denounced their procedure as 'un-Christian, inhuman, anti-Democratic, base, mean.'

"On the 23d of August, 1833, the first trial of Miss Crandall was[Pg 156] had in Brooklyn, the seat of the county of Windham, Hon. Joseph Eaton presiding at the county court.

"The prosecution was conducted by Hon. A. T. Judson, Jonathan A. Welch, Esq., and I. Bulkley, Esq. Miss Crandall's counsel was Hon. Calvin Goddard, Hon. W. W. Elsworth, and Henry Strong, Esq.

"The judge, somewhat timidly, gave it as his opinion 'that the law was constitutional and obligatory on the people of the State.'

"The jury, after an absence of several hours, returned into court, not having agreed upon a verdict. They were instructed and sent out again, and again a third time, in vain; they stated to the judge that there was no probability that they could ever agree. Seven were for conviction and five for acquittal, so they were discharged.

"The second trial was on the 3d of October, before Judge Daggett of the Supreme Court, who was a strenuous advocate of the black law. His influence with the jury was overpowering, insisting in an elaborate and able charge that the law was constitutional, and, without much hesitation, the verdict was given against Miss Crandall. Her counsel at once filed a bill of exceptions, and took an appeal to the Court of Errors, which was granted. Before that, the highest legal tribunal in the State, the cause was argued on the 22d of July, 1834. Both the Hon. W. W. Elsworth and the Hon. Calvin Goddard argued with great ability and eloquence against the constitutionality of the black law. The Hon. A. T. Judson and Hon. C. F. Cleaveland said all they could to prove such a law consistent with the Magna Charta of our republic. The court reserved a decision for some future time; and that decision was never given, it being evaded by the court finding such defects in the information prepared by the State's attorney that it ought to be quashed.

"Soon after this, an attempt was made to set the house of Miss Crandall on fire, but without effect. The question of her duty to risk the lives of her pupils against this mode of attack was then considered, and upon consultation with friends it was concluded to hold on and bear a little longer, with the hope that this atrocity of attempting to fire the house, and thus expose the lives and property of her neighbors, would frighten the instigators of the persecution, and cause some restraint on the 'baser sort.' But a few nights afterward, about 12 o'clock, being the night of the 9th of September, her house was assaulted by a number of persons with heavy clubs and iron bars, and windows were dashed to pieces. Mr. May was summoned the next morning, and after consultation it was determined that the school should be abandoned."

Mr. May thus concluded his account of this event, and of the enterprise:[Pg 157]

"The pupils were called together and I was requested to announce to them our decision. Never before had I felt so deeply sensible of the cruelty of the persecution which had been carried on for eighteen months in that New England village, against a family of defenseless females. Twenty harmless, well-behaved girls, whose only offense against the peace of the community was that they had come together there to obtain useful knowledge and moral culture, were to be told that they had better go away, because, forsooth, the house in which they dwelt would not be protected by the guardians of the town, the conservators of the peace, the officers of justice, the men of influence in the village where it was situated. The words almost blistered my lips. My bosom glowed with indignation. I felt ashamed of Canterbury, ashamed of Connecticut, ashamed of my country, ashamed of my color."[58]

Thus ended the generous, disinterested, philanthropic Christian enterprise of Prudence Crandall, but the law under which her enterprise was defeated was repealed in 1838.

It is to be regretted that Connecticut earned such an unenviable place in history as this. It seems strange, indeed, that such an occurrence could take place in the nineteenth century in a free State in a republic in North America! But such is "the truth of history."


never passed any law against the instruction of Negroes, but in 1833 passed an act taxing every person who sold a slave out of the State, or brought one into the State, five dollars, which went into a school fund for the education of white children alone. In 1852, the Revised Statutes provided for the taxation of all the property of the State for the support of the schools for white children alone. So, by implication, Delaware prohibited the education of Colored children.

In 1840, the Friends formed the African School Association in Wilmington; and under its management two excellent schools, for boys and girls, were established.


On the 28th of December, 1848, an act was passed providing "for the establishment of common schools." The right to vote at district meetings was conferred upon every person whose property was liable to taxation for school purposes; but only white children were allowed school privileges.[Pg 158]

In the same year an act was passed providing that the school funds should consist of "the proceeds of the school lands," and of all estates, real or personal, escheating to the State, and "the proceeds of all property found on the coast or shores of the State." In 1850 the counties were authorized to provide, by taxation, not more than four dollars for each child within their limits of the proper school age. In the same year the amount received from the sale of any slave, under the act of 1829, was required to be added to the school fund. The common school law was revised in 1853, and the county commissioners were authorized to add from the county treasury any sum they thought proper for the support of common schools.[59]


passed a law in 1770 (copied from S. C. Statutes, passed in 1740), fixing a fine of £20 for teaching a slave to read or write. In 1829 the Legislature enacted the following law:

"If any slave, negro, or free person of color, or any white person, shall teach any other slave, negro, or free person of color to read or write either written or printed characters, the said free person of color or slave shall be punished by fine and whipping, or fine or whipping, at the discretion of the court; and if a white person so offend, he, she, or they shall be punished with a fine not exceeding $500, and imprisonment in the common jail at the discretion of the court."

In 1833 the above law was consolidated into a penal code. A penalty of $100 was provided against persons who employed any slave or free person of Color to set type or perform any other labor about a printing-office requiring a knowledge of reading or writing. During the same year an ordinance was passed in the city of Savannah, "that if any person shall teach or cause to be taught any slave or free person of color to read or write within the city, or who shall keep a school for that purpose, he or she shall be fined in a sum not exceeding $100 for each and every such offense; and if the offender be a slave or free person of color, he or she may also be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes."

In the summer of 1850 a series of articles by Mr. F. C. Adams appeared in one of the papers of Savannah, advocating the education of the Negroes as a means of increasing their value and[Pg 159] of attaching them to their masters. The subject was afterward taken up in the Agricultural Convention which met at Macon in September of the same year. The matter was again brought up in September, 1851, in the Agricultural Convention, and after being debated, a resolution was passed that a petition be presented to the Legislature for a law granting permission to educate the slaves. The petition was presented to the Legislature, and Mr. Harlston introduced a bill in the winter of 1852, which was discussed and passed in the lower House, to repeal the old law, and to grant to the masters the privilege of educating their slaves. The bill was lost in the senate by two or three votes.[60]


school laws contain the word "white" from beginning to end. There is no prohibition against the education of Colored persons; but there being no mention of them, is evidence that they were purposely omitted. Separate schools were established for Colored children before the war, and a few white schools opened their doors to them. The Free Mission Institute at Quincy was destroyed by a mob from Missouri in ante-bellum days, because Colored persons were admitted to the classes.


denied the right of suffrage to her Negro population in the constitution of 1851. No provision was made for the education of the Negro children. And the cruelty of the laws that drove the Negro from the State, and pursued him while in it, gave the poor people no hope of peaceful habitation, much less of education.


never put herself on record against the education of Negroes. By an act passed in 1830, all the inhabitants of each school district were taxed to support a common-school system. The property of Colored persons was included, but they could not vote or enjoy the privileges of the schools. And the slave laws were so numerous and cruel that there was no opportunity left the bondmen in this State to acquire any knowledge of books even secretly.[Pg 160]


passed an act in 1830, forbidding free Negroes to enter the State. It provided also, that whoever should "write, print, publish, or distribute any thing having a tendency to produce discontent among the free colored population, or insubordination among the slaves," should, on conviction thereof, be imprisoned "at hard labor for life, or suffer death, at the discretion of the court." And whoever used language calculated to produce discontent among the free or slave population, or was "instrumental in bringing into the State any paper, book, or pamphlet having such tendency," was to "suffer imprisonment at hard labor, not less than three years nor more than twenty-one years, or death, at the discretion of the court." "All persons," continues the act, "who shall teach, or permit, or cause to be taught, any slave to read or write, shall be imprisoned not less than one month nor more than twelve months."

In 1847, a system of common schools for "the education of white youth was established." It was provided that "one mill on the dollar, upon the ad valorem amount of the general list of taxable property," should be levied for the support of the schools.


gave the elective franchise and ample school privileges to all her citizens, without regard to race or color, by her constitution of 1820.


always restricted the right of suffrage to her "white male inhabitants," and, therefore, always refused to make any provisions for the education of her Negro population. There is nothing upon her statute-books prohibiting the instruction of Negroes, but the law that designates her schools for "white children" is sufficient proof that Negro children were purposely omitted and excluded from the benefits of the schools.

St. Frances Academy for Colored girls was founded in connection with the Oblate Sisters of Providence Convent, in Baltimore, June 5, 1829, under the hearty approbation of the Most Rev. James Whitfield, D.D., the Archbishop of Baltimore at that time, and receiving the sanction of the Holy See, October 2, 1831. The convent originated with the French Fathers, who came to Baltimore from San Domingo as refugees, in the time of the[Pg 161] revolution in that island in the latter years of last century. There were many Colored Catholic refugees who came to Baltimore during that period, and the French Fathers soon opened schools there for the benefit of the refugees and other Colored people. The Colored women who formed the original society which founded the convent and seminary, were from San Domingo; though they had, some of them, certainly, been educated in France. The schools which preceded the organization of the convent were greatly favored by. Most Rev. Ambrose Marechal, D.D., who was a French Father, and Archbishop of Baltimore from 1817 to 1828, Archbishop Whitfield being his successor. The Sisters of Providence is the name of a religious society of Colored women who renounced the world to consecrate themselves to the Christian education of Colored girls. The following extract from the announcement which, under the caption of "Prospectus of a School for Colored Girls under the Direction of the Sisters of Providence," appeared in the columns of the "Daily National Intelligencer," October 25, 1831, shows the spirit in which the school originated, and at the same time shadows forth the predominating ideas pertaining to the province of the race at that period.

The prospectus says:

"The object of this institute is one of great importance, greater, indeed, than might at first appear to those who would only glance at the advantages which it is calculated to directly impart to the leading portion of the human race, and through it to society at large. In fact, these girls will either become mothers of families or household servants. In the first case the solid virtues, the religious and moral principles which they may have acquired in this school will be carefully transferred as a legacy to their children. Instances of the happy influence which the example of virtuous parents has on the remotest lineage in this humble and naturally dutiful class of society are numerous. As to such as are to be employed as servants, they will be intrusted with domestic concerns and the care of young children. How important, then, it will be that these girls shall have imbibed religious principles, and have been trained up in habits of modesty, honesty, and integrity."[61]

The Wells School, established by a Colored man by the name of Nelson Wells, in 1835, gave instruction to free children of[Pg 162] color. It was managed by a board of trustees who applied the income of $7,000 (the amount left by Mr. Wells) to the support of the school. It accomplished much good.


A separate school for Colored children was established in Boston, in 1798, and was held in the house of a reputable Colored man named Primus Hall. The teacher was one Elisha Sylvester, whose salary was paid by the parents of the children whom he taught. In 1800 sixty-six Colored citizens presented a petition to the School Committee of Boston, praying that a school might be established for their benefit. A sub-committee, to whom the petition had been referred, reported in favor of granting the prayer, but it was voted down at the next town meeting. However, the school taught by Mr. Sylvester did not perish. Two young gentlemen from Harvard University, Messrs. Brown and Williams, continued the school until 1806. During this year the Colored Baptists built a church edifice in Belknap Street, and fitted up the lower room for a school for Colored children. From the house of Primus Hall the little school was moved to its new quarters in the Belknap Street church. Here it was continued until 1835, when a school-house for Colored children was erected and paid for out of a fund left for the purpose by Abiel Smith, and was subsequently called "Smith School-house." The authorities of Boston were induced to give $200.00 as an annual appropriation, and the parents of the children in attendance paid 12½ cents per week. The school-house was dedicated with appropriate exercises, Hon. William Minot delivering the dedicatory address.

The African school in Belknap Street was under the control of the school committee from 1812 to 1821, and from 1821 was under the charge of a special sub-committee. Among the teachers was John B. Russworm, from 1821 to 1824, who entered Bowdoin College in the latter year, and afterward became governor of the colony of Cape Palmas in Southern Liberia.

The first primary school for Colored children in Boston was established in 1820, two or three of which were subsequently kept until 1855, when they were discontinued as separate schools, in accordance with the general law passed by the Legislature in[Pg 163] that year, which provided that, "in determining the qualifications of scholars to be admitted into any public school, or any district school in this commonwealth, no distinction shall be made on account of the race, color, or religious opinions of the applicant or scholar." "Any child, who, on account of his race, color, or religious opinions should be excluded from any public or district school, if otherwise qualified," might recover damages in an action of tort, brought in the name of the child in any court of competent jurisdiction, against the city or town in which the school was located.[62]


passed an act in 1823 providing against the meeting together of slaves, free Negroes, or Mulattoes above the number of five. They were not allowed to meet at any public house in the night; or at any house, for teaching, reading, or writing, in the day or night. The penalty for the violation of this law was whipping, "not exceeding thirty-nine" lashes.

In 1831 an act was passed making it "unlawful for any slave, free negro, or mulatto to preach the Gospel," upon pain of receiving thirty-nine lashes upon the naked back of the presumptuous preacher. If a Negro received written permission from his master he might preach to the Negroes in his immediate neighborhood, providing six respectable white men, owners of slaves, were present.

In 1846, and again in 1848, school laws were enacted, but in both instances schools and education were prescribed for "white youth between the ages of six and twenty years."


ordered all free persons of color to move out of the State in 1845. In 1847 an act was passed providing that "no person shall keep or teach any school for the instruction of negroes or mulattoes in reading or writing in this State."


had the courage and patriotism, in 1777, to extend the right of suffrage to every male inhabitant of full age. But by the revised constitution, in 1821, this liberal provision was abridged so that[Pg 164] "no man of color, unless he shall have been for three years a citizen of this State, and for one year next preceding any election, shall be seized and possessed of a freehold estate of $250 over and above all debts and encumbrances charged thereon, and shall have been actually rated and paid a tax thereon, shall be entitled to vote at any such election. And no person of color shall be subject to direct taxation unless he shall be seized and possessed of such real estate as aforesaid." In 1846, and again in 1850, a Constitutional amendment conferring equal privileges upon the Negroes, was voted down by large majorities.

A school for Negro slaves was opened in the city of New York in 1704 by Elias Neau, a native of France, and a catechist of the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." After a long imprisonment for his public profession of faith as a Protestant, he founded an asylum in New York. His sympathies were awakened by the condition of the Negroes in slavery in that city, who numbered about 1,500 at that time. The difficulties of holding any intercourse with them seemed almost insurmountable. At first he could only visit them from house to house, after his day's toil was over; afterward he was permitted to gather them together in a room in his own house for a short time in the evening. As the result of his instructions at the end of four years, in 1708, the ordinary number under his instruction was 200. Many were judged worthy to receive the sacrament at the hands of Mr. Vesey, the rector of Trinity Church, some of whom became regular and devout communicants, remarkable for their orderly and blameless lives.

But soon after this time some Negroes of the Carmantee and Pappa tribes formed a plot for setting fire to the city and murdering the English on a certain night. The work was commenced but checked, and after a short struggle the English subdued the Negroes. Immediately a loud and angry clamor arose against Elias Neau, his accusers saying that his school was the cause of the murderous attempt. He denied the charge in vain; and so furious were the people that, for a time, his life was in danger. The evidence, however, at the trial proved that the Negroes most deeply engaged in this plot were those whose masters were most opposed to any means for their instruction. Yet the offence of a few was charged upon the race, and even the provincial government lent its authority to make the burden of Neau the heavier. The common council passed an order forbidding[Pg 165] Negroes "to appear in the streets after sunset, without lanthorns or candles"; and as they could not procure these, the result was to break up the labors of Neau. But at this juncture Governor Hunter interposed, and went to visit the school of Neau, accompanied by several officers of rank and by the society's missionaries, and he was so well pleased that he gave his full approval to the work, and in a public proclamation called upon the clergy of the province to exhort their congregations to extend their approval also. Vesey, the good rector of Trinity Church, had long watched the labors of Neau and witnessed the progress of his scholars, as well as assisted him in them; and finally the governor, the council, mayor, recorder, and two chief justices of New York joined in declaring that Neau "in a very eminent degree deserved the countenance, favor, and protection of the society." He therefore continued his labors until 1722, when, "amid the unaffected sorrow of his negro scholars and the friends who honored him for their sake, he was removed by death."

The work was then continued by "Huddlestone, then schoolmaster in New York"; and he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Wetmore, who removed in 1726 to Rye; whereupon the Rev. Mr. Colgan was appointed to assist the rector of Trinity Church, and to carry on the instruction of the Negroes. A few years afterward Thomas Noxon assisted Mr. Colgan, and their joint success was very satisfactory. Rev. R. Charlton, who had been engaged in similar labor at New Windsor, was called to New York in 1732, where he followed up the work successfully for fifteen years, and was succeeded by Rev. Samuel Auchmuty. Upon the death of Thomas Noxon, in 1741, Mr. Hildreth took his place, who, in 1764, wrote that "not a single black admitted by him to the holy communion had turned out badly, or in any way disgraced his profession." Both Auchmuty and Hildreth received valuable support from Mr. Barclay, who, upon the death of Mr. Vesey, in 1746, had been appointed to the rectory of Trinity Church.

The frequent kidnapping of free persons of color excited public alarm and resulted in the formation of "The New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting such of them as have been or may be Liberated." These are the names of the gentlemen who organized the society, and became the board of trustees of the "New York African Free School":[Pg 166]

Melancthon Smith, Jno. Bleeker, James Cogswell, Lawrence Embree, Thomas Burling, Willett Leaman, Jno. Lawrence, Jacob Leaman, White Mattock, Mathew Clarkson, Nathaniel Lawrence, Jno. Murray, Jr.

Their school, located in Cliff Street, between Beekman and Ferry, was opened in 1786, taught by Cornelius Davis, attended by about forty pupils of both sexes, and appears, from their book of minutes, to have been satisfactorily conducted. In the year 1791 a female teacher was added to instruct the girls in needle-work, the expected advantages of which measure were soon realized and highly gratifying to the society. In 1808 the society was incorporated, and in the preamble it is recorded that "a free school for the education of such persons as have been liberated from bondage, that they may hereafter become useful members of the community," has been established. It may be proper here to remark that the good cause in which the friends of this school were engaged, was far from being a popular one. The prejudices of a large portion of the community were against it; the means in the hands of the trustees were often very inadequate, and many seasons of discouragement were witnessed; but they were met by men who, trusting in the Divine support, were resolved neither to relax their exertions nor to retire from the field.

Through the space of about twenty years they struggled on; the number of scholars varying from forty to sixty, until the year 1809, when the Lancasterian, or monitorial, system of instruction was introduced (this being the second school in the United States to adopt the plan), under a new teacher, E. J. Cox, and a very favorable change was produced, the number of pupils, and the efficiency of their instruction being largely increased.

Soon after this, however, in January, 1814, their school-house was destroyed by fire, which checked the progress of the school for a time, as no room could be obtained large enough to accommodate the whole number of pupils. A small room in Doyer Street was temporarily hired, to keep the school together till further arrangements could be made, and an appeal was made to the liberality of the citizens and to the corporation of the city, which resulted in obtaining from the latter a grant of two lots of ground in William. Street, on which to build a new school-house; and in January, 1815, a commodious brick building, to accommodate[Pg 167] 200 pupils, was finished on this lot, and the school was resumed with fresh vigor and increasing interest. In a few months the room became so crowded that it was found necessary to engage a separate room, next to the school, to accommodate such of the pupils as were to be taught sewing. This branch had been for many years discontinued, but was now resumed under the direction of Miss Lucy Turpen, a young lady whose amiable disposition and faithful discharge of her duties rendered her greatly esteemed both by her pupils and the trustees. This young lady, after serving the board for several years, removed with her parents to Ohio, and her place was supplied by Miss Mary Lincrum, who was succeeded by Miss Eliza J. Cox, and the latter by Miss Mary Ann Cox, and she by Miss Carolina Roe, under each of whom the school continued to sustain a high character for order and usefulness.

The school in William Street increasing in numbers, another building was found necessary, and was built on a lot of ground 50 by 100 feet square, on Mulberry Street, between Grand and Hester streets, to accommodate five hundred pupils, and was completed and occupied, with C. C. Andrews for teacher, in May, 1820.

General Lafayette visited this school September 10, 1824, an abridged account of which is copied from the "Commercial Advertiser" of that date:

Visit of Lafayette to the African School in 1824.

"At 1 o'clock the general, with the company invited for the occasion, visited the African free school, on Mulberry Street. This school embraces about 500 scholars; about 450 were present on this occasion, and they are certainly the best disciplined and most interesting school of children we have ever witnessed. As the general was conducted to a seat, Mr. Ketchum adverted to the fact that as long ago as 1788 the general had been elected a member of the institution (Manumission Society) at the same time with Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson, of England. The general perfectly remembered the circumstances, and mentioned particularly the letter he had received on that occasion from the Hon. John Jay, then president of the society. One of the pupils, Master James M. Smith, aged eleven years, then stepped forward and gracefully delivered the following address:

"'General Lafayette: In behalf of myself and fellow-schoolmates may I be permitted to express our sincere and respectful gratitude[Pg 168] to you for the condescension you have manifested this day in visiting this institution, which is one of the noblest specimens of New York philanthropy. Here, sir, you behold hundreds of the poor children of Africa sharing with those of a lighter hue in the blessings of education; and while it will be our pleasure to remember the great deeds you have done for America, it will be our delight also to cherish the memory of General Lafayette as a friend to African emancipation, and as a member of this institution.'

"To which the general replied, in his own characteristic style, 'I thank you, my dear child.'

"Several of the pupils underwent short examinations, and one of them explained the use of the globes and answered many questions in geography."

Public Schools for Colored Children.

These schools continued to flourish under the same management, and with an attendance varying from 600 in 1824 to 862 in 1832, in the latter part of which year the Manumission Society, whose schools were not in part supported by the public fund, applied to the Public School Society for a committee of conference to effect a union. It was felt by the trustees that on many accounts it was better that the two sets of schools should remain separate, but, fearing further diversion of the school fund, it was desirable that the number of societies participating should be as small as possible, and arrangements were accordingly made for a transfer of the schools and property of the elder society. After some delay, in consequence of legislative action being found necessary to give a title to their real estate, on the 2d of May, 1834, the transfer was effected, all their schools and school property passing into the hands of the New York Public School Society, at an appraised valuation of $12,130.22.

The aggregate register of these schools at the time of the transfer was nearly 1,400, with an average attendance of about one half that number. They were placed in charge of a committee with powers similar to the committee on primary schools, but their administration was not satisfactory, and it was soon found that the schools had greatly diminished in numbers, efficiency, and usefulness. A committee of inquiry was appointed, and reported that, in consequence of the great anti-slavery riots and attacks on Colored people, many families had removed from the city, and of those that remained many kept their children at home; they knew the Manumission Society as their special friends,[Pg 169] but knew nothing of the Public School Society; the reduction of all the schools but one to the grade of primary had given great offence; also the discharge of teachers long employed, and the discontinuance of rewards, and taking home of spelling books; strong prejudices had grown up against the Public School Society. The committee recommended a prompt assimilation of the Colored schools to the white; the establishment of two or more upper schools in a new building; a normal school for Colored monitors; and the appointment of a Colored man as school agent, at $150 a year. The school on Mulberry Street at this time, 1835, was designated Colored Grammar School No. 1. A. Libolt was principal, and registered 317 pupils; there were also six primaries, located in different parts of the city, with an aggregate attendance of 925 pupils.

In 1836 a new school building was completed in Laurens Street, opened with 210 pupils, R. F. Wake (colored), principal, and was designated Colored Grammar School No. 2. Other means were taken to improve the schools, and to induce the Colored people to patronize them; the principal of No. 1, Mr. Libolt, was replaced by Mr. John Peterson, colored, a sufficient assurance of whose ability and success we have in the fact that he has been continued in the position ever since. A "Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children" was organized, and established two additional schools, one in Thomas Street, and one in Centre, and a marked improvement was manifest; but it required a long time to restore the confidence and interest felt before the transfer, and even up to 1848 the aggregate attendance in all the Colored schools was only 1,375 pupils.

In the winter of 1852 the first evening schools for Colored pupils were opened; one for males and one for females, and were attended by 379 pupils. In the year 1853 the Colored schools, with all the schools and school property of the Public School Society, were transferred to the "Board of Education of the City and County of New York," and still further improvements were made in them; a normal school for Colored teachers was established, with Mr. John Peterson, principal, and the schools were graded in the same manner as those for white children. Colored Grammar School No. 3, was opened at 78 West Fortieth Street, Miss Caroline W. Simpson, principal, and in the ensuing year three others were added; No. 4 in One Hundred and Twentieth Street (Harlem), Miss Nancy Thompson, principal;[Pg 170] No. 5, at 101 Hudson Street, P. W. Williams, principal; and No. 6, at 1,167 Broadway, Prince Leveridge, principal. Grammar Schools Nos. 2, 3, and 4, had primary departments attached, and there were also at this time three separate primary schools, and the aggregate attendance in all was 2,047. Since then the attendance in these schools has not varied much from these figures. The schools themselves have been altered and modified from time to time, as their necessity seemed to indicate; though under the general management of the Board of Education, they have been in the care of the school officers of the wards in which they are located, and while in some cases they received the proper attention, in others they were either wholly, or in part, neglected. A recent act has placed them directly in charge of the Board of Education, who have appointed a special committee to look after their interests, and measures are being taken by them which will give this class of schools every opportunity and convenience possessed by any other, and, it is hoped, will also improve the grade of its scholarship.[63]


suffered her free persons of color to maintain schools until 1835, when they were abolished by law. During the period referred to, the Colored schools were taught by white teachers, but after 1835 the few teachers who taught Colored children in private houses were Colored persons. The public-school system of North Carolina provided that no descendant from Negro ancestors, to the fourth generation inclusive, should enjoy the benefit thereof.


The first schools for Colored children in Ohio were established at Cincinnati in 1820, by Colored men. These schools were not kept up regularly. A white gentleman named Wing, who taught a night school near the corner of Vine and Sixth Streets, admitted Colored pupils into his school. Owen T. B. Nickens, a public-spirited and intelligent Colored man, did much to establish schools for the Colored people.

In 1835 a school for Colored children was opened in the Baptist Church on Western Row. It was taught at different periods by Messrs. Barbour, E. Fairchild, W. Robinson, and Augustus[Pg 171] Wattles; and by the following-named ladies: Misses Bishop, Matthews, Lowe, and Mrs. Merrell. Although excellent teachers as well as upright ladies and gentlemen, they were subjected to great persecutions. They were unable to secure board, because the spirit of the whites would not countenance the teachers of Negro schools, and they spelled the word with two g's. And at times the teachers were compelled to close the school on account of the violence of the populace. The salaries of the teachers were paid partly by an educational society of white philanthropists, and partly by such Colored persons as had means. Of the latter class were John Woodson, John Liverpool, Baker Jones, Dinnis Hill, Joseph Fowler, and William O'Hara.

In 1844, the Rev. Hiram S. Gilmore, founded the "Cincinnati High School" for Colored youth. Mr. Gilmore was a man rich in sentiments of humanity, and endowed plenteously with executive ability and this world's goods. All these he consecrated to the elevation and education of the Colored people.

This school-house was located at the east end of Harrison Street, and was in every sense a model building, comprising five rooms, a chapel, a gymnasium, and spacious grounds. The pupils increased yearly, and the character of the school made many friends for the cause. The following persons taught in this school: Joseph H. Moore, Thomas L. Boucher, David P. Lowe, Dr. A. L. Childs, and W. F. Colburn. Dr. Childs became principal of the school in 1848.

In 1849, the Legislature passed an act establishing schools for Colored children, to be maintained at the public expense. In 1850, a board of Colored trustees was elected, teachers employed, and buildings hired. The schools were put in operation. The law of 1849 provided that so much of the funds belonging to the city of Cincinnati as would fall to the Colored youth, by a per capita division, should be held subject to the order of the Colored trustees. But their order was not honored by the city treasurer, upon the ground that under the constitution of the State only electors could hold office; that Colored men were not electors, and, therefore, could not hold office. After three months the Colored schools were closed, and the teachers went out without their salaries.

John I. Gaines, an intelligent and fearless Colored leader, made a statement of the case to a public meeting of the Colored people of Cincinnati, and urged the employment of counsel[Pg 172] to try the case in the courts. Money was raised, and Flamen Ball, Sr., was secured to make an application for mandamus. The case was finally carried to the Supreme Court and won by the Colored people.

In 1851, the schools were opened again; but the rooms were small and wretchedly appointed, and the trustees unable to provide better ones. Without notice the Colored trustees were deposed. The management of the Colored schools was vested in a board of trustees and school visitors, who were also in charge of the schools for the white children. This board, under a new law, had authority to appoint six Colored men who were to manage the Colored schools with the exception of the school fund. This greatly angered the leading Colored men, and, therefore, they refused to endorse this new management.

The law was altered in 1856, giving the Colored people the right to elect, by ballot, their own trustees.

In 1858, Nicholas Longworth built the first school-house for the Colored people, and gave them the building on a lease of fourteen years, in which time they were to pay for it—$14,000. In 1859, a large building was erected on Court Street.

Oberlin College opened its doors to Colored students from the moment of its existence in 1833, and they have never been closed at any time since. It was here that the incomparable Finney, with the fierceness of John Baptist, the gentleness of John the Evangelist, the logic of Paul, and the eloquence of Isaiah, pleaded the cause of the American slave, and gave instruction to all who sat at his feet regardless of color or race. George B. Vashon, William Howard Day, John Mercer Langston, and many other Colored men graduated from Oberlin College before any of the other leading colleges of the country had consented to give Colored men a classical education.


Anthony Benezet established, in 1750, the first school for Colored people in this State, and taught it himself without money and without price. He solicited funds for the erection of a school-house for the Colored children, and of their intellectual capacities said: "I can with truth and sincerity declare that I have found among the negroes as great variety of talents as among a like number of whites, and I am bold to assert that[Pg 173] the notion entertained by some, that the blacks are inferior in their capacity, is a vulgar prejudice, founded on the pride or ignorance of their lordly masters, who have kept their slaves at such a distance as to be unable to form a right judgment of them."

He died on the 3d of May, 1784, universally beloved and sincerely mourned, especially by the Negro population of Pennsylvania, for whose education he had done so much. The following clause in his will illustrates his character in respect to public instruction:

"I give my above said house and lot, or ground-rent proceeding from it, and the rest and residue of my estate which shall remain undisposed of after my wife's decease, both real and personal, to the public school of Philadelphia, founded by charter, and to their successors forever, in trust, that they shall sell my house and lot on perpetual ground-rent forever, if the same be not already sold by my executors, as before mentioned, and that as speedily as may be they receive and take as much of my personal estate as may be remaining, and therewith purchase a yearly ground-rent, or ground-rents, and with the income of such ground-rent proceeding from the sale of my real estate, hire and employ a religious-minded person, or persons, to teach a number of negro, mulatto, or Indian children to read, write, arithmetic, plain accounts, needle-work, etc. And it is my particular desire, founded on the experience I have had in that service, that in the choice of such tutors, special care may be had to prefer an industrious, careful person of true piety, who may be or become suitably qualified, who would undertake the service from a principle of charity, to one more highly learned, not equally disposed; this I desire may be carefully attended to, sensible that from the number of pupils of all ages, the irregularity of attendance their situation subjects them to will not admit of that particular inspection in their improvement usual in other schools, but that the real well-doing of the scholars will very much depend upon the master making a special conscience of doing his duty; and shall likewise defray such other necessary expense as may occur in that service; and as the said remaining income of my estate, after my wife's decease, will not be sufficient to defray the whole expense necessary for the support of such a school, it is my request that the overseers of the said public school shall join in the care and expense of such school, or schools, for the education of negro, mulatto, or Indian children, with any committee which may be appointed by the monthly meetings of Friends in Philadelphia, or with any other body of benevolent persons who may join in raising money and employing it for the education and[Pg 174] care of such children; my desire being that as such a school is now set up, it may be forever maintained in this city."

Just before his death he addressed the following note to the "overseers of the school for the instruction of the black people."

"My friend, Joseph Clark, having frequently observed to me his desire, in case of my inability of continuing the care of the negro school, of succeeding me in that service, notwithstanding he now has a more advantageous school, by the desire of doing good to the black people makes him overlook these pecuniary advantages, I much wish the overseers of the school would take his desires under their peculiar notice and give him such due encouragement as may be proper, it being a matter of the greatest consequence to that school that the master be a person who makes it a principle to do his duty."

The noble friends were early in the field as the champions of education for the Negroes. It was Anthony Benezet, who, on the 26th of January, 1770, secured the appointment of a committee by the monthly meeting of the Friends, "to consider on the instruction of negro and mulatto children in reading, writing, and other useful learning suitable to their capacity and circumstances." On the 30th of May, 1770, a special committee of Friends sought to employ an instructor "to teach, not more at one time than thirty children, in the first rudiments of school learning and in sewing and knitting." Moles Paterson was first employed at a salary of £80 a year, and an additional sum of £11 for one half of the rent of his dwelling-house. Instruction was free to the poor; but those who were able to pay were required to do so "at the rate of 10s. a quarter for those who write, and 7s. 6d. for others."

In 1784, William Waring was placed in charge of the larger children, at a salary of £100; and Sarah Dougherty, of the younger children and girls, in teaching spelling, reading, sewing, etc., at a salary of £50. In 1787, aid was received from David Barclay, of London, in behalf of a committee for managing a donation for the relief of Friends in America; and the sum of £500 was thus obtained, which, with the fund derived from the estate of Benezet, and £300 from Thomas Shirley, a Colored man, was appropriated to the erection of a school-house. In 1819 a committee of "women Friends," to have exclusive charge of the[Pg 175] admission of girls and the general superintendence of the girls' school, was associated with the overseers in the charge of the school. In 1830, in order to relieve the day school of some of the male adults who had been in the habit of attending, an evening school for the purpose of instructing such persons gratuitously was opened, and has been continued to the present time. In 1844, a lot was secured on Locust Street, extending along Shield's Alley, now Aurora Street, on which a new house was erected in 1847, the expense of which was paid for in part from the proceeds of the sale of a lot bequeathed by John Pemberton. Additional accommodations were made to this building, from time to time, as room was demanded by new classes of pupils.

In 1849, a statistical return of the condition of the people of color in the city and districts of Philadelphia shows that there were then one grammar school, with 463 pupils; two public primary schools, with 339; and an infant school, under the charge of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, of 70 pupils, in Clifton Street: a ragged and a moral-reform school, with 81 pupils. In West Philadelphia there was also a public school, with 67 pupils; and, in all, there were about 20 private schools, with 300 pupils; making an aggregate of more than 1,300 children receiving an education.

In 1859, according to Bacon's "Statistics of the Colored People of Philadelphia," there were 1,031 Colored children in public schools, 748 in charity schools of various kinds, 211 in benevolent and reformatory schools, and 331 in private schools, making an aggregate of 2,321 pupils; besides four evening schools, one for adult males, one for females, and one for young apprentices. There were 19 Sunday-schools connected with the congregations of the Colored people, and conducted by their own teachers, containing 1,667 pupils, and four Sunday-schools gathered as mission schools by members of white congregations, with 215 pupils. There was also a "Public Library and Reading-room" connected with the "Institute for Colored Youth," established in 1853, having about 1,300 volumes; besides three other small libraries in different parts of the city. The same pamphlet shows that there were 1,700 of the Colored population engaged in different trades and occupations, representing every department of industry.[64][Pg 176]

In 1794, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society established a school for children of the people of color, and in 1809 erected a school building at a cost of four thousand dollars, which they designated as "Clarkson Hall," in 1815. In 1813, a board of education was organized consisting of thirteen persons, with a visiting committee of three, whose duty it was to visit the schools once each week. In 1818, the school board, in their report, speak very kindly and encouragingly of the Clarkson Schools, which, they say, "furnish a decided refutation of the charge that the mental endowments of the descendants of Africa are inferior to those possessed by their white brethren. We can assert, without fear of contradiction, that the pupils of this seminary will sustain a fair comparison with those of any other institution in which the same elementary branches are taught."

In 1820, an effort was made to have the authorities of the white schools provide for the education of the Colored children as well as the whites, because the laws of the State required the education of all the youth. The comptrollers of the public schools confessed that the law provided for the education of "poor and indigent children," and that it extended to those of persons of color. Accordingly, in 1822, a school for the education of indigent persons of color of both sexes, was opened in Lombard Street, Philadelphia. In 1841, a primary school was opened in the same building. In 1833, the "Unclassified School" in Coates Street, and at frequent intervals after this several schools of the same grade, were started in West Philadelphia.

In 1837, by the will of Richard Humphreys, who died in 1832, an "Institute for Colored Youth" was started. The sum of ten thousand dollars was devised to certain trustees who were to pay it over to some society that might be disposed to establish a school for the education of the "descendants of the African race in school learning in the various branches of the mechanic arts and trade, and in agriculture." Thirty members of the society of Friends formed themselves into an association for the purpose of carrying out the wishes and plans of Mr. Humphreys. In the preamble of the constitution they adopted, their ideas and plans were thus set forth:

"We believe that the most successful method of elevating the moral and intellectual character of the descendants of Africa, as well as of improving their social condition, is to extend to them the benefits[Pg 177] of a good education, and to instruct them in the knowledge of some useful trade or business, whereby they may be enabled to obtain a comfortable livelihood by their own industry; and through these means to prepare them for fulfilling the various duties of domestic and social life with reputation and fidelity, as good citizens and pious men."

In order to carry out the feature of agricultural and mechanic arts, the association purchased a farm in Bristol township, Philadelphia County, in 1839, where boys of the Colored race were taught farming, shoemaking, and other useful trades. The incorporation of the institution was secured in 1842, and in 1844 another friend dying—Jonathan Zane—added a handsome sum to the treasury, which, with several small legacies, made $18,000 for this enterprise. But in 1846 the work came to a standstill; the farm with its equipments was sold, and for six years very little was done, except through a night school.

In 1851, a lot for a school building was purchased on Lombard Street, and a building erected, and the school opened in the autumn of 1852, for boys, under the care of Charles L. Reason, an accomplished young Colored teacher from New York. A girls' school was opened the same year, and, under Mr. Reason's excellent instruction, many worthy and competent teachers and leaders of the Negro race came forth.

Avery College, at Allegheny City, was founded by the Rev. Charles Avery, a native of New York, but for the greater part of a long and useful life adorned by the noblest virtues, a resident of Pennsylvania. By will he left $300,000 for the christianization of the African race; $150,000 to be used in Africa, and $150,000 in America. He left $25,000 as an endowment fund for Avery College.

At a stated meeting during the session of the Presbytery at New Castle, Pa., October 5, 1853, it was resolved that "there shall be established within our bounds, and under our supervision, an institution, to be called the Ashum Institute, for the scientific, classical, and theological education of colored youth of the male sex."

Accordingly, J. M. Dickey, A. Hamilton, R. P. Dubois, ministers; and Samuel J. Dickey and John M. Kelton, ruling elders, were appointed a committee to perfect the idea. They were to solicit and receive funds, secure a charter from the State of Pennsylvania, and erect suitable buildings for the institute. On[Pg 178] the 14th of November, 1853, they purchased thirty acres of land at the cost of $1,250. At the session of the Legislature in 1854, a charter was granted establishing "at or near a place called Hinsonville, in the county of Chester, an institution of learning for the scientific, classical, and theological education of colored youth of the male sex, by the name and style of Ashum Institute." The trustees were John M. Dickey, Alfred Hamilton, Robert P. Dubois, James Latta, John B. Spottswood, James M. Crowell, Samuel J. Dickey, John M. Kelton, and William Wilson.

By the provisions of the charter the trustees were empowered "to procure the endowment of the institute, not exceeding the sum of $100,000; to confer such literary degrees and academic honors as are usually granted by colleges"; and it was required that "the institute shall be open to the admission of colored pupils of the male sex, of all religious denominations, who exhibit a fair moral character, and are willing to yield a ready obedience to the general regulations prescribed for the conduct of the pupils and the government of the institute."

The institute was formally dedicated on the 31st of December, 1856. It is now known as Lincoln University.


conferred the right of elective franchise upon her Colored citizens by her constitution in 1843, and ever since equal privileges have been afforded them. In 1828 the Colored people of Providence petitioned for a separate school, but it was finally abolished by an act of the Legislature.


took the lead in legislating against the instruction of the Colored race, as she subsequently took the lead in seceding from the Union. In 1740, while yet a British province, the Legislature passed the following law:

"Whereas the having of slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with inconveniences, Be it enacted, That all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach, or cause any slave or slaves to be taught, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe in any manner of writing whatever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall for every such offense forfeit the sum of £100 current money."

[Pg 179]

In 1800 the State Assembly passed an act, embracing free Colored people as well as slaves in its shameful provisions, enacting "that assemblies of slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, and mestizoes, whether composed of all or any such description of persons, or of all or any of the same and a proportion of white persons, met together for the purpose of mental instruction in a confined or secret place, or with the gates or doors of such place barred, bolted, or locked, so as to prevent the free ingress to and from the same," are declared to be unlawful meetings; the officers dispersing such unlawful assemblages being authorized to "inflict such corporal punishment, not exceeding twenty lashes, upon such slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, and mestizoes, as they may judge necessary for deterring them from the like unlawful assemblage in future." Another section of the same act declares, "that it shall not be lawful for any number of slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, or mestizoes, even in company with white persons, to meet together and assemble for the purpose of mental instruction or religious worship before the rising of the sun or after the going down of the same." This section was so oppressive, that in 1803, in answer to petitions from certain religious societies, an amending act was passed forbidding any person before 9 o'clock in the evening "to break into a place of meeting wherever shall be assembled the members of any religious society of the State, provided a majority of them shall be white persons, or other to disturb their devotions unless a warrant has been procured from a magistrate, if at the time of the meeting there should be a magistrate within three miles of the place; if not, the act of 1800 is to remain in full force."

On the 17th of December, 1834, definite action was taken against the education of free Colored persons as well as slaves. The first section is given:

"Section 1. If any person shall hereafter teach any slave to read or write, or shall aid or assist in teaching any slave to read or write, or cause or procure any slave to be taught to read or write, such person, if a free white person, upon conviction thereof shall, for each and every offense against, this act, be fined not exceeding $100 and imprisonment not more than six months; or, if a free person of color, shall be whipped not exceeding fifty lashes, and fined not exceeding $50, at the discretion of the court of magistrates and freeholders before which such free person of color is tried; and if a slave, to be whipped, at the discretion of the court, not exceeding[Pg 180] fifty lashes, the informer to be entitled to one-half the fine and to be a competent witness. And if any free person of color or slave shall keep any school or other place of instruction for teaching any slave or free person of color to read or write, such free person of color or slave shall be liable to the same fine, imprisonment, and corporal punishment as by this act are imposed and inflicted on free persons of color and slaves for teaching slaves to write."

The second section forbids, under pain of severe penalties, the employment of any Colored persons as "clerks or salesmen in or about any shop, store, or house used for trading."


passed a law in 1838 establishing a system of common schools by which the scholars were designated as "white children over the age of six years and under sixteen." In 1840 an act was passed in which no discrimination against color appeared. It simply provided that "all children between the ages of six and twenty-one years shall have the privilege of attending the public schools." And while there was never afterward any law prohibiting the education of Colored children, the schools were used exclusively by the whites.


never put any legislation on her statute-books withholding the blessings of the schools from the Negro, for the reason, doubtless, that she banished all free persons of color, and worked her slaves so hard that they had no hunger for books when night came.


under Sir William Berkeley, was not a strong patron of education for the masses. For the slave there was little opportunity to learn, as he was only allowed part of Saturday to rest, and kept under the closest surveillance on the Sabbath day. The free persons of color were regarded with suspicion, and little chance was given them to cultivate their minds.

On the 2d of March, 1819, an act was passed prohibiting "all meetings or assemblages of slaves, or free negroes, or mulattoes, mixing and associating with such slaves, at any meeting-house or houses, or any other place or places, in the night, or at any school or schools for teaching them reading and writing[Pg 181] either in the day or night." But notwithstanding this law, schools for free persons of color were kept up until the Nat. Turner insurrection in 1831, when, on the 7th of April following, the subjoined act was passed:

"Sec. 4. And be it enacted, That all meetings of free negroes or mulattoes at any school-house, church, meeting-house, or other place, for teaching them reading or writing, either in the day or night, under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered an unlawful assembly; and any justice of the county or corporation wherein such assemblage shall be, either from his own knowledge, or on the information of others of such unlawful assemblage or meeting, shall issue his warrant directed to any sworn officer or officers, authorizing him or them to enter the house or houses where such unlawful assemblage or meeting may be, for the purpose of apprehending or dispersing such free negroes or mulattoes, and to inflict corporal punishment on the offender or offenders, at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding 26 lashes.

"Sec. 5. And be it enacted, That if any person or persons assemble with free negroes or mulattoes at any school-house, church, meeting-house, or other place, for the purpose of instructing such free negroes or mulattoes to read or write, such persons or persons shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in a sum not exceeding $50, and, moreover, may be imprisoned, at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding two months.

"Sec. 6. And be it enacted, That if any white person, for pay or compensation, shall assemble with any slaves for the purpose of teaching, and shall teach any slave to read or write, such person, or any white person or persons contracting with such teacher so to act, who shall offend as aforesaid, shall, for each offense, be fined, at the discretion of a jury, in a sum not less than $10, nor exceeding $100, to be recovered on an information or indictment."

This law was rigidly enforced, and in 1851, Mrs. Margaret Douglass, a white lady from South Carolina, was cast into the Norfolk jail for violating its provisions.

West Virginia was not admitted into the Union until 1863. Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey did not prohibit the education of their Colored children.


presents a more pleasing and instructive field for the examination of the curious student of history.[Pg 182]

In 1807, the first school-house for the use of Colored pupils was erected in Washington, D. C., by three Colored men, named George Bell, Nicholas Franklin, and Moses Liverpool. Not one of this trio of Negro educators knew a letter of the alphabet; but having lived as slaves in Virginia, they had learned to appreciate the opinion that learning was of great price. They secured a white teacher, named Lowe, and put their school in operation.

At this time the entire population of free persons amounted to 494 souls. After a brief period the school subsided, but was reorganized again in 1818. The announcement of the opening of the school was printed in the "National Intelligencer" on the 29th of August, 1818.

"A School,

Founded by an association of free people of color, of the city of Washington, called the 'Resolute Beneficial Society,' situate near the Eastern Public School and the dwelling of Mrs. Fenwick, is now open for the reception of children of free people of color and others, that ladies or gentlemen may think proper to send to be instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, or other branches of education apposite to their capacities, by a steady, active, and experienced teacher, whose attention is wholly devoted to the purposes described. It is presumed that free colored families will embrace the advantages thus presented to them, either by subscribing to the funds of the society, or by sending their children to the school. An improvement of the intellect and morals of colored youth being the objects of this institution, the patronage of benevolent ladies, and gentlemen, by donation or subscription, is humbly solicited in aid of the fund, the demands thereon being heavy and the means at present much too limited. For the satisfaction of the public, the constitution and articles of association are printed and published. And to avoid disagreeable occurrences, no writings are to be done by the teacher for a slave, neither directly nor indirectly, to serve the purpose of a slave on any account whatever. Further particulars may be known by applying to any of the undersigned officers.

"William Costin, President.
"George Hicks, Vice-President.
"James Harris, Secretary.
"George Bell, Treasurer.
"Archibald Johnson, Marshal.
"Fred. Lewis, Chairman of the Committee.
"Isaac Johnson,  } Committee.
"Scipio Beens,     }

[Pg 183]

"N. B.—An evening school will commence on the premises on the first Monday of October, and continue throughout the season.

" The managers of Sunday-schools in the eastern district are thus most dutifully informed that on Sabbath-days the school-house belonging to this society, if required for the tuition of colored youth, will be uniformly at their service.

August 29, 3t."

This school was first taught by a Mr. Pierpont, of Massachusetts, a relative of the poet, and after several years was succeeded by a Colored man named John Adams, the first teacher of his race in the District of Columbia. The average attendance of this school was about sixty-five or seventy.


The third school for Colored children in Washington was established by Mr. Henry Potter, an Englishman, who opened his school about 1809, in a brick building which then stood on the southeast corner of F and Seventh streets, opposite the block where the post-office building now stands. He continued there for several years and had a large school, moving subsequently to what was then known as Clark's Row on Thirteenth Street, west, between G and H streets, north.


During this period Mrs. Anne Maria Hall started a school on Capitol Hill, between the old Capitol and Carroll Row, on First Street, east. After continuing there with a full school for some ten years, she moved to a building which stood on what is now the vacant portion of the Casparis House lot on A Street, close to the Capitol. Some years later she went to the First Bethel Church, and after a year or two she moved to a house still standing on E Street, north, between Eleventh and Twelfth, west, and there taught many years. She was a Colored woman from Prince George's County, Maryland, and had a respectable education, which she obtained at schools with white children in Alexandria. Her husband died early, leaving her with children to support, and she betook herself to the work of a teacher, which she loved, and in which, for not less than twenty-five years, she met with uniform success. Her schools were all quite large, and the many who remember her as their teacher speak of her with great respect.[Pg 184]


Of the early teachers of Colored schools in this district there is no one whose name is mentioned with more gratitude and respect by the intelligent Colored residents than that of Mrs. Mary Billing, who established the first Colored school that was gathered in Georgetown. She was an English woman; her husband, Joseph Billing, a cabinet-maker, coming from England in 1800, settled with his family that year in Washington, and dying in 1807, left his wife with three children. She was well educated, a capable and good woman, and immediately commenced teaching to support her family. At first, it is believed, she was connected with the Corporation School of Georgetown. It was while in a white school certainly that her attention was arrested by the wants of the Colored children, whom she was accustomed to receive into her schools, till the opposition became so marked that she decided to make her school exclusively Colored. She was a woman of strong religious convictions, and being English, with none of the ideas peculiar to slave society, when she saw the peculiar destitution of the Colored children in the community around her, she resolved to give her life to the class who seemed most to need her services. She established a Colored school about 1810, in a brick house still standing on Dunbarton Street, opposite the Methodist church, between Congress and High streets, remaining there till the winter of 1820-'21, when she came to Washington and opened a school in the house on H Street, near the Foundry Church, then owned by Daniel Jones, a Colored man, and still owned and occupied by a member of that family. She died in 1826, in the fiftieth year of her age. She continued her school till failing health, a year or so before her death, compelled its relinquishment. Her school was always large, it being patronized in Georgetown as well as afterward by the best Colored families of Washington, many of whom sent their children to her from Capitol Hill and the vicinity of the Navy Yard. Most of the better-educated Colored men and women now living, who were school children in her time, received the best portion of their education from her, and they all speak of her with a deep and tender sense of obligation. Henry Potter succeeded her in the Georgetown school, and after him Mr. Shay, an Englishman, who subsequently came to Washington and for many years had a large Colored school in a brick building known as the Round Tops, in the western part of the[Pg 185] city, near the Circle, and still later removing to the old Western Academy building, corner of I and Seventeenth streets. He was there till about 1830, when he was convicted of assisting a slave to his freedom, and sent a term to the penitentiary. Mrs. Billing had a night school in which she was greatly assisted by Mr. Monroe, a government clerk and a Presbyterian elder, whose devout and benevolent character is still remembered in the churches. Mrs. Billing had scholars from Bladensburg and the surrounding country, who came into Georgetown and boarded with her and with others. About the time when Mrs. Billing relinquished her school in 1822 or 1823, what may be properly called


was built by Henry Smothers on the corner of Fourteenth and H streets, not far from the Treasury building. Smothers had a small dwelling-house on this corner, and built his school-house on the rear of the same lot. He had been long a pupil of Mrs. Billing, and had subsequently taught a school on Washington Street, opposite the Union Hotel in Georgetown. He opened his school in Washington in the old corporation school-house, built in 1806, but some years before this period abandoned as a public school-house. It was known as the Western Academy, and is still standing and used as a school-house on the corner of I and Nineteenth streets, west. When his school-house on Fourteenth and H streets was finished, his school went into the new quarters. This school was very large, numbering always more than a hundred and often as high as a hundred and fifty scholars. He taught here about two years, and was succeeded by John W. Prout about the year 1825. Prout was a man of ability. In 1831, May 4, there was a meeting, says the "National Intelligencer" of that date, of "the colored citizens, large and very respectable, in the African Methodist Episcopal Church," to consider the question of emigrating to Liberia. John W. Prout was chosen to preside over the assemblage, and the article in the "Intelligencer" represents him as making "a speech of decided force and well adapted to the occasion, in support of a set of resolutions which he had drafted, and which set forth views adverse to leaving the soil that had given them birth, their true and veritable home, without the benefits of education." The school under Prout was governed by a board of trustees and was organized as[Pg 186]


and so continued two or three years. The number of scholars was very large, averaging a hundred and fifty. Mrs. Anne Maria Hall was the assistant teacher. It relied mainly for support upon subscription, twelve and a half cents a month only being expected from each pupil, and this amount was not compulsory. The school was free to all Colored children, without money or price, and so continued two or three years, when failing of voluntary pecuniary support (it never wanted scholars), it became a regular tuition school. The school under Mr. Prout was called the "Columbian Institute," the name being suggested by John McLeod, the famous Irish school-master, who was a warm friend of this institution after visiting and commending the scholars and teachers, and who named his new building, in 1835, the Columbian Academy. The days of thick darkness to the Colored people were approaching. The Nat. Turner insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia, which occurred in August, 1831, spread terror everywhere in slave communities. In this district, immediately upon that terrible occurrence, the Colored children, who had in very large numbers been received into the Sabbath-schools in the white churches, were all turned out of those schools. This event, though seeming to be a fiery affliction, proved a blessing in disguise. It aroused the energies of the Colored people, taught them self-reliance, and they organized forthwith Sabbath-schools of their own. It was in the Smothers school-house that they formed their first Sunday-school, about the year 1832, and here they continued their very large school for several years, the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church ultimately springing from the school organization. It is important to state in this connection that


always an extremely important means of education for Colored people in the days of slavery, was emphatically so in the gloomy times now upon them. It was the Sabbath-school that taught the great mass of the free people of color about all the school knowledge that was allowed them in those days, and hence the consternation which came upon them when they found themselves excluded from the schools of the white churches. Lindsay Muse, who has been the messenger for eighteen Secretaries[Pg 187] of the Navy, successively, during fifty-four years, from 1828 to the present time, John Brown, Benjamin M. McCoy, Mr. Smallwood, Mrs. Charlotte Norris, afterward wife of Rev. Eli Nugent, and Siby McCoy, are the only survivors of the resolute little band of Colored men and women who gathered with and guided that Sunday-school. They had, in the successor of Mr. Prout, a man after their own heart,


who came into charge of this school in August, 1834, about eight years after his aunt, Alethia Tanner, had purchased his freedom. He learned the shoemaker's trade in his boyhood, and worked diligently, after the purchase of his freedom, to make some return to his aunt for the purchase-money. About the time of his becoming of age, he dislocated his shoulder, which compelled him to seek other employment, and in 1831, the year of his majority, he obtained the place of assistant messenger in the Land Office. Hon. John Wilson, now Third Auditor of the Treasury, was the messenger, and was Cook's firm friend till the day of his death. Cook had been a short time at school under the instruction of Smothers and Prout, but when he entered the Land Office his education was at most only the ability to stumble along a little in a primary reading-book. He, however, now gave himself in all his leisure moments, early and late, to study. Mr. Wilson remembers his indefatigable application, and affirms that it was a matter of astonishment at the time, and that he has seen nothing in all his observations to surpass and scarcely to equal it. He was soon able to write a good hand, and was employed with his pen in clerical work by the sanction of the commissioner, Elisha Hayward, who was much attached to him. Cook was now beginning to look forward to the life of a teacher, which, with the ministry, was the only work not menial in its nature then open to an educated Colored man. At the end of three years he resigned his place in the Land Office, and entered upon the work which he laid down only with his life. It was then that he gave himself wholly to study and the business of education, working with all his might; his school numbering quite a hundred scholars in the winter and a hundred and fifty in the summer. He had been in his work one year when the storm which had been, for some years, under the discussion of the slavery question, gathering over the country at large, burst upon this district.[Pg 188]


or "Snow storm," as it has been commonly called, which occurred in September, 1835, is an event that stands vividly in the memory of all Colored people who lived in this community at that time. Benjamin Snow, a smart Colored man, keeping a restaurant on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, was reported to have made some remark of a bravado kind derogatory to the wives of white mechanics; whereupon this class, or those assuming to represent them, made a descent upon his establishment, destroying all his effects. Snow himself, who denied using the offensive language, with difficulty escaped unharmed, through the management of white friends, taking refuge in Canada, where he still resides. The military was promptly called to the rescue, at the head of which was General Walter Jones, the eminent lawyer, who characterized the rioters, greatly to their indignation, as "a set of ragamuffins," and his action was thoroughly sanctioned by the city authorities.

At the same time, also, there was a fierce excitement among the mechanics at the Navy Yard, growing out of the fact that a large quantity of copper bolts being missed from the yard and found to have been carried out in the dinner-pails by the hands, the commandant had forbid eating dinners in the yard. This order was interpreted as an insult to the white mechanics, and threats were made of an assault on the yard, which was put in a thorough state of defence by the commandant. The rioters swept through the city, ransacking the houses of the prominent Colored men and women, ostensibly in search of anti-slavery papers and documents, the most of the gang impelled undoubtedly by hostility to the Negro race and by motives of plunder. Nearly all the Colored school-houses were partially demolished and the furniture totally destroyed, and in several cases they were completely ruined. Some private houses were also torn down or burnt. The Colored schools were nearly all broken up, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the Colored churches were saved from destruction, as their Sabbath-schools were regarded, and correctly regarded, as the means through which the Colored people, at that time, procured much of their education.

The rioters sought, especially, for John F. Cook, who, however, had seasonably taken from the stable the horse of his friend, Mr. Hayward, the Commissioner of the Land Office, an anti-slavery man, and fled precipitately from the city. They[Pg 189] marched to his school-house, destroyed all the books and furniture, and partially destroyed the building. Mrs. Smothers, who owned both the school-house and the dwelling adjoining the lots, was sick in her house at the time, but an alderman, Mr. Edward Dyer, with great courage and nobleness of spirit, stood between the house and the mob for her protection, declaring that he would defend her house from molestation with all the means he could command. They left the house unharmed, and it is still standing on the premises. Mr. Cook went to Columbia, Pennsylvania, opened a school there, and did not venture back to his home till the autumn of 1836. At the time the riot broke out, General Jackson was absent in Virginia. He returned in the midst of the tumult, and immediately issuing orders in his bold, uncompromising manner to the authorities to see the laws respected at all events, the violence was promptly subdued. It was, nevertheless, a very dark time for the Colored people. The timid class did not for a year or two dare to send their children to school, and the whole mass of the Colored people dwelt in fear day and night. In August, 1836, Mr. Cook returned from Pennsylvania and reopened his school, which under him had, in 1834, received the name of


During his year's absence he was in charge of a free Colored public school in Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which he surrendered to the care of Benjamin M. McCoy when he came back to his home, Mr. McCoy going there to fill out his engagement.

He resumed his work with broad and elevated ideas of his business. This is clearly seen in the plan of his institution, embraced in the printed annual announcements and programmes of his annual exhibitions, copies of which have been preserved. The course of study embraced three years, and there was a male and a female department, Miss Catharine Costin at one period being in charge of the female department. Mr. Seaton, of the "National Intelligencer," among other leading and enlightened citizens and public men, used to visit his school from year to year, and watch its admirable working with deep and lively interest. Cook was at this period not only watching over his very large school, ranging from 100 to 150 or more pupils, but was active in the formation of the "First Colored Presbyterian[Pg 190] Church of Washington," which was organized in November, 1841, by Rev. John C. Smith, D.D., and worshipped in this school-house. He was now also giving deep study to the preparation for the ministry, upon which, in fact, as a licentiate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he had already in some degree entered. At a regular meeting of "The presbytery of the District of Columbia," held in Alexandria, May 3, 1842, this church, now commonly called the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, was formally received under the care of that presbytery, the first and still the only Colored Presbyterian church in the district. Mr. Cook was elected the first pastor July 13, 1843, and preached his trial sermon before ordination on the evening of that day in the Fourth Presbyterian Church (Dr. J. C. Smith's) in the city, in the presence of a large congregation. This sermon is remembered as a manly production, delivered with great dignity and force, and deeply imbued with the spirit of his work. He was ordained in the Fifteenth Street Church the next evening, and continued to serve the church with eminent success till his death in 1855. Rev. John C. Smith, D.D., who had preached his ordination sermon, and been his devoted friend and counsellor for nearly twenty years, preached his funeral sermon, selecting as his text, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." There were present white as well as Colored clergymen of no less than five denominations, many of the oldest and most respectable citizens, and a vast concourse of all classes white and Colored. "The Fifteenth Street Church," in the words of Dr. Smith in relation to them and their first pastor, "is now a large and flourishing congregation of spiritually-minded people. They have been educated in the truth and the principles of our holy religion, and in the new, present state of things the men of this church are trusted, relied on as those who fear God and keep His commandments. The church is the monument to John F. Cook, the first pastor, who was faithful in all his house, a workman who labored night and day for years, and has entered into his reward. 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.' 'They rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.'"

In 1841, when he entered, in a preliminary and informal way, upon the pastorate of the Fifteenth Street Church, he seems to have attempted to turn his seminary into a high school, limited to twenty-five or thirty pupils, exclusively for the more advanced scholars of both sexes; and his plan of studies to that end, as[Pg 191] seen in his prospectus, evinces broad and elevated views—a desire to aid in lifting his race to higher things in education than they had yet attempted. His plans were not put into execution, in the matter of a high school, being frustrated by the circumstances that there were so few good schools in the city for the Colored people, at that period, that his old patrons would not allow him to shut off the multitude of primary scholars which were depending upon his school. His seminary, however, continued to maintain its high standard, and had an average attendance of quite 100 year after year, till he surrendered up his work in death.

He raised up a large family and educated them well. The oldest of the sons, John and George, were educated at Oberlin College. The other three, being young, were in school when the father died. John and George, it will be seen, succeeded their father as teachers, continuing in the business down to the present year. Of the two daughters, the elder was a teacher till married in 1866, and the other is now a teacher in the public schools of the city. One son served through the war as sergeant in the Fortieth Colored Regiment, and another served in the navy.

At the death of the father, March 21, 1855, the school fell into the hands of the son, John F. Cook, who continued it till May, 1857, when it passed to a younger son, George F. T. Cook, who moved it from its old home, the Smothers House, to the basement of the Presbyterian Church, in the spring of 1858, and maintained it till July, 1859. John F. Cook, jr., who had erected a new school-house on Sixteenth Street, in 1862, again gathered the school which the tempests of the war had dispersed, and continued it till June, 1867, when the new order of things had opened ample school facilities throughout the city, and the teacher was called to other duties. Thus ended the school which had been first gathered by Smothers nearly forty-five years before, and which, in that long period, had been continually maintained with seldom less than one hundred pupils, and for the most part with one hundred and fifty, the only suspensions being in the year of the Snow riot, and in the two years which ushered in the war.

The Smothers House, after the Cook school was removed in 1858, was occupied for two years by a free Catholic school, supported by "The St. Vincent de Paul Society," a benevolent[Pg 192] organization of Colored people. It was a very large school with two departments, the boys under David Brown, and the girls under Eliza Anne Cook, and averaging over one hundred and fifty scholars. When this school was transferred to another house, Rev. Chauncey Leonard, a Colored Baptist clergyman, now pastor of a church in Washington, and Nannie Waugh opened a school there, in 1861, that became as large as that which had preceded it in the same place. This school was broken up in 1862 by the destruction of the building at the hands of the incendiaries, who, even at that time, were inspired with all their accustomed vindictiveness toward the Colored people. But this was their last heathenish jubilee, and from the ashes of many burnings imperishable liberty has sprung forth.

About the time that Smothers built his school-house, in 1823,


was established in her father's house on Capitol Hill, on A Street, south, under the shadow of the Capitol. This Costin family came from Mount Vernon immediately after the death of Martha Washington, in 1802. The father, William Costin, who died suddenly in his bed, May 31, 1842, was for twenty-four years messenger for the Bank of Washington in this city. His death was noticed at length in the columns of the "National Intelligencer" in more than one communication at the time. The obituary notice, written under the suggestions of the bank officers who had previously passed a resolution expressing their respect for his memory, and appropriating fifty dollars toward the funeral expenses, says: "It is due to the deceased to say that his colored skin covered a benevolent heart"; concluding with this language:

"The deceased raised respectably a large family of children of his own, and, in the exercise of the purest benevolence, took into his family and supported four orphan children. The tears of the orphan will moisten his grave, and his memory will be dear to all those—a numerous class—who have experienced his kindness"; and adding these lines:

"Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part—there all the honor lies."

John Quincy Adams, also, a few days afterward, in a discussion of the wrongs of slavery, alluded to the deceased in these[Pg 193] words, "The late William Costin, though he was not white, was as much respected as any man in the district, and the large concourse of citizens that attended his remains to the grave, as well white as black, was an evidence of the manner in which he was estimated by the citizens of Washington." His portrait, taken by the direction of the bank authorities, still hangs in the directors' room, and it may also be seen in the houses of more than one of the old and prominent residents of the city.

William Costin's mother, Ann Dandridge, was the daughter of a half-breed (Indian and Colored), her grandfather being a Cherokee chief, and her reputed father was the father of Martha Dandridge, afterward Mrs. Custis, who, in 1759, was married to General Washington. These daughters, Ann and Martha, grew up together on the ancestral plantations. William Costin's reputed father was white, and belonged to a prominent family in Virginia, but the mother, after his birth, married one of the Mount Vernon slaves by the name of Costin, and the son took the name of William Costin. His mother, being of Indian descent made him, under the laws of Virginia, a free-born man. In 1800 he married Philadelphia Judge (his cousin), one of Martha Washington's slaves, at Mount Vernon, where both were born in 1780. The wife was given by Martha Washington at her decease to her granddaughter, Eliza Parke Custis, who was the wife of Thomas Law, of Washington. Soon after William Costin and his wife came to Washington, the wife's freedom was secured on kind and easy terms, and the children were all born free. This is the account which William Costin and his wife and his mother, Ann Dandridge, always gave of their ancestry, and they were persons of great precision in all matters of family history, as well as of the most marked scrupulousness in their statements. Their seven children, five daughters and two sons, went to school with the white children on Capitol Hill, to Mrs. Maria Haley and other teachers. The two younger daughters, Martha and Frances, finished their education at the Colored convent in Baltimore. Louisa Parke and Ann had passed their school days before the convent was founded. Louisa Parke Costin opened her school at nineteen years of age, continuing it with much success till her sudden death in 1831, the year in which her mother also died. When Martha returned from the convent seminary, a year or so later, she reopened the school, continuing it till about 1839. This school, which was maintained some fifteen years, was[Pg 194] always very full. The three surviving sister own and reside in the house which their father built about 1812. One of these sisters married Richard Henry Fisk, a Colored man of good education, who died in California, and she now has charge of the Senate ladies' reception-room. Ann Costin was for several years in the family of Major Lewis (at Woodlawn, Mount Vernon), the nephew of Washington. Mrs. Lewis (Eleanor Custis) was the granddaughter of Martha Washington. This school was not molested by the mob of 1835, and it was always under the care of a well-bred and well-educated teacher.


While Martha Costin was teaching, James Enoch Ambush, a Colored man, had also a large school in the basement of the Israel Bethel Church, on Capitol Hill, for a while, commencing there in April, 1833, and continuing in various places till 1843, when he built a school-house on E Street, south, near Tenth, island, and established what was known as "The Wesleyan Seminary," and which was successfully maintained for thirty-two years, till the close of August, 1865. The school-house still stands, a comfortable one-story wooden structure, with the sign "Wesleyan Seminary" over the door, as it has been there for twenty-five years. This was the only Colored school on the island of any account for many years, and in its humble way it accomplished a great amount of good. For some years Mr. Ambush had given much study to botanic medicine, and since closing his school he has become a botanic physician. He is a man of fine sense, and without school advantages, has acquired a respectable education.


The first seminary in the District of Columbia for Colored girls was established in Georgetown, in 1827, under the special auspices of Father Vanlomen, a benevolent and devout Catholic priest, then pastor of the Holy Trinity Church, who not only gave this interesting enterprise his hand and his heart, but for several years himself taught a school of Colored boys three days in a week, near the Georgetown college gate, in a small frame house, which was afterward famous as the residence of the broken-hearted widow of Commodore Decatur. This female seminary was under the care of Maria Becraft, who was the most[Pg 195] remarkable Colored young woman of her time in the district, and, perhaps, of any time. Her father, William Becraft, born while his mother, a free woman, was the housekeeper of Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, always had the kindest attentions of this great man, and there are now pictures, more than a century and a half old, and other valuable relics from the Carroll family in the possession of the Becraft family, in Georgetown, which Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, in his last days presented to William Becraft as family keepsakes. William Becraft lived in Georgetown sixty-four years, coming there when eighteen years of age. He was for many years chief steward of Union Hotel, and a remarkable man, respected and honored by everybody. When he died, the press of the district noticed, in a most prominent manner, his life and character. From one of the extended obituary notices, marked with heavy black lines, the following paragraph is copied:

"He was among the last surviving representatives of the old school of well-bred, confidential, and intelligent domestics, and was widely known at home and abroad from his connection, in the capacity of steward for a long series of years, and probably from its origin, and until a recent date, with the Union Hotel, Georgetown, with whose guests, for successive generations, his benevolent and venerable aspect, dignified and obliging manners, and moral excellence, rendered him a general favorite."

Maria Becraft was marked, from her childhood, for her uncommon intelligence and refinement, and for her extraordinary piety. She was born in 1805, and first went to school for a year to Henry Potter, in Washington, about 1812; afterward attending Mrs. Billing's school constantly till 1820. She then, at the age of fifteen, opened a school for girls in Dunbarton Street, in Georgetown, and gave herself to the work, which she loved, with the greatest assiduity, and with uniform success. In 1827, when she was twenty-two years of age, her remarkable beauty and elevation of character so much impressed Father Vanlomen, the good priest, that he took it in hand to give her a higher style of school in which to work for her sex and race, to the education of which she had now fully consecrated herself. Her school was accordingly transferred to a larger building, which still stands on Fayette Street, opposite the convent, and there she opened a boarding and day school for Colored girls, which she[Pg 196] continued with great success till August, 1831, when she surrendered her little seminary into the care of one of the girls that she had trained, and in October of that year joined the convent at Baltimore as a Sister of Providence, where she was the leading teacher till she died, in December, 1833, a great loss to that young institution, which was contemplating this noble young woman as its future Mother Superior. Her seminary in Georgetown averaged from thirty to thirty-five pupils, and there are those living who remember the troop of girls, dressed uniformly, which was wont to follow in procession their pious and refined teacher to devotions on the Sabbath at Holy Trinity Church. The school comprised girls from the best Colored families of Georgetown, Washington, Alexandria, and surrounding country. The sisters of the Georgetown convent were the admirers of Miss Becraft, gave her instruction, and extended to her most heartfelt aid and approbation in all her noble work, as they were in those days wont to do in behalf of the aspiring Colored girls who sought for education, withholding themselves from such work only when a depraved and degenerate public sentiment upon the subject of educating the Colored people had compelled them to a more rigid line of demarcation between the races. Ellen Simonds and others conducted the school a few years, but with the loss of its original teacher it began to fail, and finally became extinct. Maria Becraft is remembered, wherever she was known, as a woman of the rarest sweetness and exaltation of Christian life, graceful and attractive in person and manners, gifted, well-educated, and wholly devoted to doing good. Her name as a Sister of Providence was Sister Aloyons.


for Colored girls was initiated in Washington. This philanthropic woman was born in Brookfield, Madison County, New York, in 1815. Her parents were farmers, with small resources for the support of a large family. The children were obliged to work, and the small advantages of a common school were all the educational privileges furnished to them. Hop-raising was a feature in their farming, and this daughter was accustomed to work in the autumn, picking the hops. She was of a delicate physical organization, and suffered exceedingly all her life with spinal troubles. Being a girl of extraordinary intellectual activity, her place at home chafed her spirit. She was restless, dissatisfied[Pg 197] with her lot, looked higher than her father, dissented from his ideas of woman's education, and, in her desperation, when about twenty-three years old, wrote to Mr. Seward, then recently elected Governor of her State, asking him if he could show her how it was possible for a woman in her circumstances to become a scholar; receiving from him the reply that he could not, but hoped a better day was coming, wherein woman might have a chance to be and to do to the extent of her abilities. Hearing at this time of a school at Clinton, Oneida County, New York, for young women, on the manual-labor system, she decided to go there; but her health being such as to make manual labor impossible at the time, she wrote to the principal of the Clover Street Seminary, Rochester, New York, who generously received her, taking her notes for the school bills, to be paid after completing her education. Grateful for this noble act, she afterward sent her younger sister there to be educated, for her own associate as a teacher; and the death of this talented sister, when about to graduate and come as her assistant in Washington, fell upon her with crushing force. In the Rochester school, with Myrtilla Miner, were two free Colored girls, and this association was the first circumstance to turn her thoughts to the work to which she gave her life. From Rochester she went to Mississippi, as a teacher of planters' daughters, and it was what she was compelled to see, in this situation, of the dreadful practices and conditions of slavery, that filled her soul with a pity for the Colored race, and a detestation of the system that bound them, which held possession of her to the last day of her life. She remained there several years, till her indignant utterances, which she would not withhold, compelled her employer, fearful of the results, to part reluctantly with a teacher whom he valued. She came home broken down with sickness, caused by the harassing sights and sounds that she had witnessed in plantation life, and while in this condition she made a solemn vow that whatever of life remained to her should be given to the work of ameliorating the condition of the Colored people. Here her great work begins. She made up her mind to do something for the education of free Colored girls, with the idea that through the influence of educated Colored women she could lay the solid foundations for the disenthrallment of their race. She selected the district for the field of her efforts, because it was the common property of the nation, and because the laws of the district[Pg 198] gave her the right to educate free Colored children, and she attempted to teach none others. She opened her plan to many of the leading friends of freedom, in an extensive correspondence, but found especially, at this time, a wise and warm encourager and counsellor in her scheme, in William R. Smith, a Friend, of Farmington, near Rochester, New York, in whose family she was now a private teacher. Her correspondents generally gave her but little encouragement, but wished her God-speed in what she should dare in the good cause. One Friend wrote her from Philadelphia; entering warmly into her scheme, but advised her to wait till funds could be collected. "I do not want the wealth of Crœsus," was her reply; and the Friend sent her $100, and with this capital, in the autumn of 1851, she came to Washington to establish a Normal School for the education of Colored girls, having associated with her Miss Anna Inman, an accomplished and benevolent lady of the Society of Friends, from Southfield, Rhode Island, who, however, after teaching a class of Colored girls in French, in the house of Jonathan Jones, on the island, through the winter, returned to New England. In the autumn of 1851 Miss Miner commenced her remarkable work here in a small room, about fourteen feet square, in the frame house then, as now, owned and occupied by Edward C. Younger, a Colored man, as his dwelling, on Eleventh Street, near New York Avenue. With but two or three girls to open the school, she soon had a roomful, and to secure larger accommodation, moved, after a couple of months, to a house on F Street, north, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets, west, near the houses then occupied by William T. Carroll and Charles H. Winder. This house furnished her a very comfortable room for her school, which was composed of well-behaved girls from the best Colored families of the district. The persecution of those neighbors, however, compelled her to leave, as the Colored family who occupied the house was threatened with conflagration, and after one month her little school found a more unmolested home in the dwelling-house of a German family on K Street, near the western market. After tarrying a few months here, she moved to L Street, into a room in the building known, as "The Two Sisters," then occupied by a white family. She now saw that the success of her school demanded a school-house, and in reconnoitring the ground she found a spot suiting her ideas as to size and locality, with a[Pg 199] house on it, and in the market at a low price. She raised the money, secured the spot, and thither, in the summer of 1851, she moved her school, where for seven years she was destined to prosecute, with the most unparalleled energy and conspicuous success, her remarkable enterprise. This lot, comprising an entire square of three acres, between Nineteenth and Twentieth streets, west, N and O streets, north, and New Hampshire Avenue, selected under the guidance of Miss Miner, the contract being perfected through the agency of Sayles J. Bowen, Thomas Williamson, and Allen M. Gangewer, was originally conveyed in trust to Thomas Williamson and Samuel Rhodes, of the Society of Friends, in Philadelphia. It was purchased of the executors of the will of John Taylor, for $4,000, the deed being executed June 8, 1853, the estimated value of the property now being not less than $30,000. The money was mainly contributed by Friends, in Philadelphia, New York, and New England. Catharine Morris, a Friend, of Philadelphia, was a liberal benefactor of the enterprise, advancing Miss Miner $2,000, with which to complete the purchase of the lot, the most, if not all, of which sum, it is believed, she ultimately gave to the institution; and Harriet Beecher Stowe was another generous friend, who gave her money and her heart to the support of the brave woman who had been willing to go forth alone at the call of duty. Mr. Rhodes, some years editor of the "Friends' Quarterly Review," died several years ago, near Philadelphia. Mr. Williamson, a conveyancer in that city, and father of Passmore Williamson, is still living, but some years ago declined the place of trustee. The board, at the date of the act of incorporation, consisted of Benjamin Tatham, a Friend, of New York City, Mrs. Nancy M. Johnson, of Washington, and Myrtilla Miner, and the transfer of the property to the incorporated body was made a few weeks prior to Miss Miner's death. This real estate, together with a fund of $4,000 in government stocks, is now in the hands of a corporate body, under act of Congress approved March 3, 1863, and is styled "The Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in the District of Columbia." The officers of the corporation at this time are John C. Underwood, president; Francis G. Shaw, treasurer; George E. Baker, secretary; who, with Nancy M. Johnson, S. J. Bowen, Henry Addison, and Rachel Howland, constitute the executive committee. The purpose of the purchase of this property is declared, in a paper signed by Mr.[Pg 200] Williamson and Mr. Rhodes, dated Philadelphia, June 8, 1858, to have been "especially for the education of colored girls."

This paper also declares that "the grounds were purchased at the special instance of Myrtilla Miner," and that "the contributions by which the original price of said lot, and also the cost of the subsequent improvements thereof, were procured chiefly by her instrumentality and labors." The idea of Miss Miner in planting a school here was to train up a class of Colored girls, in the midst of slave institutions, who should show forth in their culture and capabilities, to the country and to mankind, that the race was fit for something higher than the degradation which rested upon them. The amazing energy with which this frail woman prosecuted her work is well known to those who took knowledge of her career. She visited the Colored people of her district from house to house, and breathed a new life into them pertaining to the education of their daughters. Her correspondence with the philanthropic men and women of the North was immense. She importuned Congressmen, and the men who shaped public sentiment through the columns of the press, to come into her school and see her girls, and was ceaseless in her activities day and night, in every direction, to build up, in dignity and refinement, her seminary, and to force its merits upon public attention.

The buildings upon the lot when purchased—a small frame dwelling of two stories, not more than twenty-five by thirty-five feet in dimensions, with three small cabins on the other side of the premises—served for the seminary and the homes of the teacher and her assistant. The most aspiring and decently bred Colored girls of the district were gathered into the school; and the very best Colored teachers in the schools, of the district at the present time, are among those who owe their education to this self-sacrificing teacher and her school. Mrs. Means, aunt of the wife of General Pierce, then President of the United States, attracted by the enthusiasm of this wonderful person, often visited her in the midst of her work, with the kindest feelings; and the fact that the carriage from the Presidential mansion was in this way frequently seen at the door of this humble institution, did much to protect it from the hatred with which it was surrounded.

Mr. Seward and his family were very often seen at the school, both Mrs. Seward and her daughter Fanny being constant visitors;[Pg 201] the latter, a young girl at the time, often spending a whole day there. Many other Congressmen of large and generous instincts, some of them of pro-slavery party relations, went out there, all confessing their admiration of the resolute woman and her school, and this kept evil men in abeyance.

The opposition to the school throughout the district was strong and very general, among the old as well as the young. Even Walter Lenox, who, as mayor, when the school was first started, gave the teacher assurances of favor in her work, came out in 1857, following the prevailing current of depraved public sentiment and feeding its tide, in an elaborate article in the "National Intelligencer," under his own signature; assailed the school in open and direct language, urging against it that it was raising the standard of education among the Colored population, and distinctly declaring that the white population of the district would not be just to themselves to permit the continuance of an institution which had the temerity to extend to the Colored people "a degree of instruction so far beyond their social and political condition, which condition must continue," the article goes on to say, "in this and every other slave-holding community." This article, though fraught with extreme ideas, and to the last degree prescriptive and inflammatory, neither stirred any open violence, nor deterred the courageous woman in the slightest degree from her work. When madmen went to her school-room threatening her with personal violence, she laughed them to shame; and when they threatened to burn her house, she told them that they could not stop her in that way, as another house, better than the old, would immediately rise from its ashes.

The house was set on fire in the spring of 1860, when Miss Miner was asleep in the second story, alone, in the night-time, but the smell of the smoke awakened her in time to save the building and herself from the flames, which were extinguished. The school-girls, also, were constantly at the mercy of coarse and insulting boys along the streets, who would often gather in gangs before the gate to pursue and terrify these inoffensive children, who were striving to gather wisdom and understanding in their little sanctuary. The police took no cognizance of such brutality in those days. But their dauntless teacher, uncompromising, conscientious, and self-possessed in her aggressive work, in no manner turned from her course by this persecution, was, on the other hand, stimulated thereby to higher vigilance and[Pg 202] energy in her great undertaking. The course of instruction in the school was indeed of a higher order than had hitherto been opened to the Colored people of the district, as was denounced against the school by Walter Lenox, in his newspaper attack. Lectures upon scientific and literary subjects were given by professional and literary gentlemen, who were friends to the cause. The spacious grounds afforded to each pupil an ample space for a flower bed, which she was enjoined to cultivate with her own hands and to thoroughly study. And an excellent library, a collection of paintings and engravings, the leading magazines and choice newspapers, were gathered and secured for the humble home of learning, which was all the while filled with students, the most of whom were bright, ambitious girls, composing a female Colored school, which, in dignity and usefulness, has had no equal in the district since that day. It was her custom to gather in her vacations and journeys not only money, but every thing else that would be of use in her school, and in this way she not only collected books, but maps, globes, philosophical, and chemical, and mathematical apparatus, and a great variety of things to aid in her instruction in illustrating all branches of knowledge. This collection was stored in the school building during the war, and was damaged by neglect, plundered by soldiers, and what remains is not of much value. The elegant sofa-bedstead which she used during all her years in the seminary, and which would be an interesting possession for the seminary, was sold, with her other personal effects, to Dr. Carrie Brown (Mrs. Winslow), of Washington, one of her bosom friends, who stood at her pillow when she died.

Her plan embraced the erection of spacious structures, upon the site which had been most admirably chosen, complete in all their appointments for the full accommodation of a school of one hundred and fifty boarding scholars. The seminary was to be a female college, endowed with all the powers and professorships belonging to a first-class college for the other sex. She did not contemplate its springing up into such proportions, like a mushroom, in a single night, but it was her ambition that the institution should one day attain that rank. In the midst of her anxious, incessant labors, her physical system began so sensibly to fail, that in the summer of 1858, under the counsel of the friends of herself and her cause, she went North to seek health, and, as usual in all her journeys, to beg for her seminary, leaving her[Pg 203] girls in the care of Emily Howland, a noble young woman, who came down here for the love of the cause, without money and without price, from the vicinity of Auburn, New York. In the autumn, Miss Miner returned to her school; Miss Howland still continuing with her through the winter, a companion in her trials, aiding her in her duties, and consenting to take charge of the school again in the summer of 1859, while Miss Miner was on another journey for funds and health. In the autumn of that year, after returning from her journey, which was not very successful she determined to suspend the school, and to go forth into the country with a most persistent appeal for money to erect a seminary building, as she had found it impossible to get a house of any character started with the means already in her hands. She could get no woman, whom she deemed fit to take her work, willing to continue her school, and in the spring of 1860, leasing the premises, she went North on her errand. In the ensuing year she traversed many States, but the shadow of the Rebellion was on her path, and she gathered neither much money nor much strength. The war came, and in October, 1862, hoping, but vainly, for health from a sea-voyage and from the Pacific climate, she sailed from New York to California. When about to return, in 1866, with vivacity of body and spirit, she was thrown from a carriage in a fearful manner; blighting all the high hopes of resuming her school under the glowing auspices she had anticipated, as she saw the Rebellion and the hated system tumbling to pieces. She arrived in New York, in August of that year, in a most shattered condition of body, though with the fullest confidence that she should speedily be well and at her work in Washington. In the first days of December she went to Washington in a dying condition, still resolute to resume her work; was carried to the residence of her tried friend, Mrs. Nancy M. Johnson; and on the tenth of that month, surrounded by the friends who had stood with her in other days, she put off her wasted and wearied body in the city which had witnessed her trials and her triumphs, and her remains slumber in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Her seminary engaged her thoughts to the last day of her life. She said in her last hours that she had come back here to resume her work, and could not leave it thus unfinished. No marble marks the resting-place of this truly wonderful woman, but her memory is certainly held precious in the hearts of her throngs of pupils, in the hearts of the Colored people of this district, and of[Pg 204] all who took knowledge of her life, and who reverenced the cause in which she offered herself a willing sacrifice. Her assistants in the school were Helen Moore, of Washington; Margaret Clapp, Amanda Weaver, and Anna H. Searing, of New York State, and two of her pupils, Matilda Jones, of Washington, and Emma Brown, of Georgetown, both of whom subsequently, through the influence of Miss Miner and Miss Howland, finished their education at Oberlin, and have since been most superior teachers in Washington. Most of the assistant teachers from the North were from families connected with the Society of Friends, and it has been seen that the bulk of the money came from that society. The sketch would be incomplete without a special tribute to Lydia B. Mann, sister of Horace Mann, who came here in the fall of 1856, from the Colored Female Orphan Asylum of Providence, R. I., of which she was then, as she continues to be, the admirable superintendent, and, as a pure labor of love, took care of the school in the most superior manner through the autumn and winter, while Miss Miner was North recruiting her strength and pleading for contributions. It was no holiday duty to go into that school, live in that building, and work alone with head and hands, as was done by all those refined and educated women who stood from time to time in that humble, persecuted seminary. Miss Mann is gratefully remembered by her pupils here and their friends.

Mention should also be made of Emily Howland, who stood by Miss Miner in her darkest days, and whose whole heart was with her in all her work. She is a woman of the largest and most self-sacrificing purposes, who has been and still is giving her best years, all her powers, talents, learning, refinement, wealth, and personal toil, to the education and elevation of the Colored race. While here she adopted, and subsequently educated in the best manner, one of Miss Miner's pupils, and assisted several others of her smart girls in completing their education at Oberlin. During the war she was teaching contrabands in the hospital and the camp, and is now engaged in planting a colony of Colored people in Virginia with homes and a school-house of their own.

A seminary, such as was embraced in the plan of Miss Miner, is exceedingly demanded by the interest of Colored female education in the District of Columbia and the country at large, and any scheme by which the foundations that she laid so[Pg 205] well may become the seat of such a school, would be heartily approved by all enlightened friends of the Colored race. The trustees of the Miner property, not insensible of their responsibilities, have been carefully watching for the moment when action on their part would seem to be justified. They have repeatedly met in regard to the matter, but, in their counsels, hitherto, have deemed it wise to wait further developments. They are now about to hold another meeting, it is understood, and it is to be devoutly hoped that some plan will be adopted by which a school of a high order may be, in due time, opened for Colored girls in this district, who exceedingly need the refining, womanly training of such a school.

The original corporators of Miss Miner's institution were Henry Addison, John C. Underwood, George C. Abbott, William H. Channing, Nancy M. Johnson, and Myrtilla Miner. The objects, as expressed in the charter, "are to educate and improve the moral and intellectual condition of such of the colored youth of the nation as may be placed under its care and influence."


In 1830, William Wormley built a school-house for his sister Mary, near the corner of Vermont Avenue and I Street, where the restaurant establishment owned and occupied by his brother, James Wormley, now stands. He had educated his sister expressly for a teacher, at great expense, at the Colored Female Seminary in Philadelphia, then in charge of Miss Sarah Douglass, an accomplished Colored lady, who is still a teacher of note in the Philadelphia Colored High School. William Wormley was at that time a man of wealth. His livery-stable, which occupied the place where the Owen House now stands, was one of the largest and best in the city. Miss Wormley had just brought her school into full and successful operation when her health broke down, and she lived scarcely two years. Mr. Calvert, an English gentleman, still living in the first ward, taught a class of Colored scholars in this house for a time, and James Wormley was one of the class. In the autumn of 1834, William Thomas Lee opened a school in the same place, and it was in a flourishing condition in the fall of 1835, when the Snow mob dispersed it, sacking the school-house, and partially destroying it by fire. William Wormley was at that time one of the most enterprising and influential Colored men of Washington, and was the original[Pg 206] agent of the "Liberator" newspaper for this district. The mob being determined to lay hold of him and Lee, they fled from the city to save their lives, returning when General Jackson, coming back from Virginia a few days after the outbreak, gave notice that the fugitives should be protected. The persecution of William Wormley was so violent and persistent, that his health and spirits sank under its effects, his business was broken up, and he died a poor man, scarcely owning a shelter for his dying couch. The school-house was repaired after the riot, and occupied for a time by Margaret Thompson's school, and still stands in the rear of James Wormley's restaurant.


About this time another school was opened in Georgetown, by Nancy Grant, a sister of Mrs. William Becraft, a well-educated Colored woman. She was teaching as early as 1828, and had a useful school for several years. Mr. Nuthall, an Englishman, was teaching in Georgetown during this period, and as late as 1833 he went to Alexandria and opened a school in that city. William Syphax, among others now resident in Washington, attended his school in Alexandria about 1833. He was a man of ability, well educated, and one of the best teachers of his time in the district. His school in Georgetown was at first in Dunbarton Street, and afterward on Montgomery.

The old maxim, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," seems to find its illustration in this history. There is no period in the annals of the country in which the fires of persecution against the education of the Colored race burned more fiercely in this district, and the country at large, than in the five years from 1831 to 1836, and it was during this period that a larger number of respectable Colored schools were established than in any other five years prior to the war. In 1833, the same year in which Ambush's school was started, Benjamin M. McCoy, a Colored man, opened a school in the northern part of the city, on L Street, between Third and Fourth streets, west. In 1834 he moved to Massachusetts Avenue, continuing his school there till he went to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the autumn of 1836, to finish the engagement of Rev. John F. Cook, who came back to Washington at that time and re-opened his school. The school at Lancaster was a free public Colored school, and Mr. McCoy was solicited to continue another year; but declining,[Pg 207] came back, and in 1837 opened a school in the basement of Asbury Church, which, in that room and in the house adjoining, he maintained with great success for the ensuing twelve years. Mr. McCoy was a pupil of Mrs. Billing and Henry Smothers; is a man of good sense, and his school gave a respectable rudimental education to multitudes, who remember him as a teacher with great respect. He is now a messenger in the Treasury Department. In 1833, a school was established by Fanny Hampton, in the western part of the city, on the northwest corner of K and Nineteenth streets. It was a large school, and was continued till about 1842, the teacher dying soon afterward. She was half-sister of Lindsay Muse. Margaret Thompson succeeded her, and had a flourishing school of some forty scholars on Twenty-sixth Street, near the avenue, for several years, about 1846. She subsequently became the wife of Charles H. Middleton, and assisted in his school for a brief time. About 1830, Robert Brown commenced a small school, and continued it at intervals for many years till his death. As early as 1833, there was a school opened in a private house in the rear of Franklin Row, near the location of the new Franklin School building. It was taught by a white man, Mr. Talbot, and continued a year or two. Mrs. George Ford, a white teacher, a native of Virginia, kept a Colored school in a brick house still standing on New Jersey Avenue, between K and L streets. She taught there many years, and as early, perhaps, as half a century ago.


was opened, in 1836, on New York Avenue, in a school-house which stood nearly on the spot now occupied by the Richards buildings at the corner of New York Avenue and Fourteenth Street. It had been previously used for a white school, taught by Mrs. McDaniel, and was subsequently again so used. Dr. Fleet was a native of Georgetown, and was greatly assisted in his education by the late Judge James Morsell, of that city, who was not only kind to this family, but was always regarded by the Colored people of the district as their firm friend and protector. John H. Fleet, with his brothers and sisters, went to the Georgetown Lancasterian School, with the white children, for a long period, in their earlier school days, and subsequently to other white schools. He was also for a time a pupil of Smothers and Prout. He was possessed of a brilliant and strong intellect, inherited[Pg 208] from his father, who was a white man of distinguished abilities. He studied medicine in Washington, in the office of Dr. Thomas Henderson, who had resigned as assistant surgeon in the army, and was a practising physician of eminence in Washington. He also attended medical lectures at the old medical college, corner of Tenth and E streets. It was his intention at that time to go to Liberia, and his professional education was conducted under the auspices of the Colonization Society. This, with the influence of Judge Morsell, gave him privileges never extended here to any other Colored man. He decided, however, not to go to Liberia, and in 1836 opened his school. He was a refined and polished gentleman, and conceded to be the foremost Colored man in culture, in intellectual force, and general influence in this district at that time. His school-house on New York Avenue was burned by an incendiary about 1843, and his flourishing and excellent school was thus ended. For a time he subsequently taught music, in which he was very proficient; but about 1846 he opened a school on School-house Hill, in the Hobbrook Military School building, near the corner of N Street, north, and Twenty-third Street, west, and had a large school there till about 1851, when he relinquished the business, giving his attention henceforth exclusively to music, and with eminent success. He died in 1861. His school was very large and of a superior character.


was started in the same section of the city, in a school-house which then stood, near the corner of Twenty-second Street, west, and I, north, and which had been used by Henry Hardy for a white school. Though both Fleet's and Johnson's schools were in full tide of success in that vicinity, he gathered a good school, and when his two competitors retired—as they both did about this time,—his school absorbed a large portion of their patronage, and was thronged. In 1852, he went temporarily with his school to Sixteenth Street, and thence to the basement of Union Bethel Church on M Street, near Sixteenth, in which, during the administration of President Pierce, he had an exceedingly large and excellent school, at the same period when Miss Miner was prosecuting her signal work. Mr. Middleton, now a messenger in the Navy Department, a native of Savannah, Ga., is free-born, and received his very good education in schools[Pg 209] in that city, sometimes with white and sometimes with Colored children. When he commenced his school he had just returned from the Mexican war, and his enterprise is especially worthy of being made prominent, not only because of his high style as a teacher, but also because it is associated with


This movement originated with a city officer, Jesse E. Dow, who, in 1848 and 1849, was a leading and influential member of the common council. He encouraged Mr. Middleton to start his school, by assuring him that he would give all his influence to the establishment of free schools for Colored as well as for white children, and that he had great confidence that the council would be brought to give at least some encouragement to the enterprise. In 1850 Mr. Dow was named among the candidates for the mayoralty; and when his views in this regard were assailed by his opponents, he did not hesitate to boldly avow his opinions, and to declare that he wished no support for any office which demanded of him any modification of these convictions. The workmen fail, but the work succeeds. The name of Jesse E. Dow merits conspicuous record in this history for this bold and magnanimous action. Mr. Middleton received great assistance in building up his school from Rev. Mr. Wayman, then pastor of the Bethel Church, and afterward promoted to the bishopric. The school was surrendered finally to Rev. J. V. B. Morgan, the succeeding pastor of the church, who conducted the school as a part of the means of his livelihood.


In the eastern section of the city, about 1840, Alexander Cornish had a school several years in his own house on D Street, south, between Third and Fourth, east, with an average of forty scholars. He was succeeded, about 1846, by Richard Stokes, who was a native of Chester County, Pa. His school, averaging one hundred and fifty scholars, was kept in the Israel Bethel Church, near the Capitol, and was continued for about six years. In 1840, there was a school opened by Margaret Hill in Georgetown, near Miss English's seminary. She taught a very good school for several years.


was started on Ninth Street, west, near New York Avenue. Mr. Hays was born in 1802, and belonged originally to the Fowler[Pg 210] family in Maryland. When a boy he served for a time at the Washington Navy Yard, in the family of Captain Dove, of the navy, the father of Dr. Dove, of Washington, and it was in that family that he learned to read. Michael Tabbs had a school at that time at the Navy Yard, which he taught in the afternoons under a large tree, which stood near the old Masonic Hall. The Colored children used to meet him there in large numbers daily, and while attending this singular school, Hays was at the same time taught by Mrs. Dove, with her children. This was half a century ago. In 1826, Hays went to live in the family of R. S. Coxe, the eminent Washington lawyer, who soon purchased him, paying Fowler $300 for him. Mr. Coxe did this at the express solicitation of Hays, and seventeen years after he gave him his freedom—in 1843. While living with Mr. Coxe he had married Matilda Davis, the daughter of John Davis, who served as steward many years in the family of Mr. Seaton, of the "National Intelligencer." The wedding was at Mr. Seaton's residence, and Mr. Coxe and family were present on the occasion. In 1836, he bought the house and lot which they still own and occupy, and in 1842, the year before he was free, Hays made his last payment, and the place was conveyed to his wife. She was a free woman, and had opened a school in the house in 1841. Hays had many privileges while with Mr. Coxe, and with the proceeds of his wife's school they paid the purchase-money ($550) and interest in seven years. Mr. Hays was taught reading, writing, and arithmetic by Mr. Coxe, his wife, and daughters, while a slave in their family. When the Colored people were driven from the churches, in the years of the mobs, Mrs. Coxe organized a large Colored Sabbath-school in her own parlor, and maintained it for a long period, with the cooperation of Mr. Coxe and the daughters. Mr. Hays was a member of this school. He also attended day schools, when his work would allow of it. This was the education with which, in 1845, he ventured to take his wife's school in charge. He is a man of good-sense, and his school flourished. He put up an addition to his house, in order to make room for his increasing school, which was continued down to 1857—sixteen years from its opening. He had also a night school and taught music, and these two features of his school he has revived since the war. This school contained from thirty-five to forty-five pupils. Rev. Dr. Samson, Mr. Seaton, and Mr. Coxe often visited his school and[Pg 211] encouraged him in his excellent work. Thomas Tabbs used also to come into his school and give him aid and advice, as also did John McLeod.


was opened about 1854, in the building in which Middleton first taught, on I, near Twenty-second Street. Mr. Fletcher was an Englishman, a well-educated gentleman, and a thorough teacher. He was induced to open the school by the importunities of some aspiring Colored young men in that part of the city, who desired first-rate instruction. He soon became the object of persecution, though he was a man of courtesy and excellent character. His school-house was finally set on fire and consumed, with all its books and furniture; but the school took, as its asylum, the basement of the John Wesley Church. The churches which they had been forced to build in the days of the mobs, when they were driven from the white churches which they had aided in building, proved of immense service to them in their subsequent struggles. Mrs. Fletcher kept a variety store, which was destroyed about the time the school was opened. She then became an assistant in her husband's school, which numbered over one hundred and fifty pupils. In 1858, they were driven from the city, as persecution at that time was particularly violent against all white persons who instructed the Colored people. This school was conducted with great thoroughness, and had two departments, Mrs. Fletcher, who was an accomplished person, having charge of the girls in a separate room.


a niece of Rev. John F. Cook, and one of his pupils, who has been teaching for about fifteen years, should be mentioned. She attended Miss Miner's school for a time, and was afterward at the Baltimore convent two years. She opened a school in her mother's house, and subsequently built a small school-house on the same lot, Sixteenth Street, between K and L streets. With the exception of three years, during which she was teaching in the free Catholic school opened in the Smothers school-house in 1859, and one year in the female school in charge of the Colored sisters, she has maintained her own private school from 1854 down to the present time, her number at some periods being above sixty, but usually not more than twenty-five or thirty.[Pg 212]


In 1857, Annie E. Washington opened a select primary school in her mother's house, on K Street, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets, west. The mother, a widow woman, was a laundress, and by her own labor has given her children good advantages, though she had no such advantages herself. This daughter was educated chiefly under Rev. John E. Cook and Miss Miner, with whom she was a favorite scholar. Her older sister was educated at the Baltimore convent. Annie E. Washington is a woman of native refinement, and has an excellent aptitude for teaching, as well as a good education. Her schools have always been conducted with system and superior judgment, giving universal satisfaction, the number of her pupils being limited only by the size of her room. In 1858, she moved to the basement of the Baptist Church, corner of Nineteenth and I streets, to secure larger accommodations, and there she had a school of more than sixty scholars for several years.


A free school was established in 1858, and maintained by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, an association of Colored Catholics, in connection with St. Matthew's Church. It was organized under the direction of Father Walter, and kept in the Smothers school-house for two years, and was subsequently for one season maintained on a smaller scale in a house on L Street, between Twelfth and Thirteenth streets, west, till the association failed to give it the requisite pecuniary support after the war broke out. This school has already been mentioned.


In 1843, Elizabeth Smith commenced a school for small children on the island in Washington, and subsequently taught on Capitol Hill. In 1860, she was the assistant of Rev. Wm. H. Hunter, who had a large school in Zion Wesley Church, Georgetown, of which he was the pastor. She afterward took the school into her own charge for a period, and taught among the contrabands in various places during the war.

About 1850, Isabella Briscoe opened a school on Montgomery Street, near Mount Zion Church, Georgetown. She was well educated, and one of the best Colored teachers in the district before[Pg 213] the Rebellion. Her school was always well patronized, and she continued teaching in the district up to 1868.

Charlotte Beams had a large school for a number of years, as early as 1850, in a building next to Galbraith Chapel, I Street, north, between Fourth and Fifth, west. It was exclusively a girls' school in its later years. The teacher was a pupil of Enoch Ambush, who assisted her in establishing her school.

A year or two later, Rev. James Shorter had a large school in the Israel Bethel Church, and Miss Jackson taught another good school on Capitol Hill about the same time. The above-mentioned were all Colored teachers.

Among the excellent schools broken up at the opening of the war, was that of Mrs. Charlotte Gordon, Colored, on Eighth Street, in the northern section of the city. It was in successful operation several years, and the number in attendance sometimes reached one hundred and fifty. Mrs. Gordon was assisted by her daughter.

In 1841, David Brown commenced teaching on D Street, south, between First and Second streets, island, and continued in the business till 1858, at which period he was placed in charge of the large Catholic free school in the Smothers house, as has been stated.[65]

Here is a picture that every Negro in the country may contemplate with satisfaction and pride. In the stronghold of slavery, under the shadow of the legalized institution of slavery, within earshot of the slave-auctioneer's hammer, amid distressing circumstances, poverty, and proscription, three unlettered ex-slaves, upon the threshold of the nineteenth century, sowed the seed of education for the Negro race in the District of Columbia, from which an abundant harvest has been gathered, and will be gathered till the end of time!

What the Negro has done to educate himself, the trials and hateful laws that have hampered him during the long period anterior to 1860, cannot fail to awaken feelings of regret and admiration among the people of both sections and two continents.


[58] Recollections of the Anti-Slavery Conflict, by Rev. Samuel J. May.

[59] Barnard, p. 337.

[60] Barnard, p. 339.

[61] Barnard, pp. 205, 206.

[62] Barnard, p. 357.

[63] Barnard, pp. 364-366.

[64] Barnard, pp. 377, 378.

[65] Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1871.

[Pg 214]


John Brown's Appearance in Kansas.—He denounces Slavery in a Political Meeting at Osawatomie.—Mrs. Stearns's Personal Recollection of John Brown.—Kansas infested by Border Ruffians.—The Battle of Harper's Ferry.—The Defeat and Capture of Captain John Brown.—His Last Letter written to Mrs. Stearns.—His Trial and Execution.—His Influence upon the Slavery Question at the North.—His Place in History.

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ON the 9th of May, 1800, at Torrington, Connecticut, was born a man who lived for two generations, but accomplished the work of two centuries. That man was John Brown, who ranks among the world's greatest heroes. Greater than Peter the Hermit, who believed himself commissioned of God to redeem the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of infidels; greater than Joanna Southcote, who deemed herself big with the promised Shiloh; greater than Ignatius Loyola, who thought the Son of Man appeared to him, bearing His cross upon His shoulders, and bestowed upon him a Latin commission of wonderful significance; greater than Oliver Cromwell, the great Republican Protector; and greater than John Hampden,—he deserves to rank with William of Orange.

John Brown was nearly six feet high, slim, wiry, dark in complexion, sharp in feature, dark hair sprinkled with gray, eyes a dark gray and penetrating, with a countenance that betokened frankness, honesty, and firmness. His brow was prominent, the centre of the forehead flat, the upper part retreating, which, in conjunction with his slightly Roman nose, gave him an interesting appearance. The crown of his head was remarkably high, in the regions of the phrenological organs of firmness, conscientiousness, self-esteem, indicating a stern will, unswerving integrity, and marvellous self-possession. He walked rapidly with a firm and elastic tread. He was somewhat like John Baptist, taciturn in habits, usually wrapped in meditation. He was rather meteoric[Pg 215] in his movements, appearing suddenly and unexpectedly at this place, and then disappearing in the same mysterious manner.

When Kansas lay bleeding at the feet of border ruffians; when Congress gave the free-State settlers no protection, but was rather trying to drag the territory into the Union with a slave constitution,—without noise or bluster John Brown dropped down into Osage County. He was not a member of the Republican party; but rather hated its reticency. When it cried Halt! he gave the command Forward, march! He was not in sympathy with any of the parties, political or anti-slavery. All were too conservative to suit him. So, as a political orphan he went into Kansas, organized and led a new party that swore eternal death to slavery. The first time he appeared in a political meeting in Kansas, at Osawatomie, the politicians were trimming their speeches and shaping their resolutions to please each political faction. John Brown took the floor and made a speech that threw the convention into consternation. He denounced slavery as the curse of the ages; affirmed the manhood of the slave; dealt "middle men" terrible blows; and said he could "see no use in talking." "Talk," he continued, "is a national institution; but it does no good for the slave." He thought it an excuse very well adapted for weak men with tender consciences. Most men who were afraid to fight, and too honest to be silent, deceived themselves that they discharged their duties to the slave by denouncing in fiery words the oppressor. His ideas of duty were far different; the slaves, in his eyes, were prisoners of war; their tyrants, as he held, had taken up the sword, and must perish by it. This was his view of the great question of slavery.

The widow of the late Major George L. Stearns gives the following personal recollections of John Brown, in a bright and entertaining style. Mrs. Stearns's noble husband was very intimately related to the "old hero," and what Mrs. Stearns writes is of great value.

"The passage of the Fugitive-Slave Bill in 1850, followed by the virtual repeal of the Missouri Compromise, under the name of the Kansas Nebraska Act, in 1854, alarmed all sane people for the safety of republican institutions; and the excitement reached a white heat when, on the 22d of May, 1856, Charles Sumner was murderously assaulted in the Senate chamber by Preston S. Brooks, of South Carolina, for words spoken in debate: the celebrated speech of the 19th and 20th of May, known as 'The Crime Against Kansas.' That same week the town of Lawrence in the territory of Kansas was sacked and burned[Pg 216] in the interest of the slave power. The atrocities committed by the 'Border Ruffians' upon the free-State settlers sent a thrill of terror through all law-abiding communities. In Boston the citizens gathered in Faneuil Hall to consider what could be done, and a committee was chosen, with Dr. S. G. Howe as chairman, for the relief of Kansas, called the 'Kansas Relief Committee.' After some $18,000 or $20,000 had been collected, chiefly in Boston, and forwarded to Kansas, the interest flagged, and Mr. Stearns, who had been working with that committee, saw the need of more energetic action; so one day he went to Dr. Howe, and told him he was ready to give all his time, and much of his money, to push forward the work. Dr. Howe seeing that here was the man for the hour, immediately resigned, and Mr. Stearns was chosen unanimously chairman of the 'Massachusetts State Kansas Committee,' which took the place of the one first organized. In the light of subsequent history it is difficult to believe the apathy and blindness which failed to recognize the significance of this attack upon Kansas by the slave-holding power. Only faithful watchmen in their high towers could see that it was the first battle-ground between the two conflicting systems of freedom and slavery, which was finally to culminate in the war of the Rebellion. 'Working day and night without haste or rest,' failing in no effort to rouse and stimulate the community, still Mr. Stearns found that a vitalizing interest was wanting. When Gov. Reeder was driven in disguise from the territory, he wrote to him to come to Boston and address the people. He organized a mass-meeting for him in Tremont Temple, and for a few days the story he related stimulated to a livelier activity the more conservative people, who were inclined to think the reports of the free-State men much exaggerated. Soon, however, things settled back into the old sluggish way; so that for three consecutive committee meetings the chairman was the only person who presented himself at the appointed time and place. Nothing daunted, he turned to the country towns, and at the end of five months he had raised by his personal exertions, and through his agents, the sum of $48,000. Women formed societies all over the State, for making and furnishing clothing, and various supplies, which resulted in an addition of some $20,000 or $30,000 more. In January, 1867, this species of work was stopped, by advices from Kansas that no more contributions were needed, except for defense. At this juncture Mr. Stearns wrote to John Brown, that if he would come to Boston and consult with the friends of freedom he would pay his expenses. They had never met, but 'Osawatomie Brown' had become a cherished household name during the anxious summer of 1856.[66] Arriving in Boston, they were introduced to each other in the[Pg 217] street by a Kansas man, who chanced to be with Mr. Stearns on his way to the committee rooms in Nilis's Block, School Street. Captain Brown made a profound impression on all who came within the sphere of his moral magnetism. Emerson called him 'the most ideal of men, for he wanted to put all his ideas into action.' His absolute superiority to all selfish aims and narrowing pride of opinion touched an answering chord in the self-devotion of Mr. Stearns. A little anecdote illustrates the modest estimate of the work he had in hand. After several efforts to bring together certain friends to meet Captain Brown at his home in Medford, he found that Sunday was the only day that would serve their several convenience, and being a little uncertain how it might strike his ideas of religious propriety, he prefaced his invitation with something like an apology. With characteristic promptness came the reply: 'Mr. Stearns, I have a little ewe-lamb that I want to pull out of the ditch, and the Sabbath will be as good a day as any to do it.'

"It was this occasion which furnished to literature one of the most charming bits of autobiography. Our oldest son, Harry, a lad of eleven years, was an observant listener, and drank eagerly every word that was said of the cruel wrongs in Kansas, and of slavery everywhere. When the gentlemen rose to go, he privately asked his father if he might be allowed to give all his spending money to John Brown. Leave being granted, he bounded away, and returning with his small treasure, said: 'Captain Brown, will you buy something with this money for those poor people in Kansas, and some time will you write to me and tell me what sort of a little boy you were?' 'Yes, my son, I will, and God bless you for your kind heart!' The autobiography has been printed many times, but never before with the key which unlocked it.

"It may not be out of place to describe the impression he made upon the writer on this first visit. When I entered the parlor, he was sitting near the hearth, where glowed a bright open fire. He rose to greet me, stepping forward with such an erect, military bearing; such fine courtesy of demeanor and grave earnestness, that he seemed to my instant thought some old Cromwellian hero suddenly dropped down before me; a suggestion which was presently strengthened by his saying [proceeding with the conversation my entrance had interrupted]: 'Gentlemen, I consider the Golden Rule and the Declaration of Independence one and inseparable; and it is better that a whole generation of men, women, and children should be swept away, than that this crime of slavery should exist one day longer.' These words were uttered like rifle balls; in such emphatic tones and manner that our little Carl, not three years old, remembered it in manhood as one of his earliest recollections. The child stood perfectly still, in the middle of the room, gazing with his beautiful eyes on this new sort of man, until his absorption arrested the attention of Captain Brown, who soon coaxed him[Pg 218] to his knee, tho' the look of awe and childlike wonder remained. His dress was of some dark brown stuff, quite coarse, but its exactness and neatness produced a singular air of refinement. At dinner, he declined all dainties, saying that he was unaccustomed to luxuries, even to partaking of butter.

"The 'friends of freedom' with whom Mr. Stearns had invited John Brown to consult were profoundly impressed with his sagacity, integrity, and devotion; notably among these were R. W. Emerson, Theodore Parker, H. D. Thoreau, A. Bronson Alcott, F. B. Sanborn, Dr. S. G. Howe, Col. T. W. Higginson, Gov. Andrew, and others. In February (1857) he appeared before a committee of the State Legislature, to urge that Massachusetts should make an appropriation in money in aid of those persons who had settled in Kansas from her own soil. The speech is printed in Redpath's 'Life.' He obtained at this time, from the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee,[67] some two hundred Sharp's rifles, with which to arm one hundred mounted men for the defense of Kansas, who could also be of service to the peculiar property of Missouri. In those dark days of slave-holding supremacy, the friends of freedom felt justified in aiding the flight of its victims to free soil whenever and wherever opportunity offered. The Fugitive-Slave Law was powerless before the law written on the enlightened consciences of those devoted men and women. These rifles had been forwarded previously to the National Committee at Chicago, for the defense of Kansas, but for some unexplained reasons had never proceeded farther than Tabor, in the State of Iowa. Later on, Mr. Stearns, in his individual capacity, authorized Captain Brown to purchase two hundred revolvers from the Massachusetts Arms Company, and paid for them from his private funds, thirteen or fifteen hundred dollars. During the summer of 1857 he united with Mr. Amos A. Lawrence and others in paying off the mortgage held by Mr. Gerritt Smith on his house and farm at North Elba, N. Y., he paying two hundred and sixty dollars. It would be difficult to state the entire amount of money Mr. Stearns put into the hands of John Brown for Anti-Slavery purposes and his own subsistence. He kept no account of what he gave. In April or May, 1857, he gave him a check for no less a sum than seven thousand dollars. Early in 1858, Hon. Henry Wilson wrote to Dr. S. G. Howe that he had learned John Brown was suspected of the intention of using those arms in other ways than for the defense of Kansas; and by order of the committee, Mr. Stearns wrote (under date May 14, 1858) to Brown not to use them for any other purpose, and to hold them subject to his order, as chairman of said committee. When the operations of the Massachusetts State Kansas[Pg 219] Committee virtually ceased, in June or July, 1858, it happened that this committee were some four thousand dollars in debt to Mr. Stearns, for advances of money from time to time to keep the organization in existence; and it was voted to make over to the chairman these two hundred Sharp's rifles as part payment of the committee's indebtedness. They were of small account to Mr. Stearns. He knew them to be in good hands, and troubled himself no further about them, either the rifles or the revolvers; although keeping up from time to time a correspondence with his friend upon the all-engrossing subject.

"In February of 1859, John Brown was in Boston, and talked with some of his friends about the feasibility of entrenching himself, with a little band of men, in the mountains of Virginia, familiar to him from having surveyed them as engineer in earlier life. His plan was to open communication with the slaves of neighboring plantations, collect them together, and send them off in squads, as he had done in Missouri, 'without snapping a gun.' Mr. Stearns had so much more faith in John Brown's opposition to Slavery, than in any theories he advanced of the modus operandi, that they produced much less impression on his mind than upon some others gifted with more genius for details. From first to last, he believed in John Brown. His plans, or theories, might be feasible, or they might not. If the glorious old man wanted money to try his plans, he should have it. His plans might fail; probably would, but he could never be a failure. There he stood, unconquerable, in the panoply of divine Justice. Both of these men were of the martyr type. No thought or consideration for themselves, for history, or the estimation of others, ever entered into their calculations. It was the service of Truth and Right which brought them together, and in that service they were ready to die.

"In the words of an eminent writer[68]: 'A common spirit made these two men recognize each other at first sight; and the power of both lay in that inability to weigh difficulties against duty, that instant step of thought to deed, which makes individuals fully possessed by the idea of the age, the turning-points of its destiny; hands in the right place for touching the match to the train it has laid, or for leading the public will to the heart of its moral need. They knew each other as minute-men on the same watch; as men to be found in the breach, before others knew where it was; they were one in pity, one in indignation, one in moral enthusiasm, burning beneath features set to patient self-control; one in simplicity, though of widely different culture; one in religious inspiration, though at the poles of religious thought. The old frontiersman came from his wilderness toils and agonies to find[Pg 220] within the merchant's mansion of art and taste by the side of Bunker Hill, a perfect sympathy: the reverence of children, tender interest in his broken household, free access to a rich man's resources, and even a valor kindred with his own.'

"The attack upon Harper's Ferry was a 'side issue,' to quote the words of John Brown, Jr., and a departure from his father's original plan. It certainly took all his friends by surprise. In his letter of Nov. 15, 1859 (while in prison), to his old schoolmaster, the Rev. H. L. Vaill, are these words: 'I am not as yet, in the main, at all disappointed. I have been a good deal disappointed as it regards myself in not keeping up to my own plans; but I now feel entirely reconciled to that even: for God's plan was infinitely better, no doubt, or I should have kept my own. Had Samson kept to his determination of not telling Delilah wherein his great strength lay, he would probably have never overturned the house. I did not tell Delilah; but I was induced to act very contrary to my better judgment.'[69]

* * * * * * * * *

"It is idle to endeavor to explain, by any methods of the understanding, any rules of worldly wisdom, or prudence, this influx of the Divine Will, which has made John Brown already an ideal character. 'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof; but know not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth.' So is every one that is born of the Spirit. Man works in the midst of laws which execute themselves, more especially, if by virtue of obedience he has lost sight of all selfish aims, and perceives that Truth and Right alone can claim allegiance. Emerson says: 'Divine intelligence carries on its administration by good men; that great men are they who see that the spiritual are greater than any material forces; and that really there never was any thing great accomplished but under religious impulse.'

"The deadly Atheism of Slavery was rolling its car of Juggernaut all over the beautiful Republic, and one pure soul was inspired to confront it by a practical interpretation of the Golden Rule.

"That Virginia would hang John Brown was a foregone conclusion. The Moloch of Slavery would have nothing less. His friends exerted themselves to secure the best counsel which could be induced to undertake the formality of a defense, foremost among whom was Mr. Stearns. A well-organized plan was made to rescue him, conducted by a brave man from Kansas, Col. James Montgomery, but a message came from the prisoner, that he should not feel at liberty to walk out, if the doors were left open; a sense of honor to his jailer (Captain Acvis) forbidding any thing of the kind.[Pg 221]

"Not a little anxiety was felt lest certain of his adherents might be summoned as witnesses, whose testimony would lessen the chances of acquittal, and possibly involve their own lives. John A. Andrew (afterward Gov. Andrew) gave it as his opinion, after an exhaustive search of the records, that Virginia would have no right to summon these persons from Massachusetts, but subsequently changed his opinion, and urged Mr. Stearns to take passage to Europe, sending him home one day to pack his valise. The advice was opposed to his instincts, but he considered that his wife should have a voice in the matter, who decided, 'midst many tears and prayers, that if slavery required another victim, he must be ready.

"With Dr. Howe it was quite different. He became possessed with a dread that threatened to overwhelm his reason. He was in delicate health, and constitutionally subject to violent attacks of nervous headache. One day he came to Medford and insisted that Mr. Stearns should accompany him to Canada, urging that if he remained here he should be insane, and that Mr. Stearns of all his friends was the only one who would be at all satisfactory to him. This request, or rather demand, Mr. Stearns promptly declined. How well I remember his agitation, walking up and down the room, and finally entreating Mr. Stearns for 'friendship's sake' to go and take care of him. I can recall no instance of such self-abnegation in my husband's self-denying career. He did not stoop to an explanation, even when Dr. Howe declared in his presence, some months later, "that he never did any thing in his life he so much wished to take back." I had hoped that Dr. Howe would himself have spared me from making this contribution to the truth of history.

"On the 2d of December, Mr. Stearns yearned for the solitude of his own soul, in communion of spirit, with the friend who, on that day, would 'make the gallows glorious like the Cross'; and he left Dr. Howe and took the train for Niagara Falls. There, sitting alone beside the mighty rush of water, he solemnly consecrated his remaining life, his fortune, and all that was most dear, to the cause in whose service John Brown had died.

"How well and faithfully he kept his vow, may partly be seen in his subsequent efforts in recruiting the colored troops at a vital moment in the terrible war of the Rebellion which so swiftly followed the sublime apotheosis of 'Old John Brown.'"[70]

That John Brown intended to free the slaves, and nothing more, the record shows clearly. His move on Harper's Ferry[Pg 222] was well planned, and had all the parties interested done their part the work would have been done well. As to the rectitude of his intentions he gives the world this leaf of history:

"And now, gentlemen, let me press this one thing on your minds. You all know how dear life is to you, and how dear your lives are to your friends: and in remembering that, consider that the lives of others are as dear to them as yours are to you. Do not, therefore, take the life of any one if you can possibly avoid it; but if it is necessary to take life in order to save your own, then make sure work of it."—John Brown, before the battle at Harper's Ferry.

"I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection. The design on my part was to free the slaves."—John Brown, after the battle at Harper's Ferry.

Distance lends enchantment to the view. What the world condemns to-day is applauded to-morrow.

We must have a "fair count" on the history of yesterday and last year. The events chronicled yesterday, when the imagination was wrought upon by exciting circumstances, need revision to-day.

The bitter words spoken this morning reproach at eventide the smarting conscience. And the judgments prematurely formed, and the conclusions rapidly reached, maybe rectified and repaired in the light of departed years and enlarged knowledge.

John Brown is rapidly settling down to his proper place in history, and "the madman" has been transformed into a "saint." When Brown struck his first blow for freedom, at the head of his little band of liberators, it was almost the universal judgment of both Americans and foreigners that he was a "fanatic." It seemed the very soul of weakness and arrogance for John Brown to attempt to do so great a work with so small a force. Men reached a decision with the outer and surface facts. But many of the most important and historically trustworthy truths bearing upon the motive, object, and import of that "bold move," have been hidden from the public view, either by prejudice or fear.

Some people have thought John Brown—"The Hero of Harper's Ferry"—a hot-headed, blood-thirsty brigand; they animadverted against the precipitancy of his measures, and the severity of his invectives; said that he was lacking in courage and deficient in judgment; that he retarded rather than accelerated[Pg 223] the cause he championed. But this was the verdict of other times, not the judgment of to-day.

John Brown said to a personal friend during his stay in Kansas: "Young men must learn to wait. Patience is the hardest lesson to learn. I have waited for twenty years to accomplish my purpose." These are not the words of a mere visionary idealist, but the mature language of a practical and judicious leader, a leader than whom the world has never seen a greater. By greatness is meant deep convictions of duty, a sense of the Infinite, "a strong hold on truth," a "conscience void of offence toward God and man," to which the appeals of the innocent and helpless are more potential than the voices of angry thunder or destructive artillery. Such a man was John Brown. He was strong in his moral and mental nature, as well as in his physical nature. He was born to lead; and he led, and made himself the pro-martyr of a cause rapidly perfecting. All through his boyhood days he felt himself lifted and quickened by great ideas and sublime purposes. He had flowing in his veins the blood of his great ancestor, Peter Brown, who came over in the "Mayflower"; and the following inscription appears upon a marble monument in the graveyard at Canton Centre, New York: "In memory of Captain John Brown, who died in the Revolutionary army, at New York, September 3, 1776. He was of the fourth generation, in regular descent, from Peter Brown, one of the Pilgrim Fathers, who landed from the 'Mayflower,' at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 22, 1620." This is the best commentary on his inherent love of absolute liberty, his marvellous courage and transcendent military genius. For years he elaborated and perfected his plans, working upon the public sentiment of his day by the most praiseworthy means. He bent and bowed the most obdurate conservatism of his day, and rallied to his standards the most eminent men, the strongest intellects in the North. His ethics and religion were as broad as the universe, and beneficent in their wide ramification. And it was upon his "religion of humanity," that embraced our entire species, that he proceeded with his herculean task of striking off the chains of the enslaved. Few, very few of his most intimate friends knew his plans—the plan of freeing the slaves. Many knew his great faith, his exalted sentiments, his ideas of liberty, in their crudity; but to a faithful few only did he reveal his stupendous plans in their entirety.[Pg 224]

Hon. Frederick Douglass and Colonel Richard J. Hinton, knew more of Brown's real purposes than any other persons, with the exception of J. H. Kagi, Osborn Anderson, Owen Brown, Richard Realf, and George B. Gill.

"Of men born of woman," there is not a greater than John Brown. He was the forerunner of Lincoln, the great apostle of freedom.

One year before he went to Harper's Ferry, a friend met Brown in Kansas [in June, 1858], and learned that during the previous month he had brought almost all of his plans to perfection; and that the day and hour were fixed to strike the blow. One year before, a convention had met, on the 8th of May, 1858, at Chatham, Canada. At this convention a provisional constitution and ordinances were drafted and adopted, with the following officers: Commander-in-Chief, John Brown; Secretary of War, J. H. Kagi; Members of Congress, Alfred M. Ellsworth, Osborn Anderson; Treasurer, Owen Brown; Secretary of the Treasury, Geo. B. Gill; Secretary of State, Richard Realf.

John Brown made his appearance in Ohio and Canada in the spring of 1859. He wrote letters, made speeches, collected funds for his little army, and made final arrangements with his Northern allies, etc. He purchased a small farm, about six miles from Harper's Ferry, on the Maryland side, and made it his ordnance depot. He had 102 Sharp's rifles, 68 pistols, 55 bayonets, 12 artillery swords, 483 pikes, 150 broken handles of pikes, 16 picks, 40 shovels, besides quite a number of other appurtenances of war. This was in July. He intended to make all of his arrangements during the summer of 1859, and meet his men in the Alleghanies in the fall of the same year.

The apparent rashness of the John Brown movement may be mitigated somewhat by the fact that he failed to carry out his original plan. During the summer of 1859 he instructed his Northern soldiers and sympathizers to be ready for the attack on the night of the 24th of October, 1859. But while at Baltimore, in September, he got the impression that there was conspiracy in his camp, and in order to preclude its consummation, suddenly, without sending the news to his friends at the North, determined to strike the first blow on the night of the 17th of October. The news of his battle and his bold stand against the united forces of Virginia and Maryland swept across the country as the wild storm comes down the mountain side. Friend and foe were[Pg 225] alike astonished and alarmed. The enemies of the cause he represented, when they recovered from their surprise, laughed their little laugh of scorn, and eased their feelings by referring to him as the "madman." Friends faltered, and, while they did not question his earnestness, doubted his judgment. "Why," they asked, "should he act with such palpable rashness, and thereby render more difficult and impossible the emancipation of the slaves?" They claimed that the blow he struck, instead of severing, only the more tightly riveted, the chains upon the helpless and hapless Blacks. But in the face of subsequent history we think his surviving friends will change their views. There is no proof that his fears were not well grounded; that a conspiracy was in progress. And who can tell whether a larger force would have been more effective, or the night of the 24th more opportune? May it not be believed that the good old man was right, and that Harper's Ferry was just the place, and the 17th of October just the time to strike for freedom, and make the rock-ribbed mountains of Virginia to tremble at the presence of a "master!"—the king of freedom?

He was made a prisoner on the 19th of October, 1859, and remained until the 7th of November without a change of clothing or medical aid. Forty-two days from the time of his imprisonment he expiated his crime upon the scaffold—a crime against slave-holding, timorous Virginia, for bringing liberty to the oppressed. He was a man, and there was nothing that interested man which was foreign to his nature. He had gone into Virginia to save life, not to destroy it. The sighs and groans of the oppressed had entered into his soul.

He had heard the Macedonian cry to come over and help them. He went, and it cost him his life, but he gave it freely.

Captain Acvis, the jailer, said: "He was the gamest man I ever saw." And Mr. Valandingham, at that time a member of Congress from Ohio, and who examined him in court, said in a speech afterward.

"It is in vain to underrate either the man or the conspiracy. Captain John Brown is as brave and resolute a man as ever headed an insurrection, and, in a good cause, and with a sufficient force, would have been a consummate partisan commander. He has coolness, daring, persistency, stoic faith and patience, and a firmness of will and purpose unconquerable! He is the farthest possible remove from the ordinary ruffian, fanatic, or madman."

[Pg 226]

No friend, howsoever ardent in his love, could have woven a chaplet more worthy than the one placed upon the brow of the old hero by his most embittered foe. A truer estimate of John Brown cannot be had.

South Carolina, Missouri, and Kentucky sent a rope to hang him, but, the first two lacking strength, Kentucky had the everlasting disgrace of furnishing the rope to strangle the noblest man that ever lived in any age.

The last letter he ever wrote was written to Mrs. Geo. L. Stearns, and she shall give its history:

This letter requires the history which attaches to it, and illustrates the consideration which the brave martyr had for those in any way connected with him. It was written on a half sheet of paper, the exact size of the pages of a book into which he carefully inserted it, and tied up in a handkerchief with other books and papers, which he asked his jailer (Mr. Avis) to be allowed to go with his body to North Elba, and which Mrs. Brown took with her from the Charlestown prison. Her statement to me about it is this: She had been at home some two weeks, had looked over the contents of the handkerchief many times, when one day in turning the leaves of that particular book, she came upon this letter, on which she said she found two or three blistered spots, the only tear drops she had seen among his papers. They are now yellow with time. On the back of the half sheet was written: "Please mail this to her," which she did, and so it reached my hand; seeming as if from the world to which his spirit had fled. It quite overwhelmed my husband. Presently he said: "See, dear, how careful the old man has been, he would not even direct it with your name to go from Virginia to Boston through the post-offices; and altho' it contains no message to me, one of those 'farewells!' is intended for me, and also the 'Love to All who love their neighbors.'"

"Charlestown, Jefferson Co Va. 29th Nov. 1859.

"Mrs. George L. Stearns
"Boston, Mass.

"My Dear Friend:—No letter I have received since my imprisonment here, has given me more satisfaction, or comfort, than yours of the 8th inst. I am quite cheerful: and never more happy. Have only time to write you a word. May God forever reward you and all yours.

"My love to All who love their neighbors. I have asked to be spared from having any mock, or hypocritical prayers made over me when I am publicly murdered; and that my only religious attendents be[Pg 227] poor little, dirty, ragged, bareheaded and barefooted, Slave Boys; and Girls, led by some old gray-headed slave Mother.

"Farewell. Farewell.
"Your Friend,


The man who hung him, Governor Wise, lived to see the plans of Brown completed and his most cherished hopes fulfilled. He heard the warning shot fired at Sumter, saw Richmond fall, the war end in victory to the party of John Brown; saw the slave-pen converted into the school-house, and the four millions Brown fought and died for, elevated to the honors of citizenship. And at last he has entered the grave, where his memory will perish with his body, while the soul and fame of John Brown go marching down the centuries!

Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and John Brown have to wait the calmer judgments of future generations. These men believed that God sent them to do a certain work—to reveal a hidden truth; to pour light into the minds of benighted and superstitious men. They completed their work; they did nobly and well, then bowed to rest—

"With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings,
The powerful of the earth,"

while generation after generation studies their handwriting on the wall of time and interprets their thoughts. Despised, persecuted, and unappreciated while in the flesh, they are honored after death, and enrolled among earth's good and great, her wise and brave. The shock Brown gave the walls of the slave institution was felt from its centre to its utmost limits. It was the entering wedge; it laid bare the accursed institution, and taught good men everywhere to hate it with a perfect hatred. Slavery received its death wound at the hands of a "lonely old man." When he smote Virginia, the non-resistants, the anti-slavery men, learned a lesson. They saw what was necessary to the accomplishment of their work, and were now ready for the "worst." He rebuked the conservatism of the North, and gave an example of adherence to duty, devotion to truth, and fealty to God and man that make the mere "professor" to tremble with shame. "John Brown's body lies mouldering in the clay," but his immortal name will be pronounced with blessings in all lands and by all people till the end of time.


[66] This was in the last days of 1856.

[67] The committee also authorized him to draw on their treasurer, Patrick L. Jackson, for $500.

[68] Samuel Johnson, the accomplished Oriental scholar and devoted friend of the slave.

[69] The italics are his.

[70] The above account of Capt. Brown was prepared for us by the widow of the late Major Geo. L. Stearns. It is printed as written, and breathes a beautiful spirit of love and tender remembrance for the two heroes mentioned.

[71] This letter is printed for the first time, with Mrs. Stearns's consent.

[Pg 228]

Part 7.



Increase of Slave Population in Slave-holding States from 1850-1860.—Products of Slave Labor.—Basis of Southern Representation.—Six Seceding States organize a new Government.—Constitution of the Confederate Government.—Speech by Alexander H. Stephens.—Mr. Lincoln in Favor of Gradual Emancipation.—He is Elected President of the United States.—The Issue of the War between the States.

Return to Table of Contents

IN 1860 there were, in the fifteen slave-holding States, 12,240,000 souls, of whom 8,039,000 were whites, 251,000 free persons of color, and 3,950,000 were slaves. The gain of the entire population of the slave-holding States, from 1850-1860, was 2,627,000, equal to 27.33 per cent. The slave population had increased 749,931, or 23.44 per cent., not including the slaves in the District of Columbia, where they had lost 502 slaves during the decade. The nineteen non-slave-holding States and the seven territories, including the District of Columbia, contained 19,203,008 souls, of whom 18,920,771 were whites, 237,283 free persons of color, and 41,725 civilized Indians. The actual increase of this population was 5,624,101, or 41.24 per cent. During the same period—1850-1860—the total population of free persons of color in the United States increased from 434,449 to 487,970, or at the rate of 12.33 per cent., annual increase of above 1 per cent. In 1850 the Mulattoes were 11.15 per cent., regarding the United States as one aggregate, and in 1860 were 13.25 per cent., of the entire Colored population.[Pg 229]


Total Colored3,638,8084,441,830100.00100.00

So, in ten years, from 1850-1860, the increase of blacks above the current deaths was 620,421, or more than one half of a million, while the corresponding increase of Mulattoes was 182,601. Estimating the deaths to have been 22.4 per cent. during the same period, or one in 40 annually, the total births of Blacks in ten years was about 1,345,000, and the total births of Mulattoes about 273,000. Thus it appears, in the prevailing order, that of every 100 births of Colored, about 17 were Mulattoes, and 83 Blacks, indicating a ratio of nearly 1 to 5.

There were:

Deaf and dumb slaves531

There were 400,000 slaves in the towns and cities of the South, and 2,804,313 in the country. The products of slave labor in 1850 were as follows:


Cane sugar12,378,850

[Pg 230]

There were 347,525 slave-holders against 5,873,893 non-slave-holders in the slave States. The representation in Congress was as follows:

Northern representatives based on white population142
Northern representatives based on Colored population2
Southern representatives based on white population68
Southern representatives based on free Colored population2
Southern representatives based on slave population20
Ratio of representation for 1853                   93,420

The South owned 16,652 churches, valued at $22,142,085; the North owned 21,357 churches, valued at $65,167,586. The South printed annually 92,165,919 copies of papers and periodicals; the North printed annually 334,146,081 copies of papers and periodicals. The South owned, other than private, 722 libraries, containing 742,794 volumes; the North owned, other than private, 14,902 libraries, containing 3,882,217 volumes.

In sentiment, motive, and civilization the two "Sections" were as far apart as the poles. New England, Puritan, Roundhead civilization could not fellowship the Cavaliers of the South. There were not only two sections and two political parties in the United States;—there were two antagonistic governmental ideas. John C. Calhoun and Alexander H. Stephens, of the South, represented the idea of the separate and individual sovereignty of each of the States; while William H. Seward and Abraham Lincoln, of the North, represented the idea of the centralization of governmental authority, so far as it was necessary to secure uniformity of the laws, and the supremacy of the Federal Constitution. On the 25th of October, 1858, in a speech delivered in Rochester, N. Y., William H. Seward said:

"Our country is a theatre which exhibits, in full operation, two radically different political systems: the one resting on the basis of servile or slave labor; the other on the basis of voluntary labor of freemen.

. . . . . . . . .

"The two systems are at once perceived to be incongruous. They never have permanently existed together in one country, and they never can.

... "These antagonistic systems are continually coming in closer contact, and collision ensues.

"Shall I tell you what this collision means? It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the[Pg 231] United States must, and will, sooner or later, become entirely a slave-holding nation, or entirely a free labor nation. Either the cotton and rice fields of South Carolina, and the sugar plantations of Louisiana, will ultimately be tilled by free-labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legitimate merchandise alone, or else the rye fields and wheat fields of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by their farmers to the slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York become once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of men."

Upon the eve of the great Rebellion, Mr. Seward said in the United States Senate:

"A free Republican government like this, notwithstanding all its constitutional checks, cannot long resist and counteract the progress of society.

"Free labor has at last apprehended its rights and its destiny, and is organizing itself to assume the government of the Republic. It will henceforth meet you boldly and resolutely here (Washington); it will meet you everywhere, in the territories and out of them, where-ever you may go to extend slavery. It has driven you back in California and in Kansas; it will invade you soon in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, and Texas. It will meet you in Arizona, in Central America, and even in Cuba.

. . . . . . . . .

"You may, indeed, get a start under or near the tropics, and seem safe for a time, but it will be only a short time. Even there you will found States only for free labor, or to maintain and occupy. The interest of the whole race demands the ultimate emancipation of all men. Whether that consummation shall be allowed to take effect, with needful and wise precautions against sudden change and disaster, or be hurried on by violence, is all that remains for you to decide. The white man needs this continent to labor upon. His head is clear, his arm is strong, and his necessities are fixed.

. . . . . . . . .

"It is for yourselves, and not for us, to decide how long and through what further mortifications and disasters the contest shall be protracted before Freedom shall enjoy her already assured triumph.

"You may refuse to yield it now, and for a short period, but your refusal will only animate the friends of freedom with the courage and the resolution, and produce the union among them, which alone is necessary on their part to attain the position itself, simultaneously with the impending overthrow of the existing Federal Administration and the constitution of a new and more independent Congress."

[Pg 232]

Mr. Lincoln said during a discussion of the impending crisis:

"I believe this government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect that it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.

"I have always hated slavery as much as any Abolitionist. I have always been an old-line Whig. I have always hated it, and I always believed it in a course of ultimate extinction. If I were in Congress, and a vote should come up on a question whether slavery should be prohibited in a new territory, in spite of the Dred Scott decision I would vote that it should."

Notwithstanding the confident tone of Mr. Lincoln's statement that he did "not expect the house to fall," it did fall, and great was the fall thereof!

On Saturday, 9th of February, 1861, six seceding States met at Montgomery, Alabama, and organized an independent government. The ordinances of secession were passed by the States as follows:

South CarolinaDec. 20, 1860169——
MississippiJan. 9, 18618415
AlabamaJan. 11, 18616139
FloridaJan. 11, 1861627
GeorgiaJan. 19, 186122889
LouisianaJan. 25, 186111317

The following delegates presented their credentials and were admitted and represented their respective States:

Alabama.—R. W. Walker, R. H. Smith, J. L. M. Curry, W. P. Chilton, S. F. Hale Colon, J. McRae, John Gill Shorter, David P. Lewis, Thomas Fearn.

Florida.—James B. Owens, J. Patten Anderson, Jackson Morton (not present).

Georgia.—Robert Toombs, Howell Cobb, F. S. Bartow, M. J. Crawford, E. A. Nisbet, B. H. Hill, A. R. Wright, Thomas R. Cobb, A. H. Kenan, A. H. Stephens.[Pg 233]

Louisiana.—John Perkins, Jr., A. Declonet, Charles M. Conrad, D. F. Kenner, G. E. Sparrow, Henry Marshall.

Mississippi.—W. P. Harris, Walter Brooke, N. S. Wilson, A. M. Clayton, W. S. Barry, J. T. Harrison.

South Carolina.—R. B. Rhett, R. W. Barnwell, L. M. Keitt, James Chestnut, Jr., C. G. Memminger, W. Porcher Miles, Thomas J. Withers, W. W. Boyce.

A president and vice-president were chosen by unanimous vote. President—Honorable Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi. Vice-President—Honorable Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia. The following gentlemen composed the Cabinet:

Secretary of State, Robert Toombs; Secretary of Treasury, C. G. Memminger; Secretary of Interior (Vacancy); Secretary of War, L. P. Walker; Secretary of Navy, John Perkins, Jr.; Postmaster-General, H. T. Ebett; Attorney-General, J. P. Benjamin.

The Constitution of the Confederate Government did not differ so very radically from the Federal Constitution. The following were the chief points:

"1. The importation of African negroes from any foreign country other than the slave-holding States of the Confederate States is hereby forbidden, and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

"2. Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of this Confederacy.

"The Congress shall have power:

"1. To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, for revenue necessary to pay the debts and carry on the government of the Confederacy, and all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the Confederacy.

"A slave in one State escaping to another shall be delivered, upon the claim of the party to whom said slave may belong, by the Executive authority of the State in which such slave may be found; and in any case of abduction or forcible rescue, full compensation, including the value of slave, and all costs and expense, shall be made to the party by the State in which such abduction or rescue shall take place.

"2. The government hereby instituted shall take immediate step's for the settlement of all matters between the States forming it and their late confederates of the United States in relation to the public property and public debt at the time of their withdrawal from them; these States hereby declaring it to be their wish and earnest desire to adjust everything pertaining to the common property, common liabilities, and common[Pg 234] obligations of that Union, upon principles of right, justice, equity, and good faith."

At first blush it would appear that the new government had not been erected upon the slave question; that it had gone as far as the Federal Government to suppress the foreign slave-trade; and that nobler and sublimer ideas and motives had inspired and animated the Southern people in their movement for a new government. But the men who wrote the Confederate platform knew what they were about. They knew that to avoid the charge that would certainly be made against them, of having seceded in order to make slavery a national institution, they must be careful not to exhibit such intentions in their Constitution. But that the South seceded on account of the slavery question, there can be no historical doubt whatever. Jefferson Davis, President, so-called, of the Confederate Government, said in his Message, April 29, 1861:

"When the several States delegated certain powers to the United States Congress, a large portion of the laboring population consisted of African slaves, imported into the colonies by the mother-country. In twelve out of the thirteen States, negro slavery existed; and the right of property in slaves was protected by law. This property was recognized in the Constitution; and provision was made against its loss by the escape of the slave.

"The increase in the number of slaves by further importation from Africa was also secured by a clause forbidding Congress to prohibit the slave-trade anterior to a certain date; and in no clause can there be found any delegation of power to the Congress, authorizing it in any manner to legislate to the prejudice, detriment, or discouragement of the owners of that species of property, or excluding it from the protection of the Government.

"The climate and soil of the Northern States soon proved unpropitious to the continuance of slave labor; whilst the converse was the case at the South. Under the unrestricted free intercourse between the two sections, the Northern States consulted their own interest, by selling their slaves to the South, and prohibiting slavery within their limits. The South were willing purchasers of a property suitable to their wants, and paid the price of the acquisition without harboring a suspicion that their quiet possession was to be disturbed by those who were inhibited not only by want of constitutional authority, but by good faith as vendors, from disquieting a title emanating from themselves.

"As soon, however, as the Northern States that prohibited African[Pg 235] slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated, and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves.

. . . . . . . . .

"With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperilled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avoid the danger with which they were openly menaced. With this view, the Legislatures of the several States invited the people to select delegates to conventions to be held for the purpose of determining for themselves what measures were best adapted to meet so alarming a crisis in their history."[72]

Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President, as he was called, said, in a speech delivered at Savannah, Georgia, 21st of March, 1861:

"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution,—African slavery as it exists amongst us, the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that great rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution, were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent, and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last; and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation; and the idea of a government built upon it,—when the 'storm came and the wind blew, it fell.'[Pg 236]

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas. Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day."[73]

Now, then, what was the real issue between the Confederate States and the United States? Why, it was extension of slavery by the former, and the restriction of slavery by the latter. To put the issue as it was understood by Northern men—in poetic language, it was "The Union as it is." While the South, at length, through its leaders, acknowledged that slavery was their issue, the North, standing upon the last analysis of the Free-Soil idea of resistance to the further inoculation of free territory with the virus of slavery, refused to recognize slavery as an issue. But what did the battle cry of the loyal North, "The Union as it is," mean? A Union half free and half slave; a dual government, if not in fact, certainly in the brains and hearts of the people; two civilizations at eternal and inevitable war with each other; a Union with the canker-worm of slavery in it, impairing its strength every year and threatening its life; a Union in which two hostile ideas of political economy were at work, and where unpaid slave labor was inimical to the interests of the free workingmen. And it should not be forgotten that the Republican party acknowledged the right of Southerns to hunt slaves in the free States, and to return such slaves, under the fugitive-slave law, to their masters. Mr. Lincoln was not an Abolitionist, as many people think. His position on the question was clearly stated in the answers he gave to a number of questions put to him by Judge Douglass in the latter part of the summer of 1858. Mr. Lincoln said:

"Having said this much, I will take up the judge's interrogatories as I find them printed in the Chicago 'Times,' and answer them seriatim. In order that there may be no mistake about it, I have copied[Pg 237] the interrogatories in writing, and also my answers to them. The first one of these interrogatories is in these words:

"Question 1. 'I desire to know whether Lincoln to-day stands, as he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive-Slave Law?'

"Answer. I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive-Slave Law.

"Q. 2. 'I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to-day, as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave States into the Union, even if the people want them?'

"A. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave States into the Union.

"Q. 3. 'I want to know whether he stands pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union with such a constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make.'

"Q. 4. 'I want to know whether he stands to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?'

"A. I do not stand to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

"Q. 5. 'I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States?'

"A. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave-trade between the different States.

"Q. 6. 'I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit slavery in all the territories of the United States, north as well as south of the Missouri Compromise line?'

"A. I am impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States territories. [Great applause.]

"Q. 7. 'I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the acquisition of any new territory unless slavery is first prohibited therein?'

"A. I am not generally opposed to honest acquisition of territory; and, in any given case, I would or would not oppose such acquisition, accordingly as I might think such acquisition would or would not agitate the slavery question among ourselves.

"Now, my friends, it will be perceived upon an examination of these questions and answers, that so far I have only answered that I was not pledged to this, that, or the other. The judge has not framed his interrogatories to ask me any thing more than this, and I have answered in strict accordance with the interrogatories, and have answered truly that I am not pledged at all upon any of the points to which I have answered. But I am not disposed to hang upon the exact form of his interrogatories. I am rather disposed to take up at least some of these questions, and state what I really think upon them.[Pg 238]

"As to the first one, in regard to the Fugitive-Slave Law, I have never hesitated to say, and I do not now hesitate to say, that I think, under the Constitution of the United States, the people of the Southern States are entitled to a congressional slave law. Having said that, I have had nothing to say in regard to the existing Fugitive-Slave Law, further than that I think it should have been framed so as to be free from some of the objections that pertain to it, without lessening its efficiency. And inasmuch as we are not now in an agitation in regard to an alteration or modification of that law, I would not be the man to introduce it as a new subject of agitation upon the general question of slavery.

"In regard to the other question, of whether I am pledged to the admission of any more slave States into the Union, I state to you very frankly that I would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in a position of having to pass upon that question. I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never be another slave State admitted into the Union; but I must add, that if slavery shall be kept out of the territories during the territorial existence of any one given territory, and then the people shall, having a fair chance and a clear field, when they come to adopt the constitution, do such an extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of the institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but to admit them into the Union. [Applause.]

"The third interrogatory is answered by the answer to the second, it being, as I conceive, the same as the second.

"The fourth one is in regard to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. In relation to that I have my mind very distinctly made up. I should be exceedingly glad to see slavery abolished in the District of Columbia. I believe that Congress possesses the constitutional power to abolish it. Yet, as a member of Congress, I should not, with my present views, be in favor of endeavoring to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, unless it would be upon these conditions: First, that the abolition should be gradual; second, that it should be on a vote of the majority of qualified voters in the district; and, third, that compensation should be made to unwilling owners. With these three conditions I confess I would be exceedingly glad to see Congress abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; and, in the language of Henry Clay, 'sweep from our capital that foul blot upon our nation.'

"In regard to the fifth interrogatory, I must say here that, as to the question of the abolition of the slave-trade between the different States, I can truly answer, as I have, that I am pledged to nothing about it. It is a subject to which I have not given that mature consideration that would make me feel authorized to state a position so as to hold myself entirely bound by it. In other words, that question has never been[Pg 239] prominently enough before me to induce me to investigate whether we really have the constitutional power to do it. I could investigate it, if I had sufficient time, to bring myself to a conclusion upon that subject; but I have not done so, and I say so frankly to you here, and to Judge Douglass. I must say, however, that if I should be of opinion that Congress does possess the constitutional power to abolish slave-trading among the different States, I should still not be in favor of the exercise of that power unless upon some conservative principle as I conceive it, akin to what I have said in relation to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

"My answer as to whether I desire that slavery should be prohibited in all territories of the United States, is full and explicit within itself, and cannot be made clearer by any comments of mine. So, I suppose, in regard to the question whether I am opposed to the acquisition of any more territory unless slavery is first prohibited therein, my answer is such that I could add nothing by way of illustration, or making myself better understood, than the answer which I have placed in writing.

"Now, in all this the judge has me, and he has me on the record. I suppose he had flattered himself that I was really entertaining one set of opinions for one place, and another set for another place—that I was afraid to say at one place what I uttered at another. What I am saying here I suppose I say to a vast audience as strongly tending to abolitionism as any audience in the State of Illinois, and I believe I am saying that which, if it would be offensive to any persons and render them enemies to myself, would be offensive to persons in this audience."[74]

Here, then, is the position of Mr. Lincoln set forth with deliberation and care. He was opposed to any coercive measures in settling the slavery question; he was for gradual emancipation; and for admitting States into the Union with a slave constitution. Within twenty-four months, without a change of views, he was nominated for and elected to the Presidency of the United States.

With no disposition to interfere with the institution of slavery, Mr. Lincoln found himself chief magistrate of a great nation in the midst of a great rebellion. And in his inaugural address on the 4th of March, 1861, he referred to the question of slavery again in a manner too clear to admit of misconception, affirming his previous views:[Pg 240]

"There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

"'No person held to service or labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.'

"It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law.

"All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution—to this provision as well as any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause 'shall be delivered up,' their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not, with nearly equal unanimity, frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

"There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by National or by State authority; but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done; and should any one, in any case, be content that this oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?"

So the issues were joined in war. The South aggressively, offensively sought the extension and perpetuation of slavery. The North passively, defensively stood ready to protect her free territory, but not to interfere with slavery. And there was no day during the first two years of the war when the North would not have cheerfully granted the slave institution an indefinite lease of legal existence upon the condition that the war should cease.


[72] National Intelligencer, Tuesday, May 7, 1861.

[73] National Intelligencer, Tuesday, April, 2, 1861.

[74] Barrett, pp. 177-180.

[Pg 241]


The First Call for Troops.—Rendition of Fugitive Slaves by the Army.—Col. Tyler's Address to the People of Virginia.—General Isaac R. Sherwood's Account of an Attempt to secure a Fugitive Slave in his Charge.—Col. Steedman refuses to have his Camp searched for Fugitive Slaves, by Order from Gen. Fry.—Letter from Gen. Buell in Defence of the Rebels in the South.—Orders issued by Generals Hooker, Williams, and Others, in Regard to harboring Fugitive Slaves in Union Camps.—Observation concerning Slavery from the "Army of the Potomac."—Gen. Butler's Letter to Gen. Winfield Scott.—It is answered by the Secretary of War.—Horace Greeley's Letter to the President.—President Lincoln's Reply.—Gen. John C. Fremont, Commander of the Union Army in Missouri, issues a Proclamation emancipating Slaves in his District.—It is disapproved by the President.—Emancipation Proclamation by Gen. Hunter.—It is rescinded by the President.—Slavery and Union joined in a Desperate Struggle.

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WHEN the war clouds broke over the country and hostilities began, the North counted the Negro on the outside of the issue. The Federal Government planted itself upon the policy of the "defence of the free States,"—pursued a defensive rather than an offensive policy. And, whenever the Negro was mentioned, the leaders of the political parties and the Union army declared that it was "a white mans war."

The first call for three months' troops indicated that the authorities at Washington felt confident that the "trouble" would not last long. The call was issued on the 15th of April, 1861, and provided for the raising of 75,000 troops. It was charged by the President that certain States had been guilty of forming "combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings," and then he proceeded to state:

"The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department. I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured. I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth, will probably be to repossess the forts, places,[Pg 242] and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens of any part of the country; and I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days from this date."[75]

There was scarcely a city in the North, from New York to San Francisco, whose Colored residents did not speedily offer their services to the States to aid in suppressing the Rebellion. But everywhere as promptly were their services declined. The Colored people of the Northern States were patriotic and enthusiastic; but their interest was declared insolence. And being often rebuked for their loyalty, they subsided into silence to bide a change of public sentiment.

The almost unanimous voice of the press and pulpit was against a recognition of the Negro as the cause of the war. Like a man in the last stages of consumption who insists that he has only a bad cold, so the entire North urged that slavery was not the cause of the war: it was a little local misunderstanding. But the death of the gallant Col. Elmer E. Elsworth palsied the tongues of mere talkers; and in the tragic silence that followed, great, brave, and true men began to think.

Not a pulpit in all the land had spoken a word for the slave. The clergy stood dumb before the dreadful issue. But one man was found, like David of old, who, gathering his smooth pebble of fact from the brook of God's eternal truth, boldly met the boastful and erroneous public sentiment of the hour. That man was the Rev. Justin D. Fulton, a Baptist minister of Albany, New York. He was chosen to preach the funeral sermon of Col. Elsworth, and performed that duty on Sunday, May 26, 1861. Speaking of slavery, the reverend gentleman said:

"Shall this magazine of danger be permitted to remain? We must answer this question. If we say no, it is no! Slavery is a curse to the North. It impoverishes the South, and demoralizes both. It is the parent of treason, the seedling of tyranny, and the fountain-source of all the ills that have infected our life as a people, being the central cause of all our conflicts of the past and the war of to-day. What[Pg 243] reason have we for permitting it to remain? God does not want it, for His truth gives freedom. The South does not need it, for it is the chain fastened to her limb that fetters her progress. Morality, patriotism, and humanity alike protest against it.

"The South fights for slavery, for the despotism which it represents, for the ignoring the rights of labor, and for reducing to slavery or to serfdom all whose hands are hardened by toil.

"Why not make the issue at once, which shall inspire every man that shoulders his musket with a noble purpose? Our soldiers need to be reminded that this government was consecrated to freedom by those who first built here the altars of worship, and planted on the shore of the Western Continent the tree of liberty, whose fruit to-day fills the garners of national hope.... I would not forget that I am a messenger of the Prince of Peace. My motives for throwing out these suggestions are three-fold: 1. Because I believe God wants us to be actuated by motives not one whit less philanthropic than the giving of freedom to four million of people. 2. I confess to a sympathy for and faith in the slave, and cherish the belief that if freed, the war would become comparatively bloodless, and that as a people we should enter on the discharge of higher duties and a more enlarged prosperity. 3. The war would hasten to a close, and the end secured would then form a brilliant dawn to a career of prosperity unsurpassed in the annals of mankind."[76]

Brave, prophetic words! But a thousand vituperative editors sprang at Mr. Fulton's utterances, and as snapping curs, growled at and shook every sentence. He stood his ground. He took no step backward. When notice was kindly sent him that a committee would wait on him to treat him to a coat of tar and feathers, against the entreaties of anxious friends, he sent word that he would give them a warm reception. When the best citizens of Albany said the draft could not be enforced without bloody resistance, the Rev. Mr. Fulton exclaimed: "If the floodgates of blood are to be opened, we will not shoot down the poor and ignorant, but the swaggering and insolent men whose hearts are not in this war!"

The "Atlas and Argus," in an editorial on Ill-Timed Pulpit Abolitionism, denounced Rev. Mr. Fulton in bitterest terms; while the "Evening Standard" and "Journal" both declared that the views of the preacher were as a fire-brand thrown into the magazine of public sentiment.[Pg 244]

Everywhere throughout the North the Negro was counted as on the outside. Everywhere it was merely "a war for the Union," which was half free and half slave.

When the Union army got into the field at the South it was confronted by a difficult question. What should be done with the Negroes who sought the Union lines for protection from their masters? The sentiment of the press, Congress, and the people of the North generally, was against interference with the slave, either by the civil or military authorities. And during the first years of the war the army became a band of slave-catchers. Slave-holders and sheriffs from the Southern States were permitted to hunt fugitive slaves under the Union flag and within the lines of Federal camps. On the 22d of June, 1861, the following paragraph appeared in the "Baltimore American":

"Two free negroes, belonging to Frederick, Md., who concealed themselves in the cars which conveyed the Rhode Island regiment to Washington from this city, were returned that morning by command of Colonel Burnside, who supposed them to be slaves. The negroes were accompanied by a sergeant of the regiment, who lodged them in jail."

On the 4th of July, 1861, Col. Tyler, of the 7th Ohio regiment, delivered an address to the people of Virginia; a portion of which is sufficient to show the feeling that prevailed among army officers on the slavery question:

"To you, fellow-citizens of West Virginia—many of whom I have so long and favorably known,—I come to aid and protect. [The grammar is defective.]

"I have no selfish ambition to gratify, no personal motives to actuate. I am here to protect you in person and property—to aid you in the execution of the law, in the maintenance of peace and order, in the defence of the Constitution and the Union, and in the extermination of our common foe. As our enemies have belied our mission, and represented us as a band of Abolitionists, I desire to assure you that the relation of master and servant as recognized in your State shall be respected. Your authority over that species of property shall not in the least be interfered with. To this end I assure you that those under my command have peremptory orders to take up and hold any negroes found running about the camp without passes from their masters."

When a few copies had been struck off, a lieutenant in Captain G. W. Shurtleff's company handed him one. He waited upon[Pg 245] the colonel, and told him that it was not true that the troops had been ordered to arrest fugitive slaves. The colonel threatened to place Captain Shurtleff in arrest, when he exclaimed: "I'll never be a slave-catcher, so help me God!" There were few men in the army at this time who sympathized with such a noble declaration, and, therefore, Captain Shurtleff found himself in a very small minority.

The following account of an attempt to secure a fugitive slave from General Isaac R. Sherwood has its historical value. General Sherwood was as noble a man as he was a brave and intelligent soldier. He obeyed the still small voice in his soul and won a victory for humanity:

"In the February and March of 1863, I was a major in command of 111th O. V. I regiment. I had a servant, as indicated by army regulations, in charge of my private horse. He was from Frankfort, Ky., the property of a Baptist clergyman. When the troops passed through Frankfort, in the fall of 1862, he left his master, and followed the army. He came to me at Bowling Green, and I hired him to take care of my horse. He was a lad about fifteen years old, named Alfred Jackson.

"At this time, Brig.-Gen. Boyle, or Boyd (I think Boyle), was in command of the District of Kentucky, and had issued his general order, that fugitive slaves should be delivered up. Brig.-Gen. H. M. Judah was in command of Post of Bowling Green, also of our brigade, there stationed.

"The owner of Alfred Jackson found out his whereabouts, and sent a U. S. marshal to Bowling Green to get him. Said marshal came to my headquarters under a pretence to see my very fine saddle-horse, but really to identify Alfred Jackson. The horse was brought out by Alfred Jackson. The marshal went to Brig.-Gen. Judah's headquarters and got a written order addressed to me, describing the lad and ordering me to deliver the boy. This order was delivered to me by Col. Sterling, of Gen. Judah's staff, in person. I refused to obey it. I sent word to Gen. Judah that he could have my sword, but while I commanded that regiment no fugitive slave should ever be delivered to his master. The officer made my compliments to Gen. Judah as aforesaid, and I was placed under arrest for disobedience to orders, and my sword taken from me.

"In a few days the command was ordered to move to Glasgow, Ky., and Gen. Judah, not desiring to trust the regiment in command of a captain, I was temporarily restored to command, pending the meeting of a court-martial to try my case. When the command moved I[Pg 246] took Alfred Jackson along. After we reached Glasgow, Ky., Gen. Judah sent for me, and said if I would then deliver up Alfred Jackson he would restore me to command. The United States marshal was present. This I again refused to do.

"The same day, I sent an ambulance out of the lines, with Alfred Jackson tucked under the seat, in charge of a man going North, and I gave him money to get to Hillsdale, Michigan, where he went, and where he resided and grew up to be a good man and a citizen. I called the attention of Hon. James M. Ashley (then Member of Congress) to the matter, and under instructions from Secretary Stanton, Gen. Boyle's order was revoked, and I never delivered a fugitive, nor was I ever tried."

In Mississippi, in 1862, Col. James B. Steedman (afterward major-general) refused to honor an order of Gen. Fry, delivered by the man who wanted the slave in Steedman's camp. Col. Steedman read the order and told the bearer that he was a rebel; that he could not search his camp; and that he would give him just ten minutes to get out of the camp, or he would riddle him with bullets. When Gen. Fry asked for an explanation of his refusal to allow his camp to be searched, Col. Steedman said he would never consent to have his camp searched by a rebel; that he would use every bayonet in his regiment to protect the Negro slave who had come to him for protection; and that he was sustained by the Articles of War, which had been amended about that time.

Again, in the late summer of 1863, at Tuscumbia, Tennessee, Gen. Fry rode into Col. Steedman's camp to secure the return of the slaves of an old lady whom he had known before the war. Col. Steedman said he did not know that any slaves were in his camp; and that if they were there they should not be taken except they were willing to go. Gen. Fry was a Christian gentleman of a high Southern type, and combined with his loyalty to the Union an abiding faith in "the sacredness of slave property." Whether he ever recovered from the malady, history saith not.

The great majority of regular army officers were in sympathy with the idea of protecting slave property. Gen. T. W. Sherman, occupying the defences of Port Royal, in October, 1861, issued the following proclamation to the people of South Carolina:

"In obedience to the orders of the President of these United States of America, I have landed on your shores with a small force of[Pg 247] National troops. The dictates of a duty which, under the Constitution, I owe to a great sovereign State, and to a proud and hospitable people, among whom I have passed some of the pleasantest days of my life, prompt me to proclaim that we have come among you with no feelings of personal animosity; no desire to harm your citizens, destroy your property, or interfere with any of your lawful rights, or your social and local institutions, beyond what the causes herein briefly alluded to may render unavoidable."[77]

This proclamation sounds as if the general were a firm believer in State sovereignty; and that he was possessed with a feeling that he had landed in some strange land, among a people of different civilization and peculiar institutions.

On the 13th of November, 1861, Major-Gen. John A. Dix, upon taking possession of the counties of Accomac and Northampton, Va., issued the following proclamation:

"The military forces of the United States are about to enter your counties as a part of the Union. They will go among you as friends, and with the earnest hope that they may not, by your own acts, be compelled to become your enemies. They will invade no right of person or property. On the contrary, your laws, your institutions, your usages, will be scrupulously respected. There need be no fear that the quietude of any fireside will be disturbed, unless the disturbance is caused by yourselves.

"Special directions have been given not to interfere with the condition of any person held to domestic servitude; and, in order that there may be no ground for mistake or pretext for misrepresentation, commanders of regiments or corps have been instructed not to permit such persons to come within their lines."[78]

Gen. Halleck, while in command of the Union forces in Missouri, issued his "Order No. 3." as follows:

"It has been represented that important information, respecting the number and condition of our forces, is conveyed to the enemy by means of fugitive slaves who are admitted within our lines. In order to remedy this evil, it is directed that no such person be hereafter permitted to enter the lines of any camp, or of any forces on the march, and that any now within such lines be immediately excluded therefrom."

[Pg 248]

On the 23d of February, 1862, in "Order No. 13," he referred to the slave question as follows:

"It does not belong to the military to decide upon the relation of master and slave. Such questions must be settled by the civil courts. No fugitive slaves will, therefore, be admitted within our lines or camps, except when specially ordered by the general commanding."

On the 18th of February, 1862, Major-Gen. A. E. Burnside issued a proclamation in which he said to the people:

"The Government asks only that its authority may be recognized; and we repeat, in no manner or way does it desire to interfere with your laws, constitutionally established, your institutions of any kind whatever, your property of any sort, or your usages in any respect."

The following letter from Gen. Buell shows how deeply attached he was to the "constitutional guaranties" accorded to the rebels of the South:

"Headquarters Department of the Ohio, }
"Nashville, March 6, 1862. }

"Dear Sir: I have the honor to receive your communication of the 1st instant, on the subject of fugitive slaves in the camps of the army.

"It has come to my knowledge that slaves sometimes make their way improperly into our lines; and in some instances they may be enticed there; but I think the number has been magnified by report. Several applications have been made to me by persons whose servants have been found in our camps; and in every instance that I know of the master has recovered his servant and taken him away.

"I need hardly remind you that there will always be found some lawless and mischievous person in every army; but I assure you that the mass of this army is law-abiding, and that it is neither its disposition nor its policy to violate law or the rights of individuals in any particular. With great respect, your obedient servant,

"D. C. Buell,
"Brig.-Gen. Commanding Department.

"Hon. J. R. Underwood, Chairman Military Committee,
"Frankfort, Ky."

So "in every instance" the master had recovered his slave when found in Gen. Buell's camp!

On the 26th of March, 1862, Gen. Joseph Hooker, commanding the "Upper Potomac," issued the following order:[Pg 249]

"To Brigade and Regimental Commanders of this Division:

"Messrs. Nally, Gray, Dunnington, Dent, Adams, Speake, Price, Posey, and Cobey, citizens of Maryland, have negroes supposed to be with some of the regiments of this division. The brigadier-general commanding directs that they be permitted to visit all the camps of his command, in search of their property; and if found, that they be allowed to take possession of the same, without any interference whatever. Should any obstacle be thrown in their way by any officer or soldier in the division, he will be at once reported by the regimental commander to these headquarters."

In the spring of 1862, Gen. Thos. Williams, in the Department of the Gulf, issued the following order[79]:

"In consequence of the demoralizing and disorganizing tendencies to the troops of harboring runaway negroes, it is hereby ordered that the respective commanders of the camps and garrisons of the several regiments, 2d brigade, turn all such fugitives in their camps or garrisons out beyond the limits of their respective guards and sentinels.

"By order of

"Brig.-Gen. T. WILLIAMS."[80]

In a letter dated "Headquarters Army of the Potomac, July 7, 1862," Major-Gen. Geo. B. McClellan made the following observations concerning slavery:

"This Rebellion has assumed the character of a war; as such it should be regarded; and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to Christian civilization. It should not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any State, in any event. It should not be at all a war upon populations, but against armed forces and political organizations. Neither confiscation of property, political executions of persons, territorial organization of States, nor forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment."

But the drift of the sentiment of the army was in the direction of compromise with the slavery question. Nearly every statesman at Washington—in the White House and in the Congress—and nearly every officer in the army regarded the Negro question as purely political and not military. That it was a problem hard of solution no one could doubt. Hundreds of loyal[Pg 250] Negroes, upon the orders of general officers, were turned away from the Union lines, while those who had gotten on the inside were driven forth to the cruel vengeance of rebel masters. Who could solve the problem? Major-Gen. Benjamin F. Butler banished the politician, and became the loyal, patriotic soldier! In the month of May, 1861, during the time Gen. Butler commanded the Union forces at Fortress Monroe, three slaves made good their escape into his lines. They stated that they were owned by Col. Mallory, of the Confederate forces in the front; that he was about to send them to the North Carolina seaboard to work on rebel fortifications; and that the fortifications were intended to bar that coast against the Union arms. Having heard this statement, Gen. Butler, viewing the matter from a purely military stand-point, exclaimed: "These men are contraband of war; set them at work." Here was a solution of the entire problem; here was a blow delivered at the backbone of the Rebellion. He claimed no right to act as a politician, but acting as a loyal-hearted, clear-headed soldier, he coined a word and hurled a shaft at the enemy that struck him in a part as vulnerable as the heel of Achilles. In his letter to the Lieut.-Gen. of the Army, Winfield Scott, 27th of May, 1861, he said:

"Since I wrote my last, the question in regard to slave property is becoming one of very serious magnitude. The inhabitants of Virginia are using their negroes in the batteries, and are preparing to send their women and children South. The escapes from them are very numerous, and a squad has come in this morning, and my pickets are bringing in their women and children. Of course these can not be dealt with upon the theory on which I designed to treat the services of able-bodied men and women who might come within my lines, and of which I gave you a detailed account in my last dispatch.

"I am in the utmost doubt what to do with this species of property. Up to this time I have had come within my lines men and women, with their children,—entire families,—each family belonging to the same owner. I have therefore determined to employ—as I can do very profitably—the able-bodied persons in the party, issuing proper food for the support of all; charging against their services the expense of care and sustenance of the non-laborers; keeping a strict and accurate account, as well of the services as of the expenditures; having the worth of the services and the cost of the expenditures determined by a board of survey hereafter to be detailed. I know of no other manner in which to dispose of this subject and the questions connected therewith. As a matter of property, to the insurgents it will be of very great[Pg 251] moment—the number that I now have amounting, as I am informed, to what in good times would be of the value of $60,000.

"Twelve of these negroes, I am informed, have escaped from the erection of the batteries on Sewell's Point, which fired upon my expedition as it passed by out of range. As a means of offense, therefore, in the enemy's hands, these negroes, when able-bodied, are of great importance. Without them the batteries could not have been erected; at least, for many weeks. As a military question it would seem to be a measure of necessity, and deprives their masters of their services.

"How can this be done? As a political question, and a question of humanity, can I receive the services of a father and a mother and not take the children? Of the humanitarian aspect, I have no doubt; of the political one, I have no right to judge. I therefore submit all this to your better judgment, and, as these questions have a political aspect, I have ventured—and I trust I am not wrong in so doing—to duplicate the parts of my dispatch relating to this subject, and forward them to the Secretary of War.

"Your obedient servant,

"Benj. F. Butler.

"Lt.-General Scott."[81]

The letter of Gen. Butler was laid before the Secretary of War, who answered it as follows:

"Sir: Your action in respect to the negroes who came within your lines, from the service of the rebels, is approved. The Department is sensible of the embarrassments which must surround officers conducting military operations in a State, by the laws of which slavery is sanctioned. The Government can not recognize the rejection by any State of its Federal obligations, resting upon itself. Among these Federal obligations, however, no one can be more important than that of suppressing and dispersing any combination of the former for the purpose of overthrowing its whole constitutional authority. While, therefore, you will permit no interference, by persons under your command, with the relations of persons held to service under the laws of any State, you will, on the other hand, so long as any State within which your military operations are conducted remains under the control of such armed combinations, refrain from surrendering to alleged masters any persons who come within your lines. You will employ such persons in the services to which they will be best adapted; keeping an account of the labor by them performed, of the value of it, and the expenses of their maintenance. The question of their final disposition will be reserved for future determination.

"Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.

"To Maj.-Gen. Butler.

[Pg 252]

In an account of the life and services of Capt. Grier Talmadge, the "Times" correspondent says:

"To the deceased, who was conservative in his views and actions, belongs the credit of first enunciating the 'contraband' idea as subsequently applied in the practical treatment of the slaves of rebels, Early in the spring of 1861, Flag-Officer Pendergrast, in command of the frigate 'Cumberland,' then the vessel blockading the Roads, restored to their owners certain slaves that had escaped from Norfolk. Shortly after, the Flag-Officer, Gen. Butler, Capt. Talmadge, and the writer chanced to meet in the ramparts of the fortress, when Capt. T. took occasion, warmly, but respectfully, to dissent from the policy of the act, and proceeded to advance some arguments in support of his views. Turning to Gen. Butler, who had just assumed command of this department, he said: 'General, it is a question you will have to decide, and that, too, very soon; for in less than twenty-four hours deserting slaves will commence swarming to your lines. The rebels are employing their slaves in thousands in constructing batteries all around us. And, in my judgment, in view of this fact, not only slaves who take refuge within our lines are contrabands, but I hold it as much our duty to seize and capture those employed, or intended to be employed, in constructing batteries, as it is to destroy the arsenals or any other war-making element of the rebels, or to capture and destroy the batteries themselves.' Within two days after this conversation, Gen. Butler has the question practically presented to him, as predicted, and he solved it by applying the views advanced by the deceased."[82]

The conservative policy of Congress, the cringing attitude of the Government at Washington, the reverses on the Potomac, the disaster of Bull Run, the apologetic tone of the Northern press, the expulsion of slaves from the Union lines, and the conduct of "Copperheads" in the North—who crawled upon their stomachs, snapping and biting at the heels of Union men and Union measures,—bred a spirit of unrest and mob violence. It was not enough that the service of free Negroes was declined; they were now hunted out and persecuted by mobs and other agents of the disloyal element at the North. Like a man sick unto death the Government insisted that it only had a slight cold, and that it would be better soon. The President was no better informed as to the nature of the war than other conservative Republicans. On the 19th of August, 1862, Horace Greeley[Pg 253] addressed an open letter to the President, known as "The Prayer of Twenty Millions," of which the following are specimen passages:

"On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion, and at the same time uphold its inciting cause, are preposterous and futile—that the Rebellion, if crushed out to-morrow, would be renewed within a year if slavery were left in full vigor—that army officers, who remain to this day devoted to slavery, can at best be but half-way loyal to the Union—and that every hour of deference to slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union. I appeal to the testimony of your Embassadors in Europe. It is freely at your service, not mine. Ask them to tell you candidly whether the seeming subserviency of your policy to the slave-holding, slavery-upholding interest, is not the perplexity, the despair, of statesmen of all parties; and be admonished by the general answer!

"I close, as I began, with the statement that what an immense majority of the loyal millions of your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land, more especially of the Confiscation Act. That Act gives freedom to the slaves of rebels coming within our lines, or whom those lines may at any time inclose,—we ask you to render it due obedience by publicly requiring all your subordinates to recognize and obey it. The rebels are everywhere using the late anti-negro riots in the North—as they have long used your officers' treatment of negroes in the South—to convince the slaves that they have nothing to hope from a Union success—that we mean in that case to sell them into a bitter bondage to defray the cost of the war. Let them impress this as a truth on the great mass of their ignorant and credulous bondmen, and the Union will never be restored—never. We can not conquer ten millions of people united in solid phalanx against us, powerfully aided by Northern sympathizers and European allies. We must have scouts, guides, spies, cooks, teamsters, diggers, and choppers, from the blacks of the South—whether we allow them to fight for us or not—or we shall be baffled and repelled. As one of the millions who would gladly have avoided this struggle at any sacrifice but that of principle and honor, but who now feel that the triumph of the Union is indispensable not only to the existence of our country, but to the well-being of mankind, I entreat you to render a hearty and unequivocal obedience to the law of the land.


"Horace Greeley."[83]

[Pg 254]

It was an open letter. Mr. Greeley had evidently lost sight of his economic theories as applied to slavery in the abstract, and now, as a practical philosopher, caught hold of the question by the handle. Mr. Lincoln replied within a few days, but was still joined to his abstract theories of constitutional law. He loved the Union, and all he should do for the slave should be done to help the Union, not the slave. He was not desirous of saving or destroying slavery. But certainly he had spoken more wisely than he knew when he had asserted, a few years before, that "a nation half free and half slave, could not long exist." That was an indestructible truth. Had he adhered to that doctrine the way would have been easier. In every thing he consulted the Constitution. His letter is interesting reading.

"Executive Mansion, Washington,}
"August 22, 1862.}

"Hon. Horace Greeley:

"Dear Sir: I have just read yours of the 19th instant, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune.

"If there be in it any statements or assumptions of fact which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them.

"If there be any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them.

"If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

"As to the policy 'I seem to be pursuing,' as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt. I would save the Union. I would save it in the shortest way under the Constitution.

"The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be the Union as it was.

"If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them.

"If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

"My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery.

"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

"What I do about slavery and the Colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.[Pg 255]

"I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause; and I shall do more whenever I believe doing more will help the cause.

"I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

"I have here stated my purpose according to my views of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.


"A. Lincoln."[84]

But there were few men among the general officers of the army who either reached the conclusion by their own judgment, or were aided by the action of General Butler, that it was their duty to confiscate all the property of the enemy. Acting upon the plainest principle of military law, Major-General John C. Fremont, commanding the Department of the Missouri, or the Union forces in that State, issued the following proclamation:

"Headquarters of the Western Dep't,}
"St. Louis, August 31st. }

"Circumstances, in my judgment, of sufficient urgency, render it necessary that the Commanding General of this Department should assume the administrative power of the State. Its disorganized condition, the helplessness of the civil authority, the total insecurity of life, and the devastation of property by bands of murderers and marauders, who infest nearly every county in the State, and avail themselves of the public misfortunes and the vicinity of a hostile force to gratify private and neighborhood vengeance, and who find an enemy wherever they find plunder, finally demand the severest measures to repress the daily increasing crimes and outrages which are driving off the inhabitants and ruining the State. In this condition, the public safety and the success of our arms require unity of purpose, without let or hindrance to the prompt administration of affairs.

"In order, therefore, to suppress disorders, to maintain, as far as now practicable, the public peace, and to give security and protection to the persons and property of loyal citizens, I do hereby extend and declare established martial law throughout the Stale of Missouri. The lines of the army of occupation in this State are, for the present, declared to extend from Leavenworth, by way of the posts of Jefferson City, Rolla, and Ironton, to Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River.[Pg 256]

All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands, within these lines, shall be tried by Court Martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot. The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, or shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men.

"All persons who shall be proven to have destroyed, after the publication of this order, railroad tracks, bridges, or telegraphs, shall suffer the extreme penalty of the law.

"All persons engaged in treasonable correspondence, in giving or procuring aid to the enemies of the United States, in disturbing the public tranquillity by creating and circulating false reports or incendiary documents, are in their own interest warned that they are exposing themselves.

"All persons who have been led away from their allegiance are required to return to their homes forthwith; any such absence, without sufficient cause, will be held to be presumptive evidence against them.

"The object of this declaration is to place in the hands of the military authorities the power to give instantaneous effect to existing laws, and to supply such deficiencies as the conditions of war demand. But it is not intended to suspend the ordinary tribunals of the country, where the law will be administered by the civil officers in the usual manner and with their customary authority, while the same can be peaceably exercised.

"The Commanding General will labor vigilantly for the public welfare, and, in his efforts for their safety, hopes to obtain not only the acquiescence, but the active support, of the people of the country.

"J. C. Fremont, Major-Gen. Com."[85]

This magnificent order thrilled the loyal hearts of the North with joy; but the President, still halting and hesitating, requested a modification of the order so far as it related to the liberation of slaves. This Gen. Fremont declined to do unless ordered to do so by his superior. Accordingly the President wrote him as follows:

"Washington, D. C., Sept. 11, 1861.

"Major-Gen. John C. Fremont:

"Sir:—Yours of the 8th, in answer to mine of the 2d inst., is just received. Assured that you, upon the ground, could better judge of the necessities of your position than I could at this distance, on seeing[Pg 257] your proclamation of August 30th, I perceived no general objection to it; the particular clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberation of slaves, appeared to me to be objectionable in its non-conformity to the Act of Congress, passed the 6th of last August, upon the same subjects; and hence I wrote you, expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly. Your answer, just received, expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order for the modification, which I very cheerfully do. It is, therefore, ordered that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held, and construed, as to conform with, and not to transcend, the provisions on the same subject contained in the Act of Congress entitled 'An Act to Confiscate Property Used for Insurrectionary Purposes,' approved August 6, 1861; and that the said act be published at length with this order.

"Your obedient servant,

"A. Lincoln."[86]

Gen. Fremont's removal followed speedily. He was in advance of the slow coach at Washington, and was sent where he could do no harm to the enemy of the country, by emancipating Negroes. It seems as if there were nothing else left for Gen. Fremont to do but to free the slaves in his military district. They were the bone and sinew of Confederate resistance. It was to weaken the enemy that the general struck down this peculiar species of property, upon which the enemy of the country relied so entirely.

Major-Gen. David Hunter assumed command at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on the 31st of March, 1862. On the 9th of May he issued the following "General Order:"

"Headquarters Dep't of the South,}
"Hilton Head, S. C., May 9, 1862.}

"General Order, No. 11.

"The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the United States of America, and, having taken up arms against the United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law.

"This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these States—Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina—heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free."[87]

[Pg 258]

But the President, in ten days after its publication, rescinded the order of General Hunter, in the following Proclamation:

"And whereas, The same [Hunter's proclamation] is producing some excitement and misunderstanding, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, proclaim and declare that the Government of the United States had no knowledge or belief of an intention on the part of Gen. Hunter to issue such a proclamation, nor has it yet any authentic information that the document is genuine: and, further, that neither Gen. Hunter nor any other commander or person have been authorized by the Government of the United States to make proclamation declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration. I further make known that, whether it be competent for me, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the slaves of any State or States free; and whether at any time, or in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I cannot feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders in the field.

"Those are totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies or in camps.

"On the sixth day of March last, by a special Message, I recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolution, to be substantially as follows:

"'Resolved, That the United States ought to coöperate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.'

"The resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large majorities in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentic, definite, and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most interested in the subject-matter. To the people of these States now I mostly appeal. I do not argue—I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times.

"I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above partisan and personal politics.

"This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of Heaven, not rending or wrecking any thing. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time, as, in the Providence of God,[Pg 259] it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it!

"In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

"Done at the city of Washington this 19th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1862, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.

"(Signed)      Abraham Lincoln.

      "By the President:
"W. H. Seward, Secretary of State."

The conservative policy of the President greatly discouraged the friends of the Union, who felt that a vigorous prosecution of the war was the only hope of the nation. Slavery and the Union had joined in a terrible struggle for the supremacy. Both could not exist. Our treasury was empty; our bonds depreciated; our credit poor; our industries languishing; and the channels of commerce were choked. European governments were growing impatient at the dilatory policy of our nation; and every day we were losing sympathy and friends. Our armies were being repulsed and routed; and Columbia's war eagles were wearily flapping their pinions in the blood-dampened dust of a nerveless nation. But the Negro was still on the outside,—it was "a white man's war."


[75] Rebellion Recs., vol. i. Doc., p. 63.

[76] Albany Atlas and Argus, May 27, 1861.

[77] Greeley, vol. ii. p. 240.

[78] Rebellion Records, vol. iii. Doc. p. 376.

[79] I have quite a large number of such orders, but the above will suffice.

[80] Greeley, vol. ii. p. 246.

[81] Greeley, vol. ii. p. 238.

[82] New York Times.

[83] Greeley, vol. ii. pp. 249, 250.

[84] Greeley, vol. ii. p. 250.

[85] Greeley, vol. i. p. 585.

[86] Greeley, vol. ii. pp. 239, 240.

[87] Greeley, vol. ii. p. 246.

[Pg 260]


Negroes Employed as Teamsters and in the Quartermaster's Department.—General Mercer's Order to the Slave-holders issued from Savannah.—He receives Orders from the Secretary of War to impress a Number of Negroes to build Fortifications.—The Negro proves himself Industrious and Earns Promotion.

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THE light began to break through the dark cloud of prejudice in the minds of the friends of the Union. If a Negro were useful in building rebel fortifications, why not in casting up defences for the Union army? Succeeding Gen. Butler in command at Fortress Monroe, on the 14th of October, 1861, Major-Gen. Wool issued an order, directing that "all colored persons called contrabands," employed by officers or others within his command, must be furnished with subsistence by their employers, and paid, if males, not less than four dollars per month, and that "all able-bodied colored persons, not employed as aforesaid," will be immediately put to work in the Engineer's or the Quartermaster's Department. On the 1st of November, Gen. Wool directed that the compensation of "contrabands" working for the government should be five to ten dollars per month, with soldier's rations. These Negroes rendered valuable service in the sphere they were called upon to fill.

In the Western army, Gen. James B. Steedman was the first man to suggest the idea of employing Negroes as teamsters. He saw that every Negro who drove a team of mules gave to the army one more white soldier with a musket in his hands; and so with the sympathy and approval of the gallant Gen. Geo. H. Thomas, Gen. Steedman put eighty Negroes into uniforms, and turned them over to an experienced white "wagon-master." The Negroes made excellent teamsters, and the plan was adopted quite generally.

In September, 1862, an order from Washington directed the employment of fifty thousand Negro laborers in the Quartermaster's Department, under Generals Hunter and Saxton! This showed that the authorities at Washington had begun to get[Pg 261] their eyes open on this question. "And while speaking of the negroes," wrote a "Times" correspondent, in 1862, from Hilton Head, "let me present a few statistics obtained from an official source, respecting the success which has crowned the experiment of employing them as free paid laborers upon the plantations. The population of the Division (including Port Royal, St. Helena and Ladies' islands, with the smaller ones thereto adjacent, but excluding Hilton Head and its surroundings) is as follows:


"The number of acres under cultivation on the same islands, is:

"Of Corn6,444
"Of Cotton3,384
"Of Potatoes1,407

"A little calculation will show that the negroes have raised enough corn and potatoes to support themselves, besides a crop of cotton (now ripe) somewhat smaller than in former years, but still of very considerable value to the Government."[88]

Gen. Mercer issued the following order at Savannah, Georgia, which shows that the rebels did not despise the fatigue services of Negroes:

"C. S. Engineer's Office, }
"Savannah, Ga., Aug. 1, 1863.}

"The Brigadier-General Commanding desires to inform the slave-holders of Georgia that he has received authority from the Secretary of War to impress a number of negroes sufficient to construct such additional fortifications as are necessary for the defence of Savannah.

"He desires, if possible, to avoid the necessity of impressment, and therefore urges the owners of slave property to volunteer the services of their negroes. He believes that, while the planters of South Carolina are sending their slaves by thousands to aid the defence of Charleston, the slave-holders of Georgia will not be backward in contributing in the same patriotic manner to the defence of their own seaport, which has so far resisted successfully all the attacks of the enemy at Fort McAllister and other points.

"Remember, citizens of Georgia, that on the successful defence of Georgia depends the security of the interior of your State, where so[Pg 262] much of value both to yourselves and to the Confederacy at large is concentrated. It is best to meet the enemy at the threshold, and to hurl back the first wave of invasion. Once the breach is made, all the horrors of war must desolate your now peaceful and quiet homes. Let no man deceive himself. If Savannah falls the fault will be yours, and your own neglect will have brought the sword to your hearth-stones.

"The Brigadier-General Commanding, therefore, calls on all the slave-holders of Eastern, Southern, and Southwestern Georgia, but especially those in the neighborhood of Savannah, to send him immediately one fifth of their able-bodied male slaves, for whom transportation will be furnished and wages paid at the rate of twenty-five dollars per month, the Government to be responsible for the value of such Negroes as may be killed by the enemy, or may in any manner fall into his hands. By order of

"Brig.-Gen. Mercer, Commanding.

"John McCrady,
"Captain and Chief Engineer, State of Georgia."[89]

Negroes built most of the fortifications and earth-works for Gen. Grant in front of Vicksburg. The works in and about Nashville were cast up by the strong arm and willing hand of the loyal Blacks. Dutch Gap was dug by Negroes, and miles of earthworks, fortifications, and corduroy-roads were made by Negroes. They did fatigue duty in every department of the Union army. Wherever a Negro appeared with a shovel in his hand, a white soldier took his gun and returned to the ranks. There were 200,000 Negroes in the camps and employ of the Union armies, as servants, teamsters, cooks, and laborers. What a mighty host! Suppose the sentiment that early met the Negro on the picket lines and turned him back to the enemy had continued, 50,000 white soldiers would have been required in the Engineer's and Quartermaster's Department; while 25,000 white men would have been required for various other purposes, outside of the ranks of the army.

A narrow prejudice among some of the white troops, upon whose pedigree it would not be pleasant to dwell, met the Negro teamster, with a blue coat and buttons with eagles on them, with a growl. They disliked to see the Negro wearing a Union uniform;—it looked too much like equality.

But in his lowly station as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, the Negro proved himself industrious, trustworthy, efficient, and cheerful. He earned promotion, and in due time secured it.


[88] Times, Sept. 4, 1862.

[89] Rebellion Recs., vol. vii. Doc. p. 479.

[Pg 263]



Congress passes an Act to confiscate Property used for Insurrectionary Purposes.—A Fruitless Appeal to the President to issue an Emancipation Proclamation.—He thinks the Time not yet come for such an Action, but within a few Weeks changes his Opinion and issues an Emancipation Proclamation.—The Rebels show no Disposition to accept the Mild Terms of the Proclamation.—Mr. Davis gives Attention to the Proclamation in his Third Annual Message.—Second Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln January 1, 1863.—The Proclamation imparts New Hope to the Negro.

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THE position taken by General Butler on the question of receiving into the Federal lines the slaves of persons who were in rebellion against the National Government, and who were liable to be used in service against the government by their owners, had its due influence in Washington. But all the general officers did not share in the views of General Butler. As many as twenty Union generals still had it in their minds that it was the duty of the army "to catch run-away slaves"; and they afforded rebels every facility to search their camps. They arrested fugitive Negroes and held them subject to the order of their masters. Congress was not long in seeing the suicidal tendency of such a policy, and on the 6th of August, 1861, passed "An Act to Confiscate Property Used for Insurrectionary Purposes." Notwithstanding this act, General McClellan and other officers still clung to the obsolete doctrine of "the sacredness of slave property." His conduct finally called forth the following letter from the Secretary of State:

"Contrabands in District of Columbia.

"Department of State, }
"Washington City, December 4, 1861. }

"To Major-General George B. McClellan, Washington:

"General: I am directed by the President to call your attention to the following subject:[Pg 264]

"Persons claimed to be held to service or labor under the laws of the State of Virginia, and actually employed in hostile service against the Government of the United States, frequently escape from the lines of the enemy's forces and are received within the lines of the Army of the Potomac. This Department understands that such persons, afterward coming into the city of Washington, are liable to be arrested by the city police, upon presumption, arising from color, that they are fugitives from service or labor.

"By the fourth section of the act of Congress, approved August 6, 1861, entitled 'An Act to Confiscate Property Used for Insurrectionary Purposes,' such hostile employment is made a full and sufficient answer to any further claim to service or labor. Persons thus employed and escaping are received into the military protection of the United States, and their arrest as fugitives from service or labor should be immediately followed by the military arrest of the parties making the seizure.

"Copies of this communication will be sent to the Mayor of the City of Washington and to the Marshal of the District of Columbia, that any collision between the civil and military authorities may be avoided.

"I am, General, your very obedient,

"Wm. H. Seward."

It was now 1862. The dark war clouds were growing thicker. The Union army had won but few victories; our troops had to fight a tropical climate, the forces of nature, and an arrogant, jubilant, and victorious enemy. Autumn had come but nothing had been accomplished. The friends of the Union who favored a speedy and vigorous prosecution of the war, besieged the President with letters, memorials, and addresses to "do something." But intrenched behind his "constitutional views" of how the war should be managed he heard all, but would pot yield. On the 13th of September, 1862, a deputation of gentlemen, representing the various Protestant denominations of Chicago, called upon the President and urged him to adopt a vigorous policy of emancipation as the only way to save the Union; but he denied the request. He said:

"The subject is difficult, and good men do not agree. For instance: the other day, four gentlemen of standing and intelligence from New York called as a delegation on business connected with the war; but before leaving two of them earnestly besought me to proclaim general Emancipation; upon which the other two at once attacked them. You know also that the last session of Congress had a decided majority of anti-slavery men, yet they could not unite on this policy. And the[Pg 265] same is true of the religious people. Why, the Rebel soldiers are praying with a great deal more earnestness, I fear, than our own troops, and expecting God to favor their side: for one of our soldiers, who had been taken prisoner, told Senator Wilson a few days since that he met nothing so discouraging as the evident sincerity of those he was among in their prayers. But we will talk over the merits of the case.

"What good would a proclamation of Emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the Rebel States? Is there a single court, or magistrate, or individual, that would be influenced by it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress, which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines? Yet I cannot learn that that law has caused a single slave to come over to us. And, suppose they could be induced by a proclamation of freedom from me to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we feed and care for such a multitude? Gen. Butler wrote me a few days since that he was issuing more rations to the slaves who have rushed to him than to all the White troops under his command. They eat, and that is all; though it is true Gen. Butler is feeding the Whites also by the thousand; for it nearly amounts to a famine there. If, now, the pressure of the war should call off our forces from New Orleans to defend some other point, what is to prevent the masters from reducing the Blacks to Slavery again; for I am told that whenever the rebels take any Black prisoners, free or slave, they immediately auction them off! They did so with those they took from a boat that was aground in the Tennessee river a few days ago. And then I am very ungenerously attacked for it! For instance, when, after the late battles at and near Bull Run, an expedition went out from Washington, under a flag of truce, to bury the dead and bring in the wounded, and the Rebels seized the Blacks who went along to help, and sent them into Slavery, Horace Greeley said in his paper that the Government would probably do nothing about it. What could I do?

"Now, then, tell me, if you please, what possible result of good would follow the issuing of such a proclamation as you desire? Understand: I raise no objection against it on legal or constitutional grounds; for, as Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy in time of war, I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy; nor do I urge objections of a moral nature, in view of possible consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South. I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the[Pg 266] advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the Rebellion."

Not discouraged, the deputation urged in answer to his conservative views, that a policy of emancipation would strengthen the cause of the Union in Europe, and place the government upon high humane grounds, where it could boldly and confidently appeal to Almighty God in an honest attempt to save His poor children from the degrading curse of American slavery. But the President replied:

"I admit that Slavery is at the root of the Rebellion, or at least its sine qua non. The ambition of politicians may have instigated them to act; they would have been impotent without Slavery as their instrument. I will also concede that Emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition. I grant, further, that it would help somewhat at the North, though not so much, I fear, as you and those you represent imagine. Still, some additional strength would be added in that way to the war; and then, unquestionably, it would weaken the Rebels by drawing off their laborers, which is of great importance; but I am not so sure we could do much with the Blacks. If we were to arm them, I fear that in a few weeks the arms would be in the hands of the Rebels; and, indeed, thus far, we have not had arms enough to equip our White troops. I will mention another thing, though it meet only your scorn and contempt. There are fifty thousand bayonets in the Union army from the Border Slave States. It would be a serious matter if, in consequence of a proclamation such as you desire, they should go over to the Rebels. I do not think they all would—not so many, indeed, as a year ago, or as six months ago—not so many to-day as yesterday. Every day increases their Union feeling. They are also getting their pride enlisted, and want to beat the Rebels. Let me say one thing more: I think you should admit that we already have an important principle to rally and unite the people, in the fact that constitutional government is at stake. This is a fundamental idea, going down about as deep as anything."[90]

But there were millions of prayers ascending to the God of Battles daily that the President might have the courage and disposition to pursue a course required by the lamentable condition of the Union. And just nine days from the time he thought a proclamation not warranted and impracticable, he issued the following:[Pg 267]

"I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States and each of the States, and the people thereof, in which States that relation is or may be suspended or disturbed.

"That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress, to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all Slave States, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States, and which States may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of Slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the governments existing there, will be continued.

"That, on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.

"That attention is hereby called to an act of Congress entitled 'An Act to make an additional Article of War,' approved March 13th, 1862; and which act is in the words and figures following:

"'Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That hereafter the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the Army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such:[Pg 268]

"'Section 1. All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due; and any officer who shall be found guilty of a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.

"'Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.'

"Also, to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled 'An Act to Suppress Insurrection, to Punish Treason and Rebellion, to Seize and Confiscate Property of Rebels, and for other Purposes,' approved July 16, 1862; and which sections are in the words and figures following:

"'Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the Government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons, or deserted by them and coming under the control of the Government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on [or] being within any place occupied by Rebel forces and afterward occupied by forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

"'Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offense against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present Rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretense whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.'

"And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act and sections above recited.

"And the Executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States, who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the Rebellion, shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between[Pg 269] the United States and their respective States and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.

"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the City of Washington, this twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.

[L. S.]

"Abraham Lincoln.

        "By the President:
"William H. Seward, Secretary of State."

But why this change in the views of the President? History, thus far, is left to conjecture. It was hinted that our embassadors in Western Europe had apprised the State Department at Washington that an early recognition of the Southern Confederacy was possible, even probable. It was also stated that he was waiting for the issue at the battle of Antietam, which was fought on the 17th—five days before the proclamation was issued. But neither explanation stands in the light of the positive and explicit language of the President on the 13th of September. However, he issued the proclamation,—the Divine Being may have opened his eyes to see the angel that was to turn him aside from the destruction that awaited the Union that he sought to save with slavery preserved!

The sentiment of the people upon the wisdom of the proclamation was expressed in the October elections. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois went democratic; while the supporters of the Administration fell off in Michigan and other Western States. In the Congress of 1860 there were 78 Republicans and 37 Democrats; in 1862 there were 57 Administration representatives, and 67 in the Opposition.

The army did not take kindly to the proclamation. It was charged that "the war for the Union was changed into a war for the Negro." Some officers resigned, while many others said that if they thought they were fighting to free the "niggers" they would resign. This sentiment was contagious. It found its way into the rank and file of the troops, and did no little harm. The following telegram shows that the rebels were angered not a little at the President:[Pg 270]

"Charleston, S. C., Oct. 13, 1862.

"Hon. Wm. P. Miles, Richmond, Va.:

"Has the bill for the execution of Abolition prisoners, after January next, been passed? Do it; and England will be stirred into action. It is high time to proclaim the black flag after that period. Let the execution be with the garrote.

"(Signed)      G. T. Beauregard."

But the proclamation was a harmless measure. First, it declared that the object of the war was to restore "the constitutional relation between the United States and each of the States." After nearly two years of disastrous war Mr. Lincoln declares the object of the war. Certainly no loyal man had ever entertained any other idea than the one expressed in the proclamation. It was not a war on the part of the United States to destroy her children, nor to disturb her own constitutional, comprehensive unity. It must have been understood, then, from the commencement, that the war begun by the seceding States was waged on the part of the United States to preserve the Union of the States, and restore them to their "constitutional relation."

Second, the proclamation implored the slave States to accept (certainly in the spirit of compromise) a proposition from the United States to emancipate their slaves for a pecuniary consideration, and, by their gracious consent, assist in colonizing loyal Negroes in this country or in Africa!

Third, the measure proposed to free slaves of persons and States in rebellion against the lawful authority of the United States Government on the first day of January, 1863. Nothing more difficult could have been undertaken than to free only the slaves of persons and States in actual rebellion against the Government of the United States. Persons in actual rebellion would be most likely to have immediate oversight of this species of their property; and the owners of slaves in the States in actual rebellion against the United States Government would doubtless be as thoroughly prepared to take care of slave property as the muskets in their rebellious hands.

Fourth, this emancipation proclamation (?) proposed to pay out of the United States Treasury,—for all slaves of loyal masters lost in a rebellion begun by slave-holders and carried on by slave-holders![Pg 271]

Under the condition of affairs no emancipation proclamation was necessary. Treason against the United States is "levying war against them," or "adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." The rebel States were guilty of treason; and from the moment Sumter was fired upon, every slave in the Confederate States was ipso facto free!

But it was an occasion for rejoicing. The President had taken a step in the right direction, and, thank God! he never retraced it.

A severe winter had set in. The rebels had shown the kind-hearted President no disposition to accept the mild terms of his proclamation. On the contrary, it was received with gnashing of teeth and bitter imprecations. On the 12th of January, 1863, the titular President of the Confederate States, in his third Annual Message, gave attention to the proclamation of the President of the United States. Mr. Davis said:

"It has established a state of things which can lead to but one of three possible consequences—the extermination of the slaves, the exile of the whole white population of the Confederacy, or absolute and total separation of these States from the United States. This proclamation is also an authentic statement by the Government of the United States of its inability to subjugate the South by force of arms, and, as such, must be accepted by neutral nations, which can no longer find any justification in withholding our just claims to formal recognition. It is also, in effect, an intimation to the people of the North that they must prepare to submit to a separation now become inevitable; for that people are too acute not to understand that a restitution of the Union has been rendered forever impossible by the adoption of a measure which, from its very nature, neither admits of retraction nor can coexist with union.

. . . . . . . . .

"We may well leave it to the instincts of that common humanity which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellow-men of all countries to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race—peaceful and contented laborers in their sphere—are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insidious recommendation to abstain from violence unless in necessary self-defense. Our own detestation of those who have attempted the most execrable measures recorded in the history of guilty man is tempered by profound contempt for the impotent rage which it[Pg 272] discloses. So far as regards the action of this Government on such criminals as may attempt its execution, I confine myself to informing you that I shall—unless in your wisdom you deem some other course more expedient—deliver to the several State authorities all commissioned officers of the United States that may hereafter be captured by our forces in any of the States embraced in the proclamation, that they may be dealt with in accordance with the laws of those States providing for the punishment of criminals engaged in exciting servile insurrection. The enlisted soldiers I shall continue to treat as unwilling instruments in the commission of these crimes, and shall direct their discharge and return to their homes on the proper and usual parole."

And although the President and his supporters had not reaped the blessings their hopes had sown, they were, nevertheless, not without hope. For when the sober second thought of the nation took the place of prejudice and undue excitement, the proclamation had more friends. And so, in keeping with his promise, the President issued the following proclamation on the first of January, 1863.

"Whereas, on the 22d day of September, in the year of our Lord 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"'That on the 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"'That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members, chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.'

"Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of[Pg 273] the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and Government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

"Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemine, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are, for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

"And, by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States, are and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

"And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free, to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

"And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my name and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the City of Washington, this 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord 1863, and of the independence of the United States the 87th.

[L. S.]

"Abraham Lincoln.

        "By the President:
"William H. Seward, Secretary of State."

[Pg 274]

Even this proclamation—not a measure of humanity—to save the Union, not the slave—left slaves in many counties and States at the South. It was a war measure, pure and simple. It was a blow aimed at the most vulnerable part of the Confederacy. It was destroying its corner-stone, and the ponderous fabric was doomed to a speedy and complete destruction. It discovered that the strength of this Sampson of rebellion lay in its vast slave population. To the slave the proclamation came as the song of the rejoicing angels to the shepherds upon the plains of Bethlehem. It was like music at night, mellowed by the distance, that rouses slumbering hopes, gives wings to fancy, and peoples the brain with blissful thoughts. The notes of freedom came careering to them across the red, billowy waves of battle and thrilled their souls with ecstatic peace. Old men who, like Samuel the prophet, believing the ark of God in the hands of the Philistines, and were ready to give up the ghost, felt that it was just the time to begin to live. Husbands were transported with the thought of gathering to their bosoms the wife that had been sold to the "nigger traders"; mothers swooned under the tender touch of the thought of holding in loving embrace the children who pined for their care; and young men and maidens could only "think thanksgiving and weep gladness."

The slave-holder saw in this proclamation the handwriting upon the walls of the institution of slavery. The brightness and revelry of his banqueting halls were to be succeeded by gloom and sorrow. His riches, consisting in human beings, were to disappear under the magic touch of the instrument of freedom. The chattel was to be transformed into a person, the person into a soldier, the soldier into a citizen—and thus the Negro slave, like the crawling caterpillar, was to leave his grovelling situation, and in new form, wing himself to the sublime heights of free American citizenship!

The Negroes had a marvellous facility of communicating news to each other. The proclamation, in spite of the precautions of the rebel authorities, took to itself wings. It came to the plantation of weary slaves as the glorious light of a new-born day. It flooded the hovels of slaves with its golden light and rich promise of "forever free." Like St. Paul the poor slaves could exclaim:

"In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness,[Pg 275] by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."

And the significant name of Abraham—"father of the faithful"—was pronounced by the Negroes with blessings, and mingled in their songs of praise.


[90] Greeley, vol. ii. pp. 251, 252.

[Pg 276]


The Question of the Employment of Negroes.—The Rebels take the First Step toward the Military Employment of Negroes.—Grand Review of the Rebel Troops at New Orleans.—General Hunter Arms the First Regiment of Loyal Negroes at the South.—Official Correspondence between the Secretary of War and General Hunter respecting the Enlistment of The Black Regiment.—The Enlistment of Five Negro Regiments authorized by the President.—The Policy of General Phelps in Regard to the Employment of Negroes as Soldiers in Louisiana.—A Second Call for Troops by the President.—An Attempt to amend the Army Appropriation Bill so as to prohibit the further Employment of Colored Troops.—Governor John A. Andrew, of Massachusetts, authorized by Secretary of War to organize Two Regiments of Colored Troops.—General Lorenzo Thomas is despatched to the Mississippi Valley to superintend the Enlistment of Negro Soldiers in the Spring of 1863.—An Order issued by the War Department in the Fall of 1863 for the Enlistment of Colored Troops.—The Union League Club of New York City.—Recruiting of Colored Troops in Pennsylvania.—George L. Stearns assigned Charge of the Recruiting of Colored Troops in the Department of the Cumberland.—Free Military School established at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.—Endorsement of the School by Secretary Stanton.—The Organization of the School.—Official Table Giving Number of Colored Troops in the Army.—The Character of Negro Troops.—Mr. Greeley's Editorial on "Negro Troops."—Letter from Judge Advocate Holt to the Secretary of War on the "Enlistment of Slaves."—The Negro Legally and Constitutionally a Soldier.—History records his Deeds of Patriotism.

Return to Table of Contents

AT no time during the first two years of the war was the President or the Congress willing to entertain the idea of employing Negroes as soldiers. It has been shown that the admission of loyal Negroes into the Union lines, and into the service of the Engineer's and Quartermaster's Department, had been resisted with great stubbornness by the men in the "chief places." There were, however, a few men, both in and out of the army, who secretly believed that the Negro was needed in the army, and that he possessed all the elements necessary to make an excellent soldier. Public sentiment was so strong against the employment of Negroes in the armed service that few men had the courage of conviction; few had the temerity to express their views publicly. In the summer of 1860,—before the election of Abraham Lincoln,—General J. Watts De Peyster, of New York, wrote an article for a Hudson paper, in which he[Pg 277] advocated the arming of Negroes as soldiers, should the Southern States declare war against the Government of the United States. The article was reproduced in many other papers, pronounced a fire-brand, and General De Peyster severely denounced for his advice. But he stood his ground, and when the war did come he gave to his country's service three gallant sons; and from the first to the last was an efficient and enthusiastic supporter of the war for the Union.

The rebels took the first step in the direction of the military employment of Negroes as soldiers. Two weeks after the firing upon Sumter took place, the following note appeared in the "Charleston Mercury":

Several companies of the Third and Fourth Regiments of Georgia passed through Augusta for the expected scene of warfare—Virginia. Sixteen well-drilled companies of volunteers and one negro company, from Nashville, Tennessee, offered their services to the Confederate States."[91]

In the "Memphis Avalanche" and "Memphis Appeal" of the 9th, 10th, and 11th of May, 1861, appeared the following notice:

"Attention, Volunteers: Resolved by the Committee of Safety, that C. Deloach, D. R. Cook, and William B. Greenlaw be authorized to organize a volunteer company composed of our patriotic free men of color, of the city of Memphis, for the service of our common defence. All who have not enrolled their names will call at the office of W. B. Greenlaw & Co.

"F. Titus, President.

"F. W. Forsythe, Secretary."

On the 9th of February, 1862, the rebel troops had a grand review, and the "Picayune," of New Orleans, contained the following paragraph:

"We must also pay a deserved compliment to the companies of free colored men, all very well drilled, and comfortably uniformed. Most of these companies, quite unaided by the administration, have supplied themselves with arms without regard to cost or trouble. One of these companies, commanded by the well-known veteran, Captain Jordan, was presented, a little before the parade, with a fine war-flag of the new style. This interesting [Pg 278]ceremony took place at Mr. Cushing's store, on Camp, near Common Street. The presentation was made by Mr. Bigney, and Jordan made, on this occasion, one of his most felicitous speeches."

And on the 4th of February, 1862, the "Baltimore Traveller" contained the following paragraph:

"Arming of Negroes at Richmond.—Contrabands who have recently come within the Federal lines at Williamsport, report that all the able-bodied colored men in that vicinity are being taken to Richmond, formed into regiments, and armed for the defence of that city."

The following telegram was sent out:

"New Orleans, Nov. 23, 1861.

"Over twenty-eight thousand troops were reviewed to-day by Governor Moore, Major-General Lovell, and Brig.-General Ruggles. The line was over seven miles long. One regiment comprised fourteen hundred free colored men."

These are sufficient to show that from the earliest dawn of the war the rebel authorities did not frown upon the action of local authorities in placing arms into the hands of free Negroes.

The President of the United States was still opposing any attempt on the part of the supporters of the war to constrain him to approve of the introduction of Negroes into the army. But the Secretary of War, the Hon. Simon Cameron, had sent an order to Brig.-Gen. T. W. Sherman, directing him to accept the services of all loyal persons who desired to aid in the suppression of the Rebellion in and about Port Royal. When Gen. David Hunter relieved Gen. Sherman, the latter turned over to him the instructions of the Secretary of War. There was no mention of color, nor was any class of persons mentioned save "loyal persons." Gen. Hunter was a gentleman of broad, liberal, and humane views, and seeing an opportunity open to employ Negroes as soldiers, in the spring of 1862 directed the organization of a regiment of blacks. He secured the best white officers for the regiment, and it soon obtained a fine condition of discipline. The news of a Union Negro regiment in South Carolina completely surprised the people at Washington. On the 9th of June, 1862, Mr. Wickliffe, of Kentucky, introduced in the National House of Representatives a resolution of inquiry, calling upon Gen. Hunter to explain to Congress his unprecedented conduct in arming Negroes[Pg 279] to fight the battles of the Union. Mr. Stanton was now at the head of the War Department, and the following correspondence took place:


"Official Correspondence.

"War Department, June 14, 1862.

"Hon. G. A. Grow, Speaker of the House of Representatives:

"Sir: A resolution of the House of Representatives has been received, which passed the ninth instant, to the following effect:

"'Resolved, That the Secretary of War be directed to inform this House if Gen. Hunter, of the Department of South Carolina, has organized a regiment of South Carolina volunteers for the defence of the Union, composed of black men (fugitive slaves), and appointed a Colonel and officers to command them.

"'2d. Was he authorized by the Department to organize and muster into the army of the United States, as soldiers, the fugitive or captive slaves?

"'3d. Has he been furnished with clothing, uniforms, etc., for such force?

"'4th. Has he been furnished, by order of the Department of War, with arms to be placed in the hands of the slaves?

"'5th. To report any orders given said Hunter, and correspondence between him and the Department.'"

"In answer to the foregoing resolution, I have the honor to inform the House;

"1st. That this Department has no official information whether Gen. Hunter, of the Department of South Carolina, has or has not organized a regiment of South Carolina volunteers for the defence of the Union, composed of black men, fugitive slaves, and appointed the Colonel and other officers to command them. In order to ascertain whether he has done so or not, a copy of the House resolution has been transmitted to Gen. Hunter, with instructions to make immediate report thereon.

"2d. Gen. Hunter was not authorized by the Department to organize and muster into the army of the United States the fugitive or captive slaves.

"3d. Gen. Hunter, upon his requisition as Commander of the South, has been furnished with clothing and arms for the force under his command, without instructions as to how they should be used.

"4th. He has not been furnished by order of the Department of War with arms to be placed within the hands of 'those slaves.'[Pg 280]

"5th. In respect to so much of said resolution as directs the Secretary 'to report to the House my orders given said Hunter, and correspondence between him and the Department,' the President instructs me to answer that the report, at this time, of the orders given to and correspondence between Gen. Hunter and this Department would, in his opinion, be incompatible with the public welfare.

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

"Edwin M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War."

"War Department, }
"Washington, July 2, 1862. }

"Sir: On reference to the answer of this Department of the fourteenth ultimo to the resolution of the House of Representatives of the ninth of last month, calling for information respecting the organization by Gen. Hunter, of the Department of South Carolina, of a regiment of volunteers for the defence of the Union, composed of black men, fugitive slaves, etc., it will be seen that the resolution had been referred to that officer with instructions to make an immediate report thereon. I have now the honor to transmit herewith the copy of a communication just received from Gen. Hunter, furnishing information as to his action touching the various matters indicated in the resolution.

"I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

"Edwin M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War.

"Hon. G. A. Grow,
"Speaker of the House of Representatives."

"Headquarters Department of the South, }
"Port Royal, S. C., June 23, 1862. }

"Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington.

"Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a communication from the Adjutant-General of the army, dated June thirteenth, 1862, requesting me to furnish you with the information necessary to answer certain resolutions introduced in the House of Representatives, June ninth, 1862, on motion of the Hon. Mr. Wickliffe, of Kentucky, their substance being to inquire:

"First. Whether I had organized or was organizing a regiment of 'fugitive slaves' in this department?

"Second. Whether any authority had been given to me from the War Department for such organization? and

"Third. Whether I had been furnished, by order of the War Department, with clothing, uniforms, arms, equipments, etc., for such a force?[Pg 281]

"Only having received the letter covering these inquiries at a late hour on Saturday night, I urge forward my answer in time for the steamer sailing to-day (Monday)—this haste preventing me from entering as minutely as I could wish upon many points of detail, such as the paramount importance of the subject calls for. But, in view of the near termination of the present session of Congress, and the widespread interest which must have been awakened by Mr. Wickliffe's resolutions, I prefer sending even this imperfect answer to waiting the period necessary for the collection of fuller and more comprehensive data.

"To the first question, therefore, I reply that no regiment of 'fugitive slaves' has been or is being organized in this department. There is, however, a fine regiment of persons whose late masters are 'fugitive rebels,'—men who everywhere fly before the appearance of the national flag, leaving their servants behind them to shift as best they can for themselves. So far, indeed, are the loyal persons composing this regiment from seeking to avoid the presence of their late owners, that they are now, one and all, working with remarkable industry to place themselves in a position to go in full and effective pursuit of their fugacious and traitorous proprietors.

"To the second question I have the honor to answer that the instructions given to Brig.-Gen. T. W. Sherman, by the Hon. Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, and turned over to me by succession for my guidance, do distinctly authorize me to employ all loyal persons offering their services in defence of the Union and for the suppression of this rebellion in any manner I might see fit, or that the circumstances might call for. There is no restriction as to the character or color of the persons to be employed, or the nature of the employment, whether civil or military, in which their services should be used. I conclude, therefore, that I have been authorized to enlist 'fugitive slaves' as soldiers, could any such be found in this department. No such characters, however, have yet appeared within view of our most advanced pickets, the loyal slaves everywhere remaining on their plantations to welcome us, aid us, and supply us with food, labor, and information. It is the masters who have in every instance been the 'fugitives,' running away from loyal slaves as well as loyal soldiers, and whom we have only partially been able to see—chiefly their heads over ramparts, or, rifle in hand, dodging behind trees—in the extreme distance. In the absence of any 'fugitive-master law,' the deserted slaves would be wholly without remedy, had not the crime of treason given them the right to pursue, capture, and bring back those persons of whose protection they have been thus suddenly bereft.

"To the third interrogatory it is my painful duty to reply that I never have received any specific authority for issues of clothing, uniforms, arms, equipments, and so forth, to the troops in question—my[Pg 282] general instructions from Mr. Cameron to employ them in any manner I might find necessary, and the military exigencies of the department and the country being my only, but, in my judgment, sufficient justification. Neither have I had any specific authority for supplying these persons with shovels, spades, and pickaxes, when employing them as laborers, nor with boats and oars when using them as lightermen; but these are not points included in Mr. Wickliffe's resolution. To me it seemed that liberty to employ men in any particular capacity implied with it liberty also to supply them with the necessary tools; and acting upon this faith I have clothed, equipped, and armed the only loyal regiment yet raised in South Carolina.

"I must say, in vindication of my own conduct, that had it not been for the many other diversified and imperative claims on my time, a much more satisfactory result might have been hoped for; and that in place of only one, as at present, at least five or six well-drilled, brave, and thoroughly acclimated regiments should by this time have been added to the loyal forces of the Union.

"The experiment of arming the blacks, so far as I have made it, has been a complete and even marvellous success. They are sober, docile, attentive, and enthusiastic, displaying great natural capacities for acquiring the duties of the soldier. They are eager beyond all things to take the field and be led into action; and it is the unanimous opinion of the officers who have had charge of them, that in the peculiarities of this climate and country they will prove invaluable auxiliaries, fully equal to the similar regiments so long and successfully used by the British authorities in the West-India Islands.

"In conclusion, I would say it is my hope—there appearing no possibility of other reënforcements, owing to the exigencies of the campaign in the Peninsula—to have organized by the end of next fall, and to be able to present to the Government, from forty-eight to fifty thousand of these hardy and devoted soldiers.

"Trusting that this letter may form part of your answer to Mr. Wickliffe's resolutions, I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your very obedient servant,

"D. Hunter,
"Major-General Commanding."

Mr. Wickliffe seemed to feel that he had received an exhaustive reply to his resolution of inquiry, but his colleague, Mr. Dunlap, offered the following resolution on the 3d of July, 1862, which was never acted upon:

"Resolved, That the sentiments contained in the paper read to this body yesterday, approving the arming of slaves, emanating from Major-General[Pg 283] David Hunter, clothed in discourteous language, are an indignity to the American Congress, an insult to the American people and our brave soldiers in arms; for which sentiments, so uttered, he justly merits our condemnation and censure."

There was quite a flutter among the politicians in the rear, and many army officers felt that the United States uniform had been disgraced by being put upon "fugitive slaves."

Within a few weeks after the affair in Congress alluded to above, two United States Senators,[92] charmed with the bold idea of General Hunter, called upon the President to urge him to accept the services of two Negro regiments. The "New York Herald" of the 5th of August, 1862, gave an account of the interview under the caption of "Important Decision of the President."

"The efforts of those who love the negro more than the Union to induce the President to swerve from his established policy are unavailing. He will neither be persuaded by promises nor intimidated by threats. To-day he was called upon by two United States Senators and rather peremptorily requested to accept the services of two negro regiments. They were flatly and unequivocally rejected. The President did not appreciate the necessity of employing the negroes to fight the battles of the country and take the positions which the white men of the nation, the voters, and sons of patriotic sires, should be proud to occupy; there were employments in which the negroes of rebel masters might well be engaged, but he was not willing to place them upon an equality with our volunteers, who had left home and family and lucrative occupations to defend the Union and the Constitution, while there were volunteers or militia enough in the loyal States to maintain the Government without resort to this expedient. If the loyal people were not satisfied with the policy he had adopted, he was willing to leave the administration to other hands. One of the Senators was impudent enough to tell the President he wished to God he would resign."[93]

But there the regiment was,—one thousand loyal and competent soldiers; and there was no way out but for the government to father the regiment, and, therefore, on the 25th of August, 1862, the Secretary of War sent General Rufus Saxton the following order:[Pg 284]

"3. In view of the small force under your command, and the inability of the Government at the present time to increase it, in order to guard the plantations and settlements occupied by the United States from invasion, and protect the inhabitants thereof from captivity and murder by the enemy, you are also authorized to arm, uniform, equip, and receive into the service of the United States, such number of Volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding five thousand; and may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to command them; the persons so received into service, and their officers, to be entitled to and receive the same pay and rations as are allowed by law to Volunteers in the service.

"4. You will occupy, if possible, all the islands and plantations heretofore occupied by the Government, and secure and harvest the crops, and cultivate and improve the plantations.

"5. The population of African descent, that cultivate the land and perform the labor of the Rebels, constitute a large share of their military strength, and enable the White masters to fill the Rebel armies, and wage a cruel and murderous war against the people of the Northern States. By reducing the laboring strength of the Rebels, their military power will be reduced. You are, therefore, authorized, by every means in your power, to withdraw from the enemy their laboring force and population, and to spare no effort, consistent with civilized warfare, to weaken, harass, and annoy them, and to establish the authority of the Government of the United States within your Department."

But public sentiment was growing with every passing day. The very presence of the Negro regiment at Port Royal converted the most pronounced enemies of Negro troops into friends and admirers. The newspaper correspondents filled their letters to the papers North with most extravagant praise of the Negro soldier; and the President was driven from his position of "no negro soldiers."

The correspondent of the "Times," in a letter dated September 4, 1862, wrote:

"There is little doubt that the next mail from the North will bring an order from the War Department recalling Major-Gen. Hunter to a field of greater activity. The Government had not lent him a hearty support in carrying out his policy of arming the blacks, by which alone he could make himself useful in this department to the National cause; and, therefore, more than two months since he applied to be relieved, rather than sit supinely with folded hands when his military abilities might be found of service elsewhere. Now, however, I have reason to[Pg 285] believe that Gen. Hunter's views upon the question of forming negro regiments, have been unreservedly adopted by the President, and the whole question has assumed such a different phase that Gen. Hunter almost regrets that he is to leave the department. The last mail brought the authorization of the President to enlist five negro regiments, each of a thousand negroes, to be armed and uniformed for the service of the United States, and also authorizes the enrollment of an additional 50,000 to be employed in the Quartermaster's Department nominally as laborers, but as they are to be organized into companies and uniformed, and a portion of their time is to be spent in drilling, it is easy to understand that the possibility of their being used as soldiers is not lost sight of. The exact time of commencing the work of enlisting the colored recruits, I am not able to state, but that it will be shortly, to my mind, there is not a shadow of doubt. The only way in which the men can be obtained is by the establishment of posts at various places upon the coast, where the negroes, assured of protection, will flock to us by thousands. Past experience and present information both go to prove this fact, and to establish these posts more men will be required; therefore we may soon expect that the Government will be deriving positive advantages from this department which, heretofore, has been only negative of service, as the field of experiments and the testing of ideas. Gen. Saxton will go to Washington by the first steamer, for consultation with the President on the subject."

Just what one thing changed the President so suddenly upon the question of the employment of Negroes as soldiers was not known.

In Louisiana the Negroes were anxious to enlist in the service of the Union, and with this object in view thousands of them sought the Federal camps. Brig.-Gen. J. W. Phelps, commanding the forces at Carrolton, La., found his camps daily crowded with fugitives from slavery. What to do with them became a question of great moment. Gen. Phelps became convinced that it was impossible to subdue a great rebellion if slavery were to have the protection of Federal bayonets. He gave the Negroes who came to his camp protection; and for this was reported to his superior officer, Gen. Butler. In a report to the latter officer's Adjutant-General, on June 16, 1862, he said:

"The enfranchisement of the people of Europe has been, and is still, going on, through the instrumentality of military service; and by this means our slaves might be raised in the scale of civilization and prepared for freedom. Fifty regiments might be raised among them at[Pg 286] once, which could be employed in this climate to preserve order, and thus prevent the necessity of retrenching our liberties, as we should do by a large army exclusively of Whites. For it is evident that a considerable army of Whites would give stringency to our Government; while an army partly of Blacks would naturally operate in favor of freedom and against those influences which at present most endanger our liberties. At the end of five years, they could be sent to Africa, and their places filled with new enlistments."

Receiving no specific response to this overture, Gen. Phelps made a requisition of arms, clothing, etc., for "three regiments of Africans, which I propose to raise for the defense of this point"; adding:

"The location is swampy and unhealthy; and our men are dying at the rate of two or three a day.

"The Southern loyalists are willing, as I understand, to furnish their share of the tax for the support of the war; but they should also furnish their quota of men; which they have not thus far done. An opportunity now offers of supplying the deficiency; and it is not safe to neglect opportunities in war. I think that, with the proper facilities, I could raise the three regiments proposed in a short time. Without holding out any inducements, or offering any reward, I have now upward of 300 Africans organized into five companies, who are all willing and ready to show their devotion to our cause in any way that it may be put to the test. They are willing to submit to any thing rather than to slavery.

"Society, in the South, seems to be on the point of dissolution; and the best way of preventing the African from becoming instrumental in a general state of anarchy, is to enlist him in the cause of the Republic. If we reject his services, any petty military chieftain, by offering him freedom, can have them for the purpose of robbery and plunder. It is for the interests of the South, as well as of the North, that the African should be permitted to offer his block for the temple of freedom. Sentiments unworthy of the man of the present day—worthy only of another Cain—could alone prevent such an offer from being accepted.

"I would recommend that the cadet graduates of the present year should be sent to South Carolina and this point, to organize and discipline our African levies; and that the more promising non-commissioned officers and privates of the army be appointed as company officers to command them. Prompt and energetic efforts in this direction would probably accomplish more toward a speedy termination of the[Pg 287] war, and an early restoration of peace and unity, than any other course which could be adopted."[94]

Gen. Butler advised Gen. Phelps to employ "contrabands" for mere fatigue duty, and charged him not to use them as soldiers. On the 31st of July, 1862, Gen. Phelps rejoined by informing Gen. Butler: "I am not willing to become the mere slave-driver you propose, having no qualifications that way," and immediately tendered his resignation.

Nothing could stay the mighty stream of fugitives that poured into the Union lines by day and by night. Nothing could cool the ardor of the loyal Negroes who so earnestly desired to share the perils and honors of the Federal army. There was but one course left and that was to call the Negroes to arms as Gen. Jackson had done nearly a half century before. Gen. Butler repented his action toward the gallant and intelligent Phelps, and on the 24th of August, 1862, appealed to the free Colored men of New Orleans to take up arms in defence of the Union. As in the War of 1812, they responded to the call with enthusiasm; and in just two weeks one thousand Negroes were organized into a regiment. All the men and line officers were Colored; the staff-officers were white. Another regiment was raised and officered like the first—only two white men in it; while the third regiment was officered without regard to nationality. Two Colored batteries were raised, but all the officers were white because there were no Negroes found who understood that arm of the service.

The summer was gone, and Gen. McClellan, instead of "taking Richmond," had closed his campaign on the Peninsula most ingloriously. The President was compelled to make another call for troops—60,000. Conscription was unavoidable in many places, and prejudice against the military employment of Negroes began to decrease in proportion to the increase of the chances of white men to be drafted. On the 16th of July, 1862, Gen. Henry Wilson, United States Senator from Massachusetts, and Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, introduced a bill in the Senate amending the act of 1795, prescribing the manner of the calling forth of the militia to suppress insurrections, etc. Several amendments were offered, much debate was had, and finally it passed, amended, empowering the President to accept[Pg 288] "persons of African descent, for the purpose of constructing entrenchments or performing camp service, or any war service for which they may be found competent." It was agreed, grudgingly, to free the slaves of rebels only who should faithfully serve the country,—but not their wives and children! The vote was 28 yeas to 9 nays. It went to the House, where it was managed by Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania, and upon a call of the previous question was passed. On the next day, July 17th, it received the signature of the President, and became the law of the land.

On the 28th of January the Army Appropriation bill was under consideration in the United States Senate. Garrett Davis, of Kentucky, had opposed, by the most frantic and desperate efforts, every attempt to use Negroes in any capacity to aid in the suppression of the Rebellion. Accordingly he offered the following amendment to the Appropriation bill:

"Provided, That no part of the sums appropriated by this act shall be disbursed for the pay, subsistence, or any other supplies, of any negro, free or slave, in the armed military service of the United States."

It received 8 votes, with 28 against it. Those who sustained the amendment were all Democrats:

Messrs. Carlyle, G. Davis, Kennedy, Latham, Nesmith, Powell, Turpie, and Wall.

The fight against the employment of Negroes as soldiers was renewed. On every occasion the opposition was led by a Kentucky representative! On the 21st of December, 1863, during the pendency of the Deficiency bill in the House, Mr. Harding, of Kentucky, desired to amend it by inserting the following:

"Provided, That no part of the moneys aforesaid shall be applied to the raising, arming, equipping, or paying of negro soldiers."

It was rejected: yeas, 41; nays, 105. The yeas were:

Messrs. Ancona, Bliss, James S. Brown, Coffroth, Cox, Dawson, Dennison, Eden, Edgerton, Eldridge, Finck, Grider, Hall, Harding, Harrington, Benjamin G. Harris, Charles M. Harris, Philip Johnson, William Johnson, King, Knapp, Law, Long, Marcy, McKinney, William H. Miller, James R. Morris, Morrison, Noble, John O'Neill, Pendleton, Samuel J. Randall, Rogers, Ross, Scott, Stiles, Strouse, Stuart, Chilton A. White, Joseph W. White, Yeaman.[Pg 289]

On the 26th of January, 1863, the Secretary of War authorized Gov. John A. Andrew, of Massachusetts, to raise two regiments of Negro troops to serve three years. The order allowed the governor to raise "volunteer companies of artillery for duty in the forts of Massachusetts and elsewhere, and such companies of infantry for the volunteer military service as he may find convenient, and may include persons of African descent, organized into separate corps."

The Governor of Massachusetts immediately delegated authority to John W. M. Appleton to superintend the recruiting of the 54th Massachusetts, the first regiment of free Colored men raised at the North. The regiment was filled by the 13th of May, and ready to march to the front. It had been arranged that the regiment should pass through New York City on its way to the scene of the war in South Carolina, but the Chief of Police of New York suggested that the regiment would be subject to insult if it came. The regiment was sent forth with the blessings of Massachusetts and the prayers of its patriotic people. It went by water to South Carolina.

While Massachusetts was engaged in recruiting Negro soldiers, Gen. Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant-General of the United States Army, was despatched from Washington to the Mississippi Valley, where he inaugurated a system of recruiting service for Negroes. In a speech to the officers and men in the organization of white troops, he said, on the 8th of April, 1863, at Lake Providence, La.:

"You know full well—for you have been over this country—that the Rebels have sent into the field all their available fighting men—every man capable of bearing arms; and you know they have kept at home all their slaves for the raising of subsistence for their armies in the field. In this way they can bring to bear against us all the strength of their so-called Confederate States; while we at the North can only send a portion of our fighting force, being compelled to leave behind another portion to cultivate our fields and supply the wants of an immense army. The Administration has determined to take from the Rebels this source of supply—to take their negroes and compel them to send back a portion of their whites to cultivate their deserted plantations—and very poor persons they would be to fill the place of the dark-hued laborer. They must do this, or their armies will starve. * * *

"All of you will some day be on picket duty; and I charge you all, if any of this unfortunate race come within your lines, that you do not[Pg 290] turn them away, but receive them kindly and cordially. They are to be encouraged to come to us; they are to be received with open arms; they are to be fed and clothed; they are to be armed."

On the 1st of May, 1863, Gen. Banks, in an order directing the recruiting of the "Corps d'Afrique," said:

"The prejudices or opinions of men are in no wise involved"; and "it is not established upon any dogma of equality, or other theory, but as a practical and sensible matter of business. The Government makes use of mules, horses, uneducated and educated White men, in the defense of its institutions. Why should not the negro contribute whatever is in his power for the cause in which he is as deeply interested as other men? We may properly demand from him whatever service he can render," etc., etc.

In the autumn of 1863, Adjutant-General Thomas issued the following order respecting the military employment of Negroes as soldiers:


"General Orders, No. 329.

"War Department, Adjutant-General's Office, }
"Washington, D. C., October 13, 1863. }

"Whereas, The exigencies of the war require that colored troops be enlisted in the States of Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee, it is

"Ordered by the President, That the Chief of the Bureau for the Organization of Colored Troops shall establish recruiting stations at convenient places within said States, and give public notice thereof, and be governed by the following regulations:

"First. None but able-bodied persons shall be enlisted.

"Second. The State and county in which the enlistments are made shall be credited with the recruits enlisted.

"Third. All persons enlisted into the military service shall forever thereafter be free.

"Fourth. Free persons, and slaves with the written consent of their owners, and slaves belonging to those who have been engaged in or given aid or comfort to the rebellion, may now be enlisted—the owners who have not been engaged in or given aid to the rebellion being entitled to compensation as hereinafter provided.

"Fifth. If within thirty days from the date of opening enlistments, notice thereof and of the recruiting stations being published, a sufficient number of the description of persons aforesaid to meet the exigencies[Pg 291] of the service should not be enlisted, then enlistments may be made of slaves without requiring consent of their owners, but they may receive compensation as herein provided for owners offering their slaves for enlistment.

"Sixth. Any citizen of said States, who shall offer his or her slave for enlistment into the military service, shall, if such slave be accepted, receive from the recruiting officer a certificate thereof, and become entitled to compensation for the service of said slave, not exceeding the sum of three hundred dollars, upon filing a valid deed of manumission and of release, and making satisfactory proof of title. And the recruiting officer shall furnish to any claimant of descriptive list of any person enlisted and claimed under oath to be his or her slave, and allow any one claiming under oath that his or her slave has been enlisted without his or her consent, the privilege of inspecting the enlisted man for the purpose of identification.

"Seventh. A board of three persons shall be appointed by the President, to whom the rolls and recruiting lists shall be furnished for public information, and, on demand exhibited, to any person claiming that his or her slave has been enlisted against his or her will.

"Eighth. If a person shall within ten days after the filing of said rolls, make a claim for the service of any person so enlisted, the board shall proceed to examine the proof of title, and, if valid, shall award just compensation, not exceeding three hundred dollars for each slave enlisted belonging to the claimant, and upon the claimant filing a valid deed of manumission and release of service, the board shall give the claimant a certificate of the sum awarded, which on presentation shall be paid by the chief of the Bureau.

"Ninth. All enlistments of colored troops in the State of Maryland, otherwise than in accordance with these regulations, are forbidden.

"Tenth. No person who is or has been engaged in the rebellion against the Government of the United States, or who in any way has or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the Government, shall be permitted to present any claim or receive any compensation for the labor or service of any slave, and all claimants shall file with their claim an oath of allegiance to the United States. By order of the President.

"E. D. Townsend,
"Assistant Adjutant-General."

This order was extended, on October 26th, to Delaware, at the personal request of Governor Cannon.

On the 12th of November, 1863, the Union League Club of New York City appointed a committee for the purpose of recruiting Colored troops. Col. George Bliss was made chairman[Pg 292] and entered upon the work with energy and alacrity. On the 23d of November the committee addressed a letter to Horatio Seymour, Governor of New York, stating that as he had no authority to grant them permission to enlist a Negro regiment; and as the National Government was unwilling to grant such authority without the sympathy and assent of the State government, they would feel greatly obliged should his excellency grant the committee his official concurrence. Gov. Seymour assured the committee of his official inability to grant authority for the raising of Colored troops,—just what the committee had written him,—and referred them to the National Government, on the 27th of November. The committee applied to the authorities at Washington, and on the 5th of December, 1863, the Secretary of War granted them authority to raise the 20th Regiment of United States Colored Troops. Having secured the authority of the Government to begin their work, the committee wrote Gov. Seymour: "We express the hope that, so far as in your power, you will give to the movement your aid and countenance." The governor never found the time to answer the request of the committee!

The work was pushed forward with zeal and enthusiasm. The Colored men rallied to the call, and within two weeks from the time the committee called for Colored volunteers 1,000 men responded. By the 27th of January, 1864, a second regiment was full; and thus in forty-five days the Union League Club Committee on the Recruiting of Colored Regiments had raised 2,000 soldiers!

Out of 9,000 men of color, eligible by age—18 to 45 years—to go into the service, 2,300 enlisted in less than sixty days. There was no bounty held out to them as an incentive to enlist; no protection promised to their families, nor to them should they fall into the hands of the enemy. But they were patriots! They were willing to endure any thing rather than the evils that would surely attend the triumph of the Confederacy. They went to the front under auspicious circumstances.

The 20th Regiment, under the command of Col. Bartram, landed at Thirty-Sixth Street, was headed by the police and the patriotic members of the Union League Club, and had a triumphal march through the city.

"The scene of yesterday," says a New York paper, "was one which marks an era of progress in the political and social history of New York. A thousand men with black skins and clad and equipped with the uniforms[Pg 293] and arms of the United States Government, marched from their camp through the most aristocratic and busy streets, received a grand ovation at the hands of the wealthiest and most respectable ladies and gentlemen of New York, and then moved down Broadway to the steamer which bears them to their destination—all amid the enthusiastic cheers, the encouraging plaudits, the waving handkerchiefs, the showering bouquets and other approving manifestations of a hundred thousand of the most loyal of our people.

"In the month of July last the homes of these people were burned and pillaged by an infuriated political mob; they and their families were hunted down and murdered in the public streets of this city; and the force and majesty of the law were powerless to protect them. Seven brief months have passed, and a thousand of these despised and persecuted men march through the city in the garb of United States soldiers, in vindication of their own manhood, and with the approval of a countless multitude—in effect saving from inevitable and distasteful conscription the same number of those who hunted their persons and destroyed their homes during those days of humiliation and disgrace. This is noble vengeance—a vengeance taught by Him who commanded, 'Love them that hate you; do good to them that persecute you.'"

The recruiting of Colored troops in Pennsylvania was carried on, perhaps, with more vigor, intelligence, and enthusiasm than in any of the other free States. A committee for the recruiting of men of color for the United States army was appointed at Philadelphia, with Thomas Webster as Chairman, Cadwalader Biddle, as Secretary, and S. A. Mercer, as Treasurer. This committee raised $33,388.00 for the recruiting of Colored regiments. The 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments had cost about $60,000, but this committee agreed to raise three regiments at a cost of $10,000 per regiment.

The committee founded a camp, and named it "Camp William Penn," at Shelton Hill, near Philadelphia. On the 26th of June, 1863, the first squad of eighty men went into camp. On the 3d of February, 1864, the committee made the following statement, in reference to the raising of regiments:

"On the 24th July, 1863, the First (3d United States) regiment was full.

"On the 13th September, 1863, the Second (6th United States) regiment was full.

"On the 4th December, 1863, the Third (8th United States) regiment was full.[Pg 294]

"On the 6th January, 1864, the Fourth (22d United States) regiment was full.

"On the 3d February, 1864, the Fifth (25th United States) regiment was full.

"August 13th, 1863, the Third United States regiment left Camp William Penn, and was in front of Fort Wagner when it surrendered.

"October 14th, 1863, the Sixth United States regiment left for Yorktown.

"January 16th, 1864, the Eighth United States regiment left for Hilton Head.

"The 22d and 25th regiments are now at Camp William Penn, waiting orders from the Government."

The duty of recruiting "Colored troops" in the Department of the Cumberland was committed by Secretary Stanton to an able, honest, and patriotic man, Mr. George L. Stearns, of Massachusetts. Mr. Stearns had devoted his energies, wealth, and time to the cause of the slave during the holy anti-slavery agitation. He was a wealthy merchant of Boston; dwelt, with a noble wife and beautiful children, at Medford. He had been, from the commencement of the agitation, an ultra Abolitionist. He regarded slavery as a gigantic system of complicated evils, at war with all the known laws of civilized society; inimical to the fundamental principles of political economy; destructive to republican institutions; hateful in the sight of God, and ever abhorrent to all honest men. He hated slavery. He hated truckling, obsequious, cringing hypocrites. He put his feelings into vigorous English, and keyed his deeds and actions to the sublime notes of charity that filled his heart and adorned a long and eminently useful life. He gave shelter to the majestic and heroic John Brown. His door was—like the heavenly gates—ajar to every fugitive from slavery, and his fiery earnestness kindled the flagging zeal of many a conservative friend of God's poor.

Such a man was chosen to put muskets into the hands of the Negroes in the Department of the Cumberland. His rank was that of major, with the powers of an assistant adjutant-general. He took up his headquarters at Nashville, Tennessee. He carried into the discharge of the duties of his important office large executive ability, excellent judgment, and rare fidelity. He organized the best regiments that served in the Western army. When he had placed the work in excellent condition he committed[Pg 295] it to the care of Capt. R. D. Mussey, who afterward was made the Colonel of the 100th U. S. Colored Troops.

The intense and unrelenting prejudice against the Negroes, and their ignorance of military tactics, made it necessary for the Government to provide suitable white commissioned officers. The prospect was pleasing to many young white men in the ranks; and ambition went far to irradicate prejudice against Negro soldiers. Nearly every white private and non-commissioned officer was expecting the lightning to strike him; every one expected to be promoted to be a commissioned officer, and, therefore, had no prejudice against the men they hoped to command as their superior officers. To prepare the large number of applicants for commissions in Colored regiments a "Free Military School" was established at No. 1210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa. Secretary Stanton gave the school the following official endorsement in the spring of 1864.

"War Department,}
"Washington City, March 21, 1864.}

"Thomas Webster, Esq., Chairman,
"1210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.

"Sir: The project of establishing a free Military School for the education of candidates for the position of commissioned officers in the Colored Troops, received the cordial approval of this Department. Sufficient success has already attended the workings of the institution to afford the promise of much usefulness hereafter in sending into the service a class of instructed and efficient officers.

"Very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,

"Edwin M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War."

In reply to a letter from Thomas Webster, Esq., Chairman, etc., of the Recruiting Committee, General Casey sent the following letter:

"Washington, D. C., March 7, 1864.

"Dear Sir: Yours of the 4th instant is received, and I have directed the Secretary of the Board to attend to your request.

"It gives me great pleasure to learn that your School is prospering, and I am also pleased to inform you that the Board of which I am President has not as yet rejected one of your candidates. I am gratified[Pg 296] to see that the necessity of procuring competent officers for the armies of the Republic is beginning to be better appreciated by the public.

"I trust I shall never have occasion to regret my agency in suggesting the formation of your School, and I am sure the country owes your Committee much for the energy and judgment with which it has carried it out. The liberality which opens its doors to the young men of all the States is noble, and does honor to those citizens of Philadelphia from whom its support is principally derived.

"Truly yours,

"Silas Casey,

"To Thomas Webster, Esq., Chairman,
"1210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia."

In reference to applicants the following letter was written by the Adjutant-General:

"General Orders,}
"No. 125."      }

"War Department,"
"Adjutant-Gen.'s Office,

"Washington, March 29, 1864.

"Furloughs, not to exceed thirty days in each case, to the non-commissioned officers and privates of the army who may desire to enter the Free Military School at Philadelphia, may be granted by the Commanders of Armies and Departments, when the character, conduct, and capacity of the applicants are such as to warrant their immediate and superior commanders in recommending them for commissioned appointments in the regiments of colored troops.

"By order of the Secretary of War.

"E. D. Townsend,
"Assistant Adjutant-General."

The organization of the school was as follows:

Chief Preceptor.


(Late Colonel 12th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Corps),
[Pg 297]Professor of Infantry Tactics and Army Regulations.

Assistant Professors.


(Graduate of West Point Military Academy, and late Colonel 4th
Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Corps),
Professor of Infantry Tactics and Army Regulations.

(Late Captain 175th Pennsylvania Regiment),
Professor of Infantry Tactics and Army Regulations.

Student DANL. W. HERR
(Late 1st Lieutenant Co. E., 122d Pennsylvania Regiment),
Post Adjutant.

Student J. HALE SYPHER, of Pennsylvania,
Field Adjutant.

Student LOUIS M. TAFT. M.D.
(Graduate of University of Penn.),


Professors of Mathematics, Geography, and History

Librarian and Phonographic Clerk.



Within less than six months 1,051 applicants had been examined; 560 passed, and 491 were rejected.

Four regular classes were formed, and in addition to daily recitations the students were required to drill twice every day. The school performed excellent work; and furnished for the service many brave and efficient officers.

By December, 1863, 100,000 Colored Troops were in the service. About 50,000 were armed by that time and in the field.[Pg 298]

Everywhere they were winning golden laurels by their aptitude in drill, their patient performance of the duties of the camp, and by their matchless courage in the deadly field. The young white officers who so cheerfully bore the odium of commanding Colored Troops, and who so heroically faced the dangers of capture and cruel death, had no superiors in the army. They had the supreme satisfaction of commanding brave men to whom they soon found themselves deeply attached. It was a school in which the noblest and purest patriot might feel himself honored and inspired to the performance of deathless deeds of valor.

The following tables indicate the manner in which the work was done.

Analysis of Examination of Applicants for Command of Colored Troops, before the Board at Washington, of which Major-General Silas Casey is President, from the organization of the Board to March 29th, 1864, inclusive.

  Number accepted and for what rank recommended.
Rank.Number examined.Colonels.Lieut.-
Majors.Captains.1st Lieutenants.2d Lieutenants.Number rejected.
1st Lieutenants523-4108720
2d Lieutenants24---92310
Students of the Philadelphia Free Military School942462825254

[Pg 299]

Analysis of the Examination to 31st March, 1864, of the Students of the Philadelphia Free Military School, before the Board of Examiners at Washington, for Applicants for Command of Colored Troops, Major-General Silas Casey, President.

  Number accepted and for what rank recommended.
Rank.Number examined.Colonels.Lieut.-
Majors.Captains.1st Lieutenants.2d Lieutenants.Number rejected.
Sergeants                        14-1-3361

The following official table gives the entire number of Colored Troops in the army from beginning to end.

States and Territories.

Colored Troops furnished
New Hampshire125
Rhode Island1,837
Total of New England States7,916
New Jersey1,185
New York4,125
Total of Middle States13,922

[Pg 300]

States and Territories.—(Continued.)

Colored Troops furnished
Colorado Ter.95
Dakota Ter.-
Nebraska Ter.-
New Mexico Ter.-
Total, Western States and Territories12,711
Washington Ter.-
Dist. Columbia3,269
West Virginia196
Total, Border States45,184
North Carolina5,035
South Carolina5,462
Total, Southern States63,571

[Pg 301]

States and Territories.—(Continued.)

Colored Troops furnished
Indian Nation-
Colored Troops[96]-
Grand Total173,079
At Large733
Not accounted for5,083

Notwithstanding the complete demonstration of fact that Negroes were required as United States soldiers, there were many opposers of the movement. Some of the best men and leading journals were very conservative on this question. An elaborate and cautious editorial in the "New York Times" of February 16, 1863, fairly exhibits the nervousness of the North on the subject of the military employment of the Negro.

"Use of Negroes As Soldiers.

"One branch of Congress has rejected a bill authorizing the enlistment of negro soldiers. Mr. Sumner declares his intention to persist in forcing the passage of such a law by offering it as an amendment to some other bill. Meantime the President, by laws already enacted, has full authority over the subject, and we can see no good object to be attained by forcing it into the discussions of Congress and adding it to the causes of dissension already existing in the country at large.

"A law of last Congress authorized the President to use the negroes as laborers or otherwise, as they can be made most useful in the work of quelling the rebellion. Under this authority, it is understood that he has decided to use them in certain cases as soldiers. Some of them are already employed in garrisoning Southern forts, on the Mississippi River, which whites cannot safely occupy on account of the climate. Governor Sprague has authority to raise negro regiments in Rhode Island, and has proclaimed his intention to lead them when raised in person, and Gov. Andrew has received similar authority for the State of Massachusetts. We see, therefore, not the slightest necessity for any further legislation on this subject, and hope Mr. Sumner will consent that Congress may give its attention, during the short remainder of its session, to topics of pressing practical importance.[Pg 302]

"Whether negroes shall or shall not be employed as soldiers, seems to us purely a question of expediency, and to be solved satisfactorily only by experiment. As to our right so to employ them, it seems absurd to question it for a moment. The most bigoted and inveterate stickler for the absolute divinity of slavery in the Southern States would scarcely insist that, as a matter of right, either constitutional or moral, we could not employ negroes as soldiers in the army. Whether they are, or are not, by nature, by law, or by usage, the equals of the white man, makes not the slightest difference in this respect. Even those at the North who are so terribly shocked at the prospect of their being thus employed, confine their objections to grounds of expediency. They urge:

"1st. That the negroes will not fight. This, if true, is exclusive against their being used as soldiers. But we see no way of testing the question except by trying the experiment. It will take but a very short time and but very few battles to determine whether they have courage, steadiness, subjection to military discipline and the other qualities essential to good soldiership or not. If they have, this objection will fall, if not then beyond all question they will cease to be employed.

"2d. It is said that the whites will not fight with them—that the prejudice against them is so strong that our own citizens will not enlist, or will quit the service, if compelled to fight by their side,—and that we shall thus lose two white soldiers for one black one that we gain. If this is true, they ought not to be employed. The object of using them is to strengthen our military force; and if the project does not accomplish this, it is a failure. The question, moreover, is one of fact, not of theory. It matters nothing to say that it ought not to have this effect—that the prejudice is absurd and should not be consulted. The point is, not what men ought to do, but what they will do. We have to deal with human nature, with prejudice, with passion, with habits of thought and feeling, as well as with reason and sober judgment and the moral sense. Possibly the Government may have made a mistake in its estimate of the effect of this measure on the public mind. The use of negroes as soldiers may have a worse effect on the army and on the people than they have supposed.

"But this is a matter of opinion upon which men have differed. Very prominent and influential persons, Governors of States, Senators, popular Editors and others have predicted the best results from such a measure, while others have anticipated the worst. The President has resolved to try the experiment. If it works well, the country will be the gainer. If not, we have no doubt it will be abandoned. If the effect of using negroes as soldiers upon the army and the country, proves to be depressing and demoralizing, so as to weaken rather than strengthen our military operations, they will cease to be employed.[Pg 303] The President is a practical man, not at all disposed to sacrifice practical results to abstract theories.

"3d. It is said we shall get no negroes—or not enough to prove of any service. In the free States very few will volunteer, and in the Slave States we can get but few, because the Rebels will push them Southward as fast as we advance upon them. This may be so. We confess we share, with many others, the opinion that it will.

"But we may as well wait patiently the short time required to settle the point. When we hear more definitely from Gov. Sprague's black battalions and Gov. Andrew's negro brigades, we shall know more accurately what to think of the measure as one for the Free States; and when we hear further of the success of Gen. Banks and Gen. Saxton in enlisting them at the South, we can form a better judgment of the movement there. If we get very few or even none, the worst that can be said will be that the project is a failure; and the demonstration that it is so will have dissipated another of the many delusions which dreamy people have cherished about this war.

"4th. The use of negroes will exasperate the South; and some of our Peace Democrats make that an objection to the measure. We presume it will; but so will any other scheme we may adopt which is warlike and effective in its character and results. If that consideration is to govern us, we must follow Mr. Vallandingham's advice and stop the war entirely, or as Mr. McMasters puts it in his Newark speech, go 'for an immediate and unconditional peace.' We are not quite ready for that yet.

"The very best thing that can be done under existing circumstances, in our judgment, is to possess our Souls in patience while the experiment is being tried. The problem will probably speedily solve itself—much more speedily than heated discussion or harsh criminations can solve it."

It didn't require a great deal of time for the Black troops to make a good impression; and while the Congress, the press, and the people were being exercised over the probable out-come, the first regiment of ex-slaves ever equipped for the service was working a revolution in public sentiment. On the last day of January, 1863, the "New York Tribune" printed the following editorial on the subject:

"A disloyal minority in the House is factiously resisting the passage of the Steven's bill, authorizing the President to raise and equip 150,000 soldiers of African descent. Meanwhile, in the Department of the South a full regiment of blacks has been enlisted under Gen. Saxton; is already uniformed and armed, and has been actively drilling for the last seven weeks. A letter which we printed on Wednesday from our Special Correspondent, who is usually well qualified to judge[Pg 304] of its military proficiency, says of this regiment that no honest-minded, unprejudiced observer could come to any other conclusion than that it had attained a remarkable proficiency in the short period during which it had been drilled. We have in addition from an officer of the regiment, who is thoroughly informed as to its condition, a very interesting statement of its remarkable progress, and some valuable suggestions on the employment of negro troops in general.

"'This regiment—the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson—marched on the 17th for the first time through the streets of Beaufort. It was the remark of many bitterly pro-slavery officers that they looked "splendidly." They marched through by platoons, and returned by the flank; the streets were filled with soldiers and citizens, but every man looked straight before him and carried himself steadily. How many white regiments do the same? One black soldier said: "We didn't see a thing in Beaufort; ebery man hold his head straight up to de front, ebery step was worth a half dollar."

"'Many agreed with what is my deliberate opinion,' writes this officer, 'that no regiment in this department can, even now, surpass this one. In marching in regimental line I have not seen it equalled. In the different modes of passing from line into column, and from column into line, in changing front, countermarching, forming divisions, and forming square, whether by the common methods, or by Casey's methods, it does itself the greatest credit. Nor have I yet discovered the slightest ground of inferiority to white troops.

"'So far is it from being true that the blacks as material soldiers are inferior to white, that they are in some respects manifestly superior; especially in aptness for drill, because of their imitativeness and love of music; docility in discipline, when their confidence is once acquired; and enthusiasm for the cause. They at least know what they are fighting for. They have also a pride as soldiers, which is not often found in our white regiments, where every private is only too apt to think himself specially qualified to supersede his officers. They are above all things faithful and trustworthy on duty from the start. In the best white regiments it has been found impossible to trust newly-enlisted troops with the countersign—they invariably betray it to their comrades. There has been but one such instance in this black regiment, and that was in the case of a mere boy, whose want of fidelity excited the greatest indignation among his comrades.

"'Drunkenness, the bane of our army, does not exist among the black troops. There has not been one instance in the regiment. Enough. The only difficulty which threatened to become at all serious was that of absence without leave and overstaying passes, but this was checked by a few decided measures and has ceased entirely.[Pg 305]

"'When this regiment was first organized, some months ago, it had to encounter bitter hostility from the white troops at Port Royal, and there was great exultation when General Hunter found himself obliged to disband it. Since its reorganization this feeling seems to have almost disappeared. There is no complaint by the privates of insult or ill-treatment, formerly disgracefully common from their white comrades.

"'It has been supposed that these black troops would prove fitter for garrison duty than active service in the field. No impression could be more mistaken. Their fidelity as sentinels adapts them especially, no doubt, to garrison duty; but their natural place is in the advance. There is an inherent dash and fire about them which white troops of more sluggish Northern blood do not emulate, and their hearty enthusiasm shows itself in all ways. Such qualities are betrayed even in drill, as anybody may know who has witnessed the dull, mechanical way in which ordinary troops make a bayonet charge on the parade ground, and contrasts it with the spirit of those negro troops in the same movement. They are to be used, moreover, in a country which they know perfectly. Merely from their knowledge of wood-craft and water-craft, it would be a sheer waste of material to keep them in garrison. It is scarcely the knowledge which is at once indispensable and impossible to be acquired by our troops. See these men and it is easier to understand the material of which the famous Chasseurs d'Afrique are composed.'

"General Saxton, in a letter published yesterday, said: 'In no regiment have I ever seen duty performed with so much cheerfulness and alacrity. * * * In the organization of this regiment I have labored under difficulties which might have discouraged one who had less faith in the wisdom of the measure; but I am glad to report that the experiment is a complete success. My belief is that when we get a footing on the mainland regiments may be raised which will do more than any now in the service to put an end to this rebellion.'

"We are learning slowly, very slowly, in this war to use the means of success which lie ready to our hands. We have learnt at last that the negro is essential to our success, but we are still hesitating whether to allow him to do all he can or only a part.

"It will not take many such proofs as this black regiment now offers to convince us of the full value of our new allies. But we ought to go beyond that selfishness which regards only our own necessities and remember that the negro has a right to fight for his freedom, and that he will be all the more fit to enjoy his new destiny by helping to achieve it."

On the 28th of March, 1863, Mr. Greeley sent forth the following able and sensible editorial on the Negro as a soldier:[Pg 306]

"Negro Troops.

"Facts are beginning to dispel prejudices. Enemies of the negro race, who have persistently denied the capacity and doubted the courage of the Blacks, are unanswerably confuted by the good conduct and gallant deeds of the men whom they persecute and slander. From many quarters come evidence of the swiftly approaching success which is to crown what is still by some persons deemed to be the experiment of arming whom the Proclamation of Freedom liberates.

"The 1st and 2d South Carolina Volunteers, under Colonels Higginson and Montgomery, have ascended the St. John's River in Florida as far as Jacksonville, and have re-occupied that important town which was once before taken and afterward abandoned by the Union forces. Many of the negroes composing these regiments had been slaves in this very place. Their memory of old wrongs, of the privations, outrages and tortures of Slavery, must here, if anywhere, have been fresh and vivid, and the passions which opportunity for just revenges stimulates even in white breasts, ought to have been roused more than in all other places on the spot where they had suffered.

"If, then, Jacksonville were to-day in ashes, and the ghastly spirit visions of 'The World' materialized into terrible realities, the negro haters would have no, cause to be disappointed. 'The World' hailed the alleged repulse and massacre of the negroes and white officers—a report which it invented outright, in sheer malignity, in order to forestall public opinion by creating a belief in the failure of the expedition—would have changed into agonized shrieks over the outrages on its Southern brethren. The experiment of subjecting negroes to military rules and accustoming them to those amenities of civilized warfare which the rebels so uniformly practice would again have been declared to be a hopeless failure; and for the hundredth time the Proclamation and the radicals who advised it would have been pilloried for public execration.

"Since, however, the contrary of all this is true, it may be presumed by a confiding public which does not read it that 'The World' has honestly acknowledged the injustice of its slanders. It is unpleasant to disabuse a confiding public on any subject, but we who are sometimes obliged to look at that paper as a professional duty, regret to say that we have not discovered a single evidence of its repentance. The facts are, however, that Colonel Higginson's men landed quietly at Jacksonville, marched through its streets in perfect order, committed no outrages or excesses of any kind, and by the testimony of all witnesses conducted themselves with a military decorum and perfect discipline which is far from common among white regiments in similar circumstances. They have gone before this time still further into the interior,[Pg 307] and will doubtless do good service in a direction where their presence has been least expected by the Rebels. In the only instance in which the white chivalry ventured to make a stand against them, the whites were defeated and driven off the field by the Blacks.

"The truth is that the fitness of negroes to be soldiers has long since, in this country and elsewhere, been amply demonstrated, and the success of Col. Higginson's Black Troops is no matter of surprise to any person tolerably well informed about the history of the race. If it were in any sense an experiment, the only thing to be tested was the obstinacy of our Saxon prejudice which denied the possibility of success, and did what it could to prevent it. But even Saxon prejudice must shortly yield to the logic of facts."

In the face of the fact that the United States Government had employed Negroes as soldiers to fight the battles of the Union, there were men of intelligence who held that it was all wrong in fact, in policy, and in point of law. And this opinion attained such proportions that the Secretary of War felt called upon to request the opinion of Judge Advocate Holt. It is given here.

Enlistment of Slaves.

In a letter to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, dated Aug. 20, 1863, Judge Advocate Holt said: "The right of the Government to employ for the suppression of the rebellion persons of African Descent held to service or labor under the local law, rests firmly on two grounds:

"First, as property. Both our organic law and the usages of our institutions under it recognize fully the authority of the Government to seize and apply to public use private property, on making compensation therefor. What the use may be to which it is to be applied does not enter into the question of the right to make the seizure, which is untrammelled in its exercise, save by the single condition mentioned.

"Secondly, as persons. While those of African Descent held to service or labor in several of the States, occupy under the laws of such States, the status of property; they occupy also under the Federal Government, the status of 'persons.' They are referred to so nomine in the Constitution of the United States, and it is not as property but as 'persons' that they are represented on the floor of Congress, and thus form a prominent constituent element alike in the organization and practical administration of the Government.

"The obligation of all persons—irrespective of creed or color—to bear arms, if physically capable of doing so, in defence of the Government[Pg 308] under which they live and by which they are protected, is one that is universally acknowledged and enforced. Corresponding to this obligation is the duty resting on those charged with the administration of the Government, to employ such persons in the military service whenever the public safety may demand it. Congress realized both this obligation on the one hand, and this duty on the other when, by the 12th section of the Act of the 17th of July, 1862, it was enacted that 'the President be and is hereby authorized to receive into the service of the United States for the purpose of constructing intrenchments, or performing camp service or any other labor, or any military or naval service for which they may be found competent, persons of African Descent, and such persons shall be enrolled and organized under such regulations not inconsistent with the Constitution, and the laws, as the President may prescribe.'

"The terms of this Act are without restriction and no distinction is made, or was intended to be made, between persons of African Descent held to service or labor or those not so held.

"The President is empowered to receive them all into the military service, and assign them such duty as they may be found competent to perform.

"The tenacious and brilliant valor displayed by troops of this race at Port Hudson, Milliken's Bend, and Fort Wagner, has sufficiently demonstrated to the President and to the country, the character of service of which they are capable. In the interpretation given to the Enrolment Act, free citizens of African Descent are treated as citizens of the United States, in the sense of the law, and are everywhere being drafted into the military service.

"In reference to the other class of persons of this race—those held to service or labor—the 12th section of the Act of July 17th is still in full force, and the President may in his discretion receive them into the army and assign them to such field of duty as he may deem them prepared to occupy. In view of the loyalty of this race, and of the obstinate courage which they have shown themselves to possess, they certainly constitute at this crisis in our history a most powerful and reliable arm of the public defence. Whether this arm shall now be exerted is not a question of power or right, but purely of policy, to be determined by the estimate which may be entertained of the conflict in which we are engaged, and of the necessity that presses to bring this waste of blood and treasure to a close. A man precipitated into a struggle for his life on land or sea, instinctively and almost necessarily puts forth every energy with which he is endowed, and eagerly seizes upon every source of strength within his grasp; and a nation battling for existence, that does not do the same, may well be regarded as neither wise nor obedient to that great law of self-preservation, from which are derived[Pg 309] our most urgent and solemn duties. That there exists a prejudice against the employment of persons of African Descent is undeniable; it is, however, rapidly giving way, and never had any foundation in reason or loyalty. It originated with and has been diligently nurtured by those in sympathy with the Rebellion, and its utterance at this moment is necessarily in the interests of treason.

"Should the President feel that the public interests require he shall exert the power with which he is clothed by the 12th section of the Act of the 17th of July, his action should be in subordination to the Constitutional principle which exacts that compensation shall be made for private property devoted to the public uses. A just compensation to loyal claimants to the service or labor of persons of African Descent enlisted in our army, would accord with the uniform practice of the Government and the genius of our institutions!

"Soldiers of this class, after having perilled their lives in the defence of the Republic, could not be re-enslaved without a national dishonor revolting and unendurable for all who are themselves to be free. The compensation made, therefore, should be such as entirely to exhaust the interest of claimants; so that when soldiers of this class lay down their arms at the close of the war, they may at once enter into the enjoyment of that freedom symbolized by the flag which they have followed and defended."

The Negro was now a soldier, legally, "constitutionally." He had donned the uniform of an American soldier; was entrusted with the honor and defence of his country, and had set before him liberty as his exceeding great reward. Rejected at first he was at last urged into the service—even drafted! He was charged with the solution of a great problem—his fitness, his valor. History shall record his deeds of patriotism, his marvellous achievements, his splendid triumphs.


[91] Charleston Mercury, April 30, 1861.

[92] They were, no doubt, from Massachusetts.

[93] New York Herald, Tuesday, August 5, 1862.

[94] Greeley, vol. ii, pp. 517, 518.

[95] Many of these had previously been in the three months', nine months', and three years' service, from which they had been honorably discharged.

[96] This gives Colored Troops enlisted in the States in rebellion; besides this, there were 92,576 Colored Troops (included with the white soldiers) in the quotas of the several States.

[Pg 310]


Justification of the Federal Government in the Employment of Slaves as Soldiers.—Trials of the Negro Soldier.—He undergoes Persecution from the White Northern Troops, and Barbarous Treatment from the Rebels.—Editorial of the "New York Times" on the Negro Soldier in Battle.—Report of the "Tribune" on the Gallant Exploits of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.—Negro Troops in all the Departments.—Negro Soldiers in the Battle of Port Hudson.—Death of Captain Andre Callioux.—Death of Color-Sergeant Anselmas Planciancois.—An Account of the Battle of Port Hudson.—Official Report of Gen. Banks.—He applauds the Valor of the Colored Regiments at Port Hudson.—George H. Boker's Poem on "The Black Regiment."—Battle of Milliken's Bend, June, 1863.—Description of the Battle.—Memorable Events of July, 1863.—Battle on Morris Island.—Bravery of Sergeant Carney.—An Account of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment by Edward L. Pierce to Governor Andrew.—Death of Col. Shaw.—Colored Troops in the Army of the Potomac.—Battle of Petersburg.—Table showing the Losses at Nashville.—Adjt.-Gen. Thomas on Negro Soldiers.—An Extract from the "New York Tribune" in Behalf of the Soldierly Qualities of the Negroes.—Letter received by Col. Darling from Mr. Aden and Col. Foster Praising the Eminent Qualifications of the Negro for Military Life.—History records their Deeds of Valor in the Preservation Of the Union.

Return to Table of Contents

ALL history, ancient and modern, Pagan and Christian, justified the conduct of the Federal Government in the employment of slaves as soldiers. Greece had tried the experiment; and at the battle of Marathon there were two regiments of heavy infantry composed of slaves. The beleaguered city of Rome offered freedom to her slaves who should volunteer as soldiers; and at the battle of Cannae a regiment of Roman slaves made Hannibal's cohorts reel before their unequalled courage. When Abraham heard of the loss of his stock, he armed his slaves, pursued the enemy, and regained his possessions. Negro officers as well as soldiers had shared the perils and glories of the campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte; and even the royal guard at the Court of Imperial France had been mounted with black soldiers. In two wars in North America Negro soldiers had followed the fortunes of military life, and won the applause of white patriots on two continents. So then all history furnished a precedent for the guidance of the United States Government in the Civil War in America.[Pg 311]

But there were several aggravating questions which had to be referred to the future. In both wars in this country the Negro had fought a foreign foe—an enemy representing a Christian civilization. He had a sense of security in going to battle with the colonial fathers; for their sacred battle-songs gave him purpose and courage. And, again, the Negro knew that the English soldier had never disgraced the uniform of Hampden or Wellington by practising the cruelties of uncivilized warfare upon helpless prisoners. In the Rebellion it was altogether different. Here was a war between the States of one Union. Here was a war between two sections differing in civilization. Here was a war all about the Negro; a war that was to declare him forever bond, or forever free. Now, in such a war the Negro appeared in battle against his master. For two hundred and forty-three years the Negro had been learning the lesson of obedience and obsequious submission to the white man. The system of slavery under which he had languished had destroyed the family relation, the source of all virtue, self-respect, and moral growth. The tendency of slavery was to destroy the confidence of the slave in his ability and resources, and to disqualify him for those relations where the noblest passion of mankind is to be exercised in an intelligent manner—amor patriæ.

Negro soldiers were required by an act of Congress to fight for the Union at a salary of $10 per month, with $3 deducted for clothing—leaving them only $7 per month as their actual pay. White soldiers received $13 per month and clothing.[97]

The Negro soldiers had to run the gauntlet of the persecuting hate of white Northern troops, and, if captured, endure the most barbarous treatment of the rebels, without a protest on the part of the Government—for at least nearly a year. Hooted at, jeered, and stoned in the streets of Northern cities as they marched to the front to fight for the Union; scoffed at and abused by white troops under the flag of a common country, there was little of a consoling or inspiring nature in the experience of Negro soldiers.[Pg 312]

"But none of these things" moved the Negro soldier. His qualifications for the profession of arms were ample and admirable. To begin with, the Negro soldier was a patriot of the highest order. No race of people in the world are more thoroughly domestic, have such tender attachments to home and friends as the Negro race. And when his soul was quickened with the sublime idea of liberty for himself and kindred—that his home and country were to be rid of the triple curse of slavery—his enthusiasm was boundless. His enthusiasm was not mere animal excitement. No white soldier who marched to the music of the Union possessed a more lofty conception of the sacredness of the war for the Union than the Negro. The intensity of his desires, the sincerity of his prayers, and the sublimity of his faith during the long and starless night of his bondage made the Negro a poet, after a fashion. To him there was poetry in our flag—the red, white, and blue. Our national odes and airs found a response in his soul, and inspired him to the performance of heroic deeds. He was always seeing something "sublime," "glorious," "beautiful," "grand," and "wonderful" in war. There was poetry in the swinging, measured tread of companies and regiments in drill or battle; and dress parade always found the Negro soldier in the height of his glory. His love of harmonious sounds, his musical faculty, and delight of show aided him in the performance of the most difficult manœuvres. His imitativeness gave him facility in handling his musket and sabre; and his love of domestic animals, and natural strength made him a graceful cavalryman and an efficient artilleryman.

The lessons of obedience the Negro had learned so thoroughly as a slave were turned to good account as a soldier. He obeyed orders to the letter. He never used his discretion; he added nothing to, he subtracted nothing from, his orders; he made no attempt at reading between the lines; he did not interpret—he obeyed. Used to outdoor life, with excellent hearing, wonderful eyesight, and great vigilance, he was a model picket. Heard every sound, observed every moving thing, and was quick to shoot, and of steady aim. He was possessed of exceptionally good teeth, and, therefore, could bite his cartridge and hard tack. He had been trained to long periods of labor, poor food, and miserable quarters, and therefore, could endure extreme fatigue and great exposure.

His docility of nature, patient endurance, and hopeful disposition[Pg 313] enabled him to endure long marches, severe hardships, and painful wounds. His joyous, boisterous songs on the march and in the camp; his victorious shout in battle, and his merry laughter in camp proclaimed him the insoluble enigma of military life. He never was discouraged; melancholia had no abiding place in his nature.

But how did the Negro meet his master in battle? How did he stand fire? On the 31st of July, 1863, the "New York Times," editorially answered these questions as follows:

"Negro soldiers have now been in battle at Port Hudson and at Milliken's Bend in Louisiana; at Helena in Arkansas, at Morris Island in South Carolina, and at or near Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory. In two of these instances they assaulted fortified positions and led the assault; in two they fought on the defensive, and in one they attacked rebel infantry. In all of them they acted in conjunction with white troops and under command of white officers. In some instances they acted with distinguished bravery, and in all they acted as well as could be expected of raw troops.

"Some of these negroes were from the cotton States, others from New England States, and others from the slave States of the Northwest. Those who fought at Port Hudson were from New Orleans; those who fought at Battery Wagner were from Boston; those who fought at Helena and Young's Point were from the river counties of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Those who fought in the Indian Territory were from Missouri."

This is warm praise from a journal of the high, though conservative, character of the "Times." Warmer praise and more unqualified praise of the Negro soldier's fighting qualities could not be given. And it was made after a careful weighing of all the facts and evidence supplied from careful and reliable correspondents. But more specific evidence was being furnished on every hand. The 1st South Carolina Volunteers—the first regiment of Negroes existed during the war,—commanded by Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, was the first Black regiment of its character under the fire of the enemy. The regiment covered itself with glory during an expedition upon the St. John's River in Florida. The "Times" gave the following editorial notice of the expedition at the time, based upon the official report of the colonel and a letter from its special correspondent:[Pg 314]

"The Negroes in Battle.

"Colonel Higginson, of the 1st S. C. Volunteers, furnishes an entertaining official report of the exploits of his black regiment in Florida. He seems to think it necessary to put his case strongly, and in rather exalted language, as well as in such a way as to convince the public that negroes will fight. In this expedition, his battalion was repeatedly under fire—had rebel cavalry, infantry, and, says he, 'even artillery' arranged against them, yet in every instance, came off with unblemished honor and undisputed triumph. His men made the most urgent appeals to him to be allowed to press the flying enemy. They exhibited the most fiery energy beyond anything of which Colonel Higginson ever read, unless it may be in the case of the French Zouaves. He even says that 'it would have been madness to attempt with the bravest white troops what he successfully accomplished with black ones.' No wanton destruction was permitted, no personal outrages desired, during the expedition. The regiment, besides the victories which it achieved, and the large amount of valuable property which it secured, obtained a cannon and a flag which the Colonel very properly asks permission for the regiment to retain. The officers and men desire to remain permanently in Florida, and obtain supplies of lumber, iron, etc., for the Government. The Colonel puts forth a very good suggestion, to the effect that a 'chain of such posts would completely alter the whole aspect of the war in the seaboard slave States, and would accomplish what no accumulation of Northern regiments can so easily effect.' This is the very use for negro soldiers suggested in the Proclamation of the President. We have no doubt that the whole State of Florida might easily be held for the Government in this way, by a dozen negro regiments."[98]

On the 11th of February, 1863, the "Times" gave the following account of the exploits of this gallant regiment in the following explicit language:

"Account of a Successful Expedition into Georgia and Florida with a Force of Four Hundred and Sixty-two Officers and Men of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.

"The bravery and good conduct of the regiment more than equalled the high anticipations of its commander. The men were repeatedly under fire,—were opposed by infantry, cavalry, and artillery,—fought on board a steamer exposed to heavy musketry fire from the banks of a[Pg 315] narrow river,—were tried in all ways, and came off invariably with honor and success. They brought away property to a large amount, capturing also a cannon and a flag, which the Colonel asks leave to keep for the regiment, and which he and they have fairly won.

"It will not need many such reports an this—and there have been several before it—to shake our inveterate Saxon prejudice against the capacity and courage of negro troops. Everybody knows that they were used in the Revolution, and in the last war with Great Britain fought side by side with white troops, and won equal praises from Washington and Jackson. It is shown also that black sailors employed on our men-of-war, are valued by their commanders, and are on equal terms with their white comrades. If on the sea, why not on the land? No officer who has commanded black troops has yet reported against them. They are tried in the most unfavorable and difficult circumstances, but never fail. When shall we learn to use the full strength of the formidable ally who is only waiting for a summons to rally under the flag of the Union? Colonel Higginson says: 'No officer in this regiment now doubts that the successful prosecution of this war lies in the unlimited employment of black troops.' The remark is true in a military sense, and it has a still deeper political significance.

"When General Hunter has scattered 50,000 muskets among the negroes of the Carolinas, and General Butler has organized the 100,000 or 200,000 blacks for whom he may perhaps shortly carry arms to New Orleans, the possibility of restoring the Union as it was, with slavery again its dormant power, will be seen to have finally passed away. The negro is indeed the key to success."[99]

So here, in the Department of the South, where General Hunter had displayed such admirable military judgment, first, in emancipating the slave, and second, in arming them; here where the white Union soldiers and their officers had felt themselves insulted; and where the President had disarmed the 1st regiment of ex-slaves and removed the officer who had organized it, a few companies of Negro troops had fought rebel infantry, cavalry, artillery, and guerillas, and put them all to flight. They had invaded the enemy's country, made prisoners, and captured arms and flags; and without committing a single depredation. Prejudice gave room to praise, and the exclusive, distant spirit of white soldiers was converted into the warm and close admiration of comradeship. The most sanguine expectations and high opinions[Pg 316] of the advocates of Negro soldiers were more than realized, while the prejudice of Negro haters was disarmed by the flinty logic and imperishable glory of Negro soldiership.[100]

Every Department had its Negro troops by this time; and everywhere the Negro was solving the problem of his military existence. At Port Hudson in May, 1863, he proved himself worthy of his uniform and the object of the most extravagant eulogies from the lips of men who were, but a few months before the battle, opposed to Negro soldiers. Mention has been made in another chapter of the Colored regiment raised in New Orleans under General Butler. After remaining in camp from the 7th of September, 1862, until May, 1863, they were quite efficient in the use of their arms. The 1st Louisiana regiment was ordered to report to General Dwight. The regiment was at Baton Rouge. Its commanding officer, Colonel Stafford [white], was under arrest when the regiment was about ready to go to the front.

The line officers assembled at his quarters to assure him that the regiment would do its duty in the day of battle, and to tender their regrets that he could not lead them on the field. At this moment the color-guard marched up to receive the regimental flags. Colonel Stafford stepped into his tent and returned with the flags. He made a speech full of patriotism and feeling, and concluded by saying: "Color-guard, protect, defend, die for, but do not surrender these flags!" Sergeant Planciancois said: "Colonel, I will bring back these colors to you in honor, or report to God the reason why!" Noble words these, and brave! And no more fitting epitaph could mark the resting-place of a hero who has laid down his life in defence of human liberty! A king might well covet these sublime words of the dauntless Planciancois!


It was a question of grave doubt among white troops as to the fighting qualities of Negro soldiers. There were various doubts expressed by the officers on both sides of the line. The Confederates greeted the news that "niggers" were to meet them in battle with derision, and treated the whole matter as a huge joke. The Federal soldiers were filled with amazement and fear as to the issue.[Pg 317]

It was the determination of the commanding officer at Port Hudson to assign this Negro regiment to a post of honor and danger. The regiment marched all night before the battle of Port Hudson, and arrived at one Dr. Chambers's sugar house on the 27th of May, 1863. It was just 5 A. M. when the regiment stacked arms. Orders were given to rest and breakfast in one hour. The heat was intense and the dust thick, and so thoroughly fatigued were the men that many sank in their tracks and slept soundly.

Arrangements were made for a field hospital, and the drum corps instructed where to carry the wounded. Officers' call was beaten at 5:30, when they received instructions and encouragement. "Fall in" was sounded at 6 o'clock, and soon thereafter the regiment was on the march. The sun was now shining in his full strength upon the field where a great battle was to be fought. The enemy was in his stronghold, and his forts were crowned with angry and destructive guns. The hour to charge had come. It was 7 o'clock. There was a feeling of anxiety among the white troops as they watched the movements of these Blacks in blue. The latter were anxious for the fray. At last the command came, "Forward, double-quick, march!" and on they went over the field of death. Not a musket was heard until the command was within four hundred yards of the enemy's works, when a blistering fire was opened upon the left wing of the regiment. Unfortunately Companies A, B, C, D, and E wheeled suddenly by the left flank. Some confusion followed, but was soon over. A shell—the first that fell on the line—killed and wounded about twelve men. The regiment came to a right about, and fell back for a few hundred yards, wheeled by companies, and faced the enemy again with the coolness and military precision of an old regiment on parade. The enemy was busy at work now. Grape, canister, shell, and musketry made the air hideous with their noise. A masked battery commanded a bluff, and the guns could be depressed sufficiently to sweep the entire field over which the regiment must charge. It must be remembered that this regiment occupied the extreme right of the charging line. The masked battery worked upon the left wing. A three-gun battery was situated in the centre, while a half dozen large pieces shelled the right, and enfiladed the regiment front and rear every time it charged the battery on the bluff. A bayou ran under the bluff, immediately in front of the guns. It was too deep to[Pg 318] be forded by men. These brave Colored soldiers made six desperate charges with indifferent success, because

"Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell."

The men behaved splendidly. As their ranks were thinned by shot and grape, they closed up into place, and kept a good line. But no matter what high soldierly qualities these men were endowed with, no matter how faithfully they obeyed the oft-repeated order to "charge," it was both a moral and physical impossibility for these men to cross the deep bayou that flowed at their feet—already crimson with patriots' blood—and capture the battery on the bluff. Colonel Nelson, who commanded this black brigade, despatched an orderly to General Dwight, informing him that it was not in the nature of things for his men to accomplish any thing by further charges. "Tell Colonel Nelson," said General Dwight, "I shall consider that he has accomplished nothing unless he takes those guns." This last order of General Dwight's will go into history as a cruel and unnecessary act. He must have known that three regiments of infantry, torn and shattered by about fifteen or twenty heavy guns, with an impassable bayou encircling the bluff, could accomplish nothing by charging. But the men, what could they do?

"Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die."

Death of Captain Andre Callioux.

Again the order to charge was given, and the men, worked up to a feeling of desperation on account of repeated failures, raised a cry and made another charge. The ground was covered with dead and wounded. Trees were felled by shell and solid shot; and at one time a company was covered with the branches of a falling tree. Captain Callioux was in command of Company E, the color company. He was first wounded in the left arm—the limb being broken above the elbow. He ran to the front of his[Pg 319] company, waving his sword and crying, "Follow me." But when within about fifty yards of the enemy he was struck by a shell and fell dead in front of his company.

Many Greeks fell defending the pass at Thermopylæ against the Persian army, but history has made peculiarly conspicuous Leonidas and his four hundred Spartans. In a not distant future, when a calm and truthful history of the battle of Port Hudson is written, notwithstanding many men fought and died there, the heroism of the "Black Captain," the accomplished gentleman and fearless soldier, Andre Callioux, and his faithful followers, will make a most fascinating picture for future generations to look upon and study.

Death of Color-Sergeant Anselmas Planciancois.

"Colonel, I will bring back these colors to you in honor, or report to God the reason why." It was now past 11 A.M., May 27, 1863. The men were struggling in front of the bluff. The brave Callioux was lying lifeless upon the field, that was now slippery with gore and crimson with blood. The enemy was directing his shell and shot at the flags of the First Regiment. A shell, about a six-pounder, struck the flag-staff, cut it in two, and carried away part of the head of Planciancois. He fell, and the flag covered him as a canopy of glory, and drank of the crimson tide that flowed from his mutilated head. Corporal Heath caught up the flag, but no sooner had he shouldered the dear old banner than a musket ball went crashing through his head and scattered his brains upon the flag, and he, still clinging to it, fell dead upon the body of Sergeant Planciancois. Another corporal caught up the banner and bore it through the fight with pride.

This was the last charge—the seventh; and what was left of this gallant Black brigade came back from the hell into which they had plunged with so much daring and forgetfulness seven times.

They did not capture the battery on the bluff it's true, but they convinced the white soldiers on both sides that they were both willing and able to help fight the battles of the Union. And if any person doubts the abilities of the Negro as a soldier, let him talk with General Banks, as we have, and hear "his golden eloquence on the black brigade at Port Hudson."

A few days after the battle a "New York Times" correspondent sent the following account to that journal:[Pg 320]

"Battle of Port Hudson.

"In an account of the Battle of Port Hudson, the 'Times' correspondent says: 'Hearing the firing apparently more fierce and continuous to the right than anywhere else, I hurried in that direction, past the sugar house of Colonel Chambers, where I had slept, and advanced to near the pontoon bridge across the Big Sandy Bayou, which the negro regiments had erected, and where they were fighting most desperately. I had seen these brave and hitherto despised fellows the day before as I rode along the lines, and I had seen General Banks acknowledge their respectful salute as he would have done that of any white troops; but still the question was—with too many,—"Will they fight?" The black race was, on this eventful day, to be put to the test, and the question to be settled—now and forever,—whether or not they are entitled to assert their right to manhood. Nobly, indeed, have they acquitted themselves, and proudly may every colored man hereafter hold up his head, and point to the record of those who fell on that bloody field.

"'General Dwight, at least, must have had the idea, not only that they were men, but something more than men, from the terrific test to which he put their valor. Before any impression had been made upon the earthworks of the enemy, and in full face of the batteries belching forth their 62 pounders, these devoted people rushed forward to encounter grape, canister, shell, and musketry, with no artillery but two small howitzers—that seemed mere pop-guns to their adversaries—and no reserve whatever.

"'Their force consisted of the 1st. Louisiana Native Guards (with colored field-officers) under Lieut.-Colonel Bassett, and the 3d Louisiana Native Guards, Colonel Nelson (with white field-officers), the whole under command of the latter officer.

"'On going into action they were 1,080 strong, and formed into four lines, Lieut.-Colonel Bassett, 1st Louisiana, forming the first line, and Lieut.-Colonel Henry Finnegas the second. When ordered to charge up the works, they did so with the skill and nerve of old veterans, (black people, be it remembered who had never been in action before,) but the fire from the rebel guns was so terrible upon the unprotected masses, that the first few shots mowed them down like grass and so continued.

"'Colonel Bassett being driven back, Colonel Finnegas took his place, and his men being similarly cut to pieces, Lieut.-Colonel Bassett reformed and recommenced; and thus these brave people went in, from morning until 3:30 p.m., under the most hideous carnage that men ever had to withstand, and that very few white ones would have had nerve to encounter, even if ordered to. During this time, they rallied, and were ordered to make six distinct charges, losing thirty-seven killed, and one[Pg 321] hundred and fifty-five wounded, and one hundred and sixteen missing,—the majority, if not all, of these being, in all probability, now lying dead on the gory field, and without the rites of sepulture; for when, by flag of truce, our forces in other directions were permitted to reclaim their dead, the benefit, through some neglect, was not extended to these black regiments.

"'The deeds of heroism performed by these colored men were such as the proudest white men might emulate. Their colors are torn to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and brains. The color-sergeant of the 1st. La., on being mortally wounded, hugged the colors to his breast, when a struggle ensued between the two color-corporals on each side of him, as to who should have the honor of bearing the sacred standard, and during this generous contention one was seriously wounded. One black lieutenant actually mounted the enemy's works three or four times, and in one charge the assaulting party came within fifty paces of them. Indeed, if only ordinarily supported by artillery and reserve, no one can convince us that they would not have opened a passage through the enemy's works.

"'Capt. Callioux of the 1st. La., a man so black that he actually prided himself upon his blackness, died the death of a hero, leading on his men in the thickest of the fight. One poor wounded fellow came along with his arm shattered by a shell, and jauntily swinging it with the other, as he said to a friend of mine: "Massa, guess I can fight no more." I was with one of the captains, looking after the wounded going in the rear of the hospital, when we met one limping along toward the front. On being asked where he was going, he said: "I been shot bad in the leg, captain, and dey want me to go to de hospital, but I guess I can gib 'em some more yet." I could go on filling your columns with startling facts of this kind, but I hope I have told enough to prove that we can hereafter rely upon black arms as well as white in crushing this internal rebellion. I long ago told you there was an army of 250,000 men ready to leap forward in defence of freedom at the first call. You know where to find them and what they are worth.

"'Although repulsed in an attempt which—situated as things were—was all but impossible, these regiments, though badly cut up, are still on hand, and burning with a passion ten times hotter from their fierce baptism of blood. Who knows, but that it is a black hand which shall first plant the standard of the Republic upon the doomed ramparts of Port Hudson?"[101]

The official report of Gen. Banks is given in full. It shows the disposition of the troops, and applauds the valor of the Colored regiments.[Pg 322]

"Headquarters Army of the Gulf, }
"Before Port Hudson, May 30, 1863. }

"Major-General H: W. Halleck, General-in-Chief, Washington.

"General:—Leaving Sommesport on the Atchafalaya, where my command was at the date of my last dispatch, I landed at Bayou Sara at two o'clock on the morning of the 21st.

"A portion of the infantry were transported in steamers, and the balance of the infantry, artillery, cavalry, and wagon-train moving down on the west bank of the river, and from this to Bayou Sara.

"On the 23d a junction was effected with the advance of Major-General Augur and Brigadier-General Sherman, our line occupying the Bayou Sara road at a distance five miles from Port Hudson.

"Major-General Augur had an encounter with a portion of the enemy on the Bayou Sara road in the direction of Baton Rouge, which resulted in the repulse of the enemy, with heavy loss.

"On the 25th the enemy was compelled to abandon his first line of works.

"General Weitzel's brigade, which had covered our rear in the march from Alexandria, joined us on the 26th, and on the morning of the 27th a general assault was made upon the fortifications.

"The artillery opened fire between 5 and 6 o'clock, which was continued with animation during the day. At 10 o'clock Weitzel's brigade, with the division of General Grover, reduced to about two brigades, and the division of General Emory, temporarily reduced by detachments to about a brigade, under command of Colonel Paine, with two regiments of colored troops, made an assault upon the right of the enemy's works, crossing Sandy Creek, and driving them through the woods to their fortifications.

"The fight lasted on this line until 4 o'clock, and was very severely contested. On the left, the infantry did not come up until later in the day; but at 2 o'clock an assault was opened on the centre and left of centre by the divisions under Major-General Augur and Brigadier-General Sherman.

"The enemy was driven into his works, and our troops moved up to the fortifications, holding the opposite sides of the parapet with the enemy on the right. Our troops still hold their position on the left. After dark the main body, being exposed to a flank fire, withdrew to a belt of woods, the skirmishers remaining close upon the fortifications.

"In the assault of the 27th, the behavior, of the officers and men was most gallant, and left nothing to be desired. Our limited acquaintance of the ground and the character of the works, which were almost hidden[Pg 323] from our observation until the moment of approach, alone prevented the capture of the post.

"On the extreme right of our line I posted the first and third regiments of negro troops. The First regiment of Louisiana Engineers, composed exclusively of colored men, excepting the officers, was also engaged in the operations of the day. The position occupied by these troops was one of importance, and called for the utmost steadiness and bravery in those to whom it was confided.

"It gives me pleasure to report that they answered every expectation. Their conduct was heroic. No troops could be more determined or more daring. They made, during the day, three charges upon the batteries of the enemy, suffering very heavy losses, and holding their position at nightfall with the other troops on the right of our line. The highest commendation is bestowed upon them by all the officers in command on the right. Whatever doubt may have existed before as to the efficiency of organizations of this character, the history of this day proves conclusively to those who were in a condition to observe the conduct of these regiments, that the Government will find in this class of troops effective supporters and defenders.

"The severe test to which they were subjected, and the determined manner in which they encountered the enemy, leave upon my mind no doubt of their ultimate success. They require only good officers, commands of limited numbers, and careful discipline, to make them excellent soldiers.

"Our losses from the 23d to this date, in killed, wounded, and missing, are nearly 1,000, including, I deeply regret to say, some of the ablest officers of the corps. I am unable yet to report them in detail.

"I have the honor to be, with much respect

"Your obedient servant,

"N. P. Banks,
"Major-General Commanding."

The effect of this battle upon the country can scarcely be described. Glowing accounts of the charge of the Black Regiments appeared in nearly all the leading journals of the North. The hearts of orators and poets were stirred to elegant utterance. The friends of the Negro were encouraged, and their number multiplied. The Colored people themselves were jubilant. Mr. George H. Boker, of Philadelphia, the poet friend of the Negro, wrote the following elegant verses on the gallant charge of the 1st Louisiana:[Pg 324]


May 27, 1863.

By George H. Boker.

Dark as the clouds of even,
Ranked in the western heaven,
Waiting the breath that lifts
All the dread mass, and drifts
Tempest and falling brand
Over a ruined land;—
So still and orderly,
Arm to arm, knee to knee,
Waiting the great event,
Stands the black regiment.
Down the long dusky line
Teeth gleam and eyeballs shine;
And the bright bayonet,
Bristling and firmly set,
Flashed with a purpose grand,
Long ere the sharp command
Of the fierce rolling drum
Told them their time had come,
Told them what work was sent
For the black regiment.
"Now," the flag-sergeant cried,
"Though death and hell betide,
Let the whole nation see
If we are fit to be
Free in this land; or bound
Down, like the whining hound—
Bound with red stripes of pain
In our old chains again!"
Oh! what a shout there went
From the black regiment!
"Charge!" Trump and drum awoke,
Onward the bondmen broke;
Bayonet and sabre-stroke
Vainly opposed their rush.[Pg 325]
Through the wild battle's crush,
With but one thought aflush,
Driving their lords like chaff,
In the guns' mouths they laugh;
Or at the slippery brands
Leaping with open hands,
Down they tear man and horse,
Down in their awful course;
Trampling with bloody heel
Over the crashing steel,
All their eyes forward bent,
Rushed the black regiment.
"Freedom!" their battle-cry—
"Freedom! or leave to die!"
Ah! and they meant the word,
Not as with us 't is heard,
Not a mere party-shout:
They gave their spirits out
Trusted the end to God,
And on the gory sod
Rolled in triumphant blood.
Glad to strike one free blow,
Whether for weal or woe;
Glad to breathe one free breath,
Though on the lips of death,
Praying—alas! in vain!—
That they might fall again,
So they could once more see
That burst to liberty!
This was what "freedom" lent
To the black regiment.
Hundreds on hundreds fell;
But they are resting well;
Scourges and shackles strong
Never shall do them wrong.
Oh, to the living few,
Soldiers, be just and true!
Hail them as comrades tried;
Fight with them side by side;
Never, in field or tent,
Scorn the black regiment!
[Pg 326]

The battle of Milliken's Bend was fought on the 6th of June, 1863. The troops at this point were under the command of Brig.-Gen. E. S. Dennis. The force consisted of the 23d Iowa, 160 men; 9th La., 500; 11th La., 600; 1st Miss., 150; total, 1,410. Gen. Dennis's report places the number of his troops at 1,061; but evidently a clerical error crept into the report. Of the force engaged, 1,250 were Colored, composing the 9th and 11th Louisiana and the 1st Mississippi. The attacking force comprised six Confederate regiments—about 3,000 men,—under the command of Gen. Henry McCulloch. This force, coming from the interior of Louisiana, by the way of Richmond, struck the 9th Louisiana and two companies of Federal cavalry, and drove them within sight of the earthworks at the Bend. It was now nightfall, and the enemy rested, hoping and believing himself able to annihilate the Union forces on the morrow.

During the night a steamboat passed the Bend, and Gen. Dennis availed himself of the opportunity of sending to Admiral Porter for assistance. The gun-boats, "Choctaw" and "Lexington" were despatched to Milliken's Bend from Helena. As the "Choctaw" was coming in sight, at 3 o'clock in the morning, the rebels made their first charge on the Federal earthworks, filling the air with their vociferous cries: "No quarter!" to Negroes and their officers. The Negro troops had just been recruited, and hence knew little or nothing of the manual or use of arms. But the desperation with which they fought has no equal in the annals of modern wars. The enemy charged the works with desperate fury, but were checked by a deadly fire deliberately delivered by the troops within. The enemy fell back and charged the flanks of the Union columns, and, by an enfilading fire, drove them back toward the river, where they sought the protection of the gun-boats. The "Choctaw" opened a broadside upon the exulting foe, and caused him to beat a hasty retreat. The Negro troops were ordered to charge, and it was reported by a "Tribune" correspondent that many of the Union troops were killed before the gun-boats could be signalled to "cease firing." The following description of the battle was given by an eye-witness of the affair, and a gentleman of exalted character:

"My informant states that a force of about one thousand negroes and two hundred men of the Twenty-third Iowa, belonging to the Second brigade, Carr's division (the Twenty-third Iowa had been up[Pg 327] the river with prisoners, and was on its way back to this place), was surprised in camp by a rebel force of about two thousand men. The first intimation that the commanding officer received was from one of the black men, who went into the colonel's tent and said: 'Massa, the secesh are in camp.' The colonel ordered him to have the men load their guns at once. He instantly replied: 'We have done did dat now, massa.' Before the colonel was ready, the men were in line, ready for action. As before stated, the rebels drove our force toward the gun-boats, taking colored men prisoners and murdering them. This so enraged them that they rallied and charged the enemy more heroically and desperately than has been recorded during the war. It was a genuine bayonet charge, a hand-to-hand fight, that has never occurred to any extent during this prolonged conflict. Upon both sides men were killed with the butts of muskets. White and black men were lying side by side, pierced by bayonets, and in some instances transfixed to the earth. In one instance, two men, one white and the other black, were found dead, side by side, each having the other's bayonet through his body. If facts prove to be what they are now represented, this engagement of Sunday morning will be recorded as the most desperate of this war. Broken limbs, broken heads, the mangling of bodies, all prove that it was a contest between enraged men: on the one side from hatred to a race; and on the other, desire for self-preservation, revenge for past grievances and the inhuman murder of their comrades. One brave man took his former master prisoner, and brought him into camp with great gusto. A rebel prisoner made a particular request, that his own negroes should not be placed over him as a guard. Dame Fortune is capricious! His request was not granted. Their mode of warfare does not entitle them to any privileges. If any are granted, it is from magnanimity to a fellow-foe.

"The rebels lost five cannon, two hundred men killed, four hundred to five hundred wounded, and about two hundred prisoners. Our loss is reported to be one hundred killed and five hundred wounded; but few were white men."[102]

Mr. G. G. Edwards, who was in the fight, wrote, on the 13th of June:

"Tauntingly it has been said that negroes won't fight. Who say it, and who but a dastard and a brute will dare to say it, when the battle of Milliken's Bend finds its place among the heroic deeds of this war? This battle has significance. It demonstrates the fact that the freed slaves will fight."

[Pg 328]

The month of July, 1863, was memorable. Gen. Mead had driven Lee from Gettysburg, Grant had captured Vicksburg, Banks had captured Port Hudson, and Gillmore had begun his operations on Morris Island. On the 13th of July the New York Draft Riot broke out. The Democratic press had advised the people that they were to be called upon to fight the battles of the "Niggers" and "Abolitionists"; while Gov. Seymour "requested" the rioters to await the return of his adjutant-general whom he had despatched to Washington to have the President suspend the draft. The speech was either cowardly or treasonous. It meant, when read between the lines, it is unjust for the Government to draft you men; I will try and get the Government to rescind its order, and until then you are respectfully requested to suspend your violent acts against property. But the riot went on. When the troops under Gen. Wool took charge of the city, thirteen rioters were killed, eighteen wounded, and twenty-four made prisoners. The rioters rose ostensibly to resist the draft, but there were three objects before them: robbery, the destruction of the property of the rich sympathizers with the Union, and the assassination of Colored persons wherever found. They burned the Colored Orphans' Asylum, hung Colored men to lamp posts, and destroyed the property of this class of citizens with impunity.

During these tragic events in New York a gallant Negro regiment was preparing to lead an assault upon the rebel Fort Wagner on Morris Island, South Carolina. On the morning of the 16th of July, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts—first Colored regiment from the North—was compelled to fall back upon Gen. Terry from before a strong and fresh rebel force from Georgia. This was on James Island. The 54th was doing picket duty, and these early visitors thought to find Terry asleep; but instead found him awaiting their coming with all the vigilance of an old soldier. And in addition to the compliment his troops paid the enemy, the gunboats "Pawnee," "Huron," "Marblehead," "John Adams," and "Mayflower" paid their warmest respects to the intruders. They soon withdrew, having sustained a loss of 200, while Gen. Terry's loss was only about 100. It had been arranged to concentrate the Union forces on Morris Island, open a bombardment upon Fort Wagner, and then charge and take it on the 18th. The troops on James Island were put in motion to form a junction with the forces already upon Morris[Pg 329] Island. The march of the 54th Mass., began on the night of the 16th and continued until the afternoon of the 18th. Through ugly marshes, over swollen streams, and broken dykes—through darkness and rain, the regiment made its way to Morris Island where it arrived at 6 A.M. of the 18th of July. The bombardment of Wagner was to have opened at daylight of this day; but a terrific storm sweeping over land and sea prevented. It was 12:30 P.M. when the thunder of siege guns, batteries, and gunboats announced the opening of the dance of death. A semicircle of batteries, stretching across the island for a half mile, sent their messages of destruction into Wagner, while the fleet of iron vessels battered down the works of the haughty and impregnable little fort. All the afternoon one hundred great guns thundered at the gates of Wagner. Toward the evening the bombardment began to slacken until a death-like stillness ensued. To close this part of the dreadful programme Nature lifted her hoarse and threatening voice, and a severe thunder-storm broke over the scene. Darkness was coming on. The brave Black regiment had reached Gen. Strong's headquarters fatigued, hungry, and damp. No time could be allowed for refreshments. Col. Shaw and Gen. Strong addressed the regiment in eloquent, inspiring language. Line of battle was formed in three brigades. The first was led by Gen. Strong, consisting of the 54th Massachusetts (Colored), Colonel Robert Gould Shaw; the 6th Connecticut, Col. Chatfield; the 48th New York, Col. Barton; the 3d New Hampshire, Col. Jackson; the 76th Pennsylvania, Col. Strawbridge; and the 9th Maine. The 54th was the only regiment of Colored men in the brigade, and to it was assigned the post of honor and danger in the front of the attacking column. The shadows of night were gathering thick and fast. Gen. Strong took his position, and the order to charge was given. On the brave Negro regiment swept amid the shot and shell of Sumter, Cumming's Point, and Wagner. Within a few minutes the troops had double-quicked a half mile; and but few had suffered from the heavy guns; but suddenly a terrific fire of small arms was opened upon the 54th. But with matchless courage the regiment dashed on over the trenches and up the side of the fort, upon the top of which Sergt. Wm. H. Carney planted the colors of the regiment. But the howitzers in the bastions raked the ditch, and hand-grenades from the parapet tore the brave men as they climbed the battle-scarred face of the fort. Here waves the[Pg 330] flag of a Northern Negro regiment; and here its brave, beautiful, talented young colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, was saluted by death and kissed by immortality! Gen. Strong received a mortal wound, while Col. Chatfield and many other heroic officers yielded a full measure of devotion to the cause of the Union. Three other colonels were wounded,—Barton, Green, and Jackson. The shattered brigade staggered back into line under the command of Major Plympton, of the 3d New Hampshire, while the noble 54th retired in care of Lieutenant Francis L. Higginson. The second brigade, composed of the 7th New Hampshire, Col. H. S. Putnam; 626 Ohio, Col. Steele; 67th Ohio, Col. Vorhees; and the 100th New York, under Col. Danby, was led against the fort, by Col. Putnam, who was killed in the assault. So this brigade was compelled to retire. One thousand and five hundred (1,500) men were thrown away in this fight, but one fact was clearly established, that Negroes could and would fight as bravely as white men. The following letter, addressed to the Military Secretary of Gov. Andrew, of Massachusetts, narrates an instance of heroism in a Negro soldier which deserves to go into history:

"Headquarters 54th Massachusetts Vols. }
"Morris Island, S. C., Oct. 15, 1863. }

"Colonel: I have the honor to forward you the following letter, received a few days since from Sergeant W. H. Carney, Company C, of this regiment. Mention has before been made of his heroic conduct in preserving the American flag and bearing it from the field, in the assault on Fort Wagner on the 18th of July last, but that you may have the history complete, I send a simple statement of the facts as I have obtained them from him, and an officer who was an eye-witness:

"When the Sergeant arrived to within about one hundred yards of the fort—he was with the first battalion, which was in the advance of the storming column—he received the regimental colors, pressed forward to the front rank, near the Colonel, who was leading the men over the ditch. He says, as they ascended the wall of the fort, the ranks were full, but as soon as they reached the top, 'they melted away' before the enemy's fire 'almost instantly.' He received a severe wound in the thigh, but fell only upon his knees. He planted the flag upon the parapet, lay down on the outer slope, that he might get as much shelter as possible; there he remained for over half an hour, till the 2d brigade came up. He kept the colors flying until the second conflict was ended. When our forces retired he followed, creeping on one knee, still holding up the flag. It was thus that Sergeant Carney came[Pg 331] from the field, having held the emblem of liberty over the walls of Fort Wagner during the sanguinary conflict of the two brigades, and having received two very severe wounds, one in the thigh and one in the head. Still he refused to give up his sacred trust until he found an officer of his regiment.

"When he entered the field hospital, where his wounded comrades were being brought in, they cheered him and the colors. Though nearly exhausted with the loss of blood, he said: 'Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.'

"Of him as a man and soldier, I can speak in the highest term of praise.

"I have the honor to be, Colonel, very respectfully,

"Your most obedient servant,

"M. S. Littlefield,
"Col. Comd'g 54th Reg't Mass. Vols.

"Col. A. G. Brown, Jr., Military Secretary to his Excellency John A. Andrew, Mass."

It was natural that Massachusetts should feel a deep interest in her Negro regiment: for it was an experiment; and the fair name of the Old Bay State had been committed to its keeping. Edward L. Pierce gave the following account of the regiment to Gov. John A. Andrew:

"Beaufort, July 22, 1863.

"My Dear Sir: You will probably receive an official report of the losses in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts by the mail which leaves to-morrow, but perhaps a word from me may not be unwelcome. I saw the officers and men on James Island on the thirteenth instant, and on Saturday last saw them at Brigadier-General Strong's tent, as they passed on at six or half-past six in the evening to Fort Wagner, which is some two miles beyond. I had been the guest of General Strong, who commanded the advance since Tuesday. Colonel Shaw had become attached to General Strong at St. Helena, where he was under him, and the regard was mutual. When the troops left St. Helena they were separated, the Fifty-fourth going to James Island. While it was there, General Strong received a letter from Colonel Shaw, in which the desire was expressed for the transfer of the Fifty-fourth to General Strong's brigade. So when the troops were brought away from James Island, General Strong took this regiment into his command. It left James Island on Thursday, July sixteenth, at nine P.M., and marched to Cole's Island, which they reached at four o'clock on Friday morning, marching all night, most of the way in single file over swampy and[Pg 332] muddy ground. There they remained during the day, with hard-tack and coffee for their fare, and this only what was left in their haversacks; not a regular ration. From eleven o'clock of Friday evening until four o'clock of Saturday they were being put on the transport, the General Hunter, in a boat which took about fifty at a time. There they breakfasted on the same fare, and had no other food before entering into the assault on Fort Wagner in the evening.

"The General Hunter left Cole's Island for Folly Island at six A.M., and the troops landed at the Pawnee Landing about half-past nine A.M., and thence marched to the point opposite Morris Island, reaching there about two o'clock in the afternoon. They were transported in a steamer across the inlet, and at five P.M. began their march for Fort Wagner. They reached Brigadier-General Strong's quarters, about midway on the island, about six or half-past six, where they halted for five minutes. I saw them here, and they looked worn and weary.

"General Strong expressed a great desire to give them food and stimulants, but it was too late, as they were to lead the charge. They had been without tents during the pelting rains of Thursday and Friday nights. General Strong had been impressed with the high character of the regiment and its officers, and he wished to assign them the post where the most severe work was to be done, and the highest honor was to be won. I had been his guest for some days, and knew how he regarded them. The march across Folly and Morris Islands was over a very sandy road, and was very wearisome. The regiment went through the centre of the island, and not along the beach where the marching was easier. When they had come within about one thousand six hundred yards of Fort Wagner, they halted and formed in line of battle—the Colonel leading the right and the Lieutenant-Colonel the left wing. They then marched four hundred yards further on and halted again. There was little firing from the enemy at this point, one solid shot falling between the wings, and another falling to the right, but no musketry.

"At this point the regiment, together with the next supporting regiments, the Sixth Connecticut, Ninth Maine, and others, remained half an hour. The regiment was addressed by General Strong and Colonel Shaw. Then at half-past seven or a quarter before eight o'clock the order for the charge was given. The regiment advanced at quick time, changed to double-quick when at some distance on. The intervening distance between the place where the line was formed and the Fort was run over in a few minutes. When within one or two hundred yards of the Fort, a terrific fire of grape and musketry was poured upon them along the entire line, and with deadly results. It tore the ranks to pieces and disconcerted some. They rallied again, went through the[Pg 333] ditch, in which were some three feet of water, and then up the parapet. They raised the flag on the parapet, where it remained for a few minutes. Here they melted away before the enemy's fire, their bodies falling down the slope and into the ditch. Others will give a more detailed and accurate account of what occurred during the rest of the conflict.

"Colonel Shaw reached the parapet, leading his men, and was probably killed. Adjutant James saw him fall. Private Thomas Burgess, of Company I, told me that he was close to Colonel Shaw; that he waved his sword and cried out: 'Onward, boys!' and, as he did so, fell. Burgess fell, wounded, at the same time. In a minute or two, as he rose to crawl away, he tried to pull Colonel Shaw along, taking hold of his feet, which were near his own head, but there appeared to be no life in him. There is a report, however, that Colonel Shaw is wounded and a prisoner, and that it was so stated to the officers who bore a flag of truce from us, but I cannot find it well authenticated. It is most likely that this noble youth has given his life to his country and to mankind. Brigadier-General Strong (himself a kindred spirit) said of him to-day, in a message to his parents: 'I had but little opportunity to be with him, but I already loved him. No man ever went more gallantly into battle. None knew but to love him.' I parted with Colonel Shaw between six and seven, Saturday evening, as he rode forward to his regiment, and he gave me the private letters and papers he had with him, to be delivered to his father. Of the other officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Hallowell is severely wounded in the groin; Adjutant James has a wound from a grape-shot in his ankle, and a flesh-wound in his side from a glancing ball or piece of shell. Captain Pope has had a musket-ball extracted from his shoulder. Captain Appleton is wounded in the thumb, and also has a contusion on his right breast from a hand-grenade. Captain Willard has a wound in the leg, and is doing well. Captain Jones was wounded in the right shoulder. The ball went through and he is doing well. Lieutenant Homans wounded by a ball from a smooth-bore musket entering the left side, which has been extracted from the back. He is doing well.

"The above-named officers are at Beaufort, all but the last arriving there on Sunday evening, whither they were taken from Morris Island to Pawnee Landing, in the Alice Price, and thence to Beaufort in the Cosmopolitan, which is specially fitted up for hospital service and is provided with skilful surgeons under the direction of Dr. Bontecou. They are now tenderly cared for with an adequate corps of surgeons and nurses, and provided with a plentiful supply of ice, beef and chicken broth, and stimulants. Lieutenant Smith was left at the hospital tent on Morris Island. Captain Emilio and Lieutenants Grace, Appleton, Johnston, Reed, Howard, Dexter, Jennison, and Emerson, were not wounded and are doing duty. Lieutenants Jewett and[Pg 334] Tucker were slightly wounded and are doing duty also. Lieut. Pratt was wounded and came in from the field on the following day. Captains Russell and Simpkins are missing. The Quartermaster and Surgeon are safe and are with the regiment.

"Dr. Stone remained on the Alice Price during Saturday night, caring for the wounded until she left Morris Island, and then returned to look after those who were left behind. The Assistant Surgeon was at the camp on St. Helena Island, attending to duty there. Lieutenant Littlefield was also in charge of the camp at St. Helena. Lieutenant Higginson was on Folly Island with a detail of eighty men. Captain Bridge and Lieutenant Walton are sick and were at Beaufort or vicinity. Captain Partridge has returned from the North, but not in time to participate in the action.

"Of the privates and non-commissioned officers I send you a list of one hundred and forty-four who are now in the Beaufort hospitals. A few others died on the boats or since their arrival here. There may be others at the Hilton Head Hospital; and others are doubtless on Morris Island; but I have no names or statistics relative to them. Those in Beaufort are well attended to—just as well as the white soldiers, the attentions of the surgeons and nurses being supplemented by those of the colored people here, who have shown a great interest in them. The men of the regiment are very patient, and where their condition at all permits them, are cheerful. They express their readiness to meet the enemy again, and they keep asking if Wagner is yet taken. Could any one from the North see these brave fellows as they lie here, his prejudice against them, if he had any, would all pass away. They grieve greatly at the loss of Colonel Shaw, who seems to have acquired a strong hold on their affections. They are attached to their other officers, and admire General Strong, whose courage was so conspicuous to all. I asked General Strong if he had any testimony in relation to the regiment to be communicated to you. These are his precise words, and I give them to you as I noted them at the time:

"'The Fifty-fourth did well and nobly, only the fall of Colonel Shaw prevented them from entering the Fort. They moved up as gallantly as any troops could, and with their enthusiasm they deserve a better fate.' The regiment could not have been under a better officer than Colonel Shaw. He is one of the bravest and most genuine men. His soldiers loved him like a brother, and go where you would through the camps you would hear them speak of him with enthusiasm and affection. His wound is severe, and there are some apprehensions as to his being able to recover from it. Since I found him at the hospital tent on Morris Island, about half-past nine o'clock on Saturday, I have been all the time attending to him or the officers of the Fifty-fourth, both on the boats and here. Nobler spirits it has never been my fortune[Pg 335] to be with. General Strong, as he lay on the stretcher in the tent, was grieving all the while for the poor fellows who lay uncared for on the battle-field, and the officers of the Fifty-fourth have had nothing to say of their own misfortunes, but have mourned constantly for the hero who led them to the charge from which he did not return. I remember well the beautiful day when the flags were presented at Readville, and you told the regiment that your reputation was to be identified with its fame. It was a day of festivity and cheer. I walk now in these hospitals and see mutilated forms with every variety of wound, and it seems all a dream. But well has the regiment sustained the hope which you indulged, and justified the identity of fame which you trusted to it.

"I ought to add in relation to the fight on James Island, on July sixteenth, in which the regiment lost fifty men, driving back the rebels, and saving, as it is stated, three companies of the Tenth Connecticut, that General Terry, who was in command on that Island, said to Adjutant James:

"'Tell your Colonel that I am exceedingly pleased with the conduct of your regiment. They have done all they could do.'

"Yours truly,

"Edward L. Pierce."[103]

The Negro in the Mississippi Valley, and in the Department of the South had won an excellent reputation as a soldier. In the spring of 1864 Colored Troops made their début in the army of the Potomac. In the battles at Wilson's Wharf, Petersburg, Deep Bottom, Chapin's Farm, Fair Oaks, Hatcher's Run, Farmville, and many other battles, these soldiers won for themselves lasting glory and golden opinions from the officers and men of the white organizations. On the 24th of May, 1864, Gen. Fitz-Hugh Lee called at Wilson's Wharf to pay his respects to two Negro regiments under the command of Gen. Wild. But the chivalry of the South were compelled to retire before the destructive fire of Negro soldiers. A "Tribune" correspondent who witnessed the engagement gave the following account the next day:

"At first the fight raged fiercely on the left. The woods were riddled with bullets; the dead and wounded of the rebels were taken away from this part of the field, but I am informed by one accustomed to judge, and who went over the field to-day, that from the pools of[Pg 336] blood and other evidences the loss must have been severe. Finding that the left could not be broken, Fitz-Hugh Lee hurled his chivalry—dismounted of course—upon the right. Steadily they came on, through obstructions, through slashing, past abattis without wavering. Here one of the advantages of colored troops was made apparent. They obeyed orders, and bided their time. When well tangled in the abattis the death-warrant, 'Fire,' went forth. Southern chivalry quailed before Northern balls, though fired by negro hands. Volley after volley was rained upon the superior by the inferior race, and the chivalry broke and tried to run."

On the 8th of June Gen. Gillmore, at the head of 3,500 troops, crossed the Appomattox, and moved on Petersburg by turnpike from the north. Gen. Kautz, with about 1,500 cavalry, was to charge the city from the south, or southwest; and two gun-boats and a battery were to bombard Fort Clinton, defending the approach up the river. Gillmore was somewhat dismayed at the formidable appearance of the enemy, and, thinking himself authorized to use his own discretion, did not make an attack. On the 10th of June, Gen. Kautz advanced without meeting any serious resistance until within a mile and one half of the city, drove in the pickets and actually entered the city! Gillmore had attracted considerable attention on account of the display he made of his forces; but when he declined to fight, the rebels turned upon Kautz and drove him out of the city.

Gen. Grant had taken up his headquarters at Bermuda Hundreds, whence he directed Gen. Butler to despatch Gen. W. F. Smith's corps against Petersburg. The rebel general, A. P. Hill, commanding the rear of Lee's army, was now on the south front of Richmond. Gen. Smith moved on toward Petersburg, and at noon of the 15th of June, 1864, his advance felt the outposts of the enemy's defence about two and one half miles from the river. Here again the Negro soldier's fighting qualities were to be tested in the presence of our white troops. Gen. Hinks commanded a brigade of Negro soldiers. This brigade was to open the battle and receive the fresh fire of the enemy. Gen. Hinks—a most gallant soldier—took his place and gave the order to charge the rebel lines. Here under a clear Virginia sky, in full view of the Union white troops, the Black brigade swept across the field in magnificent line. The rebels received them with siege gun, musket, and bayonet, but they never wavered. In a short time they had carried a line of rifle-pits,[Pg 337] driven the enemy out in confusion, and captured two large guns. It was a supreme moment; all that was needed was the order, "On to Petersburg," and the city could have been taken by the force there was in reserve for the Black brigade. But he who doubts is damned, and he who dallies is a dastard. Gen. Smith hesitated. Another assault was not ordered until near sundown, when the troops cleared another line of rifle-pits, made three hundred prisoners, and captured sixteen guns, sustaining a loss of only six hundred. The night was clear and balmy; there was nothing to hinder the battle from being carried on; but Gen. Smith halted for the night—a fatal halt. During the night the enemy was reënforced by the flower of Lee's army, and when the sunlight of the next morning fell upon the battle field it revealed an almost new army,—a desperate and determined enemy. Then it seems that Gens. Meade and Hancock did not know that Petersburg was to be attacked. Hancock's corps had lingered in the rear of the entire army, and did not reach the front until dusk. Why Gen. Smith delayed the assault until evening was not known. Even Gen. Grant, in his report of the battle, said: "Smith, for some reason that I have never been able to satisfactorily understand, did not get ready to assault the enemy's main lines until near sundown." But whatever the reason was, his conduct cost many a noble life and the postponement of the end of the war.

On the 16th of June, 1864, Gens. Burnside and Warren came up. The 18th corps, under Gen. Smith, occupied the right of the Federal lines, with its right touching the Appomattox River. Gens. Hancock, Burnside, and Warren stretched away to the extreme left, which was covered by Kautz's cavalry. After a consultation with Gen. Grant, Gen. Meade ordered a general attack all along the lines, and at 6 P.M. on the 16th of June, the battle of Petersburg was opened again. Once more a division of Black troops was hurled into the fires of battle, and once more proved that the Negro was equal to all the sudden and startling changes of war. The splendid fighting of these troops awakened the kindliest feelings for them among the white troops, justified the Government in employing them, stirred the North to unbounded enthusiasm, and made the rebel army feel that the Negro was the equal of the Confederate soldier under all circumstances. Secretary Stanton was in a state of ecstasy over the behavior of the Colored troops at Petersburg, an unusual thing for him. In his despatch on this battle, he said:[Pg 338]

"The hardest fighting was done by the black troops. The forts they stormed were the worst of all. After the affair was over Gen. Smith went to thank them, and tell them he was proud of their courage and dash. He says they cannot be exceeded as soldiers, and that hereafter he will send them in a difficult place as readily as the best white troops."[104]

The "Tribune" correspondent wrote on the day of the battle:

"The charge upon the advanced works was made in splendid style; and as the 'dusky warriors' stood shouting upon the parapet, Gen. Smith decided that 'they would do,' and sent word to storm the first redoubt. Steadily these troops moved on, led by officers whose unostentatious bravery is worthy of emulation. With a shout and rousing cheers they dashed at the redoubt. Grape and canister were hurled at them by the infuriated rebels. They grinned and pushed on, and with a yell that told the Southern chivalry their doom, rolled irresistibly over and into the work. The guns were speedily turned upon those of our 'misguided brethren,' who forgot that discretion was the better part of valor. Another redoubt was carried in the same splendid style, and the negroes have established a reputation that they will surely maintain.

"Officers on Gen. Hancock's staff, as they rode by the redoubt, surrounded by a moat with water in it, over which these negroes charged, admitted that its capture was a most gallant affair. The negroes bear their wounds quite as pluckily as the white soldiers."

Here the Colored Troops remained, skirmishing, fighting, building earthworks, and making ready for the next assault upon Petersburg, which was to take place on the 30th proximo. In the actions of the 18th, 21st, 23d, 24th, 25th, and 28th of June, the Colored Troops had shared a distinguished part. The following letter on the conduct of the Colored Troops before Petersburg, written by an officer who participated in all the actions around that city, is worth its space it gold:

"In the Field, near Petersburg, Virginia, }
"June 27, 1864.      }

"The problem is solved. The negro is a man, a soldier, a hero. Knowing of your laudable interest in the colored troops, but particularly those raised under the immediate auspices of the Supervisory[Pg 339] Committee, I have thought it proper that I should let you know how they acquitted themselves in the late actions in front of Petersburg, of which you have already received newspaper accounts. If you remember, in my conversations upon the character of these troops, I carefully avoided saying anything about their fighting qualities till I could have an opportunity of trying them.

"That opportunity came on the fifteenth instant, and since, and I am now prepared to say that I never, since the beginning of this war, saw troops fight better, more bravely, and with more determination and enthusiasm. Our division, commanded by General Hinks, took the advance on the morning of the fifteenth instant, arrived in front of the enemy's works about nine o'clock A.M., formed line, charged them, and took them most handsomely. Our regiment was the first in the enemy's works, having better ground to charge over than some of the others, and the only gun that was taken on this first line was taken by our men. The color-sergeant of our regiment planted his colors on the works of the enemy, a rod in advance of any officer or man in the regiment. The effect of the colors being thus in advance of the line, so as to be seen by all, was truly inspiring to our men, and to a corresponding degree dispiriting to the enemy. We pushed on two and a half miles further, till we came in full view of the main defences of Petersburg. We formed line at about two o'clock P.M., reconnoitred and skirmished the whole afternoon, and were constantly subject to the shells of the enemy's artillery. At sunset we charged these strong works and carried them. Major Cook took one with the left wing of our regiment as skirmishers, by getting under the guns, and then preventing their gunners from using their pieces, while he gained the rear of the redoubt, where there was no defence but the infantry, which, classically speaking, 'skedaddled.' We charged across what appeared to be an almost impassable ravine, with the right wing all the time subject to a hot fire of grape and canister, until we got so far under the guns as to be sheltered, when the enemy took to their rifle-pits as infantrymen. Our brave fellows went steadily through the swamp, and up the side of a hill, at an angle of almost fifty degrees, rendered nearly impassable by fallen timber. Here again our color-sergeant was conspicuous in keeping far ahead of the most advanced, hanging on to the side of the hill, till he would turn about and wave the stars and stripes at his advancing comrades; then steadily advancing again, under the fire of the enemy, till he could almost have reached their rifle-pits with his flagstaff. How he kept from being killed I do not know, unless it can be attributed to the fact that the party advancing up the side of the hill always has the advantage of those who hold the crest. It was in this way that we got such decided advantage over the enemy at South Mountain. We took, in these two redoubts, four more guns, making, in all, five for[Pg 340] our regiment, two redoubts, and part of a rifle-pit as our day's work. The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh United States colored troops advanced against works more to the left. The Fourth United States colored troops took one more redoubt, and the enemy abandoned the other. In these two we got two more guns, which made, in all, seven. The Sixth regiment did not get up in time, unfortunately, to have much of the sport, as it had been previously formed in the second line. We left forty-three men wounded and eleven killed in the ravine, over which our men charged the last time. Our loss in the whole day's operations was one hundred-and forty-three, including six officers, one of whom was killed. Sir, there is no underrating the good conduct of these fellows during these charges; with but a few exceptions, they all went in as old soldiers, but with more enthusiasm. I am delighted that our first action resulted in a decided victory.

"The commendations we have received from the Army of the Potomac, including its general officers, are truly gratifying. Hancock's corps arrived just in time to relieve us (we being out of ammunition), before the rebels were reinforced and attempted to retake these strong works and commanding positions, without which they could not hold Petersburg one hour, if it were a part of Grant's plan to advance against it on the right here.

"General Smith speaks in the highest terms of the day's work, as you have doubtless seen, and he assured me, in person, that our division should have the guns we took as trophies of honor. He is also making his word good in saying that he could hereafter trust colored troops in the most responsible positions. Colonel Ames, of the Sixth United States colored troops, and our regiment, have just been relieved in the front, where we served our tour of forty-eight hours in turn with the other troops of the corps. While out, we were subjected to some of the severest shelling I have ever seen, Malvern Hill not excepted. The enemy got twenty guns in position during the night, and opened on us yesterday morning at daylight. Our men stood it, behind their works, of course, as well as any of the white troops. Our men, unfortunately, owing to the irregular features of ground, took no prisoners. Sir, we can bayonet the enemy to terms on this matter of treating colored soldiers as prisoners of war far sooner than the authorities at Washington can bring him to it by negotiation. This I am morally persuaded of. I know, further, that the enemy won't fight us if he can help it. I am sure that the same number of white troops could not have taken those works on the evening of the fifteenth; prisoners that we took told me so. I mean prisoners who came in after the abandonment of the fort, because they could not get away. They excuse themselves on the ground of pride; as one of them said to me: 'D——d if men educated as we have been will fight with niggers, and your government ought not[Pg 341] to expect it.' The real fact is, the rebels will not stand against our colored soldiers when there is any chance of their being taken prisoners, for they are conscious of what they justly deserve. Our men went into these works after they were taken, yelling 'Fort Pillow!' The enemy well knows what this means, and I will venture the assertion, that that piece of infernal brutality enforced by them there has cost the enemy already two men for every one they so inhumanly murdered."[105]

The 9th corps, under Burnside, containing a splendid brigade of Colored Troops, had finally pushed its way up to one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy's works. In the immediate front a small fort projected out quite a distance beyond the main line of the enemy's works. It was decided to place a mine under this fort and destroy it. Just in the rear of the 9th corps was a ravine, which furnished a safe and unobserved starting-point for the mine. It was pushed forward with great speed and care. When the point was reached directly under the fort, chambers were made to the right and left, and then packed with powder or other combustibles. It was understood from the commencement that the Colored Troops were to have the post of honor again, and charge after the mine should be sprung. The inspecting officer having made a thorough examination of the entire works reported to Gen. Burnside that the "Black Division was the fittest for this perilous service." But Gen. Grant was not of the same opinion. Right on the eve of the great event he directed the three white commanders of divisions to draw lots—who should not go into the crater! The lot fell to the poorest officer, for a dashing, brilliant movement, in the entire army; Gen. Ledlie.

The mine was to be fired at 3:30 A.M., on the morning of the 30th of July, 1864. The match was applied, but the train did not work. Lieut. Jacob Douty and Sergt. Henry Rees, of the 48th Pennsylvania, entered the gallery, removed the hindering cause, and at 4:45 A.M. the match was applied and the explosion took place. The fort was lifted into the air and came down a mass of ruins, burying 300 men. Instead of a fort there was a yawning chasm, 150 feet long, 25 feet wide, and about 25 or 30 feet deep. At the same moment all the guns of the Union forces opened from one end of their line to the other. It was verily a judgment morn. Confusion reigned among the Confederates. The enemy fled in disorder from his works. The way to Petersburg was[Pg 342] open, unobstructed for several hours; all the Federal troops had to do was to go into the city at a trail arms without firing a gun. Gen. Ledlie was not equal to the situation. He tried to mass his division in the mouth of the crater. The 10th New Hampshire went timidly into line, and when moved forward broke into the shape of a letter V, and confusion indescribable followed. Gens. Potter and Wilcox tried to support Ledlie, but the latter division had halted after they had entered the crater, although the enemy had not recovered from the shock. Gen. Potter, by some means, got his division out of the crater and gallantly led a charge toward the crest, but so few followed him that he was compelled to retire. After all had been lost, after the rebels had regained their composure, Gen. Burnside was suffered to send in his "Black Division." It charged in splendid order to the right of the crater toward the crest, but was hurled back into the crater by a destructive fire from batteries and muskets. But they rallied and charged the enemy again and again until nightfall; exhausted and reduced in numbers, they fell back into the friendly darkness to rest. The Union loss was 4,400 killed, wounded, and captured. Again the Negro had honored his country and covered himself with glory. Managed differently, with the Black Division as the charging force, Petersburg would have fallen, the war would have ended before the autumn, and thousands of lives would have been saved. But a great sacrifice had to be laid upon the cruel altar of race prejudice.

In the battles around Nashville about 8,000 or 10,000 Colored Troops took part, and rendered efficient aid. Here the Colored Troops, all of them recruited from slave States, stormed fortified positions of the enemy with the bayonet through open fields, and behaved like veterans under the most destructive fire. In his report of the battle of Nashville, Major-Gen. James B. Steedman said:

"The larger portion of these losses, amounting in the aggregate to fully twenty-five per cent. of the men under my command who were taken into action, it will be observed, fell upon the Colored Troops. The severe loss of this part of my troops was in the brilliant charge on the enemy's works on Overton Hill on Friday afternoon. I was unable to discover that color made any difference in the fighting of my troops. All, white and black, nobly did their duty as soldiers, and evinced cheerfulness and resolution, such as I have never seen excelled in any campaign of the war in which I have borne a part."[106]

[Pg 343]

The following table shows the losses in this action:

Fourteenth U. S. Colored Infantry-4-41-20-65Organized as the
First Colored
Brigade, Colonel
T. J. Morgan,
Forty-fourth U. S. Colored Infantry12-27249378
Sixteenth U. S. Colored Infantry-1-2---3
Eighteenth U. S. Colored Infantry-1-5-3-9
Seventeenth U. S. Colored Infantry714464--678
Twelfth U. S. Colored Infantry310399--6109Organized as the
Second Colored
Brigade, Col.
C. K. Thompson,
Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry4514161-18213
One Hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry-125116--5128
Eighteenth Ohio Infantry29238-9456Included in the
Division, A. C.,
Cruft, commanding.
Sixty-eighth Indiana Infantry-1-7---8
Provisional Division, A. C.119374-334126
Twentieth Indiana Battery--26--26Captain Osborn.
Total 917

[Pg 344]

At the battle of Appomattox a division of picked Colored Troops (Gen. Birney[107]) accomplished some most desperate and brilliant fighting, and received the praise of the white troops who acted as their support.

From the day the Government put arms into the hands of Negro soldiers to the last hour of the Slave-holders' Rebellion they rendered effective aid in suppressing the rebellion and in saving the Union. They fought a twofold battle—conquered the prejudices and fears of the white people of the North and the swaggering insolence and lofty confidence of the South.

As to the efficiency of Negroes as soldiers abundant testimony awaits the hand of the historian. The following letter speaks for itself.


"War Dep't, Adj.-General's Office, }
"Washington, May 30, 1864. }

"Hon. H. Wilson:

"Dear Sir: On several occasions when on the Mississippi River, I contemplated writing to you respecting the colored troops and to suggest that, as they have been fully tested as soldiers, their pay should be raised to that of white troops, and I desire now to give my testimony in their behalf. You are aware that I have been engaged in the organization of freedmen for over a year, and have necessarily been thrown in constant contact with them.

"The negro in a state of slavery is brought up by the master, from early childhood, to strict obedience and to obey implicitly the dictates of the white man, and they are thus led to believe that they are an inferior race. Now, when organized into troops, they carry this habit of obedience with them, and their officers being entirely white men, the negroes promptly obey their orders.

"A regiment is thus rapidly brought into a state of discipline. They are a religious people—another high quality for making good soldiers. They are a musical people, and thus readily learn to march and accurately perform their manœuvres. They take pride in being elevated as soldiers, and keep themselves, as their camp grounds, neat and clean. This I know from special inspection, two of my staff-officers being constantly on inspecting duty. They have proved a most important addition[Pg 345] to our forces, enabling the Generals in active operations to take a large force of white troops into the field; and now brigades of blacks are placed with the whites. The forts erected at the important points on the river are nearly all garrisoned by blacks—artillery regiments raised for the purpose,—say at Paducah and Columbus, Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee, Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi and most of the works around New Orleans.

"Experience proves that they manage heavy guns very well. Their fighting qualities have also been fully tested a number of times, and I am yet to hear of the first case where they did not fully stand up to their work. I passed over the ground where the 1st Louisiana made the gallant charge at Port Hudson, by far the stronger part of the rebel works. The wonder is that so many have made their escape. At Milliken's Bend where I had three incomplete regiments,—one without arms until the day previous to the attack,—greatly superior numbers of the rebels charged furiously up to the very breastworks. The negroes met the enemy on the ramparts, and both sides freely used the bayonet—a most rare occurrence in warfare, as one of the other party gives way before coming in contact with the steel. The rebels were defeated With heavy loss. The bridge at Moscow, on the line of railroad from Memphis to Corinth, was defended by one small regiment of blacks. A cavalry attack of three times their number was made, the blacks defeating them in three charges made by the Rebels.

"They fought them hours till our cavalry came up, when the defeat was made complete, many of the dead being left on the field.

"A cavalry force of three hundred and fifty attacked three hundred rebel cavalry near the Big Black with signal success, a number of prisoners being taken and marched to Vicksburg. Forrest attacked Paducah with 7,500 men. The garrison was between 500 and 600, nearly 400 being colored troops recently raised. What troops could have done better? So, too, they fought well at Fort Pillow till overpowered by greatly superior numbers.

"The above enumerated cases seem to me sufficient to demonstrate the value of the colored troops.

"I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

"Your obedient servant,

"L. Thomas, Adj.-General.

In regard to the conduct of the Colored Troops at Petersburg, a correspondent to the "Boston Journal" gave the following account from the lips of Gen. Smith:

"A few days ago I sat in the tent of Gen. W. F. Smith, commander of the 18th Corps, and heard his narration of the manner in which[Pg 346] Gen. Hinks' division of colored troops stood the fire and charged upon the Rebel works east of Petersburg on the 16th of June. There were thirteen guns pouring a constant fire of shot and shell upon those troops, enfilading the line, cutting it lengthwise and crosswise, 'Yet they stood unmoved for six hours. Not a man flinched. [These are the words of the General.] It was as severe a test as I ever saw. But they stood it, and when my arrangements were completed for charging the works, they moved with the steadiness of veterans to the attack. I expected that they would fall back, or be cut to pieces; but when I saw them move over the field, gain the works and capture the guns, I was astounded. They lost between 500 and 600 in doing it. There is material in the negroes to make the best troops in the world, if they are properly trained.'

"These are the words of one of the ablest commanders and engineers in the service. A graduate of West Point, who, earlier in the war, had the prejudices which were held by many other men against the negro. He has changed his views. He is convinced, and honorably follows his convictions, as do all men who are not stone blind or perversely wilful."[108]

Gen. Blunt in a letter to a friend speaks of the valor of Colored Troops at the battle of Honey Springs. He says:

"The negroes (1st colored regiment) were too much for the enemy, and let me here say that I never saw such fighting as was done by that negro regiment. They fought like veterans, with a coolness and valor that is unsurpassed. They preserved their line perfect throughout the whole engagement, and although in the hottest of the fight, they never once faltered. Too much praise cannot be awarded them for their gallantry. The question that negroes will fight is settled, besides they make better soldiers in every respect, than any troops I have ever had under my command."[109]

The following from the Washington correspondent of the "New York Tribune" is of particular value:

"In speaking of the soldierly qualities of our colored troops, I do not refer specially to their noble action in the perilous edge of battle; that is settled, but to their docility and their patience of labor and suffering in the camp and on the march.

"I have before me a private letter from a friend, now Major in one of the Pennsylvania colored regiments, a portion of which I think the[Pg 347] public should find in your columns. He says in speaking of service in his regiment: 'I am delighted with it. I find that these colored men learn every thing that pertains to the duties of a soldier much faster than any white soldiers I have ever seen. The reason is apparent,—not that they are smarter than white men, but they feel promoted; they feel as though their whole sphere of life was advanced and enlarged. They are willing, obedient, and cheerful; move with agility, and are full of music, which is almost a sine qua non to soldierly bearing.'

"Soon after the letter of which the above is an extract was written, the regiment was ordered to the field from which the Major writes again: 'The more I know and see of these negro regiments, the more I am delighted with the whole enterprise. It is truly delightful to command a regiment officered as these are. In all my experience I have never known a better class of officers.... I have charge of the school of non-commissioned officers here. I drill them once a day and have them recite from the oral instructions given them the day before. I find them more anxious to learn their duties and more ready to perform them when they know them than any set of non-commissioned officers I ever saw.... There is no discount on these fellows at all. Give me a thousand such men as compose this regiment and I desire no stronger battalion to lead against an enemy that is at once their oppressors and traitors to my, and my soldiers' country.'

"This testimony is worth a chapter of speculation. The Major alludes to one fact above, moreover, to which the public attention has not been often directed—the excellent and able men who are in command of our colored troops. They are generally men of heart—men of opinions—men whose generous impulses have not been chilled in 'the cold shade of West Point.'

"The officer from whose letter I have quoted was a volunteer in the ranks of a Pennsylvania regiment from the day of the attack on Sumter until August, 1862. His bravery, his devotion to the principles of freedom, his zeal in the holy cause of his country through all the campaigns of the calamitous McClellan, won the regard and attention of our loyal Governor Curtin, who, with rare good sense and discrimination, took him from the ranks and made him first, Lieut.-Colonel, and then Colonel of a regiment in the nine months' service. He carried himself through all in such a manner as fully justified the Governor's confidence, and has stepped now into a position where his patriotic zeal can concentrate the valor of these untutored free men in defense of our imperilled country. So long as these brave colored men are officered by gallant, high-hearted, slave-hating men, we can never despair of the Republic."[110]

[Pg 348]

Mr. D. Aden in a letter to Col. Darling, dated Norfolk, Va., Feb. 22, 1864, said:

"During the expedition last October to Charles City Court House, on the Peninsula, the colored troops marched steadily through storm and mud; and on coming up with the enemy, behaved as bravely under fire as veterans. An officer of the 1st N. Y. Mounted Rifles—a most bitter opponent and reviler of colored troops—who was engaged in this affair, volunteered the statement that they had fought bravely, and, in his own language, more expressive than elegant, were 'bully boys'—which coming from such a source, might be regarded as the highest praise.

"During the recent advance toward Richmond to liberate the Union prisoners, the 4th, 5th, and 9th regiments formed part of the expedition and behaved splendidly. They marched thirty miles in ten hours, and an unusually small number straggled on the route."

Col. John A. Foster of the 175th New York, in January, 1864, wrote to Col. Darling as follows:

"While before Port Hudson, during the siege of that place, I was acting on Col. Gooding's staff, prior to the arrival of my regiment at that place. On the assault of May 27, 1863, Col. Gooding was ordered to proceed to the extreme right of our lines and oversee the charge of the two regiments constituting the negro-brigade, and I accompanied him.

"We witnessed them in line of battle, under a very heavy fire of musketry, and siege and field pieces. There was a deep gully or bayou before them, which they could not cross nor ford in the presence of the enemy, and hence an assault was wholly impracticable. Yet they made five several attempts to swim and cross it, preparatory to an assault on the enemy's works; and in this, too, in fair view of the enemy, and at short musket range. Added to this, the nature of the enemy's works was such that it allowed an enfilading fire. Success was impossible; yet they behaved as cool as if veterans, and when ordered to retire, marched off as if on parade. I feel satisfied that, if the position of the bayou had been known and the assault made a quarter of a mile to the left of where it was, the place would have been taken by this negro brigade on that day.

"On that day I witnessed the attack made by the divisions of Generals Grover and Paine, and can truly say I saw no steadier fighting by those daring men than did the negroes in this their first fight.

"On the second assault, June 14th, in the assault made by Gen. Paine's division, our loss was very great in wounded, and, as there was[Pg 349] a want of ambulance men, I ordered about a hundred negroes, who were standing idle and unharmed, to take the stretchers and carry the wounded from the field. Under a most severe fire of musketry, grape, and canister, they performed this duty with unflinching courage and nonchalance. They suffered severely in this duty both in killed and wounded; yet not a man faltered. These men had just been recruited, and were not even partially disciplined. But I next saw the negroes (engineers) working in these trenches, under a heavy fire of the enemy. They worked faithfully, and wholly regardless of exposure to the enemy's fire."

Mr. Cadwallader in his despatch concerning the battle of Spottsylvania, dated May 18th, says:

"It is a subject of considerable merriment in camp that a charge of the famous Hampton Legion, the flower of Southern chivalry, was repulsed by the Colored Troops of General Ferrero's command."[111]

These are but a few of the tributes that brave and true white men cheerfully gave to the valor and loyalty of Colored Troops during the war. No officer, whose privilege it was to command or observe the conduct of these troops, has ever hesitated to give a full and cheerful endorsement of their worth as men, their loyalty as Americans, and their eminent qualifications for the duties and dangers of military life. No history of the war has ever been written, no history of the war ever can be written, without mentioning the patience, endurance, fortitude, and heroism of the Negro soldiers who prayed, wept, fought, bled, and died for the preservation of the Union of the United States of America!


[97] This was remedied at length, after the 54th Massachusetts Infantry had refused pay for a year, unless the regiment could be treated as other regiments. Major Sturges, Agent for the State of Massachusetts, made up the difference between $7 and $13 to disabled and discharged soldiers of this regiment, until the 15th June, 1864, when the Government came to its senses respecting this great injustice to its gallant soldiers.

[98] Times, Feb. 10, 1863.

[99] Times, Feb. 11, 1863.

[100] For the official report of Colonel Higginson and the war correspondent, see Rebellion Records, vol. vii. Document, pp. 176-178.

[101] New York Times, June 13, 1863.

[102] Rebellion Records, vol. vii. Doc. p. 15.

[103] Rebellion Recs., vol. vii. Doc., p. 215, 216.

[104] Herald, June 18, 1864.

[105] Rebellion Recs., vol. xi. Doc. pp. 580, 581.

[106] Rebellion Recs., vol. xi. Doc., p. 89.

[107] I remember now, as I was in the battle of Appomattox Court House, that Gen. Birney was relieved just after the battle of Farmville, because he refused to march his division in the rear of all the white troops. It was doubtless Gen. Foster who led the Colored Troops in the action at Appomattox.

[108] Tribune, July 26, 1864.

[109] Tribune, August 19, 1863.

[110] New York Tribune, Nov. 14, 1863.

[111] New York Herald, May 20, 1864.

[Pg 350]


The Military Employment of Negroes Distasteful to the Rebel Authorities.—The Confederates the First to employ Negroes as Soldiers.—Jefferson Davis Refers to the Subject in his Message, and the Confederate Congress orders All Negroes captured to be turned over to the State Authorities, and raises the "Black Flag" upon White Officers commanding Negro Soldiers.—The New York Press calls upon the Government to protect its Negro Soldiers.—Secretary Stanton's Action.—The President's Order.—Correspondence between Gen. Peck and Gen. Pickett in Regard to the Killing of a Colored Man after he had surrendered at the Battle of Newbern.—Southern Press on the Capture and Treatment of Negro Soldiers.—The Rebels refuse to exchange Negro Soldiers captured on Morris and James Islands on Account of the Order of the Confederate Congress which required them to be turned over to the Authorities of the Several States.—Jefferson Davis issues a Proclamation Outlawing Gen. B. F. Butler,—He Is To Be Hung Without Trial by any Confederate Officer who may capture him.—The Battle of Fort Pillow.—The Gallant Defence by the Little Band of Union Troops.—It refuses to capitulate and is assaulted and captured by an Overwhelming Force.—The Union Troops butchered in Cold Blood.—The Wounded are carried into Houses which are fired and burned with their Helpless Victims.—Men are nailed to the Outside of Buildings through their Hands and Feet and burnt alive.—The Wounded and Dying are brained where they lay in their Ebbing Blood.—The Outrages are renewed in the Morning.—Dead and Living find a Common Sepulchre in the Trench.—General Chalmers orders the Killing of a Negro Child.—Testimony of the Few Union Soldiers who were enabled to crawl out of the Gilt Edge, Fire Proof Hell at Pillow.—They give a Sickening Account of the Massacre before the Senate Committee on the Conduct of the War.—Gen. Forrest's Futile Attempt to destroy the Record of his Foul Crime.—Fort Pillow Massacre without a Parallel in History.

Return to Table of Contents

THE appearance of Negroes as soldiers in the armies of the United States seriously offended the Southern view of "the eternal fitness of things." No action on the part of the Federal Government was so abhorrent to the rebel army. It called forth a bitter wail from Jefferson Davis, on the 12th of January, 1863, and soon after the Confederate Congress elevated its olfactory organ and handled the subject with a pair of tongs. After a long discussion the following was passed:

"Resolved, by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, In response to the message of the President, transmitted to Congress at the commencement of the present session, That, in the opinion of Congress, the commissioned officers of the enemy ought not to be delivered[Pg 351] to the authorities of the respective States, as suggested in the said message, but all captives taken by the Confederate forces ought to be dealt with and disposed of by the Confederate Government.

"Sec. 2. That, in the judgment of Congress, the proclamations of the President of the United States, dated respectively September 22, 1862, and January 1, 1863, and the other measures of the Government of the United States and of its authorities, commanders, and forces, designed or tending to emancipate slaves in the Confederate States, or to abduct such slaves, or to incite them to insurrection, or to employ negroes in war against the Confederate States, or to overthrow the institution of African Slavery, and bring on a servile war in these States, would, if successful, produce atrocious consequences, and they are inconsistent with the spirit of those usages which, in modern warfare, prevail among civilized nations; they may, therefore, be properly and lawfully repressed by retaliation.

"Sec. 3. That in every case wherein, during the present war, any violation of the laws or usages of war among civilized nations shall be, or has been, done and perpetrated by those acting under the authority of the Government of the United States, on the persons or property of citizens of the Confederate States, or of those under the protection or in the land or naval service of the Confederate States, or of any State of the Confederacy, the President of the Confederate States is hereby authorized to cause full and ample retaliation to be made for every such violation, in such manner and to such extent as he may think proper.

"Sec. 4. That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate States, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the court.

"Sec. 5. Every person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such in the service of the enemy, who shall, during the present war, excite, attempt to excite, or cause to be excited, a servile insurrection, or who shall incite, or cause to be incited, a slave or rebel, shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the court.

"Sec. 6. Every person charged with an offence punishable under the preceding resolutions shall, during the present war, be tried before the military court attached to the array or corps by the troops of which he shall have been captured, or by such other military court as the[Pg 352] President may direct, and in such manner and under such regulations as the President shall prescribe; and, after conviction, the President may commute the punishment in such manner and on such terms as he may deem proper.

"Sec. 7. All negroes and mulattoes who shall be engaged in war, or be taken in arms against the Confederate States, or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the Confederate States, shall, when captured in the Confederate States, be delivered to the authorities of the State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such State or States."

This document stands alone among the resolves of the civilized governments of all Christendom. White persons acting as commissioned officers in organizations of Colored Troops were to "be put to death!" And all Negroes and Mulattoes taken in arms against the Confederate Government were to be turned over to the authorities:—civil, of course—of the States in which they should be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such States! Now, what were the laws of the Southern States respecting Negroes in arms against white people? The most cruel death. And fearing some of those States had modified their cruel slave Code, the States were granted the right to pass ex post facto laws in order to give the cold-blooded murder of captured Negro soldiers the semblance of law,—and by a civil law too. Colored soldiers and their officers had been butchered before this in South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, notwithstanding the rebels were the first to arm Negroes, as has been already shown. If the Confederates had a right to arm Negroes and include them in their armies, why could not the Federal Government pursue the same policy? But the Rebel Government had determined upon a barbarous policy in dealing with captured Negro soldiers,—and barbarous as that policy was, the rebel soldiers exceeded its cruel provisions tenfold. Their treatment of Negroes was perfectly fiendish.

But what was the attitude of the Federal Government? Silence, until the butcheries of its gallant defenders had sickened the civilized world, and until the Christian governments of Europe frowned upon the inhuman indifference of the Government that would force its slaves to fight its battles and then allow them to be tortured to death in the name of "State laws!" Even the most conservative papers of the North began to feel that some[Pg 353] policy ought to be adopted whereby the lives of Colored soldiers could be protected against the inhuman treatment bestowed upon them when captured by the rebels. In the spring of 1863, the "Tribune," referring to this subject, said, editorially:

"The Government has sent Adj.-General Thomas to the West with full authority to arm and organize the negroes for service against the Rebels. They are to be employed to protect the navigation of the Mississippi and other rivers against guerrillas, and as garrisons at fortified posts, and are evidently destined for all varieties of military duty. Seven thousand soldiers who listened to this announcement at Fort Curtis received it with satisfaction and applause. Gen. Thomas, heretofore known as opposed to this and all similar measures, urged in his address that the Blacks should be treated with kindness; declared his belief in their capacity, and informed the officers of the army that no one would be permitted to oppose or in any way interfere with this policy of the Government.

"It is not directly stated, but may be inferred from the Despatch, that the negroes are not to be encouraged to enlist, but are to be drafted. At all events, the policy of the Government to employ Black Troops in active service is definitely established, and it becomes—as indeed it has been for months—a very serious question what steps are to be taken for their protection. The Proclamation of Jefferson Davis remains unrevoked. By it he threatened death or slavery to every negro taken in arms, and to their white officers the same fate. What is the response of our Government? Hitherto, silence. The number of negroes in its service has already increased; in South Carolina they have already been mustered into regiments by a sweeping conscription, and now in the West apparently the same policy is adopted and rigorously enforced.

"Does the Government mean that the men are to be exposed not merely to the chances of battle, but to the doom which the unanswered Proclamation of the Rebel President threatens?

"Every black soldier now marches to battle with a halter about his neck. The simple question is: Shall we protect and insure the ordinary treatment of a prisoner of war? Under it, every negro yet captured has suffered death or been sent back to the hell of slavery from which he had escaped. The bloody massacre of black prisoners at Murfreesboro, brooked, so far as the public knows, no retaliation at Washington. The black servants captured at Galveston—free men and citizens of Massachusetts—were sold into slavery and remained there. In every instance in which they have had the opportunity, the rebels have enforced their barbarous proclamation. How much longer are they to be suffered to do it without remonstrance?[Pg 354]

"Gen. Hunter—at this moment in the field,—General. Butler, and hundreds of other white officers are included in this Proclamation, or were previously outlawed and adjudged a felon's death. Delay remonstrance much longer, and retaliation must supersede it. If the Government wishes to be spared the necessity of retaliating, it has only to say that it will retaliate—to declare by proclamation or general order that all its soldiers who may be captured must receive from the Rebels the treatment to which, as prisoners of war, they are, by the usages of war, entitled. The Government can know no distinction of color under its flag. The moment a soldier shoulders a musket he is invested with every military right which belongs to a white soldier. He is at least and above all things entitled to the safeguards which surround his white comrades.

"It is not possible to suppose the Government means to withhold them; we only urge that the wisest, safest, and humanest, as well as the most honorable policy, is at once to announce its purpose."[112]

The able article just quoted had a wholesome effect upon many thoughtful men at the South, and brought the blush to the cheek of the nation. A few of the Southern journals agreed with Mr. Greeley that the resolves of the Confederate Congress were unjustifiable; that the Congress had no right to say what color the Union soldiers should be; and that such action would damage their cause in the calm and humane judgment of all Europe. But the Confederate Congress was unmoved and unmovable upon this subject.

Three Colored men had been captured in Stone River on the gun-boat "Isaac Smith." They were free men; but, notwithstanding this, they were placed in close confinement and treated like felons. Upon the facts reaching the ear of the Government, Secretary Stanton took three South Carolina prisoners and had them subjected to the same treatment, and the facts telegraphed to the Rebel authorities. Commenting upon the question of the treatment of captured Colored soldiers the "Richmond Examiner" said:

"It is not merely the pretension of a regular Government affecting to deal with 'Rebels,' but it is a deadly stab which they are aiming at our institutions themselves—because they know that, if we were insane enough to yield this point, to treat Black men as the equals of White, and insurgent slaves as equivalent to our brave soldiers, the very foundation of Slavery would be fatally wounded."

[Pg 355]

Shortly after this occurrence an exchange of prisoners took place in front of Charleston. The rebels returned only white prisoners. When upbraided by the Union officers for not exchanging Negroes the reply came that under the resolutions of the Confederate Congress they could not deliver up any Negro soldiers. This fact stirred the heart of the North, and caused the Government to act. The following order was issued by the President:

"Executive Mansion, }
"Washington, July 30, 1863. }

"It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations, and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offense against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism, and a crime against the civilization of the age.

"The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers; and if the enemy shall sell or enslave any one because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.

"It is therefore ordered that, for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a Rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into Slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.

"Abraham Lincoln.

     "By order of the Secretary of War.
"E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General."

In the early spring of 1864, there was a great deal said in the Southern journals and much action had in the rebel army respecting the capture and treatment of Negro soldiers. The "Richmond Examiner" contained an account of the battle of Newbern, North Carolina, in which the writer seemed to gloat over the fact that a captured Negro had been hung after he had surrendered. It came to the knowledge of Gen. Peck, commanding the army of the District of North Carolina, when the following correspondence took place:[Pg 356]

"Headquarters of the Army and District of }
"North Carolina, Newbern, North }
"Carolina, Feb. 11, 1864. }

"Major-General Pickett, Department of Virginia and North Carolina, "Confederate Army, Petersburg.

"General: I have the honor to inclose a slip cut from the Richmond 'Examiner,' February eighth, 1864. It is styled 'The Advance on Newbern,' and appears to have been extracted from the Petersburg 'Register,' a paper published in the city where your headquarters are located.

"Your attention is particularly invited to that paragraph which states 'that Colonel Shaw was shot dead by a negro soldier from the other side of the river, which he was spanning with a pontoon bridge, and that the negro was watched, followed, taken, and hanged after the action at Thomasville.

"'The Advance on Newbern.—The Petersburg "Register" gives the following additional facts of the advance on Newbern: Our army, according to the report of passengers arriving from Weldon, has fallen back to a point sixteen miles west of Newbern. The reason assigned for this retrograde movement was that Newbern could not be taken by us without a loss on our part which would find no equivalent in its capture, as the place was stronger than we had anticipated. Yet, in spite of this, we are sure that the expedition will result in good to our cause. Our forces are in a situation to get large supplies from a country still abundant, to prevent raids on points westward, and keep tories in check, and hang them when caught.

"'From a private, who was one of the guard that brought the batch of prisoners through, we learn that Colonel Shaw was shot dead by a negro soldier from the other side of the river, which he was spanning with a pontoon bridge. The negro was watched, followed, taken, and hanged after the action at Thomasville. It is stated that when our troops entered Thomasville, a number of the enemy took shelter in the houses and fired upon them. The Yankees were ordered to surrender, but refused, whereupon our men set fire to the houses, and their occupants got, bodily, a taste in this world of the flames eternal.'

"The Government of the United States has wisely seen fit to enlist many thousand colored citizens to aid in putting down the rebellion, and has placed them on the same footing in all respects as her white troops.

. . . . . . . . .

"Believing that this atrocity has been perpetrated without your knowledge, and that you will take prompt steps to disavow this violation[Pg 357] of the usages of war, and to bring the offenders to justice, I shall refrain from executing a rebel soldier until I learn your action in the premises.

"I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

"John J. Peck,

Reply of General Pickett.

"Headquarters of the Department of North }
"Carolina, Petersburg, Virginia, February 16, 1864. }

"Major-General John J. Peck, U. S. A., Commanding at Newbern:

"General: Your communication of the eleventh of February is received. I have the honor to state in reply, that the paragraph from a newspaper inclosed therein, is not only without foundation in fact, but so ridiculous that I should scarcely have supposed it worthy of consideration; but I would respectfully inform you that had I caught any negro, who had killed either officer, soldier, or citizen of the Confederate States, I should have caused him to be immediately executed.

"To your threat expressed in the following extract from your communication, namely: 'Believing that this atrocity has been perpetrated without your knowledge, and that you will take prompt steps to disavow this violation of the usages of war, and to bring the offenders to justice, I shall refrain from executing a rebel soldier until I learn of your action in the premises,' I have merely to say that I have in my hands and subject to my orders, captured in the recent operations in this department, some four hundred and fifty officers and men of the United States army, and for every man you hang I will hang ten of the United States army.

"I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

"J. E. Pickett,
"Major-General Commanding."[113]

As already indicated, some of the Southern journals did not endorse the extreme hardships and cruelties to which the rebels subjected the captured Colored men. During the month of July, 1863, quite a number of Colored soldiers had fallen into the hands of the enemy on Morris and James islands. The rebels did not only refuse to exchange them as prisoners of war, but treated them most cruelly.

On this very important subject, in reply to some strictures of[Pg 358] the Charleston "Mercury" (made under misapprehension), the Chief of Staff of General Beauregard addressed to that journal the following letter:

"Headquarters, Department of S. C., Ga., and Fla., }
"Charleston, S. C., August 12, 1863. }

"Colonel R. B. Rhett, Jr., Editor of 'Mercury':

"In the 'Mercury' of this date you appear to have written under a misapprehension of the facts connected with the present status of the negroes captured in arms on Morris and James Islands, which permit me to state as follows:

"The Proclamation of the President, dated December twenty-fourth, 1862, directed that all negro slaves captured in arms should be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.

"An informal application was made by the State authorities for the negroes captured in this vicinity; but as none of them, it appeared, had been slaves of citizens of South Carolina, they were not turned over to the civil authority, for at the moment there was no official information at these headquarters of the Act of Congress by which 'all negroes and mulattoes, who shall be engaged in war, or be taken in arms against the confederate States, or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the confederate States,' were directed to be turned over to the authorities of 'State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such State or States.'

"On the twenty-first of July, however, the Commanding General telegraphed to the Secretary of War for instructions as to the disposition to be made of the negroes captured on Morris and James Islands, and on the twenty-second received a reply that they must be turned over to the State authorities, by virtue of the joint resolutions of Congress in question.

"Accordingly, on the twenty-ninth July, as soon as a copy of the resolution or act was received, his Excellency Governor Bonham was informed that the negroes captured were held subject to his orders, to be dealt with according to the laws of South Carolina.

"On the same day (twenty-ninth July) Governor Bonham requested that they should be retained in military custody until he could make arrangements to dispose of them; and in that custody they still remain, awaiting the orders of the State authorities.

"Respectfully, your obedient servant,

"Thomas Jordan,
"Chief of Staff."

[Pg 359]

The Proclamation of Jefferson Davis, referred to in the second paragraph of Mr. Jordan's letter, had declared Gen. Butler "a felon, an outlaw, and an enemy of mankind." It recited his hanging of Mumford; the neglect of the Federal Government to explain or disapprove the act; the imprisonment of non-combatants; Butler's woman order; his sequestration of estates in Western Louisiana; and the inciting to insurrection and arming of slaves. Mr. Davis directed any Confederate officer who should capture Gen. Butler to hang him immediately and without trial. Mr. Davi