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A Social History of the American Negro by Benjamin Brawley

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understanding was that the same was to be in force for twenty years; and
they felt that any slowness on their part about the return of Negroes
was fully nullified by the efforts of the professional Negro stealers
with whom they had to deal.

Early in 1832, however, Colonel James Gadsden of Florida was directed
by Lewis Cass, the Secretary of War, to enter into negotiation for the
removal of the Indians of Florida. There was great opposition to a
conference, but the Indians were finally brought together at Payne's
Landing on the Ocklawaha River just seventeen miles from Fort King.
Here on May 9, 1832, was wrested from them a treaty which is of supreme
importance in the history of the Seminoles. The full text was as


MAY 9, 1832

Whereas, a treaty between the United States and the Seminole nation
of Indians was made and concluded at Payne's Landing, on the
Ocklawaha River, on the 9th of May, one thousand eight hundred and
thirty-two, by James Gadsden, commissioner on the part of the United
States, and the chiefs and headmen of said Seminole nation of
Indians, on the part of said nation; which treaty is in the words
following, to wit:

The Seminole Indians, regarding with just respect the solicitude
manifested by the President of the United States for the improvement
of their condition, by recommending a removal to the country more
suitable to their habits and wants than the one they at present
occupy in the territory of Florida, are willing that their
confidential chiefs, Jumper, Fuch-a-lus-to-had-jo, Charley Emathla,
Coi-had-jo, Holati-Emathla, Ya-ha-had-jo, Sam Jones, accompanied
by their agent, Major John Phagan, and their faithful interpreter,
Abraham, should be sent, at the expense of the United States, as
early as convenient, to examine the country assigned to the Creeks,
west of the Mississippi River, and should they be satisfied with the
character of the country, and of the favorable disposition of the
Creeks to re-unite with the Seminoles as one people; the articles of
the compact and agreement herein stipulated, at Payne's Landing,
on the Ocklawaha River, this ninth day of May, one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-two, between James Gadsden, for and in behalf of
the government of the United States, and the undersigned chiefs and
headmen, for and in behalf of the Seminole Indians, shall be binding
on the respective parties.

Article I. The Seminole Indians relinquish to the United States
all claim to the land they at present occupy in the territory of
Florida, and agree to emigrate to the country assigned to the
Creeks, west of the Mississippi River, it being understood that an
additional extent of country, proportioned to their numbers, will
be added to the Creek territory, and that the Seminoles will be
received as a constituent part of the Creek nation, and be
re-admitted to all the privileges as a member of the same.

Article II. For and in consideration of the relinquishment of claim
in the first article of this agreement, and in full compensation for
all the improvements which may have been made on the lands thereby
ceded, the United States stipulate to pay to the Seminole Indians
fifteen thousand four hundred ($15,400) dollars, to be divided
among the chiefs and warriors of the several towns, in a ratio
proportioned to their population, the respective proportions of each
to be paid on their arrival in the country they consent to remove
to; it being understood that their faithful interpreters, Abraham
and Cudjo, shall receive two hundred dollars each, of the above sum,
in full remuneration of the improvements to be abandoned on the
lands now cultivated by them.

Article III. The United States agree to distribute, as they arrive
at their new homes in the Creek territory, west of the Mississippi
River, a blanket and a homespun frock to each of the warriors, women
and children, of the Seminole tribe of Indians.

Article IV. The United States agree to extend the annuity for the
support of a blacksmith, provided for in the sixth article of the
treaty at Camp Moultrie, for ten (10) years beyond the period
therein stipulated, and in addition to the other annuities secured
under that treaty, the United States agree to pay the sum of three
thousand ($3,000) dollars a year for fifteen (15) years, commencing
after the removal of the whole tribe; these sums to be added to the
Creek annuities, and the whole amount to be so divided that the
chiefs and warriors of the Seminole Indians may receive their
equitable proportion of the same, as members of the Creek

Article V. The United States will take the cattle belonging to the
Seminoles, at the valuation of some discreet person, to be appointed
by the President, and the same shall be paid for in money to the
respective owners, after their arrival at their new homes; or other
cattle, such as may be desired, will be furnished them; notice being
given through their agent, of their wishes upon this subject, before
their removal, that time may be afforded to supply the demand.

Article VI. The Seminoles being anxious to be relieved from the
repeated vexatious demands for slaves, and other property, alleged
to have been stolen and destroyed by them, so that they may remove
unembarrassed to their new homes, the United States stipulate to
have the same property (properly) investigated, and to liquidate
such as may be satisfactorily established, provided the amount does
not exceed seven thousand ($7,000) dollars.

Article VII. The Seminole Indians will remove within three (3) years
after the ratification of this agreement, and the expenses of their
removal shall be defrayed by the United States, and such subsistence
shall also be furnished them, for a term not exceeding twelve (12)
months after their arrival at their new residence, as in the opinion
of the President their numbers and circumstances may require; the
emigration to commence as early as practicable in the year eighteen
hundred and thirty-three (1833), and with those Indians at present
occupying the Big Swamp, and other parts of the country beyond the
limits, as defined in the second article of the treaty concluded at
Camp Moultrie Creek, so that the whole of that proportion of
the Seminoles may be removed within the year aforesaid, and the
remainder of the tribe, in about equal proportions, during the
subsequent years of eighteen hundred and thirty-four and five (1834
and 1835).

In testimony whereof, the commissioner, James Gadsden, and the
undersigned chiefs and head-men of the Seminole Indians, have
hereunto subscribed their names and affixed their seals.

Done at camp, at Payne's Landing, on the Ocklawaha River, in the
territory of Florida, on this ninth day of May, one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-two, and of the independence of the United States
of America, the fifty-sixth.

(Signed) James Gadsden. L.S.
Holati Emathlar, his X mark.
Jumper, his X mark.
Cudjo, Interpreter, his X mark.
Erastus Rodgers.
B. Joscan.
Holati Emathlar, his X mark.
Jumper, his X mark.
Fuch-ta-lus-ta-Hadjo, his X mark.
Charley Emathla, his X mark.
Coi Hadjo, his X mark.
Ar-pi-uck-i, or Sam
Jones, his X mark.
Ya-ha-Hadjo, his X mark.
Mico-Noha, his X mark.
Tokose Emathla, or
John Hicks, his X mark.
Cat-sha-Tustenuggee, his X mark.
Holat-a-Micco, his X mark.
Hitch-it-i-Micco, his X mark.
E-na-hah, his X mark.
Ya-ha-Emathla-Chopco, his X mark.
Moki-his-she-lar-ni, his X mark.

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Jackson, President of the
United States of America, having seen and considered said treaty,
do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, as expressed
by their resolution of the eighth day of April, one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-four, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and
every clause and article thereof.

In witness whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States to
be hereunto affixed, having signed the same with my hand. Done at
the city of Washington, this twelfth day of April, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four, and of the
independence of the United States of America, the fifty-eighth.

(Signed) ANDREW JACKSON. By the President,
LOUIS MCLANE, Secretary of State.

It will be seen that by the terms of this document seven chiefs were to
go and examine the country assigned to the Creeks, and that they were to
be accompanied by Major John Phagan, the successor of Humphreys, and the
Negro interpreter Abraham. The character of Phagan may be seen from the
facts that he was soon in debt to different ones of the Indians and to
Abraham, and that he was found to be short in his accounts. While the
Indian chiefs were in the West, three United States commissioners
conferred with them as to the suitability of the country for a future
home, and at Fort Gibson, Arkansas, March 28, 1833, they were beguiled
into signing an additional treaty in which occurred the following
sentence: "And the undersigned Seminole chiefs, delegated as aforesaid,
on behalf of their nation, hereby declare themselves well satisfied with
the location provided for them by the commissioners, and agree that
their nation shall commence the removal to their new home as soon as the
government will make arrangements for their emigration, satisfactory to
the Seminole nation." They of course had no authority to act on their
own initiative, and when all returned in April, 1833, and Phagan
explained what had happened, the Seminoles expressed themselves in no
uncertain terms. The chiefs who had gone West denied strenuously that
they had signed away any rights to land, but they were nevertheless
upbraided as the agents of deception. Some of the old chiefs, of whom
Micanopy was the highest authority, resolved to resist the efforts to
dispossess them; and John Hicks, who seems to have been substituted for
Sam Jones on the commission, was killed because he argued too strongly
for migration. Meanwhile the treaty of Payne's Landing was ratified by
the Senate of the United States and proclaimed as in force by President
Jackson April 12, 1834, and in connection with it the supplementary
treaty of Fort Gibson was also ratified. The Seminoles, however, were
not showing any haste about removing, and ninety of the white citizens
of Alachua County sent a protest to the President alleging that the
Indians were not returning their fugitive slaves. Jackson was made
angry, and without even waiting for the formal ratification of the
treaties, he sent the document to the Secretary of War, with an
endorsement on the back directing him "to inquire into the alleged
facts, and if found to be true, to direct the Seminoles to prepare to
remove West and join the Creeks." General Wiley Thompson was appointed
to succeed Phagan as agent, and General Duncan L. Clinch was placed in
command of the troops whose services it was thought might be needed. It
was at this juncture that Osceola stepped forward as the leading spirit
of his people.

4. _Osceola and the Second Seminole War_

Osceola (Asseola, or As-se-he-ho-lar, sometimes called Powell because
after his father's death his mother married a white man of that name[1])
was not more than thirty years of age. He was slender, of only
average height, and slightly round-shouldered; but he was also well
proportioned, muscular, and capable of enduring great fatigue. He had
light, deep, restless eyes, and a shrill voice, and he was a great
admirer of order and technique. He excelled in athletic contests and in
his earlier years had taken delight in engaging in military practice
with the white men. As he was neither by descent nor formal election a
chief, he was not expected to have a voice in important deliberations;
but he was a natural leader and he did more than any other man to
organize the Seminoles to resistance. It is hardly too much to say
that to his single influence was due a contest that ultimately cost
$10,000,000 and the loss of thousands of lives. Never did a patriot
fight more valiantly for his own, and it stands to the eternal disgrace
of the American arms that he was captured under a flag of truce.

[Footnote 1: Hodge's _Handbook of American Indians_, II, 159.]

It is well to pause for a moment and reflect upon some of the deeper
motives that entered into the impending contest. A distinguished
congressman,[1] speaking in the House of Representatives a few years
later, touched eloquently upon some of the events of these troublous
years. Let us remember that this was the time of the formation of
anti-slavery societies, of pronounced activity on the part of the
abolitionists, and recall also that Nat Turner's insurrection was still
fresh in the public mind. Giddings stated clearly the issue as it
appeared to the people of the North when he said, "I hold that if the
slaves of Georgia or any other state leave their masters, the Federal
Government has no constitutional authority to employ our army or navy
for their recapture, or to apply the national treasure to repurchase
them." There could be no question of the fact that the war was very
largely one over fugitive slaves. Under date October 28, 1834, General
Thompson wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: "There are many
very likely Negroes in this nation [the Seminole]. Some of the whites in
the adjacent settlements manifest a restless desire to obtain them, and
I have no doubt that Indian raised Negroes are now in the possession
of the whites." In a letter dated January 20, 1834, Governor Duval had
already said to the same official: "The slaves belonging to the Indians
have a controlling influence over the minds of their masters, and are
entirely opposed to any change of residence." Six days later he wrote:
"The slaves belonging to the Indians must be made to fear for themselves
before they will cease to influence the minds of their masters.... The
first step towards the emigration of these Indians must be the breaking
up of the runaway slaves and the outlaw Indians." And the New Orleans
_Courier_ of July 27, 1839, revealed all the fears of the period when it
said, "Every day's delay in subduing the Seminoles increases the danger
of a rising among the serviles."

[Footnote 1: Joshua R. Giddings, of Ohio. His exhaustive speech on the
Florida War was made February 9, 1841.]

All the while injustice and injury to the Indians continued.
Econchattimico, well known as one of those chiefs to whom special
reservations had been given by the treaty of Fort Moultrie, was the
owner of twenty slaves valued at $15,000. Observing Negro stealers
hovering around his estate, he armed himself and his men. The kidnapers
then furthered their designs by circulating the report that the Indians
were arming themselves for union with the main body of Seminoles for the
general purpose of massacring the white people. Face to face with
this charge Econchattimico gave up his arms and threw himself on the
protection of the government; and his Negroes were at once taken and
sold into bondage.

A similar case was that of John Walker, an Appalachicola chief, who
wrote to Thompson under date July 28, 1835: "I am induced to write you
in consequence of the depredations making and attempted to be made upon
my property, by a company of Negro stealers, some of whom are from
Columbus, Ga., and have connected themselves with Brown and Douglass....
I should like your advice how I am to act. I dislike to make or to have
any difficulty with the white people. But if they trespass upon my
premises and my rights, I must defend myself the best way I can. If they
do make this attempt, and I have no doubt they will, they must bear the
consequences. _But is there no civil law to protect me_? Are the free
Negroes and the Negroes belonging to this town to be stolen away
publicly, and in the face of law and justice, carried off and sold to
fill the pockets of these worse than land pirates? Douglass and his
company hired a man who has two large trained dogs for the purpose to
come down and take Billy. He is from Mobile and follows for a livelihood
catching runaway Negroes."

Such were the motives, fears and incidents in the years immediately
after the treaty of Payne's Landing. Beginning at the close of 1834 and
continuing through April, 1835, Thompson had a series of conferences
with the Seminole chiefs. At these meetings Micanopy, influenced by
Osceola and other young Seminoles, took a more definite stand than he
might otherwise have assumed. Especially did he insist with reference
to the treaty that he understood that the chiefs who went West were to
_examine_ the country, and for his part he knew that when they returned
they would report unfavorably. Thompson then, becoming angry, delivered
an ultimatum to the effect that if the treaty was not observed the
annuity from the great father in Washington would cease. To this,
Osceola, stepping forward, replied that he and his warriors did not care
if they never received another dollar from the great father, and drawing
his knife, he plunged it in the table and said, "The only treaty I will
execute is with this." Henceforward there was deadly enmity between the
young Seminole and Thompson. More and more Osceola made his personality
felt, constantly asserting to the men of his nation that whoever
recommended emigration was an enemy of the Seminoles, and he finally
arrived at an understanding with many of them that the treaty would be
resisted with their very lives. Thompson, however, on April 23, 1835,
had a sort of secret conference with sixteen of the chiefs who seemed
favorably disposed toward migration, and he persuaded them to sign a
document "freely and fully" assenting to the treaties of Payne's Landing
and Fort Gibson. The next day there was a formal meeting at which the
agent, backed up by Clinch and his soldiers, upbraided the Indians in a
very harsh manner. His words were met by groans, angry gesticulations,
and only half-muffled imprecations. Clinch endeavored to appeal to the
Indians and to advise them that resistance was both unwise and useless.
Thompson, however, with his usual lack of tact, rushed onward in his
course, and learning that five chiefs were unalterably opposed to the
treaty, he arbitrarily struck their names off the roll of chiefs, an
action the highhandedness of which was not lost on the Seminoles.
Immediately after the conference moreover he forbade the sale of
any more arms and powder to the Indians. To the friendly chiefs the
understanding had been given that the nation might have until January
1, 1836, to make preparation for removal, by which time all were to
assemble at Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, for emigration.

About the first of June Osceola was one day on a quiet errand of trading
at Fort King. With him was his wife, the daughter of a mulatto slave
woman who had run away years before and married an Indian chief. By
Southern law this woman followed the condition of her mother, and
when the mother's former owner appeared on the scene and claimed the
daughter, Thompson, who desired to teach Occeola a lesson, readily
agreed that she should be remanded into captivity.[1] Osceola was highly
enraged, and this time it was his turn to upbraid the agent. Thompson
now had him overpowered and put in irons, in which situation he remained
for the better part of two days. In this period of captivity his soul
plotted revenge and at length he too planned a "_ruse de guerre_."
Feigning assent to the treaty he told Thompson that if he was released
not only would he sign himself but he would also bring his people to
sign. The agent was completely deceived by Osceola's tactics. "True to
his professions," wrote Thompson on June 3, "he this day appeared with
seventy-nine of his people, men, women, and children, including some who
had joined him since his conversion, and redeemed his promise. He told
me many of his friends were out hunting, whom he could and would bring
over on their return. I have now no doubt of his sincerity, and as
little, that the greatest difficulty is surmounted."

[Footnote 1: This highly important incident, which was really the spark
that started the war, is absolutely ignored even by such well informed
writers as Drake and Sprague. Drake simply gives the impression that
the quarrel between Osceola and Thompson was over the old matter of
emigration, saying (413), "Remonstrance soon grew into altercation,
which ended in a _ruse de guerre_, by which Osceola was made prisoner by
the agent, and put in irons, in which situation he was kept one night
and part of two days." The story is told by McMaster, however. Also note
M.M. Cohen as quoted in _Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine_, Vol. II, p.
419 (July, 1837).]

Osceola now rapidly urged forward preparations for war, which, however,
he did not wish actually started until after the crops were gathered.
By the fall he was ready, and one day in October when he and some other
warriors met Charley Emathla, who had upon him the gold and silver that
he had received from the sale of his cattle preparatory to migration,
they killed this chief, and Osceola threw the money in every direction,
saying that no one was to touch it, as it was the price of the red man's
blood. The true drift of events became even more apparent to Thompson
and Clinch in November, when five chiefs friendly to migration with five
hundred of their people suddenly appeared at Fort Brooke to ask for
protection. When in December Thompson sent final word to the Seminoles
that they must bring in their horses and cattle, the Indians did not
come on the appointed day; on the contrary they sent their women and
children to the interior and girded themselves for battle. To Osceola
late in the month a runner brought word that some troops under the
command of Major Dade were to leave Fort Brooke on the 25th and on the
night of the 27th were to be attacked by some Seminoles in the Wahoo
Swamp. Osceola himself, with some of his men, was meanwhile lying in the
woods near Fort King, waiting for an opportunity to kill Thompson. On
the afternoon of the 28th the agent dined not far from the fort at the
home of the sutler, a man named Rogers, and after dinner he walked
with Lieutenant Smith to the crest of a neighboring hill. Here he was
surprised by the Indians, and both he and Smith fell pierced by numerous
bullets. The Indians then pressed on to the home of the sutler and
killed Rogers, his two clerks, and a little boy. On the same day the
command of Major Dade, including seven officers and one hundred and ten
men, was almost completely annihilated, only three men escaping. Dade
and his horse were killed at the first onset. These two attacks began
the actual fighting of the Second Seminole War. That the Negroes were
working shoulder to shoulder with the Indians in these encounters may
be seen from the report of Captain Belton,[1] who said, "Lieut. Keays,
third artillery, had both arms broken from the first shot; was unable
to act, and was tomahawked the latter part of the second attack, by a
Negro"; and further: "A Negro named Harry controls the Pea Band of about
a hundred warriors, forty miles southeast of us, who have done most
of the mischief, and keep this post constantly observed." Osceola now
joined forces with those Indians who had attacked Dade, and in the
early morning of the last day of the year occurred the Battle of
Ouithlecoochee, a desperate encounter in which both Osceola and Clinch
gave good accounts of themselves. Clinch had two hundred regulars and
five or six hundred volunteers. The latter fled early in the contest and
looked on from a distance; and Clinch had to work desperately to keep
from duplicating the experience of Dade. Osceola himself was conspicuous
in a red belt and three long feathers, but although twice wounded he
seemed to bear a charmed life. He posted himself behind a tree, from
which station he constantly sallied forth to kill or wound an enemy with
almost infallible aim.

[Footnote 1: Accessible in Drake, 416-418.]

After these early encounters the fighting became more and more bitter
and the contest more prolonged. Early in the war the disbursing agent
reported that there were only three thousand Indians, including Negroes,
to be considered; but this was clearly an understatement. Within the
next year and a half the Indians were hard pressed, and before the end
of this period the notorious Thomas S. Jessup had appeared on the scene
as commanding major general. This man seems to have determined never to
use honorable means of warfare if some ignoble instrument could serve
his purpose. In a letter sent to Colonel Harvey from Tampa Bay under
date May 25, 1837, he said: "If you see Powell (Osceola), tell him I
shall send out and take all the Negroes who belong to the white people.
And he must not allow the Indian Negroes to mix with them. Tell him I
am sending to Cuba for bloodhounds to trail them; and I intend to hang
every one of them who does not come in." And it might be remarked that
for his bloodhounds Jessup spent--or said he spent--as much as $5,000, a
fact which thoroughly aroused Giddings and other persons from the North,
who by no means cared to see such an investment of public funds. By
order No. 160, dated August 3, 1837, Jessup invited his soldiers to
plunder and rapine, saying, "All Indian property captured from this date
will belong to the corps or detachment making it." From St. Augustine,
under date October 20, 1837, in a "confidential" communication he said
to one of his lieutenants: "Should Powell and his warriors come within
the fort, seize him and the whole party. It is important that he, Wild
Cat, John Cowagee, and Tustenuggee, be secured. Hold them until you have
my orders in relation to them."[1] Two days later he was able to write
to the Secretary of War that Osceola was actually taken. Said he: "That
chief came into the vicinity of Fort Peyton on the 20th, and sent a
messenger to General Hernandez, desiring to see and converse with him.
The sickly season being over, and there being no further necessity to
temporize, I sent a party of mounted men, and seized the entire body,
and now have them securely lodged in the fort." Osceola, Wild Cat,
and others thus captured were marched to St. Augustine; but Wild Cat
escaped. Osceola was ultimately taken to Fort Moultrie, in the harbor of
Charleston, where in January (1838) he died.

[Footnote 1: This correspondence, and much more bearing on the point,
may be found in House Document 327 of the Second Session of the
Twenty-fifth Congress.]

Important in this general connection was the fate of the deputation that
the influential John Ross, chief of the Cherokees, was persuaded to
send from his nation to induce the Seminoles to think more favorably of
migration. Micanopy, twelve other chieftains, and a number of warriors
accompanied the Cherokee deputation to the headquarters of the United
States Army at Fort Mellon, where they were to discuss the matter. These
warriors also Jessup seized, and Ross wrote to the Secretary of War
a dignified but bitter letter protesting against this "unprecedented
violation of that sacred rule which has ever been recognized by every
nation, civilized and uncivilized, of treating with all due respect
those who had ever presented themselves under a flag of truce before the
enemy, for the purpose of proposing the termination of warfare." He had
indeed been most basely used as the agent of deception.

This chapter, we trust, has shown something of the real nature of the
points at issue in the Seminole Wars. In the course of these contests
the rights of Indian and Negro alike were ruthlessly disregarded. There
was redress for neither before the courts, and at the end in dealing
with them every honorable principle of men and nations was violated. It
is interesting that the three representatives of colored peoples who
in the course of the nineteenth century it was most difficult to
capture--Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Negro, Osceola, the Indian, and
Aguinaldo, the Filipino--were all taken through treachery; and on two of
the three occasions this treachery was practiced by responsible officers
of the United States Army.



1. The Ultimate Problem and the Missouri Compromise

In a previous chapter[1] we have already indicated the rise of the Negro
Problem in the last decade of the eighteenth and the first two decades
of the nineteenth century. And what was the Negro Problem? It was
certainly not merely a question of slavery; in the last analysis this
institution was hardly more than an incident. Slavery has ceased to
exist, but even to-day the Problem is with us. The question was rather
what was to be the final place in the American body politic of the
Negro population that was so rapidly increasing in the country. In the
answering of this question supreme importance attached to the Negro
himself; but the problem soon transcended the race. Ultimately it was
the destiny of the United States rather than of the Negro that was to be
considered, and all the ideals on which the country was based came to
the testing. If one studied those ideals he soon realized that they were
based on Teutonic or at least English foundations. By 1820, however, the
young American republic was already beginning to be the hope of all
of the oppressed people of Europe, and Greeks and Italians as well as
Germans and Swedes were turning their faces toward the Promised Land.
The whole background of Latin culture was different from the Teutonic,
and yet the people of Southern as well as of Northern Europe somehow
became a part of the life of the United States. In this life was it also
possible for the children of Africa to have a permanent and an honorable
place? With their special tradition and gifts, with their shortcomings,
above all with their distinctive color, could they, too, become genuine
American citizens? Some said No, but in taking this position they denied
not only the ideals on which the country was founded but also the
possibilities of human nature itself. In any case the answer to the
first question at once suggested another, What shall we do with the
Negro? About this there was very great difference of opinion, it not
always being supposed that the Negro himself had anything whatever to
say about the matter. Some said send the Negro away, get rid of him by
any means whatsoever; others said if he must stay, keep him in slavery;
still others said not to keep him permanently in slavery, but emancipate
him only gradually; and already there were beginning to be persons who
felt that the Negro should be emancipated everywhere immediately, and
that after this great event had taken place he and the nation together
should work out his salvation on the broadest possible plane.

[Footnote 1: IV, Section 3.]

Into the agitation was suddenly thrust the application of Missouri for
entrance into the Union as a slave state. The struggle that followed
for two years was primarily a political one, but in the course of the
discussion the evils of slavery were fully considered. Meanwhile, in
1819, Alabama and Maine also applied for admission. Alabama was allowed
to enter without much discussion, as she made equal the number of slave
and free states. Maine, however, brought forth more talk. The Southern
congressmen would have been perfectly willing to admit this as a free
state if Missouri had been admitted as a slave state; but the North felt
that this would have been to concede altogether too much, as Missouri
from the first gave promise of being unusually important. At length,
largely through the influence of Henry Clay, there was adopted a
compromise whose main provisions were (1) that Maine was to be admitted
as a free state; (2) that in Missouri there was to be no prohibition of
slavery; but (3) that slavery was to be prohibited in any other states
that might be formed out of the Louisiana Purchase north of the line of
36 deg. 30'.

By this agreement the strife was allayed for some years; but it is now
evident that the Missouri Compromise was only a postponement of the
ultimate contest and that the social questions involved were hardly
touched. Certainly the significance of the first clear drawing of the
line between the sections was not lost upon thoughtful men. Jefferson
wrote from Monticello in 1820: "This momentous question, like a
fire-bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered
it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the
moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence.... I can
say, with conscious truth, that there is not a man on earth who would
sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in
any _practicable_ way. The cession of that kind of property, for so it
is misnamed, is a bagatelle that would not cost me a second thought,
if, in that way, a general emancipation and _expatriation_ could be
effected; and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might
be."[1] For the time being, however, the South was concerned mainly
about immediate dangers; nor was this section placed more at ease by
Denmark Vesey's attempted insurrection in 1822.[2] A representative
South Carolinian,[3] writing after this event, said, "We regard our
Negroes as the _Jacobins_ of the country, against whom we should always
be upon our guard, and who, although we fear no permanent effects from
any insurrectionary movements on their part, should be watched with an
eye of steady and unremitted observation." Meanwhile from a ratio of
43.72 to 56.28 in 1790 the total Negro population in South Carolina had
by 1820 come to outnumber the white 52.77 to 47.23, and the tendency
was increasingly in favor of the Negro. The South, the whole country in
fact, was more and more being forced to consider not only slavery but
the ultimate reaches of the problem.

[Footnote 1: _Writings_, XV, 249.]

[Footnote 2: See Chapter VII, Section 1.]

[Footnote 3: Holland: _A Refutation of Calumnies_, 61.]

Whatever one might think of the conclusion--and in this case the speaker
was pleading for colonization--no statement of the problem as it
impressed men about 1820 or 1830 was clearer than that of Rev. Dr. Nott,
President of Union College, at Albany in 1829.[1] The question, said he,
was by no means local. Slavery was once legalized in New England; and
New England built slave-ships and manned these with New England seamen.
In 1820 the slave population in the country amounted to 1,500,000. The
number doubled every twenty years, and it was easy to see how it would
progress from 1,500,000 to 3,000,000; to 6,000,000; to 12,000,000; to
24,000,000. "Twenty-four millions of slaves! What a drawback from our
strength; what a tax on our resources; what a hindrance to our growth;
what a stain on our character; and what an impediment to the fulfillment
of our destiny! Could our worst enemies or the worst enemies of
republics, wish us a severer judgment?" How could one know that wakeful
and sagacious enemies without would not discover the vulnerable point
and use it for the country's overthrow? Or was there not danger that
among a people goaded from age to age there might at length arise some
second Toussaint L'Ouverture, who, reckless of consequences, would array
a force and cause a movement throughout the zone of bondage, leaving
behind him plantations waste and mansions desolate? Who could believe
that such a tremendous physical force would remain forever spell-bound
and quiescent? After all, however, slavery was doomed; public opinion
had already pronounced upon it, and the moral energy of the nation would
sooner or later effect its overthrow. "But," continued Nott, "the solemn
question here arises--in what condition will this momentous change place
us? The freed men of other countries have long since disappeared, having
been amalgamated in the general mass. Here there can be no amalgamation.
Our manumitted bondmen have remained already to the third and fourth, as
they will to the thousandth generation--a distinct, a degraded, and a
wretched race." After this sweeping statement, which has certainly not
been justified by time, Nott proceeded to argue the expediency of his
organization. Gerrit Smith, who later drifted away from colonization,
said frankly on the same occasion that the ultimate solution was either
amalgamation or colonization, and that of the two courses he preferred
to choose the latter. Others felt as he did. We shall now accordingly
proceed to consider at somewhat greater length the two solutions that
about 1820 had the clearest advocates--Colonization and Slavery.

[Footnote 1: See "African Colonization. Proceedings of the Formation of
the New York State Colonization Society." Albany, 1829.]

2. _Colonization_

Early in 1773, Rev. Samuel Hopkins, of Newport, called on his friend,
Rev. Ezra Stiles, afterwards President of Yale College, and suggested
the possibility of educating Negro students, perhaps two at first, who
would later go as missionaries to Africa. Stiles thought that for the
plan to be worth while there should be a colony on the coast of Africa,
that at least thirty or forty persons should go, and that the enterprise
should not be private but should have the formal backing of a society
organized for the purpose. In harmony with the original plan two young
Negro men sailed from New York for Africa, November 12, 1774; but the
Revolutionary War followed and nothing more was done at the time. In
1784, however, and again in 1787, Hopkins tried to induce different
merchants to fit out a vessel to convey a few emigrants, and in the
latter year he talked with a young man from the West Indies, Dr. William
Thornton, who expressed a willingness to take charge of the company.
The enterprise failed for lack of funds, though Thornton kept up his
interest and afterwards became a member of the first Board of Managers
of the American Colonization Society. Hopkins in 1791 spoke before the
Connecticut Emancipation Society, which he wished to see incorporated as
a colonization society, and in a sermon before the Providence society in
1793 he reverted to his favorite theme. Meanwhile, as a result of the
efforts of Wilberforce, Clarkson, and Granville Sharp in England, in
May, 1787, some four hundred Negroes and sixty white persons were landed
at Sierra Leone. Some of the Negroes in England had gained their freedom
in consequence of Lord Mansfield's decision in 1772, others had been
discharged from the British Army after the American Revolution, and all
were leading in England a more or less precarious existence. The sixty
white persons sent along were abandoned women, and why Sierra Leone
should have had this weight placed upon it at the start history has not
yet told. It is not surprising to learn that "disease and disorder were
rife, and by 1791 a mere handful survived."[1] As early as in his _Notes
on Virginia_, privately printed in 1781, Thomas Jefferson had suggested
a colony for Negroes, perhaps in the new territory of Ohio. The
suggestion was not acted upon, but it is evident that by 1800 several
persons had thought of the possibility of removing the Negroes in the
South to some other place either within or without the country.

[Footnote 1: McPherson, 15. (See bibliography on Liberia.)]

Gabriel's insurrection in 1800 again forced the idea concretely forward.
Virginia was visibly disturbed by this outbreak, and _in secret
session_, on December 21, the House of Delegates passed the following
resolution: "That the Governor[1] be requested to correspond with the
President of the United States,[2] on the subject of purchasing land
without the limits of this state, whither persons obnoxious to the laws,
or dangerous to the peace of society may be removed." The real purpose
of this resolution was to get rid of those Negroes who had had some part
in the insurrection and had not been executed; but not in 1800, or in
1802 or 1804, was the General Assembly thus able to banish those whom
it was afraid to hang. Monroe, however, acted in accordance with his
instructions, and Jefferson replied to him under date November 24, 1801.
He was not now favorable to deportation to some place within the United
States, and thought that the West Indies, probably Santo Domingo, might
be better. There was little real danger that the exiles would stimulate
vindictive or predatory descents on the American coasts, and in any case
such a possibility was "overweighed by the humanity of the measures
proposed." "Africa would offer a last and undoubted resort," thought
Jefferson, "if all others more desirable should fail."[3] Six months
later, on July 13, 1802, the President wrote about the matter to Rufus
King, then minister in London. The course of events in the West Indies,
he said, had given an impulse to the minds of Negroes in the United
States; there was a disposition to insurgency, and it now seemed that if
there was to be colonization, Africa was by all means the best place. An
African company might also engage in commercial operations, and if there
was cooeperation with Sierra Leone, there was the possibility of "one
strong, rather than two weak colonies." Would King accordingly enter
into conference with the English officials with reference to disposing
of any Negroes who might be sent? "It is material to observe," remarked
Jefferson, "that they are not felons, or common malefactors, but persons
guilty of what the safety of society, under actual circumstances,
obliges us to treat as a crime, but which their feelings may represent
in a far different shape. They are such as will be a valuable
acquisition to the settlement already existing there, and well
calculated to cooeperate in the plan of civilization."[4] King
accordingly opened correspondence with Thornton and Wedderbourne, the
secretaries of the company having charge of Sierra Leone, but was
informed that the colony was in a languishing condition and that funds
were likely to fail, and that in no event would they be willing to
receive more people from the United States, as these were the very ones
who had already made most trouble in the settlement.[5] On January 22,
1805, the General Assembly of Virginia passed a resolution that embodied
a request to the United States Government to set aside a portion of
territory in the new Louisiana Purchase "to be appropriated to
the residence of such people of color as have been, or shall be,
emancipated, or may hereafter become dangerous to the public safety."
Nothing came of this. By the close then of Jefferson's second
administration the Northwest, the Southwest, the West Indies, and Sierra
Leone had all been thought of as possible fields for colonization, but
from the consideration nothing visible had resulted.

[Footnote 1: Monroe.]

[Footnote 2: Jefferson.]

[Footnote 3: _Writings_, X, 297.]

[Footnote 4: _Writings_, X, 327-328.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid_., XIII, 11.]

Now followed the period of Southern expansion and of increasing
materialism, and before long came the War of 1812. By 1811 a note of
doubt had crept into Jefferson's dealing with the subject. Said he:
"Nothing is more to be wished than that the United States would
themselves undertake to make such an establishment on the coast of
Africa ... But for this the national mind is not yet prepared. It may
perhaps be doubted whether many of these people would voluntarily
consent to such an exchange of situation, and very certain that few of
those advanced to a certain age in habits of slavery, would be capable
of self-government. This should not, however, discourage the experiment,
nor the early trial of it; and the proposition should be made with all
the prudent cautions and attentions requisite to reconcile it to the
interests, the safety, and the prejudices of all parties."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Writings_, XIII, 11.]

From an entirely different source, however, and prompted not by
expediency but the purest altruism, came an impulse that finally told in
the founding of Liberia. The heart of a young man reached out across
the sea. Samuel J. Mills, an undergraduate of Williams College, in 1808
formed among his fellow-students a missionary society whose work later
told in the formation of the American Bible Society and the Board of
Foreign Missions. Mills continued his theological studies at Andover and
then at Princeton; and while at the latter place he established a school
for Negroes at Parsippany, thirty miles away. He also interested in
his work and hopes Rev. Robert Finley, of Basking Ridge, N.J., who
"succeeded in assembling at Princeton the first meeting ever called to
consider the project of sending Negro colonists to Africa,"[1] and who
in a letter to John P. Mumford, of New York, under date February 14,
1815, expressed his interest by saying, "We should send to Africa a
population partly civilized and christianized for its benefit; and our
blacks themselves would be put in a better condition."

[Footnote 1: McPherson, 18.]

In this same year, 1815, the country was startled by the unselfish
enterprise of a Negro who had long thought of the unfortunate situation
of his people in America and who himself shouldered the obligation to
do something definite in their behalf. Paul Cuffe had been born in May,
1759, on one of the Elizabeth Islands near New Bedford, Mass., the son
of a father who was once a slave from Africa and of an Indian mother.[1]
Interested in navigation, he made voyages to Russia, England, Africa,
the West Indies, and the South; and in time he commanded his own vessel,
became generally respected, and by his wisdom rose to a fair degree of
opulence. For twenty years he had thought especially about Africa,
and in 1815 he took to Sierra Leone a total of nine families and
thirty-eight persons at an expense to himself of nearly $4000. The
people that he brought were well received at Sierra Leone, and Cuffe
himself had greater and more far-reaching plans when he died September
7, 1817. He left an estate valued at $20,000.

[Footnote 1: First Annual Report of American Colonization Society.]

Dr. Finley's meeting at Princeton was not very well attended and hence
not a great success. Nevertheless he felt sufficiently encouraged to go
to Washington in December, 1816, to use his effort for the formation of
a national colonization society. It happened that in February of this
same year, 1816, General Charles Fenton Mercer, member of the House of
Delegates, came upon the secret journals of the legislature for the
period 1801-5 and saw the correspondence between Monroe and Jefferson.
Interested in the colonization project, on December 14 (Monroe
then being President-elect) he presented in the House of Delegates
resolutions embodying the previous enactments; and these passed 132 to
14. Finley was generally helped by the effort of Mercer, and on December
21, 1816, there was held in Washington a meeting of public men
and interested citizens, Henry Clay, then Speaker of the House of
Representatives, presiding. A constitution was adopted at an adjourned
meeting on December 28; and on January 1, 1817, were formally chosen
the officers of "The American Society for Colonizing the Free People
of Color of the United States." At this last meeting Henry Clay, again
presiding, spoke in glowing terms of the possibilities of the movement;
Elias B. Caldwell, a brother-in-law of Finley, made the leading
argument; and John Randolph, of Roanoke, Va., and Robert Wright, of
Maryland, spoke of the advantages to accrue from the removal of the free
Negroes from the country (which remarks were very soon to awaken
much discussion and criticism, especially on the part of the Negroes
themselves). It is interesting to note that Mercer had no part at all in
the meeting of January 1, not even being present; he did not feel that
any but Southern men should be enrolled in the organization. However,
Bushrod Washington, the president, was a Southern man; twelve of the
seventeen vice-presidents were Southern men, among them being Andrew
Jackson and William Crawford; and all of the twelve managers were

Membership in the American Colonization Society originally consisted,
first, of such as sincerely desired to afford the free Negroes an asylum
from oppression and who hoped through them to extend to Africa the
blessings of civilization and Christianity; second, of such as sought to
enhance the value of their own slaves by removing the free Negroes; and
third, of such as desired to be relieved of any responsibility whatever
for free Negroes. The movement was widely advertised as "an effort
for the benefit of the blacks in which all parts of the country could
unite," it being understood that it was "not to have the abolition of
slavery for its immediate object," nor was it to "aim directly at the
instruction of the great body of the blacks." Such points as the last
were to prove in course of time hardly less than a direct challenge to
the different abolitionist organizations in the North, and more and more
the Society was denounced as a movement on the part of slaveholders for
perpetuating their institutions by doing away with the free people of
color. It is not to be supposed, however, that the South, with its usual
religious fervor, did not put much genuine feeling into the colonization
scheme. One man in Georgia named Tubman freed his slaves, thirty in all,
and placed them in charge of the Society with a gift of $10,000; Thomas
Hunt, a young Virginian, afterwards a chaplain in the Union Army, sent
to Liberia the slaves he had inherited, paying the entire cost of the
journey; and others acted in a similar spirit of benevolence. It was
but natural, however, for the public to be somewhat uncertain as to the
tendencies of the organization when the utterances of representative
men were sometimes directly contradictory. On January 20, 1827, for
instance, Henry Clay, then Secretary of State, speaking in the hall of
the House of Representatives at the annual meeting of the Society, said:
"Of all classes of our population, the most vicious is that of the free
colored. It is the inevitable result of their moral, political, and
civil degradation. Contaminated themselves, they extend their vices to
all around them, to the slaves and to the whites." Just a moment later
he said: "Every emigrant to Africa is a missionary carrying with him
credentials in the holy cause of civilization, religion, and free
institutions." How persons contaminated and vicious could be
missionaries of civilization and religion was something possible only in
the logic of Henry Clay. In the course of the next month Robert Y. Hayne
gave a Southern criticism in two addresses on a memorial presented in
the United States Senate by the Colonization Society.[1] The first
of these speeches was a clever one characterized by much wit and
good-humored raillery; the second was a sober arraignment. Hayne
emphasized the tremendous cost involved and the physical impossibility
of the whole undertaking, estimating that at least sixty thousand
persons a year would have to be transported to accomplish anything like
the desired result. At the close of his brilliant attack, still making
a veiled plea for the continuance of slavery, he nevertheless rose to
genuine statesmanship in dealing with the problem of the Negro, saying,
"While this process is going on the colored classes are gradually
diffusing themselves throughout the country and are making steady
advances in intelligence and refinement, and if half the zeal were
displayed in bettering their condition that is now wasted in the vain
and fruitless effort of sending them abroad, their intellectual and
moral improvement would be steady and rapid." William Lloyd Garrison was
untiring and merciless in flaying the inconsistencies and selfishness of
the colonization organization. In an editorial in the _Liberator_, July
9, 1831, he charged the Society, first, with persecution in compelling
free people to emigrate against their will and in discouraging their
education at home; second, with falsehood in saying that the Negroes
were natives of Africa when they were no more so than white Americans
were natives of Great Britain; third, with cowardice in asserting that
the continuance of the Negro population in the country involved dangers;
and finally, with infidelity in denying that the Gospel has full power
to reach the hatred in the hearts of men. In _Thoughts on African
Colonisation_ (1832) he developed exhaustively ten points as follows:
That the American Colonization Society was pledged not to oppose the
system of slavery, that it apologized for slavery and slaveholders, that
it recognized slaves as property, that by deporting Negroes it increased
the value of slaves, that it was the enemy of immediate abolition, that
it was nourished by fear and selfishness, that it aimed at the utter
expulsion of the blacks, that it was the disparager of free Negroes,
that it denied the possibility of elevating the black people of the
country, and that it deceived and misled the nation. Other criticisms
were numerous. A broadside, "The Shields of American Slavery" ("Broad
enough to hide the wrongs of two millions of stolen men") placed side by
side conflicting utterances of members of the Society; and in August,
1830, Kendall, fourth auditor, in his report to the Secretary of the
Navy, wondered why the resources of the government should be used "to
colonize recaptured Africans, to build homes for them, to furnish them
with farming utensils, to pay instructors to teach them, to purchase
ships for their convenience, to build forts for their protection, to
supply them with arms and munitions of war, to enlist troops to guard
them, and to employ the army and navy in their defense."[2] Criticism of
the American Colonization Society was prompted by a variety of motives;
but the organization made itself vulnerable at many points. The movement
attracted extraordinary attention, but has had practically no effect
whatever on the position of the Negro in the United States. Its work
in connection with the founding of Liberia, however, is of the highest
importance, and must later receive detailed attention.

[Footnote 1: See Jervey: _Robert Y. Hayne and His Times_, 207-8.]

[Footnote 2: Cited by McPherson, 22.]

3. _Slavery_

We have seen that from the beginning there were liberal-minded men in
the South who opposed the system of slavery, and if we actually take
note of all the utterances of different men and of the proposals for
doing away with the system, we shall find that about the turn of the
century there was in this section considerable anti-slavery sentiment.
Between 1800 and 1820, however, the opening of new lands in the
Southwest, the increasing emphasis on cotton, and the rapidly growing
Negro population, gave force to the argument of expediency; and the
Missouri Compromise drew sharply the lines of the contest. The South now
came to regard slavery as its peculiar heritage; public men were forced
to defend the institution; and in general the best thought of the
section began to be obsessed and dominated by the Negro, just as it is
to-day in large measure. In taking this position the South deliberately
committed intellectual suicide. In such matters as freedom of speech and
literary achievement, and in genuine statesmanship if not for the time
being in political influence, this part of the country declined, and
before long the difference between it and New England was appalling.
Calhoun and Hayne were strong; but between 1820 and 1860 the South had
no names to compare with Longfellow and Emerson in literature, or with
Morse and Hoe in invention. The foremost college professor, Dew, of
William and Mary, and even the outstanding divines, Furman, the Baptist,
of South Carolina, in the twenties, and Palmer, the Presbyterian of New
Orleans, in the fifties, are all now remembered mainly because they
defended their section in keeping the Negro in bonds. William and Mary
College, and even the University of Virginia, as compared with Harvard
and Yale, became provincial institutions; and instead of the Washington
or Jefferson of an earlier day now began to be nourished such a leader
as "Bob" Toombs, who for all of his fire and eloquence was a demagogue.
In making its choice the South could not and did not blame the Negro
per se, for it was freely recognized that upon slave labor rested such
economic stability as the section possessed. The tragedy was simply that
thousands of intelligent Americans deliberately turned their faces to
the past, and preferred to read the novels of Walter Scott and live in
the Middle Ages rather than study the French Revolution and live in the
nineteenth century. One hundred years after we find that the chains are
still forged, that thought is not yet free. Thus the Negro Problem began
to be, and still is, very largely the problem of the white man of the
South. The era of capitalism had not yet dawned, and still far in the
future was the day when the poor white man and the Negro were slowly to
realize that their interests were largely identical.

The argument with which the South came to support its position and to
defend slavery need not here detain us at length. It was formally stated
by Dew and others[1] and it was to be heard on every hand. One could
hardly go to church, to say nothing of going to a public meeting,
without hearing echoes of it. In general it was maintained that slavery
had made for the civilization of the world in that it had mitigated
the evils of war, had made labor profitable, had changed the nature of
savages, and elevated woman. The slave-trade was of course horrible and
unjust, but the great advantages of the system more than outweighed a
few attendant evils. Emancipation and deportation were alike impossible.
Even if practicable, they would not be expedient measures, for they
meant the loss to Virginia of one-third of her property. As for
morality, it was not to be expected that the Negro should have the
sensibilities of the white man. Moreover the system had the advantage of
cultivating a republican spirit among the white people. In short, said
Dew, the slaves, in both the economic and the moral point of view, were
"entirely unfit for a state of freedom among the whites." Holland,
already cited, in 1822 maintained five points, as follows: 1. That the
United States are one for national purposes, but separate for their
internal regulation and government; 2. That the people of the North and
East "always exhibited an unfriendly feeling on subjects affecting the
interests of the South and West"; 3. That the institution of slavery
was not an institution of the South's voluntary choosing; 4. That the
Southern sections of the Union, both before and after the Declaration
of Independence, "had uniformly exhibited a disposition to restrict
the extension of the evil--and had always manifested as cordial a
disposition to ameliorate it as those of the North and East"; and 5.
That the actual state and condition of the slave population "reflected
no disgrace whatever on the character of the country--as the slaves were
infinitely better provided for than the laboring poor of other countries
of the world, and were generally happier than millions of white people
in the world." Such arguments the clergy supported and endeavored to
reconcile with Christian precept. Rev. Dr. Richard Furman, president
of the Baptist Convention of South Carolina,[2] after much inquiry and
reasoning, arrived at the conclusion that "the holding of slaves is
justifiable by the doctrine and example contained in Holy Writ; and is,
therefore, consistent with Christian uprightness both in sentiment and
conduct." Said he further: "The Christian golden rule, of doing
to others as we would they should do to us, has been urged as an
unanswerable argument against holding slaves. But surely this rule
is never to be urged against that order of things which the Divine
government has established; nor do our desires become a standard to us,
under this rule, unless they have a due regard to justice, propriety,
and the general good.... A father may very naturally desire that his son
should be obedient to his orders: Is he therefore to obey the orders of
his son? A man might be pleased to be exonerated from his debts by the
generosity of his creditors; or that his rich neighbor should equally
divide his property with him; and in certain circumstances might desire
these to be done: Would the mere existence of this desire oblige him
to exonerate his debtors, and to make such division of his property?"
Calhoun in 1837 formally accepted slavery, saying that the South should
no longer apologize for it; and the whole argument from the standpoint
of expediency received eloquent expression in the Senate of the United
States from no less a man than Henry Clay, who more and more appears in
the perspective as a pro-Southern advocate. Said he: "I am no friend of
slavery. But I prefer the liberty of my own country to that of any other
people; and the liberty of my own race to that of any other race.
The liberty of the descendants of Africa in the United States is
incompatible with the safety and liberty of the European descendants.
Their slavery forms an exception--an exception resulting from a
stern and inexorable necessity--to the general liberty in the United
States."[3] After the lapse of years the pro-slavery argument is pitiful
in its numerous fallacies. It was in line with much of the discussion of
the day that questioned whether the Negro was actually a human being,
and but serves to show to what extremes economic interest will sometimes
drive men otherwise of high intelligence and honor.

[Footnote 1: _The Pro-Slavery Argument_ (as maintained by the most
distinguished writers of the Southern states). Charleston, 1852.]

[Footnote 2: "Rev. Dr. Richard Furman's Exposition of the Views of the
Baptists relative to the Coloured Population in the United States, in
a Communication to the Governor of South Carolina." Second edition,
Charleston, 1833 (letter bears original date, December 24, 1822).]

[Footnote 3: Address "On Abolition," February 7, 1839.]



We have already seen that on several occasions in colonial times the
Negroes in bondage made a bid for freedom, many men risking their all
and losing their lives in consequence. In general these early attempts
failed completely to realize their aim, organization being feeble and
the leadership untrained and exerting only an emotional hold over
adherents. In Charleston, S.C., in 1822, however, there was planned an
insurrection about whose scope there could be no question. The leader,
Denmark Vesey, is interesting as an intellectual insurrectionist just as
the more famous Nat Turner is typical of the more fervent sort. It is
the purpose of the present chapter to study the attempts for freedom
made by these two men, and also those of two daring groups of captives
who revolted at sea.

1. _Denmark Vesey's Insurrection_

Denmark Vesey is first seen as one of the three hundred and ninety
slaves on the ship of Captain Vesey, who commanded a vessel trading
between St. Thomas and Cape Francois (Santo Domingo), and who was
engaged in supplying the French of the latter place with slaves. At the
time, the boy was fourteen years old, and of unusual personal beauty,
alertness, and magnetism. He was shown considerable favoritism, and
was called Telemaque (afterwards corrupted to _Telmak_, and then to
_Denmark_). On his arrival at Cape Francois, Denmark was sold with
others of the slaves to a planter who owned a considerable estate. On
his next trip, however, Captain Vesey learned that the boy was to be
returned to him as unsound and subject to epileptic fits. The laws of
the place permitted the return of a slave in such a case, and while it
has been thought that Denmark's fits may have been feigned in order that
he might have some change of estate, there was quite enough proof in the
matter to impress the king's physician. Captain Vesey never had reason
to regret having to take the boy back. They made several voyages
together, and Denmark served until 1800 as his faithful personal
attendant. In this year the young man, now thirty-three years of age and
living in Charleston, won $1,500 in an East Bay Street lottery, $600 of
which he devoted immediately to the purchase of his freedom. The sum was
much less than he was really worth, but Captain Vesey liked him and had
no reason to drive a hard bargain with him.

In the early years of his full manhood accordingly Denmark Vesey found
himself a free man in his own right and possessed of the means for a
little real start in life. He improved his time and proceeded to win
greater standing and recognition by regular and industrious work at his
trade, that of a carpenter. Over the slaves he came to have unbounded
influence. Among them, in accordance with the standards of the day, he
had several wives and children (none of whom could he call his own), and
he understood perfectly the fervor and faith and superstition of the
Negroes with whom he had to deal. To his remarkable personal magnetism
moreover he added just the strong passion and the domineering temper
that were needed to make his conquest complete.

Thus for twenty years he worked on. He already knew French as well
as English, but he now studied and reflected upon as wide a range of
subjects as possible. It was not expected at the time that there would
be religious classes or congregations of Negroes apart from the white
people; but the law was not strictly observed, and for a number of
years a Negro congregation had a church in Hampstead in the suburbs
of Charleston. At the meetings here and elsewhere Vesey found his
opportunity, and he drew interesting parallels between the experiences
of the Jews and the Negroes. He would rebuke a companion on the street
for bowing to a white person; and if such a man replied, "We are
slaves," he would say, "You deserve to be." If the man then asked
what he could do to better his condition, he would say, "Go and buy a
spelling-book and read the fable of Hercules and the wagoner."[1] At the
same time if he happened to engage in conversation with white people in
the presence of Negroes, he would often take occasion to introduce some
striking remark on slavery. He regularly held up to emulation the work
of the Negroes of Santo Domingo; and either he or one of his chief
lieutenants clandestinely sent a letter to the President of Santo
Domingo to ask if the people there would help the Negroes of Charleston
if the latter made an effort to free themselves.[2] About 1820 moreover,
when he heard of the African Colonization scheme and the opportunity
came to him to go, he put this by, waiting for something better. This
was the period of the Missouri Compromise. Reports of the agitation and
of the debates in Congress were eagerly scanned by those Negroes in
Charleston who could read; rumor exaggerated them; and some of the more
credulous of the slaves came to believe that the efforts of Northern
friends had actually emancipated them and that they were being illegally
held in bondage. Nor was the situation improved when the city marshal,
John J. Lafar, on January 15, 1821, reminded those ministers or other
persons who kept night and Sunday schools for Negroes that the law
forbade the education of such persons and would have to be enforced.
Meanwhile Vesey was very patient. After a few months, however, he ceased
to work at his trade in order that all the more he might devote
himself to the mission of his life. This was, as he conceived it, an
insurrection that would do nothing less than totally annihilate the
white population of Charleston.

[Footnote 1: Official Report, 19.]

[Footnote 2: Official Report, 96-97, and Higginson, 232-3.]

In the prosecution of such a plan the greatest secrecy and faithfulness
were of course necessary, and Vesey waited until about Christmas, 1821,
to begin active recruiting. He first sounded Ned and Rolla Bennett,
slaves of Governor Thomas Bennett, and then Peter Poyas and Jack
Purcell. After Christmas he spoke to Gullah Jack and Monday Gell;
and Lot Forrester and Frank Ferguson became his chief agents for the
plantations outside of Charleston.[1] In the whole matter of the choice
of his chief assistants he showed remarkable judgment of character. His
penetration was almost uncanny. "Rolla was plausible, and possessed
uncommon self-possession; bold and ardent, he was not to be deterred
from his purpose by danger. Ned's appearance indicated that he was a man
of firm nerves and desperate courage. Peter was intrepid and resolute,
true to his engagements, and cautious in observing secrecy when it was
necessary; he was not to be daunted or impeded by difficulties, and
though confident of success, was careful in providing against any
obstacles or casualties which might arise, and intent upon discovering
every means which might be in their power if thought of beforehand.
Gullah Jack was regarded as a sorcerer, and as such feared by the
natives of Africa, who believe in witchcraft. He was not only considered
invulnerable, but that he could make others so by his charms; and that
he could and certainly would provide all his followers with arms....
His influence amongst the Africans was inconceivable. Monday was firm,
resolute, discreet, and intelligent."[2] He was also daring and active,
a harness-maker in the prime of life, and he could read and write with
facility; but he was also the only man of prominence in the conspiracy
whose courage failed him in court and who turned traitor. To these names
must be added that of Batteau Bennett, who was only eighteen years old
and who brought to the plan all the ardor and devotion of youth. In
general Vesey sought to bring into the plan those Negroes, such as
stevedores and mechanics, who worked away from home and who had some
free time. He would not use men who were known to become intoxicated,
and one talkative man named George he excluded from his meetings. Nor
did he use women, not because he did not trust them, but because in case
of mishap he wanted the children to be properly cared for. "Take care,"
said Peter Poyas, in speaking about the plan to one of the recruits,
"and don't mention it to those waiting men who receive presents of old
coats, etc., from their masters, or they'll betray us; I will speak to

[Footnote 1: Official Report, 20. Note that Higginson, who was so
untiring in his research, strangely confuses Jack Purcell and Gullah
Jack (p. 230). The men were quite distinct, as appears throughout the
report and from the list of those executed. The name of Gullah Jack's
owner was Pritchard.]

[Footnote 2: Official Report, 24. Note that this remarkable
characterization was given by the judges, Kennedy and Parker, who
afterwards condemned the men to death.]

With his lieutenants Vesey finally brought into the plan the Negroes for
seventy or eighty miles around Charleston. The second Monday in July,
1822, or Sunday, July 14, was the time originally set for the attack.
July was chosen because in midsummer many of the white people were
away at different resorts; and Sunday received favorable consideration
because on that day the slaves from the outlying plantations were
frequently permitted to come to the city. Lists of the recruits were
kept. Peter Poyas is said to have gathered as many as six hundred names,
chiefly from that part of Charleston known as South Bay in which he
lived; and it is a mark of his care and discretion that of all of those
afterwards arrested and tried, not one belonged to his company. Monday
Gell, who joined late and was very prudent, had forty-two names. All
such lists, however, were in course of time destroyed. "During the
period that these enlistments were carrying on, Vesey held frequent
meetings of the conspirators at his house; and as arms were necessary to
their success, each night a hat was handed round, and collections made,
for the purpose of purchasing them, and also to defray other necessary
expenses. A Negro who was a blacksmith and had been accustomed to make
edged tools, was employed to make pike-heads and bayonets with sockets,
to be fixed at the ends of long poles and used as pikes. Of these
pike-heads and bayonets, one hundred were said to have been made at an
early day, and by the 16th June as many as two or three hundred, and
between three and four hundred daggers."[1] A bundle containing some of
the poles, neatly trimmed and smoothed off, and nine or ten feet long,
was afterwards found concealed on a farm on Charleston Neck, where
several of the meetings were held, having been carried there to have the
pike-heads and bayonets fixed in place. Governor Bennett stated that the
number of poles thus found was thirteen, but so wary were the Negroes
that he and other prominent men underestimated the means of attack. It
was thought that the Negroes in Charleston might use their masters'
arms, while those from the country were to bring hoes, hatchets, and
axes. For their main supply of arms, however, Vesey and Peter Poyas
depended upon the magazines and storehouses in the city. They planned to
seize the Arsenal in Meeting Street opposite St. Michael's Church; it
was the key to the city, held the arms of the state, and had for some
time been neglected. Poyas at a given signal at midnight was to move
upon this point, killing the sentinel. Two large gun and powder stores
were by arrangement to be at the disposal of the insurrectionists; and
other leaders, coming from six different directions, were to seize
strategic points and thus aid the central work of Poyas. Meanwhile a
body of horse was to keep the streets clear. "Eat only dry food," said
Gullah Jack as the day approached, "parched corn and ground nuts, and
when you join us as we pass put this crab claw in your mouth and you
can't be wounded."

[Footnote 1: Official Report, 31-32.]

On May 25[1] a slave of Colonel Prioleau, while on an errand at the
wharf, was accosted by another slave, William Paul, who remarked: "I
have often seen a flag with the number 76, but never one with the number
96 upon it before." As this man showed no knowledge of what was going
on, Paul spoke to him further and quite frankly about the plot. The
slave afterwards spoke to a free man about what he had heard; this man
advised him to tell his master about it; and so he did on Prioleau's
return on May 30. Prioleau immediately informed the Intendant, or Mayor,
and by five o'clock in the afternoon both the slave and Paul were being
examined. Paul was placed in confinement, but not before his testimony
had implicated Peter Poyas and Mingo Harth, a man who had been appointed
to lead one of the companies of horse. Harth and Poyas were cool and
collected, however, they ridiculed the whole idea, and the wardens,
completely deceived, discharged them. In general at this time the
authorities were careful and endeavored not to act hastily. About June
8, however, Paul, greatly excited and fearing execution, confessed that
the plan was very extensive and said that it was led by an individual
who bore a charmed life. Ned Bennett, hearing that his name had been
mentioned, voluntarily went before the Intendant and asked to be
examined, thus again completely baffling the officials. All the while,
in the face of the greatest danger, Vesey continued to hold his
meetings. By Friday, June 14, however, another informant had spoken
to his master, and all too fully were Peter Poyas's fears about
"waiting-men" justified. This man said that the original plan had been
changed, for the night of Sunday, June 16, was now the time set for
the insurrection, and otherwise he was able to give all essential
information.[2] On Saturday night, June 15, Jesse Blackwood, an aid sent
into the country to prepare the slaves to enter the following day, while
he penetrated two lines of guards, was at the third line halted and sent
back into the city. Vesey now realized in a moment that all his plans
were disclosed, and immediately he destroyed any papers that might prove
to be incriminating. "On Sunday, June 16, at ten o'clock at night,
Captain Cattle's Corps of Hussars, Captain Miller's Light Infantry,
Captain Martindale's Neck Rangers, the Charleston Riflemen and the City
Guard were ordered to rendezvous for guard, the whole organized as a
detachment under command of Colonel R.Y. Hayne."[3] It was his work on
this occasion that gave Hayne that appeal to the public which was later
to help him to pass on to the governorship and then to the United States
Senate. On the fateful night twenty or thirty men from the outlying
districts who had not been able to get word of the progress of events,
came to the city in a small boat, but Vesey sent word to them to go back
as quickly as possible.

[Footnote 1: Higginson, 215.]

[Footnote 2: For reasons of policy the names of these informers were
withheld from publication, but they were well known, of course, to
the Negroes of Charleston. The published documents said of the chief
informer, "It would be a libel on the liberality and gratitude of this
community to suppose that this man can be overlooked among those who are
to be rewarded for their fidelity and principle." The author has been
informed that his reward for betraying his people was to be officially
and legally declared "a white man."]

[Footnote 3: Jervey: _Robert Y. Hayne and His Times_, 131-2.]

Two courts were formed for the trial of the conspirators. The first,
after a long session of five weeks, was dissolved July 20; a second was
convened, but after three days closed its investigation and adjourned
August 8.[1] All the while the public mind was greatly excited. The
first court, which speedily condemned thirty-four men to death, was
severely criticized. The New York _Daily Advertiser_ termed the
execution "a bloody sacrifice"; but Charleston replied with the reminder
of the Negroes who had been burned in New York in 1741.[2] Some of the
Negroes blamed the leaders for the trouble into which they had been
brought, but Vesey himself made no confession. He was by no means alone.
"Do not open your lips," said Poyas; "die silent as you shall see me
do." Something of the solicitude of owners for their slaves may be
seen from the request of Governor Bennett himself in behalf of Batteau
Bennett. He asked for a special review of the case of this young man,
who was among those condemned to death, "with a view to the mitigation
of his punishment." The court did review the case, but it did not change
its sentence. Throughout the proceedings the white people of Charleston
were impressed by the character of those who had taken part in the
insurrection; "many of them possessed the highest confidence of their
owners, and not one was of bad character."[3]

[Footnote 1: Bennett letter.]

[Footnote 2: See _City Gazette_, August 14, 1822, cited by Jervey.]

[Footnote 3: Official Report, 44.]

As a result of this effort for freedom one hundred and thirty-one
Negroes were arrested; thirty-five were executed and forty-three
banished.[1] Of those executed, Denmark Vesey, Peter Poyas, Ned Bennett,
Rolla Bennett, Batteau Bennett, and Jesse Blackwood were hanged July 2;
Gullah Jack and one more on July 12; twenty-two were hanged on a huge
gallows Friday, July 26; four more were hanged July 30, and one on
August 9. Of those banished, twelve had been sentenced for execution,
but were afterwards given banishment instead; twenty-one were to be
transported by their masters beyond the limits of the United States;
one, a free man, required to leave the state, satisfied the court by
offering to leave the United States, while nine others who were not
definitely sentenced were strongly recommended to their owners for
banishment. The others of the one hundred and thirty-one were acquitted.
The authorities at length felt that they had executed enough to teach
the Negroes a lesson, and the hanging ceased; but within the next
year or two Governor Bennett and others gave to the world most gloomy
reflections upon the whole proceeding and upon the grave problem at
their door. Thus closed the insurrection that for the ambitiousness of
its plan, the care with which it was matured, and the faithfulness of
the leaders to one another, was never equalled by a similar attempt for
freedom in the United States.

[Footnote 1: The figure is sometimes given as 37, but the lists total

_2. Nat Turner's Insurrection_

About noon on Sunday, August 21, 1831, on the plantation of Joseph
Travis at Cross Keys, in Southampton County, in Southeastern Virginia,
were gathered four Negroes, Henry Porter, Hark Travis, Nelson Williams,
and Sam Francis, evidently preparing for a barbecue. They were soon
joined by a gigantic and athletic Negro named Will Francis, and by
another named Jack Reese. Two hours later came a short, strong-looking
man who had a face of great resolution and at whom one would not
have needed to glance a second time to know that he was to be the
master-spirit of the company. Seeing Will and his companion he raised a
question as to their being present, to which Will replied that life was
worth no more to him than the others and that liberty was as dear to
him. This answer satisfied the latest comer, and Nat Turner now went
into conference with his most trusted friends. One can only imagine the
purpose, the eagerness, and the firmness on those dark faces throughout
that long summer afternoon and evening. When at last in the night the
low whispering ceased, the doom of nearly three-score white persons--and
it might be added, of twice as many Negroes--was sealed.

Cross Keys was seventy miles from Norfolk, just about as far from
Richmond, twenty-five miles from the Dismal Swamp, fifteen miles from
Murfreesboro in North Carolina, and also fifteen miles from Jerusalem,
the county seat of Southampton County. The community was settled
primarily by white people of modest means. Joseph Travis, the owner of
Nat Turner, had recently married the widow of one Putnam Moore.

Nat Turner, who originally belonged to one Benjamin Turner, was born
October 2, 1800. He was mentally precocious and had marks on his head
and breast which were interpreted by the Negroes who knew him as marking
him for some high calling. In his mature years he also had on his right
arm a knot which was the result of a blow which he had received. He
experimented in paper, gunpowder, and pottery, and it is recorded of him
that he was never known to swear an oath, to drink a drop of spirits,
or to commit a theft. Instead he cultivated fasting and prayer and the
reading of the Bible.

More and more Nat gave himself up to a life of the spirit and to
communion with the voices that he said he heard. He once ran away for
a month, but felt commanded by the spirit to return. About 1825 a
consciousness of his great mission came to him, and daily he labored
to make himself more worthy. As he worked in the field he saw drops
of blood on the corn, and he also saw white spirits and black spirits
contending in the skies. While he thus so largely lived in a religious
or mystical world and was immersed, he was not a professional Baptist
preacher. On May 12, 1828, he was left no longer in doubt. A great voice
said unto him that the Serpent was loosed, that Christ had laid down the
yoke, that he, Nat, was to take it up again, and that the time was fast
approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.
An eclipse of the sun in February, 1831, was interpreted as the sign for
him to go forward. Yet he waited a little longer, until he had made sure
of his most important associates. It is worthy of note that when he
began his work, while he wanted the killing to be as effective and
widespread as possible, he commanded that no outrage be committed, and
he was obeyed.

When on the Sunday in August Nat and his companions finished their
conference, they went to find Austin, a brother-spirit; and then all
went to the cider-press and drank except Nat. It was understood that he
as the leader was to spill the first blood, and that he was to begin
with his own master, Joseph Travis. Going to the house, Hark placed
a ladder against the chimney. On this Nat ascended; then he went
downstairs, unbarred the doors, and removed the guns from their places.
He and Will together entered Travis's chamber, and the first blow was
given to the master of the house. The hatchet glanced off and Travis
called to his wife; but this was with his last breath, for Will at once
despatched him with his ax. The wife and the three children of the house
were also killed immediately. Then followed a drill of the company,
after which all went to the home of Salathiel Francis six hundred yards
away. Sam and Will knocked, and Francis asked who was there. Sam replied
that he had a letter, for him. The man came to the door, where he was
seized and killed by repeated blows over the head. He was the only white
person in the house. In silence all passed on to the home of Mrs.
Reese, who was killed while asleep in bed. Her son awoke, but was also
immediately killed. A mile away the insurrectionists came to the home of
Mrs. Turner, which they reached about sunrise on Monday morning. Henry,
Austin, and Sam went to the still, where they found and killed the
overseer, Peebles, Austin shooting him. Then all went to the house. The
family saw them coming and shut the door--to no avail, however, as Will
with one stroke of his ax opened it and entered to find Mrs. Turner and
Mrs. Newsome in the middle of the room almost frightened to death. Will
killed Mrs. Turner with one blow of his ax, and after Nat had struck
Mrs. Newsome over the head with his sword, Will turned and killed her
also. By this time the company amounted to fifteen. Nine went mounted to
the home of Mrs. Whitehead and six others went along a byway to the home
of Henry Bryant. As they neared the first house Richard Whitehead, the
son of the family, was standing in the cotton-patch near the fence.
Will killed him with his ax immediately. In the house he killed Mrs.
Whitehead, almost severing her head from her body with one blow.
Margaret, a daughter, tried to conceal herself and ran, but was killed
by Turner with a fence-rail. The men in this first company were now
joined by those in the second, the six who had gone to the Bryant home,
who informed them that they had done the work assigned, which was to
kill Henry Bryant himself, his wife and child, and his wife's mother. By
this time the killing had become fast and furious. The company divided
again; some would go ahead, and Nat would come up to find work already
accomplished. Generally fifteen or twenty of the best mounted were put
in front to strike terror and prevent escape, and Nat himself frequently
did not get to the houses where killing was done. More and more the
Negroes, now about forty in number, were getting drunken and noisy.
The alarm was given, and by nine or ten o'clock on Monday morning one
Captain Harris and his family had escaped. Prominent among the events of
the morning, however, was the killing at the home of Mrs. Waller of ten
children who were gathering for school.[1]

[Footnote 1: In "Horrid Massacre," or, to use the more formal title,
"Authentic and Impartial Narrative of the Tragical Scene which was
Witnessed in Southampton County (Virginia) on Monday the 22d of August
Last," the list below of the victims of Nat Turner's insurrection
is given. It must be said about this work, however, that it is not
altogether impeccable; it seems to have been prepared very hastily after
the event, its spelling of names is often arbitrary, and instead of the
fifty-five victims noted it appears that at least fifty-seven white
persons were killed:

Joseph Travis, wife and three children 5
Mrs. Elizabeth Turner, Hartwell Peebles, and Sarah Newsum 3
Mrs. Piety Reese and son, William 2
Trajan Doyal 1
Henry Briant, wife and child, and wife's mother 4
Mrs. Catherine Whitehead, her son Richard, four daughters
and a grandchild 7
Salathael Francis 1
Nathaniel Francis's overseer and two children 3
John T. Barrow and George Vaughan 2
Mrs. Levi Waller and ten children 11
Mr. William Williams, wife and two boys 4
Mrs. Caswell Worrell and child 2
Mrs. Rebacca Vaughan, Ann Eliza Vaughan, and son Arthur 3
Mrs. Jacob Williams and three children and Edwin Drewry 5
55 ]

As the men neared the home of James Parker, it was suggested that
they call there; but Turner objected, as this man had already gone to
Jerusalem and he himself wished to reach the county seat as soon as
possible. However, he and some of the men remained at the gate while
others went to the house half a mile away. This exploit proved to be the
turning-point of the events of the day. Uneasy at the delay of those who
went to the house, Turner went thither also. On his return he was met by
a company of white men who had fired on those Negroes left at the gate
and dispersed them. On discovering these men, Turner ordered his own men
to halt and form, as now they were beginning to be alarmed. The white
men, eighteen in number, approached and fired, but were forced to
retreat. Reenforcements for them from Jerusalem were already at hand,
however, and now the great pursuit of the Negro insurrectionists began.

Hark's horse was shot under him and five or six of the men were wounded.
Turner's force was largely dispersed, but on Monday night he stopped at
the home of Major Ridley, and his company again increased to forty. He
tried to sleep a little, but a sentinel gave the alarm; all were soon up
and the number was again reduced to twenty. Final resistance was offered
at the home of Dr. Blunt, but here still more of the men were put to
flight and were never again seen by Turner.

A little later, however, the leader found two of his men named Jacob and
Nat. These he sent with word to Henry, Hark, Nelson, and Sam to meet him
at the place where on Sunday they had taken dinner together. With what
thoughts Nat Turner returned alone to this place on Tuesday evening can
only be imagined. Throughout the night he remained, but no one joined
him and he presumed that his followers had all either been taken or had
deserted him. Nor did any one come on Wednesday, or on Thursday. On
Thursday night, having supplied himself with provisions from the Travis
home, he scratched a hole under a pile of fence-rails, and here he
remained for six weeks, leaving only at night to get water. All
the while of course he had no means of learning of the fate of his
companions or of anything else. Meanwhile not only the vicinity but
the whole South was being wrought up to an hysterical state of mind. A
reward of $500 for the capture of the man was offered by the Governor,
and other rewards were also offered. On September 30 a false account of
his capture appeared in the newspapers; on October 7 another; on October
8 still another. By this time Turner had begun to move about a little at
night, not speaking to any human being and returning always to his hole
before daybreak. Early on October 15 a dog smelt his provisions and led
thither two Negroes. Nat appealed to these men for protection, but they
at once began to run and excitedly spread the news. Turner fled in
another direction and for ten days more hid among the wheat-stacks on
the Francis plantation. All the while not less than five hundred men
were on the watch for him, and they found the stick that he had notched
from day to day. Once he thought of surrendering, and walked within two
miles of Jerusalem. Three times he tried to get away, and failed. On
October 25 he was discovered by Francis, who discharged at him a load of
buckshot, twelve of which passed through his hat, and he was at large
for five days more. On October 30 Benjamin Phipps, a member of the
patrol, passing a clearing in the woods noticed a motion among the
boughs. He paused, and gradually he saw Nat's head emerging from a hole
beneath. The fugitive now gave up as he knew that the woods were full of
men. He was taken to the nearest house, and the crowd was so great and
the excitement so intense that it was with difficulty that he was taken
to Jerusalem. For more than two months, from August 25 to October 30, he
had eluded his pursuers, remaining all the while in the vicinity of his

While Nat Turner was in prison, Thomas C. Gray, his counsel, received
from him what are known as his "Confessions." This pamphlet is now
almost inaccessible,[1] but it was in great demand at the time it
was printed and it is now the chief source for information about the
progress of the insurrection. Turner was tried November 5 and sentenced
to be hanged six days later. Asked in court by Gray if he still believed
in the providential nature of his mission, he asked, "Was not Christ
crucified?" Of his execution itself we read: "Nat Turner was executed
according to sentence, on Friday, the 11th of November, 1831, at
Jerusalem, between the hours of 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. He exhibited the
utmost composure throughout the whole ceremony; and, although assured
that he might, if he thought proper, address the immense crowd assembled
on the occasion, declined availing himself of the privilege; and, being
asked if he had any further confessions to make, replied that he had
nothing more than he had communicated; and told the sheriff in a firm
voice that he was ready. Not a limb or muscle was observed to move. His
body, after death, was given over to the surgeons for dissection."

[Footnote 1: The only copy that the author has seen is that in the
library of Harvard University.]

Of fifty-three Negroes arraigned in connection with the insurrection
"seventeen were executed and twelve transported. The rest were
discharged, except ... four free Negroes sent on to the Superior Court.
Three of the four were executed." [1] Such figures as these, however,
give no conception of the number of those who lost their lives in
connection with the insurrection. In general, if slaves were convicted
by legal process and executed or transported, or if they escaped before
trial, they were paid for by the commonwealth; if killed, they were not
paid for, and a man like Phipps might naturally desire to protect his
prisoner in order to get his reward. In spite of this, the Negroes were
slaughtered without trial and sometimes under circumstances of the
greatest barbarity. One man proudly boasted that he had killed between
ten and fifteen. A party went from Richmond with the intention of
killing every Negro in Southampton County. Approaching the cabin of a
free Negro they asked, "Is this Southampton County?" "Yes, sir," came
the reply, "you have just crossed the line by yonder tree." They shot
him dead and rode on. In general the period was one of terror, with
voluntary patrols, frequently drunk, going in all directions. These men
tortured, burned, or maimed the Negroes practically at will. Said one
old woman [2] of them: "The patrols were low drunken whites, and in
Nat's time, if they heard any of the colored folks prayin' or singin' a
hymn, they would fall upon 'em and abuse 'em, and sometimes kill 'em....
The brightest and best was killed in Nat's time. The whites always
suspect such ones. They killed a great many at a place called Duplon.
They killed Antonio, a slave of Mr. J. Stanley, whom they shot; then
they pointed their guns at him and told him to confess about
the insurrection. He told 'em he didn't know anything about any
insurrection. They shot several balls through him, quartered him, and
put his head on a pole at the fork of the road leading to the court....
It was there but a short time. He had no trial. They never do. In Nat's
time, the patrols would tie up the free colored people, flog 'em, and
try to make 'em lie against one another, and often killed them before
anybody could interfere. Mr. James Cole, High Sheriff, said if any of
the patrols came on his plantation, he would lose his life in defense of
his people. One day he heard a patroller boasting how many Negroes
he had killed. Mr. Cole said, 'If you don't pack up, as quick as God
Almighty will let you, and get out of this town, and never be seen in
it again, I'll put you where dogs won't bark at you.' He went off, and
wasn't seen in them parts again."

[Footnote 1: Drewry, 101.]

[Footnote 2: Charity Bowery, who gave testimony to L.M. Child, quoted by

The immediate panic created by the Nat Turner insurrection in Virginia
and the other states of the South it would be impossible to exaggerate.
When the news of what was happening at Cross Keys spread, two companies,
on horse and foot, came from Murfreesboro as quickly as possible. On
the Wednesday after the memorable Sunday night there came from Fortress
Monroe three companies and a piece of artillery. These commands were
reenforced from various sources until not less than eight hundred men
were in arms. Many of the Negroes fled to the Dismal Swamp, and the
wildest rumors were afloat. One was that Wilmington had been burned, and
in Raleigh and Fayetteville the wildest excitement prevailed. In the
latter place scores of white women and children fled to the swamps,
coming out two days afterwards muddy, chilled, and half-starved. Slaves
were imprisoned wholesale. In Wilmington four men were shot without
trial and their heads placed on poles at the four corners of the town.
In Macon, Ga., a report was circulated that an armed band of Negroes was
only five miles away, and within an hour the women and children were
assembled in the largest building in the town, with a military force in
front for protection.

The effects on legislation were immediate. Throughout the South the
slave codes became more harsh; and while it was clear that the uprising
had been one of slaves rather than of free Negroes, as usual special
disabilities fell upon the free people of color. Delaware, that only
recently had limited the franchise to white men, now forbade the use of
firearms by free Negroes and would not suffer any more to come within
the state. Tennessee also forbade such immigration, while Maryland
passed a law to the effect that all free Negroes must leave the state
and be colonized in Africa--a monstrous piece of legislation that it was
impossible to put into effect and that showed once for all the futility
of attempts at forcible emigration as a solution of the problem. In
general, however, the insurrection assisted the colonization scheme and
also made more certain the carrying out of the policy of the Jackson
administration to remove the Indians of the South to the West. It also
focussed the attention of the nation upon the status of the Negro,
crystallized opinion in the North, and thus helped with the formation of
anti-slavery organizations. By it for the time being the Negro lost; in
the long run he gained.

3. _The "Amistad" and "Creole" Cases_

On June 28, 1839, a schooner, the _Amistad_, sailed from Havana bound
for Guanaja in the vicinity of Puerto Principe. She was under the
command of her owner, Don Ramon Ferrer, was laden with merchandise, and
had on board fifty-three Negroes, forty-nine of whom supposedly belonged
to a Spaniard, Don Jose Ruiz, the other four belonging to Don Pedro
Montes. During the night of June 30 the slaves, under the lead of one
of their number named Cinque, rose upon the crew, killed the captain, a
slave of his, and two sailors, and while they permitted most of the crew
to escape, they took into close custody the two owners, Ruiz and Montes.
Montes, who had some knowledge of nautical affairs, was ordered to steer
the vessel back to Africa. So he did by day, when the Negroes would
watch him, but at night he tried to make his way to some land nearer at
hand. Other vessels passed from time to time, and from these the Negroes
bought provisions, but Montes and Ruiz were so closely watched that they
could not make known their plight. At length, on August 26, the schooner
reached Long Island Sound, where it was detained by the American
brig-of-war _Washington_, in command of Captain Gedney, who secured the
Negroes and took them to New London, Conn. It took a year and a half to
dispose of the issue thus raised. The case attracted the greatest amount
of attention, led to international complications, and was not really
disposed of until a former President had exhaustively argued the case
for the Negroes before the Supreme Court of the United States.

In a letter of September 6, 1839, to John Forsyth, the American
Secretary of State, Calderon, the Spanish minister, formally made four
demands: 1. That the _Amistad_ be immediately delivered up to her owner,
together with every article on board at the time of her capture; 2. That
it be declared that no tribunal in the United States had the right to
institute proceedings against, or to impose penalties upon, the subjects
of Spain, for crimes committed on board a Spanish vessel, and in the
waters of Spanish territory; 3. That the Negroes be conveyed to Havana
or otherwise placed at the disposal of the representatives of Spain; and
4. That if, in consequence of the intervention of the authorities in
Connecticut, there should be any delay in the desired delivery of the
vessel and the slaves, the owners both of the latter and of the former
be indemnified for the injury that might accrue to them. In support of
his demands Calderon invoked "the law of nations, the stipulations
of existing treaties, and those good feelings so necessary in the
maintenance of the friendly relations that subsist between the two
countries, and are so interesting to both." Forsyth asked for any papers
bearing on the question, and Calderon replied that he had none except
"the declaration on oath of Montes and Ruiz."

Meanwhile the abolitionists were insisting that protection had _not_
been afforded the African strangers cast on American soil and that in
no case did the executive arm of the Government have any authority to
interfere with the regular administration of justice. "These Africans,"
it was said, "are detained in jail, under process of the United States
courts, in a free state, after it has been decided by the District
Judge, on sufficient proof, that they are recently from Africa, were
never the lawful slaves of Ruiz and Montes," and "when it is clear as
noonday that there is no law or treaty stipulation that requires the
further detention of these Africans or their delivery to Spain or its

Writing on October 24 to the Spanish representative with reference to
the arrest of Ruiz and Montes, Forsyth informed him that the two Spanish
subjects had been arrested on process issuing from the superior court of
the city of New York upon affidavits of certain men, natives of Africa,
"for the purpose of securing their appearance before the proper
tribunal, to answer for wrongs alleged to have been inflicted by them
upon the persons of said Africans," that, consequently, the occurrence
constituted simply a "case of resort by individuals against others
to the judicial courts of the country, which are equally open to all
without distinction," and that the agency of the Government to obtain
the release of Messrs. Ruiz and Montes could not be afforded in the
manner requested. Further pressure was brought to bear by the Spanish
representative, however, and there was cited the case of Abraham
Wendell, captain of the brig _Franklin_, who was prosecuted at first by
Spanish officials for maltreatment of his mate, but with reference to
whom documents were afterwards sent from Havana to America. Much more
correspondence followed, and Felix Grundy, of Tennessee, Attorney
General of the United States, at length muddled everything by the
following opinion: "These Negroes deny that they are slaves; if they
should be delivered to the claimants, no opportunity may be afforded for
the assertion of their right to freedom. For these reasons, it seems to
me that a delivery to the Spanish minister is the only safe course for
this Government to pursue." The fallacy of all this was shown in a
letter dated November 18, 1839, from B.F. Butler, United States District
Attorney in New York, to Aaron Vail, acting Secretary of State. Said
Butler: "It does not appear to me that any question has yet arisen under
the treaty with Spain; because, although it is an admitted principle,
that neither the courts of this state, nor those of the United States,
can take jurisdiction of criminal offenses committed by foreigners
within the territory of a foreign state, yet it is equally settled in
this country, that our courts will take cognizance of _civil_ actions
between foreigners transiently within our jurisdiction, founded upon
contracts or other transactions made or had in a foreign state."
Southern influence was strong, however, and a few weeks afterwards an
order was given from the Department of State to have a vessel anchor
off New Haven, Conn., January 10, 1840, to receive the Negroes from
the United States marshal and take them to Cuba; and on January 7 the
President, Van Buren, issued the necessary warrant.

The rights of humanity, however, were not to be handled in this summary
fashion. The executive order was stayed, and the case went further
on its progress to the highest tribunal in the land. Meanwhile the
anti-slavery people were teaching the Africans the rudiments of English
in order that they might be better able to tell their own story. From
the first a committee had been appointed to look out for their interests
and while they were awaiting the final decision in their case they
cultivated a garden of fifteen acres.

The appearance of John Quincy Adams in behalf of these Negroes before
the Supreme Court of the United States February 24 and March 1, 1841, is
in every way one of the most beautiful acts in American history. In the
fullness of years, with his own administration as President twelve years
behind him, the "Old Man Eloquent" came once more to the tribunal that
he knew so well to make a last plea for the needy and oppressed. To the
task he brought all his talents--his profound knowledge of law, his
unrivaled experience, and his impressive personality; and his argument
covers 135 octavo pages. He gave an extended analysis of the demand of
the Spanish minister, who asked the President to do what he simply had
no constitutional right to do. "The President," said Adams, "has no
power to arrest either citizens or foreigners. But even that power is
almost insignificant compared with that of sending men beyond seas to
deliver them up to a foreign government." The Secretary of State had
"degraded the country, in the face of the whole civilized world, not
only by allowing these demands to remain unanswered, but by proceeding,
throughout the whole transaction, as if the Executive were earnestly
desirous to comply with every one of the demands." The Spanish minister
had naturally insisted in his demands because he had not been properly
met at first. The slave-trade was illegal by international agreement,
and the only thing to do under the circumstances was to release the
Negroes. Adams closed his plea with a magnificent review of his career
and of the labors of the distinguished jurists he had known in the court
for nearly forty years, and be it recorded wherever the name of Justice
is spoken, he won his case.

Lewis Tappan now accompanied the Africans on a tour through the states
to raise money for their passage home. The first meeting was in Boston.
Several members of the company interested the audience by their readings
from the New Testament or by their descriptions of their own country
and of the horrors of the voyage. Cinque gave the impression of great
dignity and of extraordinary ability; and Kali, a boy only eleven years
of age, also attracted unusual attention. Near the close of 1841,
accompanied by five missionaries and teachers, the Africans set sail
from New York, to make their way first to Sierra Leone and then to their
own homes as well as they could.

While this whole incident of the _Amistad_ was still engaging the
interest of the public, there occurred another that also occasioned
international friction and even more prolonged debate between the
slavery and anti-slavery forces. On October 25, 1841, the brig _Creole_,
Captain Ensor, of Richmond, Va., sailed from Richmond and on October 27
from Hampton Roads, with a cargo of tobacco and one hundred and thirty
slaves bound for New Orleans. On the vessel also, aside from the crew,
were the captain's wife and child, and three or four passengers, who
were chiefly in charge of the slaves, one man, John R. Hewell, being
directly in charge of those belonging to an owner named McCargo. About
9.30 on the night of Sunday, November 7, while out at sea, nineteen of
the slaves rose, cowed the others, wounded the captain, and generally
took command of the vessel. Madison Washington began the uprising by an
attack on Gifford, the first mate, and Ben Blacksmith, one of the most
aggressive of his assistants, killed Hewell. The insurgents seized the
arms of the vessel, permitted no conversation between members of the
crew except in their hearing, demanded and obtained the manifests of
slaves, and threatened that if they were not taken to Abaco or some
other British port they would throw the officers and crew overboard. The
_Creole_ reached Nassau, New Providence, on Tuesday, November 9, and the
arrival of the vessel at once occasioned intense excitement. Gifford
went ashore and reported the matter, and the American consul, John F.
Bacon, contended to the English authorities that the slaves on board the
brig were as much a part of the cargo as the tobacco and entitled to
the same protection from loss to the owners. The governor, Sir Francis
Cockburn, however, was uncertain whether to interfere in the business at
all. He liberated those slaves who were not concerned in the uprising,
spoke of all of the slaves as "passengers," and guaranteed to the
nineteen who were shown by an investigation to have been connected with
the uprising all the rights of prisoners called before an English court.
He told them further that the British Government would be communicated
with before their case was finally passed upon, that if they wished
copies of the informations these would be furnished them, and that they
were privileged to have witnesses examined in refutation of the charges
against them. From time to time Negroes who were natives of the island
crowded about the brig in small boats and intimidated the American crew,
but when on the morning of November 12 the Attorney General questioned
them as to their intentions they replied with transparent good humor
that they intended no violence and had assembled only for the purpose
of conveying to shore such of the persons on the _Creole_ as might be
permitted to leave and might need their assistance. The Attorney General
required, however, that they throw overboard a dozen stout cudgels that
they had. Here the whole case really rested. Daniel Webster as Secretary
of State aroused the anti-slavery element by making a strong demand
for the return of the slaves, basing his argument on the sacredness of
vessels flying the American flag; but the English authorities at Nassau
never returned any of them. On March 21, 1842, Joshua R. Giddings,
untiring defender of the rights of the Negro, offered in the House of
Representatives resolutions to the effect that slavery could exist only
by positive law of the different states; that the states had delegated
no control over slavery to the Federal Government, which alone had
jurisdiction on the high seas, and that, therefore, slaves on the high
seas became free and the coastwise trade was unconstitutional. The
House, strongly pro-Southern, replied with a vote of censure and
Giddings resigned, but he was immediately reelected by his Ohio



It is not the purpose of the present chapter primarily to consider
social progress on the part of the Negro. A little later we shall
endeavor to treat this interesting subject for the period between the
Missouri Compromise and the Civil War. Just now we are concerned with
the attitude of the Negro himself toward the problem that seemed to
present itself to America and for which such different solutions were
proposed. So far as slavery was concerned, we have seen that the remedy
suggested by Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner was insurrection. It is only
to state an historical fact, however, to say that the great heart of the
Negro people in the South did not believe in violence, but rather hoped
and prayed for a better day to come by some other means. But what was
the attitude of those people, progressive citizens and thinking leaders,
who were not satisfied with the condition of the race and who had to
take a stand on the issues that confronted them? If we study the matter
from this point of view, we shall find an amount of ferment and unrest
and honest difference of opinion that is sometimes overlooked or
completely forgotten in the questions of a later day.

1. _Walker's "Appeal_"

The most widely discussed book written by a Negro in the period was one
that appeared in Boston in 1829. David Walker, the author, had been born
in North Carolina in 1785, of a free mother and a slave father, and he
was therefore free.[1] He received a fair education, traveled widely
over the United States, and by 1827 was living in Boston as the
proprietor of a second-hand clothing store on Brattle Street. He felt
very strongly on the subject of slavery and actually seems to have
contemplated leading an insurrection. In 1828 he addressed various
audiences of Negroes in Boston and elsewhere, and in 1829 he published
his _Appeal, in four articles; together with a Preamble to the Coloured
Citizens of the World, but in particular, and very expressly, to those
of the United States of America_. The book was remarkably successful.
Appearing in September, by March of the following year it had reached
its third edition; and in each successive edition the language was more
bold and vigorous. Walker's projected insurrection did not take place,
and he himself died in 1830. While there was no real proof of the fact,
among the Negro people there was a strong belief that he met with foul

[Footnote 1: Adams: _Neglected Period of Anti-Slavery_, 93.]

Article I Walker headed "Our Wretchedness in Consequence of Slavery." A
trip over the United States had convinced him that the Negroes of the
country were "the most degraded, wretched and abject set of beings that
ever lived since the world began." He quoted a South Carolina paper as
saying, "The Turks are the most barbarous people in the world--they
treat the Greeks more like brutes than human beings"; and then from the
same paper cited an advertisement of the sale of eight Negro men and
four women. "Are we men?" he exclaimed. "I ask you, O! my brothers, are
we men?... Have we any other master but Jesus Christ alone? Is He not
their master as well as ours? What right, then, have we to obey and call
any man master but Himself? How we could be so submissive to a gang of
men, whom we can not tell whether they are as good as ourselves, or not,
I never could conceive." "The whites," he asserted, "have always been an
unjust, jealous, unmerciful, avaricious and bloodthirsty set of beings,
always seeking after power and authority." As heathen the white people
had been cruel enough, but as Christians they were ten times more so. As
heathen "they were not quite so audacious as to go and take vessel loads
of men, women and children, and in cold blood, through devilishness,
throw them into the sea, and murder them in all kind of ways. But being
Christians, enlightened and sensible, they are completely prepared
for such hellish cruelties." Next was considered "Our Wretchedness in
Consequence of Ignorance." In general the writer maintained that his
people as a whole did not have intelligence enough to realize their own
degradation; even if boys studied books they did not master their texts,
nor did their information go sufficiently far to enable them actually to
meet the problems of life. If one would but go to the South or West,
he would see there a son take his mother, who bore almost the pains of
death to give him birth, and by the command of a tyrant, strip her as
naked as she came into the world and apply the cowhide to her until she
fell a victim to death in the road. He would see a husband take his dear
wife, not unfrequently in a pregnant state and perhaps far advanced, and
beat her for an unmerciful wretch, until her infant fell a lifeless lump
at her feet. Moreover, "there have been, and are this day, in Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, colored men who are in league
with tyrants and who receive a great portion of their daily bread of
the moneys which they acquire from the blood and tears of their more
miserable brethren, whom they scandalously deliver into the hands of our
natural enemies." In Article III Walker considered "Our Wretchedness in
Consequence of the Preachers of the Religion of Jesus Christ." Here was
a fertile field, which was only partially developed. Walker evidently
did not have at hand the utterances of Furman and others to serve as a
definite point of attack. He did point out, however, the general failure
of Christian ministers to live up to the teachings of Christ. "Even here
in Boston," we are informed, "pride and prejudice have got to such a
pitch, that in the very houses erected to the Lord they have built
little places for the reception of colored people, where they must sit
during meeting, or keep away from the house of God." Hypocrisy could
hardly go further than that of preachers who could not see the evils
at their door but could "send out missionaries to convert the heathen,
notwithstanding." Article IV was headed "Our Wretchedness in Consequence
of the Colonizing Plan." This was a bitter arraignment, especially
directed against Henry Clay. "I appeal and ask every citizen of these
United States," said Walker, "and of the world, both white and black,
who has any knowledge of Mr. Clay's public labors for these states--I
want you candidly to answer the Lord, who sees the secrets of your
hearts, Do you believe that Mr. Henry Clay, late Secretary of State, and
now in Kentucky, is a friend to the blacks further than his personal
interest extends?... Does he care a pinch of snuff about Africa--whether
it remains a land of pagans and of blood, or of Christians, so long as
he gets enough of her sons and daughters to dig up gold and silver for
him?... Was he not made by the Creator to sit in the shade, and make the
blacks work without remuneration for their services, to support him
and his family? I have been for some time taking notice of this man's
speeches and public writings, but never to my knowledge have I seen
anything in his writings which insisted on the emancipation of slavery,
which has almost ruined his country." Walker then paid his compliments
to Elias B. Caldwell and John Randolph, the former of whom had said,
"The more you improve the condition of these people, the more you
cultivate their minds, the more miserable you make them in their present
state." "Here," the work continues, "is a demonstrative proof of a plan
got up, by a gang of slaveholders, to select the free people of color
from among the slaves, that our more miserable brethren may be the
better secured in ignorance and wretchedness, to work their farms and
dig their mines, and thus go on enriching the Christians with their
blood and groans. What our brethren could have been thinking about, who
have left their native land and gone away to Africa, I am unable to
say.... The Americans may say or do as they please, but they have to
raise us from the condition of brutes to that of respectable men, and to
make a national acknowledgment to us for the wrongs they have inflicted
on us.... You may doubt it, if you please. I know that thousands will
doubt--they think they have us so well secured in wretchedness, to them
and their children, that it is impossible for such things to occur. So
did the antediluvians doubt Noah, until the day in which the flood came
and swept them away. So did the Sodomites doubt, until Lot had got out
of the city, and God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven upon
them and burnt them up. So did the king of Egypt doubt the very
existence of God, saying, 'Who is the Lord, that I should let Israel
go?' ... So did the Romans doubt.... But they got dreadfully deceived."

This document created the greatest consternation in the South. The Mayor
of Savannah wrote to Mayor Otis of Boston, demanding that Walker be
punished. Otis, in a widely published letter, replied expressing his
disapproval of the pamphlet, but saying that the author had done nothing
that made him "amenable" to the laws. In Virginia the legislature
considered passing an "extraordinary bill," not only forbidding the
circulation of such seditious publications but forbidding the education
of free Negroes. The bill passed the House of Delegates, but failed in
the Senate. The _Appeal_ even found its way to Louisiana, where there
were already rumors of an insurrection, and immediately a law was passed
expelling all free Negroes who had come to the state since 1825.

_2. The Convention Movement_

As may be inferred from Walker's attitude, the representative men of the
race were almost a unit in their opposition to colonization. They were
not always opposed to colonization itself, for some looked favorably
upon settlement in Canada, and a few hundred made their way to the West
Indies. They did object, however, to the plan offered by the American
Colonization Society, which more and more impressed them as a device on
the part of slaveholders to get free Negroes out of the country in order
that slave labor might be more valuable. Richard Allen, bishop of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the foremost Negro of the
period, said: "We were stolen from our mother country and brought here.
We have tilled the ground and made fortunes for thousands, and still
they are not weary of our services. _But they who stay to till the
ground must be slaves_. Is there not land enough in America, or 'corn
enough in Egypt'? Why should they send us into a far country to die? See
the thousands of foreigners emigrating to America every year: and if
there be ground sufficient for them to cultivate, and bread for them to
eat, why would they wish to send the _first tillers_ of the land away?
Africans have made fortunes for thousands, who are yet unwilling to
part with their services; but the free must be sent away, and those who
remain must be slaves. I have no doubt that there are many good men who
do not see as I do, and who are sending us to Liberia; but they have not
duly considered the subject--they are not men of color. This land
which we have watered with our tears and our blood is now our _mother
country_, and we are well satisfied to stay where wisdom abounds and the
gospel is free."[1] This point of view received popular expression in

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