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A Social History of the American Negro by Benjamin Brawley

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agitation, and it was for denouncing this lynching that Elijah P.
Lovejoy had his printing-office destroyed in St. Louis and was forced
to remove to Alton, Ill., where his press was three times destroyed and
where he finally met death at the hands of a mob while trying to protect
his property November 7, 1837. Judge Lawless defended the lynching and
even William Ellery Channing took a compromising view. Abraham Lincoln,
however, then a very young man, in an address on "The Perpetuation of
Our Political Institutions" at Springfield, January 27, 1837, said:
"Accounts of outrages committed by mobs form the everyday news of the
times. They have pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana;
they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former nor the
burning suns of the latter; they are not the creatures of climate,
neither are they confined to the slaveholding or the nonslaveholding
states.... Turn to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single
victim only was sacrificed there. This story is very short, and is
perhaps the most highly tragic of anything that has ever been witnessed
in real life. A mulatto man by the name of McIntosh was seized in the
street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and
actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he
had been a free man attending to his own business and at peace with
the world.... Such are the effects of mob law, and such are the scenes
becoming more and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of
law and order, and the stories of which have even now grown too familiar
to attract anything more than an idle remark."

[Footnote 1: Cutler: _Lynch Law_, 109, citing Niles's _Register_, June
4, 1836.]

All the while flagrant crimes were committed against Negro women and
girls, and free men in the border states were constantly being
dragged into slavery by kidnapers. Two typical cases will serve for
illustration. George Jones, a respectable man of New York, was in 1836
arrested on Broadway on the pretext that he had committed assault and
battery. He refused to go with his captors, for he knew that he had
done nothing to warrant such a charge; but he finally yielded on the
assurance of his employer that everything possible would be done for
him. He was placed in the Bridewell and a few minutes afterwards taken
before a magistrate, to whose satisfaction he was proved to be a slave.
Thus, in less than two hours after his arrest he was hurried away by the
kidnapers, whose word had been accepted as sufficient evidence, and he
had not been permitted to secure a single friendly witness. Solomon
Northrup, who afterwards wrote an account of his experiences, was a
free man who lived in Saratoga and made his living by working about the
hotels, where in the evenings he often played the violin at parties. One
day two men, supposedly managers of a traveling circus company, met him
and offered him good pay if he would go with them as a violinist to
Washington. He consented, and some mornings afterwards awoke to find
himself in a slave pen in the capital. How he got there was ever a
mystery to him, but evidently he had been drugged. He was taken South
and sold to a hard master, with whom he remained twelve years before
he was able to effect his release.[1] In the South any free Negro who
entertained a runaway might himself become a slave; thus in South
Carolina in 1827 a free woman with her three children suffered this
penalty because she gave succor to two homeless and fugitive children
six and nine years old.

[Footnote 1: McDougall: Fugitive Slaves, 36-37.]

Day by day, moreover, from the capital of the nation went on the
internal slave-trade. "When by one means and another a dealer had
gathered twenty or more likely young Negro men and girls, he would bring
them forth from their cells; would huddle the women and young children
into a cart or wagon; would handcuff the men in pairs, the right hand of
one to the left hand of another; make the handcuffs fast to a long chain
which passed between each pair of slaves, and would start his procession
southward."[1] It is not strange that several of the unfortunate people
committed suicide. One distracted mother, about to be separated from her
loved ones, dumbfounded the nation by hurling herself from the window
of a prison in the capital on the Sabbath day and dying in the street

[Footnote 1: McMaster, V, 219-220.]

Meanwhile even in the free states the disabilities of the Negro
continued. In general he was denied the elective franchise, the right of
petition, the right to enter public conveyances or places of amusement,
and he was driven into a status of contempt by being shut out from the
army and the militia. He had to face all sorts of impediments in getting
education or in pursuing honest industry; he had nothing whatever to
do with the administration of justice; and generally he was subject to
insult and outrage.

One might have supposed that on all this proscription and denial of the
ordinary rights of human beings the Christian Church would have taken a
positive stand. Unfortunately, as so often happens, it was on the side
of property and vested interest rather than on that of the oppressed. We
have already seen that Southern divines held slaves and countenanced
the system; and by 1840 James G. Birney had abundant material for his
indictment, "The American Churches the Bulwarks of American Slavery."
He showed among other things that while in 1780 the Methodist Episcopal
Church had opposed slavery and in 1784 had given a slaveholder one month
to repent or withdraw from its conferences, by 1836 it had so drifted
away from its original position as to disclaim "any right, wish, or
intention to interfere in the civil and political relation between
master and slave, as it existed in the slaveholding states of the
union." Meanwhile in the churches of the North there was the most
insulting discrimination; in the Baptist Church in Hartford the pews for
Negroes were boarded up in front, and in Stonington, Conn., the floor
was cut out of a Negro's pew by order of the church authorities. In
Boston, in a church that did not welcome and that made little provision
for Negroes, a consecrated deacon invited into his own pew some Negro
people, whereupon he lost the right to hold a pew in his church. He
decided that there should be some place where there might be more
freedom of thought and genuine Christianity, he brought others into the
plan, and the effort that he put forth resulted in what has since become
the Tremont Temple Baptist Church.

Into all this proscription, burlesque, and crime, and denial of the
fundamental principles of Christianity, suddenly came the program of the
Abolitionists; and it spoke with tongues of fire, and had all the vigor
and force of a crusade.

2. _The Challenge of the Abolitionists_

The great difference between the early abolition societies which
resulted in the American Convention and the later anti-slavery movement
of which Garrison was the representative figure was the difference
between a humanitarian impulse tempered by expediency and one that had
all the power of a direct challenge. Before 1831 "in the South the
societies were more numerous, the members no less earnest, and the
hatred of slavery no less bitter,... yet the conciliation and persuasion
so noticeable in the earlier period in twenty years accomplished
practically nothing either in legislation or in the education of public
sentiment; while gradual changes in economic conditions at the South
caused the question to grow more difficult."[1] Moreover, "the evidence
of open-mindedness can not stand against the many instances of absolute
refusal to permit argument against slavery. In the Colonial Congress,
in the Confederation, in the Constitutional Convention, in the state
ratifying conventions, in the early Congresses, there were many vehement
denunciations of anything which seemed to have an anti-slavery tendency,
and wholesale suspicion of the North at all times when the subject was
opened."[2] One can not forget the effort of James G. Birney, or that
Benjamin Lundy's work was most largely done in what we should now call
the South, or that between 1815 and 1828 at least four journals which
avowed the extinction of slavery as one, if not the chief one, of
their objects were published in the Southern states.[3] Only gradual
emancipation, however, found any real support in the South; and, as
compared with the work of Garrison, even that of Lundy appears in the
distance with something of the mildness of "sweetness and light." Even
before the rise of Garrison, Robert James Turnbull of South Carolina,
under the name of "Brutus," wrote a virulent attack on anti-slavery; and
Representative Drayton of the same state, speaking in Congress in 1828,
said, "Much as we love our country, we would rather see our cities in
flames, our plains drenched in blood--rather endure all the calamities
of civil war, than parley for an instant upon the right of any power,
than our own to interfere with the regulation of our slaves."[4] More
and more this was to be the real sentiment of the South, and in the
face of this kind of eloquence and passion mere academic discussion was

[Footnote 1: Adams: _The Neglected Period of Anti-Slavery, 1808-1831_,

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., 110.]

[Footnote 3: William Birney: _James G. Birney and His Times_, 85-86.]

[Footnote 4: Register of Debates, _4,975_, cited by Adams, 112-3.]

The _Liberator_ was begun January 1, 1831. The next year Garrison was
the leading spirit in the formation of the New England Anti-Slavery
Society; and in December, 1833, in Philadelphia, the American
Anti-Slavery Society was organized. In large measure these organizations
were an outgrowth of the great liberal and humanitarian spirit that by
1830 had become manifest in both Europe and America. Hugo and Mazzini,
Byron and Macaulay had all now appeared upon the scene, and romanticism
was regnant. James Montgomery and William Faber wrote their hymns,
and Reginald Heber went as a missionary bishop to India. Forty years
afterwards the French Revolution was bearing fruit. France herself had a
new revolution in 1830, and in this same year the kingdom of Belgium was
born. In England there was the remarkable reign of William IV, which
within the short space of seven years summed up in legislation reforms
that had been agitated for decades. In 1832 came the great Reform Bill,
in 1833 the abolition of slavery in English dominions, and in 1834 a
revision of factory legislation and the poor law. Charles Dickens and
Elizabeth Barrett Browning began to be heard, and in 1834 came to
America George Thompson, a powerful and refined speaker who had had much
to do with the English agitation against slavery. The young republic
of the United States, lusty and self-confident, was seething with new
thought. In New England the humanitarian movement that so largely began
with the Unitarianism of Channing "ran through its later phase in
transcendentalism, and spent its last strength in the anti-slavery
agitation and the enthusiasms of the Civil War."[1] The movement was
contemporary with the preaching of many novel gospels in religion, in
sociology, in science, education, and medicine. New sects were formed,
like the Universalists, the Spiritualists, the Second Adventists,
the Mormons, and the Shakers, some of which believed in trances and
miracles, others in the quick coming of Christ, and still others in the
reorganization of society; and the pseudo-sciences, like mesmerism and
phrenology, had numerous followers. The ferment has long since subsided,
and much that was then seething has since gone off in vapor; but when
all that was spurious has been rejected, we find that the
general impulse was but a new baptism of the old Puritan spirit.
Transcendentalism appealed to the private consciousness as the sole
standard of truth and right. With kindred movements it served to quicken
the ethical sense of a nation that was fast becoming materialistic and
to nerve it for the conflict that sooner or later had to come.

[Footnote 1: Henry A. Beers: _Initial Studies in American Letters_,
95-98 passim.]

In his salutatory editorial Garrison said with reference to his
position: "In Park Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in
an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but
pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to
make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon
of my God, of my country, and of my brethren, the poor slaves, for
having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice, and
absurdity.... I am aware that many object to the severity of my
language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as
truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish
to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose
house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately
rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to
gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen;
but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present! I am in
earnest. I will not equivocate--I will not excuse--I will not retreat a
single inch--AND I WILL BE HEARD." With something of the egotism
that comes of courage in a holy cause, he said: "On this question my
influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment to a considerable
extent, and shall be felt in coming years--not perniciously, but
beneficially--not as a curse, but as a blessing; and POSTERITY WILL BEAR

All the while, in speaking to the Negro people themselves, Garrison
endeavored to beckon them to the highest possible ground of personal and
racial self-respect. Especially did he advise them to seek the virtues
of education and cooeperation. Said he to them:[1] "Support each
other.... When I say 'support each other,' I mean, sell to each other,
and buy of each other, in preference to the whites. This is a duty: the
whites do not trade with you; why should you give them your patronage?
If one of your number opens a little shop, do not pass it by to give
your money to a white shopkeeper. If any has a trade, employ him as
often as possible. If any is a good teacher, send your children to him,
and be proud that he is one of your color.... Maintain your rights, in
all cases, and at whatever expense.... Wherever you are allowed to vote,
see that your names are put on the lists of voters, and go to the polls.
If you are not strong enough to choose a man of your own color, give
your votes to those who are friendly to your cause; but, if possible,
elect intelligent and respectable colored men. I do not despair of
seeing the time when our State and National Assemblies will contain a
fair proportion of colored representatives--especially if the proposed
college at New Haven goes into successful operation. Will you despair
now so many champions are coming to your help, and the trump of jubilee
is sounding long and loud; when is heard a voice from the East, a voice
from the West, a voice from the North, a voice from the South, crying,
_Liberty and Equality now, Liberty and Equality forever_! Will you
despair, seeing Truth, and Justice, and Mercy, and God, and Christ, and
the Holy Ghost, are on your side? Oh, no--never, never despair of the
complete attainment of your rights!"

[Footnote 1: "An Address delivered before the Free People of Color in
Philadelphia, New York, and other cities, during the month of June,
1831, by Wm. Lloyd Garrison. Boston, 1831," pp. 14-18.]

To second such sentiments rose a remarkable group of men and women,
among them Elijah P. Lovejoy, Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, John
Greenleaf Whittier, Lydia Maria Child, Samuel J. May, William Jay,
Charles Sumner, Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John
Brown. Phillips, the "Plumed Knight" of the cause, closed his law
office because he was not willing to swear that he would support the
Constitution; he relinquished the franchise because he did not wish to
have any responsibility for a government that countenanced slavery; and
he lost sympathy with the Christian Church because of its compromising
attitude. Garrison himself termed the Constitution "a covenant with
death and an agreement with hell." Lydia Maria Child in 1833 published
an _Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans_,
and wrote or edited numerous other books for the cause, while the
anti-slavery poems of Whittier are now a part of the main stream of
American literature. The Abolitionists repelled many conservative men by
their refusal to countenance any laws that recognized slavery; but they
gained force when Congress denied them the right of petition and when
President Jackson refused them the use of the mails.

There could be no question as to the directness of their attack. They
held up the slaveholder to scorn. They gave thousands of examples of the
inhumanity of the system of slavery, publishing scores and even hundreds
of tracts and pamphlets. They called the attention of America to the
slave who for running away was for five days buried in the ground up
to his chin with his arms tied behind him; to women who were whipped
because they did not breed fast enough or would not yield to the lust of
planters or overseers; to men who were tied to be whipped and then left
bleeding, or who were branded with hot irons, or forced to wear iron
yokes and clogs and bells; to the Presbyterian preacher in Georgia who
tortured a slave until he died; to a woman in New Jersey who was "bound
to a log, and scored with a knife, in a shocking manner, across her
back, and the gashes stuffed with salt, after which she was tied to
a post in a cellar, where, after suffering three days, death kindly
terminated her misery"; and finally to the fact that even when slaves
were dead they were not left in peace, as the South Carolina Medical
College in Charleston advertised that the bodies were used for
dissection.[1] In the face of such an indictment the South appeared more
injured and innocent than ever, and said that evils had been greatly
exaggerated. Perhaps in some instances they were; but the South and
everybody also knew that no pen could nearly do justice to some of the
things that were possible under the iniquitous and abominable system of
American slavery.

[Footnote 1: See "American Slavery as it is: Testimony of a Thousand
Witnesses. By Theodore Dwight Weld. Published by the American
Anti-Slavery Society, New York, 1839"; but the account of the New Jersey
woman is from "A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery in the United States,
by Jesse Torrey, Ballston Spa, Penn., 1917," p. 67.]

The Abolitionists, however, did not stop with a mere attack on
slavery. Not satisfied with the mere enumeration of examples of Negro
achievement, they made even higher claims in behalf of the people now
oppressed. Said Alexander H. Everett:[1] "We are sometimes told that all
these efforts will be unavailing--that the African is a degraded member
of the human family--that a man with a dark skin and curled hair is
necessarily, as such, incapable of improvement and civilization, and
condemned by the vice of his physical conformation to vegetate forever
in a state of hopeless barbarism. I reject with contempt and indignation
this miserable heresy. In replying to it the friends of truth and
humanity have not hitherto done justice to the argument. In order to
prove that the blacks were capable of intellectual efforts, they have
painfully collected a few specimens of what some of them have done in
this way, even in the degraded condition which they occupy at present
in Christendom. This is not the way to treat the subject. Go back to an
earlier period in the history of our race. See what the blacks were and
what they did three thousand years ago, in the period of their
greatness and glory, when they occupied the forefront in the march of
civilization--when they constituted in fact the whole civilized world of
their time. Trace this very civilization, of which we are so proud, to
its origin, and see where you will find it. We received it from our
European ancestors: they had it from the Greeks and Romans, and the
Jews. But, sir, where did the Greeks and the Romans and the Jews get it?
They derived it from Ethiopia and Egypt--in one word, from Africa.[2]
... The ruins of the Egyptian temples laugh to scorn the architectural
monuments of any other part of the world. They will be what they are
now, the delight and admiration of travelers from all quarters, when the
grass is growing on the sites of St. Peter's and St. Paul's, the present
pride of Rome and London.... It seems, therefore, that for this very
civilization of which we are so proud, and which is the only ground of
our present claim of superiority, we are indebted to the ancestors
of these very blacks, whom we are pleased to consider as naturally
incapable of civilization."

[Footnote 1: See "The Anti-Slavery Picknick: a collection of Speeches,
Poems, Dialogues, and Songs, intended for use in schools and
anti-slavery meetings. By John A. Collins, Boston, 1842," 10-12.]

[Footnote 2: It is worthy of note that this argument, which was long
thought to be fallacious, is more and more coming to be substantiated by
the researches of scholars, and that not only as affecting Northern
but also Negro Africa. Note Lady Lugard (Flora L. Shaw): _A Tropical
Dependency_, London, 1906, pp. 16-18.]

In adherence to their convictions the Abolitionists were now to give
a demonstration of faith in humanity such as has never been surpassed
except by Jesus Christ himself. They believed in the Negro even before
the Negro had learned to believe in himself. Acting on their doctrine of
equal rights, they traveled with their Negro friends, "sat upon the same
platforms with them, ate with them, and one enthusiastic abolitionist
white couple adopted a Negro child."[1]

[Footnote 1: Hart: _Slavery and Abolition_, 245-6.]

Garrison appealed to posterity. He has most certainly been justified by
time. Compared with his high stand for the right, the opportunism of
such a man as Clay shrivels into nothingness. Within recent years a
distinguished American scholar,[1] writing of the principles for which
he and his co-workers stood, has said: "The race question transcends any
academic inquiry as to what ought to have been done in 1866. It affects
the North as well as the South; it touches the daily life of all of
our citizens, individually, politically, humanly. It molds the child's
conception of democracy. It tests the faith of the adult. It is by no
means an American problem only. What is going on in our states, North
and South, is only a local phase of a world-problem.... Now, Whittier's
opinions upon that world-problem are unmistakable. He believed, quite
literally, that all men are brothers; that oppression of one man or
one race degrades the whole human family; and that there should be the
fullest equality of opportunity. That a mere difference in color should
close the door of civil, industrial, and political hope upon any
individual was a hateful thing to the Quaker poet. The whole body of
his verse is a protest against the assertion of race pride, against the
emphasis upon racial differences. To Whittier there was no such thing
as a 'white man's civilization.' The only distinction was between
civilization and barbarism. He had faith in education, in equality
before the law, in freedom of opportunity, and in the ultimate triumph
of brotherhood.

'They are rising,--
All are rising,
The black and white together.'

This faith is at once too sentimental and too dogmatic to suit those
persons who have exalted economic efficiency into a fetish and who
have talked loudly at times--though rather less loudly since the
Russo-Japanese War--about the white man's task of governing the backward
races. _But whatever progress has been made by the American Negro since
the Civil War, in self-respect, in moral and intellectual development,
and--for that matter--in economic efficiency, has been due to fidelity
to those principles which Whittier and other like-minded men and women
long ago enunciated_.[2] The immense tasks which still remain, alike for
'higher' as for 'lower' races, can be worked out by following Whittier's
program, if they can be worked out at all."

[Footnote 1: Bliss Perry: "Whittier for To-Day," _Atlantic Monthly_,
Vol. 100, 851-859 (December, 1907).]

[Footnote 2: The italics are our own.]

3. The Contest

Even before the Abolitionists became aggressive a test law had been
passed, the discussion of which did much to prepare for their coming.
Immediately after the Denmark Vesey insurrection the South Carolina
legislature voted that the moment that a vessel entered a port in the
state with a free Negro or person of color on board he should be seized,
even if he was the cook, the steward, or a mariner, or if he was a
citizen of another state or country.[1] The sheriff was to board the
vessel, take the Negro to jail and detain him there until the vessel was
actually ready to leave. The master of the ship was then to pay for the
detention of the Negro and take him away, or pay a fine of $1,000 and
see the Negro sold as a slave. Within a short time after this enactment
was passed, as many as forty-one vessels were deprived of one or more
hands, from one British trading vessel almost the entire crew being
taken. The captains appealed to the judge of the United States District
Court, who with alacrity turned the matter over to the state courts. Now
followed much legal proceeding, with an appeal to higher authorities, in
the course of which both Canning and Adams were forced to consider the
question, and it was generally recognized that the act violated both the
treaty with Great Britain and the power of Congress to regulate trade.
To all of this South Carolina replied that as a sovereign state she had
the right to interdict the entry of foreigners, that in fact she had
been a sovereign state at the time of her entrance into the Union and
that she never had surrendered the right to exclude free Negroes.
Finally she asserted that if a dissolution of the Union must be the
alternative she was quite prepared to abide by the result. Unusual
excitement arose soon afterwards when four free Negroes on a British
ship were seized by the sheriff and dragged from the deck. The captain
had to go to heavy expense to have these men released, and on reaching
Liverpool he appealed to the Board of Trade. The British minister now
sent a more vigorous protest, Adams referred the same to Wirt, the
Attorney General, and Wirt was forced to declare South Carolina's act
unconstitutional and void. His opinion with a copy of the British
protest Adams sent to the Governor of the state, who immediately
transmitted the same to the legislature. Each branch of the legislature
passed resolutions which the other would not accept, but neither voted
to repeal the law. In fact, it remained technically in force until the
Civil War. In 1844 Massachusetts sent Samuel Hoar as a commissioner to
Charleston to make a test case of a Negro who had been deprived of his
rights. Hoar cited Article II, Section 2, of the National Constitution
("The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and
immunities of citizens in the several states"), intending ultimately to
bring a case before the United States Supreme Court. When he appeared,
however, the South Carolina legislature voted that "this agent comes
here not as a citizen of the United States, but as an emissary of a
foreign Government hostile to our domestic institutions and with the
sole purpose of subverting our internal police." Hoar was at length
notified that his life was in danger and he was forced to leave the
state. Meanwhile Southern sentiment against the American Colonization
Society had crystallized, and the excitement raised by David Walker's
_Appeal_ was exceeded only by that occasioned by Nat Turner's

[Footnote 1: Note McMaster, V, 200-204.]

When, then, the Abolitionists began their campaign the country was
already ripe for a struggle, and in the North as well as the South there
was plenty of sentiment unfavorable to the Negro. In July, 1831, when an
attempt was made to start a manual training school for Negro youth in
New Haven, the citizens at a public meeting declared that "the founding
of colleges for educating colored people is an unwarrantable and
dangerous interference with the internal concerns of other states, and
ought to be discouraged"; and they ultimately forced the project to be
abandoned. At Canterbury in the same state Prudence Crandall, a young
Quaker woman twenty-nine years of age, was brought face to face with the
problem when she admitted a Negro girl, Sarah Harris, to her school.[1]
When she was boycotted she announced that she would receive Negro girls
only if no others would attend, and she advertised accordingly in the
Liberator. She was subjected to various indignities and efforts were
made to arrest her pupils as vagrants. As she was still undaunted, her
opponents, on May 24, 1833, procured a special act of the legislature
forbidding, under severe penalties, the instruction of any Negro from
outside the state without the consent of the town authorities. Under
this act Miss Crandall was arrested and imprisoned, being confined to a
cell which had just been vacated by a murderer. The Abolitionists came
to her defense, but she was convicted, and though the higher courts
quashed the proceedings on technicalities, the village shopkeepers
refused to sell her food, manure was thrown into her well, her house
was pelted with rotten eggs and at last demolished, and even the
meeting-house in the town was closed to her. The attempt to continue the
school was then abandoned. In 1834 an academy was built by subscription
in Canaan, N.H.; it was granted a charter by the legislature, and the
proprietors determined to admit all applicants having "suitable moral
and intellectual recommendations, without other distinctions." The
town-meeting "viewed with abhorrence" the attempt to establish the
school, but when it was opened twenty-eight white and fourteen Negro
scholars attended. The town-meeting then ordered that the academy be
forcibly removed and appointed a committee to execute the mandate.
Accordingly on August 10 three hundred men with two hundred oxen
assembled, took the edifice from its place, dragged it for some distance
and left it a ruin. From 1834 to 1836, in fact, throughout the country,
from east to west, swept a wave of violence. Not less than twenty-five
attempts were made to break up anti-slavery meetings. In New York in
October, 1833, there was a riot in Clinton Hall, and from July 7 to 11
of the next year a succession of riots led to the sacking of the house
of Lewis Tappan and the destruction of other houses and churches. When
George Thompson arrived from England in September, 1834, his meetings
were constantly disturbed, and Garrison himself was mobbed in Boston in
1835, being dragged through the streets with a rope around his body.

[Footnote 1: Note especially "Connecticut's Canterbury Tale; its
Heroine, Prudence Crandall, and its Moral for To-Day, by John C.
Kimball," Hartford (1886).]

In general the Abolitionists were charged by the South with promoting
both insurrection and the amalgamation of the races. There was no clear
proof of these charges; nevertheless, May said, "If we do not emancipate
our slaves by our own moral energy, they will emancipate themselves and
that by a process too horrible to contemplate";[1] and Channing said,
"Allowing that amalgamation is to be anticipated, then, I maintain, we
have no right to resist it. Then it is not unnatural."[2] While the
South grew hysterical at the thought, it was, as Hart remarks, a fair
inquiry, which the Abolitionists did not hesitate to put--Who was
responsible for the only amalgamation that had so far taken place? After
a few years there was a cleavage among the Abolitionists. Some of the
more practical men, like Birney, Gerrit Smith, and the Tappans, who
believed in fighting through governmental machinery, in 1838 broke away
from the others and prepared to take a part in Federal politics. This
was the beginning of the Liberty party, which nominated Birney for the
presidency in 1840 and again in 1844. In 1848 it became merged in the
Free Soil party and ultimately in the Republican party.

[Footnote 1: Hart, 221, citing _Liberator_, V, 59.]

[Footnote 2: Hart, 216, citing Channing, _Works_, V. 57.]

With the forties came division in the Church--a sort of prelude to the
great events that were to thunder through the country within the next
two decades. Could the Church really countenance slavery? Could a bishop
hold a slave? These were to become burning questions. In 1844-5 the
Baptists of the North and East refused to approve the sending out of
missionaries who owned slaves, and the Southern Baptist Convention
resulted. In 1844, when James O. Andrew came into the possession of
slaves by his marriage to a widow who had these as a legacy from her
former husband, the Northern Methodists refused to grant that one of
their bishops might hold a slave, and the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, was formally organized in Louisville the following year. The
Presbyterians and the Episcopalians, more aristocratic in tone, did not

The great events of the annexation of Texas, with the Mexican War that
resulted, the Compromise of 1850, with the Fugitive Slave Law, the
Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854, and the Dred Scott decision of 1857
were all regarded in the North as successive steps in the campaign of
slavery, though now in the perspective they appear as vain efforts to
beat back a resistless tide. In the Mexican War it was freely urged by
the Mexicans that, should the American line break, their host would soon
find itself among the rich cities of the South, where perhaps it could
not only exact money, but free two million slaves as well, call to its
assistance the Indians, and even draw aid from the Abolitionists in the
North.[1] Nothing of all this was to be. Out of the academic shades
of Harvard, however, at last came a tongue of flame. In "The Present
Crisis" James Russell Lowell produced lines whose tremendous beat was
like a stern call of the whole country to duty:

[Footnote 1: Justin H. Smith: _The War with Mexico_, I, 107.]

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.

* * * * *

Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit and 'tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

* * * * *

New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our _Mayflower_, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted key.

As "The Present Crisis" came after the Mexican War, so after the new
Fugitive Slave Law appeared _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ (1852). "When despairing
Hungarian fugitives make their way, against all the search-warrants and
authorities of their lawful governments, to America, press and political
cabinet ring with applause and welcome. When despairing African
fugitives do the same thing--it is--what _is_ it?" asked Harriet Beecher
Stowe; and in her remarkable book she proceeded to show the injustice of
the national position. _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ has frequently been termed
a piece of propaganda that gave an overdrawn picture of Southern
conditions. The author, however, had abundant proof for her incidents,
and she was quite aware of the fact that the problem of the Negro, North
as well as South, transcended the question of slavery. Said St. Clair
to Ophelia: "If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? How many
families of your town would take in a Negro man or woman, teach them,
bear with them, and seek to make them Christians? How many merchants
would take Adolph, if I wanted to make him a clerk; or mechanics, if I
wanted to teach him a trade? If I wanted to put Jane and Rosa to school,
how many schools are there in the Northern states that would take them
in?... We are in a bad position. We are the more _obvious_ oppressors of
the Negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the North is an oppressor
almost equally severe."

Meanwhile the thrilling work of the Underground Railroad was answered
by a practical reopening of the slave-trade. From 1820 to 1840, as the
result of the repressive measure of 1819, the traffic had declined;
between 1850 and 1860, however, it was greatly revived, and Southern
conventions resolved that all laws, state or Federal, prohibiting the
slave-trade, should be repealed. The traffic became more and more open
and defiant until, as Stephen A. Douglas computed, as many as 15,000
slaves were brought into the country in 1859. It was not until the
Lincoln government in 1862 hanged the first trader who ever suffered
the extreme penalty of the law, and made with Great Britain a treaty
embodying the principle of international right of search, that the
trade was effectually checked. By the end of the war it was entirely
suppressed, though as late as 1866 a squadron of ships patrolled the
slave coast.

The Kansas-Nebraska Bill, repealing the Missouri Compromise and
providing for "squatter sovereignty" in the territories in question,
outraged the North and led immediately to the forming of the Republican
party. It was not long before public sentiment began to make itself
felt, and the first demonstration took place in Boston. Anthony Burns
was a slave who escaped from Virginia and made his way to Boston, where
he was at work in the winter of 1853-4. He was discovered by a United
States marshal who presented a writ for his arrest just at the time
of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in May, 1854. Public feeling
became greatly aroused. Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker delivered
strong addresses at a meeting in Faneuil Hall while an unsuccessful
attempt to rescue Burns from the Court House was made under the
leadership of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who with others of the
attacking party was wounded. It was finally decided in court that Burns
must be returned to his master. The law was obeyed; but Boston had been
made very angry, and generally her feeling had counted for something in
the history of the country. The people draped their houses in mourning,
hissed the procession that took Burns to his ship and at the wharf a
riot was averted only by a minister's call to prayer. This incident did
more to crystallize Northern sentiment against slavery than any other
except the exploit of John Brown, and this was the last time that a
fugitive slave was taken out of Boston. Burns himself was afterwards
bought by popular subscription, and ultimately became a Baptist minister
in Canada.

In 1834 Dr. Emerson, an army officer stationed in Missouri, removed to
Illinois, taking with him his slave, Dred Scott. Two years later, again
accompanied by Scott, he went to Minnesota. In Illinois slavery was
prohibited by state law and Minnesota was a free territory. In 1838
Emerson returned with Scott to Missouri. After a while the slave raised
the important question: Had not his residence outside of a slave state
made him a free man? Beaten by his master in 1848, with the aid of
anti-slavery lawyers Scott brought a suit against him for assault and
battery, the circuit court of St. Louis rendering a decision in his
favor. Emerson appealed and in 1852 the Supreme Court of the state
reversed the decision of the lower court. Not long after this Emerson
sold Scott to a citizen of New York named Sandford. Scott now brought
suit against Sandford, on the ground that they were citizens of
different states. The case finally reached the Supreme Court of the
United States, which in 1857 handed down the decision that Scott was not
a citizen of Missouri and had no standing in the Federal courts, that
a slave was only a piece of property, and that a master might take his
property with impunity to any place within the jurisdiction of the
United States. The ownership of Scott and his family soon passed to a
Massachusetts family by whom they were liberated; but the important
decision that the case had called forth aroused the most intense
excitement throughout the country, and somehow out of it all people
remembered more than anything else the amazing declaration of Chief
Justice Taney that "the Negroes were so far inferior that they had
no rights which the white man was bound to respect." The extra-legal
character and the general fallacy of his position were exposed by
Justice Curtis in a masterly dissenting opinion.

No one incident of the period showed more clearly the tension under
which the country was laboring than the assault on Charles Sumner by
Preston S. Brooks, a congressional representative from South Carolina.
As a result of this regrettable occurrence splendid canes with such
inscriptions as "Hit him again" and "Use knock-down arguments" were sent
to Brooks from different parts of the South and he was triumphantly
reelected by his constituency, while on the other hand resolutions
denouncing him were passed all over the North, in Canada, and even in
Europe. More than ever the South was thrown on the defensive, and in
impassioned speeches Robert Toombs now glorified his state and his
section. Speaking at Emory College in 1853 he had already made an
extended apology for slavery;[1] speaking in the Georgia legislature on
the eve of secession he contended that the South had been driven to bay
by the Abolitionists and must now "expand or perish." A writer in the
_Southern Literary Messenger_,[2] in an article "The Black Race in North
America," made the astonishing statement that "the slavery of the black
race on this continent is the price America has paid for her liberty,
civil and religious, and, humanly speaking, these blessings would
have been unattainable without their aid." Benjamin M. Palmer, a
distinguished minister of New Orleans, in a widely quoted sermon in 1860
spoke of the peculiar trust that had been given to the South--to be the
guardians of the slaves, the conservers of the world's industry, and the
defenders of the cause of religion.[3] "The blooms upon Southern fields
gathered by black hands have fed the spindles and looms of Manchester
and Birmingham not less than of Lawrence and Lowell. Strike now a blow
at this system of labor and the world itself totters at the stroke.
Shall we permit that blow to fall? Do we not owe it to civilized man to
stand in the breach and stay the uplifted arm?... This trust we will
discharge in the face of the worst possible peril. Though war be the
aggregation of all evils, yet, should the madness of the hour appeal to
the arbitration of the sword, we will not shrink even from the baptism
of fire.... The position of the South is at this moment sublime. If
she has grace given her to know her hour, she will save herself, the
country, and the world."

[Footnote 1: See "An Oration delivered before the Few and Phi Gamma
Societies of Emory College: Slavery in the United States; its
consistency with republican institutions, and its effects upon the slave
and society. Augusta, Ga., 1853."]

[Footnote 2: November, 1855.]

[Footnote 3: "The Rights of the South defended in the Pulpits, by B.M.
Palmer, D.D., and W.T. Leacock, D.D., Mobile, 1860."]

All of this was very earnest and very eloquent, but also very mistaken,
and the general fallacy of the South's position was shown by no less a
man than he who afterwards became vice-president of the Confederacy.
Speaking in the Georgia legislature in opposition to the motion for
secession, Stephens said that the South had no reason to feel aggrieved,
for all along she had received more than her share of the nation's
privileges, and had almost always won in the main that which was
demanded. She had had sixty years of presidents to the North's
twenty-four; two-thirds of the clerkships and other appointments
although the white population in the section was only one-third that
of the country; fourteen attorneys general to the North's five;
and eighteen Supreme Court judges to the North's eleven, although
four-fifths of the business of the court originated in the free states.
"This," said Stephens in an astonishing declaration, "we have required
so as to guard against any interpretation of the Constitution
unfavorable to us."

Still another voice from the South, in a slightly different key,
attacked the tendencies in the section. _The Impending Crisis_ (1857),
by Hinton Rowan Helper, of North Carolina, was surpassed in sensational
interest by no other book of the period except _Uncle Tom's Cabin_. The
author did not place himself upon the broadest principles of humanity
and statesmanship; he had no concern for the Negro, and the great
planters of the South were to him simply the "whelps" and "curs" of
slavery. He spoke merely as the voice of the non-slaveholding white men
in the South. He set forth such unpleasant truths as that the personal
and real property, including slaves, of Virginia, North Carolina,
Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas, taken all together,
was less than the real and personal estate in the single state of New
York; that representation in Southern legislatures was unfair; that in
Congress a Southern planter was twice as powerful as a Northern man;
that slavery was to blame for the migration from the South to the West;
and that in short the system was in every way harmful to the man of
limited means. All of this was decidedly unpleasant to the ears of the
property owners of the South; Helper's book was proscribed, and the
author himself found it more advisable to live in New York than in his
native state. _The Impending Crisis_ was eagerly read, however, and it
succeeded as a book because it attempted to attack with some degree of
honesty a great economic problem.

The time for speeches and books, however, was over, and the time for
action had come. For years the slave had chanted, "I've been listenin'
all the night long"; and his prayer had reached the throne. On October
16, 1859, John Brown made his raid on Harper's Ferry and took his place
with the immortals. In the long and bitter contest on American slavery
the Abolitionists had won.


SOCIAL PROGRESS, 1820-1860[1]

[Footnote 1: This chapter follows closely upon Chapter III, Section 5,
and is largely complementary to Chapter VIII.]

So far in our study we have seen the Negro as the object of interest
on the part of the American people. Some were disposed to give him a
helping hand, some to keep him in bondage, and some thought that it
might be possible to dispose of any problem by sending him out of the
country. In all this period of agitation and ferment, aside from the
efforts of friends in his behalf, just what was the Negro doing to work
out his own salvation? If for the time being we can look primarily at
constructive effort rather than disabilities, just what do we find that
on his own account he was doing to rise to the full stature of manhood?

Naturally in the answer to such a question we shall have to be concerned
with those people who had already attained unto nominal freedom. We
shall indeed find many examples of industrious slaves who, working in
agreement with their owners, managed sometimes to purchase themselves
and even to secure ownership of their families. Such cases, while
considerable in the aggregate, were after all exceptional, and for the
ordinary slave on the plantation the outlook was hopeless enough.
In 1860 the free persons formed just one-ninth of the total Negro
population in the country, there being 487,970 of them to 3,953,760
slaves. It is a commonplace to remark the progress that the race has
made since emancipation. A study of the facts, however, will show that
with all their disadvantages less than half a million people had before
1860 not only made such progress as amasses a surprising total, but that
they had already entered every large field of endeavor in which the race
is engaged to-day.

When in course of time the status of the Negro in the American body
politic became a live issue, the possibility and the danger of an
_imperium in imperio_ were perceived; and Rev. James W.C. Pennington,
undoubtedly a leader, said in his lectures in London and Glasgow: "The
colored population of the United States have no destiny separate from
that of the nation in which they form an integral part. Our destiny is
bound up with that of America. Her ship is ours; her pilot is ours; her
storms are ours; her calms are ours. If she breaks upon any rock, we
break with her. If we, born in America, can not live upon the same soil
upon terms of equality with the descendants of Scotchmen, Englishmen,
Irishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Hungarians, Greeks, and Poles, then the
fundamental theory of America fails and falls to the ground."[1] While
everybody was practically agreed upon this fundamental matter of the
relation of the race to the Federal Government, more and more there
developed two lines of thought, equally honest, as to the means by which
the race itself was to attain unto the highest things that American
civilization had to offer. The leader of one school of thought was
Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. When
this man and his friends found that in white churches they were not
treated with courtesy, they said, We shall have our own church; we shall
have our own bishop; we shall build up our own enterprises in any line
whatsoever; and even to-day the church that Allen founded remains as
the greatest single effort of the race in organization. The foremost
representative of the opposing line of thought was undoubtedly Frederick
Douglass, who in a speech in Rochester in 1848 said: "I am well aware of
the anti-Christian prejudices which have excluded many colored persons
from white churches, and the consequent necessity for erecting their own
places of worship. This evil I would charge upon its originators, and
not the colored people. But such a necessity does not now exist to the
extent of former years. There are societies where color is not regarded
as a test of membership, and such places I deem more appropriate for
colored persons than exclusive or isolated organizations." There is much
more difference between these two positions than can be accounted for by
the mere lapse of forty years between the height of the work of Allen
and that of Douglass. Allen certainly did not sanction segregation under
the law, and no man worked harder than he to relieve his people from
proscription. Douglass moreover, who did not formally approve of
organizations that represented any such distinction as that of race,
again and again presided over gatherings of Negro men. In the last
analysis, however, it was Allen who was foremost in laying the basis
of distinctively Negro enterprise, and Douglass who felt that the real
solution of any difficulty was for the race to lose itself as quickly as
possible in the general body politic.

[Footnote 1: Nell: _Colored Patriots of the American Revolution_, 356.]

We have seen that the Church was from the first the race's foremost form
of social organization, and that sometimes in very close touch with
it developed the early lodges of such a body as the Masons. By 1800
emancipation was well under way; then began emigration from the South
to the central West; emigration brought into being the Underground
Railroad; and finally all forces worked together for the development of
Negro business, the press, conventions, and other forms of activity. It
was natural that states so close to the border as Pennsylvania and Ohio
should be important in this early development.

The Church continued the growth that it had begun several decades
before. The A.M.E. denomination advanced rapidly from 7 churches and 400
members in 1816 to 286 churches and 73,000 members by the close of the
Civil War. Naturally such a distinctively Negro organization could
make little progress in the South before the war, but there were small
congregations in Charleston and New Orleans, and William Paul Quinn
blazed a path in the West, going from Pittsburgh to St. Louis.

In 1847 the Prince Hall Lodge of the Masons in Massachusetts, the First
Independent African Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania, and the Hiram Grand
Lodge of Pennsylvania formed a National Grand Lodge, and from one or
another of these all other Grand Lodges among Negroes have descended. In
1842 the members of the Philomathean Institute of New York and of the
Philadelphia Library Company and Debating Society applied for admission
to the International Order of Odd Fellows. They were refused on account
of their race. Thereupon Peter Ogden, a Negro, who had already joined
the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows of England, secured a charter for
the first Negro American lodge, Philomathean, No. 646, of New York,
which was set up March 1, 1843. It was followed within the next two
years by lodges in New York, Philadelphia, Albany, and Poughkeepsie. The
Knights of Pythias were not organized until 1864 in Washington; but the
Grand Order of Galilean Fishermen started on its career in Baltimore in

The benefit societies developed apace. At first they were small and
confined to a group of persons well known to each other, thus being
genuinely fraternal. Simple in form, they imposed an initiation fee of
hardly less than $2.50 or more than $5.00, a monthly fee of about 50
cents, and gave sick dues ranging from $1.50 to $5.00 a month, with
guarantee of payment of one's funeral expenses and subsequent help to
the widow. By 1838 there were in Philadelphia alone 100 such groups with
7,448 members. As bringing together spirits supposedly congenial, these
organizations largely took the place of clubs, and the meetings were
relished accordingly. Some drifted into secret societies, and after the
Civil War some that had not cultivated the idea of insurance were forced
to add this feature to their work.

In the sphere of civil rights the Negroes, in spite of circumstances,
were making progress, and that by their own efforts as well as those
of their friends the Abolitionists. Their papers helped decidedly. The
_Journal of Freedom_ (commonly known as _Freedom's Journal_), begun
March 30, 1827, ran for three years. It had numerous successors, but
no one of outstanding strength before the _North Star_ (later known as
_Frederick Douglass' Paper_) began publication in 1847, continuing
until the Civil War. Largely through the effort of Paul Cuffe for the
franchise, New Bedford, Mass., was generally prominent in all that made
for racial prosperity. Here even by 1850 the Negro voters held the
balance of power and accordingly exerted a potent influence on Election
day.[1] Under date March 6, 1840, there was brought up for repeal so
much of the Massachusetts Statutes as forbade intermarriage between
white persons and Negroes, mulattoes, or Indians, as "contrary to the
principles of Christianity and republicanism." The committee said that
it did not recommend a repeal in the expectation that the number of
connections, legal or illegal, between the races would be thereupon
increased; but its object rather was that wherever such connections were
found the usual civil liabilities and obligations should not fail to
attach to the contracting parties. The enactment was repealed. In the
same state, by January, 1843, an act forbidding discrimination
on railroads was passed. This grew out of separate petitions or
remonstrances from Francis Jackson and Joseph Nunn, each man being
supported by friends, and the petitioners based their request "not on
the supposition that the colored man is not as well treated as his white
fellow-citizen, but on the broad principle that the constitution allows
no distinction in public privileges among the different classes of
citizens in this commonwealth."[2] In New York City an interesting
case arose over the question of public conveyances. When about 1852
horse-cars began to supersede omnibuses on the streets, the Negro was
excluded from the use of them, and he continued to be excluded until
1855, when a decision of Judge Rockwell gave him the right to enter
them. The decision was ignored and the Negro continued to be excluded as
before. One Sunday in May, however, Rev. James W.C. Pennington, after
service, reminded his hearers of Judge Rockwell's decision, urged them
to stand up for their rights, and especially to inform any friends who
might visit the city during the coming anniversary week that Negroes
were no longer excluded from the street cars. He himself then boarded a
car on Sixth Avenue, refused to leave when requested to do so, and was
forcibly ejected. He brought suit against the company and won his case;
and thus the Negro made further advance toward full citizenship in New

[Footnote 1: Nell, III.]

[Footnote 2: Senate document 63 of 1842.]

[Footnote 3: McMaster, VIII, 74.]

Thus was the Negro developing in religious organization, in his benefit
societies, and toward his rights as a citizen. When we look at the
economic life upon which so much depended, we find that rather amazing
progress had been made. Doors were so often closed to the Negro,
competing white artisans were so often openly hostile, and he himself
labored under so many disadvantages generally that it has often been
thought that his economic advance before 1860 was negligible; but
nothing could be farther from the truth. It must not be forgotten that
for decades the South had depended upon Negro men for whatever was to
be done in all ordinary trades; some brick-masons, carpenters, and
shoemakers had served a long apprenticeship and were thoroughly
accomplished; and when some of the more enterprising of these men
removed to the North or West they took their training with them. Very
few persons became paupers. Certainly many were destitute, especially
those who had most recently made their way from slavery; and in general
the colored people cared for their own poor. In 1852, of 3500 Negroes in
Cincinnati, 200 were holders of property who paid taxes on their real
estate.[1] In 1855 the Negro per capita ownership of property compared
most favorably with that of the white people. Altogether the Negroes
owned $800,000 worth of property in the city and $5,000,000 worth in the
state. In the city there were among other workers three bank tellers,
a landscape artist who had visited Rome to complete his education, and
nine daguerreotypists, one of whom was the best in the entire West.[2]
Of 1696 Negroes at work in Philadelphia in 1856, some of the more
important occupations numbered workers as follows: tailors, dressmakers,
and shirtmakers, 615; barbers, 248; shoemakers, 66; brickmakers, 53;
carpenters, 49; milliners, 45; tanners, 24; cake-bakers, pastry-cooks,
or confectioners, 22; blacksmiths, 22. There were also 15 musicians or
music-teachers, 6 physicians, and 16 school-teachers.[3] The foremost
and the most wealthy man of business of the race in the country about
1850 was Stephen Smith, of the firm of Smith and Whipper, of Columbia,
Pa.[4] He and his partner were lumber merchants. Smith was a man of wide
interests. He invested his capital judiciously, engaging in real estate
and spending much of his time in Philadelphia, where he owned more than
fifty brick houses, while Whipper, a relative, attended to the business
of the firm. Together these men gave employment to a large number of
persons. Of similar quality was Samuel T. Wilcox, of Cincinnati, the
owner of a large grocery business who also engaged in real estate. Henry
Boyd, of Cincinnati, was the proprietor of a bedstead manufactory that
filled numerous orders from the South and West and that sometimes
employed as many as twenty-five men, half of whom were white. Sometimes
through an humble occupation a Negro rose to competence; thus one of the
eighteen hucksters in Cincinnati became the owner of $20,000 worth of
property. Here and there several caterers and tailors became known as
having the best places in their line of business in their respective
towns. John Julius, of Pittsburgh, was the proprietor of a brilliant
place known as Concert Hall. When President-elect William Henry Harrison
in 1840 visited the city it was here that his chief reception was held.
Cordovell became widely known as the name of the leading tailor and
originator of fashions in New Orleans. After several years of success in
business this merchant removed to France, where he enjoyed the fortune
that he had accumulated.

[Footnote 1: Clarke: _Condition of the Free Colored People of the United

[Footnote 2: Nell, 285.]

[Footnote 3: Bacon: _Statistics_, 13.]

[Footnote 4: Delany.]

Cordovell was representative of the advance of the people of mixed blood
in the South. The general status of these people was better in Louisiana
than anywhere else in the country, North or South; at the same time
their situation was such as to call for special consideration. In
Louisiana the "F.M.C." (Free Man of Color) formed a distinct and
anomalous class in society.[1] As a free man he had certain rights, and
sometimes his property holdings were very large.[2] In fact, in New
Orleans a few years before the Civil War not less than one-fifth of the
taxable property was in the hands of free people of color. At the same
time the lot of these people was one of endless humiliation. Among some
of them irregular household establishments were regularly maintained by
white men, and there were held the "quadroon balls" which in course of
time gave the city a distinct notoriety. Above the people of this group,
however, was a genuine aristocracy of free people of color who had a
long tradition of freedom, being descended from the early colonists,
and whose family life was most exemplary. In general they lived to
themselves. In fact, it was difficult for them to do otherwise. They
were often compelled to have papers filled out by white guardians, and
they were not allowed to be visited by slaves or to have companionship
with them, even when attending church or walking along the roads.
Sometimes free colored men owned their women and children in order that
the latter might escape the invidious law against Negroes recently
emancipated; or the situation was sometimes turned around, as in
Norfolk, Va., where several women owned their husbands. When the name
of a free man of color had to appear on any formal document--a deed of
conveyance, a marriage-license, a certificate of birth or death, or
even in a newspaper report--the initials F.M.C. had to be appended. In
Louisiana these people petitioned in vain for the suffrage, and at the
outbreak of the Civil War organized and splendidly equipped for the
Confederacy two battalions of five hundred men. For these they chose
two distinguished white commanders, and the governor accepted their
services, only to have to inform them later that the Confederacy
objected to the enrolling of Negro soldiers. In Charleston thirty-seven
men in a remarkable petition also formally offered their services to the
Confederacy.[3] What most readily found illustration in New Orleans or
Charleston was also true to some extent of other centers of free people
of color such as Mobile and Baltimore. In general the F.M.C.'s
were industrious and they almost monopolized one or two avenues of
employment; but as a group they had not yet learned to place themselves
upon the broad basis of racial aspiration.

[Footnote 1: See "The F.M.C.'s of Louisiana," by P.F. de Gournay,
_Lippincott's Magazine_, April, 1894; and "Black Masters," by Calvin
Dill Wilson, _North American Review_, November, 1905.]

[Footnote 2: See Stone: "The Negro in the South," in _The South in the
Building of the Nation_, X, 180.]

[Footnote 3: Note broadside (Charleston, 1861) accessible in Special
Library of Boston Public Library as Document No. 9 in 20th Cab. 3. 7.]

Whatever may have been the situation of special groups, however, it can
readily be seen that there were at least some Negroes in the country--a
good many in the aggregate--who by 1860 were maintaining a high standard
in their ordinary social life. It must not be forgotten that we are
dealing with a period when the general standard of American culture was
by no means what it is to-day. "Four-fifths of the people of the United
States of 1860 lived in the country, and it is perhaps fair to say that
half of these dwelt in log houses of one or two rooms. Comforts such
as most of us enjoy daily were as good as unknown.... For the workaday
world shirtsleeves, heavy brogan boots and shoes, and rough wool hats
were the rule."[1] In Philadelphia, a fairly representative city,
there were at this time a considerable number of Negroes of means or
professional standing. These people were regularly hospitable; they
visited frequently; and they entertained in well furnished parlors with
music and refreshments. In a day when many of their people had not
yet learned to get beyond showiness in dress, they were temperate and
self-restrained, they lived within their incomes, and they retired at a
seasonable hour.[2]

[Footnote 1: W.E. Dodd: _Expansion and Conflict_, Volume 3 of "Riverside
History of the United States," Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1915, p.

[Footnote 2: Turner: _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, 140.]

In spite moreover of all the laws and disadvantages that they had to
meet the Negroes also made general advance in education. In the South
efforts were of course sporadic, but Negroes received some teaching
through private or clandestine sources.[1] More than one slave learned
the alphabet while entertaining the son of his master. In Charleston
for a long time before the Civil War free Negroes could attend schools
especially designed for their benefit and kept by white people or other
Negroes. The course of study not infrequently embraced such subjects as
physiology, physics, and plane geometry. After John Brown's raid the
order went forth that no longer should any colored person teach Negroes.
This resulted in a white person's being brought to sit in the classroom,
though at the outbreak of the war schools were closed altogether. In the
North, in spite of all proscription, conditions were somewhat better. As
early as 1850 there were in the public schools in New York 3,393 Negro
children, these sustaining about the same proportion to the Negro
population that white children sustained to the total white population.
Two institutions for the higher education of the Negro were established
before the Civil War, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (1854) and
Wilberforce University in Ohio (1856). Oberlin moreover was founded in
1833. In 1835 Professor Asa Mahan, of Lane Seminary, was offered the
presidency. As he was an Abolitionist he said that he would accept only
if Negroes were admitted on equal terms with other students. After a
warm session of the trustees the vote was in his favor. Though, before
this, individual Negroes had found their way into Northern institutions,
it was here at Oberlin that they first received a real welcome. By the
outbreak of the war nearly one-third of the students were of the Negro
race, and one of the graduates, John M. Langston, was soon to be
generally prominent in the affairs of the country.

[Footnote 1: For interesting examples see C.G. Woodson: _The Education
of the Negro prior to 1861_.]

It has been maintained that in their emphasis on education and on the
highest culture possible for the Negro the Abolitionists were mere
visionaries who had no practical knowledge whatever of the race's real
needs. This was neither true nor just. It was absolutely necessary first
of all to establish the Negro's right to enter any field occupied by any
other man, and time has vindicated this position. Even in 1850, however,
the needs of the majority of the Negro people for advance in their
economic life were not overlooked either by the Abolitionists or the
Negroes themselves. Said Martin V. Delany: "Our elevation must be the
result of _self-efforts_, and work of our _own hands_. No other human
power can accomplish it.... Let our young men and young women prepare
themselves for usefulness and business; that the men may enter into
merchandise, trading, and other things of importance; the young women
may become teachers of various kinds, and otherwise fill places of
usefulness. Parents must turn their attention more to the education of
their children. We mean, to educate them for useful practical business
purposes. Educate them for the store and counting-house--to do everyday
practical business. Consult the children's propensities, and direct
their education according to their inclinations. It may be that there
is too great a desire on the part of parents to give their children a
professional education, before the body of the people are ready for it.
A people must be a business people and have more to depend upon than
mere help in people's houses and hotels, before they are either able to
support or capable of properly appreciating the services of professional
men among them. This has been one of our great mistakes--we have gone
in advance of ourselves. We have commenced at the superstructure of the
building, instead of the foundation--at the top instead of the bottom.
We should first be mechanics and common tradesmen, and professions as a
matter of course would grow out of the wealth made thereby."[1]

[Footnote 1: _The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of
the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered_,
Philadelphia, 1852, P. 45.]

In professional life the Negro had by 1860 made a noteworthy beginning.
Already he had been forced to give attention to the law, though as yet
little by way of actual practice had been done. In this field Robert
Morris, Jr., of Boston, was probably foremost. William C. Nell, of
Rochester and Boston, at the time prominent in newspaper work and
politics, is now best remembered for his study of the Negro in the early
wars of the country. About the middle of the century Samuel Ringgold
Ward, author of the _Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro_, and one of the
most eloquent men of the time, was for several years pastor of a white
Congregational church in Courtlandville, N.Y.; and Henry Highland
Garnett was the pastor of a white congregation in Troy, and well known
as a public-spirited citizen as well. Upon James W.C. Pennington the
degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred by Heidelberg, and generally
this man had a reputation in England and on the continent of Europe as
well as in America. About the same time Bishops Daniel A. Payne and
William Paul Quinn were adding to the dignity of the African Methodist
Episcopal Church.

Special interest attaches to the Negro physician. Even in colonial
times, though there was much emphasis on the control of diseases by
roots or charms, there was at least a beginning in work genuinely
scientific. As early as 1792 a Negro named Caesar had gained such
distinction by his knowledge of curative herbs that the Assembly of
South Carolina purchased his freedom and gave him an annuity. In the
earlier years of the last century James Derham, of New Orleans, became
the first regularly recognized Negro physician of whom there is
a complete record. Born in Philadelphia in 1762, as a boy he was
transferred to a physician for whom he learned to perform minor duties.
Afterwards he was sold to a physician in New Orleans who used him as
an assistant. Two or three years later he won his freedom, he became
familiar with French and Spanish as well as English, and he soon
commanded general respect by his learning and skill. About the middle
of the century, in New York, James McCune Smith, a graduate of the
University of Glasgow, was prominent. He was the author of several
scientific papers, a man of wide interests, and universally held in high
esteem. "The first real impetus to bring Negroes in considerable numbers
into the professional world came from the American Colonization Society,
which in the early years flourished in the South as well as the North
... and undertook to prepare professional leaders of their race for the
Liberian colony. 'To execute this scheme, leaders of the colonization
movement endeavored to educate Negroes in mechanic arts, agriculture,
science, and Biblical literature. Especially bright or promising youths
were to be given special training as catechists, teachers, preachers,
and physicians. Not much was said about what they were doing, but now
and then appeared notices of Negroes who had been prepared privately in
the South or publicly in the North for service in Liberia. Dr. William
Taylor and Dr. Fleet were thus educated in the District of Columbia. In
the same way John V. De Grasse, of New York, and Thomas J. White, of
Brooklyn, were allowed to complete the medical course at Bowdoin
in 1849. In 1854 Dr. De Grasse was admitted as a member of the
Massachusetts Medical Society.'"[1] Martin V. Delany, more than once
referred to in these pages, after being refused admission at a number of
institutions, was admitted to the medical school at Harvard. He became
distinguished for his work in a cholera epidemic in Pittsburgh in 1854.
It was of course not until after the Civil War that medical departments
were established in connection with some of the new higher institutions
of learning for Negro students.

[Footnote 1: Kelly Miller: "The Background of the Negro Physician,"
_Journal of Negro History_, April, 1916, quoting in part Woodson: _The
Education of the Negro prior to 1861_.]

Before 1860 a situation that arose more than once took from Negroes the
real credit for inventions. If a slave made an invention he was not
permitted to take out a patent, for no slave could make a contract. At
the same time the slave's master could not take out a patent for him,
for the Government would not recognize the slave as having the legal
right to make the assignment to his master. It is certain that Negroes,
who did most of the mechanical work in the South before the Civil War,
made more than one suggestion for the improvement of machinery. We have
already referred to the strong claim put forth by a member of the race
for the real credit of the cotton-gin. The honor of being the first
Negro to be granted a patent belongs to Henry Blair, of Maryland, who in
1834 received official protection for a corn harvester.

Throughout the century there were numerous attempts at poetical
composition, and several booklets were published. Perhaps the most
promising was George Horton's _The Hope of Liberty_, which appeared in
1829. Unfortunately, Horton could not get the encouragement that he
needed and in course of time settled down to the life of a janitor at
the University of North Carolina.[1] Six years before the war Frances
Ellen Watkins (later Mrs. Harper) struck the popular note by readings
from her _Miscellaneous Poems_, which ran through several editions.
About the same time William Wells Brown was prominent, though he also
worked for several years after the war. He was a man of decided talent
and had traveled considerably. He wrote several books dealing with Negro
history and biography; and he also treated racial subjects in a novel,
_Clotel_, and in a drama, _The Escape_. The latter suffers from an
excess of moralizing, but several times it flashes out with the quality
of genuine drama, especially when it deals with the jealousy of a
mistress for a favorite slave and the escape of the latter with her
husband. In 1841 the first Negro magazine began to appear, this being
issued by the A.M.E. Church. There were numerous autobiographies, that
of Frederick Douglass, first appearing in 1845, running through edition
after edition. On the stage there was the astonishing success of Ira
Aldridge, a tragedian who in his earlier years went to Europe, where he
had the advantage of association with Edmund Kean. About 1857 he was
commonly regarded as one of the two or three greatest actors in the
world. He became a member of several of the continental academies of
arts and science, and received many decorations of crosses and medals,
the Emperors of Russia and Austria and the King of Prussia being among
those who honored him. In the great field of music there was much
excellent work both in composition and in the performance on different
instruments. Among the free people of color in Louisiana there were
several distinguished musicians, some of whom removed to Europe for the
sake of greater freedom.[2] The highest individual achievement was that
of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, of Philadelphia. This singer was of the
very first rank. Her voice was of remarkable sweetness and had a compass
of twenty-seven notes. She sang before many distinguished audiences in
both Europe and America and was frequently compared with Jenny Lind,
then at the height of her fame.

[Footnote 1: See "George Moses Horton: Slave Poet," by Stephen B. Weeks,
_Southern Workman_, October, 1914.]

[Footnote 2: See Washington: _The Story of the Negro_, II, 276-7.]

It is thus evident that honorable achievement on the part of Negroes
and general advance in social welfare by no means began with the
Emancipation Proclamation. In 1860 eight-ninths of the members of the
race were still slaves, but in the face of every possible handicap the
one-ninth that was free had entered practically every great field of
human endeavor. Many were respected citizens in their communities, and a
few had even laid the foundations of wealth. While there was as yet
no book of unquestioned genius or scholarship, there was considerable
intellectual activity, and only time and a little more freedom from
economic pressure were needed for the production of works of the first
order of merit.



At the outbreak of the Civil War two great questions affecting the Negro
overshadowed all others--his freedom and his employment as a soldier.
The North as a whole had no special enthusiasm about the Negro and
responded only to Lincoln's call to the duty of saving the Union. Among
both officers and men moreover there was great prejudice against the use
of the Negro as a soldier, the feeling being that he was disqualified
by slavery and ignorance. Privates objected to meeting black men on the
same footing as themselves and also felt that the arming of slaves to
fight for their former masters would increase the bitterness of the
conflict. If many men in the North felt thus, the South was furious at
the thought of the Negro as a possible opponent in arms.

The human problem, however, was not long in presenting itself and
forcing attention. As soon as the Northern soldiers appeared in the
South, thousands of Negroes--men, women, and children--flocked to their
camps, feeling only that they were going to their friends. In May, 1861,
while in command at Fortress Monroe, Major-General Benjamin F. Butler
came into national prominence by his policy of putting to work the men
who came within his lines and justifying their retention on the ground
that, being of service to the enemy for purposes of war, they were like
guns, powder, etc., "contraband of war," and could not be reclaimed. On
August 30th of this same year Major-General John C. Fremont, in command
in Missouri, placed the state under martial law and declared the slaves
there emancipated. The administration was embarrassed, Fremont's order
was annulled, and he was relieved of his command. On May 9, 1862,
Major-General David Hunter, in charge of the Department of the South
(South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) issued his famous order freeing
the slaves in his department, and thus brought to general attention the
matter of the employment of Negro soldiers in the Union armies. The
Confederate government outlawed Hunter, Lincoln annulled his order,
and the grace of the nation was again saved; but in the meantime a new
situation had arisen. While Brigadier-General John W. Phelps was taking
part in the expedition against New Orleans, a large sugar-planter near
the city, disgusted with Federal interference with affairs on his
plantation, drove all his slaves away, telling them to go to their
friends, the Yankees. The Negroes came to Phelps in great numbers, and
for the sake of discipline he attempted to organize them into troops.
Accordingly he, too, was outlawed by the Confederates, and his act was
disavowed by the Union, that was not ready to take this step.

Meanwhile President Lincoln was debating the Emancipation Proclamation.
Pressure from radical anti-slavery sources was constantly being brought
to bear upon him, and Horace Greeley in his famous editorial, "The
Prayer of Twenty Millions," was only one of those who criticized what
seemed to be his lack of strength in handling the situation. After
McClellan's unsuccessful campaign against Richmond, however, he felt
that the freedom of the slaves was a military and moral necessity for
its effects upon both the North and the South; and Lee's defeat at
Antietam, September 17, 1862, furnished the opportunity for which he
had been waiting. Accordingly on September 22nd he issued a preliminary
declaration giving notice that on January 1, 1865, he would free all
slaves in the states still in rebellion, and asserting as before that
the object of the war was the preservation of the Union.

The Proclamation as finally issued January 1st is one of the most
important public documents in the history of the United States, ranking
only below the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself.
It full text is as follows:

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was
issued by the President of the United States containing among other
things the following, to-wit:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves
within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof
shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then,
thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the
United States, including the military and naval authority thereof,
will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will
do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any
efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by
proclamation, designate the states and parts of states, if any, in
which the people thereof shall then be in rebellion against the
United States; and the fact that any state, or the people thereof,
shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of
the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein
a majority of the qualified voters of such state shall have
participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing
testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such state, and the
people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States,
by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of
the Army and Navy of the United States, in time of actual armed
rebellion against the authority and government of the United
States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said
rebellion, do on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with
my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of
one hundred days from the date first above mentioned, order and
designate as the states and parts of states wherein the people
thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United
States, the following to-wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard,
Plaquemine, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension,
Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, Ste. Marie, St. Martin, and
Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama,
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia
(except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and
also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City,
York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk
and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are, for the present, left
precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order
and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated
states and parts of states are and henceforward shall be free, and
that the executive government of the United States, including the
military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain
the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to
abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and
I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor
faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable
condition, will be received into the armed service of the United
States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and
to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice,
warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the
considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my name, and caused the
seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the
year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of
the independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.

By the President,

Secretary of State.

It will be observed that the Proclamation was merely a war measure
resting on the constitutional power of the President. Its effects on the
legal status of the slaves gave rise to much discussion; and it is to
be noted that it did not apply to what is now West Virginia, to seven
counties in Virginia, and to thirteen parishes in Louisiana, which
districts had already come under Federal jurisdiction. All questions
raised by the measure, however, were finally settled by the Thirteenth
Amendment to the Constitution, and as a matter of fact freedom actually
followed the progress of the Union arms from 1863 to 1865.

Meanwhile from the very beginning of the war Negroes were used by the
Confederates in making redoubts and in doing other rough work, and even
before the Emancipation Proclamation there were many Northern officers
who said that definite enlistment was advisable. They felt that such a
course would help to destroy slavery and that as the Negroes had so much
at stake they should have some share in the overthrow of the rebellion.
They said also that the men would be proud to wear the national uniform.
Individuals moreover as officers' servants saw much of fighting and won
confidence in their ability; and as the war advanced and more and more
men were killed the conviction grew that a Negro could stop a bullet as
well as a white man and that in any case the use of Negroes for fatigue
work would release numbers of other men for the actual fighting.

At last--after a great many men had been killed and the Emancipation
Proclamation had changed the status of the Negro--enlistment was decided
on. The policy was that Negroes might be non-commissioned men while
white men who had seen service would be field and line officers. In
general it was expected that only those who had kindly feeling toward
the Negro would be used as officers, but in the pressure of military
routine this distinction was not always observed. Opinion for the race
gained force after the Draft Riot in New York (July, 1863), when Negroes
in the city were persecuted by the opponents of conscription. Soon a
distinct bureau was established in Washington for the recording of
all matters pertaining to Negro troops, a board was organized for the
examination of candidates, and recruiting stations were set up in
Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee. The Confederates were indignant at
the thought of having to meet black men on equal footing, and refused
to exchange Negro soldiers for white men. How such action was met by
Stanton, Secretary of War, may be seen from the fact that when he
learned that three Negro prisoners had been placed in close confinement,
he ordered three South Carolina men to be treated likewise, and the
Confederate leaders to be informed of his policy.

The economic advantage of enlistment was apparent. It gave work to
187,000 men who had been cast adrift by the war and who had found no
place of independent labor. It gave them food, clothing, wages, and
protection, but most of all the feeling of self-respect that comes from
profitable employment. To the men themselves the year of jubilee had
come. At one great step they had crossed the gulf that separates
chattels from men and they now had a chance to vindicate their manhood.
A common poster of the day represented a Negro soldier bearing the
flag, the shackles of a slave being broken, a young Negro boy reading
a newspaper, and several children going into a public school. Over
all were the words: "All Slaves were made Freemen by Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States, January 1st, 1863. Come, then,
able-bodied Colored Men, to the nearest United States Camp, and fight
for the Stars and Stripes."

To the credit of the men be it said that in their new position they
acted with dignity and sobriety. When they picketed lines through which
Southern citizens passed, they acted with courtesy at the same time that
they did their duty. They captured Southern men without insulting them,
and by their own self-respect won the respect of others. Meanwhile their
brothers in the South went about the day's work, caring for the widow
and the orphan; and a nation that still lynches the Negro has to
remember that in all these troublous years deeds of violence against
white women and girls were absolutely unknown.

Throughout the country the behavior of the black men under fire was
watched with the most intense interest. More and more in the baptism of
blood they justified the faith for which their friends had fought for
years. At Port Hudson, Fort Wagner, Fort Pillow, and Petersburg their
courage was most distinguished. Said the New York _Times_ of the battle
at Port Hudson (1863): "General Dwight, at least, must have had the idea
not only that they (the Negro troops) were men, but something more than
men, from the terrific test to which he put their valor.... Their colors
are torn to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and
brains." This was the occasion on which Color-Sergeant Anselmas
Planciancois said before a shell blew off his head, "Colonel, I will
bring back these colors to you on honor, or report to God the reason
why." On June 6 the Negroes again distinguished themselves and
won friends by their bravery at Milliken's Bend. The Fifty-fourth
Massachusetts, commanded by Robert Gould Shaw, was conspicuous in the
attempt to take Fort Wagner, on Morris Island near Charleston, July 18,
1863. The regiment had marched two days and two nights through swamps
and drenching rains in order to be in time for the assault. In the
engagement nearly all the officers of the regiment were killed, among
them Colonel Shaw. The picturesque deed was that of Sergeant William H.
Carney, who seized the regiment's colors from the hands of a falling
comrade, planted the flag on the works, and said when borne bleeding and
mangled from the field, "Boys, the old flag never touched the ground."
Fort Pillow, a position on the Mississippi, about fifty miles above
Memphis, was garrisoned by 557 men, 262 of whom were Negroes, when
it was attacked April 13, 1864. The fort was finally taken by the
Confederates, but the feature of the engagement was the stubborn
resistance offered by the Union troops in the face of great odds. In the
Mississippi Valley, and in the Department of the South, the Negro had
now done excellent work as a soldier. In the spring of 1864 he made his
appearance in the Army of the Potomac. In July there was around Richmond
and Petersburg considerable skirmishing between the Federal and the
Confederate forces. Burnside, commanding a corps composed partly of
Negroes, dug under a Confederate fort a trench a hundred and fifty yards
long. This was filled with explosives, and on July 30 the match was
applied and the famous crater formed. Just before the explosion the
Negroes had figured in a gallant charge on the Confederates. The plan
was to follow the eruption by a still more formidable assault, in which
Burnside wanted to give his Negro troops the lead. A dispute about this
and a settlement by lot resulted in the awarding of precedence to a New
Hampshire regiment. Said General Grant later of the whole unfortunate
episode: "General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front;
I believe if he had done so it would have been a success." After the men
of a Negro regiment had charged and taken a battery at Decatur, Ala., in
October, 1864, and shown exceptional gallantry under fire, they received
an ovation from their white comrades "who by thousands sprang upon the
parapets and cheered the regiment as it reentered the lines."[1]

[Footnote 1: General Thomas J. Morgan: "The Negroes in the Civil War,"
in the _Baptist Home Mission Monthly_, quoted in _Liberia_, Bulletin 12,
February, 1898. General Morgan in October, 1863, became a major in the
Fourteenth United States Colored Infantry. He organized the regiment and
became its colonel. He also organized the Forty-second and Forty-fourth
regiments of colored infantry.]

When all was over there was in the North a spontaneous recognition of
the right of such men to honorable and generous treatment at the hands
of the nation, and in Congress there was the feeling that if the South
could come back to the Union with its autonomy unimpaired, certainly
the Negro soldier should have the rights of citizenship. Before the war
closed, however, there was held in Syracuse, N.Y., a convention of Negro
men that threw interesting light on the problems and the feeling of
the period.[1] At this gathering John Mercer Langston was temporary
chairman, Frederick Douglass, president, and Henry Highland Garnett, of
Washington; James W.C. Pennington, of New York; George L. Ruffin, of
Boston, and Ebenezer D. Bassett, of Philadelphia, were among the more
prominent delegates. There was at the meeting a fear that some of the
things that seemed to have been gained by the war might not actually be
realized; and as Congress had not yet altered the Constitution so as to
abolish slavery, grave question was raised by a recent speech in which
no less a man than Seward, Secretary of State, had said: "When the
insurgents shall have abandoned their armies and laid down their arms,
the war will instantly cease; and all the war measures then existing,
including those which affect slavery, will cease also." The convention
thanked the President and the Thirty-Seventh Congress for revoking a
prohibitory law in regard to the carrying of mails by Negroes, for
abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, for recognizing Hayti
and Liberia, and for the military order retaliating for the unmilitary
treatment accorded Negro soldiers by the Confederate officers; and
especially it thanked Senator Sumner "for his noble efforts to cleanse
the statute-books of the nation from every stain of inequality against
colored men," and General Butler for the stand he had taken early in the
war. At the same time it resolved to send a petition to Congress to
ask that the rights of the country's Negro patriots in the field be
respected, and that the Government cease to set an example to those in
arms against it by making invidious distinctions, based upon color, as
to pay, labor, and promotion. It begged especially to be saved from
supposed friends: "When the _Anti-Slavery Standard_, representing the
American Anti-Slavery Society, denies that the society asks for the
enfranchisement of colored men, and the _Liberator_ apologizes for
excluding the colored men of Louisiana from the ballot-box, they injure
us more vitally than all the ribald jests of the whole pro-slavery
press." Finally the convention insisted that any such things as the
right to own real estate, to testify in courts of law, and to sue and
be sued, were mere privileges so long as general political liberty
was withheld, and asked frankly not only for the formal and complete
abolition of slavery in the United States, but also for the elective
franchise in all the states then in the Union and in all that might come
into the Union thereafter. On the whole this representative gathering
showed a very clear conception of the problems facing the Negro and the
country in 1864. Its reference to well-known anti-slavery publications
shows not only the increasing race consciousness that came through this
as through all other wars in which the country has engaged, but also the
great drift toward conservatism that had taken place in the North within
thirty years.

[Footnote 1: See Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored Men,
held in the city of Syracuse, N.Y., October 4, 5, 6, and 7, 1864, with
the Bill of Wrongs and Rights, and the Address to the American People.
Boston, 1864.]

Whatever might be the questions of the moment, however, about the
supreme blessing of freedom there could at last be no doubt. It had been
long delayed and had finally come merely as an incident to the war;
nevertheless a whole race of people had passed from death unto life.
Then, as before and since, they found a parallel for their experiences
in the story of the Jews in the Old Testament. They, too, had sojourned
in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. What they could not then see, or only
dimly realize, was that they needed faith--faith in God and faith in
themselves--for the forty years in the wilderness. They did not yet
fully know that He who guided the children of Israel and drove out
before them the Amorite and the Hittite, would bring them also to the
Promised Land.

* * * * *

To those who led the Negro in these wonderful years--to Robert Gould
Shaw, the young colonel of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, who
died leading his men at Fort Wagner; to Norwood Penrose Hallowell,
lieutenant-colonel of the Fifty-Fourth and then colonel of the
Fifty-Fifth; to his brother, Edward N. Hallowell, who succeeded Shaw
when he fell; and to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who commanded the first
regiment of freed slaves--no ordinary eulogy can apply. Their names are
written in letters of flame and their deeds live after them. On the Shaw
Monument in Boston are written these words:

The White Officers

Taking Life and Honor in their Hands--Cast their lot with Men of a
Despised Race Unproved in War--and Risked Death as Inciters of a
Servile Insurrection if Taken Prisoners, Besides Encountering all
the Common Perils of Camp, March, and Battle.

The Black Rank and File

Volunteered when Disaster Clouded the Union Cause--Served without
Pay for Eighteen Months till Given that of White Troops--Faced
Threatened Enslavement if Captured--Were Brave in Action--Patient
under Dangerous and Heavy Labors and Cheerful amid Hardships and


They Gave to the Nation Undying Proof that Americans of African
Descent Possess the Pride, Courage, and Devotion of the Patriot
Soldier--One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Such Americans Enlisted
under the Union Flag in MDCCCLXIII-MDCCCLXV.



1. _The Problem_

At the close of the Civil War the United States found itself face to
face with one of the gravest social problems of modern times. More and
more it became apparent that it was not only the technical question of
the restoration of the states to the Union that had to be considered,
but the whole adjustment for the future of the lives of three and a half
million Negroes and five and a half million white people in the South.
In its final analysis the question was one of race, and to add to the
difficulties of this problem it is to be regretted that there should
have been actually upon the scene politicians and speculators who sought
to capitalize for their own gain the public distress.

The South was thoroughly demoralized, and the women who had borne the
burden of the war at home were especially bitter. Slave property to the
amount of two billions of dollars had been swept away; several of the
chief cities had suffered bombardment; the railroads had largely run
down; and the confiscation of property was such as to lead to the
indemnification of thousands of claimants afterwards. The Negro was not
yet settled in new places of abode, and his death rate was appalling.
Throughout the first winter after the war the whole South was on the
verge of starvation.

Here undoubtedly was a difficult situation--one calling for the highest
quality of statesmanship, and of sportsmanship on the part of the
vanquished. Many Negroes, freed from the tradition of two hundred and
fifty years of slavery, took a holiday; some resolved not to work any
more as long as they lived, and some even appropriated to their own use
the produce of their neighbors. If they remained on the old plantations,
they feared that they might still be considered slaves; on the other
hand, if they took to the high road, they might be considered vagrants.
If one returned from a Federal camp to claim his wife and children,
he might be driven away. "Freedom cried out," and undoubtedly some
individuals did foolish things; but serious crime was noticeably absent.
On the whole the race bore the blessing of emancipation with remarkable
good sense and temper. Returning soldiers paraded, there were some
meetings and processions, sometimes a little regalia--and even a little
noise; then everybody went home. Unfortunately even so much the white
South regarded as insolence.

The example of how the South _might_ have met the situation was afforded
by no less a man than Robert E. Lee, about whose unselfishness and
standard of conduct as a gentleman there could be no question. One day
in Richmond a Negro from the street, intent on asserting his rights,
entered a representative church, pushed his way to the communion altar
and knelt. The congregation paused, and all fully realized the factors
that entered into the situation. Then General Lee rose and knelt beside
the Negro; the congregation did likewise, and the tension was over.
Furthermore, every one went home spiritually uplifted.

Could the handling of this incident have been multipled a thousand
times--could men have realized that mere accidents are fleeting but
that principles are eternal--both races would have been spared years
of agony, and our Southland would be a far different place to-day. The
Negro was at the heart of the problem, but to that problem the South
undoubtedly held the key. Of course the cry of "social equality" might
have been raised; _anything_ might have been said to keep the right
thing from being done. In this instance, as in many others, the final
question was not what somebody else did, but how one himself could act
most nobly.

Unfortunately Lee's method of approach was not to prevail. Passion and
prejudice and demagoguery were to have their day, and conservative and
broadly patriotic men were to be made to follow leaders whom they could
not possibly approve. Sixty years afterwards we still suffer from the
KuKlux solution of the problem.

2. _Meeting the Problem_

The story of reconstruction has been many times told, and it is not
our intention to tell that story again. We must content ourselves by
touching upon some of the salient points in the discussion.

Even before the close of the war the National Government had undertaken
to handle officially the thousands of Negroes who had crowded to the
Federal lines and not less than a million of whom were in the spring of
1865 dependent upon the National Government for support. The Bureau of
Refugee Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, created in connection with the
War Department by an act of March 3, 1865, was to remain in existence
throughout the war and for one year thereafter. Its powers were enlarged
July 16, 1866, and its chief work did not end until January 1, 1869, its
educational work continuing for a year and a half longer. The Freedmen's
Bureau was to have "the supervision and management of all abandoned
lands, and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and
freedmen." Of special importance was the provision in the creating act
that gave the freedmen to understand that each male refugee was to be
given forty acres with the guarantee of possession for three years.
Throughout the existence of the Bureau its chief commissioner was
General O.O. Howard. While the principal officers were undoubtedly men
of noble purpose, many of the minor officials were just as undoubtedly
corrupt and self-seeking. In the winter of 1865-6 one-third of its aid
was given to the white people of the South. For Negro pupils the Bureau
established altogether 4,239 schools, and these had 9,307 teachers and
247,333 students. Its real achievement has been thus ably summed up:
"The greatest success of the Freedmen's Bureau lay in the planting of
the free school among Negroes, and the idea of free elementary education
among all classes in the South.... For some fifteen million dollars,
beside the sum spent before 1865, and the dole of benevolent societies,
this bureau set going a system of free labor, established a beginning of
peasant proprietorship, secured the recognition of black freedmen before
courts of law, and founded the free common school in the South. On the
other hand, it failed to begin the establishment of good will between
ex-masters and freedmen, to guard its work wholly from paternalistic
methods, which discouraged self-reliance, and to carry out to any
considerable extent its implied promises to furnish the freedmen with
land."[1] To this tale of its shortcomings must be added also the
management of the Freedmen's Bank, which "was morally and practically
part of the Freedmen's Bureau, although it had no legal connection with
it." This institution made a really remarkable start in the development
of thrift among the Negroes, and its failure, involving the loss of the
first savings of hundreds of ex-slaves, was as disastrous in its moral
as in its immediate financial consequences.

[Footnote 1: DuBois: _The Souls of Black Folk_, 32-37.]

When the Freedmen's Bureau came to an end, it turned its educational
interests and some money over to the religious and benevolent societies
which had cooeperated with it, especially to the American Missionary
Association. This society had been organized before the Civil War on
an interdenominational and strong anti-slavery basis; but with the
withdrawal of general interest the body passed in 1881 into the hands of
the Congregational Church. Other prominent agencies were the American
Baptist Home Mission Society (also the American Baptist Publication
Society), the Freedmen's Aid Society (representing the Northern
Methodists), and the Presbyterian Board of Missions. Actual work was
begun by the American Missionary Association. In 1861 Lewis Tappan,
treasurer of the organization, wrote to General Butler to ask just
what aid could be given. The result of the correspondence was that on
September 3 of this year Rev. L.C. Lockwood reached Hampton and on
September 17 opened the first day school among the freedmen. This school
was taught by Mrs. Mary S. Peake, a woman of the race who had had the
advantage of a free mother, and whose devotion to the work was such that
she soon died. However, she had helped to lay the foundations of Hampton
Institute. Soon there was a school at Norfolk, there were two at Newport
News, and by January schools at Hilton Head and Beaufort, S.C. Then came
the Emancipation Proclamation, throwing wide open the door of the great
need. Rev. John Eaton, army chaplain from Ohio, afterwards United States
Commissioner of Education, was placed in charge of the instruction of
the Negroes, and in one way or another by the close of the war probably
as many as one million in the South had learned to read and write. The
83 missionaries and teachers of the Association in 1863 increased to 250
in 1864. At the first day session of the school in Norfolk after the
Proclamation there were 350 scholars, with 300 others in the evening.
On the third day there were 550 in the day school and 500 others in the
evening. The school had to be divided, a part going to another church;
the assistants increased in number, and soon the day attendance was
1,200. For such schools the houses on abandoned plantations were used,
and even public buildings were called into commission. Afterwards arose
the higher institutions, Atlanta, Berea, Fisk, Talladega, Straight, with
numerous secondary schools. Similarly the Baptists founded the colleges
which, with some changes of name, have become Virginia Union, Hartshorn,
Shaw, Benedict, Morehouse, Spelman, Jackson, and Bishop, with numerous
affiliated institutions. The Methodists began to operate Clark (in South
Atlanta), Claflin, Rust, Wiley, and others; and the Presbyterians,
having already founded Lincoln in 1854, now founded Biddle and several
seminaries for young women; while the United Presbyterians founded
Knoxville. In course of time the distinctively Negro denominations--the
A.M.E., the A.M.E.Z., and the C.M.E. (which last represented a
withdrawal from the Southern Methodists in 1870)--also helped in
the work, and thus, in addition to Wilberforce in Ohio, arose such
institutions as Morris Brown University, Livingstone College, and Lane
College. In 1867, moreover, the Federal Government crowned its work for
the education of the Negro by the establishment at Washington of Howard

As these institutions have grown they have naturally developed some
differences or special emphasis. Hampton and Atlanta University are
now independent; and Berea has had a peculiar history, legislation in
Kentucky in 1903 restricting the privileges of the institution to white
students. Hampton, in the hands of General Armstrong, placed emphasis on
the idea of industrial and practical education which has since become
world-famous. In 1871 the Fisk Jubilee Singers began their memorable
progress through America and Europe, meeting at first with scorn and
sneers, but before long touching the heart of the world with their
strange music. Their later success was as remarkable as their mission
was unique. Meanwhile Spelman Seminary, in the record of her graduates
who have gone as missionaries to Africa, has also developed a glorious

To those heroic men and women who represented this idea of education at
its best, too much credit can not be given. Cravath at Fisk, Ware at
Atlanta, Armstrong at Hampton, Graves at Morehouse, Tupper at Shaw, and
Packard and Giles at Spelman, are names that should ever be recalled
with thanksgiving. These people had no enviable task. They were
ostracized and persecuted, and some of their co-workers even killed. It
is true that their idea of education founded on the New England college
was not very elastic; but their theory was that the young men and women
whom they taught, before they were Negroes, were human beings. They had
the key to the eternal verities, and time will more and more justify
their position.

To the Freedmen's Bureau the South objected because of the political
activity of some of its officials. To the schools founded by missionary
endeavor it objected primarily on the score of social equality. To both
the provisional Southern governments of 1865 replied with the so-called
Black Codes. The theory of these remarkable ordinances--most harsh in
Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana--was that even if the Negro
was nominally free he was by no means able to take care of himself and
needed the tutelage and oversight of the white man. Hence developed what
was to be known as a system of "apprenticeship." South Carolina in her
act of December 21, 1865, said, "A child, over the age of two years,
born of a colored parent, may be bound by the father if he be living in
the district, or in case of his death or absence from the district, by
the mother, as an apprentice to any respectable white or colored person
who is competent to make a contract; a male until he shall attain the
age of twenty-one years, and a female until she shall attain the age of
eighteen.... Males of the age of twelve years, and females of the age
of ten years, shall sign the indenture of apprenticeship, and be bound
thereby.... The master shall receive to his own use the profits of the
labor of his apprentice." To this Mississippi added: "If any apprentice
shall leave the employment of his or her master or mistress, said master
or mistress may pursue and recapture said apprentice, and bring him or
her before any justice of peace of the county, whose duty it shall be to
remand said apprentice to the service of his or her master or mistress;
and in the event of a refusal on the part of said apprentice so to
return, then said justice shall commit said apprentice to the jail of
said county," etc., etc. In general by such legislation the Negro was
given the right to sue and be sued, to testify in court concerning
Negroes, and to have marriage and the responsibility for children
recognized. On the other hand, he could not serve on juries, could
not serve in the militia, and could not vote or hold office. He was
virtually forbidden to assemble, and his freedom of movement was
restricted. Within recent years the Black Codes have been more than once
defended as an honest effort to meet a difficult situation, but the old
slavery attitude peered through them and gave the impression that those
who framed them did not yet know that the old order had passed away.

Meanwhile the South was in a state of panic, and the provisional
governor of Mississippi asked of President Johnson permission to
organize the local militia. The request was granted and the patrols
immediately began to show their hostility to Northern people and the
freedmen. In the spring of 1866 there was a serious race riot in
Memphis. On July 30, while some Negroes were marching to a political
convention in New Orleans, they became engaged in brawls with the
white spectators. Shots were exchanged; the police, assisted by the
spectators, undertook to arrest the Negroes; the Negroes took refuge in
the convention hall; and their pursuers stormed the building and shot
down without mercy the Negroes and their white supporters. Altogether
not less than forty were killed and not less than one hundred wounded;
but not more than a dozen men were killed on the side of the police and
the white citizens. General Sheridan, who was in command at New Orleans,
characterized the affair as "an absolute massacre ... a murder which
the mayor and police of the city perpetrated without the shadow of a

In the face of such events and tendencies, and influenced to some extent
by a careful and illuminating but much criticized report of Carl Schurz,
Congress, led by Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, proceeded to pass
legislation designed to protect the freedmen and to guarantee to
the country the fruits of the war. The Thirteenth Amendment to the
Constitution formally abolishing slavery was passed December 18, 1865.
In the following March Congress passed over the President's veto the
first Civil Rights Bill, guaranteeing to the freedmen all the ordinary
rights of citizenship, and it was about the same time that it enlarged
the powers of the Freedmen's Bureau. The Fourteenth Amendment (July
28, 1868) denied to the states the power to abridge the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States; and the Fifteenth Amendment
(March 30, 1870) sought to protect the Negro by giving to him the right
of suffrage instead of military protection. In 1875 was passed the
second Civil Rights act, designed to give Negroes equality of treatment
in theaters, railway cars, hotels, etc.; but this the Supreme Court
declared unconstitutional in 1883.

As a result of this legislation the Negro was placed in positions of
responsibility; within the next few years the race sent two senators
and thirteen representatives to Congress, and in some of the state
legislatures, as in South Carolina, Negroes were decidedly in the
majority. The attainments of some of these men were undoubtedly
remarkable; the two United States senators, Hiram R. Revels and Blanche
K. Bruce, both from Mississippi, were of unquestioned intelligence and
ability, and Robert B. Elliott, one of the representatives from South
Carolina, attracted unusual attention by his speech in reply to
Alexander Stephens on the constitutionality of the Civil Rights bill. At
the same time among the Negro legislators there was also considerable
ignorance, and there set in an era of extravagance and corruption from
which the "carpet-baggers" and the "scalawags" rather than the Negroes
themselves reaped the benefit. Accordingly within recent years it has
become more and more the fashion to lament the ills of the period, and
no representative American historian can now write of reconstruction
without a tone of apology. A few points, however, are to be observed.
In the first place the ignorance was by no means so vast as has been
supposed. Within the four years from 1861 to 1865, thanks to the army
schools and missionary agencies, not less than half a million Negroes in
the South had learned to read and write. Furthermore, the suffrage was
not immediately given to the emancipated Negroes; this was the
last rather than the first step in reconstruction. The provisional
legislatures formed at the close of the war were composed of white men
only; but the experiment failed because of the short-sighted laws that
were enacted. If the fruit of the Civil War was not to be lost, if all
the sacrifice was not to prove in vain, it became necessary for Congress
to see that the overthrow of slavery was final and complete. By the
Fourteenth Amendment the Negro was invested with the ordinary rights and
dignity of a citizen of the United States. He was not enfranchised, but
he could no longer be made the victim of state laws designed merely to
keep him in servile subjection. If the Southern states had accepted
this amendment, they might undoubtedly have reentered the Union without
further conditions. They refused to do so; they refused to help the
National Government in any way whatsoever in its effort to guarantee
to the Negro the rights of manhood. Achilles sulked in his tent, and
whenever he sulks the world moves on--without him. The alternative
finally presented to Congress, if it was not to make an absolute
surrender, was either to hold the South indefinitely under military
subjection or to place the ballot in the hands of the Negro. The former
course was impossible; the latter was chosen, and the Union was really
restored--was really saved--by the force of the ballot in the hands of
black men.

It has been held that the Negro was primarily to blame for the
corruption of the day. Here again it is well to recall the tendencies of
the period. The decade succeeding the war was throughout the country
one of unparalleled political corruption. The Tweed ring, the Credit
Mobilier, and the "salary grab" were only some of the more outstanding
signs of the times. In the South the Negroes were not the real leaders
in corruption; they simply followed the men who they supposed were their
friends. Surely in the face of such facts as these it is not just to fix
upon a people groping to the light the peculiar odium of the corruption
that followed in the wake of the war.

And we shall have to leave it to those better informed than we to say to
just what extent city and state politics in the South have been cleaned
up since the Negro ceased to be a factor. Many of the constitutions
framed by the reconstruction governments were really excellent models,
and the fact that they were overthrown seems to indicate that some other
spoilsmen were abroad. Take North Carolina, for example. In this state
in 1868 the reconstruction government by its new constitution introduced
the township system so favorably known in the North and West. When in
1875 the South regained control, with all the corruption it found as
excellent a form of republican state government as was to be found in
any state in the Union. "Every provision which any state enjoyed for the
protection of public society from its bad members and bad impulses was
either provided or easily procurable under the Constitution of the
state."[1] Yet within a year, in order to annul the power of their
opponents in every county in the state, the new party so amended

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