Archive for the ‘African Americans’ Category

The Impact of the Emancipation Proclamation

From PBS. This video can also be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoYwTCZlGuM

Suddenly the Civil War was an obvious moral battle as well as a constitutional one. “The war was ennobled. The object was higher.” And foreign nations now had to think twice about supporting the Confederacy.

Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech

Research: why was Lincoln making this speech? What was he intending to do?

June 16, 1858

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention:

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let anyone who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the states by state constitutions and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an endorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.

This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” other-wise called “sacred right of self-government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska Bill itself, in the language which follows:

It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into an territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people there-of perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “squatter sovereignty” and “sacred right of self-government.” “But,” said opposition members, “let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we,” said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through Congress, a law case, involving the question of a Negro’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then into a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the district of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May 1854. The Negro’s name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska Bill to state his opinion whether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: “That is a question for the Supreme Court.”

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The endorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly 400,000 votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the endorsement. The Supreme Court met again, did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument.

The presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the Court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital endorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to endorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not in any just sense made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration, that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle! If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine.

Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding; like the mold at the foundry, served through one blast and fell back into loose sand; helped to carry an election and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Republicans against the Lecompton constitution involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point — the right of a people to make their own constitution — upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no Negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any state in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the Negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution which declares that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.”

Second, that, “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a territorial legislature can exclude slavery from any United States territory. This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Third, that whether the holding a Negro in actual slavery in a free state makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave state the Negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently endorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or 1,000 slaves, in Illinois or in any other free state.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter to go back and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free,” “subject only to the Constitution.” What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough, now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people voted down? Plainly enough, now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the Court decision held up? Why even a senator’s individual opinion withheld till after the presidential election? Plainly enough, now, the speaking out then would have damaged the “perfectly free” argument upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the endorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-endorsement of the decision by the President and others?

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding, or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

Eric Foner on Dred Scott and Lincoln

From The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, by Eric Foner, chapter 4.

Two days after the inauguration of James Buchanan in March 1957, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most infamous decisions in its history. During the 1830s, Dred Scott, a slave of Dr. John Emerson of Missouri, resided with his owner in Illinois, where state law prohibited slavery, and the Wisconsin territory, from which it had been barred by the Missouri Compromise. He married another slave, Harriet Scott, and in 1846, after returning to Missouri, the Scott family, by now consisting of husband, wife, and two daughters, went to court claiming that residence on free soil had made them free. In time, the case made its way to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, supported by sic other members of the court, concluded that the Scotts must remain slaves. No black person, Taney declared, could be a citizen of the United states and thus the Scotts had no standing to sue in court. The case could have ended there. Taney, however, went on to argue that because the Constitution “distinctly and expressly affirmed” the right to property in slaves, slaveholders could bring them into federal territories. The Missouri Compromise– repealed three years earlier by the Kansas-Nebraska Act– had therefore been unconstitutional. Only once before, in the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review, had the Court invalidated an act of Congress on constitutional grounds.

Much of Taney’s opinion consisted of a historical discussion purporting to demonstrate that the founding fathers had not recognized black persons as part of the American people. The framers of the Constitution, he insisted, regarded blacks, slave and free, as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race.. and so far inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect.” (This statement, Thaddeus Stevens later remarked, “damned [Taney] to everlasting fame; and, I fear, everlasting fire.”) States could make free blacks citizens if they wished, but this did not require the federal government or other states to recognize them as such. No state could unilaterally “introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution”– a community, according to Taney, limited to white persons.

“The most important decision ever made by the Supreme Court,” as the New York Times described it, Dred Scott was the work of a chief justice who belonged to a long-established planter family in Maryland. Taney had manumitted his own slaves in the 1820s but strongly believed in black inferiority. He seems to have thought that the Supreme Court could restore sectional harmony by resolving the slavery controversy. The decision had precisely the opposite effect. As a Georgia newspaper exulted, it “covers every question regarding slavery and settles it in favor of the South.” Taney had declared unconstitutional the platform of the nation’s second largest political party. His ruling also seemed to undercut Stephen A. Douglas’s popular sovereignty doctrine, for if Congress lacked the authority to deprive slaveholders of their constitutionally guaranteed right to bring slaves into a territory, how could a territorial legislature created by Congress do so?

…The Dred Scott decision propelled to the forefront of public debate questions that would dominate politics until the outbreak of the Civil War: the founders’ intentions regarding slavery; whether slavery should be viewed as a local or national institution; and the constitutional authority of the federal government to prohibit slavery in the territories. Lincoln had already expressed his opinion on these issues and would continue to do so between 1857 and 1860. But the decision inspired him to elaborate his views on a subject about which he had previously said very little, the place of blacks in American society. Lincoln knew that this question carried an explosive political charge. Soon after the Court issued its ruling, Stephen A Douglas delivered impassioned speeches declaring that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution had been written for whites and charging that Republicans who opposed the Dred Scott decision favored “perfect and absolute equality of the races.” Lincoln believed that rhetoric of this kind had played a role in Fremont’s defeat in the presidential election of the previous November. Republicans, Lincoln wrote, had been “constantly charged with seeking an amalgamation of the white and black races; and thousands turned from us… fearing to face it themselves.” If others would not “face it,” he would.

Lincoln later called Dred Scott a “burlesque upon judicial decisions.” On June 26, 1857, two weeks after Douglas spoke in Springfield in its support, Lincoln responded in the same city. The decision, he argued, was so erroneous that it could not be viewed as having established a “settled doctrine for the country.” Nearly all Republican leaders agreed. But unlike most Republicans politicians, who preferred to attack Taney for having taken on the territorial question when he need not have done so and who devoted most of their attention to the constitutional power of Congress to bar the institution in the territories, Lincoln addressed head-on the vexatious question of black citizenship. He denied that Taney had presented a plausible account of the founders’ racial outlook. Free blacks, he pointed out, echoing Justice McLean’s dissent, had voted in several states at the time the Constitution was ratified, indicating that they were them viewed as members of the body politic. Taney, moreover, was “grossly incorrect” to imply that “the public estimate of the negro” had improved since the revolutionary era; in fact, “the change between then and now is decidedly the other way.” Lincoln conspicuously failed to mention the deteriorating situation in Illinois, whose voters and legislature within the past decade had approved measures barring free blacks from entering the state….

More information on Dred Scott from PBS here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2932.html

A Link about the connection between the 1840s and the Civil War

Americans during the 1840s experienced many events that pushed the US inexorably toward the final showdown with the South. In this link, Professor Waldo E. Martin, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, discusses the linkages between Manifest Destiny and the Civil War: http://www.learner.org/biographyofamerica/prog10/transcript/page02.html

The entire set of pages containing this  review begins here (http://www.learner.org/biographyofamerica/prog10/feature/index.html) and contains audiovisuals including maps to help you review the time period from 1848-1860.

Excerpt from the Confessions of Nat Turner

From http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/D/1826-1850/slavery/confes01.htm

In the most important and best-documented slave insurrection in Southern history, Nat Turner, son of an African-born slave mother in Southampton County, Virginia, led an uprising of sixty or seventy slaves. As his remarkable confession indicates, he was a precocious youth and became a preacher motivated by mystical voices to fulfill a dream to liberate his people. He admitted that his own master, Joseph Travis, was a kindly person; yet he and his family were the first to be slaughtered. At least 51 – Gray says 55 – were murdered the night of the uprising, August 21, 1831, The details are given in the Confessions below.

to Southerners because the Southern press had reported insurrections in at least a half dozen places in the Caribbean or West Indies and one in North Carolina. (There is no proof of concerted conspiracy between Turner and the principals of the Carolina episode, however.) Following the massacre, the community tracked down suspects and killed an undetermined number, and the Court ordered sixteen executed and many more jailed or transported. Nat Turner went to the gallows, saying that he had nothing to add to his Confession.

The Nat Turner insurrection shocked the South and led most slave-state legislatures to pass stringent codes for policing. The flourishing emancipation movement in the South began to falter. Southerners came to believe that the revolt was connected with the rise of abolitionism, specifically with the publication of Garrison’s Liberator in that same year of 1831, but this has never been proved. More tangible is the fact that Southerners never quite recovered from the fear of incipient slave insurrections despite the wordy reassurances of Thomas R. Dew and the proslavery propagandists that there was nothing to fear.

This edition of The Confessions of Nat Turner is complete. Only the appendices and prefatory material have been omitted. Punctuation and spelling have occasionally been silently corrected.

Since the commencement of 1830, I had been living with Mr. Joseph Travis, who was to me a kind master, and placed the greatest confidence in me; in fact, I had no cause to complain of his treatment to me. On Saturday evening, the 20th of August, it was agreed between Henry, Hark and myself, to prepare a dinner the next day for the men we expected, and then to concert a plan, as we had not yet determined on any. Hark on the following morning brought a pig, and Henry brandy, and being joined by Sam, Nelson, Will and Jack, they prepared in the woods a dinner, where, about three o’clock, I joined them.

I saluted them on coming up, and asked Will how came he there; he answered, his life was worth no more than others, and his liberty as dear to him. I asked him if he thought to obtain it? He said he would, or lose his life. This was enough to put him in full confidence. Jack, I knew, was only a tool in the hands of Hark, it was quickly agreed we should commence at home (Mr. J. Travis’) on that night, and until we had armed and equipped ourselves, and gathered sufficient force, neither age nor sex was to be spared, (which was invariably adhered to.) We remained at the feast until about two hours in the night, when we went to the house and found Austin; they all went to the cider press and drank, except myself. On returning to the house, Hark went to the door with an axe, for the purpose of breaking it open, as we knew we were strong enough to murder the family, if they were awaked by the noise; but reflecting that it might create an alarm in the neighborhood, we determined to enter the house secretly, and murder them whilst sleeping.

Hark got a ladder and set it against the chimney, on which I ascended, and hoisting a window, entered and came down stairs, unbarred the door, and removed the guns from their places. It was then observed that I must spill the first blood. On which armed with a hatchet, and accompanied by Will, I entered my master’s chamber; it being dark, I could not give a death blow, the hatchet glanced from his head, he sprang from the bed and called his wife, it was his last word. Will laid him dead, with a blow of his axe, and Mrs. Travis shared the same fate, as she lay in bed. The murder of this family five in number, was the work of a moment, not one of them awoke; there was a little infant sleeping in a cradle, that was forgotten, until we had left the house and gone some distance, when Henry and Will returned and killed it; we got here, four guns that would shoot, and several old muskets, with a pound or two of powder.

We remained some time at the barn, where we paraded; I formed them in a line as soldiers, and after carrying them through all the manoeuvres I was master of, marched them off to Mr. Salathul Francis’, about six hundred yards distant. Sam and Will went to the door and knocked. Mr. Francis asked who was there, Sam replied it was him, and he had a letter for him, on which he got up and came to the door; they immediately seized him, and dragging him out a little from the door, he was dispatched by repeated blows on the head; there was no other white person in the family.

We started from there for Mrs. Reese’s, maintaining the most perfect silence on our march, where finding the door unlocked, we entered, and murdered Mrs. Reese in her bed, while sleeping; her son awoke, but it was only to sleep the sleep of death, he had only time to say who is that, and he was no more. From Mrs. Reese’s we went to Mrs. Turner’s, a mile distant, which we reached about sunrise, on Monday morning. Henry, Austin, and Sam, went to the still, where, finding Mr. Peebles, Austin shot him, and the rest of us went to the house; as we approached, the family discovered us, and shut the door. Vain hope! Will, with one stroke of his axe, opened it, and we entered and found Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Newsome in the middle of a room almost frightened to death. Will immediately killed Mrs. Turner, with one blow of his axe. I took Mrs. Newsome by the hand, and with the sword I had when I was apprehended, I struck her several blows over the head, but not being able to kill her, as the sword was dull. Will turning around and discovering it, dispatched her also. A general destruction of property and search for money and ammunition, always succeeded the murders.

By this time my company amounted to fifteen, and nine men mounted, who started for Mrs. Whitehead’s, (the other six were to go through a by way to Mr. Bryant’s, and rejoin us at Mrs. White head’s,) as we approached the house we discovered Mr. Richard Whitehead standing in the cotton patch, near the lane fence; we called him over into the lane, and Will, the executioner, was near at hand, with his fatal axe, to send him to an untimely grave. As we pushed on to the house, I discovered someone run round the garden, and thinking it was some of the white family, I pursued them, but finding it was a servant girl belonging to the house, I returned to commence the work of death, but they whom I left, had not been idle; all the family were already murdered, but Mrs. Whitehead and her daughter Margaret. As I came round to the door I saw Will pulling Mrs. Whitehead out of the house, and at the step he nearly severed her head from her body, with his broad axe. Miss Margaret, when I discovered her, had concealed herself in the corner, formed by the projection of the cellar cap from the house; on my approach she fled, but was soon overtaken, and after repeated blows with a sword, I killed her by a blow on the head, with a fence rail. By this time, the six who had gone by Mr. Bryant’s, rejoined us, and informed me they had done the work of death assigned them.

We again divided, part going to Mr. Richard Porter’s, and from thence to Nathaniel Francis’, the others to Mr. Howell Harris’, and Mr. T. Doyle’s. On my reaching Mr. Porter’s, he had escaped with his family. I understood there, that the alarm had already spread, and I immediately returned to bring up those sent to Mr. Doyle’s, and Mr. Howell Harris’; the party I left going on to Mr. Francis’, having told them I would join them in that neighborhood. I met these sent to Mr. Doyle’s and Mr. Harris’ returning, having met Mr. Doyle on the road and killed him; and learning from some who joined them, that Mr. Harris was from home, I immediately pursued the course taken by the party gone on before; but knowing they would complete the work of death and pillage, at Mr. Francis’ before I could get there, I went to Mr. Peter Edwards’, expecting to find them there, but they had been here also. I then went to Mr. John T. Barrow’s, they had been here and murdered him. I pursued on their track to Capt. Newit Harris’, where I found the greater part mounted, and ready to start; the men now amounting to about forty, shouted and hurraed as I rode up, some were in the yard, loading their guns, others drinking. They said Captain Harris and his family had escaped, the property in the house they destroyed, robbing him of money and other valuables. I ordered them to mount and march instantly, this was about nine or ten o’clock, Monday morning.

I proceeded to Mr. Levi Waller’s, two or three miles distant. I took my station in the rear, and as it was my object to carry terror and devastation wherever we went, I placed fifteen or twenty of the best armed and most to be relied on, in front, who generally approached the houses as fast as their horses could run; this was for two purposes, to prevent their escape and strike terror to the inhabitants – on this account I never got to the houses, after leaving Mrs. Whitehead’s until the murders were committed, except in one case. I sometimes got in sight in time to see the work of death completed, viewed the mangled bodies as they lay, in silent satisfaction, and immediately started in quest of other victims – Having murdered Mrs. Waller and ten children, we started for Mr. William Williams’ – having killed him and two little boys that were there; while engaged in this, Mrs. Williams fled and got some distance from the house, but she was pursued, overtaken, and compelled to get up behind one of the company, who brought her back, and after showing her the mangled body of her lifeless husband, she was told to get down and lay by his side, where she was shot dead.

I then started for Mr. Jacob Williams’, where the family were murdered – Here we found a young man named Drury, who had come on business with Mr. Williams – he was pursued, overtaken and shot. Mrs. Vaughan’s was the next place we visited – and after murdering the family here, I determined on starting for Jerusalem – Our number amounted now to fifty or sixty, all mounted and armed with guns, axes, swords and clubs- On reaching Mr. James W. Parker’s gate, immediately on the road leading to Jerusalem, and about three miles distant, it was proposed to me to call there, but I objected, as I knew he was gone to Jerusalem, and my object was to reach there as soon as possible; but some of the men having relations at Mr. Parker’s it was agreed that they might call and get his people. I remained at the gate on the road, with seven or eight; the others going across the field to the house, about half a mile off. After waiting some time for them, I became impatient, and started to the house for them, and on our return we were met by a party of white men, who had pursued our blood-stained track, and who had fired on those at the gate, and dispersed them, which I knew nothing of, not having been at that time rejoined by any of them – Immediately on discovering the whites, I ordered my men to halt and form, as they appeared to be alarmed – The white men eighteen in number, approached us in about one hundred yards, when one of them fired, (this was against the positive orders of Captain Alexander P. Peete, who commanded, and who had directed the men to reserve their fire until within thirty paces.) And I discovered about half of them retreating, I then ordered my men to fire and rush on them; the few remaining stood their ground until we approached within fifty yards, when they fired and retreated. We pursued and overtook some of them who we thought we left dead; (they were not killed) after pursuing them about two hundred yards, and rising a little hill, I discovered they were met by another party, and had halted, and were re-loading their guns, (this was a small party from Jerusalem who knew the negroes were in the field, and had just tied their horses to await their return to the road, knowing that Mr. Parker and family were in Jerusalem, but knew nothing of the party that had gone in with Captain Peete; on hearing the firing they immediately rushed to the spot and arrived just in time to arrest the progress of these barbarous villains, and save the lives of their friends and fellow citizens.) Thinking that those who retreated first, and the party who fired on us at fifty or sixty yards distant, had all only fallen back to meet others with ammunition. As I saw them re-loading their guns, and more coming up than I saw at first, and several of my bravest men being wounded, the others became panic struck and squandered over the field; the white men pursued and fired on us several times. Hark had his horse shot under him, and I caught another for him as it was running by me; five or six of my men were wounded, but none left on the field; finding myself defeated here I instantly determined to go through a private way, and cross the Nottoway river at the Cypress Bridge, three miles below Jerusalem, and attack that place in the rear, as I expected they would look for me on the other road, and I had a great desire to get there to procure arms and ammunition. After going a short distance in this private way, accompanied by about twenty men, I overtook two or three who told me the others were dispersed in every direction. After trying in vain to collect a sufficient force to proceed to Jerusalem, I determined to return, as I was sure they would make back to their old neighborhood, where they would rejoin me, make new recruits, and come down again.

On my way back, I called at Mrs. Thomas’s, Mrs. Spencer’s, and several other places, the white families having fled, we found no more victims to gratify our thirst for blood, we stopped at Majr. Ridley’s quarter for the night, and being joined by four of his men, with the recruits made since my defeat, we mustered now about forty strong. After placing out sentinels, I laid down to sleep, but was quickly roused by a great racket; starting up, I found some mounted, and others in great confusion; one of the sentinels having given the alarm that we were about to be attacked, I ordered some to ride round and reconnoiter, and on their return the others being more alarmed, not knowing who they were, fled in different ways, so that I was reduced to about twenty again; with this I determined to attempt to recruit, and proceed on to rally in the neighborhood, I had left. Dr. Blunt’s was the nearest house, which we reached just before day; on riding up the yard, Hark fired a gun. We expected Dr. Blunt and his family were at Maj. Ridley’s, as I knew there was a company of men there; the gun was fired to ascertain if any of the family were at home; we were immediately fired upon and retreated leaving several of my men. I do not know what became of them, as I never saw them afterwards.

Pursuing our course back, and coming in sight of Captain Harris’s, where we had been the day before, we discovered a party of white men at the house, on which all deserted me but two, (Jacob and Nat,) we concealed ourselves in the woods until near night, when I sent them in search of Henry, Sam, Nelson and Hark, and directed them to rally all they could, at the place we had had our dinner the Sunday before, where they would find me, and I accordingly returned there as soon as it was dark, and remained until Wednesday evening, when discovering white men riding around the place as though they were looking for some one, and none of my men joining me, I concluded Jacob and Nat had been taken, and compelled to betray me.

On this I gave up all hope for the present; and on Thursday night, after having supplied myself with provisions from Mr. Travis’s, I scratched a hole under a pile of fence rails in a field, where I concealed myself for six weeks, never leaving my hiding place but for a few minutes in the dead of night to get water, which was very near; thinking by this time I could venture out, I began to go about in the night and eaves drop the houses in the neighborhood; pursuing this course for about a fortnight and gathering little or no intelligence, afraid of speaking to any human being, and returning every morning to my cave before the dawn of day. I know not how long I might have led this life, if accident had not betrayed me, a dog in the neighborhood passing by my hiding place one night while I was out, was attracted by some meat I had in my cave, and crawled in and stole it, and was coming out just as I returned. A few nights after, two negroes having started to go hunting with the same dog, and passed that way, the dog came again to the place, and having just gone out to walk about, discovered me and barked, on which thinking myself discovered, I spoke to them to beg concealment. On making myself known, they fled from me. Knowing then they would betray me, I immediately left my hiding place, and was pursued almost incessantly until I was taken a fortnight afterwards by Mr. Benjaiin Phipps, in a little hole I had dug out with my sword, for the purpose of concealment, under the top of a fallen tree. On Mr. Phipps discovering the place of my concealment, he cocked his gun and aimed at me. I requested him not to shoot, and I would give up, upon which be dernanded my sword. I delivered it to him, and he brought me to prison. During the time I was pursued, I had many hair breadth escapes, which your time will not permit you to relate. I am here loaded with chains, and willing to suffer the fate that awaits me.

William Lloyd Garrison, radical abolitionist

From the PBS series Africans in America, here is a simple biography of William Lloyd Garrison: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1561.html

See pp. 386-390 in your text for more information.

Fear of Slave Insurrections in the Antebellum South

From Chapter 12 of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs

From http://www.unl.edu/Price/dickinson/analogue11.html
Harriet Jacobs’s narrative of her experience under and escape from slavery, Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl, was to be published by Thayer and Eldridge of Boston in the early 1860s. While they produced the stereotype plates for the book, Thayer and Eldridge went bankrupt before the book could appear. Jacobs arranged to purchase the plates and soon had another Boston printer publish Incidents “for the author” in 1861.

One of the very few editorial suggestions made by Lydia Maria Child, who edited and wrote the introduction for Incidents, was to expand the section of Jacobs’s manuscript that described the aftermath of Nat Turner’s rebellion. The result was chapter 12, “Fear of Insurrection,” which describes white violence against blacks following the revolt. The chapter departs from the overall plot of Incidents, which dramatizes Jacobs’s efforts to resist the sexual aggressions of her owner and later to rescue her children from slavery and reconstitute her family.


Not far from this time Nat Turner’s insurrection broke out; and the news threw our town into great commotion. Strange that they should be alarmed, when their slaves were so “contented and happy”! But so it was.

It was always the custom to have a muster every year. On that occasion every white man shouldered his musket. The citizens and the so-called country gentlemen wore military uniforms. The poor whites took their places in the ranks in every-day dress, some without shoes, some without hats. This grand occasion had already passed; and when the slaves were told there was to be another muster, they were surprised and rejoiced. Poor creatures! They thought it was going to be a holiday. I was informed of the true state of affairs, and impaired it to the few I could trust. Most gladly would I have proclaimed it to every slave; but I dared not. All could not be relied on. Mighty is the power of the torturing lash.

By sunrise, people were pouring in from every quarter within twenty miles of the town. I knew the houses were to be searched; and I expected it would be done by country bullies and the poor whites. I knew nothing annoyed them so much as to see colored people living in comfort and respectability; so I made arrangements for them with especial care. I arranged every thing in my grandmother’s house as neatly as possible. I put white quilts on the beds, and decorated some of the rooms with flowers. When all was arranged, I sat down at the window to watch. Far as my eye could reach, it rested on a motley crowd of soldiers. Drums and fifes were discoursing martial music. The men were divided into companies of sixteen, each headed by a captain. Orders were given, and the wild scouts rushed in every direction, wherever a colored face was to be found.

It was a grand opportunity for the low whites, who had no negroes of their own to scourge. They exulted in such a chance to exercise a little brief authority, and show their subservience to the slaveholders; not reflecting that the power which trampled on the colored people also kept themselves in poverty, ignorance, and moral degradation. Those who never witnessed such scenes can hardly believe what I know was inflicted at this time on innocent men, women, and children, against whom there was not the slightest ground for suspicion. Colored people and slaves who lived in remote parts of the town suffered in an especial manner. In some cases the searchers scattered powder and shot among their clothes, and then sent other parties to find them, and bring them forward as proof that they were plotting insurrection. Every where men, women, and children were whipped till the blood stood in puddles at their feet. Some received five hundred lashes; others were tied hands and feet, and tortured with a bucking paddle, which blisters the skin terribly. The dwellings of the colored people, unless they happened to be protected by some influential white person, who was nigh at hand, were robbed of clothing and every thing else the marauders thought worth carrying away. All day long these unfeeling wretches went round, like a troop of demons, terrifying and tormenting the helpless. At night, they formed themselves into patrol bands, and went wherever they chose among the colored people, acting out their brutal will. Many women hid themselves in woods and swamps, to keep out of their way. If any of the husbands or fathers told of these outrages, they were tied up to the public whipping post, and cruelly scourged for telling lies about white men. The consternation was universal. No two people that had the slightest tinge of color in their faces dared to be seen talking together.

I entertained no positive fears about our household, because we were in the midst of white families who would protect us. We were ready to receive the soldiers whenever they came. It was not long before we heard the tramp of feet and the sound of voices. The door was rudely pushed open; and in they tumbled, like a pack of hungry wolves. They snatched at every thing within their reach. Every box, trunk, closet, and corner underwent a thorough examination. A box in one of the drawers containing some silver change was eagerly pounced upon. When I stepped forward to take it from them, one of the soldiers turned and said angrily, “What d’ye foller us fur? D’ye s’pose white folks is come to steal?”

I replied, “You have come to search; but you have searched that box, and I will take it, if you please.”

At that moment I saw a white gentleman who was friendly to us; and I called to him, and asked him to have the goodness to come in and stay till the search was over. He readily complied. His entrance into the house brought in the captain of the company, whose business it was to guard the outside of the house, and see that none of the inmates left it. This officer was Mr. Litch, the wealthy slaveholder whom I mentioned, in the account of neighboring planters, as being notorious for his cruelty. He felt above soiling his hands with the search. He merely gave orders; and, if a bit of writing was discovered, it was carried to him by his ignorant followers, who were unable to read.

My grandmother had a large trunk of bedding and table cloths. When that was opened, there was a great shout of surprise; and one exclaimed, “Where’d the damned n—-s git all dis sheet an’ table clarf’?”

My grandmother, emboldened by the presence of our white protector, said, “You may be sure we didn’t pilfer ’em from your houses.”

“Look here, mammy,” said a grim-looking fellow without any coat, “you seem to feel mighty gran’ ’cause you got all them ‘ere fixens. White folks oughter have ’em all.”

His remarks were interrupted by a chorus of voices shouting, “We’s got ’em! We’s got ’em! Dis ‘ere yaller gal’s got letters!”

There was a general rush for the supposed letter, which, upon examination, proved to be some verses written to me by a friend. In packing away my things, I had overlooked them. When their captain informed them of their contents, they seemed much disappointed. He inquired of me who wrote them. I told him it was one of my friends. “Can you read them?” he asked. When I told him I could, he swore, and raved, and tore the paper into bits. “Bring me all your letters!” said he, in a commanding tone. I told him I had none. “Don’t be afraid,” he continued, in an insinuating way. “Bring them all to me. Nobody shall do you any harm.” Seeing I did not move to obey him, his pleasant tone changed to oaths and threats. “Who writes to you? half free n—–s?” inquired he. I replied, “O, no; most of my letters are from white people. Some request me to burn them after they are read, and some I destroy without reading.”

An exclamation of surprise from some of the company put a stop to our conversation. Some silver spoons which ornamented an old-fashioned buffet had just been discovered. My grandmother was in the habit of preserving fruit for many ladies in the town, and of preparing suppers for parties; consequently she had many jars of preserves. The closet that contained these was next invaded, and the contents tasted. One of them, who was helping himself freely, tapped his neighbor on the shoulder, and said, “Wal done! Don’t wonder de n—–s want to kill all de white folks, when dey live on ‘sarves.” I stretched out my hand to take the jar, saying, “You were not sent here to search for sweetmeats. ”

“And what were we sent for?” said the captain, bristling up to me. I evaded the question.

The search of the house was completed, and nothing found to condemn us. They next proceeded to the garden, and knocked about every bush and vine, with no better success. The captain called his men together, and, after a short consultation, the order to march was given. As they passed out of the gate, the captain turned back, and pronounced a malediction on the house. He said it ought to be burned to the ground, and each of its inmates receive thirty-nine lashes. We came out of this affair very fortunately; not losing any thing except some wearing apparel.

Towards evening the turbulence increased. The soldiers, stimulated by drink, committed still greater cruelties. Shrieks and shouts continually rent the air. Not daring to go to the door, I peeped under the window curtain. I saw a mob dragging along a number of colored people, each white man, with his musket upraised, threatening instant death if they did not stop their shrieks. Among the prisoners was a respectable old colored minister. They had found a few parcels of shot in his house, which his wife had for years used to balance her scales. For this they were going to shoot him on Court House Green. What a spectacle was that for a civilized country! A rabble, staggering under intoxication, assuming to be the administrators of justice!

The better class of the community exerted their influence to save the innocent, persecuted people; and in several instances they succeeded, by keeping them shut up in jail till the excitement abated. At last the white citizens found that their own property was not safe from the lawless rabble they had summoned to protect them. They rallied the drunken swarm, drove them back into the country, and set a guard over the town.

The next day, the town patrols were commissioned to search colored people that lived out of the city; and the most shocking outrages were committed with perfect impunity. Every day for a fortnight, if I looked out, I saw horsemen with some poor panting negro tied to their saddles, and compelled by the lash to keep up with their speed, till they arrived at the jail yard. Those who had been whipped too unmercifully to walk were washed with brine, tossed into a cart, and carried to jail. One black man, who had not fortitude to endure scourging, promised to give information about the conspiracy. But it turned out that he knew nothing at all. He had not even heard the name of Nat Turner. The poor fellow had, however, made up a story, which augmented his own sufferings and those of the colored people.

The day patrol continued for some weeks, and at sundown a night guard was substituted. Nothing at all was proved against the colored people, bond or free. The wrath of the slaveholders was somewhat appeased by the capture of Nat Turner. The imprisoned were released. The slaves were sent to their masters, and the free were permitted to return to their ravaged homes. Visiting was strictly forbidden on the plantations. The slaves begged the privilege of again meeting at their little church in the woods, with their burying ground around it. It was built by the colored people, and they had no higher happiness than to meet there and sing hymns together, and pour out their hearts in spontaneous prayer. Their request was denied, and the church was demolished. They were permitted to attend the white churches, a certain portion of the galleries being appropriated to their use. There, when every body else had partaken of the communion, and the benediction had been pronounced, the minister said, “Come down, now, my colored friends.” They obeyed the summons, and partook of the bread and wine, in commemoration of the meek and lowly Jesus, who said, “God is your Father, and all ye are brethren.”