Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
 
 
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History 101:
Survey of the History of the United States
Manual - Chapter 3
American Slavery

Introduction | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8 | Chap. 9 | Appendix


The Dred Scott Case
          

Bleeding Kansas

Readings for Chapter 3 

Terms for Week 3

SLAVERY IN THE SOUTH, 1860

TWO VIEWS OF SLAVERY

A NORTHERNER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD SLAVERY

SLAVERY AND SOCIAL CONTROL

SLAVERY'S IMPACT ON RACE AND GENDER ROLES

A TEXAS SLAVE'S LETTER TO HER HUSBAND, 1862

SLAVE AND FREE BLACKS IN INDIAN TERRITORY

RUNAWAY SLAVES IN MEXICO

THE MORMONS AND BLACK SLAVERY

THE DEBATE OVER CALIFORNIA

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850: TWO VIEWS

ABOLITIONISTS‑GARRISON AND DOUGLASS

A FUGITIVE SLAVE RESPONDS TO HIS OWNER

OREGON TERRITORY BANS AFRICAN AMERICANS

BRIDGET "BIDDY" MASON IN SLAVERY AND FREEDOM

BLEEDING KANSAS‑‑ONE SOUTHERNER'S VIEW

THE DRED SCOTT DECISION

JOHN BROWN'S LAST SPEECH, November 2, 1859

LINCOLN'S POLITICS

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM, 1860

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1860 

 

Terms for Week 3 

            Eli Whitney 

            Haitian Revolution 

            Toussaint L’Overture 

            abolitionists 

            Texas and Slavery 

            John C. Fremont 

            William Lloyd Garrison 

            Frederick Douglass   

            Seminole Indian Wars 

            Nat Turner 

            The Republican Party 

            William Walker and Filibustering 

            The American (Know-Nothing) Party 

            Gag Bill of 1837 

            Compromise of 1850 

            John C. Calhoun 

            Harriet Beecher Stowe 

            Bridget “Biddy” Mason 

            personal liberty laws 

            Stephen A. Douglas 

            Kansas‑Nebraska Act, 1854 

            "Bleeding Kansas" 

            Dred Scott Decision, 1857 

            John Brown 

 

                                   SLAVERY IN THE SOUTH, 1860 

                                Whites and Blacks in the Total Southern Population  
 

State Total Population % White % black slave % free black
       
South Carolina 703,708 42 57 1
Mississippi 791,278 45 55 *
Louisiana 708,002 50 47 3
Alabama 964,201 55 44 1
Florida 140,424 55 44 1
Georgia 1,057,286 56 44 *
Virginia 1,596,318 56 39 5
Texas 604,215 64 33 3
North Carolina 992,622 70 30 *
Arkansas 435,450 74 26 *
Tennessee 1,109,801 74 25 1
Maryland 687,049 75 13 12
Kentucky 1,155,684 80 20 *
Delaware 112,216 81 2 17
Missouri 1,182,012 90 10 *
UNITED STATES 31,443,321 86 13 1

Composition of Southern White Society:   Nonslaveholders  78.1%

                                                             Slaveholders        21.9%  

* Free Blacks comprised less than 1% of the state's total population. 

Source: Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, Population by Age, Sex, Race and Agriculture of the United States.  

TWO VIEWS OF SLAVERY

George Fitzhugh, a 19th century defender of slavery argued that it was a positive good and in fact advocated the enslavement of white workers in the North to improve their condition.  Theodore Weld, however, was an uncompromising abolitionist who wanted to end slavery because it brutalized slaves and made their owners callous to human suffering.  Their views are described below. 

            Fitzhugh: The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world.  The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries [sic] of life provided for them.  They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters.  The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, not more than nine hours a day....Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays.  White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose.  With their faces upturned to the sum, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments....The free laborer must work or starve.  He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. He has no liberty, and not a single right. 

            Weld: The slaves in the United States are treated with barbarous inhumanity...they are overworked, underfed, wretchedly clad and lodged, and have insufficient sleep...they are often made to wear round their necks iron collars armed with prongs, to drag heavy chains and weights at their feed while working in the field...they are often kept confined in the stocks day and night for weeks together, made to wear gags in their mouths for hours or days, have some of their front teeth torn out or broken off, that they may be easily detected when they run away...they are frequently flogged with terrible severity, have red pepper rubbed into their lacerated flesh, and hot brine, spirits of turpentine, etc., poured over the gashes to increase the torture...they are often stripped naked, their backs and limbs cut with knives, bruised and mangled by scores and hundreds of blows with the paddle, and terribly torn by the claws of cats, drawn over them by their tormentors. 

Source: George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All, (New York, 1857); Theodore Dwight Weld, Slavery As It Is, (Boston, 1839).

 

A NORTHERNER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD SLAVERY 

While Abolitionist usually captured the public's attention with their denunciations of slavery, the vast majority of Northerners were ambivalent toward the institution.  Ebenezer Kellogg, a 28 year‑old professor of languages at Williams College in Massachusetts, visited Charleston, South Carolina in 1817 and provided these impressions. 

            The character and situation of the black population of this country is one of the most interesting subjects of observation to strangers who visit it.  Their number is such as might entitle them to be regarded as the first portion of the population, and the whites only as a kind of agents for them, performing a very important part in the interior economy of this mixed society, but a part subservient rather than superior to the blacks... [But] the negroes are servants and others masters.  I saw only house servants, and those employed in the labours of the town, of the field servants I can say little.  Of house servants every family, however small must have at least three, a cook, a chamber maid, and a waiting servant.  Every small child must have a nurse till it is several years old.  In larger and wealthier families there must be a coachman, a laundress, seamstress, besides assistants in these departments... You will readily believe that where so many are employed their labour cannot be very severe; and this is commonly true.  The domestics of a New Englandman, do twice or thrice the work of the same number here.

            ...As to clothing, that does not in this climate very much affect their comfort.  They are usually decent for labouring people...  Yet they sometimes suffer from cold.  They seem more sensible to cold than we are...  Little attention is however paid to their comfort in this particular.  I have seen the servants in a cold evening seated on mats in the hall before the door of the sitting room.  They are obliged to spend hours there or in the back part of the room itself, where it would be unpardonable for them to sit down.

            Of their treatment as respect discipline, I saw little.  I often heard them scolded without reason.  They were frequently blamed when the justification was obvious to every bystander.  The worst form in which they are wronged...is when they are talked about in their own presence... It has the effect to harden them to the value of a good name, and to blight the first risings of anything like affection or respect.  When they are blamed, however unjustly they never answer, never attempt to justify themselves, even when a single word would completely do. I have never seen them whipped though I have heard their cries while under the lash.  They must, many of them be whipped if they are to be servants. 

            A great number from the black population belong to several churches here.  The Episcopal churches are said to contain a great number of colored people...  The blacks pay nothing toward the support of the  churches.  They sit on benches or stand along the aisles, or have part of the gallery.  These unhappy people are brought to a land that while it enslaves their bodies...saves their souls [sic] from the slavery of sin, and opens to them the glorious door of hope, which is the highest blessing of the happiest portion of the world. 

Source: Stanley I. Kutler, Looking for America: The People's History,  Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 327‑329. 

SLAVERY AND SOCIAL CONTROL

The slave system included a variety of restrictions and punishments designed to maintain social control over the black population.  In this account Moses Grandy, a fugitive slave, described some of the measures.  

            ...We had to work, even in long summer days, till twelve o'clock, before we tasted a morsel, men, women, and children all being served alike.  At noon the cart appeared with our breakfast...  There was bread, of which a piece was cut for each person, there was small hominy boiled...and two herrings for each of the men and women, and one for each of the children.  Our drink was the water in the ditches... The salt fish made us always thirsty.  However thirsty a slave may be, he is not allowed to leave his employment for a moment to get water; he can only have it when the hands have reached the ditch, at the end of the rows.  The overseer stood with his watch in his hand to give us just an hour; when he said, 'Rise,' we had to rise and go to work again.... One black man in kept on purpose to whip the others in the field; and if he does not flog with sufficient severity, he is flogged himself. 

    The treatment of slaves is mildest near the border, where the free and slave states join; it becomes more severe, the farther we go from the free states.  It is more severe in the west and south than where I lived...  On the frontier between the slave and free States there is a guard; no colored person can go over a ferry without a pass.  By these regulations, and the...patrols, escape is made next to impossible.

    Formerly slaves were allowed to have religious meetings...but after the [Nat Turner] insurrection...they were forbidden to meet even for worship.  Often they are flogged if they are found singing or praying at home.  They may go to the places of worship used by the whites; but they like their own meetings better...  A number of slaves went into a wood to hold meetings; when they were found out, they were flogged...  Three were shot, two of whom were killed. 

            ...There are men who make a trade of whipping negroes; they ride about inquiring for jobs of persons who keep no overseer; if there is  a negro to be whipped, whether man or woman, this man is employed when he calls, and does it immediately; his fee is half a dollar. Widows and other females, having negroes, get them whipped this way.  Many mistresses will insist on the slave who has been flogged begging pardon for her fault on her knees, and thanking her for the correction...

            The severe punishments...for trifling offenses, or none at all...and the agonizing feelings they endure at being separated from the dearest connections, drive many of them to desperation...  They hide themselves in the woods, where they remain for months, and, in some cases for years.  When caught, they are flogged...their backs pickled, [vinegar applied to the back] and the flogging repeated.  After months of this torture, the back is allowed to heal, and the slave is sold away. 

Source: Moses Grandy, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, (Boston, 1844), pp. 16‑17, 34‑41.  

SLAVERY'S IMPACT ON RACE AND GENDER ROLES 

Black feminist theorist Michelle Wallace suggests in the passage below the various ways in which slavery's racial and gender roles impacted on the attitudes toward black people and particularly on the dynamics of interaction between black women and men. 

            As the function of the Southern white woman changed, the life of the black woman continued just as if the country were in its first stages of growth.  She labored in the fields beside he husband, developed muscles in her arms, bore the lash and the wrath of her master.  Her labor and trials became inextricably associated with her skin color, even though not so long before the colonial woman had not been much better off....

            Gradually a network of lies developed to justify the continuance of the master/slave relationship, the selling of children away from their mothers, the separation of wives and husband, the breeding of slaves like animals.  After the constitutional ban on slave importation, which took effect in 1808, the market required that a brutal emphasis be placed upon the stud capabilities of the black man and upon the black woman's fertility.  The theory of the inferiority of blacks began to be elaborated upon and take hold.  It was at this point that the black woman gained her reputation for invulnerability.  She was the key to the labor supply.  No one wished to admit that she felt as any woman would about the loss of her children, or that she had any particularly deep attachment to her husband, since he might also have to be sold.  Her first duty had to be to the master of the house.

            She was believed to be not only emotionally callous but physically invulnerable-stronger than white women and the physical equal of any man of her race.  She was stronger than white women in order to justify her performing a kind of labor most white women were now presumed to be incapable of.  She had to be considered at least the physical equal of the black man so that he would not feel justified in attempting to protect her.

            She was labeled sexually promiscuous because it was imperative that her womb supply the labor force.  The father might be her master, a neighboring white man, the overseer, a slave assigned to her by her master; her marriage was not recognized by law.

            Every tenet of the mythology about her was used to reinforce the notion of the spinelessness and unreliability of the black man, as well as the notion of the frivolity and vulnerability of white women.  The business of sexual and racial definition, hideously intertwined, had become a matter of balancing extremes.  That white was powerful meant that black had to be powerless.  That white men were omnipotent meant that white women had to be impotent.  But slavery produced further complications:  black women had to be strong in ways that white women were not allowed to be, black men had to be weak in ways that white men were not allowed to be. 

Source: Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of Superwoman, (New York, 1979) pp. 137-138.  

A TEXAS SLAVE'S LETTER TO HER HUSBAND, 1862 

Because most slaves could not read and write only rarely do we have the opportunity to read the thoughts expressed by someone in bondage.  Fanny Perry, a Harrison County, Texas slave woman has provided one such opportunity with the letter she wrote to her husband, Norfleet Perry, the personal servant of Theophilus Perry, who at the time was serving with the 28th Texas Cavalry in Arkansas.  Here is Fanny's letter of December 28, 1862.  We do not know if she and Norfleet were ever reunited during or after the Civil War.  

................................... Spring Hill, Dec. 28th 1862

My Dear Husband, 

            I would be mighty glad to see you and I wish you would write back here and let me know how you are getting on.  I am doing tolerable well and have enjoyed very good health since you left.  I haven't forgot you nor I never will forget you as long as the world stands, even if you forget me.  My love is just as great as it was the first night I married you, and I hope it will be so with you.  My heart and love is pinned to your breast, and I hope yours is to mine.  If I never see you again, I hope to meet you in Heaven.  There is not time night or day but what I am studying about you.  I haven't had a letter from you in some time.  I am very anxious to hear from you.  I heard once that you were sick but I heard afterwards that you had got well.  I hope your health will be good hereafter.  Master gave us three days Christmas.  I wish you could have been here to enjoy it with me for I did not enjoy myself much because you were not here.  I went up to Miss Ock's to a candy stew last Friday night, I wish you could have been here to have gone with me.  I know I would have enjoyed myself so much better.  Mother, Father, Grandmama, Brothers & Sisters say Howdy and they hope you will do well.  Be sure to answer this soon for I am always glad to hear from you.  I hope it will not be long before you can come home. 

................................... Your Loving Wife

.......................             Fanny 

Source: Randolph B. Campbell and Donald K. Pickens, "'My Dear Husband,' A Texas Slave's Love Letter, 1862," Journal of Negro History 65:4(Fall 1980):361-364. 

 

SLAVE AND FREE BLACKS IN INDIAN TERRITORY 

The Five Civilized Tribes, the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokees Creeks and Seminoles all developed black slavery in their native homes stretching from North Carolina to Mississippi.  Upon their removal to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in the 1830s, they brought slaves with them.  In the account below Daniel and Mary Ann Littlefield describe the status and treatment of African Americans, slave and free, among the Five Tribes. 

            The greatest population, by far, was among the Seminoles.  Between 1838 and 1843, nearly 500 blacks, both slave and free, removed with them.  Many were freed by voluntary acts of their Seminole masters.  Some...were free by virtue of their assistance to the United States as informers, guides, and scouts.  The Seminoles had no laws restricting free blacks, who, like the Seminole slaves, were allowed to own property and carry weapons.  Because they spoke English as well as the Indians' native tongue, several of the free blacks served as interpreters.

            A number of free blacks also lived among the Creeks.  Decades before their removal to the West, the Creeks had written laws which provided for the manumission of slavery by individual owners.  A census of 1832 showed 21,762 Creeks and 502 slaves with only a few Creeks owning more than ten slaves.  Among the Creeks were several free blacks who were heads of households.  The free blacks were removed with the Creeks, and by the time the Civil War began some of them owned businesses such as boarding houses and stores...

            There were fewer free blacks among the Cherokees despite large numbers of slaves among them.  In 1835, on the eve of removal, there were 16,543 Cherokees and 1,592 slaves.  By 1859 the number of slaves in the Cherokee Nation had reached 4,000.  Slavery among the Cherokees was little different from that in the white South and the status of slaves and free blacks declined as laws became more severe... All persons of "negro or mulatto parentage" were excluded from holding office.  The Cherokee Council [governing legislature] prohibited the teaching of slaves and free blacks not of Cherokee blood to read and write...and in the aftermath of a slave revolt in 1842, [it] ordered all free blacks, not freed by Cherokee citizens, to leave the nation by January 1, 1843.

            Fewer slaves lived in the Choctaw Nation.  An 1831 census listed 17,963 Choctaws and 512 slaves [and] eleven free blacks.  In 1838 the Choctaws forbade cohabitation with a slave, the teaching of a slave to read or write without the owner's consent and the council's emancipating slaves without the owner's consent.  Other laws prohibited intermarriage and persons of African descent from holding office.            

            The Chickasaws did not hold large numbers of slaves before removal.  But at that time many Chickasaws sold their homes in invested in slaves whom they moved to the West [and] opened large plantations [using] their blacks in agricultural labor.... The Chickasaws....regarded their slaves in the same manner as white owners.  In the late 1850s the Chickasaws forbade their council from emancipating slaves without the owner's consent... County judges were authorized to order [free] blacks out of their respective counties.  Those who refused to go were to be sold...as slaves... 

Source: Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., and Mary Ann Littlefield, "The Beams Family: Free Blacks in Indian Territory," Journal of Negro History, 61:1 (January 1976), pp. 17-21.  

 

RUNAWAY SLAVES IN MEXICO

Hundreds of black Texas slaves made their way to freedom in Mexico in the years before the Civil War.  Here is a brief glimpse of the lives of fugitive slaves in Mexico written by Fredrick Law Olmstead following his famous journey across Texas in the mid-1850s. 

            Very few persons were moving in the streets, or engaged in any kind of labor...  As we turned a corner near the bank, we came suddenly upon two negroes, as they were crossing the street.  One of them was startled, and looking ashamed and confounded, turned hesitantly back and walked away from us; whereas some Mexican children laughed, and the other negro, looking at us, grinned impudently--expressing plainly enough--"I am not afraid of you."  He touched his hat, however, when I nodded to him, and then, putting his hands in his pockets, as if he hadn't meant to, stepped up on one of the sand-bank caverns, whistling.  Thither, wishing to have some conversation with him, I followed.  He very civilly informed me, in answer to inquiries, that he was born in Virginia, and had been brought South by a trader and sold to a gentleman who had brought him to Texas, from whom he had run away four or five years ago.  He would like...to see old Virginia again, that he would--if he could be free.  He was a mechanic, and could earn a dollar very easily, by his trade, every day.  He could speak Spanish fluently, and had traveled extensively in Mexico, sometimes on his own business, and sometimes as a servant or muleteer.  Once he had been beyond Durango, or nearly to the Pacific; and, northward, to Chihuahua, and he professed to be competent, as a guide, to any part of Northern Mexico.  He had joined the Catholic Church, he said, and he was very well satisfied with the country.

            Runaways were constantly arriving here; two had got over, as I had previously been informed, the night before.  He could not guess how many came in a year, but he could count forty, that he had known of, in the last three months.  At other points, further down the river, a great many more came than here.  He supposed a good many got lost and starved to death, or were killed on the way, between the settlements and the river.  Most of them brought with them money, which they had earned and hoarded for the purpose, or some small articles which they had stolen from their masters.  They had never been used to taking care of themselves, and when they first got here they were so excited with being free, and with being made so much of by these Mexican women, that they spent all they brought very soon; generally they gave it all away to the women, and in a short time they had nothing to live upon, and, not knowing the language of the country, they wouldn't find any work to do, and often they were very poor and miserable.  But, after they had learned the language, which did not generally take them long, if they chose to be industrious, they could live very comfortably.  Wages were low, but they had all they earned for their own, and a man's living did not cost him much here.  Colored men, who were industrious and saving, always did well...  The Mexican Government was very just to them, they could always have their rights as fully protected as if they were Mexican-born.  He mentioned to me several negroes whom he had seen, in different parts of the country, who had acquired wealth, and positions of honor.  Some of them had connected themselves, by marriage, with rich old Spanish families, who thought as much of themselves as the best white people in Virginia.  In fact, a colored man, if he could behave himself decently, had rather an advantage over a white American, he thought.  The people generally liked them better.  These Texas folks were too rough to suit them.

            I believe these statements to have been pretty nearly true; he had no object, that I could discover, to exaggerate the facts either way, and showed no feeling except a little resentment towards the women, who probably wheedled him out of his earnings.  They were confirmed, also, in all essential particulars, by every foreigner I saw, who had lived or traveled in this part of Mexico, as well as by Mexicans themselves, with whom I was able to converse on the subject.  It is repeated as a standing joke--I suppose I have heard it fifty times in the Texas taverns, and always to the great amusement of the company--that a nigger in Mexico is just as good as a white man, and if you don't treat him civilly he will have you hauled up and fined by an alcalde.  The poor yellow-faced, priest-ridden heathen, actually hold, in earnest, the ideas on this subject put forth in that good old joke of our fathers--the Declaration of American Independence.

            The runaways are generally reported to be very poor and miserable, which, it is natural to suppose, they must be.  Yet there is something a little strange about this.  It is those that remain near the frontier that suffer most; they who have got far into the interior are said to be almost invariably doing passably well.  A gang of runaways, who are not generally able to speak Spanish, have settled together within a few days' walk of Eagle Pass, and I have heard them spoken of as being in a more destitute and wretched condition than any others.  Let any one of them present himself at Eagle Pass, and he would be greedily snatched up by the first American that he would meet, and restored, at once, to his old comfortable, careless life.  The escape from the wretchedness of freedom is certainly much easier to the negro in Mexico than has been his previous flight from slavery, yet I did not hear of a single case of his availing himself of this advantage.  If it ever occur, it must be as one to a thousand of those going the other way.

            Dr. Stillman (Letters to the Crayon, 1856) notices having seen at Fort Inge a powerful and manly-looking mulatto, in the hands of a returning party of last year's filibustering expedition, who had been three times brought from beyond the Rio Grande.  Once, when seized, his cries awoke his Mexican neighbors, and the captor had to run for it.  Once, after having been captured, and when the claim to him had been sold for fifty dollars, he escaped with a horse and a six-shooter.  Once, again, he escaped from the field where his temporary holder had set him at work on the Leona.  In revenge for this carelessness, a suit was then pending for these temporary services.

            The impulse must be a strong one, the tyranny extremely cruel, the irksomeness of slavery keenly irritating, or the longing for liberty much greater than is usually attributed to the African race, which induces a slave to attempt an escape to Mexico.  The masters take care, when negroes are brought into Western Texas, that they are informed (certainly never with any reservation, and sometimes, as I have had personal evidence, with amusing extravagance) of the dangers and difficulties to be encountered by a runaway.

            There is a permanent reward offered by the state for their recovery, and a considerable number of men make a business of hunting them.  Most of the frontier rangers are ready at any time to make a couple of hundred dollars, by taking them up, if they come in their way.  If so taken, they are severely punished, though if they return voluntarily they are commonly pardoned.  If they escape immediate capture by dogs or men, there is then the great dry desert country to be crossed, with the danger of falling in with savages, or of being attacked by panthers or wolves, or of being bitten or stung by the numerous reptiles that abound in it; of drowning miserably at the last of the fords; in winter, of freezing in a norther, and, at all seasons, of famishing in the wilderness from the want of means to procure food.

            Bravo negro!  Say I.  He faces all that is terrible to man for the chance of liberty, from hunger and thirst to every nasty form of four-footed and two-footed devil.  I fear I should myself suffer the last servile indignities before setting foot in such a net of concentrated torture.  I pity the man whose sympathies would not warm to a dog under these odds.  How can they be held back from the slave who is driven to assert his claim to manhood?... 

Source: Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas--Or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier, (New York, Mason Brothers, 1859), pp. 323-327. 

THE MORMONS AND BLACK SLAVERY

By 1852 Utah had become the only territory to legalize both black and Indian slavery.  Lester Bush, Jr., a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described the evolution of Mormon doctrines on blacks and slavery against the background of the antebellum slavery controversy.  Part of his account is reprinted below. 

            There once was a time, albeit brief, when a "Negro problem" did not exist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  During those early months in New York and Ohio...the Gospel was for "all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples...."  A Negro, "Black Pete," was among the first converts in Ohio...  W.W. Phelps opened a mission to Missouri in July, 1831, and preached to...Negroes among his first audience.  The following year another black, Elijah Abel, was baptized in Maryland. [Abel was later named a priest in the church and lived for a time in Prophet Joseph Smith's home.]

            This initial period was brought to an end by the influx of Mormons into the Missouri mission in late 1831 and early 1832...  In less than a year a rumor was afoot that [the Mormons] were "tampering" with the slaves. In the summer of 1833, W.W. Phelps published an article... Missourians interpreted as an invitation "to free negroes from other states to become 'Mormon' and settle among us."  The local citizenry immediately drafted a list of accusations against the Saints, prominently featuring the anti-slavery issue....  In response Phelps issued an "Extra" explaining that he had been 'misunderstood'....and declared [no blacks] "will be admitted into the Church."  The Mormons, in spite of their repeated denials, continued to be charged with anti-slavery activity in Missouri.  In response, the next issue of the Messenger and Advocate, [the Church newspaper] was devoted to a rebuttal of abolitionism...  However, far from professing divine insight the authors [including Joseph Smith] made it expressly clear that these were their personal views.

            The Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Valley did not free the Saints from the slavery controversy, for much of the national debate was focused on the West.... The constitution of Deseret was intentionally without reference to slavery and Brigham Young declared "as a people we are adverse to slavery but we do not wish to meddle in the subject."  Though no law authorized...slavery in Utah, there were slaves in the territory.  They were fully at liberty to leave their masters if they chose.  Slaveowning converts were instructed to bring their slaves west if the slaves were willing to come, but were otherwise advised to "sell them" or let them go free.  The first group of Mormons to enter the Salt Lake valley were accompanied by three Negro "servants."  By 1850 nearly 100 blacks had arrived, approximately two-thirds of whom were slaves. 

            The "laissez-faire" approach to slavery came to an end in 1852.  In his request for legislation on slavery Governor Brigham Young...declared "while servitude may and should exist...and [there are] those who are naturally designed to occupy the position of 'servant of servants'...we should not...make them beasts of the field, regarding not the humanity with attaches to the colored race...nor elevate them...to an equality with those whom Nature and Nature's God has indicated to be their masters." 

Source: Lester E. Bush, Jr., "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 8:(1973), pp. 11-25. 

THE DEBATE OVER CALIFORNIA

In 1850 the debate over the admission of California as a free state nearly prompted a civil war.  The Compromise of 1850 was worked out to mollify both pro‑ and anti‑slavery interests.  However New York Senator William H. Seward, who four years later became one of the founders of the Republican Party, spoke against the Compromise.  Part of his address is reprinted below.

            Four years ago, California, a Mexican province, scarcely inhabited and quite unexplored, was unknown even to our usually immoderate desires... To‑day, California is a state, more populous than the least and richer than several of the greatest of our thirty states.  This same California, thus rich and populous, is here asking admission into the Union, and finds us debating the dissolution of the Union itself.  Let California come in...California, the youthful queen of the Pacific, in her robes of freedom, gorgeously inlaid with gold‑‑is doubly welcome...

            But it is insisted that the admission of California shall be attended by a compromise of questions which have arisen out of slavery!

            I am opposed to any such compromise, in any and all the forms in which it has been proposed.

            What am I to receive in this compromise?  Freedom in California.  It is well; it is worth the sacrifice.  But what am I to give as an equivalent?  A recognition of the claim to perpetuate slavery in the District of Columbia; forbearance toward more stringent laws concerning the arrest of persons suspected of being slaves found in the free states; forbearance from the proviso of freedom in the charters of new territories....California brings gold and commerce as well as freedom.  I am, then to surrender some portion of human freedom in the District of Columbia, and in New Mexico, for the mixed consideration of liberty, gold, and power, on the Pacific coast.

            California ought to come in...whether slavery stand or fall in the District of Columbia...in New Mexico...and even whether slavery stand or fall in the slave states.

            What is proposed is a political equilibrium.  Every political equilibrium requires a physical equilibrium to rest upon...  To constitute a physical equilibrium between the slave states and the free states, requires, first, an equality of territory...  And this is already lost.

            We hear nothing but slavery, and well can talk of nothing but slavery.  And now our difficulties, embarrassments, and dangers, arise....from want of moral courage to meet this question of emancipation as we ought.  I feel assured that slavery must give way...to the salutary instruction of economy, and to the ripening influences of humanity; that emancipation is inevitable, and is near...but I will adopt none but lawful, constitutional, and peaceful means, to secure even that end...

            Let, then, those who distrust the Union make compromises to save it.  I shall not impeach their wisdom, as I certainly cannot their patriotism; but, indulging no such apprehensions myself, I shall vote for the admission of California directly, without conditions, with qualifications, and without compromise... 

Source: Richard N. Current and John A. Garraty, ed., Words that Made American History, Vol.I, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965), pp. 446‑459.  

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850: TWO VIEWS

The controversy over the admission of California to the Union in 1850 almost prompted the secession of several slaveholding states.  In the passages below South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun and Massachusetts Congressman Horace Mann offer opposing views on the issue of California and slavery in speeches before Congress. 

            Calhoun: The Union cannot... be saved by eulogies on the Union, however splendid or numerous.  The cry of "Union, Union, the glorious Union!" can no more prevent disunion than the cry of "Health, health, glorious health!" on the part of the physician, can save a patient lying dangerously ill...

            How can the Union be saved?  There is but one way by which it can with any certainty; and that is, by a full and final settlement, on the principle of justice of all the questions at issue between the two sections...

            But can this be done?  Yes, easily; not by the weaker party, for it can of itself do nothing‑‑not even  protect itself‑‑but by the stronger.  The North has only to will it to accomplish it‑‑to do justice by conceding to the South an equal right in the acquired territory, and to do her duty by causing the stipulations relative to fugitive slaves to be faithfully fulfilled‑‑to cease the agitation of the slave question, and to provide for the insertion of a provision in the Constitution, by an amendment, which will restore to the South, in substance, the power she possessed of protecting herself before the equilibrium between the sections was destroyed by the action of this Government...

            If you who represent the stronger portion, cannot agree to settle them on the broad principle of justice and duty, say so; and let the States we both represent agree to separate and part in peace.  If you are unwilling we should part in peace, tell us so; and we shall know what to do, when you reduce the question to submission or resistance. 

            Mann: Gentlemen of the South not only argue the question of right and of honor; they go further, and they tell us what they will proceed to do if we do not yield to their demands.  A large majority of the Southern legislators have solemnly "resolved" that if Congress prohibits slavery in the new territories, they will resist the law "at any and at every hazard..."

            And do the gentlemen who make these threats soberly consider how deeply they are pledging themselves and their constituents by them?  Threats of dissolution, if executed, become rebellion and treason.... Such forcible opposition to the government would be treason.  Its agents and abettors would be traitors.  Wherever this rebellion rears it crest, martial law will be proclaimed; and those found with hostile arms in their hands must prepare for the felon's doom...

            I have only to add that such is my solemn and abiding conviction of the character of slavery that under a full sense of my responsibility to my country and my God, I deliberately say, better disunion‑‑better a civil or a servile war‑‑better anything that God in His Providence shall send, than an extension of the bounds of slavery. 

Source: John M. Blum, The National Experience: A History of the United States (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), pp. 268‑269. 

 

ABOLITIONISTS‑GARRISON AND DOUGLASS 

William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass were leaders of the abolitionist movement.  In the passages below Garrison and Douglass outline their views.  The Garrison passage is from the first editorial of his anti‑ slavery newspaper, The Liberator, founded in 1831.  The Douglass passage is from speech he gave in Boston in 1857. 

            Garrison: I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not a 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 the 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. 

            Douglass: The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle... If there is no struggle there is no progress.  Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.  They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

            This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.  Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.  Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.  The  limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.  In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. 

            Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get.  If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal.  We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others. 

Sources: Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York: Knopf, 1961), p.314; Lerone Bennett, Ebony Pictorial History of Black America, I, (Nashville:  Southwestern Company, 1971), p. 221‑222.  

 

A FUGITIVE SLAVE RESPONDS TO HIS OWNER 

The Fugitive Slave Act proved unenforceable in the North because abolitionists refused to assist local authorities in capturing runaway slaves.  In 1860 J.W. Lougen, a fugitive slave living in Syracuse, N.Y., responded to his owner, Mrs. Sarah Logue, of Tennessee, who had requested he return to her plantation or face the possibility of slave catchers. Lougen's reply reflects his sense of personal security in Syracuse. 

Mrs. Sarah Logue:

            Yours of the 20th of February is duly received, and I thank you for it. You sold my brother and sister, Abe and Ann, and twelve acres of land, you say, because I ran away.  Now you have the meanness to ask me to return and be your chattel, or in lieu thereof, send you $1,000 to redeem the land but not to redeem my poor brother and sister!  If I were to send you money, it would be to get my brother and sister, and not that you should get land.  You say you are a cripple...to stir my pity, for you knew I was susceptible in that direction.  I do pity you from the bottom of my heart.  Nevertheless, I am indignant beyond the power of words to express, that you should be so cruel as to tear the hearts I love so much all in pieces; that you should be willing to crucify us all, out of compassion for your poor foot or leg.  Wretched woman!  I value my freedom, to say nothing of my mother, brothers and sisters more than your whole body; more, indeed, than my own life, more than all of the lives of all the slaveholders and tyrants under heaven.

            You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1,000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, "You know we raised you as we did our own children."   Woman, did  you raise your own children for the market?  Did you raise them for the whipping‑post?  Did you raise them to be driven off, bound to a coffle in chains?  Where are my poor bleeding brothers and sisters?  Can you tell?  Who was it that sent them off into sugar and cotton fields, to be kicked and cuffed, and whipped, and to groan and die... Do you say you did not do it?  Then I reply, your husband did, and you approved the deed‑‑and the very letter you sent me shows that your heart approves it all.  Shame on you!

            You say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me.  Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare than Mannasseth Logue had to me?  Is it a greater sin for me to steal a horse, than it was for him to rob my mother's cradle and steal me?  If he and you infer that I forfeit all my rights to you, shall not I infer that you forfeit all your rights to me?  Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life?  Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?

            If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here, and lay their hands on me to enslave me.  Did you think to terrify me by presenting the alternative to give my money to you, or give my body to slavery?  Then let me say to you, that I meet the proposition with unutterable scorn and contempt.  I stand among a free people, who, I thank God, sympathize with my rights and the rights of mankind... 

Source: Stanley I. Kutler, Looking for America: The People's History, Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 342‑343. 

OREGON TERRITORY BANS AFRICAN AMERICANS

The Territorial Legislature in 1854 reenacted an earlier statute which banned the entry of African Americans into Oregon.  The new measure is reprinted below. 

A BILL TO PREVENT NEGROES AND MULATTOES FROM COMING TO, OR RESIDING IN OREGON 

Sect. 1 Be it enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Oregon that it shall not be lawful for any negro or mulatto to enter into, or reside within the limits of this Territory.  Providing that nothing in this act shall ....apply to any negro or mulatto now resident in this Territory, nor shall it apply to the offspring of any such as are resi­dents.... 

Sect. 2 That Masters and owners of vessels having negroes or mulattoes in their employ on board of vessel may bring them into Oregon Provided that in so doing such master, or owner, shall be responsible for the conduct of such negro or mulatto....and shall be liable to any person aggrieved by such negro or mulatto. 

Sect. 3 No negro or mulatto shall be permitted to leave the port where the vessel upon which they are or may be employed shall be lying without the written permission of such master or owner.... 

Sect. 4  That it shall be the duty of masters and owners of vessels having brought negroes or mulattoes into Oregon as aforesaid to cause such negro or mulatto to leave this territory with such vessel upon which the shall have been brought into the Territory, or from some other vessel within forty days. 

Sect. 5 If any master or owners of a vessel having brought negroes or mulattoes as provided for in the second section of this act into this Territory, shall fail to remove and take the same with them when leaving the Territory.... shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor....and on conviction, shall be fined and imprisoned at the discretion of the court; Provided that the fine in no case shall be less than five hundred dollars. 

Sect. 6 If any negro or mulatto shall be found in this Territory, except as hereinbefore provided and except such as may now be permanent residents, it shall be the duty of any Judge or Justice of the Peace to....to issue a warrant for the apprehension of such negro or mulatto, directed to any sheriff or constable....to arrest....such negro or mulat­to.... 

Sect. 7 If any negro or mulatto shall be found a second time unlawfully remaining in this Territory he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall....upon conviction be fined and imprisoned at the discretion of the court. 

Sect. 8 The Governor of this Territory shall cause this act to be published in some one or more of the California newspapers and such other newspapers as he may think necessary in order to carry out the spirit of the same. 

Sect. 9 This act to take effect and be in force from and after its passage. 

Source: Archives of the Oregon Historical Society 

BRIDGET "BIDDY" MASON IN SLAVERY AND FREEDOM 

Bridget "Biddy" Mason, born a slave in Georgia, became one of the first settlers of Los Angeles when the city had fewer than 1,000 inhabitants.  Today a memorial to her 19th urban homestead sits across the street from the Ronald Reagan Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles.   Here is a partial account of the freedom Mason found in the Far West. 

            Nothing is left of the original homestead of Biddy Mason, the first black woman to own property in Los Angeles.  In its place, at 331 South Spring Street, is the new Broadway-Spring Center, primarily a parking structure.  But this is no ordinary parking garage.  Ten stories tall, the Broadway-Spring Center is a rather graceful pink-and-green building with a Tony Sheets bas-relief on the front facade.  The ground floor will be divided into shops with access to the small, tranquil park that has been named after Mason and which provides a green, well-planted walkway between Broadway and Spring Street.  Two public art pieces─one by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, the other by Betye Saar─have recently been installed here, and, as part of the same project, a fine art book has been printed by artist Susan E. King, all to honor Mason and the site where her home once stood.

            More than a mile away, close to the USC campus, an old church that Mason founded still exists.  The First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, one hundred and eighteen years old, is a testament to the complexity of Mason's life, work, and impact on the city.  Many black leaders in the community worship there.  The dynamic Reverend Cecil L. "Chip" Murray offers up sermons with titles such as "You Can't Beat the House," while a conga drum, an electric guitar, and clapping hands set a background beat for gospel-rocking songs that bring people to their feet and infuse the room with sudden, irresistible energy, the energy of hope and belief and love.

            There's a very large mural at the front of the church, lit with a golden light that also bathes the pulpit.  A history is pictured there:  pyramids, Africa, slavery, migration, rows of crops and workers.  Presiding over everything is the great motherly figure of Biddy Mason─Grandma Mason.  She's tending a flock of sheep, and she appears dignified and strong.

            Biddy Mason bought her land and built her house in 1866 in a town then so raw and new that the streets were troughs of mud or dust.  Gas lamps were individually lit, one by one, every night, by a rider on horseback, illuminating a scant few blocks of humble houses in the bottom of a dark, sloping basin, now the valley of a billion lights.

            Mason was born in 1818 in the state of Georgia and sold into slavery at eighteen.  She walked across America in 1848 with the family who owned her and her sister─a Mississippi family who'd converted to Mormonism and were trekking west in caravans of wagons.  They were a homeless people slouching toward Zion, traveling with their slaves and stock and children in oxcarts loaded with everything they owned.  Biddy thus became a western pioneer, a black slave caught up in a white religious pilgrimage.  She had three children at the time, including the baby she carried in her arms.

            They walked from Mississippi to Paducah, Kentucky, to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska, and points less charted to the west, seven continuous months of walking, until eventually Biddy's party passed the valley of the Great Salt Lake in Utah─where others settled permanently─and went on to San Bernardino, arriving in 1851.

            But this Mormon family, named Smith, who owned Biddy and her sister and their children, didn't realize that California was a free slave state:  If you brought your slaves here, and they wanted to leave you, they could.  That's exactly what Biddy wanted, but Smith was hoping to depart for Texas, taking his slaves along before anyone could stop him.

            Biddy, however, had made friends with free blacks here, including Elizabeth Flake Rowan, Charles Owens, and his father, Robert Owens, who ran a flourishing stable on San Pedro Street.  Owens got up a posse of vaqueros to rescue Biddy and her kin, swooping down on the Mormon camp in the Santa Monica mountains in the middle of the night.  Biddy sued for freedom in court, won her papers in 1856, and moved her family in with the Owens.  She was, at this time, thirty-eight years old.

            Mason possessed great skills in medicine and became a midwife.  Like many Afro-American women, she knew the lore of remedies and rituals.  (For childbirth, keep the patient walking as "long as she can drag"; for a new baby, "string small pieces of poke root around a baby's neck to ease teething"; to celebrate a birth, "make a blue flame in the hearthfire by throwing a handful of salt"...)

            Ten years after winning her freedom she had saved enough money to buy the Spring Street lot; she eventually built her own house there─the house in which the First African Methodist Church was born.  In time she bought more land.

            Her grandsons were prosperous, in part because she gave them land to start a stable, and later she erected a two-story building.  She became known for her good works.  Before her death in 1891, she also became rich enough to know the joys of opening her hand and giving her wealth away. 

Source:  Judith Freeman, "Commemorating An L.A. Pioneer," Los Angeles Magazine, April, 1990, pp. 58-60.  

BLEEDING KANSAS‑‑ONE SOUTHERNER'S VIEW

Axalla John Hoole, a South Carolinian, was one of thousands of Americans who participated in the settlement of Kansas Territory in the 1850s.  Hoole, like most Southerners, came to Kansas partly to insure its admission as a slave state while Northern settlers had the opposite intent.  These excerpts from his letters home describe "Bleeding Kansas." 

                                         Lecompton, K.T., Sept. 12, 1856

My Dear Mother

            I must write you a few lines to let you know how I am getting along, though I have but little hopes of your getting this letter for some time past have been miscarried or stopped on the way‑‑but I will make the   venture.

            You perceive from the heading of this that I am now in Lecompton, almost all of the Proslavery party between this place and Lawrence are here.  We brought our families here, as we though that we would be better able to defend ourselves when altogether than if we were scattered over the country.  [Anti‑slavery leader James] Lane  came against us last Friday..... We had about 400 men with two cannon‑‑we marched out to meet him, though we were under the impression at the time that we had 1,000 men.  We came in gunshot of each other, but the regular soldiers came and interfered, but not before our party had shot some dozen guns, by which it is reported that five of the Abolitionists were killed or wounded.  We had strict orders from our commanding officer (Gen'l Marshall) not to fire until they made the attack, but some of our boys would not be restrained.  I was a rifleman and one of the skirmishers, but did all that I could to restrain our men though I itched all over to shoot, myself.  I drew a bead a dozen times on a big Yankee about 150 yards from me, but did not fire, as I knew if I did, the boys all around me would do the same, and we had orders not to fire until the word was given....I firmly believe that we would have whipped them, though we would have lost a good many men.  I did not see a pale face in our whole army, every man seemed keen to fight. I for one, did not feel as nervous as I am when I go to shoot a beef or a turkey.

                                         Your Affectionate Son 

                                         Douglas, K.T., July the 5th., 1857

Dear Sister:

            I fear, Sister, that coming here will do no good at last, as I begin to think that this will be made a Free State at last.  'Tis true we have elected Proslavery men to draft a state constitution, but I feel pretty certain, if it is put to the vote of the people, it will be rejected, as I feel pretty confident they have a majority here at this time.  The South has ceased all efforts, while the North is redoubling her exertions.  We nominated a candidate for Congress last Friday‑‑Ex‑Gov. Ransom of Michigan.  I must confess I have not much faith in him, tho he professes to hate the Abolitionists bitterly, and I have heard him say that Negroes were a great deal better off with Masters.  Still, I fear him, but it was the best we could do.  If we had nominated a Southern man, he would have been beaten, and I doubt whether we can even elect a Northerner who favors our side... 

Source: Stanley I Kutler, Looking for America: The People's History, Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 393‑394. 

THE DRED SCOTT DECISION

In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford that a black slave was undeniably property and because no citizen could be deprived of his property without due process of law as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, Congress could not outlaw slavery in any territory under its jurisdiction.  The decision understandably sent shock waves through the black community and, moreover, angered anti‑slavery advocates throughout the country.  Part of that controversial decision is printed below. 

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

            In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show that neither ...slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were acknowledged as a part of the people...

            They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

            ...The general words [of the Declaration of Independence] would seem to embrace the whole human family, and if they were used in a similar instrument at this day would be so understood. But is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration; for if the language, as understood in that day, would embrace them, the conduct of the distinguished men who framed the Declaration of Independence would have been utterly and flagrantly inconsistent with the principles they asserted; and instead of the sympathy of mankind, to which they so confidently appealed, they would have deserved and received universal rebuke and reprobation.

            ...They perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others; and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery... The unhappy black race were separated from the white by indelible marks, and laws long before established, and were never thought of or spoken of except as property, and when the claims of the owner or the profit of the trader were supposed to need protection.

            It is the judgment of this court...that the plaintiff in error is not a citizen of Missouri, in the sense in which that word is used in the Constitution...and that the Circuit Court of the United States had no jurisdiction in the case, and could give no judgment in it... 

Source: Leslie H. Fishel and Benjamin Quarles, The Negro American: A Documentary History, (Glenview, Ill., 1967), pp. 205‑207. 

JOHN BROWN'S LAST SPEECH, November 2, 1859 

John Brown, the New York abolitionist who moved to Kansas in the 1850s and participated in the territory's civil war, was arrested in 1859, tried and convicted of attempting to seize the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry to gather arms to support a large scale slave uprising in the South.  Brown offered no defense at his trial other than his desire to end slavery. 

            I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say.

            In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted,‑‑the design on my part to free the slaves.  I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, when I went into Missouri and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun either side, moved them through the country, and finally left them in Canada.  I designed to have done the same thing again, on a larger scale.  That was all I intended.  I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection.

            I have another objection:  and that is, it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty.  Had I interfered...in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so‑called great, or in behalf of any of their friends,‑‑either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class,‑‑and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment...

            This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God.  I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament.  That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them.  It teaches me, further, to 'remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.'  I endeavored to act up to that instruction.  I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons.  I believe that to have interfered...in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right.  Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments,‑‑I submit; so let it be done!   

Source: Leslie H. Fishel and Benjamin Quarles, The Negro American: A Documentary History, (Glenview, Ill., 1967), p. 207. 

LINCOLN'S POLITICS

Abraham Lincoln writing to his friend, Joshua Speed, in 1852 offered the following explanation of his political views. Lincoln's ambivalence about his political affiliation reflected the increasing political confusion brought on by the slavery question.  Within two years Lincoln and thousands of other Americans would create the Republican Party to articulate their views and advocate the changes they felt were vital to the nation's interests. 

            You enquire where I now stand.  That is a disputed point.  I think I am a whig, but others say there are no whigs and that I am an abolitionist... I am not a Know‑nothing. That is certain. How could I be?  How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people?   

            Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid.  As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal."  We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes."  When the Know‑Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners and Catholics."  When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of living liberty‑‑to Russia, for instance, were despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hyprocracy [sic]." 

Source: William E. Gienapp, This Fiery Trial: The Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln, (New York, 2002), p. 37. 

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM, 1860

Here is part of the platform of the Republican Party when it nominated Abraham Lincoln for President.  Much of that platform was unacceptable to the South and Lincoln's election precipitated the secession of a number of Southern States which later formed the Confederacy. 

Resolved, That we, the delegated representatives of the Republican electors of the United States, in Convention assembled, in discharge of the duty we owe to our constituents and our country, unite in the following declarations: 

    1. That the history of the nation, during the last four years, has fully established the propriety and necessity of the organization and perpetuation of the Republican party, and that the causes which called it into existence are permanent in their nature, and now, more than ever before, demand its peaceful and constitutional triumph. 

     2. That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, "That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States, must and shall be preserved. 

     3. That to the Union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented increase in population, its surprising development of material resources, its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at home and its honor abroad; and we hold in abhorrence all schemes for Disunion, come from whatever source they may... 

     4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State in order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes. 

     5. That the present Democratic Administration has far exceeded our worst apprehensions, in its measureless subserviency to the exactions of sectional interest, as especially evinced in its desperate exertions to force the infamous Lecompton constitution upon the protesting people of Kansas; in construing the personal relation between master and servant to involve an unqualified property in persons; in its attempted enforcement, everywhere, on land and sea, through the intervention of Congress and of the Federal Courts of the extreme pretensions of a purely local interest; and in its general and unvarying abuse of the power intrusted to it by a confiding people... 

    7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries Slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a danger­ous political heresy...is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country. 

     8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is freedom; That as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that "no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," it becomes our duty...to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legisla­ture, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States. 

     9. That we brand the recent re‑opening of the African slave‑trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of the execrable traffic. 

     11. That Kansas should, of right, be immediately admitted as a State under the Constitution recently formed and adopted by her people, and accepted by the House of Representatives. 

     12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the General Govern­ment by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such as adjustment of these imposts as to encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country... 

     13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of the Public Lands held by actual settlers, and against any view of the Homestead policy which regards the settlers as paupers or supplicants for public bounty; and we demand the passage by Congress of the complete and satisfactory Homestead measure which has already passed the house. 

     14. That the Republican Party is opposed to any change in our Naturaliza­tion Laws...and in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad. 

     16. That a Railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily Overland Mail should be promptly established... 

Source: Richard N. Current and John A. Garraty, ed., Words that Made American History, Vol. I, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965), pp. 522‑525. 

 

                              THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1860                                                                                        

Candidate Party popular vote percent Electoral
       
Abraham Lincoln Republican 1,865,593 40% 180
Stephen A. Douglas Northern Democrats 1,382,713 30% 12
John Breckenridge Southern Democrats 848,356 18% 72
John Bell Constitutional Union 592,906 12% 39