Friday, November 30, 2012

Just Finished Reading

With all of the focus on the recent Lincoln movie by director Steven Spielberg, and its coverage of the 13th amendment, one might forget that little document that came first; the Emancipation Proclamation. O.K., probably not, but just to make sure, another book about the important document is now out. Lincoln's Hundred Day: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union, by Rutgers University professor Louis P. Masur primarily examines the one hundred days between the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Sept. 22, 1862) and the signing of the final document on January 1, 1863.

A major strength of this well written book is the variety of primary source perspectives that it provides to set the context of Lincoln's first term. We get accounts from Confederate newspapers, border state legislators, Union soldiers, British critics and supporters, and Republicans and Democrats of all descriptions.

I appreciated that Masur makes a point to show the three main differences between the preliminary and final Emancipation Proclamations; something I had never really thought about much before. First, the final proclamation didn't make a mention of colonization, an important shift in Lincoln's thinking. Second, the preliminary proclamation didn't state that African Americans would be accepted into the armed service, another significant shift. And, finally, in the January 1, 1863 proclamation Lincoln basically requested the freed people not to resort to violence "unless in necessary self defence." This may have come from the many suggestions that president received that the document would set off major insurrections in the South.

Another interesting point the book made was that Lincoln initially thought he could combat slavery from the top down - geographically speaking. That is, if the border states (Upper South) would give up the institution, the Confederacy would be convinced it could not persuade them to secede and the war would soon be over. But, when the border states continued to reject Lincoln's emancipation offers, he determined he would end slavery from the bottom (Deep South) up.

Lincoln's use of "war powers" as justification for the Emancipation Proclamation comes in for a healthy dose of coverage in the book. One analogy or story Lincoln used to explain this to visiting Kentuckians was particularly entertaining. "By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitutions  through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of the government, country, and Constitution all together."

Nicely, Masur provides four editions of the Emancipation Proclamation in the book's appendix for us readers. He includes the first draft given to Lincoln's cabinet on July 22, 1862, the preliminary proclamation issued on September 22, 1862, a final draft (December 29-31, 1862), and the final and signed proclamation (January 1, 1863).

I highly recommend Lincoln's Hundred Days to anyone who wants to know more about Lincoln's thought process and numerous conflicts that went into the Emancipation Proclamation. It is well researched, very balanced, and easy to read. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.75.    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Did a Bramlette Proclamation Set Precedent for General Orders 59?

Governor Thomas E. Bramlette and Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge, the commander of the Department of Kentucky in 1864, had a strained relationship to say the least. The friction between the two men was often due to Bramlette's belief that Burbridge abused his military power and caused Kentucky citizens to fear his forces. 

One of Burbridge's perceived outrages was General Orders No. 59, issued in July 1864. The order promised to execute four Confederate guerrillas whenever a Union man was killed. Or, at the least, to deport any Southern sympathizer who lived within five miles of any outrage on a Unionist.

But, did Burbridge perhaps get his ideas for General Orders No. 59 from Bramlette? The above document issued by the governor on January 4, 1864, stated that "I, therefore, request that the various Military Commanders in the State of Kentucky will, in every instance when a loyal citizen is taken off by bands of guerrillas immediately arrest at least five of the most prominent and active rebel sympathizers in the vicinity of such outrages for every loyal man taken by guerrillas. These sympathizers should be held as hostages for the safe and speedy return of the loyal citizens." I would say that it is pretty similar in many respects. Bramlette, with ambiguous punishment suggestions continued, "Where there are disloyal relatives of guerrillas  they should be the chief sufferers." And, although he doesn't specify how they should suffer, he warned, "Let them learn that if they refuse to exert themselves actively for the assistance and protection of the loyal, they must expect to reap the just fruits of their complicity with the enemies of our State and people." 

Certainly, Bramlette's proclamation is not as explicit as Burbridge's order, but to me, there is a similarity that seems more than coincidental.

Image courtesy of the National Archives.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The National Game, 1860

Left to right: John Bell of Tennessee, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, and Abraham Lincoln of Illinois.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Waiting 'til the Midnight Hour

This image from the Library of Congress shows slaves gathered in a quarter cabin and watching a pocket timepiece as the minutes creep toward January 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was to go into effect.

Surroundings and individuals depicted here are quite interesting. As a banjo hangs from the wall, a slave with a runaway neck collar and spikes holds a torch which illuminates the emotional scene. Many of the slaves shown are women who are either holding children or praying, or both. One slave stands by the door holding an American flag and apparently keeping those outside the cabin apprised of the time. Two individuals cover their faces apparently overcome with emotion, and one is shown prostrate on the floor as if in supplication.  Ages range from the old man with the watch in the center to the infants held by their mothers. Complexions, too, vary from the very dark woman by the door to the seemingly white woman in the left foreground. The table over which the old time keeper stands is made from a Sanitary Commission box and there appears to be an open book of some type on top of it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yeaman not Welcome Back in Kentucky?

If you happen to go see the new Lincoln movie by Steven Spielberg you will probably be introduced for the first time to a Kentuckian who helped cast one of the deciding votes needed in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the 13th amendment.

I had heard of George Helm Yeaman, due to the fact that he delivered an impassioned speech in the House in 1862 opposing the Emancipation Proclamation (I will try to share some of that document in a future post). But, I did not know much of his history or what became of him.

Yeaman was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1829. Hardin County also produced Abraham Lincoln twenty years earlier. Yeaman was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1852 and began practicing law in Owensboro, Daviess County. He was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1861 with numerous other Unionists and helped keep Kentucky in the Union in the fall of 1861. He was elected to the U.S. House to replace congressman James S. Jackson, who had resigned his seat and been killed at the Battle of Perryville.

Yeaman was a lame duck representative when the 13th amendment was being debated in late 1864 and early 1865, as he lost the 1864 election. He apparently had little to lose by switching his vote to outlaw slavery in the United States, but in fact he may have paid dearly.

Yeaman was offered, and accepted, the minister to Denmark position in 1865. Was this opportunity offered in exchange for his switched vote? I'm not sure at this point, but I would not be surprised, for as the movie showed, certain lame duck members of the House were provided with certain "benefits." Yeaman served as minister until 1870.

Kentucky was still very volatile during the Reconstruction years and it would also not surprise me to find out that Yeaman was not welcome back in his home state. Whatever the reason, Yeaman took a law professor position with Columbia College in New York City and was later the president of the Medico-Legal Society of New York. He never made it back to Kentucky, as he died in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1908, and was buried at Madison, New Jersey.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

More Pennsylvania Support for the Crittenden Compromise

Early last month I shared an interesting and patriotic-themed petition from the citizens of Lancaster, Pennsylvania supporting the Crittenden Compromise resolution. Recently I found another petition, this one from Philadelphians, also supporting the Kentucky senator's proposal.

As can be seen in the the text of the resolution, the compromise measure was doomed to failure due to its highly pro-slavery measures, one of which stipulated that "No future amendments shall affect the preceding articles, and Congress shall never have the power to interfere with slavery in the States where it is now permitted." But, as can be seen in these two documents, some Northerners were quite willing to compromise on slavery in effort to save the Union.

A larger image of the document can be seen here. 

Image courtesy of the National Archives.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Ruinous Influence of Arbitrary Power

This selection will be that last I will share from Slavery Unmasked. While in Charleston, author Philo Tower witnessed some disturbing scenes and according to him, spoke to some individuals that were against slavery in principle if not in practice. Those people were apparently disturbed by the violence that often comes from one person owing another. By legally owning someone a sense of superiority and tyranny arises - something that Tower described as "the ruinous influence of arbitrary power."

One woman (her name was not given) told Tower about another Charleston woman that, on the surface was well respected in the community, but at home, terrorized her slaves.

The informant said, "I have known her thus on the watch . . .scolding for more than a hour at a time, in so loud and boisterous a voice that the whole neighborhood could hear her; and this without the least apparent feeling of shame. Indeed, it is no disgrace among slave-holders, and did not in the least injure her standing, either as a lady or a Christian, in the aristocratic circle in which she moved."

This woman was apparently vicious. "This mistress would occasionally send her slaves, male and female, to the inquisition (slave pen) for more savage punishment than she could possibly inflict at her house. One poor girl whom she sent there for torture, was stripped naked and whipped so horribly that deep gashes were made in her back sufficiently large to lay my whole finger in them - large pieces of flesh had actually been cut our by the torturing lash. I have seen it in the hands of the most unmerciful inquisitors; may God have mercy on them for it, for the devil never will . . . .

This professedly Christian woman was a most awful illustration of the ruinous influence of arbitrary power upon the temper. Her bursts of passion upon the heads of her victims were dreaded even by her own children, and very often all the pleasure of social intercourse around the domestic board was destroyed, by ordering the cook into her presence and storming at him when the dinner or breakfast was not prepared to her taste, and in the presence of all her children, commanding the waiter to slap his face. . . It was common for her to order brothers to whip their sisters, and sisters their own brothers; and yet no woman visited among the poor than she did, or gave more liberally to their wants. But her own slaves must feel the power of her tyrannical arm, and know and keep their places."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Northerner's View of Slaves

In Slavery Unmasked, author Philo Tower took time to give his observation of what he saw as "the most disgusting sites" of slave life in Southern cities. This seemingly unkind portrayal is his attempt, I think, to show the degrading influence slavery had on African Americans.

"But to the descriptive part of this article; and here I am forced to remark (notwithstanding all my sympathies are enlisted on the side of the poor slaves) that one of the most disgusting sights presented to a Northerner, in walking the streets of a Southern city, and one that meets him at every corner, not only in the streets, but on the quays, levees, and on the the public walks and squares, is the mighty, rolling, headlong mass, or tide of negro servants, male and female, black, brown and yellow, their squalid, filthy, careless appearance as they pass along, up and down, to and fro, now bearing you along in the press, now retarding your advance, now cutting your path at right angles, then comparatively deafening you with a loud laugh or a shrill whistle, is anything but agreeable to one of any amount of refined feeling. But the facts in the case are, the cruel, unnatural, debasing servitude in which these poor creatures have been bred has so effectually crushed and ground every ennobling principle of humanity out of them as to render them almost insensible to shame or fear, unless their master or overseer should chance to be close by. You encounter them on the public walks from six in the morning until nine at night, and they are clad for the most part in the most fantastic style conceivable, from the gaudy household livery of a Southern nabob, to the tattered costume of a wandering Gipsy, many of them bare-headed, bare feet and legs, men, women and children. I have seen them during the all the winter months, singing, whistling, chatting, running, jumping, and dancing along the walks, with sundry other monkey shines too tedious to mention, with scarcely any regard to the thousands of whites they meet, unless it should be their overseers. One moment you run against one of them with a pile of wood on his head; the next your encounter an old woman with a wash-tub half full of water on hers; now you meet a grinning, bare-headed Topsy drawing a two-wheeled cradle, with some two or three white babes in it, singing her lullaby to them, as unconscious, apparently so, of any other presence, as though she were in the centre of her mistress' nursery; now a stocky woolly-headed chap passes you with a piece of board, some two by three feet platted on his pate, heaped up with fresh fish, singing out at a deafening rate, startling every disordered nerve in one's body - fish, fish, here's your good fresh fish. And then, to bring up the rear, and fully consummate your disgust, you see that hyena of the human race, the slave-drover, come up the street with some two or three hundred men, women and children in a drove, some in chains, some in rags, and come half naked. All these are to be placed on the block on the morrow for public sale."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Southern Morality and Ruffianism - Fearful Revelations

In Chapter 13, of Slavery Unmasked,which is titled "Southern Morality and Ruffianism - Fearful Revelations," there was a short section that said it was "clipped from southern papers." The author does not say what newspaper this selection came from or what day it ran so that it can be checked, but under the heading "Horrid affair in Maysville - Negro Burned to Death" a tragic story is told.

"We are informed that on the Kentucky Thanksgiving Day, a couple of young men of Maysville, whose family connections are described as of the 'highest respectability,' were on a drunken spree at the Parker House, in that place, and protracting their frolic until a very late hour, after all the household had retired to bed, attempted to arouse the bar-keeper to procure more liquor, and failing in this, and succeeding in finding a yellow man, one of the waiters, asleep, they concluded to set fire to him in order to awaken him! With this view, they took a camphene lamp, and, pouring the fluid over his whiskers, ignited it, and the poor fellow's neck and head became instantly wrapped in an intense blaze, which continued until the fluid was consumed.

The sufferings of the victim were dreadful in the extreme. No refinement of torture could have produced more excruciating misery. But, strange to say, death did not release him from torment until after the lapse of two weeks. The poor creature was the slave of Mr. Ball, keeper of the Parker House, who says, as our informant tells us, that no human suffering could exceed that of his boy during the fortnight that he lived after the burning. The young men 'respectably connected,' whose drunkenness resulted in this horror, are said to allege that they burned the negro by accident - that when holding the lamp to his face, they managed to break it, and spill the fiery fluid upon him. The young men are rich. They have agreed to pay Mr. Ball $1,200 for the loss of his servant. Our informant says that no one in Maysville speaks of this transaction without a shudder of horror, but that no movement has been made towards a legal investigation of the matter, and that the 'high position' of the parties implicated will overawe any such movement."

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Period Look at Cassius M. Clay

I am about to finish up reading Slavery Unmasked: Being a Truthful Narrative of a Three Years' Residence and Journeying in Eleven Southern States (gotta love those 19th century extended titles) by Rev. Philo Tower published in 1856. And, instead of writing a review of it, I thought I share some of the parts that struck me as interesting over the next few posts.

I have read a number of these Northern travelers' accounts the past. My favorites are probably those from the pen of Frederick Law Olmstead; the future renowned landscape architect. These accounts almost always come from a biased perspective, but if one understands that fact, they can offer so much context on how one section saw the other.

In Chapter 8 the Rev. Tower visited Louisville, Kentucky and took the opportunity to share some thoughts on Cassius M. Clay's reputation. I found them good reading so I will give the quotes here:

"One of [Kentucky's] daring native sons appears to be devoting his life to such a consummation, at least: I allude to the famous Cassius M. Clay. Reader, did you ever hear this singular man in public? I presume you have, while on some of his eastern lecturing tours. Well, just allow me here to describe to you, reader, how he harangues his native Kentuckians, on the subject of SLAVERY. He sends an appointment to a given place, to lecture at a certain time; perhaps some of the citizens will send word that he will not be allowed to lecture there; he sends word back to them that he will lecture there, according to previous notice. The time comes, a great crowd is collected to hear the lecturer or to see the mob; presently the lecturer comes, he passes directly through the crowd, mounts the forum, waves his hand for attention, all eyes are turned towards the speaker. He commences with a firm, clear, and decided tone of voice, the following remarks:

Gentlemen, says he, I have a few preliminaries to settle, previous to entering upon the main subject of discussion. I want to make three short appeals to three classes of persons, whereupon he holds up a small Bible. There, gentlemen says he, is the great charter record of human rights, on which all law and equity is based, deserving the name of law - this is my last appeal to the religious portion of society - and lays it down upon the stand before him. Then he holds up the Constitution of the United States. Here, gentlemen, says he, is the bond of our Union, the noble Constitution of our Glorious Republic, which says that all men are born free and equal, with certain inalienable rights, &c., &c. This is my appeal to gentlemen, to patriots, and to all true hearted Americans, and places it with the Bible before him. Then he puts his hand into his pocket and brings out and enormous six shooter: holding it up before the audience, he exclaims: and here, gentlemen, is a six shooter, every barrel of which is heavily charged with powder and cold lead. This is my appeal to the mobocrats, and I will blow its contents through the heart of the first man who offers to lay his hands on me; to silence men in my native State, or to gag free speech in my presence. This he also lays down upon the stand with his two former appeals, ready for action; then he commences a perfect storm against the peculiar institution, enough to wring the sweat our of old Kentucky from every pore. Such, sir, is the celebrated nephew [actually cousin] of old Henry Clay, in his own State. Success to his efforts. May he live to see the chains fall from every slave in the land of his birth."

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just Finished Reading

I have said it on this forum a number of times in the past, but Reconstruction is without a doubt the most important yet under-taught period in America's history. I would argue that understanding the years that immediately followed the Civil War are as significant as understanding the four years of war.

How our nation attempted to "bind up its wounds" and become one country again is certainly not a pretty story. As one might image, there was much resistance on the part of the former slave states, and much spite delivered by the Northern victors. Both legal and extralegal measures were taken to thwart the important constitutional changes that challenged former racial distinctions in both those slave states that had remained loyal (border states) and those that had seceded. The road to reunion was filled with speed bumps and pot holes; both sides guilty of transgressions and vengeance.

The set of 11 essays contained in The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction as America's Continuing Civil War (edited by Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller) go a long way toward helping us better understand this confusing and contentious era. In my opinion, the editors did an excellent job of selecting the articles it contains.

I was especially happy to see that two of the essays discussed the unique role Kentucky played in these years. "'I Wanted a Gun': Black Soldiers and White Violence in Kentucky" by Aaron Astor, and "'The Rebel Spirit in Kentucky': The Politics of Readjustment in a Border State, 1865-1868" by Anne E. Marshall, both provide new scholarship about a state that is not commonly thought to have been deeply affected by Reconstruction. Kentucky's unique defiance - holding on to slavery - past the war's end, made sure that it would experience Reconstruction differently than its sister border states of Maryland and Missouri.

Other essays cover a diverse set of topics such as individual's stories (Wade Hampton), gender studies (antislavery women), class discussions (the poor whites of Georgia), race examinations (free people of Color in New Orleans), and even sectional studies (Northern Republicans) in Reconstruction. In fact, this is probably the best set of essays on a wide variety of subjects that have focused on the post-war period that I have ever encountered.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to better comprehend the diverse issues that have largely been overlooked in Reconstruction scholarship. A lot can be learned here. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give The Great Task Remaining Before Us a 4.75.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kentucky Gov. Robinson and the Emancipation Proclamation, Part I

On January 8, 1863, Kentucky Governor James F. Robinson addressed the General Assembly upon that body's adjournment. Robinson had replaced Beriah Magoffin with the later's resignation in August 1862 - just before Confederate forces advanced into the state.

In this speech Robinson noted the difficult position in which Kentucky found itself and the troubles it had faced by being occupied by both Federal and Confederate troops. Of particular mention in the address was that "the rights of property have not been respected." He complained that "farms have been laid waste, provisions have been seized, forage has been collected, and instead of being brought in open market where the supply would be ample and the competition fair, commissaries have gone with teams and soldiers, taking grain and other commodities from the farmers at whatever price the commissaries chose to affix to them . . . " He also asked rhetorically - or possibly just inquisitively   "Why is it, that all supplies are bought and paid for in Ohio, the Government coming in as any other purchaser, while the same things are unceremoniously seized in Kentucky?" He and other Kentuckians saw this practice as being unfair, even in war.

But, however disturbing that disrespect for property was, "there looms up before . . . a more gigantic evil - one, the bare contemplation of which, sickens the heart and fills all with gloomy and dreadful forebodings." If one could not guess, Governor Robinson was referring the tampering of "slave property of Kentucky."

Robinson declared that it did not matter now if it would have been better or not to have admitted slavery into Kentucky from the beginning - "It was brought from our old mother Virginia and by men who had fought the Revolutionary war . . . " and was now established.

The governor claimed that slavery had advanced the "African captive, the creature of superstitious ignorance and savage cruelty . . . ." According to Robinson the African's positive evolution was due to him being "under the tutelage of a humane but necessary subjection to a superior race . . . ."

He continued that Kentucky wrote slavery into their state constitution and that document certainly agreed with the Federal Constitution's sanction of slavery. Robinson claimed that Kentucky had suffered more from the loss of slaves than any other state of the Union but "she never attempted violence in its recovery." And although Kentucky had "complaint against fanatic citizens of the North Western States," she noted the difference between individuals and their state governments and held the individuals not the states responsible.

Robinson declared that Kentucky was well aware that the constitutions of the federal government and state governments "constituted her best safeguard for her slave and every other species of property . . . ." And, Kentucky had refused the enticements of the Southern Confederacy because of this fact. During the Bleeding Kansas years, Kentucky "looked on with indifference" and let the matter be settled as the laws allowed. Too, Kentucky, although their candidate of choice was not selected, had been encouraged that the Republican Party had a platform that disavowed "any right or purpose to interfere with slavery in the States where it already existed by law."

Robinson said that at the outbreak of the war Kentucky assumed no move would be made that could not be undone to fix "a peaceful adjustment of all pending difficulties. She never allowed herself for one moment to stop to discuss the value of the Union. In her estimation nothing could compare with its value, or compensate its loss; and hence, when Southern politicians made bare their treasonable purposes, regardless of the disruption it made in her own social fabric, and the utter derangement and ruin of her commercial interests, she took her stand on the side of the Union and had maintained it with her treasure and her blood. The Constitution of the Union has not yet been changed and with her consent never shall be." [Emphasis in original]

To be continued...
Image courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Clay, the Hunter of Kentucky

Henry Clay is the hunter, and various Democrats his quarry. Clay wears a fringed buckskin outfit and coonskin cap reminiscent of Davy Crockett and the Western characters of the contemporary stage, such as Nimrod Wild-Fire or Jibbenainosay. (In Bucholzer's earlier cartoon "Treeing Coons," no. 1844-20, James Polk wears a similar costume.) He grasps a rattlesnake with the head of incumbent President John Tyler. In his belt are two trophies, the Van Buren fox and Polk goose. He stands on the trunk of a felled "Hickory" tree (an allusion to Democratic patriarch Andrew Jackson), while an eagle hovers over him displaying a ribbon with the Whig campaign slogan, "Honor To Whom Honor Is Due." Clay says, "Thus perish the enemies of my Country, and of the People, who have honored me with their suffrages!" To the left stands Clay's running-mate Theodore Frelinghuysen, holding John C. Calhoun and Thomas Hart Benton by the seats of their trousers. He addresses Clay, "Here, noble Hunter! I have found two non-descript Animals! One of them is continually bawling about mint drops! and the other is yelling about disunion and nullification!" "Mint drops," slang for gold coin, were popular symbols of Benton's hard-money philosophy. Calhoun's leadership in the South's 
movement for nullification of the federal tariff of 1828 marked him as an advocate of disunion.

Interpretation and image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lincoln's Appeal to the Border States

On July 12, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln invited the senators and representatives from the border states to hear his offer of compensated emancipation to their states' slaves.

Lincoln explained to those gathered that he wanted to take this opportunity to speak to them since congress was set to adjourn soon. He believed that the border states men held "more power for good than any other equal number of [Congressional] members" and thus felt obligated to make his appeal.

He told them that if they had accepted gradual compensated emancipation back in March that "the war would now be substantially ended." He believed that if the seceded states saw that the border states would give up their slaves and never join their cause, those seceded states would quickly surrender, but he emphasized  "you can not divest them of their hope to ultimately have you with them so long as you show a determination to perpetuate the institution within your own states."

Lincoln asked them, "Can you, for your states, do better than to take the course I urge?"  He understood that they preferred "that the constitutional relation to the states to the nation" should be "practically restored, without disturbance of the institution," and that if it could be done he would be doing his whole duty under the constitution. But it was not being done, and thus they were "trying to accomplish it by war." Lincoln wanted them to know that war changed things and it would surely change slavery ". . .the institution in your states will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion-by the mere incidents of war. It will be gone, and you will have  nothing valuable in lieu of it. Much of it's value is gone already."

With this clear he asked how much better would it be to do something to help end the war, end the bloodshed, and at the same time receive some remuneration for it? He did not call for "emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually."  He suggested that there were accommodations in South America for colonization of those freed and that they would be willing to go when sufficient numbers settle there.

The president mentioned his repudiation of General David Hunter's proclamation freeing slaves and that he was feeling pressure from those that disagreed with his decision. Lincoln told the border state men that their acceptance of his offer could relieve that pressure and help the country all pull in the same direction to win the war.

Lincoln closed asking for due consideration. "You are patriots and statesmen; and, and such, I pray you, consider this proposition; and, at the least, commend it to the consideration of your states and people."  He continued that "Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views, and boldest action to bring it speedy relief. Once relieved, it's form of government is saved to the world; it's beloved history, and cherished memories are vindicated; and it's happy future fully assured, and rendered inconceivably grand."

Twenty of the border state senators and representatives issued a majority reply two days later spurning Lincoln's offer. They claimed that the federal government couldn't afford the compensation to the owners and that freeing slaves would make the Confederacy even more determined, not less.  Too, they believed that emancipation would fire up the secession impulse in their states.

The next day a minority reply was made by eight men in approval of Lincoln's appeal.

I would argue that it was not a matter of money. The president could have offered $1000.00 for each slave and the border states still would have turned him down. I would content that the issue was much more social than economic. Border state whites did not want freed African Americans living in their midst - they knew most freedmen would not willingly colonize and if they were free then there was the possibility of them becoming citizens and thus potentially equals - something they were not willing to consider.

So, over the next couple of years Lincoln's prophecy came true - the war wiped away slavery, albeit faster in some states than others. Maryland gave up slavery in November 1864, and Missouri in January 1865. Kentucky and Delaware held out until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment forced the issue in December 1865.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Just Finished Reading

I apologize for the moratorium on posts over the last two and a half weeks, but I have been in the air and on the road, both traveling for work and taking some personal vacation time. The time away afforded me opportunities to finish reading a new book.

The historical record gives us many examples of men who made their escape from slavery, but enslaved women's perspectives are much rarer. To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker, by Duke University history professor Sydney Nathans, provides such a perspective. Using an extensive collection of both Walker's Southern owners' and Northern allies family papers and diaries, along with other impressive primary sources, her story comes to life.

In 1848, Mary Walker took advantage of her position as maidservant for the wealthy Cameron family of North Carolina to make her escape. When Mary went with a Cameron daughter to Philadelphia to receive treatment for consumption, she used the opportunity to run away. In fear of the newly enacted fugitive slave law, she was later persuaded to move to Boston for better protection.

Throughout much of Mary Walker's amazing Northern existence she pined to reunite with those family members she left in North Carolina, her mother, her daughter and her son. Her Northern allies attempted several schemes to bring the family out of slavery, all without success. However, her plight put Mary and her benefactors in contact with a number of the era's leading abolitionists such as African Americans William Still, Lewis Hayden, and the eminent Frederick Douglass, as well as Samuel Gridley Howe and his wife, and Henry Beecher Stowe, and Oliver Otis Howard.

During the Civil War Mary even went to the sea islands in South Carolina to work with and help freed people there, but it took the capture of Raleigh, North Carolina by Union troops in 1865 to finally free Mary Walker's family from slavery. Mary's mother had passed away, but daughter Agnes and son, Bryant were eventually reunited with their mother in Boston.

Mary Walker's journey from enslaved woman to free person shows the great risks, sacrifices, and patience individuals had to endure to find liberty. It also shows that they were active agents in their own pursuit of freedom, not only for themselves, but for their fellow slaves as well. To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker is a great story that is well researched and written and that should be required reading for all Americans. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.75.