Monthly Archives: July 2012

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

 

1918 was quite a year!

It was the last bloody year of the Great War. The British poet Wilfred Owen, the American poet Joyce Kilmer and over 250,000 other soldiers died in battle between January 1st and November 11th. Tsar Nicholas II and his family were assassinated.

 The dancer Vernon Castle, the boxer John L. Sullivan, the composer Claude Debussy, and historian Henry Adams, died during the year.

 In my mind one of the key events in terms of long-range consequences for the continent of Africa and for world history in the last decades of the twentieth century was the birth of Nelson Mandela in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Nelson Mandela was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961.

 After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labor. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at the notorious Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town and from 1982 until his release in 1990, he was at Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

 

Mr Mandela in traditional outfit

Here is that famous speech from the dock, a wonderful statement of South Africa’s history and a revolutionary inspiration. Happy birthday, Mr Mandela–we are all in your debt!

 

I am the First Accused.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and practiced as an attorney in Johannesburg for a number of years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May 1961.

Mr Mandela, c1937

At the outset, I want to say that the suggestion made by the State in its opening that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said. In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defense of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case.

Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.

I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe, and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August 1962.

In the statement which I am about to make I shall correct certain false impressions which have been created by State witnesses. Amongst other things, I will demonstrate that certain of the acts referred to in the evidence were not and could not have been committed by Umkhonto. I will also deal with the relationship between the African National Congress and Umkhonto, and with the part which I personally have played in the affairs of both organizations. I shall deal also with the part played by the Communist Party. In order to explain these matters properly, I will have to explain what Umkhonto set out to achieve; what methods it prescribed for the achievement of these objects, and why these methods were chosen. I will also have to explain how I became involved in the activities of these organizations.

I deny that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which clearly fell outside the policy of the organization, and which have been charged in the indictment against us. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, but to demonstrate that they could not have been authorized by Umkhonto, I want to refer briefly to the roots and policy of the organization.

I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organization, did so for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war.

Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.

But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who formed Umkhonto were all members of the African National Congress, and had behind us the ANC tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a means of solving political disputes. We believe that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white. We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute. If the Court is in doubt about this, it will be seen that the whole history of our organization bears out what I have said, and what I will subsequently say, when I describe the tactics which Umkhonto decided to adopt. I want, therefore, to say something about the African National Congress.

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights of the African people which had been seriously curtailed by the South Africa Act, and which were then being threatened by the Native Land Act. For thirty-seven years – that is until 1949 – it adhered strictly to a constitutional struggle. It put forward demands and resolutions; it sent delegations to the Government in the belief that African grievances could be settled through peaceful discussion and that Africans could advance gradually to full political rights. But White Governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans became less instead of becoming greater. In the words of my leader, Chief Lutuli, who became President of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

“Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all.”

Mr Mandela with President Clinton, 1993

Even after 1949, the ANC remained determined to avoid violence. At this time, however, there was a change from the strictly constitutional means of protest which had been employed in the past. The change was embodied in a decision which was taken to protest against apartheid legislation by peaceful, but unlawful, demonstrations against certain laws. Pursuant to this policy the ANC launched the Defiance Campaign, in which I was placed in charge of volunteers. This campaign was based on the principles of passive resistance. More than 8,500 people defied apartheid laws and went to jail. Yet there was not a single instance of violence in the course of this campaign on the part of any defier. I and nineteen colleagues were convicted for the role which we played in organizing the campaign, but our sentences were suspended mainly because the Judge found that discipline and non-violence had been stressed throughout.

This was the time when the volunteer section of the ANC was established, and when the word ‘Amadelakufa’ was first used: this was the time when the volunteers were asked to take a pledge to uphold certain principles. Evidence dealing with volunteers and their pledges has been introduced into this case, but completely out of context. The volunteers were not, and are not, the soldiers of a black army pledged to fight a civil war against the whites. They were, and are, dedicated workers who are prepared to lead campaigns initiated by the ANC to distribute leaflets, to organize strikes, or do whatever the particular campaign required. They are called volunteers because they volunteer to face the penalties of imprisonment and whipping which are now prescribed by the legislature for such acts.

During the Defiance Campaign, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act were passed. These Statutes provided harsher penalties for offences committed by way of protests against laws. Despite this, the protests continued and the ANC adhered to its policy of non-violence. In 1956, 156 leading members of the Congress Alliance, including myself, were arrested on a charge of high treason and charges under the Suppression of Communism Act. The non-violent policy of the ANC was put in issue by the State, but when the Court gave judgement some five years later, it found that the ANC did not have a policy of violence. We were acquitted on all counts, which included a count that the ANC sought to set up a communist state in place of the existing regime. The Government has always sought to label all its opponents as communists. This allegation has been repeated in the present case, but as I will show, the ANC is not, and never has been, a communist organization.

In 1960 there was the shooting at Sharpeville, which resulted in the proclamation of a state of emergency and the declaration of the ANC as an unlawful organization. My colleagues and I, after careful consideration, decided that we would not obey this decree. The African people were not part of the Government and did not make the laws by which they were governed. We believed in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the Government,’ and for us to accept the banning was equivalent to accepting the silencing of the Africans for all time. The ANC refused to dissolve, but instead went underground We believed it was our duty to preserve this organization which had been built up with almost fifty years of unremitting toil. I have no doubt that no self-respecting White political organization woulddisband itself if declared illegal by a government in which it had no say.

In 1960 the Government held a referendum which led to the establishment of the Republic. Africans, who constituted approximately 70 per cent of the population of South Africa, were not entitled to vote, and were not even consulted about the proposed constitutional change. All of us were apprehensive of our future under the proposed White Republic, and a resolution was taken to hold an All-In African Conference to call for a National Convention, and to organize mass demonstrations on the eve of the unwanted Republic, if the Government failed to call the Convention. The conference was attended by Africans of various political persuasions. I was the Secretary of the conference and undertook to be responsible for organizing the national stay-at-home which was subsequently called to coincide with the declaration of the Republic. As all strikes by Africans are illegal, the person organizing such a strike must avoid arrest. I was chosen to be this person, and consequently I had to leave my home and family and my practice and go into hiding to avoid arrest.

Mr Mandela with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The stay-at-home, in accordance with ANC policy, was to be a peaceful demonstration. Careful instructions were given to organizers and members to avoid any recourse to violence. The Government’s answer was to introduce new and harsher laws, to mobilize its armed forces, and to send Saracens, armed vehicles, and soldiers into the townships in a massive show of force designed to intimidate the people. This was an indication that the Government had decided to rule by force alone, and this decision was a milestone on the road to Umkhonto.

Some of this may appear irrelevant to this trial. In fact, I believe none of it is irrelevant because it will, I hope, enable the Court to appreciate the attitude eventually adopted by the various persons and bodies concerned in the National Liberation Movement. When I went to jail in 1962, the dominant idea was that loss of life should be avoided. I now know that this was still so in 1963.

I must return to June 1961. What were we, the leaders of our people, to do? Were we to give in to the show of force and the implied threat against future action, or were we to fight it and, if so, how?

We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but was how to continue the fight. We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the races further apart than they already were. But the hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights. It may not be easy for this Court to understand, but it is a fact that for a long time the people had been talking of violence – of the day when they would fight the White man and win back their country – and we, the leaders of the ANC, had nevertheless always prevailed upon them to avoid violence and to pursue peaceful methods. When some of us discussed this in May and June of 1961, it could not be denied that our policy to achieve a non-racial State by non-violence had achieved nothing, and that our followers were beginning to lose confidence in this policy and were developing disturbing ideas of terrorism.

It must not be forgotten that by this time violence had, in fact, become a feature of the South African political scene. There had been violence in 1957 when the women of Zeerust were ordered to carry passes; there was violence in 1958 with the enforcement of cattle culling in Sekhukhuniland; there was violence in 1959 when the people of Cato Manor protested against pass raids; there was violence in 1960 when the Government attempted to impose Bantu Authorities in Pondoland. Thirty-nine Africans died in these disturbances. In 1961there had been riots in Warmbaths, and all this time the Transkei had been a seething mass of unrest. Each disturbance pointed clearly to the inevitable growth among Africans of the belief that violence was the only way out – it showed that a Government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it.

Already small groups had arisen in the urban areas and were spontaneously making plans for violent forms of political struggle. There now arose a danger that these groups would adopt terrorism against Africans, as well as Whites, if not properly directed.

Particularly disturbing was the type of violence engendered in places such as Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, and Pondoland amongst Africans. It was increasingly taking the form, not of struggle against the Government – though this is what prompted it – but of civil strife amongst themselves, conducted in such a way that it could not hope to achieve anything other than a loss of life and bitterness.

At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force.

This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other choice. In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit AD, we said:

“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only

two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South

Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back

by all means in our power in defense of our people, our future,

and our freedom.”

This was our feeling in June of 1961 when we decided to press for a change in the policy of the National Liberation Movement. I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.

We who had taken this decision started to consult leaders of various organizations, including the ANC. I will not say whom we spoke to, or what they said, but I wish to deal with the role of the African National Congress in this phase of the struggle, and with the policy and objectives of Umkhonto we Sizwe. As far as the ANC was concerned, it formed a clear view which can be summarized as follows: It was a mass political organization with a political function to fulfil. Its members had joined on the express policy of non-violence.

Because of all this, it could not and would not undertake violence. This must be stressed. One cannot turn such a body into the small, closely knit organization required for sabotage. Nor would this be politically correct, because it would result in members ceasing to carry out this essential activity: political propaganda and organization. Nor was it permissible to change the whole nature of the organization.

On the other hand, in view of this situation I have described, the ANC was prepared to depart from its fifty-year-old policy of non-violence to this extent that it would no longer disapprove of properly controlled violence. Hence members who undertook such activity would not be subject to disciplinary action by the ANC. I say ‘properly controlled violence’ because I made it clear that if I formed the organization I would at all times subject it to the political guidance of the ANC and would not undertake any different form of activity from that contemplated without the consent of the ANC. And I shall now tell the Court how that form of violence came to be determined.

As a result of this decision, Umkhonto was formed in November 1961. When we took this decision, and subsequently formulated our plans, the ANC heritage of non-violence and racial harmony was very much with us. We felt that the country was drifting towards a civil war in which Blacks and Whites would fight each other. We viewed the situation with alarm. Civil war could mean the destruction of what the ANC stood for; with civil war, racial peace would be more difficult than ever to achieve. We already have examples in South African history of the results of war. It has taken more than fifty years for the scars of the South African War to disappear. How much longer would it take to eradicate the scars of inter-racial civil war, which could not be fought without a great loss of life on both sides?

The avoidance of civil war had dominated our thinking for many years, but when we decided to adopt violence as part of our policy, we realized that we might one day have to face the prospect of such a war. This had to be taken into account in formulating our plans. We required a plan which was flexible and which permitted us to act in accordance with the needs of the times; above all, the plan had to be one which recognized civil war as the last resort, and left the decision on this question to the future. We did not want to be committed to civil war, but we wanted to be ready if it became inevitable.

Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision. In the light of our political background the choice was a logical one. Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and, if the policy bore fruit, democratic government could become a reality. This is what we felt at the time, and this is what we said in our Manifesto (Exhibit AD):

“We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought to achieve liberation

without bloodshed and civil clash. We hope, even at this late

hour, that our first actions will awaken everyone to a realization

of the disastrous situation to which the Nationalist policy is

leading. We hope that we will bring the Government and its

supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the

Government and its policies can be changed before matters reach

the desperate state of civil war.”

The initial plan was based on a careful analysis of the political and economic situation of our country. We believed that South Africa depended to a large extent on foreign capital and foreign trade. We felt that planned destruction of power plants, and interference with rail and telephone communications, would tend to scare away capital from the country, make it more difficult for goods from the industrial areas to reach the seaports on schedule, and would in the long run be a heavy drain on the economic life of the country, thus compelling the voters of the country to reconsider their position.

Attacks on the economic life-lines of the country were to be linked with sabotage on Government buildings and other symbols of apartheid. These attacks would serve as a source of inspiration to our people. In addition, they would provide an outlet for those people who were urging the adoption of violent methods and would enable us to give concrete proof to our followers that we had adopted a stronger line and were fighting back against Government violence.

In addition, if mass action were successfully organized, and mass reprisals taken, we felt that sympathy for our cause would be roused in other countries, and that greater pressure would be brought to bear on the South African Government.

This then was the plan. Umkhonto was to perform sabotage, and strict instructions were given to its members right from the start, that on no account were they to injure or kill people in planning or carrying out operations. These instructions have been referred to in the evidence of ‘Mr. X’ and ‘Mr. Z.’

The affairs of the Umkhonto were controlled and directed by a National High Command, which had powers of co-option and which could, and did, appoint Regional Commands. The High Command was the body which determined tactics and targets and was in charge of training and finance. Under the High Command there were Regional Commands which were responsible for the direction of the local sabotage groups. Within the framework of the policy laid down by the National High Command, the Regional Commands had authority to select the targets to be attacked. They had no authority to go beyond the prescribed framework and thus had no authority to embark upon acts which endangered life, or which did not fit into the overall plan of sabotage. For instance, Umkhonto members were forbidden ever to go armed into operation. Incidentally, the terms High Command and Regional Command were an importation from the Jewish national underground organization Irgun Zvai Leumi, which operated in Israel between 1944 and 1948.

Umkhonto had its first operation on 16 December 1961, when Government buildings in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban were attacked. The selection of targets is proof of the policy to which I have referred. Had we intended to attack life we would have selected targets where people congregated and not empty buildings and power stations. The sabotage which was committed before 16 December 1961 was the work of isolated groups and had no connection whatever with Umkhonto. In fact, some of these and a number of later acts were claimed by other organizations.

The Manifesto of Umkhonto was issued on the day that operations commenced. The response to our actions and Manifesto among the white population was characteristically violent. The Government threatened to take strong action, and called upon its supporters to stand firm and to ignore the demands of the Africans. The Whites failed to respond by suggesting change; they responded to our call by suggesting the laager.

In contrast, the response of the Africans was one of encouragement. Suddenly there was hope again. Things were happening. People in the townships became eager for political news. A great deal of enthusiasm was generated by the initial successes, and people began to speculate on how soon freedom would be obtained.

Mr Mandela in public speech after his release

But we in Umkhonto weighed up the white response with anxiety. The lines were being drawn. The whites and blacks were moving into separate camps, and the prospects of avoiding a civil war were made less. The white newspapers carried reports that sabotage would be punished by death. If this was so, how could we continue to keep Africans away from terrorism?

Already scores of Africans had died as a result of racial friction. In 1920 when the famous leader, Masabala, was held in Port Elizabeth jail, twenty-four of a group of Africans who had gathered to demand his release were killed by the police and white civilians. In 1921 more than one hundred Africans died in the Bulhoek affair. In 1924 over two hundred Africans were killed when the Administrator of South-West Africa led a force against a group which had rebelled against the imposition of dog tax. On 1 May 1950, eighteen Africans died as a result of police shootings during the strike. On 21 March 1960, sixty-nine unarmed Africans died at Sharpeville.

How many more Sharpevilles would there be in the history of our country? And how many more Sharpevilles could the country stand without violence and terror becoming the order of the day? And what would happen to our people when that stage was reached? In the long run we felt certain we must succeed, but at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the country? And if this happened, how could black and white ever live together again in peace and harmony? These were the problems that faced us, and these were our decisions.

Experience convinced us that rebellion would offer the Government limitless opportunities for the indiscriminate slaughter of our people. But it was precisely because the soil of South Africa is already drenched with the blood of innocent Africans that we felt it our duty to make preparations as a long-term undertaking to use force in order to defend ourselves against force. If war were inevitable, we wanted the fight to be conducted on terms most favorable to our people. The fight which held out prospects best for us and the least risk of life to both sides was guerrilla warfare. We decided, therefore, in our preparations for the future, to make provision for the possibility of guerrilla warfare.

All whites undergo compulsory military training, but no such training was given to Africans. It was in our view essential to build up a nucleus of trained men who would be able to provide the leadership which would be required if guerrilla warfare started. We had to prepare for such a situation before it became too late to make proper preparations. It was also necessary to build up a nucleus of men trained in civil administration and other professions, so that Africans would be equipped to participate in the government of this country as soon as they were allowed to do so.

At this stage it was decided that I should attend the Conference of the Pan-African Freedom Movement for Central, East, and Southern Africa, which was to be held early in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and, because of our need for preparation, it was also decided that, after the conference, I would undertake a tour of the African States with a view to obtaining facilities for the training of soldiers, and that I would also solicit scholarships for the higher education of matriculated Africans. Training in both fields would be necessary, even if changes came about by peaceful means. Administrators would be necessary who would be willing and able to administer a non-racial State and so would men be necessary to control the army and police force of such a State.

Mr Mandela on the day of his release from prison–A Long Walk to Freedom

It was on this note that I left South Africa to proceed to Addis Ababa as a delegate of the ANC. My tour was a success. Wherever I went I met sympathy for our cause and promises of help. All Africa was united against the stand of White South Africa, and even in London I was received with great sympathy by political leaders, such as Mr. Gaitskell and Mr. Grimond. In Africa I was promised support by such men as Julius Nyerere, now President of Tanganyika; Mr. Kawawa, then Prime Minister of Tanganyika; Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; General Abboud, President of the Sudan; Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia; Ben Bella, now President of Algeria; Modibo Keita, President of Mali; Leopold Senghor, President of Senegal; Sekou Toure, President of Guinea; President Tubman of Liberia; and Milton Obote, Prime Minister of Uganda. It was Ben Bella who invited me to visit Oujda, the Headquarters of the Algerian Army of National Liberation, the visit which is described in my diary, one of the Exhibits.

I started to make a study of the art of war and revolution and, whilst abroad, underwent a course in military training. If there was to be guerrilla warfare, I wanted to be able to stand and fight with my people and to share the hazards of war with them. Notes of lectures which I received in Algeria are contained in Exhibit 16, produced in evidence. Summaries of books on guerrilla warfare and military strategy have also been produced. I have already admitted that these documents are in my writing, and I acknowledge that I made these studies to equip myself for the role which I might have to play if the struggle drifted into guerrilla warfare. I approached this question as every African Nationalist should do. I was completely objective. The Court will see that I attempted to examine all types of authority on the subject – from the East and from the West, going back to the classic work of Clausewitz, and covering such a variety as Mao Tse Tung and Che Guevara on the one hand, and the writings on the Anglo-Boer War on the other. Of course, these notes are merely summaries of the books I read and do not contain my personal views. I also made arrangements for our recruits to undergo military training. But here it was impossible to organize any scheme without the co-operation of the ANC offices in Africa. I consequently obtained the permission of the ANC in South Africa to do this. To this extent then there was a departure from the original decision of the ANC, but it applied outside South Africa only. The first batch of recruits actually arrived in Tanganyika when I was passing through that country on my way back to South Africa.

I returned to South Africa and reported to my colleagues on the results of my trip. On my return I found that there had been little alteration in the political scene save that the threat of a death penalty for sabotage had now become a fact. The attitude of my colleagues in Umkhonto was much the same as it had been before I left. They were feeling their way cautiously and felt that it would be a long time before the possibilities of sabotage were exhausted. In fact, the view was expressed by some that the training of recruits was premature. This is recorded by me in the document which is Exhibit R.14. After a full discussion, however, it was decided to go ahead with the plans for military training because of the fact that it would take many years to build up a sufficient nucleus of trained soldiers to start a guerrilla campaign, and whatever happened, the training would be of value.

I wish to turn now to certain general allegations made in this case by the State. But before doing so, I wish to revert to certain occurrences said by witnesses to have happened in Port Elizabeth and East London. I am referring to the bombing of private houses of pro-Government persons during September, October and November 1962. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, nor what provocation had been given. But if what I have said already is accepted, then it is clear that these acts had nothing to do with the carrying out of the policy of Umkhonto.

Mr Mandela in his boxing days

One of the chief allegations in the indictment is that the ANC was a party to a general conspiracy to commit sabotage. I have already explained why this is incorrect but how, externally, there was a departure from the original principle laid down by the ANC. There has, of course, been overlapping of functions internally as well, because there is a difference between a resolution adopted in the atmosphere of a committee room and the concrete difficulties that arise in the field of practical activity. At a later stage the position was further affected by bannings and house arrests, and by persons leaving the country to take up political work abroad. This led to individuals having to do work in different capacities. But though this may have blurred the distinction between Umkhonto and the ANC, it by no means abolished that distinction. Great care was taken to keep the activities of the two organizations in South Africa distinct. The ANC remained a mass political body of Africans only carrying on the type of political work they had conducted prior to 1961. Umkhonto remained a small organization recruiting its members from different races and organizations and trying to achieve its own particular object. The fact that members of Umkhonto were recruited from the ANC, and the fact that persons served both organizations, like Solomon Mbanjwa, did not, in our view, change the nature of the ANC or give it a policy of violence. This overlapping of officers, however, was more the exception than the rule. This is why persons such as ‘Mr. X’ and ‘Mr. Z,’ who were on the Regional Command of their respective areas, did not participate in any of the ANC committees or activities, and why people such as Mr. Bennett Mashiyana and Mr. Reginald Ndubi did not hear of sabotage at their ANC meetings.

Another of the allegations in the indictment is that Rivonia was the headquarters of Umkhonto. This is not true of the time when I was there. I was told, of course, and knew that certain of the activities of the Communist Party were carried on there. But this is no reason (as I shall presently explain) why I should not use the place. I came there in the following manner:

As already indicated, early in April 1961 I went underground to organize the May general strike. My work entailed traveling throughout the country, living now in African townships, then in country villages and again in cities.

During the second half of the year I started visiting the Parktown home of Arthur Goldreich, where I used to meet my family privately. Although I had no direct political association with him, I had known Arthur Goldreich socially since 1958.

In October, Arthur Goldreich informed me that he was moving out of town and offered me a hiding place there. A few days thereafter, he arranged for Michael Harmel to take me to Rivonia. I naturally found Rivonia an ideal place for the man who lived the life of an outlaw. Up to that time I had been compelled to live indoors during the daytime and could only venture out under cover of darkness. But at Liliesleaf [farm, Rivonia,] I could live differently and work far more efficiently.

For obvious reasons, I had to disguise myself and I assumed the fictitious name of David. In December, Arthur Goldreich and his family moved in. I stayed there until I went abroad on 11 January 1962. As already indicated, I returned in July 1962 and was arrested in Natal on 5 August.

Up to the time of my arrest, Liliesleaf farm was the headquarters of neither the African National Congress nor Umkhonto. With the exception of myself, none of the officials or members of these bodies lived there, no meetings of the governing bodies were ever held there, and no activities connected with them were either organized or directed from there. On numerous occasions during my stay at Liliesleaf farm I met both the Executive Committee of the ANC, as well as the NHC, but such meetings were held elsewhere and not on the farm.

Whilst staying at Liliesleaf farm, I frequently visited Arthur Goldreich in the main house and he also paid me visits in my room. We had numerous political discussions covering a variety of subjects. We discussed ideological and practical questions, the Congress Alliance, Umkhonto and its activities generally, and his experiences as a soldier in the Palmach, the military wing of the Haganah. Haganah was the political authority of the Jewish National Movement in Palestine. Because of what I had got to know of Goldreich, I recommended on my return to South Africa that he should be recruited to Umkhonto. I do not know of my personal knowledge whether this was done.

Another of the allegations made by the State is that the aims and objects of the ANC and the Communist Party are the same. I wish to deal with this and with my own political position, because I must assume that the State may try to argue from certain Exhibits that I tried to introduce Marxism into the ANC. The allegation as to the ANC is false. This is an old allegation which was disproved at the Treason Trial and which has again reared its head. But since the allegation has been made again, I shall deal with it as well as with the relationship between the ANC and the Communist Party and Umkhonto and that party.

The ideological creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed of African Nationalism. It is not the concept of African Nationalism expressed in the cry, ‘Drive the White man into the sea.’ The African Nationalism for which the ANC stands is the concept of freedom and fulfilment for the African people in their own land. The most important political document ever adopted by the ANC is the ‘Freedom Charter.’ It is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state. It calls for redistribution, but not nationalization, of land; it provides for nationalization of mines, banks, and monopoly industry, because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and without such nationalization racial domination would be perpetuated despite the spread of political power. It would be a hollow gesture to repeal the Gold Law prohibitions against Africans when all gold mines are owned by European companies. In this respect the ANC’s policy corresponds with the old policy of the present Nationalist Party which, for many years, had as part of its program the nationalization of the gold mines which, at that time, were controlled by foreign capital. Under the Freedom Charter, nationalization would take place in an economy based on private enterprise. The realization of the Freedom Charter would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society.

As far as the Communist Party is concerned, and if I understand its policy correctly, it stands for the establishment of a State based on the principles of Marxism. Although it is prepared to work for the Freedom Charter, as a short term solution to the problems created by white supremacy, it regards the Freedom Charter as the beginning, and not the end, of its program.

The ANC, unlike the Communist Party, admitted Africans only as members. Its chief goal was, and is, for the African people to win unity and full political rights. The Communist Party’s main aim, on the other hand, was to remove the capitalists and to replace them with a working-class government. The Communist Party sought to emphasize class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonize them. This is a vital distinction.

It is true that there has often been close co-operation between the ANC and the Communist Party. But co-operation is merely proof of a common goal – in this case the removal of white supremacy – and is not proof of a complete community of interests.

The history of the world is full of similar examples. Perhaps the most striking illustration is to be found in the co-operation between Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler. Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest that such co-operation turned Churchill or Roosevelt into communists or communist tools, or that Britain and America were working to bring about a communist world.

Another instance of such co-operation is to be found precisely in Umkhonto. Shortly after Umkhonto was constituted, I was informed by some of its members that the Communist Party would support Umkhonto, and this then occurred. At a later stage the support was made openly. I believe that communists have always played an active role in the fight by colonial countries for their freedom, because the short-term objects of communism would always correspond with the long-term

objects of freedom movements. Thus communists have played an important role in the freedom struggles fought in countries such as Malaya, Algeria, and Indonesia, yet none of these States today are communist countries. Similarly in the underground resistance movements which sprung up in Europe during the last World War, communists played an important role. Even General Chiang Kai-Shek, today one of the bitterest enemies of communism, fought together with the communists against the ruling class in the struggle which led to his assumption of power in China in the 1930s.

This pattern of co-operation between communists and non-communists has been repeated in the National Liberation Movement of South Africa. Prior to the banning of the Communist Party, joint campaigns involving the Communist Party and the Congress movements were accepted practice. African communists could, and did, become members of the ANC, and some served on the National, Provincial, and local committees. Amongst those who served on the National Executive are Albert Nzula, a former Secretary of the Communist Party, Moses Kotane, another former Secretary, and J. B. Marks, a former member of the Central Committee.

I joined the ANC in 1944, and in my younger days I held the view that the policy of admitting communists to the ANC, and the close co-operation which existed at times on specific issues between the ANC and the Communist Party, would lead to a watering down of the concept of African Nationalism. At that stage I was a member of the African National Congress Youth League, and was one of a group which moved for the expulsion of communists from the ANC. This proposal was heavily defeated. Amongst those who voted against the proposal were some of the most conservative sections of African political opinion. They defended the policy on the ground that from its inception the ANC was formed and built up, not as a political party with one school of political thought, but as a Parliament of the African people, accommodating people of various political convictions, all united by the common goal of national liberation. I was eventually won over to this point of view and I have upheld it ever since.

It is perhaps difficult for white South Africans, with an ingrained prejudice against communism, to understand why experienced African politicians so readily accept communists as their friends. But to us the reason is obvious. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage. What is more, for many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us. They were the only political group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and a stake in society. Because of this, there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism. They are supported in this belief by a legislature which brands all exponents of democratic government and African freedom as communists and bans many of them (who are not communists) under the Suppression of Communism Act. Although I have never been a member of the Communist Party, I myself have been named under that pernicious Act because of the role I played in the Defiance Campaign. I have also been banned and imprisoned under that Act.

It is not only in internal politics that we count communists as amongst those who support our cause. In the international field, communist countries have always come to our aid. In the United Nations and other Councils of the world the communist bloc has supported the Afro-Asian struggle against colonialism and often seems to be more sympathetic to our plight than some of the Western powers. Although there is a universal condemnation of apartheid, the communist bloc speaks out against it with a louder voice than most of the white world. In these circumstances, it would take a brash young politician, such as I was in 1949, to proclaim that the Communists are our enemies.

I turn now to my own position. I have denied that I am a communist, and I think that in the circumstances I am obliged to state exactly what my political beliefs are.

I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. After all, I was born in Umtata, forty-six years ago. My guardian was my cousin, who was the acting paramount chief of Tembuland, and I am related both to the present paramount chief of Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the Chief Minister of the Transkei.

Today I am attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration of the structure and organization of early African societies in this country. The land, then the main means of production, belonged to the tribe. There were no rich or poor and there was no exploitation.

It is true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced by Marxist thought. But this is also true of many of the leaders of the new independent States. Such widely different persons as Gandhi, Nehru, Nkrumah, and Nasser all acknowledge this fact. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of this world and to overcome their legacy of extreme poverty. But this does not mean we are Marxists.

Indeed, for my own part, I believe that it is open to debate whether the Communist Party has any specific role to play at this particular stage of our political struggle. The basic task at the present moment is the removal of race discrimination and the attainment of democratic rights on the basis of the Freedom Charter. In so far as that Party furthers this task, I welcome its assistance. I realize that it is one of the means by which people of all races can be drawn into our struggle.

From my reading of Marxist literature and from conversations with Marxists, I have gained the impression that communists regard the parliamentary system of the West as undemocratic and reactionary. But, on the contrary, I am an admirer of such a system.

The Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights are documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world. I have great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution in the world, and the independence and impartiality of its judiciary never fails to arouse my admiration. The American Congress, that country’s doctrine of separation of powers, as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me similar sentiments.

I have been influenced in my thinking by both West and East. All this has led me to feel that in my search for a political formula, I should be absolutely impartial and objective. I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than of socialism. I must leave myself free to borrow the best from the West and from the East.

There are certain Exhibits which suggest that we received financial support from abroad, and I wish to deal with this question. Our political struggle has always been financed from internal sources – from funds raised by our own people and by our own supporters. Whenever we had a special campaign or an important political case–for example, the Treason Trial–we received financial assistance from sympathetic individuals and organizations in the Western countries. We had never felt it necessary to go beyond these sources.

But when in 1961 the Umkhonto was formed, and a new phase of struggle introduced, we realized that these events would make a heavy call on our slender resources, and that the scale of our activities would be hampered by the lack of funds. One of my instructions, as I went abroad in January 1962, was to raise funds from the African states. I must add that, whilst abroad, I had discussions with leaders of political movements in Africa and discovered that almost every single one of them, in areas which had still not attained independence, had received all forms of assistance from the socialist countries, as well as from the West, including that of financial support. I also discovered that some well-known African states, all of them non-communists, and even anti-communists, had received similar assistance.

On my return to the Republic, I made a strong recommendation to the ANC that we should not confine ourselves to Africa and the Western countries, but that we should also send a mission to the socialist countries to raise the funds which we so urgently needed. I have been told that after I was convicted such a mission was sent, but I am not prepared to name any countries to which it went, nor am I at liberty to disclose the names of the organizations and countries which gave us support or promised to do so.

As I understand the State case, and in particular the evidence of ‘Mr. X,’ the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enroll the African people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was fighting for a communist state. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed by Africans to further their struggle for freedom in their own land. Communists and others supported the movement, and we only wish that more sections of the community would join us.

Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the State Prosecutor, ‘so-called hardships.’ Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity,and we do not need communists or so-called ‘agitators’ to teach us about these things.

South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Forty per cent of the Africans live in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken Reserves, where soil erosion and the overworking of the soil makes it impossible for them to live properly off the land. Thirty per cent are laborers, labor tenants, and squatters on white farms and work and live under conditions similar to those of the serfs of the Middle Ages. The other 30 per cent live in towns where they have developed economic and social habits which bring them closer in many respects to white standards. Yet most Africans, even in this group, are impoverished by low incomes and high cost of living.

The highest-paid and the most prosperous section of urban African life is in Johannesburg. Yet their actual position is desperate. The latest figures were given on 25 March 1964 by Mr. Carr, Manager of the Johannesburg Non-European Affairs Department. The poverty datum line for the average African family in Johannesburg (according to Mr. Carr’s department) is R42.84 per month. He showed that the average monthly wage is R32.24 and that 46 per cent of all African families in Johannesburg do not earn enough to keep them going.

Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. The incidence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans. Tuberculosis, pellagra, kwashiorkor, gastro-enteritis, and scurvy bring death and destruction of health. The incidence of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world. According to the Medical Officer of Health for Pretoria, tuberculosis kills forty people a day (almost all Africans), and in 1961 there were 58,491 new cases reported. These diseases not only destroy the vital organs of the body, but they result in retarded mental conditions and lack of initiative, and reduce powers of concentration. The secondary results of such conditions affect the whole community and the standard of work performed by African laborers.

The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation.

The present Government has always sought to hamper Africans in their search for education. One of their early acts, after coming into power, was to stop subsidies for African school feeding. Many African children who attended schools depended on this supplement to their diet. This was a cruel act.

There is compulsory education for all white children at virtually no cost to their parents, be they rich or poor. Similar facilities are not provided for the African children, though there are some who receive such assistance. African children, however, generally have to pay more for their schooling than whites. According to figures quoted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in its 1963 journal, approximately 40 per cent of African children in the age group between seven to fourteen do not attend school. For those who do attend school, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to white children. In 1960-61 the per capita Government spending on African students at State-aided schools was estimated at R12.46. In the same years, the per capita spending on white children in the Cape Province (which are the only figures available to me) was R144.57. Although there are no figures available to me, it can be stated, without doubt, that the white children on whom R144.57 per head was being spent all came from wealthier homes than African children on whom R12.46 per head was being spent.

The quality of education is also different. According to the Bantu Educational Journal, only 5,660 African children in the whole of South Africa passed their Junior Certificate in 1962, and in that year only362 passed matric. This is presumably consistent with the policy of Bantu education about which the present Prime Minister said, during the debate on the Bantu Education Bill in 1953:

“When I have control of Native education I will reform it so that Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them . . . People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for Natives. When my Department controls Native education it will know for what class of higher education a Native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge.”

The other main obstacle to the economic advancement of the African is the industrial color-bar under which all the better jobs of industry are reserved for Whites only. Moreover, Africans who do obtain employment in the unskilled and semi-skilled occupations which are open to them are not allowed to form trade unions which have recognition under the Industrial Conciliation Act. This means that strikes of African workers are illegal, and that they are denied the right of collective bargaining which is permitted to the better-paid White workers. The discrimination in the policy of successive South African Governments towards African workers is demonstrated by the so-called ‘civilized labor policy’ under which sheltered, unskilled Government jobs are found for those white workers who cannot make the grade in industry, at wages which far exceed the earnings of the average African employee in industry.

The Government often answers its critics by saying that Africans in South Africa are economically better off than the inhabitants of the other countries in Africa. I do not know whether this statement is true and doubt whether any comparison can be made without having regard to the cost-of-living index in such countries. But even if it is true, as far as the African people are concerned it is irrelevant. Our complaint is not that we are poor by comparison with people in other countries, but that we are poor by comparison with the white people in our own country, and that we are prevented by legislation

from altering this imbalance.

The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion. Menial tasks in South Africa are invariably performed by Africans. When anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed. They do not look upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realize that they have emotions – that they fall in love like white people do; that they want to be with their wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn enough money to support their families properly, to feed and clothe them and send them to school. And what ‘house-boy’ or ‘garden-boy’ or laborer can ever hope to do this?

Pass laws, which to the Africans are among the most hated bits of legislation in South Africa, render any African liable to police surveillance at any time. I doubt whether there is a single African male in South Africa who has not at some stage had a brush with the police over his pass. Hundreds and thousands of Africans are thrown into jail each year under pass laws. Even worse than this is the fact that pass laws keep husband and wife apart and lead to the breakdown of family life.

Poverty and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects. Children wander about the streets of the townships because they have no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go to school, or no parents at home to see that they go to school, because both parents (if there be two) have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and to growing violence which erupts not only politically, but everywhere. Life in the townships is dangerous. There is not a day that goes by without somebody being stabbed or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the townships in the white living areas. People are afraid to walk alone in the streets after dark. House breakings and robberies are increasing, despite the fact that the death sentence can now be imposed for such offences. Death sentences cannot cure the festering sore.

Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable of. Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettoes. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the Reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the Labor Bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.

Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.

But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Mr Mandela with his family

 

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Real Republicans? The Election of 1856

Joshua Giddings

By this point everyone is aware that this year is an election year in the United States. The presidency and most seats in Congress are at stake. Throughout the next three and a half months, in addition to my on-going look at the events of the Amer8ican Civil War, I shall be taking a critical look at American politics through the lens [yes, I deliberately use the plural form] of history. There are many amazing stories to share.

This essay begins with a warning. When I started this blog a bit over a year ago, I wrote in my first essay: “My interests are varied, my age senior, my politics and theology unapologetically liberal. If you enjoy my rambling, I am pleased. If you don’t, well the web is a wide, wide world. To each her own.” Allow me to elaborate, to demonstrate further what I mean.

I am a pro-choice feminist. Women are entitled to the integrity of their own bodies. Women do not exist merely to satisfy the sexual fantasies and desires of men. When a woman says “no!” she means “no!” Marital rape is as much a crime as any other involuntary sexual act. Women are entitled to equal pay for equal work. Glass ceilings are a crime. A woman’s place is in the House as well as the Senate and the Supreme Court. Women are just as good in science, math and engineering as men. Any doubts, look at the work of Marie Curie, remembering she was not necessarily unique, except for winning two Nobel prizes in two different sciences, a feat matched many years later by only one man. I am a fierce supporter of lesbian, gay,.bisexual and transgender persons. I believe that marriage is a civil right for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. I do not believe that corporations are legally “persons” for purposes of American constitutional law, nor should they be, and I do believe that corporations and wealthy persons should be taxed at higher rates than poor and middle class persons. Corporations should not be entitled to tax breaks for the purposes of exploiting our natural resources. Workers are entitled to decent wages, safe working conditions and health insurance. Labor unions are one way, not the only but certainly one way, that workers’ rights are protected. Minority groups have been exploited and discriminated against in the American past, in some ways many still are and these persons are entitled to recompense and equal protection of the law. To my understanding, the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not allow citizens to own arsenals of weapons in their homes, to carry concealed weapons or to shoot people because they don’t like the color of their skin or their choice of religion. Separation of church and state and free exercise of religion are essential to democracy. The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Freedom of the press makes possible free government. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is a step backward, an attempt by the Court’s right wing along with monied interests to take government away from the common people and return to the power of the rich robber barons, just as in the nineteenth century. As a Christian, I believe that the heart of the Gospel is to reach out to the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized as Jesus himself did.

In this election year I have a thing or six to say about American politics. Most of that is harsh and unflattering to the Republican Party nationally and to the current Republican administration in my state, Pennsylvania. And if you, gentle reader, are conservative in your views, you will most likely be offended by what I say. So read on at your own risk or switch right now to another blog. I think that blogging is a kind of modern independent journalism and a journalist I greatly admire is the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. In the opening editorial of The Liberator in 1831, he declared:”I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. . . . I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch.”

This is the first of a series on the roots and origins of the Republican Party. My question is “Are there any real Republicans these days?” And my short answer is “No, there are not.” To show how I reached my answer, I am going to look at the elections of 1856 and 1860, the Radical Republicans [yes, that is not a contradiction in terms–once upon a time there were senators and representatives who identified themselves as such] and the Reconstruction amendments [13th, 14th & 15th] to the United States Constitution, and finally the elections of 1900 and 1904 when Teddy Roosevelt embodied, for the last time, I believe, the Republican values and virtues of John Fremont, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Sumner.

FDR in Pittsburgh, 1940

I must emphasize that I speak only for myself, not for any organization or group. What follows are my opinions. In the interests of full disclosure, I must say that my maternal grandparents were Republicans. My mother, who grew up during the Great Depression, always proudly considered herself not merely a Democrat but a “Roosevelt Democrat.” [She successfully convinced her mother to change party affiliation in 1960 and vote for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket.] Her younger brother, my favorite uncle, is also a card-carrying Democrat who glories in the term “liberal.” In the first election in which I could vote I was one of those college students who went “Clean for Gene.” My political views come from FDR’s New Deal, Jack Kennedy’s New Frontier, Eugene V Debs’ “Bending Cross” speech, chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew [when the Italian social activist Father John Bosco was asked about politics, he replied, “My political views are those of the Lord’s Prayer”], Quaker peace principles and the IWW’s concept of “one big union.” I have voted for Democrats, independents and various third party candidates but, never, to my knowledge, for a Republican. And since my dominant hand has not withered, I believe that I never have pulled the lever for a Republican. In my mind, the criticism of President Obama as a “socialist” simply reveals the ignorance of his critics who apparently do not know enough history or current events to recognize a real socialist if one stood in front of them. All that said, if you are still reading, let me move on apiece to my first historical study–the election of !856.

George Washington Julian

In the January, 1899 issue of the American Historical Review, the retied Quaker politician from Indiana George Washington Julian published an article entitled “The First Republican National Convention.” Julian was present in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in February of 1856. It is fortunate for us that he published when he did for he died six months later at the age of 82. In his opening Julian wrote, “No roll of the members was preserved, while the several histories of political parties and conventions which have since appeared contain little more than a mere reference to the subject. Since the writer is one of the very few survivors of the convention, and was officially and somewhat actively connected with its proceedings, and since there is always a natural curiosity to know something of the beginnings of a great historic movement, perhaps a brief paper on the subject may prove timely and not entirely without value as a contribution to the literature of politics. The creation of the proposed new party was a vexed problem.”

 

Horace Greeley

 

Julian points out that the old Whig Party, begun in 1833, floundered in the election of 1852 and by 1854 groups calling themselves Republicans began appearing in Michigan, Wisconsin, Vermont, Ohio and Indiana. Responding to a call from state organizations for a national organizing convention, self-selected volunteers representing sixteen northern states and eight southern states gathered February 22nd and 23rd at Lafayette Hall in downtown Pittsburgh. An historical marker still adorns the spot. Those present included Julian and his father-in-law, Joshua Giddings from Ohio who had made a name for himself in Congress by siding with the elderly John Quincy Adams against the southern gag rule forbidding discussion of the slavery question. When southerners had him disciplined and dismissed from Congress, his constituents in northeast Ohio promptly reelected to the House of Representatives.

Owen Lovejoy

Others present included Horace Greeley, age 45, founding editor of the New York Tribune, out-spoken opponent of slavery and the use of liquor, advocate of working people, vegetarianism and some ideas of European socialism. His paper would quickly become the national organ of the new party. John A King, age 68, who would become the first Republican governor of New York. Owen Lovejoy, age 45, from Illinois, a minister and abolitionist and whose brother Elijan P Lovejoy had been murdered by a pro-slavery mob for his attempt to start an abolitionist newspaper. Francis P Blair, a Maryland man approaching age 65, a former slave-owner who now opposed the expansion of slavery. Lawrence Brainerd from Vermont, age 61, abolitionist and businessman. Abijah Mann, age 62, a lawyer and politician from New York state, active in a number of reforms. Zachariah Chandler, age 43 from Michigan, a teacher and politician who organized state-wide resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Oliver P Morton, age 33, from Indiana, a lawyer and anti-slavery activist. And David Wilmot, age 42, a Pennsylvania who was also anathema to slave-holders for his opposition while a Congressman to allowing slavery to expand to territory seized from Mexico in the war of 1846.

Zachariah Chandler

From this point onward, one can speak of a national Republican Party. As Julian wrote, it was formed primarily by “men who favored the formation of a great national anti-slavery party.” It drew some dissatisfied Democrats, particularly from the mid-Atlantic states and the mid-West as well as former Whigs, former Free Soil Party members, some temperance advocates and some former Know-Nothings, a party that was violently anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant.

The new party held its first nominating convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from June 17th to June 19th in 1856. The convention adopted a platform which, among other things, called for prohibiting the expansion of slavery into the territories not yet organized into states, condemned polygamy and slavery as “twin relics of barbarism,” and federal appropriations to build a transcontinental railroad and to improve rivers and harbors. The convention nominated John C Fremont for President.

John C Fremont

Fremont, 43 years old at the time, was a former soldier, hero of the war with Mexico, credited with the seizure of California, an explorer and adventurer, former senator from California, and married to the beautiful Jessie Benton Fremont, daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, Democrat of Missouri. His campaign slogan was “Free Soil, Free Men and Fremont.” He opposed the expansion of slavery, particularly Senator Stephan A Douglas’ Kansas-Nebraska Act which effectively destroyed the Compromise of 1820 and gave delighted southerners the prospect of expanding slavery throughout the west, all the way to the Pacific coast. Fremont blamed Democrats for the on-going bloodshed in Kansas between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces. He wanted Kansas admitted to the Union as a free state. Fremont also opposed the Ostend Manifesto which called for taking Cuba from Spain by purchase or force and which northerners saw as a southern attempt to expand slavery as Havana had one of the largest operating slave markets in the Western Hemisphere.

Democrats said that electing Fremont would result in civil war. Even his father-in-law, Senator Benton, spoke against him. In the election, the Democrat James Buchanan won 1,836,072 popular votes [45.3%] and carrying the south as well as California and his home state of Pennsylvania. Fremont won 1,342,345 popular votes [33.1%], carrying all of New England, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. The remaining 21.6% of the popular vote went to third party candidates.

David Wilmot

Are there today people like Fremont, George Washington Julian, Joshua Giddings, Zachariah Chandler, Horace Greeley, David Wilmot and Owen Lovejoy in the Republican Party now? Unfortunately not. Would these people be welcome today in the party which they helped to found? The answer is clearly not. They were too liberal, too reform-minded. Will the Republican platform this summer call for federal money for railroads, rivers and harbors? I have grave doubts. Are there any real Republicans today? No! Not when compared to these greats of 1856.

No Cross of Gold~Thoughts from 1896

Chicago Coliseum~site of 1896 Democratic Convention

In Chicago on July 10, 1896, the Democratic National Convention nominated a thirty-six-year-old former Congressman from Nebraska named William Jennings Bryan as their candidate for President of the United States. In part, it was the result of skilled political maneuvering by Bryan. In part it was in enthusiastic response to the convention speech which he had given the day before, a speech known to history as “the Cross of Gold” speech. In this election year the man and the speech are worth a serious reconsideration.

There has become commonly accepted a view of Bryan as a narrow-minded religious conservative because of his stand in favor of a literal seven day creation as told in the Book of Genesis. However, like so many other famous Americans, William Jennings Bryan was a much more complex figure. Consider these parts of his personality: In the election campaign of 1896 the Republicans accused Bryan of consorting with anarchists. While a biblical literalist and a temperance advocate he believed in the Social Gospel, a view that Christians need to bear witness by reaching out to the poor and needy, and he was an early advocate of what would later be called ecumenism, desirous of Christians affirming what unites them rather than divides them. He carried genuine concern for industrial workers, the urban poor and struggling farmers. He supported woman suffrage when it was vasdtly unpopular with many politicians. He believed in building international peace through arms reduction and treaties of arbitration. When war erupted in Europe in 1914, Bryan was serving as Secretary of State to President Woodrow Wilson. Of the European war, Bryan wrote, “It is not likely that either side will win so complete a victory as to be able to dictate terms, and if either side does win such a victory it will probably mean preparation for another war. It would seem better to look for a more rational basis for peace.” He left Wilson’s Cabinet early in 1915, feeling that Wilson was not working hard enough for peace. In a 1962 interview former President Harry Truman declared, “if it wasn’t for old Bill Bryan there wouldn’t be any liberalism at all in the country now. Bryan kept liberalism alive, he kept it going.”

Bryan being carried around the convention floor after his speech~July 9th

As for that famous speech, consider some of the key parts~

Bryan’s criticism of the Supreme Court:

“They criticize us for our criticism of the Supreme Court of the United States. My friends, we have made no criticism. We have simply called attention to what you know. If you want criticisms, read the dissenting opinions of the Court. That will give you criticisms.”

On Republican accusations that Bryan encouraged class warfare:

“It is for these that we speak. We do not come as aggressors. Our war is not a war of conquest. We are fighting in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity. We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned. We have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded. We have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came.We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them!The gentleman from Wisconsin has said he fears a Robespierre. My friend, in this land of the free you need fear no tyrant who will spring up from among the people. What we need is an Andrew Jackson to stand as Jackson stood, against the encroachments of aggregated wealth.”

1896 Democratic campaign poster

On the Republican candidate, William McKinley:

“How is it today? Why, that man who used to boast that he looked like Napoleon, that man shudders today when he thinks that he was nominated on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Not only that, but as he listens he can hear with ever increasing distinctness the sound of the waves as they beat upon the lonely shores of St. Helena. Why this change? Ah, my friends. is not the change evident to anyone who will look at the matter? It is because no private character, however pure, no personal popularity, however great, can protect from the avenging wrath of an indignant people the man who will either declare that he is in favor of fastening the gold standard upon this people, or who is willing to surrender the right of self-government and place legislative control in the hands of foreign potentates and powers.”

On the power of the banks:

“Mr. Jefferson, who was once regarded as good Democratic authority, seems to have a different opinion from the gentleman who has addressed us on the part of the minority. Those who are opposed to this proposition tell us that the issue of paper money is a function of the bank and that the government ought to go out of the banking business. I stand with Jefferson rather than with them, and tell them, as he did, that the issue of money is a function of the government and that the banks should go out of the governing business.”

And on advocacy of the free coinage of silver at a ratio of silver to gold of 16 to 1, a measure which would have increased the amount of money in circulation and aided cash-poor and debt-burdened farmers, that famous concluding paragraph:

“If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon thebrow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

 

Bryan on the campaign trail

Thought-provoking in this election year, 116 years later.

 

 

Complete text of Frederick Douglass’ Fourth of July speech

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro by Frederick Douglass

A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

 

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

 

The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.

 

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to he overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you.

 

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, as what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.-Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

 

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is, that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under

the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.

 

But your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would certainly prove nothing as to what part I might have taken had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when, to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

 

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated, by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

 

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to

its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.

 

The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers.

 

Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling

idea, much more so than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and

the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

 

Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.

 

These people were called Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.

 

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.

 

On the 2nd of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day, whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read

it.

 

“Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

 

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, there fore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history-the very ringbolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

 

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

 

From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day-cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

 

The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness. The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime. The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

 

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

 

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

 

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settIed” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final”; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

 

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defence. Mark them! Fully appreciating the hardships to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep, the corner-stone of the national super-structure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.

 

Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interest-nation’s jubilee.

 

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, un folded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.

 

I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait-perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.

 

I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!

 

My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and His cause is the ever-living now.

Trust no future, however pleasant,///Let the dead past bury its dead;///Act, act in the living present, ///Heart within, and God overhead.

 

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men shout-“We have Washington to our father.”-Alas! that it should be so; yet it is. “The evil, that men do, lives after them,The good is oft interred with their bones.”

 

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

 

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

 

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in

common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

 

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

 

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

 

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may con sent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

 

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshiping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

 

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great

difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding.-There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

 

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

 

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

 

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

 

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

 

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

 

Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave-trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

 

 

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shock ing gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

 

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed cash for Negroes. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners; ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

 

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number has been collected here, a ship is chartered for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.

 

In the deep, still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead, heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains and the heart-rending

cries. I was glad to find one who sympathized with me in my horror.

 

Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.

Is this the land your Fathers loved,///The freedom which they toiled to win?///Is this the earth whereon they moved?///Are these the graves they slumber in?

 

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented. By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women and children, as slaves, remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the star-spangled banner, and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your law-makers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country,

and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent

on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world that in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America the seats of justice are filled with judges who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding the case of a man’s liberty, to hear only his accusers!

 

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenceless, and in diabolical intent this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

 

I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were nor stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

 

At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise, and cummin”-abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal!-And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to so licit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox to the beautiful, but treacherous, Queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country (with fractional exceptions) does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love, and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”

 

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

 

For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke put together have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty and leave the throne of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and with out hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation-a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea’ when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

 

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in its connection with its ability to abolish slavery.

 

The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

 

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday School, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery, and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds, and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

 

In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared-men honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The Lords of Buffalo, the Springs of New York, the Lathrops of Auburn, the Coxes and Spencers of Brooklyn, the Gannets and Sharps of Boston, the Deweys of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land have, in utter denial of the authority of Him by whom they professed to be called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example of the Hebrews, and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.

 

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher, of Brooklyn; Samuel J. May, of Syracuse; and my esteemed friend (Rev. R. R. Raymond) on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that, upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

 

One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in Eng land towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high religious question. It was demanded in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, the Burchells, and the Knibbs were alike famous for their piety and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable instead of a hostile position towards that movement.

 

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over

fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against the oppressor; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a three-penny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere, to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and glory in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

 

Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

 

But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that, the right to hold, and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.

 

Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped

To palter with us in a double sense:/// And keep the word of promise to the ear,///But break it to the heart.

 

And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest impostors that ever practiced on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape; but I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length; nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq. by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerrit Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.

 

Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but interpreted, as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gate way? or is it in the temple? it is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slaveholding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can any where be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a tract of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, commonsense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality, or unconstitutionality of slavery, is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the Constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tells us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.

 

Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand, it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.

 

I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.

 

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.

 

“The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind.Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated.-Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

 

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

 

God speed the year of jubilee///The wide world o’er!///When from their galling chains set free///Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,

 

And wear the yoke of tyranny///Like brutes no more.///That year will come, and freedom’s reign.///To man his plundered rights again///Restore.

 

God speed the day when human blood///Shall cease to flow!///In every clime be understood,///The claims of human brotherhood,///And each return for evil, good,///Not blow for blow;

 

That day will come all feuds to end,///And change into a faithful friend///Each foe.

 

 

What Passingbells~July, 1862~the fourth week

As July draws to a close, former President Martin Van Buren dies while President Lincoln continues to deal, publicly and privately, with the questions of slavery and emancipation. President Davis and General Lee worry about Union General Pope. George Templeton Strong worries about why the government fails to press hard against the South. The governor of Pennsylvania worries about and challenges England. Mexico worries that the United States will fail to help her against France. The Alabama is well on its way to becoming a worry to Union shipping.

A disaster at sea off the Mexican coast surprises many Americans while a natural disaster in China draws little attention in the American press. Parts of Canada suffer from draught. A British explorer finds the source of the Nile in eastern Africa.

Federal authorities arrest Belle Boyd while Union officers such as Robert Gould Shaw find no danger in her.

In the busy war-time capital, regular streetcar service begins throughout Washington.

 

President Van Buren, 1782~1862

 

July 24– Thursday– Kinderhook, New York– Former President Martin Van Buren dies at age 79 from heart failure.

July 24– Thursday– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania– Governor Andrew Curtin delivers a patriotic speech which includes a denunciation of the British. “The rebels having blistered their souls in perjury, ask for the intervention of foreign nations. When one of our commanders seized two of their representatives, we surrendered them to an arrogant Power for reasons well known. Now, if that Power desires to test the pluck of this nation, let the English lion show his teeth by intervention. Our sea is girt by iron ships, and if twenty millions of people rise in their power, they can crush out the rebellion, and at the same time protect themselves from foreign intervention.”

Governor Andrew Curtin

July 25– Friday– Montreal, Canada– The Montreal Gazette reports that “owing to the dryness of the weather, a very large quantity of the best quality of white and red pine, will not reach Quebec this season. Fifty to sixty thousand pieces are estimated to remain above Ottawa, as also 100,000 saw logs. The water is unprecedentedly low, and a good deal of timber, not included in the above, it is generally believed, will not come over the Calumet and Mountain Slides, and, indeed, the river will be pretty well covered with sticks of timber stuck in different places.”

July 25– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln issues an executive order for a time of mourning for the death of former President Van Buren. “As a mark of respect for his memory, it is ordered that the Executive Mansion and the several Executive Departments, except those of War and the Navy, be immediately placed in mourning and all business be suspended during to-morrow. It is further ordered that the War and Navy Departments cause suitable military and naval honors to be paid on this occasion to the memory of the illustrious dead.”

July 26– Saturday– New York City– Worried by the war news, George Templeton Strong writes, “I greatly fear that we are on the eve of some vast calamity. Why . . . doesn’t the President order the draft of one million fighting men at once and the liberation and arming of every able-bodied [slave] in Southronia? . . . . War on the rebels as criminals has not begun.”

George Templeton Strong

 July 26– Saturday– Washington, D.C.–The Mexican Minister reports to his government that it appears that the United States will not enforce the Monroe Doctrine against French intervention in Mexico so long as France does not ally itself with the Confederacy.

July 26– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to the Maryland jurist Reverdy Johnson whom he sent to New Orleans to investigate complaints from the Netherlands, Great Britain and France regarding the conduct of General Butler. In a letter ten days ago, Johnson has raised concerns about attitudes in Louisiana regarding emancipation of slaves. Lincoln replies. “I am a patient man— always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance. Still I must save this government if possible. What I cannot do, of course I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.”

July 27– Sunday– Pacific Ocean off the coast Manzanillo, Mexico– The fast passenger steamer Golden Gate, out of San Francisco and headed for Panama, catches fire and sinks. The dead will total 213 while 85 passengers and 61 crew members survive. The ship goes down with $1,400,000 in gold on board.

July 27– Sunday– Canton, China– A hurricane strikes the city, killing approximately 40,000 people.

July 28– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes a private letter to Mr Cuthbert Bullitt, a citizen of New Orleans who professes to a Unionist but complained about the military operations in Louisiana. “I think the true remedy . . . . does not lie in rounding the rough angles of the war, but in removing the necessity for the war. The people of Louisiana who wish protection to person and property, have but to reach forth their hands and take it. Let them, in good faith, reinaugurate the national authority, and set up a State Government conforming thereto under the constitution. They know how to do it, and can have the protection of the Army while doing it. The Army will be withdrawn so soon as such State government can dispense with its presence; and the people of the State can then upon the old Constitutional terms, govern themselves to their own liking.”

July 28– Monday– Washington, Virginia– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother about Belle Boyd. “There was quite a long and ridiculous letter about her copied into the Evening Post the other day. . . . Other men who have talked with her, tell me that she never asked for any information about our army, or gave them the slightest reason to suppose her a spy; and they were probably as capable of judging as the correspondent who wrote about her.”

July 28– Monday– St. Joseph, Missouri– The first railway post office car in North America begins operations on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad with the mail being transferred to stagecoach here for the rest of the journey to California.

July 28– Monday– St Stephens, New Brunswick, Canada– A mob attacks and destroys the office of the St Croix Herald, a newspaper which expressed support for the Northern cause and the Lincoln Administration.

July 28– Lake Victoria, Africa– British explorer John Speke reaches this lake called Nam Lolwe by the Luo people and names it after Britain’s monarch. He continues exploring the area and determines that this body of water is indeed the source of the Nile River.

John Speke

July 29– Tuesday– Stockbridge, Massachusetts– Birth of Robert Reid, Impressionist painter.

July 29– Tuesday– Liverpool, England– Despite official protests of U S Minister Charles Francis Adams to Her Majesty’s Government, British authorities allow the Confederate warship Alabama to sail. The ship, known here as the Enrica, was built in secrecy by John Laird Sons & Company. However, Adams had become aware of the deal and has tried for several weeks to have the delivery stopped but to no avail. As it sails today it is without armament and is supposedly going on a trial run. The builder has secretly arranged to arm the ship later.

July 29– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.–The Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company begins streetcar operations on Pennsylvania Avenue in the city.

July 29– Tuesday– Warrenton, Virginia– Federal authorities arrest Isabelle Marie Boyd, a/k/a Belle Boyd, on charges of spying for the Confederacy.

July 30–Wednesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Churches with bells made in the South sell the bells to be melted down for Union canon.

July 30– Wednesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– The Valley Spirit, an organ of the Democratic Party, expresses a view on the nature and needs of the war. “All speak of a patriotism worthy of the olden time; and implore an infatuated radical majority, in the name of all that is dear to country, to desist from the atrocious and bloody revolutionary program of emancipating the four millions of slaves at the point of the bayonet; but, in good faith, to stand solidly by the Constitution, and thus restore the Union as it was: that is, revive the social, commercial, religious, political intercourse that endeared our several political communities in the sacred relations of one nation. . . . the proclamations of Fremont, Hunter and Phelps, and the articles in the New York Tribune, are used to inflame the public mind. The people have become desperate. . . . What can be worse than the partizan caucus and the partizan schemes of the radical members of Congress? What can be worse than the partizan appeals of such portions of the Republican press as represented by the New York Tribune and the Chicago Tribune? It is enough to say that such schemes as Sumner doggedly presents in the Senate, and the presses that go with him continue to urge, tend directly to divide the loyal men, paralyze recruiting, and thus do detriment to the sacred cause of the country.”

July 30– Wednesday– Dublin, Ireland– Eugene O’Curry, pioneering modern scholar of Irish history, language and law, dies at his home of a heart attack at age 67.

July 31– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to Mr August Belmont, New York financier. Belmont sent to the President, through Mr Thurlow Weed, an anonymous letter from a Louisiana man, criticizing the President’s policy toward the South. “This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt. If they expect in any contingency to ever have the Union as it was, I join with the writer in saying, ‘Now is the time.’”

August Belmont

July 31– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln issues an executive order canceling all leaves and furloughs in the military and authorizing not only officers but a great variety of federal, state and local government officials to arrest any soldier “absent from his command without just cause and convey him, to the nearest military post or depot.”

July 31– Thursday– Harrison’s Landing, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes updates his diary. “I have been quite sick for a few days but am all right again now. Colonel Wheaton has recommended me for promotion to Second Lieutenant. . . . I have received a box [from home]. The cake was spoiled, but the other things were all right.”

July 31– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– President Davis writes to General Lee about the treatment of Union prisoners. He directs Lee that given the Confiscation Act and Lincoln’s authorization to use the labor of fugitive slaves [“to take the private property of our people for the convenience and use of their armies without compensation”] and the orders of General Pope in the Shenandoah Valley, General Lee is hereby “to consider any officers hereafter captured from General Pope’s army” as outlaws and bandits guilty of “a campaign of indiscriminate robbery and murder.”

The Meaning of the Fourth of July~a Perspective from 1852

 

Frederick Douglass on the speaker’s platform

Less than a decade before the start of the Civil War, the abolitionist and journalist, Frederick Douglass, himself an escaped slave, delivered a Fourth of July oration in Rochester, New York. The speech stands as a classic of American oratory. To my mind it is one of the best and most insightful speeches ever given by any American about the meaning of Independence Day. Over 10,000 words in length Douglass spoke for several hours, quite normal for an age before radio, television and motion pictures. Citizens expected preachers, lawyers, politicians, actors, circus performers, traveling salesmen and any and all other public figures to entertain, amuse, enthrall, challenge and stimulate them with quality rhetoric, especially on days like the Fourth of July.

Douglass was a skillful self-trained orator. Born sometime in 1818 to a slave mother and white father in Talbot County, Maryland, Douglass learned to read at about age 9. He later wrote that when his owner at that time, Hugh Auld, rebuked his wife for teaching a slave child to read, Douglass knew that literacy was the key to freedom. He managed to acquire a copy of a book entitled The Columbian Orator, a 1797 anthology of political speeches, essays and poems, widely used in American schools at the time to teach reading and public speaking.Douglass memorized much of the book by heart. After a failed escape attempt, Douglass successfully escaped in 1838 and went to New York City. Eventually he married Anna Murray and began a family.

During 1841, Douglass became a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society and traveled widely in the East and Midwest lecturing against slavery. In response to Southern criticism that someone so eloquent could not really be an ex-slave, Douglass published in 1845 an autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. It remains one of the great American books. To escape recapture following the book’s publication, Douglass fled to England where he spoke throughout the British Isles. on the American anti-slavery movement. The next year he became legally free when British supporters purchased his freedom from Hugh Auld, his former master, for £150 sterling, an amount equal to $722 American dollars at that time and about $21,600 today. By doing so, they enabled Douglass to return to the United States without being arrested as a fugitive slave.

In 1847, Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass, attracted by an active women’s movement, moved their family to Rochester New York. Here Douglass began to publish his newspaper, The North Star. This eventually led to an intellectual, political, philosophical and deeply emotional split with his old friend, the Boston editor William Lloyd Garrison. Douglass attended the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and in a key speech swayed most there to vote in favor of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s radical Declaration of Sentiments. His subsequent editorial is probably one of the first, if not the first, editorial in support of an organized women’s rights movement. He and Susan B Anthony remained friends throughout the rest of his life.

 

This then is the man who stands at the podium in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, on July 5th of 1852 to deliver an oration. [Because July 4th fell on a Sunday that year, most places moved the official celebration to the next day so has “to keep holy the Lord’s day.”] In the following I provide some summary and commentary leading to the sections which I consider extremely powerful and important. For those readers who wish to read the entire lengthy text I publish it separately without comment or editing.

Douglass opens his address by a “confession” of his inadequacy and unworthiness to speak to such a distinguished audience, a common tactic in late 18th and much of 19th century oratory. However, with this preliminary aside he quickly moves to separating himself from his predominately white audience by a long series of references to “your deliverance” by “your fathers” in “which you now glory.” He summarizes the history of the American Revolution, noting that the founding fathers “were accounted in their day plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day.”

For another dozen or more paragraphs Douglass summarizes the history of those men and their struggle. Lest the audience doubt his patriotism, he reassures them.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

In an additional ten paragraphs this orator who has never had a single day in a classroom unfolds revolutionary history for his audience. He concludes this section with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act3, SeceneII:

The evil, that men do, lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Shortly, Douglass moves to a statement of his personal agony, invoking the psalmist’s image of Babylonian captivity.

I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this gloriousanniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fa thers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.

[Psalm 137:1-6]

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”;[well-known line from Garrison’s first editorial in The Liberator in 1831] I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

Doglass anticipates some critical response from some of his listeners so proceeds to explain his criticism of the United States, leadsing to one of the most brilliant, most impassioned sections of his speech, anticipating by more than a century both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. . . . . It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth.

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Notice for a slave auction

Douglass describes for his audience the horrors of the domestic slave trade.

 Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

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Douglass moves on, passionately and eloquently to criticize the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act. Like other abolitionists, he was appalled and angry that Senator Daniel Webster, a Massachusetts man, betrayed the cause of liberty by supporting Henry Clay’s Compromise.

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented. By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women and children, as slaves, remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the star-spangled banner, and American Christianity. Where these go, may lso go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your law-makers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into  remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world that in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America the seats of justice are filled with judges who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding the case of a man’s liberty, to hear only his accusers!

 

Reward poster for fugitive slaves

******************************************************Finally Douglass turns his oratorical wrath upon American Christianity. Like Garrison, S. S. Foster, Theodore Weld and other radical abolitionists, Douglass sees the churches as a bulwark of support for slavery. With wrath of Luther and Knox, Douglass chastises a church in need of reform.

 I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were nor stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

 At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise, and cummin”-abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal!-And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to so licit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox to the beautiful, but treacherous, Queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country (with fractional exceptions) does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love, and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe ofÝ mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”

 But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

 For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke put together have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty and leave the throne of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and with out hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation-a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea’ when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

 The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in its connection with its ability to abolish slavery.

 The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

 Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday School, the conference, meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery, and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds, and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

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Douglass takes a moment to praise the prophets and saints who have spoken against the slave power.

 

William Wilberforce, British abolitionist and devout Christian

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher, of Brooklyn; Samuel J. May, of Syracuse; and my esteemed friend (Rev. R. R. Raymond) on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that, upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

 One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in Eng land towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and re stored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high religious question. It was demanded in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, the Burchells, and the Knibbs were alike famous for their piety and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable instead of a hostile position towards that movement.

 Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty.

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Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your crush anation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions and destroy it forever!

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I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.

 Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.

 “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe.

 **************************************

 God speed the year of jubilee

The wide world o’er!

When from their galling chains set free,

Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,

With these lines Douglass ended and was, according to period accounts, applauded. It is a speech worthy of our consideration. In what ways would Douglass hurl those challenges today?

On Patriotism–An essay by Dr Martin Marty for July 4th

As part of the Fourth of July celebrations in 2008, the esteemed Lutheran scholar Dr Martin E. Marty wrote the following essay, entitled “On Patriotism.” I find it a brilliant and moving piece, one which emphasizes the need to study our history. He rightly challenges us to think about the nature of the United States.

Dr Martin E Marty

 

Ninety years ago this Fourth of July weekend, the City Council of West Point, Nebraska passed a resolution that citizens were not to hold “assemblages not in sympathy with the war” or to distribute literature “out of harmony with the war,” that is, World War I. On April 19, 1918 the local paper reported that three Catholic priests and one Lutheran minister “were not permitted to preach last Sunday,” because they violated Nebraska’s Sedition Law. “No alien enemy may act in the capacity of preacher…without having first filed an application in district court…The applicant must show when he came to this country, what places he has been, what steps taken toward completing naturalization and what contributions he has made toward winning the war.”

Fathers Grobbel, Roth, and Brasch and Pastor Mangelsdorf, not yet citizens, “appeared in court the next week. Each stated his sympathy to the American cause and stated they were in the process of becoming citizens. They were granted licenses to preach…Area residents who had not completed all necessary paperwork to become U.S. citizens fell into the category of possible enemy aliens.” A woman accused of being unpatriotic “denied the charges and mentioned her husband had purchased Liberty Bonds and that she had donated to the Red Cross.” A new and prize-winning history of West Point adds: “The case came to an end when the armistice was signed in November.”

I came across this while doing research before speaking at my natal town, West Point, for its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary last weekend. The Sedition Law was passed in a fit of anti-German sentiment and violence during the War. The story of anti-German-language legislation in Oregon, Nebraska, and elsewhere is familiar, and there were thousands of West Points where scenes like those just described were common. Things have quieted. Today the town (of three thousand plus people) is 87.2 percent White Non-Hispanic (and 12 percent Hispanic), and still numbers 54.2 percent citizens of German ancestry, along with 5.5 percent of Czech and 4.6 percent of Swedish descent. Germans there are obviously safe and prospering. So why bring up this history here and now?

Independence Day Weekend provides occasion, among those who care, not only to barbecue, watch fireworks, wave flags, and watch parades—I did three of the four, so I should qualify as 75 percent patriotic—but also to review our history and reflect on it. This item about wartime hysteria, the impulse to be suspicious and fearful and hence macho about “true Americanism”, is matched in numberless American stories. It is almost embarrassing to place anti-German madness during World War I in a context of ferocious hostility against Native Americans, African-Americans, and Asians (recalling the concentration camps our government set up for every Japanese-American we could catch) but sometimes milder cases illumine the more extreme ones.

Why pick at the old scabs? Answer: Because in this long, long war suspicion is raised again, this time against Arab-Americans, profiled potential terrorists, anyone and anything Muslim. If we would learn from history, we might have fewer instances of harassment and embarrassment shown to those who do not appear to be quite like “us”, the patriots, who are inconveniencing ourselves so much—tell us how!—to “win” the war against terror. But I don’t want to conclude that way. Noticing how relatively at peace our West Points and many big communities are, how ready the majority of Americans are to tell poll-takers that they are not religiously and racially prejudiced, we do have cause to celebrate, without, I think, needing licenses to preach. Yet God bless America.

 

 

 

 

What Passingbells~July, 1862~the third week

President Lincoln again has several busy days. He signs the Second Confiscation Act which authorizes the seizure of property, including slaves, from those in armed rebellion against the United States, asks Congress to extend thanks to a New Yorker who donated a ship to the government, authorizes his commanders to employ for pay fugitive slaves who have escaped into Union lines and proclaims the treaty of friendship and commerce with the Ottoman Empire to be in effect. Acting in response to European complaints he orders the Federal military to cease harassment of aliens. His most important action takes place in a Cabinet meeting where he releases a first draft of an Emancipation Proclamation to take effect next January 1st in the states in rebellion. In Mississippi a slave child named Ida B Wells is born. She will become one of the foremost African American journalists, a suffragist and out-spoken crusader against lynching.

Soldiers from both sides raid towns and write home requesting tobacco. Confederate General Bragg teaches the Union about mobility in warfare while Union General Pope terrorizes civilians.

In foreign affairs, the United States and Denmark sign an agreement regarding the colonization of former slaves. French Emperor Napoleon III receives the Confederate emissary who soon advises him that Richmond has no objection to French intervention in Mexico. Harpers Weekly describes French understanding of the situation in Mexico. The British Parliament debates about offering mediation to the battling Americans while Her Majesty’s Foreign Secretary writes privately that most English folk favor the South. In the Alps mountain climbers reach new heights–literally.

The New York Times prints a letter from the missionary David Livingstone who castigates slavers and declares that Africa has future greatness. The paper also describes an attractive and educated Southern woman as a dangerous spy and calls for her arrest and deportation.

Civil war nurse caring for wounded

July 16– Wednesday– Holly Springs, Mississippi–Birth of Ida B. Wells, African-American journalist, feminist and social reformer. At the time of her birth, both of her parents are slaves.

Ida B Wells

July 16– Wednesday– Paris, France– Emperor Napoleon III receives the Confederate commissioner John Slidell.

July 17– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs the Second Confiscation Act which Congress passed yesterday. Its provisions are much stronger than the First Confiscation Act which was passed last summer and the President considered a veto, worried about the consequences in the loyal border states. In the relevant parts, it decrees that “every person who shall hereafter commit the crime of treason against the United States, and shall be adjudged guilty thereof, . . . all his slaves, if any, shall be declared and made free;” and that “any person . . . being engaged in armed rebellion against the Government of the United States, or aiding or abetting such rebellion, . . . all the estate and property, moneys, stock,. and credits of such person shall be liable to seizure as aforesaid, and it shall be the duty of the President to seize and use them as aforesaid, or the proceeds thereof.”

July 17– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln reports to Congress “to inform you that in March last Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, of New York, gratuitously presented to the United States the ocean steamer Vanderbilt, by many esteemed the finest merchant ship in the world. She has ever since been and still is doing valuable service to the Government. For the patriotic act in making this magnificent and valuable present to the country, I recommend that some suitable acknowledgment be made.”

Cornelius Vanderbilt

July 18– Friday– Newburgh, Indiana– Confederate troops raid this river town and carry away supplies and ammunition.

July 18– Friday– Valais Canton, Switzerland– A team of climbers makes the first successful ascent of Dent Blanche; at 14,291 feet it is one of the highest summits in the Alps.

 

north slope of Dent Blanche

July 18–Friday– London, England–The British Parliament vigorously debates whether Her Majesty’s Government should offer to negotiate the American Civil War but votes not to at the present time.

July 19– Saturday– New York City– Harper’s Weekly reports on French attitudes concerning the situation in Mexico. “The Emperor of France has determined to send such an army to Mexico as will force its way to the capital against all obstacles. Admiral la Graviere is to take the command of a large concentrated naval force of France in the waters of America, the Paris Patrie saying that such a step is justified by events which ‘may arise out of the American war and Mexican affairs.’ In the French Chamber of Deputies, M. Jules es Favre censured the expedition to Mexico, and demanded an explanation of its purport. He argued that the honor of France required that she should treat with Mexico and withdraw. M. Billault, in reply, said that France had insults to avenge upon the Juarez Government. He declared that the Emperor would leave the people entirely free, when the French flag floats over the capitol of Mexico, to vote for whatever government they might choose.”

July 19–Saturday– Beaver Dam Station Virginia–Federal forces burn warehouses, supplies and railroads.

July 19– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– The United States and Denmark sign an agreement that “all Negroes, mulattoes, or persons of color delivered from on board vessels seized in the prosecution of the Slave-trade by commanders of United States armed vessels during the five years next succeeding the date of this agreement” shall be provided safe haven on the Danish-held Island of St. Croix.

July 19– Saturday– London, England– Lord Russell, the Foreign Secretary, writes to Lord Lyons, the Minister to the United States. “The great majority are in favour of the South & nearly our whole people are of opinion that separation would be a benefit both to North & South.”

David Livingstone, missionary and explorer. When he dies years from now, he will literally leave his heart behind–buried in Africa while the rest of his body is shipped back to the United Kingdom.

July 20– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times carries a letter from the explorer and missionary David Livingstone. Written over six months ago, the letter details some of Livingstone’s recent explorations of central and southeastern Africa. About places where slave trading continues, he writes, “We were . . . robbed in the sphere of the Slavers’ operations; the first time we had suffered loss by thieves in Africa. The people are much less honest where Slavery goes on than elsewhere, and there they place but little value on human life.” Of Africa itself, he writes, “Africa is a continent of the Future. It is impossible to recite its capabilities.”

July 20– Sunday– New York City– Another piece in today’s New York Times profiles Belle Boyd, a young socialite from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and allegedly heading a network of female spies at work for the Confederacy. “She is a sharp-featured, black-eyed woman of 25, or care and intrigue have given her that appearance. . . . . She has undergone all that society, position and education can confer upon a mind suited to the days of Charles the Second, or Louis the Fourteenth – a mind such as Mazarin or Richlieu would have delighted to employ from its kindred affinities. . . . She is so well known now that she can only practice her blandishments upon new raw levies and their officers. . . . The reports that she is personally impure are as unjust as they are undeserved. She has a blind devotion to an idea, and passes far the boundary of her sex’s modesty to promote its success. She, with all her faults and false devotion to ideas, which are at the foundation of our political and social disorders, has not yet lost the crowning virtue of woman. Reporters who thus attack a woman, defenseless within their province, exceed the license which justice and fairness even allot to outlaws.” The paper calls for her to be arrested and deported to Richmond. [Ms Boyd in fact just turned 18 on May 9th and did attend the Washington Female Seminary in Baltimore for several years, speaks French fluently, is well-versed in classical literature and rides horseback extremely well.]

Belle Boyd

July 21– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Acting upon complaints from several European powers, President Lincoln issues an executive order regarding aliens. “They can not be required to take an oath of allegiance to this Government, because it conflicts with the duty they owe to their own sovereigns. All such obligations heretofore taken are therefore remitted and annulled. Military commanders will abstain from imposing similar obligations in future, and will in lieu thereof adopt such other restraints of the character indicated as they shall find necessary, convenient, and effectual for the public safety.”

July 21– Monday– Camp Ashby, Virginia– Confederate soldier Thomas Garber sends a request to his sister, Addie Garber. “Tell Pa to send me sone smoking tobacco and a pipe. Bill Waddell has some good tobacco put up in bags 2 ½ pounds each [so] tell Pa to send me one of them.”

July 21–Monday– Paris, France–Confederate emissary John Slidell advises the French government that the Confederacy is not adverse to French intervention in Mexico.

July 22– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– In an important meeting with his Cabinet, President Lincoln presents to them his first draft of an emancipation proclamation which he explains in the document “the object is to practically restore . . . the constitutional relation between the general government, and each, and all the states, wherein that relation is now suspended, or disturbed; and that, for this object, the war, as it has been, will be, prosecuted. And, as a fit and necessary military measure for effecting this object, I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, do order and declare that on the first day of January in the year of Our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state or states, wherein the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be practically recognized, submitted to, and maintained, shall then, thenceforward, and forever, be free.” Considerable discussion occurs about the slavery question and its significance in the war. Reception of the idea is mixed. Also, the Cabinet considers the failures of General McClellan and what, if anything, to do about him.

Lincoln and his Cabinet discuss emancipation

July 22– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln issues an executive order authorizing the employment of fugitive slaves who have escaped into Union lines, declaring that “military and naval commanders shall employ as laborers within and from said States so many persons of African descent as can be advantageously used for military or naval purposes, giving them reasonable wages for their labor.” The President also proclaims to be in effect a treaty of trade and friendship with the Ottoman Empire. This treaty was concluded at Constantinople, February 25, 1862 and signed ratifications exchanged at Constantinople, June 5,1862. The favorable terms are seen in part as both the inducement and the reward for the Sultan’s ban on Confederate ships in any of the Empire’s waters or ports.

 July 23– Wednesday– Shenandoah Valley, Virginia–Union General Pope orders all males in the region to swear a loyalty oath to the Federal government. The property of any spies and traitors is subject to immediate confiscation.

July 23– Wednesday– Chattanooga, Tennessee– In another pioneering use of the railroads in warfare, Confederate General Braxton Bragg arrives here with his troops, having quickly covered more than 770 miles from Tupelo, Mississippi by rail.

Confederate General Braxton Bragg

What Passingbells~July, 1862~the second week

The second week of July is a busy one for President Lincoln, He takes care of his son away at college, continues diplomacy with Latin America, visits the troops and attempts to rally support for gradual compensated emancipation. In private, with two Cabinet members, he broaches the idea of a radical emancipation.

Mary Chesnut blames the war on Northern greed. Sarah Morgan criticizes General Butler for his treatment of women. Like some other college-age women of then and now, she is harshly critical of James Boswell and Sam Johnson.

The New York Times declares that the capture of Richmond will end any threat of European intervention while a British politician writes to former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, saying that this is not the right time for Britain to recognize the Confederacy.

Confederate cavalry score successes in Kentucky. New Yorker George Templeton Strong feels depressed by Union failures. General Pope deals harshly with the people of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. General Butterfield composes “Taps” for use at soldiers’ funerals. Congress creates the Medal of Honor to recognize bravery. Out west, in San Francisco citizens celebrate the authorization of the transcontinental railroad while in Salt Lake City Brigham Young wants federal recognition of Mormon polygamy.

Union Army of the Potomac in camp

July 8– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln instructs his private secretary, John Nicolay, to send $280 to Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s 18 year old son who is studying at Harvard. [A hefty sum which today would equal about $6,460 in purchasing power.]

July 8– Tuesday– Charleston, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut diaries her analysis of the causes of the war. “Table-talk to-day: This war was undertaken by us to shake off the yoke of foreign invaders. So we consider our cause righteous. The Yankees, since the war has begun, have discovered it is to free the slaves that they are fighting. So their cause is noble. They also expect to make the war pay. Yankees do not undertake anything that does not pay. They think we belong to them. We have been good milk cows – milked by the tariff, or skimmed. We let them have all of our hard earnings. We bear the ban of slavery; they get the money. Cotton pays everybody who handles it, sells it, manufactures it, but rarely pays the man who grows it. Second hand the Yankees received the wages of slavery. They grew rich. We grew poor. The receiver is as bad as the thief. That applies to us, too, for we received the savages they stole from Africa and brought to us in their slave-ships. As with the Egyptians, so it shall be with us: if they let us go, it must be across a Red Sea – but one made red by blood.”

Notice of slave auction

July 9– Wednesday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln submits to the Senate for ratification a postal agreement treaty with Costa Rica.

July 9– Wednesday– Tomkinsville, Kentucky– Confederate cavalry under John Hunt Morgan capture the town.

July 9– Wednesday– Harrison’s Landing, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes records a visitor. “Last night President Lincoln made a visit to the Army. As he passed along the lines salutes were fired, and the men turned out and cheered.”

July 10– Thursday– New York City– The New York Times discusses the threat of foreign intervention. “The panic-mongers are doing a pretty good business just now. They have convinced Wall-street at least that foreign intervention is certain to take place immediately, and that the end of the rebellion is therefore indefinitely postponed. . . . We have no fears of foreign intervention. We apprehend no troubles from abroad with which the skillful and masterly diplomacy of Secretary Seward will not safely and successfully deal. . . . The one thing needful is to take Richmond – to disperse and destroy the army which holds it. Whenever that is done, we shall hear nothing more of foreign intervention in the interest of secession.”

Union General John Pope

July 10– Thursday– Shenandoah Valley, Virginia– Union General John Pope issues orders that any citizen in the Shenandoah Valley who fires shots at Federal soldiers or damages telegraph or railroad lines will be executed.

July 10– Thursday– Harrison’s Landing, Virginia– A bugle call for lights out and for use at funerals, recently composed by General Dan Butterfield, a 30 year old New Yorker, comes into use in the Army of the Potomac. It is called “Taps.” Oliver Norton, from Erie, Pennsylvania and Butterfield’s bugler, is generally recognized as the first bugler to play the composition.

Union General Dan Butterfield

July 10– Thursday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan comments to her diary about General Butler’s attempts to suppress war news and public discussion of the war. “What a stretch of tyranny! O free America! You who uphold free people, free speech, free everything, what a foul blot of despotism rests on a once spotless name! A nation of brave men, who wage war on women and lock them up in prisons for using their woman weapon, the tongue; a nation of free people who advocate despotism; a nation of Brothers who bind the weaker ones hand and foot, and scourge them with military tyrants and other Free, Brotherly institutions; what a picture! Who would not be an American? One consolation is, that this proclamation, and the extraordinary care they take to suppress all news except what they themselves manufacture, proves me our cause is prospering more than they like us to know. I do believe day is about to break!”

July 10– Thursday– San Francisco, California– This evening there is a large torch-light parade in honor of the passage of the Pacific Railroad bill.

July 11– Friday– Newport, Giles County, Virginia– Rebel soldier James McCutchan describes for his cousin, Rachel Ann McCutchan, some of the people he has met. “Mrs. Paine is a fine old lady, her husband is dead & she has no children [but] she has an adopted daughter, Miss Hattie Early a young lady about sixteen. They are all mighty nice about every thing, real sanctified Methodists. The circuit rider is here now. I don’t know how he can preach but from his appearances, I judge if I had two days study, & a glass of brandy, I could preach as well in the back woods as he can.”

July 11– Friday– London, England– Birth of Elisabeth (“Liza”) Nina Lehman, composer and opera singer.

Group of women in the Civil War period

July 12– Saturday– New York City– A report in Harper’s Weekly says that in April, Mormon leader Brigham Young sent a message to the territorial legislature in support of the Union cause and encouraging statehood and “that it be done with all the laws that are now in operation in the Territory of Utah, including, of course, the law recognizing polygamy.”

 

Mormon leader Brigham Young

 

July 12– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends an appeal to the congressional delegations from the border states, seeking their support for a program of gradual emancipation. “How much better for you, and for your people, to take the step which, at once, shortens the war, and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to be wholly lost in any other event. . . . I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually. . . . . . . Before leaving the Capital, consider and discuss it among yourselves. You are patriots and statesmen; and, as such, I pray you, consider this proposition; and, at the least, commend it to the consideration of your states and people. As you would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you do in no wise omit this. Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views, and boldest action to bring it speedy relief.”

July12– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Congress establishes the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action by non-commissioned officers and privates who “distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldierlike qualities.”

July 12– Saturday– Lebanon, Kentucky– John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry captures the town.

July 13– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– During a carriage ride, President Lincoln suggests to Secretary of State William Seward and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, both strong opponents of slavery, that he is seriously considering proclaiming emancipation of all slaves in the rebellious states. Seward suggests some of the problems such a move might cause and asks for time to “bestow on it mature reflection before giving a decisive answer.” Welles notes in his diary that “in all our previous interviews . . . [the President] had been prompt and emphatic in denouncing any interference by the General Government with the subject.”

July 13– Sunday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan writes her impression of Boswell’s Life of Johnson. “I have been reading that old disguster, Boswell. Bah! I have no patience with the toady! I suppose ‘my mind is not yet thoroughly impregnated with the Johnsonian ether,’ and that is the reason why I cannot appreciate him, or his work. I admire him for his patience and minuteness in compiling such trivial details. He must have been an amiable man, to bear Johnson’s brutal, ill-humored remarks; but seems to me if I had not spirit enough to resent the indignity, I would at least not publish it to the world! Briefly, my opinion, which this book has only tended to confirm, is that Boswell was a vain, conceited prig, a fool of a jackanape, an insupportable sycophant, a–whatever mean thing you please; there is no word small enough to suit him. As to Johnson, he is a surly old bear; in short, an old brute of a tyrant. All his knowledge and attainments could not have made me tolerate him, I am sure.”

 

James Boswell, the object of Sarah Morgan’s scorn

July 14– Monday– New York City– In his diary George Templeton Strong writes in a dark mood. “We are in the depths just now, permeated by disgust, saturated with gloomy thinking. I find it hard to maintain my lively faith in the triumph of the nation and the law.”

July 14– Monday– Williamstown, Massachusetts– Birth of Florence Bascom, geologist who will become a professor of geology at Bryn Mawr College and the first woman to work for the United States Geological Society (1896 to 1936).

Florence Bascom

July 15– Tuesday– Yazoo River, north of Vicksburg, Mississippi– Union gunboats slug it out with the new Confederate iron-clad the Arkansas, Three Union vessels and the Arkansas are severely damage with 68 Union sailors killed or injured and 25 Southerners killed or wounded on the Arkansas.

July 15– Tuesday– Apache Pass, New Mexico Territory [now part of Arizona]– Federal soldiers fight a day-long battle with well-armed Chiricahua Apache warriors led by Mangas Coloradus. Two Union soldiers are killed and somewhere between 35 and 65 Apache die, mostly from canon fire.

July 15– Tuesday– London, England– In a letter to Benjamin Disraeli, W. S. Stanley writes, “It is premature to recognize the southern confederacy. We can’t even get at them. The whole coast is in federal hands. It can hardly be argued that a country which has not a port nor a means of ingress or egress is in a position to claim recognition o f its independence. Mediation is impossible. The offer of it useless you want to provoke insult from the North. If you intervene, you must prepare to enforce the acceptance of your proposal. In its present temper, the north would go to war rather than yield. T hey are too much excited to calculate chances . . . . If we want to protract the war- to stimulate the combatants to the utmost, let us talk of interfering to stop it. If we want it to die out, let us carefully stand aloof. The strongest American feelings are, distrust of England and belief in their own invincibility. Nothing can do away the first- events only can desicate the last.”

Benjamin Disraeli