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The Deslondes Uprising of 1811—in which several hundred Louisiana slaves rose up and launched attacks along the Mississippi River—provoked an especially brutal response from the local militias and state government. In a pitched battle that lasted several days, slave forces under rebel leader Charles Deslandes (Deslondes) (1780–1811) engaged an armed militia assembled under the order of Governor William C. Claiborne. The slaveholders eventually subdued the rebels and sentenced the ringleaders to death. Deslandes and his comrades were executed, mutilated, and displayed as a warning to other slaves. In the act signed by Claiborne below, a bounty is placed on the remaining fugitives.

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Alonford James Robinson

Proslavery arguments were not prevalent in the United States until an organized movement against slavery emerged in the late eighteenth century. Commonly referred to as the antislavery movement, abolitionism was a loose confederation of religious and political organizations that arose in defiance of the international system of slavery. The movement did not gain national credibility and acclaim until the late 1830s.

Often associated with the antislavery movement, Abolitionism differed in both the degree and methods of its antislavery activities. While antislavery advocates pushed for the gradual eradication of slavery, abolitionists called for its immediate and unconditional end. Organizations such as the American Anti-Slavery Society and newspapers such as The Liberator were prominent features of the American abolitionist movement. Emerging at the beginning of the nineteenth century, antiabolitionism was a hostile and often violent response to the abolitionist movement. As abolitionism grew, so too did antiabolitionism.

Several features of abolitionist rhetoric ...

Article

Chad Morgan

Calhoun did more than anyone else to chart the Slave South's increasingly defiant course from the 1830s onward; the trajectory of his career closely mirrors that of his region. Born into a family of ardent patriots and Revolutionary War veterans, Calhoun's early nationalism steadily gave way to the need to construct ever-moreelaborate defenses of the South's slave society. Ironically, in doing more than perhaps any other individual to set the stage for the Civil War, this “father of secession” and unapologetic slaveholder became a great practical force in the bringing about of Emancipation.

John Caldwell Calhoun was born just outside the town of Abbeville in the South Carolina Upcountry. After studying at Yale and then the Litchfield Law School, Calhoun began his meteoric rise to political prominence with a promising stint in the South Carolina state legislature. In 1811 he married his cousin Floride Bonneau Colhoun [sic a Lowcountry ...

Article

Denise R. Shaw

In August 1845, shortly after the publication of his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the author boarded the steamship Cambria of the Cunard Line for Great Britain. The voyage served a dual purpose for Frederick Douglass. First, he was embarking on a speaking tour during which he would gain financial and moral support for the antislavery movement. Second, and perhaps just as important, the trip would get Douglass out of the country, as the publication of his Narrative would not only bring attention to the horrors of slavery but would also garner the attention of slave catchers bent on reenslaving Douglass.

Prior to boarding the Cambria Douglass was notified by his traveling companion James N Buffum that he would not be able to board the ship as a cabin passenger but would be consigned to the steerage section or second class Douglass notes ...

Primary Source

The slaveholder Cotton Mather (1680–1723), a leading Puritan intellectual in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was among the first to argue that slaves be converted to Christianity. Using his own home as a Sunday school and house of worship, Mather passionately rebutted common arguments that blacks were incapable of reasoning, or that they had no souls. He also advocated fairer treatment of slaves, declaring that it was God’s will that the institution be humane. However, Mather never went so far as to condemn slavery. In fact, he assured fellow slaveholders that converting the workforce would not lead to emancipation, and would instead make the slaves more productive. In addition, his Rules for the Society of Negroes (1693)—regulations intended for his congregation of slaves—lists disobedience and attempted escape among the most egregious sins against God and the community. Later, Mather would author The Negro Christianized 1706 which lays out the prescribed ...

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Brian D. Behnken

On 11 September 1851 in Christiana, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a violent confrontation broke out between proslavery and antislavery forces. Commonly referred to as the Christiana Riot, the encounter had its roots in the escape of four slaves—Noah Buley, Nelson Ford, George Hammond, and Joshua Hammond—from the Maryland plantation owned by Edward Gorsuch. Although Gorsuch reputedly was a good master, the slaves fled across the state line to Pennsylvania on 6 November 1849 after Gorsuch learned that they were stealing wheat from the plantation's storehouse. A resident of Christiana informed him a short time later that his slaves were taking refuge in the small town.

In Lancaster County the escaped slaves plunged into a volatile world of white slave catchers and armed black defenders Many Pennsylvanians were weary of slaves escaping from Maryland Whites from Lancaster County formed a vigilante group to apprehend runaways around ...

Primary Source

Drafted on 1 March 1836 the Constitution of the Republic of Texas was the first organizing governmental document composed and adopted by non Mexicans to oversee the bueracracy of the newly independent territory Though slavery had at least officially all but vanished under Mexican rule the institution was still in practice in some parts of the territory in 1836 and when the new government was formed Texan politicians were eager to restore slavery to legal status To do so they inserted the general provision reproduced below into their new constitution Because of it African American slaves already in Texas now held in bondage were to remain slaves Likewise the provision held that the congress of the independent Republic of Texas would be powerless to create laws prohibiting the flow of new slaves into the territory nor would slaveholders be permitted to emancipate their slaves without congressional consent Likewise free blacks ...

Article

During the presidential campaign of 1860 in the United States, leading Southerners such as Governor William Henry Gist of South Carolina made clear that they would urge the South to secede if Abraham Lincoln and his antislavery Republican Party won the election. The secessionists were abetted by outgoing president James Buchanan, who, fearful of a civil war, stated that the federal government had no right to force a state to remain in the Union. Almost immediately after Lincoln won in November, several Southern legislatures began discussing secession.

In early December of 1860Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky proposed four resolutions and six amendments to the Constitution of the United States that, in effect, would have resurrected and expanded the Missouri Compromise of 1820. That compromise, which the United States Congress repealed in 1854 protected slavery in newly created states south of the 36°30 parallel and banned ...

Primary Source

The U.S. Supreme Court's 1856 determination in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford sounded like a thunderclap throughout the entire country Radical Republicans in Congress and abolitionists throughout the North and South had long come to suspect pro slavery forces of conspiring to fashion a federal government that would upset the carefully maintained balance between slave and free states and allow the unfettered spread of the peculiar institution into every state and territory With the Court s decision Republicans felt they had all the proof they needed Not only had Chief Justice Roger Taney opined that Scott a slave who argued that time spent in the free states of Missouri and Illinois had emancipated him must legally remain a slave he went further to argue that black people were incapable of being citizens Taney s further ruminations on black people as an inferior class of beings who had ...

Article

Christopher Bates

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on 1 January 1863. Although it did not immediately free any slaves, it redefined the Union's military goals, and a war that had been undertaken strictly to reunite the country was transformed into a war of liberation. From 1863 onward, it was clear to both Northerners and Southerners that a Union victory would mean the permanent abolition of slavery.

The proclamation was months, if not years, in the making. Abolitionists had been pressuring the government to end slavery on moral grounds since the 1830s; they were joined in the 1850s by the Free-Soilers, who were concerned about the impact slavery was having on free laborers. The presidents of the 1850s—Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan turned a deaf ear to antislavery protests however for all were southern sympathizers and had no interest in curtailing the ...

Article

Diane L. Barnes

Proponents of ethnology, a pseudoscience popular in the mid-nineteenth century, claimed that races of people were, in fact, separate human species. Some southern proslavery advocates used the notion of ethnology to support the belief that as a separate species, individuals of African descent were an inferior race and perfectly suited for slavery, but only one major advocate of ethnology hailed from the southern states. Ethnology formed only a minor influence on racial thinking among the general populace, but it did gain support among the scientific community and some intellectuals.

The American school of ethnology which was not an institution but more an informal movement evolved from scientific principles set forth by Samuel George Morton a Philadelphia physician Having studied the internal cranial capacity of humans from various races and ethnic groups Morton rejected prevailing theories which held that environmental forces played the largest part in racial differentiation for example that ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Article IV, section 2, clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution provided that “no person held to service or labour” in one state and who escaped to another state could be freed from that obligation, but instead had to be “delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” This provision, known as the fugitive slave clause, did not set out how this process was to be administered.

The clause was added to the U.S. Constitution late in the Constitutional Convention, with no serious debate over its meaning or implementation. It was first discussed in the context of the states' returning fugitive criminals. All the delegates agreed that the states should cooperate in capturing and returning fugitives from justice. On 28 August, while debating that provision, Pierce Butler and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina proposed that the Constitution require fugitive slaves and servants ...

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Paul Finkelman

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was technically an amendment to the federal act of 1793 that regulated both criminal extradition and the return of fugitive slaves. The 1793 law never worked well, and almost immediately some southerners asked for a new law. By the mid-1840s editors and politicians throughout the South were demanding a new, more effective law. The key issue for southerners was an enforcement mechanism that would help them recover their fugitives and return home safely with them.

The 1793 law authorized all state judges and magistrates as well as all federal judges to issue certificates of removal to allow masters to take fugitive slaves back to the South However many northern jurists refused to cooperate with the implementation of the law Since there were very few federal judges at the time usually only one in a state slave owners had to rely on often uncooperative ...

Article

Before the American colonies won independence from Great Britain, several legislatures in Southern colonies passed laws providing for the return of runaway slaves. Under some of these laws, slaves who resisted arrest could be killed, and their owners would be reimbursed by the government. Other laws levied penalties against people who protected runaways and offered rewards to those who caught them. However, these laws had little effect outside the colonies that passed them, leaving those in other colonies free to harbor escaped slaves.

In 1787 the Congress of the Confederation passed the Northwest Ordinance which banned slavery from the Northwest Territory but allowed slaves who fled to the territory to be caught and returned to their owners However the ordinance did not require governments or settlers to cooperate in the capture and return of runaways Two years later the Constitution of the United States took effect with a ...

Article

Donovan S. Weight

slave owner, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a freed slave and a white man (their names are unknown). Hinard never experienced slavery herself, and her life as a slave-owning black female was far removed from the common experience of most blacks in North America. This anomaly can be explained in part by the political and social turbulence of early New Orleans. By the time Hinard was forty-two, she had lived under French, Spanish, and American rule. In 1791 at the age of fourteen, Hinard was placéed (committed) to the white Spaniard Don Nicolás Vidal, the auditor de guerra the Spanish colonial governor In this lofty position Vidal provided military and legal counsel for both Louisiana and West Florida Both the Spanish and the French legislated against racial intermarriage as a way of maintaining pure white blood but this legislation did not stop white men from ...

Article

Nick Nesbitt

Victor Hugues was the son of a baker from Marseilles, France. At the age of twelve, he joined his uncle in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) at the height of that island's colonial prosperity. After sailing the Caribbean as a corsair in search of English ships, in 1784 Hugues settled in Port-au-Prince, where he opened a bakery. In 1788, when the French King Louis XVI convened the Estates General in Versailles in an attempt to defuse rising antimonarchical sentiment, Hugues was elected and returned to France to represent the petit blancs, or white shop owners and traders. Hugues also became embroiled in the conflict between petits blancs and a mulatto class striving for legal recognition: in February 1791 Port-au-Prince was burned by armed members of the mulatto class, and Hugues, by his own estimation, lost seven-eighths of his worldly goods.

When the French monarchy was overthrown in ...

Primary Source

It was not until 1839 that the Roman Catholic Church issued its first official condemnation of the practice of slavery. Written by Pope Gregory XVI and titled In Supremo Apostolatus Fatigo the letter implored Christians to respect the rights of Indians Negroes or other men of this sort Still many leaders of the Church in the United States defended the practice as both a part of natural law and a means to convert Africans to Christianity The sermon reproduced below was delivered by Augustin Verot in St Augustine Florida on the eve of the Civil War Verot the Vicar Apostolic of Florida echoes the official sentiments of the Church prior to Gregory s edict that the institution is sanctioned by God and that it is the duty of slaveholders to make the system more humane Interestingly Verot mentions the 1839 encyclical but seems to interpret it as merely prohibiting ...

Primary Source

By the winter of 1861 Jefferson Davis was ready if reluctantly to forswear his loyalty to the United States of America With the secession of his native Mississippi Davis stood before the assembled United States Senate to announce his resignation on 21 January As in the case of Robert E Lee whom Davis would not long after appoint military commander of the armies of the Confederacy fidelity to his home state overwhelmed further obligation to the national union or even to personal principle Davis had argued against Mississippi s secession only conceding when it was clear that the move was inevitable Though Davis supported secession only to the extent that loyalty to his home state obliged him in his farewell remarks he tied his resignation from the Senate to Mississippi s separation from the federal union by first announcing the state s withdrawal He suggested that both were justified in ...

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Alexander J. Chenault

former slave, slave owner, and pioneer for the legal rights of free blacks, was born a slave in 1802, probably in Virginia, although the precise place of his birth is unknown. Court records show that he was once owned by William Chenault Jr., a prominent lawyer and a member of the lower house of the Kentucky legislature. Prior to emancipation Jones resided on the Chenault family's farm, near Richmond, Kentucky, which was purchased in 1787 from the brother of Kentucky pioneer and settler Daniel Boone. Four years before Chenault died he emancipated Jones (31 May 1830). At the time Jones was married, although not legally, to Sally Ann, a slave woman, with whom he had four children. Although the date of Levi and Sally Ann's union is unknown, marriage between free blacks would not even become legal until 1825 Moreover ...

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Kevin M. Levin

The Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed by Congress on 30 May 1854, was designed to allow slavery in the territories west of Missouri. For close to thirty-five years the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had banned the institution north of the line of 36°30′ north latitude, except for Missouri. Beginning in January 1854 Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois introduced a report to the Senate recommending the creation of two new territories, Kansas and Nebraska, in the former Louisiana Territory. Douglas was motivated by a desire to add to the material growth of the nation as articulated through the ideology of Manifest Destiny—a moral justification for American expansion to the Pacific Ocean based on notions of cultural superiority—as well as an interest in a transcontinental railroad from Chicago across the western plains toward California.

Douglas gained southern congressional support for the bill by introducing a principle known as popular sovereignty under which ...