Baptists and the American Civil War: December 21, 1862

African SlaveryLess than two weeks before United States President Abraham Lincoln is scheduled to legally free African slaves within the Southern states rebelling against the U.S., a commentary in North Carolina Baptists’ Biblical Recorder reminds Baptists that slaveowners, not abolitionists, are “the only true friends” of the black race.

This war has unmasked the hypocrisy and corruption of the Abolitionists of the United States. Their professed motives for their continued agitation of the question of slavery, and their efforts to array the people of the North against us have been love, sympathy, and pity for the negroes, and a disinterested desire that they might enjoy the blessings of freedom. But this struggle shows that their pretensions were false and hypocritical, and that they were, all the while, actuated by an absorbing passion for money, and that the Southerners are the only true friends of the negro, nay more, that the very existence of the race on this continent depends on the success of our arms. The enemy never lose an opportunity to decoy or force the credulous and unsuspecting creatures away from their owners, but make no suitable provisions for them afterwards. The people of Indiana and Illinois have expressed a determination not to receive the fugitive slaves among them, and the working men of New York have requested that no more be allowed to enter that State. Kept within the enemy’s lines, poorly clad, sheltered and fed, and exposed to ill treatment of every description, they die rapidly. Their salvation depends on the success of our arms in this context.–That their extinction is now a favorite idea among the hypocritical philanthropists of the United States, the following extracts from late Northern papers will show. The New York World says:

The Evening Post frankly admits that the ultimate object of the radicals is the destruction of the colored race on this continent. It says:

“As the Indians were crowded westward, and out of our bounds, by the irresistible advance of the white man, so will the blacks be whenever that powerful protective system which the slaveholders have guarded them is removed. It is the destiny of the free white working men of this country to possess it; the efforts of the slaveholders have hitherto robbed them of one-half of it–the richest, fairest half–and devoted it to blacks. It is the slaveholders who have preserved the negro from decline among us; it is the slaveholders who have increased the blacks from seven hundred thousand in 1790 to four millions in 1860.

So it is admitted that those terrible fellows, the slaveholders, whose chains, whips and bloodhounds we have heard so much about in anti-slavery novels and poems, are after all the real conservators of the negro race, while the Abolitionists, with all their professions of philanthropy, contemplate their destruction. The Post is right. The freeing of negroes means their extinction as a race in North America; the history of the present war proves that, beyond all peradventure. From Arkansas around to Port Royal the same complaint reaches us, that the negroes within their our lines are in rags and starving, and the soldiers abuse them. A card in yesterday’s Tribune, from the agents of some negro missionary society, begging for money and clothes, says:

There are about a thousand in Hampton, quartered in tents, and a still larger number at Norfolk–seven hundred and eighty at Norfolk and three hundred and eighty at Norfolk and three hundred and seventy quartered in a large storehouse and in barracks. Could the benevolent look upon these pitiable objects of charity, tattered and shoeless, destitute of decent clothing and compelled to sleep on hard boards, bricks or ground, with out a pallet, or hardly a rag under them, their hearts would bleed, “and eyes unused to weep overflow with tears.”

It is not improbable that there are sixty thousand freed negro families within our lines in this condition, and, under the operation of the emancipation proclamation, as our army advances this number will double and treble. These poor people are destined for misery and ultimate destruction. The North–even Massachusetts–will not allow them a residence, and for the present, perhaps for years, there can be no fixed system of labor where they are located.”

What a strange verdict will history pass upon the Abolition party. It was originally organized to champion the woes of the black race; it made the world ring with the alleged cruelties of the slaveholders; yet this same party, in less than two years after it assumed power, inflicted more real distress upon the black race than have several generation of slaveholders. More than that, one of its principal organs now admits that the negroes thrive under the sway of slaveholders, but are destined to perish from out the land at the expense of the quondam friends the Abolitionists.

The New York World newspaper is a voice for Northern opposition to emancipation for Southern slaves, while the New York Tribune, owned by Horace Greeley, champions freedom for slaves. The anti-abolitionist faction of the New York scene is concerned that freeing slaves will flood Northern markets with cheap labor and lead to depressed wages and high unemployment for white men. Southern slaveholders and Confederate politicians at large, in turn, cheer on pro-slavery Northerners, frequently echoing their arguments in hopes of further agitating divisions within Northern public life and political thought.

While freedom for all ultimately does triumph, Southern white hatred of blacks is such that in the years following the defeat of the Confederacy, white men successfully employ violence and political intimidation, and play upon the prejudices of Northern racists, to thwart Northern efforts to assimilate blacks into Southern society. The legacy of this racial hatred continues for one hundred years following the end of the Civil War, with black Americans not securing true equality until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Source: “The Negroes,” Biblical Recorder, December 17, 1862 (link)