THE COLORED REGULARS
IN THE UNITED STATES ARMY
With a Sketch of the History of the Colored American, and an Account of His Services in the Wars of the Country, from the Period of the Revolutionary War to 1899.
INTRODUCTORY LETTER FROM
Lieutenant-General Nelson A. Miles Commanding the Army of the United States.
* * * * *
By CHAPLAIN T.G. STEWARD, D.D., Twenty-fifth U.S. Infantry.
Philadelphia A.M.E. Book Concern, 631 Pine Street.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
CHAPTER I.—SKETCH OF SOCIAL HISTORY.
The Importation of the Africans. Character of the Colored Population in 1860. Colored Population in British West Indian Possessions. Free Colored People of the South. Free Colored People of the North. Notes. 21
CHAPTER II.—THE AMERICAN NEGRO AND THE MILITARY SPIRIT.
Early Literature of Negro Soldiers. Negro Soldiers in the War of the Revolution. The War of 1812. Negro Insurrections. Negro Troops in the Civil War. Notes. 57
CHAPTER III.—THE BLACK REGULARS OF THE ARMY OF INVASION IN THE SPANISH WAR.
Organization of Negro Regiments in the Regular Army. First Movement in the War. Chickamauga and Tampa. Notes. 84
CHAPTER IV.—BRIEF SKETCH OF SPANISH HISTORY. 107
CHAPTER V.—PASSAGE, LANDING, AND FIRST BATTLE IN CUBA.
The Tenth Cavalry at Guasimas. The "Rescue of the Rough Riders." Was there an Ambush? Notes. 116
CHAPTER VI.—THE BATTLE OF EL CANEY.
The Capture of the Stone Fort by the Twenty-fifth Infantry. 150
CHAPTER VII.—SAN JUAN.
Cavalry Division: The Ninth and Tenth Regiments. Kent's Division: The Twenty-fourth Infantry. Forming under fire. A Gallant Charge. 191
CHAPTER VIII.—SAN JUAN (Continued).
Kent's Division. The Twenty-fourth Infantry. Forming Under Fire. A Gallant Charge. 208
CHAPTER IX.—THE SURRENDER AND AFTERWARDS.
In the Trenches. The Twenty-fourth in the Fever Camp. Are Negro Soldiers Immune? Camp Wikoff. 220
CHAPTER X.—REVIEW AND REFLECTIONS.
Gallantry of the Black Regulars. Diary of Sergeant Major E.L. Baker, Tenth Cavalry. 236
CHAPTER XI.—THE COLORED VOLUNTEERS.
The Ninth Ohio Battalion. Eighth Illinois. Twenty-third Kansas. Third North Carolina. Sixth Virginia. Third Alabama. The Immunes. 282
CHAPTER XII.—COLORED OFFICERS.
By Captain Frank R. Steward, A.B., LL.B., Harvard, 49th U. S. Volunteer Infantry. 299
The material out of which the story of the COLORED REGULARS has been constructed has been collected with great pains, and upon it has been expended a serious amount of labor and care. All the movements of the Cuban campaign, and particularly of the battles, have been carefully studied by the aid of official reports, and conversations and correspondence with those who participated in them. The work has been performed with an earnest desire to obtain and present the truth, hoping that the reader will be inspired by it to a more profound respect for the brave and skilled black men who passed through that severe baptism of fire and suffering, contributing their full share to their country's honor.
It is also becoming in this place to mention with gratitude the encouragement given by the War Department both in granting me the time in which to do the work, and also in supplying me with documents and furnishing other facilities. By this enlightened course on the part of the Department great aid has been given to historical science, and, incidentally, very important service rendered to the cause of freedom and humanity. A struggling people has been helped and further glory reflected upon the Government. The President, himself, has manifested a kindly interest in the work, and has wished that the story of the black soldiers should be told to the world. The interest of the Commanding General of the Army is shown in his letter.
Thus encouraged from official sources and receiving the most hearty words of cheer from friends, of whom none has been more potent or more earnest than Bishop B.W. Arnett, D.D., of the African M.E. Church, I have, after five months of severe labor, about completed my task, so far as I find it in my power to complete it; and trusting that the majesty and interest of the story itself will atone for any defects in the style of the narration, the volume is now offered to a sympathetic public, affectionately dedicated to the men whose heroic services have furnished the theme for my pen.
T.G. STEWARD. Wilberforce, Ohio, September, 1899.
LETTER FROM GENERAL MILES.
Headquarters of the Army, Washington, August 5, 1899.
Rev. T.G. Steward, Chaplain 25th Infantry, Wilberforce, Ohio.
Dear Sir:—Your letter of the 20th ultimo was duly received, but my time has been so much engrossed with official duties, requiring my presence part of the time out of the city, that it has not been practicable to comply with your request earlier; and even now I can only reply very briefly.
You will remember that my acquaintance with negro character commenced during the Civil War. The colored race then presented itself to me in the character of numerous contrabands of war, and as a people who, individually, yearned for the light and life of liberty. Ages of slavery had reduced them to the lowest ebb of manhood. From that degree of degradation I have been an interested spectator of the marvelously rapid evolution of the down-trodden race. From the commencement of this evolution to the present time I have been more or less in a position to closely observe their progress. At the close of the war I was in command of one of the very important military districts of the South, and my concern for the welfare of all the people of that district, not excluding the people of color, you will find evidenced in the measures taken by me, more especially in regard to educational matters, at that time. The first regiment which I commanded on entering the Regular Army of the United States at the close of the war was made up of colored troops. That regiment—the 40th Infantry—achieved a reputation for military conduct which forms a record that may be favorably compared with the best regiments in the service. Then, again, refer to my General Order No. 1, issued after the fall of Santiago, and you will see that recognition is not grudgingly given to the troops who heroically fought there, whether of American, of African, or of Latin descent. If so early in the second generation of the existence of the race in the glorious light of liberty it produces such orators as Douglas, such educators as Booker T. Washington, such divines as the Afro-American Bishops, what may we not expect of the race when it shall have experienced as many generations of growth and development as the Anglo-Saxons who now dominate the thought, the inventive genius, the military prowess, and the commercial enterprise of the world! Very truly yours,
NELSON A. MILES.
Headquarters of the Army, Siboney, Cuba, July 16, 1898.
General Field Orders No. 1.
The gratifying success of the American arms at Santiago de Cuba and some features of a professional character both important and instructive, are hereby announced to the army.
The declaration of war found our country with a small army scattered over a vast territory. The troops composing this army were speedily mobilized at Tampa, Fla. Before it was possible to properly equip a volunteer force, strong appeals for aid came from the navy, which had inclosed in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba an important part of the Spanish fleet. At that time the only efficient fighting force available was the United States Army, and in order to organize a command of sufficient strength, the cavalry had to be sent dismounted to Santiago de Cuba with the infantry and artillery.
The expedition thus formed was placed under command of Major-General Shafter. Notwithstanding the limited time to equip and organize an expedition of this character, there was never displayed a nobler spirit of patriotism and fortitude on the part of officers and men going forth to mantain the honor of their country. After encountering the vicissitudes of an ocean voyage, they were obliged to disembark on a foreign shore and immediately engage in an aggressive campaign. Under drenching storms, intense and prostrating heat, within a fever-afflicted district, with little comfort or rest, either by day or night, they pursued their purpose of finding and conquering the enemy. Many of them, trained in the severe experience of the great war, and in frequent campaigns on the Western plains, officers and men alike exhibited a great skill, fortitude, and tenacity, with results which have added a new chapter of glory to their country's history. Even when their own generals in several cases were temporarily disabled, the troops fought on with the same heroic spirit until success was finally achieved. In many instances the officers placed themselves in front of their commands, and under their direct and skillful leadership the trained troops of a brave army were driven from the thickets and jungles of an almost inaccessible country. In the open field the troops stormed intrenched infantry, and carried and captured fortified works with an unsurpassed daring and disregard of death. By gaining commanding ground they made the harbor of Santiago untenable for the Spanish fleet, and practically drove it out to a speedy destruction by the American Navy.
While enduring the hardships and privations of such campaign, the troops generously shared their scanty food with the 5,000 Cuban patriots in arms, and the suffering people who had fled from the besieged city. With the twenty-four regiments and four batteries, the flower of the United States Army, were also three volunteer regiments. These though unskilled in warfare, yet, inspired with the same spirit, contributed to the victory, suffered hardships, and made sacrifices with the rest. Where all did so well, it is impossible, by special mention, to do justice to those who bore conspicuous part. But of certain unusual features mention cannot be omitted, namely, the cavalry dismounted, fighting and storming works as infantry, and a regiment of colored troops, who, having shared equally in the heroism as well as the sacrifices, is now voluntarily engaged in nursing yellow-fever patients and burying the dead. The gallantry, patriotism and sacrifices of the American Army, as illustrated in this brief campaign, will be fully appreciated by a grateful country, and the heroic deeds of those who have fought and fallen in the cause of freedom will ever be cherished in sacred memory and be an inspiration to the living.
By command of Major-General Miles:
J.C. GILMORE, Brigadier-General, United States Volunteers.
To write the history of the Negro race within that part of the western world known as the United States of America would be a task to which one might devote a life time and still fail in its satisfactory accomplishment. The difficulties lying in the way of collecting and unifying the material are very great; and that of detecting the inner life of the people much greater. Facts and dates are to history what color and proportion are to the painting. Employed by genius, color and form combine in a language that speaks to the soul, giving pleasure and instruction to the beholder; so the facts and dates occurring along the pathway of a people, when gathered and arranged by labor and care, assume a voice and a power which they have not otherwise. As these facts express the thoughts and feelings, and the growth, of a people, they become the language in which that people writes its history, and the work of the historian is to read and interpret this history for the benefit of his fellow men.
Borrowing a second illustration from the work of the artist, it may be said, that as nature reveals her secrets only to him whose soul is in deepest sympathy with her moods and movements, so a people's history can be discovered only by one whose heart throbs in unison with those who have made the history. To write the history of any people successfully one must read it by the heart; and the best part of history, like the best part of the picture, must ever remain unexpressed. The artist sees more, and feels more than he is able to transfer to his canvas, however entrancing his presentation; and the historian sees and feels more than his brightest pages convey to his readers. Nothing less than a profound respect and love for humankind and a special attraction toward a particular people and age, can fit one to engage in so sublime a task as that of translating the history of a people into the language of common men.
The history of the American Negro differs very widely from that of any people whose life-story has been told; and when it shall come to be known and studied will open an entirely new view of experience. In it we shall be able to see what has never before been discovered in history; to wit: the absolute beginning of a people. Brought to these shores by the ship-load as freight, and sold as merchandise; entirely broken away from the tribes, races, or nations of their native land; recognized only, as African slaves, and forbidden all movement looking toward organic life; deprived of even the right of family or of marriage, and corrupted in the most shameless manner by their powerful and licentious oppressors—it is from this heterogeneous protoplasm that the American Negro has been developed. The foundation from which he sprang had been laid by piecemeal as the slave ships made their annual deposits of cargoes brought from different points on the West Coast, and basely corrupted as is only too well known; yet out of it has grown, within less than three hundred years, an organic people. Grandfathers, and great-grandfathers are among them; and personal acquaintance is exceedingly wide. In the face of slavery and against its teaching and its power, overcoming the seduction of the master class, and the coarse and brutal corruptions of the baser overseer class, the African slave persistently strove to clothe himself with the habiliments of civilization, and so prepared himself for social organization that as soon as the hindrances were removed, this vast people almost immediately set themselves in families; and for over thirty years they have been busily engaged hunting up the lost roots of their family trees. We know the pit whence the Afro-American race was dug, the rock whence he was hewn; he was born here on this soil, from a people who in the classic language of the Hebrew prophet, could be described as, No People.
That there has been a majestic evolution quietly but rapidly going on in this mass, growing as it was both by natural development and by accretion, is plainly evident. Heterogeneous as were the fragments, by the aid of a common language and a common lot, and cruel yet partially civilizing control, the whole people were forced into a common outward form, and to a remarkable extent, into the same ways of thinking. The affinities within were really aided by the repulsions without, and when finally freed from slavery, for an ignorant and inexperienced people, they presented an astonishing spectacle of unity. Socially, politically and religiously, their power to work together showed itself little less than marvellous. The Afro-American, developing from this slave base, now directs great organizations of a religious character, and in comprehensive sweep invites to his co-operation the inhabitants of the isles of the sea and of far-off Africa. He is joining with the primitive, strong, hopeful and expanding races of Southern Africa, and is evidently preparing for a day that has not yet come.
The progress made thus far by the people is somewhat like that made by the young, man who hires himself to a farmer and takes his pay in farming stock and utensils. He is thus acquiring the means to stock a farm, and the skill and experience necessary to its successful management at the same time. His career will not appear important, however, until the day shall arrive when he will set up for himself. The time spent on the farm of another was passed in comparative obscurity; but without it the more conspicuous period could never have followed. So, now, the American colored people are making history, but it is not of that kind that gains the attention of writers. Having no political organizations, governments or armies they are not performing those deeds of splendor in statesmanship and war over which the pen of the historian usually delights to linger. The people, living, growing, reading, thinking, working, suffering, advancing and dying—these are all common-place occurrences, neither warming the heart of the observer, nor capable of brightening the page of the chronicler. This, however, is, with the insignificant exception of Liberia, all that is yet to be found in the brief history of the Afro-American race.
The period for him to set up for himself has not yet come, and he is still acquiring means and training within a realm controlled in all respects by a people who maintain toward him an attitude of absolute social exclusion. His is the history of a people marching from nowhere to somewhere, but with no well-defined Canaan before them and no Moses to lead. It is indeed, on their part, a walk by faith, for as yet the wisest among the race cannot tell even the direction of the journey. Before us lie surely three possible destinies, if not four; yet it is not clear toward which one of these we are marching. Are we destined to see the African element of America's population blend with the Euro-American element and be lost in a common people? Will the colored American leave this home in which as a race he has been born and reared to manhood, and find his stage of action somewhere else on God's earth? Will he remain here as a separate and subordinate people perpetuating the conditions of to-day only that they may become more humiliating and exasperating? Or is there to arise a war of races in which the blacks are to be exterminated? Who knows? Fortunately the historian is not called upon to perform the duties of prophet. His work is to tell what has been; and if others, building upon his presentation of facts can deduce what is to be, it is no small tribute to the correctness of his interpretations; for all events are parts of one vast system ever moving toward some great end. One remark only need be made. It is reasonable to presume that this new Afro-American will somehow and somewhere be given an opportunity to express that particular modification of material life which his spiritual nature will demand. Whether that expression will be made here or elsewhere; whether it will be higher or lower than what now surrounds us, are questions which we may well leave to the future.
No people can win and hold a place, either as a nation among other nations, or as an elementary component of a nation, merely by its own goodness or by the goodness of others. The struggle for national existence is a familiar one, and is always initiated by a display of physical force. Those who have the power seize territory and government, and those who CAN, keep possession and control. It is in some instances the backing up of right by might, and in others the substituting of right by might. Too often the greatest of all national crimes is to be weak. When the struggle is a quiet one, going on within a nation, and is that of an element seeking a place in the common social life of the country, much the same principles are involved. It is still a question to be settled by force, no matter how highly the claim of the weaker may be favored by reason and justice.
The powers by which a special people may emerge from an unhappy condition and secure improved social relations, using the word social in its broadest sense, are physical, intellectual and material. There must be developed manly strength and courage and a power of intellect which will manifest itself in organization and attractiveness, and in the aptitude of employing appropriate methods for ends in view. To these must be added the power that comes through wealth; and thus, with the real advancement of condition and character will come, tardily and grudgingly perhaps, but nevertheless surely, improved social standing. Once filled with the common national spirit, partaking of its thoughts, entering heartily into the common movements, having the same dress, language and manners as others, and being as able and as willing to help as to be helped, and withal being in fact the most intensely American element on the continent because constructed on this soil, we may hope that the Afro-American will ultimately win and hold his proper place.
The history made by the American Negro has been so filled with suffering that we have overlooked the active side. The world has heard so much of the horrors of the "Middle Passage"; the awful sufferings of the slave; the barbarous outrages that have been perpetrated upon ex-slaves; the inhuman and senseless prejudices that meet colored Americans almost everywhere on their native soil; that it has come to look upon this recital as the whole of the story. It needs to be told that these records constitute the dark side of the picture, dark and horrible enough, to be sure, but this is by no means the whole picture. If there are scenes whose representations would serve to ornament the infernal regions, pictures over which fiends might gloat, there are also others which angels might delight to gaze upon. There has been much of worthy action among the colored people of this country, wherever the bonds of oppression have been slackened enough to allow of free movement. There have been resistance to wrong by way of remonstrance and petition, sometimes even by force; laudable efforts toward self-education; benevolent and philanthropic movements; reform organizations, and commendable business enterprise both in individuals and associations. These show a toughness of fibre and steadiness of purpose sufficient to make the backbone of a real history.
The present work deals with these elements of character as they are exhibited in the garb of the soldier. When men are willing to fight and die for what they hold dear, they have become a moving force, capable of disturbing the currents of history and of making a channel for the stream of their own actions. The American Negro has evolved an active, aggressive element in the scientific fighting men he has produced. Individual pugilists of that race have entered all classes, from featherweight to heavyweight, and have remained there; receiving blows and dealing blows; showing a sturdy, positive force; mastering and employing all the methods of attack and defence allowed in such encounters, and supporting themselves with that fortitude and courage so necessary to the ring. Such combats are not to be commended, as they are usually mere tests of skill and endurance, entered into on the principles of the gambler, and they are introduced here for the sole purpose of showing the colored man as a positive force, yielding only to a superior degree of force of the same kind. The soldier stands for something far higher than the pugilist represents, although he has need of the same qualities of physical hardihood—contempt for suffering and coolness in the presence of danger, united with skill in the use of his weapons. The pugilist is his own general and never learns the high lessons of obedience; the soldier learns to subordinate himself to his commander, and to fight bravely and effectively under the direction of another.
The evolution of the Afro-American soldier was the work of a short period and suffered many interruptions. When the War of the Revolution broke out the colored man was a slave, knowing nothing of the spirit or the training of the soldier; before it closed several thousand colored men had entered the army and some had won distinction for gallantry. Less than forty years later, in the war of 1812, the black man again appeared to take his stand under the flag of independence. The War of Secession again witnessed the coming forth of the black soldier, this time in important numbers and performing heroic services on a grand scale, and under most discouraging circumstances, but with such success that he won a place in arms for all time. When the Civil War closed, the American black man had secured his standing as a soldier—the evolution was complete. Henceforth he was to be found an integral part of the Army of the United States.
The black man passed through the trying baptism of fire in the Sixties and came out of it a full-fledged soldier. His was worse than an impartial trial; it was a trial before a jury strongly biased against him; in the service of a government willing to allow him but half pay; and in the face of a foe denying him the rights belonging to civilized warfare. Yet against these odds, denied the dearest right of a soldier—the hope of promotion—scorned by his companions in arms, the Negro on more than two hundred and fifty battle-fields, demonstrated his courage and skill, and wrung from the American nation the right to bear arms. The barons were no more successful in their struggle with King John when they obtained Magna Charta than were the American Negroes with Prejudice, when they secured the national recognition of their right and fitness to hold a place in the Standing Army of the United States. The Afro-American soldier now takes his rank with America's best, and in appearance, skill, physique, manners, conduct and courage proves himself worthy of the position he holds. Combining in his person the harvested influences of three great continents, Europe, Africa and America, he stands up as the typical soldier of the Western World, the latest comer in the field of arms, but yielding his place in the line to none, and ever ready to defend his country and his flag against any and all foes.
The mission of this book is to make clear this evolution, giving the historical facts with as much detail as possible, and setting forth finally the portrait of this new soldier. That this is a prodigious task is too evident to need assertion—a task worthy the most lofty talents; and in essaying it I humbly confess to a sense of unfitness; yet the work lies before me and duty orders me to enter upon it. A Major General writes: "I wish you every success in producing a work important both historically and for the credit of a race far more deserving than the world has acknowledged." A Brigadier General who commanded a colored regiment in Cuba says to me most encouragingly: "You must allow me—for our intimate associations justify it—to write frankly. Your education, habits of thought, fairness of judgment and comprehension of the work you are to undertake, better fit you for writing such a history than any person within my acquaintance. Those noble men made the history at El Caney and San Juan; I believe you are the man to record it. May God help you to so set forth the deeds of that memorable first of July in front of Santiago that the world may see in its true light what those brave, intelligent colored men did."
Both these men fought through the Civil War and won distinction on fields of blood. To the devout prayer offered by one of them I heartily echo an Amen, and can only wish that in it all my friends might join, and that God would answer it in granting me power to do the work in such a way as to bring great good to the race and reflect some glory to Himself, in whose name the work is undertaken.
SKETCH OF SOCIAL HISTORY.
The Importation of the Africans—Character of the Colored Population in 1860—Colored Population in British West Indian Possessions—Free Colored People of the South—Free Colored People of the North—Notes.
Professor DuBois, in his exhaustive work upon the "Suppression of the African Slave-Trade," has brought within comparatively narrow limits the great mass of facts bearing upon his subject, and in synopses and indices has presented all of the more important literature it has induced. In his Monograph, published as Volume II of the Harvard Historical Series, he has traced the rise of this nefarious traffic, especially with reference to the American colonies, exhibited the proportions to which it expanded, and the tenacity with which it held on to its purpose until it met its death in the fate of the ill-starred Southern Confederacy. Every step in his narrative is supported by references to unimpeachable authorities; and the scholarly Monograph bears high testimony to the author's earnest labor, painstaking research and unswerving fidelity. Should the present work stimulate inquiry beyond the scope herein set before the reader, he is most confidently referred to Professor Du Bois' book as containing a complete exposition of the development and overthrow of that awful crime.
It is from this work, however, that we shall obtain a nearer and clearer view of the African planted upon our shores. Negro slavery began at an early day in the North American Colonies; but up until the Revolution of 1688 the demand for slaves was mainly supplied from England, the slaves being white. "It is probable," says Professor DuBois, "that about 25,000 slaves were brought to America each year between 1698 and 1707, and after 1713 it rose to perhaps 30,000 annually. "Before the Revolution the total exportation to America is variously estimated as between 40,000 and 100,000 each year." Something of the horrors of the "Middle Passage" may be shown by the records that out of 60,783 slaves shipped from Africa during the years 1680-88, 14,387, or nearly one-fourth of the entire number, perished at sea. In 1790 there were in the country nearly seven hundred thousand Africans, these having been introduced by installments from various heathen tribes. The importation of slaves continued with more or less success up until 1858, when the "Wanderer" landed her cargo of 500 in Georgia.
During the period from 1790 to the breaking out of the Civil War, shortly after the landing of the last cargo of slaves, the colored population, both slave and free, had arisen to about four million, and had undergone great modifications. The cargo of the "Wanderer" found themselves among strangers, even when trying to associate with those who in color and hair were like themselves. The slaves of 1860 differed greatly from the slaves of a hundred years earlier. They had lost the relics of that stern warlike spirit which prompted the Stono insurrection, the Denmark Vesey insurrection, and the Nat Turner insurrection, and had accepted their lot as slaves, hoping that through God, freedom would come to them some time in the happy future. Large numbers of them had become Christians through the teaching of godly white women, and at length through the evangelistic efforts of men and women of their own race. Independent religious organizations had been formed in the North, and large local churches with Negro pastors were in existence in the South when the "Wanderer" landed her cargo. There had been a steady increase in numbers, indicating that the physical well-being of the slave was not overlooked, and the slaves had greatly improved in character. Sales made in South Carolina between 1850 and 1860 show "boys," from 16 to 25 years of age, bringing from $900 to $1000; and "large sales" are reported showing an "average of $620 each," "Negro men bringing from $800 to $1000," and a "blacksmith" bringing $1425. The averages generally obtained were above $600. A sale of 109 Negroes in families is reported in the "Charleston Courier" in which the writer says: "Two or three families averaged from $1000 to $1100 for each individual." The same item states also that "C.G. Whitney sold two likely female house servants, one for $1000, the other for $1190." These cases are presented to illustrate the financial value of the American slave, and inferentially the progress he had made in acquiring the arts of modern civilization. Slaves had become blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carriage-makers, carpenters, bricklayers, tailors, bootmakers, founders and moulders, not to mention all the common labor performed by them. Slave women had become dressmakers, hairdressers, nurses and the best cooks to be found in the world. The slave-holders regarded themselves as the favored of mankind because of the competence and faithfulness of their slaves. The African spirit and character had disappeared, and in their place were coming into being the elements of a new character, existing in 1860 purely in a negative form. The slave had become an American. He was now a civilized slave, and had received his civilization from his masters. He had separated himself very far from his brother slave in St. Domingo. The Haytian Negro fought and won his freedom before he had been civilized in slavery, and hence has never passed over the same ground that his American fellow-servant has been compelled to traverse.
Beside the slaves in the South, there were also several thousand "free persons of color," as they were called, dwelling in such cities as Richmond, Va., Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans, La. Some of these had become quite wealthy and well-educated, forming a distinct class of the population. They were called Creoles in Louisiana, and were accorded certain privileges, although laws were carefully enacted to keep alive the distinction between them and the whites. In Charleston the so-called colored people set themselves up as a class, prided themselves much upon their color and hair and in their sympathies joined almost wholly with the master class. Representatives of their class became slave-holders and were in full accord with the social policy of the country. Nevertheless their presence was an encouragement to the slave, and consequently was objected to by the slave-holder. The free colored man became more and more disliked in the South as the slave became more civilized. He was supposed by his example to contribute to the discontent of the slave, and laws were passed restricting his priveleges so as to induce him to leave. Between 1850 and 1860 this question reached a crisis and free colored people from the South were to be seen taking up their homes in the Northern States and in Canada. (Many of the people, especially from Charleston, carried with them all their belittling prejudices, and after years of sojourn under the sway of enlightened and liberal ideas, proved themselves still incapable of learning the new way or forgetting the old.)
There were, then, three very distinct classes of colored people in the country, to wit: The slave in the South, the free colored people of the South, and the free colored people of the North. These were also sub-divided into several smaller classes. Slaves were divided into field hands, house servants and city slaves. The free colored people of the South had their classes based usually on color; the free colored people of the North had their divisions caused by differences in religion, differences as to place of birth, and numerous family conceits. So that surveyed as a whole, it is extremely difficult to get anything like a complete social map of these four millions as they existed at the outbreak of the Civil War.
For a quarter of a century there had been a steady concentration of the slave population within the cotton and cane-growing region, the grain-growing States of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia having become to a considerable extent breeding farms. Particularly was this the case with the more intelligent and higher developed individual slaves who appeared near the border line. The master felt that such persons would soon make their escape by way of the "Underground Railroad" or otherwise, and hence in order to prevent a total loss, would follow the dictates of business prudence and sell his bright slave man to Georgia. The Maryland or Virginia slave who showed suspicious aspirations was usually checked by the threat, "I'll sell you to Georgia;" and if the threat did not produce the desired reformation it was not long before the ambitious slave found himself in the gang of that most despised and most despicable of all creatures, the Georgia slave-trader. Georgia and Canada were the two extremes of the slave's anticipation during the last decade of his experience. These stood as his earthly Heaven and Hell, the "Underground Railroad," with its agents, conducting to one, and the odious slave-trader, driving men, women and children, to the other. No Netherlander ever hated and feared the devil more thoroughly than did the slaves of the border States hate and fear these outrages on mankind, the kidnapping slave-traders of the cotton and cane regions. I say kidnapping, for I have myself seen persons in Georgia who had been kidnapped in Maryland. If the devil was ever incarnate, I think it safe to look for him among those who engaged in the slave-trade, whether in a foreign or domestic form.
Nothing is more striking in connection with the history of American Slavery than the conduct of Great Britain on the same subject. So inconsistent has this conduct been that it can be explained only by regarding England as a conglomerate of two elements nearly equal in strength, of directly opposite character, ruling alternately the affairs of the nation. As a slave-trader and slave-holder England was perhaps even worse than the United States. Under her rule the slave decreased in numbers, and remained a savage. In Jamaica, in St. Vincent, in British Guiana, in Barbadoes, in Trinidad and in Grenada, British slavery was far worse than American slavery. In these colonies "the slave was generally a barbarian, speaking an unknown tongue, and working with men like himself, in gangs with scarcely a chance for improvement." An economist says, had the slaves of the British colonies been as well fed, clothed, lodged, and otherwise cared for as were those of the United States, their number at emancipation would have reached from seventeen to twenty millions, whereas the actual number emancipated was only 660,000. Had the blacks of the United States experienced the same treatment as did those of the British colonies, 1860 would have found among us less than 150,000 colored persons. In the United States were found ten colored persons for every slave imported, while in the British colonies only one was found for every three imported. Hence the claim that the American Negro is a new race, built up on this soil, rests upon an ample supply of facts. The American slave was born in our civilization, fed upon good American food, housed and clothed on a civilized plan, taught the arts and language of civilization, acquired necessarily ideas of law and liberty, and by 1860 was well on the road toward fitness for freedom. No lessons therefore drawn from the emancipation of British slaves in the West Indies are of any direct value to us, inasmuch as British slavery was not like American slavery, the British freedman was in no sense the equal of the American freedman, and the circumstances surrounding the emancipation of the British slave had nothing of the inspiring and ennobling character with those connected with the breaking of the American Negro's chains. Yet, superior as the American Negro was as a slave, he was very far below the standard of American citizenship as subsequent events conclusively proved. The best form of slavery, even though it may lead toward fitness for freedom, can never be regarded as a fit school in which to graduate citizens of so magnificent an empire as the United States.
The slave of 1860 was perhaps, all things considered, the best slave the world had ever seen, if we except those who served the Hebrews under the Mosaic statutes. While there was no such thing among them as legal marriage or legitimate childhood, yet slave "families" were recognized even on the auction block, and after emancipation legal family life was erected generally upon relationships which had been formed in slavery. Bishop Gaines, himself born a slave of slave parents, says: "The Negro had no civil rights under the codes of the Southern States. It was often the case, it is true, that the marriage ceremony was performed, and thousands of couples regarded it, and observed it as of binding force, and were as true to each other as if they had been lawfully married." * * * "The colored people generally," he says, "held their marriage (if such unauthorized union may be called marriage) sacred, even while they were slaves. Many instances will be recalled by the older people of the life-long fidelity which existed between the slave and his concubine" (Wife, T.G.S.)" ... the mother of his children. My own father and mother lived together over sixty years. I am the fourteenth child of that union, and I can truthfully affirm that no marriage, however made sacred by the sanction of law, was ever more congenial and beautiful. Thousands of like instances might be cited to the same effect. It will always be to the credit of the colored people that almost without exception, they adhered to their relations, illegal though they had been, and accepted gladly the new law which put the stamp of legitimacy upon their union and removed the brand of bastardy from the brows of their children."
Let us now sum up the qualifications that these people possessed in large degree, in order to determine their fitness for freedom, then so near at hand. They had acquired the English language, and the Christian religion, including the Christian idea of marriage, so entirely different in spirit and form from the African marriage. They had acquired the civilized methods of cooking their food, making and wearing clothes, sleeping in beds, and observing Sunday. They had acquired many of the useful arts and trades of civilization and had imbibed the tastes and feelings, to some extent, at least, of the country in which they lived. Becoming keen observers, shut out from books and newspapers, they listened attentively, learned more of law and politics than was generally supposed. They knew what the election of 1860 meant and were on tiptoe with expectation. Although the days of insurrection had passed and the slave of '59 was not ready to rise with the immortal John Brown, he had not lost his desire for freedom. The steady march of escaping slaves guided by the North star, with the refrain:
"I'm on my way to Canada, That cold but happy land; The dire effects of slavery I can no longer stand,"
proved that the desire to be free was becoming more extensive and absorbing as the slave advanced in intelligence.
It is necessary again to emphasize the fact that the American slaves were well formed and well developed physically, capable of enduring hard labor and of subsisting upon the plainest food. Their diet for years had been of the simplest sort, and they had been subjected to a system of regulations very much like those which are employed in the management of armies. They had an hour to go to bed and an hour to rise; left their homes only upon written "passes," and when abroad at night were often halted by the wandering patrol. "Run, nigger, run, the patrol get you," was a song of the slave children of South Carolina.
Strangers who saw for the first time these people as they came out of slavery in 1865 were usually impressed with their robust appearance, and a conference of ex-slaves, assembled soon after the war, introduced a resolution with the following declaration: "Whereas, Slavery has left us in possession of strong and healthy bodies." It is probable that at least a half-million of men of proper age could then have been found among the newly liberated capable of bearing arms. They were inured to the plain ration, to labor and fatigue, and to subordination, and had long been accustomed to working together under the immediate direction of foremen.
Two questions of importance naturally arose at this period: First, did the American slave understand the issue that had been before the country for more than a half-century and that was now dividing the nation in twain and marshalling for deadly strife these two opposing armies? Second, had he the courage necessary to take part in the struggle and help save the Union? It would be a strange thing to say, but nevertheless a thing entirely true, that many of the Negro slaves had a clearer perception of the real question at issue than did some of our most far-seeing statesmen, and a clearer vision of what would be the outcome of the war. While the great men of the North were striving to establish the doctrine that the coming war was merely to settle the question of Secession, the slave knew better. God had hid certain things from the wise and prudent and had revealed them unto babes. Lincoln, the wisest of all, was slow to see that the issue he himself had predicted was really at hand. As President, he declared for the preservation of the Union, with or without slavery, or even upon the terms which he had previously declared irreconcilable, "half slave and half free." The Negro slave saw in the outbreak of the war the death struggle of slavery. He knew that the real issue was slavery.
The masters were careful to keep from the knowledge of the slave the events as well as the causes of the war, but in spite of these efforts the slave's keen perception enabled him to read defeat in the dejected mien of his master, and victory in his exultation. To prevent the master's knowing what was going on in their thoughts, the slaves constructed curious codes among themselves. In one neighborhood freedom was always spoken of as "New Rice"; and many a poor slave woman sighed for the coming of New Rice in the hearing of those who imagined they knew the inmost thoughts of their bondwomen. Gleefully at times they would talk of the jollification they would make when the New Rice came. It was this clear vision, this strong hope, that sustained them during the trying days of the war and kept them back from insurrection. Bishop Gaines says: "Their prayers ascended for their deliverance, and their hearts yearned for the success of their friends. They fondly hoped for the hour of victory, when the night of slavery would end and the dawn of freedom appear. They often talked to each other of the progress of the war and conferred in secret as to what they might do to aid in the struggle. Worn out with long bondage, yearning for the boon of freedom, longing for the sun of liberty to rise, they kept their peace and left the result to God." Mr. Douglass, whom this same Bishop Gaines speaks of very inappropriately as a "half-breed," seemed able to grasp the feelings both of the slave and the freeman and said: "From the first, I for one, saw in this war the end of slavery, and truth requires me to say that my interest in the success of the North was largely due to this belief." Mr. Seward, the wise Secretary of State, had thought that the war would come and go without producing any change in the relation of master and slave; but the humble slave on the Georgia cotton plantation, or in the Carolina rice fields, knew that the booming of the guns of rebellion in Charleston was the opening note of the death knell of slavery. The slave undoubtedly understood the issue, and knew on which side liberty dwelt. Although thoroughly bred to slavery, and as contented and happy as he could be in his lot, he acted according to the injunction of the Apostle: "Art thou called being a servant, care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather." The slaves tried to be contented, but they preferred freedom and knew which side to take when the time came for them to act.
Enough has been said to show that out of the African slave had been developed a thoroughly American slave, so well imbued with modern civilization and so well versed in American politics, as to be partially ready for citizenship. He had become law-abiding and order-loving, and possessed of an intelligent desire to be free. Whether he had within him the necessary moral elements to become a soldier the pages following will attempt to make known. He had the numbers, the physical strength and the intelligence. He could enter the strife with a sufficient comprehension of the issues involved to enable him to give to his own heart a reason for his action. Fitness for the soldier does not necessarily involve fitness for citizenship, but the actual discharge of the duties of the soldier in defence of the nation, entitles one to all common rights, to the nation's gratitude, and to the highest honors for which he is qualified.
In concluding this chapter I shall briefly return to the free colored people of the South that the reader may be able to properly estimate their importance as a separate element. Their influence upon the slave population was very slight, inasmuch as law and custom forbade the intercourse of these two classes.
According to the Census of 1860 there were in the slave-holding States altogether 261,918 free colored persons, 106,770 being mulattoes. In Charleston there were 887 free blacks and 2,554 mulattoes; in Mobile, 98 free blacks and 617 mulattoes; in New Orleans, 1,727 blacks and 7,357 mulattoes. As will be seen, nearly one-half of the entire number of free colored persons were mulattoes, while in the leading Southern cities seventy-five per cent. of the free colored people were put in this class. The percentage of mulatto slaves to the total slave population at that time was 10.41, and in the same cities which showed seventy-five per cent, of all the free colored persons mulattoes, the percentage of mulatto slaves was but 16.84. Mulatto in this classification includes all colored persons who are not put down as black.
In New Orleans the free mulattoes were generally French, having come into the Union with the Louisiana purchase, and among them were to be found wealthy slave-holders. They much resembled the class of mulattoes which obtained in St. Domingo at the beginning of the century, and had but little sympathy with the blacks, although they were the first to acquiesce in emancipation, some of them actually leading their own slaves into the army of liberation. It is possible, however, that they had not fully realized the trend of the war, inasmuch as New Orleans was excepted from the effects of the Proclamation. It is certain that the free colored people of that city made a tender of support to the Confederacy, although they were among the first to welcome the conquering "Yankees," and afterward fought with marked gallantry in the Union cause. The free mulattoes, or browns, as they called themselves, of Charleston, followed much the same course as their fellow classmen of New Orleans. Here, too, they had been exclusive and to some extent slave-holders, had tendered their services to the Confederacy, and had hastily come forward to welcome the conquerors. They were foremost among the colored people in wealth and intelligence, but their field of social operations had been so circumscribed that they had exerted but little influence in the work of Americanizing the slave. Separated from the slave by law and custom they did all in their power to separate themselves from him in thought and feeling. They drew the line against all blacks as mercilessly and senselessly as the most prejudiced of the whites and were duplicates of the whites placed on an intermediate plane. It was not unusual to find a Charleston brown filled with more prejudice toward the blacks than were the whites.
[Transcriber's Note: This footnote appeared in the text without a footnote anchor: "Census of 1860."]
The colored people of the North in 1860 numbered 237,283, Pennsylvania having the largest number, 56,849; then came New York with 49,005; Ohio, 36,673; New Jersey, 25,318; Indiana, 11,428; Massachusetts, 9,602; Connecticut, 8,627; Illinois, 7,628; Michigan, 6,799; Rhode Island, 3,952; Maine, 1,327; Wisconsin, 1,171; Iowa, 1,069; Vermont, 709; Kansas, 625; New Hampshire, 494; Minnesota, 259; Oregon, 128.
Considerably more than one-half of this population was located within the States along the Atlantic Coast, viz.; Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Here were to be found 154,883 free colored people. Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey took the lead in this population, with Massachusetts and Connecticut coming next, while Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont had but few. The cities, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, were the largest cities of free colored people then in the North. In Boston there were 2,261; New York City, 12,574, while in Philadelphia there were 22,185
As early as 1787 the free colored people of Philadelphia, through two distinguished representatives, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, "two men of the African race," as the chroniclers say, "saw the irreligious and uncivilized state" of the "people of their complexion," and finally concluded "that a society should be formed without regard to religious tenets, provided the persons lived an orderly and sober life," the purpose of the society being "to support one another in sickness and for the benefit of their widows and fatherless children." Accordingly a society was established, known as the Free African Society of Philadelphia, and on the 17th, 5th-mo., 1787, articles were published, including the following, which is inserted to show the breadth of the society's purpose:
"And we apprehend it to be necessary that the children of our deceased members be under the care of the Society, so far as to pay for the education of their children, if they cannot attend free school; also to put them out apprentices to suitable trades or places, if required."
Shortly after this we read of "the African School for the free instruction of the black people," and in 1796, "The Evening Free School, held at the African Methodist Meeting House in Philadelphia" was reported as being "kept very orderly, the scholars behaving in a becoming manner, and their improvement beyond the teachers' expectations, their intellects appearing in every branch of learning to be equal to those of the fairest complexion." The name African, as the reader will notice, is used with reference to school, church, and individuals; although not to the complete exclusion of "colored people" and "people of color." These phrases seem to have been coined in the West Indies, and were there applied only to persons of mixed European and African descent. In the United States they never obtained such restricted use except in a very few localities. The practice of using African as a descriptive title of the free colored people of the North became very extensive and so continued up to the middle of the century. There were African societies, churches and schools in all the prominent centres of this population.
In 1843 one, Mr. P. Loveridge, Agent for Colored Schools of New York, wrote the editor of the African Methodist Magazine as follows: "As to the name of your periodical, act as we did with the name of our schools—away with Africa. There are no Africans in your connection. Substitute colored for African and it will be, in my opinion, as it should be." The earnestness of the writer shows that the matter of parting with African was then a live question. The cool reply of the editor indicates how strong was the conservative element among the African people of '43. He says: "We are unable to see the reasonableness of the remarks. It is true we are not Africans, or natives born upon the soil of Africa, yet, as the descendants of that race, how can we better manifest that respect due to our fathers who begat us, than by the adoption of the term in our institutions, and inscribing it upon our public places of resort?" To this Mr. Loveridge rejoins in the following explanatory paragraph: "We who are engaged in the Public Schools in this city found upon examination of about 1500 children who attend our schools from year to year, not one African child among them. A suggestion was made that we petition the Public School Society to change the name African to Colored Schools. The gentlemen of that honorable body, perceiving our petition to be a logical one, acquiesced with us. Hence the adjective African (which does not apply to us) was blotted out and Colored substituted in its place. It is 'Public Schools for Colored Children.' We are Americans and expect American sympathies."
In 1816 the colored Methodists conceived the idea of organizing and evangelizing their race, and to this end a convention was called and assembled in Philadelphia of that year, composed of sixteen delegates, coming from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The convention adopted a resolution that the people of Philadelphia, Baltimore and all other places who should unite with them, should become one body under the name and style of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Similar action was taken by two other bodies of colored Methodists, one in New York, the other in Wilmington, Delaware, about the same time. The people were coming together and beginning to understand the value of organization. This was manifested in their religious, beneficial and educational associations that were springing up among them. In 1841 the African Methodist Magazine appeared, the first organ of religious communication and thought issued by the American colored people. It was published in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rev. George Hogarth being its editor.
There were papers published by the colored people prior to the appearance of the African Methodist Magazine, but these were individual enterprises. They were, however, indices of the thought of the race, and looking back upon them now, we may regard them as mile-stones set up along the line of march over which the people have come. New York, city and State, appears to have been the home of these early harbingers, and it was there that the earliest literary centre was established, corresponding to that centre of religious life and thought which had been earlier founded in Philadelphia. In 1827 the first newspaper published on this continent by colored men issued from its office in New York. It was called "Freedom's Journal," and had for its motto "Righteousness exalteth a nation." Its editors and proprietors were Messrs. Cornish & Russwurm. Its name was subsequently changed to the "Rights of All," Mr. Cornish probably retiring, and in 1830 it suspended, Mr. Russwurm going to Africa. Then followed "The Weekly Advocate," "The American," "The Colored American," "The Elevator," "The National Watchman," "The Clarion," "The Ram's Horn," "The North Star," "Frederick Douglass' Paper," and finally that crowning literary work of the race, "The Anglo-African."
"The Anglo-African" appeared in 1859, under the management of the strongest and most brilliant purely literary families the American Negro up to that time had produced. It was edited and published by Thomas Hamilton, and like all the important literary ventures of the race in those days, had its birth in New York. It came out in 1859 and continued through the war, and in 1865 went out of existence honorably, having its work well done. Its first volume, that of 1859, contains the ablest papers ever given to the public by the American Negro; and taken as a whole this volume is the proudest literary monument the race has as yet erected.
Reviewing the progress of the race in the North, we may say, the period of organized benevolence and united religious effort began before the close of the past century, Philadelphia being its place of origin; that the religious movement reached much broader and clearer standing about 1816, and in consequence there sprang up organizations comprehending the people of the whole country; that the religious movement advanced to a more intellectual stage when in 1841 the African Methodist Magazine appeared, since which time the organized religion of the American Negro has never been for any considerable time without its organs of communication. The journalistic period began in 1827, its centre being New York and the work of the journals almost wholly directed to two ends: the abolition of slavery, and the enfranchisement and political elevation of the free blacks. This work had reached its highest form in the Anglo-African, as that epoch of our national history came to its close in the slave-holders' war.
The titles of the newspapers indicate the opening and continuance of a period of anti-slavery agitation. Their columns were filled with arguments and appeals furnished by men who gave their whole souls to the work. It was a period of great mental activity on the part of the free colored people. They were discussing all probable methods of bettering their condition. It was the period that produced both writers and orators. In 1830 the first convention called by colored men to consider the general condition of the race and devise means to improve that condition, met in the city of Philadelphia. The history of this convention is so important that I append a full account of it as published in the Anglo-African nearly thirty years after the convention met. It was called through the efforts of Hezekiah Grice, of Baltimore, who afterwards emigrated to Hayti, and for many years followed there the occupation of carver and gilder and finally became Director of Public Works of the city of Port-au-Prince. While visiting that city years ago, I met a descendant of Mr. Grice, a lady of great personal beauty, charming manners, accomplished in the French language, but incapable of conversing at all in English.
The conventions, begun in 1830, continued to be held annually for a brief period, and then dropped into occasional and special gatherings. They did much good in the way of giving prominence to the colored orators and in stemming the tide of hostile sentiment by appealing to the country at large in language that reached many hearts.
The physical condition, so far as the health and strength of the free colored people were concerned, was good. Their mean age was the greatest of any element of our population, and their increase was about normal, or 1.50 per cent. annually. In the twenty years from 1840 to 1860 it had kept up this rate with hardly the slightest variation, while the increase of the free colored people of the South during the same period had been 1 per cent, annually. The increase of persons of mixed blood in the North did not necessarily imply laxity of morals, as the census compilers always delighted to say, but could be easily accounted for by the marriages occurring between persons of this class. I have seen more than fifty persons, all of mixed blood, descend from one couple, and these with the persons joined to them by marriages as they have come to marriageable age, amounted to over seventy souls—all in about a half century. That the slaves had, despite their fearful death rate, the manumissions and the escapes, increased twice as fast as the free colored people of the North, three times as fast as the free colored people of the South, and faster than the white people with all the immigration of that period, can be accounted for only by the enormous birth rate of that people consequent upon their sad condition. Their increase was abnormal, and when properly viewed, proves too much.
There is no way of determining the general wealth of the colored people of the North at the period we are describing; but some light may be thrown upon their material condition from the consideration that they were supporting a few publications and building and supporting churches, and were holders of considerable real estate. In New York city, the thirteen thousand colored people paid taxes on nearly a million and a half in real estate, and had over a quarter million of dollars in the savings banks. It is probable that the twenty-five thousand in Philadelphia owned more in proportion than their brethren in New York, for they were then well represented in business in that city. There were the Fortens, Bowers, Casseys, Gordons, and later Stephen Smith, William Whipper and Videl, all of whom were men of wealth and business. There were nineteen churches owned and supported by colored people of Philadelphia, with a seating capacity of about 10,000 and valued at about $250,000.
The schools set apart for colored children were very inferior and were often kept alive by great sacrifices on the part of the colored people themselves. Prior to the war and in many cases for some time afterward, the colored public schools were a disgrace to the country. A correspondent writing from Hollidaysburg, Pa., says, speaking of the school there: "The result of my inquiries here is that here, as in the majority of other places, the interest manifested for the colored man is more for political effect, and that those who prate the loudest about the moral elevation and political advancement of the colored man are the first to turn against him when he wants a friend." The correspondent then goes on to say that the school directors persist in employing teachers "totally incompetent." What the schools were in New York the report made by the New York Society for the promotion of Education among Colored Children to the Honorable Commissioners for examining into the condition of Common Schools in the City and County of New York, will show. Reverend Charles B. Ray, who was President of this Society, and Philip A. White, its Secretary, both continued to labor in the interest of education unto the close of their lives, Mr. White dying as a member of the School Board of the city of Brooklyn, and Mr. Ray bequeathing his library to Wilberforce University at his death.
In summing up the conditions which they have detailed in their report they say: "From a comparison of the school houses occupied by the colored children with the splendid, almost palatial edifices, with manifold comforts, conveniences and elegancies which make up the school houses for white children in the city of New York, it is clearly evident that the colored children are painfully neglected and positively degraded. Pent up in filthy neighborhoods, in old dilapidated buildings, they are held down to low associations and gloomy surroundings. * * * The undersigned enter their solemn protest against this unjust treatment of colored children. They believe with the experience of Massachusetts, and especially the recent experience of Boston before them, there is no sound reason why colored children shall be excluded from any of the common schools supported by taxes levied alike on whites and blacks, and governed by officers elected by the vote of colored as well as white voters."
This petition and remonstrance had its effect, for mainly through its influence within two years very great improvements were made in the condition of the New York colored schools.
For the especial benefit of those who erroneously think that the purpose of giving industrial education is a new thing in our land, as well as for general historical purposes, I call attention to the establishment of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia in 1842. This Institute was founded by the Society of Friends, and was supported in its early days and presumably still "by bequests and donations made by members of that Society." The objects of the Institute as set forth by its founders, fifty-seven years ago, are: "The education and improvement of colored youth of both sexes, to qualify them to act as teachers and instructors to their own people, either in the various branches of school learning or the mechanic arts and agriculture." Two years later the African Methodists purchased one hundred and eighty acres of land in eastern Ohio and established what was called the Union Seminary, on the manual labor plan. It did not succeed, but it lingered along, keeping alive the idea, until it was eclipsed by Wilberforce University, into which it was finally merged.
The anti-slavery fight carried on in the North, into which the colored men entered and became powerful leaders, aroused the race to a deep study of the whole subject of liberty and brought them in sympathy with all people who had either gained or were struggling for their liberties, and prompted them to investigate all countries offering to them freedom. No country was so well studied by them as Hayti, and from 1824 to 1860 there had been considerable emigration thither. Liberia, Central and South America and Canada were all considered under the thought of emigration. Thousands went to Hayti and to Canada, but the bulk preferred to remain here. They liked America, and had become so thoroughly in love with the doctrines of the Republic, so imbued with the pride of the nation's history, so inspired with hope in the nation's future, that they resolved to live and die on her soil. When the troublous times of 1860 came and white men were fleeing to Canada, colored men remained at their posts. They were ready to stand by the old flag and to take up arms for the Union, trusting that before the close of the strife the flag might have to them a new meaning. An impassioned colored orator had said of the flag: "Its stars were for the white man, and its stripes for the Negro, and it was very appropriate that the stripes should be red." The free Negro of the North was prepared in 1861 to support Abraham Lincoln with 40,000 as good American-born champions for universal liberty as the country could present.
 Slave Trade—Carey.
 A.M.E. Magazine, 1843.
 It is to be noted that in Maryland and Virginia an important number of white serving women married Negro slave men in the early days of these colonies.
 In 1835 there were six high schools, or schools for higher education, in the United States that admitted colored students on equal footing with others. These were: Oneida Institute, New York; Mount Pleasant, Amherst, Mass.; Canaan, N.H.; Western Reserve, Ohio; Gettysburg, Pa.; and "one in the city of Philadelphia of which Miss Buffam" was "principal." There was also one manual labor school in Madison County, N.Y., capable of accommodating eighteen students. It was founded by Gerrit Smith.
THE FIRST COLORED CONVENTION.
On the fifteenth day of September, 1830, there was held at Bethel Church, in the city of Philadelphia, the first convention of the colored people of these United States. It was an event of historical importance; and, whether we regard the times or the men of whom this assemblage was composed, we find matter for interesting and profitable consideration.
Emancipation had just taken place in New York, and had just been arrested in Virginia by the Nat Turner rebellion and Walker's pamphlet. Secret sessions of the legislatures of the several Southern States had been held to deliberate upon the production of a colored man who had coolly recommended to his fellow blacks the only solution to the slave question, which, after twenty-five years of arduous labor of the most hopeful and noble-hearted of the abolitionists, seems the forlorn hope of freedom to-day—insurrection and bloodshed. Great Britain was in the midst of that bloodless revolution which, two years afterwards, culminated in the passage of the Reform Bill, and thus prepared the joyous and generous state of the British heart which dictated the West India Emancipation Act. France was rejoicing in the not bloodless trois jours de Juliet. Indeed, the whole world seemed stirred up with a universal excitement, which, when contrasted with the universal panics of 1837 and 1857, leads one to regard as more than a philosophical speculation the doctrine of those who hold the life of mankind from the creation as but one life, beating with one heart, animated with one soul, tending to one destiny, although made up of millions upon millions of molecular lives, gifted with their infinite variety of attractions and repulsions, which regulate or crystallize them into evanescent substructures or organizations, which we call nationalities and empires and peoples and tribes, whose minute actions and reactions on each other are the histories which absorb our attention, whilst the grand universal life moves on beyond our ken, or only guessed at, as the astronomers shadow out movements of our solar system around or towards some distant unknown centre of attraction.
If the times of 1830 were eventful, there were among our people, as well as among other peoples, men equal to the occasion. We had giants in those days! There were Bishop Allen, the founder of the great Bethel connection of Methodists, combining in his person the fiery zeal of St. Francis Xavier with the skill and power of organizing of a Richelieu; the meek but equally efficient Rush (who yet remains with us in fulfilment of the Scripture), the father of the Zion Methodists; Paul, whose splendid presence and stately eloquence in the pulpit, and whose grand baptisms in the waters of Boston harbor are a living tradition in all New England; the saintly and sainted Peter Williams, whose views of the best means of our elevation are in triumphant activity to-day; William Hamilton, the thinker and actor, whose sparse specimens of eloquence we will one day place in gilded frames as rare and beautiful specimens of Etruscan art—William Hamilton, who, four years afterwards, during the New York riots, when met in the street, loaded down with iron missiles, and asked where he was going, replied, "To die on my threshold"; Watkins, of Baltimore; Frederick Hinton, with his polished eloquence; James Forten, the merchant prince; William Whipper, just essaying his youthful powers; Lewis Woodson and John Peck, of Pittsburg; Austin Steward, then of Rochester; Samuel E. Cornish, who had the distinguished honor of reasoning Gerrit Smith out of colonization, and of telling Henry Clay that he would never be president of anything higher than the American Colonization Society; Philip A. Bell, the born sabreur, who never feared the face of clay, and a hundred others, were the worthily leading spirits among the colored people.
And yet the idea of the first colored convention did not originate with any of these distinguished men; it came from a young man of Baltimore; then, and still, unknown to fame. Born in that city in 1801, he was in 1817 apprenticed to a man some two hundred miles off in the Southeast. Arriving at his field of labor, he worked hard nearly a week and received poor fare in return. One day, while at work near the house, the mistress came out and gave him a furious scolding, so furious, indeed, that her husband mildly interfered; she drove the latter away, and threatened to take the Baltimore out of the lad with cowhide, etc., etc. At this moment, to use his own expression, the lad became converted, that is, he determined to be his own master as long as he lived. Early nightfall found him on his way to Baltimore which he reached after a severe journey which tested his energy and ingenuity to the utmost. At the age of twenty-three he was engaged in the summer time in supplying Baltimore with ice from his cart, and in winter in cutting up pork for Ellicotts' establishment. He must have been strong and swift with knife and cleaver, for in one day he cut up and dressed some four hundred and fifteen porkers.
In 1824 our young friend fell in with Benjamin Lundy, and in 1828-9, with William Lloyd Garrison, editors and publishers of the "Genius of Universal Emancipation," a radical anti-slavery paper, whose boldness would put the "National Era" to shame, printed and published in the slave State of Maryland. In 1829-30 the colored people of the free States were much excited on the subject of emigration; there had been an emigration to Hayti, and also to Canada, and some had been driven to Liberia by the severe laws and brutal conduct of the fermenters of colonization in Virginia and Maryland. In some districts of these States the disguised whites would enter the houses of free colored men at night, and take them out and give them from thirty to fifty lashes, to get them to consent to go to Liberia.
It was in the spring of 1830 that the young man we have sketched, Hezekiah Grice, conceived the plan of calling together a meeting or convention of colored men in some place north of the Potomac, for the purpose of comparing views and of adopting a harmonious movement either of emigration or of determination to remain in the United States; convinced of the hopelessness of contending against the oppressions in the United States, living in the very depth of that oppression and wrong, his own views looked to Canada; but he held them subject to the decision of the majority of the convention which might assemble.
On the 2d of April, 1830, he addressed a written circular to prominent colored men in the free States, requesting their opinions on the necessity and propriety of holding such convention, and stated that if the opinions of a sufficient number warranted it, he would give time and place at which duly elected delegates might assemble. Four months passed away, and his spirit almost died within him, for he had not received a line from any one in reply. When he visited Mr. Garrison in his office, and stated his project, Mr. Garrison took up a copy of Walker's Appeal, and said, although it might be right, yet it was too early to have published such a book.
On the 11th of August, however, he received a sudden and peremptory order from Bishop Allen to come instantly to Philadelphia, about the emigration matter. He went, and found a meeting assembled to consider the conflicting reports on Canada of Messrs. Lewis and Dutton; at a subsequent meeting, held the next night, and near the adjournment, the Bishop called Mr. Grice aside and gave to him to read a printed circular, issued from New York City, strongly approving of Mr. Grice's plan of a convention, and signed by Peter Williams, Peter Vogelsang and Thomas L. Jinnings. The Bishop added, "My dear child, we must take some action immediately, or else these New Yorkers will get ahead of us." The Bishop left the meeting to attend a lecture on chemistry by Dr. Wells, of Baltimore. Mr. Grice introduced the subject of the convention; and a committee consisting of Bishop Allen, Benjamin Pascal, Cyrus Black, James Cornish and Junius C. Morel, were appointed to lay the matter before the colored people of Philadelphia. This committee, led, doubtless, by Bishop Allen, at once issued a call for a convention of the colored men of the United States, to be held in the city of Philadelphia on the 15th of September, 1830.
Mr. Grice returned to Baltimore rejoicing at the success of his project; but, in the same boat which bore him down the Chesapeake, he was accosted by Mr. Zollickoffer, a member of the Society of Friends, a Philadelphian, and a warm and tried friend of the blacks. Mr. Zollickoffer used arguments, and even entreaties, to dissuade Mr. Grice from holding the convention, pointing out the dangers and difficulties of the same should it succeed, and the deep injury it would do the cause in case of failure. Of course, it was reason and entreaty thrown away.
On the fifteenth of September, Mr. Grice again landed in Philadelphia, and in the fulness of his expectation asked every colored man he met about the convention; no one knew anything about it; the first man did not know the meaning of the word, and another man said, "Who ever heard of colored people holding a convention—convention, indeed!" Finally, reaching the place of meeting, he found, in solemn conclave, the five gentlemen who had constituted themselves delegates: with a warm welcome from Bishop Allen, Mr. Grice, who came with credentials from the people of Baltimore, was admitted as delegate. A little while after, Dr. Burton, of Philadelphia, dropped in, and demanded by what right the six gentlemen held their seats as members of the convention. On a hint from Bishop Allen, Mr. Pascal moved that Dr. Burton be elected an honorary member of the convention, which softened the Doctor. In half an hour, five or six grave, stern-looking men, members of the Zion Methodist body in Philadelphia, entered, and demanded to know by what right the members present held their seats and undertook to represent the colored people. Another hint from the Bishop, and it was moved that these gentlemen be elected honorary members. But the gentlemen would submit to no such thing, and would accept nothing short of full membership, which was granted them.
Among the delegates were Abraham Shadd, of Delaware; J.W.C. Pennington, of Brooklyn; Austin Steward, of Rochester; Horace Easton, of Boston, and —— Adams, of Utica.
The main subject of discussion was emigration to Canada; Junius C. Morel, chairman of a committee on that subject presented a report, on which there was a two days' discussion; the point discussed was that the report stated that "the lands in Canada were synonymous with those of the Northern States." The word synonymous was objected to, and the word similar proposed in its stead. Mr. Morel, with great vigor and ingenuity, defended the report, but was finally voted down, and the word similar adopted. The convention recommended emigration to Canada, passed strong resolutions against the American Colonization Society, and at its adjournment appointed the next annual convention of the people of color to be held in Philadelphia, on the first Monday in June, 1831.
At the present day, when colored conventions are almost as frequent as church meetings, it is difficult to estimate the bold and daring spirit which inaugurated the Colored Convention of 1830. It was the right move, originating in the right quarter and at the right time. Glorious old Maryland, or, as one speaking in the view that climate grows the men, would say,—Maryland-Virginia region,—which has produced Benjamin Banneker, Nat. Turner, Frederick Douglass, the parents of Ira Aldridge, Henry Highland Garnett and Sam. Ringold Ward, also produced the founder of colored conventions, Hezekiah Grice! At that time, in the prime of his young manhood, he must have presented the front of one equal to any fortune, able to achieve any undertaking. Standing six feet high, well-proportioned, of a dark bronze complexion, broad brow, and that stamp of features out of which the Greek sculptor would have delighted to mould the face of Vulcan—he was, to the fullest extent, a working man of such sort and magnetism as would lead his fellows where he listed.
In looking to the important results that grew out of this convention, the independence of thought and self-assertion of the black man are the most remarkable. Then, the union of purpose and union of strength which grew out of the acquaintanceship and mutual pledges of colored men from different States. Then, the subsequent conventions, where the great men we have already named, and others, appeared and took part in the discussions with manifestations of zeal, talent and ability, which attracted Garrison, the Tappans, Jocelyn and others of that noble host, who, drawing no small portion of their inspiration from their black brethren in bonds, did manfully fight in the days of anti-slavery which tried men's souls, and when, to be an abolitionist, was, to a large extent, to be a martyr.
We cannot help adding the thought that had these conventions of the colored people of the United States continued their annual sittings from 1830 until the present time, the result would doubtless have been greater general progress among our people themselves, a more united front to meet past and coming exigencies, and a profounder hold upon the public attention, and a deeper respect on the part of our enemies, than we now can boast of. Looking at public opinion as it is, the living law of the land, and yet a malleable, ductile entity, which can be moulded, or at least affected, by the thoughts of any masses vigorously expressed, we should have become a power on earth, of greater strength and influence than in our present scattered and dwindled state we dare even dream of. The very announcement, "Thirtieth Annual Convention of the Colored People of the United States," would bear a majestic front. Our great gathering at Rochester in 1853, commanded not only public attention, but respect and admiration. Should we have such a gathering even now, once a year, not encumbered with elaborate plans of action, with too many wheels within wheels, we can yet regain much of the ground lost. The partial gathering at Boston, the other day, has already assumed its place in the public mind, and won its way into the calculations of the politicians.
Our readers will doubtless be glad to learn the subsequent history of Mr. Grice. He did not attend the second convention, but in the interval between the second and third he formed, in the city of Baltimore, a "Legal Rights Association," for the purpose of ascertaining the legal status of the colored man in the United States. It was entirely composed of colored men, among whom were Mr. Watkins (the colored Baltimorean), Mr. Deaver, and others. Mr. Grice called on William Wirt, and asked him "what he charged for his opinion on a given subject." "Fifty dollars." "Then, sir, I will give you fifty dollars if you will give me your opinion on the legal condition of a free colored man in these United States."
Mr. Wirt required the questions to be written out in proper form before he could answer them. Mr. Grice employed Tyson, who drew up a series of questions, based upon the Constitution of the United States, and relating to the rights and citizenship of the free black. He carried the questions to Mr. Wirt, who, glancing over them, said, "Really, sir, my position as an officer under the government renders it a delicate matter for me to answer these questions as they should be answered, but I'll tell you what to do: they should be answered, and by the best legal talent in the land; do you go to Philadelphia, and present my name to Horace Binney, and he will give you an answer satisfactory to you, and which will command the greatest respect throughout the land." Mr. Grice went to Philadelphia, and presented the questions and request to Horace Binney. This gentleman pleaded age and poor eyesight, but told Mr. Grice that if he would call on John Sargent he would get answers of requisite character and weight. He called on John Sargent, who promptly agreed to answer the questions if Mr. Binney would allow his name to be associated as an authority in the replies. Mr. Binney again declined, and so the matter fell through. This is what Mr. Grice terms his "Dred Scott case" and so it was.
He attended the convention of 1832, but by some informality, or a want of credentials, was not permitted to sit as full member!—Saul ejected from among the prophets!—Yet he was heard on the subject of rights, and the doctrine of "our rights," as well as the first colored convention, are due to the same man.
In 1832, chagrined at the colored people of the United States, he migrated to Hayti, where, until 1843, he pursued the business of carver and gilder. In the latter year he was appointed Director of Public Works in Port-au-Prince, which office he held until two years ago. He is also engaged in, and has wide knowledge of machinery and engineering. Every two or three years he visits New York, and is welcomed to the arcana of such men as James J. Mapes, the Bensons, Dunhams, and at the various works where steam and iron obey human ingenuity in our city. He is at present in this city, lodging at the house of the widow of his old friend and coadjutor, Thomas L. Jinnings, 133 Reade street. We have availed ourselves of his presence among us to glean from him the statements which we have imperfectly put together in this article.
We cannot dismiss this subject without the remark, of peculiar pertinence at this moment, that it would have been better for our people had Mr. Grice never left these United States. The twenty-seven years he has passed in Hayti, although not without their mark on the fortunes of that island, are yet with out such mark as he would have made in the land and upon the institutions among which he was born. So early as his thirty-second year, before he had reached his intellectual prime, he had inaugurated two of the leading ideas on which our people have since acted, conventions to consider and alleviate their grievances, and the struggle for legal rights. If he did such things in early youth, what might he not have done with the full force and bent of his matured intellect? And where, in the wide world, in what region, or under what sun, could he so effectually have labored to elevate the black man as on this soil and under American institutions?
So profoundly are we opposed to the favorite doctrine of the Puritans and their co-workers, the colonizationists—Ubi Libertas, ibi Patria—that we could almost beseech Divine Providence to reverse some past events and to fling back into the heart of Virginia and Maryland their Sam Wards, Highland Garnets, J.W. Penningtons, Frederick Douglasses, and the twenty thousand who now shout hosannas in Canada—and we would soon see some stirring in the direction of Ubi Patria, ibi Libertas.—Anglo-African Magazine, October, 1859.
COMMUNICATION FROM THE NEW YORK SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OF EDUCATION AMONG COLORED CHILDREN.
To the Honorable the Commissioners for examining into the condition of Common Schools in the City and County of New York.
The following statement in relation to the colored schools in said city and county is respectfully presented by the New York Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children:
1. The number of colored children in the city and county of New York (estimated in 1855, from the census of 1850), between the ages of 4 and 17 years 3,000
a. Average attendance of colored children at public schools in 1855 913
Average attendance of colored children in corporate schools supported by school funds (Colored Orphan Asylum) 240 —— 1,153
b. Proportion of average attendance in public schools of colored children to whole number of same is as 1 to 2.60.
2. The number of white children in the city of New York in 1855 (estimated as above), between the ages of 4 and 17 years 159,000
a. Average attendance of white children in public schools in 1855 43,858
Average attendance of white children in corporate schools supported by public funds 2,826 ——— 46,684
b. Proportion of average attendance of white children in public schools to whole number of same is as 1 to 3.40.
3. From these facts it appears that colored children attend the public schools (and schools supported by public funds in the city of New York) in the proportion of 1 to 2.60, and that the white children attend similar schools in said city in the proportion of 1 to 3.40; that is to say, nearly 25 per cent. more of colored children than of white children attend the public schools, and schools supported by public funds in the city of New York.
4. The number of colored children attending private schools in the city of New York, 125.
a. The number of white children attending private schools in 1850, census gave 10,560, which number has since been increased by the establishment of Catholic parochial schools, estimated in 1856, 17,560.
b. The proportion of colored children attending private schools to white children attending same, is as 1 to 140.
c. But the average attendance of colored children in all schools is about the same as that of the white in proportion, that is to say, as many colored children attend the public schools as do whites attend both public and private schools, in proportion to the whole number of each class of children.
Locality, capability, etc., of colored schools.
1. The Board of Education, since its organization, has expended in sites and buildings for white schools $1,600,000.
b. The Board of Education has expended for sites and buildings for colored schools (addition to building leased 19 Thomas), $1,000.
c. The two schoolhouses in possession of the Board now used for colored children were assigned to same by the Old Public School Society.
2. The proportion of colored children to white children attending public schools is as 1 to 40.
a. The sum expended on school buildings and sites of colored and white schools by the Board of Education is as 1 to 1,600.
3. a. Schoolhouse No. 1, for colored children, is an old building, erected in 1820 by the New York Manumission Society as a school for colored children, in Mulberry street, in a poor but decent locality. It has two departments, one male and one female; it consists of two stories only, and has two small recitation rooms on each floor, but as primary as well as grammar children attend each department, much difficulty and confusion arises from the want of class room for the respective studies. The building covers only part of the lot, and as it is, the best attended and among the best taught of the colored schools, a new and ample school building, erected in this place, would prove a great attraction, and could be amply filled by children.
b. Schoolhouse No. 2, erected in Laurens street more than twenty years ago for colored children by the Public School Society, is in one of the lowest and filthiest neighborhoods, and hence, although it has competent teachers in the male and female departments, and a separate primary department, the attendance has always been slender, and will be until the school is removed to a neighborhood where children may be sent without danger to their morals.
c. School No. 3, for colored children, in Yorkville, is an old building, is well attended, and deserves, in connection with Schoolhouse No. 4, in Harlem, a new building midway between the present localities.
d. Schoolhouse No. 5, for colored children, is an old building, leased at No. 19 Thomas street, a most degraded neighborhood, full of filth and vice; yet the attendance on this school, and the excellence of its teachers, earn for it the need of a new site and new building.
e. Schoolhouse No. 6, for colored children, is in Broadway, near 37th street, in a dwelling house leased and fitted up for a school, in which there is always four feet of water in the cellar. The attendance good. Some of the school officers have repeatedly promised a new building.
f. Primary school for colored children, No. 1, is in the basement of a church on 15th street, near 7th avenue, in a good location, but premises too small for the attendance; no recitation rooms, and is perforce both primary and grammar school, to the injury of the progress of all.
g. Primary schools for colored children, No. 2 and 3, are in the rear of church, in 2d street, near 6th avenue; the rooms are dark and cheerless, and without the needful facilities of sufficient recitation rooms, etc.
From a comparison of the schoolhouses with the splendid, almost palatial edifices, with manifold comforts, conveniences and elegancies which make up the schoolhouses for white children in the city of New York, it is evident that the colored children are painfully neglected and positively degraded. Pent up in filthy neighborhoods, in old and dilapidated buildings, they are held down to low associations and gloomy surroundings.
Yet Mr. Superintendent Kiddle, at a general examination of colored schools held in July last (for silver medals awarded by the society now addressing your honorable body) declared the reading and spelling equal to that of any schools in the city.
The undersigned enter their solemn protest against this unjust treatment of colored children. They believe with the experience of Massachusetts, and especially the recent experience of Boston before them, there is no sound reason why colored children shall be excluded from any of the common schools supported by taxes levied alike on whites and blacks, and governed by officers elected by the vote of colored as well as white voters.
But if in the judgment of your honorable body common schools are not thus common to all, then we earnestly pray you to recommend to the Legislature such action as shall cause the Board of Education of this city to erect at least two well-appointed modern grammar schools for colored children on suitable sites, in respectable localities, so that the attendance of colored children may be increased and their minds be elevated in like manner as the happy experience of the honorable Board of Education has been in the matter of white children.
In addition to the excellent impulse to colored youth which these new grammar schools would give, they will have the additional argument of actual economy; the children will be taught with far less expense in two such schoolhouses than in the half dozen hovels into which they are now driven. It is a costly piece of injustice which educates the white scholar in a palace at $10 per year and the colored pupil in a hovel at $17 or $18 per annum.
Taxes, etc., of colored population of the city.
No proposition can be more reasonable than that they who pay taxes for schools and schoolhouses should be provided with schools and schoolhouses. The colored population of this city, in proportion to their numbers, pay their full share of the general and therefore of the school taxes. There are about nine thousand adults of both sexes; of these over three thousand are householders, rent-payers, and therefore tax-payers, in that sense of the word in which owners make tax-payers of their poor tenants. The colored laboring man, with an income of $200 a year, who pays $72 per year for a room and bedroom, is really in proportion to his means a larger tax-payer than the millionaire whose tax rate is thousands of dollars. But directly, also, do the colored people pay taxes. From examinations carefully made, the undersigned affirm that there are in the city at least 1,000 colored persons who own and pay taxes on real estate.
Taxed real estate in the city of New York owned by colored persons $1,400,000 Untaxed by colored persons (churches) 250,000 Personal estate 710,000 Money in savings banks 1,121,000 —————- $3,481,000
These figures indicate that in proportion to their numbers, the colored population of this city pay a fair share of the school taxes, and that they have been most unjustly dealt with. Their money has been used to purchase sites and erect and fit up schoolhouses for white children, whilst their own children are driven into miserable edifices in disgraceful localities. Surely, the white population of the city are too able, too generous, too just, any longer to suffer this miserable robbing of their colored fellow-citizens for the benefit of white children.