Always Craving

John Keble.

St. Paul has ranked even personal liberty, liberty opposed to the condition of a slave, among other temporal blessings, as an object, comparatively speaking, below the serious concern of a redeemed immortal being. “Art thou called being a slave? care not for it: but even if thou mayest be made free, put up with it rather.” That is, “make the best of your condition as it is, rather than grasp, with eager anxiety, at every chance of emancipation.” And what he says of personal liberty, is true, I suppose, a fortiori, of civil liberty as opposed to subjection. “Care not for it,” says the inspired Voice: “let it be your tendency, in this as in all things, rather to improve existing opportunities, than to be always craving after a change of condition.”

But what says the Christian world to this? Do not men, somehow, think of liberty, as of something unlike other outward blessings, such as health, riches, domestic comfort? something, the mere pursuing of which, for its own sake, is a part of virtue? Contented slavery in either kind, are they not apt to pronounce it meanness?

All this being calmly considered, and compared with what our Lord and His Apostles have said; or rather, with what they have left unsaid, (for there is a silence more significant than words;) I think one must own, that civil liberty, high as it may stand among earthly blessings, is usually allowed to fill a space in our thoughts, out of all proportion to that which it fills in the plan of happiness drawn out in the Bible. Though men commit things worthy of death, yet if they be done for freedom’s sake, the world finds pleasure in them that do them.

Sermon V. Danger of Sympathizing with Rebellion. Preached by John Keble before the University of Oxford, 30 January 1831.

Mary Aggie and Benefit of Clergy in Virginia

Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam;
et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Psalmus 50. iii.

LAWS OF VIRGINIA, MAY 1732−−5th & 6th GEORGE II.

CHAP. VII.

An Act for settling some doubts and differences of opinion, in relation to the benefit of Clergy; for allowing the same to Women; and taking away of Reading; and to disable certain Persons, therein mentioned, to be Witnesses.

I. WHEREAS it has been held, That where, by an act of parliament, made in England before the settlement of this colony, the benefit of clergy, as it is called, hath been taken away from any offences, that persons committing the like offences in this colony, are excluded by virtue thereof; but this opinion, if it were nicely examined, might possibly be questioned: And for settling the law in that point,

II. Be it enacted, by the Lieutenant-Governor, Council and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and by the authority of the same, That where, by any act of the parliament of England, made before the fourth year of the reign of the late king James the first, the benefit of clergy is taken away from any offence, the same shall hereafter be adjudged to be taken away from the like offence, committed in this colony, in respect to principals, and accessories standing mute, and challenging a greater number of the jury than the law allows.

III. And whereas the old distinction, of allowing the benefit of clergy, to men only, and excluding women, and putting the offender, being a layman, to read, hath been taken away by the parliament of England: Be it enacted, That where a man, being convicted of any felony, may demand the benefit of his clergy, if a woman be convicted of the same, or the like offence, upon her prayer to have the benefit of this act, judgment of death shall not be given against her upon such conviction, nor execution awarded upon any outlawry, for such offence; but she shall suffer the same punishment as a man should suffer, that has the benefit of his clergy allowed him in the like case; That is to say, shall be burnt in the hand by the jailor in open court, and shall be afterwards dealt with, as a man in the like case might be. And if any person be convicted of a felony, for which he ought to have the benefit of clergy, and shall pray to have the benefit of this act, he shall not be required to read, but without any reading, shall be allowed, taken, and reputed to be, and punished as a clerk convict; which shall be as effectual, to all intents and purposes, and as advantageous to him, as if he had read as a clerk; any other law or statute, to the contrary hereof, in any wise, notwithstanding. Clergy allowed to women.

IV. And whereas a question hath lately arisen, touching the right of negros, to the benefit of clergy: for the determination thereof, Be it further enacted, That when any negro, mulatto, or Indian whatsoever, shall be convicted of any offence within the benefit of clergy, judgment of death shall not be given against him or her, upon such conviction; but he or she, shall be burnt in the hand in open court, by the jailor, and suffer such other corporal punishment, as the court shall think fit to inflict; except where such negro, mulatto, or Indian, shall be convicted of manslaughter, or the felonious breaking and entring any house in the night-time, or for breaking and entring in the day-time any house, and taking from thence any goods or chattels whatsoever, to the value of five shillings sterling; and where he or she hath once had the benefit of this act; and in those cases, such negro, mulatto, or Indian, shall suffer death, and be excluded from the benefit of this act.

V. And whereas negros, mulattos, and Indians, have lately been frequently allowed to give testimony as lawful witnesses in the general court, and other courts of this colony, when they have professed themselves to be christians, and been able to give some account of the principles of the christian religion: but forasmuch as they are people of such base and corrupt natures, that the credit of their testimony cannot be certainly depended upon, and some juries have altogether rejected their evidence, and others have given full credit thereto: For preventing the mischiefs that may possibly happen by admitting such precarious evidence,

VI. Be it further enacted, That no negro, mulatto, or indian, either a slave or free, shall hereafter be admitted in any court of this colony, to be sworn as a witness, or give evidence in any cause whatsoever, except upon the trial of a slave, for a capital offence; in which such case they shall be allowed to give evidence, in the manner directed by one act of assembly, made in the ninth year of the reign of the late king George, intituled, An Act directing the trial of Slaves committing Capital Crimes; and for the more effectual punishing Conspiracies and Insurrections of them; and for the better government of Negros, Mulattos, and Indians, bond or free.

Mary Aggie

In one of these Courts, in January last, a Negro woman Slave was tryed for stealing; and as I knew her to be a Christian (for not long before she had, upon some pretence, I forget what, sued for her Freedom in the General Court, where she was examined touching her Faith of which she gave a tolerable account) I desired a Lawyer to attend the Tryal, and in case she was found Guilty, to inform the Justices that notwithstanding she was a Slave, it was my opinion, as a christian, she was Intitled to the benefit of the Clergy; upon which after some little debate, for it was never Inquired into before, the Question was put, and the judges were divided, so it was agreed to be deferr’d until another and a fuller Court. When a report was made to me of their Proceedings, and fearing it might go against her if I left to be determined there, I advised with our ablest Lawyers, and from the county court had it Adjourned into the General Court, resolving to have this Matter argued in the most public manner by our best Lawyers, as a thing of great consequence, by which all the courts in the country for the future should govern themselves, and not doubting but it would be carried in favour of the Christian though a black one; But when the Day of hearing came, notwithstanding four out of five of the Gentlemen learned in the Law, of which number the King’s Attorney General was one, gave it as their opinion, supported by Proper Arguments, that she had a Right to plead the benefit of that statute, when put the Question, we were divided here too, six and six; and now it rests to be determined by the opinion of the Sollicitor & Attorney General in England, which I shall send for as soon as our Lawyers have drawn up a State of the Case as they have directions to do, with the sense of the Laws of this Country, and political reasons for and against it. But I can assure your Lordship that there is no Law against it, if there is, I think it ought to be repealed: and for political reasons, they are of equal force against white as black People being Christians. I shant trouble your Lordship with particulars, but thought it my Duty to acquaint your Lordship with it, not knowing whether Mr Commissary will do so or not, who was one of the judges.

— Extract from letter of Lt. Governor William Gooch to the Bishop of London, Williamsburg, 28 May 1731.

Scant Respect

The right or wrong of slavery we need not discuss, or attempt to determine who was most responsible therefor. The institution is dead beyond the possibility of resurrection, and the whole nation is glad. The later geographical limitations of slavery in the United States were determined not by conscience, but by climate. It was climate at the North and the cotton-gin in the South that regulated the distribution of slave labor. I have scant respect for a conscience too sensitive to own certain property because it is immoral, but which without compunction will sell the same to another at full market value. Had the slaveholders of the North manumitted their slaves and not sold them because their labor ceased to be profitable, there would have been more respect for their subsequent abolition zeal. It is matter of pride with us that no Southern colony or state ever had a vessel engaged in the slave trade. And several of the Southern states were the first to pass stringent laws against the importation of African slaves.

Charles Betts Galloway, Jefferson Davis: A Judicial Estimate, Southern Methodist Review, Volume 57, Issue 4 (1908).

Liberators

I saw a most laughable spectacle this afternoon– viz., a negro, dressed in full Yankee uniform, with a rifle at full cock, leading along a barefooted white man, with whom he evidently changed clothes. General Longstreet stopped the pair, and asked the black man what it meant. He replied, “The two soldiers in charge of this here Yank have got drunk, so for fear he should escape I have took care of him, and brought him through that little town.” The consequential manner of the negro, and the supreme contempt with which he spoke to his prisoner, were most amusing. This little episode of a Southern slave leading a white Yankee soldier through a Northern village, alone and of his own accord, would not have been gratifying to an abolitionist. Nor would the sympathizers both in England and in the North feel encouraged if they could hear the language of detestation and contempt with which the numerous negroes with the Southern armies speak of their liberators.

Diary of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States (1864), 6 July 1863, describing an incident during the retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg.

Incalculable Misery

Manuscript certificate of Governor Joel Parker's oath of office, 20 January 1863.
Manuscript certificate of Governor Joel Parker’s oath of office, 20 January 1863.

If the abolition of slavery be a necessary consequence of the war, both races will have to endure the evils which, in their present condition, it would bring on them, but to make emancipation the object of the war would be to use the treasure and blood of the country to carry out the political views which, to a great extent, produced the war; would be in bad faith to the nation, and especially to those who have freely given of their wealth, and voluntarily offered their lives to the Government, after that Government had, of its own accord, put on record that the war was not to be prosecuted for the purpose of “overthrowing the established institutions of the States.”

Our energies should be devoted to a restoration of the Union, and the problem of emancipation is one to be solved hereafter by the people of the States where the institution of slavery exists. To be a benefit even to the people in servitude, it should not come by fire and sword. The institutions of ages, interwoven with society, cannot thus be broken up without producing incalculable misery. If emancipation should ever come, it will come so as to be of the greatest benefit to both races. It will come, as it did in New Jersey, by the voluntary action of the people of the States where the institution exists, peacefully and gradually, and without the dictation or interference of the General Government or the governments of other States, and without calling on the other States to incur an immense debt, equivalent to a mortgage on every acre of land within their limits.

The project of emancipation, we fear, will prolong the war. Whether intended or not, like the unconstitutional creation of new States, it will have the effect of placing an obstacle in the way of the restoration of the Union; the great object for which we should contend.

We are told that the belief that slavery is the cause of the war, and that the war can never cease and the life of the nation be preserved, until slavery be abolished, has led to a departure from the original purpose of the war. This is the radical error of the emancipationists. Slavery is no more the cause of the war than gold is the cause of robbery or murder. With the same propriety it might be said that commerce was the cause of our last war with Great Britain, and that commerce should be abolished, because the impressment of American seamen led to the collision. In all these cases the evil passions of men, taking the form of illegal action, were the antecedent cause. If men will reform themselves, keep within the law, and observe constitutional requirements, there is no reason why we should not live together as harmoniously as our ancestors did in the earlier days of the Republic. Abolition and Secession are the authors of our calamity, and Abolition is the parent of Secession.

To those who regarded slavery as a sin, and were impelled by a law which they esteem higher than the Constitution, to effect emancipation at all hazards, it would be useless to say anything, except that they were no more responsible for the evils incident to slavery in the Southern States, than they were responsible for serfdom in the most distant country in Europe. They had about as much right to interfere in the one case as in the other. Slavery was here when the Constitution was formed. Its introduction was not the work of one section alone. The great and good men of that day, in framing the Constitution, recognized it as an existing institution. Its control was wisely left to the several States in which it existed. Without this the Constitution never would have been ratified. Of this class of men (who often neglect evils at home, and interfere where they have no legal right,) my predecessor, in the message before referred to, wisely remarked—”We give some of them credit for sincerity; but if so sensitive to wickedness, they will find enough to exercise their time and talents within the bounds of their own State, and probably within a narrower circle.”

— Inaugural Address of Joel Parker, Governor of New Jersey, 20 January 1863.

Gradual and General Emancipation

Richmond, 1862.
Richmond, 1862.

Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia
January 11, 1865
Hon. Andrew Hunter
Richmond, Va.:

Dear Sir:

I have received your letter of the 7th instant, and without confining myself to the order of your interrogatories, will endeavor to answer them by a statement of my views on the subject. I shall be most happy if I can contribute to the solution of a question in which I feel an interest commensurate with my desire for the welfare and happiness of our people.

Considering the relation of master and slave, controlled by humane laws and influenced by Christianity and an enlightened public sentiment, as the best that can exist between the white and black races while intermingled as at present in this country, I would deprecate any sudden disturbance of that relation unless it be necessary to avert a greater calamity to both. I should therefore prefer to rely upon our white population to preserve the ratio between our forces and those of the enemy, which experience has shown to be safe. But in view of the preparations of our enemies, it is our duty to provide for continued war and not for a battle or a campaign, and I fear that we cannot accomplish this without overtaxing the capacity of our white population.

Should the war continue under the existing circumstances, the enemy may in course of time penetrate our country and get access to a large part of our negro population. It is his avowed policy to convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and to emancipate all. The success of the Federal arms in the South was followed by a proclamation of President Lincoln for 280,000 men, the effect of which will be to stimulate the Northern States to procure as substitutes for their own people negroes thus brought within their reach. Many have already been obtained in Virginia, and should the fortune of war expose more of her territory, the enemy would gain a large accession to his strength. His progress will thus add to his numbers, and at the same time destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious to the welfare of our people. Their negroes will be used to hold them in subjection, leaving the remaining force of the enemy free to extend his conquest. Whatever may be the effect of our employing negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this. If it end in subverting slavery it will be accomplished by ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil consequences to both races. I think, therefore, we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which must be produced upon our social institutions. My opinion is that we should employ them without delay. I believe that with proper regulations they can be made efficient soldiers. They possess the physical qualifications in an eminent degree. Long habits of obedience and subordination, coupled with the moral influence which in our country the white man possesses over the black, furnish an excellent foundation for that discipline which is the best guaranty of military efficiency. Our chief aim should be to secure their fidelity.

There have been formidable armies composed of men having no interest in the cause for which they fought beyond their pay or the hope of plunder. But it is certain that the surest foundation upon which the fidelity of an army can rest, especially in a service which imposes peculiar hardships and privations, is the personal interest of the soldier in the issue of the contest. Such an interest we can give our negroes by giving immediate freedom to all who enlist, and freedom at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully (whether they survive or not), together with the privilege of residing at the South. To this might be added a bounty for faithful service.

We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom when they can secure it at once by going to the enemy, in whose service they will incur no greater risk than in ours. The reasons that induce me to recommend the employment of negro troops at all render the effect of the measures I have suggested upon slavery immaterial, and in my opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation. As that will be the result of the continuance of the war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeed, it seems to me most advisable to adopt it at once, and thereby obtain all the benefits that will accrue to our cause.

The employment of negro troops under regulations similar in principle to those above indicated would, in my opinion, greatly increase our military strength and enable us to relieve our white population to some extent. I think we could dispense with the reserve forces except in cases of necessity.

It would disappoint the hopes which our enemies base upon our exhaustion, deprive them in a great measure of the aid they now derive from black troops, and thus throw the burden of the war upon their own people. In addition to the great political advantages that would result to our cause from the adoption of a system of emancipation, it would exercise a salutary influence upon our whole negro population, by rendering more secure the fidelity of those who become soldiers, and diminishing the inducements to the rest to abscond.

I can only say in conclusion that whatever measures are to be adopted should be adopted at once. Every day’s delay increases the difficulty. Much time will be required to organize and discipline the men, and action may be deferred until it is too late.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R.E. Lee,
General

* * *

February 27th.—Bright and windy. The Virginia Assembly has passed resolutions instructing the Senators to vote for the negro troops bill—so Mr. Hunter must obey or resign.

It is authoritatively announced in the papers that Gen. J. E. Johnston has taken command of the army in front of Sherman (a perilous undertaking), superseding Beauregard.

Grant is said to be massing his troops on our right, to precipitate them upon the South Side Railroad. Has Hill marched his corps away to North Carolina? If so, Richmond is in very great danger.

The Examiner to-day labors to show that the evacuation of Richmond would be fatal to the cause. The Sentinel says it has authority for saying that Richmond will not be given up. “Man proposes—God disposes.” It is rumored that Fayetteville, N. C., has fallen into the hands of the enemy.

I saw Col. Northrop, late Commissary-General, to-day. He looks down, dark, and dissatisfied. Lee’s army eats without him. I see nothing of Lieut.-Col. Ruffin. He always looks down and darkly. Gen. Breckinridge seems to have his heart in the cause—not his soul in his pocket, like most of his predecessors.

I saw Admiral Buchanan to-day, limping a little. He says the enemy tried to shoot away his legs to keep him from dancing at his granddaughter’s wedding, but won’t succeed.

Robert Tyler told me that it was feared Governor Brown, and probably Stephens and Toombs, were sowing disaffection among the Georgia troops, hoping to get them out of the army; but that if faction can be kept down thirty days, our cause would assume a new phase. He thinks Breckinridge will make a successful Secretary.

The President and Gen. Lee were out at Camp Lee to-day, urging the returned soldiers (from captivity) to forego the usual furlough and enter upon the spring campaign now about to begin. The other day, when the President made a speech to them, he was often interrupted by cries of “furlough!”

The ladies in the Treasury Department are ordered to Lynchburg, whither the process of manufacturing Confederate States notes is to be transferred.

A committee of the Virginia Assembly waited on the President on Saturday, who told them it was no part of his intention to evacuate Richmond. But some construed his words as equivocal. Tobacco, cotton, etc. are leaving the city daily. The city is in danger.

— Diary of John B. Jones, 27 February, 1865.

This Most Disagreeable Step

Arms of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, from Benson John Lossing, ed. Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History (vol. 3) (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1912).
Arms of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, from Benson John Lossing, ed. Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History (vol. 3) (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1912).

By His Excellency the Right Honorable JOHN Earl of DUNMORE, His MAJESTY’S Lieutenant and Governor General of the Colony and Dominion of VIRGINIA, and Vice Admiral of the same.

A PROCLAMATION.

As I have ever entertained Hopes that an Accommodation might have taken Place between GREAT-BRITAIN and this colony, without being compelled by my Duty to this most disagreeable but now absolutely necessary Step, rendered so by a Body of armed Men unlawfully assembled, firing on His MAJESTY’S Tenders, and the formation of an Army, and that Army now on their March to attack His MAJESTY’S troops and destroy the well dispofed Subjects of this Colony. To defeat such unreasonable Purposes, and that all such Traitors, and their Abetters, may be brought to Justice, and that the Peace, and good Order of this Colony may be again restored, which the ordinary Course of the Civil Law is unable to effect; I have thought fit to issue this my Proclamation, hereby declaring, that until the aforesaid good Purposes can be obtained, I do in Virtue of the Power and Authority to ME given, by His MAJESTY, determine to execute Martial Law, and cause the same to be executed throughout this Colony: and to the end that Peace and good Order may the sooner be restored, I do require every Person capable of bearing Arms, to resort to His MAJESTY’S STANDARD, or be looked upon as Traitors to His MAJESTY’S Crown and Government, and thereby become liable to the Penalty the Law inflicts upon such Offences; such as forfeiture of Life, confiscation of Lands, &c. &c. And I do hereby further declare all indentured Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels,) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His MAJESTY’S Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper Sense of their Duty, to His MAJESTY’S Leige Subjects, to retain their Quitrents, or any other Taxes due or that may become due, in their own Custody, till such Time as Peace may be again restored to this at present most unhappy Country, or demanded of them for their former salutary Purposes, by Officers properly authorised to receive the same.

GIVEN under my Hand on board the ship WILLIAM, off NORFOLK, the 7th Day of NOVEMBER, in the SIXTEENTH Year of His MAJESTY’S Reign.

DUNMORE.

(GOD save the KING.)

No Just Application Whatever

Map of Virginia: showing the distribution of its slave population from the census of 1860; Washington: Henry S. Graham, 1861.
Map of Virginia: showing the distribution of its slave population from the census of 1860; Washington: Henry S. Graham, 1861.

The antithetical employment of such terms as ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery,’ or ‘antislavery’ and ‘pro-slavery,’ with reference to the principles and purposes of contending parties or rival sections, has had immense influence in misleading the opinions and sentiments of the world. The idea of freedom is captivating, that of slavery repellent, to the moral sense of mankind in general. It is easy, therefore, to understand the effect of applying the one set or terms to one party, the other to another, in a contest which has no just application whatever to the essential merits of freedom or slavery. Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

Generally Misunderstood and Persistently Misrepresented

The Old Plantation, c. 1785-1795, attributed to John Rose; watercolour on laid paper; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Old Plantation, c. 1785-1795, attributed to John Rose; watercolour on laid paper; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Inasmuch as the questions growing out of the institution of negro servitude, or connected with it, will occupy a conspicuous place in what is to follow, it is important that the reader should have, at the very outset, a right understanding of the true nature and character of those questions. No subject has been more generally misunderstood or more persistently misrepresented. The institution itself has ceased to exist in the United States; the generation comprising all who took part in the controversies to which it gave rise, or for which it afforded a pretext, is passing away; and the misconceptions which have prevailed in our own country, and still more among foreigners remote from the field of contention, are likely to be perpetuated in the mind of posterity unless corrected before they become crystallized by tacit acquiescence. Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the the Confederate Government.

The Old Plantation

The Old Plantation, 1785-1795, attributed to John Rose; watercolour on laid paper; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Old Plantation, circa 1785-1795, attributed to John Rose; watercolour on laid paper; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Last Words of Edmund Ruffin

Edmund Ruffin (5 January 1794 – 17 June 1865).
Edmund Ruffin (5 January 1794 – 17 June 1865).

“I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule — to all political, social and business connection with the Yankees and to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living Southerner and bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged and down-trodden South, though in silence and stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression and atrocious outrages, and for deliverance and vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated and enslaved Southern States!

And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my latest breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule — to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race.”

— Edmund Ruffin (5 January 1794 – 17 June 1865).