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NEGRO RACE IN AMERICA
_FROM 1619 TO 1880._
NEGROES AS SLAVES, AS SOLDIERS, AND AS CITIZENS;
A PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATION OF THE UNITY OF THE HUMAN
FAMILY, AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF AFRICA, AND AN
ACCOUNT OF THE NEGRO GOVERNMENTS OF
SIERRA LEONE AND LIBERIA.
GEORGE W. WILLIAMS,
FIRST COLORED MEMBER OF THE OHIO LEGISLATURE, AND LATE JUDGE
ADVOCATE OF THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC OF OHIO, ETC.
_IN TWO VOLUMES._
1619 TO 1800.
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G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS,
27 AND 29 WEST 23D STREET.
REV. JUSTIN DEWEY FULTON, D.D.,
OF BROOKLYN, NEW YORK;
AND TO THE
HON. CHARLES FOSTER,
GOVERNOR OF OHIO;
WHO, AS CLERGYMAN AND STATESMAN, REPRESENT THE PUREST PRINCIPLES
OF THE AMERICAN CHURCH AND STATE.
To the Illustrious Representative of the Church of Christ:
WHO, FOR A QUARTER OF A CENTURY, HAS STOOD THE INTREPID CHAMPION OF
DIVINE TRUTH, AND THE DEFENDER OF HUMANITY: DURING THE DARK DAYS OF
SLAVERY, PLEADING THE CAUSE OF THE BONDMEN OF THE LAND; DURING
THE WAR, URGING THE EQUALITY OF NEGROES AS SOLDIERS, DURING
RECONSTRUCTION, ENCOURAGING THE FREEDMEN TO NOBLE LIVES
THROUGH THE AGENCY OF THE CHURCH AND THE SCHOOL, AND
EVERMORE THE ENEMY OF ANY DISTINCTION BASED UPON
RACE, COLOR, OR PREVIOUS CONDITION OF SERVITUDE.
To the Distinguished Statesman:
WHO, ENDUED WITH THE GENIUS OF COMMON SENSE, TOO EXALTED TO BE
INFLAMED BY TEMPORARY PARTY OR FACTIONAL STRIFE, AND WHO,
AS CONGRESSMAN AND GOVERNOR, IN STATE AND NATIONAL
POLITICS, HAS PROVEN HIMSELF CAPABLE OF
SACRIFICING PERSONAL INTEREST TO PUBLIC WELFARE;
WHO, IN DEALING WITH THE NEGRO PROBLEM, HAS ASSERTED A NEW DOCTRINE IN
IGNORING THE CLAIMS OF RACES: AND WHO, AS THE FIRST NORTHERN GOVERNOR
TO APPOINT A COLORED MAN TO A POSITION OF PUBLIC TRUST,
HAS THEREBY DECLARED THAT NEITHER NATIONALITY NOR
COMPLEXION SHOULD ENHANCE OR IMPAIR THE CLAIMS
OF MEN TO POSITIONS WITHIN THE GIFT OF
TO THESE NOBLE MEN THIS WORK IS DEDICATED,
WITH SENTIMENTS OF HIGH ESTEEM AND PERSONAL REGARD, BY THEIR
FRIEND AND HUMBLE SERVANT,
I was requested to deliver an oration on the Fourth of July, 1876, at
Avondale, O. It being the one-hundredth birthday of the American
Republic, I determined to prepare an oration on the _American Negro_.
I at once began an investigation of the records of the nation to
secure material for the oration. I was surprised and delighted to find
that the historical memorials of the Negro were so abundant, and so
creditable to him. I pronounced my oration on the Fourth of July,
1876; and the warm and generous manner in which it was received, both
by those who listened to it and by others who subsequently read it in
pamphlet form, encouraged me to devote what leisure time I might have
to a further study of the subject.
I found that the library of the Historical and Philosophical Society
of Ohio, and the great _Americana_ of Mr. Robert Clarke containing
about eight thousand titles, both in Cincinnati, offered peculiar
advantages to a student of American history. For two years I spent
what time I could spare from professional cares in studying the whole
problem of the African slave-trade; the founding of the British
colonies in North America; the slave problem in the colonies; the
rupture between the colonies and the British Government; the war of
the Revolution; the political structure of the Continental government
and Confederation; the slavery question in local and national
legislation; and then traced the slavery and anti-slavery question
down to the Rebellion. I became convinced that a history of the
Colored people in America was required, because of the ample
historically trustworthy material at hand; because the Colored people
themselves had been the most vexatious problem in North America, from
the time of its discovery down to the present day; because that in
every attempt upon the life of the nation, whether by foes from
without or within, the Colored people had always displayed a matchless
patriotism and an incomparable heroism in the cause of Americans; and
because such a history would give the world more correct ideas of the
Colored people, and incite the latter to greater effort in the
struggle of citizenship and manhood. The single reason that there was
no history of the Negro race would have been a sufficient reason for
The labor incident upon the several public positions held by me
precluded an earlier completion of this task; and, finding it
absolutely impossible to write while discharging public duties or
practising law, I retired from the public service several years ago,
and since that time have devoted all my energies to this work. It is
now nearly seven years since I began this wonderful task.
I have been possessed of a painful sense of the vastness of my work
from first to last. I regret that for the sake of pressing the work
into a single volume, favorable to a speedy sale, - at the sacrifice of
the record of a most remarkable people, - I found my heart unwilling,
and my best judgment protesting.
In the preparation of this work I have consulted over twelve thousand
volumes, - about one thousand of which are referred to in the
footnotes, - and thousands of pamphlets.
After wide and careful reading, extending through three years, I
conceived the present plan of this history. I divided it into nine
parts. Two thoughts led me to prepare the chapters under the head of
PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS. _First_, The defenders of slavery and the
traducers of the Negro built their pro-slavery arguments upon biblical
ethnology and the curse of Canaan. I am alive to the fact, that, while
I am a believer in the Holy Bible, it is not the best authority on
ethnology. As far as it goes, it is agreeable to my head and heart.
Whatever science has added I have gladly appropriated. I make no
claim, however, to be a specialist. While the curse of Canaan is no
longer a question of debate, yet nevertheless the folly of the
obsolete theory should be thoroughly understood by the young men of
the Negro race who, though voting now, were not born when Sumter was
fired upon. _Second_, A growing desire among the enlightened Negroes
in America to learn all that is possible from research concerning the
antiquity of the race, - Africa, its inhabitants, and the development
of the Negro governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia, led me to
furnish something to meet a felt need. If the Negro slave desired his
native land before the Rebellion, will not the free, intelligent, and
reflective American Negro turn to Africa with its problems of
geography and missions, now that he can contribute something towards
the improvement of the condition of humanity? Editors and writers
everywhere throughout the world should spell the word Negro with a
capital N; and when referring to the race as Colored people employ a
capital C. I trust this will be observed.
In PART II., SLAVERY IN THE COLONIES, I have striven to give a
succinct account of the establishment and growth of slavery under the
English Crown. It involved almost infinite labor to go to the records
of "the original thirteen colonies." It is proper to observe that this
part is one of great value and interest.
In PART III., THE NEGRO DURING THE REVOLUTION, I found much of an
almost romantic character. Many traditions have been put down, and
many obscure truths elucidated. Some persons may think it irreverent
to tell the truth in the plain, homely manner that characterizes my
narrative; but, while I have nothing to regret in this particular, I
can assure them that I have been actuated by none other spirit than
that of candor. Where I have used documents it was with a desire to
escape the charge of superficiality. If, however, I may be charged
with seeking to escape the labor incident to thorough digestion, I
answer, that, while men with the reputation of Bancroft and Hildreth
could pass unchallenged when disregarding largely the use of documents
and the citation of authorities, I would find myself challenged by a
large number of critics. Moreover I have felt it would be almost cruel
to mutilate some of the very rare old documents that shed such
peerless light upon the subject in hand.
I have brought the first volume down to the close of the eighteenth
century, detailing the great struggle through which the slavery
problem passed. I have given as fair an idea of the debate on this
question, in the convention that framed the Constitution, as possible.
It was then and there that the hydra of slavery struck its fangs into
the Constitution; and, once inoculated with the poison of the monster,
the government was only able to purify itself in the flames of a great
The second volume opens with the present century, and closes with the
year 1880. Unable to destroy slavery by constitutional law, the best
thought and effort of this period were directed against the extension
of the evil into the territory beyond the Ohio, Mississippi, and
Missouri rivers. But having placed three-fifths of the slave
population under the Constitution, having pledged the Constitution to
the protection of slave property, it required an almost superhuman
effort to confine the evil to one section of the country. Like a
loathsome disease it spread itself over the body politic until our
nation became the eyesore of the age, and a byword among the nations
of the world. The time came when our beloved country had to submit to
heroic treatment, and the cancer of slavery was removed by the sword.
In giving an account of the _Anti-Slavery Agitation Movement_, I have
found myself able to deal briefly with methods and results only. I
have striven to honor all the multifarious measures adopted to save
the Negro and the Nation. I have not attempted to write a history of
the Anti-Slavery Movement. Many noble men and women have not even been
mentioned. It should not be forgotten that this is a history of the
Negro race; and as such I have not run into the topic discussed by the
late Henry Wilson in his "Rise and Fall of the Slave Power."
In discussing the problem of the rendition of fugitive slaves by the
Union army, I have given the facts with temperate and honest
criticism. And, in recounting the sufferings Negro troops endured as
prisoners of war in the hands of the Rebels, I have avoided any spirit
of bitterness. A great deal of the material on the war I purchased
from the MS. library of Mr. Thomas S. Townsend of New-York City. The
questions of vital, prison, labor, educational, and financial
statistics cannot fail to interest intelligent people of all races and
parties. These statistics are full of comfort and assurance to the
Negro as well as to his friends.
Every cabinet minister of the President wrote me full information upon
all the questions I asked, and promptly too. The refusal of the
general and adjutant-general of the army did not destroy my hope of
getting some information concerning the Negro regiments in the regular
army. I visited the Indian Territory, Kansas, Texas, and New Mexico,
where I have seen the Ninth and Tenth Regiments of cavalry, and the
Twenty-fourth Regiment of infantry. The Twenty-fifth Regiment of
infantry is at Fort Randall, Dakota. These are among the most
effective troops in the regular army. The annual desertions in white
regiments of cavalry vary from ninety-eight to a hundred and eighteen;
while in Negro regiments of cavalry the desertions only average from
six to nine per annum. The Negro regiments are composed of young men,
intelligent, faithful, brave. I heard but one complaint from the lips
of a score of white officers I met, and that was that the Negroes
sometimes struck their horses over the head. Every distinction in law
has disappeared, except in the regular army. Here Negroes are excluded
from the artillery service and engineer's department. It is wrong, and
Congress should place these brave black soldiers upon the same footing
as the white troops.
I have to thank Drs. George H. Moore and S. Austin Allibone, of the
Lenox Library, for the many kind favors shown me while pursuing my
studies in New-York City. And I am under very great obligations to Dr.
Moore for his admirable "History of Early Slavery in Massachusetts,"
without which I should have been put to great inconvenience. To Mr.
John Austin Stevens, late editor of "The Magazine of American
History," who, during several months residence in New-York City,
placed his private library and office at my service, and did every
thing in his power to aid my investigations, I return my sincerest
thanks. To the Librarians of the New-York Historical, Astor, and
New-York Society Libraries, I return thanks for favors shown, and
privileges granted. I am especially grateful to the Hon. Ainsworth R.
Spofford, Librarian of Congress, for the manner in which he
facilitated my researches during my sojourn in Washington. I had the
use of many newspapers of the last century, and of other material to
be found only in the Congressional Library.
To Sir T. Risely Griffith, Colonial Secretary and Treasurer of Sierra
Leone, I am indebted for valuable statistics concerning that colony.
To the Assistant Librarian of the State Library of Ohio, the
accomplished and efficient Miss Mary C. Harbough, I owe more than to
any other person. Through her unwavering and untiring kindness and
friendship, I have been enabled to use five hundred and seventy-six
volumes from that library, besides newspaper files and Congressional
Records. To Gov. Charles Foster, Chairman of the Board of Library
Commissioners, I offer my profoundest thanks for the intelligent,
active, and practical interest he has taken in the completion of this
work. And to Major Charles Townsend, Secretary of State, I offer
thanks for favors shown me in securing documents. To the Rev. J.L.
Grover and his competent assistant, Mr. Charles H. Bell, of the Public
Library of Columbus, I am indebted for the use of many works. They
cheerfully rendered whatever aid they could, and for their kindness I
return many thanks.
I am obliged to the Rev. Benjamin W. Arnett, Financial Secretary of
the A.M.E. Church of the United States, for the statistics of his
denomination. And to all persons who have sent me newspapers and
pamphlets I desire to return thanks. I am grateful to C.A. Fleetwood,
an efficient clerk in the War Department, for statistics on the
Freedmen's Bank. And, above all and more than all, I return my
profoundest thanks to my heavenly Father for the inspiration, health,
and money by which I have been enabled to complete this great task.
I have mentioned such Colored men as I thought necessary. To give a
biographical sketch of all the worthy Colored men in the United
States, would require more space than has been occupied in this work.
Not as the blind panegyrist of my race, nor as the partisan apologist,
but from a love for "_the truth of history_," I have striven to record
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I have not
striven to revive sectional animosities or race prejudices. I have
avoided comment so far as it was consistent with a clear exposition of
the truth. My whole aim has been to write a thoroughly trustworthy
history; and what I have written, if it have no other merit, is
I commit this work to the public, white and black, to the friends and
foes of the Negro, in the hope that the obsolete antagonisms which
grew out of the relation of master and slave may speedily sink as
storms beneath the horizon; and that the day will hasten when there
shall be no North, no South, no Black, no White, - but all be American
citizens, with equal duties and equal rights.
GEORGE W. WILLIAMS.
NEW YORK, November, 1882.
* * * * *
THE UNITY OF MANKIND.
The Biblical Argument. - One Race and One Language. - One
Blood. - The Curse of Canaan. 1
THE NEGRO IN THE LIGHT OF PHILOLOGY, ETHNOLOGY, AND EGYPTOLOGY.
Cushim and Ethiopia. - Ethiopians, White and Black. - Negro
Characteristics. - The Dark Continent. - The Antiquity of the
Negro. - Indisputable Evidence. - The Military and Social
Condition of Negroes. - Cause of Color. - The Term
PRIMITIVE NEGRO CIVILIZATION.
The Ancient and High Degree of Negro Civilization. - Egypt,
Greece, and Rome borrow from the Negro the Civilization that
made them Great. - Cause of the Decline and Fall of Negro
Civilization. - Confounding the Terms "Negro" and "African." 22
NEGRO KINGDOMS OF AFRICA.
BENIN: Its Location. - Its Discovery by the
Portuguese. - Introduction of the Catholic Religion. - The
King as a Missionary. - His Fidelity to the Church purchased
by a White Wife. - Decline of Religion. - Introduction of
Slavery. - Suppression of the Trade by the English
Government. - Restoration and Peace.
DAHOMEY: Its Location. - Origin of the Kingdom. - Meaning of
the Name. - War. - Capture of the English Governor, and his
Death. - The Military Establishment. - Women as
Soldiers. - Wars and their Objects. - Human Sacrifices. - The
King a Despot. - His Powers. - His Wives. - Polygamy. - Kingly
Succession. - Coronation. - Civil and Criminal Law. - Revenue
System. - Its Future.
YORUBA. Its Location. - Slavery and its Abolition - Growth of
the People of Abeokuta. - Missionaries and Teachers from
Sierra Leone. - Prosperity and Peace attend the
People. - Capacity of the People for Civilization. - Bishop
Crowther. - His Influence. 26
THE ASHANTEE EMPIRE.
Its Location and Extent. - Its Famous Kings. - The Origin of
the Ashantees Obscure. - The War with Denkera. - The Ashantees
against the Field conquer two Kingdoms, and annex
them. - Death of Osai Tutu. - The Envy of the King of
Dahomey. - Invasion of the Ashantee Country by the King of
Dahomey. - His Defeat shared by his Allies. - Akwasi pursues
the Army of Dahomey into its own Country. - Gets a Mortal
Wound and suffers a Humiliating Defeat, - The King of Dahomey
sends the Royal Kudjoh his Congratulations. - Kwamina deposed
for attempting to introduce Mohammedanism into the
Kingdom. - The Ashantees conquer the Mohammedans. - Numerous
Wars. - Invasion of the Fanti Country. - Death of Sir Charles
McCarthy. - Treaty. - Peace. 34
THE NEGRO TYPE.
Climate the Cause. - His Geographical Theatre. - He is
susceptible to Christianity and Civilization. 45
Patriarchal Government. - Construction of Villages. - Negro
Architecture. - Election of Kings. - Coronation
Ceremony. - Succession. - African Queens. - Law, Civil and
Criminal. - Priests. - Their
Functions. - Marriage. - Warfare. - Agriculture. - Mechanic
Arts. - Blacksmiths. 50
LANGUAGES, LITERATURE, AND RELIGION.
Structure of African Languages. - The Mpongwe, Mandingo, and
Grebo. - Poetry: Epic, Idyllic, and Miscellaneous. - Religions
and Superstitions. 66
Its Discovery and Situation. - Natural Beauty. - Founding of a
Negro Colony. - The Sierra Leone Company. - Fever and
Insubordination. - It becomes an English Province. - Character
of its Inhabitants. - Christian Missions, etc. 85
THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA.
Liberia. - Its Location. - Extent. - Rivers and
Mountains. - History of the First Colony. - The Noble Men who
laid the Foundation of the Liberian Republic. - Native
Tribes. - Translation of the New Testament into the Vei
Language. - The Beginning and Triumph of Christian Missions
to Liberia. - History of the Different Denominations on the
Field. - A Missionary Republic of Negroes. - Testimony of
Officers of the Royal Navy as to the Efficiency of the
Republic in suppressing the Slave-Trade. - The Work of the
The Unity of the Human Family re-affirmed. - God gave all
Races of Men Civilization. - The Antiquity of the Negro
beyond Dispute. - Idolatry the Cause of the Degradation of
the African Races. - He has always had a Place in History,
though Incidental. - Negro Type caused by Degradation. - Negro
Empires an Evidence of Crude Ability for
Self-Government. - Influence of the two Christian Governments
on the West Coast upon the Heathen. - Oration on Early
Christianity in Africa. - The Duty of Christianity to
evangelize Africa. 108
* * * * *
_SLAVERY IN THE COLONIES_.
THE COLONY OF VIRGINIA.
Introduction of the First Slaves. - "The Treasurer" and the
Dutch Man-of-War. - The Correct Date. - The Number of
Slaves. - Were there Twenty, or Fourteen? - Litigation about
the Possession of the Slaves. - Character of the Slaves
imported, and the Character of the Colonists. - Race
Prejudices. - Legal Establishment of Slavery. - Who are Slaves
for Life. - Duties on Imported Slaves. - Political and
Military Prohibitions against Negroes. - Personal
Rights. - Criminal Laws against Slaves. - Emancipation. - How
brought about. - Free Negroes. - Their Rights. - Moral and
Religious Training. - Population. - Slavery firmly
THE COLONY OF NEW YORK.
Settlement of New York by the Dutch in 1609. - Negroes
introduced into the Colony, 1628. - The Trade in Negroes
increased. - Tobacco exchanged for Slaves and
Merchandise. - Government of the Colony. - New Netherland
falls into the Hands of the English, Aug. 27, 1664. - Various
Changes. - New Laws adopted. - Legislation. - First
Representatives elected in 1683. - In 1702 Queen Anne
instructs the Royal Governor in Regard to the Importation of
Slaves. - Slavery Restrictions. - Expedition to effect the
Conquest of Canada unsuccessful. - Negro Riot. - Suppressed by
the Efficient Aid of Troops. - Fears of the Colonists. - Negro
Plot of 1741. - The Robbery of Hogg's House. - Discovery of a
Portion of the Goods. - The Arrest of Hughson, his Wife, and
Irish Peggy. - Crimination and Recrimination. - The
Breaking-out of Numerous Fires. - The Arrest of Spanish
Negroes. - The Trial of Hughson. - Testimony of Mary
Burton. - Hughson hanged. - The Arrest of Many Others
implicated in the Plot. - The Hanging of Cæsar and
Prince. - Quack and Cuffee burned at the Stake. - The
Lieutenant-Governor's Proclamation. - Many White Persons
accused of being Conspirators. - Description of Hughson's
Manner of swearing those having Knowledge of the
Plot. - Conviction and Hanging of the Catholic Priest