George W. Williams.

History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens online

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Online LibraryGeorge W. WilliamsHistory of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens → online text (page 3 of 57)
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but one nationality, and hence but one language. The fact that they
had but one language furnishes reasonable proof that they were of one
blood; and the historian has covered the whole question very
carefully by recording the great truth that they were _one people_,
and had but _one language_. The seventh, eighth, and ninth verses of
the eleventh chapter are not irrelevant: "Go to, let us go down, and
there confound their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon
the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there
confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the Lord
scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."

It was the wickedness of the people that caused the Lord to disperse
them, to confound their speech, and bring to nought their haughty
work. Evidently this was the beginning of different families of
men, - different nationalities, and hence different languages. In the
ninth verse it reads, that "from thence did the Lord scatter them
abroad upon the face of all the earth." There is no ambiguity about
this language. He did not only "confound their language," but
"scattered them from thence," from Babel, "upon the face of all the
earth." Here, then, are two very important facts: their _language_ was
_confused_, and they _were_ "_scattered_." They were not only
"scattered," they were "scattered _abroad upon the face of all_ the
earth." That is, they were dispersed very widely, sent into the
various and remote parts of the earth; and their nationality received
its being from the latitudes to which the divinely appointed wave of
dispersion bore them; and their subsequent racial character was to
borrow its tone and color from climateric influences. Three great
families, the Shemitic, Hamitic, and Japhetic, were suddenly built up.
Many other families, or tribes, sprang from these; but these were the
three great heads of all subsequent races of men.

"That the three sons of Noah overspread and peopled the
whole earth, is so expressly stated in Scripture, that, had
we not to argue against those who unfortunately disbelieve
such evidence, we might here stop: let us, however, inquire
how far the truth of this declaration is substantiated by
other considerations. Enough has been said to show that
there is a curious, if not a remarkable, analogy between the
predictions of Noah on the future descendants of his three
sons, and the actual state of those races which are
generally supposed to have sprung from them. It may here be
again remarked, that, to render the subject more clear, we
have adopted the quinary arrangement of Professor
Blumenbach: yet that Cuvier and other learned physiologists
are of opinion that the primary varieties of the human form
are more properly but three; viz., the Caucasian, Mongolian,
and Ethiopian. This number corresponds with that of Noah's
sons. Assigning, therefore, the Mongolian race to Japheth,
and the Ethiopian to Ham, the Caucasian, the noblest race,
will belong to Shem, the third son of Noah, himself
descended from Seth, the third son of Adam. That the primary
distinctions of the human varieties are but _three_, has
been further maintained by the erudite Prichard; who, while
he rejects the nomenclature both of Blumenbach and Cuvier,
as implying absolute divisions, arranges the leading
varieties of the human skull under three sections, differing
from those of Cuvier only by name. That the three sons of
Noah who were to 'replenish the earth,' and on whose progeny
very opposite destinies were pronounced, should give birth
to different races, is what might reasonably be conjectured;
but that the observation of those who do, and of those who
do not, believe the Mosaic history, should tend to confirm
truth, by pointing out in what these three races do actually
differ, both physically and morally, is, to say the least, a
singular coincidence. It amounts, in short, to a presumptive
evidence, that a mysterious and very beautiful analogy
pervades throughout, and teaches us to look beyond natural
causes in attempting to account for effects apparently
interwoven in the plans of Omnipotence."[6]

In the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, twenty-sixth
verse, we find the following language: "And hath made of one blood all
nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath
determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their
habitation."[7] The Apostle Paul was a missionary. He was, at this
time, on a mission to the far-famed city of Athens, - "the eye of
Greece, and the fountain of learning and philosophy." He told the "men
of Athens," that, as he travelled through their beautiful city, he had
not been unmindful of its attractions; that he had not been
indifferent to the claims of its citizens to scholarship and culture,
and that among other things he noticed an altar erected to _an unknown
God_. He went on to remark, that, great as their city and nation were,
God, whose offspring they were, had created other nations, who lived
beyond their verdant hills and swelling rivers. And, moreover, that
God had created "all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of
the earth" out "of one blood." He called their attention to the
fact that God had fenced all the nations in by geographical
boundaries, - had fixed the limits of their habitation.

We find two leading thoughts in the twenty-sixth verse; viz., that
this passage establishes clearly and unmistakably the unity of
mankind, in that God created them of one blood; second, he hath
determined "the bounds of their habitation," - hath located them
geographically. The language quoted is very explicit. "He hath
determined the bounds of their habitation," that is, "all the nations
of men.[8] We have, then, the fact, that there are different "nations
of men," and that they are all "of one blood," and, therefore, have a
common parent. This declaration was made by the Apostle Paul, an
inspired writer, a teacher of great erudition, and a scholar in both
the Hebrew and the Greek languages.

It should not be forgotten either, that in Paul's masterly discussion
of the doctrine of sin, - the fall of man, - he always refers to Adam as
the "one man" by whom sin came into the world.[9] His Epistle to the
Romans abounds in passages which prove very plainly the unity of
mankind. The Acts of the Apostles, as well as the Gospels, prove the
unity we seek to establish.

But there are a few who would admit the unity of mankind, and still
insist that the Negro does not belong to the human family. It is so
preposterous, that one has a keen sense of humiliation in the assured
consciousness that he goes rather low to meet the enemies of God's
poor; but it can certainly do no harm to meet them with the
everlasting truth.

In the Gospel of Luke we read this remarkable historical statement:
"And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian,
coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he
might bear it after Jesus."[10] By referring to the map, the reader
will observe that Cyrene is in Libya, on the north coast of Africa.
All the commentators we have been able to consult, on the passage
quoted below, agree that this man Simon was a Negro, - a black man.
John Melville produced a very remarkable sermon from this passage.[11]
And many of the most celebrated pictures of "The Crucifixion," in
Europe, represent this Cyrenian as black, and give him a very
prominent place in the most tragic scene ever witnessed on this earth.
In the Acts of the Apostles we have a very full and interesting
account of the conversion and immersion of the Ethiopian eunuch, "a
man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace, Queen of
the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come
to Jerusalem for to worship."[12] Here, again, we find that all the
commentators agree as to the nationality of the eunuch: he was a
Negro; and, by implication, the passage quoted leads us to the belief
that the Ethiopians were a numerous and wealthy people. Candace was
the queen that made war against Augustus Cæsar twenty years before
Christ, and, though not victorious, secured an honorable peace.[13]
She reigned in Upper Egypt, - up the Nile, - and lived at Meroe, that
ancient city, the very cradle of Egyptian civilization.[14]

"In the time of our Saviour (and indeed from that time
forward), by Ethiopia was meant, in a general sense, the
countries south of Egypt, then but imperfectly known; of one
of which that Candace was queen whose eunuch was baptized by
Philip. Mr. Bruce, on his return from Abyssinia, found in
latitude 16° 38' a place called Chendi, where the reigning
sovereign was then a queen; and where a tradition existed
that a woman, by name Hendaque (which comes as near as
possible to the Greek name [Greek: Chandakê]), once governed
all that country. Near this place are extensive ruins,
consisting of broken pedestals and obelisks, which Bruce
conjectures to be those of Meroe, the capital of the African
Ethiopia, which is described by Herodotus as a great city in
his time, namely, four hundred years before Christ; and
where, separated from the rest of the world by almost
impassable deserts, and enriched by the commercial
expeditions of their travelling brethren, the Cushites
continued to cultivate, so late as the first century of the
Christian era, some portions of those arts and sciences to
which the settlers in the cities had always more or less
devoted themselves."[15]

But a few writers have asserted, and striven to prove, that the
Egyptians and Ethiopians are quite a different people from the Negro.
Jeremiah seems to have understood that these people about whom we have
been writing were Negroes, - we mean black. "Can the Ethiopian," asks
the prophet, "change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" The prophet
was as thoroughly aware that the Ethiopian was black, as that the
leopard had spots; and Luther's German has for the word "Ethiopia,"
"Negro-land," - the country of the blacks.[16] The word "Ethiop" in
the Greek literally means "sunburn."

That these Ethiopians were black, we have, in addition to the valuable
testimony of Jeremiah, the scholarly evidence of Herodotus, Homer,
Josephus, Eusebius, Strabo, and others.

It will be necessary for us to use the term "Cush" farther along in
this discussion: so we call attention at this time to the fact, that
the Cushites, so frequently referred to in the Scriptures, are the
same as the Ethiopians.

Driven from unscriptural and untenable ground on the unity of the
races of mankind, the enemies of the Negro, falling back in confusion,
intrench themselves in the curse of Canaan. "And Noah awoke from his
wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said,
Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his
brethren."[17] This passage was the leading theme of the defenders of
slavery in the pulpit for many years. Bishop Hopkins says, -

"The heartless irreverence which Ham, the father of Canaan,
displayed toward his eminent parent, whose piety had just
saved him from the Deluge, presented the immediate
_occasion_ for this remarkable prophecy; but the actual
_fulfilment_ was reserved for his posterity after they had
lost the knowledge of God, and become utterly polluted by
the abominations of heathen idolatry. The Almighty,
foreseeing this total degradation of the race, ordained them
to servitude or slavery under the descendants of Shem and
Japheth, doubtless because _he judged it to be their fittest
condition_. And all history proves how accurately the
prediction has been accomplished, even to the present

Now, the first thing to be done by those who adopt this view is, to
prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Noah was inspired to pronounce
this prophecy. Noah _had_ been, as a rule, a righteous man. For more
than a hundred years he had lifted up his voice against the growing
wickedness of the world. His fidelity to the cause of God was
unquestioned; and for his faith and correct living, he and his entire
household were saved from the Deluge. But after his miraculous
deliverance from the destruction that overcame the old world, his
entire character is changed. There is not a single passage to show us
that he continued his avocation as a preacher. He became a husbandman;
he kept a vineyard; and, more than all, he drank of the wine and got
drunk! Awaking from a state of inebriation, he knew that Ham had
beheld his nakedness and "told his two brethren." But "Shem and
Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and
went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their
faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness."[19]
It is quite natural to suppose, that, humiliated and chagrined at his
sinful conduct, and angered at the behavior of his son and grandson,
Ham and Canaan, Noah expressed his disapprobation of Canaan. It was
_his_ desire, on the impulse of the moment, that Canaan should suffer
a humiliation somewhat commensurate with his offence; and, on the
other hand, it was appropriate that he should commend the conduct of
his other sons, who sought to hide their father's shame. And all this
was done without any inspiration. He simply expressed himself as a
fallible man.

Bishop Hopkins, however, is pleased to call this a "prophecy." In
order to prophesy, in the scriptural meaning of the word, a man must
have the divine unction, and must be moved by the Holy Ghost; and, in
addition to this, it should be said, that a true prophecy always comes
to pass, - is sure of fulfilment. Noah was not inspired when he
pronounced his curse against Canaan, for the sufficient reason that it
was not fulfilled. He was not speaking in the spirit of prophecy when
he blessed Shem and Japheth, for the good reason that their
descendants have often been in bondage. Now, if these words of Noah
were prophetic, were inspired of God, we would naturally expect to
find _all of Canaan's descendants in bondage_, and all of Shem's out
of bondage, - free! If this prophecy - granting this point to the
learned bishop for argument's sake - has not been fulfilled, then we
conclude one of two things; namely, these are not the words of God, or
they have not been fulfilled. But they were not the words of prophecy,
and consequently never had any divine authority. It was Canaan upon
whom Noah pronounced the curse: and Canaan was the son of Ham; and
Ham, it is said, is the progenitor of the Negro race. The Canaanites
were not bondmen, but freemen, - powerful tribes when the Hebrews
invaded their country; and from the Canaanites descended the bold and
intelligent Carthaginians, as is admitted by the majority of writers
on this subject. From Ham proceeded the Egyptians, Libyans, the
Phutim, and the Cushim or Ethiopians, who, colonizing the African
side of the Red Sea, subsequently extended themselves indefinitely to
the west and south of that great continent. Egypt was called Chemia,
or the country of Ham; and it has been thought that the Egyptian's
deity, Hammon or Ammon, was a deification of Ham.[20] The
Carthaginians were successful in numerous wars against the sturdy
Romans. So in this, as in many other instances, the prophecy of Noah

Following the chapter containing the prophecy of Noah, the historian
records the genealogy of the descendants of Ham and Canaan. We will
quote the entire account that we may be assisted to the truth.

"And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and
Canaan; and the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah,
and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba and
Dedan. And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in
the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore
it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the
Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech,
and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that
land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city
Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah:
the same is a great city. And Mizraim begat Ludim, and
Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Pathrusim, and
Casluhim (out of whom came Philistim), and Caphtorim. And
Canaan begat Sidon his first-born, and Heth, and the
Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, and the
Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, and the Arvadite,
and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the
families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the border of
the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto
Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah,
and Zeboim, even unto Lasha. These are the sons of Ham,
after their families, after their tongues, in their
countries, and in their nations."[21]

Here is a very minute account of the family of Ham, who it is said was
to share the fate of his son Canaan, and a clear account of the
children of Canaan. "Nimrod," says the record, "began to be a mighty
one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.... And the
beginning of his kingdom," etc. We find that Cush was the oldest son
of Ham, and the father of Nimrod the "mighty one in the earth," whose
"kingdom" was so extensive. He founded the Babylonian empire, and was
the father of the founder of the city of Nineveh, one of the grandest
cities of the ancient world. These wonderful achievements were of the
children of Cush, the ancestor of the Negroes. It is fair to suppose
that this line of Ham's posterity was not lacking in powers necessary
to found cities and kingdoms, and maintain government.

Thus far we have been enabled to see, according to the Bible record,
that the posterity of Canaan did not go into bondage; that it was a
powerful people, both in point of numbers and wealth; and, from the
number and character of the cities it built, we infer that it was an
intellectual posterity. We conclude that thus far there is no
evidence, from a biblical standpoint, that Noah's prophecy was
fulfilled. But, notwithstanding the absence of scriptural proof as to
the bondage of the children of Canaan, the venerable Dr. Mede says,
"There never has been a son of Ham who has shaken a sceptre over the
head of Japheth. Shem has subdued Japheth, and Japheth has subdued
Shem; but Ham has never subdued either." The doctor is either
falsifying the facts of history, or is ignorant of history. The
Hebrews were in bondage in Egypt for centuries. Egypt was peopled by
Misraim, the second son of Ham. Who were the Shemites? They were
Hebrews! The Shemites were in slavery to the Hamites. Melchizedek,
whose name was expressive of his character, - _king of righteousness_
(or a righteous king), was a worthy priest of the most high God; and
Abimelech, whose name imports _parental king_, pleaded the integrity
of his heart and the righteousness of his nation before God, and his
plea was admitted. Yet both these personages appear to have been
Canaanites."[22] Melchizedek and Abimelech were Canaanites, and the
most sacred and honorable characters in Old-Testament history. It was
Abraham, a Shemite, who, meeting Melchizedek, a Canaanite, gave him a
tenth of all his spoils. It was Nimrod, a Cushite, who "went to Asher,
and built Nineveh," after subduing the Shemites, So it seems very
plain that Noah's prophecy did not come true in every respect, and
that it was not the word of God. "And God blessed Noah and his
sons."[23] God pronounces his blessing upon this entire family, and
enjoins upon them to "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the
earth." Afterwards Noah seeks to abrogate the blessing of God by his
"cursed be Canaan." But this was only the bitter expression of a
drunken and humiliated parent lacking divine authority. No doubt he
and his other two sons conformed their conduct to the spirit of the
curse pronounced, and treated the Hamites accordingly. The scholarly
Dr. William Jones[24] says that Ham was the youngest son of Noah; that
he had four sons, Cush, Misraim, Phut, and Canaan; and that they
peopled Africa and part of Asia.[25] The Hamites were the offspring of
Noah, and one of the three great families that have peopled the


[1] Gen. i. 27.

[2] Gen. ii. 7.

[3] Gen. ii. 15.

[4] Gen. i. 28.

[5] Gen. vi. 5_sq._

[6] Encycl. of Geo., p. 255.

[7] If the Apostle Paul had asserted that all men resembled each other
in the color of their skin and the texture of their hair, or even in
their physiological make-up, he would have been at war with
observation and critical investigation. But, having announced a
wonderful truth in reference to the unity of the human race as based
upon one blood, science comes to his support, and through the
microscope reveals the corpuscles of the blood, and shows that the
globule is the same in all human blood.

[8] Deut. xxxii. 8, 9: "When the Most High divided to the nations
their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the
bounds of the people according to the number of the children of
Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his

[9] Rom. v. 12, 14-21.

[10] Luke xxiii, 26: Acts vi. 9, also second chapter, tenth verse.
Matthew records the same fact in the twenty-seventh chapter,
thirty-second verse. "And at they came out, they found a man of
Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross."

[11] See Melville's Sermons.

[12] Acts viii. 27.

[13] Pliny says the Ethiopian government subsisted for several
generations in the hands of queens whose name was _Candace_.

[14] See Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon.

[15] Jones's Biblical Cyclopædia, p. 311.

[16] The term Ethiope was anciently given to all those whose color was
darkened by the sun. - _Smyth's Unity of the Human Races_, chap. i. p.

[17] Gen. ix. 24, 25. See also the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh

[18] Bible Views of Slavery, p. 7.

[19] Gen. ix. 23.

[20] Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride. See also Dr. Morton, and
Ethnological Journal, 4th No p. 172.

[21] Gen. x. 6-20.

[22] Dr. Bush.

[23] Gen. ix. I.

[24] Jones's Biblical Cyclopædia, p. 393. Ps. lxxviii. 51.

[25] Ps. cv. 23.

[26] If Noah's utterance were to be regarded as a prophecy, it applied
only to the Canaanites, the descendants of Canaan, Noah's grandson.
Nothing is said in reference to any person but Canaan in the supposed




There seems to be a great deal of ignorance and confusion in the use
of the word "Negro;"[27] and about as much trouble attends the proper
classification of the inhabitants of Africa. In the preceding chapter
we endeavored to prove, not that Ham and Canaan were the progenitors
of the Negro races, - for that is admitted by the most consistent
enemies of the blacks, - but that the human race is _one_, and that
Noah's curse was not a divine prophecy.

The term "Negro" seems to be applied chiefly to the dark and
woolly-haired people who inhabit Western Africa. But the Negro is to
be found also in Eastern Africa.[28] Zonaras says, "Chus is the person
from whom the Cuseans are derived. They are the same people as the
Ethiopians." This view is corroborated by Josephus.[29] Apuleius, and
Eusebius. The Hebrew term "Cush" is translated Ethiopia by the
Septuagint, Vulgate, and by almost all other versions, ancient and
modern, as well as by the English version. "It is not, therefore, to
be doubted that the term '_Cushim_' has by the interpretation of all
ages been translated by 'Ethiopians,' because they were also known by
their black color, and their transmigrations, which were easy and
frequent."[30] But while it is a fact, supported by both sacred and
profane history, that the terms "Cush" and "Ethiopian" were used

Online LibraryGeorge W. WilliamsHistory of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens → online text (page 3 of 57)