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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in any court of the United States proper to try the same;
the one moiety thereof, to the use of the United States, and
the other moiety to the use of such person or persons, who
shall sue for and prosecute the same.

_Speaker of the House of Representatives_.

_Vice-President of the United States, and
President of the Senate_.

"Approved - March the twenty-second, 1794.
G'o: WASHINGTON, _President of the United States_."

In 1797 Congress again found themselves confronted by the dark problem
of slavery, that would not down at their bidding. The Yearly Meeting
of the Quakers of Philadelphia sent a memorial to Congress,
complaining that about one hundred and thirty-four Negroes, and others
whom they knew not of, having been lawfully emancipated, were
afterwards reduced to bondage by an _ex post facto_ law passed by
North Carolina, in 1777, for that cruel purpose. After considerable
debate, the memorial went to a committee, who subsequently reported
that the matter complained of was purely of judicial cognizance, and
that Congress had no authority in the premises.

During the same session a bill was introduced creating all that
portion of the late British Province of West Florida, within the
jurisdiction of the United States, into a government to be called the
Mississippi Territory. It was to be conducted in all respects like the
territory north-west of the Ohio, with the single exception that
slavery should not be prohibited. During the discussion of this
section of the bill, Mr. Thatcher of Massachusetts moved to amend by
striking out the exception as to slavery, so as to make it conform to
the ideas expressed by Mr. Jefferson a few years before in reference
to the Western Territory. But, after a warm debate, Mr. Thatcher's
motion was lost, having received only twelve votes. An amendment of
Mr. Harper of South Carolina, offered a few days later, prohibiting
the introduction of slaves into the new Mississippi Territory, from
without the limits of the United States, carried without opposition.

Georgia revised her Constitution in 1798, and prohibited the
importation of slaves "from Africa or any foreign place." Her
slave-code was greatly moderated. Any person maliciously killing or
dismembering a slave was to suffer the same punishment as if the act
had been committed upon a free white person, except in case of
insurrection, or "unless such death should happen by accident, in
giving such slave moderate correction." But, like Kentucky, the
Georgia constitution forbade the emancipation of slaves without the
consent of the individual owner; and encouraged emigrants to bring
slaves into the State.

In 1799, after three failures, the Legislature of New York passed a
bill for the gradual extinction of slavery. It provided that all
persons in slavery at the time of the passage of the bill should
remain in bondage for life, but all their children, born after the
fourth day of July next following, were to be free, but were required
to remain under the direction of the owner of their parents, males
until twenty-eight, and females until twenty-five. Exportation of
slaves was disallowed; and if the attempt were made, and the parties
apprehended, the slaves were to be free _instanter_. Persons moving
into the State were not allowed to bring slaves, except they had
owned them for a year previous to coming into the State.

In 1799 Kentucky revised her Constitution to meet the wants of a
growing State. An attempt was made to secure a provision providing for
gradual emancipation. It was supported by Henry Clay, who, as a young
lawyer and promising orator, began on that occasion a brilliant
political career that lasted for a half-century. But not even his
magic eloquence could secure the passage of the humane amendment, and
in regard to the question of slavery the Constitution received no

As the shadows gathered about the expiring days of the eighteenth
century, it was clear to be seen that slavery, as an institution, had
rooted itself into the political and legal life of the American
Republic. An estate prolific of evil, fraught with danger to the new
government, abhorred and rejected at first, was at length adopted with
great political sagacity and deliberateness, and then guarded by the
solemn forms of constitutional law and legislative enactments.


[627] St. Clair Papers, vol. i. p. 120.

[628] The clause "three fifths of all other persons" refers to Negro
slaves. The Italics are our own. The Negro is referred to as _person_
all through the Constitution.

[629] Madison Papers, Elliot, vol. v. pp. 392, 393.

[630] Ibid., vol. v pp. 391, 392.

[631] Madison Papers, Elliot, vol. v. pp. 457-461.

[632] Madison Papers, Elliot, vol. v. pp. 477, 478.

[633] Examine Hildreth and the Secret Debates on the subject of the

[634] Travels, etc., vol. ii. p. 166.

[635] M.H.S. Coll., 5th Series, III., p. 403.


Part I.




In Acts xvii. 26 the apostle says, "And God hath made of one blood all
nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined
the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." In
Mark xvi. 15, 16, is recorded that remarkable command of our Saviour,
"GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD, and preach the gospel TO EVERY CREATURE. He
that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth
not shall be damned." (See also Matt. xxviii. 18, 20.) Now there is a
very close connection between the statement here made by the apostle,
and the command here given by our Lord Jesus Christ; for it was in
obedience to this command that the apostle was at that time at Athens.
There, amid the proud and conceited philosophers of Greece, in the
centre of their resplendent capital, surrounded on every hand by their
noblest works of art and their proudest monuments of learning, the
apostle proclaims the equality of ALL MEN, their common origin, guilt,
and danger, and their universal obligations to receive and embrace the
gospel. The Athenians, like other ancient nations, and like them, too,
in opposition to their own mythology, regarded themselves as a
peculiar and distinct race, created upon the very soil which they
inhabited, and pre-eminently elevated above the barbarians of the
earth, - as they regarded the other races of men. Paul, however, as an
inspired and infallible teacher, authoritatively declares that "God
who made the world and all things therein," "hath made of one blood,"
and caused to descend from one original pair the whole species of men,
who are now by His providential direction so propagated as to inhabit
"all the face of the earth," having marked out in his eternal and
unerring counsel the determinate periods for their inhabiting, and the
boundaries of the regions they should inhabit.

The apostle in this passage refers very evidently to the record of the
early colonization and settling of the earth contained in the books of
Moses. Some Greek copies preserve only the word [Greek: enos], leaving
out [Greek: aimatos], a reading which the vulgar Latin follows. The
Arabic version, to explain both, has _ex homine_, or as De Dieu
renders it, _ex Adamo uno_, there being but the difference of one
letter in the Eastern languages between _dam_ and _adam_, the one
denoting blood, and the other man. But if we take this passage as our
more ordinary copies read it, [Greek: exenos aimatos], it is still
equally plain that the meaning is not that all mankind were made of
the same uniform matter, as the author of the work styled Pre-Adamites
weakly imagined, for on that ground, not only mankind, but the whole
world might be said to be _ex henos haimatos_, i.e., of the same
blood, since all things in the world were at first formed out of the
same matter. The word _[Greek: aima]_ therefore must be here rendered
in the same sense as that in which it occurs in the best Greek
authors - _the stock out of which men come_ Thus Homer says, -

"_[Greek: Ei eteon g emos esti kai aimtos êmeteroio]_".

In like manner those who are near relations, are called by Sophocles
_[Greek: oi pros aimatos]_. And hence the term _consanguinity_,
employed to denote nearness of relation. Virgil uses _sanguis_ in the
same sense.

"_Trojano a sanguine duci_."

So that the apostle's meaning is, that however men now are dispersed
in their habitations, and however much they differ in language and
customs from each other, yet they were all originally of the same
stock, and derived their succession from the first man whom God
created, that is, from Adam, from which name the Hebrew word for
blood - i.e. - _dam_ - is a derivative.

Neither can it be conceived on what account Adam in the Scripture is
called "the first man," and said to be "made a living soul," and "of
the earth earthy," unless it is to denote that he was absolutely the
first of his kind, and was, therefore, designed to be the standard and
measure of all the races of men. And thus when our Saviour would trace
up all things to the beginning, he illustrates his doctrine by quoting
those words which were pronounced after Eve was formed. "But from the
beginning of the creation, God made them male and female, for this
cause shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife"
Now nothing can be more plain and incontrovertible than that those of
whom these words were spoken, were the first male and female which
were made in "the beginning of the creation." It is equally evident
that these words were spoken of Adam and Eve for "Adam said, This is
now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; therefore shall a man
leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife" If
the Scriptures then of the New Testament be true, it is most plain and
evident that all mankind are descended from Adam.[636]

* * * * *


It is not necessary - nay, it is not admissible - to take the words of
Noah, as to Shem and Japheth, as _prophetic_ We shall presently see
that, as prophetic, they have failed. Let us not, in expounding
Scripture, introduce the _supernatural_ when the _natural_ is
adequate. Noah had now known the peculiarities of his sons long
enough, and well enough, to be able to make some probable conjecture
as to their future course, and then success or failure in life. It is
what parents do now a-days. They say of one son, He will succeed, - he
is so dutiful, so economical, so industrious. They say of another,
This one will make a good lawyer - he is so sharp in an argument. Of
another, they say, We will educate him for the ministry, for he has
suitable qualifications While of another they may be constrained to
predict that he will not succeed, because he is indolent, and selfish,
and sensual. Does it require special inspiration for a father, having
ordinary common sense, to discover the peculiar talents and
dispositions of his children, and to predict the probable future of
each of them? Some times they hit it sometimes they miss it. Shall it
not be conceded to Noah that he could make as probable a conjecture,
as to his sons, as your father made as to you, or as you think
yourselves competent to make for either of your sons? Noah made a
good hit. What he said as to the future of his sons, and of their
posterity, has turned out, in some respects, as he said it would, but
_not exactly_, - not so exactly as to authorize our calling his words
an inspired prophecy, as we shall presently show.

But, if we set out to establish or to justify slavery upon these words
of Noah, on the assumption GOD _spake_ by Noah as to the curse and
blessings here recorded, we have a right to expect to find the facts
of history to correspond. If the facts of history do not correspond
with these words of Noah, then God did not speak them by Noah as his
own. Let us face this matter. It is said, by those who interpret the
curse of Canaan as divine authority for slavery, that God _has hereby
ordained that the descendants of Ham shall be slaves_. The descendants
of Shem are not, of course, doomed to that curse. Now, upon the
supposition that these are the words of God, and not the denunciations
of an irritated father just awaking from his drunkenness, we ought not
to find any of _Canaan's descendants out of a condition of slavery,
nor any of the descendants of Shem in it_. If we do, then either these
are not God's words, or God's words have not come true.

But it is a fact that not all of Ham's entire descendants, nor even of
Canaan's descendants (on whom _alone_, and not _at all on Ham_, nor on
his three other sons, Noah's curse fell), are now, _nor ever have
been_, as a whole, in a state of bondage. The Canaanites were not
slaves, but free and powerful tribes, when the Hebrews entered their
territory. The Carthaginians, it is generally admitted, were descended
from Canaan. They certainly were free and powerful when, in frequent
wars, they contended, often with success, against the formidable
Romans. If the curse of Noah was intended for all the descendants of
Ham, it signally failed in the case of the first military hero
mentioned in the Bible, who was the founder of a world-renowned city
and empire. I refer to Nimrod, who was a son of Cush, the oldest son
of Ham. Of this Nimrod the record is, "He began to be a mighty one in
the earth: he was a 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." This is Bible authority,
informing us that the grandson of Ham (Nimrod, the son of Cush) was a
mighty man - _the great man_ of the world, in his day - the founder of
the Babylonian empire, and the ancestor of the founder of the city of
Nineveh, one of the grandest cities of the ancient world. We are not
led to conclude, from these wonderful achievements by the posterity of
Cush (who was the progenitor of the Negroes), that this line of Ham's
descendants was so _weak in intellect_ as to be unable to set up and
maintain a government.[637]


[636] The Unity of the Human Races, pp. 14-17.

[637] Curse of Canaan, pp. 5-7. By Rev. C.H. Edgar.

* * * * *



DR. WISEMAN has also shown that both Aristotle and Herodotus describe
the Egyptians - to whom Homer, Lycurgus, Solon, Pythagoras, and Plato
resorted for wisdom - as having the black skin, the crooked legs, the
distorted feet and the woolly hair of the Negro, from which we do not
wish, or feel it necessary to infer that the Egyptians were Negroes,
but _first_ that the ideas of degradation and _not-human_, associated
with the dark-colored African races of people _now_, were not attached
to them at an early period of their history; and _secondly_, that
while depicted as Negroes, the Egyptians were regarded by these
profound ancients - the one a naturalist and the other a historian - as
one of the branches of the human family, and as identified with a
nation of whose descent from Ham there is no question.[638] Egyptian
antiquity, not claiming priority of social existence for itself, often
pointed to the regions of Habesh, or high African Ethiopia, and
sometimes to the North, for the seat of the gods and demigods, because
both were the intermediate stations of the progenitor tribes.[639]

There is, therefore, every reason to believe that the primitive
Egyptians were conformed much more to the African than to the European
form and physiognomy, and therefore that there was a time when
learning, commerce, arts, manufactures, etc., were all associated with
a form and character of the human race now regarded as the evidence
only of degradation and barbarous ignorance.

But why question this fact when we can refer to the ancient and once
glorious kingdoms of Meroe, Nubia, and Ethiopia, and to the prowess
and skill of other ancient and interior African Nations? And among the
existing nations of interior Africa, there is seen a manifold
diversity as regards the blackest races. The characteristics of the
most truly Negro race are not found in _all_, nor to the same degree
in _many_.

Clapperton and other travellers among the Negro tribes of interior
Africa, attest the superiority of the pure Negroes above the mixed
races around them, in all moral characteristics, and describe also
large and populous kingdoms with numerous towns, well cultivated
fields, and various manufactures, such as weaving, dyeing, tanning,
working in iron and other metals, and in pottery.[640]

From the facts we have adduced it seems to follow, that one of the
earliest races of men of whose existence, civilization and
physiognomy, we have any remaining proofs, were dark or black colored.
"We must," says Prichard, "for the present look upon the black races
as the aborigines of Kelænonesia, or Oceanica, - that is as the
immemorial and primitive inhabitants. There is no reason to doubt that
they were spread over the Austral island long before the same or the
contiguous regions were approached by the Malayo-Polynesians. We
cannot say definitely how far back this will carry us, but as the
distant colonizations of the Polynesians probably happened before the
island of Java received arts and civilization from Hindustan, it must
be supposed to have preceded by some ages the Javan era of Batara
Guru, and therefore to have happened before the Christian era."

The Negro race is known to have existed 3,345 years, says Dr. Morton,
268 years later than the earliest notice of the white race, of which
we have distinct mention B.C. 2200. This makes the existence of a
Negro race certain about 842 years after the flood, according to the
Hebrew chronology, or 1650 years after the flood, according to the
Septuagint chronology, which may very possibly have been the original
Hebrew chronology. There is thus ample time given for the
multiplication and diffusion of man over the earth, and for the
formation - either by natural or supernatural causes, in combination
with the anomalous and altogether extraordinary condition of the
earth - of all the various races of men.

It is also apparent from the architecture, and other historical
evidences of their character, that dark or black races, with more or
less of the Negro physiognomy, were in the earliest period of their
known history cultivated and intelligent, having kingdoms, arts, and
manufactures. And Mr. Pickering assures us that there is no fact to
show that Negro slavery is not of modern origin. The degradation of
this race of men therefore, must be regarded as the result of external
causes, and not of natural, inherent and original incapacity.[641]


[638] See Dr. Wiseman's Lectures on the connection between Science and
Revealed Religion, Am. ed., pp. 95-98

[639] See Nat. Hist. Human Species p. 373.

[640] See British Encyclopædia, vol. ii. pp. 237, 238

[641] Tiedeman, on the Brain of the Negro, in the Phil. Trans., 1838,
p. 497

* * * * *



It has often been said that, independently of the woolly hair and the
complexion of the Negroes, there are sufficient differences between
them and the rest of mankind to mark them as a very peculiar tribe.
This is true, and yet the principal differences are perhaps not so
constant as many persons imagine. In our West Indian colonies very
many Negroes, especially females, are seen, whose figures strike
Europeans as remarkably beautiful. This would not be the case if they
deviated much from the idea prevalent in Europe, or from the European
standard of beauty. Yet the slaves in the colonies, particularly in
those of England, were brought from the west coast of intertropical
Africa, where the peculiarities of figure, which in our eyes
constitute deformity in the Negro, are chiefly prevalent. The black
people imported into the French and to some of the Portuguese
colonies, from the eastern coast of the African continent, and from
Congo, are much better made. The most degraded and savage nations are
the ugliest. Among the most improved and the partially civilized, as
the Ashantees, and other interior States, the figure and the features
of the native people approach much more to the European. The ugliest
Negro tribes are confined to the equatorial countries; and on both
sides of the equator, as we advance towards the temperate zones, the
persons of the inhabitants are most handsome and well formed.

In a later period of this work I shall cite authors who have proved
that many races belonging to this department of mankind are noted for
the beauty of their features, and their fine stature and proportions.
Adanson has made this observation of the Negroes on the Senegal. He
thus describes the men. "Leur taille est pour l'ordinaire au-dessus de
la mediocre, bien prise et sans défaut. Ils sont forts, robustes, et
d'un tempérament propre à la fatigue. Ils ont les yeux noirs et bien
fendus, peu de barbe, les traits du visage assez agréables." They are
complete Negroes, for it is added that their complexion is of a fine
black, that their hair is black, frizzled, cottony, and of extreme
fineness. The women are said to be of nearly equal stature with the
men, and equally well made. "Leur visage est d'une douceur extrême.
Elles ont les yeux noirs, bien fendus, la bouche et les lèvres
petites, et les traits du visage bien proportionnés. Il s'en trouve
plusieurs d'une beauté parfaite." Mr. Rankin, a highly intelligent
traveller, who reports accurately and without prejudice the results of
his personal observation, has recently given a similar testimony in
regard to some of the numerous tribes of northern Negro-land, who
frequent the English colony of Sierra Leone. In the skull of the more
improved and civilized nations among the woolly-haired blacks of
Africa, there is comparatively slight deviation from the form which
may be looked upon as the common type of the human head. We are
assured, for example, by M. Golberry, that the Ioloffs, whose colour
is a deep transparent black, and who have woolly hair, are robust and
well made, and have regular features. Their countenances, he says, are
ingenuous, and inspire confidence: they are honest, hospitable,
generous, and faithful. The women are mild, very pretty, well made,
and of agreeable manners. On the other side of the equinoctial line,
the Congo Negroes, as Pigafetta declares, have not thick lips or ugly
features; except in colour they are very like the Portuguese. Kafirs
in South Africa frequently resemble Europeans, as many late travellers
have declared. It has been the opinion of many that the Kafirs ought
to be separated from the Negroes as a distinct branch of the human
family. This has been proved to be an error. In the conformation of
the skull, which is the leading character, the Kafirs associate
themselves with the great majority of woolly African nations.[642]


The Negroes inhabit Africa from the southern margin of the Sahara as
far as the territory of the Hottentots and Bushmen, and from the
Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, although the extreme east of their
domain has been wrested from them by intrusive Hamites and Semites.
Most negroes have high and narrow skulls. According to Welcker the
average percentage of width begins at 68 and rises to 78. The
variations are so great that, among eighteen heads from Equatorial
Africa, Barnard Davis found no less than four brachyrephals. In the
majority dolichocephalism is combined with a prominence of the upper
jaw and an oblique position of the teeth, yet there are whole nations
which are purely mesognathous. It is to be regretted that in the
opinion of certain mistaken ethnologists, the negro was the ideal of
every thing barbarous and beast-like. They endeavoured to deny him any
capability of improvement, and even disputed his position as a man.
The negro was said to have an oval skull, a flat forehead, snout-like
jaws, swollen lips, a broad flat nose, short crimped hair, falsely
called wool, long arms, meagre thighs, calfless legs, highly elongated
heels, and flat feet. No single tribe, however, possesses all these
deformities. The colour of the skin passes through every gradation,

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 51 of 57)