“De Union! Used to be de cry –
For dat we went it strong;
But now de motto seems to be,
'De nig _ _ _ , right or wrong!'”
– After Emancipation, a growing number of Democrats opposed the abolitionist struggle
In the 1800s, fear of Negro migration was intense in the Midwest. Three factors – an agricultural economy, the Southern heritage of many Midwesterners, and the lower Midwest's common border with the slave South – made the residents keenly aware of the “dangers” of Negro migration. In general, the closer to the Ohio River a white Midwesterner lived, the more race sensitive he was. Southern Ohio fit all the criteria required for bitter opposition to this migration.
Without a doubt, poor whites in Ohio disliked Negroes for the same reasons Southern poor whites did. Most carried a burden of bigotry developed over generations. And at this time, Midwestern racists exploited this fear by accusing the Government of making emancipated slaves move north.
Make no mistake, resistance to abolition was common. Before abolitionism succeeded, it was strongly opposed. Even among Northerners who wanted to stop the spread of slavery, the idea of banning it altogether seemed fanatical It’s hard to accept just how unpopular abolitionism was before the Civil War. The abolitionist Liberty Party never won a majority in a single county, anywhere in America, in any presidential race.
During the campaign for state offices in 1863, the Ohio Democratic Central Committee asked the northern soldier if he liked the idea of returning home from battle to find his job taken by the Negro whom he had risked his life to free. When asked to support the proposed Thirteen Amendment shortly before the end of the war, Representative George Bliss of the Fourteenth District publicly refused because he feared passage would invite the former slaves to compete for jobs with returning Union veterans.
Yet, antislavery congressmen were able to push through the 13 Amendment in 1865 because of the absence of the pro-slavery South and the complicated politics of the Civil War. The passage was considered a surprise victory
I would like to offer two articles from the Portsmouth Times from 1862 that attest to the conflicting views on abolition. The first is titled “Is Ohio To Be Africanized?” It was printed in the Times on June 21, 1862. In the article, Mr. Samuel Cox of Ohio, member of the House of Representatives, charges that the Civil is being carried on with the emancipation of the Negro as the dominant purpose, and not the preservation of the Union.
Cox opposes the abolition of slavery and claims its result will be disastrous to Ohio because it will be made the home of thousands of free Negroes by immigration and will add a population that will be “vicious, indolent, and improvident.” He dwells at length on the character of the free Negro settlements in Greene and Brown counties of Ohio, claiming they are deleterious to the white population. He objects to the distribution of the colored race among the people of the free states because it will affect white labor and detract from the prosperity of the various communities.
*Note – Here is some background on the author of the article, Samuel Cox:
Samuel Sullivan "Sunset" Cox (September 30, 1824, Zanesville, Ohio – September 10, 1889, New York City) was an American Congressman and diplomat. He represented both Ohio and New York in the United States House of Representatives, and also served as United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
Cox attended Ohio University and Brown University, graduating from Brown in 1846. He practiced law in Zanesville and became the owner and editor of the Ohio Statesman, a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. In 1855, he was secretary of the U.S. legation to Peru.
Cox was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1856, and served three terms representing Ohio's 12th congressional district and one representing the 7th district.
After giving an impassioned speech in 1864 denouncing Republicans for allegedly supporting miscegenation (mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, or procreation), he was defeated for reelection and moved to New York City, where he resumed law practice.
The miscegenation hoax was concocted by Democrats, to discredit the Republicans by imputing to them what were then radical views that offended against the attitudes of the vast majority of whites, including those who opposed slavery. There was already much opposition to the war effort.
The pamphlet and variations on it were reprinted widely in both the north and south by Democrats and Confederates. Only in November 1864 was the pamphlet exposed as a hoax. The hoax pamphlet was written by David Goodman Croly, managing editor of the New York World, a Democratic Party paper, and George Wakeman, a World reporter.
The following are excerpts from the Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) article “Is Ohio To Be Africanized?” published June 21, 1862. The article itself was taken from an address delivered in the House of Representatives on June 6, 1862 by Ohio Rep. Samuel S. Cox.
"Is Ohio To Be Africanized?"
“The right and power to exclude Africans from the States North, being compatible with our system of State sovereignty and Federal supremacy, I assert that it is impolitic, dangerous, degrading, and unjust to the white men of Ohio and of the North, to allow such immigration.
“By the census of 1860, in Ohio, we have 36,225 colored persons, out of a population of 2,339,559. As a general thing, they are vicious, indolent, and improvident. They number as yet one black to about sixty-three whites; but their ratio of increase during the last ten years has seen 43:30 per cent, while that of the white increase is only 17:82 per cent. (I assume the colon was used as a decimal period.)
“About one-tenth of our convicts are Negroes. I gather from the census of 1850, that four-tenths of the female prisoners are blacks, although they compose but one-eightieth of the female population of Ohio... In Ohio the blacks are not agriculturists. They soon become waiters, barbers, and otherwise subservient to the whites. They have just enough consequence given to them by late events to be pestilent. The resistance of the abolitionists to the Federal authority in Ohio, within the past three years, was abetted by colored men, some of whom had received schooling enough at Oberlin to be vain and ostentatiously seditious.
“The last Legislature of Ohio, by their committee, gave their proteges this certificate of character in their report:
'The Negro race is looked upon by the people of Ohio as a class to be kept by themselves – to be debarred of social intercourse with the whites – to be deprived of all advantages which they cannot enjoy in common with their own class.
'Deprived of the advantages here enumerated, it could not be expected that he should attain any great advancement in social improvement. Generally, the Negro in Ohio is ignorant and vicious.'
“If this be true, it would be well to inquire why energetic legislation was not had in view of the emancipation schemes here impending, to prevent this lazy, ignorant and vicious class from overrunning our State. Such legislation was asked and refused ...
“The Ohio Senator Sherman (John Sherman), speaking of emancipation in this district (District of Columbia), he balanced himself on the slack wire after this fashion:
'This is a good place to begin emancipation for another reason. This is a very paradise for free Negroes. Here they enjoy more social equality than they do anywhere else. In the State where I live, we do not like Negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana said yesterday, the whole people of the Northwestern States are, for reasons, whether correct or not, opposed to having many Negroes among them, and that principle or prejudice has been engrafted on the legislation of nearly all the Northwestern States.'
“It is a fine thing, the Senator thinks, to free Negroes here: not so good in Ohio. Here they have a paradise: in Ohio it is opposite, I suppose. If the Senator could visit Green's Row, within the shadow of this capitol, henceforth 'Tophet (A place where children were sacrificed in Canann.) and black Gehenna (a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire) called, the type of hell,' and note the squalor, destitution, laziness, crime, and degradation there beginning to fester, if he could visit the alleys in whose miserable hovels the blacks congregate, he would hardly be reminded of the paradise which Milton sang, with its amarinthine flowers, (Laughter) its blooming trees of life, its golden fruitage, its amber rivers rolling o'er Elysian flowers, its hills and fountains and fresh shades, its dreams of love, and adoration of God. Alas! He would find nothing here to remind him of that high estate in Eden, save the fragrance of the spot and the nakedness of the inhabitants. (Laughter)
“If the rush of free Negroes to this paradise continues, it would be a blessing if Providence should send Satan here in the form of a serpent, and an angel to drive the descendants of Adam and Even into the outer world. If it continues, you will have no one here but Congressmen and Negroes, and that will be punishment enough. (Laughter) You will have to enact a fugitive law to bring the whites to their capital. (Laughter)
“But it may still be urged that in the North – in Ohio – the free Negro will work, will rise, will add to the security of the State and the prosperity of the people ... Greene County, Ohio, has nearly 1500 Negroes. The following article from the Xenia News, a Republican paper, will give us some idea of their condition:
'There are about one hundred Negroes here in Greene County who are always out of employment. A part of these are those who have lately been freed by their masters, and furnished with a bonus, on which they are now gentlemanly loafing. Our jail is continually filled with Negroes committed for petty offense, such as affrays, petty larceny, drunkenness, assault and battery, for whose prosecution and imprisonment the town of Xenia has to pay about five hundred dollars per annum. And to such persons going to jail is rather a pleasure than a disgrace. They are better fed and lodged there than when vagabondizing round our streets.'
'We have seen Negro prostitutes flaunting down Main Street, three or four abreast, sweeping all before them indiscriminately. We have seen ladies of respectability running upon the cellar doors, and even into gutters, to avoid being run over by these impudent hussies … Gentlemen have complained of the insulting boldness of their address. But we are sickened with the recital. It is a disagreeable task to lance the sore which has long been gathering unheeded; and it is equally so to probe this evil, which unawares is growing in our midst.'
“Some years ago, there was a Negro colony established in Brown County, Ohio, as to which the Cincinnati Gazette said that 'in a little while the Negroes became too lazy to play.'”
As evidenced in Cox's impassioned plea against racial equality, the resistance to emancipation in the Buckeye State was formidable. Those who believed in the fight to save the Union did not necessarily include blacks in their vision of a United States of America.
The second article from the Portsmouth Times was published on July 12, 1862. It was titled “A Grim Joke.” It deals with opposition to the views of the Portsmouth Tribune, a rival paper. I present it here for your reading pleasure:
“A Grim Joke”
Intro: “The following article, which we take from the Logan Gazette, one of the most logical, vigorous and keen-witted papers published in the State, applies with so much force to the Portsmouth Tribune, and the heartless and reckless manner in which it has treated the question of Negro immigration, that we desire to bring it under its notice. But few papers in the State have dared to come openly in opposition to a law preventing the influx of Southern blacks. Yet the Tribune has sought to ridicule (it never argues) a movement for this purpose – just insert the name of that paper in place of the Cincinnati Commercial, and the article fits admirably and pinches to severity:
“The black immigration, by which the Free States are menaced, and which portends nothing but calamity to both races, is made the subject of merriment by the Cincinnati Commercial. The men to whose criminality and folly must be charged the invasion of our Free State communities, by the houseless, homeless, penniless, shiftless hordes of Negro slaves, affect to laugh at the black man's calamity, and mock at the very natural fear manifested by the white people. They find it very laughable, indeed, that these unfortunate freedmen should offer to work at ten cents a day.
"It is so very funny to see the poor wretches, deprived of the guardianship which once provided them with food and raiment and shelter, now turned out upon the streets and highways, without a roof to shelter them from the storm, with a morsel of bread to appease their hunger, with none to care for or look after them, and impelled by imminent starvation to offer the toil of a day for the wretched pittance which will barely purchase bread for the day. It is a grim joke; but there are monsters who laugh at it.
“This very laughable affair has another feature which will probably be considered extremely funny. Every Negro that is hired at ten or twenty cents per day throws a white man out of employ, and must inevitably reduce the daily wages of those who are still so fortunate as to find employment. Is not this matter for increased merriment? The spectacle of a white man and his family deprived of the comforts of life, or haggard from absolute destitution, because of the influx of Negroes, whom meddling fanatics have cursed with a freedom for which their race is not fitted, will probably cause more joyous, hilarious, uproarious laughter among the monsters than the less funny spectacle of a gaunt, enfeebled Negro tatterdemalion (person dressed in ragged clothes) working at one cent per hour to keep his soul and body together.”
I offer these remnants from local history in an effort to “tell it like it was.” In doing so, I hope people can better understand the tremendous strides that have been made in race relations and also better comprehend that ethnocentric hatred still lingers in xenophobic, prejudiced individuals. So many stereotypes used to describe “the unwanted masses” of the past remain as do the same adverse conditions that confronted black slaves who made a desperate, mad dash to freedom.
I cannot stop in thee;
I'll travel on to Canada,
Where colored men are free.
M.C. Sampson, free Negro, 1833