THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL.
“Vindicate the ways of God, to man”
LIPPINOOTT, GRAMBO& CO.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854 by
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the. United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
“The same morning as was sat by the Dalphin-foimtain, and threw harley bread to the lame swan; he gave us this precept, with its glosses: that for the truth, perspicuity is the only ornament of style; the rhetorical. and that in the matter of the, piled and handy nakedness (nuditas palastica) is better, for convection and dramatic drapery, for entertainment This plainness, which, said he again, la logical neatness, is grateful not to the popular, many, but to the philosophic few. He -then added somewhat abruptly, that public option is not the’ opinion of the public Seeing some of the younger of us smile he explained at once. He simply meant, he said, that the popular, changed the philosophic, opinion; or that in other word the thinkers rule, and must be first convinced. The conference on the Greek Styles then ended; and we all rose, and left the fountain.15
Warrantees’ right to philosophic or educational power, order, and liberty is not yet actualized. If justice economically authorized it; the educational means or power might be added to wages. If not this; any other method following justice.
But political independently of economic justice, does not now authorize the systematic education of warrantees, The warranteeism of the United States South, is that with the ethnical qualification. The existence-rights of both or of one of these races, now forbids to the other, this progress- right. The educational is at present antagonistic to the political system. This antagonism is accidental and temporary. It is not necessary or natural to warranteeism. It is due to a temporary outside fact This fact is from an error which confounds essentials and accidentals; which is rather aggressive against the greater good essential, than progressive from the lesser had accidental. It is bad opposition from good disposition. It is philanthropy in design, and misanthropy in deed. But between warrantors and warrantees, there is naturally no educational antagonism. The educational and economic systems, are synta-gonistic. So algo, the political and educational systems; but this, only after the political fact as it is, shall be the political fact as it ought to be.
In the United States South, the rights of Warrantees under the political system, we such as are just. Their political status is not wrong. It is right; it is from duty; it is a moral necessity. They have now the political power, order, and liberty to which they are rightly entitled; neither more nor less.
In the civil government of republics, the people are the sovereign. They are the supreme orderer. But republics are representative governments; the sovereign people constitute representatives. These representatives in their capacity as such, are magistrates; or supersovereign. In the political system, they are the orderers. They adapt and regulate. But all the people are not sovereign or supersovereign. Some only are sovereign. These are such alone as are peculiarly qualified. They must be males. They must be of a certain age. They must be of sound mind. They must be residents. In some commonwealth, property qualifications, are necessary; in some, religious qualifications. There may be other qualifications just or unjust.
All other people in the State, who are not sovereign people, are subsovereign. To this class belong women, minors, criminals, lunatics and idiots, aliens, and all others unqualified or disqualified.
Such, the three classes of people. In republics, all are represented. The representatives or orderers, represent and are responsible to their constituents, the sovereign people. But these are not constituents only; they likewise represent the class of subsovereign people; these are constituents of these. A man represents his family. This is special; he also represents the interests of other subsovereigns; this, his general duty.
The representation of all is thus actualized.
Duties are coupled to relations. By the common law, a, natural person’s relations under the civil government are public or private By the common law, private relations are those of master and servant, husband and wife, patent and child, guardian and ward.
In warrantee commonwealths, public relations are those of magistrates and people; or orderers and orderees. Magistrates are legislators, executors and adjudicators. To these the relations of the people, are those of orderees. The people are therefore, legislatees, executees and adjudicatees. The magistrates are adapters and regulators; the people, adaptees and regulatees.
In republics in which the warranteeism is that with the ethnical qualification, the warrantees are subsovereign. They, have not the right of sovereignty. That is not their due; it is unjust; it is wrong. Warrantees have the right of representation. But they have not the right of political constitution. Neither ought they; they are not entitled to it Subsovereignty is the right of warrantees. Their sovereignty is the wrong of warrantors, and others.
In the warrantee commonwealths of the United States who therefore, ought to be the sovereign people? Who ought to be the supreme power in the warrantee States? There, warranteeism with the ethnical qualification is ordained and established. What is the effect of this qualification ? The people are of two races. They are ethnically related to each other. But because every act has a moral quality; with every relation, duties are coupled. These races in their ethnical relations, differ from each other in beauty; in color; in the inclination, shape, and direction of the pile; in the conformation of their body, and in other physiological respects.
The black race must be civilly either (1), Subsovereign, (2), Sovereign, or (3), Supersovereign. If not Subsovereign, they must be co-sovereign. The white race may also be Subsovereign, sovereign, or supersovereign. If both races are promiscuously sovereign; that is co-sovereignty. The white race is now and has been sovereign; the black, subsovereign. This, the historical fact.
The black race ought not to be admitted to co-sovereignty. It. is wrong: it is in violation of moral duty.
These races physiologically must be either equal or unequal. They must be either peers ethnically, or not peers. If not peers ethnically, the black race must be either superior or inferior. If superior, their ethnical progress forbids amalgamation with an inferior race. If the white race is superior; their ethnical progress forbids intermix tare frith an inferior race.
But races must progress. Men have not political or economic duties only. They have hygienic duties. Hygiene is both ethnical and ethical; moral duties are coupled to the relation of races. Races must not be wronged. Hygienic progress is a right. It is a right, because a duty. But hygienic progress forbids ethnical regress. Morality therefore, which commands general progress, prohibits this special regress. The preservation and progress of a race, is a moral duty of the races. Degeneration is evil It is a sin. That sin is extreme. Hybridism is heinous Impurity of races is against the law of nature. Mulattoes are monsters The law of nature is the law of God. The same law which forbids consanguineous amalgamation; forbids ethnical amalgamation. Both are incestuous. Amalgamation is incest.
But the relation of the two races to each other, is moral: every relation has an ethical quality: ethics is ethnic. Moral hygienic duties must not be violated. For progress must he developed, and regress, enveloped. Polity therefore—the duty of the State—prohibits the sovereignty of the black race. Because, if the black race are sovereign, they must he. co-sovereign. If not politically subordinate or superordinate; they must be politically coordinate. But the black and white race must not be co-sovereign; they must not be politically coordinate. They must be, the one subordinate, and the other, superordinate. They must not be aggregated; they must be segregated. They must be civilly pure and simple from each other. This is a hygienic ethnical necessity. It is the duty, of caste to prevent amalgamation: it is, caste for the purity of races. for, political amalgamation is ethnical amalgamation, One makes the other: that is the immediate, invariable antecedent of this. Subsovereignty is necessary for segregation, and both necessary to duty.
Political amalgamation is sexual amalgamation: one is a cause of the other. There must be either caste or co-sovereignty: this is the alternative to that For power to rule, is power to marry, and the power to repeal or annul discriminating laws.
In States, the intercourse of sexes is either (1), Lawful or (2), Unlawful. Marriage is lawful intercourse. Of two races in a State, marriage may be (1), Between males and females of the same race; (2), Between males of one race and females of the other race; or, (3), Miscellaneously, between males and females of both races.
Of marriage, the motives or springs of action are such as are either (1), Matrimonial, or, (2), Extramatrimonial. Love is a matrimonial motive. Extramatrimonial motives are such as avarice or the desire of wealth; and ambition or the desire of power.
If therefore, marriage miscellaneously between too races, is lawful; the motives will he both matrimonial and extramatrimonial. Females of the inferior will elect males of the superior race. This, from natural preference, which is matrimonial; or from ambition, which is extra-matrimonial. Males of the superior race will from avarice, ambition, or other extramatrimonial motives, elect females of the inferior race. These motives are certain; and certainly of motive, is certainty of movement; certainty of cause, certainty of effect If therefore, intermarriage of races, is lawful; intermarriage will he actual the cause, curtain; the effect will he certain. The law must
Source Database: Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century
Miscegenation, the practice of interracial sex and marriage, became a social and political issue in British North America as early as the seventeenth century, when Maryland and Virginia banned marriages between whites and people of other races. Relations between white men and black women generally caused legislators far less concern than did relations between white women and men of color. The laws were designed to curtail formal relations that exemplified racial equality; interracial competition for white women; the birth of mixed-race children to white women; and access by people of color to property by means of marriage or inheritance.
By law and custom, interracial relations were discouraged in the United States, although the specifics varied from place to place and from time to time, and miscegenation laws were not always enforced. Some statutes established penalties of ten years or even life in prison; others imposed neither fines nor imprisonment. Among the thirteen original states, all had laws against interracial marriage except New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey; Pennsylvania repealed its law in 1780, as did Massachusetts in 1843. Among the thirty-five new states that joined the Union by 1912, only Kansas, New Mexico, and Washington (aside from a brief period each prior to statehood), and Vermont, Minnesota, and Wisconsin failed to enact such laws. Some far western states demonstrated as much concern regarding whites’ marriages with people of Asian ancestry as with those of African ancestry.
The term “miscegenation” originated during the Civil War, replacing “amalgamation,” when two Democratic newspapermen from the New York World, David Goodman Croly (1829-1889) and George Wakeman (d. 1870), published a hoax pamphlet during the 1864 presidential campaign, designed to portray Republicans as avowed advocates of interracial sexual relations, particularly between black men and white women. The mere fabrication by Croly and Wakeman indicates how salient the question was, as Republicans in the 1860s struggled to foster enhanced rights of African Americans.
In 1865 to 1866, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and emancipation, southern white legislators displayed their continued commitment to white power and privilege by retaining miscegenation laws or even imposing greater penalties than before. During the Republican years of Reconstruction, however, those laws often came under political attack or were challenged on constitutional grounds. Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana dropped their prohibitions of interracial marriage for a time during Reconstruction, and courts in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas briefly overturned miscegenation laws then. By the 1890s, however, those states had restored such laws and all the former Confederate states banned interracial marriage. Virginia had established a two- to-five-year term in the penitentiary for each partner in an interracial marriage; Alabama legislated a two- to-seven-year term.
Especially after the 1870s, courts almost uniformly ruled that miscegenation laws did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s clause requiring “equal protection of the laws.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a miscegenation statute in Pace v. Alabama (1883), a case in which Tony Pace, a black man, challenged an Alabama law that-in a legal environment in which he could not marry a white woman–established a higher penalty for his living with her outside marriage than he would have suffered had both parties been black or both white. Meanwhile, a number of northern states repealed their miscegenation statutes–lllinois in 1874; Rhode Island in 1881; Maine and Michigan in 1883; and Ohio in 1887–so such laws became an increasingly southern phenomenon. Miscegenation laws remained on the books in every former Confederate state until the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed them in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, when a white man and a black woman successfully challenged a Virginia law that made their marriage a felony.
— Wallenstein, Peter
Hodes, Martha. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.
Kaplan, Sidney. “The Miscegenation Issue in the Election of 1864.” Journal of Negro History 34 (July 1949): 274-343.
Wallenstein, Peter. “Race, Marriage, and the Law of Freedom: Virginia and Alabama, 1860s-1960s.” Chicago-Kent Law Review 70, No. 2 (1994): 371-437.
Williamson, Joel. New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States. New York: Free Press, 1980.
Source Citation: “Miscegenation.” Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Ml: Gale Group. http://aalenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/
Document Number: BT2350040259
Miscegenation and Intermarriage
Source Database: Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History
The word miscegenation was coined during the presidential campaign of 1864 (from the Latin miscere, “to mix,” and genus, “race”) when the Democratic party asserted that Lincoln’s Republican party advocated sex and marriage across the color line. Like mulatto, probably derived from the concept of mules and hybridity, the word was pejorative in its historical context.
People of European ancestry and people of African ancestry began reproducing together in America from their earliest contacts in the seventeenth-century South, when white servants and black slaves lived and labored together. Census counts of “mulattoes” (a category used in some, but not all, nineteenth-century U.S. census schedules) were subjectively based upon appearance, and while documentation of frequency can also be gathered from court records, slave narratives, and personal writings, such statistics are ultimately based on conjecture and are always cast in terms of proportions of European ancestry in the African-American population. With that said, perhaps 15 to 25 percent of African Americans in 1860 had some European ancestry; and perhaps 75 percent of modern-day African Americans do.
Colonial authorities wrote statutes against liaisons between Europeans and Africans from the 1660s forward, punishing liaisons between white women and black men most harshly. Under slavery, these laws largely reflected white fears of free African Americans. Because a child’s legal status as slave or free followed the mother, when white women and black men reproduced together, their children would be free, but of partial African ancestry, thereby eroding racial slavery. On the contrary, children of slave women and white men were legally slaves, and usually remained enslaved throughout their lives.
Under the antebellum southern slave system, the sexual exploitation of black women by white masters and overseers, or the explicit or implicit threat of it, was a constant burden for slave families. Most liaisons between black women and white men were exploitive; resistance, on the part of black women and men alike, was ever present though often ineffective, and southern courts very rarely concerned themselves with the assault or rape of black women. These broad patterns differed markedly only in New Orleans, in which a system called placage, essentially concubinage, coupled free women of color with white men through formal dances.
Beyond testimony of cruelty, and the constant factor of unequal power between black women and white men, it is difficult to discern any uniformity of treatment; beyond entitlement on the part of masters, and anger and humiliation on the part of female slaves, it is difficult to discern the emotions that accompanied such relations in the context of a slave regime.
Under slavery, white southern communities displayed a degree of toleration for sexual liaisons between white women and black men, though this toleration was never as great as that displayed for the much more frequent master-female slave pairing. Sexual encounters with planter-class women presented the gravest dangers for black men, while dominant ideology was likely to cast lower-class white women as depraved agents of such illicit actions.
In the antebellum North, some states (though not all) had laws against intermarriage, and regardless of the law, liaisons between African Americans and whites remained socially taboo at least through the Civil War.
After Emancipation, the topic of liaisons between white women and black men entered Congressional debates about the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, with Democrats linking black male suffrage with fears of marriage to white women. Determined to retain a racial hierarchy, white Southerners then conflated the new political power of black men with sexual transgressions against white women. The Reconstruction years thus saw the development of full-scale white hysteria about black male sexuality, thereby commencing an era of terrorism and lynching that rapidly spread north and west.
In the decades following Emancipation, the sexual coercion and assault of black women by white men continued in the South, especially as Reconstruction drew to a close. Marriages across the color line were illegal in the post-Reconstruction South, while some Northern states had repealed those laws. Other laws, in both the North and West, ranged from declaring such marriages null and void, to imposing fines, to imprisonment; they were largely enforced against white women and black men only.
People of mixed European and African ancestry have never been considered a separate “race” in this country, although both the African American and white communities of antebellum New Orleans, Charleston, S.C., Mobile, Ala., and Savannah, Ga., recognized a “mulatto” or “brown” class. By the late nineteenth century, the “one-drop rule,” which proclaimed that anyone with any known African ancestry would be classified as black, prevailed nationally.
While the numbers of mixed couples have increased in the second half of the twentieth century, percentages are still small; the majority of mixed couples since the end of World War II have been white women and black men, a phenomenon that caused considerable racial tension in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1970 there were 146 black-white married couples for every 100,000 married couples. In 1980 that number increased to 335 and in 1990, to 396. There are no reliable statistics on nonmarried couples. While recognizing legal sanctions as racist and a violation of rights, many African Americans have looked down on those who consorted with whites. As for dominant white attitudes, it was not until 1967, after nine years of trials and appeals in the case of Loving v. Virginia, that the United States Supreme Court ruled laws prohibiting marriages between blacks and whites unconstitutional; at that time, sixteen southern states had such laws.
The ongoing legacies of the legal and social history of this subject are apparent in issues ranging from the choice of racial categories on United States census forms, to the influence of racist ideology in sex crimes or alleged sex crimes, to antagonism from both white and black communities toward marriages and relationships across the color line.
– Martha E. Hodes
Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period. New York, 1978.
Hodes, Martha. “The Sexualization of Reconstruction Politics: White Women and Black Men in the South after the Civil War.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 3 (1993): 402-417.
Spickard, Paul R. Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America. Madison, Wis., 1989.
Williamson, Joel. New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States. New York, 1980.
Source Citation: “Miscegenation and Intermarriage.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1996. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Ml: Gale Group. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/
Document Number: BT2312228471
African Americans in New York City,
Leslie M. Harris
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637
The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London
© 2oo3-by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2003
Paperback edition 2004
Printed in. the United States of America
12 11 10 09 08 07 06 05 04 2 3 4 5
ISBN: 0-226-31774-9 (cloth)
ISBN; 0-226-31773-0 (paperback)
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Harris, Leslie M.
In the shadow of slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863 / Leslie M. Harris.
p. cm.—(Historical studies of urban America)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
isbn 0-226-31774-9 (cloth: alk. paper)
1. African Americans—New York (State)—New York—History. 2. New York (N.Y.)—History—Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775. 3. New York (N.Y.)—History— 1775-1865. 4. New York (N.Y.)—Race relations—History. I. Title. II. Series.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ansi Z39.48-1992.
The Long Shadow of Southern Slavery: Radical Abolitionists and Black Political Activism against Slavery and Racism
In the 1830s, a new coalition of black and white middle-class reformers challenged the racial order of the nation. These “radical abolitionists” called for an immediate end to southern slavery, unlike the gradual emancipation that whites had enacted in the North, and without plans to colonize free blacks. Radical abolitionists also pledged to fight racism by elevating “the character and condition of the people of color” so that blacks could “share an equality with whites, of civil and religious privileges.” The activism of New York City blacks, together with blacks from other cities, inspired much of the radicalism among whites on the issues of slavery and racism. Free blacks’ vociferous opposition to colonization in the 1820s and 1830s, as well as their establishment of annual national conventions in 1830, led some white supporters of colonization, such as William Lloyd Garrison, to rethink and then reject colonization as a solution to America’s problems of slavery, racism, and black poverty. White abolitionists were also inspired by the religious revivalism of the Second Great Awakening. Arthur and Lewis Tappan, who came to New York City from New England, were among those whose intense religious experiences motivated them to work to expunge the sins of slavery and racism from the nation. For the Tappans, Garrison, and other white radical abolitionists, the struggle against slavery and racism was part of a larger struggle for the moral perfection of the United States. Slavery and racism were the most degrading of a host of sins of which they hoped to cleanse the United States, ranging from intemperance to sexual promiscuity to nonobservance of the Sabbath.1
Blacks agreed that slavery and racism were immoral, but their opposition to them came from the direct threat these sins caused to their well-being. In New York City the racism of northern whites limited blacks’ abilities to educate themselves and find well-paying jobs. As debilitating to blacks was the long reach of southern slavery. Fugitive slaves fled to New York City seeking freedom, and New York City blacks welcomed them into their communities. But southern slaveholders and their agents also traveled to New York in search of their former slaves. As southerners sought fugitives, all blacks, regardless of their status, were subject to capture, for it was whites’ words against blacks’ that they were free.
The interracial radical abolitionist coalition offered blacks powerful new allies in the struggle against slavery and for racial equality. The unprecedented racial equality preached and practiced by white radical abolitionists led blacks to support the organized abolition movement across evolving class lines. New York City middle-class black reformers who had cooperated with the Manumission Society during the emancipation era, such as Samuel Cornish and Peter Williams Jr., united with white middle-class abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Lydia Maria Child nationally and the Tappan brothers in New York City. Working-class blacks, too, found ways to contribute to the new movement. The tactics of the abolitionist movement, such as the creation of local auxiliary organizations both before and after the organization of the interstate American Anti-Slavery Society; the focus on individual contributions to the struggle against slavery, ranging from prayer and individual moral reform to raising money through sewing bees to the boycotting of products produced with slave labor; and the respect that white abolitionists and particularly William Lloyd Garrison held for black opinions on colonization and antislavery, led many blacks to pledge their support to the new movement.2
The radicalism of the abolitionist movement led to opposition from proslavery, colonizationist, and racist whites of all classes. These groups feared the power of the new abolitionist coalition to upset the racial hierarchy north and south. New York City had important economic ties to the South, and merchants feared the alienation of southern slaveholders. Working-class whites feared losing jobs to blacks and resented the efforts of the abolitionists and other evangelical reformers to impose a new morality on them. In New York City, these whites also feared the economic and political power of reformers like the Tappans, who represented a new middle class whose vision of economics, politics, and morality potentially threatened their livelihoods. Anti-abolition whites attempted to discredit the abolitionist movement by charging abolitionists with encouraging amalgamation, or racial mixture that included socializing in integrated settings, casual sex, and intermarriage. The charges of amalgamation highlighted some whites’ fears that blacks would achieve economic and political power in New York City through association with abolitionist whites. Such fears resulted in the 1834 anti-abolition riots, the worst riots in antebellum New York City.
The 1834 riots cooled the radicalism of New York City’s abolitionists. Black middle-class abolitionists refocused their efforts on the moral and material reform of the black community. White abolitionists who had not anticipated the violence with which their calls for racial equality would be met backed away from addressing the material problems of northern free blacks to focus on eradicating southern slavery. The abolitionist movement also divided over the ways blacks should work against slavery and for racial equality. Some of these divisions were class based. Because anti-abolition, colonizationist, and racist whites used the poverty of many free blacks and their allegedly immoral activities to support arguments for racial inequality, black and white middle-class abolitionists focused on working-class blacks as crucial to solving the problems of racism in the North and slavery in the South. For these abolitionists, the end. of slavery required not only that southern slaveholders realize their own sinfulness, but also that free blacks demonstrate their moral worthiness and equality. Thus, middle-class abolitionists focused on converting all blacks to the evolving middle-class ideals of moral arid social improvement, such as classical education, temperance, and religiosity. Middle-class abolitionists also tried to control the participation of the black masses in the struggle to protect fugitive slaves in New York City. Middle-class abolitionists advocated nonphysical ways to fight against slavery and for racial equality, such as moral suasion, nonresistance, and legal action, Abolitionists should convince others of the sinfulness of slavery through propaganda campaigns, petitions to government, and refusal to participate in economic systems that upheld slavery. Physical or defensive force should not be used to protect fugitives. Rather, blacks accused of being fugitives should fight for their freedom only through the courts. These were tenets of abolitionist activism aimed at everyone regardless of class or race, though in some cases, abolitionists explicitly attempted to limit the participation of blacks whom they deemed uneducated or unruly.3
Abolitionists, black and white, were participating in the process of defining middle and working classes, consciously and unconsciously. In their own eyes, they advocated a new moral standard for all, regardless of class. But the rejection of their moral ideologies by both black and white working classes, albeit for different reasons, meant that they developed new meanings of what it meant to be middle class, based on morality as well as economic success.4 When dealing with the economic, political, and social problems of blacks, both white and black abolitionists tried to conflate class and racial identities. By advocating certain ideological stances as best for blacks ‘as a race, abolitionists tried to remove the class implications of such ideologies. Both black and white abolitionists advocated moral and intellectual reform out of a sincere belief in its efficacy for solving the problems of race in America. But black middle-class abolitionists occupied a special relationship to the reforms aimed at the black working class, The fate of the black middle class or aspiring middle class was bound inextricably with that of the black working class in a society that saw all blacks as inferior and defined that inferiority partially in class terms. Black abolitionists, reacting to the race- and class-based assumptions of inferiority promulgated by the society at large, sought both to control the black working class and also to define themselves in relation to that class. Discussions of the problems of working-class blacks were often cloaked in the unifying language of racial community. Black middle-class reformers thus attempted to create a united black community that would be a reproduction of themselves: their own moral, political, social, and intellectual goals and desires. This kind of black community, they believed, could not be denied equality in the United States.
Middle-class abolitionists’ advocacy of certain tactics heightened class divisions among blacks. The solutions to racial inequality promulgated by both black and white middle-class abolitionists were increasingly markers of ideological differences between the black middle class and working class. A few blacks began to question the prescriptions for success spelled out by abolitionists. Some simply claimed working-class identities and pleasures privately, implicitly challenging moral perfectionism as the only way to prove black equality. Others, such as the porter Peter Paul Simons, publicly attacked moral suasion, nonresistance,- and intellectual elevation as ways to achieve racial equality. Simons advocated manly physical struggle and greater public roles for women, forcing more conservative black middle- class abolitionists such as Samuel Cornish to defend their political methods. Some black middle-class activists, most notably David Ruggles, founder of the New York Committee of Vigilance, attempted but failed to find a middle ground between the tactics of middle-class radical abolitionists and those of black workers in order to create a more inclusive movement against slavery and for racial equality. These tensions over the best tactics to fight slavery and racism were mirrored in the larger abolitionist movement and resulted in the split in the abolitionist forces by 1840.
■ ■ ■
For free blacks across the North, 1829 was a turning point to greater radicalism, That year, the American Convention of Abolition Societies openly declared its support of the American Colonization Society. In Cincinnati, Ohio, a three-day riot by whites who feared the increase in the free black population that had occurred there in the 1820s drove two thousand blacks out of the city to Canada. In September of that year, David Walker published his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, Walker, a runaway slave from North Carolina who had settled in Boston, set off a storm of fear among southern whites as his pamphlet, with its fiery call for physical action by blacks to achieve racial freedom and justice, turned up in the hands of free blacks and slaves there. Not all parts of Walker’s argument appealed to reform-minded blacks and whites. Black and white reformers, particularly religious leaders, probably agreed with Walker’s call to educated “men of colour” to “enlighten your brethren!” But blacks and whites questioned Walker’s justification of the violent uprising of southern slaves, even as a last resort against whites who refused to cease their abuse of blacks. Still, the increase in support for colonization, the Cincinnati riot, and Walker’s pamphlet called blacks to action and increased the number of whites sympathetic to immediate abolition and antiracism.5
For a few years prior to 1829, blacks in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore had toyed with the idea of holding a “national” convention of free people of color to address the pressing issues of the day: emigration to Canada or Liberia as well as the struggle for black freedom and racial equality in the United States. The events of 1829 spurred them to action. In September 1830, Philadelphian Richard Allen, founder and bishop of the A.M.E. Bethel Church, called a meeting to form an organization that would improve the condition of blacks in the United States but would also buy land and aid in the settlement of free blacks in Upper Canada. The majority of the delegates to the convention came from Philadelphia. Allen’s desire for leadership and tight control of the convention echoed his attempts to gain control over New York City’s black Methodist churches in the 1820s and discouraged the attendance of New Yorkers such as Christopher Rush, Samuel Cornish, and Peter Williams. But free blacks from Maine to Virginia watched with interest the first attempt by blacks to achieve an organized national presence, Although the convention movement largely reflected the goals and aspirations of black middle-class leaders throughout the antebellum period, it also served as a forum for cross-class debate of the issues of moral and economic improvement, emigration, and blacks’ role in the abolition of southern slavery.6
In 1831, the convention reassembled in Philadelphia with a broader platform of goals and broader geographical representation. (Allen had died a few weeks prior to the meeting.) New Yorkers Samuel Cornish, Peter Williams Jr.’, Henry Sipkins, William Hamilton, and Thomas Jennings were active participants, their numbers equaling that of the Philadelphians. In addition, delegates from Maryland, Delaware, Long Island, and Virginia attended and were joined in subsequent years by delegates from upstate New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Maine, and Washington, D.C. White antislavery activists William Lloyd Garrison of Boston, Arthur Tappan of New York, Benjamin Lundy of Washington, D.C., and Simeon S, Jocelyn of New Haven, Connecticut, also attended the 1831 convention. All had recently or were soon to reject colonization and convert to the doctrine of immediatism, which called for the immediate abolition of slavery, without guarantees of compensation to slave owners, colonization of freed blacks, or any form of “apprenticeship” freedom for former slaves.7
The desires of free blacks and the perfectionist beliefs of religious revivalists like Charles Grandison Finney inspired this new group of white antislavery activists. Although William Lloyd Garrison was deeply affected by the religious revivalism of the 1820s and 1830s, his position against colonization also grew out of his contacts with the black Baltimore community while he assisted Lundy with his newspaper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, in the late 1820s. In 1831, soon after he founded his own newspaper, the Liberator, Garrison traveled to black communities in half a dozen cities, including New York, pledging to devote his life to the service of blacks who had suffered at the hands of whites for so long. Additionally, Garrison publicized what he had learned on this tour about blacks’ anticolonization views in his 1832 work Thoughts on African Colonization. In the first half of the book, Garrison repudiated his previous alliance with the American Colonization Society. He devoted the second half of the book to blacks’ thoughts on colonization, as expressed in anticolonization meetings and resolutions in Philadelphia, New York, and other cities. Garrison’s willingness to listen to blacks’ thoughts about their own destiny and to allow them to shape his views on colonization, slavery, and racial equality led blacks to embrace Garrison wholeheartedly. Blacks provided the majority of the funds for the Liberator in its first years of existence and peddled the newspapers in cities across the North.8
In contrast, the conversion to the cause of immediatism of New York merchant Arthur Tappan and, later, his brother Lewis was based more on perfectionist religious ideology than on contacts with free blacks. Perfectionist reformers believed that the world around them could achieve moral perfection, free from sin. Eventually, the Tappans came to believe that slavery was the greatest of sins in the United States, but they were also concerned with other evils such as alcohol and prostitution. Their belief in perfectionism did not necessarily lead to greater faith in the abilities of blacks to survive in the United States. Although Arthur Tappan’s visit to the Convention of the Free People of Color in 1831 was a turning point in his awareness of the conditions and aspirations of northern free blacks, he did not openly reject colonization as a solution to slavery until two years later. The temperate Tappan’s disillusionment with the American Colonization Society stemmed partly from his knowledge of blacks’ opposition to colonization, but also from the fact that rum was the Colonization Society’s chief import into Liberia. When the society refused to stop shipping spirits to Liberia, Tappan resigned. Throughout the 1830s, both Arthur and Lewis Tappan held a more conservative attitude toward methods of achieving the abolition of slavery and the equality of blacks than did Garrison. Arthur Tappan initially favored an apprenticeship system to ease the transition from slavery to freedom in the South, such as the British had implemented in Jamaica and similar to gradual emancipation in New York. The New York-based antislavery newspaper founded by Arthur Tappan and Charles Denison, the Emancipator, was less fiery in its rhetoric than Garrison’s Liberator.9
The range of opinions between Garrison and the Tappans would be both a strength and a source of division in the national antislavery movement after 1834.10 In 1831, however, the formation of the interracial but white- dominated American Anti-Slavery Society was still a few years off, Blacks were more organized in their goals regarding slavery and racism than were whites. What Garrison, Arthur Tappan, and the others brought to the 1831 black convention was the possibility that they could provide money and property for the conventioneers’ plans to educate blacks. The white activists suggested that blacks and whites work together to create a college “for the liberal education of Young Men of Colour, on the Manual Labor System.” This manual labor school would combine moral and intellectual uplift with practical means to alleviate economic distress among laboring blacks, much as the African Free Schools had. “Young Men of Colour” educated on the manual labor system were to obtain both a classical education and “a useful Mechanical or Agricultural profession.” Such education would help alleviate the “present ignorant and degraded condition” of free blacks and “elevate the general character of the coloured population.” Blacks and whites would work together on the project, but blacks would control the school and form a majority of the school’s trustees. The school was never built. But the discussion around the manual labor school plan, as well as the reasons for its failure, reveal the evolving class and race ideologies of this new interracial coalition, which in a few years would lead the most radical attack on slavery and racism New York and the United States had yet witnessed.11
The manual labor school model on which the conventioneers based their plans was not initially designed to outfit individuals for careers as manual laborers. American theological seminaries adapted the manual labor school from European models, hoping this method of education would strengthen the bodies of students without impairing their mental abilities. The manual labor system theoretically would enable poorer students to work their way through school by farming, making and selling furniture, and perhaps even constructing school buildings. Middle-class abolitionists in the early 1830s turned to the manual labor system because they thought that the instruction of middle-class students in manual labor would alleviate the middle class’s growing distaste for physical labor. For middle-class abolitionists, the manual labor school was a way to decrease evolving class divisions and instill respect among the middle class for all in society.12
By 1834, most American educators had begun to question the combination of manual and intellectual pursuits in schools. “The calling of the laborer is as honorable, useful and important as that of the student, but these two callings do not require the same kind of training, either physically or intellectually; nor is the physical system of the student to be kept in the same condition with that of the laborer,” stated one.13 On a more practical level, students who had hoped to work their way through school often did not have the mechanical or agricultural experience to do so successfully. But the manual labor system remained popular through the 1850s at abolitionist schools such as the Oneida Institute in upstate New York and Oberlin in Ohio.14
Neither mainstream nor abolitionist manual labor schools were designed to prepare their students for manual labor occupations, but the dual nature of education (manual and mental) inherent in the structure of the manual labor system particularly suited black and white reformers’ goals for free blacks. At the 1831 convention, both blacks and whites saw the school as a way around the exclusion of free black male workers from skilled apprenticeships in the North. The school could employ skilled craftsmen who would train blacks outside of the racially exclusive apprenticeship system in northern cities. But providing intellectual and moral education to blacks was just as important to supporters of the school. The children of the poor would “receive a regular classical education, as well as those of their more opulent brethren.” The school would also provide an institutional basis for inculcating morals into free blacks. For middle-class blacks, the “present ignorant and degraded condition” of many working-class blacks reinforced the racist perceptions of blacks held by proslavery and colonizationist whites. Black reformers recognized that blacks had had few opportunities “for mental cultivation or improvement” but saw blacks’ lack of education as detrimental to the fight for racial equality.15 The black conventioneers identified the school as a way to combat whites’ claims of black inferiority.
The abolitionists’ focus on moral and intellectual training also reflected a desire to give blacks opportunities to move beyond working-class status. Black leaders of the 1830s believed that blacks’ low economic and social status reinforced whites’ racism. The American Colonization Society’s negative characterizations of northern free blacks as poor, as well as disproportionately criminal and reliant on public funds, encouraged this belief. In New York in particular, the 1821 suffrage law that gave political equality to blacks who proved their worth by achieving 250 dollars in property also implied that racism could be erased by movement beyond a lower-class status. These images and realities, combined with white workers’ refusal to work with blacks in skilled jobs, led the conventioneers to focus their energies on providing blacks not only with skilled training, but with something beyond skilled training—the intellectual skills and moral conditioning that they saw as necessary to move blacks economically, socially, and politically out of the realm of workers, into a more middle-class status. For New Yorkers, this would increase the number of black men who could participate in society as full, voting citizens.
The convention’s focus on improving blacks’ morality and class and citizenship status meant that the manual labor school project focused on the education and occupational training of young men. The all-male conventioneers never referred to the education of women in connection with the project. Many conventioneers may have felt that black women had already achieved a greater degree of morality than black men. Black women numerically dominated black church congregations, and in 1833 the conventioneers noted that “societies for mental improvement” had been established “particularly among the females.” But more important, women could not bring full citizenship status to the black community because no woman could vote. And to the degree that citizenship also implied public participation in political debate, many conventioneers may have believed that women should not speak in public.16
Such beliefs were shared by blacks in Boston, who had driven writer and orator Maria Stewart from the city in 1833. Stewart’s experiences in Boston and her migration to New York City illustrate the limits black people placed on black women’s political activism, She and her husband, James, a ship’s outfitter with a substantial income, were associates of David Walker. After James’s death in 1829 and Walker’s in 1830, Stewart’s religious commitment deepened, inspiring her to begin to work for greater justice and equality for blacks. In 1831, she went to the Boston offices of William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator and presented Garrison with her first manuscript, a political essay encouraging blacks to demand their rights. Garrison was immediately drawn to Stewart and published many of her writings in his newspaper and later in pamphlet form. By 1832, Stewart had begun to deliver her addresses before secular, “promiscuous” audiences (audiences containing men and women). In both her writings and her speeches, she made women’s rights central to the struggles for black freedom and equality. But by 1833, the black community’s criticism of her outspokenness led Stewart to flee Boston, finding “no use for me as an individual to try to make myself useful among my color in this city.” Stewart settled in New York, worked as a schoolteacher, and participated in black women’s literary and benevolent societies. She may have lectured occasionally in the city, but the Colored American did not cover these events. Her public silence, whether real or created by New York City blacks’ conservative attitudes to black women’s participation in political activities, appears to have been typical of many of New York City’s black women. Black women were active in separate benevolent and literary societies in New York, but until the 1850s black men excluded them from public political leadership.17
Blacks did believe that women had an important role in improving the morality of the black community. In the 1830s, black male reformers and black women themselves created roles for black women as teachers in black schools and as organizers of benevolent and literary associations, These roles paralleled the mainstream emphasis on women’s roles as inculcators of moral values in children and ultimately in the wider society. Women did this through moral example and direct instruction in the domestic sphere. The domestic sphere also extended to associational gatherings on behalf of benevolent or intellectual causes, and these associations brought black women into the public sphere, albeit in initially proscribed ways. Black women were central to the first religious congregations but did not function as ministers or deaconesses in organized churches. Rather, women founded benevolent and literary societies under the umbrella of black congregations, and sometimes with the explicit leadership of men. In 1828, Peter Williams Jr. chaired the inaugural meeting of the African Dorcas Association and John Russwurm served as secretary. African Free Schools principal Charles Andrews had already drawn up a constitution for the association, which was to be composed of “Female[s] of Colour of a good moral character.” Manumission Society members lectured the meeting, which included women, on the need for the association, which would provide clothing for needy African Free Schools students. Four men, including Samuel Cornish, took the names “of all who feel desirous of joining the new Society.” Subsequently, the women elected their own officers and members and submitted notices to black newspapers announcing their meetings and encouraging cash and clothing donations, but they appear to have retained a male advisory board.18
Six years later, the founding of the Ladies Literary Society of the City of New York displayed the increased self-confidence of black women in public organizing. This confidence grew out of women’s involvement in the Dorcas Association; the two organizations shared leadership. Henrietta Ray served as secretary to the Dorcas Association as Henrietta Regulus; in 1834, she served as first president of the Ladies Literary Society. The Literary Society reflected the increased public speaking roles of women. Literary societies generally, black and white, allowed both men and women to practice the arts of written and oral expression. Members might read books or their own essays aloud, or even perform musical or dramatic pieces. These activities resembled familiar domestic–sphere activities, in which women might read aloud or perform for each other or for family members. Literary societies stretched the boundaries of the domestic sphere. Female literary societies allowed women to speak publicly, first among themselves, and then in front of audiences of men and women. Newspapers advertised their activities, inviting an unknown public, not simply family and close friends, to witness their readings and performances. Both men and women attended the third anniversary of the Ladies Literary Society, in which women gave addresses and performed music, poetry readings, and dramatic dialogues. The activities themselves, as well as their extensive coverage in Cornish’s Colored American, contrasted markedly with those of the African Dorcas Association a few years before.19
Black reformers believed that black women’s participation in literary and benevolent societies and maintenance of sheltered nuclear households could help all blacks achieve equality. But these activities and household practices were largely the domain of the middle class, For black reformers, the occupational and domestic lives of working-class black women could not move blacks ideologically or economically into the middle class or aid in the ideological struggle for black citizenship. Blacks and whites continued to view as degrading the domestic work most black women performed. Although sewing could lead women to own independent businesses as seamstresses or milliners, for most women needlework led them to labor at piecework, at home or in sweatshops. Theoretically, wages from such work might aid black families in improving their economic status, but in reality, employers paid black and white women’s work so poorly that their wages barely covered the basic necessities.20
At home, poor black women and their families relied on interfamilial networks of aid; their families were not sheltered in nuclear households. Living practices in which families shared apartments with single boarders or in which parents boarded their children with neighbors while they worked were common. Households were not delimited by biological ties, nor families by household spaces. Middle-class blacks were not immune to such arrangements. Henrietta Ray lived with Samuel Cornish and his wife for several years while her husband Charles worked as an agent and traveling reporter for Cornish’s Colored American. Other black activists also traveled as agents or lecturers for the abolitionist cause, leaving families at home. But middle-class blacks saw such arrangements as temporary and did not judge them as they did working-class living arrangements, Working-class blacks’ living situations were subject to intrusions by reformers such as Samuel Cornish, who visited black families to judge their fitness as part of the enrollment process of the African Free Schools. Working-class black families may have desired more privacy, or at least the ability to choose, but the fiscal fragility of their lives limited their options.21
The black male delegates to the Convention of the Free People of Color ascribed to middle-class views of men’s and women’s roles. They sought to make black men the sole breadwinners in their families. Black women should use their domestic skills to improve their own families, rather than working for white families at the expense of their own. These ideals were nearly impossible for the majority of black families to achieve—including the families of conventioneers themselves. But the convention’s focus on elevating the citizenship status of blacks through middle-class methods meant that the male conventioneers ignored the education of black women as part of the manual labor school project.
Although blacks from New York and Philadelphia shared the leadership of the Convention of the Free People of Color, New Yorkers dominated the leadership of the manual labor school project. The black delegates from Philadelphia had been relatively successful in carving out a niche in the urban economy there. Convention delegates such as William Whipper and James Forten parlayed their skills as woodsawyers and sailmakers into substantial fortunes. Robert Purvis inherited a large sum from his white father, a cotton broker who had moved from Charleston, South Carolina, to Philadelphia with his mulatto wife and children in 1819. Further, the link between property ownership and voting in Philadelphia was not explicit as in New York, Under Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary War—era constitution, anyone who paid a certain amount in taxes could vote, resulting in access to suffrage for 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s men. When Pennsylvania legislators revised the constitution in 1838, they kept tax payment as the basis of suffrage, but excluded blacks completely. Thus, white Pennsylvanians excluded blacks from the polls by threats and physical force before 1838, and by race afterward.22
In contrast, none of the New York delegates, with the possible exception of restaurateur Thomas Downing, were as wealthy as the Philadelphia delegates, Although both cities contained large numbers of poor blacks who needed skilled training, the New York delegates appear to have been more understanding of the difficulties of life for poor blacks than the Philadelphians, probably from personal experience. Samuel Cornish, general agent for the school, and members of the New York-based Executive Committee (Peter Williams Jr., Philip Bell, Thomas Downing, Peter Vogelsang, and Boston Crummell) were middle class or aspiring to that status. But few professional New York City blacks in the 1830s were able to maintain a middle- class standard of living without resort to some form of manual labor. The lives of some of these men were a mixture of middle-class status or aspirations and working-class occupations. Samuel Cornish had been the pastor of a black church as well as a founder of Freedom’s Journal and its successors, the Rights of All and the Colored American. But Cornish opened a shoemaker’s shop in 1836 to augment his income, Philip Bell was coeditor of the Colored American and kept an intelligence office, which for a fee matched up employers seeking domestic servants with employees. But he also peddled coal to make ends meet. Boston Crummell, the father of Alexander Crummell, the black minister and leader, harvested and sold oysters. He was prosperous enough to contribute funds to the founding of Freedom’s Journal and, it was rumored, to hire a white teacher to tutor his children outside of their classes at the African Free Schools. But his occupation ranked low in terms of social status,23 Perhaps because of their own precarious financial situations, these men sought to remove blacks from reliance on casual or unskilled labor, Such labor was poorly paid and would not help blacks attain the property necessary to vote. Additionally, wary whites of all classes continued to view unskilled or casual labor as degrading; thus, such labor was ideologically harmful to the cause of black equality.
Although New York’s blacks may have seen in the manual labor school an opportunity for the elevation of the black community beyond the working class, the reasons behind white support of the school were not the same. New York merchant Arthur Tappan’s support of the manual labor school project was part of his evolution from colonizationist to radical abolitionist, and his views on labor were bound up in that transformation. As a supporter of colonization in the late 1820s, Tappan was also a founding member of the short-lived Society for the Encouragement of Faithful Domestic Servants in New-York. Not coincidentally, the organization formed in 1826 as slavery drew to an end in New York, and as the first wave of Irish immigrants entered the city and moved into domestic work. The society’s organizers felt that “the number of faithful and respectable servants in our city, has, latterly, been quite inadequate to our wants.” Reasons for this shortage included “the very genius of our government,” a veiled reference to emancipation. Additionally, though, domestics may have tried to find jobs that paid better, that gave them greater independence, or as the society noted, jobs “which the pride of servants leads them to consider as being more reputable than their own.” Domestic work was difficult and dirty; additionally, female and male domestics feared physical and sexual abuse in the intimate home environment.
But most trying to employers was what they perceived as their servants’ “love of incessant change,” or the movement of domestics from household to household in search of better situations. Servants changed jobs for many reasons, including better wages, family obligations, or illness. Female domestics may have sought other jobs after marriage or opted to stay home with their own families. But the primary concern of Tappan’s organization was the disruption to middle-class households caused by domestics’ alleged “love of change,” rather than the conditions that led to such change. As the society stated in its first annual report, “we are very dependent upon our Domestic Servants for a large share of our daily family comforts . . . bad Servants are alone sufficient, if not to destroy, at least to mar, much of the calm happiness of domestic life.” The society tried to discourage domestics from leaving their jobs by rewarding “faithful and respectable” servants with cash prizes and public recognition. The society also established an intelligence office to assist both “masters and servants” in obtaining mutually pleasing situations. Through such rewards, the society hoped to inculcate domestic servants with pride in their work, even though it was humble. “There is nothing inherent in republicanism,” the society stated, “which incapacitates the humble in life from filling the unobtrusive, but not unimportant, station of servant, with proper humility and faithfulness. Such a person forms one of the connecting links by which society is bound together, and the meanest link in the chain is of cardinal importance to the rest.”24
Tappan remained on the board of managers of the Society for the Encouragement of Faithful Domestic Servants until it dissolved in 1830. But Tappan’s concern with inculcating workers with morality, good work habits, “loyalty,” and acceptance of low-paying, low-status occupations continued. Tappan supported an apprenticeship system for freed southern slaves, which would perform the same end of teaching newly free workers habits of industry. Thus, Tappan’s support of the manual labor school project may have come mostly from a desire to form loyal, moral workers, and less from a desire to elevate blacks to the middle class, Tappan’s goal to educate blacks did not necessarily mean that blacks should move beyond the working class.25 Probably none of the other white supporters of the school were initially concerned with such issues either.
The goals of the various constituencies in support of the manual labor school project in the 1830s were not forced to a resolution in practice, however, for the school was never built. Garrison, Arthur Tappan, and the other white visitors to the 1831 convention gave the black conventioneers one year to. raise the twenty thousand dollars necessary for the establishment of the school in New Haven, Connecticut. Tappan also bought land for the school near Yale University. But a protest rally of seven hundred of New Haven’s white residents against the school stalled the project in 1831. Samuel Cornish and his agents continued to collect money for the school but were unable to. find a new site on which to build. Most predominantly white towns in the northeast feared that the establishment of black schools would increase their black populations. Additionally, Arthur Tappan’ retreated from full support of the project, skeptical that other communities would welcome the school if the “friendly, generous, pious and humane” residents of New Haven had not. The newly formed New England Anti-Slavery Society also attempted to raise funds for the school, but was unsuccessful.26
Divisions among blacks as to the purpose of the school also contributed to the downfall of the project. In 1834, black Philadelphians took over leadership of the school project. William Whipper, Robert Purvis, James Forten, and other Philadelphians were less concerned with the material elevation of blacks than with the moral reform not only of the black community, but of the entire nation. Whipper led the establishment of the American Moral Reform Society, which at the 1835 convention gained control of the manual labor school project. The Moral Reform Society’s control of the school project led to a greater concern with the personal morality of blacks. The Philadelphians believed that moral improvement was the best way for blacks to improve their status. Although morality and economics were related in the minds of New Yorkers, the emphasis of the Philadelphians on individual moral reform provided fewer options for collective or material means to provide working-class blacks with employment. Samuel Cornish said of the society that they were “vague, wild, indefinite and confused in their views.” Not opposed to moral reform, Cornish noted that the Cranberry Moral Reform Society, auxiliary to the American Moral Reform Society, had in its constitution made “definite” plans to reform “the people of color of Cranberry” by giving “the rising generation a good education, and instructing them in some’ useful occupation; second, by the general diffusion of useful knowledge among all classes of adult persons; third, by promoting among us the moral virtues of Christian graces, and the refinements of civilized life.” Cornish and other black New Yorkers linked material improvement to moral improvement more strongly than most Philadelphia leaders.27
Additionally, the Philadelphians who founded the American Moral Reform Society did not want to build a school that would serve only blacks, Conventions, schools, and other organizations and institutions that invited only blacks to participate reinforced the lines of race, and thus racism. Despite the fact that blacks had far less access to skilled training than whites, the Moral Reform Society voted in 1836 that any schools the society tried to establish should not be designated solely for “the free people of color,” but should address “the white as well as the colored community,” Black improvement should be subsumed in the improvement of all of American society, Additionally, the words “of color” and “colored, implied degradation” and should not be associated with institutions and other efforts made by blacks for their improvement. The Moral Reform Society’s refusal to address problems specific to blacks led many blacks to reject the society and refuse to give funds to the school.28
The Moral Reform Society also contributed to the foundering of the black convention movement after 1835. The Philadelphians and New Yorkers had struggled throughout the 1830s over leadership of the convention movement, In 1836, the Moral Reform Society scheduled its first meeting in Philadelphia at the same time that New Yorkers in charge of the black convention had scheduled the annual meeting in New York. Although the New Yorkers ultimately did not hold a meeting that year, they also refused to attend the Moral Reform Society’s meeting. Such infighting led to the collapse of the convention movement. As the Moral Reform Society alienated blacks, and the convention movement collapsed, the manual labor school project lost a stable source of black support. The national effort for a black-controlled manual labor school lay dormant until the revival of the convention movement in the 1840s. At that time, a new set of more secular leaders and concerns would animate the discussion.29
As the national manual labor school project and the black convention movement foundered, New York City blacks established local societies and schools to work toward the original goals stated in the convention’s support school project: moral, intellectual, and occupational training for blacks. The most successful was the Phoenix Society, established in early 1833 by Samuel Cornish and his protégé, Theodore Wright. Wright, as with so many other black New York educators and reformers, had attended the African Free Schools in the 1820s. After completing his studies at the Princeton Seminary, he succeeded Cornish as pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1828.30 African Methodist Episcopal Zion bishop Christopher Rush was named president of the society, and Samuel Cornish acted as general agent. White reformer Arthur Tappan acted as treasurer and provided financial support. The Phoenix Society would provide blacks of all ages with guidance in “morals, literature and mechanical arts,” through education, cultural activities, job training, and employment assistance Plans included lecture series and circulating libraries, employment centers to assist young men in finding apprenticeships and long-term employment, and material aid in the form of clothing or food to the more destitute, The society opened a high school for young men in 1833 and one for young women in 1836. The African Dorcas Association collected and repaired used clothing to distribute to poor children attending these schools, as they did for poor children attending the African Free Schools. The Phoenix Society also sponsored an Evening School for Colored People, and eventually a Sabbath school taught by Lewis Tappan. These schools rented rooms, including some in the Broadway Tabernacle, which New York evangelicals associated with revivalist Charles Finney and radical abolitionism built in the 1830s to replace the smaller Chatham Street Chapel, The school for young women was more successful in attracting students than was the school for young men, enrolling thirty-five at its height. This was probably because adolescent boys in black families could earn more money working than adolescent girls. Thus, families were more likely to allow girls to attend schools for longer periods than boys. But neither high school sustained steady enrollments, and by 1838 both schools had closed for lack of funds.31
Following the closing of the schools, the Phoenix Society continued as one of several literary societies in the city, These literary societies were usually single-sex. The Phoenix Society welcomed “young men, from fifteen years old and upwards,” as did the Philomathean Society and the short-lived Union Lyceum. The Ladies’ Literary Society welcomed married and single women. Both male and female societies featured a range of lectures, musical performances, and poetry recitals by members and guests. The Phoenix Society’s 1841 lecture series featured among its twelve speakers John Peterson, a black New York City school principal, speaking on geography, and James McCune Smith speaking on the “Circulation of the Blood.” At an anniversary meeting of the Ladies’ Literary Society, members composed their own speeches and dialogues on such topics as “the improvement of the mind” and “on First Appearance in Company” (probably a series of examples on how to introduce oneself properly at social occasions). Membership in such societies ranged from those who “had considerable advantages of education” to those who had less education but sought to “improve their leisure hours.” But middle-class, educated blacks, and particularly, black ministers and their wives, dominated the leadership of such societies. Cornish, Rush, Wright, and Peter Williams Jr. continued to lead the Phoenix Society. Henrietta Ray, the first president of the Ladies Literary Society and a deeply religious woman herself, was the wife of Charles B. Ray, who worked as a traveling reporter for the Colored American before becoming a Methodist minister (albeit after Henrietta’s death), As with plans to build black schools, the literary societies encouraged moral reform as well as intellectual growth.32
The emphasis New York’s black reformers placed on education grew out of two concerns: improvement of their own condition and the abolition of slavery and racism’. On the one hand, northern blacks needed to improve their economic, political, and moral condition for their own survival. “If there is any one thing which we can do more than others, in the elevation and enfranchisement of our colored people, it is education.” Reformers repeatedly urged blacks of all classes, but particularly the lower classes, to obtain education. They feared that blacks had been “too negligent on this subject” and had not taken sufficient advantage of the multiple opportunities of receiving education available to them, from private and public schools, to free Sabbath and evening schools, reading rooms, and literary societies. Although at times black reformers focused on the education of black men as crucial, as in the case of the manual labor school project, women’s moral and intellectual education too was important, so that they could fulfill roles as teachers and as mothers.33
New York City’s free blacks were also under pressure to prove the success of northern emancipation. Exclusion from schools and skilled training prevented northern blacks from displaying their full moral, intellectual, and economic potential and thus proving unequivocally that blacks could live as free and equal citizens in the United States. But institutions such as the Phoenix Society schools and manual labor schools could provide the opportunity for blacks to prove they were equal to whites. New York City supporters of these schools sought in particular to create a black working class along middle-class lines. The combination of moral, intellectual, and skilled-labor education would result in a class of artisan scholars who possessed high- status skilled jobs and in their spare time read and discussed literature, art, and the sciences as well as the pressing political issues of the day. They would be much like their middle- and upper-class brethren. Additionally, the Phoenix Society hoped that some of its students would be prepared to enter middle-class professions, Such achievements would not only improve the conditions of free blacks, but also prove the correctness and possibility of the goal of immediate emancipation of southern slaves.
Black reformers’ establishment of free black uplift and immediate emancipation as interrelated goals became a central part of the goals of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), formed in December of 1833. In its constitution, the society pledged to “elevate the character and condition of the people of color, by encouraging their intellectual, moral, and religious improvement, and by removing public prejudice.”34 Radical abolitionists acknowledged that the “removal of public prejudice” involved the education and improvement of whites. But blacks would also have to prove their equality. For middle-class abolitionists, black and white, the simplest way to do this was to adhere to middle-class norms of moral perfection. Abolitionists repeated the dictum “Every coloured man has it in his power to promote emancipation, by his Example” to blacks of all classes.35 But reformers aimed their efforts particularly at working-class blacks, whose habits colonizationists held up as a sign of the inability of all blacks to participate as equals in American society. Both black and white abolitionists encouraged temperance and education for blacks. AASS conventioneers encouraged blacks in other cities to follow the example of New York blacks and form Phoenix societies for their moral and intellectual improvement.
The American Anti-Slavery Society emphasized mass mobilization of antislavery support. In the first three years of its existence, the society distributed over a million pieces of antislavery literature and submitted nearly six hundred thousand antislavery petitions to Congress, signed by nearly one million people. Southern congressmen found these petitions so threatening to slavery that they successfully passed a gag rule that tabled all anti- slavery petitions automatically and prevented congressional debates on slavery. Undeterred, abolitionists continued public discussion of slavery at the local level. Radical abolitionists addressed their efforts to everyone so that by 1837, men, women, and even children, black and white, had formed over one thousand local antislavery societies, with a combined membership of two hundred thousand by 1840. Abolitionists wished to eradicate the sin of slavery from the nation; to do so, they sought to demonstrate to individuals how the choices they made in their daily lives could either uphold slavery or help to end it. The clothes one wore, the foods one ate, where one chose to spend money, for whom one chose to vote, and where and with whom one chose to pray were all part of the struggle against slavery. Free produce campaigns encouraged consumers to avoid buying slave-produced goods such as sugar and cotton. Men should vote only for political candidates who opposed slavery. Those who could not vote, namely, blacks and women, should sign the petitions that antislavery societies continued to send to Congress, despite the gag rule, and to state legislatures. Women organized antislavery sewing bees and sold their creations to supporters of abolition at antislavery fairs; the proceeds funded antislavery speakers and the publications of the local and national societies. Abolitionists encouraged even the poor and children to contribute to antislavery causes through “penny-a-month” campaigns. And if nothing else were possible, the abolitionists encouraged antislavery prayer. Christians should “come out” of, or leave, religious denominations that continued to characterize slavery as God’s will.36
North and south, many whites found the radicalism of the abolitionists disturbing, even if they themselves opposed slavery. As the anti-abolitionist and colonizationist New Yorker David Meredith Reece said of the radical abolitionists, they were “not the creed and practice of Jefferson, Franklin, Rush, and John Jay, of the old school, for those laboured for gradual abolition, and were clearly right.” Yet, the radical abolitionists were gaining power and support at the same time as those members of the old antislavery school who had converted to colonization were unable to raise money for their cause.37
In New York City, blacks and whites, men, women, and children all formed local abolitionist societies. Among white societies, many of the new radical abolitionists had previously been colonizationists, As abolitionists, their criticisms of southern slave labor now assailed one of the cornerstones of New York City’s economy. As southern newspaperman J. D. DeBow stated, New York was “almost as dependent on Southern slavery as Charleston itself,” and the city far outstripped Boston and Philadelphia in its reliance on southern trade. New York producers sold clothing (including the “negro cloth” that slaves wore), shoes, and luxury items south. Southerners shipped cotton, tobacco, turpentine, pork, and other raw goods and produce to New York. The New York port served as a center from which merchants shipped cotton as well as other southern goods to points up and down the East Coast and to Europe. New York also served as the central point through which European goods were shipped south. Southern ports such as Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, or New Orleans often shipped goods directly to Europe themselves, but New Yorkers managed early in the nineteenth century to establish the New York port as a major force in shipments between the South and Europe. Ships filled with goods from the South landed on the wharves of the East River, where they were reloaded onto ships bound for Europe. New York shippers collected heavy tolls on these goods. New Yorkers also established shipping lines in southern ports and thus profited from shipments that went directly from southern ports to Europe. New Yorkers were able to do this because most southerners were fully absorbed with the wealth to be made through agriculture and the slave trade. Antebellum writers estimated that New Yorkers earned as much as forty cents on every dollar’s worth of southern cotton sold. New Yorkers sold southerners between 76 million and 131 million dollars in merchandise annually. New Yorkers also held part ownership in southern factories, plantations, and slaves through business and family connections. Finally, wealthy southerners and New Yorkers socialized together. Many southern merchants and planters made annual trips to New York City to purchase goods, and some brought their families with them, viewing such trips as social and cultural as well as business opportunities. Southerners also vacationed in New York state resorts, such as Saratoga Springs. The reliance of New York’s economy on the southern trade meant that working-class whites also depended on the continuation of the slave labor system.38
In New York City, proslavery, colonizationist, and anti-abolitionist whites’ attacks centered on Arthur and Lewis Tappan. Migrants from New England, the Tappan brothers were the most visible of a new generation of radical, moral perfectionist reformers in New York City who sought to expunge a range of sins from the nation, from prostitution in northern urban centers to drinking to nonobservance of the Sabbath to slavery in the South. But even before the Tappans converted to radical abolition, New York City elites had begun to view Arthur Tappan as a threat to their way of life. As leader of New York City’s Magdalen Society in 1831, Tappan linked economics and morality in a harsh criticism of city elites’ participation in prostitution. The Magdalen Society, an organization to reform prostitutes, initially gained the support of a range of the city’s religious, social, and political leaders. In the wake of Charles Grandison Finney’s first New York City revival in 1829, some reformers had begun to address the issue of prostitution, particularly in the Five Points area. Princeton divinity student John McDow all spent a year leading prayer meetings in New York City brothels before founding the New York Magdalen Society in 1830 to organize the reformation of prostitutes. Lewis and Arthur Tappan were among the leaders of the society and the most generous contributors to its House of Refuge for reformed prostitutes. Under Arthur Tappan’s presidency in 1831, however, the society’s efforts to reform prostitutes became a discussion of the moral standards not only of wayward women, but also of some members of the city’s elite, In the 1831 annual report, using statistics gathered by McDowell and written under Tappan’s leadership, the Magdalen Society charged that New York City contained ten thousand prostitutes, and that the clients of prostitutes belonged to some of the city’s most prominent and respectable families.39
Some New Yorkers were outraged at what they saw as the slandering of New York and its best families by an upstart group of New England reformers. But members of New York’s best families were not just clients to prostitutes, they were entrepreneurs in the business of brothels. John Livingston, brother of founding father Robert R. Livingston and one of the most successful landlords in New York, built his wealth through brothels. John Delaplaine, an importer; George Lorillard, a tobacco entrepreneur; and Matthew Davis, a Tammany Hall politician, all profited from prostitution. In fact, a coalition of these wealthy and politically powerful men had already defeated several proposals before New York’s Common Council to raze houses of prostitution in the Five Points. The Magdalen Society’s annual report pamphlet threatened to mobilize a new alliance to eradicate the brothels. City elites and politicos quickly responded. Former mayor Philip Hone and General Robert Bogardus, Manhattan’s wealthiest real estate speculator, held anti-Magdalen meetings, railing against the “social influence of New Englanders in the City,” Newspapermen and Tammany leaders James Watson Webb, editor of the Morning Courier, and Mordecai Noah fanned the flames against the Magdalen Society and Arthur Tappan. Newspapers from Webb’s Morning Courier to the Working Man’s Advocate denounced Tappan, and there were rumors that angry men would physically attack him and his home. Surprised and fearful of the repercussions of his activism, Tappan quickly withdrew from the society, which dissolved within the year.40
The new public discussion of sex and morality in New York City continued in connection with the abolitionist movement.41 The Magdalen Society controversy did not explicitly touch on issues of interracial sex. Two years later, however, the Tappans’ embrace of radical abolition, and the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society, resulted in the centering of amalgamation, or interracial socializing and sex, in New Yorkers’ political landscape. Unlike the word “miscegenation,” which Democrats invented in 1863 for the express purpose of demonizing black-white relationships and discrediting the Republican Party, the word “amalgamation” has a history beyond American nineteenth-century racial politics. In Europe and the United States, “amalgamation” described the blending of any two or more distinct groups of people through intermarriage or through nonsexual cultural exchanges. The British in 1775 used the word to describe the earlier historic mixture of Normans and Saxons, In the United States in 1811, the Emperor of Russia asked John Quincy Adams whether immigrants to the United States “all amalgamate well together,” implying an acceptable intermixture of people. But by the mid-183os, the use of the word “amalgamation” in the United States chiefly suggested negative attitudes about black-white sexual and social relationships, from intermarriage to casual sex to dancing and other forms of socializing. The offspring of interracial sexual relationships were also held up to adverse scrutiny.42
The abolitionist controversy of 1830s New York City was central to this redefinition. In the 1830s, black and white abolitionists made interracial cooperation a hallmark of their efforts. Black and white abolitionists attended political meetings together, worshiped together, and sometimes visited each others’ homes. Within abolitionist organizations, such actions were riot without conflict. The Ladies’ New York City Anti-Slavery Society, for example, refused to allow black women to join, and throughout the antebellum period, as Theodore Wright stated, white abolitionists struggled to “annihilate, in their own bosoms, the cord of caste.” But as anti-abolitionist whites recognized, the professed principles of the abolitionists had the potential to upset the power balance between the races in New York City, as well as to threaten the business relationships between southerners and New Yorkers.43