A Social History of the American Negro eBook

Benjamin Griffith Brawley
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 546 pages of information about A Social History of the American Negro.
who were really the most guilty of all, were simply sent out of the colony.  In Camden, S. C, on July 4, 1816, some other Negroes risked all for independence.[2] On various pretexts men from the country districts were invited to the town on the appointed night, and different commands were assigned, all except that of commander-in-chief, which position was to be given to him who first forced the gates of the arsenal.  Again the plot was divulged by “a favorite and confidential slave,” of whom we are told that the state legislature purchased the freedom, settling upon him a pension for life.  About six of the leaders were executed.  On or about May 1, 1819, there was a plot to destroy the city of Augusta, Ga.[3] The insurrectionists were to assemble at Beach Island, proceed to Augusta, set fire to the place, and then destroy the inhabitants.  Guards were posted, and a white man who did not answer when hailed was shot and fatally wounded.  A Negro named Coot was tried as being at the head of the conspiracy and sentenced to be executed a few days later.  Other trials followed his.  Not a muscle moved when the verdict was pronounced upon him.

[Footnote 1:  Gayarre:  History of Louisiana, III, 355.]

[Footnote 2:  Holland:  Refutation of Calumnies.]

[Footnote 3:  Niles’s Register, XVI, 213 (May 22, 1819).]

The deeper meaning of such events as these could not escape the discerning.  More than one patriot had to wonder just whither the country was drifting.  Already it was evident that the ultimate problem transcended the mere question of slavery, and many knew that human beings could not always be confined to an artificial status.  Throughout the period the slave-trade seemed to flourish without any real check, and it was even accentuated by the return to power of the old royalist houses of Europe after the fall of Napoleon.  Meanwhile it was observed that slave labor was driving out of the South the white man of small means, and antagonism between the men of the “up-country” and the seaboard capitalists was brewing.  The ordinary social life of the Negro in the South left much to be desired, and conditions were not improved by the rapid increase.  As for slavery itself, no one could tell when or where or how the system would end; all only knew that it was developing apace:  and meanwhile there was the sinister possibility of the alliance of the Negro and the Indian.  Sincere plans of gradual abolition were advanced in the South as well as the North, but in the lower section they seldom got more than a respectful hearing.  In his “Dissertation on Slavery, with a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it in the State of Virginia,” St. George Tucker, a professor of law in the University of William and Mary, and one of the judges of the General Court of Virginia, in 1796 advanced a plan by which he figured that after sixty years there would be only one-third as many slaves as at first.  At this distance his proposal seems extremely conservative; at the time, however, it was laid on the table by the Virginia House of Delegates, and from the Senate the author received merely “a civil acknowledgment.”

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A Social History of the American Negro from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.