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.

Two men of the period—­widely different in temper and tone, but both earnest seekers after truth—­looked forward to the future with foreboding, one with the eye of the scientist, the other with the vision of the seer.  Hezekiah Niles had full sympathy with the groping and striving of the South; but he insisted that slavery must ultimately be abolished throughout the country, that the minds of the slaves should be exalted, and that reasonable encouragement should be given free Negroes.[1] Said he:  “We are ashamed of the thing we practice;... there is no attribute of heaven that takes part with us, and we know it.  And in the contest that must come and will come, there will be a heap of sorrows such as the world has rarely seen."[2]

[Footnote 1:  Register, XVI, 177 (May 8, 1819).]

[Footnote 2:  Ibid., XVI, 213 (May 22, 1819).]

On the other hand rose Lorenzo Dow, the foremost itinerant preacher of the time, the first Protestant who expounded the gospel in Alabama and Mississippi, and a reformer who at the very moment that cotton was beginning to be supreme, presumed to tell the South that slavery was wrong.[1] Everywhere he arrested attention—­with his long hair, his harsh voice, and his wild gesticulation startling all conservative hearers.  But he was made in the mold of heroes.  In his lifetime he traveled not less than two hundred thousand miles, preaching to more people than any other man of his time.  Several times he went to Canada, once to the West Indies, and three times to England, everywhere drawing great crowds about him.  In A Cry from the Wilderness he more than once clothed his thought in enigmatic garb, but the meaning was always ultimately clear.  At this distance, when slavery and the Civil War are alike viewed in the perspective, the words of the oracle are almost uncanny:  “In the rest of the Southern states the influence of these Foreigners will be known and felt in its time, and the seeds from the HORY ALLIANCE and the DECAPIGANDI, who have a hand in those grades of Generals, from the Inquisitor to the Vicar General and down...!!!  The STRUGGLE will be DREADFUL! the CUP will be BITTER! and when the agony is over, those who survive may see better days!  FAREWELL!”

[Footnote 1:  For full study see article “Lorenzo Dow,” in Methodist Review and Journal of Negro History, July, 1916, the same being included in Africa and the War, New York, 1918.]



It is not the purpose of the present chapter to give a history of the Seminole Wars, or even to trace fully the connection of the Negro with these contests.  We do hope to show at least, however, that the Negro was more important than anything else as an immediate cause of controversy, though the general pressure of the white man upon the Indian would in time of course have made trouble in any case.  Strange parallels constantly present themselves, and incidentally it may be seen that the policy of the Government in force in other and even later years with reference to the Negro was at this time also very largely applied in the case of the Indian.

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