Category Archives: Slavery

An Explanation for the Riots in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD – in 5000 words (or less).

Four hundred years ago, our ancestors began importing native black Africans from their home continent to the North American continent, in chains, shoved below the decks of ships built especially for the purpose of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Three hundred years ago the practice of chattel slavery was so well entrenched into British-Colonial North American culture, that it was not only legal, but widely practiced in every single British colony in this hemisphere. In the southern colonies of the eighteenth century, the number of African descent slaves vastly outnumbered the number of white colonists, creating a social dynamic infused with fear and terror. Slave owners and their white employees feared violent uprising. Using their power and money, acquired largely through the benefit of slave labor, they influenced the courts and colonial legislative bodies to begin passing ever-more draconian laws against those of African Descent – forcing those few individuals who had managed to purchase their own freedom or win manumission through other means to leave the place where they were born, raised, and earned their living – to leave their families and friends still in bondage, behind. To stay meant to be forced to return to slavery. It’s in this era that it became legal for an owner to beat, mutilate, or even kill his slaves “as he saw fit”.

Two hundred seventy-six years ago, the Stono Slave Rebellion began in the colony of Charleston, South Carolina. The rebellion failed and everyone involved was either executed or sold into the West Indies. In response to the rebellion, the South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740 restricting slave assembly, education, and movement. It required legislative approval for manumissions, which slaveholders had previously been able to arrange privately.

Two hundred twenty-seven years ago, after the American Revolution was won by the former British colonies of continental North America, the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified. The preamble of this document reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Within the same document, the founding fathers saw fit to enshrine chattel slavery as the law of the land, and to measure a person of African heritage as equal to 3/5 of a person.

Two hundred and twenty-four years ago, the Haitian Revolution began as a slave revolt in the French Colony of Saint-Domingue. This slave uprising was successful and culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Republic of Haiti. The Haitian Revolution is generally considered the most successful slave rebellion ever to have occurred and it was a seminal moment in the histories of both Europe and the Americas. The success of the slaves on Saint-Domingue in throwing off the yolk of colonial rule through violent rebellion, the organized murder of plantation owners, and armed insurrection against a vastly superior military force, simply terrified white, slave-owning Americans. What occurred at Saint-Domingue caused a new round of extremely draconian legislative actions to be passed in the American South, as well as increasing militarization of the southern states.

Two hundred and fifteen years ago, not far from Richmond Virginia, a slave named Gabriel Prosser launched a plot to execute plantation owners and slaveholders, and to seize the city of Richmond. He recruited more than fifty slaves at the outset of his plan, but was thwarted by a fellow-slave who communicated a warning to his master. The planned rebellion failed at the very last moment before it was to be carried out, but the fact that it was very nearly successful shook Virginian’s to their core. Everyone found to be associated with the plot was executed. The state of Virginia responded by raising county-wide, highly-trained, regularly drilled militias, and the city of Richmond became a militarized camp with armed militia members patrolling the city on foot and horseback and parading around the capitol grounds on a daily basis. The militarization of Virginia continued unabated until the end of the US Civil War.

Two hundred and eight years ago, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which outlawed the kidnapping, imprisonment, export, and sale of African slaves. The British Navy aggressively enforced this legislation, which through blockade, seizure of vessels, and prosecution of ship owners and crews, brought a halt to the lion’s share of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The impact on the former colonies in North America was profound, shutting down the possibility that fresh slaves could be purchased to replace those worked to death (average lifespan after arrival to North America was five years) in the brutal sugar, rice, and indigo industries of the Deep South and Caribbean regions. Shortly after the implementation of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, American plantation owners in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – particularly in central and eastern areas of those states where the farm land had been depleted – began purposeful and increasingly more sophisticated slave breeding programs based on contemporary cattle, horse, and pig breeding methodologies.

Between 1830 and 1860, roughly 10,000 slaves per month were sold or traded from the bustling slave market at Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia. This number was eclipsed by the larger, older, and even busier market at New Orleans, and it was nearly matched by the competing slave markets at Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. Taking just the Virginia numbers into account, more than three million individual slaves were bred, raised, and sold out of the piney woods of Virginia into the sugar, rice, and indigo killing fields of the Deep South.

Slavery – not plant agriculture (tobacco, cotton, grains) – was Virginia’s largest and most profitable industry in the decades leading up the US Civil War. Slavery made the state of Virginia the wealthiest in the United States, at a time when the United States was already competing with Great Britain to become the wealthiest nation in the world.

One hundred and fifty-four years ago the United State Civil War began. People, even today, argue as to what the cause of the war was, but few rational people will deny that the central points of debate had everything to do with money and political power. In 1860, the South possessed great wealth and great political power. The North and the emerging west felt that the South’s dominance was due to the constitutionally enshrined 3/5’s rule, which gave the South a disproportionally larger representation in the United States House of Representatives – and due to the reality that Southern employers did not have to pay wages to their workforce, a situation which gave them an unfair competitive advantage compared to employers in non-slave states.

When the United States government passed the Conscription Act, forcing millions of mostly young, recently immigrated, poor young men into service in the United States Army and Navy in support of the Union government in the Civil War, violent riots erupted, most notably in New York City. The city spiraled into chaos, with most of the animas directed at the city’s African population. An orphanage was attacked and looted, numerous homes and business were looted and burned, thousands of African American New Yorkers were assaulted on the streets, in their places of work, and in their homes. 120 African-descent New Yorkers were murdered over the three day riots before the US Army occupied the streets and forcibly restored order. This event remains the largest civil and racial insurrection in American history, aside from the American Civil War itself.

As the Civil War ramped up, the Southern Slave Trade continued. Despite The Emancipation Proclamation of January, 1863, nearly all American’s of African descent remained in bondage. Many of those who found themselves near the Union Army, chose to “run” hoping for freedom. What they found instead was forced labor under dreadful and dangerous circumstances, neglect to the point of starvation, constant marching with little or no housing provided to protect them from the elements, and being labeled “contraband” by the leaders and soldiers to whom they had fled seeking safety and relief.

For those that remained behind southern lines, nothing changed. Families were broken up. People were traded like cattle. There was no hope for freedom. It could not be bought, stolen, or earned. In the American South during the Civil War, it became illegal to free one’s slaves, or to transport them out of the reach of the Confederate government. As the deprivations of war took hold – food shortages, lack of fuel, lack of shoes and material for clothing – it was the slaves who endured the worst of the famine, cold, and nakedness. The slaves, who had always gotten the scraps left unwanted by their masters, got little to nothing at all.

When the Civil War ended with a Union victory in 1865, all the slaves in America were made free. Since it had been illegal for a slave to own private or even personal property, the overwhelming number of former slaves had absolutely nothing with which to begin their new lives. Never-the-less, many managed to quickly pull themselves up and start small businesses, lease farms abandoned by economically devastated former plantation owners, even build schools and begin to educate themselves and become politically active in an effort to improve their status in society and improve their lives and hopefully the lives of their children.

During the “Reconstruction” period after the conclusion of the Civil War, Union soldiers occupied much of the defeated south, and through their armed presence, enforced a nascent form of early civil rights. The South’s elected representatives were replaced by Union government appointed officials charged with the mission of restoring the Bill of Rights and Constitutions protections to the region, as well as enforcing the newly passed 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments (abolition of slavery, equal protection, voting rights).

One hundred and thirty-eight years ago the United States government formally ended the period of occupation of former Confederate states. Military troops were withdrawn and occupation governments were pulled out. Into that vacuum rushed a power-structure that had been patiently waiting, planning, and working for just such a US Government withdrawal. Almost overnight all gains made by those of African descent were erased. The era of Jim Crow, the Ku Klux Klan, and racial segregation the likes of which had never existed prior to the Civil War, was ushered in under a black cloud of terror and threat of violence.

The culminating event of the Post-Reconstruction/Pre-Jim Crow era occurred in 1898 in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina. According to Wikipedia; “The Wilmington coup d’etat of 1898, also known as the Wilmington massacre of 1898, or the Wilmington race riot of 1898, began… on November 10, 1898 and continued for several days. It is considered a turning point in post-Reconstruction North Carolina politics. The event is credited as ushering in an era of severe racial segregation and disenfranchisement of African-Americans throughout the Southeastern United States. Laura Edwards wrote in Democracy Betrayed (2000), ‘What happened in Wilmington became an affirmation of white supremacy not just in that one city, but in the South and in the nation as a whole.’

“Originally described by European-Americans as a race riot, the events are now classified as a coup d’etat, as white Democratic Party insurgents overthrew the legitimately elected local government. A mob of nearly 2,000 men attacked the only black newspaper in the state, and persons and property in black neighborhoods, killing… 60 victims.

“Two days after the election of a Fusionist white mayor and biracial city council, two-thirds of which was white, Democratic Party white supremacists illegally seized power and overturned the elected government.” The mob who seized Wilmington by force and through murder, stayed in force. In fact they managed to motivate the rest of the state of North Carolina to elect white-Supremacist Charles B. Aycock as governor the following year.

By the turn of the 20th century, the American South and large parts of the north and Midwest, consisted of communities divided by race, enforced by threat of violence. While it was not uncommon for some whites to employ African-America female domestics inside their homes as cooks, laundresses, nannies, and maids, and to employ African-American men outside their homes as gardeners or for labor, most whites had extremely limited contact with blacks. Churches were segregated (this was not true prior to the Civil War), schools of course, were segregated, most businesses were segregated, and neighborhoods were completely segregated (this too, had not been so prior to the Civil War). Blacks, who had no power in the communities in which they lived, were forced to work for wages well-below the norm for a white person doing the same job. Economically, it was extremely difficult for blacks to buy property because banks would not make loans, and it was common (and legal) for businesses to deny blacks the opportunity to purchase property even if they had the funds.

Throughout the early 20th century, racial intimidation against blacks increased in an effort to maintain the status quo of white power in a South and in cities that were increasingly black in population. Politician’s, the press, and business owners collectively conspired to foment smoldering racism by pitting low-income white workers against black workers, keeping whites afraid of losing their jobs, and blacks afraid of losing their lives.  Enforced segregation increased the gulf of understanding between the two races, keeping them apart from one another and thereby reducing the opportunity for people of different races to find common ground.

Despite all this, in the first half of the twentieth century, enforced segregation created a situation that allowed blacks to become increasingly self-reliant and self-sufficient. A vibrant black middle class emerged comprised of teachers, business owners, and eventually physicians, attorneys, and entrepreneurs. Black communities strongly emphasized education and religion, while placing a high value on a tight, nuclear family supported by extended family, and the larger community beyond. This success allowed many blacks to buy property, build wealth, and gain some political influence and autonomy. In the pre-WWII era in America, citizens of African-descent began to climb up out of the ravages of more than three hundred years of physical oppression and begin to participate economically in society that while not “equal”, was certainly far superior to anything experienced previously.

Seventy years ago, at the beginning of WWII, young black men found themselves called on by the United States government to serve their country in the War against Nazi Germany and its allies. Despite a great deal of opposition, Franklin D. Roosevelt integrated the US military, allowing men of African descent to bear arms on the battlefield for the first time since the United States Civil War. Young men fought and died in that war, defending the concepts of Liberty and Freedom on foreign shores. They performed admirably as soldiers, pilots, sailors, and marines. Their individual service records, their bravery, and their determination to prove their metal against a deeply prejudiced military population is now well-known. When the war concluded and these men returned home, they returned to communities where former POW German soldiers were served at lunch counters that they, former American soldiers, were turned away from. They, generally, were unable to reap many of the benefits of military service, as they could not be admitted to colleges that were accredited to accept VA benefits, VA home loans were closed to them, few employers would hire them, and the white communities in which they lived largely denied or ignored the fact of their service and sacrifice.

It was out of this crucible of hypocrisy and outrage that the early Civil Rights movement was born.  That movement took hold through the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, culminating with Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 27, 1963. The event made it clear to Washington, D.C., to the elected officials in Washington and throughout the nation, and to every American, that a sea-change was coming in regard to race in the country.

In the South, violence, intimidation, and white outrage was captured on television. Many American’s were horrified by what they saw. Young black and white civil rights workers were executed in Mississippi, and again, Americans were horrified. The Attorney General of the United States, Robert F. Kennedy, brought the force of the Federal Government and all-but occupied Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, and Arkansas, and other communities during this period.

Fifty-one years ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, outlawing – for the first time since Reconstruction — discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and by facilities that served the general public.

Fifty years ago, Congress passed The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Per Wikipedia: “Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act resulted in the mass enfranchisement of racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.”

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

With his loss, the Civil Rights movement in the United States lost its captain, its compass, its wise counsellor, and – unfortunately – its core dedication to non-violent protest. Following King’s assassination, the country erupted in a series of violent riots between African-Americans and police. The outrage felt after King’s death marked a significant turning point in the tenor of race relations in the nation. The tone quickly turned militant, frustrated, and angry. The black community divided against itself, with the older generation wanting to keep peace and pursue non-violence, while younger proponents of equal justice seeking to grasp it “by any means necessary”. The tension and the grief in black communities became palpable.

With the Passing of the Civil Rights legislation in the late 1960’s, segregation in schools, housing, and businesses, gradually became a thing of the past – for some affluent members of the African-American community. No longer forced into “Red-Lined” communities, blacks who could afford to “moved on up”, and moved out to better neighborhoods offering better school districts and greater social and economic advantages to their children.  Black consumers, now free to trade with any business they chose, went out of their neighborhoods to patronize businesses with better selections, perhaps lower prices, and all certainly offering a novel experience as compared to their well-known, local black merchants. White consumers, by contrast, did not flock into black neighborhoods to seek out the novelty of segregation.

Rather, middle class whites who found their neighborhoods and schools gradually including blacks, fled to the suburbs and opened private “parochial” schools that could, legally (and more important to the individuals of that era and our own, use religious “morality” to) discriminate on racial grounds.

Between the passing of Civil Rights legislation in the late 1960’s and the beginning of the Reagan administration in 1980, the once-vibrant black middle class which had steadfastly taken care of its own, all but vanished in what remained of the still segregated nation. Black businesses failed due to lack of customers, and so black employment in the community ceased. Black schools were absorbed into white school systems which were abandoned by the tax base and left to ruin. Historically black colleges saw enrollment gradually decline, and then precipitously fall into oblivion as the few black students who could go to college, chose to go to integrated colleges and universities offering a wider range of scholarly options. Middle-class blacks mainstreamed into the larger society. They represented a small percentage of the African descent population in the United States, but their absence in still-segregated communities was felt all-too-keenly. This group included teachers, professionals, doctors, and attorneys – the leaders of what had once been a wholly segregated community. When they left they took their values of education, hard work, self-respect, wisdom, and self-discipline with them. What remained in those neighborhoods, towns, and cities was an impoverished class of poorly educated residents with few economic options, little education, and no one remaining to look to for guidance or for employment.

After the Vietnam War concluded in 1975, another generation of African-American veterans returned home to conditions even worse than those experienced by their fathers a generation before. They came home to broken communities that offered no jobs and no recognition of the sacrifice they made. Many vets, black and white, returned from Southeast Asia with drug addictions (courtesy of the CIA). And black vets were returned to neighborhoods already saturated with the first wave of Cartel-scale drug dealing.

Thirty-five years ago, under the administration of President Ronald Reagan, the “War on Drugs” was commenced in response to the increasing crime rate and lawlessness experienced in the country, which the President blamed on drug users, dealers, and neighborhood gangs. During this period the “3 Strikes” mandatory sentencing was imposed in many of those states with the largest percentage population of African-Americans. Interestingly, the myriad of legislations written and adopted by states targeted crack cocaine (predominately used by African-Americans) for much harsher, longer sentences, while leaving rock or powdered cocaine (primarily used by whites) as lesser offences. At the same time that the President lectured the American people on the evils of marijuana and crack, members of his administration were participating in “guns for drugs” exchanges with Central American dictators (the “Iran-Contra affair”), bringing marijuana and cocaine into this country, then dumping it into African-American communities on the wholesale.

Twenty-years ago, both federal and state governments began to investigate the concept of mass-privatization of prison systems. The early experiments generated a windfall of profits to both the states and the companies hired to run private, for-profit prisons. Private companies were contracted to run large, industrial scale prison systems nationwide. They worked in partnership with law enforcement and the judiciary to ensure a constant high population count in these facilities. With the assistance of drug laws passed a decade earlier (almost in pre-cognition of the Private Prison concept), a new, multi-billion dollar industry cropped up without anyone really noticing – except young black men and their families.

For the whole of the United States population, the prison statistics are sobering. From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people. Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners. Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in every 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control.

— African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, with an incarceration rate at nearly six times the rate of whites.

— Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population

— One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime

— Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

—  African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.

— African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.

— African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)

Three years ago, an un-armed, black teenager was walking through his home neighborhood with a soft drink and a snack. He was followed, assaulted, and shot to death by an armed private citizen who claimed the young man looked suspicious. The armed man was not charged in the murder of Trayvon Martin. He went on to commit numerous other assaults and violations of the law, yet he has yet to serve any time in prison for his offenses.

Since Trayvon Martin’s death, countless private citizens armed only with cell-phone video cameras have captured live-action incidences of abuse, assault, and even murder, committed by police against un-armed African-American men and boys, as well as against “petty criminals” who posed little if any genuine threat to society. And yet, few, if any officers have been prosecuted.

Not quite two weeks ago an unarmed, twenty-five year old African-American man who was guilty of simply running through a neighborhood parking lot, was accosted by the Baltimore Police, detained, arrested, and – somewhere between his run and winding up in zip ties, face down on the pavement, had his spine severed, leading to the loss of his life. Much of the incident was caught on cell-phone video, and it’s fairly clear to any rational person that Freddie Gray, the victim in this instance, was already severely injured when the police hauled him, legs dragging behind him, into the police van.

Another young man headed to prison or to the grave? Another son, father, brother, stolen from his family.

Four hundred years ago, our ancestors began importing native black Africans from their home continent to the North American continent, in chains, shoved below the decks of ships built especially for the purpose of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Today we – our current generation – import African-Americans into the for-profit prison system, using a hyper-militarized police force trained for this express purpose, and a judicial system built to ensure the success of the current system – a system which seeks to enforce the status quo – where black families are broken and kept weak and leaderless, where black bodies are used for profit, and in which Black Lives Don’t Matter, except for what we can get out of them.

With a history such as this one, a few riots every few years are to be expected. It’s nothing new. It’s been going on for 400 years and until we (the white people in power) recognize that the system in place is not broken, that in fact it is doing exactly as it was designed to do, nothing is going to change. Except we should keep in mind, every 200 years or so, the slave rebellions actually succeed. It’s something to think about as we contemplate this highly successful system we’ve all become so accustomed to that we can no longer even see it clearly for what it is – a criminal enterprise.


Lewis Evan Jones (1825 – 1910) — Mutiny on the Ocean Waves

The following document is a transcription from a photocopy of a letterpress set pamphlet style publication with colored paper wraps, measuring approximately 8 1/8” x 4 3/8”. Text pages number 36 pages. There is no date of publication, but the text is dated 1901 at the end of the story. The cover bears the following information; handwritten at the top of the wrap in ink (“No. 1.)”, title is indicated as “MUTINY ON THE OCEAN WAVE”, author is listed as “By LEWIS E. JONES, SR.”*, and imprint is “Herald Printing House, Hartington”.

* Note that Lewis E. Jones Sr. is actually indicated as Lewis Evan Jones Jr. for the sake of this archive, as his father’s name was also Lewis Evan Jones. Once in America, this author had a son, also named Lewis Evan Jones, who for the sake of this archive is denominated as Lewis Evan Jones III.

Note: In handwriting at the end of the editors note (between brackets) in the introduction is written “age 17” to indicate that Lewis Evan Jones was only seventeen years old when he participated in this voyage.


 

Mutiny on the Ocean Wave.

[The following story was written by Mr. Lewis E. Jones, from memory, and is vouched by him that every word is true and happened as it is written. This voyage was made by him from Liverpool to New York, from there to Baltimore, from there to Rotterdam, Holland, from there to Liverpool, thence to Charleston, South Carolina, in the ship St. Lawrence of New York, during the years 1842 – 43. – Ed.]

Short stories told now and then.
Relieve the craniums of some men;
Such cumbrous stuff is not to save,
Then why carry them with you to the grave.

291One day while strolling leisurely along the dockside of Liverpool, I heard two boys converse together, which attracted my attention. One said to his companion that the American ship St. Lawrence, of New York, lying in the Princess Dock, wanted a boy; that he was going to see if he could secure the place. This was near dinner time. After dinner I went down to that ship, and saw the mizzen royal flopping in the wind. This is the loftiest of the fourth sail on the third mast. One of the big boys spoken of was on his way up the rigging to furl this sail. He seemed very clumsy and slow getting up the rigging, and when he got up did not know how to gather the sail together so as to make a neat job of it. I noticed a man whom I learned was the chief mate, watching him from the dock. After he had made several attempts, the mate called him down. The boy walked off crest-fallen. After he had disappeared, I walked up to the mate, thinking that this was his way of finding out what a boy could do, I asked him if I could go up and furl that sail. He asked where I had learned to furl such sails. Answering him that many times a day in the Mediterranean it was my business to furl the royals, while the men were at the heavier sails. He doubted that such a small boy as I was could furl such sails in heavy winds. It was blowing quite stiff at this time. Finally he said I could try. I went aboard, doffed my jacket, and went up the rigging one a trot, getting out on the royal yard, gathering the sail on one side and then the other, passing the gaskets around, gathering the slack of the sail in the center, passing around a netting made for that purpose, I had the bunt in the center like a drum, all in ship shape. I descended the rigging as lively as I went up, picking up my jacket and walked where the mate stood, watching my every movement. He also walked towards me without saying a word, handing me a card which instructed the shipping master who was shipping a crew for this ship, to place me on the list. There were many of these shipping masters in Liverpool, as well as every large seaport. When a ship has taken in all her cargo, the captain a few days previous instructs one of these shipping masters to ship so many men for his ship, to sail on such a day for such a place. Master-riggers with a gang of men having bent all the sails, examined all the rigging, replacing all the defective, you will understand this was an American ship, all hands had abandoned her, when in fact they had no right to leave until she arrived at some designated port in the United States. When men are not properly treated, they abandon their ships at the first opportunity. This was the case with the St. Lawrence. Not one left but the captain, first and second mates.

Mr. Moore I found was the name of the first mate, who had given me the card, instructing the shipping master to ship me at $10 per month, and come aboard next morning. The men received $15 per month. She was bound for New York with a general cargo and 300 Irish passengers.

Captain Brown I found in the morning, a perfect gentleman, looked more like a clergyman than a sea captain. He took me to the cabin and talked very kind with me, inquiring about my nativity, relatives, etc. He seemed to be well pleased with me, instructing me to come to him if I should want anything during the voyage. He asked me to take care of the cabin until he could engage a steward, and gave me perfect liberty to make the cabin my home should he get a rough crew – he knew not what kind of men the crew would turn out to be, for he had never seen one of them. I thanked him very much, but stated that I would like to be with the men as much as possible, that I went to sea not of necessity, but to learn to become a seaman. He commended my resolution and promised to assist me in my endeavors.

In three days after this ship was ready for sea, and the crew came on board as well as the passengers. We went out of the Princess Dock and dropped anchor in the Mersey. Next morning the captain came on board, ordered the anchor to be raised and sails set loose. I loosed the three sails on the royal masts, by order of the mate, for he had learned, he said, I was an expert with these light sails. Most of the men were heaving up the anchor. When I came down the rigging, I took hold of the long leaver, for she had what was then called patent windlass – two long levers working up and by 15 or 20 men. When I took hold of the lever the next man to me was a splendid, fine looking man. His bronzed face indicated he had seen service in the tropics. This was the first time I had ever seen him, but he struck me as an ideal seaman, such as I would like to pattern after. He wore a red flannel shirt, white duck pants and a jaunty straw Manila hat on his head. He smiled on me as I took hold of the leaver by his side. I was glad to be noticed by such a powerful and perfect man as I considered him to be. Whilst I was doting on him the mate came along with loud curses on his lips, telling the men that they were not half heaving; passing along after abusing nearly all the men, he came to where I was. He was rolling up his shirt sleeves, for he had taken off his coat before. He roared out, “you man, with the red shirt, why don’t you heave?” This shipmate, for I was glad to call him such, answered he was doing his duty. At this the mate jumped about with his clenched fist, saying he was the first man he would commence on when we got under way. The man with the red shirt paid no attention to his threats, only he turned to me and thanked the mate for this timely warning, so that he could be on his guard. After the mate had left, he smiled on me and said, “if I am the first he is going to pick on, he will have a tough chicken to pick.” Thus we left Liverpool with fair wind and all sails set.

The first thing when a ship is well underway is to divide the crew into two watches, when all the men are assembled on the quarterdeck. Thus we were all ordered to come aft, and the division was made, by the captain having the first choice, named the man at the wheel. The mate then selected the man whom he called “the man with the red shirt.” Then the captain made another choice, then the mate, and so on until whole crew were selected, and the watches formed. On this particular occasion the men were all selected, the mate had to take me, for I was the last. I was glad that the man with the red shirt was on the same watch with myself. I had taken a great liking to him and he also to me. We were strangers to one another. I had never seen one of them before. However, that night, when on watch, I learned from my newly made friend, the man wearing the red shirt, was a countryman of mine, who lived in a small seaport only twelve miles from my home. He also informed me there were two other men on board from the same place, one of whom was on our watch. He stated they always sailed on the same ship – they had been together in the English and American Navies, and had been together for many years in vessels of both nations. I was glad to learn I had countrymen on board, the first I had since I went to sea. The name of my friend with the red shirt was Jack Thomas, the other in our watch was named Dick Lewis, and the one in the captain’s watch was named John Evans. There was another young man in our watch that I had taken a liking to. He was a native of New York City, named Wm. McFarlane, whom we called Yankee Bill. All this crew were more intelligent than the common run picked up in foreign ports.

After a few days out from Liverpool we had very high winds and disagreeable weather. The sea was very rough. The poor passengers were very sick and suffered much. The captain had appointed me store keeper to deal out water and provisions to the emigrants. At that time steerage passengers in sailing vessels had so much water and provisions dealt out to them daily. At night I had to stand watch like the balance of the crew. It is the custom on all ships to wash the decks every morning at six o’clock, whether they need washing or not. On the third or forth morning out of Liverpool, the weather was very stormy and the sea running high. Buckets, scrubbing brushes, brooms, etc., were brought out for that purpose, when the mate came forward and ordered Yankee Bill to go out on the fore poop deck to wash to pump water to wash decks. We had a small hand pump, such as is used in cisterns, for that purpose, on the larboard bow. The wind was blowing almost a gale on that side, and sea splashing over continuously. The men all wondered at the mate giving such an order, when water was plentiful on deck. Bill told him he could furnish all the water required from lee-scuppers, as the water was almost knee deep as the ship careened over. This would not satisfy the mate. Bill dipped up water in buckets as fast as required. The mate became boiling mad because his orders were disobeyed. He walked back to the stern of the ship and took an iron belaying pin out of the rail. These pins were used where very heavy weight is to be sustained, otherwise wooden pins are to be used. These iron pins are about a foot in length and one and a quarter inches in diameter. With one of these pins in his hand he rushed to where Bill was filling water buckets. He aimed a full blow with this weapon on Bill’s head, but the ship plunged at the moment and he only received a light blow on the side of his head. Bill was bleeding profusely. At that moment Jack Thomas came like a flash of lightening, grasping the iron bolt from the mate’s hand and threw it overboard, telling Bill he was a better man than Mr. Moore, to settle his grievance there and then, and he would see no one should interfere. By this time Bill had the mate more than a foot of water with his foot on his neck. The ship was rolling and plunging, the water rushing backward and forward, so that occasionally Mr. Moore could see about him. He saw and begged me to call the captain, for I was an eye witness to the whole transaction.

The cooks gally was close by. The cook, a large negro hailing from Sierra Leone, a British West African Colony, rushed out of the galley with a large carving knife in his hand, to the assistance of the mate. Dick Lewis, who had come on the scene, saw the negro rushing into the fray, gave him such a blow under the ear, that he also fell in the water by the side of the mate, while Dick Lewis disarmed him of the knife, throwing it overboard.

They did not mutilate the two prostrate me, but made them swallow their fill of salt water. At this time I thought it my duty to call up the captain and the second mate, who were asleep in the cabin, informing captain Brown the men were killing Mr. Moore. He hurriedly slipped on his pants, boots, and coat, rushing on deck with a cutlass in his right hand (a short sword about a foot and a half long) and a book containing the riot act in the other. By the time he came on deck the men had released the half drowned bullies. Mr. Moore, like a drowned rat, went to his room to put on dry clothes. The negro went to the gally, where he barricaded himself, swearing he would scald the first man who came there.
The captain instructed me to tell the first watch to come on the quarterdeck. All the men came cheerfully. The first thing the captain did was to read the riot act, from the book he brought with him from the cabin, whilst I held his cutlass. After this reading he commenced to examine witnesses to get at the origin of the riot. Jack Tomas was the first witness to the whole affair. While he was explaining the mate’s actions, gentlemanly and cool, Mr. Moore leaped on deck, passing the captain and myself, who were standing before the men, pulled out a heavy claw hammer from under his coat-tail, and made a desperate attempt to strike Jack Thomas in the head with the hammer. Dick Lewis, who stood by the side of his friend, saw the mate’s movements, jumped to the front of him, receiving quite a cut on his head. In less time than it takes to write this, Jack Thomas knocked him down. Whilst both him and Dick Lewis, who was bleeding, took the cutlass from me and threw it overboard, together with the hammer taken from the mate. After this the men carried Mr. Moore to the cabin and placed him in bed.

Here were men well formed by nature
In deadly combat for their rights;
The elements above and the waters below,
Protesting against these unholy fights.

The men after this went forward to consult the other watch, which was called yup for breakfast, who knew nothing of what had taken place during the morning watch.

After learning all that had taken place, and fully argued among themselves, they came to the conclusion to send word to the captain, through me, for I was the only confidant both sides had, and to tell the truth I had seen the whole trouble, besides hearing Mr. Moore’s threat while hoisting anchor at Liverpool, that the whole affair rested on his shoulders, and that he received nothing more than he deserved.

The decision of the men of both watches was that the mate should be put out of commission, that the captain could find a man among the crew fully as able as Mr. Moore, to take his place until we arrived at New York, and if they violated any law they were willing the courts to decide.

Receiving this message, I went to the cabin, to tell him the decision of both watches. He tried hard to pump out of me if Jack Thomas and Dick Lewis were not the leaders, and that they were bad men. I told him what Mr. Moore had said and threatened the first time he ever saw them when hoisting anchor in the river Mersey. I told him also that the two men he mentioned were gentlemen in every sense of the word, and by what I had seen of them, they had a perfect right to defend themselves as they did, and if they did not, I would consider them craven cowards, that all this unfortunate affair was entirely the work of Mr. Moore.

He sent the second mate on deck to take charge of the ship, and told me after breakfast to come to him, so that I could carry his decision to the men. After breakfast the men waited to know what to do, and I went to find out what the captain had decided on. He inquired of me which of the men I thought the most capable for the position of mate, for he had seen very little of them. I told him that I had never seen a single one of them in my life before they came on board his ship, and it was not right for me, a mere boy, to give advice to a man of his mature age, but if he would allow me to give my opinion, – if it had not been for the unfortunate occurrence that had happened, Jack Thomas or Dick Lewis could have filled the position with honor, but since neither of the two could be considered, there was a man in his watch that I thought well suited to take the place. He is of a mature age, a sailor every inch of him, had the appearance of having seen much service. He is of course in your watch, but you should take one from the mate’s watch, to keep the division even. If you want my advice, I have but formed little friendship with the crew thus far, I would appoint Mr. Mitchell, second mate, to be first mate, in place of Mr. Moore, and take a man from your own watch for the place of second mate, who will always be under your eye. That man, I opine, you already have in your mind – it is old John Evans, the oldest and one of the most able among your crew.

The captain seemed surprised at the able advice given him by a person of my age. He, however, seemed to be pleased with my logic. He considered for a moment and then told me he would like to speak with John Evans. In passing out of the cabin I had to pass Mr. Moore’s room, and saw that he had been listening to our conversation, for the door was partly open. He had partly recovered from the terrible beating he had received. Arriving on deck I saw the men sitting on some spare spars always carried in case of accidents. They were conversing about the output, which they called “Mutiny”.

I told John Evans the captain would like to speak with him. He went down to the cabin. He was down about half an hour and arranged with the captain to work his watch while Mr. Mitchell would take Mr. Moore’s place. When this became known to the crew they were delighted, for everyone on board loved and respected old John Evans, the oldest man on board, and the one who had seen the most service on all the oceans of the world. From this out we had a pleasant voyage, but sometime very rough. We arrived in New York in four weeks, dropping anchor in the river, the captain going ashore in a boat. While in harbor at anchor two men at a time keep watch all. I was on watch from 10 to 12. In the morning it was discovered that six barrels of the cook’s grease (this grease is part of the cook’s emoluments) the brass bell on the poop deck, several ropes and light sails had disappeared during the night. No one seemed to know anything about them. Ten men had been on watch during the night, no one seemed, or pretended to know anything about them. The captain came in a tug-boat which took us to the wharf. A dozen or more boarding house runners with hacks ready to dispatch the crew with their respective baggage to their respective houses were on the dock. In less than ten minutes all the crew had abandoned the ship, and no effort was made to trace the robbery of the night before, as there were several bum-boats visiting vessels at anchor that night, likely it was sold to them more for revenge than depravity. The crew had received as they always do, a month’s wages in advance at Liverpool, therefore they had no pay coming to them. Mr. Moore did not appear on deck after he was deposed. I went ashore with the men, since the voyage was at an end, therefore not wanted. In this way I boarded for about a week, the boarding master promising me he would get a good ship in short time. I was getting tired and did not know how to pass the time away.

One fine morning sitting on a bench in Central Park, Capt. Brown came and sat by my side, asking me what made me leave his ship in the way I had. I told him it was my understanding that all crew leave when the voyage is at an end. He said he did not want me to leave, and asked if I would not like to go with him another voyage. I asked if Mr. Moore was still with him. He said he was, that Mr. Moore was a good man, but once in awhile a little hot-headed, that he would be kind to me. I told him if Mr. Moore would treat me right I would go with him another voyage. He was pleased and gave me ten dollars to pay what I owed my boarding house and bring my clothes on board. Next morning I went down to where the St. Lawrence was. I did not see anyone on board, so I took my clothes down to the forecastle, took off my best clothes and put on a working suit. Coming on deck the first person I saw was Mr. Moore. He asked me what business I had on board. I told him Capt. Brown had hired me, and asked what he had for me to do. It seemed that my presence was not agreeable to him. He walked off without saying another word. I picked up a broom and commenced sweeping the deck, seeing nothing else I could do. I went over several times, thinking that he could see I was only killing time. After some time thus employed, I went down the forecastle, intending to change my clothes and go ashore, for I did not deserve to be treated in this way.

After sitting down a short time thinking of how to act, I heard the voice of Captain Brown on deck giving some orders. I went up and told him I was there according to promise, what work did he want me to do. He asked me to come with him to the cabin, where he told me that he was going to take in ballast and sail for Baltimore, for he had engaged to take a cargo of tobacco to Rotterdam, Holland.. All he had for me to do was to act as watchman and take care of the cabin until the crew were shipped, when he would have a steward employed, or if I wished he would keep me as steward. I thanked him for his kind offer, but declined for the reason I stated to him before, that I went to sea for the purpose of learning to be a seaman, not a steward or sea cook. He saw my point and said I was perfectly right. For the present he hoped I would take care of the ship and gave me the keys of the state room. He said that Mr. Moore was perfectly satisfied that I would take care of the ship, which would give him more time to visit his relatives for he had many in New York. By degrees Mr. Moore and myself became friends, for the reason I never had been his enemy. When he had trouble at sea with the men, he knew it was his own fault and I told him so more than once. Because I lived with the men forward I did not consider I lived with brutes, but with men who knew their rights and were able to maintain them. We lived thus about ten days. I always showed him civilities his position entitled him to receive.

On Sunday morning, the second I had spent in New York, I walked along the wharves on East River, looking on all the large ships lying there, I spied a number of drays bringing provisions to a large, full rigged ship, according to amount, I thought she was destined for a long voyage. By inquiring I found the ship was called Columbia, bound for New Zealand on a trading which might take several years before her return. I was surprised to see my old friend John Evans in full command. He saw me and invited me to come on board. I found by him that through the influence of some captains he had sailed with before, he got the position of chief mate, that Jack Thomas was second mate, Dick Lewis, boatswain, their newly made friend, Yankee Bill, was with them before the mast. In remarking what strange coincidence that they should be together again on the same ship, old John Evans, who had been with them for many years, said he could not go without them, they were as worthy as any men who ever trod a ship’s deck, and as true as steel. I saw the whole four in prime health and spirits. Jack Thomas jokingly remarked to old John Evans that he should share the extra pay he got from the St. Lawrence as mate, with me, for it was me who got him the position. The old man put his hand in his pocket and handed me a ten dollar gold piece, which he insisted on me to take. I was never more glad than to see those men on a good ship, but in all probability, would never see them again. The ship soon after cleared the harbor with fair wind and all sails set. I made up my mind never to mention their names when Mr. Moore was present.

In the course of ten days we shipped a new crew at New York for a run to Baltimore. These men were all foreigners, Sweeds, Danes, Norwegians, and all from the northern part of Europe. There was not an American or Englishman among the crew. The weather was stormy and the passage rough. Mr. Moore as usual finding there was not an Englishman nor an American among the crew, commenced his brutality on them as he had done before. I felt sorry for them but knowing they came from military empires, where a poor man has no right to protest against their superiors. However the poor fellows were glad to reach land, for they had only shipped for the run from New York to Baltimore.

Having discharged ballast and taken on a cargo of tobacco for Rotterdam, Holland, we shipped another crew, a duplicate of the last, Mr. Moore had a lively time kicking and knocking these men to his entire satisfaction. I was treated humanely, and as these men had no spirit to defend themselves I had nothing to do but pity them. It took us two months to reach Rotterdam. As usual the men all deserted, leaving a months wages behind. I was pleased to find that some of the men were acquainted here, who went to an old Jew merchant and made arrangements with him to pawn all their wages, half cash and half clothing, this accomplished they all deserted. In a few days the old merchant came down to the captain with the bills, which he refused t pay because they had deserted. The old fellow did not seem to care much for this refusal, but smiled and took considerable snuff.

This vessel made considerable money by making it untenable for the men to stand the abuse. We had shipped in Baltimore two Chinamen, one for cook the other steward. They were fine, quiet, gentlemanly and remarkably clean, understanding their business thoroughly. The mate found they were packing up to leave, had them put in irons and fastened to the ringbolts below decks, for he did not want them to leave as they were experts at their business. They called me to the cabin to act as steward while we remained at Rotterdam. I had these two men to wait on as well as the officers. The second mate acted as cook. The first opportunity I had, my resolution was put in force. I went straight to the American Consul and told him there were two American citizens, for such they had become on board the American ship St. Lawrence in irons. He told me very surely he would see to it. The next day he came down in his carriage, and arm in arm with Captain Brown, went down to the cabin, drank a bottle of champagne, then both came on deck, the captain taking him to his carriage, and shook hands very cordially. In an hour or two the Chinamen were released. The first opportunity they had (the mate having gone ashore on business) they left the ship, thanking me, for they suspected I had been the cause of their release, and said I could have all their effects left behind, consisting of fine clothing, hair mattress and fine blankets to the value of $200. In a couple of weeks we had unloaded our cargo and taken in ballast for Liverpool. A new crew had been shipped, something of the same character as the last. Just as we were ready to cast off two officers came on board and told us not to touch the cables with which the ship was fastened. They told the captain that the Jew merchant had got a judgment against the ship for the sailors wages which had to be paid before we could leave. Nothing could be done but pay the judgment with costs. Captain Brown told me, for I was the only confidant all hands had, that it was preposterous to make him pay when the men were deserters. I reminded him that when in Venice we had to comply with the laws of Venice. We were delayed a long time in a canal coming out of Rotterdam on account of stormy weather and head winds. We made a long voyage to Liverpool, but when we reached there, the crew, as usual, deserted. I could not leave for I had too much wages coming to me. They treated me kindly, and all I had to do was act as watchman. I was allowed to board with a friend, and night watchman hired. No fires are allowed in Liverpool docks, consequently everyone has to board ashore.

Here we found a cargo of general merchandise for New York, and I made up my mind to leave when we reached there, as my voyage would expire then. The crew we got here were but little better than the last two or three we had run across, for we had few Americans and Englishmen among them. We did not have such men as Jack Thomas, Dick Lewis and John Evans, who dared to do right in any position they were placed. Mr. Moore had many of these men under his thumb. We had a long and stormy voyage. Our masts were sprung, so that we could carry but little canvas. Provisions and water giving out rapidly. Many vessels spoke us and offered. We refused every offer. The mate getting uglier daily. I was determined to make some effort to get better treatment. I spoke with several of the men that we should go boldly and inquire of the captain the reason for refusing assistance when offered, and we on short allowance. I could get no one to go with me, but went alone. Captain Brown had always been my friend, and was not averse to speak with me on the subject. He stated the reason he refused assistance was that we had been long on the passage and the voyage had been disastrous to the owners financially. He asked me to inform the men that if the wind continued in the same direction it was in for two days longer we would be in Charleston, S.C., for we had already passed the stormy Cape Hatteras, that in the condition the masts were in he had to run in the direction the wind blew. We had sailed more than one thousand miles beyond our destination – New York, he begged the sympathy of the men in his unhappy condition. He thanked me for acting as medium between him and the crew.

I went forward where the men were waiting the result of my visit. I passed Mr. Moore on the way. He looked daggers at me but said nothing. I explained to the men what the captain informed me, with a great deal of sympathy in my words. All were glad to know were we were, but were surprised that we were near Charleston in place of New York. They all agreed to take things as they were, for a few days at least, hoping soon to be ashore. That evening when our watch was on deck from eight to twelve o’clock, Mr. Moore came forward and ordered me to fore top sail yard to keep lookout for land. Thinking nothing wrong, as this is always a rule when nearing land at night. I felt very sleepy and fearing to fall asleep I tied myself to the halliards so I could not fall off, finding a gasket on the yard for that purpose. I had been there about two hours and thought it was near twelve o’clock when the watches changed, and a man come to relieve me. All at once the yard went down without notice given, and came down with a thud. It was well I had the foresight to lash myself to the halliards and went down with it, as the sudden jar would sure throw me overboard. When I came down on the deck the bell struck eight bells and the watch relieved. Mr. Moore was jumping about the deck saying he would kill the man who let go of the top sail halyards if he knew who he was. I said nothing, but suspicioned it was him who was guilty.

Next day in the forenoon watch he came to me, said he thought next day we would be in Charleston, all the hands were busy cleaning the paint work as was the custom. He ordered me to get a pail of water and ashes and scrub the martingale. I knew this was a risky job with the swell that was then in the sea. This martingale reached within five or six feet of the water and when the ship plunged it often dipped. The voyage was then so near up that I did not wish to disobey my superior officer, willingly went at it. The vessel often plunging until my feet was in the water, and dozens of dog fishes, a species of shark, trying to get at them. Little scrubbing was done by me and glad to hear the sound of the eight bells, when I came up on deck and the other watch coming on duty. I pretended to be cheerful, but my mind was far from being so. That evening we sighted land, and the next forenoon we landed at one of the wharves of Charleston, S.C. having been ninety days out from Liverpool. The captain soon went ashore.

I was glad this unpleasant voyage was at an end. As soon as the vessel was fastened I went down to the forecastle to change and pack up my clothes and go ashore. Mr. Moore came to the companionway and said that the Captain wanted me to came and take care of the cabin, for the sheriff had taken the cook and steward to jail during the vessel’s stay in port. This was the law then, when slavery was in full force, and half the city’s population being slaves, free negroes talked too much politics to the slaves therefore, would have no access to them. He told me the ship had to have new masts and rigging, which would consume about seven or eight weeks, the captain was going to New York, there would be only him, second mate, and myself in the cabin, and the captain had gone ashore to find a negro woman for cook and my work would be light. I told him this was the opportunity I had been looking for, that I could help and learn to rig a ship and that it would be a school for me. He would not listen to this philosophy, but must come to the cabin. I told him plainly that I could not think of it, as it had come to this my voyage was up, and I was going ashore. He said I could be arrested as a deserter. I then stated I had signed articles in New York to go from there to Baltimore, from there to Rotterdam, from there to Liverpool then to any port in the United States and thought I was now in a port of the United States and my voyage at an end. He went back to the cabin, got the articles, but I discovered and told him that those were the articles signed by the present crew to go from Liverpool to New York. I agreed with him that the voyage of these men was not up until they reached New York. Finding he could do nothing with me he walked off with curses on his lips, I walked ashore.

My first inquiries was for the Mayor’s office, and after walking quite a number of streets found the Mayor at his office in the court house. This was the same Mayor Brown, who a year after, sent to Liverpool for me as witness in a state case which I described in a story written to the News last Christmas. I explained to the Mayor that I wanted to part with my ship, and gave him my reasons for doing so, and whether I could collect the wages due me. He said the St. Lawrence was in the hands of the Underwriters, that the captain or owners had nothing to say until she was thoroughly repaired and ready for sea. I then asked the status of the men who shipped from Liverpool to New York. He answered that their voyages was also up as well as my own.

After I learned this I hired a spring wagon and went down after my clothing. I also informed the men of the result of my inquiry. Every man quit work and followed me up to town. We had not gone more than a quarter of a mile when the second mate overtook us and said the captain had sent him to inform us to come down next morning he would pay us all off. This was a jolly night for the crew of the St. Lawrence. All happy it terminated as it did.

Next morning we all went down on board the ship and settled with the captain satisfactory. I was the last and expected a good lesson for the part I had played, but the captain did not mention a word on what had passed. He had given me money on several occasions. I had kept an account of all sums I had received and told him the amount. He said, “never mind, that was my gift and not charged to you.” We shook hands on parting. He hoped I would prosper as I deserved.

In a few days the hands had scattered on different vessels and different destination. I found employment in a cotton press, where I often met Captain Brown. One day sitting down in the office he told me his ship repairs would soon be completed and asked me if I would go with him to Liverpool, as the ship was loaded with cotton and the riggers had nearly completed their work, another vessel had taken his freight to New York. I told him I would be glad to sail with him, but as long as Mr. Moore was on her I would not set a foot on the deck, not because I feared him physically, but feared his treachery. I told how he tried to throw me overboard from the topsail-yard and the way he sent me to scrub the martingale, hoping no doubt that sharks would get hold of me. Captain Brown was horrified at such villainy. He told me the reason for his being mate that he and his friends in New York were in New York were nine-sixteenths parts of the ship, while he and his friends owned but seven-sixteenths parts (you will understand that a ship is divided into sixteen parts or ounces as they are called, so that one man may own hundreds of ounces in different ships without owning a whole one.) The captain told me that he had tried many times to sell his interest but ship owners were so well acquainted with Mr. Moore, that they would not buy as long as Mr. Moore and his friends owned controlling interest. He also told me that the friends of Mr. Moore did not want to elevate him as captain. After hearing this I told him that as poor as I was I would not change positions with him. With this he left the office, parting as friends.

To finish this story I must tell what happened a few years after, when working on a weekly newspaper in a small town on the west of England – a watering resort. Many of the aristocracy living in the neighborhood, having parks and gardens extending down to the seashore, with sailing yachts anchored before their doors. With these they go on pleasure excursions often during fine weather in summer. They generally keep an old seaman by the year to take care of and the sail the small crafts. In summer they have regattas at the different water resorts, and set time to run at the different circuits. The editor of the paper on which I worked went around to report the incidents of the races. He asked me to go with him in his buggy, there was an exciting race to take place next day about fifteen miles from our town. Arriving there the little town was in its holiday attire, the yachtsmen in uniforms were the lions of the day. The morning turned out fine, but the wind blowed hard and the sea was rough for the small crafts that were there to test their valor. The course to run was about twenty miles. A ship was anchored at both ends which they had to go around. Twenty yachts were booked for the race. The programs were printed and held by most of the excited crowd, naming the yachts and captains of each by the flags displayed. Thousands from the surrounding country lined the shores and housetops and every avenue from which the race could be seen. At the firing of a gun they all started. The friends of each yacht straining every nerve to keep track of his favorite. The wind blew hard. Before the wind we could not judge which was making the best time. In coming back they had to beat against the wind, and here the tug of war was displayed. They had to tack more than twenty times from one side of the narrow straight to the other, for it was not more than a mile wide. One yacht would gain on the other and their positions changed often. The men on shore becoming excited and bets were changed from one craft to the other continually. In the last half hour a yacht called Arvonia and another called Dolphin seemed to gain gradually. It was a grand sight to see these small cutters ploughing through the water, carrying such large sails that they were almost on beam ends, covered literally by foam. On and on they came, changing positions often. Experts could see the Arvonia and Dolphin, though not the fastest, but better handled, stood good chance of winning. The best were high on these two boats. Sometime these boats could not be seen for the foam they made. When the Arvonia once came in sight it was with the topmast carried away. There was excitement, among those who had bet heavy on her, that can hardly be described. Just at this moment the wind freshened to about a gale. The top mast was quickly cut away, and the Arvonia, relieved of too much canvas, rushed forward like a wounded bull. She rounded the ship anchored for mark, the cannon fired as the signal, then the other slow craft Dolphin, in two seconds had the gun fired for her. The other yachts steered away and gave up the contest. That evening the people of the town gave a grand banquet to the yachtsmen. Our editor was presented with two tickets to the banquet, one for him and one for me. The mayor of the town presided at the table, with Capt. Thomas, of the yacht Arvonia, on the right and Capt. Lewis, of the Dolphin, on the left. In a neat speech he presented the first prize, a handsome gold goblet, to the gallant master of the cutter Arvonia. Capt. Thomas in a patriotic speech acknowledged the great honor done them by the hospitality of the little town. The second prize was then presented to Capt. Lewis, of the Dolphin, a miniature ship made of ivory, with rigging of gold thread. He also made a neat little speech in acknowledgment of the kindness they had received during their stay by the kind and happy of the town and surrounding country. Many others made patriotic speeches, commemorating the innocent and recreative pleasures of yachting. After the inner man had been satisfied the meeting broke up, with all present singing “Brittania Rules the Waves”.

In breaking up all the present took the two gallant captains by the hand, with great praise for the manner of handling their crafts.

I was considerably excited and waited till the last, when I took those two gallant tars by the hand, never having given a thought until I heard their voices that they were my shipmates on the ship St. Lawrence. Jack Thomas and Dick Lewis. I spent the next day with them on their yachts, for they were as glad to see me as I was to see them.

To end this story. They told me that when I saw them leaving New York, on the ship Columbia, they went to New Zealand and traded in the Orient about three years: that our old friend John Evans had died with cholera at Calcutta; that Yankee Bill had fell from the yard arm off Cape of Good Hope, and lost: that they were both married and settled down at their old home and lived comfortable and both were happy.

Peace to their ashes is the tribute of an old shipmate who has also retired from the hardships seen at sea.

Dear friends I’ll keep your memory green.
You were men when I was sweet sixteen:
No doubt you’ve paid the debt of nature.
Like gallant chiefs at last surrender.

Yours respectfully,

L. E. Jones, Senior
St. James, Nebraska, January 1, 1901.


Just Finished Drafting the Final Chapter of the Book!

The only known photo of William Ellis Jones, II. If you know of another, please contact me!

The only known photo of William Ellis Jones, II. If you know of another, please contact me!

As some of you may have noticed, I have been very quiet. That’s because I have been very busy.

Tonight I finished the last sentence of the last chapter of “The Book”; the Biography and Civil war Diary of my g-g-g-grandfather, William Ellis Jones, II. The book is going to be called “The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect”, which is an homage to a line in William’s Civil War Diary, and (I think at least) a perfect metaphor for the mythology of the Lost Cause.

There is much more work to do. I have to complete the footnotes, finish two Appendices, write an Acknowledgements page, and go through the thing with a fine tooth comb for style, grammar, etc. – but it’s damn close.

Monday morning I begin searching in earnest for publishers.

I am so happy, and so proud of this accomplishment (I started working on this project in 2006), that I could just dance a jig and then spit!


The Greatest Epic Failure

creole-bitters1

The Bitter Truth is Often Sweet to Swallow!

A month or so back I signed up, via Coursera, to take a 10 week long class at the University of Pennsylvania on the “History of the Slave South”. Since this is one of my favorite subjects of study – a passion, no less – I’ve been anxiously awaiting the start of the class. It began today and I was absolutely astonished to find that there are people from all over the world taking this course. Folks from Australia, New Zealand, German, Spain, and England all enrolled in class dealing exclusively with the unique flavor of slavery that flourished in the Southern Colonies (and later States) of North America. Fascinating!

Today I completed my first assignment; write a brief piece in response to the question, “How was your nation or region shaped by the slave trade?

Here’s my response:

CH Jones – Resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A. / Native of Southside Virginia, Nottoway & Roanoke River Valley Region.

My home region was not only shaped by the Transatlantic slave trade, it was and in many respects, still is, completely defined by antebellum slavery – socially, politically, economically, and culturally. Volumes have been written – with many more yet to be written – about the specifics of economics and historical impact on the region. In regards to social and cultural impact, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

In the latter part of the 18th century and early 19th century, issues of race and class distinction began to take on great significance in Virginia and North Carolina. In this period there emerged a great fear of “free” blacks – often highly skilled, moderately well educated, and surprisingly autonomous in their physical as well as social movement – “mixing with” and exciting the upward ambitions of both enslaved blacks and lower class (often indentured, or nearly so)  whites.

Upper class whites; those who most directly benefitted from a hardened, legally legitimized institution of slavery, in combination with a rigid, near-feudal caste system which kept most whites equally outside the civil and economic sphere of decision making and economic power, saw themselves as a “pure” and superior race who were destined by God to rule. They saw the mixing of races and the aspirations of lower class whites as a direct threat to their divinely ordained place at the top of society.

And yet, despite myriad laws and regulations passed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries to separate both races, classes, and even sexes, despite sophisticated “divide and conquer” psychologies used to pit poor-whites against free and enslaved blacks, despite entrenched religious justifications used to perpetuate slavery and the social caste status-quo – the “aristocracy” of the south failed to maintain and perpetuate a stratified society in which silos of race, gender, and class coexisted, separately.

Their failure is evident in every respect of the “southern antebellum” culture that arose in the 19th century, matured in the years immediately before and after the Civil War, went underground during the closing decades of Reconstruction, and then began to openly flourish beginning in the years immediately following WWI – and which thrives today openly and unapologetically, despite the lack of self-awareness of many of its most enthusiastic practitioners and beneficiaries – or its most ardent opponents.

I am a white descendant of Planation owning slaveholders. This morning my alarm clock shook me awake to the sound of Aretha Franklin belting out her now famous, and hardly demurring “Respect”; a song which, at every level, flies in the face of what the upper class, white, male social engineers of 18th and 19th century Virginia attempted to institutionalize.

When I arose from bed I showered – alone. There was no servant there to bath me, dress me, or do my hair. In fact my hair requires very little “doing”, as I wear it very short – much like the female slaves of the 19th century were required to do, as their masters found African hair unruly and offensive. So I find my own hair when it gets too long. I crop it close.

My clothing includes indigo blue dyed denim jeans (indigo being a hugely profitable crop in the plantation south, it’s cultivation, production, and application imported to the Colonies by slaves in the 19th century) – not silk or lace or taffeta. I wear flat soled work boots – not slippers or heels. I make my own coffee and I take out my own garbage.

The language I use is infused with regionalisms informed by generation upon generation of exchange between white and black and mixed race neighbors. For breakfast I’ll “crack a guinnea into my pone” (eggs & grits.) For dinner I will “cook up a mess of collards.” When I go to work I won’t leave until “I’ve hoed to the end of the row.” When I get in trouble I’m “in the stripes” (a reference to flogging or whipping.) When I’m almost done with a monolithic task, I’m, “working the short rows.” When I’m unexpectedly fortunate, I’m “shittin’ in high cotton.”

When I head out for an evening’s entertainment in Raleigh, I’ll likely venture downtown to the City Market area. There, surrounded by street musicians of every color and creed, I’ll hear strains of blues, reggae, “beach music” (a unique North/South Carolina blend of African inspired blues combined with country “dance” music), rap and hip-hop, all played out in the open air on cobbled sidewalks and streets that once hosted the weekly slave market auctions, held in this place, more than one hundred years before I was born.

Depending upon my mood, I can step into any number of restaurants offering Caribbean fare, soul-food, or low-country Creole. Inside these establishments patrons – black, white, Latino, and otherwise – mix and comingle without the least awareness of the “failed” culture in which they live.

They eat, sleep, dance, and make love together. They work side by side. They love and hate one another with undifferentiated passion – rarely based on skin color or even class – usually having to do with more common human complaints of ambition, desire, and greed.

Meanwhile, a mixed race man of half-African, continental descent sits in the “White House” (which was built entirely by slaves), and contemplates how to heal a deeply divided, racist nation that can’t seem to work through its racist history. Despite his concerns, the movie “12 Years a Slave” sits poised to sweep the academy awards, demonstrating that America may finally be paying attention to its past, after all.

The culture that thrives in my community demonstrates that Virginia, the South, and the nation as a whole – despite its many successes and social, civil advances – is the Greatest Epic Failure in the history of the western world.

Thank God.


160 year-old Documents Intentionally Destroyed in Franklin County, N.C.

This is one of a countless number of 19th century records seized by the North Carolina Archives and burned on December 6, 2013

This is one of a countless number of 19th century records seized by the North Carolina Archives and burned on December 6, 2013

I rarely re-blog, but this one deserves being spread far and wide.

Timeline of the Destruction of 100 Year Old Franklin County, NC Records

Please read the whole post included above – but the gist is as follows:

– This summer a new Clerk of Court in Franklin County discovered a trove (an entire roomful) of documents, some dating back to 1840, in a previously sealed room in the Franklin County, North Carolina Court House.

– Recognizing the historical value of these materials, she contacted the local historical society to assist in reviewing the materials, preserving them, and inventorying the materials.

– The Local historical group enthusiastically poured themselves into the project, mobilizing volunteers and the whole community – securing space to work, materials, and finances – in order to catalog and preserve the bounty of record books, photographs, deeds, chattel records, land grants, deeds, wills, personal correspondence, and countless other materials from a wide variety of government departments throughout the county. (This room had apparently become the “graveyard” for old records, and no one bothered to investigate it for many, many decades.)

– In August of this year, the Local Historians – realizing they may be beyond their depth in regard to the value of some of these materials, contacted the North Carolina Department of Archives, seeking guidance on proper preservation techniques and value assessment.

And that’s when things went hinky. The NC Archives group stepped in, pulled rank, and immediately halted all work on the project, stating that they were going to study the challenge and come up with “Next Steps”. Months passed and nothing got done, while the documents languished in the basement of the courthouse.

Then, on Friday, December 6, 2013, at 6:00 in the evening (after all the county workers had left, and with no notice to the local historical group involved in the project), a team from the North Carolina Archives swept in and confiscated ALL the materials – with the cover of Law Enforcement! They took the documents to the County Incinerator, and methodically burned EVERYTHING. They did this while a few locals stood by, not understanding why or precisely what was happening.

[CORRECTION: Added 01/06/2014 – The folks who swept in to claim and destroy the documents were NOT from the NC Archives. A team from the NC Archives did seize many boxes of documents from a workroom managed by the Franklin County Historical Society – but they were NOT directly involved in the destruction of the materials in the basement.

ADDENDUM TO THE CORRECTION: Added 01/06/2014 – A number of people have posted/emailed asking if I know what County Agency was responsible. I do not know for certain. So far conjecture leads me to the Franklin County Manager’s office – but until I hear her side of the story – my opinion is uninformed except by silence. Sorry.]

Every book, deed, will – every photograph – every piece of paper in that room was incinerated that night. No explanation has been given, and no media attention has asked any questions.

Boxes of documents from the Franklin County Courthouse seized and burned by the North Carolina State Archives.

Boxes of documents from the Franklin County Courthouse seized and burned by the North Carolina State Archives.

HERE’S WHAT I THINK:
After the Civil War (after emancipation), a lot of large land-owners deeded out substantial tracts of land to their former slaves. These former slaves had demonstrated to their masters that they were loyal, hard-working, and would continue to farm and contribute to the plantation collective as they always had. The only difference is that they would own the land they worked, and earn a somewhat larger income as a result of their efforts.

During reconstruction, a lot of land holders, both black and white, had difficulty paying very high property taxes imposed by Federal Occupiers. In swept speculators and investors from up North (these people have come to be known as “Carpet Baggers”.) They often forced white land owners to sell out at a fraction of the actual value of their property. In the case of black land-owners, sometimes all the Carpet Baggers offered was threats. The effect was the same – a vast transfer of wealth from titled property owners to new people who became, in the decades of the late 19th and early 20th century, among the wealthiest people in the South.

How do I know this? Some of my own ancestors were Carpet Baggers from Maryland. They made a small fortune after the war, stealing land, setting up mills, and effectively re-enslaving two or three generations of both poor-white and black natives of Halifax County, North Carolina.

My suspicion is that in and amongst all those now destroyed records, was a paper trail associated with one or more now-prominent, politically connected NC families that found its wealth and success through theft, intimidation, and outrageous corruption.

Prove me wrong. You can’t. They destroyed the records.

Shelves of record books from the Franklin County Courthouse seized and burned by the North Carolina State Archives.

Shelves of record books from the Franklin County Courthouse seized and burned in December, 2013.


Reading Between the Lines – Civil War Diary

COVER1862For months now I have been parsing through William Ellis Jones, II’s Civil War diary, plucking details, context, and hidden subtext from his scribbles. While the diary has been previously used by many Civil War scholars and is quoted in a countless list of books and articles about the 1862 Peninsular and Shenandoah marches and battles, no one to date had done a comprehensive study of the whole text.

Despite my lack of academic pedigree or publishing chops, I have the advantage over most of those scholars in that I’ve spent eight years studying William Ellis Jones, II’s family history. Having those details – knowing who, where, and what he came from – has given me a really precise lens through which to examine the intent and implications of the diary’s author.

That lens has allowed me to pluck meaning from seemingly benign statements. For instance; in August of 1862, William and his battery witness the advance of the whole of Jackson’s Army marching brigade after brigade into the Shenandoah Valley. He describes the endless lines of soldiers as “stretched out to the crack of doom.” This statement appears on its face to be a simple description of a very large, ominous looking advance of troops, until you dig deeper and discover why William chose to enclose the description in quotes.

“…stretched out to the crack of doom.” is a quote taken from the speech of a Mr. Stanton, published in the “Proceedings of the General Anti-slavery Convention” from the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, published in London in 1841. (Page 479.)

Mr. Stanton used the phrase in reference to the United States’ desire to extend and legalize institutionalized slavery not only within her own borders, but to use the nation’s growing international strength and influence to extend industrialized slavery into Mexico, Latin America, South America, and beyond. Today the idea that such an expansion of slavery was ever conceived seems preposterous to us, but a study of the antebellum, pro-slavery coalition operating inside and on the periphery of the United States Congress prior to the Civil War shows us that this kind of international expansion of slavery was exactly what the proto-Confederates intended. This was to become a central component of the United States foreign policy; if southerners could manage to wrest a majority in the House and Senate.

The idea that William read this speech, was familiar enough with it to quote from it, and had a firm conceptual grasp of the idea that the massive army he was watching (and serving in) represented a real physical manifestation of the policy that Mr. Stanton warned against in 1841, is simply amazing to me. He was just twenty-four years old, and had been born and reared in a city (Richmond, Virginia), whose very foundations were laid by the hands of slaves.

William in no way celebrated the idea of slavery in the use of this quote. Rather, I believe, he carefully selected it to record his true feelings about what was happening, while remaining just ambiguous enough for self-preservation (should his diary fall into the hands of one of his commanders.)

The diary is dotted with examples like this one; statements that show us the veiled concerns and conflicted loyalties of a less than enthusiastic confederate soldier.

When viewed from this perspective, it becomes clear why William chose to never write or publish any of his own words about the War, and why he chose to rear his sons with social and political leanings that were anything but in keeping with the spirit of glorification of the “Lost Cause”.

More to come.


Hardie House – Slave of Turner & Patience House – Tawdry Scandal!

Slave Hardie House, Patience House, Turner House of Pitt County NC

Not the Slave Story Anyone’s Taught to Expect – Except Here It Is, In The NC Court Records.

Talk about suppressed slave stories! This one is among the most interesting I have come across.

I’m still working on my connection to Turner House, but there is a relation. Will post it here as soon as I have tracked it down.

“921. [HOUSE], Hardie – slave of Turner HOUSE. See HOUSE, Turner and wife, Patience.

922. HOUSE, Turner and wife, Patience. Petition of Turner HOUSE of Pitt County sheweth that he intermarried with Patience YOUNG many years ago and enjoyed in her society more than the usual comforts and blessings of a married life. His exertions to perpetuate this happiness were indefatigable, and he discharged the duties of an affectionate husband in every particular. Your petitioner and the said Patience were blessed during this time with those fondest pledges, for they had born to them four promising children in whose society he believed both enjoyed the endearing pleasure of parents. This state of connubial bliss continued up to the year 1823, when the conduct of his wife was so strangely different and repulsive that his suspicions were awakened, and his mind yielded to the influence of corroding jealousy. He suspected that he had been supplanted in the affection of his wife by some object unknown. He was determined to conceal his feelings from his wife and the world and to grieve in silence. He believed that his forbearances would regain her love, and domestic harmony would be restored. But in these fond expectations, he was woefully disappointed, for his demeanor seemed to add to her alienation. Eventually she refused to admit your petitioner to her embraces and to a participation of all the rights of a husband. He was determined if possible to ascertain the cause of his suspicions and kept a strict watch on her conduct. To his great mortification he discovered her secretly enjoying the embraces of a slave, the property of your petitioner. What was before to him a terrestrial paradise was thus converted into a Hell. He has been informed and believes that she was guilty of a repetition of the same crime with the same person. Some time after this occurrence, your petitioner and the said Patience agreed to separate and entered into deed for that purpose. Your petitioner conveyed to said Patience the one-third part of his estate, and since that time they have lived separate and apart. Pray for a divorce from said wife, Patience. Sworn and subscribed before J.J. Brickell, J.P., 4 December 1826.

Deposition of Hillary WHITEHURST of Pitt County that he is a near neighbor of Turner HOUSE and went to his house about eighteen months ago to make a pair leading lines. He learned that Mr. HOUSE and his two eldest sons had gone to neighbor, so he went into the house to get the instruments for making the lines. After entering one room, he saw through an open door of another room the wife of said Turner on the bed and a negro slave named Hardie, belonging to said Turner, on top of her in an act of adultery. This deponent being ashamed of the sight immediately turned around to the kitchen and sent a negro woman for the instruments. Mrs. HOUSE afterwards came to the door, but this deponent does not know whether she was aware of his discovery or not. Some weeks afterward, this deponent was going to his brother’s and while passing said Turner’s house, he saw near the corner of the fence in a potato patch the same negro slave with Mrs. HOUSE engaged in the act of adultery. Sworn at Raleigh, 20 January 1827, before Wm. PEACE, J.P. of Wake County.

The Committee on Divorce and alimony to whom was referred this petition of Turner HOUSE have considered the same and report that the statements of the petitioner are well substantiated and recommend the accompanying bill be passed into law: that Turner HOUSE of the County of Pitt is hereby divorced from his wife Patience as if the rites of matrimony had never been solemnized. [On reverse:] In the House of Commons, 22 January 1827, read and laid on the table. In the House of Commons, 7 February 1827, read and postponed indefinitely.
(GASR 28 Dec. 1826 – 10 Feb. 1827, Box 1, folder “HB 23 Jan.”)”

Source for the above information is imprecise. It is published in the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, but I do not know what volume, date, or page number. I was provided a photocopy of a photocopy by a Mr. House, resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, and  who frequents the bookshop where I work. I will endeavor to locate better source information.


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