I need a write-up of at least 250 words on the following in 8 Hours;
1) Read pages 8-17 of the US History online textbook. 
2) Read the provided YAWP reading.
3) Review the videos provided. 
4) Read through the Native American Time Periods – link provided.
Using the instructions above, the provided learning materials, and your own research:
1) Create a conversation starter about these learnings.
2) If we study history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, what do we need to learn and know from this time period?
3) Pose 3 questions from your learning to your fellow students to create further discussions.
Why was the discovery of Kennewick Man so controversial?
Should Native American remains be off-limits to archeologists? Make an argument.
What else do you want to discuss about this topic



A Documentary Companion to the

American Yawp

Volume I




Table of Contents

Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 6

1. Indigenous America…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 8
Native American Creation Stories……………………………………………………………………………………. 9
Journal of Christopher Columbus, 1492 ………………………………………………………………………… 12
An Aztec account of the Spanish attack ………………………………………………………………………… 15
Bartolomé de Las Casas Describes the Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples, 1542 ………… 17
Thomas Morton Reflects on Native Americans in New England, 1637 ………………………… 19
The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe ……………………………………………………………………………. 22
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca Travels through North America, 1542 ……………………………. 25
Cliff Palace …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 28
Casta Painting ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 29

2. Colliding Cultures ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 30
Richard Hakluyt Makes the Case for English Colonization, 1584 ………………………………….. 31
John Winthrop Dreams of a City on a Hill, 1630 …………………………………………………………… 34
John Lawson Encounters Native Americans, 1709………………………………………………………… 37
A Gaspesian Man Defends His Way of Life, 1641 ………………………………………………………… 40
The Legend of Moshup, 1830 ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 42
Accusations of witchcraft, 1692 and 1706 ……………………………………………………………………… 44
Manuel Trujillo Accuses Asencio Povia and Antonio Yuba of Sodomy, 1731 ……………….. 46
Painting of New Orleans ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 49
Sketch of an Algonquin Village ……………………………………………………………………………………… 50

3. British North America …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 51
Olaudah Equiano Describes the Middle Passage, 1789 ………………………………………………….. 52
Recruiting Settlers to Carolina, 1666 ……………………………………………………………………………… 54
Letter from Carolina, 1682 …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 56
Francis Daniel Pastorius Describes his Ocean Voyage, 1684 …………………………………………. 58
Song about Life in Virginia ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 60
Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address …………………………………………………………………………. 64
Rose Davis is sentenced to a life of slavery, 1715 ………………………………………………………….. 67
Print of the Slave Ship Brookes……………………………………………………………………………………… 69
Map of British North America ………………………………………………………………………………………. 71

4. Colonial Society ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 72
Boston trader Sarah Knight on her travels in Connecticut, 1704 …………………………………… 73
Eliza Lucas Letters, 1740-1741 ………………………………………………………………………………………. 75
Jonathan Edwards Revives Enfield, Connecticut, 1741 …………………………………………………. 78
Samson Occom describes his conversion and ministry, 1768 ………………………………………… 81
Extracts from Gibson Clough’s War Journal, 1759 ……………………………………………………….. 83


Pontiac Calls for War, 1763 …………………………………………………………………………………………… 86
Alibamo Mingo, Choctaw leader, Reflects on the British and French, 1765…………………… 87
Blueprint and Photograph of Christ Church ………………………………………………………………….. 89
Royall Family …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 90

5. The American Revolution ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 91
George R. T. Hewes, A Retrospect of the Boston Tea-party, 1834 ……………………………….. 92
Thomas Paine Calls for American independence, 1776 …………………………………………………. 95
Declaration of Independence, 1776 ……………………………………………………………………………….. 97
Women in South Carolina Experience Occupation, 1780 ……………………………………………. 103
Oneida Declaration of Neutrality, 1775 ……………………………………………………………………….. 105
Boston King recalls fighting for the British and securing his freedom, 1798 ……………….. 107
Abigail and John Adams Converse on Women’s Rights, 1776 …………………………………….. 109
American Revolution Cartoon……………………………………………………………………………………… 112
Drawing of Uniforms of the American Revolution ……………………………………………………… 113

6. A New Nation ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 114
Hector St. Jean de Crèvecœur Describes the American people, 1782 …………………………… 115
A Confederation of Native peoples seek peace with the United States, 1786 ………………. 117
Mary Smith Cranch comments on politics, 1786-87 …………………………………………………….. 120
James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785 …… 123
George Washington, “Farewell Address,” 1796 …………………………………………………………… 126
Venture Smith, A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, 1798 ………………….. 128
Susannah Rowson, Charlotte Temple, 1794……………………………………………………………………… 130
Constitutional Ratification Cartoon, 1789 ……………………………………………………………………. 132
Anti-Thomas Jefferson Cartoon, 1797 …………………………………………………………………………. 133

7. The Early Republic ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 134
Letter of Cato and Petition by “the negroes who obtained freedom by the late act,”

in Postscript to the Freeman’s Journal, September 21, 1781 …………………………………………………. 135
Thomas Jefferson’s Racism, 1788 ………………………………………………………………………………… 137
Black scientist Benjamin Banneker demonstrates Black intelligence to Thomas Jefferson,

1791 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 140
Creek headman Alexander McGillivray (Hoboi-Hili-Miko) seeks to build an alliance with

Spain, 1785…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 143
Tecumseh Calls for Pan-Indian Resistance, 1810 …………………………………………………………. 145
Congress Debates Going to War, 1811 ………………………………………………………………………… 146
Abigail Bailey Escapes an Abusive Relationship, 1815 …………………………………………………. 149
Genius of the Ladies Magazine Illustration, 1792 ………………………………………………………… 151
America Guided by Wisdom Engraving, 1815 …………………………………………………………….. 153

8. The Market Revolution ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 154
James Madison Asks Congress to Support Internal Improvements, 1815 ……………………. 155
A Traveler Describes Life Along the Erie Canal, 1829…………………………………………………. 157


Blacksmith Apprentice Contract, 1836 ………………………………………………………………………… 160
Maria Stewart bemoans the consequences of racism, 1832 ………………………………………….. 161
I will not be a slave, ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 164
Alexis de Tocqueville, “How Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes,” 1840 .. 165
Abolitionist Sheet Music Cover Page, 1844………………………………………………………………….. 167
Anti-Catholic Cartoon, 1855 ………………………………………………………………………………………… 168

9. Democracy in America…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 169
Missouri Controversy Documents, 1819-1920 …………………………………………………………….. 170
Rhode Islanders Protest Property Restrictions on Voting, 1834 ………………………………….. 173
Black Philadelphians Defend their Voting Rights, 1838……………………………………………….. 175
Andrew Jackson’s Veto Message Against Re-chartering the Bank of the United States,

1832 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 178
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” 1852 ………………………….. 180
Rebecca Reed accuses nuns of abuse, 1835 ………………………………………………………………….. 182
Samuel Morse Fears a Catholic Conspiracy, 1835 ………………………………………………………… 184
County Election Painting, 1854 ……………………………………………………………………………………. 186
Martin Van Buren Cartoon, 1837 ………………………………………………………………………………… 187

10. Religion and Reform ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 188
Revivalist Charles G. Finney Emphasizes Human Choice in Salvation, 1836 ………………. 189
Dorothea Dix defends the mentally ill, 1843 ………………………………………………………………… 191
David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, 1829 …………………………….. 193
William Lloyd Garrison Introduces The Liberator, 1831 ………………………………………………… 195
Angelina Grimké, Appeal to Christian Women of the South, 1836 ……………………………… 197
Sarah Grimké Calls for Women’s Rights, 1838…………………………………………………………….. 199
Henry David Thoreau Reflects on Nature, 1854 ………………………………………………………….. 201
The Fruit of Alcohol and Temperance Lithographs, 1849 …………………………………………… 203
Missionary Society Membership Certificate, 1848 ………………………………………………………… 204

11. The Cotton Revolution ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 205
Nat Turner explains the Southampton rebellion, 1831…………………………………………………. 206
Harriet Jacobs on Rape and Slavery, 1860 ……………………………………………………………………. 208
Solomon Northup Describes a Slave Market, 1841 ……………………………………………………… 210
George Fitzhugh Argues that Slavery is Better than Liberty and Equality, 1854 ………….. 213
Sermon on the Duties of a Christian Woman, 1851 …………………………………………………….. 215
Mary Polk Branch remembers plantation life, 1912 ……………………………………………………… 217
Painting of Enslaved Persons for Sale, 1861 ………………………………………………………………… 220
Proslavery Cartoon, 1850 …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 221

12. Manifest Destiny ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 223
Cherokee Petition Protesting Removal, 1836 ……………………………………………………………….. 224
John O’Sullivan Declares America’s Manifest Destiny, 1845 ……………………………………….. 226
Diary of a Woman Migrating to Oregon, 1853 …………………………………………………………….. 229


Chinese Merchant Complains of Racist Abuse, 1860 …………………………………………………… 232
Wyandotte woman describes tensions over slavery, 1849 …………………………………………….. 234
Letters from Venezuelan General Francisco de Miranda regarding Latin American

Revolution, 1805-1806 …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 236
President Monroe Outlines the Monroe Doctrine, 1823 ……………………………………………… 239
Manifest Destiny Painting, 1872…………………………………………………………………………………… 241
Anti-Immigrant Cartoon, 1860 …………………………………………………………………………………….. 242

13. The Sectional Crisis ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 243
Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 1842 ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 244
Stories from the Underground Railroad, 1855-1856 …………………………………………………….. 246
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1852 …………………………………………………………… 249
Charlotte Forten complains of racism in the North, 1855 ……………………………………………. 252
Margaraetta Mason and Lydia Maria Child Discuss John Brown, 1860 ………………………… 254
1860 Republican Party Platform…………………………………………………………………………………… 256
South Carolina Declaration of Secession, 1860 ……………………………………………………………. 259
Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law Lithograph, 1850 …………………………………………………….. 261
Sectional Crisis Map, 1856 …………………………………………………………………………………………… 262

14. The Civil War …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 263
Alexander Stephens on Slavery and the Confederate Constitution, 1861 ……………………… 264
General Benjamin F. Butler Reacts to Self-Emancipating People, 1861……………………….. 267
William Henry Singleton, a formerly enslaved man, recalls fighting for the Union, 1922 269
Poem about Civil War Nurses, 1866 ……………………………………………………………………………. 271
Ambrose Bierce Recalls his Experience at the Battle of Shiloh, 1881 …………………………… 273
Civil War songs, 1862 ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 275
Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865 …………………………………………………… 279
Civil War Nurses Illustration, 1864 ………………………………………………………………………………. 281
Burying the Dead Photograph, 1865 ……………………………………………………………………………. 282

15. Reconstruction …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 283
Freedmen discuss post-emancipation life with General Sherman, 1865 ……………………….. 284
Jourdon Anderson Writes His Former Enslaver, 1865 ………………………………………………… 287
Charlotte Forten Teaches Freed Children in South Carolina, 1864 ………………………………. 289
Mississippi Black Code, 1865 ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 291
General Reynolds Describes Lawlessness in Texas, 1868 …………………………………………….. 294
A case of sexual violence during Reconstruction, 1866 ………………………………………………… 296
Frederick Douglass on Remembering the Civil War, 1877 …………………………………………… 300
Johnson and Reconstruction Cartoon, 1866 ………………………………………………………………… 302
Fifteenth Amendment Print, 1870 ……………………………………………………………………………….. 305



Civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. 1965. Via Library of Congress.

Primary sources are the raw materials of history: written accounts, physical objects, and

visual material allow historians to build narratives and construct arguments. Letters, diaries,

written publications, laws, artwork, buildings, skeletal remains, environmental data, and even

oral histories can all provide the first-hand evidence that historians need to make convincing

arguments about the past and to properly evaluate the historical arguments made by others.

Historians work primary sources into secondary and even tertiary sources: the books and

textbooks assigned to students. They all rely, one way or another, on primary sources.

Students of history must know how to analyze and critically evaluate primary sources, for

primary sources can distort as much as they reveal. The voice of slaves, for instance, can be

drowned out by the letters and journals of slaveholders. We can produce more honest

histories by interrogating our sources, asking questions such as, Who created this source?

Who was their audience? How might their beliefs and perspectives have influenced their

understanding? In the case of slavery, for instance, a critical eye is often needed to read

between the lines and uncover forgotten histories hidden within the materials available to us.

Historians must make the most of the sources they have. But while some eras and some

topics lack abundant primary sources, others have almost too many, often more than any

single historian can read and analyze. Under such conditions it can be tempting to cherry

pick sources and create a narrative of one’s own choosing, but good historians must read

widely and maintain an open but critical mind to discover patterns and produce historical


Just as historians must approach their sources with a critical eye, so too must they be aware

of their own preconceptions and biases–their own place in history. “The past is a foreign

country,” novelist L.P. Harltey wrote, “they do things differently there.” We must be critical

of ourselves. We cannot expect individuals in the past to know what we know or to behave

as we behave. They had their own ideas and their own dreams. They viewed the world

differently than we do. So if we are to understand the past, we must begin by recognizing the

present. The more we study the past, the more we come to understand ourselves.

Learning to ask good questions is an important historical skill, yet we will often not know

which questions to ask until we have steeped ourselves in primary sources. You may already




have questions in mind as you read and evaluate the sources in this reader, but you should

also pay attention to any thoughts, emotions, and historical questions that they may provoke.

History is a conversation between the past and present, and, by reading the following

sources and thinking critically about them, we hope that you will bring bring your own

curiosity and creativity to the conversation.


1. Indigenous America

Europeans called the Americas “The New World.” But for the millions of Native Americans

they encountered, it was anything but. Human beings have lived here for over ten millennia.

American history begins with them, the first Americans. But where does their story

begin? Native Americans passed stories through the millennia that tell of their creation and

values. The arrival of Europeans and resulting Columbian Exchange united two worlds and

ten-thousand years of history. Both sides of the world transformed. And neither would ever

again be the same. These sources explore the contours of Native American life and the

conflicts that resulted from the arrival of Europeans.


Native American Creation Stories

These two Native American creation stories are among thousands of accounts for the origins of the world. The

Salinian and Cherokee, from what we now call California and the American southeast respectively, both

exhibit the common Native American tendency to locate spiritual power in the natural world. For both

Native Americans and Europeans, the collision of two continents challenged old ideas and created new ones

as well.

Salinan Indian Creation Story

When the world was finished, there were as yet no people, but the Bald Eagle was the chief

of the animals. He saw the world was incomplete and decided to make some human beings.

So he took some clay and modeled the figure of a man and laid him on the ground. At first

he was very small but grew rapidly until he reached normal size. But as yet he had no life; he

was still asleep. Then the Bald Eagle stood and admired his work. “It is impossible,” said he,

“that he should be left alone; he must have a mate.” So he pulled out a feather and laid it

beside the sleeping man. Then he left them and went off a short distance, for he knew that a

woman was being formed from the feather. But the man was still asleep and did not know

what was happening. When the Bald Eagle decided that the woman was about completed, he

returned, awoke the man by flapping his wings over him and flew away.

The man opened his eyes and stared at the woman. “What does this mean?” he asked. “I

thought I was alone!” Then the Bald Eagle returned and said with a smile, “I see you have a

mate! Have you had intercourse with her?” “No,” replied the man, for he and the woman

knew nothing about each other. Then the Bald Eagle called to Coyote who happened to be

going by and said to him, “Do you see that woman?” Try her first!” Coyote was quite willing

and complied, but immediately afterwards lay down and died. The Bald Eagle went away and

left Coyote dead, but presently returned and revived him. “How did it work?” said the Bald

Eagle. “Pretty well, but it nearly kills a man!” replied Coyote. “Will you try it again?” said the

Bald Eagle. Coyote agreed, and tried again, and this time survived. Then the Bald Eagle

turned to the man and said, “She is all right now; you and she are to live together.”

John Alden Mason, The Ethnology of the Salinan Indians (Berkeley: 1912), 191-192.

Available through the Internet Archive

Cherokee creation story

The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four

cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the



world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth

sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.

When all was water, the animals were above in Gälûñ’lätï, beyond the arch; but it was very

much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the

water, and at last Dâyuni’sï, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and

see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find

no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which

began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It

was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.

At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and

sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came

back again to Gälûñ’lätï. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told

him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the

buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still

soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap

and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they

turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid

that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee

country remains full of mountains to this day.

When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and

set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too

hot this way, and Tsiska’gïlï’, the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that

his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The conjurers put the sun another

hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and

another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right,

and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ’gine

Di’gälûñ’lätiyûñ’, “the seventh height,” because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth.

Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the

starting place.

There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything–animals, plants, and

people–save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains

are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the

doorways by which we enter, it, but to do this one must fast and, go to water and have one

of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are

different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler

in summer than the outer air.

When the animals and plants were first made–we do not know by whom–they were told to

watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when

they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first

night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep,

and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and


one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in

the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees

only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to

them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was

said: “Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your, hair every winter.”

Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he

struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born

to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was

danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have

only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.

W. Powell, Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the

Smithsonian Institution, 1897-1898, Part I (Washington: 1900), 239-240.

Available through Google Books



Journal of Christopher Columbus, 1492

First encounters between Europeans and Native Americans were dramatic events. In this account we see the

assumptions and intentions of Christopher Columbus, as he immediately began assessing the potential of these

people to serve European economic interests. He also predicted easy success for missionaries seeking to convert

these people to Christianity.

Thursday, October 11

…Presently many inhabitants of the island assembled. What follows is in the actual words of

the Admiral in his book of the first navigation and discovery of the Indies. “I,” he says, ”

that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more

easily freed and converted to our holy faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red

caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which

gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to

see. They afterwards came to the ship’s boats where we were, swimming and bringing us

parrots, cotton threads in skeins, darts, and many other things; and we exchanged them for

other things that we gave them, such as glass beads and small bells. In fine, they took all, and

gave what they had with good will. It appeared to me to be a race of people very poor in

everything. They go as naked as when their mothers bore them, and so do the women,

although I did not see more than one young girl. All I saw were youths, none more than

thirty years of age. They are very well made, with very handsome bodies, and very good

countenances. Their hair is short and coarse, almost like the hairs of a horse’s tail. They wear

the hairs brought down to the eyebrows, except a few locks behind, which they wear long

and never cut. They paint themselves black, and they are the color of the Canarians, neither

black nor white. Some paint themselves white, others red, and others of what color they

find. Some paint their faces, others the whole body, some only round the eyes, others only

on the nose. They neither carry nor know anything of arms, for I showed them swords, and

they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their

darts being wands without iron, some of them having a fish’s tooth at the end, and others

being pointed in various ways. They are all of fair stature and size, with good laces, and well

made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it

was, and they gave me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the

intention of seizing them, and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe,

that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good

servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I

believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no

religion, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for

your Highnesses that they may learn to speak. I saw no beast of any kind except parrots, on

this island.” The above is in the words of the admiral….

..As soon as dawn broke many of these people came to the beach, al! youths, as I have said,

and all of good stature, a very handsome people. Their hair is not curly, but loose and coarse,


like horse hair. In all the forehead is broad, more so than in any other people I

have hitherto seen. Their eyes are very beautiful and not small, and themselves far from

black, but the color of the Canarians. Nor should anything; else be expected, as this island is

in a line east and west from the island of Hierro in the Canaries. Their legs are very straight,

all in one line,’ and no belly, but very well formed. They came to the ship in small canoes,

made out of the trunk of a tree like a long boat, and all of one piece, and wonderfully

worked, considering the country. They are large, some of them holding 40 to 45 men, others

smaller, and some only large enough to hold one man. They are propelled with a paddle like

a baker’s shovel, and go at a marvelous rate. If the canoe capsizes they all promptly begin to

swim, and to bale it out with calabashes that they take with them. They brought skeins of

cotton thread, parrots, darts, and other small things, which it would be tedious to recount,

and they give all in exchange for anything that may be given to them. I was attentive, and

took trouble to ascertain if there was gold. I saw that some of them had a small piece

fastened in a hole they have in the nose, and by signs I was able to make out that to the

south, or going from the island to the south, there was a king who had great cups full, and

who possessed a great quantity. I tried to get them to go there, but afterwards I saw that they

had no inclination. I resolved to wait until to-morrow in the afternoon and then to depart,

shaping a course to the S.W.

Sunday, October 14

…These people are very simple as regards the u.se of arms, as your Highnesses will .sec

from the seven that I caused to be taken, to bring home and learn our language and return;

unless your Highnesses should order them all to be brought to Castile, or to be kept as

captives on the same island; for with fifty men they can all be subjugated and made to do

what is required of them…

Sunday, November 4

…At sunrise the Admiral again went away- in the boat, and landed to hunt the birds he had

seen the day before. After a time, Martin Alonso Pinzon came to him with two pieces of

cinnamon, and said that a Portuguese, who was one of his crew, had seen an Indian carrying

two very large bundles of it; but he had not bartered for it, because of the penalty imposed

by the Admiral on anyone who bartered. He further said that this Indian carried some brown

things like nutmegs. The master of the Pinta said that he had found the cinnamon trees. The

Admiral went to the place, and found that they were not cinnamon trees. The Admiral

showed the Indians some specimens of cinnamon and pepper he had brought from Castillo,

and they knew it, and said, by signs, that there was plenty in the vicinity, pointing to the

S.E. He also showed them gold and pearls, on which certain old men said that there an

infinite quantity in a place called Holito} and that the people wore it on their necks, ears,

arms, and legs, as well as pearls. He further understood them to say that there were great

ships and much merchandise, all to the S.K. He also understood that, far away, there were

men with one eye, and others with dogs’ noses who were cannibals, and that when they

captured an enemy they beheaded him and drank his blood…


The Journal of Christopher Columbus (During His First Voyage), and Documents Relating to the Voyages

of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real, Clements R. Markham, ed. and trans. (London: 1893), 37-


Available through the Internet Archive



An Aztec account of the Spanish attack

This source aggregates a number of early written reports by Aztec authors describing the destruction of

Tenochtitlan at the hands of a coalition of Spanish and Indigenous armies. This collection of sources was

assembled by Miguel Leon Portilla, a Mexican anthropologist.

When Montezuma had given necklaces to each one, Cortés asked him: “Are you

Montezuma? Are you the king? Is it true that you are the king Montezuma?”

And the king said: “Yes, I am Montezuma.” Then he stood up to welcome Cortés; he came

forward, bowed his head low and addressed him in these words: “Our lord, you are weary.

The journey has tired you, but now you have arrived on the earth. You have come to your

city, Mexico. You have come here to sit on your throne, to sit under its canopy.

“The kings who have gone before, your representatives, guarded it and preserved it for your

coming. The kings Itzcoatl, Montezuma the Elder, Axayacatl, Tizoc and Ahuitzol ruled for

you in the City of Mexico. The people were protected by their swords and sheltered by their


“Do the kings know the destiny of those they left behind, their posterity? If only they are

watching! If only they can see what I see!

No, it is not a dream. I am not walking in my sleep. I am not seeing you in my dreams…. I

have seen you at last! I have met you face to face! I was in agony for five days, for ten days,

with my eyes fixed on the Region of the Mystery. And now you have come out of the clouds

and mists to sit on your throne again.

This was foretold by the kings who governed your city, and now it has taken place. You have

come back to us; you have come down from the sky. Rest now, and take possession of your

royal houses. Welcome to your land, my lords!”

When Montezuma had finished, La Malinche translated his address into Spanish so that the

Captain could understand it. Cortés replied in his strange and savage tongue, speaking first

to La Malinche: “Tell Montezuma that we are his friends. There is nothing to fear. We have

wanted to see him for a long time, and now we have seen his face and heard his words. Tell

him that we love him well and that our hearts are contented.”

Then he said to Montezuma: “We have come to your house in Mexico as friends. There is

nothing to fear.”

La Malinche translated this speech and the Spaniards grasped Montezuma’s hands and

patted his back to show their affection for him….

During this time, the people asked Montezuma how they should celebrate their god’s fiesta.

He said: “Dress him in all his finery, in all his sacred ornaments.”


During this same time, The Sun commanded that Montezuma and Itzcohuatzin, the military

chief of Tlatelolco, be made prisoners. The Spaniards hanged a chief from Acolhuacan

named Nezahualquentzin. They also murdered the king of Nauhtla, Cohualpopocatzin, by

wounding him with arrows and then burning him alive.

For this reason, our warriors were on guard at the Eagle Gate. The sentries from

Tenochtitlan stood at one side of the gate, and the sentries from Tlatelolco at the other. But

messengers came to tell them to dress the figure of Huitzilopochtli. They left their posts and

went to dress him in his sacred finery: his ornaments and his paper clothing.

When this had been done, the celebrants began to sing their songs. That is how they

celebrated the first day of the fiesta. On the second day they began to sing again, but without

warning they were all put to death. The dancers and singers were completely unarmed. They

brought only their embroidered cloaks, their turquoises, their lip plugs, their necklaces, their

clusters of heron feathers, their trinkets made of deer hooves. Those who played the drums,

the old men, had brought their gourds of snuff and their timbrels.

The Spaniards attacked the musicians first, slashing at their hands and faces until they had

killed all of them. The singers-and even the spectators- were also killed. This slaughter in the

Sacred Patio went on for three hours. Then the Spaniards burst into the rooms of the temple

to kill the others: those who were carrying water, or bringing fodder for the horses, or

grinding meal, or sweeping, or standing watch over this work.

The king Montezuma, who was accompanied by Itzcohuatzin and by those who had brought

food for the Spaniards, protested: “Our lords, that is enough! What are you doing? These

people are not carrying shields or macanas. Our lords, they are completely unarmed!”

The Sun had treacherously murdered our people on the twentieth day after the captain left

for the coast. We allowed the Captain to return to the city in peace. But on the following day

we attacked him with all our might, and that was the beginning of the war.

Miguel LeonPortilla, ed., The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico (Boston:

Beacon Press, 1962), pp. 6466, 129131.

Available through the Internet History Sourcebooks Project.



Bartolomé de Las Casas Describes the

Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples, 1542

Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Spanish Dominican priest, wrote directly to the King of Spain hoping for new

laws to prevent the brutal exploitation of Native Americans. Las Casas’s writings quickly spread around

Europe and were used as humanitarian justification for other European nations to challenge Spain’s colonial

empire with their own schemes of conquest and colonization.

Now this infinite multitude of Men are by the Creation of God innocently simple, altogether

void of and averse to all manner of Craft, Subtlety and Malice, and most Obedient and Loyal

Subjects to their Native Sovereigns; and behave themselves very patiently, submissively and

quietly towards the Spaniards, to whom they are subservient and subject; so that finally they

live without the least thirst after revenge, laying aside all litigiousness, Commotion and


The natives are capable of Morality or Goodness and very apt to receive the principles of

Catholic Religion; nor are they averse to Civility and good Manners…, I myself have

heard the Spaniards themselves (who dare not assume the Confidence to deny the good

Nature in them) declare, that there was nothing wanting in them for the acquisition of

eternal grace, but the sole Knowledge and Understanding of the Deity….

The Spaniards first assaulted the innocent Sheep, so qualified by the Almighty, like most

cruel tigers, wolves, and lions, hunger-starved, studying nothing, for the space of Forty

Years, after their first landing, but the Massacre of these Wretches, whom they have so

inhumanely and barbarously butchered and harassed with several kinds of Torments, never

before known, or heard (of which you shall have some account in the following Discourse)

that of Three Millions of Persons, which lived in Hispaniola itself, there is at present but the

inconsiderable remnant of scarce Three Hundred. Nay the Isle of Cuba, which extends as

far, as Valladolid in Spain is distant from Rome, lies now uncultivated, like a Desert, and

entombed in its own Ruins. You may also find the Isles of St. John, and Jamaica, both large

and fruitful places, unpeopled and desolate. The Lucayan Islands on the North Side, adjacent

to Hispaniola and Cuba, which are Sixty in number, or thereabout, together with those,

vulgarly known by the name of the Gigantic Isles, and others, the most infertile whereof,

exceeds the Royal Garden of Seville in fruitfulness, a most Healthful and pleasant Climate, is

now laid waste and uninhabited; and whereas, when the Spaniards first arrived here, about

Five Hundred Thousand Men dwelt in it, they are now cut off, some by slaughter, and

others ravished away by Force and Violence, to work in the Mines of Hispaniola, which was

destitute of Native Inhabitants: For a certain Vessel, sailing to this Isle, to the end, that the

Harvest being over (some good Christian, moved with Piety and Pity, undertook this

dangerous Voyage, to convert Souls to Christianity) the remaining gleanings might be

gathered up, there were only found Eleven Persons, which I saw with my own Eyes. There

are other Islands Thirty in number, and upward bordering upon the Isle of St. John, totally


unpeopled; all which are above Two Thousand miles in length, and yet remain without

Inhabitants, Native, or People.

As to the firm land, we are certainly satisfied, and assured, that the Spaniards by their

barbarous and execrable Actions have absolutely depopulated Ten Kingdoms, of greater

extent than all Spain, together with the Kingdoms of Aragon and Portugal, that is to say,

above One Thousand Miles, which now lye waste and desolate, and are absolutely ruined,

when as formerly no other Country whatsoever was more populous. Nay we dare boldly

affirm, that during the Forty Years space, wherein they exercised their sanguinary and

detestable Tyranny in these Regions, above Twelve Millions (computing Men, Women, and

Children) have undeservedly perished; nor do I conceive that I should deviate from the

Truth by saying that above Fifty Millions in all paid their last Debt to Nature.

Those that arrived at these Islands from the remotest parts of Spain, and who pride

themselves in the Name of Christians, steered Two courses principally, in order to the

Extirpation, and Exterminating of this People from the face of the Earth. The first whereof

was raising an unjust, bloody, cruel War. The other, by putting them to death, who hitherto,

thirsted after their Liberty, or designed (which the most Potent, Strenuous and

Magnanimous Spirits intended) to recover their pristine Freedom, and shake off the Shackles

of so injurious a Captivity: For they being taken off in War, none but Women and Children

were permitted to enjoy the benefit of that Country-Air…

Now the ultimate end and scope that incited the Spaniards to endeavor the Extirpation and

Desolation of this People, was Gold only…

Finally, in one word, their Ambition and Avarice, than which the heart of Man never

entertained greater, and the vast Wealth of those Regions; the Humility and Patience of the

Inhabitants (which made their approach to these Lands more easy) did much promote the

business: Whom they so despicably contemned, that they treated them (I speak of things

which I was an Eye Witness of, without the least fallacy) not as Beasts, which I cordially

wished they would, but as the most abject dung and filth of the Earth; and so solicitous they

were of their Life and Soul, that the above-mentioned number of People died without

understanding the true Faith or Sacraments. And this also is as really true that the

_Spaniards_ never received any injury from the Indians, but that they rather reverenced

them as Persons descended from Heaven, until that they were compelled to take up Arms,

provoked thereunto by repeated Injuries, violent Torments, and unjust Butcheries.

Bartolomé de Las Casas, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies… (Project Gutenberg

EBook: 2007), 9-16.

Available through the Internet Archive



Thomas Morton Reflects on Native Americans

in New England, 1637

Thomas Morton both admired and condemned aspects of Native American culture. In his descriptions, we

can find not only information about the people he is describing but also a window into the concerns of

Englishmen like Morton who could use descriptions of Native Americans as a means of criticizing English


“… the hand of God fell heavily upon them, with such a mortal stroke that they died on

heaps as they lay in their houses… And the bones and skulls upon the several places of their

habitations made such a spectacle after my coming into those parts…”

“The natives of New England are accustomed to build them houses much like the wild Irish;

they gather poles in the woods and put the great end of them in the ground, placing them in

form of a circle or circumference, and pending the tops of them in form of like an arch, they

bind them together with the bark of walnut trees, which is wondrous tough, so that they

make the same round on the top for the smoke of their fire to ascend and pass through;

these they cover with mats, some made of reeds and some of long flags or sedge, fine sewed

together with needles made of the splinter bones of a crane’s leg…”

“… they are willing that any one shall eat with them. Nay, if any one shall come into their

houses and there fall asleep, when they see him disposed to lie down, they will spread a mat

for him of their own accord… If he sleep until their meat be dished up, they will set a

wooden bowl of meat by him that slept and wake him saying “Cattup keene Meckin,” that is,

if you be hungry, there is meat for you, where if you will eat you may. Such is their


“They use not to winter and summer in one place, for that would be a reason to make fuel

scarce; but, after the manner of the gentry in civilized natives, remove for their

pleasures, sometimes to their hunting places… and sometimes to their fishing places… and

at the spring, when fish comes in plentifully, they have meetings from several places, where

they exercise themselves in gaming and playing of juggling tricks and all manner of revels…”

“The Indians in these parts do make their apparel of the skins of several sorts of beasts, and

commonly of those that do frequent those parts where they do live; yet some of them, for

variety, have the skins of such beasts that frequent the parts of their neighbors, which they

purchase of them by commerce and trade.”

“Their women have shoes and stockings to wear likewise when they please, such as the men

have, but the mantle they use to cover their nakedness with is much longer than that which

they men use; for, as the men have one deer skin, the women have two sewed together at the

full length, and it is so large that it trails after them like a great ladies train.”


“their infants are born with hair on their heads, and are of a complexion white as our nation;

but their mothers in their infancy make a bath of walnut leaves, husks of walnuts, and such

things as will stain their skin forever, wherein they dip and wash them to make

them tawny…”

“… the younger are always obedient unto the elder people, and at their commands in every

respect without grumbling, in all counsels… the younger men’s opinion shall be heard, but

the old men’s opinion and counsel embraced and followed… The consideration of these

things, me thinks, should reduce some of our irregular young people of civilized nations,

when this story shall come to their knowledge, to better manners, and make them ashamed

of their former error in this kind, and to become hereafter more dutiful…”

“… some correspondence they have with the Devil out of all doubt, as by some of their

actions, in which they glory, is manifested… A neighbor of mine that had entertained a

savage into his service, to be his factor for the beaver trade among his countrymen, delivered

unto him diverse parcels of commodities for for them to trade with…

“Powahs, who are usually sent for when any person is sick and ill at ease to recover them,

for which they receive rewards as do our surgeons and physicians; and they do make a trade

of it, and boast of their skill when they come. One amongst the rest did undertake to cure an

Englishman of a swelling of his hand for a parcel of biscuit, which being delivered him he

took the party grieved into the woods aside from company, and with the help of the devil (as

may be conjectured), quickly recovered him of that swelling, and sent him about his work


“Although these people have not the use of navigation, whereby we may traffic as other

nations, that are civilized, use to do, yet do they barter for such commodities as they have,

and have a kind of beads, instead of money, to buy withal such things as they want, which

they call Wampampeak, and it is of two sorts, the one is white, the other is of a violet color”

“I have observed that the savages have the sense of seeing so far beyond any of our nation,

that one would almost believe they had intelligence of the devil sometimes when they have

told us of a ship at sea, which they have seen sooner by one hour, yea, two hours sail, than

any English man that stood by of purpose to look out, their sight is so excellent.”

“The savages are accustomed to set fire to the country in all places where they come and to

burn it twice a year, at the spring and in the fall of the lease. The reason that moves them to

do so is because it would otherwise be so overgrown with under-weeds that it would be all a

coppice wood and the people would not be able in any wise to pass through the country out

of a beaten path.”

“A gentleman and a traveler, that had been in the parts of New England for a time, when he

returned again, in his discourse of the country, wondered (as he said) that the natives of the

land lived so purely in so rich a country like to our beggars in England… If our beggars of

England should, with so much ease as they, furnish themselves with food at all seasons,


there would be so many starved in the streets, neither would so many jails be stuffed, or

gallows furnished with poor wretches as I have seen.”

“They love not to be encumbered with many utensils and although every proprietor knows

his own, yet all things (so long as they will last) are used in common among them; a biscuit

cake given to one, that breaks it equally into so many parts as there are persons in his

company and distributes it.

“According to human reason, guided only by the light of nature, these people lead the more

happy and freer life, being void of care, which torments the minds of many Christians: They

are not delighted in baubles, but in useful things.”

Thomas Morton, The New English Canaan (Boston: 1883), 132-177.

Available through the Internet Archive



The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe

Cuauhtlatoatzin was one of the first Aztec men to convert to Christianity after the Spanish invasion.

Renamed as Juan Diego, he soon thereafter reported an appearance of the Virgin Mary called the Virgin of

Guadalupe. This apparition became an important symbol for a new native Christianity. These excerpts are

translated from an account first published in Nahuatl by Luis Lasso de la Vega in 1649.

On a Saturday just before dawn, [Juan Diego] was on his way to pursue divine worship and

to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac*, came

the break of day, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling singing of varied beautiful


He then heard a voice from above the mount saying to him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.” Then

he ventured and went to where he was called. He was not frightened in the least; on the

contrary, overjoyed.

Then he climbed the hill, to see from were he was being called. When he reached the

summit, he saw a Lady, who was standing there and told him to come hither. Approaching

her presence, he marveled greatly at her superhuman grandeur; her garments were shining

like the sun; the cliff where she rested her feet, pierced with glitter, resembling an anklet of

precious stones, and the earth sparkled like the rainbow. The mezquites, nopales, and other

different weeds, which grow there, appeared like emeralds, their foliage like turquoise, and

their branches and thorns glistened like gold. He bowed before her and heard her word,

tender and courteous, like someone who charms and esteems you highly.

She said: “Juanito, the most humble of my sons, where are you going?” He replied: “My

Lady, I have to reach your church in Mexico, Tlatilolco*, to pursue things divine, taught and

given to us by our priests, delegates of Our Lord.”

She then spoke to him: “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I

am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of

all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.

“I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love,

compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the

inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there

to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows….

Then he descended to go to comply with the errand, and went by the avenue which runs

directly into Mexico City.

.. the bishop did not give credence and said that he could not do what Juan had asked based

only on his request. In addition, a sign was necessary, so that he could be believed that he

was sent by the true Lady from heaven…


…when Juan Diego was to carry a sign so he could be believed, he failed to return, because,

when he reached his home, his uncle, named Juan Bernardino, had become sick, and was

gravely ill….

On Tuesday, before dawn, Juan Diego came from his home to Tlatilolco to summon a

priest… Then he rounded the hill, going around, so he could not be seen by her who sees

well everywhere. He saw her descend from the top of the hill and was looking toward where

they previously met.

She approached him at the side of the hill and said to him: “What’s there, my son? Where

are you going?” .. [He replied], “Know that a servant of yours is very sick, my uncle. He has

contracted the plague, and is near death…”

After hearing Juan Diego speak, the Most Holy Virgin answered: “Hear me and understand

well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be

disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who

is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not

happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.

Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. be assured that he

is now cured.” (And then his uncle was cured, as it was later learned.)

When Juan Diego heard these words from the Lady from heaven, he was greatly consoled.

He was happy. He begged to be excused to be off to see the bishop, to take him the sign or

proof, so that he might be believed. The Lady from heaven ordered to climb to the top of

the hill, where they previously met. She told him: “Climb, my son the least, to the top of the

hill; there where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them,

gather them, assemble them, then come and bring them before my presence.”

…He immediately went down the hill and brought the different roses which he had cut to

the Lady from heaven, who, as she saw them, took them with her hand and again placed

them back in the tilma, saying: “My son, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign

which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my

wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all


… the bishop realized that Juan Diego was carrying the proof, to confirm what the Indian

requested. Immediately he ordered Juan Diego’s admission. As he entered, Juan Diego knelt

before him, as he was accustomed to do, and again related what he had seen and admired,

also the message…

He unfolded his white cloth, where he had the flowers; and when they scattered on the floor,

all the different varieties of rosas de Castilla, suddenly there appeared the drawing of the

precious Image of the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, in the manner as she is today

kept in the temple at Tepeyacac, which is named Guadalupe…

As Juan Diego pointed out the spot where the lady from heaven wanted her temple built, he

begged to be excused. He wished to go home to see his uncle Juan Bernardino…


As they arrived, they saw that his uncle was very happy and nothing ailed him. He was

greatly amazed to see his nephew so accompanied and honored, asking the reason of such

honors conferred upon him. His nephew answered that when he went to summon a priest to

hear his confession and to absolve him, the Lady from heaven appeared to him at

Tepeyacac, telling him not to be afflicted, that his uncle was well, for which he was greatly

consoled, and she sent him to Mexico, to see the bishop, to build her a house in Tepeyacac.

Then the uncle manifested that it was true that on that occasion he became well and that he

had seen her in the same manner as she had appeared to his nephew, knowing through her

that she had sent him to Mexico to see the bishop. Also, the Lady told him that when he

would go to see the bishop, to reveal to him what he had seen and to explain the miraculous

manner in which she had cured him, and that she would properly be named, and known as

the blessed Image, the ever-virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe.

These excerpts are translated from an account first published in Nahuatl by Luis Lasso de la

Vega in 1649. Luis Laso de la Vega, Huei tlamahuiçoltica (1649)

Available from the University of Houston, Clear Lake



Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca Travels through

North America, 1542

Spanish explorer, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, traveled across the Gulf South, from Florida to Mexico.

As he traveled, Cabeza de Vaca developed a reputation as a faith healer. In his account he claimed several

instances of performing miracles, illustrating his spiritual beliefs as well as offering a rare, if perhaps

unreliable, glimpse at the life of Native Americans in the area.

… At sunset we came in sight of the lodges, and two crossbow shots before reaching them

met four Indians waiting for us, and they received us well. We told them in the language of

the Mariames that we had come to see them. They appeared to be pleased with our company

and took us to their homes. They lodged Dorantes and the negro at the house of a medicine

man and me and Castillo at that of another. These Indians speak another language and are

called Avavares…. Forthwith they offered us many tunas [cactus fruit], because they had

heard of us and of how we cured and of the miracles Our Lord worked through us…

On the night we arrived there some Indians came to Castillo complaining that their heads

felt very sore and begging him for relief. As soon as he had made the sign of the cross over

them and recommended them to God, at that very moment the Indians said that all the pain

was gone. They went back to their abodes and brought us many tunas and a piece of

venison, something we did not know any more what it was, and as the news spread that

same night there came many other sick people for him to cure, and each brought a piece of

venison, and so many there were that we did not know where to store the meat. We thanked

God for His daily increasing mercy and kindness, and after they were all well they began to

dance and celebrate and feast until sunrise of the day following.

They celebrated our coming for three days, at the end of which we asked them about the

land further on, the people and the food that there might be obtained. They replied there

were plenty of tunas all through that country, but that the season was over and nobody

there, because all had gone to their abodes after gathering tunas; also that the country was

very cold and very few hides in it. Hearing this, and as winter and cold weather were setting

in, we determined to spend it with those Indians. Five days after our arrival they left to get

more tunas at a place where people of a different nation and language lived, and having

travelled five days, suffering greatly from hunger, as on the way there were neither tunas nor

any kind of fruit, we came to a river, where we pitched our lodges….

Early the next day many Indians came and brought five people who were paralyzed and very

ill, and they came for Castillo to cure them. Every one of the patients offered him his bow

and arrows, which he accepted, and by sunset he made the sign of the cross over each of the

sick, recommending them to God, Our Lord, and we all prayed to Him as well as we could

to restore them to health. And He, seeing there was no other way of getting those people to

help us so that we might be saved from our miserable existence, had mercy upon us, and in


the morning all woke up well and hearty and went away in such good health as if they never

had had any ailment whatever. This caused them great admiration and moved us to thanks to

Our Lord and to greater faith in His goodness and the hope that He would save us, guiding

us to where we could serve Him. For myself I may say that I always had full faith in His

mercy and in that He would liberate me from captivity, and always told my companions so.

When the Indians had gone and taken along those recently cured, we removed to others that

were eating tunas also, called Cultalchuches and Malicones, which speak a different language,

and with them were others, called Coayos and Susolas, and on another side those called

Atayos, who were at war with the Susolas, and exchanging arrow shots with them every day.

Nothing was talked about in this whole country but of the wonderful cures which God, Our

Lord, performed through us, and so they came from many places to be cured, and after

having been with us two days some Indians of the Susolas begged Castillo to go and attend

to a man who had been wounded, as well as to others that were sick and among whom, they

said, was one on the point of death. Castillo was very timid, especially in difficult and

dangerous cases, and always afraid that his sins might interfere and prevent the cures from

being effective. Therefore the Indians told me to go and perform the cure. They liked me,

remembering that I had relieved them while they were out gathering nuts, for which they

had given us nuts and hides. This had happened at the time I was coming to join the

Christians. So I had to go, and Dorantes and Estevanico went with me.

When I came close to their ranches I saw that the dying man we had been called to cure was

dead, for there were many people around him weeping and his lodge was torn down, which

is a sign that the owner has died. I found the Indian with eyes up turned, without pulse and

with all the marks of lifelessness. At least so it seemed to me, and Dorantes said the same. I

removed a mat with which he was covered, and as best I could prayed to Our Lord to

restore his health, as well as that of all the others who might be in need of it, and after

having made the sign of the cross and breathed on him many times they brought his bow

and presented it to me, and a basket of ground tunas, and took me to many others who were

suffering from vertigo. They gave me two more baskets of tunas, which I left to the Indians

that had come with us. Then we returned to our quarters.

Our Indians to whom I had given the tunas remained there, and at night returned telling,

that the dead man whom I attended to in their presence had resuscitated, rising from his

bed, had walked about, eaten and talked to them, and that all those treated by me were well

and in very good spirits. This caused great surprise and awe, and all over the land nothing

else was spoken of. All who heard it came to us that we might cure them and bless their

children, and when the Indians in our company (who were the Cultalchulches) had to return to

their country, before parting they offered us all the tunas they had for their journey, not

keeping a single one, and gave us flint stones as long as one and a-half palms, with which

they cut and that are greatly prized among them. They begged us to remember them and

pray to God to keep them always healthy, which we promised to do, and so they left, the

happiest people upon earth, having given us the very best they had.


We remained with the Avavares Indians for eight months, according to our reckoning of the

moons. During that time they came for us from many places and said that verily we were

children of the sun. Until then Dorantes and the negro had not made any cures, but we

found ourselves so pressed by the Indians coming from all sides, that all of us had to

become medicine men. I was the most daring and reckless of all in undertaking cures. We

never treated anyone that did not afterwards say he was well, and they had such confidence

in our skill as to believe that none of them would die as long as we were among them.

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, The journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and his companions from

Florida to the Pacific, 1528-1536, Fanny Bandelier, trans. Ad. F. Bandelier, ed. (New York:

1922), 99-108

Available through HathiTrust



Cliff Palace

Andreas F. Borchert, “Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Palace” via Wikimedia.

Native peoples in the Southwest began constructing these highly defensible cliff dwellings in

1190 CE and continued expanding and refurbishing them until 1260 CE before abandoning

them around 1300 CE. Changing climatic conditions resulted in an increased competition

for resources that led some groups to ally with their neighbors for both protection and

subsistence. The circular rooms in the foreground were called kivas and had ceremonial and

religious importance for the inhabitants. Cliff Palace had 23 kivas and 150 rooms housing a

population of approximately 100 people; the number of rooms and large population has led

scholars to believe that this complex may have been the center of a larger polity that

included surrounding communities.



Casta Painting

Unknown artist, “Las Castas,” Museo Nacional del Virreinato, Tepotzotlan, Mexico, via Wikimedia.

The elaborate Sistema de Castas revealed one of the less-discussed effects of Spanish

conquest: sexual liaisons and their progeny. Casta paintings illustrated the varying degrees of

intermixture between colonial subjects, defining them for Spanish officials. Race was less

fixed in the Spanish colonies, as some individuals, through legal action or colonial service,

“changed” their race in the colonial records. Though this particular image does not, some

casta paintings attributed particular behaviors to different groups, demonstrating how class

and race were intertwined.



2. Colliding Cultures

The Columbian Exchange transformed both sides of the Atlantic with dramatically disparate

results. New diseases wiped out entire civilizations in the Americas, while newly imported

nutrient-rich foodstuffs enabled a European population boom. Spain benefited most

immediately as the wealth of the Aztec and Incan Empires strengthened the Spanish

monarchy. Spain used its new riches to gain an advantage over other European nations. But

this advantage was soon contested. Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and England all raced

to the New World, eager to match the gains of the Spanish. Native peoples greeted the new

visitors with responses ranging from welcome cooperation to aggressive violence, but the

ravages of disease and the possibility of new trading relationships enabled Europeans to

create settlements all along the western rim of the Atlantic world. New empires would

emerge from these tenuous beginnings, and by the end of the seventeenth century, Spain

would lose its privileged position to its rivals. An age of colonization had begun and, with it,

a great collision of cultures commenced. These sources chronicle the European challenges to

Spain’s colonial dominance and the collisions between Europeans and Native Americans.


Richard Hakluyt Makes the Case for English

Colonization, 1584

Richard Hakluyt used this document to persuade Queen Elizabeth I to devote more money and energy into

encouraging English colonization. In twenty-one chapters, summarized here, Hakluyt emphasized the many

benefits that England would receive by creating colonies in the Americas.

A particular discourse concerning the great necessity and manifold commodities that are like

to grow to this Realm of England by the Western discoveries lately attempted, Written In

the year 1584 by Richard Hakluyt of Oxford at the request and direction of the right

worshipful Mr. Walter Raleigh now Knight, before the coming home of his Two Barks: and

is divided into xxi chapters, the Titles whereof follow in the next leaf.

1. That this western discoverie will be greatly for the enlargement of the gospel of

Christ whereunto the Princes of the reformed religion are chiefly bound amongst

whom her Majestie is principally.

2. That all other English trades are grown beggerly or dangerous, especially in all the

king of Spain his Dominions, where our men are driven to fling their Bibles and

prayer Books into the sea, and to forswear and renounce their religion and

conscience and consequently their obedience to her Majestie.

3. That this western voyage will yield unto us all the commodities of Europe, Africa,

and Asia, as far as we were wont to travel, and supply the wants of all our decayed


4. That this enterprise will be for the manifold employment of numbers of idle men,

and for breeding of many sufficient, and for utterance of the great quantity of the

commodities of our Realm.

5. That this voyage will be a great bridle to the Indies of the king of Spaine and a

means that we may arrest at our pleasure for the space of time weeks or three

months every year, one or two hundred sail of his subjects shipped at the fishing in


6. That the mischiefs that the Indian Treasure wrought in time of Charles the late

Emperor father to the Spanish king, is to be had in consideracion of the Queens

most excellent Majesty, least the continually coming of the like treasure from

thence to his son, work the unrecoverable annoyance of this Realm, whereof

already we have had very dangerous experience.

7. What special means may bring kinge Phillippe from his high Throne, and make him

equal to the Princes his neighbours, wherewithal is showed his weakness in the

west Indies.


8. That the limits of the king of Spain’s dominions in the West Indies be nothing so

large as is generally imagined and surmised, neither those parts which he holdeth be

of any such forces as is falsely given out by the popish Clergy and others his

suitors, to terrify the Princes of the Religion and to abuse and blind them.

9. The Names of the rich Towns lying along the sea coast on the north side from the

equinoctial of the mainland of America under the kinge of Spaine.

10. A Briefe declaration of the chief Islands in the Bay of Mexico being under the king

of Spain, with their havens and forts, and what commodities they yeide.

11. That the Spaniards have executed most outrageous and more than Turkish cruelties

in all the west Indies, whereby they are everywhere there, become most odious

unto them, who would join with us or any other most willingly to shake of their

most intolerable yoke, and have begun to do it already in diverse places where they

were Lords heretofore.

12. That the passage in this voyage is easy and short, that it cutteth not near the trade

of any other mighty Princes, nor near their Countries, that it is to be performed at

all tymes of the year, and needeth but one kind of wind, that Ireland being full of

good heavens on the south and west sides, is the nearest part of Europe to it,

which by this trade shall be in more security, and the sooner drawn to more


13. That hereby the Revenues and customs of her Majestie both outwards and inwards

shall mightely be enlarged by the toll, excises, and other duties which without

oppression may be raised.

14. That this action will be greatly for the increase, maintenance and safety of our

Navy, and especially of great shipping which is the strength of our Realm, and for

the supportation of all those occupations that depend upon the same.

15. That speedy planting in diverse fit places is most necessary upon these lucky

western discoveries for fear of the danger of being prevented by other nations

which have the like intentions, with the order thereof and other reasons therewithal


16. Means to keep this enterprise from overthrow and the enterprisers from shame and


17. That by these Colonies the Northwest passage to Cathay and China may easily

quickly and perfectly be searched out as well by river and overland, as by sea, for

proof whereof here are quoted and alleged diverse rare Testimonies out of the

three volumes of voyages gathered by Ramusius and other grave authors.


18. That the Queen of England title to all the west Indies, or at the least to as much as

is from Florida to the Circle arctic, is more lawful and right then the Spaniards or

any other Christian Princes.

19. An answer to the Bull of the Donation of all the west Indies granted to the kings of

Spain by Pope Alexander the VI who was himself a Spaniard borne.

20. A brief collection of certain reasons to induce her Majestie and the state to take in

hand the western voyage and the planting there.

21. A note of some things to be prepared for the voyage which is set down rather to

draw the takers of the voyage in hande to the present consideration then for any

other reason for that diverse things require preparation long before the voyage,

without which the voyage is maimed.

Richard Hakluyt, A Discourse Concerning Western Planting, Written in the Year 1584, Charles

Deane, ed. (Cambridge: 1877), 1-5.

Available through the Internet Archive



John Winthrop Dreams of a City on a Hill, 1630

John Winthrop delivered the following sermon before he and his fellow settlers reached New England. The

sermon is famous largely for its use of the phrase “a city on a hill,” used to describe the expectation that the

Massachusetts Bay colony would shine like an example to the world. But Winthrop’s sermon also reveals

how he expected Massachusetts to differ from the rest of the world.

A Modell Hereof

God Almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of

mankind, as in all times some must be rich some poor, some high and eminent in power and

dignity; others mean and in subjection.

The Reason hereof:

1st Reason.

First to hold conformity with the rest of His world, being delighted to show forth the glory

of his wisdom in the variety and difference of the creatures, and the glory of His power in

ordering all these differences for the preservation and good of the whole, and the glory of

His greatness, that as it is the glory of princes to have many officers, so this great king will

have many stewards, counting himself more honored in dispensing his gifts to man by man,

than if he did it by his own immediate hands.

2nd Reason.

Secondly, that He might have the more occasion to manifest the work of his Spirit: first

upon the wicked in moderating and restraining them, so that the rich and mighty should not

eat up the poor, nor the poor and despised rise up against and shake off their yoke.

Secondly, in the regenerate, in exercising His graces in them, as in the great ones, their love,

mercy, gentleness, temperance etc., and in the poor and inferior sort, their faith, patience,

obedience etc.

3rd Reason.

Thirdly, that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit

more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection. From hence it appears plainly that

no man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy etc., out of any particular and

singular respect to himself, but for the glory of his Creator and the common good of the

creature, Man. Therefore God still reserves the property of these gifts to Himself as

Ezek. 16:17, He there calls wealth, His gold and His silver, and Prov. 3:9, He claims their

service as His due, “Honor the Lord with thy riches,” etc. — All men being thus (by divine

providence) ranked into two sorts, rich and poor; under the first are comprehended all such

as are able to live comfortably by their own means duly improved; and all others are poor

according to the former distribution….

Question: What rule must we observe and walk by in cause of community of peril?



The same as before, but with more enlargement towards others and less respect towards

ourselves and our own right. Hence it was that in the primitive Church they sold all, had all

things in common, neither did any man say that which he possessed was his own. Likewise

in their return out of the captivity, because the work was great for the restoring of the

church and the danger of enemies was common to all, Nehemiah directs the Jews to

liberality and readiness in remitting their debts to their brethren, and disposing liberally to

such as wanted, and stand not upon their own dues which they might have demanded of

them. Thus did some of our forefathers in times of persecution in England, and so did many

of the faithful of other churches, whereof we keep an honorable remembrance of them; and

it is to be observed that both in Scriptures and latter stories of the churches that such as

have been most bountiful to the poor saints, especially in those extraordinary times and

occasions, God hath left them highly commended to posterity…

Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into covenant with Him for this

work. We have taken out a commission. The Lord hath given us leave to draw our own

articles. We have professed to enterprise these and those accounts, upon these and those

ends. We have hereupon besought Him of favor and blessing. Now if the Lord shall please

to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant

and sealed our commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in

it; but if we shall neglect the observation of these articles which are the ends we have

propounded, and, dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and

prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the

Lord will surely break out in wrath against us, and be revenged of such a people, and make

us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.

Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the

counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we

must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly

affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of

others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness,

gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions

our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before

our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So

shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. The Lord will be our God, and

delight to dwell among us, as His own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all

our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than

formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us,

when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a

praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “may the Lord make it like that

of New England.” For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are

upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to

withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall

open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s


sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to

be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are


And to shut this discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord,

in his last farewell to Israel, Deut. 30. “Beloved, there is now set before us life and death,

good and evil,” in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love

one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments and his ordinance and his

laws, and the articles of our Covenant with Him, that we may live and be multiplied, and that

the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall

turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits,

and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass

over this vast sea to possess it.

Therefore let us choose life,

that we and our seed may live,

by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him,

for He is our life and our prosperity.

John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” in A Library of American Literature: Early

Colonial Literature, 1607-1675, Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson,

eds. (New York: 1892), 304-307.

Available through Google Books



John Lawson Encounters Native Americans,


John Lawson took detailed notes on the various peoples he encountered during his exploration of the

Carolinas. Lawson recorded many aspects of Native American life and even noticed the progress of disease as

it swept through native communities.

Next Morning very early, we waded thro’ the Savanna, the Path lying there; and about ten a

Clock came to a hunting Quarter, of a great many Santees; they made us all welcome; showing

a great deal of Joy at our coming, giving us barbecued Turkeys, Bear’s Oil, and Venison.

Here we hired Santee Jack (a good Hunter, and a well-humored Fellow) to be our Pilot to

the Congeree Indians; we gave him a Stroud-water-Blew, to make his Wife an Indian Petticoat,

who went with her Husband. After two Hours Refreshment, we went on, and got that Day

about twenty Miles; we lay by a small swift Run of Water, which was paved at the Bottom

with a Sort of Stone much like to Tripoli, and so light, that I fancied it would precipitate in

no Stream, but where it naturally grew. The Weather was very cold, the Winds

holding Northerly. We made our selves as merry as we could, having a good Supper with the

Scraps of the Venison we had given us by the Indians, having kill’s 3 Teal and a Possum,

which Medley all together made a curious Ragoo.

This Day all of us had a Mind to have rested, but the Indian was much against it, alleging,

That the Place we lay at, was not good to hunt in; telling us, if we would go on, by Noon, he

would bring us to a more convenient Place; so we moved forwards, and about twelve a

Clock came to the most amazing Prospect I had seen since I had been in Carolina; we

travelled by a Swamp-side, which Swamp I believe to be no less than twenty Miles over, the

other Side being as far as I could well discern, there appearing great Ridges of Mountains,

bearing from us W.N. W. One Alp with a Top like a Sugar-loaf, advanced its Head above all

the rest very considerably; the Day was very serene, which gave us the Advantage of seeing a

long Way; these Mountains were clothed all over with Trees, which seemed to us to be very

large Timbers.

At the Sight of this fair Prospect, we stayed all Night; our Indian going about half an Hour

before us, had provided three fat Turkeys e’er we got up to him.

The Swamp I now spoke of, is not a miry Bog, as others generally are, but you go down to it

thro’ a steep Bank, at the Foot of which, begins this Valley, where you may go dry for

perhaps 200 Yards, then you meet with a small Brook or Run of Water, about 2 or 3 Foot

deep, then dry Land for such another Space, so another Brook, thus continuing. The Land in

this Percoarson, or Valley, being extraordinary rich, and the Runs of Water well stored with

Fowl. It is the Head of one of the Branches of Santee-River, but a farther Discovery Time

would not permit; only one Thing is very remarkable, there growing all over this Swamp, a

tall, lofty Bay-tree, but is not the same as in England, these being in their Verdure all the


Winter long; which appears here, when you stand on the Ridge, (where our Path lay) as if it

were one pleasant, green Field, and as even as a Bowling-green to the Eye of the Beholder;

being hemmed in on one Side with these Ledges of vast high Mountains.

Viewing the Land here, we found an extraordinary rich, black Mold, and some of a Copper-

color, both Sorts very good; the Land in some Places is much burthened with Iron, Stone,

here being great Store of it, seemingly very good: The eviling Springs, which are many in

these Parts. issuing out of the Rocks, which Water we drank of, it coloring the Excrements

of Travellers (by its chalybid Quality) as black as a Coal. When we were all asleep, in the

Beginning of the Night, we were awakened with the dismal’s and most hideous Noise that

ever pierced my Ears: This sudden Surprise incapacitated us of guessing what this

threatening Noise might proceed from; but our Indian Pilot (who knew these Parts very well)

acquainted us, that it was customary to hear such Music along that Swamp-side, there being

endless Numbers of Panthers, Tigers, Wolves, and other Beasts of Prey, which take this

Swamp for their Abode in the Day, coming in whole Droves to hunt the Deer in the Night,

making this frightful Ditty ’till Day appears, then all is still as in other Places.

The next Day it proved a small drizzly Rain, which is rare, there happening not the tenth

Part of Foggy falling Weather towards these Mountains, as visits those Parts. Near the Sea-

board, the Indian killed 15 Turkeys this Day; there coming out of the Swamp, (about Sun-

rising) Flocks of these Fowl, containing several hundreds in a Gang, who feed upon the

Acorns, it being most Oak that grow in these Woods. These are but very few Pines in those


Early the next Morning, we set forward for the Congeree-Indians, parting with that delicious

Prospect. By the Way, our Guide killed more Turkeys, and two Polcats, which he eat,

esteeming them before fat Turkeys. Some of the Turkeys which we eat, whilst we stayed

there, I believe, weighed no less than 40 pounds.

The Land we passed over this Day, was most of it good, and the worst passable. At Night

we killed a Possum, being cloyed with Turkeys, made a Dish of that, which tasted much

between young Pork and Veal; their Fat being as white as any I ever saw. Our Indian having

this Day killed good Store of Provision with his Gun, they being curious Artists in managing

a Gun, to make it carry either Ball, or Shot, true. When they have bought a Piece, and find it

to shoot any Ways crooked, they take the Barrel out of the Stock, cutting a Notch in a Tree,

wherein they set it straight, sometimes-shooting away above 100 Loads of Ammunition,

before they bring the Gun to shoot according to their Mind. We took up our Quarters by a

Fish-pond-side; the Pits in the Woods that stand full of Water, naturally breed Fish in them,

in great Quantities. We cooked our Supper, but having neither Bread, or Salt, our fat

Turkeys began to be loathsome to us, although’ we were never wanting of a good Appetite,

yet a Continuance of one Diet, made us weary.

The next Morning, Santee Jack told us, we should reach the Indian Settlement betimes that

Day; about Noon, we passed by several fair Savanna’s, very rich and dry; seeing great Copses

of many Acres that bore nothing but Bushes, about the Bigness of Box-trees; which (in the

Season) afford great Quantities of small Black-berries, very pleasant Fruit, and much like to


our Blues, or Huckle-berries, that grow on Heaths in England. Hard by the Savanna’s we

found the Town, where we halted; there was not above one Man left with the Women, the

rest being gone a Hunting for a Feast. The Women were very busily engaged in Gaming:

The Name or Grounds of it, I could not learn, though’ I looked on above two Hours. Their

Arithmetic was kept with a Heap of Indian Grain. When their Play was ended, the King,

or Cassetta’s Wife, invited us into her Cabin. The Indian Kings always entertaining Travellers,

either English, or Indian; taking it as a great Affront, if they pass by their Cabins, and take up

their Quarters at any other Indian’s House. The Queen set Victuals before us, which good

Compliment they use generally as soon as you come under their Roof.

The Town consists not of above a dozen Houses, they having other stragling Plantations up

and down the Country, and are seated upon a small Branch of Santee River. Their Place hath

curious dry Marshes, and Savanna’s adjoining to it, and would prove an exceeding thriving

Range for Cattle, and Hogs, provided the English were seated thereon. Besides, the Land is

good for Plantations.

These Indians are a small People, having lost much of their former Numbers, by intestine

Broils; but most by the Small-pox, which hath often visited them, sweeping away whole

Towns; occasioned by the immoderate Government of themselves in their Sickness; as I

have mentioned before, treating of the Sewees. Neither do I know any Savages that have

traded with the English, but what have been great Losers by this Distemper.

John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina… (London: 1709), 25-28.

Available through the Internet Archive



A Gaspesian Man Defends His Way of Life,


Chrestien Le Clercq traveled to New France as a missionary, but found that many Native Americans were

not interested in adopting European cultural practices. In this document, LeClercq records the words of a

Gaspesian man who explained why he believed that his way of life was superior to Le Clercq’s.

… the Indians esteem their camps as much as, and even more than, they do the most superb

and commodious of our houses. To this they testified one day to some of our gentlemen of

Isle Percée, who, having asked me to serve them as interpreter in a visit which they wished

to make to these Indians in order to make the latter understand that it would be very much

more advantageous for them to live and to build in our fashion, were extremely surprised

when the leading Indian, who had listened with great patience to everything I had said to

him on behalf of these gentlemen, answered me in these words :

I am greatly astonished that the French have so little cleverness, as they seem to exhibit in

the matter of which thou hast just told me on their behalf, in the effort to persuade us to

convert our poles, our barks, and our wigwams into those houses of stone and of wood

which are tall and lofty, according to their account, as these trees. Very well! But why now,

do men of five to six feet in height need houses which are sixty to eighty? For, in fact, as

thou knowest very well thyself, Patriarch—do we not find in our own all the conveniences

and the advantages that you have with yours, such as reposing, drinking, sleeping, eating, and

amusing ourselves with our friends when we wish? This is not all, my brother, hast thou as

much ingenuity and cleverness as the Indians, who carry their houses and their wigwams

with them so that they may lodge wheresoever they please, independently of any seignior

whatsoever? Thou art not as bold nor as stout as we, because when thou goest on a voyage

thou canst not carry upon thy shoulders thy buildings and thy edifices. Therefore it is

necessary that thou prepares as many lodgings as thou makest changes of residence, or else

thou lodgest in a hired house which does not belong to thee. As for us, we find ourselves

secure from all these inconveniences, and we can always say, more truly than thou, that we

are at home everywhere, because we set up our wigwams with ease wheresoever we go, and

without asking permission of anybody. Thou reproachest us, very inappropriately, that our

country is a little hell in contrast with France, which thou comparest to a terrestrial

paradise, inasmuch as it yields thee, so thou safest, every kind of provision in abundance.

Thou sayest of us also that we are the most miserable and most unhappy of all men, living

without religion, without manners, without honour, without social order, and, in a word,

without any rules, like the beasts in our woods and our forests, lacking bread, wine, and a

thousand other comforts which thou hast in superfluity in Europe. Well, my brother, if thou

dost not yet know the real feelings which our Indians have towards thy country and towards

all thy nation, it is proper that I inform thee at once. I beg thee now to believe that, all

miserable as we seem in thine eyes, we consider ourselves nevertheless much happier than

thou in this, that we are very content with the little that we have; and believe also once for


all, I pray, that thou deceivest thyself greatly if thou thinkest to persuade us that thy country

is better than ours. For if France, as thou sayest, is a little terrestrial paradise, art thou

sensible to leave it? And why abandon wives, children, relatives, and friends? Why risk thy

life and thy property every year, and why venture thyself with such risk, in any season

whatsoever, to the storms and tempests of the sea in order to come to a strange and

barbarous country which thou considerest the poorest and least fortunate of the world?

Besides, since we are wholly convinced of the contrary, we scarcely take the trouble to go to

France, because we fear, with good reason, lest we find little satisfaction there, seeing, in our

own experience, that those who are natives thereof leave it every year in order to enrich

themselves on our shores. We believe, further, that you are also incomparably poorer than

we, and that you are only simple journeymen, valets, servants, and slaves, all masters and

grand captains though you may appear, seeing that you glory in our old rags and in our

miserable suits of beaver which can no longer be of use to us, and that you find among us, in

the fishery for cod which you make in these parts, the wherewithal to comfort your misery

and the poverty which oppresses you. As to us, we find all our riches and all our

conveniences among ourselves, without trouble and without exposing our lives to the

dangers in which you find yourselves constantly through your long voyages. And, whilst

feeling compassion for you in the sweetness of our repose, we wonder at the anxieties and

cares which you give yourselves night and day in order to load your ship. We see also that all

your people live, as a rule, only upon cod which you catch among us. It is everlastingly

nothing but cod—cod in the morning, cod at midday, cod at evening, and always cod, until

things come to such a pass that if you wish some good morsels, it is at our expense; and you

are obliged to have recourse to the Indians, whom you despise so much, and to beg them to

go a-hunting that you may be regaled. Now tell me this one little thing, if thou hast any

sense: Which of these two is the wisest and happiest—he who labours without ceasing and

only obtains, and that with great trouble, enough to live on, or he who rests in comfort and

finds all that he needs in the pleasure of hunting and fishing? It is true, that we have not

always had the use of bread and of wine which your France produces; but, in fact, before the

arrival of the French in these parts, did not the Gaspesians live much longer than now? And

if we have not any longer among us any of those old men of a hundred and thirty to forty

years, it is only because we are gradually adopting your manner of living, for experience is

making it very plain that those of us live longest who, despising your bread, your wine, and

your brandy, are content with their natural food of beaver, of moose, of waterfowl, and fish,

in accord with the custom of our ancestors and of all the Gaspesian nation. Learn now, my

brother, once for all, because I must open to thee my heart: there is no Indian who does not

consider himself infinitely more happy and more powerful than the French.

Crestien Le Clercq, New Relation of Gaspesia: With the Customs and Religion of the Gaspesian

Indians, William F. Ganong, ed. and trans. (Toronto: 1910), 103-106.

Available through the Internet Archive



The Legend of Moshup, 1830

Most Native American peoples shared information solely through the spoken word. These oral cultures

present unique challenges to historians, and force us to look beyond traditional written sources. Folk tales

offer a valuable window into the ways that Native Americans understood themselves and the wider world.

The Wampanoag legend of Moshup describes an ancient giant who lived on Martha’s Vineyard Island and

offered stories about the history of the region.

Once upon a time, in the month of bleak winds, a Pawkunnawkut Indian named Tackanash,

who lived upon the main land, near the brook which was ploughed out by the great trout,

was caught with his dog upon one of the pieces of floating ice, and carried in spite of his

endeavours to Martha’s Vinyard Island….

When Tackanash and his dog arrived at the island, he found the man whose existence had

been doubted by many of the Indians, and believed to have been only seen by deceived eyes,

heard by foolish ears, and talked of by lying tongues, living in a deep cave near the end of

the island, nearest the setting sun. And this was the account which Tackanash on his return

gave the chiefs of the strange creature. He was taller than the tallest tree upon Nope, and as

large around him as the spread of the tops of a vigorous pine, that has seen the years of a full

grown warrior. His skin was very black; but his beard, which he had never plucked nor

clipped, and the hair of his head, which had never been shaved, were of the color of the

feathers of the grey gull. His eyes were very white, and his teeth, which were only two in

number, were green as the ooze raked up by the winds from the bottom of the sea. He was

always good-natured and cheerful, save when he could not get plenty of meat, or when he

missed his usual supply of the Indian weed, and the strong drink which made him see whales

chasing deer in the woods, and frogs digging quawhogs. His principal food was the meat of

whales, which he caught by wading after them into the great sea, and tossing them out, as

the Indian boys do black bugs from a puddle. He would, however, eat porpoises, when no

larger fish were to be had, and even tortoises, and deer, and rabbits, rather than be hungry.

The bones of the whales, and the coals of the fire in which he roasted them, are to be seen

now at the place where he lived. I have not yet told my brothers the name of this big man of

Nope—it was Moshup.

I hear the stranger ask, “Who was he?” I hear my brothers ask, “Was he a spirit from the

shades of departed men, or did he come from the hills of the thunder? I answer, he was a

Spirit, but whence he came, when first he landed in our Indian country, I know not. It was a

long time ago, and the Island was then very young, being just placed on the back of the

Great Tortoise which now supports it. As it was very heavy the tortoise tried to roll it off,

but the Great Spirit would not let him, and whipped him till he lay still.

Moshup told the Pawkunnawkut that he once lived upon the main land. He said that much

people grew up around him, men who lived by hunting and fishing, while their women

planted the corn, and beans, and pumpkins. They had powwows, he said, who dressed


themselves in a strange dress, muttered diabolical words, and frightened the Indians till they

gave them half their wampum. Our fathers knew by this, that they were their ancestors, who

were always led by the priests—the more fools they! Once upon a time, Moshup said, a great

bird whose wings were the flight of an arrow wide, whose body was the length of ten Indian

strides, and whose head when he stretched up his neck peered over the tall oak-woods, came

to Moshup’s neighbourhood. At first, he only carried away deer and mooses; at last, many

children were missing. This continued for many moons. Nobody could catch him, nobody

could kill him. The Indians feared him, and dared not go near him; he in his turn feared

Moshup, and would seek the region of the clouds the moment he saw him coming. When he

caught children, he would immediately fly to the island which lay towards the hot winds.

Moshup, angry that he could not catch him, and fearing that, if the creature hatched others

of equal appetite and ferocity, the race of Indians would become extinct, one day waded into

the water after him, and continued in pursuit till he had crossed to the island which sent the

hot winds, and which is now called Nope. There, under a great tree, he found the bones of

all the children which the great bird had carried away. A little further he found its nest, with

seven hatched birds in it, which, together with the mother, he succeeded after a hard battle

in killing. Extremely fatigued, he lay down to sleep, and dreamed that he must not quit the

island again. When he waked, he wished much to smoke, but, on searching the island for

tobacco, and finding none, he filled his pipe with poke, which our people sometimes use in

the place of tobacco. Seated upon the high hills of Wabsquoy, he puffed the smoke from his

pipe over the surface of the Great Lake, which soon grew dim and misty. This was the

beginning of fog, which since, for the long space between the Frog-month and the Hunting-

month, has at times obscured Nope and all the shores of the Indian people. This was the

story which Moshup told Tackanash and his dog. If it is not true, I am not the liar…”

James Athearn Jones, Traditions of the North American Indians, Vol. 2 (Project Gutenberg

EBook: 2007).

Available through Project Gutenberg



Accusations of witchcraft, 1692 and 1706

These two documents explore the hysteria and death that captured Salem, Massachusetts at the end of the

seventeenth century. In the first document, Sarah Carrier testifies that her mother forced her to engage in

witchcraft. Her mother, Martha Carrier, was hung one week later. In the second document, Ann Putnam

recants her own deadly accusations twenty years after the witchcraft trials.

The examination of Sarah Carrier, 1692

It was asked Sarah Carrier by the Magistrates or Justices John Hawthorne Esq; and others:

How long hast thou been a witch?

A. Ever since I was six years old.

Q. How old are you now?

A. Near eight years old, brother Richard says, I shall be eight years old in November next.

Q. Who made you a witch?

A. My mother, she made me set my hand to a book.

Q. How did you set your hand to it?

A. I touched it with my fingers and the book was red, the paper of it was white. She said she

never had seen the black man; the place where she did it was in Andrew Foster’s pasture and

Elizabeth Johnson junior was there.

Being asked who was there beside, she answered her Aunt Toothaker and her cousin. Being

asked when it was, she said, when she was baptized.

Q. What did they promise to give you?

A. A black dog.

Q. Did the dog ever come to you?

A. No.

Q. But you said you saw a cat once. What did that say to you?

A. It said it would tear me in pieces if I would not set my hand to the book. She said her

mother baptized her, and the devil or black man was not there, as she saw, and her mother

said when she baptized her, thou are mine for ever and ever and amen.

Q. How did you afflict folks?

A. I pinched them, and she said she had no puppets, but she went to them that she afflicted.

Being asked whether she went in her body or her spirit, she said in her spirit. She said her

mother carried her thither to afflict.


Q. How did your mother carry you when she was in prison?

A. She came like a black cat.

Q. How did you know that it was your mother?

A. The cat told me so that she was my mother. She said she afflicted Phelp’s child last

saturday, and Elizabeth Johnson joined with her to do it. She had a wooden spear, about as

long as her finger, of Elizabeth Johnson, and she had it of the devil. She would not own that

she had ever been at the witch meeting at the village. This is the substance.

“Examination of Sarah Carrier [Legal Document],” in Children and Youth in History, Item

#282. Annotated by Tom Rushford.

Available through the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.

The confession of Ann Putnam, 1706

I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my

father’s family in the year about ’92; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a

providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several persons of a grievous

crime, whereby their lives were taken away from them, whom now I have just grounds and

good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan

that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental, with

others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of

innocent blood; though what was said or done by me against any person I can truly and

uprightly say, before God and man, I did it not out of any anger, malice, or ill-will to any

person, for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly, being

deluded by Satan. And particularly, as I was a chief instrument of accusing of Goodwife

Nurse and her two sisters, I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humbled for it, in that I was a

cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families; for which cause I desire to

lie in the dust, and earnestly beg forgiveness of God, and from all those unto whom I have

given just cause of sorrow and offence, whose relations were taken away or accused.

The Edinburgh Review, Or Critical Journal, Volume 128 (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black,

1868), 39.

Available through Google Books




Manuel Trujillo Accuses Asencio Povia and

Antonio Yuba of Sodomy, 1731

In 1731, Manuel Trujillo accused two Pueblo men, Acensio Povia and Antonio Yuba, of committing

sodomy. Both Povia and Yuba denied this accusation, and Yuba invoked his status as a Christian in order

to bolster his credibility. Governor Gervasio Cruzat y Góngora chose to exile Povia and Yuba to different

pueblos for a period of four months, during which time they were to cease any and all communication with one

another. This case explores sexual practices deemed “nefarious sins” as well as illustrates what scholars have

called the colonial dilemma—the situation where Indigenous peoples remained in a subjected state despite

theological equality following their Christian conversion.

In the town of Santa Fe on the twenty fifth day of the month of June of one thousand and

thirty-one years, before me, Don Antonio Pérez Velarde Lieutenant General of this

Kingdom of New Mexico, appeared Manuel Trujillo vecino of the said town. He gave me

information that some goats, having damaged his estate, prompted him to follow their trail

and find their owner. He followed their trail to meet the owner so that he could pay for the

damages. And, climbing a hill next to a glen just by a river he saw, unexpectedly and ocularly,

two Indians that were committing the nefarious sin. And, recognizing well this deed he

turned his horse [around] and went to where they were and gave them, with the reins of his

bridle, some lashes, reprimanding them for the offense they were committing against God

our Lord. And, so that they be punished, he gave me this information that I, the said

Lieutenant General, can determine how justice should be served and carried out against the

said two Indians and, so that they cease their desires and proceed against them, I

commanded and command that they adhere to this trial and procedure and I give the order

that they be put in a good prison. Ordered and signed with the witnesses at my service and

acting as receiver judge due to the lack of a royal public notary.

Immediately afterwards on the said day, month, and year, I, the said lieutenant general, in

virtue of the aforementioned command, ordered Joaquin de Anaya and Cristobal Martínez,

soldiers of this garrison, to go in the company of the said Manuel Trujillo to the site and the

place where he found and saw the said two Indians committing the said sin. That they find

them and bring them [back] as prisoners. And, after having been found, that they turn them

over to the guards of this garrison and send them to the Corporal of the Guards.

(Asencío Povía’s statement)

… He is called Asensio Povia and he appears to be eighteen years old because he did not

know his exact age; he is a natural Indian from the Pueblo of San Francisco de Nambe; he is

of the Tewa nation; he is single. Asked if he knew the cause of his imprisonment, he stated

that it was because a Spaniard caught this confessant with another Indian lying on the

ground belly to belly and that the referred to imprisoned Indian grabbed this confessant’s

virile member and brought it to his posterior but that it was not sufficiently agitated (i.e.

excited or erect) in order to put it in (the posterior), and that he could not get agitated; and

that by God it did not get agitated, and that being this confessant over the other Indian belly


to belly, arrived the Spaniard and eventually pulled him off and that was his response. And

asked to state clearly and truthfully why there was a denunciation before me from the said

Manuel Trujillo that he saw them committing the nefarious sin and not what he stated in the

previous question that they were lying belly to belly, he stated that what he said was what

happened and not something else because it is the truth and that he is a Christian and that by

God he tells the truth in this oath that he made and affirmed and ratified. He did not

provide his signature because he does not know how. His guardian signed in his place who

was present at this confession.

(Antonio Yuba’s confession)

… he said that he was called Antonio Yuba; that he was thirty years of age according to his

appearance because he did not know his exact age. He is a natural of Tesuque Pueblo; he is

of the Tewa nation and he is single.

When asked if he knew the cause of his imprisonment, he said that it was because Manuel

Trujillo came and said many things about him and the other Indian. When asked what were

the things that the said Manuel Trujillo came to say, he responded that he did not know

those things but that he [Trujillo] came shouting and that he went to see the governor.

Asked to confess and tell the truth because the said Manuel Trujillo saw that they were on

top of one another committing the nefarious sin. He said that it was true that the other

Indian was wrestling with this confessant and that he told him [Povia] to stop it that he was

going to tend to his livestock and that on this occasion arrived Manuel Trujillo…. Asked to

tell the truth why it is on record that when the said Trujillo arrived, this confessant was with

the other Indian belly to belly and that he [Yuba] took his [Povia’s] virile member and

brought it close to his posterior to commit the said sin but since there was no activity he

could not execute it, [so Yuba] took the member of the said Indian, stroking it with his

hands to fulfill his wish to commit the said sin. He said that it is true that when they were

wrestling belly to belly the other Indian scratched this confessant’s [member] and that he

took the member and pulled it to his lower part and scratched it and this is the truth by the

oath that he has dated and signed and ratified …

(The verdict)

Attention to which the detained should be freed from the prison in which they are found

preceding first, and making them aware of this, my decision, in the presence of the said

interpreter and defense attorney so that in view of what my order is and in its fulfillment

they leave for the term of four months with everything from the day of their notification.

They are to be exiled, Asencio Povia—natural of Nambe Pueblo and of the Tewa nation—

to San Felipe Pueblo and Antonio Yuba—natural of Tesuque Pueblo and of the Tewa

nation—to Zuni Pueblo and each one of them will remain for four months in the pueblo

that is assigned, under penalty of two hundred lashes and under the same penalty, they must

not return to meet or communicate their thoughts and sayings because, by doing so, [the

crime] will be considered as incurred once again. And, when that term of exile is finished,

they should be brought before the local justice for the record to be complied with the exile


referred to by certification of the said judge. Thus, I have provided, ordered, and signed

acting as the recipient before me due to the absence of a public and royal notary in this

kingdom with the witnesses at my assistance that I give faith.

Don Gervasio Cruzat y Gongora, Gaspar Bitton, Juan Antonio de Unanue

Spanish Archives of New Mexico (SANM), MF 450, roll 6, frames 830-833; 845-846; 848-

850; 881-882; 887. Translation by Anderson Hagler.


Painting of New Orleans

Jean-Pierre Lassus, “Veüe et Perspective de la Nouvelle Orleans,” 1726, Centre des archives d’outre-mer,

France via Wikimedia.

During the contact period, the frontier was constantly shifting and places that are now

considered old were once tenuous settlements. This watercolor painting depicts New

Orleans in 1726 when it was an 8-year-old French frontier settlement, nearly forty years prior

to the Spanish acquisition of the Louisiana territory. In the foreground, enslaved Africans

fell trees on land belonging to the Company of the Indies, and another enslaved man spears

a massive alligator. Land has been cleared only just beyond the town limits and a wooden

palisade provides meager protection from competing European empires.



Sketch of an Algonquin Village

John White, “Village of the Secotan, 1585, via Wikimedia.

Native settlements were usually organized around political, economic, or religious activity.

John White shows this Algonquin community engaged in some kind of celebration across

from the fire he identified as “The place of solemne prayer,” indicating that ceremonial

activity could be both solemn and raucous. In the center of the image, a communal meal has

been laid alongside crops that are in varying stages of growth, suggesting the use of planting

techniques like crop rotation. He also shows the interior of several longhouses, made of bent

saplings and covered with bark and woven maps. Among the Powhatan, similar structures

were called yehakins. In putting the longhouses and the settlement in a series of rows,

White’s English perspective comes through: archaeological evidence shows that these houses

were usually situated around communal gathering places or moved next to fields under

cultivation not ordered in European-style rows.


3. British North America

The seventeenth century saw the creation and maturation of Britain’s North American

colonies. Colonists endured a century of struggle against unforgiving climates, hostile

natives, and imperial intrigue. They did so largely through ruthless expressions of power.

Colonists conquered Native Americans, attacked European rivals, and joined a highly

lucrative transatlantic economy rooted in slavery. After surviving a century of desperation

and war, British North American colonists fashioned increasingly complex societies with

unique religious cultures, economic ties, and political traditions. These sources reveal the

often brutal conditions of life in colonial America.


Olaudah Equiano Describes the Middle

Passage, 1789

In this harrowing description of the Middle Passage, Olaudah Equiano described the terror of the

transatlantic slave trade. Equiano eventually purchased his freedom and lived in London where he advocated

for abolition.

At last, when the ship we were in had got in all her cargo, they made ready with many fearful

noises, and we were all put under deck, so that we could not see how they managed the

vessel. But this disappointment was the least of my sorrow. The stench of the hold while we

were on the coast was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for

any time, and some of us had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now

that the whole ship’s cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. The

closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which

was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This

produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a

variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many

died, thus falling victims to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers. This

wretched situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become

insupportable; and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and

were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered

the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable. Happily perhaps for myself I was soon

reduced so low here that it was thought necessary to keep me almost always on deck; and

from my extreme youth I was not put in fetters. In this situation I expected every hour to

share the fate of my companions, some of whom were almost daily brought upon deck at

the point of death, which I began to hope would soon put an end to my miseries. Often did

I think many of the inhabitants of the deep much more happy than myself; I envied them

the freedom they enjoyed, and as often wished I could change my condition for theirs. Every

circumstance I met with served only to render my state more painful, and heighten my

apprehensions, and my opinion of the cruelty of the whites. One day they had taken a

number of fishes; and when they had killed and satisfied themselves with as many as they

thought fit, to our astonishment who were on the deck, rather than give any of them to us to

eat, as we expected, they tossed the remaining fish into the sea again, although we begged

and prayed for some as well we cold, but in vain; and some of my countrymen, being

pressed by hunger, took an opportunity, when they thought no one saw them, of trying to

get a little privately; but they were discovered, and the attempt procured them some very

severe floggings.

One day, when we had a smooth sea, and a moderate wind, two of my wearied countrymen,

who were chained together (I was near them at the time), preferring death to such a life of

misery, somehow made through the nettings, and jumped into the sea: immediately another

quite dejected fellow, who, on account of his illness, was suffered to be out of irons, also


followed their example; and I believe many more would soon have done the same, if they

had not been prevented by the ship’s crew, who were instantly alarmed. Those of us that

were the most active were, in a moment, put down under the deck; and there was such a

noise and confusion amongst the people of the ship as I never heard before, to stop her, and

get the boat to go out after the slaves. However, two of the wretches were drowned, but they

got the other, and afterwards flogged him unmercifully, for thus attempting to prefer death

to slavery. In this manner we continued to undergo more hardships than I can now relate;

hardships which are inseparable from this accursed trade. – Many a time we were near

suffocation, from the want of fresh air, which we were often without for whole days

together. This, and the stench of the necessary tubs, carried off many. During our passage I

first saw flying fishes, which surprised me very much: they used frequently to fly across the

ship, and many of them fell on the deck. I also now first saw the use of the quadrant. I had

often with astonishment seen the mariners make observations with it, and I could not think

what it meant. They at last took notice of my surprise; and one of them, willing to increase it,

as well as to gratify my curiosity, made me one day look through it. The clouds appeared to

me to be land, which disappeared as they passed along. This heightened my wonder: and I

was now more persuaded than ever that I was in another world, and that every thing about

me was magic. At last we came in sight of the island of Barbadoes, at which the whites on

board gave a great shout, and made many signs of joy to us.

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the

African, written by Himself (London: 1790), 51-54.

Available through the Internet Archive



Recruiting Settlers to Carolina, 1666

Robert Horne’s wanted to entice English settlers to join the new colony of Carolina. According to Horne,

natural bounty, economic opportunity, and religious liberty awaited anyone willing to make the journey.

Horne wanted to recruit settlers of every social class, from those “of Genteel blood” to those who would have to

sign a contract of indentured servitude.

First, There is full and free Liberty of Conscience granted to all, so that no man is to be

molested or called in question for matters of Religious Concern; but every one to be

obedient to the Civil Government, worshipping God after their own way.

Secondly, There is freedom from Custom, for all Wine, Silk, Raisins, Currans, Oil, Olives, and

Almonds, that shall be raised in the Province for 7. years, after 4 Ton of any of those

commodities shall be imported in one Bottom.

Thirdly, Every Free-man and Free-woman that transport themselves and Servants by the 25

of March next, being 1667. shall have for Himself, Wife, Children, and Men-servants, for

each 100 Acres of Land for him and his Heirs for ever, and for every Woman-servant and

Slave 50 Acres, paying at most 1/2d. per acre, per annum, in lieu of all demands, to the Lords

Proprietors: Provided always, That every Man be armed with a good musket full bore, 10lbs

Powder, and 20lbs of Bullet, and six Months Provision for all, to serve them whilst they raise

Provision in that Country.

Fourthly, Every Man-Servant at the expiration of their time, is to have of the Country a 100

Acres of Land to him and his heirs for ever, paying only 1/2d. per Acre, per annum, and the

Women 50. Acres of Land on the same conditions; their Masters also are to allow them two

Suits of Apparel and Tools such as he is best able to work with, according to the Custom of

the Country.

Fifthly, They are to have a Governor and Council appointed from among themselves, to see

the Laws of the Assembly put in due execution; but the Governor is to rule but 3 years, and

then learn to obey; also he hath no power to lay any Tax, or make or abrogate any Law,

without the Consent of the Colony in their Assembly.

Sixthly, They are to choose annually from among themselves, a certain Number of Men,

according to their divisions, which constitute the General Assembly with the Governor and

his Council, and have the sole power of Making Laws, and Laying Taxes for the common

good when need shall require.

These are the chief and Fundamental privileges, but the Right Honorable Lords Proprietors

have promised (and it is their Interest so to do) to be ready to grant what other Privileges

may be found advantageous for the good, of the Colony.

Is there therefore any younger Brother who is born of Genteel blood, and whose Spirit is

elevated above the common sort, and yet the hard usage of our Country hath not allowed


suitable fortune; he will not surely be afraid to leave his Native Soil to advance his Fortunes

equal to his Blood and Spirit, and so he will avoid those unlawful ways too many of our

young Gentlemen take to maintain themselves according to their high education, having but

small Estates; here, with a few Servants and a small Stock a great Estate may be raised,

although his Birth have not entitled him to any of the Land of his Ancestors, yet his Industry

may supply him so, as to make him the head of as famous a family.

Such as are here tormented with much care how to get worth to gain a Livelihood, or that

with their labor can hardly get a comfortable subsistence, shall do well to go to this

place, where any man whatever, that is but willing to take moderate pains, may be assured of

a most comfortable subsistence, and be in a way to raise his fortunes far beyond what he

could ever hope for in England. Let no man be troubled at the thoughts of being a Servant

for 4 or 5 year, for I can assure you, that many men give money with their children to serve 7

years, to take more pains and fare nothing so well as the Servants in this Plantation will do.

Then it is to be considered, that so soon as he is out of his time, he hath Land, and Tools,

and Clothes given him, and is in a way of advancement. Therefore all Artificers,

as Carpenters, Wheelrights, Joiners, Coopers, Bricklayers, Smiths, or diligent Husbandmen

and Laborers, that are willing to advance their fortunes, and live in a most pleasant healthful

and fruitful Country, where Artificers are of high esteem, and used with all Civility and

Courtesy imaginable…

If any Maid or single Woman have a desire to go over, they will think themselves in

the Golden Age, when Men paid a Dowry for their Wives; for if they be but Civil, and under

50 years of Age, some honest Man or other, will purchase them for their Wives.

Those that desire further advice, or Servants that would be entertained, let them repair to

Mr. Matthew Wilkinson, Ironmonger, at the Sign of the Three Feathers, in Bishops gate

Street, where they may be informed when the Ships will be ready, and what they must carry

with them.

A.S. Salley, ed., Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708 (New York: 1911), 71-73.

Available through HathiTrust



Letter from Carolina, 1682

Thomas Newe’s account of his experience in Carolina offers an interesting counter to Robert Horne’s

prediction of what would await settlers. Newe describes deadly disease, war with Native Americans, and

unprepared colonists. Newe longs for news from home but also appears committed to making a new life for

himself in Carolina.

May 29th, 1682, by way of Barbados

Most Honored Father:

. . . one thing I understand (to my sorrow) that I knew not before, [that] most have a

seasoning, but few dye of it. I find the Commonalty here to be mightily dissatisfied, the

reason is 3 or 4 of the great ones, for furs and skins, have furnished the Indians with arms

and ammunitions especially those with whom they are now at War, for from those they had

all or most of their fur, so that trade which 3 or 4 only kept in their hands is at present gone

to decay, and now they have armed the next most potent tribe of the Indians to fight the

former, and some few English there are out, looking after them, which is a charge to the

people and a stop [to] the further settling of the Country. The soil is generally very light, but

apt to produce whatsoever is put into it. There are already all sorts of English fruit and

garden herbs besides many others that I never saw in England, and they do send a great deal

of Pork, Corn and Cedar to Barbados, besides the victualing of several Vessels that come in

here, as Privateers and others which to do in the space of 12 years the time from the

1st seating of it by the English, is no small work, especially if we consider the first Planters

which were most of them tradesmen, poor and wholly ignorant of husbandry and till of late

but few in number, it being increased more the 3 or 4 last years then the whole time before

the whole at present not amounting to 4000, so that their whole Business was to clear a little

ground to get Bread for their Families, few of them having wherewithal to purchase a Cow,

the first stock whereof they were furnished with, from Bermudas and New England, from

the later of which they had their horses which are not so good as those in England, but by

reason of their scarcity much dearer, an ordinary Colt at 3 years old being valued at 15 or

16 lies. as they are scarce, so there is but little use of them yet, all Plantations being seated on

the Rivers, they can go to and fro by Canoe or Boat as well and as soon as they can ride, the

horses here like the Indians and many of the English do travail without shoes. Now each

family hath got a stock of Hogs and Cows, which when once a little more increased, they

may send of to the Islands cheaper then any other place can, by reason of its propinquity,

which trade alone will make it far more considerable than either Virginia, Maryland,

Pennsylvania, and those other places to the North of us.

I desire you would be pleased by the next opportunity to send me over the best herbalist for

Physical Plants in as small a Volume as you can get. There was a new one just came out as I

left England, if I mistake not in 8vo. that was much commended, the Author I have forgot,

but there are several in the College that can direct you to the best. If Mr. Sessions, Mr.


Hobart or Mr. White, should send to you for money for the passage of a servant, whether

man or boy that they Judge likely, I desire you would be pleased to send it them, for such

will turn to good account here; and if you please to enquire at some Apothecaries what

Sassafras (which grows here in great plenty) is worth a pound and how and at what time of

the year to cure it, let me know as soon as you can, for if the profit is not I am sure the

knowledge is worth sending for. Pray Sir let me hear by the next how all our friends and

relations do, what change in the College, and what considerable alteration through the whole

Town; I have now nothing more to speak but my desire that you may still retain (what I

know you do) that love with which I daily was blest and that readiness in pardoning

whatsoever you find amiss, and to believe that my affections are not changed with the

Climate unless like it too, grown warmer, this with my most humble duty to yourself and my

mother, my kind love to my sister and Brothers and all the rest of our Friends I rest

Your most dutiful and obedient son,

Thomas Newe

A.S. Salley, ed., Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708 (New York: 1911), 183-185.

Available through HathiTrust



Francis Daniel Pastorius Describes his Ocean

Voyage, 1684

The journey across the Atlantic was difficult at best and deadly at worst. Francis Pastorius left his home in

Germany to create a new life in Pennsylvania. This account shows the discomforts and dangers of oceanic

travel in the seventeenth century.

Accordingly I will begin with the voyage, which is certainly on the one hand dangerous on

account of the terror of shipwreck, and on the other hand very unpleasant on account of the

bad and hard fare; so that I now from my own experience understand in a measure what

David says in the 107th Psalm, that on the sea one may observe and perceive not only the

wonderful works of God, but also the spirit of the storm. As to my voyage hither, I sailed

from Deal on the tenth of June with four menservants, two maidservants, two children, and

one young boy. We had the whole way over, for the most part, contrary winds, and never

favorable for twelve hours together; many tempests and thunderstorms. Also the foremast

broke twice, so that it was ten weeks before we arrived here… considering that it seldom

happens that any persons arrive here much more quickly. The Crefelders, who arrived here

on October 6, were also ten weeks upon the ocean, and the ship that set out with ours from

Deal was fourteen days longer on the voyage, and several people died in it. The Crefelders

lost a grown girl between Rotterdam and England, whose loss however was replaced

between England and Pennsylvania by the birth of two children. On our ship, on the other

hand, no one died and no one was born.

Almost all the passengers were seasick for some days, I however for not more than four

hours. On the other hand I underwent other accidents, namely, that the two carved lugs over

the ship’s bell fell right upon my back, and on the 9th of July during a storm in the night I

fell so severely upon my left side that for some days I had to keep to my bed. These two falls

reminded me forcibly of the first fall of our original parents in Paradise, which has come

down upon all their posterity, and also of many of those falls which I have undergone in this

vale of misery of my exile. Per varios casus, etc [Latin for through many difficulties]. But

praised be the fatherly hand of the divine mercy which lifts us up again so many times and

holds us back that we fall not entirely into the abyss of the evil one. George Wertmuller also

fell down extremely hard, Thomas Gasper had an eruption of the body, the English maid

had the erysipelas [skin infection], and Isaac Dilbeck, who according to outward appearance

was the strongest, succumbed for the greatest length of time. So I had a small ship hospital,

although I alone of the Germans had taken my berth among the English. That one of the

boatmen became insane and that our ship was shaken by the repeated assaults of a whale, I

set forth at length in my last letter.

The rations upon the ship were very bad… Every ten persons received three pounds of

butter a week, four cans of beer and two cans of water a day, two platters full of peas every

noon, meat four dinners in the week and fish three, and these we were obliged to prepare


with our own butter. Also we must every noon save up enough so that we might get our

supper from it. The worst of all was that both the meat and the fish were salted to such an

extent and had become so rancid that we could hardly eat half of them. And had I not by the

advice of good friends in England provided myself with various kinds of refreshment, it

might perhaps have gone very badly for me. Therefore all those who hereafter intend to

make the voyage hither should take good heed that they either, if there are many of them,

procure their own provisions, or else agree distinctly with the captain as to both quantity and

quality, how much food and of what sort they are to receive each day; and to hold him down

the more completely to this agreement, one should reserve some small part of the passage

money, to be paid on this side. Also when possible one should arrange with a ship which

sails up to this city of Philadelphia, since in the case of the others which end their voyage at

Upland, one is subjected to many inconveniences.

Albert Cook Myers, ed., Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware (New

York: 1912), 392-395.

Available through Google Books



Song about Life in Virginia

Some English men and women understood the New World to be a place of opportunity, where they could

create new lives. More common, however, was the belief that the New World was a place of great danger and

suffering. This song was written from the perspective of a young girl who was sent to Virginia against her

will, where she faced a life of hunger and never-ending work.

Give ear unto a Maid,

That lately was betray’d,

And sent into Virginny O:

In brief I shall declare,

What I have suffered there,

When that I was weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

When that first I came

To this Land of Fame,

Which is called Virginny, O;

The Axe and the Hoe

Have wrought my Overthrow,

When that I was weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

Five Years served I,

Under Master Guy,

In the Land of Virginny, O:

Which made me for to know,

Sorrow, Grief, and Woe;

When that I was weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

When my Dame says, Go,

Then I must do so,

In the Land of Virginny, O;

When she sits at Meat,

Then I have none to eat,

When that I was weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

The Cloaths that I brought in,

They are worn very thin,

In the Land of Virginny, O;


Which makes me for to say,

Alas, and Well-a-day,

When that I was weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

Instead of Beds of Ease,

To lye down when I please,

In the Land of Virginny, O,

Upon a Bed of Straw,

I lay down full of Woe,

When that I was weary

weary, weary, weary, O.

Then the Spider she

Daily waits on me,

In the Land of Virginny, O;

Round about my Bed,

She spins her tender web,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

So soon as it is day,

To work I must away,

In the Land of Virginny, O;

Then my Dame she knocks

With her Tinder-box,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

I have play’d my part,

Both at Plow and at Cart,

In the Land of Virginny, O:

Billats from the Wood,

Upon my back they load,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

Instead of drinking Beer,

I drink the Water clear,

In the Land of Virginny, O;

Which makes me pale and wan

Do all that e’r I can,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.


If my Dame says, Go,

I dare not say no,

In the Land of Virginny, O:

The Water from the Spring,

Upon my head I bring,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

When the Mill doth stand,

I’m ready at command,

In the Land of Virginny, O:

The Morter for to make,

Which made my heart to ake,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

When the Child doth cry,

I must sing, By a by;

In the Land of Virginny, O:

No rest that I can have,

Whilst I am here a Slave,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

A thousand Woes beside,

That I do here abide,

In the Land of Virginny, O:

In misery I spend

My time that hath no end,

When that I am weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

Then let Maids beware,

All by my ill-fare,

In the Land of Virgnny, O;

Be sure thou stay at home,

For if you do here come,

You will all be weary,

weary, weary, weary, O.

But if it be my chance,

Homewards to advance,

From the Land of Virginny, O;


If that I once more,

Land on English Shore,

I’ll no more be weary,

weary, weary, weary O.

The Trappan’d Maiden: Or the Distressed Damsel. Broadside 1689-1703 EBBA 21947 (Samuel

Pepys Library, Magdalene College) 4.286.

Available through the English Ballad Broadside Archive, University of California at Santa





Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

This Thanksgiving address was used by the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) to open and close

major gatherings or meetings. The prayer was also sometimes used individually at the beginning or end of the


The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the

duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring

our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She

supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us

as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with

strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms- waterfalls and rain, mists and

streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of


Now our minds are one.

The Fish

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and

purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still

find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow,

working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we

give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants


With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden.

Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people

survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant

Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were

instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy

there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing.

With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the


Now our minds are one.

The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the

world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they

give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our

homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always

be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have

their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit,

beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace

and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our

heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and

appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to

the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the

moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change


of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength.

With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named,

it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to

each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World English version: John Stokes and

Kanawahienton (David Benedict, Turtle Clan/Mohawk) Mohawk version: Rokwaho (Dan

Thompson, Wolf Clan/Mohawk) Original inspiration: Tekaronianekon (Jake Swamp, Wolf


Available through the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.



Rose Davis is sentenced to a life of slavery,


Rose Davis was born to an indentured servant white woman and a Black man. Slave law claimed that

children inherited the status of their mother, a law which enabled enslavers to control the reproductive

functions of their enslaved women laborers. However, as race increasingly became a marker of slavery, even the

children of free white women could be vulnerable to enslavement. Rose had been working as an indentured

servant when she petitioned the court for her freedom. Instead, she was sentenced to a lifetime of slavery.

August 1715

On the petition of Rose the mulatto daughter of Mary Davis of the province of Maryland

against Mr. Henry Darnall about her freedom &c. It is ordered that notice be given Mr.

William Diggs, attorney for the said Mr. Henry Darnall that the second Tuesday of

November next.

8 November 1715

Rose a mulatto petition against Henry Darnall about her freedom consideration referred

until next Court.

13 March 1715/6

Petition of Rose the mulatto daughter of Mary Davis of the province of Maryland now a

servant of Mr. Henry Darnall of the County aforesaid. Hereby showeth that your petitioner

being a Baptized mulatto descended by the mother of Christian race as appears from the

evidence of her said mother on the other said handscribed the original whereafter she is

ready to provide as well as other testimonies if need be to confirm the same and being

arrived to the age of thirty one years the 11 August 1715 at in time she supposes the

servitude imposed in such unhappy issue expires. She therefore humbly prays the benefit by

Law allowed to those in her unhappy circumstances and that she may accordingly receive a

free manumission from the said servitude which hanscribed evidence mentioned in the

petition follows in the words vizt.

I Mary Davis the daughter of Richard Davis now dwelling in Mark Lane in the City of

London in England where I was born and there now have dwelling a brother called John

Davis, do give this Bible unto my son Thomas begotten in wedlock on my body by a negro

called Dominggoe once a servant to Joseph Tilley of Hunting Creek in Calvert County

where I was married to him the said negroe but now we both are dwelling with the right

honorable the proprietor of this province of Maryland and my before said son Thomas was

born on a plantation of my lords in Lyons Creek in Calvert County on the 14th day of

March 1677 and was baptized by Mr. Wessley in the house of Mr. Richard. Massoms and

James Thompson was godfather and Ann his wife was godmother. That is here inserted to

satisfy any whom it may concern that my said son Thomas came from a Christian race by his

mother and I the said Mary Davis above mentioned and named have also a Daughter by the


same negro my husband aforesaid whose name is Rose. She was born in St. Maries County

on a plantation called the Top of the Hill on the 11 August 1684 and baptized at Nottley

Hall by Mr. Richard. Hebert Priest and Mr. Henry Wharton was the godfather and Rose

Hebert now the wife of Thomas Nation was the godmother. That is above inserted that you

may know she my said Daughter came of the Christian race by her mother a true copy take

out of the aforesaid Bible.

Signed Mary Davis.

Given by said Mary to her son Thomas now in the possession and custody of the said Rose.

Court resolving to proceed this day 8 November 1715

Next Court: Mature deliberation … It is thereupon considered by the Justices that the said

Rose the mulatto and person aforesaid serve during life as a slave and that her master Mr.

Henry Darnall pay fees.

“Rose Davis against Henry Darnall, August 1715,” Anne Arundel County Court (Judgment

Record) 08/1712—03/1715, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland,


Available from the American Society of Genealogists.



Print of the Slave Ship Brookes

“Stowage of the British slave ship Brookes under the regulated slave trade act of 1788,” 1789,

via Wikimedia.



Slave ships transported 11-12 million Africans to destinations in North and South America,

but it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that any kind of regulation was

introduced. The Brookes print dates to after the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788, but still

shows enslaved Africans chained in rows using bilboes, which were iron leg shackles used to

chain pairs of enslaved people together during the Middle Passage throughout the

seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The slave ship Brookes was allowed to carry up to 454

enslaved people, allotting 6 feet (1.8 m) by 1 foot 4 inches (0.41 m) to each man; 5 feet 10

inches (1.78 m) by 1 foot 4 inches (0.41 m) to each woman, and 5 feet (1.5 m) by 1 foot 2

inches (0.36 m) to each child, but one slave trader alleged that before 1788, the ship carried

as many as 609 enslaved Africans.


Map of British North America

Henry Popple, “A map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish settlements adjacent

thereto,” 1733 via Library of Congress.

British colonists in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries occupied a constantly

contested frontier. The British Empire competed with French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch,

and even Scottish explorers to claim land in North America and the Caribbean – much of it

already settled by Native Americans. This diverse territory would continue to be contested

throughout the eighteenth century. Eventually, the British Empire included twenty-six

colonies in North America, producing everything from grain and timber to luxury goods like

tobacco and sugar.



4. Colonial Society

Eighteenth century American culture moved in competing directions. Commercial, military

and cultural ties between Great Britain and the North American colonies tightened, while a

new, distinctly American culture began to form and bind together colonists from New

Hampshire to Georgia. Immigrants from other European nations meanwhile combined with

Native Americans and enslaved Africans to create an increasingly diverse colonial

population. Men and women, Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans led distinct lives

and wrought new distinct societies. While life in the thirteen colonies was shaped in part by

English practices and participation in the larger Atlantic World, emerging cultural patterns

increasingly transformed North America into something wholly different. These sources

unfold the early manifestations of new American cultures.


Boston trader Sarah Knight on her travels in

Connecticut, 1704

Sarah Knight traveled from her home in Massachusetts to trade goods. Through her diary, we can get a sense

of life during the

consumer revolution, as well as some of the prejudices and inequalities that shaped life in eighteenth-

century New England.

Saturday October 7

Their diversions in this part of the country are on lecture days and training days mostly: on

the former there is riding from town to town.

And on training days the youth divert themselves by shooting at the target, as they call it (but

it very much resembles a pillory), where he that hits nearest the white has some yards of red

ribbon presented him which being tied to his hatband, the two ends streaming down his

back, he is led away in triumph, with great applause as the winners of the olympic games.

They generally marry very young: the males oftener as I am told under twenty than above;

they generally make public weddings…

There are a great plenty of oysters all along by the sea side, as far as I rode in the colony, and

those very good. And they generally lived very well and confortably in their families. But

too indulgent (especially the farmers) to their slaves: suffering too great familiarity from

them, permitting them to sit at table and eat with them (as they say to save time), and into

the dish goes the black hoof as freely as the white hand….

There are everywhere in the towns as I passed, a number of Indians the natives of the

country, and are the most savage of all the savages of that kind that I had ever seen: little or

no care taken (as I heard upon inquiry) to make them otherwise. They have in some places

lands of their own, and governed by the laws of their own making; they marry many wives

and at pleasure put them away, and on the least, dislike or fickle humour, on either side,

saying stand away to one another is a sufficient divorce. And indeed those uncomely stand

aways are too much in vogue among the English in this (indulgent colony) as their records

plentifully prove, and on very trivial matters, of which some have been told me, but are not

proper to be related by a female pen, tho some of that foolish sex have had too large a share

in the story….

They give the title of merchant to every trader, who rate their goods according to the time

and specie they pay in: for example, pay, money, pay as money, and trusting. Pay is grain,

pork, beef, etc at the prices set by the general court that year; money is pieces of eight, reals,

or Boston or Bay shillings (as they call them) or good hard money, as sometimes silver coin

is termed by them; also wampum Indian beads which serve for change. Pay as money is

provisions as aforesaid one third cheaper than as the assembly or general court sets it; and

trust as they and the merchant agree for time.


Now, when the buyer comes to ask for a commodity, sometimes before the merchant

answers that he has it, he says, “is your pay ready?” Perhaps the chap relies, “Yes.” “What do

you pay in?” says the merchant. The buyer having answered, then the price is set; as suppose

he wants a sixpenny knife, in pay it is 12d–in pay as money eight pence, and hard money its

own price six dollars. It seems a very intricate way of trade and what Lex Mercatoria had not

thought of.

Being at a merchants house, in comes a tall country fellow with his alfogeos (saddle bags) full

of tobacco; for they seldom lose their cud, but keep chewing and spitting as long as their

eyes are open,–he advanced to the middle of the room, and makes an awkward nod, and

spitting a large deal of aromatic tincture, he gave scrape with his shovel-like shoe, leaving a

small shovel full of dirt on the floor, made a full stop, hugging his own pretty body with his

hands under his arms, stood staring around him like a cat let out of a basket. At last, like the

creature Balaam rode on (a donkey), he opened his mouth and said, “Have you any ribbon

for hatbands to sell I pray?” The questions and answer about the pay being past, the ribbon

is brought and opened. Bumpkin Simpers, cries its confounded gay I vow, and beckoning to

the door, in comes Joan Tawdry, dropping about 50 curtsees and stands by him: he shows

her the ribbon…. Then she enquires, “Have you any hood silk, I pray?” which being

brought and bought, “Have you any thread silk to sew it with says she, which being

accommodated with they departed. They generally stand after they come in a great while

speechless, and sometimes don’t say a word till they are asked what they want, which I

impute to the aw they stand in of the merchants who they are constantly almost indebted


Sarah Kemble Knight, The Journal of Madam Knight, With an Introductory Note by George Parker

Winship (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1920), 36-43.

Available on Google Books



Eliza Lucas Letters, 1740-1741

Eliza Lucas was born into a moderately wealthy family in South Carolina. Throughout her life she shrewdly

managed her money and greatly added to her family’s wealth. These two letters from an unusually intelligent

financial manager offer a glimpse into the commercial revolution and social worlds of the early eighteenth


Letter to a friend in London

May 2, 1740

I flatter myself it will be a satisfaction to you to hear I like this part of the world, as my lot

has fallen here—which I really do. I prefer England to it, ‘tis true, but think Carolina greatly

preferable to the West Indies, as was my Papa here I should be very happy.

We have a very good acquaintance from whom we have received much friendship and

civility. Charles Town, the principal one in this province, is a polite, agreeable place. The

people live very gentle and very much in the English taste. The country is in general fertile

and abounds with venison and wild fowl; the venison is much higher flavored than in

England but ‘tis seldom fat.

My Papa and Mama’s great indulgence to me leaves it to me to choose our place of residence

either in town or country, but I think it more prudent as well as agreeable to my Mama and

self to be in the country during Father’s absence. We are 17 mile by land and 6 y water from

Charles Town—where we have about 6 agreeable families around us with whom we live in

great harmony.

I have a little library well furnished (for my papa has left me most of his books) in which I

spend part of my time. My music and the garden, which I am very fond of, take up the rest

of my time that is not employed in business, of which my father has left me a pretty good

share—and indeed, ‘twas unavoidable as my Mama’s bad state of heath prevents her going

through any fatigue.

I have the business of 3 plantations to transact, which requires much writing and more

business and fatigue of other sorts than you can imagine. But least you should imagine it too

burdensome to a girl at my early time of life, give me leave to answer you; I assure you I

think myself happy that I can be useful to so good a father, and by rising very early I find I

can go through much business. But least you should think I shall be quite moped with this

way of life I am to inform you there is to worthy ladies in Charles Town, Mrs. Pickney and

Mrs. Cleland, who are partial enough to me to be always pleased to have me with them, and

insist upon making their houses my home when in town and press me to relax, a little much

oftener than ’tis my honor to accept of their obliging entreaties. But I sometimes am with

one or the other for 3 weeks or a month at a time, and enjoy all the pleasures Charles Town

affords, but nothing gives me more than subscribing myself.


Yr. most affectionate and most obliged humble servt.

Eliza. Lucas

Letter to her father

June 4, 1741

Never were letters more welcome than yours of Feb. 19th and 20th and March the 15th and

21st, which came almost together. It was near 6 months since we had the pleasure of a line

from you. Our fears increased apace and we dreaded some fatal accident befallen, but

hearing of your recovery from a dangerous fit of illness has more than equaled, great as it

was, our former anxiety. Nor shall we ever think ourselves sufficiently thankful to Almighty

God for the continuance of so great a blessing.

I sympathize most sincerely with a calamity as the scarcity of provisions and the want of the

necessarys of life to the poorer sort. We shall send all we can get of all sorts of provisions

particularly what you write for. I write this day to Starrat for a barrel of butter.

We expect the boat dayly from Garden Hill when I shall be able to give you an account of

affairs there. The cotton, guiney corn, and most of the ginger planted here was cut off by a

frost. I wrote you a former letter we had a fine crop of indigo seed upon the ground, and

since informed you the frost took it before it was dry. I picked out the best of it and had it

planted but there is not more than a hundred bushes of it come up—which proves the more

unlucky as you have sent a man to make it. I make no doubt indigo will prove a very valuable

commodity in time if we could have the seed from the West Indies time enough to plant the

latter end of March, that the seed might be dry enough to gather before our frost. I am sorry

we lost this season. We can do nothing towards it now but make the works ready for next

year. The lucern is yet dwindlering, but Mr. Hunt tells me ‘tis always so here the first year.

The death of my Grandmamma was, as you imagine, very shocking and grievous to my

Mama, but I hope the considerations of the miserys that attend so advanced an age will help

time to wear it off. I am very much obliged to you for the present you were so good to send

me of the fifty pound bill of exchange which I duly received.

We hear Carthagene is taken.

Mr. Wallis is dead. Capt. Norberry was lately killed in a duel by Capt. Dobrusee, whose life

was despaired of by the wounds he received. He is much blamed for quarreling with such a

brawling man as Norberry who was disregarded by every body. Norberry has a wife and 3 or

4 children in very bad circumstances to lament his rashness.

Mama tenders her affections and Polly joins in duty with.

My Dr. Papa


Your most obedient and ever devoted daughter

E. Lucas

Harriott Horry Ravenel, Eliza Pinckney (New York: 1896), 5-6, 8-10.

Available through the Internet Archive



Jonathan Edwards Revives Enfield,

Connecticut, 1741

Jonathan Edwards catalyzed the revivals known as the Great Awakening. While Edwards was not the most

prolific revivalist of the era—that honor belonged to George Whitefield—he did deliver the most famous

sermon of the eighteenth century, commonly called “Sinners in the Hands of Angry God.” This excerpt is

drawn from the final portion of the sermon, known as the application, where hearers were called to take


That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone is extended abroad under you. There is

the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth

open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of: there is nothing

between you and hell but the air; ’tis only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds

you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but don’t see the

hand of God in it, but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution,

your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed

these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep

you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it….

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome

insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns

like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of

purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in

his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely

more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds

you from falling into the fire every moment; ’tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did

not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you

closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not

dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up; there

is no other reason to be given why you han’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the

house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his

solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this

very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: ’tis a great furnace of wrath, a wide and

bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God,

whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned

in hell; you hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and

ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any

mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of


wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to

induce God to spare you one moment…

Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God

will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies that he will inflict wrath without any pity…

you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this

vessel but only to be filled full of wrath: God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to

him, that ’tis said he will only laugh and mock (Proverbs 1:25-32)…

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath, and

infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation, that has not

been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious they may otherwise be. Oh

that you would consider it, whether you be young or old. There is reason to think, that there

are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of

this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what

thoughts they now have: it may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without

much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons,

promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but

one, in the whole congregation that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing

would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a

person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over

him! But alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And

it would be a wonder if some that are now present, should not be in hell in a very short time,

before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some person that now sits here in some

seat of this meeting house in health, and quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow

morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell

longest, will be there in a little time! your damnation don’t slumber; it will come swiftly, and

in all probability very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder, that you are

not already in hell. ‘Tis doubtless the case of some that heretofore you have seen and known,

that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been

now alive as you: their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect

despair; but here you are in the land of the living, and in the house of God, and have an

opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned, hopeless souls give for

one day’s such opportunity as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of

mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners;

a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God; many are

daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same

miserable condition that you are in, are in now an happy state, with their hearts filled with

love to him that has loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and

rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see

so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and

singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for

vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as


precious as the souls of the people at Suffield,7 where they are flocking from day to day to


… And you children that are unconverted, don’t you know that you are going down to hell, to

bear the dreadful wrath of that God that is now angry with you every day, and every

night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in

the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let everyone that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be

old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the

loud calls of God’s Word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, that is a day of

such great favor to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others…

Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The

wrath of almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over great part of this congregation: let

everyone fly out of Sodom. Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to

the mountain, lest you be consumed [Genesis 19:17].

Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742, Harry S. Stout, ed. (Works of Jonathan

Edwards Online, Vol. 22), 410-418.

Available through The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University



Samson Occom describes his conversion and

ministry, 1768

Samson Occom was raised with the traditional spirituality of his Mohegan parents but converted to

Christianity during the Great Awakening. He then studied for the ministry and became a missionary,

minister, and teacher on Long Island, New York. Despite his successful ministry, Occom struggled to receive

the same level of support as white missionaries.

When I was 16 years of age, we heard a Strange Rumor among the English, that there were

Extraordinary Ministers Preaching from place to Place and a Strange Concern among the

White People. This was in the Spring of the Year. But we Saw nothing of these things, till

Some Time in the Summer, when Some Ministers began to visit us and Preach the Word of

God; and the Common People all Came frequently and exhorted us to the things of

God, which it pleased the Lord, as I humbly hope, to Bless and accompany with Divine

Influence to the Conviction and Saving Conversion of a Number of us; amongst whom I

was one that was impressed with the things we had heard. These Preachers did not only

come to us, but we frequently went to their meetings and Churches. After I was awakened &

converted, I went to all the meetings, I could come at; & Continued under Trouble of Mind

about 6 months; at which time I began to Learn the English Letters; got me a Primer, and

used to go to my English Neighbours frequently for Assistance in Reading, but went to no

School. And when I was 17 years of age, I had, as I trust, a Discovery of the way of Salvation

through Jesus Christ, and was enabled to put my trust in him alone for Life & Salvation.

From this Time the Distress and Burden of my mind was removed, and I found Serenity and

Pleasure of Soul, in Serving God. By this time I just began to Read in the New Testament

without Spelling,—and I had a Stronger Desire Still to Learn to read the Word of God, and

at the Same Time had an uncommon Pity and Compassion to my Poor Brethren According

to the Flesh. I used to wish I was capable of Instructing my poor Kindred. I used to think, if

I Could once Learn to Read I would Instruct the poor Children in Reading,—and used

frequently to talk with our Indians Concerning Religion. This continued till I was in my 19th

year: by this Time I Could Read a little in the Bible. At this Time my Poor Mother was going

to Lebanon, and having had Some Knowledge of Mr. Wheelock and hearing he had a

Number of English youth under his Tuition, I had a great Inclination to go to him and be

with him a week or a Fortnight, and Desired by Mother to Ask Mr. Wheelock whether he

would take me a little while to Instruct me in Reading. Mother did so; and when She Came

Back, She Said Mr. Wheelock wanted to See me as Soon as possible. So I went up, thinking I

Should be back again in a few Days; when I got up there, he received me With kindness and

Compassion and instead of Staying a Forthnight or 3 Weeks, I Spent 4 Years with him. —

After I had been with him Some Time, he began to acquaint his Friends of my being with

him, and of his Intentions of Educating me, and my Circumstances…

As soon as I left Mr. Wheelock, I endeavored to find Some Employ among the Indians… I

kept School as I did before and Carried on the Religious Meetings as often as ever, and

attended the Sick and their Funerals, and did what Writings they wanted, and often Sat as a


Judge to reconcile and Decide their Matters Between them, and had visitors of Indians from

all Quarters….

My Method in the School was, as Soon as the Children got together, and took their proper

Seats, I Prayed with them, then began to hear them. I generally began (after some of them

Could Spell and Read,) With those that were yet in their Alphabets, So around, as they were

properly Seated till I got through and I obliged them to Study their Books, and to help one

another. When they could not make out a hard word they Brought it to me—and I usually

heard them, in the Summer Season 8 Times a Day 4 in the morning, and in the afternoon.

—In the Winter Season 6 Times a Day, As Soon as they could Spell, they were obliged to

Spell whenever they wanted to go out. I concluded with Prayer; I generally heard my

Evening Scholars 3 Times Round, And as they go out the School, every one, that Can Spell,

is obliged to Spell a Word, and to go out Leisurely one after another….

I frequently Discussed or Exhorted my Scholars, in Religious matters.—My Method in our

Religious Meetings was this; Sabbath Morning we Assemble together about 10 o’C and begin

with Singing; we generally Sung Dr. Watt’s Psalms or Hymns. I distinctly read the Psalm or

Hymn first, and then gave the meaning of it to them, after that Sing, then Pray, and Sing

again after Prayer. Then proceed to Read from Suitable portion of Scripture, and so Just give

the plain Sense of it in Familiar Discourse and apply it to them. So continued with Prayer

and Singing. In the after Noon and Evening we Proceed in the Same Manner, and so in

Wednesday Evening. Some Time after Mr. Horton left these Indians, there was a remarkable

revival of religion among these Indians and many were hopefully converted to the Saving

knowledge of God in Jesus.

… Now you See what difference they made between me and other missionaries; they gave

me 180 Pounds for 12 years Service, which they gave for one years Services in another

Mission, — In my Service (I speak like a fool, but I am Constrained) I was my own

Interpreter. I both a School master and Minister to the Indians, yea I was their Ear, Eye &

Hand, as Well as Mouth. I leave it with the World, as wicked as it is, to Judge whether I

ought not to have had half as much…

So I am ready to Say, they have used me thus, because I Can’t Influence the Indians so well

as other missionaries; but I can assure them I have endeavoured to teach them as well as I

know how;—but I must Say, I believe it is because I am a poor Indian.” I Can’t help that

God has made me So; I did not make myself so, —

Samsom Occom, A Short Narrative of My Life (Berlin, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1982), 12–18.

Available from Dartmouth College



Extracts from Gibson Clough’s War Journal,


Gibson Clough enlisted in the militia during the Seven Years War. His diary shows the experience of soldiers

in the conflict, but also reveals the brutal discipline of the British regular army. Soldiers like Clough ended

their term of service with pride in their role defending the glory of Britain but also suspicion of the rigid British


I was born in Salem in New England in ye year 1738, in June the 22 and I lived with my

father until that I was almost one and twenty years of age and I was brought up very

carefully and tenderly by my parents and they to me gave common learning as is usual for

parents to do by children under their Care and as there had been war between the Crown of

England and France by which reason men was very hard for to be raised in New England, I

then willingly enlisted in the service of my King and Country in the then intended expedition

against Canada, in Capt. Andrew Giddings Company in a provincial Regiment Commanded

by Coll Jonathan Bagley Esqr in the year 1759…

And so we stayed all winter, which was hard as we were only enlisted for six months by a

proclamation issued forth by his Excellency Thomas Pownall ye Governor ; and as was said

we were to be dismissed by the first of November or as much sooner as his majesty’s service

would admit….

Here begins the New Year 1700 or the second part of my journal, which I hope will be more

entertaining than the first was to the reader.

January the 1st. Capt. Hannears died here in the night before in which the year ended 1759,

and now the year begins; but God only knows who will see the end, for death spares not


2. We turned out for to learn the funeral exercise or the reversing of the fire lock, occasioned

by the death of Capt. Hannears of Boston, who was the first officer of our Regiment that

died here in this garrison of Louisburg.

4th. Capt. Hannears was interred here with great solemency, having 48 men in turns to

attend his funeral, with firing three vollies over his grave.

11th. One Hager of our Regiment was whipped thirty stripes for disobedience of orders.

19th. An escort went from here bound to Spanish River, consisting of 43 men, commanded

by Lieutenant Henderson and Ensign Berry, one Sergeant and two Corporals. They went for

to carry blankets to Capt. Davis’ men, who were on command there, and cutting wood there

for the garrison; and the escort went there and returned in nine days.


January 28th. A drummer belonging to Warburton’s Regiment was shot for breaking into a

house and stealing a box of Soap, and for other offences he had committed, and also a

private Soldier was condemned to die with him; but after having come to the place of

execution, he was reprieved by the intercession of one Capt. Johnson for him. The

drummer’s name was Conrey, and the other was Johnson, ye latter reprieved, also three

more are to receive other punishment as whipping, the one is to have one thousand lashes,

and the other two five hundred each. The aforesaid had their last trial at a general Court

Martial on the 19th instant.

31st. As great a Snow Storm as I ever knew in my life, and thus ends the month with a cold

storm and winter like weather, but I think for to take it in general it is as good weather as

what we have in New England for the season of the year, and it is a warm winter.

February 6. A Corporal who belonged to Warburton’s Regiment, who had stolen six shirts

from his Captain, fearing it would be found out, went to a place called black rock, and there

cut one of his arms to that degree, that what with the loss of blood and of cold he died

there. But before he died, he pulled off his hat and coat and went down to the edge of the

water, as it was thought with an intent of drowning himself and be carried off by it, but he

died before the water name to him, so he was found and buried.

8. Mrs. Treawoue was buried here, a woman that belonged to our Regiment and to Capt.

Blake’s Company.

9. A schooner arrived here from Boston, but could not get in because of the ice in the


11. We have news by the aforesaid schooner that ye province had granted to each man that

stayed this winter a bounty of four pounds for our winter service. There is a flying news here

that there has been a fire in Boston, which burnt from the Town house to ye long Wharf.

14. One Alline belonging to our Company was buried.

18. Three regular drummers fell through the ice but were not drowned.

March 3d. A Lieutenant belonging to Warburton’s regiment was interred here.

9. An escort of one Subaltern, two Sargeants, one Corporal, and 32 privates going in

command of Lieut. Henderson to the grand parsuge, the march 150 miles and they are to

bring in French prisoners if they find any; and a schooner arrived here from Marblehead, but

last from Halifax, Benjamin Darling Captain.

19. One of the Artillery was whipped 200 stripes.

22. Two schooners arrived here, one from Ipswich and the other from Boston. The first says

there is great talk of a Spanish war.

25. Lieut. Henderson gave the company a treat and enlisted three men for the ensuing

campaign against Canada. Solomon Smith and Robert Picket enlisted…


31. Rain and snow and warm, and thus the month ends as of old said “March, hack ham,

comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”

April 1. I enlisted again for ye ensuing campaign against Canada.

3. I wrote a letter to my father. I also heard a death watch in the iron grate, but ye meaning I

cannot tell, only I think some of my friends are dead at home.

15. A schooner arrived from Boston in four days and brings no news, only that there had

been a fire in Boston which burned down 260 houses, which news we heard before.

22. The day was kept by all ye Englishmen in the garrison of ye three regular regiments, and

150 of them marched round the ramparts, with drums beating and colors flying, as it was St.

George’s day.

26. Several vessels arrived from Boston and I received three letters from my father and one

from John Ward the third. I was not well….

20 December. We make sail at 3 o’clock, and spake with a ship from London bound to

Boston; they inform us of ye death of our Lord George the Second….

1st January, 1761. I arrive at Salem my native place, to my great joy and content, and thus I

conclude my Journal, with my best wishes and good will to all brother soldiers.

Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, Volume III (Salem: 1861), 99-106, 195-201.

Available through the Internet Archive



Pontiac Calls for War, 1763

Pontiac, an Ottawa war chief, drew on the teachings of the prophet Neolin to rally resistance to European

powers. This passage includes Neolin’s call that Native Americans abandon ways of life adapted after contact

with Europeans.

I am the Master of Life, whom thou desirest to know and to whom thou wouldst speak.

Listen well to what I am going to say to thee and all thy red brethren. I am he who made

heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, all men, and all that thou seest, and all that thou

hast seen on earth. Because . . . I love you, you must do what I say and [not do] what I hate.

I do not like that you drink until you lose your reason, as you do; or that you fight with each

other; or that you take two wives, or run after the wives of others; you do not well; I hate

that. You must have but one wife, and keep her until death. When you are going to war, you

juggle, join the medicine dance, and believe that I am speaking. You are mistaken, it is

to Manitou to whom you speak; he is a bad spirit who whispers to you nothing but evil, and

to whom you listen because you do not know me well. This land, where you live, I have

made for you and not for others. How comes it that you suffer the whites on your lands?

Can you not do without them? I know that those whom you call the children of your Great

Father supply your wants, but if you were not bad, as you are, you would well do without

them. You might live wholly as you did before you knew them. Before those whom you call

your brothers come on your lands, did you not live by bow and arrow? You had no need of

gun nor powder, nor the rest of their things, and nevertheless you caught animals to live and

clothe yourselves with their skins, but when I saw that you inclined to the evil, I called back

the animals into the depths of the woods, so that you had need of your brothers to have

your wants supplied and I shall send back to you the animals to live on. I do not forbid you,

for all that, to suffer amongst you the children of your father. I love them, they know me

and pray to me, and I give them their necessities and all that they bring to you, but as regards

those who have come to trouble your country, drive them out, make war on them. I love

them not, they know me not, they are my enemies and the enemies of your brothers. Send

them back to the country which I made for them. There let them remain.

Collections of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan together with Reports of County Pioneer Societies,

Volume VIII, Second Edition (Lansing, MI: 1907), 270-271.

Available through Google Books



Alibamo Mingo, Choctaw leader, Reflects on

the British and French, 1765

The end of the Seven Years War brought shockwaves throughout Native American communities. With the

French removed from North America, their former Native American allies were forced to adapt quickly. In

this document, a Choctaw leader expresses his concern over the new political reality.

When I was Young the White Men came amongst us bearing abundance along with them, I

took them by the hand & have ever remained firm to my Engagements, in return all my

wants & those of my Warriors & Wives & Children have been Bountifully Supplied. I now

See another Race of White Men Come amongst us bearing the Same abundance, & I expect

they will be equally Bountiful which must be done if they wish equally to gain the affection

of my people.

I and my Men have used the Guns of France these Eighty Winters Back, I wish I was Young

to try the English Guns & English Powder both of which I hope will flourish & rejoice

the Heart of the Hunters thro’ the Land and Cover the Nakedness of the Women.

With respect to the Land I was not Consulted in it, if I was to deliver my Sentiments evil

disposed People might impute it to Motives very different from those which actuate me, it is

true the Land belonged chiefly to those who have given it away; that the Words which were

Spoken have been written with a Lasting Mark, the Superintendent marks every word after

word as one would count Bullets so that no variation can happen, & therefore the words

have been Spoken and the eternal marks traced I will not Say anything to contradict, but, on

the Contrary Confirm the Cession which has been made. What I have now to Say on that

head is, to wish that all the Land may be Settled in four years that I may See it myself before

I die.

I Listened to all the parts of the Talks and Liked them exceeding well, except that part from

the Superintendent, where he reported that those Medal Chiefs who did not behave well

Should be broke & their Medals given to others. The Conversation I have held with Faver,

in private, has rung every Night in my Ear, as I laid my Head on the bear Skin & as I have

many Enemies in the Nation, I dreamed I should be the Person, which would break my

heart in my Old Age, to Loose the Authority I have so long held.

I cannot imagine the Great King could send the Superintendent to deceive us. In case we

deliver up our French Medals & Commissions we expect to receive as good in their place,

and that we Should bear the Same Authority & be entitled to the Same presents, If you wish

to Serve your Old Friends you may give New Medals & Commissions & presents, but the

worthy cannot bear to be disgraced without a fault, Neither will the Generous Inflict a

Punishment without a Crime.


There was one thing I would mention though’ it cannot concern myself, & that is the

Behavior of the traders towards our Women, I was told of old by the Creeks & Cherokees,

wherever the English went they caused disturbances for they lived under no Government

and paid no respect either to Wisdom or Station. I hoped for better things, that those Old

Talks had no truth in them. One thing I must report which has happened within my own

knowledge, that often when the Traders sent for a Basket of Bread & the Generous Indian

sent his own wife to Supply their wants instead of taking the Bread out of the Basket they

put their hand upon the Breast of their Wives which was not to be admitted, for the first

maxim in our Language is that Death is preferable to disgrace.

I am not of opinion that in giving Land to the English, we deprive ourselves of the use of it,

on the Contrary, I think we shall share it with them, as for Example the House I now Speak

in was built by the White people on our Land yet it is divided between the White & the Red

people. Therefore we need not be uneasy that the English Settle upon our Lands as by that

means they can more easily Supply our wants.

Dunbar Rowland, ed. Mississppi Provincial Archives:, 1763-1766, English Dominion, Letters and

Enclosures to the Secretary of State from Major Robert Farmar and Governor George Johnstone, Volume

I (Nashville, TN: 1911), 240-241.

Available through Google Books



Blueprint and Photograph of Christ Church

Christ Church, Virginia, via Library of Congress.

Religion played an important role in each of the British colonies – for different reasons. In

Virginia, the Anglican church was the official religion of the colonial government and

colonists had to attend or be fined, so churches like Christ Church became important sites

for political, economic, and social activity that reinforced the dominance of the planter elite.

Robert “King” Carter built this church on the site of an earlier one built by his father. The

Carter tombs belong to Robert Carter and his first and second wives. The colonial road that

stopped at the door of the church went directly to the Carter family estate. Pews

corresponded with social status: the highest ranking member of the gentry sat in the pew

before the altar, across from the pulpit. Poor whites sat at the back, and enslaved men and

women who came to church would have stood or taken the seats closest to the door – cold

in winter, hot in summer, and farthest from the preacher. Many churches eventually built

separate gallery seating for the enslaved who attended services. These churches were

criticized during the Great Awakening, particularly by Baptists, who preached the equality of

souls and felt the Anglican church was lacking in religiosity.




Royall Family

Robert Feke, “Familienporträt des Isaac Royall,” 1741, via Wikimedia.

Colonial elites used clothing, houses, portraits, furniture, and manners to participate in a

culture of gentility that they believed placed them on an equal footing with elites in England.

Robert Feke’s 1741 portrait of the Royall family portrays Isaac Royall Jr. at age 22, just two

years after he inherited his father’s estate, including the family mansion outside Boston, a

sugar plantation on Antigua, and eighteen enslaved African Americans, which helped him

become one of the wealthiest men in the colony of Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth

McIntosh (wearing blue), aged fifteen at the time of her marriage in 1738, confirming his

position among the colonial elite. Their eight-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, holds a coral

teething stick with a gold and ivory handle (coral was traditionally believed to ward off evil

spirits). Also pictured is Penelope Royall Vassall, Isaac’s sister who married a Jamaican

planter, and his sister-in-law, Mary McIntosh Palmer. Mary Palmer’s pointed finger and Isaac

Royall’s hand on his hip were poses drawn from other major artistic works and were

intended to convey their ease and refinement, while their silken clothes communicated




5. The American Revolution

In 1763, nothing would have seemed as improbable as the American Revolution. And yet, in

a little over a decade, American colonists would declare their independence and break

away from the British Empire. Revolutionaries justified their new nation with radical new

ideals that changed the course of history and sparked a global “age of revolution.” Men and

women of all ranks contributed to the colonies’ most improbable victory, from the

commoners protesting against the Stamp Act to the women who helped organize the

boycotts to the Townshend duties; from the men, black and white, who fought in the army

and the women who contributed to its support. Over time, the Revolution’s rhetoric of

equality, as encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence, helped highlight inequalities

and became a shared aspiration for future social and political movements. These sources

explore the experiences of those who lived through this time of transformation and created a

legacy for future generations of change-makers.


George R. T. Hewes, A Retrospect of the

Boston Tea-party, 1834

George R.T. Hewes wrote the following reminiscence of the Boston Tea Party almost 61 years after it

occurred. It is likely that his memories included more than a few stories he picked up well after 1773.

Nonetheless Hews provides a highly detailed account of this important event.

The tea destroyed was contained in three ships, laying near each other, at what was called at

that time Griffin’s wharf, and were surrounded by armed ships of war; the commanders of

which had publicly declared, that if the rebels, as they were pleased to style the Bostonians,

should not withdraw their opposition to the landing of the tea before a certain day, the 17th

day of December, 1773, they should on that day force it on shore, under the cover of their

cannon’s month. On the day preceding the seventeenth, there was a meeting of the citizens

of the county of Suffolk, convened at one of the churches in Boston, for the purpose of

consulting on what measures might be considered expedient to prevent the landing of the

tea, or secure the people from the collection of the duty. At that meeting a committee was

appointed to wait on Governor Hutchinson, and request him to inform them whether he

would take any measures to satisfy the people on the object of the meeting. To the first

application of this committee, the governor told them he would give them a definite answer

by five o’clock in the afternoon. At the hour appointed, the committee again repaired to the

governor’s house, and on inquiry found he had gone to his country seat at Milton, a distance

of about six miles. When the committee returned and informed the meeting of the absence

of the governor, there was a confused murmur among the members, and the meeting was

immediately dissolved, many of them crying out, Let every man do his duty, and be true to

his country; and there was a general huzza for Griffins wharf. It was now evening, and I

immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet,

which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having

painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffins

wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street, after

being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was,

and who fell in with me, and marched in order to the place of our destination. When we

arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our

operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the

purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of

him who commanded the division to which I was assigned, was Leonard Pitt. The names of

the other commanders I never knew. We were immediately ordered by the respective

commanders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The

commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship,

appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys

to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain

promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no


damage to the ship or rigging. We then were ordered by our commander to open the

hatches, and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately

proceeded to execute his orders; first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so

as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water. In about three hours from the time

we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in

the ship; while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the

same time. We were surrounded by British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist

us. We then quietly retired to our several places of residence, without having any

conversation with each other, or taking any measures to discover who were our associates;

nor do I recollect of our having had the knowledge of the name of a single individual

concerned in that affair, except that of Leonard Pitt, the commander of my division, who I

have mentioned. There appeared to be an understanding that each individual should

volunteer his services, keep his own secret, and risk the consequences for himself. No

disorder took place during that transaction, and it was observed at that time, that the stillest

night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months.

During the time we were throwing the tea overboard, there were several attempts made by

some of the citizens of Boston and its vicinity, to carry off small quantities of it for their

family use. To effect that object, they would watch their opportunity to snatch up a handful

from the deck, where it became plentifully scattered, and put it into their pockets. One

Captain O’Conner, whom I well knew, came on board for that purpose, and when he

supposed he was not noticed, filled his pockets, and also the lining of his coat. But I had

detected him, and gave information to the captain of what he was doing. We were ordered to

take him into custody, and just as he was stepping from the vessel, I seized him by the skirt

of his coat, and in attempting to pull him back, I tore it off; but springing forward, by a rapid

effort, he made his escape. He had however to run a gauntlet through the crowd upon the

wharf; each one, as he passed, giving him a kick or a stroke.

The next day we nailed the skirt of his coat, which I had pulled off, to the whipping post in

Charlestown, the place of his residence, with a label upon it, commemorative of the

occasion, which had thus subjected the proprietor to the popular indignation.

Another attempt was made to save a little tea from the ruins of the cargo, by a tall aged man,

who wore a large cocked hat and white wig, which was fashionable at that time. He had

slightly slipped a little into his pocket, but being detected, they seized him, and taking his hat

and wig from his head, threw them, together with the tea, of which they had emptied his

pockets, into the water. In consideration of his advanced age, he was permitted to escape,

with now and then a slight kick.

The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very

considerable quantities of it was floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the

possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors

and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible,

and by beating it with oars and paddles, so thoroughly drenched it, as to render its entire

destruction inevitable.


George R. T. Hewes, A Retrospect of the Boston Tea-party, with a Memoir of George R.T.

Hewes (New York: 1834), 37-41.

Available through the Internet Archive



Thomas Paine Calls for American

independence, 1776

Britons had long understood themselves as the freest people on earth, blessed with a limited monarchy and an

enlightened parliament. Paine’s pamphlet offered a very different portrayal of the British government. His

criticisms swept across the North American continent and generated widespread support for American


Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently

fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG,

gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in

defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in

question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers

been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his OWN

RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, and as the good people of this

country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to

inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either. In the

following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is personal among

ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise,

and the worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are

injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselves unless too much pains are bestowed upon

their conversion. The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many

circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the

principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections

are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the

natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the

Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of

which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the AUTHOR…

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary


MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be

destroyed by some subsequent circumstance: the distinctions of rich and poor may in a great

measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill-sounding names

of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCE, but seldom or never

the MEANS of riches; and tho’ avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it

generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.

But there is another and great distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can

be assigned, and that is the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and


female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a

race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new

species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to


In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology there were no kings; the

consequence of which was, there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throws

mankind into confusion. Holland, without a king hath enjoyed more peace for this last

century than any of the monarchical governments in Europe. Antiquity favors the same

remark; for the quiet and rural lives of the first Patriarchs have a snappy something in them,

which vanishes when we come to the history of Jewish royalty.

Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the

children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set

on foot for the promotion of idolatry. The Heathens paid divine honors to their deceased

kings, and the Christian World hath improved on the plan by doing the same to their living

ones. How impious is the title of sacred Majesty applied to a worm, who in the midst of his

splendor is crumbling into dust!..

To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a

degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an

insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could

have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho’

himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his

descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs

of the folly of hereditary right in Kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would

not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION….

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand

forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted

round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. — Europe regards her like a

stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare

in time an asylum for mankind.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense (Project Gutenberg EBook: June 2008)

Available through the Internet Archive



Declaration of Independence, 1776

It is hard to overstate the significance of the Declaration of Independence. Designed as a measured justification

for the severing of ties with Britain, the document has also functioned as a transformative piece of political

philosophy. Most of the conflicts of American history from this point forward emerged from attempts to

understand and implement what it means to believe “all men are created equal.”

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the

political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers

of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s

God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should

declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed

by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the

pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,

deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of

Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to

abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and

organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety

and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not

be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that

mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by

abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and

usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under

absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to

provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these

Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems

of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated

injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny

over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless

suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he

has utterly neglected to attend to them.


He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless

those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right

inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from

the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into

compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his

invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected;

whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at

large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of

invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing

the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their

migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for

establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the

amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass

our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our


He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and

unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should

commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences


For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing

therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an

example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally

the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to

legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War

against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of

our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of

death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy

scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized


He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against

their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall

themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the

inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an

undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble

terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose

character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a

free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them

from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction

over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement

here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them

by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably

interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of

justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which

denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War,

in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress,

Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,

do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish


and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent

States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political

connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;

and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace,

contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which

Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm

reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives,

our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1


Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

Column 2

North Carolina:

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

Column 3


John Hancock


Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton


George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

Column 4



Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross


Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

Column 5

New York:

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

Column 6

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple


Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery


Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:


Matthew Thornton

Engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence, August 2, 1776; Miscellaneous Papers

of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789; Records of the Continental and Confederation

Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, Record Group 360; National


Available through the National Archives and Records Administration



Women in South Carolina Experience

Occupation, 1780

The British faced the difficult task of fighting a war without pushing more colonists into the hands of the

revolutionaries. As a result, the Revolutionary War included little direct attacks on civilians, but that does

not mean that civilians did not suffer. The following account from Eliza Wilkinson describes the stress faced

by non-combatants who had to face the British army.

On the second of June, two men belonging to the enemy, rode up to the house, and asked

many questions, saying that Colonel M’Girth and his soldiers might be presently looked for,

and that the inmates could expect no mercy. The family remained in a state of cruel

suspense for many hours…

I had no time for thought – they were up to the house – entered with drawn swords and

pistols in their hands: indeed they rushed in in the most furious manner, crying out, ‘Where

are these women rebels?’ That was the first salutation! The moment they espied us, off went

our caps. (I always heard say none but women pulled caps!) And for what, think you? Why,

only to get a paltry stone and wax pin, which kept them on our heads; at the same time

uttering the most abusive language imaginable, and making as if they would hew us to pieces

with their swords. But it is not in my power to describe the scene: it was terrible to the last

degree; and what augmented it, they had several armed negroes with them, who threatened

and abused us greatly. They then began to plunder the house of every thing they thought

valuable or worth taking; our trunks were split to pieces, and each mean, pitiful wretch

crammed his bosom with the contents, which were our apparel, &c…

This outrage was followed by a visit from M’Girth’s men, who treated the ladies with more

civility; one of them promising to make a report at camp of the usage they had received. It

was little consolation, however, to know that the robbers would probably be punished. The

others, who professed so much feeling for the fair, were not content without their share of

plunder, though more polite in the manner of taking it.” While the British soldiers were

talking to us, some of the silent ones withdrew, and presently laid siege to a beehive, which

they soon brought to terms. The others perceiving it, cried out, ‘Hand the ladies a plate of

honey.’ This was immediately done with officious haste, no doubt thinking they were very

generous in treating us with our own. There were a few horses feeding in the pasture. They

had them driven up. ‘Ladies, do either of you own these horses ?’ ‘No; they partly belonged

to father and Mr. Smilie!’ ‘Well, ladies, as they are not your property, we will take them! “‘

They asked the distance to the other settlements; and the females begged that forbearance

might be shown to the aged father. He was visited the same day by another body of troops,

who abused him and plundered the house. “One came to search mother’s pockets, too, but

she resolutely threw his hand aside. ‘if you must see what’s in my pocket, I’ll show you

myself;’ and she took out a threadcase, which had thread, needles, pins, tape, &c. The mean


wretch took it from her.” . . . “After drinking all the wine, rum, &c., they could find, and

inviting the negroes they had with them, who were very insolent, to do the same, they went

to their horses, and would shake hands with father and mother before their departure. Fine

amends, to be sure!”

After such unwelcome visitors, it is not surprising that the unprotected women could not eat

or sleep in peace. They lay in their clothes every night, alarmed by the least noise; while the

days were spent in anxiety and melancholy…

The siege and capitulation of Charleston brought the evils under which the land had

groaned, to their height. The hardships endured by those within the beleaguered city – the

gloomy resignation of hope – the submission to inevitable misfortune, have been described

by abler chroniclers.

Elizabeth Ellet, The Women of the American Revolution, Volume 1 (New York: 1819), 225-232.

Available through the Internet Archive



Oneida Declaration of Neutrality, 1775

The Oneida nation, one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), issued a formal declaration of

neutrality on June 19, 1775 to the governor of Connecticut after the imperial crisis between Great Britain

and their North American colonies erupted into violence. This declaration hints at the Oneida conceptions of

their own sovereignty among the Six Nations confederacy, the independence of other Native American

nations, and how the Oneida understand the conflict as a war “between two brothers.” Samuel Kirkland, a

missionary living in Iroquois country, interpreted and transcribed the Oneida’s words and sent them to

Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut.

A Speech of the Chiefs and Warriors of the Oneida Tribe of Indians, to the four New-

England Provinces, directed to Governour Trumbull; and by him to be communicated:

As our younger brothers of the New-England Indians, (who have settled in our vicinity) are

now going down to visit their friends, and to move up parts of their families that were left

behind, with this belt by them, we open the road wide, clearing it of all obstacles, that they

may visit their friends and return to their settlements here in peace.

We Oneidas are induced to this measure on account of the disagreeable situation of affairs

that way; and we hope, by the help of God, that they may go and return in peace. We

earnestly recommend them to your charity through their long journey.

Now we more immediately address you, our brother, the Governor and the Chiefs of New-


Brothers! We have heard of the unhappy differences and great contention betwixt you and

old England. We wonder greatly, and are troubled in our minds.

Brothers! Possess your minds in peace respecting us Indians. We cannot intermeddle in this

dispute between two brothers. The quarrel seems to be unnatural; you are two brothers of

one blood. We are unwilling to join one other side in such a contest, for we bear an equal

affection to both of you, Old and New-England. Should the great King of England apply to

us for our aid, we shall deny him. If the Colonies apply, we will refuse. The present situation

of you two brothers is new and strangetous. We Indians can not find nor recollect in the

traditions of our ancestors the like case or a similar instance.

Brothers! For these reasons possess your minds in peace, and taken umbrage that we Indians

refuse joining in the contest; we are for peace.

Brothers! Was it an alien, a foreign Nation, which struck you, we should look into the

matter. We hope, through the wise government and good pleasure of God, your distresses

may soon be removed, and the dark cloud be dispersed.

Brothers! As we have declared for peace, we desire you will not apply to our Indian brethren

in New-England for their assistance. Let us Indians be all of one mind, and live in peace

with one another, and you white people settle your own disputes betwixt yourselves.


Brothers! We have now declared our minds; please write to us that we may know yours. We,

the sachems, warriors, and female governesses of Oneida, send our love to you, brother

Governour, and all the other chiefs in New-England.

Signed by the Chief Warriors of the Oneida: William Sunoghsis, Viklasha Watshaleagh,

William Kanaghquassea, Peter Thayehcase, Germine Tegayavher, Nickhes Ahsechose,

Thomas Yoghtanawca, Adam Ohonwano, Quedellis Agwerondongwas, Handerchiko

Tegahpreahdyen, John Skeanender, Thomas Teorddeatha.

Caughnawaga, June19, 1775.

Interpreted and wrote by Samuel Kirkland, Missionary.

American archives : consisting of a collection of authentick records, state papers, debates, and letters and other

notices of publick affairs, the whole forming a documentary history of the origin and progress of the North

American colonies; of the causes and accomplishment of the American revolution; and of the Constitution of

government for the United States, to the final ratification thereof…, Peter Force, ed. (Washington: M.

St. Claire Clark and Peter Force, 1837), 1116-1117.

Available from the Internet Archive



Boston King recalls fighting for the British and

securing his freedom, 1798

Boston King was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1760. He escaped to the British Army during their

invasion of South Carolina in 1780. He served as a Loyalist in the British Army, and participated in

several important battles. Although captured, and once again enslaved by the Americans, King was able to

escape to the British again, who secured his freedom by sending him and other Black Loyalists to Canada.

Many Black colonists sought freedom by joining with the British, with estimates as high as 5,000. King later

became a missionary and one of the first Black Canadian settlers of Sierra Leone in West Africa.

To escape [a neighboring enslaver’s] cruelty, I determined to go Charles-Town, and throw

myself into the hands of the English. They received me readily, and I began to feel the

happiness of liberty, of which I knew nothing before, altho’ I was much grieved at first, to

be obliged to leave my friends, and reside among strangers. In this situation I was seized

with the small-pox, and suffered great hardships; for all the Blacks affected with that disease,

were ordered to be carried a mile from the camp, lest the soldiers should be infected, and

disabled from marching. This was a grievous circumstance to me and many others. We lay

sometimes a whole day without any thing to eat or drink; but Providence sent a man, who

belonged to the York volunteers whom I was acquainted with, to my relief. He brought me

such things a I stood in need of; and by the blessing of the Lord I began to recover…

Three weeks after, our Light-horse went to the Island… our situation was very precarious;

and we expected to be made prisoners every day; for the Americans had 1600 men, not far

off; whereas our whole number amounted only to 250: But there were 1200 English about

30 miles off; only we knew not how to inform them of our danger… Our commander at

length determined to send me with a letter, promising me great rewards, if I was successful

in the business, I refused going on horse-back, and set off on foot about 3 o’clock in the

afternoon… As soon as he knew that I had brought an express from Nelson’s-ferry, he

received me with great kindness, and expressed his approbation of my courage and conduct

in this dangerous business. Next morning, Colonel Small gave me three shillings, and many

fine promises, which were all that I ever received for this service from him. However he sent

600 men to relieve the troops at Nelson’s-ferry.

Soon after I went to Charles-Town, and entered on board a man of war. As we were going

to Chesapeake Bay, we were at the taking of a rich prize. We stayed in the bay two days, and

then sailed for New-York, where I went on shore. Here I endeavoured to follow my trade,

but for want of tools was obliged to relinquish it, and enter into service. But the wages were

so low that I was not able to keep myself in clothes, so that I was under the necessity of

leaving my master and going to another. I stayed with him four months, but he never paid

me, and I was obliged to leave him also, and work about the town until I was married. A year

after I was taken very ill, but the Lord raised me up again in about five weeks. I then went

out in a pilot boat… we were taken by an American whale-boat…. my mind was sorely

distressed at the thought of being again reduced to slavery, and separated from my wife and

family; and at the same time it was exceeding difficult to escape from my bondage…


… As I was at prayer on Sunday evening, I thought the Lord heard me, and would

mercifully deliver me. Therefore putting my confidence in him, about one o’clock in the

morning I went down to the river side, and found the guards were either asleep or in the

tavern. I instantly entered into the river, but when I was a little distance from the opposite

shore, I heard the sentinels disputing among themselves: One said “I am sure I saw a man

cross the river.” Another replied, “There is no such thing.” It seems they were afraid to fire

at me, or make an alarm, lest they should be punished for their negligence….

When I arrived at New-York, my friends rejoiced to see me once more restored to liberty…

in 1783) the horrors and devastation of war happily terminated, and peace was restored

between America and Great Britain, which diffused universal joy among all parties, except

us, who had escaped from slavery and taken refuge in the English army; for a report

prevailed at New-York, that all the slaves, in number 2000, were to be delivered up to their

masters, altho’ some of them had been three or four years among the English. This dreadful

rumour filled us all with inexpressible anguish and terror, especially when we saw our old

masters coming from Virginia, North-Carolina, and other parts, and seizing upon their slaves

in the streets of New-York, or even dragging them out of their beds. Many of the slaves had

very cruel masters, so that the thoughts of returning home with them embittered life to us.

For some days we lost our appetite for food, and sleep departed from our eyes. The English

had compassion upon us in the day of distress, and issued out a Proclamation, importing,

That all slaves should be free, who had taken refuge in the British lines, and claimed the

sanction and privileges of the Proclamations respecting the security and protection of

Negroes. In consequence of this, each of us received a certificate from the commanding

officer at New-York, which dispelled all our fears, and filled us with joy and gratitude. Soon

after, ships were fitted out, and furnished with every necessary for conveying us to Nova

Scotia. We arrived at Burch Town in the month of August, where we all safely landed. Every

family had a lot of land, and we exerted all our strength in order to build comfortable huts

before the cold weather set in.

Boston King, “Memoirs of the Life of Boston King, a Black Preacher,” The Methodist

Magazine (March 1798, April 1798).

Available through Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University



Abigail and John Adams Converse on

Women’s Rights, 1776

The American Revolution invited a reconsideration of all social inequalities. Abigail Adams, in this letter to

her husband John Adams, asked her husband to “remember the ladies” in any new laws he may create. In

his reply, John Adams treated this sentiment as a joke, demonstrating the limits of revolutionary liberty.

Abigail Adams letter to John Adams

Braintree March 31 1776

I wish you would ever write me a Letter half as long as I write you; and tell me if you may

where your Fleet are gone? What sort of Defence Virginia can make against our common

Enemy? Whether it is so situated as to make an able Defence? Are not the Gentery Lords

and the common people vassals, are they not like the uncivilized Natives Brittain represents

us to be? I hope their Riffel Men who have shewen themselves very savage and even Blood

thirsty; are not a specimen of the Generality of the people.

I am willing to allow the Colony great merrit for having produced a Washington but they

have been shamefully duped by a Dunmore.

I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Eaquelly Strong

in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of

theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and christian principal

of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. . . .

I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and by the way in the new Code of

Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the

Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such

unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if

they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to

foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no

voice, or Representation.

That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no

dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for

the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the

vicious and the

Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor

those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings


placed by providence under your protection and in immitation of the Supreem Being make

use of that power only for our happiness.

April 5

Not having an opportunity of sending this I shall add a few lines more; tho not with a heart

so gay. I have been attending the sick chamber of our Neighbour Trot whose affliction I

most sensibly feel but cannot discribe, striped of two lovely children in one week. Gorge the

Eldest died on wednesday and Billy the youngest on fryday, with the Canker fever, a terible

disorder so much like the thr[o]at distemper, that it differs but little from it. Betsy Cranch

has been very bad, but upon the recovery. Becky Peck they do not expect will live out the

day. Many grown person[s] are now sick with it, in this [street?] 5. It rages much in other

Towns. The Mumps too are very frequent. Isaac is now confined with it. Our own little flock

are yet well. My Heart trembles with anxiety for them. God preserve them.

I want to hear much oftener from you than I do. March 8 was the last date of any that I have

yet had.—You inquire of whether I am making Salt peter. I have not yet attempted it, but

after Soap making believe I shall make the experiment. I find as much as I can do to

manufacture cloathing for my family which would else be Naked. I know of but one person

in this part of the Town who has made any, that is Mr. Tertias Bass as he is calld who has

got very near an hundred weight which has been found to be very good. I have heard of

some others in the other parishes. Mr. Reed of Weymouth has been applied to, to go to

Andover to the mills which are now at work, and has gone. I have lately seen a small

Manuscrip de[s]cribing the proportions for the various sorts of powder, fit for cannon, small

arms and pistols. If it would be of any Service your way I will get it transcribed and send it to

you.—Every one of your Friend[s] send their Regards, and all the little ones. Your Brothers

youngest child lies bad with convulsion fitts. Adieu. I need not say how much I am Your

ever faithfull Friend.

John Adams to Abigail Adams (in reply to her March 31 letter):

Ap. 14, 1776

As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our

Struggle has loosened the bands of Government every where. That Children and

Apprentices were disobedient — that schools and Colledges were grown turbulent — that

Indians slighted their Guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their Masters. But your Letter

was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest

were grown discontented. — This is rather too coarse a Compliment but you are so saucy, I

wont blot it out.

Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems. Altho they are in full

Force, you know they are little more than Theory. We dare not exert our Power in its full


Latitude. We are obliged to go fair, and softly, and in Practice you know We are the

subjects. We have only the Name of Masters, and rather than give up this, which would

compleatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat, I hope General Washington, and all

our brave Heroes would fight. I am sure every good Politician would plot, as long as he

would against Despotism, Empire, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, or Ochlocracy. — A

fine Story indeed. I begin to think the Ministry as deep as they are wicked. After stirring up

Tories, Landjobbers, Trimmers, Bigots, Canadians, Indians, Negroes, Hanoverians,

Hessians, Russians, Irish Roman Catholicks, Scotch Renegadoes, at last they have stimulated

the to demand new Priviledges and threaten to rebell.

Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March – 5 April 1776 [electronic edition].

Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 April 1776 [electronic edition]. Adams Family

Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Available through the Massachusetts Historical Society



American Revolution Cartoon

J. Barrow, “The British Lion engaging Four Powers,” 1782, via National Maritime Museum, Greenwich,


Political cartoons provide insight into public opinion and the decisions made by politicians.

Cartoons became an important medium for voicing criticism and dissent during the

American Revolution. In this 1782 cartoon, the British lion faces a spaniel (Spain), a rooster

(France), a rattlesnake (America), and a pug dog (Netherlands). Though the caption predicts

Britain’s success, it illustrates that Britain faced challenges –and therefore drains on their

military and treasury—from more than just the American rebels.




Drawing of Uniforms of the American


Jean-Baptiste-Antoine DeVerger, “American soldiers at the siege of Yorktown,” 1781, via Wikimedia.

American soldiers came from a variety of backgrounds and had numerous reasons for

fighting with the American army. Jean-Baptiste-Antoine DeVerger, a French sublieutenant at

the Battle of Yorktown, painted this watercolor soon after that battle and chose to depict

four men in men military dress: an African American soldier from the 2nd Rhode Island

Regiment, a man in the homespun of the militia, another wearing the common “hunting

shirt” of the frontier, and the French soldier on the end.



6. A New Nation

A grand debate over political power engulfed the young United States. The Constitution

ensured that there would be a strong federal government capable of taxing, waging war, and

making law, but it could never resolve the young nation’s many conflicting

constituencies. The new nation was never as cohesive as its champions had hoped. Although

the officials of the new federal government—and the people who supported it—placed great

emphasis on unity and cooperation, the country was often anything but unified. As the

1790s progressed, Americans became bitterly divided over political parties and foreign wars.

As party differences and regional quarrels tested the federal government, the new nation

increasingly explored the limits of its democracy. Analyzing these sources allows us to see

these national tensions and the limits to American democracy.


Hector St. Jean de Crèvecœur Describes the

American people, 1782

Hector St. John de Crèvecœur was born in France, but relocated to the colony of New York and married a

local woman named Mehitable Tippet. For a period of several years, de Crèvecœur wrote about the people he

encountered in North America. The resulting work was widely successful in Europe. In this passage,

Crèvecœur attempts to reflect on the difference between life in Europe and life in North America.

The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe. Some

few towns excepted, we are all tillers of the earth, from Nova Scotia to West Florida. We are

a people of cultivators, scattered over an immense territory communicating with each other

by means of good roads and navigable rivers, united by the silken bands of mild

government, all respecting the laws, without dreading their power, because they are

equitable. We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which is unfettered and

unrestrained, because each person works for himself. If he travels through our rural districts

he views not the hostile castle, and the haughty mansion, contrasted with the clay-built hut

and miserable cabbin, where cattle and men help to keep each other warm, and dwell in

meanness, smoke, and indigence. A pleasing uniformity of decent competence appears

throughout our habitations. The meanest of our log-houses is a dry and comfortable

habitation. Lawyer or merchant are the fairest titles our towns afford; that of a farmer is the

only appellation of the rural inhabitants of our country. It must take some time ere he can

reconcile himself to our dictionary, which is but short in words of dignity, and names of

honour. (There, on a Sunday, he sees a congregation of respectable farmers and their wives,

all clad in neat homespun, well mounted, or riding in their own humble waggons. There is

not among them an esquire, saving the unlettered magistrate. There he sees a parson as

simple as his flock, a farmer who does not riot on the labour of others. We have no princes,

for whom we toil, starve, and bleed: we are the most perfect society now existing in the

world. Here man is free; as he ought to be; nor is this pleasing equality so transitory as many

others are. Many ages will not see the shores of our great lakes replenished with inland

nations, nor the unknown bounds of North America entirely peopled. Who can tell how far

it extends? Who can tell the millions of men whom it will feed and contain? for no European

foot has as yet travelled half the extent of this mighty continent!

The next wish of this traveller will be to know whence came all these people? they are

mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes. From this

promiscuous breed, that race now called Americans have arisen…

In this great American asylum, the poor of Europe have by some means met together, and in

consequence of various causes; to what purpose should they ask one another what

countrymen they are? Alas, two thirds of them had no country… Formerly they were not

numbered in any civil lists of their country, except in those of the poor; here they rank as

citizens. By what invisible power has this surprising metamorphosis been performed? By that


of the laws and that of their industry. The laws, the indulgent laws, protect them as they

arrive, stamping on them the symbol of adoption; they receive ample rewards for their

labours; these accumulated rewards procure them lands; those lands confer on them the title

of freemen, and to that title every benefit is affixed which men can possibly require. This is

the great operation daily performed by our laws. From whence proceed these laws? From

our government. Whence the government? It is derived from the original genius and strong

desire of the people ratified and confirmed by the crown…

What attachment can a poor European emigrant have for a country where he had nothing?

The knowledge of the language, the love of a few kindred as poor as himself, were the only

cords that tied him: his country is now that which gives him land, bread, protection, and

consequence: Ubi panis ibi patria, is the motto of all emigrants. What then is the American,

this new man? He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that

strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a

family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a

French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is

an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new

ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the

new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great

Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose

labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the

western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour,

and industry which began long since in the east; they will finish the great circle. The

Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the

finest systems of population which has ever appeared, and which will hereafter become

distinct by the power of the different climates they inhabit. The American ought therefore to

love this country much better than that wherein either he or his forefathers were born. Here

the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps the progress of his labour; his labour is

founded on the basis of nature, self-interest; can it want a stronger allurement? Wives and

children, who before in vain demanded of him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolicsome,

gladly help their father to clear those fields whence exuberant crops are to arise to feed and

to clothe them all; without any part being claimed, either by a despotic prince, a rich abbot,

or a mighty lord. Here religion demands but little of him; a small voluntary salary to the

minister, and gratitude to God; can he refuse these? The American is a new man, who acts

upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form new opinions. From

involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed to toils of

a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. –This is an American

Hector St. Jean de Crèvecœur, Letters from an American Farmer (New York: 1904), 49-56.

Available through the Internet Archive



A Confederation of Native peoples seek peace

with the United States, 1786

In 1786, half a year before the Constitutional Convention, a collection of Native American leaders gathered

on the banks of the Detroit River to offer a unified message to the Congress of the United States. Despite this

proposal, American surveyors, settlers, and others continued to cross the Ohio River.

Speech of the United Indian Nations, at their Confederate Council held near the mouth of

the Detroit River between the 28th November and 18th December, 1786

Present The Five Nations, the Hurons, Delewares, Shawnese, Ottawas, Chippewas,

Pottawatomies, Twichtwees, Cherokees, and the Wabash Confederated

To the Congress of the United States of America

Brethren of the United States of America

It is now more than three years since peace was made between the King of Great Britain and

you, but we the Indians, were disappointed finding ourselves not included in that peace

according to our expectations, for we thought that it’s conclusion would have promoted a

friendship between the United States and Indians, & that we might enjoy that happiness that

formerly subsisted between us and our elder brethren. We have received two very agreeable

messages from the Thirteen United States. We also received a message from the King,

whose war we were engaged in desiring us to remain quiet, which we accordingly complied

with. During the time of this tranquility we were deliberating the best method we could to

form a lasting reconciliation with the Thirteen United States. Pleased at the same time we

thought that we were entering upon a reconciliation and friendship with a set of people born

on the same continent with ourselves, certain that the quarrel between us was not of our

own making. In the course of our Councils we imagined we hit upon an expedient that

would promote a lasting Peace between us.


We still are of the same opinion as to the means which may tend to reconcile us to each

other. We are sorry to find although we had the best thoughts in our minds during the

before mentioned period mischief has nevertheless happened between you and us. We are

still anxious of putting our plan of accommodation into execution and we shall briefly

inform you of the means that seem most probable to us of effecting a firm and lasting peace

and reconciliation. The first step towards which should in our opinion be that all treaties

carried on with the United States on our part, should be with the general voice of the whole

Confederacy and carried on in the most open manner without any restraint on either side.

And especially as landed matters are often the subject of our councils with you, a matter of

the greatest importance & of general concern to us in this case we hold in indispensably


necessary that any cession of our lands should be made in the most public manner & by the

united voice of the confederacy. Holding all partial treaties as void and of no effect.

We think it is owing to you that the tranquility which since the peace between us has not

lasted and that essential good, has been followed by mischief and confusion having managed

everything respecting your own way. You kindled your council fires where you thought

proper, without consulting us, at which you held separate treaties, and have entirely

neglected our plan of having a general conference with the different nations of the

confederacy. Had this happened we have reason to believe everything would now have been

settled between us in a most friendly manner. We did everything in our power at the Treaty

of Fort Stanwix to induce you to follow this Plan, as our real intentions were at that very

time to promote peace and concord between us, and that we might look upon each other as

friends, having given you no cause or provocation to be otherwise —


Notwithstanding the mischief that has happened we are still sincere in our wishes to have

peace and tranquility established between us, earnestly hoping to find the same inclinations

in you. We wish therefore you would take it into consideration and let us speak to you in the

manner we proposed. Let us have a treaty with you early in the spring. Let us pursue

reasonable steps. Let us meet halfway for our mutual convenience. We shall then bury in

oblivion the misfortunes that have happened and meet each other on a footing of friendship.


We say let us meet halfway and let us pursue such steps as become upright and honest men,

we beg that you will prevent your surveyors and other people from coming upon our side of

the Ohio River. We have told you before we wished to pursue just steps, and we are

determined they shall appear just and reasonable in the eyes of the world. This is the

determination of all the chiefs of our Confederacy now assembled here, notwithstanding the

accidents that have happened in our villages, even when in council, where several imminent

chiefs were killed when absolutely engaged in promoting a peace with you the Thirteen

United States.

Although then interrupted the chiefs here present still wish to meet you in the spring for the

before mentioned good purpose, when we hope to speak to each other without either

haughtiness or menace.


We again request of you in the most earnest manner, to order your surveyors and others that

mark out land to cease from crossing the Ohio until we shall have spoken to you because the

mischief that has recently happened has originated in that quarter, we shall likewise prevent

our people from going over until that time.



It shall not be our fault if the plan which we have suggested to you should not be carried

into execution. In that case the event will be very precarious, and if fresh ruptures ensue we

hope to be able to excultrate ourselves, and shall most assuredly with our limited force be

obliged to defend those rights and privileges which have been transmitted to us…. And if

we should be thereby reduced to misfortune, the world will pity us when they think of the

amiable proposals we now make to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood. These are our

thoughts and firm resolves and we earnestly desire that you will transmit to us, as soon as

possible, your answer, be it what it may.

Done at our Confederate Council Fire at the Huron Village, near the mouth of the Detroit

River December 18, 1786

The Five Nations








Joseph Brant

The Wabash Confederation

Speech of the United Indian Nations at their Confederate Council; 12/18/1786; Letters

from Major General Henry Knox, Secretary at War; Papers of the Continental Congress,

1774 – 1789; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the

Constitutional Convention, Record Group 360; National Archives Building, Washington,


Available from the National Archives



Mary Smith Cranch comments on politics,


In the aftermath of the Revolution, politics became a sport consumed by both men and women. In a series of

letters sent to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch comments on a series of political events including the lack of

support for diplomats, the circulation of paper or hard currency, legal reform, tariffs against imported tea

tables, Shays rebellion, and the role of women in supporting the nation’s interests.

On foreign policy, pending legislation, and women’s political participation

I began to write you last night but my eyes were so poor that I could not continue it. I am

now risen with the sun to thank you for the charming budget you have sent me. Such

frequent communications shortens the idea of distance by many miles. I believe there have

been letters constantly upon the water for each other ever since you left us. The idea of your

returning soon to your dear friends here would be a much more joyful one if this country

would suffer you first to do all the good your inclinations lead you too, and what they really

wish you to do though they put it out of your power to do it. I hope they will come to their

senses before winter. The court is adjourned to next January. The House have been

disputing half this session whether we should have paper money, any lawyers or any court of

common pleas. They voted finally, against paper money, sent up to the Senate a curious bill

with regards to lawyers and the inferior court. A committee of five from the Senate have it

to consider till next term. Mr. Cranch is one of them. Thus do they spend their time in

curtailing tea tables, while they are suffering thousand to be wrested from them for want of

giving ampler powers to Congress. It is dreadful to those who see the necessity of different

measures to stand by and see such pursued as they fear will ruin their country. Ask no excuse

my dear sister for writing politics. It would be such a want of public spirit not to feel

interested in the welfare of our country as the wives of ministers and Senators ought to be

ashamed off. Let no one say that the ladies are of no importance in the affairs of the nation.

Persuade them to renounce all their luxuries and it would be found that they are, and believe

me there is not a more effectual way to do it, than to make them acquainted with the causes

of the distresses of their country. We do not want spirit. We only want to have it properly


“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 10 July 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives.

Available through the National Archives

Her frustration with the Massachusetts state legislature

May 22, 1786

“Not one word of politics have I written nor shall I have time to do it now. If I had I would

tell you what wonderful things the House are doing with the lawyers, the court of common

pleas, &c, but the newspapers will do it for me. I am thankful there is a Senate as well as a

House. What has Congress done? Anything to detain you in Europe. I love my country too



well to wish you to return yet, much as I wisht to see you. I did design to write to my dear

niece by this vessel but fear I shall not have time. My sincere love and good wishes attend

her and hers. Tis very late good night my ever dear Sister and believe me, yours


“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 22 May 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives.

Available through the National Archives

Commenting on Shays’ Rebellion

November 26, 1786

There is like to be a great disturbance in Cambridge at the sitting of the Court of Common

Pleas this week. There is an express come to the governor to inform him that Shays, one of

the heads of the incendiaries, (it is a many headed beast) is determined to come with

eighteen hundred men to stop the court. There will be force sent to oppose them I suppose,

and I wish there may not be blood shed. Are we not hastening fast to monarchy, to

Anarchy? I am sure we are unless the people discover a better spirit soon. We are concerned

for our children I assure you. The college company are wishing to be allowed to march out

in defence of government but they will not be permitted. Mr Cranch will go tomorrow and

take care of them, of our children I mean…

“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 26 November 1786,” Founders Online, National


Available through the National Archives

Further thoughts on Shays’ Rebellion

February 9, 1787

“If you have received our Letters by Captain Callahan, you will be in some measure prepared

for the accounts which Captain Folger will bring you of the rebellion which exists in this

state. It had arisen to such a height that it was necessary to oppose it by force of arms. We

are always in this country to do things in an extraordinary manner. The militia were called

for, but there was not a copper in the treasury to pay them or to support them upon their

march. Town meetings were called in many places and promises were made them that if the

would enlist, they would pay them and wait till the money could be collected from the public

for their pay. And for their present support people contributed as they were able and in this

manner in less than a week was collected an army of five thousand men who marched under

the command of General Lincoln to Worcester to protect the court. The result you will see

in the papers. The season has been stormy and severe our army have suffered greatly in

some of their marches, especially last Saturday night. Many of them were badly froze, they

marched thirty miles without stopping to refresh themselves in order to take Shays and his

army by surprise. They took about 150 of them. Shays and a number with him scampered

off and have gotten to New Hampshire.




Shays and his party are a poor deluded people. They have given much trouble and put us and

themselves to much expense and have greatly added to the difficulties they complain off. I

think you must have been very uneasy about us. Shays has not a small party in Braintree but

not many in this parish. They want paper money to cheat with. They called a town meeting

about a week since to forbid collection. Thayers attending the general court but they could

not get a vote.

“Mary Smith Cranch to Abigail Adams, 9 February 1787,” Founders Online, National


Available through the National Archives



James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance

Against Religious Assessments, 1785

Before the American Revolution, Virginia supported local Anglican churches through taxes. After the

American Revolution, Virginia had to decide what to do with this policy. Some founding fathers, including

Patrick Henry, wanted to equally distribute tax dollars to all churches. In this document, James Madison

explains why he did not want any government money to support religious causes in Virginia.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia

A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

We the subscribers , citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious

consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled “A

Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” and conceiving that the

same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are

bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the

reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,

1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the

duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be

directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence…”

2. Because Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can

it be subject to that of the Legislative Body…

3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold

this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest

characteristics of the late Revolution…

4. … Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe

the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal

freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has

convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against

man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered….

5. Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of

Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The

first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all

ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means

of salvation…


6. Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of

the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion

itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world…

7. Because experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of

maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation…

8. … What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In

some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the

Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of

political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of

the people…

9. Because the proposed establishment is a departure from the generous policy,

which, offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and

Religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its

citizens. What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy?..

10. Because it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens…

11. … Torrents of blood have been split in the old world, by vain attempts of the

secular arm, to extinguish Religious disscord, by proscribing all difference in

Religious opinion…

12. Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity.

The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be

imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as

yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false

Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen

the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light

of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances by example the

nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to

them. Instead of Levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious

progress of Truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would

circumscribe it with a wall of defence against the encroachments of error.

13. Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to go great a

proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the

bands of Society…

14. Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be

imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens,

and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in

this case may be determined, or its influence secured…


15. Because finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion

according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all our

other rights…

We the Subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such

authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an

usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound,

that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed,

may on the one hand, turn their Councils from every act which would affront his holy

prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them: and on the other, guide them into every

measure which may be worthy of his blessing, may redound to their own praise, and may

establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity and the happiness of the Commonwealth.

“Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, [ca. 20 June] 1785,” Founders

Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-08-02-

0163 [last update: 2015-06-29]). Source: The Papers of James Madison, vol. 8, 10 March 1784-28

March 1786, ed. Robert A. Rutland and William M. E. Rachal (Chicago: The University of

Chicago Press, 1973), pp. 295–306.

Available through Founders Online, National Archives and Records Administration



George Washington, “Farewell Address,” 1796

George Washington used his final public address as president to warn against what he understood as the two

greatest dangers to American prosperity: political parties and foreign wars. Washington urged the American

people to avoid political partisanship and entanglements with European wars.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public

life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of

gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon


Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with

my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion

like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent

review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection …

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious

concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by

geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence

designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests

and views….

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to

the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more

comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of

the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest

passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or

less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its

greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge,

natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most

horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and

permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of

men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later

the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns

this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty…

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are

indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should

labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of

men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to


cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.

Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense

of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts

of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained

without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds

of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality

can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.

The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who

that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the

foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of

knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it

is essential that public opinion should be enlightened….

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens)

the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience

prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But

that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very

influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign

nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on

one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots

who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while

its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their


The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial

relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have

already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course…

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon

foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle

our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or


Washington’s Farewell Address, delivered September 17th, 1796 (New York: 1861), 5-6, 10-, 13-14,

16-17, 20-21.

Available through the Internet Archive



Venture Smith, A Narrative of the Life and

Adventures of Venture, 1798

Venture Smith’s autobiography is one of the earliest slave narratives to circulate in the Atlantic World. Slave

narratives grew into the most important genre of antislavery literature and bore testimony to the injustices of

the slave system. Smith was unusually lucky in that he was able to purchase his freedom, but his story

nonetheless reveals the hardships faced by even the most fortunate enslaved men and women.

… it was agreed that I should live with Col. Smith. This was the third time of my being sold,

and I was then thirty-one years old. As I never had an opportunity of redeeming myself

whilst I was owned by Miner, though he promised to give me a chance, I was then very

ambitious of obtaining it. I asked my master one time if he would consent to have me

purchase my freedom. He replied that he would. I was then very happy, knowing that I was

at that time able to pay part of the purchase money, by means of the money which I some

time since buried. This I took out of the earth and tendered to my master, having previously

engaged a free negro man to take his security for it, as I was the property of my master, and

therefore could not safely take his obligation myself. What was wanting in redeeming myself,

my master agreed to wait on me for, until I could procure it for him. I still continued to

work for Col. Smith. There was continually some interest accruing on my master’s note to

my friend the free negro man above named, which I received, and with some besides which

I got by fishing, I laid out in land adjoining my old master Stanton’s. By cultivating this land

with the greatest diligence and economy, at times when my master did not require my labor,

in two years I laid up ten pounds. This my friend tendered my master for myself, and

received his note for it.

Being encouraged by the success which I had met in redeeming myself, I again solicited my

master for a further chance of completing it. The chance for which I solicited him was that

of going out to work the ensuing winter. He agreed to this on condition that I would give

him one quarter of my earnings. On these terms I worked the following winter, and earned

four pounds sixteen shillings, one quarter of which went to my master for the privilege, and

the rest was paid him on my own account. This added to the other payments made up forty

four pounds, eight shillings, which I had paid on my own account. I was then about thirty

five years old.

The next summer I again desired he would give me a chance of going out to work. But he

refused and answered that he must have my labor this summer, as he did not have it the past

winter. I replied that I considered it as hard that I could not have a chance to work out when

the season became advantageous, and that I must only be permitted to hire myself out in the

poorest season of the year. He asked me after this what I would give him for the privilege

per month. I replied that I would leave it wholly with his own generosity to determine what I

should return him a month. Well then, said he, if so two pounds a month. I answered him

that if that was the least he would take I would be contented.


Accordingly I hired myself out at Fisher’s Island, and earned twenty pounds; thirteen pounds

six shillings of which my master drew for the privilege, and the remainder I paid him for my

freedom. This made fifty-one pounds two shillings which I paid him. In October following I

went and wrought six months at Long Island. In that six month’s time I cut and corded four

hundred cords of wood, besides threshing out seventy-five bushels of grain, and received of

my wages down only twenty pounds, which left remaining a larger sum. Whilst I was out that

time, I took up on my wages only one pair of shoes. At night I lay on the hearth, with one

coverlet over and another under me. I returned to my master and gave him what I received

of my six months labor. This left only thirteen pounds eighteen shillings to make up the full

sum for my redemption. My master liberated me, saying that I might pay what was behind if

I could ever make it convenient, otherwise it would be well. The amount of the money

which I had paid my master towards redeeming my time, was seventy-one pounds two

shillings. The reason of my master for asking such an unreasonable price, was he said, to

secure himself in case I should ever come to want. Being thirty-six years old, I left Col.

Smith once for all. I had already been sold three different times, made considerable money

with seemingly nothing to derive it from, been cheated out of a large sum of money, lost

much by misfortunes, and paid an enormous sum for my freedom.

Venture Smith, A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, A Native of Africa (New

London: 1798), 22-24.

Available through Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill




Susannah Rowson, Charlotte Temple, 1794

In Charlotte Temple, the first novel written in America, Susannah Rowson offered a cautionary tale of a

woman deceived and then abandoned by a roguish man. Americans throughout the new nation read the book

with rapt attention and many even traveled to New York City to visit the supposed grave of this fictional


“And am I indeed fallen so low,” said Charlotte, “as to be only pitied? Will the voice of

approbation no more meet my ear? and shall I never again possess a friend, whose face will

wear a smile of joy whenever I approach? Alas! how thoughtless, how dreadfully imprudent

have I been! I know not which is most painful to endure, the sneer of contempt, or the

glance of compassion, which is depicted in the various countenances of my own sex: they

are both equally humiliating. Ah! my dear parents, could you now see the child of your

affections, the daughter whom you so dearly loved, a poor solitary being, without society,

here wearing out her heavy hours in deep regret and anguish of heart, no kind friend of her

own sex to whom she can unbosom her griefs, no beloved mother, no woman of character

will appear in my company, and low as your Charlotte is fallen, she cannot associate with


These were the painful reflections which occupied the mind of Charlotte. Montraville had

placed her in a small house a few miles from New-York: he gave her one female attendant,

and supplied her with what money she wanted; but business and pleasure so entirely

occupied his time, that he had little to devote to the woman, whom he had brought from all

her connections, and robbed of innocence. Sometimes, indeed, he would steal out at the

close of evening, and pass a few hours with her; and then so much was she attached to him,

that all her sorrows were forgotten while blest with his society: she would enjoy a walk by

moonlight, or sit by him in a little arbour at the bottom of the garden, and play on the harp,

accompanying it with her plaintive, harmonious voice. But often, very often, did he promise

to renew his visits, and, forgetful of his promise, leave her to mourn her disappointment.

What painful hours of expectation would she pass! She would sit at a window which looked

toward a field he used to cross, counting the minutes, and straining her eyes to catch the first

glimpse of his person, till blinded with tears of disappointment, she would lean her head on

her hands, and give free vent to her sorrows: then catching at some new hope, she would

again renew her watchful position, till the shades of evening enveloped every object in a

dusky cloud: she would then renew her complaints, and, with a heart bursting with

disappointed love and wounded sensibility, retire to a bed which remorse had strewed with

thorns, and court in vain that comforter of weary nature (who seldom visits the unhappy) to

come and steep her senses in oblivion…

My dear Madam, contract not your brow into a frown of disapprobation. I mean not to

extenuate the faults of those unhappy women who fall victims to guilt and folly; but surely,

when we reflect how many errors we are ourselves subject to, how many secret faults lie hid

in the recesses of our hearts, which we should blush to have brought into open day (and yet


those faults require the lenity and pity of a benevolent judge, or awful would be our prospect

of futurity) I say, my dear Madam, when we consider this, we surely may pity the faults of


Believe me, many an unfortunate female, who has once strayed into the thorny paths of vice,

would gladly return to virtue, was any generous friend to endeavour to raise and re-assure

her; but alas! it cannot be, you say; the world would deride and scoff. Then let me tell you,

Madam, ’tis a very unfeeling world, and does not deserve half the blessings which a bountiful

Providence showers upon it.

Oh, thou benevolent giver of all good! how shall we erring mortals dare to look up to thy

mercy in the great day of retribution, if we now uncharitably refuse to overlook the errors, or

alleviate the miseries, of our fellow-creatures!

Susannah Rowson, Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth (Boston: 1824).

Available through Google Books



Constitutional Ratification Cartoon, 1789

“The Federal Pillars,” from The Massachusetts Centinel, August 2, 1789, via Library of Congress.

The Massachusetts Centinel ran a series of cartoons depicting the ratification of the

Constitution. Each vertical pillar represents a state that has ratified the new government. In

this cartoon, North Carolina’s pillar is being guided into place (it would vote for ratification

in November 1789). Rhode Island’s pillar, however, is crumbling and shows the uncertainty

of the vote there.



Anti-Thomas Jefferson Cartoon, 1797

“Providential Detection,” 1797 via American Antiquarian Society.

This image attacks Jefferson’s support of the French Revolution and religious freedom. The

Altar to “Gallic Despotism” mocks Jefferson’s allegiance to the French. The letter, “To

Mazzei,” refers to a 1796 correspondence that criticized the Federalists and, by association,

President Washington.



7. The Early Republic

Thomas Jefferson’s electoral victory over John Adams—and the larger victory of the

Republicans over the Federalists—was but one of many changes in the early republic. The

wealthy and the powerful, middling and poor whites, Native Americans, free and enslaved

African Americans, influential and poor women: all demanded a voice in the new nation that

Thomas Paine called an “asylum” for liberty. They would all, in their own way, lay claim to

the ideals of freedom and equality heralded, if not fully realized, by the Revolution. These

sources show these competing claims to freedom and reveal the competing visions for the

new nation.


Letter of Cato and Petition by “the negroes

who obtained freedom by the late act,”

in Postscript to the Freeman’s Journal,

September 21, 1781

The elimination of slavery in northern states like Pennsylvania was slow and hard-fought. A bill passed in

1780 began the slow process of eroding slavery in the state, but a proposal just one year later would have

erased that bill and furthered the distance between slavery and freedom. The action of Black Philadelphians

and others succeeded in defeating this measure. In this letter to the Black newspaper, Philadelphia

Freedom’s Journal, a formerly enslaved man uses the rhetoric of the American Revolution to attack

American slavery.


I AM a poor negro, who with myself and children have had the good fortune to get my

freedom, by means of an act of assembly passed on the first of March 1780, and should now

with my family be as happy a set of people as any on the face of the earth, but I am told the

assembly are going to pass a law to send us all back to our masters. Why dear Mr. Printer,

this would be the cruelest act that ever a sett of worthy good gentlemen could be guilty of.

To make a law to hang us all, would be merciful, when compared with this law; for many of

our masters would treat us with unheard of barbarity, for daring to take the advantage (as we

have done) of the law made in our favor.—Our lots in slavery were hard enough to bear: but

having tasted the sweets of freedom, we should now be miserable indeed.—Surely no

Christian gentlemen can be so cruel! I cannot believe they will pass such a law.—I have read

the act which made me free, and I always read it with joy—and I always dwell with particular

pleasure on the following words, spoken by the assembly in the top of the said law. “We

esteem it a particular blessing granted to us, that we are enabled this day to add one more

step to universal civilization, by removing as much as possible the sorrows of those, who

have lived in undeserved bondage, and from which, by the assumed authority of the kings of

Great-Britain, no effectual legal relief could be obtained.“ See it was the king of Great-

Britain that kept us in slavery before.—Now surely, after saying so, it cannot be possible for

them to make slaves of us again—nobody, but the king of England can do it—and I

sincerely pray, that he may never have it in his power.—It cannot be, that the assembly will

take from us the liberty they have given, because a little further they go on and say, ”we

conceive ourselves, at this particular period, extraordinarily called upon, by the blessings

which we have received, to make manifest the sincerity of our professions and to give a

substantial proof of our gratitude.” If after all this, we, who by virtue of this very law (which

has those very words in it which I have copied,) are now enjoying the sweets of that

“substantial proof of gratitude” I say if we should be plunged back into slavery, what must

we think of the meaning of all those words in the beginning of the said law, which seem to


be a kind of creed respecting slavery? But what is most serious than all, what will our great

father think of such doings? But I pray that he may be pleased to tern the hearts of

the honorable assembly from this cruel law; and that he will be pleased to make us poor

blacks deserving of his mercies.


Letter of Cato and Petition by “the negroes who obtained freedom by the late act,” Postscript

to the Freeman’s Journal, September 21, 1781 in Library Company of Philadelphia, “Black

Founders: The Free Black Community in the Early Republic.”

Available through the Library Company of Philadelphia



Thomas Jefferson’s Racism, 1788

American racism spread during the first decades after the American Revolution. Racial prejudice existed for

centuries, but the belief that African-descended peoples were inherently and permanently inferior to Anglo-

descended peoples developed sometime around the late eighteenth century. Writings such as this piece

from Thomas Jefferson fostered faulty scientific reasoning to justify laws that protected slavery and white


The first difference which strikes us is that of color. Whether the black of the negro resides

in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether

it proceeds from the color of the blood, the color of the bile, or from that of some other

secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better

known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or

less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the

expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color in the one, preferable to

that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable veil of black

which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant

symmetry of form, their own judgment in favor of the whites, declared by their preference

of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the orangutan for the black women over those

of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the

propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man?

Besides those of color, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a

difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the

kidneys, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable

odor. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of

cold, than the whites. Perhaps too a difference of structure in the pulmonary apparatus,

which a late ingenious experimentalist has discovered to be the principal regulator of animal

heat, may have disabled them from extricating, in the act of inspiration, so much of that fluid

from the outer air, or obliged them in expiration, to part with more of it. They seem to

require less sleep. A black, after hard labor through the day, will be induced by the slightest

amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first

dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may

perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be

present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the

whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an

eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are

transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given

life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their

existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed

their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labor.

An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of

course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to


me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one

could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid;

and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow

them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider them here, on the same stage with the

whites, and where the facts are not apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed. It will

be right to make great allowances for the difference of condition, of education, of

conversation, of the sphere in which they move. Many millions of them have been brought

to, and born in America. Most of them indeed have been confined to tillage, to their own

homes, and their own society: yet many have been so situated, that they might have availed

themselves of the conversation of their masters; many have been brought up to the

handicraft arts, and from that circumstance have always been associated with the whites.

Some have been liberally educated, and all have lived in countries where the arts and sciences

are cultivated to a considerable degree, and have had before their eyes samples of the best

works from abroad. The Indians, with no advantages of this kind, will often carve figures on

their pipes not destitute of design and merit. They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a

country, so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds which only wants cultivation.

They astonish you with strokes of the most sublime oratory; such as prove their reason and

sentiment strong, their imagination glowing and elevated. But never yet could I find that a

black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary

trait of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites with

accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small

catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or

of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved. Misery is often the parent of the most affecting

touches in poetry. — Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love

is the peculiar oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not

the imagination…

… I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct

race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the

endowments both of body and mind. It is not against experience to suppose, that different

species of the same genus, or varieties of the same species, may possess different

qualifications. Will not a lover of natural history then, one who views the gradations in all

the races of animals with the eye of philosophy, excuse an effort to keep those in the

department of man as distinct as nature has formed them? This unfortunate difference of

color, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these

people. Many of their advocates, while they wish to vindicate the liberty of human nature,

are anxious also to preserve its dignity and beauty. Some of these, embarrassed by the

question `What further is to be done with them?’ Join themselves in opposition with those

who are actuated by sordid avarice only. Among the Romans emancipation required but one

effort. The slave, when made free, might mix with, without staining the blood of his master.

But with us a second is necessary, unknown to history. When freed, he is to be removed

beyond the reach of mixture.


Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Richmond: 1853), 149-152, 155.

Available through the Internet Archive



Black scientist Benjamin Banneker

demonstrates Black intelligence to Thomas

Jefferson, 1791

Benjamin Banneker, a free Black American and largely self-taught astronomer and mathematician, wrote

Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, on August 19, 1791. Banneker included this letter, as well as

Jefferson’s short reply, in several of the first editions of his almanacs in part because he hoped it would dispel

the widespread assumption that Jefferson perpetuated in his Notes on the State of Virginia that Black people

were incapable of intellectual achievement.


I am fully sensible of the greatness of that freedom which I take with you on the present

occasion; a liberty which Seemed to me scarcely allowable, when I reflected on that

distinguished, and dignified station in which you Stand; and the almost general prejudice and

prepossession which is so prevalent in the world against those of my complexion.

I suppose it is a truth too well attested to you, to need a proof here, that we are a race of

Beings who have long laboured under the abuse and censure of the world, that we have long

been looked upon with an eye of contempt, and that we have long been considered rather as

brutish than human, and Scarcely capable of mental endowments.

… I apprehend you will readily embrace every opportunity to eradicate that train of absurd

and false ideas and opinions which so generally prevails with respect to us, and that your

Sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are that one universal Father hath given being

to us all, and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also without

partiality afforded us all the Same Sensations, and endued us all with the same faculties, and

that however variable we may be in Society or religion, however diversified in Situation or

colour, we are all of the Same Family, and Stand in the Same relation to him.

Sir, if these are Sentiments of which you are fully persuaded, I hope you cannot but

acknowledge, that it is the indispensable duty of those who maintain for themselves the

rights of human nature, and who profess the obligations of Christianity, to extend their

power and influence to the relief of every part of the human race, from whatever burthen or

oppression they may unjustly labour under, and this I apprehend a full conviction of the

truth and obligation of these principles should lead all to.

Sir, I have long been convinced, that if your love for your Selves, and for those inestimable

laws which preserve to you the rights of human nature, was founded on Sincerity, you could

not but be Solicitous, that every Individual of whatsoever rank or distinction, might with you

equally enjoy the blessings thereof, neither could you rest Satisfied, short of the most active

diffusion of your exertions, in order to their promotion from any State of degradation, to

which the unjustifiable cruelty and barbarism of men may have reduced them.


Sir I freely and Cheerfully acknowledge, that I am of the African race, and in that colour

which is natural to them of the deepest dye, and it is under a Sense of the most profound

gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, that I now confess to you, that I am not

under that State of tyrannical thraldom, and inhuman captivity, to which too many of my

brethren are doomed; but that I have abundantly tasted of the fruition of those blessings

which proceed from that free and unequalled liberty with which you are favoured and which

I hope you will willingly allow you have received from the immediate hand of that Being,

from whom proceedeth every good and perfect gift.

Sir, Suffer me to recall to your mind that time in which the Arms and tyranny of the British

Crown were exerted with every powerful effort in order to reduce you to a State of

Servitude, look back I entreat you on the variety of dangers to which you were exposed,

reflect on that time in which every human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope

and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the Conflict, and you cannot but be led to a

Serious and grateful Sense of your miraculous and providential preservation; you cannot but

acknowledge that the present freedom and tranquility which you enjoy you have mercifully

received, and that it is the peculiar blessing of Heaven.

This Sir, was a time in which you clearly saw into the injustice of a State of Slavery, and in

which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition, it was now Sir, that your

abhorrence thereof was so excited, that you publickly held forth this true and invaluable

doctrine, which is worthy to be recorded and remember’d in all Succeeding ages. “We hold

these truths to be Self evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by

their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit

of happiness.”

Here Sir, was a time in which your tender feelings for your selves had engaged you thus to

declare, you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great valuation of liberty, and the

free possession of those blessings to which you were entitled by nature; but Sir how pitiable

is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of

mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges which he

had conferred upon them, that you should at the Same time counteract his mercies, in

detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity

and cruel oppression, that you should at the Same time be found guilty of that most criminal

act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.

Sir, I suppose that your knowledge of the situation of my brethren is too extensive to need a

recital here; neither shall I presume to prescribe methods by which they may be relieved;

otherwise than by recommending to you and all others, to wean yourselves from these

narrow prejudices which you have imbibed with respect to them, and as Job proposed to his

friends “Put your Souls in their Souls stead,” thus shall your hearts be enlarged with kindness

and benevolence toward them, and thus shall you need neither the direction of myself or

others in what manner to proceed herein.

And now, Sir, altho my Sympathy and affection for my brethren hath caused my

enlargement thus far, I ardently hope that your candour and generosity will plead with you in


my behalf, when I make known to you, that it was not originally my design; but that having

taken up my pen in order to direct to you as a present, a copy of an Almanack which I have

calculated for the Succeeding year, I was unexpectedly and unavoidably led thereto.

This calculation, Sir, is the production of my arduous Study in this my advanced Stage of life;

for having long had unbounded desires to become acquainted with the Secrets of nature, I

have had to gratify my curiosity herein thro my own assiduous application to Astronomical

Study, in which I need not to recount to you the many difficulties and disadvantages which I

have had to encounter.

And altho I had almost declined to make my calculation for the ensuing year… I

industriously apply’d myself thereto, which I hope I have accomplished with correctness and

accuracy, a copy of which I have taken the liberty to direct to you, and which I humbly

request you will favourably receive, and altho you may have the opportunity of perusing it

after its publication, yet I chose to send it to you in manuscript previous thereto, that

thereby you might not only have an earlier inspection, but that you might also view it in my

own hand writing.—And now Sir, I shall conclude and Subscribe my Self with the most

profound respect your most Obedient humble Servant,

Benjamin Banneker

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 22, ed. Charles T. Cullen. Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1986, pp. 49–54.

Available from the National Archives



Creek headman Alexander McGillivray

(Hoboi-Hili-Miko) seeks to build an alliance

with Spain, 1785

Native peoples had long employed strategies of playing Europeans off against each other to maintain their

independence and neutrality. As early as 1785, the Creek headman Alexander McGillivray (Hoboi-Hili-

Miko) saw the threat the expansionist Americans placed on Native peoples and the inability of a weak

United States government to restrain their citizens from encroaching on Native lands. McGillivray sought the

aid and protection of the Spanish in order to maintain the supply of trade goods into Creek country and

counter the Americans.

Little Tallasie 22d August 1785

His Excellency Governor de Zespedes


I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of Your Excellency’s most esteemed favor of

13t. June. the letters enclosed for Governor ONeil & Colo. Piernass were delivered to the

former the latter is at Orleans Commanding in absence of Governor Miro who is gone to

the Natchez to regulate some matters. a great many troops having arrived & gone up that


The reports Your Excellency has heard concerning the americans are not founded in truth

although they are proceeding in great numbers to the Mississippi with an Intent to establish-

themselves upon the Territory as given them by the treaty of Peace between Britain & the

State of America. But as Yet no hostilities have Commenced between any forces on the river

— Nor is there any Post on the Cherokee river tho a very proper place for one at the mouth

of it where it Joins the Mississippi. The americans will certainly attempt to establish a New

State in that Country at the risque of a war. The Authority of Congress is but weak even in

the heart of the States & those that are settled at the distance of five or Six hundred miles

from the Seat of Government – despite its mandates. but before they attempt any great

matters they will do all they can to gain over the Indian Nations that lay in their way & are

most able to obstruct their views in Some measure. The gaining of these Creek Nations over

to them is more Immediately an object of their Policy & to effect which purpose they have

held forth the most tempting baits to my people to Induce them to meet the Commissioners

of the States in Congress twice in the course of this Summer. but being Sensible of their

Insidious Views I have hitherto prevented the Indians from Complying with their wishes &

which I have the more effectually been enabled to do from the Support I have met with

from Your Excellency permitting the House of Panton Leslie & Co. to supply the wants of

the Indians from the Store at Apalachy & if the establishments that are made are kept up &

well Supported so as the Indians are Certain of a permanent & well regulated Support of the

Goods that they have been accustomed to it will remove from their minds the prejudices

they have Conceived in favor of other Nations & attach themselves to that Government


which Supports them in a trade on liberal principles. there are no other modes Can be

adopted to Conciliate their minds so effectually as that. they have very little Consideration

for any professions of Friendship that can be made to them without it.

I imagine that the Apalachy Store must now be nearly or quite drained of Goods. it will be

therefore extremely necessary that there shoud be soon in Store there the usual Winter

Supplies & that Messr. Panton Leslie & Co. be enabled to effect the same without loss of


Perryman Certainly meant no more in the Step he took than a Compliment for the many

favors he had received. an Indian in the honesty of his heart seldom attends to & is Ignorant

of those nice distinctions practised by Civilized people. but I can assure Your Excellency he

has always been Steady in such measures as has been recommended to him for theGood of

his Country & will adhere in the same Steps that the rest of the Chiefs his Countrymen shall

pursue. – – –

It has long been a matter of great Concern to me that the very fluctuating Situation of

Affairs has been such that it has hitherto prevented my direct– Compliance with Your

requisitions but I Shall now prepare to do myself that pleasure which I have long wished for

that of repairing to St. Augustine to receive-in person Your Commands & Shall Set out from

the in the missile of the next month as the Season then will be favorable for traveling in

Florida From the Wisdom of the measures adopted & pursued by Your Excellency with

regard to Indian Affairs has been attended with the best Consequences for the Interest of

Your Government & a Confidence that the Court will enable You to Continue the same line

of Conduct & – which affords me the greatest encouragement to persevere in the arduous

Task I have undertaken to Conciliate the minds of the different Indians Nations to his

Majesty Interest on the most permanent basis.”

That Your Excellency may enjoy many years of Health & happiness is the Sincere wishes of

Sir Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant

Alex: McGillivray

“Transcript of a letter From Alexander McGillivray to Governor Zéspedes,” August 22,

1785, in the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Alabama Textual Materials

Collection, from the East Florida Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Available from the Alabama Department of Archives and History



Tecumseh Calls for Pan-Indian

Resistance, 1810

Like Pontiac before him, Tecumseh articulated a spiritual message of unity and resistance. In this document,

he acknowledges his Shawnee heritage, but appeals to a larger community of “red men,” who he describes as

“once a happy race, since made miserable by the white people.” This document reveals not only Tecumseh’s

message of resistance, but it also shows that Anglo-American understandings of race had spread to Native

Americans as well.

It is true I am a Shawnee. My forefathers were warriors. Their son is a warrior. From them I

take only my existence; from my tribe I take nothing. I am the maker of my own fortune;

and oh! that I could make of my own fortune; and oh! that I could make that of my red

people, and of my country, as great as the conceptions of my mind, when I think of the

Spirit that rules the universe. I would not then come to Governor Harrison to ask him to

tear the treaty and to obliterate the landmark; but I would say to him: “Sir, you have liberty

to return to your own country.”

The being within, communing with past ages, tells me that once, nor until lately, there was

no white man on this continent; that it then all belonged to red men, children of the same

parents, placed on it by the Great Spirit that made them, to keep it, to traverse it, to enjoy its

productions, and to fill it with the same race, once a happy race, since made miserable by the

white people, who are never contented but always encroaching. The way, and the only way,

to check and to stop this evil, is for all the red men to unite in claiming a common and equal

right in the land, as it was at first, and should be yet; for it never was divided, but belongs to

all for the use of each. For no part has a right to sell, even to each other, much less to

strangers — hose who want all, and will not do with less.

The white people have no right to take the land from the Indians, because they had it first; it

is theirs. They may sell, but all must join. Any sale not made by all is not valid. The late sale

is bad. It was made by a part only. Part do not know how to sell. All red men have equal

rights to the unoccupied land. The right of occupancy is as good in one place as in another.

There can not be two occupations in the same place. The first excludes all others. It is not so

in hunting or traveling; for there the same ground will serve many, as they may follow each

other all day; but the camp is stationary, and that is occupancy. It belongs to the first who

sits down on his blanket or skins which he has thrown upon the ground; and till he leaves it

no other has a right.

Samuel G. Drake, The Book of the Indians; or, the Biography and History of the Indians of North

America, from its first discovery to the year 1841 (Boston: 1836), 121-122.

Available through the Internet Archive



Congress Debates Going to War, 1811

Americans were not united in their support for the War of 1812. In these two documents we hear from

members of congress as they debate whether or not America should go to war against Great Britain.

Felix Grundy, Dec 9, 1811

What, Mr. Speaker, are we now called on to decide? It is, whether we will resist by force the

attempt, made by that Government, to subject our maritime rights to the arbitrary and

capricious rule of her will; for my part I am not prepared to say that this country shall submit

to have her commerce interdicted or regulated, by any foreign nation. Sir, I prefer war to


Over and above these unjust pretensions of the British Government, for many years past,

they have been in the practice of impressing our seamen, from merchant vessels; this unjust

and lawless invasion of personal liberty, calls loudly for the interposition of this

Government. To those better acquainted with the facts in relation to it, I leave it to fill up

the picture. My mind is irresistibly drawn to the West.

Although others may not strongly feel the bearing, which the late transactions in that quarter

have on this subject, upon my mind they have great influence. It cannot be believed by any

many who will reflect, that the savage tribes, uninfluenced by other Powers, would think of

making war on the United States. They understand too well their own weakness, and our

strength. They have already felt the weight of our arms; they know they hold the very soil on

which they live as tenants at sufferance. How, then, sir, are we to account for their late

conduct? In one way only; some powerful nation must have intrigued with them, and turned

their peaceful disposition towards us into hostilities. Great Britain alone has intercourse with

those Northern tribes; I therefore infer, that if British gold has not been employed, their

baubles and trinkets, and the promise of support and a place of refuge if necessary, have had

their effect.

If I am right in this conjecture, war is not to commence by sea or land, it is already begun:

and some of the richest blood of our country has already been shed…

This war, if carried on successfully, will have its advantages. We shall drive the British from

our Continent – they will no longer have an opportunity of intriguing with our Indian

neighbors, and setting on the ruthless savage to tomahawk our women and children. That

nation will lose her Canadian trade, and, by having no resting place in this country, her

means of annoying us will be diminished. The idea I am now about to advance is at war, I

know, with sentiments of the gentleman from Virginia: I am willing to receive the Canadians

as adopted brethren; it will have beneficial political effects; it will preserve the equilibrium of

the Government. When Louisiana shall be fully peopled, the Northern States will lose their

power; they will be at the discretion of others; they can be depressed at pleasure, and then


this Union might be endangered – I therefore feel anxious not only to add the Floridas to

the South, but the Canadas to the North of this empire…

Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 1st sess., 425-427.

Available through the Library of Congress

John Randolph, December 10, 1811

An insinuation has fallen from the gentleman from Tennessee, that the late massacre of our

brethren on the Wabash had been instigated by the British Government. Has the President

given any such information? Has the gentleman received any such, even informally, from an

officer of this government? Is it so believed by the Administration? He had cause to think

the contrary to be the fact; that such was not their opinion. This insinuation was of the

grossest kind – a presumption the most rash, the most unjustifiable. Show buy good ground

for it, he would give up the question at the threshold – he was ready to march to Canada. It

was indeed well calculated to excite the feelings of the Western people particularly, who were

not quite so tenderly attached to our red brethren as some modern philosophers; but it was

destitute of any foundation, beyond mere surmise and suspicion….

He could but smile at the liberality of the gentleman, in giving Canada to New York, in order

to strengthen the Northern balance of power, while at the same time he forewarned her that

Western scale must preponderate. Mr. R. said he could almost fancy that he saw the Capitol

in motion towards the falls of Ohio – after a short sojourn taking its flight to the Mississippi,

and finally alighting on Darien; which, when the gentleman’s dreams are realized, will be a

most eligible seat of Government for the Republic (or Empire) of the two Americas!…

This war of conquest, a war for the acquisition of territory, and subjects, is to be a new

commentary on the doctrine that republics are destitute of ambition—that they are addicted

to peace, wedded to the happiness and safety of the great body of their people. But it seems

that this is to be a holiday campaign—there is to be no expense of blood, or treasure, on our

part—Canada is to conquer herself…

What, sir, is the situation of the slaveholding states? … should we therefore be unobservant

spectators of the progress of society within the last 20 years—of that silent but powerful

change wrought by time and chance, upon its compositions and temper? When the fountains

of the great deep of abomination were broken up, even the poor slaves had not escaped the

general deluge. The French revolution had polluted even them. Nay, there had not been

wanting men in that house witness to their legislative Legendre, the butcher who once held a

seat there, to preach upon that flood these imprescriptible rights to a crowded audience of

blacks in the galleries—teaching them that they are equal to their masters; in other words,

advising them to cut their throats. Similar doctrines were disseminated by peddlers from

New England and elsewhere throughout the southern country… While talking of taking

Canada, some of us were shuddering for our own safety at home.”



…Name, however, but England, and all our antipathies are up in arms against her. Against

whom? Against those whose blood runs in our veins; in common with whom we claim

Shakespeare, and Newton, and Chatham, for our countrymen; whose form of government is

the freest on earth, our own only excepted, from whom every valuable principle of our

institutions had been borrowed – representation, jury trial, voting the supplies, writ of

habeas corpus – our whole civil and criminal jurisprudence – against our fellow Protestants

identified in blood, in language, in religion with ourselves…

Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 1st sess., 445-452.

Available through the Library of Congress



Abigail Bailey Escapes an Abusive

Relationship, 1815

Women in early America suffered from a lack of rights or means of defending themselves against domestic

abuse. The case of Abigail Bailey is remarkable because she was able to successfully free herself and her

children from an abusive husband and father.

Several months had passed, after Mr. B’s last wicked conduct before mentioned, and nothing

special took place. The following events then occurred. One of our young daughters, (too

young to be a legal witness, but old enough to tell the truth,) informed one of her sisters,

older than herself, what she saw and heard, more than a year before, on a certain Sabbath.

This sister being filled with grief and astonishment at what she had heard, informed her

oldest sister. When this oldest sister had heard the account, and was prepared to believe it,

(after all the strange things which she herself had seen and heard,) she was so shocked, that

she fainted. She was then at our house, I administered camphire, and such things as were

suitable in her case. She soon revived. She then informed me of the occasion of her fainting.

I had long before had full evidence to my mind of Mr. B’s great wickedness in this matter;

and I thought I was prepared to hear the worst. But verily the worst was dreadful! The last

great day will unfold it. I truly at this time had a new lesson added, to all that ever I before

heard, or conceived, of human depravity…

With much difficulty, and by the help of her aunt, I obtained ample information. I now

found that none of my dreadful apprehensions concerning Mr. B’s conduct had been too

high. And I thought the case of this daughter was the most to be pitied of any person I ever

knew. I wondered how the author of her calamities could tarry in this part of the world. I

thought that his guilty conscience must make him flee; and that shame must give him wings,

to fly with the utmost speed.

My query now was, what I ought to do? I had no doubt relative to my living any longer with

the author of our family miseries. This point was fully settled. But whether it would be

consistent with faithfulness to suffer him to flee, and not be made a monument of civil

justice, was my query. The latter looked to me inexpressibly painful. And I persuaded myself,

that if he would do what was right, relative to our property, and would go to some distant

place, where we should be afflicted with him no more, it might be sufficient; and I might be

spared the dreadful scene of prosecuting my husband.

I returned home, I told Mr. B. I had heard an awful account relative to some man. I

mentioned some particulars, without intimating who the man was; or what family was

affected by it. I immediately perceived he was deeply troubled! He turned pale, and trembled,

as if he had been struck with death. It was with difficulty he could speak. He asked nothing,

who the man was, that had done this great wickedness; but after a while said, I know you


believe it to be true; and that all our children believe it; but it is not true! Much more he said

in way of denying. But he said he did not blame me for thinking as I did.

He asked me, what I intended to do? I replied, that one thing was settled: I would never live

with him any more! He soon appeared in great anguish; and asked what I could advise him

to do? Such was his appearance, that the pity of my heart was greatly moved. He had been

my dear husband; and had destroyed himself. And now he felt something of his

wretchedness. I now felt my need of Christian fortitude, to be firm in pursuing my duty. I

was determined to put on firmness, and go through with the most interesting and

undesirable business, to which God, in his providence, had called me, and which I had

undertaken. I told him his case to me looked truly dreadful and desperate. That thought

[though] I had long and greatly labored for his reformation and good, yet he had rejected all

my advice. He had felt sufficient to be his own counselor; and now he felt something of the

result of his own counsels…

I proposed he should turn a one hundred acre lot, which we could well spare, and take the

avails of it.

I earnestly entreated him to break off his sins by unfeigned repentance, and make it his

immediate care to become reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, who died for lost man,

and even for the greatest of sinners. I suggested to Mr. B. that if he would reform, and

would never injure his family relative to the interest, I could truly wish him well, and so

much peace as was consistent with the holy and wise purposes of God. But that if he should

undertake any farther to afflict our family, or any of his dear children, he might expect

punishment in this life, and that the judgments of God would follow him. I begged of him

to treat his family well, in relation to our property, and to treat all mankind, henceforth, well.

Abigail Bailey, Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey, who had been the wife of Major Asa Bailey…, Ethan

Smith, ed. (Boston: 1815), 57-60.

Available through the Internet Archive



Genius of the Ladies Magazine Illustration,



Thackara & Vallance, Frontispiece and title page from “The Lady’s magazine, and repository of

entertaining knowledge” showing the “Genius of the Ladies magazine” presenting the figure of Liberty with a

copy of Mary Wollstoncraft’s “Vindication of the rights of women,” 1792 via Library of Congress.

Despite the restrictions imposed on their American citizenship, white women worked to

expand their rights to education in the new nation using literature and the arts. The first

journal for women in the United States, The Lady’s Magazine, and repository of entertaining

knowledge, introduced their initial volume with an engraving celebrating the transatlantic

exchange between women’s rights advocates. In the engraving, English writer Mary

Wollstonecraft presents her work, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” to Liberty who

has the tools of the arts at her feet.



America Guided by Wisdom Engraving, 1815

John J. Bartlett, “America guided by wisdom An allegorical representation of the United States depicting

their independence and prosperity,” 1815, via Library of Congress.

This print reflects the sense of triumph many white Americans felt following the War of

1812. Drawing from the visual language of Jeffersonian Republicans, we see America—

represented as a woman in classical dress—surrounded by gods of wisdom, commerce, and

agriculture on one side and a statue of George Washington emblazoned with the recent

war’s victories on the other. The romantic sense of the United States as the heir to the

ancient Roman republic, pride in military victory, and the glorification of domestic

production contributed to the idea the young nation was about to enter an “era of good




8. The Market Revolution

In the early years of the nineteenth century, Americans’ endless commercial ambition—what

one Baltimore paper in 1815 called an “almost universal ambition to get forward”—remade

the nation. Steam power, the technology that moved steamboats and railroads, fueled the

rise of American industry by powering mills and sparking new national transportation

networks. More and more farmers grew crops for profit, not self-sufficiency. Vast factories

and cities arose in the North. As northern textile factories boomed, the demand for southern

cotton swelled, and the institution of American slavery accelerated. The market revolution

sparked not only explosive economic growth and new personal wealth but also devastating

depressions—“panics”—and a growing lower class of property-less workers. Many

Americans labored for low wages and became trapped in endless cycles of poverty. Although

northern states gradually abolished slavery, their factories fueled the demand for slave-grown

southern cotton that ensured the profitability and continued existence of the American slave

system. And so, as the economy advanced, the market revolution wrenched the United

States in new directions as it became a nation of free labor and slavery, of wealth and

inequality, and of new promise and peril. These sources illustrate how the market revolution

transformed how Americans worked, traveled, politicked, and even loved.


James Madison Asks Congress to Support

Internal Improvements, 1815

After the War of 1812, Americans looked to strengthen their nation through government spending on

infrastructure, or what were then called internal improvements. In his seventh annual address to congress,

Madison called for public investment to create national roads, canals, and even a national seminary. He also

called for a tariff, or tax on certain imports, designed to make foreign goods more expensive, giving American

producers an advantage in domestic markets.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

…Notwithstanding the security for future repose which the United States ought to find in

their love of peace and their constant respect for the rights of other nations, the character of

the times particularly inculcates the lesson that, whether to prevent or repel danger, we ought

not to be unprepared for it. This consideration will sufficiently recommend to Congress a

liberal provision for the immediate extension and gradual completion of the works

of defense, both fixed and floating, on our maritime frontier, and an adequate provision for

guarding our inland frontier against dangers to which certain portions of it may continue to

be exposed…

In adjusting the duties on imports to the object of revenue the influence of the tariff on

manufactures will necessarily present itself for consideration. However wise the theory may

be which leaves to the sagacity and interest of individuals the application of their industry

and resources, there are in this as in other cases exceptions to the general rule. Besides the

condition which the theory itself implies of a reciprocal adoption by other nations,

experience teaches that so many circumstances must concur in introducing and maturing

manufacturing establishments, especially of the more complicated kinds, that a country may

remain long without them, although sufficiently advanced and in some respects even

peculiarly fitted for carrying them on with success. Under circumstances giving a powerful

impulse to manufacturing industry it has made among us a progress and exhibited an

efficiency which justify the belief that with a protection not more than is due to the

enterprising citizens whose interests are now at stake it will become at an early day not only

safe against occasional competitions from abroad, but a source of domestic wealth and even

of external commerce. In selecting the branches more especially entitled to the public

patronage a preference is obviously claimed by such as will relieve the United States from a

dependence on foreign supplies ever subject to casual failures, for articles necessary for the

public defense or connected with the primary wants of individuals. It will be an additional

recommendation of particular manufactures where the materials for them are extensively

drawn from our agriculture, and consequently impart and insure to that great fund of

national prosperity and independence an encouragement which can not fail to be rewarded.


Among the means of advancing the public interest the occasion is a proper one for recalling

the attention of Congress to the great importance of establishing throughout our country the

roads and canals which can best be executed under the national authority. No objects within

the circle of political economy so richly repay the expense bestowed on them; there are none

the utility of which is more universally ascertained and acknowledged; none that do more

honor to the governments whose wise and enlarged patriotism duly appreciates them. Nor is

there any country which presents a field where nature invites more the art of man to

complete her own work for his accommodation and benefit. These considerations are

strengthened, moreover, by the political effect of these facilities for intercommunication in

bringing and binding more closely together the various parts of our extended confederacy.

Whilst the States individually, with a laudable enterprise and emulation, avail themselves of

their local advantages by new roads, by navigable canals, and by improving the streams

susceptible of navigation, the General Government is the more urged to similar

undertakings, requiring a national jurisdiction and national means, by the prospect of thus

systematically completing so inestimable a work; and it is a happy reflection that any defect

of constitutional authority which may be encountered can be supplied in a mode which the

Constitution itself has providently pointed out.

The present is a favorable season also for bringing again into view the establishment of a

national seminary of learning within the District of Columbia, and with means drawn from

the property therein, subject to the authority of the General Government. Such an

institution claims the patronage of Congress as a monument of their solicitude for the

advancement of knowledge, without which the blessings of liberty can not be fully enjoyed

or long preserved; as a model instructive in the formation of other seminaries; as a nursery

of enlightened preceptors, and as a central resort of youth and genius from every part of

their country, diffusing on their return examples of those national feelings, those liberal

sentiments, and those congenial manners which contribute cement to our Union and

strength to the great political fabric of which that is the foundation….

It remains for the guardians of the public welfare to persevere in that justice and good will

toward other nations which invite a return of these sentiments toward the United States; to

cherish institutions which guarantee their safety and their liberties, civil and religious; and to

combine with a liberal system of foreign commerce an improvement of the national

advantages and a protection and extension of the independent resources of our highly

favored and happy country.

The Speeches, Addresses, and Messages of the Several Presidents of the United States… (Philadelphia:

1825), 330-335.

Available through the Internet Archive



A Traveler Describes Life Along the Erie

Canal, 1829

Basil Hall, a British visitor traveled along the Erie Canal and took careful notes on what he found. In this

excerpt, he described life in Rochester, New York. Rochester, and other small towns in upstate New York,

grew rapidly as a result of the Erie Canal.

On the 25th of June we drove across the country to the village of Rochester, which is built

on the banks of the Genesee river, just above some beautiful waterfalls, and only a few miles

from the southern shore of Lake Ontario, which, I was sorry to find, was not visible from

thence, owing to the dense screen of untouched forest which intervenes. The Erie Canal

passes through the heart of this singular village, and strides across the Genesee River on a

noble aqueduct of stone.

Rochester is celebrated all over the Union as presenting one of the most striking instances of

rapid increase in size and population of which that country affords any example. It may be

proper to remark, that about this period I began to learn that in America the word

improvement, which, in England, means making things better, signifies, in that country, an

augmentation in the number of houses and people, and above all, in the amount of the acres

of cleared land. It is laid down by the Americans as an admitted maxim, to doubt the solidity

of which never enters any man s head for an instant, that a rapid increase of population is, to

all intents and purposes, tantamount to an increase of national greatness and power, as well

as an increase of individual happiness and prosperity. Consequently, say they, such increase

ought to be forwarded by every possible means, as the greatest blessing to the country…

The ladies in America obtain their fashions direct from Paris. I speak now of the great cities

on the sea-coast, where the communication with Europe is easy and frequent. In the back

settlements, people are obliged to catch what opportunities come in their way; and

accordingly, many applications were made to us for a sight of our wardrobe, which, it may

be supposed, was none of the largest. The child’s clothes excited most interest, however, and

patterns were asked for on many occasions.

While touching on this subject, I hope I may be permitted to say a few words, without giving

offence certainly without meaning to give any respecting the attire of the male part of the

population, who, I have reason to think, do not, generally speaking, consider dress an object

deserving of nearly so much attention as it undoubtedly ought, to receive. It seems to me

that dress is a branch, and not an unimportant branch, of manners, a science they all profess

themselves anxious to study. The men, probably without their being aware of it, have,

somehow or other, acquired a habit of negligence in this respect quite obvious to the eye of

a stranger. From the hat, which is never brushed, to the shoe, which is seldom polished, all

parts of their dress are often left pretty much to take care of themselves. Nothing seems to

fit, or to be made with any precision.


The chief source of the commercial and agricultural prosperity of Rochester is the Erie

canal, as that village is made the emporium of the rich agricultural districts bordering on the

Genesee river; and its capitalists both send out and import a vast quantity of wheat, flour,

beef, and pork, pot and pearl ashes, whiskey, and so on. In return for these articles,

Rochester supplies the adjacent country with all kinds of manufactured goods, which are

carried up by the canal from New York. In proportion as the soil is brought into cultivation,

or subdued, to use the local phrase, the consumers will become more numerous, and their

means more extensive. Thus the demands of the surrounding country must go on

augmenting rapidly, and along with them, both the imports and exports of every kind will

increase in pro portion. There were in 1826 no less than 160 canal boats, drawn by 882

horses, owned by persons actually residing in the village, besides numberless others

belonging to non-residents.

Out of more than 8000 souls in this gigantic young village, there was not to be found in

1827 a single grown-up person born there, the oldest native not being then seventeen years

of age. The population is composed principally of emigrants from New England that is from

the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and

Vermont. Some settlers are to be found from other parts of the Union; and these, together

with a considerable number from Germany, England, Ireland, and Scotland, and a few

natives of Canada, Norway, and Switzerland, make up a very singular society….

Much of all this prosperity may be traced to the cheapness of conveyance on the Erie


On the 26th of June, 1827, we strolled through the village of Rochester, under the guidance

of a most obliging and intelligent friend, a native of this part of the country. Everything in

this bustling place appeared to be in motion. The very streets seemed to be starting up of

their own accord, ready-made, and looking as fresh and new, as if they had been turned out

of the workmen s hands but an hour before, or that a great boxful of new houses had been

sent by steam from New York, and tumbled out on the half-cleared land. The canal banks

were at some places still un turfed; the lime seemed hardly dry in the masonry of the

aqueduct, in the bridges, and in the numberless great saw-mills and manufactories. In many

of these buildings the people were at work below stairs, while at top the carpenters were

busy nailing on the planks of the roof.

Some dwellings were half painted, while the foundations of others, within five yards

distance, were only beginning. I cannot say how many churches, courthouses, jails, and

hotels I counted, all in motion, creeping upwards. Several streets were nearly finished, but

had not as yet received their names; and many others were in the reverse predicament, being

named, but not commenced, their local habitation being merely signified by lines of stakes.

Here and there we saw great warehouses, without window sashes, but half filled with goods,

and furnished with hoisting cranes, ready to fish up the huge pyramids of flour barrels, bales,

and boxes lying in the streets. In the center of the town the spire of a Presbyterian church

rose to a great height, and on each side of the supporting tower was to be seen the dial-plate

of a clock, of which the machinery, in the hurry-scurry, had been left at New York. I need


not say that these half-finished, whole-finished, and embryo streets were crowded with

people, carts, stages, cattle, pigs, far beyond the reacli of numbers; and as all these were

lifting up their voices together, in keeping with the clatter of hammers, the ringing of axes,

and the creaking of machinery, there was a fine concert, I assure you!

Basil Hall, Travels in North America, in the year 827 and 1828 (Philadelphia: 1829), 83-87.

Available through the Internet Archive



Blacksmith Apprentice Contract, 1836

The factories and production of the Market Revolution eroded the wealth and power of skilled small business

owners called artisans. This indenture contract illustrated the former way of doing things, where a young

person would agree to serve for a number of years as an apprentice to a skilled artisan before venturing out on

his own.

Indenture of an Apprentice

This Indenture witnesseth, that James Long, of the township of Lower Makesfield, in the

county of Bucks, son of Francis Long, by and with the consent of his father, as testified by

his signing as a witness herento, hath put himself, and by these presents doth voluntarily,

and of his own free will and accord, put himself apprentice to Samuel Downs, of the same

place, Blacksmith, to learn his art, trade and mystery, and after the manner of an apprentice

to serve him from the day of the date hereof, for and during the full end and term of four

years and two months, next ensuing. During all which term the apprentice his said master

faithfully shall serve, his secrets keep, his lawful commands every where gladly obey. He shall

do no damage to his said master, nor see it done by others, without letting or giving notice

thereof to his said master. He shall not waste his said master’s goods, nor lend them

unlawfully to any. With his own goods, nor the goods of others, without license from his

said master, he shall neither buy nor sell. He shall not absent himself day nor night from his

said master’s service without his leave; nor haunt ale-houses, taverns or play-houses; but in

all things behave himself as a faithful apprentice ought to do, during the said term. And the

said master shall use the utmost of his endeavors to teach our cause to be taught or

instructed the said apprentice, in the trade or mystery of a Blacksmith; and procure for him

sufficient meat, drink, apparel, lodging and washing fitting for an apprentice, during the said

term of four years and two months, and give him within the said term six months’ schooling,

one-half thereof is to be in the last year of the said term; and when he is free, to give him

two suits of clothing, one whereof is to be entirely new. And for the performance of all and

singular the covenants and agreements aforesaid, the said parties bind themselves unto the

other, firmly, by these presents. In witness hereof, the said parties have set their hands and

seals hereunto—Dates the first day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight

hundred and thirty six.

James Long.

Sealed and delivered in the presence of Francis Long.

Jason M. Mahan, The Private Instructor, or Mathematics Simplified, comprising everything necessary in

arithmetic, bookkeeping, conveyancing, mesuration, and gauging, to form and complete the man of

business (Harrisburg: 1835), 231-232.

Available through Google Books



Maria Stewart bemoans the consequences of

racism, 1832

Maria Stewart electrified audiences in Boston with a number of powerful speeches. Her most common theme

was the evil of slavery. However, here she attacks the soul-crushing consequences of racism in American

capitalism, claiming that the lack of social and economic equality doomed Black Americans to a life of

suffering and spiritual death.

Why sit ye here and die? If we say we will go to a foreign land, the famine and the pestilence

are there, and there we shall die. If we sit here, we shall die. Come let us plead our cause

before the whites: if they save us alive, we shall live—and if they kill us, we shall but die.

Methinks I heard a spiritual interrogation—’Who shall go forward, and take off the reproach

that is cast upon the people of color? Shall it be a woman? And my heart made this reply —

’If it is thy will, be it even so, Lord Jesus!’

I have heard much respecting the horrors of slavery; but may Heaven forbid that the

generality of my color throughout these United States should experience any more of its

horrors than to be a servant of servants, or hewers of wood and drawers of water! Tell us no

more of southern slavery; for with few exceptions, although I may be very erroneous in my

opinion, yet I consider our condition but little better than that. Yet, after all, methinks there

are no chains so galling as the chains of ignorance—no fetters so binding as those that bind

the soul, and exclude it from the vast field of useful and scientific knowledge. O, had I

received the advantages of early education, my ideas would, ere now, have expanded far and

wide; but, alas! I possess nothing but moral capability—no teachings but the teachings of the

Holy spirit.

I have asked several individuals of my sex, who transact business for themselves, if providing

our girls were to give them the most satisfactory references, they would not be willing to

grant them an equal opportunity with others? Their reply has been—for their own part, they

had no objection; but as it was not the custom, were they to take them into their employ,

they would be in danger of losing the public patronage.

And such is the powerful force of prejudice. Let our girls possess what amiable qualities of

soul they may; let their characters be fair and spotless as innocence itself; let their natural

taste and ingenuity be what they may; it is impossible for scarce an individual of them to rise

above the condition of servants…

Few white persons of either sex, who are calculated for any thing else, are willing to spend

their lives and bury their talents in performing mean, servile labor. And such is the horrible

idea that I entertain respecting a life of servitude, that if I conceived of there being no

possibility of my rising above the condition of a servant, I would gladly hail death as a

welcome messenger. O, horrible idea, indeed! to possess noble souls aspiring after high and

honorable acquirements, yet confined by the chains of ignorance and poverty to lives of

continual drudgery and toil. Neither do I know of any who have enriched themselves by


spending their lives as house-domestics, washing windows, shaking carpets, brushing boots,

or tending upon gentlemen’s tables. I can but die for expressing my sentiments; and I am as

willing to die by the sword as the pestilence; for I and a true born American; your blood

flows in my veins, and your spirit fires my breast.

I observed a piece in the Liberator a few months since, stating that the colonizationists had

published a work respecting us, asserting that we were lazy and idle. I confute them on that

point. Take us generally as a people, we are neither lazy nor idle; and considering how little

we have to excite or stimulate us, I am almost astonished that there are so many industrious

and ambitious ones to be found; although I acknowledge, with extreme sorrow, that there

are some who never were and never will be serviceable to society. And have you not a

similar class among yourselves?

Again. It was asserted that we were “a ragged set, crying for liberty.” I reply to it, the whites

have so long and so loudly proclaimed the theme of equal rights and privileges, that our

souls have caught the flame also, ragged as we are. As far as our merit deserves, we feel a

common desire to rise above the condition of servants and drudges. I have learnt, by bitter

experience, that continual hard labor deadens the energies of the soul, and benumbs the

faculties of the mind; the ideas become confined, the mind barren, and, like the scorching

sands of Arabia, produces nothing; or, like the uncultivated soil, brings forth thorns and


Again, continual hard labor irritates our tempers and sours our dispositions; the whole

system becomes worn out with toil and failure; nature herself becomes almost exhausted,

and we care but little whether we live or die. It is true, that the free people of color

throughout these United States are neither bought nor sold, nor under the lash of the cruel

driver; many obtain a comfortable support; but few, if any, have an opportunity of becoming

rich and independent; and the employments we most pursue are as unprofitable to us as the

spider’s web or the floating bubbles that vanish into air. As servants, we are respected; but

let us presume to aspire any higher, our employer regards us no longer. And where it not

that the King eternal has declared that Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God, I

should indeed despair.

… Do you ask, why are you wretched and miserable? I reply, look at many of the most

worthy and interesting of us doomed to spend our lives in gentlemen’s kitchens. Look at our

young men, smart, active and energetic, with souls filled with ambitious fire; if they look

forward, alas! what are their prospects? They can be nothing but the humblest laborers, on

account of their dark complexions; hence many of them lose their ambition, and become

worthless. Look at our middle-aged men, clad in their rusty plaids and coats; in winter, every

cent they earn goes to buy their wood and pay their rents; their poor wives also toil beyond

their strength, to help support their families. Look at our aged sires, whose heads are

whitened with the front of seventy winters, with their old wood-saws on their backs. Alas,

what keeps us so? Prejudice, ignorance and poverty. But ah! methinks our oppression is soon

to come to an end; yes, before the Majesty of heaven, our groans and cries have reached the

ears of the Lord of Sabaoth [James 5:4]. As the prayers and tears of Christians will avail the


finally impenitent nothing; neither will the prayers and tears of the friends of humanity avail

us any thing, unless we possess a spirit of virtuous emulation within our breasts. Did the

pilgrims, when they first landed on these shores, quietly compose themselves, and say, “the

Britons have all the money and all the power, and we must continue their servants forever?”

Did they sluggishly sigh and say, “our lot is hard, the Indians own the soil, and we cannot

cultivate it?” No; they first made powerful efforts to raise themselves and then God raised

up those illustrious patriots WASHINGTON and LAFAYETTE, to assist and defend them.

And, my brethren, have you made a powerful effort? Have you prayed the Legislature for

mercy’s sake to grant you all the rights and privileges of free citizens, that your daughters

may raise to that degree of respectability which true merit deserves, and your sons above the

servile situations which most of them fill?

Maria W. Stewart, “Lecture Delivered At The Franklin Hall, Boston, September 21, 1832”

in Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart (Washington: 1879), 55-59.

Available through Google Books

Harriet H. Robinson Remembers a Mill Workers’ Strike, 1836

The social upheavals of the Market Revolution created new tensions between rich and poor, particularly

between the new class of workers and the new class of managers. Lowell, Massachusetts was the location of

the first American factory. In this document, a woman reminisces about a strike that she participated in at a

Lowell textile mill.

One of the first strikes of cotton-factory operatives that ever took place in this country was

that in Lowell, in October, 1836. When it was announced that the wages were to be cut

down, great indignation was felt, and it was decided to strike, en masse. This was done. The

mills were shut down, and the girls went in procession from their several corporations to the

“grove” on Chapel Hill, and listened to “incendiary” speeches from early labor reformers.

One of the girls stood on a pump, and gave vent to the feelings of her companions in a neat

speech, declaring that it was their duty to resist all attempts at cutting down the wages. This

was the first time a woman had spoken in public in Lowell, and the event caused surprise

and consternation among her audience.

Cutting down the wages was not their only grievance, nor the only cause of this strike.

Hitherto the corporations had paid twenty—five cents a week towards the board of each

operative, and now it was their purpose to have the girls pay the sum; and this, in addition to

the cut in the wages, would make a difference of at least one dollar a week. It was estimated

that as many as twelve or fifteen hundred girls turned out, and walked in procession through

the streets. They had neither flags nor music, but sang songs, a favorite (but rather

inappropriate) one being a parody on “I won’t be a nun. ”

“Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as I-



Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die?

Oh ! I cannot be a slave,

I will not be a slave,

For I’m so fond of liberty

That I cannot be a slave.”

My own recollection of this first strike (or “turn out” as it was called) is very vivid. I worked

in a lower room, where I had heard the proposed strike fully, if not vehemently, discussed; I

had been an ardent listener to what was said against this attempt at “oppression” on the part

of the corporation, and naturally I took sides with the strikers. When the day came on which

the girls were to turn out, those in the upper rooms started first, and so many of them left

that our mill was at once shut down. Then, when the girls in my room stood irresolute,

uncertain what to do, asking each other, “Would you? ” or “Shall we turn out?” and not one

of them having the courage to lead off, I, who began to think they would not go out, after all

their talk, became impatient, and started on ahead, saying, with childish bravado, “I don’t

care what you do, I am going to turn out, whether any one else does or not;‘’ and I marched

out, and was followed by the others.

As I looked back at the long line that followed me, I was more proud than I have ever been

since at any success I may have achieved, and more proud than I shall ever be again until my

own beloved State gives to its women citizens the right of suffrage.

The agent of the corporation where I then worked took some small revenges on the

supposed ringleaders; on the principle of sending the weaker to the wall, my mother was

turned away from her boarding-house, that functionary saying,“Mrs. Hanson, you could not

prevent the older girls from turning out, but your daughter is a child, and her you could


It is hardly necessary to say that so far as results were concerned this strike did no good. The

dissatisfaction of the operatives subsided, or burned itself out, and though the authorities did

not accede to their demands, the majority returned to their work, and the corporation went

on cutting down the wages.

And after a time, as the wages became more and more reduced, the best portion of the girls

left and went to their homes, or to the other employments that were fast opening to women,

until there were very few of the old guard left.

Harriet H. Robinson, Loom and spindle : or, life among the early mill girls ; with a sketch of “The

Lowell Offering” and some of its contributors (New York: 1898), 83-86.

Available through the Internet Archive



Alexis de Tocqueville, “How Americans

Understand the Equality of the Sexes,” 1840

The French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville traveled extensively through the United States in

gathering research for his book Democracy In America. In this excerpt, he described the belief that

American men and women lived in “separate spheres,” men in public, women in the home. This expectation

justified the denial of rights to women. All women were denied political rights in nineteenth century America,

but only a small number of wealthy families could afford to remove women from economic production, like de

Tocqueville claimed.

There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the

sexes, would make man and woman into beings not only equal but alike. They would give to

both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights;

they would mix them in all things–their occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may

readily be conceived that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are

degraded, and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever

result but weak men and disorderly women.

It is not thus that the Americans understand that species of democratic equality which may

be established between the sexes. They admit that as nature has appointed such wide

differences between the physical and moral constitution of man and woman, her manifest

design was to give a distinct employment to their various faculties; and they hold that

improvement does not consist in making beings so dissimilar do pretty nearly the same

things, but in causing each of them to fulfill their respective tasks in the best possible

manner. The Americans have applied to the sexes the great principle of political economy

which governs the manufacturers of our age, by carefully dividing the duties of man from

those of woman in order that the great work of society may be the better carried on.

In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct

lines of action for the two sexes and to make them keep pace one with the other, but in two

pathways that are always different. American women never manage the outward concerns of

the family or conduct a business or take a part in political life; nor are they, on the other

hand, ever compelled to perform the rough labor of the fields or to make any of those

laborious efforts which demand the exertion of physical strength. No families are so poor as

to form an exception to this rule. If, on the one hand, an American woman cannot escape

from the quiet circle of domestic employments, she is never forced, on the other, to go

beyond it. Hence it is that the women of America, who often exhibit a masculine strength of

understanding and a manly energy, generally preserve great delicacy of personal appearance

and always retain the manners of women although they sometimes show that they have the

hearts and minds of men.

Nor have the Americans ever supposed that one consequence of democratic principles is the

subversion of marital power or the confusion of the natural authorities in families. They hold

that every association must have a head in order to accomplish its object, and that the


natural head of the conjugal association is man. They do not therefore deny him the right of

directing his partner, and they maintain that in the smaller association of husband and wife

as well as in the great social community the object of democracy is to regulate and legalize

the powers that are necessary, and not to subvert all power.

This opinion is not peculiar to one sex and contested by the other; I never observed that the

women of America consider conjugal authority as a fortunate usurpation of their rights, or

that they thought themselves degraded by submitting to it. It appeared to me, on the

contrary, that they attach a sort of pride to the voluntary surrender of their own will and

make it their boast to bend themselves to the yoke, not to shake it off. Such, at least, is the

feeling expressed by the most virtuous of their sex; the others are silent; and in the United

States it is not the practice for a guilty wife to clamor for the rights of women while she is

trampling on her own holiest duties…

Thus the Americans do not think that man and woman have either the duty or the right to

perform the same offices, but they show an equal regard for both their respective parts;

and though their lot is different, they consider both of them as beings of equal value. They

do not give to the courage of woman the same form or the same direction as to that of man,

but they never doubt her courage; and if they hold that man and his partner ought not

always to exercise their intellect and understanding in the same manner, they at least believe

the understanding of the one to be as sound as that of the other, and her intellect to be as

clear. Thus, then, while they have allowed the social inferiority of woman to continue, they

have done all they could to raise her morally and intellectually to the level of man; and in this

respect they appear to me to have excellently understood the true principle of democratic


As for myself, I do not hesitate to avow that although the women of the United States are

confined within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is in some respects one

of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position; and if I

were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so

many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing

strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of

their women.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II. E-text created by the American

Studies Program at the University of Virginia. Charlotesville, VA, 1997.

Available through the University of Virginia



Abolitionist Sheet Music Cover Page, 1844

Jesse Hutchinson and B.W. Thayer & Co, “’Get off the track!’ A song for emancipation, sung by The

Hutchinsons,” 1844, via Library of Congress.

The “transportation revolution” shaped economic change in the early 1800s, but the massive

construction of railroads also had a profound impact on American politics and culture. This

sheet music title page shows how abolitionists used railroad imagery to advocate for the

immediate emancipation of enslaved people and to promote their political platform before

the 1844 presidential election.



Anti-Catholic Cartoon, 1855

N. Currier, “The Propagation Society, More Free than Welcome,” 1855, via Library of Congress.

Irish immigration transformed American cities. Yet many Americans greeted the new arrivals

with suspicion or hostility. Nathanial Currier’s anti-Catholic cartoon reflected the popular

American perception that Irish Catholic immigrants posed a threat to the United States.


Anti-Catholic Cartoon, 1855


9. Democracy in America

Today, most Americans think democracy is a good thing. We tend to assume the nation’s

early political leaders believed the same. Wasn’t the American Revolution a victory for

democratic principles? For many of the Founders, however, the answer was no. American

democracy did not flow smoothly after the American Revolution. It had to be fought for

again and again. The 1830s were dominated by battles over democracy as a new populist

Democratic Party led by Andrew Jackson repealed property restrictions on voting. Universal

white male suffrage was the rallying cry of the era. This expansion of the franchise occurred

at the expense of black Americans, however, as race came to replace class as barrier to

democratic participation. These sources explore the fights over democracy at the heart of the



Missouri Controversy Documents, 1819-1920

Southerners dominated the highest federal offices in the early United States, as Virginians held the

Presidency thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of the nation’s history. Northerners resented this dominance

and sectional tensions simmered until they threatened to boil over in 1820 when James Tallmadge included

the below amendment to Missouri’s application for statehood. Included below is Tallmadge’s amendment; the

final act which settled the crisis, at least temporarily; and a private letter from Thomas Jefferson illustrating

his reaction to the crisis.

Tallmadge Amendment, February 13, 1819

And provided, that the further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be

prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been fully

convicted; and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into

the Union, shall be free at the age of twenty-five years

Lawrence Wilson, ed., The National Register: A weekly paper, containing a series of the important

public documents, and the proceedings of Congres…Volume VII (Washington City: 1819), 125.

Available through Google Books

Missouri Admission Act

An Act to authorize the people of the Missouri territory to form a constitution and state

government, and for the admission of such state into the Union on an equal footing with the

original states, and to prohibit slavery in certain territories.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America,

in Congress assembled, That the inhabitants of that portion of the Missouri territory

included within the boundaries herein after designated, be, and they are hereby, authorized

to form for themselves a constitution and state government, and to assume such name as

they shall deem proper; and the said state, when formed, shall be admitted into the Union,

upon an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatsoever….

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted. That in all that territory ceded by France to the United

States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes

north latitude, not included within the limits of the state, contemplated by this act, slavery

and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the parties

shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and is hereby, forever prohibited: Provided always,

That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed, in



any state or territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and

conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.

APPROVED, March 6, 1820.

Conference committee report on the Missouri Compromise, March 1, 1820; Joint

Committee of Conference on the Missouri Bill, 03/01/1820-03/06/1820; Record Group

128l; Records of Joint Committees of Congress, 1789-1989; National Archives.

Available through the National Archives and Records Administration

Thomas Jefferson letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820

I thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your

constituents on the Missouri question. It is a perfect justification to them. I had for a long

time ceased to read the newspapers or pay any attention to public affairs, confident they

were in good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am

not distant. But this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me

with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the

moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with

a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of

men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. I can

say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I

would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. The cession of that kind

of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second

thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and,

gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. But, as it is, we have the wolf by the

ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-

preservation in the other. Of one thing I am certain, that as the passage of slaves from one

state to another would not make a slave of a single human being who would not be so

without it, so their diffusion over a greater surface would make them individually happier

and proportionally facilitate the accomplishment of their emancipation, by dividing the

burthen on a greater number of coadjutors. An abstinence too from this act of power would

remove the jealousy excited by the undertaking of Congress, to regulate the condition of the

different descriptions of men composing a state. This certainly is the exclusive right of every

state, which nothing in the constitution has taken from them and given to the general

government. Could congress, for example say that the Non-freemen of Connecticut, shall be

freemen, or that they shall not emigrate into any other state?

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the

generation of ’76, to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown

away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to

be that I live not to weep over it. If they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they

will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by



scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves

and of treason against the hopes of the world.

To yourself as the faithful advocate of union I tender the offering of my high esteem and


Th. Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, April 22, 1820. Letter. From Library of Congress, Thomas

Jefferson Exhibition. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/159.html (accessed July 18, 2015)

Available through the Library of Congress



Rhode Islanders Protest Property Restrictions

on Voting, 1834

Many poor white men gained voting rights, also known as suffrage, for the first time in the 1830s. These

changes in American democracy did not take place without conflict. Voting rights in Rhode Island only

changed after poor Rhode Islanders raised a militia and threatened violence. Below is the proposal of many of

the men who seven years later took up arms to fight for voting rights.

…We have arrived at the conclusion that government was designed for the protection

and perpetuation of rights—not derived from itself, but natural and inherent—in such a way

as to promote the greatest good of the whole; and that the question now before us is, not

what right of suffrage the government ought to grant as a gift, but with what restrictions,

required by this greatest good, suffrage may be claimed as a right by the people of this State.

Is it consistent with this general good that the present landed qualifications should be any

longer continued…?

…we should show that the present restriction is, in its operation, inconsistent with

republican principles, then we shall secure the aid of all those who consistently hold those

principles, in having this restriction removed…

…whatever course a true patriot might feel himself to adopt in one of

the corrupt monarchies of the old world, no such reason can e given for a postponement of

political rights in our own country. No privileged orders have ever existed in it, to create a

vast inequality which prevails elsewhere between the many and the few. A freedom was

brought with the by our ancestors, and has ever subsisted among us…The true American

doctrine is, that the majority have not only a right to govern, but that they are sufficiently

intelligent and honest to govern; and that, if there be any doubt about this sufficiency, we

ought immediately to set to work and build more schools. Men in Europe, who are opposed

to any further improvement in government, may talk about the necessity of “barring out the

people,” and of “defending themselves against the people.” But this will not do here…

…the condition of things has changed—the towns have changed; new interests have sprung

up, and useful citizens, who own no land, but who contribute by their occupations, and by

the payment of taxes to the extend of their means, their proportionate measure to the public

welfare. Yet these men have no voice in the government which they contribute to

support; being excluded upon the false notion that landed property is the only kind that is

decisive of a man’s intelligence and honesty. Look at the hardship of the case of a mechanic,

for instance. He has received a common education; he has served as a journeyman, and is

now about to commence business for himself with some small earnings of his own; his

savings are only sufficient to procure the implements of his trade. After faily starting in life

on his own account, he becomes anxious to provide for himself a home. He marries; he

hires a tenement; in the course of time he acquires more money, which his interest demands


should be invested in the stock of his trade. He is fully able to purchase one hundred and

thirty four dollars worth of land; but it is, in most cases, against his interest to do so, until he

can purchase a great deal more. In the mean time, he is debarred from the polls; and if he

asks why, the answer must be that the non freeholders are too ignorant and dishonest to be

trusted in so important a matter as voting. This we believe is a fair statement of the case of

hundreds of mechanics in this State…

But this restriction is not merely burdensome upon traders and mechanics. How fare the

younger sons of farmers? True, a sort of virtue is transmitted from the land-owner, but it

reaches no farther than the first-born son… the real question is why either of the sons, or

any other person should be exempted from the general law of qualification, whatever it may

be. No good reason has been, nor can be, given…

The majority of lawyers, clergymen, and physicians, as a body, certainly are not landholders,

and yet we freely intrust our property, our consciences, and our lives, to men who, the law

says, are too ignorant and corrupt to vote for a constable!…

The existing restriction on suffrage is, then, we think, clearly in opposition to the real

intention of our ancestors, and to the spirit of democracy which they established… If it were

unjust for our forefathers to be taxes without representation, it is equally unjust for our their

descendants to be so taxed by their brethren, as long as they have not vote in determining

either the quantity or appropriation…

An Address to the People of Rhode Island, from the Convention assembled at Providence, on the 22nd day of

February, and again on the 12th day of March, 1834, to Promote the Establishment of a State

Constitution (Providence: 1834), 32-34, 38-40, 44-45.

Available through the Internet Archive



Black Philadelphians Defend their Voting

Rights, 1838

The expansion of voting rights to poor white men brought a loss of voting rights for Black men. Race, rather

than class, quickly became the most important social distinction in the United States. Some wealthy Black

men, like James Forten and Robert Purvis of Pennsylvania, lost voting rights that they previously enjoyed. In

this document, Philadelphians protest the loss of their voting rights.

PHILADELPHIA, March 14, 1838.

FELLOW CITIZENS:— We appeal to you from the decision of the “Reform Convention,”

which has stripped us of a right peaceably enjoyed during forty-seven years under the

Constitution of this commonwealth. We honor Pennsylvania and her noble institutions too

much to part with our birthright, as her free citizens, without a struggle. To all her citizens

the right of suffrage is valuable in proportion as she is free; but surely there are none who

can so ill afford to spare it as ourselves…

To us our right under the Constitution has been more precious, and our deprivation of it will

be the more grievous, because our expatriation has come to be a darling project with many

of our fellow citizens. Our abhorrence of a scheme which comes to us in the guise of

Christian benevolence, and asks us to suffer ourselves to be transplanted to a distant

and barbarous land…. We love our native country, much as it has wronged us; and in the

peaceable exercise of our inalienable rights, we will cling to it. The immortal Franklin, and his

fellow laborers in the cause of humanity, have bound us to our homes here with chains of

gratitude. We are PENNSYLVANIANS, and we hope to see the day when Pennsylvania will

have reason to be proud of us, as we believe she has now none to be ashamed. Will you

starve our patriotism? Will you cast our hearts out of the treasury of the commonwealth? Do

you count our enmity better than our friendship?…

We were regarded as citizens by those who drew up the articles of confederation between the

States, in 1778…On the adoption of the present Constitution of the United States no

change was made as to the rights of citizenship. This is explicitly proved by the Journal

of Congress….

We ask your attention, fellow citizens, to facts and testimonies which go to show that,

considering the circumstances in which we have been placed, our country has no reason to

be ashamed of us, and that those have the most occasion to blush to whom nature has given

the power.

By the careful inquiry of a committee appointed by the “Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the

Abolition of Slavery,” it has been ascertained that the colored population of Philadelphia and

its suburbs, numbering 18,768 souls, possess at the present time, of real and personal estate,

not less than $1,350,000. They have paid for taxes during the last year $3,252.83, for house,


water, and ground rent, $166,963.50. This committee estimate the income to the holders of

real estate occupied by the colored people, to be 7½ per cent. on a capital of about

$2,000,000. Here is an addition to the wealth of their white brethren. But the rents and taxes

are not all; to pay them, the colored people must be employed in labor, and here is another

profit to the whites, for no man employs another unless he can make his labor profitable to

himself. For a similar reason, a profit is made by all the whites who sell to colored people the

necessaries or luxuries of life. Though the aggregate amount of the wealth derived by the

whites from our people can only be conjectured, its importance is worthy of consideration

by those who would make it less by lessening our motive to accumulate for ourselves.

Nor is the profit derived from us counterbalanced by the sums which we in any way draw

from the public treasures. From a statement published by order of the Guardians of the Poor of

Philadelphia, in 1830, it appears that out of 549 out-door poor relived during the year, only 22

were persons of color, being about four per cent. of the whole number, while the ratio of

our population to that of the city and suburbs exceeds 8¼ per cent…

That we are not neglectful of our religious interests, nor of the education of our children, is

shown by the fact that there are among us in Philadelphia, Pittsburg , York, West Chester,

and Columbia, 22 churches, 48 clergymen, 26 day schools, 20 Sabbath schools, 125 Sabbath

school teachers, 4 literary societies, 2 public libraries, consisting of about 800 volumes,

besides 8,333 volumes in private libraries, 2 tract societyes, 2 Bible societies, and 7

temperance societies….

Are we to be disfranchised, lest the purity of the white blood should be sullied by an

intermixture with ours? It seems to us that our white brethren might well enough reserve

their fear, till we seek such alliance with them. We ask no social favors. We would not

willingly darken the doors of those to whom the complexion and features, which our Maker

has given us, are disagreeable. The territories of the commonwealth are sufficiently ample to

afford us a home without doing violence to the delicate nerves of our white brethren, for

centuries to come. Besides, we are not intruders here, nor were our ancestors. Surely you

ought to bear as unrepiningly the evil consequences of your fathers’ guilt, as we those of our

fathers’ misfortune. Proscription and disfranchisement are the last things in the world to

alleviate these evil consequences. Nothing, as shameful experience has already proved, can

so powerfully promote the evil which you profess to deprecate, as the degradation of our

race by the oppressive rule of yours. Give us that fair and honorable ground which self-

respect requires to stand on, and the dreaded amalgamation, if it take place at all, shall be by

your own fault, as indeed it always has been. We dare not give full vent to the indignation we

feel on this point, but we will not attempt wholly to conceal it. We ask a voice in the

disposition of those public resources which we ourselves have helped to earn; we claim a

right to be heard, according to our numbers, in regard to all those great public measures

which involve our lives and fortunes, as well as those of our fellow citizens; we assert our

right to vote at the polls as a shield against that strange species of benevolence which seeks

legislative aid to banish us—and we are told that our white fellow citizens cannot submit to

an intermixture of the races!…


We would not misrepresent the motives of the Convention; but we are constrained to

believe that they have laid our rights a sacrifice on the altar of slavery. We do not believe

our disfranchisement would have been proposed, but for the desire which is felt by political

aspirants to gain the favor of the slave-holding States. This is not the first time that northern

statesmen have “bowed the knee to the dark spirit of slavery,” but it is the first time that

they have bowed so low!…

Firm upon our old Pennsylvania BILL OF RIGHTS, and trusting in a God of Truth and

justice, we lay our claim before you, with the warning that no amendments of the present

Constitution can compensate for the loss of its foundation principle of equal rights, nor for

the conversion into enemies of 40,000 friends.

In behalf of the Committee, ROBERT PURVIS, Chairman.

Robert Purvis, Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens, Threatened with Disfranchisement, to the People of

Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: 1838), 1-18.

Available through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania



Andrew Jackson’s Veto Message Against Re-

chartering the Bank of the United States, 1832

President Andrew Jackson, like Thomas Jefferson before him, was highly suspicious of the Bank of the

United States. He blamed the bank for the Panic of 1819 and for corrupting politics with too much money.

After congress renewed the bank charter, Jackson vetoed the bill. The following was the message he gave to

congress after issuing his veto. Jackson’s decision was controversial. Some Americans accused him of acting

like a dictator to redistribute wealth. Others saw the act as an attack on a corrupt system that only favored

the rich.

[1] To the Senate: The bill “to modify and continue” the act entitled “An act to incorporate

the subscribers to the Bank of the United States” was presented to me on the 4th July

instant. Having considered it with that solemn regard to the principles of the Constitution

which the day was calculated to inspire, and come to the conclusion that it ought not to

become a law, I herewith return it to the Senate, . . . with my objections.

[2] . . . It [the Bank] enjoys an exclusive privilege of banking under the authority of the

General Government, a monopoly of its favor and support, and, as a necessary consequence,

almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange. . . .

[3] . . . It appears that more than a fourth part of the stock is held by foreigners and the

residue is held by a few hundred of our citizens, chiefly of the richest class. . . .

[4] . . . Of the twenty-five directors of this bank five are chosen by the Government and

twenty by the citizen stockholders. From all voice in these elections the foreign stockholders

are excluded by the charter. In proportion, therefore, as the stock is transferred to foreign

holders the extent of suffrage in the choice of directors is curtailed. . . . The entire control . .

. would necessarily fall into the hands of a few citizen stockholders. . . . There is danger that

a president and directors would then be able to elect themselves from year to year, and

without responsibility or control manage the whole concerns of the bank . . . . It is easy to

conceive that great evils to our country and its institutions might flow from such a

concentration of power in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people.

[5] Is there no danger to our liberty and independence in a bank that in its nature has so little

to bind it to our country? The president of the bank has told us that most of the State banks

exist by its forbearance. Should its influence become concentered, as it may under . . . such

an act as this, in the hands of a self-elected directory whose interest are identified with

foreign stockholders, will there not be cause to tremble for the purity of our elections in

peace and for the independence of our country in war? . . . But if any private citizen or

public functionary should interpose to curtail its powers . . . it can not be doubted that he

would be made to feel its influence.


[6] . . . If we must have a bank with private stockholders, every consideration of sound policy

and every impulse of American feeling admonishes that it should be purely American. Its

stockholders should be composed exclusively of our own citizens, who at least ought to be

friendly to our Government and willing to support it in times of difficulty and danger. . . .

[7] . . . It is maintained by the advocates of the bank that its constitutionality in all its features

ought to be considered as settled by precedent and by the decision of the Supreme Court.

To this conclusion I can not assent. . .

[8] . . . The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own

opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the

Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood

by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the

President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be

presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be

brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority

over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the

President is independent of both. . . .

[9] . . . There is nothing in its [the Bank’s] legitimate functions which makes it necessary or

proper. . . .

[10] . . . It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of

government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every

just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by

human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior

industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when

the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant

titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more

powerful, the humble members of society–the farmers, mechanics, and laborers–who have

neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to

complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government.

Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven

does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would

be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary

departure from these just principles. . . .

James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents,

1789-1908 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1908), II: 576-591.

Available through the White House Historical Association



Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the

Fourth of July?” 1852

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland in 1818. He was separated from his

mother in infancy and lived with his grandmother until he was separated from her as well at age seven. After

several attempts, he finally successfully escape slavery in 1838. He became one of the most influential

abolitionist speakers and before a crowd of white abolitionists in 1852, he delivered this, one of the greatest

abolitionist speeches.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day?

What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great

principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of

Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble

offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the

blessings resulting from your independence to us?

… But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I

am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only

reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice,

are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and

independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that

brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is

yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand

illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were

inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me

to speak to-day?

…Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions!

whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the

jubilee shouts that reach them… My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I

shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there

identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to

declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker

to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the

professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the


…. At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the

ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting

ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is

needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind,

and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the

nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the


nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and


What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more

than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant

victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your

national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your

denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow

mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious

parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a

thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation

on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United

States, at this very hour…

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually

takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the

shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very

lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the

whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of

master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is

clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is

palmed off upon the world for Christianity…

Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly

inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure

Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great

political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three

millions of your countrymen…

Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of

slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base

pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your

politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a

bye-word to a mocking earth…

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented,

of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation

which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.

Frederick Douglass, Oration Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester (Rochester: Lee, Man, and

Co, 1852), 14-37.

Available through Google Books



Rebecca Reed accuses nuns of abuse, 1835

In 1834 anti-Catholic rioters burned the Ursuline Convent in Charestown, Massachusetts. In 1835,

Rebecca Reed published a memoir about her time staying at the convent. Prior to its publication, rumors

existed about Reed’s experience that may have motivated the arsonists. In these documents, we read excerpts

from Reed’s account and the response from the convent’s Mother Superior Mary St. George.

Rebecca Reed’s accusations

… I complained to her of my strength’s failing, and of my diet, not being such as I was used

to ; she replied, that a Religieuse should have no choice, and that I should have left my

feelings in the world ; and she immediately imposed the following penances: — to make the

sign of the cross on the floor with my tongue, and to eat a crust of bread in the morning for

my portion….

The reader may well judge of my feelings at this moment; a young and inexperienced female,

shut out from the world, and entirely beyond the reach of friends ; threatened with speedy

transportation to another country, and involuntary confinement for life, with no power to

resist the immediate fulfilment of the startling conspiracy I had overheard….

In a day or two Priest B. again came… he said, ” Is it possible that a young lady wishes to

have her name made public ?” I answered, ” You very well know I should shrink from such

a thing, but I should rather return to the world and expose myself to its scorn, than remain

subject to the commands of a tyrant.” “Then,” said he, ” if you are determined to return to

the world, you may go to ruin there for all I can do; and rely upon it, you will shed tears of

blood in consequence of the step you have taken, if you do not repent and confess all at the

secret tribunal of God.” I told him I should confess to none but God, and that my

conscience prompted me to do as I had done. He asked me if I would go with him to the

Superior, as she wanted to see me. I replied, ;i No, I will not, for I believe you or any other

Catholic would (if directed) take my life, were it in your power, as truly as I believe I am

living, and I will not trust myself in your clutches again.”

… I also told him that I believed it had been his intention to deliver me again into their

hands, but I had broken the chains which bound me, and felt free; and that I should always

be thankful that I had delivered myself from the bondage of what I should consider to be a

Romish yoke, rather than the true cross of Christ….

If, in consequence of my having for a time strayed from the true religion, I am enabled to

become an humble instrument “in the hands of God in warning others of the errors of

Romanism, and preventing even one from falling into its snares, and from being shrouded in

its delusions, I shall feel richly rewarded.

Rebecca Theresa Reed, Six months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was

under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline convent on

Mount Benedict, Charlestown, Mass., nearly six months, in the years 1831-2 (Boston: Russell,

Odiorne, and Metcalf, 1835)


Available through the Internet Archive

The Mother Superior responds

The object of this part of the book is not truth or the public good, or the vindication of

private character, as is pretended, but to exasperate the public mind against Catholics and

Catholic institutions; to persecute them through the medium of popular opinion, and drive

them from the country as the enemies of true religion and of civil liberty. Not content with

seeing the few defenceless and pious females composing the Ursuline Community, driven

from their habitation at midnight and their property destroyed ; not satisfied with screening

the perpetrators from punishment, and even exhibiting these worthies as public benefactors;

(not in direct terms perhaps but by their acts, and the general scope of their arguments) they

have now finished another act of the drama, by a most foul attempt to blast the fair

character of this Community and its individual members….

The week after the Convent was burned, half the persons who spoke of the act as an

horrible outrage, at the same time intimated the belief, that the Convent was a very wicked

place. Upon asking the reasons of such behef, the answer invariably was, “Why, a young

woman, who resided there, and ran away, tells very bad stories,” &c. Many, probably

thousands, who had merely heard her name, had heard and believed the slanders which were

attached to it….

It is extremely painful to be obliged to expose a young woman, who is easily called an

innocent, a humble and defenceless female ; but when that female unsexes herself and sets

about the work of detraction openly and publicly; when she undertakes upon any pretence to

destroy the reputations of retired, religious, and defenceless women, at whose hands she has

received nothing but benefits, she presents herself in a character which entitles her to no

sympathy and renders it absolutely necessary in defence of innocence and truth, to call

things by their right names and to do what is attempted in this review of her work. It is

admitted by herself, that after long solicitation she obtained admittance to the Convent as an

object of charity—that she was fed, clothed and instructed, by the Ursuline Sisters, who

could have had no motive on earth, but a charitable one, for she had neither property, or

friends, or influence. She had neither mental capacity, docility, or solidity of character, to

permit her ever to become a member of their Community, and she never received the least

encouragement to that effect. Finding her hopes disappointed, she elopes in a dishonorable

manner, and either from revenge, vanity, or as a means of living, commences the abominable

work of ruining her benefactors by the private circulation of unfounded calumnies.

Mary Anne Ursula Moffatt, An answer to Six months in a convent, exposing its falsehoods and

manifold absurdities (Boston: James Murnoe, 1835).

Available through the Internet Archive




Samuel Morse Fears a Catholic Conspiracy,


Irish immigrants in the early nineteenth century filled jobs created by the Market Revolution. Their arrival

provided an important source of labor for a growing economy, but many Americans worried about the

influence of these arrivals. Samuel Morse, an inventor who contributed to the development of the telegraph and

Morse Code, feared that Irish immigrants represented the front line of a Catholic conspiracy to destroy the

United States.

That a vigorous and unexampled effort is making by the despotic governments of Europe to

cause Popery to overspread this country, is a fact too palpable to be contradicted. Did not

official documents lately published, put this fact beyond dispute, yet the writer had personal

evidence sufficient to convince him of the fact and of the political object of the enterprise,

while residing in Italy in the years 1830-31, from conversations with nobles and gentlemen

of different countries, with the officers of various foreign governments, visiting and resident

in the Roman and Austrian states, and with priests and other ecclesiastics of the Roman

faith. Sometimes it was hinted to him as a check to too sanguine anticipations of the triumph

of the experiment of our democratic republican government; sometimes it was told him by

the former class in a tone of exultation that a cause was in operation which would surely

overthrow our institutions and gradually bring us under a form of government less

obnoxious to the pride, and less dangerous to the existence, of the antiquated despotic

systems of Europe. In addition to these hints to the writer, concerning the efforts making by

the governments of Europe to carry Popery through all our borders, other American

travellers will testify to similar hints made to them. By one I am permitted to say, that the

celebrated naturalist, the late Baron Cuvier, known also as a zealous Protestant, inquired of

him with marks of concern, if it were indeed true that Popery had made such progress in the

United States, as to cause the exultation (which it seems was no secret) among the

legitimates of Europe. And again, that a distinguished member of one of the Protestant

German embassies, in Rome also made similar inquiries of him, having heard much boasting

of the progress of Popery in the United States, adding this pertinent remark, “they will be

hammer or nails, Sir, they will persecute, or be persecuted.” These facts may be of so much

importance in aid of the other proofs of a conspiracy which these numbers unfold, as to

show that among the various higher classes of Europe the enterprise of a Popish crusade in

this country is not only a subject of notoriety, but is viewed with great interest, and is

considered as having a most important political bearing…

Mistrust of all that Popery does, or affects to do, whether as a friend or foe in any part of the

country, is the only feeling that true charity, universal charity, allows us to indulge….

Every account from Europe attests the correctness of the views here taken more than a year

since, of the political state of the civilized world. This war of opinions, or of categories, as

Lafayette termed it, is in truth commenced, and Americans, if they will but use common


observation, cannot but feel that a neglect to notice, and provide against the consequences

of that settled, systematic hostility to free institutions so strongly manifested by foreign

powers, and which is daily assuming a more serious aspect, will inevitably result in mischief

to the country, will surely be attended with anarchy if they wake not to the apprehension of

the reality of this danger. Americans, you indeed sleep upon a mine. This is scarcely a figure

of speech; you have excitable materials in the bosom of your society, which, skillfully put in

action by artful demagogues, will subvert your present social system; you have a foreign

interest too, daily, hourly, increasing, ready to take advantage of every excitement, and which

will shortly be beyond your control, or will be subdued only by blood. You have agents

among you, men in the pay of those very foreign powers, whose every measure of foreign

and domestic policy has now for its end and aim the destruction of liberty every where. To

increase your peril, you have a press that will not apprise you of the dangers that threaten

you; we can reach you with our warnings only through the religious journals ; the daily press

is blind, or asleep, or bribed, or afraid; at any rate, it is silent on this subject, and thus is

throwing the weight of its influence on the side of your enemies. Foreign spies have clothed

themselves in a religious dress, and so awe-struck are our journalists at its sacred texture, or

so unable or unwilling to discern the difference between the man and his mask, that they

start away in fear, lest they should be called bigoted or intolerant, or persecuting, if they

should venture to lift up the consecrated cloak that hides a foreign foe. Americans, if you

depend on your daily press, you rely on a broken reed; it fails you in your need. It dare not,

no, it dare not attack Popery. It dare not drag into the light the political enemies of your

liberty, because they come in the name of religion. All despotic Europe is awake and active

in plotting your downfall, and yet they let you sleep, and you choose not to be awaked; “a

little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.” And now

like a man whose house is on fire, dreaming of comfort and security, you will perhaps repel

with passion and reproach the friendly hand that would wake you in season to escape with

your life.

Samuel Morse, Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States (New York: 1835), 16-

18, 141-143.

Available through the Internet Archive



County Election Painting, 1854

George Caleb Bingham, “The County Election,” 1854, via Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

Beginning in the late 1840s, George Caleb Bingham created a series of paintings illustrating

American democracy. He was drawn to the energy and near-chaos of speeches, rallies,

election days, public announcements of voting results and more. Prior to painting this work,

Bingham himself ran for state office in Missouri as a Whig. Here he shows the tumult of a

county election day. Children play games, drunkards raise their glass (while political

operatives drag inebriated men to the poll), citizens carefully debate the issues, while others

study the newspaper. Art historians argue whether Bingham is celebrating or mocking

American democracy.



Martin Van Buren Cartoon, 1837

Winston, F. J. “Capitol Fashions for 1837,” 1837, via Library of Congress.

This caricature of President Martin Van Buren cloaked in worthless bank notes was created

during the Panic of 1837. The artist mocks Van Buren and the policies of his predecessor,

Andrew Jackson. The cartoon includes mentions to Jackson’s “Specie Circular,” an order

that government officials only accept gold or silver as payment for land and Van Buren’s

“Safety Fund,” a program designed to offset the damage of bank failures. A document

labeled “Indian claims” also refers to Jackson’s policy of Indian Removal. These and other

subtle details reveal the anxieties of economic collapse and the policy differences between

Democrats and Whigs.



10. Religion and Reform

The early nineteenth century was a period of great optimism, with the possibilities of self-

governance infusing everything from religion to politics. Yet it was also a period of great

discord, as the benefits of industrialization and democratization increasingly accrued along

starkly uneven lines of gender, race, and class. Westward expansion distanced urban dwellers

from frontier settlers more than ever before, even as the technological innovations of

industrialization—like the telegraph and railroads—offered exciting new ways to maintain

communication. The spread of democracy opened the franchise to nearly all white men, but

urbanization and a dramatic influx of European migration increased social tensions and class

divides. Americans looked on these changes with a mixture of enthusiasm and suspicion,

wondering how the moral fabric of the new nation would hold up against emerging social

challenges. Increasingly, many turned to two powerful tools to help understand and manage

the various transformations: spiritual revivalism and social reform. These sources illustrate

how religion and reform encouraged Americans to dream of a better nation and a better



Revivalist Charles G. Finney Emphasizes

Human Choice in Salvation, 1836

Charles Grandison Finney left a successful law practice when he believed God called him to become a

preacher. He enjoyed great success, particularly in Upstate New York, a region that Finney called “the

burned over district.” Finney’s revivals emphasized human action, and he encouraged his converts to join

various reform organizations, including avoiding alcohol and eventually opposing slavery.

Thus the world is divided into two great political parties; the difference between them is, that

one party choose Satan as the god of this world, yield obedience to his laws, and are devoted

to his interest. Selfishness is the law of Satan’s empire, and all impenitent sinners yield it a

willing obedience. The other partychoose Jehovah for their governor, and consecrate

themselves, with all their interests, to his service and glory. Nor does this change imply a

constitutional alteration of the powers of body or mind, any more than a change of mind in

regard to the form or administration of a human government….

Because you have all the powers of moral agency; and the thing required is, not to alter these

powers, but to employ them in the service of your Maker. God has created these powers,

and you can and do use them. He gives you power to obey or disobey; and your sin is, that

while he sustains these powers, you prostitute them to the service of sin and Satan….

Sinners make their own wicked hearts. Their preference of sin is their own voluntary act.

They make self-gratification the rule to which they conform all their conduct. When they

come into being, the first principle that we discover in their conduct, is their determination

to gratify themselves. It soon comes to pass that any effort to thwart them in the

gratification of their appetites, is met by them with stout resistance, they seem to set their

hearts fully to pursue their own happiness, and gratify themselves, come what will; and thus

they will successively make war on their nurse, their parents, and their God, when ever they

find that their requirements prohibit the pursuit of this end. Now this is purely a voluntary

state of mind. This state of mind is not a subject of creation, it is entirely the result of

temptation to selfishness, arising out of the circumstances under which the child comes into

being. This preference to self-interest, is suffered by the sinner to grow with his growth, and

strengthen with his strength, until this desperately wicked heart bears him onward to the

gates of hell…

Some persons, as I have already observed, seem disposed to be passive, to wait for some

mysterious influence, like an electric shock, to change their hearts. But in this attitude, and

with these views, they may wait till the day of judgment, and God will never do their duty for

them. The fact is, sinners, that God requires you to turn, and what he requires of you, he

cannot do for you. It must be your own voluntary act. It is not the appropriate work of God


to do what he requires of you. Do not wait then for him to do your duty, but do it

immediately yourself, on pain of eternal death….

And now, sinner, while the subject is before you, will you yield? To keep yourself away from

under the motives of the Gospel, by neglecting church, and neglecting your Bible, will prove

fatal to your soul. And to be careless when you do attend, or to hear with attention and

refuse to make up your mind and yield, will be equally fatal. And now, “I beseech you, by the

mercies of God, that you at this time render your body and soul, a living sacrifice to God,

which is your reasonable service.” Let the truth take hold upon your conscience–throw

down your rebellious weapons–give up your refuges of lies–fix your mind steadfastly upon

the world of considerations that should instantly decide you to close in with the offer of

reconciliation while it now lies before you. Another moment’s delay, and it may be too late

for ever. The Spirit of God may depart from you–the offer of life may be made no more,

and this one more slighted offer of mercy may close up your account, and seal you over to

all the horrors of eternal death. Hear, then, O sinner, I beseech you, and obey the word of

the Lord–“Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die?”

Charles Grandison Finney, Sermons on Various Subjects (New York: 1834), 8, 13, 16, 20, 28.

Available through Google Books



Dorothea Dix defends the mentally ill, 1843

Dorothea Dix worked as an educator and author until she took up the campaign for improving the treatment

for the mentally ill. Struggling with depression and other mental illnesses herself, Dix presented this petition

to the Massachusetts state legislature after visiting a number of jails to chronicle abuses.

Gentlemen,–I respectfully ask to present this Memorial, believing that the cause, which

actuates to and sanctions so unusual a movement, presents no equivocal claim to public

consideration and sympathy. . .

About two years since leisure afforded opportunity and duty prompted me to visit several

prisons and almshouses in the vicinity of this metropolis. I found, near Boston, in the jails

and asylums for the poor, a numerous class brought into unsuitable connection with

criminals and the general mass of paupers. I refer to idiots and insane persons, dwelling in

circumstances not only adverse to their own physical and moral improvement, but

productive of extreme disadvantages to all other persons brought into association with them.

I applied myself diligently to trace the causes of these evils, and sought to supply remedies.

As one obstacle was surmounted, fresh difficulties appeared. Every new investigation has

given depth to the conviction that it is only by decided, prompt, and vigorous legislation the

evils to which I refer, and which I shall proceed more fully to illustrate, can be remedied. I

shall be obliged to speak with great plainness, and to reveal many things revolting to the

taste, and from which my woman’s nature shrinks with peculiar sensitiveness. But truth is

the highest consideration. I tell what I have seen–painful and shocking as the details often

are–that from them you may feel more deeply the imperative obligation which lies upon you

to prevent the possibility of a repetition or continuance of such outrages upon humanity. . . .

I come to present the strong claims of suffering humanity. I come to place before the

Legislature of Massachusetts the condition of the miserable, the desolate, the outcast. I come

as the advocate of helpless, forgotten, insane, and idiotic men and women; of beings sunk to

a condition from which the most unconcerned would start with real horror; of beings

wretched in our prisons, and more wretched in our almshouses. . . .

Lincoln. A woman in a cage. Medford. One idiotic subject chained, and one in a close stall

for seventeen years. Pepperell. One often doubly chained, hand and foot; another violent;

several peaceable now. Brookfield. One man caged, comfortable. Granville. One often

closely confined; now losing the use of his limbs from want of exercise. Charlemont. One

man caged. Savoy. One man caged. Lenox. Two in the jail, against whose unfit condition

there the jailer protests.

Dedham. The insane disadvantageously placed in the jail. In the almshouse, two females in

stalls, situated in the main building; lie in wooden bunks filled with straw; always shut up.

One of these subjects is supposed curable. The overseers of the poor have declined giving

her a trial at the hospital, as I was informed, on account of expense…

Besides the above, I have seen many who, part of the year, are chained or caged. The use of

cages all but universal. Hardly a town but can refer to some not distant period of using them;


chains are less common; negligences frequent; wilful abuse less frequent than sufferings

proceeding from ignorance, or want of consideration. I encountered during the last three

months many poor creatures wandering reckless and unprotected through the country. . . .

I give a few illustrations; but description fades before reality….

Men of Massachusetts, I beg, I implore, I demand pity and protection for these of my

suffering, outraged sex. Fathers, husbands, brothers, I would supplicate you for this boon;

but what do I say? I dishonor you, divest you at once of Christianity and humanity, does this

appeal imply distrust. If it comes burdened with a doubt of your righteousness in this

legislation, then blot it out; while I declare confidence in your honor, not less than your

humanity. Here you will put away the cold, calculating spirit of selfishness and self-seeking;

lay off the armor of local strife and political opposition; here and now, for once, forgetful of

the earthly and perishable, come up to these halls and consecrate them with one heart and

one mind to works of righteousness and just judgment.

Become the benefactors of your race, the just guardians of the solemn rights you hold in

trust. Raise up the fallen, succor the desolate, restore the outcast, defend the helpless, and

for your eternal and great reward receive the benediction, “Well done, good and faithful

servants, become rulers over many things!”

Injustice is also done to the convicts: it is certainly very wrong that they should be doomed

day after day and night after night to listen to the ravings of madmen and madwomen. This

is a kind of punishment that is not recognized by our statutes, and is what the criminal ought

not to be called upon to undergo. The confinement of the criminal and of the insane in the

same building is subversive of that good order and discipline which should be observed in

every well-regulated prison. I do most sincerely hope that more permanent provision will be

made for the pauper insane by the State, either to restore Worcester Insane Asylum to what

it was originally designed to be or else make some just appropriation for the benefit of this

very unfortunate class of our “fellow-beings.”

Dorothea Dix, Memorial to the legislature of Massachusetts: In behalf of the pauper insane and idiots in

jails and poorhouses throughout the Commonwealth. Jan. 1843 (Boston: Munroe and Fran cis, 1843),


Available through the Internet Archive



David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens

of the World, 1829

David Walker was the son of an enslaved man and a free Black woman. He traveled widely before settling in

Boston where he worked in and owned clothing stores and involved himself in various reform causes. In 1829,

he wrote the remarkable Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. In it, he exposed the hypocrisies of

American claims of freedom and Christianity, attacked the plan to colonize Black Americans in Africa, and

predicted that God’s justice promised violence for the enslaving United States.

Having travelled over a considerable portion of these United States, and having, in the

course of my travels, taken the most accurate observations of things as they exist—the result

of my observations has warranted the full and unshaken conviction, that we, (coloured

people of these United States,) are the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that

ever lived since the world began; and I pray God that none like us ever may live again until

time shall be no more. They tell us of the Israelites in Egypt, the Helots in Sparta, and of the

Roman Slaves, which last were made up from almost every nation under heaven, whose

sufferings under those ancient and heathen nations, were, in comparison with ours, under

this enlightened and Christian nation, no more than a cypher—or, in other words, those

heathen nations of antiquity, had but little more among them than the name and form of

slavery; while wretchedness and endless miseries were reserved, apparently in a phial, to be

poured out upon our fathers, ourselves and our children, by Christian Americans!

… But against all accusations which may or can be preferred against me, I appeal to Heaven

for my motive in writing—who knows what my object is, if possible, to awaken in the

breasts of my afflicted, degraded and slumbering brethren, a spirit of inquiry and

investigation respecting our miseries and wretchedness in this Republican Land of Liberty!!!!!!

…Will any of us leave our homes and go to Africa? I hope not. Let them commence their

attack upon us as they did on our brethren in Ohio, driving and beating us from our country,

and my soul for theirs, they will have enough of it. Let no man of us budge one step, and let

slave-holders come to beat us from our country. America is more our country, than it is the

whites—we have enriched it with our blood and tears. The greatest riches in all America have

arisen from our blood and tears:—and will they drive us from our property and homes,

which we have earned with our blood? They must look sharp or this very thing will bring

swift destruction upon them. The Americans have got so fat on our blood and groans, that

they have almost forgotten the God of armies. But let them go on…

I also ask the attention of the world of mankind to the declaration of these very American

people, of the United States. A declaration made July 4, 1776. It says, “When in the course of

human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which

have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the

separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them. A


decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires, that they should declare the causes

which impel them to the separation.—We hold these truths to be self evident—that all men

are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: that

among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ….” See your Declaration

Americans!!! Do you understand your own language? Hear your language, proclaimed to the

world, July 4th, 1776—”We hold these truths to be self evident—that ALL MEN ARE

CREATED EQUAL!! that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that

among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!!” Compare your own language

above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders

inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us—men

who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation!!!!!!

Now, Americans! I ask you candidly, was your sufferings under Great Britain, one hundredth

part as cruel and tyranical as you have rendered ours under you? Some of you, no doubt,

believe that we will never throw off your murderous government and “provide new guards

for our future security.” If Satan has made you believe it, will he not deceive you? Do the

whites say, I being a black man, ought to be humble, which I readily admit? I ask them,

ought they not to be as humble as I? or do they think that they can measure arms with

Jehovah? Will not the Lord yet humble them? or will not these very coloured people whom

they now treat worse than brutes, yet under God, humble them low down enough? Some of

the whites are ignorant enough to tell us that we ought to be submissive to them, that they

may keep their feet on our throats. And if we do not submit to be beaten to death by them,

we are bad creatures and of course must be damned, &c. If any man wishes to hear this

doctrine openly preached to us by the American preachers, let him go into the Southern and

Western sections of this country—I do not speak from hear say—what I have written, is

what I have seen and heard myself. No man may think that my book is made up of

conjecture— I have travelled and observed nearly the whole of those things myself, and

what little I did not get by my own observation, I received from those among the whites and

blacks, in whom the greatest confidence may be placed.

The Americans may be as vigilant as they please, but they cannot be vigilant enough for the

Lord, neither can they hide themselves, where he will not find and bring them out.

David Walker, An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (Boston: 1830), 3-4, 73, 84, 86.

Available through Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill




William Lloyd Garrison Introduces The

Liberator, 1831

William Lloyd Garrison participated in reform causes in Massachusetts from a young age. In the 1820s he

advocated Black colonization in Africa and the gradual abolition of slavery. Reading the work of Black

northerners like David Walker changed his mind. In 1831, he created a newspaper, called The Liberator.

The following is the opening essay that Garrison used to explain the purpose of his paper.

In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “THE LIBERATOR” in

Washington City; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was

palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal

Emancipation to the Seat of Government has tendered less imperious the establishment of a

similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of

discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact,

that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free States–and

particularly in New-England–than at the South. I found contempt more bitter, opposition

more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen,

than among slave-owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the

contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every

hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of

Bunker Hill and in the birthplace of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it

float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe–yea, till every chain

be broken, and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble–let their secret

abettors tremble–let their Northern apologists tremble–let all the enemies of the persecuted

blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide

circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting

that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause

of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of

Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain

inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall

strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-

Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented

to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make

a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my

country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of

timidity, injustice, and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the


Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My conscience is now


I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for

severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do

not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on

fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the

ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has

fallen;–but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present! I am in earnest–I will

not equivocate I will not excuse– I will not retreat a single inch–AND I WILL BE HEARD.

The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to

hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my

invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my

influence,–humble as it is,–is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in

coming years–not perniciously, but beneficially–not as a curse, but as a blessing; and

posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to

disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity

arid power. . . .

Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,

And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow;

But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —

For dread to prouder feelings doth give place

Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace

Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,

I also kneel — but with far other vow

Do hail thee and thy hord of hirelings base: —

I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,

Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,

Thy brutalising sway — till Afric’s chains

Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, —

Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:

Such is the vow I take — SO HELP ME GOD!

William Lloyd Garrison, A Memorial of William Lloyd Garrison from the City of Boston (Boston:

1886), 35-37.

Available through the Internet Archive



Angelina Grimké, Appeal to Christian Women

of the South, 1836

Women were active participants in every aspect of the abolitionist movement. In this document, Angelina

Grimké, a former Southerner herself, attempts to persuade Southern women of the immorality of slavery. This

tactic, called moral suasion, directed the efforts of abolitionists, especially in the 1830s and 1840s.


It is because I feel a deep and tender interest in your present and eternal welfare that I am

willing thus publicly to address you. Some of you have loved me as a relative, and some have

felt bound to me in Christian sympathy, and Gospel fellowship; and even when compelled

by a strong sense of duty, to break those outward bonds of union which bound us together

as members of the same community, and members of the same religious denomination, you

were generous enough to give me credit, for sincerity as a Christian, though you believed I

had been most strangely deceived. I thanked you then for your kindness, and I ask you now,

for the sake of former confidence and former friendship, to read the following pages in the

spirit of calm investigation and fervent prayer. It is because you have known me, that I write

thus unto you.

But there are other Christian women scattered over the Southern States, a very large number

of whom have never seen me, and never heard my name, and who feel no interest whatever

in me. ‘But I feel an interest in you, as branches of the same vine from whose root I daily

draw the principle of spiritual vitality—Yes! Sisters in Christ I feel an interest in you, and

often has the secret prayer arisen on your behalf, Lord “open thou their eyes that they may

see wondrous things out of thy Law”—It is then, because I do feel and do pray for you, that I

thus address you upon a subject about which of all others, perhaps you would rather not

hear any thing; but, “would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly, and indeed

bear with me, for I am jealous over you with godly jealousy.” Be not afraid then to read my

appeal; it is not written in the heat of passion or prejudice, but in that solemn calmness which

is the result of conviction and duty. It is true, I am going to tell you unwelcome truths, but I

mean to speak those truths in love, and remember Solomon says, “faithful are the wounds of a

friend.” I do not believe the time has yet come when Christian women “will not endure sound

doctrine,” even on the subject of Slavery, if it is spoken to them in tenderness and love,

therefore I now address you.

To all of you then, known or unknown, relatives or strangers, (for you are all one in Christ,) I

would speak. I have felt for you at this time, when unwelcome light is pouring in upon the

world on the subject of slavery…. We must come back to the good old doctrine of our fore

fathers who declared to the world, “this self evident truth that all men are created equal, and

that they have certain inalienable rights among which are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of

happiness.” It is even a greater absurdity to suppose a man can be legally born a slave

under our free Republican Government, than under the petty despotisms of barbarian Africa. If

then, we have no right to enslave an African, surely we can have none to enslave an


American; if a self evident truth that all men every where and of every color are born equal,

and have an inalienable right to liberty, then it is equally true that no man can be born a slave,

and no man can ever rightfully be reduced to involuntary bondage and held as a slave, however

fair may be the claim of his master or mistress through wills and title-deeds….

The women of the South can overthrow this horrible system of oppression and cruelty,

licentiousness and wrong. Such appeals to your legislatures would be irresistible, for there is

something in the heart of man which will bend under moral suasion. There is a swift witness for

truth in his bosom, which will respond to truth when it is uttered with calmness and dignity. If

you could obtain but six signatures to such a petition in only one state, I would say, send up

that petition, and be not in the least discouraged by the scoffs, and jeers of the heartless, or

the resolution of the house to lay it on the table. It will be a great thing if the subject can be

introduced into your legislatures in any way, even by women, arid they will be the most likely to

introduce it there in the best possible manner, as a matter of morals and religion, not of

expediency or politics. You may petition, too, the different ecclesiastical bodies of the slave

states. Slavery must be attacked with the whole power of truth and the sword of the spirit.

You must take it up on Christian ground, and fight against it with Christian weapons, whilst

your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. And you are now loudly called

upon by the cries of the widow and the orphan, to arise and gird yourselves for this great

moral conflict, with the whole armour of righteousness upon the right hand and on the left.

Angelina Emily Grimké, Appeal to Christian Women of the South (New York: American Anti-

Slavery Society, 1836).

Available through the University of Virginia



Sarah Grimké Calls for Women’s Rights, 1838

Antebellum Americans increasingly confined middle-class white women to the home, where they were

responsible for educating children and maintaining household virtue. Yet women used these ideas to become

more active in the public sphere than ever before, taking prominent roles in all the major reform causes of the

era. Women’s participation in the antislavery crusade most directly inspired specific women’s rights

campaigns. In this document, Sarah Moore Grimké calls for equality between men and women.

The lust of dominion was probably the first effect of the fall; and as there was no other

intelligent being over whom to exercise it, woman was the first victim of this unhallowed

passion. We afterwards see it exhibited by Cain in the murder of his brother, by Nimrod in

his becoming a mighty hunter of men, and setting up a kingdom over which to reign. Here

we see the origin of that Upas of slavery, which sprang up immediately after the fall, and has

spread its pestilential branches over the whole face of the known world. All history attests

that man has subjected woman to his will, used her as a means to promote his selfish

gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his

comfort; but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has

done all he could do to debase and enslave her mind; and now he looks triumphantly on the

ruin he has wrought, and says, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior.

Woman has been placed by John Quincy Adams, side by side with the slave, whilst he was

contending for the right side of petition. I thank him for ranking us with the oppressed; for I

shall not find it difficult to show, that in all ages and countries, not even excepting

enlightened republican America, woman has more or less been made a means to promote

the welfare of man, without due regard to her own happiness, and the glory of God as the

end of her creation…

Man almost always addresses himself to the weakness of woman. By flattery, by an appeal to

her passions, he seeks access to her heart; and when he has gained her affections, he uses her

as the instrument of his pleasure—the minister of his temporal comfort. He furnishes

himself with a housekeeper, whose chief business is in the kitchen, or the nursery. And

whilst he goes abroad and enjoys the means of improvement afforded by collision of

intellect with cultivated minds, his wife is condemned to draw nearly all her instruction from

books, if she has time to pursue them; and if not, from her meditations, whilst engaged in

those domestic duties, which are necessary for the comfort of her lord and master…

I believe it will be found that men, in the exercise of their usurped dominion over women,

have almost invariably done one of two things. They have either made slaves of the creatures

whom God designed to be their companions and their coadjutors in every moral and

intellectual improvement, or they have dressed them like dolls, and used them as toys to

amuse their hours of recreation…

I maintain that they [men and women] are equal, and that God never invested fallen man

with unlimited power over his fellow man; and I rejoice that circumstances have prevented


woman from being more deeply involved in the guilt which appears to be inseparable from

political affairs. If woman had not almost universally been depressed and degraded, the page

of history would have exhibited as many eminent statesmen and politicians among women as

men. We are much in the situation of the slave. Man has asserted and assumed authority

over us…

Now a new and vast sphere of usefulness is opened to her, and she is pressed by

surrounding circumstances to come up to the help of the Lord against the giant sins which

desolate our beloved country. Shall woman shrink from duty…and forget her brethren and

sisters in bondage…whose husbands and wives are torn from them by relentless tyrants, and

whose children are snatched from their arms by their unfeeling task-masters?… Shall she,

because ‘her house is her home, ’ refuse her aid and her sympathy to the down trodden

slave?…Did God give her those blessings to steel her heart to the sufferings of her fellow


The page of history teems with women’s wrongs, and it is wet with women’s tears.—For the

sake of my degraded sex every where, and for the sake of my brethren, who suffer just in

proportion as they place woman lower in the scale of creation than man…I entreat my

sisters to arise…in all the dignity of immortal beings, and plant themselves, side by side, on

the platform of human rights, with man to whom they were designed to be companions,

equals and helpers in every good word and work…

Thine in the bonds of womanhood,


Sarah Moore Grimké, Letters on the equality of the sexes, and the condition of woman (Boston: 1838),

11-12, 23, 27, 33, 40-41, 45.

Available through the Internet Archive



Henry David Thoreau Reflects on Nature, 1854

The Transcendentalist movement began in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1836, when a group of Unitarian

clergymen formed what later became known as the Transcendental Club. The club met for four years and

quickly expanded to include numerous literary intellectuals. Among these were the author Henry David

Thoreau. In 1845, Thoreau took up residence at Walden Pond and began to write. The result was Walden,

which touted simple living, communion with nature, and self-sufficiency.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an

infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of

no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a

conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a

statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint

the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To

affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life,

even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we

refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly

inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of

life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover

that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish

to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all

the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to

cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest

terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it,

and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be

able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in

a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat

hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into

men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our

best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered

away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in

extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I

say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million

count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this

chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-

and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to

the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator

indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat

but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. Our life is


like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating,

so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment. The nation itself,

with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial,

is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped

up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a

worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is in

a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It

lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice,

and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do

or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.If we do not

get out sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering

upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, how

shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will

want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what

those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee

man. The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly

over them. They are sound sleepers, I assure you. And every few years a new lot is laid down

and run over; so that, if some have the pleasure of riding on a rail, others have the

misfortune to be ridden upon. And when they run over a man that is walking in his sleep, a

supernumerary sleeper in the wrong position, and wake him up, they suddenly stop the cars,

and make a hue and cry about it, as if this were an exception. I am glad to know that it takes

a gang of men for every five miles to keep the sleepers down and level in their beds as it is,

for this is a sign that they may sometime get up again.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (New York: 1910), 117-121.

Available through Google Books



The Fruit of Alcohol and Temperance

Lithographs, 1849

N. Currier, “Tree of Temperance” and “Tree of Intemperance,” 1849, via American Antiquarian Society.

This pair of lithographs, created by Nathaniel Currier (later of Currier & Ives fame),

contrasts the “fruits” of abstaining from alcohol to those of indulging in strong drink. It

leaves little to the imagination. Intemperance is symbolized by a diseased tree, surrounded

by drunks outside of a pawn shop and a woman and her children being thrown out of their

home. The lush foliage of temperance, on the other hand, is surrounded by prosperous

church-going farm families.




Missionary Society Membership Certificate,


N. Currier, Membership Certificate to [Vermont] Conference Missionary Society, 1848, via American

Antiquarian Society.

The Second Great Awakening moved American evangelicals to proselytize at home and

abroad. The image on this lifetime membership certificate to a missionary society shows

how the new member’s money will be used. The guiding hand of Providence and an angel

bearing a book (presumably a Bible) hover at the top of the image. In the background, a

mosque topples over. An African family kneels and reaches towards the heavens on the left

side, while a minister preaches to Native Americans gathered before him on the right.





11. The Cotton Revolution

Cotton created the antebellum South. The wildly profitable commodity opened a previously

closed society to the grandeur, the profit, the exploitation, and the social dimensions of a

larger, more connected, global community. Populations became more cosmopolitan, more

educated, and wealthier. Systems of class—lower-, middle-, and upper-class communities—

developed where they had never clearly existed. Ports that had once focused entirely on the

importation of slaves, and shipped only regionally, became homes to daily and weekly

shipping lines to New York City, Liverpool, Manchester, Le Havre, and Lisbon. The world

was, slowly but surely, coming closer together; and the South was right in the middle. But

slavery remained, and the internal slave trade rose as the 1860s approached. Political debate,

race relations, and the burden of slavery continued beneath the roar of steamboats, counting

houses, and the exchange of goods. Underneath it all, many questions remained—chief

among them, what to do if slavery somehow came under threat. These sources offer

perspectives on how southerners, enslaved and free, made meaning of their lives in an era of

great change.


Nat Turner explains the Southampton

rebellion, 1831

In August, 1831, Nat Turner led a group of enslaved and free Black men in a rebellion that killed over fifty

white men, women, and children. Nat Turner understood his rebellion as an act of God. While he awaited

trial, Turner spoke with the white attorney, Thomas Ruffin Gray, who wrote their conversations into the

following document.

I was struck with that particular passage which says : “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and

all things shall be added unto you.” I reflected much on this passage, and prayed daily for

light on this subject—As I was praying one day at my plough, the spirit spoke to me, saying

“Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you.”

Question—what do you mean by the Spirit.

Answer—The Spirit that spoke to the prophets in former days—and I was greatly astonished,

and for two years prayed continually, whenever my duty would permit—and then again I

had the same revelation, which fully confirmed me in the impression that I was ordained for

some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty. Several years rolled round, in which many

events occurred to strengthen me in this my belief. At this time I reverted in my mind to the

remarks made of me in my childhood, and the things that had been shewn me—and as it

had been said of me in my childhood by those by whom I had been taught to pray, both

white and black, and in whom I had the greatest confidence, that I had too much sense to be

raised, and if I was, I would never be of any use to any one as a slave. Now finding I had

arrived to man’s estate, and was a slave, and these revelations being made known to me, I

began to direct my attention to this great object, to fulfil the purpose for which, by this time,

I felt assured I was intended. Knowing the influence I had obtained over the minds of my

fellow servants, (not by the means of conjuring and such like tricks—for to them I always

spoke of such things with contempt) but by the communion of the Spirit whose revelations I

often communicated to them, and they believed and said my wisdom came from God. I now

began to prepare them for my purpose, by telling them something was about to happen that

would terminate in fulfilling the great promise that had been made to me—About this time I

was placed under an overseer, from whom I ran away—and after remaining in the woods

thirty days, I returned, to the astonishment of the negroes on the plantation, who thought I

had made my escape to some other part of the country, as my father had done before. But

the reason of my return was, that the Spirit appeared to me and said I had my wishes

directed to the things of this world, and not to the kingdom of Heaven, and that I should

return to the service of my earthly master—“For he who knoweth his Master’s will, and

doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes, and thus, have I chastened you.” And the

negroes found fault, and murmured against me, saying that if they had my sense they would

not serve any master in the world. And about this time I had a vision—and I saw white

spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened—the thunder rolled in


the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams—and I heard a voice saying, “Such is your luck,

such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bare it.” I now

withdrew myself as much as my situation would permit, from the intercourse of my fellow

servants, for the avowed purpose of serving the Spirit more fully—and it appeared to me,

and reminded me of the things it had already shown me, and that it would then reveal to me

the knowledge of the elements, the revolution of the planets, the operation of tides, and

changes of the seasons. After this revelation in the year 1825, and the knowledge of the

elements being made known to me, I sought more than ever to obtain true holiness before

the great day of judgment should appear, and then I began to receive the true knowledge of

faith. And from the first steps of righteousness until the last, was I made perfect; and the

Holy Ghost was with me, and said, “Behold me as I stand in the Heavens”—and I looked

and saw the forms of men in different attitudes—and there were lights in the sky to which

the children of darkness gave other names than what they really were—for they were the

lights of the Savior’s hands, stretched forth from east to west, even as they were extended on

the cross on Calvary for the redemption of sinners. And I wondered greatly at these

miracles, and prayed to be informed of a certainty of the meaning thereof—and shortly

afterwards, while laboring in the field, I discovered drops of blood on the corn as though it

were dew from heaven—and I communicated it to many, both white and black, in the

neighborhood—and I then found on the leaves in the woods hieroglyphic characters, and

numbers, with the forms of men in different attitudes, portrayed in blood, and representing

the figures I had seen before in the heavens. And now the Holy Ghost had revealed itself to

me, and made plain the miracles it had shown me—For as the blood of Christ had been

shed on this earth, and had ascended to heaven for the salvation of sinners, and was now

returning to earth again in the form of dew—and as the leaves on the trees bore the

impression of the figures I had seen in the heavens, it was plain to me that the Saviour was

about to lay down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and the great day of judgment

was at hand. About this time I told these things to a white man, on whom it had a wonderful

effect—and he ceased from his wickedness, and was attacked immediately with a cutaneous

eruption, and blood oozed from the pores of his skin, and after praying and fasting nine

days, he was healed, and the Spirit appeared to me again, and said, as the Saviour had been

baptised so should we be also—and when the white people would not let us be baptised by

the church, we went down into the water together, in the sight of many who reviled us, and

were baptised by the Spirit—After this I rejoiced greatly, and gave thanks to God. And on

the 12th of May, 1828, I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared

to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne

for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time

was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.

Nat Turner, Confessions of Nat Turner… (Baltimore: 1831), 9-11.

Available through the Internet Archive



Harriet Jacobs on Rape and Slavery, 1860

Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery in North Carolina. After escaping to New York, Jacobs eventually

wrote a narrative of her enslavement under the pseudonym of Linda Brent. In this excerpt Jacobs explains her

experience struggling with sexual assault from her enslaver.

The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. My master was, to my

knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father

of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among

themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences.

My grandmother could not avoid seeing things which excited her suspicions. She was uneasy

about me, and tried various ways to buy me; but the never-changing answer was always

repeated: “Linda does not belong to me. She is my daughter’s property, and I have no legal

right to sell her.” The conscientious man! He was too scrupulous to sell me; but he had no

scruples whatever about committing a much greater wrong against the helpless young girl

placed under his guardianship, as his daughter’s property. Sometimes my persecutor would

ask me whether I would like to be sold. I told him I would rather be sold to any body than

to lead such a life as I did. On such occasions he would assume the air of a very injured

individual, and reproach me for my ingratitude. “Did I not take you into the house, and

make you the companion of my own children?” he would say. “Have I ever treated you like

a negro? I have never allowed you to be punished, not even to please your mistress. And this

is the recompense I get, you ungrateful girl!” I answered that he had reasons of his own for

screening me from punishment, and that the course he pursued made my mistress hate me

and persecute me. If I wept, he would say, “Poor child! Don’t cry! don’t cry! I will make

peace for you with your mistress. Only let me arrange matters in my own way. Poor, foolish

girl! you don’t know what is for your own good. I would cherish you. I would make a lady of

you. Now go, and think of all I have promised you.”

I did think of it.

Reader, I draw no imaginary pictures of southern homes. I am telling you the plain truth. Yet

when victims make their escape from this wild beast of Slavery, northerners consent to act

the part of bloodhounds, and hunt the poor fugitive back into his den, “full of dead men’s

bones, and all uncleanness.” Nay, more, they are not only willing, but proud, to give their

daughters in marriage to slaveholders. The poor girls have romantic notions of a sunny

clime, and of the flowering vines that all the year round shade a happy home. To what

disappointments are they destined! The young wife soon learns that the husband in whose

hands she has placed her happiness pays no regard to his marriage vows. Children of every

shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too well she knows that they are

born unto him of his own household. Jealousy and hatred enter the flowery home, and it is

ravaged of its loveliness.


Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They

do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property, as marketable as

the pigs on the plantation; and it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by

passing them into the slave-trader’s hands as soon as possible, and thus getting them out of

their sight. I am glad to say there are some honorable exceptions.

I have myself known two southern wives who exhorted their husbands to free those slaves

towards whom they stood in a “parental relation;” and their request was granted. These

husbands blushed before the superior nobleness of their wives’ natures. Though they had

only counseled them to do that which it was their duty to do, it commanded their respect,

and rendered their conduct more exemplary. Concealment was at an end, and confidence

took the place of distrust.

Though this bad institution deadens the moral sense, even in white women, to a fearful

extent, it is not altogether extinct. I have heard southern ladies say of Mr. Such a one, “He

not only thinks it no disgrace to be the father of those little niggers, but he is not ashamed to

call himself their master. I declare, such things ought not to be tolerated in any decent


Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Boston: 1861), 55-57.

Available through Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill




Solomon Northup Describes a Slave Market,


Solomon Northup was a free Black man in New York who was captured and sold into slavery. After twelve

years, he was rescued and returned to his family. Shortly thereafter, he published a narrative of his experiences

as a slave. This excerpt describes the horrors he saw in a slave market.

The very amiable, pious-hearted Mr. Theophilus Freeman, partner or consignee of James H.

Burch, and keeper of the slave pen in New-Orleans, was out among his animals early in the

morning. With an occasional kick of the older men and women, and many a sharp crack of

the whip about the ears of the younger slaves, it was not long before they were all astir, and

wide awake. Mr. Theophilus Freeman bustled about in a very industrious manner, getting his

property ready for the sales-room, intending, no doubt, to do that day a rousing business.

In the first place we were required to wash thoroughly, and those with beards, to shave. We

were then furnished with a new suit each, cheap, but clean. The men had hat, coat, shirt,

pants and shoes; the women frocks of calico, and handkerchiefs to bind about their heads.

We were now conducted into a large room in the front part of the building to which the yard

was attached, in order to be properly trained, before the admission of customers. The men

were arranged on one side of the room, the women on the other. The tallest was placed at

the head of the row, then the next tallest, and so on in the order of their respective heights.

Emily was at the foot of the line of women. Freeman charged us to remember our places;

exhorted us to appear smart and lively, – sometimes threatening, and again, holding out

various inducements. During the day he exercised us in the art of “looking smart,” and of

moving to our places with exact precision.

After being fed, in the afternoon, we were again paraded and made to dance. Bob, a colored

boy, who had some time belonged to Freeman, played on the violin. Standing near him, I

made bold to inquire if he could play the “Virginia Reel.” He answered he could not, and

asked me if I could play. Replying in the affirmative, he handed me the violin. I struck up a

tune, and finished it. Freeman ordered me to continue playing, and seemed well pleased,

telling Bob that I far excelled him – a remark that seemed to grieve my musical companion

very much.

Next day many customers called to examine Freeman’s “new lot.” The latter gentleman was

very loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several good points and qualities. He

would make us hold up our heads, walk briskly back and forth, while customers would feel

of our hands and arms and bodies, turn us about, ask us what we could do, make us open

our mouths and show our teeth, precisely as a jockey examines a horse which he is about to

barter for or purchase. Sometimes a man or woman was taken back to the small house in the

yard, stripped, and inspected more minutely. Scars upon a slave’s back were considered

evidence of a rebellious or unruly spirit, and hurt his sale.


One old gentleman, who said he wanted a coachman, appeared to take a fancy to me. From

his conversation with Burch, I learned he was a resident in the city. I very much desired that

he would buy me, because I conceived it would not be difficult to make my escape from

New-Orleans on some northern vessel. Freeman asked him fifteen hundred dollars for me.

The old gentleman insisted it was too much, as times were very hard. Freeman, however,

declared that I was sound and healthy, of a good constitution, and intelligent. He made it a

point to enlarge upon my musical attainments. The old gentleman argued quite adroitly that

there was nothing extraordinary about the nigger, and finally, to my regret, went out, saying

he would call again. During the day, however, a number of sales were made. David and

Caroline were purchased together by a Natchez planter. They left us, grinning broadly, and

in the most happy state of mind, caused by the fact of their not being separated. Lethe was

sold to a planter of Baton Rouge, her eyes flashing with anger as she was led away.

The same man also purchased Randall. The little fellow was made to jump, and run across

the floor, and perform many other feats, exhibiting his activity and condition. All the time

the trade was going on, Eliza was crying aloud, and wringing her hands. She besought the

man not to buy him, unless he also bought her self and Emily. She promised, in that case, to

be the most faithful slave that ever lived. The man answered that he could not afford it, and

then Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, weeping plaintively. Freeman turned round to her,

savagely, with his whip in his uplifted hand, ordering her to stop her noise, or he would flog

her. He would not have such work – such snivelling; and unless she ceased that minute, he

would take her to the yard and give her a hundred lashes. Yes, he would take the nonsense

out of her pretty quick – if he didn’t, might he be d—d. Eliza shrunk before him, and tried

to wipe away her tears, but it was all in vain. She wanted to be with her children, she said, the

little time she had to live. All the frowns and threats of Freeman, could not wholly silence

the afflicted mother. She kept on begging and beseeching them, most piteously not to

separate the three. Over and over again she told them how she loved her boy. A great many

times she repeated her former promises – how very faithful and obedient she would be; how

hard she would labor day and night, to the last moment of her life, if he would only buy

them all together. But it was of no avail; the man could not afford it. The bargain was agreed

upon, and Randall must go alone. Then Eliza ran to him; embraced him passionately; kissed

him again and again; told him to remember her – all the while her tears falling in the boy’s

face like rain.

Freeman damned her, calling her a blubbering, bawling wench, and ordered her to go to her

place, and behave herself; and be somebody. He swore he wouldn’t stand such stuff but a

little longer. He would soon give her something to cry about, if she was not mighty careful,

and that she might depend upon.

The planter from Baton Rouge, with his new purchases, was ready to depart.

“Don’t cry, mama. I will be a good boy. Don’t cry,” said Randall, looking back, as they

passed out of the door.

What has become of the lad, God knows. It was a mournful scene indeed. I would have

cried myself if I had dared.


Solomon Northup, Twelve years a slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York,

kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River

in Louisiana (Auburn, N.Y.: 1856), 78-82.

Available through the Internet Archive



George Fitzhugh Argues that Slavery is Better

than Liberty and Equality, 1854

As the nineteenth century progressed, some Americans shifted their understanding of slavery from a necessary

evil to a positive good. George Fitzhugh offered one of the most consistent and sophisticated defenses of slavery.

His study Sociology for the South attacked northern society as corrupt and slavery as a gentle system

designed to “protect” the inferior Black race and promote social harmony.

Liberty and equality are new things under the sun. The free states of antiquity abounded with

slaves. The feudal system that supplanted Roman institutions changed the form of slavery,

but brought with it neither liberty nor equality. France and the Northern States of our Union

have alone fully and fairly tried the experiment of a social organization founded upon

universal liberty and equality of rights. England has only approximated to this condition in

her commercial and manufacturing cities. The examples of small communities in Europe are

not fit exponents of the working of the system. In France and in our Northern States the

experiment has already failed… we have conclusive proof that liberty and equality have not

conduced to enhance the comfort or the happiness of the people. Crime

and pauperism have increased. Riots, trades unions, strikes for higher wages, discontent

breaking out into revolution, are things of daily occurrence, and show that the poor see and

feel quite as clearly as the philosophers, that their condition is far worse under the new than

under the old order of things….

The statistics of France, England and America show that pauperism and crime advance pari

passu with liberty and equality. How can it be otherwise, when all society is combined to

oppress the poor and weak minded? The rich man, however good he may be, employs the

laborer who will work for the least wages. If he be a good man, his punctuality enables him

to cheapen the wages of the poor man. The poor war with one another in the race of

competition, in order to get employment, by underbidding; for laborers are more abundant

than employers. Population increases faster than capital. Look to the situation of woman

when she is thrown into this war of competition, and has to support herself by her daily

wages. For the same or equally valuable services she gets not half the pay that man does,

simply because the modesty of her sex prevents her from resorting to all the arts and means

of competition which men employ. He who would emancipate woman, unless he could

make her as coarse and strong in mind and body as man, would be her worst enemy;

her subservience to and dependence on man, is necessary to her very existence. She is not a

soldier fitted to enlist in the war of free competition. We do not set children and women free

because they are not capable of taking care of themselves, not equal to the constant struggle

of society. To set them free would be to give the lamb to the wolf to take care of. Society

would quickly devour them. If the children of ten years of age were remitted to all the rights

of person and property which men enjoy, all can perceive how soon ruin and penury would

overtake them. But half of mankind are but grown-up children, and liberty is as fatal to them

as it would be to children…


Domestic slavery in the Southern States has produced the same results in elevating

the character of the master that it did in Greece and Rome. He is lofty and independent in

his sentiments, generous, affectionate, brave and eloquent; he is superior to the Northerner,

in every thing but the arts of thrift…

But the chief and far most important enquiry is, how does slavery affect the condition of the

slave? One of the wildest sects of Communists in France proposes not only to hold all

property in common, but to divide the profits not according to each mans in-put and labor

but according to each mans wants. Now this is precisely the system of domestic slavery with

us. We provide for each slave, in old age and in infancy, in sickness and in health, not

according to his labor, but according to his wants. The masters wants are most costly and

refined, and he therefore gets a larger share of the profits. A Southern farm is the beau ideal

of Communism; it is a joint concern, in which the slave consumes more than the master, of

the coarse products, and is far happier, because although the concern may fail, he is always

sure of a support; he is only transferred to another master to participate in the profits of

another concern…

There is no rivalry, no competition to get employment among slaves, as among free laborers.

Nor is there a war between master and slave. The masters interest prevents his reducing the

slaves allowance or wages in infancy or sickness, for he might lose the slave by so doing. His

feeling for his slave never permits him to stint him in old age. The slaves are all well fed, well

clad, have plenty of fuel, and are happy. They have no dread of the future no fear of want. A

state of dependence is the only condition in which reciprocal affection can exist among

human beings the only situation in which the war of competition ceases, and

peace, amity and good will arise….

George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society (Richmond: 1854), 226, 230-

231, 244-246.

Available through Google Books



Sermon on the Duties of a Christian Woman,


The Market Revolution brought a hardening of gender roles in both the North and the South, but the South

tended to hold more tightly to the expectation of “separate spheres.” In this sermon, Rev. Aldert Smedes of

Raleigh, North Carolina, praises the virtues of women and explains the duties of a Christian woman.

I purpose, then, to consider the duties and responsibilities of a woman,–thus showing, not

only what she can do, but what she must do, if she would be entitled to the commendation,

“She hath done what she could.”

…The young man is very early apprenticed to the business or profession he is to pursue for

a maintenance; and the studies or labors exacted by this preparation, he finds wholesome

and constant occupation. But how often has the young woman many hours of every day at

her command–hours not seldom lost through indolence, frittered away in dress, and vanity

or gossip, or, worse than all, consumed in the perusal of works of fiction, generally of a light

and enervating, sometimes even of a corrupt and debasing character.

How much in these hours might one, seriously disposed to do what she could, accomplish

for her own mental improvement by such reading and studies, as will fit her, not only to

sustain well her part in general society, but to discharge, with grace and intelligence, the

engrossing duties of her after life, which leave so little time for the pursuits of taste and


One of the first conditions of the married state is, that the desire of the wife shall be to her

husband, and that he shall rule over her? “Wives,” says St. Peter, “be in subjection to your

own husbands, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him Lord.” “The Husband,” says St.

Paul, “is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church.” How important

then, nay how imperative, is it, that, in taking the step which links her “for better, for worse,

till death do them part,” to one who is henceforward to be “the disposer of her destiny,” she

should be influenced more by a regard to the moral and intellectual qualities, which, in her

guide and head, she can honor and reverence, than to his possession of personal attractions,

or incidental advantages, however great and desirable….

And here, it seems to me is indicated the most important duty of the Christian wife. From

natural temperament, and the circumstances of her daily life, she is more sensitive than her

husband to the appeals of religion, and less exposed to the dangers and temptations of the

world. While, then, it should be her endeavor to render the home of her husband a place of

rest from the toils of business–of comforts amid the disappointments of life–of cheerful

recreation amid its cares–it should be especially her effort to make it the residence of purity

and piety. Against anger, clamor, wrath, bitterness, evil-speaking, murmurs discontent,

reproaches, and complainings, the door should be effectually shut; while for meekness


gentleness, resignation, forbearance, hope, peace and joy, there should be an abundant

entrance, and a perpetual welcome!

In this way, may the Christian wife often become the minister to her husband’s salvation.

She may be to him, at all times, a preacher of righteousness, improving every event of

sorrow or of joy, into some delightful lesson of Christian patience, or gratitude, or

moderation. Not that she will seize every opportunity of inculcating in language the truths

and precepts of the gospel, or ever obtrude in an offensive manner her remonstrances and

appeals. The preaching of the wife to be effectual, and “to win the husband,” must be simply

her faithful exhibition in all her conduct of the beauty and heavenly influence of religion. It

should appear in her subjection to her husbands authority, in her affectionate attachment to

him, and her evident wish to make him happy. It should be seen in the cheerful discharge of

her domestic duties, in her maternal solicitude, especially for the spiritual welfare of her

offspring; in her mild and Christian, but watchful and careful control of her household,

consulting by a wise economy the interests of her husband, and by a just distribution the

comfort and happiness of her dependents and servants; in her forbearance towards the

involuntary faults of the latter, her pains and patience in teaching them their duties, and the

anxiety she manifests for their moral and religious improvement; in her performance of the

gentle offices of charity towards her neighbors; in her assiduous endeavors to avail herself of

all the public services of the sanctuary; in her evident, though unobtrusive attention to the

private and most sacred duties of religion, and in the sacrifices she is willing to make of

personal or domestic display, that she may have to give, and may enable and persuade her

husband to give bountifully of his means, towards the labors of Christian benevolence, and

especially towards the extension of the Redeemer’s Kingdom.

It is well known, that many, who in their matrimonial arrangements have thought only for

their present happiness, have thus found in their believing wives the ministers to their

everlasting bliss. What responsibility is thus thrown upon the Christian woman? If she does

what she can in this most interesting relation, she may be the light, the joy, the salvation, of

her husband and household; but if she is recreant to her obligations—if the wife is a deserter

of her faith and its duties, the last hope, I had almost said, of husband and family, is gone


Aldert Smedes, “She Hath Done What She Could:” A Sermon (Raleigh: 1851), 3, 5, 8-11.

Available through Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill




Mary Polk Branch remembers plantation life,


The coexistence of brutal oppression and genuine affection was but one of many contradictions in the

antebellum slave system. In this postwar reflection, Mary Polk Branch recalls her life as an enslaver. We see

here how many white southerners justified the ownership of human beings, as well as an indication of the

priorities and perspectives of enslaving women.

In the “quarters,” as the negro cabins were called, there was usually a band, which played at

night for the “white folks” to dance. “Old Master” always led off in the “Virginia Reel.”

Negroes are always fond of music, and as they would play “Jim Crack Corn, I Don’t Care,”

or “Run, Nigger Run,” or “The Patrolers Will Catch You,” or some other especial favorite,

they would become wildly excited and beat the tambourines over their heads.

Our nurses we always called “Mammy,” and it was not considered good manners to address

any old negro man or woman otherwise than as “uncle” or “aunt,” adding the name

whatever that might be – the surname was always the master’s. We were taught to treat them

with respect.

There was such a kindly feeling on both sides between the owners and their slaves –

inherited kindly feelings. How could it be otherwise? Many were descendants of those who

had served in the same family for generations – for instance, the nurse who nursed my

children was the daughter of my nurse, and her grandmother had nursed my mother. My

maid, Virginia (I can not recall the time when she was not my maid) was a very handsome

young mulatto to whom I was especially attached. When she was married in her white dress

and long veil flowing to her feet, the ceremony was performed in our back parlor, and

Bishop Otey, the first bishop of Tennessee, officiated.

How great the pride the negroes felt in the wealth and importance of their owners, and

interest indeed in all of their affairs, amusingly so, sometimes! I recall an old woman, coal

black, a red bandanna handkerchief tied over her kinky locks, and great dignity of manner,

she said to me: “Young missis should marry her cousin, Marse Tom, and keep our family

likeness in our family.”

Indeed, ours was a gay and free-from-care life. I can recall delightful summers at Old Point

Comfort, and the Greenbrier White, in Virginia – winters in which I journeyed from my

father’s plantation, near Helena, Arkansas, to New Orleans…

The most beautiful assemblage of women I have ever seen I then saw. There was Madame

Yznaga; I had known her as a schoolmate as Ellen Clement. Her husband was a Cuban

planter, and she owned plantations on the Yazoo River, which had taken her South. Her

sympathies were strongly Southern, and I heard of her playing the banjo and singing Dixie

songs when abroad during the war. She was the mother of the Duchess of Manchester, and

grandmother of the young Duke, who married Miss Zimmerman, of Cincinnati.


Among the beauties was Miss Sallie Ward, of Louisville, with the soft warm coloring and

blue eyes which Kentuckians often inherit from their Virginia ancestry.

Then the Tennesseans, a very different type, with clearly cut, regular features, brunettes, and

slight, graceful forms, brilliant eyes, but not with the languor which characterized the creoles.

While admiring them, a gentleman said: “No one here compares with Madame Bienvenu,”

and looking where I was directed I certainly saw a beautiful woman. I was told she was sixty,

but it was beyond belief, although upon her shapely head were piled puffs of snowy hair.

Her large, velvety eyes had a lovely expression, her creamy-white skin with but little color,

but her lips were crimson. Her neck and arms showed to advantage in the black velvet gown

by contrast, and a single white camelia she wore as a bouquet de corsage. I admired her


The next summer I went to the “Greenbrier White,” in Virginia, with my uncle, Andrew

Polk, his wife and daughter, then a child, Antoinette Polk, afterward the Baronne de

Charette. There could not have been a more delightful place. Brilliant belles from all over the

South – gay cavaliers, chivalric and courteous. I recall my saying: “There is nothing more I

wish for on earth; I am perfectly happy.”

It was on the morning of November 29, 1859, that Col. Joseph Branch and I were married at

“Buena Vista,” my father’s, afterwards my, home, at Columbia, Tennessee. Colonel Branch

was finely educated, benevolent and honorable, and I may be excused for saying, handsome,

though I have now no photograph of him…

Colonel Branch then left Florida and formed a partnership with his father-in-law, and their

plantations were in the name of Martin and Branch. There were two plantations, seven miles

long, in Desha and Arkansas Counties, Arkansas – the Davis and Dayton plantations. The

Davis half-way encircled the lake, reflecting the white cabins and green trees of the

“quarters” in the water. It was laid out in regular rows of houses with streets between, two

hospitals – one for the men, one for the women – a nursery for the children, and two old

women to take charge of them.

In approaching the place there was first a cotton field of one thousand acres, level as the

floor, and at regular intervals sheds with lightning-rods attached in case of storms, and at

each shed a cistern. A field of cotton would be one day white, the next day the blooms

changing to pink, and presenting a beautiful appearance.

Upon these plantations were four hundred slaves before mine came, given me by my father

from his plantation near Helena, Arkansas.

Upon my arrival as a bride at the plantation I found the house servants drawn up in a line on

the front porch to greet me, and the house brilliantly illuminated. Among them was “Aunt

Beck,” a dignitary of great importance, my husband’s nurse and then his cook. She was a

privileged character. Colonel Branch’s mother had left the children to the care of this

devoted nurse on her deathbed, and her affection for them was boundless. As Governor


Branch’s cook in Washington, where he was Secretary of the Navy, she had also been their

consoler in many an escapade.

She had no children of her own, and my husband and his brothers, orphans, she considered

her own. They gave her her freedom when they were grown, but she scorned it and said she

would never leave “Marse Joe,” my husband. Good and faithful woman! The bullet which

killed her favorite broke her heart, and she lived but a short time afterwards….

Every day we went out on our horses, riding through the canebrakes, bayous, down the turn

rows of immense fields of cotton, to the ditches where Irish laborers were digging to drain

the marshes – to the nurseries, to the hospital with fruit, or some delicacy for the sick.

In the evening we entertained ourselves with the piano and the library; among the books

were many religious ones, for Colonel Branch was pious, and a member of the Episcopal


An innocent and ideal life!

Mary Polk Branch, Memoirs of a Southern Woman “Within the Lines,” and a Geneological

Record (Chicago: Joseph G. Branch, 1912)

Available through Documenting the American South at the University of North Carolina at

Chapel Hill




Painting of Enslaved Persons for Sale, 1861

Eyre Crowe, Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia, 1861, via University of Virginia, The Atlantic

Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas.

The English painter Eyre Crowe traveled through the American South in the early 1850s. He

was particularly shocked to see the horrors of a slave market where families were torn apart

by sale. In this painting, Crowe depicts an enslaved man, several women, and children

waiting to be sold at auction.





Proslavery Cartoon, 1850



“Slavery as it exists in America. Slavery as it exists in England,” 1850, via Library Company of


European alliances helped the American antislavery movement. But proslavery supporters

also drew transatlantic comparisons. This proslavery image ignorantly portrays enslaved

people who, according to white observers, were cheerful and pleased with their bondage.

Proslavery advocates attempted to claim that English factory workers suffered a worse

“slavery” than enslaved Africans and African Americans in the American South.




12. Manifest Destiny

Many Americans believed that the United States was destined to conquer the American

continent and perhaps beyond. Other Americans protested these expansions as betrayals of

American values. Debates over expansion, economics, diplomacy, and manifest destiny

exposed some of the weaknesses of the American system. The chauvinism of policies

like Native American removal, the Mexican War, and filibustering, existed alongside growing

anxiety. Manifest destiny attempted to make a virtue of America’s lack of history and turn it

into the very basis of nationhood. According to these Americans, the United States was the

embodiment of the democratic ideal. Democracy had to be timeless, boundless, and

portable. New methods of transportation and communication, the rapidity of the railroad

and the telegraph, the rise of the international market economy, and the growth of the

American frontier provided shared platforms to help Americans think across local identities

and reaffirm a national character. These sources demonstrate the conflicts over antebellum

American expansion.


Cherokee Petition Protesting Removal, 1836

Native Americans responded differently to the constant encroachments and attacks of American settlers.

Some resisted violently. Others worked to adapt to American culture and defend themselves using particularly

American weapons like lawsuits and petitions. The Cherokee did more to adapt than perhaps any other

Native American group, creating a written constitution modeled off the American constitution and adopting

American culture in dress, speech, religion and economic activity. In this document, Cherokee leaders protested

the loss of their territory using a very American tactic: petitioning.

The undersigned representatives of the Cherokee nation, east of the river Mississippi,

impelled by duty, would respectfully submit, for the consideration of your honorable body,

the following statement of facts: It will be seen from the numerous subsisting treaties

between the Cherokee nation and the United States, that from the earliest existence of this

government, the United States, in Congress assembled, received the Cherokees and their

nation in to favor and protection; and that the chiefs and warriors, for themselves and all

parts of the Cherokee nation to be under the protection of the United States of

America, and of no other sovereign whatsoever: they also stipulated, that the said Cherokee

nation will not hold any treaty with any foreign power, individual State, or with individuals of

any State; that for, and in consideration of, valuable concessions made by the Cherokee

nation, the United States solemnly guaranteed to said nations all their lands not ceded, and

pledged the faith of the government, that “all white people who have intruded, or may

hereafter intrude, on the lands reserved for the Cherokees, shall be removed by the United

States, and proceeded against, according to the provisions of the act, passed 30th March,

1802,” entitled “An act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to

preserve peace on the frontiers.” The Cherokees were happy and prosperous under a

scrupulous observance of treaty stipulations by the government of the United States, and

from the fostering hand extended over them, they made rapid advances in civilization,

morals, and in the arts and sciences. Little did they anticipate, that when taught to think and

feel as the American citizen, and to have with him a common interest, they were to be

despoiled by their guardian, to become strangers and wanderers in the land of their fathers,

forced to return to the savage life, and to seek a new home in the wilds of the far west, and

that without their consent. An instrument purporting to be a treaty with the Cherokee

people, has recently been made public by the President of the United States, that will have

such an operation if carried into effect. This instrument, the delegation aver before the

civilized world, and in the presence of Almighty God, is fraudulent, false upon its face, made

by unauthorized individuals, without the sanction, and against the wishes of the great body

of the Cherokee people. Upwards of fifteen thousand of those people have protested against

it, solemnly declaring they will never acquiesce. The delegation would respectfully call the

attention of your honorable body to their memorial and protest, with the accompanying

documents, submitted to the Senate of the United States, on the subject of the alleged treaty,

which are herewith transmitted….


House Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Executive Documents: 13th Congress, 2d Session-49th Congress, 1st

Session. 5.-No. 286, pp. 1 . Doc.s congressional serial setUnited State

Available through Google Books



John O’Sullivan Declares America’s Manifest

Destiny, 1845

John Louis O’Sullivan, a popular editor and columnist, articulated the long-standing American belief in

the God-given mission of the United States to lead the world in the transition to democracy. He called this

America’s “manifest destiny.” This idea motivated wars of American expansion. He explained this idea in

the following essay where he advocated adding Texas to the United States.

Texas is now ours… Her star and her stripe may already be said to have taken their place in

the glorious blazon of our common nationality; and the sweep of our eagle’s wing already

includes within its circuit the wide extent of her fair and fertile land. She is no longer to us a

mere geographical space–a certain combination of coast, plain, mountain, valley, forest and

stream. She is no longer to us a mere country on the map. She comes within the dear and

sacred designation of Our Country… other nations have undertaken to intrude themselves

… in a spirit of hostile interference against us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy

and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our

manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free

development of our yearly multiplying millions. This we have seen done by England, our old

rival and enemy; and by France, strangely coupled with her against us….

The independence of Texas was complete and absolute. It was an independence, not only in

fact, but of right. No obligation of duty towards Mexico tended in the least degree to restrain

our right to effect the desired recovery of the fair province once our own–whatever motives

of policy might have prompted a more deferential consideration of her feelings and her

pride, as involved in the question. If Texas became peopled with an American population; it

was by no contrivance of our government, but on the express invitation of that of Mexico


California will, probably, next fall away from the loose adhesion which, in such a country as

Mexico, holds a remote province in a slight equivocal kind of dependence on the

metropolis. Imbecile and distracted, Mexico never can exert any real governmental authority

over such a country. The impotence of the one and the distance of the other, must make the

relation one of virtual independence; unless, by stunting the province of all natural growth,

and forbidding that immigration which can alone develop its capabilities and fulfil the

purposes of its creation, tyranny may retain a military dominion, which is no government in

the, legitimate sense of the term. In the case of California this is now impossible. The Anglo-

Saxon foot is already on its borders. Already the advance guard of the irresistible army of

Anglo-Saxon emigration has begun to pour down upon it, armed with the plough and the

rifle, and marking its trail with schools and colleges, courts and representative halls, mills and

meeting-houses. A population will soon be in actual occupation of California, over which it

will be idle for Mexico to dream of dominion. They will necessarily become independent. All

this without agency of our government, without responsibility of our people–in the natural


flow of events, the spontaneous working of principles, and the adaptation of the tendencies

and wants of the human race to the elemental circumstances in the midst of which they find

themselves placed. And they will have a right to independence–to self-government–to the

possession of the homes conquered from the wilderness by their own labors and dangers,

sufferings and sacrifices-a better and a truer right than the artificial tide of sovereignty in

Mexico, a thousand miles distant, inheriting from Spain a title good only against those who

have none better. Their right to independence will be the natural right of self-government

belonging to any community strong enough to maintain it–distinct in position, origin and

character, and free from any mutual obligations of membership of a common political body,

binding it to others by the duty of loyalty and compact of public faith. This will be their title

to independence; and by this title, there can be no doubt that the population now fast

streaming down upon California win both assert and maintain that independence. Whether

they will then attach themselves to our Union or not, is not to be predicted with any

certainty. Unless the projected railroad across the continent to the Pacific be carried into

effect, perhaps they may not; though even in that case, the day is not distant when the

Empires of the Atlantic and Pacific would again flow together into one, as soon as their

inland border should approach each other. But that great work, colossal as appears the plan

on its first suggestion, cannot remain long unbuilt. Its necessity for this very purpose of

binding and holding together in its iron clasp our fast-settling Pacific region with that of the

Mississippi valley–the natural facility of the route–the ease with which any amount of labor

for the construction can be drawn in from the overcrowded populations of Europe, to be

paid in die lands made valuable by the progress of the work itself–and its immense utility to

the commerce of the world with the whole eastern Asia, alone almost sufficient for the

support of such a road–these coast of considerations give assurance that the day cannot be

distant which shall witness the conveyance of the representatives from Oregon and

California to Washington within less time than a few years ago was devoted to a similar

journey by those from Ohio; while the magnetic telegraph will enable the editors of the “San

Francisco Union,” the “Astoria Evening Post,” or the “Nootka Morning News,” to set up in

type the first half of the President’s Inaugural before the echoes of the latter half shall have

died away beneath the lofty porch of the Capitol, as spoken from his lips.

Away, then, with all idle French talk of balances of power on the American Continent. There is

no growth in Spanish America! Whatever progress of population there may be in the British

Canadas, is only for their own early severance of their present colonial relation to the little

island three thousand miles across the Atlantic; soon to be followed by Annexation, and

destined to swell the still accumulating momentum of our progress. And whosoever may

hold the balance, though they should cast into the opposite scale all the bayonets and

cannon, not only of France and England, but of Europe entire, how would it kick the beam

against the simple, solid weight of the two hundred and fifty, or three hundred millions–and

American millions–destined to gather beneath the flutter of the stripes and stars, in the fast

hastening year of the Lord 1945!


John O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, Volume 17

(New York: 1845), 5-6, 9-10.

Available through Google Books



Diary of a Woman Migrating to Oregon, 1853

The experience of migrating west into territory still controlled by Native Americans was difficult and

dangerous. In these diary excerpts we find the experience of Amelia Stewart Knight who traveled with her

husband and seven children from Iowa to Oregon. She was pregnant the entire trip and gave birth to her

eighth child on the side of the road near the journey’s end.

Saturday, April 9th, 1853 — STARTED FROM HOME [South-central Iowa) about 11

o’clock and traveled 8 miles and camped in an old house; night cold and frosty.

Thursday, April 14th — Quite cold. Little ewes crying with cold feet. Sixteen wagons all

getting ready to cross the creek. Hurrah and bustle to get breakfast over. Feed the cattle.

Hurrah boys, all ready, we will be the first to cross the creek this morning. Gee up Tip and

Tyler, and away we go, the sun just rising. Evening — We have traveled 24 miles today and

are about to camp in a large prairie without wood. Cold and chilly; east wind. The men have

pitched the tent and are hunting something to make a fire to get supper. I have the sick

headache and must leave to boys to get it themselves the best they can.

Saturday, April 16th — Camped last night three miles east of Chariton Point on the prairie.

Made our beds down in the tent in the wet and mud. Bed clothes nearly spoiled. Cold and

cloudy this morning, and every body out of humour. Seneca is half sick. Plutarch has broke

his saddle girth. Husband is scolding and hurrying all hands (and the cook), and Almira says

she wished she was home and I say ditto. “Home Sweet Home.” Evening – We passed a

small town this morning called Chariton Point. The sun shone a little this afternoon. Came

24 miles today, and have pitched our tent in the prairie again, and have some hay to put

under our beds. Corn one dollar per bushel, feed for our stock cost 16 dol. to night.

Saturday, April 23rd — Still in camp, it rained hard all night, and blew a hurricane almost.

All the tents were blown down, and some wagons capsized. Evening — It has been raining

hard all day; everything is wet and muddy. One of the oxen missing; the boys have been

hunting him all day. Dreary times, wet and muddy, and crowded in the tent, cold and wet

and uncomfortable in the wagon. No place for the poor children. I have been busy cooking,

roasting coffee, etc., today, and have come into the wagon to write this and make our bed.

Friday, April 29th — Cool and pleasant; saw the first Indians today. Lucy and Almira afraid

and run into the wagon to hide. Done some washing and sewing.

Monday, May 2nd — Pleasant evening; have been cooking, and packing things away for an

early start in the morning. Threw away several jars, some wooden buckets, and all our

pickles. Too unhandy to carry. Indians came to our camp every day, begging money and

something to eat. Children are getting used to them.

Thursday, May 5th — We crossed the river this morning on a large steam boat called the

Hindoo, after a great deal of Hurrahing and trouble to get the cattle all aboard. One ox


jumped overboard and swam across the river, and came out like a drowned rat. The river is

even with its banks, timber on it, which is mostly cottonwood, is quite green. Costs us 15

dollars to cross. After biding Iowa a kind farewell we travel about 8 miles and camp among

the old ruins of the Mormon towns. We here join another company, which will make in all

24 men, 10 wagons, and a large drove of cattle. Have appointed a captain, and are now

prepared to guard the stock, four men watch 2 hours and then call up four more to take their

places, so by that means no person can sleep about the camp. Such a wild noisy set was

never heard.

Friday, May 6th — Pleasant. We have just passed the Mormon graveyard. There is a great

number of graves on it. The road is covered with wagons and cattle. Here we passed a train

of wagons on their way back, the head man had drowned a few days before, in a river called

Elkhorn, while getting some cattle across, and his wife was lying in the wagon quite sick, and

children were mourning for a father gone. With sadness and pity I passed those who perhaps

a few days before had been well and happy as ourselves. Came 20 miles today.

Sunday, May 8th — Sunday morning. Still in camp waiting to cross. There are three hundred

or more wagons in sight and as far as the eye can reach, the bottom is covered, on each side

of the river, with cattle and horses. There is not ferry here and the men will have to make

one out of the tightest wagon-bed (every company should have a waterproof wagon-bed for

this purpose).Everything must now be hauled out of the wagons head over heels (and he

who knows where to find anything will be a smart fellow), then the wagons must be all taken

to pieces, and then by means of a strong rope stretched across the river, with a tight wagon-

bed attached to the middle of it, the rope must be long enough to pull from one side to the

other, with men on each side of the river to pull it. In this way we have to cross everything a

little at a time. Women and children last, and then swim the cattle and horses. There were

three horses and some cattle drowned while crossing this place yesterday. It is quite lively

and merry here this morning and the weather fine. We are camped on a large bottom, with

the broad, deep river on one side of us and a high bluff on the other.

Tuesday, June 28th — Still in camp waiting to cross. Nothing for the stock to eat. As far as

the eye can reach it is nothing but a sandy desert and the road is strewn with dead cattle, and

the stench is awful. One of our best oxen is too lame to travel; have to sell him for what we

can get, to a native for 15 dollars (all along this road we see white men living with Indians;

many of them have trading posts; they are mostly French and have squaw wives). Have to

yoke up our muley cow in the ox’s place.

Monday, July 18th — Traveled 22 miles. Crossed one small creek and have camped on one

called Rock Creek. It is here the Indians are so troublesome. This creek is covered with small

timber and thick underbrush, a great hiding place; and while in this part of the country the

men have to guard the stock all night. One man traveling ahead of us had all his horses

stolen and never found them as we know of. (I was very much frightened while at this camp.

I lay awake all night. I expected every minute we would be killed. However, we all found our

scalps on in the morning.) There are people killed at this place every year.


Monday, July 25th — Bad luck this morning to start with. A calf took sick and died before

breakfast. Soon after starting one of our best cows was taken sick and died in a short time.

Presume they were both poisoned with water or weeds. Left our poor cow for the wolves

and started on. Evening — It has been very warm today. Traveled 18 miles and have

camped right on top of a high, round sand hill, a fine mark for the Indians. We have also got

onto a place that is full of rattlesnakes. One of our oxen sick.

Wednesday, August 17th — Crossed the Grand Ronde Valley, which is 8 miles across, and

have camped close to the foot of the mountains. Good water and feed plenty. There are 50

or more wagons camped around us. Lucy and Myra have their feet and legs poisoned, which

gives me a good deal of trouble. Bought some fresh salmon from the Indians this evening,

which is quite a treat to us. It is the first we have seen.

Sunday, August 28th — Started last night about sun down and drove 5 miles and found

tolerably good grass to turn cattle out to. Started very early this morning and drove as far as

Willow Creek, 10 miles and camped again till evening. Plenty of willow to burn, but no

running water. It is standing in holes along the creek and very poor. It will be 22 miles

before we get water again.

Tuesday, September 13th — Ascended three steep, muddy hills this morning. Drove over

some muddy, miry ground and through mud holes, and have just halted at the first farm to

noon and rest awhile and buy feed for the stock. Paid $1.50 per hundred for hay. Price of

fresh beef 16and 18 cts. per pound, butter ditto, 1 dollar, eggs 1 dollar a dozen, onions 4 and

5 dollars per bushel, all too dear for poor folks, so we have treated ourselves to some small

turnips at the rate of 25 cents per dozen. Got rested and are now ready to travel again.

Evening – Traveled 14miles today. Crossed Deep Creek and have encamped on the bank of

it, a very dull looking place; grass very scarce. We may not call ourselves through they say;

and there we are in Oregon, making our camp in a n ugly bottom, with no home, except our

wagons and tent. It is drizzling and the weather looks dark and gloomy. Here old man Fuller

left us and Wilson Carl remains.

Saturday, September 17th — In camp yet. Still raining. Noon – It has cleared off and we are

all ready for a start again, for some place we don’t know where. Evening – Came 6 miles and

have encamped in a fence corner by a Mr. Lambert’s, about 7 miles from Milwaukie. Turn

our stock out to tolerable good feed. A few days later my eighth child was born. After this

we picked up and ferried across the Columbia River, utilizing skiff, canoes and flatboat to

get across, taking three days to complete. Here husband traded two yoke of oxen for a half

section of land with one-half acre planted to potatoes and a small log cabin and lean-to with

no windows. This is the journey’s end.

“Diary of Mrs. Amelia Stewart Knight,” Transactions of the Fifty-Sixth Annual Reunion of the

Oregon Pioneer Association for 1828 (Portland: 1933), 38-40, 45, 47-48, 50-51, 53.

Available through Google Books



Chinese Merchant Complains of Racist Abuse,


The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought a major influx of Asian immigrants to the new state. This

number only grew after railroad companies turned to Chinese laborers to build western railroads. Life for

these immigrants was particularly difficult, as even financially successful Chinese immigrants faced

considerable discrimination. In 1860, the Chinese merchant Pun Chi drafted this petition to congress, calling

on the legislature to do more to protect Chinese immigrants.

We are natives of the empire of China, each following some employment or profession–

literary men, farmers, mechanics or merchants. When your honorable government threw

open the territory of California, the people of other lands were welcomed here to search for

gold and to engage in trade. The ship-masters of your respected nation came over to our

country, lauded the equality of your laws, extolled the beauty of your manners and customs,

and made it known that your officers and people were extremely cordial toward the Chinese.

Knowing well the harmony which had existed between our respective governments, we

trusted in your sincerity. Not deterred by the long voyage, we came here presuming that our

arrival would be hailed with cordiality and favor. But, alas! what times are these!–when

former kind relations are forgotten, when we Chinese are viewed like thieves and enemies,

when in the administration of justice our testimony is not received, when in the legal

collection of the licenses we are injured and plundered, and villains of other nations are

encouraged to rob and do violence to us! Our numberless wrongs it is most painful even to

recite. At the present time, if we desire to quit the country, we are not possessed of the

pecuniary means; if allowed to remain, we dread future troubles. But yet, on the other hand,

it is our presumption that the conduct of the officers of justice here has been influenced by

temporary prejudices and that your honorable government will surely not uphold their acts.

We are sustained by the confidence that t-589he benevolence of your eminent body,

contemplating the people of the whole world as one family, will most assuredly not permit

the Chinese population without guilt to endure injuries to so cruel a degree. We would

therefore present the following twelve subjects for consideration at your bar. We earnestly

pray that you would investigate and weigh them; that you would issue instructions to your

authorities in each State that they shall cast away their partial and unjust practices, restore

tranquillity to us strangers, and that you would determine whether we are to leave the

country or to remain. Then we will endure ensuing calamities without repining, and will

cherish for you sincere gratitude and most profound respect.

… The class that engage in digging gold are, as a whole, poor people. We go on board the

ships. There we find ourselves unaccustomed to winds and waves and to the extremes of

heat and cold. We eat little; we grieve much. Our appearance is plain and our clothing poor.

At once, when we leave the vessel, boatmen extort heavy fares; all kinds of conveyances

require from us more than the usual charges; as we go on our way we are pushed and kicked

and struck by the drunken and the brutal; but as we cannot speak your language, we bear our


injuries and pass on. Even when within doors, rude boys throw sand and bad men stones

after us. Passers by, instead of preventing these provocations, add to them by their laughter.

We go up to the mines; there the collectors of the licenses make unlawful exactions and

robbers strip, plunder, wound and even murder some of us. Thus we are plunged into

endless uncommiserated wrongs. But the first root of them all is that very degradation and

contempt of the Chinese as a race of which we have spoken, which begins with your

honorable nation, but which they communicate to people from other countries, who carry it

to greater lengths.

Now what injury have we Chinese done to your honorable people that they should thus turn

upon us and make us drink the cup of wrong even to its last poisonous dregs?

… If a Chinese earns a dollar and a half in gold per day, his first desire is to go to an

American and buy a mining claim. But should this yield a considerable result, the seller, it is

possible, compels him to relinquish it. Perhaps robbers come and strip him of the gold. He

dare not resist, since he cannot speak the language, and has not the power to withstand

them. On the other hand, those who have no means to buy a claim seek some ground which

other miners have dug over and left, and thus obtain a few dimes. From the proceeds of a

hard day’s toil, after the pay for food and clothes very little remains. It is hard for them to be

prepared to meet the collector when he comes for the license money. If such a one turns his

thoughts back to the time when he came here, perhaps he remembers that then he borrowed

the money for his passage and expenses from his kindred and friends, or perhaps he sold all

his property to obtain it; and how bitter those thoughts are! In the course of four years, out

of each ten men that have come over scarcely more than one or two get back again. Among

those who cannot do so, the purse is often empty; and the trials of many of them are worthy

of deep compassion. Thus it is evident that the gold mines are truly of little advantage to the

Chinese. Yet the legislature questions whether it shall not increase the license; that is,

increase trouble upon trouble! It is pressing us to death. If it is your will that Chinese shall

not dig the gold of your honorable country, then fix a limit as to time, say, for instance, three

years, within which every man of them shall provide means to return to his own country.

Thus we shall not perish in a foreign land. Thus mutual kindly sentiments shall be restored


Pun Chi, “A Remonstrance from the Chinese in California to the Congress of the United

States,” in William Speer, The Oldest and the Newest Empire: China and the United

States (Pittsburg: 1877), 588-589. 594, 597-598.

Available through Google Books



Wyandotte woman describes tensions over

slavery, 1849

In 1843, the Wyandotte nation was forcefully removed from their homeland in Ohio and brought to the

Kansas Territory. They found themselves on a borderland Missouri’s slave society and land held by Native

Americans. When the national Methodist church split, debates over slavery threatened the Christianity of the

Wyandotte. This letter depicts the complex relationship between recently removed Native peoples,

Christianity, and slavery.

Wyandotte Nation Jan. 4th, 1849

Dear Sir,

I will make no other apology for addressing you that our friendship and the position you

occupy in community.

It is well known to all, that the conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the slave

holding state have seceded from the present church and have formed themselves into “a

distinct ecclesiastical organization under the name the “Methodist Episcopal Church South.”

A majority of the members of the Wyandotte Society have refused to go with the secession

and have sought and obtained a missionary from the Methodist Episcopal Church.

An effort is now being made by slave-holding missionaries and Government Agents to

induce the Indian Department to expel our missionary from among us, and thus deprive us

our religious rights.

We reside West of the State of Missouri where the compromise act forever excludes Slavery

and we think that a slave-holding ministry ought not to be forced upon us, to the rather

exclusion of the one of our choice. Dr. A. Stile the Presiding Elder of this District resides in

the State of Missouri. The Government Agent threaten strongly that they will prohibit him

from coming among us any more to hold our quarterly meeting. We think it a hard case that

if after compelling us in a manner to leave our sweet Ohio the government should not allow

us to seek our own church relations.

The Missionaries of the Church South bring their Slaves right in among us and engage in the

traffic before our eyes. There are now about twenty negro slaves in the Shawnee and

Wyandotte Territory’s. It has a very bad affect upon the real Indian, it confirms him in his

preconceived notion that labor is dishonorable.

Although slavery is the main objection we have to the new church yet we distinctly disclaim

being abolitionists, but residing on free soil we desire to have nothing to do with and

consider the matter here as settled.

Now as a personal friend and an acquaintance I have turned to you for assistance. Can you

not create interest sufficient for us in Washington to induce the Indian Department to award

to us our national inalienable religious rights.


Lucy B. Armstrong

Lucy B. Armstrong, January 4, 1849. Lucy B. Armstrong Papers, Indian History Coll. #590,

Box 7 Folder: Wyandotte. Kansas Historical Society.

Available through the Kansas Historical Society



Letters from Venezuelan General Francisco de

Miranda regarding Latin American Revolution,


During a trip to the United States Venezuelan General Francisco de Miranda worked to launch a

revolution in Venezuela that he expected would spread throughout South America. He made a series of high-

level contacts, as indicated in the letters below. The American public saw South American revolutionaries as

“fellow republicans.” At least three American ships, numerous American guns, and about 200 recruits

participated in Miranda’s failed attempt at Revolution.

Sent from Washington, December 11, 1805 to Colonel William Stephens Smith


I have received your letters on the 1st and 6th of this month, and your commodores of the

5th: The business you and him mention is on the Tapis at this present moment, and will be

concluded, I hope in the course of this week. Not a moment is lost and the appearances look

very favourable.–Have a little patience and you shall soon hear the result. I hope you will act

on your side with as much activity, &c &c. My best compliments to the worthy admiral and

to major A. They both shall hear from me as soon as the thing is decided; write me here at

Stelle’s hotel, and that will be sufficient, if the direction is Mr. Molini.

Yours, M.A.

Sent from Washington, December 14, 1805 to Colonel William Stephens Smith


I saw yesterday for the second time, both the gentlemen, and after talking fully on the

subject, I think I brought the business to a conclusion. Yet Mr. M. upon hearing my

determination of quitting the city tomorrow for New York, appeared surprised, and

persuaded me not to leave it before Tuesday next, the 17th, when he expected me to dine

with him, and have a little more conversation I suppose. On consideration, I thought that a

stay three days longer, might show calm and patience on my part, which would give to this

step all the dignity I intended, though I am persuaded that no more will be obtained, than

what is already imparted. Their tacit approbation and good wishes are evidently for us, and

they do not see any difficulty that may prevent the citizens of the U. States in attending

personally or sending supplies for this object, provided the publick laws should not be

openly violated. Your demand of permission or leave of absence is considered and

impracticable, and Mr. M think it easier to take the risk upon yourself at once; however, we

shall consider this subject with much reflection when we shall meet at New York. On the

18th, early, I shall certainly leave this for Philadelphia, from whence I will write to you again,

and without much delay proceed to New York. In the meantime, I request you to have every

thing ready for departure before the last of December, and I beg of you to show to our


worthy commodore as much as is necessary of this letter, not thinking prudent in me at this

moment and on so delicate a subject to write any more; do the same with the major, and

repeat to both my sincere friendship and permanent esteem. When we meet, you and they

shall hear more on this subject, in the meantime act with much caution and great activity.



Sent from New York, January 22, 1806 to President Thomas Jefferson

Mr. President,

I have the honour to send you enclosed the natural and civil history of Chili, of which we

conversed at Washington; You will perhaps find more interesting facts and greater

knowledge in this little volume than in those which have before been published on the same

subject concerning this beautiful country. If ever the happy prediction which you have

pronounced on the future destiny of our dear Columbia, is to be accomplished in our day,

may Providence grant that it may be under your auspices, and by the generous efforts of her

own children. We shall then in some sort behold the arrival of that age, the return of which

the Roman bard invoked in favor of the human race:

“That last great age foretold by sacred rhymes,

Renews its finished course; Saturnian times,

Roll round again, and mighty years began,

From this first orb, in radiant circles ran.”

With the highest consideration, and profound respect, I am, Mr. President, your very humble


Francisco de Miranda

Sent from New York, January 22, 1806 to Secretary of State James Madison,


On the point of leaving the U. States allow me to address a few words to you to thank you

for the attention that you were pleased to show me during my stay at Washington. The

important concerns, which I then had the honour to communicate to you, I doubt will not

remain a profound secret until the final result of that delicate affair; I have acted upon that

supposition here, by conforming in every thing to the intentions of government, which I

hope to have apprehended and observed with exactness and discretion. The enclosed letter

contains a book which I have promised to the president of the U. States and which I pray

you to transmit to him. Have the goodness to present my respectful compliments to Mrs.

Madison, and to believe me with the highest consideration and esteem, sir,

Your very humble and obedient servant,


Francisco de Miranda

James Biggs, The History of Don Francisco de Miranda’s Attempt to Effect a Revolution in South

America, in a Series of Letters (Boston: Oliver and Munroe, 1808), 272-75.

Available through Google Books



President Monroe Outlines the Monroe

Doctrine, 1823

The spirit of Manifest Destiny had its corollary in an earlier piece of American foreign policy. Americans

sought to remove colonizing Europeans from the western hemisphere. As Secretary of State for President

James Monroe, John Quincy Adams crafted what came to be called the Monroe Doctrine. President Monroe

outlined the principles of this policy in his seventh annual message to Congress, excerpted here.

… At the proposal of the Russian Imperial Government, made through the minister of the

Emperor residing here, a full power and instructions have been transmitted to the minister

of the United States at St. Petersburg to arrange by amicable negotiation the respective rights

and interests of the two nations on the northwest coast of this continent. A similar proposal

has been made by His Imperial Majesty to the Government of Great Britain, which has

likewise been acceded to. The Government of the United States has been desirous by this

friendly proceeding of manifesting the great value which they have invariably attached to the

friendship of the Emperor and their solicitude to cultivate the best understanding with his

Government. In the discussions to which this interest has given rise and in the arrangements

by which they may terminate the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a

principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the

American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and

maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any

European powers. . .It was stated at the commencement of the last session that a great effort

was then making in Spain and Portugal to improve the condition of the people of those

countries, and that it appeared to be conducted with extraordinary moderation. It need

scarcely be remarked that the results have been so far very different from what was then

anticipated. Of events in that quarter of the globe, with which we have so much intercourse

and from which we derive our origin, we have always been anxious and interested spectators.

The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly in favor of the liberty

and happiness of their fellow-men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the European

powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport

with our policy to do so. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we

resent injuries or make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere

we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all

enlightened and impartial observers. The political system of the allied powers is essentially

different in this respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which

exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of our own, which has been

achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their

most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole

nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing

between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt

on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our


peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we

have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared

their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great

consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for

the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any

European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition

toward the United States. In the war between those new Governments and Spain we

declared our neutrality at the time of their recognition, and to this we have adhered, and shall

continue to adhere, provided no change shall occur which, in the judgment of the competent

authorities of this Government, shall make a corresponding change on the part of the

United States indispensable to their security.

The late events in Spain and Portugal shew that Europe is still unsettled. Of this important

fact no stronger proof can be adduced than that the allied powers should have thought it

proper, on any principle satisfactory to themselves, to have interposed by force in the

internal concerns of Spain. To what extent such interposition may be carried, on the same

principle, is a question in which all independent powers whose governments differ from

theirs are interested, even those most remote, and surely none of them more so than the

United States. Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the

wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same,

which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the

government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with

it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances

the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none. But in regard to those

continents circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different.

It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of

either continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can anyone believe that

our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally

impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with

indifference. If we look to the comparative strength and resources of Spain and those new

Governments, and their distance from each other, it must be obvious that she can never

subdue them. It is still the true policy of the United States to leave the parties to themselves,

in hope that other powers will pursue the same course. . . .

Message of President James Monroe at the commencement of the first session of the 18th

Congress, 12/02/1823; Presidential Messages of the 18th Congress, ca. 12/02/1823-ca.

03/03/1825; Record Group 46; Records of the United States Senate, 1789-1990; National


Available through the National Archives and Records Administration



Manifest Destiny Painting, 1872

John Gast, American Progress, 1872. Wikimedia.

Columbia, the female figure of America, leads Americans into the West and into the future

by carrying the values of republicanism (as seen through her Roman garb) and progress

(shown through the inclusion of technological innovations like the telegraph) and clearing

native peoples and animals, seen being pushed into the darkness.




Anti-Immigrant Cartoon, 1860

“The great fear of the period That Uncle Sam may be swallowed by foreigners : The problem solved,” 1860-

1869, Library of Congress.

Many white Americans responded to increasing numbers of immigrants in the 1800s with

great fear and xenophobic hatred, seeing immigrants as threats to their vision of manifest

destiny. This cartoon depicts a highly racialized image of a Chinese immigrant and Irish

immigrant “swallowing” the United States–in the form of Uncle Sam. In the second image,

the Chinese immigrant swallows the Irish immigrant. Networks of railroads and the promise

of American expansion can be seen in the background.




13. The Sectional Crisis

Slavery had long divided the politics of the United States. In time, these divisions became

both sectional and irreconcilable. As westward expansion continued, these fault lines grew

unstable, particularly as the United States seized more lands from its war with Mexico.

Violence in Kansas and in the United States capitol demonstrated how dangerous these

divisions had become. As the country seemed to teeter ever closer to a full-throated

endorsement of slavery, however, an antislavery coalition arose in the middle 1850s calling

itself the Republican Party. Eager to cordon off slavery and confine it to where it already

existed, the Republicans won the presidential election of 1860 and threw the nation on the

path to war. By 1861 all bets were off, and the fate of slavery and the Union

depended upon war. These sources offer glimpses into a nation on the verge of collapse.


Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 1842

Conflicts between the power of the federal government and states’ rights strained American politics throughout

the antebellum era. During the 1840s and 1850s, the most consistent source of tension on the issue stemmed

from northerners refusing to comply with fugitive slave laws. As early as the 1780s, Pennsylvania passed laws

that made it illegal to take a Black person from the state for the purpose of enslaving them. In the majority

opinion, excerpted here, Supreme Court justice Joseph Story decided that the national fugitive slave act

overruled Pennsylvania’s law.

This is a writ of error to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, brought under the 25th section

of the judiciary act of 1789, ch. 20, for the purpose of revising the judgment of that Court, in

a case involving the construction of the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The facts are briefly these: The plaintiff … was indicted … for having, with force and

violence, taken and carried away from [Pennsylvania] to the state of Maryland, a certain

negro woman, named Margaret Morgan, with a design and intention of selling and disposing

of, and keeping her as a slave or servant for life, contrary to a statute of Pennsylvania, passed

on the 26th of March, 1826. That statute in the first section, in substance, provides, that if

any person or persons shall from and after the passing of the act, by force and violence take

and carry away, or cause to be taken and carried away, and shall by fraud or false pretense,

seduce, or cause to be seduced, or shall attempt to take, carry away, or seduce any negro or

mulatto from any part of that commonwealth, with a design and intention of selling and

disposing of, or causing to be sold, or of keeping and detaining, or of causing to be kept and

detained, such negro or mulatto as a slave or servant for life, or for any term whatsoever;

every such person or persons, his or their aiders or abettors, shall, on conviction thereof, be

deemed guilty of a felony, and shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than five hundred, nor

more than one thousand dollars; and moreover, shall be sentenced to undergo a servitude

for any term or terms of years, not less than seven years nor exceeding twenty-one years; and

shall be confined and kept to hard labor, &c….

Few questions which have ever come before this Court involve more delicate and important

considerations; and few upon which the public at large may be presumed to feel a more

profound and pervading interest. We have accordingly given them our most deliberate

examination; and it has become my duty to state the result to which we have arrived, and the

reasoning by which it is supported….

There are two clauses in the Constitution upon the subject of fugitives, which stand in

juxtaposition with each other, and have been thought mutually to illustrate each other. They

are both contained in the second section of the fourth article, and are in the following

words: “A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee

from justice, and be found in another state, shall, on demand of the executive authority of

the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction

of the crime.”


“No person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof, escaping into

another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such

service or labor; but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or

labor may be due.”

The last clause is that, the true interpretation whereof is directly in judgment before us.

Historically, it is well known, that the object of this clause was to secure to the citizens of the

slaveholding states the complete right and title of ownership in their slaves, as property, in

every state in the Union into which they might escape from the state where they were held in

servitude. The full recognition of this right and title was indispensable to the security of this

species of property in all the slaveholding states; and, indeed, was so vital to the preservation

of their domestic interests and institutions, that it cannot be doubted that it constituted a

fundamental article, without the adoption of which the Union could not have been formed.

Its true design was to guard against the doctrines and principles prevalent in the non-

slaveholding states, by preventing them from intermeddling with, or obstructing, or

abolishing the rights of the owners of slaves.

…. if the Constitution had not contained this clause, every non-slaveholding state in the

Union would have been at liberty to have declared free all runaway slaves coming within its

limits, and to have given them entire immunity and protection against the claims of their

masters; a course which would have created the most bitter animosities, and engendered

perpetual strife between the different states. The clause was, therefore, of the last importance

to the safety and security of the southern states; and could not have been surrendered by

them without endangering their whole property in slaves. The clause was accordingly

adopted into the Constitution by the unanimous consent of the framers of it; a proof at once

of its intrinsic and practical necessity.

… The clause manifestly contemplates the existence of a positive, unqualified right on the

part of the owner of the slave, which no state law or regulation can in any way qualify,

regulate, control, or restrain. The slave is not to be discharged from service or labor, in

consequence of any state law or regulation….

Upon these grounds, we are of opinion that the act of Pennsylvania upon which this

indictment is founded, is unconstitutional and void. It purports to punish as a public offence

against that state, the very act of seizing and removing a slave by his master, which the

Constitution of the United States was designed to justify and uphold. The special verdict

finds this fact, and the State Courts have rendered judgment against the plaintiff in error

upon that verdict. That judgment must, therefore, be reversed, and the cause remanded to

the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania; with directions to carry into effect the judgment of this

Court rendered upon the special verdict in favor of the plaintiff…

Richard Peters, Report of the Case of Edward Prigg against the Commonwealth of

Pennsylvania… (Philadelphia: 1842), 74, 76-78, 91-92

Available through Google Books



Stories from the Underground Railroad, 1855-


William Still was an African-American abolitionist who frequently risked his life to help freedom-seekers

escape slavery. In these excerpts, Still offers the readers some of the letters sent to him from abolitionists and

formerly enslaved persons. The passages shed light on family separation, the financial costs of the journey to

freedom, and the logistics of the Underground Railroad.

Letter from John H. Hill, a fugitive, appealing on behalf of a poor slave in Petersburg,


Hamilton, Sept. 15th, 1856.

DEAR FRIEND STILL:—I write to inform you that Miss Mary Wever arrived safe in this

city. You may imagine the happiness manifested on the part of the two lovers, Mr. H. and

Miss W. I think they will be married as soon as they can get ready. I presume Mrs. Hill will

commence to make up the articles tomorrow. Kind Sir, as all of us is concerned about the

welfare of our enslaved brethren at the South, particularly our friends, we appeal to your

sympathy to do whatever is in your power to save poor Willis Johnson from the hands of his

cruel master. It is not for me to tell you of his case, because Miss Wever has related the

matter fully to you. All I wish to say is this, I wish you to write to my uncle, at Petersburg, by

our friend, the Capt. Tell my uncle to go to Richmond and ask my mother whereabouts this

man is. The best for him is to make his way to Petersburg; that is, if you can get the Capt. to

bring him. He have not much money. But I hope the friends of humanity will not withhold

their aid on the account of money. However we will raise all the money that is wanting to

pay for his safe delivery. You will please communicate this to the friends as soon as possible.

Letter from Joseph C. Bustill (U.G.R.R. Depot).

Harrisburg, March 24, ’56.

FRIEND STILL:—I suppose ere this you have seen those five large and three small

packages I sent by way of Reading, consisting of three men and women and children. They

arrived here this morning at 8-1/2 o’clock and left twenty minutes past three. You will please

send me any information likely to prove interesting in relation to them.

Lately we have formed a Society here, called the Fugitive Aid Society. This is our first case,

and I hope it will prove entirely successful.

When you write, please inform me what signs or symbols you make use of in your

dispatches, and any other information in relation to operations of the Underground Railroad.

Our reason for sending by the Reading Road, was to gain time; it is expected the owners will

be in town this afternoon, and by this Road we gained five hours’ time, which is a matter of

much importance, and we may have occasion to use it sometimes in future. In great haste,


Yours with great respect,


Letter from G. S. Nelson (U.G.R.R. Depot)

Reading, May 27, ’57.

We knew not that these goods were to come, consequently we were all taken by surprise.

When you answer, use the word, goods. The reason of the excitement, is: some three weeks

ago a big box was consigned to us by J. Bustill, of Harrisburg. We received it, and forwarded

it on to J. Jones, Elmira, and the next day they were on the fresh hunt of said box; it got safe

to Elmira, as I have had a letter from Jones, and all is safe.



Letter from Jefferson Pipkins

Sept. 28, 1856.

To WM. STILL. SIR:—I take the liberty of writing to you a few lines concerning my

children, for I am very anxious to get them and I wish you to please try what you can do for

me. Their names are Charles and Patrick and are living with Mrs. Joseph G. Wray in

Murphysborough, Hartford County, North Carolina; Emma lives with a Lawyer Baker in

Gatesville, North Carolina and Susan lives in Portsmouth, Virginia and is stopping with Dr.

Collins’ sister, a Mrs. Nash. You can find her out by enquiring for Dr. Collins at the ferry

boat at Portsmouth, and Rose a coloured woman at the Crawford House can tell where she

is. And I trust you will try what you think will be the best way. And you will do me a great


Yours Respectfully,

Jefferson Pipkins

P.S. I am living at Yorkville near Toronto Canada West. My wife sends her best respects to

Mrs. Still.

Letter from James Loguen

Syracuse, Oct. 5, 1856.

DEAR FRIEND STILL:—I write to you for Mrs. Susan Bell, who was at your city some

time in September last. She is from Washington City. She left her dear little children behind

(two children). She is stopping in our city, and wants to hear from her children very much

indeed. She wishes to know if you have heard from Mr. Biglow, of Washington City. She will

remain here until she can hear from you. She feels very anxious about her children, I will

assure you. I should have written before this, but I have been from home much of the time


since she came to our city. She wants to know if Mr. Biglow has heard anything about her

husband. If you have not written to Mr. Biglow, she wishes you would. She sends her love to

you and your dear family. She says that you were all kind to her, and she does not forget it.

You will direct your letter to me, dear brother, and I will see that she gets it.

Miss F.E. Watkins left our house yesterday for Ithaca, and other places in that part of the

State. Frederick Douglass, William J. Watkins, and others were with us last week; Gerritt

Smith with others. Miss Watkins is doing great good in our part of the State. We think much

indeed of her. She is such a good and glorious speaker, that we are all charmed with her. We

have had thirty-one fugitives in the last twenty-seven days; but you, no doubt, have had

many more than that. I hope the good Lord may bless you and spare you long to do good to

the hunted and outraged among our brethren.

Yours truly,

J.W. Loguen

Agent of the Underground Railroad.

William Still, The Underground Railroad: A Record (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872), 41, 43,

378, 137, 158.

Available through Google Books



Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin,


In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published her bestselling antislavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Sales

for Uncle Tom’s Cabin were astronomical, eclipsed only by sales of the Bible. The book became a sensation

and helped move antislavery into everyday conversation for many northerners. In this passage, a senator and

his wife debate the Fugitive Slave Law.

“Well,” said his wife, after the business of the tea-table was getting rather slack, “and what

have they been doing in the Senate?”

Now, it was a very unusual thing for gentle little Mrs. Bird ever to trouble her head with

what was going on in the house of the state, very wisely considering that she had enough to

do to mind her own. Mr. Bird, therefore, opened his eyes in surprise, and said,

“Not very much of importance.”

“Well; but is it true that they have been passing a law forbidding people to give meat and

drink to those poor colored folks that come along? I heard they were talking of some such

law, but I didn’t think any Christian legislature would pass it!”

“Why, Mary, you are getting to be a politician, all at once.”

“No, nonsense! I wouldn’t give a fig for all your politics, generally, but I think this is

something downright cruel and unchristian. I hope, my dear, no such law has been passed.”

“There has been a law passed forbidding people to help off the slaves that come over from

Kentucky, my dear; so much of that thing has been done by these reckless Abolitionists, that

our brethren in Kentucky are very strongly excited, and it seems necessary, and no more

than Christian and kind, that something should be done by our state to quiet the


“And what is the law? It don’t forbid us to shelter those poor creatures a night, does it, and

to give ’em something comfortable to eat, and a few old clothes, and send them quietly

about their business?”

“Why, yes, my dear; that would be aiding and abetting, you know.”

Mrs. Bird was a timid, blushing little woman, of about four feet in height, and with mild blue

eyes, and a peach-blow complexion, and the gentlest, sweetest voice in the world;—as for

courage, a moderate-sized cock-turkey had been known to put her to rout at the very first

gobble, and a stout house-dog, of moderate capacity, would bring her into subjection merely

by a show of his teeth. Her husband and children were her entire world, and in these she

ruled more by entreaty and persuasion than by command or argument. There was only one

thing that was capable of arousing her, and that provocation came in on the side of her


unusually gentle and sympathetic nature;—anything in the shape of cruelty would throw her

into a passion, which was the more alarming and inexplicable in proportion to the general

softness of her nature. Generally the most indulgent and easy to be entreated of all mothers,

still her boys had a very reverent remembrance of a most vehement chastisement she once

bestowed on them, because she found them leagued with several graceless boys of the

neighborhood, stoning a defenceless kitten….

On the present occasion, Mrs. Bird rose quickly, with very red cheeks, which quite improved

her general appearance, and walked up to her husband, with quite a resolute air, and said, in

a determined tone, “Now, John, I want to know if you think such a law as that is right and


“You won’t shoot me, now, Mary, if I say I do!”

“I never could have thought it of you, John; you didn’t vote for it?”

“Even so, my fair politician.”

“You ought to be ashamed, John! Poor, homeless, houseless creatures! It’s a shameful,

wicked, abominable law, and I’ll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance; and I hope

I shall have a chance, I do! Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can’t give a warm

supper and a bed to poor, starving creatures, just because they are slaves, and have been

abused and oppressed all their lives, poor things!”

“But, Mary, just listen to me. Your feelings are all quite right, dear, and interesting, and I love

you for them; but, then, dear, we mustn’t suffer our feelings to run away with our judgment;

you must consider it’s not a matter of private feeling,—there are great public interests

involved,—there is such a state of public agitation rising, that we must put aside our private


“Now, John, I don’t know anything about politics, but I can read my Bible; and there I see

that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate; and that Bible I

mean to follow.”

“But in cases where your doing so would involve a great public evil—”

“Obeying God never brings on public evils. I know it can’t. It’s always safest, all round, to do

as He bids us.

“Now, listen to me, Mary, and I can state to you a very clear argument, to show—”

“O, nonsense, John! —you can talk all night, but you wouldn’t do it. I put it to you, John,—

would you now turn away a poor, shivering, hungry creature from your door, because he was

a runaway? Would you, now?”

… Mrs. Bird, seeing the defenceless condition of the enemy’s territory, had no more

conscience than to push her advantage.


“I should like to see you doing that, John—I really should! Turning a woman out of doors in

a snowstorm, for instance; or may be you’d take her up and put her in jail, wouldn’t you?

You would make a great hand at that!”

“Of course, it would be a very painful duty,” began Mr. Bird, in a moderate tone.

“Duty, John! don’t use that word! You know it isn’t a duty—it can’t be a duty! If folks want

to keep their slaves from running away, let ’em treat ’em well,—that’s my doctrine. If I had

slaves (as I hope I never shall have), I’d risk their wanting to run away from me, or you

either, John. I tell you folks don’t run away when they are happy; and when they do run,

poor creatures! they suffer enough with cold and hunger and fear, without everybody’s

turning against them; and, law or no law, I never will, so help me God!”

“Mary! Mary! My dear, let me reason with you.”

“I hate reasoning, John,—especially reasoning on such subjects. There’s a way you political

folks have of coming round and round a plain right thing; and you don’t believe in it

yourselves, when it comes to practice. I know you well enough, John. You don’t believe it’s

right any more than I do; and you wouldn’t do it any sooner than I.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (Boston: 1852), 120-123.

Available through the University of Virginia



Charlotte Forten complains of racism in the

North, 1855

Writer, activist, and teacher Charlotte Forten was born in Philadelphia in 1837 to a well-to-do African

American family. Forten’s diary entries from 1854 illuminate sectional tensions, especially in her discussion

of the trial of Anthony Burns, a fugitive from slavery. She also expressed frequent frustration over the racism

she encountered in Boston.

May 25, 1854. Did not intend to write this evening, but have just heard of something that is

worth recording;—something which must ever rouse in the mind of every true friend of

liberty and humanity, feelings of the deepest indignation and sorrow. Another fugitive

[Anthony Burns] from bondage has been arrested; a poor man, who for two short months

has trod the soil and breathed the air of the “Old Bay State,” was arrested like a criminal in

the streets of her capital, and is now kept strictly guarded,—a double police force is required,

the military are in readiness; and all this done to prevent a man, whom God has created in

his own image, from regaining that freedom with which, he, in common with every human

being, is endowed. I can only hope and pray most earnestly that Boston will not again

disgrace herself by sending him back to a bondage worse than death; or rather that she will

redeem herself from the disgrace which his arrest alone has brought upon her…

May 26, 1854. Words cannot express all that I feel; all that is felt by the friends of Freedom,

when thinking of this great obstacle to the removal of slavery from our land. Alas! that it

should be so.

June 2, 1854. Our worst fears are realized; the decision was against poor Burns, and he has

been sent back to a bondage worse, a thousand times worse than death. Even an attempt at

rescue was utterly impossible; the prisoner was completely surrounded by soldiers with

bayonets fixed, a cannon loaded, ready to be fired at the slighted sign. To-day Massachusetts

has again been disgraced; again she has shewed her submission to the Slave Power; and Oh!

with what deep sorrow do we think of what will doubtless be the fate of that poor man,

when he is again consigned to the horrors of Slavery. With what scorn must that

government be regarded, which cowardly assembles thousands of soldiers to satisfy the

demands of slaveholders; to deprive of his freedom a man, created in God’s own image,

whose sole offense is the color of his skin! And if resistance is offered to this outrage, these

soldiers are to shoot down American citizens without mercy; and this by the express orders

of a government which proudly boasts of being the freest in the world; this on the very soil

where the Revolution of 1776 began; in sight of the battle-field, where thousands of brave

men fought and died in opposing British tyranny, which was nothing compared with the

American oppression to-day. In looking over my diary, I perceive that I did not mention that

there was on the Friday night after the man’s arrest, an attempt made to rescue him, but

although it failed, on account of there not being men enough engaged in it, all honor should

be given to those who bravely made the attempt. I can write no more. A cloud seems

hanging over me, over all our persecuted race, which nothing can dispel.


Sept. 12, 1855. To-day school commenced.—Most happy am I to return to the

companionship of my studies,—ever my most valued friends. It is pleasant to meet the

scholars again; most of them greet me cordially, and were it not for the thought that will

intrude, of the want of entire sympathy even of those I know and like best, I should greatly

enjoy their society. There is one young girl and only one—Miss [Sarah] B[rown] who I

believe thoroughly and heartily appreciates anti-slavery,—radical anti-slavery, and has no

prejudice against color. I wonder that every colored person is not a misanthrope. Surely we

have everything to make us hate mankind. I have met girls in the schoolroom[—]they have

been thoroughly kind and cordial to me,—perhaps the next day met them in the street—

they feared to recognize me; these I can but regard now with scorn and contempt,—once I

liked them, believing them incapable of such meanness. Others give the most distant

recognitions possible.—I, of course, acknowledge no such recognitions, and they soon cease

entirely. These are but trifles, certainly, to the great, public wrongs which we as a people are

obliged to endure. But to those who experience them, these apparent trifles are most

wearing and discouraging; even to the child’s mind they reveal volumes of deceit and

heartlessness, and early teach a lesson of suspicion and distrust. Oh! it is hard to go through

life meeting contempt with contempt, hatred with hatred, fearing, with too good reason, to

love and trust hardly any one whose skin is white,—however lovable, attractive and

congenial in seeming. In the bitter, passionate feelings of my soul again and again there rises

the questions “When, oh! when shall this cease?” “Is there no help?” “How long oh! how

long must we continue to suffer—to endure?” Conscience answers it is wrong, it is ignoble

to despair; let us labor earnestly and faithfully to acquire knowledge, to break down the

barriers of prejudice and oppression. Let us take courage; never ceasing to work,—hoping

and believing that if not for us, for another generation there is a better, brighter day in

store,—when slavery and prejudice shall vanish before the glorious light of Liberty and

Truth; when the rights of every colored man shall everywhere be acknowledged and

respected, and he shall be treated as a man and a brother.

Charlotte Forten, The Journal of Charlotte L. Forten: Free Negro in the Slave Era, ed. Ray Allen

Billington (Dryden Press, 1953), 34-63.

Available from the National Humanities Center



Margaraetta Mason and Lydia Maria Child

Discuss John Brown, 1860

After John Brown was arrested for his raid on Harpers Ferry, Lydia Maria Child wrote to the governor of

Virginia requesting to visit Brown. Margaretta Mason of Virginia wrote a searing letter to Child attacking

her for supporting a murder. Child responded, and the exchange of letters was published by the American

Antislavery Society.

Letter from Margaretta Mason to Lydia Maria Child

Do you read your Bible, Mrs. Child? If you do, read there “Wo unto you, hypocrites,” and

take to yourself with twofold damnation that terrible sentence; for rest assured, in the day of

judgment it shall be more tolerable for those thus scathed by the awful denunciation of the

Son of God than for you. You would sooth with sisterly and motherly care the hoary-headed

murder of Harpers Ferry! A man whose aim and intention was to incite the horrors of a

servile war—to condemn women of your own race, ere death closed there eyes on their

sufferings from violence and outrage, to see their husbands and fathers murdered, their

children butchered, the ground strewed with the brains of their babes. The antecedents of

Brown’s band prove them to have been the offspring of the earth; and what would have

been our fate had they found as many sympathizers in Virginia as they seem to have in


Reply from Lydia Maria Child

Prolonged absence from home has prevented my answering your letter so soon as I

intended. I have no disposition to retort upon you the “twofold damnation” to which you

consign me. On the contrary, I sincerely wish you well, both in this world and the next. If

the anathema proved a safety valve to your own boiling spirit, it did some good to you, while

it fell harmless upon me. Fortunately for all of us, the Heavenly Father rules His universe by

laws, which the passions or the prejudices of mortals have no power to change.

As for John Brown, his reputation may be safely trusted to the impartial pen of History; and

his motives will be righteously judged by Him who knoweth the secrets of all hearts. Men,

however great they may be, are of small consequence in comparison with principles; and the

principle for which John Brown died is the question at issue between us.

You refer me to the Bible, from which you quote the favorite text of slaveholders: “Servants

be subject to your mastsers with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the

forward.” 1 Peter 2:18.

Abolitionists also have favorite texts, to some of which I would call your attention.

“Remember those that are in bonds, as bound with them.” Hebrews 13:3….


If the appropriateness of these texts is not apparent, I will try to make it so, by evidence

drawn entirely from Southern sources. The Abolitionists are not such an ignorant set of

fanatics as you suppose. They know whereof they affirm. They are familiar with the laws of

the slave states, which are along sufficient to inspire abhorrence in any humane heart or

reflecting mind not perverted by the prejudices of education and custom. I might fill many

letters with significant extracts from your statute books; but I have space only to glance at a

few, which indicate the leading features of this system you cherish so tenaciously.

The universal rule of the slave states is that “the child follows the condition of its mother.”

This is an index to many things. Marriages between white and colored people are forbidden

by law; yet a very large number of the slaves are brown or yellow…

Throughout the slave states, the testimony of no colored person, bond or free, can be

received against a white man. You have some laws which, on the face of them, would seem

to restrain inhuman men from murdering or mutilating slaves; by they are rendered nearly

null by the law I have cited. Any drunken master, overseer, or patrol, may go into the negro

cabin and commit whatever outrage he pleases with perfect impunity, if no white person is

present who chooses to witness against him….

Correspondence between Lydia Maria Child and Gov. Wise and Mrs. Mason, of Virginia (Boston:

1860), 16, 18-20.

Available through the Internet Archive



1860 Republican Party Platform

The 1860 Republican Party convention in Chicago created a platform that clearly opposed the expansion of

slavery in the West and the reopening of the slave trade. However, nothing in the document claimed that the

government had the power to eliminate slavery where it already existed. Controversies over slavery suffuse the

platform, but maybe even more noticeable is the importance of the West to the Republican Party.

Resolved, That we, the delegated representatives of the Republican electors of the United

States in Convention assembled, in discharge of the duty we owe to our constituents and our

country, unite in the following declarations:

1. That the history of the nation during the last four years, has fully established the

propriety and necessity of the organization and perpetuation of the Republican

party, and that the causes which called it into existence are permanent in their

nature, and now, more than ever before, demand its peaceful and constitutional


2. That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of

Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, “That all men are created

equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that

among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these

rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the

consent of the governed,” is essential to the preservation of our Republican

institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the

Union of the States must and shall be preserved.

3. That to the Union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented increase in

population, its surprising development of material resources, its rapid augmentation

of wealth, its happiness at home and its honor abroad; and we hold in abhorrence

all schemes for disunion, come from whatever source they may. And we

congratulate the country that no Republican member of Congress has uttered or

countenanced the threats of disunion so often made by Democratic members,

without rebuke and with applause from their political associates; and we denounce

those threats of disunion, in case of a popular overthrow of their ascendency as

denying the vital principles of a free government, and as an avowal of contemplated

treason, which it is the imperative duty of an indignant people sternly to rebuke and

forever silence.

4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of

each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own

judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection

and endurance of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless

invasion by armed force of the soil of any state or territory, no matter under what

pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.


5. That the present Democratic Administration has far exceeded our worst

apprehensions, in its measureless subserviency to the exactions of a sectional

interest, as especially evinced in its desperate exertions to force the infamous

Lecompton Constitution upon the protesting people of Kansas; in construing the

personal relations between master and servant to involve an unqualified property in

persons; in its attempted enforcement everywhere, on land and sea, through the

intervention of Congress and of the Federal Courts of the extreme pretensions of a

purely local interest; and in its general and unvarying abuse of the power intrusted

to it by a confiding people.

6. That the people justly view with alarm the reckless extravagance which pervades

every department of the Federal Government; that a return to rigid economy and

accountability is indispensable to arrest the systematic plunder of the public

treasury by favored partisans; while the recent startling developments of frauds and

corruptions at the Federal metropolis, show that an entire change of administration

is imperatively demanded.

7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any

or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at

variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with

contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is

revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the


8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of

freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all

our national territory, ordained that “no persons should be deprived of life, liberty

or property without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation,

whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the

Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of

Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to givelegal existence to

slavery in any territory of the United States.

9. That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave trade, under the cover of

our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against

humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress

to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that

execrable traffic

10. That in the recent vetoes, by their Federal Governors, of the acts of the legislatures

of Kansas and Nebraska, prohibiting slavery in those territories, we find a practical

illustration of the boasted Democratic principle of Non-Intervention and Popular

Sovereignty, embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and a demonstration of the

deception and fraud involved therein.


11. That Kansas should, of right, be immediately admitted as a state under the

Constitution recently formed and adopted by her people, and accepted by the

House of Representatives.

12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the general government by duties

upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment of these imports as to

encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country; and we

commend that policy of national exchanges, which secures to the workingmen

liberal wages, to agriculture remunerative prices, to mechanics and manufacturers

an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation

commercial prosperity and independence.

13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of the public lands held by

actual settlers, and against any view of the free-homestead policy which regards the

settlers as paupers or suppliants for public bounty; and we demand the passage by

Congress of the complete and satisfactory homestead measure which has already

passed the House.

14. That the Republican party is opposed to any change in our naturalization laws or

any state legislation by which the rights of citizens hitherto accorded to immigrants

from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and

efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or

naturalized, both at home and abroad.

15. That appropriations by Congress for river and harbor improvements of a national

character, required for the accommodation and security of an existing commerce,

are authorized by the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of Government

to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

16. That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of

the whole country; that the federal government ought to render immediate and

efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland

mail should be promptly established.

Republican Party Platforms: “Republican Party Platform of 1860,” May 17, 1860. Online by

Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Available through the University of California at Santa Barbara



South Carolina Declaration of Secession, 1860

Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 contest on November 6 with just 40% of the popular vote and not a single

southern vote in the Electoral College. Within days, southern states were organizing secession conventions. On

December 20, South Carolina voted to secede, and issued its “Declaration of the Immediate Causes.”

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the

States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and

we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person

held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in

consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but

shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have

been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had

previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition

in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now

composes the States north of the Ohio River.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of

fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these

stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing

hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a

disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect

the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont,

Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana,

Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress

or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is

discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government

complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early

day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-

slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies

provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the

right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa

have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile

insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately

broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that

South Carolina is released from her obligation.


The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more

perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence,

promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our


These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was

recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of

property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving

them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their

slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the

rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and

the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-

slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of

our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the

States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of

slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed

object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They

have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who

remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to

its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a

sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the

means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the

Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high

office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.

He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has

declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that

the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled,

appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have

solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States

of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her

position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full

power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all

other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

“Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South

Carolina from the Federal Union,” The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School.

Available through The Avalon Project at Yale University



Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law Lithograph,


Theodore Kaufman, “Effect of the Fugitive Slave Law,” 1850, via Library of Congress.

This lithograph imagines the consequences of the Fugitive Slave Act, part of the

Compromise of 1850. Four well-dressed Black men are being hunted by a party of white

men, seen in the background. There are a number of ambiguities in the image – are the

Black men enslaved or free? Are they trying to escape or not? Where exactly are

they? These ambiguities speak to the concerns many abolitionists had about the law, which

required free citizens to return freedom-seekers to their enslavers.




Sectional Crisis Map, 1856

William C. Reynolds and J. C. Jones, “Reynolds’s political map of the United States, designed to exhibit the

comparative area of the free and slave states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the

Missouri Compromise,” 1856, via Library of Congress.

This piece of Republican propaganda from the 1856 election makes clear distinctions

between free states, slave states, and territories. Featured at the top of the page are

engravings of John C. Fremont and his running mate, William C. Dayton. A vibrant red sets

off the free states. The chart, “Freedom vs. Slavery,” demonstrates the North’s economic

and cultural superiority over slave states in terms of everything from population per square

mile, capital in manufactures, miles of railroad, the number of newspapers and public

libraries, and value of churches.



14. The Civil War

The American Civil War, the bloodiest in the nation’s history, resulted in approximately

750,000 deaths. The war touched the life of nearly every American as military mobilization

reached levels never seen before or since. The vast majority of northerners went to war to

preserve the Union, but the war ultimately transformed into a struggle to eradicate slavery.

African Americans, both enslaved and free pressed the issue of emancipation and nurtured

this transformation. Simultaneously, women thrust themselves into critical wartime roles

while navigating a world without many men of military age. The Civil War was a defining

event in the history of the United States and, for the Americans thrust into it, a wrenching

one. The struggles and suffering of the Civil War endure through the words and images of

the era.


Alexander Stephens on Slavery and the

Confederate Constitution, 1861

Confederates had to quickly create not only a government, but also a nation, including all of the cultural

values required to foster patriotism. In this speech Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy,

proclaims that slavery and white supremacy were not only the cause for secession, but also the “cornerstone” of

the Confederate nation.

The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our

peculiar institutions-African slavery as it exists among us-the proper status of the negro in

our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present

revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old

Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But

whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may

be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at

the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African

was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and

politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the

men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution

would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution,

was the prevailing idea at the time. The Constitution, it is true, secured every essential

guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used

against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the

day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of

the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a

Government built upon it-when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are

laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man;

that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral

condition. [Applause.] This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world,

based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in

the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It

is so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not

generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to

many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North who still cling to these errors with a

zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an

aberration of the mind; from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the

most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is, forming correct conclusions

from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics: their conclusions are

right if their premises are. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is

entitled to equal privileges and rights, with the white man…. I recollect once of having heard


a gentleman from one of the Northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the

House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled,

ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery; that it was as impossible to war successfully

against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would

ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a

principle-a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of man. The reply I

made to him was, that upon his own grounds we should succeed, and that he and his

associates in their crusade against our institutions would ultimately fail. The truth

announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as well

as in physics and mechanics, I admitted, but told him it was he and those acting with him

who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the

Creator had made unequal.

In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete throughout the length and

breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly

planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this

principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.

As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are, and

ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced

by Galileo-it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy. It was so with

Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the

medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him,

admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not therefore look with

confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system

rests? It is the first Government ever instituted upon principles in strict conformity to

nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many

Governments have been founded upon the principles of certain classes; but the classes thus

enslaved, were of the same race, and in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits

no such violation of nature’s laws. The negro by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is

fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction

of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite-then comes the brick

or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it,

and by experience we know that it is the best, not only for the superior but for the inferior

race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the Creator. It is not for us to

inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances or to question them. For His own purposes He

has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another

in glory.”

The great objects of humanity are best attained, when conformed to his laws and degrees, in

the formation of Governments as well as in all things else. Our Confederacy is founded

upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the

first builders “is become the chief stone of the corner” in our new edifice.


“Speech of A. H. Stephens,” Frank Moore, ed., Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events,

with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, etc. Volume I, (New York: 1861), 45-46.

Available through Google Books



General Benjamin F. Butler Reacts to Self-

Emancipating People, 1861

Self-emancipation posed a dilemma for the Union military. Soldiers were forbidden to interfere with slavery or

assist runaways, but many soldiers disobeyed the policy. In May 1861, General Benjamin F. Butler went

over his superiors’ heads and began accepting fredom-seekers who came to Fortress Monroe in Virginia. In

order to avoid the issue of their freedom, Butler reasoned that these people “contraband of war,” and he had

as much a right to seize them as he did to seize enemy horses or cannons. Later that summer Congress

affirmed Butler’s policy in the First Confiscation Act.


Since I wrote my last dispatch the question in regard to slave property is becoming one of

very serious magnitude. The inhabitants of Virginia are using their negroes in the batteries,

and are preparing to send the women and children South. The escapes from them are very

numerous, and a squad has come in this morning to my pickets bringing their women and

children. Of course these cannot be dealt with upon the Theory on which I designed to treat

the services of able bodied men and women who might come within my lines and of which I

gave you a detailed account in my last dispatch. I am in the utmost doubt what to do with

this species of property. Up to this time I have had come within my lines men and women

with their children–entire families–each family belonging to the same owner. I have

therefore determined to employ, as I can do very profitably, the able-bodied persons in the

party, issuing proper food for the support of all, and charging against their services the

expense of care and sustenance of the non- laborers, keeping a strict and accurate account as

well of the services as of the expenditure having the worth of the services and the cost of the

expenditure determined by a board of Survey hereafter to be detailed. I know of no other

manner in which to dispose of this subject and the questions connected therewith. As a

matter of property to the insurgents it will be of very great moment, the number that I now

have amounting as I am informed to what in good times would be of the value of sixty

thousand dollars. Twelve of these negroes I am informed have escaped from the erection of

the batteries on Sewall’s point which this morning fired upon my expedition as it passed by

out of range. As a means of offence therefore in the enemy’s hands these negroes when able

bodied are of the last importance. Without them the batteries could not have been erected at

least for many weeks As a military question it would seem to be a measure of necessity to

deprive their masters of their services How can this be done? As a political question and a

question of humanity can I receive the services of a Father and a Mother and not take the

children? Of the humanitarian aspect I have no doubt. Of the political one I have no right to

judge. I therefore submit all this to your better judgement, and as these questions have a

political aspect, I have ventured–and I trust I am not wrong in so doing–to duplicate the

parts of my dispatch relating to this subject and forward them to the Secretary of War.

Benj. F. Butler


Benj. F. Butler to Lieutenant Genl. Scott, 27 May 1861, B-99 1861, Letters Received

Irregular, Secretary of War, Record Group 107, National Archives.

Available through the Freedmen and Southern Society Project at University of Maryland



William Henry Singleton, a formerly enslaved

man, recalls fighting for the Union, 1922

William Henry Singleton was born to his enslaved mother, Lettice, and her master’s brother, William

Singleton. At the age of four he was sold away from his mother, but ran back to her several times throughout

his life. When the war broke out, he escaped to Union lines and volunteered for service. After being dismissed,

he rallied one thousand Black soldiers and received a promotion as a sergeant.

Then I was taken to General Burnside’s headquarters and asked the best way to reach the

rebels at Wives Forks, before you could get into Kinston. I laid the route out for them the

best I knew how, but said that if I were going to command the expedition I would give them

a flank movement by the way of the Trent river, which was five miles farther from Wives

Forks than the Neuse river. But they did not accept my proposition and attacked directly,

with the result that they were repulsed.

I took part in that attack as a guide and had a horse shot from under me. A few days later I

told Colonel Leggett that I would not fight anymore unless I was prepared to defend

myself. He said, “We never will take niggers in the army to fight. The war will be over before

your people ever get in.” I replied, “The war will not be over until I have had a chance to

spill my blood. If that is your feeling toward me, pay me what you owe me and I will take it

and go.” He owed me five dollars and he paid me. I took that five dollars and hired the A.

M. E. Zion church at Newbern and commenced to recruit a regiment of colored men. I

secured the thousand men and they appointed me as their colonel and I drilled them with

cornstalks for guns.

We had no way, of course, of getting guns and equipment. We drilled once a week. I

supported myself by whatever I could get to do and my men did likewise. I spoke to General

Burnside about getting my regiment into the federal service but he said he could do nothing

about it. It was to General Burnside, however, and my later association with him, when I was

with him for a time as his servant, that I owe what I now regard as one of the great

experiences of my life. It was one day at the General’s headquarters. His adjutant pointed to

a man who was talking to the general in an inner room and said, “Do you know that man in

there?” I said, “No.” He said, “That is our President, Mr. Lincoln.” In a few minutes the

conference in the inner room apparently ended and Mr. Lincoln and General Burnside came

out. I do not know whether they had told President Lincoln about me before or not, but the

General pointed to me and said, “This is the little fellow who got up a colored regiment.”

President Lincoln shook hands with me and said, “It is a good thing. What do you want?” I

said, “I have a thousand men. We want to help fight to free our race. We want to know if

you will take us in the service?” He said, “You have got good pluck. But I can’t take you

now because you are contraband of war and not American citizens yet. But hold on to your

society and there may be a chance for you.” So saying he passed on. The only recollection I

have of him is that of a tall, dark complexioned, raw boned man, with a pleasant face. I

looked at him as he passed on in company with General Burnside and I never saw him again.


On January 1, 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which made me and all the

rest of my race free. We could not be bought and sold any more or whipped or made to

work without pay. We were not to be treated as things without souls any more, but as

human beings. Of course I do not remember that I thought it all out in this way when I

learned what President Lincoln had done. I am sure I did not. And the men in my regiment

did not. I had gone back to Newbern then. The thing we expected was that we would be

taken into the federal service at once. It was not until May 28, 1863, however, that the thing

we had hoped for so long came to pass, when Colonel James C. Beecher, a brother of Henry

Ward Beecher, that great champion of our race, came and took command of the regiment. I

was appointed Sergeant of Company G, being the first colored man to be accepted into the

federal service and the only colored man that furnished the government a thousand men in

the Civil War. The regiment was at first called the First North Carolina Colored Regiment. It

later became known as the 35th Regiment, United States Colored troops. Soon afterwards

we were armed and equipped and shipped to South Carolina and stationed at Charleston

Harbor. From that time until June, 1866, when we were mustered out at Charleston, South

Carolina, I was in active service, ranking as First Sergeant, Company G, 35th U. S. Colored

Infantry. J. C. White was the Captain of that company and Colonel James C. Beecher was

the commander of the regiment. We saw active service in South Carolina, Florida and

Georgia. I was wounded in the right leg at the battle of Alusta, Florida. After the war ended

we were stationed for a time in South Carolina doing guard duty and were finally mustered

out of the service on June 1, 1866.

My honorable discharge from the service dated on that day, although it is worn and not very

legible now, as you can see, is one of my most prized possessions. Some years ago a man

from the government service in Washington made out for me in a detailed form a record of

my war service. It is in much more complete form than I have set it down here, but I think

such details are of more interest to one’s family than to the general public. My life since the

war has been the ordinary life of the average man of my race. I have not so many

accomplishments to boast of, but I have done the best I could to prove myself worthy of

being a free man.

William Henry Singleton, “Recollection of My Slavery Days,” Electronic Edition,

Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina, (1922), revision 2000.

Available through Documenting the American South from the University of North Carolina

at Chapel Hill




Poem about Civil War Nurses, 1866

The massive casualty rates of the Civil War meant that nurses were always needed. Women, North and

South, left the comforts of home to care for the wounded. Hospital conditions were often so bad that many

volunteer nurses quit soon after beginning. After the war, Kate Cumming, a nurse who traveled with the

Army of Tennessee, published an account of her experience. She included a poem, written by an unknown

author about nursing in the war.

Fold away all your bright-tinted dresses,

Turn the key on your jewels today,

And the wealth of your tendril-like tresses

Braid back in a serious way;

No more delicate gloves, no more laces,

No more trifling in boudoir or blower,

But come with your souls in your faces

To meet the stern wants of the hour.

Looks around. By the torchlight unsteady

The dead and the dying seem one—

What! Trembling and paling already,

Before your dear mission’s begun?

These wounds are more precious than ghastly—

Time presses her lips to each scar,

While she chants of that glory which vastly

Transcends all the horrors of war.

Pause here by this bedside. How mellow

The light showers down on that brow!

Such a brave, brawny visage, poor fellow!

Some homestead is missing him now.

Some wife shades her eyes in the clearing,

Some mother sits moaning distressed,

While the loved one lies faint but unfearing,

With the enemy’s ball in his breast.

Here’s another—a lad—a mere stripling,

Picked up in the field almost dead,

With the blood through his sunny hair rippling

From the horrible gash in the head.

They say he was first in the action:

Gay-hearted, quick-headed, and witty:

He fought till he dropped with exhaustion.

At the gates of our fair southern city.

Fought and fell ‘neath the guns of that city,

With a spirit transcending his years—


Lift him up in your large-hearted pity,

And wet his pale lips with your tears.

Touch him gently; most sacred the duty

Of dressing the poor shattered hand!

God spare him to rise in his beauty,

And battle once more for his land!

Pass on! It is useless to linger

While others are calling your care;

There is need for your delicate finger,

For your womanly sympathy there.

There are sick ones athirst for caressing,

There are dying ones raving at home,

There are wounds to be bound with a blessing,

And shrouds to make ready for some.

They have gathered about you the harvest

Of death in its ghastliest view;

The nearest as well as the furthest

Is there with the traitor and true.

And crowned with your beautiful patience,

Made sunny with love at the heart,

You must balsam the wounds of the nations,

Nor falter nor shrink from your part.

And the lips of the mother will bless you,

And angels, sweet-visaged and pale,

And the little ones run to caress you,

And the wives and the sisters cry hail!

But e’en if you drop down unheeded,

What matter? God’s ways are the best:

You have poured out your life where ‘twas needed,

And he will take care of the rest.

Unknown author, “A Call to the Hospital,” in Kate Cumming, A Journal of Hospital Life in the

Confederate Army of Tennessee (Louisville: 1866), pp. 104-105

Available through Google Books



Ambrose Bierce Recalls his Experience at the

Battle of Shiloh, 1881

Civil War soldiers described the experience of combat as both terrifying and confusing. The American writer,

Ambrose Bierce, captures both the confusion and terror of the Battle of Shiloh in the below excerpt of his

1881 recollections of the battle.

Before us ran the turbulent river, vexed with plunging shells and obscured in spots by blue

sheets of low-lying smoke. The two little steamers were doing their duty well. They came

over to us empty and went back crowded, sitting very low in the water, apparently on the

point of capsizing. The farther edge of the water could not be seen; the boats came out of

the obscurity, took on their passengers and vanished in the darkness. But on the heights

above, the battle was burning brightly enough; a thousand lights kindled and expired in every

second of time. There were broad flushings in the sky, against which the branches of the

trees showed black. Sudden flames burst out here and there, singly and in dozens. Fleeting

streaks of fire crossed over to us by way of welcome. These expired in blinding flashes and

fierce little rolls of smoke, attended with the peculiar metallic ring of bursting shells, and

followed by the musical humming of the fragments as they struck into the ground on every

side, making us wince, but doing little harm. The air was full of noises. To the right and the

left the musketry rattled smartly and petulantly; directly in front it sighed and growled. To

the experienced ear this meant that the death-line was an arc of which the river was the

chord. There were deep, shaking explosions and smart shocks; the whisper of stray bullets

and the hurtle of conical shells; the rush of round shot. There were faint, desultory cheers,

such as announce a momentary or partial triumph. Occasionally, against the glare behind the

trees, could be seen moving black figures, singularly distinct but apparently no longer than a

thumb. They seemed to me ludicrously like the figures of demons in old allegorical prints of


The night was now black-dark; as is usual after a battle, it had begun to rain. Still we moved;

we were being put into position by somebody. Inch by inch we crept along, treading on one

another’s heels by way of keeping together. Commands were passed along the line in

whispers; more commonly none were given. When the men had pressed so closely together

that they could advance no farther they stood stock-still, sheltering the locks of their rifles

with their ponchos. In this position many fell asleep. When those in front suddenly stepped

away those in the rear, roused by the tramping, hastened after with such zeal that the line

was soon choked again. Evidently the head of the division was being piloted at a snail’s pace

by some one who did not feel sure of his ground. Very often we struck our feet against the

dead; more frequently against those who still had spirit enough to resent it with a moan.

These were lifted carefully to one side and abandoned. Some had sense enough to ask in

their weak way for water. Absurd! Their clothes were soaked, their hair dank; their white

faces, dimly discernible, were clammy and cold. Besides, none of us had any water. There

was plenty coming, though, for before midnight a thunderstorm broke upon us with great


violence. The rain, which had for hours been a dull drizzle, fell with a copiousness that

stifled us; we moved in running water up to our ankles….

In a few moments we had passed out of the singular oasis that had so marvelously escaped

the desolation of battle, and now the evidences of the previous day’s struggle were present in

profusion. The ground was tolerably level here, the forest less dense, mostly clear of

undergrowth, and occasionally opening out into small natural meadows. Here and there were

small pools–mere discs of rainwater with a tinge of blood. Riven and torn with cannon-shot,

the trunks of the trees protruded bunches of splinters like hands, the fingers above the

wound interlacing with those below. Large branches had been lopped, and hung their green

heads to the ground, or swung critically in their netting of vines, as in a hammock. Many had

been cut clean off and their masses of foliage seriously impeded the progress of the troops.

The bark of these trees, from the root upward to a height of ten or twenty feet, was so

thickly pierced with bullets and grape that one could not have laid a hand on it without

covering several punctures. None had escaped. How the human body survives a storm like

this must be explained by the fact that it is exposed to it but a few moments at a time,

whereas these grand old trees had had no one to take their places, from the rising to the

going down of the sun. Angular bits of iron, concavo-convex, sticking in the sides of muddy

depressions, showed where shells had exploded in their furrows. Knapsacks, canteens,

haversacks distended with soaken and swollen biscuits, gaping to disgorge, blankets beaten

into the soil by the rain, rifles with bent barrels or splintered stocks, waist-belts, hats and the

omnipresent sardine-box–all the wretched debris of the battle still littered the spongy earth

as far as one could see, in every direction. Dead horses were everywhere; a few disabled

caissons, or limbers, reclining on one elbow, as it were; ammunition wagons standing

disconsolate behind four or six sprawling mules. Men? There were men enough; all dead

apparently, except one, who lay near where I had halted my platoon to await the slower

movement of the line–a Federal sergeant, variously hurt, who had been a fine giant in his

time. He lay face upward, taking in his breath in convulsive, rattling snorts, and blowing it

out in sputters of froth which crawled creamily down his cheeks, piling itself alongside his

neck and ears. A bullet had clipped a groove in his skull, above the temple; from this the

brain protruded in bosses, dropping off in flakes and strings. I had not previously known

one could get on, even in this unsatisfactory fashion, with so little brain. One of my men

whom I knew for a womanish fellow, asked if he should put his bayonet through him.

Inexpressibly shocked by the cold-blooded proposal, I told him I thought not; it was

unusual, and too many were looking.

Ambrose Bierce, “What I Saw of Shiloh,” The Ambrose Bierce Project. Craig E. Warren, ed.

Penn State University,

Available through the Ambrose Bierce Project at Penn State University



Civil War songs, 1862

Music played an important role in the Civil War. Songs celebrated the cause, mourned the loss of life, and

bound sings together in shared commitments to mutual sacrifice. These two songs, both written by women, one

in the North and the other in the South, show the flexibility of Civil War music. The first is an example of

the somber, sacralizing function of music, while the latter is an example of a lighthearted attempt at humor.

Julia Ward Howe, “Battle-Hymn of the Republic,” 1862

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fatal lightning of his terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;

They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps.

His Day is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:

“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;

Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,

Since God is marching on.”

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat:

Oh! be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!


Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

While God is marching on.

Julia Ward Howe, “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” (Philadelphia: Published by the

Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments, 1863).

Available through the Library of Congress

Margaret Weir, “Dixie Doodle,” 1862

Dixie whipped old Yankee Doodle

Early in the morning,

So Yankeedom had best look out,

And take a timely warning.

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!

Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

Yankee Doodles soundly slept

Upon their greasy pillows,

While Dixie boys, with muffled oars,

Were gliding o’er the billows.

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!

Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

Yankee Doodles, grease your heels,

Make ready to be running,

For Dixie boys are near at hand,

Surpassing you in cunning.

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!



Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

Anderson, the gallant brave,

Who broke upon their slumbers,

E’en little girls and boys shall sing

Your name in tuneful numbers.

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!

Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

A thousand blessings on your heads,

Our brave, unflinching leaders,

A light you are upon the path

Of all our brave seceders.

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!

Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

Wright, on Carolina’s coast,

Was e’er a hero bolder?

He seized a Yankee foe, and made

A breastwork of the soldier.

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!

Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

Louisiana, bold and brave,

Renowned for Creole beauty,

Your champions will bear in mind

The watchword, grace and booty!

Hurrah! for our Dixie Land!

Hurrah! for our borders!

Southern boys to arms will stand,

And whip the dark marauders!

Yankee Doodle, fair thee well,

Ere long you’ll be forgotten,

While Dixie’s notes shall gaily float

Throughout the land of cotton.


Margaret Weir, “Dixie Doodle,” (New Orleans: P. P. Werlein & Halsey, 1862)

Available through the Library of Congress



Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address,


Abraham Lincoln offered a first draft of history in his second inaugural address, casting the Civil War as a

war for union that later became a spiritual process of national penance for two hundred and fifty years of

slaving. Lincoln also looked to the future, envisioning a harmonious and speedy Reconstruction that would

take place “with malice toward none” and “with charity for all.”

FELLOW COUNTRYMEN: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential

office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then, a

statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at

the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called

forth, on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and

engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of

our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself;

and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the

future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to

an impending civil war. All dreaded it — all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address

was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war,

insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war — seeking to dissolve the

Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them

would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather

than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the

Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar, and

powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To

strengthen, perpetuate and extend this interest, was the object for which the insurgents

would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more, than

to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude,

or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the

conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an

easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and

pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that

any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of

other men’s faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not

be answered — that of neither, has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own

purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences

come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” If we shall suppose that

American slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs


come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove;

and that He gives to both north and south this terrible war, as the woe due to those by

whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes

which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently

do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that

it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of

unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid

by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be

said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to

see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to

care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all

which may achieve and cherish, a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all


Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865, “Second Inaugural Address; endorsed by Lincoln, April

10, 1865,” The Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.

Available through the Library of Congress

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field([email protected](d4361300))


Civil War Nurses Illustration, 1864

Thomas Nast, “Our Heroines, United States Sanitary Commission,” in Harper’s Weekly, April 9, 1864,

via Cushing/Whitney Medical Library at Yale University.

The Civil War ultimately opened a variety of arenas for Union and Confederate women’s

participation. In the North, the United States Sanitary Commission in particular centralized

women’s opportunities to volunteer as nurses, donate supplies, and to raise funds at Sanitary

Fairs. This 1864 image from popular periodical Harper’s Weekly celebrates women’s

contributions on the battlefield, in the hospital, in the parlor, and at the fair.




Burying the Dead Photograph, 1865

John Reekie, “A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Virginia,” 1865, via Library of Congress.

Death pervaded every aspect of life during the years of the Civil War. This gruesome

photograph, taken after the battle of Cold Harbor, shows the hasty burial procedures used to

reckon with unprecedented death. Dirty jobs like this were often left to Black soldiers or

freedpeople in Contraband Camps.




15. Reconstruction


After the Civil War, much of the South lay in ruins. How would these states be brought back

into the Union? Would they be conquered territories or equal states? How would they

rebuild their governments, economies, and social systems? What rights did freedom confer

upon formerly enslaved people? The answers to many of Reconstruction’s questions hinged

upon the concepts of citizenship and equality. The era witnessed perhaps the most open and

widespread discussions of citizenship since the nation’s founding. It was a moment of

revolutionary possibility and violent backlash. African Americans and Radical Republicans

pushed the nation to finally realize the Declaration of Independence’s promises that “all men

were created equal” and had “certain, unalienable rights.” Conservative white Democrats

granted African Americans legal freedom but little more. When Black Americans and their

radical allies succeeded in securing citizenship for freedpeople, a new fight commenced to

determine the legal, political, and social implications of American citizenship. Resistance

continued, and Reconstruction eventually collapsed. In the South, limits on human freedom

endured and would stand for nearly a century more. These sources gesture toward both the

successes and failures of Reconstruction.


Freedmen discuss post-emancipation life with

General Sherman, 1865

Reconstruction began before the War ended. After his famous March to the Sea in January of 1865, General

William T. Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton met with twenty of Savannah’s African

American religious leaders to discuss the future of the freedmen of the state of Georgia. In the excerpt below,

Garrison Frazier, the chosen spokesman for the group, explains the importance of land for freedom. The

result of this meeting was Sherman’s famous Field Order 15, which set aside confiscated plantation lands

along the coast from Charleston, S.C. to Jacksonville, FL. for Black land ownership. The policy would later

be overruled and freedpeople would lose their right to the land.

Garrison Frazier being chosen by the persons present to express their common sentiments

upon the matters of inquiry, makes answers to inquiries as follows:

First: State what your understanding is in regard to the acts of Congress and President

Lincoln’s [Emancipation] proclamation, touching the condition of the colored people in the

Rebel States.

Answer–So far as I understand President Lincoln’s proclamation to the Rebellious States, it

is, that if they would lay down their arms and submit to the laws of the United States before

the first of January, 1863, all should be well; but if they did not, then all the slaves in the

Rebel States should be free henceforth and forever. That is what I understood.

Second–State what you understand by Slavery and the freedom that was to be given by the

President’s proclamation.

Answer–Slavery is, receiving by irresistible power the work of another man, and not by his

consent. The freedom, as I understand it, promised by the proclamation, is taking us from

under the yoke of bondage, and placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor,

take care of ourselves and assist the Government in maintaining our freedom.

Third: State in what manner you think you can take care of yourselves, and how can you best

assist the Government in maintaining your freedom.

Answer: The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land, and turn it and till it by

our own labor–that is, by the labor of the women and children and old men; and we can

soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare. And to assist the Government, the

young men should enlist in the service of the Government, and serve in such manner as they

may be wanted. (The Rebels told us that they piled them up and made batteries of them, and

sold them to Cuba; but we don’t believe that.) We want to be placed on land until we are

able to buy it and make it our own.

Fourth: State in what manner you would rather live–whether scattered among the whites or

in colonies by yourselves.

Answer: I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South

that will take years to get over; but I do not know that I can answer for my brethren. [Mr.


Lynch says he thinks they should not be separated, but live together. All the other persons

present, being questioned one by one, answer that they agree with Brother Frazier.]

Fifth: Do you think that there is intelligence enough among the slaves of the South to

maintain themselves under the Government of the United States and the equal protection of

its laws, and maintain good and peaceable relations among yourselves and with your


Answer–I think there is sufficient intelligence among us to do so.

Sixth–State what is the feeling of the black population of the South toward the Government

of the United States; what is the understanding in respect to the present war–its causes and

object, and their disposition to aid either side. State fully your views.

Answer–I think you will find there are thousands that are willing to make any sacrifice to

assist the Government of the United States, while there are also many that are not willing to

take up arms. I do not suppose there are a dozen men that are opposed to the Government.

I understand, as to the war, that the South is the aggressor. President Lincoln was elected

President by a majority of the United States, which guaranteed him the right of holding the

office and exercising that right over the whole United States. The South, without knowing

what he would do, rebelled. The war was commenced by the Rebels before he came into

office. The object of the war was not at first to give the slaves their freedom, but the sole

object of the war was at first to bring the rebellious States back into the Union and their

loyalty to the laws of the United States. Afterward, knowing the value set on the slaves by

the Rebels, the President thought that his proclamation would stimulate them to lay down

their arms, reduce them to obedience, and help to bring back the Rebel States; and their not

doing so has now made the freedom of the slaves a part of the war. It is my opinion that

there is not a man in this city that could be started to help the Rebels one inch, for that

would be suicide. There were two black men left with the Rebels because they had taken an

active part for the Rebels, and thought something might befall them if they stayed behind;

but there is not another man. If the prayers that have gone up for the Union army could be

read out, you would not get through them these two weeks.

Seventh: State whether the sentiments you now express are those only of the colored people

in the city; or do they extend to the colored population through the country? and what are

your means of knowing the sentiments of those living in the country?

Answer: I think the sentiments are the same among the colored people of the State. My

opinion is formed by personal communication in the course of my ministry, and also from

the thousands that followed the Union army, leaving their homes and undergoing suffering.

I did not think there would be so many; the number surpassed my expectation.

Eighth: If the Rebel leaders were to arm the slaves, what would be its effect?

Answer: I think they would fight as long as they were before the bayonet, and just as soon as

soon as they could get away, they would desert, in my opinion.

Ninth: What, in your opinion, is the feeling of the colored people about enlisting and serving

as soldiers of the United States? and what kind of military service do they prefer?

Answer: A large number have gone as soldiers to Port Royal [S.C.] to be drilled and put in


the service; and I think there are thousands of the young men that would enlist. There is

something about them that perhaps is wrong. They have suffered so long from the Rebels

that they want to shoulder the musket. Others want to go into the Quartermaster’s or

Commissary’s service.

Tenth: Do you understand the mode of enlistments of colored persons in the Rebel States

by State agents under the Act of Congress?2If yea, state what your understanding is.

Answer: My understanding is, that colored persons enlisted by State agents are enlisted as

substitutes, and give credit to the States, and do not swell the army, because every black man

enlisted by a State agent leaves a white man at home; and, also, that larger bounties are given

or promised by State agents than are given by the States. The great object should be to push

through this Rebellion the shortest way, and there seems to be something wanting in the

enlistment by State agents, for it don’t strengthen the army, but takes one away for every

colored man enlisted.

Eleventh: State what, in your opinion, is the best way to enlist colored men for soldiers.

Answer: I think, sir, that all compulsory operations should be put a stop to. The ministers

would talk to them, and the young men would enlist. It is my opinion that it would be far

better for the State agents to stay at home, and the enlistments to be made for the United

States under the direction of Gen. Sherman.

In the absence of Gen. Sherman, the following question was asked:

Twelfth: State what is the feeling of the colored people in regard to Gen. Sherman; and how

far do they regard his sentiments and actions as friendly to their rights and interests, or


Answer: We looked upon Gen. Sherman prior to his arrival as a man in the Providence of

God specially set apart to accomplish this work, and we unanimously feel inexpressible

gratitude to him, looking upon him as a man that should be honored for the faithful

performance of his duty. Some of us called upon him immediately upon his arrival, and it is

probable he would not meet the Secretary with more courtesy than he met us. His conduct

and deportment toward us characterized him as a friend and a gentleman. We have

confidence in Gen. Sherman, and think that what concerns us could not be under better

hands. This is our opinion now from the short acquaintance and interest we have had. (Mr.

Lynch states that with his limited acquaintance with Gen. Sherman, he is unwilling to

express an opinion. All others present declare their agreement with Mr. Frazier about Gen.


“Minutes of the Interview Between the Colored Ministers and Church Officers at Savannah

With the Secretary of War and Major Gen. Sherman” New York Daily Tribune, Feb. 13, 1865

(New York, New York).

Available through the Freedmen and Southern Society Project from the University of





Jourdon Anderson Writes His Former

Enslaver, 1865

Black Americans hoped that the end of the Civil War would create an entirely new world, while white

southerners tried to restore the antebellum order as much as they could. Most former enslavers sought to

maintain control over their laborers through sharecropping contracts. P.H. Anderson of Tennessee was one

such former enslaver. After the war, he contacted his former enslaved laborer Jourdon Anderson, offering him

a job opportunity. The following is Jourdon Anderson’s reply.

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865.

To my old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee.

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you

wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than

anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have

hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they

never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by

his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want

to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back

to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green,

and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if

not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville

Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a


I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing

tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a

comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly,

Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head

for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We

are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves”

down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it

was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have

been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you

will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move

back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I

got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of

Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were

disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking

you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive


old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for

thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two

dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and

eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and

deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth

for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the

money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq.,

Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in

your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs

which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for

generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in

Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and

cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who

are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda

and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have

my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will

also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your

neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have

them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were

shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson

“Letter from a freedman to his old master,” The Freedmen’s Book, Lydia Maria Child, ed.

(Boston: 1865), 265-267.

Available through Project Gutenberg



Charlotte Forten Teaches Freed Children in

South Carolina, 1864

Charlotte Forten was born into a wealthy Black family in Philadelphia. After receiving an education in

Salem, Massachusetts, Forten became the first Black American hired to teach white students. She lent her

educational expertise to the war effort by relocating to South Carolina in 1862 with the goal of educating

freed people. This excerpt from her diary explains her experiences during this time.

The first day at school was rather trying. Most of my children were very small, and

consequently restless. Some were too young to learn the alphabet. These little ones were

brought to school because the older children — in whose care their parents leave them while

at work — could not come without them. We were therefore willing to have them come,

although they seemed to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion, and tried one’s

patience sadly. But after some days of positive, though not severe treatment, order was

brought out of chaos, and I found but little difficulty in managing and quieting the tiniest

and most restless spirits. I never before saw children so eager to learn, although I had had

several years’ experience in New England schools. Coming to school is a constant delight

and recreation to them. They come here as other children go to play. The older ones, during

the summer, work in the fields from early morning until eleven or twelve o’clock, and then

come into school, after their hard toil in the hot sun, as bright and as anxious to learn as


Of course there are some stupid ones, but these are the minority. The majority learn with

wonderful rapidity. Many of the grown people are desirous of learning to read. It is

wonderful how a people who have been so long crushed to the earth, so imbruted as these

have been, — and they are said to be among the most degraded negroes of the South, —

can have so great a desire for knowledge, and such a capability for attaining it. One cannot

believe that the haughty Anglo Saxon race, after centuries of such an experience as these

people have had, would be very much superior to them. And one’s indignation increases

against those who, North as well as South, taunt the colored race with inferiority while they

themselves use every means in their power to crush and degrade them, denying them every

right and privilege, closing against them every avenue of elevation and improvement. Were

they, under such circumstances, intellectual and refined, they would certainly be vastly

superior to any other race that ever existed.

After the lessons, we used to talk freely to the children, often giving them slight sketches of

some of the great and good men. Before teaching them the “John Brown” song, which they

learned to sing with great spirit. Miss T. told them the story of the brave old man who had

died for them. I told them about Toussaint, thinking it well they should know what one of

their own color had done for his race. They listened attentively, and seemed to understand.

We found it rather hard to keep their attention in school. It is not strange, as they have been

so entirely unused to intellectual concentration. It is necessary to interest them every


moment, in order to keep their thoughts from wandering. Teaching here is consequently far

more fatiguing than at the North. In the church, we had of course but one room in which to

hear all the children; and to make one’s self heard, when there were often as many as a

hundred and forty reciting at once, it was necessary to tax the lungs very severely.

My walk to school, of about a mile, was part of the way through a road lined with trees, —

on one side stately pines, on the other noble live-oaks, hung with moss and canopied with

vines. The ground was carpeted with brown, fragrant pine-leaves; and as I passed through in

the morning, the woods were enlivened by the delicious songs of mocking-birds, which

abound here, making one realize the truthful felicity of the description in “Evangeline,” —

“The mocking-bird, wildest of singers,

Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music

That the whole air and the woods and the waves seemed silent to listen.”

The hedges were all aglow with the brilliant scarlet berries of the cassena, and on some of

the oaks we observed the mistletoe, laden with its pure white, pearl-like berries. Out of the

woods the roads are generally bad, and we found it hard work plodding through the deep


Charlotte Forten, “Life on the Sea Islands,” Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Art, and

Politics, Volume XIII (Boston: 1864), 591-592.

Available through Google Books



Mississippi Black Code, 1865

Many southern governments enacted legislation that reestablished antebellum power relationships. South

Carolina and Mississippi passed laws known as Black Codes to regulate black behavior and impose social

and economic control. While they granted some rights to African Americans – like the right to own property,

to marry or to make contracts – they also denied other fundamental rights. Mississippi’s vagrant law,

excerpted here, required all freedmen to carry papers proving they had means of employment. If they had no

proof, they could be arrested, fined, or even re-enslaved and leased out to their former enslaver.

Vagrancy Law

Section 2. Be it further enacted, that all freedmen, free Negroes, and mulattoes in this state over

the age of eighteen years found on the second Monday in January 1866, or thereafter, with

no lawful employment or business, or found unlawfully assembling themselves

together either in the day or nighttime, and all white persons so assembling with freedmen,

free Negroes, or mulattoes, or usually associating with freedmen, free Negroes, or mulattoes

on terms of equality, or living in adultery or fornication with a freedwoman, free Negro, or

mulatto, shall be deemed vagrants; and, on conviction thereof, shall be fined in the sum of

not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, 150, and a white man,

$200, and imprisoned at the discretion of the court, the free Negro not exceeding ten days,

and the white man not exceeding six months….

Section 7. Be it further enacted, that if any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto shall fail or refuse

to pay any tax levied according to the provisions of the 6th Section of this act, it shall be

prima facie evidence of vagrancy, and it shall be the duty of the sheriff to arrest such

freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, or such person refusing or neglecting to pay such tax, and

proceed at once to hire, for the shortest time, such delinquent taxpayer to anyone who will

pay the said tax, with accruing costs, giving preference to the employer, if there be one.

Section 8. Be it further enacted, that any person feeling himself or herself aggrieved by the

judgment of any justice of the peace, mayor, or alderman in cases arising under this act may,

within five days, appeal to the next term of the county court of the proper county, upon

giving bond and security in a sum not less than $25 nor more than $150, conditioned to

appear and prosecute said appeal, and abide by the judgment of the county court, and said

appeal shall be tried de novo in the county court, and the decision of said court shall be final.

Civil Rights of Freedmen

Section 1. Be it enacted by the legislature of the state of Mississippi, that all freedmen, free Negroes,

and mulattoes may sue and be sued, implead and be impleaded in all the courts of law and

equity of this state, and may acquire personal property and choses in action, by descent or

purchase, and may dispose of the same in the same manner and to the same extent that

white persons may:


Provided, that the provisions of this section shall not be construed as to allow any freedman,

free Negro, or mulatto to rent or lease any lands or tenements, except in incorporated towns

or cities, in which places the corporate authorities shall control the same….

Section 7. Be it further enacted, that every civil officer shall, and every person may, arrest and

carry back to his or her legal employer any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto who shall have

quit the service of his or her employer before the expiration of his or her term of service

without good cause, and said officer and person shall be entitled to receive for arresting and

carrying back every deserting employee aforesaid the sum of $5, and 10 cents per mile from

the place of arrest to the place of delivery, and the same shall be paid by the employer, and

held as a setoff for so much against the wages of said deserting employee:

Provided, that said arrested party, after being so returned, may appeal to a justice of the peace

or member of the board of police of the county, who, on notice to the alleged employer,

shall try summarily whether said appellant is legally employed by the alleged employer and

his good cause to quit said employer; either party shall have the right of appeal to the county

court, pending which the alleged deserter shall be remanded to the alleged employer or

otherwise disposed of as shall be right and just, and the decision of the county court shall be


Penal Code

Section 1. Be it enacted by the legislature of the state of Mississippi, that no freedman, free Negro, or

mulatto not in the military service of the United States government, and not licensed so to

do by the board of police of his or her county, shall keep or carry firearms of any kind, or

any ammunition, dirk, or Bowie knife; and, on conviction thereof in the county court, shall be

punished by fine, not exceeding $10, and pay the costs of such proceedings, and all such

arms or ammunition shall be forfeited to the informer; and it shall be the duty of every civil

and military officer to arrest any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto found with any such arms

or ammunition, and cause him or her to be committed for trial in default of bail…

Section 4. Be it further enacted, that all the penal and criminal laws now in force in this state

defining offenses and prescribing the mode of punishment for crimes and misdemeanors

committed by slaves, free Negroes, or mulattoes be and the same are hereby reenacted and

declared to be in full force and effect against freedmen, free Negroes, and mulattoes, except

so far m the mode and manner of trial and punishment have been changed or altered by


Section 5. Be it further enacted, that if any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto convicted of any of

the misdemeanors provided against in this act shall fail-or refuse, for the space of five days

after conviction, to pay the fine and costs imposed, such person shall be hired out by the

sheriff or other officer, at public outcry, to any white person who will pay said fine and all

costs and take such convict for the shortest time.


Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America during the period known as

Reconstruction…. (Washington D.C.: 1871), 80-82.

Available through Google Books



General Reynolds Describes Lawlessness in

Texas, 1868

Most histories of the Civil War claim that the war ended in the summer of 1865 when Confederate armies

surrendered. However, violent resistance and terrorism continued in the South for over a decade. In this report,

General J.J. Reynolds describes the lawlessness of Texas during Reconstruction.

General: I have the honor to forward herewith annual tabular statement of expeditions and

souts, and reports of movements of the various regiments serving in this district, for the year

ending September 30, 1868.

Armed organizations, generally known as “Ku-Klux Klans,” exist, independently or in

concert with other armed bands, in many parts of Texas, but are most numerous, bold, and

aggressive east of Trinity River.

The precise objects of the organizations cannot be readily explained, but seems, in this state,

to be to disarm, rob, and in many cases murder Union men and negroes, and as occasion

may offer, murder United States officers and soldiers; also to intimidate every one who

knows anything of the organization but who will not join it.

The civil law east of the Trinity River is almost a dead letter. In some counties the civil

officers are all, or a portion of them, members of the Klan. In other counties where the civil

officers will not join the Klan, or some other armed band, they have been compelled to leave

their counties. Examples are Van Zandt, Smith, and Marion counties; (the county seat of the

latter is Jefferson.)

In many counties where the county officers have not been driven off their influence is

scarcely felt. What political end, if any, is aimed at by these bands I cannot say, but they

attend in large bodies the political meetings (barbecues) which have been and are still being

held in various parts of this State under the auspices of the democratic clubs of the different


The speakers encourage their attendance, and in several counties men have been indicated by

name from the speaker’s stand, as those selected for murder. The men thus pointed out have

no course left them but to leave their homes or be murdered on the first convenient


The murder of negroes is so common as to render it impossible to keep an accurate account

of them.

Many of the members of these bands of outlaws are transient persons in the State; the

absence of railroads and telegraphs and great length of time required to communicate

between remote points facilitating their devilish purposes.


These organizations are evidently countenanced, or at least not discouraged, by a majority of

the white people in the counties where the bands are most numerous. They could not

otherwise exist.

I have given this matter close attention, and am satisfied that a remedy to be effective must

be gradually applied and continued with the firm support of the army until these outlaws are

punished or dispersed.

They cannot be punished by the civil courts until some examples by military commissions

show that men can be punished in Texas for murder and kindred crimes. Perpetrators of

such crimes have not heretofore, except in very rare instances, been punished in this state at


Free speech and a free press, as the terms are generally understood in other States, have

never existed in Texas. In fact, the citizens of other states cannot appreciate the state of

affairs in Texas without actually experiencing it. The official reports of lawlessness and

crime, so far from being exaggerated, do not tell the whole truth.

Jefferson is the center from which most of the trade, travel, and lawlessness of eastern Texas

radiate, and at this point or its vicinity there should be stationed about a regiment of troops.

The recent murder at Jefferson of Hon. G. W. Smith, a delegate to the constitutional

convention, has made it necessary to order more troops to that point. This movement

weakens the frontier posts to such an extent as to impair their efficiency for protection

against Indians, but the bold, wholesale murdering in the interior of the state seems at

present to present a more urgent demand for the troops than Indian depredations. The

frontier posts should, however, be reinforced if possible, as it is not improbably that the

Indians from the northwest, after having suffered defeat there, will make heavy incursions

into Texas.

To restore measurable peace and quiet to Texas will require, for a long time, that troops be

stationed at many county seats, until, by their presence, and aid if necessary, the civil law can

be placed in the hands of reliable officers, and executed. This will be the work of years, and

will be fully accomplished only by an increase of population.

“Report of Brevet Major General J. J. Reynolds, Commanding Fifth Military District”

in Annual Report of the Secretary of War (Washington: 1868), 704-705.

Available through Google Books



A case of sexual violence during

Reconstruction, 1866

These documents chronicle a case in the wider wave of violence that targeted people of color during

Reconstruction. The first document includes Frances Thompson and Lucy Smith’s testimony about their

assault, rape, and robbery in 1866. The second document, demonstrates one way that white Southerners

denied these claims. In 1876, Thompson was exposed for cross-dressing. For twenty years she successfully

passed as a woman. Southerners trumpeted this case as evidence that widely documented cases of violence,

sexual and otherwise, were fabricated.

Testimony of Frances Thompson

State your name and residence.

My name is Frances Thompson; I live in Gayoso Street, here in Memphis.

What is your occupation?

I sew and take in washing and ironing.

Have you been a slave?

Yes sir.

Where were you raised?

I was raised in Maryland. All our people but mistress got killed in the rebel army.

Have you been injured?

I am a cripple. (the witness used crutches) I have a cancer in my foot.

Were you here during the late riots?

Yes, sir.

State what you know or saw of the rioting.

Between one and two o’clock Tuesday night seven men, two of whom were policement,

came to my house. I know they were policemen by their stars. They were all Irishmen. They

said they must have supper, and asked me what I had, and said they must have some eggs,

and ham, and biscuit. I made them some biscuit and some strong coffee, and they all sat

down and ate. A girl lives with me; her name is Lucy Smith; she is about 16 years old. When

they had eaten supper, they said they wanted some woman to sleep with. I said we were not

that sort of women, and they must go. They said, “that didn’t make a damned bit of

difference.” One of them then laid hold of me and hit me in the side of my face, and holding

my throat, choked me. Lucy tried to get out of the window when one of them knocked her

down and choked her. They drew their pistols and said they would shoot us and fire the

house if we did not let them have their way with us. All seven of the men violated us two.

Four of them had to do with me, the rest with Lucy.

Were you injured?

I was sick for two weeks. I lay for three days with a hot, burning fever.


Did anyone attend you?

I had a cold before, and Dr. Rambert attended me after this.

Were you robbed?

After they got through with us, they just robbed the house. They took the clothes out of my

trunk and took one hundred dollars that I had in greenbacks belonging to me, and two

hundred dollars that belonged to a colored woman, that was left with me to keep safe for


Did they take anything else?

They took three silk dresses of mine and a right nice one of Lucy’s. They put the things into

two pillow slips and took them away.

How long did these men stay?

They were there, perhaps, for nearly four hours: it was getting day when they left.

Did they say anything?

They said they intended to “burn up the last God damned nigger.”

Do you know any of them?

They were all Irishmen; there was not an American among them.

Did anything else take place?

There were some quilts about that we had been making. They asked us what they were made

for. When we told them we made them for the soldiers, they swore at us, and said the

soldiers would never have them on their beds, and they took them away with the rest of the

things. They said they would drive all the Yankees out of the town, and then there would be

only some rebel niggers and butternuts left. I thought all the time they would burn the house

down, but they didn’t.

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Memphis Riots and Massacres. 39th Congress, 1st

session, 1865-66. House Report No. 101. Washington, DC, 1866, 196-97.

Available through the Hathi Trust

Testimony of Lucy Smith

State your name and how old you are.

Lucy Smith; I am going on 17 years of age.

Have you been a slave?

I have been a slave girl, and have been free four years come July next.

Do you live in this city?

I live in Memphis and was raised here.

Were you here at the time of the riots?

I was living with Frances Thompson at the time of the riots.



State what you know of the late riots.

On Tuesday, the first night of the riots, some men came to our house. We were in bed. They

told us to get up and get some supper for them. We got up, and made a fire, and got them


What else took place?

What was left of the sugar, and coffee, and ham they threw into the bayou.

How many men were there?

There were seven of them; but I was so scared I could not be certain.

Did they rob you?

We had two trunks. They did not unlock them, but just jerked them open. They took $100

belonging to Frances, and $200 belonging to a friend of Frances, given to her to take care of.

They took all the money and clothes and carried them off.

Did you know any of the men?

There were two policemen with the men. I saw their stars.

What else took place?

They tried to take advantage of me and did. I told them I did not do such things and would

not. One of them said he would make me, and choked me by the neck. My neck was swollen

up the next day, and for two weeks I could not talk to anyone. After the first man had

connexion with me, another go hold of me and tried to violate me, but I was so bad he did

not. He gave me a lick with his fist and said I was so damned near dead he would not have

anything to do with me.

Were you injured?

I bled from what the first man had done to me. The man said, “Oh, she is so near dead I

won’t have anything to do with her.” I was injured right smart, and kept my bed for two

weeks after.

Did they do anything else?

We had some quilts in the room that we had been quilting red, white, and blue. They asked

us if we made them before or after the Yankees came. We said after. They said, “You niggers

have a mighty liking for the damned Yankees, but we will kill you, and you will have no

liking for any one then.” There were some pictures in the room: we had General Hooker and

some other Union officers, and they said they would not have hurt us so bad if it had not

been for these pictures. They were in the house a good while after they hurt me, but I lay

down on the bed for I thought they had killed me; it was mostly from the choking and the

lick on the side of my yead.

Did anyone attend you?

Dr. Riley, a colored doctor, afterwards examined me. I was in bed two weeks later.

U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Memphis Riots and Massacres. 39th Congress, 1st

session, 1865-66. House Report No. 101. Washington, DC, 1866, 197.


Available through the Hathi Trust

Newspaper story about Frances Thompson

Frances Thompson (colored) better known as “Aunt Crutchie,” who for the past twenty-

seven years has gone about this city in female garb, was arrested yesterday, and after medical

examination was pronounced a member of the male sex. The quartette of medical experts

who worked upon the case also discovered that the dusky Thompson’s lower limbs were as

crooked as a young dogwood tree or a ram’s horn. This deformity served as an excuse for

the pretended female cripple to promenade the streets on crutches. Thompson is well

known to the people of this city as a low minded criminal of the most revolting character.

The recorder imposed a fine of $50 upon the prisoner. Not being able to pay the fine a lot of

male toggery was put upon the impecunious Thompson, and he was sent out on the chain

gang to work the streets. An immense crowd of curious idling people collected about to see

the changed figure of the thick lipped, foul mouthed scamp, and finding it impossible to

drive them off, Thompson was sent to the lock up again. Known then as Miss Frances

Thompson, this person testified before the Washington Congressional Committee to have

been outraged a number of times during the Memphis riots soon after the war. Her evidence

appears at length in the official report. It is just probable Mr. Thompson lied — Memphis


Under False Colors. “A Colored Man Who Has Successfully Passed as a Woman for

Twenty-Seven Years.” The Memphis Avalanche; reprinted in The Pulaski Citizen (Pulaski, TN),

Thursday, July 20, 1876, page 2.

Available through Newspapers.com




Frederick Douglass on Remembering the Civil

War, 1877

Americans came together after the Civil War largely by collectively forgetting what the war was about.

Celebrations honored the bravery of both armies, and the meaning of the war faded. Frederick Douglass and

other Black leaders engaged with Confederate sympathizers in a battle of historical memory. In this speech,

Douglass calls on Americans to remember the war for what it was—a struggle between an army fighting to

protect slavery and a nation reluctantly transformed into a force for liberation.

FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS: In this place, hallowed and made glorious by a

statue of the best man, truest patriot, and wisest statesman of his time and country; I have

been invited – I might say ordered – by the Lincoln Post of the Grand Army of the

Republic, to say a few words to you in appropriate celebration of this annual national

memorial day…

We tender you on this memorial day the homage of the loyal nation, and the heartfelt

gratitude of emancipated millions. If the great work you undertook to accomplish is still

incomplete; if a lawless and revolutionary spirit is still aboard in the country; if the principles

for which you bravely fought are in any way compromised or threatened; if the Constitution

and the laws are in any measure dishonored and disregarded; if duly elected State

Governments are in any way overthrown by violence; if the elective franchise has been

overborne by intimidation and fraud; if the Southern States, under the idea of local self-

government, are endeavoring to paralyze the arm and shrivel the body of the National

Government so that it cannot protect the humblest citizen in his rights, the fault is not

yours. You, at least, were faithful and did your whole duty.

Fellow-citizens, I am not here to fan the flame of sectional animosity, to revive old issues, or

to stir up strife between the races; but no candid man, looking at the political situation of the

hour, can fail to see that we are still afflicted by the painful sequences both of slavery and of

the late rebellion. In the spirit of the noble man whose image now looks down upon us we

should have “charity toward all, and malice toward none.” In the language of our greatest

soldier, twice honored with the Presidency of the nation. “Let us have peace.” Yes, let us

have peace, but let us have liberty, law, and justice first. Let us have the Constitution, with it

thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, fairly interpreted, faithfully executed, and

cheerfully obeyed in the fullness of their spirit and the completeness of their letter….

My own feeling toward the old master class of the South is well known. Though I have worn

the yoke of bondage, and have no love for what are called the good old times of slavery,

there is in my heart no taint of malice toward the ex-slaveholders. Many of them were not

sinners above all others, but were in some sense the slaves of the slave system, for slavery

was a power in the State greater than the State itself. With the aid of a few brilliant orators

and plotting conspirators, it sundered the bonds of the Union and inaugurated war….


Nevertheless, we must not be asked to say that the South was right in the rebellion, or to say

the North was wrong. We must not be asked to put no difference between those who fought

for the Union and those who fought against it, or between loyalty and treason…

But the sectional character of this war was merely accidental and its least significant feature.

It was a war of ideas, a battle of principles and ideas which united one section and divided

the other; a war between the old and new, slavery and freedom, barbarism and civilization;

between a government based upon the broadest and grandest declaration of human rights

the world ever heard or read, and another pretended government, based upon an open, bold

and shocking denial of all rights, except the right of the strongest.

Good, wise, and generous men at the North, is power and out of power, for whose good

intentions and patriotism we must all have the highest respect, doubt the wisdom of

observing this memorial day, and would have us forget and forgive, strew flowers alike and

lovingly, on rebel and on loyal graves. This sentiment is noble and generous, worthy of all

honor as such; but it is only a sentiment after all, and must submit to its own rational

limitations. There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, which no sentiment

ought to cause us to forget, and while today we should have malice toward none, and charity

toward all, it is no part of our duty to confound right with wrong, or loyalty with treason. If

the observance of this memorial days has any apology, office, or significance, it is derived

from the moral character of this war, from the far-reaching, unchangeable and eternal

principles in dispute, and for which our sons and brothers encountered hardship, danger,

and death….

… though freedom of speech and of the ballot have for the present fallen before the shot-

guns of the South, and, the party of slavery is now in the ascendant, we need bate no jot of

heart or hope. The American people will, in any great emergency, be true to themselves. The

heart of the nation is still sound and strong, and as in the past, so in the future, patriotic

millions, with able captains to lead them, will stand as a wall of fire around the Republic, and

in the end see Liberty, Equality, and Justice triumphant.

Frederick Douglass, “Speech delivered in Madison Square, New York, Decoration Day.”

1877. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division

Available through the Library of Congress



Johnson and Reconstruction Cartoon, 1866

Thomas Nast, “Reconstruction and How It Works,” Harper’s Weekly, 1866, via HarpWeek.



This print mocks Reconstruction by making several allusions to Shakespeare. The center

illustration shows a Black soldier as Othello and President Andrew Johnson as Iago.

Johnson’s slogans “Treason is a crime and must be made odious” and “I am your Moses”

are on the wall. The top left shows a riot in Memphis and at the top a riot in New Orleans.

At the bottom, Johnson is trying to charm a Confederate Copperhead. General Benjamin

Butler is at the bottom left, accepting the Confederate surrender of New Orleans in 1862.

This scene is contrasted to the bottom right where General Philips Sheridan bows to

Louisiana Attorney General Andrew Herron in 1866, implying a defeat for Reconstruction.

Click on the image for more information.

Left Side:

Iago. The Moor is of a free and open nature,

That thinks men honest that but seem to be so;

And will as tenderly be led by the nose,

As asses…

Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me,

For making him egregiously an ass,

And practicing upon his peace and quiet

Even to madness. ‘Tis here, but yet confus’d;

Knavery’s plain face is never seen, till us’d…

Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains,

Yet, for necessity of present life,

I must show out a flag and sign of love;

Which is indeed but sign…

Then devils will their blackest sins put on,

They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,

As I do now…

I humbly do beseech you of your pardon,

For too much loving you…

I hope, you will consider, what is spoke

Comes from my love;–But, I do see you are mov’d:–

I am to pray you, not to strain my speech

To grosser issues, nor to larger reach

Than to suspicion…

O grace! O heaven defend me!

Are you a man? Have you a soul, or sense?–

God be wi’ you; take mine office.–O wretched fool,

That liv’st to make thine honesty a vice!–

O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world!

To be direct and honest, is not safe.–

I thank you for this profit; and, from hence,

I’ll love no friend, since love breeds such offense…


Work on,

My medicine, work!


Right Side:

“I have been accused of being inimical to the true interests of the colored people’ but this is

not true. I am one of their best friends; and time, which tries and tests all, will demonstrate

the fact…I once said I would be the Moses of your people, and lead them on to liberty–

liberty they now have…I have been blamed for vetoing the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, and

have been also represented to the colored people as having done it because I was their

enemy. This is not true…The ordinary course of judicial proceedings is no longer

interrupted. The courts, both State and Federal, are in full, complete, and successful

operation, and through them every person, regardless of race and color, is entitled to and can

be hear. The protection granted to the white citizen is already conferred by law upon the

freedman….It can not be expected that men who have for four years been made familiar

with the blood and carnage of war, who have suffered the loss of property, and in so many

instances reduced from affluence to poverty, can at once assume the calm demeanor and

action of those citizens of the country whose worldly possessions have not been destroyed,

and whose political hopes have not been blasted, and the worst view of this subject affords

no parallel in violence to similar outrages that have followed all civil commotions, always less

in magnitude than ours. But I do not believe that this to-be-regretted state of things will last

long.”– Andrew Johnson.


Fifteenth Amendment Print, 1870

Thomas Kelley, “The Fifteenth Amendment,” 1870, via Wikimedia.

This 1870 print celebrated the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Here we see several of

the themes most important to Black Americans during Reconstruction: The print celebrates

the military achievements of Black veterans, the voting rights protected by the amendment,

the right to marry and establish families, the creation and protection of Black churches, and

the right to own and improve land. Unfortunately, many of these freedoms would be short-

lived as the United States retreated from Reconstruction.


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