Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lego Lincoln

Knowing how many of you are huge fans of Abe, I wanted to alert you that you can now obtain your very own portrait of the Great Emancipator made from Lego, courtesy of artist Nathan Sawaya.

No word on when the Millard Fillmore edition will be available.

Chief Justice Spencer Roane?

As a fan of counterfactuals, I was intrigued when I saw a post at Concurring Opinions highlighting a "What If" constitutional law symposium scheduled to be held in the Spring.

Having reviewed the list of topics, however, I'm disappointed. I was really hoping for "What If Spencer Roane Had Become Chief Justice in 1801".

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Icicle Season

Stay warm.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Verse of the Day

My daddy told me to marry
But not for love or riches
To marry a gal about six foot tall
So she can wear the britches

Fields Ward and the Grayson County Railsplitters, "Ain't That Trouble In Mind" (1929).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Salmon P. Chase, Nullifier

In his fine Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, Steven Lubet describes Salmon Portland Chase's brush with nullification.

On Monday September 13, 1858, slave catchers seized a runaway slave by the name of John Price near Oberlin, Ohio and conducted him to the nearby town of Wellington, whence they planned to take a train to Columbus. Unbeknownst to them, Oberlin opponents of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 learned of the event and followed them. The slave catchers found themselves besieged in a Wellington hotel by a mixed-race crowd of 300 to 500 people demanding Price's release. In brief, members of the crowd stormed the hotel and transferred Price to a carriage. Price ultimately escaped to Canada.

On December 6, 1858, a federal grand jury in Cleveland indicted thirty-seven men for violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Two of the defendants were tried and convicted in April and May 1859. A number of others were remanded to custody pending their trials.

In mid-May, however, the convicted defendants' attorneys filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Ohio Supreme Court, which scheduled argument for May 25, 1859.

Supporters of the defendants held a massive rally in Cleveland on May 24. By some estimates, as many as twelve thousand people attended. Although he had long been a leader in the anti-slavery movement, Governor Salmon P. Chase had not spoken out in connection with this or several previous incidents involving the Fugitive Slave Act and was not scheduled to attend. But perhaps because his earlier silences had been the subject of criticism he made an unexpected appearance.

Following other speakers who had vowed to resist the Fugitive Slave Act with force if necessary, Chase tried to walk a fine line between denouncing the law and advocating extra-legal measures. But in the end Chase "took a step toward the abyss":
If the process for the release of any prisoner should issue from Courts of the State [of Ohio], he was free to say that so long as Ohio was a Sovereign State, that process should be executed.
"'When the time came,' [Chase] said, 'and his duty was plain, he, as Governor of Ohio, would meet it as a man.'" In short, Chase had vowed to defy the federal government if necessary. "The Oberlin rescuers were still in jail and Governor Chase had all but promised to deploy the state militia on their behalf."

Luckily for Chase, the Ohio Supreme Court rescued him from his reckless commitment. By a 3 to 2 vote the Court denied the habeas petition. Although an abolitionist and a Republican, Chief Justice Joseph Rockwell Swan concluded that he was "bound by my official oath to sustain the supremacy of the constitution and the law:'THE PRISONER MUST BE REMANDED.'"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Hunker Whig?

In the past I have discussed the economic disagreements, beginning in about 1842, between radical and more conservative elements in the New York Democratic Party that, when combined with the slavery issue, exploded in the Barnburner-Hunker schism in 1847-1848 (for example here). But whatever the details of the origins of the factions and the names given them, I have only seen the term “Hunker” used to describe a faction of the New York Democracy.

Until now. In his gripping – and highly recommended – Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, Steven Lubet describes the hearing held in Boston in May 1854 to determine the fugitive slave status of Anthony Burns. After a witness for Burns's master identified Burns, adding that he had seen him in Richmond, VA as recently as March 20, 1854, the defense presented witnesses who testified that the Anthony Burns on trial had been in Boston since about the beginning of March.

One of those witnesses, one James Whittemore, recalled seeing Burns as part of a window-cleaning crew on March 8 or 9. To bolster his credibility, the defense team asked about his political affiliation. Over objection, Whittemore testified that he was a “Hunker Whig” - that is, he was not a Free Soiler or abolitionist. The Hunkers and Barnburners were gone, but the term “Hunker” clearly survived as a generic descriptor.

About the illustration:
A portrait of the fugitive slave Anthony Burns, whose arrest and trial under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 touched off riots and protests by abolitionists and citizens of Boston in the spring of 1854. A bust portrait of the twenty-four-year-old Burns, "Drawn by Barry from a daguereotype [sic] by Whipple and Black," is surrounded by scenes from his life. These include (clockwise from lower left): the sale of the youthful Burns at auction, a whipping post with bales of cotton, his arrest in Boston on May 24, 1854, his escape from Richmond on shipboard, his departure from Boston escorted by federal marshals and troops, Burns's "address" (to the court?), and finally Burns in prison. Copyrighting works such as prints and pamphlets under the name of the subject (here Anthony Burns) was a common abolitionist practice. This was no doubt the case in this instance, since by 1855 Burns had in fact been returned to his owner in Virginia.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sean Wilentz Gets His Act Together, Finally

Having criticized Sean Wilentz about six months ago for not having gotten around even to scheduling the release of a biography of President Millard Fillmore in the American Presidents Series, I'll give the devil his due: the volume has now at last been scheduled. The release date is May 10, 2011.

The choice of author is interesting: legal historian Paul Finkelman of Albany, most of whose writings focus on race and slavery-related topics. Will Prof. Finkelman simply rake Millard over the coals for his endorsement and signature of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, or adopt a more nuanced view? We'll find out in due course.

UPDATE: In the comments, Prof. Finkelman explains that Prof. Wilentz was not responsible for the delay in the release of the Fillmore volume.

A Note on the No-Testimony Provision of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

Section 6 of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 specifically barred the alleged fugitive from testifying in his own defense: "In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence."

In his wonderful (so far) Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial, lawprof Steven Lubet points out that this "provision was not quite as draconian as it now must seem" given the rules of evidence at the time. Nowadays, parties to suits are permitted to testify, with the trial judge giving the jury a instruction directing them to consider the party's interest in the case when evaluating that testimony.

In 1850, however, the general rule was that interested parties were barred from testifying altogether, on the theory that their testimony was inherently unreliable. The no-testimony provision of the Act thus "merely put an alleged slave (the subject of the proceeding, but not a formal party) on the same footing as the alleged master."
Virtually every aspect of the Fugitive Slave Act [of 1850] tilted against the alleged runaway, who was denied the right to a jury trial, to appeal, or to seek relief from another court. The law specifically provided that "in no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence." The latter provision was not quite as draconian as it now must seem. In 1850, plaintiffs and defendants in lawsuits, including criminal defendants, were not permitted to testify on their own behalf in any state or federal court, pursuant to the so-called interested party rule. Strictly speaking, then, the no-testimony provision of the Fugitive Slave Act merely put an alleged slave (the subject of the proceeding, but not a formal party) on the same footing as the alleged master (the plaintiff or claimant), neither being allowed to testify.
Two caveats are in order. First, as Prof. Lubet notes, the no-testimony provision of the Act nonetheless left the alleged fugitive at a terrible disadvantage:
But of course their true positions were far from equivalent. The claimants had resources to call upon other witnesses - agents, employees, neighbors - to testify to the identity and servile status of a prisoner, while the fugitives almost invariably had only themselves.
Second, Prof. Lubet may be incorrect that in 1850 parties were barred from testifying "in any state or federal court." Although it may have remained the general rule, it appears that at about this time some states were beginning to reconsider the old common-law rule and a few had already modified it. In A History of American Law, Prof. Lawrence M. Friedman cites both Connecticut and New York as having abandoned the rule by 1850:
A few of the more restrictive rules of evidence were, to be sure, relaxed. At one time, as we noted, nobody who was an interested party was allowed to testify at trial. England abolished this rule in 1843, Michigan in 1846, and other states followed over the next thirty years. The rule that disqualified the parties to a lawsuit was only a special case of the rule; it too was abolished. Connecticut did this in 1848; and the Field Code, in New York, in the same year, did the same. Other states gradually joined the trend, Illinois, for example, in 1867.
About the illustration, entitled Practical Illustration of the Fugitive Slave Law (published in Boston, 1851):
A satire on the antagonism between Northern abolitionists on the one hand, and Secretary of State Daniel Webster and other supporters of enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Here abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (left) holds a slave woman in one arm and points a pistol toward a burly slave catcher mounted on the back of Daniel Webster. The slave catcher, wielding a noose and manacles, is expensively dressed, and may represent the federal marshals or commissioners authorized by the act (and paid) to apprehend and return fugitive slaves to their owners. Behind Garrison a black man also aims a pistol toward the group on the right, while another seizes a cowering slaveholder by the hair and is about to whip him saying, "It's my turn now Old Slave Driver." Garrison: "Don't be alarmed Susanna, you're safe enough." Slave catcher: "Don't back out Webster, if you do we're ruind." Webster, holding "Constitution": "This, though Constitutional, is "extremely disagreeable." "Man holding volumes "Law & Gospel": "We will give these fellows a touch of South Carolina."Man with quill and ledger: "I goes in for Law & Order." A fallen slaveholder: "This is all "your" fault Webster." In the background is a Temple of Liberty flying two flags, one reading "A day, an hour, of virtuous Liberty, is worth an age of Servitude" and the other, "All men are born free & equal." The print may (as Weitenkampf suggests) be the work of New York artist Edward Williams Clay. The signature, the expressive animation of the figures, and especially the political viewpoint are, however, uncharacteristic of Clay. (Compare for instance that artist's "What's Sauce for the Goose," no. 1851-5.) It is more likely that the print was produced in Boston, a center of bitter opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 and 1851.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, Mr. President

Millard Fillmore, our nation's thirteenth president, was born January 7, 1800 and celebrated his 211th birthday four days ago.

The press of events prevented me from composing a timely post celebrating the life of this fine man. But the ever-reliable Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub did his usual thorough job on matters Millard by marking the moment with no fewer than four posts, all of which are worth reading: University of Buffalo President Simpson to speak at Millard Fillmore's 2010 birthday observance, Millard Fillmore's 211th, A day that will live in obscurity, and Would Albuquerque and Santa Fe be part of Texas, but for Millard Fillmore? The last of these posts, in turn, highlights an entry at Duke City Fix, If it weren't for Millard Fillmore, you might be a Texan!

Having repeatedly lauded Millard's virtues, I won't belabor the issue unduly. For an overview, try Presidential Scholars on Crack and Millard Loses a War He Didn't Fight. On Millard's deft handling of the Texas-New Mexico dispute, and what might have happened if he had acted less decisively, see Millard Fillmore, Firm Statesman and "Civil War between North and South would then have likely erupted".

Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Forgive me for being a few days late.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Robert J. Evans Writes Thomas Jefferson on Slavery, 1819

Following up on my last post, I thought I'd transcribe and post the June 3, 1819 and October 2, 1819 letters that Robert J. Evans sent to Thomas Jefferson, seeking the latter's thoughts on how to eradicate slavery. Presumably Evans's letters to James Madison and John Adams were similar. The Sage of Monticello sent a non-substantive reply in November 1819, pleading illness and old age as his excuses.

Evans's first letter to Jefferson is dated June 3, 1819. The letter makes clear that the two men did not know one another:
Philadel[phia] June3.1819.

His Excellency Thomas Jefferson

Honoured Sir,

Deeply impressed with a sense of the dreadful atrocity of Slavery and its eventual evil consequences to the prosperity and happiness of the Nation, I am endeavouring with a consciousness of my inability to do that justice to that subject which its great importance demands to call the attention of the American People to it, through the medium of the National Intelligencer under the assumed signature of "Benjamin Rush."

Knowing from your Notes on Virginia as well as from the whole tenour [?] of your publick life what your sentiments on this subject are, I have taken the liberty of soliciting from you such hints relative to a plan for it's [sic] total abolition as may have occurred to you in your reflections on the subject which you may suppose calculated to promote this great object. I am aware of your advanced age and your increasing love of retirement but hope the great importance of the subject will plead my excuse.

Entirely unknown to you and to the world, but convinced of the importance of your opinions, and believing with the rest of the american family that they are the property of your country, as one of them I feel a proportionate interest and have ventured to make this request.

If this application should be considered as impertinent be pleased to consign it to oblivion and seek for my excuse in the motive which has given rise to it.

With profound respect and gratitude for your services to your country. I am your fellow citizen

Robert J. Evans
Not having received a response, Evans sent a follow-up letter on October 2, 1819:
Philadel[phia] October 2nd.1819.

His Excellent Thomas Jefferson

Honoured Sir,

With that undissembled and profound respect, which every American should feel, for the illustrious author of the declaration of Independence; I ventured some months since, to address you on a subject, of the very first importance to this nation, and to the cause of liberty: - that of the untimate extirpation of Slavery from the land. As endeavours were making to awaken the earnest attention of our fellow citizens to it, through the medium of the National Intelligencer, under the assumed signature of “Benjamin Rush”; it was hoped by the writer, that as your opinions connected with it, were known to all the world, some useful hints calculated to promote the great object, the result of reflection, might be signally beneficial to our country, whose best interests, it is now generally acknowledged by all parties, you have uniformly consulted, and laboured to promote. To this communication I have not been honoured with a line in reply. Perhaps it did not get to hand. The tremendous importance of the subject will continue, till measures of an efficient character shall be adopted, to remove or avert the approaching disastrous effects. Will you be pleased to pardon the liberty again taken, of respectfully enquiring, whether any mode of successfully accomplishing so desirable a purpose, other than those, which have been already laid before the publick, has occurred to you. If there has, should it not be the property of your country?

With sentiments of gratitude & respect I am your obedient servant

Robert J. Evans

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Robert J. Evans Questions the Fathers on Slavery

In his essay "The Missouri Compromise and Sectionalism", found in Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism, Robert Pierce Forbes discusses this remarkable June 15, 1819 letter from former president James Madison to Robert J. Evans. I will quote the letter in full and without interruption, but in a nutshell the Sage of Montpelier advocates that the federal government spend $600,000,000 to purchase all (or substantially all) slaves from their masters and to finance their voluntary transportation to Africa. The funds would be obtained from land sales. An amendment to the Constitution would be necessary:

I have recd. your letter of the 3d instant, requesting such hints as may have occurred to me on the subject of an eventual extinguishment of slavery in the U. S.

Not doubting the purity of your views, and relying on the discretion by which they will be regulated, I cannot refuse such a compliance as will at least manifest my respect for the object of your undertaking.

A general emancipation of slaves ought to be 1. gradual. 2. equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned. 3. consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation.

That it ought, like remedies for other deeprooted and wide-spread evils, to be gradual, is so obvious that there seems to be no difference of opinion on that point.

To be equitable & satisfactory, the consent of both the Master & the slave should be obtained. That of the Master will require a provision in the plan for compensating a loss of what he held as property guarantied by the laws, and recognised by the Constitution. That of the slave, requires that his condition in a state of freedom, be preferable in his own estimation, to his actual one in a state of bondage.

To be consistent with existing and probably unalterable prejudices in the U. S. the freed blacks ought to be permanently removed beyond the region occupied by or allotted to a White population. The objections to a thorough incorporation of the two people are, with most of the Whites insuperable; and are admitted by all of them to be very powerful. If the blacks, strongly marked as they are by Physical & lasting peculiarities, be retained amid the Whites, under the degrading privation of equal rights political or social, they must be always dissatisfied with their condition as a change only from one to another species of oppression; always secretly confederated agst. the ruling & privileged class; and always uncon-troulled by some of the most cogent motives to moral and respectable conduct. The character of the free blacks, even where their legal condition is least affected by their colour, seems to put these truths beyond question. It is material also that the removal of the blacks be to a distance precluding the jealousies & hostilities to be apprehended from a neighboring people stimulated by the contempt known to be entertained for their peculiar features; to say nothing of their vindictive recollections, or the predatory propensities which their State of Society might foster. Nor is it fair, in estimating the danger of Collisions with the Whites, to charge it wholly on the side of the Blacks. There would be reciprocal antipathies doubling the danger.

The colonizing plan on foot, has as far as it extends, a due regard to these requisites; with the additional object of bestowing new blessings civil & religious on the quarter of the Globe most in need of them. The Society proposes to transport to the African Coast all free & freed blacks who may be willing to remove thither; to provide by fair means, &, it is understood with a prospect of success, a suitable territory for their reception; and to initiate them into such an establishment as may gradually and indefinitely expand itself.

The experiment, under this view of it, merits encouragement from all who regard slavery as an evil, who wish to see it diminished and abolished by peaceable & just means; and who have themselves no better mode to propose. Those who have most doubted the success of the experiment must at least have wished to find themselves in an error.

But the views of the Society are limited to the case of blacks already free, or who may be gratuitously emancipated. To provide a commensurate remedy for the evil, the plan must be extended to the great Mass of blacks, and must embrace a fund sufficient to induce the Master as well as the slave to concur in it. Without the concurrence of the Master, the benefit will be very limited as it relates to the Negroes; and essentially defective, as it relates to the U. States; and the concurrence of Masters, must, for the most part, be obtained by purchase.

Can it be hoped that voluntary contributions, however adequate to an auspicious commencement, will supply the sums necessary to such an enlargement of the remedy? May not another question be asked? Would it be reasonable to throw so great a burden on the individuals distinguished by their philanthropy and patriotism?

The object to be obtained, as an object of humanity, appeals alike to all; as a National object, it claims the interposition of the nation. It is the nation which is to reap the benefit. The nation therefore ought to bear the burden.

Must then the enormous sums required to pay for, to transport, and to establish in a foreign land all the slaves in the U. S. as their Masters may be willg. to part with them, be taxed on the good people of the U. S. or be obtained by loans swelling the public debt to a size pregnant with evils next in degree to those of slavery itself?

Happily it is not necessary to answer this question by remarking that if slavery as a national evil is to be abolished, and it be just that it be done at the national expence, the amount of the expence is not a paramount consideration. It is the peculiar fortune, or, rather a providential blessing of the U. S. to possess a resource commensurate to this great object, without taxes on the people, or even an increase of the public debt.

I allude to the vacant territory the extent of which is so vast, and the vendible value of which is so well ascertained.

Supposing the number of slaves to be 1,500,000, and their price to average 400 drs, the cost of the whole would be 600 millions of dollrs. These estimates are probably beyond the fact; and from the no. of slaves should be deducted 1. those whom their Masters would not part with. 2. those who may be gratuitously set free by their Masters. 3. those acquiring freedom under emancipating regulations of the States. 4. those preferring slavery where they are, to freedom in an African settlement. On the other hand, it is to be noted that the expence of removal & settlement is not included in the estimated sum; and that an increase of the slaves will be going on during the period required for the execution of the plan.

On the whole the aggregate sum needed may be stated at about 600 Mils, of dollars.

This will require 200 mils, of Acres at 3 dolrs. per Acre; or 300 mils, at 2 dollrs. per Acre a quantity which tho' great in itself, is perhaps not a third part of the disposable territory belonging to the U. S. And to what object so good so great & so glorious, could that peculiar fund of wealth be appropriated? Whilst the sale of territory would, on one hand be planting one desert with a free & civilized people, it would on the other, be giving freedom to another people, and filling with them another desert. And if in any instances, wrong has been done by our forefathers to people of one colour, by dispossessing them of their soil, what better atonement is now in our power than that of making what is rightfully acquired a source of justice & of blessings to a people of another colour?

As the revolution to be produced in the condition of the negroes must be gradual, it will suffice if the sale of territory keep pace with its progress. For a time at least the proceeds wd. be in advance. In this case it might be best, after deducting the expence incident to the surveys & sales, to place the surplus in a situation where its increase might correspond with the natural increase of the unpurchased slaves. Should the proceeds at any time fall short of the calls for their application, anticipations might be made by temporary loans to be discharged as the land should find a Market.

But it is probable that for a considerable period, the sales would exceed the calls. Masters would not be willing to strip their plantations & farms of their laborers too rapidly. The slaves themselves, connected as they generally are by tender ties with others under other Masters, would be kept from the list of emigrants by the want of the multiplied consents to be obtained. It is probable indeed that for a long time a certain portion of the proceeds might safely continue applicable to the discharge of the debts or to other purposes of the Nation. Or it might be most convenient, in the outset, to appropriate a certain proportion only of the income from sales, to the object in view, leaving the residue otherwise applicable.

Should any plan similar to that I have sketched, be deemed eligible in itself no particular difficulty is foreseen from that portion of the nation which with a common interest in the vacant territory has no interest in slave property. They are too just to wish that a partial sacrifice shd. be made for the general good; and too well aware that whatever may be the intrinsic character of that description of property, it is one known to the constitution, and, as such could not be constitutionally taken away without just compensation. That part of the Nation has indeed shewn a meritorious alacrity in promoting, by pecuniary contributions, the limited scheme for colonizing the Blacks, & freeing the nation from the unfortunate stain on it, which justifies the belief that any enlargement of the scheme, if founded on just principles would find among them its earliest & warmest patrons. It ought to have great weight that the vacant lands in question have for the most part been derived from grants of the States holding the slaves to be redeemed & removed by the sale of them.

It is evident however that in effectuating a general emancipation of slaves, in the mode which has been hinted, difficulties of other sorts would be encountered. The provision for ascertaining the joint consent of the masters & slaves; for guarding agst. unreasonable valuations of the latter; and for the discrimination of those not proper to be conveyed to a foreign residence, or who ought to remain a charge on Masters in whose service they had been disabled or worn out and for the annual transportation of such numbers, would Require the mature deliberations of the National Councils. The measure implies also the practicability of procuring in Africa, an enlargement of the district or districts, for receiving the exiles, sufficient for so great an augmentation of their numbers.

Perhaps the Legislative provision best adapted to the case would be an incorporation of the Colonizing Society or the establishment of a similar one, with proper powers, under the appointment & superintendence of the National Executive.

In estimating the difficulties however incident to any plan of general emancipation, they ought to be brought into comparison with those inseparable from other plans, and be yielded to or not according to the result of the comparison.

One difficulty presents itself which will probably attend every plan which is to go into effect under the Legislative provisions of the National Govt. But whatever may be the defect of existing powers of Congress, the Constitution has pointed out the way in which it can be supplied. And it can hardly be doubted that the requisite powers might readily be procured for attaining the great object in question, in any mode whatever approved by the Nation.

If these thoughts can be of any aid in your search of a remedy for the great evil under which the nation labors, you are very welcome to them. You will allow me however to add that it will be most agreeable to me, not to be publickly referred to in any use you may make of them.
So who was Robert J. Evans? Prof. Forbes refers to him an a "Pennsylvania antislavery author." Looking around for more information about him, I discovered that he apparently sent an anti-slavery letter to John Adams at about the same time, occasioning an oft-cited response from the former second president:
Quincy, 8 June, 1819.

I respect the sentiments and motives, which have prompted you to engage in your present occupation, so much, that I feel an esteem and affection for your person, as I do a veneration for your assumed signature of Benjamin Rush. The turpitude, the inhumanity, the cruelty, and the infamy of the African commerce in slaves, have been so impressively represented to the public by the highest powers of eloquence, that nothing that I can say would increase the just odium in which it is and ought to be held. Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. If, however, humanity dictates the duty of adopting the most prudent measures for accomplishing so excellent a purpose, the same humanity requires, that we should not inflict severer calamities on the objects of our commiseration than those which they at present endure, by reducing them to despair, or the necessity of robbery, plunder, assassination, and massacre, to preserve their lives, some provision for furnishing them employment, or some means of supplying them with the necessary comforts of life. The same humanity requires that we should not by any rash or violent measures expose the lives and property of those of our fellow-citizens, who are so unfortunate as to be surrounded with these fellow-creatures, by hereditary descent, or by any other means without their own fault. I have, through my whole life, held the practice of slavery in such abhorrence, that I have never owned a negro or any other slave, though I have lived for many years in times, when the practice was not disgraceful, when the best men in my vicinity thought it not inconsistent with their character, and when it has cost me thousands of dollars for the labor and subsistence of free men, which I might have saved by the purchase of negroes at times when they were very cheap.

If any thing should occur to me, which I think may assist you, I will endeavor to communicate it to you; but at an age, when

* “From Marlborough’s eyes the streams of dotage flow,
* And Swift expires a driveller and a show,”

very little can be expected from, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant.
Evans seems to have been a persistent and determined activist. He also wrote Thomas Jefferson twice from Philadelphia in 1819, on June 3 and October 2.

Jefferson did not respond until November 7, 1819, when he sent this non-substantive reply. I'm not familiar with the timeline of Jefferson's health. Were his protestations about his infirmities excuses to avoid having to discuss an awkward subject?
Monticello Nov.7.[18]19

Dear Sir,

I am just now recovering from the third long & dangerous illness which I have had within the last 12 months. While I was able I answered all letters punctually. But age, it's [sic] ordinary infirmities, & extraordinary visitations of sickness have so broke me down that I am not longer able to maintain any correspondence by letters but such as my own affairs render indispensable. I hope you will receive this as an apology for my not having answered your first letter with the assurance my respect.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Did Andrew Jackson Cause the Panic of 1837?

“Did Andrew Jackson's destruction of the Second Bank of the United States cause the financial crises of the 1830s?” With that intriguing question, economist Jenny B. Wahl begins her essay “He Broke the Bank, but Did Andrew Jackson also Father the Fed?”, to me the most interesting entry in a book-full of interesting essays, Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism.

What, I wonder, is the economics analogue of historiography – oeconomography? After an introductory overview of pre-Civil War financial matters and a brief history of the Second Bank of the United States and the Panics of 1837 and 1839, Prof. Wahl reviews the changing views over time of Old Hickory's “responsibility for the events of the late 1830s.”

The first two stages of Prof. Wahl's oeconomography may be familiar: the “classic explanation”, which “place[d] blame squarely on Andrew Jackson's shoulders,” was succeeded by a revisionist view that events in Britain triggered the Panic; the U.S. simply “fell victim to international shifts in specie demand and supply.” The corollary was that Jackson “was not responsible for the inflation after the demise of the Second Bank.” “Nor was he to blame for the panics and crises that followed.”

The most recent studies by economic historians (or is that historical economists) were, however, news to me. These studies suggest that Jackson's actions cumulatively – the Bank War, the removal of the deposits to the pet banks, the Specie Circular – shook public confidence in banks and precipitated a drain of specie to the west:
If the [Second Bank] and its branches had remained in place, the conditions giving rise to the 1837 panic would not have existed. Absent Jackson's financial policies, moreover, read GDP per capita . . . might have continued its steady upward trend after 1834. In short, financial disorder yielded real consequences.
The essay is interesting on a second level, because it illustrates the connection between a sophisticated discussion of causation and counterfactual analysis. I have complained from time to time about historians' disdain for posing “what if” questions, maintaining that much analysis (and good old banter among history buffs) is really “what if” in disguise. “Lee was a better general than Grant” is really “What if Lee had been in Grant's shoes?”

At all events, as Prof. Wahl rather explicitly concedes, her analysis includes a lengthy discussion of how a hypothetically rechartered Second Bank might have reacted to the monetary and financial crises of the late 1830s – a gigantic What If.

My one complaint concerns Prof. Wahl's treatment of the second panic of 1839, a “crisis that lasted much longer and had more profound effects.” She indicates that “domestic forces clearly generated it” and that it was “rooted more in the intimacy among state treasuries, public works projects, and state banks.” But this dense reader, at least, did not understand her explanation as to why this intimacy gave rise to such a profound depression.

The artist supports Andrew Jackson's decision to withdraw federal funds from the Bank of the United States and distribute them among various state banks. Henry Clay and Bank president Nicholas Biddle's efforts to oppose Jackson's measures are lampooned. Several figures look on and comment as a horse-drawn, covered wagon pulls away from a warehouse and adjacent United States Hotel. In the center below stand Andrew Jackson (holding a coachman's whip) and Uncle Sam. Jackson: "Why Uncle Sam I consider that Store House not safe. as I observe, a number of Rat-holes. and also, they keep a nest of gamblers in the Hotel, so I thought it best to take your produce to another Store House." Uncle Sam: "Well Andrew, I think you do what is best for my interest. Farmer York speaks well of what you are doing. dont mind those barking fellows I will stand by you." Uncle Sam gestures toward two men on the left, Henry Clay and Jack Downing. Clay (gesticulating wildly): "I tell you what Uncle Sam, if you dont make that Fellow Andrew bring back your produce, to this Store, you'll have War. Pestilence, and Famine." Downing (restraining him): "A word in your ear Harry. keep cool. take Jack Downings advice, Uncle Sam does not believe a word you say. the Gineral and he, understand each other pretty well." Beyond them stands Bank president Nicholas Biddle, who urges on two dogs, saying: "Take hold, my well fed dogs, bark at them, they think to turn me out, but I will burn up the House first." His comment refers to his vengeful attempt to cause a bank crisis during the winter of 1833-34 by artificially tightening credit. At lower left two men look on and comment. The first says, "See Hance, how mad Nicholas the Hotel keeper is, because Andrew wont store the produce in his Store House, mid how he is seting [sic] on his dogs to scare the Horses. And Harry, how mad he is, because he cant drive the Team." The second, "Yaw. I sees him, that is he they calls schemeing Harry. he wonted to sell Uncle Sams wood lands, by a trick, the peoples calls his pripery-pill. He is a sly fellow, Uncle Sam dont like him I believe."

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Devil and Andrew Jackson

A friend was recently railing against Old Hickory as evil incarnate. I therefore particularly enjoyed Tim Alan Garrison's essay "The Devil and Andrew Jackson: Historians and Jackson's Role in the Indian Removal Crisis" (found in Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism), which includes this wonderful quote by James Parton, Andrew Jackson's first biographer, illustrating "that perceptions of Jackson [are] often so contradictory that they nearly thwart[] useful evaluation of his life":
If any one, at the end of a year even, had asked what I had yet discovered respecting General Jackson, I might have answered thus: "Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A writer brilliant, elegant, eloquent, without being able to compose a correct sentence, or spell words of four syllables. The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the profoundest dissimulation. A most law-defying, law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic autocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint." So difficult is it to attain information respecting a man whom two thirds of his fellow-citizens deified, and the other third vilified, for the space of twelve years or more.
A critical commentary on the press's treatment of Andrew Jackson, and on the practice of nominating candidates by caucus during the presidential race of 1824. The cartoon pointedly attacks Republican nominee William Crawford and his powerful supporter Martin Van Buren. Jackson, in military uniform, stands amid a pack of snarling dogs labeled with the names of various critical newspapers. He rests his right hand upon a sword inscribed "Veni Vidi Vici." One dog, named "Richmond Whig," is whipped by a nude black boy who says, "Mas Andra I earry say dis eah jew dog blongst to Tunis, bark loud, somebody tief way ee paper & show um one ghose, wite like Clay; dat mak um feard. Name o' God! nobody gwine feard now for Crawfud ghose! look pon dat sleepy dog; jumbee da ride um, can't bark no mo for Crawfud." In the lower left corner a dog named "Democratic Press" is ridden by a skeletal Death figure holding aloft a tract with the words "Immortal memory Revd. James Quigley basely sacrificed conscience Avaunt!" On the dog's side appear the words, "Good sprite, In mercy lash me with a dry corn stalk; I'm so jaded by stable swooning smoke house steams & Hog Cellar sweats!" A five-headed dog named "Hartford Convention" also appears at lower left. In the left background, before a building marked "Uncle Sam's Treasury Pap House / Amalgamation-Tool Department," Treasury Secretary William Crawford offers a bowl of dollars to a befeathered woman, saying "Here's a bowl full of solid pappose [sic] meat. that's a good Girl better marry our wild, Indians than Foreigners good or bad." She says, "O! stuff your mouth you brat! Treasury pap is better than rum." An Indian beside her says, "Rum for de baby." Below the image is a text from Shakespeare's Coriolanus: "What would you have, you Curs, that like not peace, nor war? / Who deserves Greatness, deserves your hate; and your affections are a sick man's appetite. / With every minute you do change a mind: and call him noble that was now your hate. / Him vile that was your Garland!"

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Which Crisis Brought the Union Closest to Dissolution

In "The Missouri Controversy and Sectionalism," found in Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism, Robert Pierce Forbes opines that the Missouri crisis brought "the Union closer to dissolution than at any time prior to the firing on Fort Sumter."

That wouldn't be my choice, but it inspired me to put together a poll on the subject. I'd be delighted if you cast your vote, and even more pleased if you posted a comment explaining your selection.

John Randolph of Roanoke: "Proceedings that are a crying sin before God and man"

In his essay "The Missouri Controversy and Sectionalism", which may be found in Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism, Robert Pierce Forbes mentions that "[i]n 1816, John Randolph of Roanoke denounced the domestic slave trade on the floor of Congress and called for a federal investigation into it." Randolph has long been one of my favorite characters in American history. I was generally aware of his views on the slave trade but was unaware of the speech. Having located it in the Annals of Congress, I thought I'd share it with you.

As usual, the ever-colorful, acid-tongued Randolph pulled no punches. Taking the floor on Friday March 1, 1816 following a discussion of routine matters relating to the District of Columbia, Randolph rose to address "a subject of infinitely more importance in every point of view." At the outset he damned both the slave trade as an "abomination" and his colleagues in the House for their moral blindness (I have transposed all quotes from the third person to the first and added some paragraph breaks):
I wish that some other gentleman had undertaken the business; but as no one has thought proper to awaken the House to a sense of their concern in it, or to point the finger of scorn at it, I will take upon myself the office to do it, and to call upon the House to put a stop to proceedings at this moment carried on under our very noses; proceedings that are a crying sin before God and man; a practice which is not surpassed for abomination in any part of the earth; for in no part of it, not even excepting the rivers on the coast of Africa, is there so great and so infamous a slave market as in the metropolis, in the very Seat of Government of this nation, which prides itself on freedom.
Randolph denied that he would weaken the institution of slavery, and affirmed that citizens were entitled to purchase slaves.
[B]ut it is not necessary to that exercise that this city should be made a depot of slaves, who are bought either from cruel masters or kidnapped - slaves stolen from their masters, and free persons stolen, as I might say, from themselves. It is not necessary that we should have, here in the very streets of our new metropolis, a depot for this nefarious traffic - in comparison with which the traffic from Africa to Charleston or Jamaica is mercy, is virtue.
Randolph suggested, offensively to modern ears, that the fact that slaves in America ceased being "savages" and became "civilized" only heightened the barbarity of slave market:
Indeed there can be no comparison rationally instituted between taking these savages from their native wilds and tearing the civilized informed negro, habituated to cultivated life, from his master, his friends, his wife, his children, or his parents.
Randolph conceded that slaves would have to move from place to place. But he condemned the "systematic slave market" and moved that it be investigated and stopped:
As to the right of passing through the place, as ordinary occasions might require, it is unquestionable; but there is a great difference between that and making the District a depot for a systematic slave market - an assemblage of prisons where the unfortunate beings, reluctant, no doubt, to be torn from their connexions, and the affections of their lives, are incarcerated and chained down, and thence driven in fetters like beasts, to be paid for like cattle.

I therefore move that the Committee of the District of Columbia should be instructed to inquire into the inhuman and illegal traffic in slaves carried on in this District, and to devise some speedy means to put a stop to it.
A comment that Randolph interpreted as an attempt to deflect responsibility for addressing the issue prompted him to a diatribe against heartless slave-traders and masters:
The object of my resolutions is a more coercive police. I know that the demands for cotton, tobacco, and latterly of sugar, create a demand for slaves, and we have a description of people here like those described by Mungo Park, (only that that they are not so humane or so honest) white traders who make this their depot, and sell human beings; and to verify this charge, and show the audacious villainy of their proceedings, consider these words of an advertisement of a sale of negroes - "No objection to TRADERS bidding."

The increase in the price is the temptation for which their base, hard-hearted masters sold out of their families the negroes who had been raised among them. This very day I heard a horrible fact from a respectable gentleman as he came to the House, which I will relate. A poor negro, by hard work and saving of his allowances, had laid by money enough to buy the freedom of his wife and child, and had paid it from time to time into the hands of his master, but the poor fellow died. The transaction was an affair of hon or with the master, and the day after the poor fellow's death, the woman and child were sold.

One fact like this speaks volumes. I repeat, that if the honorable chairman of the Committee of the District of Columbia refuses to take upon him the inquiry into this rank offence, I will myself be among these people.
Randolph closed with an anecdote worthy of an abolitionist:
I was lately mortified at being told by a foreigner of high rank, "You call this the land of liberty, and every day that passes things are done in it at which the despotisms of Europe would be horrorstruck and disgusted."
The House then passed the following resolution:
Resolved, That a committee be appointed to inquire into the existence of an inhuman and illegal traffic in slaves carried on in and through the District of Columbia, and to report whether any, and what, measures are necessary for putting a stop to the same.

Messrs. Randolph, Joseph Hopkinson (Federalist, PA), Charles Goldsborough (Federalist, MD), William Mayrant (Democratic-Republican, SC) and John Kerr (Democratic-Republican, VA) were appointed as members of the committee. The undistinguished nature of the panel suggests that the House had no interest in addressing the issue.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Was the Three-Fifths Clause Inherent in the Virginia Plan?

In her essay concerning the Three-Fifths Clause, "The Three-Fifths Clause and the Origins of Sectionalism" (in Finkelman and Kennon (eds.), Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism), Jan Lewis correctly points out that it was James Wilson of Pennsylvania who first proposed at the Philadelphia Convention that the Federal Ratio be applied to the allocation of representives.

Prof. Lewis expresses surprise that Wilson did so, and that he did so at such an early stage of the proceedings (on June 11, 1787). The Confederation Congress had proposed in 1783 that the Federal Ratio be used to allocate state contributions to the general treasury. But "no one had ever suggested that slaves be included in the basis for calculating representatives." And no "delegates, at least in public, [had yet] said the first thing about slavery. The word had not yet even been mentioned."

I have a different take. I would submit that the idea of the Three-Fifths Clause was present from the opening days of the Philadelphia Convention, when Edmund Randolph introduced the so-called Virginia Plan.

On May 29, 1787, Edmund Randolph of Virginia presented to the Convention his famous Plan, consisting of fourteen resolutions that were, he said, designed to "correct[] & enlarge[]" the Articles of Confederation so "as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution; namely, 'common defence, security of liberty and general welfare.'"

The second of Randolph's resolutions addressed the allocation of representatives to the "National Legislature." The third, fourth and fifth resolutions proposed that the "National Legislature" be a bicameral institution. I therefore quote them all:
2. Resd. therefore that the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases.

3. Resd. that the National Legislature ought to consist of two branches.

4. Resd. that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States every ----- for the term of -----; to be of the age of ----- years at least, to receive liberal stipends by with they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and for the space of ----- after its expiration; to be incapable of reelection for the space of ----- after the expiration of their term of service, and to be subject to recall.

5. Resold. that the members of the second branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by those of the first, out of a proper number of persons nominated by the individual Legislatures, to be of the age of ----- years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to ensure their independency; to receive liberal stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service; and to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service, and for the space of ----- after the expiration thereof.
Taken together, these resolutions proposed that the "first branch of the National Legislature" should "be elected by the people of the several states". The number of representatives allocated to each state should be "proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants."

The members of the first branch would then elect the members of the "second branch" from nominees submitted by the "individual [state] Legislatures." Again, allocation of seats in the "second branch" among the states would "be proportioned to the Quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants."

For my purposes, the crucial language is that concerning allocation. Randolph proposed two options, applicable to both branches of the legislature "as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases."

The second "rule" or option was perfectly clear: seats might be proportioned according to "the number of free inhabitants."

But the first option, I would argue, was also clear: "Quotas of contribution" referred to the surrogates developed to estimate the wealth of the various states - either the real property valuation scheme set forth in Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation, or the population-based formula set forth in the amendment to that Article proposed by the Confederation Congress in 1783. (See my earlier post, The Origins of the Three-Fifths Clause.)

And the population-based formula, as everyone at the Convention knew perfectly well, came with its own ready-made sub-formula for calculating the value of slave labor.

In fact, I would go further. The Confederation Congress - including many of the men attending the Philadelphia Convention - had determined that the property-based valuation scheme was unworkable. That left the population-based formula. Is it not fair to say that Randolph's alternatives realistically boiled down to allocation (a) based on free population, or (b) based the total population, with a discount for slaves (the Federal Ratio)?

Ironically, Prof. Lewis's own essay confirms that the answer is in the affirmative. "[E]veryone in the room [at the Philadelphia Convention] knew the congressional formula for calculating 'quota of contribution.'" When South Carolina delegates later advocated that option, "[t]hey knew, even if they did not state so explicitly, that 'quota of contribution' came, courtesy of the [Confederation] Congress, with a ready-made formula: all the free people plus three-fifths of the slaves."

I believe that Prof. Lewis's conclusion that "everyone knew" is correct. But if that is true, then Edmund Randolph, James Madison and the rest of the Virginia delegation understood that they were proposing an apportionment choice between "free inhabitants" and "all inhabitants, counting three-fifths of slaves." And the other delegates understood that those were the options that Randolph and the Virginians were proposing.

No one may have mentioned the words "slavery" or "three-fifths" at the Convention until James Wilson did so on June 11. But both were on the table, I believe, from the moment Edmund Randolph laid out his second resolution on May 29.
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