Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Proximity Edition

I have previously mentioned that some opponents of slavery objected to the institution and its spread, not because they objected to the oppression of blacks, but because they objected to the presence of blacks. I said I'd post about that later, so, here's a post on that.

Following is a lengthy excerpt, of the book Race and the Rise of the Republican Party, 1848-1865, pages 248-53:
Another means by which Republicans sought to reserve the Western states for white people was by advocating the exclusion of free black people from them. Congressman George Julian of Indiana set the tone when he stated that he "opposed setting them [blacks] free among us." Senators Preston King of New York and Benjamin Wade of Ohio were of like mind. King fully supported the wishes of the people of Oregon ". . . to be free from the settlement of blacks among them." Declaring that "free negroes are despised by all [and] repudiated by all," and that white prejudice against them was "immovable," Wade called for the exclusion of Negroes from all the free states; becase "we [Republicans] have objections to them." Forgetting for the moment that the South was the 'black power,' he proclaimed that "this species of population are just as abhorrent to the Southern states," as "to the North."

In various Western states Republican heirs to the Free Soil philosophy continued to support exclusionist legislation. In Iowa, for instance, "stringent bonding, registration and prohibitions against free Negroes" were maintained, and Republican support for these measures was clearly indicative of Republican determination to kep blacks out. In Indiana, too, Republican racial feeling ran strongly. Republicans there "continued to uphold Indiana's laws for the exclusion of Negroes." When the state's black leaders called on the Indiana Republicans to aid their movement to repeal that state's black laws, they were ignored. Albert G. Porter of Indiana candidly told his congressional colleagues his reasons for supporting the black laws: "It is not probable . . . with the prejudices of my early education, that I would be likely to have too great [a] sympathy for Negroes. In Indiana we have adopted a constitutional provision that no negro, whether he be bond or free, shall be allwed to come within its limits." Porter was satisfied that exclusion was the correct course to follow; otherwise white laborers would have to compete with blacks. "[We] Republicans in Indiana," he concluded, "put our advocacy of the exclusion of negroes upon the same ground which it was put in our state constitution." In neighboring Illinois, Republicans spoke similarly. A. Ballinger of that state insisted that "we [Republicans] don't want them, slave or free." In particular, he averred, the "free ones are obnoxious." Another Illinois Republican, fearing the spread of miscegeanation, called for the strict enforcement of black exclusionist legislation in his state. A third son of Illinois, Senator Lyman Trumbull, stated emphatically that "our policy is to have nothing to do with them [blacks]." By "them," Trumbull, of course, meant free blacks as well as slaves. Not only were Republicans in the Western states willing to exclude free blacks from their presence but, according to Trumbull, the "North [in general] does not want a free negro population."

Representative Frank Blair of Missouri agreed with Trumbull that the North would exclude free blacks. Although he believed that the "North may receive an absconding [black] straggler here and there . . . what states," he asked, "would receive five million" blacks? The "Northern states will not receive them," he proclaimed. Blair expressed relief because the "law of the Norht has put its ban upon immigration of negroes into the free states." But, if the legal barriers were not enough, Blair insisted that whits, North and South, were prepared to go one step further. Picturing blacks as dangerous to the safety and welfare of white Americans, he claimed that "there is not a state in the Union, that would not fly to arms, to resist the intrusion of 100,000 free negroes within its limits." Said Congressman Thomas Corwin of Ohio: "I am for the white man;" free blacks, if not excluded, would "destroy" white interests in the free states. The assumption continued: white interests and black interests were mutually exclusive.

While all of the states of the West and Northwest had excluded blacks as slaves and most of them subsequently acted to exclude blacks as free persons, the threat of the extension of slavery and with it a free black population into the Western territories remained. Excluding slavery from these territories was for Republicans, as for Free Soilers, another means of containing the black population within the slave states. Just as they had when Free Soilers, Republican politicians adopted the Wilmot Proviso as the linchpin of their party's position on slavery in the territories. Although prominent Western Republicans might voice ostensible respect for the inviolability of slavery in the South, they were openly adamant that it must be contained there. The party might have no legal right to touch slavery in the states where it existed, admitted Congressman Henry Smith Lane of Indiana, but "in the territories," he insisted, "we have." The immediate "mission of the Republican Party," he announced, while campaigning in Indiana in 1859, "is to restrict slavery to its present limits." Other important Republicans, including Oliver Morton, Edward Bates, Montgomery Blair, William Dennison and the longtime former Democrat, Thomas Hart Benton, agreed. Blair acted as defense counsel for Dred Scott in the historic case, and in his lengthy arguments laid down the Republican axiom that Congress did indeed have the authority to interdict slavery in the territories. The immediate priority of the party, said Ohio Governor Dennison, should be "repressing the invasion of slavery," by "keeping it within its own boundaries." "Prohibition [of slavery] in the territories," declared the retired Senator from Missouri, Thomas Benton, was a central doctrine of the party. As Congressman Dewitt Clinton Leach of Michigan put it: "we say to slavery 'thus far and no further.'"

The fact that the subject of excluding slavery from the territories never strayed far from the subject of excluding black people from the territories merely served one more time to prove that racial concern was a prime chemical in the formula of containment. If Free Soilers had monotonously intoned race to justify their policy in the territories, so too would Republicans. One Illinois party organizer, William R. Wilkinson, wrote during the 1860 presidential campaign that he was not only appealing to the voters on the basis of "free speech" and a "free press," but also for the enactment of legislation to protect the "free territories for free white men." Foster of Connecticut made the same demand in the Senate. David Kilgore of Indiana plead with his Southern congressional colleagues "to keep the negroes to themselves, and not thrust them into our faces . . . ." In neighboring Illinois Republican A. Ballinger wrote likewise that the South could "keep her negroes if they wish them, . . . if they will only keep them to themselves, and not intrude them upon us." As noted in chapter four, the Republicans often pictured the Democratic Party as the surrogate of the slave states and therefore of the black man. As James Harlan saw it, the slavery extension controversy was simply a question of racial preference, and the "policy of the Republican Party would people our vast public domain with the white race . . . ." Harlan, therefore, asked Democrats, "Why not adopt the Republican policy [of exclusion]?"

Trumbull, while attacking the Dred Scott decision, was not so conciliatory. The Illinois Senator was quick to point out that this Democratic decision to expand slavery into the West was "certainly no part of the Republican creed, which seeks to preserve the free white laborer and white man from contamination with negro slaves by keeping it [sic] out of the free territories." Indeed, this creed was for the benefit of "free white men, who do not want anything to do with negroes . . . ." Republican Jesse K. Dubois, one of Trumbull's constituents, added that "when they [Democrats] undertake to make the Negro national, we beg to be excused and say stop."


Exclusion would also avoid that other, often prophesied calamity, miscegenation. Republican Orville Leston of Illinois asserted that the "only remedy to prevent the amalgamation of the white and black race[s] . . . is to separate and consequently prohibit the blacks, free or slave, from immigrating to the free states or territories." Lincoln was in agreement: "[I]f we do not let them [blacks and whites] get together in the territories, they won't mix there." Separating the races was the objective, he told Stephen A. Douglas in their 1858 Chicago debate; "but as an immediate separation [in the South] is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together," that is, in the territories. While Lincoln said that he hesitated to speak for the entire Republican Party on this issue, he expressed confidence that "a very large proportion of its members are for it, and that the chief plank in their platform, opposition to the spread of slavery, is most favorable to that separation." During their Carlinville debate Lincoln seized the offensive and referring specifically to the Kansas controversy asked his audience the following: "Douglas pretens to be horrified at amalgamation, yet had he not opened the way for slavery in Kansas, could there have been any amalgamation there?" Whose policies were more favorable to miscegenation, Lincoln queried rhetorically, those of his opponent, who would vote to extend slavery, or his, which relied on legal sanctions to block its expansion? ...

As Lincoln intimated, nowhere was the relevance of race to containment more pointedly made than in 'bleeding Kansas.' Trumbull proclaimed himself "for the government of free white men," whereas under the Lecompton Constitution "they have no right to determine the institutions for the government of white men." That constitution "amounts simply to giving the free white people of Kansas a right to determine the condition of a few negroes." In arguing for a renewal of exclusion, Congressman David Ritchie of Pennsylvania reasoned that if "a free white population is superior to a black slave population . . . in founding a state . . . it follows that the law [Missouri Compromise of 1820] prohibiting the introduction of the inferior race into Kansas . . . ought not to have been repealed." As Robert J. Walker, the territorial governor, formerly from Mississippi, astutely noted, "those who oppose slavery in Kansas do not base their opposition upon any philanthropic principles, or any sympathy for the African race, for in their so-called constitution, framed at Topeka, they deem that entire race so inferior and degraded, as to exclude them all forever from Kansas, whether they be bond or free."

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