Slavery Abolished in America
December 18, 1865
Following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment is adopted into the US Constitution ensuring that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the US nor any place subject to their jurisdiction. Before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the anti-slavery Republican Party sought not to abolish slavery but merely to stop its extension into new territories and states in the American West. This policy was unacceptable to most Southern politicians, who believed that the growth of Free states would turn the US power structure irrevocably against them. In November 1860, Lincoln's election as President signaled the secession of seven southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America. Shortly after his inauguration in 1861, the Civil War began. Four more states that are southern joined the Confederacy, while four border slave states in the upper south remained in the Union. Lincoln, though he privately detested slavery, responded cautiously to the call by abolitionists for the emancipation of all American slaves.
As the war dragged on, however, the Republican-dominated federal government began to realize the strategic advantages of emancipation: The liberation of slaves would weaken the Confederacy by depriving it of a major portion of its labor force, which would, in turn, strengthen the Union by producing an influx of workers. When 11 southern states seceded from the Union, there were few pro-slavery congressional representatives to stand in the way of such an action. In 1862, Congress annulled the fugitive slave laws, prohibited slavery in the US territories, and authorized Lincoln to employ freed slaves in the army.
Following a major Union victory in September, Lincoln issued a warning of his intent to issue an emancipation proclamation for all states still in rebellion on New Year's Day. That day January 1, 1863, President Lincoln formally issued the Emancipation Proclamation, 'calling on the Union army to liberate all slaves in states still in rebellion as an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity. These three million slaves are declared to be ‘then, thenceforward, and forever free.
The proclamation exempted the border slave states that remained in the Union and all or parts of three Confederate states controlled by the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation transformed the Civil War from a war against secession into a war for the ‘new birth of freedom, as Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address in 1863. This ideological change discouraged the intervention of France and England on the Confederacy's behalf and enabled the Union to enlist the 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors who volunteered to fight between January 1, 1863, and the conclusion of the war.
As the Confederacy staggered toward defeat, Lincoln realized that the Emancipation Proclamation, a war measure, might have little constitutional authority once the war was over. The Republican Party subsequently introduced the 13th Amendment into Congress, and in April 1864, the necessary two-thirds of the overwhelmingly Republican Senate passed the amendment. However, the House of Representatives, featuring a higher proportion of Democrats, did not pass the amendment by a two-thirds majority until January 1865, three months before Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
On December 2, 1865, Alabama became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment, thus giving it the requisite three-fourths majority of state approval necessary to make it the law of the land. Alabama, a former Confederate state, was forced to ratify the amendment as a condition for re-admission into the Union. On December 18, the 13th Amendment was officially adopted into the Constitution 246 years after the first shipload of captive Africans landed at Jamestown, Virginia, and were known among themselves as POWs. Slavery and her legacy with the efforts to overcome it remained a central issue in US politics for more than a century, particularly during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and the African American civil rights movement of 1950 through 1960.
Much of America's understanding of the early relationship between the Indian and the European is conveyed through the story of Thanksgiving. Proclaimed a holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, this fairy tale of a feast was allowed to exist in the American imagination untouched until 1970, the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. That is when Frank B. James, (President of the Federated Eastern Indian League), prepared a speech for a Plymouth banquet that exposed the Pilgrims for having committed, the robbery of the graves of the Wampanoag. He wrote we welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end of life as he knew it; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people. However, European Massachusetts officials told him he could not deliver such a speech and offered to write him another. Instead, James declined to speak, and on Thanksgiving Day, hundreds of Native Americans from around the country came to protest. It was the first National Day of Mourning, a day to mark the losses Native Americans suffered as the early settlers prospered. This true story of 'Thanksgiving' is what Europeans did not want Mr. James to tell, what happened in Plymouth in 1621? According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in October, but the Native Americans who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims never called it that. In addition, amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony are some of the most terrifying bloodsheds in New World history.
The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Native Americans had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The so-called Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Native Americans thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere's first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Native American Sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his brothers and sisters to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie was served; they ate duck, geese, and venison from the five deer brought by Massasoit. All, of the food, was brought and prepared by the Native Americans, who are 10,000 years of familiarity with the cuisine of the region and had kept the Europeans alive up to that point. The Pilgrims wore no black hats or buckled shoes these were the silly inventions of artists hundreds of years since that time.
These lower-class Englishmen wore brightly colored clothing, with one of their church leaders recording among his possessions 1 pair of green drawers. Contrary to the fabricated lore of storyteller’s generations since no Pilgrims prayed at the meal, and the supposed good cheer and fellowship must have dissipated quickly once the Pilgrims brandished their weaponry in a primitive display of intimidation. The Pilgrims consumed a good deal of homebrew. Each Pilgrim drank at least a half-gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's 'notorious sin', which included their 'drunkenness and unseemliness' and rampant sodomy.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Original Scalpers Contrary to popular mythology, were no friends to the local Native Americans. They were engaged in a ruthless war of extermination against their hosts, even as they falsely posed as friends. Just days before the alleged Thanksgiving love-fest, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought to chop off the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Native Americans, pitting one against the other in an attempt to obtain better intelligence and make them both more diligent. An 11-foot-high wall was erected around the entire settlement for keeping the Native Americans out. Any so-called Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions and racial hostility, when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies all in preparation for the military destruction of their friends the so-called Indians.
Pilgrim Myles Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He went to the Native Americans, pretended to be a trader, and then beheaded a Native American man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, as a symbol of European power. Standish had the so-called Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the Europeans were known to the Native Americans of Massachusetts by the name Wotowquenange, which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers. The myth of the fierce, ruthless so-called Indian savage lusting after the blood of innocent Europeans must be vigorously dispelled at this point. In actuality, the historical record shows that the very opposite was true. Once the European settlements stabilized, the Europeans brutally turned on their hosts.
The once amicable relationship was breached repeatedly by the Europeans, who lusted over the riches of so-called Indian lands. A combination of the Pilgrims' demonization of the so-called Indians, the concocted mythology of Eurocentric historians, and standard Hollywood propaganda have served to paint the gentle Native Americans as a tomahawk-swinging savage endlessly on the warpath, lusting for the blood of the God-fearing Europeans.
However, the Pilgrims' testimony obliterates that fallacy. The so-called Indians engaged each other in military contests from time to time, but the causes of war, the methods, and the resulting damage differed profoundly from the European variety: The Indian wars were largely symbolic and were about honor, not about territory or extermination. The Wars were fought as domestic corrections for a specific act and were ended when a correction was achieved. Such action might better be described as internal policing. The conquest or destruction of whole territories was a European concept. The Indian wars were often engaged in by family groups, not by tribal groups, and would involve only the family members.
A lengthy negotiation was engaged in between the aggrieved parties before escalation to physical confrontation would be sanctioned. Surprise attacks were unknown to the Indians. It was regarded as evidence of bravery for a man to go into battle carrying no weapon that would do any harm at a distance, not even bows, and arrows. The bravest act in a war in some Native American cultures was to touch their adversary and escape before he could do physical harm. The targeting of non-combatants like women, children, and the elderly was never contemplated. Native Americans expressed shock and repugnance when the Europeans told, and then showed, them that they considered women and children fair game in their style of warfare.
The major Native American wars might end with less than a dozen casualties on both sides. Often, when the arrows had been expended the war would be halted. The European practice of wiping out whole nations in bloody massacres was incomprehensible to the Indians. According to one scholar, the most notable feature of Native American warfare was its relative innocence. European observers of the Native American war often expressed surprise at how little harm they inflicted. Their wars are far less bloody and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe commented settler Roger Williams in 1643. Even Puritan warmonger and professional soldier Capt. John Mason scoffed at so-called Indian warfare: Their feeble manner did hardly deserve the name of fighting. Fellow warmonger John Underhill spoke of the Narragansett's, after having spent a day burning and spoiling their country: no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs. He concluded that the so-called Indians might fight for seven years and not kill seven men.
The fighting style they used, he wrote, is more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies. All this describes a people for whom war is a deeply regrettable last resort. An agrarian people, the Native Americans had devised a civilization that provided dozens of options all designed to avoid conflict the very opposite of Europeans, for whom all-out war, ferocious bloodlust, and systematic genocide are their apparent life force. Thomas Jefferson who himself advocated the physical extermination of the American so-called Indians said of Europe, They [The Europeans] are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended on the destruction of labor, property, and the lives of their people. Puritan Holocaust by 1630, a new group of 700 'even holier' Europeans calling themselves Puritans had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston which only served to accelerate the brutality against the so-called Indians. In one incident around 1637, a force of Europeans trapped some seven hundred Pequots, mostly women, children, and the elderly, near the mouth of the Mystic River. Englishman John Mason attacked the camp with fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk. Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken to the apparent delight of the Europeans: To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God. This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving. In just 10 years, 12,000 Europeans had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew, they pressed for all-out extermination of the Native Americans. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusetts nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646. By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great chief of the Wampanoag, Metacomet. Renamed 'King Philip' by the Europeans, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle, and culture of his people as Europeans imposed laws, and values engulfed them. In 1671, the Europeans had ordered Metacomet to come to Plymouth to enforce upon him a new treaty, which included the humiliating rule that he could no longer sell his land without prior approval from Europeans. They also demanded that he turn in his community's firearms. Marked for extermination by the merciless power of a distant king and his ruthless subjects, Metacomet retaliated in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. Eventually, they attacked 52 of the 90 New England towns, destroying 13 of them. The Englishmen ultimately regrouped, and after much bloodletting defeated the great Nation, just half a century after their arrival on Massachusetts soil.
Historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the end, 'The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences, were all aimed at the same goal the unchallengeable European supremacy in southern New England. That the program succeeded is convincingly demonstrated by the almost complete docility of the local native ever since. When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were left for the wolves. The great Indian chief's hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy. Metacomet's nine-year-old son was destined for execution because the Europeans reasoned, the 'offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father'. The child was instead shipped to the Caribbean to spend his life in slavery. As the Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a 'General Thanksgiving' not in celebration of a fellowship of man but for God's infinite Goodness to extend His Favors. In defeating and disappointing, the Expeditions of the Enemy [so-called Indians] against us, And the Success gave us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands, Just two years later one could reap a hefty reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of a so-called Indian demonstrating that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, 'Hunting redskins became a popular sport in New England, especially since so-called Indian prisoners were worth good money.