Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How -- and why -- the South violently supressed free speech from 1820 -1865

Think there was free speech in the South from 1820-1860?

Think again.  Free speech about slavery was outlawed --literally made against the law, punishable by torture, jail, and banishment.

They were called "anti-incendiary" laws, and the forbade any communication, spoken or written, that "might dissatisfy" a slave, if a slave heard it, or of it.

They didn't pass these laws because they were viscous evil men -- though some of them were.  The fear of slave rebellion was an overiding, and at times, overwhelming feature of white life, when surrounded by slaves.

And surrounded they were.   The slave population was exploding, relative to the white birth rate.  Slave women were forced to produce as many slave babies, for work and for the market, as possible. In fact, slave women were whipped, and worse, if a slave owner suspected they were avoiding getting pregnant.    Plus, even though importing more slaves was outlawed in 1818, slave ships still smuggled slaves into the US, usually from Cuba. 

Southern politicians and newspapers reminded white people routinely about the slave rebellion in Haiti, in 1804, and the gory deaths of everyone white there -- whether they were slave owners or not.     When Northern abolitionist spoke against slavery, Southern politicians insisted they were trying to cause the deaths of whites in the South.  

SLaves, of course, were not allowed to read, not allowed to own maps or know about them, not allowed to read newspapers, books, or listen to any speech that even questioned slavery.    Preachers who had black congregations were required by law to preach ONLY absolute obedience.  

Ships  were searched in Southern ports for pamplets or books that questioned or advocated against slavery.  Preachers were forbidden to preach anything but obedience, as we explained.

People were arrested for owning the wrong book -- never mind if they read it, never mind if they gave it to a slave, just possessing a book like Uncle Tom's cabin was enough to get you arrested, and in some cases, tortured.

There were four million slaves in the South by 1860 - and in many areas, slaves outnumbered whites two and three to one.  Many times the slaves themselves did not realize this, but the whites sure knew it.

 So extreme was the fear of slaves hearing anything against slavery, that Southern Congressmen, on the floor of the US House of Representives,  demanded that the North arrest and surrender anyone in the North that wrote anti-slavery books or pamphlets -- and send them to the South for punishment.


BEFORE 1820.

It wasn't always that way.  Before 1820 there were 135 anti slavery newspapers or publishers in the South.  There were legal sermons against slavery --legal publications and books. People could own anti slavery books, and carry anti slavery pamphlets. 

Men could, and did, speak out against slavery. They risked their lives and fortunes to do it, but there were not laws against it. The famous Cassius Clay, a radical abolitionist in Kentucky, had to build his abolitionist newspaper building like a fortress -- but he could publish anti slavery papers.

But as the slave population exploded -- because slave owners demanded more and  more children from their slave women to sell -- whites knew very well that in large areas, blacks outnumbered whites, and if connected by free speech of whites, they could easily revolt.  

So books which merely QUESTIONED slavery were banned.  The banned books did not have to be outspoken or extreme.  And the punishment could inclulde physical TORTURE.

Around 1820,  men who were against slavery were deported, like Cassius Clay, Henry's cousin, (and for whom the fighter  Muhammad Ali was named at birth).   Clay, though he detested negroes, was against slavery.     He was physically removed from Louisville, along with his printing equipment. 

Clay was actually treated with kid gloves, because he hated blacks.    But he was still expelled, and would have been jailed and or tortured if he returned.   


GOD SILENCED OPPOSITION TO SLAVERY?What happened to that movement?   it was crushed. Violently.  The  violence and  torture to those who spoke out, or those who had possession of books or pamphlets, grew more extreme as time went on.   By 1860, for example, it is not uncommon for Southern papers to joyously announce the search and capture of those who would dare speak out publicallly against slavery.   Even more punishment was given to those who owned books that questioned slavery.


James DeBow, editor of DeBow's Review, claimed in 1845 that "all opposition to slavery has been silenced by God and His Holy Word"   -- but actually, it was the torture, and threat of torture, that did it.   The US Mail was searched -- ships were searched --  and if someone accused a person, that person and his belongings were searched.   There were trials, crowds formed, eager to see the vile abolitionist tortured.
Abolitionist became the hard core "boogieman" of the South.  Slavery was from God, and slave owners insisted slaves WANTED TO be enslaved. Davis said slaves had "natural affection" for their masters -- no doubt some slaves learned to please the master very well, in order to be treated better, and Davis took that as meaning the slaves LIKED being slaves. Nonsense.

Slaves who didn't "appreciate" Gods will for them to be enslaved, were "taught" that -- by pain. Robert E Lee himself said  the "painful discipline" (torture) of slaves was ordered and known by God, because "pain is necessary for their instruction.

Stopping any legal discussion against slavery, stopping free speech and freedom of religion, had profound effects.

By 1860, few men in the South had ever even heard a legal sermon against slavery!

You could grow up, and never read a book, pamphlet or hear a speech against slavery.   You would only hear what the government wanted  you to hear.

So, few men had ever read a legal book against slavery.   There was one voice -- the voice of the slave owner.   One religion -- the religion of slavery.  God ordained slavery, and no one better say otherwise.

Slave owners insisted slaves were content -- only the "evil serpet" of abolitionist lies upset the slaves, Davis said.

Jeff Davis famously said  "African slaves are the most contented laborers on earth".   That is right -- content.  They weren't  just content, they were "THE MOST CONTENT LABORERS ON EARTH."

This was common hyperbole and distortion by Confederates and slave owners, especially the leaders. 


 The delusion was necessary to continue slavery  -- only a few "troublemakers" who could be dealth with by the scripturally sanctioned torture of slaves.   Oh, you didn't know torture was sanctioned?   Absolutely.   THe same scriptures which allowed slavery, allowed for the torture of slaves, even mentioned the sexual obedience slave women owed to her owner.

 But these "contented laborers" started to fight back and run away, as the 1820s came.  The reason -- they could speak to each other.   By 1820 slaves could all speak the same language, where before, many only knew their native languages.   

Also, slaves birth rate was phenomonal, given the incentives owners had to make their slaves reproduce, often with the "help"  of a rapist owner or overseer.  Also, the illegal slave trade from Cuba and Africa, which continued after the 1808 cut off date.   Slaves outnumbered whites in many areas, as poor whites often left rather than try to compete against slave labor.

Davis also said slaves would be content  -- as long as the "EVIL SERPENT" would not "whisper the lie of freedom" into their ear.

Davis spoke for every slave owner, who seemed to really beleive any rebellion had to be from an  EVIL SERPENT.   Thats right 'The Devil Made Them Do It" logic

Davis and others insisted  that an "evil serpent came into the garden and whispered the lie of freedom" in the slaves ears.


So the South HAD to stop the evil serpent

 
The penalty for owning the wrong, book, or having the wrong pamphlet, was torture -- whipping -- followed by jail.  If you survived the whipping and jail, you were deported.   In fact, even preaching a MILD sermon that questioned slavery -- even if it was to your own small congregation of WHITES -- was a criminal act, and punished by arrest and torture.





"Happy Darkie" from Uncle Tom's Cabin


Southerner congressmen  claimed it was a "matter of life and death" to stop "incendiary"  words,  books, songs, sermonds, ideas,

In fact, the South  demanded the North arrest and surrender publishers in the North who wrote anti slavery books.

One of the biggest complaints by the South, in their own "Declaration of Causes" was that the North "allowed the formation of societies, whose avowed purpose was to end slavery"   And that some people in the North "called slavery a sin"

 Rebelling slaves might kill innocent families, slave owners and non-slave owners alike.   The Southern leaders all knew very well about the fate of Haiti - were slaves  outnumbered whites, rebelled, and killed virtually every white person on the island.  Haiti was as recent to them as Vietnam and the first Iraq war is to us. It was not ancient history or a possibility to them.

 So the South was deadly serious about stopping slave rebellion -- and to stop slaves from learning anything which might cause a slave to question or complain. 



Each slave state had it's own anti -free speech laws, but they were all basically the same.  No speech or writing --- or reading -- of things against slavery.   

   Even religions could not preach against slavery.    Preachers needed a license from the government to preach to slaves -- and had to ONLY preach certain parts of the bible -- about obeying your master.  Nothing in the bible  could be taught that contradicted slavery-- and there was plenty to contradict it. 

Elections, therefore, were total farces. In essence, the government controlled what you could read, and write, and say, and hear.

Lincoln, for example, was not allowed to be on the ballot in the Southern States. No one who was against slavery was allowed on the ballots.    No freedom of speech = no real elections. So once free speech was stopped, also stopped was any way to end slavery from normal means.

That is how slavery ended in the North -- and England, and everywhere else.  People debated slavery -- sermons were preached against slavery. People ran for office promising to vote to end slavery. 

None of those things could happen in the South -- no one could write a book saying how terrible slavery was. No one could run for office who was against slavery.    

This is how life was in the South.   There were some abolitionist, but most of them moved out, and those who stayed, could not publically advocate an end to slavery.  Do you see yet how that would put a wrench into an plan of ending slavery?

The Southern slave owners knew they could not tolerate free speech, so they simply didn't . They weren't evil fucks just to be fucks.  They had a tiger by the tail -- slavery.  And it was not easy to control. In fact, with free speech, with people speaking out for freedom for the slaves, it was  not possible to keep slavery going.

Men were arrested on the SUSPICION they owned a book that spoke badly about slavery.   They were tortured if it was found they actually owned such a book.   The South was not kidding around -- they were violent thugs anyway, who terrorized and tortured slaves.  They were utterly convinced God ordained slavery, and the torture of slavery