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Letters and Discussions on the Formation of Colored Regiments, and the Duty of the Colored People in Regard to the Great Slaveholders' Rebellion, in the United States of America

Letters and Discussions on the Formation of Colored Regiments,
and the Duty of the Colored People in Regard to the Great Slaveholders'
Rebellion, in the United States of America
Title: Letters and Discussions on the Formation of Colored Regiments, and the Duty of the Colored People in Regard to the Great Slaveholders' Rebellion, in the United States of America
Release Date: 2018-12-02
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Formation of Colored Regiments,





At the beginning of the great struggle between the Government ofthe United States and the traitors who lifted their hands against it,I sought the oracles of history for a precedent; and, having easily found it,before uttering a single sentence as to its influence or results upon thegreat question of slavery in America, I carefully scanned and surveyed thewhole question or ground upon which the issue rested. By the fairestrules of comparison and analogy, I found it impossible to separate slaveryextension, or the nationalization of this vilest of evils, from the purpose ofthe arch traitors as their avowed object, and the determination on the part ofslaveholders to exercise unlimited power over their dejected victims of theAfrican race as their leading object and the mainspring of the rebellion.Then, having followed history by the same rules of comparison and analogy,it was not very difficult for me to decide as to our duty. Nor have I everseen anything written, spoken, or performed by the government—itsagents—by my abolition friends and associates—or by the conservativeDemocracy of our land—which has given me occasion to change my opinion.

I have not a doubt at this hour, but that my hopes on the one hand, andmy fears on the other, may both yet be realized. A careful reading of thefollowing pages will clearly develop in what these hopes and fears consist.My friends, who ask me from time to time what I think of the presentaspect of affairs, may learn from these pages that I am still sanguine of thesuccess of our cause as the result. Still, much depends upon our ownexertions as to the character and quality of freedom, suffrage or the enfranchisementthat we may enjoy.

Having written much upon the subject, I have been induced to throwtogether some scraps of arguments offered in reply to the opposition I havemet in regard to my opinions, &c.

The first two articles in this pamphlet may be justly styled the foundationof all discussion upon the questions presented. They were met andopposed by white and colored men, while many others of all parties gave myviews support. After discussing the question through the columns of thePine and Palm with my anti-slavery coadjutors, I met and discussed itbefore the Church Anti-Slavery Society of this city on the second Tuesdayin September, 1861. A short report of said debate appearing in the Anglo-African,drew forth the vigorous discussion through the columns of thatjournal from which the body of this pamphlet is made up.

I have several lectures and a poem on this same subject, entering moreminutely upon the details of the war and its results, which I have deliveredwith great success and which I now propose, at the suggestion of friends,to lay before the public for perusal at their leisure.




From the Philadelphia Press, of April 22, 1861.

A number of prominent colored men are now raising two regimentsat the Masonic Hall, in South Eleventh street, and hundredsof brawny ebony men are ready to fill up the ranks if the Statewill accept their services. Peril and war blot out all distinctionof race and rank. These colored soldiers should be attached tothe Home Guard. They will make Herculean defenders. Coloredmen, it will be remembered, fought the glorious battle of RedBank, when the city was in peril in 1777. The following is theaddress:

The time has arrived in the history of the great Republic whenwe may again give evidence to the world of the bravery andpatriotism of a race, in whose hearts burns the love of country, offreedom, and of civil and religious toleration. It is these grandprinciples that enable men, however proscribed, when possessed oftrue patriotism, to say: “My country, right or wrong, I love theestill!”

It is true, the brave deeds of our fathers, sworn and subscribedto by the immortal Washington of the Revolution of 1776, and ofJackson and others, in the War of 1812, have failed to bring usinto recognition as citizens, enjoying those rights so dearly boughtby those noble and patriotic sires.

It is true, that our injuries in many respects are great; fugitive-slavelaws, Dred Scott decisions, indictments for treason, and longand dreary months of imprisonment. The result of the mostunfair rules of judicial investigation has been the pay we havereceived for our solicitude, sympathy, and aid in the dangers anddifficulties of those “days that tried men’s souls.”

Our duty, brethren, is not to cavil over past grievances. Let usnot be derelict to duty in the time of need. While we rememberthe past, and regret that our present position in the country is not[4]such as to create within us that burning zeal and enthusiasm forthe field of battle, which inspires other men in the full enjoymentof every civil and religious emolument, yet let us endeavor to hopefor the future, and improve the present auspicious moment forcreating anew our claims upon the justice and honor of theRepublic; and, above all, let not the honor and glory achieved byour fathers be blasted or sullied by a want of true heroism amongtheir sons. Let us, then, take up the sword, trusting in God, whowill defend the right, remembering that these are other days thanthose of yore—that the world to-day is on the side of freedom anduniversal political equality.

That the war-cry of the howling leaders of Secession and treasonis, let us drive back the advance guard of civil and religiousfreedom; let us have more slave territory; let us build strongerthe tyrant system of slavery in the great American Republic.Remember, too, that your very presence among the troops of theNorth would inspire your oppressed brethren of the South withzeal for the overthrow of the tyrant system, and confidence in thearmies of the living God—the God of truth, justice, and equalityto all men.

With a knowledge of your zeal and patriotism, and a hope ofits early development, I am yours, for God and humanity,


Philadelphia, April 20, 1861.


From the Philadelphia Sunday Transcript, May, 1861.

The colored portion of our population are anxious to do theState some service. Already they have organized one or moreregiments, and are perfecting themselves in the drill. Among thedocuments which have already emanated from this branch of ourpopulation, as to the propriety of their engaging in such service, isthe following from the pen of “Hamilcar,” a negro of more than[5]ordinary ability. Without endorsing his communication we give itplace, so that all sides may be heard:

“While many persons in the North—perhaps strong friends ofthe Union—are not prepared to endorse the idea of admittingcolored regiments into its service, it might be well for us to rememberthat every effort is being made by the South to make theirblack population efficient aids in defending their soil against ourarmy. The State of Louisiana, for more than three months, hashad colored regiments in the home guard service, under the mostefficient drill and pay. Vice President Stephens recommendedthis course to all the States. Tennessee, in pursuance of thisrecommendation, has passed an act to employ all the availablemuscle of her free black population. There are four colored regimentsnow in Virginia, in the service of the rebel government. Itis said, on perfectly reliable authority, that black troops shot downUnion men at the late battle at Manassas Gap.

“Where, then, is the consistency, or expediency, of fruitlesslywasting so much time at the North, in discussing the propriety ofadopting such a measure, with reference to preparing our coloredpopulation for an emergency, such as may be thrust upon us bythe introduction of 50,000 or 100,000 Indians and negroes broughtinto the field against us, and they having all the advantage of themost efficient drill and endurance, by long months of preparationand practice, that we have hopelessly wasted in discussing questionsof propriety, &c., &c.

“Are we to be duped and forestalled in this last hope, so muchrelied upon as a means of bringing rebels to terms, as we havebeen in almost every other available means of speedy and honorablesettlement? Should the South generally adopt the idea of theirdictators, Davis and Stephens, to place in the field 50,000 freeblacks, at $12 per month, (term of enlistment for three years,)will they not soon discover that the same amount of money wouldemancipate and place in the field 125,000 men, paying theirmasters liberally—settling also the question of servile rebellionamong themselves, the question of contraband emancipation, and thegeneral insecurity of that species of property during the rebellion?

“Would any offer of our government induce those peopleto desert or fight against their former masters and emancipators[6]in such an event? Does not our own wars, and the French andSpanish wars in Hayti, sufficiently develop the fact that theslaves will defend the soil of their birth, even on the most superficialpromise of those who are their superiors. Would not theSouth, by such an act, draw largely upon the moral sentiment ofEurope, (that must in no small degree operate for or against theirrecognition,) by such an act in advance of the North?

“Could we draw more largely on that sentiment at home orabroad by adopting such a measure, by mere necessity, than wouldthe South by the same principle? And especially, when we had tothrow into the field raw and undisciplined recruits against the mostable and efficiently drilled regiments?

“To me it seems that reason, prudence, and judgment, aided bythe present signs of the times, would indicate that the availablemuscle, the bone and sinew of our 30,000 colored inhabitants ofthe city and county of Philadelphia should be encouraged in their(already manifest) patriotic efforts in preparing to sustain anddefend the soil and interests of their native State.”


From the Pine and Palm, June 22, 1861.

Mr. Editor:

Since I last wrote you, on the subject of American revolution,and the manifest interest we have in the great issue now beforethe country, I have been incessantly laboring, with might andmain, to carry out, or to propagate, by all practicable means, thepolicy therein indicated. Of course, I have not closed my eyes tothe various objections raised by learned and tried friends of theenslaved and disfranchised colored Americans of these UnitedStates. Nay, on the contrary, I have read and pondered them allover and over again, and I think I gave them the considerationthey merit. I do not advance these suggestions I am now aboutto make, (in continuation of the position I have maintained in my[7]previous letter,) with any direct reference to any one of the opinions Ihave met differing from my own; but merely for the purpose of indicatingto those who have been long acquainted with me and my mostimplacable hostility to the slave power, and all who could in anyway sympathize with or apologize for the cruel system of tyrannyin this country: and to let those of our rulers who expect ourcöoperation know, and know in time, that while I am largely filledwith patriotism and sympathy for the government, yet that governmentmust be magnanimously generous to the poor and oppressedof this land, ere it can have my hearty and willing support;and until it can have it thus, it cannot have it at all, by no principle,nor by any rule of coercion or impressment that it mightadopt in this direction. I think, indeed I know, I have made myselfmore thoroughly understood on this point by those in authority,both of the State and of the United States, than among our ownpeople. Many of our people would be willing, after an act waspassed, by which they were to be forced into the field, to do

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