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The Peculiar Institution and National Honor: The Case of the Creole Slave Revolt

From: Civil War History
Volume 21, Number 1, March 1975
pp. 28-50 | 10.1353/cwh.1975.0036

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Peculiar Institution and National Honor:
The Case of the Creole Slave Revolt
Howard Jones

Howard Jones is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama.


* This essay was delivered in revised form before the Missouri Valley History Conference, Omaha, Nebraska, March 10, 1973. The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Professors Maurice G. Baxter and Robert H. Ferrell of Indiana University.

1. Examples are: Thomas A. Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People (New York, 1940; 8th ed., 1969), p. 211; Samuel F. Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States (New York, 1936; 5th ed., 1965), p. 265; Alexander De Conde, A History of American Foreign Policy (New York, 1963; 2nd ed., 1971), p. 157. The present article is derived from a book-length manuscript the author is preparing on the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

2. Clement Eaton, The Freedom-of-Thought Struggle in the Old South (New York, 1964), pp. 162-95; Clement Eaton, "The Freedom of the Press in the Upper South," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XVIII (Mar. 1932), 479-99; Richmond Enquirer, Feb. 4, Mar. 1, May 4, 1832. Some Southerners before the 1830's tried to keep news of slave revolts quiet. In 1800, after the Gabriel Prosser plot in Virginia had failed, Governor James Monroe warned President Thomas Jefferson that it was imperative to repress news of the incident. Monroe to Jefferson, Sept. 15, 1800, Stanislaus M. Hamilton (ed.). The Writings of James Monroe (New York, 1898-1903), III, 201. Twenty-two years later, the same policy was urged during the Denmark Vesey scare in South Carolina. Thomas W. Higginson, "Gabriel's Defeat," The Atlantic Monthly, X (Sept. 1862), 337-45. The reference to Vesey is in this article.

3. William W. Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836 (New York, 1965), pp. 255, 257, 259.

4. A fairly complete documentary collection on the Creole affair is in Senate Documents, 27 Cong. 2 sess., II, No. 51, 1-46.

5. Depositions by William Merritt, Nov. 9, 1841, ibid., 24; by Zephaniah Gifford and crew, Nov. 17, 1841, ibid., 16. John Bacon to Daniel Webster, Nov. 17, 1841, ibid. Madison Washington had lived in the North after escaping a Southern plantation. He was captured later in Virginia and sent to New Orleans. See article entitled, "Friend of Man," in Boston Liberator, June 10, 1842. At a New York convention for blacks in 1843, one speaker praised Washington. Herbert Aptheker (ed.), A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States (New York, 1951), pp. 226-33. Frederick Douglass also spoke highly of Washington. Philip S. Foner (ed.), The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass (New York, 1950-55), II, 426-39. Douglass also wrote an essay about Washington which was entitled, The Heroic Slave." Julia Griffiths (ed.), Autographs for Freedom (District of Massachusetts, 1853-54), I, 174-239, reprinted by Mnemosyne Publishing Company (Miami, Florida, 1969).

6. Depositions by Blinn Curtis, Nov. 10, 1841, Sen. Docs., 27 Cong., 2 sess., II, No. 51, 34; by Lucius Stevens, Nov. 10, 1841, ibid., 22. The New Orleans Picayune was convinced the mutiny had been planned in Richmond by a Baptist minister, Reverend George Bourne. The editor of the Baptist Herald in Richmond denied the existence of a Baptist minister of that name. New Orleans Picayune, Dec. 3, 28, 1841.

7. There apparently were four leaders of the revolt: Washington, Morris, Ben Blacksmith, and D. Ruffin. Deposition by Gifford and crew, Dec. 2, 1841, Sen. Docs., 27 Cong., 2 sess., II, No. 51, 40.

8. Almost ninety slaves on the Creole belonged to Robert Lumpkin, owner of some of the slaves on the Hermosa. Ibid., 37, 40.

9. Ibid., 41-42; deposition by Gifford and crew, Dec. 7, 1841, quoted in New Orleans Advertiser, Dec. 8, 1841. Advertiser cited in Boston Liberator, Dec. 31, 1841.

10. Bacon to Webster, Nov. 30, 1841, Sen. Docs., 27 Cong., 2 sess., II, No. 51, 3; statement of C. R. Nesbitt, colonial secretary for Governor Francis Cockburn, Nov. 9, 1841, ibid., 6.

11. G. C. Anderson to Cockburn, Nov. 13, 1841, ibid., 8-9; Bacon to Cockburn...