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XV T O W A R D A W H I T E M A N ' S C O U N T R Y IF THERE WAS ONE THREAD OF DEVELOPMENT WHICH showed how deeply Americans felt about Negroes, it was a campaign which developed in the 1790*5 especially in Virginia for ridding the state (and the entire nation) of black men. Perhaps "campaign" is too strong a term for the wishful proposals which were so obviously doomed to failure, but it was the enormity of the obstacles rather than any weakness in the wish which kept the early colonization movement from accomplishment. The proposals are worth examining precisely because they could not have been implemented and because they therefore suggest the existence of extraordinary pressures making for pathetic hopes. The language and underlying animation of the proposals for Negro removal are also revealing of some of the important dynamics of attitudes toward Negroes in America. Particularly they point to the pervasiveness and profundity of thought and feeling about sexual intermixture. 1. EMANCIPATION AND INTERMIXTURE One of the most interesting and revealing aspects of American attitudes was the nearly universal belief that emancipation of Negroes from slavery would inevitably lead to increased racial intermixture. What is arresting about this opinion is that no one attempted to give reasons why such a development was inevitable and that there were in fact no good reasons. (So far, a century and a half later, emancipation has actually lessened the rate of intermixture.) The problem becomes, then, one of inquiring why Americans adhered (and in many quarters still adhere) to this belief. [542] Toward a White Man's Country Perhaps the real reasons for this expectation (those other kinds of human "reasons") lay in the hopes that white men had invested in America. A darkened nation would present incontrovertible evidence that sheer animal sex was governing the American destiny and that the great experiment in the wilderness had failed to maintain the social and personal restraints which were the hallmarks and the very stuff of civilization. A blackened posterity would mean that the basest of energies had guided the direction of the American experiment and that civilized man had turned beast in the forest. Retention of whiteness would be evidence of purity and of diligent nurture of the original body of the folk. Could a blackened people look back to Europe and say that they had faithfully performed their errand? It was perhaps not merely chance that one of the clearest restatements of this incompatibility of racial mixture with the American mission came from the uncompromising heir of the man who had thought more deeply than any American on the nature of the American experiment. Jonathan Edwards the younger carried forward a modified version of his father's Calvinism into an era which found little interest in the intense religious scrupulosities of a New Divinity minister. But men could understand (especially in Connecticut ) the fitness of the Reverend Edwards's setting the damnable sin of slavery in the larger context of the justification for possessing the new continent. What he relentlessly, mercilessly thrust before the assembled members of the Connecticut Abolition Society in 1792was an appalling choice. The "facts" he had demonstrated, Edwards intoned, "plainly show, what the whites in the West-Indies and the southern states are to expect concerning their posterity, that it will infallibly be a mungrel breed, or else they must quit the country to the Negroes whom they have hitherto holden in bondage ." Thus it seems [Edwards continued], that they will be necessitated by Providence to make in one way or another compensation to the Negroes for the injury which they have done them. In the first case, by taking them into affinity with themselves, giving them their own sons and daughters in marriage, and making them and their posterity the heirs of all their property and all their honours, and by raising their colour to a partial whiteness, whereby a part at least of that mark which brings on them so much contempt will be wiped off.In the other case, by leaving to them all their real estates. . . . If therefore our southern brethren, and the inhabitants of the West Indies, would balance their accounts with their Negro slaves at the cheapest possible rate, they will doubtless judge it prudent to leave the country, with all their houses, lands and improvements, to their [543] W H I T E OVER B L A C K quiet possession...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469600765
Related ISBN
9780807834022
MARC Record
OCLC
861793501
Pages
696
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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