Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

No Room for Abolitionist Talk in a “Free” Country

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 28, 2012

While working on something else, I came across this passage in Matilda Charlotte Houstoun’s Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, or Yachting in the New World, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1844). Mrs. Houstoun (as she styled herself) was an Englishwoman in her late 20s, who visited Galveston twice during the winter of 1842-43 with her husband, Captain M. C. Houstoun, as they toured the Republic of Texas and other nations around the Gulf of Mexico. Mrs. Houstoun (1815-1892) would go on to a successful career as a novelist, but at this point she was an aspiring author, making notes on her travels:

As on board the steamer, we found the slave question the principal topic of conversation among the good citizens of Galveston. Many of the latter maintained, that individuals have no right to interfere with their lawful property, and were so indignant with the abolitionists, that they banished the principal philanthropist from the city. The person in question was conveyed in a boat to the mainland, and there turned adrift to preach to the inhabitants of the woods and prairies. Another, a black man, and by trade I believe a barber, had likewise incited the displeasure of the inhabitants of Galveston, by advocating the cause of his race in the market-place. He declared his life was in danger, and pretending to be a British subject, claimed the protection of the British minister. One of their own most respected townsmen did not escape their wrath. This person having declared himself opposed to the abolition of slavery, but still inclined to hear the arguments pro and con, was ordered to be silent on the subject. He replied, that his was a free country, where everyone had a right to express his opinions. This right apparently was not acknowledged, for he was put into a boat and sent to the mainland: strange occurrences in a country calling itself free.

Imagine that — Texians responding with anger, threats and even violence against those expressing abolitionist leanings. Why, it’s hard even to imagine such a thing. Oh, wait.


Image: Galveston harbor in the early 1840s, from Houstoun’s book.

30 Responses

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  1. Jim Schmidt said, on June 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Great post Andy! In my trip to the GTHC and Rosenberg Library last month I read a GREAT letter from George Fellows, an abolitionist-minded Galvestonian, written in 1844 which describes some of the exact same situations mentioned above, and much more. Minor parts of the letter have been hinted at or quoted in other Galveston literature but I’ll be featuring (almost) the entore letter in the very first chapter of my fothcoming book on Galveston and the Civil War (Fall 2012).

    Here’s a bit, though:

    “To give an idea of these people; Mr. Andrews, a lawyer…came to this place to hold a discussion on the subject of slavery. But he was placed in a boat and conveyed to the mainland to hunt for himself. Another man, still a slaveholder, was threatened with the same fate if he opened his mouth on the subject…”

    • Andy Hall said, on June 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      I’m looking forward to that, Jim. After reading Houstoun’s account, I did a (very cursory) scan and didn’t see who specifically those incidents referred to.

      • Mike Musick said, on June 29, 2012 at 8:27 am

        Andy: As I’m sure you know, this sort of thing figures prominently in Clement Eaton’s 1940 classic, “Freedom of Thought in the Old South” (Durham, Duke Univ. Press). Eaton wrote in his preface “Freedom of thought and speech in the prewar South is, as Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger observed during an address at Durham, North Carolina, on April 5, 1939, both a timely and a timeless subject. No event in the modern world is more ominous than the destruction of government by discussion and the repression of independent thought in large areas of Europe by dictatorships. Such ruthless disregard of the rights of minorities of both Fascist and Communist governments serves to remind us that the preservation of free speech and of tolerance is a perennial problem, an ideal to be worked for, never completely attained in any society, and always in danger of being lost in every age. This study of the cultural history of the South between 1790 and 1860, in which freedom of thought and speech is the central theme, is offered as a case history in the record of human liberty and intolerance.” Alas, the index has no entry for Galveston, but many other places are mentioned.

      • Margaret D. Blough said, on June 30, 2012 at 8:22 am

        Andy-Another must read is David Grimsted’s “American Mobbing, 1828-1861 Toward Civil War”-Mob violence was quite organized in that period and, often, condoned or even approved by the governmental authorities. It wasn’t unusual for vigilance committees to be headed by the “best citizens”. There were even differences in patterns between northern and southern mobs.

        • Foxessa said, on July 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm

          The running of mob action was also essential, and very well organized — by, it were communist, would be labeled cells — particularly up north as the lead up to declaring independence from Britain. Paul Revere was a member of more of the Boston cells than anyone for instance. The real runners — the Council — were the elite of Boston. David Hackett Fischer delineates the organization in detail in his
          Paul Revere’s Ride

  2. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on June 29, 2012 at 1:29 am

    tut, tut, Andy there you go telling your readers how to interpret ala your present-ism. Will your sheeple me too readers ever have a mind of their own? Will they ask questions, like why did these people feel that way? Do they know there were abolitionist in the South long before the North. Do they know a good bit of time somewhere every day in the South was spent lamenting what to do with the Negroes? What is best for them, what is best for us? This group you cite likely had their reasons caused by some events. Possibly Haiti or some other serious event closer to home. Time is a great healer you know. Why don’t you try to find out and make yourself really worthwhile instead of just using tidbits to bait and cause division and hate?

    • Andy Hall said, on June 29, 2012 at 8:26 am

      Have a nice day, Josephine.

    • Will Hickox said, on June 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      “Time is a great healer you know.” Unless one identifies so strongly with the proslavery element in the antebellum South that one can’t tolerate the merest hint of criticism directed at them.

      • Andy Hall said, on June 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm

        Josephine has gone on the record, to explain that Robert Smalls was an ungrateful wretch for betraying his master and taking the steamboat Planter out to the Union blockading fleet in 1862. So yes, I think it’s pretty clear where her sympathies lie.

        • Neil Hamilton said, on June 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm


          As a cheerleader for the ‘Lost Cause’ but not in any way a student of actual history.

          The pattern is familiar.


          • Andy Hall said, on June 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm

            The entertainment value there should not be discounted.

            • Neil Hamilton said, on July 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm


              Never! 🙂

        • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm

          Andy he did steal the boat. And he did not learn the skills he knew by himself. Why is is so hard for you to give any White Southerner any credit or praise for anything connected with slavery, slaves. Don’t you know you are a slave of the Washington Empire. 4 months of your income you earn by your labors goes to the Washington DC treasury so you are in affect working for them. Nothing in life is free. Slaves were not free labor. The whole spin your ilk puts on is anything but healing; I feel sorry for you that your destroying the good will between the Southern Black and White people is your idea of a good thing.

    • Neil Hamilton said, on June 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm


      You try way too hard with way too little evidence.

      As usual.


  3. Foxessa said, on July 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Another aspect to this post is the popularity of Western Adventures before and after the Waw, by the British aristocracy. I’m currently reading this: Pagnmenta, Peter. (2012) Prairie Fever; British Aristocrats in the American West 1830 – 1890. W.W. Norton & Co., New York. It goes into great detail.

    Before the Waw, it was hunting and fishing and generally adventure and collecting — this was halted by the Waw. After that the Brits were interested in financial gain or even uptopian vision. In the financial gain coterie, they bought / established ranches all around Texas up along the eastern side of the Rockies. There was cluster between the Pecos and the Rio, as the furthest south. Then San Angelo, Amarillo and the Panhandle, and many others in Colorado and Wyoming. Further east, in Tennessee, Kansas and Iowa, young Brit aristos tried to establish great estate – communities modeled on their ancestral domains back in England, Scotland and Ireland. None of those worked out for long, it seems. Among the many problems is that they didn’t really like democracy all that much and their fellow-sister USians didn’t like aristocratic manners all that much.

    • Jim Schmidt said, on July 2, 2012 at 8:10 am

      That is so interesting “Foxessa”! My German-Russian ancestors moved to Victoria, Kansas in the mid-1870s, and the community was just as you described above, i.e., founded by Brits…and no, it did not work out…but my hardy ancestors made a go and succeeded. Thankls for the recommendation!

      • Foxessa said, on July 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

        There’s a section in the book that is about Victoria, so you’ll find that particularly interesting. 🙂

  4. g2-132541380fdf5651404aa716e6ac486e said, on July 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I’m still scratching my head wondering why the white slave owners would so fear a slave revolt like the one in Haiti when we’re constantly being told that the South’s slave owners treated their charges like “family” and that the slaves remained loyal and many of them even took up arms to defend their white masters against the invading Yankee Barbarian Horde ™.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      It’s quite the mystery, isn’t it?

    • Neil Hamilton said, on July 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Does seem strange, doesn’t it? 🙂


    • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      You can only understand it if you have lived in the South’s peculiar institution of black and white relationships; that is why we all told you that we, who would live with and around them, should be the ones to free them and
      to get them started on the right course, and in the right dfirection. Who else could possibly succeed and knew them so well; Hasn’t worked out so good the way you yanks did it at the point of a bayonet, the only country in the world to do, or a decision of a supreme court; (oh those supreme court decisions ok to murder babies, lawdy lawd.).

      My Hatti and me and mine understood all so well, RIP. Pay Them No Mind!

      • Andy Hall said, on July 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

        Neither you nor I have lived with the “peculiar institution,” unless you’re a lot older than I think you are. The phrase “peculiar institution” doesn’t mean what you think it does.

        But as for growing up in the South, I have, and and I don’t buy into that attitude at all.

        • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm

          nanananan my attitude is better than yours;

        • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 5, 2012 at 8:10 pm

          This is another one you probably won’t accept and it has sources.

          New York Enriched by the South


          The peaceful solution to African slavery in the United States escaped the gaze of the abolitionists who fomented violent slave insurrection until it forced secession, then open warfare. Those abolitionists could have achieved their humanitarian ends by closing the New England cotton mills hungry for the raw cotton of slave labor, and they could have leaned on the Manhattan banks and New York merchants who provided credit and goods to Southern (and Northern) planters to maintain and expand their plantations. But knowing little of their Southern neighbors, the average Northerner was easily misled toward war, “loaded with a pack of prejudices.”

          Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
          North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

          “The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial”

          New York Enriched by the South:

          “[In Philip S. Foner’s] study Business and Slavery, [The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict, 1941, he] discloses the innumerable economic ties between New York and the South. “The influence of the South upon New York’s economic life started at the port, and proceeded uptown, touching every form of business activity on the way.” Foner has pointed out that the cotton trade was dominated by New York, that often 30 or 40 per cent of the price of cotton went to New Yorkers. In one year alone, 1849, the South purchased more than seventy-six million dollars worth of merchandise in New York.

          Such a productive relationship was of course carefully guarded by merchants. Moreover, these economic ties, according to Foner, inevitably reflected themselves in social ties. New York merchants gave generously to Southern charities. Partnerships, friendships, even marriages joined New York and Southern families.

          This attachment and loyalty to the South also extended back to the older generation of New York writers. James Kirke [Paulding’s] ties with the South were the strongest. Paulding praised the “domestic education” which was given the daughters of the planters. In the “chaste simplicity of their manners….the cultivation of their minds….the purity of their hearts,” he believed them superior to Northern ladies.

          He was impressed by the spontaneous laughter of the Negroes and by the excellence of their musical talents. “They are by far the most musical of any portion of the inhabitants of the United States, and in the evening I have seen them reclining in their boats on the canal at Richmond, playing the banjo, and singing in a style – I dare say equal to a Venetian gondolier. They whistle as clear as the note of a fife.”

          In 1842 Paulding traveled through the deep South with Martin Van Buren…..[who] was beginning to seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. To his surprise, Paulding found New Orleans “one of the most orderly, decorous cities in the world.” He liked the opulence of New Orleans and the wealth and independence of Louisiana, and he enjoyed the hospitality of the sugar planters along the Mississippi River.

          Paulding said that, so far as he knew, the Negroes of the deep South were no more mistreated than they were in the Northern slave States. In Slavery in the United States, Paulding argued that emancipation would bring greater evils than slavery itself, and maintained that the Negroes were for the most part happy and well adjusted as slaves. In [his previous] 1817 edition of his Letters he observed that the Northern, “loaded with a pack of prejudices as large as a pedlar’s” realized when he travelled South that he had been misled about Southern manners.”

          (The South in Northern Eyes, 1831-1861, Howard R. Floan, McGRaw-Hill, 1958, pp. 111-115)

          • Andy Hall said, on July 5, 2012 at 9:48 pm

            And yet New York began phasing out chattel bondage in 1799, and had ended it completely by 1827. And when, in 1860, the Republican Party put forth a candidate and a platform explicitly dedicated to keeping slavery confined to those territories where it already existed, New York went strongly for that candidate.

            There’s no question that all of the United States reaped economic benefit from the institution of slavery. Yet by 1860 it was the South and some border states that still maintained the institution.

            As for Paulding, he was an apologist for slavery, as are you. Period, full stop.

            • Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

              You didn’t let me down, i said: This is another one you probably won’t accept and it has sources.
              Treat Neil, corey, andy types the way they treat you and don’t be played the fool, pay them no mind!

              • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

                No, I fully accept that that was Paulding’s view, just as I accept that you have a very benign view of slavery as well. (Cradle-to-grave medical care, supposed rights under the law, better than where they would’ve been otherwise, slaves who ran off were being ungrateful, and so forth.) Slaveholders generally used those sorts of rationalizations to justify holding human chattel.

                I just find those views morally reprehensible.

  5. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I mean Neil, corey, andy types – don’t be played the fool, pay them no mind!

  6. Josephine Lindsay Bass said, on July 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Andy,Tell that the Pope and all the other churches branches of that time – all in God’s time. What is morally reprehensible is you Andy trying to play and act like you are God. And you are making a real mess.

    In the forward of “Blood Money The Civil War and the Federal Reserve” by John Remington Graham an excerpt explains well the NE position that you uphold as morally acceptable. Said by Sen. Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr of Minnesota in 1913

    “Rather than assume the care of the slaves, they would control labor with the use of capital. It necessarily followed that when the laborer ceased to be of service because of sickness or old age, he would be of not concern to capital…………..Such was the interest that capital had in the result of the Civil War …….for capital in order that they might enforce upon humanity the industrial slavery that the trusts preferred rather than the chattel slavery which then existed in the United States” (Andy this is what your CSA ancestors fought against in their 2nd War For Independence).

    An Aside: Interesting what one posted about the Brits buying up land in Texas, etc. I hold the opinion that the East India Bank Cartel now Bank of Britain backdoored their way back into their former colonies without firing a shot through the industrial people of New York that you have seized upon as your mentors.

    In the same space of the same book Pope Pius XI in parts 105 and 106 of the encyclical letter Quadragesimo Anno published by the Holy See on May 15 1931: “Not only is wealth accumulated, but immense power and depostic domination is concentrated in the hands of a few, and those few are frequently not the owners, but only the trustees and directors of invested funds, who administer them at pleasure. This power becomes particularly irresistible when exercised by those who, because they hold and control money, are able to govern credit and determine its allotments, thereby supplying life-blood to the entire economic body and grasping in their hands the very soul of the economy so that nobody date breathe against their will.”

    Yes slavery was a one of the causes of the war, but as in all wars follow the money.

    Andy for the good of all, you need to meet Erik Rush, who has been toughened by having endured every ugly epihet imaginable and has fearlessly seized the racial third rail and wields it like a weapon. His book pub in 2010 diagnoses your case of Negrophilia. In his book ne-gro-phi-li-a From slave block to pedestal~America’s racial obsession, Erik Rush crystallizes just how pervasive and pandemic Negrophilia really is-and the best way to treat it.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Every time you post I think I understand Spoons Butler a little bit more.

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