Fredrick Douglass knew that even beyond a strong coalition he had to fundamentally change the house slave vs field slave, light skin vs dark skin perception that has been dividing the Slaves and now Freed Blacks for centuries. The Slave masters systematically fathered offspring with their Slave females. Those offspring were called “mulatto” and were given a higher stature in the Plantation. The constant reminder of the superiority of their light skin, “better” hair quality and “more” chiseled features enabled a false sense of superiority. 1670 allowed free black men the right to own slaves, but not White or Christian Servants, in an interesting effort to continue the expansion of the freed blacks which were mostly mulatto. Black women were most freed slaves. Most were given freedom by their White Slave Masters that they had sexual relations with. An astonishing 75% of the freed slaves were Black Women and 33% were mulatto children. In 1860, there were 500,000 Blacks living in the South. A surprising amount of 261,988 were not slaves. In New Orleans 10,689 freed slaves made up the Black population. Of those freed slaves 3,000 owned slaves. In Charleston, SC the peak of Black Slave ownership was 1830 in which 407 Black Slave owners had 2,195 slaves. Just 30 years later in 1860 that ownership dropped to 137 with 544 slaves.
Douglass felt a strategic step would be to meet with the two largest Black Slave owners in Louisiana that owned sugar plantations in 1860 and with William Ellison, Jr., grandson John W. Buckner of South Carolina. C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards were mulattos owned 152 slaves in Louisiana. Antoine Dubuclet, also a mulatto owned 70 slaves in Louisiana. Cotton Gin improvement maker William Ellison, Jr. also a mulatto amassed wealth during the peak demand for cotton in South Carolina. Douglass sought a dialogue with Buckner also of mixed decent. Douglass also wanted to connect with Solomon Thomas Pendarvis, great grandson of James Pendarvis, the wealthiest Freed Black man (also mulatto) in South Carolina who owned 3,250 acres of land.
Douglass had concern for rash repercussions towards any Blacks that had any type of wealth outside of the occupied 400,000 acres also known as Sherman’s land.. In addition to connecting with Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, Douglass would seek an audience with Oliver Otis Howard. Howard was a Commissioner on the Freedman’s Bureau whose charter was to protect the newly freed Blacks. Howard was a successful commander in the Union Army and made his feelings quite public that most White Southerners would be happy to see slavery restored. Howard’s determination to see Blacks receive some type of suffrage led him to establish Howard University, the country’s first Black College. In 1867, Howard’s own White daughters attended the College when it opened and the school would later educate 150,000 freed Blacks by 1872.
Douglass knew that most of these Black Slaveholders lost a good portion of their wealth like many of the wealthy Slaveholders throughout the South. He also felt that if he could sell the vision of the newly acquired land and the potential economic wealth, he might convince them to move to the South Carolina to Florida region. This group of individuals have business acumen that could be transferred to new land owners which were non-mulatto. It might be a stretch, but the psychological effect might be the initial catalyst to break down the mulatto privilege barrier. If he could not convince them to move entirely, he could use them as Advisors to start building the coalition. With the added benefit of firsthand knowledge of sugar cane farming. Douglass knew of Indian land further South in Florida and was intrigued with the possibility of partnering with the Indians for sugar cane production. However, cotton was Douglass priority now. Understanding the distribution to New England and understanding the Wall Street model of using financial instruments to sell future Slave revenues were the other priorities. He felt that same model could be used against cotton production in the 400,000 acres. An exploratory meeting with some of the people involved in setting up those financial instruments would be the next logical step. Douglass would have to leverage his Northern Congressional contacts to make progress on this vision. He knew that the Northerners main objective was to generated revenue. They clearly demonstrated that thirst as they profited off the Slave labor driven American cotton.
Congressmen of New York would be the first targeted to be introduced to the Wall Street firms that orchestrated the financing of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and subsequent Global American cotton industry. High on the list is Lehman Brothers. Their origins began as Alabama cotton brokers that moved to New York City in 1850 and created Lehman Brothers Investments. Henry, Mayer and Emmanuel Lehman came from Germany in 1844. The brothers supported the southern cause during the Civil War before they eventually moved to New York City. The brothers payed hard currency to Alabama Cotton Farmers, then brokered the cotton to other brokers in Liverpool, England and New York City. Twenty years later they would introduce the New York Cotton Exchange. Capital investment in the American Slave trade was more valuable than land and any other capital investment in the mid-1800s. Understanding how Lehman Brothers could continue to play a strategic role in brokering the new Freed Black owned cotton on the global market produced by the 400,000 acres would enable Lehman Brothers to continue to profit, but it will begin the wealth accumulation process for the new generation of Black land owners.
Douglass also has his target on Junius S. Morgan and his son J.P. Morgan. Junius Morgan renames an established London Merchant Bank- J.S. Morgan & Sons in 1864. Three years early, J.P. Morgan established a New York distribution and sales office in 1861. The predecessor to J.P. Morgan Chase was the Bank of Manhattan Company which was established in September 1799 by Aaron Burr and a group of influential New Yorkers including Alexander Hamilton. It was the second commercial bank in New York City. The origination of the bank started by a charter from New York State Legislature to clean up the city’s water which at the time was believed to be the cause of illness outbreaks of yellow fever. There was a clause in the charter that allowed the bank to use excess capital and participate in any banking activities that were in line with the laws and U.S. Constitution. Which pants and interesting light on one of the founding fathers Alexander Hamilton. It continues to question the mindset of the founding fathers when the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 for the 13 colonies. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed”.
The consistency of the thinking prior to 1776 among the early settlers in regards to the gap between Slaves and Men has been evident since the first Slaves were brought to New World in 1619. Prior to 1711 Slaves were required to go out and look for work in New York City. The private buying and selling of Slaves were also commonplace. The White Middle Class New Yorkers increasing became anxious because so many Black Slaves in the public looking for work. Nearly 1,000 of the 6,400 residents were Black Slaves. This anxiety established a central Market House for work at the Wall Street slip on December 17, 1711. This solution was established for fear of Black insurrection. All prospective work for hire with Indian and Black Slaves would only be conducted there. That was the basis for more sophisticated Slave commodity trading. Fast forward to 1792 and the Buttonwood Agreement was signed by 24 Traders that became the New York Stock Exchange. The Buttonwood Agreement would be the governance document for companies conducting transactions for the Slave Trade which included insurance, shipping and cotton.
Large New York Banks were the only domestic banks that could provide the credit and financing for the purchase of Slaves, from cotton seed to cloth supply chain, from planting to selling crops, to shippers and Northern Merchants were all part of the ecosystem. Two influential White Merchants that Douglass wanted financing insight were Moses Taylor and Philip Livingston. Moses Taylor’s banking activities were influential in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. His early offices evolved into the 111 Wall Street Complex and part of Citibank’s operations. Phillip Livingston was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and probably the most active New York Merchant involved in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. His earnings eventually made its way as an endowment to Yale University and the founder of Kings College which later became Columbia University. Comfort Tiffany, a wealthy textile manufacturer in Connecticut which sourced his key raw material from Slave plantation owners from the South, loaned his son Charles L. Tiffany $1,000 to start Tiffany & Young on September 14, 1837, the predecessor to Tiffany & Co. Tiffany’s value proposition was buying merchandise directly off the merchant ships as they arrived on ports in New York and Boston. Would those relationships be of value to Douglass in the future?
Douglass continued to struggle privately with executing on his plan to engage with individuals that profited so handsomely off the pain of Slave labor and associated in humane activities that took a back seat to profits. Douglass had to remain focused on the big picture, that economic gains for Freed Blacks and the potential sea change of opportunity generated by the South Carolina to Florida land. He reflected on the original language in Sherman’s Field Order No. 15.
“The islands from Charleston, south, the abandon rice fields along the rivers for 30 miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. John’s river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the Proclamation of the President of the United States. Each family will have 40 acres of plotted land and Lincoln would provide troops until title has been completed.” Subsequently, the military would provide mules to help with “Sherman’s Land” to the Freed Blacks. White Southerners were painfully aware that Black land ownership would radically change Southern Society and Economies of the South.
Douglass had a governing framework that might be able to scale, but there would be legal challenges that he would need help from the Federal Government. Tunis Campbell was one of the Superintendents of the Freedom’s Bureau for St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia. There were approximately 400 Freed Blacks that occupied the island. Since the occupation, they created their own Constitution, Congress, Court System, Schools and Militia. Slaves were denied education and most importantly literacy before the Civil War. Blacks understood that for them to have a chance at equality with their White counterparts they would have to learn how to read and maximize the output of each acre of land. There continued to be a growing position by the White planters off the island of the audacity of Campbell’s ability to think in such a grandiose manner. How could he possible entertain such thoughts of independence?
Campbell’s new structure would be challenged. Jacob Waldburg, the original owner of St. Catherine’s Island, GA wanted his land back and challenged the new ownership in 1865. Waldburg indicated that the ex-Planters on the Island had land deeds that are 150 to 200 years old. The Blacks had promissory notes of title that were provided during the country’s time of war when the land was abandoned. So legally Waldburg was entitled to receive his land back under the property laws in the Constitution. Campbell anticipating this move, and had his new Congress pass a law indicating that Whites were prohibited from entering the Island. This law was backed by the Island’s Black Militia.
To be continued………………………………
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