October 19, 1862: Give freedmen land in Florida

Freedmen

A slaveholding Floridian wrote to the New York Times to denounce the secessionists, and to advocate for freed slaves to colonize Florida.


The Colonization of Florida Views of a Slaveholder.

To the Editor of the New-York Times:

I noticed in your sheet of the 3d inst., an editorial upon the colonization of Florida with the free blacks of this country in that State. Claiming to be a “Floridian”and a “slave-owner” in that State, owning a large amount of her public domain, I have perused your remarks with much interest. I think them the best of any of the many views given forth that have come to my notice. Florida and the negro character are subjects often written about by those who have little knowledge of either. I thank you for laying before the public so much of the facts of the magnitude and natural advantages of my State; they are all true, and but just touched upon.

Florida has the best climate of any State of this Union of the United States; the best watered; the greatest variety of fruits, game, timber, soil and extended coast of any State; and is, and has been, the most healthy State in the Union for the past twenty years. Yet, Sir, I am often asked by those called intelligent, “Is it not very sickly?” Let them look at the census reports of 1850-60. Again I am asked, “Can a white man labor there?” Yes: it never is as warm as in New-York. The State has a coast of 900 miles, washed by the cooling waters and ocean winds. The best ship timber, and the most of it; her fisheries are capable of an annual income of the former value of her cotton crop; more oysters than would supply the world; soil is not only productive, but can be tilled by one horse, and with a plow that costs $1 50. I have often seen good beef and pork from the stalk from the range, never fed from the crib or store-house. Any man while or black, can live comfortably by farming, if he will work like a Northern farmer two days in the week. Now, to all freedom-loving people let me say, don’t trouble yourself about sending our best help out of the country, but let the negro act like a man, and do as he pleases, like other men. If you can make the white people do right, the negro will help them, and they will help the negro. God made nothing in vain. If we strive to do right, all will come out well. I think, Mr. Editor, as you do. Florida is as well adapted to his wants as any country in the known world. As he has not money, I think Government would do well to let him settle, and protect him, on any of her public lands, and give him a homestead of as much as he can till. They are the most faithful, the best natured, the easiest managed, the most law-abiding people of the land. I hopefully may all become “free men,” and live where it suits them best; they are well enough off if we can get the “dry rot” out of the white folks. I am asked, will the owner and master ever give the negro his rights in the Slave States? Yes; those who have ever been familiar with the negro are his best friends. They know him best. A new system must be established; it will not work handily and smooth at first, but in ten years it will regulate itself, if his friends do not destroy him by false philosophy and their own ignorance, and drive him back into barbarism. The more that settle in Florida the better.

Friends are often more mischievous in results than enemies. Was not BUCHANAN the friend of the South — and I will not say but he intended to be of the whole Union, I believe he was — yet his great desire for moderation and peace pleased nobody, and came near destroying the Government. The rebellion came, millions have told the cause, or causes of the rebellion as I have largely shared in its evils, and had as bad things said of me as can be again. I will give my opinion, and to me it is so plain that one must be blinder than “Saul” or he knows what made this wicked rebellion. False philosophy, growing out of wicked practices. It takes root in, grows in and with Slavery. Different policies might have patched it up, but like painting over a shaky or rotten timber, it would not stop or strengthen the same. Pity it had not come instead of the Missouri Compromise — the child may be corrected easier than the man.

Secession! What is it? Lying, treason, murder! It breaks three of the ten commandments to start with. I do not feel I have done wrong in owning slaves, to the blacks, while slavery was to abide in the land, but I saw it would fall, and great would be the fall thereof. The South had many friends at the North, but more pretended political croakers. The latter by their acts fanned the South into a flame to consume them. I have thought the President did not use the only sure means of putting it down, and was slow &c., but I see he moved as soon as the people were prepared for it. I have traveled much in the north the past year, and let me as a humble individual, holding no office nor desiring one, say to the north, those who give aid and comfort to this rebellion, by such remarks, as, “I should like to see this rebellion put down but it must be done constitutionally,” &c. &c. Are you helping the South, friends by such cant? No sir you are destroying her — murdering her sons, widowing her wives, desolating her country — better for the South and for all, to say on all occasions (those under contempt of Court — can’t be heard) — stop your treason, or I’ll help destroy you. All men of the loyal States are united; so long as you rebel we will use every power for your downfall, if you really “loved Caesar, love Rome more.” I love the South — but I would fight this Rebellion by every power to destroy it. If you would strike for peace, let one united voice go up — that it you do not lay down your arms before January 1863, then you shall never own slaves or be regarded as having any rights to citizenship — then you act as a true friend.

A SLAVEHOLDER.

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