The Confederate Spy: A Story of the War of 1861

This excerpt is from a fiction work about the Civil War by R.H. Crozier. It expresses the view of a self-proclaimed abolitionist that enslaved people do not value freedom. The author expresses a dislike for southern institutions, while at the same time expressing racist views about the disdain for freedom held by enslaved peoples.
R. H. (Robert Haskins) Crozier
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concepts 7 and 8.

The negro is a strange animal. It is impossible to make him appreciate the advantages of liberty, or even understand them. The boon of freedom, for which a white man would shed his blood and give up his life, has no charms whatever for the negro. Born and bred a slave, his mind early receives an idea of inferiority, and of incapacity to pursue any of the common avocations of life upon his own individual responsibility. He moves only as he is moved upon. Those who have fled to us for protection, and have joined our standard, have done so, I am persuaded, under mistaken notions and ideas. They look upon the North as a kind of El Dorado—a land flowing with wine, milk, and honey, and think that when they once get to a free state there is no further necessity of labor.  

As to the abstract idea of freedom and independence, to which a white man will cling even unto death, and which would cause his form to dilate with pride, though he should beg his bread, and hide his nakedness with rags, they have no correct, no definite idea. It is impossible to force into the negro’s dull mind the nobleness and sublimity of such a principle. He would sell his birthright for a mess of pottage without reflection, and barter his freedom for a dram without sorrow. I confess my mind has undergone a change in regard to the blacks. I have been grievously disappointed in my expectations. I calculated that wherever our victorious banner should appear, the negroes would rise up, murder their masters, flock by thousands to our standard, and thus crush the rebellion at once. But they have not done so. On the contrary, they have clung to their bondage with an affectionate tenacity, which has had a tendency to degrade the negro in my estimation. 

I doubt not the whole race would be in a much better condition if allowed to remain where they are in a state of slavery. This language may sound quite strange coming from such an abolitionist. But the truth is, I am no longer an abolitionist from principle, but from hatred. God knows I hate the slaveholding aristocracy of the South. I hate these lordly millionaires, whose gold is stained with negro blood; and I will never be satisfied till they are all put down, and this tremendous power, so inconsistent with the spirit of our free institutions, is forever destroyed. 

But this is not the question with which we have to deal at present. The rebellion must be crushed; and, in order to accomplish this desirable result, slavery must be abolished to cripple the South in her resources As the institution now exists, it is a source of wealth to the insurgents, and a powerful element in protracting the war. I would be in favor of exciting the negroes to servile insurrection, but I do not believe it can be done. I have tried, in fact, but failed most signally. And now, since this has failed, I have another project in view, which I doubt not will meet with your excellency’s approbation, when you have duly reflected upon it. 

This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15012coll8/id/4584/rec/29.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What simile in the first paragraph reflects the author’s interpretation of how enslaved individuals viewed escaping northward?
    “North as a kind of El Dorado—a land flowing with wine, milk, and honey.”
  2. Question
    Why does the author identify as an abolitionist?
    He has extreme disdain for the South. He is not at all opposed to the institution of slavery in principle, however.
  3. Question
    Name some reasons the author says that slave rebellions did not undermine the entire institution of slavery.
    Answers will vary and may include “they have clung to their bondage with an affectionate tenacity,” and “He would sell his birthright for a mess of pottage without reflection, and barter his freedom for a dram without sorrow.”
Reveal Answers
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