White mobs rioted in Washington in 1848 to protect the rights of slave owners after 76 black slaves failed a massive escape on a boat.


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A lithograph of the abolitionist of the slave trade in Washington, DC, against the backdrop of the US Capitol. Library in Japan

The summer of 2020 was not the first time the United States had seen protests and violence against the treatment of African Americans.

Four paragraphs from an 1848 newspaper article on the capture of pearls.

Four paragraphs from an 1848 newspaper article on the capture of pearls.

Long before the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and long before the civil rights march, the racist struggle upset the country’s capital. However, these riots in Washington, DC were triggered by slavery mobs.

In the spring of 1848, the conspirators organized one of the greatest escapes from slavery in US history. In doing so, they created a crisis involving abolitionists, white supremacists, the press, and even the president.

Daniel Bell, a free black man in Washington, wanted to free his enslaved wife, children, and grandchildren. Citing a promise of freedom from their former owner, he tried to do so through court but failed.So he started planning escape.. The lawyer he consulted knew of others who were eager to escape the life of binding. He and Bell decided to help them all.

They approached Daniel Drayton.. As the captain, he was free to carry a small group of fugitives. He agreed to hire a ship for this larger plan for $ 100. Drayton then paid $ 100 to fellow captain Edward Sayers to charter the schooner ship Parl.

On the night of April 15th Pearl I left Washington. 76 black men, women and children who quietly left the local farm hid under the deck. Drayton and Sayers steered the ship towards the Potomac River. They headed to Philadelphia, where slavery was illegal.

The fugitive did not go far. The owners soon realized their absence and formed a group to find them. Upon entering the Chesapeake Bay on April 17, a group of steamships overtook and commanded the pearls. The next day, the fugitive and his white attacker marched in Washington and were imprisoned in a city prison.

Riot in the capital

Furious at the challenge of conspirators to social order, a white Washington man wanted to punish someone.White supremacists opposed Drayton and Sayers waiting for a trial behind the bar Abolitionist reports..

Opponents of slavery have published several newspapers promoting their cause. In Washington, Gamaliel Bailey Jr. founded the National Age in 1847.Bailey and his treatise Opposite escape He tried, but supported the slave trade and ultimately the end of slavery itself.

Thousands of people gathered outside the national office on the night of April 18th and 19th. They gave a speech and spread false rumors that journalists were involved in Pearl Escape. Protester leaders reportedly included a US government clerk.

Soon the protesters became violent. They intended to throw a stone at the building on the first night and destroy it on the second night. However, both nights broke up when confronted with local police.

Gamaliel Bailey, a Washington, DC newspaper, was attacked by a slavery mob.

Gamaliel Bailey, a Washington, DC newspaper, was attacked by a slavery mob.

Presidential intervention

The crisis began with slavery.More than 3000000 Almost 90% of African Americans in 1848 were detained in bondage. They lived and worked on a southern farm owned by the same white man who claimed to be their property.Thousands each year They ran away Seeking freedom.

The country’s president, James K. Polk, defended slavery and thereby enriched himself.He owned more 50 workers At his Mississippi cotton plantation. While editing his letter Final volume Of those just published, I often read his complaints about escaping from it.Like other slave owners, he relied on To relatives Capture, return, and paid agents Physically punish fugitive.

Portrait of President James K. Polk in a flashy dress.

Portrait of President James K. Polk in a flashy dress.

After Pearl escaped, Pork shared the mob’s belief in white supremacism and their resentment against enslavement. He also shared hostility towards abolitionists and reformist newspapers, His diary About the entire case: “The anger committed by stealing and seducing slaves … created excitement and threatened violence in the abolitionist movement.”

But by April 20, the president was worried about violence in Washington. The involvement of federal employees especially plagued him.he Ordered them “Refrain from participating in all scenes of riots and violence” and threaten those who did not comply with the prosecution.

Pork too Instructions US Deputy Marshal Thomas Woodward works with local law enforcement agencies to quell the riots. As Pork told his adviser, He intended “The president exercises all dressed constitutional power” to restore peace.

done.When the mob reunited in the national era on the night of the 20th, it was Compete well By city and federal officials. About 200 rioters moved to Bailey’s house and threatened Tarring and feathering. But he managed to talk to them and applaud his speech from the previously hostile crowd.

The violence is over.

A poster issued after the capture of Pearl warns the citizens of Washington, DC not to riot.

A poster issued after the capture of Pearl warns the citizens of Washington, DC not to riot.

Losers and winners

captain Drayton and Sayers Suffering from their efforts. Convicted of illegally transporting slaves, they remained imprisoned until President Millard Fillmore pardoned the slaves in 1852.

To make matters worse, there were people who helped them escape. Abolitionists bought very little of their freedom, but almost all returned to slavery. Many were sold farther south than ever from the dream of freedom.

Aside from broken windows, it appeared intact during the national era. City and federal officials protected the press’s freedom to print unpopular views by ending the riots. The riots have come out well. No one was charged with the crime.

Perhaps pork has benefited the most.He earned by avoiding the big bloodshed of the watch praise Please cooperate with the local police.

Yet he never questioned the mob’s dissatisfaction or the racist society they advocated.

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This article will be republished from conversation, A non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Michael David Cohen, American University..

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The communication between the author and his current project, Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, is funded by the National Historical Publications Recording Commission, the Summerly Foundation, and the Watson Brown Foundation. He was previously funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, the Delaplane Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Tennessee History Commission. He is a member of the Documentary Editorial Association, the American Historical Association, the American Historical Association, and the Southern Historical Association.

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