Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 3: No 2) >> ''South Carolina in the Revolution'': The Charleston Series with an Addendum to the Manuscript >> Page 3

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Page 3

Speech | 1995
Transcription 3

One of my assailants charged that I had avoided the subject [of slavery]
as it told against us -- because it exposed our asserted imbecility -- and I was
referred to a proceeding originating, at this period -- 1779 -- with certain
Carolinians, who, in congress, introduced the measure to employ our slaves in
the war -- a measure which was held to be tantamount to a confession of our
physical incapacity .. .
As if anticipating this answer, my assailants next changed the manner of
attack, and ascribed our refusal to bring the slaves into the field, to our
fears .. .
But there was a policy superior to that which suggested their [the slaves]
military service, which required that they should be kept at the tasks of
agriculture. The British themselves felt this policy. Even when they had overrun
the country, and never sought to disturb it, except on one or two occasions, of
great exigency, and when their occupancy of the soil was endangered. They felt
how much wiser it would be to keep the negro busy, raising the food which was
to maintain their armies, and the sumptuary staples which were to fill their
pockets... .
When incorporated in arms, and under their own Captains, as they were
in some few instances, they [the slaves] were found inefficient; disorderly mob;
timid in moments of danger and easily dispersed; but insolent in power, brutal i
excess, and quite as likely to hurt as help their employers. It was only when
incorporated with white troops, in a subordinate capacity, and led by white
officers, that they could answer any useful purposes... .
[K]ept in subordination by white leaders, they were tolerably efficient --
in other words, would fight well enough under the eyes of their masters; were,
in fact, many of them thus employed by our own partisans, and so employed were
faithful, if not always fearless, and diligent as drudges where they could not b
relied on as a future hope. . . .
And why did [the congressional committee] urge [arming the slaves] at the
particular time -- 1779 -- when it was brought before Congress. Because South
Carolina & Georgia, two of the feeblest colonies, were then threatened with
invasion. These two colonies, in their infancy, the younger but forty, the elder
not an hundred years old -- the former hardly able to bring 3000, the latter not
12000 into the field; borth formed of singularly mixed stocks, and vexed to the
core with the discords of rival nations -- were both measurably exhausted by
previous strifes, battles, toils & misfortunes; both wanting, from the outset, a
much in the material as in the personnel of war... .
The Northern States, with more than 100,000 men on paper, could not
lend men enough into the field to fill their regiments under Washington. . . .
And so poor was the spirit of that [Northern] region, so ridiculous its
patriotism, that with all this mammouth army on paper, destined to draw pensions
for imaginary services to the crack of doom, the very same committee of
Congress, to which was confided the measure of arming our slaves, reported
solemnly in March of 1779 that the "circumstances of the northern army will not