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Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, Part 6



We interrupt this journey through presidents and their pronouncements or status as slave holders to take a look at the Western world at the time.

Haiti had started the trend in the New World by abolishing slavery in 1817.

In freeing itself from Spain and Spanish law, the Mexican Independence also abolished slavery in 1821, although not codified until later, starting with the 1824 Constitution.

An 1833 Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom abolished slavery throughout the British Empire (with some exceptions).

Although France had abolished slavery with its 1789 Revolution, Napoleon had restored it in its colonies. This put a great deal of stress in the northern parts of Mexico where American colonists were busy making cotton king. This economy depended on free labor in order for the balance sheet to provide a profit.

The colonists felt more aligned with U.S. policy than that of Mexico and had been seeking (Mexican) statehood, but when Santa Anna moved to assert more control over the area in 1835, they rebelled. “There is a considerable number of slaves in Texas who have been introduced by their masters under cover of certain questionable contracts, but who according to our laws should be free. Shall we permit those wretches to moan in chains any longer in a country whose kind laws protect the liberty of man without distinction of cast or color?” Santa Anna

Most persons familiar with popular culture know the story of the Alamo, but they don’t often realize it was a fight for slavery. The battle itself became romanticized and facts poorly documented.

However, it is known that the Mexicans released two dozen surviving women and children as well as James Bowie’s slave, Sam, and William Travis’ slave, Joe. There were others–slaves, indentured servants and freedmen–who did not survive. There were substantial numbers of Afro-Americans in the San Antonio area, slaves as well as freedmen.

The heroes of the Alamo all had fascinating lives. Bowie had profited buying smuggled slaves from the pirate Jean Lafitte on Galveston Island and then taking the slaves to a customhouse to inform on himself. Southern states allowed anyone who informed on a slave trader to receive half of what imported slaves would have earned at auction (protest against the 1808 cessation slave trading per the U.S. Constitution). Bowie would then buy them back, receive half of what he paid, and then legally transport and sell them in New Orleans and up the Mississippi.

Even Davy Crockett, legislative champion for the poor on the land, was a slave owner, albeit the “under ten” average of the middle to lower-middle class farmers he represented.

For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Project and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series to be published during that time. The first part of the series covers the presidencies leading up to Lincoln in order to review national policy and experience leading to emancipation. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.

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