This 1959 letter to Virginia Governor Wise from John Randolph Tucker, Virginia’s Attorney-General at the time.
Gov. Henry A. Wise
It outlines Virginia’s legal assertion that it had the right to censor the mail and prosecute those importing Abolitionist literature into the state of Virginia. It details the process of destroying material by fire in the presence of a judge.
Tucker skirts the First Amendment issues and focuses on the Postal Service’s role as a delivery system as opposed to a role akin to a publisher.
Tucker (1823–1897) was from a distinguished slaveholding family, he was elected Virginia’s attorney general in 1857 and after re-election served during the American Civil War. After a pardon and Congressional Reconstruction, Tucker was elected as U.S. Congressman (1875-1887), and later served as the first dean of the Washington and Lee University Law School.
The letter opens Willam Lloyd Garrison’s book, The new “reign of terror” in the slaveholding states, for 1859-60, published in New York in 1860.
Authorised Violation of the Mail
RICHMOND, Nov. 26th, 1859.
John Randolph Tucker
SIR, -The question is submitted to me for an Opinion as to the effect of the law of Virginia upon the distribution of mail matter when it is of an incendiary character. A newspaper, printed in the State of Ohio, propagating abolition doctrines, is sent to a person through a post ofiice in Virginia.
What is the duty of the Postmaster in the premises?
The law of Virginia (Code of Va., chap. 198, sec. 24) provides that:
“If a Postmaster or Deputy Postmaster know that any such book or writing (referring to such as advise or incite negroes to rebel or make insurrection, or inculcate resistance to the right of property of masters in their slaves) has been received at his office in the mail, he shall give notice thereof to some Justice, who shall inquire into the circumstances, and have such book or writing burned in his presence if it appear to him that the person to whom it was directed subscribed therefor, knowing its character, or agreed to receive it for circulation to aid the purposes of abolitionists, the Justice shall commit such person to jail. If any Postmaster or Deputy Postmaster violate this section, he shall be fined not exceeding two hundred dollars.”
This essay by John Harvey Kellogg appeared in Association Men, the official publication for Y.M.C.A. leaders during World War I. The piece caught my eye because so many people I encounter have an almost unreasonably nostalgic view of the past that does not make sense when looking at the world through the words of people living at the time. “People are people” and that has always been true.
The Decay of American Manhood
By J.H. Kellogg, M.D.,
Battle Creek, Michigan
History records nothing so wonderful as the development and progress of this great nation in the last hundred years.
But a blight has struck us.
American manhood is decaying.
We are going morally at a terrifying rate.
We have foes at home more deadly and destructive than our European enemies.
Davenport has shown that one in every hundred men is mentally defective, insane, epileptic, habitually criminal, or feeble-minded.
Recent military examinations have brought out most appalling facts.
Major Orr, a medical officer of the regular army, tells us that two to three out of every four applicants for the army are rejected as physically unfit.
Draft examinations show more than half our young men unfit for military training.
The examinations of the Life Extension Institute show only one man in a hundred wholly free from disease and physically fit. (more…)
The historical taboo among American whites surrounding white-black relationships can be seen as a historical consequence of the oppression and racial segregation of African-Americans.
In many U.S. states interracial marriage was already illegal when the term miscegenation was invented in 1863. The first laws banning interracial marriage were introduced in the late 17th century in the slave-holding colonies of Virginia (1691) and Maryland (1692). Later these laws also spread to colonies and states where slavery did not exist.
The bans in Virginia and Maryland were established at a time when slavery was not yet fully institutionalized. At the time, most forced laborers on the plantations were indentured servants, and they were mostly white. Some historians have suggested that the at-the-time unprecedented laws banning interracial marriage were originally invented by planters as a divide and rule tactic after the uprising of servants in Bacon’s Rebellion. According to this theory, the ban on interracial marriage was issued to split up the increasingly mixed-race labor force into whites, who were given their freedom, and blacks, who were later treated as slaves rather than as indentured servants.
By forbidding interracial marriage, it became possible to keep these two new groups separated and prevent a new rebellion.
Repealing the Anti-miscegenation Laws
Most states in the Northeast, Northern-Midwest, and Western states with these laws repealed them by 1967 with some, including Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Maine, and Ohio, within a generation of the end of the US Civil War.
The final blow to these laws came with Loving v. Virginia, a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
In 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.
Ku Klux Klan, [between 1965 and 1980]
There are still plenty of non-governmental organizations opposed to interracial relationships.
Bob Jones University banned interracial dating until 2000 and segregationists (yeah, they still exist), including modern Christian Identity groups, have claimed that several passages in the Bible should be understood as referring to miscegenation with certain verses expressly forbidding it. Most theologians interpret these verses and references as forbidding inter-religious marriage, rather than interracial marriage.
This excerpt from a statement to his congregation by Dr. Witty, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida on the topic of segregation appeared in the December 1957 issue of The Citizen’s Council – a pro-segregation newsletter based in Jackson, Mississippi.
This letter highlights the way anti-communist rhetoric was threaded through the thoughts and positions held by many people opposed to integration of schools and other institutions.
First, I believe God made the races as distinct human groups. Though “red, yellow, black and white are precious in his sight”, the fact also remains that God made man “red, yellow, black, and white.” When man works to destroy these God-given distinctions he opposes part of God’s plan. I am opposed to any attempted destruction of the racial differences which God established and nature has long preserved.
Bayonets build no brotherhood and rifle-butts can not knock love into the heart. To follow the pattern of normal affinity is not racial discrimination but rather normal determination.
Voluntary association of these races, while preserving their distinctions, is the normal pattern of a related world, but forced associations destroy the quality of existence, deprive the compelled of their liberties, and make their happiness impossible.
The answer to the race problem is not physical closeness but spiritual understanding and mutual respect.
As a Christian I am dedicated to good-will among men. For years, a portion of my time has been invested in improving race relations. The first negro local religious broadcast came by my efforts. With other ministers I participated in an institute for negro pastors. I preached in the local negro college and in negro churches and negro settlement works. A negro minister preached from my pulpit on one occasion and negro choirs sang before our church.
Good will and Christian concern were increasing. But these dearly bought advances have been swept aside by pressure groups and politicians. Right and understanding relationships between black and white grow only voluntarily and are destroyed into animosities by force.
These selfish, if not communist inspired pressures, forget that the answer to the race problem is not physical nearness but mutual respect and spiritual understanding.
May God give us strength to rebuild with patience what selfish politicians, with callous disregard for born races, have destroyed to satisfy their greed for power.
This soft sell for maintaining segregation was not unusual for its time. When we look at the attitudes and practices of our ancestors, I think it is important to understand that they were living inside a sort of insular culture where their own political and spiritual leaders supported ideas that seem quite radical today.
I have always been fascinated with pre-World War II America’s flirtation with eugenics. We were well on our way to a pretty horrific state of affairs (by today’s standards) and I strongly suspect we would still be recovering from that dark detour were it not for Nazi Germany’s actions giving the world a strong distaste for governments being that involved in the reproduction rights of their citizens.
Many of the European ideas and approaches to the problems of society, class, and race broached by Francis Galton, Cesare Lombroso, and numerous others were exported to the United States around the turn of the twentieth century.
These concepts influenced such fields as philanthropy, sociology, and criminology; hereditarian concepts of criminality and its control were systematized by Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso.
The University of Missouri’s Special Collections and Rare Books department has an excellent timeline of publications influencing the movement.