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“Behold him now the Pharaoh”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Posted on 04/14/2015

The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the response by the American consul in Cuba to calls for his dismissal, a Southerner’s perspective on the destruction of a South Carolina city, and a Northern senator’s call to remove the American president from office.

Reply of N.P. Trist, Consul at Havana, to the Preamble and Resolutions, Adopted by the Meeting of Ship Masters and Ship Owners... and Transmitted to the President of the United States, as the Ground of Their Demand for the Instant Recall of Said Consul (1840)
By Nicholas Philip Trist

In the 1830s Nicholas Trist was appointed U.S. consul in Havana, Cuba, by President Andrew Jackson. Openly in favor of slavery, Trist became the subject of a British commission investigating violations of the treaty ending African slave trade. Trist was also suspected of corruption by New England ship captains who felt he was inadequately defending their interests in order to maintain good relations with Cuban officials, and by abolitionists who charging him with illegally profiting from false documents used to disguise the sale of Africans into slavery.

Trist answered the claims with righteous outrage and offense. Responding to allegations of having illegally earned fees for falsifying documents and for corruption in general, Trist countered:

Nicholas Philip Trist…this calumny has created a necessity for meeting it with the whole truth of the matter: and this will show, that placed in a position where, to secure affluence for myself and my children, nothing was requisite but to allow American take its course, and to accept gold for winking at the perversion of which it was susceptible, I not only spurned the wealth thus proffered; but, by taking the ground which I...believed to be the only right and lawful ground, exposed myself and my family to impoverishment, and to all the consequences which the revenge of baffled cupidity could heap up on the mountain that had already arisen from the workings of malevolence prompted by other causes.

Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, S.C. To Which Is Added a List of the Property Destroyed (1865)
By William Gilmore Simms

William Gilmore Simms, according to Edgar Allan Poe, was the best novelist America ever produced. While Simms is still recognized as a major force in antebellum Southern literature and accomplished historian, he is also remembered for his support of slavery and secession. Simms described the Union soldiers as little more than drunken marauders and the destruction of Columbia as inevitable. He quoted a Union officer, who upon stationing his men to guard a church, told the Lady Superior, “For I must tell you, my sister, that Columbia is a doomed city!” Simms continued:

William Gilmore SimmsTerrible doom! This officer, leaving his men behind him, disappeared, to show himself no more. The guards so left behind were finally among the most busy plunderers. The moment that the inmates, driven out by the fire, were forced to abandon their house, they began to revel in its contents.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – who shall guard the guards? – asks the proverb. In a number of cases, the guards provided for the citizens were among the most active plunderers; were quick to betray their trusts, abandon their posts, and bring their comrades in to join in the general pillage. The most dexterous and adroit of these, it is the opinion of most persons, were chiefly Eastern men, or men of immediate Eastern origin.

Expulsion of the President: Opinion of Hon. Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts, in the Case of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, President of the United States (1868)

In Charles Sumner’s argument for the removal of President Johnson, he compares and contrasts the impeachment procedure under the U.S. Constitution to that of European countries and explains why impeachment is a political and not a judicial process. He then describes the impeachable offenses of President Johnson with excoriating rhetoric:

Charles SumnerDriven from these legislative chambers, driven from the field of war, this monstrous power has found a refuge in the Executive Mansion, where, in utter disregard of the Constitution and laws, it seeks to exercise its ancient far-reaching sway. All this is very plain. Nobody can question it. Andrew Johnson is the impersonation of the tyrannical slave power. In him it lives again. He is the lineal successor of John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis; and he gathers about him the same supporters. Original partisans of slavery north and south; habitual compromisers of great principles; maligners of the Declaration of Independence; politicians without heart; lawyers, for whom a technicality is everything, and a promiscuous company who at every stage of the battle have set their faces against equal rights; these are his allies....Slavery has been our worst enemy, assailing all, murdering our children, filling our homes with mourning, and darkening the land with tragedy; and now it rears its crest anew, with Andrew Johnson as its representative. Through him it assumes once more to rule the Republic and impose its cruel law. The enormity of his conduct is aggravated by his barefaced treachery. He once declared himself the Moses of the colored race. Behold him now the Pharaoh.

For more information about Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact

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