Nehemiah Adams 1806 – 1878

Nehemiah Adams 1806 – 1878

Nehemiah Adams was a graduate of Harvard University,
prominent pastor, prolific writer of a variety of
biblically oriented books, and noted for writing one
of the most well read pro-slavery books in the
Antebellum period titled “A South-Side View of Slavery.”
Aswell as a secondary work on the subject of slavery titled
“The Sable Cloud, a Southern tale with Northern Comments”

Born in 1806, Nehemiah Adams was always a man of strong
faith, and convinction. A Unitarian from his earliest
days, until his death. He graduated from the Andover
Theological Seminary in 1829, becoming co-pastor of
the First Congregational Church in 1832, eventually
being elevated to the position of pastor in 1834, at the
Union Congregational Church. His position on the divine
institution of slavery, was often nebulous, and prior
to his visitation within the south, drifting towards
abolitionism. However in 1854 upon some health related
trouble afflicting a close friend, he was prompted to take the
trip southward. Visiting Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina.
This journey had no political intent, and only incidentally
acquained him with southern slavery, but it altered his
worldview tremendously, due to said ideological shifts conveyed
in the work he found great resistance from the abolitionist
movemement both locally, and nationally. He was dismissed
from a variety of different positions within his home of
Boston Massachusetts. He suffered this exclusion, and abuse
on the basis that his findings during his journey did not
comport to the fictional ideology of his previous friends,
and Church associates. He found his presuppositions with
regards to slavery to be ill informed, false, and coming from
a biased position of absolute ignorance. To quote his
preconceptions of slavery from his words is an excerpt
from “A South-Side View of Slavery”:

“The thought of looking slavery in the face, of
seeing the things which had so frequently disturbed
my self-possession, was by no means pleasant. To
the anticipation of all the afflictive sights which
I should behold there was added the old despair of
seeing any way of relieving this fearful evil,
while the unavailing desire to find it, excited
by the actual sight of wrongs and woe, I feared
would make my residence at the south painful.”

A stark, dreary vision of a fantasy played up, by his
religiously inclined, fanatical affilates, as he’d later
admit. His first proper meeting with a slave, and initial
impressions of his first interactions were summarized
in these excerpts:

Page 15:
“The steam tug reached the landing, and the slaves
were all about us. One thing immediately surprised
me; they were all in good humor, and some of them in
a broad laugh. The delivery of every trunk from the
tug to the wharf was the occasion of some hit, or
repartee, and every burden was borne with a jolly word,
grimace, or motion. The lifting of one leg in laughing
seemed as natural as a Frenchman’s shrug. I asked one
of them to place a trunk with a lot of baggage; it was
done; up went the hand to the hat
“Any thing more, please sir?”

Page 18:
“A better-looking, happier, more courteous set
of people I had never seen, than those colored
men, women, and children whom I met the first
few days of my stay in Savannah.”

This sets the tone for the totality of the book. Adam’s
experiences were not a-typical. When he’d inquire as to
the normalcy of the fine clothes, and happy predisposition,
he was assured this was the norm. Even when confronted
with oddities within the institution he felt were morally
questionable, he very quickly saw that upon further
investigation his anxiety, and dread were misapplied.
Such as when a young girl was being sold to a woman,
his impression was that this was an afront to decency,
when a child is being sold, to what he thought was
a stranger, getting her not on the basis of familial
ties, decency, or care, but on the basis of a common
bartar. However upon further investigation, he discovers
she was sold for the purpose of being reunited with her
mother, as apart of a dispute regarding ownership.
He summarizes the events as follows:

Page 69:
“The mother of this infant belonged to a man who
had become embarrassed in his circumstances, in
consequence of which the mother was sold to another
family in the same place, before the birth of the
child; but the first owner still laid claim to the
child, and there was some legal doubt with regard to
his claim. He was disposed to maintain this claim,
and it became a question how the child should be
taken from him. A legal gentleman, whose name is
familiar to the country, told me that he was consulted,
and he advised that through an old execution the child
should be levied upon, be sold at auction, and thus be
removed from him. The plan succeeded. The child was
attached, advertised, and offered for sale. The mother’s
master bought it, at more than double the ratable price,
and the child went to its mother.”

Thus was the corrective, humanitarian inclinations of those
within the slave system on full display. A final, telling
experience, expounded upon in the upcoming excerpt of the
work, although nowhere near sufficient, in the relaying of his
thoughts, interactions, or of the sum total of the events,
that took place during his journey in the southland,, was
when he spoke to a sheriff, who gave him some noteworthy
information pertaining to the tendency to order, decency,
and propriety of the local enslaved Africans.

Page 41:
“A prosecuting officer, who had six or eight counties in his
district, told me that during eight years of ser-vice, he had
made out about two thousand bills of indictment, of which not
more than twelve were against colored people. It must follow
of necessity that a large amount of crime is prevented by the
personal relation of the colored man to a white citizen. It
would be a benefit to some of our immigrants at the north, and
to society, if government could thus prevent or reach disturbances
of the peace through masters, overseers, or guardians. But we
cannot rival in our police measures the beneficial system of the
south in its distributive agencies to prevent burglaries and arson.”

With these quotes from his work he defended slavery as a
positive good for morality, religiosity, and conducive to
positive relations, even relating to very dissimilar peoples.
Nehemiah Adams unintentionally worked his way into the good
graces of every right minded southerner, northerner, and
well informed, genuine person of his era, and just as much
into history as his work today serves as a reminder of the
glorious institution that was American slavery.

His last work being published in 1871, and dying in 1878.
We honor Nehemiah Adams for his contribution to
the pro-slavery effort of truth, righteousness, and
the betterment of man, and would without any question
advocate for the reading of his most famous work
“A South-Side View of Slavery” and his
secondary book, links to both are below:

(Clicking covers will redirect to the full book)

A South-Side View of Slavery
– Nehemiah Adams, 1854.

The Sable Cloud, a Southern Tale with Northern Comments
– Nehemiah Adams, 1861.

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