Inscribed by: Capt. J. W. Phelps of Vermont
Promoted to General / Organized the Black Troops / Presidential Candidate
1860 printing of this book written by Hinton Rowan Helper of North Carolina, which he self-published in New York City. It was a strong attack on slavery as inefficient and a barrier to the economic advancement of whites. The book was widely distributed by Horace Greeley and other antislavery leaders, and infuriated Southerners.
The book condemned slavery but did not take what Helper considered to be the ineffectually sentimental or moralistic abolitionist approach, Helper claimed that slavery hurt the Southern economy by preventing economic development and industrialization, and that it was the main reason why the South had progressed so much less than the North since the late 18th century.
General Phelps was afterward stationed at Camp Parapet in Carrollton, seven miles from New Orleans. Many fugitive slaves arrived at the camp seeking refuge. General Phelps organized the black men of military age into companies. He then formally asked his commanding officer, General Butler, for arms for the blacks. General Phelps thought he could organize three regiments of Africans to help defend his camp. General Butler ordered Phelps to put the Negros to work cutting down trees around the camp, and instead of furnishing guns, ordered his quartermaster to send axes and tents for the fugitive slaves. General Phelps was unwilling to employ the Africans as mere laborers, becoming what he viewed as their slave-driver, "having no qualification that way," and offered his resignation on August 21, 1862. General Butler refused to accept it. Later that August, General Phelps returned his commission to President Abraham Lincoln.
David Dixon Porter who had assisted Commodore Farragut in capturing New Orleans, branded General Phelps "a crazy man," and Butler called him "mad as a March Hare on the 'nigger question.'"
After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the federal administration adopted a policy of organizing United States Colored Troops. The President offered General Phelps a Major General's commission. General Phelps wanted the commission backdated to the day of his resignation the prior year. The President could not allow the implied contravention of General Butler's original orders, which were in good standing for that time, and would not agree to General Phelps' terms.
For his organization of and attempt to arm escaped slaves, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued an order on August 21, 1862, declaring Phelps an outlaw, for having "organized and armed negro slaves for military service against their masters, citizens of the Confederacy." Black Federal soldiers were condemned by the Confederacy as robbers and criminals, punishable by death. Many were warned by their officers before going into battle that they would be executed if captured.
Inventory Number: IDE 115