BLOGROLL: Twenty Negro or Overseer Law?: Ideas for the Classroom – The Journal of the Civil War Era

John Sacher discusses how to use the “Twenty Negro” exemption in the classroom when teaching about the U.S. Civil War:

Application for an overseer exemption, May 1864. From Encyclopedia Virginia. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

“Passed in October 1862, this amendment to the April 1862 conscription law allowed planters (those who owned twenty or more slaves) an exemption for someone to oversee their slaves. These historians often quote Mississippi Senator James Phelan’s succinct contention that “never did a law meet with universal odium.”[3] One scholar has claimed that the measure was “perhaps the most widely hated act ever imposed by the Confederacy,” and another has added that in the wake of the measure, “the War of Southern independence was, in consequence, effectively lost.”[4]

“At first glance, the measure’s potential to undermine class solidarity appears irrefutable. Nevertheless the reality, as is often the case, is more complex. In the June 2017 issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era, I offered my own analysis. There I argue that the October 1862 law represented a response to legitimate concerns regarding slave unrest, especially in light of Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. And, I point out that scholars have too often adopted an overly simplistic view of the measure. Many authors have disregarded the changes to the law in 1863 and 1864, conflated criticism of abuse of the law with criticism of the law itself, and ignored the fact that few men took advantage of the exemption.[5]”

Read it all:

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