After Slavery: Educator Resources

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7. Planter-Attorney William Whaley Wants to Exclude Blacks from the Land Board

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Three: Land and Labor in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

In the following document Rufus Saxton's brother, Samuel—also for a time employed by the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina—expresses his frustration as it becomes increasingly clear that the land redistributed to freedpeople at Port Royal was going to be returned, for the most part, to the planters from whom it had been seized. William Whaley, the planter referred to here, was a prominent attorney from Charleston who also owned Frogmore Plantation on Edisto Island, between Charleston and Port Royal. Whaley's opposition to the changes wrought by emancipation continued well after this incident.

In 1869, Whaley successfully argued in Calhoun v. Calhoun before the South Carolina Supreme Court that debts contracted for the purchase of slaves still had to be paid, affirming the law's recognition of the legality of slavery up until the point when it had been abolished.

Planter-Attorney William Whaley Wants to Exclude Blacks from the Land Board

Tuesday, 21st Nov 1865... Whaley and some others are in [Charleston Freedmen's Bureau office] and discuss the restoration of Edisto, and other lands. Mr W declares very emphatically that he would rather his lands would sink to perdition than that a black man should compose one of the Board. In unguarded moments they frequently show their true colors, and show us who hear their professions how well fitted they are to take their place as citizens of the Republic, with rights equal with those who have always been loyal...

SourceS. Willard Saxton Journal, Rufus and S. Willard Saxton Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.


Questions to Consider

  1. How might it have come about that a decision has been made to allow black men to serve on the Land Board in South Carolina, and why might such a decision offend someone from William Whaley's background?

  2. How might a Freedmen's Bureau agent like Saxton regard President Johnson's eventual decision to restore lands to men like Whaley?

  3. How might Whaley's frank expression of his opinion on this matter (showing his 'true colors') influence the way Freedmen's Bureau officials dealt with his concerns?

  4. What problems might arise if the Bureau accedes to Whaley's demands and agrees to appoint an all-white Land Board?

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