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In Their Own Words

February 17, 1865

Brown Against Arming of Slaves

Following the losses of Atlanta, Savannah, and Nashville, Confederate officials in Richmond seriously began to consider the need to arm slaves to serve on behalf of the Confederacy. The debate quickly spread to Georgia. On Feb. 9, Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin demanded enactment of a bill to arm the slaves. Eight days later, Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown spoke to a special session of the Georgia General Assembly, then meeting in Macon. Brown spoke against the proposition, arguing that black slaves would not fight for the South:

“We cannot expect them … to perform deeds of heroic valor when they are fighting to continue the enslavement of their wives and children… . It is said we should give them their freedom in case of their fidelity; … that we should give up slavery, as well as our personal liberty and State sovereignty, for independence… . If we are ready to give up slavery, I am satisfied we can make … a better trade.”

Source: Philip D. Dillard, “The Confederate Debate Over Arming Slaves: Views from Macon and Augusta Newspapers,” LXXIX Georgia Historical Quarterly (Spring 1995), p. 137.