"The (Fort) Monroe Doctrine," 1861

Description

In this political cartoon, a slave stands before Fort Monroe taunting his plantation master. The planter (right) waves his whip and cries, “Come back you black rascal.” The slave replies, “Can’t come back nohow massa Dis chile’s contraban.” In the background, other slaves are seen leaving the fields and heading toward the fort. This cartoon was a reflection of the actions of Benjamin Butler, commander of the Union army in Virginia and North Carolina. On May 27, 1861, less than two months into the war, Butler declared that slaves who fled to Union lines were legitimate “contraband of war,” and were not subject to return to their Confederate owners regardless of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The Lincoln administration approved Butler’s action and soon other fugitive slaves (often referred to as “contraband”) made their way to Fort Monroe, Butler’s headquarters in Virginia.

Source-Dependent Questions

  • This cartoon reflects of the actions of Benjamin Butler, commander of the Union army in Virginia and North Carolina. On May 27, 1861, Butler declared that slaves who fled to Union lines were legitimate “contraband of war,” and were not subject to return to their Confederate owners regardless of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. How did the artist visually illustrate the Fort Monroe Doctrine?
  • Use your background knowledge and the evidence contained within the image to explain what contraband in a time of war is.
  • Explain whether or not the Union’s handling of fugitive slaves in this image matched the pledges made by Abraham Lincoln regarding slavery in his first inaugural address delivered less than three months earlier.

Citation Information

“The (Fort) Monroe Doctrine,” 1861. Courtesy of Library of Congress

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