The Port Royal Experiment

The Port Royal Experiment: A Case Study in Development

Kevin Dougherty
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Port Royal Experiment
    Book Description:

    The Port Royal Experimentbuilds on classic scholarship to present not a historical narrative but a study of what is now called development and nation-building. The Port Royal Experiment was a joint governmental and private effort begun during the Civil War to transition former slaves to freedom and self-sufficiency. Port Royal Harbor and the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina were liberated by Union Troops in 1861. As the Federal advance began, the white plantation owners and residents fled, abandoning approximately 10,000 black slaves. Several private Northern charity organizations stepped in to help the former slaves become self-sufficient. Nonetheless, the Point Royal Experiment was only a mixed success and was contested by efforts to restore the status quo of white dominance. Return to home rule then undid much of what the experiment accomplished.

    While the concept of development is subject to a range of interpretations, in this context it means positive, continuously improving, and sustained change across a variety of human social conditions. Clearly such an effort was at the heart of the Port Royal Experiment. While the term "nation-building" may seem misplaced given that no "nation" was the beneficiary of these efforts, the requirement to build institutions critical to nation-building operations was certainly a large part of the Port Royal Experiment and offers many lessons for modern efforts at nation building.

    The Port Royal Experimentdivides into ten chapters, each of which is designed to treat a particular aspect of the experience. Topics include planning considerations, philanthropic society activity, civil society, economic development, political development, and resistance. Each chapter presents the case study in the context of more recent developmental and nation-building efforts in such places as Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan and incorporates recent scholarship in the field. Modern readers will see that the challenges that faced the Port Royal Experiment remain relevant, even as their solutions remain elusive.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-082-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-5)

    The seminal work on the Port Royal Experiment remains Willie Lee Rose’s 1964Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment.This present volume does not seek to compete with Rose’s classic. Rather, it hopes to build on Rose’s and other scholarship to present the Port Royal Experiment and the years immediately following it not as a historical narrative but as a case study of what is now called development and nation building. While the concept of development is subject to a variety of interpretations, in this context it is considered to be positive, continuously improving, and sustained change across a...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Setting the Stage for the Port Royal Experiment
    (pp. 6-19)

    The Sea Islands of South Carolina are a series of various-sized tidal and barrier islands cut by salt creeks and marshes, sounds, and rivers. Bounded by the Broad River to the west and the Coo-saw River to the north, Port Royal Island lies about fifty-five miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, and about thirty-five miles north of Savannah, Georgia. At the time of the Civil War, it contained the sleepy harbor of Port Royal and the town of Beaufort, the only community of any size in the area. About two thousand people lived in Beaufort year-round, but in the summer...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Planning Postcombat Operations
    (pp. 20-38)

    The developmental effort that followed the Federal victory at Port Royal was plagued by planning deficiencies that led to confusion and disjointed effort among its participants. Willie Lee Rose contends whatever the developers’ good intentions, their efforts “misfired, as often as not through lack of a coordinated plan conceived early enough to become an effective pattern of postwar reconstruction.”¹ Similar failures to plan subsequent phases to military operations, act quickly, and ensure unity of effort among participants continued to plague recent U.S. efforts in Iraq, Kosovo, and Somalia, and the Port Royal Experiment serves as a cautionary tale for those...

  6. CHAPTER THREE A Survey of Philanthropic Society Activity at Port Royal
    (pp. 39-53)

    Lacking a sufficient policy or plan for the Federal occupation of the Sea Islands and the subsequent flight of the white population and abandonment of their slaves, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase dispatched Boston attorney Edward Pierce to Port Royal to assess the situation. Pierce headed south on January 13, 1862, and upon arriving found Reverend Mansfield French was also on the scene conducting his own exploratory visit at the request of the American Missionary Association. Both men agreed on the wisdom of sending missionaries and teachers to assist in the development of the Sea Islands blacks and resolved...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Development’s Different Meanings to Developers and Stakeholders
    (pp. 54-68)

    Among the numerous definitions and connotations of the term development, one common theme is that development encompasses “change” in a variety of aspects of the human condition.¹ Robert Chambers notes that the preference is for “good change,” but because “any development agenda is value-laden,” interpretations of what “good change” is are also problematic.² As Ravi Kanbur observes, “Since [development] depend[s] on values and on alternative conceptions of the good life, there is no uniform or unique answer.”³ Lynnell Simonson and Virginia Bushaw point out that even a seemingly innocuous needs assessment is “by definition, a value judgment comparing the current...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Development of Civil Society
    (pp. 69-86)

    Modern-day nation builders describe civil society as occupying “the political space between the individual and the government.” It includes a variety of organizations and activities, all of which “contribute to a democratic society and nonviolent political transition from war to peace” by performing a multitude of functions. Civil society enables citizens to have an impact on government decisions without necessarily competing for political power or resorting to violence. It gives a voice to minority and other marginalized groups. It helps increase government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness.¹

    Developers have increasingly high expectations of civil society. In 1998, United Nations secretary general...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Refugees and Families
    (pp. 87-103)

    Violence in today’s world is marked less by interstate conflict and more by internal strife and civil war than it has been in the past. Therefore, although the words are often used almost interchangeably, there are now fewer refugees and more internally displaced persons (IDPs). Nonetheless, these IDPs are often exposed to the same difficult situations common to refugees who flee to neigh boring countries.¹ The Port Royal Experiment was beset both by IDPs created by the sudden collapse of the slaveocracy and refugees, many of whom came to the Sea Islands in the wake of Major General William Sherman’s...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Economic Development and Land Redistribution
    (pp. 104-121)

    The Port Royal Experiment pursued economic development in terms of the three fronts Edward Pierce, in his initial report to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, identified as “what could be done to reorganize the laborers, prepare them to become sober and self-supporting citizens, and secure the successful culture of a cotton-crop.”¹ Integral to Pierce’s objective to “reorganize the laborers” was the issue of land distribution. Efforts to produce “sober and self-supporting citizens” would proceed in accordance with the free-labor ideology. Finally, the prized Sea Island cotton, either as a source of revenue for a cash-strapped Lincoln administration, as a...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Political Development and Democratization
    (pp. 122-134)

    If the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz is correct in saying “war is the continuation of policy by other means,” the thoughtful and deliberate determination of that policy would seem to be central.¹ Instead, the Federal policy involving both the objective of the Civil War and the objective of Reconstruction evolved over time, with the latter appearing particularly underdeveloped. At first President Abraham Lincoln insisted on a limited war objective of restoring the Union. In an August 22, 1862, letter to newspaper editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln explained, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Spoiler Problems and Resistance
    (pp. 135-154)

    The Port Royal Experiment and the overall effort to transition former slaves on the South Carolina Sea Islands to freedom during and after the American Civil War illustrate the challenges to peace Stephen Stedman argues arise from “spoiler” position, number, and type as well as the locus of the spoiler problem.¹ Stedman defines spoilers as “leaders and parties who believe the peace emerging from negotiations threatens their power, worldview, and interests.”² He advises that “custodians of peace” must develop and implement effective strategies to manage spoilers. Edward Pierce, Rufus Saxton, and Oliver Howard, three of the chief custodians of the...

  13. CHAPTER TEN The Hand in the Bucket: Sequencing and Perseverance
    (pp. 155-166)

    Nation building is a complicated and complex subject that invites a variety of opinions and emotions. The controversy begins with the inherent value of the concept itself. On the one hand, David Tucker argues in his highly critical “Facing the Facts: The Failure of Nation Assistance,” that the very idea of nation assistance “is a bad one, and should be expunged from policy, doctrine, and practice.”¹ On the other, Paul Miller writes in “The Case for Nation-building: Why and How to Fix Failed States” that “nation–building is a necessary response to the danger of failed states that threaten regional...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 167-198)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-206)
  16. Index
    (pp. 207-211)