With all the feelings of that discussion fresh in the public mind, it is no wonder that philanthropists, reading the accounts published by American authors of the horrors of slavery, should band themselves together for the purpose of urging America in a friendly tone to follow Great Britain's noble example, and to profit by any errors she had committed as to the method of carrying emancipation into effect. I am quite aware a slaveholder may reply, "This is all very good; but I must have a word with you, good gentlemen of England, as to sincerity. If you hold slavery so damnable a sin, why do you so greedily covet the fruits of the wages of that sin? The demand of your markets for slave produce enhances the value of the slave, and in so doing clenches another nail in the coffin, of his hopes." I confess I can give no reply, except the humiliating confession which, if the feeling of the nation is to be read in its Parliamentary acts, amounts to this—"We have removed slavery from our own soil, and we don't care a farthing if all the rest of the world are slaves, provided only we can get cheap cotton and sugar, &c. Mammon! Mammon! Mammon! is ever the presiding deity of the Anglo-Saxon race, whether in the Old or the New World.
There can be no doubt that the reception of Mrs. Beecher Stowe's work and person in England was very galling to many a Southerner, and naturally so; because it conveyed a tacit endorsement of all her assertions as to the horrors of the slavery system. When I first read Uncle Tom, I said, "This will rather tend to rivet than to loosen the fetters of the slave, rousing the indignation of all the South against her and her associates." Everything I have since seen, heard, and read, only tends to confirm my original impression. While I would readily give Mrs. Stowe a chaplet of laurel as a clever authoress, I could never award her a faded leaf as the negro's friend. There can be no doubt that Mrs. Beecher Stowe has had no small share in the abolition excitement which has been raging in the States, and which has made Kansas the battle-field of civil war; but the effect of this agitation has gone farther: owing to husting speeches and other occurrences, the negro's mind has been filled with visionary hopes of liberty; insurrections have been planned, and, worse still, insurrections have been imagined. In fear for life and property, torture worthy of the worst days of the Inquisition has been resorted to, to extort confession from those who had nothing to confess. Some died silent martyrs; others, in their agony, accused falsely the first negro whose name came to their memory; thus, injustice bred injustice, and it is estimated that not less than a thousand wretched victims have closed their lives in agony. One white man, who was found encouraging revolt, and therefore merited punishment of the severest kind, was sentenced, in that land of equality, to 900 lashes, and died under the infliction—a sight that would have gladdened the eyes of Bloody Jeffreys. And why all these horrors? I distinctly say,—thanks to the rabid Abolitionists.
Let me now for a moment touch upon the treatment of slaves. The farms of the wealthy planters, and the chapels with negro minister and negro congregation, bear bright evidence to the fact that negroes have their bodily and spiritual wants attended to, not forgetting also the oral teaching they often receive from the wife of the planter. But is that system universal? Those who would answer that question truthfully need not travel to the Southern States for documentary evidence. Is any human being fit to be trusted with absolute power over one of his fellow-creatures, however deeply his public reputation and his balance at the banker's may be benefited by the most moderate kindness to them? If every man were a Howard or a Wilberforce, and every woman a Fry or a Nightingale, the truth would be ever the same, and they would be the first to acknowledge it.—Man is unfit for irresponsible power.
Now the only bar before which the proprietor of slaves is likely to be arraigned, is the bar of public opinion; and the influence which that knowledge will have upon his conduct is exactly in the inverse ratio to its need; for the hardened brute, upon whom its influence is most wanted, is the very person who, if he can escape lynching, is indifferent to public opinion. No Southerner can be affronted, if I say that he is not more Christian, kind-hearted, and mild-tempered than his fellow-man in the Northern States, in France, or in England; and yet how constantly do we find citizens of those communities evincing unrestrained passions in the most brutal acts, and that with the knowledge that the law is hanging over their heads, and that their victims can give evidence against them; whereas, in the Slave States, provided the eye of a white man is excluded, there is scarce a limit to the torture which a savage monster may inflict upon the helpless slave, whose word cannot be received in evidence. It is as absurd to judge of the condition of the slave by visiting an amiable planter and his lady, as it would be to judge of the clothing, feeding, and comfort of our labouring population by calling at the town-house of the Duke of Well-to-do and carefully noting the worthy who fills an arm-chair like a sentry-box, and is yclept the porter. Look at him, with his hair powdered and fattened down to the head; behold him as the bell rings, using his arms as levers to force his rotundity out of its case; then observe the pedestals on which he endeavours to walk; one might imagine he had been tapped for the dropsy half-a-dozen times, and that all the water had run into the calves of his legs. Is that a type of the poorer classes?
Where, then, are we to look for true data on which to form an opinion of the treatment of the slave?—Simply by studying human nature and weighing human passions, and then inquiring by what laws they are held in check. Now, as to the laws, they amount to nothing, inasmuch as slave evidence is not admissible, and the possibility of any oppression, even to death itself, must frequently be, without any fear of punishment, in the hands of the owner. If law, then, affords the negro no efficient protection from human passions, where are we to look for it in human nature, except it be in the influences of Christianity, self-interest, or public opinion? The last of these, we have seen, is upon a sliding-scale of an inefficiency which increases in proportion to the necessity for its influence, and is therefore all but impotent for good.
Let us now consider self-interest. Will any one assert that self-interest is sufficient to restrain anger? How many a hasty word does man utter, or how many a hasty act does man commit, under the influence of passion he cannot or will not restrain—and that among his equals, who may be able to resent it, or in the face of law ready to avenge it! How prone are we all, if things go wrong from some fault of our own, to lose our temper and try to throw the blame on others, rather than admit the failure to be our own fault! Without dwelling upon the serious injury people often do to themselves by unrestrained passion, think for a moment of the treatment frequently inflicted upon the poor animals over whom they rule absolute. Is not kindness to a horse the interest as well as the duty of the owner? and yet how often is he the unfortunate victim of the owner's rage or cruel disposition, while faithfully and willingly expending all his powers in the service of his tyrant master! If these things be so among equals, or comparative equals, and also in man's dealings with the lower orders of the creation, what chance has the poor slave, with the arm of legislative justice paralysed, and an arm nerved with human passion his only hope of mercy?—for self-defence, that first law of nature, is the highest crime he can be guilty of: and, while considering the mercenary view of self-interest, let it not be forgotten that an awful amount of human suffering is quite compatible with unimpaired health, and that a slave may be frequently under the lash and yet fully able to do his day's work.
The last influence we have to consider is indeed the brightest and best of all—Christianity: high on the brotherly arch of man's duty to his fellow-man, and forming its enduring keystone, we read, traced by Jehovah in imperishable letters, radiant with love, "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you;" "Love thy neighbour as thyself." Surely it needs no words of mine to show, that a faithful history of the most Christian country in the most Christian times the world ever witnessed, would contain, fearful evidence of the cruelty of man setting at nought the above blessed precept. Nay, more—I question if, viewed in its entire fulness, there is any one single command in Scripture more habitually disregarded. Proverbs are generally supposed to be a condensation of facts or experiences. Whence comes "Every one for himself, and God for us all"? or, the more vulgar one, "Go ahead, and the d——l take the hindmost?" What are they but concentrations of the fact that selfishness is man's ruling passion? What are most laws made for, but to restrain men by human penalties from a broach of the law of love? and, if these laws be needful in communities, all the members of which are equal in the eyes of the law, and even then be found inefficient for their purpose, as may be daily witnessed in every country, who will say that the influence of Christianity is sufficient protection to the poor slave?
There is only one other influence that I shall mention—that is habit; it acts for and against the slave. Thus, the kind and good, brought up among slaves, very often nursed by them, and grown up in the continual presence of their gentleness and faithfulness, repay them with unmeasured kindness, and a sympathy in all their sickness and their sorrows, to a degree which I feel quite certain the most tender-hearted Christian breathing could never equal, if landed among slaves, for the first time, at years of maturity. The Christian planter's wife or daughter may be seen sitting up at night, cooking, nursing, tending an old sick and helpless slave, with nearly, if not quite, the same affectionate care she would bestow upon a sick relation, the very friendlessness of the negro stimulating the benevolent heart. This is, indeed, the bright side of the influence of habit.—But the other side is not less true; and there the effect is, that a coarse, brutal mind, trained up among those it can bully with impunity, acquires a heartlessness and indifference to the negro's wants and sufferings, that grow with the wretched possessor's growth. This is the dark side of the influence of habit.
Let two examples suffice, both of which I have upon the very best authority. A faithful slave, having grown up with his master's rising family, obtained his freedom as a reward for his fidelity, and was entrusted with the management of the property; realizing some money, he became the owner of slaves himself, from among whom he selected his wife, and to all of whom he showed the greatest consideration. Some time after, lying upon his deathbed, he made his will, in which he bequeathed his wife and all his other negroes to his old master, giving as his reason, that, from his own lively recollections of his master's unvarying kindness to himself and the other slaves, he felt certain that in so doing he was taking the best means in his power of securing their future happiness. What stronger evidence of the growth of kindness in the master's heart could possibly be desired? Here, then, is the effect of habit in a benevolent owner.—Now, turn to the opposite picture. A lady of New Orleans was accustomed to strip and flog a slave for the pleasure of witnessing sufferings which she endeavoured to render more acute by rubbing soft soap into the broken skin. Here you have the effect of habit upon a brutal mind.
To the credit of New Orleans be it recorded, that the knowledge of this atrocity having come to white ears, her house was broken open, every article it contained pulled out in the street and burnt, and, had she not succeeded in eluding search, the she-devil would have been most assuredly reduced to ashes with her own goods. America became too hot for her, and Providence alone knows the demon's cave of concealment.
Having thus passed in review the various influences bearing upon the treatment of the slave, and seen how utterly inadequate they are to protect him from ill-treatment, who can wonder that the tales of real or supposed cruelty inflicted upon slaves by the Southerners are received with indignation by both parties in the States?—the virtuous and kind master, indignant at the thought of being included in the category of monsters, and the real savage, if possible, still more indignant, because his conscience brings home to his seared heart the truthfulness of the picture, even if it be overdrawn almost to caricature. And here it is curious to observe the different action of these two parties: the former, in the consciousness of a kind heart and a real desire for the negro's good, calmly states what has been done and is doing for the negro, and throws a natural veil of doubt over horrors so utterly repulsive to the feelings that their existence is discredited; the latter, with a shallowness which Providence sometimes attaches to guilt, aware that some such accusations come too painfully and truthfully home, pronounce their own condemnation by their line of defence—recrimination.
Take, for example, the following extract from an article in a Slave State paper, entitled "A Sequel to Uncle Tom's Cabin," and in which Queen Victoria, under the guidance of a "genius," has the condition of her subjects laid bare before her. After various other paragraphs of a similar nature comes the following:—
"The sky was obscured by the smoke of hundreds of small chimneys and vast edifices, stretching in lines for miles and miles. The latter were crowded with women and children, young in years, but withered in form and feature. The countenances of the men were as colourless as the white fabric in their looms; their eyes sparkled with intelligence, but it was chiefly the intelligence of suffering, of privation, of keen sense of wrong, of inability to be better, of rankling hatred against existing institutions, and a furtive wish that some hideous calamity would bury them all in one common, undistinguishable ruin.
"'Are these the people? groaned the Queen, as the cold damp of more than mortal agony moistened her marble forehead.
"'Not all of them!" sounded the voice in her ear, so sharply that her Majesty looked up eagerly, and saw written, in letters of fire, on the palace wall:—
"'1. Every twelfth person in your dominions is a pauper, daily receiving parochial relief.
"'2. Every twentieth person in your dominions is a destitute wanderer, with no roof but the sky—no home but a prison. They are the Ishmaelites of modern society; every one's hand is against them, and their hands are against every one.
"'3. There are in Freeland 10,743,747 females; divide that number by 500,000, and you will find that every twentieth woman in your dominions is—Oh! horror piled on horror!—a harlot!'"
Then follows the scene of a disconsolate female throwing herself over a bridge, the whole winding up with this charming piece of information, addressed by the genius to her Majesty:—
"In your own land, liberty, the absence of which in another is deplored, is, in its most god-like development, but a name—unless that may be termed liberty which practically is but vulgar license—license to work from rosy morn to dark midnight for the most scanty pittances—license to store up wealth in the hands and for the benefit of the few—license to bellow lustily for rival politicians—license to send children to ragged schools—license to sot in the ale-house—license to grow lumpish and brutal—license to neglect the offices of religion, to swear, to lie, to blaspheme—license to steal, to pander unchecked to the coarsest appetites, to fawn and slaver over the little great ones of the earth—license to creep like a worm through life, or bound through it like a wild beast; and, last and most precious of all—for it is untaxed—license to starve, to rot, to die, and be buried in a foetid pauper's grave, on which the sweet-smelling flowers, sent to strew the pathway of man and woman with beauty, love, and hope, will refuse to grow, much less bloom."
Setting aside all exaggerations, who does not recognise in the foregoing quotations "the galled jade wincing"? Were the writer a kind owner of slaves, he might have replied to Uncle Tom's Cabin by facts of habitual kindness to them, sufficient to prove that the authoress had entered into the region of romance; but in his recrimination he unconsciously displays the cloven hoof, and leaves no doubt on the mind that he writes under the impulse of a bitterly-accusing monitor within. It would be wasting time to point out the difference between a system which binds millions of its people in bondage to their fellow-man, a master's sovereign will their only practical protection, and a system which not only makes all its subjects equal in the eye of the law, and free to seek their fortunes wherever they list, but which is for ever striving to mitigate the distress that is invariably attendant upon an overcrowded population. Even granting that his assertions were not only true, but that they were entirely produced by tyrannical enactments, what justification would England's sins be for America's crimes? Suppose the House of Commons and the Lords Temporal and Spiritual obtained the royal sanction to an act for kidnapping boys and grilling them daily for a table-d'hote in their respective legislative assemblies, would such an atrocity—or any worse atrocity, if such be possible—in any respect alter the question of right and wrong between master and slave? Let any charge of cruelty or injustice in England be advanced on its own simple grounds, and, wherever it comes from, it will find plenty of people, I am proud and happy to say, ready to inquire into it and to work hard for its removal; but when it comes in the shape of recrimination, who can fail to recognise an accusing conscience striving to throw the cloak of other people's sins over the abominations which that conscience is ever ringing in the writer's ears at home.
I must, however, state that, in speaking of the sufferings or injuries to which the slave is liable, I am not proclaiming them merely on the authority of Northern abolitionists, or on the deductions which I have drawn from human nature; many travellers have made similar charges. Miss Bremer writes:—"I beheld the old slave hunted to death because he dared to visit his wife—beheld him mangled, beaten, recaptured, fling himself into the water of the Black River, over which he was retaken into the power of his hard master—and the law was silent. I beheld a young woman struck, for a hasty word, upon the temples, so that she fell down dead!—and the law was silent. I heard the law, through its jury, adjudicate between a white man and a black, and sentence the latter to be flogged when the former was guilty—and they who were honest among the jurymen in vain opposed the verdict. I beheld here on the shores of the Mississippi, only a few months since, a young negro girl fly from the maltreatment of her master, and he was a professor of religion, and fling herself into the river."—Homes of the New World. Would Miss Bremer write these things for the press, as occurring under her own eye, if they were not true?
Then, again, the Press itself in the South bears witness to what every one must admit to be an inhuman practice. How often must the reader of a Southern States' paper see children of the tenderest age, sometimes even under a year old, advertised for public sale! Did any one every take up the New Orleans paper without seeing more than one such advertisement as the following?—
150 NEGROES FOE SALE.
Just arrived, and for sale, at my old stand, No. 7, Moreau-street, Third Municipality, one hundred and fifty young and likely NEGROES, consisting of field-hands, house servants, and mechanics. They will be sold on reasonable terms for good paper or cash. Persons wishing to purchase will find it to their advantage to give me a call. [Sep. 30—6m.] Wm. F. TALBOTT.
What happiness can the slave enjoy among a community where such an advertisement as the following can be tolerated, or, worse still, when, as in the present instance, it is sent forth under the sanction of the law? The advertisement is taken from a paper published at Wilmington, North Carolina.
$225 REWARD.—STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, NEW HANOVER COUNTY.—Whereas, complaint upon, oath hath this day been made to us, two of the Justices of the Peace for the State and County aforesaid, by BENJAMIN HALLET, of the said county, that two certain male slaves belonging to him, named LOTT, aged about twenty-two years, five feet four or five inches high, and black, formerly belonging to LOTT WILLIAMS, of Onslow county; and BOB, aged about sixteen years, five feet high, and black; have absented themselves from their said master's service, and are supposed to be lurking about this county, committing acts of felony and other misdeeds. These are, therefore, in the name of the State aforesaid, to command the slaves forthwith to return home to their masters; and we do hereby, by virtue of the Act of the General Assembly in such cases made and provided, intimate and declare that if the said LOTT and BOB do not return home and surrender themselves, immediately after the publication of these presents, that ANY PERSON MAY KILL AND DESTROY THE SAID SLAVES, by such means as he or they may think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime or offence for so doing, and without incurring any penalty or forfeiture thereby.
Given under our hands and seals, this 28th day of February, 1853.
W.N. PEDEN, J.P., [Seal]
W.C. BETTENCOURT, J.P., [Seal.]
$225 REWARD.—TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS will be given for negro LOTT, EITHER DEAD OR ALIVE; and TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS FOR BOB'S HEAD, delivered to the subscriber in the town of Wilmington.
March 2nd, 1853.
There is another evidence of a want of happiness among the slaves, which, though silent and unheard, challenges contradiction: I mean the annual escape of from one to two thousand into Canada, in spite not only of the natural difficulties and privations of the journey, but also of the fearful dread of the consequences of re-capture. Doubtless some of these may be fleeing from the dread of just punishment for offences against the law, but none can doubt that many more are endeavouring to escape from what they feel to be cruelty, injustice, and oppression.
I do not wish to pander to a morbid appetite for horrors by gathering together under one view all the various tales of woe and misery which I have heard of, known, or seen. I think I have said enough to prove to any unprejudiced person that such things do and must ever exist under the institution of slavery; and that, although the statements of rabid abolitionists are often the most unwarranted exaggerations, the all but total denial of their occurrence by the slave-owners is also not correct. The conviction forced upon my own mind, after much thought and inquiry on this most interesting topic is, that there are many dark clouds of cruelty in a sky which is bright with much of the truest and kindest sympathy for the poor slave.
I now propose to take a short review of the progress and real state of slavery, and I will commence by giving in extenso an enactment which materially affects the negro, and, as I have before observed, has more than once threatened the Republic with disunion:—
Section 2.—Privileges of Citizens.—Clause 3. "No person held to service or labour in one state under the laws thereof, escaping to another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due."
Of course the word "slave" would have read strangely among a community who set themselves up as the champions of the "equal rights of man;" but it is clear that, according to this clause in the constitution which binds the Republic together, every free state is compelled to assist in the recapture of a fugitive slave.
What was the exact number of slaves at the date of this law being passed I have not the means of ascertaining: at the beginning of this century it was under 900,000; in the Census of 1850 they had increased to 3,200,000.[BT] There were originally 13 States. At present there are 31, besides territory not yet incorporated into States. The Slave States are 15, or nearly half. Thus much for increase of slaves and the slave soil. But, it will naturally be asked, how did it happen that, as the additional soil was incorporated, the sable workmen appeared as if by magic? The answer is very simple. The demand regulated the supply, and slave breeding became a most important feature in the system: thus the wants of the more southern States became regularly lessened by large drafts from Maryland, Kentucky, and Virginia. Anybody desirous of testing the truth of this statement will find statistical data to assist him in an unpretending volume by Marshall Hall, M.D., &c., On Twofold Slavery, which I read with much interest, although I cannot agree with him in everything.[BV]
I am aware that residents in these breeding States are to be found who would scorn to utter a wilful falsehood, and who deny this propagation of the human chattel for the flesh market; but there can be little doubt that the unbiased seeker after truth will find that such is the case. And why not? Why should those who make their livelihood by trafficking in the flesh of their fellow-creatures hesitate to increase their profits by paying attention to the breeding of them? These facts do not come under the general traveller's eye, because, armed with letters of introduction, he consorts more with worthy slave-owners, who, occupied with the welfare of those around and dependent upon them, know little of the world beyond; in the same way as in England, a Christian family may be an example of patriarchal simplicity and of apostolic zeal and love, and yet beyond the circle of their action, though not very far from its circumference, the greatest distress and perhaps cruelty may abound. How many of the dark spots on our community has the single zeal of the Earl of Shaftesbury forced upon the public mind, of which we were utterly ignorant, though living in the midst of them. The degraded female drudge in a coal-pit, the agonized infant in a chimney, and the death-wrought child in a factory—each and all bear testimony to how much of suffering may exist while surrounded by those whose lives are spent in Christian charity. And so it is in every community, Slave States included. Christian hearts, pregnant with zeal and love, are diffusing blessings around them; and, occupied with their noble work, they know little of the dark places that hang on their borders. The Southern planter and his lady may be filled with the love of St. John, and radiate the beams thereof on every man, woman, and child under their guardianship, and then, "measuring other people's corn by their own lovely bushel," they may well hesitate to believe in the existence of a profligate breeding Pandemonium within the precincts of their immediate country. Yet, alas! there can be little doubt that it does exist.
Let us now fix our attention on the actual facts of the case which all parties admit. First, we have a slave population of 3,200,000. I think, if I estimate their marketable value at 80l a head, I shall be considerably below the truth. That gives us in human flesh, 250,000,000l. Secondly, let us take the product of their labour. The Slave States raise annually—
Rice 215,000,000 lbs. Tobacco 185,000,000 " Sugar 248,000,000 " Cotton 1,000,000,000 " Molasses 12,000,000 gallons. Indian Corn. 368,000,000 bushels.
Estimating these at a lower value than they have ever fallen to, you have here represented 80,000,000l. sterling of annual produce from the muscle and sinew of the slave.[BW] Surely the wildest enthusiast, did he but ponder over these facts, could not fail to pause ere he mounted the breach, shouting the rabid war-cry of abolition, which involves a capital of 250,000,000l, and an annual produce of 80,000,000l.
The misery which an instantaneous deliverance of the slave would cause by the all but certain loss of the greater portion of the products above enumerated, must be apparent to the least reflecting mind. If any such schemer exist, he would do well to study the history of our West India islands from the period of their sudden emancipation, especially since free-trade admitted slave produce on equal terms with the produce of free labour. Complaints of utter ruin are loud and constant from the proprietors in nearly every island; they state, and state with truth, that it is impossible for free labour at a high price, and which can only be got perhaps for six hours a day, to compete with the steady slave work of twelve hours a day; and they show that slaveholding communities have materially increased their products, which can only have been effected by a further taxing of the slave's powers, or a vast increase of fresh human material.[BX] But they further complain that the negro himself is sadly retrograding. "They attend less to the instruction of their religious teachers; they pay less attention to the education of their children; vice and immorality are on the increase," &c.—Petition to the Imperial Parliament from St. George's, Jamaica, July, 1852.
I might multiply such statements from nearly every island, and quote the authority of even some of their governors to the same effect; but the above are sufficient for my purpose. They prove three most important facts for consideration, when treating the question of Slavery. First, that you may ruin the planter. Secondly, that you may free—without benefiting—the slave. Thirdly, that each State, as it becomes free, tends to give additional value to the property of those States which choose to hold on to slavery; and all these results may occur despite the wisdom (?) of senators, and an indemnity of 20,000,000l.
Surely, then, the Southern planter may well assert that he sees not sufficient inducement to follow our hasty wholesale example. But while such convictions are forced upon him, he will be a degenerate son of energetic sires, if he be so scared at our ill-success as to fear to look for some better path to the same noble object; and there is one most important consideration which should impel him, while avoiding all rash haste, to brook no dangerous delay; that consideration is, that the difficulty of dealing with the question is increasing with fearful rapidity, for the slave population has nearly quadrupled itself since the beginning of the century. The capital involved is, we have seen, gigantic; but the question of numbers is by far the most perplexing to deal with, in a social point of view. The white population of the Slave States is, in rough numbers, 6,000,000; the slave population is more than 3,000,000, and the free blacks 250,000. Does any sane man believe that, if slavery had existed in Great Britain, and that the slaves had constituted one-third of the population, we should have attempted to remove the black bar from our escutcheon, by the same rapid and summary process which we adopted to free the negro in our colonies?
An American writer on Slavery has said, and I think most justly, "that two distinct races of people, nearly equal in numbers, and unlike in colour, manners, habits, feelings and state of civilization to such a degree that amalgamation is impossible, cannot dwell together in the same community unless the one be in subjection to the other." So fully am I convinced of the truth of this statement, and so certain am I that every one who has been in a Slave State must be satisfied of the truth of it, that I feel sure, if the South freed every slave to-morrow, not a week would elapse before each State in the Union without exception would pass stringent laws to prevent them settling within their borders; even at this moment such a law exists in some States.
With all these difficulties constantly before them, who can wonder that a kind-hearted planter, while gazing on the cheerful and happy faces of his well-fed and well-housed slaves, should look distrustfully at emancipation, and strive to justify to his conscience opposition to any plan, however gradual, which leads thereto. Nevertheless, however satisfied in his mind that the slaves are kindly treated, and that harshness even is never used, he cannot contemplate the institution from a sufficient distance to be beyond its influences, without feeling that emancipation is the goal towards which his thoughts should ever bend, and that in proportion as the steps towards it must be gradual, so should they speedily commence. But how? Washington, while confessing his most earnest desire for abolition, declares his conviction that "it can only be effected by legislative authority."
The next chapter will detail such propositions as, in my humble opinion, appear most worthy of the consideration of the Legislature, with a view to the gradual removal of the black star from the striped banner.
[Footnote BT: List of States and Territories forming the Confederation. Those marked S. are Slave-holding States.
New Hampshire Massachusetts Rhode Island Connecticut New York New Jersey[BU] Pennsylvania S. Delaware S. Maryland S. Virginia S. North Carolina S. South Carolina S. Georgia
Vermont 1791 S. Kentucky 1792 S. Tennessee 1796 Ohio 1802 S. Louisiana 1812 Indiana 1816 S. Mississippi 1817 Illinois 1818 S. Alabama 1819 Maine 1820 S. Missouri 1821 S. Arkansas 1836 Michigan 1837 S. Florida 1845 S. Texas 1845 Iowa 1846 Wisconsin 1848 California 1850
S. Columbia 1791
Oregon 1848 Minnesota 1849 S. Kansas 1855 S. Utah 1850 New Mexico 1850 Nebraska 1853]
[Footnote BU: I believe the last slave has been removed from New Jersey.—H.A.M.]
[Footnote BV: Between 1810 and 1850 the slave population in Virginia has only increased from 392,000 to 470,000, while in Tennessee it has increased from 44,000 to 240,000; and in Louisiana, from 35,000 to 240,000.]
[Footnote BW: I take no notice of the various other valuable productions of these States: they may fairly represent the produce of the white man's labour.]
[Footnote BX: Vide ch. xii., "The Queen of the Antilles."]
Hints for Master—Hopes for Slave.
I will now suggest certain proposals,[BY] in the hope that while they can do no harm, they may by chance lead to some good result. The first proposal is a very old one, and only made by me now, because I consider it of primary importance—I mean a "Free-Soil" bill. I advocate it upon two distinct grounds—the one affecting the Republic, the other the slave. The Republic sanctions and carries on the slave-trade by introducing the institution into land hitherto free, and the slave throughout the Union has his fetters tightened by the enhancement of his value; but the great Channing has so fully and ably argued the truth of these evils, when treating of the annexation of Texas, that none but the wilfully blind can fail to be convinced; in short, if Slavery is to be introduced into land hitherto free, it is perhaps questionable if it be not better to send for the ill-used and degraded slave from Africa, and leave the more elevated slave in his comparatively happy home in the Old Slave States; the plea may be used for bettering the condition of the former, but that plea cannot be used for the latter.
The next proposal is one which, if it came from the South, would, I suppose, have the support of all the kind masters in those States, and most assuredly would find no opposition in the North,—I mean the expulsion from the Constitution of that law by which fugitive slaves are forced to be given up. If the proposal came from the North, it would naturally excite ill-feeling in the South, after all the angry passions which abolition crusading has set in action; but the South might easily propose it: and when we see the accounts of the affectionate attachment of the slaves to their masters, and of the kindness with which they are treated, in proportion, as such statements are correct, so will it follow as a consequence, that none but those who are driven to it by cruelty will wish to leave their snug homes and families, to seek for peace in the chilly winters of the North. And surely the slaves who are victims of cruelty, every kind-hearted slave-master would rejoice to see escaping; it would only be the compulsory giving up of fugitives, except for criminal offences, which would be expunged; each individual State would be able, if desirous, to enter into any mutual arrangement with any other State, according to their respective necessities. This proposal has two advantages: one, that it removes a bone of bitter contention ever ready to be thrown down between the North and the South; and the other, that it opens a small loophole for the oppressed to escape from the oppressor.
The next proposal I have to make, is one which, as every year makes it more difficult, merits immediate attention,—and that is, the providing a territory of refuge. No one for a moment can doubt that the foundation of Liberia was an act of truly philanthropic intent, reflecting credit upon all parties concerned in it; but it must, I fear, be acknowledged that it is totally unequal to the object in view. No further evidence of this need he adduced, than the simple fact, that, for every negro sent to Liberia, nearer twenty than ten are born in the States. Dame Partington's effort to sweep back the incoming tide with a hair-broom promised better hopes of success; a brigade of energetic firemen would drain off Lake Superior in a much shorter space of time than Liberian colonization would remove one-third of the slave population. The scheme is in the right direction, but as insufficient to overcome the difficulty as a popgun is to breach a fortified city; the only method of effectually enabling the system of colonization to be carried out, is—in my humble opinion—by setting apart some portion of the unoccupied territory of the Union as a negro colony. In making the selection, a suitable climate should be considered, in justice to the health of the negro, as it is clear, from the fate of those who fly from persecution to Canada, that they are unable to resist cold; and proximity to the ocean is desirable, as affording a cheap conveyance for those who become manumitted: the expense of a passage to Liberia is one great obstacle to its utility.
The quantity of land required for such a purpose would be very small; and stringent regulations as to the negro leaving the territory so granted, would effectually prevent any inconvenience to the neighbouring States. I have before shown that the comparative number of whites and blacks—whites 6,000,000, and blacks 3,000,000—renders it all but, if not quite, impossible for the two races to live together free. I have also shown that the Northern States either refuse to admit them, or pass such laws respecting them, that slavery under a good master is a paradise by comparison. I have further shown that Liberia is, from its distance, so expensive for their removal, as to be of but little assistance, and Canada too often proves an early grave. If, then, these difficulties present themselves with a population of 3,000,000 slaves, and if they are increasing their numbers rapidly—which statistics fully prove to be the case—it is clear that these difficulties must augment in a corresponding ratio, until at last they will become insurmountable. I therefore come to the conclusion, either that territory must be set apart in America itself for the negro's home, or that the black bar of slavery must deface the escutcheon of the Republic for ever.
I now propose to make a few remarks on the treatment of slaves. As to the nature of that treatment, I have already given my calm and unbiased opinion. My present observations refer to corporal punishment, and the implements for the infliction thereof. Of the latter I have seen four; of course there may be many others; I speak only of those that have come under my own eye. The four I have seen are first, the common hunting-whip, which is too well known to require description. Secondly, the cowhide—its name expresses its substance—when wet, it is rolled up tightly and allowed to dry, by which process it becomes as hard as the raw hide commonly seen in this country; its shape is that of a racing-whip, and its length from four to five feet. Thirdly, the strap, i.e., a piece off the end of a stiff heavy horse's trace, and about three or three-and-a-half feet in length. Fourthly, the paddle; i.e., a piece of white oak about an inch thick all through, the handle about two inches broad, and rather more than two feet long, the blade about nine inches long by four and a quarter broad. The two latter implements I found, upon inquiry, were of modern date, and the reason of their introduction was, that the marks of the punishment inflicted thereby became more speedily effaced; and as upon the sale of a slave, if, when examined, marks of punishment are clearly developed, his price suffers from the impression of his being obstreperous, the above-named articles of punishment came into favour.
The foregoing observations—without entering into the respective merits of the four instruments—are sufficient to prove that no one definite implement for corporal punishment is established by law, and, consequently, that any enactment appointing a limit to the number of stripes which may he given is an absurdity, however well intended. Forty stripes, is, I believe, the authorized number. A certain number of blows, if given with a dog-whip, would inflict no injury beyond the momentary pain, whereas the same number inflicted with a heavy walking-stick might lame a man for life. Again, I know of no law in the States prohibiting the corporal punishment of any slave, of whatever age or sex; at all events, grown-up girls and mothers of families are doomed to have their persons exposed to receive its infliction. Of this latter fact, I am positive, though I cannot say whether the practice is general or of rare occurrence.
I have entered rather fully into a description of the implements of punishment, to show the grounds upon which I make the following proposals:—First, that a proper instrument for flogging be authorized by law, and that the employment of any other be severely punished. Secondly, that the number of lashes a master may inflict, or order to be inflicted, be reduced to a minimum, and that while a greater number of lashes are permitted for grave offences, they be only administered on the authority of a jury or a given number of magistrates. Thirdly, that common decency be no longer outraged by any girl above fifteen receiving corporal punishment.[BZ] Fourthly, that by State enactment—as it now sometimes is by municipal regulation—no master in any town be permitted to inflict corporal punishment on a slave above fifteen; those who have passed that age to be sent to the jail, or some authorized place, to receive their punishment, a faithful record whereof, including slave and owner's names, to be kept. My reasons for this proposal are, that a man will frequently punish on the spur of the moment, when a little reflection would subdue his anger, and save the culprit. Also, that it is my firm conviction that a great portion of the cruelty of which slaves are the victims, is caused by half-educated owners of one or two slaves, who are chiefly to be found in towns, and upon whom such a law might operate as a wholesome check. Such a law would doubtless be good in all cases, but the distances of plantations from towns would render it impossible to be carried out; and I am sorry to say, I have no suggestion to make by which the slaves on plantations might be protected, in those cases where the absence of the owners leaves them entirely at the mercy of the driver, which I believe the cause of by far the greatest amount of suffering they endure, though I trust many drivers are just and merciful. Fifthly, that the law by which negroes can hold slaves should immediately be abolished. The white man holding a slave is bad enough, but nothing can justify the toleration of the negro holding his own flesh and blood in fetters, especially when the door of Education is hermetically sealed against him.
In addition to the foregoing suggestions for the regulation of punishment, I would propose that any master proved guilty of inflicting or tolerating gross cruelty upon a slave, should forfeit every slave he may possess to the State, and be rendered incapable of again holding them, and that copies of such decisions be sent to each county in the State. In connexion with this subject, there is another point of considerable importance—viz., the testimony of slaves. As matters now stand, or are likely to stand for some time to come, there appear insuperable objections to the testimony of a slave being received on a par with that of a white man, and this constitutes one of the greatest difficulties in enabling the negro to obtain justice for any injury he may have sustained. It appears to me, however, that a considerable portion of this difficulty might he removed by admitting a certain number of slaves—say three—to constitute one witness. Cross-examination would easily detect either combination or falsehood, and a severe punishment attached to such an offence would act as a powerful antidote to its commission. Until some system is arranged for receiving negro evidence in some shape, he must continue the hopeless victim of frequent injustice.
The next subject I propose to consider is a legalized system, having for its object the freedom of the slave. To accomplish this, I would suggest that the State should fix a fair scale of prices, at which the slave might purchase his freedom, one price for males and another for females under twenty, and a similar arrangement of price between the ages of twenty and fifty, after which age the slave to be free, and receive some fixed assistance, either from the State or the master, as might be thought most just and expedient. To enable the slave to take advantage of the privilege of purchasing his freedom, it would be requisite that the State should have banks appointed in which he might deposit his savings at fair interest; but to enable him to have something to deposit, it is also requisite that some law should be passed compelling owners to allow a slave certain portions of time to work out for himself, or if preferred, to work for the master, receiving the ordinary wages for the time so employed, and this, of course, in addition to the Sunday. As, however, among so many masters, some will be cruel and do their utmost to negative any merciful laws which the State may enact, I would for the protection of the slave propose that, if he feel discontented with the treatment of his master, he be allowed to claim the right of being publicly sold, upon giving a certain number of days' warning of such desire on his part; or if he can find any slave-owner who will give the price fixed by law—as before suggested—and is willing to take him, his master to be bound to deliver him up. With regard to the sale of slaves, I think humanity will justify me in proposing that no slave under fifteen years of ago be sold or transferred to another owner without the parents also; and secondly, that husband and wife be never sold or transferred separately, except it be by their own consent. However rarely such separations may take place at present, there is no law to prevent the cruel act, and I have every reason to believe it takes place much oftener than many of my kind-hearted plantation friends would he ready to admit.
Looking forward to the gradual, but ultimately total abolition of slavery, I would next suggest that, after a certain date—say ten years—every slave, upon reaching thirty years of age, be apprenticed by his master to some trade or occupation for five years, at the expiration of which time he be free; after another fixed period—say ten years—all slaves above twenty years of age be similarly treated; and after a third period, I would propose that the United States should follow the noble example long since set them by Peru, and make it an integral part of their constitution that "no one is born a slave in the Republic."
The next proposal I have to make is one which I cannot but hope that all Americans will fell the propriety of, inasmuch as the present system is, in my estimation, one of the blackest features of the institution we are considering. I allude to the slavery of Americans themselves. In nearly every civilized nation in the world, blood is considered to run in the father's line, and although illegitimacy forfeits inheritance, it never forfeits citizenship. How is it in the United States? There the white man's offspring is to be seen in fetters—the blood of the free in the market of the slave. No one can have travelled in the Southern States without having this sad fact forced upon his observation. Over and over again have I seen features, dark if you will, but which showed unmistakeably the white man's share in their parentage. Nay, more—I have seen slaves that in Europe would pass for German blondes. Can anything be imagined more horrible than a free nation trafficking in the blood of its co-citizens? Is it not a diabolical premium on iniquity, that the fruit of sin can be sold for the benefit of the sinner? Though the bare idea may well nauseate the kind and benevolent among the Southerners, the proof of parentage is stamped by Providence on the features of the victims, and their slavery is incontrovertible evidence that the offspring of Columbia's sons may be sold at human shambles. Even in Mussulman law, the offspring of the slave girl by her master is declared free; and shall it be said that the followers of Christ are, in any point of mercy, behind the followers of the false prophet? My proposition, then, is, that every slave who is not of pure African blood, and who has reached, or shall reach, the age of thirty, be apprenticed to some trade for five years, and then become free; and that all who shall subsequently be so born, be free from their birth, and of course, that the mother who is proved thus to have been the victim of the white man's passion be manumitted as well as her child.
I make no proposal about the spiritual instruction of the slave, as I believe that as much is given at present as any legislative enactment would be likely to procure; but I have one more suggestion to make, and it is one without which I fear any number of acts which might be passed for the benefit of the slave would lose the greater portion of their value. That suggestion is, the appointment of a sufficient number of officers, selected from persons known to be friendly to the slave, to whom the duty of seeing the enactments strictly carried out should be delegated.
While ruminating on the foregoing pages, a kind of vision passed before my mind. I beheld a deputation of Republicans—among whom was one lady—approaching me. Having stated that they had read my remarks upon Slavery, I immediately became impressed in their favour, and could not refuse the audience they requested. I soon found the deputation consisted of people of totally different views, and consequently each addressed me separately.
The first was an old gentleman, and a determined advocate of the institution. He said, "Your remarks are all bosh; the African race were born slaves, and have been so for centuries, and are fit for nothing else."—I replied, "I am quite aware of the effect of breeding; we have a race of dog in England which, from their progenitors of many successive generations having had their tails cut off in puppyhood, now breed their species without tails; nay, more—what are all our sporting dogs, but evidence of the same fact? A pointer puppy stands instinctively at game, and a young hound will run a fox; take the trouble, for many generations, to teach the hound to point and the pointer to run, and their two instincts will become entirely changed. The fact, sir, is that the African having been bred a slave for so many generations is one great cause of his lower order of intellect; breed him free and educate him, and you will find the same result in him as in the dog."—He was about to reply when another of the deputation rose and reminded him they had agreed to make but one observation each, and to receive one answer. I rejoiced at this arrangement, as it saved me trouble and gave me the last word.
A very touchy little slaveholder next addressed me, saying, "Pray, sir, why can't you leave us alone, and mind your own business?"—I replied, "As for leaving you alone, I am quite ready to do so when you have left the negro alone; but as for exclusively attending to my own business, that would be far too dull; besides, it is human nature to interfere with other people's affairs, and I can't go against nature."—He retired, biting his lip, and as the door closed, I thought I heard the words "Meddling ass!"—but I wont be sure.
Next came a swaggering bully of a slave-driver, evidently bred in the North. He said, "This, sir, is a free country; why mayn't every master wallop his own nigger?"—I thought it best to cut him short; so I said, "Because, if freedom is perfect, such a permission would involve its opposite—viz., that every nigger may wallop his own master; and your antecedents, I guess, might make such a law peculiarly objectionable to you personally."—He retired, eyeing first me and then his cowhide in a very significant manner.
The next spokesman was a clerical slaveholder, with a very stiff and very white neckcloth, hair straight and long, and a sanctified, reproof-ful voice. "Sir," said he, "why endeavour to disturb an institution that Scripture sanctions, and which provides so large a field for the ministrations of kindness and sympathy—two of the most tender Christian virtues?" A crocodile tear dropped like a full stop to finish his sentence. Irascibility and astonishment were struggling within me, when I heard his speech; but memory brought St. Paul to my aid, who reminded me he had before written certain words to the Corinthian Church—"Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light; therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed," &e. Thereupon I became calmer, and replied, "Sir, you are perfectly aware that our Saviour's mission was to the heart of man, and not to the institutions of man. Did He not instruct his subjugated countrymen to pay tribute to Caesar? and did He not set the example in his own person? Did He not instruct his disciples in the same breath, 'Fear God! honour the king?'—and is it not elsewhere written, 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil?' You are also perfectly aware that the American colonies refused to pay tribute to their Caesar, refused to honour their king, and did resist the evil. Now, sir, these things being so, you are compelled to admit one of two alternatives—either the whole of your countrymen are rebels against the Most High, and therefore aliens from God, or else, as I before said, the mission of the Gospel is to the hearts and not to the institutions of man. I see, sir, by the way you winced under the term 'rebel,' that you accept the latter alternative. If, then, it be addressed to the heart of man, it is through that channel—as it becomes enlarged by those virtues of which you spoke, kindness and sympathy—that human institutions are to become modified to suit the growing intelligence and growing wants of the human race, the golden rule for man's guidance being, Do as you would be done by. Be kind enough, sir, to look at Mr. Sambo Caesar working under the lash in a Carolina rice swamp; behold Mrs. Sambo Caesar torn from his bosom, and working under the same coercive banner in Maryland; and little Master Pompey, the only pledge of their affections, on his way to Texas. Is not this a beautiful comment on the Divine command, 'Love thy neighbour as thyself?' Permit me, sir, with all due respect, to urge you not to rest satisfied with preaching Christian resignation to the slave, and Christian kindness to the owner, but to seize every opportunity of fearlessly asserting that slavery is at variance with the spirit of the Gospel, and therefore that it behoves all Christians so to modify and change the laws respecting it, as gradually to lead to its total extinction. Good morning."—The reverend gentleman, who during the latter part of my observations had buried his hands in the bottom of his tail pockets, no sooner saw that I had finished my remarks, than he hastily withdrew his hands, exhibiting in one a Testament, in the other a Concordance; he evidently was rampant for controversy, but the next deputy, who thought I had already devoted an unfair proportion of time to the minister, reminded him of the regulations, and he was obliged to retire, another deputy opening the door for him, as both his hands were full.
The deputy who next rose to address me was accompanied by the lady, whom, of course, I begged to be seated. The husband—for such he proved to be—then spoke as follows:—"Sir, my wife and I have been in possession of a plantation for nearly twenty years. During all that period the rod has scarcely ever been used, except occasionally to some turbulent little boy. We have built cottages for our slaves; we allow them to breed poultry, which we purchase from them; old slaves are carefully nurtured and exempt from labour; the sick have the best of medical attendance, and are in many cases ministered to by my wife and daughter; the practical truths of Christianity are regularly taught to them; and every slave, I am sure, looks upon me and my family as his truest friends. This happy state, this patriarchal relationship, your proposals, if carried out, would completely overthrow." He was then silent, and his wife bowed an assent to the observations he had made. My heart was touched with the picture of the little negro paradise which he had given, and I replied, as mildly as possible, "The sketch you have so admirably drawn, and every word of which I fully believe, is indeed one which might dispose me to abandon my proposals for change, did any one which I had made interfere with the continuance of your benevolent rule, as long as slavery exists; but I must call your attention to an important fact which you, I fear, have quite overlooked during your twenty years of kind rule. To be brief—the cheerful homes of your happy negro families can afford no possible consolation to the less fortunate negroes whose wives and children are torn from their bosoms and sold in separate lots to different parts of the Union; nor will the knowledge that on your plantation the rod only falls occasionally on some turbulent child, be any comfort to grown-up negroes and negresses while writhing under thirty or forty stripes from the cowhide or paddle. Continue, most excellent people, your present merciful rule; strive to secure to every negro the same treatment; and if you find that impossible, join the honourable ranks of the temperate and gradual abolitionist and colonizer." They listened patiently to my observations, smiled quietly at the vanity which they thought the last sentence exhibited, and retired.
Scarce had the last charming couple disappeared, when a deputy arose, the antipodes of the last speaker; his manner was so arrogant, I instantly suspected his ignorance, and his observations showed such painful sensitiveness, that they were evidently the production of an accusing conscience. His parentage I could not ascertain accurately; but, being a slight judge of horseflesh, I should suspect he was by "Slave-bully" out of "Kantankerousina,"—a breed by no means rare in America, but thought very little of by the knowing ones. On referring to the list, I found he was entered as "Recriminator," and that the rest of the deputation had refused to give him a warranty. He sprang up with angry activity; he placed his left hand on his breast, the right hand he extended with cataleptic rigidity, and with an expression of countenance which I can only compare to that of an injured female of spotless virtue, he began, "You, sir—yes, I say, you, sir—you presume to speak of the slave—you, sir, who come from a nation of slaves, whose rampant aristocrats feed on the blood of their serfs, where title is another word for villany, and treads honesty beneath its iron heel! You, sir, you offer suggestions for the benefit of a country whose prosperity excites your jealousy, and whose institutions arouse mingled feelings of hatred and fear! Go home, sir—go home! no more of your canting hypocrisy about the lusty negro! go home, sir, I say! enrich your own poor, clothe your naked, and feed your own starving—the negro here is better off than most of them! Imitate the example of this free and enlightened nation, where every citizen is an independent sovereign; send your royalty and, aristocracy to all mighty smash, raise the cap of Liberty on the lofty pole of Democracy, and let the sinews of men obtain their just triumphs over the flimsy rubbish of intellect and capital! Tyranny alone makes differences. All men are equal!"—He concluded his harangue just in time to save a fit, for it was given with all the fuss and fury of a penny theatre King Richard; in fact, I felt at one time strongly inclined to call for "a horse," but, having accepted the deputation, I was bound to treat its members with courtesy; so I replied, "Sir, your elegantly expressed opinions of royalty, &c., require nothing but ordinary knowledge to show their absurdity, so I will not detain you by dwelling on that subject; but, sir, you studiously avoid alluding to the condition of the slave, and, by seeking for a fault elsewhere, endeavour to throw a cloak over the subject of this meeting. You tell me the poor in England need much clothing and food—that is very true; but, sir, if every pauper had a fur cloak and a round of beef, I cannot see the advantage the negro would derive therefrom. Again, sir, you say the negro is better off than many of our poor; so he is far better off than many of the drunken rowdies of your own large towns; yet I have never heard it suggested that they should be transformed into slaves, by way of bettering their condition. Take my advice, sir; before you throw stones, he sure that there is not a pane of glass in your Cap of Liberty big enough for 3,000,000 of slaves to look through. And pray, sir, do not forget, 'Tyranny alone makes differences. All men are equal!'"
A slam of the door announced the departure and the temper of Recriminator, and it also brought upon his feet another deputy who had kept hitherto quite in the background. He evidently was anxious for a private audience, but that being impossible, he whispered in my ear, "Sir, I am an abolitionist, slick straight off; and all I have got to say is, that you are a soap-suddy, milk-and-water friend to the slave, fix it how you will." Seeing he was impatient to be off, I whispered to him in reply, "Sir, there is an old prayer that has often been uttered with great sincerity, and is probably being so uttered now by more than one intelligent slave: it is this, 'Good Lord, save me from my friends.' The exertions of your party, sir, remind me much of those of a man who went to pull a friend out of the mud, but, by a zeal without discretion, he jumped on his friend's head, and stuck him faster than ever."
When he disappeared, I was in hopes it was all over; but a very mild-tempered looking man, with a broad intelligent forehead, got up, and, approaching me in the most friendly manner, said, "Sir, I both admit and deplore the evil of the institution you have been discussing, but its stupendous difficulties require a much longer residence than yours has been to fathom them; and until they are fully fathomed, the remedies proposed must be in many cases very unsuitable, uncalled for, and insufficient. However, sir, I accept your remarks in the same friendly spirit as, I am sure, you have offered them. Permit me, at the same time, as one many years your senior, to say that, in considering your proposals, I shall separate the chaff—of which there is a good deal—from the wheat—of which there is some little; the latter I shall gather into my mind's garner, and I trust it will fall on good soil." I took the old gentleman's hand and shook it warmly, and, as he retired, I made up my mind he was the sensible slave-owner.
I was about to leave the scene, quite delighted that the ordeal was over, when, to my horror, I heard a strong Northern voice calling out lustily, "Stranger, I guess I have a word for you." On turning round I beheld a man with a keen Hebrew eye, an Alleghany ridge nose, and a chin like the rounded half of a French roll. I was evidently alone with a 'cute man of dollars and cents. On my fronting him, he said, with Spartan brevity, "Who's to pay?" Conceive, O reader! my consternation at being called upon to explain who was to make compensation for the sweeping away—to a considerable extent, at all events—of what represented, in human flesh, 250,000,000l., and in the produce of its labour 80,000,000l. annually!
Answer I must; so, putting on an Exchequery expression, I said, "Sir, if a national stain is to be washed out, the nation are in honour bound to pay for the soap. England has set you a noble example under similar circumstances, and the zeal of the abolitionists will, no doubt, make them tax themselves double; but as for suggesting to you by what tax the money is to be raised, you must excuse me, sir. I am a Britisher, and remembering how skittish you were some years ago about a little stamp and tea affair, I think I may fairly decline answering your question more in detail; a burnt child dreads the fire."—The 'cute man disappeared and took the vision with him; in its place came the reality of 2 A.M. and the candles flickering in their sockets.
Reader, I have now done with the question of the gradual improvement and ultimate emancipation of the slave. The public institutions of any country are legitimate subjects of comment for the traveller, and in proportion as his own countrymen feel an interest in them, so is it natural he should comment on them at greater or less length. I have, therefore, dwelt at large upon this subject, from the conviction that it is one in which the deepest interest is felt at home; and I trust that I have so treated it as to give no just cause of offence to any one, whether English or American.
I hope I have impressed my own countrymen with some idea of the gigantic obstacles that present themselves, of which I will but recapitulate three;—the enormous pecuniary interests involved; the social difficulty arising from the amount of negro population; and, though last not least, the perplexing problem—if Washington's opinion, that "Slavery can only cease by legislative authority," is received—how Congress can legislate for independent and sovereign States beyond the limits of the Constitution by which they are mutually bound to each other. I feel sure that much of the rabid outcry, the ovation of Mrs. B. Stowe, and other similar exhibitions, have arisen from an all but total ignorance of the true facts of the case. This ignorance it has been my object to dispel; and I unhesitatingly declare that the emancipation of the negroes throughout the Southern States, if it took place to-morrow, would be the greatest curse the white man could inflict upon them. I also trust that I may have shadowed forth some useful idea, to assist my Southern friends in overtaking a gangrene which lies at their heart's core, and which every reflecting mind must see is eating into their vitals with fearful rapidity. My last and not my least sincere hope is, that some one among the many suggestions I have offered for the negro's present benefit, may be found available to mitigate the undoubted sufferings and cruel injustice of which those with bad masters must frequently be the victims. Should I succeed in even one solitary instance, I shall feel more than repaid for the many hours of thought and trouble I have spent over the intricate problem—the best road from Slavery to Emancipation.
Since writing the foregoing, 20,000,000 freemen, by the decision of their representatives at Washington, have hung another negro's shackle on their pole of Liberty (?). Kansas is enslaved—freedom is dishonoured. As a proof how easily those who are brought up under the institution of Slavery blind themselves to the most simple facts, Mr. Badger, the senator for North Carolina, after eulogizing the treatment of slaves, and enlarging upon the affection between them and their masters, stated that, if Nebraska was not declared a Slave State[CA] it would preclude him, should he wish to settle there, from taking with him his "old mammy,"—the negro woman who had nursed him in infancy. Mr. Wade, from Ohio, replied, "that the senator was labouring under a mistake; there was nothing to prevent his taking his beloved mammy with him, though Nebraska remained free, except it were that he could not sell her when he got there."
Let the Christian learn charity from the despised Mussulman. Read the following proclamation:—
"From the Servant of God, the Mushir Ahmed Basha Bey, Prince of the Tunisian dominions.
"To our ally, Sir Thomas Reade, Consul-General of the British Government at Tunis.
"The servitude imposed on a part of the human kind whom God has created is a very cruel thing, and our heart shrinks from it.
"It never ceased to be the object of our attention for years past, which we employed in adopting such proper means as could bring us to its extirpation, as is well known to you. Now, therefore, we have thought proper to publish that we have abolished men's slavery in all our dominions, inasmuch as we regard all slaves who are on our territory as free, and do not recognise the legality of their being kept as a property. We have sent the necessary orders to all the governors of our Tunisian kingdom, and inform you thereof, in order that you may know that all slaves that shall touch our territory, by sea or by land, shall become free.
"May you live under the protection of God!
"Written in Moharrem, 1262." (23rd of January, 1846.)
What a bitter satire upon the vaunted "Land of Liberty" have her sons enacted since the Mahometan Prince penned the above! Not only has the slave territory been nearly doubled in the present century; but by a recent decision of the Supreme Court, every law which has been passed by Congress restricting slavery, is pronounced contrary to the constitution, and therefore invalid. Congress is declared powerless to prohibit slavery from any portion of the Federal Territory, or to authorize the inhabitants to do so; the African race, whether slave or free, are declared not to be citizens, and consequently to be incompetent to sue in the United States' Courts, and the slave-owner is pronounced authorized to carry his rights into every corner of the Union, despite the decrees of Congress or the will of the inhabitants.
In short, in the year 1857, upwards of eighty years after Washington and his noble band declared—and at the point of the sword won—their independence, and after so many States have purified their shields from the negro's blood, the highest tribunal in the Republic has decreed that the rights of the slave-owner extend to every inch of the Federal soil, and that by their Constitution the United States is a Slave Republic.
What will the end be? A few short years have rolled past since the foregoing remarks were penned, and in that interval the question of Slavery has again made the Union tremble to its uttermost borders. The cloud, not bigger than a man's hand, was sped by President Pierce's administration to the new State of Kansas, and ere long it burst in a deluge of ruffianism and blood; the halls of Congress were dishonoured by the violent assault which Mr. Brookes (a Southern senator) made upon Mr. Sumner of Massachusetts; the Press spread far and wide the ignominious fact, that the ladies of his State presented the assailant with a cane, inscribed "Hit him again!" the State itself endorsed his act by re-electing him unanimously; North and South are ranged in bitter hostility; in each large meetings have advocated a separation, in terms of rancour and enmity; and it is to be feared the Union does not possess a man of sufficient weight and character to spread oil over the troubled waters.
How will "Manifest Destiny" unfold itself, and what will the end be?—The cup must fill first.
[Footnote BY: Many of my suggestions, the reader will observe, are drawn from the Cuba code.]
[Footnote BZ: In Peru, the maximum of stripes the law permits to be inflicted is twelve; and girls above fourteen, married women, fathers of children, and old men, are exempt from the lash.]
[Footnote CA: At the time of the discussion, the Nebraska territory included Nebraska and Kansas]
Constitution of United States.
The most important subject that claims the attention of the traveller in any country that pretends to education or civilization, is undoubtedly its Constitution. The reader cannot expect—and most probably would not wish—to find, in a work like this, any elaborate account of the government of so vast and varied a republic as that of the United States. Those who wish thoroughly to grasp so very extensive a topic must study the history of each individual State from its foundation; must watch the changes each has undergone, noting the effect produced; and must carefully pore over the writings of the great men who originally planned—if I may so express myself—the Republic, and must dive deep into the learned and valuable tomes of Story, Kent, &c. Those who are content with more moderate information, will find a great deal, very ably condensed, in a volume by Mr. Tremenheere. To the reader, I pretend to offer nothing but a glance at such elements as appear to me most useful and interesting; and in so doing, I shall freely borrow such quotations from Mr. Tremenheere's references to Story and Kent as I conceive may help to elucidate my subject, not having those authors at hand to refer to.
The Government of the United States consists of three departments,—the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial; or the President, the House of Representatives and Senate, and the Judicial Courts. The President and Vice-President are chosen by an elective body from all the States, the said body being selected by popular vote in each State. The Vice-President is ex officio Speaker or President of the Senate, and in case of the chief dying, he becomes for the remainder of the term the President of the United States. They are elected for 4 years, but may be re-elected indefinitely. Should the votes be equal, the House of Representatives selects the President from the three on the list who have most votes, and the Senate selects the Vice in the same way. The qualifications for President and Vice are—native born, 35 years of age, and 14 years' residence in the States. The salary of the President is about 5100l. a year, and a residence at Washington, called "The White House." The salary of the Vice-President is 1680l. a year. There are five Secretaries,—State, Interior, Treasury, War, Navy, and a Postmaster-General; the Attorney-General also forms part of the Cabinet. These officials also receive the same salary. The Senate is composed of two members from each State, irrespective of population, so as not to swamp the small States. The election is by the Legislature of each State, and for 6 years; one-third of their number go out every 2 years. The qualification for a senator is that he should be 30 years of age, have been 9 years a citizen, and living in the State for which he is elected. The House of Representatives originally consisted of one member for a certain amount of population, and as the increase in population was very rapid, the number of Representatives increased as a matter of course. In 1843, it was one member for every 70,000 of population, but, to prevent the body from becoming unmanageable owing to numbers, in 1853 the House was limited to 234 Representatives, elected pro rata to the several States. Slaves are reckoned in the proportion of three-fifths of their number. The preliminary steps are, that every 10 years a census is taken, after which a bill is passed by Congress, apportioning number of representatives to each State, according to its population. This done, each State passes a law, districting the State according to the number of members assigned it, and each district elects its own representative for Congress. The election is for 2 years, and the qualification is 7 years a citizen, 25 years of age, and living in the State. The salary is the same as that of a senator. The names of members composing a division on any question in either house, are not printed unless they are demanded by one-fifth of the members present. One of the clauses of their Constitution is very original, and runs thus:—"Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behaviour, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member."
All impeachments are tried in the Senate, and a majority of two-thirds is requisite for a conviction. If the President be on trial, the Chief Justice, or head of the Supreme Court, presides. While power of trial rests with the Senate, the power of impeachment rests solely with the House of Representatives. In addition to the ordinary functions of an Upper House, the Senate has also what is called "an Executive Session," which is held with closed doors; at this Session all treaties and high appointments are discussed, and the appointments are not held to be valid till ratified by them. Whenever fresh land becomes sufficiently populous, the general Government admit it as territory, and appoint an administration. This was the case with Nebraska and Kansas in 1853; and the "Missouri Compromise" (which confined slavery south of the 36 3' parallel of latitude) having been repealed, it became optional with them to adopt slavery or not. Kansas fought barbarously for the dishonourable privilege, and with temporary success: Nebraska has declined the honour as yet. The interests of territories are watched over at Washington by delegates in the House of Representatives, who have a seat, but no vote. This sensible arrangement might, in my humble opinion, be adopted in this country with reference to our colonies, whose wants at present have no interpreter intimately acquainted with colonial affairs in either branch of the Legislature.
Each State in the Union has its own Governor, House of Representatives, Senate, and Judiciary, and is in every respect a sovereign State—they like the word as much as they pretend to dislike the reality—acting perfectly independently within its limits, except in such cases as were mutually agreed upon by the terms of the Union, and to some of which we shall refer by and by. This sovereignty of individual States renders the elective franchise different in different States.
At the date of the first elections after the Declaration of Independence, no State admitted mere citizenship as a qualification for the elective franchise. The great men who appeared upon the stage at that period, profiting by the experience of past ages, threw certain guards around the franchise in every State in the Union, varying in different States, but all bearing unmistakeable testimony to the fact, that a perfect democracy was not the basis on which they ever contemplated building up the Republic. A few short years have rolled by; the 13 States are increased to 33, and according to Mr. Tremenheere, "a grave departure from the theory of the Constitution, as it existed in the eyes and expectations of its careful and prudent founders, has taken place, in the gradual lowering throughout nearly all the States of the Union, and the entire abandonment in two-thirds of them, of those qualifications for the exercise of the franchise which existed when the Constitution was adopted." In one State—Illinois—aliens being residents are entitled to vote. Now, if the great men of 1776 thought safeguards around the franchise wise and prudent in their day, before the great tide of emigration had set in to the westward, and when the population was only 4,000,000, what would they say, could they but rise from their graves and see how their successors have thrown down the prudent barriers they had raised, and laid the franchise bare to citizenship, now that the Union numbers 23,000,000 souls, and that the tide of emigration is daily flooding them with hordes of the discontented and turbulent from every country in the Old World?
But perhaps it may be said that I, as an Englishman, am prejudiced against republican institutions in any shape; let me, then, quote you an authority which every educated American will respect. Mr. Justice Kent says, "The progress and impulse of popular opinion, is rapidly destroying every constitutional check, every conservative element, intended by the sages who framed the earliest American Constitutions as safeguards against the abuses of popular suffrage." Let us turn to another equally eminent American authority, Mr. Justice Story. "It might be urged, that it is far from being clear, upon reasoning or experience, that uniformity in the composition of a representative body is either desirable or expedient, founded in sounder policy, or more promotive of the general good, than a mixed system, embracing, representing, and combining distinct interests, classes, and opinions. In England, the House of Commons, as a representative body, is founded upon no uniform principle, either of numbers, or classes, or places; ... and in every system of reform which has found public favour in that country, many of these diversities have been embodied from choice, as important checks upon undue legislation, as facilitating the representation of different interests and different opinions, and as thus securing, by a well-balanced and intelligent representation of all the various classes of society, a permanent protection of the public liberties of the people, and a firm security of the private rights of persons and property."
Thus far I have quoted the opinions of the highest American authorities upon the franchise. And, as far as the lowering it in England affords us any light, I would wish some unbiased and competent person to inform the public, whether—whatever other benefit it may have procured to the community—it has increased or decreased bribery and corruption; and how the balance between advantage and disadvantage will stand, in reference to the community at large, by a further lowering of the franchise in this country; and also to what extent—if any—it can be lowered, without throwing all but unlimited power into the hands of the masses, and thus destroying that balance of the different interests of the community which are—thank God—still represented, and which, if once lost, would reduce our beloved Sovereign to the position of a gaudy puppet, and the House of Lords to a mere cypher, and be as certainly followed by all the horrors of a revolution, and all the evils of a corrupt democracy. How easy is it to find politicians ever ready to sniff the incense of popularity at the plausible shrine of a descending franchise!—how difficult to find those who, while granting what is just and prudent, have the wisdom to plan, and the courage to dare, measures to arrest a mobular avalanche!