The Negro and the Nation - A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement
by George S. Merriam
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A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement



HASKELL HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD. Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books

NEW YORK. N. Y. 10012


First Published 1906

HASKELL HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD. Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-95441

Standard Book Number 8383-0994-1

Printed in the United States of America















































An English traveler, riding along the banks of the Potomac in mid-July, 1798, saw ahead of him on the road an old-fashioned chaise, its driver urging forward his slow horse with the whip, until a sharp cut made the beast swerve, and the chaise toppled over the bank, throwing out the driver and the young lady who was with him. The traveler—it was John Bernard, an actor and a man of culture and accomplishments, spurred forward to the rescue. As he did so he saw another horseman put his horse from a trot to a gallop, and together they reached the scene of action, extricated the woman and revived her from her swoon with water from a brook; then righted the horse and chaise, helped to restore the half-ton of baggage to its place; learned the story of the couple—a New Englander returning home with his Southern bride—and saw them safely started again. Then the two rescuers, after their half-hour of perspiring toil in a broiling sun, addressed themselves courteously to each other; the Virginian dusted the coat of the Englishman, and as Mr. Bernard returned the favor he noticed him well,—"a tall, erect, well-made man, evidently advanced in years, but who appeared to have retained all the vigor and elasticity resulting from a life of temperance and exercise. His dress was a blue coat, buttoned to the chin, and buckskin breeches." The two men eyed each other, half recognizing, half perplexed, till with a smile the Virginian exclaimed, "Mr. Bernard, I believe?" and, claiming acquaintance from having seen him on the stage and heard of him from friends, invited him to come and rest at his house near by, to which he pointed. That familiar front, the now wholly familiar face and form,—"Mount Vernon! Have I the honor of addressing General Washington?" With a charming smile Washington offered his hand, replying, "An odd sort of introduction, Mr. Bernard; but I am pleased to find you can play so active a part in private and without a prompter." There followed a long and leisurely call at Mount Vernon, and Bernard, in his volume of travels which did not see the light for nearly a century, has given a most graphic and winning picture of Washington in his every-day aspect and familiar conversation. To the actor's keen eye, acquainted with the best society of his time, the near approach showed no derogation from the greatness which the story of his deeds conveyed. "Whether you surveyed his face, open yet well defined, dignified but not arrogant, thoughtful but benign; his frame, towering and muscular, but alert from its good proportions—every feature suggested a resemblance to the spirit it encased, and showed simplicity in alliance with the sublime. The impression, therefore, was that of a most perfect whole."

The talk ran a various course. Washington incidentally praised the New Englanders, "the stamina of the Union and its greatest benefactors." The Englishman acknowledged a tribute to his own country, but Washington with great good humor responded, "Yes, yes, Mr. Bernard, but I consider your country the cradle of free principles, not their arm-chair." He had proceeded a little way in a eulogy of American liberty, when a black servant entered the room with a jug of spring water. Bernard smiled, and Washington quickly caught his look and answered it: "This may seem a contradiction, but I think you must perceive that it is neither a crime nor an absurdity. When we profess, as our fundamental principle, that liberty is the inalienable right of every man, we do not include madmen or idiots; liberty in their hands would become a scourge. Till the mind of the slave has been educated to perceive what are the obligations of a state of freedom, and not confound a man's with a brute's, the gift would insure its abuse. We might as well be asked to pull down our old warehouses before trade has increased to demand enlarged new ones. Both houses and slaves were bequeathed to us by Europeans, and time alone can change them; an event which, you may believe me, no man desires more heartily than I do. Not only do I pray for it on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our Union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle."

These words of Washington, with the incident that supplies their background, are an epitome of the view and attitude of that great man toward slavery. Before measuring their full significance, and the general situation in which this was an element, we may glance at the preliminary questions; how came slaves in Virginia and America; whence came slavery; what was it?

Primitive man killed his enemy and ate him. Later, the sequel of battle was the slaying of all the vanquished and the appropriation of their goods, including women and other live stock. Then it was found more profitable to spare the conquered warrior's life and set him to do the victor's disagreeable work; more profitable, and incidentally more merciful. Civilization advanced; wars became less general; but in the established social order that grew up there was a definite place for a great class of slaves. It was part of Nature's early law, the strong raising themselves upon the weak. Morality and religion by degrees established certain limited rights for the slave. But the general state of slavery was defended by philosophers like Aristotle; was recognized by the legislation of Judea, Greece, and Rome; was accepted as part of the established order by Jesus and the early church. It is beyond our limits here to measure either its service, as the foundation on which rested ancient society; or the mischief that came from the supplanting of a free peasantry, as in Italy. We can but glance at the influence of Christianity, first in ameliorating its rigor, by teaching the master that the slave was his brother in Christ, and then by working together with economic forces for its abolition. By complex and partly obscure causes, personal slavery—the outright ownership of man—was abolished throughout Christendom. Less inhuman in theory, less heartless in practice, though inhuman and harsh enough, was the serfdom which succeeded slavery and rested on Europe for a thousand years; till by slow evolution, by occasional bloody revolt, by steady advance in the intelligence and power of the laborer, compelling for him a higher status, the serf became a hired laborer and thence a citizen throughout Europe.

The recrudescence of slavery came when the expanding energies of European society, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, dashed against the weak barbarians of Africa and America. The old story was retold,—the stronger man, half-savage still under the veneer of civilization and Christianity, trampled the weaker man under foot. In Europe there was little need or room for slaves—the labor supply was sufficient, but on the new continent, in the words of Weeden (Economic and Social History of New England): "The seventeenth century organized the new western countries, and created an immense opportunity for labor. The eighteenth coolly and deliberately set Europe at the task of depopulating whole districts of western Africa, and of transporting the captives, by a necessarily brutal, vicious and horrible traffic, to the new civilization of America." The European was impartial between African and Indian; he was equally ready to enslave either; but the Indian was not made for captivity,—he rebelled or ran away or died; the more docile negro was the chief victim. The stream of slavery moved mainly according to economic conditions. Soil and climate in the Northern States made the labor of the indolent and unthrifty slave unprofitable, but in the warm and fertile South, developing plantations of tobacco, rice, and indigo, the negro toiler supplied the needed element for great profits. The church's part in the business was mainly to find excuse; through slavery the heathen were being made Christians. But when they had become Christians the church forgot to bid that they be made brothers and freemen. Some real mitigation of their lot no doubt there was, through teaching of religion and from other conditions. Professor Du Bois says that slavery brought the African three advantages: it taught him to labor, gave him the English language and—after a sort—the Christian religion. But it ruined such family life as had existed under a kind of regulated polygamy. Again we must decline to measure the good and the evil of the system. Probably the negro was in better condition in America than he had been in Africa, as he certainly was in far worse condition than he was entitled to be—and was in future to be.

The traffic was maintained chiefly by trading companies in England,—at first a great monopoly headed by the Duke of York, then rival companies. The colonists made some attempts to check the traffic,—growing alarmed at the great infusion of a servile and barbaric population. Virginia long tried to discourage it by putting a heavy import tax on slaves, which was constantly overruled by the English government under the influence of the trading companies. At a later day every one tried to put the responsibility of slavery on some one else,—the North on the South, the South on England. But in truth the responsibility was on all. The colonists did not hesitate to refuse to receive tea which England taxed; equally well they could have refused to buy slaves imported by trading companies if they had not wanted them; but they did want them. The commercial demand overrode humanity. The social conscience was not awake,—strange as its slumber now seems. Stranger still, as we shall see, after it had once been thoroughly roused, it was deliberately drugged to sleep. But this belongs to a later chapter.

New England had little use for slaves at home, but for slave ships she had abundant use. With a sterile soil, and with the sea at her doors swarming with edible fish and beckoning to her sails, her hardy industry found its best field on the ocean. The fisheries were the foundation of her commerce. The thrifty Yankee sold the best of his catch in Europe (here again we follow Weeden); the medium quality he ate himself; and the worst he sent to the West Indies to be sold as food for slaves. With the proceeds the skipper bought molasses and carried it home, where it was turned into rum; the rum went to Africa and was exchanged for slaves, and the slaves were carried to the West Indies, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Rum and slaves, two chief staples of New England trade and sources of its wealth; slave labor the foundation on which was planted the aristocracy of Virginia and the Carolinas,—alas for our great-grandfathers! But what may our great-grandchildren find to say of us?

The social conscience was not developed along this line; men were unconscious of the essential wrong of slavery, or, uneasily conscious of something wrong, saw not what could be done, and kept still. Here and there a voice was raised in protest. There was fine old Samuel Sewall, Chief Justice of Massachusetts; sincere, faithful man; dry and narrow, because in a dry and narrow place and time; but with the capacity for growth which distinguishes the live root from the dead. He presided over the court that adjudged witches to death; then, when the community had recovered from its frenzy, he took on himself deepest blame; he stood up in his pew, a public penitent, while the minister read aloud his humble confession, and on a stated day in each year he shut himself up in solitude to mourn and expiate the wrong he had unwittingly done, and, almost alone among his people, he spoke out clear and strong against human slavery.

A little later, in the generation before the Revolution, came the Quaker, John Woolman,—a gentle and lovely soul, known among his people as a kind of lay evangelist, traveling among their communities to utter sweet persuasive words of holiness and uplifting; known in our day by his Journal, a book of saintly meditations. Sensitive and shrinking, he yet had the moral insight to see and the courage to speak against the wrong of slavery. The Quakers, rich in the virtues of peace and kindliness, were by no means unpractical in the ways of worldly gain, or inaccessible to its temptations; they had held slaves like their neighbors, though we should probably have preferred a Quaker master. But the seed Woolman sowed fell on good ground; slavery came into disfavor among the Quakers, and when sentiment against it began to grow they lent strength to the leadership of the public conscience.



The revolt of the colonists from British rule was not inspired originally by abstract enthusiasm for the rights of man. It was rather a demand for the chartered rights of British subjects, according to the liberal principles set forth by Locke and Chatham and Burke and Fox; a demand pushed on by the self-asserting strength of communities become too vigorous to endure control from a remote seat of empire, especially when that control was exercised in a harsh and arbitrary spirit. The revolutionary tide was swelled from various sources: by the mob eager to worry a red-coated sentry or to join in a raid under Indian disguise; by men who embodied the common sense and rough energy of the plain people, like Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine; by men of practical statesmanship, like Franklin and Washington, who saw that the time had come when the colonists could best manage their own affairs; and by generous enthusiasts for humanity, like Jefferson and Patrick Henry.

With the minds of thoughtful men thoroughly wakened on the subject of human rights, it was impossible not to reflect on the wrongs of the slaves, incomparably worse than those against which their masters had taken up arms. As the political institutions of the young Federation were remolded, so grave a matter as slavery could not be ignored. Virginia in 1772 voted an address to the King remonstrating against the continuance of the African slave trade. The address was ignored, and Jefferson in the first draft of the Declaration alleged this as one of the wrongs suffered at the hands of the British government, but his colleagues suppressed the clause. In 1778 Virginia forbade the importation of slaves into her ports. The next year Jefferson proposed to the Legislature an elaborate plan for gradual emancipation, but it failed of consideration. Maryland followed Virginia in forbidding the importation of slaves from Africa. Virginia in 1782 passed a law by which manumission of slaves, which before had required special legislative permission, might be given at the will of the master. For the next ten years manumission went on at the rate of 8000 a year. Afterward the law was made more restrictive. Massachusetts adopted in 1780 a constitution and bill of rights, asserting, as the Declaration had done, that all men are born free and have an equal and inalienable right to defend their lives and liberties, to acquire property and to seek and obtain freedom and happiness. A test case was made up to decide the status of a slave, and the Supreme Court ruled that under this clause slavery no longer existed in Massachusetts. Its 6000 negroes were now entitled to the suffrage on the same terms as the whites. The same held good of the free blacks in four other States. In all the States but Massachusetts slavery retained a legal existence, the number ranging in 1790 from 158 in New Hampshire to nearly 4000 in Pennsylvania, over 21,000 in New York, 100,000 in each of the Carolinas, and about 300,000 in Virginia. Ships of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Middle States were still busy in bringing negroes from Africa to the South, though there were brave men like Dr. Hopkins at Newport who denounced the traffic in its strongholds.

Jefferson planned nobly for the exclusion of slavery from the whole as yet unorganized domain of the nation, a measure which would have belted the slave States with free territory, and so worked toward universal freedom. The sentiment of the time gave success to half his plan. His proposal in the ordinance of 1784 missed success in the Continental Congress by the vote of a single State. The principle was embodied in the ordinance of 1787 (when Jefferson was abroad as Minister to France), but with its operations limited to the Northwestern territory, the country south of the Ohio being left under the influence of the slave States from which it had been settled.

The young nation crystalized into form in the constitutional convention of 1787, and the ratification of its act by the people. It was indeed, as John Fiske's admirable book names it, "the critical period of American history." To human eyes it was the parting of the ways between disintegration toward anarchy, and the birth of a nation with fairer opportunities and higher ideals than any that had gone before. The work of those forty men in half a year has hardly a parallel. Individually they were the pick and flower of their communities. The circumstances compelled them to keep in such touch with the people of those communities that their action would be ratified. They included men of the broadest theoretical statesmanship, like Madison and Hamilton; men of great practical sense and magnanimity, like Washington and Franklin; and they also included and needed to include the representatives of various local and national interests. They had been schooled by the training of many momentous years, and the emergency brought out the strongest traits of the men and of the people behind them.

A prime necessity was willingness to make mutual concessions, together with good judgment as to where those concessions must stop. Large States against small States, seaport against farm, North against South and East against West, slave society against free society—each must be willing to give as well as to take, or the common cause was lost. The theorists, too, must make their sacrifices; the believers in centralization, the believers in diffusion of power; Madisonians, Hamiltonians, Jeffersonians—all must concede something, or there could be no nation. And between principles of moral right and wrong,—here, too, can there be compromise? Easy to give a sweeping No; but when honest men's ideas of right and wrong fundamentally differ, when personal ideals and social utilities are in seeming contradiction, the answer may be no easy one.

The great difficulty at the outset, as to the relative power in Congress of the large and small States, was settled at last by the happy compromise of making the Senate representative of the States in equality, and the House representative of the whole people alike. But then came the question, Should the representation be based on numbers or on wealth? The decision to count men and not dollars was a momentous one; it told for democracy even more than the framers knew. But now again, Shall this count of men include slaves? Slaves, who have no voice in the government, and are as much the property of their owners as horses and oxen? Yes, the slaves should be counted as men, in the distribution of political power,—so said South Carolina and Georgia. In that demand there disclosed itself what proved to be the most determined and aggressive interest in the convention,—the slavery interest in the two most southern States. Virginia, inspired and led by Washington, Madison, and Mason, was unfriendly to the strengthening of the slave power, and the border and central as well as the eastern States were inclined the same way. But South Carolina and Georgia, united and determined, had this powerful leverage; from the first dispute, their representatives habitually declared that unless their demands were granted their States would not join the Union. Now it had been agreed that the Constitution should only become operative on the assent by popular vote of nine of the thirteen States, and it was plain that at the best there would be great difficulty in getting that number. With two lost in advance the case looked almost hopeless. South Carolina and Georgia saw their advantage, and pushed it with equal resolution and dexterity. The question of representation was settled by a singular compromise: To the free population was to be added in the count three-fifths of the slave population. The slave was, for political purposes, three-fifths a man and two-fifths a chattel. Illogical to grotesqueness, this arrangement—in effect a concession to the most objectionable species of property of a political advantage denied to all other property—yet seemed to the wisest leaders of the convention not too heavy a price for the establishment of the Union. The provision that fugitive slaves should be returned had already been made, apparently with little opposition.

But the price was by no means all paid. When the powers of Congress came to be defined, the extreme South demanded that it be not allowed to forbid the importation of African slaves. With the example of Virginia and Maryland in view, it was clear that the tide was running so strongly against the traffic that Congress was sure to prohibit it unless restrained from doing so. Against such restraint there was strong protest from Virginia and the middle States. "The traffic is infernal," said Mason of Virginia. "To permit it is against every principle of honor and safety," said Dickinson of Delaware. But the two Pinckneys and their colleague said, "Leave us the traffic, or South Carolina and Georgia will not join your Union." The leading members from the northern and New England States actually favored the provision, to conciliate the extreme South. The matter went to a committee of one from each State. There it was discussed along with another question: It had been proposed to restrict Congress from legislating on navigation and kindred subjects except by a two-thirds vote of each House. This went sorely against the commercial North, which was eager to wield the whole power of the government in favor of its shipping interests. Of this power the South was afraid, and how well grounded was the importance each section attached to it was made plain when a generation later the North used its dearly-bought privilege to fashion such tariff laws as drove South Carolina to the verge of revolt. Now in the committee a bargain was struck: The slave trade should be extended till 1800, and in compensation Congress should be allowed to legislate on navigation as on other subjects. The report coming into the convention, South Carolina was still unsatisfied. "Eight more years for the African trade, until 1808," said Pinckney, and Gorham of Massachusetts supported him. Vainly did Madison protest, and Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey vote against the whole scheme. The alliance of New England commerce and Carolina slavery triumphed, and the African slave trade was sanctioned for twenty years.

For the compromise on representation it might be pleaded, that by it no license was given to wrong; there was only a concession of disproportionate power to one section, fairly outweighed in the scale of the public good by the establishment of a great political order. But the action on the slave trade was the deliberate sanction for twenty years of man-stealing of the most flagitious sort. It was aimed at the strengthening and perpetuation of an institution which even its champions at that time only defended as a necessary evil. And this action was taken, not after all other means to secure the Union had been exhausted, but as the price which New England was willing to pay for an advantage to her commercial interests.

At a later day, there were those who made it a reproach to the convention, and a condemnation of their whole work, that they imposed no prohibition on slavery as it existed in the States. But if such prohibition was to be attempted, the convention might as well never have met. The whole theory of the occasion was that the States, as individual communities, were to be left substantially as they were; self-governing, except as they intrusted certain definite functions to the general government. When only a single State, and that almost without cost, had abolished slavery within itself, it was out of the question that all of the States should through their common agents decree an act of social virtue wholly beyond what they had individually achieved. Any human State exists only by tolerating in its individual citizens a wide freedom of action, even in matters of ethical quality; and a federated nation must allow its local communities largely to fix their own standard of social conduct. At the point which the American people had reached, the next imperative step of evolution was that they unite themselves in a social organism, such as must allow free play to many divergencies. For the convention to take direct action for the abolition of slavery was beyond the possibilities of the case. It was in making provision for the extension of the evil that it was untrue to its ideal, sacrificed its possibilities, and opened the door for the long domination of a mischievous element.

But the main work of the convention was well and wisely done. Not less fine was the self-control and sagacity with which the people and their leaders debated and finally adopted the new order. Advocates of a stronger government, like Hamilton, and champions of a more popular system, like Samuel Adams and Jefferson, sank their preferences and successfully urged their constituents to accept this as the best available settlement. Slavery played very little part in the popular discussions, and only a few keen observers like Madison read the portents in that quarter. The young nation was swept at once into difficulties and struggles in other directions.

A word, before we follow the history, as to the sentiments of the great leaders in this period. Broadly, they all viewed slavery as a wrong and evil; they looked hopefully for its early extinction; they recognized great difficulties in adapting the negro to conditions of freedom; and they were in general too much absorbed in other and pressing problems to direct much practical effort toward emancipation. Washington's view is nowhere better given than in the casual talk so graphically reported by Bernard. He desired universal liberty, but believed it would only come when the negroes were fit for it; at present they were as unqualified to live without a master's control as children or idiots. Washington's way was to look at facts and to deal with a situation as he found it, and not to try to order the world by general and abstract ideals. He was intensely practical, responsive to each present call of duty, and in his conception of duty taking wider and wider views as he was trained by years and experience. The incident which brought him and Bernard together was characteristic; if any chaise was upset in his neighborhood, trust Washington to have a hand in righting it! The natural reply to his talk about the negroes might have been: "Since you desire their freedom, but think them not fit for it, why not make a business—you and the country—of making them fit?" And the answer fairly might have been: "The country and I have as yet had too much else to do." Besides his public services, he was a planter on the largest scale; thousands of acres and hundreds of slaves had come to him by inheritance and by marriage. He was most thorough and successful in his private affairs; through all his cares in the Revolution, scarcely ever visiting his home, he kept in close touch with his steward and regulated the plantation's management by constant correspondence. He had the reputation of a just but strict master. His slaves were well fed and clothed; they were supported in infancy and old age; they were trained in work according to their capacity, and taught something of morals and religion; in point of physical comfort and security, and of industrial and moral development, they were by no means at the bottom of the scale of humanity. The slave-holder's position, however unjust by an absolute standard, and with great possibilities of abuse, was, in the case of the rightly-disposed man—and such were common—a position which had its grave duties and often onerous burdens to be conscientiously borne.

Hardly was the war ended when the country's needs summoned Washington again to long and arduous service. Retired from the Presidency, his successor called him, not in vain, to head the army which the threatened French war would call into action. Who can blame him that he did not undertake in addition a complete reorganization of the labor system of his own farms and of Virginia? Inconsistent perhaps it was,—a very human inconsistency,—that his slaves, who, he told Bernard, were unfit for freedom, were given their freedom by his will, though not until his wife's death. That we may take as an imperfect essay of conscience to deal with a situation so complicated that no ideal solution was apparent. But we may fairly read as his unspoken legacy to his countrymen of the next generation: "My associates and I have won national independence, social order, and equal rights for our own race; deal you as courageously and strongly with the problems which remain."

Jefferson was an enthusiast for moral ideals, and a warm believer in the merit and trustworthiness of average humanity. He ennobled the struggle of the colonies against England by writing on the flag the universal and undying ideas that the authority of governments rests solely on their justice and public utility, and that every man has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And Jefferson did not flinch, as did many of his associates, from giving that right a full and general application to blacks as well as whites. Nor was he a mere doctrinaire. As he revolted from the abstract injustice of slavery, so its concrete abuses as he saw them, filled him with horror. He wrote: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." He described what he had seen. "The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions,—the most unremitting despotism on the one part and degrading submission on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it, for man is an imitative animal.... The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose rein to the worst of passions; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities."

But Jefferson shared a common belief of his time, that it was futile to hope to "retain and incorporate the blacks into the State." He wrote: "Deep-rooted prejudices of the whites, ten thousand recollections of blacks of injuries sustained, new provocations, the real distinction Nature has made, and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of one or the other race." So he looked for a remedy to emancipation followed by deportation. But he hesitated to affirm any essential inferiority in the negro race. He wrote: "The opinion that they are inferior in the faculties of reason and imagination must be hazarded with great diffidence." Later he wrote that "they were gaining daily in the opinions of nations, and hopeful advances are making toward their re-establishment on an equal footing with other colors of the human family."

Jefferson was more than a theorist; he was skillful to persuade men, and to organize and lead a party. His general tendency was "along the line of least resistance,"—the summoning of men to free themselves from oppressive restraint; and he was highly successful until he called on them for severe self-sacrifice, when his supporters were apt suddenly to fail him. Virginia gladly followed his lead in abolishing primogeniture and entail, and overthrowing the Established Church. She even consented, in 1778, to abolish the African slave-trade, being then in little need of more slaves than she possessed. In 1779 he planned a far more radical and costly project—a general emancipation. All slaves born after the passage of the act were to be free; they were to dwell with their parents till a certain age, then to be educated at the public expense in "tillage, arts, or sciences," until the males were twenty-one years old and the females eighteen; then they were to be colonized in some suitable region, furnished with arms, implements, seeds and cattle; declared a free and independent people, under American protection until strong enough to stand alone; and meanwhile their place as laborers was to be filled by whites sent for by vessels to other parts of the world. It is hardly strange that the Legislature did not even take the measure into consideration, and it does not appear that Jefferson ever returned to it. Practical legislation was not his forte. But his influence told nobly, as has been related, in barring slavery from the Northwestern territory, and, had just a little more support been found in 1784, would have saved the Southwest also to freedom, with almost certain promise of result in early freeing of the whole country. Just two or three votes in the Continental Congress,—on such small hinges does the destiny of nations seem to turn.

The inertia which holds men even exceptionally high-minded from breaking strong ties of custom and convenience is shown by a letter of Patrick Henry to a Quaker in 1773, in which he declared slavery "as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive of liberty. Every thinking, honest man rejects it as speculation, but how few in practice from conscientious motives! Would any one believe that I am a master of slaves of my own purchase? I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them."

There is no need to dwell further on the anti-slavery sentiments of the group of great leaders who were the glory of the nation. It is to be noted that Franklin took a characteristically active part in aiding to establish an anti-slavery society in Philadelphia in 1782. Shrewd as he was high-minded and benevolent, Franklin was always a special master in organizing men in societies for effective and progressive action. His tact won France to the American alliance, and decisively turned the scale in the Revolutionary war; and his conciliatory yet resolute spirit was a main factor in the constitutional convention. This Pennsylvania anti-slavery society led the way to the early adoption by the State of gradual emancipation. Franklin, an optimist by temperament and by his large faith in mankind, looked confidently for the early end of slavery; as fast as men ripened into honesty and sense, he thought, they would recognize the folly and wrong of it.

Looking from the leaders to the mass of the community, in this early period, we see these broad facts. Slavery was regarded by all as an evil, and by most as a wrong. Even its champions in the convention claimed no more for it than that it was a necessary evil; one of the Pinckneys expressed the hope of its extinction at an early day, and the other Pinckney dissented only in thinking this too sanguine. Further, there was a distinct wave of anti-slavery sentiment, sympathetic with the lofty temper of the Revolution and the genesis of a free nation. That wave was strong enough to wipe out slavery where its economic hold was slight; it was plainly destined to sweep at least through all the Northern and Middle States, and hope was high that it might go farther. But this moral enthusiasm broke helpless against the institution wherever a strong property interest was involved with it. Manumission in the South went no further than a few individuals. Virginia and Maryland, needing no more slaves, ceased importing them; but South Carolina and Georgia bargained successfully for a twenty years' supply. Massachusetts, having almost inadvertently freed her few slaves, was willing that the stream of misery should still flow on from Africa to the South. In a word, so far as the negroes were concerned, the supposed material interest of the whites remained the dominating factor throughout the country.



For thirty years after the Constitution was established, slavery falls into the background of the national history. Other and absorbing interests were to the front. First, the strife of Federalist and Democrat: Should the central government be strengthened, or should the common people be more fully trusted? Twelve years of conservative ascendency under Washington and Adams; then a complete and lasting triumph for the popular party led by Jefferson. Mixed with and succeeding this came an exasperating and perplexing struggle for commercial rights, invaded equally by England and France in their gigantic grapple; an ineffectual defense by Jefferson, who in executive office proved an unskillful pilot; a half-hearted war under Madison, a closet statesman out of place in the Presidential chair; a temporary alienation of New England, exasperated by the loss of her commerce and suspicious of the Jeffersonian influence; a participation in the general peace which followed 1815, and a revival of industry. Under this surface tide of events went on a steady, quiet advance of the democratic movement. With Jefferson's administration disappeared the Federal party and the old distrust of the common people. State after State gave up the property qualification—almost universal in the first period—and adopted manhood suffrage. Slavery disappeared from the North; in New Hampshire it was abolished by judicial decision, as in Massachusetts; Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania passed gradual emancipation laws, and a little later New York and New Jersey did the same. In Kentucky, settled by hardy pioneers from Virginia, there had been a vigorous campaign to establish a free State; the Baptist preachers, strong leaders in morals and religion, had championed the cause of freedom; the victory seemed decisively won, by three to one it was said, in the election of May, 1798; but a torrent of excitement over the alien and sedition laws submerged other issues, and the convention sanctioned slavery as it existed. The African slave trade was made piracy by act of Congress in 1808, though the extreme penalty was not inflicted for sixty years, and a considerable traffic still went on. In furtherance of emancipation, a colonization society was started in Pennsylvania, and in a few years it had transported 20,000 freed negroes to Africa, and established the feeble colony of Liberia. Meanwhile the first French republic had freed half a million slaves in the West Indies; and Chili, Buenos Ayres, Columbia, and Mexico, as they gained their independence from Spain, had abolished slavery. The European reaction against the French republic and empire had largely spent itself; the English tradition of constitutional freedom had survived and promised to spread; the Spanish colonies in America had won their independence.

The stiller and deeper current of industrial progress had moved on apace in the United States. A new New England was being swiftly built in the Northwest. The Southwest, too, was growing fast. The acquisition of the Louisiana territory,—through an exigency of Napoleon's politics, and the wise inconsistency of Jefferson—had opened another vast domain. At the North, commerce, set free again, spread rapidly, and a new era of manufactures was opening. The South—more diffusely settled, with less social activity, with a debased labor class—caught less of the spirit of advance. But on one line it gained. Following the English inventions in spinning and weaving, and the utilization of the stationary steam-engine, a Connecticut man, Eli Whitney, had invented a cotton-gin, for separating the seed from the fibre, and the cotton plant came to the front of the scene. The crop rose in value in twenty years from $6,000,000 to $20,000,000. The value of slaves was trebled, and the border States began to do a thriving trade in exporting them to the cotton States—it was said a little later the yearly export reached 50,000.

As new States were organized and admitted, those from the Northwest came in without slavery, which had been kept out by the ordinance of 1787, and those from the Southwest, where slaves had been carried by the emigrants from the seaboard, were allowed without question to retain the institution. Of the old thirteen, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York New Jersey, Pennsylvania (spite of a few slaves lingering in the last three) were counted as free States—seven in all; Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, the two Carolinas, Georgia, were claimed as slave States—six. Speedily were added Vermont to the one column, and Kentucky and Tennessee to the other, making the numbers equal. The following acquisitions were free and slave States alternately: Ohio and Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi, Illinois and Alabama, a total, so far, of eleven free and eleven slave. Of the new Southwestern domain, Arkansas had been organized as a territory, early in 1819, and a motion that slavery be excluded had been defeated in the House by the casting vote of the speaker, Henry Clay.

But in all these thirty years the subject of slavery had little prominence in public discussion. Now it suddenly came to the front. A bill was brought into Congress to permit Missouri to organize as a State. It was part of the Louisiana purchase, of which the Southern portion had inherited and retained slavery; but Missouri was geographically an extension of the region of the Ohio States, in which free labor had made an established and congenial home. It was moved in Congress that slavery should be excluded from the new State, and on this instantly sprang up a fiery debate. On one side it was urged that slavery was a wrong and an evil, and that Congress had full power to exclude it from a State as a condition of admittance to the Union. On the other side slavery was defended not only as an industrial advantage, but as morally right and a benefit to both blacks and whites. It was strenuously declared that the people of each incoming State had a right to determine their own institutions; and it was also urged that to keep the balance of power between the two sections, it was necessary that slave States should be admitted equally with free. It was disclosed with startling suddenness that two systems of labor and society stood face to face, with different ideals, different interests, and in a mutual opposition to which no limits could be foreseen. It was plain that with the increase of profit from slavery all idea of its abolition had been quietly dropping from the minds of the great mass of the Southern community. It was equally plain that the sentiment against slavery in the North had increased greatly in distinctness and intensity. There was apparent, too, a divergence of material interests, and a keen rivalry of political interests. The South had been losing ground in comparison. From an equality in population, the North had gained a majority of 600,000 in a total of 10,000,000. The approaching census of 1820 would give the North a preponderance of thirty in the House. In wealth, too, the North had been obviously drawing ahead. Only in the Senate did the South retain an equality of power, and, to maintain at least this, by the accession of new slave States, was an avowed object of Southern politicians.

The debate was so hot, the underlying causes of opposition were so obvious, and the avowed determination of the contestants was so resolute, that the unity and continuance of the nation was unmistakably threatened. State Legislatures passed resolutions for one side or the other, according to their geographical location; only the Delaware Legislature was superior to the sectional consideration, and voted unanimously in favor of holding Missouri for freedom. The alarm as to the continuance of the Union was general and great. No one felt it more keenly than Jefferson, startled in his scholarly and peaceful retirement at Monticello, as he said, as by "a fire-bell in the night." He wrote: "In the gloomiest movements of the Revolutionary war, I never had an apprehension equal to that I feel from this source." It was a grave omen that Jefferson's sympathies were with his section rather than with freedom; he joined in the opposition to the exclusion of slavery from Missouri. He had no love for slavery, but he was jealous for the right of each State to choose its own way, for good or evil; a political theory outweighed in him the sentiment of humanity.

A compromise was proposed. Let Missouri have slavery if she will, but for the Northwest let it be "thus far and no farther"; let it be fixed that there shall be no more slave States north of the line which marks Missouri's southern boundary, the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude. Present advantage to the South, future security to the North; and meantime let Maine be admitted, which keeps the balance equal. This was the solution accepted by both sides after a discussion lasting through the Congressional session of 1819-20 until March. But the smothered flame broke out again. Missouri in 1820 adopted a constitution, and asked for admission according to promise; and one clause in her constitution forbade the entrance of free blacks into the State. This was too much for the North, already half disgusted with the concession it had made, and when Congress met for the session of 1820-21 the whole question was reopened, and the dispute was hotter and more obstinate than ever. The issue was wholly uncertain, and disunion seemed to hover near and dark, when Henry Clay, who in the first debate had taken no very important part, but had supported the Southern claim, now threw his whole power, which was great, in favor of conciliation and agreement on the original basis. Clay was a politician, and ambitious for the Presidency, but he was a patriot and a lover of humanity. As to slavery he was a waverer, disliking it at heart and sometimes speaking manfully against it, but at other times respectful toward it as an established and mighty fact, and even lending himself to its eulogy. In the first debate he had advocated the Southern side, had extolled slavery, and declared the black slaves of the South to be better off than the white slaves of the North. Now he gave all his persuasive and commanding eloquence, all the influence of his genial nature and winning arts, to rally the lovers of the Union to the mutual concessions by which alone it could be preserved. He justified the objection to the exclusion of free negroes, he divested himself of sectional partisanship, and pleaded with equal skill and fervor for the compromise. He did not forget that he was a Presidential aspirant, but he was a true lover of his country, and seldom have the traits of politician and patriot worked together more effectively. Though the mass of the Northern members, strengthened doubtless by the influence of their constituents at home during the recess, were now opposed to the whole compromise, and a few Southern extremists were against it, yet the majority of both House and Senate were won to its support, and on the last day of February, 1821, Missouri was admitted as a slave State, on condition that she expunge her exclusion of free blacks, which she promptly did. Maine had already been admitted. The excitement ended almost as suddenly as it had begun.



For the next twelve years, slavery was in the background of the national stage. But during this period, various influences were converging to a common result, until in 1832-3 the issue was defined with new clearness and thenceforth grew as the central feature in the public life of America.

From the time of the Missouri debate, the slavery interest was consolidated and alert, even while other subjects seemed to fill the public mind. To the North, slavery was habitually a remote matter, but it was perpetually brought home to the business and bosoms of the South. The whole industrial system, a social aristocracy, and political ambition, blended their forces. An instance of the subtle power of the institution was given in a little-marked incident of Adams's generally creditable administration. By three men as high-minded as President Adams, Secretary Clay, and Minister Gallatin, overtures were made to England for a treaty by which the surrender of deserters from her army and navy should be her compensation for surrendering our fugitive slaves! The British government would not listen to the proposal.

The national politics of this period, 1820-32, centred in a group of strong and picturesque personalities,—Clay, Adams, Calhoun, Jackson, and Webster. John Quincy Adams was a sort of exaggeration of the typical New Englander,—upright, austere, highly educated, devoted to the public service, ambitious, yet not to the sacrifice of conscience, but cold, angular, repellant. Says Carl Schurz in his Henry Clay—a book which gives an admirable resume of a half-century of politics: "He possessed in the highest degree that uprightness which leans backward. He had a horror of demagogy, and lest he should render himself guilty of anything akin to it, he would but rarely condescend to those innocent amenities by which the good-will of others may be conciliated. His virtue was freezing cold of touch, and forbidding in its look." When the Presidential election went into the House in 1824, the influence of Clay—himself a defeated candidate—was decisively thrown for Adams against Jackson, and Clay served as President Adams's Secretary of State. The two men supplemented each other well; Clay less austerely virtuous, but far more lovable; his personal ideals less exacting, but his sympathies wider. The co-operation between them was honorable to both and serviceable to the country; but partisan bitterness stigmatized it as a corrupt alliance; the air was full of suspicion and jealousy toward the cultivated and prosperous class that had hitherto supplied the chiefs of the government, and the rising democratic sentiment found a most congenial hero in Andrew Jackson.

He was a rough backwoodsman; a fighter by nature and a passable soldier; a staunch friend and a patriot at heart; ignorant, wholly unversed in statesmanship, arbitrary in temper, and inclined to judge all subjects from a personal standpoint. He easily defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1828. His election marked the ascendancy, long to continue, of a more ignoble element in the nation's political life. His administration began the employment of the spoils system; and it "handled intricate financial problems as a monkey might handle the works of a watch." Jackson had small regard for the rights of those who got in the way of himself, his party, or his country; he had trampled recklessly on the Indian; and his triumph fell as a heavy discouragement on the quiet but widespread movement to elevate the negro. He treated all questions in a personal way; and the first great battle of his administration was to compel social recognition in Washington for the wife of one of his cabinet members whose reputation scandal had breathed upon, unjustly as Jackson believed. In the revolt against her recognition a leader was the Vice-President, John C. Calhoun, himself a man of blameless morals and an advocate of the highest social standards. He thereby lost at once the favor of Jackson, which was transferred to Martin Van Buren, a wily New York politician, quite ready to call on any lady or support any policy that his chief might approve. The breach between Jackson and Calhoun was widened by the disclosure of an old political secret, probably by Crawford of Georgia, a disappointed Presidential aspirant. Jackson's administration naturally fell more and more into the hands of mediocre men.

Calhoun had already had a long term of distinguished public service; he had been one of the group of young men who came to the front in urging on the war of 1812; he had served with success in the cabinet and twice been chosen to the Vice-Presidency. He was of high personal character; a keen logician and debater; a leader who impressed himself by the strength of his character and depth of his convictions. Adams wrote of him in 1821: "He is above all sectional and factious prejudices, more than any other statesman of this Union with whom I have ever acted." He was ambitious of the Presidency, an ambition which saw itself defeated when Van Buren became the heir-apparent of the Jackson dynasty. A true lover of his country, his predominant devotion came to be given to his own section, and that temper fell in with events to make him the foremost champion of the South.

The prominence of the personal element in public affairs was connected with the absence of any clear and deep division upon large questions of policy. There emerged a group of ideas constituting what was called the "American system," of which Clay was the foremost advocate, and which became the basis of the Whig party, as it was organized in the early '30's. Its general principle was the free use of the Federal government's resources for the industrial and commercial betterment of the people; and its prominent applications were a national bank, a system of national highroads and waterways, and a liberal use of the protective principle in tariff laws. "Protection to American industry" was the great cry by which Clay now rallied his followers. The special direction of this protection was in favor of American manufacturers. By very high taxes levied on imported goods, the price of those was necessarily raised to the consumer, and the American maker of clothes, cutlery, and so on, was enabled to raise his own prices correspondingly. Naturally, this result was most gratifying to the manufacturer and his dependents and allies. No less naturally, it was highly objectionable to the consumer. But to the consumer it was pointed out that by thus fostering the "infant industries" of his country they would be strengthened to the point where they could and would supply him with his goods far more cheaply than would otherwise be possible. But this pleasing promise, held out now for some seventy-five years, somehow failed to quite satisfy the consumer; and where whole classes and sections were consumers only, from the tariff standpoint, and saw themselves mulcted for the benefit of classes and sections already richer than they, they grumbled loudly, and did not always stop with grumbling. So when in 1828 a tariff was enacted imposing very high duties on most manufactured articles, and which delighted the hearts of New England and Middle States manufacturers, it was so obnoxious to others that the name was fastened to it of "the tariff of abominations," and history has never changed that name.

There were hopes of relief under Jackson, but in the confusion of party issues, and with the tariff supported by the consolidated strength of the manufacturers—a consolidation powerful enough to make Webster its spokesman in Congress; a consolidation as definite and resolute as that of the slave-holders, and destined to be far longer-lived,—no change in legislation came till 1832, and then the change was immaterial; the "tariff of abominations" was substantially re-enacted. The South had been chafing bitterly, and now South Carolina broke into open revolt. The whole South felt itself aggrieved by the tariff. Its industrial system was not suited to develop manufactures; it lacked the material for skilled labor; it lacked the artisan class who create a demand. Its staple industry was agriculture, the growth of tobacco, rice, sugar, and above all, cotton, and it went to the North and to Europe for its manufactured goods. A system of taxation which doubled the price of its imports without helping its exports, was resented as unjust, and as hostile to the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution.

South Carolina took the lead, and indeed stood alone, in applying a remedy more drastic than the disease—nullification. Calhoun's logic welded and sharpened the weapon which had behind it almost the entire weight of the State. The precise relation of the States to the Union, left indeterminate in the Constitution, and debated in every crisis which had strained the bonds, was now asserted by Calhoun to involve the right of any State to declare null and void any action of the Federal Congress which impaired its rights. South Carolina now put the theory into action. She held near the close of 1832 a convention, which declared the tariff law unconstitutional and void; asserted that the State would no longer pay duties under it, and if coercion was attempted would secede outright.

Congress discussed the matter; and in the most memorable and classic of Senate debates, Hayne of South Carolina vindicated the State's position with logic, passion, and eloquence; while Webster replied with an equal logic, a broader and higher ideal of nationality, a vindication of New England which thrilled all hearts, and a patriotism which gave the keynote to the ultimate triumph of the Union. Hitherto, Massachusetts and South Carolina had each stood stiffly at times for her own way, even at peril of the national bond; but in that hour the individuality of South Carolina was merged in the slave-holding States, and that of Massachusetts in a Union, one and indivisible.

The challenge of South Carolina was promptly answered by Jackson, just re-elected President. He issued a proclamation, proclaiming nullification as political heresy, and threatening to treat its practical exercise as treason. But the situation was not destined to settlement by the high hand. Webster favored such a settlement; he was for no concession. As well make the issue now as ever, he said. The President's friends introduced a bill giving him authority, if nullification were insisted on, to close ports of entry, collect duties by military force, and the like; "the force bill," it was called. But the "tariff of abominations" was not the most satisfactory or promising ground on which to assert the national sovereignty. And Jackson was hardly a desirable man to intrust with indefinite military power. So urged the timid or the moderate, and Clay was again the spokesman of compromise. He brought in a tariff bill, by which all duties above 20 per cent. were to be gradually reduced until in 10 years they reached that figure, at which they were to remain. This bill and the force bill were passed together, and signed the same day. Confronted by the government with the sword in one hand and the olive branch in the other, South Carolina retracted—it was not a capitulation—and repealed the ordinance. Nullification as a theory passed out of sight. But the willingness of the extreme South to push to all lengths its resistance to a hostile policy remained, and was felt in all that followed.

It was a distinct tradition among Calhoun's followers after his death—and they followed him till Appomattox—that he privately gave as a reason for making the first battle on the tariff question rather than on slavery, that on the first the world's sympathies would be with them, and on slavery against them. The same tradition ascribed to Calhoun the prediction that the Northern influence would become predominant in the Union about 1860. Whether or not Calhoun said these things, the tariff issue certainly was brought on by the North; and the "compromise" on it was a substantial victory gained by South Carolina for the South. The final verdict of history may be that it was a just victory, won by unjust means. Calhoun now stood forth the recognized leader of his section, while it soon became apparent that of that section slavery was the special bond, and was to be its avowed creed.

Almost unobserved for a time amid these exciting events, the debate over slavery had been going on, transferred mainly from the political field to the minds and consciences of individuals. Once in State politics it came to an issue. Illinois, a free State without question at its admission in 1818, had a majority of its early immigrants from the South, and a determined effort was made to introduce slavery by law. It met a still more vigorous resistance, in which the Methodist and Baptist clergy, mainly Southern men, took a leading part. The opposition was led by a Southerner, Gov. Edward Coles, one of the forgotten heroes. Inheriting in Virginia some hundreds of slaves, and hindered by the State laws from emancipating them, he took them all to Illinois, gave them their freedom, supplied them with land, cabins, stock, and tools, and watched and befriended them till they became self-supporting. In each deed of emancipation he gave his testimony: "Whereas, I do not believe a man can have a right of property in his fellow men ... I do therefore ... restore to the said —— that inalienable liberty of which they have been deprived." He led the fight against the introduction of slavery into Illinois to a decisive victory in 1824. A few more such men throughout the South, and history would have been different.

A quiet advocacy of anti-slavery went on throughout the country, except the extreme South. It was in sympathy with the general revival of religious activity which began about 1815—a form of the new national life, disentangled from European complications, and free for home conquests and widening achievements. Three great evils aroused the spirit of reform—intemperance, slavery, and war. The general assembly of the Presbyterian church, representing the whole country, in 1818, by a unanimous vote, condemned slavery as "a gross violation of the most sacred and precious rights of human nature, and utterly inconsistent with the law of God, which requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves." In 1824-7 the Legislatures of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey passed resolutions calling on Congress to provide for compensated emancipation, and expressing willingness that their States should pay their share of the burden. This last sentiment was a rare one; the self-sacrifice it demanded from the non-slave-holding States was very little in evidence during the long contest that followed; men would speak and vote for freedom; when angry enough they would fight—to defeat the master and incidentally to free the slave—but to pay, in cold blood, and in heavy measure, for the ransom of the slaves, was a different matter; and few were they who, like Lincoln, favored that way out. The action of those three Legislatures marked the height of the early anti-slavery tide, and prompted a hope which was never fulfilled.

In the decade 1820-30, more than 100 anti-slavery societies were established in slave States (see James G. Birney and His Times, an admirable exposition of the conservative anti-slavery movement). The Manumission Society of North Carolina in 1825 took a kind of census of the State, and concluded that of its people 60 in 100 favored emancipation in some form. In the same year a pamphlet published in Charleston, S. C., on "The Critical Situation and Future Prospects of the Slave-Holding States," bitterly declared that the whole book and newspaper press of the North and East teemed with articles on slavery. In Maryland, an anti-slavery party in 1826 elected two members to the House of Delegates; but this movement disappeared on the election of Jackson two years later. In Alabama, Birney, a man of a fine type, and growing toward leadership, secured in 1827 the passage of a law forbidding the importation of slaves as merchandise; but this was repealed two years later. So the wave flowed and ebbed, but on the whole it seemed to advance.

Among local societies in the Northern States, one may be instanced in New Haven, Ct., in which, in 1825, five young men associated themselves; among them were Edward Beecher, Leonard Bacon, and Theodore D. Woolsey. They were highly practical; their immediate aims were: First to elevate the black population of New Haven; secondly, to influence public sentiment in the city and State; and thirdly, to influence the theological students in Yale college. So faithful were their labors in their own city for its black population—described as in most wretched condition, which seems to have been the case with most of the blacks at the North in this period—that six years later Garrison pronounced them more comfortable and less injured by prejudice than in any other place in the Union. The young men of the New Haven and Andover seminaries united in a project of a college for the blacks; strong support was obtained; but the fierce wave of reaction following Nat Turner's revolt swept it away. Lane seminary at Cincinnati, a Presbyterian stronghold, became a center of enthusiastic anti-slavery effort, with the brilliant young Theodore D. Weld as its foremost apostle; he was welcomed and heard in the border slave States. The authorities of the college, alarmed by the audacity of their pupils, tried to restrain the movement, and the result was a great secession of students.

The seceders proposed to form a theological department at Oberlin College (established two years before) if they could have Charles G. Finney, the famous revivalist, as their teacher. But Finney declined to take the place until the conservative trustees consented to admit colored youths to the College; and thus Oberlin became an anti-slavery stronghold.

As the anti-slavery movement developed, the call for immediate liberation became more insistent and imperative. The colonization method lost credit. Slavery was coming to be regarded by its opponents not merely as a social evil to be eradicated, but as a personal sin of the slave-holder, to be renounced as promptly as any other sin. John Wesleys words were a keynote: "Instantly, at any price, were it the half of your goods, deliver thyself from blood-guiltiness!" A Virginia minister, Rev. George Bourne, published in 1816 Slavery and the Book Irreconcilable, in which he said: "The system is so entirely corrupt that it admits of no cure but by a total and immediate abolition." Two other Southern ministers, James Duncan and John Rankin, wrote to the same effect. In England, the abolition of slavery in the West India colonies was being persistently urged; the impulse was a part of the philanthropic movement that went along with the evangelical revival, and Wilberforce was its leader. These English abolitionists were coming to "immediatism" from 1824, and their influence told in America.

Among the most unselfish and devoted laborers for the slave was Benjamin Lundy. He was a Quaker by birth and training; he overtaxed his strength and permanently impaired his hearing by prematurely trying to do a man's work on his father's farm in New Jersey, and settled at the saddler's trade in Wheeling, Va., in 1808. With the outlawing of the African slave trade, there was beginning the sale of slaves from Virginia to the Southern cotton-fields, and the sight of the sorrowful exiles moved Lundy's heart to a lifelong devotion of himself to pleading the cause of the slave. Infirm, deaf, unimpressive in speech and bearing, trudging on long journeys, and accepting a decent poverty, he gave all the resources of a strong and sweet nature to the service of the friendless and unhappy. He supported himself by his trade, while he lectured and wrote. He established in 1821 a weekly Genius of Universal Emancipation, at Mt. Pleasant, O., starting without a dollar of capital and only six subscribers; and at first walking twenty miles every week to the printing press, and returning with his edition on his back. Four years later he moved his paper to Baltimore. Anti-slavery agitation was still tolerated in the border States, though once Lundy was attacked by a bully who almost murdered him. When the impending election of Jackson in 1828 came as a chill to the anti-slavery cause, the waning fortunes of his paper sent Lundy to Boston to seek aid. There he found sympathy in a number of the clergy, though fear of arousing the hostility of the South kept them cautious. Dr. Channing wrote to Daniel Webster, expressing the fullest sympathy with Lundy's devotion to freedom, but also the gravest apprehension that unless the slaveholders were approached in a spirit of friendliness rather than denunciation, there would result a sectional strife fraught with the greatest danger. We should say to the South, wrote Channing, "Slavery is your calamity and not your crime"; and the whole nation should assume the burden of emancipation, meeting the expense by the revenue from the sale of public lands. In this brief letter of Channing's there is more of true statesmanship than in all the utterances of the politicians of his day.

But Lundy (himself not given to denunciation) made one convert of a very different temper from Channing's or his own—William Lloyd Garrison, a young man educated in a printing-office, fearless, enthusiastic, and energetic in the highest degree. Quickly won to the emancipation idea, and passing soon to full belief in immediate and uncompensated liberation, he allied himself with Lundy as the active editor of the Genius, while the older man devoted himself to traveling and lecturing. The Genius at once became militant and aggressive. The incidents which constantly fell under Garrison's eye—slave auctions and whippings—fanned the fire within him. One day, for example, a slave came into the office, told his story, and showed the proofs. His master had lately died, leaving him his freedom, which was to be legally effected in a few weeks; but in the meantime the overseer under whom he worked, displeased at his way of loading a wagon, flogged him with a cowhide so severely that his back showed twenty-seven terrible gashes. Garrison appealed to the master's heirs for redress, but was repelled with contumely. Presently he assailed an old fellow-townsman in Newburyport, Mass., because a ship he owned had been employed to transport a cargo of slaves from Baltimore to New Orleans. The denunciation was unmeasured; the ship-owner brought suit, and as some points in the article were not sustained by the evidence, Garrison was fined $100. Unable to pay he went to jail, bearing his captivity with courage and high cheer, till Arthur Tappan, a New York merchant and a leader in the anti-slavery cause, paid his fine and released him. The Genius being ruined, Garrison transferred his field of labor to Boston, where, at the beginning of 1831, he started the weekly Liberator. He and his partner, Isaac Knapp, did all the work of every kind, living principally on bread and water, and with only six hours a week, and those at midnight, for Garrison to write his articles. The paper's motto was: "Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind." In his salutatory Garrison wrote: "I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen,—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retract a single inch—and I will be heard!"

While Garrison's language was constantly such as to arouse passion to the boiling point, he was always in theory a supporter of peace, opposed to war under any conditions, and even to resistance of force by force. But in 1829 there appeared a pamphlet of a different tenor; an Appeal, by Walker, a Boston negro, addressed directly to the slaves. It was a fiery recital of their wrongs and an incitement to forcible redress. Its appearance in the South caused great excitement. The Governors of Virginia and Georgia sent special messages to their Legislatures about it. Garrison wrote of it, in the Genius: "It breathes the most impassioned and determined spirit. We deprecate its publication, though we cannot but wonder at the bravery and intelligence of its author." Garrison's biographers—his sons—speak of Walker as "a sort of John the Baptist to the new anti-slavery dispensation." It was well for the Baptist that his head was out of Herod's reach. The Georgia Legislature passed in a single day a bill forbidding the entry of free negroes into the State, and making "the circulation of pamphlets of evil tendency among our domestics" a capital offense.

Large as these events loom in the retrospect, they were comparatively little noticed in their time. Virginia held in 1830 a convention for the revision of her constitution; among its members were Madison, Monroe, and Randolph; and emancipation was not even mentioned. Jefferson was dead, and the spirit of Jefferson seemed dead. Then the unexpected happened. There was a negro preacher, a slave named Nat Turner. He was a man of slight figure, reputed among his people a sort of prophet, addicted to visions and rhapsodies. He planned in 1831 an uprising of the slaves. He circulated among them a document written in blood, with cabalistic figures, and pictures of the sun and a crucifix. One night he and a group of companions set out on their revolt. Others joined them voluntarily or by impressment till they numbered forty. They began by killing Turner's master and his family; then they killed a lady and her ten children; they attacked a girls' boarding-school and killed all the inmates. Houses stood open and unguarded, and most of the white men were away at a camp-meeting. From Sunday night till Monday noon the band went on its way unchecked, and killed sixty persons. Then the neighborhood rallied and overcame them; slew several on the spot; but held the rest for trial, which was held regularly and fairly, and thirteen were executed. The origin of the outbreak remained mysterious. Turner said on his trial that he had not been unkindly treated, and there was no evidence of provocation by special abuse. There was no trace of any instigation from the North in any form. It seemed not a stroke for freedom by men worthy to be free; not even a desperate revolt against intolerable wrong; but more like an outbreak of savagery, the uprising of the brute in man, thirsty for blood. The fear at first prevailed that there existed a widespread conspiracy, and various legislation for protection and repression was enacted or discussed.

But the larger mind of Virginia was moved toward a radical treatment of the disease itself, instead of its symptoms. In the next session of the Legislature, 1831-2, proposals for a general emancipation were brought forward, and the whole subject was canvassed in a long and earnest debate. For slavery on its merits hardly a word of defense was spoken. The moral condemnation was not frequent or strong, but the economic mischief was conceded by almost all. It was recognized that labor was debased; manufactures and immigration were discouraged; the yeomanry were leaving the State. One bold speaker declared that the masters were not entitled to compensation, since property condemned by the State as a nuisance brings no award of damages to the owner. But the general agreement was that emancipation should be compensated and gradual, and that the blacks must be removed from the State. One plan was that they should be deported in a body to Africa; another, that the increase—about 6000 a year—should be so deported; while Thomas Jefferson Randolph urged a plan which recalled that framed by his uncle, Thomas Jefferson, half a century before. He proposed that the owner should maintain the slave-child till the age of eighteen or twenty-one, his labor for the last six or eight years being regarded as compensation for the expense of infancy; and that the slave should then be hired out till he had earned his passage to Africa. But, whatever the method, let decisive action be taken, and taken now! The Legislature, it is said, was largely made up of young and inexperienced men. Would not the courage and hopefulness of Virginia youth essay this great deliverance? Older voices bade them to the task. Said the Richmond Enquirer (edited by the elder Ritchie), January 7, 1832: "Means, sure but gradual, systematic but discreet, ought to be adopted for reducing the mass of evil which is pressing upon the South, and will still more press upon her the longer it is put off. We say, now, in the utmost sincerity of our hearts, that our wisest men cannot give too much of their attention to this subject, nor can they give it too soon." It was one of the decisive hours of history:

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.

But the task was too great, or the life-long habit of the slave-owner had been too enervating. The apparent expense, the collision of different plans, the difficulty in revolutionizing the whole industrial system, the hold of an aristocracy affording to its upper class a fascinating leisure and luxury—these, and the absence of any high moral inspiration in the movement, brought it to naught. Instead of decreeing emancipation, the Legislature fell back on the policy of stricter repression. It enacted that the advocacy of rebellion by writing or printing should be a penitentiary offense, and to express the opinion that masters had no rights to their slaves was made punishable by a fine of $500 and one year in jail. To advise conspiracy was treason and its punishment death. It had been enacted a year before that no white man be allowed to assemble slaves to instruct them in reading and writing; and to this it was now added that neither slaves nor free negroes be allowed to preach.

And so Virginia abdicated her old-time leadership in the cause of human rights, and the primacy of the South passed to South Carolina and to Calhoun, the champion of slavery.

In the meantime the organization of the radical anti-slavery force went on at the North. In 1832 Garrison, Oliver Johnson and ten others constituted themselves the New England Anti-slavery Society. Almost its first attack was directed against the Colonization Society, Garrison being always as fierce against half-way friends as against pronounced foes. In 1833 a little group of more moderate but resolute men organized a local association in New York city, and under their call the American Anti-slavery Society held its first meeting in Philadelphia, in December. Among the New York leaders were Arthur and Lewis Tappan, merchants of high standing and men of well-balanced and admirable character; with them were associated Joshua Leavitt and Elizur Wright. Among the Massachusetts recruits was Whittier. The sixty-four members were largely made up of merchants, preachers, and theological students. Almost all were church members; twenty-one Presbyterians or Congregationalists, nineteen Quakers, and one Unitarian,—Samuel J. May. There was a noticeable absence of men versed in public affairs. The constitution was carefully drawn to safeguard the society against the imputation of unconstitutional or anarchic tendencies. It declared that the right to legislate for the abolition of slavery existed only in the Legislature of each State; that the society would appeal to Congress to prohibit the interstate slave trade, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and the territories, and to admit no more slave States; and that the society would not countenance the insurrection of slaves. Garrison, who had been visiting the Abolitionists in England, was not among the signers of the call to the convention, and the constitution was hardly in the line of his views; but he wrote a declaration of principles which after some debate was adopted. It was impassioned and unsparing; pictured the woes of the slaves and the essential wickedness of the system; denounced compensation and colonization; declared that "all laws admitting the right of slavery are before God utterly null and void" and "ought instantly to be abrogated"; and called for a universal and unresting agitation.



Thus, with the beginning of the second third of the nineteenth century, the issue as to American slavery was distinctly drawn, and the leading parties to it had taken their positions. Let us try to understand the motive and spirit of each.

In the new phase of affairs, the chief feature was the changed attitude of the South. In the sentiment of its leading and representative men, there had been three stages: first, "slavery is an evil, and we will soon get rid of it"; next, "slavery is an evil, but we do not know how to get rid of it"; now it became "slavery is good and right, and we will maintain it." To this ground the South came with surprising suddenness in the years immediately following 1833. What caused the change? The favorite Southern explanation has been that the violence of the Abolitionists exasperated the South, checked its drift toward emancipation, and provoked it in self-defense to justify and extend its system. This may be effective as a criticism of the extreme Abolitionists, but as regards the South it is rather a confession than a defense. On a subject involving its whole prosperity, its essential character, its relation to the world's civilization, did it reverse its course at the bitter words of a few critics? If that were true, it would bespeak passionate irritability, an incapacity for the healthy give-and-take of practical life, in keeping with the worst that could be said of the effect of slavery on the master. In truth the violence of Garrison and his few followers was but a minor element in the case. Slavery had become immensely profitable; it was the corner-stone of a social fabric in which the upper class had an extremely comfortable place; it was involved with the whole social and political life of the section. It was too important to be dealt with half-heartedly: it must be accepted, justified, believed in,—or it must be abandoned. John Randolph of Roanoke had said of slavery: "We are holding a wolf by the ears; it is perilous alike to hold on or to let go." But one or the other must be done, and the South elected to keep on holding the wolf.

The better to understand the developments of the following years, it will be well to consider a group of representative men,—Calhoun, Garrison, Birney, Channing, and Webster.

Calhoun had many of the elements of high statesmanship—clear views, strong convictions, forcible speech. He was ambitious, but in no ignoble fashion; he often served his country well, as in his efficient administration of the war department under Munroe, his protest against the spoils system and the personal government of Jackson, and his influence in averting war with England over the Oregon boundary in 1845-46. After the Presidency was clearly out of his reach—from 1832—he was growingly identified with and devoted to the interests of his own section, yet always with a patriotic regard for the Union as a whole. He had that fondness for theories and abstractions which was characteristic of the Southern statesmen, fostered perhaps by the isolated life of the plantation. With this went a kind of provincialism of thought, bred from the wide difference which slavery made from the life of the world at large. When Calhoun, in one of his Senate orations was magnifying the advantage of slave over free labor, Wade of Ohio, who sat listening intently, turned to a neighbor and exclaimed: "That man lives off of all traveled roads!" He had neither the arts nor the magnetism of the popular politician; he won no such personal following as Clay and Jackson; but the South more and more accepted him as the most logical and far-seeing champion of its peculiar interests.

His personality had much in common with Jonathan Edwards. There was in both the same inflexible logic and devotion to ideas, the same personal purity and austerity. The place of the mystic's fire which burned in Edwards was taken in Calhoun by a passionate devotion to the commonwealth. In both there was a certain moral callousness which made the one view with complacence a universe including a perpetual hell of unspeakable torments; while the other accepted as the ideal society a system in which the lowest class was permanently debased. Each was the champion of a cause destined to defeat because condemned by the moral sentiment of the world,—Edwards the advocate of Calvinism, and Calhoun of slavery.

Calhoun is to be regarded as a typical slave-holder of the better class. He owned and cultivated a plantation with several hundred slaves; spent much time upon it; made it profitable, and dispensed a generous hospitality. Such a plantation was a little community, organized and administered with no small labor and skill; with house servants, often holding a friendly and intimate relation with the family; with a few trained mechanics and a multitude of field hands. As to physical comfort the slaves were probably as well or better provided than the bulk of European peasantry,—this on the testimony of witnesses as unfriendly to slavery as Fanny Kemble and Dr. Channing. Order and some degree of morality were enforced, and religion, largely of the emotional type, prevailed widely. So much may be said, perhaps, for the average plantation, certainly for the better class, and a very large class. Joseph Le Conte, the eminent scientist, a writer of the highest credit, in his pleasing autobiography describes his boyhood on a Georgia plantation, and characterizes his father as a man of rare excellence to whom he owed the best of his mental inheritance. He writes of him: "The best qualities of character were constantly exercised in the just, wise, and kindly management of his 200 slaves. The negroes were strongly attached to him, and proud of calling him master.... There never was a more orderly, nor apparently a happier working class than the negroes of Liberty county as I knew them in my boyhood."

Against this description are to be set such statements as this made by Frederick Law Olmsted, after many months of travel in the South: "The field hand negro is on an average a very poor and a very bad creature, much worse than I had supposed before I had seen him and grown familiar with his stupidity, indolence, duplicity, and sensuality. He seems to be but an imperfect man, incapable of taking care of himself in a civilized manner, and his presence in large numbers must be considered a dangerous circumstance to a civilized people." Olmsted saw no resource but gradual emancipation with suitable training. A resident of this same Liberty county, Rev. C. C. Jones, himself a staunch supporter of slavery, but urgent for giving better religious instruction to the slaves, wrote in 1842; "That the negroes are in a degraded state is a fact, so far as my knowledge extends, universally conceded.... Negro marriages are neither recognized nor protected by law. Uncleanness—this sin may be considered as universal.... They are proverbial thieves." But how could "religious instruction" produce chastity in those for whom the law did not recognize marriage, or honesty in those who themselves were stolen?

But the bright side of the medal, which had so dark an obverse, was the interpretation on which Calhoun and the slave-holding class took their stand. They resolutely ignored the frequent abuses and the essential degradation of manhood. They fashioned the theory—it was the old familiar theory of past ages, but had fallen out of sight in the enthusiasm of the revolutionary period—that society rightly and properly is constituted with a servile class as its base. Calhoun declared: "I hold that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other." And generally, he adds, the condition of the laborer has been worse than it now is in the South. In advance of civilization, he declares, there always comes a conflict between capital and labor; and this conflict the South avoids by unflinchingly holding the laborer in his subject condition.

Calhoun is dead, and slavery is dead, but the ideas he then avowed are still powerfully, if more latently, asserting themselves in our social order.

For these theories the slave-holders now found justification from the ministers of religion. The South held more tenaciously than any other section to the old-fashioned type of Christianity. In earlier days, religious teachers—as in the unanimous vote of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1818—had held slavery to be "utterly inconsistent with the law of God, which requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves." But now the Southern ministers of all denominations appealed for ample justification to slavery as it was permitted under the Jewish law, and as it existed in the time of Christ and the Apostles, and was unrebuked by them. They went further back, and in the curse pronounced by Noah upon the unfilial Ham and his posterity, they found warrant for holding the African in perpetual bondage. So the South closed up its ranks, in Church and State, and answered its critics with self-justification, and with counterattack on what it declared to be their unconstitutional, anarchic, and infidel teachings.

The agitation against slavery took on a new phase with the appearance of Garrison and his founding of the Liberator and the New England Anti-slavery Society in 1831. Garrison was filled and possessed with one idea—the wrongs of the slave, and the instant, pressing, universal duty of giving him freedom. It was in him an unselfish and heroic passion. For it he cheerfully accepted hardship, obloquy, peril. He saw no difficulties except in the sin of wrongdoers and their allies; the only course he admitted was immediate emancipation by the master of his human property, and the instant cooeperation and urgency of all others to this end. His words were charged with passion; they kindled sympathetic souls with their own flame; they roused to a like heat those whom they assailed; and they sent thrills of alarm, wonder, and wrath, through the community. Wherever the Liberator went, or the lecturers of the new anti-slavery societies were heard, there could be no indifference or forgetfulness as to slavery. Hitherto, to the immense mass of people throughout the North, it had been a far-away and unimportant matter. Now it was sent home to the business and bosoms of all men.

The anti-slavery movement changed its character. Garrison entered on a very active campaign, lecturing and establishing local societies. Prominent among his assistants was George Thompson, one of the English Abolitionists, who, after the emancipation of the West India slaves by the British government at a cost of L20,000,000, came to this country and acted as Garrison's ally, winning some converts by his eloquence, but heightening the unpopularity of the movement through the general hostility to foreign interference. The early societies had been largely in the border States, and their efforts had an immediate object in the political action of their own communities. Now, the resentment and fear of the slave-holding interest soon drove them out of those communities. They spread faster than ever,—in a few years it was said that they were 1300,—but were confined to the free States. What immediate and practical aim could they pursue? It was the question of practical action that brought Garrison's views to a sharp test, and soon divided him from the great body of anti-slavery people.

In Garrison's mind there was room for only one idea at a time. Slavery was a crime, a sin, an abomination,—that to him was the first, the last, the whole truth of the matter. He had little education, and he had not in the least a judicial or an open mind. It was to him clear and certain that the blacks were in every way the equal of the whites. Of the complexity of human society; of the vital necessity of a political bond uniting communities, and of the inevitable imperfections and compromises which are the price of an established social order; of the process of evolution by which humanity slowly grows from one stage into another; of the fact that the negro was in some ways better as a slave in America than as a savage in Africa, and that there must be other intermediate stages in his development; of the consideration due to honest differences of opinion and to deeply-rooted habits—of all this Garrison was as ignorant as a six-years-old child. When facts came in his way, he denied them; when institutions stood across his path, he denounced them; when men differed from him, he assailed them.

As to a practical course of action by Northern people, he was absolutely without resource. How were they to free the slaves? Not by force—force was to Garrison as wicked as slavery itself. By their votes? That was only possible under the government as ordained by the Constitution; and the Constitution allowed no action against slavery except by each State for itself. The worse then for the Constitution! Ere many years Garrison declared, and put as a standing heading to the Liberator: "The United States Constitution Is a Covenant with Death and an Agreement with Hell." He went further; for a time at least he held that all human governments, as resting on force, were sinful, and to be ignored, or passively submitted to, without taking active part. He declared the Union, as a compact with slave-holders, was worthy only to be dissolved. But how even dissolve it, since he counselled his followers not to vote? And if it were dissolved, how would the slaves be any nearer freedom? Was there any possible good outcome to non-voting and dissolution of the Union, except that there would then be no complicity with slave-holders? And would such escape from complicity be any help to the slave, any service to humanity, anything more than an egotistic separation from political society, a mere refined selfishness?

Such questions never troubled Garrison. Instead of answering them, he found something else to denounce. The churches he thought were derelict, in that they did not bear testimony against slavery. True, most of the great religious bodies of the country were soon rent asunder on the question: Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, were divided between North and South, because neither side could tolerate the other's position on slavery. But nothing satisfied Mr. Garrison. To him the churches were "cages of unclean birds and synagogues of Satan."

But if the gun was ill-aimed, at least the recoil was prodigious. It is unreasonable to attribute principally to the violence of the Liberator the new and determined rally of the South in defense of slavery,—Calhoun and his followers had far wider grounds for their action than that,—but undoubtedly that violence helped to consolidate and intensify the Southern resistance. The Abolitionist papers were at first sent all over the South. The Southerners saw little difference between such papers as the Liberator and such direct incitements to insurrection as Walker's Appeal; and the horrors of Nat Turner's rising were fresh in mind. They put all Abolitionist teaching under a common ban. At the North, the anti-slavery cause became associated in the popular mind with hostility to the government, to the churches, to the established usages of society. It was Charles Sumner who said: "An omnibus load of Boston Abolitionists had done more harm to the anti-slavery cause than all its enemies."

Garrison's own following was soon divided, and a large part drew away from him. The most important division came on the question of political action, when, in the Presidential election of 1840, the practical wing entered into the political field, as the inevitable and only arena for effective action; nominated a candidate, and laid the foundation for the election of Lincoln twenty years later. In the American Anti-slavery Society there came a contest; Garrison triumphed by a narrow vote, but a secession followed. Of his immediate and permanent allies the most important was Wendell Phillips. He threw himself heart and soul into the cause; he gave to it an educated and brilliant mind, and a fascinating oratory; he was as uncompromising and censorious as Garrison.

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