- Alphabetical List of Authors
- Note On the Texts
- Part One: Colonial Settlements and Societies
- Virginia Articles, Laws, and Orders I610–11
- The Mayflower Compact November 11, 1620
- Fundamental Orders of Connecticut January 14, 1639
- The Massachusetts Body of Liberties December 1641
- Charter of Liberties and Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania In America May 5, 1682
- Dorchester Agreement October 8, 1633
- Maryland Act For Swearing Allegiance 1638: Plymouth Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity 1625
- Little Speech On Liberty
- Copy of a Letter From Mr. Cotton to Lord Say and Seal
- Part Two: Religious Society and Religious Liberty In Early America
- The Bloody Tenent, of Persecution, For Cause of Conscience
- A Platform of Church Discipline
- Providence Agreement August 20, 1637: Maryland Act For Church Liberties 1638: Pennsylvania Act For Freedom of Conscience December 7, 1682
- Worcestriensis 1776
- Thanksgiving Proclamation and Letters to Religious Associations
- Farewell Address
- The Rights of Conscience Inalienable
- Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association
- Part Three: Defending the Charters
- Magna Charta 1215
- Petition of Right 1628
- An Account of the Late Revolution In New England and Boston Declaration of Grievances: Boston Declaration of Grievances
- The English Bill of Rights 1689
- The Stamp Act March 22, 1765
- Braintree Instructions
- Resolutions of the Virginia House of Burgesses June 1765: Declarations of the Stamp Act Congress October 24, 1765
- The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved
- The Act Repealing the Stamp Act March 18, 1766; the Declaratory Act, 1766
- Part Four: the War For Independence
- A Discourse At the Dedication of the Tree of Liberty
- Letters From a Farmer In Pennsylvania, Letters V and Ix
- Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress October 14, 1774
- Virginia Bill of Rights June 12, 1776
- On Civil Liberty, Passive Obedience, and Non-resistance
- Common Sense
- The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776
- Part Five: a New Constitution
- Thoughts On Government
- Articles of Confederation 1778
- The Essex Result April 29, 1778
- Northwest Ordinance 1787
- Albany Plan of Union July 10, 1754
- Virginia and New Jersey Plans 1787
- The Constitution of the United States of America 1787
- The Federalist , Papers 1, 9, 10, 39, 47–51, 78
- Address of the Minority of the Pennsylvania Convention December 12, 1787
- An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution
- Part Six: the Bill of Rights
- The Federalist , Papers 84 and 85
- Letter I
- Essay I
- Letter Iii
- Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments: Virginia Bill For Establishing Religious Freedom
- Speech Introducing Proposed Constitutional Amendments: Debate Over First Amendment Language August 15, 1789: The First Ten Amendments to the Constitution, Or the Bill of Rights 1789
- Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States
- The People V. Ruggles
- Marbury V. Madison
- Barron V. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore
- Part Seven: State Versus Federal Authority
- Essay V: “brutus” 1787
- Chisholm V. Georgia: U.s. Constitution, Eleventh Amendment 1787
- The Alien and Sedition Acts June 25, 1798: Virginia Resolutions December 21, 1798: Kentucky Resolutions November 10, 1798: Counter-resolutions of Other States 1799: Report of Virginia House of Delegates 1799
- The Duty of Americans, At the Present Crisis
- Report of the Hartford Convention 1815
- Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States: a Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States
- Part Eight: Forging a Nation
- Opinion Against the Constitutionality of a National Bank: Opinion As to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States
- Veto Message
- Veto Message
- Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States
- Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois: Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Newspaper Editorials: “direct Taxation” April 22, 1834: “chief Justice Marshall” July 28, 1835: “the Despotism of the Majority” March 25, 1837: “morals of Legislation” April 15, 1837: “the Morals of Politics” June 3, 1837
- Speech On Electioneering
- Speech Before the U.s. Senate (webster): Speech Before the U.s. Senate (hayne)
- Fort Hill Address
- Part Nine: Prelude to War
- Laws Regulating Servants and Slaves, 1630–1852
- “slavery” “agriculture and the Militia”
- The Missouri Compromise 1820–21
- Newspaper Editorials: “governor Mcduffie’s Message” February 10, 1835: “the Question of Slavery Narrowed to a Point” April 15, 1837: “‘abolition Insolence’” July 29, 1837
- Senate Speeches On the Compromise of 1850 Speech On the Slavery Question
- Second Fugitive Slave Law September 18, 1850: Ableman V. Booth (62 Us 506)
- Scott V. Sandford
- The Relative Position and Treatment of the Negroes the Abolitionists—consistency of Their Labors
- What Is Slavery? Slavery Is Despotism
- Kansas-nebraska Act 1856: Fifth Lincoln-douglas Debate October 7, 1858
The Relative Position and Treatment of the Negroes
The Abolitionists—Consistency of Their Labors
As the struggle over slavery and its position within the United States intensified, abolitionist statements concerning the evils of slavery were met with statements by Southerners—and also by some Northerners—defending the institution. George S. Sawyer, a Southern slaveholder and lawyer, compared his idyllic picture of slave life with a nightmare vision of non-slave societies—including Great Britain, the source of much antislavery writing. According to this so-called mud-sill theory, Northern industrial institutions subjected workers of whatever color to worse deprivations than slavery, particularly because Northern workers lacked a master whose own interest dictated that he look after theirs. Selections here are taken from Sawyer’s Southern Institutes, or, an inquiry into the Origin and Early prevalence of slavery and the Slave-trade: with an analysis of the laws, history, and government of the institution in the principal nations, ancient and modern, from the earliest ages down to the present time. With notes and comments in Defence of the southern institutions.
The Relative Position and Treatment of the Negroes
No government has ever existed in the civilized world that placed the black and the white man upon an equal footing as to all the rights and privileges of citizens. In their political and social condition, universally among the Caucasian race, the negro lives under many social and civil disabilities. Lord Mansfield said, in the decision of Sommersett’s case, that such was the odium that existed against them among the English people, that they could not live in the enjoyment of any social or civil privileges in England. In France they can never attain to the rights of citizens. The fundamental principles of our Federal and State governments place these privileges all beyond the reach of the negro in America. The Constitution of the United States and that of nearly all the States, say, that every free white male citizen, &c., shall be a duly qualified elector; and such only are eligible to any office of honor, profit, or trust, or to be admitted generally to civil functions, to seats in the churches, public schools, places of general assembly, or private circles of society; all intermarriages between the white and the black races is prohibited by law. This all goes to show that the negro race, by universal consent of the civilized world, are considered a separate and distinct race of beings, suited only to their own peculiar state and condition. Their freedom is but a name, an unmeaning sound; they are by nature totally incapacitated to enjoy the rights and privileges of freemen, except in secluded communities of their own kindred blood, which ever have been, and ever will be, sooner or later, when left to themselves, in a state of barbarism. Their condition among the whites is necessarily that of pupilage and dependence.
Considerations of this kind first induced civilized nations to purchase them as slaves. Slavery . . . had its origin in the stern yet merciful dictates of humanity; the very word from which they take their name in the Latin language, indicates the act of mercy that spared their lives. Slavery originated from the same cause, and existed by the same laws in Africa. This principle of national law that governed the whole ancient world, took effect there also; and thousands and millions of the hapless wretches who fell into the hands of their otherwise merciless captors, were by its benign influence snatched, as it were, from the jaws of death. But by the barbarous customs of the country, their blood was spared but for a time; till the anniversary of some funeral rites or festive occasion, to water the graves of the ancestors of their victors. Wars and revolutions had destroyed and enslaved nations, till one-sixth owned and held the other five-sixths of the entire population in bondage. The less the demand for these preserved captives as merchandize, the less value and consequence they became to their African owners, and even burdensome to support; and hence the greater number could be sacrificed on all occasions, and the more shocking these scenes of carnage and bloodshed became to glut the blood-thirsty mania of these African savages.
Such was the condition of all the slave regions of Africa when the first English slave ship found its way to her coast. She arrived there upon a mission of mercy; to be (as Commander Forbes, of the British navy in 1850, tells us he was at one of their sacrifices), the unworthy instrument, in the hands of Divine Providence, in saving the lives of some of these miserable creatures doomed to the knife of the executioner; to transport them from this thraldom of heathen darkness into the light and knowledge of the one living and true God.
Humanity and Christian benevolence every where plead for mercy to the wretched African captive. It was originally the same spirit that induced Moses to retain the foreign fugitive who had escaped from a heathen master to some one of the tribes of Israel: actuated by the noblest impulse of the human heart, he could not suffer the stranger to be denied the blessings that had been vouchsafed to his own countrymen, and remanded back into a land of heathen darkness. The same motives touched the cord of true philanthropy in the heart of Queen Elizabeth, and moved her at first to permit, encourage, and patronize John Hawkins and other English merchants to engage in the traffic. It was the same spirit that first moved the enlightened and philanthropic body of the British Parliament to charter the Royal African, and afterwards the West India Company, for the same purpose. It was in the Christian hope of benefiting these wretched beings in Africa, that the pious John Newton, of Liverpool, fitted a slave ship, and actually commanded her for several trips in the Guinea Trade. It was the same spirit that moved the pen of the celebrated Jonathan Edwards in defence of the African slave trade, and prompted him to dedicate one of his master-pieces of logic to that object. It also quieted the conscience of the renowned Cotton Mather to hold them as slaves; and also that of the Rev. Dr. Styles, one of the early presidents of Yale College, to export a barrel of rum to the coast of Africa to buy him a slave. . . .
This originally beneficent scheme of ransoming these prisoners from destruction, and making them as comfortable and happy in a Christian land as their character and the nature of their condition will admit, is no more accountable for the horrid abuses that have been consequent upon it, than the Christian religion itself is for the oceans of human blood that have flowed in its footsteps. And the question of suppression of the slave trade by law at the present day is one of national policy, and pure expediency, as to whether, in consequence of the avarice and wickedness of mankind, it is not productive of more evil than good to Africa, and the world at large. It is not my purpose to enter into any discussion of this question; but there is a fair question that may be asked by every true philanthropist, Whether these attempts at suppression do not aggravate the sufferings of the African slaves, both in their native country and on their passage, when smuggled away for a foreign port? It is conceded by the best-informed upon this subject, that nothing but the entire conquest of Africa can ever abolish this trade; and the question may be conscientiously asked, whether the ineffectual and fruitless attempts at present being made at suppression are, on the whole, productive of any good.
Every human being with African blood in his veins, who has escaped from this maelstrom of African slavery and of human misery, lived through the horrors of the middle passage, and is now alive in a Christian land, owes his existence, and that of his posterity to the merciful interposition of the African slave trade. But for this, the life-blood that now flows freely through the swelling pulsations of his heart, and animates his system, would have long since drenched the grave of some barbaric prince, or person of rank, upon a heathen soil.
The same principle of national law that permitted Abraham to bring back the women, and also the people from the slaughter of Chederlaomer and the kings that were with him at the battle of Shaveh, to pay tithes of all to Melchisedec, the Jewish High Priest; and to divide the spoils with the king of Sodom and give him the people; the same principle of national law that permitted the Hebrew slave-dealers under the Mosaic code to purchase the captives of the heathen round about them; the same principle that permitted governor Winthrop to brand the captive Pequods on the shoulder, and send them with the negroes to the West Indies for slaves, has also, from the earliest ages, prevailed in Africa, as well as all other nations. By this law of captivity, the custom of sparing the lives of their captives made them their property, as it did in ancient Greece, Rome, and all the nations of Europe. This law, as we have before remarked, was founded in mercy; it was one step in the progress of civilization; it was enacted in favor of human life.
In Africa, as in all nations, these captives were lawful articles of commerce; the right of the African owner to sell them was perfect and indefeasible, and (as we shall show more fully hereafter), has been universally so held by the judicial tribunals of all civilized nations. Therefore, slaves were originally procured from Africa in a regular and lawful course of trade; it was a legal commerce, carried on by many pious men, under the permission and patronage of Christian sovereigns. As in all other commercial enterprises, companies were chartered by the British Parliament to promote this kind of trade with Africa. At length, bad men engaged in the trade, perverted its original purpose, and abused this privilege.
Origin of Slavery in the United States
Some of the English, Spanish, and other slave ships, at length found their way to the West Indies, and the coast of America. Slavery was not legislated into the British Colonies in America; it flowed in there freely as the wind that bloweth where it listeth, for the reason that it was then a regular and lawful commerce, and there was no law in the colonies to prohibit it. New England was for a long time a great importing emporium for African slaves; some of the principal places along her coast owe their origin to the wealth derived from this trade. Newport was not alone; other places contributed their portion. Many of these slaves were retained as domestics, and for other service in the New England States, but they were mostly reshipped at these places for the West Indies and Southern markets. England, France, Spain, and Portugal, were, for a long time, and some still are, deeply engaged in this traffic. The British Colonies in America made several ineffectual attempts to suppress it, but were always overpowered by the authority of the mother country.
Feeling a natural aversion to negro labor and negro society, the colonial authorities frequently remonstrated against its introduction into the colonies. But every voice was put to silence, and every effort to remedy this evil frustrated, by the overwhelming power of English despotism; and the trade was continued for years under the favor of foreign influence and foreign power. Hence arose the numerous class of slave population in the United States.
In Virginia, several efforts were made to prohibit the importation of slaves, but the British Government constantly checked all their efforts. South Carolina passed a similar law, which was rejected by the king in council upon the plea that slavery was beneficial to the country as a source of protection, &c. Massachusetts was the first of the colonies to participate in this trade; yet, when she would stop, Governor Hutchinson, acting under the direction of the Crown of England, rejected all her efforts. The importation of slaves into Georgia was early prohibited for twenty years, that this State might be peopled with a sturdy white population, and thus become a strong barrier of protection against the inroad of Spanish incursions from the South. The slave population continued to increase during the colonial existence of the States; till, at the formation and adoption of the Federal Constitution, twelve of the thirteen were slave-holding States.
This class of population was forced upon the colonists against their will in great numbers, and as they existed in all the original States but one, some provision necessarily had to be agreed upon in the Constitution for their recognition and government. The idea is held up by Abolitionists among people not well informed upon this subject, that the African progenitors of the present slave popula-tion in this country were originally stolen from Africa; and hence their present owners and holders are denounced as partakers of stolen property, known to be such.
This is but one of the multiplicity of errors that lie at the foundation of all the misguided zeal and fanaticism that prevail in different States and places upon this subject.
But is not the same true of the East India company? look at the horrors and abuse of the opium trade, and others, which will be more fully set forth hereafter. The following passage, it is said, was originally inserted in the Declaration of Independence, by Mr. Jefferson. Speaking of the king of England, he says, “He has waged a cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him; capturing and carrying them away into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur a miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for the suppressing of every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.” In the first place, it can hardly be said that the British nation waged a war against human nature in permitting and encouraging the African slave trade; it was, as we have said, in its real design, or as patronized by government, dictated by humanity. In the second place, it violated no rights of life or liberty by capturing and carrying away a distant people into slavery; it found them already in slavery and doomed to inevitable destruction in their native country. It found them lawfully held and owned by their native masters, and purchased them in a fair and legitimate course of trade; capturing and kidnapping were never sanctioned by royal authority. Neither was it “the opprobrium of infidel powers.” Africa has been visited by the slave merchant of nearly every nation of the earth, as a lawful commerce; and the traffic is given up by African potentates at this day, with the greatest reluctance. It is even the source of a violent prejudice in Africa against those who have abolished it, and becomes a great obstacle to their commerce with those nations.
This groundless assertion of Thomas Jefferson is as unfounded a scandal upon the government of Great Britain, as his blasphemous remark upon the story of the Virgin Mary was upon the inspired author of St. Matthew’s Gospel. He finally became ashamed of it himself, and concluded to suppress it, from a delicacy of feeling towards some gentlemen of the South; and, as he intimates, from the same feeling towards some of the delegates from the North, then engaged in the Guinea trade. This language, at the organization of the Federal Government, became as applicable to the government of the United States and the framers of its constitution, as to the king of Great Britain —since it is provided by that instrument that the importation of African slaves shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808. For eighteen years then, this nefarious war against human nature, as termed by Mr. Jefferson, was continued under the direct sanction of the framers and adopters of the Constitution of the United States. Thus was this scandal of Mr. Jefferson upon not only the English but American nation, silently yet severely rebuked by the united voice of the American people. Thomas Jefferson himself turns a perfect somersault in sentiment, and wages this same war against human nature, by taking the oath to support the Constitution as President of the United States, and that, too, before the time of this provisional sanction of the African slave trade had elapsed. If he was sincere in what he uttered against the king of England with regard to this traffic, what a paragon of absurdity does his biography here present!
Thomas Jefferson was a true patriot and a great man, but he was extremely fond of strange eccentricities, quaint expressions, glaring paradoxes, and sweeping assertions. And he displays this peculiarity in a singular degree in some of his expressions in the Declaration of Independence. He there asserts that “all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” &c. In the first place, all men are not created at all; it is contended by some that there never was but one man created, and by others that each type of man had its origin in a separate creation. But if it is to be understood that all men are born equal, its absurdity in a literal sense is none the less apparent (as we have endeavored to show above). In the second place, men have no inalienable rights either naturally or politically. What natural or political right has a man, that he may not voluntarily or involuntarily forfeit or transfer to the body politic? It is one of the fundamental principles in the science of human government, that it derives its just and full powers from the consent of the governed; and this consent consists in a voluntary alienation of a portion for the more safe and certain protection of the balance. Hence government becomes a kind of compromise or compact between the rulers and the ruled; and every individual subject may forfeit his liberty, and even his life, in various ways. He may do it by the voluntary commission of crime, or by enlisting into the army, &c. Again, he may involuntarily forfeit it by such a concourse of circumstances as to render it necessary; to avoid a death by fire, he may jump into the ocean; the calls of his country may require too “the poor offering of his life, and the victim must be ready at the appointed hour of sacrifice.” Physical disabilities and worldly misfortunes may throw him upon the cold charities of the world, and confine him to the prison limits of public alms. Mental infirmities and derangements may consign him to a lunatic asylum; what then becomes of his inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
But let us inquire into what claim Mr. Jefferson had to originality in this particular. Alexander Hamilton, speaking of the British colonies in America, long prior to the Declaration of Independence, used the following language:
“We are threatened with the most abject slavery. It has been proven that resistance by remonstrance will be without effect. Were not the disadvantages of slavery too obvious to stand in need of it, I might enumerate the tedious train of calamities inseparable from it. I might show that it is fatal to religion and morality, that it tends to debase the mind and corrupt its noblest springs of action.” “That Americans are entitled to freedom is manifest upon every rational principle; all men have a common original, they participate in a common nature and consequently have a common right; no valid reason can be assigned why one man should exercise more power or pre-eminence over his fellow men than another, unless they have voluntarily vested him with that right. Since, then, Americans have not by any act of theirs empowered the British Parliament to make laws for them, it follows,” &c. It will not be pretended that Mr. Hamilton, in the use of the above language, had reference to any other than British subjects, or the Anglo-Saxon race; he is speaking of their condition in America, and assigns this as a reason why they were, and ought to be, free and independent. He could not have intended to convey the fantastical idea that seems to have been taken from it by the writer of the Declaration of Independence, or that it should apply to negroes, Indians, &c. If so, he could not have been so inconsistent as to sit as chairman of a committee of three, in 1788, during the existence of the Confederation, consisting of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Sedgewick, who reported a resolution to Congress strongly recommending the necessity and propriety of negotiating a treaty with the King of Spain for the restitution of fugitive slaves who escaped from the States adjoining into his territory, to which we shall refer more particularly hereafter. Besides, he was one of the most lucid and logical commentators upon the Constitution of the United States and one of the most successful advocates for its adoption with all its pro-slavery provisions.
But Mr. Jefferson seized upon this restricted remark, metamorphosed it into an ecumenical proposition, and brandished it in his usual sweeping and random manner in the Declaration of Independence. But public opinion, in this instance, too, gave a negative to his startling hypothesis, by adopting the idea as it was intended by its original author; and in the subsequent formation and adoption of the Constitution of the United States, held that only free white male citizens have a common right, and that negroes might be held as slaves, and restored to their owners when they escaped. The framers carried out the full meaning and spirit of this much-abused and misconstrued clause in the Declaration of Independence, in the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, by thus adopting its true and original meaning. It related only to the hereditary claims to prominence and power of the Anglo-Saxon race over one another; hence it provided that there should be no titles of nobility, no established class, rank or religion, that “no man should be deprived of his life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” &c. This covered the whole original doctrine of this celebrated clause in the Declaration of Independence.
At the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, twelve of the thirteen were slave-holding States; and, indeed, it might be said that all were of that character, for although there do not appear to have been any slaves actually held in Massachusetts, yet, as we shall see, but a short time previous that State held many, and there never was any law there abolishing it, except the force of public opinion, unexpressed by any direct legislative enactment. There were, at that date, in the several States, about seven hundred thousand slaves. This number could not have been estimated at a value less than three hundred millions of dollars. This vast amount of property had been originally acquired in a legitimate course of trade; the right of the owners was perfect and indefeasible by any act of legislation without remuneration. How, then, could the subject be disposed of in the formation of the present government? It must be tolerated or abolished. But were the United States able, at the close of a protracted and expensive war, with a bankrupt treasury, to pay this amount as a remuneration to the owners for the loss of property and damages sustained by the abolition of slavery?
It must, therefore, be tolerated, and its existence provided for as a matter of right. The policy adopted by the framers of the Constitution was (as we shall show more fully hereafter), for Congress to abstain from all interference with this subject, directly or indirectly, and to leave it exclusively to the governments of the several States in which it existed.
The Position and Treatment of Slaves
The definition of “a slave, is one who is subject to the power of a master, and who belongs to him in such a manner that the master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry, and his labor; and who can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything, but that may belong to his master.”
Many of the features of this definition have but a nominal existence, without any practical effect. It will be seen that the slave belongs to his master only for certain specific purposes. The idea of property in his person (as we shall show more fully hereafter) is but a fiction of law. The power to sell, alienate, and transfer, is not only an essential requisite to the existence of the present relation between master and slave, but greatly enhances the value of that relation; and when not abused, it is a source of great comfort and blessing to the slave. By this provision of law, the master who cruelly treats his slave can be compelled to transfer him to another master. Besides, the slave who is dissatisfied with his master can select another more congenial to his notion, and by requesting the change, the master will generally find it to his interest to grant his request, as the value of the slave’s services consists, in a great measure, in his being contented and satisfied with his master. For this reason, slaves are seldom sold except in families. The idea is prevalent among the misinformed upon this subject, that no heed is given to the desires of the slave in this particular; but this the universal experience of every man acquainted with the management of slaves will contradict. Though the slave’s right to property is not known de jure, yet it exists, and is practically recognised de facto—as much so as the property of a free person; and in their intercourse with the world it is universally observed and respected. Like the Roman slaves they have their peculium, to which the master lays no claim. And many a one, by industry and economy, acquires sufficient means to purchase his freedom. But comparatively few are willing to invest it in that way. The remark of an industrious and economical negro man, belonging to a friend of mine, illustrates their general ideas of freedom. It was generally supposed that he had accumulated a considerable amount of money. I asked him one day, in the presence of his master, why he did not purchase his freedom, to which he replied that negro property was so fluctuating that he considered it a poor investment, and he was looking out for a better speculation.
This shows the utter contempt and ridicule in which the more intelligent portion of the slave population hold the subject of liberty, accompanied with all the disabilities and disadvantages which the negro must suffer in all parts of the country. He feels and realizes the fact that he en-joys all the freedom that the nature of his character and condition in society will possibly admit. He sees thousands around him nominally free, but who are actually in a worse slavery than himself, and with whom he would not exchange situations. He concludes that, after all, this boasted liberty is but a sound, an unmeaning thing, and that slavery is the happiest condition that the black population in this country can enjoy.
The numerous classifications and divisions of labor peculiar to Roman slavery, are unknown to the American system in the United States. They are here divided into but two classes or divisions, known as the house or family servants and the plantation hands. These latter are generally under the management of an overseer, who corresponds to the Roman villicus, having the superintendence of all the affairs immediately connected with the plantation. This is a necessary regulation, and one enforced by law where the proprietor does not reside on the plantation. It is as necessary for the safety and peace of the neighborhood as for the good order and regulation of the plantation. From fifty to one hundred negroes dwelling together in a single village or quarter (which is about the average number), without the immediate supervision of some white man, to regulate them and keep them in order, would be as dangerous a foe to the surrounding plantations, as well as their own, as a camp of Camanche Indians to the border settlements upon our frontier.
There are in the slave-holding States a numerous class of persons who make this a regular profession, and follow it constantly for a livelihood. Their reputation and success in business, like all other professions, depends upon their skill and judgment in discipline and good management. Many of the most prominent citizens of these States have commenced life by this kind of employment, and risen from it to wealth and distinction. The duties of an overseer are those of any other general superintendent of any particular branch of business. He is invested with all necessary authority to secure the services of those under his charge, and to preserve good discipline and order in the quarter.
All those barbarous modes of punishment, such as wearing the furca, the cross, hanging them up by the hands with weights to their feet to be whipped, have all been done away. In turbulent and unmanageable cases, corporeal punishment is still allowed. But this, among all humane and judicious managers, is resorted to with reason and discretion, and not unfrequently with great reluctance.
The instrument generally used for inflicting this punishment is a soft buckskin thong, from four to six inches in length, and from a half to an inch in width, attached to the end of a common whip. All excessive punishments are discountenanced; the greatest dissatisfaction is generally felt by the owner at the breaking of the skin in the course of such punishment; and, should it happen, not unfrequently the manager is discharged for the violation of this fixed rule. Confinement in the stocks is also sometimes resorted to in the most desperate cases, and for certain criminal offences. The idea generally held up by the Abolitionists, that the slaves are all brutally beaten and whipped without discretion or mercy, is false and unfounded. Nothing is a more certain source of dissatisfaction, on the part of the owner, than the cruel treatment or neglect of his overseer to his slaves. That instances of cruelty and neglect, from brutal and unprincipled managers, do sometimes occur, cannot be denied; but these are rare, and generally meet with the severest rebuke from public opinion, and, if possible, are visited with the penalty of the law. There is no object of human sympathy upon which it is more keenly alive, in the Southern States, than that of neglect and cruel treatment to slaves. Their helpless and dependent condition renders them peculiarly the objects of sympathy in this particular.
Their tasks of labor must not be beyond their strength, their constitution, and ability to perform; if humanity, law, and the force of public opinion should all fail to regulate this matter within its proper bounds, pecuniary interest, always the last and most sordid appeal to the motives of the master, would restrain him from over-working his slave.
The plantation hands generally reside in a little hamlet or cluster of cottages, apart and some distance from the master’s residence, when that is on the plantation; this is called the “quarter.” It consists of a group of cabins numbering in proportion to the number of inhabitants, arranged in rows at some distance apart, with a yard or play-ground intervening, generally beset with large shade trees. This little cluster, when adorned with its usual hues of snow, ensconsed beneath and within the verdant shades of some retired grove, looming out with its glimmerings of white through the green boughs of the trees, presents a scene to the view of the traveller approaching the distant heights of the back-ground, that, were he not accustomed to the optical illusion, he might mistake for a respectable New England village. The hands leave the quarter in the morning at the ringing of the bell, and are in the field in the busy season as soon as daylight will enable them to work. When the distance from the quarter will not admit of their returning to their meals, they are carried to them in the field. They continue at their work till towards noon; when it is time to feed the teams, the plough-boys then return to the stables for that purpose, and the balance, commonly known as the hoehands, take from one to three hours’ recess according to the heat of the weather and the condition of the crop. During the hottest part of the summer it is common for them to take three hours’ recess in the middle of the day. This time they spend in lounging and sleeping in the cooling retreat of some adjacent grove of shade trees upon the borders of the field; after which, they again resume their labors and continue till dark; when they return to the quarter, get their suppers, and retire for the night. Such is the regular routine of their daily labors during the planting and busy season for the week till Saturday noon; then, if the condition of the crop will admit of it, they are discharged from labor till Monday morning. This portion of the day they usually spend in cultivating their small “patches” for themselves. And those of the men who are too indolent to improve this opportunity, as many of them are, they are compelled to it by their managers. The women spend their time thus allowed them in washing and repairing their clothes, and preparing to resume their labor on the following week. It is a privilege commonly given to those of the men who will improve it, to plant and cultivate small portions or “patches” (as they term them) for themselves. From these they not unfrequently realize from thirty to fifty bushels of corn; this, with the fodder that they can save, they can sell to their masters, their neighbors, or haul to a neighboring town, for from thirty to forty dollars. They also have the privilege of raising poultry and of selling their eggs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys, besides all they can realize from odd jobs and over-work, for which they are as regularly paid as hired laborers. I know of many plantations where book accounts are kept with the slaves, and every item, that belongs to their debt and credit, is as formally and regularly entered as in the account-books of country merchants.
Thus, any slave, who has been well disciplined and enured to habits of industry and economy, who will improve his opportunity, may actually save as much for himself, besides the service that his master claims, as the majority of laborers in the free States, who labor for from ten to fifteen dollars per month, clothe themselves, and sustain all losses from sickness, want of employment, &c.
Where can there be found a class of agricultural hirelings who actually save, on an average, more than from fifty to one hundred dollars, annually, for any number of years from their earnings? On the other hand, how many thousands are there who but just live and support their families from hand to mouth by their daily labor, without being able to save one dollar at the year’s end;—a class who must be constantly weighed down with cares and anxieties for the welfare of themselves and families in sickness and other misfortunes.
The slave is relieved from all this oppressive burden of troubles; he is comforted by the pleasing consolation, if he has any thought for his family, that they have a sure support, in sickness and health, in infancy and old age. He is relieved of all those dark forebodings of the future that so weigh down and depress the spirits of the poor laborer of the free States. All that the slave makes is his own; he has nothing to pay out for the necessaries of life, though in strictness of law all that he has belongs to his master; yet this is but a nominal provision; it is all included, like a wheel within a wheel, in his possessions. But he is the proprietor of his slave’s peculium only as his representative, guardian, and protector, to see that he is not wronged, and that he does not apply his means inconsistent with his duties as a servant. It is given in charge by the law to the master for the same reason that the slave’s person is, and that is because he is incapable of managing it himself.
As to their food and clothing, it compares well with that of any class of free laborers with whom I have become acquainted. They are generally allowed plenty of the most substantial and wholesome articles of diet. It is generally estimated that it requires as many barrels of mess-pork, of two hundred pounds each, as there are slaves, big and little, to furnish them with meat for one year. It is true, that the planter is not always at the expense of purchasing that amount, for the reason that he has other sources of supply; but the amount of meat annually consumed, on every well-managed plantation, is equal to this estimate.
For breadstuffs, an allowance is made of a bushel of meal, per month, for each slave. In addition to this, they generally have sweet-potatoes and milk; besides, all the poultry, vegetables, and other articles which they may raise, or purchase themselves. They have also privileges by which they are enabled to supply themselves with sugar and coffee; their tobacco and molasses are furnished for them by their masters. For clothing, the general rule is two suits a year, one for summer and one for winter. Their winter suits are made of heavy goods manufactured from cotton and wool, called jeans; they have, also, for winter, one blanket, over-coat, and flannel under-shirts. They wear a kind of wool, or glazed hat; they have, also, two pairs of shoes, or, more frequently, a pair of shoes and a pair of boots. Their summer suits are made of a kind of cotton goods called Osnaburgs, or Lowells. These keep them well clad for their labor during the year; they have separate suits for Sundays, for which, and the few articles of luxury that they buy, they generally spend their savings during the year.
It is now Christmas; the cotton-picking season is over; the slaves have finished their year’s work, and are now enjoying their holidays. They have a week to themselves before resuming the labors of another year. While I sit penning this chapter, the town is thronged with hundreds of the black people from the neighboring plantations. They have come to town to sell their “truck” (as they term it), which they have raised during the year, and to buy articles of family luxuries, and fine clothing, as they may fancy. They spend this week in visiting, feasting, frolicking, dancing, and such other amusements as they most enjoy. When it has passed, they cheerfully make preparations for another crop.
The house slaves or servants have nothing to do with the plantation; they are retained as waiting servants, and their duties are confined to the more immediate wants of the family. One has charge of the sleeping-rooms, and the various apartments of the house; others of the culinary department; others of the laundry; others again, of the horses kept for family uses, and pleasure carriages. This class of servants have their houses usually in the back yard, or somewhere near the family residence, and eat at what may be called the second table, after the white members of the family. Like all white servants throughout the free States: in all families of respectability they are kept neatly clad; and often for a Sunday garb, or ball dress, put on what would, in a Quaker village, be called a rich and extravagant costume. . . .
It is asserted by Abolition writers and speakers that the slaves enjoy no religious privileges. This is another one of the numerous popular errors resulting from ignorance and misrepresentation, that help to fan the flame of popular fanaticism that pervades the Abolition crusade of the North against the South. By the rules of church discipline, slaves are admitted as, and actually become, members of all Evangelical churches throughout the slave-holding States. In all towns and neighborhoods where there is regular preaching they are generally privileged to attend, and one exercise of the Sabbath is usually devoted to their express benefit. Plantations and settlements remote from these privileges, are generally supplied by itinerant preachers either of the Methodist Episcopal Conference, or by those appointed by the several denominations to take charge of the different stations of the African Mission. Not unfrequently, settlements support local preachers for the benefit of the col-ored population. It is true, some masters object to having preaching on their plantations, and to their slaves attending church; but such men are not peculiar to the slave States.
Child-like in their intellectual capacity, predisposed to superstition, credulity, and imitation; confiding in their superiors, without reason or reflection, they become the most willing and ready pretenders to religious notions. But these have very little practical effect upon their moral character. They are generally the most zealous and enthusiastic converts of the faith; but their zeal, unfortunately, is not according to their knowledge. This misfortune, however, is not peculiar to the slave population. They are more passionate and flaming in their pretensions to religious observances, than scrupulous and exact in the discharge of their practical obligations; more vehement and boisterous in their devotional exercises, than penitent and humble for their remissness of duty. But we fear that even these remarks cannot be confined to the colored population.
Marriage rites and ceremonies are as strictly observed among them, and the relation of husband and wife, par-ent and child, as firmly protected, generally, as their character and condition will possibly admit. These are essentially under the supervision and direction of the master, for without the influence of his immediate interposition and regulation, such relations could no more exist among African slaves in America, than in their native country. The proper regulation of the matrimonial connection, is the cause of more difficulty, trouble, and anxiety to the master, than perhaps any other subject connected with the management of his slaves. Upon this subject the males and females are mutually unfortunate and ill-adapted in their nature to the security of family tranquillity. We hear much prating and rhodomontade among anti-slavery writers and speakers, about female virtue; much about the heavenly boon guaranteed to all females in the protection of their chastity. And when they preach and write about enlightening the South upon the evils of slavery, they would have us believe that this is dearer than life to the female slave; that it is the pearl of great price, and pure as the driven snow. They would also teach us that it may be involuntarily prostituted to open shame by the wanton authority and control of the master with impunity. But this is the result of ignorance and bad philosophy. This is the most indelicate and objectionable part of our subject; yet with the high precedent of the modern Sto(we)ic philosophy before us, we need feel no qualms of delicacy or self-reproach in entering upon a brief consideration of the subject.
The relation of master and slave puts the latter in his power only for certain specified purposes; and he cannot, by virtue of that relation, exercise any more power or control over the slave than is implied as necessary to secure the object for which the servant has been intrusted to the charge of the master. Hence nature, law, and public opinion, all cry out and remonstrate with an unwavering voice against the usurpation of any illegitimate and unnatural authority over the slave for dissolute and abandoned purposes. Nature has wisely regulated the government of the passions in both man and beast, with a view to the protection of the weaker sex. And when the master approaches even the negro wench for the purpose of improper familiarity, nature disarms him of all superiority over her; and he must not only meet her upon grounds of equality, but humble himself at her feet. And thus conscious of his own guilty position, like the cowardly thief in the night, he loses all courage for the exercise of authority or resistance, and if she has but the disposition, she may, with perfect impunity, spurn his proffered kindness with contempt. And the master, so far from entertaining feelings of revenge, would value the slave higher and praise her the more for her strict adherence to virtuous principles. Every slave-holder knows, if not, he will soon learn by sad experience, that just in proportion as he practises or permits and encourages dissolute habits among his slaves, he loses the confidence of the males as a master, and the reverence and respect of the females as a superior. And these are the only effective sources of authority and good government over them. The man who would violate his trust and prostitute his authority to overcome the chaste and virtuous habits of a helpless and defenceless female slave, is as much a monster in human shape, as he who is guilty of incest within the circle of his own domestic fireside. And though violations of the natural, civil, and moral law, in both these instances, may, and do, sometimes occur, yet they show the offender equally as unfit to have charge of the personal subjects of the outrage in one instance as in the other. They are both alike responsible to the law, responsible to public opinion, and above and beyond responsible to their God and the tribunal of their own bed and board. This last responsibility, when all others fail, operates as the chief of terrors to all such evil-doers. We hear it said that in the case of the slave there is none to avenge the wrong; but the culprit can never escape the horrors of a guilty conscience or the dread of exposure. In most cases he would call upon the rocks and the mountains to fall upon him, and hide him from the day of wrath and the terrible revelation of household vengeance that awaits him in a day of retribution. Thus the injured female servant feels conscious of the protection of the domestic tribunal to which she can safely resort for redress. And this is an arbitress that, it is universally acknowledged, in matters of this kind, “beareth not the sword in vain.”
What evils are there, then, in this particular, peculiar to the relation of master and slave? or that do not apply with equal force to the condition of hired servants? We shall, perhaps, be told that one has redress at law, while the other has not; but what privilege is that to the destitute servant girl, who is struggling, as it were, between life and death, with the task of three slaves imposed upon her, for the pitiful compensation of one dollar and a half per week—a sum not sufficient to keep her in decent clothes, to say nothing of her liability to sickness and other contingent expenses—without friends, without money, and liable, at the least displeasure of her employer, to be turned out upon the cold charities of the world, and there to incur the uncertainty and difficulty of obtaining another situation, or go to the almshouse for a support. No such fears, no such dread or anxiety operates upon the mind of the female slave; she knows that she has a protector, to whom she can resort with impunity. But does the law afford no protection to the slave in this particular? I answer, yes; the culprit is just as amenable and liable to its penalties, for any violence or outrage, in the one instance as in the other. The female slave has as strong inducements, and as much encouragement to lead a virtuous life, as the hired servant girl, if she had the disposition; and she has quite as strong a shield of protection thrown around her, both by nature and by law, if she chooses to avail herself of the privilege. But the predominance of the animal passions superinduces the loose, easy and reckless habits, in this respect, natural to the negro wench. Her character, in this particular, forms a striking contrast to the deathly tenacity of her virtue, peculiar, of all savages, to the Indian squaw. . . .
Again, we hear of long and windy appeals to the sympathies of anti-slavery people, about the horrors of separating man and wife, parent and child, as though this was necessary to the relation of master and slave, and peculiar to that institution. Here is another of those popular errors blazoned forth by ignorant and malicious brawlers, to inflame the prejudices and excite the hostilities of one section of the Union against the other.
To the native African, a wife or a child, as to any of those cares, anxieties, and tender regards that exist in the bosom of civilized man, is wholly unknown. By the force of habit and imitation, they imbibe these feelings to some extent in their connexion with civilized society; yet even then they often cherish a morbid insensibility to all ties of family and kindred that is truly derogatory to human nature. Horrid as the idea of an owner and master may seem to the Abolitionist, the poor wife is often glad to appeal to his merciful protection against the cruelties and brutal treatment of her husband. So also is the child against the neglect and abuses of the mother. The authoress of Uncle Tom’s Cabin has kindly informed us that emotions of parental and kindred attachment are ardent and strong in the hearts of the negro race, but my experience and observation have led me to form a very different conclusion upon that subject. Lust and beastly cruelty are the strong passions that glow in the negro’s bosom. “There is no flesh in his obdurate heart; it does not feel for man,” or beast. I have often witnessed scenes of his cruelties to animals, that would make the heart of civilized man bleed at every pore. This is natural to his race in their native country; it results from the peculiar physical conformation of the head, and the consequent predominance of the animal passions. All travellers agree in bearing testimony to the truth of this fact. But it is the interest, as well as the duty of the master, to improve the character of his slaves in this particular, as the value of their services will be greatly enhanced thereby.
Though the slave, like a minor, cannot marry without the permission of those under whose authority he may be, yet no control is exercised by the master over their choice of a companion. When married, each family has its separate house or apartment, where they are required to live together decently and faithfully as man and wife. These houses, as we have before said, are situated together in clusters of cottages in some pleasant and retired situation. In building them, they are generally raised from two to four feet from the ground to give a free circulation of air under them, and thus render them as cool and comfortable as possible. These cottages are generally frame buildings (though sometimes of brick and sometimes of logs) of one story in height, and two rooms from sixteen to twenty feet square, finished with a view to health, convenience and comfort. We often hear of their living in miserable huts, with no floor but the earth, without bedding, &c. It is true, there are instances of this kind, as there are in every commu-nity where poor, destitute and improvident people can be found. But why should these exceptions be heralded forth to the world as one of the evils of slavery? With the same plausibility might such facts be urged against the present organization of society. “The poor ye have always with you.” No traveller can pass through the laboring communities of the Northern States, and observe the condition of thousands of the poor and destitute, without seeing and feeling the inconsistency and injustice of such slanderous imputations upon the condition of the slave population of the South. But more of this anon. . . .
It is for the interest, as well as the duty of the master, to cultivate the tender sensibilities, and improve the character and condition of his slaves in this respect, as the value of their services will thereby be greatly enhanced. Interest, then, as well as humanity and duty, plead against the separation of husband and wife, parent and child, and the breaking up of families. This sentiment so pervades public opinion, that such instances but seldom occur. Observe the list of notices of the sales of negroes throughout the Southern States, and almost universally you will see the specification that families are not to be separated. It may be boldly asserted, in the hearing of all Southern men, and those best acquainted with the system, that such is the law and the state of public opinion, that there is not a slave-holder in the country, of respectable standing in the community where he lives, who would consent to sell a family of slaves separately. And I venture to say, further, that you may travel from Pittsburg to New Orleans, and from Baltimore to Corpus Christi, and try every man in both routes, and not be able to purchase a child under ten years of age without its mother, if alive. But are the laws of slavery the only laws that permit the separation of husband and wife, &c.? I appeal to maritime and martial laws, the regulations of the army and navy, commerce, California gold, and the Mexican and foreign wars, for an answer to this question. Why is it, then, that this system is alone singled out as the peculiar object of calumny and vituperation?
If there is one spark of true philanthropy, if there is one sincere emotion of friendship and kind regard for the welfare of the slave, known to the Anglo-Saxon race, that exists in its greatest purity and most unalloyed state in the benevolent heart of the Southern master. I have become convinced of this truth from a somewhat long and familiar acquaintance with real facts. The many instances of kind regard and mutual attachment that I have witnessed between masters and superannuated servants, who have long passed their days of usefulness and profit, and become helpless, have satisfied me that the truest friends to the black man are those who have been raised by, and among them, and best know his character and condition, and best understand his interests and his wants.
When age and infirmities have rendered them unfit for the daily duties of regular hands, the men are assigned some light task about the garden or the quarter, suited to their ability; and the old women are left to attend to the children, knit, sew, or spin, and sometimes, when they are able, to cook. They are generally spoken to by all the white members of the family in terms of kindness and due respect, generally addressed by the epithet of uncle or aunt. I have known of great devotion and regard for the welfare of these aged and helpless people; and by all masters of good breeding they are kindly treated. . . .
We often see striking manifestations of a kindred sentiment towards even the animal creation; some faithful old dog or horse, that has long since passed his days of usefulness, is long nurtured by the kind and compassionate attention of the owner, not for what he may hope from them in future, but in gratitude for the good they have done in the past. This example is not instanced to compare man with beast; but to show that it is but the natural impulse of the human heart, when thrown into long association with man, or even beast, to contract feelings of attachment, of kindness and compassion for their misfortunes. And when those feelings are not repulsed and eradicated by the vicious and refractory character of the negro slave, they beget for him a friendship and compassionate regard for his welfare, that can be found nowhere so sincere and so warm as in the heart of a kind and benevolent Southern master. In confirmation of this truth, instances by thousands might be enumerated of the heroic devotion of masters and mistresses to the health, safety, and comfort of their slaves, even at the hazard and loss of their lives in times of great pestilential peril. But our limits will only permit us to mention but few. An instance of this kind, often related to me, and of which there are many living witnesses, now occurs as suitable to give as an illustration. It is an account of the heroic devotion of a distinguished lady who lived in the parish, and near the place where the bloody scene of Uncle Tom’s death was laid. It occurred during the terrible ravages of the cholera through the Red River country, and the different parts of the South, in 1833.
Already it had stricken down its thousands in and around this section of the State of Louisiana. Already its bloody footprints might be traced high up upon the banks of this stream, and wide over the face of this devoted section of country; it sped its course bearing a trail like “the destroying angel that walketh in darkness and wasteth at noonday.” At length, it broke out in the numerous household of the subject of this narrative; her husband was absent; its victims were falling thick and fast around her; moved by compassion for the suffering and helpless condition of the servants in her charge, this heroine left the family residence, and a group of darling children smiling around her, and rushed, as it were, into the jaws of death, to try to administer to the comfort and relief of her distressed slaves. There she continued her labors of mercy among them, night and day, till in turn, she herself fell a victim to this deathly scourge and a martyr to the benevolence and magnanimity of a true Christian heart. . . .
What would have been the fate of these unfortunate beings had they been in the boasted land of freedom? Who would have cared for them had they been conveyed by some subterranean railroad scheme to the heart of an abolition community? Ye boasting philanthropists, read the following facts, and weep tears of blood over the truth! . . .
Need I refer to the shocking scenes of suffering that necessarily occur among the free population, in all large cities, that have not the means to secure their own comfort during the prevalence of these terrible epidemics?—a state of things that gives rise to the various bodies of charitable associations for their relief. How much better in this respect, as well as in all other helpless situations, is the condition of the slave! This feeling of confidence and assurance that he will be provided for in all times of need; that in all times of trial he can fall back upon the sympathy and compassion of a benevolent master, like a child upon a parent, is a great source of comfort and consolation to the slave. It renders him always cheerful and happy. No anxieties and troubles about himself or his family, no dark and fearful forebodings of the future, weigh down and depress his spirits. He is never subjected to such fits of gloom and despondency as we often see depicted upon the countenances of thousands in the land of liberty. A gloomy and depressed state of mind is altogether unnatural to a negro slave. With perfect deference to your position, with perfect confidence in your sympathy, kindness, and compassion towards him, he will always approach you with a smile of familiarity, freedom, and cheerfulness, totally unknown to the privileges of a negro in any other part of the country. None of that arrogance of superiority, none of that stern and relentless scorn peculiar to the people of the free States, in their intercourse with the negro race, ever finds place in the chivalric heart of a Southern master.
The cause of this is in the different relation and relative position in which the parties are placed with regard to one another. Ever conscious and ever taught to feel his inferiority in both capacity and condition, the slave regulates his manners and intercourse with his superiors accordingly. He always appeals to their generosity and magnanimity of soul, not to do him a wrong or an injustice, in his comparatively helpless and defenceless condition. This cannot fail to win the sympathy and compassion for his misfortunes, of every ingenuous heart.
On the other hand, the negro of the free States pretends to no inferiority. With a bold, defying, and arrogant air, he attempts to intrude himself upon the white man upon perfect grounds of equality; a sentiment utterly abhorred by the nature, the morals, politics, and religion of the Anglo-Saxon race in all parts of the world. And hence their entire want of social sympathy; their cold, distant, and repulsive feeling for the negro race in the free States. This will be found universal in all those States and in Europe, except in instances of hypocritical and dogmatical pretensions, by a few misguided enthusiasts, as a false pretence to consistency. There is no such friendly intercourse, no such sympathy for their welfare and social familiarity existing between the black and white population of the free States, except in the instances above cited, as there is between the Southern slave-holder and the well-behaved free colored people around him. The secret of it all is that these people are less assuming in their manners, and less arrogant in their pretensions.
In Louisiana, the better class of the free colored people frequently attain to great wealth and comparative respectability. They live side by side with the white people, and are good neighbors together; and in some instances upon terms of great intimacy and friendship, except in some of the more reserved social and family intercourse, in regard to which there always exist mutual and friendly concessions.
Whoever wishes to see the most striking instances of the mutual feelings of regard that exist between the master and slave, should take a trip down the Mississippi river in company with a number of Southern planters returning from a summer tour at the North, and witness their meeting after a long absence. See them as they drop out at their several plantations along upon the river bank, first met by a group of jubilant slaves, with joy sparkling in their eyes and beaming from their countenances, each impatient for his turn to greet him with a welcome “How dy, Massa?” and a fond shake of the hand. One on witnessing such scenes cannot but be reminded of the strange spectacle that would be presented in the streets of Philadelphia, New York, or Boston, to see some aristocratic millionaire beset by a crowd of dirty negroes, each waiting an opportunity to shake him by the hand.
Much of the misapprehension and the wrong impressions of those not well-informed upon the subject in regard to the true character of slavery, or slavery as it really is in America, arise from a wrong idea of its fundamental precepts. All anti-slavery agitation is predicated upon the hypothesis that the slave-holder and the slave, are naturally of equal rank and capacity, as in the case of Hebrew, Greek, and Roman slavery;—that slavery is an obstacle to the rise, progress, and improvement of the slaves. But every one familiar with the subject knows that the very reverse of this hypothesis is the truth. Instead of preventing the slave’s improvement, it has converted him from a savage to a state of partial civilization; instead of obstructing his improvement, it prevents him from degenerating into his native barbarism, as he has universally tended when left to himself.
The history of the present and the past proves that the condition of the American slave is the happiest one that he is capable of enjoying. In no age or nation have the same number of Africans attained to so high an elevation in their character and condition. Nowhere else have they enjoyed so many of the blessings of Christian society and the privileges of civilized life. They are well fed, well clothed, well cared for in sickness and in health, in infancy and old age. Enjoying religious privileges in common with the free white population, they are wholly devoid of cares and anxieties for themselves and their families.
The gayety, hilarity, and joy often manifested by these people while at their labor, or at their dwellings, present scenes truly romantic to the traveller as he approaches a well-managed plantation upon a pleasant evening of spring. His advent is first noticed by some one or more huge mastiffs occupying the position of the Roman janitors at the gate of the castle. Their loud barking gives note of the approaching stranger. He is next observed by a group of curly-headed young urchins who scamper away to their hiding-places, or some more distant and safe retreat, to stand and gaze at what they deem a lawless intrusion upon their premises. The sun is reclining towards the western ocean of forests, the earth is clad in her verdant mantle, and vegetation glows in tints of living green. The herds and flocks are grazing upon the open fields, and the birds are making melody through the groves with their evening song. The yard teems with every species of ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens, goats, cats, and dogs of various sizes, castes, colors, and descriptions. In the distance he hears the merry song of the plough-boys and hands that “stalk afield,” and the shrill tones of the k-e-s-o-o-k! k-e-s-o-o-k! of the old stock-“minder,” at the sound of which a hundred forest grunters come squealing and growling up from the adjacent woods to the accustomed spot of rendezvous to receive their daily rations. A ceremony repeated from evening to evening, to enable this faithful old patriarch and feeder of flocks and herds, to ascertain if any lawless marauder or prowling vermin have invaded their ranks and diminished their number. But should the traveller be belated and not reach this rural village till after night, frequently, as he approaches, he hears the far-off echoes of music, and the sounds of jubilant voices in dancing, rejoicings and merriment, as though they were celebrating some festive occasion. Where can there be found a class of agricultural laborers so independent of the world, so bountifully supplied with all the comforts of life? Where can there be found a class of hired laborers of this description whose families are furnished with one barrel of meat to each member per year, and one bushel of meal to each per month? and besides this from fifty to one hundred dollars of their wages saved for their contingent expenses. It may be safely asserted that such a class of hired laborers cannot be found within the territory of the United States, and much less in Europe. And every man who has experienced the hardship of supporting a family from his daily labors will respond to the truth of the assertion.
The negroes, as we have seen, never have, and never can, as a people, attain to equal rights and privileges with the whites without a miracle; they can never live upon grounds of equality with them in the same community. Inferiority is the position in which nature has placed them; and so long as they are in the same community with the whites, laws and institutions necessarily have been, and must be adapted to them in that condition. It is not the statute law that creates the slavery, but it is rather an adaptation of itself to the previous condition in which it finds the slave. All statute law upon that subject in its very provisions presupposes the condition of slavery, and is designed only for its good government and regulation. This we have seen, and shall see, is true from the nature, history, government and laws of the institution. Each sovereignty ever has been, and ever will be, its own arbiter of its own government and laws upon this subject. Slavery is always anterior to all its statute laws; and its very existence is always the cause and gives rise to the necessity of all political interference and regulations of the institution. This point we shall illustrate more fully hereafter. But we are told that slavery is a sin; that the very institution is a malum in se, a great moral and political evil; that the very relation of master and slave is necessarily wrong in itself; and that no government can legislate to uphold a sin, &c.
After what we have said upon the connexion of the constitution and laws of the Jewish nation with Hebrew slavery, of the relation of those laws to that institution, and their force and effect upon the same, we think we might justly leave this question between the modern Stoic philosophers and the Author of the Ten Commandments.
We sometimes hear of the sin of slavery in the abstract, but the idea is beyond my comprehension. Slavery in the abstract, to my understanding, is a perfect contradiction in terms. Slavery is but a relation, and that can never constitute an abstract idea, except it be between two abstract ideas or existences. But, in this instance, the relation is between two material and positive subjects, without which it has no conceivable form, and is therefore necessarily an idea in the concrete.
Its moral character, therefore, must always depend upon the condition of the subjects to which it relates, and the circumstances under which it exists. The slavery of one man to another may be wrong in one instance, and right in another; there can be no general principle of universal application to determine its character. In what, then, does the sin consist? In the forcible subjection of one man to another, says one, and the compulsion to labor without compensation. In depriving the slave of his natural rights, says another. But this definition of the evil would condemn civil government, and all its coercive measures. Besides, the idea of laboring without compensation supposes an impossibility; the food and raiment necessary to the existence of the slave is an essential compensation. Its adequacy has no reference to the definition. Therefore we must seek for some other definition of the sin of this relation. It consists, says another, in unjustly depriving the slave of his liberty; but this is but another form of the same idea, and in part the petitio principii. The question of justice or injustice in depriving any subject of his liberty, is one to be determined with reference to the rights of all parties, and the end and object of all government. But, says another, its sin consists in degrading the slave to a chattel, and making him liable to be bought and sold as an article of merchandize. But who is responsible for this? We have shown that government and law do not place, but find him in that condition—a condition, in many instances, from which they are incapable of extricating him, as in case of the negro in the Slave States. But this point we shall consider more fully hereafter.
If slavery in America is an evil, it is a necessary one, resulting from the peculiar character of the negro race, the condition of the country, and growing out of the imperfections of human nature. Civil government, with all its penal laws, prison discipline, and system of coercive measures, is in violation of the natural rights of man, and, in that sense, may be called an evil; but it is a relative one, and relates to the simple fact that mankind are as they are, rather than as they should be. If the world was perfect, penal laws would be unknown.
It will perhaps be said that government, on the part of freemen, is a voluntary surrendering of their natural rights; that they are parties to the compact, and may, therefore, justly incur the penalties of its laws: but that the slave has no voice, part or lot in the matter, except unconditional subjection and obedience. This is true, but it arises from his presumed incapacity for civil functions, as in the case of minors and women. In neither case does the law create the cause of their disability, but ever strives to adapt itself to their condition.
The same principles that would abolish the relation of master and slave, and remove all restraint imposed by that relation upon the liberties of the entire mass of the slave population in this country, would also, if carried out to their necessary results, abolish all restraint imposed by penal codes, prison discipline, and poor laws, upon the balance of the population. These restraints, in both instances, arise from the same cause, are founded upon the same reasons, and exist from the same necessity. One of the principal reasons that sustains them, and renders them both alike necessary, is the peace, prosperity and safety of society; or, in other words, the greatest amount of good to the greatest number. To this end all governments have a right, and it is their leading object, to shape their laws. All governments have the right, and it is their object, to secure, first, their own permanency, preservation and perpetuity; and second, the best possible state of society in the best possible manner. They must, therefore, be their own judges of the manner in which this end shall be obtained, and have the right to employ the most expedient measures to secure the same. Hence, the right of any independent government to regulate and uphold the institution of slavery, so long as it may be deemed expedient, and conducive to the common defence and general welfare of the State, is indisputable.
This relation imposes reciprocal obligations and duties upon both the master and slave. It is the duty of the master, imposed upon him by the law of the land, as well as that of humanity, to refrain from imposing excessive labor and from cruel treatment; to protect the objects of his trust, in sickness and in health, in infancy and helpless old age; to clothe the naked and feed the hungry, and to treat them, under all circumstances, with as much kindness and compassion as the welfare of society, his own interests and safety, and the disposition, character and position of the slave, will safely admit. In the words of St. Paul, to “give them that which is just and equitable.”
On the other hand, it is the duty of the slave to “obey his master with fear and trembling,” i.e. with a high sense of reverence for their superiors; and “with singleness of heart,” i.e. with a willingness and sincerity; “as unto Christ,” i.e. they owe, in a degree, the same faithful obedience, reverence and devotion to their earthly, that they do to their Heavenly Master; “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” “with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men.”
The doctrine of Christian resignation and obedience here inculcated by St. Paul, must for ever stand opposed to the teachings, preaching and practice of a class of the false and pretended friends of freedom in our sister States. It is a chapter direct upon the duties of servants and masters; it teaches them to be reconciled, sincere and faithful. “Art thou called to be a servant, care not for it.” And though it exists not in the form of a statute law, yet I trust it is equally as imperious and as important as a statute. And though we weep over the remissness of these Christian duties, both by the master and the slave, yet surely we will not, for this reason alone, rashly dissolve this Gospel relation between them, and thus put for ever beyond the power of either to do “the will of God” in that capacity.
The Abolitionists—Consistency of Their Labors
This Essay will be confined to that school of Abolitionists who pretend to confine their labors to moral and religious means. Their political aspect will form a distinct topic, to be considered hereafter.
The fundamental principle in the creed of this class of “latter day” reformers, is, that the relation between master and slave is an usurpation of unjustifiable power, wrong ab initio, and ought to be abolished, irrespective of consequences.
It is wrong, say they, because it deprives its subjects of their natural rights. But so do civil government, penal codes, poor laws, and lunatic asylums. It is wrong because it denies the slave the means of religious instruction. This is a misrepresentation of facts; they enjoy these in common with the free population. It is wrong because it permits the vilest monster of a man to have as many slaves as he can get, and abuse and maltreat them with impunity. This is also a misrepresentation; the law protects the slave against cruel treatment (as we shall show). But the law also permits this same monster to have a wife, and as many children as may be added to his family, over whom he has as much control as he has over his slaves.
But slavery is wrong because it has a deleterious influence upon the moral and religious character of the community where it exists; and it should, therefore, be condemned. But, from what we have said in another place in this book, it would seem that the Founder of the Christian religion, and his Apostles, had the misfortune to differ with these “latter day saints” upon this subject. At best, such a position can be but a matter of opinion; as is true of the influence of great cities; great manufacturing communities; large collections of people for extensive public works; the army; the navy; the marine laws and regulations, and a thousand other collections and associations that might be mentioned. To be consistent, these fastidious conservators of public morals, who believe in their deleterious influences upon morals and religion, should wage the same war of extermination against them all.
But slavery is condemned by the golden rule, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you do ye even so to them.” This, we have endeavored to show, imposes no obligation upon the master to liberate his slave, but directly the reverse. But it denies the slave all means of education and hope of improvement, and thus puts an interdict on his advancement. This position is one of the fundamental errors in the creed of the Abolitionists. The relation of the slave to his master, and his association with civilized life, instead of denying him the sources of education and means of improvement, is a constant source of education and means of improving his character and condition; instead of interdicting his advancement it prevents him from degenerating into his native barbarism.
But slavery is wrong because it reduces men to things, and allows them to be bought and sold. This is also a misrepresentation, from which an egregious error pervades public opinion throughout the free States. The idea of property in the person of the slave is an absurdity, which we shall explain more fully hereafter.
But slavery must be wrong from the scenes of cruelty and incidents of abuse of the murderous treatment of the slaves, that are so frequently paraded before the public. But if the relation of master and servant is to be condemned on this ground alone, consistency calls for the condemnation of all the individual relations of persons whence arise abuses of authority and cruel treatment. And why is slavery singled out as the special object of calumny and vituperation for this reason? If abolition is the work of love, charity, and Christian benevolence, why is it that all the most revolting scenes of cruelty, misery, and wretchedness, arising from other relations, always escape their notice? If they condemn slavery for this, why not condemn those also?
The same reason would abolish the relation between husband and wife, parent and child, guardian and ward, tutor and pupil, master and apprentice, and every other instance of the individual authority of one person over another. No honest philosopher can fail to see the analogy of these relations in this particular. It is said, that in the association of husband and wife, and parent and child, there is a natural guarantee for the discharge of reciprocal duties and for kind treatment in the incentive for conjugal and parental affection, that is unknown to any other relation. But this conclusion, it will be readily seen, rests upon false premises. The relation itself furnishes no more assurance in one instance than in the other of the discharge of these reciprocal duties. On the contrary, where the domestic relation is unfortunate, the very reverse of this is true.
History is full of instances to show that misery is often the result of matrimonial connection. We all sympathize with Socrates in his trials with Xantippe and the Greek sophists. Juvenal tells us that those Roman matrons who had no affection for their husbands, kept their hired miscreants to torture their slaves. The greatest source of grief to the creator of the Lady in Comus was his misfortunes in his domestic relations. And thus was the Laureate of Eve enabled to write the best treatise on divorce. The face of one of England’s earliest and best linguists is reported to have exhibited crimson marks, traced by loving fingers; and Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and English, must often have met and run together in his brain, as he reeled beneath the confusing ring of a fair hand knocking at his ears. Look at the helpmates of Whitelocke, Bishop Cooper, and Addison; they were tempestuous viragoes, endowed with a genius for scolding and trouble that constantly haunted the midnight visions of their husbands. The wives of Rousseau, Molière, Montaigne, Dante, Byron, Dryden, and Steele, were acute vixens, with tempers composed of vinegar and saltpetre, and tongues tipped with lunar caustic and as explosive as gun-cotton. Their husbands might as well sit to a bundle of lucifer-matches; for, at the least rub, they would ignite into a flame of hell-fire and blue blazes that would scorch their earlocks till they were glad to beat a retreat and make their escape. Some betook themselves to their gin-cup and club meetings, and others spent their lives in tears, solitude, and repentance. But how many modern Mrs. Caudles, whose “Curtain Lectures” are suppressed, and forever kept a secret from the world, while their poor submissive husbands are buffeting the storms of their household eloquence with hearts cheered by its pleasing consolations, and sleep sweetened by its soothing accents. And these miserable beings, with no source of earthly comfort left, in attempting to drown their sorrows, drown themselves in that liquid current, that is sweeping millions to a premature grave.
Were one willing to prostitute his pen to the capacity of a moral scavenger, and gather up the dregs that float only in the filthy sewers of society, and parade them all into a tale of the cares and misfortunes of matrimonial connections, he might present a picture that would put to the blush, and shame even the seared face of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He could not only vary its figure with scars and stripes, but he could dye the ground-work of the picture crimson, with human blood.
But we forbear; we will present but few instances of the fruits of matrimony that have, in the last few weeks, come under our notice, as an offset to the fictitious parts of Uncle Tom, which, according to the modern Stoic and Abolition philosophers, are just grounds for condemning the institution.
“A Monster in human shape.—A German, named Jacob Brenigar, is now awaiting his trial in Wyoming County, Va., charged with a series of offences that surpass in horror any of the tales which old wives tell bad children to keep them quiet, of giants that lived “once upon a time.” This Brenigar was formerly a Baptist preacher in North Carolina. While residing there, he attempted an outrage upon his own daughter. His wife made the fact known, and Brenigar, with his family, moved over into Wyoming. There he made another attempt at a rape upon his daughter. Shortly after, being desirous of obtaining his license to preach, which had been taken away from him in North Carolina, he applied to his wife to retract the charge she had brought against him, and admit that she had sworn falsely. This she refused to do, notwithstanding he inflicted frequent and severe beatings upon her. At last, finding neither persuasion, threats, nor beatings, would have any influence, one night he pulled his wife from the bed and dragged her over a piece of new ground full of stumps, so that she died in a short time after giving premature birth to a child. Mrs. Brenigar, at first, refused to tell the mode of receiving her injuries, but, finding that death was inevitable, made some of her neighbors acquainted with the facts. The husband was arrested, but released on bail. While under bonds he made an attempt to decoy his niece, a married woman, into some woods at the back of her residence, but she told her husband, who pursued the ruffian, and would have killed him, but his gun missed fire.”—Abington Democrat, 1854.
“Singular Case.—Rev. Joseph Johnson is on trial at Kingston, Ulster Co., N.Y., on a charge of having murdered his wife and child. The evidence thus far tends to prove that the Reverend gentleman was in love with some other woman than his wife, and he got rid of the latter by drowning her in order to marry the former, which he did a few months ago. This miscreant escaped the just penalty of the law for a time by a defect in the indictment.”—Times, July, 1854. . . .
“Total Depravity.—The Evansville Journal contains an account of a brute in human form, living in that place, who left his house early one Monday morning, and went sporting in the woods with his gun and dog, leaving a wife and child locked up in the house, both of whom were dangerously sick, without food or drink of any description within their reach. The inhuman wretch remained away all day, and until nearly 12 o’clock that night. About 10 o’clock in the evening some of the neighbors were alarmed by the groans of the woman, and the crying of the child—heard cries for food, water, &c., &c. The doors were forced open, and a horrible sight presented itself. The woman was in the last agonies of death, the immediate cause of which was undoubtedly neglect and starvation. She died in about one hour after being discovered. The child, about a year and six months old, was cared for by the neighbors, and exhibited painful symptoms of hunger, disease, and most wanton and brutal neglect. The wretch of a father returned before his wife died, but could give no excuse for his unpardonable absence, or for leaving his family in such a destitute condition.”—Louisville Democrat. . . .
Whoever heard “of sorrows like these,” of misery in such grim and horrid forms, among the slaves? One would suppose that consistency would arm the whole Abolition host in the panoply of war against the institution whence such scenes arose. And we see that the women, always the most sincere and guileless followers of consistency, are beginning to take action in this matter; they are about getting up an insurrection of spirits and others to abolish the abominable institution of marriage. It would seem, by the following extracts, that their present head-quarters was at Hope Dale, Milford, Massachusetts.
“Woman’s Rights Convention.—A notice of the forthcoming Annual Convention for the consideration of Woman’s Rights, will be found in another column of our paper, and we call attention to it, hoping that some of our readers will thereby be induced to attend it. It is an important movement, this ‘Woman’s Rights’ movement—one of the most important of the age—and all who feel interested in the welfare of the whole human race, should seriously consider the subject. Many women—as well as men—are not conscious of the necessity of it—not now—not feeling wronged by popular usages, having favored positions, or being content to be the mere appendages of men, if not their slaves. Into some women’s souls, however, the iron has entered, and here follows a record of wrongs endured by a few which we take from The Una for the present month. They are extracts from letters addressed to Mrs. Davis, whose editorial comments follow them.”w. h. f.
“Letter No. 1.—Please do not send the ‘Una’ any more—I cannot receive it. My husband tore the last one from my hands and burned it. Oh, for an hour of peace, of rest! A blessing which I shall never again enjoy, till I hear ‘the songs of angels round the Throne.’ Sometimes I wish my ears were duller than they are, I hear so many heart-grieving, wrath-provoking things; but patience, patience, says my proud, firm heart. ‘To bear, is to conquer our fate.’
“No. 2.—It is evident to me, my dear Madam, that the iron has never entered into your soul. You have never felt yourself a dependant, a slave in your husband’s house—not daring to use one cent of money without his knowledge; and, at the same time, knowing he will not permit you to do, even with your own, what you desire. I brought my husband twenty thousand dollars. I have been three months trying to get one dollar to send you for your paper. My children, born in this relation, are a curse; for their inharmonious organizations are constantly a reproach to me. They are ill-looking and sickly, while we both have excellent constitutions. . . .
“No. 4.—A man may beat his wife, maltreat his servants, and ruin his children; that is nobody’s concern. Society regards those things that are injurious to it, but meddles in nothing else, so it says. Do you not think, if society had any true regard for itself, it would prevent nine-tenths of the marriages, simply that criminals might not be born. I am quite certain that no circumstances can so ruin a good organization, that it may not be redeemable. While in these loathed, hated unions, good ones cannot be produced. I know I am a slave, and Mr. ——— is my lord. He can bind my body, tie my hands, but with my will he can do nothing. Do you ask why I am in this position? I was educated to get a husband—and was flattered and urged into a marriage at seventeen, that was thought to be very advantageous, and I thought that I loved. But I now see that misplaced affection differs as much from a right state of feeling, as truth from falsehood; and the living a lie is terrible. You have seen me always immersed in gaiety, but I felt that you looked below the surface and saw that this was not sufficient for me. I shall be a devotee when I am passé. Dorcas Societies, Ragged Schools, Boriaboula Missions anything to kill time, and make me forget my degradation; for I am a legalized—bah—I cannot write the word. God help us, for there is no other ‘arm mighty to save.’ . . .”
It may be pertinently asked why there is not more sympathy for the cause of the poor oppressed and down-trodden women of Hope Dale? There is not a slave on the Southern plantations but that has more liberty than they; they are struggling between life and death to assert their rights, and to throw off the galling yoke of matrimony, an institution upon which they remark as follows: “But so radical is the question of marriage itself, so deep is the hell of the marriage institution, ‘as it is,’ and so sore therefore does every body feel in relation to the question, that the very proposition to discuss it is considered by some as tantamount to licentiousness.”
It seems that this natural guarantee, so often spoken of for the protection of the wife and children, fails of its object among the “Christian Socialists” of Massachusetts. They are laboring and longing for the millennium of “Free Loveism” (as they term it). The only security for conjugal attachment, fidelity, and happiness, consists not in the respect of the relation itself, but in the kind and amiable disposition of the parties. But will the same cause secure no kind treatment to the slave? Whatever secures family peace, prosperity and happiness, secures also kind and humane treatment to him. When all other motives fail, the slave has the security, for food and raiment, at least, from the love of gain and pecuniary considerations of his master, an incentive ever opposed to the claims of the wife and children upon his clemency. Another school of Abolitionists, in carrying out their principles to their legitimate results, lay the axe at the root of all government and laws that forcibly deprive men of their liberty in their administration and execution. They stand upon the broad platform of abolition, non-resistance, and the anti-coercitione regni. Among the thousand ludicrous extracts that might be made from their publications, we submit only the following letter of Thomas Haskell to Adam Ballou, editor of the Practical Christian.
“Gloucester, September 10, 1854.
“Brother Ballou:—I intended to have been at your annual meeting, but circumstances are such that I cannot conveniently attend; so I will send you my thoughts upon the present human governments. I have been thinking lately of the complete resemblance they bear to the ‘Man of sin’ spoken of by the Apostle, ‘who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God showing himself that he is God.’ Does not our Government fully answer this description? Look at the Fugitive Slave Law, read the debates they had upon it, and see with what contempt and scorn they treated the thought that there was any higher law than their own enactments. Perhaps this Government is as complete a resemblance of a Righteous Government, as is possible for Satan to transform himself into an Angel of Light.
“Mankind are governed by one or the other of those two great principles, love and fear. This Government, both State and National, is founded upon the latter. We are not required to do or not to do certain acts because they are right or wrong, but because they are the enactments of Government, and must be obeyed, or we must suffer certain forfeitures and penalties for disobedience. All who willingly sustain this Government of fear and violence, are willing slaves. They try to oppose chattel slavery, but they are sustaining a system equally degrading and inhuman. What greater degradation can be heaped upon us, than to be forbidden to give a starving brother a piece of bread under the penalty of one thousand dollars fine and six months imprisonment. Yet such is the institution we are taught we must sustain to protect the weak from the oppression of the strong, the righteous from the tyranny of the wicked.”
But if the abuse of any privilege, right, or institution, is to determine its character, suppose one was to adopt the uncharitable course of the Abolitionists in judging a tree by its fruits, and should sketch faithfully the annals of the Church for the last half century, write the biography of the numerous backslidden saints, and the dark catalogue of crimes and misdemeanors that have stained its sacred history; and in the book he should devote a single chapter exclusively to the clergy, and hold all sincere Christians accountable for the black calendar of iniquities in the lives of all the murderers and miscreants that have invaded the ranks of this holy order, and condemn them all as of the same type of character; and, finally, denounce the Church and all its priesthood as a posthumous bantling of the devil. Could he be judged less consistent, and less charitable towards them, than the Northern slanderers and persecutors are towards the people of the South?
We are not of that school of moralists or logicians who would attempt to justify one evil by the existence of another. But we do say, that if one institution is to be condemned in consequence of the abuse of its privileges, and the bad fruits that thus result from it, all others must fall for a like reason. And we repeat the question, why are the Southern people selected as the special objects of calumny and vituperation? pursued, persecuted and denounced, with all the malice, clamor and indignation of public enemies? Is human nature so perfect, is the world so free from cruelty and abuses to the helpless of mankind, in every other portion, that there are no objects of sympathy, no cause of suffering deserving of this fanfaronade of Northern philanthropy, but the slaves of the South?
“Suicideto Avoid the Cat.—James Ransom, an able seaman of the Valorous, 16 (paddle), Captain Buckle, in the Baltic, committed suicide on the 5th of August last, by jumping overboard. It appears that the unfortunate poor fellow had been sentenced to receive three dozen lashes for some offence. While the gratings were being rigged for this punishment, he pleaded hard to the captain for mercy, and subsequently to the first lieutenant, to intercede in obtaining some other punishment; but finding these officers determined to let the punishment be inflicted, jumped overboard and was drowned.”—Plymouth (Eng.) Mail.
“Cruelty.—An American young woman, 19 years old, says the Newark (N.J.) Advertiser of the 20th, came to the office of the Overseer of the Poor last evening, and stated that she had been living, since she was three years old, with a family in Clinton township; and that on Tuesday last, the family compelled her to remain in a cold shed to do her washing, refusing her any opportunity of warming herself, so that at night her feet were badly frozen. Yesterday, seeing that she was crippled so as to be of no further service to them, they sent her to Newark. The Overseer of the Poor bestowed all requisite attention upon her, and this morning, after making an affidavit of the above facts before Justice Baldwin, she was taken to the Almshouse. Her feet are so badly frozen that is probable both must be amputated.”
These very people were undoubtedly loudest in their denunciations of slavery, and were contributing their mite to support the cause of the poor slave at the South.
From personal observation I can assert the fact, and challenge a contradiction by any well-informed person, that there are to-day, May 12th, 1857, fifty thousand people in the city of New York, and twenty thousand in Boston, whose condition, as to the enjoyment of all the pleasures and comforts of life, will bear no comparison to the general condition of the slave population of the South.
The scenes of beggary, squalid poverty, and wretchedness, that force themselves upon the sight of the traveller in all the large cities of the Free States, forcibly remind him of the truth of the old maxim, that true charity should always begin its work at home.
“‘White Slave.’—This is the self-assumed title of white persons in New York. The New York Tribune contains a letter from a person who signs herself ‘The Wife of a White Slave.’ She complains that her husband, a glass-blower, is compelled to work without the rest that is allowed ‘the slave on the plantation.’ She very piteously inquires, ‘While there are so many to employ their talents in behalf of the colored slave, is there not one to speak a word for the white?’ Alluding to the severity of the labor of her husband and his fellow-workmen, and the little relaxation allowed them, she inquires, ‘Who can wonder, however much they may deplore the error, that such men should recruit their exhausted energies with an artificial stimulus?’
“It is astonishing, that with such examples at their doors, the enthusiasts restrict their efforts to schemes for intermeddling with slavery at the South. But it is always so. Fanaticism prefers that far-reaching sort of sympathy, which manifests itself towards a distant people, and which can be indulged along with that kind of pomp and circumstance which is so grateful to its followers. They prefer that the dollar they give should be wasted upon impracticable schemes that make a noise in the world, rather than it should be given to the complaining ‘White Slave’ (as he calls himself) at their very doors.”
But distance seems to lend enchantment to the cause of the Abolitionists. If philanthropy was their real motto, and humanity their real theme, and they were sincerely toiling in its spirit, and laboring in its hope, why do they not adopt the spirit of universal charity and benevolence of “Him who went about doing good,” and in their labors of love breathe the brotherly spirit of St. Paul in his Epistle to the slave-holder Philemon? Like moral monomaniacs, there is no evil in their sight but the far-off wrongs of the Southern slave; there is no oppression that moves their compassion, no suffering that reaches their sympathy, but his. Thousands of their fellow-beings around may live in the most abject poverty and wretchedness, and die of starvation and distress, yet they have remembered not the wants of the poor and needy in the day of their distress. And whosoever of the Abolitionists does not clothe the naked and feed the hungry at home, the same is a hollow-hearted hypocrite, a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But “a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country”; therefore these Abolitionists and fomenters of disaffection and disunion, have to look to a foreign land in hope of reward. They must go to Great Britain for sympathy, to receive the congratulations and praises of the oppressive and tyrannical aristocracy of England. There are treasured up for them crowns of glory, and honors immortal. And Great Britain herself, with a laboring population literally weltering in their own grim misery, starvation and despair, is sending back her emissaries, professedly to aid in this great work of freedom and humanity; like Satan reproving sin, to preach liberty and emancipation to the American people.
A plantation of well-fed and well-clothed negro slaves shocks humanity, and calls down the vengeance of heaven upon the head of the slave-holder. But a press-gang may perform its heart-rending work in perfect consistency with the free and glorious institutions of Britain. One of the most repulsive features of the general system of British slavery is their laws relative to impressment. By these, peaceable and unoffending men are doomed to her vessels of war to serve at the pleasure and bidding of her naval officers. In this practice there are some of the most distressing instances of the sundering of kindred ties of home and friends. Here the husband is torn from the wife, the father from the child, the brother from the sister, by the press-gang, the kidnappers and slave-hunters of England—a custom that never has prevailed in any other civilized nation, ancient or modern. Anciently, some of the maritime nations condemned men to the galleys for crime.
After a long and laborious voyage in a merchant vessel, the sun-burned seaman arrives in sight of home. His wife and children, who have long bewailed his absence, and feared for his life, stand with joyous countenances upon the shore, eager to embrace the returning wanderer. Perhaps a government vessel, on the search for seamen, then sends its barbarous press-gang aboard the ship, and forces the husband and father once more from the presence of the beloved ones. Long protracted years will pass away before he will be allowed to return. Then his wife may be dead, his children at the mercy of the parish. Yet England preaches freedom and humanity! . . .
Whoever wishes to see another faithful and life-like picture of this species of British slavery, should read the novel of Jacob Faithful, by Capt. Marryatt. Could we but follow the history of Jacob and Thomas, the watermen, or bring them up to tell their own tales of the “cat,” and the horrors of naval discipline aboard of British men-of-war, we might then institute a comparison between the condition of this species of British, and American, slaves.
Slavery is any system of involuntary servitude, by which the time, service, and toil of one person becomes the property of another by compulsion. This has been the fundamental requisite of the institution in all ages of the world. But it has existed in different forms and under modified features in different nations and at different times. The power of life and death over the slave peculiar to some nations, is not an essential requisite to its existence; neither is the right to sell and alienate the services accompanied by a compulsory right to control the person of the slave in that manner (or, in other words, by a fiction of law to sell the slave). He who is compelled to labor without adequate compensation, without the ability to escape, to acquire property in the soil, or representation in legislation, is a slave! Slavery of the agricultural peasantry of Britain. Yet, such is the real condition of the mass of the laboring population of Great Britain.
The land-tenant is compelled to labor, and is subject to the will of his lord, because he fixes the price of rent, shares in the products of the soil and the proceeds of the poor man’s labor, ad libitum, always leaving him a scant subsistence of the necessaries of life. He cannot escape from this condition; “once a peasant in England, and the man must remain a peasant forever.”
This is evident from the general policy of the nation upon this subject, which is to reduce the number of land proprietors and concentrate them all in the hands of a few who may hold the reins of government. In the United Kingdom, the land is divided into immense estates, constantly retained in the hands of a few; and the tendency of the existing laws of entail and primogeniture is to reduce even the number of these proprietors. There are 77,007,048 acres of land in the United Kingdom, including the small adjacent islands. Of this quantity, 28,227,435 acres are uncultivated. The number of proprietors of all this land is about 50,000. While the people of the United Kingdom number, at least, 28,000,000. What a tremendous majority, then, own not a foot of soil! And such are the policy and laws of England, that they never can, to any considerable number, own one foot of land, but must remain thereon, at the will and mercy of these few lords of the soil, and subject to a government in which they have no voice, and in which their interests are not represented.
“Mankind,” says Aristotle, “are divided into freemen and slaves”; look, then, at the condition of the British peasantry, and say if they are freemen?
Look at the effects of the landed aristocracy in England. The Rev. Mr. Henry Worsley states, that in the year 1770, there were in England 250,000 freehold estates in the hands of 250,000 different families; and that, in 1815, the whole of the lands of England were concentrated in the hands of only 32,000 proprietors!
The effects of this system are obvious, according to the old maxim, “the big fish eat up the little ones,” which is particularly true of all landed proprietors in all countries. As fast as the smaller estates come into market they are bought up by this landed aristocracy, the more wealthy and opulent proprietors outbidding the smaller ones, and thus monopolizing land at any cost. “The consequence is,” says a distinguished lawyer of Westmoreland and Cumberland Counties in 1849, “for some time past, the number of small estates has been rapidly diminishing in all parts of the country. In a short time, none of them will remain, but all be merged in the great estates. The consequence is, that the peasant’s position, instead of being what it once was, one of hope, is fast becoming one of despair. Unless he emigrates, it is now impossible for him ever to rise above a peasant.” But what chance have the majority of the peasantry of Great Britain to emigrate, when their year’s labor is scarcely sufficient to keep soul and body together. The distressing policy of this monopoly of the British aristocracy, by swallowing these small estates, is to turn thousands upon thousands adrift upon the country without houses, or means of support. If one of the great landholders prefers the pursuit of grazing to that of farming, he may sweep away the homes of his laborers, turning the poor wretches upon the country as wandering paupers, or drive them into the cities to overstock the workshops, and thus reduce the wages of the poor mechanic, which are now too small to afford him and his family the necessaries of life. The country, by this means, is filled with beggary, misery, and distress; the poor-houses peopled to overflowing with helpless paupers; till, at length, the government is driven to the desperate alternative of emptying them by transportation to the shores of America.
But we propose to present a few of the leading sketches and astounding facts, to show the condition of the white slaves that remain, and of their condition, generally, under British domination.
Mr. John Fox, medical officer of the Cerne Union, in Dorsetshire, says: “Most of the cottages of the agricultural laborers in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire, are of the worst description; some are mere mud-hovels, and situated in low and damp places, with cesspools, or accumulations of filth, close to the doors. The mud floors of many are much below the level of the road, and, in wet seasons, are little better than so much clay. In many of them, the bed stood on the ground-floor, which was damp three parts of the year; scarcely one had a fireplace in the bed-room; and one had a single pane of glass stuck in the mud wall as its only window. Persons living in these cottages are generally poor, very dirty, and usually in rags, living almost wholly on bread and potatoes, scarcely ever tasting animal food, and, consequently, highly susceptible of disease, and very unable to contend with it.” . . .
“Slaves cannot breathe in England,” said the English jurist; “that moment their lungs receive our air, their shackles fall.” But, turn to Catholic Ireland, with her quintuple population, in rags and wretchedness, staining the sweetest scenery ever eye reposed on! Scenery that hath wreathed the immortal shamrock around the brow of painting, poetry, and eloquence. Talk of ancient miseries in the mines of Laurian; talk of the tears and groans of the Roman Ergastula; talk of the bondage and chains of the Ottoman’s slave, of the degradation and sufferings of the subjects of Moslem power!
But the crowning scene to this picture of human misery may be drawn from the beautiful Emerald Isle. A people whose very life-blood has been trampled out by the oppressive system of British slavery; whose miseries have gone forth upon the wings of song and in themes of eloquence, till they have kindled the sympathies of all nations save their oppressors.
It is the universal and concurrent testimony of all travellers, that in consequence of this system of organized oppression, Ireland has become the home of miseries that scarce have a parallel upon the face of the earth. “Everywhere in Ireland a traveller as he passes along the road will see on the road-side and in the fields, places that look like mounds of earth and sods, with a higher heap of sods upon the top, out of which smoke is curling upwards; and with two holes in the side of the heap next the road, one of which is used as a door, and the other as the window of the hovel. These are the homes of the peasantry! Entering, you will find it to contain but one room, formed by the mud walls; and in these places, upon the mud floor, the families of the peasants live. Men, women, boys, and girls, live and sleep together, and herd with the wallowing pig.
Gaunt, ragged figures crawl out of these hovels and plant the ground around with potatoes, which constitute the only food of the inmates during the year, or swarm the roads and thoroughfares as wretched beggars. But the tenure even of these miserable hovels is insecure. The tenants are subject to the tender mercies of the lay proctor of some absent lord, and if they do not pay their rent at a proper time, they are liable to be turned adrift even in the middle of the night. And they have no appeal except to the court of heaven. Kay says, that in 1849, more than 50,000 families were evicted and turned as beggars upon the community.
Here was a striking illustration of the effects of immediate emancipation in all its wretchedness. Think of the heart-rending scenes of misery and distress that must have followed the turning out near half a million of people, pennyless, upon the charities of Great Britain! Thousands of these poor wretches after wandering about for a time like the ghosts of Aeneas, starved to death and perished by the road-side, the victims of the murderous policy of the humane and benevolent landed aristocracy of Britain. . . .
The dearest ties of family are sundered by the force of want, like a company of shipwrecked wanderers in an open boat, who see no possible means of deliverance. The lot must fall upon some to perish, that, peradventure, some may be saved. The husband can, perhaps, pay his own passage to America, but the wife and children must remain paupers in the land of their hereditary misery.
But the evil consequences of British slavery do not end with the miseries and sufferings of the agricultural laborers or tenants of the soil. There are London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Dublin, and many other cities and towns, with their crowds of slaves either in the factories and workshops, or in the streets as beggars, paupers, and criminals. There are said to be four millions of paupers in the United Kingdom! Can such an amount of wretchedness be found in any other country upon the face of the globe? To what cause can this be attributed save to the oppressive system of the landed aristocracy and the laws that favor them. How else could there be eleven millions of acres of good tillable land unoccupied, save for some of the pleasure purposes of these aristocrats, and four millions of perishing paupers? It is said that more than two millions of people were kept from starving in England and Wales, in 1848, by relief doled out to them from public and private sources.
So scant are the earnings of those who labor day and night in the cities and towns, that they may become paupers if thrown out of employment a single week. Upon an average a hard-working peasant can earn five shillings a week; two of which must go for rent, leaving him only three shillings to buy his food and raiment. The slaves of Great Britain are not attached to the soil, and bought and sold with it like the serfs of Russia, or the negroes of the United States; but far better would it be for them were such their destiny. Then the rich landlord who enjoys the labor of his hundred, would also incur the responsibility of their maintenance in sickness, and in infancy and old age. But they are called freemen to enable their lords to detach them from the soil at will, and after spending long and faithful lives in their service, till they have passed their days of usefulness, then to turn them adrift and drive them forth to starve, perish, or become paupers at public charge, without incurring any penalties for their cruelties, such as the slave-holders of other countries would suffer. The Russian, the Spanish, and the North American slave-holder must support his slaves in sickness and helpless old age, or suffer the penalties of the law for his neglect. But the British slave-holder is exempt from such a tax; he may leave them to perish by thousands with impunity. His Irish slaves may be saved from starvation by American bounty, but neither American or any other human law can punish the offender. Truly then did Southey write:
“To talk of English happiness is to talk of Spartan freedom; the Helots are overlooked. In no country can such riches be acquired by commerce, but it is the one who grows rich by the labor of the hundred. The hundred human beings like himself, as wonderfully fashioned by nature, gifted with like capacities, and equally destined for immortality, are sacrificed body and soul.
“Horrible as it may seem, the assertion is true to the very letter. They are deprived in childhood of all instruction and all enjoyments—of the sports in which childhood instinctively indulges—of fresh air by day and natural sleep by night. Their health, physical and moral, is alike destroyed; they die of diseases induced by unremitting taskwork, by too close confinement in the impure atmosphere of crowded rooms, by the particles of metallic or vegetable dust which they are constantly inhaling; or they live to grow up without decency, without comfort, and with-out hope—without morals, without religion, and without shame, and bring forth slaves like themselves to tread in the same path of misery.”
Again, this same distinguished Englishman says: “The English boast of their liberty; but there is no liberty in England for the poor. They are no longer sold with the soil (as formerly), it is true; but they cannot leave the parish of their nativity if they are liable to become chargeable. In such a case, if they endeavor to remove to some situation where they hope more easily to maintain themselves, where work is more plentiful or provisions cheaper, the overseers are alarmed, the intruder is apprehended as if he were a criminal, and sent back to his own parish. Wherever a pauper dies, the parish must be at the expense of his burial. Instances therefore have not been wanting of wretches, in the last stage of disease, having been hurried away in an open cart, and dying upon the road. Nay, even women in the pains of labor have been driven out, and perished by the way-side, because the birthplace of the child would be its parish.”
These truths are set forth in a striking light in the very learned and masterly opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Dred Scott case. See 19 Hou. Rep. p. 408–410. It is there decided that the descendants of African slaves are not citizens of the United States within the meaning of the Constitution, even though they be free.
Serve or Servare, to preserve, not slay their captives. Inst. Just. lib. i. t. 2. c. 3.
Wheat’s Elements of Inter. Law, p. 194. The slave trade is not prohibited by the code of nations; this principle of national law is still in force in Africa, and in all nations where it has not been abolished by municipal regulations. Op. cit. (in loco.), Case of Diana Stowell, 1 Dod. p. 95.
Africa and the American Flag, by Foote.
Gen. 14:12, 16.
Wheat’s Elements International Law, p. 194.
Peterson’s His. Rho., pp. 22, 24.
Bancroft’s Hist. U.S., vol. 2, p. 17. Stephens’ Hist. Ga., vol. 1, pp. 285, 6, 7, and 8. Tuck’s Black. vol. 1, part 2d, pp. 49–51. Appendix to Mad. State Papers, 3, 1390. Walsh’s Appeal, 327. South Carolina Statutes, 2:526. Stephens’ Journal, 3:281. Encl. Am., tit. Slavery, vol. 2, p. 429. Jefferson’s Corresp., 146:2. Illiot’s Debates, 335. Story’s Const. U.S.; 3d, p. 203:132.
Census U.S. 1850.
Hamilton’s Works, vol. ii. p. 9.
Ibid., vol. ii. p. 3.
The Supreme Court of the United States have recently decided that negroes are not citizens of the United States within the meaning of the Constitution of the U.S.; that the principles of our government do not apply to them; that the government of the United States was designed for the white man, and that slaves are lawful property. (Dred Scott Case.)
See opinion of Supreme Court in Dred Scott case.
In justice to the real author of this sentiment, it should be observed that this was intended to apply only to political men, members of the body politic;—for to what others did the Declaration of Independence relate?
Civil code of La., Art. 35, Domat. tom. 2, sect. 97; ff. D. lib. 1, 5, 1. 4, s. 1, et Tit. 6, 1. 1, sect. 1. This definition does not make a slave, but presupposes his existence. A thing cannot be defined that has no existence.
Civil Code of Louisiana, Art. 175.
A Returning Penitent.—Our readers may remember an advertisement of a runaway that appeared in our columns some three years since, and excited some characteristic comments from the New York Tribune. No information was elicited by the advertisement concerning the fugitive, who was a very intelligent and valuable servant, that had been well treated and well regarded. We have now before us, however, a letter written by the servant referred to, who addresses a friend and relative, enclosing an appeal to his mistress, and begging permission to return to servitude and safety. He addresses earnest and emphatic assurances of penitence and regret to his “dear mistress,” and begs her to receive and permit the return of her “dear servant.” The New York Tribune will notice, of course.—Charleston Courier.
One of the “Horrors of Slavery.”—The Norfolk (Va.) Herald states that, a few days ago, several free negroes were put up at auction, in Norfolk County, and sold to labor for a term sufficient to liquidate their taxes. Singular to relate, four of them were purchased by a slave in Portsmouth, who felt quite proud of the distinction, and made known his determination to get the full value of his money out of them, or know the reason why. This is a development under our “Institutions” which the apostles of free society would do well to make a note of.
Although the negro race are naturally more disposed to idiocy and insanity, yet among the slaves of the South, the like are almost wholly unknown, an evidence of their happy state of mind. For statistics on this point, see Essay on Political Slavery, post, p. 367.
The law prohibits it.
In many instances, these free people of color hold hundreds of slaves, and are universally the most cruel and oppressive masters; but these are mixed bloods, or not of the real negro type.
“A Candid Confession.—The British Governor of Jamaica, in his address at the opening of the Provincial Legislature, recommends the transportation of the fugitive slaves from our Southern States, who have taken refuge in Canada, to the island of Jamaica, for the following reasons: ‘The people who may, if matters be properly represented to them, be induced to come hither from America, are precisely the sort of industrial population we require; besides, they are admirably adapted to the climate of this island. Bringing with them an amount of civilization far higher than that of the generality of the laboring population of this island, and acquainted as they are to a much greater extent with agriculture and mechanical arts—two of the greatest desiderata in Jamaica —the black and colored people of America are not only admirably calculated to develop the innumerable resources of the island to a far greater extent than the natives are at present capable of, but they will, to a certainty, if brought here, be the means of improving our native peasantry, by continually presenting, to a people so imitative, examples worthy for them to follow.’
“This is a striking testimony, as the New York Express justly remarks, to the humanizing and elevating influences with which the African is surrounded in the United (Southern) States.”—Richmond (Va.) Dispatch.
Compare the condition of the negro in America with that in Africa, and tell me what has been the cause of the difference. Or, compare the condition of the American slave with that of a St. Domingo freeman, or an emancipated slave of Jamaica, and answer the same question.
See Essay on the Political Aspect of Slavery, &c., post, 312, et seq.
See McCulloch, Dict. Com. (Impressment), where he coolly discusses the expediency of the laws.
London Times, 1844. Said Mr. Kay, of Trinity College, Cambridge: “Unless the English peasant has the means, and will consent to tear himself from his relations, friends, and early associations, and either transplant himself into a town or a distant colony, he has no chance of improving his condition.” See White Slaves of England, p. 14.
See McCulloch, Dict. Com. “Britain.”
oijkiva de; teleivo˜ ejk douvlwn kai; ejleuqevrwn. De Rep. 1:3. He says, in another place, that some were born to rule and others to serve; are not the peasants born to serve?
See White Slaves of England, p. 15. This most excellent work contains a compilation of testimony and facts collected entirely from foreign sources of the most reliable kind.
White Slaves of England, p. 22.
See great Speech of Sir Robert Peel, on Ireland, 1849.
How much of this was the proceeds of the slave labor of the South, contributed as thousands were by the people of the Southern States for the relief of starving Ireland?
Whoever has a desire to pursue this subject more in detail, may refer to the White Slaves of England, by Cobden, or to the original sources of information from which these facts are compiled.