Speeches in Congress. --Claims on the French. --Visit to President. --Alexandria. --Discontent among the Merchants. --Mount Vernon. --Judge Washington's Slaves. --Establishment of Slave-dealer. --Slaves half starved. --Virginia. --Depopulation. ---New kind of Entail. --Stage Adventure --Warrenton. --Election Speeches.
"Strip Andrew Jackson and Roger B. Taney of the little brief authority which invests them with the privilege of slandering their fellow-citizens with impunity, and neither of them would DARE to charge any of those men I have named, (the United States' bank directors,) neither (either) before their places, or anywhere in the presence of credible, impartial witnesses, with dishonesty or corruption --either in general terms or by any one specification. Neither of them would dare to go to the city of Philadelphia, and there, in any possible manner, avow a charge against any one of those men which could make up an issue for a test of character by a verdict of their peers"
The president, like his brother potentates in Europe, seems to be less popular at the seat of government than elsewhere. The citizens of Washington, having no vote, except for the corporation, complain that the removal, by which the present president's accession to power was marked, of functionaries from the public service, has rendered the tenure of office so precarious, that a spirit of prudent economy has succeeded to the former expenditure; and a proportionate diminution in the demand for many things previously supplied by the tradesmen has taken place: --while fewer houses have been built, and other checks have been given to commerce, in addition to the distress which the shock to credit, occasioned by the sudden change in the disposal of the public revenue, has effected. They think it hard to be disfranchised and impoverished too; --to lose the compensation which their political insignificance received from the circulation of the government money: --to have neither their birthright nor their mess of pottage.
The president appears to understand the limits of the legislative power as fully as he observes those of the executive; and to be as much "at home" abroad, as his enemies say he is "abroad" at home. He is no less conversant with the French charter than he is with the constitution of his own country; and is equally competent to lecture the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the United States. Hence, in his message at the opening of the session, in allusion to the difficulties that had arisen from the nonpayment by France, at the stipulated time, of the money due from her to the United States, he expressed his conviction that the French legislature would confirm what the French king had done; though subsequent events made it appear that there was as little coincidence, of opinion between them, as between two of the co-ordinate powers they had to deal with; the Chamber of Deputies refusing their sanction to the treaty in question, and the bill drawn on the French treasury, on the faith of it, having been protested. The following are the words alluded to in the message: "Notwithstanding it has been supposed by the French ministry that the financial stipulations of the treaty cannot be carried into effect without an appropriation by the Chambers, it appears to me to be not only consistent with the charter of France, but due to the character of both governments, as well as to the rights of our citizens, to treat the convention made and ratified, in proper form, as pledging the good faith of the French government for its execution, and as imposing upon each department an obligation to fulfil it; and I have received assurances, &c. that the delay has not proceeded from any indisposition on the part of the king and his ministers to fulfil the treaty," &c.
Whether this dispute was preconcerted between the Tuileries and the "white house"*
to divert public attention from what was going on at both; whether it was affection for Nicholas the autocrat of Russia, or fear of Nicholas **
* A familiar term applied to the president's official house.
the autocrat of the bank; or whether it was for the "glory and honor" of an insulted nation and their chivalrous chief, that the peace of the world was threatened, the excitement produced by this paltry claim proves the sensitive state of the public mind in both countries, and the influence it may be made to exercise upon collateral subjects. The wily diplomatists of Washington will pause before they drive France into a complete acknowledgment of Haytian independence, or an adoption of measures that may affect Cuba by emancipating Martinique.
** Nicholas Biddle, the rival president, of the Mammoth bank; which is destined to swallow up the constitution, after having bribed the members of both houses of Congress, deluged the country with foreign gold, and bought up all the newspapers and reviews.
On the 24th of April, I left Washington; having, previously to my departure, been introduced to the president by Major Smith, to whom I had brought a letter of introduction from New York. The residence, appropriated to the chief magistrate of the Union, is a handsome, but not a splendid building, similar, in the size and arrangements of the rooms, to the private house of a country gentleman in England of ten or twelve thousand a year. It is furnished with much taste, and in a style sufficiently costly, for a man whose official income is little more than five thousand pounds sterling --the same amount of salary as it was when fixed in 1793. But the president of the United States is not a Scotch judge: he is not obliged to follow the fashions of the day, and teach the worthy citizens of Washington how to spend their money.
We found the president, on our entrance to his sitting room, with two persons in close conversation. He rose from his chair, and received us with the usual ceremonies of the country; and, having requested us to be seated, resumed the discourse with his other guests. The topic, which lasted the whole time I remained, --about half an hour, --was entirely political, and referred to the agitation which his message to the senate had produced; digressing at intervals to the conduct of the bank party, the unjust imputations thrown out by the opposition upon his character, and the purity of motives by which he had been ever actuated. Though the greater part of what was said I had frequently heard before, in the shape of accusation or reply, I could not but be interested in the recital of wrongs, and the assertion of principles, through which the character of the man before me stood out in bold relief. It was plain enough, that strong personal feeling had been mixed up with no small portion of what had been publicly done or said; and that any weakness connected with either, presented vulnerable points both to foes and friends. One or two things, during this short interview, struck me very forcibly. I saw clearly that a man's good opinion of himself is the best handle by which you may lead him; that truth has as little chance of a familiar acquaintance with republican presidents as with imperial potentates; and that an American need not go to St. Petersburgh or St. James's to find a courtier. I was, indeed, not a little surprised at the gross flattery with which this old man was fed; and I much doubt, whether Washington would have allowed any one, if such a person could have been found, to tell him that his visitors had spoken of him, as possessed of the most courteous gentlemanlike address, exhibiting the most perfect candor and good sense, and inspired with a love of truth that must impress every one with respect, and convert opponents into friends. Such was the sort of language used, on this occasion, by men who professed the highest regard for their chief magistrate, while they were doing their utmost to sink him in the estimation of a stranger. Oxenstiern's well known remark to his son recurred to my mind; and I perceived that as little wisdom was required to govern in the new as in the old world.
The president, among other things, said, that that august body, the Senate, had disgraced itself by its personal attack upon him; and that Mr. Clay had asserted what he must have known to be false, as the expression attributed to him was never uttered. Mr. Clay, however, did not say what was false in fact; as he spoke merely of what had been a rumor; adding that the credit given to it was an evidence of public opinion, and the fears it had excited were now realized. He alluded to what was said to have passed between the president and Joseph Buonaparte; to whom the former is represented as having declared that he should take Napoleon for the model of his government. It was on the occasion of another message, a sort of postscript to the protest; disavowing any intention on the part of the president to assume an uncontrolled power over the public revenues, that Mr. Clay, who had been absent for a few days, expressed himself in a manner so offensive to the former. My companion seemed anxious to turn the conversation; and repeated to General Jackson something I had said, on our way to the house, about the state of Europe. It soon, however, reverted to its former channel; and the slight interruption gave greater violence to the current. For my part, I was altogether astonished at a scene for which I was quite unprepared. When the "rabble" that had followed Mr. Webster was spoken of with derision; when the exploits at New Orleans were adduced as a proof that there would be no yielding to the menaces and threats that were said to have been made: and a joke of Mrs. Gadsby was related, that "she would head the ladies of Washington in defence of 'old Hickory'": --the attentive auditors filled up each pause with a smile of approval, or an hysterical laugh, as forced as their attachment, and as hollow as their hearts. What a subject for Lucian or Le Sage! Here were the vices of a court in all their deformity; arrogance without dignity, and adulation without refinement --a burlesque upon every thing exalted and manly!
In the afternoon I left Washington by the stage for Alexandria; the distance of which from the former is six miles.
In the evening there was no small degree of dissatisfaction exhibited against the government by several persons who had assembled at the hotel where I put up. Had the president heard what was said, he would have perceived how grossly he had been imposed upon by those who told him that the excitement, of which so much was said, was confined to the large cities, and kept up by the worst portion of their inhabitants. It would be no subject of wonder to any one that much violence and resentment prevailed among the mercantile classes, as there was no remedy for their sufferings. Whether the seizure of the public revenue were right or wrong; whether the secretary had acted constitutionally or not in obeying the orders of his master, who had turned his less pliant predecessor out of office, and had not obtained from the senate a confirmation of the appointment, neither censure nor approbation could touch him. Such is the nature of the government, that any difference or dispute, which may exist between the two legislative chambers, admits of no adjustment by the intervention of the executive; who can neither dissolve the one, nor put fresh materials into the other. A conference would have been useless between them. The matter therefore must stand over till the next election; when, if the executive should obtain a majority in the lower house, the same sort of conflict will be renewed, with little chance of an harmonious action upon a question so differently viewed by them. In the mean time, the national patience is put to a severe trial; credit is slow in returning; "and Commerce, sickens at the long delay."
A comparison of the expenditure
for two years, under his predecessor's administration, with that for the
same period under his own, will shew that President Jackson's promises
of retrenchment and reform are yet to be performed:--
In 1827 the expenditure was 13,062,316 dollars
In 1828 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12,653,096
While in 1832 it was . . . . . . 16,516,389
And in 1833 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22,086,064
The chief indictment against him may be seen in certain resolutions passed at Philadelphia in 1832, by a meeting of naturalized Irish, who, to the number of more than 2000, had seceded from Jacksonism. One of them was, as follows:
"That the total disregard of his solemn pledge to serve but one term, as President of the United States, and of his repeated promises not to appoint members of congress, nor to be lavish in the expenditure of the public moneys, have so entirely shaken all confidence in the truth of his declarations, that we feel warranted not only in refusing credence to his most clear and unequivocal declaration, but are called upon to look, with a weary and a jealous eye, upon his ambidextrous declarations in relation to subjects such as the tariff and the bank, which vitally affect the independence and interests of the United States."
The next day I went over from Alexandria in a gig to Mount Vernon (about nine miles). The man who accompanied me was the son of the hotel-keeper, a very smart lively fellow. As his horse was very spirited, yet docile, I asked him how he had been trained. He said, the whip was seldom or never used. If a man were to beat a horse with a cudgel, he added, he would be fined severely by a magistrate. Soon afterwards, the conversation turned upon the system of farming. The laborers, he observed, were all slaves. Those who hire them of their owners pay fifty or sixty dollars a year for them, and find them in food and clothing. "Are they industrious?" I asked. "If they were not, we should soon make them so: we should tie them up, and give them a good flogging." He seemed to think they were naturally a lazy set. If he were to treat his horses in the same way, he would find nature had been equally perverse and unkind to them. Yet the latter are of inferior value; as the tax paid for them is but 61 cents a head, while that for the slave amounts to 25 cents. He had lately purchased a boy on commission for 1100 dollars.
On our arrival at Mount Vernon, we descended, and walked into the yard, and finding that the family were at home, proceeded into that part of the grounds which is open to the public. There was an air of neglect and loneliness about the premises that excited a feeling of melancholy by no means pleasing.
The estate is at present in the possession of the widow and children of Judge Washington's nephew. The judge was nephew to the immortal president. The view from the portico of the house, which has nothing remarkable about it, is very beautiful. As I did not like to avail myself of the privilege sometimes conceded to foreigners, and obtrude upon the family by requesting to see the house, I contented myself with walking through the grounds and visiting the tomb, where I plucked a few sprigs from an evergreen that grew over it; and, while meditating on the events of the preceding day, thought of Shenstone's address to his beloved Maria: "heu quanto minus est cum reliquis versari quam tui meminisse!"
George Washington, President of the United States, emancipated his slaves at his death; but Judge Washington, President of the Colonization Society, disposed of his during his life in a much more summary manner. A letter, which appeared in a Baltimore paper at the time, (1821,) explains the plan he adopted, and the results that followed. "I was at Mount Vernon", says the writer, "a few days since, and was told by some of the slaves, whose countenances were remarkably indicative of .despondency and dejection, that more than fifty of their companions (fifty-nine, I believe) had been sold but a week before, to go to New Orleans, for 10,000 dollars the whole. One would have thought that the poor creatures who were left, the aged and blind, had lost every friend on earth. I inquired the reason. They answered, that husbands had been torn from their wives and children; and that many relations were left behind. Take the following comment. I asked an old slave, if he was living at Mount Vernon, when George Washington died. His answer was: 'No, Sir!not so lucky. I should not be a slave now if I had.' The reader ought to know that George Washington set all his slaves free upon his death."
The Judge's reasons (in another Baltimore paper) for selling these slaves, were: 1. because he lost by their labor; 2. because they were in a state of insubordination, owing, as he conceived, to their having been frequently told that their master would set them free, or ought to do so; and 3. because he anticipated the escape to the Northern States of the most valuable part of them. It had cost him, he said, 250 dollars to recover two of them; a third (a valuable cook) having succeeded in baffling his pursuers. The judge, like the man who summed up the twelve bad qualities of his horse with a statement that he was dead, might have saved himself the trouble of giving reasons for what he had done, as he declared that no one had a right to demand any. "I take the liberty," such are his words, "on my own behalf, and on that of my southern fellow-citizens to enter a solemn protest against the propriety of any person questioning our right, legal or moral, to dispose of property which is secured to us by sanctions equally valid with those by which we hold every other species of property."
On our return to Alexandria, we called at Armfield's establishment; where he keeps the slaves he has purchased for sale. He himself was out. Two of his men, however, were standing at the door; and as my guide was familiarly acquainted with them, we were admitted without difficulty. We were ushered into a well-furnished room, and invited to take wine, some bottles of which were standing on a side-board, for the accommodation, doubtless, of purchasers. I declined: my companion was less scrupulous. We then went over the establishment; the delay that had occurred in the parlor, having given time to prepare it for our inspection.
The sexes are separated by a passage, into which the iron gratings of their doors look. These last are doubly locked, and strongly secured. The yards, which are sufficiently spacious, are surrounded by high walls. Everything looked clean and in good order. There were but three men, and four or five women, with as many children, one of whom was nearly white, --a circumstance that elicited some coarse jokes from my companions, in the hearing of these poor unfortunate creatures. Both departments were well provided with fires; the room destined to the inmates of each having a stove, round which, as it was a very cold day, they were collected. I was assured they were well fed, --an assertion that will readily obtain credit from every one who considers that it is the interest of the seller to keep his "cattle" in good condition; and, as a "sulky one" is not likely to find a buyer, everything would be done to keep them in good humor. The owner of this pandemonium is said to be very wealthy; having acquired nearly half a million of dollars in the trade. He bears a good character, and is considered a charitable man.
The slave-traders at Washington pay 400 dollars to the corporation of the city for a licence to carry on their business.
I asked the man who attended us, whether we had seen the whole establishment; having heard a great deal of a dungeon, where the refractory are confined, and where (as I had been informed by a lady who had visited the place, and was unable to proceed from the horror she felt at the description given her of the thumbscrews; and other instruments of coercion) a very different scene was to be witnessed. I was told that there was no room of the kind. It was not to be expected that I should be allowed to visit such a place; to deny the existence of which would be the natural consequence of having it. I found the price of a slave had fallen considerably; the pressure of the times having affected this sort of commodity as well as every other.
In the evening, while enjoying the comforts of a good fire, I had a long conversation with an Irishman, who had been many years in the country. He was a contractor for the canal in the neighborhood. He had been in the habit, for some time, of hiring a gang of sixty or seventy slaves, paying for each at the rate of seventy-five dollars a year. He fed them well; allowing them meat of the same quality with what he had at his own table, and never flogging them. In return for this kindness, they were very industrious and obedient; and so attached to him, that he was sure there was nothing they would not do for him; except when the term for which they had been hired was about to end, when the dread of returning to their weekly allowance of a peck of corn and a few herrings, with the addition of the cowhide, often drove them to seek a better fate in flight, with all the risk of discovery and its horrors. Many attempts were made, when first he began to employ these "hands", to dissuade him from what he was told was a mad and impracticable scheme. He spoke with much feeling of the wretched diet and cruel treatment which too often fall to the lot of this unhappy class. He was not aware of my sentiments upon this subject, while he was detailing the method he had pursued in the management of his workmen. Speaking of the general condition of the slaves, he assured me that they were half-starved: to use his own words, they had hardly food enough to keep body and soul together. When they rob the hen-roost or the pasture-field, it is to appease the cravings of hunger.
natural results of this system are provided for by legislative, enactment
in North Carolina. What must be the monster that can have such agrinder!
"In case any slave or slaves, who shall not appear to have been clothed and fed according to the intent and meaning of this Act, that is to say, to have been sufficiently clothed, and to have constantly received for the preceding year an allowance not less than a quart of corn per day, shall be convicted of stealing any corn, cattle, &c., from any person not the owner of such slave or slaves, such injured person shall and may maintain an action of trespass against the master, owner, or possessor of such slave, &c., and shall recover his or her damages," &c.
Alexandria does not appear to derive all the advantages from its situation, which it might reasonably expect. The inhabitants would be well pleased to be again incorporated with Virginia; by which it was ceded to the federal government as a part of the district of Columbia. Washington, it is said, objected to the appropriation of the latter as the seat of an exclusive jurisdiction and residence for the general administration of the Union, lest it should be supposed that he wished to favor his own estate by the vicinity. It is thought that the Alexandrians will succeed in their efforts to become again an integral part of their parent State.
April 26. I left Alexandria at eight A.M., and arrived at Warrenton, in Virginia, at half past four in the afternoon; the distance is about forty-four miles. The stage passed through a country that exhibited the effects of slavery in every part of it: --an exhausted soil, miserable hovels, thinly peopled villages, half ploughed fields, and spontaneous vegetation in rank fertility, usurping the place of healthy and profitable crops. How different the scene from the activity and enterprize every where visible in the Northern States! It seemed as if the whole country would become
Speaking of their increasing numbers, he thought Liberia would serve as a regulator to the velocity of this moving mass. When reminded of the deficit in the last year's budget, which had compelled the colonization society to put a stop to this outlet for the present, he owned that he could not see his way clearly, or find a plan to get rid of "the evil." "Those d-d rascals in the north," he exclaimed, "upbraid us for what is a misfortune, entailed upon us by your country: --a curse that they themselves assisted to bring upon us by engaging so largely in the slave-trade; which they still carry on underhand" --This notion, preposterous as it is, of "getting rid" of nearly three millions of human beings, is almost universal. America has converted her colonial vassalage into national independence. Part of the materials, with which she has raised the superstructure, she would remove from the building, because it offends her fastidious eye. It is too late. She mistakes the foundation for the scaffolding. It is worse than folly to lay the exclusive blame attached to slavery on the shoulders of the mother-country; when those who might have easily shaken off the burthen and the guilt, still retained the whole weight of both upon their own. When the original draft of the "Declaration of Independence" was presented to the committee, to whom it had been referred, the following paragraph was struck out.
"He (George the Third) has waged 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; captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death, in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the work of a Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep an open market, where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another."
A striking instance of national vanity occurred during the journey. One of the passengers, a young lawyer, asked me whether the Virginians were not better received, and more highly esteemed in England than Americans from any other State. I replied that all Americans were Yankees with us; --that few knew the difference between a Virginian and a Vermonter; and that our ignorance of the country, as well as its distance, presented to our view but one nation. I added, by way of salve to his wounded self-love, that the stars above us appeared to be nearly of the same magnitude. I might have said that all, who had ever heard how Virginia treated her creditors, at the period of the revolution, would feel little disposed to place her at the head of the Union. As the supreme court of the confederation, to which she belonged, had passed judgment against her legislature on that occasion, it ill became her sons to claim admiration from the descendants of those, to whom she had denied justice.
Just at this moment one of the passengers, who had afforded us a fund of amusement, left the stage. He was a little pale-faced queer-looking old man with a wound in one of his legs, that gave him no small trouble to ensconce himself in the vehicle. As soon as he was fairly seated, and before we had left Alexandria, he broke out into a loud and passionate complaint against some one who had stolen a little girl from him. We were all desirous to hear the particulars of such an extraordinary event; and he was as ready to gratify our curiosity and his own loquacity, by the recital of his wrongs. He commenced his narrative by informing us that he was an old soldier --one of the seven who were wounded at the battle of New Orleans; when the English troops were led, like sheep, to the slaughter. He had been to Washington from the place where he lived in Virginia about seventy miles from that city --and was returning home with his pension of 100 dollars and the child in question, when the latter was carried off, while he was at breakfast with the other passengers. He suspected a woman, of Alexandria, he said, of the abduction, as he and his protegee had slept the night before at her house, and she had lately lost an adopted girl in similar manner. This was a new sort of kidnapping; and the history of the acquisition was as singular as that of the loss. Having no children or relatives, he had resolved to adopt this little girl, as a solace to his declining years, and an assistant to his wife in the management of her household affairs. He had appointed her his heir; having left the will with a lawyer at Washington. His estate consisted of upwards of a hundred acres, in addition to his personal property; of which he had just lent 1100 dollars to a Mr. Baldwin, of Washington; --and here he had felt the truth of the remark, that "misfortunes come not single-handed, but in battalions," for the borrower had found it convenient to have a short memory; and, as the old man had no proof in writing of the transaction, the claim on one side was worth no more than the honor on the other. This breach of honesty, however, gave him much less uneasiness than the other calamity; which so far absorbed what few ideas he had, that he could touch upon no subject, in the wide range his tongue took, that he did not mingle with it the bitterest lamentation for his darling, and threats of vengeance against her ravisher. "If I had had a pistol with me," he exclaimed repeatedly, "I would have shot him down with as little scruple as Andrew Jackson ever shot an Indian with." There was so much goodness of heart mixed up with his resentment, and his simplicity had so many touches of good sense in it, that we could not but feel an interest in the veteran's story, even while we were laughing at his oddities. When he had taken his departure, we sought a diversion for the loss by looking over the way-bill, and trying to recognize our names, under the strange alterations they had undergone. I, for one, had no reason to complain, as I had got two or three additional letters. Indeed I was generally very fortunate in this respect; for, though I have no legal claim to more than four, I sometimes found myself complimented with a large portion of the alphabet.
On the arrival of the stage at Warrenton, the other passengers having got out, except one, who then took his leave of me in a very friendly way, I was shewn, by the master of the hotel where we stopped, into a room, in which were several persons. They were assembled round a blazing woodfire, to which an unusually cold day gave irresistible attractions; and two or three of them immediately rose from their seats, to make room for the stranger --a piece of civility, which, however common in most countries, I had never before witnessed in the public room of an American inn. I soon got into chat with them; and finding there was to be an election in the town on the following Monday, was not sorry that I should be detained; there being no stage on that day.
Warrenton is the county town of Fauquier County, and contains about 1000 inhabitants. There are three places of worship, Episcopal, Baptist, and Methodist. As there was no service at the two former on Sunday, I went to the last mentioned. The congregation was scanty, and consisted chiefly of the middle classes. The men sat on one side, and the women on the other, on benches. At one extremity, over the entrance of the meeting-house, which was totally devoid of ornament and neatness, was a gallery for the Africans"; and at the other end was the pulpit, in a sort of recess, raised above the area between them. Here sat two preachers, who commenced the service by singing in a low and monotonous voice. A sermon followed, and was succeeded by further singing and by a prayer, when the whole concluded. Of the sermon I can say nothing, as I had much difficulty in keeping up attention to a discourse which consisted of many words and very few ideas, and in which there was more rapidity of utterance, than clearness of conception or arrangement of matter. The preacher ranted and gesticulated in a manner equally painful to the ear and the eye. There was more earnestness in him than attention in his hearers; among whom might fairly be reckoned two or three dogs, that took their station quietly at the feet of their masters, and behaved with laudable propriety. Before the last prayer, two men applied to the congregation on both sides for their contributions. The collection was made, or rather solicited (for very little was obtained) by means of a rod, with a black cotton bag at the end of it. It had the exact appearance of those hand-nets which are in frequent use with fishermen. What the bag wanted in magnitude, the pole made up in length; and the bearer of each, as he passed along the passage that separated the sexes, presented it in succession to the occupants of the respective sides. I observed more ruddy cheeks and athletic forms in this small chapel than I had ever seen in the largest churches in the North. Such is the "bold peasantry" of Virginia; but their "country's pride" is fast disappearing under the withering blight that has brought desolation and sterility to the land.
In my walks through the town, I remarked, at different places, groups of young negroes lounging about with all the indolence of sabbath leisure, or eagerly engaged in gambling or playing at marbles. Among the, players was a white boy, well-dressed and very young. It is thus that the vices of the slaves are communicated to the masters. Nor can it well be otherwise. Nature is never robbed of her rights without avenging herself upon the wrongdoer; nor man unjust and cruel with impunity. The moral degradation, which forms the most disgusting feature of slavery, is reciprocated between the oppressor and his victim, till the former has lost, in moral dignity, more than the latter in physical comfort. He is indeed, doubly criminal in the sight of Heaven: --he is responsible for the abuse of those gifts it has granted to himself, and for those vices which he has occasioned in his dependants, by robbing them of all that the same bountiful hand had bestowed to prevent or check them.
In the evening there was a pleasant party, as before, round the fire; and I had no reason to complain that the time passed heavily. I found that "gentlemen and ladies" were in as high honor at Warrenton as at Washington. While conversing with a Virginian, who repeated the word "lady" with an emphasis that seemed to reprove me for using a less exalted appellation, I remarked to him that Europe would probably witness, before long, the singular coincidence of three women contemporaneous queens. He at once perceived the incongruity of saying three "ladies" would be crowned, and allowed me to use a more natural mode of expression. Surely if a king's daughter may be called a woman, a planter's or merchant's child need not be offended at the term. It is curious enough, that this very man had just pointed out the vulgarity of making a smart coat or bonnet the test of a person's rank in society. Here he could distinguish between the shell and the kernel; yet, while he was laughing at the Philadelphians and New Yorkers for their attention to the toilette, he did not see that the Virginians are doing the same thing in another way. While they are above the artificial distinction of dress, they retain that of words; and adopt, as a badge of separation, what is just as easily taken up by the excluded as a mark of equality. Simplicity of language, like simplicity of apparel, can no more detract from refinement, where it exists, than its opposite can bestow it where it is wanting. If "gentlemen" would be contented to be known by courtesy of manners and an amiable disposition, the example might descend, and society would gain more by looking to the end, than it now loses by confining its attention to the means, of social inequality.
Warrenton is beautifully situated; the ground on which it is built being broken into declivities, and the surrounding country presenting an undulating surface, diversified with woods and fields and farmhouses. To the north-west the view is terminated, at the distance of about twenty miles, by the Blue Ridge, --a range of mountains which divides the State into two sections, not less distinct in the quality of the soil, than in the manners of the population by which it is cultivated. There were more numerous traits of resemblance here to the old country, particularly parts of South Wales, than at any place I had yet seen in the Union. As I was returning from an evening's stroll on the Monday, and was admiring the beauty of the landscape, upon which the setting sun threw its last rays, clothing the rugged outline of the Ridge with varied lights and shadows, the people were leaving the town at the conclusion of the election; and their appearance and manner carried me back, in imagination, to old England. --An Englishman in America is somewhat surprised when he is saluted by the farmers and peasantry with a bow and a touch of the hat.
The election terminated in a "tie"; one candidate being elected on each side. There were four, of whom two only were present, the others attending at some other precincts. The county contains seven precincts or districts; in each of which the votes are taken viva voce. The electors assembled at Warrenton in the courthouse, where the sheriff took the votes, by asking each elector, as he came to the poll, for whom he voted. The business of the day commenced with speeches from the candidates or their friends. The first who spoke, was Mr. Fauutleroy --a Jackson-man. He assured his fellow-citizens that the imputations cast upon his motives and conduct were altogetber unfounded; that he neither was seeking place, nor had attempted, in his canvass, to obtain votes by undue influence or promises; and that the letter he had in his hand would exonerate hire from the charge. He had given. up his profession to establish a Jackson paper; and, now that a change had taken pace in the politics of the State, he might, had he been so disposed, have found or sought an indemnity for his ruined prospects, by turning with the tide of popular feeling, and rejoining his former friends; whom he had left, at the risk of being stigmatized as an apostate, to support a, party, which he still thought entitled to the confidence of the county. His address did not seem to be well received by the majority of his auditors; though it was delivered in a temperate and gentlemanly manner. When he had concluded, another orator, on the same side, got up, and presented himself to the notice of the electors: his style was more energetic, and his delivery more fluent. A great and most important crisis, according to him, had arrived, big with the fate of unborn millions: --a crisis, on the issue of which depended the interests of their children, the preservation of the constitution, and the welfare of the civilized world. My attention was riveted by an exordium, equally imposing in its announcement, and decorated, in its enunciation, with all the flowers that a prolific fancy, and a ready command of words, could bestow upon it: My disappointment, however, was like that of the listener to the man who cried in the streets of Constantinople: "in the name of the Prophet! --figs." It was the marble palace at ,Philadelphia --the Mammoth bank --the monied monster --that menaced the citadel of virtue and liberty! The orator had drawn up a long bill of indictment against this hydra-headed institution; and the counts were filled up with every item that could tend to swell the list and the enormity of the charges. One of the greatest crimes it had committed was that of its connexion with foreigners; who, of course, could have no possible motive for buying shares but the wish to corrupt a free people, and who could not be the friends of an establishment of which President Biddle is the head, without being the enemies of the constitution, of which President Jackson is the preserver and the defender. The vessel which carries this palladium of the Union, by the by, is placed by the two parties, that agree in nothing but their attachment to it, between Scylla and Charybdis. It must be either shipwrecked on the bank, or swallowed up by despotism. They should consider that they lessen the world's respect for their idol, in proportion as they magnify the chances of its destruction.
To return to our orator; whose imagination was naturally inflamed at the mention of foreign influence. "We want no English liberty here," he exclaimed, --"we are not indebted to kings and emperors for our rights. They were earned not granted." Much more of the same kind was uttered by a man equally ignorant of the origin and nature of an Englishman's birthright, and forgetful of his own in relation to both. We robbed no man of his rights when we asserted our own. We have not converted human beings into "cattle" for personal profit, nor reckoned our "cattle" as fractions of human beings for political privileges.
In the course of his harangue, the speaker did not forget the heroes and divinities of the "olden time." I was delighted to renew acquaintance with my schoolboy associations, and find myself again in company with Philip of Macedon and Cassandra of Troy. In the distribution of parts, the modesty of the honorable gentleman selected the latter for himself: the former, I need not add, was intended for Nicholas Biddle. When he had finished his invectives against the bank, which he declared with a vehemence of voice by no means complimentary to his countrymen, would, if not arrested in its course of profusion and profligacy, buy up the whole nation with its money; a young man, after the slight applause that followed had ceased, solicited the suffrages of the assembly in favor of the candidates who were absent. He labored, unfortunately, under a slight impediment of speech; but his matter and manner were both good; and he very ably exposed the fallacies and illogical inferences of those who had preceded him. He reminded his hearers that the question was no longer "bank or no bank"; for both its opponents and its supporters were arrayed against the federal administration, two branches of which had already condemned it; and that it might be considered defunct without a chance of its resuscitation. The struggle for party ascendancy had now become a contest for public principle; and all, who valued the constitution and commerce of the country, had united, in defence of both against the encroachments of arbitrary power and the exercise of a prerogative built upon forced construction and sophistical implication. The orator shewed that neither federalist nor republican could consistently support the general government; the practice of which was directly at variance with the principles professed by each.
The polling followed the harangues; and I left the court after two or three votes had been taken. With the exception of a few drunken men to be seen here and there, the whole went off very quietly, in spite of the efforts made by each party to have its cause espoused by the "old dominion," as Virginia is called. This election was for the House of Delegates; the Senate of the State being chosen for four years, and the former but for one.
persons, I was told, had declined voting on this occasion, not wishing
to give offence to some of the opposite party, whose resentment they had
reason to dread. These men would probably
be glad to have the protection
of the ballot, while the greater part, who find in the open vote, whether
exercised by themselves or others, a reason for exultation or a source
of profit, would as strenuously oppose its introduction. They have not
yet discovered that the public is responsible to the public by choosing
its own servants in the most public manner; and that those who are not
thought worthy of the vote are the best judges of its exercise.