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System productive of Idleness. --The Bench. --Eastern and Western Virginia. --Debates is State Convention --Conversation with Slaves. --Schools, --Beautiful Scenery. --Odious System. --Character of Slaves. --Higher and lower Classes disunited. --White Labor discouraged, --Schemes to check Emigration. --Funeral. --Charlotteville. --University. --Monticello. --Jefferson. --Origin and objects of Colonization Society. --Students.
Attempts were made at the State convention a few years back, to reform the Bench, the enemies and friends of which were the enemies and friends of slavery. The latter prevailed; and the same profession which affords an asylum for those who are too proud to engage in commerce, is a tool in the hands of a party who would perpetuate a system that takes from their moral strength what it gives to their political power.
"The juries," says Jefferson, in one of his letters, "the ,judges of all fact, and of law, when they choose it, are not selected by the people, nor amenable to them. They are chosen by an officer, named by the court and executive: --chosen, did I say? --picked up by the sheriff from the loungings of the court-yard, after every thing respectable has retired from it."
One of the members of the Virginia State convention, in 1829, who was opposed to an unpaid magistracy, used the following language: --"The constitution gave the magistrates no reward whatever for their services. But, in making them eligible to the general assembly, it put it in their power to provide for themselves: --as they have since done. It is known, I presume, to every member of this committee, that generally a quorum, and often a majority of the house of delegates, is composed of magistrates, sheriff's, and their deputies. Tradition informs us, that such a legislative body found it easy to seize the sheriffalty, and to attach it to their own office, or to secure it by way of an indirect compensation for their services --so indirect as not to disqualify them from being eligible to the office of legislators. In this way they dispense, justice for nothing! In this way they compensate themselves! But we love a cheap magistracy; and the justices serve for nothing. It is true they only divide among themselves between fifty and sixty thousand dollars per annum, in the way of sheriff's fees. Valuing the 105 sheriffalties in the commonwealth at 500 dollars per annum each, we can easily estimate what 'serving for nothing' means, when applied to our present system. They are paid in the most exceptionable way; and it is all one and the same, whether they receive the amount of the sheriffalty in succession, or divide it annually amongst them, according to their services. It is still in principle a compensation; and the office of justice is so far lucrative."
The State, as I have before mentioned, is divided not less by clashing interests than by intervening mountains; the East being as much distinguished by the relative increase of the black, as the West by that of the white population. In the latter, the slave-part, from 1800 to 1810, increased in the proportion of sixty-five and a-half per cent. upon the whole amount; during the next ten years, forty-six; and during the last decade about twenty-eight. The following table will shew the decrease of the white population in Eastern Virginia since 1820. The first five counties are between the Blue Ridge and the head of tide-water:-the rest below the head of tidewater. In this section of the State the whites had, in 1790, a majority over the blacks of 25,000. They are now in a minority --the difference being no less than 81,000 *.
* The following table will shew the relative proportions between the two races, as regards the increase of each in theEastern and Western sections.
Eastern Section.Whites. Slaves. Free Blacks.
1790 507,885, 291,278. 12,703
1830 375,940 416,259 40,708.
whites. Slaves. Free Blacks.
1790 34,230. 2,154. 63.
1830 318,505. 53,465. 6,323.
In South Carolina, the relative amounts for the corresponding periods were as follows
Whites. Slaves. Free Blacks.
1790 140,178. 107,094. 801.
1830 257,878. 315,665. 7,915.
Whites in 1812. In 1830.A remarkable fact was stated by Mr. Leigh, in the Convention, with regard to the proportion of taxes paid by the inhabitants of the eastern and western portions respectively. In the former, the white population amounted to 362,500; and that of the latter to 319,300. The first pay, on an average, thirty-four cents on the land-tax; the second fifteen cents. The one pays twenty-eight cents; the other four cents of the slave-tax; while of the horse and carriage-tax, the relative amount is nine cents and six cents per head.
Drunswick . . 5889 3397
Amelia . . . . . 3409 3293
Goochland . . 3976 3857
Loudon . . . 16,144 15,510
Mecklenburg 7710 7543
Fairfax . . . . . 6224 4892
James City . . 1556 1284
King and Queen 5460 4114
King William . 3449 3158
Lancaster, . . . 2388 1970
Northumberland . 4134 4029
Sussex . . . . . . 4155 4118
Stafford . . . . . . 4788 4713
Warwick . . . . . 620 619
Here is matter enough for synthetical reasoning on the indissoluble connexion between self-interest and good treatment in producing a co-operation between the will and the physical force of man. In the county of Loudon there were, in 1817, 359 defaulters to the county taxes; in 1825 there were 831; while the population had increased but three-fourths per cent. in the same period.
At this time the slave population was distributed over the State in the following proportions: --West of the Alleghany it was but 83 per cent. of the whole; in the valley between the Alleghany and the Blue Ridge it formed 17 per cent. of the inhabitants; and in the eastern section, as it has been stated, it outnumbered the other portion.
It should be observed, that the preponderance of legislative power was with the east. As this had always been the case, Mr. Leigh inferred, from the disproportionate amount of taxes paid by the rival sections, that the superiority of the one had never been used to benefit itself at the expense of the other; yet, in the same breath, he predicted that a change in the elective franchise would sacrifice it to the other's selfishness; as if the nature of man were not precisely the same on both sides of the boundary. The nobility of the east were "conservative", and the commons of the west were "destructive". Mr. Leigh would not, or could not, see the cause of the difference. "In the language of Lord Chatham," he said, "the Commons of Great Britain claimed a right to give and grant the money of the commons of America, without allowing them any representation at all. Our western fellow-citizens only claim power to give and grant three dollars of our money for every dollar they give and grant of their own: --allowing us representation indeed, but a representation not strong enough to refuse the grant. Suppose Great Britain had offered us a representation in Parliament proportioned to our free white population exclusively,what would our fathers have said to it? --what I, their descendant, now say to it: It is mockery. You ask us to put ourselves in your power, bound hand and foot; and think, because you gild our chains with a thin leaf, that shews like golden freedom, we shall be so silly as to wear them."
Throughout the whole debate, the planters shewed that they were afraid to trust the majority in the State with the power of legislation; tacitly acknowledging that slave property is irreconcileable with the public welfare. Each southern State is as much divided in interest as the whole section, of which it forms a part, from the rest of the Union --and from the same causes. To suppose that such a state of things can continue much longer, with or without anti-slavery societies, is to imagine that oil and water may be made to mix together by some new law of affinity, or that action and reaction are neither equal nor in opposite directions.
The same disputes which inequality in the suffrage created between the government and the people, will, in course of time, arise between the two legislative bodies from difference of structure. Though the elective franchise has been extended from freeholders to householders, yet the lower house is built on what is called the "white basis" and the upper on the "federal"; the number of representatives being proportioned, in the first to the white population exclusively and, in the latter, to the white and three-fifths of the black. The eastern and western portions of the State will thus, as is generally the case when conflicting claims are settled by a compromise that cicatrises the wound and leaves the poison, be brought into immediate collision; and the difficulty of reconciling representation of property with representation of person, will prove as great as that which the conflict between the hereditary and the elective principle is likely to occasion in England; --with the addition of all the hatred and sensitiveness attached to the absence and possession of slave labor. But the struggle will not be confined to Virginia. The Union itself will be endangered by the shock which the foundation it stands on will receive from this blow upon its organic elements. "I knew," said Mr. Cooke in the Convention, "that a large majority of the people of Virginia considered themselves iniquitously held in a state of bondage. I knew that threats had been uttered within the last eighteen months, --that, if the non-freeholders did not obtain justice in the Convention then anticipated, they would no longer submit to the laws and the constituted authorities; --that they would refuse to labor on the roads, (a rank and palpable grievance,) --that they would refuse to pay county levies and rates, and to perform militia duty; --that if the constituted authorities attempted to enforce the payment of the taxes, levies, fines, and penalties, they would resist force with force. I knew, by the result of a private census, that in the county of Frederick alone there were no less than 2200 of these disfranchised citizens, --men of full age, --and that they bore to the freeholders the proportion of nearly nine to five."
Some of the language used on this occasion would be thought somewhat singular in an assembly of slaveholders. "No one man is born", exclaimed the same orator, "with a natural right to control any other man; no one man comes into the world with a mark on him, to designate him as possessing superior rights to any other man: neither God nor Nature recognizes in anticipation the distinction of bond and free, of despot and slave. These distinctions are artificial, are the work of man; are the result of fraud or violence." Nothing, however, was further from his intention than to hint even at personal rights. He was speaking of political slavery; --a condition so unjust and unmanly, that he could find no words to describe its enormity, but metaphors drawn from what was practised and applauded by all around him. The principle, to which he alluded, was not an abstract truth, he added, but, as it was embodied in the "declaration of rights", replete with practical meaning. If the authors of American independence had put forth a "declaration of force", their subsequent conduct would have been of a piece with their professions; no citizen, within the limits of the commonwealth they founded, would ever have blushed for the palpable incongruity between the rights he claims and the rights he withholds; an immeasurable quantity of rodomontade and nonsense would have been spared to the disgusted world: and the glory that the country has fairly won would have been seen in its true colors.
If the population of the United States goes on increasing at its present rate, there will be about 18,000,000 in 1840. Of this number, 10,000,000 will belong to the North ; and the rest to the South. The latter will have 28 senators in Congress, and the former 26; (under the term North I include all the free States.) The number of representatives from the slave-States will be 145, and that from the others 286. When the important question, relative to the admission of the Western territories into the Union, comes on, many members of Congress, who now support the President in his attack on the senate, will probably be unwilling to weaken a body, with which their own interests are bound up.
Among the inmates of the hotel where I was staying while at Warrenton, was a medical man, of pleasing manners and a well-informed mind. He shewed me great attention; and walked out with me to point out the beauties of the place. Speaking of slavery, --a topic I had purposely avoided, --he described the slaves as a happy and contented race; and adduced, as a proof of the kind treatment they received, that little care was taken in the town to fasten the doors. No doubt he believed what he said; and I was not disposed to question the authority upon which he made a statement that he had heard too often to doubt. He pointed out to me a man, of whom he spoke with great abhorrence and aversion. He was a "trader", employed to purchase slaves for the southern market. So much was the business, in which he was engaged, detested, that no respectable person to the place would speak to him.
"If that is the case," I observed, "he must be well paid to make up for loss of character." "He is so", was the reply; "he has been here a long time and has made a large fortune." I suspected that he was one of Armfield's myrmidons; and the suspicion was shortly after confirmed by an old grey-headed negro, who accosted me in a jocular way, when I had left my companion, and asked me if I would buy a little girl that stood near him while he was at work in a neat well-trimmed garden. "I thought", said he, upon my declining his offer, "you did not look like a trader." I found, on inquiry, that the price of such a child (she was about six years of age) was 100 dollars, and sometimes more. "Are such infants often sold?" "Very often." "And the mothers? what becomes of them?" "They remain here, broken-hearted: but there is no help for it. I have no children myself; but it cuts me to the heart to see these poor little dears torn away from their mothers." The old man was very lively and cheerful. His mistress, he told me, used him very well, like one of the family. He had the same fare as herself. "When she leaves home, she trusts everything to me," said he, "and I take good care of the house till she comes back. There is no one in the town like her. Our people in general are very cruelly treated, and half-starved. We are not allowed to stir from the house after dark." "You are as well off, then," I said, "as if you were free. Your mistress takes good care of you." "Yes: but I could take better care of myself. What is to become of me when she is gone?" I had often heard before that those slaves who are best treated are most anxious for liberty. How can it be otherwise in creatures, who, like ourselves, find their hopes and wishes expand with their enjoyments?
I now thought it time to break off the conversation, as it had already attracted the attention of every one who passed: but, previously, I asked whether he did not feel attached to his good mistress, and whether he would not defend her in case of danger? "To be sure I would," he replied: "I would willingly sacrifice my life in her defence; and so would any man, if he was as well treated."
During the massacre at Southampton in this State, a few years ago, an old man, who was unable, from his infirmities, to make his escape from the fury of Nat Turner and his band, owed his life entirely to the grateful attachment of his slaves, who fought desperately in his defence, and saved him from the slaughter which had fallen indiscriminately, to the number of fifty-eight, on man, woman, and child.
The old fellow came from the lower part of the State, where, he informed me, the slaves are most barbarously used. I should, most probably, have passed unnoticed by him, if he had not seen me talking to one of his tribe, --a poor old man, like himself, with a grey head. His account of what was going on at Warrenton corresponded perfectly with that of the old gardener. I fear he had too much reason to say what he did. A slight incident exhibited the hideousness of the system under which he was living. I begged he would sit down, as he seemed to be tired, and I would take a seat by him on the grass, while we conversed together. "I dare not," he muttered, looking carefully round: "if I was to be seen by the whites, I should suffer for it." The keen and scrutinizing glance of a man, who stopped at the moment to look at us, explained what he meant. I thought it better to quit him, than expose him to punishment.
Before I left the town I visited two schools, in company with the Doctor; --but the morning's task had finished, and I was prevented from returning, as I had intended, after dinner. There were three schools in the place; two of them private establishments, and the other destined to the poorer classes, with an endowment; but not, as far as I could understand, assisted by the State, --though the fund for the promotion of education amounts to nearly a million of dollars. There were more public schools, I was told, in the State, some years back, than there are at present.
At five in the afternoon I left Warrenton, and arrived for the night, at ten, at Culpeper Court-house, twenty-five miles from the former.
It was three o'clock, and the moon shone clearly through a frosty atmosphere, when we started the next morning; and the road, which had almost shaken us to pieces the preceding evening, proved less rough and rutty. Soon after the day had dawned I got out, and took my seat by the driver, whom I found by no means unwilling to answer my questions; or to confine his communications to a simple answer. I obtained a great deal of interesting information from him; as well as from his successor.
I was well repaid for the change I had made of an inside place for a seat on the box, as the country abounded in beautiful scenery. On our right was the Blue Ridge; and on the left, and nearer to us, was the South-Western, of lower elevation. Both the soil and the mode of cultivation improved as we proceeded, though the one was still generally poor, and the other partially distributed. After passing Orange Court-house, where the stage stopped to breakfast, fresh beauties sprang up on each side: The various shades of blue, with which the mountains, as they receded or advanced, were clothed, added an inexpressible charm to the landscape. Large masses were presented to the view, --now exhibiting, in the distance, deep tints of the color from which they derive their name, --now imparting, to diversities of form and magnitude, the distinctness which a nearer view gave to the woods and enclosures, and farmhouses discernible on their surface. It was, indeed, a lovely scene. The fresh air of the morning exhilarated the spirits: --"each rural sight, each rural sound," was delightful. The fluttering of the turtledoves and small birds across the road; the chirping and songs with which these "feathered tenants of the air" saluted the rising sun; --and, above all, the mellow notes of the mocking-bird, (for the barbarous gun had not swept away the unoffending warblers,) produced a more agreeable effect on the mind than I ever before experienced. There was one feature, however, that closer observation discovered to mar the prospect. The laborers in the fields were unwilling machines. The slow and lifeless manner in which they handled the hoe, or turned the plough-share; --the uplifted looks they cast at us as we passed; --the furtive cessation from toil that invariably took place, as the overseer's eye was turned from them; --spoke a language that could not be mistaken. It told of unrequited labor, of undeserved misfortune, of blighted affections, and the destruction of all those hopes and fears that play round the of man, and distinguish him from the brute creation.
I now found that the hotel, where we had breakfasted most luxuriously, was kept by a "trader"; who, so far from sharing the fate of his brother-merchant at Warrenton, had all the profits of the business without its odium; was in high favor with visitors from the Soutb, and was not a little respected by his neighbors. His gains from this diabolical traffic must be enormous; as he has been known to make a thousand dollars in the course of a week, by buying and selling his fellow-creatures, as bullocks disposed of in Smithfield-market.
While conversing about these unfortunate beings, my companion mentioned two remarkable facts. One the faculty they possess of recognizing a face; however slight a view they may have had of it, and however long the interval between the first impression and its renewal. There is an insect in the country, that sits perched on the branch of a tree, and emits a shrill sound like that of a watchman's rattle: --touch the tree however slightly, and the little creature, though on the highest bough, is silent and off in a moment. This delicacy of organization implies that it has many enemies, and feeble powers a resistance. Such is the slave's instinct, which habit, a second nature, has given him. The other circumstance was, that they are more severe overseers than whites. The master finds it good policy, if he has a -smart, trustworthy fellow in his gang, to make him an overseer, and allow him certain indulgences; as he gains both in the saving of a white's salary, and in the additional labor extracted by a hand that knows how to get at it. The sympathy that unites the members of the same race and the victims of the same oppression, is easily destroyed. He has but to arm the human passions against each other. When once jealousy on one side, and vindictive feeling on the other, are excited, the object is attained. In addition to this, the penalty of his humanity or negligence will fall with double weight upon his own back.
One of these coachmen was a native of the State, and had been for many years a close observer of the blacks, with many of whom he was personally acquainted, as I could perceive by their mutual greetings on the road. His evidence, therefore, is not to be hastily rejected. He assured me, that though they were uneducated, not being allowed to write or read *,
the teaching of which is a penal offence by law, they are, many of them, very shrewd and intelligent, --with the same varieties of talent and character as are to be found among the whites. Some of their faculties are sharpened by constant exercise, and the absence of those exciting causes which distract or weaken the mental powers of the free. Their tact in some things is extremely fine and acute. The exigencies that demand reserve, or permit its relaxation, are appreciated by them with a nicety of which we can form no idea. They conceal their knowledge as they conceal their money, --and for the same reason,--lest it should become an injury to themselves, by becoming a benefit to their owners. This man spoke of their condition and character with so much good sense and good feeling, that I could hardly believe myself to be on the south side of the Potomac.
* By a recent act of the South Carolina legislature, any white person teaching a slave or free person of color to write or read, is subject to a fine-of 100 dollars, and six months' imprisonment. Any free black guilty of the same crime, is to receive fifty lashes, and pay a fine of 50 dollars;while a slave who shall dare to infringe this salutary law, will be reminded of his duty by the infliction of fifty stripes. No colored person, whether bond or free, is permitted to preach or lecture to any of his own race. Nor can any white undertake this office, if there be fewer than three of his complexion present. Similar regulations pervade the South. The same instinctive dread of the consequences to which knowledge is sure to lead, influenced the policy of the feudal lord. The barons of Richard the Second petitioned the king, that no villeyn should be permitted to send his son to any school. The slaves in North America teach themselves to read in a very ingenious way. Having procured a piece of printed paper, they set some one to watch, while they form themselves into a school of mutual instruction. Their friends supply them with the necessary materials, by wrapping up the little presents they bring them in a newspaper or the leaves of a book. They think reading must be very valuable to them, or it would not be prohibited.
I little expected to find the same revolutionary spirit here that exists in Europe; and that aristocratical oppression had been followed by the same effects. Such, however, is the fact; and no where is the spirit of the feudal system more effectual in dividing society, than where its form has fled for ever. The slave-owners are the law-makers; and the poor whites, in the few employments that remain to them, find themseves discouraged and dishonored. Every attempt to abolish or mitigate slavery has been baffled. It is the same in all the slave-States. "In South Carolina, no person can be a member of the legislature, unless he be a proprietor of 500 aces of land and ten slaves," according to Judge Platt, one of the delegates to the New York convention. The slave-proprietors will come to the discussion of the abolition question with minds as free from bias, and as open to conviction, as the honorable members of the British House of Commons, when debating on the policy of repealing the corn laws. Such legislative provisions, however, can no more bind posterity, than the Lord Chancellor's woolsack stop the cotton mills, or the prayer in the Dutch ritual for "the great fishery" confine the capital of Holland to the catching and curing of herrings.
Justice, with her exactions, her sophistry and chicanery, is on the side of those who supply the bench with its incumbents. The lords of the soil will not sell a bit of land to any of the humbler classes, who happen to have a little money; while the latter are leaving the country, and the former are adding to their possessions and their gangs --to fall, in a short time, into the hands of those who have acquired wealth in trade, or to be divided among the children, till little or nothing be left. The industrious laborer looks with a sigh to the north; where he sees his equal rising to a higher rank, and rewarded for his toils by the comfort and respect they obtain for him. He contrasts his degraded state with the rewards that cheer the prospects of a northern peasant, and curses the institutions of his native land. So prevalent is this feeling among the working classes, who see in the system around them the cause of all their calamities, that, if it were not for the outlet afforded by the,western wilderness, the evil would cure itself, and an explosion would take place. There is one circumstance peculiarly hard upon these men-as fine a race, too, as can easily be found any where. As farmers, hotel-keepers, and others, find it cheaper to job than to buy their slaves, capitalists, adapting their speculations to the altered state of things, purchase gangs to let out; and as mechanical skill fetches a high price, qualify their slaves to become carpenters, cabinet-makers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, or other workmen. The latter of course displace an equal number of whites; who are thus doubly injured by a competition, against which it is hopeless to contend, and by the stigma which prejudice affixes to all employments that are occupied by slaves. A man who had gone from New England to the south, was earning five dollars a day, when he was driven away by the jeers and scoffs of those who could not bear to see a white man engaged in what they considered a degrading occupation. The high rate of wages could not induce him to remain, or others to take his place. Some one, however, must do the work. Who does it, and how is he paid? This is a question of the utmost importance; as the state of the southern section and its probable destiny are involved in the answer. This process of exclusion and debasement is going on with increasing rapidity, not only in Virginia, but in every State where the profits of forced labor are decreasing; and added to the breeding system, which tends to shut the eyes of those most deeply interested against the consequences of such a course, presents to the imagination a clear picture of what is to come. There were no less than five acts passed by the legislature of Virginia, the last session but one, enabling free blacks, who would otherwise have been compelled by a most iniquitous law to quit the State, to remain. It is not uncharitable to suppose, that it was the necessity for their services, not humanity, that had pleaded in their behalf.
A person at Washington told me, that the best blacksmith he ever saw, was a man who had obtained his own freedom, and that of his wife and family, through the exercise of his skill. He had been compelled to quit Virginia; as the law in question was enforced against him by men who owed him money. Such persons cannot well be spared in remote districts, where an interruption to the ordinary course of business is more readily felt than supplied; and legislative enactments will be nugatory, when those who are to enforce them suffer the most by their infliction. It will hence be apparent how utterly useless it is for the white workmen to bear up against such a combination of free capital and forced labor. It is impossible; they know it; and give up all hope of relief. "Why," said I to the driver, "do you not make common cause with your fellow workmen in Maryland and Tennessee?" --"Ah ! Sir," was his reply, "we are separated by local jealousies*.
Those who have the wealth and power of the States in their hands, take care to keep these feelings alive, to prevent our acting in concert. We sacrifice our interests to our prejudices. But this cannot last long. A change must take place." I could now see one reason why the Southerners object so strenuously and unitedly against the principle of internal improvements, under the pretence that it is unconstitutional. The more isolated the States are from each other, the more secure is their internal power. Canals and rail-roads would "let in new light through chinks that time has made," and expose the hidden deformity within the building.
* The Union is strengthened by the political operation of these jealousies. It is from hence the federal government derives its chief support, as it derived its origin. While each State is striving to promote its own interests, all are combined against the ascendancy of any one.
Every measure for improving the new States and attracting settlers is opposed by the Southern members of congress, who would gladly cut off all communication with them that may tend to facilitate the removal of their fellow-citizens. Great indeed must be their terror and embarrassment, when measures of coercion and restriction could for a moment have been contemplated in such a country. The governor of South Carolina, in his message to the legislature of 1829, thus expressed himself. "The increase of population has been limited, owing to emigration. Nothing tends to retard the improvement of the country more than the roving habits of our people. It is natural that the New States should desire to increase their population, and, with it, their political influence in the Union. Among other schemes to effect this purpose, is to be ranked the gratuitous distribution of the public lands to emigrants. How far it may be politic to adopt some countervailing measures on this subject, you will determine. The right to set limits to emigration is an original principle in the body politic. Without insisting upon an interdict of emigration, you will consider how far it becomes your duty to make it the interest of the citizen to remain on his native soil." Admirable consistency! The same power that excludes free citizens from other States would detain its own. Imagine a cordon sanitaire of blockade-men along the whole frontier of South Carolina. A colored man makes his appearance on one side, --"you must not come in:" a white man approaches on the other, --"you must not go out."
Various "schemes" have been adopted, to preserve, or increase, the white population of the slave States. Virginia, if I was rightly informed, sells her lands at the price of two dollars for one hundred acres. This expedient for attracting has the effect of repelling settlers. What difference is there whether you cry "stinking fish!" or "fish for nothing!"
In Tennessee there is a curious jus trium liberorum. A law was enacted there in 1829, authorizing any man whose wife shall have three or more children at one birth, to take up 200 acres of the State lands for each of the children.
Both drivers observed to me, that the country we were passing through would be the garden of the Union, if it were not for slavery. "I will explain the whole system to you," said one of them: "the slave will do nothing, or do what he does in a slovenly way, if left to himself. All he can lay his hands on, he keeps to himself; and, when he is found out, he reasons thus: 'You have robbed me of my labor, and I have a right to get back as much as I can of what it has produced'; and he is in the right: --we should do the same in his place." There is no use mincing the matter; talk as you please about property in man. Put power on the other side, and who will listen to you?
About forty years ago, some Americans were redeemed from slavery at Algiers. Sixteen of them landed at Newport, in Rhode Island. A crowd soon collected, anxious to receive from the lips of their fellow-countrymen the story of their sufferings and their escape. Among other circumstances, they dwelt much upon the pleasure they had felt in pilfering, whenever they had an opportunity, from their owners. This communication was received with loud cheers; and every one present applauded them for this act of retaliation. I had this statement from an eye-witness.
It is to the system of personal bondage that the downfall of Rome and of the Grecian republics may be traced. Appian's description (and a similar picture is given by Plutarch) of ancient Italy corresponds in many particulars to what may be seen in Virginia and her sister communities. "The laborers and shepherds", he says *,
"employed on the farms, were slaves; for freemen were liable to be called away on military service: and besides, in this mode of possession they derived large profits from the children of their slaves, who multiplied on account of this very exemption from service. The result of the whole was that the nobles engrossed all the wealth; and slaves swarmed through the country. The diminution of their own numbers, on the other hand, pressed heavily on the Italians, and left them to be ground down by poverty, taxes, and military services. Even when a temporary remission occurred, they had no means of finding employment; as the rich were in possession of the land, and employed slaves, to the exclusion of freemen."
* See Westminster Review for Jan., 1833.
It is singular that Montesquieu, in enumerating the causes which led to the fall of the Roman empire, says little or nothing of the influence which slavery had on the public welfare. He speaks throughout of the people as if they were incapable of action or reflection, beyond what their "betters" might stimulate or supply; and attributes to luxury and vice, as primary causes, what they merely produced as the consequences of that system which equally dishonored and discouraged labor, by giving all its fruits to one portion of society, and all its toils to the other. If Rome conquered the civilized world because her soldiers were citizens, was she not conquered by the barbarians because her subjects were slaves?
"As soon as the census is completed," says the Charleston Courier, in 1830, "we shall discover to what cause the decline in the value of land is to be attributed. By those violent characters, who wanted to conceal the effect of their own avarice and folly in introducing one family of negroes, and in driving out two of white; in doing all they could to keep up the necessaries of life; in buying up all the land they could, (thus ensuring their own eventual ruin,) and asking prices for it which were perfectly prohibitory; in buying negroes to grow cotton, and growing cotton to buy negroes; in glutting the cotton-market of the world; in trying every experiment to discover the minimum of sustenance and the maximum of labor (thus ensuring eventual loss to themselves, and present misery to their servants). By these men all was ascribed to the tariff."
The planters of the older slave States are, many of them, reduced to the situation of bankrupt debtors with mortgaged estates; bearing the same relation to the merchants of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, that their West Indian brethren bear to the capitalists of the mother country. Slave property carries a curse with it, wherever it is found. It rouses the worst spirit of gambling. It stimulates the taste for reckless speculation, while it relaxes the springs of honest industry. The dice-box and the cow-hide are equally fatal to all who handle them; but the former is less polluted, as it is stained with the tears of the guilty, while the latter is red with the blood of the innocent.
Mr. Mercer, speaking in the convention of the lowland country, expressed his feelings in terms that wanted nothing but fiction to make them truly poetical. "Can we dwell", said the orator, "but with mournful regret, on temples of religion sinking in ruin; and those spacious dwellings, whose doors, once opened by the hand of liberal hospitality, are now fallen upon their portals, or closed in tenantless silence? Except on the banks of its rivers, the march of desolation saddens this once beautiful country. The cheerful notes of population have ceased; and the wolf and the wild deer, no longer scared from their ancient haunts, have descended from the mountains to the plains. They look on the graves of our ancestors, and traverse their former paths. And shall we do nothing to restore this once lovely land? There was a time, when the sun in his course shone on none so fair." Mr. Mercer recommended that that part of the white population which forms its bone and sinew, should be elevated: --and what would be the result? to increase the evil. Who will remain when labor is dishonorable, and the sense of honor in the laborer is rendered more acute; -- when the hope of improving his condition animates his bosom, while every avenue to his ambition is filled with discouragement, or pre-occupied by those he has been taught to despise?
Between Orange Court House and Charlotteville, we met several people returning from a funeral. The body had been buried two months before. It is the custom, in this part of the country, to let a long interval elapse between the burial and the funeral service. It probably arose in the early period of the first settlement, when a sexton was more easily found than a clergyman; and the practice of deferring the ceremony for the dead has continued long after the cause has ceased.
At one o'clock we arrived at Charlotteville, (forty-nine miles from Culpeper,) where I stopped; while my companions resumed their seats after diner, and proceeded to Lynchburg, where one of them proposed we should meet again, and go on together to Richmond. In the afternoon I walked up to the University, or College, about a mile out of the town.
It was my intention to call upon Dr. Pattison, who had filled for some time an appointment at the Loudon University. I had, however, been misinformed, both as to the person and the name; though there was some slight resemblance to the former, and nearly an identity as to the latter. The mistake was productive of a very agreeable acquaintance; Dr. Patterson, to whom I addressed myself, having shewn me as much civility as I could have expected to receive from the gentleman with whom I had confounded him, and whom I merely knew as having met him once or twice at the house of a friend. Having shewn me the library, --a handsome and apparently well-stored room, he invited me to drink tea with him. Here I remained, till the close of the evening, and the introduction of a subject which I am apt to discuss with too much warmth and indiscretion, warned me to retire.
I was about to take my leave, when the Doctor inquired whether I had paid any attention to the system of slavery, which formed so strong a feature in the economy of the State. I replied that the subject had interested me very much; that I was aware it was a question of equal importance and delicacy: and that I thought the colored race would go on increasing in numbers, till the land would fall into their possession. To a remark from my host, that emigration would be a check upon their increase, I referred, in answer, to the population of Ireland; where the Catholics, who had descended to the lowest scale of animal life consistent with freedom of action, had nearly driven out the Protestants; had sent forth innumerable swarms of colonists to various parts of the globe; and had increased their numbers at home with a rapidity unknown in any other part of Europe.
From these observations, and the replies that followed, the transition was natural to the treatment of the slaves, who, I was assured, were well fed and happy. "But what is to become of them, when the owner is unable to support them?" "Oh! then he sells them." Shocking alternative, which compels them to starve at home, or perish in the rice-grounds of South Carolina! What could I say in reply? I had already gone too far: the worthy Doctor and his amiable lady had near relatives who were slave. holders. I rose from my seat; and, with proper acknowledgements for the polite attentions shewn to a stranger, withdrew.
It is in natural philosophy that Professor Patterson lectures. He has a well-chosen apparatus for the purpose. There is a public examination for the students at the middle and at the end of each session. It is conducted in writing; and the classification, which is determined by marks previously arranged, is into four divisions, according to the answers. The Institution confers three degrees of honor; a certificate of proficiency, the title of graduate in any school or faculty, and the degree of M.A. is the University of Virginia. To obtain the last, the candidate must have graduated in ancient languages, modern languages, mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, and moral philosophy.
The next day, I set off on foot for Monticello, the celebrated seat of the celebrated Mr. Jefferson. It is situated on a commanding eminence, about two miles from the town. It was unfortunately a cloudy day, with a sort of haze that restricted the view. Still it was a noble prospect, from the summit of the, hill on which the house stands. Below was the valley in which Charlotteville is placed; and just below, on the right, the river Rivanna. In the distance, and in front, were the Blue Mountains, rising above each other, and running towards the N.E., till they were lost in the horizon.
There is nothing remarkable in the house. I did not attempt to gain admittance, as the family, to whom it belonged, were at home, --as far as I could judge, from seeing a young lady at the window, who seemed, from the look she gave me, to say I had no business there. There was no one about the place who could give me any information.
The estate, consisting of seven or eight hundred acres, was sold, some time back, for 7000 dollars; and the purchaser disposed of the greater part in lots. The remainder, about 180 acres, with the house, was purchased for 2700 dollars, a sum which will probably be reduced by a few hundreds, as the quantity of ground proves to be less than it was represented to be.
is said to have laid out sixty or seventy thousand dollars on the house.
He had been a wealthy man; but the profusion with which he entertained
the numerous visitors who honored him with their company from all parts
of the world, reduced his estate to very narrow limits. One
hears a great deal about Southern hospitality. Like President Jackson's
spectacles, which are wittily described in Jack Downing's letters*,
it seems to make every object wear the donor's colors. If the poor slaves could be hospitable as well as their masters, they would not want advocates. But they cannot invite to the banquet; they can only furnish the costly wines and savory viands*.
* There are two Jack Downings. The one alluded to is reviewed in the last Quarterly. His political sketches are excellent; but, though abounding in humor, he is inferior to his prototype, as a delineator of national manners.
Jefferson's slaves (to the number of 130) were sold by auction, after his death; --"the most valuable for their number", as chronicles tell, "ever offered at one time for sale in Virginia." An Act of Assembly was passed, to enable his children, (there were five,) to whom he bequeathed their freedom, to remain in the State. One of his daughters is married, and settled at Charlotteville.
* "You first tax the slave who makes the money; and then you tax the article which the money procures."-Judge Upshur, in the Virginia Convention.
"It is a problem, which I give to the master to solve, whether the religious precepts against the violation of property were not framed for him as well as his slave; and whether the slave may not as justifiably take a little from one who has taken all from him, as he may slay one who would slay him? "-Jefferson's Notes on Virginia.
"It is certainly humiliating to a proud master to reflect that he depends on his slave, even for bread to eat."
-Notes to a Treatise written by a Florida planter.
Jefferson was as hostile to the Bank of the United States and to a paper currency, as his present successor. Paper money, he says in one of his letters, does not make any addition to the stock or capital of a nation, by introducing commodities, which the gold it has displaced brings from other countries. "The coin, sent out, was worth as much, while in the country, as the goods imported and taking its place." If so, why was it sent out? If no profit is to be had, why does the merchant make "a change of form in a part of the national capital from that of gold and silver to other goods?" If there is a profit, it is so much added to the national capital. The chief objection to paper money with Jefferson is its supposed encouragement to luxury, which, he says, "increases expense, without increasing production." Franklin's anecdote of the ribbands supplies the best answer to this assertion. All the girls in the village set to work at straw-bonnet making, that they might purchase the new luxury with them; and thus, while they gratified an innocent vanity, brought wealth and refinement into the village.
Why should the commercial interests of a whole people depend on the nature and the number of the "idols" with which the mind of one man is possessed; and the merchants be sacrificed, because the executive thinks he knows better what is for their good than the merchants themselves?
It would be curious to mark how the means of exchange are suited to the state of society, from the hunter to the commercial state; --from barter to paper money: and to fix, by an exact analysis, that ratio between the manufacturing and the agricultural portions of the community, which requires the substitution of paper for specie.
If permission to stay be a favor, it must be a punishment to be sent away. The colonization scheme was first proposed by Virginia. Jefferson says, in a letter written in 1811, "I received, on the first year of my entering into the administration of the general government, a letter from the Governor of Virginia, consulting me, at the request of the legislature of the State, on the means of procuring some asylum, to which these people might occasionally he sent. I proposed to him the establishment of Sierra Leone, &c., and, if that could not be obtained, some of the Portuguese possessions in South America as most desirable," Thus it appears that the system of deportation not only originated with the planters, but that the civilization of Africa formed no part of the object; and the emigrants were to be left at the mercy of the Portuguese slaveowners.
So early as 1801 the question of African colonization was discussed in the Virginia legislature. The measure seems to have been suggested by the fears that Gabriel's insurrection had excited. Some time after this, the House of Delegates resolved, almost unanimously, "that the executive be requested to correspond with the President of the United States; for the purpose of obtaining a territory upon the North Pacific, or at some other place, not within any of the States, or the territorial governments of the United States, to serve as an asylum for such persons of color as are now free, and may desire the same, and for those who may hereafter be emancipated within this commonwealth." In accordance with these sentiments, a meeting, in December, 1816, was held at Washington," to consider the propriety and practicability of colonizing the free people of color in the United States, and of forming an asylum in relation to that object." Thus, neither adaptation of climate, nor abolition of slavery, was contemplated in the original scheme. Most of those who composed the meeting were planters, or connected with them; and the chairman (Mr. Clay) was a slave-owner.
That even a slave-owner thinks it a hardship to sent out of one's country, may be seen in Jefferson's most humiliating request to the legislature of his State. "I humbly", such are his words in his last will, "I humbly and earnestly request of the legislature of Virginia, a confirmation of the bequests to these servants, with permission to remain in this State, where their families and connexions are, as an additional instance of the favour, of which I have received so many other manifestations in the course of my life, and for which I now give them my solemn and dutiful thanks."
The motto of this "philosopher" was, "in eo libertas in quo spiritus." Yet he passed his whole life in destroying the liberty of others, and disgraced his own by asking as a favor what he ought to have demanded as a right.
Charlotteville, which contains about 1500 souls is a neat, thriving town, surrounded by farms in a good state of cultivation. The University brings a good deal of money to it, without receiving an equivalent in morals. The students reside ten months in the year. Their average age is twenty; considerably higher than it is at Cambridge or Newhaven. Of 201 students, who attended the preceding session, three only were from the free States. The system is in one respect like the German and Scotch; as the professors receive fees, in addition to their salaries, from their pupils, who are allowed to select what "faculty" they will study.
The place has a communication with the sea, by means of flat-bottomed boats; partly by a canal, and partly, where navigable, by the Rivanna, to Richmond. But the stimulus is wanting that would convert the town into a city, by directing its population to the hidden riches of commerce. Those streams, which flow from the mountains with a power that the busy hand of free labor would employ to give bread to thousands, continue their idle and unprofitable course to the ocean: --an emblem of many an ill-starred youth, whom the blighting system of his native State has doomed to wear away a devious and useless existence.
I was highly pleased, in conversing with a young man, a druggist, into whose shop I happened to step, to hear that there are some who have escaped the contagion of the infected air they breathe. Speaking of slavery, (a topic with which a stranger is sure to be regaled,) he observed that he would rather live on bread and water than own a slave; --that some of his friends were of his way of thinking: --and that, for his part, he should be sorry to have a wife and family, while he remained where he was, as his children would be sure to be contaminated by bad example, and habituated to exercise a despotic authority which would render them unworthy members of society.
If I might form an opinion of the students from the little I saw of them, they are a sad lawless set. Some of them, who were carousing at the hotel, disturbed the whole house with the most discordant noises. The landlord was at last obliged to shut the bar against them. He told me the bed-rooms were always locked up, to prevent their going into them and annoying the lodgers; --a precaution which my own experience convinced me was by no means superfluous. I asked one of these "chivalrous" youths, who was sitting next to me, what the contents of a dish were upon the table before us. He returned me no answer, but a laugh, which was repeated by his neighbor, and was taken up by three or four others who sat opposite, and who continued sneering till they had left the table. I hope they profit more by Dr. Patterson's science than they do by his goodbreeding.
There are no such public schools here as exist in the north. The expenses of education are defrayed by the State, which has appointed commissioners for the poor, whose children are sent to private establishments, where they are taught with those not under the same necessity: --an ingenious method to keep up the most odious features of that distinction which difference of wealth will always make. The consequences of this arrangement are just what might have been expected. Rather than expose them to humiliation, many parents keep their children at home, where they receive little or no education. This feeling in the "lower orders" is imputed to pride; but, if it be pride, it is a feeling very nearly allied to self-respect. These matters are not very equitably estimated. This college draws annually from the public purse 15,000 dollars; while 45,000 are granted for the general purposes of instruction throughout the State; yet the cottager's son is despised by the rich planter's boy, who is sent to a college, built, endowed, and supported out of the same fund that is employed for the education of the former; --as parish paupers in "sheep-skins and goat-skins" are objects of contempt to public paupers in "purple and fine linen."
Never in any country have I met with such an unmannerly set of "unlicked cubs" as there were at dinner the day I left Charlotteville. The students, of whom I have spoken, entered the hotel swaggering and swearing and whistling; and behaved, while at table, in the most disgusting manner. Some of them seized on the brandy-bottle; others darted on dishes with an avidity that defies imitation or description, and filled their plates and their mouths with both hands. Every man, indeed, was ambidexter, and plied his knife and his fork simultaneously and with equal skill. As soon as the first cravings of appetite were appeased, and the best things secured, three or four who sat opposite, observing a stranger present, endeavored to stare him out of countenance; and, failing in their attempt, they began to whisper to one another, still fixing their looks upon me in the most offensive manner. I was soon relieved from the painful necessity of witnessing the spectacle of youth perverted by indulgence and the insolence of caste. I was summoned to the stage, and quitted Charlotteville, with no very exalted idea of its academical discipline.
These young gentlemen, I was informed, are as famous for their "renowning" as their German brethren; though their mode of attacking "the Philistines" is less manly and heroic. Their antipathies are particularly directed against the tailors; a class of men to whom they are much indebted in more senses than one. We generally say that one man is a match for nine tailors; --they hold the converse to be true; --for they set upon poor "snip" in parties of ten or twelve. A lad, who was recounting these exploits to me with a delight and glee that shewed he would be at the same sport himself when old enough, appeared to think it an excellent joke to "whip a tailor half to death.""They are so mean!" he observed. Whipping means beating in all its modes and measures, --such as kicking, gouging, &c. The meanness consists in dressing better than the students. The latter, during college hours, wear a sort of uniform, "consisting (according to the rules) of cloth of a dark grey mixture, at a price not exceeding six dollars a yard." It must be galling to them, when they doff it for a smart coat, to see a better one on the back of the very person who made it. As these embryo-statesmen usually carry a dirk or a pistol, resistance is out of the question. Some of the townsmen have been nearly killed by these young ruffians, and many are afraid to venture out after dark. I am far from asserting this account to be true of the majority; but I fear there are too many to whom this description applies, if I am not deceived by persons who had no apparent motive or intention to deceive me.