to Slaves. --Price of Religious Slaves. --Overseers. --Export Trade of
Human Beings. --Destruction of Life by Hard Work.
--Richmond. --Education in the South. --Penitentiary. --Treatment
of Free Blacks. --Black Labor and White Labor. --Ultimate Triumph of Blacks.
--Slave Penal Code.
THE stage, in which there was no one but myself, stopped for the night at Wilmington, about twenty-five miles. The road passed through an interesting country, with the exception of a long forest, which, as is generally the case with such scenery, was very tedious and monotonous.
It was a raw, cold morning, though the 4th of May, when the stage, about five o'clock, resumed its route; and I tried in vain to keep myself warm; the leather curtains letting in the keen air to my great annoyance. As the day advanced it improved; and when we left Goochland Court-house, where we breakfasted, having come thirty miles, the weather became pleasant, and I got outside. Before we sat down to breakfast, I was asked by the landlord if I would not take a dram, --an invitation that I had never had in the North; in which, during my whole stay, I did not see one half the intoxication I had met with in Virginia. Six or eight men had amused themselves the preceding night in drinking and singing and shouting, till two o'clock in the morning, when four of them lay down dead drunk on some straw in a barn adjoining the house where the driver was. They kept him awake all night. The wages of this man were very high. He drove forty-six miles from Wilmington to Richmond, and was paid forty dollars a month, in addition to board and lodging and washing. Other drivers are paid in proportion to the distance, for one stage or route, which is seldom half the former number of miles, about fifteen dollars a month, with the same additions. As the slaves occupy so many employments, one would think that the whites, having so little to do, would, by their number, keep down the wages of the stage-drivers; but this is so far from being the case, that many of them are from the North; it being very difficult to find a steady, trustworthy man who is qualified for a situation that requires habits of sobriety and prudence. The best part of the working-class leave the State.
One of the passengers related to me some facts he had himself seen, that would shock any one possessed of a spark of humanity. He had seen nearly a thousand human beings chained together, and passing along the road to the South, under the lash of their drivers. He had seen a man receive, not a month before, at the whipping-post in Richmond, before assembled hundreds, no less than one hundred lashes from the cow-hide, for striking a white man who had treated him most barbarously.*
He had struck the latter, in a moment of anger, with his open hand. For this crime his back was cut nearly to the bone, from the nape of the neck to the loins, and presented one continuous mass of gore. He had seen children of three and five years of age publicly sold by the weight; the former at 3-1/2 dollars, the latter at 4-1/2 per pound, in the presence of their mothers, who were wringing their hands in unutterable anguish.
* The law in Louisiana declares that "Free people of color ought never to insult or strike white people, nor presume to conceive themselves equal to the whites; but, on the contrary, they ought to yield to them on every occasion, and never speak or answer them but with respect, under penalty of imprisonment, according to the nature of the offence."
In relating these atrocities, and others of the same kind, --especially the case of a free black, who, a short time before, had received thirty-nine lashes for nine successive days, for assisting a slave to escape, the narrator's voice faltered, and he seemed to feel over again the horrors of the scenes at which he had been present. Persons who witness these cruelties for the first time, are affected even to tears: --the heart seems to sink under the pressure of mental suffering, and sickness, often accompanied with vomiting, ensues. The driver pointed out to me several houses, the owners of which were noted for their cruelty; but none more so than a minister of the Gospel, whose church was by the side of the road. He added, that there were more instances of harsh treatment towards their slaves in that profession than in any other.
It is not uncommon for churches to hold slaves. A person, who was in the habit of asking the slaves to whom they belonged, one day received the following answer: "I belong to the congregation." On inquiry, he found that the man was one of a gang who had been bequeathed to a religious society for pious uses; and the proceeds derived from their labor were appropriated to the repairs of the building; and other expenses connected with the congregation. This species of property, like the Codrington plantation in Barbadoes, would add more to the funds than the fame of the church, and injure religion in proportion as it enriched its professors, Another mode of raising money is, where the slaves, not the masters, are "pious." Would it be believed that such a qualification should be advertised, to enhance the price, and secure a ready sale? Yet it is a fact, that, at New Orleans, (and similar deeds have no doubt been done elsewhere,) a large number of negroes, who had recently arrived in the port, were to be sold by public auction; and the advertisement particularly stated that there were several "pious slaves" in the lot. Men often make gain out of godliness; but it is no common thing to sell another's religion, and coin money out of a fellow-creature's piety.
Overseers are highly paid; from 300 to 500 dollars a year, besides board, &c. One of them, on a farm we passed, had 580, and a horse found for him. You see them, as you go along the road, standing with their hands in their pockets, overlooking the slaves. They generally have fire-arms or a dirk with them, in case of "accidents"; though it must be desperation alone that would offer them violence. Besides the great expense thus incurred, the only security for the overseer's vigilance is the fear of losing his salary and his character --a feeble restraint in the absence of his employer*.
So costly and ruinous is this sort of farming, that the produce of the poorer soil will not cover the expenses of cultivation; --the slaves literally eat up all the profits the proprietor sells at a loss, and the little capital he can save, is carried off to the west. Meantime the fields, which have been producing Indian corn for the slaves, are exhausted and abandoned, till the pine springs up spontaneously, to give place, when cut, to the oak; which, after following the fate of its predecessor, leaves an improved soil for future abandonment and renovation.
* Mr. Wirt, a slave-owner himself, speaking of the overseers, calls them, in his life of Patrick Henry --A feculum of beings --the most abject, degraded, unprincipled race, --always cap-in-hand to the Dons who employed them, and furnishing materials for the exercise of their pride, insolence, and spirit of domination."
Virginia affords a fair picture of the slave States; some of which are now undergoing the same process of transmutation, and all of which are destined to share, in succession, the same fate. The poorer class of whites is quitting North Carolina, and Tennessee, and Kentucky, for places more congenial to their feelings and less opposed to their physical and moral advancement. Horace describes a similar scene under similar circumstances.
"It is usual," says a writer in the American Quarterly Review (1832), "to give the overseer, instead of a salary, a share of the crop. The murderous effects of this on the fertility of the soil" (and we may add on the laborers) "may well be conceived. An estate, submitted to overseers entitled to a share of the crop, (who are changed, of course, almost yearly,) suffers a thousand-fold more than would English farms put on leases of one or two years to fresh lessees." The Reviewer (a Virginian) assures us that the whole agricultural produce of the State does not now exceed in value the exports eighty or ninety years ago, when it contained not one sixth of its present population, and when not one third of the surface was at all occupied. How then is the increased population maintained? By the sale of human beings. He declares that a very large proportion of the landholders are contented if they can make the profits and the expenditure balance each other; that the return to capital invested does not, when there is any, average more than one, or one and a half per cent.; and that many, with gangs of fifty to one hundred slaves, cannot escape debt, under a kind of management which would formerly "have been deemed very sheer economy." He acknowledges that 6000, half the increase, were annually sold, four years before, for exportation. There are probably more than twice that number --yet he is unwilling to admit that this traffic is cherished by any but a very few persons. "Virginia," he says, "scorns those who resort to it." Yet he adds, that it is a regular source of income. Those who never had any scruple to supply their luxuries by robbery, are ashamed to keep themselves from starving by the same means! In fact, the slave trade may be considered the staple of Virginia. The Richmond Enquirer said, not long ago, --"Slaves have fallen in our market. It is partly, perhaps principally, owing to some derangement in the mode of transacting the business. The banks at New Orleans do not find it convenient to draw bills on Richmond, but at four mouths; and the banks here do not buy but at sixty days." The same paper, speculating on what he thinks will be the result of emancipation in our colonies, foresees the extension of sugar cultivation in Louisiana and the Floridas. Hence, he anticipates a rise in price from a greater demand for slaves from Virginia. This will be a curious article in the price current.
Judge Upsher said, in the Virginia Convention: --"If it should be our lot, as I trust it will be, to acquire the country of the Texas*,
the price of slaves will rise again." He had just before stated, that the prohibitory law of Louisiana had lowered their value twenty-five per cent. in two hours after its enactment was known. Mr. Mercer stated, on the same occasion, that the amount of revenue derived to the State from the export of slaves, was a million and a half of dollars. It must now be considerably more. Louisiana has repealed her prohibitory statute, and the trade has become more horribly brisk.
* It is well known that the Southerners have fixed a covetous eye on the Texas. As the Mexican government have, however, agreed, on the application of an American philanthropist, (Lundy,) to receive 100 colored families from the United States into the district, it is not likely that it will be inclined to cede a territory so valuable, and so well guarded as it will be. Colonel Austin, a citizen of the United States, is employing every inducement that a fertile soil and a fine climate can hold out to his countrymen, to settle in the colony he has founded there. The Mexican laws on the subject of slaves are evaded by the settlers, who interchange them with one another at the expiration of the term for which they are allowed to hold them, --a circumstance that must add to their desire for a junction with their native country.
It may well be doubted, whether slave labor, which, in a new country, is apparently the cheapest to the cultivator, is not, on that very account, the dearest to the community; whether what is gained on one side, is not lost on the other; and whether the benefit of the agriculturist and the increase of national wealth are necessarily identified, when the former alone is consulted. From a statement made in the House of Representatives, in August, 1832, by Mr. Bullard of Louisiana, the profits of slave labor in that State must be very high. He said the general average of four plantations he was acquainted with, was, for two years, six bales and a half of cotton, of 400 pounds, to the "hand"; while the average expense of each effective hand was from forty to fifty dollars. This expense included the charges of overseer, provisions, medicines, and clothing. He added that fifty or sixty thousand dollars were then on their way, from a single county, in his district, to purchase slaves in Virginia.
Hence it is evident that the planter has an interest in increasing the quantity of his produce, far beyond the cost of such increase. If his slaves are worked to death, he can always supply their place from the slavebreeding States; and be a gainer by the substitution. If coach proprietors could make such profits by augmenting the speed, and doubling the work of their cattle, how long would their horses remain on the road?
A slave in Louisiana, worth 600 dollars, will, in six years, replace, by the proceeds of his labor, the whole purchase money with the interest, and leave a profit that shall more than cover all the expenses of his keep.
I have been assured by a West Indian planter that the average duration of a newly imported gang, while the slave trade was open, did not exceed ten years, and, in many cases, was little more than half that period. According to the testimony of a writer in the Revue des Colonies, who was formerly a magistrate at Guadaloupe, out of forty-four slaves imported into that island by a planter, not one was alive at the end of six months.
Unremitting toil produces similar effects in the Brazilian mines, where British companies*
are encouraging the slave trade which supplies their victims, and in Cuba, as well as the Southern States, where British loans are feeding the fires of Moloch.
* I hope I am in error while I state that the following gold mines in Brazil --the Imperial Brazilian, the Imperial Mocaubas, the St. John del Rey, and the Cata Branca --are worked by slaves: --that the Directors of the Companies, to which they belong, are chiefly if not entirely London merchants; and that the loss of life, occasioned by severe toil, is supplied by imported Africans.
Whether cotton, sugar, rice, or tobacco, be grown, the temptation to over-work the slaves is irresistible, as long as a ready supply can be obtained from the older and worn-out slave-States; while the drain from the latter, under this encouragement to production, will have no influence in diminishing the stream which supplies it.
While slave-labor was profitable, the increase in the number of slaves in Virginia, from 1790 to 1800, was 54,341. It then diminished, with the fall of prices, to 45,550 in 1810, and to 32,635 in 1820. When the supply from Africa ceased or became more precarious, a fresh impetus was given to the home trade, and the next decade pushed the increment up to 44,571, with a deplorable tendency to rise. Kentucky, with a fertile soil, has added, in successive decades, from 1790 to 1830, to her numbers, 30,914 --37,217 --40,171, and 44,618, exhibiting a greater rate of interest on a smaller capital, than Virginia. Tennessee, which had but 141,603 slaves in 1830, while Kentucky had 163,350, had, in ten years, added to the augment of the former census, by no less than 61,496; while, during the same period, the increase in North Carolina was five times as great as it had been from 1810 to 1820. The mind shrinks with horror from the contemplation of these facts. It sees the hand of vengeance on the tocsin; and hears the Sicilian Vespers tolling from the Potomac to the Mississippi!
Some time before we reached Richmond, we had a noble view of the James river, on which it stands. The entrance to the city is very pleasing; the road passing over a common on an elevated ground, presenting some fine views. The streets were filled with slaves, who were amusing themselves by playing at marbles, walking about to exhibit their finery, and enjoying the luxury of free air and leisure. This is the way they generally pass the Sunday --an indulgence intended doubtless to reconcile them to their lot. These pastimes are their Saturnalia. How bitter, must be the draught, when the brim of the cup is thus sweetened!
The streets of Richmond are very dirty, though it possesses facilities for cleanliness that few, if any other, cities of the Union can boast of; the greater part of the town being below the level of the river. There are water-works for supplying the place with water. The year before last, nearly 20,000 dollars were expended upon them. The whole establishment had cost 102,439 dollars; while the annual receipts were but 4152. The watering committee complained, in their report, that many of the inhabitants had the benefit of a supply without paying for it.
I was anxious to learn whether there were any public schools at the seat of government. My questions seemed to excite some surprise. There were none in Virginia; but then there were capital races. The training that was denied to the children was given to the horses; the breed of the one was improving, while that of the other was degenerating. The important question of a sound popular education is as far from being settled now, as it was in 1822, when Jefferson expressed himself thus to a correspondent: --"An act of our legislature will inform you of our plan of primary schools; and the annual reports shew that it is becoming completely abortive, and must be abandoned very shortly, after costing us, to this day, 10,000 dollars; and yet to cost us 45,000 a-year more, until it shall be discontinued; and if a single boy has received the elements of a common education, it must be in some part of the country unknown to me."
Nothing in the policy of the different States is more worthy of attention than the different manner in which the subject of education is viewed by the two great sections which they compose, not only in its general bearing, but in its particular application, --shewing at once the relative influence of popular feeling that prevails in them. When a grant was made, in 1792, to Yale College, Connecticut, the measure was so unpalatable to the mass of the community, that many members of the House of Representatives who voted for it were not re-elected. The proceeds of the lands in Ohio, belonging to that State, were, after much discussion in the legislature, appropriated exclusively to the support of common schools; the destination being made perpetual by an article in the constitution. This sum amounts to about a million of dollars. Yet, when Virginia gave to one college one-third of what she granted for future schools, the inequality of the provision met with little or no opposition that could affect its advocates. North Carolina has taken no steps to establish a system of common schools; yet a richly endowed university flourishes there.
South Carolina has her colleges, "liberally patronised by the State." What number of children does she educate in her free-schools? --8390 in 1832. What is the state of the schools? --An extract from a work, entitled "Review of the Plan of Education in South Carolina, 1821," will best answer the question. "I believe, in many instances, the teachers that have been employed were as much in want of instruction as the people. I have heard that in some of the lower districts they have actually converted the schools into a sort of gymnastic academies; where, instead of studying philosophy in the woods and groves, as the Druids did of old, they take more delight in the more athletic exercise of deer and rabbit-hunting."
In North Carolina, 250,000 dollars, (one half of the fund destined to the purposes of education,) are set aside for the incorporated academies, between which the interest that arises from it is divided. The other half is yet to be employed, as it is intended, in educating the poor. In the new States, (such as are non-slave-holding,) the appropriations are generally in the proportion of one to five for the higher seminaries, and for the common schools.
Congress, in 1820, made grants of land to Alabama, for common schools, and for a seminary of learning. The former have either no existence or no benefit from the endowment. In 1830, the latter had received 111,712 dollars, invested in 6 per cent. stock, out of the proceeds arising from the sale of the lands; the whole amount being 304,651 dollars; while 24,234 acres remained undisposed of. The university of Alabama was opened in 1831.
There are 12,000 white children between the ages of five and fifteen, in Louisiana, without education. Though the legislature has voted about 40,000 dollars annually for the purpose, 1500 only were at school two years ago. The college of Louisiana enjoys an annual grant of 7000 dollars from the State.
In Kentucky there were, in 1830, according to official reports from seventy-eight counties, but 31,834 children at school out of a population of 139,242, between five and fifteen.
One county had not one child out of 893 at school. There was nothing like a regular system of economy in these establishments; the cost varying from 12 dollars a head to 6 dollars 67 cents. Supposing the whole number of children, of whom returns were made, to be at school throughout the year, (a most improbable hypothesis,) the total amount of expenses would be 278,592 dollars; while the literary fund, at the disposal of the State, for the support of the higher seminaries, was 140,000 dollars.
While the people in Virginia are thus kept in a state of ignorance, an additional ground of disunion and discontent is laid in the political dependence to which they are subject, by the qualification and the mode of voting. As the former can be obtained by the possession of real estate, the same man can have as many votes as he has possessions in separate counties; whereas the poor man can have but one. While the poll is taken openly, too, the latter is subject to all those influences which the power to reward or punish is seldom slow to apply. Though the ballot, as it is conducted in America, may be, and often is, abused; yet the attempt to force a ticket upon an elector, is such a direct interference with the freedom of election, as must always subject the offender to public censure. Secret influence may be exercised by open voting; but the violation of the ballot must be openly done. Besides, the latter might be so regulated as to secure the concealment required; and the very circumstance of its adoption is an acknowledgment of the elector's right to an unbiassed judgment.
At a short distance from Richmond, with its front towards the James river, stands the State Penitentiary. To gain admittance, it is necessary to get an order from the Governor of the State. For this purpose I went to the Capitol, which stands close to Powhatan House, (where I was boarding,) on an elevated spot, commanding a fine view of the river and part of the city below. In the entrance-hall is a statue of Washington, by a French artist; --the attitude rather too stiff for the idea we generally form to ourselves of the great man's natural and easy manner. On the pedestal are the words, "Fait par houdon, citoyen francais,1788." I was not a little surprised to find a sentinel, with fixed bayonet, walking "his lonely round." He was placed there, he told me, to protect the statue. Singular protection, in the metropolis of his native State, for the Father of the people
Having waited a short time in the library, into which I had been ushered, --a handsome room, well furnished, and fitted for the purposes of reading and reception, --a printed order was handed to me for the next day.
There were, at the period of my visit to the penitentiary, 123 convicts; of whom seven were women. Of the whole number, there had been but three in the infirmary, on an average, for the last three months: --the usual number, for the same period, having been from eight to ten. The difference was owing to a freer circulation of air, obtained by the removal of a high wall at the back, (towards the north,) at the distance of forty feet. A space of 100 more was to be added.
The plan pursued at Singsing is employed at this prison; the cells, however, are both larger and more comfortable. Each convict is allowed a Bible, and a slate with a pencil. They have plenty of air, light, and space. Opposite the door of each cell is a window, opening towards the work-shops, and admitting a complete current of air, when wanted. One week, every three months, is passed in solitary confinement. The former regulations required the same period, on entering and on quitting the prison, to be passed in the same way by the convicts. The present arrangement, it is found, interferes less with the labors of the establishment. There seems to be no very cogent reason why any rule of the sort should be enforced, or what good it can promote equivalent to the loss of so much labor. Upon inquiry, I found here, as elsewhere, that no evil or inconvenience had resulted in the case of confirmed drunkards, from the sudden transition to total abstinence from the various degrees of indulgence. This testimony is to be received cum grano, as a wider experience in England does not entirely warrant an unrestricted inference.
The work of the convicts is not done by contract. The price, therefore, of its products, is not regulated by the same principles as at Auburn and the other prisons in the north; nor can the objections, which those who suffer by the competition make, be so easily answered. In the case of shoe-making and tailoring, the prices charged are so much less than the honest workmen demand, that the supply is inadequate to the demand. The "Guild" of tailors have some reason to complain, as they are under-sold nearly 300 per cent. The same coat, for making which they charge eight, and even nine dollars, can be made at the penitentiary for three. These tailors, by the by, are better Catholics than their fraternity at Paris or London. They have added Saint Tuesday and Saint Wednesday to the calendar. These enormous profits sorely puzzled the indistinct notions I had imbibed about equalization. I could not discover that there were any corporate privileges, which would give them a sort of monopoly. Unions and combinations would hardly suffice to keep off intruders. I could not make it out, till I remembered the "whippings" inflicted occasionally on the craft. The mystery was then cleared up. The same principles which regulate the amount of remuneration in all other occupations, are strictly applicable to these valuable but persecuted citizens. They are paid extra for the risk they run. They put the beating into the bill, as Joe Miller's landlord charged his guests for throwing him out of the window. In London, the journeymen tailors consider the ridicule to which they are exposed, in the light of a benefit. It keeps others out of the trade. In Virginia, the cow-hide answers the same purpose. To be "whipped half to death" is worse than to be called "snip" or "the ninth part of a man." The indemnity is in proportion. They may kiss the rod that thus doubles their wages.
Slaves, who are convicted of felony, are sent to the penitentiary for sale. The buyer gives bond that they shall be transported beyond the limits of the Union; --it is well known, however, that they are carried to the South; where they are sold at a great profit. With what other view, indeed, would the trader purchase them? There were five persons of this description in the prison. It is hardly credible that such an abuse could exist; --an abuse that violates equally the justice that is due to the convict, the planter, and the community. I perhaps misunderstood my informant, when he told me that this class of prisoners were to be sent out of the Union. That they are sold at all under such circumstances, is a disgrace to the State. Every one must see the enormities to which the regulation must necessarily lead. A mulatto, who had been sold as a slave by the State for larceny, recovered his freedom in Alabama, where he proved that his mother was a white woman. The law, from the penalties of which he thus escaped, was directed against people of color.
Convict slaves are not sent to the prison, except for sale; because, as they would be better off than they are on the plantations, their fellow sufferers might be induced to commit offences, for the chance of bettering their condition.
The disproportionate number of colored over white convicts in the Free State prisons may fairly be attributed to the difficulty of finding work. In Virginia, where it is more easily obtained, there are fewer convictions for crime among that class, than in Massachusetts; where so many departments of honest industry are closed against them. According to the Penitentiary Reports for 1829, one-eighth of the convicts in the former State were of the colored population, which forms one-thirtieth of the whole; while a similar return for the latter, in 1832, shews that the same part of the community, though but one seventy-fifth of the entire population, contributed no less than one-sixth to the total amount of convicted criminals.
The Superintendant was at Washington; and I was unable to procure a Report. The keeper, however, who attended, informed me that nearly one-third of the prisoners were free colored persons. Admitting the truth of the statement, there are reasons enough to account for it.
Considering the treatment they receive, one feels more indignation at its injustice than surprise at its results. They are deprived of every motive to good conduct, and shut out from every path to improvement. They are not allowed to have any schools, or to give evidence against a white in a court of justice. They have no churches of their own, and cannot be married by a minister of their own complexion. If they leave the State, except as servants, they cannot return to their own homes. No free person of color is permitted, from another town, and still less from another State, to reside in the city. Having no protection against insult and outrage, and subjected to such indignities and disabilities, it would be singular, if the greater part did not become desperate, and reckless; --with no object but the gratification of the moment, and no incentive but what they have in common with the irrational part of the creation. They are degraded to the lowest state of ignorance and helplessness that the law and the usages of society can reduce them to.
Though there was not the slightest ground for believing, that they were concerned, in any way, in the Southampton insurrection, --I never met, indeed, with a man who could point out to me an instance of a colored man assisting in an insurrection of the slaves (in which, by the by, white men have sometimes taken an active part); yet, in spite of this uncontroverted fact in their favor, the most cruel and persecuting measures were proposed for driving them from the country. The signers of one petition, from Northampton county, pledged themselves "to have no dealing whatever with any free negro in the country; --to rent them neither house nor land for the future: and to warn them, as soon as possible, to quit the premises they already occupied: --and to use their influence in preventing owners of vessels from employing them."
A writer in the New England Magazine, (1832,) denies that America is as much the country of the black as of the white natives, because their ancestors were not voluntary emigrants to it. If this doctrine be true, some of the latter have no business there, according to the account of "Ould Virginia," presented by Captain Smithe to the consort of the British Solomon. He says that, in 1620, about 100 women, "young and incorrupt", were sent out to the colony, and were disposed of at an average price of 100 pounds of tobacco. The supply, however, did not meet the demand; as the 100 pounds soon became 150. Where are the descendants of these voluntary emigrants? The future historian of New Holland, particularly if he meditate a trip to that country, will apply the same epithets to the women we are now sending thither: but who will say that their posterity have no right to possess the land on which they shall have been born?
Washington is more liberal than Richmond to these people. In the former they have two societies for mutual instruction, and two churches supported by their own contributions. The females; too, have formed several benevolent associations for mutual assistance. Such things would not be tolerated in Richmond; where the contrast between freedom and slavery is made to turn, as much as possible, in favor of the latter, by connecting degradation and delinquency with the former, that the chain may feel lighter, and the lash less galling. A slave told me he would rather be as he was, than lie idle about with nothing to do; --and a free black declared to me that he was contented, if he could get bread for his children; and that he was indifferent to every thing else. In spite of these discouragements, however, there are many here whose industry and propriety of conduct are highly useful to the community that despises and oppresses them. I conversed with several of them on these subjects at some risk to both parties; for I went to their houses by stealth, and at night. The despondency with which they were weighed down, was deep and distressing; and it is painful to reflect that the iron which has entered into their souls, has been driven in by men who have English blood in their veins, and Christian professions in their mouths. How and when this unnatural and cruel system is to terminate, --what may be the result of thus substituting coercion for voluntary action, and suppressing the best and strongest feelings implanted in the human breast, no mortal eye can foresee. It may be laid down, however, as a general rule, that free-labor and slave-labor can never exist amicably together. Each will strive to supplant the other; and the triumph of either will be determined by the superior profits it offers to capital. It might perhaps be imagined that the jobbing system, of which I have before spoken, would turn the scale, and present an insuperable bar to emancipation. Yet it is not improbable that its effects will be directly the reverse of what a first view of the subject would lead us to expect. The owner will find his gains diminishing with the extension of the trade, and the insecurity of that species of property increased, in proportion to the risk of escape. Hence he will be willing to receive the whole capital from the slave, rather than an uncertain interest from the borrower. He will find, in the additional exertions the former will make, when working out his freedom, a remunerating return upon the outlay*;
--the law of expatriation will be set aside by exemption or evasion; --and liberty will ultimately be promoted by the means employed for its restriction. If this hypothesis be well-founded, the deduction, is obvious The whites will gradually lose their superiority in number, wealth, and influence; and the whole country south of the Potomac will be the promised land of those who are now laboring under worse than Egyptian bondage. Immediate emancipation will but accelerate this euthanasia. After all, it is a simple affair: -- luxury destroys those above, while industry raises those below: but we take no notice of the change in other countries, because they are both of the same race.
* In most, if not in all the slave States, this sort of arrangement is prohibited, as far as the law can prohibit what those who live under it find it their interest to do. Masters are liable, in Virginia, to a fine of twenty dollars, and in Georgia to one of thirty; if they allow a slave to hire himself out. The owner of a, slave, who possesses "stock of any description" in Mississippi, with his permission, is subject to a penalty of fifty dollars. These enactments become more violent as they become inoperative. In July 1834, the grand jury of the county of St. Louis, in Missouri, presented "the permission given by masters to their slaves to hire their time, and to act as free persons," as a fit subject for the attention of the legislature. "It is useless", they say, to pass laws to exclude free negroes from the State, while slaves are permitted to enjoy the same liberties . . . . . Such as are slaves, should be held and employed as slaves; and no master should be permitted, without forfeiting his property, to abandon the control which the law gives him over this property. Nor should the law permit itself to be evaded by the pretences and subterfuges to which masters sometimes resort."
What a picture! The master prefers freedom, with its penalties, to slavery with its "profits".
Every night, at half past seven, when the alarum-bell --the curfew of Richmond --has sounded, no colored person, whatever his condition be, is at liberty to be from home without a pass or papers of freedom. The latter must be renewed annually, at the expense of half a dollar, --the fee for registry at the proper office. Harsher regulations have been enforced against them since the Southampton massacre. It seems to be bad policy to make them feel that they, have a common cause with the slaves, by being exposed to a common proscription. Unfortunately, they are just numerous enough to be considered enemies, and not numerous enough to be treated as friends. A time may come, perhaps, when self-interest will plead in their favor; and the same fear which they now find the parent of cruelty, may be compelled into mildness towards them.
The chances these people have of obtaining justice from the whites, may be estimated from the Appendix to a work called "The Patriarchal System of Society", --a defence of slavery, by a Florida Planter of twenty-five years' standing. The writer asks, "Has any property, left by will to any colored person ever been honestly and fairly administered by any white person?" His own answer is, --"Such instances might possibly have happened, --but never to my knowledge."
There are but two capital crimes in Virginia, murder and arson; --i.e. for the whites: --while the punishment of death is affixed to more than seventy offences of which slaves may be convicted, --such as horse-stealing, hog-stealing for the third time, forgery in all its branches, from the imitation or uttering of a bank-note, to the wilful possession of false papers, of freedom. By the law of Maryland, a slave, if convicted of murder, arson, or petty treason, is liable to have his right arm cut off; and after being hanged, to have his head severed from his body; the quarters of which, together with the head, may be exposed to public view in the most frequented parts of the county where the crime was committed.
It would be an endless and a disgusting task, to enumerate the abominations of the slave penal code, as it prevails in all its varieties throughout the Southern States; the cruelty of the enactment being in a direct ratio with the difficulty of finding a substitute for the penitentiary, and the conscience-stricken cowardice of an unprincipled legislature.
The population of Richmond, which exceeds 16,000, has not increased much since the last or the preceding census. A line of packet-ships to Europe has been established at Warwick, a few miles below the city, and has already reduced the freightage from New York one-sixth. Still the greater part of the country-dealers in Virginia are supplied by the northern and eastern cities through Richmond*;
which, one would think, might more advantageously import directly from Europe. There is either want of confidence in the retail dealers, or want of capital and enterprise in the merchants of the latter place. The superiority which the free States thus enjoy, gives them an immediate interest in the continuance of a system to which the advantage may be traced. The physicians of Madrid, some years back, would not allow the streets to be cleared of their filth, because it strengthened the constitution!
* When, a short time back, the tonnage of the United States amounted altogether to 1,439,450 tons, nearly one half belonged to New England, and more than one fourth to Massachusetts.
The holidays that the slaves are allowed three times a year, occurred near the period of my visit. They last three or four days. While they continue, the slaves have leave to visit their friends in other parts of the State. I was told that they seldom availed themselves of the opportunity to escape. Some of them meet with indulgent masters, and are even allowed a plot of ground to cultivate on their own account; the proceeds arising from the sale of what is grown upon it being their own. The kindness they thus receive is not often thrown away; though distrust has led to an opposite opinion, and an opposite line of conduct *.
The spirit of gambling seems to possess a vast number of the "higher orders" in Richmond; while the mode of exorcising it, adopted by those who are impatient to shew their abhorrence of its excesses, is not the best fitted to reclaim its victims, or conciliate respect for the laws which exist for its suppression. Seven houses --some accounts say eight --frequented by gamblers, were lately broken into by a mob, the furniture destroyed, and the fragments openly burned in the streets. The mayor is reported to have been present at the bonfire. The Norfolk Herald, in relating the facts, used the following words: --"To enable our readers to account for proceedings, apparently of a character unassimilated to a Southern population, we have copied an article of some length from the Richmond Compiler; which will shew the nature and extent of that moral pestilence, which it has thereby been attempted to remove, while it will relieve the city of Richmond from all discredit in the manner of accomplishing it."
* It seems to be thought in the South, that slaves, like walnut-trees, women and spaniels, are the better "the more you beat them."
"Nux, mulier, catulus, simili sunt lege ligati:--
Haec tria nil recte faciunt, si verbera cessant."
An old French distich says:
"Oignez vilain, il vous poindra:--
Poignez vilain, il vous oindra;"
--a maxim too good not to be put into monkish rhyme.
"Quando mulcetur villanus, pejor habetur.
Pungas villanum, polluet ille manum.
Ungentem pungit, pungentem rusticus ungit."
Orleans the authorities care very little whether a vice be in good odor
or not, as long as they can follow the Roman emperor's maxim, and extract
sweet lucre from it. There a gambler can provide for his family, while
he is pursuing his amusements; the Orphan Asylum in that city being supported
out of the licences which the houses he frequents pay to the corporation.
There are seven or eight, if not more, of these infamous dens; and, as
each contributes annually 7000 dollars to this fund, we may conclude that
the asylum will never want orphans, nor the orphans an asylum, while the
tax on play continues.