Free Blacks. --Abolition of Northern Slavery. --Discussion on Rights of Man. --Congress at Panama. --Too much Freedom in South American States. --Saint Domingo excluded from West India Trade. --Philosophy of the Skin. --Mulatto's Parental Feelings --Chivalry of Slave-Owners and Cruelties of Slavery. --The Fanatics mobbed. --Abolitionists. --Non-intercourse and Non-consumption.
THERE is not, I believe, one trade in New York, in which its colored inhabitants are allowed to work with the whites. There are nearly 20,000 of them in the city, and more than twice that number in the State. It will hence be seen at once how closely the self-interest of the mechanics and other journeymen is connected with the continuance of a prejudice, which thus shuts the door against so many competitors. All classes would gladly get rid of them, if they could; for the same feeling prevails everywhere, though it may vary in degree, with that exhibited by the Kentuckians, when they formed their State Colonization Society in 1827, because, as they stated, the scheme of the parent association was calculated, "to relieve the citizens of that commonwealth from the serious inconveniences, resulting from the existence among them of a rapidly increasing number of free persons of color, who are not subject to the restraints of slavery." It is seldom that a pleonasm is so full of meaning.
Apprenticeship was substituted for slavery in the year 1827, by an act which was passed by the legislature of the State of New York about ten years before; all above 27 years of age being declared free at that period, and all below to serve as apprentices till they arrived at the same time of life. No compensation was allowed to the owners; and no injury resulted to either party from this measure of justice. Though so many of these "scourges" were let loose upon the public, (there were 10,000 in 1820,) --no throats were cut and no houses burnt down. Matters soon adjusted themselves to the new order of things; and the good effects arising from the natural stimulus thus applied to industry were visible in the improved condition of those who had been emancipated, and who may now be seen, in great numbers, in the streets of New York, and of other cities as decently dressed and as well behaved as their skin-proud countrymen.
The transition from slavery to freedom was simple and unimpeded; as the former had long been found to be unprofitable, and the latter was not retarded by bounties to its rival or restrictions upon itself. Standing armies and stipendiary magistrates were not wanted to protect the few against the many, in the plunder they still retained, and provide employment for the friends of a distant government.
completely was the system extinct, that many masters were willing to give
away their slaves, and advertisements in the newspapers announced their
intention. That the abolition of slavery in New England was attended with
little or no loss to the owners of that species of property, is well known.
"Negro children," says Dr. Belknap, "were reckoned (in Massachusetts) an
incumbrance in a family; and, when weaned, were given away like puppies.
They have been publickly advertised in the newspapers to be given away."
"In the country, the negroes lived as well as their masters, and often
sat down at the same table, in the true style of republican equality."
-Hist. Coll. iv. 200.
There was little merit in relinquishing what it would have been bad policy to withhold; and no gratitude was due for a gift, which was clogged with conditions that robbed it of its justice while it left it none of the graciousness of a favor.
If to support and sanction by words and by actions those principles, on which alone the practices they have laid aside are founded, be criminal, the difference of guilt between the workers of iniquity and its abettors, is all that the citizens of the non-slave-holding States can claim. Not a shadow of excuse, in deed, or palliation can they adduce for their conduct. When pressed by an appeal to their sense of religion and justice, they are utterly at a loss to explain their behavior by motives consistent with either. It was inexpressibly painful to my mind to witness the blindness and self-delusion under which these people labored. It was a psychological anomaly that I could not comprehend --an irreconcileable contradiction to every idea I had formed of intelligent and reasonable creatures --an afflicting picture of "a naked human heart," with all its inconceivable incongruities. Night and day was I tormented by the most bitter reflections. I was living with men I could not esteem. I felt it was unmanly to be silent: and I knew it was vain to remonstrate.
Sometimes my zeal got the better of my prudence, and I fell into discussions which experience told me were useless. I had, one day, a long controversy with a young lawyer upon the subject, and was shocked at the arrogance with which he spoke of men whom I knew, from personal observation, to be fully equal to himself in every respect but that which mere circumstance of birth had produced. His arguments (if arguments they might be called, in which fact, hypothesis, and conclusion were equally remote from truth, and from each other) were of the usual preposterous kind. Some of his assertions were to the last degree absurd. The negro, he said, must be inferior to the white, became his father, who was a physician (a Virginian) had once proved, in a public lecture, that the black had a long heel, and a short forehead*.
From this antithesis between the sinciput and the os calcis it followed, as a matter of course, that his intellect was inferior to that of a man whose extremities are contrasted in a reverse manner! --nothing could be plainer, except the inference, that he was a proper subject for coercion and contempt. On the score of conscience, my opponent felt perfectly at ease. The colored man had no sort of reason to complain of ill-usage. It was the custom of the country; and the whites were not in the least to be blamed, because they had determined to act as they did. The "African" was little better than an ourang-outang; and, as Nature did nothing in vain, the final cause, for the peculiarity of structure was to be found in the profit and amusement of "Heaven's last, best work" --the Caucasian. Having, hinted, that complexion could afford no certain criterion of moral qualities, as its color might be changed by accident, (by the nitrate of silver, for instance,) I was assured by this infallible disputant, that I must be in error, because his father was a physician; and, if such effects had ever been produced by the improper use of medicine, he would not have omitted to inform his son of such an extraordinary circumstance. This was unanswerable.
* The same argument, drawn by the Anglo-American from an assumed physiological fact for enslaving the Africo-Americans, may be used by their dear and faithful ally, Russia, for her treatment of the Poles. According to a sketch given by Blumenbach of a Pole's head, and that of a negro, the facial angle is precisely, the same in both specimens. See Lord's Popular Physiology, 4,69.
Such is the sort of logic used by those who suffer the understanding to be led by the feelings without inquiring how they came by them. Talk to them upon common subjects, and they are as clear-headed and acute as other people; but touch upon this topic, and the best educated man amongst them will utter more nonsense in a given time than the most unlettered clown in the three kingdoms. How ridiculous to challenge the admiration of the world, when every philosopher that has enlightened it, every poet that has delighted it, every divine that has instructed it, cries "shame!" upon them for their want of wisdom, generosity, and religion!
It is curious to observe how the foreign policy of the nation is influenced by these feelings. Whether the Emperor Alexander*
* "Early in 1825, the United States made overtures to Russia and France, having for their object to procure an acknowledgment of the independence of the American republics on the basis of guaranteeing to Spain the possession of Cuba and Puerto Rico."--American Annual Reg., 1825.
"You are authorized, in the spirit of the most perfect frankness and friendship, which have ever characterised all the relations between Russia and the United States, to disclose, without reserve, the feelings and the wishes of the United States in respect to Cuba and Puerto Rico. They are satisfied with the present condition of those islands, now open to the commerce and enterprise of their citizens. They desire, for themselves, no political change in them. If Cuba were to declare itself independent, the amount and the character of its population render it improbable that it could maintain its independence. " --Extract of a letter from Mr. Clay to Mr. Middleton, 10 May, 1825.
The annals of human adulation cannot exhibit a more disgusting instance of fawning flattery than is to be found in the pages of the American Annual Register, in its eulogy upon the Emperor Alexander.
be solicited to urge upon Ferdinand the recognition of South American independence; --whether fears be entertained that Cuba should fall into the hands of England or of Mexico; whether Hayti is to take her place in the rank of Free States; --the actuating motive is an apprehension lest the black man should break his chains, and rise to a level with his oppressor. An amusing instance of this occurred at the Panama Congress, the President of which had published a discourse that gave great offence to the people of the United States, It came out, however, that it had not been spoken on that occasion; and the members, when applied to by Mr. Poinsett, the American Minister, disavowed, in general terms, any participation in some of its sentiments.
Mr. Poinsett thus writes to Mr. Clay from Mexico, to which the Congress had adjourned --(Sept. 6, 1826): --"I adverted, in the course of conversation, to the very extraordinary sentiments contained in Vidaurre's speech on the opening of the Congress. They assured me that Vidaurre never delivered that discourse, but published it without the knowledge of his colleagues; that, on the following day, they, the Mexican plenipotentiaries, remonstrated verbally, both against the publication of the discourse, and against the sentiments it contained; and the Columbian plenipotentiaries, delivered in a written protest to the same effect. I suggested the propriety of publishing a notice of what took place on that occasion, as the whole tenor of Vidaurre's discourse is calculated to produce an unfavorable impression. I believe this will be done. Might it not be as well to do so in our papers?"
There is nothing in the Peruvian minister's address that would appear extraordinary to any but the "free and enlightened" citizens of the North American confederation. It was probably the following paragraph that gave rise to this dignified remonstrance. "The basis of our confederation is firm; --peace with the whole world; respect for European governments, even where their political principles are diametrically opposed to those acknowledged in America: free commerce with all nations, and a diminution of imposts on the trade of such as have acknowledged our independence; religious toleration for such as observe different rites from those established by our constitution. How emphatically have we been taught by the blood which fanaticism has spilt, from the time of the Jews to the commencement of the present century, to be compassionate and tolerant to all who travel to the same point by different paths. Let the stranger, of whatever mode of faith, come hither; he shall be protected and respected, unless his morals, the true standard of religion, be opposed to the system given us by the Messiah. Let him come and instruct us in agriculture and the arts. Let the sad and abject countenance of the poor African, bending under the chains of rapacity and oppression, no longer be seen in these climes: let him be endowed with equal privileges with the white man, whose color he has been taught to regard as a badge of superiority: let him, in learning that he is not distinct from other men, learn to become a rational being. Immortal Pitt! eloquent Fox! interrupt for a moment your slumbers; and, --raising yourselves from the tomb, behold that the regions, once emphatically the regions of slavery, are now those where your philanthropic precepts are most regarded."
The secretary of state of the Mexican Republic, says, in his report to the Senate: --"The assembly not only did not hear this harangue, nor approve this measure, but did not agree with the views it contained of the business that had been concluded nor in the designation of those objects which were intended to form the subject of their future sessions. The minister himself, who subscribed that paper, was satisfied of the propriety of this conduct." This meagre disavowal answered the purpose for which it was made. The new republics, menaced by European despotism, were not inclined to disoblige a powerful neighbor.
is scarcely, among the former possessions of Spain, a single nation with
which the liberal
statesmen at Washington might not find matter
for a quarrel, if so inclined. The preamble to the decree of Central America,
in declaring the abolition of slavery, must have been highly galling to
their sensitive feelings. Veritas odium parit. "The General Assembly
of the United Provinces of Central America, conceiving that the system
of government adopted by this republic, would differ in nothing from that
heretofore imposed by Spain, were not the principles of liberty, equality,
and justice to be extended to every citizen of these States; and believing
that it would be unjust in a free government to suffer a portion of our
fellow men to remain in slavery, and not to restore them to their natural
condition, the possession of liberty," &c.
Mr. Salazar, minister from Columbia, in a letter to Mr. Clay, (dated Washington, Nov. 2,1825,) thus expresses himself: --"The descendants of this portion of the globe have succeeded in founding an independent republic, whose government is now recognized by its ancient metropolis. On what basis the relations of Hayti and of other parts of our hemisphere, that shall hereafter be in like circumstances, are to be placed, is a question simple at first sight, but attended with serious difficulties when closely examined. These arise from the different manner of regarding Africans, and from their different rights in Hayti, the United States and in other American States. This question will be determined at the Isthmus; and, if possible, an uniform rule of conduct adopted in regard to it, or those modifications that may be demanded by circumstances."
Speaking of the new States in South America, the North American Review says, (April, 1821), "The state of society and of life among them forbids our feeling a sympathy with them." "We hold it to be a maxim clearly established in the history of the world, that none but the temperate climates, and the climates which produce and retain the European complexion of skin in its various shades, admit of the highest degree of national character." "We believe the isothermal lines of character might be drawn with nearly as much precision as those of temperature." This is inimitable! The greater part of our species is to be disinherited of its hopes, that the scornful feelings of these pseudo-republicans towards their fellow-citizens, may find that palliation which the understanding and the heart, in their natural state, would neither suggest nor accept. While the Caucasians of the New World despise the other races, into which it has pleased their high-mightinesses to separate the human race, they complain that the Caucasians of the Old World despise them for the same reason --a supposed inferiority of intellect. Both accusations were once believed; because the accused were not allowed a fair hearing. If we may credit a writer in the New England Magazine for 1831, the tables are turned with a vengeance in the one case; and who knows that they may not be so, one day, in the other too?
"The most grievous charge," he says, speaking of English calumnies against America, "is to come. It was laid against our intellect; --that power which governs the whole being of man, gives effect to his exertions, and makes him what he is. It was confidently affirmed, not only by men of ordinary standing, but by those whom the world called philosophers, that in all its attributes, the American mind was of an inferior cast: in terms apparently coined for the occasion : 'that the man of America, was essentially belittled.' No doubt, a belief to this effect, pronounced and supported by such high authority, had much influence in inducing the British Parliament to issue their resolve that they had 'a right to bind us in all cases.' In their pride, power, and rapacity, why should they not thus resolve and act, when they had (in their own opinion) so much to gain by it and nothing to lose?" &c. A passage in a second article upon this important subject, settles the matter at once, by placing the sculptor's chisel in the lion's paw, to be transferred, we may hope, at no very distant day, to one from Juba's "arida nutrix leonum." "Freedom of every kind is in greater perfection in the United States than in Great Britain or any other country. Its effects are seen, therefore, in the improvement of the whole man. Hence, instead of being deteriorated, the intellect of America is strengthened and ameliorated. We hazard nothing in asserting, that the Americans surpass the British in all things on which they have bestowed an equal share of attention and labor."
is scarcely possible in the nature of things, that Mexico and the other
new States will much longer submit to be insulted. Mr. Berrien, in allusion
to the projected conquest of Cuba and Puerto Rico, by the South Americans,
said openly in the Senate at Washington, in 1826: --"The question to be
determined is this: with a due regard to the safety of the Southern States,
can you suffer these islands to pass into the hands of bucaniers, drunk
with their new-born liberty?" Mr. Hayne, of South Carolina, declared on
that occasion, that the federal government had committed a great error
in entering into treaties with Great Britain and Columbia for the suppression
of the slave-trade. "That error," he exclaimed, "has been happily corrected.
The first treaty has failed; and the second was nearly unanimously rejected
by this body. Our policy, then, is now firmly fixed: our course is marked
out. With nothing connected with slavery can we consent to treat with other
nations; and, least of all, ought we to touch the question of the independence
of Hayti, in conjunction with revolutionary governments, whose own history
affords an example scarcely less fatal to our repose. Those governments
have proclaimed the principles of liberty and equality, and have marched
to victory under the banners of 'universal emancipation.'
You find men of color at the head of their armies, in their legislative halls, and in their executive departments. They are looking to Hayti*
even now, with feelings of the strongest confraternity; and shew, by the very documents before us, that they acknowledge her to be independent, at the moment when it is manifest to all the world beside, that she has resumed her colonial subjection to France." Worse language than this was used by John Randolph; and the senate exhibited, during the long and protracted discussion, the most rabid symptoms of the endemic monomania.
* The government of the United States, as soon as "a decent regard" for the world's good opinion would admit, acknowledged Miguel de facto King of Portugal, while the Haytian is still in its eyes a rebel. Yet its import trade with the former amounts to no more than 123,816 dollars, and its export to 28,562; while the latter supplies it with goods to the value of 2,853,386 dollars, and takes from it 1,669,003.
"The peace of eleven States in this Union," said Mr. Benton of Missouri, "will not permit the fruits of a successful negro insurrection to be exhibited among them. It will not permit black consuls and ambassadors to establish themselves in our cities, and to parade through our country, and give their fellow blacks in the United States proof in hand of the honors which await them for a like successful effort on their part. It will not permit the fact to be seen and told, that, for the murder of their masters and mistresses, they are to find friends among the white people of these United States. No! Mr. President, this is a question which has been determined here for three and thirty years; --one which has never been open for discussion at home or abroad, either under the Presidency of General Washington, of the first Mr. Adams, of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Madison, or Mr. Monroe. It is one which cannot be discussed in this chamber on this day: --and shall we go to Panama to discuss it? I take it in the mildest supposed character of this congress, shall we go there to advise and consult about it? Who are to advise and sit in judgment upon it? Five nations, who have already put the black man upon an equality with the white, --not only in their constitutions, but in real life: --five nations, who have at this moment (at least some of them) black generals in their armies, and mulatto senators in their congresses!"
I must not forget, while censuring another country, that my own has not only refused to acknowledge the independence of the black republic, but has interdicted all kinds of commerce between her colonies and Hayti, although provisions are five or six times as cheap in the latter. An Englishman, before he boasts of having done justice to the black man, would do well to read the following extract from a statute passed by his government in 1824, and still in force. "And be it further enacted, that no British merchant ship or vessel shall sail from any place in the island of Jamaica to any place in the island of Saint Domingo, nor from any place in the island of Saint Domingo to any place in the island of Jamaica, under the penalty of the forfeiture of such ship or vessel together with her cargo," &c. Intercourse by foreign vessels is prohibited by the same act. And yet we constantly hear surprise or exultation expressed that Hayti has not made greater progress, while her resources are thus crippled.
After what has been said of the low debasing standard, which has been set up in America to measure every one's eligibility to a respectable station in society, it would be doing no injustice to those who have adopted it, to designate them by the appellation of practical materialists; since they act and judge upon the fixed belief that there is an indissoluble tie between the bodily structure of man and his moral endowments. Can a more grovelling superstition be found in "the rude Carinthian boor," or the dusky Hottentot? While the Anglo-American's mind is degraded by this infirmity, he must submit to be placed in the lowest scale of civilised being. He may be admired for his commercial enterprise, his mechanical skill, his railroads, canals and steam-boats: --every thing that contributes to his physical well-being: --but he can never be respected for moral excellence, expansion of mind, or generous sympathies.
If I were to tell my friends in England that one of the most enlightened and estimable men with whom I became acquainted in America, declared to me that he really did not think he could eat his dinner were a colored man sitting at the same table with him, I should be accused of exceeding the limits of a traveller's privilege. To be the dupe of his own imagination, is the fate of almost every one who visits a foreign country: but the conviction of the truth which dissipated the dreams and illusions I had formed of a land so highly favored, brought with it no counterbalance to the painful disappointment it occasioned.
It surely was not unreasonable to expect some portion of Christian love and humility towards their immediate neighbors, among those who were sending out missionaries to evangelize the remotest corners of the globe; --few would have been prepared to find an obstinate denial of justice and charity where Bible societies abounded: and something like liberality of mind and good sense might have been looked for in the home and sanctuary of schools. When a people make a profession of religion, we have a right to ask them why they set at nought the precepts it teaches and the duties it inculcates: and we cannot but be grieved when we see them lay aside its letter, as well as its spirit, like an old almanack, to make way for a code of ethics that has nothing to recommend it but the humiliation it inflicts upon those whom its framers have injured and oppressed.
It may well be doubted whether the priesthood in any country is ever in advance of the spirit of the times. But nowhere, whatever be the sect or denomination, have they so basely prostituted their sacred calling to the furtherance of the very vices they were ordained to correct and control. They have left a stain upon their character which can neither be removed nor palliated. The Quakers form no exception to this disgraceful servility. They are as contemptuous to their sable brethren as the strictest Episcopalian, or the most orthodox Presbyterian. It would seem as if the evil principle were permitted to assume the garb of sanctity, to shew that religion must be true or it could not survive under the weight of such hypocrisy.
It is not to be supposed that she can escape unhurt and uncontaminated from such evil communication. Some observations made to me on this subject by a mulatto, left a strong impression on my mind. I had been surprised, on a former visit to his house, at what I thought his calm resignation under unmerited opprobrium. He was a man of a very powerful mind, and endowed by nature with a depth of reflection far above the average to be found among those who despised him. His son, as I can myself testify from an examination, was a lad of very promising talents and literary habits. The father was but the more distressed and embarrassed what to do with him. He had tried to get him into a theological seminary, that he might become a minister of religion; yet, though he was provided with the best recommendations, and unexceptionable testimonials of the boy's abilities and moral character, the poor lad's application, after a suspense of six months, with all its attendant anxieties and annoyances, was rejected for no other reason but that which was supplied by the outer garment be had received from Nature at his birth. "I strive," said the parent, "to suppress the indignation I feel at the cruelties to which every one of my race is exposed here: --but I candidly confess to you that I am driven almost to desperation. I love my boy: and wish to fulfil my duty towards him by giving him a good education, and placing him where be may be usefully and respectably employed. But all my efforts are useless: my hopes are blasted: --and I know not what is to become of him. My belief in religion is shaken, when I see its professors so little influenced by it. We have committed no crime: --yet we are condemned without a trial, and are allowed no defence. We are held up to the world as the very outcasts of society: --we are outraged and crushed to the earth with impunity. But, perhaps, the most galling of all the accusations brought against us is that of cowardice: happy should I be if I had an opportunity of shewing its falsity! Let us engage hand to hand in equal numbers; --and it will be seen whether courage has any thing to do with complexion." I replied, that I trusted the contest would be decided by other weapons than those of force; and that I firmly believed the day was not far distant, when full justice would be done them.
A few days after this conversation, I was at a dinner party, where I met a planter from the South, who maintained, or rather asserted, that the negro was a species of ourang-outang, and ought not to be considered, and, consequently, not to be treated, as belonging to the human race. His slaves, he added, were his property --his cattle; and he spoke the sentiments of all in the South, when he declared he would draw his sword against any one who should dare to interfere with his rights. This sort of language, though unusual in civilized society, is natural enough. What is gained or held by injustice, is generally defended by violence. In such a case, it would be want of reason to appeal to reason. There is a law of force, when there is no force of law. The employment of the one proves that the other is wanting. If we see a house barricaded in time of profound peace, we suspect that the owner de facto is not owner de jure. The bandit and the pirate are known by the cocked pistol and the grasped dagger. This gentleman felt, or affected to feel, great indifference to the dangers with which the increasing number of slaves menaces their masters; who, he said, could take care of themselves, and did not need any assistance from the free States. It may well be doubted whether this feeling of security be so general as he declared it to be. Cowardice and cruelty usually go together; and the absence of the one is not indicated by the blustering of the other. Well, indeed, may the heartless oppressor listen in the midnight breeze for the shouts of his infuriated victims, led on to vengeance by some sable Spartacus or some colored Kosciuszko. The same sort of language was used in Congress by Mr. Blair of South Carolina, in 1832. "He could tell gentlemen", he said, "that when they moved that question (slavery) seriously, they from the South would meet it elsewhere. It would not be disputed in the house: --but in the open field, where powder and cannon would be their orators, and their arguments lead and steel," The slave states should be the last to cry out against the interference of the general Government with matters within their exclusive jurisdiction. Does it not already interfere in protecting the master against the slave? Then why not interfere to protect the slave against the master? To grant liberty, it seems, is unconstitutional: --to keep up a standing army in time of peace is not so. If the north must not lighten the southern slave's chain, why should the south be permitted to fasten it on the northern free-black? The free States are taxed to keep down the slaves by an armed force; are insulted by the expulsion or exclusion of their citizens from a large portion of the Union, and are then gravely told, that the constitution forbids their meddling with the question of slavery! This boasted constitution is a very convenient instrument for the south. It converts natives into foreigners, and foreigners into natives. It sends away the "Africans" lest they should become Americans*,
and refuses its promised protection to the Cherokees that they may remain Indians*.
* Jefferson said, when objections, on constitutional grounds, were made to a grant from Congress to the Colonization Society, that "a liberal construction, justified by the object would go far, and an amendment to the constitution the whole length necessary."
The abolitionists are told that they must not interfere with this "delicate question", because it is a matter of State regulation and out of the jurisdiction of Congress. But that is the very reason why they should interfere. It is well known that the slaves were worse treated in our chartered colonies than in those under the immediate control of the home government. It is precisely because the general legislature cannot check the local legislatures, that the local legislatures ought to be checked by public opinion. Here, however, the planter takes his stand, and throws down the gauntlet of defiance to every intruder upon his domain.
* The poor Cherokees must be sadly puzzled to understand the logic of the white man. The Supreme Court of the United States refuses them protection because they are not foreigners; while the President of the United States refuses them protection because they are foreigners. "The Court," says the former, "has bestowed its best attention on this question; and, after mature deliberation, the majority is of opinion, that an Indian tribe or nation, within the United States is not a foreign State in the sense of the Constitution, and cannot maintain an action in the Courts of the United States."
"The question presented," says the latter in his first message to Congress, "was whether the General Government had a right to sustain those people (the Cherokees) in their pretensions. The Constitution declares that no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State, without the consent of its legislature. If the General Government is not permitted to tolerate the erection of a confederate State within the territory of one of the members of this Union against her consent, much less would it allow a foreign and independent government to establish itself there."
The following toast, equally remarkable for the elegance of the language and the humanity of the sentiment, was given, in the autumn of 1833, at a public dinner in Georgia: "Southern liberty and southern slavery! --like the Siamese twins, inseparably united and mutually dependent on, and necessary to, the existence of each other." The Columbia Telescope (South Carolina) tells the "fanatics" plainly what they must expect if they do not mind their own business. "Let us," says this Cambyses of the American press, "declare, through the public journals of our country, that the question of slavery is not, and shall not be, open to discussion: --that the system is deep-rooted amongst us, and must remain for ever; --that the very moment any private individual attempts to lecture us upon its evils and immorality, and the necessity of putting measures into operation to secure us from them: --in the same moment his tongue shall be cut out and cast upon the dunghill. We are freemen, sprung from a noble stock of freemen, able to boast as noble a line of ancestry as ever graced this earth. We have burning in our bosoms the spirit of free men, --live in an age of enlightened freedom, and in a country blessed with its privileges, --under a government that has pledged itself to protect us in the enjoyment of our peculiar domestic institutions, in peace and undisturbed. We hope for a long continuance of these high privileges; and have now to love, cherish, and defend, property, liberty, wives and children --the right to manage our own matters in our own way; and, what is, equally dear with all the rest, the inestimable right of dying upon our own soil, around our own friends, in struggling to put down all who may attempt to infringe, attack, or violate any of these sacred and inestimable privileges."
Few would deny to this chivalrous descendant of a long line of ancestry, the inestimable privilege of dying, if he can do so, around his own friends in any struggle he may choose to shew his prowess in. And what is this system for which he would wish to die? It is one, rather than live under which, many have died. Of its horrors some faint idea may be formed, from the atrocities committed under the hope of escaping from them. In 1824, four negroes were executed at Greenupsburg in the State of Kentucky, for murdering their owner while he was transporting them down the Ohio to the New Orleans market "They died," according to Niles's Register, "without shewing the least compunction for the crime committed; and one of them, the instant he was launched from the cart, exclaimed 'Death! death at any time in preference to slavery!'" And what is this system for which the white man would wish to live? Let us attend to what a writer in the same journal says of the condition of Maryland. "We think that we speak with an entire understanding of the facts, when we state, that the character of the white laboring population in Maryland, as well as their numbers and efficiency, is declining in all the chief slave-holding counties. Whole families (not one of whom can read or write) find an asylum in our factories. But the greater part, miserably equipped for the journey, desperately aim for Indiana and Ohio. The fee of Maryland (not estimating the counties in which there are few, slaves) is hardly worth one-third of what it was; and hundreds of landholders, whose fathers lived in affluence, are reduced almost to poverty, without any personal act of indiscretion to cause it. This fact is feelingly felt by all those whose recollection serves them for thirty years past: and things are getting worse and worse every day."
A very affecting instance of the powerful impression made, upon the mind by the cruelties, which every slave is made to feel or witness, took place a short time ago, in the State of Kentucky. The Hopkinsville Advocate calls it "a curious case." "A negro woman," says that paper, "the property of Wilson Cooxy, was arraigned for killing her own child. She was seen to retire on a Sunday evening, apparently cheerful and contented, to the house in which she usually slept. The next morning the child was found dead, and laid out; having been killed by a blow upon the head with an axe. The mother was missing, and could not be found for several days; and, when found, seemed in a state of stupid derangement, and almost famished with hunger. For some time, she refused to talk at all; but, at length voluntarily broke silence, and confessed that she had had it in contemplation, for several years, to kill her child and then to kill herself; --that she thought both she and her child would be happier in another world than in this; --that about three years ago, she set off to go to a very deep spring in the neighborhood, for the purpose of drowning herself; but that, on her way, she reflected that her child would be left behind, in this world, to suffer in slavery: --that she then determined to return and kill her child, and then to kill herself; but that she had not the firmness sooner to carry her resolution into effect. She had been observed to treat her child with more than ordinary tenderness. She was tried and found guilty of murder; sentence of death was passed upon her; but her execution was deferred, she being enceinte."
The medical jurist would probably consider this a case of monomania, aggravated, if not brought on, by the peculiar circumstances in which the unfortunate patient was placed at the time of the infanticide. In most countries she would have been acquitted of the murder on this ground: --but here was a crime, by which property had been destroyed. If declared "not guilty," she would have been no longer of value to her master: --if condemned, the State would give him some compensation for the loss. The plea of pregnancy, as a reason for delaying the execution of a sentence, is generally granted from motives of justice and humanity. Here there was a more powerful advocate than either. The owner had a pecuniary interest in the birth of the child.
So much care is taken to conceal what is passing on the plantations in the South, that it is incidentally only, and when the liberal limit to cruelty is exceeded, that publicity is given to deeds of extraordinary atrocity. Enough, however, is on record, of what is daily practised without observation or animadversion, to stamp the whole system with the indelible marks of unmitigated and inevitable atrocity.
Two very shocking cases of brutality are mentioned by the American Annual Register, as having taken place in Virginia, in 1826. The one was that of a poor boy, whom his master (Captain Carter) ordered, for some offence he had committed, to be suspended by a rope from the ceiling of a smoke-house. There he was left; --and there he died. This occurred in Richmond, The other case was attended with circumstances, if possible, more horribly revolting. A negro, of the name of Isaac Reed, was flogged with a cowhide by three men, --Grace, Whipplo?, and Henderson, --and then suspended. from the beams of a house with his toes just touching the ground. They left him in this state of torture; and on their return, found him dead. They were, with much difficulty, secured by the proper officers, and sent to gaol. The most distressing part of the story remains to be told. The poor sufferer was wholly innocent of any offence towards these fiends. He had been pointed out by an old woman, who had the reputation of a witch, as the person who had robbed Grace of some money be had lost. The money was soon after discovered; and it was proved that Reed, could not possibly have taken it. It is not stated whether the perpetrators of these diabolical outrages were punished or not. There is nothing even said of Carter's arrest. The chances of impunity may be seen in the following case, which I have copied verbatim from the same publication: --premising that another of the same kind is recorded by it of a Negro, named William, who was burnt alive, at Greenville, (South Carolina,) in August, 1825.
July (1827). Burning a negro. --In the early part of this month, in the Northern part of Perry county, (Alabama,) a Mr. M'Neily having lost some clothing, or other property of no great value, the slave of a neighboring planter was charged with the theft M'Neily, in company with his brother, found the negro driving his master's wagon. They seized him; and either did, or were about to, chastise him, when the negro stabbed M'Neily so that be died in an hour afterwards. The negro, was taken before a justice of the peace who, after serious deliberation, waived his authority --perhaps through fear, as a crowd of persons had collected to the number of seventy or eighty near Mr. People's (the justice's) house. He acted as president of the mob, and put the vote; when it was decided he should be immediately executed by being burnt to death. The culprit was led to a tree, and tied to it, and a large quantity of pine-knots collected and placed around him, and the fatal torch applied to the pile, --even against the remonstrances of several gentlemen who were present, --and the miserable being was in a short time burnt to ashes. An inquest was held over the remains. This is the second negro who has been thus put to death without judge or jury in this county." One would hope that "thus" does not mean that the other suffered in the same way*.
The former case of burning alive was in another State. The repitition of this enormity, under the eyes and with the sanction of a magistrate, proclaims, in language that cannot be misunderstood, the character of a system, to which West Indian barbarity is mercy and mildness.
* Niles, after giving an account of an auto da fe in Spain, where a poor Jew was burnt alive for the good of his soul, exclaims with honest indignation, "What a pack of infernal scoundrels! may they be rewarded! --but can it be true?" This incredulity from the citizen of a country where human beings are publicly burnt alive without a trial, and in the presence of a magistrate, is highly complimentary to Spain.
The spirit that is now abroad has made it a matter of prudence with the editor of the American Annual Register, or rather Niles, from whom he gets the facts, not to hurt the feelings of his readers by narratives of this description.
It is to put an end to these and similar horrors that the abolitionists are making an appeal to the conscience and honor of their country. It is for their exertions in furtherance of this sacred duty, that they have been stigmatized as incendiaries, and pointed out to the lowest rabble as the proper objects of their blind and bloodthirsty violence. I was present at the formation of the New York anti-slavery society; and was an eye-witness of the dangerous risks to which humanity exposes herself when she dares to tell a free people of their crimes and their faults.
It was about seven or eight in the evening, when thirty or forty persons, pursuant to an advertisement which had been previously published, assembled in a place of worship; the room that they had engaged at the Clinton Hall having been refused them by the trustees of that hotel. After they had formed themselves into an association for the abolition of slavery, they were about to disperse as quietly as they had met, when the doors were suddenly thrown open, and a mob of three, or four hundred men, who had given notice of their approach by a most tremendous shout, rushed in, uttering threats and execrations against the emancipationists, among whom Garrison, who had just arrived from England, and was supposed to be present, was particularly designated by name as the chief object of their fury. This gang was part of a body consisting, as the papers informed the public next morning, of seven or eight thousand men, who had met together with the avowed object of putting down the meeting; and finding their prey escaped from the Clinton, had retired to another inn, and passed their own resolutions unanimously. Many of them, if credit is to be given to their own party, were armed with dirks and daggers; and all were animated by a spirit from which neither freedom of discussion, nor personal safety to their opponents, could be expected. It was fortunate, however, for all parties that the adjourned meeting had been dissolved, as the projected meeting had been adjourned before the arrival of the enemy at the respective points of attack. Garrison, whom they sought, was incognito among the seekers; and it happened that there was, at the same moment, a school society assembled above. This piece of intelligence was communicated to the mob on their reaching the place; and the difficulty of distinguishing between the two meetings checked their career, and facilitated the escape of the company, among whom were two female Quakers with fewer signs of alarm about them than the rest. I remained some time on the spot to see what was coming next, when a wretched looking old black was seized hold of by some one, who thought him, as he stood in the door-way, a good subject for ribaldry, and hurried him to a bench, upon which he was mounted and installed as chairman: mock resolutions were then passed, and the poor fellow, who had thus been elevated to be insulted, evinced his superiority to the "lords of misrule" by humoring the scene. The noise and laughter that prevailed, prevented my hearing the whole of what passed; and I left the church with no favorable impression of a people, who could thus outrage the feelings of a rational being in the very place dedicated to the service of their common Father.
It would be unjust to involve the inhabitants of New York in the disgrace and odium of these proceedings. The furious passions exhibited on this occasion had been excited by some Southerners, of whom there were a great number in the city at the time, and who had addressed the citizens through the columns of a morning paper, remarkable for its low scurrility and vulgar brutality, calling upon them to meet in such force at the Clinton, as should for ever silence the Garrisons and Tappans. It is due also to the respectable portion of the press to state, that, both before and after the riot, it reprobated the intention of employing intimidation, and remonstrated most strongly against the introduction of a precedent, which would substitute physical force for argument, and subject freedom of debate to the will of a lawless mob.
It is in vain that the advocates of impartial justice are called upon by the timid and the time-serving to desist or delay. The cause in which they are, heart and hand, engaged, is every day gaining new converts. They are prepared for every sacrifice and every trial; and are resolved to persevere in the task they have chosen, till their country be for ever free from the disgrace and dangers of slavery.
America is deeply in debt to outraged humanity. She has enriched herself by plunder and oppression. --The day of settlement is at hand; --the creditors are clamorous and impatient: --there will be no peace for her till her drafts on Africa are paid. Not the least part of the debt is involved in the cruel indignities to which the free sons of those who were stolen from their native land are subjected by the descendants of the robbers. The heart sickens at the recital of their wrongs. I can say, with the utmost sincerity, that I left England with a wish to do justice to America. I thought her character had been misrepresented, and I was anxious to collect facts that I might adduce in her vindication on my return. I soon found, however, that I must throw up my brief: --the libel had become a criminal indictment; and the former plaintiff was the defendant. I am now in the witness-box; and I trust the claims of justice will still be satisfied. Why should ridicule be prosecuted, if oppression is to go unpunished and unrebuked? What are the insults the Americans complain of having received from strangers, --compared with the injuries they have heaped upon their own countrymen?
If the charge of vulgarity be so galling, though uttered in a distant land by a few narrow-minded men, what must be the cry, of utter and hopeless debasement, raised and repeated by millions against those among whom they are doomed to live? Is calumny detestable when it distorts or derides, and blameless when it plants a dagger in the heart? If the whites had been slaves to a civilized community of blacks; and had, when emancipated, been subjected to the same social excommunication to which they have condemned the free blacks, it may well be doubted whether they would not, at this moment, have been sank to a level of civilization and respectability below that to which the latter have risen. For myself, I have no doubt upon the subject: and it gives me an exalted idea of human energy, when I thus see it surmounting difficulties and discouragements, which the pride and wickedness of the old world never, in its worst periods, employed, to arrest the progress of human improvement. Will it be easier to resist the just claims, than it has been to check the career, of a people who possess the elastic force of Antaeus? They well know that justice is not denied them in France or in England? Will the same man who is respected in London submit to be degraded in New York? Will he be contented to lay down or assume his "indefeasible rights" as he finds himself in Boston or in Paris? It cannot be: they are already more numerous than the whites were when they obtained their independence;*
and every day, while it adds to the strength of the one, diminishes the relative superiority of the other. It will not be long before they will be released from a yoke, compared with which the wrongs of the colonists were but an imaginary grievance. Rights of man, indeed! --the text of the declaration should be revised, and "white" inserted: wherever in that lying instrument, the words liberty --independence --honor, --religion, occur, an enormous "caret" should mark the passage.
* In 1790 there were 694,280 slaves.
1800 . . . . . . . . . . . . .889,118
1810 . . . . . . . . . . . 1,191,364
1820 . . . . . . . . . . . 1,538,178
There are at present considerably more than two millions, according to the census; exclusive of the free blacks.
One of the expedients adopted by the American abolitionists to obtain their object is to abstain entirely from the use or purchase of every thing produced by slave-labor, and to encourage the introduction of free labor goods. This determination is but a retaliatory measure. Some years back, when the anti-tariff standard was hoisted in the South, John Randolph, of Roanoke, declared that "he had not purchased a dollar's worth from northern factories; and, so help him God! be never would; and, if southern gentlemen had one drop of the blood of their ancestors, they never would. He would neither eat, drink, nor wear anything from the north of the Patapsco. There were two remedies for the south; the first, a rigid non-consumption of American fabrics; and the second he would not indicate. It was not to be resorted to until the other had first been tried and failed." The cry of nullification arose from a deeper feeling than any the protecting policy could inflict. It was but an expression of that sensitiveness which the haughtiness of slaveholding and the jealousy of northern interference combined have engendered. A placard had been stuck up some years before in Philadelphia, defying the free States, and urging a separation. The words were: "The Potomac the boundary: --the negro States by themselves." Every man of discernment must see that there is a fatal want of cohesion and homogeneity between the two great sections of the Union; and that communities, in which industry is either debased or discouraged, cannot be permanently incorporated with those that owe their prosperity and security to the wealth it creates and the respect it commands.
The federal form of government seems to be cherished by modern republicans because it is an instrument of domestic tyranny, as it was hated by their ancient prototypes because it was a shield against foreign oppression. But it was easier for the Romans to destroy it in Greece, than it will be for the Americans to preserve it at home*.
* "La Republique d'Achaie, étoit formáe par une association de villes libres ; le Senat dáclara que chaque ville se gouverneroit doránavant par ses propres lois, sans dependre d'une autorite commune. La Republique des Báotiens etoit pareillement une ligue de plusieurs villes; mais, comme dans la guerre contre Persáe, les unes servirent le parti de ce Prince, les autres celui des Romains, ceux-ci les reçurent en grace, moyennant la dissolution de l'alliance commune."
-Montesquieu -Grandeur et Decadence, &c. Chap. VI.
G. Woodfall, Printer, Angel Court, Skinner Street, London.