« PreviousContinue »
her own natural brother, a good-looking Mulattoe. Indeed it is a saying in Kentucky, that "many a man makes his own Niggers ;" for many a slaveholder, in gratifying his passions, increases at the same time, what may be called his live stock.
The further to the south, the worse the slaves are off. This is particularly the case in those States that do not produce food for them. In the more northern slave holding States, as Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and towards the west, in Kentucky, where Indian corn, and other sorts of grain abound, the slaves are somewhat better provided for. But in the more southern, where little else is raised but cotton, sugar, coffee, and tobacco, the food of the slave (which must be bought) is an object of greater consequence to the master, and consists of little but Indian corn and salt fish. Moreover, in these States, the slaves are kept together in much larger gangs, and with a much smaller admixture of whites; consequently, there are fewer of the domestic slaves, who, under a humane and kind master, are not much worse off than the lowest order of domestic servants in Europe, always however excepting their liability to be beaten or sold. .
With regard to the demoralizing effects of Slavery, I shall content myself with quoting the words of that good man, and excellent patriot, Mr. Jefferson, the third President of the United States.
'• There must doubtless," he observes, "be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people, produced by the existence of Slavery among us. The whole commerce, between master and slave, is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and the most degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive, either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, the presence of his child should always be sufficient. But generally it is not sufficient. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of younger slaves, gives a loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped with its odious peculiarities. The man must indeed be a pi'odigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. With what execration then should the statesman be loaded, who permitting one-half of the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies. He destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor pat rice of the other. For if a slave can have a country in the world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labour for another.
"With the morals of the people, their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves, a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. I tremble for my country, when I reflect, that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep for ever; that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Superior interference. The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest."
These fears of Mr. Jefferson are far from being imaginary. They are hastening every day to their accomplishment, and it is astonishing that the slave-holders will not take warning. Like Belshazzar, they cannot, or will not, read the writing on the wall.
Many indeed must be aware of the danger; but hoping probably that the evil day will not come in their time, they indulge in the weakness of procrastination. But Slavery is a cancer, the cure of which becomes more dangerous, the longer the means of cure are delayed, and which at last cannot be eradicated without causing death.
In 1790 the whole number of slaves in the United States was only 694,480. In4820 they amounted to 1,531,436. In addition to these there were 233,398 free coloured. Now can it for a moment be supposed, that this enormous and rapidly increasing mass of population will Jong remain in bondage,—when they hear their masters talking of nothing, but Liberty, the Rights of Man, &c. ? — when they see processions and rejoicings every year on the anniversary of national independence?—when they hear that Bolivar, as well as the Mexican government, has entirely abolished Slavery ?—when they see how the Blacks of St. Domingo opposed 25,000 Veteran French troops? When all these examples are held up to their eyes, will they, can they remain slaves ?— Impossible.
The desire of freedom is already beginning to manifest itself in those parts where the slaves are most numerous. In 1820 there was a conspiracy at Charleston in South Carolina, which was only discovered a few days before it was to have been carried into execution,* and which ought to have opened the eyes of every slave-holder who was not wilfully blind.
The conspirators were headed by a free black named Denmark Vesey, who was a working carpenter in the city, and was distinguished for his activity and strength. His being a free black demollstrates, what indeed I believe has never been doubted, that, in the event of an insurrection, the slaves would be joined by their free coloured brethren, who, finding themselves despised by the whites, and treated as a degraded caste, would gladly take part in any scheme tending to ameliorate their condition.
* Vide Pamphlet entitled "An Account of the late intended Insurrection, among a Portion of the Blacks. Published by the Authority of 4he Corporation of Charleston. 1822."
"It was perhaps alone in Denmark Vesey's power, to have given us the true character, extent, and importance of the correspondence which it was afterwards proved was carried on with certain persons in St. Domingo. But these men mutually supported each other, and died obedient to the stern and emphatic injunction of their comrade Peter Poyas: 'Do not open your lips! Die silent, as you shall see me die /' " *
They in fact died like heroes, and in a better cause they could not have yielded up their breath. They were executed for wishing to emancipate a million of their brothers from merciless bondage. Yet how much better to die, even thus, than live a life of slavery!
Who, though they know the riven chain
Moore's Lalla Rookh.
* Vide Pamphlet above mentioned, page 18. P