« PreviousContinue »
Their public property in churches, schools, &c., is valued at $113,000.
Of the people called colored, in New Haven, Professor Silliman is reported in the African Repository of 1832, page 184, thus to have spoken:
"It is delightful to see so many of our colored people living in neat and comfortable dwellings; furnished in decent taste, and sufficient fulness; thus indicating sobriety, industry and self-respect to see their children in clean attire, hastening of a sabbath morning, to the sunday school; and on other days, with cheerful intelligent faces, seeking the common school."
But I must pause, or you will have again to condemn me, partially at least, to repose on your "Procrustean bed." More, if the Lord please hereafter. Meanwhile, ever believe me, in cordial sympathy with the oppressed every where, and their friends, your affectionate
P. S.-In your 4th number (July) I find an article from your pen, on "Abstinence from the products of slave labor." It greatly surprises and grieves me. Had I seen it in time I should immediately have reviewed it, but it came to me too late. Next quarter, if the Lord please, I shall offer you my strictures upon it.
August 9th, 1836.
We welcome light from every quarter, but especially from such a man as the writer of the above.-ED.
AMERICAN SLAVERY vs. HUMAN LIBERTY.
BY A KENTUCKIAN.
THE cause of Human Liberty has more to fear from American Slavery than from any form of political despotism.
I. The proposition will appear evident from the fact, that the present system of American Slavery is worse in itself than any existing political despotism, i. e. it contains the despotic principle in a purer state. Now it is this principle which is the antagonist of liberty-it is this in political des
potisms which renders them the foes of human liberty. Like alcohol, it is a poison, however diluted or disguised; and the degree of its malign influence will depend upon the extent to which it is mingled with other ingredients. It may be, and often is in political forms, so combined with correct principles as to lose much of its malignity. But American Slavery is despotism, unalleviated by a single redeeming principle. It is despotism-soul, body and limbs-despotism, separated from every commixture, and doubly refined by the characteristic skill of freemen! It is the alcohol itself. Of course it must be more inimical to liberty than other modified forms of despotism. But to mention a few items in which it is worse than political despotism, it may be observed,
1. That other forms of despotism rarely, if ever in the present day, exist without some of the formalities of law. Tyrants are constrained to have their standards by which their subjects estimate them, and not unfrequently do their excessive usurpations incur open violence or assassination. The general diffusion of free principles has softened, more or less materially, the features of all existing despotismsall, save American Slavery, which is continually growing more lawless and ferocious, under the immediate auspices of liberty! Long established modes of administration, forming precedents, exert a powerfully restraining influence over the despot, and tend to secure that regularity in his measures which it is one object of law to establish. But the system of slavery has no such balance-wheel. Every master makes his own will his law, and glories in his contempt of precedents. But again, should the tyrant's caprice alone be his law, the length of his reign may sometimes afford time for his subjects to learn that caprice, and adapt themselves to it; but the slave, in his frequent and sudden transfers from master to master, cannot avail himself of this poorest provision against oppression.
2. Again, political despotism recognizes the fact that the people have rights. Mark! I do not say that it recognizes all the rights of its subjects, nor that it very clearly defines any of them, nor that it always faithfully regards any one of them. I say simply, that it recognizes the fact that men have rights. For example, there is a sense in which it admits the right of Property. This is seen, not in any Declaration setting forth "this right as self-evident;" but in the
fact that it secures its subjects from the depredation of one another, and from foreign encroachments. That private property is liable to be wrested away by the tyrant himself, instead of being incompatible with the ground here taken, implies its truth; for the subject must have property before he can be liable to its loss. The fact then is this, that the subject of a despotism may and does acquire property, and that his property, though subject to the general disposal of the despot, is sacred against all other encroachments. The prac tical bearings of this will be shewn in another place. The point which is to be noticed here is that, with respect to property, the subject of a despotism is situated altogether differently from an American slave. The latter is himself the property of another, and of course all the products of his toil are another's property. But this inference was not left to the chance of logical deduction; it has been settled by legal enactment. "The slave," says the Louisiana code, "can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire any thing, but which must belong to his master." The right of marriage also, despotism recognizes, at least so far as seldom to invade or disturb it. In the ordinary operations of despotic government there is no occasion for breaking up the family relation. It is only when extensive wars occur that separation of families takes place, and then the separation is but short, except to the slain, and how far more desirable is their separation than that, in which the parties survive, to bleed at every pore and snap, one by one, the cords of life!-Furthermore, personal security is in a great measure guarantied to every subject of a despotism. The king, in most cases, can have no personal partialities, and every consideration of interest will induce him to surround his people with those defences both against foreign and domestic foes, which will secure their safety, and attach them inseparably to him. The slaveholder, on the other hand, or his overseer, with a power quite as absolute as that of the despot, has often decided inducements to abuse his slaves. With regard to rights then, there is a wide contrast between political despotism and American slavery. The former recognizes rights, whether from policy or principle is not the question-the latter denies all rights. The former will occasionally wake up a most furious tempest, in which all principle will be borne to the ground, but when the storm is past the subjects' rights lift
up their heads again. The latter, in its calmest action, tramples upon every human right. The former is like the volcano, whose irruptions are desolating indeed, but rare. The latter can be compared to nothing but the bottomless pit, whose fires are never quenched.
3. The despotisms of the present age are avowedly administered for the good of the subjects. They assume that the people are not capable of governing themselves, and that absolute despotism is most energetic and best adapted to national prosperity and defence. But American slavery hardly makes any other pretence than that, the relation between master and slave regards only the good of the master-that the slave has no good to be secured that he is not to be reputed capable of happiness-that he is not a person, but a thing--not an end, but a means, an appendage, a piece of property, the sole value of which consists in its adaptation to advance the interests of its owner. Place these principles of American slavery side by side with those of the veriest despotism on earth, and the latter will brighten into beauty by the contrast. The very Criminal code of Russia or Turkey, is more humane than the slave laws of the United States!
4. But a still stronger point of contrast between American slavery and political despotism is, that the former admits an indefinite number of tyrants, while the latter allows but one. Now let it be supposed that the head of a despotic government is as entirely irresponsible, capricious and cruel as the worst slaveholder in Louisiana; yet the actual condition of his subjects would be inconceivably more happy than that of American slaves. There is a natural impossibility in the way of his perpetrating the same cruelties upon his people, that the slaveholder may easily inflict upon his victims. The immense number of subjects and the vast territory over which they spread, are a sure protection against frequent individual suffering. A single tyrant, in the midst of millions of subjects, if he should lay himself out to make his people miserable, and should employ for this purpose all the minions about his throne, could not reach one individual in a hundred with direct cruelties. To the subject there is safety in the multitude and a refuge in the crowd; there are retreats in the thick woods, in the caverns, among the rocks, or even in the bosom of the family, which the despot's eye never penetrates. But when we turn to American slavery
how reversed is the picture! Here are millions indeed, but instead of a lone monarch sitting upon his throne in some corner of the vast dominions, here are rulers of tens, and rulers of fifties, and rulers of hundreds-each a complete despot. Instead of a spreading empire, with its concealments, its dark forests, and its deep recesses, opening their friendly arms to embosom the subject, we see a plantation, which can be surveyed at a single glance of its proprietor, and this is the limits of the slave. Nor is this all. Each plantation has from three to six, or more, absolute tyrants, swaying as many sceptres over it. The master and the mistress, the young masters and mistresses, the overseers and drivers-all these have despotic power and are ambitious to exert it. It will not unfrequently happen that their commands will conflict, so that it will be impossible for the slaves to obey all. Then punishment inevitably follows. Thus the wretched slave suffers incessantly, on every side, the gallings of an omnipresent tyranny.
From considerations such as these, it must be manifest that American slavery is more atrocious than any existing form of political despotism. Does any one doubt this? Does any one dare to question it? And now let it be remembered that, by so much as the former is worse in itself than the latter, it is by so much the greater enemy of free principles.
II. Human liberty has more to fear from American slavery than from any other existing form of despotism, because it is American slavery; because this system, compared with which Turkish tyranny is mercy, is an American system; because this monster of rapine and tears and blood-this arch foe of human liberty, is our ally-encouraged by our favor, sanctioned by our laws, sanctified by our religion, and protected by our arms! And what has our nation done in past time? She was the first to say, All men are born equal. In defence of this principle she lavished her blood and treasures, resolved to stand or fall with it, and she triumphed. She then took her trumpet and proclaimed the same truth to the world, until the nations heard and began to awake. What more has our nation done? She has reasoned, and written, and sung and spoken about human rights-ridiculed aristocracy denounced monarchy-anathematized despotism-eulogized liberty-declaimed about the omnipotence of truth-prophesied the downfall of thrones, and the estab