« PreviousContinue »
males which is incidental to every migration, voluntary or compulsory. An almost unlimited supply of slaves ceased nearly at the time that the acquisition of a new nearly tropical empire produced an almost unlimited demand.
Few of our readers can be ignorant of the means by which that demand was met. It was met by a new slave trade, more cruel, more degrading, more atrocious, than that which had been abolished. The total number of slaves in Virginia in 1840 was 448,886. During the ten years ending 1850 the slave population of the United States increased at the rate of 28 per cent. The number of slaves in Virginia, therefore, in 1850, ought to have been 574,574; it was only 473,026. Instead of increasing at the rate of 28 per cent., the slaves in Virginia increased at the rate of only 5 per cent. Instead of adding 125,688 to their numbers, they added only 24,140. What became of the missing 101,548? It cannot be answered that they were not born, or that they died. The climate of Virginia is one of the best in the world; the labour in the plantations is light; the negroes are well taken care of. Every traveller admires the number of healthy children. If the natural increase of the slaves in the whole Union was 28 per cent., that in Virginia was probably 35 or 40 per cent.
The question, what became of the missing 101,548 is answered when we look at the rate of increase in the States which are consumers instead of breeders, when we find that in Lousiana the increase was 44 per cent., in Mississippi 57 per cent., and in Arkansas 135 per cent. It is to these States, and to Texas, Alabama, and Florida, that Virginia has exported her human crop; it is from them that she has received, at the low average price of 500 dollars per head, fifty millions of dollars. for her 100,000 souls. It was to preserve this trade, that Mexico was robbed of Texas, and afterwards of California and New Mexico; that Cuba is to be snatched and Jamaica to be annexed; and that every new State in which the climate is suited to the negro, is admitted unto the Union as a slave State.
Few things have more surprised the world than the deterioration of the political men of America. When the United States were a mere aggregate of scantily peopled colonies, when their principal citizens were planters, shopkeepers, and traders, trained up in the narrowness and prejudices, and petty employments of provincial life, they produced statesmen, and negotiators, and administrators, and legislators, whose names will be for ever illustrious in history. Now that they form a great empire, that they possess a large class of men born in
opulence, to whom all the schools and universities of each hemisphere are open, who have leisure to pursue the studies and to acquire the habits of political life, few of their public men would pass in Europe for tolerable second-rates. This downward progress, however, seems now likely to be arrested. We do not expect to see the present tenant of the White House succeeded by a first magistrate inferior to himself in knowledge, in ability, or in statesmanship, or the American diplomatists now resident in the Courts of the Continent, followed by men of less tact, or temper, or good sense.
We believe that the explanation of this strange depravation is to be found in the influence on American parties of the political questions connected with slavery.
A party which aims at producing only one result by only one means, has an enormous advantage over its rivals, who seek to promote the general welfare of their country. Sincerely patriotic parties are necessarily divided. Though they cannot but agree as to the end that is ultimately to be attained, it is equally certain that they will differ as to the means that are to be employed. Their common purpose is one that can be effected only imperfectly. It is composed of many elements, some of them opposed to others; the conduet which promotes the public prosperity in one respect, may impede it in another. A public man has often to choose between incompatible advantages, often to take an alternative of evils. It is difficult to predict the consequences of a new measure, and still more difficult to find believers in the prediction. It is very seldom, therefore, that two parties, each of which desires above all things the general good government of the country, can coalesce. Each is wedded by original disposition, by association, by habit, and by the desire of consistency, to opinions and measures inconsistent with those to which the other is equally chained.
The selfish single-purpose party, to which general politics/ are indifferent, which is ready to ally itself to Freetraders or to Protectionists, to Reformers or to Anti-Reformers, to Puseyites or to Dissenters, becomes powerful by becoming unscrupulous. If Ireland had been an independent country, separated from England, the Ultra-Catholic party, whose only object is the domination of the Clergy and of the Pope, would have ruled her. This is the source of the influence of a similar party in France. The Clerical, or Jesuit, or Popish, or Ultra-montane faction, whatever name we give to it,-has almost always obtained its selfish objects, because those objects are all that it cares for. It supported the Restoration, its priests blessed the insurgents of February 1848, and it now worships Louis
Napoleon. The only condition which it makes is Ecclesiastical and Popish supremacy, and that condition the Governor for the time being of France usually accepts.
Such a party is the Southern party in the United States. Its only object is the retention and extension of slavery and of the internal slave trade. For this purpose, it is ready to ally itself to Whigs or to Tories, to Democrats or to Federalists, to those who wish to raise, or to those who wish to lower, the tariff. But this is a purpose which must excite the fears of every wise man and the detestation of every honest man. All the best men of America, therefore, resist the contamination of such an alliance. They see that Southern faction, by choosing its opportunities, by joining from time to time the party that will accept its terms and can triumph by means of its assistance, generally obtains its objects, rewards its favourites, and excludes its opponents. Most of them are discouraged, and forsake political life for literature or business, or foreign travel; others are cut short in their public career, and forced to resign themselves to provincial or professional eminence. A few, like the distinguished senator whose speech we prefix to this Article, acquire fame in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, but are excluded from office. And what, on this side of the Atlantic, are the prizes of public life, the high political and administrative posts, are generally left to the inferior men, whose ignorance, violence, or incapacity have led those who judge of America only through her public servants, to look on her with unmerited contempt or disgust.
We say unmerited,' because we believe that the public morality of the educated classes in America, who take no part in politics, is generally far superior to that of the great bulk of her statesmen. For the proof of this, we need not go further than to Uncle Tom' itself. It is a purely American work. When it first appeared in the columns of a newspaper, the author looked only to a narrow local circulation. When it was reprinted, the American market only was thought of. Mrs. Stowe did not address herself, like Washington Irving, or Prescott, or Wheaton, to an European public. She wrote only for Americans, and writing for them she poured out her sympathy with the weak and the humble, her indignation against the oppressor, her obedience to justice, and her adoration of liberty, in words as bold and as uncompromising as any that were ever uttered by Milton, or Fox, or Wilberforce. She does not discuss the highest principles of human conduct, she assumes them: she takes for granted that they are not only known to her readers, but professed by them. If Uncle Tom' were still only in manu
script, and it had been shown to us, with the information that an American lady intended to publish it in America, we should have said, 'The readers for whom that book is intended, must enjoy a high civilisation and great moral and intellectual cultivation. They must be religious, just, and humane. If they form part of an empire tainted by slavery, they must be impatient of the disgrace, and alarmed by the sin.' And the result would have more than justified us, as it has more than justified Mrs. Stowe.
We must admit, however, that Mrs. Stowe, writing from personal observation, draws a dark picture of the influence of slavery, and of the slave trade, on a portion of her countrymen who take no part in active political life.
We copy a part of one of her letters, dated Paris, August, 1853:
'There is one thing which cannot but make one indignant 'here in Paris, and which, I think, is keenly felt by some of 'the best among the French; and that is the indifference of 'many Americans, while here, to their own national principles 'of liberty. They seem to come to Paris merely to be hangers 'on and applauders in the train of the man who has overthrown 'the hopes of France. To all that cruelty and injustice by 'which thousands of hearts are now bleeding, they appear ' entirely insensible. They speak with heartless levity of the 'revolutions of France, as of a pantomime got up for their 'diversion. Their time and thoughts seem to be divided 'between defences of American slavery and efforts to attach 'themselves to the skirts of French tyranny. They are the 'parasites of parasites - delighted if they can but get to an 'imperial ball, and beside themselves if they can secure an 'introduction. Noble-minded men of all parties here, who have 'sacrificed all for principle, listen with suppressed indignation 'while young America, fresh from the theatres and gambling 'saloons, declares, between the whiffs of his cigar, that the 'French are not capable of free institutions, and that the government of Louis Napoleon is the best thing that France 'could have. Thus, from the plague-spot at her heart, has 'America become the propagandist of despotism in Europe. 'Nothing weighs so fearfully against the cause of the people 'of Europe as this kind of American influence. Through 'almost every city of Europe are men whose great glory it 'appears to be to proclaim that they worship the beast, and 'bear his name in their foreheads. I have seen sometimes, in 'the forests, a vigorous young sapling which had sprung up 'from the roots of an old, decaying tree. So, unless the course.
of things alters much in America, a purer civil liberty will spring up from her roots in Europe, while her national tree is 'blasted with despotism.'
We must add that the sympathy with Russia which has been manifested by some of the inhabitants of the Southern States, supports Mrs. Stowe's remark, that the defenders of slavery in America naturally become the enemies of freedom in Europe. The good sense and the liberality of the opinions of a neutral may generally be tested by the side which his wishes take in the present war. The people, that is to say, the mass of the inhabitants, of Europe, are anti-Russian. They see that wherever Russian power, or even Russian influence, extends, it brings with it repression, ignorance, religious intolerance, the slavery of the press, commercial restriction, and every other oppression by which improvement can be arrested and Europe forced back into a barbarism worse than that of the dark ages, as the barbarism of communities that have once been civilised is more corrupt and more hopeless than that of a race that still retains, like our Saxon ancestors, the vigour and independence of their still less civilised progenitors.
The Continental despots and their courtiers look forward to Russian preponderance with expectations similar to those of their subjects; but, with the intense selfishness which belongs to power ill acquired or ill used, the greater part of them desire it on the very grounds on which their subjects dread it. They believe, as the Russian Government itself believes, that knowledge, toleration, self-respect, freedom of the press, freedom of trade, freedom of intercourse,-in short, all that raises man intellectually and morally, is favourable to the object of their hatred and terror, political liberty. Hence their love of Russia, as the type and the supporter of what they call order, as their faithful ally in their struggle against improvement, as the great and generous friend, whose ready sympathy can always be relied on by a king, or a prince, or a grand duke, at variance with his subjects, and whose active aid will be given as soon as the interference of England and France is no longer to be feared.
The slave holders and slave traders of America are too strong to need to look for assistance to Russia; but they sympathise with her partly for some of the reasons which govern the petty tyrants of Italy and Germany, and partly for reasons of their own. They hate England as abolitionist, as Ferdinand hates her as liberal. They love Russia, as he does, for her intolerance
Sunny Memories, vol. ii. letter 48.