Slavery in the United States <br> Chapter 4
The idea of educating the children of the free white citizens of the United States to consider the blacks their equals, is founded on a total ignorance of nature, its affinities and antipathies. These antipathies may be for a moment overcome or forgotten in the madness of sensuality, but they return again with the greater force from their temporary suspension. White and black children never associate together on terms of perfect equality, from the moment the former begin to reason. There exist physical incongruities which cannot be permanently reconciled; and let us add, that we have a right to conclude, from all history and experience, that there is an equal disparity of mental organization. The difference seems more than skin-deep. The experience of thousands of years stands arrayed against the principle of equality between the white men and the blacks. Thousands, tens of thousands, of the former, in all ages and nations, have triumphed over every barrier of despotism and slavery; have overcome all the obstacles of their situation, the deficiencies of education, the prejudices of their age and country, the sense of degradation, the laws, as it were, of fate itself, and become lights of the age, leaders of their race. Has the black man ever exhibited similar energies, or achieved such triumphs in his native land or anywhere else? All that he has ever done is to approach to the lowest scale of intellectual eminence; and the world has demonstrated its settled opinion of his inferiority, by pronouncing even this a wonder. Within the last half century, the benefits of education, and the means of acquiring property as well as respectability, have been afforded to great numbers of free blacks, and every means has been resorted to for the purpose of instilling into them ideas of equality.
And what has been the result, ninety-nine times in a hundred? Idleness, insolence, and profligacy. Instead of striving to approach the sphere of the white man by becoming expert in some trade or business—some liberal pursuit or daring adventure—his ambition is limited to aping his dress, imitating his follies, caricaturing his manners. In the city of New-York are upward of twenty thousand free blacks; and the right of suffrage is given by the constitution to all who possess a freehold of one hundred dollars, if we do not mistake the sum. Out of all these thousands, not more than a hundred freeholders are found. What prevents them from acquiring property? They have precisely the same incentives as the white man; like him they have wants to supply and families to maintain; they have civil rights like him to exercise their ambition; and though they may not successfully aspire to high offices of state, there is no obstacle to their becoming of consequence by acquiring an influence over their own colour, which is assuredly a noble object of ambition.
There is nothing under heaven to prevent an industrious, honest, prudent free negro from acquiring property here. On the contrary, there is every disposition to encourage and foster his efforts. He is looked upon as something remarkable; an exception to his kind—a minor miracle; and having once established a character, there is a feeling of kindness, mingled with a sentiment of pity, which operates highly in his favour. He meets men of business at least on equal terms; and though this may not be the case in his social relations, still, the advantages he derives from his integrity and talents, are such as in all ages have been found sufficient to stimulate the white man to the highest efforts of body and mind. Still less has the negro, whether free or a slave, in his own country or elsewhere, ever attained distinction in intellectual acquirements, in arts, science, or literature, although the means have been afforded in thousands of instances. He has scarcely reached the confines of mediocrity, and appears indifferent to almost every acquirement except dancing and music—one, the favourite accomplishment of weak and frivolous minds, the other, the divinity of worn-out nations. Even in these they do not arrive at originality, and have never been known to make any improvement on others. It cannot be said that they are depressed here by the consciousness that all their efforts would fail in acquiring those rewards that wait on genius. In the present state of public feeling, there can be no doubt that a tolerable African poet, novelist, artist, philosopher, or musician, would meet with a patronage and excite an admiration, beyond anything which a white man of equal talents could hope to receive.
It may be urged, in reply to this, that the negroes labour under the consciousness of being looked upon as an inferior race, and that their genius is repressed by the sense of degradation; that their minds are fettered, their intellects deadened and paralyzed by a conviction that, do what they will, they cannot overcome the disadvantages of their peculiar state, or rise to the level of the white man. But has not the latter, in every age and nation, been some time or other fettered by similar disadvantages? The time has been when the people of Europe were subjected to a state of hereditary vassalage, carrying with it all the attributes of slavery. They possessed no property—they enjoyed no political rights; and the distance between them and the feudal lords was as broad, and apparently as impassable, as that between the slave of the United States and his master. The distinction of colour alone was wanting to render the similitude complete. Yet the mind of the white man, gradually, by mighty efforts, and by a series of irresistible expansions, rose superior to all the disadvantages of his situation, and achieved victory after victory over what seemed invincible to human efforts. He never sunk to the level of the negro; his mind was not subjugated; he possessed within himself the principle of regeneration, and to this day continues marching steadily, resolutely, irresistibly forward to his destiny, which is to be free.
The mind of the African, not only in his native country, but through every change, and in all circumstances, seems in a great degree divested of this divine attribute of progressive improvement. In his own country he has, for a long series of ages, remained in the same state of barbarism. For aught we can gather from history, the woolly-headed race of Africans had the same opportunities for improvement that have fallen to the lot of the inhabitants of Asia and Europe. A portion of them lived contiguous to the Mediterranean— that famous sea along whose shores was concentrated the arts and literature of the world; the Carthaginians, rivals of Rome in war, in commerce, and in civilization, long flourished on their borders; the Romans established provinces among them; and the Saracens, then the most polished race of mankind, founded an empire at their doors. Yet they have never awakened from their long sleep of barbarism. They remained, and still remain, savages and pagans, destitute of the rudiments of civilization; three-fourths of them hereditary slaves, and the remainder subject to the will of little arbitrary despots, whose tyranny is proportioned to the insignificance of their dominions. Without the virtues of barbarians, they possess the vices of a corrupted race; and no one can peruse the travels of Mungo Park without receiving the conviction that they are a treacherous, inhospitable, and worthless breed. Even at this moment the news has arrived, that they have massacred a colony of their own colour, established for the most benevolent purposes, on their shores, and on a plan which, if ultimately successful, may free millions of their race from bondage, while it introduces, if any means are adequate to such a purpose, civilization and Christianity into the bosom of their country.