Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2003 Issue

Slavery in the United States <br> Chapter 5

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Let us now proceed to a summary view of the social and political relations which would naturally subsist between the whites and the blacks, in the event of the slaves being emancipated without a participation in civil rights, by which is here meant a voice in the government.

With the ideas and feelings which must inevitably result from the new station they occupied, it would be utterly impossible to keep them in subjection to the laws, or to restrain them within the limits of their social duties, except by force. With them freedom is but another name for licentiousness and idleness. Disorganization, hunger, and distress of every kind, with their natural progeny of crimes, would take place of the virtues of contentment and obedience, and for protection and maintenance they would exchange stripes and jails. It is impossible to believe that a starving rabble, equal, or superior in numbers to the sober and comfortable citizens, can subsist in a community, under these circumstances, without convulsing or overturning it, unless kept in subjection by a military power. It would be thus with this vast body of emancipated slaves. They would never be content with the bare boon of a release from bondage.

It is not in human nature to starve, where the means of preventing it are at hand; nor is it within the limits of possibility, that this rabble of newly created freemen could endure the plenty of the white man, or that they would not at once make use of their numbers, by attempting to wrest from him a part, if not the whole, of his property. As little is it to be presumed that the whites would not resist this invasion of their rights; and thus would be engendered the seeds of a civil, carrying with it all the attributes of a servile war, which could only end in the subjection, exile, or extermination of one or other of the parties.

Thus the freeing of the blacks, without admitting them to a share of political rights, the consequences of which have already been presented, would, in all human probability, produce the most disastrous dissentions between the master and slave. It would introduce into the states where this procedure was adopted, a condition of society, which could not by any possibility long continue, for it carries in its bosom the seeds of its own dissolution, in the bitter and malignant feelings with which a majority of those composing it would contemplate its existence. Either the whites must compel obedience to those laws which the majority of the inhabitants had no voice in making, or there would necessarily result a phenomenon in civil society, namely, a government to which more than one half the people refused obedience. This is an absurdity which would only merit ridicule and contempt, were it not for its deplorable, consequences.

Various other obstacles present themselves to the immediate emancipation of the slaves of the United States, but the apprehension of being tedious prevents their enumeration here. Enough, it is believed, has been adduced to prove to all rational and impartial readers, that such a measure would be equally fatal to the master and the slave. It cannot, therefore, recommend itself by any consideration of justice, expediency, or humanity; it cannot plead in its behalf the general law of God, which is the auxiliary, if not the source, of all human happiness; nor does it come within the definition of a good action, because it will not increase the enjoyments of those on whom its immediate influence operates.

One other alternative has been presented. It is suggested that the emancipated slaves would find their way to the North. But how are they to get here? Who is to support them by the way or are they to travel like clouds of locusts, laying waste, and devouring the fruits of the earth? What is to become of their bedrid parents, and helpless children? Such numbers could not work their way for hundreds of miles, and such an army of paupers would exhaust the charity of the abolitionists themselves. But admitting they arrived safe here, and admitting, what all experience contradicts, that these free blacks were willing to work, where are they to procure employment, without displacing an equal number of Mr. O'Con-nell's countrymen, who would become a burden instead of a benefit to society? No; these wretched wanderers would perish by thousands in their pilgrimage to the new land of promise; and those who survived, be dependant, no one can tell how long, on public munificence or private charity. Thus, whichever way we cast our eyes, in whatever light the subject of abolition is viewed, the result is equally discouraging. It cannot be accomplished without adding to the miseries of all concerned, and therefore does not come under the description of a good action, which, as defined by moral writers, must increase the happiness of those within the sphere of its influence.

Since this chapter was written, few of our readers can be ignorant that the subject of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia has been brought before Congress by the presentation of petitions from the little town of Wrentham and other parts of New-England. In the course of a debate which sufficiently exemplified the danger of perpetually agitating this subject, a plan of abolition was indicated by an honourable member from Vermont, who, it would seem, is equally prepared to enfranchise the slaves, and disfranchise the freemasons. Indeed, as has already been observed, the most distinguishing characteristic of almost all the champions of the blacks, is an utter disregard to the rights of the white men.

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