Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2003 Issue

Slavery in the United States <br> Chapter 5

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The plan of the honourable member, so far as it was developed, appears to be pretty much the same in all its features with that now in a state of probation in the British colonies. It seems we are never to be emancipated from the thraldom of British example. It is enough for many of our enlightened statesmen and philanthropists, that England does anything whatever, to induce them to follow the lead; and we appear determined to make all the amends in our power for having once had the hardihood to assert our independence, by surrendering it as soon as possible. Because England has thought proper to practice a philanthropic experiment at the expense of her colonies, we, forsooth, must attempt the same game, without stopping to inquire whether the circumstances are not altogether different, or waiting the result of the trial. We must tie ourselves to the apron- string of our old lady-mother, and never pretend to look at ourselves except through her spectacles. That we have derived great benefits from early English examples cannot be denied; and that England still presents very many things worthy of our imitation is equally certain. But the habit may be carried to the extreme of servility. There is one characteristic, however, which we would do well to copy, namely, that high national feeling which has been and still is the main source of her greatness.

The project of the member from Vermont, at least so we understand it, contemplates educating the slaves, preparatory to, or simultaneously with their manumission. When so educated, it is presumed they are to enter on the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens, and have an equal voice in the government. We would beg permission to ask the honourable member, if he believes that the mere education of slaves will qualify them for the enjoyments and responsibilities of free citizens? Whether it never occurred to him, that the habit of self-government; of managing our own affairs; providing for our own, and the necessities of our families; exercising our opinions; consulting our judgments, and regulating our intercourse with society, are not indispensable requisites to the fulfilment of our duties and the enjoyment of our rights as freemen? Does he believe all, or any of these can be learned from books, or imbibed with the lessons of the schoolmaster? If he does, he can have had but little experience of the world, or else belongs to that class of men whom experience only confirms in error.

To teach the slave the abstract principles of freedom, without the necessary commentary of their practical exercise, would be to make him a libertine in morals and an anarchist in politics. He would become ungovernable except by the restraints of force, and would thus be brought back to a state worse than his original one, because he would be the slave of a system of severe coercion, without any of the advantages of a state of dependence. The experiment has been tried thousands of times in the United States, and the result is much the same. It has converted a useful slave into a worthless citizen. It is only in the school of practice that men become qualified for freedom, and it takes several generations to make freemen. We cannot learn it as we do a trade.

Until the honourable member from Vermont develops the minutiae of his project, we cannot, of course, subject it to the test of further examination. Who is to be at the expense of educating the blacks for the enjoyment of liberty, and by what system of discipline they are to be initiated into the habits of freemen, is yet a mystery. All we know is, that hitherto such attempts have signally failed; and it is believed that the view we have taken of the consequences which seem the inevitable result of an association of equal numbers of whites and blacks, with the single exception of the state of slavery, sufficiently indicates that the success of such a plan would add nothing to the triumphs of philanthropy. Doctor Madden, a distinguished traveler, and one whose opportunities of observation in various parts of the world have been superior to most men, has lately published a work, entitled "A Twelvemonth's Residence in the West Indies, during the transition from Slavery to Apprenticeship,"* (* See an excellent article on this and other publications on the subject, in the American Quarterly Review for December, 1835.) which is recommended to the serious attention of all who feel a sincere interest in the subject, and are actuated by no other desire than that of increasing the sum of human happiness.

Dr. Madden gives no decided opinion on the subject; but it is evident that the experiment of emancipation is about to fail in all its salutary consequences. The products of the West India islands are rapidly decreasing, and the number of whites still more rapidly. It is daily becoming more evident that they will find it impossible to remain, when the blacks are admitted into a full community of rights; and the period is probably not far distant, when St. Domingo will not be the only example of the blessings of emancipation. The whites will be exiled, and these fruitful isles become the paradise of idleness, ignorance, and barbarism. This is probably what the royal and aristocratic abolitionists of Europe desire, since it is only in such a state of things becoming universal, that they can hope to retain their monopoly of wealth, power, and privileges. They can no longer domineer over civilized white men.

The honourable member from Vermont, in the course of his development, incautiously, we think, disclosed a secret, which may in some measure account for much of the hostility of our philanthropists to the institution of slavery. One of its most crying sins, according to the honourable member, is that of adding to the political weight of the republican party, by a partial representation of slaves in the House of Representatives. This reminds us that the same confession was made in the final stage of the discussion on the famous Missouri question, by the leaders of the same party, in both houses of Congress, when it was supposed the opponents of the admission of that state into the Union had secured a decided majority. It was then distinctly admitted, nay avowed, that "IT WAS A QUESTION NOT OF HUMANITY BUT OF POWER." It was a stepping stone to the elevation of a party then, as now, in a minority ; and then, as now, assuming the mask of philanthropy. This bold avowal of hypocrisy was fatal to their whole scheme of policy. There was, at that time, as there assuredly is at present, a number of members who acted upon principles of humanity and justice, and rejected with scorn the idea of being made the tools of ambitious politicians. They did what it is to be hoped they will do now, decline to become the cats-paws of a cabal which, whether as anti-masonic, anti-mail, or anti-slavery, is equally the enemy of liberty; equally the foe of religion and morality, in making one the cloak of political ambition, the other an excuse for interfering with the long acknowledged rights of free citizens. The most dangerous politicians are those who seek an alliance with fanaticism, and thus intrude into our political system, a principle which affects to be independent of the laws and the constitution.

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