Slavery in the United States <br> Chapter 7
If this violent ebullition of newborn philanthropy were really sincere, we might pardon their injustice out of regard to the motive. If it were really an emanation of that Divine precept which enjoins us to love our neighbour as ourselves, however we might regret the consequences, we would respect the source from whence they proceeded. But all experience teaches us that pure benevolence is not confined to one sect, one object, or one colour. We consequently have little faith in the purity of its motives, when seeing it shutting its eyes and ears to the abject and unhappy condition of people perishing at its door, and gazing with throbbing commiseration on the distant, perhaps imaginary sufferings of those on the other extremity of the world. We despise that false sentiment of humanity, which, while it hardens the hearts of Englishmen to the wretchedness of the people of Ireland, and sanctions the stem step-dame policy pursued for ages towards that ill-governed land, displays such keen susceptibility to the woes of the slaves of the United States, whose real situation shall be placed before the reader in due time. This truly dramatic philanthropy, which, like Garrick between tragedy and comedy, laughs with one side of its face at the hundreds of thousands of half-starved Irishmen who pay tribute to Mr. O'Connell, while it weeps with the other over the plump, well-fed specimen of republican tyranny, with his cheek shining like polished ebony in the sun, may do very well on the mimic, but we are not satisfied with it on the real stage of life. Nor can we bring ourselves to reverence that benevolence which, while it gives twenty millions in paper promises to free the blacks of the West Indies, inflicts martial law and drumhead court martials on the people of Ireland, for resisting a system of oppression far more rigid and degrading, and a hundred times more lamentable in its consequences, than that of the master over the slave in the United States of America.
It requires a degree of faith in the doctrine of consistent inconsistencies which we do not possess, to believe in the sincerity of that philanthropy which ceases to operate precisely at the point where personal sacrifices are required. To relieve the people of Ireland, or the pale-faced paupers who contribute to enable England to undersell the world in her manufactures by the involuntary sacrifice of all the comforts of life, from their present state of wretchedness, would demand of English philanthropy sacrifices which it is not willing to make on the altar of benevolence. The church and the aristocracy, those great champions of all mankind—except their neighbours—would be under the necessity of relinquishing some very substantial advantages of purse and power. The landholders, and great proprietors of manufactories would be called upon to pay a part of the wages of righteousness. It is much cheaper to lavish their sympathies on the children of Africa, the slaves of the colonies, and the bondmen of the United States. It costs them nothing, and furnishes an offset against oppression at home, similar to that of the pious devotee who stole a pig, and quieted his conscience by giving away the tail in charity
From these, and various other apt and ominous indications, it would not be treating the philanthropists of England a tithe as unkindly as they treat the United States, if we should assume, as we now do, that they are not alone actuated by pure benevolence in their course towards us in relation to the subject of slavery. It is believed that it has been taken up, and invested with imaginary horrors, in a great measure, if not solely, from a feeling of hostility to our country. The statesmen of England have discovered that this is our weak point; that the excitement of its agitation is imminently dangerous to the union of the states; and that, with a little art and a vast deal of declamation, it may be so presented to the ignorant people of England as to cause them to hug themselves in a fool's paradise, by contrasting their superior freedom with the bondage of the slave of the United States. If, aided by the efforts of foreign missionaries, and reinforced by incendiaries of native growth, they succeed in producing civil dissension and a final rupture of the confederacy, the object will be gained. The cry will resound through the universe, that the great experiment of self-government has failed, and nothing will be left to mankind but a return to their allegiance to the divine right of kings, the equally divine right of the church, and the scarcely less divine rights of the aristocracy. Hence it is, that the negro bondman of the United States is now presented to the contemplation of mankind, in the publications and pictures of the philanthropists of England, and their humble followers in this country, loaded with chains, and crying out in an agony of despair, "AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?" while his master is invested with the dignified office of his executioner. The real nature of his situation; the social and domestic relations subsisting between him and his master; the comforts and immunities he enjoys; the duties required of him in return; the obvious interest of his owner to treat him well, that he may perform those duties, and the evidence afforded in his rapid increase that he is well treated: all these mitigating circumstances, which would gladden the heart of the true philanthropist, are kept out of view for the purpose of aggravating the sum of human misery, and throwing unmerited obloquy on millions of innocent people.
We say innocent people, because slavery in the United Stales, whatever may be its influence on the happiness of mankind, is not the product of this soil of liberty. It is not our work. It is not the offspring of our independence. It is the bantling laid at our doors by its mother, England. And here seems to be the proper place to enter on the inquiry, how far its existence, past, present, or future, can justly call down on our heads the denunciations of philanthropy. What have WE done, that we should be stigmatized as "man-stealers, scourgers, and murderers of slaves?" or in the decorous language of Mr. O'Connell, "traitors and blasphemers," "two-legged wolves," “American wolves," "monsters in human shape, who boast of their liberty and humanity, while they carry the hearts of tigers within them."
We have no design, either here or elsewhere, to apologize for the existence of slavery in the United States. That it has become a great political evil may be very possible; but it is the treatment of the disease, not the disease itself, which renders it dangerous to the life of the patient. All that is necessary to render it perfectly harmless is to let it alone. That it is a great moral evil, or that its existence or continuance detracts one tittle, one atom from the happiness of the slaves, our own experience and observation directly contradict. We believe them to be quite as happy as any race of hirelings in the world, and shall produce, in due time, our reasons for the belief. We therefore do not think that the United States, or the states of the South, or the holders of slaves in any portion of this Union, require any apology. It would be little short of an insult. As a matter of history, however, a short detail of the origin and progress of the institution of slavery in this country, seems naturally to associate itself with our subject.
History informs us that the first African slaves brought into the English colonies of North America, came to Jamestown, Virginia, in a Dutch vessel. From the first settlement of the first colony, the free importation of slaves was permitted by the mother country. It is on record, that the colonial assembly of Virginia, at a time when the nations of Europe possessing colonies in southern latitudes authorized the importation of slaves from Africa, passed several laws to prohibit such importation into her limits, and that the King of England constantly withheld his assent to them. When the people of Virginia, on the 29th of June, 1776, declared the government as exercised under the crown of Great Britain totally dissolved, one of the grievances complained of against the British king, was his "prompting the negroes to rise in arms against us, those very negroes whom, by an inhuman use of his prerogative, he has refused us permission to exclude by law." That this complaint of the interposition of the royal negative was sincere, is attested by subsequent legislation. Only two years before the new form of government went into operation, and while the infant states, and especially the state of Virginia, were deeply engaged in the struggle for independence, the general assembly passed a law prohibiting the further importation of slaves into the commonwealth. Every slave imported contrary to the act, it was declared, should, on such importation, become free, and a very heavy penalty was imposed on the importer.* (Hening's Statutes, vol. ix, p. 471 ; vol. xii, p. 182.) We have not the means of ascertaining whether any other of the southern colonies followed the example of Virginia, in prohibiting the importation of slaves.** (Dr. Madden, in his late work on the West Indies, states that the continuance of the slave trade was first objected to by South Carolina.) If they did not, the omission cannot be urged against them as a reproach since they were assured that the same exercise of the king's negative would be resorted to for the purpose of arresting the operation of the law.