« AnkstesnisTęsti »
But Senator Hunter forgets the promise he made to discuss this subject "dispassionately." Like the warhorse, he snuffs the battle from afar; and such a battle! One waged against a part of his brethren because they interfere to prevent him from enslaving another part of them! Magnanimous cause! In his excitement he lets off the usual, though now innocuous, volley of southern rhetoric, and talks of "domestic altars wrapped in flames"; of "midnight assassins"; "of his hearthstone"; of "slaking the ashes"; of "the best blood"; thedearest blood of, his household," &c., &c., &c. Yet, in true chivalrous style, he "begs pardon" for the feeling he has betrayed; but like Bottom, the weaver, he seems to say, "let the audience look to their eyes."
If we could, in any way, separate the multiform about to say the inseparable-adjuncts of Slavery from the "system" itself, and look on it after the manner of a Virginian, who seems to regard it as little else than an "abstraction," we should, in our strong desire to accommodate the slaveholders, be half inclined to grant them what they so earnestly wish. They think, with Senator Hunter, that to deprive them of what they choose to call the "right" of enslaving their fellow-man, and of doing all that a slaveholder can do with his victim, "brands them with the badge of inferiority," and that it denies them what is "not merely important, but essential to their very prosperity and existence." I see no reason to doubt, that, in this matter, they think honestly; for with rare exceptions, they judge rather meanly of a government under which slavery is not allowed; and a slaveholder, particularly if he is a large one, looks somewhat suspiciously on the resident of a free state who has none of his fellow-creatures in bondage. A slaveholder of the third or fourth generation, especially if he be brought up in Virginia, or in any of the old Slave states, is the last person on earth to think that he can exist without a slave to brush his hat and coat and clean his boots.
In the warmth of his excitement, too-with the pleasing images which Slavery presents-and without once seeming to recollect that the Slave states are considered, by all impartial and well-informed persons, as a mere dead weight, a clog, to the Free states in their upward tendency toward civilization, Mr. Hunter thinks, that if Slavery were undisturbed, the situation of the Union would be far too high and enviable for his descriptive powers even to attempt to do it justice. On this theme he thus descants:
"You would then have," says he, "an harmonious, prosperous, and happy confederacy. Who would then undertake to assign the limits to future progress, if we thus moved on devoid of sectional jealousies and hostilities? Imagination halts at the attempt to conceive it. It is not for my pencil to make the effort to paint such a future."
After showing, at least to his own satisfaction, what has never been denied, that the North "have no right to trample upon the rights" of the South, or indeed of any of the states, "or to disregard the obligations imposed by the Constitution;" after threatening them with a dissolution of the Union, and using the commonplaces of "blood," "arson," "murder," "assassination," &c., &c., of the whites, by the slaves, in the event that right and justice be done; after portraying so vividly, in the passage just quoted, the many advantages that an authorized, quiet, submissive, and well-protected slave would produce to the Union, the speaker makes an admission, which, plain and obvious as it is, Southern politicians do not often make, and which calls for some explanation. In these almost humble terms he acknowledges the political superiority of the North:
"The Senator from Massachusetts said that the Slave states had grown relatively faster than the Free. Is it not obvious that he was mistaken? Is not the relative power of the non-slaveholding states greater at this day in the House of Representatives than when the Constitution was formed? No man can doubt it. Is it not obvious that the non-slaveholding states possess an increasing superiority. Who in his senses, then, can pretend to believe that the Southern states will acquire superior power in this confederacy? No, sir, No. That can never be our lot; we know it, and acknowledge it. If you were to permit us to live in this confederacy hereafter as we have lived heretofore, as your equals and brethren, the whole result would be, not to change to any sensible extent, the relative degree of power possessed by the two sections of the Union, but to secure to you the united exertions of all for the good of all."
The design of the above passage is to show, that the North should care so little and feel so little about Slavery, that the question should never more be agitated by them, but be one of the admitted interests of the country, whose existence and entireness should be the common concern of all—the common defence of all. In order to cajole the North into this he makes an open acknowledgment of the superiority of their political
power. Senator Hunter, notwithstanding his assertion, and the assertion of many others, that the South has full power to defend successfully any of her institutions against all opposers, has not forgotten to do what the most chivalrous slaveholders will do, when they deem it necessary, "eke out the lion's skin with the fox's tail." The admission of political superiority is made here in the same way, and with the same mental reservation, that the admission is made of any superiority in the conveniences of living and improvements of every sort, of the Free states over the Slave states. While these conveniences are overt, undeniable, the slaveholders still think that they are superior to the non-slaveholders; that whilst the latter toil like the slave, and increase in the small way, they are more liberal; that whilst the people of the Free states, from their closeness and parsimony, merit the name often given them at the South, of a "sixpenny, picayune set," they are more generous; that whilst the people of the Free states are engaged in a close, small business, they pursue a much larger, more ennobling one are more magnanimous; that in fine, as Senator Hunter would say, by birth and occupation, they belong to the "governing class." But lest we extend our remarks on Senator Hunter's speech to too great length, we have to leave many of his odd notions unexamined. As a whole, his effort, with the exception of that part of it which attempts to prove that Congress has the right to legislate for the Terri tories, a thing which, to all sensible and impartial persons, cannot be made plainer, is an incoherent and absurd rhapsody. Those who read his speech with a view of gaining informa tion, which, it may be supposed, every intelligent slaveholder possesses, and on such an occasion would take pleasure in imparting, will be disappointed. However, it will serve to show what opinions are entertained about Slavery in the class from which Mr. Hunter comes. But it is a consolation to think that they are the opinions alone of that class. The great body of the slaveholders, to say nothing of those who are not, do not entertain such ultra notions. The Senators and the other members of Congress have been elected for some time back, and they are elected now, for their fidelity to the cause of Slavery. We do not intend to say that no other qualification is required, but on this subject no man at all suspected would be chosen. To be considered, then, as altogether above suspicion, the most high-strung and uncompromising opinions are given out.
But Mr. Hunter does not himself appear to have formed any very distinct notions about Slavery a matter concerning which almost any slave in Virginia could be his teacher. "If," says he, "it be the control which man exercises over man, or if it consist in the degree of that control when you have ascertained the line where that control is freedom, and where, on the other side, it becomes slavery, you may find at home an application of your definition. Are we told that the good of society calls for the relation of parent and child? who does not know that the control often exercised by the parent over his offspring is as despotic as that of the master over the slave. If the good of society, then, call for this relation, à fortiori the good of society demands that when two such races come together as are found side by side with us, that the weaker should be reduced to the dominion of the stronger." The inequalities of human condition," among which Mr. Hunter puts Slavery, he says are "inevitable." "Establish what laws you will, you cannot prevent it. You cannot prevent the inferior from being enslaved, either as a class or as individuals." He very religiously concludes, that it is uncontrollable, because "an ordination of Providence." What a God must Senator Hunter have, and what parents must there be in Virginia, who are not disgraced by treating their chil dren as the slaves are generally treated!
Mr. Hunter, as might naturally enough be supposed, has a gloomy and uncomfortable view of the race to which he belongs. Instead of entertaining the belief that men are born to assist each other, to make each other more happy, that strength is given to the strong to aid the weak, he says, whole progress of ordinary life seems to consist in a series of victories achieved by the stronger over the weaker"; "that as, amongst herds of animals, the stronger appropriates the larger share of the food designed for all, and appropriates it at the expense of the weaker, so, of the races of man, the superior subdues or supplants the inferior, and the equal and general reward of society is but a universal struggle between man and man"-not for the perfection of their nature, but for the prizes that are to be obtained.
With regard to Senator Berrien's speech we shall have but little to say. It is not very long, as speeches on the wrong side, or on the questionable side, usually are. Nor has it the clearness and compactness of Mr. Calhoun's speeches, which we hardly ever read without a stronger wish than in the case
of any other slave-holding member of Congress, that he was on the right side of the Slavery question; for on it he appears as much demented as ever Don Quixote was on the subject of knight-errantry.
But as indistinct and unsatisfactory as Mr. Berrien often is, we get from him some matters worthy of consideration. It has been the opinion-universal, we think, amongst impartial men that in a state or territory where Slavery was not established, or, in some form, recognized by law, it could not exist, at least nowadays. But it seems that this opinion was altogether a mistake, for the Senator tells us that "the precise converse was decided in the Supreme Court of Louisiana"-" and that the learned judge who pronounced that decision stated it as a legal axiom, that in all governments in which the municipal regulations are not absolutely opposed to slavery, persons reduced to that state may be held in it." To such a degree of corruption has Slavery brought our state courts! To examine such an opinion and formally show its unsoundness, would be to prove ourselves as great simpletons as we would take our readers, or the court delivering the opinion, to be.
The following statement is contained in the last paragraph of Mr. Berrien's speech:
"Slaves are recognized as property by your navigation laws. You provide for their transportation coastwise, from the port of any state to any port or place within the limits of the United States. A citizen of Savannah holding a slave, the issue of one purchased by him from your officer, under a sale for direct taxes, for which he has paid the price which you hold, goes before the collector of that port, and having complied with the requisitions of that law, obtains from him a permit to transport that slave to Monterey, a port or place within the limits of the United States, there to be sold as a slave, or to be held to service or labor; and having your title to this slave and you having his money, he has also your permit to carry him there as a slave: tell me what au
*As Mr. Berrien has neither given the name of the case, nor that of the "learned "judge who delivered the opinion, may he not have confounded it with one given by the Supreme Court of Missouri, in which this notion is found? It is not necessary to show any general custom in a country of holding negroes in slavery to prove its legality. If it be found to exist in fact, even to a limited extent, and no positive law prohibiting it be shown, it will be decided legal." We have a belief, and with us it is a pretty strong one, that there has been the mistake supposed: for we have entertained no small respect for the good sense of the decisions of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and the dictum just quoted is entirely in opposition to it.