Puslapio vaizdai


timents-exactly such as it might be expected he would utter. But if to reduce our fellow-man to slavery · to American slavery; to divest him of every right which his Creator has given him, and which we acknowledge to be "self-evident"; if to disqualify him for acting his part in this world by reducing him to an article of sale, and throwing impediments in the way of preparing for the life to come: if all these are to be regarded as of trifling consequence, if they give no character to the system whence they flow, then are the precious and the vile equally objects of indifference. But if to do these things be as wicked and unjust as it has been supposed to be, then does Mr. Underwood furnish, in his own case, irrefragable proof of the hardening influences of Slavery, and of the pressing necessity of at once putting an end to it. For an American Senator, to whom is entrusted the interpretation of a Constitution intended to advance liberty and establish justice, and not to advance and establish slavery, their most direct antagonist, this is too much. Why, an East India Thug, whose education is to murder his fellow-creature and rifle his dead body, might reason as logically as Mr. Underwood does, for well might he say

"I am disgusted, I am incensed at the conduct of those who are making such an ado about the murders and robberies of our people. Let them give vent to their benevolence in some other way than in meddling in our pursuit. With this they would have nothing to do, if their benevolence were guided by intelligence and true love to their species. That they fully understand Thugmurder and robbery, about which they write and talk so much, no one can suppose. We are only pursuing the calling to which we have been brought up the same that our fathers followed before us. At all events, if there be any guilt from its continuance, that belongs also to us, say nothing of those whom Providence casts in our way, to be killed and robbed!"

But is Mr. Underwood serious when-according to the old saw, always at hand with shallow and unreflective men-he charges the abolitionists with not understanding the subject of Slavery? He seems to think, indeed, that to arrive at full knowledge necessary knowledge-one must be a slaveholder himself, and live in the midst of slaves. But does the Senator really think so? As well might he contend that a man must be a practiser of every sin forbidden in the decalogue, of every vice with which society is afflicted, before he can have knowledge enough to take the first step towards

[ocr errors]

removing any of them. And as, according to the Senator's notion, the knowledge acquired by a year or two's addiction to any particular vice must be small, when compared with what is gained by consecrating a whole lifetime to it, by being immersed in it- he who is oldest in any vice, other things being equal, is the best qualified for its removal. It is diffi cult to treat such an argument, if argument it may be called, in a serious manner. A smaller one was never before found in the mouth of an American Senator, or addressed to an American Senate: and on such a question! Surely, to break such a fly upon a wheel would be disproportionate labor. Mr. Underwood is yet to learn what, no doubt, appears incredible to him now, that he knows little of Slavery in its moral aspect, compared with what he will know of it, if ever he becomes repentant for holding his fellow-creature his brother-in bondage, and, from a sense of duty, sets him free. Maltreatment of the slaves, scenes of cruelty, in which they are the sufferers, have but little abiding influence on the slaveholder. We are ready to admit that he may think they are cruel, unfeeling, sanguinary, and that he would not be an actor in them, but the impression, most generally, is shallow and evanescent. It is only when he ceases to be a slaveholder, an oppressor, that these scenes, in frequency and magnitude, rise up before him; that the truth shines with painful lustre on his memory, and that he wonders with shame and confusion, that the suffering, the torment, the agony of his brother, produced such a slight and transient effect on his mind.

But is there any truth in the statement which Senator Underwood has hazarded, that the abolitionists of the North do not understand the subject of Slavery? If they do not, they are dull scholars, and much to be blamed for their unapprehensiveness, for Southern slavery has always, unless of late, been open and conspicuous. The slaveholder has been more frequently estimated by the number of hogsheads of sugar, or bales of cotton, or bushels of wheat that he could bring into market, than by any other standard; for these showed, to all practical purposes, how many of his fellow-creatures he held in slavery. We may profess to know much about ancient slavery-Jewish, Grecian, Roman; also about modern slaveryRussian, Mahommedan, African, British, French, so long ast the two last existed; and about the modus operandi of these we may talk with a good degree of confidence, almost with certainty. But when we come to American Slavery, some

slaveholding prophet cries out, Away ye profane! a more than masonic mystery lies there, which none but a slaveholder can unfold! Now there have been in the ranks of the abolitionists those who have once been slaveholders; those whose age is not below Mr. Underwood's, and whose opportunities of well knowing all the secrets, if there be any, of the "peculiar system," have at least been equal, and perhaps a little superior, to his. They, in order to defend themselves and justify their course, told the most horrible things of Slavery, as it was natural they should; that it abounded in enormities and cruelties, and that, in fine, it was the complication, the consummation, the end, the "sum of all villanies"; that whilst there was no mystery about it—whilst it was open to the examination of every one, yet the passions of men would, every now and then, vent themselves on their victims in some new and unheard of manner; that whilst the degeneracy, the still further deg radation of the slave, occasioned confusion, bred distraction, caused the deepest unhappiness in families, it rarely failed in its work of deadening the moral feelings, infecting the character and destroying the self-respect, either of the master, or of some important member of the family; for thus is seduction of others into vice, in the long run, repaid!

Now, according to our judgment, one of the best opportu nities we have ever known was here presented to correct errors and give information, which the whole people, especially those of the North, needed. It would be relieved, too, from the objection that it would be attended with no practical results; because it is supposed, and feared, by the slaveholders, that Congress intend to decide the question of Slavery on their present imperfect information. No place could be more suitable than the Senate of the United States, where error is most certainly yet tenderly exposed, and an account of whose daily proceedings is sent into every part of the land. No person could be more properly selected to publish a revelation of importance enough to reverse the wheels of the government, than a wise, experienced, and impartial Senator. Yet, notwithstanding all these advantages, the disclosure is not made by Mr. Underwood or by any other Senator, on this subject. But Mr. Underwood contents himself with petulantly saying, as had been petulantly said hundreds of times before, that the abolitionists did not understand the subject of Slavery. Even now, before this question is fully determined by Congress, especially if we are to judge from the acquiescent and tame spirit

with which the expulsion of Mr. Hoar and Mr. Hubbard from South Carolina and Louisiana was received by the state which despatched them on their equally constitutional and humane errand, we hazard nothing in saying, that, even at this late hour, any important disclosure will not be disregarded, but have its proper influence. But let it be precise, and apply to points on which slavery turns, and not on its mere circumstances. Let us not be told, that we are mistaken as to the amount, the slave, the laboring man, of the South receives for his work. It will be no answer, to say, that the master gives good clothes and good food to his "house servants," and, now and then, throws to a favorite field-hand a bundle of old duds that a Jewish clothes-broker of London or Paris would almost disdain. to pick up and add to his store: - rather let us be told, that we are mistaken in having supposed, that they who cultivate the fields and "wait" on the owners of them, have no unrestricted legal resort to recover their wages, when withheld from them. Let us not be told that we are mistaken as to the number of slaves, in any particular district, that can read; or that they prefer continuous labor to the improvement of the facilities that God has given them:-rather let us be told that they can go to school and improve their faculties as they list. Let us not be told, that we have been misinformed as to the manner of feeding the slaves at the South-that they are not fed like pigs, in troughs, and guzzle down whatever is thrown in to them but rather let us be told, that they are fed at tables, like decent people, and on sufficient and wholesome food.* Let us not be told, we are mistaken as to the number of families that are separated and broken up by sale, rather let us hear that no man can sell a fellow-being, or forcibly separate a family. Let us not be told that we are mistaken as to the number of Bibles distributed among the slaves, and as to the amount of the hindrance or prohibition of their reading them, or having them explained by persons of their own choice :rather say, they are encouraged, and have every opportunity to prepare for eternal life.

These things, and others of a similar character-bad enough,

* Some of the Slave states are farming, or slave-selling; others, planting, or slave-consuming. Whenever provisions or the materials for clothes are grown at home, as is most generally the case in the former, the slaves are, comparatively, pretty well fed and clothed. But when they are bought, as they are in general in the planting states, the slaves, for the most part, are poorly fed and scantily clothed.


to be sure are but the circumstances, the aggravation, of the system, but they are not the system. They are the bitter waters of the fountain, and they may be made more or less bitter, according to the temper of the slaveholder, after they have issued from it; but they are not the fountain. On these circumstances we have never made the question of Slavery to turn, but on the unlimited power which one man, subject to human passions, with these passions nourished and strengthened by such power, especially with his thirst for gain to prompt him to oppression and wrong, has over the body, and the mental and spiritual improvement of his brother. exact number of stripes which the Senator, or his proxy, the overseer, inflicts on his slaves; the character of the food he gives them, whether meat and savory viands, or some cheap refuse, rendered palatable to a long trained appetite by the hopelessness of getting any thing better-these things may not be accurately known, even to his nearest neighbours. How naturally, then, may distant persons be expected to make mistakes about them! Besides, as Slavery with us covers such a vast extent of country, and as its productions are so various, what, with perfect truth and propriety, may apply to one part, is taken up and denied by another, as untrue when applied to the system throughout the land.

[ocr errors]

But we would do Mr. Underwood no injustice. Being a slaveholder "and to the manner born," he has from his youth gradually and unconsciously succeeded in quelling the finer feelings of his nature toward his fellow-man; particularly to the most helpless part of them, the slaves. He, no doubt, views the slaves as, in some measure, made for their present condition; thinks they ought to behave well, be reconciled to their enslavement, and in his sense, be treated well. We think it altogether likely, that when there is an outbreak among them to regain their liberty, most generally an injudicious one, from their ignorance and incapacity for combination, — he looks on the acts perpetrated by the whites to restrain them as cruel, bloody, merciless. No doubt they are, for the majority of men rather act from what they feel they deserve at the hands of the slaves, from the horrors that an awakened conscience presents, than from a sober contemplation of the undisciplined, scattered, and unarmed force with which they have to contend. But we take Mr. Underwood not to be of this sort. With him, fear and conscience do not keep nature from asserting her claims. In his heart, if not in his mouth, he will palliate,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »