Page images
PDF
EPUB

Could you go

from man to man among them, and ask of each the question-Do you desire to be free?—from very many, and these the best and most thoughtful of them, you would receive a decided answer in the negative, and I speak what I know when I say this. From others you would receive a different answer. But sit down, now, and question them, for the purpose of ascertaining what is the idea they attach to the word freedom, and in ninetynine cases out of a hundred you will find that the only idea of freedom they have is the idea of exemption from labour. But is exemption from labour freedom? Or, can any one confer such freedom as this upon man, until the work of human redemption is complete, and the Son of God has rolled back the curse laid upon

man sinning" in the sentence, “ In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken : for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return ?"

In confirmation of the above statement, let me call your attention to the two facts, apparently contradictory, which it alone explains. (1) That our slaves are the most contented, cheerful class of labourers on the face of the earth, and (2) That the fugitive slaves in the Northern States and Canada are the most idle and worthless class in the communities to which they have gone.

II. A second error respects the rights of the slave race in our country.

1. Whatever may be affirmed respecting human rights in the abstract, practically, no man has a right to that which he is incapable of using with benefit to himself and safety to society. Or, apply. ing this general principle to the case before us—in the words of Dr. Hodge, as quoted by you in your first Letter—“the right to personal liberty is conditioned by the ability to exercise beneficially that right.Îf then the slave race among us do not possess the ability“ to exercise beneficially the rights” of freemen—and I know that you will agree with me that such is the fact at the present time—it follows that their present slavery involves no violation of any right of theirs to freedom, for they have no such right. Do not say this reasoning involves the perpetuity of slavery. The right to personal freedom, and the right to such improvement as may ultimately fit them for freedom, are entirely different things ; and with perfect consistency, I deny the one, whilst I fully admit the other; and before I close this letter, I will show you just how I think their claim under the last-mentioned right is to be met and satisfied.

2. The right to labour”-in the true sense of that much-abused expression that is, the right of every one willing and able to earn a living, to have that living, is a common right, belonging to every man, and a right which cannot be forfeited, excepting by such crime as forfeits life itself. So reason teaches ;-80 teaches the word of God,—“And God said, Behold, I have given you”-i. e. Adam, our common parent—"every herb bearing seed, which is

upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Gen. 1:29, compare with 9:3). And every state of society which fails to secure this right, is vicious in so far as it fails. And every civil government which does not protect this right of the weak and poor, against the rich and powerful, is faulty in so far as it does not protect it. This right is one of the most precious temporal rights which the poor man has, for on this bis comfort and his very life depend.

This right is secured under the system of slavery which exists in our country to a poor, degraded race of labourers, not only better than it could be secured to the same race under a system of free labour, but better than it is secured to a more elevated race of labourers in Europe, under any of the systems which prevail among the civilized nations of the Old World. In this most important particular, a system of slavery, instead of interfering with man's right, secures it.

III. It is an error to attribute the suffering, and vice, and crime, apparent among our slaves, to their slavery.

Official returns show that the suffering, and vice, and crime, apparent among the portion of the African race in slavery in our country, are far less than will be found among the portion of their race in freedom. As well might we attribute the suffering and crime among the manufacturing population in England—and if we may believe the sworn testimony taken before commissions of Parliament, the amount of suffering, at the least, is greater there than here-to manufactures ; or the suffering and crime of the degraded portion of the white population in the Northern States to their freedom, as that among our slaves to their slavery.

The truth with respect to this matter is—as both observation and the word of God teach us—that suffering, and vice, and crime are the proper fruits of human degradation, and this degradation is a consequence of sin. Where, for a series of generations, a people have been sinking under the degrading influence of sin, no form of government, civil or social, can sever that connection which God has established between sin and degradation, on the one hand, and sin and suffering on the other. In the case of a degraded race situated as the African race in our country is, in so far as slavery exerts any influence, it is to diminish the amount of suffering, and vice, and crime among them, and not to increase it.

IV. A fourth error is in attributing the degradation of our slaves to their slavery.

That this degradation did not originate with slavery is placed beyond all question, by comparing our slaves with their countrymen in Africa, who have never left their native shores.

That it has not perpetuated this degradation, will be rendered equally evident by comparing the slaves among us now, with the same race when brought to this country. I doubt whether history furnishes us with an instance in which a deeply degraded race have made more rapid progress, upward and onward, than has been made by this race since their introduction among us.

The general reasoning we often hear on this subject is fallacious, if I mistake not, because it takes no account of the grand obstacle to the elevation of a degraded people; and that grand obstacle is idleness. If history teaches anything clearly, it is that you can never elevate a people in the scale of civilization, unless you can bring them to labour. From what I have seen of the African race in our country, I fully concur with Dr. Baxter in the opinion, “If the Southern slaves were emancipated in a body, and placed in a community by themselves, from their unwillingness to labour, they would sink into a savage state, and live by the chase, or the spontaneous productions of the earth, or else they would establish new forms of slavery among themselves." (Essay on Abolition of Slavery, p. 7.).

To a people such as the slave race in our country, the effect of slavery is elevating and not degrading. History points us to but one way—in so far as civil and political agencies are concernedin which a deeply degraded race has ever yet been fitted for freedom; and that is, through the operation of a system of slavery, gradually ameliorating as the people were prepared for its amelioration. In this way our Anglo-Saxon race, once deemed by Cicero unfit even for slaves, but now in the van of civilization, worked their way up to freedom.

SECTION VI.-EMANCIPATION LAWS.

In approaching this subject of emancipation, there are certain points on which, I doubt not, we agree; and it may be well to note them distinctly at the outset. They are, (1) Present emancipation would be a curse and not a blessing to our slaves ; and (2) Emancipation, with the prospect of the emancipated slaves remaining in this country, is neither practicable nor desirable, unless the slave race could be greatly elevated above their present position before obtaining their freedom.

The plan of emancipation which you would favour is substantially that adopted by the Northern States, near the beginning of the present century, with the addition of a provision for the removal to Africa of the emancipated slaves.

This plan embraces three particulars, viz. :

1. A law prospective in its operation—say that all slaves born after a certain year shall become free at the age of twenty-five.

2. Provision for the instruction of those to be emancipated in the rudiments of learning.

3. Provision for their transfer and comfortable settlement in Africa when they become free.

To all such plans as this I have several objections, for which I will ask a candid and careful examination.

Objection 18t. I believe that any such law would, in its practical working, prove, to a very large extent, a transportation and not an emancipation law.

Such was the fact with respect to the laws adopted in the New England and Northern States. In his “Modern Reform Examined" (p. 31), Dr. Stiles makes the statement: “When emancipation laws forbade the prolongation of slavery at the North, there are living witnesses who saw the crowds of negroes assembled along the shores of New England and the Middle States, to be shipped to latitudes where their bondage could be perpetuated; and their posterity toil to-day in the fields of the Southern planter.” In confirmation of this statement of Dr. Stiles, I can show you in Virginia, some fifty of the descendants of these very transported slaves, proved to be such by the records of our courts : and I will add, it was the bringing out of this fact, in the course of a trial upon which I attended, about fifteen years ago, that first distinctly turned my attention to this matter.

When a few years ago it was proposed to make Missouri a free State by the operation of such a law, so strongly did this same tendency manifest itself, that the friends of a proper emancipation-Dr. N. L. Rice among the number-were obliged to lift their voice against it, declaring that it would be better to have no emancipation at all than such an one as this. In truth, the New England and Northern States, although they had but a small number of slaves at the time they became “free States,” never did emancipate a large part of that number. Their so-called emancipation laws were, to a large extent, practically transportation laws; and the transportation of slaves by accumulating them on a smaller area, is detrimental, and not beneficial to the slaves themselves.

I call your attention to this fact, not to reproach the Northfor it is not by crimination and recrimination the cause of truth is to be promoted—but to show you, in the light of history, what the practical working of these "prospective emancipation acts” is likely to be.

Objection 2d. But supposing the objection just stated could be obviated in some way—by the modern “compensation" scheme, for example-I object to the plan, on the ground that you cannot prepare the slave race among us for freedom by any short course of education, such as that proposed. Often, when a child, did I hear repeated the proverb, “there is no royal road to learning." And so may we say of a degraded race in slavery, “there is no royal road to freedom."

Let me give you the result of an experiment of my own on this point. Some eighteen years ago, I had living in my family a young slave woman, who seemed anxious to become free and to go to Liberia. She was a person of good character, and had been recently married to a man also of good character, who seemed likeminded with herself. After consulting with her husband's master, a personal friend of mine, and ascertaining that he was willing to adopt a similar course with him, I advanced the money for her purchase, with the understanding that she was to remain in my service until it was repaid. In the way proposed, the two became free when from 32 to 35 years of age. In the meantime, they were taught to read, and in other ways the effort was made to fit them for freedom. The result of all this has been that, instead of sending two good colonists to Liberia, my friend and I have added two to the number of free negroes in Virginia.

Were this a solitary case, I might think it an exceptional one. But after I began to get my eyes open to the probable result in this case,

I was led to inquire into the result in other cases of like nature. And I can give you case upon case, with names and dates, where similar experiments have resulted in the same way.

But, perhaps, some may say they ought to have been compelled, for their own good, to go to Liberia. To all such suggestions as this, my reply is, (1.) It is vain to expect to make good citizens for Liberia by sending them there against their will, like convicts to a penal colony. (2.) We deceive ourselves when we speak of Africa as “their native country,” “their home.” Africa is no

“native country,” “a home,” to our slaves, in their own apprehension, than the North of Ireland is my country, or Holland is yours. (3.) Emancipation laws which compel expatriation are cruel in their practical operation, since they involve the sundering of ties both of kindred and affection,--and thus revive, under another name, one of the harshest features of slavery, a feature which has now, practically, almost disappeared from the slavery existing in our country.

Objection 3d. I have yet a third objection to the plan of emancipation we are considering, and it is that I see not the least prospect of Liberia being able to do the part assigned it in this plan for a long time to come-certainly not while you and I, my good brother, have a part in what is done under the sun-if the work of colonization is to be carried on with due regard to the safety of the colony, or a proper attention to the wants and claims upon us of the African race in our country.

In order that you may understand my objection, let me set before you certain thoughts and opinions on the subject of Liberia Colonization, and let me ask for them a candid consideration.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

more a

[ocr errors][merged small]

SECTION VII.-CAPACITY OF LIBERIA FOR IMMIGRATION.

In all our calculations about Liberia, we must remember that she is yet an infant colony, and that the greatest danger which

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »