« ZurückWeiter »
whenever an example of oppression is wanted, allusion is made to the condition of the latter. The truth is, that parcere subjectis was not exclusively a Roman virtue. It is the usual characteristic of all undisputed power. It is a law of human nature, and in this very law of our hearts, as we verily believe, is to be sought a great mitigation of the evils of slavery—that compensation which exists in all the ordinances of Providence, and by which Infinite Wisdom is ever bringing good out of apparent evil. There are very few men who do not feel the whole force of that beautiful and touching appeal"Behold, behold, I am thy servant,” and no scenes of tenderness which we have ever witnessed, can exceed what we have seen on plantations, about to be given up by their bereditary owners. We do not agree with Captain Hall, that allusions to the poor's rate, and the parish work-house are as unsatisfactory as they are invidious. The Quarterly Review bas in a recent paper shewn, that every labourer in the kingdom, is in greater or less danger of ending his wretched life in those receptacles of wo and want, the last refuge of a worn-out body, and a broken spirit. Compare this hideous prospect with the easy, cheerful, comfortable old age of the negro slave made free by the very causes which bring the free operative down to the worst of bondaye. To say that this does not as yet occur in America, is no answer to our view of the question, which is bottomed upon the inevitable tendency of the system, if it be successful in producing the so much desired results of accumulated capital and dense population. Such a frightful mass of evil as now exists in England so much bodily suffering and mental anguish-sò many crimes prompted by the desperation of utter want, and punished with the unrelenting rigour of a stern and necessary policy, shew that, even under the most propitious circumstances, a large portion of mankind are doomed to servitude and misery. We are sincerely sorry for it, but so we are for all the evil, moral and physical, in the universe, and can only bow with deep huinility before the inscrutable wisdom which orders or permits it. We will add, that the contract by which, according to Grotius, the master has a right to the services of his slave, in consideration of providing for his perpetual maintenance, is, except in very peculiar circumstances, a most losing one for the former.t So much so, that there can be no doubt, the gradual extinction of villainage all over Europe, is to be accounted for in this way.
* And hence it is that, of the vicious forms of government, Monarchy has been found most bearable, and prevailed most universally.
+ A friend reminds us of Don Quixotte's reflection—"Duerme el criado y esta velando el señor pensando como le ha de sustentar mejorar y hacer mercedes."
It is the euthanasia of slavery, and those who are for bringing our institutions to a violent and tragical end, would do well to ponder upon this view of the subject. Another piece of inconsistency in Captain Hall, is his sentimentalism about the use of the lash, whilst in another part of his work, he undertakes to prove, and we think, does prove, that in naval and inilitary discipline, it is at once, the most efficacious, and the most merciful of punishments.*
We will now submit some extracts on this subject, without pointing out more particularly wherein we differ with him.
“I have no wish, God knows! to defend slavery in the abstract ; neither do I say that it is the best state of things which might be supposed to exist in those countries; but I do think it is highly important that we should look this great and established evil fairly in the face, and consider its bearings with as little prejudice as possible. There is no other chance for its gradual improvement, I am well convinced, but ihis calm course, which has for its object the discovery of what is possiblenot what is desirable.
“One of the results which actual observation has left on my mind is, that there are few situations in life, where a man of sense and feeling can exert himself to better purpose, than in the management of slaves. So far, therefore, from thinking unkiudly of slave-holders, an acquaintince with their proceedings bas taught me to respect many of them in the highest degree ; and nothing, during my recent journey, gave me more satisfaction than the conclusion to which I was gradually brought, that the plauters of the Southern States of America, generally speaking, have a sincere desire to manage their estates with the least possible severity. I do not say that undue severity is no where exercised: but the discipline, taken
the average, as far as I could learni, is not more strict than is necessary for the maintenance of a proper degree of authority, without wbich, the whole frame-work of society in that quarter, would be blown to atoms. The first, and inevitable result of any such explosion, would be the destruction of great part of the blacks, and the great additional misery of those who survived the revolt.
“ The evils of slavery are, indeed, manifold. Take a catalogue of the blessings of freedom, and having inverted them all, you get a list of the curses of bondage. It is twice cursed, alas! for it affects both parties, the master and the slave. The slave, in bad hands, is rendered a liar and a thief, as a matter of course ;-he is often systematically kept in ignorance of all he ought to be acquainted with, from the truihs of religion, to the commonest maxims of morality; he is sometimes treated like the beasts of the field, and like them, only better or worse, according to the accidental character of his proprietor. On the other hand, there is in our nature a mysterious kind of reaction, which takes place in all circumstances, from the oppressed to the oppressors, the result of which is, that no man can degrade another, without, in some degree, degrading himself. Iu Turkey, for example, where the women are
* Vol. ii. pp. 167-171.
systematically debased—what are the men? I have the less gcruple in taking this view of the matter, because it is one which, though not quite new to me, was brought to my notice on many occasions by the planters themselves, who, almost without exception, admitted to me with perfect frankness, that there was more or less of a deleterious effect produced on their own character by the unfortunate circumstances inseparahle from their situation. They are compelled, at the hazard of their lives and fortunes, to maintain a system, often in the highest degree revolting to their better nature. Like officers on service, they are forced on many occasions to repress their best feeling and act with sternness of purpose, which, though every way painful to them, cannot be relaxed for one instant.
“I confess, for my own part, I have seldom felt more sincerely for any set of men, when I heard them lamenting with bitterness of spirit the evil influence of the syster, alluded to, infusing itself, daily and hourly, into the minds of their children, in the very teeth of their own strenuous efforts to prevent such contamination. It is a curious, and perhap- instructive fact, that the slaves themselves delight in encouraging young master,' or even “young mistress,' to play the tyrant over them! What at first is mere sport, becomes in due time serious earnest. The difficulties, acccordingly, of right education in those countries, at áll its stages, are magnified to a degree, of which people in happier climates can hardly have any idea.
" In condemning slavery, and scorning slave-holders, we are apt to forget the share which we ourselves contribute towards the permanence of the system. It is true we are some three or four thousand miles from the actual scene. But if we are to reproach the planter who lives in affluence in the midst of a slave population, it ought to be asked how - he comes by the means to live at that rate. He gives his orders to the overseer, the overseer instructs the driver, who compels the negro to work, and up comes the cotton. But what then? He cannot make the smallest use of his crop, however luxuriant it may be, unless, upon an invitation to divide the advantages with him-we agree to become partners in this speculation—the result of slave labour. The transfer of the cotion from Georgia to Liverpool, is certainly one step, but it is no more than a step, in the transaction. Its manufacture into the goods. which we scruple not to make use of, and without which we should be very ill off, is but another link in the same chain, at the end of which is the slave
“ I shall be grievously misunderstood, if it be supposed that I wish to lessen the general abhorrence which is felt and expr ssed in the northern parts of America, and in England, for slavery. But I have a very great wish to see the subject properly viewed, and not shuffled aside, as it too frequently is, when all the matters at issue are taken for granted. My reason for desiring to see it so treated, arises from a conviction of there being no other way to do any good in the matter, except by considering it with steadiness and temper, and by giving due consideration to the interest and the feelings of the parties most closely connected with it—who, after all, are in strictn«ss not one whit inore culpable than nurselves, and are very often, in spite of all our abuse, the most zealous
practical friends of the cause we pretend to have so much at heart. It costs us nothing to vituperate slavery and the slave-holders; and, therefore, we play with the subject as we please; indifferent, very often, to the interests or feelings of those persons who alone have power to do any good. It would be far better policy to obtain their co-operation by trying to show them in what their true interest consists; but it is quite vain to expect them to listen with coolness, while we are putting in jeopardy every thing they hold dear in the world.” Vol. ii.
234-236. “The political problem relating to the blacks, which the practical men who shall be alive a hundred years hence, may be called upon to solve, will, in all probablity, be very different from that which it becomes the present generation to attempt. Whatever posterity may do, however, we of the nineteenth century, if we really expect to advance the cause of humanity, in a proper and effective way, must not sit still, and scold or weep over the system of slavery, either in the abstract, as it is called, or in the practice.
"The idle things I have heard on the subject of slavery, by people who had not seen a dozen black men in their lives, have sometimes reminded me of a pompous fellow who pretended to be a great sailor, till being once cross-questioned as to what he would do in a gale of wind, if it were necessary to take in the main-topsail— 0, sir," said he, 'I would man the tacks and sheets-let all fly--and so disarm the gale of its fury! Now, it is just in this fashion that many well-meaning people hope to disarm this hard slavery tempest of its errors, by the mere use of terms, which, in truth, have not the smallest application to the subject.
“The planters, who are men of business, and know better how to treat the question, set about things in a more workman-like style. Their first step is to improve the condition of the negro; to feed and clothe him better, take better care of him in sickness—and encourage him, by various ways, to work cheerfully. The lash, it is true, must still, I fear, be used ; but it may be handled with more method, and less passion. These things, properly brought about, beget generous sympathies in both parties ; for here, too, the reaction I spoke of forinerly, soon shows itself-- the slave works not only more, but to better purpose, and as the master feels it his interest, it soon becomes his pleasure, to extend the system further—which again leads to fresh advantages and fresh reactions, all of the same salutary description.
“ The effect of better treatment raises the character of the slave, by giving him better habits, and thence invests hiin not exactly with a positive or acknowledged right to such indulgences, but certainly with a tacit or virtual claim to them. This is a great step in the progress of improvement; because the slave will now try, by good conduct, to confirm the favours he has gained, and to draw them into established usages. The master's profit, in a mere pecuniary point of view, arising out of this introduction of something like a generous motive among his dependents, I have the very best authority for saying, is in most cases indubitable. If experience proves that such consequences follow kind treatment, and that human nature is not dissimilar in the case of the blacks from what it is in every other, these advantages, which at first
may be only casual, or contingent upon the personal character of a few masters, must in time become the usage over the plantations generally. Thus one more step being gained, fresh improvements in slave discipline- taking that word in its widest sense--would then gradually creep in under the management of wise and benevolent persons, whose example would, of course, be invitated, if the results were productive. This progress, I bave strong reason to believe, is now in actual operation in many parts of America.
Better domestic habits are daily gaining ground amongst the negroes, slowly but surely. More intelligence, better morals, and more correct religious feelings and knowledge, are also steadily making their way amongst that unfortunate race of hunan beings; and in no instance, I am told, have these improvements taken place without additional profit, aud additional security to the master.' Vol. ii. pp. 237-239.
In the following passage, he takes notice of an absurd notion which seems to be gaining ground in more Northern latitudes, very much, we fear, to our disadvantage in every point of view.
We have no uneasiness at all about the event of any servile war, unless it be complicated with some other kind of war. If our Northern friends will have the goodness to abstain, as with few exceptions they have hitherto abstained, from propagating impracticable and dangerous doctrines about universal emancipation and equality of rights, we shall have not the least occasion for their services in the field. Let the loyalty of the slave not be disurbed by jacobinical lectures on the wrongs of which he has never been conscious--and he will not conspire at all. Let bis conspiracy be unaided by foreign power, and it will be easily suppressed. Let it break out into open rebellion, and he and his whole race will be exterininated. We deprecate this sort of interference, for the sake of the slave rather than of his master. It will lead to nothing but discontent on the one side, and systematic cruelty on the other--to what Burke admirably characterizes as the “merciless policy of fear."*
“ The number of negroes is already very considerable, and they are increasing so rapidly, that some people imagine there will ere long, arrive a moment of political danger, from their mere physical force. Unquestionably there must always be danger from great numbers of persons combined for such a purpose as we may imagine the blacks to have in view. But I do not believe there is one man alive, who has attended to the subject, and certainly not one who has examined it on the spot, who conceives it possible that any thing but slaughter and misery would be the result of such an attempt on the part of the slaves to redress their grievances, real or imaginary, by means of force alone. Insurrections would, no doubt, cause unspeakable distress and ruin to their present masters; but there cannot be the shadow of a doubt, on
· Cf. What Aristotle says about the Helots of Sparta, lib. i. c. X.