« PreviousContinue »
the same arrogant claims. Not only does it show us treason arraying itself against patriotism, -anarchy against order, and the Mexican pronunciamento against our American deference to the will of the people constitutionally expressed through the ballot box; it sets up a banner, inscribed with the old lie of tyrants, that might makes right. It scoffs at the idea of human equality. It renounces the sentiment of absolute justice. It despises the masses as fit only to be ruled. It affirms that capital sustains its true relation to labor only when it owns the laborer, and builds its sham confederacy on the doctrine that one class of men are born to be trampled upon and chattelized by another. In a word, sneering at the fathers of the republic as dreamy and fanciful enthusiasts, denouncing the Declaration of Independence, rejecting every principle of the Revolution and despising the doctrines of a genuine democracy, it substantially plants itself upon the assumption of the divine right of kings, and represents ideas as thoroughly and cruelly despotic as ever sat on a throne, or ground the people into the dust.
It is one of the inevitable penalties of the service of vicious principles or practices that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Never has the world seen a more striking or melancholy instance of this than is furnished in the decadence and demoralization of the South in respect to this subject. At the organization of our government, slavery was almost universally regarded as an evil and as doomed soon to pass away. We are not to forget, indeed, that the war of Independence had not enlisted the sympathies of the entire people. There was a large—in some of the colonies, as in the case of South Carolina, an almost predominating Tory influence. To this extent, of course, sympathy with the principles of the Revolution was limited, and there were those who turned a loving eye back to the leeks and onions of Egypt. But so far as the war was approved on principle, the people, South as well as North, were all enamored of liberty. Fresh from the discussions and struggles of freedom, the whole moral sentiment of the patriots of the country revolted at the idea of slavery any where, and especially under a government originating in the Declaration of Independence, and boasting itself the champion of the inalienable rights of man. Mr. Madison declared, in substance, that where slavery exists, Republicanism is a fallacy and an absurdity. Even the most bigoted adherents of Toryism and the staunchest defenders of slavery did not think of maintaining slavery as a thing right in itself.
Many persons suppose that “ Abolitionism” is a heresy of modern origin, the child of Lloyd Garrison's fanaticism. But Mr. Garrison himself never said severer things of slavery, or more emphatically urged the necessity of its abolition than the men of the Revolution. Washington and Jefferson were abolitionists, and the latter especially denounced slavery in the strongest terms alike on the ground of equity, of political economy and of moral influence. Madison wag an abolitionist, charging that the mere distinction of color was made “a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” The youthful and afterwards eminent William Pinkney, of Maryland, was an abolitionist, declaring that slavery is ** as shameful in its continuance as in its origin,” and that by “ the eternal principles of natural justice, no master has a right to hold his slave in bondage a single hour." Abolition societies existed, South as well as North, and as the president of the Pennsylvania society, in “ An Address to the Public," November, 1789, Franklin branded slavery as “an atrocious debasement of human nature.” The people of Virginia, in Convention, in 1774, declared that the abolition of domestic slavery is the greatest object of desire.” The people of Georgia, in Convention at Darien, in 1775, denounced “the unnatural practice of slavery in America” as “a practice founded on injustice and cruelty, ,"? " debasing part of our fellow creatures below men, and corrupting the morals of the rest." 2 But why multiply quotations? Has not Mr. Alexander H. Stephens, the so-called Vice-President of the rebellion, sufficiently summed up the evidence for us? Speaking in behalf of the conspiracy, in an authoritative exposition of its “ new Constitution,” he says, “the prevailing ideas entertained by Jefferson and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of the day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. The idea, though not incorporated into the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time.” 3 And he might have added that this almost universal hostility to slavery, alike in Church and State, found fitting expression in the ordinance of 1787, adopted by the unanimous vote of the States, forever consecrating the whole empire of the South-West Territory to freedom.
2 The most of these declarations have become so familiar that it is not deemed necessary to authenticate them by formal references. These citations have been mainly made from a " Manual of Southern Sentiment on the Subject of Slavery,” prepared by D. R. Goodloe, of North Carolina, and published in consecutive numbers of Dr. Bailey's "Facts for the People,” 1853.
But in an evil day, as a temporary expedient, as it was thought, for disposing of the difficulties arising from its existence, at the demand of South Carolina, seconded by Georgia and North Carolina, slavery was treated as a party with whom terms were to be made, and thus became a power in our national affairs. From that hour, it has proved an occasion of discord, and has been insatiable in its ambition, crying like the daughters of the horse-leach, “ Give, give.” At first, indeed, with rare exceptions, it did not so far debauch its defenders as to induce them to advocate it on moral grounds. It was conceded to be wrong, but was defended as a property interest, or as a means of sectional power. But the poison was diffused among the people, and it could not fail to do its work. Jefferson, writing of his hopes of emancipation, said that it was to “ the young men grown or growing up," who had “sucked in the principles of liberty with their mothers' milk,” that he looked “with anxiety to turn the fate of this question.” Alas! he did not consider that while, in exceptional cases, there might be those who would rise above its influence, the mass of the people born and bred in the midst of slavery, breathing its atmosphere, would catch its spirit and be corrupted by its principles. Becoming profitable through the invention of the cotton-gin, and the opening of new fields for slavelabor, it has educated its adherents to regard it as the paramount concern; and gradually wearing away their sensitiveness to its wrong as it has supported them in idleness, and fed their self-importance, and given them political power, it has wrought their moral depravation, until politicians and theologians vie with each other in defending it as the corner-stone of society, intrinsically right ; as a divine institution, with which all the interests of civilization and religion are identified !
3 Speech at Savannah, March 22, 1861.
History affords no parallel to this demoralization. The result has been the theory of society and of government which the South is now avowing. Toryism has ripened into absolutism. Slavery has killed out all republican ideas and sympathies, and carried its adherents back to the principles of feudalism. - The central idea of Northern society, says De Bow's Review, the highest Southern literary authority, “is the absolute equality of all the races of men.
Southern society rests on entirely opposite grounds.”. And the destiny of the States of the South,” it affirms, is “to assert the principle of inequality.” As if this “ principle of inequality" had not been the “principle asserted in all the oppressions under which the masses have been groaning since history began, and were, instead, some benign truth now first announced for the regeneration of the world! This, indeed, is what Mr. Stephens, in the speech just referred to, in effect declares. Denouncing " the assumption of the equality of the races” by the men of the revolution as “ a sandy foundation," he says, “our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas. Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man ; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth!” Who would suspect, reading this, that all the perished aristocracies and despotisms of the world have been “based upon " the very assumption thus strangely dignified as a "great truth” now first practically recognized, or that the struggle of the race through revolution and blood, has been against this old doctine of inequality as thus organized in governments, and towards a government in which the unity and brotherhood of man should be fairly confessed ?
Mr. Stephens, it is true, would blunt the edge of this criticism by confining the application of his “great truth” to the negro; but by what authority does he thus limit the application of his principle?” Color is nothing in itself
-only the indication of the inferiority which is alleged as the justification of slavery. But if the hypothesis of his inferiority justifies the “subordination ” of the colored man, the “ principle” applies with equal force to all of whom inferiority is affirmed, and there is no bar to the conclusion that “ slavery, subordination to the superior" class, is "the natural and normal condition” of every less favored and dependent class. The negro, as was just intimated, only represents the toiling masses of whatever color. Hence, the frank and logical defenders of slavery pronounce the consideration of color of no consequence, affirming that serfdom or vassalage is the only legitimate condition of the laborer, and that society can be stable only as it rests on this basis. This is the actual theory of the South to-day, A recent examination of De Bow's Review for the year 1860, and for the first few months of the current year, amazed us at its bald and bold avowals to this effect. It intimates the necessity of “a government based upon the principle of military subordination.” It says, “ to make one aristocrat in the future, we must sacrifice a thousand paupers ; yet we would by all means make them-make them permanent, too, by laws of entail and primogeniture." It frankly declares, “We of the South must so modify our State institutions as to remove the people further from power” and “ to lengthen the term of office," and that the new Southern constitution must make provision for securing permanent representation of the landed interest," and " an herditary senate and executive.” 4 Similar testimony might be quoted from other sources.
Is there any mistaking the principles or the logical results of the political philosophy with which we are thus furnished? Grant but for a moment the premises upon which the South has thus planted itself, and not only must the Declaration
4 We have not the numbers at hand as we write, and regret to find that our notes do not give the references as they should. These extracts are but specimens of what might be quoted at almost any length; and we commend the Review to all who are interested in acquainting themselves with the present forms and tendencies of Secession thought.