Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

100

CONVERSION OF THE NEGRO.

[SECT. VII.

whites through the trivial daily incidents of their lives, they constituted emphatically the dangerous class of the South.

(4.) As for the field slave, every thing tended to em bitter him. On him fell heavily all the hardships of the plantation-yet not on him alone, for the female field slaves shared all the toils of the men. It was the intention of the slave system to keep these people in animal-like ignorance; it considered them in the light of machines, useful for the gains they could create. And yet, even under these most disad vantageous conditions, human nature would often assert its power. There were many of this class who manifested no uncertain tokens of a capacity for better things; who endeavored, with what intelligence they had, to act faithfully in the station in which Providence had placed them, and who found a consolation for the sorrows of the present life in the religious hope of a happier future be yond the grave.

Justice has not yet been done to the white women of the South for their conduct to the slave population. Through their benevolent influence, and not through any ecclesiastical agency, was the Christianization of this African race ac complished a conversion which was neither superficial nor nominal, but universal and complete. The paganism of the indigenous negro had absolutely disappeared from the land. Nor must it be supposed that this wonderful change was accomplished merely by the passive example of the virtues which adorn the white woman; she took an active interest in the eternal well-being of those who were thus cast upon her hands, administering consolation to the aged, the sick, and the dying, and imparting relig ious instruction to the young. The annals of modern missionary exertion offer no parallel success.

The fourth class, field slaves.

Conversion of the slaves to Christianity.

CHAP. XXXIX.]

101

“Our clergy and our women are the real leaders of se cession"—such was the declaration of Southern political writers, and such was unquestionably the truth. We can not fail to remark that there was hardly a war order is sued by a Southern general which did not contain a ref erence to, or derive inspiration from, the women. It will ever remain a psychological paradox that they who were, in a moral point of view, most outraged by slavery, should not have been its bitterest enemies; that the Southern matron, recognizing the lineaments of her own children in the young slaves playing round her door, should not have regarded it with the most implacable jealousy and hatred.

CONDUCT OF THE SLAVES.

It was impossible to foresee what would be the rela tions between these white and black races in the impending war. Very contradictory opinions were held. In the North slavery was looked upon as a source of weakness to the Confederacy; it was believed that an insurrection was inevita ble. On the contrary, in the South the institution was considered as imparting great strength. The fidelity of the negroes to their masters in the wars of the Revolution and of 1812 was often cited as indicating what would now take place. In this sanguine expectation, it was perhaps forgotten that a great mental change had, during the last thirty years, happened to the slaves. They had gathered hopes of freedom, and were universally expecting that the North would be their deliverer.

ing the war.

Their conduct during the war was above all praise. Their conduct dur. It extorted the admiration of even their masters. The plantations were left at their mercy; the women and children were almost without protection. And yet the slaves took no advantage of their opportunity; no passion was gratified, no wrong avenged. In regions at a distance from military move

Doubtful position of the slaves before the war.

CONDUCT OF THE SLAVES.

102

[SECT. VII.

ments, they continued peaceably their accustomed agricultural labors; in those near which the national armies passed, they merely escaped to freedom. But if, on the one hand, they nobly abstained from retaliation, on the other they exhibited fidelity to their friends. The national officers, many of them reluctantly, but all in the end, frankly bore testimony to the invaluable services they rendered. The information they gave was uniformly found to be true-so true that great army movements sometimes depended on it. They never deceived and never betrayed the Yankee.

Many very affecting narratives have been published of the escape of national prisoners of war from their Confed erate guards. In all these it is the same story; the fugi tive is passed on from one negro cabin to another; he is hidden by day and guided by night; he is fed, and clothed, and comforted.

But, if thus the negro, by abstaining from riot, insurrection, and the perpetration of private atrocities, in part repaid to the female society of the South in its hour of desolation and distress, the deep obligation he was under for his conversion from a pagan to a Christian life, he showed that he could vindicate himself as a man when publicly called upon by the authority of his country, and clothed in the uniform of her soldiery. Then he met his former master in open warfare face to face, and on many a bloodstained field made good his title to freedom.

By the blockade, and the armies gathered on the frontier, the slave power was shut out from the world. It was encircled with a wall of fire.

Far from being the paradise predicted by the authors of secession, that inclosure was a scene of tyranny and woe. No one will ever justly measure the desperate energy with which

Actual condition of the South during the war.

CHAP. XXXIX.] THE SOUTH IN A STATE OF SIEGE.

103

its inhabitants tried to burst through the investing line; no one will ever fully know the agony they endured.

As soon as military operations assumed a determinate character, the Southern States stood in the attitude of a beleaguered fortress-the war was, in truth, a vast siege; that fortress covered an area of more than 700,000 square miles; the lines of investment around it extended over more than 10,500 miles. Eight millions of people of European descent, their men second to none on earth in those virtues which insure military glory, and yielding only to their own women in fervid patriotism, were shut up with four millions of Af rican slaves. It was a siege, but such a siege as had never been witnessed before.

It was a state of siege.

In two particulars the South had at the outset of the movement great advantage. Her leaders were men who, from their long connection with the United States government, had become familiar with the methods of administration. The president of the Confederacy, Davis, had for many years been the national Secretary of War. In this respect he stood in signal contrast to his antagonist, Lincoln; the one had a practical knowledge of all the requirements and all the details of military life, but the wordy warfare of country law-courts, the noisy disputations of contested elections, were the only preparation of the other.

In a second particular the South had a great advantage. She entered upon the conflict not only armed, but armed at the cost of her enemy. The warlike munitions she obtained through the acts of Twiggs in Texas, and Floyd in Washington; through the seizure of so many forts upon the coast, and of dock-yards, armories, and other places of dépôt, gave her all that at the outset she required. The value of these acquisitions was not to be measured merely by

Advantages pos-
sessed by its rul-

ers.

Advantages in its
manner of arm-
ing.

104

CONSTRUCTION OF ITS POLITICAL SYSTEM. [SECT. VII.

their money worth, though that was very great, amounting to many millions of dollars. Their opportuneness was of equal moment. The South, Minerva-like, sprang to the contest ready both in head and hand.

To Europeans, by whom these great advantages were at first imperfectly understood, the South presented a very imposing spectacle. Even to those who regarded her movement with unfriendly eyes, the sudden completion of her political fabric appeared very surprising. In the Old World revolutionary movements have been commonly undertaken, not by those who have been all their lives habituated to public office, who are familiar with every state secret, who have had for years an opportunity of shaping the course of things to suit their own ends, who are in a position to seize a large part of the material means of the state, but by persons whose position is unfavorable, and whose means often inadequate. The organization of an efficient government by the Confederates loses much of its imposing appearance when it is remembered that Davis did no more than is done by any new President of the United States on his accession. Lincoln, in fact, had much more formidable difficulties to encounter. He had to make provision against treachery.

I have already related the facts connected with the formation of the Confederate government at Montgomery (vol. i., p. 528, etc.), and in a subsequent chapter shall speak of its more important special acts. Of these, however, there is one which it is needful now to bring into prominence: it is the transference of capital, to allure the the seat of government from Montgomery to Richmond. It has been mentioned that, all things considered, this offers perhaps the most suitable point of division between the secession conspiracy and the establishment of an organized government.

Richmond made the

Border States.

Rapid construction of their political fabric.

« PreviousContinue »