Page images

That decision, when promulgated, so shocked the moral sense of the people, and was such a palpable violation of law and decency, that there is little doubt if published before the election, it would have changed the result.

The court, through Chief Justice Taney, held: First, That Dred Scott being descended from an African slave, was not, and could not be a citizen of the United States, and therefore could not maintain a suit in the Federal Courts. This ended tl:e case. But the point had been made that Scott was free by operation of the Missouri Prohibition of 1820. The Chief Justice, and a majority of his associates eagerly seized the opportunity to pronounce the prohibition of slavery unconstitutional and void; and they went on to say that by virtue of the Constitution, slavery existed in all the territories of the United States, and that Congress could not prohibit it. Thus the revolution was complete.

The Federal Government was organized upon the principle that slavery was local, confined to State limits, and Congress prohibited it in all the then existing territories.

The Chief Justice, and his associates, now decided that slavery, by virtue of the Constitution, was legal in all the territories, and that the right to take and hold slaves in all the territories, was a right which Congress could not prohibit.

The Chief Justice endeavored to show that colored men were not included in the Declaration of Independence, under the language of "all men are created equal, etc.;" but he declared that "for more than a century before the date of that instrument, they had been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race; and so far inferior, that "they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect;" and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.

Mr. Justice Curtiss, in his able, dissenting opinion, showed that so far from this being true, that in the States of New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina, negroes had been not only citizens, but electors and voters. Mr. Justice Catron, of Tennessee, dissented from the opinion of the court that Congress could not legislate for the territories: he said "More than sixty years have



passed away since Congress has exercised power to govern territories by its legislation directly, or by territorial charters, subject to repeal; and it is now too late to call in question that power."

Thus slavery triumphed in every department of the Government, and seemed to hold an intrenched and unassailable position.

How does George Bancroft, the life long democrat, but with a reputation as a historian, which will not permit him to withhold the truth-when speaking at the grave of Lincoln, and in the presence of Eternity, characterise this decision? He says:

The Chief Justice of the United States, without any necessity or occasion, volunteered to come to the rescue of the theory of slavery; and from his court there lay no appeal but to the law of humanity and history. Against the Constitution, against the memory of the Nation, against a previous decision, against a series of enactments, he decided that the slave is property; that slave property is entitled to no less protection than any other property; that the Constitution upholds it in every territory against any act of a local Legislature, and even against Congress liself; or, as the President for that term tersely promulgated the saying, "Kansas is as much a slave State as South Carolina or Georgia; slavery, by virtue of the Constitution, exists in every territory."*

I have thus hastily and imperfectly, but I hope suggestively and truthfully, traced the progress of the slave power in the republic, from the revolution, down.

At the close of the revolution, it was a feeble, tolerated, local institution. The moral sense and religious convictions, as well as the political sentiments, genius, principles of the republic were against it.

But slavery, having in an unfortunate moment, been tolerated by the framers of the Constitution, under the belief that it would be but a temporary evil, soon aspired to power and became the master of the Government. Conscious of its inherent weakness, it demanded additional territory for its expansion. First, Louisiana, then Florida, then the repeal of the Missouri restriction, that it might go North and West, as well as South; then Texas, then the war on Mexico for more territory. Up to the period of the Dred Scott decision, slavery had generally been successful upon all the issues made with freedom. It was now perfectly absolute on the

* Bancroft's oration on Lincoln, p. 13 and 14.

bench of the Supreme Court, as was painfully illustrated by the doctrines announced in the Dred Scott decision. It controlled the action of Congress. It directed who should be President; and no party had thus far succeeded, which placed in nomination any man openly hostile to it. The army and the Navy, with West Point, and the Naval school for its nurseries, were its right and left hand to carry out its purposes. The control of the National treasure, collected and paid largely in the free States, was in the hands of slaveholders. The slaveholder held the purse and the sword; he ruled at the White House, in Congress, and on the bench of the Supreme Court; and represented the republic at home and abroad.

The fairest portion of the republic, with the richest soil and the most genial climate, had been blighted by its curse.

That portion of the Union where slavery existed, was comparatively poor, sparsely settled, with little thrift or comfort; with no manufactures, little commerce; very far behind the free States in culture, arts, and intelligence. Contrasted with the South, with its rich, natural advantages, was rocky, cold, bleak, barren New England. Under the influence of free labor, every valley blooming like a garden, her fields smiling with abundant harvests, every hill sheltering a thriv ing village, with every element of comfort; with commerce whitening every sea; with a skilled and intelligent labor which sends its manufactures to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Free labor produces this contrast, and everywhere the passing stranger reads in every object he sees, that liberty dwells among the hills and mountains of New England, while slavery blackens and desolates the sunny plains of the South. In the free States were to be found everywhere, the church, the school house, the comfortable home, the newspaper, the library, and everywhere domestic comfort, refinement, culture, the arts and taste; christian civilization in its highest forms. In the South were a few opulent families living in luxury and ease; families highly educated, refined, of great social attraction, while the great mass of the white people were ignorant, idle, and rude; with the great plantation, the slave-huts, squalor, ignorance, brutality. Slavery

[blocks in formation]

everywhere, operating as a moral blight; reducing rapidly a once noble race into barbarism.

The effect of slavery in retarding the material prosperity of the country, may be strikingly illustrated by the census tables, and a comparison between the free, and slave States. Taking for illustration, New York and Virginia. By the census, the population of Virginia in 1790, was 748,308, and in 1860, 1,596,318, making the ratio of increase, 113, 32 per cent. In 1790, New York numbered 340,120, and in 1860, 3,880,735, the ratio of increase being 1,040,99. Thus the rate of increase in New York, exceeded that of Virginia, more than nine to one.

In 1790, the population of Virginia, was largely more than double that of New York.* In 1860, the population of New York was very largely more than double that of Virginia.

In 1790, Virginia, in population, ranked first of all the States, and New York the fifth. In 1860, they had reversed their position, and New York was the first, and Virginia the fifth. At the same rate of progress, from 1860, to 1900, as from 1790 to 1860, Virginia retaining slavery, would have sunk from the first, to the twenty-first State, and would still continue at each scceeding decade, descending the inclined plane toward the lowest position of all the States.

Such has been, and still continues to be, the effect of slavery, in dragging down that once great State from the first, toward the last in rank in the Union. But if, as in the absence of slavery must have been the case, Virginia had increased from 1790 to 1860, in the same ratio as New York, her population in 1860, would have been 7,789,141, and she must always have remained the first in rank of all the States. The census proves that slavery greatly retards the increase of wealth.

By tables 33 and 36 of the census of 1860, it appears, omitting commere, that the products of industry, as given, viz: of agriculture, manufactures, mines, and fisheries, were that year, in New York, $606,000,000, or $156 per capita, and in Virginia, 120,000,000, or $75 per capita. This shows a total value of product in New York, more than five times greater

See preliminary census Rep., p. 132.

than in Virginia, and per capita, more than two to one. Including the earnings of commerce and all business not given in the census, it will be shown that the value of the products and earnings of New York, in 1860, exceeded those of Virginia, at least seven to one.*

The war taxes of the Republic may be very great, but the tax of slavery is far greater, and the relief from it, in a few years, will add much more to the National wealth than the whole deduction made by the war debt.

The population of the United States would have reached, in 1860, nearly 40,000,000, and our wealth have been more than doubled, if slavery had been extinguished in 1790; this is one of the revelations made by the census; whilst in science, in education, and National power, the advance would have been still more rapid, and the moral force of our example and success would have controlled for the benefit of mankind, the institutions of the world.

Having shown how much the material progress of Virginia, has been retarded by slavery, let us now consider its effect upon her moral and intellectual development.

The number of newspapers and periodicals in New York, in 1860, was 542, of which, 365 were political, 56 religious, 63 literary, 58 miscellaneous; and the number of copies circulated in 1860, was 320,930,884.

The number in Virginia, was 139; of which, 117 were political, 13 religious, 3 literary, 6 miscellaneous; and the number of copies circulated in 1860, was 26,772,568. Thus the annual circulation of the press in New York, was twelve times as great as that of Virginia.

The number of public schools in Virginia, in 1850, was 2,937, teachers 3,005, pupils 67,438, colleges, academies, etc., pupils 10,326, attending school during the year, as returned by families, 109,775; native white adults of the State who cannot read or write, 75,868.

Public libraries, 54; volumes, 88,462; value of churches, 2,902,220. By table 155, compendium of census, the per centage of native free population in Virginia, over 20 years of age

* Most of these calculations are taken from an able pamp..let of the Hon. Rover! J. Walker.

« PreviousContinue »