Page images

affairs to the fundamental principles of the republic, it seemed necessary to devote considerable space to preliminary details. The preparation of this part of the work, especially, required much more research and labor than I had anticipated; rendered oftentimes embarrassing by the absence of dates in not a few of the many authorities consulted, particularly in pamphlets. This defect I have endeavored to supply, and trust I have been able to bring within reasonable compass a great variety of facts otherwise to be sought for in many different sources. The work was not contemplated until after the close of the war, when the occasion seemed to present itself for a review of the national condition. The claim for this service demanded also its speedy accomplishment. So brief a period, therefore, has been allotted to the work, that, though I believe it will not be found liable to the charge of inaccuracy, yet I can only hope that I have performed a task which it seemed to me the duty of some one to undertake, in a manner which may, perhaps, serve in a degree to lighten the pains of the future historian.

GEORGE LUNT. Boston, December 7th, 1865.





Statement of the Question.—General Sentiment of the Country, in regard to Slavery, be

fore the War.-Condition of the Negroes in the North and in the South.-The Slaves of Jonathan Edwards.—The Declaration of Independence, and Mr. Jefferson's Comment.-A Provision of the Constitution, and Votes of Northern Members of the Convention. - Alexander Hamilton in “ The Federalist” upon the Mixed Character of Slaves.—Washington, in regard to a Fugitive Slave.—The Ordinance of 1787.-The Resolution of Congress in 1790.–Views of Southern Members at that Time.--Article X. of the Constitution.—Memorials to Congress for Abolition in the District of Columbia.–J. Q. Adams on the Subject.–Virginia and other States early for Emancipation by Gradual Process, but set back by Abolition Movements in the North.

It has often been remarked that slavery was merely the occasion, not the cause, of the late civil war. This is true in the sense that slavery was but the incident, out of which grew questions of State rights, and the rights of Territories seeking to become States, in their various relations and modifications. If it can be shown, however, that the war could not have taken place except for the passions excited by opposition to negro slavery in the country, and in its defence, the proposition in question amounts to a distinction without a difference. Slavery, in the popular sense, was the cause, just as property is the cause of robbery.' Right

* In a stricter sense the Constitution, which provides for representation and taxation, partly based on slave labor, and for the restoration of fugitive slaves, was the cause. Without those provisions, there could have been no civil war on this account. The point is stated by the Apostle: “ For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid." Rom. vii., 7, 11.

fully or wrongfully in the country at first, it was here under the protection of the law, and not subject to be taken away by violence, or by any insidious device of abstraction. The motive for the allegation springs from a desire to throw the blame for the tremendous conflict upon one section alone, and to excuse the other. The object is, to make it appear that the country would have remained at peace, had it not been for the ambitious instigators of rebellion at the South. Upon this ground, although the Southern chiefs are made directly responsible for whatever mischief has befallen their domestic institution, the North deprives itself, at the same time, of the benefit of any argument derived from moral obligation in respect to slavery. It thus seems that the latter would have consented to allow slavery to remain undisturbed in the South, but for the agitation of the question in that part of the country where it existed. According to this theory, therefore, those whose manifest interest and supposed personal security depended upon keeping the matter quiet, voluntarily and causelessly made it a subject of dispute, which gathered additional vehemence until it terminated in open war. Reason, it is certain, does not always control the action of men, either in their public or private relations; but it must be admitted that conduct like that imputed to the South is without example in the history of nations.

Beyond question, popular information on this whole subject is indistinct and incomplete, both in the United States and in Europe. Its important bearings upon the future may render an effort to afford the public mind some light in regard to it both justifiable and valuable. Ordinarily, it is thought, the story of recent events cannot be written with entire regard to impartiality, nor a just estimate be formed of their results by contemporary judgments. On the other hand, not a little of the uncertainty of history is due to the want of contemporary narration. Much of the present volume, however, will relate to a period some time past, and we have not yet reached absolute results. These, whether for good or ill, will depend very much upon the deductions



we make from the character of events already transacted; and to be of any real service, now is the time for the history of those events to be written.

It was the sentiment of a large majority at the North, before the war began, that slavery, in itself considered, was neither right nor wrong. It was a question of policy and of law, not of morals. Probably, most would neither have desired to hold, nor to see any human being held in bondage, if freedom were consistent with his welfare. As it respected the negroes in this country, the whole question at the North turned upon that point; but practically, it was one with which the people of the free States conceived they had nothing whatever to do. In parts of the country not peculiarly fitted for the beneficial use of negroes in that relation, their gradual liberation and removal to their native land was thought desirable. In other sections, better adapted to the laborious employment of black men than of white, and from which the North and the South alike derived advantage, it was held that the well-being of the colored race, equally with the common good, required the subjection of that race and its enforced labor.

In no case, except where their numbers were so comparatively insignificant as to make it a matter of no real consequence, was it thought advisable that negroes should be admitted to any of the civil privileges of the white man, A different policy would seem useless, if not mischievous, to them as well as to their superiors, and degrading to the latter without being of any moral advantage to the former. The instance cannot be shown in the country of equal social station accorded to the blacks with the whites. It is a condition against which Nature itself rebels, and, being the strongest, conquers. In those States which have manifested the most earnest enthusiasm for liberating the slaves of their fellow-citizens, no disposition has been heretofore shown to place the black man upon any terms of actual equality with the white.

This anomaly is especially marked in Massachusetts, at last the most forward of all the States in promoting the cause of anti-slavery, although equality of civil and social rights logically follows from the acquisition of freedom. Yet, notwithstanding the absence of any statute forbidding it, no negro in that State has been a member of its Legislature,' has served upon the jury, or in the militia, or has been appointed to any office beyond one of a menial grade. Hence, his social relations may be readily inferred. To prohibit a whole race from the ordinary privileges of freedom, in a free country, is not to make them really free. In what is the condition of a pariah better than that of a slave? To talk of the boon of liberty to a captive, freed from his shackles but turned out into a desert to perish, is a profanation of a sacred name. Yet such is and must be the practical operation of freedom to the negro in this country. In this contingency, he is brought into direct collision with the interests, the sentiments, and the instincts of the more numerous and more powerful race, to which he was not at all exposed in his dependent condition. In the North, his kind has constantly dwindled, and, but for occasional accessions by immigration, would soon disappear like the original inhabitants of the soil. In the South, where the race has multiplied to such an extraordinary degree, while in the condition of slavery, the freedom conferred by the advance of our armies has brought them only misery and death. The same natural law which has prevailed at the North will exert similar force at the South, should a system of competition between the white man and the black take effect. The weaker will fade

away before the stronger species.

It is difficult to understand what consolation any honest and intelligent philanthropy can find in such a melancholy reflection. Doubtless, there are those who will consider that a system of slavery, which in this country, after all, was, in general, a condition of mutual dependence between master

and servant, borne with cheerfulness by the inferior, and ex-hibiting that surest sign of comfort, the vast increase of the

? A negro was elected to a Town Committee a place near Cape Cod within a few years

« PreviousContinue »