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"AMERICAN SLAVERY AS IT IS.”
In a former article under this title, which our readers will remember is the title of a book containing evidence of the facts which were the subject of our remarks, we endeavored cautiously and candidly to state, in a few particulars, what seemed to us to be proved, by unimpeachable testimony, to be the actual condition of slavery in the United States. The topics we then treated make but a small part of the whole subject and were far from being exhausted; and we do not now resume the subject with a hope of giving it a complete discussion, but for the purpose of laying before our readers some additional considerations, which may assist in determining what is the real condition of slaves in our country.
It may be thought, that such cruelty as we have supposed to be not uncommon would be mere madness in slaveholders; that it is a wanton destruction of their own property ; that self-interest alone would induce them to use their slaves well. It may be answered first, that this argument might serve well enough to rebut vague and presumptive evidence of cruelty-it would go far to show, antecedently to any testimony, the imprubability that cruelty would be frequently practised ; but it weighs nothing against the clear and positive proof which remains uncontradicted in the book before us. Besides, the
argument assumes that pecuniary interest is always a paramount motive with men. Is it so? Do men never waste their property recklessly and foolishly? Is violent passion, the love of ease, or the love of pleasure, never seen to be too strong for the love of property? Selfinterest is only one of the many motives which sway men's conduct, and may or may not be predominant. It may be overruled by some incentives that are baser, and many that are nobler than itself. A generous disregard to selfish interests is commonly considered a distinguishing trait of the Southern character. Again, supposing these motives to be in constant and active operation, it would protect the slave only from such cruelties as tend to shorten his life or lessen his efficiency as a labourer. Within those limits, injuries and torments may be inflicted on him which make his life a perpetual misery.
But there are considerable classes of slaves whom the interest of the master does not protect at all. Such are the following. Old
slaves, who have outlived their capacity of labour. To what extent they are turned off by their owners, to perish or to sustain their miserable existence as they can, we have no means of ascertaining. The following testimony of Sarah M. Grimké leaves room for the inference that the practice prevails to a considerable extent in the city of Charleston, inasmuch as the cases she mentions were quite incidentally discovered, without having been made a special object of search. “When the Ladies' Benevolent Society in Charleston, S. C., of which I was a visiting commissioner, first went into operation, we were applied to for the relief of several sick and aged colored persons. On inquiry, we found that nearly all the colored persons who had solicited aid were slaves, who, being no longer able to work for their owners, were thus inhumanly cast out in their sickness and old age,
and must have perished but for the kindness of their friends."
Worn out slaves, whose constitutions are broken down in middle life, by excessive labour. The incurably diseased and maimed. The blind, insane, idiots and greatly deformed. Feeble infants, the cost and trouble of whose rearing would not be compensated by their value as labourers. And in the far South and Southwest, where it is found to be cheaper to buy slaves than to raise them, no infants are protected by the interest of the owner. Hired slaves. It is the interest of the hirer to get from them as much work as possible, without producing an actual injury which can be proved in a court of justice to have impaired their power to labour. In some parts of the South this is a large class. Slaves under the management of overseers whose salaries are proportioned to the crops they raise. This method of compensating overseers extensively prevails. It is obvious they have no interest in cherishing the lives of the slaves entrusted to their care, and are strongly impelled by selfish considerations to urge them up to the very limit of their strength, or beyond it.
Moreover, there are occasions when it becomes the direct pecuniary interest of the owner to sacrifice the lives of his slaves. When, for example, cotton commands an unusually high price, which it is probable will not continue long, he may gain much more by bringing the produce of his plantation early into market, than he would lose by the consumption of slaves necessary for that purpose. And in general, on the cotton and sugar plantations there is a portion of each year, when the labour required is double that which the number of slaves ordinarily employed is capable of performing without injury; but which, nevertheless, they are compelled to perform, though the certain effect is known to be a great abridgement of their lives; but it is considered better economy to incur this loss, than to keep a larger number of slaves, a portion of whom would not have what is considered full employment during the remainder of the year. The following are the words of the witnesses to this point. “Dr. Demming, a gentleman of high respectability, residing in Ashland, Richland county, Ohio, stated to Professor Wright of New York city, that during a recent tour to the South, whilst ascending the Ohio river in the steamboat Fame, he had an opportunity of conversing with a Mr. Dickinson, a resident of Pittsburg, in company with a number of cotton planters and slave dealers from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Mr. Dickinson stated as a fact, that the sugar planters on the sugar coast in Louisiana had ascertained, that, as it was usually necessary to employ about twice the amount of labour during the boiling season that was required during the season of raising, they could by excessive driving, day and night, during the boiling season, accomplish the whole labour with one set of hands. By pursuing this plan they could afford to sacrifice a set of hands once in seren years ! He further stated that this horrible system was now practised to a considerable extent. The correctness of this statement was substantially admitted by the slaveholders then on board.”
“ The late Mr. Samuel Blackwell, a highly respected citizen of Jersey city, visited many of the sugar plantations in Louisiana a few years since; and had not only every facility afforded him by the planters for personal inspection of all parts of the process of sugarmaking, but received from them most unreserved communications as to the management of their slaves. Mr. B. after his return, frequently made the following statement to gentlemen of his acquaintance ;that the planters generally declared to him, that they were obliged so to overwork their slaves during the sugar-making season (from eight to ten weeks) as to use them up in seven or eight years. For, said they, after the process has commenced, it must be pushed without cessation, night and day, and we cannot afford to keep a sufficient number of slaves to do the extra work, as we could not profitably employ them the rest of the year.”
The immense draught which is thus made upon the slave population of the States which produce the great Southern staples, is met by a constant influx from the slave-breeding States, and by an illicit foreign
slave trade, which though piracy in the eye of our law, and carried on at the risk of life, is still practised to a great extent. It has been asserted in Congress by a member from a Southern State, that the number of slaves annually imported into the United States from foreign parts is fifteen thousand.
We can notice but very briefly a few points connected with this subject, which we are unwilling to leave wholly untouched. It is said, that the cruelties which we have spoken of are incidental evils, which might be remedied without destroying the institution itself. If by this be meant, that they might be remedied by modifications of the system effected by legislation, we must say, that we do not see how any material correction could be accomplished in this manner. do not see that the condition of the slave could be essentially ameliorated without taking him from under the irresponsible power to which he is now subject, making him punishable for delinquencies and offences only after conviction before an independent and impartial tribunal, giving him a remedy at law for injuries done to him by his master, and admitting his evidence in courts of justice. These appear to us the very first steps, previously to which nothing could be done for him. But we should have more hope of persuading slaveholders to immediate and entire abolition, than of inducing them to adopt this change whilst the relation of the slave to his master remained in all other respects as it is. A considerable portion of the misery of slaves is occasioned by the forced separation of families by sale. But such sales are a necessary corollary from the holding of man as property. It is mockery to tell a man that a thing is his, and at the same time forbid him to sell it. A prohibition of the sale of slaves would be a virtual abolition of slavery in the northern portion of the slave States, and would soon effect the subversion of the institution in the far South and Southwest. Among the inalienable rights of man, mentioned in our Declaration of Independence, is “the pursuit of happiness.” It is the unquestionable right of every man to seek his own wellbeing by all lawful means, unimpeded by any restrictions but those which the necessities of his nature and the Providence of God impose; unimpeded by any restrictions unnecessarily and arbitrarily imposed upon him by his fellow-men. If the happiest slave in this country could attain a higher happiness and a fuller developement of his manhood in another condition, but is restrained by the will of another from making the experiment—no matter how well he may be
fed, clothed, lodged and treated,-slavery is doing him a deep wrong; and this is a wrong inherent in slavery, however mitigated its form. No man can be treated by another altogether as a man and a brother, as he has a right to be treated, -no man can be the object of another's christian love, to which he is entitled, -and yet be held by that other as a slave.
But would immediate abolition be safe?—is a question often asked ; and it has been often answered, that it must always and necessarily be safe under the government of a just God to do right. Aye, it is retorted, but the very question is, what is right.
And here comes up the whole question of expediency and the calculation of consequences. We cannot of course be expected to enter upon a full discussion of it bere. We will merely express an opinion. We acknowledge that the consideration of consequences has legitimately a wide jurisdiction in the decision of questions of social morality. But, with our present light, we deny that all such questions can be so settled. There are some things which must be done without regard to consequences." A man must pay his debts without regard to consequences, if he has the means and cannot obtain a release from his creditor.
He must leave off injustice and oppression, without regard to consequences. In general, the rules of equity must be observed even when they conflict with the rules which expediency would prescribe. Now we consider freedom a debt which ought to be paid to the slave, and holding him in his present condition injustice and oppression which ought to be left off“ without regard to consequences;
or rather that the consequences should be left with God, in firm faith that obedience to the simplest and deepest ideas of right which He has written upon our hearts, will eventually prove conducive to the highest good of all concerned. We believe, consequently, that immediate abolition is right, and a duty, and will be safe. To make ourselves fully understood, we must explain what we mean by immediate emancipation. The people of the North cannot, by any direct act, abolish slavery. The General Government cannot do it, except in the territories and district under its immediate jurisdiction. If either of these parties could, and actually should, effect the object, contrary to the wishes of the mass of the South. ern people, though emancipation, however effected, would undoubtedly prove an eventual blessing, its immediate effect would be many and long continued evils. Something of this kind is now experienced in the island of Jamaica, from the want of hearty co-operation on the