Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

were brought from the South. Many of these stories were no doubt true, though probably much exaggerated by the transatlantic love of sensation; but it is likely that for one that was true, there were several that were false; and as soon as it was discovered that the North had a great appetite for these anecdotes, as they could be made to serve a political purpose, the market was speedily supplied with plenty of horrors, manufactured for the purpose of gratifying the abolitionist taste. These were made the staple of inflammatory speeches at anti-slavery meetings, fervid newspaper editorials, and all the machinery of agitation; and the feeling of Jacob towards Esau became such as ought not to prevail between brothers in a well-regulated family.

The effect produced in the South by these proceedings was as might have been expected. What had been regarded as an unavoidable evil came to be regarded as a national palladium. I suppose there is very little doubt that at one time the institution of slavery was more objected to among the Southern States than anywhere, except perhaps among the Quakers of Pennsylvania. I do not suppose that they were so far ahead of their fellow-creatures as to object to it on the grounds of humanity ; but object to it they did. On that point of the system of slavery which is most inexcusable in theory and has been most cruel in practice-namely, the African slave-trade—the Southern conscience is remarkably clear. They have had, all through their history, a long struggle to prevent its introduction against both Old England and New England. Without raking up old stories against England to prove her guilt in the matter, about Queen Elizabeth and Charles the Second, the Assiento clause in the treaty of Utrecht, and the demeanour of the House of Commons thereanent, I must mention one little fact which, I think, should make us hesitate a little before talking too loudly of the guilt of the Southerners in possessing slaves. It is this. One of our colonies, which is now one of the Southern States, passed a law, somewhere about the date 1750, to prohibit the introduction of negroes from abroad; and this law was repealed by order of the British Government, and the colonists forbidden to meddle with the subject again, as they were interfering with a trade that was very profitable to a large number of British merchants. The colony which thus had slavery forced down her throat against her will by our ancestors was no other than wicked, rebellious South Carolina, the Southernest of the Southerns, the cradle of secession. The other representative State of the Confederacy has a similar story to tell. In the manifesto in which she declared herself in rebellion against George the

Third, Virginia gave as one of her reasons for doing so, the unpardonable proclamation of Lord Dunmore calling on the negroes to revolt—"those very negroes," said the document, “whom by an inhuman use of his negative, he [King George] has prevented us from excluding."

I have mentioned the two most prominent States of the Confederacy, and I need not mention any more. Is it not strange that we should consider Virginia and South Carolina to be worthy of epithets which would be rather strong if applied to the chief of the Taepings or the King of Dahomey, because they possess in the nineteenth century what in the eighteenth century we should have considered them rebels if they had refused to increase ?

So much for Old England. Now for New England, and with New England the cognate States of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. As soon as these Northern States discovered that slave labour was unprofitable, they began to vote their negroes a nuisance, and try to sell them to the South. But the South would not have them. The laws of all her States contain provisions against their importation, at first for purposes of merchandise, and finally, in some cases, for any purposes whatsoever. The obstinacy with which the North strove to elude these laws, and try and force negroes upon the South by

fraud, as our Government had done by force, may be seen by the increasing severity of the penalties attached to the offence. It would be extremely tedious to go into details upon this matter. It will be enough to take one example, Maryland. Maryland is a frontier State, lying to the south of the Potomac, and more exposed to the dreaded evil than any of her sisters, even Virginia. Here are the penalties for introducing negroes under her law :

In 1791, it is forbidden to bring in slaves for purposes of sale.

In 1797, it is forbidden to bring them in at all, except under certain limitations. A penalty is added —the forfeiture of the slaves, who become free.

In 1809, it is enacted that any person bringing in a free negro or mulatto, or one bound to remain only for a term of years, with intent to sell him as a slave, shall be fined 800 dollars, or be set to work on the roads for five years (or less, if the court sees fit).

In 1810, the penalty is increased. The offender is to be imprisoned, the term of imprisonment varying from one year to five.

Since then it has been enacted that any person who comes into the State shall take an oath that he does not bring with him any slaves at all; and in the case of bona fide residents, who are exceptionally allowed to bring in slaves for their own service, it is forbidden to bring in any who, or whose mothers, were not residents in the United States before 1794 ; and in all cases such slaves have to be registered, with names and full description.

I have mentioned one object which the North had in trying to push her negroes down South-namely, to get rid of them. But there are other less innocent, or at least less excusable motives. Our friend Jacob is a great slave-trader; and of all the communities where he dwells, the keenest and smartest is godly Massachusetts. The first American ship that ever took part in this traffic sailed from the port of Boston. Oh! godly New Englanders, who listen to Henry Beecher and Anna Dickinson! if all slaveholders must fall into the gulf when they pass the bridge of Al-Sirat, where must your ancestors be?

However, even this is not the worst of it. If Jacob was a slave-trader, he could plead the example of his mother, not Rebecca, but Britannia. He keeps it up long after she thinks it barbarous and wrong, and has left it off; but some people find it more difficult to break themselves off bad habits than others, and we must try and make allowances. Only he has got into another habit, for which we fear no sort of palliation is to be found—that which we have seen pointed at by the laws of Maryland. He is in the habit of kidnapping free negroes for the purpose of

« AnteriorContinuar »