Imagens das páginas

Powers—of France, of Spain, and of England—that they have them. And however they came by them, there they are; and while I contend against our friend who spoke first, that slavery ought not to be looked forward to as the best fate that could befall the negroes for ever, I think that with the example of Jamaica before their eyes, the Southern whites are justified in not being in too great a hurry in taking a step which might consign them to ruin and starvation. We have spoken of Lydiadas. Do you recollect that other Greek tyrant of a much earlier period, who wanted to do as he did, and who, finding out before it was too late that his surrender would probably consign him to prison and to death, changed his mind, and seized the tyranny with a firmer grasp than before? Was Mæandrius a villain for doing this ? Would he not rather have been a fool if he had not done it?” *

* I am afraid the whole of this argument may seem rather absurd, not only to those who believe that the Southern slaveowners, as a rule, are ruffians and tyrants, but also to the Southerners themselves, or their defenders, who maintain that they cannot be blamed for inheriting the slaves, and that the utmost that can be expected of them is, that they should treat them well. I confess I think there is a good deal of truth in this ; and I cannot resist a slight feeling of amusement at my own arguments. But when people gravely make the fact that the slaves are contented into a matter of blame against their owners, on the ground that they ought not to be allowed to be contented with such a condition as they are in, and that their superiors ought to think it their duty to make them wish for freedom, I cannot avoid admitting that what they say is true, in a sense ; only we ought to be quite sure in what sense it is that it is true. And, at the same time, one has to guard against the slave-owner who may be provoked, by hearing what to him appears absolute nonsense and balderdash, into saying that the niggers do very well, and that he thinks they ought to be kept as they are, for the benefit of themselves as well as their masters. Gentlemen of the old school have objected to the education of the lower classes, on the ground that it would only make them discontented; and I suspect that a good many advanced Liberals would not be over-anxious to see their factory-hands or farmlabourers in possession of the franchise, even if they were not unfit for it. Probably they are wrong: but they would hardly think that it would be fair to “exterminate” them for their mistake.




I HAVE been led off the scent by this discussion on slavery, and have almost lost sight of the point which was the sole excuse for bringing it in at all

-namely, its bearing on the history of the Union. Perhaps it is a palliation and perhaps an aggravation of my fault to say that I have been as brief as I could about it, and in some ways too brief to be quite clear.

To return then to the history. I said a short time back that, whatever might have been the case with the Gulf States, the institution of slavery would probably have perished out of Virginia and her neighbours of the Border. But the anti-slavery cry put a stop to that prospect. The Border States, perhaps, might have got rid of slavery if they had been left to themselves ; but they had no idea of giving it up on compulsion. Not that any attempt was made to legislate against the institution in Congress. The Constitution was too clear on the subject to make any such attempts at all likely to have any chance of success. But the Abolitionists did what was quite as bad and quite as unconstitutional. In those States where they could command a majority, they passed in the State Legislatures what were called Personal Liberty Bills, which were in fact nullifications of the Fugitive Slave Act. It may be said that these Bills might be unconstitutional, but that they were outbreaks of a noble and generous detestation of the great crime of slavery. But, putting out of the question how far this noble impulsiveness is characteristic of New England, one can understand the Southerners' objecting to their neighbours breaking the law in order to be generous at their expense. There is no doubt of this, that the first Personal Liberty Bill that was passed broke the Federal compact, and might have been held to have destroyed the Union. So that even if secession had been unconstitutional in itself, it would have been made lawful. The South does not require this defence for doing what she had anyhow every right to do, both legally and morally. But there is no harm in setting up this additional buttress to support the building, though it is firm enough without it. However, this was not the worst part of the business. These Personal Liberty enactments were not very injurious, for I fancy the occasion for putting them into execution did not very often arise, as the Northern States were not such a paradise for the negroes that they often tried to avail themselves of them. And though they were insulting, they were not insults that the South was obliged to notice. But the anti-slavery or rather anti-slaveholder howl that was raised and echoed from platform to platform through many Northern towns, could not help being noticed. It formed the staple of newspaper articles. It was worked up with highly-coloured incidents in sensation novels. It furnished matter for declamation to Northern stump-orators. It was fulminated in the strongest phrases that could be picked out of the Bible by Northern preachers. To people who were with difficulty labouring under the grievous yoke imposed upon them by Northern Protectionists, and who were endeavouring to bear it in order to save the Union, it must have been almost maddening to hear those very Protectionists, who were fattening upon their misery, clamouring to take away from them their only means of living, cursing and denouncing them in the most unmitigated language, and calling the Union a union with death and a covenant with hell, because Southerners were included in

« AnteriorContinuar »