Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

North American States. The republican party of the North is divided into two sections, of which one may be called abolitionist, and the other non-abolitionist. Mr. Lincoln's government presumes itself to belong to the latter, though its tendencies towards abolition are very strong. The abolition party is growing in strength daily. It is but a short time since Wendell Phillips could not lecture in Boston without a guard of police. Now, at this moment of my writing, he is a popular hero. The very men who, five years since, were accustomed to make speeches, strong as words could frame them, against abolition, are now turning round, and if not preaching abolition, are patting the backs of those who do so.

I heard one of Mr. Lincoln's cabinet declare old John Brown to be a hero and a martyr. All the Protestant Germans are abolitionists,and they have become so strong a political element in the country that many now declare that no future President can be elected without their aid. The object is declared boldly. No long political scheme is asked for, but instant abolition is wanted, abolition to be declared while yet the war is raging. Let the slaves of all rebels be declared free; and all slave-owners in the seceding States are rebels !

One cannot but ask what abolition means, and to what it would lead. Any ordinance of abolition now pronounced would not effect the emancipation of the slaves, but might probably effect a servile insurrection. I will not accuse those who are preaching this crusade of any desire for so fearful a scourge on the land. They probably calculate that an edict of abolition once given would be so much done towards the ultimate winning of the battle. They are making their hay while their sun shines. But if they could emancipate those four million slaves, in what way would they then treat them ? How would they feed them? In what way would they treat the ruined owners of the slaves, and the acres of land which would lie uncultivated? Of all subjects with which a man can be called on to deal, it is the most difficult. But a New England abolitionist talks of it as though no more were required than an open path for his humanitarian energies. “I could arrange it all to-morrow morning," a gentleman said to me who is well known for his zeal in this cause !

Arrange it all tomorrow morning,—abolition of slavery having become a fact during the night! I should not envy that gentleman his morning's work. It was bad enough with us, but what were our numbers compared with those of the southern States? We paid a price for the slaves, but no price is to

be paid in this case. The value of the property would probably be lowly estimated at 100l. a piece for men, women, and children, or four hundred million pounds for the whole population. They form the wealth of the South; and if they were bought, what should be done with them? They are like children. Every slave-owner in the country,--every man who has had ought to do with slaves,—will tell the same story.. In Maryland and Delaware are men who hate slavery, who would be only too happy to enfranchise their slaves; but the negroes who have been slaves are not fit for freedom. In many cases, practically, they cannot be enfranchised. Give them their liberty, starting them well in the world at what expense you please, and at the end of six months they will come back upon your hands for the means of support. Everything must be done for them. They expect food and clothes, and instruction as to every simple act of life, as do children. The negro domestic servant is handy at his own work; no servant more so; but he cannot go beyond that. He does not comprehend the object and purport of continued industry. If he have money he will play with it,—will amuse himself with it. If he have none,

he will amuse himself without it. His work is like a school-boy's task; he knows it must be done, but never comprehends that the doing of it is the very end and essence of his life. He is a child in all things, and the extent of prudential wisdom to which he ever attains is to disdain emancipation, and cling to the security of his bondage. It is true enough that slavery has been a curse. Whatever

may

have been its effect on the negroes. it has been a deadly curse upon the white masters.

The preaching of abolition during the war is to me either the deadliest of sins or the vainest of follies. Its only immediate result possible would be servile insurrection. That is so manifestly atrocious,-a wish for it would be so hellish, that I do not presume the preachers of abolition to entertain it. But if that be not meant, it must be intended that an act of emancipation should be carried throughout the slave States,-either in their separation from the North, or after their subjection and consequent reunion with the North. As regards the States while in secession, the North cannot operate upon their slaves any more than England can operate on the slaves of Cuba. But if a reunion is to be a precursor of emancipation, surely that reunion should be first effected. A decision in the northern and western mind on such a subject cannot assist in obtaining that reunion,—but must militate against the practicability

of such an object. This is so well understood, that Mr. Lincoln and his Government do not dare to call themselves abolition

ists.*

Abolition, in truth, is a political cry. It is the banner of defiance opposed to secession. As the differences between the North and South have grown with years, and have swelled to the proportions of national antipathy, southern nullification has amplified itself into secession, and northern free-soil principles have burst into this growth of abolition. Men have not calcu. lated the results. Charming pictures are drawn for you of the negro in a state of Utopian bliss, owning his own hoe and eating his own hog; in a paradise, where everything is bought and sold, except his wife, his little ones, and himself. But the enfranchised negro has always thrown away his hoe, has eaten any man's hog but his own, -and has too often sold his daughter for a dollar when any such market has been open to him.

I confess that this cry of abolition has been made peculiarly displeasing to me, by the fact that the northern abolitionist is by no means willing to give even to the negro who is already free that position in the world which alone might tend to raise him in the scale of human beings,—if anything

can so raise him and make him fit for freedom. The abolitionists hold that the negro is the white man's equal. I do not. I see, or think that I see, that the negro is the white man's inferior through laws of nature. That he is not mentally fit to cope with white men, -I speak of the full-blooded negro,—and that he must fill a position simply servile. But the abolitionist declares him to be the white man's equal. But yet, when he has him at his elbow, he treats him with a scorn which even the negro can hardly endure. I will give him political equality, but not social equality, says the abolitionist. But even in this he is untrue. A black man may vote in New York, but he cannot vote under the same circumstances as a white man. He is subjected to qualifications which in truth debar him from the poll. A white man votes by manhood suffrage, providing he has been for one year an inhabitant of his State; but a man of colour must have been for three years a citizen of the State, and must own a property qualification of 501. free of debt. But political equality is not what such men want, nor indeed is it social equality. It is social tolerance and social sympathy; and these are denied to the negro. An American abolitionist would not sit at table with a negro. He might do so in England at the house of an English duchess; but in his own country the proposal of such a companion would be an insult to him. He will not sit with him in a public carriage if he can avoid it. In New York I have seen special street-cars for coloured people. The abolitionist is struck with horror when he thinks that a man and a brother should be a slave; but when the man and the brother has been made free, he is regarded with loathing and contempt. All this I cannot see with equanimity. There is falsehood in it from the beginning to the end. The slave as a rule is well treated,-gets all he wants and almost all he desires. The free negro as a rule is ill treated, and does not get that consideration which alone might put him in the worldly position for which his advocate declares him to be fit. It is false throughout,—this preaching. The negro is not the white man's equal by nature. But to the free negro in the northern States This inequality is increased by the white man's hardness to him.

* President Lincoln has proposed a plan for the emancipation of slaves in the border States, and for compensation to the owners. His doing so proves that he regards present emancipation in the Gulf States as quite out of the question. It also proves that he looks forward to the recovery of the border States for the North, but that he does not look forward to the recovery of the Gulf States.

In a former book, which I wrote some few years since, I expressed an opinion as to the probable destiny of this race in the West Indies. I will not now go over that question again. I then divided the inhabitants of those islands into three classes, -the white, the black, and the coloured, taking a nomenclature which I found there prevailing. By coloured men I alluded to mulattoes, and all those of mixed European and African blood. The word “coloured,” in the States, seems to apply to the whole negro race, whether full-blooded or half-blooded. I allude to this now because I wish to explain that, in speaking of what I conceive to be the intellectual inferiority of the negro race, I allude to those of pure negro descent,—or of descent so nearly pure as to make the negro element manifestly predominant. In the West Indies, where I had more opportunity of studying the subject, I always believed myself able to tell a negro from a coloured man. Indeed the classes are to a great degree distinct there, the greater portion of the retail trade of the country being in the hands of the coloured people. But in the States I have been able to make no such distinction. One sees generally neither the rich yellow of the West Indian mulatto, nor the deep oily black of the West Indian negro. The prevailing hue is a dry, dingy brown,-almost dusty in its dryness. I have observed but little difference made between the negro and the half-caste,--and no difference in the actual treatment. I have never met in American society any man or woman in whose veins there can have been presumed to be any taint of African blood. In Jamaica they are daily to be found in society.

Every Englishman probably looks forward to the accomplishment of abolition of slavery at some future day. I feel as sure of it as I do of the final judgment. When or how it shall come I will not attempt to foretell. The mode which seems to promise the surest success and the least present or future inconvenience, would be an edict enfranchising all female children born after a certain date, and all their children. Under such an arrangement the negro population would probably die out slowly,-very slowly. What might then be the fate of the cotton-fields of the Gulf States, who shall dare to say y? It

may be that coolies from India and from China will then have taken the place of the negro there, as they probably will have done also in Guiana and the West Indies.

CHAPTER XXIV.

WASHINGTON TO ST. LOUIS. Though I had felt Washington to be disagreeable as a city, yet I was almost sorry to leave it when the day of my departure came.

I had allowed myself a month for my sojourn in the capital, and I had stayed a month to the day. Then came the trouble of packing up, the necessity of calling on a long list of acquaintances one after another, the feeling that bad as Washington might be, I might be going to places that were worse, a conviction that I should get beyond the reach of my letters, and a sort of affection which I had acquired for my rooms. My landlord, being a coloured man, told me that he was sorry

I was going. Would I not remain ? Would I come back to him? Had I been comfortable ? Only for so and so or so and so, he would have done better for me. No white American citizen, occupying the position of landlord, would have condescended to such comfortable words. I knew the man did not in truth want me to stay, as a lady and gentleman were waiting to go in the moment I went out; but I did not the less value the assurance. One hungers and thirsts after such civil words among American citizens of this class. The clerks and managers at hotels, the officials at railway stations, the cashiers at banks, the women in the shops ;-ah! they are the worst of all. An American woman who is bound by

« PředchozíPokračovat »