« PředchozíPokračovat »
text that he was a criminal, arrested only after a deadly struggle; guarded by officers who acted in violation of the laws of the state ; tried in a court-house surrounded by chains, contrary to the common law; finally surrendered to slavery by trampling on the criminal process of the state, under an escort in violation, again, of the laws of the state, while the pulpits trembled, and the whole people not merely “uneasy,” but swelling with ill-suppressed indignation, for “ the sake of order and tranquillity, without violence witnessed the shameful catastrophe.
With every attempt to administer the Slave Act, it constantly becomes more revolting, particularly in its influence on the agents it enlists. Pitch cannot be touched without defilement, and all who lend themselves to this work seem at once and unconsciously to lose the better part of man. The spirit of the law passes into them, as the devils entered the swine. Upstart commissioners, the mere mushrooms of courts, vie and revie with each other :
:-now by indecent speed, now by harshness of manner, now by a denial of evidence, now by crippling the defence, and now by open glaring wrong, they make the odious act yet more odious. Clemency, grace, and justice, die in its presence. All this is observed by the world. Not a case occurs which does not harrow the souls of good men, and bring tears of sympathy to the eyes, also those other noble tears which « patriots shed o'er dying laws."
Sir, I sball speak frankly. If there be an exception to this feeling, it will be found chiefly with a peculiar class. It is a sorry fact that the “ mercantile interest," in its unpardonable selfishness, twice in English history frowned upon the endeavours to suppress the atrocity of Algerine slavery ; that it sought to baffle Wilberforce's great effort for the abolition of the African slave-trade; and that, by a sordid compromise, at the formation of our constitution, it exempted the same detested heaven-defying traffic from American judgment. And now representatives of this “interest,” forgetful that commerce is the child of freedom, join in hunting the slave. But the great heart of the people recoils from this enactment. It palpitates for the fugitive, and rejoices in his escape. Sir, I am telling you facts. The literature of the age is all on his side. The songs, more potent than laws, are for him. The poets, with voices of melody, are for freedom. Who could sing for slavery? They who make the permanent opinion of the country, who mould our youth, whose words, dropped into the soul, are the germs of character, supplicate for the slave. And now, sir, behold a new and heavenly ally. A woman, inspired by Christian genius, enters the lists, like another Joan of Arc, and with marvellous power sweeps the chords of the popular heart. Now melting to tears, and now inspiring to rage, her work every where touches the conscience, and makes the slave-hunter more hateful. In a brief period, nearly 100,000 copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin have been already circulated. But this extraordinary and sudden success—surpassing all other instances in the records of literature-cannot beregarded merely as the triumph of genius. Higher far than this, it is the testimony of the people, by an unprecedented act, against the Fugitive Slave Bill.
These things I dwell upon as the incentives and tokens of an existing public sentiment, which renders this act practically inoperative, except as a tremendous engine of terror. Sir, the sentiment is just. Even in the lands of slavery, the slave-trader is loathed as an ignoble character, from whom the countenance is turned away; and can the slave-hunter be more regarded while pursuing his prey in a land of freedom? In early Europe, in barbarous days, while slavery prevailed, a hunting master, as the Germans called him, was held in aversion. Nor was this all.
The fugitive was welcomed in the cities, and protected against pursuit. Sometimes vengeance awaited the hunter. Down to this day, at Revel, now a Russian city, a sword is proudly preserved with which a hunting baron was beheaded, who, in violation of the municipal rights of this place, seized a fugitive slave. Hostile to this act as our public sentiment may be, it exhibits no trophy like this. The state-laws of Massachusetts have been violated in the seizure of a fugitive slave; but no sword, like that of Revel, now hangs at Boston.
I have said, sir, that this sentiment is just. And is it not ? Every escape from slavery necessarily and instinctively awakens the regard of all who love freedom. The endeavour, though unsuccessful, reveals courage, manhood, character. No story is read with more interest than that of our own Lafayette, when, aided by a gallant South Carolinian, in defiance of the despotic ordinances of Austria, kindred to our Slave Act, he strove to escape from the bondage of Olmutz. Literature pauses with exultation over the struggles of Cervantes, the great Spaniard, while a slave in Algiers, to regain the liberty for which he says, in his immortal work, " we ought to risk life itself, slavery being the greatest evil that can fall to the lot of man.” Science, in all her manifold triumphs, throbs with pride and delight, that Arago, the astronomer and philosopher—devoted republican also
— was redeemed from barbarous slavery to become one of her greatest sons. Religion rejoices serenely, with joy unspeakable, in the final escape of Vincent de Paul. Exposed in the public squares of Tunis to the inspection of the traffickers in human flesh, this illustrious Frenchman was subjected to every vileness of treatment, like a horse, compelled to open his mouth, to show his teeth, to trot, to run, to exhibit his strength in lifting burthens, and then, like a horse, legally sold in market overt. Passing from master to master, after a protracted servitude, he achieved his freedom, and regaining France, commenced that resplendent career of charity by which he is placed among the great names of Christendom. Princes and orators have lavished panegyrics upon this fugitive slave; and the Catholic Church, in homage to his extraordinary virtues, has introduced him into the company of saints.
Less by genius or eminent services than by sufferings are the fugitive slaves of our country now commended. For them every sentiment of humanity is aroused :
“ Who could refrain
Courage to make his love known ?” Rude and ignorant they may be ; but in their very efforts for freedom, they claim kindred with all that is noble in the past. They are among the heroes of our age. Romance has no stories of more thrilling interest than theirs. Classical antiquity has preserved no examples of adventurous trial more worthy of renown. Among them are men whose names will be treasured in the annals of their race. By the eloquent voice they have already done much to make their wrongs known, and to secure the respect of the world. History will soon lend them her avenging pen. Proscribed by you during life, they will proscribe you through all time. Sir, already judgment is beginning. A righteous public sentiment palsies your enactment.
The Spouter has strutted since Thespis erected the Stage.
Mark Dick, the young Apothecary,
By spouting love to Juliet-
Where'prenticed youths and spinsters greet
Though apt to play the fool yet.
Our hero fuit sutor, ultra crepidam inspired
More prone to con a play than close an upper
For classic occupation.
Were stuck some scraps of poetry and prose
Indignant at his jobs.
Their wants so fettered Snobbs,
And spurned the avocation. Joey indulged the histrionic flame
His first love farce_" Fortune's Frolic” say,
Or “ X. Y. Z.”—whose Neddy Bray
His soul from jeopardy to extricate;
A player he would be in spite of fate!
The Spouters had announced a monthly cast,
Where Shakspeare stood pre-eminently first, Centlivre next_O'Keefe—and Cibber last. Othello judgment pleads. The Moor to grace Our Souter was prepared, but then his face
To personate the noble Moor’s was curst. Not that its lines were strictly European,
Or that it wanted colour, being clean, But then a phiz so vulgarly plebeian,
No Christian e'er on Mussulman had seen. Othello bustled through in noise and fury
His Desdemona stabbed with something like an awl
Not quite so sharp perhaps, though quite as small Unlike the Roman dagger grasped by Kean at Drury.
The five acts past—nor farce announced for Joe,
(And Joey, meteor-like, though destitute of mag, Described considerable longitude)
Save for their benefit, and none had he to brag, As subsequent details may serve to showOur hero doffed his turban, moon, and buskin,
His mantle, scimitar, and sash, for kerseymere
And apron vile, befitting more a Souter's wear.
And, to the uses blind
Had to his favourite paste his face resigned,
Had brushed it up so brilliant too,
Joe left the scene, the attic lone to reach
Where pined his wakeful spouse in sleepless rest But on the threshold paused, for from a niche
The voice of melody he heard, and guessed His Kate her throat in orisons did stretch
It was the soothing lullaby that rose,
As her first-born she cradled to repose. The latch with softest secrecy he raised
The moonbeam, struggling through a broken pane,