Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
PROGRESS OF FANATICISM
Plaindealer, January 14, 1837. Extracts deleted.
There are probably a good many readers of this paper who would be startled if we should say to them, in the briefest form of expression, We are an Abolitionist. They no doubt agree with us in the sentiment that slavery is a prodigious and alarming evil; that it continually and rapidly grows more and more portentous; and that it exercises a pernicious influence on the dearest interests of the country: on its internal political relations; its commercial and agricultural prosperity; and on the moral character, and social condition of the people. They would agree with us most heartily in wishing that this terrible evil could be remedied, and every vestige of it effaced from the land. They might perhaps go one step further, and acknowledge that the highest obligations of patriotism and philanthropy require the subject to be discussed, temperately, but thoroughly; and that appeals, strengthened by all the cogency of argument, and animated with all the fervour of eloquence, should be sounded in the ears of the slaveholders, to arouse their humanity, convince their reason, and awaken their fears, and to bring all the agents of their hearts and understandings to cooperate in the great work of human emancipation.
Many persons would perhaps go to this extent with us, when the propositions are thus broadly and diffusely stated, who would yet shrink back dismayed from a concise and simple declaration of abolitionism. But, reader, if you acknowledge the manifold evils of slavery, in all the aspects in which the subject can be considered; if you desire to see them terminated; and if you are willing, as one of the plainest and most innocent, as well as one of the most effectual modes of accomplishing that object, to discuss the question, You are an Abolitionist. That name, at all events, we freely admit belongs to ourselves; nor is there anything in its sound which grates upon our ear, nor in the duties it implies which our mind does not willingly embrace.
There is a class of persons connected with the newspaper press who seem to think that epithets are weapons of more cogency than arguments, and who therefore seek to dispose of every subject, not by an exposition of the correctness of their own opinions, or a refutation of the arguments of their opponents, but by bestowing upon them a shower of odious appellations. To call names certainly requires less exertion of intellect, than to reason soundly; and hence, to persons of certain tastes and capacities, this may be the most natural and congenial method of disputation. But we are not aware that the highest degree of proficiency in this species of dialecticks ever shed much light upon the world. The logick of sweeps and coal heavers, however highly embellished with their peculiar modes of rhetorical illustration, has never afforded any important assistance to the cause of truth; and it may be doubted if even the fishwomen of Billingsgate, who, we believe, stand unrivalled in vituperative and objurgatory eloquence, can be considered as among the most dignified and instructive of controversialists.
But there are those, if we may judge by their practice, who entertain a different opinion; who consider a harsh epithet as more conclusive than a syllogism, and a fierce denunciation as comprehending in itself subject, predicate, and copula. If you meet them with an array of incontrovertible arguments, they answer you with a discharge of opprobrious terms; and a cry of exultation usually succeeds the volley, as if it must necessarily have levelled all your logick to the earth. If you tell them that slavery is an evil, they deride you as a fanatick. If you claim the right to discuss the subject, they denounce you as an incendiary. If you call the poor degraded negro a fellow being, they shout amalgamationist at the top of their lungs, and invoke the mob to pelt you with stones, or to seize you and pour seething tar over your limbs. It is this class of logicians who have given to the term abolitionist its odious import. We are not of those, however, who can be deterred from the assertion of a right, or the performance of a duty, by opprobrium or threats; and we therefore not merely admit that we are an abolitionist, but earnestly lay claim to that appellation, considering it, not an epithet of disgrace, but a title of honour.
There probably is not, in the whole extent of this wide Confederacy, a single man, entitled, on any ground, to the slightest consideration, who would dare to lift up his head, and say, that the abolition of the African slave trade was not a noble and praiseworthy work. Yet reader, if you have ever perused the memoir of that illustrious and indefatigable philanthropist, Clarkson, or if his coadjutors, Roscoe, Wilberforce, and Fox, or even Boswell's biography of Johnson, you must be aware that the same sort of vituperative clamour was exerted to defeat that glorious project, which is now so freely used against the kindred objects of the abolitionists in this country. It is curious, indeed, to notice the positive identity of the phrases of reproach and denunciation made use of in the two cases. Then, as now, fanatick, incendiary, robber, and murderer, were among the terms most frequently employed. But those engaged in the good work persevered to the end, notwithstanding the obstacles they encountered, and by so doing have secured a place in the grateful recollection of all posterity, as among the noblest benefactors of mankind. There is little reason to fear that the glorious example will not be successfully emulated here. The progress of enlightened opinion on the subject of slavery has been wonderfully great in the last two years. The flame is spreading far and wide, and throwing its radiance over the whole land. The very measures taken to extinguish it have caused it to blaze up with greater brilliancy, and extend with a more rapid progress. The people of Charleston, when they broke riotously into the Post Office, and sought to silence discussion by violence, gave a fresh impulse to the spirit which they could not intimidate. The detestable doctrines of Amos Kendall's letter on that occasion,*52 brought myriads of new auxiliaries to the great cause of human freedom; and every succeeding effort of intolerance, every outbreak of violence, every tumultuous attempt to invade the sacred right of speech and of the press, has swelled the number of those who, in the true spirit of the Constitution, assert the equal claim of all mankind to the blessings of liberty.
How poor, how pitiful, to the mind of an enlightened philanthropist, must seem the brief and quibbling paragraph in the recent message of Governour Marcy, which contains all that functionary has thought proper to say on the subject of abolition. To that world-wide theme, which engages the attention of the loftiest minds, and enlists the sympathies of the best hearts in our Confederacy, the governour of this great state, in which the question is most vigorously discussed, can afford to give, in his official communication to the legislature, only the following imperfect notice:
Who can read this evasive paragraph without blushing for the cringing spirit it betrays? Who can mark its tenour, without perceiving that it is throughout essentially false? Who can reflect upon its obvious motive and object, without a sentiment of contempt for the gubernatorial truckler that penned it? Since politicians first learned the art of misrepresenting truth, there never was a tissue of more disingenuous statements. "Some embarked in the scheme of abolition with good intentions?" Precious admission! Ay, some indeed! Take the abolitionists as a body, and there never was a band of men, engaged in any struggle for freedom, whose whole course and conduct evinced more unmixed purity of motive, and truer or loftier devotion to the great cause of human emancipation. Whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the propriety or practicability of their object, or the character of their means, there can be none as to the singleness and holiness of their motive. It is free from all taint of selfishness, from all alloy of personal ambition, and all sordid projects of ultimate gain. They battle for freedom, not for themselves, but for the wretched and degraded negro. To emancipate him, they incur odium, sustain losses, and make vast and continual sacrifices of money and health. They give their days to toil, and their nights to watching. They encounter the derision of the rabble, endure without retaliation the vilest outrages of their persons, see their houses broken into by mobs, their families insulted, their property scattered to the winds, and themselves hunted like beasts of the forest. Nothing but the highest and purest motives could sustain men through such rancour and frenzy of persecution as the abolitionists have endured. Call them fanaticks, if you will; denounce their object as visionary and ruinous, and themselves as actuated by an insane spirit of liberty; but do not—in the face of such proofs of singleness and sincerity as no set of men ever yet transcended—do not impeach the goodness of their intentions. They who sought to turn the question of slavery to party purposes were not abolitionists; they were "scurvy politicians," who denounced the abolitionists, and were anxious to throw the odium of that enterprise on the opposite party, for the base purpose of thereby effecting political results in the slave states. They were men influenced by the same paltry spirit which dictated the paragraph in Governour Marcy's message; a spirit which would conciliate the slaveholders at the expense of freedom and of truth; a spirit as different from that which animates the abolitionists, as the darkest hour of night from the meridian brightness of day. Dr. Channing,*53 in his recent eloquent letter to Mr. Birney, has paid a just tribute to the spirit which guides and sustains those engaged in the great and good cause of the abolition of slavery; and we cannot make a better appropriation of our space, than by here inserting a copious extract from it. We hope Governour Marcy will peruse the passage, and blush at the wretched figure which his own pusillanimous paragraph presents in the contrast.
We thank Dr. Channing, from the bottom of our heart do we thank him, for lending the influence of his great name—clarum et venerabile nomen—to one of the highest and holiest causes that ever engaged the devoted energies of men. We welcome him to the brotherhood of "abolitionists, fanaticks and incendiaries." We rejoice that he has entered into the companionship of those "despicable and besotted wretches," who place so little value on the blessings of freedom as to desire to emancipate three millions of fellow creatures from galling and abject bondage. It gives us the highest gratification that he has joined himself to a fraternity which Governour Marcy assures us has dwindled into insignificance, and the proof of which is, that where, two years ago, there was one abolitionist, there are a thousand now, and where one press then feebly and timidly espoused the cause of emancipation, a hundred now boldly and energetically discuss the subject, in all its bearings and relations. This assurance of Governour Marcy, coupled with the other, that all cause of disquietude to the south has passed away, comes well upon the heel of those proceedings which it has recently been our duty to state, and some of which are recorded in this very number of our paper. While abolitionists are mobbed in the north, and the chief executive officers of Virginia and South Carolina are calling on the legislatures in this portion of the Confederacy to silence free discussion by penal statutes, under a threat of a dissolution of the Union if they refuse to do so, Governour Marcy gravely announces to the people that all excitement has ceased, and that no cause for disquietude any longer exists. Out upon such official insincerity!
In the closing paragraph of the extract we have given from Dr. Channing's Letter, that great writer has exposed, with peculiar eloquence and force, the emptiness and shadowy nature of the chimera which the political braggarts of the south continually hold up as a bugbear to intimidate the people of the north from the exercise of one of their most sacred rights. If this vain threat were earnest, instead of mere bravado; if the phantasm were corporeal substance, instead of shadow, we would rather, far rather, encounter it, in its most horrid form, than pay the price which we are told will alone purchase security. We cannot give up Freedom for the sake of Union. We cannot give up the principle of vitality, the very soul of political existence, to secure the perishing body from dismemberment. No! rather let it be hewed to pieces, limb by limb, than, by dishonourable compromise, obtain a short renewal of the lease of life, to be dragged out in servitude and chains. Rather let the silken tie, which has so long united this sisterhood of states in a league that has made our country the pride and wonder of the world, be sundered at once, by one fell blow, than exchanged for the iron cord of despotism, and strengthened into a bond fatal to freedom. Dear as the federal compact is, and earnestly as we wish that time, while it is continually crumbling the false foundations of other governments, may add firmness to the cement which holds together that arch of union on which our own is reared, yet rather would we see it broken to-morrow into its original fragments, than that its durability should be accomplished by a measure fatal to the principles of liberty.
Notes for this chapter
Amos Kendall, Postmaster General of the United States, had refused to overrule the postmaster of Charleston's decision not to deliver abolitionist tracts through the mail. Leggett devoted several editorials to denunciation of this postal censorship.—Ed.
William Ellery Channing was a leading Unitarian clergyman and anti-slavery pamphleteer.—Ed.
THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY NARROWED TO A POINT
End of Notes
AN ARGUMENT AGAINST ABOLITION REFUTED
Plaindealer, March 4, 1837. Text abridged and extract deleted.
A calm and temperate writer appeared sometime since in the American, under the signature of a Virginian, who founded an argument against the abolition of slavery on certain facts derived from a comparison of the tables of mortality of the blacks in a state of servitude and in a state of freedom. The result of his statisticks was to show that the mortality of free blacks is greater than that of slaves, and greater than that of whites also; while the longevity of slaves exceeds even that of their masters. The inference of the writer was that humanity required the slaves to be left in that condition which facts showed to be most favourable to long life....
...Their superiour longevity may be doubly accounted for; for, on the one hand, while labour and simple diet are favourable to life, on the other, the habits of luxurious indolence which slaveholders fall into have the opposite effect. Such a comparison as the writer to whom the foregoing extract is in answer seeks to institute can be fair only when drawn between blacks in a state of servitude and blacks really free. What would be the effect of absolute and equal freedom on the black race in this country, is an experiment which has not yet been tried, and which, in the nature of things, cannot be tried very soon; for we have not only to do away the legal disabilities now imposed on those negroes whom we term free, but who are free only in a qualified sense, but we have also to do away the disabilities which exist in general and deep rooted prejudices. Opinion is tending in that direction; but its progress is slow, and a long period must elapse before the reformation will be complete. The day will come when the claims of the American black race to all the privileges and immunities of equal political freedom will be fully acknowledged, and when the prejudices of society will give way before the steady influence of truth, enlightened reason, and comprehensive philanthropy. But before that time, any argument, founded on a comparison of the different rates of mortality between negroes in a state of slavery and those in a state of bastard freedom, must be wholly defective, even to the extent of proving the opposite influences on life of the two conditions of liberty and bondage. But even after that time, the argument, whatever might be the facts, would not answer the purpose for which it is produced; since longevity is but one of many circumstances which constitute the happiest condition of man. The writer from whom we have borrowed the extract to which we are appending these remarks, has shown that if it were the sole fact to be regarded, the condition of the convicts in our prisons is better than that of the most virtuous portion of society. The savages of our wilderness, before the poison of the distillery was introduced among them, enjoyed longer life, and were more exempt from disease, than the most educated and refined classes of our cities—
—But who infers from thence
COMMENCEMENT OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF MARTIN VAN BUREN
Plaindealer, March 11, 1837. Text abridged.
The inauguration of Martin Van Buren, as President of the United States took place at the Capitol, in Washington, on Saturday last, at noon. The day was serene and temperate, and the simple and august ceremonial was performed in the presence of assembled thousands. Mr. Van Buren delivered an Inaugural Address on the occasion, which, probably, most of our readers have already perused, but which, as a portion of the history of the times we insert in our paper. It is longer than the Inaugural Address of his immediate predecessor, but does not contain a tithe part of its pith. It professes to be an avowal of the principles by which the new President intends to be guided in his administration of the government; but with the single exception of the principle of opposition to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, which it expresses with most uncalled for and unbecoming haste and positiveness, he might, with as much propriety, have sung Yankee Doodle or Hail Columbia, and called it "an avowal of his principles." With the exception of that indecorous announcement of a predetermination to exercise his veto against any measure of abolition which Congress may possibly think proper to adopt during the next four years, the address contains no expression of political principles whatever....
But it is not so much for what it has omitted to say, as for what it says, that we feel dissatisfaction with this inaugural address. We dislike exceedingly both the tone and spirit of its remarks on the subject of slavery. On that one topic, there is, indeed, no want but a superabundance of "particularity and distinctness." Mr. Van Buren is the first President of the United States who, in assuming that office, has held up his veto power, in terrorem, to the world, and announced a fixed predetermination to exercise it on a particular subject, no matter what changes might take place in public opinion, or what events may occur to modify the question on which his imperial will is thus dictatorially announced.
...Does Mr. Van Buren venture to affirm that such a law as he declares his intention of vetoing would be a violation of any article or clause in the federal compact? No! he believes that such a course will be "in accordance with the spirit which actuated the venerated fathers of the republic," but does not pretend that such a spirit has made itself palpable and unequivocal in any of the written provisions of the instrument which he has sworn to maintain....
When a President announces that the letter of the Constitution shall be his guide of public conduct; when he takes as his rule of action a strict construction of the express provisions of that instrument, we may form some tolerable notion of what will be his course. But when he undertakes to steer by the uncertain light of the spirit, we are tossed about on a sea of vague conjecture, and left to the mercy of winds and waves. Hamilton was guided by the spirit in proposing the first federal bank; but Jefferson adhered to the letter in his argument against that evil scheme. The high tariff system claims for its paternity the spirit of the Constitution; but the advocates of a plan of equal taxation, adjusted to the actual wants of the government, find their warrant in the letter. The internal improvement system, the compromise system, the distribution system, and every other unequal and aristocratic system which has been adopted in our country, all claim to spring from the spirit of the Constitution; but Andrew Jackson found in the letter of that instrument his rule of conduct, and it was fondly hoped that his successor meant to emulate his example. Appearances now authorize a fear of the contrary. The first step is certainly a deviation from the path.
Mr. Van Buren's indecent haste to avow his predeterminations on the subject of slavery has not even the merit of boldness. It is made in a cringing spirit of propitiation to the south, and in the certainty that a majority at the north accord with his views....
There is a single phrase in the anti-abolition portion of Mr. Van Buren's address upon which we shall make one additional comment, and then dismiss the subject. Alluding to the proslavery mobs and riots which have taken place in various parts of the country, he says, "a reckless disregard of the consequences of their conduct has exposed individuals to popular indignation." This is an admirable version of the matter. The issuing of a temperate and decorous newspaper, in which a question of great public moment was gravely discussed, showed, beyond all question, a most "reckless disregard of consequences," deserving the harshest rebuke; and the conduct of the mob that broke up the press, demolished the house which contained it, and shockingly maltreated the person of the editor, was merely a natural and justifiable expression of "popular indignation." They who thought the Constitution vouchsafed to them the freedom of speech and of the press, were criminal to act under that singular delusion; while they who dragged these atrocious men from the sanctuaries of God, from their firesides and from the pulpit, pelted them with stones, tore their garments from their limbs, steeped them in seething tar, and heaped all manner of injuries on their defenceless heads—these men were "true friends of the Constitution," and animated by "the spirit which actuated the venerated fathers of the republic." Mr. Van Buren does not say so in express terms; but he alludes to their atrocities in language so soft and sugary, as to sound almost like positive approval.
On the whole, we consider this Inaugural Address as constituting a page of Mr. Van Buren's history which will reflect no credit upon him in after times.
THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY NARROWED TO A POINT
Plaindealer, April 15, 1837.
The temperate and well-considered sentiments of Mr. Rives*54 on the subject of slavery, as expressed in the Senate last winter, when certain petitions against slavery in the District of Columbia were under consideration, do not meet with much approval in the southern states. But the violent language of Mr. Calhoun*55 is applauded to the echo. Mr. Rives, it will be remembered, admitted, in the most explicit manner, that "slavery is an evil, moral, social, and political;" while Mr. Calhoun, on the other hand, maintained that "it is a good—a great good."
We have a paragraph lying before us, from the New-Orleans True American, in which the sentiments of Mr. Calhoun are responded to with great ardour, and the admission that slavery is an evil is resisted as giving up the whole question in dispute. The writer says:
"If the principle be once acknowledged, that slavery is an evil, the success of the fanatics is certain. We are with Mr. Calhoun on this point. He insists that slavery is a positive good in our present social relations—that no power in the Union can touch the construction of southern society, without actual violation of all guaranteed and unalienated rights. This is the threshold of our liberties. If once passed, the tower must fall."
Reader, contemplate the picture presented to you in this figurative language: the tower of liberty erected on the prostrate bodies of three millions of slaves. Worthy foundation of such an edifice! And appropriately is the journal which displays such anxiety for its stability termed the True American.
"Evil, be thou my good," is the exclamation of Mr. Calhoun, and myriads of true Americans join in worship of the divinity thus set up. But truth has always been a great iconoclast, and we think this idol of the slaveholders would fare little better in her hands than the images of pagan idolatry.
If the question of the abolition of slavery is to be narrowed down to the single point whether slavery is an evil or not, it will not take long to dispose of it. Yet it would perhaps not be an easy thing to prove that slavery is an evil, for the same reason that it would not be easy to prove that one and one are two; because the proposition is so elementary and self-evident, that it would itself be taken for a logical axiom as readily as any position by which we might seek to establish it. The great fundamental maxim of democratic faith is the natural equality of rights of all mankind. This is one of those truths which, in our Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights of this Confederacy, we claim to be self-evident. Those who maintain that slavery is not an evil must repudiate this maxim. They must be content to denounce the attempts to abolish slavery on the same ground that Gibbon*56 denounced the petitions to the British Parliament against the slave trade, because there was "a leaven of democratical principles in them, wild ideas of the rights and natural equality of man," and they must join that full-faced aristocrat in execrating "the fatal consequences of democratical principles, which lead by a path of flowers to the abyss of hell." If they admit man's natural equality, they at once admit slavery to be an evil. "In a future day," says Dymond, in his admirable work on morals,*57 "it will probably become a subject of wonder how it could have happened that, on such a subject as slavery, men could have inquired and examined and debated, year after year; and that many years could have passed before the minds of a nation were so fully convinced of its enormity, and of their consequent duty to abolish it, as to suppress it to the utmost of their power. This will probably be a subject of wonder, because the question is so simple, that he who simply applies the requisitions of the moral law finds no time for reasoning or for doubt. The question as soon as it is proposed is decided."
But if we shut our eyes upon the moral law, and decide whether slavery is a good or an evil with sole reference to the test of utility; if we consider it merely a question of political economy, and one in which the interests of humanity and the rights of nature, as they affect the slave, are not to be taken into account, but the mere advantage of the masters alone regarded, we shall still come to the same conclusion. The relative condition of any two states of this Confederacy, taking one where slavery exists, and one where it does not, illustrates the truth of this remark. But it would not be difficult to prove, by a process of statistical arguments, that slave labour is far more costly than free, wretchedly as the wants and comforts of the slaves are provided for in most of the southern states. So that, limiting the inquiry to the mere question of pecuniary profit, it could be demonstrated that slavery is an evil. But this is a view of the subject infinitely less important than its malign influence in social and political respects, still regarding the prosperity of the whites as alone deserving consideration. When the social and political effects on three millions of black men are superadded as proper subjects of inquiry, the evil becomes greatly increased.
But to enter seriously into an argument to prove that slavery is an evil would be a great waste of time. They who assert the contrary do so under the influence of such feelings as are evinced by the ruined archangel, in the words from Milton which we have quoted at the head of these remarks. They do so in a tone of malignant defiance, and their own hearts, as they make the declaration, throb with a degrading consciousness of its falsehood.
The position that no power in the Union can touch the construction of southern society without violating guaranteed rights, will no more bear the test of examination, than the assertion that slavery is not an evil. There is no power, we concede, in the federal government to abolish slavery in any state, and none in any state to abolish it except within its own limits. But in as far as a free and full discussion of slavery, in all its characteristics and tendencies, may be considered as touching the construction of southern society, the right belongs to every citizen; and it is by this mode of touching it that it is hoped eventually to do away entirely with the deplorable evil. It cannot always exist against the constant attrition of public opinion.
The right to discuss slavery exists in various forms. It is claimed, in the first place, that Congress has absolute authority over that subject, so far as it relates to the District of Columbia. Every state, also, has authority over it within its own limits. And the people of the United States have absolute authority over it, so far as it presents a question to be considered in reference to any proposed amendment of the federal constitution. Suppose, for example, it should be desired by any portion of the people, to change the basis of southern representation in Congress, on the ground that slaves, being allowed to have no political rights, but being considered mere property, ought not to be enumerated in the political census, any more than the cattle and sheep of northern graziers and woolgrowers. The Constitution is amenable in this, as in every other respect, with the single exception of the equal representation of every state in the federal Senate; and it is consequently a legitimate subject of discussion. Yet the discussion of this subject involves, naturally and necessarily, a consideration of slavery in all its relations and influences. Suppose, again, any portion of the citizens of a state where negroes are not held to bondage, but are not admitted to equal suffrage, as in this state, should desire those distinctive limitations to be removed. This is a legitimate question to be discussed, and the discussion of this brings up the whole subject of slavery. Or suppose, thirdly, that any persons in a free state should desire to re-instate negro slavery. The south would scarcely quarrel with them for seeking to carry their wishes into effect; yet they could only hope to do so through the means of a discussion which would legitimately embrace every topic connected with slavery, nearly or remotely.
It is by discussion alone that those who are opposed to slavery seek to effect a reconstruction of southern society; and the means, we think, if there is any virtue in truth, will yet be found adequate to the end. If slavery is really no evil, the more it is discussed, the greater will be the number of its advocates; but if it is "an evil, moral, social and political," as Mr. Rives has had the manliness to admit, in the very teeth of Mr. Calhoun's bravado, it will gradually give way before the force of sound opinion.
Notes for this chapter
William C. Rives, senator from Virginia.—Ed.
John C. Calhoun, senator from South Carolina.—Ed.
A reference to Jonathan Dymond's On the Applicability of the Pacific Principles of the New Testament to the Conduct of States, the first American edition of which was published in 1832.—Ed.
See his letter to Lord Sheffield, Miscellaneous Works, vol. 1, p. 349.
End of Notes
Plaindealer, July 29, 1837. Text abridged and extract deleted.
...The oppression which our fathers suffered from Great Britain was nothing in comparison with that which the negroes experience at the hands of the slaveholders. It may be "abolition insolence" to say these things; but as they are truths which justice and humanity authorize us to speak, we shall not be too dainty to repeat them whenever a fitting occasion is presented. Every American who, in any way, authorizes or countenances slavery, is derelict to his duty as a christian, a patriot, and a man. Every one does countenance and authorize it, who suffers any opportunity of expressing his deep abhorrence of its manifold abominations to pass by unimproved. If the freemen of the north and west would but speak out on this subject in such terms as their consciences prompt, we should soon have to rejoice in the complete enfranchisement of our negro brethren of the south.
If an extensive and well-arranged insurrection of the blacks should occur in any of the slave states, we should probably see the freemen of this quarter of the country rallying around that "glorious emblem"*58 which is so magniloquently spoken of in the foregoing extract, and marching beneath its folds to take sides with the slaveholders, and reduce the poor negroes, struggling for liberty, to heavier bondage than they endured before. It may be "abolition insolence" to call this "glorious emblem" the standard of oppression, but, at all events, it is unanswerable truth. For our part, we call it so in a spirit, not of insolence, not of pride speaking in terms of petulant contempt, but of deep humility and abasement. We confess, with the keenest mortification and chagrin, that the banner of our country is the emblem, not of justice and freedom, but of oppression; that it is the symbol of a compact which recognizes, in palpable and outrageous contradiction of the great principle of liberty, the right of one man to hold another as property; and that we are liable at any moment to be required, under all our obligations of citizenship, to array ourselves beneath it, and wage a war, of extermination if necessary, against the slave, for no crime but asserting his right of equal humanity—the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, and have an unalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Would we comply with such a requisition? No! rather would we see our right arm lopped from our body, and the mutilated trunk itself gored with mortal wounds, than raise a finger in opposition to men struggling in the holy cause of freedom. The obligations of citizenship are strong, but those of justice, humanity and religion stronger. We earnestly trust that the great contest of opinion which is now going on in this country may terminate in the enfranchisement of the slaves, without recourse to the strife of blood; but should the oppressed bondmen, impatient of the tardy progress of truth urged only in discussion, attempt to burst their chains by a more violent and shorter process, they should never encounter our arm, nor hear our voice, in the ranks of their opponents. We should stand a sad spectator of the conflict; and whatever commiseration we might feel for the discomfiture of the oppressors, we should pray that the battle might end in giving freedom to the oppressed.
Notes for this chapter
Namely, the American flag.—Ed.
DESPOTISM OF ANDREW JACKSON
End of Notes
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