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To the rational historian who, two hundred years hence, shall study the history of the nineteenth century, it will appear one of the most curious vagaries of human opinion, that the Christianity and philanthropy of our day should have given so disproportionate an attention to the evils of African slavery. Such a dispassionate observer will perceive that, while many other gigantic evils were rampant in this age, there prevailed a sort of epidemic fashion of selecting this one upon which to exhaust the virtuous indignation and sympathies of the professed friends of human amelioration. And he will probably see in this a proof that the Christianity and benevolence of the nineteenth century were not so superior, in wisdom and breadth, to those of the seventeenth and eighteenth, as the busy actors in them had persuaded themselves; but were, in fact, conceited, overweening, and fantastic. 10

It will appear to him a still stranger fact, that this zeal against African slavery was so partial in its exhibition. Up to this day, not only the Southern States of the late American union, but the Brazilian, Turkish, and Spanish empires, among civilized nations, and many barbarous people, have continued the explicit practice of slavery, in so stern a form, that the institution in the Confederate States was, by comparison, extremely mild. Yet, throughout the Northern States of America and Europe, it is upon the devoted heads of Southern masters almost exclusively that the vials of holy wrath are poured out. Renascent Spain is quite a pet among Yankees and Europeans, though tenaciously clinging, in her colonies, to a system of slavery at whose barbarities the public sentiment of these Southern States would shudder, and though persistently winking at the African Slave Trade in addition. Slaveholding Brazil is on most pleasing terms with the United States and the European governments, which vie in soliciting her commercial intercourse and friendship with most amiable suavity. But when the sounding lash of the self-constituted friend of man is raised to chastise "the wickedness of slavery," all Yankeedom and all Europe seem to think only of us sinners. And yet here, of all places where it prevailed, African bondage was most ameliorated and most justifiable! Indeed, not a few of these consistent reformers have ten-fold as much patience with that demon of slaveholders, the King of Dahomey, as with the benignant Christian master in Virginia; and go to that truculent savage to request him not to cut the throats of another thousand of his inoffensive slaves in a "grand custom," with far more of 11 courtesy, forbearance, and amiability, than they can exercise towards us, when they come to reason with us touching the rights of our late peaceful and well-fed domestics. We see no reason for this partiality, but that the King of Dahomey is himself of that colour, which seems to be the only one acceptable to the tastes of this type of philanthropists. An Abolitionist poet has sung of our oppressing our brother man, because he was "guilty of a skin." To give the contrast, these persons act as though, in their view, the King of Dahomey's meritorious possession of the skin of approved colour, were enough to cover his multitude of sins! Now, if the rest of Christendom have determined to take slaveholders for their pet objects of abuse, we may justly demand of them, at least, to distribute their hard words more generally, and give all a share.

This injustice is to be accounted for, in part, by the greater prominence which the late United States held before the world, making all their supposed sins more prominent; and in part by the zeal of our late very amiable and equitable partners, the Yankee people. They reserved their abuse and venom on this subject for their Southern fellow-citizens alone. They made it their business to direct the whole storm of odium, from abroad and at home, on our heads. They, having the manufacture of American books chiefly in their hands, took pains to fill Europe and their own country with industrious slanders against their own brethren: and so occupied the ear of the world with abuse of us, as to make men almost forget that there were any other slaveholders. For this they had two motives, one calculated, and the other passionate and instinctive. The 12 latter was the sectional animosity which was bred by the very intimacy of their association under one government, with rival interests. The man who has learned to hate his brother, hates him, and can abuse him, more heartily than any more distant enemy. The deliberative motive was, to reduce the South to a state of colonial dependency upon themselves, and exclude all other nations from the rich plunder which they were accustomed to draw from the oppressed section, by means of the odium and misunderstanding which they created concerning us. The South was their precious gold mine, from which they had quarried, and hoped yet again to quarry, hoards of wealth, by the instruments of legislative and commercial jugglery. From this precious mine, they wished to keep other adventurers away by the customary expedient of spreading an odious character for moral malaria and pestilential vices around it. It did not suit their selfish purposes, that Europe should know, that in this slaveholding South was the true conservative power of the American Government, the most solid type of old English character, the greatest social stability and purity, and above all, the very fountain of international commerce and wealth; lest Europe should desire to visit and to trade with this section for itself. And the readiest way to prevent this, was to paint the South to all the rest of the world, in the blackest colours of misrepresentation, so as to have us regarded as a semi-barbarous race of domestic tyrants, whose chief occupations were chaining or scourging negroes, and stabbing each other with bowie-knives. The trick was a success. The Yankee almost monopolized the advantages of Southern trade and intercourse. 13

But the South should have been impelled by the same facts to defend its institutions before the public opinion of the civilized world; for opinion is always omnipotent in the end, whatever prejudices and physical powers may oppose it. If its current is allowed to flow unchecked, its silent waters gradually undermine the sternest obstacles. This great truth men of thought are more apt to recognize than men of action. While the true statesman is fully awake to it, the mere politician is unconscious of its power; and when his expedients—his parties and his statutes—have all been silently swept away by the diffusion of abstract principles opposed to them, he cannot understand his overthrow. If the late Confederate States would have gained that to which they aspired, the position of a respectable and prosperous people among the nations of the world, it was extremely important that they should secure from their neighbours a more just appreciation of their institutions. A respectful and powerful appeal in defence of those institutions was due to our neighbours' opinions, unfair and unkind as they have been to us; and due to our own rights and self-respect.

Our mere politicians committed an error in this particular, while we were still members of the United States, by which we should now learn. They failed to meet the Abolitionists with sufficient persistence and force on the radical question—the righteousness of African servitude as existing among us. It is true that this fundamental point has received a discussion at the South, chiefly at the hands of clergymen and literary men, which has evoked a number of works of 14 the highest merit and power, constituting almost a literature on the subject. One valuable effect of this literature was to enlighten and satisfy the Southern mind, and to produce a settled unanimity of opinion, even greater than that which existed against us in other States. But such is the customary and overweening egotism of the Yankee mind, that none of these works, whatever their merit, could ever obtain general circulation or reading in the North. People there were satisfied to read only their own shallow and one-sided arguments, quietly treating us as though our guilt was too clear to admit of any argument, or we were too inferior to be capable of it. The consequence was, that although the North has made the wrongs of the African its own peculiar cause—its great master-question—it is pitiably ignorant of the facts and arguments of the case. After twenty-five years of discussion, we find that the staple of the logic of their writers is still the same set of miserable and shallow sophisms, which Southern divines and statesmen have threshed into dust, and driven away as the chaff before the whirlwind, so long ago, and so often, that any intelligent man among us is almost ashamed to allude to them as requiring an answer. When the polemic heat of this quarrel shall have passed away, and the dispassionate antiquary shall compare the literature of the two parties, he will be amazed to see that of the popular one so poor, beggarly, and false, and that of the unpopular one so manly, philosophic, and powerful. But at present, such is the clamour of prejudice, our cause has not obtained a hearing from the world.

The North having arrogated to itself the name of 15 chief manufacturer of literary material, and having chief control of the channels of foreign intercourse, of course our plea has been less listened to across the Atlantic than in America. The South has been condemned unheard. Well-informed men in Great Britain, we presume, are ignorant of the names and works of the able and dignified advocates to whom the South confidently and proudly committed her justification; and were willing to render their verdict upon the mere accusations of our interested slanderers. But while the United States yet existed unbroken, there was one forum, where we could have demanded a hearing upon the fundamental question: the Federal Legislature. From that centre of universal attention, our defence of the righteousness of the relation of master and slave, as existing among us, might have been spread before the public mind; and the abstract question having been decided by triumphant argument, the troubles of our Federal relations might possibly have been quieted. There were two courses, either of which might have been followed by our politicians, in defending our Federal rights against Abolitionism. One plan would have been, to exclude the whole question of slavery persistently from the national councils, as extra-constitutional and dangerous, and to assert this exclusion always, and at every risk, as the essential condition of the continuance of the South in those councils. The other plan was, to meet that abstract question from the first, as underlying and determining the whole subject, and to debate it everywhere, until it was decided, and the verdict of the national mind was passed upon it. Unfortunately, the Southern men did neither persistently. After temporary 16 resistance, they permitted the debate; and then failed to conduct it on fundamental principles. With the exception of Mr. Calhoun, (whom events have now shown to have been the most far-seeing of our statesmen, notwithstanding the fashion of men to depreciate him as an "abstractionist" while he lived,) Southern politicians usually satisfied themselves with saying, that the whole matter was, according to the Constitution, one of State sovereignty; that Congress had no right to legislate concerning its merits; and that therefore they would not seem to admit such a right, by condescending to argue the matter on its merits. The premise was true; but the inference was practically most mischievous. If the Congress had no right to legislate about slavery, then it should not have been permitted to debate it. And Southern men, if they intended to make their stand on that ground, should have exacted the exclusion of all debate, at every cost. But this was perhaps impossible. The debate came; and, of course, the principles agitated ran at once back of the Constitution, to the abstract ethical question: "Is the holding of an African slave in the South a moral wrong in itself?" Southern men should have industriously followed them there; but they did not do it: and soon the heat and animosity of an aggressive and growing faction hurried the country beyond the point of calm consideration. A moment's reflection should have shown that the decisive question was the abstract righteousness of the relation of master and slave. The Constitution gave to the Federal Government no power over that relation in the States. True; but that Constitution was a compact between sovereign commonwealth: 17 it certainly gave recognition and protection to the relation of master and slave; and if that relation is intrinsically unrighteous, then it protected a wrong. Then the sovereign States of the North were found in the attitude of protecting a wrong by their voluntary compact; and therefore it would have been the duty of all citizens of those States to seek, by all righteous means, the amendment or repeal of that compact. They would not, indeed, have been justified to claim all the benefits of the compact, and still agitate under it a matter which the compact excluded. But they would have been more than justified, they would have been bound to clear their skirts of the wrong, by surrendering the compact, if necessary. There was no evasion from the duty, except by proving that the Constitution did nothing unrighteous by protecting the relation; in other words, that the relation was not unrighteous. Again, on the subject of the "Higher Law," our conservative statesmen and divines threw up a vast amount of pious dust. This partially quieted the country for a time; but, as might have been foreseen, it was destined to be inevitably blown away. There is a higher law, superior to constitutions and statutes; not, indeed, the perjured and unprincipled cant which has no conscience against swearing allegiance to a Constitution and laws which it declares sinful, in order to grasp emoluments and advantages, and then pleads "conscience" for disobeying what it had voluntarily sworn to obey; but the everlasting law of right in the word of God. Constitutions and laws which contravene this, ought to be lawfully amended or repealed; and it is the duty of all citizens to seek it. Let this be applied to 18 the Fugitive Slave Law. If the bondage was intrinsically unrighteous, then the Federal law which aided in remanding the fugitive to it, legalized a wrong. It became, therefore, the duty of all United States officers, who were required by statute to execute this law—not, indeed, to hold their offices and emoluments, and swear fidelity, and then plead conscientious scruples for the neglect of these sworn functions, (for this is a detestable union of theft and perjury with hypocrisy,)—but to resign those offices wholly, with their profits and their sinful functions. It would have become the duty of any private citizen, who might have been summoned by a United States officer, to act in a posse, guard, or any other way in enforcing this law, to decline obedience; and then, in accordance with Scripture, to submit meekly to the legal penalty of such a refusal, until the unrighteous law were repealed. But, moreover, it would have become the right and duty of these and all other citizens to seek the repeal of that law, or, if necessary, the abrogation of that Federal compact which necessitated it. But on the other hand, when we proved that the relation of master and slave is not unrighteous, and that therefore the Fugitive Slave Law required the perpetration of no wrong, and was constitutional, it became the clear moral duty of every citizen to concur in obeying it.

Once more: the true key of the more commanding question of free soil was in the same abstract ethical point. If the relation of master and servant was unrighteous, and the institution a standing sin against God and human rights, then it was not to be extended at the mere dictate of convenience and gain. Although 19 Northern men might be compelled to admit that, in the States, it was subject to State control alone, and expressly exempted from all interference of the Federal Government by the Constitution; yet, outside of the States, that Constitution and Government, representative as it was as a majority of free States, ought not to have been prostituted to the extension of a great moral wrong. Those free States ought, if their Southern partners would not consent to relinquish their right by a peaceable amendment of the Constitution, to have retired from the odious compact, and to have surrendered the advantages of the union for conscience' sake. If, on the contrary, African slavery in America was no unrighteousness, no sin against human rights, and no contradiction to the doctrines of the Constitution, then the general teachings of that instrument concerning the absolute equality of the States and their several citizens under it, were too clear to leave a doubt, that the letter and spirit of the document gave the slaveholder just the same right to carry his slaves into any territory, with that of the Connecticut man to carry his clock-factory. Hence the ethical question, when once the slavery agitation became inevitable, should have been made the great question by us. The halls of Congress should have rung with the arguments, the newspaper press should have teemed with them. But little was done to purpose in this discussion, save by clergymen and literary men; and for reasons already indicated they were practically unheard. After it was too late to stem the torrent of passion and sectional ambition pouring against us, politicians did indeed awake to a tardy perception of these important views; but the 20 eyes of the Northern people were then obstinately closed against them by a foregone conclusion.

We have cited these recent and striking illustrations of the fundamental importance of the ethical discussion, to justify the task we have undertaken. Some may suppose that, as the United States are no more as they were, and slaveholding is absolutely and finally ended, the question is obsolete. This is a great mistake. The status of the negro is just beginning to develop itself as an agitating and potent element in the politics of America. It will still continue the great ground of contrast, and subject of moral strife, between the North and the South.

We have attempted to indicate the potency of the slow and silent but irresistible influence of opinion over human affairs. Let our enemies claim the triumph without question in the field of opinion; let them continue to persuade mankind successfully that we were a people stained by a standing social crime; and we shall be continually worsted by them. In order to be free, we must be respected: and to this end we must defend our good name. We need not urge that instinctive desire for the good opinion of our fellow-men, and that sense of justice, which must ever render it painful to be the objects of undeserved odium. Instead, therefore, of regarding the discussion of the rightfulness of African slavery as henceforth antiquated, we believe that it assumes, at this era, a new and wider importance. While the swords of our people were fighting the battles of a necessary self-defence, the pens of our statesmen should have been no less diligent in defending us against the adverse opinion of 21 a prejudiced world. Every opening should have been seized to disabuse the minds of Europeans, a jury to which we have hitherto had no access, although condemned by it. The discussion should everywhere have been urged, until public opinion was effectually rectified and made just to the Confederate States.

At the first glance, it appears an arduous, if not a hopeless undertaking, to address the minds of such nations as the North and Great Britain in defence of Southern slavery. We have to contend against the prescriptive opinions and prejudices of years' growth. We assert a thesis which our adversaries have taken pains to represent as an impossible absurdity, of which the very assertion is an insult to the understanding and heart of a freeman. Ten thousand slanders have given to the very name of Southern slaveholder a colouring, which darkens every argument that can be advanced in his favour. Yet the task of self-defence is not entirely discouraging. Our best hope is in the fact that the cause of our defence is the cause of God's Word, and of its supreme authority over the human conscience. For, as we shall evince, that Word is on our side, and the teachings of Abolitionism are clearly of rationalistic origin, of infidel tendency, and only sustained by reckless and licentious perversions of the meaning of the Sacred text. It will in the end become apparent to the world, not only that the conviction of the wickedness of slaveholding was drawn wholly from sources foreign to the Bible, but that it is a legitimate corollary from that fantastic, atheistic, and radical theory of human rights, which made the Reign of Terror in France, which has threatened that country, and which now threatens 22 the United States, with the horrors of Red-Republicanism. Because we believe that God intends to vindicate His Divine Word, and to make all nations honour it; because we confidently rely in the force of truth to explode all dangerous error; therefore we confidently expect that the world will yet do justice to Southern slaveholders. The anti-scriptural, infidel, and radical grounds upon which our assailants have placed themselves, make our cause practically the cause of truth and order. This is already understood here by thinking men who have seen Abolitionism bear its fruit unto perfection: and the world will some day understand it. We shall possess at this time another advantage in defending our good name, derived from our late effort for independence. Hitherto we have been little known to Europeans, save through the very charitable representations of our fraternal partners, the Yankees. Foreigners visiting the United States almost always assumed, that when they had seen the North, they had seen the country, (for Yankeedom always modestly represented itself as constituting all of America that was worth looking at.) Hence the character of the South was not known, nor its importance appreciated. Its books and periodicals were unread by Europeans. But now the very interest excited by our struggle has caused other nations to observe for themselves, and to find that we are not Troglodytes nor Anthropophagi.

Another introductory remark which should be made is, that this discussion, to produce any good result, must distinctly disclaim some extravagant and erroneous grounds which have sometimes been assumed. It is not our purpose to rest our defence on an assumption 23 of a diversity of race, which is contradicted both by natural history and by the Scripture, declaring that "God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." Nor does the Southern cause demand such assertions as that the condition of master and slave is everywhere the normal condition of human society, and preferable to all others under all circumstances. The burden of odium which the cause will then carry, abroad, will be immeasurably increased by such positions. Nor can a purpose be ever subserved by arguing the question by a series of comparisons of the relative advantages of slave and free labour, laudatory to the one part and invidious to the other. There has been hitherto, on both sides of this debate, a mischievous forgetfulness of the old adage, "comparisons are odious!" When Southern men thus argued, they assumed the disadvantage of appearing as the propagandists, instead of the peaceful defenders, of an institution which immediately concerned nobody but themselves; and they arrayed the self-esteem of all opponents against us by making our defence the necessary disparagement of the other parties. True, those parties have usually been but too zealous to play at this invidious game, beginning it in advance. We should not imitate them. It is time all parties had learned that the lawfulness and policy of different social systems cannot be decided by painting the special and exceptional features of hardship, abuse, or mismanagement, which either of the advocates may imagine he sees in the system of his opponent. The course of this great discussion has too often been this: Each party has set up an easel, and spread a canvas upon it, 24 and drawn the system of its adversary in contrast with its own, in the blackest colours which a heated and angry fancy could discover amidst the evils and abuses imputed to the rival institution. The only possible result was, that each should blacken his adversary more and more; and consequently that both should grow more and more enraged. And this result did not argue the entire falsehood of either set of accusations. For, unfortunately, the human race is a fallen race—depraved, selfish, unrighteous and oppressive, under all institutions. Out of the best social order, committed to such hands, there still proceeds a hideous amount of wrongs and woe; and that, not because the order is unrighteous, but because it is administered by depraved man. For this reason, and for another equally conclusive, we assert that the lawfulness, and even the wisdom or policy of social institutions affecting a great population, cannot be decided by these odious contrasts of their special wrong results. That second reason is, that the field of view is too vast and varied to be brought fairly under comparison in all its details before the limited eye of man. First, then, if we attempt to settle the matter by endeavouring to find how much evil can be discovered in the working of the opposite system, there will probably be no end at all to the melancholy discoveries which both parties will make against each other, and so no end to the debate: for the guilty passions of men are everywhere perpetual fountains of wrong-doing. And second, the comparison of results must be deceptive, because no finite mind can take in all the details of both the wholes. Our wisdom, then, will be to take no extreme positions, and to make no 25 invidious comparisons unnecessarily. It is enough for us to place ourselves on this impregnable stand; that the relation of master and slave is recognized as lawful in itself by a sound philosophy, and above all, by the Word of God. It is enough for us to say (what is capable of overwhelming demonstration) that for the African race, such as Providence has made it, and where He has placed it in America, slavery was the righteous, the best, yea, the only tolerable relation. Whether it would be wise or just for other States to introduce it, we need not argue.

And in conclusion, we would state that it is our purpose to argue this proposition chiefly on Bible grounds. Our people and our national neighbours are professedly Christians; the vast majority of them profess to get their ideas of morality, as all should, from the Sacred Scriptures. A few speculative minds may reason out moral conclusions from ethical principles; but the masses derive their ideas of right and wrong from a "Thus saith the Lord." And it is a homage we owe to the Bible, from whose principles we have derived so much of social prosperity and blessing, to appeal to its verdict on every subject upon which it has spoken. Indeed, when we remember how human reason and learning have blundered in their philosophizings; how great parties have held for ages the doctrine of the divine right of kings as a political axiom; how the whole civilized world held to the righteousness of persecuting errors in opinion, even for a century after the Reformation; we shall feel little confidence in mere human reasonings on political principles; we shall rejoice to follow a steadier light. The scriptural argument for the 26 righteousness of slavery gives us, moreover, this great advantage: If we urge it successfully, we compel the Abolitionists either to submit, or else to declare their true infidel character. We thrust them fairly to the wall, by proving that the Bible is against them; and if they declare themselves against the Bible (as the most of them doubtless will) they lose the support of all honest believers in God's Word.

This discussion will therefore be, in the main, a series of expositions. The principles of scriptural exposition are simply those of common sense; and it will be the writer's aim so to explain them that they shall commend themselves to every honest mind, and to rid them of the sophisms of the Abolitionists.

But before we proceed to this discussion we propose to devote a few pages to the exposition of the historical facts which place the attitude of Virginia in the proper light.


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