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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » A Defence of Virginia » CHAPTER IV. HISTORY OF EMANCIPATION.
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The motive for introducing the historical facts contained in this chapter is the following: That the credit of Virginia as a slaveholding State is relatively illustrated by the conduct of her partners in the confederation touching the same matter. Virginia never passed a general act of emancipation; on the contrary, she forbade masters to free their slaves within her borders, unless they also provided for their removal to new homes. But what was it which the Northern States actually did? The general answer to this question cannot be better given than in the words of the Hon. A. H. H. Stuart of Virginia, in his Report to the General Assembly, as chairman of its joint committee on the Harper's Ferry outrages. He says:

"At the date of the declaration of our national independence, slavery existed in every colony of the Confederation....

"Shortly after the Declaration of Independence, the Northern States adopted prospective measures to relieve themselves of the African population. But it is a great mistake to suppose that their policy in this particular was prompted by any spirit of philanthropy or tender regard for the welfare of the negro race. On 80 the contrary, it was dictated by an enlightened self-interest, yielding obedience to overruling laws of social economy. Experience had shown that the African race were not adapted to high northern latitudes, and that slave labour could not compete successfully with free white labour in those pursuits to which the industry of the North was directed. This discovery having been made, the people of the North, at an early day, began to dispose of their slaves by sale to citizens of the Southern States, whose soil, climate, and productions were better adapted to their habits and capacities; and the legislation of the Northern States, following the course of publick opinion, was directed, not to emancipation, but to the removal of the slave population beyond their limits. To effect this object, they adopted a system of laws which provided, prospectively, that all slaves born of female slaves, within their jurisdiction, after certain specified dates, should be held free when they attained a given age. No law can be found on the statute-book of any Northern State, which conferred the boon of freedom on a single slave in being. All who were slaves remained slaves. Freedom was secured only to the children of slaves, born after the days designated in the laws; and it was secured to them only in the contingency that the owner of the female slave should retain her within the jurisdiction of the State until after the child was born. To secure freedom to the afterborn child, therefore, it was necessary that the consent of the master, indicated by his permitting the mother to remain in the State, should be superadded to the provisions of the law. Without such consent, the law would have been inoperative, because the mother, before 81 the birth of the child, might, at the will of the master, be removed beyond the jurisdiction of the law. There was no legal prohibition of such removal, for such a prohibition would have been at war with the policy of the law, which was obviously removal, and not emancipation. The effect of this legislation was, as might have readily been foreseen, to induce the owners of female slaves to sell them to the planters of the South, before the time arrived when the forfeiture of the offspring would accrue. By these laws, a wholesale slave trade was inaugurated, under which a large proportion of the slaves of the Northern States were sold to persons residing south of Pennsylvania; and it is an unquestionable fact that a large number of the slaves of the Southern States are the descendants of those sold by Northern men to citizens of the South, with covenants of general warranty of title to them and to their increase."

Thus wrote Mr. Stuart, after thorough research. A brief recital of the enactments of the Northern slaveholding States will show that his general representation is correct. We begin with Massachusetts. No law against slavery, (which had been long legally established in the colony,) was ever passed by her legislature;[69] and in that sense, the right to hold slaves may be said to have formally existed, until it was extinguished by her adoption of the "constitutional amendment," in 1866! Practically, slavery was gradually removed after 1780, by the current of the legal decisions against it, grounded upon a clause in the new 82 bill of rights, adopted by the State in that year. This clause asserted, nearly in the words of the Declaration of Independence, the native equality and liberty of men. In 1781 a slave of N. Jennison, of Worcester County, recovered damages of his master for beating.[70] This decision, if sustained, of course implied the cessation of slavery. Although the Legislature of the State was moved in 1783, by this Jennison and others, to declare that slavery did not exist legally, so that the doubt might be ended, that body refused to act; nor did it ever after abolish slavery.[71] But judicial decisions after the example of the Jennison case were made from time to time, until, in 1796, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, in the case of Littleton v. Tuttle,[72] gave its countenance to the doctrine, that the bill of rights virtually made slavery illegal. That all this was a glaring instance of the judicial abuse, ampliandi jurisdictionem, is manifest from many facts: That the Massachusetts statesmen who adopted the same proposition in the Declaration of Independence, never dreamed of its possessing any force to abolish slavery in the United States which set it forth: That the convention which drew up the bill of rights for Massachusetts did not think of such an application; That this document declared "no part of any citizen's property could be taken from him without his own consent:" That slaves continued to be bought and sold, and advertised as before; And that the abolitionists, still in the minority, continued after 1780 to remonstrate against slavery as 83 a sin still legalized. But such a mode of determining the question was well adapted to the meddlesome and crooked temper of that people. By this judicial trick the envious non-slaveholders were enabled to attack their richer slaveholding neighbours, and render them so uneasy as to insure their disposing of their slaves; while still there was neither law nor publick opinion prevalent enough to procure a legal act of emancipation.

New Hampshire and Vermont embodied the principle of prospective emancipation in their new constitutions. In 1790 there were 158 slaves in New Hampshire. In 1840 there was still one! Rhode Island passed a law in 1784, that no person born after that year should continue a slave. Connecticut embodied in the revision of her laws, in 1784, a law providing that all children born of slave parents after March 1st of that year, should be free at twenty-five years of age. In 1797 the term of servitude was reduced to twenty-one years for all born after August 1st of that year. Slavery was not actually abolished by law until June 12th, 1848; when the census shows there were no fewer than seventeen slaves in the State; and how old and worthless they must have been, appears from the fact that the youngest of them must have been born before March 1st, 1784.[73]

In New York, the laws for slaves were more severe than in the Southern States, and the African slave trade was zealously encouraged during the whole colonial period. The slave could not testify, even to 84 exculpate a slave. Three justices, with a sort of jury of five freeholders, could try capitally, and inflict any sentence, inclusive of burning alive.[74] It was not until 1799 that the State commenced a system of laws for the gradual abolition of slavery. Every slave child born after July 4th of that year was to be free, the males after twenty-eight, and the females after twenty-five years. In 1810, the benefit of freedom was also extended to those born before July 4th, 1799, to take effect July 4th, 1827, the date at which the earliest born of those freed by previous law reached their majority of twenty-eight years.[75] Still the census of 1830 found 75 slaves! The Revised Statutes of New York, after 1817, provided a penalty for those carrying them out of the State for sale; showing that the tendency to do so existed.

In New Jersey, the first act looking towards prospective emancipation was adopted in 1784. By it all born after 1804 were to be free in 1820. It was not until 1820 that action was taken to give effect to this promise; and then the nature of the law was such as to postpone the hopes of the slaves. The first section of the law of February 24th, 1820, says: "Every child born of a slave within this State since the 4th day of July 1804, or which shall hereafter be born as aforesaid, shall be free; but shall remain the servant of the owner of his or her mother, and the executors, administrators and assigns of such owners, in the same manner as if such child had been bound to service by the Trustees or Overseers of the poor, and shall continue 85 in such service, if a male until the age of twenty-five years, and if a female until the age of twenty-one years." It was within the scope of possibility that slave women whom this law left slaves for life might bear children as late as the year 1848: whence bondage would not have been terminated wholly by it until 1873. New Jersey had 236 slaves for life in 1850. It is stated by one of the best informed of her old citizens, that the prospective effect of these enactments was to cause a considerable exodus to Southern markets; and that when a boy, he heard much talk of the sale of negroes, and the sending of them to "the Natchez," and was cognizant of the continual apprehension of the negroes concerning the danger.

In Pennsylvania, emancipation was also prospective and gradual. Her first act was passed March 1st, 1780. The rate at which it operated may be seen from these figures: In 1776 she had about 10,000 slaves; in 1790, (ten years after her first act,) she had 3,737; in 1800, 1,706; in 1810, 795; in 1820, 211; in 1830, 403; and in 1840, 64 slaves.

Thus, the emancipation legislation of the Northern States has been reviewed, and the assertions of the Hon. Mr. Stuart substantially sustained. That Northern emancipation was prompted by no consideration for the supposed rights of Africans, but by regard to their own interests, is evinced by many facts. Of these, perhaps the most general and striking is the persistent neglect of the welfare of their emancipated slaves; the refusal to give them equal civic rights, until they found a motive for doing so in malice against the South; and the shocking decadence, vice and misery to which 86 a nominal liberty, according to the testimony of Northern writers, has consigned their wretched free blacks. Another proof is found in the current language of the men of the generation which effected the change. That language, as is well remembered by elderly persons still living, was usually such as this: that now that the population had filled up the country, the question of emancipation was simply one of choice between their own children and the negro—whether their sons should emigrate, or the negro be gotten rid of, as there was no longer room for both. Another conclusive proof is in the fact that while these States were getting rid of their own negroes, they were deliberately voting (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, in the Convention of 1787,) to prolong the introduction of slaves into the Carolinas nineteen years more. Still another evidence is found in the repugnance of those States to the influx of free blacks, and the stringent laws of some of them to prevent it. Thus, Massachusetts, in March, 1788, (eight years after the pretended extinction of human bondage,) passed a law ordering every black, mulatto or Indian who came into the State and remained two months to be publickly whipped; and this punishment was to be repeated "if he or she shall not depart toties quoties."[76] This law remained in force until 1834! as is shown by its appearance in the Revised Laws of Massachusetts, 1823. It is also to be noted that the scheme of gradual emancipation, upon which the whole North acted, obviously recognizes the property of the master in his slave as legitimate 87 in itself. It only touches it, (because private rights are here required to give place to publick interest,) in the case of those born after a certain day. The slavery of the others is left as perpetual and legal as ever. And even as to the later born, the right of the master receives a certain recognition, in that he is allowed twenty-five years' service as a partial compensation for the surrender of the remainder.

But how different is the summary abolition forced upon Virginia and the South! Here, the general legislation of the State was steadily multiplying, elevating and blessing the black race, which in the North was so rapidly dying out under its pretended liberty. And private beneficence of Virginians, without any legal compulsion, had actually given the boon of freedom to at least one hundred thousand blacks; which is more than all the citizens of the New England States, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania together, ever did, under the force of all their laws.[77] In this wise and beneficent career Virginia has been violently interrupted, against her recognized and guaranteed rights, by instant and violent abolition. The motive of the North, 88 as a whole, has manifestly been, not love for the negro, but hatred of the white man, and lust of domination. This abolition is purely the result of a supposed military necessity, because the North believed that otherwise she could not overthrow the South in an unjust war. But for this single fact, the Africans would still be in bondage, so far as the Yankee was concerned. The proof is, that the Chicago platform of the Black Republican party in 1860, expressly repudiated the purpose ever to meddle with slavery in the States. Mr. Lincoln, the chosen man of the North, solemnly asserted the same thing in his letter to A. H. Stephens of Georgia, in his publick inaugural, and in his messages. The Congress, after the beginning of the war, solemnly declared to the world by a joint resolution, that the purpose of the war was only to restore the union, and not to restrict or change State institutions. Mr. Lincoln constantly declared to the Abolitionists, that if the perpetuation of slavery tended to restore the union, it should be perpetuated. His standing invitation to the States in arms against him was: "If you wish to keep your slaves, come back into the union." Can the North be believed in her own declarations? Then, the charge made is true—that abolition in the South was prompted by ambition and hatred, not by philanthropy.

Nor has this act been less wicked in its effects than in its motive. To the white race it was the most violent, convulsive, reckless and mischievous act ever perpetrated by a civilized government. As a war measure, it was calculated and expected to evoke all the savage horrors of servile war, neighbourhood massacre 89 and butchery of non-combatants. Only the kindly relations which the benevolence and justice of the people of Virginia had established between themselves and their slaves, and the good character which we had given to these former savages, disappointed this desired result. As an economic measure, it was the most violent ever attempted in modern history; being a sudden confiscation of half, (and in some of the counties two-thirds) the existing property of the country; and a dislocation of its whole labour system, just when the people were bowed under the burden of a gigantic war, and a collapsed currency. That it did not then again result in a total paralysis of industry, in famine and anarchy, (which was probably intended), is only to be explained by the exercise of an energy, versatility, good sense, and industry in the Southern people, which are almost miraculous. By annihilating at one blow so much of the property on which the indebtedness of the country was based, it insured a financial confusion and general bankruptcy which are destined to plunge hundreds of thousands of innocent persons (innocent even from Yankee points of view) into destitution and domestic distress, which three generations will not heal. It confiscated the property of "loyal union men," of helpless minors and lunatics, of venerable and infirm widows, without compensation, just as it did the possessions of the Confederate leader most obnoxious to the Yankee wrath. And what was the species of possession? Was it some foul lucre, like the spoils of an Achan, so unrighteous that it must be instantly plucked away, regardless of consequences? No; it was a species of property legalized by 90 Moses and Christ, owned for ages by the boasted ancestors of the despoilers, now owned by themselves in the form of its fruits and increase, guaranteed by the Constitution which alone gave them any right to govern us, legalized by all our State laws, which were of earlier and superior authority to that Constitution, and recognized by the sacred pledges of the North itself, even so late as the beginning of this war.

But the step has been far more mischievous and unjust to the poor blacks, its pretended beneficiaries. It did not tarry to inquire whether they were fit for the change. It has resulted in the outbreak of a flood of vice, before repressed; of drunkenness, of illicit lust, of infanticide, of theft; and above all, of idleness, the least flagrant, but most truly mischievous fault of the African. It has suddenly and greatly diminished their share of the material goods they before enjoyed. The supplies of clothing and shoes now acquired by them do not reach a third of what they received before the war. Immediately on their emancipation, all the rural mill-owners testified that their grists fell off one-half, and have remained at that grade since. In those neighbourhoods where the blacks did not emigrate, (which was true of many neighbourhoods,) this showed that the consumption of bread was reduced one-half; for although the large proprietors now had no occasion to send their large grists, yet, unless there were less consumed, the aggregate of the little grists of the freedmen's families should have made good that decrease. Every statesman knows that any burden or disaster imposed upon the industrial pursuits of a country, is transmitted down by the property classes to the destitute class, and 91 presses there with its whole force; just as inevitably as the weight of a statue placed upon the top of a column, is ultimately delivered upon the lowest stratum of foundation-stones. For the great law of self-preservation prompts each man, who has any property, to employ it in evading that pressure for himself and his family. Thus the actual onus is handed down, until it reaches that class who have no property, and must therefore bear it, because they have nothing wherewith to pay for the shifting of it. Thus, all the malice of the conqueror, aimed at the hated white man, while it crowds us down, also crowds down equally the labourer beneath us; and the blow alights ultimately on him.

The famine which is now preying upon some parts of the South illustrates the mischief done by the disorganization of labour, and the comparative excellence of the old system. Such was its beneficence, that it carried the Southern country through all the exhausting trials of the war, without actual dearth in any part of the Confederacy. Hundreds of thousands of our most vigorous men were wholly withdrawn from productive pursuits; our own armies were to be sustained; great hosts of enemies were continually tearing the vitals of the country; the year 1864 brought a drought so severe that in some parts of the country the crops of grain were reduced to one-tenth of the usual harvests; and yet, such was the happiness of our system, that it endured all these enormous trials, and met the wants of all. But after the new régime was well established, there came in 1866 such a drought as the South had several times experienced before, without inconvenience; and although all was peace, there were no 92 armies to support, and no labouring man was called from the farm to the unproductive toils of the camp and the intrenchment, famine immediately resulted. Here is a fair comparison of the system of free African labour, with the old one. Indolence is the parent of crime. While the smaller misdemeanours are more frequent, there has been an alarming increase of felonies. In the orderly little county of Prince Edward, the criminal convictions of black persons averaged only one per year before the war. The last year they numbered twelve! An inquiry into the statistics of crime in our cities would reveal a yet larger increase.[78]

Last, facts already evince, that the doom of ultimate extermination which Southern philanthropists have ever predicted as the result of premature emancipation, is already overtaking the negro with giant strides. About the end of 1866 the officers of the State revenue made their returns, which showed that there were then about 275,650 negro males over 21 years within the present limits of Virginia. Repeated calculations made from previous returns show that there are usually four and a half times as many souls among the blacks of Virginia as there are males over 21 years. The entire black population of the State then, at the end of the 93 last year, was 340,500. The census of 1860 returned 531,000 blacks within the present limits of the State. The diminution is therefore 190,500; or nearly two-fifths, in less than two years. Some may suppose that more negro men have left the State since the war than women and children. If this is true, the number of males is now relatively smaller, and should be multiplied by a larger ratio than 4-1/2 to find the correct total. But, on the other hand, it is certain that the neglect and mortality have been much larger among the aged and little children than among the robust men. This fact, therefore, reduces the ratio of the total to the males over 21 years, and renders it certain that 340,500 is a large estimate. The same officers brought in returns which show that the white population of Virginia, although decimated by a terrible war, has actually increased since 1860. But we exposed no negro to the dangers of the battle. Thus it is made manifest that the philanthropy of Yankees has been to the poor negro an infinitely more desolating scourge than a tremendous war has been to the race against which the sword was openly wielded. And it requires little arithmetic to discover how long it will be, at this rate, before the monstrous consummation will be reached of the extinction of a whole nation of people by their professed friends.


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