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Gordian knot, than to untie it; and so it is with
many would-be reformers; they “ feel the riddle of the world," but cannot “unravel it.” Alas! that they should not bave modesty enough to retire from a work to which they find themselves inadequate! It is truly amazing, that with so small a capital of experience and wisdom, men will set themselves up as reformers of the age; and still more amazing, that the public will give credit to their pretensions.
We bope the time is coming, when such things cannot be, when the community will fear to put itself under the medical care of rash and ignorant empirics, and will seek the counsels of experience, and listen to the dictates of wisdom. We hope the time is coming, when the sayings of the great, and the voice of the aged, will be heard in our land with respect and reverence ; when the impetuosity of youth will be held in check by the consciousness of ignorance, and the brutal force of passion overawed by the presence of intellectual and moral greatness. We hope the time is coming, when the fear of man will give way to the fear of God; and they who are charged with the reformation of abuses, will ask, not what the people desire, but what they need; not what is demanded by“ public opinion," but what is required by justice. In fine, we hope the time is coming, when reformers will be less confident in their own wisdom, and lean more on the teachings of the Holy Spirit; when not only an extensive acquaintance with the history of man, a profound knowledge of human nature, a peculiar skill in the application of principles, and in the adaptation of means to ends; but personal humility, gentleness of heart, and an habitual reliance on the Father of lights, will be considered as essential requisites in bim who shall originate and control those great operations which are for the improvement of human society. We hope that day is coming. May God in his mercy hasten it!
ART. X.-ANDREWS ON SLAVERY.
Slavery and the Domestic Slave-trade in the United States. In a series of letters
addressed to the Executive Committee of the American Union for the relief and improvement of the colored race. By Prof. E. A. ANDREWS. Boston : 1836.
The author of this book was formerly, for several years, prosessor of languages in the University of North Carolina. Of course he has some qualifications for writing on slavery, which do not belong to every man who undertakes to treat on that subject. This book, however, contains the results not so much of his former acquaintance with slavery, as of a tour performed by bim last summer, with a view to inquiries, in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. It seems to have been written with unusual candor. The author does not appear to have commenced his inquiries with a predetermination as to the conclusions at which he should arrive. We do not remember to have read any thing of the kind which seemed so entirely worthy of unqualified confidence.
The observations and inquiries which Mr. Andrews bad the opportunity of making, in a tour of three weeks, were necessarily limited; and any deductions from them are of course liable to be modified by the results of more extended investigation. Yet there are some things in slavery, and in the condition of the colored population, which appear to a discerning observer at the first sight; and from which conclusions may be drawn which no subsequent investigation can set aside.
What is southern slavery in theory ? This question can be answered, without going to the south at all. It can be accurately or fairly answered, only out of the statute-books of the States in which slavery exists. What is southern slavery in actual operation ?-is quite another question. Putting our knowledge of the theory of slavery side by side with our knowledge of human nature, we may infer what this system will be in its actual operation. But this is only inference ; and though no man who knows anything of human nature, can fail to acquire in this way some correct knowledge of the working of the system,-every rational inquirer must feel that there may be, -in the state of society, in the vital energy of the christianity diffused, more or less extensively, through the community,—in the power of public opinion uttered from all parts of the world,-Day, even in the working of enlightened selfishness,-counteracting and modifying influences not easily estimated. He must feel, too, that there may be, in the burning sun and enervating air of our almost oriental climate, and in the excitement of commercial speculation, influences that even aggravate the natural operation of a system which in theory shocks all his sensibilities. The rational inquirer, then, cannot but presume, that the actual working of the system of slavery can only be completely and truly known by actual observation, or by the testimony of candid and faithful observers.
But what is the testimony of observers in respect to the operation of the system of slavery? One man, having traveled over the south, comes home with an account of the comforts of the slave, bis contentment, the lightness of his tasks, bis secure provision against the time of sickness or old age, his thoughtless merriment, and the contrast between his condition and that of the lazy, improvident, drunken, ungoverned, and unprotected free black; and this is his picture of slavery. This, we need not say, is the very picture uniformly drawn by slave-holders. VOL. VIII.
Another man will go over the same ground, and will see nothing but horrors, or at least will report nothing but horrors. The slave bleeding under the scourge, or fainting and dying under bis burdens; the master indulging all the vices of the pirate ; children torn from parents, and husbands from wives; these are the figures which fill up his representation. What shall we believe? Shall we receive all that is said by the one, and reject all that is said by the other ? Certainly neither of these witnesses reports the whole truth; though probably each of them reports the whole impression produced on bis mind by wbat he bas seen. The observer who represents both sides of the subject, is the one whose story has in itself the strongest indications of complete trust-worthiness. There are slaves whose lot is simple wretchedness, without mixture, without alleviation, without hope. On the other hand, there are slaves well fed, well clothed, carefully protected and provided for, kindly and judiciously governed, whose yoke of bondage is so light, that it is hardly felt to be a yoke. To describe the lot of either of these classes, ever so vividly, is not to give a full or fair account of slavery as it is in actual operation. The truth lies between these conflicting statements; or rather, the truth includes them both, and includes a great deal more. He whose interests or prejudices prevent him from seeing in slavery any thing much to be regretted, and he whose feelings or predeterminations prevent him from reporting any alleviating circumstances, may both be valuable witnesses ; for each may report facts of great importance, which the other entirely omits. Such a reporter, however, as the author of this book, is better than both of them. While he represents without fear or favor, and with natural sentiments of indignation, the atrocities which slavery produces, and which are the natural operation of the system, he has no passions and no perverted babits of mind which prevent him from seeing or admitting into his statement the facts on which the slave-holder relies for the defense of the system. The following statement is one which seems to us important to a right apprehension of the subject :
"Among others into whose society I was accidentally thrown, were two families from the extreme south, who were returning slowly bomeward from their summer's tour to the northern States, and stopping so long in the principal cities through which they passed, and at the various watering places which they visited, as to reach Louisiana after the first frosts of autumn should have rendered their return safe. The gentlemen might have been twenty-five or thirty years old; the ladies were a few years younger. The latter had each the charge of an interesting child two or three years old, the special care of which was committed to two colored nurses, who were their only attendants. It was not easy to determine which of the group were happiest, the sedate, intelligent, and dignified fathers, the accomplished mothers, the playful children, or their young, well fed, and well dressed nurses.
The situation in which domestic slaves are often placed, in prosperous moral and intelligent families, is one of far more unmingled happiness than is usually imagined by those who have never witnessed it.' The mistake into which many fall, upon this subject, arises principally from their failing to estimate properly the amount of happiness occasioned by the mutual affection between the white and the colored members of the same family. This attachment is of course a more available source of happiness in virtuous families, than in those of an opposite character; but, like parental and filial affection, it is rarely entirely wanting, even in the most hardened and profligate. This relation is in reality more like that of parent and child, than like any other with which it can be compared, and is altogether stronger than that which binds together the northern employer and his hired domestic. The slave looks to his master and mistiess for direction in everything, and insensibly acquires for them a respect mingled with affection, of which those never dream who think of slavery only as a system of whips and setters,—of unseeling tyranny, on the one part, and of fear mingled with hatred, on the other. The latter is the usual picture of slavery which is presented to the people of the north, and it is no wonder that southern masters, who know how wide from truth this representation is, are not particularly ready to listen to the counsel of those, whom they perceive to be so ill-informed upon the subject. Wanton cruelty may be too often practiced by masters, as it is by many parents ; but this, which is but an occasional incident of slavery, should not be exhibited as the prominent evil. This may be removed by the influence of humane feelings, and especially by christian principle; but countless evils will still remain, inherent and inseparable from the system.' pp. 33–35.
Another aspect of slavery is exhibited in the following passage. It is in vain to tell a human being, with a human heart, ihal slavery, however disguised, is not "a bitter draught."
It is sometimes said, that liberty is not greatly prized by the slaves, or even by the free blacks themselves. I have seen the attempt made to convince the slave that liberty would not place him in more eligible circumstances. He would sometimes yield to the arguments, but there was always something in his manner which showed, that, even if the reason was confounded, the heart did not yield its assent. Although the condition of the free blacks in the southern States is proverbially wretched, and most of them are sufficiently apprised of its inconveniences and miseries by their own bitter experience, yet none of the manifest an inclination to return to slavery: Fully acquainted with both conditions, they submit to the inconveniences of freedom, not indeed contentedly, but with no design of improving their circumstances by sacrificing their liberty. While residing at the south, I knew an intelligent free mulatto, whose naine was Sam. I do not remember in what manper he obtained his freedom, but he richly deserved it by his uniformly good behavior. A friend of mine who took a deep interest in his welfare, often conversed kindly with him concerning his prospects, and endeavored to suggest plans for his benefit. He was struck with the unfortunate circumstances in which the free blacks were placed, and once endeavored to convince Sam that his condition had not been improved by obtaining his liberty. Sam listened to his representations in respectful silence, conscious of his own inability to maintain the cause of freedom by an array of argument. When my friend had concluded his appeal, Sam's only answer was, “ AFTER ALL, IT'S A HEAP BETTER TO BE FREE.” Brief, however, as the answer was, it spoke the feelings of the whole human race, whether bond or free. If liberty could ever be accounted worthless, it would be such a liberty as falls to the lot of the free negro, when surrounded by slaves and their masters. Yet, with no better prospects than these, he was able to decide, with a clearness of apprehension that nothing could confuse or mislead, that freedom was still invaluable. While this principle remains in full operation in the heart, it is in vain that the slave is convinced that his external circumstances would not be improved by obtaining his freedom : though satisfied that by remaining a slave he shall be better sed, and clothed, and sheltered, and nursed when sick or old, he still feels that the power to choose for himself and to direct his own actions, is more than an equivalent for all these advantages, and his heart replies, “ After all, it's a heap better to be free.
pp. 107–109. What is slavery in the city of Washington ?-the slavery wbich is too sacred to be touched by the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress? The facts described below occurred last summer. Our author's informant was “ a gentleman well known in this country for his literary and scientific attainments :"
A negro, about twenty-five years old, who is married, and has three or four children, has just applied to my informant, stating that he is to be sold immediately to a slave-dealer, and separated forever from his family, unless he can find some resident in the District who will consent to purchase him. He is a member of a church in this city, and has uniformly sustained a christian character. His master wishes to raise a few hundred dollars, which he has not the means of doing conveniently, without the sale of one of his slaves. Now it happens that the purpose for which this money is to be raised is well known, and is no other than to purchase a mulatto woman, with whom he is known to be criminally connected. As if even this were not a sufficient provocation to the moral sense of the community, there is an aggravation arising from the motive which determined the master to sell the slave of whom I am speaking, rather than any other. He had endeavored to employ this slave in bringing other colored women into the same relation to him, as the mulatto woman whom I have mentioned, but here the servant felt that he had a Master in heaven, whom he was bound to obey, rather than his earthly master. His refusal had greatly irritated his master, and led to his being selected for sale.' pp. 111, 112.