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Perils and Besetting Snares.

an institution morally bad seldom deludes the world into the belief that it is practically a good one. Wrong and injustice are not only insufferable, theoretically, but they have a hard way of rendering nations, societies and individuals exceedingly uncomfortable. By the indulgence of petty vices, we may sometimes lapse into a dreamy slumber, and thence into decided decomposition; but a continuous and absorbing mistake, like that of Slavery, gives us no peace, and makes our mornings and our evenings full of disquietude and contention.

The Slaveholder, so far from securing for himself and his family that soft and lassitudinous enjoyment, the desire for which is his moving principle, is surrounded by unseen perils, and is the constant victim of nameless apprehensions. His retainers cannot meet for prayer or for pleasure, without alarming him; a poor half-fed, half-clothed, half-sheltered and hard-worked toiler cannot look sulky but his master [2] sees in that black face a general insurrection; a Northern newspaper arriving at the post-office is savagely squinted at as if it were an infernal machine; and the very chit-chat of the market and the tavern is scrupulously sifted in search of abolition sentiments. The great house is tremulous with alarms, and stands always in dread of the humbler quarter-houses. There is a revolution on foot in the garret. There is a gunpowder plot in the cellar. Betty is putting arsenic into the soup in the kitchen, and Sam is secreting a rusty musket in the stable. All this reconciles us to blundering Irish servants, to half cooked breakfasts, and to half-blackened boots, to the innumerable inconveniences attending free service on which our Southern friends are perpetually descanting. There is a pleasure in feeling comparatively safe. There is rapture in the conviction that your throat is decently assured from the knife of the assassin.

How easily the slaveholder is frightened, and how thoroughly, helplessly and hopelessly he is frightened, is proved by the astonishing willingness which he exhibits to hang his two-legged chattels. His public spirit in this regard is remarkable; and the recent alarms of insurrection have furnished us with many notable instances of such magnanimity. To kill a dog that has worried sheep is not uncommon; but then no dog is worth one thousand hard federal dollars, nor has Governor Wise made any enraptured prophecy of a rise in the canine market. The truth is that all the fuss and flurry, the public palpitation [3] and panic, the excitement and executions which we have witnessed, prove with a rigidity of logic of which statistics would be incapable, the pitiable weakness of the Slave System. Such events as those which we have been obliged to record, render all apologies, excuses, extenuations and sophistries of no avail. They knock our twaddling friend, Mr. Richard Yeadon, as flat as his own style; they make ludicrous the elegant simplicities of Mr. Simms, and they demolish the card-castle theories of Mr. Calhoun, reared with so much patience, and at such an expense of time, of thought, and of ingenuity. And most especially do they dissipate the Abrahamic fancies of good President Lord, who, with a great deal of theology and an infinitesimal infusion of Christianity, has proved black to be white, to the satisfaction of himself, of six other doctors of divinity, and of The Journal of Commerce. In the multitude of his bondmen the patriarch found strength, but the bigger the gangs of the plantation, the greater the weakness of the whole establishment. In South Carolina, this species of property has reached a point beyond which accumulation seems to be impossible; yet the State is in the last stages of constructive pauperism, and would not have a doit to cross itself withal, did it not keep watch and ward with blade and blunderbuss. Abraham walking through his fields with a revolver in one hand, a cowhide in the other, and a bowie-knife between his reverend teeth — who can imagine such a preposterous figure? [4]

We have said that these insurrections as they are called, or rather the fears of them, demonstrate the weakness of the whole system of Slavery — a weakness that ramifies in every direction, and is felt in finance and in faith; in personal character and in the public character; in manners, habits, and all the phenomena of social life. This is true of it in a time of peace, when there is no pressure from without, and no extraordinary demand upon the resources of the State. Comparatively, at such a time, an indulgence in cowardly stupidities may be harmless. But a war is by no means impossible. We have vapored and swaggered and played Pistol; we have indulged in the pleasing luxury of Ostend manifestoes; and, in theory at least, we have demolished most of the reigning dynasties of Europe, just as effectually as we have demolished Greytown.

But suppose the dogs of war should become too strong for the Marcy of the future, or should grow restive in their leashes, with no Palmerston to restrain them. In the event of war, have our readers considered how frightful would be the results of an invasion of the Southern country? That there would be invasion nobody can doubt; nor can any one suppose that a sagacious enemy would strike at us in the strongest places. Then, indeed, the noblest natural resources of the country would only prove its bitterest curse. It would be better to be without great gulfs, if they only invited the menacing fleets of the enemy; without mighty rivers, if they merely served for the transportation of hostile flotillas; and, with [5] the threatened country in no better situation socially for defence than the South would be, the invitation would be inevitable, and the chances eagerly improved.

With a sparse white population extending over an immense territory, a repulsion of military and naval forces would be, under any circumstances, difficult; but how would those difficulties be increased and complicated by the presence of masses of irritated and despairing men, hopeless of happiness save from the ruin of a country which had proved to them only a stony-hearted stepmother! The imagination shrinks from the contemplation of scenes in which the customary horrors of war are aggravated by those of a servile insurrection-conflagration, massacre, and wide-spread ruin! It is not enough to say that in such a contest we should be victorious, for victory would be obtained at a cost frightful to estimate — at the expense of a depleted treasury and a diminished population. Those who sneeringly ask us what the North has to do with Slavery, had better devote a few moments of leisure to a contemplation of those contingencies; and should they have any difficulty in coming to a conclusion, we have only to refer them to the condition of South Carolina during the War of the Revolution.

January 8, 1857.

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