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[346]

Davis to Mankind.

appeals to posterity are very cheap, because whatever may be posterity's decision, it can not disturb the repose of appellants who are snugly slumbering in their coffins. Appeals to mankind, excellent as they are, for rounding a speech, or for filling up the moral hiatus of a pronunciamento, are seldom more than specimens of pretty rhetoric. Mr. Davis being in a lofty passion at the Emancipation Edict, appeals to the civilized world, and “to the instincts of that common humanity which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellow-men of all countries, to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race — peaceful and contented laborers in their sphere — are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters.”

It is astonishing to mark how exceedingly fraternal this Confederate Champion has become in his serene mind — in what an affectionate manner he opens his arms and begs to be embraced, and with what tenderness he preaches to this great globe of “the instincts of our common humanity.” This might be justly regarded as a rouser of the humanity, common and. uncommon, of our Common Humanity, did we not know, that the selfishness of man, and particularly of man enthroned, is usually quite too much for his self-abnegation. Humanity, as Squire Davis ought to know, is most warmly interested in frying its own [347] fish. Humanity in far-off regions toward which the Confederate ruler is so amorously looking, across the broad Atlantic, is not without its own complications and embarrassments, its questions of bread and butter and bullion, its privileged classes to be coddled, and its pauper classes to be crushed, its dying oligarchies and awakening masses, its certain demands and its uncertain supplies.

Humanity, as such, does not care to be appealed to, and it particularly dislikes, in all diplomatic conferences, anything like a whine. Davis should know better than to suppose that he can gain any consideration abroad by a studied display of the Confederate ulcers. Foreign cabinets will not assist him any the sooner because he protests, though never so pathetically, that he is in instant danger of having his throat cut, his crops destroyed and his house burned over his ill-fated head. Of this indeed, the Confederate Sachem has a shrewd suspicion. He is therefore like Orator Puff, and has two tones to his voice — the “B alt.” of appeal and the “G below” of defiance. If he whines, we must do him the justice to say that he also roars. The Confederacy wants everything, and it wants nothing. The “nigger” loves Davis dearly and will slaughter him upon the first opportunity. The Slave, who is so “peaceful and contented” to-day, is to be transformed into a homicidal devil to-morrow, through the mysterious influence of a bit of printed paper, six inches long by two broad, which to save his life, he cannot read! The careful hands which smooth Mr. Davis's virtuous sheets in the [348] evening, will be at his wind-pipe before he can rise to his morning prayers. In short Mr. Davis is very much alarmed and not in the least frightened — in great peril, but never so safe before in his life — highly suspicious of Sambo, in whose fidelity he has the highest confidence! No doubt he is in a dreadful quandary — but why should he advertise it to mankind?

A man in a situation so highly uncomfortable may properly be pardoned though his logic limps a little. If the Black be a compendium of the Seven Cardinal Virtues, tender, affectionate, peaceful, and contented — what is there in the Proclamation by which he is “doomed to extermination?” Who is to be the exterminator? The master beloved! Who is to be exterminated? The affectionate, peaceful and contented slave! Surely this is a most inscrutable concatenation. The world may not be prepared, as J. D. supposes, to abandon its humane instincts, but still less will it be prepared to abandon its common sense or to bestow its admiration upon a statesman who gravely informs it, with tears gushing in rivulets from his swollen eyes, that in order to maintain the State he anticipates the necessity of putting to the sword, of “exterminating,” “several millions of peaceful and contented human beings,” in order to prevent this peace and content from developing itself in “a general assassination of their masters.” With all due respect to his Excellency's intellectuals, we must say that he seems to have a weak preference for the circular style of reasoning. [349]

In another way this titular President makes quite as deplorable a show of fatuitous sagacity. He takes it for granted that mankind does not know what Human Slavery is. He supposes that man just now emerging from the darkness of social degradation, has lost all recollection of the pangs inflicted by his oppressors; that those who are only now casting off the manacles of the Middle Ages, are to be cozened into the belief that involuntary servitude is the most blessed of human conditions. Davis should remember that he is asking the statesmen of Europe to acknowledge as excellent in America, a social policy which they are fast abandoning at home; and that the enfranchised of the old lands comprehend well enough what Slavery must be in the United States. Human nature will have something to do with that common humanity, to which Davis officially tenders the assurance of his most respectful consideration.

There is no man in Europe who is so ignorant as not to know that Slavery means unrequited toil, unrestrained cruelty, the despair of man and the degradation of woman. Whips speak a universal language as they fall upon the bare and blistering back; all ears understand that their hiss is hellish, and that the mystic characters which they write upon the cracking and furrowed skin do not hide any new gospel of ineffable tenderness. Common humanity has a common cuticle and refuses to comprehend the delights of flagellation. Common humanity instinctively shrinks from a forced concubinage, from the sunderings of marital ties, from the [350] paternity which sells its own children, from a system of labor which is pitiless in its demands and worse than niggardly in its rewards. Common humanity is not so utterly besotted as to find virtue in unrestrained violence and beauty in systematic brutality. Common humanity has its instincts, and of these Davis should have said as little as possible. What had he to do with humanity at all? Why should he take the trouble of reminding mankind that there are, even in this hardhearted world, such things as sacred pity and eternal justice? Why transfer his assaults from the pockets of commerce to the heart of the human race? Why talk of anything save cash and cotton? Why not be contented with a good merchantable Message addressed not to the Man of Feeling, but to the Man of Trade — a Message bristling with figures to prove the profitableness of Man-Owning, and stiff with the fascinating statistics of well-requited wickedness?

The Confederacy should understand that it can have no recognition except upon contemptuous conditions, no good will which it does not buy, and no hearts which it does not bribe. Men will trade with it, and so they will trade with Hottentots. In respect of its Slaveholding, mankind will loath this new and hybrid republic; but in respect of its cotton crop, it is supposed by the Richmond sages that mankind will be good-natured. We shall see. Mankind may prefer a certainty of cotton supply. Mankind may not fancy the dubious product of unrequited and discontented labor. Mankind, or [351] that portion of it which is devoted to the weaving of cotton cloth, may have prejudices in favor of a well-assured and steady production.

January 24, 1863.

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