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What shall we do with them?

nothing could be more ridiculous and insignificant than many of the reports which have been forwarded to the North, respecting the character and demeanor of the emancipated Slaves. It has been our misfortune, in too many cases, to find this information miserably deficient in liberality, intelligence, and sympathy. A corporal trusts his shirts with a sable laundress, who receives three of these garments and returns two, and those perhaps aggravatingly bereft of buttons, whereupon this indignant brave writes home to the village newspaper, that the contrabands, to an individual, are all thieves. A sturdy black, despairing of remunerative meal or money, declines to dig, at least assiduously, and we are treated to the deep deduction, sometimes by electric telegraph, that, without the lash, all negroes are lazy.

Some venerable Sambo, in confidence, imparts to a gaping letter-writer the fact, that he wishes to go back to his master, and we have leading columns occupied by delighted editors, who conclude from this wonderful premise that all other Sambos wish to go back to their masters also. Hard upon this follows another conclusion, namely, that upon being immediately restored to the bosom of Abraham, this curious [361] descendant of accursed Canaan, unless properly flogged, will experience an inexplicable revulsion of feelings will murder his master and fire his master's house. It appears to us astonishing, that the Civil War, which is not only such a sombre but such a serious business, and which demands of the best mind of the nation such careful and practical judgment, should have led to no wiser reflection. We have had all this before. For a quarter of a century we have been compelled to listen to the same bold assertion and to the same inconsequential reasoning — the same dogged denial of the fitness of the slave for freedom, and of the policy of doing him common justice. The pertinacious assumption of his incapacity for social liberty has been the stock-in-trade of the Man-Owner and of his sufficiently servile apologist, until Heaven is sick and earth weary of hollow words and ingenious subterfuges.

For our own part, as we have been found among those who believe Emancipation to be not only right, but safe, we beg leave to say, that we have never supposed that the liberation of so many human beings, heretofore irresponsible, would be without some embarrassments. It is Freedom that fits men for Freedom, be the man black, white, or yellow, just as the athlete grows sturdy by the exercise of his profession. The crime of Slavery has been, that it has found in the incapacity of its victims, an argument for the continuation of its emasculating influences, and has continually pointed to the ruin it has wrought as an apology for postponing reparation. In elevating [362] masses of men, there must be, as in every other human enterprise, a beginning; and it has been just this costly step which we have been afraid to tale.

Emancipation has been opposed particularly by dough-faces, not because it would diminish crops or endanger human life and public order, but because it was felt that its inevitable effect would be to raise the Black to something like social equality with the White. The fear has been, not that the Freedman would be idle, but that he would be industrious; not that he would become still more degraded, but that he might become tolerably enlightened; not that he would prove unworthy of the experiment and of the confidence impliedly reposed in him, but that he would, by his development of good character, give the lie to his libellers. Men who have spent their lives and their best intellectual energies in proving the inferiority of the African race, cannot be expected to regard a practical refutation of their notions with equanimity. The Freedman can do them no greater disservice than to exhibit the good qualities of which they asserted he was incapable. It is petty vanity which refuses to give emancipated man a chance. Nobody in his senses has supposed that the Black race would emerge instantly from a degradation continued for two centuries. Nobody has expected to find the Freedman altogether beautiful in all parts of his character — a model of possible excellence, a miracle of virtue, a wonder of wit, a paragon of prudence, and a marvel of industry.

In him who was yesterday a slave, we should expect [363] to find the vices of a slave — the traces of that falsehood which heretofore has been his sole protection against cruelty — of that thievishness which may have saved him from the pangs of hunger and guarded him from the inclemency of the elements — of that insubordination of the animal passions which his superiors in society have encouraged Ifor their own profit and by their own example — of that unthrift which has been strengthened by a whole life of jealous guardianship and of restraint in its pettiest forms. We might as well expect to find in new-born babes the fullest muscular development, as in the captive just unchained all the excellencies of human nature.

Emancipation will not remove the scars which Slavery has inflicted. There is many a brow from which the brand can never be erased, and many a feature distorted by involuntary servitude which can never recover its rounded and comely proportions. So much the greater is our crime! So much the deeper should be our shame! So much sooner should we with all the courage of a genuine repentance dock this entail of human misery, and at least turn the faces of future generations toward kindlier opportunities and less discouraging vicissitudes!

The character of the African as it now is, or as it is supposed to be, proves nothing for or against his future well-doing. It is easy to say of a man whose lungs are full of carbonic acid gas, that he can never breathe atmospheric air again; but most medical men would favor the opening of the windows. It is n't only the African who succumbs to an unnatural [364] position, and through systematic disuse loses his moral and many of his physical faculties. Very white men have exhibited no greater capacity for resisting the degrading influences of bondage. Mr. Dupuis, who was long the British Vice-Consul at Mogadore, tells us that the Europeans and Americans who were rescued from enslavement in the desert, were found to have their spirits completely broken by their masters. When they came into Mogadore, he says, “They appeared degraded, and below the negro slave — every spring of hope or exertion was destroyed in their minds — they were abject, servile, and brutified.”

This is said by a white observer of white men just emancipated — we believe that no Pro-Slavery scribbler has said anything worse of the liberated black man. The gist of the matter is just this: if we should take Gov. Seymour, for instance — we take him as at present the leading white man of New York — if we should put him upon a year-long course of short rations and sharp floggings, and heavy taskwork, the presumption is that he would not come out from his disciplinary probation that choice combination of excellent qualities, that epitome of grace and greatness, that abridgment of all that is pleasant in man, that ornament and safeguard of the community, which the majority now thankfully acknowledge him to be.

If a Tammany brawler, in some unfortunate hour, should be compelled to change his beloved bar-room for a barracoon, to go from gluttony to starvation, [365] and, instead of flogging others, to submit himself to the lash, he would deem it unfair if his friends, upon his return, should think the fine gold of his nature grown dim. He would ask time for a due course of recuperative cocktails, and the reviving influences of a few fights, before final judgment against him as a man shamefully destitute of an immoral character. We ask for the black man only time and opportunity, and he will have them whatever may be the mind of the public. Maugre the disgust of the delicate, the mortification of the skin-proud, the wrath of the selfish, the profane protests of the ungodly, and the carefully-selected texts of the overgodly, the freedman must have his chance upon this continent, or worse will come of it. Those who think that our safety lies in beastializing more and more completely four millions of the inhabitants of this country, if it were possible to reduce their barbarous theory to practice, would but earn the execrations of their children. But, thank God, it is not possible. Providence is sometimes kind enough to put special restraints upon human folly, and the people of the United States, having reduced the theory of Slaveholding to an absurdity, will hardly cling to it at the cost of bloodshed and bankruptcy.

February 5, 1863.

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