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[384]

Mr. Buxton Scared.

Fowell Buxton's philanthropy, we are compelled to believe, is of that description which is limited by the price of beer and the rent of ale-houses. It is of the hereditary description, and, like most hereditary virtues, it has suffered a diminution by transmission. The present Buxton would never have divided the House of Commons, with only a meagre minority to back him. His father did this, and divers other bold things, of which even the tradition seems to have prematurely faded out in the family. The present Buxton is reported to have written to The London Times a letter, in which he reiterates his detestation of Slavery, but says he “cannot endorse President Lincoln's Emancipation scheme, as it contemplates an insurrection of the negroes and untold misery.”

Of this we have to observe, in the first place, that it is a criminal carelessness of language for any man to say that the Proclamation contemplates insurrection. It is an indefensible and impudent and sheerly gratuitous slander to utter this of Air. Lincoln, or of any other officer of the Government; it is a fair specimen of the loose speech which Englishmen, since the commencement of our civil war, have permitted themselves to use when descanting upon American topics; and the reply to it in the present case is, that the Proclamation is better calculated to prevent insurrection than to provoke it. There can be no doubt of the fact that the masters are very much at the mercy [385] of the Blacks ; but the Negro, by nature, has no particular penchant for bloodshed, and has never been guilty of any atrocities, except when goaded to them by intolerable cruelties. Should he, in any section of the “Confederate States,” have been contemplating, or planning an insurrection, he is far more likely to await the approach of the Union armies, the presence of which would necessarily repress all lawless violence on his part, than to rush madly into a massacre by which he can gain nothing and may lose everything. Thus considered, nothing could be more merciful to the Slaveholders and to their defenceless families, than the Proclamation.

From this point of view, Buxton's “untold misery” is easily calculated. It is certainly strange, that a history with which he should be familiar has taught this man nothing. He must know that during the violent debates in the House of Commons, it was confidently predicted, in terms of extreme pathos, by gentlemen in the interest of planters, that the first of August would be a bloody day in the British West Indies--a new and more terrible Bartholomew. The minacious bathos of Mr. Peter Borthwick cannot have faded from the memory of a Buxton. The dreadful day came which was to inaugurate “untold misery,” and it found the poor blacks, not rushing to deeds of blood, nor busy in the avengement of long-continued and exasperating wrongs, but humbly bending the knee in their little chapels, to thank God for the great salvation which had been vouchsafed to them. If Buxton knew anything of the American [386] Blacks, he would anticipate no worse evil from their enfranchisement. They are vastly more likely to assume the care of their imbecile and impoverished masters, than to cut their throats.

But whether from Emancipation come evil or come good, peace or the sword, it is inevitable. The Ruler of the Universe, weary of our wicked and interminable delays, appears in righteous indignation to have taken the work out of our trembling and ignoble hands; or rather, he has, by the force of events, compelled us, even for the sake of self, to do justice to the outraged and oppressed. The first gun which was fired at Charleston announced to the world the demise of American Slavery. Already the diplomatic representatives of the Rebels are seeking to propitiate the Anti-Slavery sentiment of Europe, by promises of emancipation — by admissions that Slavery is neither profitable nor desirable in any way — by a loose talk of manumission when it shall be safe. Should their independence ever be acknowledged by the political powers of the world they will be reminded of these words; and in any event, the chances of an insurrection infinitely more sanguinary than any which can possibly occur as the remote result of the Proclamation will be multiplied, when the moral power and the physical force of the Union shall no longer deter the Black from making a decided though desperate stand for his freedom.

We deprecate as much as any timid Englishman an insurrection of the slaves. But while with Fowell Buxton we contemplate the “untold misery” [387] which such an event would occasion, we cannot banish from our thoughts the “untold misery” to which an inoffensive race has been subjected by the cupidity of man. A general massacre of all the whites in the Slaveholding States, would hardly present so terrible an aggregate of suffering as that which the American slaves are expected to encounter with Christian patience, and in a moment to forgive and forget. God preserve us from a lawless insurrection! God preserve us from crimes and breaches of good faith which will make such an insurrection inevitable!

March 18, 1863.

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