previous next
[30] for this remarkable display of legal erudition and acumen, is not recorded, but it probably included a liberal consideration for wear-and-tear of conscience. Two or three decisions from British courts were, at different times thereafter, obtained, substantially echoing this opinion. It was not till 1772 that Lord Mansfield pronounced, in the ever-memorable Somerset case, his judgment that, by the laws of England, no man could be held in Slavery. That judgment has never since been disturbed, nor seriously questioned.

The austere morality and democratic spirit of the Puritans ought to have kept their skirts clear from the stain of human bondage. But, beneath all their fierce antagonism, there was a certain kinship between the disciples of Calvin and those of Loyola. Each were ready to suffer and die for God's truth as they understood it, and neither cherished any appreciable sympathy or consideration for those they esteemed God's enemies, in which category the savages of America and the heathen negroes of Africa were so unlucky as to be found. The Puritan pioneers of New England were early involved in desperate, life-or-death struggles with their Aboriginal neighbors, in whom they failed to discover those poetic and fascinating traits which irradiate them in the novels of Cooper and the poems of Longfellow. Their experience of Indian ferocity and treachery, acting upon their theologic convictions, led them early and readily to the belief that these savages, and by logical inference all savages, were the children of the devil, to be subjugated, if not extirpated, as the Philistine inhabitants of Canaan had been by the Israelites under Joshua. Indian slavery, sometimes forbidden by law, but usually tolerated, if not entirely approved, by public opinion, was among the early usages of New England; and from this to negro slavery — the slavery of any variety of pagan barbarians — was an easy transition. That the slaves in the Eastern colonies were few, and mainly confined to the seaports, does not disprove this statement. The harsh climate, the rocky soil, the rugged topography of New England, presented formidable, though not impassable, barriers to slaveholding. Her narrow patches of arable soil, hemmed in between bogs and naked blocks of granite, were poorly adapted to cultivation by slaves. The labor of the hands without the brain, of muscle divorced from intelligence, would procure but a scanty livelihood on those bleak hills. He who was compelled, for a subsistence, to be, by turns, farmer, mechanic, lumberman, navigator, and fisherman, might possibly support one slave, but would be utterly ruined by half a dozen. Slaveholding in the Northern States was rather coveted as a social distinction, a badge of aristocracy and wealth, than resorted to with any idea of profit or pecuniary advantage.

It was different southward of the Susquehanna, but especially in South Carolina, where the cultivation of Rice and Indigo on the seaboard had early furnished lucrative employment for a number of slaves far exceeding that of the white population, and whose Sea Islands afforded peculiar facilities for limiting the intercourse of the slaves with each other, and their means of escape to the wilderness

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Somerset (1)
Alexander H. Rice (1)
Longfellow (1)
Cooper (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1772 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: