What, Sir, is the cause of Southern distress? Has any gentleman yet ventured to designate it? I am neither willing nor competent to flatter. To praise the honorable Senator from South Carolina would beSouth Carolina did not heed theseTo add perfume to the violet — Wasteful and ridiculous excess.But, if he has failed to discover the source of the evils he deplores, who can unfold it? Amid the warm and indiscriminating denunciations with which he has assailed the policy of protecting domestic manufactures and native produce, he frankly avows that he would not “deny that there are other causes, besides the Tariff, which have contributed to produce the evils which he has depicted.” What are those “other causes?” In what proportion have they acted? How much of this dark shadowing is ascribable to each singly, and to all in combination? Would the Tariff be at all felt or denounced, if those other causes were not in operation? Would not, in fact, its influence, its discriminations, its inequalities, its oppressions, but for those “other causes,” be shaken, by the elasticity, energy, and exhaustless spirit of the South, as “dew-drops from the lion's mane?” These inquiries must be satisfactorily answered before we can be justly required to legislate away and entire system. If it be the root of all evil, let it be exposed and demolished. If its poisonous exhalations be but partial, let us preserve such portions as are innoxious. If, as the luminary of day, it be pure and salutary in itself, let us not wish it extinguished, because of the shadows, clouds, and darkness, which obscure its brightness, or impede its vivifying power. That “other causes” still, Mr. President, for Southern distress, do exist, cannot be doubted. They combine with the one I have indicated, and are equally unconnected with the manufacturing policy. One of these it is peculiarly painful to advert to; and when I mention it, I beg honorable Senators not to suppose that I do it in the spirit of taunt, of reproach, or of idle declamation. Regarding it as a misfortune merely, not as a fault — as a disease inherited, not incurred — perhaps to be alleviated, but not eradicated — I should feel self-condemned were I to treat it other than as an existing fact, whose merit or demerit, apart from the question under debate, is shielded from commentary by the highest and most just considerations. I refer, Sir, to the character of Southern labor, in itself, and in its influence on others. Incapable of adaptation to the ever-varying changes of human society and existence, it retains the communities in which it is established, in a condition of apparent and comparative inertness. The lights of Science and the improvements of Art, which vivify and accelerate elsewhere, cannot penetrate, or if they do, penetrate with dilatory inefficiency, among its operatives. They are not merely instinctive and passive. While the intellectual industry of other parts of this country springs elastically forward at every fresh impulse, and manual labor is propelled and redoubled by countless inventions, machines, and contrivances, instantly understood and at once exercised, the south remains stationary, inaccessible to such encouraging and invigorating aids. Nor is it possible to be wholly blind to the moral effect of this species of labor upon those freemen among whom it exists. A disrelish for humble and hardy occupation; a pride adverse to drudgery and toil; a dread that to partake in the employments allotted to color may be accompanied also by its degradation, are natural and inevitable. The high and lofty qualities which, in other scenes and for other purposes, characterize and adorn our Southern brethren, are fatal to the enduring patience, the corporal exertion, and the painstaking simplicity, by which only a successful yeomanry can be formed. When, in fact, Sir, the Senator from South Carolina asserts that “Slaves are too improvident, too incapable of that minute, constant, delicate attention, and that persevering industry which are essential to manufacturing establishments,” he himself admits the defect in Southern labor, by which the progress of his favorite section must be retarded. He admits an inability to keep pace with the rest of the world. He admits an inherent weakness; a weakness neither engendered nor aggravated by the Tariff — which, as societies are now constituted and directed, must drag in the rear, and be distanced in the common race.
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1 Speech in the Senate, February 27, 1832.
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