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Xvi.

Being frequently asked during the war, to help friends prepare addresses to be delivered on the all-engrossing topic of the time, I sent the following hints for their use:—

The immolation and redemption of the African race.

Washington, Feb. 22, 1862.
Nations pay dear for liberty. Civilization—the sole object of free government—crystallizes slow. But, once firmly established, it resists the untiring ‘course of all-impairing Time.’ [477]

The true civilization, in perfection, is yet to come. The world has been filled with false civilizations; and history shows that they have not vitality enough to preserve nations from decadence.

It has been just as plainly proved that where slavery existed it either destroyed civilization, or was destroyed by it. The two never could live together. China and Japan are the only two ancient Asiatic nations that have preserved their early civilization, or even their existence. Slavery never existed among them.

So in Europe: Slavery destroyed every European nation that maintained it. Greece, Rome, the empire of the Othman,—where are they? But Slavery never existed among the Magyars or Slavonic nations; nor have they ever been subjugated, much less destroyed. Hungary is a vast and illuminated nation, and is advancing in civilization; while Russia has removed the last encumbrance to her progress by emancipating twenty million serfs, and is now moving on to complete civilization faster than any other people. The Swiss never breathed the tainted air of slavery; her people have always been free, and in civilization they have lagged behind those of no other country.

At an early period England and France abolished villanage, and followed in the wake of Italy, which was the first of the nations to give revival to letters, commerce, and arts.

So we find that just in proportion as nations emancipated themselves from the thraldom of a system of forced or involuntary labor, just in that proportion they advanced in knowledge, wealth, and the elements of endurance. A careful survey of truthful history would establish this as a fixed and clearly-determined law for the physical and moral progress and development of states. Nations may grow strong, or rather formidable, for a while, under the sceptre of a tyrant, and the slave-lash of an oligarchy. But such strength is weakness: it does not last. It is against all the ordinances of God that it should.

This is pre-eminently true in our age, when daylight is dawning upon all peoples. Darkness has lost its power. Universal light is now asserting its dominion. No power can contend against it. Darkness must give way.

So far as my argument on the subject of slavery in the United States or elsewhere is concerned, it matters not whether the reader accept or not the code of revealed religion which I offer as authority; for profane history coincides with it perfectly. There is no sort of conflict between the two. The plagues that wasted the vitals of (lead nations are just as legibly inscribed on their tombs, for their readers, as they were on the [478] pages of prophecy before the events took place. God alone writes history before it happens. Both records are so clear that he who runs may read; and the wise and good man who reads either will run to rescue his country from the curse which God has chained to the chariot-wheels even of the mightiest empires which dare to make war on the eternal principles of justice which support his empire.

Go where we will, from the Pillars of Hercules to the gates of the Oriental morning,—

Rude fragments now
Lie scatter'd where the shapely column stood.
Their palaces are dust.

Journey through the home of the Saracens,—a race of scholars and warriors,—

Dead Petra in her hill-tomb sleeps:
     Her stones of emptiness remain;
Around her sculptured mystery sweeps
     The lonely waste of Edom's plain.

Unchanged the awful lithograph
     Of power and glory undertrod,—
Of nations scatter'd like the chaff
     Blown from the threshing-floor of God.

Let us calculate the debt which America owes to Africa. We can reach something like an approximation to the number of Africans or Africano-Americans who have lived and died on our soil. We do not propose to enumerate any considerable portion of the wrongs we have inflicted on that people,—how many we stole from their homes,—how many perished in the passage,—how many cruelties and indignities they and their descendants have suffered, and are suffering to this hour. That were a work for which any created being would find himself unequal. It will be found to occupy no inconsiderable space in the records of the last tribunal before which the human race will be cited to appear.

We will therefore determine, as accurately as we can, how many lives Africa has offered up for this nation. But first let us glance at the origin of slavery in the United States. We borrow a striking passage from the classic and powerful pen of Senator Sumner, who has probably investigated the whole African question, in all its relations, more profoundly than any other man living,--certainly more so than any other American. In one of his orations he draws the following picturesque and starting contrast;— [479]

In the winter of 1620, the Mayflower landed its precious cargo at Plymouth rock. This small band, cheered by the valedictory prayers of the Puritan pastor, John Robinson, braved sea and wilderness for the sake of liberty. In this inspiration our Commonwealth began. That same year another cargo, of another character, was landed at Jamestown, in Virginia. It was nineteen slaves,—the first that ever touched and darkened our soil. Never in history was greater contrast. There was the Mayflower, filled with men,—intelligent, conscientious, prayerful,—all braced to hardy industry, who, before landing, united in a written compact by which they constituted themselves a “civil body politic,” bound “to frame just and equal laws.” And there was the slave-ship, with its fetters, its chains, its bludgeons, and its whips, with its wretched victims,—forerunners of the long agony of the slave-trade, —and with its wretched tyrants, rude, ignorant, and profane,

who had learn'd their only prayers
From curses,

and who carried in their hold the barbarous slavery whose single object is to compel labor without wages, which no just and equal laws can sanction.

‘Thus in the same year,’ says Charles Sumner, ‘began two mighty influences; and these two influences still prevail far and wide throughout the country. But they have met at last in final grapple; and you and I are partakers in this holy conflict. The question is simply between the Mayflower and the slave-ship.’

Beginning with the first importation of Africans in 1620 (nineteen), we find their increase till 1790, slave and free, amounting to 757,363. From 1790 (first census) to 1860 (eighth census), slave and free, 4,441,730. It is and will always remain impossible to determine the number of the African race whose ashes sleep in our soil; but, applying the ratio of increase from 1790 to 1860 to the period undetermined, it is easy to approximate the number. My most careful estimate renders it certain that the number of persons of African descent who have died in our country cannot fall short of eight millions and a half, or nearly twice as many as are now living.

Thus we roll up the figures to thirteen millions, living and (lead, each one of whom has felt the blighting curse of slavery,—more or less of the miseries and degradation which are its legitimate and inevitable consequences!

This is the immolation; and it is the most appalling and stupendous [480] in the annals of the human race. Leaving out all the barbarities attending the capture and ocean-transportation; the brutal atrocities the stolen Africans suffered by a system of merciless task-labor under the lash, the maiming and torture of nerve and muscle, with the endless category of physical suffering, still each one of the mighty host of Africano-Americans—an army of thirteen millions, bond and free, living and dead—appears in solemn judgment against his individual oppressor and against the whole nation. The one has perpetrated the murder, and the Government has stood by and consented unto his death, and held the garments of those that slew him.

What are the counts in this terrible indictment?

1. The annihilation of home, whose charities are just as dear to the lower as to the higher classes of beings. Torn from their continental homes and transplanted to a new world, they should at least have had a chance to strike their roots into a stranger soil. But cupidity, accident, or caprice tore the plant up by the roots, and, with comparatively few exceptions, subjected it to a new and trying process of acclimation.

2. The annihilation of marriage. This sacrilegious blow at the first, the holiest, and the dearest of all God's institutions struck the race. It cast the deadliest blight which can fall on man. It made more bastards in America than ever lived elsewhere under heaven.

3. The annihilation of light. This means the impious inauguration of heathenism in the very garden of God. No home, no wife or children he can call his own! Can a higher insult be offered to a man made in the divine image and for whom the Son of man died? Oh, how incomparably blessed in the contrast was the Thracian slave dragged to Rome to make, in the arena, a holiday for the slave-holders of the Eternal City! He left at least a home, wife, children.

I see before me the gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand; his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony.
... His eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away:
He reck'd not of the life he lost, nor prize,—
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay.
There were his young barbarians, all at play,—
There was their Dacian mother,—he, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday!
All this rush'd with his blood: shall he expire,
And unavenged? Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!

[481]

I am fully aware that a fallacy will be alleged against this argument, —that a demurrer will be entered against each and every count in the general indictment. It will be said,—

1st. That through slavery and the slave-trade alone have any portion of the African race been introduced to the light and blessings of civilization. This is a mean and blasphemous subterfuge. Just as though any such idea ever mixed itself up with the thoughts of the slave-vampires of the African coast! Just as though the century-protracted efforts of the Saracens to overthrow the religion of Christ were worthy of praise because they brought Christendom to its feet, in the vindication of Christianity! As soon should the sight of the fair-haired Angli boys brought to Rome and sold as slaves, and thus become the occasion of the introduction of the gospel into Britain, have justified the kidnappers who did the nefarious work! As soon plead pardon for the traitor of all the ages for selling the Man of sorrows, because ‘when he bowed his head on the cross he dragged the pillars of Satan's kingdom to the dust.’

2d. They have risen far higher here in the scale of physical comfort. This I deny. They have not, as a community, enjoyed as much physical comfort as the wild beast in his lair, or the cattle on a thousand hills. By no means has their animal condition approached that of the native African tribes.

I fully believe—yea, I certainly know, and I believe and know it more profoundly than any slaughterer of men—that the wrath of man shall be made to praise God, while the remainder thereof he will restrain. But let no man, who has ever been a willing party to the awful crime we are speaking of, come forward now, while daylight is breaking over Africa, and claim any participation in the glory which is coming. For this dawn such men never longed; they never contemplated that rising sun with any exultation.

And yet how nobly has Africa earned the boon of civilized life! She has from the earliest ages been the slave of the nations. All men who had ships went to her coasts and sailed up her great rivers to steal her children. The Egyptians lashed them to their toil, in the valley of the Nile. The Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Arabs stole them from the Mediterranean coast. The Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the English, kidnapped them by the hundred thousand on the coast of the Atlantic; and, last of all,—as late as within the memory of men now living,—the African slave-trade constituted the most profitable branch of the commerce of New England. [482]

The blessed light of civilization which had irradiated every other continent never illuminated Africa. Great empires had been founded on tile African coasts,—the arts that exalt and embellish life had been carried and cultured there by the Pharaohs, the Alexanders, the Hannibals,—the Arab, the Saracen, the Moor, and the Briton; but it was not for the poor African. Light, which came to all others, came not to him. Every empire ever founded in Africa was cemented by the blood of her helpless people. But the day of her emancipation has come.

She has waited for it over three thousand years. God has accepted the sacrifice. The indications of Providence are too plain to be mistaken. No unknown portion of the globe has been so thoroughly explored during the present century. No nation has ever been so ready to receive Christianity and the arts of peace. No one can more readily be brought into the family of nations. No country ever had so many missionaries ready to carry to a benighted continent commerce, agriculture, manufactures, education, and the light of everlasting truths.

All hail, then, Niobe of the nations!

‘Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling; . . . thou shalt no more drink it again.’

‘Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.’

‘Ye shall be redeemed without money.’

‘Thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband, . . . and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.’

‘O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. . . . Thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.’

‘For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.’ [483]

Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

I the Lord have spoken it.1


1

And we may see in all this that law of compensation which God vouchsafes the wronged and suffering for all their woes and suffering. After being afflicted by nigh three centuries of servitude, God calls chosen men of this race from all the lands of their thraldom, men laden with gifts,—intelligence and piety,—to the grand and noble mission which they only can fulfil,—even to plant colonies, establish churches, found missions, and lay the foundations of universities along the shores and beside the banks of the great rivers of Africa, so that the grandeur and dignity of their duties may neutralize all the long, sad memories of their servitude and sorrows. Crummel's Future of Africa, p. 127.

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