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How agriculture became stable.

The stability of agriculture came for the first time when men could be fastened to the soil and forced to work it; when unanimity of labor had been acquired. The army of labor, like the army of battle, was first victorious when it poured its sinew and its fire from the iron energy of a single will. It was the slave-holder, and only the slaveholder who could take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt and store it against the years of famine. It was from agriculture that the city sprang, after which man was no longer dependent, like the wild beast, upon the lair of nature. The first great stride of progress which carried man to civilized permanence was borne upon the [267] back of slaves. However rude, however violent this origin, the substance of it was the protection by strength of weakness, which could not save itself, and the unconditional service of that weakness to its only saviour. Slavery meant salvation.

On this agricultural basis and organized social strength all ancient civilization was reared, and on this same organization modern Europe had been formed. For six thousand years slavery had been the customary law of the civilized world. Undoubtedly the elements existed of another structure of society, which may be considered to have been prophesied from the beginning by the very nature of a being organized to communicate, and still more certainly included in the realization of the era, which displaced Caesar's tribute. This is the movement, much retarded, oft reversed, but inevitable, and on the whole invincible movement toward the reign of commerce. But the retirement and disappearance of the old supremacy has been a very slow retreat—inch by inch stubbornly contested. Not until the memory of men now living did the sceptre decisively pass from the agricultural dominion, and slavery was not doubtful until that sceptre began to waver. In 1713 the twelve judges of England, headed by Chief-Justice Holt, replied to the crown: ‘In pursuance of his Majesty's order in council, hereunto annexed, we do humbly certify your opinion to be that negroes are merchandise.’

During the whole of the eighteenth century England reserved to herself by the treaty of Utrecht the monopoly of importing negroes to all the Spanish colonies—that is to say, to nearly all South America. The fact is noted by the annotator of Talleyrand's Memoirs that when the English colonies had a proportion of twenty blacks to one white it occurred to them to be indignant at the immorality of the traffic. The declaration that the slave-trade was repugnant to universal morals was signed by the European powers for the first time at the Congress of Vienna, and not then by Portugal or Spain.

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