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Lecture VIII: domestic slavery, as a system of government for the Africans in America, examined and defended on the ground of its adaptation to the present condition of the race.

  • There should be a separate and subordinate government for our African population
  • -- objection answered -- Africans are not competent to that measure of self-government which entitles a man to political sovereignty -- they were not prepared for freedom when first brought into the country, hence they were placed under the domestic form of government -- the humanity of this policy -- in the opinion of Southern people they are still unprepared -- the fanaticism and rashness of some, and the inexcusable wickedness of others, who oppose the South.

it having been proved that both the doctrine and the assumption of fact by Northern fanatics, in regard to the claim of the African to a republican form of government, are false, and that the presumption is in favor of the position of the South, that domestic slavery is the appropriate form of government for them, we are now left free to pursue our inquiry, without offset from [177] these vagaries, into the merits of this system, and its appropriateness to the African race in this country.

The African is now here. Whether right or wrong originally, is not the question before us. He is here. What form of government is best suited to him, and those with whom he is necessarily associated? And,

I. Let it be observed, that they are a distinct race of people, separated by strongly marked lines of moral and physical condition from those amongst whom they reside. This difference is so strongly marked that there can be no spontaneous amalgamation by intermarriage, and consequently no reciprocity of social rights and privileges between the races. Their history in the whole country shows this to be the case. They must therefore continue to exist as a separate race. To this state of things the government over them should be adapted, unless we would violate a material condition of the problem to be solved. For if the law should not provide for this state of the case, the conventional usages of the superior race amongst whom they dwell will certainly do so. This is in proof from the example of all those States which have failed to provide for the African as a separate and distinct race; for the usages of society always supply the deficiency. [178] This omission on the part of the law is evidently to the injury of the African. The history of the race in the Northern States will show this. Essential liberty is founded in, and is inseparable from, certain social rights and privileges. But in these respects, the African is a far more proscribed and degraded race in the Northern than in the Southern States.

A government, then, should be provided for the African, as a distinct and separate race, existing in the bosom of another and superior race. Of course this will be an imperium in imperio. And as they are confessedly the inferior race, who can never enjoy essential liberty or reciprocity of social condition with the whites, the government adapted to them must be inferior and subordinate to that of the whites amongst whom they dwell. It must be subordinate; for, in the nature of things, it must be an independent or a subordinate one. But two independent civil governments cannot coexist, and control distinct races dwelling together in the same community. It follows that it must be subordinate. As subordinate, it must either assume some form of military government, or it must conform to the patriarchal species of government — a kind of family government — that is, the domestic form for which we contend. And as between a subordinate [179] military or patriarchal form of government, both as regards the expense and the comfort, there can be no controversy, we may consider the claims of the patriarchal form, or the system of domestic slavery, as established in this case.

But it may be supposed that the experiment in the Northern States invalidates the position, that this, being a distinct race of people, must be controlled by a separate and subordinate form of government. These States have a portion of this race, and it is said they find no difficulty to result from having placed them on a political footing with other citizens. But this is a mere assumption. It is not borne out by the facts of history.

As before stated, the conventional usages of society have denied them the social rights and privileges of free citizens! They have proscribed then as an inferior and degraded race.

The usage which forbids intermarriage is at once a bar to all social equality. The road to offices of trust, honor, and profit, is closed against them — nay, even the means of subsistence beyond a scanty supply of the necessaries of life. These facts are undeniable. Now, to talk of liberty when we effectually deny to a people all that essentially constitutes it, is idle in the extreme. It is a mere paper liberty!--liberty to submit to the crushing usages of society!--liberty to [180] perish, in many instances, and that without sympathy from the State. In these respects the condition of the race is unquestionably better in the Southern States. If they must be a degraded race in the North as well as in the South, I hesitate not to affirm that our domestic system affords them a much better security for a competent and comfortable living. It makes better provision for them in old age and in youth, in sickness and in health, than is secured to them by their so-called liberty in the Northern States.

Of course, poor families (in the literal sense) in the South do not own slaves. They are usually held by those who at least enjoy the necessaries of life. Now, the progress of civilization has established the custom in all such families of sharing with their slaves the necessaries, and, not unfrequently, many of the comforts of life. The exceptions only make the rule general.

Again, the Southern system, by making the African a part of the family circle, brings him into more immediate contact with the habits of civilized life, and cultivates a high degree of sympathy between him and his owners. Hence, the well-known attachment of slaves to the families in which they were brought up; and their utter repugnance to being hired to a Northern family, whatever may be their reputation for piety [181] They are without practical sympathy for them. They often subject them to a degree of hard labor to which they are not accustomed. Many humane men in the South decline hiring their servants to such persons.

There are evils, it is true, inseparable from the presence of the race in this country, under any circumstances. By conferring on them a mere paper liberty, the Northern States have adroitly freed themselves of a portion of these evils; but then they have evidently accumulated them upon the African. The policy is marked by no sympathy for the blacks. There is much more of selfishness than of benevolence in the working of the system. We conclude that our position is true, that the Africans, being a separate and distinct race of people, who cannot spontaneously amalgamate with the whites, should be placed under a separate and subordinate form of government, if we consult either their welfare or our own. The examples referred to, as proof of the contrary, are strongly confirmatory of the position.

But to claim for the African political equality with the whites is subject to still stronger objections. We may further appeal to facts in support of our proposition.

II. They are not, in point of intellectual and moral development, in the condition for freedom: [182] that is, they are not fitted for that measure. of self-government which is necessary to political sovereignty. It cannot, therefore, be justly claimed for them. They have no right to it. It would not be to them an essential good, but an essential evil, a curse. To confer it on them, either by an act of direct or gradual emancipation, would be eminently productive of injury to the whole country, and utterly ruinous to them.

This proposition is capable of division. We will discuss the points in the order in which they stand.

First. They are not, in point of intellectual and moral development, fitted for that measure of self-government which is necessary to political sovereignty.

We have said they are an inferior race. That they are so in the original structure of their minds I pretend not to affirm — nay, I do not believe it. I believe in the unity of the races — that Godhath made of one blood all nations of men.” Acts XVII. 26. But that the race in this country are inferior, in the general development of their intellectual and moral faculties, I am free to affirm. This I attribute to the crushing influence of the ages of barbarous and pagan life to which their forefathers in Africa were subjected. For, as, in the progress of civilization, each succeeding generation [183] of civilized persons occupies a higher intellectual and moral platform, so, in the descending scale of barbarism, each succeeding generation of barbarians occupies a lower platform of intellectual and moral development. Hence, we can account for the exceedingly barbarous condition of the race when first brought into this country. It also follows, that a race of men whose intellects have been long stultified by ages of barbarism, cannot, by any contact with the principles and usages of civilized life, be speedily thrown up to an elevated platform.

This also accounts, in a good degree, for the slow progress which the race has made in civilization, since their introduction into the country.

To recur now to the fact, which cannot be controverted, that they were brought into this country in a state of extreme barbarism and Pagan ignorance: in the first place, were they then in a condition which fitted them for political sovereignty, and equality of social rights and privileges with the whites? If they were not for the latter, it is very plain that they were not for the former. It is quite certain that they were not prepared for either. If they were, why did not the Puritans of New England allow them this sovereignty and equality? By their consent and active cooperation, they were brought into the country. Shall [184] we revilingly say, with some of their ungrateful descendants, that the good sense and love of liberty which had so lately driven them from their fatherland, to find an asylum here from the galling yoke of British oppression, had been so entirely absorbed in the passion for gain, as to cause them to be deaf to the claims of justice and humanity in behalf of the African! Shame on their graceless accusers! No: their good sense forbade that a race of barbarous Pagans, who could not be absorbed by intermarriage, but who must continue to exist amongst them as a separate and inferior race, should be placed on a common platform with free citizens! Their humanity, no less than their good sense, induced them to adopt the plan of domestic government, or slavery, sanctioned by the usages of all civilized nations in similar circumstances. If, for any cause, a horde of barbarians should be introduced into New England in the present day, in numbers too great to be absorbed without injury, and in a physical condition making it improper to permit their absorption by intermarriage with themselves, as in the case of the Africans, does any man in his senses pretend to believe that those States would confer on them either social equality or political freedom? They would certainly consider it due to them-selves, no less than to the barbarians, to place [185] them under a subordinate government of some kind. Well, this is precisely what their forefathers did in the case of the Pagan Africans; and what the Southern colonies did when the New Englanders brought them South. Thus the origin of domestic slavery, as a political institution, in the country, shows that it was founded in the humanity of our forefathers, no less than in their good sense. Hence the second position stated: Political equality cannot be justly claimed for them. They have no right to it. To them it would not be an essential good, but an essential evil — a curse.

On the basis of the doctrine of rights discussed in a preceding lecture, this proposition follows as a conclusion from the fact here established in regard to the Africans of this country.

But it may be said that the barbarous character of the race has greatly improved since their first introduction into this country. This is true — eminently so. And standing, as this fact evidently does, connected with the civilization and redemption of a whole continent of barbarians, upon whom the crushing sceptre of Pagan ignorance has lain for unnumbered ages, it fully vindicates both the wisdom and benevolence of the providence of God, which permitted their introduction in such vast numbers into civilized life, as affording the only means of accomplishing his humane design. [186]

But the question of practical interest at this point is, Have they been so far raised in the scale of intellectual and moral elevation as to acquire for them the right in question? This point can be settled only by an appeal to facts. I hesitate not to allow, that if they are, it may be justly claimed for them, because they are in that moral condition which justly entities them to it. It is also admitted that if at the same time, they are in a condition to be absorbed by a spontaneous amalgamation, they are entitled to it here; and much more so than a certain other class, who are flocking into the country, and to whom the right is accorded without scruple! This latter, however, is certainly not the case, as the facts before alluded to do clearly show. If, then, they be entitled to political freedom, they should be removed to another territory. Africa is the rightful home of the Africans. Thither they must go, if they should ever be fitted for self-government. Providence has wisely forecast this result, and is rapidly building up a free government on the coast of Africa, as their future home, and the centre of civilization and Christianity to that long-be-nighted continent.

But what of the question-Are they indeed fitted for political sovereignty? That many of the free colored population, and some among the [187] slaves, may be so, I think is more than probably true. Of the former I would say, that it is a duty they owe themselves no less than the country to accept the offer of the Colonization Society, and remove to their native land. For, although it be allowed that they are in the moral condition of freedom, it is obvious that they never can be essentially free, in the bosom of a people with whom they can never amalgamate by marriage. And in regard to the latter, I have to say that such of their owners as give that play to their benevolent feelings which their circumstances admit, and, as far as they can do so with propriety, facilitate their removal to Africa by consent, entitle themselves to high commendation, and it is usually awarded them with great unanimity by Southern people.

But that the same admissions can be made in regard to the masses of this population in the country, I utterly deny. On the contrary, I affirm that duty to ourselves and humanity to them alike forbid that civil liberty be conferred on them in Africa, or elsewhere, and least of all in this country.

The assumption of Northern agitators, that the Southern people are not competent judges in this matter, because they are too much interested in their bondage, is as untrue in fact as it is offensive [188] to our good sense and morals. No doubt there are many in the South capable of any form of wickedness; nor need it be denied that we are as liable to be misled in our judgments as other people. But it is equally true, that the good sense and integrity of the great mass of our population is a full counterbalance to the acknowledged cupidity of the few. And for a set of Northern agitators, who never resided at the South, and who know but little or nothing of the African character, to affect to understand it better than the intelligent communities of the South, is perhaps the coolest piece of impertinent self-conceit to be found on record!

The intelligent and honest portion of the country will scarcely fail to allow that the judgment of the Southern people as to the character and capabilities of the African is entitled to the highest confidence, and may be regarded as an authoritative settlement of this question. What, then, is the concurrent opinion of the Southern people? I think myself well and fully informed on this point. I hazard nothing in asserting, that it is the general and well-nigh the universal opinion of the intelligent and pious portion of our entire population, that our African subjects, taken as a whole, are not fitted for any form of political freedom of which we can conceive; that they are not in a condition to use it to their own advantage, or [189] the peace of the communities in which they reside; and that to confer it upon them, in these circumstances, would in all probability lead to the extirpation of the race, as the only means of protecting civilization from the insufferable evils of so direct a contact with an unrestrained barbarism. It is also an opinion equally sanctioned, that if they were prepared for political freedom, it would be scarcely less disastrous to confer it upon them in this country. The reason is obvious. As they cannot spontaneously amalgamate with the whites, they could not, in the nature of things, enjoy freedom in their midst. Hence, if the masses should ever reach that point, in the progress of civilization, at which it might be proper to confer on them the rights of political freedom, another location would have to be sought for them.

The Southern people (using the term in the sense specified) constitute a large portion of the whole Union. They have progressed as far in civilization, and, in many respects, much farther than any people in the whole country. A very large portion of them are confessedly pious, as well as intelligent. Taken as a whole, they are as eminently entitled to be regarded a religious people as any other people on the face of the globe. Now, that such a people, so obviously entitled to the highest consideration throughout [190] the civilized world, should, in their circumstances of proximity to the African race, and long-continued personal acquaintance with their habits and character, their capabilities and their liabilities, be of the settled and almost undisputed opinion that they are not competent to self-government; and that, in their present circumstances, both the law of reciprocity and the law of benevolence to the African forbid that the rights of political freedom be accorded to them, does appear to me to afford the most conclusive settlement of this question of fact that the subject is capable of receiving. For, although a question of fact, it is capable of no more conclusive settlement than an enlightened public opinion can afford; and who are so well situated to form an opinion as the free and intelligent communities of the South? and who can be more honest in its expression?

As we cannot suppose the agitators of the country on this subject to be ignorant of the fact that such is the opinion of the Southern people, and as we cannot allow that they are incapable of appreciating the weight of this testimony, we reach the conclusion that they are the victims of a fanaticism resulting from a mistaken religious opinion and feeling, which hurries them madly forward, as regardless of the extent to which they implicate their own good sense as they are of the [191] extent to which they are aspersing the reputation of their fellow-citizens, or the degree to which they are actually putting to hazard the lives of the very people for whom they piously persuade themselves they are laboring.

Those whose conduct does not admit of this apology are generally men who occupy the arena of political agitation. Their object, evidently, is to accumulate political power in the so-called free States, and to promote the ends of personal ambition. The fanatical excitement of the country may be turned to the account of these objects. Hence, they labor with a zeal worthy of a better cause. We of the South regard the agitators in Congress, for the most part, to be of this class. We consider them highly culpable, if, indeed, they be not actually criminal. For we cannot suppose them to be ignorant of the facts and reasonings here adduced. And besides these, there are other facts of great and conclusive authority in the settlement of this question, which we cannot suppose have escaped the attention of men occupying their high stations. I propose to notice some of them in the next lecture.

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