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Chapter 24:

English encroachments on the colonial Monopo-lies of Spain prepare American independence.

the moral world is swayed by general laws. They
Chap XXIV}
extend not over inanimate nature only, but over and nations,—over the policy of rulers and the opinion of masses. Event succeeds event according to their influence: amidst the jars of passions and interests, amidst wars and alliances, commerce and conflicts, they form the guiding principle of civilization, which marshals incongruous incidents into their just places, and arranges checkered groups in clear and harmonious order. Yet let not human arrogance assume to know intuitively, without observation, the tendency of the ages. Research must be unwearied, and must be conducted with indifference; as the student of natural history, in examining even the humblest flower, seeks instruments that may unfold its wonderful structure, without color and without distortion. For the historic inquirer to swerve from exact observation, would be as absurd as for the astronomer to break his telescopes, and compute the path of a planet by conjecture Of success, too, there is a sure criterion; for, as every false statement contains a contradiction, truth alone possesses harmony. Truth also, and truth alone, is permanent. The selfish passions of a party are as evanescent as the material interests involved in the transient [398] conflict: they may deserve to be described; they never
Chap. XXIV}
can inspire; and the narrative which takes from them its bias will hurry to oblivion as rapidly as the hearts in which they were kindled moulder to ashes. But facts faithfully ascertained, and placed in proper contiguity, become of themselves the firm links of a brightly burnished chain, connecting events with their causes, and marking the line along which the electric power of truth is conveyed from generation to generation.

Events that are past are beyond change, and where they merit to be known, can, in their general aspect, be known accurately. The constitution of the human mind varies only in details; its elements are the same always; and the multitude, possessing but a combination of the powers and passions of which each one is conscious, is subject to the same laws which control individuals. Humanity, also, constantly enriched and cultivated by the truths it develops and the inventions it amasses, has a life of its own, and yet possesses no element that is not common to each of its members. By comparison of document with document; by an analysis of facts, and the reference of each of them to the laws of the human mind which it illustrates; by separating the idea which inspires combined action from the forms it assumes; by comparing events with the great movement of humanity,— historic truth may establish itself as a science; and the principles that govern human affairs, extending like a path of light from century to century, become the highest demonstration of the superintending providence of God.

The inference that there is progress in human affairs, is also warranted. The trust of our race has ever been in the coming of better times. Universal history does [399] out seek to relate ‘the sum of all God's works of prov-

Chap. XXIV.}
idence.’ In America, the first conception of its office, in the mind of Jonathan Edwards, though still cramped
and perverted by theological forms not derived from observation, was nobler than the theory of Vico: more grand and general than the method of Bossuet, it embraced in its outline the whole ‘work of redemption,’ —the history of the influence of all moral truth in the gradual regeneration of humanity. The meek New England divine, in his quiet association with the innocence and simplicity of rural life, knew that, in every succession of revolutions, the cause of civilization and moral reform is advanced. ‘The new creation’—
Works of Edwards, II. 377 and 382
such are his words—‘is more excellent than the old. So it ever is, that when one thing is removed by God to make way for another, the new excels the old.’— ‘The wheels of Providence,’ he adds, ‘are not turned about by blind chance, but they are full of eyes round about, and they are guided by the spirit of God. Where the spirit goes, they go.’ Nothing appears more self-determined than the volitions of each individual; and nothing is more certain than that the providence of God will overrule them for good. The finite will of man, free in its individuality, is, in the aggregate, subordinate to general laws. This is the reason why evil is self-destructive; why truth, when it is once generated, is sure to live forever; why freedom and justice, though resisted and restrained, renew the contest from age to age, confident that messengers from heaven fight on their side, and that the stars in their courses war against their foes. There would seem to be no harmony, and no consistent tendency to one great end, in the confused events of the reigns of George [I. of England and Louis XV. of France, where legislation [400] was now surrendered to the mercantile passion for
Chap. XXIV.}
gain, was now swayed by the ambition and avarice of the mistresses of kings,—where the venal corruption of public men, the open profligacy of courts, the greedy cupidity of trade, conspired in exercising dominion over the civilized community. The political world was without form and void; yet the spirit of God was moving over the chaos of human passions and human caprices, bringing forth the firm foundations on which better hopes were to rest, and setting in the firmament the bright lights that were to serve as guides to the nations.

England, France, and Spain, occupied all the continent, nearly all the islands, of North America; each established over its colonies an oppressive metropolitan monopoly. Had they been united, no colony could have rebelled successfully; but Great Britain, in the pride of opulence, vigorously enforced her own acts of navigation, and disregarded those of Spain. Strictly maintaining the exclusive commerce with her own colonies, she coveted intercourse with the Spanish islands and main; and, intent on her object, she was about to give to the world, for the first time in its history, the spectacle of a war for trade. One colonial power encroached on another, and, in its passion for gain, not content with oppressing its own plantations, strove to appropriate to itself the wealth and commerce of the colonies of its rival. Thus the metropolitan monopolists were divided against themselves. Their divisions were to their colonies reciprocally a promise of an ally in case of rebellion. The war, engendered by the grasping avidity of England, against the colonial monopoly of Spain, hastened the approach of commercial freedom, and contained for the colonies an augury of independence. [401]

A part of the creditors of England had been incorpo-

Chap XXIV}
rated into a company, with the exclusive trade to the South Seas. But as Spain, having acquired the American coast in those seas, possessed a monopoly of its commerce, the grant was nugatory and worthless, unless the monopoly of Spain could be successfully invaded; and, for this end, the benefit of the assiento treaty was assigned to the South Sea company.

In 1719, the capital of the company was increased by new subscriptions of national debts; and, in the next year, it was proposed to incorporate into its stock all the national debt of England. The system resembled that of Law; but the latter was connected with a bank of issue, and became a war against specie. In England, there was no attempt, directly or indirectly, to exile specie, no increase of the circulating medium, but only an increase of stocks. The parties implicated suffered from fraud and folly; the stockjobbers—they who had parted with their certificates of the national debt for stock in the company—they who, hurried away by a blind avidity, had engaged in other ‘bubbles’—were ruined; but the country was not impoverished.

Enough of the South Sea company survived the overthrow of hopes which had no foundation but in fraud or delusion, to execute the contract for negroes, and to covet an illicit commerce with Spanish America. Cupidity grew the more earnest from having been baffled; and, at last, ‘ambition, avarice, distress, dis-

Coxes, Life of H. Wal pole
appointment, and all the complicated vices that tend to render the mind of man uneasy, filled all places and all hearts in the English nation.’ Dreams of the conquest of Florida, with the possession of the Bahama Channel,—of the conquest of Mexico and Peru, with [402] their real and their imagined wealth,—rose up to daz-
Chap. XXIV.}
zle the minds of the restless. While the opportunity of conquest and rapine was anxiously waited for, Jamaica became the centre of an extensive smuggling trade; and slave ships, deriving their passport from the assiento treaty, were the ready instruments of contraband cupidity.

The great activity of the English slave trade does not acquire its chief interest for American history by the transient conflict to which it led. While the South Sea company satisfied but imperfectly its passion for wealth, by a monopoly of the supply of negroes for the Spanish islands and main, the African company and independent traders were still more busy in sending negroes to the colonies of England. To this eagerness, encouraged by English legislation, fostered by royal favor, and enforced for a century by every successive ministry of England, it is due, that one sixth part of the population of the United States—a moiety of those who dwell in the five states nearest the Gulf of Mexico—are descendants of Africans.

The colored men who were imported into our colonies, sometimes by way of the West Indies, and some times, especially for the south, directly from the Old World, were sought all along the African coast, for thirty degrees together, from Cape Blanco to Loango

B. Edwards, II. 58.
St. Pauls; from the Great Desert of Sahara to the kingdom of Angola, or perhaps even to the borders of the land of the Caffres. It is not possible to relate precisely in what bay they were respectively laden, from what sunny cottages they were kidnapped, from what more direful captivity they were rescued. The traders in men have not been careful to record the lineage of their victims. They were chiefly gathered from gangs [403] that were marched from the far interior; so that the
Chap XXIV}
freight of a single ship might be composed of personsof different languages, and of nations altogether strange to each other. Nor was there uniformity of complexion: of those brought to our country, some were from tribes of which the skin was of a tawny yellow.

The purchases in Africa were made, in part, of convicts punished with slavery, or mulcted in a fine, which was discharged by their sale; of debtors sold, though but rarely into foreign bondage; of children sold by their parents; of kidnapped villagers; of captives taken in war. Hence the sea-coast and the confines of hostile nations were laid waste. But the chief source of supply was from swarms of those born in a state of slavery; for the despotisms, the supersti-

Ritter Vergleich Geog. i. 383.
tions, and the usages of Africa had multiplied bondage. In the upper country, on the Senegal and the Gambia, three fourths of the inhabitants were not free; and the slave's master was the absolute lord of the slave's children. The trade in slaves, whether for the caravans of the Moors or for the European ships, was chiefly supplied from the natural increase. In the healthy and fertile uplands of Western Africa, under the tropical sun, the reproductive power of the prolific race, combined with the imperfect development of its moral faculties, gave to human life, in the eye of man himself, an inferior value. Humanity did not respect itself in any of its forms,—in the individual, in the family, or in the nation. Our systems of morals will not explain the phenomenon: its cause is not to be sought in the suppression of moral feeling, but rather in the condition of a branch of the human family not yet conscious of its powers, not yet fully possessed of its moral and rational [404] life. In the state of humanity itself, in Sene
Chap. XXIV.}
gambia, in Upper and Lower Guinea, the problem of the slave trade finds its solution.. The habits of lift of the native tribes of America rendered its establishment with them impossible. The quick maturity of life, the facility of obtaining sustenance, the nature of
Ritter, i. 381 385.
the negro, as influenced by a hot sun, a healthful and fertile clime, an undeveloped intelligence, and he fruitfulness of the race, explain why, from century to century, the slave ships could find a freight, and yet the population of the interior be constantly replenished.

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