Mrs. Stowe's celebrated novel, "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN," exhibits a very strong picture of slavery. Her labors to sustain this position, seem to me to be almost a work of supererogation. For she truly remarks (page 11, 2 vol.): "Talk of the abuses of slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse."
Slavery, it is admitted, is an evil of a most aggravated character. The important question, then, is, what practical means can be adopted for its effectual removal. It is greatly to be regretted that Mrs. Stowe has not employed her fine talents as a novel writer, in setting forth, for the benefit of our country—all parts of our country, North, South, East and West—some practical plan for the removal of this acknowledged evil. Her plan, as exhibited in various parts of her novel, is that slaves, having naturally the same rights as white persons, who are born free, have a clear and indisputable right to assert the rights of freemen, by running away from their masters, and seeking shelter in Canada, where they will be protected in the enjoyment of those rights.
She urges, secondly, that the slave owners ought to educate and christianize their slaves, as a duty incumbent upon them.
And thirdly, that they shall in due time emancipate them.
Now the question presents itself, is this plan practicable? Can we reasonably hope that it will be so generally adopted as greatly to ameliorate the condition of our slaves, and in time remove the evil of slavery altogether?
On the first point, I would remark, that whatever may be our opinions as to the natural right of slaves to freedom, and the propriety of asserting that right by running away from their masters, and taking shelter in Canada, the question, whether this process will have a tendency to ameliorate the condition of our slaves, whether it can have a practical effect in the removal of the acknowledged evils of slavery, still remains to be settled.
Let a calm view be taken of the consequences resulting from the practice of slaves absconding from their masters, and I think,
it will be apparent that, instead of ameliorating the condition of the slave population generally, and promoting the benevolent
object of relieving our country from the evils of slavery, it will have directly the contrary effect. In the first place,
in consequence of the distance of Canada from the nearest slaveholding State, the flight of absconding slaves, to prevent
their recapture, must be very expeditious. And as the runaway knows that, if recaptured, he will be sold, and sent to some
place in the South,
from whence he can never again hope to free himself by absconding, old men and women, and children, rarely attempt to gain their freedom in this way. It is only, with very rare exceptions, young, hale and hearty men, and men of middle age attempt to abscond. Some of these are recaptured, and sold in the South; others make good their retreat to Canada. In either event, they are separated from their wives and children, relatives and friends. I may be asked, why should masters be so inhuman as to sell their recaptured slaves to negro-traders, and thus seperate them, from all the endearing relations of wives, children, brothers, sisters and friends? Why not sell them, if they must be sold, near their former homes?
Let us look at this matter practically. When the recaptured slave is brought home to his master, the question arises, what is to be done with him? If his benevolence induces him to overlook the past, and to restore his slave to his usual moderate labors, on the farm, he commences those labors with a cheerful aspect. Ho is perhaps more industrious and attentive to the business of his master than usual. He is regularly paid in cash for his overwork—at hemp breaking, hemp cutting, &c. He accumulates some cash in hand. He makes all needful preparations, and takes his departure some Saturday night, which is to be succeeded by Monday's holiday. He is thus two days on his travels before there is any suspicion of his having eloped. But before his second elopement, he may have instructed the younger boys, how and by what road they may make their way good to Canada, when they shall have arrived at a suitable age. And he may perhaps have carried off with him some of the able bodied men, who have strength and ability to accompany him in his flight. Instances of this kind sometimes occur. There is always danger of a second elopement, and the still greater that the absconding slave will instill notions of liberty, to be won by getting to Canada, in the minds of those servants who have hitherto remained faithful to their masters.
In this state of things, how are runaway slaves to be sold in the neighborhood of their relatives and friends? No one will buy a property that is so precarious. In fact, there will be no such thing as to find a purchaser for a runaway slave, except for the southern market. Hence arises the horrid practice, described in such glowing colours, by Mrs. Stowe in her celebrated novel. The abominable negro trade would not exist if it were not for the practice of slaves running away from their masters—a practice which apparently meets the decided approbation and encouragement of the amiable novel writer.
It is true that slaves who have never run away, are occasionally sold "down the river." Cases of this kind (in our part of the country,) only occur where negro servants have behaved very badly; and when they
become entirely unmanageable. But these cases
are rare, and too far between to sustain the business of a regular "negro-trader." This occupation, then, may fairly be ascribed to the practice of slaves absconding from their masters. But this is only one of the evils arising from this practice.
I have shown that, in general, it is only the healthy and able-bodied negroes that abscond. The old men and women, the unhealthy, and children, who are too young to labor, remain a bur-then in the hands of the master. The laws of the country, as well as humanity, and the still greater obligations of christianity make it his duty to provide for them. To do this, he most, at very high rates, employ laborers to carry on his farm. A failure of crops, and other causes compels him to borrow money, at a high rate of interest; but he still struggles on, hoping that when his young negroes grow up he will be able to avoid the necessity of borrowing more money to make both ends meet. But his young negroes, as they grow up so as to be useful, on the farm, follow the example of their elder relatives, and flee to Canada; still leaving the old and helpless, and the young to be maintained by the luckless farmer. He is compelled again to borrow more money. At length the crack comes. The mortgagees foreclose their mortgages. and the bond-creditors obtain judgments. To satisfy these multiplied demands, the land and negroes are sold, at public auction. The negro-trader watches for his prey. He has the same right to bid as any other person; and the traffick, in which he is engaged, enables him to outbid neighboring purchasers. Like the sale in Washington. Ky., "by order of court," as described by the fair novellist, another Haley is present, examines carefully all the negroes who are to be sold; marks out those that will best suit the market for which he destines them, in the South. He bide off these because be can afford to give for them more than any neighboring purchaser. And, hard-hearted wretch, he cannot be persuaded to buy any old "Hagar" in the same lot with her only son "Albert, fourteen years of age." The latter suited the market to which he trades; the former did not. He, therefore, seperates mother and son forever for the sake of a little paltry gain. Here is another fruit, resulting from the practice of negroes running away from their masters. They enjoy freedom, such freedom as Canada bestows upon them! at the expense of their friends, their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts, whom they have left behind. Did the fair novelist look to these consequences, when she was so zealously encouraging slaves to run away from their masters?
But there is another evil still, resulting from this practice. The laws of the land authorize the recapture of slaves, in
the non-slaveholding States. Now whatever Mrs. Stowe may think, in relation to these laws, let her opinion, and the opinions
of the friends of emancipation be ever so decided that these laws are unconstitutional or unjust, as good citizens they are bound to respect
them, at least so far as not to resist their execution, until they are repealed or declared to be unconstitutional, by the proper tribunal, the Supreme Court. I grant that a conscientious person like the "good Rachel Halladay," and her brother Quakers, and many other honest and sincere abolitionists, may without any impropriety (nay I grant the privilege to all) refuse to assist in the recapture of slaves, who have absconded from their masters. But I insist that good citizens arc in duty bound to make no active opposition to the execution of the laws of the land.
If such opposition is habitually made, by any considerable portion of the people of the free States, it necessarily embitters the feelings of the citizens of the slaveholding States, and produces a state of things extremely unfavorable to the cause of emancipation, and thus obstructs the great and desirable event of freeing our country from the evils of slavery, within as short a period as we might otherwise hope to see it accomplished.
And what does this help of emancipation accomplish? It is like a drop from a full bucket. All the slaves that obtain freedom by taking shelter in Canada, would probably not be equal in number to one hundredth part of the natural increase of the slave population. Who can estimate Low many millions of years, at this rate, will be sufficient to overcome the evils of slavery!
The next step, in the scheme of releiving the country from the evils of slavery, is to educate our slave population. Some judgment of the practicability of this suggestion may be formed from Mrs. Stowe's relation of the story of little Topsy. The amiable and excellent Miss
Ophelia, a native of Vermont, entertaining opinions, in relation to slavery, as it existed in the South, in accordance with
the views of her native State—while on a visit to her amiable kind-hearted and benevolent cousin, St. Clare, who saw and deplored
the circumstance, that the slaves of the South were almost universally without the slightest degree of education, she expressed
an ardent desire that their masters should afford them at least such a degree of education as would enable them to read the
Bible, and thus lay the foundation for them to lead a Christian life. Her good cousin felt a desire that it should be done
if it were practicable. He buys the little girl Topsy, and gives her to his cousin, Miss Ophelia, to educate her under his own roof. From the excellent
character of Miss Ophelia, her great industry, energy and incomparable methodical arrangement, in all her affairs, and from
her perfect devotion to the rearing the young in the principles of Christianity, she was admirably qualified for the task
she had undertaken. As this was to be a kind of test as to the practicability of bestowing the benefit of some degree of education to the coloured race, Miss Ophelia devotes all her energies to render
the experiment successful. After devoting some two years to the education of her little charge, she almost despairs of making
anything out of her. At length she falls upon the expe-
dient of persuading her kind-hearted cousin Augustine to convey little Topsy to her, by a regular deed of conveyance, that she might take her to her native home, in Vermont, where she hoped, at a distance from all her colored associations, she would be able to make something of her little charge, who was naturally very smart. In this she was not mistaken. She finally succeeded in giving her a suitable degree of education, and instilling in the mind of Topsy a duo reverence and faith in the divine principles of Christianity.
Here, then, we behold one of the seven hundred slaves of Alfred and Augustine St. Clare, properly educated by the incessant labors of the excellent Miss Ophelia.
But where will we find seven hundred Ophelias to educate the other slaves of the two brothers? And where will we find suitable teachers for the other slaves of the slaveholding States, amounting to more than three millions, even supposing their masters would give their consent to have them educated, and would board the teachers and pupils while going through the process of education? But that masters would be willing thus to contribute their part, if teachers should voluntarily offer their time and their talents to the promotion of such an object is extremely improbable, because the impression, (whether right or wrong is not material,) among slave-holders is almost universal that to educate the slave renders them less happy and less valuable. The idea, then, of educating the slave population, preparatory to their emancipation is wholly impracticable.
The subject of slavery is under the sole jurisdiction of the several States in which that institution exists. Emancipation can only take place in accordance with the constitution and laws of the several States in which slavery exists. As the impression strongly and universally prevails in the slaveholding States that a sudden emancipation of the whole black population would be attended with the most disastrous effects to the slaves as well as to their masters, we may feel perfectly assured that, if in any State a constitutional provision shall be made for emancipating slaves, it will be by a slow and gradual process. As yet even this plan of emancipation has been discountenanced by all, or nearly all the slaveholding States, because the opinion generally prevails that our slave population are not in a condition to render freedom of any value to them in consequence of their want of education, and other causes, operating upon them, while in their present abode. Another obstruction to this mode of emancipation is that the mingling of free blacks with slaves would have a deteriorating effect on both. To free them upon condition that they shall leave the State is objected to, upon the ground that by taking up their residence in the adjoining free States, they would have a powerful influence in encouraging those not yet emancipated, to runaway from their masters.
But there is no circumstance that creates a greater obstacle to a system of gradual emancipation, by constitutional provision, in the several States, than the incessant agitation of the subject of emancipation, by citizens of the non-slaveholding States, and the systematic encouragement continually held out to slaves to runaway from their masters; and the protection, encouragement, and assistance afforded them, in making good their way to Canada. These circumstances are well calculated to arouse and embitter the feelings of the South against every species of abolitionism. They think, and justly too, that the subject of emancipation belongs exclusively to them. That the incessant agitation of this matter indicates a disposition, on the part of a large portion of the citizens of the free States, to interfere by force, (for they have no constitutional right to do so,) with the rights of the South; and that this disposition is evinced by their improper resistance to the execution of the laws of the United States, in relation to the recapture of run-away slaves.
Mrs. Stowe, in her novel, relates the circumstances under which George Haris and his wife Eliza ran away from their masters, in such a way as strongly to excite the sympathies of the reader. George had been a most extraordinary good servant. Yet his brutal master had treated him with great cruelty for a long time. George bore patiently all the inhuman treatment of his master, until he, out of mere revenge, prohibited him from going to see his wife and child, in the neighbourhood. His wife Eliza was also a most excellent servant, and had the happiness of living with a mistress of a most amiable character, possessing all the virtues and graces of a christian, in a preeminent degree. She raised and educated Eliza as carefully as if she was her own child. Eliza loved her as a mother, and was as faithful to her as ever a servant was to a master or mistress. Whilst thus enjoying as much happiness as falls to the lot of the most sincere christian (for such she was taught to be by her amiable mistress,) her master was driven, by necessity, to sell Eliza's only child, a boy of a few years old, to whom she was tenderly attached. This child was sold to an inhuman negro-trader, who was about to carry him to New Orleans to make sale of him, where Eliza could never again hope to see him. Under these circumstances, she saw that she could save her darling child only by absconding from her dearly beloved home, in Kentucky. There was no time for delay. She resolved to make an effort to save her dearly beloved child from destruction. She took him on her back, and succeeded in reaching the boundaries of a non-slaveholding State. And by the assistance of the kind-hearted and benevolent "friends," (Quakers) into whose hands she was passed, succeeded in making her way, (in company with her husband, George Haris, who had fallen in with her, whilst he was fleeing from his master in Kentucky,) to the shores of Canada.
The escape of Casey and Emiline from the cruel, inhuman and more than brutal Legree, and the circumstances attending their flight, and successful escape into Canada, are powerfully calculated to excite the sympathies of the benevolent reader. But notwithstanding the touching manner in which these stories are related, the reflecting reader cannot help seeing that the effect and general tenor of the novel is to encourage all slaves to run away from their masters, and the good and benevolent "Friends" to protect and assist all run-away slaves, on their way from Canada. For we find that other slaves, besides George and Eliza, who had no special reason for running away, were equally protected and assisted on their route, by the friendly Quakers, one of whom speaks with self-satisfaction of the fact, that no slave had ever been recaptured in their friendly settlement.
Though cases like those of George and Eliza, and of Casey and Emilina may sometimes exist, though, perhaps, in not quite so aggravated a form as related by the fair novelist, yet the cases are far more numerous, in which slaves run away from masters, who have treated them with great kindness, and not unfrequently evincing a great want of gratitude.
A case of this kind has occurred not very long since in my own neighbourhood. A young man of mild and amiable feelings, with the assistance of his father, a wealthy farmer, purchased a farm, only a few miles from the Ohio shore. He wanted hands to assist in working his farm. He very soon had applications from a number of slaves to buy them, because they felt assured he would make them a more indulgent and better master. At their particular request he purchased several of them, at high rates, believing that those who expressed so strong a desire to come to him, would be faithful. It turned out far otherwise. These stout and hale young men remained with him long enough to make suitable arrangements, when they took their departure for Canada, and made good their retreat with the aid of certain abolitionists of Ohio.
It is much to be regretted by the real friends of some practical plan of emancipation, that the encouragement held out by many persons, to induce slaves to run-away from their masters, and the other causes,
enumerated above, should have produced such a state of feeling in the slaveholding States, as to have prevented, hitherto,
the adoption of any general system of gradual emancipation, in any State south of Delaware. It is to be hoped that the causes
which have hitherto prevented this first step, by State authority, to relieve the South from the evil of domestic slavery
will, in time, be removed. In the meantime it is a source of much gratification that the process of voluntary emancipation is progressing quite as fast as the means of the colonization society will enable them to send to Liberia the persons thus
emancipated. The ability of the society to send out new emigrants is annually increasing. And it is a source of great pleasure, that
the condition of Liberia, and her ability to receive new emigrants, is increasing much more rapidly, than the means of the colonization society. As these means increase, so will be the increase of voluntary emancipation. The only practical plan, then, of northern abolitionists is to hasten the process of voluntary emancipation. This they can readily do by voluntary contributions towards increasing the means of the colonization society. If these means could only be increased to such an extent as to enable the society to send to Liberia all the slaves that shall be voluntarily emancipated, we would very soon behold the entire coast between Liberia and Sierra Leone occupied by freemen, enjoying all the rights and privileges, that our citizens enjoy in the free States of the Union. Such a settlement would effectually suppress the slave trade far more than this benevolent object can be effected by the joint navies of Great Britain and the United States. When this extension of the settlement on the coast of Liberia shall be effected, the slave-trade will not only be exterminated, but we shall behold Liberia extending her influence over the interior nations of Africa, civilizing, christianizing and uniting them as confederate States. In a word, a great nation of freemen will spring up on the coast of Africa much more rapidly than we have grown into a great nation and powerful Republic, since the landing of the pilgrims on Plymouth Rock, in the year 1620.
It may be said, slavery is our own concern, and that we ought to contribute the means of eradicating the evil from our borders. Is this a just view of the subject?
Slavery was introduced into the Southern States contrary to their wishes, and against their earnest remonstrances. The mother country, England, forced the evil upon them. The merchant vessels of the Northern colonies contributed to fasten this great evil upon the South. These traders in human beings received a full consideration for every man, woman and child sold into a state of slavery. And we are now cooly told, that we ought not only to emancipate these slaves, but that we ought to bear the entire expense of sending them back to Africa, from whence they were brought as merchandize, and sold to the Southern planters.
And now, when humane end benevolent individuals are willing to sacrifice the whole value of their slaves, by emancipating
them, because justice and religion demand that they should make that sacrifice, they are told, you must do more, you must pay the expense of sending them back to the country from which they had no hand in bringing them. These humane
individuals, who are struggling to have justice done to the much wronged African, (wronged by others, not themselves,) are told that when they greatly curtail the fortunes
of their children, by giving freodom to all their slaves, they ought to strip them of the little means they have left for
educating them, and giving than a little to begin the world, by paying the expense of sending back the Africans to their native
country. These friends of gradual emancipation are making annual contributions to keep up the funds of the colonization
society, so that they may be enabled to send out annually as many as possible of these emancipated persons, and it is too much for them to ask of their northern brethren, who desire to see all our slaves liberated, to contribute their mite towards the great and benevolent object of freeing our country from the curse of slavery.
If it be said, this process of liberation is too slow, I reply it is as rapid as is practicable, in the present state of things; it is as rapid, or may be made so, by the help of our northern brethern, as is consistent with the existing condition of Liberia, and the well-being of the emigrants sent out. We should reflect, also, that this effort of the colonization society is rapidly improving the condition of Liberia, and greatly increasing her means of receiving the constantly increasing numbers of emigrants, and providing for their comfortable subsistence and education or the younger portion of them.
But there is another consideration that ought to prove decisive. Experience demonstrates the practicability of the scheme of emancipation by colonizing free persons of colour in Liberia. The practical results will not fail to make themselves felt in some one or more of the States. One or more of these States will ere long provide, by a change of constitution, providing a system of gradual emancipation. The process will thus be greatly hastened, and its good will be witnessed by other Suites which will follow the good example. And thus, with the blessing of a merciful God, we will as speedily as circumstances allow, be relieved from the curse of slavery; and Africa will have her long lost children restored to her, as were the children Israel to the land of Canaan. Nothing will be wanting, with the blessing God, but to furnish means for sending home these much wronged sons of Africa. And who can doubt the ability of a great nation, like ours, with a population, at this time, of about twenty five millions, and which will be doubled in less than twenty-five years, of providing for the transportation of all the sons of Africa as last as they shall be gradually emancipated by the laws and constitutions of the several States. In this process of gradual emancipation, each State must be left to regulate the matter exclusively according to its own judgment. All interference, on the part of other States, must be sedulously avoided, as such interference, even if remotely and indirectly attempted, would throw obstacles in the way, and delay the final accomplishment of relieving the country from the evils of shivery. In carrying out this good work, all parts of the United States are deeply interested, and all parts of the Union ought to unite in its accomplishment. When I speak of non-interference, on the part of citizens of non-slaveholding States, I allude to that kind of interference which is not consistent with the laws and constitutions of the slaveholding States. But voluntary contributions to aid the operations of the colonization society, are not of that character. Such contributions will be honored and thankfully received by every true friend of emancipation. A few remarks on the advantages which will accrue to the coloured race, by colonizing them in their native country, will close this article. This cannot be better done than by giving some extracts from the letter of George Haris, near the close of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
"The desire and yearning of my soul is for our African nationality. I want a people that shall have a tangible seperate existence of its
own; and where am I to look for it? Not in Hayti. Where then shall I look? On the shores of Africa I see a Republic—a Republic formed by picked men who, by energy and self-educating force, have in many cases, individually, raised themselves above a condition of slavery. Having gone through a probationary stage of feebleness, this Republic has, at last, become an acknowledged nation, on the face of the earth; acknowledged by France and England. There it is my wish to go, and find myself a people."
"I grant that this Liberia may have subserved all sorts of purposes, by being played off in the hands of our oppressors against us. Doubtless the scheme may have been used in injustifiable ways, as a means of retarding our emancipation. But the question to me is, is there not a God above all men's schemes; may he not have overruled their designs, and founded for us a nation by them? In these days a nation is born in a day. A nation starts now with all the great problems of republican life and civilization, wrought out to its hands; it has not to discover but only to apply. Let us then all take hold together, with all our might, and see what we can do with this new enterprise, and the whole splendid continent of Africa opens before us and our children. Our nation shall roll the tide of civilization and christianity along its shores, and plant there mighty republics that, growing with the rapidity of tropical vegetation, shall be for all coming ages. Do you say that I am deserting my enslaved brethern? I think not. If I forget them one hour, one moment of my life, so may God forget me! But what can I do for them here? I can't break their chains? No, not as an individual, but let me go, and form part of a nation, which shall have a voice in the councils of nations, and then we can speak. A nation has a right to argue, remonstrate, implore and present the cause of its race, which an individual has not. But you will tell me, our race have equal rights to mingle in the American republic, as the Irish, the German, the Swede. Granted they have. But then, I do not want it; I want a country, a nation of my own. I think that the African race has peculiarities, yet to be unfolded, in the light of civilization and christianity, which, if not the same with those of the Anglo-Saxon, may prove to be morally of even a higher type. To the Anglo-Saxon race has been entrusted the destinies of the world, during its pioneer struggle and conflict. To that mission its stern, inflexible, energetic elements were well adapted, but as a christian I look for another era to arise. On its borders I trust we stand; and the throes that now convulse the nations are, to my hope, but the birth-pangs of an hour of universal peace and brotherhood. I trust that the development of Africa is to be essentially a christian one. If not a dominant and commanding race, they are at least an affectionate, magnanimous, and forgiving one. Having been called in the furnace of injustice and oppression, they have need to bind close to their hearts that sublime doctrine of love and forgiveness through which alone they are to conquer, which it is to be their mission to spread over the continent of Africa. You will call me an enthusiast. You will tell me, I have not well considered what I am undertaking. But I have considered, and counted the cost. I go to Liberia, not as to an elysium of romance, but as to a field of work."