THE BRITISH SLAVE SYSTEM
THE English call their country the first in the world; the first in morality and honor, the first in every thing that enlightens and ennobles a nation, and affect to look down upon other peoples. But, politically and socially considered, England is one of tile most deadly despotisms in Europe—crushing, with the sanction of constitutional law, millions of her home population into pauperism; and, internationally, she is among the most rapacious and overbearing—making a pretence of caring for the African slave while forcing her drugs and manufactures on the feeble and oppressed nations of the East with her broadsides and her bayonets.
That such a nation, slurring over the atrocities that she herself enacts in Ireland or Hindostan, or winking at those committed, under her eyes, by her excellent friends and allies in Europe, should presume—by any, the slightest demonstration—to make itself a censor of the spirit and institutions of this country, exhibits an extraordinary mixture of ignorance and hypocrisy; the ignorance which condemns what it does not understand, and the hypocrisy which leads people to denounce what they themselves practice in a worse degree. Seeing that the English (we mean the large, unthinking body of English sentimentalists) are rather liberal of their opinions concerning us, we would return the compliment, and show them that England, on the testimony of her own honest writers, is one of the cruellest slave-holding states in the world.
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And first, for the slaves of England proper. The returns published a year ago, show that a million of individuals were supported as paupers in England and Wales, at an average cost of about $35 each. A paragraph in the London Times of last year comprehends the whole question of national degradation in the following general terms: "In the midst of' the splendor and abundance of the country, there is so appalling an amount of squalor and destitution, that the imagination almost recoils, from conjuring up before it the alternate pictures that would convey a faithful idea of the social condition of one of our great cities. There is hardly in all the earth, a sadder sight than multitudes of 300 to 1000 persons shut up in the work-houses. Broken hearts and fortunes, high spirits still untamed, minds in ruins and decay, good natures corrupted into evil, cheerful souls turned into bitterness, youth just beginning to struggle with the world and vast masses of childhood are there, subjected, not to the educated the gentle and the good, but the rude, the rough, the coarse, the ignorant, the narrow-minded. With our work-house staff as it is, low, vulgar and brutal, and with the evil association of the unfortunate with the wicked, and the weak with the audacious, it is impossible but that the miserable inmates should be more and more depraved, embittered and exasperated." What, are Mrs. Stowe's narrow delineations to the deadly coloring and breadth of such a picture as that! Under that demoralizing and festering system the ties of nature are remorselessly dragged asunder; wives are separated from husbands, and children separated from their parents and one another, in obedience to the cold-blooded discipline of the English work-houses.
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Mrs. Stowe, we see, has been invited over to England by some of the aristocratic
admirers of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Of course she will go, and consider herself
honored. But, let her remember that whatever distinction. may be attached
to her reception, it will be purchased by her unfair testimony against one
portion of her native land; that she will be feted
by foreigners for holding up this republic to European dislike and scorn.
If she really found herself under the necessity of inflicting chastisement
on her brethren of the national house-hold it is scarcely becoming she should
go abroad glorying in it: She should rather mourn over the fact—or mourn,
if she must, the necessity for it; but to go boast of it among crowing and
congratulating strangers seems extremely hard and unnatural—reminding us
of a certain "bad bird" of a plainspoken old proverb. We do not think Mrs.
Stowe's tour will be so very honorable to her, after all. And there is something
more than the personal disparagement involved in this matter. Those classes
in England, France, Germany, who hate or dread the democracy—that democracy
which Earl Derby expressed himself so apprehensive of, in the House of Lords,
the other day—rejoice exceedingly in seeing the disgrace flung upon the character
of our republicanism by Mrs. Stowe's "Uncle Tom." The thing itself, they know,
is a small affair, at best; but, as a weapon in the hands of those who love
the kingly order of things, it is welcomed as a timely God-send. How they
rejoice to see Mrs. Stowe's hand lifting up the veil, and exposing the nakedness
of the republic—to see Uncle Sam put to open shame by Uncle Tom! How they
cry out—"There is your model republic! See what a thing American democracy
is! Let us thank God and that wonderful
Mrs. Stowe that America is shown up in all its intolerant deformity! Who would exchange mild and venerable monarchy for such a ferocious and inconsistent form. of government? Ah! our people little know the blessings they enjoy under the good old rule! Let us feast Mrs. Stowe—who has informed us against her guilty country. Let us get up a subscription for her; and let us make this a great occasion of showing the world the absurdity of feeling any admiration of that American republic!"
This will be Mrs. Stowe's ovation. She may think she will be only showing her good feeling toward her black brethren. She will be doing more. She will be wronging her own country. She will be bringing upon this democracy, the scorn of the aristocratic sycophants of monarchy—English, French, Russian, Neapolitan; and be, in fact, glorying in her shame. We protest we cannot see how any true American woman could bring herself to go to the houses of the British nobility and smirk, and give assent, and sigh, while lords and ladies talked with foolish disparagement of America and the Americans. We think our fair country-women must feel their cheeks flushing somewhat, at the bare idea of such unworthy complaisance and subserviency on the part of one of their republican sisters. Certainly, if Mrs. Stowe goes to England, she will need all the compliments and honors the aristocracy can pay her; for her estimation in her own country must decline in proportion to such dearly purchased foreign distinction. As a matter of common prudence, we think, it a mistake on Mrs. Stowe's part to risk the partiality of her own people for the hollow and transitory glorifications of strangers—unless she means to stay with them, and cut us altogether—which we strongly advise her to do. The air of our land is too chilly for such a genial soul—the milder atmosphere of England (perfumed with the breath of an aristocracy, which spends its time in making the working-classes happy) would suit her to a nicety. In those large drawing-rooms, luxuriantly fitted and elegantly adorned, the tear over the woes of the slave will have an especial unction. Happy woman! kiss the garment of royalty and be—Great! What a sublime thing is the humbug of Philanthropy in the nineteenth century—and what a glory should surround its money-making Martyrs!