Slavery in the Southern States
"A Carolinian"
Cambridge: John Bartlett, 1852

  All these requisites to practical usefulness have been wanting in those who have declaimed against slavery and its abuses; and consequently the effect of their declamations has been to give rise to recrimination, until the North and the South know


each other through their vices more familiarly than through their virtues. The consequence, too, has been excitement of feeling at the South, which, it cannot be denied, interferes with her calmness of judgment on many points of slavery. And moreover, she has been led very naturally to turn to the bright side of the picture by way of relief from the many exaggerated horrors that are held perseveringly up to her, until she is apt to forget that there are in slavery, as in all social systems, many errors which only time, and caution, and serious thought, can correct. But it is time now for the South to have done with the weakness which has betrayed her into intemperate heat or carelessness. She is forgetful of her own dignity if she enters into a war of recrimination, in which the battle is not to the strongest, but to the most vulgar; or if she allows any misrepresentations from abroad to induce a frame of mind that is unfavorable to the discharge of her duties. She is unjust to herself if she is tempted by the bright side of her institutions to deny the darkness of the other. We know that she is schooling herself to indifference to the violent Abolition abuse of the North, and that what she has done for the elevation of the negro has not been under a pressure from without, but rather at


the suggestions of her own sense of duty. But still there lingers some weakness of temper, some over-sensitiveness, which betrays itself, we think, in public opinion, that is too quick to charge her own men with "unsoundness" on this question. We would have her act up to the dictates of conscience, acknowledge her great responsibilities and all the rights of the slave, set herself earnestly to fulfill the duty that God has thrown upon her, and, as she yields nothing to the prejudices of the North, yield nothing to her anger at their violent expression.

  " Uncle Tom's Cabin" is the latest attack upon slavery. The book contains all the arguments against the institution, vivified in dramatic scenes of great power, and made attractive by highly wrought sketches, imaginative chiefly, though, we are assured, not extravagant. We may not doubt what we hear of its unprecedented sale, nor that its authoress has refused ten thousand dollars for the copyright. We confess to having read the book with much excitement, under the influence of which we wrote many pages in its refutation. But we soon felt that we had fallen into a too common error, and we tore up our pages at the suggestion of the preceding train of thought. We shall not make any question of love or hate


with this book, but shall content ourselves with an effort to derive such profit from it as may be suggested even from the midst of its extravagance and injustice.

  The "moral end" of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is to bring out in a strong light the evils of the complete dependence of one man upon the arbitrary will of another. We have a variety of vivid scenes to illustrate the power of the master in separating the families of slaves, in destroying their moral character, and in scourging them even to death. In these sketches her zeal has got the better of the authoress, and she has drawn a most wild and unreal picture of slavery. The consequence is, that the book, with its vast circulation, will do infinite injury. Its dramatic power will have no other effect upon the country than to excite the fanaticism of one portion and to arouse the indignation of the other. It will carry an erroneous picture of slavery to those who are only too eager to misunderstand, and will serve to confirm that increasing Southern opinion which sees only hatred and misconception of us at the North. Its well-seasoned horrors will give a new birth to Abolition apostles in factories and farm-yards, and its descriptions will furnish the materials of many an extravagant discourse, and be the household


talk of many a family circle. At the South it will hardly be read with toleration, and there is danger that the bitterness it engenders will make it of no service to the negro.

  Mrs. Stowe proceeds after her manner to denounce slavery because of this irresponsible power of the master. Her argument is a description of scenes such as we have never seen or heard of, but which, of course, we cannot undertake to deny. It is always easy to attack an institution by dwelling with emphasis upon its abuses. This error of fanatical reformers has been admirably illustrated by the remark, that they hold the abuses of a system so close to their eyes that they can see nothing beyond. Now we can allow Mrs. Stowe no monopoly of feeling, or even of sentiment (though the word is growing disreputable), when we hear of brutal wrongs committed by one man against another; nay, we shall perhaps go beyond her in reprobation of all abuse of that authority which God has given to the white man at the South over the African. But we know more of slavery than she does, though she has undertaken to tell all the world about it, and we refuse to take these things as a picture of the institution. We refuse to judge any system by extravagant pictures of the crimes that disfigure it. We are not ready at the bidding of Mrs. Stowe, in this great question slavery, to see only its occasional horrors, because we have seen Christianity always reverenced in the world, though many stains of bigotry, and though the torture and the stake, have more than once obscured it; because children still look up with love and honor to their parents, though crime has come of the parents' power; because the marriage tie has brought untold happiness to men and women in spite of many seasons and places in which it has been mere mockery; because the laws of property are respected still, though the oppression of the rich has wrung from the poor the bitter cry that "property is robbery"; because we believe the mission of woman to be for peace and good-will, though we have read of the siege of Troy, and have known many modern Helens of the agitation-school; because we see nothing without its evils, no Divine institution that man has not defaced, no human institution without its errors. It is in view of all this that we say that Mrs. Stowe has been unjust. In dwelling with great skill and dramatic power upon the abuses of the system, and upon nothing beyond, she has given a most false and wrong impression of what slavery is. She has filled her Northern readers with a delusion.


  She is concerned if we reject her deformed image of slavery, making answer to it as we have done, that these horrors are abuses, and are only occasional. Her defence, strongly and eagerly urged, is, that these abuses are "inherent" in the system. She says, "There is actually nothing to protect the slave's life but the character of the master. Facts too shocking to be contemplated occasionally force their way to the public ear, and the comment that one often hears made on them is more shocking than the thing itself. It is said, 'Very likely such cases may now and then occur, but they are no sample of general practice?' If the laws of New England were so arranged that a master could now and then torture an apprentice to death, without a possibility of being brought to justice, would it be received with equal composure? Would it be said, 'These cases are no sample of general practice'? This injustice is an inherent one in the slave system; it cannot exist without it." It will be observed that this leads to quite another question than the infrequency of these abuses. We have insisted only upon their rare occurrence, and for that reason have refused to allow her descriptions of them to pass for a picture of slavery. What she says about their being "in-


herent in the system" does not make her picture the less a misrepresentation. Is it a defence of the book as an argument against the institution? We still insist that her argument might be turned against almost any existing institution, because there are none that provide altogether against those abuses which grow out of the evil passions of men. If we were to draw a picture of the miserable condition to which men and women are reduced in the great cities and manufacturing districts by the fierce competition which enables the man of capital to bold "flesh and, blood so cheap," and if, ascribing this to the liberal legislation that allows him to demand so much work for so little pay, we were to cry out against the present laws of property, our argument would not be more faulty than Mrs. Stowe's. How much of bitterest anguish may be traced to the power that coarse men are clothed with by the conjugal relation! If we were to cry out against matrimony on this ground, and bring up for argument a score of pictures drawn from the worst phases of married life, we should outrage society; and it would be a shallow excuse for us to point to the necessity of these things in the system. As there is in these instances, which might be indefinitely multiplied, danger of abuse of the power


which society gives to one man over another, so it would be absurd to deny the danger that there is of the white man's occasionally abusing the power over the black that has been placed in his hands.