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MR. ONSLOW SPEAKS HIS MIND.
“How faint through din of merchandise
And count of gain
N opportunity for resuming the conversation did not occur
till long after sundown, and when many of the passengers were retiring to bed.
“ I have heard, Mr. Onslow,” said Vance, “that since your removal to Texas you have liberated your slaves.”
“You have been rightly informed,” replied Onslow. “ And how did they succeed as freedmen?” “ Two thirds of them poorly, the remaining third well.”
“ Does not such a fact rather bear against emancipation, and in favor of slavery?”
Quite the contrary. I am aware that the enthusiastic Mr. Ruskin maintains that slavery is not a political institution at all, but an inherent, natural, and eternal inheritance of a large portion of the human race.' But as his theory would involve the enslaving of white men as well as black, I think we may dismiss it as the sportive extravagance of one better qualified to dogmatize than argue."
“ But is he not right in the application of his theory to the black race ?”
“ Far from it. Look at the white men you and I knew some twenty-five years ago. How many of them have turned out sots, gluttons, thieves, incapables ! Shall the thrifty and wise, therefore, enslave the imprudent and foolish? Assuredly not, whatever such clever men as Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Thomas Carlyle may say in extenuation of such a proceeding.”
“Do not escaped or emancipated negroes often voluntarily return to slavery ?”
“Not often, but occasionally; and so occasionally a white man commits an offence in order that he may be put in the penitentiary. A poor negro is emancipated or escapes. He goes to Philadelphia or New York, and has a hard time getting his grub. In a year or two he drifts back to his old master's plantation, anxious to be received again by one who can insure to him his rations of mush; and so he declares there's no place like “old Virginny for a nigger.' Then what pæans go up in behalf of the patriarchal system! What a conclusive argument this that 'niggers will be niggers, and that slavery is right and holy! Slave-drivers catch at the instance to stiffen up their consciences, and to stifle that inner voice that is perpetually telling them (in spite of the assurances of bishops, clergymen, and literary dilettanti to the contrary) that slavery is a violation of justice and of that law of God written on the heart and formulized by Christ, that we must do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and that therefore liberty is the God-given right of every innocent and able-minded man. Instances like that I have supposed, instead of being a palliation of slavery, are to my mind new evidences of its utter sinful
A system that can so degrade humanity as to make a man covet repression or extinction for his manhood must be devilish indeed."
But, Mr. Onslow, do not statistics prove that the blacks increase and multiply much more in a state of slavery than in any other? Is not that a proof they are well treated and happy?” “ That is the most hideous argument yet in favor of the
system. In slavery women are stimulated by the beastly ambition of contending which shall bear the most little nigs for massa'! Among these poor creatures the diseases consequent upon too frequent child-bearing are dreadfully prevalent. Surely the welfare of a people must be measured, not by the mere amount of animal contentment or of rapid breeding with which they can be credited, but by the sum of manly acting and thinking they can show. A whole race of human beings is not created merely to eat mush, hoe in cotton-fields, and procreate slaves. The example of one such escaped slave as Frederick Douglas shows that the blacks are capable of as high a civilization as the whites."
The slave may
“Do they not seem to you rather feeble in the moral faculty ? "
“ No more feeble than any race would be, treated as they have been. The other day there fell into my hands a volume of sermons for pious slaveholders to preach to their slaves. It is from the pen of the excellent Bishop Meade of Virginia. The Bishop says to poor Cuffee : Your bodies, you know, are not your own; they are at the disposal of those you belong to; but your precious souls are still your own.
What impious cajolery is this? The master has an unlimited, irresponsible power over the slave, from childhood up, can force him to act as he wills, however conscience may protest ! be compelled to commit crimes or to reconcile himself to wrongs, familiarity with which may render his soul, like his body, the mere unreasoning, impassive tool of his master. And yet a bishop is found to try to cozen Cuffee out of the little common sense slavery may have left him, by telling him he is responsible for that soul, which may be stunted, soiled, perverted in any way avarice or power may choose.”
“ Well, Mr. Onslow, will you deny that slavery has an ennobling effect in educating a chivalrous, brave, hospitable aristocracy, of whites, untainted by those meannesses which are engendered by the greed of gain in trading communities?”
“ I will not deny,” replied Onslow, “that the habit of irresponsible command may develop certain qualities, sometimes good, sometimes bad, in the slave-driver; and so the exercise of the lash by the overseer may develop the extensor muscles of the arm ; but the evils to the whites from slavery far, far outbalance the benefits. First, there are the five millions of mean, non-slaveholding whites. These the system has reduced to a condition below that of the slave himself, in many cases. Slavery becomes at once their curse and their infatuation. It fascinates while it crushes them; it drugs and stupefies while it robs and degrades." “ But may we not claim advantages from the system for the
for the upper three hundred thousand ?” “ That depends on what you may esteem advantages. Can an injustice be an advantage to the perpetrator? The man who betrays a moneyed trust, and removes to Europe with his
family, may in one sense derive an advantage from the operation. He may procure the means of educating and amusing himself and his children. So the slaveholder, by depriving other men of their inherent rights, may get the means of benefiting himself and those he cares for. But if he is content with such advantages, it must be because of a torpid, uneducated, or perverted conscience. Patrick Henry was right when he said, • Slavery is inconsistent with the religion of Christ' O'Connell was right when he declared, “No constitutional law can create or sanction slavery. I have often thought that Mississippians would never have been reconciled to that stupendous public swindle, politely called repudiation, if slavery had not first prepared their minds for it by the robbery of labor. . And yet we have men like Jefferson Davis,* who not only palliate, but approve the cheat. O the atrocity! O the shame! With what face can a repudiating community punish thieves ? ”
“Shall we not,” asked Vance, " at least grant the slaveholder the one quality he so anxiously claims, that which he expresses in the word chivalry?
Mr. Onslow shrugged his shoulders, and replied : “Put before the chivalrous slaveholder a poor fanatic of an Abolitionist, caught in the act of tampering with slaves, and then ask this representative of the chivalry to be magnanimous. No! the mean instincts of what he deems self-interest will make him a fiend in cruelty. He looks upon
much as a gunpowder manufacturer would look upon the wandering Celt who should approach his establishment with a lighted pipe in his mouth ; and he cheerfully sees the culprit handed over to the tender mercies of a mob of ignorant white barbarians.”
“Do you, then, deny that slavery develops any high qualities in the master ?”
“And if it did, what right have I to develop my high qualities at another's expense ? Yes ! Jefferson is right when he says: “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part and degrading submissions
* The dishonesty of Mr. John Slidell's attempt to expunge from Davis's history the reproach of repudiation is thoroughly and irrefutably exposed by Mr. Robert J. Walker in the Continental Monthly, 1863.
on the other. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and his morals undepraved by such circumstances.?”
Mr. Onslow paced the deck for a moment, and then, returning, exclaimed: "O the unspeakable crimes, barbarities, and deviltries to which the system has educated men here at the South during the last thirty years ! Educated not merely the poor and ignorant, but the rich and refined! The North knows hardly a tithe of the actual horrors. Worse than the wildest religious fanaticism, slavery sees men tortured, hung, mutilated, subjected to every conceivable indignity, cruelty, agony, simply because the victim is unsound, or suspected to be unsound, on the one supreme question. I myself have been often threatened, and sometimes the presentiment is strong upon me that my end will be a bloody one. I should not long be safe, were it not that in our region there are brave men who, like me, begin to question the divinity of the obscene old hag.”
Mr. Onslow again walked away, and then, coming close up to Vance, said in low tones : “But retribution must come, sure as God lives, retribution must come, and that speedily! Slavery must die, in order that Freedom and Civilization may live. I see it in all the signs of the times, in all the straws that drift by me on the current of events. Retribution must come, come with bloodshed, anguish, and desolation to both North and South, — to Slavery, with spasms of diabolical cruelty, violence, and unholy wrath, and to Freedom with trials long and doubtful, but awaking the persistent energy which a righteous cause will inspire, and leading ultimately to permanent triumph and to the annihilation on this continent of the foul power which has ruled us so long, and which shall dare to close in deadly combat with the young genius of universal Liberty."
Vance grasped Onslow by the hand, but seemed too excited to speak. Then, as if half ashamed of his emotion, he said, 6 Will there be men at the South, think you, to array themselves on the side of freedom, in the event of a collision ?"
“ There will be such men, but, until the slave-power shall be annihilated forever, they will be a helpless minority. A few rich leaders control the masses which Slavery has herself first imbruted. Crush out slavery, and there will be regenerators