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Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation by Frances Anne Kemble

Part 5 out of 5

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large black snake, which filled me with disgust and nipped my other
sentiments in the bud. Not a day passes now that I do not encounter one or
more of these hateful reptiles; it is curious how much more odious they
are to me than the alligators that haunt the mud banks of the river round
the rice plantation. It is true that there is something very dreadful in
the thick shapeless mass, uniform in colour almost to the black slime on
which it lies basking, and which you hardly detect till it begins to
move. But even those ungainly crocodiles never sickened me as those rapid,
lithe, and sinuous serpents do. Did I ever tell you that the people at the
rice plantation caught a young alligator and brought it to the house, and
it was kept for some time in a tub of water? It was an ill-tempered little
monster; it used to set up its back like a cat when it was angry, and open
its long jaws in a most vicious manner.

After looking at my new path in the pine land, I crossed Pike Bluff, and
breaking my way all through the burnt district, returned home by Jones's.
In the afternoon, we paid a long visit to Mr. C----. It is extremely
interesting to me to talk with him about the negroes; he has spent so much
of his life among them, has managed them so humanely, and apparently so
successfully, that his experience is worthy of all attention. And yet it
seems to me that it is impossible, or rather, perhaps, for those very
reasons it is impossible, for him ever to contemplate them in any
condition but that of slavery. He thinks them very like the Irish, and
instanced their subserviency, their flattering, their lying, and
pilfering, as traits common to the character of both peoples. But I cannot
persuade myself that in both cases, and certainly in that of the negroes,
these qualities are not in great measure the result of their condition. He
says that he considers the extremely low diet of the negroes one reason
for the absence of crimes of a savage nature among them; most of them do
not touch meat the year round. But in this respect they certainly do not
resemble the Irish, who contrive upon about as low a national diet as
civilisation is acquainted with, to commit the bloodiest and most frequent
outrages with which civilisation has to deal. His statement that it is
impossible to bribe the negroes to work on their own account with any
steadiness may be generally true, but admits of quite exceptions enough to
throw doubt upon its being natural supineness in the race rather than the
inevitable consequence of denying them the entire right to labour for
their own profit. Their laziness seems to me the necessary result of their
primary wants being supplied, and all progress denied them. Of course, if
the natural spur to exertion, necessity, is removed, you do away with the
will to work of a vast proportion of all who do work in the world. It is
the law of progress that a man's necessities grow with his exertions to
satisfy them, and labour and improvement thus continually act and react
upon each other to raise the scale of desire and achievement; and I do not
believe that, in the majority of instances among any people on the face of
the earth, the will to labour for small indulgences would survive the loss
of freedom and the security of food enough to exist upon. Mr. ---- said
that he had offered a bribe of twenty dollars apiece, and the use of a
pair of oxen, for the clearing of a certain piece of land, to the men on
his estate, and found the offer quite ineffectual to procure the desired
result; the land was subsequently cleared as usual task work under the
lash. Now, certainly, we have among Mr. ----'s people instances of men who
have made very considerable sums of money by boat-building in their
leisure hours, and the instances of almost life-long persevering stringent
labour by which slaves have at length purchased their own freedom and that
of their wives and children, are on record in numbers sufficient to prove
that they are capable of severe sustained effort of the most patient and
heroic kind for that great object, liberty. For my own part, I know no
people who doat upon labour for its own sake; and it seems to me quite
natural to any absolutely ignorant and nearly brutish man, if you say to
him, 'No effort of your own can make you free, but no absence of effort
shall starve you,' to decline to work for anything less than mastery over
his whole life, and to take up with his mess of porridge as the
alternative. One thing that Mr. ---- said seemed to me to prove rather too
much. He declared that his son, objecting to the folks on his plantation
going about bare-headed, had at one time offered a reward of a dollar to
those who should habitually wear hats without being able to induce them to
do so, which he attributed to sheer careless indolence; but I think it was
merely the force of the habit of going uncovered rather than absolute
laziness. The universal testimony of all present at this conversation was
in favour of the sweetness of temper and natural gentleness of
disposition of the negroes; but these characteristics they seemed to think
less inherent than the result of diet and the other lowering influences of
their condition; and it must not be forgotten that on the estate of this
wise and kind master a formidable conspiracy was organised among his

We rowed home through a world of stars, the stedfast ones set in the still
blue sky, and the flashing swathes of phosphoric light turned up by our
oars and keel in the smooth blue water. It was lovely.

* * * * *

_Sunday, 14th._--My dear E----. That horrid tragedy with which we have
been threatened, and of which I was writing to you almost jestingly a few
days ago, has been accomplished, and apparently without exciting anything
but the most passing and superficial sensation in this community. The duel
between Dr. H---- and Mr. W---- did not take place, but an accidental
encounter in the hotel at Brunswick did, and the former shot the latter
dead on the spot. He has been brought home and buried here by the little
church close to his mother's plantation; and the murderer, if he is even
prosecuted, runs no risk of finding a jury in the whole length and breadth
of Georgia who could convict him of anything. It is horrible.

I drove to church to-day in the wood wagon, with Jack and Aleck, Hector
being our charioteer, in a gilt guard-chain and pair of slippers to match
as the Sabbatic part of his attire. The love of dirty finery is not a
trait of the Irish in Ireland, but I think it crops out strongly when they
come out here; and the proportion of their high wages put upon their backs
by the young Irish maid-servants in the north, indicates a strong
addiction to the female passion for dress. Here the tendency seems to
exist in men and women alike; but I think all savage men rejoice, even
more than their women, in personal ornamentation. The negroes certainly
show the same strong predilection for finery with their womenkind.

I stopped before going into church to look at the new grave that has taken
its place among the defaced stones, all overgrown with briers, that lie
round it. Poor young W----! poor widowed mother, of whom he was the only
son! What a savage horror! And no one seems to think anything of it, more
than of a matter of course. My devotions were anything but satisfactory or
refreshing to me. My mind was dwelling incessantly upon the new grave
under the great oaks outside, and the miserable mother in her home. The
air of the church was perfectly thick with sand-flies; and the disgraceful
carelessness of the congregation in responding and singing the hymns, and
their entire neglect of the prayer-book regulations for kneeling,
disturbed and displeased me even more than the last time I was at church;
but I think that was because of the total absence of excitement or
feeling among the whole population of St. Simon's upon the subject of the
bloody outrage with which my mind was full, which has given me a sensation
of horror towards the whole community. Just imagine--only it is impossible
to imagine--such a thing taking place in a New England village; the
dismay, the grief, the shame, the indignation, that would fill the hearts
of the whole population. I thought we should surely have some reference to
the event from the pulpit, some lesson of Christian command over furious
passions. Nothing--nobody looked or spoke as if anything unusual had
occurred; and I left the church, rejoicing to think that I was going away
from such a dreadful state of society. Mr. B---- remained to preach a
second sermon to the negroes--the duty of submission to masters who
intermurder each other.

I had service at home in the afternoon, and my congregation was much more
crowded than usual; for I believe there is no doubt at last that we shall
leave Georgia this week. Having given way so much before when I thought I
was praying with these poor people for the last time, I suppose I had, so
to speak, expended my emotion; and I was much more composed and quiet than
when I took leave of them before. But, to tell you the truth, this
dreadful act of slaughter done in our neighbourhood by one man of our
acquaintance upon another, impresses me to such a degree that I can hardly
turn my mind from it, and Mrs. W---- and her poor young murdered son have
taken almost complete possession of my thoughts.

After prayers I gave my poor people a parting admonition, and many charges
to remember me and all I had tried to teach them during my stay. They
promised with one voice to mind and do all that 'missis tell we;' and with
many a parting benediction, and entreaties to me to return, they went
their way. I think I have done what I could for them--I think I have done
as well as I could by them; but when the time comes for ending any human
relation, who can be without their misgivings? who can be bold to say, I
could have done no more, I could have done no better?

In the afternoon I walked out, and passed many of the people, who are now
beginning, whenever they see me, to say, 'Good bye, missis!' which is
rather trying. Many of them were clean and tidy, and decent in their
appearance to a degree that certainly bore strong witness to the temporary
efficacy of my influence in this respect. There is, however, of course
much individual difference even with reference to this, and some take much
more kindly and readily to cleanliness, no doubt to godliness too, than
some others. I met Abraham, and thought that, in a quiet tete-a-tete, and
with the pathetic consideration of my near departure to assist me, I could
get him to confess the truth about the disappearance of the mutton; but he
persisted in the legend of its departure through the locked door; and as
I was only heaping sins on his soul with every lie I caused him to add to
the previous ones, I desisted from my enquiries. Dirt and lying are the
natural tendencies of humanity, which are especially fostered by slavery.
Slaves may be infinitely wrong, and yet it is very hard to blame them.

I returned home, finding the heat quite oppressive. Late in the evening,
when the sun had gone down a long time, I thought I would try and breathe
the fresh sea air, but the atmosphere was thick with sand-flies, which
drove me in at last from standing listening to the roar of the Atlantic on
Little St. Simon's Island, the wooded belt that fends off the ocean surges
from the north side of Great St. Simon's. It is a wild little sand-heap,
covered with thick forest growth, and belongs to Mr. ----. I have long had
a great desire to visit it. I hope yet to be able to do so before our

I have just finished reading, with the utmost interest and admiration,
J---- C----'s narrative of his escape from the wreck of the Poolaski: what
a brave, and gallant, and unselfish soul he must be! You never read
anything more thrilling, in spite of the perfect modesty of this account
of his. If I can obtain his permission, and squeeze out the time, I will
surely copy it for you. The quiet unassuming character of his usual
manners and deportment adds greatly to his prestige as a hero. What a fine
thing it must be to be such a man!

* * * * *

Dear E----. We shall leave this place next Thursday or Friday, and there
will be an end to this record; meantime I am fulfilling all sorts of last
duties, and especially those of taking leave of my neighbours, by whom the
neglect of a farewell visit would be taken much amiss.

On Sunday, I rode to a place called Frederica to call on a Mrs. A----, who
came to see me some time ago. I rode straight through the island by the
main road that leads to the little church.

How can I describe to you the exquisite spring beauty that is now adorning
these woods, the variety of the fresh new-born foliage, the fragrance of
the sweet wild perfumes that fill the air? Honeysuckles twine round every
tree; the ground is covered with a low white-blossomed shrub more fragrant
than lilies of the valley. The accacuas are swinging their silver censers
under the green roof of these wood temples; every stump is like a
classical altar to the sylvan gods, garlanded with flowers; every post, or
stick, or slight stem, like a Bacchante's thyrsus, twined with wreaths of
ivy and wild vine, waving in the tepid wind. Beautiful butterflies flicker
like flying flowers among the bushes, and gorgeous birds, like winged
jewels, dart from the boughs,--and--and--a huge ground snake slid like a
dark ribbon, across the path while I was stopping to enjoy all this
deliciousness, and so I became less enthusiastic, and cantered on past
the little deserted churchyard, with the new-made grave beneath its grove
of noble oaks, and a little farther on reached Mrs. A----'s cottage, half
hidden in the midst of ruins and roses.

This Frederica is a very strange place; it was once a town, _the_ town,
the metropolis of the island. The English, when they landed on the coast
of Georgia in the war, destroyed this tiny place, and it has never been
built up again. Mrs. A----'s, and one other house, are the only dwellings
that remain in this curious wilderness of dismantled crumbling grey walls
compassionately cloaked with a thousand profuse and graceful creepers.
These are the only ruins properly so called, except those of Fort Putnam,
that I have ever seen in this land of contemptuous youth. I hailed these
picturesque groups and masses with the feelings of a European, to whom
ruins are like a sort of relations. In my country, ruins are like a minor
chord in music, here they are like a discord; they are not the relics of
time, but the results of violence; they recall no valuable memories of a
remote past, and are mere encumbrances to the busy present. Evidently they
are out of place in America, except on St. Simon's Island, between this
savage selvage of civilisation and the great Atlantic deep. These heaps of
rubbish and roses would have made the fortune of a sketcher; but I imagine
the snakes have it all to themselves here, and are undisturbed by camp
stools, white umbrellas, and ejaculatory young ladies.

I sat for a long time with Mrs. A----, and a friend of hers staying with
her, a Mrs. A----, lately from Florida. The latter seemed to me a
remarkable woman; her conversation was extremely interesting. She had been
stopping at Brunswick, at the hotel where Dr. H---- murdered young W----,
and said that the mingled ferocity and blackguardism of the men who
frequented the house had induced her to cut short her stay there, and come
on to her friend Mrs. A----'s. We spoke of that terrible crime which had
occurred only the day after she left Brunswick, and both ladies agreed
that there was not the slightest chance of Dr. H----'s being punished in
any way for the murder he had committed; that shooting down a man who had
offended you was part of the morals and manners of the southern gentry,
and that the circumstance was one of quite too frequent occurrence to
cause any sensation, even in the small community where it obliterated one
of the principal members of the society. If the accounts given by these
ladies of the character of the planters in this part of the south may be
believed, they must be as idle, arrogant, ignorant, dissolute, and
ferocious as that mediaeval chivalry to which they are fond of comparing
themselves; and these are southern women, and should know the people among
whom they live.

We had a long discussion on the subject of slavery, and they took as
usual the old ground of justifying the system, _where_ it was administered
with kindness and indulgence. It is not surprising that women should
regard the question from this point of view; they are very seldom _just_,
and are generally treated with more indulgence than justice by men. They
were very patient of my strong expressions of reprobation of the whole
system, and Mrs. A----, bidding me good-bye, said that, for aught she
could tell, I might be right, and might have been led down here by
Providence to be the means of some great change in the condition of the
poor coloured people.

I rode home pondering on the strange fate that has brought me to this
place so far from where I was born, this existence so different in all its
elements from that of my early years and former associations. If I
believed Mrs. A----'s parting words, I might perhaps verify them; perhaps
I may yet verify although I do not believe them. On my return home, I
found a most enchanting bundle of flowers, sent to me by Mrs. G----;
pomegranate blossoms, roses, honeysuckle, everything that blooms two
months later with us in Pennsylvania.

I told you I had a great desire to visit Little St. Simon's, and the day
before yesterday I determined to make an exploring expedition thither. I
took M---- and the children, little imagining what manner of day's work
was before me. Six men rowed us in the 'Lily,' and Israel brought the wood
wagon after us in a flat. Our navigation was a very intricate one, all
through sea swamps and marshes, mud-banks and sand-banks, with great white
shells and bleaching bones stuck upon sticks to mark the channel. We
landed on this forest in the sea by Quash's house, the only human
residence on the island. It was larger and better, and more substantial
than the negro huts in general, and he seemed proud and pleased to do the
honours to us. Thence we set off, by my desire, in the wagon through the
woods to the beach; road there was none, save the rough clearing that the
men cut with their axes before us as we went slowly on. Presently, we came
to a deep dry ditch, over which there was no visible means of proceeding.
Israel told me if we would sit still he would undertake to drive the wagon
into and out of it; and so, indeed, he did, but how he did it is more than
I can explain to you now, or could explain to myself then. A less powerful
creature than Montreal could never have dragged us through; and when we
presently came to a second rather worse edition of the same, I insisted
upon getting out and crossing it on foot. I walked half a mile while the
wagon was dragged up and down the deep gulley, and lifted bodily over some
huge trunks of fallen trees. The wood through which we now drove was all
on fire, smoking, flaming, crackling, and burning round us. The sun glared
upon us from the cloudless sky, and the air was one cloud of sand-flies
and mosquitoes. I covered both my children's faces with veils and
handkerchiefs, and repented not a little in my own breast of the rashness
of my undertaking. The back of Israel's coat was covered so thick with
mosquitoes that one could hardly see the cloth; and I felt as if we should
be stifled, if our way lay much longer through this terrible wood.
Presently we came to another impassable place, and again got out of the
wagon, leaving Israel to manage it as best he could. I walked with the
baby in my arms a quarter of a mile, and then was so overcome with the
heat that I sat down in the burning wood, on the floor of ashes, till the
wagon came up again. I put the children and M---- into it, and continued
to walk till we came to a ditch in a tract of salt marsh, over which
Israel drove triumphantly, and I partly jumped and was partly hauled over,
having declined the entreaties of several of the men to let them lie down
and make a bridge with their bodies for me to walk over. At length we
reached the skirt of that tremendous wood, to my unspeakable relief, and
came upon the white sand hillocks of the beach. The trees were all
strained crooked, from the constant influence of the sea-blast. The coast
was a fearful-looking stretch of dismal, trackless sand, and the ocean lay
boundless and awful beyond the wild and desolate beach, from which we were
now only divided by a patch of low coarse-looking bush, growing as thick
and tangled as heather, and so stiff and compact that it was hardly
possible to drive through it. Yet in spite of this several lads who had
joined our train rushed off into it in search of rabbits, though Israel
called repeatedly to them, warning them of the danger of rattlesnakes. We
drove at last down to the smooth sea sand; and here, outstripping our
guides, was barred farther progress by a deep gully, down which it was
impossible to take the wagon. Israel, not knowing the beach well, was
afraid to drive round the mouth of it; and so it was determined that from
this point we should walk home under his guidance. I sat in the wagon
while he constructed a rough foot-bridge of bits of wood and broken planks
for us, over the narrow chasm, and he then took Montreal out of the wagon
and tied him behind it, leaving him for the other men to take charge of
when they should arrive at this point. And so, having mightily desired to
see the coast of Little St. Simon's Island, I did see it thoroughly; for I
walked a mile and a half round it, over beds of sharp shells, through
swamps half knee deep, poor little S---- stumping along with dogged
heroism, and Israel carrying the baby, except at one deep _mal passo_,
when I took the baby and he carried S----; and so, through the wood round
Quash's house, where we arrived almost fainting with fatigue and heat, and
where we rested but a short time; for we had to start almost immediately
to save the tide home.

I called at Mr. C----'s on my way back, to return him his son's
manuscript, which I had in the boat for that purpose. I sent Jack, who
had come to meet me with the horses, home, being too tired to attempt
riding; and, covered with mud literally up to my knees I was obliged to
lie down ignominiously all the afternoon to rest. And now I will give you
a curious illustration of the utter subserviency of slaves. It seems that
by taking the tide in proper season, and going by boat, all that horrible
wood journey might have been avoided, and we could have reached the beach,
with perfect ease in half the time; but because, being of course
absolutely ignorant of this, I had expressed a desire to go through the
wood, not a syllable of remonstrance was uttered by any one; and the men
not only underwent the labour of cutting a path for the wagon and dragging
it through and over all the impediments we encountered, but allowed me and
the children to traverse that burning wood, rather than tell me that by
waiting and taking another way I could get to the sea. When I expressed my
astonishment at their not having remonstrated against my order, and
explained how I could best achieve the purpose I had in view, the sole
answer I got even from Israel was, 'Missis say so, so me do; missis say me
go through the wood, me no tell missis go another way.' You see, my dear
E----, one had need bethink oneself what orders one gives, when one has
the misfortune to be despotic.

How sorry I am that I have been obliged to return that narrative of Mr.
C----'s without asking permission to copy it, which I did not do because
I should not have been able to find the time to do it! We go away the day
after to-morrow. All the main incidents of the disaster the newspapers
have made you familiar with--the sudden and appalling loss of that fine
vessel laden with the very flower of the south. There seems hardly to be a
family in Georgia and South Carolina that had not some of its members on
board that ill-fated ship. You know it was a sort of party of pleasure
more than anything else; the usual annual trip to the north for change of
air and scene, for the gaieties of Newport and Saratoga, that all the
wealthy southern people invariably take every summer.

The weather had been calm and lovely; and dancing, talking, and laughing,
as if they were in their own drawing-rooms, they had passed the time away
till they all separated for the night. At the first sound of the exploding
boiler, Mr. C---- jumped up, and in his shirt and trousers ran on deck.
The scene was one of horrible confusion; women screaming, men swearing,
the deck strewn with broken fragments of all descriptions, the vessel
leaning frightfully to one side, and everybody running hither and thither
in the darkness in horror and dismay. He had left Georgia with Mrs. F----
and Mrs. N----, the two children, and one of the female servants of these
ladies under his charge. He went immediately to the door of the ladies'
cabin and called Mrs. F----; they were all there half-dressed; he bade
them dress as quickly as possible and be ready to follow and obey him. He
returned almost instantly, and led them to the side of the vessel, where,
into the boats, that had already been lowered, desperate men and women
were beginning to swarm, throwing themselves out of the sinking ship. He
bade Mrs. F---- jump down into one of these boats which was only in the
possession of two sailors; she instantly obeyed him, and he threw her
little boy to the men after her. He then ordered Mrs. N----, with the
negro woman, to throw themselves off the vessel into the boat, and, with
Mrs. N----'s baby in his arms, sprang after them. His foot touched the
gunwale of the boat, and he fell into the water; but recovering himself
instantly, he clambered into the boat, which he then peremptorily ordered
the men to set adrift, in spite of the shrieks, and cries, and commands,
and entreaties of the frantic crowds who were endeavouring to get into it.
The men obeyed him, and rowing while he steered, they presently fell
astern of the ship, in the midst of the darkness and tumult and terror.
Another boat laden with people was near them. For some time they saw the
heartrending spectacle of the sinking vessel, and the sea strewn with
mattresses, seats, planks, &c, to which people were clinging, floating,
and shrieking for succour, in the dark water all round them. But they
gradually pulled further and further out of the horrible chaos of despair,
and, with the other boat still consorting with them, rowed on. They
watched from a distance the piteous sight of the ill-fated steamer
settling down, the gay girdle of light that marked the line of her
beautiful saloons and cabins gradually sinking nearer and nearer to the
blackness, in which they were presently extinguished; and the ship, with
all its precious human freight engulfed--all but the handful left in those
two open boats, to brave the dangers of that terrible coast!

They were somewhere off the North Carolina shore, which, when the daylight
dawned, they could distinctly see, with its ominous line of breakers and
inhospitable perilous coast. The men had continued rowing all night, and
as the summer sun rose flaming over their heads, the task of pulling the
boat became dreadfully severe; still they followed the coast, Mr. C----
looking out for any opening, creek, or small inlet, that might give them a
chance of landing in safety. The other boat rowed on at some little
distance from them.

All the morning, and through the tremendous heat of the middle day, they
toiled on without a mouthful of food--without a drop of water. At length,
towards the afternoon, the men at the oars said they were utterly
exhausted and could row no longer, and that Mr. C---- must steer the boat
ashore. With wonderful power of command, he prevailed on them to continue
their afflicting labour. The terrible blazing sun pouring on all their
unsheltered heads had almost annihilated them; but still there lay
between them and the land those fearful foaming ridges, and the women and
children, if not the men themselves, seemed doomed to inevitable death in
the attempt to surmount them. Suddenly they perceived that the boat that
had kept them company was about to adventure itself in the perilous
experiment of landing. Mr. C---- kept his boat's head steady, the men
rested on their oars, and watched the result of the fearful risk they were
themselves about to run. They saw the boat enter the breakers--they saw
her whirled round and capsized, and then they watched, slowly emerging and
dragging themselves out of the foaming sea, _some_, and only some, of the
people that they knew the boat contained. Mr. C----, fortified with this
terrible illustration of the peril that awaited them, again besought them
to row yet for a little while further along the coast, in search of some
possible place to take the boat safely to the beach, promising at sunset
to give up the search; and again the poor men resumed their toil, but the
line of leaping breakers stretched along the coast as far as eye could
see, and at length the men declared they could labour no longer, and
insisted that Mr. C---- should steer them to shore. He then said that he
would do so, but they must take some rest before encountering the peril
which awaited them, and for which they might require whatever remaining
strength they could command. He made the men leave the oars and lie down
to sleep for a short time, and then, giving the helm to one of them, did
the same himself. When they were thus a little refreshed with this short
rest, he prepared to take the boat into the breakers.

He laid Mrs. N----'s baby on her breast, and wrapped a shawl round and
round her body so as to secure the child to it, and said, in the event of
the boat capsizing, he would endeavour to save her and her child. Mrs.
F---- and her boy he gave in charge to one of the sailors, and the
coloured woman who was with her to the other; and they promised solemnly,
in case of misadventure to the boat, to do their best to save these
helpless creatures; and so they turned, as the sun was going down, the
bows of the boat to the terrible shore. They rose two of the breakers
safely, but then the oar of one of the men was struck from his hand, and
in an instant the boat whirled round and turned over. Mr. C---- instantly
struck out to seize Mrs. N----, but she had sunk, and though he dived
twice he could not see her; at last, he felt her hair floating loose with
his foot, and seizing hold of it, grasped her securely and swam with her
to shore. While in the act of doing so, he saw the man who had promised to
save the coloured woman making alone for the beach; and even then, in that
extremity, he had power of command enough left to drive the fellow back to
seek her, which he did, and brought her safe to land. The other man kept
his word of taking care of Mrs. F----, and the latter never released her
grasp of her child's wrist, which bore the mark of her agony for weeks
after their escape. They reached the sands, and Mrs. N----'s shawl having
been unwound, her child was found laughing on her bosom. But hardly had
they had time to thank God for their deliverance when Mr. C---- fell
fainting on the beach; and Mrs. F----, who told me this, said that for one
dreadful moment they thought that the preserver of all their lives had
lost his own in the terrible exertion and anxiety that he had undergone.
He revived, however, and crawling a little further up the beach, they
burrowed for warmth and shelter as well as they could in the sand, and lay
there till the next morning, when they sought and found succour.

You cannot imagine, my dear E----, how strikingly throughout this whole
narrative the extraordinary power of Mr. C----'s character makes itself
felt,--the immediate obedience that he obtained from women whose terror
might have made them unmanageable, and men whose selfishness might have
defied his control; the wise though painful firmness, which enabled him to
order the boat away from the side of the perishing vessel, in spite of the
pity that he felt for the many, in attempting to succour whom he could
only have jeopardized the few whom he was bound to save; the wonderful
influence he exercised over the poor oarsmen, whose long protracted labour
postponed to the last possible moment the terrible risk of their landing.
The firmness, courage, humanity, wisdom, and presence of mind, of all his
preparations for their final tremendous risk, and the authority which he
was able to exercise while struggling in the foaming water for his own
life and that of the woman and child he was saving, over the man who was
proving false to a similar sacred charge,--all these admirable traits are
most miserably transmitted to you by my imperfect account; and when I
assure you that his own narrative, full as it necessarily was of the
details of his own heroism, was as simple, modest, and unpretending, as it
was interesting and touching, I am sure you will agree with me that he
must be a very rare man. When I spoke with enthusiasm to his old father of
his son's noble conduct, and asked him if he was not proud of it, his sole
reply was,--'I am glad, madam, my son was not selfish.'

Now, E----, I have often spoken with you and written to you of the
disastrous effect of slavery upon the character of the white men
implicated in it; many, among themselves, feel and acknowledge it to the
fullest extent, and no one more than myself can deplore that any human
being I love should be subjected to such baneful influences; but the devil
must have his due, and men brought up in habits of peremptory command over
their fellow men, and under the constant apprehension of danger, and awful
necessity of immediate readiness to meet it, acquire qualities precious to
themselves and others in hours of supreme peril such as this man passed
through, saving by their exercise himself and all committed to his charge.
I know that the southern men are apt to deny the fact that they do live
under an habitual sense of danger; but a slave population, coerced into
obedience, though unarmed and half fed, _is_ a threatening source of
constant insecurity, and every southern _woman_ to whom I have spoken on
the subject, has admitted to me that they live in terror of their slaves.
Happy are such of them as have protectors like J---- C----. Such men will
best avoid and best encounter the perils that may assail them from the
abject subject, human element, in the control of which their noble
faculties are sadly and unworthily employed.

_Wednesday, 17th April._--I rode to-day after breakfast, to Mrs. D----'s,
another of my neighbours, who lives full twelve miles off. During the last
two miles of my expedition, I had the white sand hillocks and blue line of
the Atlantic in view. The house at which I called was a tumble-down
barrack of a dwelling in the woods, with a sort of poverty-stricken
pretentious air about it, like sundry 'proud planters' dwellings that I
have seen. I was received by the sons as well as the lady of the house,
and could not but admire the lordly rather than manly indifference, with
which these young gentlemen, in gay guard chains and fine attire, played
the gallants to me, while filthy, bare-footed half naked negro women
brought in refreshments, and stood all the while fanning the cake, and
sweetmeats, and their young masters, as if they had been all the same sort
of stuff. I felt ashamed for the lads. The conversation turned upon Dr.
H----'s trial; for there has been a trial as a matter of form, and an
acquittal as a matter of course; and the gentlemen said, upon my
expressing some surprise at the latter event, that there could not be
found in all Georgia a jury who would convict him, which says but little
for the moral sense of 'all Georgia.' From this most painful subject we
fell into the Brunswick canal, and thereafter I took my leave and rode
home. I met my babies in the wood-wagon, and took S---- up before me, and
gave her a good gallop home. Having reached the house with the appetite of
a twenty-four miles' ride, I found no preparation for dinner, and not so
much as a boiled potato to eat, and the sole reply to my famished and
disconsolate exclamations was--'Being that you order none, missis, I not
know.' I had forgotten to order my dinner, and my _slaves_, unauthorised,
had not ventured to prepare any. Wouldn't a Yankee have said, 'Wal now,
you went off so uncommon quick, I kinder guessed you forgot all about
dinner,' and have had it all ready for me? But my slaves durst not, and so
I fasted till some tea could be got for me.

* * * * *

This was the last letter I wrote from the plantation, and I never returned
there, nor ever saw again any of the poor people among whom I lived during
this winter, but Jack, once, under sad circumstances. The poor lad's
health failed so completely, that his owners humanely brought him to the
north, to try what benefit he might derive from the change; but this was
before the passing of the Fugitive Slave Bill, when touching the soil of
the northern states, a slave became free; and such was the apprehension
felt lest Jack should be enlightened as to this fact by some philanthropic
abolitionist, that he was kept shut up in a high upper room of a large
empty house, where even I was not allowed to visit him. I heard at length
of his being in Philadelphia; and upon my distinct statement that I
considered freeing their slaves the business of the Messrs. ----
themselves, and not mine, I was at length permitted to see him. Poor
fellow! coming to the north did not prove to him the delight his eager
desire had so often anticipated from it; nor under such circumstances is
it perhaps much to be wondered at that he benefited but little by the
change,--he died not long after.

I once heard a conversation between Mr. O---- and Mr. K----, the two
overseers of the plantation on which I was living, upon the question of
taking slaves, servants, necessary attendants, into the northern states;
Mr. O---- urged the danger of their being 'got hold of,' i.e., set free
by the abolitionists, to which Mr. K---- very pertinently replied, 'Oh,
stuff and nonsense, I take care when my wife goes north with the children,
to send Lucy with her; _her children are down here, and I defy all the
abolitionists in creation to get her to stay north_.' Mr. K---- was an
extremely wise man.


I wrote the following letter after reading several leading articles in the
_Times_ newspaper, at the time of the great sensation occasioned by Mrs.
Beecher Stowe's novel of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and after the Anti-Slavery
Protest which that book induced the women of England to address to those
of America, on the subject of the condition of the slaves in the southern

My dear E----. I have read the articles in the _Times_ to which you refer,
on the subject of the inaccuracy of Mrs. Beecher Stowe's book as a picture
of slavery in America, and have ascertained who they were written by.
Having done so, I do not think it worth while to send my letter for
insertion, because, as that is the tone deliberately taken upon the
subject by that paper, my counter statement would not, I imagine, be
admitted into its columns. I enclose it to you, as I should like you to
see how far from true, according to my experience, the statements of the
'_Times'_ Correspondent' are. It is impossible of course to know why it
erects itself into an advocate for slavery; and the most charitable
conjecture I can form upon the subject is, that the Stafford House
demonstration may have been thought likely to wound the sensitive national
views of America upon this subject; and the statement put forward by the
_Times_, contradicting Mrs. Stowe's picture, may be intended to soothe
their irritation at the philanthropic zeal of our lady abolitionists.

Believe me, dear E----,

Yours always truly,


* * * * *

_Letter to the Editor of the_ 'Times.'

Sir,--As it is not to be supposed that you consciously afford the support
of your great influence to misstatements, I request your attention to some
remarks I wish to make on an article on a book called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin
as it is,' contained in your paper of the 11th. In treating Mrs. Harriet
Beecher Stowe's work as an exaggerated picture of the evils of slavery, I
beg to assure you that you do her serious injustice:--of the merits of her
book as a work of art, I have no desire to speak,--to its power as a most
interesting and pathetic story, all England and America can bear
witness,--but of its truth and moderation as a representation of the
slave system in the United States, I can testify with the experience of
an eye witness, having been a resident in the Southern States, and had
opportunities of observation such as no one who has not lived on a slave
estate can have. It is very true that in reviving the altogether exploded
fashion of making the hero of her novel 'the perfect monster that the
world ne'er saw,' Mrs. Stowe has laid herself open to fair criticism, and
must expect to meet with it from the very opposite taste of the present
day; but the ideal excellence of her principal character is no argument at
all against the general accuracy of her statements with regard to the
evils of slavery;--everything else in her book is not only possible, but
probable, and not only probable, but a very faithful representation of the
existing facts:--faithful, and not, as you accuse it of being,
exaggerated; for, with the exception of the horrible catastrophe, the
flogging to death of poor Tom, she has pourtrayed none of the most
revolting instances of crime produced by the slave system--with which she
might have darkened her picture, without detracting from its perfect
truth. Even with respect to the incident of Tom's death, it must not be
said that if such an event is possible, it is hardly probable; for this is
unfortunately not true. It is not true that the value of the slave as
property infallibly protects his life from the passions of his master. It
is no new thing for a man's passions to blind him to his most obvious and
immediate temporal interests, as well as to his higher and everlasting
ones,--in various parts of the world and stages of civilisation, various
human passions assume successive prominence, and become developed, to the
partial exclusion or deadening of others. In savage existence, and those
states of civilisation least removed from it, the animal passions
predominate. In highly cultivated modern society, where the complicated
machinery of human existence is at once a perpetually renewed cause and
effect of certain legal and moral restraints, which, in the shape of
government and public opinion, protect the congregated lives and interests
of men from the worst outrages of open violence, the natural selfishness
of mankind assumes a different development; and the love of power, of
pleasure, or of pelf, exhibits different phenomena from those elicited
from a savage under the influence of the same passions. The channel in
which the energy and activity of modern society inclines more and more to
pour itself, is the peaceful one of the pursuit of gain. This is
preeminently the case with the two great commercial nations of the earth,
England and America;--and in either England or the Northern States of
America, the prudential and practical views of life prevail so far, that
instances of men sacrificing their money interests at the instigation of
rage, revenge, and hatred, will certainly not abound. But the Southern
slaveholders are a very different race of men from either Manchester
manufacturers or Massachusetts merchants; they are a remnant of barbarism
and feudalism, maintaining itself with infinite difficulty and danger by
the side of the latest and most powerful developement of commercial

The inhabitants of Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, and New
Orleans, whose estates lie like the suburban retreats of our city magnates
in the near neighbourhood of their respective cities, are not now the
people I refer to. They are softened and enlightened by many
influences,--the action of city life itself, where human sympathy, and
human respect, stimulated by neighbourhood, produce salutary social
restraint, as well as less salutary social cowardice. They travel to the
Northern States, and to Europe; and Europe and the Northern States travel
to them; and in spite of themselves, their peculiar conditions receive
modifications from foreign intercourse. The influence, too, of commercial
enterprise, which, in these latter days, is becoming the agent of
civilisation all over the earth, affects even the uncommercial residents
of the Southern cities, and however cordially they may dislike or despise
the mercantile tendencies of Atlantic Americans, or transatlantic
Englishmen, their frequent contact with them breaks down some of the
barriers of difference between them, and humanises the slaveholder of the
great cities into some relation with the spirit of his own times and
country. But these men are but a most inconsiderable portion of the
slaveholding population of the South,--a nation, for as such they should
be spoken of, of men whose organisation and temperament is that of the
southern European; living under the influence of a climate at once
enervating and exciting; scattered over trackless wildernesses of arid
sand and pestilential swamp; entrenched within their own boundaries;
surrounded by creatures absolutely subject to their despotic will;
delivered over by hard necessity to the lowest excitements of drinking,
gambling, and debauchery for sole recreation; independent of all opinion;
ignorant of all progress; isolated from all society--it is impossible to
conceive a more savage existence within the pale of any modern

The South Carolinan gentry have been fond of styling themselves the
chivalry of the South, and perhaps might not badly represent, in their
relations with their dependents, the nobility of France before the
purifying hurricane of the Revolution swept the rights of the suzerain and
the wrongs of the serf together into one bloody abyss. The planters of the
interior of the Southern and South-Western States, with their furious
feuds and slaughterous combats, their stabbings and pistolings, their
gross sensuality, brutal ignorance, and despotic cruelty, resemble the
chivalry of France before the horrors of the Jacquerie admonished them
that there was a limit even to the endurance of slaves. With such men as
these, human life, even when it can be bought or sold in the market for so
many dollars, is but little protected by considerations of interest from
the effects of any violent passion. There is yet, however, another aspect
of the question, which is, that it is sometimes clearly _not_ the interest
of the owner to prolong the life of his slaves; as in the case of inferior
or superannuated labourers, or the very notorious instance in which some
of the owners of sugar plantations stated that they found it better worth
their while to _work off_ (i.e. kill with labour) a certain proportion, of
their force, and replace them by new hands every seven years, than work
them less severely and maintain them in diminished efficiency for an
indefinite length of time. Here you will observe a precise estimate of the
planter's material interest led to a result which you argue passion itself
can never be so blind as to adopt. This was a deliberate economical
calculation, openly avowed some years ago by a number of sugar planters in
Louisiana. If, instead of accusing Mrs. Stowe of exaggeration, you had
brought the same charge against the author of the 'White Slave,' I should
not have been surprised; for his book presents some of the most revolting
instances of atrocity and crime that the miserable abuse of irresponsible
power is capable of producing, and it is by no means written in the spirit
of universal humanity which pervades Mrs. Stowe's volumes: but it is not
liable to the charge of exaggeration, any more than her less disgusting
delineation. The scenes described in the 'White Slave' _do_ occur in the
slave States of North America; and in two of the most appalling incidents
of the book--the burning alive of the captured runaway, and the hanging
without trial of the Vicksburg gamblers--the author of the 'White Slave'
has very simply related positive facts of notorious occurrence. To which
he might have added, had he seen fit to do so, the instance of a slave who
perished in the sea swamps, where he was left bound and naked, a prey to
the torture inflicted upon him by the venomous mosquito swarms. My
purpose, however, in addressing you was not to enter into a disquisition
on either of these publications; but I am not sorry to take this
opportunity of bearing witness to the truth of Mrs. Stowe's admirable
book, and I have seen what few Englishmen can see--the working of the
system in the midst of it.

In reply to your 'Dispassionate Observer,' who went to the South
professedly with the purpose of seeing and judging of the state of things
for himself, let me tell you that, little as he may be disposed to believe
it, his testimony is worth less than nothing; for it is morally impossible
for any Englishman going into the Southern States, except as a _resident_,
to know anything whatever of the real condition of the slave population.
This was the case some years ago, as I experienced, and it is now likely
to be more the case than ever; for the institution is not _yet_ approved
divine to the perceptions of Englishmen, and the Southerners are as
anxious to hide its uglier features from any note-making observer from
this side the water, as to present to his admiration and approval such as
can by any possibility be made to wear the most distant approach to

The gentry of the Southern States are preeminent in their own country
for that species of manner which, contrasted with the breeding of the
Northerners, would be emphatically pronounced 'good' by Englishmen. Born
to inhabit landed property, they are not inevitably made clerks and
counting-house men of, but inherit with their estates some of the
invariable characteristics of an aristocracy. The shop is not their
element; and the eager spirit of speculation and the sordid spirit of
gain do not infect their whole existence, even to their very demeanour
and appearance, as they too manifestly do those of a large proportion of
the inhabitants of the Northern States. Good manners have an undue value
for Englishmen, generally speaking; and whatever departs from their
peculiar standard of breeding is apt to prejudice them, as whatever
approaches it prepossesses them, far more than is reasonable. The
Southerners are infinitely better bred men, according to English
notions, than the men of the Northern States. The habit of command gives
them a certain self-possession, the enjoyment of leisure a certain ease.
Their temperament is impulsive and enthusiastic, and their manners have
the grace and spirit which seldom belong to the deportment of a Northern
people; but upon more familiar acquaintance, the vices of the social
system to which they belong will be found to have infected them with
their own peculiar taint; and haughty overbearing irritability,
effeminate indolence, reckless extravagance, and a union of profligacy
and cruelty, which is the immediate result of their irresponsible power
over their dependents, are some of the less pleasing traits which
acquaintance developes in a Southern character. In spite of all this,
there is no manner of doubt that the 'candid English observer' will, for
the season of his sojourning among them, greatly prefer their
intercourse to that of their Northern brethren. Moreover, without in the
least suspecting it, he will be bribed insidiously and incessantly by
the extreme desire and endeavour to please and prepossess him which the
whole white population of the slave States will exhibit--as long as he
goes only as a 'candid observer,' with a mind not _yet_ made up upon the
subject of slavery, and open to conviction as to its virtues. Every
conciliating demonstration of courtesy and hospitable kindness will be
extended to him, and, as I said before, if his observation is permitted
(and it may even appear to be courted), it will be to a fairly bound
purified edition of the black book of slavery, in which, though the
inherent viciousness of the whole story cannot be suppressed, the
coarser and more offensive passages will be carefully expunged. And now,
permit me to observe, that the remarks of your traveller must derive
much of their value from the scene of his enquiry. In Maryland,
Kentucky, and Virginia, the outward aspect of slavery has ceased to wear
its most deplorable features. The remaining vitality of the system no
longer resides in the interests, but in the pride and prejudices of the
planters. Their soil and climate are alike favourable to the labours of
a white peasantry: the slave cultivation has had time to prove itself
there the destructive pest which, in time, it will prove itself wherever
it prevails. The vast estates and large fortunes that once maintained,
and were maintained by, the serfdom of hundreds of negroes, have
dwindled in size and sunk in value, till the slaves have become so heavy
a burthen on the resources of the exhausted soil and impoverished owners
of it, that they are made themselves objects of traffic in order to ward
off the ruin that their increase would otherwise entail. Thus, the
plantations of the Northern slave States now present to the traveller
very few of the darker and more oppressive peculiarities of the system;
and, provided he does not stray too near the precincts where the negroes
are sold, or come across gangs of them on their way to Georgia,
Louisiana, or Alabama, he may, if he is a very superficial observer,
conclude that the most prosperous slavery is not much worse than the
most miserable freedom.

But of what value will be such conclusions applied to those numerous
plantations where no white man ever sets foot without the express
permission of the owner? not estates lying close to Baltimore and
Charleston, or even Lesington or Savannah, but remote and savage
wildernesses like Legree's estate in 'Uncle Tom,' like all the plantations
in the interior of Tennessee and Alabama, like the cotton-fields and
rice-swamps of the great muddy rivers of Lousiana and Georgia, like the
dreary pine barrens and endless woody wastes of north Carolina. These,
especially the islands, are like so many fortresses, approachable for
'observers' only at the owners' will. On most of the rice plantations in
these pestilential regions, no white man can pass the night at certain
seasons of the year without running the risk of his life; and during the
day, the master and overseer are as much alone and irresponsible in their
dominion over their black cattle, as Robinson Crusoe was over his small
family of animals on his desert habitation. Who, on such estates as these,
shall witness to any act of tyranny or barbarity, however atrocious? No
black man's testimony is allowed against a white, and who on the dismal
swampy rice-grounds of the Savannah, or the sugar-brakes of the
Mississippi and its tributaries, or the up country cotton lands of the
Ocamulgee, shall go to perform the task of candid observation and
benevolent enquiry?

I passed some time on two such estates--plantations where the negroes
esteemed themselves well off, and, compared with the slaves on several of
the neighbouring properties, might very well consider themselves so; and
I will, with your permission, contrast some of the items of my observation
with those of the traveller whose report you find so satisfactory on the
subject of the 'consolations' of slavery.

And first, for the attachment which he affirms to subsist between the
slave and master. I do not deny that certain manifestations on the part of
the slave may suggest the idea of such a feeling; but whether upon better
examination it will be found to deserve the name, I very much doubt. In
the first place, on some of the great Southern estates, the owners are
habitual absentees, utterly unknown to their serfs, and enjoying the
proceeds of their labour in residences as remote as possible from the
sands and swamps where their rice and cotton grow, and their slaves bow
themselves under the eye of the white overseer, and the lash of the black
driver. Some of these Sybarites prefer living in Paris, that paradise of
American republicans, some in the capitals of the middle states of the
union, Philadelphia or New York.

The air of New England has a keen edge of liberty, which suits few
Southern constitutions; and unkindly as abolition has found its native
soil and native skies, that is its birthplace, and there it flourishes, in
spite of all attempts to root it out and trample it down, and within any
atmosphere poisoned by its influence no slaveholder can willingly draw
breath. Some travel in Europe, and few, whose means permit the contrary,
ever pass the entire year on their plantations. Great intervals of many
years pass, and no master ever visits some of these properties: what
species of attachment do you think the slave entertains for him? In other
cases, the visits made will be of a few days in one of the winter months;
the estate and its cultivators remaining for the rest of the year under
the absolute control of the overseer, who, provided he contrives to get a
good crop of rice or cotton into the market for his employers, is left to
the arbitrary exercise of a will seldom uninfluenced for evil, by the
combined effects of the grossest ignorance and habitual intemperance. The
temptation to the latter vice is almost irresistible to a white man in
such a climate, and leading an existence of brutal isolation, among a
parcel of human beings as like brutes as they can be made. But the owner
who at these distant intervals of months or years revisits his estates, is
looked upon as a returning providence by the poor negroes. They have no
experience of his character to destroy their hopes in his goodness, and
all possible and impossible ameliorations of their condition are
anticipated from his advent, less work, more food, fewer stripes, and some
of that consideration which the slave hopes may spring from his positive
money value to his owner,--a fallacious dependence, as I have already
attempted to show, but one which, if it has not always predominating
weight with the master, never can have any with the overseer, who has not
even the feeling of regard for his own property to mitigate his
absolutism over the slaves of another man.

There is a very powerful cause which makes the prosperity and well-being
(as far as life is concerned) of most masters a subject of solicitude with
their slaves. The only stability of their condition, such as it is, hangs
upon it. If the owner of a plantation dies, his estates may fall into the
market, and his slaves be sold at public auction the next day; and whether
this promises a better, or threatens a worse condition, the slaves cannot
know, and no human being cares. One thing it inevitably brings, the
uprooting of all old associations; the disruption of all the ties of
fellowship in misery; the tearing asunder of all relations of blood and
affection; the sale into separate and far distant districts of fathers,
mothers, husbands, wives, and children. If the estate does not lie in the
extreme south, there is the vague dread of being driven thither from
Virginia to Georgia, from Carolina to Alabama, or Louisiana, a change
which, for reasons I have shown above, implies the passing from a higher
into a lower circle of the infernal pit of slavery.

I once heard a slave on the plantation of an absentee express the most
lively distress at hearing that his master was ill. Before, however, I had
recovered from my surprise at this warm 'attachment' to a distant and all
but unknown proprietor, the man added, 'massa die, what become of all him

On my arrival on the plantation where I resided, I was hailed with the
most extravagant demonstrations of delight, and all but lifted off my feet
in the arms of people who had never seen me before; but who, knowing me to
be connected with their owners, expected from me some of the multitudinous
benefits which they always hope to derive from masters. These, until they
come to reside among them, are always believed to be sources of
beneficence and fountains of redress by the poor people, who have known no
rule but the delegated tyranny of the overseer. In these expectations,
however, they very soon find themselves cruelly mistaken. Of course, if
the absentee planter has received a satisfactory income from his estate,
he is inclined to be satisfied with the manager of it, and as
subordination to the only white man among hundreds of blacks must be
maintained at any and every cost, the overseer is justified and upheld in
his whole administration. If the wretched slave ever dared to prefer a
complaint of ill-usage the most atrocious, the law which refuses the
testimony of a black against a white is not only the law of the land, but
of every man's private dealings; and lying being one of the natural
results of slavery, and a tendency to shirk compelled and unrequited
labour another, the overseer stands on excellent vantage-ground, when he
refers to these undoubted characteristics of the system, if called upon to
rebut any charge of cruelty or injustice. But pray consider for a moment
the probability of any such charge being preferred by a poor creature,
who has been for years left to the absolute disposal of this man, and who
knows very well that in a few days, or months at furthest, the master will
again depart, leaving him again for months, perhaps for years, utterly at
the mercy of the man against whom he has dared to prefer a complaint. On
the estates which I visited, the owners had been habitually absent, and
the 'attachment' of slaves to such masters as these, you will allow, can
hardly come under the denomination of a strong personal feeling.

Your authority next states that the infirm and superannuated slaves no
longer capable of ministering to their masters' luxuries, on the estate
that he visited, were ending their lives among all the comforts of home,
with kindred and friends around them, in a condition which he contrasts,
at least by implication, very favourably with the workhouse, the last
refuge provided by the social humanity of England--for the pauper labourer
when he has reached that term when 'unregarded age is in corners thrown.'
On the plantation where I lived the infirmary was a large room, the walls
of which were simply mud and lathes--the floor, the soil itself, damp with
perpetual drippings from the holes in the roof, and the open space which
served for a window was protected only by a broken shutter, which, in
order to exclude the cold, was drawn so near as almost to exclude the
light at the same time. Upon this earthen floor, with nothing but its
hard damp surface beneath him, no covering but a tattered shirt and
trowsers, and a few sticks under his head for a pillow, lay an old man of
upwards of seventy, dying. When I first looked at him I thought by the
glazed stare of his eyes, and the flies that had gathered round his half
open mouth, that he was dead: but on stooping nearer, I perceived that the
last faint struggle of life was still going on, but even while I bent over
him it ceased; and so, like a worn-out hound, with no creature to comfort
or relieve his last agony, with neither Christian solace or human succour
near him, with neither wife, nor child, nor even friendly fellow being to
lift his head from the knotty sticks on which he had rested it, or drive
away the insects that buzzed round his lips and nostrils like those of a
fallen beast, died this poor old slave, whose life had been exhausted in
unrequited labour, the fruits of which had gone to pamper the pride and
feed the luxury of those who knew and cared neither for his life or death,
and to whom, if they had heard of the latter, it would have been a matter
of absolute though small gain, the saving of a daily pittance of meal,
which served to prolong a life no longer available to them.

I proceed to the next item in your observer's record. All children below
the age of twelve were unemployed, he says, on the estate he visited: this
is perhaps a questionable benefit, when, no process of mental cultivation
being permitted, the only employment for the leisure thus allowed is that
of rolling, like dogs or cats, in the sand and the sun. On all the
plantations I visited, and on those where I resided, the infants in arms
were committed to the care of these juvenile slaves, who were denominated
nurses, and whose sole employment was what they call to 'mind baby.' The
poor little negro sucklings were cared for (I leave to your own judgement
how efficiently or how tenderly) by these half-savage slips of
slavery--carried by them to the fields where their mothers were working
under the lash, to receive their needful nourishment, and then carried
back again to the 'settlement,' or collection of negro huts, where they
wallowed unheeded in utter filth and neglect until the time again returned
for their being carried to their mother's breast. Such was the employment
of the children of eight or nine years old, and the only supervision
exercised over either babies or 'baby minders' was that of the old woman
left in charge of the infirmary, where she made her abode all day long and
bestowed such samples of her care and skill upon its inmates as I shall
have occasion to mention presently. The practice of thus driving the
mothers a-field, even while their infants were still dependent upon them
for their daily nourishment, is one of which the evil as well as the
cruelty is abundantly apparent without comment. The next note of
admiration elicited from your 'impartial observer' is bestowed upon the
fact that the domestic servants (i.e. house slaves) on the plantation he
visited were _allowed_ to live away from the owner's residence, and to
marry. But I never was on a southern plantation, and I never heard of one,
where any of the slaves were allowed to sleep under the same roof with
their owner. With the exception of the women to whose care the children of
the planter, if he had any, might be confided, and perhaps a little boy or
girl slave, kept as a sort of pet animal and allowed to pass the night on
the floor of the sleeping apartment of some member of the family, the
residence of _any_ slaves belonging to a plantation night and day in their
master's house, like Northern or European servants, is a thing I believe
unknown throughout the Southern States. Of course I except the cities, and
speak only of the estates, where the house servants are neither better
housed or accommodated than the field-hands. Their intolerably dirty
habits and offensive persons would indeed render it a severe trial to any
family accustomed to habits of decent cleanliness; and, moreover,
considerations of safety, and that cautious vigilance which is a hard
necessity of the planter's existence, in spite of the supposed attachment
of his slaves, would never permit the near proximity, during the
unprotected hours of the night, of those whose intimacy with the daily
habits and knowledge of the nightly securities resorted to might prove
terrible auxiliaries to any attack from without. The city guards, patrols,
and night-watches, together with their stringent rules about negroes
being abroad after night, and their well fortified lock-up houses for all
detected without a pass, afford some security against these attached
dependents; but on remote plantations, where the owner and his family and
perhaps a white overseer are alone, surrounded by slaves and separated
from all succour against them, they do not sleep under the white man's
roof, and, for politic reasons, pass the night away from their master's
abode. The house servants have no other or better allowance of food than
the field labourers, but have the advantage of eking it out by what is
left from the master's table,--if possible, with even less comfort in one
respect, inasmuch as no time whatever is set apart for their meals, which
they snatch at any hour and in any way that they can--generally, however,
standing or squatting on their hams round the kitchen fire; the kitchen
being a mere outhouse or barn with a fire in it. On the estate where I
lived, as I have mentioned, they had no sleeping-rooms in the house; but
when their work was over, they retired like the rest to their hovels, the
discomfort of which had to them all the additional disadvantage of
comparison with their owner's mode of living. In all establishments
whatever, of course some disparity exists between the accommodation of the
drawing-rooms and best bed-rooms and the servants' kitchen and attics; but
on a plantation it is no longer a matter of degree. The young women who
performed the offices of waiting and housemaids, and the lads who
attended upon the service of their master's table where I lived, had
neither table to feed at nor chair to sit down upon themselves; the 'boys'
lay all night on the hearth by the kitchen fire, and the women upon the
usual slave's bed--a frame of rough boards, strewed with a little moss off
the trees, with the addition perhaps of a tattered and filthy blanket. As
for the so-called privilege of marrying--surely it is gross mockery to
apply such a word to a bond which may be holy in God's sight, but which
did not prevent the owner of a plantation where my observations were made
from selling and buying men and their so-called wives and children into
divided bondage, nor the white overseer from compelling the wife of one of
the most excellent and exemplary of his master's slaves to live with
him--nor the white wife of another overseer, in her husband's temporary
absence from the estate, from barbarously flogging three _married_ slaves
within a month of their confinement, their condition being the result of
the profligacy of the said overseer, and probably compelled by the very
same lash by which it was punished. This is a very disgusting picture of
married life on slave estates: but I have undertaken to reply to the
statements of your informant, and I regret to be obliged to record the
facts by which alone I can do so. 'Work,' continues your authority, 'began
at six in the morning, at nine an hour's rest was allowed for breakfast,
and by two or three o'clock the day's work was done.' Certainly this was a
pattern plantation, and I can only lament that my experience lay amid such
far less favourable circumstances. The negroes among whom I lived went to
the fields at daybreak, carrying with them their allowance of food, which
toward noon, and not till then, they ate, cooking it over a fire which
they kindled as best they could where they were working; their _second_
meal in the day was at night after their labour was over, having worked at
the _very least_ six hours without rest or refreshment, since their
noon-day meal--properly so called, indeed, for it was meal and nothing
else, or a preparation something thicker than porridge, which they call
hominy. Perhaps the candid observer, whose report of the estate he visited
appeared to you so consolatory, would think that this diet contrasted
favourably with that of potato and butter-milk fed Irish labourers. But a
more just comparison surely would be with the mode of living of the
labouring population of the United States, the peasantry of Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, or indeed with the condition of those
very potato and butter-milk fed Irishmen when they have exchanged their
native soil for the fields of the Northern and North-Western States, and
when, as one of them once was heard to say, it was no use writing home
that he got meat three times a-day, for nobody in Ireland would believe
it. The next item in the list of commendation is the hospital, which your
informant also visited, and of which he gives the following account--'It
consisted of three separate wards, all clean and well ventilated: one was
for lying-in women, who were invariably allowed a month's rest after their
confinement.' Permit me to place beside this picture that of a Southern
infirmary, such as I saw it, and taken on the spot. In the first room that
I entered I found only half of the windows, of which there were six,
glazed; these were almost as much obscured with dirt as the other
windowless ones were darkened by the dingy shutters which the shivering
inmates had closed in order to protect themselves from the cold. In the
enormous chimney glimmered the powerless embers of a few chips of wood,
round which as many of the sick women as had strength to approach were
cowering, some on wooden settles (there was not such a thing as a chair
with a back in the whole establishment), most of them on the ground,
excluding those who were too ill to rise--and these poor wretches lay
prostrate on the earth, without bedstead, bed, mattress, or pillow, with
no covering but the clothes they had on and some filthy rags of blanket in
which they endeavoured to wrap themselves as they lay literally strewing
the floor, so that there was hardly room to pass between them. Here in
their hour of sickness and suffering lay those whose health and strength
had given way under unrequited labour--some of them, no later than the
previous day, had been urged with the lash to their accustomed tasks--and
their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons were even at that hour
sweating over the earth whose increase was to procure for others all the
luxuries which health can enjoy, all the comforts which can alleviate
sickness. Here lay women expecting every hour the terror and agonies of
child-birth, others who had just brought their doomed offspring into the
world, others who were groaning over the anguish and bitter disappointment
of miscarriages--here lay some burning with fever, others chilled with
cold and aching with rheumatism, upon the hard cold ground, the draughts
and damp of the atmosphere increasing their sufferings, and dirt, noise,
stench, and every aggravation of which sickness is capable combined in
their condition. There had been among them one or two cases of prolonged
and terribly hard labour; and the method adopted by the ignorant old
negress, who was the sole matron, midwife, nurse, physician, surgeon, and
servant of the infirmary, to assist them in their extremity, was to tie a
cloth tight round the throats of the agonised women, and by drawing it
till she almost suffocated them she produced violent and spasmodic
struggles, which she assured me she thought materially assisted the
progress of the labour. This was one of the Southern infirmaries with
which I was acquainted; and I beg to conclude this chapter of contrasts to
your informant's consolatory views of slavery, by assuring you once more
very emphatically that they have been one and all drawn from estates
where the slaves esteemed themselves well treated, were reputed generally
to be so, and undoubtedly, as far as my observation went, were so,
compared with those on several of the adjoining plantations.

With regard to the statement respecting the sums of money earned by
industrious negroes, there is no doubt that it is perfectly correct. I
knew of some slaves on a plantation in the extreme South who had received,
at various times, large sums of money from a shopkeeper in the small town
near their estate, for the grey moss or lichen collected from the
evergreen oaks of Carolina and Georgia, upon which it hangs in vast
masses, and after some cleaning process becomes an excellent substitute
for horse-hair, for bed, chair, and sofa-stuffing. On another estate, some
of the slaves were expert boat makers, and had been allowed by their
masters to retain the price (no inconsiderable one) for some that they had
found time to manufacture after their day's labour was accomplished. These
were undoubtedly privileges, but I confess it appears to me that the
juster view of the matter would be this--if these men were industrious
enough out of their scanty leisure to earn these sums of money, which a
mere exercise of arbitrary will on the part of the master allowed them to
keep, how much more of remuneration, of comfort, of improvement, physical
and mental, might they not have achieved, had the due price of their daily
labour merely been paid to them? It seems to me that this is the mode of
putting the case to Englishmen, and all who have not agreed to consider
uncertain favour an equivalent for common justice in the dealings of man
with man. As the slaves are well known to toil for years sometimes to
amass the means of rescuing themselves from bondage, the fact of their
being able and sometimes allowed to earn considerable sums of money is
notorious. But now that I have answered one by one the instances you have
produced, with others--I am sure as accurate and I believe as common--of
an entirely opposite description, permit me to ask you what this sort of
testimony amounts to. I allow you full credit for yours, allow me full
credit for mine, and the result is very simply a nullification of the one
by the other statement, and a proof that there is as much good as evil in
the details of slavery; but now, be pleased to throw into the scale this
consideration, that the principle of the whole is unmitigated abominable
evil, as by your own acknowledgement you hold it to be, and add, moreover,
that the principle being invariably bad beyond the power of the best man
acting under it to alter its execrable injustice, the goodness of the
detail is a matter absolutely dependent upon the will of each individual
slaveholder, so that though the best cannot make the system in the
smallest particular better, the bad can make every practical detail of it
as atrocious as the principle itself; and then tell me upon what ground
you palliate a monstrous iniquity, which is the rule, because of the
accidental exceptions which go to prove it. Moreover, if, as you have
asserted, good preponderates over evil in the practice, though not in the
theory of slavery, or it would not maintain its existence, why do you
uphold to us, with so much complacency, the hope that it is surely if not
rapidly approaching its abolishment? Why is the preponderating good, which
has, as you say, proved sufficient to uphold the institution hitherto, to
become (in spite of the spread of civilisation and national progress, and
the gradual improvement of the slaves themselves) inadequate to its
perpetuation henceforward? Or why, if good really has prevailed in it, do
you rejoice that it is speedily to pass away? You say the emancipation of
the slaves is inevitable, and that through progressive culture the negro
of the Southern States daily approaches more nearly to the recovery of the
rights of which he has been robbed. But whence do you draw this happy
augury, except from the hope, which all Christian souls must cherish, that
God will not permit much longer so great a wickedness to darken the face
of the earth? Surely the increased stringency of the Southern slave-laws,
the more than ever vigilant precautions against all attempts to enlighten
or educate the negroes, the severer restrictions on manumission, the
thrusting forth out of certain States of all free persons of colour, the
atrocious Fugitive Slave Bill, one of the latest achievements of
Congress, and the piratical attempts upon Cuba, avowedly on the part of
all Southerners, abetting or justifying it because it will add
slave-territory and 600,000 slaves to their possessions;--surely these do
not seem indications of the better state of things you anticipate, except,
indeed, as the straining of the chain beyond all endurable tightness
significantly suggests the probability of its giving way.

I do not believe the planters have any disposition to put an end to
slavery, nor is it perhaps much to be wondered at that they have not. To
do so is, in the opinion of the majority of them, to run the risk of
losing their property, perhaps their lives, for a benefit which they
profess to think doubtful to the slaves themselves. How far they are right
in anticipating ruin from the manumission of their slaves I think
questionable, but that they do so is certain, and self-impoverishment for
the sake of abstract principle is not a thing to be reasonably expected
from any large mass of men. But, besides the natural fact that the
slaveholders wish to retain their property, emancipation is, in their view
of it, not only a risk of enormous pecuniary loss, and of their entire
social status, but involves elements of personal danger, and above all,
disgust to inveterate prejudices, which they will assuredly never
encounter. The question is not alone one of foregoing great wealth, or the
mere means of subsistence (in either case almost equally hard); it is not
alone the unbinding the hands of those who have many a bloody debt of
hatred and revenge to settle; it is not alone the consenting suddenly to
see by their side, upon a footing of free social equality, creatures
towards whom their predominant feeling is one of mingled terror and
abhorrence, and who, during the whole of their national existence, have
been, as the earth, trampled beneath their feet, yet ever threatening to
gape and swallow them alive. It is not all this alone which makes it
unlikely that the Southern planter should desire to free his slaves:
freedom in America is not merely a personal right, it involves a political
privilege. Freemen there are legislators. The rulers of the land are the
majority of the people, and in many parts of the Southern States the black
free citizens would become, if not at once, yet in process of time,
inevitably voters, landholders, delegates to state legislatures, members
of assembly--who knows?--senators, judges, aspirants to the presidency of
the United States. You must be an American, or have lived long among them,
to conceive the shout of derisive execration with which such an idea would
be hailed from one end of the land to the other.

That the emancipation of the negroes need not necessarily put them in
possession of the franchise is of course obvious, but as a general
consequence the one would follow from the other; and at present certainly
the slaveholders are no more ready to grant the political privilege than
the natural right of freedom. Under these circumstances, though the utmost
commiseration is naturally excited by the slaves, I agree with you that
some forbearance is due to the masters. It is difficult to conceive a more
awful position than theirs: fettered by laws which impede every movement
towards right and justice, and utterly without the desire to repeal
them--dogged by the apprehension of nameless retributions--bound beneath a
burthen of responsibility for which, whether they acknowledge it or not,
they are held accountable by God and men--goaded by the keen consciousness
of the growing reprobation of all civilised Christian communities, their
existence presents the miserable moral counterpart of the physical
condition of their slaves; and it is one compared with which that of the
wretchedest slave is, in my judgement, worthy of envy.

* * * * *

_Letter to C.G., Esq._

Before entering upon my answer to your questions, let me state that I have
no claim to be ranked as an abolitionist in the American acceptation of
the word, for I have hitherto held the emancipation of the slaves to be
exclusively the business and duty of their owners, whose highest moral
interest I thought it was to rid themselves of such a responsibility, in
spite of the manifold worldly interests almost inextricably bound up with

This has been my feeling hitherto with regard to the views of the
abolitionists, which I now, however, heartily embrace, inasmuch as I think
that from the moment the United States Government assumed an attitude of
coercion and supremacy towards the Southern States, it was bound with its
fleets and armies to introduce its polity with respect to slavery, and
wherever it planted the standard of the Union to proclaim the universal
freedom which is the recognised law of the Northern United States. That
they have not done so has been partly owing to a superstitious, but
honourable veneration for the letter of their great charter, the
constitution, and still more to the hope they have never ceased to
entertain of bringing back the South to its allegiance under the former
conditions of the Union, an event which will be rendered impossible by any
attempt to interfere with the existence of slavery.

The North, with the exception of an inconsiderable minority of its
inhabitants, has never been at all desirous of the emancipation of the
slaves. The Democratic party which has ruled the United States for many
years past has always been friendly to the slaveholders, who have, with
few exceptions, been all members of it (for by a strange perversion both
of words and ideas, some of the most Democratic States in the Union are
Southern slave States, and in the part of Georgia where the slave
population is denser than in any other part of the South, a county exists
bearing the satirical title of _Liberty County_). And the support of the
South has been given to the Northern Democratic politicians, upon the
distinct understanding that their 'domestic institution' was to be
guaranteed to them.

The condition of the free blacks in the Northern States has of course been
affected most unfavourably by the slavery of their race throughout the
other half of the Union, and indeed it would have been a difficult matter
for Northern citizens to maintain towards the blacks an attitude of social
and political equality as far as the borders of Delaware, while
immediately beyond they were pledged to consider them as the 'chattels' of
their owners, animals no more noble or human than the cattle in their
masters' fields.

How could peace have been maintained if the Southern slaveholders had been
compelled to endure the sight of negroes rising to wealth and eminence in
the Northern cities, or entering as fellow-members with themselves the
halls of that legislature to which all free-born citizens are eligible?
they would very certainly have declined with fierce scorn, not the
fellowship of the blacks alone, but of those white men who admitted the
despised race of their serfs to a footing of such impartial equality. It
therefore was the instinctive, and became the deliberate policy of the
Northern people, once pledged to maintain slavery in the South, to make
their task easy by degrading the blacks in the Northern States to a
condition contrasting as little as possible with that of the Southern
slaves. The Northern politicians struck hands with the Southern
slaveholders, and the great majority of the most enlightened citizens of
the Northern States, absorbed in the pursuit of wealth and the extension
and consolidation of their admirable and wonderful national prosperity,
abandoned the government of their noble country and the preservation of
its nobler institutions to the slaveholding aristocracy of the South--to a
mob of politicians by trade, the vilest and most venal class of men that
ever disgraced and endangered a country--to foreign emigrants, whose
brutish ignorance did not prevent the Democratic party from seizing upon
them as voters, and bestowing on the Irish and German boors just landed on
their shores the same political privileges as those possessed and
intelligently exercised by the farmers and mechanics of New England, the
most enlightened men of their class to be found in the world.

The gradual encroachment of the Southern politicians upon the liberties of
the North, by their unrelaxing influence in Congress and over successive
cabinets and presidents, was not without its effect in stimulating some
resistance on the part of Northern statesmen of sufficient intelligence to
perceive the inevitable results towards which this preponderance in the
national counsels was steadily tending; and I need not remind you of the
rapidity and force with which General Jackson quelled an incipient
rebellion in South Carolina, when Mr. Calhoun made the tariff question the
pretext for a threatened secession in 1832, of the life-long opposition to
Southern pretensions by John Quincy Adams, of the endeavour of Mr. Clay to
stem the growing evil by the conditions of the Missouri compromise, and
all the occasional attempts of individuals of more conscientious
convictions than their fellow-citizens on the subject of the sin of
slavery, from Dr. Channing's eloquent protest on the annexation of Texas,
to Mr. Charles Sumner's philippic against Mr. Brooks of South Carolina.

The disorganisation of the Democratic party, after a cohesion of so many
years, at length changed the aspect of affairs; and the North appeared to
be about to arouse itself from its apathetic consent to Southern
domination. The Republican party, headed by Colonel Fremont, who was known
to be an anti-slavery man, nearly carried the presidential election six
years ago, and then every preparation had been made in the South for the
process of secession, which was only averted by the election of Mr.
Buchanan, a pro-slavery Southern sympathiser, though born in Pennsylvania.
Under his presidency, the Southern statesmen, resuming their attitude of
apparent friendliness with the North, kept in abeyance, maturing and
perfecting by every treasonable practice, for which their preponderating
share in the cabinet afforded them fatal facilities, the plan of the
violent disruption of the Union, upon which they had determined whenever
the Republican party should have acquired sufficient strength, to elect a
president with Northern views. Before, however, this event occurred, the
war in Kansas rang a prophetic peal of warning through the land; and the
struggle there begun between New England emigrants bent on founding a free
state, and Missouri border ruffians determined to make the new territory a
slaveholding addition to the South, might have roused the whole North and
West to the imminence of the peril, by which the safety of the Union was

But neither the struggle in Kansas, nor the strange and piteous episode
which grew out of it, of John Brown's attempt to excite an insurrection in
Virginia, and his execution by the government of that State, did more than
startle the North with a nine days' wonder out of its apathetic
indifference. The Republican party, it is true, gained adherents, and
acquired strength by degrees; and Mr. Buchanan's term of office
approaching its expiration, it became apparent that the Democratic party
was about to lose its supremacy, and the slaveholders their dominion; and
no sooner was this evident than the latter threw off the mask, and
renounced their allegiance to the Union. In a day--in an hour
almost--those stood face to face as mortal enemies who were citizens of
the same country, subjects of the same government, children of the same
soil; and the North, incredulous and amazed, found itself suddenly
summoned to retrieve its lost power and influence, and assert the dignity
of the insulted Union against the rebellious attempt of the South to
overthrow it.

But it was late for them to take that task in hand. For years the conduct
of the government of the United States had been becoming a more desperate
and degraded _jobbery_, one from which day by day the Northern gentlemen
of intelligence, influence, and education withdrew themselves in greater
disgust, devoting their energies to schemes of mere personal advantage,
and leaving the commonweal with selfish and contemptuous indifference to
the guidance of any hands less nice and less busy than their own.

Nor would the Southern planters--a prouder and more aristocratic race than
the Northern merchants--have relished the companionship of their
fellow-politicians more than the latter, but _their_ personal interests
were at stake, and immediately concerned in their maintaining their
predominant influence over the government; and while the Boston men wrote
and talked transcendentalism, and became the most accomplished of
_aestetische_ cotton spinners and railroad speculators, and made the shoes
and cow-hides of the Southerners, the latter made their laws; (I believe
New Jersey is really the great cow-hide factory); and the New York men,
owners of the fastest horses and finest houses in the land, having made a
sort of Brummagem Paris of their city, were the bankers and brokers of the
Southerners, while the latter were their legislators.

The grip the slaveholders had fastened on the helm of the State had been
tightening for nearly half a century, till the government of the nation
had become literally theirs, and the idea of their relinquishing it was
one which the North did not contemplate, and they would not tolerate.

If I have said nothing of the grievances which the South has alleged
against the North--its tariff, made chiefly in the interest of the
north-eastern manufacturing States, or its inconsiderable but enthusiastic
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Abolition party--it is because I do not
believe these causes of complaint would have had the same effect upon any
but a community of slaveholders, men made impatient (by the life-long
habit of despotism), not only of all control, but of any opposition.
Thirty years ago Andrew Jackson--a man of keen sagacity as well as
determined energy--wrote of them that they were bent upon destroying the
Union, and that, whatever was the pretext of their discontent, that was
their aim and purpose. 'To-day,' he wrote, 'it is the tariff, by and by it
will be slavery.' The event has proved how true a prophet he was. My own
conviction is that the national character produced and fostered by
slaveholding is incompatible with free institutions, and that the
Southern aristocracy, thanks to the pernicious influences by which they
are surrounded, are unfit to be members of a Christian republic. It is
slavery that has made the Southerners rebels to their government, traitors
to their country, and the originators of the bloodiest civil war that ever
disgraced humanity and civilisation. It is for their sinful complicity in
slavery, and their shameful abandonment of all their duties as citizens,
that the Northerners are paying in the blood of their men, the tears of
their women, and the treasure which they have till now held more precious
than their birthright. They must now not merely impose a wise restriction
upon slavery, they must be prepared to extinguish it. They neglected and
despised the task of moderating its conditions and checking its growth;
they must now suddenly, in the midst of unparalleled difficulties and
dangers, be ready to deal summarily with its entire existence. They have
loved the pursuit of personal prosperity and pleasure more than their
country; and now they must spend life and living to reconquer their great
inheritance, and win back at the sword's point what Heaven had forbidden
them to lose. Nor are we, here in England, without part in this tremendous
sin and sorrow; we have persisted in feeding our looms, and the huge
wealth they coin, with the produce of slavery. In vain our vast Indian
territory has solicited the advantage of becoming our free cotton
plantation; neither our manufacturers nor our government would venture,
would wait, would spend or lose, for that purpose; the slave-grown harvest
was ready, was abundant, was cheap--and now the thousand arms of our great
national industry are folded in deplorable inactivity; the countless hands
that wrought from morn till night the wealth that was a world's wonder are
stretched unwillingly to beg their bread; and England has never seen a
sadder sight than the enforced idleness of her poor operatives, or a
nobler one than their patient and heroic endurance.

And now you ask me what plan, what scheme, what project the government of
the United States has formed for the safe and successful emancipation of
four millions of slaves, in the midst of a country distracted with all the
horrors of war, and the male population of which is engaged in military
service at a distance from their homes? Most assuredly none. Precipitated
headlong from a state of apparent profound security and prosperity into a
series of calamitous events which have brought the country to the verge of
ruin, neither the nation or its governors have had leisure to prepare
themselves for any of the disastrous circumstances they have had to
encounter, least of all for the momentous change which the President's
proclamation announces as imminent: a measure of supreme importance, not
deliberately adopted as the result of philanthropic conviction or
far-sighted policy, but (if not a mere feint of party politics) the last
effort of the incensed spirit of endurance in the North--a punishment
threatened against rebels, whom they cannot otherwise subdue, and which a
year ago half the Northern population would have condemned upon principle,
and more than half revolted from on instinct.

The country being in a state of war necessarily complicates everything,
and renders the most plausible suggestions for the settlement of the
question of emancipation futile: because from first to last now it will be
one tremendous chapter of accidents, instead of a carefully considered and
wisely prepared measure of government. But supposing the war to have
ceased, either by the success of the Northern arms or by the consent of
both belligerents, the question of manumission in the Southern States when
reduced to the condition of territories or restored to the sway of their
own elected governors and legislatures, though difficult, is by no means
one of insuperable difficulty; and I do not believe that a great nation of
Englishmen, having once the will to rid itself of a danger and a disgrace,
will fail to find a way. The thing, therefore, most to be desired now is,
that Americans may unanimously embrace the purpose of emancipation, and,
though they have been reluctantly driven by the irresistible force of
circumstances to contemplate the measure, may henceforward never avert
their eyes from it till it is accomplished.

When I was in the South many years ago I conversed frequently with two
highly intelligent men, both of whom agreed in saying that the immense
value of the slaves as property was the only real obstacle to their
manumission, and that whenever the Southerners became convinced that it
was their interest to free them they would very soon find the means to do
it. In some respects the conditions are more favourable than those we had
to encounter in freeing our West India slaves. Though the soil and climate
of the Southern States are fertile and favourable, they are not tropical,
and there is no profuse natural growth of fruits or vegetables to render
subsistence possible without labour; the winter temperature is like that
of the Roman States; and even as far south as Georgia and the borders of
Florida, frosts severe enough to kill the orange trees are sometimes
experienced. The inhabitants of the Southern States, throughout by far the
largest portion of their extent, must labour to live, and will undoubtedly
obey the beneficent law of necessity whenever they are made to feel that
their existence depends upon their own exertions. The plan of a gradual
emancipation, preceded by a limited apprenticeship of the negroes to white
masters, is of course often suggested as less dangerous than their entire
and immediate enfranchisement. But when years ago I lived on a Southern
plantation, and had opportunities of observing the miserable results of
the system on everything connected with it--the souls, minds, bodies, and
estates of both races of men, and the very soil on which they existed
together--I came to the conclusion that immediate and entire emancipation
was not only an act of imperative right, but would be the safest and most
profitable course for the interests of both parties. The gradual and
inevitable process of ruin which exhibits itself in the long run on every
property involving slavery, naturally suggests some element of decay
inherent in the system; the reckless habits of extravagance and
prodigality in the masters, the ruinous wastefulness and ignorant
incapacity of the slaves, the deterioration of the land under the
exhausting and thriftless cultivation to which it is subjected, made it
evident to me that there were but two means of maintaining a prosperous
ownership in Southern plantations: either the possession of considerable
capital wherewith to recruit the gradual waste of the energies of the
soil, and supply by all the improved and costly methods of modern
agriculture the means of profitable cultivation (a process demanding, as
English farmers know, an enormous and incessant outlay of both money and
skill), or an unlimited command of fresh soil, to which the slaves might
be transferred as soon as that already under culture exhibited signs of
exhaustion. Now the Southerners are for the most part men whose only
wealth is in their land and labourers--a large force of slaves is their
most profitable investment. The great capitalists and monied men of the
country are Northern men; the planters are men of large estates but
restricted means--many of them are deeply involved in debt, and there are
very few who do not depend from year to year for their subsistence on the
harvest of their fields and the chances of the cotton and rice crops of
each season.

This makes it of vital importance to them to command an unrestricted
extent of territory. The man who can move a 'gang' of able-bodied negroes
to a tract of virgin soil is sure of an immense return of wealth; as sure
as that he who is circumscribed in this respect, and limited to the
cultivation of certain lands with cotton or tobacco by slaves, will in the
course of a few years see his estate gradually exhausted and unproductive,
refusing its increase, while its black population propagating and
multiplying will compel him eventually, under penalty of starvation, to
make _them_ his crop, and substitute, as the Virginians have been
constrained to do, a traffic in human cattle for the cultivation of
vegetable harvests.

The steady decrease of the value of the cotton crop, even on the famous
sea island plantations of Georgia, often suggested to me the inevitable
ruin of the owners within a certain calculable space of time, as the land
became worn out, and the negroes continued to increase in number; and had
the estate on which I lived been mine, and the laws of Georgia not made
such an experiment impossible, I would have emancipated the slaves on it
immediately, and turned them into a free tenantry, as the first means of
saving my property from impending destruction. I would have paid them
wages, and they should have paid me rent. I would have relinquished the
charge of feeding and clothing them, and the burthen of their old, young,
and infirm; in short, I would have put them at once upon the footing of
free hired labourers. Of course such a process would have involved
temporary loss, and for a year or two the income of the estate would, I
dare say, have suffered considerably; but, in all such diversions of
labour or capital from old into new channels and modes of operation, there
must be an immediate sacrifice of present to future profit, and I do not
doubt that the estate would have recovered from the momentary necessary
interruption of its productiveness, to resume it with an upward instead of
a downward tendency, and a vigorous impulse towards progress and
improvement substituted for the present slow but sure drifting to
stagnation and decay.

As I have told you, the land affords no spontaneous produce which will
sustain life without labour. The negroes therefore must work to eat; they
are used to the soil and climate, and accustomed to the agriculture, and
there is no reason at all to apprehend--as has been suggested--that a race
of people singularly attached to the place of their birth and residence
would abandon in any large numbers their own country, just as the
conditions of their existence in it were made more favourable, to try the
unknown and (to absolute ignorance) forbidding risks of emigration to the
sterner climate and harder soil of the Northern States.

Of course, in freeing the slaves, it would be necessary to contemplate the
possibility of their becoming eventual proprietors of the soil to some
extent themselves. There is as little doubt that many of them would soon
acquire the means of doing so (men who amass, during hours of daily extra
labour, through years of unpaid toil, the means of buying themselves from
their masters, would soon justify their freedom by the intelligent
improvement of their condition), as that many of the present landholders
would be ready and glad to alienate their impoverished estates by parcels,
and sell the land which has become comparatively unprofitable to them, to
its enfranchised cultivators. This, the future ownership of land by
negroes, as well as their admission to those rights of citizenship which
everywhere in America such ownership involves, would necessarily be future
subjects of legislation; and either or both privileges might be withheld
temporarily, indefinitely, or permanently, as might seem expedient, and
the progress in civilisation which might justify such an extension of
rights. These, and any other modifications of the state of the black
population in the South, would require great wisdom to deal with, but
their immediate transformation from bondsmen to free might, I think, be
accomplished with little danger or difficulty, and with certain increase
of prosperity to the Southern States.

On the other hand, it is not impossible that, left to the unimpeded action
of the natural laws that govern the existence of various races, the black
population, no longer directly preserved and propagated for the purposes
of slavery, might gradually decrease and dwindle, as it does at the
North--where, besides the unfavourable influence of a cold climate on a
race originally African, it suffers from its admixture with the whites,
and the amalgamation of the two races, as far as it goes, tends evidently
to the destruction of the weaker. The Northern mulattoes are an unhealthy
feeble population, and it might yet appear that even under the more
favourable influence of a Southern climate, whenever the direct stimulus
afforded by slavery to the increase of the negroes was removed, their
gradual extinction or absorption by the predominant white race would
follow in the course of time.

But the daily course of events appears to be rendering more and more
unlikely the immediate effectual enfranchisement of the slaves: the
President's proclamation will reach with but little efficacy beyond the
mere borders of the Southern States. The war is assuming an aspect of
indefinite duration; and it is difficult to conceive what will be the
condition of the blacks, freed _de jure_ but by no means _de facto_, in
the vast interior regions of the Southern States, as long as the struggle
raging all round their confines does not penetrate within them. Each of
the combatants is far too busily absorbed in the furious strife to afford
thought, leisure, or means, either effectually to free the slaves or
effectually to replace them in bondage; and in the meantime their
condition is the worst possible for the future success of either
operation. If the North succeeds in subjugating the South, its earliest
business will be to make the freedom of the slaves real as well as
nominal, and as little injurious to themselves as possible. If, on the
other hand, the South makes good its pretensions to a separate national
existence, no sooner will the disseverment of the Union be an established
fact than the slaveholders will have to consolidate once more the system
of their 'peculiar institution,' to reconstruct the prison which has half
crumbled to the ground, and rivet afresh the chains which have been all
but struck off. This will be difficult: the determination of the North to
restrict the area of slavery by forbidding its ingress into future
territories and States has been considered by the slaveholders a wrong,
and a danger justifying a bloody civil war; inasmuch as, if under those
circumstances they did not abolish slavery themselves in a given number of
years, it would infallibly abolish them by the increase of the negro
population, hemmed with them into a restricted space by this _cordon
sanitaire_ drawn round them. But, bad as this prospect has seemed to
slaveholders (determined to continue such), and justifying--as it may be
conceded that it does from their point of view--not a ferocious civil war,
but a peaceable separation from States whose interests were declared
absolutely irreconcileable with theirs, the position in which they will
find themselves if the contest terminates in favour of Secession will be
undoubtedly more difficult and terrible than the one the mere anticipation
of which has driven them to the dire resort of civil war. All round the
Southern coast, and all along the course of the great Mississippi, and all
across the northern frontier of the Slave States, the negroes have already
thrown off the trammels of slavery. Whatever their condition may be--and
doubtless in many respects it is miserable enough--they are to all intents
and purposes free. Vast numbers of them have joined the Northern invading
armies, and considerable bodies of them have become organised as soldiers
and labourers, under the supervision of Northern officers and employers;
most of them have learned the use of arms, and possess them; all of them
have exchanged the insufficient slave diet of grits and rice for the
abundant supplies of animal food, which the poorest labourer in that
favoured land of cheap provisions and high wages indulges in to an extent
unknown in any other country. None of these slaves of yesterday will be
the same slaves to-morrow. Little essential difference as may yet have
been effected by the President's proclamation in the interior of the
South in the condition of the blacks, it is undoubtedly known to them, and
they are waiting in ominous suspense its accomplishment or defeat by the
fortune of the war; they are watching the issue of the contest of which
they well know themselves to be the theme, and at its conclusion, end how
it will, they must be emancipated or exterminated. With the North not only
not friendly to slavery, but henceforward bitterly hostile to
slaveholders, and no more to be reckoned upon as heretofore, it might have
been infallibly by the Southern white population in any difficulty with
the blacks (a fact of which the negroes will be as well aware as their
former masters)--with an invisible boundary stretching from ocean to
ocean, over which they may fly without fear of a master's claim following
them a single inch--with the hope and expectation of liberty suddenly
snatched from them at the moment it seemed within their grasp--with the
door of their dungeon once more barred between them and the light into
which they were in the act of emerging--is it to be conceived, that these
four millions of people, many thousands of whom are already free and
armed, will submit without a struggle to be again thrust down into the
hell of slavery? Hitherto there has been no insurrection among the
negroes, and observers friendly and inimical to them have alike drawn from
that fact conclusions unfavourable to their appreciation of the freedom
apparently within their grasp; but they are waiting to see what the North
will really achieve for them. The liberty offered them is hitherto
anomalous, and uncertain enough in its conditions; they probably trust it
as little as they know it: but slavery they _do_ know--and when once they
find themselves again delivered over to _that_ experience, there will not
be ONE insurrection in the South; there will be an insurrection in every
State, in every county, on every plantation--a struggle as fierce as it
will be futile--a hopeless effort of hopeless men, which will baptise in
blood the new American nation, and inaugurate its birth among the
civilised societies of the earth, not by the manumission but the massacre
of every slave within its borders.

Perhaps, however, Mr. Jefferson Davis means to free the negroes. Whenever
that consummation is attained, the root of bitterness will have perished
from the land; and when a few years shall have passed blunting the hatred
which has been excited by this fratricidal strife, the Americans of both
the Northern and Southern States will perceive that the selfish policy of
other nations would not have so rejoiced over their division, had it not
seemed, to those who loved them not, the proof of past failure and the
prophecy of future weakness.

Admonished by its terrible experiences, I believe the nation will reunite
itself under one government, remodel its constitution, and again address
itself to fulfill its glorious destiny. I believe that the country sprung
from ours--of all our just subjects of national pride the greatest--will
resume its career of prosperity and power, and become the noblest as well
as the mightiest that has existed among the nations of the earth.

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