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American Scenes, and Christian Slavery by Ebenezer Davies

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New World. It was, moreover, an anti-slavery breakfast, under the
presidency of Lewis Tappan. It was charming to see the whites and the
coloured so intermingled at this social repast, and that in the very
heart of the great metropolis of America.

At 10 the same morning a meeting of the American Tract Society was held
at the Tabernacle. I had been engaged to speak on that occasion, but
was obliged to go and see about the vessel that was to take us away.

In the evening I was pressed, at half an hour's notice, to speak at the
meeting of the American Home-Missionary Society. The Rev. H.W. Beecher
of Indianapolis, one of the sons of Dr. Beecher, made a powerful speech
on the claims of the West and South-west. In my own address I
complimented the Directors on the ground they had recently taken in
reference to slavery, and proceeded to say that there was an important
sense in which that society should be an anti-slavery society. This
elicited the cheers of the few, which were immediately drowned in the
hisses of the many. The interruption was but momentary, and I
proceeded. The next morning one of the Secretaries endeavoured to
persuade me that the hisses were not at myself, but at those who
interrupted me with their cheers. I told him his explanation was
ingenious and kind; nevertheless I thought I might justly claim the
honour of having been hissed for uttering an anti-slavery sentiment at
the Tabernacle in New York!

This society has an herculean task to perform; and, in consideration of
it, our American friends might well be excused for some years, were it
possible, from all foreign operations.

"Westward the star of empire moves."

Ohio welcomed its first permanent settlers in 1788, and now it is
occupied by nearly 2,000,000 of people. Michigan obtained its first
immigrants but fourteen or fifteen years ago, and now has a population
of 300,000. Indiana, admitted into the Union in 1816, has since then
received a population of more than half a million, and now numbers
nearly a million of inhabitants. Illinois became a State in 1818. From
that date its population trebled every ten years till the last census
of 1840, and since then has risen from 476,000 to about 900,000.
Missouri, which in 1810 had only 20,800 people, has now 600,000, having
increased 50 per cent. in six years. Iowa was scarcely heard of a dozen
years ago. It is now a State, and about 150,000 people call its land
their home. Wisconsin was organized but twelve years ago, and has now a
population of not less than 200,000. One portion of its territory, 33
miles by 30, which ten years before was an unbroken wilderness,
numbered even in 1846 87,000 inhabitants; and the emigration to the
"Far West" is now greater than ever. A giant is therefore growing up
there, who will soon be able and disposed to rule the destinies of the
United States. The Church of Rome is straining every nerve to have that
giant in her own keeping, and already shouts the song of triumph. Says
one of her sanguine sons, "The Church is now firmly established in this
country, and persecution will but cause it to thrive. Our countrymen
may grieve that it is so; but it is useless for them to kick against
the decrees of the Almighty God. They have an open field and fair play
for Protestantism. Here she has had free scope, has reigned without a
rival, and proved what she could do, and that her best is evil; for the
very good she boasts is not hers. A new day is dawning on this chosen
land, and the Church is about to assume her rightful position and
influence. Ours shall yet become consecrated ground. _Our hills and
valleys shall yet echo to the convent-bell._ The cross shall be planted
throughout the length and breadth of our land; and our happy sons and
daughters shall drive away fear, shall drive away evil from our borders
with the echoes of their matin and vesper hymns. No matter who writes,
who declaims, who intrigues, who is alarmed, or what leagues are
formed, THIS IS TO BE A CATHOLIC COUNTRY; and from Maine to Georgia,
from the broad Atlantic to broader Pacific, the 'clean sacrifice' is to
be offered daily for quick and dead." The triumph may be premature; but
it conveys a timely warning.

The next day the Anniversary of the Bible Society was held. The Hon.
Theodore Frelinghuysen presided. At that meeting I had been requested,
to speak, but could not. Indeed, we were detained all day on board a
vessel by which we expected every hour to sail for Jamaica; though,
after all, we had to wait until the following day. On that day, the
14th of May, just at the time the Board of Missions were holding their
public meeting, we sailed, and bade adieu to New York and all the
delightful engagements of that memorable week.

But, say you, Tell us in a few words what you think of America upon the
whole? I will try to do so. There is a class of things I greatly
admire; and there is a class of things I greatly detest. Among the
former I may mention--

1. Religious equality--the absence of a State church.

2. The workings of the voluntary principle in the abundant supply of
places of worship, and in the support of religious institutions.

3. General education. With regard to their common schools, and also to
their colleges, they are far in advance of us in England. The existence
of universal suffrage has the effect of stimulating educational efforts
to a degree which would not otherwise be attained. The more respectable
and intelligent of the citizens are made to feel that, with universal
suffrage, their dearest institutions are all perilled unless the mass
be educated.

As education is the great question of the day, I must not omit to make
a few remarks on the Primary Schools of the United States. There is no
_national_ system of education in America. Congress does not interfere
in the matter, except in the "Territories" before they become "States."
The States of the Union are so many distinct Republics, and, in the
matter of education, as in all their internal affairs, are left
entirely to take their own measures. With regard to education, no two
States act precisely alike. If we glance at the States of
Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio, we shall, however, discover the
three great types of what in this respect generally prevails throughout
the States.

MASSACHUSETTS.--Scarcely had the "Pilgrims" been half-a-dozen years in
their wilderness home before they began to make what they deemed a
suitable provision for the instruction of their children. They adopted
the same principle in reference to education and religion--that of
taxation. A general tax was not imposed; but the people in the various
townships were empowered to tax themselves to a certain amount, and to
manage the whole affair by means of their own "select men." But,
although this law has continued for 200 years, the people have always
done far more than it required. In Boston, for instance, the law
demands only 3,000 dollars a year, but not less than 60,000 dollars is
raised and applied! So that here we have a noble proof, not so much of
the effect of government interference, as of the efficiency of the
voluntary principle in providing education for the young. The people of
Massachusetts, and indeed of all the New England States, are doubtless
the best educated in the world. Not one in a thousand of those born
here grows up unable to read and write.

The calumniated "Pilgrims" were thus early attentive to the importance
of education; and their system had been in full operation for between
thirty and forty years, when, in 1670, Sir William Berkley, Governor of
Virginia, the stronghold of the Anglican Church, thus devoutly
addressed the "Lords of Plantations in England:"--"I thank God _there
are no free schools nor printing_, and I hope we shall not have them
these hundred years; for learning has brought _disobedience and heresy
and sects_ into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels
against the best government. God keep us from both!"

The system of Massachusetts may be regarded as a type of what prevails
in the six New England States, except Connecticut, where there is a
State fund of upwards of 2,000,000 dollars, yielding an annual dividend
of about 120,000 dollars for school purposes.

NEW YORK.--In this State a large fund for schools has been created by
the sale of public land. The proceeds of this fund are annually
distributed in such a way as to secure the raising by local efforts of
at least three times the amount for the same object. This fund is thus
used as a gentle stimulant to local exertions. The system described
will convey a notion of what exists in the _middle_ States.

Ohio.--In this and the Western States every township is divided into so
many sections of a mile square; and one of these sections, out of a
given number, is devoted to the maintenance of schools. As a township
increases in population, the reserved section advances in value. These
schools are not subject to any central control, but are under the
management of a committee chosen by the township.

Still education is not so general in all the States as might be wished.
Miss Beecher, the daughter of Dr. Beecher, having devoted to the
subject much time and talent, tells us that there are in the United
States "a million adults who cannot read and write, and more than two
millions of children utterly illiterate and entirely without schools!"
Of the children in this condition, 130,000 are in Ohio, and 100,000 in

In the working of this system of education, the absence of a State
Church affords advantages not enjoyed in England. Of late, however, an
objection to the use of the Bible in these schools has been raised by
the Roman Catholics, and the question in some States has been fiercely
agitated. In the city of St. Louis the Bible has been excluded. In
Cincinnati the Catholics, failing to exclude it, have established
schools of their own.

This agitation is one of great interest. It leads thoughtful and devout
men to ask, whether, when the State, assuming to be the instructor of
its subjects, establishes schools, and puts Protestant Bibles, or any
other, or none into them _by law_, they have not thenceforth
Protestantism, Popery, or Infidelity so far _by law established_; and
whether it is not better that the State should restrict itself to its
proper function as the minister of justice, leaving secular
instruction, like religious, to the spontaneous resources of the

To this, I think, it will come at last. The Common School economy is a
remnant of the old Church-and-State system, which has not been entirely
swept away. But for this impression I should feel some uneasiness, lest
it should prove the germ of a new order of things leading back to
State-Churchism. It appeared to me quite natural to say, "Here is a
State provision for schools,--why not have a similar provision for
churches? It works well for the one,--why not for the other? Is it not
as important that our churches should rely, not alone on the capricious
and scanty efforts of the voluntary principle, but also on the more
respectable and permanent support of the State, as it is that our
Common Schools should adopt this course?" To me it seemed that the
arguments which recommended the one supported the other; but when I
have mentioned to intelligent men the possibility, not to say
probability, of the one step leading to the other, they have invariably
been surprised at my apprehensions, and have assured me that nothing
was more unlikely to take place.

But, to show the jealousy with which on _other_ grounds the system
begins to be viewed, I will close by a short quotation from a writer in
the _New Englander_, a respectable _Quarterly_, to which I have before
referred. "It will, doubtless, be thought strange to say that the
systems of public common-school education now existing, and sought to
be established throughout our country, may yet, while Christians sleep,
become one of the greatest, if not _the_ greatest, antagonism in the
land to all evangelical instruction and piety. But how long before they
will be so,--when they shall have become the mere creatures of the
State, and, under the plea of no sectarianism, mere naturalism shall be
the substance of all the religious, and the basis of all the secular
teaching which they shall give? And let it not be forgotten that strong
currents of influence, in all parts of the country, acting in no chance
concert, are doing their utmost to bring about just this result."

4. I admire their _temperance_.

I confess that I felt humbled and ashamed for my own country, when, so
soon as I trod on British ground, or British _planks_, the old absurd
drinking usages again saluted my eye. In all the States I met with
nothing more truly ludicrous than some of these. For instance, when
A.B.'s mouth happens to be well replenished with, "flesh, fish, or
fowl," potatoes, pudding, or pastry, at one table, C.D., from another
table far away across the room, at the top of his voice, calls out,
"Mr. A.B., allow me the pleasure to take a glass of wine with you."
A.B. makes a very polite bow, fills his glass in a great hurry, holds
it up with his right hand, C.D. doing the same thing with his; and
then A.B. and C.D., making another polite bow to each other,
simultaneously swallow their glasses of wine! Were we not _accustomed_
to the sight, it would appear as laughable as anything travellers tell
us of the manners and customs of the least enlightened nations. Surely,
if this childish practice is still a rule in polite society, it is one
"more honoured in the breach than the observance." In no city on the
Eastern side of the Alleghany Mountains did I meet a single drunken
American in the street. The few whom I did detect in that plight were
manifestly recent importations from Great Britain and Ireland!

5. I also greatly admire their _secular enterprise_. They afford a
fine illustration of the idea conveyed in their own indigenous phrase,
"Go a-head."


Slavery--Responsibility of the North--District of Columbia--Preponderance
of the Slave Power--Extermination of the Indians--President Taylor and
his Blood-hounds--Conclusion.

But there is a class of things among them which men of well-regulated
minds and habits cannot but detest. These, as they have come under my
notice, I have pointed out. The chief of all is _slavery_. This stared
me in the face the moment I entered the States; and it presses itself
on my notice now that I have retired from the American shore. It is the
beginning and the ending of all that is vile and vicious in this
confederation of Republics. In England, you have been often told by
American visiters that the Northern States of the Union are not at all
identified with slavery, and are, in fact, no more responsible for its
existence in the South than we are for the existence of a like system
in the colonies of some of our European Allies. Than this
representation nothing can be further from the truth. There is really
no analogy whatever between the two cases. Each State, it is true, has
its own distinct and independent legislature; but all the States are
united in one federation, which has a thoroughly pro-slavery
government. The constitution is pledged to maintain the execrable
system, and the Northern States are pledged to maintain the
hypocritical constitution.

That no preponderance of influence might be given to any one State over
the rest, by making it the seat of the central government, a district
of 10 miles square was partitioned out, partly from Virginia and partly
from Maryland, for that purpose. This district, called the District of
Columbia, has no government and no representation of its own, but is
under the absolute control and regulation of the United Government or
Congress, "exclusive jurisdiction over it in all cases whatsoever"
having been given by the constitution. In this absolute government of
the "ten miles square," embracing the site of Washington the capital,
the Northern States, by their representatives in Congress, have their
full share. Now, not merely does slavery exist in that District, but it
exists there under statutes so barbarous and cruel that the
neighbouring slave States have actually abolished the like within the
bounds of their separate jurisdiction, leaving to the _free_ States the
unenviable responsibility of enforcing laws too horrible for
kidnappers. Take a specimen,--"A slave convicted of any petit treason,
or murder, or wilful burning of a dwelling-house, to have the right
hand cut off, to be hanged in the usual manner, the head severed from
the body, the body divided into four quarters, and the head and
quarters set up in the most public places of the county where such act
was committed." Take another,--"A _free negro_ may be arrested, and put
in jail for 3 months, on _suspicion_ of being a runaway; and if he is
not able to _prove_ his freedom in 12 months, _he is to be sold as a
slave_ TO PAY HIS JAIL FEES!" Are there not hundreds of free men, both
black and white, who could not _prove_ their freedom under such
circumstances? Yet, for this _crime_, they are reduced to perpetual
bondage _by authority of Congress_. And all this the North upholds!

Washington, the capital, thus governed, is but the great mart of the
national man-trade. From the adjoining port of Alexandria, 7 miles off,
the victims are shipped for the South. Listen to the _Gazette_ of that
place,--"Here you may behold fathers and brothers leaving behind them
the dearest objects of affection, and moving slowly along in the mute
agony of despair,--there the young mother sobbing over the infant,
whose innocent smiles seem but to increase her misery. From some you
will hear the burst of bitter lamentation; while from others the loud
hysteric laugh breaks forth, denoting still deeper agony."

But you will be told that it is not in the power of Northern members to
alter this state of things. Why not? In the House of Representatives
the free States have a majority of about 50, and in the Senate they
have for some years been equal. But have they tried? Have they
protested? Have they voted? Have they divided the House? They _have_
voted. How? _Eighty-two Northern men_, a few years ago, voted that
Congress ought not to interfere _in any way_ with slavery in the
District of Columbia!

Look at some of the provisions of the Federal Government. See what
"SOLEMN GUARANTEES" it gives to the accursed system of slavery, in
whatever State it may be found!

Art. I., sect. 2, says, "Representatives and direct taxes shall be
apportioned among the several States which may be included within this
Union according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined
by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to
serve for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed,
_three-fifths of all other persons_"--that is to say, _slaves_, for
once called "persons!" Here is a positive premium on slave-holding.
This constitutes an aristocracy of the most monstrous character, and
introduces into the social fabric an element as absurd as it is
perilous. Talk of the aristocracy of England, and the undue influence
of landed proprietors! You have nothing half so unjust and vicious as
this. Suppose the Southern States have two millions and a half of
slaves: for that amount of property they have one million and a half of
additional votes; while in the free States there is no property
representation whatever. Or look at the question in another aspect. Two
citizens have each a capital of 5,000_l._ to invest. The one invests in
shipping or commerce in New York, and at the time of the election,
counts _one_; the other invests in slaves in South Carolina, obtaining
for the sum mentioned a whole gang of 100 human beings of both sexes
and of all ages, and at the time of the election he counts
_sixty-one_,--swamping with his 100 slaves the votes of sixty-one
respectable merchants in a free State! This it is which has constituted
an aristocracy of about 200,000 slaveholders in the South, the ruling
power in the United States. It has made the preservation and extension
of slavery the vital and moving principle of the national policy. So
that ever since 1830 slavery, slave-holding, slave-breeding, and
slave-trading have enjoyed the special and fostering care of the
Federal Government. As to the _quid pro quo_--the taxation that was to
be connected with the representation of "three-fifths of all other
persons," that has been almost entirely evaded. "There has not been,"
says a New England Reviewer, "if we mistake not, but in one instance,
and then in a very light degree, an assessment of direct taxation."

Art. I., sect. 8, says, "Congress shall have power"--among other
things--"to suppress _insurrections_." And Art. IV., sect. 4, says,
"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a
republican form of government; and shall protect each of them against
invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive
(when the legislature cannot be convened), against _domestic

These clauses pledge the whole force of the United States' army, and
navy too, if needs be, to the maintenance of slavery in any or in all
the States and Districts in which it may exist. But for this, the
system could not stand a single day. Let the North say to the South,
"We will not interfere with your 'peculiar institution,' but we will
not defend it; if you cannot keep your slaves in subjection, you must
expect no aid from us." Let them only say this, and _do_ nothing, and
the whole fabric of slavery would instantly crumble and fall. The
edifice is rotten, and is propped up only by the buttresses of the
North. The South retains the slave, because the free States furnish the

Again, Art. IV., sect. 2, says, "No person held to service or labour in
one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in
consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such
service or labour; but shall be _delivered up_ on claim of the party to
whom such service or labour may be due."

This clause pledges the North, not only to refuse an asylum to the
fugitive slave, but also to deliver him up to his unrighteous and cruel
task-master,--a deed which the law of God expressly condemns, and which
the best impulses of our nature repudiate with loathing and contempt.
The article before us constitutes all the free States of the Union a
slave-hunting ground for the Southern aristocracy. Talk of the game
laws of England! Here is a game law infinitely more unjust and
oppressive. A free country this! A noble government! Hail Columbia!

See how this slave-holding aristocracy have always managed to oppress
the North, and to secure to themselves the lion's share of the good
things of government.

THE PRESIDENCY.--Out of the 16 presidential elections since the origin
of the Confederation, 13 have been in favour of slave-holders, and only
3 in favour of Northern men. By holding the Presidency, slavery rules
the cabinet, the diplomacy, the army, and the navy of the Union. The
power that controls the Presidency controls the nation. No Northern
President has ever been re-elected.

THE VICE-PRESIDENCY.--The individual who holds this office is
_ex-officio_ President of the Senate, and, as such, has a casting vote
in all questions before that body. During the last 20 years, with one
exception, this functionary has always been a slave-holder.

THE OFFICE OF SECRETARY OF STATE.--This is second only in importance to
the Presidency. It is the duty of this officer to direct correspondence
with foreign courts, instruct the foreign ministers, negotiate
treaties, &c. Of the 16 who have hitherto filled that office, 10 have
been from the slave States, and 6 from the free.

appointment of all committees, and exerts an immense influence on the
legislation of the country. During 31 of the 34 years from 1811 to 1845
the Speakers were all slave-holders.

The slave power, having thus the whole machinery of government under
its control, can at any time bring all the resources of the nation to
bear upon the preservation and extension of the "peculiar institution."
While Florida, for instance, belonged to Spain, it furnished an asylum
for runaway slaves from the neighbouring States. It must therefore be
purchased by the Union, and five millions of dollars were paid for it.
Still the native Indians, those children of the forest, afforded a
shelter to fugitives from slavery. They must therefore be either
exterminated or exiled. A war was waged against them. They were driven
from the homes of their fathers, and the negroes among them hunted and
shot like wild beasts. At the urgent recommendation of Zachary
Taylor--the person who in March next will doubtless mount the
presidential chair--blood-hounds were purchased as AUXILIARIES to the
army, at a cost of five thousand dollars; and blood-hounds and
soldiers and officers marched together under the "star-spangled banner"
in pursuit of the panting fugitives from Southern oppression. In this
expedition they captured 460 negroes, each one at the cost of the lives
of two white men, and at a further expense of at least eighty thousand
dollars per head. The whole outlay of the war was _forty millions of
dollars_, most of which was drawn from the pockets of Northern people.

The Annexation of Texas and the Mexican War--all for the perpetuation
and extension of slavery--are fresh in your remembrance.

And here I quit the land of "The Bond and the Free."

"Nineveh, Babylon, and ancient Rome
Speak to the present times, and times to come:
They cry aloud in every careless ear,
'Stop, while you may; suspend your mad career;
Oh! learn from our example and our fate,--
Learn wisdom and repentance ere too late.'"

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