CHAPTER I -- Slavery.
The greatest social and political problems of the world connect themselves more or less intimately with the subject of labor. A people who regard work as degradation, though arts and letters flourish among them, are but emerging from barbarism. It has been sometimes said, with much truth, that the grade of civilization in a nation may be measured by the position which it accords to woman. A stricter test is the degree of estimation in which labor is held there.
Our race in its gradual advance from ignorance and evil to comparative knowledge and good, has not yet, even in countries the most favored, outlived an error fatal to true progress. Sometimes avowedly, more often practically, a certain stigma still attaches to human labor--to that labor from which, in one shape or other, the world receives everything of good, of useful, of beautiful, that charms the senses or ministers to the wants of man; to which we owe life, and everything that makes life desirable.
According to the structure of society in each country this error is modified in form. In certain nations of continental Europe the great line of social demarcation is drawn between the titled classes, whether noble by birth or ennobled by royal creation, constituting the privileged and all other persons, including merchants, though wealthy, and lawyers, though eminent, and authors, though popular, constituting the unprivileged. More liberal England begins to admit within the pale the distinguished and successful among the professional classes, and from the mercantile and literary ranks we ourselves, professing to honor industry and talking occasionally of the nobility of labor, have opened somewhat wider, but only throughout a portion of our Republic, the door which admits within the precincts of respectability.
Only throughout a portion of our Republic--in fifteen of these United States--the opinions, the feelings, the practice of the inhabitants, as regards laborers and labor itself, have been more perverted, have been less civilized than in the most despotic countries of Europe. In these States the class of working husbandmen has been degraded, both as regards civil rights and social position, below the pariahs of India. This cannot happen in any nation without producing results fatal alike to its prosperity and to the moral worth and essential dignity of its population. The only doubt as to these results is, whether their influence has been more pernicious on the enslavers or on the enslaved.
The introduction into our hemisphere of this terrible element of social demoralization was almost coeval with its discovery by Europeans. It was in October of the year 1492 that Columbus first landed; and it was just eight years afterward, in the month of October, 1500, that Francis de Bobadilla was guilty of two outrages: One, the sending home in chains of the great discoverer; the other, the reducing to bondage of the gentle islanders whose fair land he discovered. Bobadilla "granted liberal donations of Indians to all who applied for them."
The first year of the sixteenth century saw introduced into America that baneful system, abhorrent to Christian civilization, which was to spread and to gather numbers and strength and influence, until, after more than three centuries and a half of evil growth, it was to bring a million of combatants into the field, to sacrifice, on the field of battle, hundreds of thousands of lives and thousands of millions of treasure.
There is scarcely a page in history so replete with horrors as that which records the inception of slavery in this hemisphere. That terrible abuse caused, in an incredibly short period, the extinction of a race--a race whom all the historians of that day concur in representing as the most kind and inoffensive and hospitable of mankind. Gold must be had. Columbus had been disgraced because he had failed to send home a sufficiency of it. His successors resolved to escape that imputation. The mines must be worked, and the forced labor of the feeble natives was employed to work them.
After a time royal sanction was obtained for the act. Isabella, just, if severe, who had issued orders that the Indians should be free from servitude and from molestation, died in 1504; and in 1511 Ferdinand issued a decree of his privy council declaring that "after mature consideration of the Apostolic Bull and other titles by which the crown of Castile claimed the right to its possessions in the New World, the servitude of the Indians was warranted both by the laws of God and man."
Thus was legalized that system of repartimientos, under which there had been previously assigned to each Spaniard, by an order on some cazique, a certain number of natives, who were to be instructed in the Catholic faith. What the character of their masters and teachers was may be gathered from the fact that Columbus himself had recommended the transportation to Hispaniola of malefactors convicted of the less atrocious capital crimes. "The prisons of Spain," says Robertson, "were drained to collect members for the intended colony."
We are not left to imagine the fate of the helpless wretches confided to such hands. Irving tells us:
They (the Indians) were separated the distance of several days' journey from their wives and children, and doomed to intolerable labor of all kinds, extorted by the cruel infliction of the lash. * * * "When the Spaniards who superintended the mines were at their repasts," says Las Casas, "the famished Indians scrambled like dogs for any bone thrown to them. * * * If they fled from this incessant toil and barbarous coercion and took refuge in the mountains, they were hunted like wild beasts, scourged in the most inhuman manner, and laden with chains to prevent a second escape."
Las Casas' terrible history is full of horrors of which he himself was eyewitness. "I have found," says he, "many dead in the road, others gasping under the trees, and others, again, in the pangs of death, faintly crying, 'Hunger! hunger!'"
"So intolerable," says Washington Irving, "were the toils and suffering inflicted upon this weak and unoffending race that they sank under them, dissolving, as it were, from the face of the earth."
There is no exaggeration in this statement, incredible if it seem. Robertson confirms it, giving some general statistics on the subject. He tells us:
The original inhabitants, on whose labor the Spaniards in Hispaniola depended for their prosperity and even their existence, wasted so fast that the extinction of the whole race seemed to be inevitable. When Columbus discovered Hispaniola the number of its inhabitants was computed to be at least 1,000,000. They were reduced to 60,000 in fifteen years.
This was in 1507. Scarcely half a generation had elapsed since Europeans had found these people weak and ignorant indeed, but simple, cheerful, and happy; and in that brief period so atrocious had been the cruelty of their treatment that 94 out of every 100 of these victims sank and perished under it.
But the picture in all its blackness is not yet filled up. The deaths had increased with such frightful rapidity that the common operations of life were arrested thereby. The dead laborers had to be replaced by fresh victims. And then it was that, as the culmination of enormities that have left an indelible stain on the Spanish name, an expedient was resorted to, in the conception of which, to inhuman barbarity, treachery and blasphemy were superadded.
This infamous expedient is ascribed to Ovando. At all events, under his governorship, in 1508, the king (Ferdinand) "was advised," says Herrera, "that the Lucayo Islands, being full of people, it would be convenient to carry them over to Hispaniola that they might be instructed in the Christian religion and civilized." Ferdinand, perhaps deceived by this artifice, more probably willing to connive at an act of violence which policy represented as necessary, gave his assent to the proposal. Herrera informs us in what manner it was carried into effect:
The Spaniards who went in the first ships told these people that they came from Hispaniola, where the souls of their parents, kindred, and friends lived at their ease; and if they would go see them they should be Carried over in these ships. For it is certain that the Indian nations believed that the soul is immortal, and that when the body was dead it went to certain places of delight, where it wanted for nothing that might give it satisfaction.
"That simple people," says Robertson, "listened with wonder and credulity; and fond of visiting their relatives and friends in that happy region, followed the Spaniards with eagerness. By this artifice over 40,000 were decoyed into Hispaniola to share in the sufferings which were the lot of the inhabitants of that island, and to mingle their groans and tears with that wretched race of men."
By this expedient the number of Indians in Hispaniola was raised to 100,000. But the work of human destruction went on. Nine years later, to wit, in 1517, Roderigo Albuquerque, being appointed principal officer to distribute the repartimientos, caused an enumeration of the Indians to be made. The number was found to be reduced to 14,000. Six-sevenths had perished in nine years! The survivors were put up to sale in different lots. The secrets of their prison house what tongue can ever reveal?
Such was the first advent in this hemisphere of that system under which human labor is stigmatized as a degradation. The mind cannot realize--the imagination shrinks from conceiving--the atrocious barbarities to which such a system must have given birth ere a race of men could have perished in a single generation before it; a terrible attestation to the immeasurable sufferings that may result from a single great crime. Well has De Tocqueville said:
There is one calamity which penetrated furtively into the world, and which was at first scarcely distinguishable amidst the ordinary abuses of power. It originated with an individual whose name history has not preserved; it was wafted like some accursed germ upon a portion of the soil; but it afterward nurtured itself, grew without effort, and spread naturally with the society to which it belonged. This calamity is slavery. Christianity suppressed slavery, but the Christians of the sixteenth century re-established it, as an exception, indeed, to their social system, and restricted to one of the races of mankind.
That another race was not subjected to it; that the Indians of Hispaniola and of the adjacent islands escaped perpetual servitude, is due, not to the forbearance of their oppressors, but to the tender mercies of death--the great liberator.
An incident, to which is popularly ascribed the first substitution of the African negro for the native of Hispaniola--the first introduction, therefore, into our hemisphere of that race who were to be thenceforth, for centuries, branded with the mark of Cain--may teach us how humanity, in her aberrations sometimes, with the best intentions, aids in laying broad the foundations of misery and of crime.
Bartolomeo de las Casas, a Dominican monk, had accompanied Columbus on his second voyage. A man of eminent benevolence and quick sensibilities, the sufferings of the down-trodden Indians produced upon him a profound impression. After spending many years in Hispaniola in fruitless efforts to ameliorate the condition of the natives, he returned to Spain previously to the death of Ferdinand, was favorably received by that monarch and by his minister, the Cardinal Ximenes, and succeeded in procuring the appointment of three superintendents of the colonies, to whom he himself was joined, with the well-earned title of "Protector of the Indians." The mission, however, was of small avail. The Spaniards of Hispaniola opposed every obstacle, representing that without compulsion the Indians would not labor, and that without their labor the colony could not subsist. Finding no countenance in the island, Las Casas again returned to Spain, where he arrived shortly before the death of Ximenes, and found Charles V successor of Ferdinand.
Then it was, after a vain endeavor to procure the freedom of the aborigines, that Las Casas, thinking that a hardier race than they would suffer less as slaves, recommended to Ximenes the policy of supplying the labor market of Hispaniola with negroes from the Portuguese settlements on the African coast.
This, though affirmed by Robertson, following Herrera, is denied by several modern authors of repute. But the simple fact that Las Casas did make such a proposal, though not until after a certain number of African slaves had been imported into the New World, is beyond denial, seeing that it has been stated, and nobly atoned for, so far as frank acknowledgment of error can atone, by Las Casas himself, writing his own history shortly before his death, in that retirement to which, after years of fruitless exertion in behalf of the suffering natives, he betook himself. These, literally translated, are his words:
This advice, that license be given to bring negro slaves to these lands, the ecclesiastic Casas first gave, not taking note of the injustice with which the Portuguese seize them and make them slaves; which advice, after he had reflected on the matter, he would not have given for all he possessed in the world, for he always held that they were made slaves unjustly and tyranically, seeing that the same rule applies in their case as in that of the Indians.
Ximenes, whether from motives of policy or humanity, rejected Las Casas' proposal, dying soon after.
Las Casas renewed the proposal, after Ximenes' death, to the ministers of Charles, by whom it was more favorably received. And the officers of the "India House of Seville" having recommended 4,000 as the proper number to be sent, the young King acted upon the recommendation. In accordance with the monopoly-favoring policy of that age, Charles granted to one of his Flemish favorites a patent for the importation into the colonies of 4,000 negro slaves. That patent was sold to a company of Genoese merchants, who, about the year 1517, carried it into effect.
This, as regards America, was the germ of a traffic, the foulest blot on the history of Christendom; a traffic carried on, in defiance of law, human and divine, to exempt from labor one race of men at expense of brutal degradation to another; a traffic that has brought upon the American hemisphere a moral curse worse than war, pestilence, or famine, and which, as to every nation that persists in it, leads--ever must lead--sooner or later, by one way or another, to national ruin. For well has Augustin Cochin said, "Over the entire surface of the globe the races who compel others to labor without laboring themselves fall to decay."
The statistical details are lacking which might enable us to form a strictly accurate numerical estimate of the victims to this detestable trade, the operations of which extended through three centuries and a half; diminishing, however, during the last quarter of a century, and soon, we may confidently hope, to cease forever. An approximating estimate of the number of negroes transported to America is all that can now be obtained.
The assientos, treaties, or contracts of the Spanish Government for the supply of its American colonies with slaves, commencing in 1517, were occasionally granted through the sixteenth century and multiplied in the seventeenth and eighteenth. Some were to individuals, some to companies, some to governments.
Nothing more strongly marks the character of these treaties for the delivery of human beings than the terms employed in wording them. An assiento was granted in 1696 to the Portuguese Guinea Company, by which that company bound itself to deliver to Spain in her transAtlantic colonies 10,000 tons of negroes. England, to designate the human chattels she agreed to supply, employed a term such as vendors of broadcloth or calico might use. By treaty with Spain, bearing date March 26, 1713, his Britannic Majesty undertook to introduce into Spanish America 114,000 pieces of India, of both sexes and all ages. These various treaties, concluded in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, contained not one article, not a single provision of any kind for the humane treatment or for the protection from outrage of the human merchandise therein stipulated to be delivered.
The extent of these treaties and their lucrative character to the Spanish Crown may be gathered from the following:
A single Government, Spain, which assumes the name of Catholic, concluded in less than two centuries more than ten treaties to authorize, protect, and profit by the transportation of more than half a million of human beings. It levied on each of these human heads, reckoning them by the piece or by the ton, a tax which amounted in the aggregate to upward of 50,000,000 francs (say $10,000,000).
The above treaties were with England, France, and Portugal, the grants to individuals and to companies not being included.
In the middle of the eighteenth century the English slave-trade, which, up to that time, had been more or less of a monopoly, was thrown open. Statute 93, George II (that is, in 1750), c. 31, after reciting that the "African slave-trade is very advantageous to Great Britain," enacts that "it shall be lawful for all His Majesty's subjects to trade and traffic to and from any port or place in Africa, between the port of Sallee, in South Barbary, and the Cape of Good Hope."
Great Britain, the first to abolish this infamous traffic, was, previous to its abolition, the most extensively engaged in it. Her connection with it, the manner and extent to which it was conducted, together with many statistical details, imperfect indeed, but instructive as far as they go, are set forth in a ponderous folio volume, published by official authority in the year 1789, being a "Report of the Lords of the Committee of Council, appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to trade and foreign plantations, submitting to His Majesty's consideration the evidence and information they have collected in consequence of His Majesty's order in council, dated February 11, 1788, concerning the present state of the trade to Africa, and particularly the trade in slaves; and concerning the effects and consequences of this trade, as well in Africa and the West Indies as to the general commerce of this kingdom."
There can be no safer document than this from which to draw information such as it contains. The lords composing this committee of council gave the slave-holders the most ample opportunity to state their case, both by testimony and argument. Three-fourths at least of the witnesses examined are slave-dealers, or captains of slavers. They admit also, it is true, testimony and documentary evidence (especially as to deaths of sailors on slave ships) offered by the celebrated Thomas Clarkson; but they scrupulously abstained from all opinions in regard to the slave-trade and from all recommendations or suggestions touching its abolition. In this volume we find two estimates as to the number of negroes then annually carried to the American colonies; the first puts it at 80,000 annually; the second, containing a detailed estimate of slaves annually sold at sixteen different points on the African coast, sums up 74,000. Of these, one-half are said to be procured on the Gold Coast, at Bonny and New Calabar, and at Loango, Melimba, and Cabenda; about 38,000 set down as purchased by the British, 20,000 by the French, 10,000 by the Portuguese, and the rest by the Danes and Dutch.
It would appear from a statistical table given in another part of the same volume that these estimates fall short of the truth. This table gives the total number of vessels sailing annually from Liverpool, from the year 1751 to the year 1787, distinguishing the slavers and giving their tonnage, from which it appears that about one-tenth of all the vessels that sailed from that port during the above thirty-six years were engaged in the slave-trade, and that their tonnage ran up from a little over 5,000 tons in 1751 to about 15,000 in 1786 and 1787. But, as we shall show hereafter, the number of slaves carried averaged over two to a ton; consequently British ships front the port of Liverpool alone carried upward of 30,000 annually.
Another table shows that the tonnage of African slavers from all the ports of Great Britain was, in 1787, 22,263 tons. Consequently the annual number of slaves transported to America, at that time, in British bottoms, was upward of 45,000, instead of 38,000, as estimated. In this proportion the total estimate, including vessels of all countries, would be run up to nearly 90,000 slaves a year. The figures seem to indicate that even this is below the actual number.
The calculations produced before the French Committee of Inquiry of 1848 place the number of slaves exported from 1788 to 1840 at from 100,000 to 140,000 a year, and from 1840 to 1848 at from 50,000 to 80,000.
The rate after 1848 continued to diminish. Nevertheless, in 1860 it was still nearly 30,000 a year.
These figures enable us to calculate with approximate accuracy the extent of the slave-trade from 1788 to 1860; that is to say, for the seventy-two last years of its course, thus:
Annual deportation of slaves from the year 1788 to the year 1840--say, fifty-two years,
at an average of 120,000 a year
6,240,000 Annual deportation of slaves from 1840 to 1848---say, eight years,
at an average of 65,000 a year
520,000 Annual deportation of slaves from 1848 to 1860---say, twelve years,
at an average of 30,000 a year
360,000 Total in seventy-two years 7,120,000
What annual rate we ought to assume as a fair average for the two centuries preceding 1788, during which, as Cochin reminds us, "all Europe abandoned itself openly to the negro slave-trade," it is somewhat difficult to determine. In the report by the Lords of the Committee of Council, already referred to, is a table showing the annual importation of slaves throughout seventy-four years of that period (namely, from 1702 to 1775, both inclusive) into a single English colony, to wit, the island of Jamaica. The total is 497,736, being an average of 6,726 a year. Nor is there a regular increase, for in the decade from 1720 to 1730 there were as many imported as in the last ten years of the term, the average for each of the years in either decade being about 7,700.
But we shall hereafter furnish proof that to the number of slaves delivered in the colonies we must add at least 25 per cent. to obtain the number shipped on the African coast. This would bring up the annual average exported from Africa for Jamaica to 8,407.
If we assume the total deportation of slaves from Africa in the year 1788 to have been 100,000, which is the French committee's lowest estimate for any year from 1788 to 1840, and if we suppose that there were annually exported during each year of the two centuries preceding 1788 two-fifths only of that number, say 40,000, we shall be assuming the annual total throughout these two centuries at less than five times the number that we know to have been annually exported during seventy-four years of that period to supply the single island of Jamaica. So far as, at this distance of time and with the scanty materials before us, one can judge, the estimate is a moderate one.(a)
Previous to the year 1588--that is to say, for eighty years after the beginning of the negro slave-trade in 1518--the true average is still more uncertain. The Spanish assientos of that period were usually for the delivery of from 3,000 to 5,000 negroes annually. Let us assume the entire slave-trade by all nations during that period at 5,000 negroes only for each year.
Adopting the data above suggested we obtain the following general results:
Total deportation of negroes by the slave-trade from the year 1518 to the year 1860.
From 1518 to 1588, 80 years [sic], at an average of 5,000 a year 400,000 From 1588 to 1788, 200 years, at an average of 40,000 a year 8,000,000 From 1788 to 1860, 72 years, as already estimated 7,120,000 Total in 342 years 15,520,000
Upward of fifteen millions and a half of human beings forcibly torn from their native country, and doomed to perpetual slavery--themselves and their offspring--in a foreign land (b)
(a) By a table, already referred to (Part IV, No. 1), in the report of the Lords of Council, it appears that as early as 1701 104 British vessels were employed in the slave-trade. The number, however, varied very widely in different years, the lowest number (in 1715) being but 24, and the highest (in 1771) being 192. The table was obtained from the inspector-general of imports and exports.
(b) The Commission have endeavored in the above estimate to avoid error, except it be on the side of moderation. Very reputable authorities put the importations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries considerably higher than we have assumed them. Bancroft, who appears to have carefully investigated the matter, says:
"The English slave-trade began to attain its great activity after the Assiento Treaty. (That treaty was dated March 26, 1713.) From 1680 to 1700 the English took from Africa about 300,000 negroes, or about 15,000 a year. The number during the continuance of the assiento may be averaged not far from 30,000. (It continued for thirty years, to wit, from 1713 to 1744.) Raynal considers the number of negroes exported by all European nations from Africa before 1776 to have been 9,000,000, and the considerate German historian of the slave-trade, Albert Hüne, deems his statement too small. A careful analysis of the colored population of America at different periods, and the inference to be deduced from the few authentic records of the numbers imported, corrected by a comparison with the authentic products of slave labor, as appearing in the annals of English commerce, seem to prove beyond a doubt that even the estimate of Raynal is larger than the reality." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol. 3, p. 412.)
Raynal's estimate, thought too low by Hüne, is 9,000,000 up to 1776, and, as the exportations averaged about 80,000 a year from 1776 to 1788, that would give 1,000,000 more, bringing his calculations up to 10,000,000 if extended to 1788. But our estimate as above, up to that year, is but 8,400,000; that is, upward of 1,500,000, or just 16 per cent. below Rayhal's.
Bancroft thinks that we shall not err much if in the century previous to 1776 we assume the number imported by the English to have been 3,000,000. But the Commission have assumed the total imported by all nations in the two centuries preceding 1788 to have been 8,000,000. Bancroft estimates importation in a single century by one nation only at 3,000,000. We estimate importation in two centuries by all nations at 8,000,000. The probability will be conceded that the former estimate is at a higher rate, in proportion, than the latter.
But we cannot attain to a just conception of the aggregate of evil and suffering produced by this gigantic outrage upon human rights, nor of the loss of life attendant thereon, without considering, first, the mode in which slaves were supplied to the European traders; secondly, the manner in which they were transported to their destination, and thirdly, the result, especially in its influence on population in the slave colonies.
As to the two first subjects, the report of the Lords of Council unimpeachable testimony furnishes many suggestive particulars. It is proved, in the first place, that the sources whence slaves were obtained on the African coast were:
First, As prisoners of war.
The evidence as to this source of supply was obtained from almost all the witnesses who had visited the African coast.
Major-General Rooke said: "When a ship arrived to purchase slaves, the King of Derneh sent to the chiefs of the villages in his dominions to send him a given number; but if they were not to be procured on this requisition, the King went to war till he got as many as he wanted." During his stay at Gorée of four or five months he heard of two battles being fought for slaves.
Capt. T. Wilson, employed on the business of Government in 1783 and 1784, states as to the Kingdom of Derneh: "When they were at war they made prisoners and sold them, and when they were not at war they made no scruple of taking any of their own subjects and selling them, even whole villages at once. * * * He has been told that the King of Derneh can bring 70,000 or 80,000 men into the field."
Captain Hills: "There was scarcely an evening in which he did not see people go out in war dresses to obtain slaves from the neighboring villages." This was at Gorgée.
"The manner in which Sir George Yonge understood that slaves became so is, first, as prisoners of war, and these, he thinks, are the greatest number." This was in Senegal and Gambia, "but the same account was given to him all along the coast."
The Rev. Mr. Newton: "The greater number of slaves are captives made in war."
Mr. Dalrymple says: "One of the modes of making slaves adopted by the kings and great men is by breaking up a village; that is, setting fire to it and seizing the people as they escape. This occurs sometimes in a neighbor's territory; more frequently in their own. The practice is notorious."
The witness speaks of Gambia and countries adjoining.(a) Another mode of procuring slaves is akin to this. They are "panyared," to employ the phrase of the country; that is, kidnaped by individuals.
Dr. A. Sparrman, inspector of the Royal Museum at Stockholm and a traveler in the interior of Africa, deposed: "They seize one another in the night, when they have an opportunity, and sometimes invite each other to their houses and there detain and sell them to the European traders. * * * The number of persons so kidnaped is considerable. He himself witnessed two instances."
Mr. Falconbridge, a slave-trader, testifies: "On the windward coast the negroes are afraid of stirring out at night lest they be kidnaped. A woman, big with child, told him she was caught as she was returning from a neighbor's house."
Mr. Devoynes says, speaking of the Gold Coast: "The greater part of the slaves are brought from the interior. They are sold from hand to hand, and many of them come from a great distance--it is said from 800 to 900 miles."
The next source of supply is the selling of criminals. The universal testimony is that the chief crimes for which they are sold are adultery, theft, and witchcraft; sometimes for murder; occasionally they are sold for debt. Some stake their liberty in gambling and are sold if they lose.
Admiral Edwards said:
Adultery is the crime for which they are most usually sold. In this case the person offended has a claim not only to the man and woman offending, and to all their property, but also to their family and slaves.
Theft is common among them. One witness, Mr. Dalzell, testifies that he purchased a son of his father, who sold him to avoid the punishment which the son had incurred for stealing from a white man, which, the witness adds, "is never pardoned." This was in the Kingdom of Dahomey.
A witness (Mr. Weaver) explained that "they understand by witchcraft the power of doing mischief by supernatural means." Another witness (Mr. Matthews) testifies that having refused to purchase a man suspected of witchcraft, who was offered to him for sale, "they tied a stone around his neck and threw him into the sea."
The Rev. Mr. Baggs, chaplain to Commodore Thompson during two voyages (in 1783 and 1784), says of the African coast generally:
The revenue of the kings of the country depends on the sale of slaves. They therefore strain every nerve to accuse and condemn. Their codes of law are made subservient to the slave-trade.
Mr. Penny deposes:
Some are made slaves in consequence of gaming, of which they are very fond. They stake themselves--first a leg, then an arm, lastly the head, and when they have lost that they surrender themselves as slaves. If a man stake and lose a leg only, he continues gambling until he has lost the whole of himself, or is cleared.
There is no evidence that slaves are bred for sale. The concurrent testimony is against it.
There is abundant testimony in proof that as to negroes offered for sale as slaves and rejected by the slave-dealers on account of their state of health or otherwise, their fate was usually a sad one. Even delay in the market often caused their death.
The Rev. Mr. Baggs said "he had proof that when marauding parties come with their booty in slaves to the coast and find no vessels, they kill the slaves because of the expense of sending them back."
Mr. Falconbridge, a slave-trader, said "he had seen slaves who were offered for sale and refused cruelly beaten."
Mr. Penny, who had made eleven voyages as captain of slavers, deposes: "He has been repeatedly informed that slaves brought for sale, and rejected by the slave-dealers on account of disease or otherwise, are destroyed as not worth their food."
Sir George Yonge "saw a beautiful child, about five years old, brought from the Bullam shore, opposite Sierra Leone. As the child was too young to be an object of trade, the persons who had him to sell gave him no food and threatened to throw him into the river. Sir George, to save his life, offered a quarter cask of Madeira for him, which was accepted; brought him to England and made a present of him to the Marquis of Lansdowne. He understood this child had been kidnaped."
Mr. Arnold, surgeon on board a slaver, testified:
One day a woman with a child in her arms was brought to us to be sold. The captain refused to purchase her, not wishing to be plagued with a child on board. So she was taken back to shore. On the following morning she was again brought to us, Out without the child and apparently in great sorrow. The black trader admitted that the child had been killed in the night to accommodate the sale.
What a lifting of the veil upon a terrible series of atrocities is there even in these brief extracts, coldly and dispassionately worded as they are! For what a catalogue of crimes were they responsible who sent slavers to the African coast? What wars have they not stirred up? What murders instigated? What temptations have they not presented to the cupidity of savage sovereign and subject alike? If the King of Dahomey or some other royal barbarian perverted criminal law to obtain convictions as a source of revenue; if a black trader put to death the infant that the mother might be salable, who were, the tempters to such acts? Who the original authors of this wickedness? The horrors of the middle passage were surpassed by those that necessarily preceded it.
The ministers of the British Crown 'cannot be accused of sentimentalism. They are no declaimers; no propagandists; no extremists in speculative philanthropy. Their humanity is tempered with moderation and suggested by official evidence. Yet with what perseverance have they labored even to the present day, after themselves abolishing the slave-trade in 1807, to procure its subsequent abolition by all civilized nations. Within twenty-five years, to wit, between 1818 and 1842, they concluded twenty-three treaties on the subject--with Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Naples, Tuscany, Sardinia, the Hanse Towns, the United States, Hayti, Texas, Mexico, Colombia, New Granada, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Buenos Ayres, Chili, Peru, and Bolivia.
Lord Palmerston, speaking in the House of Lords in 1844, gave some of the reasons which stirred the government to move in this matter. He said:
The negroes destined for the slave-trade are not taken from the neighborhood where they are embarked; a great number come from the interior. Many are captives made in wars excited by thirst for the gain procured by the sale of the prisoners. But the greatest number arise from kidnaping expeditions and an organized system of man-stealing in the interior of Africa.
When the time approaches to set out with the slave caravans for the coast, the kidnapers surround a peaceful village at night, set it on fire, and seize on the inhabitants, killing all who resist. If the village attacked is situated on a mountain offering facilities for flight, and the inhabitants take refuge in the caverns, the kidnapers kindle large fires at the entrance, and those who are sheltered there, placed between death by suffocation and slavery, are forced to give themselves up. If the fugitives take refuge on the heights, the assailants render themselves masters of all the springs and wells, and the unfortunates, devoured by thirst, return to barter liberty for life. The prisoners made, they proceed to the choice. The robust individuals of both sexes, and the children above six or seven years of age, are set aside to form part of the caravan, which is to be driven to the sea-shore. They rid themselves of the children under six years by killing them on the spot, and abandon the aged and infirm, thus condemning them to die of hunger. The caravan sets out. Men, women, and children traverse the burning sands and rocky defiles of the mountains of Africa barefoot and almost naked. The feeble are stimulated by the whip; the strong are secured by chaining them together or placing them under a yoke; many fall from exhaustion on the road, and die or become the prey of wild beasts. On reaching the sea-shore, they are penned up and crowded together in buildings called barracoons, where they fall a prey to epidemics; death often cruelly thins their ranks before the arrival of a slave-trader.
Lord Palmerston's general deduction from these and other facts connected with the trade is contained in the same speech. "It is calculated" he says, "that of three negroes seized in the interior of Africa, to be sent into slavery, but one reaches his destination, the two others die in the course of the operations of the slave-trade. Whatever may be the number yearly landed, therefore, we must triple it to obtain the true number of human beings which this detestable traffic annually carries off from Africa." A portion of the facts which form the data of such a calculation remain to be considered--the manner, namely, of stowing and of treating negroes in slave ships, and the mortality thence resulting.
The report of the Lords in Council, from which we have already so copiously quoted, furnishes evidence the most exact and conclusive as to the space commonly allowed to slaves during their passage.
The vessels employed were usually from 100 to 250 or 300 tons burden, averaging in early times little over 100 tons, but toward the end of the eighteenth century being of the capacity of 150 or 200 tons. The universal testimony is, that the average number carried per ton was two persons and upward.
John Anderson, master of slaver, conceives that two slaves to a ton cannot crowd a ship. Sir George Yonge (of the British Navy) says the usual allowance of space is two slaves to a ton, sometimes three. If two were allowed to a ton, he thought there would be room enough.
A bill had been introduced into Parliament which proposed to limit the number for each ton. Evidence was taken as to its effect, resulting as follows:
James Penny had made eleven voyages as captain of slaver. He was asked, "If the blank of the bill is filled with one and a half to a ton, will it, in your opinion, tend to the abolition of the trade?" Answer. "I am clearly of opinion that it will."
This witness handed in a table, of which the accuracy was afterward indorsed by Mr. Tarleton, a Liverpool merchant extensively engaged in the slave-trade, exhibiting the estimate of profit or loss on a vessel of 100 tons at different rates of slaves per ton. Here it is:
Ł s d At one man per ton, the loss is 590 1 0 At one man and a half per ton, the loss is 206 19 9 At two men per ton, the profit is 180 3 6 At two men and a half per ton, the profit is 761 5 6
James Jones, six years captain of a slaver, deposed: "If a ship of 200 tons does not purchase 400 slaves and more, she must certainly sink the owners' money." He was asked, "What measurement do the merchants allow for each slave?" Answer. "In a ship of 200 tons and under, merchants all carry more than two slaves to each ton." Being asked what width was allowed, at that rate, to each slave when stowed below, he answered: "A full-grown slave takes sixteen inches in width; smaller slaves, twelve to fourteen inches."
John Matthews, seventeen years in the slave-trade, was asked, "What space in length and breadth do you consider sufficient for the health and comfort of the negroes on board?" Answer. "The space they occupy when they lie on their backs is always considered sufficient for them." When asked for the number of inches, he at first refused to give it, saying he did not know; afterward he gave fourteen and two-third inches as a fair average.
Another slave captain (James Bowen) expressed a different opinion. He said: "The average number of slaves carried is two to a ton. * * * Is of opinion that the greatest number of slaves which a ship can carry consistent with their preservation is not above one per ten."
James Penny, a part of whose evidence has already been quoted, said: "The average allowance of width to a slave is fourteen and two-thirds inches."
Captain Parrey was sent to Liverpool by Government in 1788 to take the dimensions of ships employed in the African trade. A plan and sections are given of one of these, the Brooks, a ship of 297 tons burden, well known in the trade. The room said by her owners to be allowed for each slave was: For men, each, six feet by sixteen inches; for women, each, five feet ten inches by sixteen inches; for boys, each, five feet by fourteen inches; for girls, each, four feet six inches by twelve inches. At these rates Captain Parrey found that she could carry 470 slaves. But she did carry 607, being about two to a ton. This reduces the width actually allowed to the men to less than twelve inches and a half; and the rest in proportion.
What terrible glimpses of human suffering are furnished by these dry mathematical details. The slaver, to make money, must stow his human cargo with twelve to sixteen inches only of board for each to lie on. Lord Palmerston, speaking of African slave ships, strikingly says: "A negro has not as much room in them as a corpse in a coffin."
As the witnesses examined by the Lords in council were, for the most part, masters or surgeons of slavers or merchants engaged in the trade, the results of this frightful system only occasionally came to light. The slaves, thus stowed away like so much inanimate cargo, often felt their lives so grievous a burden that they attempted suicide, sometimes by throwing themselves overboard, sometimes by refusing all food. To prevent the first mode of self-destruction, as well as to avoid the dangers of insurrection, the men slaves were always put in irons, fastened two and two, the "chains being locked at different intervals to the deck,"(b) and when released and brought on deck, as they were every fine day, were compelled, by fear of the lash, to exercise--to dance, as the phrase of the trade was--in their fetters. As to the second mode of suicide, by self-inflicted starvation, its frequency rendered it an object of suspicion and of punishment. Captain Hull, a slave-trader, deposes: "Has known instances of slaves being punished for not eating, supposed to be from stubbornness, when in reality it was from indisposition; and in some instances the slaves so punished have been found dead next morning."
The women and children were not chained, and had usually more liberty than the men. But a surgeon of a slaver (Mr. James Arnold) thus indicates the spirit in which they were sometimes treated: "When the women were sitting by themselves below he had heard them singing, but always, at these times, in tears. Their songs contained the history of their separation from friends and country. These songs were so disagreeable to the captain that he has taken them up and flogged them in so terrible a manner for no other reason than this, that he (Mr. Arnold) has been a fortnight or three weeks in healing the incisions made."
In severe weather, when the slaves could not be brought on deck, the mortality was often frightful. An instance is stated of "a schooner which carried only 140 slaves meeting with a gale of wind which lasted eighteen hours, and losing, in that brief space of time, 50 slaves," upward of one-third of the whole number.
But worse misfortunes than storms sometimes overtook these poor wretches. Sir. William James testifies as follows: "In the year 1779, being master of the Hound, sloop-of-war, and coming from the bay of Honduras to Jamaica, he fell in, off the Isle of Pines, with two Liverpool Guineamen on the middle passage, commanded by Captains Ringmaiden and Jackson, who had very imprudently (but whether willfully or not he cannot say) missed the island of Jamaica. Captain Nugent gave them chase and came up with them. Mr. James upon boarding them found them in great distress, both on account of provisions and water. He asked the captains (for both of them were on board one ship) why they did not go into the watering place at the west end of the Isle of Pines (near Cuba). They replied, that 'they had attempted to get in, but got into shoal water.' He then asked them what they intended to have done with their slaves if they had not fallen in with the Hound. They replied, ' to make them walk the plank '--that is, to jump overboard. Mr. James asked them again why they did not turn a number of the slaves on shore at the Isle of Pines and endeavor to save the rest. They replied again 'that in such case they could not have recovered the insurance, and that the rest would have gotten on shore.'"
The supply of water usually taken appears to have been very scanty. The same witness, speaking of his experience on board the Britannia, says: "Their rooms were so hot and intolerable that they were continually calling out for water, and they generally came upon deck in a sweat. * * * They were served twice a day with water, which is given them in a pannikin of tin of such dimensions as to hold not quite half a pint." Dysentery and diseases of a similar character were common among them. The details, as furnished by eye-witnesses who have given their experience, are too loathsome for reproduction. Mr. Falcon-bridge, a surgeon in this trade, who published a work on this subject in 1789, after giving a minute description of the scene below, adds: "The deck or floor of their rooms resembled a slaughter-house. It is not in the power of the human imagination to picture to itself a situation more dreadful or disgusting. Numbers of the slaves fainted and were carried on deck, where some of them died, and the others were, with difficulty, restored. It had nearly proved fatal to me also."
That, under such a system, the average mortality should be very great can surprise no one. What the true average was is somewhat difficult to determine. That it was chiefly caused by the plan of packing human beings, sometimes for days and nights together, in a width of from twelve to sixteen inches each, is certain. The Rev. John Newton, who in early life had gone out as mate in a slaver, after stating that on his first voyage they buried one-third of the number taken, added that on a subsequent voyage they did not lose one "the only instance of the kind that was ever known," he admits. Being cross-questioned as to the probable cause of this exceptional result, he said it was to be ascribed to the fact that "with room for 220 slaves, the number for which his cargo was calculated, they carried 90 only."
The mortality was least from the windward coast, greatest from Bonny, Calabar, Benin, and Gaboon. Individual instances were frequently adduced by the witnesses in which it was about 5 per cent. Occasionally a witness alleges that to be the average, but this was in the windward trade. From the other points named they usually admit an average of 10 per cent. Mr. James Penny, eleven years a slave captain, speaking of the trade generally, said, "on an average he estimated (from his own experience and the best information he could collect) that the mortality was one-twelfth."
The only official table on this subject given in the Lords' Report indicates a much higher rate of mortality than that admitted by these slave-traders. This table is taken from the books of the Board of Trade. It exhibits the number of negroes shipped and the number delivered throughout nine years, namely, from 1680 to 1688, both inclusive, by the "African Company," and is from a statement made by the company itself. It is as follows:
A = Negroes shipped. C = Yearly loss. B = Negroes delivered. D = Average loss.
Years A B C D Percent Percent 1680 5,190 3,751 27 2/3 --- 1681 6,327 4,989 21 1/7 --- 1682 6,330 4,494 29 --- 1683 9,081 6,488 28 --- 1684 5,384 3,845 28 --- 1685 8,658 6,304 29 3/4 --- 1686 8,355 6,812 18 2/5 --- 1687 5,606 4,777 14 4/5 --- 1638 5,852 4,936 15 2/3 --- Total 60,783 46,394 --- 23 2/3
[Actual total-Ed.] Negroes delivered-46,396
The mortality, it will be observed, was 14,389 out of 60,783 shipped; that is 23 2/3 per cent. The results from an official table like this, presenting an average on so large a scale, are far more reliable than any deductions from isolated cases or individual testimony or opinion. The very witnesses who spoke of 5 per cent. as the usual loss, when pressed in cross-questioning, admitted far heavier losses to be of frequent occurrence, as John Newton, Archibald Dalzell, Thomas Eldred. This last admitted that on a single voyage he lost half his slaves and half his crew.
The great crime avenged itself on those who aided in its perpetration. The epidemics which prevailed among the slaves were often communicated to the sailors, exposed as they were on deck day and night, and daily employed in occupations the most infectious and revolting, cleansing the lower decks and the like.
Sir George Yonge says "a Guinea ship seldom returns with more than half her complement of sailors, and he believes the annual loss of seamen in that trade is equal to the manning of two ships of the line."
The celebrated Thomas Clarkson supplied to the Lords' committee evidence on this point. He submitted a table exhibiting the results as to eighty-eight slavers that returned to Liverpool in the years 1786 and 1787. It showed that out of 3,170 sailors shipped there came home but 1,428, less than one-half; 642 (about 20 per cent.) are recorded as having died. The rest had deserted or were left behind on account of sickness. Of those who returned many went to the hospital and never recovered their health.
Another table shows the deaths of seamen on 24 West Indiamen, in a single voyage, to have been 6, while in 24 slavers it was 216. The average number of seamen employed on slavers being 36 on each (as 3,170 on 88 vessels in the table just referred to), the above is a mortality of 216 out of 864, or just 25 per cent.
Mr. Clarkson shows by other tables that the loss of seamen on board slavers is twenty times as great in proportion to numbers as on board vessels in the Petersburg or Newfoundland or Greenland trade; and he adds an expression of his belief that "the annual loss of seamen in English slave-traders is greater than that in all other English trading vessels put together."
So odious did this service become that seamen could usually be obtained for it only by fraudulent means through crimps and landlords of sailors' boarding-houses, though two months' wages (instead of the usual month's pay) were offered in advance.
Upon the whole, it seems to be sufficiently established that the usual rate of mortality among seamen was not less than 25 per cent. for each voyage; that is, during one year, for the rule of the African slave-trade was one round voyage each year.
As to the mortality among the slaves, there seems no good reason why we should not adopt the rate of loss shown in the statement of the "African Company" as the average on 60,000 slaves shipped in their vessels, namely, 23 2/3 per cent.
But even to this terrible mortality a material item may have to be added:
Among the documents in the Lords' Report is a report presented December 12, 1788, by a committee of the Jamaica House of Assembly to that house.
This committee, desiring to avert the inferences as to ill-treatment of slaves, liable to be drawn from the great decrease of the slave population of the island, made inquiry "as to the number of new negroes that have perished in the harbors of this island between the time of their being reported at the customhouse and the day of sale, all which are reported in official books and returns as negroes actually imported." They found, from the examination of a negro factor (Mr. Lindo), that "out of 7,873 negroes consigned to him in the years 1786, 1787, and 1788, and reported at the customhouse, 363 died in the harbor of Kingston before the day of sale." This gives a mortality of about 4 2/3 per cent. on shipboard after entry and before landing.
It does not clearly appear from the table of the African Company whether by "negroes delivered" they mean those entered as arrived in the books of the office, or those actually offered for sale. If the former, then we have 4 2/8 per cent. to add to 22 2/3 per cent. furnished in the African Company's table; making an aggregate of 28 1/3 per cent. as the average mortality incident to the passage.
What shall we say of the estimates of those slave-dealers who would have us believe that the entire average mortality among slaves on the terrible middle passage amounted to but one-fifth of the mortality among the crews of slavers, and only to about the percentage which by official documents we find to have taken place after the close of the voyage during a few days' delay in harbor previous to disembarkation?
On the whole, whether this loss in harbor is to be added to the African Company's estimate or not, it may be confidently assumed that the mortality among slaves imported from the Eastern to the Western Hemisphere, estimated from the time of shipping to that of landing, did not fall short of from 20 to 25 per cent. Lest we exaggerate, however, let us put it at 20 per cent. only. (c)
(c) It may not be wholly unnecessary to remind the reader, if he be not familiar with the calculation of percentages, that if 20 per cent. of the negroes received on board be the number lost on the middle passage, while we must deduct that percentage from the total shipped to ascertain the number landed in the colonies, we must add not 20 but 25 per cent. to the number landed if we wish to obtain the number shipped. Thus, if the number of negroes shipped be 100, we obtain the number landed, namely, 80, by deducting 20 per cent. from 100; but to those 80 we must add 25 per cent. on 80 in order to obtain the original number shipped, namely, 100.
The term "middle passage" is not to be understood as designating the transoceanic route to the West Indies from any particular portion of the slave coast. "Middle passage, or mid-passage; the passage of a slave ship from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean." (Worcester's Dictionary.)
It is considered a bloody battle when 10 per cent. of the combatants engaged are killed or wounded. The loss at Gettysburg did not amount to so high a percentage. Nor even when that proportion of killed and wounded is reached does the ultimate mortality amount to 5 per cent.
Through what a frightful ordeal, then, were these poor wretches, during their incarceration of eight or ten weeks on board Christian-owned slavers, doomed to pass? Their ranks twice decimated in that brief period; their numbers, without regard to age or sex, thinned by death, as the numbers of soldiers passing through four sanguinary battles seldom are; not inspired, as the soldier may be, by zeal in a cause; not sustained, as the soldier in battle is, by hope of victory; their future dark, purposeless, despairing, as the prospect of pitiless slavery, ending only at death, could make it; what people, even under the harrow of pagan victory, were ever made to endure what they endured?
And this crime of one portion of God's creatures against another portion was committed not in the case of thousands, not even of millions only; it was committed through the persistent barbarities of three centuries and a half, in the case of tens of millions! When we consider the character of the means employed in Africa to fill up the slave cargoes; the wasting wars waged to procure prisoners; the marauding bands of kidnapers firing villages and killing all who resisted; the slaughter of those who were too young, and the abandonment of those who were too old or infirm to be marketable; the deaths on the long, desert journey; and again the pestilence-invaded barracoons; and yet again in the dungeons of the slave ship--when we reflect upon all these prolific sources of mortality we shall not be inclined to consider Lord Palmerston guilty of exaggeration when he calculated that we must treble the number of slaves actually landed in the colonies to find the total of persons who were consigned to death or slavery by the various operations of the trade from its inception in the Old World to its close in the harbors of the New.
But lest in this the British premier should have exaggerated, let us assume that the number of those who perished in Africa by slave wars, marauding murders, pestilence, and the extremity of hardship, previous to embarkation, was but equal to the number embarked. In other words, let us, to obtain the entire number of victims, lower the estimate to double the number only that were actually received on board slave ships. Then, according to our previous calculation, assuming the number shipped from Africa in the three and a half centuries through which this traffic lasted to have been 15,500,000, we have 31,000,000 as the total number of negroes who have been consigned to death or to foreign slavery that one race of men might live by the labor of another. Thirty-one millions! a portion of mankind equal in number to the entire inhabitants, Northern and Southern, white and colored, of the United States!
Of these 31,000,000 upward of 3,000,000 (a population equal to that of the United States when independence was declared) were east into the Atlantic, while less than 12,500,000 were landed in colonial ports and distributed to planters from the auction block.
Never in any three centuries of man's written history, was the violation of a great principle, alike in political economy, in national morals, and in the religion of Christ, followed by a succession of outrages against God's creatures--in numbers a vast nation--so openly sanctioned by public law and solemn treaty, so shamelessly countenanced by public opinion, yet so marked at every stage of its progress by those flagrant enormities which usually arouse loud-spoken indignation, even when they do not stir to practical reform, among mankind.
But we have raised the curtain on but the first two acts of the great tragedy, the scene being laid of the first in Africa, of the second in the prison-slaver. The third and last, opening on colonial plantations, remains to be glanced at. We must say a few words as to the treatment of those who survived death to become, in a foreign land, slaves and the progenitors of slaves.
The graphic recital of individual barbarities, authentic examples of which can be found without number, are best calculated to stir indignation; but a doubt may obtrude itself, in reading these, as to how far they constitute the rule, and how far they are to be taken as the exception only. Statistical details on a large scale, grave and dispassionate though their language be, addressed not to the heart but to the reason, carry with them a force of evidence far beyond that of individual example; a force of evidence against which sophistry strives in vain; which compels conviction, except when the mind is closed against all proof by the hermetic influence of prejudice.
We select an example of such evidence, based on official tables running through nearly three-quarters of a century, and bearing upon the character of slavery in the principal English colony in the West Indies. The character of England for humanity, as compared with that of other owners of slave colonies--Spain, France, Holland--is not below the average; and on that score the example may be assumed as fair.
To the Jamaica House of Assembly, convened by the Governor of the colony, August 6, 1702, a return was made of the negroes and stock then on the island. The number of slaves was 41,596.
In the report of the Lords in council, from which we have already so copiously extracted, is a table (c) giving the number of negroes annually imported into and exported from the island of Jamaica, from the year 1702 to the year 1775, both inclusive; that is, during seventy-four years.
Imported 497,736 Exported 137,014 Leaving an addition, by importation, to the negro
population of the island, in seventy-four year, of
These two items of 41,596 negroes in the island in 1702, and of 360,722 imported from Africa from that time up to 1775--together, 402,318--give the number of negroes who would have been in the island in 1775 if the population had neither augmented by natural increase nor diminished by mortality in the previous seventy-four years. But, in point of fact, this population of 402,318 was represented in 1775 by only 192,787 survivors. (a) It had diminished in three-quarters of a century by 209,531; that is, to less than one-half.
A similar table to that above referred to for Jamaica is given for the British West Indian colony next in importance, namely, the island of Barbadoes. It extends, however, over seventeen years only, namely, from 1764 to 1780, both inclusive. (b) It indicates a rate of decrease in the slave population far greater even than that in Jamaica. It appears from the table that in 1764 there were in the island 70,706 negroes; that there were imported in the next seventeen years, namely, up to 1780, 38,843, no importations of negroes in the last seven years of the period nor any exportations of them throughout the period being recorded. To 70,706 (the number in 1764) add 38,843 (the number imported in seventeen years) and we have 109,549 as the number of negroes who, if there had been no natural increase or decrease of population, would have been alive in 1780, but in that year there were but 68,270 alive on the island. At this rate of decrease the population would have diminished to one-half in twenty-three years.
But, to obtain general results, we must look to more comprehensive estimates than these. Unfortunately there are to be found no full statistical details which might enable us to calculate with accuracy the number of negroes and their descendants of mixed blood now on the Western Hemisphere. We know that there were in 1860 4,435,709 in the United States. (c)
We know that in the West Indies, including Guiana, there were emancipated by England, France, Denmark, Sweden, and Holland about 915,000 slaves; (d) and the usual estimate is, that to these should be added one-fifth to obtain the present colored population of these colonies. This would give 1,098,000--or say, in round numbers, 1,100,000---as the entire colored population of the West Indian colonies
(a) The Rev. Mr. Bridges, after quoting the table above given, and stating that after deducting the negroes exported from those imported, 360,722 were left for the supply of the island, adds that the number alive in 1775 was 192.787. (Work cited, Vol. 2, p. 456. )
A resident for years in Jamaica, Mr. Bridges had access, through the Duke of Manchester, Governor of the island, to all important official documents. An apologist of slavery, he may be trusted as to any evidence against it.
(b) Lords of Council Report, Part III, Barbadoes, Table A, No. 15.
(c) Preliminary Report of Eighth Census, p. 7.
(d) The total number emancipated was as follows:
England 770,390 France 248,560 Holland 45,000 Denmark 27,144 Sweden 531 Total 1,091,625
But of the slaves emancipated by England 102,363 were not in the Western Hemisphere, namely, at the Cape 35,700, and in the Mauritius 66,613. There were also among those liberated by France 74,501, in the Eastern Hemisphere, namely, in the island of Bourbon 60,651, in Senegal 10,350, and in Nossi-be 3,500. Deducting these two items of 102,363 and 74,501 from 1,091,625 we have 914,661 as the total of slaves emancipated in the West Indies, including Guiana.
of England, France, Holland, Denmark, and Sweden, (a) let us say in 1860.
The census returns of the Spanish West Indian colonies, still slave, are imperfect, and the several estimates of population in these islands vary widely. The most authentic estimates based on actual census returns make the slave and free colored population of Cuba, as late as 1853, a little more than half a million; (b) with a fair allowance for increase since that date, we may put it in 1860 at 530,000. Porto Rico, a flourishing and increasing colony, contained, by a census return of 1846, (c) 447,914 inhabitants, of whom about 54 per cent. were white, leaving about 206,000 colored. The rate of increase for the sixteen years preceding was a little upward of 2 per cent. a year. As but 50,000 or 55,000 of the colored people in this island are slaves, so that the gradual falling off of the slave-trade would not very seriously affect the population, we may suppose that some 25 per cent. (say 51,500) have been added since; making in all 257,500 for the entire colored population of Porto Rico.
This would give in the Spanish West Indian colonies a colored population in 1860 of 787,500.
We have not been able to find any official returns of the population of Hayti later than 1826. In 1890, in a "Memoire sup Saint Dominique,"
(a) This is probably a full estimate. There were freed in Jamaica 311,070 slaves, one-third of the whole number emancipated in the West Indies. But by the census of 1844 the total black and colored population of the island was but 361,657, having diminished in ten years nearly 20,000. Sewell (Ordeal of Free Labor in the British West Indies, New York, 1862, p. 245) says: "If the estimate of mortality by cholera and smallpox within a few years be correct, I do not believe, after making every allowance for a proper increase by birth, that the black and colored population of Jamaica exceeds at the present day 350,000." This is but 12 per cent. more than the number of slaves freed. If Cochin's estimate of the population of the West Indies be correct, there were in the British West Indian colonies in 1855 but 845,000, of whom between 140,000 and 150,000 were whites, leaving, say, 700,000 for the entire colored population. (Cochin, Tom. 1, p. 478 and pp. 366, 367.) But England emancipated in the West Indies 670,000 slaves (Cochin, Tom. 1, p. 367), or within 30,000 as many as comprised in 1855 (according to Cochin's estimate) the entire colored population in her West Indian colonies.
The addition to the number of slaves emancipated in the West Indies of one-fifth, or 20 per cent., to make up the total colored population, say in 1860, is evidently ample.
(b) I take these from a work published in 1855, entitled "Cuba," from the Spanish of Don J. M. de la Torre, edited by R. S. Fisher, statistical editor of Colton's Works. A table (p. 119) gives census returns at intervals from 1775. The three last are:
Year White Free colored
Slaves Total In 1846 425,767 149,226 323,759 898,752 In 1849 457,133 164,410 323,897 945,440 In 1853 501,988 176,647 330,425 1,009,060
In 1846 there were 472,982 [sic] free and slave; in 1853 there were 507,072, an increase in seven years of about 34,000. If (as the supplies from the slave-trade have been diminished) we put the increase since then at 43,000, we shall have 550,000 as the present total.
(c) Porto Rico, by J. T. O'Neil, edited by R. S. Fisher, 1855, has returns from an early date. The three last are:
1830 330,051 1834 358,836 1846 447,914
In the census of 1834 the whites were 54 per cent. of the whole population, the free colored being 35 per cent., and the slaves 11 per cent. The proportion of slaves at this time is said to be 9 per cent. only.
by Lieut. Gen. Baron Pamphile de Lacroix, the population of the island is put at 501,000, of whom only 1,000 are set down as white. (a) In 1825 M. Placide Justin estimates the population at 700,000. (b) But in 1826 Charles Mackenzie, British consul-general in Hayti, obtained an official population return, not published, which had recently been made to the Haytien Chamber of Commerce. It gives the population of each commune separately, making the total population of the island at that time 423,042. (c) This return Mr. Mackenzie considers more reliable than any other. It affords proof how little trustworthy are vague estimates of population, which usually overrun the truth, in consequence probably of the desire of a nation or its government, in the absence of an undeniable census, to represent its numerical strength as great as possible.
Some very partial returns of an authentic character, furnished by Mackenzie, (d) give the rate of natural increase in the population in certain communes at about three-quarters of 1 per cent. only per annum. But no trustworthy deductions can be made from returns so limited. The actual rate of increase from 1836  to 1860---thirty-four years--is probably double this, say 1 per cent. a year.
Allowing for omissions (e) and for Mackenzie's opinion that the census given, though the most reliable document he could obtain, may be an underestimate,(f) let us, instead of the total of 423,042, there given as the population in 1826, assume the black and colored population of Hayti in 1826 at Baron de Lacroix's estimate of 500,000, adding thereto, to bring it up to 1860, 1 per cent. a year for thirty-four years-that is, 51 per cent.--and we have the total negro and mulatto population of the island at 755,000. (g)
(a) The estimate is:
Blacks 480,000 Mulattoes 20,000 Whites 1,000 Total 501,000
(b) Notes on Hayti, by Charles Mackenzie, F. R. S., London, 1830, Vol. 2, p. 112.
(c) Notes on Hayti, above cited, Vol. 2, pp. 113, 114. The population is thus divided:
Population of the north, west, and south (late French part) of the island 351,819 Population of the east (Spanish part) 71,223 Total 423,042
(d) These returns show an annual excess of births over deaths of eighty on an average of five years, in the commune of Saint Jago, containing 11,056 inhabitants; and again, a similar excess of 75 per annum, on an average of six years, in the commune of Cape Haytien, on 12,151 inhabitants; in neither case reaching three-quarters of 1 per cent. (Notes on Hayti, Vol. 2, pp. 117, 119.)
(e) Grands Bois, the residence of the Maroons or refugee negroes, then inhabiting the mountains which stretch from the neighborhood of Mirebalais to the coast on the east of Jacmel, is omitted, as that wandering people could not be reached, so as to enumerate them. Their number at that time is commonly estimated at 6,000.
(f) Notes on Hayti, Vol. 2, p. 116.
(g) Victor Scho1cher, who in 1842 published Les Colonies Francaises, is the author of two volumes, published in 1843, entitled Colonies Etranngeres et Haiti. The spirit in which his works are written may be judged from the motto: "It would be as easy to regulate humanely assassination as slavery," and his opinions on Hayti are entitled to the more weight, as they-are the result of a personal visit to that island and exploration of its interior. He says:
"There has been no census taken for the last fifteen years. * * * Though children swarm in the cabins, those who speak in good faith concur in the admission that the population does not increase. The Government, indeed, puts the population at 800,000, but the general opinion is that it does not exceed 700,000." (Colonies Etrangeres et Haiti, Vol. 2, pp. 264, 265.)
This is the judgment of one whose book is a defense of the Haytiens and of their character, and who is evidently disposed to represent everything as favorably as truth will warrant. Colton's Descriptive Atlas (1863) gives the entire population of the island in 1860 at 708,500. Some others put it as high as from 800,000 to 900,000. Upon the whole, the data here brought together induce us to believe that these latter figures, like the government estimates to which Schölcher alludes, are an exaggeration; and that in estimating the colored population of the island in 1860 at 755,000 we are as likely to exceed the actual amount as to fall short of it. The number of whites in the island are scarcely worth reckoning.
Diligent search has convinced us that reliable documents as to the actual population of this island are not to be obtained.
As respects Central and South America, any estimate of the number of negroes and their descendants of mixed blood must be founded on data still more uncertain than those which relate to the West Indies. Not only are we without any census of modern date to aid in the research, but an element of uncertainty intervenes which even census returns would fail to dispel. The aboriginal Indian races and their descendants of mixed blood are in large proportion all over this country, and are so blended in some portions of it that it is impossible to distinguish between them and the African mulatto of various shades.
Brazil, the only considerable portion of the South American continent in which slavery exists, contains, of course, by far the larger number of negroes, probably four-fifths, or more, of all that are to be found in Central or South America. Into this country slaves were imported from Africa in considerable numbers as late as fifteen years ago. (a)
A census, Spoken of as official, bearing date June 22, 1831, states the entire population at 5,035,000, of which 2,000,000 are set down as slaves. (b) The free colored population is not given.
An estimate in the Penny Cyclopedia puts the negro population in 1836 at 2,000,000, namely, 1,600,000 slaves and 400,000 free. (c) If the proportion here given between slaves and free be correct, and if the census of 1831 may be trusted, the number of free colored of African descent was then 500,000. This would make the entire colored population of African descent in 1831 2,500,000; that is about one-half of the whole population, the other half being whites, Indians, and a mixed race, sharing the Indian blood. From the year 1831 to the year 1856 we find no record of any population returns claiming to be official. In 1856 the Brazilian Government published returns, summing up 7,678,000, but not distinguishing the races.
The latest and probably the most reliable authority on this subject is the work of Kidder and Fletcher on Brazil, from which (p. 612) the above returns are taken.(d) These gentlemen believe the government
(a) M. de Souza, Brazilian minister of foreign affairs, stated, under date May 14, 1853, that the number of slaves imported was:
1846 50,324 1847 56,172 1848 60,000 1849 54,000
He added that in 1852 the number imported had been reduced to 700. (Cochin, Tom. 2, p. 238.)
(b) Homer's Brazil and Uruguay, p. 71.
(c) Penny Cyclopedia, Vol. 5, Art. Brazil.
(d) Kidder and Fletcher inform us in their preface that their "experience in the Brazilian Empire embraces a period of twenty years;" and they add: "The authors have consulted every important work in French, German, English, and Portuguese that could throw light on the history of Brazil, and likewise various published memoirs and discourses read before the flourishing ' Geographical and Historical Society' at Rio de Janeiro. For statistics they have either personally examined the imperial and provincial archives, or have quoted directly from Brazilian State papers." (Brazil and the Brazilians, Preface, pp. 4, 5.)
returns of 1856 to be an overestimate; and they give, as more trustworthy, a table, made up from the estimates of Senor Francisco Nunes de Souza, a native statistician, quoted also by Ewbank. The table was published in the Agricultor Braziliero. It is for 1856, and sums up 7,040,000. (a)
The same authors give us also estimates of the percentage of slaves to the free population in one-half of the provinces composing the empire. It is to be regretted that the proportion in the other half, the most populous, containing more than three-fifths of the population, cannot be obtained. These estimates, we are told, are "from the very careful computation of the Hon. J. W. Petit, formerly U.S. consul at Maranham." They show an aggregate of 944,623 slaves in a population of 2,680,000. (b) The number of free colored is not given. To bring these estimates up to 1860 we must add the increase of population during four years. The rate of increase, deduced from the average of estimates going back thirty years, is about 1 3/4 per cent. a year, or 7 per cent. in four years. This gives us 492,800; which, added to 7,040,000, raises the total population of Brazil in 1860 to 7,532,800; an estimate which, in default of an official census, we adopt. It is somewhat above the average of the current estimates of the day.(c)
If the proportion of slaves to free persons be the same in the remaining
(a) In the Province of--
Amazonas 30,000 Pará 190,000 Maranhao 280,000 Piauhy 170,000 Ceará 350,000 Rio Grande do Norte 160,000 Parahiba 230,000 Pernambuco 800,000 Alagôas 210,000 Sergipe 180,000 Bahia 880,000 Espirito Santo 60,000 Rio de Janeiro 1,400,000 Sao Paulo 680,000 Paraná 70,000 Santa Catharina 90,000 Rio Grande do Sul 240,000 Minas-Geraes 800,000 Matto Grosso 100,000 Goyaz 120,000 Total population of Brazil 7,040,000
(From Brazil and the Brazilians, already cited, p. 599.)
(b) The details are as follows:
T = Total population, S = Slave population to free in the proportion of-- , N = Number of slaves.
Pará 190,000 1 to 1.431 78,157 Piauhy 170,000 1 to 2.666 46,372 Rio Grande do Norte 160,000 1 to 7.221 19,462 Alagôas 210,000 1 to 4.221 40,222 Sergipe 180,000 1 to 2.927 45,836 Espirito Santo 60,000 1 to 2.009 19,940 Rio do Janeiro 1,400,000 1 to 1.181 641,907 Santa Catharina 90,000 1 to .5 15,000 Goyaz 120,000 1 to .7 15,000 Matto Grosso 100,000 1 to 3.4 22,727 Total 2,680,000
(From Brazil and the Brazilians, p. 599.)
(c) Of popular estimates found in modern gazetteers and descriptive atlases, a few are a little above this, while others are considerably below it. The average of these would make the population in 1860 about 7,250,000 only.
The Imperial Gazetteer puts the total in 1854 at 6,065,000; Harper's Gazetteer in 1855 at 6,150,000. Passing by McCulloch's Gazetteer, where it is "vaguely estimated at 5,000,000," we have the estimate in Mitchell's Descriptive Atlas of 7,700,000 as the population in 1860. Colton puts it for the same year at 7,780,000. Adding to the two first estimates at the rate of 1 3/4 per cent. a year to bring them up to 1860, we have 6,701,300, 6,688,130, 7,700,000, and 7,787,000 as various estimates of the population in 1860. Averaging these, we have 7,219,107 as the total population of Brazil.
We are of opinion, however, that the estimate we have adopted, based on the calculations of M. de Souza and indorsed by Messrs. Kidder and Fletcher, and which exceeds the above by 323.000, is more reliable and probably approaches nearly the truth.
ten provinces as in those estimated, then the total number of slaves in the Empire of Brazil was in the year 1860 2,655,000.
But inasmuch as the largest proportions of slaves to free persons are to be found in the populous provinces on the Atlantic Coast, and as three of these, to wit, Pernambuco, Bahia, and Minas-Geraes, each with a population of 800,000 or upward, are among the provinces not estimated, we think the above total of 2,655,000 slaves is probably somewhat too low, and that it may bear an addition of 10 per cent. This would give for the Empire of Brazil in 1860 2,920,500 slaves; an estimate which we believe to be as near the truth as anything we are likely to obtain. (a)
We find no reliable data in regard to the number of free persons of African descent, of which the probable reason is the great mixture of colored races. The aborigines of Brazil at the period of its conquest are said to have numbered between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000, (b) and though probably not more than a fifth of that number now survive, the half and quarter breeds are very numerous.
Ewbank gives an estimate by Senor de Souza (the same writer probably whose calculation of later date is relied on by Kidder and Fletcher), in which, putting the total at about the same we have given,(c) he divides the population into 2,160,000 whites, 3,120,000 negro slaves, 800,000 domesticated Indians,(d) 180,000 free blacks, and 1,100,000 "free colored." Unless all the Indian half and quarter breeds are included in the class of "domesticated Indians," which is not likely, we cannot regard the free colored as all of African blood.
On the other hand, it is certain that the number of free negroes and mulattoes in Brazil is large--larger probably than in any other slave country. "By the Brazilian laws a slave can go before a magistrate, have his price fixed, and can purchase himself."(e) Large numbers avail themselves of this privilege, and the class of freemen is rapidly increasing. All writers agree that more than half the population of Brazil consists of persons of African descent, slave and free.
Under these circumstances, as it is our object not to overstate the case, and therefore to avoid all underestimates of the number of negroes
(a) Cochin, accurate as he usually is, undoubtedly understates the number of slaves in Brazil. Writing in 1861, he says in one place "more than 2,000,000," and in another he assumes 2,000,000 as the number. "Pres de 4,000,000 esclaves aux Etats Unis, plus de 2,000,000 au Bresil," is his expression. And again: "Les 2,000,000 Africains, esclaves au Bresil." (Cochin, Vol. 2, p. 237.)
(b) Life in Brazil, by Thomas Ewbank, 1856, p. 430.
(c) The exact figures are 7,360,000, and the date appears to be 1845. This is but 40,000 less than his subsequent estimate for 1856. Ewbank says: "Nothing like positive data was within this writer's reach." From De Souza's last calculation we may infer that he formed his estimate for 1845 too high.
(d) A report by Councillor Vellosa, made in 1819 (quoted by Ewbank, work cited, p. 430), giving the total population at 4,396,321, includes "800,000 wild Indians."
(e) Brazil and the Brazilians, p. 133. The author adds: "Some of the most intelligent men that I met with in Brazil--educated at Paris and Coimbra--were of African descent; men whose ancestors were slaves. Some of the closest students in the National Library are mulattoes. The largest and most successful printing establishment in Rio, that of Sr. F. Paulo Brite, is owned and directed by a mulatto. In the colleges, the medical, law, and theological schools, there is no distinction of color. * * * I was informed that a man of mental endowments, even if he had been a slave, would be debarred from no official station, however high, unless it might be that of imperial senator."
who have survived the horrors of the middle passage and the cruelties of slavery, we will assume De Souza's figures, without any deduction for Indian blood, making the free negro population of all shades 1,280,000. This, added to the slaves, gives us as the population, free and slave, of African descent in the Empire of Brazil for the year 1860 a total of 4,200,500, leaving less than three millions and a third for whites, Indians, and Indian mixed races. One item still remains, the most vague and uncertain of any--the number of negroes and mulattoes in the free republics of Central and South America. In all of these the aboriginal races and their descendants vastly predominate; in all of them the mixture of race and gradations of color defy analysis. In none of them has slavery had more than a comparatively ephemeral existence. But as negroes do not voluntarily emigrate to the Western Hemisphere, all the negroes or mulattoes to be found in these countries must be originally due to the slave-trade, with such trifling additions as the straying off of slaves or of free colored persons from the West Indies or from Brazil may occasionally have made.
In Mexico the number of negroes seems to be accurately ascertained. The various estimates differ but a few hundreds; none under 6,000, and none over 7,000. (a) Let us assume the latter number as the negro population of Mexico in 1860.
In Central America, as in Mexico, the representatives of the African race are a very insignificant part of the population. Squier, formerly charge d'affaires of the United States to the Republics of Central America, is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the very best, authority on that point. He says: "The population of Central America, in the absence of reliable data, can be calculated only approximately."
The following table probably exhibits very nearly the exact proportions in Central America, so far as they may be deduced from existing data and from personal observation :(b)
Whites 100,000 Indians 1,109,000 Mixed races 800,000 Negroes 10,000 Total 2,019,000
(a) Albert M. Gilliam, late U.S. consul to California, in his Travels Over the Table-Lands and Cordilleras of Mexico, 1846 (p. 164), says: "The census of the population of Mexico, it is said, cannot be accurately taken. From the various estimates made by those having the best opportunities of knowing, a table was furnished me by a gentleman who, from his long residence in the country, and by some attention paid to the subject, may be relied on as measurably correct." The table is as follows:
Indians 4,500,000 Other castes 3,000,000 Negroes 6,000 Total 7,506,000
Brantz Mayer, formerly secretary of legation to Mexico, in his work entitled "Mexico: Aztec, Spanish, and Republican," 1853 (Vol. 2, p. 48), estimates the different classes of the population thus:
Indians 4,354,886 Whites 1,110,000 Mestizoes 2,165,345 Negroes 6,600 Total 7,636,831
(b) Squier's Notes on Central America, pp. 53, 54.
This would give us, for Mexico and Central America, 17,000. Let us say, in round numbers, 20,000.
If we pass to South America, we find, in Venezuela, a country coterminous with the slave colonies of Guiana, a considerable number of negroes. Bonnycastle estimated in 1818 that there were 54,000 negroes in Venezuela. Codazzi puts down in 1841 49,782 slaves. Negroes were employed in the wars of this Republic, and in these many are said to have perished. It is certain they have not increased in late years. Bonnycastle's calculation for 1818 is probably a full estimate for 1860. But we have put the number at 60,000. New Granada appears to contain a larger number of negroes than any other of the South American republics. Cobb in his Historical Sketches of Slavery puts the total in 1853 at 80,000. Bollaert, apparently one of the most reliable authorities, so far as his researches extend, estimates that in 1860 there were of the Ethiopian race in New Granada 80,000. Colton in his Descriptive Atlas, 1860, apparently following these authorities, puts the population at 2,943,054, of whom 80,000 are negroes. We shall assume that to be the number. In Ecuador the number is small. Bollaert sets it down for the year 1860 at 7,831; and Colton has the same estimate.
In Peru the largest proportion of negroes is to be found in the province of Lima. Hill estimates for the province 7,500. (g) Doctor Von Tschudi puts the slaves in 1847 in the same province at 4,792. Bollaert estimates the total negroes in Peru at 40,000. (i) We cannot find, after much search, any estimate that seems more reliable than this last. In Chili there have never been more than a few negroes, either free or slave. The usual remark of the traveler (as Cobb, Schmidtmeyer, Mollina, and others) is that very few negroes are to be found there. Bollaert puts the number at thirty-one only; but this must be an error, for in 1825 slavery was abolished, without difficulty or disturbance, it is true, which would indicate that the number was small; but it is not likely that so small a number as Bollaert's estimate indicates would be made the subject of legislation at all. We have put down for Chili 1,000, which will probably cover all that are to be found there at this time.
In Bolivia, in a population chiefly Indian, amounting to about 2,000,000, we have no estimate whatever. "Few pure Africans," says Colton. "Some few Africans," says Bollaerr. Probably 3,000 may cover the total amount.
In the Argentine Confederation previous to the revolution of July 9, 1816, slavery prevailed, and many slaves had been imported--some directly to Buenos Ayres; others through Brazil. At the present time the negroes in La Plata are not numerous. There are a good many in Mendoza. The great mass of the population, however, are Indians. If we put the total number of negroes within the Confederation at 25,000 we shall probably be above rather than below the truth.
In Paraguay there are few negroes to be found. Five thousand will, we believe, cover the amount.
They are more numerous in Uruguay. To this Republic, previous to 1842, about which time slavery was abolished, there had been brought negroes both directly from Africa and also through Southern Brazil. One writer estimates the number of negroes in Uruguay at 20,000, and, as we find in the various works on this country no other estimate, we adopt this.
In Patagonia it would appear from the various authorities that no negroes are to be found.
Thus we have for Mexico, Central America, and South America, apart from Brazil, the following estimate:
Mexico and Central America 20,000 Venezuela 60,000 New Granada 80,000 Ecuador 7,831 Peru 40,000 Chili 1,000 Bolivia 5,000 Argentine Confederation 25,000 Paraguay 5,000 Uruguay 20,000 Total 263,831
Bringing together these various results, we find an approximating estimate of the number of negroes and their descendants on the Western Continent in the following table:
Number of negroes and their descendants in the Western Hemisphere in the year 1860.
United States 4,435,709 English, French, Dutch, Danish, and
Swedish West Indies, including Guiana
1,100,000 Spanish West Indies 787,500 Island of Hayti 755,000 Empire of Brazil 4,200,500 The rest of South America and in Central America 263,831 Canada 20,000 Total 11,562,540
The total somewhat exceeds 11,500,000; but seeing that after diligent search (c) we have been compelled to make up our estimates, especially for South America, from scanty materials, and desiring to put forth no argument founded on exaggerated data, and therefore not to underestimate the remnant remaining alive as descendants and representatives of the negroes brought to America from Africa, we add a quarter of a million to the sum of our estimate, and will assume the number of negroes and their descendants in the Western Hemisphere in 1860 to have been 11,812,540 souls. This is, beyond question, not an underestimate of the actual number left.
What is the conclusion, then, at which we are forced to arrive? The 15,500,000 of poor wretches who were sentenced by the slave-trade to transportation and slavery in foreign lands are now, after three centuries of servitude, represented in these lands by less than four-fifths of their original number.
When we consider the tendency to natural increase in human beings which has gradually swelled the population of the world to its 800, 000,000 or 1,000,000,000, the above statement as it now stands must be confessed to embody a terrible condemnation of that system which, as to a population half as large as that of the United States, not only arrested for eight or ten generations of men the operations of one of the great laws of the world, but without the life-destruction of war, without the deadly agencies of pestilence or famine, not, as we sometimes express it, by the visitation of God, but by the sole operation of man's crime, and the misery thence resulting, produced a retrogression of numbers at a ratio which, had it spread over the habitable earth, would have extinguished in a few centuries all human existence. But the matter has been very imperfectly presented yet. The actual results were far more fatal than the simple statement we have given serves to indicate. To obtain an accurate and intelligible view of these results we must separate the 15,500,000 of expatriated Africans into two portions, and trace out the separate destiny of each.
More than a third of the present representatives of these 15,500,000 inhabit, it will be observed, the United States; less than two-thirds are scattered over the West Indies, Central and South America. But what proportion, let us inquire, of the negroes shipped in slavers from Africa were the progenitors of the present colored population of the United States, and what proportion went to the West Indies and to Southern America?
Here, as in our previous calculation, though the materials be insufficient for absolute accuracy, we can approximate the truth.
In the report of the Lords of Council, so often already referred to, there is but one table bearing on the subject. It exhibits the exportation of negroes from the West Indies (then the principal place of their deposit and sale) for five years, namely, from 1783 to 1787, both inclusive, showing that in these five years, out of 20,773 negroes exported to all parts, 1,392 went to the "States of America;" that is, only about one-fifteenth of the whole, or 278, annually.
Since so small a proportion out of the whole export was directed to the United States, it is evident that the demand for slaves at that time could not have been great; nor do we find throughout the report any allusion to a direct trade by slavers from the African coast to the continental colonies. Of course it existed, but evidently not to a large extent. The public opinion, as well as the legislation, of the colonies had uniformly been against it.(c)
(c) The agency of the British Government in fastening slavery upon the continental colonies is well known. Bancroft has placed it distinctly on record:
"The inhabitants of Virginia were controlled by the central authority on a subject of vital importance to themselves and their posterity. Their halls of legislation had resounded with eloquence directed against the terrible plague of negro slavery. Again and again they had passed laws restraining the importation of negroes from Africa; but their laws were disallowed. How to prevent them from protecting themselves against the increase of the overwhelming evil was debated by the King in council, and, on the 10th day of December, 1770, he issued an instruction, under his own hand, commanding the Governor, 'under pain of the highest displeasure, to assent to no law by which the importation of slaves should be, in any respect, prohibited or obstructed.' In April, 1772, this rigorous order was solemnly debated in the Assembly of Virginia. 'They were very anxious for an act to restrain the introduction of people, the number of whom already in the colony gave them just cause to apprehend the most dangerous consequences. * * * Virginia resolved to address the King himself, who in council had cruelly compelled the toleration of the nefarious traffic. They pleaded with him for leave to protect themselves against the nefarious traffic, and these were the words:
"'The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of great inhumanity, and, under its present encouragement, we have too much reason to fear, will endanger the very existence of Your Majesty's American dominions. We are sensible that some of Your Majesty's subjects in Great Britain may reap emolument from this sort of traffic; but when we consider that it greatly retards the settlement of the colonies with more useful inhabitants, and may in time have' the most destructive influence, we presume to hope that the interest of a few will be disregarded when placed in competition with the security and happiness of such numbers of Your Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects.
"'Deeply impressed with these sentiments, we most humbly beseech Your Majesty to remove all those restraints on Your Majesty's governors of this colony which inhibit their assenting to such laws as might check so very pernicious a commerce.'
"In this manner Virginia led the host who alike condemned slavery and opposed the slave-trade. Thousands in Maryland and New Jersey were ready to adopt a similar petition; so were the Legislatures of North Carolina, of Pennsylvania, of New York. Massachusetts, in its towns and in its Legislature, unceasingly combated the holding as well as the sale of slaves. There was no jealousy among one another in the strife against the crying evil. Virginia harmonized all opinions, and represented the moral sentiment and policy of them all. When her prayer reached England, Franklin, through the press, called to it the sympathy of the people. Again and again it was pressed upon the attention of the ministers. But the Government of that day was ess liberal than the tribunals; and while a question respecting a negro from Virginia led the courts of law to an axiom, that as soon as any slave sets his foot on English ground he becomes free, the King of England stood in the path of humanity and made himself the pillar of the slave-trade. Wherever in the colonies a disposition was shown for its restraint, his servants were peremptorily ordered to maintain it without abatement." (Bancroft's History of the United States, Vol. 6, pp. 413, 414, and 415.)
In the entire history of Great Britain there is scarcely a more disgraceful page.
"The English continental colonies," says Bancroft, "were, in the aggregate, always opposed to the African slave-trade. Maryland, Virginia, even Carolina, alarmed at the excessive production and consequent low price of their staples, at the heavy debts incurred by the purchase of slaves on credit, and at the dangerous increase of the colored population, each showed an anxious preference for the introduction of white men; and laws designed to restrict importation of slaves are scattered copiously along the records of colonial legislation. The first Continental Congress which took to itself powers of legislation gave a legal expression to the well-formed opinion of the country, by resolving (April 6, 1776) 'that no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies.'" As to the number of slaves actually imported during colonial days, the same historian says:
It is not easy to conjecture how many negroes were imported into the English continental colonies. The usual estimates far exceed the truth. Climate came in aid of opinion to oppose the introduction of them. * * * From the first they appear to have increased, though, owing to the inequality of the sexes, not rapidly in the first generation. Previous to the year 1740 there may have been introduced into our country nearly 130,000; before 1776 a few more than 300,000.
The Duke de Rochefoucault Liancourt, who traveled in the United States in 1795, says: "Nearly twenty vessels from the harbors of the United States are employed in the importation of negroes to Georgia and to the West India Isles." The duke designates the merchants of Rhode Island as the conductors of what he calls the "accursed traffic, which they "are determined to persevere in till the year 1808," the period fixed by the constitution when it is permitted to abolish it; but, he observes, "they ship only one negro for every ton of the burden of their vessels, which, moreover," he adds, "are small ones." The tables given in the Lords of Council Report show that a considerable portion of the slavers in those days were but of a 100 tons burden. This was probably the capacity of the Rhode Island slavers. If so, the number of slaves annually carried by each was 100 only; making, in all, an annual importation by them of 2,000 slaves. But a portion of these went to the West Indies--another proof, it may be remarked, that the demand at home was not great. On the other hand, slaves may have been imported in English bottoms; some were in Dutch; and it is true, as already stated, that a few hundred slaves were annually brought from the West Indies.
Upon the whole, it seems a high estimate to put the annual importation, for some years after the close of the Revolutionary War, at 3,000. During that war, as commercial intercourse with foreign nations was almost wholly suspended, few or no slaves could have been imported, and the trade was probably resumed but gradually after the war. From 1776 to 1790 there were only six years when the trade could be considered open. If we estimate that 2,500 were imported during each of these six years, we have 15,000 as the importation from 1776 to 1790.
Let us suppose Bancroft's "a few more than 300,000" to mean 310,000, and we have the total number of slaves imported into the United States up to the year 1790, as follows:
Up to the year 1776 310,000 From the year 1776 to the year 1790 15,000 Total imported up to 1790 325,000
At this point we emerge, in a measure, into light. The census commences. We know that the colored population of the United States in 1790 was 757,363, of whom 59,466 were free. The 325,000 that had been imported were in that year represented by 757,363. The colored population of the United States had already considerably more than doubled itself by natural increase.
At the end of the next decade--that is to say, in the year 1800--this population was 1,001,436, having increased in ten years at the rate of about 32 per cent.
How much of this accession was due to natural increase and how much to slave-trade importation?
The rate of increase among the colored population of the United States has been, by the census, as follows:
In the decade from-- Per cent 1790 to 1800 32.23 1800 to 1810 (slave-trade ceases) 37.58 1810 to 1820 28.58 1820 to 1830 31.44 1830 to 1840 23.41 1840 to 1850 26.62 1850 to 1860 21.90
During the first decade, in which there was no disturbing element by importation of slaves, to wit, from 1810 to 1820, the rate of increase was 28.58; during the next decade, 31.44. Let us assume the former as the rate of natural increase from 1790 to 1800. Deducting it from the actual increase during that period, namely, 32.23, we have a remainder of 3 2/3 per cent. as the increase from Africa. That would give 27,770 as the number of slaves imported in the ten years from 1790 to 1800, or at the rate of 2,777 a year.
In the next decade, eight years of which only were open to slave importation, that importation appears to have greatly increased. The colored population amounted by the census of 1810 to 1,377,810, exhibiting an increase in the decade at the rate of 37.58 per cent. If, as before, we rate the natural increase at 28.58, we shall have 9 per cent. on 1,001,436 (that is to say, 90,123) of accession to the population in question, due to other causes than natural increase. But during this decade, to wit, in 1803, Louisiana, purchased from France, became a part of the Union, and her colored population, free and slave, added 42,245 to the census returns of 1810. Deduct this amount from 90,123, and we have 47,884 as the number of slaves that may have been directly imported into the United States in the eight years from 1800 to 1808, being at the rate of 5,985 a year. The rate of importation was evidently increasing with rapidity. Fortunate was it for our country and for the cause of humanity that Congress availed itself of the constitutional provision which permitted, in 1808, the abolition of the slave-trade.
Another item remains to be determined ere we can complete our estimate of importation. Of the colored population which Louisiana brought into the Union, what proportion may we properly ascribe to the slave-trade and what proportion to natural increase? The total number at the date of purchase appears to have been about 30,000.(a) To supply this number, how many had probably been imported under colonial rule?
Except as to difference of nationality in her owners, Louisiana previous to 1803 was not differently situated from the Southern States of the Union. Part of the same continent, coterminous in her chief boundaries, with similar climate and general condition, there seems no good reason to suppose that the natural increase of her colored population had been at a rate much lower than ours.
(a) By an accurate census of Louisiana taken in 1785 the total population was 28,537, of whom about 14,000 were slaves and 1,000 free colored. From that date there seems to have been no separate authentic census of the colony until one was made in 1803 by the consul of the United States at New Orleans, under orders from the Department of State. From the best documents he could obtain he put the total population at 49,473, but without separating whites and blacks. See History of Louisiana from the Earliest Period, by Francois Xavier Martin, New Orleans, 1827, Vol. II, pp. 77, 78, and--.)
Other authorities put it higher, as Maj. Amos Stoddard, in his Sketches, Historical and Descriptive, of Louisiana, p. 226. He admits that there are no precise data to determine the population in 1803, but estimates 50,700 whites and 42,600 colored; together, upward of 93,000. This, however, is clearly an overestimate, as our own official census of 1810 makes the entire population of Louisiana in that year but 76,556. At first sight the consul's estimate of 49,473 seems too low; since, if it be not, 50 per cent. was added to the population in the seven years from 1803 to 1810. This would seem improbable, but for the remarkable fact that the entire population of Louisiana (chiefly, of course, by immigration from other States in the Union and from Europe) doubled in the next decade, amounting, in 1820, to 152,923. As a medium term between these conflicting authorities we may assume the entire population in 1803 to be 60,000, of whom half were colored. This agrees with Mr. Carey's estimate. Speaking of the colored population, Mr. Carey says: "Nearly 30,000 were found in Louisiana at her incorporation into the Union." (The Slave-Trade, Domestic and Foreign, p. 17.)
But in 1800 our colored population had very nearly trebled its original numbers. Let us suppose (to avoid the chance of overestimate) that in 1803 the slaves and free colored people of Louisiana had only doubled in number as compared to their African descendants. That would give us 15,000 as the number imported into that colony up to the time when it became part of the United States.
Summing up these various items, we have the total number of slaves imported into the United States lap to the date of the abolition of the slave-trade, as follows:
Up to 1790, as before 325,000 From 1790 to 1800 27,770 From 1800 to 1810 47,884 Imported into Louisiana previously to her purchase from France 15,000 Total slaves imported into the United States (b)415,654
It is to be observed that this is an estimate, not of the slaves that were exported from Africa destined to the United States, but of those that were actually landed there. If the loss on the voyage was, as we have estimated, 20 per cent., (c) the above 415,654 negroes represent about 520,000 shipped on the African coast, whether directly for this country or Coming by way of the West Indies, since 520,000 less 20 per cent. is 416,000.
If the statement of the Duke de Rochefoucault, that the Rhode Island slavers carried but one negro for each ton burden, may be relied on, the average mortality on board slave ships bound to North America was likely to have been less than 20 per cent. It would, probably, be safe to estimate that out of 500,000 negroes shipped from Africa, the number above estimated to have reached us may have been landed.
Referring now to our estimate of the number of slaves taken from the African coast during the three centuries and a half of the slave-trade, namely, 15,520,000, we may assert, in round numbers, that half a million of these went to our own country, chiefly during its colonial existence, and 15,000,000 to the West Indies and to South and Central America.
(b) An industrious and painstaking author, accustomed to statistics, makes the total one-fifth less than this. Mr. H. C. Carey, in his Slavery, Domestic and Foreign, Philadelphia, 1853, p. 18, after furnishing his reasons for each separate estimate, sums up as follows:
Prior to 1714 30,000 From 1715 to 1750 90,000 From 1751 to 1760 35,000 From 1761 to 1770 74,500 From 1771 to 1790 34,000 Subsequent to 1790 70,000 Total number imported up to 1808 333,500
We think Mr. Carey has estimated the rate of natural increase in early days, say from 1714 to 1770, too high, not allowing for the effect, then sensibly felt, of that disproportion between the sexes incident to the slave-trade, to which we shall hereafter have occasion to advert.
We have now the means of answering the following questions: What became of each of these two so unequal divisions of this expatriated people? What has been the respective destiny of each? How are they now represented? The answer involves results so extraordinary, at first sight so incredible, and in effect, even when thoroughly examined, so difficult of satisfactory explanation, that we have devoted much time and labor to the critical revision of the materials whence our conclusions are drawn before venturing to place them on record.
This is the answer: The 500,000 shipped for North America have increased nearly ninefold, being represented in 1860 by a population exceeding 4,400,000, while the 15,000,000 sent to the West Indian colonies and to Southern America have diminished from age to age until they are represented now by less than half their original number.(a)
How marvelous, beyond all human preconception, are these results! Had the 15,000,000 whose lot was cast in the southern portion of our hemisphere increased in the same proportion as the 500,000 who were carried to its northern continent, their descendants, instead of dwindling to half, would have been to-day a multitude numbering more than 130,000,000 of men.
What is the explanation of this startling marvel? Is it to be found solely in the greater humanity with which the negroes of the United States have been treated as compared with those of other slave countries?
A little research will show us that there were other causes in operation to produce these strange results--causes chiefly due to the fact that the slave-trade to the United States was brief in its duration and unimportant in its operations compared to the slave-trade to the West Indies and South America.
But wherever the operations of the slave-trade are of great magnitude the effect is to check the natural increase of the slave population on plantations.
In the first place, it introduces an unnatural element into that population which it is proper here to set forth; and to this element a portion of the decrease in the negro population of the countries to which our estimates extend is indisputably to be ascribed.
The abnormality referred to is the uniform practice of dealers, in selecting cargoes of negroes on the African coast, to purchase a considerably larger proportion of males than females. All the witnesses agree in the fact, though they differ as to the motive. Some testify that it was more difficult to procure salable women than men, ascribing
(a) Those who may be tempted to object to this latter calculation, as based in part on approximating estimates, would do well to bear in mind that it is fully borne out by another calculation, already given (pp. 79, 80, 81 [309,310], ante), and which is based upon official tables alone--a calculation covering a period of seventy-four years in the last century and extending to the entire negro population of the largest English West India colony, Jamaica; throughout these seventy-four years the results, in condensed view, being as follows:
Negroes in Jamaica in 1702 --- 41,596 Negroes imported from 1702 to 1775 497,736 --- Deduct exported from 1702 to 1775 137,014 --- Leaving in the island imported slaves --- 360,722 Total in 1775, If the population had been stationary --- 402,318
But the actual population in 1775 was 192,787, showing a reduction in three-quarters of a century in the negro population of Jamaica of more than one-half.
this to various causes; as, to the prevalence of polygamy in Africa; to the fact that there were fewer female criminals than male criminals; also, that as to the chief offense for which criminals were sold to slavery, namely, adultery, "it was sometimes pardoned in the women, but never in the men."
Other witnesses, however, affirm that there was no difficulty in procuring as many female slaves as males. Mr. Eldred, captain of a slaver from Rhode Island, testifies:
Female slaves can be procured on the coast with more facility than male slaves.
The true motive is probably given by a slave surgeon, Mr. Falcon-bridge, who deposes:
On the coast of Africa the captains of slave ships never wish to purchase more than one-third females. The planters in the West Indies, in many cases, prefer males, because they lose the labor of a female in the latter end of pregnancy, and for a little time afterward.
Most of the witnesses state the usual proportion between the two to be three males for one female. The Rev. Mr. Newton says:
The number of male slaves purchased usually exceeded that of the females in the proportion of four to three, and sometimes of two to three.
The exact average proportion appears to have been between these two rates. In the report of the Jamaica House of Assembly, already quoted from, in which this disparity in the number of the sexes is adduced as a chief cause of the decrease in their slave population, tables are given showing the exact proportion in the case of 49,135 negroes imported by the chief negro factors into Kingston from 1764 to 1788. Of these, 30,636 were males and 18,539 were females, the relative proportion being, as nearly as may be, five males to three females. Of each 1,000 negroes imported then, there were, on the average, 625 men and 375 women. Each 1,000, therefore, was only equal, so far as power of reproduction was concerned, to a population of 375 men and 375 women; in other words, to a normally constituted population of 750.
It follows that, as to any given West Indian or other slave population, kept up by constant supplies through the slave-trade, we must deduct 25 per cent., or, in other words, take three-fourths only of its nominal amount on which to estimate its power of natural increase.
To this extent, then, it is to be confessed that the decrease of population in the West Indies and South America is not to be wholly ascribed to the more cruel treatment or more oppressive labor to which the slaves were subjected by the planters, but to the policy pursued by the African slave-traders in selecting their human cargoes.
That such a disturbance of a great natural law must have produced immoral results in an aggravated form cannot be doubted. As little doubtful is it that this immorality was carried to an excess, which still further diminished the rate of natural increase.
As, however, it must be supposed that the slave-traders brought to the market precisely the assortment of cargo which they found the most salable, the above abuse is chargeable indirectly to the planters themselves. Had they desired on their plantations an equal number of each sex, the slave-dealer would doubtless have found means to supply it.
The slave-trade had another still more sinister influence. It is beyond a doubt that wherever that trade prevailed it tended directly to aggravate the condition and to shorten the lives of the plantation slaves. This happened because it increased the temptation to cruelty and overwork. An author who resided twenty years in Brazil, and who has dealt tenderly with slavery, confesses:
Until 1850, when the slave-trade was effectually put down, it was considered cheaper, on the country plantations, to use up a slave in five or seven years, and purchase another, than to take care of him. This I had, in the interior, from native Brazilians, and my own observation has confirmed it. But since the inhuman traffic with Africa has ceased the price of slaves has been enhanced, and the selfish motive for taking greater care of them has been increased.
Of the two influences to check population above indicated as flowing directly from the slave-trade, the first, connected with the disparity in the numbers of the sexes, is totally insufficient to account for the unexampled decrease in the 15,000,000 of slaves sent to the Gulf and to South America. Suppose that entire population when it left the shores of Africa to have been in the proportion of five men to three women, its power of natural increase would have equaled only that of a normally constituted population of 11,250,000. But had the slaves in question actually numbered but 11,250,000, and had they increased in the same proportion as the 500,000 shipped for the United States have done, the census return of their descendants to-day would have been 98,000,000---more than three times the population, white and black, of the United States.
The immoral influence of the disparity in the relative numbers of the sexes already alluded to and its tendency to check population is here to be taken into account. But that disparity prevailed among imported negroes only, and did not, of course, extend beyond the first generation. Unquestionable as the tendency of the influence in question was to diminish the rate of natural increase, we can receive it only as a partial element not seriously affecting the general result. Thus the marvelous variance in the fate of the two divisions of negro immigrants is not explained, though the exact figures are varied by the disproportion of the sexes in these immigrants.
As to the second influence growing out of the temptation gradually to work to death laborers who can be replaced any day by fresh purchases, it is hard to believe that it should have exerted over human cupidity so terrible a sway as to cause the reduction to 7,500,000 of men of a population which, had they been treated and had they thriven but as well as the slaves of the United States, would have numbered to-day 98,000,000 of souls.
Climate may have had something to do in working out the ultimate results. Yet there is no evidence to show that the climate of the West Indies and of Brazil is less suited or more fatal to the negro race than that of our slave States. A more influential circumstance, especially in the West India Islands, was the habitual absenteeism of many of the proprietors. The slaves were left at the mercy of overseers, often uncultivated and mercenary, who had no interest in their preservation so long as those who died could be profitably replaced by what were called "new negroes." Most of these overseers were unmarried men; and writers on the condition of the colonies frequently allude to the fact that, when this was the case, the lack of female care and considerate forethought, as regarded the slave mothers and children, had a very considerable influence in diminishing the population.
Upon the whole, however, it must be confessed that while the general facts in this case are indisputable the explanations we have been able to offer seem inadequate to account for the extraordinary results we have disclosed.
But the lesson taught to mankind by this stupendous crime is far beyond the marvel of its results. Four years ago that lesson was in part foreshadowed only and could not have been fully read. To-day it is written in terrible characters all over the history of our country. Four years ago it might have been said, with a certain plausibility, that the experiment of human slavery had two phases--the phase of failure and the phase of success.
With a certain plausibility only, it is true, there has been success in this country, so far as the mere physical increase of the slave population can attest the fact--no further. But population has increased in the world in spite of ceaseless wars--in spite of constant vice and misery. It increased in famine-stricken Ireland. It increased in England throughout the term of that feudal system which made of the island one great military camp. It increased in France throughout the centuries of that old regime, of which the insufferable iniquities were at last requited by popular vengeance, and culminated in the first Revolution. It is to be admitted, however, that an annual increase from natural causes alone of 2 3/4 to 3 per cent., prevailing throughout a term of years in any population (as among the slaves of the United States from 1810 to 1830), indicates that they have not been subjected to the extremity of hardship which marks the fate of negro slaves in other portions of this hemisphere. And as, even to the present day, the rate of natural increase among slaves in this country has been considerable, it may be fairly inferred that slavery in the United States, even in its latter and severer phase, has been, as a general rule, more merciful and lenient than in the West Indies and South America. It will probably be claimed, in addition, that it indicates a very considerable amount of physical comfort and well-being. But any such admission would convey a false impression in regard to the actual condition of the slave, especially in the cotton and sugar States. The investigations of the Commission, personal and from testimony, thoroughly convince them that the statements made in their preliminary report as to the condition of the slave population of South Carolina, apply substantially to that of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Arkansas, (a)and, with no very considerable modifications, to Florida, to a few portions of North Carolina, and to the western half of Tennessee. We repeat here, as applicable to the States above named, that which, antecedent to more general examinations, we had predicated only of South Carolina:
This is one of the States in which the system of negro slavery seems to have reached its furthest development with the least modification from contact with external civilization. There it appears to have run out nearer to its logical consequences than in any other we have visited. There it has been darkening in its shades of inhumanity and moral degradation from year to year, exhibiting, more and more, increased cruelty, a more marked crushing out, in the case of the negro race, of the humanizing relations of civilized life, and a closer approach, in practice, to a monstrous maxim; the same which a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, perverting history, alleges to have been the sentiment of the civilized world when the U.S. Constitution was adopted, and in the spirit of which he assumes (in virtue of such perversion) that Constitution to have been framed, namely, that "the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect."(b) The evidence before the Commission shows that half a century ago its phase was much milder than on the day when South Carolina seceded. It is the uniform testimony of all emancipated South Carolinian slaves above the age of sixty that their youth was spent under a state of things which, compared to that of the last thirty years, was merciful and considerate. As a general rule, these old men are more -bright and intelligent than the younger field hands, in many of whom a stolid, sullen despondency attests the stupefying influence of slave-driving under its more recent phase.
The disintegration of the family relation is one of the most striking and most melancholy indications of this progress of barbarism. The slave was not permitted to own a family name; instances occurred in which he was flogged for presuming to use one. He did not eat with his children or with their mother; "there was no time for that.." In portions of this State, at least, a family breakfast or dinner table was a thing so little known among these people that ever since their enfranchisement it has been very difficult to break them of the life-long habit that each should clutch the dish containing his portion and skulk off into a corner, there to devour it in solitude. The entire day, until after sunset, was spent in the field; the night in huts of a single room, where all ages and both sexes herded promiscuously. Young girls of fifteen, some of an earlier age, became mothers, not only without marriage, but often without any pretense of fidelity to which even a slave could give that name. The church, it is true, interposed her protest; but the master, save in exceptional cases, did not sustain it, tacitly sanctioning a state of morality under which ties of habitual affection could not assume a form dangerous or inconvenient to despotic rule.
The men, indeed, frequently asked from their masters the privilege of appropriating to themselves those of the other sex. Sometimes it was granted, some-times--when the arrangement was deemed unprofitable--it was refused. Some cases there were in which a slave-holder, prompted by his own sense of morality or religion, or urged thereto by a pious wife, suffered these connections of his slaves to have the sanction of religious ceremony. But it is evident that to connect even with such a quasi marriage the idea of sacredness or religious duty was inconsistent with that legal policy of the slave States which forbade to render indissoluble among slaves a relation which to-morrow it might be for the interest of their owner to break up.
The maternal relation was often as little respected as the marital. On many plantations, where the system was most thoroughly carried out, pregnancy neither exempted from corporal punishment (c) nor procured a diminution of the daily task; and it was a matter of occasional occurrence that the woman was overtaken
(a) We do not here include Louisiana because the phase of slavery in that State is set forth in detail in Supplemental Report B, herewith submitted.
(b) Dred Scott vs. John F. A. Sandford, December term, 1856 23 Howard, 407.
(c) Another of my visitors had a still more dismal story to tell. Her name was Die. She had had sixteen children, fourteen of whom were dead. She had had four miscarriages; one had been caused from falling down with a very heavy burden on her head, and one from her arms strained up to be lashed. - I asked her what she meant by having her arms tied up. She said their hands were first tied together, sometimes by the wrists, and sometimes, which was worse, by the thumbs, and they were then drawn up to a tree or post, so as almost to swing them off the ground, and then their clothes rolled round their waist, and a man with a cowhide stands and stripes them. I give you the woman's words. She did not speak of this as anything strange, unusual, or especially horrid and abominable; and when I said, "Did they do this to you when you were with child?" she simply replied, Yes, missis." I gave the woman meat and flannel, which were what she came for, and remained, choking with indignation and grief, long after they had all left me to my most bitter thoughts. (Journal of a residence on a Georgian plantation in 1838-39, by Frances Anne Kemble, p. 200.)
Mrs. Kemble says, elsewhere in her journal, "Never forget in reading the details I send you, that the people on this plantation are well off, and consider themselves well off, in comparison with the slaves on some of the neighboring estates."
by the pains of labor in the field, and the child born between the cotton rows.
Humane masters, however, were wont to diminish the task as pregnancy advanced, and commonly gave three, occasionally four, weeks' exemption from labor after childbirth. The mother was usually permitted to suckle her child during three months only; and the cases were rare in which relaxation from labor was allowed during that brief period. On the other hand, instances have occurred in which the more severe drove the negress into the field within forty-eight hours after she became a mother, there to toil until the day of the next birth.
A noble exception, among others, to such a system of inhumanity, gratefully testified to by the negroes who enjoyed it, was to be found on the plantation of ex-Governor Aiken, one of the largest and most influential planters in the State. His habitual clemency, it is said, gave umbrage to many of his neighbor planters as endangering their authority under a severer rule.
Under such a slave system as this, where humanity is the exception, the iron enters deep into the soul. Popular songs are the expression of the inner life; and the negro songs of South Carolina are, with scarcely an exception, plaintive, despondent, and religious. When there mingles a tone of mournful exaltation, it has reference to the future glories of Zion, not to worldly hopes.
If to the above details touching slave life in this State we add the fact that because of the unhealthy climate of the sea islands off the South Carolina coast chiefly due, it is said, to causes which may be removed), the least valuable and intelligent slaves were usually placed there; further, that being much isolated in small communities, these slaves frequently had children of whom the father and mother were near blood relatives, producing deterioration of the race, it can excite no surprise that the negroes of South Carolina as a class are inferior to those from more northern States. An intelligent negro from a northern county of North Carolina, who had there learned the blacksmith's trade and had been hired to work on a railroad in South Carolina, stated to the Commission that he never knew what slavery really was until he left his native State. While there he was comparatively contented. Within a month after he reached South Carolina he determined to risk his life in an attempt to escape.
To judge whether a natural increase of population is necessarily connected with physical comforts, it behooves us to look to the interior slave life of the South, to the motives which encourage such increase, and to the conditions which attach to it. We find these well set forth by one who had the best opportunities to observe, having resided some five months on her husband's plantation in Georgia, and being in the habit of recording from day to day events as they occurred. It is doubtful whether there has been presented to the public in modern times a more authentic or more faithful chronicle of every-day life in the cotton States than is to be found in the journal from which our extract is taken. The writer had been conversing with a negress who had formerly been a favorite house servant, and thus proceeds:
She named to me all her children, an immense tribe; and, by the bye, E--- , it has occurred to me that, whereas the increase of this ill-fated race is frequently adduced as a proof of their good treatment and well-being, it really and truly is no such thing, and springs from quite other causes than the peace and plenty which a rapidly increasing population are supposed to indicate. * * * Peace and plenty are certainly causes of human increase, and so is recklessness. Here it is more than recklessness, for there are certain indirect premiums held out to obey the early command of replenishing the earth, which do not fail to have their full effect. In the first place, none of the cares--those noble cares, that holy thoughtfulness, which lifts the human above the brute parent--are ever incurred here, either by father or mother. The relation, indeed, resembles, so far as circumstances can possibly make it so, the short-lived connection between the animal and its young. * * * But it is not only the absence of the conditions which God has affixed to the relation which tends to encourage the reckless increase of the race; they enjoy, by means of numerous children, certain positive advantages. In the first place, every woman who is pregnant, as soon as she chooses to make the fact known to the overseer, is relieved from a certain portion of her work in the field, which lightening of labor continues, of course, as long as she is so burdened. On the birth of a child certain additions of clothing and an additional weekly ration are bestowed on the family, and these matters, small as they may seem, act as powerful inducements to creatures who have none of the restraining influences actuating them which belong to the parental relation among all other people, whether civilized or savage. Moreover, they have all of them a most distinct and perfect knowledge of their value to their owners as property; and a woman thinks, and not much amiss, that the more frequently she adds to the number of her master's live-stock by bringing new slaves into the world the more claims she will have upon his consideration and good will. This was perfectly evident to me from the meritorious air with which the women always made haste to inform me of the number of children they had borne and the frequent occasions on which the older slaves would direct my attention to their children, exclaiming, "Look, Missis: little niggers for you and Massa; plenty little niggers for you and little Missis."
We have had abundant evidence of the correctness of the view here taken. General Saxton, for example, deposes:
Question. Were the women, under the slave system, taught chastity as a religious duty?
Answer. No, sir; they were taught that they must have a child once a year.
The prohibition against suckling their children longer than three months is part of the same system. The result is that the slave families are usually very numerous. We found in South Carolina, among the freedmen, several instances in which the mother had had twenty children and upward in as many years. The result is disclosed, beyond possible denial, throughout Mrs. Kemble's graphic volume. Excessive child-bearing, coupled with ceaseless toil--an interval of three weeks only being allowed after childbirth--these are conclusively shown to have been the source of shocking diseases and terrible suffering to the female slaves.
The argument to be deduced from the great natural increase of the slave population in the United States would be much stronger than it is had the ratio of increase, as it was during the two first decades after the abolition of the slave-trade, been kept up to the present day.
But it has not been kept up. We have already had occasion, in the extract cited from the preliminary report of the Commission, to advert to the fact that the system of slavery among us has been increasing in severity and hardship from year to year, especially for thirty years past. A glance at the census shows that statistics confirm what we had deduced from personal observation. From 1830 the rate has been gradually diminishing; for, as the superintendent of the census remarks, "the greater apparent increase among slaves from 1840 to 1850 is connected with the admission of Texas in 1845." In these thirty years the ratio of natural increase has diminished over 10 per cent. in the decade, or 1 per cent. a year.
At the same diminishing ratio less than a quarter of a century would have witnessed a state of things under which the slave population would have been annually decreasing. Whether it would have fallen still lower, until, as in Jamaica and other West Indian Islands, the deaths had so far exceeded the births that, in less than a century, half the population would have disappeared, must now ever remain, let us thank God, a matter of conjecture.
The duration of slavery as a system in the United States has been but brief, as compared with its prolonged existence in the West Indian colonies. Here that system had not borne its deadliest fruits. Here, especially for four or five decades after the Revolutionary War, certain features of a patriarchal character tended to alleviate its harshness.
But, in all its various phases, that system which confers on one race the fatal privilege of idleness at expense of forced drudgery imposed upon another race, differs rather in the degree than in the character of its results. These results are, as a general rule, wherever slavery exists at all, essentially and degradingly evil; evil to the victim of the injustice; evil, as certainly, to the inflictor of it, for there is no human crime that does not recoil on the criminal.
Alike in the slave States of the Union as in the colonies of the West Indies, and in every other land in which the system of slavery prevails, its victims maybe said to live deprived, directly or indirectly, of every natural right.
One of the most universal objects of human desire and of human endeavor is the acquisition of property; but the laws of slave States forbid that the slave shall ever acquire any. The holiest of human relations is marriage; but a slave cannot legally contract it. The dearest of human ties are those of family; but a slave may see them broken forever, without redress, any hour of his life. Of all human privileges the highest is the right of culture, of moral and mental improvement, of education; but to the slave the school is forbidden ground--reading and writing are penal offenses. The most prized of personal rights is the right of self-defense; but a slave has it not. He may not resist or resent a blow, even if it endanger limb or life.
What remains to the enslaved race? Life to man? honor to woman? Any security for either? Nominally, yes. Actually, save in exceptional cases, no. In the statute laws against murder or rape the word white is not to be found. Persons of either color appear to be equally protected. But among the same statutes in every slave State of the Union is incorporated a provision to the following or similar effect:
A negro, mulatto, Indian, or person of mixed blood, descended from negro or Indian ancestors, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, whether bond or free, is incapable of being a witness in any case, civil or criminal, except for or against each other.
As far as regards the two worst crimes against the person, the above provision is the exact equivalent of the following:
Murder or rape by a white person committed against a negro, mulatto, Indian, or person of mixed blood, descended from negro or Indian ancestors, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, shall go unpunished, unless a white person shall have been present, and shall testify to the commission of the crime.
The apology for a law according to which a woman' cannot testify against the violator of her person, or a son against the murderer of his father, is, that in a community where negro slavery prevails such a provision is necessary for the safety of the white race. The same apology is adduced to justify the taking from the slave the right of property, of marriage, of family ties, of education, of self-defense.
The apology may be valid. It may not be possible to force one race to hopeless labor--they and their children after them--from sunrise till sunset, day after day, year after year, till death--thus to toil unrequited, save by the coarsest food and clothing, in order that another race may exist in idleness----it may not be possible safely to carry on such a system without depriving the laboring race of every right, civil and social, and of every protection to life and property, for which man has been struggling through all the centuries of history.
It may be one of the conditions of safety to the master race, thus usurping the labor of their fellows, that some of their own children should be as utterly disfranchised as the imported African. The phraseology of the section we have quoted is very suggestive--" to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation be white," are the words. The white man makes the law, and his son, his grandson, his great grandson, so that these share to the extent of one-eighth the blood of the attainted race, may, whether slave or free, be murdered with impunity, if the murder be not committed in the presence of some one without that eighth of taint. The white man makes the law, and exposes the chastity of his own daughter, fairer of skin, it may be, than himself, to brutal outrage, without possibility of bringing the ruffian who commits that outrage to justice, unless the wretch, adding folly to infamy, selects his opportunity when one of his own race happens to be within hearing or sight. These may all be necessary conditions, without which, under the slave system, domestic tranquillity cannot be maintained.
Let us assume that in this matter the slave-holder is in the right, and that while slavery exists these are his conditions of safety; what then? In what sense, except a blasphemous one, can we pronounce that system to be successful which cannot maintain itself except in violation of every principle of justice and virtue which God has implanted in the heart of man, except by the abrogation, as to an entire race of men, of those rights of property, of family, and of person, to assert and maintain which, in all ages of the world, good and brave men have willingly sacrificed life?
But there are other conditions, not set forth in statute law, with which the existence of slavery is inseparably connected--those, namely, which affect the masters of slaves.
Of all forms of prayer none is more strictly adapted to the nature and the wants of man than this: "Lead us not into temptation." Men, in the mass, cannot be habitually tempted with impunity. It was said of one only that He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
But of all human temptations, one of the strongest and most dangerous is that which attends the possession, throughout life, of arbitrary and irresponsible power. As a rule it is always abused. A beneficent despotism is the rarest of exceptions. This is one of the great lessons of history, upon which is based the doctrine of popular rights and the theory of a republican government.
Under no phase of society has the operation of the law which connects sin with ceaseless temptation been more apparent than in States where slavery prevails. One of our greatest statesmen, himself a sufferer under the evils he deprecates, has set forth in strong terms the practical results.
"There must, doubtless," said Jefferson, "be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people, produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions--the most unremitting despotism on one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it, for man is an imitative animal. * * * The parent storms; the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped with its odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and his morals under such circumstances.
It has been customary to illustrate the influence of slavery on the dominant race by adducing individual examples of barbarous cruelty exercised toward slaves by their masters. (b) These might be multiplied indefinitely, but they are less conclusive of the effects inseparable from the system than the picture drawn by Jefferson, the exact truth of which every one familiar with the interior of Southern society will admit.
(b) A single example from among many that came to our notice may here suffice. It is selected as exhibiting the uncontrolled passion and fearful inhumanity of that spirit, bred by arbitrary and irresponsible power, which could visit with terrible punishment a light and venal offense. It was testified to by an eye-witness, a respectable colored mechanic, Solomon Bradley by name, who was employed for several years on the railroad between Charleston and Savannah.
One morning this witness, going for a drink of water to a house near the line of the railroad, occupied by a Mr. F., heard dreadful screams in the door-yard. Looking through an aperture in the board fence, he saw a woman stretched, face downward, on the ground, her hands and feet bound to stakes. Over her stood her master, Mr. F., striking her with a leathern trace belonging to his carriage-harness. As the strokes fell the flesh of her back and legs was raised in welts and ridges. Occasionally, when the poor creature cried out with insufferable pain, her tormentor kicked her in the mouth to silence her. When he had exhausted himself by flogging, he called for sealing wax and a lighted candle, and, melting the wax, dropped it on the woman's lacerated back. Then, taking a riding-whip and standing over the poor wretch, he deliberately picked off, by switching, the hardened wax. While this scene of torture was acted, Mr. F.'s grown-up daughters were looking on from a window that opened on the yard.
Afterward Bradley made inquiry of the woman's fellow-servants as to what crime she had committed, and was told that it consisted in burning the edges of the waffles she had been cooking for breakfast.
"The sight of this thing," the witness added, "made me wild, and I could not work right that day. I prayed the Lord to help my people out of their bondage."
This witness was born and brought up in a northern county of North Carolina, where, he said, such cruelty was unheard of. Slaves were flogged there; but if one broke away during the punishment no attempt was made to renew it. What a fearful addition to the atrocities of this scene that the young women were witnesses of the ungovernable rage and savage cruelty of a father! And what must have been the character of the father who could thus expose himself before his children? The least evil that could result was, that it excited within them detestation of their parent. More probably the influence was brutalizing, deadening in their young hearts the sentiment of humanity, and preparing them to become themselves, in after life, merciless tyrants on the slightest provocation.
Outrages so gross may not have been common, even in South Carolina; but when they did occur they passed unnoticed either by law or by public opinion. What must have been the state of that society in which crimes so grave were committed with utter impunity?
Slavery breeds imperiousness of manner, impatience of contradiction or delay, ungovernable passion, contempt of labor. While it produces a certain carelessness of wealth and easy profuseness in expenditure, it discourages hardy enterprise in useful fields. Habits of regulated industry are seldom formed within the sphere of its influence, its tendency being to substitute for these indolent fashions of dependence and luxurious self-indulgence. It weakens the supremacy of law, with its sobering and chastening influence. It engenders, in young men especially, a spirit of reckless daring, a sort of careless courage that takes little account of human life; a love of violent excitement, sometimes running into military ardor, and ever liable to take the form of gambling, or intemperance, or that debasing licentiousness which must needs prevail wherever, in any class or race, female chastity is neither respected by custom nor protected by law.
Hence a state of society in which, with manners often cultivated, with an impulsive generosity and free hospitality to equals in station, there mingles a certain essential barbarism, which not only shows itself habitually in the treatment of those occupying servile or inferior positions, but also breaks out toward others in bursts of temper so frequent and violent that the old regulator in ages when force was law, the wager of battle in its modern form of duel, is openly sanctioned by public opinion as a necessary check to social insult or lawless outrage.
These remarks apply in their full force to society as it existed at the time the Southern insurrection declared itself in the States we have designated as those in which the slave system has been fully developed; the States which first rebelled; the States which will be the last to return to their allegiance. No reflecting and dispassionate observer, who has sojourned in any of these States long enough to become familiar with their manners and morals and social condition will pronounce the view we have taken of the results of slavery to be intemperate or unfair. From one or other of these results no man or woman born and bred in a slave community, no matter whether they learn to approve slavery or to hate it, can be reasonably expected wholly to escape. It is true as to the Border States, where the tilled estates more frequently assume the aspect of farms than of plantations, where the owner and his sons sometimes work along with the slaves, and even where they do not actually work with them, yet personally superintend their labor so as to recognize and take interest in them as individual' human beings--it is true, and should here be stated, as to these States, that the phase of slavery there existing is sensibly modified, and is divested more by practice, however, than by relaxation of law of some of its most odious features. On small estates especially, slaves in the Border States often have by sufferance a certain amount of property; continue to live by sufferance as if legally married; are frequently trusted with important charges; are sent to market with cattle or produce; are consulted in regard to the management of the estate. Under such circumstances, they are greatly improved by coming into daily contact with white persons, and instances occur in which they are treated by the family with as much consideration as if their skin exhibited no tinge of African blood.
In these States the chief aggravation of the system is the interstate slave-trade; the forcible separation of families to fill up those melancholy gangs, assorted like droves of cattle, and whose destination is to that mysterious and undefined land, the terror of the border negro, known to him only as "down South."
But even under this comparatively moderated phase of slavery, the inherent injustice of the system exhibits itself in the character of the very indulgences, which in other slave States are forbidden by law. In visiting the colored population of Louisville this presented itself in a marked manner to the notice of the Commission. We found living there many slaves who, as the usual phrase is, "had hired their time." One case was of a slave woman, apparently fifty years of age, named Charlotte, belonging to Mr. ------. She had been hiring herself for more than fifteen years. She had two children--one thirteen, the other seventeen--both of whom worked in a tobacco factory. Their regular wages were $2 a week each; sometimes they did extra work, earning more. She hired their time also. For herself and these two children she paid her owner $5 a week; a dollar a week for herself and $2 a week for each of the children. She had brought up these children without any aid whatever from her master, feeding them, clothing them; and this she continued to do even now, when her master took their wages. She inhabited, with them, a single room, in a tenement house, about twelve feet square, paying her own rent. She supported herself by washing. A large bed and an ironing table, which together filled up most of the room, were piled with clothes prepared for ironing when we entered.
This woman made no complaint, and did not appear to regard her condition as one of unusual hardship. The only thing she seemed to have expected from her master was a little aid in sickness. In reply to a question as to what he did for her; she answered: "My master never gives me anything, not even a little medicine, no more than if I did not belong to him." As her appearance indicated feeble health, we made inquiry on that score, to which she replied that she "was ailing," but that she "managed to keep up enough to make her wages." She added: "I get along well enough, and keep the hire paid up. You could not pay me to live at home if I could help myself." We asked her if she had to pay the hire for her boys in any event, and her reply was: "If the boys make more than $2 a week apiece, I get what is over; if they don't make that, I have to make it good to him. He has got to have it Saturday night, sure."
Another case was marked by an additional feature. It was that of a slave woman, apparently about thirty-five years of age. Coming upon her without any notice of our visit, we found her in a room tidily kept, and herself decently dressed. She had been hiring herself eleven years at $72 a year. Her husband, she told us (of course he could not be legally such), was a slave, and was hired by his master as cook in one of the Louisville hotels for $300 a year. Out of this his master, she said, gave him once or twice a year a $5 note--nothing else. We saw in the room two bright intelligent-looking children--one a boy about ten years old, the other a girl two or three years younger. One might go, at a venture, into a dozen dwellings of persons of the middle class in fair circumstances and not find their children cleaner in person and more neatly and suitably clad as were these two young slaves. We expressed to the mother our satisfaction at their appearance. Her face saddened and she said: "The white people have two of my children and that boy is about big enough to go."
We inquired how this was, and she informed us that her master left her children with her till they were about eleven years old and then took them home to work. Up to that age she fed and clothed them at her own expense. The last they had taken was a little girl between eleven and twelve years old. Four months ago the mother had gone to the plantation to visit her, not having seen her then for ten months. She had saved a dress for the child and took it with her. "I knew," she said, "that she would need it; but I never expected to find her as bad as she was. I could not help crying when I saw her. She was not dressed as a human creature should be. I took off her rags and washed her. She was serving my young master, and he had whipped the child so that you could not lay your hand anywhere along her back where he had not cut the blood out of her. I did all I could for her and dressed her, but I could not stay." Here the poor creature's eyes filled with tears. "I brought back the rags my child was covered with. I have them yet." We asked if we could see them. She went out, it seemed reluctantly, and brought us a small bundle of filthy tatters which she appeared ashamed that we should see. "If I could only have kept the children," she said, "I would not have cared for all the rest. I liked so much to have them clean and nice."
This woman made her living, as we ascertained, solely by washing and ironing. She, like the other, had paid her expenses of every kind, the doctor's bill inclusive.
Truly, the tender mercies of slavery are cruel! Under what other system would men, assuming to be gentlemen, commit toward poor, hard-working women such flagrant injustice as this?
In the first case the woman Charlotte, in feeble health, advancing in years, with no means of living except labor in washing and ironing, pays to her master $260 a year for the privilege of supporting, by such labor, herself and her children. The man who received this human rental had literally furnished no equivalent. For more than fifteen years the woman had not received from him even a little aid in sickness. The children for whom he now demanded a rental of $100 each had cost him nothing. For fifteen years the mother had fed and clothed them, cared for them in sickness and in health; she continued, unrequited, to feed and clothe them still. Who, if not that mother, was entitled to their wages now? Who, except one in whom slavery had blunted every perception alike of justice and delicacy, would consent to receive and to use money coming from such a source as that?
In the second case, $372 annually had been paid for eleven years by the woman and him whom she called her husband, the law of the State forbidding that she should be his lawful wife. Four thousand and ninety-two dollars the master had received from them in that time, for which he had rendered nothing, except some $10 a year in the form of a gratuity to the man. Was this $4,000 considered by the master enough to take from these two working people? The mother in this case, as in the former one, had brought up her children at her own expense; had fed them and had clothed and kept them as any respectable yeoman might have been glad to see his children clothed and kept. Were the father and mother, after the payment of this $4,000, after the care and cost of bringing up these children, suffered to enjoy the comfort of having them with them, and the aid which, as they grew up, they might be able to afford? No. While the children were a burden, that burden was thrown on the mother; she, too, as in the other case, earning a living as washerwoman. As soon as they were of an age to be of service they were removed to the plantation. And how treated there? The young girl was taken neatly and comfortably clad from her mother's care. One would have thought that the most common regard for decency, to say nothing of justice, would have suggested that the worse than orphaned child should have been kept, as the servant of a rich man, at least as reputably as the poor slave mother had kept her. Yet she was suffered to go about the house before her master's eyes in filthy rags. One would have supposed that the recollection of the $4,000 received from the hard-working parents might have risen up to save--if Christian feeling could not save--this poor child, deprived of natural protectors, from brutal cruelty. Yet she was treated as no man with the least pretense to humanity would have treated a dumb beast.
Let no one say that these were cases of unusual hardship. The parties themselves evidently did not consider them such. There was no tone of querulous complaint. The facts came out only in answer to our direct inquiries, and neither of the women seemed to consider herself especially to be pitied. Charlotte thought a little hard of it that her master did not send her medicine when she was sick. The hire of her children did not seem to have suggested itself to her as any injustice. Even the other said she would be willing to part with the children if she only knew they were well treated. Had she been suffered to retain them, her gratitude to her master for his generosity would, it was evident, have been unbounded. One could see that the $4,000 subtracted from her own and her husband's earnings never occurred to her except as a usual thing. Both women expressed the greatest satisfaction that they were allowed to hire themselves. It was sufficiently apparent that nothing short of compulsion would cause either of them to return to what they still called "home." What sort of a home could that be to which the privilege of hard labor at the washtub, purchased by a weekly payment in money--coupled, in one case, with a similar payment for the children, and in the other with the loss of them--was regarded as a favor and a blessing?
Let us not imagine that the masters in these two cases were sinners above all men that dwelt in Kentucky. They may have been indulgent in their own families, kind to their white neighbors, honorable in their business dealings, esteemed in society. The anomaly is presented of men whose characters, in one phase, entitle them to be called cultivated and civilized, yet in another--to wit, in their dealings with a proscribed race--exhibiting such utter disregard of the mild graces of Christianity, mercy, charity, long-suffering, kindness, and good will to men, that it is not too harsh to say they live in a state of semi-barbarism. Such results are chargeable far less to the individuals who have thus gone astray than to the system which has formed their character. But a system has lamentably failed that results in the arrest of human civilization and Christian progress, in injury to the national character, and in disregard, under any circumstances, of the natural and inalienable rights of man.
Such a system is fraught with mischief, politically as well as morally. They who violate the rights of one race of men lose a portion of their reverence for the rights of all. It comes to this, that the peculiarities of character stamped more or less on every country in which slavery exists are, in spirit and in practice, adverse, not to religion and civilization alone, but to democracy also. No people exposed to the influences which produce such peculiarities will ever be found imbued with a universal sense of justice, with a respect for industry, with a disposition to grant to labor its just position among mankind; nor can any people subjected to influences so deleterious ever be expected to remain, in perpetuity, contented and happy under republican rule. In no sense, then, neither political, moral, nor religious, can the experiment of slavery in these States be regarded in any other light than as an utter failure.
All this might have been said four years ago in reply to any argument that might then have been adduced in support of the assertion that slavery, though it failed in the West Indies and South America, had succeeded in the United States. But how instructive, how invaluable the experience of these eventful four years? New views of the subject present themselves to-day; aspects of the slavery question hidden until now come conspicuously into the light. History had previously recorded the social and economical evils of the system. Now she has presented to us its political consequences.
And now, therefore, going back to our starting point on the African coast, and following up once more the two diverging branches of the great stream of slave immigration flowing west-the one branch bearing 500,000 captives to this northern continent, the other conveying 15,000,000 to islands and a continent farther south--we are able, by the light of recent experience, to present more fully and clearly than ever before the comparative results in either case. Increase or decrease, apparent success or undeniable failure, the ultimate results have been fatal alike.
The 15,000,000 dispatched to the West Indian colonies and to South America never, as a population, took healthy root in the lands to which they were banished. They had no growth from the first; and ever after, century by century, they melted away under the influences of the system that degraded and destroyed them. Their fate and the lesson it conveyed were immediate and apparent. God stamped the policy which enslaved them at every stage of its progress with His reprobation.
But, as to the 500,000 that came among us, the mark of Divine condemnation, apparently suspended for a time, came in a different form at last. For a time that 500,000 increased and multiplied and replenished the earth; for a time their masters were wealthy and prosperous, as men usually rate prosperity; for a time these masters increased in political power; they held sway in the Republic; they controlled the National Legislature; they obtained a majority of the public offices. The end was delayed, and, when it came at last, it was the direct result of the peculiarities of character impressed by slavery on its votaries. Imperious and insubordinate, they rebelled against lawful authority. Spurning wholesome control, they rejected the President who was the choice of the majority. Despising a working people, they sought to sever connection with the North--a race of unblushing laborers. Seduced by evil habit into the belief that man's noblest condition is to live by the exertions of others, they undertook to erect a separate political system of which slavery was to be the corner stone.
Thus did slavery bring on a civil war between brethren of the same race, and tongue, and faith--a war widespread, and embittered and desolating as wars have seldom been. Thus will slavery have caused the violent death, in the country which tolerated it, of 500,000 of free people. Thus will slavery leave behind it, in the country where it held its millions in bonds, a public debt little short, it may be, of that which loads down the industry of Great Britain. If God in his mercy shall, in the end, preserve us from results to which these deaths and losses are but as dust in the balance; if our punishment does not extend to dismemberment, anarchy, extinction as a great nation; if lookers on from European courts are not to moralize on the ignominious failure of the noblest experiment to reconcile democratic liberty and public order that was ever instituted by man, let us remember how narrowly we shall have escaped; let us call to mind what days of gloom and hopelessness we have passed through--how often, as the contest proceeded, victory has hung even balanced in the scale, and what a little thing, amid the thousand contingencies which our short sight calls chance, might have turned the issue against us forever.
In our case the great lesson was long delayed; but how terrible in its actual results, how awfully impressive in its possible consequences, when it came upon us at last!
The conclusion of the whole matter is this: Reviewing from its inception on this continent down to the present hour the history of that offense against humanity by which one race, in order to escape labor, usurps by violence and appropriates to itself the labor of another, we find that the tendency of that usurpation is always to debase the usurpers, and usually to extinguish the laboring race; and that, in the only notable exception to this last rule, the effects of this sin against justice and mercy culminated in the bloodiest civil war that ever arose among men, of the horrors and sufferings incident to which we cannot, even now, see the end.
If a calm review of this terrible episode in modern history brings no conviction that the crime which we are now expiating in blood must be atoned for, as crime can only be, by practical repentance--by thrusting out from among us the wrong of the age--argument will be unavailing. If, as all signs of the times appear to indicate, the Nation has already attained to this conviction, then it behooves us to consider how we shall carry it into effect; whether and in what manner we can effect emancipation by legal and constitutional means.
The consideration of these questions shall form the subject of the next chapter.
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