What Has the North to do With Slavery?
1843 — Little Falls, NY
What Has the North to do With Slavery?
What has the North to Do? Why, what has one half to do with the whole? or what has the right ventricle of my heart to do with the left? It seems to me no one could rationally ask such a question, even were slavery only known upon “the farthest verge of the green earth.”
When the brave Pole arose in arms against his proud oppressor, and when the patriotic Greek, wakened from the slumber of ages, lighted the torch of liberty our northern orators and bards cheered them in language such as this:
“Strike till the last armed foe expires!
Strike, for your altars and your fires!
Strike, for the green graves of your sires.
God and your native land!”
Yes! money, arms and warlike stores, with shipload after ship-load of clothing and provisions, were sent from hence to aid those distant nations in their strife from freedom; while no one thought of asking, “What has the North to do with Poland or with Greece?”
Our missionaries are not confined to northern limits and while they traverse the vast western plains without the bounds of our republic, ascend the Rocky Mountains, and sound the news of “peace on earth and good will to men” to farthest Oregon — nay, penetrate the Burmese jungles, and preach to the antipodes of China and Japan, who dreams of offering such a query in respect to them? — Yet the oppression of the Poles, and gloom of moral night enveloping the Hindoo and Chinese, compare not with the misery and darkness of millions in our own south-west.
It is again demanded, “What has the North to do with the South?” It is because the South is to the North what Russia is to Poland — what Turkey is to Greece. But the inquiry is not only selfish — it is equivalent to asking, “Am I MY BROTHER’S keeper?” the interrogatory of the primal murderer, Cain. The answer, however, is so long, that we might also say “the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” — We are, in fact, wound and bound up in slavery: but time will not admit of copious details, and I can only now allude to some important points.
She holds the reins of power by our consent, through various social, commercial, and political relations. First, socially, True, at this distance, we can with difficulty feel our own participation in her crimes. Time was, when I, too, writhed beneath THE TRUTH; but I now think it for the highest interest of all to find the truth — and having found, to embrace and hold it fast. Keep the distinction then, in mind, between slaveholders and slave claimants; and we shall find ourselves, as well as our southern neighbors, extensively involved in guilt.
It is within the bounds of possibility for two hundred and fifty thousand slaveholders to retain, without assistance, near three million slaves? Three millions — an ominous number! for three millions were led out of Egypt, and three millions once successfully opposed the prowess of Great Britain. I ask again, if 250,000 are capable of holding such a number, when, in the coarse language of another, three million “might EAT them, and then scarcely have a full meal? “ No; the reverse is clearly shown by southern testimony.
When JOHN Q. ADAMS, nobly contending for the right of petition upon any subject, presented the request of his constituents for a dissolution of the Union, a southern Congressman observed, that “this would break up slavery;” whereas the South were always wont to threaten, in case of abolition, to dissolve as a remedy. “In such an event,” said he, “a million of slaves stood ready at the tap of the drum!” Yes, they were prepared, like Washington, to strike for liberty!
The editor of the Maysville Intelligencer says, “We are surrounded with a dangerous class — only restrained from insurrection by the fear of death.” But we need not travel to Kentucky to show that the North are slaveholders. The social cord which binds the slave is strong — the political still stronger — but the ecclesiastical cord is strongest.
I will here announce, that meetings on this subject will be held again to-morrow. (Sunday.) at the usual hours of service in the morning, afternoon and evening. The slave — alas! he has no Sabbath but beyond the tomb; and too many of our clergy are like those whom prophets styled “dumb dogs:” they will not open their mouths for the oppressed.
Priestly allows, that people are never better than their laws, while many are far worse! and as the pubic sentiment makes laws, let us observe its operation at the North. Suppose a horde of bandits occupying the Green Mountains, and subsisting by the plunder of the farmers of Vermont: would not those who go and stay among them as lawyers, doctors or merchants, become participators in their crimes? So with our citizens who go to the South, who mingle with slaveholders, and share the profits of ill-gotten gain. And what, to the all-seeing-Eye, is that mans’ guilt, who steals his neighbor’s horse, his cattle or his corn, compared with him who takes the helpless infant form the cradle, the wife, the daughter, or the eldest son, and bears them into bondage everlasting — perpetual servitude of body, and hopeless night of the immortal mind!
What kind of morals do we teach? — For often, when a northern youth appears averse to honest labor, although we would not bid him take to stealing sheep, we send him to the South where, it expert enough in whipping out a proper quantity of rice, or cotton, or tobacco, as a negro overseer, to purchase a plantation for himself, we call him smart and enterprising. Next, to be counted pious, a church, erected by his bounty, is finished with “the price of blood” — a place where statedly the hired apologist of crime may stand.
“And to his tasselled pulpit thank the Lord,
That, from the toiling bondman’s utter need,
He piles his own fall board.”
And would our youthful nabob seek a partner in his clustering honors and his piety, he needs but enter, ruffian-like, the cabin door of a defenceless vassal — to clutch a child or two, and turn the proceeds for a superb beaver, watch, and suit of clothes — sell of the father or the mother, or consign the trembling grown-up daughter to the pimp of a seraglio at New-Orleans; soon he is enabled to support a glittering coach-and-four — and dashing hither to the North, “astonishes the natives” as he comes!
It is the morn of New-England Sabbath, when lo! a Carolina retinue appears, stops at the house of God, and the best pew is opened to receive our wealthy and religious guest; while Jim, his sable body-guard, is beckoned to “sit yonder in a lower place.” Anon, communion is announced; and though the humble pilferer of limbs might in such case be pushed aside, this wholesale thief of MEN is courteously invited to the ordinance — bows to the symbols of a Saviour’s passion, and takes the sacred elements with a piety at which the fiends of Pandemonium might chuckle and grow fat!
And not unfrequently do such deceptive “pomp and circumstance” ensnare the northern female into a like participation in the slaveholder’s guilt. Not so the shrewder maid, whom Whittier describes as spurning every proffer of his crimsoned hand.
“Go back, haughty Southron! thy treasures of gold
Are dim with the blood of the hearts thou has sold;
Thy house may be lovely, but round it I hear
The crack of the whip, and the footsteps of fear!
Full low at thy bidding thy negroes may kneel,
With the iron of bondage on spirit and heel,
But know that the Yankee girl, sooner would be
In fetters with them, than in freedom with thee!
Upon the compensation question abolitionists are asked, “What! would you take men’s property without a fair equivalent?” O no; I think with Gen. Hayne, that “he who digs the soil is first entitled to its products.” I therefore go the whole for compensation TO THE SLAVE for every day of his hard toil; nay, and if this be not enough to satisfy the advocates for compensation, I would demand full payment for the labor of his father and grandfather before him!
If flesh and bone are made, (as some anatomists affirm,) from wat we eat, the human system being renewed in seven years; and if Hayne’s maxim in regard to title be correct, Calhoun and Clay’s component parts, for instance, will be found to consist of stolen bread and butter, and for these slaveholding candidates for the highest office in the gift of FREE-MEN, eight times the property of their own diggers of the soil! And should stern justice reinstate the lawful owners in possession of the premises for which they have so often paid, we might have cause to apprehend that hordes of former masters, (a lily-fingered race, too idly reared to work,) would stroll this way, and plunder us in person, as we have long suffered them to do by indirect means; for verily, the North deserve some punishment for the craven part which they have always acted in this matter. But emancipation would at least make peace where now there is no peace; it would bind up broken hearts, and bring together scattered families; and Heaven, perhaps, might overlook the sins of centuries, and pity, and forgive.
The slaves, as is well known, were chiefly introduced by northern mariners; and some of my own ancestors were probably engaged in this abominable trade; for many a Bay State vessel went to Africa, applied the torch at midnight to the native’s peaceful dwelling — and by its lurid glare bore off the hapless inmates — thrust them into the infernal slave ship, and brought them here — their lasting monument of sin and shame!
See our political connexion with this Heaven-daring crime, in the congressional act for the benefit of soul-drivers, passed in 1839; when in defiance of the laws of God, “Thou shall not deliver to his master the servant that is escaped to thee,” northern with southern representatives whispering, “WE WILL!” empowered the slavocrat to enter the free States, and by the aid of “a convenient witness,” to take his human property wherever he could find it. Thus did the total North become the planter’s hunting-ground; and every person here who is not out-and-out and abolitionist, stands pledged to be a blood-hound, and bark upon the track of the poor fugitive at his proud master’s beck. A law of your own State, indeed, awards her citizens the privilege of trial by jury in cases of contested claims; but as the southern planters boast that they “can bribe a Yankee Justice for a shilling,” means of evasion will be found; and slavery is therefore still sustained by New-York, until by a declarative law her soil is rendered absolutely FREE.
Blackstone directs that where a legal instrument is ambiguous, the side of mercy should prevail; and by this rule, our supposed obligation to bayonet the slave in case of insurrection, may be interpreted another way. for as the Constitution only binds us to suppress “domestic violence,” and slavery is notoriously so, the patriotic abolitionist preserves his true allegiance to the spirit of our national compact, while by the ballot-box and every lawful means, he strives to put this system of domestic violence down.
Source: Voice of Freedom (Brandon, VT), September 14, 1843, pp. 1-2.