페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

matter if the safeguards and advantages of the class are embodied in the Constitution. Constitutions must submit to discussion, and time, and change. Constitutional enactments are as truly liable as anything else to discussion and political action tending to ultimate modification. For the surrender of this right of discussion and control, the Union can be no compensation.

Nor is it of any use for Dr. Thornwell to tell us, making it a sectional question, that the North has no right to exercise thus their franchises upon the South, or that the government or administration, shaped by those franchises, must hold it a sectional question and maintain an impartiality between both sections. While the North has obligations, she has a right to discuss the obligations and the sources whence they arise. So long as we are obliged to catch the Southern fugitive, to guarantee against insurrections, to bear an unequal representation, to pay the postal and other governmental expenses of a sparse population, to yield the taxes for purchase or conquest of territory for slave states, so long have we a right to discuss and vote upon the extension of slavery, and, with due regard to vested interests, upon its welfare and existence. Our right is just as good as Dr. Thornwell's. Slavery is as truly North as South. Every square foot of northern ground is hunting-ground for slavery. Every northern man is a legal bailiff for the fugitive. Every taxpayer is the supporter of slavery; the South is the slave-worker, the North the slaveholder. The North shares in proportion with the South the guilt and odium of slavery before the bar of God and of the civilized world. The North is demoralized by the slavery interest through all her political, mercantile, ecclesiastical, and social departments. Some right, then, have we to say that slavery is a question for the North.

At issue with Dr. Thornwell, we maintain, 1. Slavery is the creature of local law; 2. It is carefully ignored by the national Constitution ; 3. It has no rightful existence in new territories.

Slavery is the creature of local law. Founded in violence, perpetuated by force against natural right, slavery can only exist within the territorial limits of the law of mere might, by which it is created. Let master and slave cross that line, the relation evaporates, and A is no more the slave of B, than B of A. No law is there either to create or enforce the difference.

Against this Dr. Thornwell argues that slavery is not local, but that it is authorized by the “UNIVERSAL CUSTOM OF MANKIND” through all past ages, while “abolition is municipal and local." 1. The universality of a custom, we reply, does not give it any rectitude; it gives neither a moral nor legal sanction. Licentiousness, polygamy, paganism, have been as truly universal as slavery, without obtaining any prescriptive right. The mastery of might over right has been universal; but that does not invalidate the rightfulness of right. 2. Slavery is not so truly universal as the conscious right to liberty; it is not so strictly universal as that affirmation of justice in every human heart—“no man has a right to rob me of my manhood by making me a slave.” This is not only i sentiment of the heart but a sentiment of the heart but an axiom of the intellect. It is the basis of the slaveholder's own reasonings, even of Dr. Thornwell's. It is the basis of their defense of their present revolt. Their reasoning contains this helpless contradiction, Nobody has a right so to enslave us as to prevent our making slaves of others.* They struggle for the freedom to be tyrants, for the glorious right to crush human rights. 3. The example of past ages in external conduct is a poor argument for our age. Ages of darkness and oppression may, indeed, furnish plenty of precedent for advocates of oppression. But this argument ignores the position of modern advancement by the light of history, of science, of Christianity, of freedom, of a better ascertained moral and political philosophy. The mere fact of past existence of an institution only brings it up for trial by these lights, in which it must stand or fall.

The Constitution does not recognize the right or the existence of slavery even in any limited locality. Dr. Thornwell argues this recognition from the phrase "persons held to service," which he considers as embracing “the generic conception of slavery.” If “generic,” we reply, then, it is not specific, and so slavery is not specified. For this “generic” description the proper generic term is apprentice; and all there is in slavery beyond mere apprentice ship the Constitution ignores. Hence, fugitives are apprehended and remanded not as slaves, but under the description of apprentices. All beyond apprenticeship is tacked to the man, unknown to the Constitution, by the local law. Then there are certain“ other persons” who are not “free” subjected to a two-third representation. What the nature of that non-freedom is the Constitution ignores and declines to inquire. It may be indenture, by self-sale or by law. That tenure is left to, as it exists by, the local law; and the national Constitution adjusts certain exterior provisions to whatever it may be, as shaped by the state legislation. In short, anybody in the wide world out of the Southern states, reading the Constitution would see a studious purpose to afford the caste certain safeguards and advantages where it already existed by local law, but to avoid the shadow of establishing by its own force the institution where it does not exist, or even specifically acknowledging it where it does exist.

* " A free people," says Dr. Thornwell, “can never consent to their own degradation."-P. 880. The disrespectful titter which the world indulges whenever a Southern slavedealer talks of 'freedom,' must soon become intelligible even to Carolinian ears. Dr. Thornwell also (p. 885,) calls the Southern oligarchy'republican.' Risum teneatis !

But even admitting that the Constitution authorized property in slaves within the local limits of the slave states, it does not

follow that the relation of property is transferable to new local ities where slave law has no previous existence. The master may be full owner of his slave within the state, but the moment the limits are crossed, the master and his property may be two inde pendent men.

1. There is no truth in the argument that by this rule the Southwould be excluded from the territories. Slaveholders are but a small part of “the South ;” nor does the exclusion of slavery exclude the slaveholder. True, before he enters the territory he may be obliged by sale to transform his property into some other shape. But in this respect he is precisely on the same footing with the landholders and manufacturers of the North. These large and influential classes are unable to transfer their property without transformation, and the slaveholder is only brought to their level. Men must in all cases acquire and hold their property with all the liabilities, whether natural or political, belonging to it.

2. Nor does it quite do for Dr. Thornwell to say “the Southern man politically is the slaveholder.” “To exclude slaveholding is, therefore, to exclude the South.” What right has the advocate of slavery to say that the slaveholder alone is the South ? Neither to the Omniscient eye nor to the view of the civilized world can four millions of human beings in bondage be invisible. Nor to the nonslaveholding freemen of these United States is the slaveholder alone the South even politically. Neither the non-slaveholding South nor the slave South are an unseen infinitesimal. Never can it be admitted by the freemen of the country, that because the slaveholders at the South are in possession of the political power of the South, therefore the exercise of our franchises are to be performed without the slightest recognition of the existence or rights of the inferior classes. Such a course is not required by the Constitution; and if it were, the free citizen has a right to shape his course to an ultimate change of the Constitution itself. Were, then, the exclusion of slavery an exclusion of the slaveholder, the exclusion of the slaveholder would not by consequence be an exclusion of the South.

3. The reasoning of Dr. Thornwell would irresistibly restore slavery to the free states. He asserts without restriction “that the Constitution recognizes slaves as property.” He demands “upon what principle shall Congress undertake to abolish this right upon a territory of which it is the local legislator? It will not permit the slave to cancel it because the service is due. Upon what ground can itself interpose between a man and his dues ?” Now, certainly, if the right of property intrinsically in the slave be thus established by the Constitution, no state can abrogate that property without violating the Constitution of the United States. If Congress, in its character of legislature of a territory, cannot abrogate that right of property, much less can the legislature of any state. A large body of slaveholders, therefore, with a caravan of their living chattels, may march into New York state, re-establish slavery, and no state law can touch their ownership. And we solemnly repeat, that had another national victory been won by the great proslavery party of this country, this argument would never have been left a mere abstraction. The same Supreme Court that, with such indecent haste, proclaimed its extra-judicial dicta in the Dred Scott case, would soon announce from the national capital that all laws heretofore passed abolishing slavery are violations of the national Constitution.

4. The injustice of erecting new slave states without the full consent of the free states, is demonstrated from the fact to which we have already referred, that the representation of slavery constitutes the slaveholder a privileged caste. The great injustice of this representation, since it is in the Constitution, may be suffered while confined to the present slave states. But when new states are created, the oligarchic interest is strengthened oppressively to the free states and dangerous to the republic. It is absurd to expect of the free states any increase of slave states on a basis by which themselves are reduced to vassalage.

5. No principle of law is better established than that property destructive to the public good is bound to diminish and disappear. Its circulation, diffusion, extension, are rightfully prohibited. If it blast the soil, destroy the health, or demoralize the character of the community, the law justly abates the nuisance. And now, if there be any truth in history, any reliance upon statistics, any respect due to the voice of the civilized world, any validity in the axioms of the moral sense, all these evils are chargeable upon the institution of slavery. Acting, then, from his own views of duty, the intelligent northern freeman is compelled by the obligations of conscience so to exercise his franchises as a citizen, as to rescue the virgin soil of the free West from an institution that shall blast it with a curse for untold ages.

6. The claim of Dr. Thornwell that slaves are to be held “just like any other property," and so transferable to free soil, in order to be valid, must be consistent. The claim must be grounded upon the universality of the maxim we quote. It is a hard maxim, degrading to humanity, and contrary to the humane spirit of modern law, that person-property has no more tendency to ascend to personality than brute-property or thing-property. But the slave holder himself, when it comes to the matter of government representation, to constitutional interpretation, and to remanding fugitives, is obliged to claim that the slave shall not be “like any other property.” Thing-property is not represented; it is not a “person" in the text of the Constitution; it is never to be restored to the owner by national authority when it escapes. In all these respects slaves are, by the slaveholder's own claim, not "like any other property.” By this triple contradiction the slaveholder de stroys the validity of his own maxim. He claims that the slave shall rise to person and sink to thing, arbitrarily and contradictorily, as his own interests, and not the interests of humanity, shall demand.

7. The extension of slavery is the perpetuation of slavery. This with Dr. Thornwell is an argument in favor of such extension; with us, against it. We know that but a brief period has elapsed, since the northern pro-slavery sophists have told us that to extend slavery was only to diffuse and rather weaken it than strengthen and perpetuate it. But Dr. Thornwell and the slaveholders know better. They know that the system, to live, must devour the soil it occupies, and sweep in devastation over new territory. Then the old section becomes slave-breeding, and the new slave-consuming. But circumscribe its area and the system gives way to free industry.

Identifying slavery as well as the slaveholder with the South, Dr. Thornwell characterizes the cessation of slavery as the destruction of the South. This self-deception by use of words and phrases is at the present time maddening the southern mind. But surely slavery is not the South. The slaveholders are but a minority of the South; slavery but an institution in the South. The South

« 이전계속 »