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good as slavery, slavery as good as freedom; and the government is bound to know no preference for either. Subordinately to this he maintains, 1. That slavery is not the creature of local law, but has a presumptive prescription of universality; 2. That slavery, as a property relation, is sanctioned by the national Constitution; and, therefore, 3. It has a right to equal existence with freedom or against freedom in the territories, in defiance of all legislation.
Before stating a counter position, we may premise that had this governmental neutrality been historically maintained for the last thirty years, the antislavery contest and triumph would never have occurred. Historical fact it is that the last three administrations, at any rate, have been instruments of the slaveholding interest, in pushing proslavery aggression upon freedom and the North. Abolitionism, pure and proper, never would have gained influence in the North; but what abolitionism could not do, the pressure of southern aggression has done, namely, arouse and concentrate the North for freedom. Nor could the North be aroused until distinctly and clearly the ultimatum of complete subjugation to the slave power loomed in view. As that ultimate appeared in prospect, the Republican party sprung into existence; as the ultimate grew clearer the party increased in power, and when it was fully felt that the contest was not for the negro's rights, but for our own dear-bought liberties, its victory became destiny. How cool is the assurance of Dr. T. in telling us, at the terminus of such a series of proslavery aggressions, pushed upon the North with all the power of every branch of the government, that what the South asks is governmental "neutrality!"
Our counter position is this. From the foundations of our government until this contest, freedom has been held accordant and slavery discordant with the fundamental principles of our republic. Freedom has been held the predominant rule, and slavery the dark and temporary exception. Slavery has no more been held as good as freedom than Satan as good as Messiah. Slavery was held simply to be suffered from due regard to existing interests; yet was the leaning to be toward freedom, and the limitation and ultimate termination of slavery held in view. Dr. Thornwell well knows that the perpetuity of slavery is a modern heresy. He is old enough to remember when the black dogma was first broached, that slavery was not an endurable evil, but a perpetuable good. He has had his share in the guilt of the propagation of this doctrine of Satan and John C. Calhoun. The very fact that the word slave was elaborately excluded from the Constitution proves the animus of the body and the age that founded it. That studied silence, more eloquent than any phrase, proclaimed the temporal nature of slavery through every line and letter of the document. To that discountenance of slavery it bound our nation, and to that discouragement, by the grace of God, we mean to hold it bound. The framers of the Constitution, with their entire generation, held that slavery was speedily bound to die. Its existence at this very time is a shameless audacity, an infamous anachronism, an insult to the century, one of slavery's countless breaches of faith. Long since its duty was Death, and the voice of the age demands its execution.
The true philosophic history of the case is this: Certain individuals in the first place, without authority of law, purchase a number of human beings and use them as slaves. As the number of purchasers increases an institution and a class are formed. As the class grows powerful legislation sanctions, by regulating, the institution; and thus a degree of state interest is created. What, then, are the duties and rights of the surrounding community in regard to this institution? Clearly, if founded in right, and accordant with the public good, to sustain and cherish it; if otherwise, by the judicious exercise of their franchises, but with due regard to vested rights, to check its growth and shape a course for its termination.
Again, in due time a confederacy of states is formed. The class is powerful, and is enabled to secure advantages and safeguards for itself. It imposes upon all the states the burden of restoring its fugitives, the obligation by fleets or armies to subdue insurrections, together with such a mode of representation that the owner of five hundred slaves shall have a power in the government equal to a village of three hundred Northern freemen. What now are the rights and duties especially of those upon whom these obligations are imposed? Clearly the same as before. If the institution be founded in right, and accordant with public good, the burden should cheerfully be borne, and the institution and class be sustained and cherished. If otherwise, if founded in wrong, if injurious to public welfare and oppressive in its exactions, those who feel their weight- have a full right to discuss their nature and to exercise their franchises, with due regard to vested rights, to abate the evils and limit their extension. It is useless to deny this right of discussion; it is equally useless to affirm that the people of the nation, or the government that represents the people, is bound to a strict "impartiality," and deprived of all right to abate or check the evil. No 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. Thorn well'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 conscions 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 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 apprenticeship 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
* "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 teneatist
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.
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 localities 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 independent men.
1. There is no truth in the argument that by this rule "the South" would 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 tho Constitution itself. Were,