Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Albigenses exceed in horrible injustice and cruelty the treatment of the Irish by the Protestant English. The Presbyterians of Geneva have in recent times exhibited a spirit as intolerant as the Papists of a darker age ; and Infidelity is not less disposed to persecute the Church of God, than is fanatical Bigotry. Arbitrary power, be it that of monarch, or pope, or republican oligarchy, to whatever church or creed it may ally itself, Pagan, Christian, or Mussulman,-is the same hateful evil; and it only requires to come into combination with religious enthusiasm or fanatical superstition, to kindle into the character of a persecutor. Liberty, which otherwise is treated simply as a rebel, is then proceeded against as a heretic.

Of the volume before us, the extracts we have given, preclude the necessity of our adding much. Using the word in its proper sense, and not by way of disparagement, we may characterize it as a highly respectable performance; not distinguished by any peculiar critical acumen or felicities of composition, but exhibiting much careful investigation, extensive reading, and correct sentiment. If not the work of a practised author or of a profound politician, it yet displays a scholarship graceful in the gentleman.

Art. II. 1. Report of the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania

Colonization Society. With an Introduction and Appendix. 8vo.

pp. 48. Price Is. 6d. Philadelphia and London, 1831. 2. Report of the Proceedings of the African Education Society: in

stituted at Washington, Dec. 28, 1829. With an Address. 8vo.

pp. 16. Washington, 1830. 3. Liberia Herald. July 6, 1830. Vol. I. No. 5. Monrovia. 4. North American Revien. No. lxxvi. July, 1832. Art. Ameri

can Colonization Society. 5. Four Essays on Colonial Slavery. By John Jeremie, Esq. Late

first President of the Royal Court of St. Lucia. 8vo. pp. 124.

London, 1831. 6. The Anti-Slavery Record. No. 5. Sept. 1, 1832. Price ld.

TN our Number for January last, we gave some account of the

Africo-American Colony on the Windward Coast of Western Africa, which has received the name of Liberia. We have now before us what is something better than a mere curiosity, the fifth Number of a Liberia weekly newspaper. *. In the article referred to, we took occasion to advert to the object and principles of the

* The Editor of the paper is Mr. Russwurm, a coloured man of good education, who graduated at Bowdoin College (Me.), in 1826. vol. VIII.--N.S.

X X

American Colonization Society; and we remarked, that there seemed to exist a much stronger wish to get rid of the free-coloured population, than to meliorate the condition of the slaves. While applauding, as we could not but do most sincerely, the philanthropic intentions of the Society, we asked, in all simplicity, What is to be the fate of the slave population of America ? And we supplied the answer which, we imagined, the republicans of the Southern States would return to such an inquiry : ‘Get rid of the 'free black population by all means, but talk of emancipation at 'your peril.

These remarks were misconstrued, we regret to find, as implying an unkind suspicion with regard to the purity of the motives by which the friends of African colonization in America are actuated; or, at least, as casting blame upon them for the prudent course they have taken, in not mixing up the question of emancipation with that of emigration. This was not our meaning; for we were not unaware of the difficult path the Society had to tread, the political considerations which rendered it necessary to abstain from agitating, as a Society, the slavery question, and the consequent expediency of strictly confining their attention to their avowed object. Suspicions, alarms, and complaints have been raised in the slave-holding states by the very plan of colonization. On the other hand, some of the most efficient friends of the measure have been, and are, slave-owners and residents in the midst of a slave population. Under these circumstances, it would have been unwise and improper to make any article of faith on the subject of slavery the ostensible basis of their proceedings, or to exact any test from those who were disposed to cooperate in the specific scheme. Whatever dissatisfaction we may feel with the state of the law and of public morality, in reference to slaves and slavery, in America, we have no fault to find with the Colonization Society ; we have no particle of remaining doubt as to the sincere desire of its projectors and principal supporters to eradicate slavery itself from the American soil; and we “esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake.'

In the last Number of the North American Review, we find a long article advocating the object of the Society, and defending its policy ; from which, as an authentic exposition of the principles of its supporters, we shall, in justice, extract so much as will enable our readers to understand the true state of the case.

In the first place, then, the Society, as a society, recognizes no principles in reference to the slave system. It says nothing, and proposes to do nothing, respecting it. The object to which their attention is to be exclusively directed is, to promote and execute a plan for colonizing (with their consent) the free people of colour.

. But though the Society, as such, recognize no principles, they do recognize opinions upon the subject in question; and these opinions they do not seek to conceal. They have invariably disclosed, though never urged them, on all suitable occasions.

So far as we can ascertain, the supporters of the Colonization policy generally believe, 1. That Slavery is a moral and political evil. 2. That it is in this country a constitutional and legitimate system, which they have neither inclination, interest, nor ability to disturb. 3. That neither the commencement nor the continuance of this system is generally chargeable to (on) the Slave-holders or the slaveholding states. 4. That the Governments and the individuals immediately and personally concerned in the system, and they alone, have the right to manage and modify it as they choose. 5. That it is their interest, and also peculiarly in their power, in reference to slavery, to promote the Society's design.'

Each of these propositions will require a brief comment, in order to shew what is the actual state of the law, and of opinion, in America, and wherein they differ from the state of things in this country and its colonies.

That slavery “is a moral and political evil,' may be admitted in terms, by many who still regard it as a necessary evil, or an evil to be tolerated, or not a greater evil than pauperism and other inevitable concomitants of certain stages of society. The language is tame and equivocal. Those persons only will feel that slavery is such an evil as ought not to be suffered to exist, who regard the holding of men in bondage as not simply an evil, but a wrong. In all moral evil, criminality must be involved ; if, therefore, slavery is a moral evil, it is, on the part of those who tolerate it, a crime. We will not go so far as to say, that every slave-holder is to be regarded as criminal, for the sin does not lie at his door; and he may be doing his part to mitigate the injustice, and to pave the way for the abolition of the evil. Laws which are essentially unjust, which inflict political grievances, or actual oppression, must be morally wrong; but personal criminality does not attach to the individual who is the involuntary instrument of executing such laws, or whose conduct is necessarily governed by them; who, therefore, acts legitimately. Bad laws cannot legitimate themselves, but, by legitimating the acts committed under them, they assuredly preclude, to a certain degree, blame in the individual. Unjust wars are criminal, but we do not blame the soldier, the pay-master, or the contractor. The English game-laws are detestable ; but the crime does not attach to the magistrate.

The case is altogether changed, when the slave-holder, or when any one becomes the abettor of laws that perpetuate injustice and oppression, and the opponent of measures of redress. By his own act, he then becomes a transgressor of those moral obligations which are prior and superior to all human legislation. In the former case, the slave-holder finds himself involved, without any original fault on his part, in what we shall not hesitate to term a national crime ; a crime to which all the constituted authorities under which he lives are accessaries. But if he could himself be properly regarded as personally criminal, he ought to be punished. Now no one has gone so far as to maintain, that the holding of slaves according to law, is a crime that ought to be punitively dealed with, or that the Divine punishment is to be invoked upon all persons holding such property. The opinion that slavery involves national guilt, implies no such sentiment as this; nor does any thing of a vindictive feeling become the genuine philanthropist. It is a possible thing, that some of the sincerest friends to the emancipation of the slaves, may be found among the proprietors of estates worked by slave labour.

We will make a further concession ;-for the cause we have at heart is too good, and the case of the friends of abolition too strong, to be endangered or weakened by the amplest concessions that candour requires. We have on a former occasion cited the forcible language of Fox, that 'personal freedom is a right, of "which he who deprives a fellow-creature is absolutely criminal

in so depriving him; and which he who withholds when it is in ‘his power to restore, is not less criminal in withholding. This was said in reference to that system of rapine, robbery, and mur

der' as the right honourable Speaker justly characterized it, the slave-trade. In extending its application to slavery, we must not overlook the wide difference between refusing to restore liberty to one who has been piratically deprived of its actual possession, and withholding liberty from those who have never been possessed of it, -to whom it may be given, but not restored. The difference does not affect the natural right, the moral claim of the slave to personal freedom, which is as clear and complete in the born slave as in the kidnapped African ; but it makes a material difference as regards the guilt and cruelty of detaining him in slavery. Considering social rights as the creature of law, it must also be admitted, that the kidnapping of a free man and the holding of a born slave, are wrongs differing at least very widely in the degree of criminality. The depriving of an innocent fellowcreature of personal freedom by an overt act, is a crime which no one can involuntarily commit, which nothing can justify, which calls for immediate reparation or punishment. But, for the withholding of freedom from the slave, it may be pleaded, that the owners have not the absolute power to reverse the condition of the slave. The validity of this plea, we shall examine hereafter.

With these qualifications, we hold, that slavery is not merely a moral evil in its consequences, but, in its very nature, a moral wrong, and therefore involves a crime. This we are prepared to maintain of slavery in the abstract; but we are not fond of dwelling

in the region of abstractions. We will not speak of abstract slavery, but, of that definite, palpable, monstrous outrage upon humanity, West India slavery; and of this we say, that it is a moral and political evil that reflects deep disgrace upon the civilized Legislature that tolerates its continuance for an hour. Not to insist upon immediate abolition, is to plead for the continued license of moral and political wickedness. It is not simply holding men in slavery-this does not describe the system : it is holding them, using them, deeming of them as beasts. It is a system incapable of legislative regulation; melioration is out of the question; it must be left as it is, a horrid nuisance and crime, to wear itself out by ruining the planter and extirpating the slave-breed, -or, abolished.

We speak of Jamaica slavery. How far American Slavery deserves to be described in the same terms, we do not at present stop to inquire; but we must grant, in passing, that a state of things which admits of the natural increase of the negro population, cannot in fairness be identified with a system under which the race is slowly perishing; and that all that is advanced in condemnation of American slavery, applies not equally, but à fortiori to the British colonial system. We are glad to learn that, even with regard to the former, there prevails much less

abstract diversity of opinion' among the citizens of the United States, than might have been feared. Our countrymen,' says the Reviewer, including those of the Southern States, are much

more unanimous in considering Slavery as an evil, than may be 'generally supposed.

· Distinguished and highly respected individuals have indeed held otherwise. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, for example, several years ago, described the South Carolinian slavery as " no greater nor 'more unusual evil than befals the poor in general.” He also said, that its extinction would be calamitous to the country; and that the system is sanctioned by the Mosaic, and at least tolerated by the Christian dispensation. Governor Miller, of the same State, in one of his messages to the Legislature, says: “ Slavery is not a national evil : on the contrary, it is a national benefit. Slavery exists in some form every where; and it is not of much consequence, in a philosophical view, whether it be voluntary or not.” These are certainly not the sentiments of the Colonization Society; and they do not hesitate to express their confidence, that even the Southern public are generally of their opinion. Many of their own number, indeed, belong to that section, and still more are, or have been, slave-holders. And they appeal to the authority of the greatest men whom the South has produced. The sentiments of Mr. Jefferson are too familiar to our readers, to be more than referred to. “ As we ought with gratitude”, said Patrick Henry, in the Debates of the Virginia Convention, “ to admire that decree of Heaven which has numbered us among the free, we ought to lament and deplore the necessity of holding our fellow

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »