« AnteriorContinuar »
MASSACHUSETTS QUARTERLY REVIEW.
NO. IX.-DECEMBER, 1849.
ART. L JAMES G. BIRNEY.
III. HENRY JAMES.
IV. RICHARD HILDRETH.
VIII. THEODORE PARKER.
These times are nearly, if not entirely, passeu vy, nation is now engaged in a more serious investigation. But our main design in citing these speeches, for we have other matters behind that appear to us more important, is to let our readers know how this question, now that it has broken in on the Senate, in spite of all their management to keep it out, is entertained by a body pronounced by its own members to be the most dignified deliberative one in the world; and on what trashy notions and imperfect statements our legislators
MASSACHUSETTS QUARTERLY REVIEW.
NO. IX.-DECEMBER, 1849.
ART. I.-1. Speech of Mr. Hunter, of Virginia, on the Oregon Territory Bill, in Senate, July 11, 1848.
2. Speech of Mr. Underwood, of Kentucky, on the proposed Compromise Bill, in Senate, July 25, 1848.
3. Speech of Mr. Berrien, of Georgia, on the proposed Compromise Bill, in Senate, July 26, 1848.
4. Speech of Mr. John M. Clayton, of Delaware, in defence of the bill to organize Governments in Oregon, California, and New Mexico, in Senate, August 3, 1848.
WE put the foregoing speeches at the head of this article, not because they contain the best arguments in favor of Slavery, for we have seen more ingenious ones, and more delusive; nor that we propose to subject them to any very extended examination, for where these arguments are of seeming worth, they have been examined long ago, and refuted. Yet we may occasionally sift some of their statements, to see whether they be true or not; for it is not now, as it was a long time ago, that any statement, however unfounded, any argument, however weak, in favor of Slavery, would be sufficient to strengthen it and raise a laugh against the abolitionists. These times are nearly, if not entirely, passed by, and the nation is now engaged in a more serious investigation. But our main design in citing these speeches,- for we have other matters behind that appear to us more important, is to let our readers know how this question, now that it has broken in on the Senate, in spite of all their management to keep it out, is entertained by a body pronounced by its own members to be the most dignified deliberative one in the world; and on what trashy notions and imperfect statements our legislators
are content to decide the great question of the age. As they will probably, and we think almost certainly, not decide it dispassionately, they will as certainly not decide it as wisely as it can be decided; for whilst we have full confidence in the opinion that no sound argument proceeding from sound premises can ever lead to a result manifestly unjust, we well know that a practised and self-possessed speaker- one who is striving to gain a present advantage, right or wrong, on some particular question-may so adroitly, yet untruly, present his premises, that an argument fairly built on them may conduct us to a mischievous conclusion. We do not intend to charge our more experienced Senators with trying this scheme on the younger ones, nor, indeed, do we know that it was at all called for; but in such cases it is only necessary, and we are not going to deny that it often demands good talents and great vigilance, to detect the overspread and concealed flaw, in order to show that the argument has no proper application to the subject.
One thing must have struck all, who, like ourselves, have waded through nearly the whole, if not the whole, of the slaveholding Senatorial speeches on Slavery- their utter heartlessness.* They seem never to think that the negro slave is any thing but dead, insensible material, to be moulded according to their fancy. It does not appear once to have entered their minds that he is their brother, and that in attempting to injure him they are sure to injure themselves; that he is a member of God's family here on earth, and that he requires a training to act well his part for the world that now is, as well as preparation for that which is to come; that he has any claims to the blessings of freedom, or desire for them; or that there is any duty on the part of those who restrain him from his
*We wish we could say this temper was confined to the slaveholders. In the proceedings of the Senate, January 10, 1849, as reported in the National Intelligencer, Mr. Douglass of Illinois is represented as having made some remarks beyond what we have, of late years, seen as coming from a Senator from the Free states. In speaking of Slavery he says: "Bring these territories (California and New Mexico) into this Union as states, upon an equal footing with the Northern States. Let the people of such states settle the question of Slavery within their limits, as they would settle the question of banking, or any other domestic institution, according to their own will. Whatever that settlement may be, I shall be content with it." Mr. Douglass boasts, too, at this time of day, that he has "voted to keep abolition petitions out of these halls." As he pronounces it a "libel" to say that Northern Senators have not always maintained their rights, we commend to his perusal the law for the distribution of the surplus revenue, and the one for the armed occupation of Florida, as it is called.
liberty, to restrain him no more or that to him the truths of the Declaration of Independence, pronounced to be "self-evident," have any application. These notions seem to be enter tained, too, after all the slaveholder has said about the love and esteem and affection, that often spring up between the master and the slave. This sentiment is to be found in Senator Underwood's speech, tainting it from beginning to end, and if we mistake not, it is equally discernible in all the others, whenever there is occasion for speaking on this subject.
In Mr. Underwood, we acknowledge we have been mistaken. A long acquaintance with him, begun in early life too, led us to expect other and very different things from him. We had trusted that Slavery, bad as we know it to be, corrupting as it often, perhaps inevitably, is, to the noblest natures, had not gone very far in its destructive work on his. If the opinion that we have now formed is a wrong one, we wish it may be so proved, for we had hoped that the firmness and moderation and conscientiousness of Mr. Underwood would greatly contribute to soften and modify, if they could not entirely remove, the evils that unguarded and passionate men connect with emancipation—an event that now seems unavoidable, and that before very long. But when we hear him saying, "I feel no more responsibility for the existence of the institution" an institution in which he is an agent, and for the support of which he is doing all that he can do" than I do for the time and place of my birth," we are free to acknowledge, that our fears, so far as he is concerned, are greatly aroused, our hopes much weakened. Entertaining this opinion, it is no wonder that the constancy of the abolitionists should seem to him as the most consummate obstinacy, and that it should draw from his impatience these remarks:
"I am disgusted, I am incensed at the conduct of those who are perpetually goading us on the subject of African Slavery, and I beg leave on this occasion to expose their errors and suggest what they may do to benefit both the black and white races, if their benevolence were guided by intelligence and true love for their species. They do not understand the subject on which they write and speak so much. Certain it is, their opportunities to understand and comprehend it are not equal to those possessed by us, who live in the midst of slaves, and from necessity have daily intercourse with them."
To one who thinks that slave-holding is an affair of very small concern, if of any concern at all, these are quite natural sen