« AnteriorContinuar »
or Sonora, the price of negroes generally, and especially of "fine-looking wenches," the beauties of lynch-law, the delights of horse-racing, the excitement of street fights with bowie-knives and revolvers, the "manifest destiny" theory that justifies the stealing of all territory contiguous to our own, and kindred topics, constitute the warp and woof of conversation. All this is on a level with the general intelligence of the Slave States. It is true, these States have their educated men,—the majority of whom owe their literary culture to the colleges of the North. Not that there are no Southern colleges—for there are institutions, so called, in a majority of the Slave States.— Some of them, too, are not deficient in the appointments requisite to our higher educational institutions ; but as a general thing, Southern colleges are colleges only in name, and will scarcely take rank with a third-rate Northern academy, while our academies, with a few exceptions, are immeasurably inferior to the public schools of New-York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The truth is, there is a vast inert mass of stupidity and ignorance, too dense for individual effort to enlighten or remove, in all communities cursed with the institution of slavery. Disguise the unwelcome truth as we may, slavery is the parent of ignorance, and ignorance begets a whole brood of follies and of vices, and every one of these is inevitably hostile to literary culture. The masses, if they think of literature at all, think of it only as a costly luxury, to be monopolized by the few.
The proportion of white adults over twenty years of age,
in each State, who cannot read and write, to the whole white population, is as follows:
In this table, Illinois and Indiana arc the only Free States which, in point of education, are surpassed by any of the Slave States; and this disgraceful fact is owing, principally, to the influx of foreigners, and to immigrants from the Slave States. New-York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania have also a large foreign element in their population, that swells very considerably this percentage of ignorance. For instance, New-York shows, by the last census, a population of 98,722 who cannot read and write, and of this number 68,052 are foreigners; Rhode Island, 3,607, of whom 2,359 are foreigners; Pennsylvania, 76,272, of whom 24,989 are foreigners. On the other hand, the ignorance of the Slave States is principally native ignorance, but comparatively few emigrants from Europe seeking a home upon a soil cursed with "the peculiar institution." North Carolina has a foreign population of only 340, South Carolina only 104, Arkansas only 27, Tennessee only 505, and Virginia only 1,137, who cannot read and write; while the aggregate of native ignorance in these five States (exclusive of the slaves, who are debarred all education by law) is 278,948! No longer ago than 1837, Governor Clarke, of Kentucky, in his message to the Legislature of that State, declared that "by the computation of those most familiar with the subject, onethird of the adult population of the State are unable to ,write their names ,•" and Governor Campbell, of Virginia, reported to the Legislature, that "from the returns of ninety-eight clerks, it appeared that of 4,614 applications for marriage licenses in 1837, no less than 1,047 were made by men unable to write."
In the Slave States the proportion of free white children between the ages of five and twenty, who are found at any school or college, is not quite one-fifth of the whole; in the Free States, the proportion is more than three-fifths.
We could fill our pages with facts like these to an almost indefinite extent, but it cannot be necessary. No truth is more demonstrable, nay, no truth has been more abundantly demonstrated, than this : that Slavery is hostile to general education; its strength, its very life, is in the ignorance and stolidity of the masses; it naturally and necessarily represses general literary culture. To talk, therefore, of the "creation of a purely Southern Literature," without readers to demand, or writers to produce it, is the mere babble of idiocy.
II. Another thing essential to the creation of a literature is Mental Freedom. How much of that is to be found in the region of Slavery? We will not say that there is none; but if it exists, it exists as the outlawed antagonist of human chattelhood. He who believes that the despotism of the accursed institution expends its malignant forces upon the slave, leaving iutact the white and (so called) free population, is the victim of a most monstrous delusion. One end of the yoke that bows the African to the dust, presses heavily upon the neck of his Anglo-Saxon master. The entire mind of the South either stultifies itself into acquiescence with Slavery, succumbs to its authority, or chafes in indignant protest against its monstrous pretensions and outrageous usurpations. A free press is an institution almost unknown at the South. Free speech is considered as treason against slavery: and when people dare neither speak nor print their thoughts, free thought itself is well nigh extinguished. All that can be said in defence of human bondage, may bo spoken freely; but question either its morality or its policy, and the terrors of lynch law are at once invoked to put down the pestilent heresy. The legislation of the Slave States for the suppression of the freedom of speech and the press, is disgraceful and cowardly to the last degree, and can find its parallel only in the meanest and bloodiest despotisms of the Old World. No institution that could bear the light would thus sneakingly seek to burrow itself in utter darkness. Look, too, at the rnobbings, lynchings, robberies, social and political proscriptions, and all manner of nameless outrages, to which men in the South have been subjected, simply upon the suspicion that
after page of this volume, with the record of such atrocities. But a simple reference to them is enough. Our countrymen have not yet forgotten why John C. Underwood was, but a few months since, banished from his home in Virginia, and the accomplished Hedreck driven from his College professorship in North Carolina. They believed Slavery inimical to the best interest of the South, and for daring to give expression to this belief in moderate yet manly language, they were ostracised by the despotic Slave Power, and compelled to seek a refuge from its vengeance in States where the principles of freedom are better understood. Pending the last Presidential election, there were thousands, nay, tens of thousands of voters in the Slave States, who desired to give their suffrages for the Republican nominee, John C. Fremont, himself a Southron, but a non-slaveholder. The Constitution of the United States guaranteed to these men an expression of their preference at the ballot-box. But were they permitted such an expression? Not at all. They were denounced, threatened, overawed, by the Slave Power—and it is not too much to say that there was really no Constitutional election,—that is, no such free expression of political preferences as the Constitution aims to secure—in a majority of the Slave States.
Prom a multiplicity of facts like these, the inference is unavoidable, that Slavery tolerates no freedom of the press—no freedom of speech—no freedom of opinion. To expect that a whole-souled, manly literature can flourish under such conditions, is as absurd as it would be to look for health amid the pestilential vapors of a dungeon, or