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“they could get text-books at home without going to either Old England or New England for them." Well--they can try. The effort will not harm them ; nor the North either. The orator was confident“ that the South had talent enough to do anything that needs to be done, and independence enough to do it.” The talent we shall not deny ; the inde pendence we are ready to believe in when we see it. When she throws off the incubus of slavery under which she goes staggering like the Sailor of Bagdad under the weight of the Old Man of the Sea, she will prove her independence, and demonstrate her ability" to do anything that needs to be done." Till then she is but a fettered giant, whose vitals are torn by the dogs which her own folly has engendered.
Another speaker, on the occasion referred to, half-unconsciously it would seem, threw a gleam of light upon the subject 'under discussion, which, had not himself and his hearers been bat-blind, would have revealed the clue that conducts from the darkness in which they burrow to the day of redemption for the South. Said he :
“ Northern publishers employ the talent of the South and of the whole country to write for them, and pour out thousands annually for it; but Southern men expect to get talent without paying for it. The Southern Quarterly Review and the Literary Messenger are literally struggling for existence, for want of material aid. * * It is not the South that builds up Northern literature--they do it themselves. There is talent and mind and poetic genius enough in the South to build up a literature of a high order ; but Southern publishers cannot get money enough to assist them in their enterprises, and, therefore, the South has no literature.”
Here are truths. “Southern men expect to get talent without paying for it.” A very natural expectation, considering that they have been accustomed to have all their material wants supplied by the uncompensated toil of their slaves. In this instance it may seem an absurd one, but it results legitimately from the system of slavery. That system, in fact, operates in a two-fold way against the Southern publisher : first, by its practical repudiation of the scriptural axiom that the laborer is worthy of his hire ; and secondly, by restricting the circle of readers through the ignorance which it inevitably engenders. How is it that the people of the North build up their literature ?Two words reveal the secret : intelligence-compensation. They are a reading people—the poorest artizan or day-laborer has his shelf of books, or his daily or weekly paper, whose contents he seldom fails to master before retiring at night; and they are accustomed to pay for all the books and papers which they peruse. Readers and payers—these are the men who insure the prosperity of publishers. Where a system of enforced servitude prevails, it is very apt to beget loose notions about the obligation of paying for anything ; and many minds fail to see the distinction, morally, between compelling Sambo to pick cotton without paying him wages, or compelling Lippincott & Co. to manufacture books for the planter's pleasure or edification upon the same liberal terms. But more than this—where a system of enforced servitude prevails, a fearful degree of ignorance prevails also, as its necessary accompaniment. The enslaved masses are, of course, thrust back from the fountains of knowledge by the strong arm of law, while the poor
non-slaveholding classes are almost as effectually excluded from the institutions of learning by their poverty--the sparse population of slaveholding districts being unfavorable to the maintenance of free schools, and the exigencies of their condition forbidding them to avail themselves of any more costly educational privileges.
Northern publishers can “ employ the talent of the South and of the whole country to write for them, and pour out thousands annually for it," simply because a reading population, accustomed to pay for the service which it receives, enables them to do so. A similar population at the South would enable Southern publishers to do the same. Substitute free labor for slave labor, the institutions of freedom for those of slavery, and it would not long remain true that “Southern publishers cannot get money enough to assist them in their enterprises, and therefore the South has no literature.” This is the discovery which the South Carolina orator from whom we quote, but narrowly escaped making, when he stood upon its very edge, and rounded his periods with the truths in whose unapprehended meanings was hidden this germ of redemption for a nation.
The self-stultification of folly, however, was never more evident than it is in the current gabble of the oligarchs about a " Southern literature.” They do not mean by it a healthy, manly, normal utterance of unfettered minds, without which there can be no proper literature ; but an emasculated substitute therefor, from which the element of freedom is eliminated ; husks, from which the kernel has escaped—a body, from which the vitalizing spirit has fled--a literature which ignores manhood by confounding
it with brutehood ; or, at best, deals with all similes of freedom as treason against the peculiar institution." There is not a single great name in the literary annals of the old or new world that could drawf itself to the staturo requisite to gain admission into the Pantheon erected by these devotees of the Inane for their Lilliputian deities. Thank God, a “Southern literature,” in the sense intended by the champions of slavery, is a simple impossibility, rendered such by that exility of mind which they demand in its producers as a prerequisite to admission into the guild of Southern authorship. The tenuous thoughts of such authorlings could not survive a single breath of manly criticism. The history of the rise, progress, and decline of literature could be easily written on a child's smooth palm, and leave space enough for its funeral oration and epitaph. The latter might appropriately be that which, in one of our rural districts, marks the grave of a still-born infant:
“ If so early I am done for,
I wonder what I was begun for !" We desire to see the South bear its just proportion in the literary activities and achievements of our common country. It has never yet done so, and it never will until its own manhood is vindicated in the abolition of slavery. The impulse which such a measure would give to all industrial pursuits that deal with the elements of material prosperity, would be imparted also to the no less valuable but more intangible creations of the mind. Take from the intellect of the South the incubus which now oppresses it
, and its rebound would be glorious ; the era of its diviner
inspirations would begin; and its triumphs would be a perpetual vindication of the superiority of free institutions over those of slavery.
To Duyckinck's “Cyclopedia of American Literature-a sort of Omnium-gatherum that reminds one of Jeremiah's figs--we are indebted for the following facts : The whole number of " American authors” whose place of nativity is given, is five hundred and sixty-nine. Of these seventynine were foreign born, eighty-seven were natives of the South, and four hundred and three-a vast majority of the whole, first breathed the vital air in the free North, Many of those who were born in the South, received their education in the North, quite a number of whom became permanent residents thereof. Still, for the purposes of this computation, we count them on the side of the South. Yet how significant the comparison which this computation furnishes! Throwing the foreign born (adopted citizens, mostly residents of the North) out of the reckoning, and the record stands,--Northern authors four hundred and three; Southern, eighty-seven--a difference of three hundred and sixteen in favor of the North! And this, probably, indicates very fairly the relative intellectual activity of the two sections.
We accept the facts gleaned from Duyckinck's work as a basis, simply, of our estimate: not as being absolutely accurate in themselves, though they are doubtless reliable in the main, and certainly as fair for the South as they are for the North. We might dissent from the judgment of the compiler in reference to the propriety of applying the term "literature" to much that his compila