صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

confidence which my conviction of being under the care of a cautious leader did not fail to inspire. My guide appeared highly gratified with the incident, asserting that it was the first time one deprived of sight had ever ventured there; and adding that he was sure it would much surprise the king, when the circumstance became known to him, in the report which is daily made of the persons who visit the mountain. The ground was too hot under our feet, and the sulphurous vapour too strong, to allow of our remaining long in this situation; and when he thought he had given us a sufficient idea of the nature of this part of the mountain, we retired to a more solid and a cooler footing; previous to which, however, he directed my walking-cane towards the flames, which shrivelled the ferule and charred the lower part:-this I still retain as a memorial.

"From hence we were conducted to the edge of a small crater, now extinguished, from whence, about two months before, the Frenchman, rivalling the immortality of Empedocles, and desirous of the glory of dying a death worthy of the great nation, plunged into the fiery abyss. The guide placed my hand on the very spot where he was stated to have last stood before he thus rashly entered upon eternity. I was anxious to have proceeded up the cone to the border of the superior and large crater; but our guide objected, indeed refused, to conduct us to it, unless we awaited the dawn of morning: the moon, he said, was fast descending, so that we should be involved in darkness before we could attain it, and that consequently it would be attended with risk in the extreme to make the attempt."


ART. XX.-American Domestic Slavery.

E have before us "Minutes of the Seventeenth Session of the American Convention for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, assembled at Philadelphia" on the 3d of October, and continuing its sittings till the 29th of November, 1821; and are desirous of putting our readers briefly in possession of the present state of its affairs. It may be necessary, for the information of some of them, to observe, that this Convention consists of delegates from New York, Philadelphia, and Delaware; that its specific objects are the abolition of domestic slavery, and the protection of free Negroes illegally detained, and, generally, the improvement of the condition of the African race throughout the United States. The reports of the present session are, for the most part, of a very favourable kind: the constituent societies continue to add to their numbers; the schools for the education of Negro children prosper and increase; and kidnapping, though prevailing to an afflicting extent, is yet practised with less and less audacity-the public feeling, which has been created by the exertions of the Convention, rising progressively against it. On the other hand, the Reporters complain of the difficulties experienced in rescuing the victims from the gripe of their villainous captors; of obstacles thrown in


the way of redress by quibbling evasions of the " Act for the gradual Abolition of Slavery;" of the failure of the attempt to persuade Congress to check the further extension of slavery in the south and west; and, with great reason and proper warmth, of its perpetration in Columbia, where the authority of Congress is peremptory, and local prejudices it might be supposed excluded. The acquisition of the Floridas is a new cause for the apprehension of further difficulties, the demands of those states giving encouragement to kidnapping, and, by their remoteness and scattered population, facilitating concealment. Yet still the Convention" has ample reason for congratulation, in the absolute good it has already effected, and in the fair promise of ultimate success from the growing popularity and diffusion of its principles and professions.

Such is the general tone of the Reports. Of the farther measures adopted before the breaking up of the session, we shall presently lay before our readers the "Plan for General Emancipation," and the "Circular Address," which will both afford a specimen of the spirit of their conduct, and prove that the management of the great concern is in able hands.

The continued existence of slavery in so large a portion of the United States, is a favourite topic of vituperation, in this country, with those who cherish a rancorous hatred against the Americans. This hatred has its source in political antipathies, and perhaps in commercial jealousies. But of all irrational things, national hatred is surely the most so. It neither reasons nor reflects. It is struck with no inconsistencies. We have, it is true, abandoned the right of enslaving our fellows: but is it for that cause to be forgotten, that our common ancestors were the authors of those laws which legalised the trading in slaves in this country, and established domestic slavery in America ;-that, in this country, slavery was no other than a matter of trade, but that in America it constitutes a most important element of society;-that its renunciation in the one case, therefore, only cut away the unholy gains of a few traders, and interfered with the West India proprietors, but that, in the other, it destroys an habitual and general form of domestic accommodation throughout a whole nation? We do not say these distinctions exculpate the Americans; but we do say they account very satisfactorily for the greater embarrassments and longer delays encountered by the American abolitionists.

The right to enslave, constituted a part and parcel of the law of both countries: we have now abjured that right; but this abjuration of ours is neither of so remote a date, nor were we so prompt or unanimous in renouncing our share in that enormous abuse of power, as to exult in our own virtue, or to triumph over the tardy


repentance of others, or to look down with scorn upon the efforts of those who are treading in the very footsteps of our own benevolent countrymen. It was by the most unwearied labour and perseverance, that a few active philanthropists resolutely but slowly worked their purpose amidst a thousand impediments opposed to them, as was natural, by those whose "craft was in danger," and unhappily, but as was equally natural, by bigoted statesmen, and their servile dependents, though their craft was in none. And was this purpose at last brought about by the acclamation of geheral conviction? No such thing: it was rather by the lucky preponderance of an able but transient and unpopular administration. Had the question of abolition been delayed one little month, we should, doubtless, at this very moment, have been plunged in deeper guilt, because with less excuse, than America herself. To be sure, the detestation of slavery seems now, and no doubt is, sincere and universal; no one dreams of reviving or of defending it; we might wonder, if any change of this kind could stir our wonder, what has become of all its stout supporters. But no one will suppose this sudden and general change of sentiment sprang from conviction. It is for the most part a familiar acquiescence in the current state of things. The iniquitous practice has ceased to be customary with us, and we are free to revile it in others. The temptation, along with the power, to commit the crime is withdrawn; and absence of guilt constitutes our purity-such is the root of many of our fancied virtues. Still we entertain no manner of doubt, that the steady friends of humanity would eventually have carried their point against any set of men, or accumulation of obstacles; but it must have been the slow work of time and of importunity convincing some into co-operation, but wearying out the opposition of more.

The same laborious and hard-won, perhaps the same fortuitous, victory, awaits the American abolitionists; they will not flag in their exertions: the virtuous end of their efforts will stimulate and strengthen them; and the indolence of the many will naturally sink under the activity of the few.

The foes of America, in the eagerness of their hostility, forget that she has by far the harder task to perform. It is not with her as it was with us. One act of our legislature swept the disgraceful sanction from our statute books for ever. In America, every State has its distinct legislature; and when opposition is surmounted in one, the same labours are to be toiled through in another, except so far as one instance of success is sure to smooth the way for a second.

But there is another point of difference, to which we have already

ready alluded, and which, as it presents to America a more insuperable difficulty, is calculated to check a little the pride of our exultation. The greater part of the people of this country had no personal interest in slavery; it was a branch of commerce, and no more affected the customs and accommodations of Englishmen, than any the most indifferent carrying trade exercised by the obscurest merchant in the country. In America generally, every landholder of any importance, is, or has been, at the same time a slaveholder; his lands are tilled by slaves; they are his servants in doors and out doors. Emancipation, therefore, comes home to him; it interferes with the management of his domestic affairs, and promises to lessen his profits, and leave him perhaps to the labours of his own hands. It is to take from him power and property. It is to make him condescend to hire, what before he might scourge at his pleasure. It is to make him learn that the thing he commanded had a will, which is to be consulted before it operates in his favour. We are no professed apologists for America; but we think there are strong distinctions between her case and ours, and such as should rather lead us to admire the extensive effects produced by a few benevolent individuals, than condemn a nation, because it will not do at once what no nation on earth ever yet did willingly,-renounce a long established


It is no part of our intention at this time to enter minutely into the antecedent measures of the Convention. We have stated its general views; and hope to record its future proceedings, till it happily arrives at its ultimate object.

A Plan for the General Emancipation of Slaves.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments were instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."-Declaration of Independence..

"These self-evident truths, thus solemnly promulgated, and always admitted in theory, at least in relation to ourselves, are well known to be partially denied or disregarded, in most sections of the Union, in relation to the descendants of the African race. That a nation professing the principles of equal rights, and loudly proclaiming the justice of its laws, should contain a population, amounting to nearly one-seventh of the whole, who know little of the operation of those laws, except as instruments of oppression, is one of those political phenomena which prove how little the patriot's boast, or the orator's declamation, is guided by the light of truth.

"It must be admitted that it would neither be politic nor safe for the present system of slavery in the United States to be long continued, without providing some wise and certain means of eventual emancipation.


"Slavery, with its present degrading characteristics, is a state of actual hostility between master and slave, in which a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events; and this may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take part with us in such a contest.'-Jefferson.

"It is a truth generally acknowledged, that slavery is an evil, not only by those whom principle or education has taught to proscribe the practice, but by men of reflection, even in the very vortex of slavery. To condemn, then, what few, if any, will presume to defend, is rendered unnecessary; and the ingenuity of the philanthropist would be more judiciously exercised in devising a practicable remedy for this deep-rooted disease, than in heaping reproaches upon those, who, by the conduct of their ancestors, are placed in the condition of masters of slaves. Few of those who from their childhood have been placed in situations far removed from the scenes which slavery exhibits, can fully appreciate the difficulties, the vexations, and the anxieties, incident to the life of a slave-holder. To devise a plan, then, by which the condition both of the master and slave may be ameliorated, is a desideratum in the policy of this country :-a plan which will promote the immediate interest of the master, in the same ratio, that the slave is made to rise in the scale of moral and intellectual improvement; and which will eventuate in` the ultimate enfranchisement of the long injured and degraded descendants of Africa. The evils of slavery being generally acknowledged, and its impolicy fully evinced, the important question which remains to be solved, will naturally present itself:-What are the means by which this evil is to be removed, consistently with the safety of the master and the happiness of the slave? Perhaps to some this question, considered on the ground of absolute justice, may appear of easy solution,—Immediate, universal emancipation.

"But however pleasing the prospect may be to the philanthropist, of getting clear of one of the evils of slavery, yet a full examination of local circumstances must convince us that this would be to cut, rather than untie, the Gordian knot.

"Reformation on a large scale is commonly slow. Habits long established are not easily and suddenly changed. But were it possible to induce the inhabitants of the slave-holding States to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to let loose at once the whole tide of black population, it may reasonably be questioned whether such a measure would not produce as much evil as it would cure. Besides, such a measure, if it were practicable, would fall short of simple justice. We owe to that injured race an immense debt, which the liberation of their bodies alone would not liquidate. It has been the policy of the slave-holder to keep the man whom he has doomed to interminable servitude, in the lowest state of mental degradation; to withhold from him as much as possible the means of improving the talents which nature has given him ;-in short, to reduce him as near to the condition of a machine as a rational being could be. Every inducement, every excitement, to the exertion and development of native talent and genius, is wanting in the slave. Hence, to throw such a being, thus degraded, thus brutalized, upon society, and then expect him to exercise those rights which are the birthright of every son and daughter of Adam, with advantage to himself, or to the community upon which he is thrown, is to suppose that the laws established for the government of universal nature, should in this case be changed. As well

« السابقةمتابعة »