Charles L. (Charles Lemuel) Thompson.

America's misfortune; or, A practical view of slavery online

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tion to his comfort and relief from embarrassment.]

As a missionary work, this is a matter of great
importance. We need not pause here to dwell upon
the fact that the inhabitants of Africa have, by their
misery, the strongest claim upon the whole Christian

78 America's misfortune; oe,

world; for it is well known that there is scarcely a
place on the globe where man seems to have lost so
entirely the image of his Creator. The advantages of
the colonist's position over that of the ordinary mis-
sionary, who is in every sense a foreigner, possessing
a different mental and physical organization, different
tastes, feelings and habits, will be seen at once. Tlie
obstacles which are usually overcome, only after long
years of patient struggling, are here removed at the
outset. The colonist labors among heathen who are
his brethren, and with whose abilities and character-
istics he is fully acquainted. The native who meets
him, bringing civilization, education, and the religion
of Christ, is in a good measure prepared, without any
introduction, to give him a warm reception.

The story of the miseries which his benefactor has
suffered in a distant land — prepared, as he is, by the
traditions of his fathers, and what he has himself wit-
nessed of the horrors of the slave trade, to believe as
he hears — serves to unite the native African to his
American brother by a bond of whose strength we can
form no adequate conception. We doubt if any mis-
sionary work on the globe will bear comparison with
this in facility or sublimity. A long injured race are
returning from a foreign land to the home of their
fathers, to teach their countrymen the truths of that
Gospel without which man is, at best, in a state of
bondage more deplorable than any other — a Gospel
which their oppressors could never entirely hide from
them, and which they finally gave them freely as a
parting gift, rendering the most devout gratitude due


from them to that God who, in a mysterious way, has
conferred upon them a blessing infinitely greater than
all their woes.

The white race have most effectually debarred them-
selves from missionary labor in that portion of the
country where the slave trade has been carried on — or
at least from successful labor — for they must ever be
regarded with suspicion while the African bears in
mind the injuries of his kindred. In view of this fact,
there seems to be almost a necessity that the work of
evangelizing Africa should be committed to the col-
ored of our own country ; and we can conceive of no
work which would so much ennoble them.

But colonization confers blessings upon Africa, beside
Christianity. Education and the arts of civilized life
are here producing the most happy results. The colo-
nies are also a powerful check upon the slave trade ;
and, if extended, would, with little doubt, completely
suppress it, as they possess facilities for protecting the
coast not in the possession of any navy in the world.

Sierra Leone and Liberia are both flourishing colo-
nies, but the latter more especially claims our attention.
This colony is now a free republic, and recognized as
such by the leading powers of Europe. A fertile soil
has here guaranteed subsistence ; and enterprise has
given comfort and independence. Here are enjoyed
the civil, literary and religious institutions of the United
States ; and the world beholds what the slaves of our
country may become, individually and socially, when
their embarrassments arc removed.

While the work of introducing Christian civilization

80 America's misfortune; or,

has been carried on among the nations of the East at
the point of the bayonet, this work is quiet and unob-
trusive, and eminently befitting a Gospel of peace. It
has proved itself vrorthy the aid of all the philan-
thropic ; and this is now cheerfully given by those who
at first doubted as to its success.

Those who at first opposed colonization, because they
desired something which should effect the abolition of
slavery more speedily, can not now fail to see, if they
will, that it removes a strong prop of the system, by
showing that the slave readily becomes independent,
when he has a fair field for the exercise of his abilities.

"We believe that it is now apparent that African
colonization may do much toward the removal of
slavery from our country ; and, indeed, we can see no
insurmountable obstacle to its accomplishing the entire
work. The work must, of necessity^ be a gradual one ;
for the slave requires education for his new sphere.

The Colonization Society of a single State has, during
the past two years, sent more than thirteen hundred
persons to Liberia. If all the States would do as much,
more than twenty thousand might thus be sent annu-
ally. Could the State governments, or the general
government, be made to see that the highest interests
of our country demand it, large sums might annually
be raised for this purpose, without imposing a heavy
burden upon the people. Or, if all the inhabitants of
the United States were to contribute each one dollar
annually, we believe that in twenty years slavery
would be nearly or quite removed. It is hardly
necessary to allude to the fact that many slaveholders


would gladly give up their slaves, without any compen-
sation, and many others would sell theirs at greatly re-
duced prices, if they were sure that their welfare would
thereby be promoted. If all can not give one dollar
annually, how many would gladly give much more?
Who would not aid in the noblest work ever offered to
Americans ? A wealthy and venerable Scotch gentle-
man, not residing in this country, recently said to us,
while discussing the liberation of our slaves, " Raise
all the money you can by contribution for this pur-
pose, and, if you have not enough, come over here and
we will aid you ; and then go to Europe and they will
aid you there."

We believe that he spoke correctly, and that he
merely expressed the feeling of many in every part of
the world who pity us, and would gladly do all in
their power to aid us in the removal of a great evil.

We have abundant evidence that very many slave-
holders are warm advocates of colonization, and this
fact affords great encouragement. The following ex-
tract from a letter written recently by a gentleman in
an extreme Soathern State, we believe a fair exponent
of a widely prevalent feeling, the latter portion show-
ing that the planter is not, as is sometimes argued,
dependent entirely upon the colored man for the per-
formance of field labor. He says : " I have talked, in
private, anti-slavery to a great many persons here, and
fmd that they coincide with us — the anti-slavery party —
in every article save one, and that is the mode of rem-
edy. They say the government ought to buy up all the
slaves, and send them off to Africa ; others say they

83 America's misfortune: ok

wish there had never been any slaves in the country.
In connection, allow me to state that the cotton raised
and picked here by the Germans who have emigrated to
this State, is worth, in this market, from three fourths
to one and one fourth cents per pound more than that
which is attended to by slaves, proving conclusively
that slave labor is not the most profitable."

We have chosen to make this work, in a great
measure, a statement oi facts. If we shall be so un-
fortunate as to write anything which has not its
foundation in truth, we sincerely hope that it will be
" as water spilled upon the ground, which can not be
gathered up." We have endeavored to write, uninflu-
enced by party or sectional feeling, regarding alike the
welfare of the slave, the master, and the country at
large. The evils of slavery are of such magnitude that
no American can remain inactive without incurring
guilt ; and we have felt of late, upon seeing some of
the horrors of the system, a strong impulse to follow
the example of one who, in ancient times, went through
the streets of a large, wealthy, and refined, but cor-
rupt, idolatrous, and almost abandoned city, crying,
"Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
And we should have felt nearly or quite as guilty as
did Jonah, when cast overboard by the troubled mar-
iners, in consequence of not fulfilling at once the mis-
sion upon which he was sent, had we neglected to
publish what has come to our knowledge. If any
shall be induced at once to " sit in sackcloth," we shall
be amply repaid for our labor. If Jefferson, as he con-
templated this evil, " trembled when ho remembered


that God was just, and that His justice could forever
sleep," we see not how any at the present day can
remain indifferent. Is not the danger imminent ?

The slave, however degraded, is still a human being ;
and there is one element in his constitution which can
never be entirely confined.

"You may chain tho eagle's wing,

No more on clouds to soar ;
You may seal tlie mountain spring,

That it leap to light no more ;
But the mind let none dare chain —

Better it cease to be.
Born not to serve, but reign,

God made it to be free."

The feeblest intellect can not be completely crushed ;
and the bloody scenes of St. Domingo remind us that
a most fearful retribution may be in store for the
United States. A long oppressed people there found
a deliverer, in one of their own number, who led the
way for them to execute summarj'- vengeance upon
their defenseless oppressors ; and have we not abund-
ant evidence that there are, in our own country, slaves
of marked ability ? We have even greater reason for
apprehension than there existed; for if the colored
man and the mulatto can not be always restrained, still
less can the white man.

The slaves of our country, in consequence of the
prohibition of the African slave trade, are gradually
becoming assimilated to our own race. While other
abuses may have been decreasing, this has been con-
stantly increasing. It may be that some American

84: America's misfortune; or,

slave, with fairer skin, and more of the Saxon fire and
Saxon revenge, will yet cause the blood of fathers,
mothers, and innocent babes, to flow in our streets in
such streams as would have made Toussaint L. Over-
ture stand aghast, while the heart of the nation quakes
with sudden, sickening alarm. It has been said that
"America is the last hope of the world ;" and her
peculiar history, no less than her geographical posi-
tion, woald seem almost to warrant the assertion.
The discovery of our continent, just as education and
Christianity were emerging from their long night of
thraldom, affording an asylum for the victims of
tyranny and persecution, was a most striking provi

Isabella, moved by the argument that " perhaps in
that undiscovered land there are souls to be saved,"
pledged her jewels to aid Columbus ; and a grateful
world will never forget their obligation to the one or
the other. But could they have foreseen that millions
of the human race would here sutler a most galling
bondage, what sorrow would have filled their gener-
ous bosoms ! The rich, civil, literary, and religious
blessings, which have been showered upon us, impose
an obligation which we may not disregard with im-

Slavery is a vulture gnawing at our vitals; his
talons are piercing our veins. Shall we give our-
selves to an unclean bird, when the lieart of the world
throbs in accordance with the 23ulsations of our own
breast? The slave calls upon us to break his bonds.
He will not always cry before his voice will reach the


ear of " Him who sitteth in the heavens." He calls
bj his misery, and the meekness with which it is borne.

Did we know the whole history of the South, we
should, doubtless, discover not a few instances of a
disposition similar to that manifested by a faithful
slave, who, having accompanied his master to Cali-
fornia, where the latter died considerably in debt,
worked patiently till he had paid those debts, then,
gathering up his effects, he voluntarily returned to the
family, and gave account of his stewardship.

The slaveholder calls upon us to extricate him from
his harassing and perilous condition before the wrath
of heaven shall break upon his guilty head. He sees
his danger; for pestilence at times rages so fearfully
around him that cities are depopulated, and the dead
almost literally lie unburied in the streets ; and he
turns wishfully to the IN'orth, as brother turns to
brother in distress. Shall we forget the example of
Him who pardoned the penitent dying thief upon the
cross ? " Look at our children," said an intelligent
Southern gentleman not long since ; " they have negro
nurses, and negro playmates; they hear negro talk,
and learn the negro language and style of thought,
when they should be with intelligent mothers. They
learn to be tyrannical and hasty, when they should
learn to be obedient. Our wives, too, can do nothing
themselves. They rely wholly on servants. Alto-
gether, we deserve more pity than the slave."

The social and civil welfare of our country calls upon
ns to abolish slavery. The system is a leaden weight
upon our progress ; and if we neglect our duty,

86 ameeica's misfortune; oe,

a duty so imperative, posterity can not fail to execrate
our memory.

Our national honor demands the abolition of slavery.
The presence of three millions of slaves, whose places
might be filled by the same number of intelligent free-
men, can but dim most painfully the luster of any na-
tion's renown. The country which gave America her
slaves has washed her hands of the stain, as far as is in
her power, by freeing her own ; and we alone of all the
enlightened Christian nations of the earth tolerate the
evil. Even Egypt is at the present moment ridding
herself of this curse, by freeing all the slaves within
her limits in the possession of private individuals.
Every nation is under obligation to the great family
of nations, of which she is a member, to maintain a
character pure and inviolate, and worthy of the gen-
eral imitation ; and any nation failing to do this, how-
ever powerful in numbers, or extent of territory, proves
herself unworthy of confidence or respect. The fol-
lowing opinion of American slavery, expressed by a
distinguished European, will show what is this influ-
ence upon our reputation abroad. He says : " Oh, if
your nation, with all the light she has in herself, would
but elevate herself for one moment to the moral hight
of true republican principles, and, with a noble reso-
lution, cast away that curse from your future, and that
stain from your escutcheon — slavery — how difterent
would be the standing of America in a few years!
Her brightness would efface the brightest page of
mankind's history ; but with that incubus paralyzing
the Union, nothing can ever be expected but convulsion
at home, disresDect abroad, and a speedy decay of the


national life, dying without having come to age. Hog
fonte derivcda clades. Everything which is deplor-
able dates from that source. No foreign power should
be permitted to meddle with the domestic aifairs of
any country; but a great, enlightened, and, above all,
a republican nation, should know by herself to be
faithful to right — to do what is just, and to cure the
cancer gnawing on her own heart. Where the diffi-
culties are great, there the glory of overcoming them
is the greater. Small matters may be done by small
men and small nations. It is worthy of great nations
to do great things. Besides, freemen should never
think it hard to be just, or else sooner or later they
will cease to be free."

The American church calls loudly for the abolition
of slavery. Feeble and depressed, like Samson shorn
of his locks, she gropes in darkness, while a voice is
heard continually from on high, " Oh, that my people
had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my
ways !" Multitudes of her members are grieved that
their brethren are connected with an institution for
which they have so strong a repugnance. They do not
feel that they would bo justified in excluding them
from their communion, thereby depriving them of
privileges dearly prized by every Christian ; they love
the peace of those who are dear to Christ, " as the apple
of His eye," too well to wound the feelings of any in
the least degree, till the interests of His kingdom will
no longer allow forbearance. But Christ's body upon
earth are required to be " a holy church, not having
spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," and whatever

88 America's misfortune; ok,

defiles, wounds, or divides it, can not fail to be an
abomination in the sight of its great Head. The
slaveholding church member, by his position, sup-
ports slavery with all its abuses, and, though he may
not so regard it, thereby violates the injunction,
'' Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ
died." *

The nations struggling beneath the iron hand of
despotism call upon us to abolish slavery. America
is styled " the land of the free ; " and our people pride
themselves upon this high distinction. The old world
is asked to behold a nation successfull}^ governing
itself without crown or nobility. The discontented
millions who are j^atiently laboring and waiting, with
a faint hope that civil liberty is not forever beyond
their reach, are bade to look at us and take courage.
But liow must their hearts sink within them as they
see that even here millions of their fellow-men are
but merchandise.

The nations sitting in pagan darkness call upon us
to abolish slavery. The cry " Come over and helj) us ! "
uttered with thrilling emphasis by our dying brethren,
is wafted to our ears by every Eastern breeze ; and the
American church has not been slow to answer the call.
But is there not a strange, a paralyzing inconsistency,
in overlooking a large class of perishing immortals at
home in our efforts for the destitute abroad ? The

"* By a recent statement, there are in tho United States more than
665,000 slaves owned by ministers of the Gospel and members of the
different churches.


patient missionary, not iinfrequentl j reminded of this
bj the heathen among whom he labors, toils on, con-
cealing a wound of whose cure he has no hope.

We make no apology for earnestness, for at an earlier
age than Hannibal swore eternal hostility to the Ro-
mans, we imbibed an undying hatred of slavery ; and
we believe it necessary to portray its evils so vividly
to the nation that wherever we turn they may be con-
tinually before us. The providence of God sent the
slave to our shores; but, as has oft^n been the case
with other nations, if we turn not from-our evil ways,
though we are now used as the pestle, the same prov-
idence will prepare for us a mortar in which* we may
be ground to powder. If we would save our nation,
as in ancient times when a great work was to be done,
let every man " build over against his own house."

Let the clergr/man earnestly, and in the spirit of his
Great Master, " preach deliverance to the captive."
The Christian minister is the ambassador of Him- who
stands as a daysman between an offended God* and
offending man ; and who shall more successftilly in-
terfere when man is estranged from his brother, or
more effectually protest against any evil ? That preach-
ing can be of but little value which merely denounces
the slaveholder, for it is the office of the Gospel not
only to show the sinner his guilt, but also to point out
the remedy.

Let the statesman diligently apply himself to this
most weighty question, that has ever interested or
divided our national counsels. Aided by the counsels
and prayers of the wise and good, who shall guide the


ship of State among the breakers if not they who hold
the helm?

Let those who conduct the press realize that they
hold a lever of tremendous power ; and in treating
this subject, seek carefully the golden mean between
rashness and apathy.

Let every citizen^ as he goes to the polls, seriously
ask himself what duty to his brethren in bonds requires
of him — whether the South can, in any other way, be
as eflfectually convinced of the Northern aversion to
slavery as by union against it at the ballot box.

Let woman^ whose influence is more subtle than the
electric fluid, and more powerful, give the unfortunate
bondman a warm place in those tender sympathies
which move the world.

Above all, let every Christian pray with the impor-
tunity of the ancient patriarch, when the Divine ven-
geance was brooding over the home of his kindred,
and Sodom was on the eve of destruction, that our
favored but guilty land may repent -herself of this
great iniquity before repentance shall be too late.

Let every American who has a voice raise it earn-
estly and in love against American slavery.

A year or two since, a man in Niagara river, a little
above the Falls, with death staring him in the face,
was struggling powerfully against the rocks and the
rapids. Unconscious of danger, he has floated down
the stream — as placid as the features of a sleeping
infant — till it is too late. His two companions have
passed on to the fatal cataract, and perished. He still
lingers on the drift wood, and there is hope. Thousands


from tlie adjacent city, and the country around, have
assembled upon the shores to show their sympathy
and to rescue him if possible. The telegraph is put
in requisition, and multitudes all over the country are
anxious for his fate. A banner is erected in his sisrht
bearing, in large characters in his own language, the in-
scription "we will save you ; " and a humane Southern
gentleman promises one thousand dollars to any one
who will extricate him from his peril. But they can
not agree fully as to means, and no effectual plan is
adopted ; and finally the unfortunate man, having
battled three days with hunger, fatigue, and exposure,
becomes exhausted, and follows his companions to

We dream of security and dwell with enthusiasm,
almost with rapture, upon our high birth and our
glorious destiny ; and yet as surely as the waters of
our great lakes can not reach the ocean without passing
over Niagara Falls, so surely are we, by tolerating
slavery, floating down the same stream upon which
other nations have gone to ruin. If we will not see
our danger, or seeing will not believe, or, seeing and
believing, still remain unmoved or undecided, who but
an all-wise God can know how soon we may be past

"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth
himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished."


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Online LibraryCharles L. (Charles Lemuel) ThompsonAmerica's misfortune; or, A practical view of slavery → online text (page 6 of 6)