The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 online

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torturer can seldom be brought to punishment. 'A cruel and unreasonable
battery' on a slave by the master or hirer is _not indictable_. This is
Judge Ruffin's decision. (2 Devereux's N.C. Rep., 265). This decision is
celebrated for the language in which it is announced, and the grounds on
which it is rested.

'_The power of the master_,' says the Judge, '_must be absolute to
render the submission, of the slave perfect_. I most freely confess my
sense of the harshness of this proposition. I feel it as deeply as any
man can. And as a principle of moral right, every person in his
retirement must repudiate it. But in the actual condition of things it
must be so. There is no remedy. This discipline belongs to the state of
slavery. They cannot be disunited without abrogating at once the rights
of the master, and absolving the slave from his subjection. It
constitutes the curse of slavery to both the bond and the free portion
of our population. But it is _inherent in the relation_ of master and
slave. That there may be particular instances of cruelty and deliberate
barbarity where, in conscience, the law might properly interfere, is
most probable. The difficulty is to determine where _a court_ may
properly begin. Merely in the abstract, it may well be asked which power
of the master accords with right. The answer will probably sweep away
all of them. But we cannot look at the matter in this light. The truth
is we are forbidden to enter on a train of general reasoning on the
subject. _We cannot allow the right of the master to be brought into
discussion in the courts of justice. The slave, to remain a slave, must
be made sensible that there is no appeal from his master, that his power
is, in no instance, usurped, but is conferred by the laws of man, at
least, if not by the laws of God._'

Such is slavery under the slave code. Men are sometimes better and
sometimes worse than their laws. We need not wonder that volumes might
be filled with recitals of cruelties and atrocities of torture, ending,
in many cases, only with the death of the victim. Nor need we wonder at
the more loathsome moral abominations so prevalent in Southern society,
which degrade the whites even more than the blacks - of children begotten
by masters upon the persons of their slave women - begotten in lust and
sold for gain; of beautiful quadroons and octoroons sought and bought
for the base pleasure of their owners; of families, where the lawful
wives and daughters of the master are served by slaves that are their
own uncles, brothers, or sisters, born of slave women, yielding to the
master's lustful will. _Amalgamation is a Southern, not a Northern taste
and practice._ The most abominable case that has recently come to light,
is that of the young slave mother, at New Orleans, of whose children her
own father (a rich rebel) was the father! All these things are
inevitably incident to a state of slavery, and there is no law against

Such is slavery - such is the institution you advocate as divinely
ordered, under the soft phrase, '_subordination to the superior race_'!
And this is the way you speak of those whom you term radical
Abolitionists: 'Look at the dark conclave of conspirators,
freedom-shriekers, Bible-spurners, fierce, implacable, headstrong,
denunciatory, Constitution and Union haters, noisy, factious, breathing
forth threatenings and slaughter against all who venture a difference of
opinion from them, murderous, passionate advocates of imprisonments and
hangings, blood-thirsty, - and if there be any other epithet in the
vocabulary of wickedness, do they not every one fitly designate some
phase of radical Abolitionism?'

I cannot help fancying that it will occur to some that by substituting
_slavery-shriekers_ and _Bible-perverters_ in this sentence, it might at
least equally well describe Northern pro-slavery zealots. At any rate,
your language is the very extravagance of coarse pro-slavery fanaticism.
I have never been of mind with those you term radical Abolitionists; but
it seems to me that of the two fanaticisms, the anti-slavery fanaticism
is the most respectable in principle, less selfish, and more generous in
impulse. I have all my life been disposed to leave the South in
undisturbed possession of its constitutional pound of slavery flesh. But
when the slaveholders showed an inveterate determination not to be
content with that, but to _nationalize_ slavery, to carry it everywhere,
and to make it the great element of political control throughout the
nation, I felt no constitutional obligation to submit. And when the
conspirators, foiled in their designs, rushed into open rebellion, I
made up my mind that slavery had best be destroyed - for only when it is,
will the conditions of true unity between the South and the North begin
to exist - then only will the prosperity and peace of the nation be
established on a permanent basis. This is now the opinion of a great
many of the best and wisest men at the South. I believe that slavery
will be destroyed in the progress and sequel of this war - to the
ultimate incalculable advantage of the South.

One word more: You have seen fit to quote Burke and Milton, for the sake
of a fling at the _clergy_ who venture to discuss the questions of the
day. I do not know how far some of your associates will be disposed to
thank you. Perhaps their being on your side gives them a capacity not
possessed by the others, and exempts them from the application of your
rebuke. I have an impression that the culture and habits of thinking of
the members of the clerical profession do not particularly unfit them
for taking just and sound views on the questions that agitate the public
mind, and that their position - cutting them off from all offices and
emoluments that are the objects of ambition to party politicians - gives
them some special advantages for doing so. For myself, having all my
life been devoted to study and thought on the great principles of social
and moral order, I feel myself as well qualified, at least, to offer an
opinion, as though I had been devoted to the mechanical application of
the principles of physical science.




So parallel are the lines of thought in Mr. Buckle's 'History of
Civilization' and Professor Draper's 'Intellectual Development of
Europe,' while they continue within the same limits in discussing the
law of individual and social progress; and so exactly does the latter
work resume the consideration of this law at the point where the English
writer abandoned its further analysis, to commence to apply that which
he had made to the history of various nations, that one might almost
suppose the two authors had undertaken the task conjointly, and divided
the work between them.

It was the purpose of Mr. Buckle, in his introduction, to ascertain the
sources of social, and, incidentally, of individual development - the
fundamental causes of human progression; and subsequently to verify the
principles established, by tracing, in general outlines, the rise and
advance of leading nations under their impulse. The basis upon which he
started in his examination was this: 'That when we perform an action, we
perform it in consequence of some motive or motives; that those motives
are the results of some antecedents; and that, therefore, if we were
acquainted with the whole of the antecedents, and with all the laws of
their movements, we could with unerring certainty predict the whole of
their immediate results.'

From this proposition the historian concludes 'that the actions of men,
being determined solely by their antecedents, must, under precisely the
same circumstances, always issue in precisely the same results. And as
all antecedents are either in the mind or out of it, we clearly see that
all the variations in the results - in other words, all the changes of
which history is full, all the vicissitudes of the human race, their
progress or their decay, their happiness or their misery - must be the
fruit of a double action; an action of external phenomena upon the mind,
and another action of the mind upon the phenomena.'

Mr. Buckle gives it as the result of his investigations concerning the
relative influence of these two agencies: That external or physical laws
have been most powerful in the earlier ages of the world, and among the
most ignorant nations; that in proportion as knowledge increases, the
power of this class of agencies diminishes, and that of mental laws
becomes more predominant; that these latter are therefore the great
motor forces of civilization, consisting of two parts, the moral and the
intellectual, of which the latter are vastly superior as instruments of
social advancement, stationary in their effects; finally, as the formal
statement of the laws of human development, he says:

'1st. That the progress of mankind depends on the success with
which the laws of phenomena are investigated, and on the extent to
which a knowledge of those laws is diffused. 2d. That before such
investigation can begin, a spirit of scepticism must arise, which,
at first aiding the investigation, is afterward aided by it. 3d.
That the discoveries thus made increase the influence of
intellectual truths, and diminish, relatively, not absolutely, the
influence of moral truths; moral truths being more stationary than
intellectual truths, and receiving fewer additions. 4th. That the
great enemy of this movement, and therefore the great enemy of
civilization, is the protective spirit - the notion that society
cannot prosper, unless the affairs of life are watched over and
protected at nearly every turn by the state and the church; the
state teaching men what they are to do, and the church teaching
them what they are to believe.'

In all these points the recent work of Professor Draper coincides with
that of the lamented English writer. The main object of the former is,
however, to discuss a question more basic than those undertaken by the
author of 'Civilization in England,' the consideration of which was by
him formally declined: namely, the question of a predetermined order of
development lying back of all physical and mental phenomena. The opening
sentences of the American book will sufficiently indicate the purpose of
its pages:

'I intend, in this work, to consider in what manner the advancement
of Europe in civilization has taken place, to ascertain how far its
progress has been fortuitous, and how far determined by primordial

'Does the procession of nations in time, like the erratic phantasm
of a dream, go forward without reason or order? Or, is there a
predetermined, a solemn march, in which all must join, ever moving,
ever resistlessly advancing, encountering and enduring an
inevitable succession of events?

'In a philosophical examination of the intellectual and political
history of nations, an answer to these questions is to be found.
* * * Man is the archetype of society. Individual development is the
model of social progress.'

It will be sufficient for our present purpose to indicate the line of
Dr. Draper's argument, in seeking for a solution to the problem of
progress, and to sum up the conclusions to which he is ultimately led by
his investigations.

In the intellectual infancy of a savage state, man regards all passing
events as depending on the arbitrary volition of a superior but
invisible power. The tendency is necessarily to superstition. After
reason, aided by experience, has led him forth from these delusions as
respects surrounding things, he still clings to his original ideas as
respects objects far removed, believing the stars to be inhabited by
mysterious powers, or to be such themselves. Gradually he emerges from
star worship as he did from fetichism, still venerating and perhaps
exalting into immortal gods the genii whom he once supposed to inhabit
the stars, long after he has ascertained that the latter are without any
perceptible influence on him.

He is exchanging, by ascending degrees, his primitive doctrine of
arbitrary volition for the doctrine of law. As the fall of a stone, the
flowing of a river, and the ordinary operations of nature familiar to
him have been traced to physical causes, to like causes are at last
traced the revolutions of the stars. In events and scenes continually
increasing in greatness and grandeur, he is detecting the dominion of
law. This perception is extended, until at last it embraces all natural
events, until they are seen to be the consequences of physical
conditions, and therefore the results of law.

'But if we admit that this is the case, from the mote that floats
in the sunbeam to multiple stars revolving round each other, are we
willing to carry our principles to their consequences, and
recognize a like operation of law among living as among lifeless
things, in the organic as well as the inorganic world? What
testimony does physiology offer on this point?'

Physiology, in its progress, has passed through the same stages as
physics. Living beings were once considered to be beyond the power of
external influences, the various physiological functions being carried
forward by a feigned immaterial principle, called the vital agent. But
when it was discovered that the heart is constructed upon the recognized
rules of hydraulics; the eye upon the most refined principles of optics;
that the ear was furnished with the means of dealing with the three
characteristics of sound - its tympanum for intensity, its cochlea for
pitch, and its semicircular canals for quality; and that the air,
brought into the great air passages, calling into play atmospheric
pressure, was conveyed upon physical principles into the ultimate cells
of the lungs, and thence to the blood; when these and very many other
like facts were brought into prominence by modern research, it became
necessary to admit that animated beings do not constitute the exception
once supposed, and that organic operations are the result of physical

'If thus, in the recesses of the individual economy, these natural
agents bear sway, must they not operate in the social economy too?

'Has the great, shadeless desert nothing to do with the habits of
the nomade tribes who pitch their tents upon it - the fertile plain
no connection with flocks and pastoral life - the mountain
fastnesses with the courage that has so often defended them - the
sea with habits of adventure? Indeed, do not all our expectations
of the stability of social institutions rest upon our belief in the
stability of surrounding physical conditions? From the time of
Bodin, who nearly three hundred years ago published his work 'De
Republica,' these principles have been well recognized: that the
laws of nature cannot be subordinated to the will of man, and that
government must be adapted to climate. It was these things which
led to the conclusion that force is best resorted to for northern
nations, reason for the middle, and superstition for the southern.'

The importance of physical agents and physical laws in the social as
well as in the individual economy, is variously illustrated by Professor
Draper, who points out the essential part they play in several
departments of nature. To the merely mechanical inclination of the
earth's axis of rotation toward the plane of her orbit of revolution
around the sun, we owe the changing seasons and the method of life which
is dependent on these. The alteration of that physical arrangement would
involve a corresponding alteration in the whole life of the globe. So,
again, the possibility of existence upon the earth, in any way, depends
upon conditions altogether of a material kind. It is necessary that our
planet should be at a definite mean distance from the source of light
and heat, the sun; and that the form of her orbit should be almost a
circle, since it is only within a narrow range of temperature, secured
by these conditions, that life can be maintained.

It is through natural agents also that the means of regulation are
secured in the present economy of the globe. Through heat, the
distribution and arrangement of the vegetable tribes are accomplished;
through their mutual relations with the atmospheric air, plants and
animals are interbalanced, and neither permitted to obtain a
superiority. The condensation of carbon from the air and its inclusion
in the strata constitute the chief epoch in the organic life of the
earth giving a possibility for the appearance of the hot-blooded and
more intellectual animal tribes. That event was due to the influence of
the rays of the sun.

Passing from inorganic to organic forms, our author remarks that their
permanence is altogether dependent 'on the invariability of the material
conditions under which they live. Any variation therein, no matter how
insignificant it might be, would be forthwith followed by a
corresponding variation in the form.' At this point we are brought to
the far-famed 'development theory,' which, since the publication of the
'Vestiges of Creation,' has been the scientific battle field of the
naturalists of the world. Professor Draper is, of course, a firm
adherent of this theory. He continues:

'The present invariability of the world of organization is the
direct consequence of the physical equilibrium, and so it will
continue as long as the mean temperature, the annual supply of
light, the composition of the air, the distribution of water,
oceanic and atmospheric currents, and other such agencies, remain
unaltered; but if any one of these, or of a hundred other incidents
that might be mentioned, should suffer modification, in an instant
the fanciful doctrine of the immutability of species would be
brought to its true value. The organic world appears to be in
repose, because natural influences have reached an equilibrium. A
marble may remain forever motionless upon a level table; but let
the surface be a little inclined, and the marble will quickly run
off. What should we say of him who, contemplating it in its state
of rest, asserted that it was impossible for it ever to move?

'When, therefore, we notice such orderly successions, we must not
at once assign them to a direct intervention, the issue of wise
predeterminations of a voluntary agent; we must first satisfy
ourselves how far they are dependent upon mundane or material
conditions, occurring in a definite and necessary series, ever
bearing in mind the important principle that an orderly sequence of
inorganic events necessarily involves an orderly and corresponding
progression of organic life.

'To this doctrine of the control of physical agencies over organic
forms I acknowledge no exceptions, not even in the case of man. The
varied aspects he presents in different countries are the necessary
consequences of those influences.'

Whether we advocate the doctrine of the origination of the human race
from a single pair, or from different races at different centres, we
are, in Dr. Draper's judgment, alike driven to the conclusion of the
transitory nature of typical forms, to their transmutations and
extinctions. In the former case, we can only account for diverse races,
having different shades of complexion, different varieties of skull,
etc., by the admission of the paramount control of physical agents, such
as climate and other purely material circumstances; in the latter, we
can only account for the varieties visible among the different races
themselves on similar grounds.

Variations in the aspect of man are best seen when an examination is
made of nations arranged in a northerly and southerly direction, the
differences of climate being much greater in this direction than from
east to west. These variations do not affect complexion, development of
the brain, and, therefore, intellectual power, only. But differences of
manners and customs, that is, differences in the modes of civilization,
must coexist with diversities of climate. An ethnical element is
therefore necessarily of a dependent nature; its durability arises from
its perfect correspondence with the conditions by which it is
surrounded. Whatever can affect that correspondence will touch its life.

With such considerations the author passes from individuals to groups of
men or nations:

'There is a progress for races of men as well marked as the
progress of one man. There are thoughts and actions appertaining to
specific periods in the one case as in the other. Without
difficulty we affirm of a given act that it appertains to a given
period. We recognize the noisy sports of boyhood, the business
application of maturity, the feeble garrulity of old age. We
express our surprise when we witness actions unsuitable to the
epoch of life. As it is in this respect in the individual, so it is
in the nation. The march of individual existence shadows forth the
march of race existence, being, indeed, its representative on a
little scale. Groups of men, or nations, are distributed by the
same accidents, or complete the same cycle as the individual. Some
scarcely pass beyond infancy; some are destroyed on a sudden; some
die of mere old age. In this confusion of events, it might seem
altogether hopeless to disentangle the law which is guiding them
all, and demonstrate it clearly. Of such groups each may exhibit,
at the same moment, an advance to a different stage, just as we see
in the same family the young, the middle aged, and the old. * * *
In each nation, moreover, the contemporaneously different classes,
the educated and illiterate, the idle and industrious, the rich and
poor, the intelligent and superstitious, represent different
contemporaneous stages of advancement. One may have made a great
progress, another scarcely have advanced at all. How shall we
ascertain the real state of the case? Which of these classes shall
we regard as the truest and most perfect type?'

In order to deal with this problem, and to demonstrate the general
nature of a movement having such diverse components, we must, continues
Professor Draper, select, from a family or a nation, or a family of many
nations, such members or classes or states as most closely represent
respectively its type or have advanced most completely in their career.
In a state the leading or intellectual class is always the true
representative. It has passed gradually through the lower stages, and
has made the greatest advance.

We are next called to notice that individual life is maintained only by
the production and destruction of organic particles, death being
necessarily the condition of life; and that a similar process occurs in
the existence of a nation, in which the individual represents the
organic molecule, whose production, continuance, and death in the
person, answers to the production, continuance, and death of a person in
the state. In the same manner that individuals change through the action
of physical agencies and submit to impressions, so likewise do
aggregates of men constituting nations. 'A national type pursues its way
physically and intellectually through changes and developments answering
to those of the individual, and being represented by infancy, childhood,
youth, manhood, old age, and death, respectively.'

This orderly process may, however, be disturbed by emigration, by blood
admixture, or by other exterior or interior occurrences, which would
involve a corresponding change in the national characteristics and
duration; perhaps result in the rapid and total disappearance of the

For - and this brings us to the last point of analogy which Professor
Draper gives between individual and national life - nations, like
individuals, die. Empires are only sandhills in the hourglass of Time;
they crumble spontaneously away by the process of their own growth.

'A nation, like a man, hides from itself the contemplation of its
final day. It occupies itself with expedients for prolonging its
present state. It frames laws and constitutions under the delusion
that they will last, forgetting that the condition of life is
change. Very able modern statesmen consider it to be the grand

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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 → online text (page 8 of 20)