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ESSAYS AND DOCUMENTS
THE GENERAL CHARACTER, AND MORAL AND POLITICAL EFFECTS,
EDITED BY ENOCH LEWIS.
PUBLISHED BY THE EDITOR.
FOURTH MONTH, 1827.
It is our privilege to live in an age of surpassing improvement. The sciences and the arts are deeply indebted to the genius and enterprise of our cotemporaries; and schemes, of extensive utility, are now in successful operation, which, half a century ago, would have been considered as fit only to supply a void in the brain of a maniac, or to exercise the idle ingenuity of a visionary projector. By new and efficacious experiments, principles in natural science, unknown to our fathers, have been developed, and new avenues opened to the enjoyment of man.
Of those improvements in physical and political science, which have stamped their character on the last and the passing age, the inhabitants of the western world claim a distinguished share-There ingenuity has displayed its inventions to the gaze and imitation of the world, and there the principles of government have been traced to their source, and the laws of immutable justice solemnly proclaimed as the proper basis and support of political institutions.
If we review the periods of our national growth, and mark our unparalleled progress in the march of nations, VOL. I.-1
we must subscribe to the sentiment, that no people have greater cause reverently to commemorate the goodness of a beneficent Creator than the people of these United States. No where have the choicest blessings of the all-bountiful Parent been spread with a more unsparing hand. To no other people, ancient or modern, has the cup of felicity been presented, with fewer bitter ingredients, or more completely purified from the lees of political thraldom.
If, judging of the future from the past, we endeavour to delineate our course through ages yet to come, a series of pleasing anticipations warms the reflecting mind. With a fertile soil, extending through every desirable variety of climate, and capable of affording all that luxury could demand to supply the wants, or promote the comfort of man; with a population enlightened and free; with a government over which the laws are supreme, and the people the arbiters of the law; the way appears open to that national greatness which ambition could not wish to enhance, and to individual prosperity, in which discontent might blush to complain.
Are these the delusive prospects of
a feverish patriotism, the visions of poetry; or are they the anticipations of sober reflection? Is there no ill boding omen to dim the light that glitters on our future course? Alas! one portentous cloud is impending over some of the fairest portions of our favoured land. One dire disease, deeply infixed in our national system, has
grown with our growth, and strengthened with our strength." The light of freedom, which we so highly prize, shines on a part of our population only by reflection, and to them is rather "darkness visible" than light.
This appalling subject is forced upon us, however reluctant we may feel to investigate its character, or contemplate its rugged and forbidding aspect. A population of more than a million and a half, familiar with all the privacies of our domestic life; accustomed to hear liberty extolled as the highest and noblest of enjoyments; and yet, finding the bitter draught of hereditary servitude its own hopeless portion; incapable, from its degraded condition, of appreciating the blessings of the government under which we live, and having little to dread from any change or convulsions of the political world-presents to our view a prospect too awful to be contemplated with stoic indifference. The cloud is thickening with the progress of time; and prudence admonishes, that, if it cannot be dissipated, it should, if possible, be disarmed of its lightning.
Whether slavery is, or is not, a political evil; or whether a free or a slave population is most conducive to national prosperity, can scarcely, in this age, and in this country, require a serious discussion.
If slavery has, in all ages, and among all nations, been considered as among
the greatest of evils; if liberty is always the highest wish and ultimate aim of the slave; how repulsive must that condition appear to an observant eye, when contrasted with the civil and religious freedom, by which, in the United States, it is every where surrounded.
But, however we may commiserate the condition of those who are doomed to hereditary servitude, the zeal which this feeling excites may sometimes warm without enlightening the philanthropic mind. The slave, sunk and degraded below the proper level of humanity, may find, in the lethargic insensibility resulting from his situation, a retreat from mental suffering; yet, though bent to the yoke, he still possesses the stamina of the human character-the aspiring tendency of his nature, though suppressed and concealed, is not destroyed-his dormant passions are not extinct. The tranquillity which prevails, may be suddenly disturbed-for the slumbering volcano retains its fires, and those who occupy its smoking verge may themselves become the victims of the devouring element.
The slave is not the only object that demands our consideration. The introduction of negro slavery into the United States was not the work of the present generation. The system was entailed upon them by their ancestors and justice demands the admission, that evils, both moral and pos litical, are more easily discovered than removed; and that those who are subjected, by the circumstances of their birth, to the hard alternative, either to new model the habits (which have grown with their years, or to maintain a system which their sober judgments cannot approve, are objects
of sympathy with the truly christian mind.
The jealousies and antipathies which the distinction between slaveholding and non slave-holding states has engendered and fed, may be safely classed among the disastrous concomitants of the system; especially as they oppose a stubborn obstacle to any general effort for the removal of the other acknowledged evils of slavery. Unhappily for the cause of humanity, the advocate of the slave has been too often identified with the antagonist of his owner. The interests of these opposite classes have been considered as incompatible, and friendship for the one as synonymous with enmity for the other.
To soften or remove those antipathies, and promote, between the inhabitants of the different sections of our country, a community of feeling on this momentous subject, is an object of vital importance, worthy of the efforts of those who seek alike the good of all. This cause, though critical and arduous, is not desperate. Happily the purblind philosophy, which taught mankind to believe that one part of the community could rise only by the depression of another, has passed away with the ages that are gone, and a more enlightened era has dawned. Man is a social being, and finds his own particular advantage in the promotion of the general good. Party strifes and sectional jealousies result from erroneous and limited views of private interest; and often from imperfect acquaintance with the motives by which others are actuated: The people of the United States are bound together by one great federal interest; and however the inhabitants of the north may disapprove and ab
hor the system of servitude which prevails in the south, and however they may compassionate its victims, there must, from their common interests, as well as common origin, always exist, in the prejudices and sympathies of the former, a strong preponderance in favour of the superior class.
There is probably no subject more deeply interesting to every section of the Union than negro slavery, and none which has stronger claims on the clearest heads and purest hearts among us. To open a way, equally safe and salutary, for the master and the slave to escape from the evils in which they are involved, and thus to clear ourselves from the reproach of having disavowed, by our practice, the noble principles on which we assumed a rank among the nations of the earth, is the great political problem, which this or some succeeding generation must solve.
Animated by a desire to contribute towards the attainment of this momentous object, and supported by the encouragement of his friends, the subscriber has concluded to offer to public acceptance, a monthly periodical journal, with the title prefixed to this article, designed to include an extensive range of inquiries connected with this subject. To combat the prejudices which this system has produced, and which have varied their shades according to the points from which the condition has been viewed-to trace the moral influence of slavery on those who breathe its atmosphere --and to point out the best means for its peaceful extinction, will be among the prominent objects of discussion.
The work will comprise the following general divisions,