Southern Degradation

Although the African slave trade is adjudged by the law of the land to be piracy—an act to which the penalty of death is affixed—it is a common subterfuge of the slaveholders, in order to shield themselves from the just condemnation of an indignant world, to claim that the transfer of the Africans from their native land to our own has greatly improved their condition. As if the true method to civilize the ignorant and to enlighten the superstitious were to ravage their coasts—give their dwellings to the consuming fire—shoot down all those who offer any resistance—seize and manacle such as can make no defence—drag them on board of slave ships—pack them to suffocation in the holds of those floating hells—subject them to all the horrors of the middle passage—drive the survivors to unrequited toil under the lash,of heart, denying to them all the rights of our common humanity, forbidding them to learn to read the name of God, legally affirming them to be goods and chattels, to all intents, purposes, and constructions whatsoever, and trafficking in them as in cattle and swine? Why then prohibit the African slave trade, under such a penalty? Why not give unlimited encouragement to it? Why not let Christian philanthropy be as broad as the Atlantic, and Africa be depopulated afresh? What! put to death those benevolent men who kidnap benighted heathens for their good! What! brand those as pirates who forcibly remove the natives of Guinea to the plantations of Carolina, seeing the result will be their temporal and everlasting welfare! Is not this the command of Christ—Go ye into all Africa, and seize as many of its wretched inhabitants as ye can by fraud and violence, that they may be taken to slaveholding America, where my gospel is proclaimed! (¶ 1)

One thing is at least certain. However beneficial slavery may have proved to the slaves of the South, it has most fearfully debased and deteriorated the slaveholders, and the entire white population of the slave States; cursing them in their basket and in their store, in their cities and in their fields, in the fruits of their bodies and the fruits of their ground, in the increase of their kine and the flocks of their sheep, when they come in and when they go out, when they rise up and when they lie down; in the usefulness of their hands and the productions of their brains; in their manners and morals; in every thing pertaining to body, mind, soul, or estate; giving them over to unrestrained licentiousness, filthy amalgamation, incurabe laziness, profligate wastefulness, satanic pride, pitiable ignorance, hardness of heart, atrocious barbarity; setting their passions on fire of hell, blending in their character the conceit of the peacock with the ferocity of the tiger, and makin their condition the most hopeless of any portion of the human race. It has destroyed in them all sense of justice, all perception of right, all knowledge of virtue, all regard for humanity; so that, habitually, they put darkness for light, and light for darkness, and call good evil, and evil good. Their hands are defiled with blood, and their fingers with iniquity; they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity; they hatch cockatrice’s eggs, and weave the spider’s web; their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their works are works of iniquity, and there is no judgment in their goings. Such have been the industrial, intellectual, and moral effects of this all-pervading curse upon them, which covers them like a garment. (¶ 2)

Take South Carolina, for instance, with more than half of her population in chains! Without invention, enterprise, art, science, industry, thrift, education, refinement, strength, or promise, how boundless is her conceit, how swollen her pomposity, how active her combativeness, how ludicrous her assumed superiority, how unproductive her head, how evil her heart, how cowardly and brutal her spirit! What a frightful revelation she has made of herself, in the case of Preston S. Brooks! What honors she is heaping upon that dastard,—almost a murderer,—for his stealthy assault upon the helpless, unsuspecting, unarmed Sumner! How she glories in what fills the civilized world with astonishment, indignation and horror! No audible dissent is allowed upon her soil; her public approbation of the vile deed amounts to perfect unanimity. What hope is there of the regeneration of such a State? Where conscience is outlawed, and speech suppressed, and the press shackled, and Lynch law in constant operation, how can the truth be uttered, or right find a foothold? Accursed slavery! thus to have wrought all this ruin,—a ruin which appears to be remediless! (¶ 3)