This prerogative of power, too, is elsewhere conceded by the multitude to their rulers generally for some especial fitness, real or imaginary, for the office they have assumed. Some services of their own or of their ancestors to the state, some superiority, natural or acquired, of parts or skill, at least some specialty of high culture and elegant breeding, a quick sense of honor, a jealousy of insult to the public, an impatience of personal stain,--some or all of these qualities, appealing to the gratitude or to the imagination of the masses, have usually been supposed to inhere in the class they permit to rule over them. By virtue of some or all of these things, its members have had allowed to them their privileges and their precedency, their rights of exemption and of preeminence, their voice potential in the councils of the state, and their claim to be foremost in its defence in the hour of its danger. Some ray of imagination there is, which, falling on the knightly shields and heraldic devices that symbolize their conceded superiority, at least dazzles the eyes and delights the fancy of the crowd, so as to blind them to the inhering vices and essential fallacies of the Order to whose will they bow.
But no such consolations of delusion remain to us, as we stand face to face with the Power which holds our destinies in its hand. None of these blear illusions can cheat our eyes with any such false presentments. No antiquity hallows, no public services consecrate, no gifts of lofty culture adorn, no graces of noble breeding embellish the coarse and sordid oligarchy that gives law to us. And in the blighting shadow of Slavery letters die and art cannot live. What book has the South ever given to the libraries of the world? What work of art has she ever added to its galleries? What artist has she produced that did not instinctively fly, like Allston, to regions in which genius could breathe and art was possible? What statesman has she reared, since Jefferson died and Madison ceased to write, save those intrepid discoverers who have taught that Slavery is the corner-stone of republican institutions, and the vital element of Freedom herself? What divine, excepting the godly men whose theologic skill has attained to the doctrine that Slavery is of the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What moralist, besides those ethic doctors who teach that it is according to the Divine Justice that the stronger race should strip the weaker of every civil, social, and moral right? The unrighteous partiality, extorted by the threats of Carolina and Georgia in 1788, which gives them a disproportionate representation because of their property in men, and the unity of interest which makes them always act in behalf of Slavery as one man, have made them thus omnipotent. The North, distracted by a thousand interests, has always been at the mercy of whatever barbarian chief in the capital could throw his slave whip into the trembling scale of party. The government having been always, since this century began, at least, the creature and the tool of the slaveholders, the whole patronage of the nation, and the treasury filled chiefly by Northern commerce, have been at their command to help manipulate and mould plastic Northern consciences into practicable shapes. When the slave interest, consisting, at its own largest account of itself, of less than THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND souls, has _thirty_ members of the Senate, while the free-labor interest, consisting of at least TWENTY-FOUR MILLIONS, SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND souls, has but _thirty-two_, and when the former has a delegation of some score of members to represent its slaves in the House, besides its own fair proportion, can we marvel that it has achieved the mastery over us, which is written in black and bloody characters on so many pages of our history?
Such having been the absolute sway Slavery has exercised over the facts of our history, what has been its influence upon the characters of the men with whom it has had to do? Of all the productions of a nation, its men are what prove its quality the most surely. How have the men of America stood this test? Have those in the high places, they who have been called to wait at the altar before all the people, maintained the dignity of character and secured the general reverence which marked and waited upon their predecessors in the days of our small things? The population of the United States has multiplied itself nearly tenfold, while its wealth has increased in a still greater proportion, since the peace of 'Eighty-Three. Have the Representative Men of the nation been made or maintained great and magnanimous, too? Or is that other anomaly, which has so perplexed the curious foreigner, an admitted fact, that in proportion as the country has waxed great and powerful, its public men have dwindled from giants in the last century to dwarfs in this? Alas, to ask the question is to answer it. Compare Franklin, and Adams, and Jay, met at Paris to negotiate the treaty of peace which was to seal the recognition of their country as an equal sister in the family of nations, with Buchanan, and Soule, and Mason, convened at Ostend to plot the larceny of Cuba! Sages and lawgivers, consulting for the welfare of a world and a race, on the one hand, and buccaneers conspiring for the pillage of a sugar-island on the other!
What men, too, did not Washington and Adams call around them in the Cabinet!--how representative of great ideas! how historical! how immortal! How many of our readers can name the names of their successors of the present day? Inflated obscurities, bloated insignificances, who knows or cares whence they came or what they are? We know whose bidding they were appointed to obey, and what manner of work they are ready to perform. And shall we dare extend our profane comparisons even higher than the Cabinet? Shall we bring the shadowy majesty of Washington's august idea alongside the microscopic realities of to-day? Let us be more merciful, and take our departure from the middle term between the Old and the New, occupied by Andrew Jackson, whose iron will and doggedness of purpose give definite character, if not awful dignity, to his image. In his time, the Slave Power, though always the secret spring which set events in motion, began to let its workings be seen more openly than ever before. And from his time forward, what a graduated line of still diminishing shadows have glided successively through the portals of the White House! From Van Buren to Tyler, from Tyler to Polk, from Polk to Fillmore, from Fillmore to Pierce! "Fine by degrees and beautifully less," until it at last reached the vanishing point!
The baleful influence thus ever shed by Slavery on our national history and our public men has not yet spent its malignant forces. It has, indeed, reached a height which a few years ago it was thought the wildest fanaticism to predict; but its fatal power will not be stayed in the mid-sweep of its career. The Ordinance of 1787 torn to shreds and scattered to the winds,--the line drawn in 1820, which the slaveholders plighted their faith Slavery should never overstep, insolently as well as infamously obliterated,--Slavery presiding in the Cabinet, seated on the Supreme Bench, absolute in the halls of Congress,--no man can say what shape its next aggression may not take to itself. A direct attack on the freedom of the press and the liberty of speech at the North, where alone either exists, were no more incredible than the later insolences of its tyranny. The battle not yet over in Kansas, for the compulsory establishment of Slavery there by the interposition of the Federal arm, will be renewed in every Territory as it is ripening into a State. Already warning voices are heard in the air, presaging such a conflict in Oregon. Parasites everywhere instinctively feel that a zeal for the establishment of Slavery where it has been abolished, or its introduction where it had been prohibited, is the highest recommendation to the Executive favor. The rehabilitation of the African slave-trade is seriously proposed and will be furiously urged, and nothing can hinder its accomplishment but its interference with the domestic manufactures of the breeding Slave States. The pirate Walker is already mustering his forces for another incursion into Nicaragua, and rumors are rife that General Houston designs wresting yet another Texas from Mexico. Mighty events are at hand, even at the door; and the mission of them all will be to fix Slavery firmly and forever on the throne of this nation.
Is the success of this conspiracy to be final and eternal? Are the States which name themselves, in simplicity or in irony, the Free States, to be always the satrapies of a central power like this? Are we forever to submit to be cheated out of our national rights by an oligarchy as despicable as it is detestable, because it clothes itself in the forms of democracy, and allows us the ceremonies of choice, the name of power, and the permission to register the edicts of the sovereign? We, who broke the sceptre of King George, and set our feet on the supremacy of the British Parliament, surrender ourselves, bound hand and foot in bonds of our own weaving, into the hands of the slaveholding Philistines! We, who scorned the rule of the aristocracy of English acres, submit without a murmur, or with an ineffectual resistance, to the aristocracy of American flesh and blood! Is our spirit effectually broken? is the brand of meanness and compromise burnt in uneffaceably upon our Souls? and are we never to be roused, by any indignities, to fervent resentment and effectual resistance? The answer to these grave questions lies with ourselves alone. One hundred thousand, or three hundred thousand men, however crafty and unscrupulous, cannot forever keep under their rule more than twenty millions, as much their superiors in wealth and intelligence as in numbers, except by their own consent. If the growing millions are to be driven with cartwhips along the pathway of their history by the dwindling thousands, they have none to blame for it but themselves. If they like to have their laws framed and expounded, their presidents appointed, their foreign policy dictated, their domestic interests tampered with, their war and peace made for them, their national fame and personal honor tarnished, and the lie given to all their boastings before the old despotisms, by this insignificant fraction of their number,--scarcely visible to the naked eye in the assembly of the whole people,--none can gainsay or resist their pleasure.
But will the many always thus submit themselves to the domination of the few? We believe that the days of this ignominious subjection are already numbered. Signs in heaven and on earth tell us that one of those movements has begun to be felt in the Northern mind, which perplex tyrannies everywhere with the fear of change. The insults and wrongs so long heaped upon the North by the South begin to be felt. The torpid giant moves uneasily beneath his mountain-load of indignities. The people of the North begin to feel that they support a government for the benefit of their natural enemies; for, of all antipathies, that of slave labor to free is the most deadly and irreconcilable. There never was a time when the relations of the North and the South, as complicated by Slavery, were so well understood and so deeply resented as now. In fields, in farmhouses, and in workshops, there is a spirit aroused which can never be laid or exorcised till it has done its task. We see its work in the great uprising of the Free States against the Slave States in the late national election. Though trickery and corruption cheated it of its end, the thunder of its protest struck terror into the hearts of the tyrants. We hear its echo, as it comes back from the Slave States themselves, in the exceeding bitter cry of the whites for deliverance from the bondage which the slavery of the blacks has brought upon them also. We discern the confession of its might in the very extravagances and violences of the Slave Power. It is its conscious and admitted weakness that has made Texas and Mexico and Cuba, and our own Northwestern territory, necessary to be devoured. It is desperation, and not strength, that has made the bludgeon and the bowie-knife integral parts of the national legislation. It has the American Government, the American Press, and the American Church, in its national organizations, on its side; but the Humanity and the Christianity of the Nation and the World abhor and execrate it. They that be against it are more than they that be for it.
It rages, for its time is short. And its rage is the fiercer because of the symptoms of rebellion against its despotism which it discerns among the white men of the South, who from poverty or from principle have no share in its sway. When we speak of the South as distinguished from the North by elements of inherent hostility, we speak only of the governing faction, and not of the millions of nominally free men who are scarcely less its thralls than the black slaves themselves. This unhappy class of our countrymen are the first to feel the blight which Slavery spreads around it, because they are the nearest to its noxious power. The subjects of no European despotism are under a closer _espionage,_ or a more organized system of terrorism, than are they. The slaveholders, having the wealth, and nearly all the education that the South can boast of, employ these mighty instruments of power to create the public sentiment and to control the public affairs of their region, so as best to secure their own supremacy. No word of dissent to the institutions under which they live, no syllable of dissatisfaction, even, with any of the excesses they stimulate, can be breathed in safety. A Christian minister in Tennessee relates an act of fiendish cruelty inflicted upon a slave by one of the members of his church, and he is forced to leave his charge, if not to fly the country. Another in South Carolina presumes to express in conversation his disapprobation of the murderous assault of Brooks on Senator Sumner, and his pastoral relations are broken up on the instant, as if he had been guilty of gross crime or flagrant heresy. Professor Hedrick, in North Carolina, ventures to utter a preference for the Northern candidate in the last presidential campaign, and he is summarily ejected from his chair, and virtually banished from his native State. Mr. Underwood, of Virginia, dares to attend the convention of the party he preferred, and he is forbidden to return to his home on pain of death. The blackness of darkness and the stillness of death are thus forced to brood over that land which God formed so fair, and made to be so happy.
That such a tyranny should excite an antagonistic spirit of resistance is inevitable from the constitution of man and the character of God. The sporadic cases of protest and of resistance to the slaveholding aristocracy, which lift themselves occasionally above the dead level of the surrounding despotism, are representative cases. They stand for much more than their single selves. They prove that there is a wide-spread spirit of discontent, informing great regions of the slave-land, which must one day find or force an opportunity of making itself heard and felt. This we have just seen in the great movement in Missouri, the very nursing-mother of Border-Ruffianism itself, which narrowly missed making Emancipation the policy of the majority of the voters there. Such a result is the product of no sudden culture. It must have been long and slowly growing up. And how could it be otherwise? There must be intelligence enough among the non-slaveholding whites to see the difference there is between themselves and persons of the same condition in the Free States. Why can they have no free schools? Why is it necessary that a missionary society be formed at the North to furnish them with such ministers as the slave-master can approve? Why can they not support their own ministers, and have a Gospel of Free Labor preached to them, if they choose? Why are they hindered from taking such newspapers as they please? Why are they subjected to a censorship of the press, which dictates to them what they may or may not read, and which punishes booksellers with exile and ruin for keeping for sale what they want to buy? Why must Northern publishers expurgate and emasculate the literature of the world before it is permitted to reach them? Why is it that the value of acres increases in a geometrical ratio, as they stretch away towards the North Star from the frontier of Slavery? These questions must suggest their sufficient answer to thousands of hearts, and be preparing the way for the insurrection of which the slaveholders stand in the deadliest fear,--that of the whites at their gates, who can do with them and their institutions what seems to them good, when once they know their power, and choose to put it forth. The unity of interest of the non-slaveholders of the South with the people of the Free States is perfect, and it must one day combine them in a unity of action.