Success, perpetual and transcendent, such as has always waited on Slavery in all her attempts to mould the history of the country and to compel the course of its events to do her bidding, naturally excites a measure of curiosity if not of admiration, in the mind of every observer. Have the slave-owners thus gone on from victory to victory and from strength to strength by reason of their multitude, of their wealth, of their public services, of their intelligence, of their wisdom, of their genius, or of their virtue? Success in gigantic crime sometimes implies a strength and energy which compel a kind of respect even from those that hate it most. The right supremacy of the power that thus sways our destiny clearly does not reside in the overwhelming numbers of those that bear rule. The entire sum of all who have any direct connection with Slavery, as owners or hirers, is less than THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND, — not half as many as the inhabitants of the single city of New York! And yet even this number exaggerates the numerical force of the dominant element in our affairs. To approximate to the true result, it would be fair to strike from the gross sum those owning or employing less than ten slaves, in order to arrive at the number of slave-owners who really compose the ruling influence of the nation. This would leave but a small fraction over NINETY THOUSAND, men, women, and children, owning slaves enough to unite them in a common interest. And from this should be deducted the women and minors, actually owning slaves in their own right, but who have no voice in public affairs. These taken away, and the absentees flying to Europe or the North from the moral contaminations and material discomforts inseparable from Slavery, and not much more than FIFTY THOUSAND voting men will remain to represent this mighty and all-controlling power! — a fact as astounding as it is incontrovertible.
Oligarchies are nothing new in the history of the world. The government of the many by the few is the rule, and not the exception, in the politics of the times that have been and of those that now are. But the concentration of the power that determines the policy, makes the laws, and appoints the ministers of a mighty nation, in the hands of less than the five-hundredth part of its members, is an improvement on the essence of the elder aristocracies; while the usurpation of the title of the Model Republic and of the Pattern Democracy, under which we offer ourselves to the admiration and imitation of less happy nations, is certainly a refinement on their nomenclature.
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?