To every age and to all nations belong their peculiar maxims and political or religious cries, which, if collected by some ingenious philosopher, would make a striking compendium of universal history. Sometimes a curious outward similarity exists between these condensed national sentences of peoples dissimilar in every other respect. Thus, to-day is heard in the senescent East the oft-repeated formula of the Mussulman's faith, "There is no God but Allah, and Mahomet is his Prophet," while in the youthful West a new cry, as fully believed, not less devout, and scarcely less often repeated, arises from one great and influential portion of the political and social thinkers of this country, — the cry that "There is no King but Cotton, and the African is its High-Priest." According to the creed of philosophy, philanthropy, and economy in vogue among the sect whose views take utterance in this formula, King Cotton has now reigned supreme over the temporal affairs of the princes, potentates, and people of this earth for some thirty years. Consequently, it is fair to presume that its reign has fully developed its policy and tendencies and is producing its fruit for good or evil, especially in the land of its disciples. It is well, therefore, sometimes to withdraw a little from the dust and smoke of the battle, which, with us at least, announces the spread of this potentate's power, and to try to disentangle the real questions at issue in the struggle from the eternal complications produced by short-sighted politicians and popular issues. Looking at the policy and tendency of the reign of King Cotton, as hitherto developed and indicated by its most confidential advisers and apostles and by the lapse of time in the so-called Slave States, to what end does it necessarily tend? to what results must it logically lead?
What is coarsely, but expressively, described in the political slang of this country as "The Everlasting Nigger-Question" might perhaps fairly be considered exhausted as a topic of discussion, if ever a topic was. Is it exhausted, however? Have not rather the smoke and sweat and dust of the political battle in which we have been so long and so fiercely engaged exercised a dimming influence on our eyes as to the true difficulty and its remedy, as they have on the vision of other angry combatants since the world began? It is easy to say, in days like these, that men seem at once to lose their judgment and reason when they approach this question, — to look hardly an arm's length before them,— to become mere tools of their own passions; and all this is true, and, in conceding it all, no more is conceded than that the men of the present day are also mortal. How many voters in the last election, before they went to the polls, had seriously thought out for themselves the real issue of the contest, apart from party names and platforms and popular cries and passionate appeals to the conscience and the purse? In all parties, some doubtless were impelled by fanaticism, — many were guided by instinct, — more by the voice of their leaders, — most by party catchwords and material interests, — but how many by real reflection and the exercise of reason? Was it every fifth man, or every tenth? Was it every fiftieth? Let every one judge for himself. The history of the reigning dynasty, its policy and tendency, are still open questions, the discussion of which, though perhaps become tedious, is not exhausted, and, if conducted in a fair spirit, will at least do no harm. What, then, is all this thirty years' turmoil, of which the world is growing sick, about? Are we indeed only fighting, as the party leaders at the North seem trying to persuade us, for the control, by the interests of free labor or of slave-labor, of certain remaining national territories into which probably slavery never could be made to enter? — or rather is there not some deep innate principle,—some strong motive of aggrandizement or preservation, — some real Enceladus, — the cause of this furious volcano of destructive agitation? If, indeed, the struggle be for the possession of a sterile waste in the heart of the continent, — useless either as a slave-breeding or a slave-working country, — clearly, whatever the politician might say to the contrary, the patriot and the merchant would soon apply to the struggle the principle, that sometimes the game is not worth the candle. If, however, there be an underlying principle, the case is different, and the cost of the struggle admits of no limit save the value of the motive principle. He who now pretends to discuss this question should approach it neither as a Whig, a Democrat, nor a Republican, but should look at it by the light of political philosophy and economy, forgetful of the shibboleth of party or appeals to passion. So far as may be, in this spirit it is proposed to discuss it here.
"By its fruits ye shall know it." Look, then, for a moment, at the fruits of the Cotton dynasty, as hitherto developed in the working of its policy and its natural tendency,— observe its vital essence and logical necessities, — seek for the result of its workings, when brought in contact with the vital spirits and life-currents of our original policy as a people,—and then decide whether this contest in which we are engaged is indeed an irrepressible and inextinguishable contest, or whether all this while we have not been fighting with shadows. King Cotton has now reigned for thirty years, be the same less or more. To feel sure that we know what its policy has wrought in that time, we must first seek for the conditions under which it originally began its work.
Ever since Adam and Eve were forced, on their expulsion from Paradise, to try the first experiment at self-government, their descendants have been pursuing a course of homoeopathic treatment. It was the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge which caused all their woes; and in an increased consumption of the fruit of that tree they have persistently looked for alleviation of them. Experience seems to prove the wisdom of the treatment. The greater the consumption of the fruit, the greater the happiness of man. Knowledge has at last become the basis of all things, — of power, of social standing, of material prosperity, and, finally, in America, of government itself. Until within a century past, political philosophy in the creation of government began at the wrong end. It built from the pinnacle downward. The stability of the government depended on the apex, — the one or the few, — and not on the base, — the foundation of the many. At length, in this country, fresh from the hand of Nature, the astonished world saw a new experiment tried, — a government systematically built up from the foundation of the many, — a government drawing its being from, and dependent for its continued existence on, the will and the intelligence of the governed. The foundation had first been laid deep and strong, and on it a goodly superstructure of government was erected. Yet, even to this day, the very subjects of that government itself do not realize that they, and not the government, are the sources of national prosperity. In times of national emergency like the present,—amid clamors of secession and of coercion,— angry threats and angrier replies,—wars and rumors of wars,—what is more common than to hear sensible men — men whom the people look to as leaders—picturing forth a dire relapse into barbarism and anarchy as the necessary consequence of the threatened convulsions? They forget, if they ever realized, that the people made this government, and not the government the people. Destroy the intelligence of the people, and the government could not exist for a day; — destroy this government, and the people would create another, and yet another, of no less perfect symmetry. While the foundations are firm, there need be no fears of the superstructure, which may be renewed again and again; but touch the foundations, and the superstructure must crumble at once. Those who still insist on believing that this government made the people are fond of triumphantly pointing to the condition of the States of Mexico, as telling the history of our own future, let our present government be once interrupted in its functions. Are Mexicans Yankees? Are Spaniards Anglo-Saxons? Are Catholicism and religious freedom, the Inquisition and common schools, despotism and democracy, synonymous terms? Could a successful republic, on our model, be at once instituted in Africa on the assassination of the King of Timbuctoo? Have two centuries of education nothing to do with our success, or an eternity of ignorance with Mexican failure? Was our government a lucky guess, and theirs an unfortunate speculation? The one lesson that America is destined to teach the world, or to miss her destiny in failing to teach, has with us passed into a truism, and is yet continually lost sight of; it is the magnificent result of three thousand years of experiment: the simple truth, that no government is so firm, so truly conservative, and so wholly indestructible, as a government founded and dependent for support upon the affections and good-will of a moral, intelligent, and educated community. In our politics, we hear much of State-rights and centralization, — of distribution of power,—of checks and balances,— of constitutions and their construction,— of patronage and its distribution,— of banks, of tariffs, and of trade, — all of them subjects of moment in their sphere; but their sphere is limited. Whether they be decided one way or the other is of comparatively little consequence: for, however they are decided, if the people are educated and informed, the government will go on, and the community be prosperous, be they decided never so badly, — and if decided badly, the decision will be reversed; but let the people become ignorant and debased, and all the checks and balances and wise regulations which the ingenuity of man could in centuries devise would, at best, but for a short space defer the downfall of a republic. A well-founded republic can, then, be destroyed only by destroying its people,—its decay need be looked for only in the decay of their intelligence; and any form of thought or any institution tending to suppress education or destroy intelligence strikes at the very essence of the government, and constitutes a treason which no law can meet, and for which no punishment is adequate.
Education, then, as universally diffused as the elements of God, is the life-blood of our body politic. The intelligence of the people is the one great fact of our civilization and our prosperity, — it is the beating heart of our age and of our land. It is education alone which makes equality possible without anarchy, and liberty without license. It is this which makes the fundamental principles of our Declaration of Independence living realities in New England, while in France they still remain the rhetorical statement of glittering generalities. From this source flow all our possibilities. Without it, the equality of man is a pretty figure of speech; with it, democracy is possible. This is a path beaten by two hundred years of footprints, and while we walk it we are safe and need fear no evil; but if we diverge from it, be it for never so little, we stumble, and, unless we quickly retrace our steps, we fall and are lost. The tutelary goddess of American liberty should be the pure marble image of the Professor's Yankee school-mistress. Education is the fundamental support of our system. It was education which made us free, progressive, and conservative; and it is education alone which can keep us so.
With this fact clearly established, the next inquiry should be as to the bearing and policy of the Cotton dynasty as touching this question of general intelligence. It is a mere truism to say that the cotton - culture is the cause of the present philosophical and economical phase of the African question. Throughout the South, whether justly or not, it is considered as well settled that cotton can be profitably raised only by a forced system of labor. This theory has been denied by some writers, and, in experience, is certainly subject to some marked exceptions; but undoubtedly it is the creed of the Cotton dynasty, and must here, therefore, be taken for true.(1) With this theory, the Southern States are under a direct inducement, in the nature of a bribe, to the amount of the annual profit on their cotton-crop, to see as many perfections and as few imperfections as possible in the system of African slavery, and to follow it out unflinchingly into all its logical necessities. Thus, under the direct influence of the Cotton dynasty, the whole Southern tone on this subject has undergone a change. Slavery is no longer deplored as a necessary evil, but it is maintained as in all respects a substantial good. One of the logical necessities of a thorough slave-system is, in at least the slave-portion of the people, extreme ignorance. Whatever theoretically may be desirable in this respect among the master-class, ignorance, in its worst form,— ignorance of everything except the use of the tools with which their work is to be done,— is the necessary condition of the slaves. But it is said that slaves are property, without voice or influence in the government, and that the ignorance of the black is no obstacle to the intelligence of the white. This possibly may be true; but a government founded on ignorance, as the essential condition of one portion of its people, is not likely long to regard education as its vital source and essence. Still the assertion that the rule of education does not apply to slaves must be allowed; for we must deal with facts as we find them; and undoubtedly the slave has no rights which the master is bound to respect; and in speaking of the policy of the Cotton dynasty, the servile population must be regarded as it is, ignoring the question of what it might be; it must be taken into consideration only as a terrible inert mass of domesticated barbarism, and there left. The question here is solely with the policy and tendency of the Cotton dynasty as affecting the master-class, and the servile class is in that consideration to be summarily disposed of as so much labor owned by so much capital.
The dynasty of Cotton is based on the monopoly of the cotton-culture in the Cotton States of the Union; its whole policy is directed to the two ends of making the most of and retaining that monopoly; and economically it reduces everything to subserviency to the question of cotton-supply; — thus Cotton is King. The result necessarily is, that the Cotton States have turned all their energies to that one branch of industry. All other branches they abandon or allow to languish. They have no commerce of their own, few manufactories, fewer arts; and in their abandonment of self in their devotion to their King, they do not even raise their own hay or corn, dig their own coal, or fell their own timber; and at present, Louisiana is abandoning the sugar-culture, one of the few remaining exports of the South, to share more largely in the monopoly of cotton. Thus the community necessarily loses its fair proportions; it ceases to be self-sustaining; it exercises one faculty alone, until all the others wither and become impotent for very lack of use. This intense and all-pervading devotion to one pursuit, and that a pursuit to which the existence of a servile class is declared essential, must, in a republic more than in any other government, produce certain marked politico-philosophical and economical effects on the master-class as a whole. In a country conducted on a system of servile labor, as in one conducted on free, the master-class must be divided into the two great orders of the rich and poor, — those who have, and those who have not. That the whole policy of the Cotton dynasty tends necessarily to making broader the chasm between these orders is most apparent. It makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer; for, as, according to the creed of the dynasty, capital should own labor, and the labor thus owned can alone successfully produce cotton, he who has must be continually increasing his store, while he who has not can neither raise the one staple recognized by the Cotton dynasty, nor turn his labor, his only property, to other branches of industry; for such have, in the universal abandonment of the community to cotton, been allowed to languish and die. The economical tendency of the Cotton dynasty is therefore to divide the master-class yet more distinctly into the two great opposing orders of society. On the one hand we see the capitalist owning the labor of a thousand slaves, and on the other the laboring white unable, under the destructive influence of a profitable monopoly, to make any use of that labor which is his only property.
What influence, then, has the Cotton dynasty on that portion of the master class who are without capital? Its tendency has certainly necessarily been to make their labor of little value; but they are still citizens of a republic, free to come and go, and, in the eye of the law, equal with the highest; — on them, in times of emergency, the government must rest; their education and intelligence are its only sure foundations. But, having made this class the vast majority of the master-caste, what are the policy and tendency of the Cotton dynasty as touching them? The story is almost too old to bear even the shortest repetition. Philosophically, it is a logical necessity of the Cotton dynasty that it should be opposed to universal intelligence ; — economically, it renders universal intelligence an impossibility. That slavery is in itself a positive good to society is a fundamental doctrine of the Cotton dynasty, and a proposition not necessary to be combated here; but, unfortunately, universal intelligence renders free discussion a necessity, and experience tells us that the suppression of free discussion is necessary to the existence of slavery. We are but living history over again. The same causes have often existed before, and they have drawn after them the necessary effects. Other peoples, at other times, as well as our Southern brethren at present, have felt that the suppression of general discussion was necessary to the preservation of a prized and peculiar institution. Spain, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England, and Scotland have all, at different times, experienced the forced suppression of some one branch of political or religious thought. Their histories have recorded the effect of that suppression; and the rule to be deduced therefrom is simply this: If the people among whom such suppression is attempted are ignorant, and are kept so as part of a system, the attempt may be successful, though in its results working destruction to the community; — if, however, they are intelligent, and the system incautiously admits into itself any plan of education, the attempt at suppression will be abandoned, as the result either of policy or violence. In this respect, then, on philosophical grounds, the Cotton dynasty is not likely to favor the education of the masses. Again, it is undoubtedly the interest of the man who has not, that all possible branches of industry should be open to his labor, as rendering that labor of greater value; but the whole tendency of the Cotton monopoly is to blight all branches of industry in the Cotton States save only that one. General intelligence might lead the poor white to suspect this fact of an interest of his own antagonistic to the policy of the Cotton King, and therefore general intelligence is not part of that monarch's policy. This the philosophers of the Cotton dynasty fairly avow and class high among those dangers against which it behooves them to be on their guard. They theorize thus: — "The great mass of our poor white population begin to understand that they have rights, and that they, too, are entitled to some of the sympathy which falls upon the suffering. They are fast learning that there is an almost infinite world of industry opening before them, by which they can elevate themselves and their families from wretchedness and ignorance to competence and intelligence. It is this great upheaving of our masses which we have to fear, so far as our institutions are concerned." (2)
Further, the policy of the Cotton King, however honestly in theory it may wish to encourage it, renders general education and consequent intelligence an impossibility. A system of universal education is made for a laboring population, and can be sustained only among a laboring population; but if that population consist of slaves, universal education cannot exist. The reason is simple; for the children of all must be educated, otherwise the scholars will not support the schools. It is an absolute necessity of society that in agricultural districts cultivated by slave-labor the free population should be too sparsely scattered to support a system of schools, even on starvation wages for the cheapest class of teachers.
Finally, though it is a subject not necessary now to discuss, the effect of the Cotton monopoly and dynasty in depressing the majority of the whites into a species of labor competition in the same branch of industry as the blacks, because the only branch open to all, can hardly have a self-respect-inspiring influence on that portion of the community, but should in its results rather illustrate old Falstaff's remark,—that "there is a thing often heard of, and it is known to many in our land, by the name of pitch ; this pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile: so doth the company thou keepest."
Such, reason tells us, should be the effect on the intelligence and education of the free masses of the South of the policy and dynasty of King Cotton. That experience in this case verifies the conclusions of reason who can doubt who has ever set foot in a thorough Slave State, —or in Kansas, or in any Free State half-peopled by the poor whites of the South ?— or who can doubt it, that has ever even talked on the subject with an intelligent and fair-minded Southern gentleman? Who that knows them will deny that the poor whites of the South make the worst population in the country? Who ever heard a Southern gentleman speak of them, save in Congress or on the hustings, otherwise than with aversion and contempt? (3)
Here, then, we come at once to the foundation of a policy and the cause of this struggle. Whether it will or no, it is the inevitable tendency of the Cotton dynasty to be opposed to general intelligence. It is opposed to that, then, without which a republic cannot hope to exist; it is opposed to and denies the whole results of two thousand years of experience. The social system of which the government of to-day is the creature is founded on the principle of a generally diffused intelligence of the people; but if now Cotton be King, as is so boldly asserted, then an influence has obtained control of the government of which the whole policy is in direct antagonism with the very elementary ideas of that government. History tells us that eight bags of cotton imported into England in 1784 were seized by the custom-house officers at Liverpool, on the ground that so much cotton could not have been produced in these States. In 1860, the cotton-crop was estimated at 3,851,481 bales. Thus King Cotton was born with this government, and has strengthened with its strength; and today, almost the creature of destiny, sent to work the failure of our experiment as a people, it has led almost one-half of the Republic to completely ignore, if not to reject, the one principle absolutely essential to that Republic's continued existence. What two thousand years ago was said of Rome applies to us:—" Those abuses and corruptions which in time destroy a government are sown along with the very seeds of it and both grow up together; and as rust eats away iron, and worms devour wood, and both are a sort of plagues born and bred with the substance they destroy; so with every form and scheme of government that man can invent, some vice or corruption creeps in with the very institution, which grows up along with and at last destroys it." No wonder, then, that the conflict is irrepressible and hot; for two instinctive principles of self-preservation have met in deadly conflict: the South, with the eager loyalty of the Cavalier, rallies to the standard of King Cotton, while the North, with the earnest devotion of the Puritan, struggles hard in defence of the fundamental principles of its liberties and the ark of its salvation.
Thus over nearly half of the national domain and among a large minority of the citizens of the Republic, the dynasty of Cotton has worked a divergence from original principle. Wherever the sway of King Cotton extends, the people have for the present lost sight of the most essential of our national attributes. They are seeking to found a great and prosperous republic on the cultivation of a single staple product, and not on intelligence universally diffused: consequently they have founded their house upon the sand. Among them, cotton, and not knowledge, is power. When thus reduced to its logical necessities,— brought down, as it were, to the hard pan, — the experience of two thousand years convincingly proves that their experiment as a democracy must fail. It is, then, a question of vital importance to the whole people, — How can this divergence be terminated? Is there any result, any agency, which can destroy this dynasty, and restore us as a people to the firm foundations upon which our experiment was begun? Can the present agitation effect this result? If it could, the country might joyfully bid a long farewell to "the canker of peace," and " hail the blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire "; but the sad answer, that it cannot, whether resulting in the success of Democrat or Republican, seems almost too evident for discussion. The present conflict is good so far as it goes, but it touches only the surface of things. It is well to drive the Cotton dynasty from the control of the national government; but the aims of the Republican party can reach no farther, even if it meet with complete success in that. But , even that much is doubtful. The danger at this point is one ever recurring. Those Northern politicians, who, in pursuit of their political objects and ambition, unreservedly bind up their destinies with those of the Cotton dynasty, — the Issachars of the North, whose strong backs are bowed to receive any burden,— the men who in the present conflict will see nought but the result of the maudlin sentimentality of fanatics and the empty cries of ambitious demagogues, — are not mistaken in their calculations. While Cotton is King, as it now is, nothing but time or its own insanity can permanently shake its hold on the national policy. In moments of fierce convulsion, as at present, the North, like a restive steed, may contest its supremacy. Let the South, however, bend, not break, before the storm, and history is indeed "a nurse's tale," if the final victory does not rest with the party of unity and discipline. While the monopoly of cotton exists with the South, and it is cultivated exclusively by native African labor, the national government will as surely tend, in spite of all momentarily disturbing influences, towards a united South as the needle to the pole. But even if the government were permanently wrested from its control, would the evil be remedied? Surely not. The disease which is sapping the foundations of our liberty is not eradicated because its workings are forced inward. What remedy is that which leaves a false and pernicious policy— a policy in avowed war with the whole spirit of our civilization and in open hostility to our whole experiment as a government—in full working, almost a religious creed with near one half of our people? As a remedy, this would be but a quack medicine at the best. The cure must be a more thorough one. The remedy we must look for — the only one which can meet the exigencies of the case — must be one which will restore to the South the attributes of a democracy. It must cause our Southern brethren of their own free will to reverse their steps, — to return from their divergence. It must teach them a purer Christianity, a truer philosophy, a sounder economy. It must lead them to new paths of industry. It must gently persuade them that a true national prosperity is not the result of a total abandonment of the community to the culture of one staple. It must make them self-dependent, so that no longer they shall have to import their corn from the Northwest, their lumber-men and hay from Maine, their manufactures from Massachusetts, their minerals from Pennsylvania, and to employ the shipping of the world. Finally, it must make it impossible for one overgrown interest to plunge the whole community unresistingly into frantic rebellion or needless war. They must learn that a well-conditioned state is, so far as may be, perfect in itself,— and, to be perfect in itself, must be intelligent and free. When these lessons are taught to the South, then will their divergence cease, and they will enter upon a new path of enjoyment, prosperity, and permanence. The world at present pays them an annual bribe of some $65,000,000 to learn hone of these lessons. Their material interest teaches them to bow down to the shrine of King Cotton. Here, then, lies the remedy with the disease. The prosperity of the country in general, and of the South in particular, demands that the reign of King Cotton should cease, — that his dynasty should be destroyed. This result can be obtained but in one way, and that seemingly ruinous. The present monopoly in their great staple commodity enjoyed by the South must be destroyed, and forever. This result every patriot and well-wisher of the South should ever long for; and yet, by every Southern statesman and philosopher, it is regarded as the one irremediable evil possible to their country. What miserable economy! What feeble foresight! What principle of political economy is better established than that a monopoly is a curse to both producer and consumer? To the first it pays a premium on fraud, sloth, and negligence; and to the second it supplies the worst possible article, in the worst possible way, at the highest possible price. In agriculture, in manufactures, in the professions, and in the arts, it is the greatest bar to improvement with which any branch of industry can be cursed. The South is now showing to the world an example of a great people borne down, crushed to the ground, cursed, by a monopoly. A fertile country of magnificent resources, inhabited by a great race, of inexhaustible energy, is abandoned to one pursuit; — the very riches of their position are as a pestilence to their prosperity. In the presence of their great monopoly, science, art, manufactures, mining, agriculture,— in a word, all the myriad branches of industry essential to the true prosperity of a state,— wither and die, that sanded cotton may be produced by the most costly of labor. For love of cotton, the very intelligence of the community, the life-blood of their polity, is disregarded and forgotten. Hence it is that the marble and freestone quarries of New England alone are far more important sources of revenue than all the subterranean deposits of the Servile States. Thus the monopoly which is the apparent source of their wealth is in reality their greatest curse; for it blinds them to the fact, that, with nations as with individuals, a healthy competition is the one essential to all true economy and real excellence. Monopolists are always blind, always practise a false economy. Adam Smith tells us that "it is not more than fifty years ago that some of the counties in the neighborhood of Loudon petitioned the Parliament against the extension of the turnpike roads into the remoter counties. Those remoter counties, they pretended, from the cheapness of labor, would be able to sell their grass and corn cheaper in the London market than themselves, and would thereby reduce their rents and ruin (heir cultivation." The great economist significantly adds, — " Their rents, however, have risen, and their cultivation has been improved, since that time." Finally, to-day, would the cultivation of cereals in the Northwest be improved, if made a monopoly? would its inhabitants be richer? would their economy be better? Certainly not . Yet to-day they undersell the world, and, in spite of competition, are far richer, far more contented and prosperous, than their fellow-citizens in the South in the full enjoyment of their boasted dynasty of Cotton.
"Here," said Wellington, on the Eton foot-ball ground, "we won the battle of Waterloo." Not in angry declamation and wordy debate, in threats of secession and cries for coercion, amid the clash of party-politics, the windy declamation of blatant politicians, or the dirty scramble for office, is the destruction of the dynasty of King Cotton to be looked for. The laws of trade must be the great teacher; and here, as elsewhere, England, the noble nation of shopkeepers, must be the agent for the fulfilment of those laws. It is safe to-day to say, that, through the agency of England, and, in accordance with those laws, under a continuance of the present profit on that staple, the dynasty of King Cotton is doomed, — the monopoly which is now the basis of his power will be a monopoly no more. If saved at all from the blight of this monopoly, the South will be saved, not in New York or Boston, but in Liverpool, — not by the thinkers of America, but by the merchants of England. The real danger of the Cotton dynasty lies not in the hostility of the North, but in the exigencies of the market abroad; they struggle not against the varying fortunes of political warfare, but against the irreversible decrees of Fate. It is the old story of the Rutulian hero; and now, in the very crisis and agony of the battle, while the Cotton King is summoning all his resources and straining every nerve to cope successfully with its more apparent, but less formidable adversary, in the noisy struggle for temporary power, if it would listen for a moment to the voice of reason, and observe the still working of the laws of our being, it, too, might see cause to abandon the contest, with the angry lament, that, not by its opponent was it vanquished, but by the hostility of Jupiter and the gods. The operation of the laws of trade, as touching this monopoly, is beautifully simple. Already the indications are sufficient to tell us, that, under the sure, but silent working of those laws, the very profits of the Southern planter foreshadow the destruction of his monopoly. His dynasty rests upon the theory, that his negro is the only practical agency for the production of his staple. But the supply of African labor is limited, and the increased profit on cotton renders the cost of that labor heavier in its turn, — the value of the negro rising one hundred dollars for every additional cent of profit on a pound of cotton. The increased cost of the labor increases the cost of producing the cotton. The result is clear; and the history of the cotton-trade has twice verified it. The increased profits on the staple tempt competition, and, in the increased cost of production, render it possible. Two courses only are open to the South: either to submit to the destruction of their monopoly, or to try to retain it by a cheaper supply of labor. They now feel the pressure of the dilemma; and hence the cry to reopen the slave-trade. According to the iron policy of their dynasty, they must inundate their country with freshly imported barbarism, or compete with the world. They cry out for more Africans; and to their cry the voice of the civilized world returns its veto. The policy of King Cotton forces them to turn from the daylight of free labor now breaking in Texas. On the other hand, it is not credible that all the land adapted to the growth of the cotton plant is confined to America; and, at the present value of the commodity, the land adapted to its growth would be sought out and used, though buried now in the jungles of India, the well-nigh impenetrable wildernesses of Africa, the table-lands of South America, or the islands of the Pacific. Already the organized energy of England has pushed its explorations, under Livingstone, Barth, and Clegg, into regions hitherto unknown. Already, under the increased consumption, one-third of the cotton consumed at Liverpool is the product of climes other than our own. Hundreds of miles of railroad in India are opening to the market vast regions to share in our profits and break down our monopoly. To-day, India, for home-consumption and exportation, produces twice the amount of cotton produced in America; and, under the mcreased profit of late years, the importation into England from that country has risen from 12,824,200 pounds in 1880, to 77,011,839 pounds in 1840, and, finally, to 250,338,144 pounds in 1857, or nearly twenty per cent. of the whole amount imported, and more than one-fourth of the whole amount imported from -America. The staple there produced does not, indeed, compare in quality with our own; but this remark does not apply to the staple produced in Africa, — the original home of the cotton-plant, as of the negro, — or to that of the cotton-producing islands of the Pacific. The inexhaustible fertility of the valley of the Nile — producing, with a single exception, the finest cotton of the world,— lying on the same latitude as the cotton-producing States of America, and overflowing with unemployed labor — will find its profit, at present prices, in the abandonment of the cultivation of corn, its staple product since the days of Joseph, to come in competition with the monopoly of the South. Peru, Australia, Cuba, Jamaica, and even the Feejee Islands, all are preparing to enter the lists. And, finally, the interior of Africa, the great unknown and unexplored land, which for centuries has baffled the enterprise of travellers, seems about to make known her secrets under the persuasive arguments of trade, and to make her cotton, and not her children, her staple export in the future. In the last fact is to be seen a poetic justice. Africa, outraged, scorned, down-trodden, is, perhaps, to drag down forever the great enslaver of her offspring.
Thus the monopoly of King Cotton hangs upon a thread. Its profits must fall, or it must cease to exist. If subject to no disturbing influence, such as war, which would force the world to look elsewhere for its supply, and thus unnaturally force production elsewhere, the growth of this competition will probably be slow. Another War of 1812, or any long-continued civil convulsions, would force England to look to other sources of supply, and, thus forcing production, would probably be the death-blow of the monopoly. Apart from all disturbing influences arising from the rashness of his own lieges, or other causes, the reign of King Cotton at present prices may be expected to continue some ten years longer. For so long, then, this disturbing influence may be looked for in American politics; and then we may hope that this tremendous material influence, become subject, like others, to the laws of trade and competition, will cease to threaten our liberties by silently sapping their very foundation. As in the course of years competition gradually increases, the effect of this competition on the South will probably be most beneficial. The change from monopoly to competition, distributed over many years, will come with no sudden and destructive shock, but will take place imperceptibly. The fall of the dynasty will be gradual; and with the dynasty must fall its policy. Its fruits must be eradicated by time. Under the healing influence of time, the South, still young and energetic, ceasing to think of one thing alone, will quickly turn its attention to many. Education will be more sought for, as the policy which resisted it, and made its diffusion impossible, ceases to exist. With the growth of other branches of industry, labor will become respectable and profitable, and laborers will flock to the country; and a new, a purer, and more prosperous future will open upon the entire Republic. Perhaps, also, it may in time be discovered that even slave-labor is most profitable when most intelligent and best rewarded,—that the present mode of growing cotton is the most wasteful and extravagant, and one not bearing competition. Thus even the African may reap benefit from the result, and in his increased self-respect and intelligence may be found the real prosperity of the master. And thus the peaceful laws of trade may do the work which agitation has attempted in vain. Sweet concord may come from this dark chaos, and the world receive another proof, that material interest, well understood, is not in conflict, but in beautiful unison with general morality, all-pervading intelligence, and the precepts of Christianity. Under these influences, too, the very supply of cotton will probably be immensely increased. Its cultivation, like the cultivation of their staple products by the English counties mentioned by Smith, will not languish, but flourish, under the influence of healthy competition.—These views, though simply the apparently legitimate result of principle and experience, are by no means unsupported by authority. They are the same results arrived at from the reflections of the most unprejudiced of observers. A shrewd Northern gentleman, who has more recently and thoroughly than any other writer travelled through the Southern States, in the final summary of his observations thus covers all the positions here taken. "My conclusion," says Mr. Olmsted, " is this,— that there is no physical obstacle in the way of our country's supplying ten bales of cotton where it now does one. AU that is necessary for this purpose is to direct to the cotton-producing region an adequate number of laborers, either black or white, or both. No amalgamation, no association on equality, no violent disruption of present relations is necessary. It is necessary that there should be more objects of industry, more varied enterprises, more general intelligence among the people, — and, especially, that they should become, or should desire to become, richer, more comfortable, than they are." It is not pleasant to turn from this, and view the reverse of the picture. But, unless our Southern brethren, in obedience to some great law of trade or morals, return from their divergence,— if, still being a republic in form, the South close her ears to the great truth, that education is democracy's first law of self-preservation,— if the dynasty of King Cotton, unshaken by present indications, should continue indefinitely, and still the South should bow itself down as now before its throne,—it requires no gift of prophecy to read her future. As you sow, so shall you reap; and communities, like individuals, who sow the wind, must, in the fulness of time, look to reap the whirlwind. The Constitution of our Federal Union guaranties to each member composing it a republican form of government; but no constitution can guaranty that universal intelligence of the people without which, soon or late, a republican government must become, not only a form, but a mockery. Under the Cotton dynasty, the South has undoubtedly lost sight of this great principle ; and unless she return and bind herself closely to it, her fate is fixed. Under the present monopolizing sway of King Cotton, — soon or late, in the Union, or out of the Union, — her government must cease to be republican, and relapse into anarchy, unless previously, abandoning the experiment of democracy in despair, she take refuge in a government of force. The Northern States, the educational communities, have apparently little to fear while they cling closely to the principles inherent in their nature. With the Servile States, or away from them, the experiment of a constitutional republic can apparently be carried on with success through an indefinite lapse of time; but though, with the assistance of an original impetus and custom, they may temporarily drag along their stumbling brethren of the South, the catastrophe is but deferred, not avoided. Out of the Union, the more extreme Southern States — those in which King Cotton has already firmly established his dynasty — are, if we may judge by passing events, ripe for the result. The more Northern have yet a reprieve of fate, as having not yet wholly forgotten the lessons of their origin. The result, however, be it delayed for one year or for one hundred years, can hardly admit of doubt. The emergency which is to try their system may not arise for many years; but passing events warn us that it may be upon them now. The most philosophical of modern French historians, in describing the latter days of the Roman Empire, tells us that " the higher classes of a nation can communicate virtue and wisdom to the government, if they themselves are virtuous and wise: but they can never give it strength; for strength always comes from below; it always proceeds from the masses." The Cotton dynasty pretends not only to maintain a government where the masses are slaves, but a republican government where the vast majority of the higher classes are ignorant. On the intelligence of the mass of the whites the South must rely for its republican permanence, as on their arms it must rely for its force; and here again, the words of Sismondi, written of falling Rome, seem already applicable to the South: —"Thus all that class of free cultivators, who more than any other class feel the love of country, who could defend the soil, and who ought to furnish the best soldiers, disappeared almost entirely. The number of small farmers diminished to such a degree, that a rich man, a man of noble family, had often to travel more than ten leagues before falling in with an equal or a neighbor." The destruction of the republican form of government is, then, almost the necessary catastrophe; but what will follow that catastrophe if is not so easy to foretell. The Republic, thus undermined, will fall; but what shall supply its place? The tendency of decaying republics is to anarchy; and men take refuge from the terrors of anarchy in despotism. The South least of all can indulge in anarchy, as it would at once tend to servile insurrection. They cannot long be torn by civil war, for the same reason. The ever-present, all-pervading fear of the African must force them into some government, and the stronger the better. The social divisions of the South, into the rich and educated whites, the poor and ignorant whites, and the servile class, would seem naturally to point to an aristocratic or constitutional-monarchical form of government. But, in their transition state, difficulties are to be met in all directions; and the well-ordered social distinctions of a constitutional monarchy seem hardly consistent with the time-honored licentious independence and rude equality of Southern society. The reign of King Cotton, however, conducted under the present policy, must inevitably tend to increase and aggravate all the present social tendencies of the Southern system,— all the anti-republican affinities already strongly developed. It makes deeper the chasm dividing the rich and the poor; it increases vastly the ranks of the uneducated; and, finally, while most unnaturally forcing the increase of the already threatening African infusion, it also tends to make the servile condition more unendurable, and its burdens heavier.
The modern Southern politician is the least far-seeing of all our short-sighted classes of American statesmen. In the existence of a nation, a generation should be considered but as a year in the life of man, and a century but as a generation of citizens. Soon or late, in the lives of this generation or of their descendants, in the Union or out of the Union, the servile members of this Confederacy must, under the results of the prolonged dynasty of Cotton, make their election either to purchase their security, like Cuba, by dependence on the strong arm of external force, or they must meet national exigencies, pass through revolutions, and destroy and reconstruct governments, making every movement on the surface of a seething, heaving volcano. All movements of the present, looking only to the forms of government of the master, must be carried on before the face of the slave, and the question of class will ever be complicated by that of caste. What the result of the ever-increasing tendencies of the Cotton dynasty will be it is therefore impossible to more than dream. But is it fair to presume that the immense servile population should thus see upturnings and revolutions, dynasties rising and falling before their eyes, and ever remain quiet and contented?" Nothing," said Jefferson, "is more surely written in the Book of Fate than that this people must be free." Fit for freedom at present they are not, and, under the existing policy of the Cotton dynasty, never can be. Whether under any circumstances they could become so is not here a subject of discussion; but, surely, the day will come when the white caste will wish the experiment had been tried. The argument of the Cotton King against the alleviation of the condition of the African is, that his nature does not admit of his enjoyment of true freedom consistently with the security of the community, and therefore he must have none. But certainly his school has been of the worst. Would not, perhaps, the reflections applied to the case of the French peasants of a century ago apply also to them?" It is not under oppression that we learn how to use freedom. The ordinary sophism by which misrule is defended is, when truly stated, this: The people must continue in slavery, because slavery has generated in them all the vices of slaves; because they are ignorant, they must remain under a power which has made and which keeps them ignorant; because they have been made ferocious by misgovernment, they must be misgoverned forever. If the system under which they live were so mild and liberal that under its operation they had become humane and enlightened, it would be safe to venture on a change; but, as this system has destroyed morality, and prevented the development of the intellect,— as it has turned men, who might, under different training, have formed a virtuous and happy community, into savage and stupid wild beasts, therefore it ought to last forever." Perhaps the counsellors of King Cotton think that in this case it will; but all history teaches us another lesson. If there be one spark of love for freedom in the nature of the African,— whether it be a love common to him with the man or the beast, the Caucasian or the chimpanzee, — the love of freedom as affording a means of improvement or an opportunity for sloth, — the policy of King Cotton will cause it to work its way out. It is impossible to say how long it will be in so doing, or what weight the broad back of the African will first be made to bear; but, if the spirit exist, some day it must out. This lesson is taught us by the whole recorded history of the world. Moses leading the Children of Israel up out of Egypt,— Spartacus at the gates of Rome, — the Jacquerie in France, — Jack Cade and Wat Tyler in England, — Nana Sahib and the Sepoys in India,— Toussaint l'Ouvcrture and the Hardens, — and, finally, the insurrection of Nat Turner in this country, with those in Guiana, Jamaica, and St. Lucia: such examples, running through all history, point the same moral. This last result of the Cotton dynasty may come at any moment after the time shall once have arrived when, throughout any great tract of country, the suppressing force shall temporarily, with all the advantages of mastership, including intelligence and weapons, be unequal to coping with the force suppressed. That time may still be far off. Whether it be or not depends upon questions of government and the events of the chapter of accidents. If the Union should now be dissolved, and civil convulsions should follow, it may soon be upon us. But the superimposed force is yet too great under any circumstances, and the convulsion would probably be but temporary. At present, too, the value of the slave insures him tolerable treatment; but, as numbers increase, this value must diminish. Southern statesmen now assert that in thirty years there will be twelve million slaves in the South; and then, with increased numbers, why should not the philosophy of the sugar-plantation prevail, and it become part of the economy of the Cotton creed, that it is cheaper to work slaves to death and purchase fresh ones than to preserve their usefulness by moderate employment? Then the value of the slave will no longer protect him, and then the end will be nigh. Is this thirty or fifty years off? Perhaps not for a century hence will the policy of King Cotton work its legitimate results, and the volcano at length come to its head and defy all compression.
In one of the stories of the "Arabian Nights" we are told of an Afrite confined by King Solomon in a brazen vessel; and the Sultana tells us, that, during the first century of his confinement, he said in his heart, — "I will enrich whosoever will liberate me"; but no one liberated him. In the second century he said, — "Whosoever will liberate me, I will open to him the treasures of the earth"; but no one liberated him. And four centuries more passed, and he said,— "Whosoever shall liberate me, I will fulfil for him three wishes"; but still no one liberated him. Then despair at his long bondage took possession of his soul, and, in the eighth century, he swore,— " Whosoever shall liberate me, him will I surely slay!"
Let the Southern statesmen look to it well that the breaking of the seal which confines our Afrite be not deferred till long bondage has turned his heart, like the heart of the Spirit in the fable, into gall and wormwood; lest, if the breaking of that seal be deferred to the eighth or even the sixth century, it result to our descendants like the breaking of the sixth seal of Revelation,— "And, lo! there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the heaven departed as a scroll, when it is rolled together; and the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every free man hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us, for the great day of wrath is come!'" On that day, at least, will end the reign of King Cotton.
(1) "In truth," the institution of slavery, as an agency for cotton-cultivation, "is an expensive luxury, a dangerous and artificial state, and, even in a worldly point of view, an error. The cost of a first-class negro in the United States is about .£300, and the interest on the capital invested in and the wear and tear of this human chattel are equal to 10 per cent., which, with the cost of maintaining, clothing, and doctoring him, or another 5 per cent., gives an annual cost of £45; and the pampered Coolies in the best paying of all the tropical settlements, Trinidad, receive wages that do not exceed on an average on the year round 6s. per week, or about two-fifths, while in the East Indies, with perquisites, they do not receive so much as two-thirds of this. In Cuba, the Chinese emigrants do not receive so much even as one-third of this."— Cotton Trade of Great Britain, by J. A. Maun. — In India, labor is 80 per cent. cheaper than in the United States.
(2) De Bow's Review, January, 1850. Quoted in Olmsted's Back Country, p. 451.
(3) Except when used by the accomplished statistician, there is nothing more fallacious than the figures of the census. As the author of this article is a disciple neither of Buckle nor De Bow, they have not been used at all; but a few of the census figures are nevertheless instructive, as showing the difference between the Free and the Servile States in respect to popular education. According to the census of 1860, the white population of the Slave States amounted to 6,184,477 souls, and the colored population, free and slave, brought the total population up to an aggregate of 9,612,979, of which the whole number of school-pupils was 581,861. New York, with a population of 3,097,394 souls, numbered 675,221 pupils, or 93,360 more than all the Slave States. The eight Cotton States, from South Carolina to Arkansas, with a population of 2,137,264 whites and a grand total of 3,970,337 human beings, contained 141,032 pupils; the State of Massachusetts, with a total population of 994,514, numbered 176,475, or 35,443 pupils more than all the Cotton States. In popular governments the great sources of general intelligence are newspapers and periodicals; in estimating these, metropolitan New York should not be considered; but of these the whole number, in 1860, issued annually in all the Slave States was 81,038,698, and the number in the not peculiarly enlightened State of Pennsylvania was 84,898,1172, or 3,859,974 more than in all the Slave States. In the eight Cotton States, the whole number was 80,041,991; and in the single State of Massachusetts, 64,820,564, or 34,778,573 more, and in the single State of Ohio, 30,473,407, or 431,416 more, than in all the above eight States.
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