« ÖncekiDevam »
pose, and I sincerely pity the white men who labour under this affliction, and to whom this plague has been handed down by their and our forefathers. But I ask, at least, for a due appreciation of the evil, and some approximation to a better state of things; some progress towards the right, some mitigation of wrong
'I do not, will not judge of slavery by its physical effects. Even if all planters' stories were true, and the slave were really as happy' as they would have us believe, it would alter my hatred of slavery not a jot; on the contrary, such a consummation were to me the supremest evidence of its accursedness. If slavery could really so brutalize men's minds as to make them hug their chains, and glory in degradation, it would be, in my eyes, doubly cursed. But it is not so; the slaves are not happy, and I thank God for it. There is manhood enough left in them to make them at least unhappy. Therefore there is hope for them. What would the worm be that could not even turn? I hold that man is an end unto himself,' and that to use him as a “brute means' to the ends of other men, is to outrage the laws of God. This is to me the 'Law and the Prophets' in the matter of human liberty; and I disdain to enter into any huckstering, pettifogging calculations of happiness.' I take my stand far above the atmosphere of happiness or unhappiness when I argue the question as a matter of right and wrong.'
Well and bravely said, Mr. Stirling! Here you speak as a man who has in him the milk of human kindness. And if elsewhere, as becomes a disciple of Adam Smith, your book abounds in ‘huckstering' calculations of something lower down in the scale than “happiness'—viz., £ s. d.-far be it from us to quarrel with you for it. Rather are our acknowledgments due to one who can prove to the slaveholders, with such an array of facts and figures, that Mammon, whom they do worship, no more smiles upon their system than God, whose fear they seem so utterly to have cast off. Apart from the ever-recurring remarks on the startling contrast which struck him, in common with all other observers, between the backwardness, poverty, and thriftlessness of the South and the rapid progress of the Free States, our author presents many ingenious arguments of an economical nature to show that slavery is a losing speculation. It seems, for instance, that the marketprice of negroes has long been on the rise, and must soon, Mr. Stirling thinks, reach such a pitch as threatens to absorb all the planter's profits. We have dealt with this topic in some degree elsewhere (pp. 427, et seq.); but the subject is so important that we recur to it:
• From all the inquiries I can make, the money-cost of free and slave labour at the South at this moment seems to be very nearly on a par, and the preference for one over the other arises either from local circumstances, or the inclination of the employer. On the Georgian railway, Irish labourers were lately employed-now they have slaves. The American railway officials prefer the latter, but only, I suspect, because Irishmen refuse to be driven. On the Mississippi and Alabama rivers, Irish and negroes are employed indiscriminately. On the St. John's, only slaves are employed; few or no Irish go so far south. The captain of the Charleston steamer told me he paid eighteen dollars per month for slaves, and sixteen and seventeen for Irish ; but he prefers the former, 'for,' said he, naïvely, “if an Irishman misbehaves, I can only send him ashore.' The alternative in the case of the nigger was 'understood. Then, as to waiters, at the St. Charles' Hotel, New Orleans, they are all Irish ; at the Pulaski House, Savannah, they are all slaves ; at the Charleston Hotel, Charleston, they are partly Irish and partly slaves. The experience of these three leading towns and principal rivers of the South proves that, in mere money.cost, there can be little to choose between free and slave labour in the South ; and that the preference of the former to the
Stirling's Letters from the Slave States.
latter is generally dictated by the habit of the employer to expect unconditional submission from the labourers he employs.
‘But this, we must remember, is not a fair comparison of the cost of free and slave labour. Few Irish, comparatively, come to the South. There is a natural aversion in the free labourer to put himself on a footing with a slave. Free labour, therefore, is scarce and dear in the Slave States; and to form a fair comparison of the cost of free and slave labour, we must take the former as it exists in the Northern States, and contrast it with the slave labour of the South. Here the testimony of Olmsted is very valuable, as he is not only an accurate observer, but was himself an employer of agricultural labour in the State of New York. In Eastern Virginia the average hire of slaves, at the time of his visit, was 120 dollars, with board, lodging, and clothing. The average hire of free labourers in New York, at the same period, he puts down at 120 dollars for Americans, and 108 for Irish or Germans, in both cases with board and lodging, but without clothing. The comparison of free and slave labour, therefore, would stand thus, board being included in both cases :-One Irish labourer, 108 dollars; one slave, 120 dollars ; clothing the slave, say 20 dollars : difference, 32 dollars less what may be saved off the board of the slave.
Such is the mere money view of the matter, and it is striking enough. But in estiinating the cost of labour, an important element of calculation is the efficiency of the labourer. Now here there can be but one opinion—that voluntary labour is infinitely more efficient than compulsory labour. The most trustworthy opinions I can procure agree in estimating one free labourer as at least equal to two slaves. Whatever may be the exact proportion of efficiency between free and slave labour, there are certain facts which prove that it must be great. One of these is the enforced use of mules instead of horses, wherever their management is entrusted to slaves, it being confessed by slave-owners that horses cannot stand the neglect and ill-treatment they necessarily undergo froin slaves. Another material proof of the inferiority of slave labour is the clumsiness and heaviness of the implements used in slave husbandry. Tools such as are used by the intelligent free labourers of the North, and which enable them to do a larger quantity of work, are quite unfit for slave use. They would not,' says Olmsted," last a day in a Virginian corn-field.'
• One of the most important drawbacks to slave-labour is the loss by sickness, real or pretended. If a free labourer falls sick, the loss falls on himself, except so far as his employer may be actuated by purely charitable motives. Pretended illness is out of the question, as it would be at his own cost. With the slave it is very different. If he is really sick you lose his labour ; and if you suspect him of feigning illness and force him to work, you may lose him altogether, not to mention the inhumanity of the proceeding. If he feigns illness, you are equally at a loss how to act, not knowing whether he is really ill, or merely playing possum.' If it is bad with male slaves, it is still worse with females. Their ailments are more numerous, and, under certain interesting circumstances, their health may be made the pretext of any amount of evasion. In such cases a poor distracted planter is absolutely at the mercy of the old negro nurse.
* The nature of agricultural operations in the South bas hitherto been compatible with the coarse labour of slaves. So long as only the fertile lands were cultivated, comparatively little labour was needed, and that of the rudest kind. Then slavelabour was available ; and, although dear, it did not entirely absorb the profits of fruitful virgin soils. But the case alters when, with the progress of society, inferior soils are called into cultivation. Then labour enters more and more largely into the cost of agricultural production, and not only more labour, but better labour, is required. From being the coarsest of human industries, agriculture rises to the dignity of an art, and finally, of a science. Every operation is directed by thought, and must be executed with intelligence and care. Here the rude muscular power of the poor negro is quite misplaced. Slave-labour may do while the hoe is the noblest implement of industry, but it is quite out of place among the refined processes, complicated machinery, and expensive stock of a high-farming establishment.'
Now, in the frontier corn-growing Slave States, this change is already taking
place. The necessity for a better mode of culture is already felt, and tracts are written, and agricultural associations formed, to stimulate farmers to adopt more scientific methods. But neither pamphlets nor premiums can give the one thing needful, --cheap and efficient labour. The need for improvement' is visible to all
With exhausted fields, and an increasing population calling aload for food, the husbandman would gladly use better methods ; but all his efforts are paralysed by a system which affords him only dear and inefficient negro labour, and at the same time shuts out the cheaper and better labour which bis competitors in the neighbouring Free States have at their disposal. Let us have patience. The beginning of the end is at hand. The need is too pressing, and the interest too evident, that men's eyes should long be closed to so simple a truth.
• Even the present cost of slave-labour, then, is preparing a revolution ; but there is no reason to suppose that the gradual increase in the value of slaves, which has been going on for many years, has reached its maximum. This rise in the price of negroes is evidently caused by the demand for slave-labour outstripping the annual increase of the slave popalation, and this movement is likely to continue. And it is well it should be so : every dollar added to the price of the slave is a nail in the coffin of slavery.'
The vista may be long and dark; but if the light at the end be no ignis fatuus but the blessed light of day, we ought to rejoice. We own, however, to some slight misgivings. We lay no stress upon South Carolina's braggadocio about re-opening the foreign slave-trade. That would at once bring all Europe on the stage, as the deus ex machina, to disentangle the plot in a trice. But we hope the poor slave will not have to writhe under the lash until the whole of Jonathan's continent of waste land' is brought up to the level of the Lothians, or it would be hard to say how many generations of Uncle Toms and Millys will have to grind in the prison-house before the arrival of the American First of August. But what if even after the last of these millions of acres shall have been brought to such a high pitch of tillage as to render the employment upon it of slave-labour at its present, and still more at a higher, price, a loss, a different result from emancipation-viz., a fall in the price of negroes-should be all that would happen? For they would still be available, at least, for the same kinds of work to which horses, and oxen, and mules may be put. The money value of the four millions of American slaves is computed by Major Beard, the great slave-auctioneer of New Orleans, whose authority will hardly be disputed, at 600,000,0001., or about three-fourths of the amount of our National Debt. We fear this huge mountain of money would sink into a molehill, by the natural fall from the maximum in the price of this species of property, before the worshippers of the almighty dollar' could be induced to surrender it without a struggle. But poor as is the look-out of the slave on this supposition, we fancy it is better than on the opposite hypothesis, of a vast increase in this colossal sum. It seems to us that the culmination of the price of his flesh, and sinews, and bones does not indicate the culmination of the poor negro's star of hope, except in so far as that is a transition-point, which must be passed before such a fall can take place as will make him not worth his keep. Then, of course, he will be sent adrift, and not voluntarily, it is to be feared, till then. Perhaps this is the result which Mr. Stirling had in view. But if so, he ought to have expressed himself more clearly, and to have let us
know that his well-turned aphorism, every dollar added to the price of the slave is a nail in the coffin of slavery,' is only true in the same sense in which the trite remark holds, that every day added to the life of an infant brings him nearer to the grave. Indeed, the converse of his aphorism, like the converse of the parallel we have adduced, is as true, as pointed, and would be more to the purpose. Every dollar abated from the price of the slave is a nail in the coffin of slavery; and when the slave as such is worth nil, he will become a free man. In what year of the third or fourth millenary of our era the turning in that long lane will be reached, we decline to predict.
Let it not be supposed that because we think there is a screw loose in the above ingenious reasoning we are less sanguine than Mr. Stirling as to the downfall of the accursed system. The very fanaticism of the South, its frantic and spasmodic efforts to maintain its tyranny alike over its helots at home and over the free North—the apotheosis of Senator Brooks, the events in Kansas, the atrocious decision in the Dred Scott case, the bluster about reviving the slave-trade-these, and countless other like facts, betray a consciousness of a falling cause. Solution of the problem, with or without continuity-to borrow a phrase from Carlyle-must come before very long. Mr. Stirling points out many a cheering blush of dawn on the horizon ; and if he seems to trust too little to the moral and too much to the material forces at work in bringing about the wished-for consummation, we must not forget that these latter are too commonly overlooked. He is a candid, thoughtful, and judicious observer, well qualified, too, by ripe attainments, to give an intelligent opinion on the topics which he handles. He writes like a scholar and a gentleman-to the expression poor devils' once applied to the negroes we must demur on the score of manners-and we heartily commend his book to public attention. Cool and self-possessed, he casts with unfaltering eye the horoscope of American slavery.
Poems. By GEORGE MACDONALD, author of "Within and Without' Longmans.--Mr. Macdonald's new volume of poems possesses, in one sense, much variety ; in another, little. The cast of thought is much the same throughout, grave and earnest; meditative, even to melancholy, yet nowise morbid. The subjects chosen are mostly serious and elevated-religious, in the best sense, directly or indirectly. The exhilaration of animal spirits, intoxicated with life and Nature—the sport and revelry of Fancy, must be sought elsewhere. Such buoyancy of soul is utterly inaccessible to certain states of health. Mr. Macdonald thinks and writes like a man who has looked death very closely in the face. He seems to walk constantly as on the borders of the spirit land. Much as he loves the woods and fields, they always talk to him of the tree of life, and the flowers which are everlasting. This world is the veil of the next, and the form of that other is partially discernible in its folds. He knows what it is to find the body a burden, and the flesh a cross. Perhaps, to the largest, richest order of poetry, a healthy body is as necessary as a gifted mind. Yet the invalid has some compensations. Let him give what he has. He sings sometimes for fellow-sufferers, sweetly and tenderly, touching chords which other hands cannot find. There are some beautiful passages, quite of this kind, in the narrative poem called ' A Hidden Life,' with which this volume opens; also, in several of the shorter pieces.
In the vehicle of expression, on the other hand, these poems evince ren arkable variety. We read the blank verse poems, and we feel that blank verse suits the author best. There he has most room for his thoughts—and he seems to need the room. He is sometimes redundant. There are parts which would have been improved if some one or two, out of several thoughts (none of them without merit), had been selected, and the rest cancelled. The author must not forget the good old rule, to write with fury and correct with phlegm.' If, in these reviews for excision, some words, or phrases, or errant fancies be found exuberant in that place, yet too dear to be destroyed, they may be reserved. A book might be kept which, like a world of waiting, unborn souls, should contain the nascent ideas for which a fitting place would some day be found. But this by the way. As we travel toward the close of the book, we find this very writer succeeding in a style the most opposite. A succession of short pieces, in the four lined stanza, on The Gospel Women,' is remarkable for simplicity and compression. Another species of the poetic faculty is called for, and comes at the call. These poems are in perfect taste; there is no misplaced embellishment, but nature, reverence, tenderness. The tale is told, the picture drawn, and the mind is left with some apt, suggestive thought, which briefly sums or points the whole.
But there is another style, the symbolical or philosophic, in which the author appears to much less advantage. Even Coleridge, with all his melody, could not make that kind of poetry attractive. To impersonate and adorn abstraction is very easy, and for this reason to be shunned with suspicion. We are glad to see only one long piece of this description in the book; it is intitled, Death and Birth, a Symbol.' We found it obscure in thought, and deficient in Mr. Macdonald's usual vigour and expression. Nor is the meaning happily eked out by such marginal contrivances as the following :- The Resentment of Genius at the Thumbscrews of worldly Talent;' * The Devil Contempt whistling through the mouth of the Saint Renunciation.'
A fragment of a romantic tale, named 'Love's Ordeal,' is so thoroughly well done, that the author should feel encouraged to diversify, with more of such subjects, his graver meditations. Nor let him suppose, speculative as his mind is, that he is not best fitted to deal with fact and nature—the legitimate materials of the poet. "The vision and the faculty divine' consists, not in flying off to unreal dream-worlds, but in investing with their true beauty and significance the living actions and scenes of time. Mr. Macdonald's descriptions in ' A Dream Within a Dream' possess merit of a very high order, and are always best where he appears to draw from his own observation. There is much powerful writing, too, in the Story of the Seashore. It would seem to have been written overlooking the sea, and