Abolition of Slavery

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Number One.

The questions of slavery and emancipation, postponed, evaded, hackneyed to disgust, still agitate our country, every year widening and deepening their current, and force themselves upon us with relentless importunity, as the Mississippi of civilization saps, crumbles, and washes down those banks of barbarism, whose relics remain with us like the bones of the Saurians.

Yet, when we examine the conditions under which civilization absorbs this barbarous institution, we find less cause of gratulation than we at first supposed.

1st. Chattel slavery has been abolished in the Northern, by the sale of slaves to the Southern States,—simply a local fact, by which the institution remains untouched.

2d. Chattel slavery has been abolished in the Free (?) States in the ratio that a dense population and more compact organization of commercial relations, enables the capitalist to exploit the laborers, either white or black, (competing for employment,) more completely, and with less expense to himself, by the wages system, which leaves him utterly irresponsible, than by owning them as property in the chattel slave system, which involves him in a personal interest and a guaranty of subsistence to them.

3d. The abolition of chattel slavery and of the guaranty of protection and subsistence, has destroyed the social position of the Negro, who lives more degraded, if possible, and invidiously excluded from all but the most servile occupations, in the Northern than in the Southern States,—(honorable exceptions being made of certain places, such as Providence R. I., an exception which is only comparative.) No common ground of sympathy between the white and black races has been substituted for the domestic relation, which, with all its evils, has in a few generations greatly refined the Negro character, and, in numerous instances, established warm personal friendships between master and slave.

The Negro finds his black skin more his enemy, both North and South, after manumission than before, and the personal repugnance to color is greater among: the abolitionists than among the slaveholders. This evil progressively increases as the Negro is brought into competition with the European races.

4th. The progressive abolition of chattel slavery has aggravated the oppression of the Negro continuing slave—rudely transported or marched off in handcuffs from his native home by speculators, his family divided and dispersed, without any probability of again meeting. This evil extends to the Slave States contiguous to Free States, or tending to become such, in the process of substituting wages competition for chattel slavery.

5th. In the West India colonies, where manumission has been effected without removal of the Negro, by the arbitrary interference of England and France, or by the massacre of the whites, as at St. Domingo, and where the sparse population and exuberant climate preclude physical destitution, emancipation without the previous education and elevation of the Negro character, has produced two serious evils:

1st. External. The comparative suspension of industry, retrogradation of cultures, and diminution of valuable products

2d. Internal disorders and crimes among the island populations, where the Negro returns to savage life, corrupted by the lowest vices of civilization. Accounts from St. Domingo have stated the prevalence of rapine and murder, in the most, horrid forms, by hordes who inhabit the mountains.

Without farther developing these and other analogous facts, it is already evident, that the abolition of chattel slavery in civilized countries, is far from being a feature of harmonious progression. When arbitrarily and suddenly effected, we see it causing countries to retrograde to the savage state When spontaneously effected, it has been but a symptom of the decline of civilization into its fourth phase, commercial feudalism, where it renews its oppression under more hideous and inhuman forms, as we may observe from the numerous parliamentary statistics of the English manufacturing districts. France and Belgium exhibit the same tendencies; nor have the manufacturing corporations of New England any cause to boast, despite the superior human material which they use up with such admirable neatness and order.

The foregoing reflections naturally conduct us to doubt the perfection of civilization as the ultimate expression of human society, since it is not only unable to determine the accession of barbarous and savage nations, whose contact with it never disposes them to adopt its usages, but which absorbs or expels with such difficulty, and under so many disadvantages, this chattel shivery,—an isolated fragment of barbarism, proper only to the earliest period of civilization, which has been thrust upon us by England, and now saps our youthful strength, like a parasite or vampire.

Let us premise on this subject by stating the characters of civilization. Societies have, like the human body, their four ages, differenciated by successive characters. We cannot judge of progress or decline until we have distinctly assigned the characters by which a society is recognized. Our naturalists are scrupulous about such distinctions when the classification of some trivial plant is in question. Why do not politicians follow this method, by assigning to their dear civilization the characters adapted to each of its four phases. By this method only we can perceive whether it advances or retrogrades. Six Successive Characters of Civilization.


Decrepitude Or Fourth Thase.

Simple Germ. City Pawnbroking Establishments.

Compound Germ. Exclusive privileges in trades and professions.

Pivot. Commercial Feudalism.

Counterpoise. Controllers of Feudal Monopoly.

Tone. Illusions in Association.

Transitions regular—the twelve guarantees into sixth period—irregular the 32 issues from incoherence. The four phases, infancy, growth, decline and decrepitude, have each special attributes, for example: the first phase of civilization has for its attributes, exclusive marriage, combined with slavery of the cultivator. Such was the order existing among the Greeks and Romans, who were only in the first phase of civilization. Among the Greeks and Romans we do not find that any philosopher has proposed plans for the emancipation of the slaves; they never busied themselves with the lot of those wretches whom Vedius Pollio caused to be devoured alive by lamprey eels, when they had not committed the least fault, and whom the Spartans slew by thousands to diminish their number when they multiplied too much. Never did the philanthropists of Athens or Rome deign to interest themselves in their lot, nor to rise against these atrocities. They believed at that epoch that civilization could not exist without slaves; they always believe that social science has reached its final limit, and that the best known is the best possible. "At the end of their line they are at the bottom of the ocean." Thus, seeing that the civilized order was a little less bad than the barbarous and savage order, they have concluded that civilization was the best possible society, and that no other could be discovered.

The difficulties hitherto encountered are not inherent in the institution of slavery, or in the conditions of emancipation; they arise from the narrow, contentious, and fragmentary or simple manner in which the subject has been hitherto treated. Civilization is already so far advanced at the South, as to make this barbarian interloper feel much out of place, and there is no end of complaint there from morning till night, especially among the mistresses of families, of its numberless vexations and inconveniences. It is cumbrous, expensive, and unsatisfactory in all its results—a dead weight or drag on the industrial career of the South, on all high progress in agriculture and the arts, a source of panic fears, a necessity for private internal polices, vigilance and suspicions which degrade and exasperate both white and black. How truly has St. Pierre said: "When human selfishness binds the chain around the ankle of the slave, Divine justice rivets the other end around the neck of the tyrant." These tyrants, however, are also men. are also lovers. Let us show them how they may conciliate charity with self-preservation in this matter, and above all, how they may really and certainly benefit and elevate the slave by emancipation.

The vice of the abolition movement hitherto has been simplism.

1st. It has confined itself to the reiteration of right and wrong, justice and injustice, &c.,—mere abstractions and practical fallacies when not combined with expediency; since, in the Divine nature, where our notions of right and wrong originate, Economy of Means is the complementary attribute to Distributive Justice. It is necessary to show, not only that it is right to emancipate, but also how it may be made immediately profitable to the individual slave owners, as well as to the collective South.

3d. Abolitionism has been simple, and exposed itself to suspicion of insincerity, by declining all practical operations. It attacked an institution—how? By words, instead of counter institutions. Emancipation in the North was not virtual, but only formal and nominal, consisting in the removal and sale of the greater number of the slaves to the Southern States, and continuing those who remained North in the same exclusively servile functions, and degraded social, and until very recently, political positions.

In the large cities, their condition, in common with that of the lowest class of whites, victims of birth or circumstance, unrescued by any social providence, is greatly worse than that of the southern plantations, owing to their exclusion from nature, and the prevalence of scrofulous disease, in their squalid mode of life. Seeing this, tho Southerner urges, that since the system of individual competition, characteristic of civilization, reduces to squalid misery, and even wholesale starvation, the poor of the more highly organized and energetic Caucausian races, simple emancipation, which throws the negro race into the vortex of this competition, must, in connection with the rapid increase of population and filling up of the soil, crush and exterminate the negro in the conditions of industrial progress Thus Mr. Emerson talks of nature's exterminating races by stronger races, black by white faces, as a necessity of social growth. Not at all; it is purely a civilized and relative necessity, and it would be a most unhappy and retrograde movement for the human race, because, though the blacks are inferior in ambition and the energy of fierce individualism, they are in many points a superior race. They are fresher from nature, and preserve her instincts better than the white race; they have more generally sound constitutions and physical vigor; they are more social, more affectionate, more musical, more mirthful, and happier in their temperament. They are highly imitative, apt for the mechanic arts, and grateful for encouragement, and have already developed very rapidly under all the depressing and unfavorable influences of slavery, by their contact with the superior intelligence and refinement of the white race, to which, so far from evincing repugnance, like the Indian, they are drawn by a natural reverence or sympathy.

To answer all objections to emancipation, it is necessary to organize, either at the North or the South, but especially at the South, on the debateable ground, a free society, embracing all colors, whose internal structure and relations shall obviate the vice of individual competition, and render itself at the same time a point of admiration and imitation by increasing production, avoiding waste, and by the superior well-being of all connected with it. We cannot help men by preaching—but by living only—by living wisely, successfully, happily. Argument excites against us the self-esteem of the party opposed, but facts always impress themselves. How dead is our pulpit worship, contrasted with tho influence of Christian life and character! Yet Christ, considered as an individual, failed to perfect his work, because he could not organize his truth, which still awaits the practical arrangements of our social mathematics. Let us here recognize that the spirit of Christ's life and doctrines is essentially synthetic, not analytic. It was love, union, co-operation—the absorption of censure in sympathy. In divinesing man—made one with God through Christ—it allows him to leave behind him unconsciously his old sloughskin of sins and abominations. It is quite an after-thought, and a very miserable one, the Christianity which consists in turning man inside out, setting him at war with himself, erecting self-contempt into a virtue, and making of that noble conscience, which by nature looks only upward and forward, the eternal aspiration and stimulus to excellence, a chronic neuralgia of the soul. If individuals will thus stupidly victimize themselves, and palsy the sources of their energy, we can only pity them, but we cannot tolerate this inverted Christianity of censure and remorse on Social and Humanitary questions. Let us have no more "you are wrong, you are wicked," but show us the institutions of goodness and justice—of compound goodness and justice, allied with wealth, power, luxury, successful attainment.

It can be done—and the South now offers an easy conquest. Lands are cheap, negroes have fallen in price. Great numbers of them are sufficiently developed in intelligence and skill, to organize agriculture and manufactures there in a superior manner. Wo have a race to deal with, eminently social, affectionate, reverential, harmonious, and apt in music and the mechanic arts.

They are extremely sensitive to encouragement, and grateful for kindness; and though they will not singly work as hard or as long as northern white men, yet the moment you form a group upon any work, they labor with great spirit and fidelity because the social principle is stronger in them than the individual principle.

It would be easier to organize negroes and slaves, on account of their habits of unquestioning obedience. The head remains quiet, the heart is in full play. And if they are placed in an order of functions and social relations corresponding to their capacities and affections, attraction will flow in at once to animate the organism.

Having thus rapidly and generally presented the question, let us return to investigate the whole subject more elaborately

Edgeworth. *nbsp;

Number Two

Are we to conclude that an institution so fraught with oppression and degradation, so revolting in its aspect and conditions to noble human hearts, as that of chattel slavery, must be left alone, because emancipation and the abolition reform movements in civilization have proved pernicious or abortive?

No! The facts of past experience in the treatment of this social ulcer, prove only, that civilization, like a venomous serpent, becomes more venomous as it is perfected iu its kind; that it is a vicious circle, in which all attempts at reform only lead as into new evils. These facts teach us, that (Soil * means better by us than we mean by ourselves. He is not willing;, that in the illusions of partial reforms, we should cheat ourselves

.* I do not use this word, which in the ignorance of incoherent societies has a meaning so doubtful and so vague, hypocritically, like those bullying blunderers who stick it up before them as a target, from behind which they hurl their own crude dogmas at us. I have no occasion to appeal to superstition : the fanatics and sentimentalists have been tried on this question of slavery, and found wanting.

If the glory of emancipating the Negro race be achieved by any special movement, it will not be one of garrulous fanaticism, but of that, cool, practical, constructive, persistent hereism, which is not afraid of spadework. When I use the word God in relation to social affairs, I mean precisely that, which is to humanity collectively, or rather to our planet, of whose life humanity is one phase, (as the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms are other phases.) what the impelling and controlling principle of our internal organic or visceral life is to us individually. The heart and circulation, the stomach, bowels, and lacteals and their nutrition, the liver, kidneys, and other glands, with their secretion, even the lungs and respiration, though this last is partially controlled by the will, go on during life without our minding them, whether we sleep or wake, better even during sleep.

It is this visceral conscience which repairs our waking errors and tends incessantly to the internal harmony or health of our organism. It is the God within us, around whose wills we gravitate, and of whose movements our self-willed outward acts are but the hands of the clock, the shadow of the dial. It is this organic God which impels and controls the internal movements, nutrition, and growth of societies, as of individuals, Which discriminate from the partial, tickle, and eccentric tendencies of individuals or sects who aspire to co-operate in the social movement, without having first studied the laws of collective physiology, the constitution of the human race, or the science of destinies.

out of our true destiny,—of that social harmony and happiness whereof the Scriptures tell us, that " Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things that God hath prepared for those who love him and keep his commandments to do them." God does nothing by halves—he has provided diabolical and accumulated wretchedness for the periods rebellious to attraction, and compressing it by their system of isolated households and competitive industry, which are deceptions of the narrowest selfishness, and equally rejected by true self-love, and by the love of the neighbor. He has provided abundant luxuries, unutterable joys, for the social periods obedient to attraction, which shall cease from atheistical legislation, and express in their outward relations, that law which he eternally writes in our hearts, and whose methods and details of practical embodiment in all industrial and social relations, have been discovered and disclosed to us.

We arc struck with the absence of compensating guarantees among the evils and dangers of abolishing slavery in civilization. Is not this an indication that we are to seek the true and safe methods of emancipation in societies where mutual guarantees will be substituted for incoherence and individual competition? Have we not already seen how masonic corporations, insurance companies, &c, have been instinctively resorted to as a shelter and defence against this crushing competition 1 Nothing can be more simple than the application of this principle to emancipation, which it is capable of effecting within two generations, throughout the South or throughout the globe. It will render emancipation a profitable speculation to the slaveholder; it will educate and provide social and industrial positions for the Negro, during the process of his emancipation, and render him a valuable member of the society where fie will remain. It will have the property of attraction, or of determining imitation, by its charms and advantages.

Let us state this method first in regard to the rudimental application by which it may commence:

Those northern abolitionists, who are tired of talking and writing, and whose object is not to get salaries, or to make political capital for themselves, but who really wish the emancipation of the slave, and are willing to devote themselves to this object, will proceed to the South, select a section where the soil is cheap and excellent, and the climate fine and healthy, such as the prairie island sections of Texas, up the Rio Grande river, or the Nacogdoches country near Red river, or the Attakapas of Louisiana river, or even the mountain sections of the Carolinas or Georgia. They will here, either alone, or still better, in partnership with some liberal southern slaveholders who sympathize in their purpose, purchase a few thousand acres of land, and from 100 to J,600 Negroes. If they have not previously learned the methods of culture adapted to the region they enter, they will employ experienced and intelligent southern farmers, willing to co-operate in their purpose, to superintend and organize the work. They will proceed during the first two or three years without mentioning emancipation, but conducting the farm work as if with the sole view of pecuniary interest, so that their farm should be distinguished from those around only by the more numerous branches of industry connected with its greater numbers and means. The more systematic the organization of its different branches, the greater the humanity of its Negro management, and superior provisions for the well-being of all concerned in it. .

The Negroes should have for themselves twelve hours out of each twenty-four, the Sabbath and Saturday afternoon, and all extra work performed by them should be at their own pleasure, and especially rewarded.

The large bands engaged in each culture should be instructed in music, and trained to sing in proceeding to their work or returning from it. A poet or musician, if colored all the better, will be regarded as regular officers of the establishment.

Every Saturday night a feast or ball will be prepared, generally in the open air, and diversified by songs, athletic feats, &«. The whites will always mingle (by invitation, not as police officers, but as friends) in these festivals whence ardent spirits will be excluded.

The food of all will be prepared in a unitary kitchen, in the most wholesome manner, varied with those fruits and vegetables so cheap and abundant in the southern and southwestern country, and served at tables or in the fields, according to the convenience of the work and preference of the Negroes, who will be encouraged to form groups or pairs of mutual choice. Flesh need not be given as a regular allowance, a vegetable and fruit regimen being in that climate more conducive to health and gentleness, while those temperaments which require flesh can procure it by hunting on Saturdays. Sundays, and nights of the week. Every day, before and after work, the whole population will march to the river or the bathing-house, and swim or perform general ablutions.

The lash is not to be even named in the establishment. Misconduct will be corrected entirely by a kind admonitory procedure, sometimes combined with isolation, and with processes of the water cure. Crime is always to be treated as disease, and where from want of skill or means it resists all methods of cure, the Negro must be sold, not tormented or degraded on the estate, because this only makes him personally mean, treacherous, and dangerous, but it lowers the tone of honor on the whole plantation.

Men always tend towards the standard of their reputation, be it noble or mean. Expediency therefore requires that all our adaptations be-made to the divine and not to the demoniac nature of man.

The worship of God in the Sun, his great natural symbol and representative to the earth, will be celebrated every day at his rising and setting, and on the eighth day at high noon, with music, graceful dances, reserved for these occasions, or silent contemplation, at the pleasure of those who prefer it.

It is of immense importance that a visible or sensible representation of God, as the Sun is, should be presented to the Negro as an object of worship, for living so much in the senses as he does by his native organization, he cannot abstract his conception of creative power from its manifestations, and his strong sentiment of duty here baffled, makes him a victim of the wildest superstitions. Witness the Obi magic. I have found by the fences at remote corners of a plantation near Raleigh, where the Negroes had of course, better chance of enlightenment and where nothing of the sort was suspected, old cows' horns filled with poisonous weeds, lizards, and dead reptiles called goamer-horns, which some one was preparing according to the rites of magic to do mischief with. The concentrated malignant volition on one hand, and the extreme impressibility on the other, of these beings, whose ignorance and limited relations render all personalities more intense, give to their magic, which is of course only a form of magnetism, powers elsewhere little known The worship of visible powers is the great lever of all superstitions, and this among the rest. [Sunshine dissipates mysteries, and restores man to the healthy consciousness of his life and its relations.

Light, source and exponent Of truth,—Heat, of passion or affection, and Electricity, of practical use, the three component elements of the solar ray, flood with a practical religion the whole life of the true Sun-worshipper. But I must reserve this subject for other articles

After the establishment is safely based, and increasing its profits, if sympathy and general confidence have been established by the methods, and procedure, and tone of intercourse, it will be time to introduce new features, the chief of which axe, the alternation of labors, the participation in dividends, and progressive emancipation.

1st. Alternation in labors. This is equally essential to the development of character and of the highest physical vigor. Man becomes stupid and mechanical when confined twelve hours a day to one routine of action. If it be necessary that any work should be carried on steadily through all the day, or even day and night, without interruption, it can be effected by relays of groups relieving each other, the members of each of which as they are relieved at intervals of from three to four hours, will retire to rest, or join some other function of industry This provision of short sessions, so necessary to integral development and efficiency, so favorable to health and enjoyment, and conciliatory of interests among the different departments of labor pursued, may be at first attended with some sacrifice of profit and time, requisite for the initiation into new functions. It can therefore only be adopted after the different branches have been organized separately, and when the income of the establishment is sufficient to bear the loss.

2d. Participation in dividends. The Negroes who amass some small sums by their extra labors, will be encouraged to invest them in the stock of the establishment, which will be s safety fund bank for them, where interest will accumulate in proportion to the general profit. This personal stake and joint ownership in tho establishment, will develop in the Negro a sense of dignity and responsibility, as well as energize his industry.

Free labor may be also compensated by proportional dividends from the general profit, instead of by stated salaries.

3d. Progressive emancipation. This will be effected by dividing the estimated value of each Negro into twelve shares, so that he may ransom himself, or refund the money expended in his purchase by the profits of his spare hours.

If his ransom be estimated at $600, divided into twelve shares of S50 each, he may buy first his Saturday morning, then his Monday afternoon, and successively six hours by six hours of any day of the week, and each half day ransom will, according to his own energy, increase his resources and opportunity for the purchase of the rest. This reimbursement of the original capital will enable the association to make new purchases of slaves, to whom the same advantages may be extend ed, at the same time that the freed Negro is educated in different branches of industry, holding association stock, and thus guaranteed a good market for his labor—attracted also it is probable by social ties, remains a permanent resident, and may be received into all the priviliges of full membership, social intercourse being restricted by no other law than that of affinity of character. A gentleman of New-Orleans some years since tried the method of progressive emancipation by divided ransoms with his Negroes, and so great a stimulus was afforded by his encouragement, combined with the prospect of their liberty, that in a few years they were all free, and during this period excited the admiration of all who knew them by their energy and good behavior.

How much easier this would be for a large agricultural and manufacturing association, whose varied labors would always give profitable employment, and to which the Negro would be more useful after his freedom than before, since his industrial education and general culture continues to progress under a mechanism plastic in its adaptation to the exigencies of human faculties and passions. This plasticity or adaptiveness reposes on three principles, and a pivotal or unitary force, namely:— 1st. Discrimination of functions* to each individual aptitude. 2d. Concerted action of masses on each function. 3d. Short sessions of from three to four or at most six hours, and frequent alternations of employment.

Pivotal. Propulsion and control of each department by a passional chief, so constituted by industrial and social efficiency, and of all the departments collectively, by one or more characters equal to this position among the founders.


  • Marx Edgeworth Lazarus and "A Carolinian", “Abolition of Slavery,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 19 (November 10, 1849): 291-293.
  • Marx Edgeworth Lazarus and "A Carolinian", “Abolition of Slavery,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 20 (November 17, 1849): 308-309.