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True Principles of Emancipation

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TRUE PRINCIPLES OF EMANCIPATION.

By a Native of Carolina and a Citizen of the World.

While fellowship with the "powers that be" at the South seemed a sine qui non of all efficient movements towards emancipation, the Northern agitations, however well intended, rather exasperated than tended to procure the reform of those evils against which they hurled the ineffectual thunders of the word. John Brown'"' sermon is the first that has ever been seriously heeded. The universality of the homoeopathic law — elastic reactions and electric repulsions operating alike in the sphere of personal or passional, as in that of material, forces — warned us that foreign intervention, unless coming either in the shape of the dollar or the cannon ball, and plying those mightiest levers of our fallen humanity, interest and fear, could but retard the spontaneous solutions of which our Southern problems are susceptible. These solutions, if influenced by philanthropy, should be informed, too, by a higher aim than the conversion of chattel slavery into that of labor for wages, changing the form, but not the facts, of slavery and oppression. The perfidies of commerce, the horrors of the slave trade continued by the speculator and the negro-driver, striking at the heart of personality, poisoning the fountain of social affections, perverting the conscience of a nation, deteriorating the master by fraudulent idleness, the slave by dishonored toil — this prolonged crucifixion of a martyr race demands a resurrection more humane than the liberty of selling oneself by the day, the cut-throat competitions of labor for wages, the outrages sanctioned by prejudice against color, careworn indigence or paralyzed pauperism. It must be confessed, however, to the shame of civilization, that the general condition of its laboring masses presents to the negro only an exchange of evils, and that masters the most tyrannical can but embody, personify, and dramatize in striking forms the manifold cruelties that labor elsewhere suffers at the hands of capital, classes or castes, from their social superiors, in the order of the hells upon earth.

No genius of social creation had revealed either the spontaneous evolution of character and faculties potential in the negro race, nor the natural accords of social harmony which it is calculated to sustain with the white races severally. Slavery or extermination was the voice of Cain fulminated against the negro by our chairs of ethnology — Humboldt nobly protesting. Even Emerson echoed the sophisms of "nature's exterminating races by stronger races, black by white faces," and the ascendant of power once ceded to the white, it seemed to be conceded, also, that the natural function of power was to oppress and destroy. All the virtues, organic or passional, all the harmonic attributes or tendencies of the negro, either physical or social, the luxuriant yet plastic spontaneity of climates beloved by the sun, his eminent susceptibility towards Christian influence, his patience under hardship, his cheerfulness under exhaustive toils, his resistance of malaria, his fidelity in servitude, his constant aspiration towards the decencies of social refinement in language, manners and habits, all have been ignored before that domineering spirit inherent in the Anglo-Norman stock.

But nature, in the evils of oppression, seemed to have prepared their remedy; for the habit of obedience, combined with the aptitude to be swayed by gentle emotions and sensuous harmonies, facilitates the preliminaries of a social structure rich in its elements of character, genial in its sympathies and passional accords, and crystalizing under the influence of one great hierarch. Far otherwise, complex and bristling with difficulties, is the problem of a true social organization resulting in justice and prosperity for peoples accustomed to the abuses of personal license or of political anarchy, and whose social education, in retrograde march from the voluntary and intelligent combinations of the European "companionships," has been for two centuries that of antagonism or simple isolative enterprise. Emancipation, virtual and integral, seemed to await the intervention of a character like Brown's, in its essentials — like Oberlin's, too, in its methods, such as Brown's would have been if educated and developed at the South — whose forces it must wield and whose sympathies it must command. It devolved upon the Church to produce at the South local foci of true Christian life. Icy fetters of constraint melting beneath the summer breath of kindness, the spontaneity of impassioned service, rendering it a title of honor and privilege of charm, as it must ever be, to serve those we love and admire, such as noble ambitions once organized in chivalry, or the patriarchal spirit among oriental peoples, such as the passions of admiration, imitation, loyalty and vanity suggest, in the relations of the negro with races of higher culture,—these have been the transformations, quite interior, personal, domestic, invoked by social science. It has called upon woman, on the passional Queen, on the Orange flower of the Gulf, on the Jessamine of Carolina, supremely endowed with all powers of fascination^ to exert these forces for the noblest ends. Her motto is Noblesse oblige. Her type and model has been well portrayed in the character of Madge Vertner, an exquisite story from the pen of Miss Griffith, which is now being published in the Anti-Slavery Standard. Of such it may truly be said that their courtesies of the heart convert physical bondage into personal favor, while their presence, radiant of charm, renders liberty and slavery synonyms.

Here is the key of the enigma. We all want liberty in general for the pleasure of surrendering it in particular and at discretion, just as we desire fortune for the purpose of spending money. Nature has created us all passional debtors; we accept life willingly on her terms ; all we want is to be certain that we pay the right creditor. None objects to the natural ascendant of character. Instinct fails not to discover in the evolution of each affection, in the pursuit of every art, those who lead and those who follow, those who reign and those who serve. It is a livelier enjoyment, perhaps, to recognize and to obey our superiors by title of character, than to be obeyed by our inferiors. Pride may be a human virtue; admiration is an angelic pleasure. The interest of labor sets a premium on administrative capacity, and eagerly enrols laborers under the banner of successful exploitation in every department of industry, the field, the shop, or the household. Woman, as daughter, wife, or matron of the South, could put an end at once to foreign agitations and domestic fears; could render our whole slave-code a dead letter, and reveal to her amazed but grateful country the Christian graces of the Southern home.

Agricultural colleges and polytechnic schools must form for our youth the civic complement of the domestic circle. Science and Art must aid Christianity in effecting the steps of transitional emancipation, alike for white and black, for rich and poor, for chiM and woman as for adult man. Ignorance must open to knowledge, brute material force learn skill, coarseness be refined, poverty yield to increased production, while duty is inspired by charm and interest by affection; so shall we pass, from the false order of constraint, bound up with punishment and terror, hypocrisy and malice, to the true order of attractive industry, and the combined household, which is based on the respect of persons, on the culture of instinctive vocations, on reciprocal ministry, on just remuneration proportional to the three faculties of labor, skill and capital; on the natural hierarchy of character and talent; on the will of the inferior, obeying from charm the will of his superior expressed in attractional impulse. Utopia, the Millennium, Socialism, what you please — I do not address myself to cavilers, but to thinkers; not to partisans, but to philanthropists; not to that prejudice which confirms the reign of evil, but to an earnest faith that the kingdom of our Father may come, and His will be done on earth as in the heavens. Among honorable persons, service, when it ceases to be either a fair and equal exchange of labor, or a pleasure and favor to the person serving, or a pure expression of affection, consecrated by parentage, by love, by friendship, by honor, by religion, becomes an onerous obligation, a reflection, almost censure, on the person served. Instinct sufficed to teach me this when a child at the South. I never let a negro perform drudgeries for me after I began to think. Physical labor and art, the employment of mind upon matter, furnish the link between man and the Earth-Soul. I knew and loved her, my great Mother, from earliest childhood, and in the Spring would wander forth to her wildest bower on the banks of the Cape Fear, filled to the brim with the joy of her presence, and pressing my lips to her blooming sod. The dog and the bird commune with the Earth-Soul, and under the inspirations of her consciousness they find their way straight home over trackless deserts, or countries on which their eyes had never rested. The negro communes with the EarthSoul. The sentiment of his faith is so lively that he plunges from the deck of the slaver to seek beneath the wave his native Africa. It is this religious tie with the Soul of our planet, of which physical labor is the corresponding duty; and thus man cooperates with solar forces in the development of planetary harmonies.

True Agriculture is the body of Religion, and the divorce of sentiment, poesy, music and social festivities from the labors of productive industry is the practical Atheism which ruins our age. In the natural kingdoms we find no such exclusive domination of the brute material interests as commerce in general, and slavery in particular, pretend to enforce upon modern civilization ; no moral monsters, like Louis Napoleon, breaking up at the point of the bayonet the spontaneous combinations of industry with social friendship. Nature holds in check the forces of constraint, hunger and fear. She bounteously distributes the stimuli of charm, pleasure, and love; spontaneous energies of health, radiation of organic functions in external uses; harmonies of the creature, with the elements of its sphere. The bee completes the flower as the flower feeds the bee. What human society has disciplines or duties more regular in their order, more perfect in their fulfilment, than those of the hive or the nest? Attraction suffices for these, and so it will for ours, as soon as we organize a sphere coordinate to the forces destined to move within it. All the labors ».

of the hive or the nost pivot on a sentiment. This sentiment is feminine sovereignty. Such is the true solution of all the slaveries on earth. From this pivotal sentiment radiate all the impassioned duties of the subject, all the zeal of labor, the tenderness of maternity, corporate amity.

Never, from beast or bird, insect or creeping thing, does'Nature demand a service without preparing its reward. The slave, of the ant-hill is evidently linked by the most intimate ties of domestic affection with his master ant. War indeed exists, but only to prepare the triumphs of Love. What miserable dupes of an idiotic materialism we men «re, for excluding-sentiment from the «mpire of social forces; we Southerners are, to suppose for a moment that we derive an advantage from hateful compulsory labors, and these from a race which, despite our injustice, loves us better than it loves itself. Were not our hearts gangrened by the most atrocious prejudices; were Christianity anything more than an idle word for us, we could not fail to see that the industrial value and efficiency of the negro is proportioned to the activity of the social stimuli; that, attached to his master and his mistress, secure in his own family ties, proprietor of his garden patch, and expanding his heart in the membership of a great patriarchal society, he is worth, even in money, ten times the sum that the lash can extort from his carcass under the government of terror.

To strip of all their charm and turn into a curse the social labors of production, seems to be the ideal of Slavery as it exists. In labor, as in the expression of sentiment, it is sacrilege for one person arbitrarily to dictate to another the mode, the time and conditions of planetary communion between the individual and the universal life. To exercise power arbitrarily is a confession either of inherent poverty in the genius of charm, or of unskilfulness in the direction of our influence. The proper sphere of personal command lies in the organization and distribution of motives— of motives under whose impulsion the creature impelled shall seem to himself to move by his own free will. No true religion, no true health, no confidence without spontaneity of action. The initiative for every work, for every combination, belongs to passional intuition. The great wrong of our Southern system, as of all the organizations of constraint on earth, is its pretension to dispense with the passional forces embraced in spontaneity, and to substitute the vis a tergo, whether physical or moral. Now, while moral slavery reigns unchallenged in our systems of primary education, and the exercise of our schools are not spontaneous or attractive, neither passional nor practical, but abstract and arbitrary alike in subjects and in methods of study, — what can we expect of generations accustomed to constraint as the only lever of influence, ignorant of the blessing and charm of spontaneous and attractive labor, but that they should reduce to slavery of some sort all who have the misfortune to depend upon them?

True emancipation consists in developing, within the external framework of society, a spiritual hierarchy. The relations of employer and employed, of master and servant, of conjugal partners, of parent and child, are all alike hideous discords, if the tie be merely external or compulsory under the rod of duty; all alike sweet and harmonious, when vitalized by affection and, controlled by the Spirit of Christ. Christianity—».«., Christj^—mfojaing the negro within the pale of the Church, consecrates his personality, and the duty to respect this in the outflow of his affections towards their social uses. It renders, then, monstrous and impossible, where it really exists, the compulsory separation for mercenary ends of lovers, parents, children, friends. None can countenance this, either directly or indirectly, without forfeiting their membership in Christ. The Catholic peasant of Ireland or Spain baptizes his pig or his calf before slaughtering it, as we baptize our negroes before selling them. Now, of the two, which most fitly symbolizes the altar of Christian communion — the table, or the slave market?

Ctesar demanded tribute fn money, and Jesus admitted the claim of physical power on material goods ; but Slavery demands tribute in persons, and Christ forbids that payment; for be came to declare the inviolability of the soul, and the soul is integrant of those affections, connubial, parental, filial, and amical, which the slave traffic outrages. The spirit of civilized commerce is simple materialism in its most atrocious form. What it does with the negro laborer at the South it is ready to do with every producer and artist in the world, with every creature that will not prostrate itself and worship before the Golden Calf. It knows no ruth, no sense of shame, no sentiment of manhood, womanhood, childhood, or deity. There is no cure for our social ills until the functions and agents of exchange shall be duly subordinated to those of production. The liberty of commerce is the slavery of labor speculation in values, whether real or fictitious, is the legalized practice of fraud.

What are the natural limits to the exercise of spontaneity? They are found in the talents and faculties or natural endowments which classify us ; they cease to exist in the play of emotion. The expansions of heart reunite us, as, rising into the spirit-ether, soul interpenetrating soul lights with the aromal fires of contact the dimmest recesses of passional space.

Subordinate, then, provisionally as to the exercise of faculties and the fulfilment of labors, let the child and the negro be perfectly free in the play of their social affections. Such spontaneity, divine consecration of orderly servitude for those who admit the authority of the Bible, was guaranteed' in Judea by that remarkable law, the exact contradiction of our fugitive slave act, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him;" which Isaiah thus echoes: "Hide the outcasts ; betray not him that wandeieth. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler." And Christ, developing in his own grand and absolute spirit the relative humanities of the Mosaic dispensation, says: "Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren."—Matt, xxiii. 8-10. The Mosaic code, in protecting the imprescriptible lights of personality in the fugitive, has established a premium upon justice and kindness, a check upon cruelty and oppression — while our slave codes of the United States and of the South would compel the just and kind citizen to countenance and sustain the iniquities of the worst masters; they ignore the rights of hospitality, they lead to violence and perfidy, their civic consecration.

The deliberate violation, systematic repudiation and counterlegislation by the Congress of the United States of that organic Code which forms the religious and social conscience or superior law of the land, is a virtual dissolution of the tie which united us as States and as citizens of the same country. The fugitive slave act introduced a principle of death, of corruption and " irrepressible conflict." It can not continue to coexist with the Union, and within the Southern States themselves it necessitates either the radical modification of slavery or the repudiation of the Bible. Here is, indeed, the case in which we can not serve two masters. If we serve Christ, we must do unto others even as we would that others should do unto us ; and none of us, in trying to escape from personal bondage, would like to be arrested and sent back. This flagrant aggression of a partizan law against the religious Code of the whole country and instinctive conscience of the Northern States strikes not only at the personality of the individual, but at the potential evolution of the same principle in State sovereignty, which Calhoun had nobly proclaimed as the corner-stone of our Federation. Now, mark the consequences : the freedom of speech and of the press is extinct at the South, and is compromised at the North. The Post Office is not respected; despotism in- its most hideous, anarchical, ruffianly form proclaims its triumphs, over those principles which made us a nation. The very forms of civil justice are forgotten in the outrage of inoffensive citizens. Disunion or utter subjection, such is the alternative proposed by the South to the North. Traffic or religion and humanity, such is the option now pending at the North. It remains to be seen whether a few thousand merchants and other capitalists can control at the polls the conscience of the nation.

The violation of the slave's personality by the Fugitive Slave Act and by the slave market is the neck upon which pivot our Hydra's hundred heads. Their abolition does not imply the abolition of Slavery, but simply opens it to such modifications as Christianity and the enlightened interest of the South may impress upon it. Sectional pride apart, no sensible slaveholder wants discontented and incendiary elements of character on his plantation. Left to its own spontaneous workings, the recognition by law and custom of the right of the slave to choose his own master would suffice to retain all the slaves at the South, and every good master would gain ten where he might lose one negro under such an ordinance. The direct recognition of the personality of the slave by the Judaic law, sole form of servitude to which Jesus gave even an indirect countenance, would enable the generally beloved master or mistress, the wise and successful manager, to own a thousand slaves without ever purchasing one, while the ruffian herd of vulgar, heartless taskmasters who now disgrace our country, deserted by their slaves, would meet the rebuke of society and of the law, while forced to undergo the wholesome discipline of earning their bread by the sweat of their brow.

It may sound paradoxical, but it is nevertheless true, that liberty and slavery admit of perfect conciliation in virtue of that personality which is their common root. All true liberties, which are those of the heart, and which do not degenerate into licentiousness, emanate from the respect of personality in man, woman, and child, which constitutes the basis of politeness. An aromal atmosphere or Court of spiritual space exists round every embodied soul. We await in this antechamber the attention of the person, forbearing intrusion or arbitrary control. The abuses of slavery proceed from subjecting the soul or inmost principle rudely to the impact of exterior forces, which either may or may not be directly represented by other persons. From the right of choosing and of changing one's master, to the most delicate courtesies of refined society, there is but the discipline of the social education, such as has existed among oriental peoples from time immemorial.* Among refined and Christian peoples, slavery may exist in name, but freed from its odious abuses.

Cruelty is always a breach of good breeding, and politeness can never be arbitrary. We may rationally hope for a degree of social culture at which even murder will be regarded as a breach of etiquette, and capital punishment as applicable only to incurable cases of painful or loathsome disease. Now, every honorable man would rather expose himself to be shot than to be tied up and whipped, and doing as he would be done by, would rather shoot his fellow creature than whip him ; consequently, whenever murder comes to be regarded as a breach of etiquette, the greater outrage of corporeal punishment will be abandoned, and the lash will cease to be used either on man or beast.

M. E. L.


  • Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “True Principles of Emancipation,” The Dial 1, no. 4 (April 1860): 219-228.

 

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