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The United States of America: A History
Book 3: Chapter IV - Hope for the Negro


THE North participated in the gains of slavery. The cotton i1iiiter borrowed money at high interest from the Northern capitalist. He bought his goods in Northern markets. He sent his cotton to the North for sale. The Northern merchants made money at his hands, and were in no haste to overthrow the peculiar institution out of which results so pleasant flowed. They had no occasion, as the planter had, to persuade themselves that slavery enjoyed special divine sanction. But it did become a very general belief in the North that without slave- labour the cultivation of Southern lands was impossible. It was also very generally alleged that the condition of the slave was preferable to that of the free European labourer.

All looked very hopeless for the poor negro. The South claimed to hold him by divine right. She looked to a future of indefinite expansion. The boundless regions which stretched away from her border, untrodden by man, were marked out for slave territory. A powerful sentiment in the North supported her claims. She was able to exercise a controlling influence over the Federal Government. It seemed as if all authority in the Union was pledged to uphold slavery, and assert for ever the right of the white man to hold the black man as an article of merchandise.

But even then the awakening of the Northern conscience had begun. On the 1st of .January 1831, a journeyman printer, William Lloyd Garrison, published in Boston the first number of a paper devoted to the abolition of slavery. This is perhaps the earliest prominent incident in the history of Emancipation. It was indeed a humble opening of a noble career. Garrison was young and penniless, lie wrote the articles; and he also, with the help of a friend, set the types. lie lived mainly on bread and water. Only when a number of the paper sold particularly well, lie and his companion indulged in a bowl of milk. The Mayor of Boston was asked by a Southern magistrate to suppress the paper. He replied that it was not worth the trouble. The office of the editor was "an obscure hole; his only visible auxiliary a negro boy; his supporters a few insignificant persons of all colours." The lordly Southerners need not be uneasy about this obscure editor and his paltry newspaper.

But the fulness of time had come, and every word spoken against slavery found now some willing listener. in the year after Garrison began his paper the American Anti-slavery Society was formed. it was composed of twelve members. Busy hands were scattering the seed abroad, and it sprang quickly. Within three years there were two hundred antislavery societies in America. In seven years more these had increased to two thousand. The war against slavery was now begun in earnest.

The slave-owners and their allies in the North regarded with rage unutterable this formidable invasion. Everywhere they opposed violence to the arguments of their opponents. Large rewards were offered for the capture of prominent abolitionists. Many Northern men, who unwarily strayed into Southern States, were murdered on the mere suspicion that they were opposed to slavery. President Jackson recommended Congress to forbid the conveyance to the South, by the mails, of anti-slavery publications. In Boston a mob of well-dressed and respectable citizens suppressed a meeting of female abolitionists. l\Tlii1e busied about that enterprise, they were fortunate enough to lay hold of Garrison, whose murder they designed, and would have accomplished, had not a timely sally of the constables rescued him from their grasp. in Connecticut a young woman was imprisoned for teaching negro children to read. Philadelphia was disgraced by riots in which negroes were killed and their houses burned down. Throughout the Northern States anti-slavery meetings were habitually invaded and broken up by the allies of the slave-owners. The abolitionists were devoured by a zeal which knew no bounds and permitted no rest. The slave- owners met them with a deep, remorseless, murderous hatred, which gradually possessed and corroded their whole nature. In this war, as it soon became evident, there could be no compromise. Peace was impossible otherwise than by the destruction of one or other of the contending parties.

The spirit in which. the South defended her cherished institution was fairly exemplified in her treatment of a young clergyman, Mr. Lovejoy, who offended her by his antipathy to slavery. Mr. Lovejoy established himself in Alton, a little town of Illinois, where he conducted a newspaper. Illinois was itself a Free State; but Missouri was near, and the slave-power was supreme in all that region. Mr. Lovejoy declared himself in his newspaper against slavery. He was requested to withdraw from that neighbourhood; but he maintained his right of free speech, and chose to remain. The mob sacked his printing- office, and flung his press into the river. Mr. Lovejoy bought another press. The arrival of this new machine highly displeased the ruffianism of the little town of Alton. It was stored for safety in a well-secured build in and and two or three well-disposed citizens kept armed watch over it. The mob attacked the warehouse. Shots were ex- changed, and some of the rioters were slain. At length the mob succeeded in setting fire to the building. When Mr. Lovejoy showed himself to the crowd lie was fired at, and fell pierced by five bullets. The printing-press was broken; the newspaper was silenced; the hostile editor was slaughtered. The offended majesty of the slave-power was becomingly vindicated.


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