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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Antislavery Society, Exeter Hall--May 16
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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Antislavery Society, Exeter Hall--May 16 Post by :best4you Category :Nonfictions Author :Harriet Beecher Stowe Date :May 2012 Read :2482

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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Antislavery Society, Exeter Hall--May 16

THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY, who, on coming forward to open the proceedings, was received with much applause, spoke as follows: "We are assembled here this night to protest, with the utmost intensity, and with all the force which language can command, against the greatest wrong that the wickedness of man ever perpetrated upon his fellow-man--(loud cheers)--a wrong which, great in all ages--great in heathen times--great in all countries--great even under heathen sentiments--is indescribably monstrous in Christian days, and exercised as it is, not unfrequently, over Christian people. (Hear!) It is surely remarkable, and exceedingly disgraceful to a century and a generation so boastful of its progress, and of the institution of so many Bible societies, with so many professions and preachments of Christianity--with so many declarations of the spiritual value of man before God--after so many declarations of this equality of every man in the sight of his fellow-man--that we should be assembled here this evening to protest against the conduct of a mighty and a Protestant people, who, in the spirit of the Romish Babylon, which they had renounced, resort to her most abominable practices--making merchandise of the temples of God, and trafficking in the bodies and souls of men. (Cheers.) We are not here to proclaim and maintain our own immaculate purity. We are not here to stand forward and say, 'I am holier than thou.' We have confessed, and that openly, and freely, and unreservedly, our share, our heavy share, in by-gone days, of vast wickedness; we have, we declare it again, and we had our deep remorse. We sympathize with the preponderating bulk of the American people; we acknowledge and we feel the difficulties which beset them; we rejoice and we believe in their good intentions; but we have no patience--I at least have none--with those professed leaders, be they political or be they clerical, who mislead the people--with those who, blasphemously resting slavery on the Holy Scriptures, desecrate their pulpits by the promulgation of doctrines better suited to the synagogue of Satan--(cheers)--nor with that gentleman who, the greatest officer of the greatest republic in the whole world, in pronouncing an inaugural address to the assembled multitudes, maintains the institution of slavery; and--will you believe it?--invokes the Almighty God to maintain those rights, and thus sanction the violation of his own laws!--(Cries of 'Shame!') This is, indeed, a dismal prospect for those who tremble at human power; but we have this consolation: Is it not said that, 'When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him?' (Hear, hear!) He has done so now, and a most wonderful and almost inspired protector has arisen for the suffering of this much injured race. (Loud cheers.) Feeble as her sex, but irresistible as virtue and as truth, she will prove to her adversary, and to ours, that such boasting shall not be for his honor, 'for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.' (Hear, hear! and loud cheers.) Now, I ask you this: Is there one of you who believes that the statements of that marvellous book to which we have alluded present an exaggerated picture?--(Tremendous cries of 'No, no.') Do they not know, say what they will, that the truth is not fully stated? (Hear, hear!) The reality is worse than the fiction. (Hear, hear!) But, apart from this, there is our solemn declaration that the vileness of the principle is at once exhibited in the mere notion of slavery, and the atrocities of it are the natural and almost inevitable consequences of the profession and exercise of absolute and irresponsible power. (Hear, hear!) But do you doubt the fact? Look to the document. I will quote to you from this book. I have never read any thing more strikingly illustrative or condemnatory of the system we are here to denounce. Here is the judgment pronounced by one of the judges in North Carolina. It is impossible to read this judgment, however terrible the conclusion, without feeling convinced that the man who pronounced it was a man of a great mind, and, in spite of the law he was bound to administer, a man of a great heart. (Hear, hear!) Hear what he says. The case was this: It was a 'case of appeal,' in which the defendant had hired a slave woman for a year. During this time she committed some slight offence, for which the defendant undertook to chastise her. After doing so he shot at her as she was running away. The question then arose, was he justified in using that amount of coercion? and whether the privilege of shooting was not confined to the actual proprietor? The case was argued at some length, and the court, in pronouncing judgment, began by deploring that any judge should ever be called upon to decide such a case, but he had to administer the law, and not to make it. The judge said, 'With whatever reluctance, therefore, the court is bound to express the opinion, that the dominion over a slave in Carolina has not, as it has been argued, any analogy with the authority of a tutor over a pupil, of a master over an apprentice, or of a parent over a child. The court does not recognize these applications. There is no likeness between them. They are in opposition to each other, and there is an impassable gulf between them. The difference is that which exists between freedom and slavery--(Hear, hear!)--and a greater difference cannot be imagined. In the one case, the end in view is the happiness of the youth, born to equal rights with the tutor, whose duty it is to train the young to usefulness by moral and intellectual instruction. If they will not suffice, a moderate chastisement maybe administered. But with slavery it is far otherwise.' Mark these words, for they contain the whole thing. But with slavery it is far otherwise. The end is the profit of the master, and the poor object is one doomed, in his own person, and in his posterity, to live without knowledge, and without capacity to attain any thing which he may call his own. He has only to labor, that another may reap the fruits.' (Hear, hear!) Mark! this is from the sacred bench of justice, pronounced by one of the first intellects in America! 'There is nothing else which can operate to produce the effect; the power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect. (Hear, hear!) It is inherent in the relation of master and slave;' and then he adds those never-to-be-forgotten words, 'We cannot allow the right of the master to come under discussion in the courts of justice. The slave must be made sensible that there is no appeal from his master, and that his master's power is in no instance usurped; that these rights are conferred by the laws of man, at least, if not by the law of God.' (Loud cries of 'Shame, shame!') This is the mode in which we are to regard these two classes of beings, both created by the same God, and both redeemed by the same Savior as ourselves, and destined to the same immortality! The judgment, on appeal, was reversed; but, God be praised; there is another appeal, and that appeal we make to the highest of all imaginable courts, where God is the judge, where mercy is the advocate, and where unerring truth will pronounce the decision!(Protracted cheering.) There are some who are pleased to tell us that there is an inferiority in the race! That is untrue. (Cheers.) But we are not here to inquire whether our black brethren will become Shakspeares or Herschels. (Hear, hear!) I ask, are they immortal beings? (Great applause.) Do our adversaries, say no? I ask them, then, to show me one word in the handwriting of God which has thus levelled them with the brute beasts. (Hear, hear!) Let us bear in mind those words of our blessed Savior--'Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the depths of the sea.' (Loud cheers.) Now, then, what is our duty? Is it to stand still? Yes! when we receive the command from the same authority that said to the sun, Stand over Gibeon! (Loud cheers.) Then, and not till then, will we stand still. (Renewed cheers.) Are we to listen to the craven and miserable talk about 'doing more harm than good'? (Hear, hear!) This was an argument which would have checked every noble enterprise which has been undertaken since the world began. It would have strangled Wilberforce, and checked the very Exodus itself from the house of bondage in Egypt. (Hear, hear!) Out on all such craven talk! (Cheers.) Slavery is a mystery, and so is all sin, and we must fight against it; and, by the blessing of God, we will. (Loud cheers.) We must pray to Almighty God, that we and our American brethren--who seem now to be the sole depositories of the Protestant truth, and of civil and religious liberty, may be as one. (Cheers.) We are feeble, if hostile; but, if united, we are the arbiters of the world. (Cheers.) Let us join together for the temporal and spiritual good of our race."

PROFESSOR STOWE then came forward, and was received with unbounded demonstrations of applause. When the cheering had subsided, he said "he felt utterly exhausted by the heat and excitement of the meeting, and should therefore be glad to be excused from saying a single word; however, he would utter a few thoughts. The following was the resolution which he had to submit to the meeting: 'That with a view to the correction of public sentiment on this subject in slaveholding communities, it is of the first importance that those who are earnest in condemnation of slavery should observe consistency; and, therefore, that it is their duty to encourage the development of the natural resources of countries where slavery does not exist, and the soil of which is adapted to the growth of products--especially of cotton--now partially or chiefly raised by slave labor; and though the extinction of slavery is less to be expected from a diminished demand for slave produce than from the moral effects of a steadfast abhorrence of slavery itself, and from an unwavering and consistent opposition to it, this meeting would earnestly recommend, that in all cases where it is practicable, a decided preference should be given to the products of free labor, by all who enter their protest against slavery, so that at least they themselves may be clear of any participation in the guilt of the system, and be thus morally strengthened in their condemnation of it.' At the close of the revolutionary war, all the states of America were slaveholding states. In Massachusetts, some benevolent white man caused a slave to try an action for wages in a court of justice. He succeeded, and the consequence was, that slavery fell in Massachusetts. It was then universally acknowledged that slavery was a sin and shame, and ought to be abolished, and it was expected that it would be soon abolished in every state of the Union. Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Madison, and Benjamin Franklin would not allow the word 'slave' to occur in the constitution, and Mr. Edwards, from the pulpit, clearly and broadly denounced slavery. And when he (Professor Stowe) was a boy, in Massachusetts the negro children were admitted to the same schools with the whites. Although there was some prejudice of color then, yet it was not so strong as at present. In 1818, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church in the United States passed, resolutions against slavery far stronger than those passed at the meeting this evening, and every man, north and south, voted for them. What had caused the change? It was the profitableness of the cotton trade. It was that which had spread the chains of slavery over the Union, and silenced the church upon the subject. He had been asked, what right had Great Britain to interfere? Why, Great Britain took four fifths of the cotton of America, and therefore sustained four fifths of the slavery. That gave them a right to interfere. (Hear, hear!) He admitted that our participation in the guilt was not direct, but without the cotton, trade of Great Britain slavery would have been abolished long ago, for the American manufacturers consumed but one fifth of all the cotton grown in the country. The conscience of the cotton growers was talked of; but had the cotton consumer no conscience? (Cheers.) It seemed to him that the British public had more direct access to the consumer than to the grower of cotton." Professor Stowe then read an extract from a paper published in Charleston, South Carolina, showing the influence of the American cotton trade on the slavery question. "The price of cotton regulated the price of slaves, who were now worth an average of two hundred pounds. A cotton plantation required in some cases two hundred, and in others four hundred slaves. This would give an idea of the capital needed. With free labor there was none of this outlay--there was none of those losses by the cholera, and the 'underground railroad,' to which the slave owners were subjected. (Hear, hear!) The Chinese had come over in large numbers, and could be hired for small wages, on which they managed to live well in their way. If people would encourage free-grown cotton, that would be the strongest appeal they could make to the slaveholder. There were three ways of abolishing slavery. First, by a bloody revolution, which few would approve. (Hear, hear!) Secondly, by persuading slaveholders of the wrong they commit; but this would have little effect so long as they bought their cotton. (Hear, hear!) And the third and most feasible way was, by making slave labor unprofitable, as compared with free labor. (Hear!) When the Chinese first began to emigrate to California, it was predicted that slavery would be 'run out' that way. He hoped it might be so. (Cheers.) The reverend gentleman then reverted to his previous visit to this country, seventeen years ago, and described the rapid strides which had been made in the work of education--especially the education of the poor--in the interval. It was most gratifying to him, and more easily seen by him than it would be by us, with whom the change had been gradual. He had been told in America that the English abolitionists were prompted by jealousy of America, but he had found that to be false. The Christian feeling which had dictated efforts on behalf of ragged schools and factory children, and the welfare of the poor and distressed of every kind, had caused the same Christian hearts to throb for the American slave. It was that Christian philanthropy which received all men as brethren--children of the same father, and therefore he had great hopes of success. (Cheers.)"

* * * * *

My remarks on the cotton business of Britain were made with entire sincerity, and a single-hearted desire to promote the antislavery cause. They are sentiments which I had long entertained, and which I had taken every opportunity to express with the utmost freedom from the time of my first landing in Liverpool, the great cotton mart of England, and where, if any where, they might be supposed capable of giving offence; yet no exception was taken to them, so far as I know, till delivered in Exeter Hall. There they were heard by some with surprise, and by others with extreme displeasure. I was even called _proslavery_, and ranked with Mrs. Julia Tyler, for frankly speaking the truth, under circumstances of great temptation to ignore it.

Still I have the satisfaction of knowing that both my views and my motives were rightly understood and properly appreciated by large-hearted and clear-headed philanthropists, like the Earl of Shaftesbury and Joseph Sturge, and very fairly represented and commented upon by such religious and secular papers as the Christian Times, the British Banner, the London Daily News and Chronicle; and even the _thundering political Times seemed disposed, in a half-sarcastic way, to admit that I was more than half right.

But it is most satisfactory of all to know that the best of the British abolitionists are now acting, promptly and efficiently, in accordance with those views, and are determined to develop the resources of the British empire for the production of cotton by free labor. The thing is practicable, and not of very difficult accomplishment. It is furthermore absolutely essential to the success of the antislavery cause; for now the great practical leading argument for slavery is, _Without slavery you can have no cotton, and cotton you must and will have_. The latest work that I have read in defence of slavery (Uncle Tom in Paris, Baltimore, 1854) says, (pp. 56-7,) "_Of the cotton which supplies the wants of the civilized world, the south produces 86 per cent.; and without slave labor experience has shown that the cotton plant cannot be cultivated_."

How the matter is viewed by sagacious and practical minds in Britain, is clear from the following sentences, taken from the National Era:--

"COTTON is KING.--Charles Dickens, in a late number of his Household Words, after enumerating the striking facts of cotton, says,--

"'Let any social or physical convulsion visit the United States, and England would feel the shock from Land's End to John o'Groat's. The lives of nearly two millions of our countrymen are dependent upon the cotton crops of America; their destiny may be said, without any sort of hyperbole, to hang upon a thread.

"'Should any dire calamity befall the land of cotton, a thousand of our merchant ships would rot idly in dock; ten thousand mills must stop their busy looms, and two million mouths would starve for lack of food to feed them.'

"How many non-slaveholders elsewhere are thus interested in the products of slaves? Is it not worthy the attention of genuine philanthropists to inquire whether cotton cannot be profitably cultivated by free labor?"

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