Harper's Weekly 04/05/1862


WHAT TO DO WITH THE
NEGROES.


Senator Doolittle made substantial prog-
ress in the slavery argument when he stated,
the other day, that he would never vote for
emancipation without colonization, though the
Senate, by the casting vote of the Vice-President,
has decided in the opposite sense. With the
exception of the crazy people down South who
are being whipped into reason by the armies of
the Union, every body now agrees that, sooner
or later, in one way or another, slavery ought
to be abolished on American soil. The main
question thus decided, it is high time that the
people began to think of and discuss the ques-
tions yet undetermined of the how and the when.


We have two historical precedents—that of
Great Britain and that of France. In the year
1833 the British Parliament passed an act eman-
cipating the slaves in the British West India
Islands, with compensation ($100,000,000) to
the owners; the act was only to take effect in
1838. In 1848 the revolutionary Government
of France with a stroke of the pen freed all the
slaves in the French West Indies: no compen-
sation was granted to the owners, and the act
took effect immediately.


These two plans of emancipation were carried
under the most diametrically opposite circum-
stances. Emancipation in the British colonies
had been brought before Parliament every year
for twenty years, and only succeeded at last
through the support of London bankers, credit-
ors of the slave-owners in Jamaica and Barba-
dos, who saw in a parliamentary grant their
only chance of collecting the debts due them.
The measure was adopted after full deliberation,
and five years were granted to the slaves and
their owners to prepare for the change. In
France emancipation was decreed from the im-
pulse of the moment, without outside pressure
from any quarter, and without preliminary no-
tice of any kind to the parties immediately con-
cerned.


So far as practical results show, the French
scheme succeeded better than the English. The
British colonies began to decay after emancipa-
tion, relapsed almost into a desert condition,
and have only begun to recover very recently.
The French colonies have undergone but little
change.


It would, however, be rash hence to infer,
that immediate and unconditional emancipation
works better than the gradual and conditioned
abolition of slavery. Emancipation worked bad-
ly in the British colonies mainly in consequence
of the besotted and imbecile nature of the white
slave-owners. With stolid pig-headedness, they
refused to accommodate themselves to the new
condition of things; haughtily declined to pay
wages to the colored laborers who had once been
slaves, and sank into ruin with their estates for
want of common sense. Slavery had rotted
their hearts and minds out, as it has done with
the whites of several of our Southern States;
and the failure of emancipation, for nearly a
quarter of a century, was due to their stupidity.
The slave-holders of the French islands, on the
contrary, with their national versatility, adapted
themselves at once to the new order of things,
paid wages cheerfully to the emancipated slaves,
and went on growing tropical products as before.


In neither case was it proposed to expatriate
the slaves after emancipation, and both British
and French colonies, since the abolition of slav-
ery, so far from seeking to get rid of the negroes,
have complained loudly of the want of labor.
The Jamaica government has even tried to im-
port free negroes from the United States.


In studying these precedents it must be re-
membered that the slaves in our Southern States
are at least ten times as numerous as the slaves
in either the British or the French colonies.
They now exceed four millions in number, and
men now living will, in all probability, see the
colored race on this continent more numerous
than the entire population of the country at the
present time.


It is pretty well understood that President
Lincoln agrees with Senator Doolittle in advo-
cating colonization of the blacks. This is the
Western plan. Illinois has always refused citi-
zenship to free persons of color, and Western
men generally object as much to free negroes as
to slavery. Those who have read “Sewell's Or-
deal of Free Labor in the British West Indies,”
will understand this prejudice. In Jamaica and
Barbados the mulattoes are steadily gaining pow-
er and influence, and the end can not be mis-
taken. The white race must eventually go to
the wall. To avoid this result, Mr. Lincoln,
Mr. Doolittle, Mr. Blair, and those who agree
with them, propose to colonize the negroes of our
Southern States—to send them to Hayti, or Cen-
tral America, or somewhere else.


To be effectual this remedy must be thorough.
The entire four millions must be exported.


Let us assume that the National Legislature
adopts the colonization scheme, and decides to
carry it into effect. To carry the 4,000,000
slaves now in the Slave States to a foreign port
would require at least 8000 vessels of 1000 tons
each—in other words, all the large sailing ves-
sels in the world for a couple of years. The
cost of transportation alone, assuming that the
place of disembarkation were in the West In-
dies or Central America, could not fall short of
$100,000,000. It would likewise be necessary
to support the 4,000,000 slaves so exiled for at
least one year in their new abode, which could
not well cost less than $100,000,000 more. The
moment they were sent away our Southern
States would raise the cry which has been raised
by the British West Indies ever since emancipa-
tion—for more labor. Cotton, sugar, and rice
plantations would go to ruin for want of labor.
Prosperous regions would relapse into wilder-
ness, and we should be driven, as the maritime
nations of Europe have been driven, into adopt-
ing systems of coolie and negro immigration. In
the mean while, under the fostering influence of
a tropical sun, a negro empire would be rearing
its head menacingly somewhere on our Southern
border. This empire would number 10,000,000
souls in 1875, and 30,000,000 in 1900. Would
not such a neighbor be more dangerous than
any of the perils which we have tried to ward
off by adopting the Monroe doctrine?


We have said nothing of the probability that
the negroes would object to be exiled, and of the
monstrous difficulty of exporting 4,000,000 hu-
man beings against their will. This is an ob-
stacle which could be surmounted, though to
overcome it would involve much expenditure
of money, time, and energy.


We offer no theories on this vital question,
and are content to throw out a few facts by the
wayside for the consideration of the people.
Soon enough it will devolve upon us to decide
upon a policy in regard to these negroes. Let
us be prepared to act with a full knowledge of
past history, present circumstances, and future
prospects. It will not do to be led by passion
or prejudice in the matter. Our action will de-
termine the weal or woe of many generations of
white people on this continent. On the face of
it, the problem appears to be one of unparalleled
difficulty—none the less because its true bear-
ings are so constantly obscured by the fanatic
teachings of partisans of naked material interest
on the one side, and of abstract moral principle
on the other. But we shall have to solve it
some day.



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