The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey
The subject discussed in the following pages is one of great importance, and especially to the people of this country. The views presented for consideration, both as regards the cause of evil and the mode of cure; but it does not follow necessarily that they are not correct, as the reader may readily satisfy himself by reflecting upon the fact, that there is scarcely an opinion he now holds, that has not, and at no very distant period, been deemed quite as heretical as any here advanced. In reflecting upon them, and upon the facts by which they are supported, he is requested to bear in mind that the latter are, with very few exceptions, drawn from writers holding views directly opposed to those of the author of this volume; and not therefore to be suspected of any exaggeration of the injurious effects of the system here treated as leading to slavery, or the beneficial ones resulting from that here described as tending to establish perfect and universal freedom of thought, speech, action and trade.
Philadelphia, March, 1853.
The Slave Trade
Domestic and Foreign
The Wide Extent of Slavery
Slavery still exists throughout a large portion of what we are accustomed to regard as the civilized world. In some countries, men are forced to take the chance of a lottery for the determination of the question whether they shall or shall not be transported to distant and unhealthy countries, there most probably to perish, leaving behind them impoverished mothers and sisters to lament their fate. In others, they are seized on the highway and sent to sea for long terms of years, while parents, wives, and sisters, who had been dependent on their exertions, are left to perish of starvation, or driven to vice or crime to procure the means of support. In a third class, men, their wives, and children, are driven from their homes to perish in the road, or to endure the slavery of dependence on public charity until pestilence shall send them to their graves, and thus clear the way for a fresh supply of others like themselves. In a fourth, we see men driven to selling themselves for long periods at hard labour in distant countries, deprived of the society of parents, relatives, or friends. In a fifth, men, women, and children are exposed to sale, and wives are separated from husbands, while children are separated from parents. In some, white men, and, in others, black men, are subjected to the lash, and to other of the severest and most degrading punishments. In some places men are deemed valuable, and they are well fed and clothed. In others, man is regarded as a drug and population as a nuisance and Christian men are warned that their duty to God and to society requires that they should permit their fellow-creatures to suffer every privation and distress, short of absolute, death, with a view to prevent the increase of numbers.
Among these various classes of slaves, none have recently attracted so much attention as those of the negro race; and it is in reference to that race in this country that the following paper has recently been circulated throughout England:--
The affectionate and Christian Address of many thousands of the Women of England to their Sisters, the Women of the United States of America:
A common origin, a common faith, and, we sincerely believe, a common cause, urge us at the present moment to address you on the subject of that system of negro slavery which still prevails so extensively, and, even under kindly-disposed masters, with such frightful results, in many of the vast regions of the Western World.
We will not dwell on the ordinary topics on the progress of civilization; on the advance of freedom everywhere; on the rights and requirements of the nineteenth century; but we appeal to you very seriously to reflect, and to ask counsel of God, how far such a state of things is in accordance with His holy word, the inalienable rights of immortal souls, and the pure and merciful spirit of the Christian religion.
We do not shut our eyes to the difficulties, nay, the dangers, that might beset the immediate abolition of that long-established system: we see and admit the necessity of preparation for so great an event. But, in speaking of indispensable preliminaries, we cannot be silent on those laws of your country which (in direct contravention of Gods own law, instituted in the time of mans innocency) deny, in effect, to the slave, the sanctity of marriage, with all its joys, rights, and obligations; which separates, at the will of the master, the wife from the husband and the children from the parents. Nor can we be silent on that awful system which, either by statute or by custom, interdicts to any race of man, or any portion of the human family, education in the truths of the gospel and the ordinances of Christianity.
A remedy applied to these two evils alone would commence the amelioration of their sad condition. We appeal, then, to you as sisters, as wives, and as mothers, to raise your voices to your fellow-citizens and your prayers to God, for the removal of this affliction from the Christian world. We do not say these things in a spirit of, self-complacency, as though our nation were free from the guilt it perceives in others. We acknowledge with grief and shame our heavy share in this great sin. We acknowledge that our forefathers introduced, nay, compelled the adoption of slavery in those mighty colonies. We humbly confess it before Almighty God. And it is because we so deeply feel, and so unfeignedly avow our own complicity, that we now venture to implore your aid to wipe away our common crime and our common dishonour.
We have here a movement that cannot fail to be productive of much good. It was time that the various nations of the world should have their attention called to the existence of slavery within their borders, and to the manifold evils of which it was the parent; and it was in the highest degree proper that woman should take the lead in doing it, as it is her sex that always suffers most in that condition of things wherein might triumphs over right, and which we are accustomed to define as a state of slavery.
How shall slavery be abolished? This is the great question of our day. But a few years since it was answered in England by an order for the immediate emancipation of the black people held to slavery in her colonies; and it is often urged that we should follow her example. Before doing this, however, it would appear to be proper to examine into the past history and present situation of the negro race in the two countries, with a view to determine how far experience would warrant the belief that the course thus urged upon us would be likely to produce improvement in the condition of the objects of our sympathy. Should the result of such an examination be to prove that the cause of freedom has been advanced by the measures there pursued, our duty to our fellow-men would require that we should follow in the same direction, at whatever loss or inconvenience to ourselves. Should it, however, prove that the condition of the poor negro has been impaired and not improved, it will then become proper to enquire what have been in past times the circumstances under which men have become more free, with a view to ascertain wherein lies the deficiency, and why it is that freedom now so obviously declines in various and important portions of the earth. These things ascertained, it may be that there will be little difficulty in determining what are the measures now needed for enabling all men, black, white, and brown, to obtain for themselves, and profitably to all, the exercise of the rights of freemen. To adopt this course will be to follow in that of the skilful physician, who always determines within himself the cause of fever before he prescribes the remedy.