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Slavery [The Causes of the Civil War]
by [?]

Read March 14, 1909.

In my first paper I endeavored to present a picture of the sunny Southland in the ante-bellum days, when wealth and culture and hospitality were the watchwords of the hour–before the invasion of hostile hordes had vandalized the sacred old traditions, and crumbled the household gods in the dust.

But long before the tocsin of civil war had sounded there were mutterings of thunder in the halls of Congress, and the cloud, at first no bigger than a man’s hand, was yearly gathering force, till it finally burst in a cyclone of passion and prejudice and tyranny, and swept all before it in one besom of destruction. That the question of slavery lay at the root of the dissension cannot be doubted by any who are conversant with the political history of the United States. The tariff rulings had their weight, as did the unfair division of new territory: but the main issue was negro slavery, which, always a stumbling-block to the North, had most violently agitated the whole country for eleven years before the appeal to arms.

Negro laborers were brought to Virginia and sold as slaves, fifty years after the first cargo landed at Jamestown. In the year 1619, a Dutch vessel brought over twenty negroes to be thus held in bondage. To the men who watched the landing of this handful of Africans it was doubtless an unimportant matter, yet it was the beginning of a system that had an immense influence upon our country. In those days few persons in the world opposed slavery. Even kings and queens made money out of the traffic. But for tobacco slavery would not have taken such a hold on America. When it was found that the negro made the cheapest laborer for cultivating the plantation many more were imported.

They were also employed in the New England and Middle States, largely as household servants, the soil not being favorable to the production of rice, indigo, cotton and sugar, which were the staples of Southern agriculture. Moreover, the African is not physically adapted to the northern climate. He was especially liable to tubercular disease–hence he was sold to the Southern planters, except in a few cases where the Puritan spirit caused his emancipation.

In the year that Harvard College was erected, 1636, the first slave ship built in America was launched at Marblehead, Mass. It brought a large cargo of slaves to be sold to the settlers. During the one hundred years preceding 1776, millions of slaves had been imported to the States. King George III favored the institution, and forbade any interference with the colonies in this matter. The horrors of slavery in Massachusetts, as recorded by reliable documents of the period, far exceed all that has been charged against the South, by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or any other records of fact or romance. The Encyclopedia of Political Economy and United States History, Vol. 3, page 733, has the following taken from the New York Evening Post:

“During the eighteen months of the years 1859-60 eighty-five slave ships (giving their names) belonging to New York merchants, brought in cargoes annually of between 30,000 and 60,000 African slaves, who were sold in Brazil, there being great demand for them in that country, owing to new industries. Old Peter Faneuil built Faneuil Hall with slave money, and many other fortunes were thus made.”

Thomas Jefferson says in his autobiography that though the Northern people owned very few slaves themselves, at the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of slaves to others. In 1761 Virginia and South Carolina, alarmed at the rapid increase of slaves, passed an act restricting their importation, but as many persons in England were growing rich from the trade the act was negatived, or vetoed. While providing in the Constitution of the United States for the Southern planters to hold slaves, the North thought that the laws that were in the course of events to be passed for prohibiting their foreign importation, would so work out so that the institution would die a natural death. They little dreamed that economical and political conditions were destined to fasten it upon the South. At the framing of the Constitution slaves were held in all the States except Massachusetts, and she had only very lately abolished the institution. The South owned twice as many, by reason of her special agricultural products, and even at this early day the slavery question became sectional. Mason’s and Dixon’s line, which was an imaginary boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, was recognized as the division line between the free and slave states.