Harper's Weekly 10/04/1862


SLAVERY PRACTICALLY ABOL-
ISHED.


THE proclamation of the President, which
will be found in another column, practical-
ly abolishes slavery throughout the United States
after next New-Year's Day. By the terms of
that proclamation every negro shall become free
who, on 1st January, 1863, shall reside in a sec-
tion of country where the people are in rebellion.
The evidence of rebellion, it appears, shall be
the non-election of members of Congress by a
majority of legally constituted voters. To carry
out the Act fairly, we presume that, before New-
Year's Day, the Speaker of Congress will direct
an inquiry to be made with a view to ascertain
what constituencies have failed to elect mem-
bers. Upon his report the President will base
his proclamation of emancipation, forever set-
ting free and guaranteeing protection to every
slave residing within such delinquent constitu-
encies. In order to prevent trickery, no con-
stituency will be deemed to be represented in
Congress unless a majority of legally constituted
voters have taken part in the election.


Under these conditions it is probable that
nine-tenths of the slaves in the Southern States
will become free on 1st January next. We do
not suppose that any thing like a serious election
of members of Congress will be attempted by a
majority of legally constituted voters even in
New Orleans, Memphis, or Norfolk. So long
as the rebel armies keep the field, a majority of
the people of the South will refuse to acknowl-
edge their defeat, and will of course decline to
participate in elections which would amount to
a repudiation of their slave confederacy. In
these three cities, and in most of the other places
at the South which are occupied by the Union
troops, the bulk of the legally constituted voters
are in the rebel army, and could not—if they
would—obtain furloughs for the purpose of re-
turning home and electing members of Con-
gress. It is just possible that, in the course of
the next ninety days, the dread of negro emanci-
pation may work a change in the views of some
Southern communities, and that having to choose
between two evils—abolition and submission—
they may prefer the latter as the least intoler-
able. And it is also possible that our army
and navy may make such rapid progress with
the work of suppressing the rebellion that, by 1st
January, 1863, the bulk of the Southern coun-
try may be overrun, and the hope of estab-
lishing a slave confederacy so thoroughly de-
stroyed, that the rebels may be willing to make
a virtue of necessity, and set about electing mem-
bers of Congress. But if the rebel armies are
not crushed within ninety days, and the people
of the South humbled into submission, then the
fiat has gone forth that New-Year's Day, 1863,
shall bring freedom to the negro race in the rebel
States.


Nor will the blessed boon be confined to those
cotton States where this wretched rebellion
arose. If Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mis-
sissippi, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Ar-
kansas, and Tennessee become free States, it is
utterly impossible that Maryland, Kentucky,
and Missouri can continue to maintain the in-
stitution of slavery. With free States on either
side of them, they must abolish slavery, or it
will abolish itself. The only difference between
them and their Southern neighbors will be, that
the United States will pay to the loyal owners
in loyal States a fair compensation for the slaves
whom they may voluntarily agree to emancipate.


We shall not see how this proclamation will
be received—both at the South and at the North.
There are those who believe that the rebels—
especially if they are hard pressed by our armies
—will meet it with a counter-proclamation, im-
mediately emancipating their slaves, and arm-
ing them for defense. A policy of this charac-
ter would render the task before us one of no
common difficulty, as it would enable the rebels
to recruit their weakened armies with a fresh
force of nearly 500,000 men. It is, however,
well-nigh impossible to believe that the rebel
leaders would of their own free-will adopt the
very policy the dread of whose adoption by
us plunged them into the present war—that
they would place arms in the hands of their
slaves, and run the risk of a war of races on
their own soil—that they would in the middle
of the contest abandon the principle for which it
was undertaken, and which they have declared
to be the corner-stone of their confederacy. A
better opinion appears to be, that Mr. Lincoln's
proclamation will nerve them to still greater
exertions than they have yet made, and that
they will forth with take measures to place their
slaves out of reach of our troops. They will
say, no doubt, that the President's proclamation
will have no more practical effect than the pre-
vious bruta fulmina of Frémont and Hunter.


And how will negro emancipation be viewed
at the North? There was a time, not very long
since, when a large majority of the Northern
people would have opposed it strenuously—not
so much from any admiration for slavery, as from
a belief that, under the Constitution, we had no
right to meddle with it, and that its abolition
involved dangers and inconveniencies perhaps
as formidable as those which were created by its
existence. Even at the present time a mortal
antipathy for the negro is entertained by a large
class of persons at the North—as is evidenced by
the recent vote against negroes in Illinois, the
riots in Cincinnati and Brooklyn, and the un-
kind treatment of the negro fugitives at Hilton
Head by the regiments of General Hunter's
army. At the same time, the war has produced
a remarkable change in the opinions of educated
and liberal men at the North. Such leading men
as General Wallace of Illinois, Daniel S. Dick-
inson of New York, General Butler of Massa-
chusetts, and nine-tenths of the generals in the
field—who, a year ago, really believed that slav-
ery was the true station for the negro—have
lately freely expressed what used to be called
“abolition views.” How long it will take for
these liberal views to permeate society, and
stamp themselves on the mind of the working-
class, remains to be seen. We do not, for our
part, apprehend any serious opposition at the
North to the President's policy, except in circles
whose loyalty to the country may well be ques-
tioned.


Demagogues will of course endeavor to excite
our working-classes against the Government by
threatening them with the competition of free
negro labor. It seems hardly worth while to
reply to so shallow and so mean an argument
as this. Our laboring class in this country is
intelligent enough to know that what we want
in every part of this country is not fewer but
more laborers. For years we at the North have
been moving heaven and earth to get more labor
from Europe, and we have succeeded in getting
a very large number of men every year; yet
wages have steadily advanced instead of falling.
Who ever thought of opposing immigration for
fear of the competition of the new Irishmen or
Germans? So at the South. They have in-
creased their stock of labor steadily by every
means, lawful and unlawful, for thirty years,
and yet the price of slaves has steadily risen
from $400 to $1500 for adult field hands, and
the cry—before the war—was still for more la-
bor. The man who tries to frighten the North
with threats of competition by emancipated ne-
groes insults the understanding of our labor-
ing class.



Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com