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The Future of the Colored Race in America Being an article in the Presbyterian quarterly review of July, 1862   By: (1824-1909)

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BY WILLIAM AIKMAN, Pastor of the Hanover Street Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware.

In whatever way the present civil war in America shall result, it is certain that the future condition of the colored race in this country will be the question over mastering all others for many years to come. It has already pushed itself into the foremost place. However it may be true, that slavery and the negro were not the proximate causes of this war, no one who gives any candid thought to the matter can fail to recognize the fact, that back of all, this stands as the grand first occasion of it. Had there been no slavery, there would have been no war. General Jackson was only partly right when he said, that while in his day the tariff was made the pretext of secession, and that by and by slavery would take its place, but that neither would be the true motive of disunion; that a desire for a separate confederacy was the final cause. This was evidently correct, yet had slavery not stood in this country there would not have come into being that peculiar state of society which now lives in the Southern States, and which demands for its very existence that it should rule alone. Slavery has created an aristocracy, not of numbers, but of wealth and power, which bears with all the social forces. While the slave holder are but a very small minority of the whole people, yet by the force of their wealth and the fact of their being slave owners, they hold all the political power, and indeed, sweep out of existence any opposition. There are, with very rare exceptions throughout the whole South, but two classes free and slave, or we may say, slave holders and slaves, for the non slave holders are completely lost and absorbed in the all controlling element which is above them; they work in with it, and are indeed a part of it. As slavery called this aristocracy into being, and created its power, so it holds it in being; anything which strikes at slavery strikes at the root of this power; to destroy slavery would be to blot it out of existence.

Around this point the whole contest is waged, and from it alone every movement is to be interpreted. In the days of South Carolina nulification the tariff was indeed the pretext of rebellion, and the true motive was a separate government and the perpetuation of the power of the dominant class, but this power depended wholly upon the status of slavery, and so, back of all slavery was even then the thought, and to strengthen slavery the great end. In this we find the accurate explanation of the studied and persistent efforts to extend and perpetuate it, not because it is admired in itself, or because it is seen to be politically or socially beneficial, but because it is the cornerstone of a valued social state. A friend, some years ago sailing down the Potomac, was engaged in conversation with the captain of the boat, a blunt, bluff Southerner, and looking over the beautiful scenery on either side of the river, said, "Why do you Virginians hold on to slavery? it is a thousand pities that such a country as this should be so poorly used." "I know it," replied the captain, "slavery does ruin the state; but the fact is, we like it; a man feels good when he owns twenty or fifty negroes, and can say to one go, and he goes, and to another come and he comes." Here the whole philosophy of the social state of the South is in a nut shell. To abandon slavery is to abandon a position which has been held as a tenure of nobility for two hundred years. Nothing but the direst necessity will bring it about. It will never be given voluntarily up; the whole force of human nature is against it relinquishment. As well might the nobility of England be expected to throw up their titles and their coronets on persuasion. Here is a case where argument has no power. You may exhaust it, you may prove slavery to be wrong morally, wrong socially, wrong politically, you may prove it to a demonstration that it is an economic blunder of the most gigantic proportions, you may make it clear as sunlight that it is demoralizing and ruinous, but you have done absolutely nothing toward its abolishment... Continue reading book >>

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