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live with us, except in a state of continual apprehension and alarm for their wives and their children, for all that is near and dear to them upon the earth, and the Union is from that moment dissolved. It does not then become a question of expediency, but of self-preservation. It is a question brought home to the fireside, to the domestic circle, of every white man in the Southern States."
OPINIONS OF MB. BENTON.
At the session of 1835, Mr. Buchanan presented to the Senate the memorial of the Society of Friends, adopted at their Cain quarterly meeting, requesting Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia.
Mr. Benton rose to express his concurrence in the suggestion of the Senator from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Buchanan,] that the consideration of this subject be postponed until Monday. It had come up suddenly and unexpectedly today, and the postponement would give an opportunity for senators to reflect, and to confer together, and to conclude what was best to be done, where all were united in wishing the same end, namely, to allay, and not to produce excitement. He had risen for this purpose; but, being on his feet, he would say a few words on the general subject, which the presentation of these petitions had so suddenly and unexpectedly brought up.
With respect to the petitioners, and those with whom they acted, he had no doubt but that many of them were good people, aiming at benevolent objects, and endeavoring to ameliorate the condition of one part of the human race, without inflicting calamities on another part; but they were mistaken in their mode of proceeding; and so far from accomplishing any part of their object, the whole effect of their interposition was to aggravate the condition of those in whose behalf they were interfering.
But there was another part, and he meant to speak of the abolitionists generally, as the body containing the part of which he spoke; there was another part whom he could not qualify as good people, seeking benevolent ends by mistaken means, but as incendiaries and agitators, with diabolical objects in view, to be accomplished by wicked and deplorable means. He did not go into the proofs now to establish the correctness of his opinion of this latter class, but he presumed it would be admitted that every attempt to work upon the passions of the slaves, and to excite them to murder their owners, was a wicked and diabolical attempt, and the work of a midnight incendiary. Pictures of slave degradation and misery, and of the white man's luxury and cruelty, were attempts of this kind; for they were appeals to the vengeance of slaves, and not to the intelligence or reason of those who legislated for them. He [Mr. B.] had had many pictures of this kind, as well as many diabolical publications, sent to him on this subject during the last summer; the whole of which he had cast into the fire, and should not have thought of referring to the circumstance at this time, as displaying the character of the incendiary part of the abolitionists, had he not, within these few days past, and while abolition petitions were pouring into the other end of the Capitol, received one of these pictures, the design of which could be nothing but mischief of the blackest dye. It was a print from an engraving, (and Mr. B. exhibited it, and handed it to senators near him,) representing a large and spreading tree of liberty, beneath whose ample shade a slave owner was at one time luxuriously reposing, with slaves fanning him: at another, carried forth in a palanquin, to view the half-naked laborers in the cotton field, whom drivers, with whips, were scourging to the task. The print was evidently from the abolition mint, and came to him by some other conveyance than that of the mail, for there was no post-mark of any kind to identify its origin, and to indicate its line of march. For what purpose could such a pictore be intended, unless to inflame the passions of slaves? And why engrave it, except to multiply copies for extensive distribution? But it was not pictures alone that operated upon the passions of the slaves; but speeches, publications, petitions presented in Congress, and the whole machinery of abolition societies. None of these things went to the understandings of the slaves, but to their passions, all imperfectly understood, and inspiring vague hopes, and stimulating abortive and fatal insurrections. Societies, especially, were the foundation of the greatest mischiefs. "Whatever might be their objects, the slaves never did, and never can, understand them but in one way: as allies organized for action, and ready to march to their aid on the first signal of insurrection. It was thus that the massacre of San Domingo was made. The society in Paris, Les Amis des Noirs, friends of the blacks, with its affiliated societies throughout France and in London, made that massacre. And who composed that society? In the beginning, it comprised the extremes of virtue and of vice; it contained the best and the basest of human kind. Lafayette and the Abbe Gregoire, those purest of philanthropists; and Marat, and Anacharsis Cloots, those imps of hell in human shape. In the end, (for all such societies run the same career of degeneration,) the good men, disgusted with their associates, retired from the scene, and the wicked ruled at pleasure. Declamations against slavery, publications in gazettes, pictures, petitions to the constituent assembly, were the mode of proceeding; and the fish women of Paris—he said it with humiliation, because American females had signed the petitions now before us—the fish women of Paris, the very poissardes from the quays of the Seine, became the obstreperous champions of West India emancipation.
The effect upon the French islands is known to the world; but what is not known to the world, or not sufficiently known to it is, that the same societies which wrapt in flames and drenched in blood the beautiful island, which was then a garden and is now a wilderness, were the means of exciting an insurrection upon our continent, in Louisiana.
At the session of 1839, the slavery question being under discussion in the Senate, •
Mr. Benton said, I was on the subject of slavery, as connected with the Missouri question, when last on the floor.
The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Hayne], could see nothing in the question before the senate, nor in any previous part of the debate, to justify the introduction of that topic. Neither could I. He thought he saw the ghost of the Missouri question brought in among us. So did I. He was astonished at the apparition. I was not: for a close observance of the signs in the west had prepared me for this development from the east. I was well prepared for that invective against slavery, and for that amplification of the blessings of exemption from slavery, exemplified in the condition of Ohio, which the Senator from Massachusetts indulged in, and which the object in view required to be derived from the north east. I cut the root of that derivation by reading a passage from the journals of the old Congress; but this will not prevent the invective and encomium from going forth to do their office; nor obliterate the line which was drawn between the free State of Ohio and the slave State of Kentucky. If the only results of this invective and encomium were to exalt still higher the oratorical fame of the speaker, I should spend not a moment in remarking upon them. But it is not to be forgotten that the terrible Missouri agitation took its rise from the "substance of two speeches" delivered on this floor; and since that time, anti-slavery speeches, coming from the same political and geographical quarter, are not to be disregarded here.
What was said upon that topic was certainly intended for the north side of the Potomac and Ohio; to the people then, of that division of the Union, I wish to address myself and to disabuse them of some erroneous impressions.
To them I can truly say, that slavery, in the abstract, has but few advocates or defenders in the slaveholding States, and that slavery as' it is, an hereditary institution descended upon us from our ancestors, would have fewer advocates among us than it has, if those who have nothing to do with the subject would only let us alone. The sentiment in favor of slavery was much weaker before those intermeddlers began their operations than it is at present. The views of leading men in the North and the South were indisputably the same in the earlier periods of our government. Of this our legislative history contains the highest proof. The foreign slave trade was prohibited in Virginia, as soon as the Revolution began.
It was one of her first acts of sovereignty. In the convention of that State which adopted the federal Constitution, it was an objection to that instrument that it tolerated the African slave trade for twenty years. Nothing that has appeared since has surpassed the indignant denunciations of this traffic by Patrick Henry, George Mason, and others in that convention.
Sir, I regard with admiration, that is to say, with wonder, the sublime morality of those who cannot bear the abstract contemplation of slavery, at the distance of five hundred or a thousand miles off. It is entirely above, that is to say, it affects a vast superiority over the morality of the primitive Christians, the Apostles of Christ, and Christ himself.
Christ and the apostles appeared in a province of the Roman empire, when that empire was called the Roman world, and that world was filled with slaves. Forty millions was the estimated number, being one-fourth of the whole population. Single individuals held twenty thousand slaves.
A freed man, one who had himself been a slave, died the