2 SEPTEMBER 1865, Page 6


WE are well pleased to see that the singularly prejudiced letter of last week from our able correspondent in New York, concerning the aversion to the Negro felt in America, has already elicited at least two protests from Americans resident in England, which we give in another column,—protests, we mean, not against his own prejudice (to which as a private luxury our correspondent is of cburse as much entitled as we might be to an individual shedder at the slanting Mon- gol eyes' at high cheek-bones, or a nasal twang), but protests against the truth of the statement that as a matter of fact all negroes as negroes are regarded by the immense majority of Americans with the same unreasonable loathing,—protests, too, against the absurd assumption that the existence of each a loathing in those who feel it ought to be regarded as a divine law regulating the conduct of those who do not. For this was the precise principle of that enlightened address by the American Connecticut juryman to the negro who had been guilty of marrying a white woman, which our correspondent appears so much to admire. You have not,' said this gentleman in effect, 'offended against the law, and being a lover of law I will really go the length of protecting you against illegal assaults,—but you have offended the moral taste of the community—been guilty of a gross "impro- priety,"—in marrying a white woman who did not share the general aversion to you. Do you not know that, in marriage, people should consult, as well as their own tastes, as well as the restrictions imposed by the moral exigencies of society, as well as the reasonable objections which can be urged by relations and friends all the unreasonable and unaccountable prejudices of educated Americans, even though they con- fess that they can give no defence of them ? Is it not a monstrous thing that the pure and simple loathing to a negro, —which is not felt for his colour, for it would not apply to Moors, or Maories, or the darkest Hindoos, nor for his posi- tion in society, nor for his individual character, nor for anything but the metaphysical essence of negroism (an essence without assignable attributes or qualities),—should fail to be respected by all who are unfortunately born desti- tute of that valuable instinct? What is the use of en- lightened Americans being gifted with this divine gift of a metaphysical aversion, if the mutilated organizations of those who do not feel it are not to be compelled to defer to their higher standard of taste ? Blind men must walk by the sight of those who see. Men destitute of the anti-negro sense must modestly accommodate their conduct to the superior beings who possess it in all its force.' Such is the essential drift of the speech of the wise Connecticut jury- man for whom our able correspondent bespeaks our respect. We confess that it seems to us about as silly a view as we have heard from any juryman since that celebrated warning delivered by a British jury to a British clergyman, that the study of anatomy was inconsistent with his professional posi- tion. We certainly should not think it worth attention from a fareign simpleton, did it not come with the prestige which is lent it by the strange apology of a very able writer, who confesses his belief that the juryman in question is supported by the sympathy of an enormous proportion of thinking men in the North.

But coming as it does from an able man, who claims for his view the sanction of other able men, we must say a word or two on the attitude just now assumed by this (we trust) small section of influential Northerners towards the negro,- an attitude, as it seems to us, so radically unjust as well as unwise that, if endorsed by the North in general, it would do much to discredit the motives of the great struggle which has been conducted so nobly and ended so gloriously. There is not a word justifying that attitude in our correspondent's letter on the subject which will really bear analysis for a moment. If he had been content indeed to assert the fact of this inexplicable prejudice without trying to find room for that fact in political disqualifications which he evidently justifies, we could have done nothing but accept it for what it is worth—an explanation why many Americans as much as possible avoid negroes,—and not for what it is not worth—a law for those who do not share it. Bat in trying as he does to justify the feeling without depreciating the whole tone tif political feeling in the North, and attributing a character of pure selfishness to the war which it did not really bear, be falls into so many instructive self-contradictions that it remains pretty clear, we think, that either the war Was in part a war to benefit the negroes, or it was, as Lord Russell called it, a war for empire only. This, how- ever, our correspondent will not admit. It was, he says, a war to purge away the guilt of slavery, but not to free the slaves. We in England supposed, he says, very erroneously, that "a war prosecuted in a great measure for the extinction of slavery where it had been already established, must have as its result the elevation of the negro to the political and social level, of the dominant race, or else that its professed anti- slavery motive was a mere pretence. No supposition could be more erroneous." We venture to think the supposition quite legitimate. No doubt there is no manner of claim (other than expediency) for giving at once to the negro poli- tical rights which he is at present incompetent to exercise- wisely. But unless the ultimate purpose of abolishing slavery is to let the negro become everything that he can qualify him- self to become,—even the social and political equal of the white, if he can really raise himself to the moral and political level of the white,—unless that be so, we do not hesitate to say the anti-slavery motive was a mere pretence. In what consists the sin of slavery except in crushing for selfish reasons human. capacities that would otherwise be capable of indefinite growth ? No doubt there is a more and less in this; and slavery usually means only that degree of down-treading which is in- consistent with the slave's domestic life and free movement on the. face of the earth. But it is a sin only different in degree, not in. kind, if the growth of social and political faculties useful to the State and honourable to the individual is to be crushed out by coercive laws, at the more arbitrary pleasure of men of a different race. To keep negroes pariahs when they might rise- to equality with whites, is precisely the same sin as to keep them slaves when they are capable of becoming free pariahs.

"I tell you frankly," says our correspondent, "that the' mass of the people here were glad to fight against slavery, but- had no intention of fighting for the negro. They felt that. slaverywas a great crime, a sin against human nature. They wished to purge the republic of that wickedness, but they had no particular sympathy with, though most of them much compassion for, the race against whom the wrong was com- mitted. You in Europe seemed to be thinking about the indivi- dual negroes • we in the mass thought little or nothing about the individual negroes, but much of the barbaroas institution of slavery. To restrain that within such bounds as could be placed to it, and to relieve ourselves to the utmost of our responsibility for its existence under our flag, we even were willing to accept a 'great war, and to fight it through with four years' unprecedented waste of life and treasure. But to free those individual negroes held in bondage at the South you may be sure we would not have sacrificed the lives. of one thousand of our brothers, not to say of more than one hundred thousand." In this passage, as frequently throughout his argument, our correspondent. certainly becomes a little transcendental. May we be- allowed to say of him, as Dickens says of one of his heroes, that he goes down very deep and comes up very muddy ? He- distinguishes between the sin of slavery and the sin of keep- ing slaves with ingenuity more worthy of a metaphy- sician than of a politician. It is quite certain that when we talk of the sin of slavery we are quite unable to help think- ing of the sin of holding in bondage individual slaves. We should see no sin in holding general or abstract slaves (other than individuals) in bondage. Against whom is slavery a sin, if not against the actual slaves and their descendants ? If there is no sin in having "the individual negroes" of one generation in bondage, there can be no sin in having the indi- vidual negroes of a second generation in bondage, and so on to. the end of time. If the Americans made war to extinguish slavery, but not to break the yoke of slaves, they made war for a purpose which is quite inconceivable to us, and therefore quite outside the range of our moral dis- crimination. Surely all this discrimination between indi- vidual slaves and the institution of slavery is unmanly nonsense, — able as is the hand which has written it. If the war did not aim at undoing a heavy burden, bidding the oppressed go free, and breaking every yoke that might be broken without time, labour, and teaching, it was not a war against slavery at all. If it did, then it was a war to emancipate a whole generation of "individual slaves." The "gentle, firm, and wise men with large souls" who came back from the South "hating slavery more than ever, but loathing the negro with an unutterable loathing" are ne doubt only the more meritorious for working hard to benefit the objects of so abnormal a repulsion,—but only if they strive to emancipate "individual slaves," not if they confine their antagonism to slavery in the abstract. As to individual aversions of this nature we cannot see that they bear upon the matter at all, except to enhance the merit of those who do justice to the negro. in spite of them. That they are an amiable weakness—by no means very widespread—we do not hesitate to assert. The writer of this paper has lived for many months in the midst of negroes, and is able to affirm that this kind of aversion is as rare amongst Anglo-Saxons in a free coun- try as it is in the Slave States themselves. Even in this American war there were numbers of men who were more closely connected with the freedmen than even "the gentle, firm, and wise men with large souls" who brought back this unutterable loathing to the negro from the South; and they confess a very different experience. Colonel Hutchinson, the colonel of the first negro regiment, feels so strong an admira- tion for the capacities inherent in the negro character, that in many of his remarkable papers in the Atlantic Monthly he insists that there are points in which it shows a great superiority to our own race. But be this as it may. Our correspondent scarcely sees the inconsistency of which he is guilty in first building on this absolute and instinctive aversion, and then asserting that if admitted to the franchise and social equality, there would be no keeping the negro out of marriage with the whites. Is it, then, compulsory in America to marry an elector, even if you feel "an unutterable loathing" to him? Surely all who feel the unutterable loath- ing are quite sure not to marry its object. The meaning evidently is that his a terrible hardship for those conscious of the unutterable loathing to see those who are not conscious of it drawing closer to the negro. Because A feels the un- utterable loathing to B, C, who feels a strong affection for B, must not be allowed to go near him. If the loathing exists it will keep the two races sufficiently wide apart, in spite of political rights and social equalities. But our correspondent evidently wishes that those who feel the loathing shall be em- powered to insist on sympathy from those who do not.

Let not able and thoughtful men try to deceive themselves with suoh transparent sophisms as these. Freedom for the negro does not mean necessarily power for the negro,—bat it does mean the prospect of every good thing for him which he can prove himself capable of earning, appreciating, and rightly using. If the anti-slavery movement does not mean this in the North, it is a selfish and hollow political expedient. But it does mean this, in spite of the metaphysical subtleties of able writers who wish to justify a private prejudice for which they cannot account without seeming untrue to the eternal principles of divine justice.