Reply to Dr. Durbin
A communication from the Rev. J.P. Durbin, in your paper of the 10th inst. Suggesting a “plan for the removal of slavery.” . . me to solicit a . . . space in your column for the purpose of responding.
In regards to the evils which slavery is destined to bring upon us as a nation, all must agree. The constant agitation of this subject at the North, and the fact state by Dr. Durbin, that “it lies at the foundation of the political contests” of the country, both present and prospective , have already accomplished much evil to us as a people, and are destined to produce still greater mischief. From the indications of the present Congress, no one who desires the perpetuity of our beloved and glorious Union can look forward, for a very few years even, without the greatest alarm. Our country is in danger. If it were only from contrariety of opinion, or difference of judgment, on important topics, even this might be removed by examination, or we might “agree to disagree,” but it proceeds from early and established prejudices and deeply seated feelings, and there are undying, sleepless, and uncompromising.
If the cause of irritation can be removed without injury to any portion of the country, the national benefit would be a sufficient consideration for undergoing great sacrifices for its accomplishment; but we of the South know, that, in addition to this, the removal of slavery would be to us a great social blessing, sad, with but few exceptions, we long to escape from the evil. Every consideration, therefore, prompts us to adopt any feasible plan for eradication slavery out of our land. The plan of Dr. Durbin embodies two indispensable conditions: viz., remuneration to the owner, and removal of the emancipated slaves. The manner in which he proposes to accomplish these two ends, I believe to be impracticable at the present time. Such is the determined state of feeling in the Southern States, that I do not believe a proposition to give Congress the slightest control in any way of the subject of slavery would be entertained for an instant. The proposed amendment to the Constitution I am satisfied could not succeed. Opinion has not always been thus in the South. I well remember when a large slaveholder (still living) was procuring signatures to a petition, praying for an amendment similar to that proposed. Many years have not elapsed since the Virginia Legislatures gave much anxious consideration to the question of extinguishing slavery in that state. But the blind and fierce attacks made upon us by men who personally have nothing to do with this matter, and know nothing about it, have compelled us to build up our defenses, and stand upon our constitutional rights. The pressure from without had made us unable to yield anything with . . . . The very desire to help ourselves is . . . , or its gratification . . . from a fear that if we proceed, while that . . . , it will appear that we are driven; and such is the feeling against those who, under the name of Abolitionists, have interfered with us, that it is difficult for us to use the word without coupling with it . . . opprobrious epithet. I believe that many Abolitionists are sincere Christians, and honest in their convictions; but they are lamentably ignorant of the matter in which they are interfering, and have effected much evil where they intended good. The patient is languishing and drying under the prescriptions of these ignorant quacks, who have excluded from the sick bed the family physician, who knew the disease and the remedy.
Taking the question in its present attitude, I have arrived at conclusions which I will venture to present as briefly as I can. There are two schemes before the people, for the concentration of effort in behalf of the colored race among us—Colonization and Abolitionism. The former is confined in its operations to free negroes and emancipated slaves. These comprise but a very small part of the colored race. The great mass can never be reached by this means, although in its sphere it will accomplish much good. It is also too limited in its operations to attract much of the public attention, and will not therefore effect much in forming public sentiment, and directing it in behalf of the negro.
Abolitionism, as it has heretofore existed among us, is powerless except for evil. All that it can accomplish is to estrange the affection of the two great sections of the country from each other; and as a consequence, bring about a dissolution of the Union. But it is not plain that the situation of the negro will thus be rendered more hopeless? The North, while united with us in the same confederacy, and viewed with fraternal affection, possesses an influence with the South which, if legitimately exercised, may effect much. But Abolitionism deprives Samson of his locks. The fact is, the Abolitionism of the present day is dangerous, blind, fanatical and unreasonable, and not . . [gap]
Slave. This the Abolitionist is not willing to sustain, or to share; but while he imposes heavy burdens, grievous to be borne, upon the slaveholder, he will not move them with his little finger. Rather than assent to the right of property in slaves—which the law, not he, establishes—he is constrained to keep his money, and let the slave go! This is his reason! It would justify him in suffering a friend, who had been imprisoned for debt, to die in prison, if he believed the debt was not just. Because the creditor would not release him, he ought not! Abolitionism, therefore, while it does much harm, does no good.
I know of but one plan to accomplish anything. Let a society be formed for the purpose, or, what would be still better, let the operations of the Colonization Society be so enlarged as to make the purchase of the freedom of slaves a prominent object; and let all who really desire the freedom of Africa’s race contribute liberally to its funds. Let our Northern friends show that they are willing to bestow their goods for the benefit of the slaves. Let them no longer expect to accomplish good by merely wishing it, and scolding at others to make them do it. The course I recommend, carried out in a proper spirit, would be a great advantage. It would break down the barriers which misguided Abolitionism has forced us to erect; and not only would the appeals of the society be nobly responded to among us, but public sentiment would be in its favor, and legislative aid would follow. I could advance many reasons why the scheme would work well among us; and if the subject shall be agitated, or any one desire it, I will, by your leave revert to it. Space now fails me; and I conclude by saying, that if all would approach this subject in the liberal spirit, and with the expanded views, exhibited by Dr. Durbin, it would be disarmed of its danger, and great good would be effected.
A Southern Methodist.