New York Times, "Senator Brown on International Law," March 8, 1860

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    “Senator Brown on International Law,” New York Times, March 8, 1860, p. 4: 2.
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    New York Times
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    Senator Brown on International Law
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    Meghan Allen, Dickinson College
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    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    Senator Brown on International Law.

    Among the many very odd notions of law and politics, which the discussions on Slavery have been the means of bringing to light, Senator BROWN’S theory of international obligations may be set down as decidedly the most striking and original. He is indignant, as are most of his neighbors and constituents, at the steady flow of fugitive slaves into Canada, through the instrumentality of the underground railroad, and he agrees with GOV. WISE about the propriety of making the matter a cause of war with Great Britain. Says this great publicist:

    “Thousands of slaves were carried to Canada by the Underground Railroad. Suppose they should take sheep and horses from the Free States, the Government would be appealed to to cease receiving the stolen goods of the United States. But the property of the South was thus stolen to the amount of millions, yet not notice was taken of it. If he had his way, the sun should not go down before he would file a notice with the British Minister that, unless Canada yielded up the stolen negroes, just as she would be compelled to yield up the stolen horses and sheep, that this Government would use all legal means to force her to do so; and, if that remedy was not sufficient, then this Government would declare war. But his complaint was unheeded, while the other would be listened to. He was told he was violating the party doctrine of non-intervention. That doctrine was agreed to as applying to a particular case, and he himself had never agree to this doctrine.”

    In other words, the Senator is of opinion that Canada ought to be invaded by a hostile force, because the Government does not prevent fugitive negroes from crossing the frontier, when the government of the Slave States are actually unable to prevent their slaves from running away. If negroes are to be watched at all, their owners are the fittest persons to pay the expense of watching them. To ask the people of Canada to keep up a frontier guard in order to secure the rendition of runaway blacks of the South to their owners, when Mississippi and Virginia, who are most interested in the matter, do not contribute a cent for any such purpose, might possibly be a bold course, but it would certainly be a very impudent one. If any frontier ought to be watched, it is the frontier of the Slave States. As soon as the indignant BROWN has placed a preventive force along the northern line of his Mississippi, it will be time enough to complain of the remissness of Canada.

    What gives his proposal the finishing touch of comicality s that he wants to wage war on Great Britain for not sending back runaways, though she has never agreed to do so, while the Northern States of the Union, who have agreed to do it, steadily refuse of fail to do it. As soon as he can show that Vermont and New-Hampshire and Iowa and Massachusetts, who are all bound by the Constitution to do so, religiously send back all fugitives to their owners, it will be time enough to address a remonstrance to foreign Powers on the subject, but not till then. Great Britain, if we are not mistaken, has not as yet given in her adhesion to the Constitution of the United States, and the warrant of a United States Commissioner would, we suspect, be treated as a nullity, either in Quebec or Westminster.

    MR. BROWN is also greatly afflicted by the reflection that the Canadian Government will not place the negroes of Southerners in the same category with the horses and sheep of Northerners. His lamentations on this subject are almost as moving as the wailings of PIUS the Ninth over the conduct of LOUIS NAPOLEON with regard to the Romagna. We admit the case is a hard one. When a person has $100,000 invested in a thing, it is positively lacerating to the feelings to know that his neighbors refuse to consider it property at all, and laugh when it takes itself off. But every species of investment has its drawbacks. Stocks depreciate, and cashiers of companies abscond; ships are lost at sea; cattle die; crops are blighted; dry goods wont sell. There is nothing, in short, to which a man can convert the proceeds of an honest industry, which is not attended with its peculiar risks. Sometimes these risks are so great that nothing but the chance of large profits can induce anybody to incur them. The opinions of the Northerners and Canadians and British, touching the status of negroes in the animal kingdom, are among the risks attendant on the possession of this species of property, and it is a great risk we admit, but then we hold that slaveholders are amply compensated by it profitableness. As long as cotton pays twelve cents for the pound, it will be as absurd of them to grumble about the underground railroad as for the owner of a powder mill, who is making a hundred per cent., to call upon the public to insure him against explosions. The remedy is the same in both cases. All the risks of a business have to be fairly calculated by anybody going into it. If he finds, after experiment, that it does not pay a reasonable per centage on his capital, he had better come out of it. If an owner of slaves finds that deaths, disease, runaways, leave him no profit, he has but to sell his plantation and do the best he can with the proceeds in some other line of life.

    If MR. BROWN will not see the matter in this life, we confess we do not know what can be done for him. Of getting Canada and Great Britain and the rest of the world to regard negroes as cattle, we utterly despair; and if this is is the only possible mode of pacifying the South, we fear they may as well begin to rend us limb form limb at once. If it would mend the matter to conquer Canada and annex it, we should perform this little operation next week at the furthest; but if the people were to hold the same views about blacks after they become citizens of the United States as before, we do not see that we should be any better off than before, and MR. BROWN’S sorrowful experience of the ethnological vagaries of our own Free States ought to satisfy him as to the value of such a result as this.

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