LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 74: THE GREAT SLAVERY DEBATE, PART 3

SLAVE UPRISINGS IGNORED

The Congressman’s statement was implausible. To a man, for or against the Fugitive Slave Laws, they knew to a certainty that no man would work in the South in the hard manner as the Black man was forced to labor.

When the third speaker finished, another Congressmen stood to speak for slavery and the further stiffening of the Fugitive Slave Laws. This man was a Virginia Senator. He spoke on a question that was part and parcel of the subject under discussion; the outlawed slave trade.

“The Slave population is not increasing as much as we in South wish and need. We must have a greater source of slave labor. The outlawing of the slave trade in 1841 has had a serious damaging effect on the South’s ability to be economically self-sufficient.”

The speaker’s next words held a strong note of wry censure.

“In its wisdom, some members of this august body saw fit to outlaw the trading of slaves eight years ago. That was truly unfortunate for there is a great need for more slaves in the south.”

He chose a fact that was well known to all; slave runners continued to bring slaves to America in secret.

“Yes, the punishment for running slaves is hanging. Still the need remains. Slaves bring a fortune to the daring. That indisputable fact is a demonstration of an unjust law that drives honest men to subverting the law.”

He lowered his voice to sweet reason and persuasiveness.

“Let the slave trade be made lawful again,” he said. “With a heavy importation of new slaves, the prices will drop. Negroes fresh from the African jungles will be sold in southern seaports for cheaper prices. All men will benefit. Our country will be the stronger for such a reasonable change.”

He appealed to their pocketbooks and the state of the nation’s economy.

“At the present time only a mere fifteen percent of the wealthiest Southerners have slaves. With more slaves on the market the prices will drop. The poor man might hope to own a Negro or two. The price of labor will be within his reach. He will become a man of property and the small farmers will be raised one step higher to respectability and greater wealth. The South will prosper and so the nation will prosper.”

He was nearly finished.

“The difference between us in the South and you Northerners,” he said, “Is that our slaves are hired for life. They are well compensated. There is no starvation. There is no begging, and there is no want of employment.”

Now he turned to address his final argument to the Republican Abolitionists in the chamber. The Abolitionists championed freedom for the slaves. They wanted no increase in the number of slave states.

“Your laborers in the North are hired by the day. They are not cared for and they are scantily compensated. Why, you meet more beggars in one day in any single street in New York than you meet in a lifetime in the whole South, Gentlemen.”

He thought that he had struck a chord that would reach the staunchest of his opponents.

“We southerners do not think that the poor whites should be slaves either by law or necessity. Can you say that the beggar is any more than a slave of his misery? I say to you, nevertheless, they are slaves nonetheless. We in the south have slaves. Our slaves are black but, unlike the white beggars, the black man is of an inferior race.”

Sure of his ground, he smiled beneficently.

“Yet, I say that none of the Negro race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South,” the man insisted. “They are happy, content, and cheerful. They are utterly incapable, from their inborn natural intellectual weakness ever to give any trouble by their aspirations.”

His fellow Southern sympathizers nodded and hummed in agreement. Most had no recollection (by choice or a convenient lapse of memory) of the several major slave insurrections or the great numbers of slaves for whom the fugitive slave laws were intended.

Note: There were three major slave uprisings and they frightened the Southern Slave owners out of their gourds.

Next Episode: Lincoln listens

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Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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