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It is a favorite maxim that "figures cannot lie." We are loth to assail the time-honored reputation for veracity of this ancient and most respectable race. There may have been days of pastoral innocence and primitive simplicity when they did not lie. When Abraham sat contemplatively in his tent-door, with nothing to do, all the long day, but compose psalms and pious meditations, it is likely that he had implicit faith in this maxim, and never thought of questioning the statistical tables of Eliezer of Damascus, with regard to the number of camels, asses, sheep, oxen and goats, which illustrated the prairie where he was for the time being encamped. Alas for those good old days! Figures did not lie then, we freely admit; but we are sadly afraid, from their behavior in recent ages, that this arose from no native innocence of disposition, but simply from want of occasion and opportunity. In those days, they were young and green, and had not learned what they could do. The first inventor, who commenced making a numeration table, with the artless primeval machine of his toes and fingers, had, like other great inventors, very little idea of what he was doing, and what would be the mighty uses of these very simple characters, when men got to having republican governments, and elections, and discussions of all sorts of unheard-of questions in politics and morals, and to electioneering among these poor simple Arab herdsmen, the nine digits, for their votes on all these complicated subjects. No wonder that figures have had their heads turned! Such unprecedented power and popularity is enough to turn any head. We are sorry to speak ill of them; but really we must say, that, like many of our political men, they have been found on all sides of every subject to an extent that is really very confusing. Of course, there is no doubt of their veracity somewhere; the only problem being, on which side, and where. Is any great measure to be carried, now-a-days? Of course, the statistics, cut and dried, in regular columns, on both sides of the question, contradict each other point-blank as two opposite cannons; and each party marshals behind them, firing them off with infinite alacrity, but with no particular effect, except the bewilderment of the few old-fashioned people, who, like Mr. Pickwick at the review, stand on the middle ground. If that most respectable female person, Mrs. Partington, who, like most unsophisticated old ladies, is a most vehement and uncompromising abolitionist, could only hear the statistics that are to be shown up in favor of slavery, she would take off her spectacles and wipe her eyes in pious joy, and think that the millennium, and nothing less, had come upon earth. Such statistics they are, about the woe, and want, and agony, and heathenish darkness of Africa, which, by that eminent foreign missionary operation, the slave-trade, have been turned into light and joy and thanksgiving; here she has them, in round figures; she only needs to put on her spectacles and look. "Here, ma'am, you have it," says the illustrator; "look on this side of the column: here are three hundred million of heathen,—don't spare the figures,—down in Africa, sunk in heathenism—never heard the sound of the gospel—actually eating each other alive. Now, turn to this side of the column, and here they all are, over in America, clothed and in their right mind, going to church with their masters, and finding the hymns in their own hymn-books. Now, ma'am, can you doubt the beneficial results of the slave-trade?"

But Mrs Partington has heard something about that middle passage which she thought was horrid.

"By no means, my dear madam," says the illustrator, whisking over his papers. "I have that all in figures,—average of deaths in the first cargoes, 25 per cent.,—large average, certainly; they didn't manage the business exactly right; but then the rate of increase in a Christian country averages twenty-five per cent, over what it would have been in Africa. Now, Mrs. Partington, if these had been left in Africa, they would have been all heathen; by getting them over here, you have just as many, and all Christians to boot. Because, you see, the excess of increase balances the percentage of loss, and we make no deduction for interest in those cases."

Now, as Mrs. Partington does not know with very great clearness what "percentage" and "average" mean, and as mental philosophers have demonstrated that we are always powerfully affected by the unknown, she is all the more impressed with this reasoning, on that account; being one of the simple, old-fashioned people, who have not yet gotten over the impression that "figures cannot lie."

"Well, now, really," says she, "strange what these figures will do! I always thought the slave-trade was monstrous wicked. But it really seems to be quite a missionary work."

The fact is, that these nomadic Arabs, the digits, are making a very unfair use, among us, of the family reputation gotten up during the palmy days of their innocence, when they were a breezy, contemplatively unsophisticated race of shepherds, and, to use an American elegance of expression, had not yet "cut their eye-teeth." All that remains of their Oriental origin in this country seems to be a characteristic turn for romancing. Not an addition of slave territory has been made to the United States, wherein these same Arab brothers have not, with grave faces, been brought in as witnesses, to swear, by the honor of the family, that it was absolutely essential, for the best interest of the African race, that there should be more slavery and more slave territory. To be sure, it was for the pecuniary gain of the American race, but that was not the point insisted on. O no! we are always very glad when our interest coincides with that of the African race; but the extension of slavery is not to be considered in that light principally; it is entirely a system of Christian education, and evangelization of one race by another. Left to himself, Quashy goes right back into heathenism. His very body deteriorates; he becomes idiotic, insane, deaf, dumb, blind,—everything that can be thought of. "Is this an actual fact?" asks some incredulous Congress man, as innocent as Mrs. Partington. "O yes! for only look; here are the statistics. Just see; here in the town of Kittery, in Maine, are twenty-seven insane and idiotic black people, and down here in the town of Dittery, South Carolina, not a single one. Some simple-minded Kittery man, who overhears this conversation in the lobby, perhaps opens his eyes, and reflects with wondor that he never knew that there were so many black people in the town. But the Congress man shows it to him in the census, and he concludes to look for them when he goes home, as figures cannot lie."

On the census of 1840 conclusions innumerable as to the capacity of the colored race to subsist in freedom have been based. It has been the very beetle, sledge-hammer and broad-axe; and, when all other means fail, the objector, with a triumphant flourish, exclaims, "There, sir, what do you think of the census of 1840? You see, sir, the thing's been tried, and it's no go." We poor common folks cannot tell what to think. Some of us suppose that we know that there were more insane and idiotic and variously dilapidated negroes reported in certain states than their entire negro population. But, of course, as it's down in the census, and as "figures never lie," we must believe our own eyes. We can only say what some people have thought.

That most inconvenient and pertinacious man, John Quincy Adams, made a good deal of trouble in Congress about this same matter. At no less than five different times did this very persistent old gentleman rise in Congress, with the statement that the returns of the census had been notoriously and grossly falsified in this respect; and that he was prepared, if leave were given, to present before the House the most complete, direct, and overwhelming evidence to this effect. The following is an account of Mr. Adams' endeavors on this subject, collected from the Congressional Globe, and Niles's Register:



House of Representatives. February 26, 1844.—Mr. Adams, on leave, offered the following resolution:

Resolved, That the Secretary of State be directed to inform this House whether any gross errors have been discovered in the "Sixth Census, or Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States, as corrected at the Department of State in 1841," and, if so, how these errors originated, what they are, and what, if any, measures have been taken to rectify them.

House of Representatives. May 6, 1844.—The journal having been read, Mr. Adams moved a correction of the same by striking out from the communication of the Secretary of State (in answer to a resolution of this House inquiring whether any gross errors had been discovered in the printing of the Sixth Census), as copied upon the journal, the following words: "That no such errors had been discovered."

Mr. Adams accompanied his motion with some remarks. It could not possibly (Mr. Adams said) be a correct representation, as very gross errors had been discovered, as he intended and would pledge himself to show. He said they referred to the number of insane, blind, &c., among the colored population. This had been made the subject of a pamphlet on the annexation of Texas, and of a speech by a gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Hammett), which had been refuted on this floor. The United States were at this time placed in a condition very little short of war with Great Britain, as well as Mexico, on the foundation of these very errors. It was important, therefore, that the true state of facts should be made to appear.

The Speaker remarked that whether errors existed or not would be matter of investigation. In the opinion of the chair, there was no error of the journal, because it contained only a faithful transcript of the communication made by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Adams persisted in his motion. It was (he said) the most extraordinary communication ever made from the State Department. He would pledge himself to produce documents to prove that gross errors did exist. He would produce such proof as no man would be able to contradict.

The House refused to amend the journal.

House of Representatives. May 16, 1844.—Mr. Adams wished to present a memorial from certain citizens in relation to errors which they say have been committed in compiling and printing the last census of the United States.

Objection being made, he moved to suspend the rules for the purpose of offering the resolution, and moving to refer it to a committee of five members. The yeas and nays were ordered, and, being taken, the rules were not suspended,—ayes 96, nays 49,—less than two-thirds voting in the affirmative.

House of Representatives. Dec. 10, 1844.—Mr. Adams presented a petition from the American Statistical Society, in relation to certain errors in the last or sixth census.

Mr. Adams said a petition on this subject at the last session was referred to a select committee, and he hoped this petition would take the same direction. He moved the appointment of a select committee of nine members, and that the memorial be printed.

The speaker announced that a majority had decided in favor of a select committee. The motion to print was laid on the table.

House of Representatives. Dec. 13, 1844.—The following is the Select Committee appointed, on the motion of Mr. Adams, to consider the petition from the American Statistical Society in relation to the errors in the sixth census: Messrs. Adams, Rhett, Rayner, Stiles, Maclay, Brengle, Foster, Sheppard, Cary, and Caleb B. Smith.


This was the end of the affair in Congress. The false returns stand to this day in the statistical tables of the census, to convince all cavillers of the unfitness of the negro for freedom. That the reader may know what kind of evidence Mr. Adams had with which to sustain his allegations, we append, as a specimen, an extract from the American Almanac for 1845, p. 156.


The "American Statistical Association," established in Boston, Mass., sent a memorial to Congress during the past winter, drawn up by Messrs. William Brigham, Edward Jarvis, and J. W. Thornton, in which, though they "confined their investigations to the reports respecting education and nosology," they exposed an extraordinary in mass of errors in the census. We can find room only for a few extracts from this memorial.


"The most glaring and remarkable errors are found in the statements respecting nosology, the prevalence of insanity, blindness, deafness and dumbness, among the people of this nation.

"The undersigned have compared these statements with information obtained from other more reliable sources, and have found them widely varying from the truth; and, more than all, they have compared the statements in one part of the census with those in another part, and have found most extraordinary discrepances. They have also examined the original manuscript copy of the census, deposited by the marshal of the District of Massachusetts in the clerk's office in Boston, and have compared this with the printed edition of both Blair and Rives, and Thomas Allen, and found here, too, a variance of statements.

"Your memorialists are aware that some of these errors in respect to Massachusetts, and perhaps also in respect to other states, were committed by the marshals. Mr. William H. Williams, deputy marshal, states that there were one hundred and thirty-three colored pauper lunatics in the family of Samuel B. Woodward, in the town of Worcester; but on another page he states that there are no colored persons in said Woodward's family.

"Mr. Benali Blood, deputy marshal, states, on one page, that there were fourteen colored pauper lunatics and two colored lunatics, who were supported at private charge, in the family of Charles E. Parker, in the town of Pepperell; while on another page he states that there are no colored persons in the family of said Parker. Mr. William M. Packson states, on one page, that there are in the family of Jacob Cushman, in the town of Plympton, four pauper colored lunatics, and one colored blind person; while on another page he states that there are no colored persons in the family of said Cushman.

"But, on comparing the manuscript copy of the census at Boston with the printed edition of Blair and Rives, the undersigned are convinced that a large portion of the errors were made by the printers, and that hardly any of the errors of the original document are left out. The original document finds the colored insane in twenty-nine towns, while the printed edition of Blair and Rives places them in thirty-five towns, and each makes them more than ten-fold greater than the state returns in regard to the paupers. And one edition has given twenty, and the other twenty-seven, self-supporting lunatics, in towns in which, according to private inquiry, none are to be found. According to the original and manuscript copy of the census, there were in Massachusetts ten deaf and dumb and eight blind colored persons; whereas the printed editions of the same document multiply them into seventeen of the former and twenty-two of the latter class of unfortunates.

"The printed copy of the census declares that there were in the towns of Hingham and Scituate nineteen colored persons who were deaf and dumb, blind, or insane. On the other hand, the undersigned are informed, by the overseers of the poor and the assessors, who have cognizance of every pauper and tax-payer in the town, that in the last twelve years no such diseased persons have lived in the town of Scituate; and they have equally certain proof that none such have lived in Hingham. Moreover, the deputy marshals neither found nor made record of such persons.

"The undersigned have carefully compared the number of colored insane and idiots, and of the deaf and dumb and blind, with the whole number of the colored population, as stated in the printed edition of the census, in every city, town, and county of the United States; and have found the extraordinary contradictions and improbabilities that are shown in the following tables.

"The errors of the census are as certain, if not as manifest, in regard to the insanity among the whites, as among the colored people. Wherever your memorialists have been able to compare the census with the results of the investigations of the state governments, of individuals, or societies, they have found that the national enumeration has fallen far short of the more probable amount.

"According to the census, there were in Massachusetts six hundred and twenty-seven lunatics and idiots supported at public charge; according to the returns of the overseers of the poor, there were eight hundred and twenty-seven of this class of paupers.

"The superintendents of the poor of the State of New York report one thousand and fifty-eight pauper lunatics within that state; the census reports only seven hundred and thirty-nine.

"The government of New Jersey reports seven hundred and one in that state; the census discovers only four hundred and forty-two.

"The Medical Society of Connecticut discovered twice as many lunatics as the census within that state. A similar discrepancy was found in Eastern Pennsylvania, and also in some counties in Virginia.

"Your memorialists deem it needless to go further into detail in this matter. Suffice it to say, that these are but specimens of the errors that are to be found in the 'sixth census' in regard to nosology and education, and they suspect also in regard to other matters therein reported.

"In view of these facts, the undersigned, in behalf of said Association, conceive that such documents ought not to have the sanction of Congress, nor ought they to be regarded as containing true statements relative to the condition of the people and the resources of the United States. They believe it would have been far better to have had no census at all than such an one as has been published; and they respectfully request your honorable body to take such order thereon, and to adopt such measures for the correction of the same,—or, if the same cannot be corrected, for discarding and disowning the same,—as the good of the country shall require, and as justice and humanity shall demand.

"We have room for the tables for only three of the states." [We will caution the reader not to skip this statistical table, as he probably never saw one like it before.]

Town Total col'd
Town Total col'd
Limerick, 0 4 Industry, 0 3
Lymington, 1 2 Dresden, 3 6
Scarboro', 0 6 Hope, 1 2
Poland, 0 2 Hartland, 0 2
Dixfield, 0 4 Newfield, 0 5
Calais, 0 1
Coventry, 0 1 Stratham, 0 1
Haverhill, 1 1 Northampton, 0 1
Holderness, 0 2 New Hampton, 0 1
Atkinson, 0 1 Lyman, 0 1
Bath, 0 1 Littleton, 0 1
Lisbon, 0 1 Henniker, 0 1
Compton, 1 1
Freetown, 0 2 Georgetown, 1 2
Plympton, 2 4 Carver, 1 1
Leominster, 0 2 Northbridge, 1 1
Wilmington, 0 2 Ashby, 1 1
Sterling, 0 2 Randolph, 1 1
Danvers, 0 2 Worcester, 151* 133
Hingham, 2 2

* 36 of these under 10 years of age.

Every fable, allegory and romance, must have its moral. The moral of this ought to be deeply considered by the American people.

In order to gain capital for the extension of slave territory, the most important statistical document of the United States has been boldly, grossly, and perseveringly falsified, and stands falsified to this day.

Query: If state documents are falsified in support of slavery, what confidence can be placed in any representations that are made upon the subject?