Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/326

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Southern Historical Society Papers.


To all this, there is an exceedingly simple answer. The South has been condemned at the bar of civilization for holding the negro in bondage. Of all the cruel ironies of fate none seems quite so sardonic as the turn of events which made New England the judge and executioner of Virginia for the sin of slavery.

In the decade which gave a new world to Castile and Leon two events conjoined to dramatize, on a colossal scale, that profound parable of the talents which, of itself, epitomizes the rise and fall of the children of men. In this colossal miracle play, the negro of the whole unrecorded past was seen, like Adam, in one of those old plays, standing there waiting to be created. To exchange such condition of mind and body for usefulness of some kind was the condition precedent to any rise. A law more immutable than that of Medes and Persians; a law which knows no relenting; the implacable law of "use or lose," caused to be entered the judgment of which involuntary exodus from Africa was execution. Our criminal jurisprudence sentences a man to hard labor as a sign of degradation. Nature sentences a man to hard labor as a sign of promotion. It is when we reject the sign of promotion, that we incur the brand of degradation.

South of the Great Desert (the slip north of it being really Asia) was a continent filled with human beings engaged in continuing their animal existence; a moral Sahara, as barren of moral use as the sea of sand which bounded it. Beyond their existence, what very literally was their bare existence, these "heirs of the ages" had nothing to show for their inheritance. As title to the realty he knew not how to use was denied to the red man of America, so by a parity of reason, title to an intangible freedom was denied to the black man of Africa. The lashes of six thousand years was the plea in bar to any assertion of negro freedom. Loaded down with the stagnation of six millinaries; lame and halt with locomotor ataxia of the spiritual spine, of what use of himself or others was this freedom—freedom to rot? The sloth of ages had been heaping up death to everything save anamilities. By a movement so swift as to seem electric, Europe said, "Let us use the idle sinews of the east to