The Right of American Slavery

The Right of American Slavery

T. W. Hoit
T. W. Hoit

Author: Hoit, T. W. (True Worthy), 1815-
Slavery — United States
Slavery — Justification
The Right of American Slavery
Transcriber’s Note
Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to correct an obvious error is noted at the end of this ebook.












Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860,
By T. W. HOIT,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States in and for the District of Missouri.

Baker & Godwin, Printers,
Printing-House Square, opposite City Hall,
New York.


To the American People.
My Fellow Countrymen:—Upon what manner of times have we fallen? Is our supposed experiment of self-government about to prove a failure? Are we so blind as not to see the abyss into which we are about to plunge? Section hostile against section; States arrayed against the Constitution; Churches sundered; the springs of intelligence poisoned at their source; treason stalking at noonday; insurrection rife; the equality of States and citizens denied, and derided; justice rebuked; treachery applauded; traitors canonized; anarchy inaugurated; monarchy calculating the end of republicanism; and the wheels of government clogged by the minions of despotism! All this, my Countrymen, and you passive, silent, sightless; reckless of your own and your children’s doom? And while all this is true, you go about your usual avocations, as though the eyes of the civilized world were not upon you; as though the great, the good, the magnanimous of all lands were not breathless, and spell-bound, and appalled at the spectacle; as though the prophetic admonitions of the Father of our Country were forgotten, and nature, with an ominous silence, conspired to lull you into forgetfulness, the more to astound you with the wonders and the woes of an approaching catastrophe!
What fatal error is there in our Republican principle? What virus sickens our body politic? What fascination lures us from the shrine of freedom? What infatuation hath seized the American people, that they should put to hazard this priceless inheritance,—the home, and refuge, and hope, of the down-trodden nations?
I aver there is a fatal fallacy adopted by a large number of the American people, which, if not rejected, will lead us down to national oblivion. That fallacy is exposed in the following pages, by showing what is right, and what is wrong, and explaining the fundamental error by which our public opinion is divided, and the way of a reunion pointed out. No one can desire to remain in error. It is the desire to do right which animates the great mass of the American people. It was, perhaps, the desire to do right, that made John Brown a rebel and a traitor, and which consigned him to a traitor’s doom. There is no safety, then, in desiring to do right; but to know what is right, and to do it. The time has now arrived when the American people must do right, or suffer the penalty of doing wrong.
Good intentions will not do. Good deeds are demanded,—actions founded upon truth and justice, and in accordance with nature’s irrevocable laws. We boast of our greatness, and power, and intelligence. Of what avail are all these, if they will not save us from national ruin? What boots it that a slumbering giant dreams of his strength while he is falling upon the bosom of a burning lake? The mightiest empires have sunk to oblivion. Are we soon to follow them?
Our material greatness and vigor seem to forbid the idea of premature decay; but let us not be blind to the delusive dream of an immortality springing from mental imbecility, nor the chimera of a political finality in governmental system which establishes and tolerates injustice, nor the permanence of a State in the midst of preponderating elements of fluctuating popular delusion.
Either the institutions under which we live are founded in truth, or they are founded in error. Our constitution is the work of wisdom, or of folly. It is founded in justice, or injustice; in right, or wrong. Shall we honor the astuteness of its founders, and perpetuate these institutions to remotest ages? or shall we prove recreant to this trust, unworthy of these manifold blessings, and in our mental blindness and moral imbecility invoke the scorn of future ages, and the just execrations of all mankind?
The material elements of greatness of the Great American Republic, must be vivified and enlivened by a corresponding degree of intellect; they must be permeated by an adequate element of illuminating soul, or they will fall, a lifeless mass, into chaotic ruin. Let us remember

“That trade’s proud empire hastes to swift decay,
As ocean sweeps the labored mote away;
Whilst self-dependent power can time defy,
As rocks resist the billows and the sky.”



African Slavery is, at present, the subject of all-absorbing interest to the American mind; for, our people, almost intoxicated with their own freedom, seem unsatisfied with those manifold blessings acquired by the labors of their sires; and while they are conscious of not excelling them in wisdom, virtue, or valor, they are becoming ideal, and seem willing to sacrifice the practical, safe rules of republican action, for mere idealisms, born in the dizzy sphere of their own over-wrought imaginations. They tremble at the name of Washington, whose purity and moral power shed lustre upon the name of man, and they worship him as a god; but while the real Washington commands the homage of mankind, and stands the intermediate between the race of men and the Infinite, we find the imaginations of men ignoring reason, and embarked upon a voyage aerial, amid the clouds. There they revel high above the mountain tops of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, where the atmosphere is pure, where the light is clear, and where the lightnings play; but, alas for human weakness and frailty! they are there only in imagination, though the splendid illusion is to them a reality, and the pleasing dream of ideal beauty, which, by the magic power of transmutation, annihilates or obliterates the reason and memory, destroys those distinctions of great and little, right and wrong, weakness and power, which nature has arbitrarily made, and the experience of mankind recognized as fundamental; upon which all law is based, and all order and civilization sustained and advanced, for the security and elevation of nations and of men.


This ideal element so predominates, in consequence of over or false culture; by the reading of a spurious literature, which dwells in the regions of fiction and romance, to the proportionate neglect of the stirring incidents of our time, which actually go to make up true history—which seem marvellous enough of themselves, without the necessity of invention, or the aid of artificial novelties, except for mere embellishment.
It would seem that the rise and progress of this Republic; the spread of our ocean commerce; the building of a thousand cities; the rush of the world to our shores; the peopling of our boundless plains; the rapid birth of new States into our Union; the triumph of our arms; our repeated accessions of territory; our maritime and commercial superiority; our foreign discoveries; our inventions in mechanism; our discoveries in science; the use of steam, and electricity; our statesmanship, and foreign diplomacy; a thousand miraculous incidents of individual enterprise and success; the discovery of gold, of silver, and iron; our internal improvements and meliorations; our national prestige; and finally, our greatness and glory as a nation,—ought to suffice for any reasonable conception of the marvellous, as they outstrip the more ignoble creations of fancy, and absolutely invade the former domain of fiction and romance. Hence the seeming puerility of fiction when contrasted with these more wondrous phenomena of fact. The substitution of fiction for fact is, therefore, unnecessary and absurd, as it defeats the very purpose intended, by its own inferiority. Its chief effect, then, is but to mislead the mind.
Let us, then, control the imagination; discard the ideal in practical affairs, hold it in its sphere, and adopt the real, in order that by the exercise of right reason we may be enabled to consider the present subject as it is, and not as it would be when weighed in the scale of the ideal; for in this way, and this alone, can we come to just conclusions, and our labors result in practical benefit to those most concerned in the premises. In the spirit of truth, of candor, of sober reality, let us, therefore, approach the subject of American Slavery.


The Negro has been a slave from time immemorial. This is shown from the earliest Egyptian monuments, paintings, and traditions. Herodotus, the father of Grecian History, tells us of negro slavery in Ancient Greece. It existed in Rome also. During the tenth century of the Christian era, the Moors, from Barbary, established an extensive traffic in the cities of Nigritia, where they bought large numbers of slaves; and the merchants of Seville brought slaves from the western coast of Africa, and established slavery in that city, and in Andalusia, long before the time of Columbus.[1] It is also a curious fact in history, that Hanno, the great Carthagenian commander and discoverer, having explored Africa from the Straits of Gibraltar to the bounds of Arabia, brought back to Carthage a cargo of ourang-outangs, which he supposed to be Negro men and women; showing more historically his estimate of African character, than his familiarity with Natural History. The Negro has ever been a slave;[2] and it is to be considered whether his quick and sudden transition from slavery to freedom, by emancipation, is probable or possible, or is sanctioned by the history of human development and progress.


Slavery has two phases; the moral, which involves the right, and the prudential, which is the expedient. But strictly, the moral is the principal and controlling view of the subject, and that which has made and will continually constitute the criterion of action from which the expediency is deduced, and the anomaly of slavery in our Republic understood, the paradox of a slaveholding democracy explained, and the institution of slavery justified with human equality, by justly discriminating between barbarism and humanity, civilization and savagism, justice and injustice, right and wrong.


I assert the right and justice of slavery, and found my arguments on the subject in right alone. If it can be shown to be right, then it is expedient; if wrong, then it cannot be shown to be expedient, and, if possible, it ought to be abolished. It is the idea of the wrong of slavery which has misled, and is continuing to mislead, the American mind.
By what process of reasoning, then, can slavery be shown to be just? I answer, because right holds a just and hereditary control over wrong. I answer, that it is right that barbarism should subserve civilization. I assert that barbarism is wrong, and civilization is right; that the former conduces to the misery and the latter to the happiness of mankind. Barbarism—with its pagan idolatries, its monstrous superstitions, its devil-worship, its false religious rites, its heathen orgies, its cruelties, its cannibalism—is wrong. Who will deny this? Who are its apologists and advocates? Let them stand forth and show the right of barbarism! Let us have a homily on its beauties! let them picture to us the meliorations of cannibalism! Will any one do it? No; it is a self-evident wrong. To attempt, even, to prove it wrong, would seem to be a work of supererogation. Barbarism it repugnant to the common sense of the Anglo-Saxon race; a violation of the conscience of civilization. Cannibalism is an almost inconceivable outrage against all right, in moral, social, or even superior animal existence. Few animals or even reptiles devour their kind. It is, therefore, an act repugnant to human nature, and in violation of the amenities even of a nobler animal existence. In a word, it is unmitigated wrong, showing its subjects and votaries to be incarnate devils.


The African race is a race of barbarians, and civilization to that race would be an artificial state of existence.[3] The vestiges of barbarism characterize the African, in his normal state. The latent principle of cannibalism, lurks, in dormant energy, within the very core of his being, and constitutes a prominent characteristic of his animal existence. The economy and order of nature is no less marked in the carnivorous than in the herbivorous mammalia and quadrumana; and although their physical distinctions are not always so marked as to render apparent, to superficial observation, the uses and functions of their entire organism, yet science has been a tolerably faithful interpreter of cause and effect, and has not failed to recognize those organic qualities, and the structural adaptability of the African race, which qualify it for its mission as the representative of barbaric fury and degradation, and the type, in human form, of that chaotic element of self-annihilation, which nature has kindly restricted to the fewest number of the lowest orders of animated being.[4] The inhabitants of Southern and Central Africa, from whence our slaves are drawn, the Feejeean, the Caffrarian, the New-Zealander, and the Hottentot, are stamped by nature with the unmistakable character of unmitigated barbarism, and absolute antagonism to civilization; and their improvement when brought in contact with civilization is so slow as almost to escape detection. Indeed it is doubtful whether the arts of European and American civilization have succeeded in so fascinating the African race among us as to warrant the expectation of permanency to the colony of Liberia, except from the light reflected by constant and continued emigration; and it is believed, by many shrewd philanthropists whose efforts have been long devoted to the cause of African colonization, that should emigration to the colony cease, the Negroes there would immediately relapse into their former habits and customs, and ultimately resume their original character of cannibals.


No race will remain slaves which the God of nature intended, or which is fit, to be free; and it is the history of the African in this country, that the more fit to be free the more he is inclined to remain a slave. That portion of the African race here which have been most benefited by our civilization, scorn the false philanthropy which would restore them to barbarism, and beg the immunity of perpetual thralldom. This is a clear proof that the African is not intended for freedom, and at the same time shows that instinct teaches him, as it teaches all our domestic animals, to know the path of safety better than it can be learned in the school of fanaticism, or from the dialect of fools.
It is, therefore, in the philosophical aspect of the subject, in which it should be viewed, since philosophy searches down into the deep recesses of nature, and drags to light those hideous deformities of a race of barbarians, whose inherent passions revel in a sphere infinitely beneath the dignity of our domestic animals, and from whose frenzied rage for self-annihilation, enkindled by a morbid desire to devour their kind, the gentler beasts of the forest turn away in disgust, and humanity shrinks back with unmitigated horror!


To say, then, that it is just that barbarism should subserve civilization is a laconical axiom, which decides a plain question of right and wrong. The wrong is, that the African is a barbarian, and devours his kind; the right is, that in his service due and rendered to civilization, he receives its protection, and is compelled to forego the, to him, exquisite pleasure of devouring his kind. It will be observed that this view of the subject justifies, not only the perpetuation, but the inception of slavery, and renders emancipation absurd and cruel, and the inception of slavery just; leaving the continued transfer of barbarians to the midst of civilized communities, a right, the exercise of which could not involve or sacrifice any right of the barbarian, but must depend upon the enlightened decision of civilization, as to the reciprocal benefits to be derived therefrom. The conscience of civilization is the tribunal at which to try barbarism, as well as every other grade of inferior subjective existence. It stands above and controls all below it. The conscience of civilization decides both the right to summon the barbarian, and to hold him subject to its dictates; to weigh the benefits to civilization against the evils resulting from the adoption of the element of this super-animal force as an aid to civilization. Civilization deciding to take and hold the barbarian, it becomes right by the decision of the highest arbiter. The taking of the barbarian, and his employment as an adjunct of civilization, being in consequence of his moral delinquency, and his consequent mental imbecility, is no arrogation of right, because it is just; it is no assumption of right, because the empire of right is universal; it is no violation of right, because the act in itself is the exercise of the prerogative of right, of justice, in civilization, to suppress wrong and compel it to subserve right. In this view emancipation is no less unjust to the African than opposed to the law of right. To seize him and drag him away to barbarism, against his will, is an act in favor of barbarism and in violation of right. It restores to barbarism its victim, and robs the African of his supposed natural prerogative and choice, of service to civilization. The act, of itself, is the abnegation of that same right which it is designed or intended to assert.


Go ask the African his opinion of Liberia! Consult him as to the choice of his future home. He looks upon this land as a paradise, and upon that with instinctive dread and apprehension. Go ask the very slaves of the inventor of Central American Colonization (that devout apostle of political philanthropy, and most zealous advocate of emancipation), go ask his slaves their opinion of the merits of their master’s invention, and their faces will kindle with the half ingenuous blush of conscious degradation, as they denounce his project, as the last device of insolence to degrade and oppress them.


The impracticability of African colonization[5] had long since become a foregone conclusion, so far as it could be made applicable to the present or prospective transfer of 4,000,000 of negroes from this republic to Liberia. A mathematical solution of that problem shows the cost of purchase and transportation to be no less a sum than $2,400,000,000,

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