Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Emancipation in the District of Columbia

The President has signed the bill. Those who importuned him not to do so should read over the record here unveiled, and cover their faces to hid the confusion produced by their own consciences. The abolition of slavery here will not cause it to be removed elsewhere – This was not the design nor the desire of the majority of those who voted for it. But it will be productive of good consequences. It will call into use and culture our now deserted lots and suburbs. It will employ our unsurpassed water powers. It will build factories and machine shops along our wharves. It will prevent men from speculating in slaves; women from rejoicing over the birth of slaves as so much more money in their own pockets, and will cleanse the community of those sympathizers with treason who have infested this ten miles square for so many years. I wish my Northern readers, especially those who have allowed these objections to the removal of slavery from the capital of their country to effect their minds, could see for themselves what slavery has done in this single spot.

There has been no prosperous middle class in Washington. Society here has been divided, or rather separated, by the partition between the very rich and the very poor. Property is not held here by mechanics who have earned their money and worked their way to wealth in their own avocations, but by successful operators, slaveholders, place-men and lobby-agents. The slave traffic, though prohibited by law, has been successfully carried on in various ways. The business of slave-breeding has enriched more than one pious and praying Secessionist, and the youth of both sexes have in many cases been reared to rely on the profits of slavery, directly and indirectly, and not upon their own talents or labor. The product has been an haughty, overbearing and dictatorial spirit, a contempt for all industry and economy, and a readiness to accept secession as an escape from contact with the undaunted and go-ahead masses of the free States. If those who read these letters could see these things for themselves, the scales would fall from their eyes, and in spite of party feelings, they would thank God that Washington at last, was purged from a blot which has long been a cancer at the heart of the Republic, and a stain upon our country among the nations of the earth. – {Wash. Cor. Philadelphia Press

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 26, 1862, p. 2

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