REMARKS OF MR. HARLAN.
IN SENATE, Tuesday, March 25.
Mr. HARLAN. Mr. President, I regret very much that Senators depart so far from the proprieties, as I consider it, of this Chamber, as to make the allusions they do. It is done merely to stimulate a prejudice which exists against a race already trampled under foot. I refer to the allusions to white people embracing colored people as their brethren, and the invitations by Senators to white men and white women to marry colored people. Now, sir, if we were to descend into an investigation of the facts on that subject, it would bring the blush to the cheeks of some of these gentlemen. I once had occasion to direct the attention of the Senate to an illustrious example from the State of the Senator who inquired if any of us would marry a greasy old wench. It is history that an illustrious citizen of his State, who once occupied officially the chair that you, sir, now sit in, lived notoriously and publicly with a negro wench, and raised children by her.
Mr. SAULSBURY. Let me interrupt the gentleman for a moment. Does he refer to any citizen of Delaware?
Mr. HARLAN. I referred to the Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Davis].
Mr. SAULSBURY. I beg your pardon.
Mr. HARLAN. I referred to a gentleman who held the second office in the gift of the American people; and never yet have heard a Senator on this floor denounce the conduct and the association of that illustrious citizen of our country. I know of a family of colored or mulatto children, the children, too, of a gentleman who very recently occupied a seat on the other side of the Chamber, who are now at school in Ohio. Yes, sir, the children of a Senator who very recently, not to exceed a year since, occupied a seat on this floor, a Senator from a slave State.
I do not desire to consume the time of the Senate and of the country in calling attention to these facts; it is humiliating enough to know that they exist; but if Senators who represent slaveholding States will perpetually drag this subject to the attention of the Senate and of the country, let them take the logical consequences of their own folly, and bear the shame which an investigation of the facts must inflict on themselves and their constituents.
I know there is a newspaper slander – written, printed, and published as a slander – on those who went down to South Carolina for a benevolent purpose, at least a desire to look after the welfare of those who had been cast off by their masters and had no means of support, the armies of the Republic furnishing them no protection, and as it is said, actually robbing them of the scanty supplies left them by their absconding owners. Benevolent gentlemen have gone, as it is said, and I believe truly to furnish them temporarily with food and raiment, and also employment, to enable them to provide, in part at least, by the labor of their hands, for their own wants. I confess I can perceive nothing objectionable in this; nor do I believe that the Senator himself who drags up that subject, as it seems to me, unnecessarily, in the discussion of the provisions of this bill, can point out anything improper in it. Does he desire that those persons who have been deserted by their masters should be left there to starve and die like brutes? I know he does not. Then what other means can he devise for their protection and support; or does he desire the President to withdraw the Army and permit the rebels, who are now striking at the life of the nation, to return to their possessions under the folds of a rebel flag, reasserting their ownership over their deserted slaves? If he desires the armies of the Republic to push forward until the supremacy of the laws of the Union shall be acknowledged, under the protecting folds of the stars and stripes, to its utmost limits, what does he propose to do with these destitute people? Does he propose to support them directly from the national Treasury? Would this be more wise than to permit benevolence to provide for their temporary wants and to permit the labor of their own hands to supply their necessities for the future?
I do not deem it proper on this occasion to enter into a labored investigation of the probabilities of amalgamation of the white with the negro race if the negroes should all be set free. How is it in point of fact? Do you find white gentlemen and white ladies marrying the free negroes that are now in this District? Do you find them marrying the negroes that are now free in Maryland, and I understand the Senator says there are over eighty thousand of them in that State? Do Senators find that the amalgamation of the white and negro race is in progress in the States they represent? And if so, does it progress more rapidly in the free than in the slave States? And in the slave States does it progress more rapidly among the free negroes than among the slaves. I have known of but three cases in my own State, and all three of those men married to wenches have been residents of slave States, where, I doubt not they acquired their tastes. [Laughter.] Liberating the negroes carries with it no obligation to marry their wenches to white men. Gentlemen may follow their tastes afterwards as now.
The Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. Wilson] has furnished me with the figures showing the exact number of free negroes in the States of Delaware and Maryland. In the former there are 19, 723 free negroes, and but 1,798 slaves, and in Maryland 83,718 free persons of color, and but 87,700 slaves. If the white population of Maryland does not intermarry and amalgamate with 83, 718 free negroes now in the State, would their tastes in that regard be changed in more of them were liberated? If the people of this city, the capital of the nation, are not now insulting our delicate sensibilities by intermarrying with nearly twelve thousand free negroes here, would their tastes be changed in that regard by the liberation of about fifteen hundred others, for I understand on consultation with the chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia that there are not now probably to exceed fifteen hundred slaves in the District. There were when the census was taken but a trifle over three thousand.
This is merely a fling intended on the part of those who use it to arouse a prejudice that they know is deep-seated in the minds of the people of the free States against association with the colored population. They know what I know and here state, that there is in all the free States a deep-seated prejudice against an association with the colored population – a prejudice that does not exist in the slave Sates. There you find this association together, not in the social circle, it is true. You find them, however at work together in the same shop, at the same bench, on the same farm, in the same buildings, at the same kind of toil. You find their children on the same play grounds, at the same games, at the same amusements, not unfrequently eating, sleeping, quarreling, and fighting with each other without reference to color. It is so in this District. We all observe it every day we live. Any man who will take the trouble to walk up Pennsylvania avenue at this moment will see the white hackman and the negro standing side by side, whip in hand, waiting for a job. He will see the white man and the negro on the cross streets, sitting on wagon or cart, side by side, waiting for employment. Go into the hotels, and you will find them there, white men and negroes, white females and colored females, in the employment of the same landlord. Go into the Government workshops, into your own navy yard, as I doubt not all have done, and as I have done, and you will see black men and white men working side by side swinging the same kind of hammer, forging the same piece of iron.
It is here in a slave District and in the slave States that men learn to associate familiarly as laborers and mechanics with the colored population; and as a result of that familiar association at the daily toils of life, there is less shrinking away from them; less reluctance at receiving them into their embrace, so handsomely described by the senator from Delaware but a moment since. No, sir; if you inquire for those willing to receive colored persons into their embrace, you will find a large majority of them born, brought up, and educated in the midst of a slave holding community; and as a result of this familiar association, you will find in every slaveholding community a much larger number of mulattoes than in the free states.
But then what is to be done with these fifteen hundred liberated slaves? If they are liberated we are told that they must be expatriated; they must be sent into some other country, into a strange community, and there compelled to provide in a land of strangers for the supply of their daily wants? Where are they now? In the bosom of the families [of] this metropolis. They are the house servants and field hands of those who now claim to be their owners. Whence, then, a necessity for expatriating them? It does not increase their number to liberate them. If their labor is now necessary for the industrial purposes and comfort of the people of this District, will it not be as necessary after they shall have been liberated? – If they are now needed as house servants and hotel servants, laborers and mechanics, in shops and fields, will they not be necessary afterwards? The only change in this regard that I can perceive is that after their liberation, and those who now enjoy their labor gratuitously will then, if their service are continued, be compelled to pay them reasonable compensation, the Government paying them a bonus of $300 each to relinquish the supposed right to their labor without the payment of wages. This is the only wrong that will have been inflicted on those who now own them. They now employ them, and give them food and raiment and shelter for their services, without reference to their own wishes, coercing obedience with the lash when found necessary. Afterwards they will be compelled to consult the will and wishes of the employed, and pay them probably stipulated wages, with which the servants will provide his own supplies. No injury is inflicted on society, no change is wrought on its organization, and no change is made in the political condition of the emancipated. They will have acquired no political rights or franchises. They will have acquired simply the right to enjoy as they choose the proceeds of their own labor. But if you confer this right on fifteen hundred more negroes now slaves in this district, we are gravely warned by Senators, in most eloquent and pathetic strains, that we will thus inaugurate a war of extermination between the white and black race! Yes if you confer on these fifteen hundred poor negroes the right now enjoyed by more than eleven thousand of their colored brethren now living in the District, allow them to collect and use the wages of their own labor, you will incite a spirit of wholesale murder! – Rather than pay them just compensation for their services, their former masters, who have lived on the proceeds of their unpaid toil, will take down their rifles and shoot them! A war of extermination is to arise! Sir, I have understood that it was murder now in this District to kill a colored man; that so far from justifying the indiscriminate murder of those poor people who are now free, you regard it as a very grave offense against society to shed his blood, and would arrest, indict, try and hang the felon who would perpetrate it in a single case. I inquire if it is not also a felony now in Maryland? I inquire of the Senator from Maryland, who predicts a war of extermination immediately on the liberation of the slaves in this district, why it has not heretofore commenced: and if it would not be murder to shoot or otherwise maliciously destroy the life of a free negro of his own State under the laws of Maryland as they now exist?
Mr. KENNEDY. If the honorable Senator desires an answer, I will say in a very few words that there is now a bitter antipathy between the laboring white people and the free blacks, and that it has been so strong heretofore in the State of Maryland that we have had great difficulty in restraining the passage of what we consider inhuman laws. The antipathy is very strong between the two classes of people, and I do not know how far they might be excited to deeds of violence, of the proportion of free blacks that now exists was greatly increased.
Mr. HARLAN. I am very much obliged to the Senator for his explanation; and yet I beg leave very respectfully to differ from him in relation to the fact which he has stated. In my opinion, these feelings are not excited by the laboring men. I see laboring white men standing side by side with laboring negroes in the District seeking for jobs, for employment –
Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator will allow me to say right here that I employ both classes, and one of the troubles that I have is to restrain that very feeling. I speak from experience.
Mr. HARLAN. I am inclined to think that any improper results which might grow out of this prejudice could be readily controlled by that part of the community enjoying high social and official position, like the Senator from Maryland and the Senator from Kentucky and the Senator from Delaware, who have spoken to-day. What is the inference to be drawn by the less reflecting from this statement made in this discussion. They declare, “if you liberate the slaves, allow them to become free, the free white people will rise and exterminate them;” and, is not the inference legitimate that it would, in the opinion of the speaker, be proper for this to be done? Is it not indirectly saying to every laboring white man of Maryland, “you may murder indiscriminately those that come in contact with your interests, in competition with you in the various avocations of life?” You say to them, “you will do so;” you say to this entire population in this District, “you will arise and murder the free colored people if we set a few more free;” and this statement thus far has not been accompanied even with so much as a regret at the supposed existence of such vindictiveness. Sir, the slaveholders of Maryland control the legislation of those States, and they control, to a fearful extend the opinion of the masses; and they can as readily give to public opinion the right as the wrong direction; they can as readily conform it to the plain principles of a Christianized humanity as to degrade it to the standard which controls the policy of communities in a savage condition.
Why, sir, I know a people not many hundred miles from my own home that are to-day engaged in a war of extermination. The Chippewas and the Sioux never meet each other on the plains, but to murder and massacre each other. A war of extermination with all the vindictiveness and atrocities common to savage life, is in progress. They meet only to imbrue their hands in their brothers’ blood.
Mr. KENNEDY. Will the honorable Senator allow me to make to him a single statement in further answer to the question he put just now?
Mr. HARLAN. Certainly.
Mr. KENNEDY. One of the worst riots we have had in Baltimore for many years, arose from the fact that free negroes were employed in the ship-yards as caulkers. They came in competition with a class of men who had before done work of that sort, who determined to drive them out of those yards, and from that cause a tremendous riot ensued. I do not even now know whether a single free negro is allowed to work in the ship-yards. There is a feeling against them on the part of a class of people who regard them as interfering with their exclusive privilege to do work of that sort themselves.
Mr. HARLAN. And in that I see an explanation of the suggestion I made. Of course the Senator’s knowledge of the facts existing in his own State, and in the metropolis of that State, is better than mine. I will not dispute the truth of his statement; but he winds it up by saying that even now he does not know that a “free negro” is permitted to work in the yards of that city; and why? Because the owners of the slaves cultivate this prejudice for the purpose of driving out the free negroes who come in competition with their own slave hands, so frequently hired out for wages to be placed in their owner’s pockets.
Mr. KENNEDY. The slave interest of the State of Maryland, I may be allowed to say, is a very small one – seventeen thousand altogether. That interest does not prevail anywhere in Maryland except in the tide-water counties. – The Senator is entirely mistaken in supposing that it prevails in Maryland. It is in a minority.
Mr. HARLAN. As to the fact, of course the Senator’s knowledge is more perfect than mine could be. I have in my hand, however, a statement furnished me by the Senator from Massachusetts, which gives the number of slaves in Maryland as eighty-seven thousand one hundred and eighty-eight.
Mr. KENNEDY. Yes, Sir.
Mr. HARLAN. I know the institution is going down in Maryland; it is sinking under the quiet influence of emigration from the free States and enlightened public opinion; but even in Maryland the slaveholding portion of the community controls its legislation, controls public opinion, and stimulates and sustains the savage doctrines which we have heard advanced on this floor from their Senators – I use the word with respect; but I illustrate it with the example I have just cited. As I have said, among the savages on our western plains, wars of extermination are going on day by day; these tribes are melting away by this vindictive and savage strife, which they keep up between belligerent tribes. Now, is it possible that Senators will teach the Senate and the country and the Christian world that the people of Maryland are not elevated in civilization above the condition of the Chippewas and Sioux; that there, too, we have hundreds of thousands of savages with white skins who will immediately commence a war of extermination – on whom? On men with whom they have lived their lives through, men who were born with them on the same soil, men who were brought up with them under the same roof, who played with them in childhood on the same grounds; who did not accompany them to the same schools for they have been excluded from the means of mental culture, who did not accompany them to the same church for they have been excluded also from a high order of religious culture.
Mr. KENNEDY. Does the honorable Senator mean to apply that remark to Maryland?
Mr. HARLAN. I am applying to Maryland the doctrines the Senator has advanced to-day. He says that in Maryland, if the slaves be set free, the white population will arise and massacre the entire colored population. If the people of Maryland will do this savage act, they are not to-day elevated above the condition of the Chippewas and Sioux; no, they are below the civilization of these savages, because they murder their enemies, not their friends, their servants, and the people of their own households.
Mr. KENNEDY. I trust the honorable Senator will allow me to make a statement.
Mr. HARLAN. Certainly.
Mr. KENNEDY. I think the Senator entirely misapprehends the scope of my remarks, and I desire to say here now, that we have some of the best regulated and best established churches and schools for negroes in the city of Baltimore that are to be found in the United States. We have, further than that, highly educated men who were slaves who are preaching to the free colored people of Baltimore. I have this day in my family a manumitted slave who has the privilege of teaching school. A manumitted slave of my own family is with me now, and is a teacher of a school. There is no restriction whatever in Maryland upon education of any sort in regard to the colored population.
Mr. HARLAN. I would inquire at the heel of that remark of the Senator if he has any disposition to murder them?
Mr. KENNEDY. None whatever; but there is a natural opposition that exists between two antagonist races of people; and the colored race has been protected by the well ordered and well regulated people of my State, men, like myself and other gentlemen who represent the state who are struggling everywhere to prevent the dominance of a rule that might be exercised by an antagonistic class.
Mr. HARLAN. And if the Senator does not feel a savage disposition to murder his freed man, does he say that the mass of the slaveholders of his State are less civilized than himself?
Mr. KENNEDY. Not one particle more than the people of the gentleman’s own country seem disposed to murder the white people of my section.
Mr. HARLAN. Then, if neither he nor his fellow slaveholders in Maryland now entertain such a disposition, I apprehended that no such cruel result will flow from the liberation of slaves that do not live in his own State, but live under a different jurisdiction. No, sir; these Senators have misrepresented their own people, they are not the savages they have been portrayed on this floor. I doubt not they are in possession of all the elements of humanity. A humanity that has been cultivated highly, cultivated well, and that they would be as far from murdering the colored men, merely because they are free, as would I or the people whom I represent.
Mr. DAVIS. Will the gentleman allow me a word?
Mr. HARLAN. Certainly.
Mr. DAVIS. The gentleman certainly misconceives or misrepresents the argument that I made. The position I assumed, and which I endeavored to sustain by argument was this: that if slaves were liberated in States where they exist in great numbers, without colonization, it would give rise to a war of races that would lead to the results which the gentleman is now deprecating; and I maintain that that is a true position.
Mr. HARLAN. I think that that might possibly be brought about through the teachings of such gentlemen as those who now represent these States on this floor. They declare on the floor of the American Senate in the face of a Christian nation, in the face of two hundred millions of Christians now living on the earth, that if men are to be liberated from a slavery that is more galling and degrading than any that has ever existed on the face of the earth from the commencement of time down to this moment their people will rise and murder the poor freed men. They say so without expressing so much as a regret. They declare it as a prophecy! – They thus inculcate its rightfulness. They thus teach their people, that in their opinion this wholesale murder would be right, or at least, the result of a weakness to be tolerated. They thus approve and justify this savage feeling – if it exists; but, sir, it does not exist; I will defend the people of Kentucky, of Maryland, of Delaware, and of this District, from any such slanderous aspersion. They entertain no such purpose on their part as the indiscriminate murder of the colored population, if they should become free. I doubt not but that the public sentiment that now exists, induced by the slaveholders themselves, in the States to which I have referred, is bitterly opposed to the liberation of the slaves; but if these slaves should be set free, it will be effected by their own Legislatures; and if thus set free, no such savage war would arise. Nor is it probable that their liberation by the exercise of arbitrary power, of which there is not the slightest apprehension on the part of these Senators themselves, could such an historical anomaly be produced.
The Senator from Massachusetts very aptly inquired of Senators who have rung the changes on this supposed calamity, to inform the Senate when such a wholesale murder ever commenced between members of the same community on account of race? Can any Senator put his hand on the page of history that records it? None have, and none can. You say that if two races are thrown together as freemen, they will necessarily engender a war of extermination. Such a war never did commence between two races of free people; and until the laws of the human mind and the human heart change, never will. You cannot point to any great people that has ever existed that has not been composed to a greater or less extend of, so called, different races. You may refer to any of the great empires of antiquity – the Chaldean, the Persian, the Assyrian, the Grecian, and the Roman empires, and you will find that they each embraced people of every kindred, tongue, and race, and from every clime. It has been so of every highly enlightened and prosperous people since civilization dawned. It is so now of the most polished and powerful nations of Europe and Asia. In proof, I need but cite the British and French Empires. To say that men of different, so called, races are natural enemies to each other, and will commence and wage a war of extermination when brought into contact, is a libel on humanity. It is a libel on the Author of the human race. The Almighty never implanted such feelings in the human heart. They never have been cultivated by an enlightened people. Wars of extermination exist only among savages; and with them only between belligerent tribes.
But I was drawn away from the argument of the Senator from Delaware, that if the fifteen hundred slaves who are now the chambermaids, and the bootblacks, and the barbers, and the hostlers, and the wood choppers and wood sawyers, and coal carriers, and cart drivers, and carriage drivers and laborers on the gardens and grounds that surround this magnificent palace shall be liberated, somebody will commence a wholesale murder.
Mr. SAULSBURY. I said no such thing. If the gentleman is alluding to me, I did not say a word about it.
Mr. HARLAN. I am most happy to hear the Senator recant the doctrine I have attributed to him.
Mr. SAULSBURY. I do not recant anything. I said nothing of the kind.
Mr. HARLAN. The negroes then will be saved. There is no danger of this wholesale murder.
Mr. SAULSBURY. I will reply to the gentleman when he is through.
Mr. HARLAN. There is no danger of this war of extermination at least in the streets of this capital; and the fifteen hundred slaves now laboring quietly under the control of their masters will probably not be murdered by their former owners if they should be liberated. I would almost guaranty that the liberated slaves will not murder their masters if their masters will not murder them. The mere fact of their liberation could hardly incite them to such a diabolical course of conduct. Why should it? If they prefer to live under the shelter that their masters have provided for them, and to labor day by day without wages for the gratuity they may receive from the hand of their former owner, their legal freedom will not compel a severance. I will not vote for a law to compel them to leave. The Senator desires us to do so; he proposes an amendment to this bill that will compel these poor men to leave their kind masters, to go homeless and penniless and friendless into a land of strangers. I voted against his proposition. I am disposed to leave them where they now are, and let them work on for their masters; if their masters choose to pay them for their labor, all well; and if they decide to work on without pay, be it so. I perceive no motive that can arise out of the removal of the legal shackles that bind them, calculated to stimulate a disposition to murder or destroy. They would be anomalous human beings if the mere act of liberating them would convert them into savages and murders.
If neither their masters nor they are disposed to engage in such strif, I apprehend there is no great danger. I never yet have met a white man or white woman in the District who manifested this species of vindictiveness against the colored people. I am gland for the same of humanity that it is so. Why should they? Do you answer because they are poor and ugly and ignorant and feeble. Is it possible that an American Senator will teach here to-day that because the white race is said to be more powerful and more highly endowed, and has acquired a high position in the scale of civilization, he may with impunity trample on the feeble and defenseless? The advancement of such a dogma ought to mantle the statesman’s cheek with the blush of shame. It is at war with every manly impulse. Why, sir, I have occasionally in passing through the rough society which sometimes congregates on the frontier, observed a strong, powerful man stepping into the ring in the midst of a broil “to pick up the glove,” as it was called, in defense of a gray haired man, or a boy, or a feeble person, about to be assailed by some thoughtless person of superior strength, with the declaration, “sir, if you must have a fight take a man of your inches,” and such an act never failed to secure the applause of the crowd. This is true humanity; it is moral courage; it is a kind of natural religion, superior to much we hear from the pulpit. It is true courage; it prompts to personal sacrifice in the defense of the feeble. And I have never yet witnessed a crowd of frontiersmen, however rough and uncultivated, who could be induced to applaud the victor in a contest with an inferior. This principle of humanity it is thought by many was illustrated on a grand scale when the English nation and the French people stepped in between Russia and the Turks. Here was a great and powerful nation attempting to crush out a feeble people. The contest was unequal; it was the athletic champion with iron muscles in deadly strife with the child or decrepit age, and two powerful nations stepped in between them and commanded peace, and took up the glove in defense of the weaker. I suppose this element of humanity to be the foundation of that manly pride that most men experience when they stand in defense of their own families, in defense of their wives and children and parents. They stand between the feeble and the strong, and peril their existence in defence of their rights. As a nation we act from these generous and manly impulses in our intercourse with the children of the prairies and forests. They are comparatively a feeble people, incapable of taking care of themselves, and you organize a bureau under the Government and appoint a Commissioner and appropriate millions of dollars year by year to pay agents to stand between them and your own citizens who might be stimulated by avarice to become their oppressors. And this policy usually receives the applause of Christian men. – It is but another illustration of better impulses of an enlightened humanity – a powerful nation stretches out its strong arm to protect the feeble.
Here is another feeble people, a race of men that are inferior to us in beauty, not equal to us in symmetry of body, not equal to us possibly in original mental and moral capacities or endowments. They are supposed not to be as capable of taking care of themselves as the Anglo-Saxons or others of the Caucasian race; and on that account you tell me they are to be trampled under foot. You are to trample them into the earth because they are feeble! Do you treat your own feeble people in this way? I have sometimes stepped into a probate court, and I have seen a judge sitting on the tribunal of justice appointing a guardian for the persons and property of orphan children, and requiring him to give bond and security for the proper execution of the trust. They have neither father nor mother; these natural guardians have been called hence; they may become the victims of avarice or malice. The officer of the law steps in for their protection. You sir, see this evidence of a Christian civilization! And two hundred millions of Christians scattered up and down in the earth united in applause. Orators and statesmen chime in with the axiom, the very object of the organization of civil society is the protection of the weak from the aggression of the strong.
Now if this be so in relations to every other people, in relation to weak members of your race, would it not be equally humane to provide for the protection of feeble colored people that have been born in our midst without any fault surely of their own; who have been cast here, you may say, as waifs on society by an act of Providence? Are we to crush them with the iron heel of civilization that brings only blessings to all others? And if their shackles shall be stricken off, are we indeed doomed to witness their indiscriminate murder because they are weak, because they are less capable of providing means of their own defense than we? This is an illustration of what is sometimes styled the superior civilization of the slave system, and a conception of an enlightened humanity that I could not have believed a few years since would have been exemplified on the floor of the American Senate; because a people are weak, therefore you have a right to murder them, murder them indiscriminately, murder them en masse only because they are no longer slaves.
– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 1