Charles Stuart to Frederick Douglass, March 2, 1855
For Frederick Douglass' Paper.
LETTER FROM CAPTAIN CHARLES STUART.
Lora, March 2, 1855.
DEAR SIR: -- A man is excavating a well.—The earth above him gives way, and overwhelms him with its weight. His first effort is to heave it off. His utmost struggles fail, and his heart sinks within him. But now he hears the voices of his friends, and hope revives. He listens; oh, how intensely he listens! His friends at once commence to shovel off the deadly weight. But presently they differ about the best modes of procedure. Innovations are introduced and rejected. Discord impedes their progress; and again his soul sinks under the despairing thought, that if his friends, his many friends, thus frustrate each other's equally benevolent purpose, what is left for him but death!
Those thoughts came with force to my soul this morning, when the following words, as reported of Mr. Breckenbridge, struck my eye:
"That it is our deliberate and solemn conviction, that the lasting prosperity and true glory of this Commonwealth, will be promoted by such changes in the Constitution, as will gradually abolish slavery, and tend to remove the colored population."
And this from Kentucky—the heroic Kentucky—and from one of its noblest sons—from Breckenbridge, whom God has endowed with some of His chiefest gifts.
The gradual abolition of slavery, for the glory and honor of a mighty and enlightened nation!! The gradual abolition of slavery, that is, the gradual abolition of sin; and not of one sin only, but of a complication of sins! For, what is slavery in the United States but a legalized, deliberate and practical system of fraud, felony, adultery and murder, whatever be the varieties in its practice by individual slaveholders.
How wide, as heaven and earth asunder, is this conviction, from the Divine Remedy, "Let him that stole, steal no more!" Trust in the "Lord and do good!" "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal!" Thou "Shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!"
And its corollary, the removal of the colored people? That is, the expatriation by force or fraud, nolens volens, of the most aggrieved, most hopeless, and most suffering of the whole population, in order to gratify the worse than imperial pride of the slaveocracy and of its menials!
Lie still, thou poor crushed one, for what hope hast thou in thy friends, for Breckenbridge is still intentionally thy friend, when even he can thus side with thy deadliest enemies; and when other of the friends, as honest and sincere in their intentions as he is, and more upright in this particular than he, are rife with discord.
What hope! Yes, there is hope! For man is man, capable of repenting, however deeply sunken now in guilt and folly! Truth is great and will prevail, however smothered for the present by hypocritical and tyrant power. Man is made for liberty, whatever be his class or color, however insanely the fraud perpetrate the oppression of the poor, or however servilely the poor crouch for the time being, beneath the deadly weight of resistless power. God is not dethroned. He yet reigns; and there yet is hope against hope, even where no hope appears. Thy friends are in earnest, though divided. They suffer with thee, although not as thou dost; and they would prefer death with thee, to siding with the oppressor in criminal power!
Yes, poor sinning brother, doubly poor because guilty! Yes, poor suffering brother, less poor because less sinning; there is hope for the oppressor as well as for the oppressed.
The darkest midnight is precursor to the morning. The very madness and extravagance of sin often lead to repentance. The extremity of suffering and despair, renders deliverance more sweet. Deliverance is coming! "Wait, thou poor slave," upon the Lord; be of good courage, and "He shall strengthen thy heart." Repent and turn thee, thou oppressor, that the cry of the laborers, who have reaped down your fields, which is, of you kept back by fraud may not [illegible] your gold and silver, and eat your flesh as it were fire. James v.1-6. Ye friends of the slaves, and of the slave-master, press on—redouble your efforts and cease not till deliverance beaccomplished, and the earth be no longer polluted by the slave-master's tread, and the lives and fresh air of heaven be no longer laden with the moan of the slaves.