Free and Slave Labor--To Workingmen in Ohio
Columbus Daily Ohio Statesman, November 2, 1860
The Republicans claim to be in favor of Congressional exclusion of slavery so that, as they allege, free labor and slave labor shall not be brought into competition in the Territories. On this ground they make the most earnest and affecting appeals to workingmen for their votes.
Never was a more transparent humbug invented to deceive and entrap the honest mass of the people. Congressional enactments never did and never will make a fact of free or slave territory. According to locality, climate and production, the system of free or slave labor will prevail. This will be determined by the natural laws governing immigration to and settlement in the Territories. The Republican State organ in this city, not long since, contained articles logically demonstrating that in the natural and necessary course of events our present public domain must all, with perhaps trifling exceptions, be and remain forever free territory. It is perfectly clear that where the people of a Territory want slavery, they will have it in spite of Congressional prohibitions, and where they do not want it, neither legislative enactments or judicial decisions can force it in. It is, therefore, sheer deception to claim votes for LINCOLN in order to keep slavery out of the Territories.
But there is a view of this subject of free and slave labor, to which we invite the serious attention of workingmen in Ohio. It is the habit of the Republicans to represent the two systems as antagonistic, and for this reason to demand, not only the exclusion of slavery from the Territories, but its extermination in the United States.
The two systems of free and slave labor, as they are called, are only so far antagonistic, that the people of a State or Territory will, in the regulation of their domestic policy, adopt the one or the other. If they do not choose the system best suited to their condition and interests, it is their own business, not that of other people. But as respects the different sections of the Union, free and slave labor are not antagonistic, but mutually beneficial to the people of each section.
Leaving out of view the abstract question of the justice or injustice of slavery, it exists, as we all know, under the Constitution of the United States, in the States which have made it legal. These States owe their wealth and the production of their great staples to slave labor. This production—this slave labor is the basis of the commerce, the manufactures and the general prosperity of the North. It is this despised slave labor which gives the working men in the North employment, and affords them better wages than the same labor will command in any other country on the globe.
It requires no deep insight into the intricate principles of political economy to understand why this is so. It is plain and obvious upon the surface. Of the exports of the country, seventy per cent is from the South. These exports are made almost wholly in Northern ships owned by Northern capitalists, built by Northern workmen, and manned by Northern seamen.
The South is the great consumer of the manufactures and produce of the North. The consumption of Northern manufactures and of the produce of the free States of the West in the South, amounts annually to the immense sum of $240,000,000. It is this great consumption—it is the mutual intercourse and traffic between the two sections, which infuses life and activity into Northern capital and industry, and benefits the workingmen, whether employed in the manufactory, the work-shop, or on the farm.
The Republicans are making war upon the Southern people to depreciate and make them ultimately forego that system of labor which they prefer, and which is so interwoven with their own prosperity and that of the whole country, that its destruction would be disastrous to both North and South.
If the Republican policy should prevail in the administration of the Federal Government, or even if that party becomes dominant in the North, and arrays the free States against the South, as it has already done where it has had the power, the consequence will be, if not an immediate dissolution of the Union, an interruption of that unrestrained intercourse which has heretofore existed between the two sections, and a determination on the part of the South, in self-protection, to depend less upon the North, and more upon its own resources.
This will, gradually, and if LINCOLN should be elected it may suddenly, produce a stagnation in Northern trade and productive industry that will repeat, on a broader and more enduring scale, the terrible financial crises of '37-'40, and reduce fearfully both the number of laborers and the wages of labor in the North, while increasing fourfold the cost of many of the necessaries of life.
We have given briefly a few hints to the workingmen of Ohio. But if they follow out these suggestions, they will see clearly the result to them and their families and children of this political antagonism to slave labor in the South, which the Republicans are fomenting, under the pretense of being the friends of free labor. They are really the enemies of free labor, and are doing all in their power to injure it. The election of LINCOLN, if such a disastrous event should take place, will inflict a blow upon every workingman in the North who needs, for the support of himself and family, constant employment and the highest wages he can now obtain.
If, therefore, the laborers in Ohio desire themselves and their fellow-workmen to remain independent and prosperous, they will vote unhesitatingly for that Presidential candidate who is the true friend of free labor, and who can, if they do their duty, defeat LINCOLN in Ohio.