Practically, the Question of Slavery in the Territories

Boston Daily Courier, December 11, 1860

It does not lie in the power of Congress and the President to plant slavery in a single square mile of those Territories. Grant the right to do so, constitutionally, by unanimous act of both branches of Congress, with the consent of all the people,—give slavery every possible guaranty there for its protection and perpetuation—and yet not a slave would go there. It would require the act of a higher power—by change of climate—to make the conditions by which alone slaves can be taken and kept there. The reason simply is, because "it would not pay." What will not pay will not be done.

There are more than 30 million acres of good fertile land, in a state of nature, unimproved and untouched by labor, within the bounds of the Cotton growing slave States—capable of producing twenty million bales of cotton, or about four times the present crop of that staple, or an equivalent in sugar, rice and tobacco; and this over and above a reservation of land enough to supply food for all the laboring force required for its cultivation and its employers. The labor for such a production would require three or four times the present number of field slaves now employed in these crops in all the United States. With the world at peace, trade and manufactures prosperous, and the markets for these productions extending in a ratio like that of the last twenty years, the value of labor—that is, the price of slaves,—must increase in all that region. They have lately been profitably worked at a value of $1500 or $1800 for each able-bodied "field hand." Calculate the time required to supply this labor, and occupy this land with slaves, under the powerful stimulus of great profits. Not even the reopening of the slave trade under protection of the United States flag, aiding the natural increase of this class of labor, could supply it fast enough to prevent the five-fold greater stream of free labor pouring down from the Northwest, overflowing and possessing the country down to central Texas.

To talk of removing them from locations of such profitable use as this, and the still greater prospective profits, to a locality where they cannot be profitably used at any price—where they would be a tax and burthen to their owners to feed and clothe them, in comparison with the cost of hired labor, for any crops to which the soil and climate of the Territories are suited—is as absurd as to propose the reversal of the laws of matter, or the laws of trade. Slave labor, like all other purchasable values, must follow economical laws. Its prolonged stay after it has ceased to be profitable, in localities where it has long been established, is exceptional in appearance, because feeling and habit and domestic ties made the change difficult and slow, but not the less sure.

Look at Missouri. Slavery is there established by law, and amply protected by the irritation of opposition, by prejudice, by alliance with other slave States. Yet it has wasted and faded with an accelerating rate before free labor—because slave labor was more profitable elsewhere, hired labor cheaper and more profitable in Missouri. It is now virtually and to all intents and purposes a free State. How futile then the attempt to plant slavery in any Territory of the same latitude and climate.

Look at Texas, a slave State with rights guarantied of subdividing it into three more States. Southern Texas has soil and climate admirably adapted for slave labor, suitable for the slave grown crops. Land is cheap, immigration invited and urged. Yet such is the demand for and value of this labor in the other cotton States, that it is doubtful if Southern Texas will have population enough for two States, before Northern Texas will be occupied by a non-slaveholding population.

Practically, then, there is no earthly power can plant any more slave States, and the North and the South are guilty alike of the supremest folly. The one is denying what she cannot give if she would, the other demanding what she cannot accept, and each is ready to rush upon the destruction of itself and the other, for this empty privilege of being insanely obstinate, the victims of the political demagogues who play upon these jarring chords to work their own selfish ends.