The Only Possible Compromise

New-York Daily Tribune, January 19, 1861

The proposition discussed in THE TRIBUNE a few days ago, that Congress should purchase and emancipate the slaves in the Border Slave States has already attracted considerable attention, and meets with much favor from all but the fanatical devotees of Slavery in the North, who, like Charles O'Conor, consider the institution a divine blessing, and would be glad to re-introduce it into the Free States. A resolution in favor of gradual compensated emancipation in the Border States and of colonizing the negroes in Liberia, was yesterday offered in the NewYork Assembly, and referred to the Committee on Federal Relations.

The facts are briefly these: In the States of Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana there are about 600,000 slaves, and more than four times as many whites. Last week a gang of twenty-four cotton and plantation negroes were sold at auction in Charleston for an average of $437. The price of slaves, it is well known, is not so high in most of the States we have named as in South Carolina. Taking into account the old, and the feeble, the women and the children, it is evident that the average worth of negroes cannot be more than $400, and is probably much less. The sum of $240,000,000 would, therefore, be an ample compensation for the liberation of all the slaves in the States we have named.

It is not necessary, however, to contemplate their immediate, unconditional emancipation. Whatever scheme may be adopted, should conform in a measure to the wishes of the States immediately concerned; that is to say, such of them as may see fit to accept an offer by Congress to pay for the slaves. Delaware, for instance, which has already upward of 18,000 free blacks, could have no serious objection to allowing her two thousand slaves to remain after emancipation as free laborers. Louisiana, on the other hand, with more slaves than whites, might prefer to have them gradually emancipated and removed to Central America, or to Hayti or Jamaica, where they would be gladly welcomed. By an organized system of transportation their removal to those countries could be effected with comparatively little difficulty or expense. Some definite period, not very remote, say 1876, the Centennial Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, could be fixed upon as the date of final emancipation; Congress, in the meantime, buying and removing those whom their owners were willing to emancipate at once for a compensation fixed by capable and impartial Commissioners.

The arguments in favor of this scheme are that it offers a peaceful solution of the troubles which now agitate the country; that it would check the increase of Slavery, and in time rid us of an odious and formidable evil, the ultimate result of which, if some remedy be not soon applied, will be to Africanize one-half of the continent; and lastly, that it would add largely to the general wealth and prosperity of the nation by the immense rise in value and in profitableness of real estate in the South. For Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Texas, emancipation, with the aid of the Federal Government, is not nearly so great an undertaking as was the abolition of Slavery in New-York, New-Jersey, and Pennsylvania, which was effected by those States without any assistance from any quarter.

To the nation at large, and especially to the Free States, the money this project would cost would be no objection. One year of war would cost as much or more. The purchase of Cuba, on the terms proposed by Mr. Buchanan, would have required as large a sum. The nation has at hand an obvious and available resource to carry out the financial part of the measure in the public lands, whose value at the lowest estimate cannot fail to be more by several hundreds of millions of dollars than that of all the slaves in the States north of the Potomac and west of the Mississippi.