Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/133
The Old System of Slavery. 125
[From the Baltimore (Md.) Sun, June 14, 1903.]
THE OLD SYSTEM OF SLAVERY.
Its Compensations and Contrasts With Present Labor Conditions.
It is a graceless task, in this twentieth century, to say anything that looks like a defense, or even an apology, for slavery; but the proverb tells us to give even the devil his due, and on that ground, at least, those who most hate the memory of slavery may listen to the following suggestions. They are submitted to the read- ers of The Sun that the children of the slaveholders in Maryland and Virginia may be saved from being betrayed into the error of regarding with reprobation the conduct of their parents in holding slaves.
Those who rejoice most in the emancipation of the negroes must find a serious check in their exultation if they open their eyes to some of the chief changes in the condition of the negro race since its emancipation.
The negro slave was a highly valuable member of the body poli- tic; a tiller of the soil whose services could be counted on when the crop was pitched, and a laborer who furnished to 'all his fellows, young and old, sick and well, a more liberal supply of the necessa- ries of life than was ever granted to any other laboring class in any other place or any other age. And in what the Economists call the distribution of the wealth that was produced by the negro's labor and the skill of the master who guided and restrained him, the share the master took was small indeed compared with what the Captains of Industry took in the free society of the same day. Compared with the share those captains take now, the modest share taken by the masters was what the magnates of to-day would scorn to con- sider. The negro lived, too, in cheerful ignorance of the ills for which he has been so much pitied. One is startled now to hear the cheerful whistle or the loud outburst of song from a negro that once was heard on every hand, night and day. Nor was his attitude one of mere resignation to his lot. That it was one of hearty good will to the masters was conclusively shown during the war between the States. A distinguished Northern writer has lately invited attention