The Beaufort Negroes — A Small Elephant on Hand.
The "subjugation" of a small slaveholding district in South Carolina thickly "people" by "chattels" whose (pardon the bad grammar) owners have run away, leaving the slaves the "masters of the situation," "subject only to the constitution of the United States," and the armies thereof, presents a practical question for practical solution! It may appear a very simple problem to some of our "statesmen" of the abolition persuasion; but to us it appears surrounded by difficulties and embarrassments.
Let us suppose, for instance, that the military occupation of our armies shall extend to Beaufort district, and contiguous territory enough to embrace a slave population of 50,000 of all ages, sexes, hues and conditions — what shall we do with them? That is the question the solution of which it would seem cannot be long postponed.
The irrepressible "friends of human freedom" would probably declare the slaves free and turn them loose to take care of themselves, like the rest of mankind. Very well; suppose we do so, is the problem solved and disposed of? Who shall govern the newly made "citizens?" Shall they be subject to martial law only? If so, what "sovereign" shall succeed when our armies "abdicate?" — as they must sooner or later. If the state of South Carolina finally resumes her allegiance, will she not reduce the enfranchised slaves to their old condition? If, on the contrary, our armed occupation is to be made permanent, must not the negroes be admitted to the enjoyment of the "inalienable right" of self-government? And if so, what sort of a government would they get? Who is to have the estates abandoned by the rebels and confiscated by our government? If the negroes, by what moral right? If loyal white emigrants, what relations will they hold to the negroes — who will be as ten or twenty to one white? Admitting them to citizenship or at least to freedom, how will a sprinkling of whites keep the ignorant and turbulent masses in any sort of subjection? Or if numbers be permitted to rule, regardless of color, intelligence, or moral qualifications, will not the poor and needy vote to "possess the land" and abolish the tenures in virtue of which they shall have been excluded from the ownership of the soil? But we will suggest no more difficulties, although they continue to increase as one reflects upon the subject. We would remark, however, that a moment's reflection will convince one that the question must be settled, if at all, upon the basis of allowing the negroes to remain where they are, if not in the condition in which we find them. For it would be physically impossible to transport them to Africa or even to Hayti, were there none but physical obstacles in the way. And as to permitting them to wend their way to the north — that is a thing not to be thought of. For were the intermediate country favorably disposed to their transit, they would find an impassable barrier as soon as they should reach the boundary of a free state. This we deem it perfectly safe to assume in advance. It is not a matter of doubt that the moment this state, for instance, were threatened with an immigration of 60,000 or 100,000 negroes just converted from slaves to freemen, the people, without respect to party, would insist upon the passage of a law that should secure us an exemption from so intolerable a nuisance. And every northern state would hasten to adopt a similar policy.
Thus we see that we have already on our hands a small "elephant" which it will tax all our ingenuity to dispose of.