The Sorrows of the Negro Equalitists.
ILLINOIS AND INDIANA DENOUNCED FOR THEIR REFUSAL TO OPEN THE WAY FOR NEGRO IMMIGRATION.
The following article from the New York Tribune of the 4th instant is suggestive:
A friend called two days since to seek counsel as to his course under these circumstances: He is one of a firm engaged in hiring at Cairo fugitives from rebel slavery and employing them in the only industry with which they are familiar — cotton growing — at some point in the loyal States.
They had intended to locate in Missouri, but the U. S. military authorities at Cairo reasonably objected that Missouri was a slave State, and such location might expose the fugitives to being again reduced to slavery — in fact, might possibly be intended to do so.
They were thus restricted to the area of the free States, whereof a mere fraction will grow cotton at all. They procured a tract, therefore, near Jonesboro, Ills., and set to work; but the Copperheads of that county (Union), which gives 1,800 Democratic to 142 Republican votes, are "down on niggers," and have the execrable "black laws" of Illinois at their backs; so they are hunting away the poor fugitives, and our friend knows not what to do. Meantime, the season of plowing and planting for cotton is slipping away; and the result of this inhumanity will probably be the dispersion of the poor blacks — who have no education, no experience in managing for themselves, and are in truth but larger children — and their exposure to famine, pestilence, abuse and re-enslavement. And then the shout will go up from every proslavery rum-hole: "Didn't we tell you that niggers can't get along if you free them?"
The States of Indiana and Illinois are this day in pressing need of one hundred thousand farm laborers, to replace their citizens who have gone to the war. Their usual crops cannot be planted and tilled for want of this labor. But they need it only because their cruel laws repel the laborers who would gladly supply their want. — Tens of thousands of freed men are clustered about Cairo, St. Louis, Memphis, &c., and strung all the way above the Ohio and Mississippi, who would gladly do chiefly the work which they sorely need. But their infamous "black laws" enable the meanest and most venomous Copperheads to hunt away or imprison any of these poor laborers who enter the State; and the result is enormous loss to the whites and death or re-enslavement to the unhappy blacks. And those who thus deny to these poor victims the privilege of doing the rudest work for the scantiest wages are continually clamoring that "free niggers won't work," and "can't take care of themselves."
In Kentucky, the case seems rather worse, though worse in seeming only. — Thousands of fugitives from rebel slavery in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, &c., have drifted into that State on their way to actual freedom. Every one of them is to day a free man by the treason of their masters, the acts of Congress, and the express terms of the President's proclamation. But every negro is presumptively a slave in Kentucky, and her laws provide for the selling into actual bondage of those found going at large in that State who have not a legal domicile within it.
Under these laws, it is a profitable business to arrest these hapless fugitives, threw them into jail, advertise and sell them. — And the Kentucky journals overflow with advertisements accordingly. We judge that loyal blacks who have fled from rebel masters, and are therefore entitled to their liberty, are now being re-enslaved in Kentucky at the rate of at least five thousand per annum.
Will some of our friends, who think they understand this whole matter so much better than we do, be good enough to tell us how to secure justice for these poor wanderers? The black laws of Indiana and Illinois are no whit less detestable, less diabolical, than slavery itself. They have the same source, the same spirit, and are equally at war with humanity and natural right. And yet we actually know no way in which they can be annulled, save by making the people of those States respectively ashamed of them, and so securing their virtual, if not formal, repeal. We shall be very glad to learn that there is some readier and surer way, but we do not now know any.
Will some of those who think we err in holding that a State restored by loyalty to the Union might re-establish slavery if she saw fit, just set to work and upset, by some judicial process, these atrocious black laws of Indiana and Illinois, and free once more those fugitive Unionists from the South whom Congress and the President have emancipated, but whom Kentucky nevertheless re-enslaves? Here is a practical work to be done, and an urgent need that it be done forthwith. If our critics are right on the law, there can be no difficulty and should be no delay. Which among them will try conclusions with the infamous laws and usages we have held up to reprobation, and show how they can be subverted otherwise than by the action of the States which now uphold them?