In one thing I concur with the abolitionists; that if emancipation is to be brought about, it is better that it should be immediate and total. But let us suppose it to be brought about in any manner, and then inquire what would be the effects.
The first and most obvious effect, would be to put an end to the cultivation of our great Southern staple. And this would be equally the result, if we suppose the emancipated negroes to be in no way distinguished from the free labourers of other countries, and that their labor would b equally effective. . . Imagine an extensive rice or cotton plantation cultivated by free laborers, who might perhaps strike for an increase of wages, at a season when the neglect of a few days would insure the destruction of the whole crop. Even if it were possible to procure laborers at all, what planter would venture to carry on his operations under such circumstances? I need hardly say that these staples cannot be produced to any extent where the proprietor of the soil cultivates it with his own hands. He can do little more than produce the necessary food for himself and his family.
And what would be the effect of putting an end to the cultivation of these staples, and thus annihilating, at a blow, two-thirds or three-fourths of our foreign commerce? Can any sane mind contemplate such a result without terror? I speak not of the utter poverty and misery to which we ourselves would be reduced, and the desolation which would overspread our own portion of the country. Our slavery has not only given existence to millions of slaves within our own territories, it has given the means of subsistence, and therefore, existence, to millions of freemen in our confederate States; enabling them to send forth their swarms to overspread the plains and forests of the West, and appear as the harbingers of civilization. The products of the industry of those States are in general similar to those of the civilized world, and are little demanded in their markets. By exchanging them for ours, which are everywhere sought for, the people of these States are enabled to acquire all the products of art and industry, all that contributes to convenience or luxury, or gratifies the taste of the intellect, which the rest of the world can supply. Not only on our own continent, but on the other, it has given existence to hundreds of thousands, and the means of comfortable subsistence to millions. A distinguished citizen of our own Stat, than whom none can be better qualified to form an opinion, has lately stated that our great staple, cotton, has contributed more than anything else of later times to the progress of civilization. By enabling the poor to obtain cheap and becoming clothing, it has inspired a taste for comfort, the first stimulus to civilization. Does not self-defense, then, demand of us steadily to resist the abrogation of that which is productive of so much good? It is more than self-defense. IT is to defend millions of human beings, who are far removed from us, from the intensest suffering, if not from being struck out of existence. It is the defense of human civilization.