But there are other condition, not set forth in statute law, with which the existence of slavery is inseparably connected- those, namely, which affect the masters of slaves.
Of all forms of prayer none is more strictly adapted to the nature and the wants of man than this: "Lead us not into temptation." Men, in the mass, cannot be habitually tempted with impunity. It was said of one only that He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
But of all human temptations, one of the strongest and most dangerous is that which attends the possession, throughout life, of arbitrary and irresponsible power. As a rule it is always abused. A beneficent despotism is the rarest of exceptions. This is one of the great lessons of history, upon which is based the doctrine of popular right and the theory of a republican government.
Under no phase of society has the operation of the law which connects sin with ceaseless temptation been more apparent than in States where slavery prevails. One of our greatest statesmen, himself a sufferer under the evils he deprecates, has set forth in strong terms the practical results.
"There must, doubtless," said Jefferson, "be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people, produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions-the most unremitting despotism on one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it, for man is an imitative animal. * * * The parent storms; the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped with its odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and his morals under such circumstances." a
It has been customary to illustrate the influence of slavery on the dominant race by adducing individual examples of barbarous cruelty exercised toward slaves by their masters. b These might be multiplied indefinitely, but they are less conclusive of the effects inseparable from the system than the picture drawn by Jefferson, the exact truth of which every one familiar with the interior of Southern society will admit.
a Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, chapter on Customs and Manners, p.270.
b A single example from among many that came to our notice may here suffice. It is selected as exhibiting the uncontrolled passion and fearful inhumanity of that spirit, bred by arbitrary and irresponsible power, which could visit with terrible punishment a light and venal offense. It was testified to by an eye- witness, a respectable colored mechanic, Solomon Bradley by name, who was employed for several years on the railroad between Charleston and Savannah.
One morning this witness, going for a drink of water to a house near the line of the railroad, occupied by a Mr. F., heard dreadful screams in the door-yard. Looking through an aperture in the board fence, he saw a woman stretched, face downward, on the ground, her hands and feet bound to stakes. Over her stood her master, Mr. F., striking her with a leathern trace belonging to his carriage-harness. As the strokes fell the flesh of her back and legs was raised in welts and ridges. Occasionally, when the poor creature cried out with insufferable pain, her tormentor kicked her in the mouth to silence her. When he had exhausted himself by flogging, he called for sealing wax and a lighted candle, and, melting the wax, dropped it on the woman's lacerated back. Then, taking a riding-whip and standing over the poor wretch, he deliberately picked off, by switching, the hardened wax. While this scene of torture was acted, Mr. F.'s grown-up daugherts were looking on from a window that opened on the yard.
Afterward Bradley made inquiry of the woman's fellow-servants as to what