And now, therefore, going back to our starting point on the African coast, and following up once more the two diverging branches of the great stream of slave immigration flowing west- the one branch bearing 500,000 captives to this northern continent, the other conveying 15,000,000 to islands and a continent farther south-we are able, by the light of recent experience, to present more fully and clearly than ever before the comparative results in either case. Increase or decrease, apparent success or undeniable failure, the ultimate results have been fatal alike.
The 15,000,000 dispatched to the West Indian colonies and to south America never, as a population, took healthy root in the lands to which they were banished. They had no growth from the first; and ever after, century by century, they melted away under the influences of the system that degraded adn destroyed them. Their fate and the lesson it conveyed were immediate and apparent. God stamped the policy which enslaved them at every stage of its progress with His reprobation.
But, as to the 500,000 that came among us, the mark of Divine condemnation, apparently suspended for a time, came in a different form at last. For a time that 500,000 increased and multiplied and replenished the earth; for a time their masters were wealthy and prosperous, as men usually rate prosperity; for a time these masters increased in political power; they held sway in the Republic; they controlled the National Legislature; they obtained a majority of the public offices. The end was delayed, and, when it came at last, it was the direct result of the peculiarities of character impressed by slavery on its votaries. Imperious and insubordinate, they rebelled against lawful authority. Spurning wholesome control, they rejected the President who was the choice of the majority. Despiring a working people, they sought to sever connection with the North-a race of unblushing laborers. Seduced by evil habit into the belief that man's noblest condition is to live by the exertions of others, they undertook to erect a separate political system of which slavery was to be the corner stone.
Thus did slavery bring on a civil war between brethren of the same race, and tongue, and faith-a war widespread, and embittered and desolating as wars have seldom been. Thus will slavery have caused the violent death, in the country which tolerated it, of 500,000 of free people. Thus will slavery leave behind it, in the country where it held its millions in bonds, a public debt little short, it may be, of that which loads down the industry of Great Britain. If God in his mercy shall, in the end, preserve us from results to which these deaths and losses are but as dust in the balance; if our punishment does not extend to dismemberment, anarchy, extinction as a great nation; if lookers on from European courts are not to moralize on the ignominious failure of the noblest experiment to reconcile democratic liberty and public order that was ever instituted by man, let us remember how narrowly we shall have escaped; let us call to mind what days of gloom and hopelessness we have passed through-how often, as the contest proceeded, victory has hung even balanced in the scale, and what a little thing, amid the thousand contingencies which our short sight calls chance, might have turned the issue against us forever.
In our case the great lesson was long delayed; but how terrible in its actual results, how awfully impressive in its possible consequences, when it came upon us at last!