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New York Morning Courier and Enquirer, October 3, 1831


Slave Insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia


        The horrible atrocities committed by the Blacks upon the unoffending women and children of Southampton County, in the late insurrection, it is hoped, will induce the dangerous enthusiasts to whose endeavors these inhuman murders may justly be, in a great measure, ascribed, to pause and reflect on the probable, nay certain consequence of persevering in the same means to render the slaves of the South dissatisfied and ungovernable.


        The first lesson inculcated upon these ignorant people, by those whose endeavors are ostensibly directed to the amelioration of their condition, is that of hatred to the Whites. They are told that the white man has been the cruel, inexorable oppressor of themselves and their forefathers from generation to generation; and that the same fate awaits posterity. Every species of inflammatory declamation is resorted to, in painting the imaginary horrors of the situation, and their sufferings exaggerated by all the powers of rhetoric and poetry. Instead of teaching them to avail themselves of the means of happiness in their power, and to accommodate their minds to the cheerful performance of those duties which circumstances beyond their control [p. 92] or that of their masters, have entailed upon them, every means is resorted to for the purpose of stimulating them to disobedience, disaffection, and ultimate vengeance.


        Hence the relation between master and slave, instead of being what it ought, and might be—an exchange of kindness, protection and maintenance on the one hand, and respect, obedience and service on the other—degenerates into moody obstinacy, unwilling labours or downright refusal on the side of the slave, and consequent fear, jealousy, and coercion on that of the master. A state of things is thus produced, fatal alike to the happiness of both, and a road to mutual antipathies, and mutual injuries opened, the termination of which must be a bloody and unrelenting struggle for mutual extermination.


        Here let us pause and ask these rampant philanthropists, to whom we will pay the compliment of believing it possible they may be serious, a few questions. What do they mean, and where do they intend to stop in their mad career? Do they mean to array the black skin against the white? Do you mean, by preaching up the equality of the two races, to blend them with each other in a mongrel breed of crisp-haired mulattoes—or do they mean by promising the blacks the certain aid of an avenging Diety, to incite them to a blood war, in which, as in the insurrection of Southampton County, neither sex nor age, nor unoffending weakness will be spared? Again we say, let us know what they mean, and where they intend to stop?


        Admitting the first to be their intention, we would ask of the white man if he is ready to barter away the noble prerogative of being the master piece of nature: the first, the Wisest, the greatest and the most beautiful of all the race of created animals, and sink himself to the level of a mulish compound, neither one thing or the other? Is he ready to mix the pure blood of ages with a race, on which all history has placed the indelible stamp of inferiority, and become the assassin of his own high rank in the creation? If he is—so be it—the question is settled.


        But if he is not—and we trust to this honest pride that he is not—what then? Why then the inevitable result of the mischievous labors of these dangerous fanatics is easy to be calculated. It has been exemplified on a small scale in the County of Southampton. Its history is written by anticipation in the blood of innocent white women and children—in the sacrifice of the white man and his posterity. Look at St. Domingo—look at the island of Jamaica—look any where that the slave has ever got the upper hand, and we shall see the same uniform results—indiscriminate rapine, indiscriminate massacre…


        The situation of the Southern states at this moment is one of deep interest, and cannot but excite the commiseration of all who have the happiness of our common country at heart—not that they are unable or unprepared to defend themselves against their slaves, but that the [p. 93] wild notions of liberty which fiends in human shape have inculcated, are calculated to produce insurrection after insurrection, massacre after massacre, and execution after execution. The people of the South can and will protect themselves, but in doing so, blood will flow freely, and humanity shudders at the picture which is presented to the mind. Under these circumstances, does it not become the duty of the General Government to interfere, not to put down, but prevent insurrection? The property in slaves is guaranteed to their masters by the Constitution of the United States, and the government is as much bound to protect it, as they are to build fortifications for the protection of our commercial cities, and the property of their inhabitants. Let the government then concentrate a large portion of our little army in the Southern states, and so distribute them that the slaves shall feel that to attempt an insurrection will be attended with certain punishment. We repeat, the South can protect themselves, but it is necessary that insurrections should be prevented instead of being put down, and this can only be done by the presence of regular troops. . . .


Eric Foner, editor, Nat Turner (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 91-93.


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