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A Confederate Commissioner on the Slave Trade

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1129, p. 125.

February 1,1862


Mr. Yancey, now in London, as Commissioner from the Confederate States, writes to the Daily News, contradicting a statement that he is an advocate of the slave trade. He says:—"I have never advocated the African slave trade. I do not know two public men in the South of any note who have done so. The people there are and have been almost unanimously opposed to it. The State laws, so long in force, prove this, and another striking fact. There have not been 100 slaves imported into the South from any quarter for the last fifty-three years. I know of but one small cargo, and I never heard of another. The slave trade is carried on between Africa and Cuba alone; Southern men have nothing to do with it. Yankee captains, Yankee ships, Yankee ship-chandlers, and Yankee capital are the notorious mainsprings of that trade. When in the late Federal Union, in order to gain new senators to resist Yankee taxation, the South was very desirous of forming new Slave States out of the territories. But, being now out of that Union, there is no such motive, and there are slaves amply abundant,with their increase, for all our wants. No State, no prominent man in the South, wishes to revive the slave trade. No sooner had the Cotton States seceded than the Provisional Government established by them adopted the Federal laws prohibiting the African slave trade. This Constitution has been submitted for ratification or rejection to the several States composing the Confederacy, and all—thirteen in number—have ratified it. Not a voice has been raised throughout the entire South against the prohibitory clause. . . . The adherents of Mr. Lincoln contend that the North was determined to prohibit slavery in the territories and the South seceded on that account. That was the immediate cause—it was the spark communicated to the barrel of powder; but it was the powder that did the work and was the real cause of the disruption. Without, however, going into a discussion as to the real, and, far deeper, the ulterior causes, let me show that the North, in its avowed position, cared nothing for the slave, and only used the slavery question to obtain a political advantage. Its policy did not propose to free a single slave, but to keep them as slaves for ever within particular territorial limits. Its policy was that none of the slaves of the Union should be removed to certain lands of the Union. The reason for that was, that for every new State carved out of those territories two senators were added to the Senate. If the territories could be kept for Yankee emigrants the new States would send two Northern senators to aid in the system of legislativerobbery of the products of slave labour—not in aid of legislative abolition of slavery. For this very reason the South, in self-defence, finding the North for the first time united as a section on that policy, determined no longer to bear the ills of such a Government. It will be perceived that the North was not moved by a moral but by a political policy, as devoid of honesty as of constitutional principle." In conclusion Mr. Yancey says:—"My mission here is not to ask for an approval of, nor yet to apologise for, the laws of the Confederate States and the opinions of their people. It is simply to obtain a recognition of those States as a Government, whose people are producers of cotton, tobacco, corn, and naval stores, and who desire to offer to manufacturing Europe the benefits of free trade in the peaceful interchange of those valuable products for the woollen, cotton, silk, and hardware fabrics of the Old World, unrestricted and untaxed by prohibitory tariffs. In view of that great object, any discussion of the internal or domestic laws of the Confederate States is irrelevant. Our system of labour is our own, injuring no other country, and for which no others are responsible to God or to man, and about which we will treat with no country."

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