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Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
William Wells Brown
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Chapter 20. A True Democrat
"Who can, with patience, for a moment see
The medley mass of pride and misery,
Of whips and charters, manacles and rights,
Of slaving blacks and democratic whites,
And all the piebald policy that reigns
In free confusion o'er Columbia's plains?
To think that man, thou just and gentle God!
Should stand before thee with a tyrant's rod,
O'er creatures like himself, with souls from thee,
Yet dare to boast of perfect liberty!"--Thomas Moore.
EDUCATED in a free state, and marrying a wife who had been a victim to the institution
of slavery, Henry Morton became strongly opposed to the system. His two daughters, at
the age of twelve years, were sent to the North to finish their education, and to receive
that refinement that young ladies cannot obtain in the Slave States. Although he did not
publicly advocate the abolition of slavery, he often made himself obnoxious to private
circles, owing to the denunciatory manner in which he condemned the "peculiar
institution." Being one evening at a party, and hearing one of the company talking loudly
of the glory and freedom of American institutions, he gave it as his opinion that, unless
slavery was speedily abolished, it would be the ruin of the Union. "It is not our boast of
freedom," said he, "that will cause us to be respected abroad. It is not our loud talk in
favour of liberty that will cause us to be regarded as friends of human freedom; but our
acts will be scrutinised by the people of other countries. We say much against European
despotism; let us look to ourselves. That government is despotic where the rulers govern
subjects by their own mere will--by decrees and laws emanating from their uncontrolled
will, in the enactment and execution of which the ruled have no voice, and under which
they have no right except at the will of the rulers. Despotism does not depend upon the
number of the rulers, or the number of the subjects. It may have one ruler or many. Rome
was a despotism under Nero; so she was under the triumvirate. Athens was a despotism
under Thirty Tyrants; under her Four Hundred Tyrants; under her Three Thousand
Tyrants. It has been generally observed that despotism increases in severity with the
number of despots; the responsibility is more divided, and the claims more numerous.
The triumvirs each demanded his victims. The smaller the number of subjects in
proportion to the tyrants, the more cruel the oppression, because the less danger from
rebellion. In this government, the free white citizens are the rulers--the sovereigns, as we
delight to be called. All others are subjects. There are, perhaps, some sixteen or seventeen
millions of sovereigns, and four millions of subjects.
"The rulers and the ruled are of all colours, from the clear white of the Caucasian tribes to
the swarthy Ethiopian. The former, by courtesy, are all called white, the latter black. In
this government the subject has no rights, social, political, or personal. He has no voice in
the laws which govern him. He can hold no property. His very wife and children are not
his. His labour is another's. He, and all that appertain to him, are the absolute property of
his rulers. He is governed, bought, sold, punished, executed, by laws to which he never
gave his assent, and by rulers whom he never chose. He is not a serf merely, with half the