Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11, 1861 - "Of one thing there can be no doubt, a slave state cannot long exist without a slave trade."

The great British war correspondent William Howard Russell on a visit to Natchez, Mississippi, echoes the sentiments of Our Man in Charleston. Whatever its leaders may say, the Confederacy will have no choice but to import slaves from Africa.

June 11 ... Natchez, a place of much trade and cotton export in the season, is now as dull let us say, as Harwich without a regatta. But it is ultra-secessionist, nil obstante.

My hunger was assuaged by Mr. Marshall, who drove me to his comfortable mansion through a country like the wooded parts of Sussex, abounding in fine trees, and in the only lawns and park-like fields I have yet seen in America. After dinner, my host took me out to visit a wealthy planter, who has raised and armed a cavalry corps at his own expense. We were obliged to get out of the carriage at a narrow lane and walk toward the encampment on foot in the dark; a sentry stopped us, and we observed that there was a semblance of military method in the camp. The captain was walking up and down in the veranda of the poor hut, for which he had abandoned his home. A book of tactics, Hardee's lay on the table of his little room. Our friend was full of fight, and said he would give all he had in the world to the cause. But the day before, and a party of horse, composed of sixty gentlemen in the district, worth from 20,000 to 50,000 each, had started for the war in Virginia. Everything to be seen or heard testifies to the great zeal and resolution with which the South have entered upon the quarrel. But they hold the power of the United States, and the loyalty of the North to the Union at far too cheap a rate.

At the end of this entry, Russell offers a brief aside on the South's addiction to slavery and its craving for the African slave trade: 

Slavery was an institution ready to their hands. In its development there lay every material means for securing the prosperity which Manchester opened to them, and in supplying their own countrymen with sugar. The small, struggling, deeply-mortgaged proprietors of swamp and forest set their negroes to work to raise levees, to cut down trees, to plant and sow. Cotton at ten cents a pound gave a nugget in every boll. Land could be had for a few dollars an acre. Negroes were cheap in proportion. Men who made a few thousand dollars invested them in more negroes, and more land, and borrowed as much again for the same purpose. They waxed fat and rich, there seemed no bounds to their fortune.

But threatening voices came from the North, the echoes of the sentiments of the civilized world repenting of its evil pierced their ears, and they found their feet were of clay, and that they were nodding to their fall in the midst of their power. Ruin inevitable awaited them if they did not shut out
these sounds and stop the fatal utterances. The issue is to them one of life and death. Whoever raises
it hereafter, if it be not decided now, must expect to meet the deadly animosity which is now displayed towards the North. 

The success of the South if they can succeed must lead to complications and results in other parts of the world, for which neither they nor Europe are prepared. Of one thing there can be no doubt a slave state cannot long exist without a slave trade. The poor whites who have won the fight will demand their share of the spoils. The land for tilth is abundant, and all that is wanted to give them fortunes is a supply of slaves. They will have that in spite of their masters, unless a stronger power than the Slave States prevents the accomplishment of their wishes.

Excerpted from William Howard Russell's My Diary North and South, available online at

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