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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Southern States Convention of Colored Men, held in Columbia, S.C., commencing October 18, ending October 25, 1871.
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tion, but men had felt the sting of the serpent and would not be cajoled by its syren song, for
"Right well they knew and deemed it one
That freedom's sons should slay or shun."
And when its devotees discovered that neither persuasion nor menaces could impede the march of a better and higher civilization, they committed their cause to the arbitrament of the sword, and, after a terrible struggle, their social structure, with all its institutions, passed out of existence.
Another of the most distinguishing features of the old system was
A LANDED ARISTOCRACY
In considering the elements which entered into the composition of Southern society, as it formerly existed, we have not, as I conceive laid sufficient stress upon the fact that it presented many of the most odious features of the landed aristocracy of Europe.
No feudal baron ever gloated with more lordly pride over the possession of his feud and vassals than did the Southern land owner over his thousands of broad acres and towering forests. To dispose of his patrimony in any way; to cut it up so that it might come within the reach of his poorer neighbor, or to be compelled by force of circumstances to lose caste with his more fortunate compeer.
Nor were the effects of this system less baneful than those of the feudal system upon society in Europe. The land owners of the South did not, it is true, like the barons of the middle ages, lead their vassals against each other, despoiling them of their goods, and devastating the country, but laboring under a system that was antagonistic to every principle of our civilization--a system which ignored the use of scientific agencies, by which their impoverished lands might have been enriched--they led their slaves from place to place, impoverishing the country until many of the Southern States presented perfect pictures of desolation. And when this aristocracy felt its power weakened from the effects of the rapidly developing free labor of the North, and its own sluggish habits at the South, it began to clamor for more territory in which to extend its rule. And, for its benefit, we acquired Louisiana, Florida and Texas, but these were not sufficient to satisfy its rapacity.
But its effect upon the political status of these States was hardly less striking. Here, in South Carolina, where that system reached its highest perfection, it can scarcely be said that the masses of the people had any control whatever over the affairs of the State. Here it was that landed aristocracy reigned supreme, and it controlled every interest--social, as well as political.
It is sometimes said that this landed aristocracy was the outgrowth of slavery; but, when we remember that these were but the remnant of those old English ideas of royalty, we are safe in saying that slavery was an outgrowth of that system. Certain it is that slavery could never have maintained itself so long but for the existence of such a system. But, perhaps, we can no where find a more striking illustration of this system of aristocracy than among that clas of society known as the poor whites. Taught to believe that they were superior to the slave, and
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