IT will be well, at this point of my narrative, to examine, the institution of negro slavery as it existed in the South. So forcibly has the word slavery come in the closing years of our century to signify a practice utterly abhorrent, that we find it difficult to realize how recently it was defended and even extolled. It is my wish to describe the institution as it may have appeared before the war to a fair-minded man. In such an inquiry it is quite easy for one of Northern birth and breeding to extenuate nothing; more care must be taken to set down naught in malice. Nevertheless, this chapter can only be a commentary on the sententious expression of Clay: "Slavery is a curse to the master and a wrong to the slave."
It was the cultivation of the semi-tropical products, cotton, sugar, and rice, that strengthened the hold of slavery on the South. No one was able to contend, with any success, that grain and tobacco could be as well cultivated by slave as by free labor. After a very careful investigation into the agricultural system of Virginia, Olmsted, who worked a farm in New York, arrived at the conclusion that one hand in New York did as much labor as two slave hands in Virginia.1 Yet taking as a basis the price paid for slaves when____________________
In reviewing A Journey in the Back Country, James R. Lowell wrote in the Atlantic Monthly for Nov., 1860: "No more important contributions to contemporary American history have been made than in this volume and the two that preceded it. We know of no book that offers a parallel to them except Arthur Young's Travels in France. To discuss the question of slavery without passion or even sentiment seemed an impossibility; yet Mr. Olmsted has shown that it can be done, and, having no theory to bolster, has contrived to tell us what he saw, and not what he went to see--the rarest achievement among travellers." This was a happy comparison of the reviewer, for there was a great resemblance between Young and Olmsted in tastes, manner of observing, and impartiality of judgment. But the most important resemblance Lowell could not know in 1860, Both wrote on the eve of a great convulsion. One was the greatest historical event of the eighteenth century, and the other will probably be adjudged the greatest of the nineteenth century.
George Wm. Curtis, in the Atlantic Monthly for Aug., 1863, makes the statement that first of all the literature on the subject of slavery are, "in spirit and comprehension, the masterly, careful, copious, and patient works of Mr. Olmsted." The epithet of "that wise and honest traveller," which John Morley applied to Young, may likewise be said of Olmsted.