A stronger evidence of the cause of these remonstrances on the part of the British Government, is shown by the manner in which it has been submitted to in Georgia. The British consul of the port of Savannah, a gentleman whose intelligence and humane feelings are no less remarkable than Mr. Mathew’s, has never had occasion to call the attention of the Executive of Georgia to the abuse of power consequent upon the imprisonment of colored seamen belonging to the ships of Great Britain in that port. The seaman was imprisoned, consequently deprived of his liberty; but there was no suffering attendant beyond the loss of liberty during the stay of the vessel; for the imprisonment itself was a nominal thing; the imprisoned was well cared for; he had good, comfortable apartments, cleanly and well ordered, away from the criminals, and plenty of good, wholesome food to eat. There was even a satisfaction in this, for the man got what he paid for, and was treated as if he were really a human being. Thus, with the exception of the restriction on the man’s liberty, and that evil, which those interested in commerce would reflect upon as a tax upon the marine interests of the port to support a municipal police, because it imposes a tax and burdensome annoyance upon owners for that which they have no interest in and can derive no benefit from, the observance of the law had more penalty in mental anxiety than bodily suffering. We have sometimes been at a loss to account for the restriction, even as it existed in Georgia, and especially when we consider the character of those controlling and developing the enterprising commercial affairs of Savannah.
But we must return to South Carolina. If we view this law as a police regulation, it only gives us broader latitude. If a community has that within itself which is dangerous to its well-being, it becomes pertinent to inquire whether there is not an imperfect state of society existing, and whether this policy is not injurious to the well-being of the State. The evil, though it be a mortifying fact, we are bound to say, arises from a strange notion of caste and color, which measures sympathy according to complexion. There is no proof that can possibly be adduced, showing that colored seamen have made any infections among the slaves, or sought to increase the dangers of her peculiar institution.
Plea of just consideration and mistaken constancy of the laws.
The consul’s office opened at nine o’clock,—the Captain, with his register-case and shipping papers under his arm, presented himself to Mr. Mathew, handed him his papers, and reported his condition. That gentleman immediately set about rendering every facility to relieve his immediate wants and further his business. The consul was a man of plain, unassuming manners, frank in his expressions, and strongly imbued with a sense of his rights, and the faith of his Government,—willing to take an active part in obtaining justice, and, a deadly opponent to wrong, regardless of the active hostility that surrounded him. After relating the incidents of his voyage, and the circumstances connected with Manuel’s being dragged to prison,—“Can it be possible that the law is to be carried to such an extreme?” said he, giving vent to his feelings.