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III. Slavery in the Revolution.

the American Revolution was no sudden outbreak. It was preceded by eleven years of peaceful remonstrance and animated discussion. The vital question concerned the right of the British Parliament to impose taxes, at its discretion, on British subjects in any and every part of the empire. This question presented many phases, and prompted various acts and propositions. But its essence was always the same; and it was impossible that such men as James Otis, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, should discuss it without laying broad foundations for their argument in premises affecting the natural and general Rights of Man to self-government, with the control of his own products or earnings. The enthusiast who imagines that our patriots were all convinced of the danger and essential iniquity of Slavery, and the conservative who argues that few or none perceived and admitted the direct application of their logic to the case of men held in perpetual and limitless bondage, are alike mistaken. There were doubtless some who did not perceive, or did not admit, the inseparable connection between the rights they claimed as British freemen and the rights of all men everywhere; but the more discerning and logical of the patriots comprehended and confessed that their assertion of the rightful inseparability of Representation from Taxation necessarily affirmed the grander and more essential right of each innocent, rational being to the control and use of his own capacities and faculties, and to the enjoyment of his own earnings.1

1 Witness the Darien (Ga.) resolutions. In the Darien committee, Thursday, June 12, 1775:

When the most valuable privileges of a people are invaded, not only by open violence, but by every kind of fraud, sophistry, and cunning, it behooves every individual to be upon his guard, and every member of society, like beacons in a country surrounded by enemies, to give the alarm, not only when their liberties in general are invaded, but separately, lest the precedent in one may affect the whole; and to enable the collective wisdom of such a people to judge of its consequences, and how far their respective grievances concern all, or should be opposed to preserve their necessary union. Every laudable attempt of this kind by the good people of this Colony, in a constitutional manner, has been hitherto frustrated by the influence and authority of men in office and their numerous dependents, and in every other natural and just way by the various arts they have put in practice. We, therefore, the representatives of the extensive district of Darien, in the colony of Georgia, being now assembled in congress by the authority and free choice of the inhabitants of the said district, now free from their fetters, do Resolve--

There are six resolutions in all The first eulogizes “the firm and manly conduct of the people of Boston and Massachusetts,” acquiescing in all the resolutions of the “grand American Congress in Philadelphia last October.” The second resolution is denunciatory of England, in shutting up the land office, and in other oppressive acts. The third is opposed to ministerial mandates under the name of constitutions. The fourth is denunciatory of the number of officers appointed over the colonies by the British crown, and their exorbitant salaries. The fifth is as follows:

5th. To show the world that we are not influenced by any contracted or interested motive, but a general philanthropy for all mankind, of whatever climate, language, or complexion, we hereby declare our disapprobation and abhorrence of the unnatural practice of Slavery in America (however the uncultivated state of our country,and other specious arguments, may plead for it), a practice founded in injustice and cruelty, and highly dangerous to our liberties (as well as lives), debasing part of our fellow-creatures below men, and corrupting the virtue and morals of the rest, and as laying the basis of that liberty we contend for (and which we pray the Almighty to continue to the latest posterity) upon a very wrong foundation. We therefore resolve at all times to use our utmost efforts for the manumission of our slaves in this colony upon the most safe and equitable footing for the masters and themselves. “selves.” --American Archives, 4th Series, vol i., 1774 and 1775.

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