Some of the largest purchasers in Maryland
for the cotton and sugar region located themselves at this point, fitted up their slavepens, and advertised in the leading journals of the Capital
their readiness to buy and sell young and likely negroes.
Vessels were regularly dispatched from Alexandria
to New Orleans, laden with their human merchandise.
So that, in the absence of manufactures, and of any but a petty retail trade, slaves were long a chief staple of the commerce, and certainly the leading export, of the American
Under the slave laws, so hastily bolted by Congress, every negro or mulatto was presumptively a slave; and, if unable to indicate his master, or to establish specially his right to freedom, was liable to be arrested and imprisoned, advertised, and sold, in default of a claimant, to pay the costs of this worse than Algerine
procedure; and, as Washington
steadily increased in population and importance, the number of colored persons drifting thither from all quarters increased with it, until the business of arresting, detaining, advertising, and selling unowned negroes became a most lucrative perquisite of the Federal Marshal
for the District
, yielding him a net profit of many thousands of dollars per annum.
The advertisements in The National Intelligencer, United States Telegraph, Globe, Union
, etc., of negroes whom he had caught and caged, and, in default of an owner, was about to sell, were widely copied in both hemispheres, provoking comments by no means flattering to our country nor its institutions.
The plumage of the American
eagle was often ruffled by criticisms and comparisons between these legal proceedings, under the shadow of our Capitol
, and the harsher dealings of savages and heathen with strangers so luckless as to fall into their hands; and the point of these invidious comparisons was barbed by their undeniable justice.
Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery in the Federal District, or, at least, of the Slave-Trade so flourishing therein, had been from time immemorial presented to Congress, and treated with no more disrespect or disregard than petitions to legislative bodies usually encounter.
One of these, presented in 1828, was signed by United States
District Judge Cranch
, and about one thousand more of the most respectable citizens of the District
; but, while it was treated decorously, no decisive step was taken toward compliance with its prayer.
As the distinctive Abolition movement gained strength in the North
, and the excitement caused thereby rose higher in the South
--especially after the Message of Gen. Jackson
, already quoted, urging that anti-Slavery agitation be made a penal offense — a more decisive hostility was resolved on by the champions of Slavery, under the lead of Mr. Calhoun
On the presentation, by Mr. Fairfield
, of Maine
(December 16, 1835), of the petition of one hundred and seventy-two women, praying the Abolition of the Slave-Trade in the District
, it was decisively laid on the table of the House
; Yeas 180, Nays 31--the Nays all from the North
, and mainly Whigs.
On the 18th, Mr Jackson
, of Massachusetts
, offered a similar petition from the citizens of the town of