This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 The Encyclopoedia Britannica (latest edition — Art., Slavery) states that the African Slave-Trade was abolished by Great Britain, after years of ineffectual struggle under the lead of Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, Wilberforce, etc., on the 25th of March, 1807; and most inaccurately and unjustly adds:
The great measure of the British legislature was imitated, in the first instance, by the United States.To say nothing of acts prohibiting the importation of slaves by several of our States, Virginia and Maryland inclusive, prior to the framing of our Federal Constitution, and the provisions incorporated in that instrument looking to a complete suppression of the Slave-Trade after twenty years, our Congress, on the 22d day of March, 1794, passed an act forbidding and punishing any participation by our citizens in the Slave-Trade to foreign countries, which had long been very zealously pursued and protected by Great Britain as a large and lucrative branch of her foreign commerce and navigation. In 1800, our Congress passed a further act, to the same effect, but more sweeping in its provisions and severe in its penalties. On the 2d of March, 1807--twenty-three days before the passage of the British act — Congress passed one which prohibits the African Slave-Trade utterly — to our own country as well as to foreign lands. True, this act did not take effect till the 1st of January ensuing, because of the constitutional inhibition aforesaid; but we submit that this does not invalidate our claim for our country and her Revolutionary Statesmen of the honor of having pioneered thus far the advance of Justice and Humanity, to the overthrow of a giant iniquity. The Encyclopoedia aforesaid, in noting the fact that the African Slave-Trade was abolished by Great Britain under the brief Whig ministry of Fox and Grenville, after such abolition had been boldly urged for twenty years under the all but dictatorial Tory rule of Pitt, who was professedly its friend, forcibly and truly adds:
The proud son of Chatham loved truth and justice not a little, but he loved power and place greatly more; and he was resolved that Negro Emancipation should not lose him either a shred of political influence or a beam of [royal] favor.The particular individual of whom this is said is now some sixty years dead; but the breed was not extinct, in either hemisphere, at the date of our latest advices.
2 “We subscribe to the doctrine, might one of our Southern brethren observe, that Representation relates more immediately to persons, and Taxation more immediately to property; and we join in the application of this distinction to the case of our slaves. But we deny the fact, that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is, that they partake of both these qualities, being considered by our laws in some respects as persons, and in other respects as property. In being compelled to labor, not merely for himself, but for a master — in being vendible by one master to another master, and being subject, at all times, to being restrained in his liberty and chastised in his body by the capricious will of his owner, the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with that of the irrational animals, which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty, and in being punished himself for all violence committed against others, the slave is no less regarded by the law as a member of society, not as a part of the irrational creation — as a moral person, not a mere object of property. The Federal Constitution, therefore, decides, with great propriety, on the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and property. This is, in fact, their true character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live; and it will not be disputed that these are the proper criterion, because it is only under the pretext that the laws have transformed negroes into subjects of property, that a place is denied to them in the computation of numbers; and it is admitted that, if the laws were to restore the rights which have been taken away, the negroes would no longer be refused an equal share of representation with the other inhabitants.” --The Federalist, vol. II., p. 46.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.