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1 The opinion of the Father of his Country respecting the “peculiar institution” of the South may be perceived from the following extracts. In a letter to Lafayette, bearing date April 5, 1783, he says:
The scheme, my dear Marquis, which you propose as a precedent to encourage the emancipation of the black people in this country from that state of bondage in which they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your heart. I shall be happy to join you in so laudable a work; but will defer going into a detail of the business until I have the pleasure of seeing you. --Sparks's Washington, vol. VIII., p 414.Again, in a letter to the same, of May 10, 1186:
The benevolence of your heart, my dear Marquis, is so conspicuous upon all occasions, that I never wonder at any fresh proofs oa it; but your late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view to emancipate the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit might diffuse itself in the minds of the people of this country! But I despair of seeing it. Some petitions were presented to the Assembly at its last session, for the Abolition of Slavery, but they could scarcely obtain a reading. --Ibid., vol. IX., p. 163.In a remarkable and very interesting letter written by Lafayette in the prison of Magdeburg, he said:
I know not what disposition has been made of my plantation at Cayenne; but I hope Madam De Lafayette will take care that the negroes who cultivate it shall preserve their liberty.The following language is also Lafayette's, in a letter to Hamilton, from Paris, April 13, 1785:
In one of your New York Gazettes, I find an association against the Slavery of the negroes, which seems to me worded in such a way as to give no offense to the moderate men in the Southern States. As I have ever been partial to my brethren of that color, I wish, if you are one in the society, you would move, in your own name, for my being admitted on the list. --Works of Alex. Hamilton, N. Y., 1851, vol. i., p. 423.John Adams, in a letter to Robert J. Evans, June 8, 1819, expresses himself as follows:
I respect the sentiments and motives which have prompted you to engage in your present occupation so much, that I feel an esteem and affection for your person, as I do a veneration for your assumed signature of Benjamin Rush. The turpitude, the inhumanity, the cruelty, and the infamy of the African commerce, have been so impressively represented to the public by the highest powers of eloquence, that nothing that I could say would increase the just odium in which it is, and ought to be, held. Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of Slavery from the United States. * * * I have, through my whole life, held the practice of Slavery in such abhorrence, that I have never owned a negro or any other slave, though I have lived for many years in times when the practice was not disgraceful — when the best men in my vicinity thought it not inconsistent with their character; and when it has cost me thousands of dollars for the labor and subsistence of free men, which I might have saved by the purchase of negroes, at times when they were very cheap. --Works of John Adams, Boston, 1856, vol. x., p. 386.
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