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Doc. 255.-slaves and slavery.

Mr. Jefferson Davis, in his Message to those whom he calls “Gentlemen of the Congress” of the “Confederate States,” of April 29, 1861, sets forth certain alleged reasons why Southern men ought to refuse to live under the same General Government with Northern men, should engage in battle with them on land, and attack their commerce at sea. The Message is a carefully prepared document, devised and intended to excite Southern men to this dreadful work, and to justify it in the view of the civilized world. For this purpose, it was necessary to impute to Northern men a character and conduct worthy to be blamed, and to be punished with all the inflictions of war. He accordingly inserted in his Message the two following paragraphs:

When the several States delegated certain powers to the United States Congress, a large portion of the laboring population consisted of African slaves imported into the country by the mother country. In twelve out of the thirteen States negro slavery existed, and the right of property in slaves was protected by law. This property was recognized in the Constitution, and provision was made against its loss by the escape of the slave. The increase in the number of slaves by further importation from Africa was also secured by a clause forbidding Congress to prohibit the slave trade anterior to a certain date; and in no clause can there be found any delegation of power to Congress, authorizing it in any manner to legislate to the prejudice, detriment, or discouragement of the owners of that species of property, or excluding it from the protection of the Government.

The climate and soil of the Northern States soon proved unpropitious to the continuance of slave labor, whilst the converse was the case at the South. Under the unrestricted free intercourse between the two sections, the Northern States consulted their own interest by selling their slaves to the South, and prohibiting slavery within their limits. The South were willing purchasers of a property suitable to their wants, and paid the price of the acquisition, without harboring a suspicion that their quiet possession was to be disturbed by those who were inhibited, not only by want of constitutional authority, but by good faith as vendors, from disquieting a title emanating from themselves.

In a communication published in the Courier of May 8, this accusation against the North was called “an old lie.” On reflection, we doubt whether it is many years old. It was indeed full-grown when Mr. Davis found it and adopted it, and we presume, believed it, as he is evidently “given up to strong delusions;” but it is probably not much older than secession, having been invented for the purpose of making Northern men appear so hateful that Southern men would be willing to “secede” from them, and kill them. If so, it was skilfully invented; and as a device for exciting the passions which produce and sustain civil war, it is deserving of serious attention.

Mr. Everett, in his late oration at New York, treats this calumny as worthy of a brief notice, He says:

The theory of a change in the Northern mind, growing out of a discovery made soon after 1789, that our soil and climate were unpropitious to slavery, (as if the soil and climate then were different from what they always had been,) and a consequent sale to the South of the slaves of the North, is purely mythical; as groundless in fact as it is absurd in statement. I have often asked for evidence of this last allegation, and I have never found an individual who attempted even to prove it.

A disparaging assertion, put forth for a purpose evidently depreciatory, and which no one even attempts to prove, may commonly be left to die of itself; but when, as is now the case, it is efficient in producing rebellion, devastation, and slaughter, it is fortunate that we can show its true character by unquestionable documentary proof.

The first census of the United States was taken in 1790, which was “soon after 1789,” the time spoken of by Mr. Davis. According to that census, there were then the following numbers of slaves in what are now the “Free States” :

New Hampshire158
Rhode Island952
New York21,324
New Jersey11,423

In Massachusetts, including Maine, there were no slaves, and had been none for some ten years.

These 40,870 slaves, Mr. Davis says, “the North,” finding them unprofitable, sold to “the South,” and “the South” bought and paid for. Let us see:

New Hampshire.

The whole colored population was, in--


From 1790 to 1800, the slaves had diminished 150, and the free blacks had increased 226. From 1800 to 1810, the 8 remaining slaves disappeared, and the free blacks increased [402] 114. Evidently, there had been no extensive sale of slaves to the South.



The 17 slaves disappeared, and: the free increased 302. Here, too, there could have been no sale of slaves to the South. In fact, no slaves were ever held by the people of Vermont, under the laws of that State. The 17, in 1790, if not a mistake, must have been there temporarily, for some peculiar reason.

Rhode Island.


From 1790 to 1800, the number of slaves diminished 571, and the number of the free, 165; and of the total, 736. This may look, at first sight, as if about one-eightieth part of the slaves at the North had been virtually sold to the South; but, fortunately, we are able to explain it. The diminution of the free, 165, indicates an emigration; and we know, from the census of Massachusetts, that the increase of free blacks in that State, during those ten years, was about 715 above the average rate of increase. In New Bedford, they increased from 38 to 160; in Nantucket, from 110 to 228; in Duke's County, from 83 to 202; in Suffolk County the increase was 407. There was a great flocking to the whaling ports and to Boston, to engage as seamen. These 715 must have come from somewhere, and there is no indication in the census of any other State of a corresponding loss. On the contrary, as we shall see, there was a similar migration into Connecticut. If, of the 3,469 who were free in 1790, 715 migrated to Massachusetts, the number remaining would be only 2,754, instead of 3,304, leaving 550 places of free men to be supplied by emancipation. And such, nearly, was doubtless the fact. For the next ten years, the increase of the free is greater than the decrease of slaves.



The decrease of slaves from 1790 to 1800 was 1,808; and the increase of the free was 2,529; that is, 721 more than the decrease of slaves. There had evidently been an immigration into Connecticut, as well as Massachusetts; but much of it probably came from New York, though not improbably some of it was from Rhode Island. So, in the succeeding decades, the increase of the free is greater than the decrease of slaves.

New York.


In every decade while slaves remained, the increase of the free was greater than the decrease of slaves. There could have been no sale of the slaves to the South. All that became free, and more, were added to the number of the free.

New Jersey.


Here, too, every decrease of slaves was attended by an increase, more than equivalent, of the free. There was no sale to the South.



Here, too, the increase of the free always exceeds the decrease of the slaves. There has been no diminution of the total, such as must have been caused by a general sale of slaves to the South.

It stands out plainly, on the face of these tables, that emancipation, in most of the Northern States, has been a gradual work, spread out over about half a century. So far as effected by legislation, it has been conducted on what is called “the post nati principle,” that those born after a certain date shall be free at a certain age. This plan was adopted, in part, for the sake of obliging those who had profited by the labor of slaves while able to labor, to support them in their old age and decrepitude. Such an operation is very different from that which Mr. Davis charges upon “the North.”

It is obvious, too, from the number of free blacks in the several States in 1790, that the work of emancipation, without sale to “the South,” was already far advanced. In every State except. New York and New Jersey, it was more than half done; for the free were more numerous than the slaves. This, too, utterly disproves the assertion of Mr. Davis, that the Northern movement began “soon after” 1789. Even in 1787, when the Constitution of the United States was formed, it had been going on for years. This will be still more evident, when we look at the case of


Slavery was never abolished in Massachusetts by legislative action. A State Constitution was [403] adopted in 1780, with a Bill of Rights prefixed, declaring that “all men were born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights,” among which is liberty. The Courts decided that under this Constitution slavery could not and did not exist. This was a very different process from that described by Mr. Davis.

But were the slaves thus made free “sold to the South” ? Happily, that question may be answered. According to the census of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, taken in 1765, the colored population in 182 towns was 4,978. Dr. Jesse Chickering, in his “Statistical View of the Population of Massachusetts,” a work of the very highest authority, estimates that a number not exceeding 147 ought to be added for 16 towns from which there were no returns, and 74 for two towns where the returns did not specify color, making 5,199 in all. The next census was that of 1790. The table for Massachusetts reads thus:

 Total Colored Population.

From 1765, fifteen years before slavery ceased, to 1790, ten years after its cessation, the colored population, instead of being diminished by a sale of slaves to the South, increased 264. In the next ten years, “soon after” 1789, it increased 989. In the next, the increase was only 285. The great increase of 989, from 1790 to 1810, was at the very time of the decrease of colored people in Rhode Island, as stated above. The increase for the next ten years, 285, represents very nearly the usual increase in subsequent decades. Even that small increase has been due mostly, and perhaps wholly, to immigration; for their natural increase, in our climate, is about nothing.

So far is this statement, which Mr. Davis has put forth with all the solemnity of an official document, from being true; so unsupported are some of the grounds on which Southern men are officially exhorted to separate themselves utterly from their fellow-citizens of the North; and so easily detected and conclusively proved is a misrepresentation, which would be so discreditable to us, as a fact. May we not hope that men who, whether deliberately or carelessly, indulge in such statements, will soon lose their present control over Southern minds?--Boston Courier, July 9.

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