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[217] of difficulties for our future condition. However, there are consoling points about it, and I will go on.1 . . . .

The last important discussion on involuntary servitude at the South was in the Virginia Legislature, in 1831-32, soon after a formidable insurrection had occurred near Southampton, in that State. No question was taken; but, from the whole tone of the debate, all men apprehended the near abolition of slavery in Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky, and, so far as I know, all men rejoiced at it. Certainly all the North did. We hoped something would now be done that should counteract whatever of mischief had followed the extension of slavery, in 1820, to Missouri, sorely against our will.

But we were disappointed. Political and sectional abolitionism had appeared already. The South soon became alarmed and excited. They put themselves on the defensive first, and then on the offensive. Instead of regarding slavery as a great moral and political evil, as it had always before been admitted to be among the mass of the slaveholders, and as it was openly proclaimed to be in the Virginia debates of 1831-32, it has been, since 1833, maintained by McDuffie, Calhoun, and perhaps a majority of the leading men of the South, to be a great good in itself, and defensible in all its consequences . . . .

Meantime, at the North we grow rigorous with the South. We say, and say truly, that it was not a thought in the minds of men, when the Constitution of the United States was made in 1788, that slavery was to be regarded as anything but a temporary calamity, which was to be removed with the assent of all, as soon as fit means could be found for it. Washington, a slaveholder, acted so. Jefferson, a slaveholder, wrote so. All men felt so.

But we at the North do not enough remember that we made, by that same Constitution, a special bargain with the Southern States, by which we left it entirely to them to remove, by their own means, and in their own time, the curse which was their own private mischief only, reserving to the whole nation the power of abolishing the slave-trade, which was promptly done. We further promised to permit them to retake their slaves escaping into our States, and to do other things, which we at first did cheerfully, and in a spirit of honor, but which we now do grudgingly, or not at all . . . . . So deep, so fatal, indeed, is the vice of the whole system, that nothing but mischief can come from it, whichever way you turn.

1 He here gives a summary of the history of slavery in the United States from colonial times.

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