Slavery forced upon Virginia.
But—such is the irony of fate!—there was one country of the world, and that a purely agricultural dominion, which in the eighteenth century opposed itself to slavery with all the power it could wield.
That country was Virginia
, the patriarch of the colonies.
Slavery had been forced upon Virginia
, and in the teeth of her remonstrance, by the arbitrary power of Great Britain
statutes were passed by the House of Burgesses
to prevent the importation of slaves, and all were negatived by the British King
She was the first State not only to prohibit the slave-trade, but to make it punishable with death.
In the midst of the Revolution, as early as October, 1778, her law went forth that thereafter no slave should be imported by sea or land into the jurisdiction of her Commonwealth.
One of her first acts when she had shaken from her the power of the throne was to write that edict of emancipation for territory of her own which she ever denied it was in the power of any one to write for her. She wrote it for the territory which her enterprise and valor had wrested from the grasp of France
Whatever she might choose to do herself, it were hard to conceive a more arrogant claim than that the North
could deprive her of an equal right in the territory of her own donation.
Even in respect to this territory the agreement of Virginia
was without any equivalent whatever, and the ordinary principle of nudum paclum
might have been applied to it.
The treaty of independence with Great Britain
in 1783 carefully stipulated that the British
should not carry away ‘any negroes or other property
of the American
inhabitants,’ as afterwards the treaty of Ghent
, in 1814, spoke of ‘slaves or other private property.’
At the former period certainly no authoritative expression of the thirteen colonies would have denied that there was property in man. It is true that in those States where negro labor was unfriended by the climate, and therefore unprofitable to the master, the slaves were few, and at the date of the Constitution
had virtually worn out in Massachusetts
This influence of soil and climate following in the tow of the sutler and deeper force, now swiftly growing to man's estate—the rising force—one might say the rising world of commerce—these potent persuasions were already combining to force the issue between the former and the latter reign.