previous next

They were sold to us.

One cannot but recall that which is narrated of Zachary Macaulay, the father of Thomas Babingham, who made a fortune in the slave trade, and when that was done joined the anti-slavery people, and secured some handsome appointments by attacking the aforesaid business. It was well said on the floor of the Virginia Legislature by John Thompson Brown in answer to English invective: ‘They sold us these slaves—they assumed a vendor's responsibility—and it is not for them to question the validity of our title.’ And it was equally relevant to say to some others: ‘Your position involves the right of a grantor to revoke a grant without the consent of the [273] grantee for value and the right of one party to a compact to retain the whole consideration moving to him while repudiating every other.’

A scheme of gradual emancipation had been proposed by Jefferson as early as 1776 and the general scheme of it approved by the convention which framed Virginia's Constitution in that year, but no action was taken, because ‘the public mind would not bear it.’ ‘Nothing,’ wrote Jefferson, ‘is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free, nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion, have drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.’ Here plainly was a difficult air for statesmanship to breathe, a problem which might well vex the noblest. By what bond, other than the one existing, could darkest Africa and free America, the antipodes in race as in geography, dwell side by side in useful co-operation? Whatever might be written in the book of fate, when its was equally legible that the two races, equally free, could not live in the same government, what was the solution? This, on a very different scale from anything which ever existed in the North, was the problem which confronted the South—springing from no choice or voice of her own, but against her choice and against her voice. In 1830 there were movements in Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia for the gradual emancipation of their slaves, and in Virginia the movement had nearly succeeded. It was the aggression of the Abolitionists which arrested the movement in all these States.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Thomas Jefferson (2)
Zachary Macaulay (1)
John Thompson Brown (1)
Thomas Babingham (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1830 AD (1)
1776 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: