The conflict with slavery

Justice and expediency: or, slavery considered with A view to its rightful and effectual remedy, abolition.


There is a law above all the enactments of human codes, the same throughout the world, the same in all time,—such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened to one world the sources of wealth and power and knowledge, to another all unutterable woes; such as it is at this day: it is the law written by the finger of God upon the heart of man; and by that law, unchangeable and eternal while men despise fraud, and loathe rapine, and abhor blood, they shall reject with indignation the wild and guilty fantasy that man can hold property in man. Lord Brougham.

It may be inquired of me why I seek to agitate the subject of Slavery in New England, where we all acknowledge it to be an evil. Because such an acknowledgment is not enough on our part. It is doing no more than the slave-master and the slave-trader. ‘We have found,’ says James Monroe, in his speech on the subject before the Virginia Convention, ‘that this evil has preyed upon the very vitals of the Union; and has been prejudicial to all the states in which it has existed.’ All the states in their several Constitutions and declarations of rights have made a similar statement. And what has been the consequence [10] of this general belief in the evil of human servitude? Has it sapped the foundations of the infamous system? No. Has it decreased the number of its victims? Quite the contrary. Unaccompanied by philanthropic action, it has been in a moral point of view worthless, a thing without vitality, sightless, soulless, dead.

But it may be said that the miserable victims of the system have our sympathies. Sympathy! the sympathy of the Priest and the Levite, looking on, and acknowledging, but holding itself aloof from mortal suffering. Can such hollow sympathy reach the broken of heart, and does the blessing of those who are ready to perish answer it? Does it hold back the lash from the slave, or sweeten his bitter bread? One's heart and soul are becoming weary of this sympathy, this heartless mockery of feeling; sick of the common cant of hypocrisy, wreathing the artificial flowers of sentiment over unutterable pollution and unimaginable wrong. It is white-washing the sepulchre to make us forget its horrible deposit. It is scattering flowers around the charnel-house and over the yet festering grave to turn away our thoughts ‘from the dead men's bones and all uncleanness,’ the pollution and loathsomeness below.

No let the truth on this subject, undisguised, naked, terrible as it is, stand out before us. Let us no longer seek to cover it; let us no longer strive to forget it; let us no more dare to palliate it. It is better to meet it here with repentance than at the bar of God. The cry of the oppressed, of the millions who have perished among us as the brute [11] perisheth, shut out from the glad tidings of salvation, has gone there before us, to Him who as a father pitieth all His children. Their blood is upon us as a nation; woe unto us, if we repent not, as a nation, in dust and ashes. Woe unto us if we say in our hearts, ‘The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eve, shall He not see’

But it may be urged that New England has no participation in slavery, and is not responsible for its wickedness.

Why are we thus willing to believe a lie! New England not responsible! Bound by the United States constitution to protect the slave-holder in his sins, and yet not responsible! Joining hands with crime, covenanting with oppression, leaguing with pollution, and yet not responsible! Palliating the evil, hiding the evil, voting for the evil,1 do we not participate in it? Members of one confederacy, children of one family, the curse and the shame, the sin against our brother, and the sin against our God,—all the iniquity of slavery which is revealed to man, and all which crieth in the ear, or is manifested to the eye of Jehovah, will assuredly be visited upon all our people. Why, then, should we stretch out our hands towards our Southern brethren, and like the Pharisee thank God we are not like them? For so long [12] as we practically recognize the infernal principle that ‘man can hold property in man,’ God will not hold us guiltless. So long as we take counsel of the world's policy instead of the justice of heaven, so long as we follow a mistaken political expediency in opposition to the express commands of God, so long will the wrongs of the slaves rise like a cloud of witnesses against us at the inevitable bar.

Slavery is protected by the constitutional compact, by the standing army, by the militia of the free states.2 Let us not forget that should the slaves, goaded by wrongs unendurable, rise in desperation, and pour the torrent of their brutal revenge over the beautiful Carolinas, or the consecrated soil of Virginia, New England would be called upon to arrest the progress of rebellion,— to tread out with the armed heel of her soldiery [13] that spirit of freedom, which knows no distinction of cast or color; which has been kindled in the heart of the black as well as in that of the white.

And what is this system which we are thus protecting and upholding? A system which holds two millions of God's creatures in bondage, which leaves one million females without any protection save their own feeble strength, and which makes even the exercise of that strength in resistance to outrage punishable with death! which considers rational, immortal beings as articles of traffic, vendible commodities, merchantable property,—which recognizes no social obligations, no natural relations,—which tears without scruple the infant from the mother, the wife from the husband, the parent from the child. In the strong but just language of another: ‘It is the full measure of pure, unmixed, unsophisticated wickedness; and scorning all competition or comparison, it stands without a rival in the secure, undisputed possession of its detestable preeminence.’

So fearful an evil should have its remedies. The following are among the many which have been from time to time proposed:—--

1. Placing the slaves in the condition of the serfs of Poland and Russia, fixed to the soil, and without the right on the part of the master to sell or remove them. This was intended as a preliminary to complete emancipation at some remote period, but it is impossible to perceive either its justice or expediency.

2. Gradual abolition, an indefinite term, but which is understood to imply the draining away, [14] drop by drop, of the great ocean of wrong; plucking off at long intervals some straggling branches of the moral Upas; holding out to unborn generations the shadow of a hope which the present may never feel; gradually ceasing to do evil; gradually refraining from robbery, lust, and murder: in brief, obeying a short-sighted and criminal policy rather than the commands of God.

3. Abstinence on the part of the people of the free states from the use of the known products of slave labor, in order to render that labor profitless. Beyond a doubt the example of conscientious individuals may have a salutary effect upon the minds of some of the slave-holders;3 but so long as our confederacy exists, a commercial intercourse with slave states and a consumption of their products cannot be avoided.

4. Colonization.

The exclusive object of the American Colonization Society, according to the second article of its constitution, is to colonize the free people of color residing among us, in Africa or such other place as Congress may direct. Steadily adhering to this object it has nothing to do with slavery; and I allude to it as a remedy only because some of its friends have in view an eventual abolition or an amelioration of the evil.

Let facts speak. The Colonization Society was [15] organized in 1817. It has two hundred and eighteen auxiliary societies. The legislatures of four. teen states have recommended it. Contributions have poured into its treasury from every quarter of the United States. Addresses in its favor have been heard from all our pulpits. It has been in operation sixteen years. During this period nearly one million human beings have died in slavery: and the number of slaves has increased more than half a million, or in round numbers, 550,000

The Colonization Society has been busily engaged all this while in conveying the slaves to Africa; in other words, abolishing slavery. In this very charitable occupation it has carried away of manumitted slaves.6134
Balance against the society549,387!

But enough of its abolition tendency. What has it done for amelioration? Witness the newly enacted laws of some of the slave states, laws bloody as the code of Draco, violating the laws of God and the unalienable rights of His children.5 But why talk of amelioration? Amelioration of what of sin, of crime unutterable, of a system of wrong and outrage horrible in the eye of God! Why seek to mark the line of a selfish policy, a carnal expediency between the criminality of hell and that repentance and its fruits enjoined of heaven

For the principles and views of the society we [16] must look to its own statements and admissions; to its Annual Reports; to those of its auxiliaries; to the speeches and writings of its advocates; and to its organ, the African Repository.

1. It excuses slavery and apologizes for slaveholders.

Proof. ‘Slavery is an evil entailed upon the present generation of slave-holders, which they must suffer, whether they will or not’6 ‘The existence of slavery among us, though not at all to be objected to our Southern brethren as a fault,’ etc.7 ‘It (the society) condemns no man because he is a slave-holder.’8 ‘Recognizing the constitutional and legitimate existence of slavery, it seeks not to interfere, either directly or indirectly, with the rights it creates. Acknowledging the necessity by which its present continuance and the rigorous provisions for its maintenance are justified,’ etc.9 ‘They (the Abolitionists) confound the misfortunes of one generation with the crimes of another, and would sacrifice both individual and public good to an unsubstantial theory of the rights of man.’10

2. It pledges itself not to oppose the system of slavery.

Proof. ‘Our society and the friends of colonization wish to be distinctly understood upon this point. From the beginning they have disavowed, [17] and they do yet disavow, that their object is the emancipation of slaves.’11

‘This institution proposes to do good by a single specific course of measures. Its direct and specific purpose is not the abolition of slavery, or the relief of pauperism, or the extension of commerce and civilization, or the enlargement of science, or the conversion of the heathen. The single object which its constitution prescribes, and to which all its efforts are necessarily directed, is African colonization from America. It proposes only to afford facilities for the voluntary emigration of free people of color from this country to the country of their fathers.’12

‘It is no abolition society; it addresses as yet arguments to no master, and disavows with horror the idea of offering temptations to any slave. It denies the design of attempting emancipation, either partial or general.’13

‘The Colonization Society, as such, have renounced wholly the name and the characteristics of abolitionists. On this point they have been unjustly and injuriously slandered. Into their accounts the subject of emancipation does not enter at all.’14

‘From its origin, and throughout the whole period of its existence, it has constantly disclaimed [18] all intention of interfering, in the smallest degree, with the rights of property, or the object of emancipation, gradual or immediate.’... ‘The society presents to the American public no project of emancipation.’15

‘The emancipation of slaves or the amelioration of their condition, with the moral, intellectual, and political improvement of people of color within the United States, are subjects foreign to the powers of this society.’16

‘The society, as a society, recognizes no principles in reference to the slave system. It says nothing, and proposes to do nothing, respecting it.’... ‘So far as we can ascertain, the supporters of the colonization policy generally believe that slavery is in this country a constitutional and legitimate system, which they have no inclination, interest, nor ability to disturb.’17

3. It regards God's rational creatures as property.

Proof. ‘We hold their slaves, as we hold their other property, sacred.’18

‘It is equally plain and undeniable that the society, in the prosecution of this work, has never interfered or evinced even a disposition to interfere in any way with the rights of proprietors of slaves.’19 [19]

‘To the slave-holder, who has charged upon them the wicked design of interfering with the rights of property under the specious pretext of removing a vicious and dangerous free population, they address themselves in a tone of conciliation and sympathy. We know your rights, say they, and we respect them.’20

4. It boasts that its measures are calculated to perpetuate the detested system of slavery, to remove the fears of the slave-holder, and increase the value of his stock of human beings.

Proof. ‘They (the Southern slave-holders) will contribute more effectually to the continuance and strength of this system (slavery) by removing those now free than by any or all other methods which can possibly be devised.’21

‘So far from being connected with the abolition of slavery, the measure proposed would be one of the greatest securities to enable the master to keep in possession his own property.’22

‘The tendency of the scheme, and one of its objects, is to secure slave-holders, and the whole Southern country, against certain evil consequences growing out of the present threefold mixture of our population.’23

‘There was but one way (to avert danger), but that might be made effectual, fortunately. It was to provide and keep open a drain for the excess beyond [20] the occasions of profitable employment. Mr. Archer had been stating the case in the supposition, that after the present class of free blacks had been exhausted, by the operation of the plan he was recommending, others would be supplied for its action, in the proportion of the excess of colored population it would be necessary to throw off, by the process of voluntary manumission or sale. This effect must result inevitably from the depreciating value of the slaves, ensuing their disproportionate multiplication. The depreciation would be relieved and retarded at the same time by the process. The two operations would aid reciprocally, and sustain each other, and both be in the highest degree beneficial. It was on the ground of interest, therefore, the most indisputable pecuniary interest, that he addressed himself to the people and legislatures of the slave-holding states.’24

‘The slave-holder, who is in danger of having his slaves contaminated by their free friends of color, will not only be relieved from this danger, but the value of his slave will be enhanced.’25

5. It denies the power of Christian love to overcome an unholy prejudice against a portion of our fellow-creatures.

Proof. ‘The managers consider it clear that causes exist and are operating to prevent their (the blacks) improvement and elevation to any considerable extent as a class, in this country, which are fixed, not only beyond the control of the [21] friends of humanity, but of any human power. Christianity will not do for them here what it will do for them in Africa. This is not the fault of the colored man, nor Christianity; but an ordinal tion of Providence, and no more to be changed than the laws of Nature’26

‘The habits, the feelings, all the prejudices of society—--prejudices which neither refinement, nor argument, nor education, nor religion itself, can subdue—--mark the people of color, whether bond or free, as the subjects of a degradation inevitable and incurable. The African in this country belongs by birth to the very lowest station in society, and from that station he can never rise, be his talents, his enterprise, his virtues what they may. . . . They constitute a class by themselves, a class out of which no individual can be elevated, and below which none can be depressed.’27

‘Is it not wise, then, for the free people of color and their friends to admit, what cannot reasonably be doubted, that the people of color must, in this country, remain for ages, probably forever, a separate and inferior caste, weighed down by causes, powerful, universal, inevitable; which neither legislation nor Christianity can remove’28

6. It opposes strenuously the education of the blacks in this country as useless as well as dangerous.

Proof. ‘If the free colored people were generally taught to read it might be an inducement to [22] them to remain in this country (that is, in their native country). We would offer them no such inducement.’29

‘The public safety of our brethren at the South requires them (the slaves) to be kept ignorant and uninstructed.’30

‘It is the business of the free (their safety requires it) to keep the slaves in ignorance. But a few days ago a proposition was made in the legislature of Georgia to allow them so much instruction as to enable them to read the Bible; which was promptly rejected by a large majority.’31

E. B. Caldwell, the first Secretary of the American Colonization Society, in his speech at its formation, recommended them to be kept ‘in the lowest state of ignorance and degradation, for (says he) the nearer you bring them to the condition of brutes, the better chance do you give them of possessing their apathy.’

My limits will not admit of a more extended examination. To the documents from whence the above extracts have been made I would call the attention of every real friend of humanity. I seek to do the Colonization Society no injustice, but I wish the public generally to understand its character.32 [23]

The tendency of the society to abolish the slave-trade by means of its African colony has been strenuously urged by its friends. But the fallacy of this is now admitted by all: witness the following from the reports of the society itself:—

‘Some appalling facts in regard to the slave-trade have come to the knowledge of the Board of Managers during the last year. With undiminished atrocity and activity is this odious traffic now carried on all along the African coast. Slave factories are established in the immediate vicinity of the colony; and at the Gallinas (between Liberia and Sierra Leone) not less than nine hundred, slaves were shipped during the last summer, in the space of three weeks.’33

April 6, 1832, the House of Commons of England ordered the printing of a document entitled ‘Slave-Trade, Sierra Leone,’ containing official evidence of the fact that the pirates engaged in the African slave-trade are supplied from the stores of Sierra Leone and Liberia with such articles as the infernal traffic demands! An able English writer on the subject of Colonization34 thus notices this astounding fact:—

‘And here it may be well to observe, that as long as negro slavery lasts, all colonies on the African coast, of whatever description, must tend to support it, because, in all commerce, the supply is [24] more or less proportioned to the demand. The demand exists in negro slavery; the supply arises from the African slave-trade. And what greater convenience could the African slave-traders desire than shops well stored along the coast with the very articles which their trade demands. That the African slave-traders do get thus supplied at Sierra Leone and Liberia is matter of official evidence; and we know, from the nature of human things, that they will get so supplied, in defiance of all law or precaution, as long as the demand calls for the supply, and there are free shops stored with all they want at hand. The shopkeeper, however honest, would find it impossible always to distinguish between the African slave-trader or his agents and other dealers. And how many shopkeepers are there anywhere that would be over scrupulous in questioning a customer with a full purse’

But we are told that the Colonization Society is to civilize and evangelize Africa.

‘Each emigrant,’ says Henry Clay, the ablest advocate which the society has yet found, ‘is a missionary, carrying with him credentials in the holy cause of civilization, religion, and free institutions.’

Beautiful and heart-cheering idea! But stay: who are these emigrants, these missionaries

The free people of color. ‘They, and they only,’ says the African Repository, the society's organ, ‘are qualified for colonizing Africa.’

What are their qualifications Let the society answer in its own words:— [25]

‘Free blacks are a greater nuisance than even slaves themselves.’35

‘A horde of miserable people—--the objects of universal suspicion—subsisting by plunder.’36

‘An anomalous race of beings the most debased upon earth.’37

‘Of all classes of our population the most vicious is that of the free colored.’38

I might go on to quote still further from the ‘credentials’ which the free people of color are to carry with them to Liberia. But I forbear.

I come now to the only practicable, the only just scheme of emancipation: Immediate abolition of slavery; an immediate acknowledgment of the great truth, that man cannot hold property in man; an immediate surrender of baneful prejudice to Christian love; an immediate practical obedience to the command of Jesus Christ: ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.’

A correct understanding of what is meant by immediate abolition must convince every candid mind that it is neither visionary nor dangerous; that it involves no disastrous consequences of bloodshed and desolation; but, on the contrary, that it is a safe, practicable, efficient remedy for the evils of the slave system.

The term immediate39 is used in contrast with [26] that of gradual. Earnestly as I wish it, I do not expect, no one expects, that the tremendous system of oppression can be instantaneously overthrown. The terrible and unrebukable indignation of a free people has not yet been sufficiently concentrated against it. The friends of abolition have not forgotten the peculiar organization of our confederacy, the delicate division of power between the states and the general government. They see the many obstacles in their pathway; but they know that public opinion can overcome them all. They ask no aid of physical coercion. They seek to obtain their object not with the weapons of violence and blood, but with those of reason and truth, prayer to God, and entreaty to man.

They seek to impress indelibly upon every human heart the true doctrines of the rights of man; to establish now and forever this great and fundamental truth of human liberty, that man cannot hold property in his brother; for they believe that the general admission of this truth will utterly destroy the system of slavery, based as that system is upon a denial or disregard of it. To make use of the clear exposition of an eminent advocate of immediate abolition,40 our plan of emancipation is [27] simply this: ‘To promulgate the true doctrine of human rights in high places and low places, and all places where there are human beings; to whisper it in chimney corners, and to proclaim it from the house-tops, yea, from the mountain-tops; to pour it out like water from the pulpit and the press; to raise it up with all the food of the inner man, from infancy to gray hairs; to give “line upon line, and precept upon precept,” till it forms one of the foundation principles and parts indestructible of the public soul. Let those who contemn this plan renounce, if they have not done it already, the gospel plan of converting the world; let them renounce every plan of moral reformation, and every plan whatsoever, which does not terminate in the gratification of their own animal natures.’

The friends of emancipation would urge in the first instance an immediate abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the Territories of Florida and Arkansas.

The number of slaves in these portions of the country, coming under the direct jurisdiction of the general government, is as follows—

District of Columbia6,119
Territory of Arkansas4,576
Territory of Florida15,501

Here, then, are twenty-six thousand human beings, fashioned in the image of God, the fitted temples of His Holy Spirit, held by the government in the abhorrent chains of slavery. The [28] power to emancipate them is clear. It is indisputable.41 It does not depend upon the twenty-five slave votes in Congress. It lies with the free states.42 Their duty is before them: in the fear of God, and not of man let them perform it.

Let them at once strike off the grievous fetters. Let them declare that man shall no longer hold his fellow-man in bondage, a beast of burden, an article of traffic, within the governmental domain. God and truth and eternal justice demand this. The very reputation of our fathers, the honor of our land, every principle of liberty, humanity, expediency, demand it. A sacred regard to free principles originated our independence, not the paltry amount of practical evil complained of. And although our fathers left their great work unfinished, it is our duty to follow out their principles. Short of liberty and equality we cannot stop without doing injustice to their memories. If our fathers intended that slavery should be perpetual, that our practice should forever give the lie to our professions, why is the great constitutional compact so guardedly silent on the subject of human servitude If state necessity demanded this perpetual violation of the laws of God and the rights of man, this continual solecism in a government [29] of freedom, why is it not met as a necessity, incurable and inevitable, and formally and distinctly recognized as a settled part of our social system? State necessity, that imperial tyrant, seeks no disguise. In the language of Sheridan, ‘What he does, he dares avow, and avowing, scorns any other justification than the great motives which placed the iron sceptre in his grasp.’

Can it be possible that our fathers felt this state necessity strong upon them? No; for they left open the door for emancipation, they left us the light of their pure principles of liberty, they framed the great charter of American rights, without employing a term in its structure to which in aftertimes of universal freedom the enemies of our country could point with accusation or reproach.

What, then, is our duty

To give effect to the spirit of our Constitution, to plant ourselves upon the great declaration and declare in the face of all the world that political, religious, and legal hypocrisy shall no longer cover as with loathsome leprosy the features of American freedom; to loose at once the bands of wickedness; to undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free.

We have indeed been authoritatively told in Congress and elsewhere that our brethren of the South and West will brook no further agitation of the subject of slavery. What then! shall we heed the unrighteous prohibition? No; by our duty as Christians, as politicians, by our duty to ourselves, to our neighbor, and to God, we are called upon to agitate this subject; to give slavery no resting-place [30] under the hallowed aegis of a government of freedom; to tear it root and branch, with all its fruits of abomination, at least from the soil of the national domain. The slave—--holder may mock us; the representatives of property, merchandise, vendible commodities, may threaten us; still our duty is imperative; the spirit of the Constitution should be maintained within the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. If we cannot ‘provide for the general welfare,’ if we cannot ‘guarantee to each of the states a republican form of government,’43 let [31] us at least no longer legislate for a free nation within view of the falling whip, and within hearing of the execrations of the task-master and the prayer of his slave!

I deny the right of the slave-holder to impose silence on his brother of the North in reference to slavery. What! compelled to maintain the system, to keep up the standing army which protects it, and yet be denied the poor privilege of remonstrance! Ready, at the summons of the master to put down the insurrections of his slaves, the outbreaking of that revenge which is now, and has been, in all nations, and all times, the inevitable consequence of oppression and wrong, and yet like automata to act but not speak! Are we to be denied even the right of a slave, the right to murmur

I am not unaware that my remarks may be regarded by many as dangerous and exceptionable; that I may be regarded as a fanatic for quoting the language of eternal truth, and denounced as an incendiary for maintaining, in the spirit as well as the letter, the doctrines of American Independence. But if such are the consequences of a simple performance of duty, I shall not regard them. If my feeble appeal but reaches the hearts of any who are now slumbering in iniquity; if it shall have power given it to shake down one stone from that foul temple where the blood of human victims is offered to the Moloch of slavery; if under Providence [32] it can break one fetter from off the image of God, and enable one suffering African

To feel
     The weight of human misery less, and glide
Ungroaning to the tomb,

I shall not have written in vain; my conscience will be satisfied.

Far be it from me to cast new bitterness into the gall and wormwood waters of sectional prejudice. No; I desire peace, the peace of universal love, of catholic sympathy, the peace of a common interest, a common feeling, a common humanity. But so long as slavery is tolerated, no such peace can exist. Liberty and slavery cannot dwell in harmony together. There will be a perpetual ‘war in the members’ of the political Mezentius between the living and the dead. God and man have placed between them an everlasting barrier, an eternal separation. No matter under what name or law or compact their union is attempted, the ordination of Providence has forbidden it, and it cannot stand. Peace! there can be no peace between justice and oppression, between robbery and righteousness, truth and falsehood, freedom and slavery.

The slave-holding states are not free. The name of liberty is there, but the spirit is wanting. They do not partake of its invaluable blessings. Wherever slavery exists to any considerable extent, with the exception of some recently settled portions of the country, and which have not yet felt in a great degree the baneful and deteriorating influences of slave labor, we hear at this moment the cry of suffering. We are told of grass-grown streets, of [33] crumbling mansions, of beggared planters and barren plantations, of fear from without, of terror within. The once fertile fields are wasted and tenantless, for the curse of slavery, the improvidence of that labor whose hire has been kept back by fraud, has been there, poisoning the very earth beyond the reviving influence of the early and the latter rain. A moral mildew mingles with and blasts the economy of nature. It is as if the finger of the everlasting God had written upon the soil of the slave-holder the language of His displeasure.

Let, then, the slave-holding states consult their present interest by beginning without delay the work of emancipation. If they fear not, and mock at the fiery indignation of Him, to whom vengeance belongeth, let temporal interest persuade them. They know, they must know, that the present state of things cannot long continue. Mind is the same everywhere, no matter what may be the complexion of the frame which it animates: there is a love of liberty which the scourge cannot eradicate, a hatred of oppression which centuries of degradation cannot extinguish. The slave will become conscious sooner or later of his brute strength, his physical superiority, and will exert it. His torch will be at the threshold and his knife at the throat of the planter. Horrible and indiscriminate will be his vengeance. Where, then, will be the pride, the beauty, and the chivalry of the South? The smoke of her torment will rise upward like a thick cloud visible over the whole earth.

Belie the negro's powers: in headlong will,
Christian, thy brother thou shalt find him still. [34]
Belie his virtues: since his wrongs began,
His fodies and his crimes have stamped him man.

Let the cause of insurrection be removed, then, as speedily as possible. Cease to oppress. ‘Let him that stole steal no more.’ Let the laborer have his hire. Bind him no longer by the cords of slavery, but with those of kindness and brotherly love. Watch over him for his good. Pray for him; instruct him; pour light into the darkness of his mind.

Let this be done, and the horrible fears which now haunt the slumbers of the slave-holder will depart. Conscience will take down its racks and gibbets, and his soul will be at peace. His lands will no longer disappoint his hopes. Free labor will renovate them.

Historical facts; the nature of the human mind; the demonstrated truths of political economy; the analysis of cause and effect, all concur in establishing:

1. That immediate abolition is a safe and just and peaceful remedy for the evils of the slave system.

2. That free labor, its necessary consequence, is more productive, and more advantageous to the planter than slave labor.

In proof of the first proposition it is only necessary to state the undeniable fact that immediate emancipation, whether by an individual or a community, has in no instance been attended with violence and disorder on the part of the emancipated; but that on the contrary it has promoted cheerfulness, [35] industry, and laudable ambition in the place of sullen discontent, indolence, and despair.

The case of St. Domingo is in point. Blood was indeed shed on that island like water, but it was not in consequence of emancipation. It was shed in the civil war which preceded it, and in the iniquitous attempt to restore the slave system in 1801. It flowed on the sanguine altar of slavery, not on the pure and peaceful one of emancipation. No; there, as in all the world and in all time, the violence of oppression engendered violence on the part of the oppressed, and vengeance followed only upon the iron footsteps of wrong. When, where, did justice to the injured waken their hate and vengeance? When, where, did love and kindness and sympathy irritate and madden the persecuted, the broken-hearted, the foully wronged

In September, 1793, the Commissioner of the French National Convention issued his proclamation giving immediate freedom to all the slaves of St. Domingo. Did the slaves baptize their freedom in blood? Did they fight like unchained desperadoes because they had been made free? Did they murder their emancipators No; they acted, as human beings must act, under similar circumstances, by a law as irresistible as those of the universe: kindness disarmed them, justice conciliated them, freedom ennobled them. No tumult followed this wide and instantaneous emancipation. It cost not one drop of blood; it abated not one tittle of the wealth or the industry of the island. Colonel Malenfant, a slave proprietor residing at the time on the island, states that after the public [36] act of abolition, the negroes remained perfectly quiet; they had obtained all they asked for, liberty, and they continued to work upon all the plantations.44

‘There were estates,’ he says, ‘which had neither owners nor managers resident upon them, yet upon these estates, though abandoned, the negroes continued their labors where there were any, even inferior, agents to guide them; and on those estates where no white men were left to direct them, they betook themselves to the planting of provisions; but upon all the plantations where the whites resided the blacks continued to labor as quietly as before.’ Colonel Malenfant says that when many of his neighbors, proprietors or managers, were in prison, the negroes of their plantations came to him to beg him to direct them in their work. ‘If you will take care not to talk to them of the restoration of slavery, but talk to them of freedom, you may with this word chain them down to their labor. How did Toussaint succeed? How did I succeed before his time in the plain of the Culde-Sae on the plantation of Gouraud, during more than eight months after liberty had been granted to the slaves? Let those who knew me at that time, let the blacks themselves be asked. They will all reply that not a single negro upon that plantation, consisting of more than four hundred and fifty laborers, refused to work; and yet this plantation was thought to be under the worst discipline and the slaves the [37] most idle of any in the plain. I inspired the same activity into three other plantations of which I had the management. If all the negroes had come from Africa within six months, if they had the love of independence that the Indians have, I should own that force must be employed; but ninety-nine out of a hundred of the blacks are aware that without labor they cannot procure the things that are necessary for them; that there is no other method of satisfying their wants and their tastes. They know that they must work, they wish to do so, and they will do so.’

This is strong testimony. In 1796, three years after the act of emancipation, we are told that the colony was flourishing under Toussaint, that the whites lived happily and peaceably on their estates, and the blacks continued to work for them.45 Up to 1801 the same happy state of things continued. The colony went on as by enchantment; cultivation made day by day a perceptible progress, under the recuperative energies of free labor.

In 1801 General Vincent, a proprietor of estates in the island, was sent by Toussaint to Paris for the purpose of laying before the Directory the new Constitution which had been adopted at St. Domingo. He reached France just after the peace of Amiens, when Napoleon was fitting out his ill-starred armament for the insane purpose of restoring slavery in the island. General Vincent remonstrated solemnly and earnestly against an expedition so preposterous, so cruel and unnecessary; undertaken at a moment when all was peace and [38] quietness in the colony, when the proprietors were in peaceful possession of their estates, when cultivation was making a rapid progress, and the blacks were industrious and happy beyond example. He begged that this beautiful state of things might not be reversed. The remonstrance was not regarded, and the expedition proceeded. Its issue is well known. Threatened once more with the horrors of slavery, the peaceful and quiet laborer became transformed into a demon of ferocity. The plough-share and the pruning-hook gave way to the pike and the dagger. The white invaders were driven back by the sword and the pestilence; and then, and not till then, was the property of the planters seized upon by the excited and infuriated blacks.

In 1804 Dessalines was proclaimed Emperor of Hayti. The black troops were in a great measure disbanded, and they immediately returned to the cultivation of the plantations. From that period up to the present there has been no want of industry among the inhabitants.

Mr. Harvey,46 who during the reign of Christophe resided at Cape Francois, in describing the character and condition of the inhabitants, says: “It was an interesting sight to behold this class of the Haytiens, now in possession of their freedom, coming in groups to the market nearest which they resided, bringing the produce of their industry there for sale; and afterwards returning, carrying back the necessary articles of living which the disposal of their commodities had enabled them to [39] purchase; all evidently cheerful and happy. Nor could it fail to occur to the mind that their present condition furnished the most satisfactory answer to that objection to the general emancipation of slaves founded on their alleged unfitness to value and improve the benefits of liberty. . . . . As they would not suffer, so they do not require, the attendance of one acting in the capacity of a driver with the instrument of punishment in his hand. As far as I had an opportunity of ascertaining from what fell under my own observation, and from what I gathered from other European residents, I am persuaded of one general fact, which on account of its importance I shall state in the most explicit terms, namely, that the Haytiens employed in cultivating the plantations, as well as the rest of the population, perform as much work in a given time as they were accustomed to do during their subjection to the French. And if we may judge of their future improvement by the change which has been already effected, it may be reasonably anticipated that Hayti will erelong contain a population not inferior in their industry to that of any civilized nation in the world.... Every man had some calling to occupy his attention; instances of idleness or intemperance were of rare occurrence; the most perfect subordination prevailed, and all appeared contented and happy. A foreigner would have found it difficult to persuade himself, on his first entering the place, that the people he now beheld so submissive, industrious, and contented, were the same people who a few years before had escaped from the shackles of slavery. [40] The present condition of Hayti may be judged of from the following well-authenticated facts: its population is more than 700,000, its resources ample, its prosperity and happiness general, its crimes few, its labor crowned with abundance, with no paupers save the decrepit and aged, its people hospitable, respectful, orderly, and contented.47

The manumitted slaves, who to the number of two thousand were settled in Nova Scotia by the British Government at the close of the Revolutionary War,

” ‘ed a harmless life, and gained the character of all honest, industrious people from their white neighbors.’48 Of the free laborers of Trinidad we have the same report. At the Cape of Good Hope, three thousand negroes received their freedom, and with scarce a single exception betook themselves to laborious employments.49

But we have yet stronger evidence. The total abolishment of slavery in the southern republics has proved beyond dispute the safety and utility of immediate abolition. The departed Bolivar indeed deserves his glorious title of Liberator, for he began his career of freedom by striking off the fetters of his own slaves, seven hundred in number.

In an official letter from the Mexican Envoy of the British Government, dated Mexico, March, 1826, and addressed to the Right Hon. George Canning, the superiority of free over slave labor is clearly demonstrated by the following facts:—

1. The sugar and coffee cultivation of Mexico is almost exclusively confined to the great valley of Ceurnavaca and Cauntala Amilpas. [41]

2. It is now carried on exclusively by the labor of free blacks.

3. It was formerly wholly sustained by the forced labor of slaves, purchased at Vera Cruz at $300 to $400 each.

4. Abolition in this section was effected not by governmental interference, not even from motives of humanity, but from an irresistible conviction on the part of the planters that their pecuniary interest demanded it.

5. The result has proved the entire correctness of this conviction; and the planters would now be as unwilling as the blacks themselves to return to the old system.

Let our Southern brethren imitate this example. It is in vain, in the face of facts like these, to talk of the necessity of maintaining the abominable system, operating as it does like a double curse upon planters and slaves. Heaven and earth deny its necessity. It is as necessary as other robberies, and no more.

Yes, putting aside altogether the righteous law of the living God—the same yesterday, to-day, and forever—and shutting out the clearest political truths ever taught by man, still, in human policy selfish expediency would demand of the planter the immediate emancipation of his slaves:

Because slave labor is the labor of mere machines; a mechanical impulse of body and limb, with which the mind of the laborer has no sympathy, and from which it constantly and loathingly revolts.

Because slave labor deprives the master altogether [42] of the incalculable benefit of the negro's will. That does not cooperate with the forced toil of the body. This is but the necessary consequence of all labor which does not benefit the laborer. It is a just remark of that profound political economist, Adam Smith, that ‘a slave can have no other interest than to eat and waste as much, and work as little, as he can.’

To my mind, in the wasteful and blighting influences of slave labor there is a solemn and warning moral.

They seem the evidence of the displeasure of Him who created man after His own image, at the unnatural attempt to govern the bones and sinews, the bodies and souls, of one portion of His children by the caprice, the avarice, the lusts of another; at that utter violation of the design of His merciful Providence, whereby the entire dependence of millions of His rational creatures is made to centre upon the will, the existence, the ability, of their fellow-mortals, instead of resting under the shadow of His own Infinite Power and exceeding love.

I shall offer a few more facts and observations on this point.

1. A distinguished scientific gentleman, Mr. Coulomb, the superintendent of several military works in the French West Indies, gives it as his opinion, that the slaves do not perform more than one third of the labor which they would do, provided they were urged by their own interests and inclinations instead of brute force.

2. A plantation in Barbadoes in 1780 was cultivated [43] by two hundred and eighty-eight slaves: ninety men, eighty-two women, fifty-six boys, and sixty girls. In three years and three months there were on this plantation fifty-seven deaths, and only fifteen births. A change was then made in the government of the slaves. The use of the whip was denied; all severe and arbitrary punishments were abolished; the laborers received wages, and their offences were all tried by a sort of negro court established among themselves: in short, they were practically free. Under this system, in four years and three months there were forty-four births, and but forty-one deaths; and the annual net produce of the plantation was more than three times what it had been before.50

3. The following evidence was adduced by Pitt in the British Parliament, April, 1792. The assembly of Grenada had themselves stated, ‘that though the negroes were allowed only the afternoon of one day in a week, they would do as much work in that afternoon, when employed for their own benefit, as in the whole day when employed in their master's service.’ ‘Now after this confession,’ said Mr. Pitt, ‘the house might burn all its calculations relative to the negro population. A negro, if he worked for himself, could no doubt do double work. By an improvement, then, in the mode of labor, the work in the islands could be doubled.’

4. ‘In coffee districts it is usual for the master to hire his people after they have done the regular task for the day, at a rate varying from 10d. to 15.8d. for every extra bushel which they pluck [44] from the trees; and many, almost all, are found eager to earn their wages.’51

5. In a report made by the commandant of Castries for the government of St. Lucia, in 1822, it is stated, in proof of the intimacy between the slaves and the free blacks, that ‘many small plantations of the latter, and occupied by only one man and his wife, are better cultivated and have more land in cultivation than those of the proprietors of many slaves, and that the labor on them is performed by runaway slaves;’ thus clearly proving that even runaway slaves, under the alldepress-ing fears of discovery and oppression, labor well, because the fruits of their labor are immediately their own.52

Let us look at this subject from another point of view. The large sum of money necessary for stocking a plantation with slaves has an inevitable tendency to place the agriculture of a slave-holding community exclusively in the hands of the wealthy, a tendency at war with practical republicanism and conflicting with the best maxims of political economy.

Two hundred slaves at $200 per head would cost in the outset $40,000. Compare this enormous outlay for the labor of a single plantation with the beautiful system of free labor as exhibited in New England, where every young laborer, with health and ordinary prudence, may acquire by his labor on the farms of others, in a few years, a farm of his own, and the stock necessary for its proper cultivation; [45] where on a hard and unthankful soil independence and competence may be attained by all.

Free labor is perfectly in accordance with the spirit of our institutions; slave labor is a relic of a barbarous, despotic age. The one, like the firmament of heaven, is the equal diffusion of similar lights, manifest, harmonious, regular; the other is the fiery predominance of some disastrous star, hiding all lesser luminaries around it in one consuming glare.

Emancipation would reform this evil. The planter would no longer be under the necessity of a heavy expenditure for slaves. He would only pay a very moderate price for his labor; a price, indeed, far less than the cost of the maintenance of a promiscuous gang of slaves, which the present system requires.

In an old plantation of three hundred slaves, not more than one hundred effective laborers will be found. Children, the old and superannuated, the sick and decrepit, the idle and incorrigibly vicious, will be found to constitute two thirds of the whole number. The remaining third perform only about one third as much work as the same number of free laborers.

Now disburden the master of this heavy load of maintenance; let him employ free, able, industrious laborers only, those who feel conscious of a personal interest in the fruits of their labor, and who does not see that such a system would be vastly more safe and economical than the present

The slave states are learning this truth by fatal experience. Most of them are silently writhing [46] under the great curse. Virginia has uttered her complaints aloud. As yet, however, nothing has been done even there, save a small annual appropriation for the purpose of colonizing the free colored inhabitants of the state. Is this a remedy

But it may be said that Virginia will ultimately liberate her slaves on condition of their colonization in Africa, peacefully if possible, forcibly if necessary.

Well, admitting that Virginia may be able and willing at some remote period to rid herself of the evil by commuting the punishment of her unoffending colored people from slavery to exile, will her fearful remedy apply to some of the other slaveholding states

It is a fact, strongly insisted upon by our Southern brethren as a reason for the perpetuation of slavery, that their climate and peculiar agriculture will not admit of hard labor on the part of the whites; that amidst the fatal malaria of the rice plantations the white man is almost annually visited by the country fever; that few of the white overseers of these plantations reach the middle period of ordinary life; that the owners are compelled to fly from their estates as the hot season approaches, without being able to return until the first frosts have fallen. But we are told that the slaves remain there, at their work, mid-leg in putrid water, breathing the noisome atmosphere, loaded with contagion, and underneath the scorching fervor of a terrible sun; that they indeed suffer; but that their habits, constitutions, and their long practice enable them to labor, surrounded [47] by such destructive influences, with comparative safety.

The conclusive answer, therefore, to those who in reality cherish the visionary hope of colonizing all the colored people of the United States in Africa or elsewhere, is this single, all-important fact: The labor of the blacks will not and cannot be dispensed with by the planter of the South.

To what remedy, then, can the friends of humanity betake themselves but to that of emancipation

And nothing but a strong, unequivocal expression of public sentiment is needed to carry into effect this remedy, so far as the general government is concerned.

And when the voice of all the non-slave-holding states shall be heard on this question, a voice of expostulation, rebuke, entreaty—when the full light of truth shall break through the night of prejudice, and reveal all the foul abominations of slavery, will Delaware still cling to the curse which is wasting her moral strength, and still rivet the fetters upon her three or four thousand slaves

Let Delaware begin the work, and Maryland and Virginia must follow; the example will be contagious; and the great object of universal emancipation will be attained.

Freemen, Christians, lovers of truth and justice Why stand ye idle? Ours is a government of opinion, and slavery is interwoven with it. Change the current of opinion, and slavery will be swept away. Let the awful sovereignty of the people, a power which is limited only by the sovereignty of Heaven, arise and pronounce judgment against the [48] crying iniquity. Let each individual remember that upon himself rests a portion of that sovereignty; a part of the tremendous responsibility of its exercise. The burning, withering concentration of public opinion upon the slave system is alone needed for its total annihilation. God has given us the power to overthrow it; a power peaceful, yet mighty, benevolent, yet effectual, ‘awful without severity,’ a moral strength equal to the emergency.

‘How does it happen,’ inquires an able writer,53 ‘that whenever duty is named we begin to hear of the weakness of human nature? That same nature which outruns the whirlwind in the chase of gain, which rages like a maniac at the trumpet call of glory, which laughs danger and death to scorn when its least passion is awakened, becomes weak as childhood when reminded of the claims of duty.’ But let no one hope to find an excuse in hypocrisy. The humblest individual of the community in one way or another possesses influence; and upon him as well as upon the proudest rests the responsibility of its rightful exercise and proper direction. The overthrow of a great national evil like that of slavery can only be effected by the united energies of the great body of the people. Shoulder must be put to shoulder and hand linked with hand, the whole mass must be put in motion and its entire strength applied, until the fabric of oppression is shaken to its dark foundations and not one stone is left upon another.

Let the Christian remember that the God of his [49] worship hateth oppression; that the mystery of faith can only be held by a pure conscience; and that in vain is the tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, if the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and truth, are forgotten. Let him remember that all along the clouded region of slavery the truths of the everlasting gospel are not spoken, that the ear of iniquity is lulled, that those who minister between the ‘porch and the altar’ dare not speak out the language of eternal justice: ‘Is not this the fast which I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free’ (Isa. LVIII. 16.54) ‘He that stealeth a man and selleth him; or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.’ (Exod. XXI. 16.1) Yet a little while and the voice of impartial prayer for humanity will be heard no more in the abiding place of slavery. The truths of the gospel, its voice of warning and exhortation, will be denounced as incendiary.55 The night of that infidelity, [50] which denies God in the abuse and degradation of man, will settle over the land, to be broken only by the upheaving earthquake of eternal retribution.

To the members of the religious Society of Friends, I would earnestly appeal. They have already done much to put away the evil of slavery in this country and Great Britain. The blessings of many who were ready to perish have rested upon them. But their faithful testimony must be still steadily upborne, for the great work is but begun. Let them not relax their exertions, nor be contented with a lifeless testimony, a formal protestation against the evil. Active, prayerful, unwearied exertion is needed for its overthrow. But above all, let them not aid in excusing and palliating it. Slavery has no redeeming qualities, no feature of benevolence, nothing pure, nothing peaceful, nothing just. Let them carefully keep themselves aloof from all societies and all schemes which have a tendency to excuse or overlook its crying iniquity. True to a doctrine founded on love and mercy, ‘peace on earth and good will to men,’ they should regard the suffering slave as their brother, and endeavor to ‘put their souls in his soul's stead.’ They may earnestly desire the civilization of Africa, but they cannot aid in building up the colony of Liberia so long as that colony [51] leans for support upon the arm of military power; so long as it proselytes to Christianity under the muzzles of its cannon; and preaches the doctrines of Christ while practising those of Mahomet. When the Sierra Leone Company was formed in England, not a member of the Society of Friends could be prevailed upon to engage in it, because the colony was to be supplied with cannon and other military stores. Yet the Foreign Agent of the Liberia Colony Society, to which the same insurmountable objection exists, is a member of the Society of Friends, and I understand has been recently employed in providing gunpowder, etc., for the use of the colony. There must be an awakening on this subject; other Woolmans and other Benezets must arise and speak the truth with the meek love of James and the fervent sincerity of Paul.

To the women of America, whose sympathies know no distinction of clime, or sect, or color, the suffering slave is making a strong appeal. Oh, let it not be unheeded for of those to whom much is given much will be required at the last dread tribunal; and never in the strongest terms of human eulogy was woman's influence overrated. Sisters, daughters, wives, and mothers, your influence is felt everywhere, at the fireside, and in the halls of legislation, surrounding, like the all-encircling atmosphere, brother and father, husband and son And by your love of them, by every holy sympathy of your bosoms, by every mournful appeal which comes up to you from hearts whose sanctuary of affections has been made waste and desolate, you [52] are called upon to exert it in the cause of redemption from wrong and outrage.

Let the patriot, the friend of liberty and the Union of the States, no longer shut his eyes to the great danger, the master-evil before which all others dwindle into insignificance. Our Union is tottering to its foundation, and slavery is the cause. Remove the evil. Dry up at their source the bitter waters. In vain you enact and abrogate your tariffs; in vain is individual sacrifice, or sectional concession. The accursed thing is with us, the stone of stumbling and the rock of offence remains. Drag, then, the Achan into light; and let national repentance atone for national sin.

The conflicting interests of free and slave labor furnish the only ground for fear in relation to the permanency of the Union. The line of separation between them is day by day growing broader and deeper; geographically and politically united, we are already, in a moral point of view, a divided people. But a few months ago we were on the very verge of civil war, a war of brothers, a war between the North and the South, between the slave-holder and the free laborer. The danger has been delayed for a time; this bolt has fallen without mortal injury to the Union, but the cloud from whence it came still hangs above us, reddening with the elements of destruction.

Recent events have furnished ample proof that the slave-holding interest is prepared to resist any legislation on the part of the general government which is supposed to have a tendency, directly or indirectly, to encourage and invigorate free labor; [53] and that it is determined to charge upon its opposite interest the infliction of all those evils which necessarily attend its own operation, ‘the primeval curse of Omnipotence upon slavery.’

We have already felt in too many instances the extreme difficulty of cherishing in one common course of national legislation the opposite interests of republican equality and feudal aristocracy and servitude. The truth is, we have undertaken a moral impossibility. These interests are from their nature irreconcilable. The one is based upon the pure principles of rational liberty; the other, under the name of freedom, revives the ancient European system of barons and villains, nobles and serfs. Indeed, the state of society which existed among our Anglo-Saxon ancestors was far more tolerable than that of many portions of our republican confederacy. For the Anglo—Saxon slaves had it in their power to purchase their freedom; and the laws of the realm recognized their liberation and placed them under legal protection.56

To counteract the dangers resulting from a state of society so utterly at variance with the great Declaration of American freedom should be the earnest endeavor of every patriotic statesman. Nothing [54] unconstitutional, nothing violent, should be attempted; but the true doctrine of the rights of man should be steadily kept in view; and the opposition to slavery should be inflexible and constantly maintained. The almost daily violations of the Constitution in consequence of the laws of some of the slave states, subjecting free colored citizens of New England and elsewhere, who may happen to be on board of our coasting vessels, to imprisonment immediately on their arrival in a Southern port should be provided against. Nor should the imprisonment of the free colored citizens of the Northern and Middle states, on suspicion of being runaways, subjecting them, even after being pronounced free, to the costs of their confinement and trial, be longer tolerated; for if we continue to yield to innovations like these upon the Constitution of our fathers, we shall erelong have the name only of a free government left us.

Dissemble as we may, it is impossible for us to believe, after fully considering the nature of slavery, that it can much longer maintain a peaceable existence among us. A day of revolution must come, and it is our duty to prepare for it. Its threatened evil may be changed into a national blessing. The establishment of schools for the instruction of the slave children, a general diffusion of the lights of Christianity, and the introduction of a sacred respect for the social obligations of marriage and for the relations between parents and children, among our black population, would render emancipation not only perfectly safe, but also of the highest advantage to the country. Two millions [55] of freemen would be added to our population, upon whom in the hour of danger we could safely depend; ‘the domestic foe’ would be changed into a firm friend, faithful, generous, and ready to encounter all dangers in our defence. It is well known that during the last war with Great Britain, wherever the enemy touched upon our Southern coast, the slaves in multitudes hastened to join them. On the other hand, the free blacks were highly serviceable in repelling them. So warm was the zeal of the latter, so manifest their courage in the defence of Louisiana, that the present Chief Magistrate of the United States publicly bestowed upon them one of the highest eulogiums ever offered by a commander to his soldiers.

Let no one seek an apology for silence on the subject of slavery because the laws of the land tolerate and sanction it. But a short time ago the slave-trade was protected by laws and treaties, and sanctioned by the example of men eminent for the reputation of piety and integrity. Yet public opinion broke over these barriers; it lifted the curtain and revealed the horrors of that most abominable traffic; and unrighteous law and ancient custom and avarice and luxury gave way before its irresistible authority. It should never be forgotten that human law cannot change the nature of human action in the pure eye of infinite justice; and that the ordinances of man cannot annul those of God. The slave system, as existing in this country, can be considered in no other light than as the cause of which the foul traffic in human flesh is the legitimate consequence. It is the parent, [56] the fosterer, the sole supporter of the slave-trade. It creates the demand for slaves, and the foreign supply will always be equal to the demand of consumption. It keeps the market open. It offers inducements to the slave-trader which no severity of law against his traffic can overcome. By our laws his trade is piracy; while slavery, to which alone it owes its existence, is protected and cherished, and those engaged in it are rewarded by an increase of political power proportioned to the increase of their stock of human beings! To steal the natives of Africa is a crime worthy of an ignominious death; but to steal and enslave annually nearly one hundred thousand of the descendants of these stolen natives, born in this country, is considered altogether excusable and proper! For my own part, I know no difference between robbery in Africa and robbery at home. I could with as quiet a conscience engage in the one as the other.

‘There is not one general principle,’ justly remarks Lord Nugent, ‘on which the slave-trade is to be stigmatized which does not impeach slavery itself.’ Kindred in iniquity, both must fall speedily, fall together, and be consigned to the same dishonorable grave. The spirit which is thrilling through every nerve of England is awakening America from her sleep of death. Who, among our statesmen, would not shrink from the baneful reputation of having supported by his legislative influence the slave-trade, the traffic in human flesh? Let them then beware; for the time is near at hand when the present defenders of slavery will sink under the same fatal reputation, and [57] leave to posterity a memory which will blacken through all future time, a legacy of infamy.

‘Let us not betake us to the common arts and stratagems of nations, but fear God, and put away the evil which provokes Him; and trust not in man, but in the living God; and it shall go well for England!’ This counsel, given by the purehearted William Penn, in a former age, is about to be followed in the present. An intense and powerful feeling is working in the mighty heart of England; it is speaking through the lips of Brougham and Buxton and O'Connell, and demanding justice in the name of humanity and according to the righteous law of God. The immediate emancipation of eight hundred thousand slaves is demanded with an authority which cannot much longer be disputed or trifled with. That demand will be obeyed; justice will be done; the heavy burdens will be unloosed; the oppressed set free. It shall go well for England.

And when the stain on our own escutcheon shall be seen no more; when the Declaration of our Independence and the practice of our people shall agree; when truth shall be exalted among us; when love shall take the place of wrong; when all the baneful pride and prejudice of caste and color shall fall forever; when under one common sun of political liberty the slave-holding portions of our republic shall no longer sit, like the Egyptians of old, themselves mantled in thick darkness, while all around them is glowing with the blessed light of freedom and equality, then, and not till then, shall it go well for America I


The abolitionists.

Their Sentiments and objects.

Two letters to the Jeffersonian and times, Richmond, Va.


A friend has handed me a late number of your paper, containing a brief notice of a pamphlet, which I have recently published on the subject of slavery.

From an occasional perusal of your paper, I have formed a favorable opinion of your talent and independence. Compelled to dissent from some of your political sentiments, I still give you full credit for the lofty tone of sincerity and manliness with which these sentiments are avowed and defended.

I perceive that since the adjustment of the tariff question a new subject of discontent and agitation seems to engross your attention.

The ‘accursed tariff’ has no sooner ceased to be the stone of stumbling and the rock of offence, than the ‘abolition doctrines of the Northern enthusiasts,’ as you are pleased to term the doctrines of your own Jefferson, furnish, in your opinion, a sufficient reason for poising the ‘Ancient Dominion’ on its sovereignty, and rousing every slave-owner to military preparations, until the entire South, from the Potomac to the Gulf, shall bristle [59] with bayonets, ‘like quills upon the fretful porcupine.’

In proof of a conspiracy against your ‘vested rights,’ you have commenced publishing copious extracts from the pamphlets and periodicals of the abolitionists of New England and New York. An extract from my own pamphlet you have headed ‘The Fanatics,’ and in introducing it to your readers you inform them that ‘it exhibits, in strong colors, the morbid spirit of that false and fanatical philanthropy, which is at work in the Northern states, and, to some extent, in the South.’

Gentlemen, so far as I am personally concerned in the matter, I feel no disposition to take exceptions to any epithets which you may see fit to apply to me or my writings. A humble son of New England—a tiller of her rugged soil, and a companion of her unostentatious yeomanry—--it matters little, in any personal consideration of the subject, whether the voice of praise or opprobrium reaches me from beyond the narrow limits of my immediate neighborhood.

But when I find my opinions quoted as the sentiment of New England, and then denounced as dangerous, ‘false and fanatical;’ and especially when I see them made the occasion of earnest appeals to the prejudices and sectional jealousies of the South, it becomes me to endeavor to establish their truths, and defend them from illegitimate influences and unjust suspicions.

In the first place, then, let me say, that if it be criminal to publicly express a belief that it is in the power of the slave states to emancipate their [60] slaves, with profit and safety to themselves, and that such is their immediate duty, a majority of the people of New England are wholly guiltless. Of course, all are nominally opposed to slavery; but upon the little band of abolitionists should the anathemas of the slave-holder be directed, for they are the agitators of whom you complain, men who are acting under a solemn conviction of duty, and who are bending every energy of their minds to the accomplishment of their object.

And that object is the overthrow of slavery in the United States, by such means only as are sanctioned by law, humanity, and religion.

I shall endeavor, gentlemen, as briefly as may be, to give you some of our reasons for opposing slavery and seeking its abolition; and, secondly, to explain our mode of operation; to disclose our plan of emancipation, fully and entirely. We wish to do nothing darkly; frank republicans, we acknowledge no double-dealing.

At this busy season of the year, I cannot but regret that I have not leisure for such a deliberate examination of the subject as even my poor ability might warrant. My remarks, penned in the intervals of labor, must necessarily be brief, and wanting in coherence.

We seek the abolishment of slavery– 1. Because it is contrary to the law of God.

In your paper of the 2d of 7th mo., the same in which you denounce the ‘false and fanatical philanthropy’ of abolitionists, you avow yourselves members of the Bible Society, and bestow warm and deserved encomiums on the ‘truly pious under. taking of sending the truth among all nations.’ [61]

You, therefore, gentlemen, whatever others may do, will not accuse me of ‘fanaticism,’ if I endeavor to sustain my first great reason for opposing slavery by a reference to the volume of inspiration:

‘Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you do ye even so to them.’

‘Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you, take heed and do it; for there is no iniquity with the Lord, nor respect of persons.’

‘Is not this the fast that I have chosen To loose the bands of wickedness; to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke’

‘If a man be found stealing any of his brethren, and maketh merchandise of him, or selling him, that thief shall die.’

‘Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.’

‘And he that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death.’

2. Because it is an open violation of all human equality, of the laws of Nature and of nations.

The fundamental principle of all equal and just law is contained in the following extract from Blackstone's Commentaries, Introduction, sec. 2.

‘The rights which God and Nature have established, and which are therefore called natural rights, such as life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually vested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by municipal laws to be inviolable: on the contrary, no human [62] legislation has power to abridge or destroy them, unless the owner shall himself commit some act that amounts to a forfeiture.’

Has the negro committed such offence? Above all, has his infant child forfeited its unalienable right

Surely it can be no act of the innocent child.

Yet you must prove the forfeiture, or no human legislation can deprive that child of its freedom.

Its black skin constitutes the forfeiture!

What! throw the responsibility upon God! Charge the common Father of the white and the black, He, who is no respecter of persons, with plundering His unoffending children of all which makes the boon of existence desirable; their personal liberty!

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’57

In this general and unqualified declaration, on the 4th of July, 1776, all the people of the United States, without distinction of color, were proclaimed free, by the delegates of the people of those states assembled in their highest sovereign capacity.

For more than half a century we have openly violated that solemn declaration.

3. Because it renders nugatory the otherwise beneficial example of our free institutions, and exposes us to the scorn and reproach of the liberal and enlightened of other nations. [63]

‘Chains clank and groans echo around the walls of their spotless Congress.’58

‘Man to be possessed by man! Man to be made property of The image of the Deity to be put under the yoke Let these usurpers show us their title-deeds!’59

‘When I am indulging in my views of American prospects and American liberty, it is mortifying to be told that in that very country a large portion of the people are slaves! It is a dark spot on the face of the nation. Such a state of things cannot always exist.’60

“ I deem it right to raise my humble voice to convince the citizens of America that the slaveholding states are held in abomination by all those whose opinion ought to be valuable. Man is the property of man in about one half of the American States: let them not therefore dare to prate of their institutions or of their national freedom, while they hold their fellow-men in bondage! Of all men living, the American citizen who is the owner of slaves is the most despicable. He is a political hypocrite of the very worst description. The friends of humanity and liberty in Europe should join in one universal cry of shame on the American slave-holders ‘Base wretches!’ should we shout in chorus; ‘base wretches! how dare you profane the temple of national freedom, the sacred fane of republican rites, with the presence and the sufferings of human beings in chains and slavery!’

4. Because it subjects one portion of our American [64] brethren to the unrestrained violence and unholy passions of another.

Here, gentlemen, I might summon to my support a cloud of witnesses, a host of incontrovertible, damning facts, the legitimate results of a system whose tendency is to harden and deprave the heart. But I will not descend to particulars. I am willing to believe that the majority of the masters of your section of the country are disposed to treat their unfortunate slaves with kindness. But where the dreadful privilege of slave-holding is extended to all, in every neighborhood, there must be individuals whose cupidity is unrestrained by any principle of humanity, whose lusts are fiercely indulged, whose fearful power over the bodies, nay, may I not say the souls, of their victims is daily and hourly abused.

Will the evidence of your own Jefferson, on this point, be admissible

‘The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives loose to the worst of passions; and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot fail to be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his morals and manners undepraved by such circumstances.’61 [65]

‘Il n'existe à la veritye aucune loi qui protege l'esclave le mauvais traitement du maitre,’ says Achille Murat, himself a Floridian slave-holder, in his late work on the United States.

Gentlemen, is not this true Does there exist even in Virginia any law limiting the punishment of a slave Are there any bounds prescribed, beyond which the brutal, the revengeful, the intoxicated slave-master, acting in the double capacity of judge and executioner, cannot pass?

You will, perhaps, tell me that the general law against murder applies alike to master and slave. True; but will you point out instances of masters suffering the penalty of that law for the murder of their slaves If you examine your judicial reports you will find the wilful murder of a slave decided to be only a trespass62

It indeed argues well for Virginian pride of character, that latterly, the law, which expressly sanctioned the murder of a slave, who in the language of Georgia and North Carolina, ‘died of moderate correction,’ has been repealed. But, although the letter of the law is changed, its practice remains the same. In proof of this, I would refer to Brockenborough and Holmes' Virginia Cases, p. 258.

In Georgia and North Carolina the murder of a slave is tolerated and justified by law, provided that in the opinion of the court he died ‘of moderate correction’

In South Carolina the following clause of a law enacted in 1740 is still in force

‘If any slave shall suffer in his life, limbs, or [66] members, when no white person shall be present, or being present shall neglect or refuse to give evidence concerning the same, in every such case the owner or other person who shall have the care and government of the slave shall be deemed and taken to be guilty of such offence; unless such owner or other person can make the contrary appear by good and sufficient evidence, or shall by his own oath clear and exculpate himself, which oath every court where such offence shall be tried is hereby empowered to administer and to acquit the offender accordingly, if clear proof of the offence be not made by two witnesses at least, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.’63

Is not this offering a reward for perjury And what shall we think of that misnamed court of justice, where it is optional with the witnesses, in a case of life and death, to give or withhold their testimony

5. Because it induces dangerous sectional jealousies, creates of necessity a struggle between the opposing interests of free and slave labor, and threatens the integrity of the Union.

That sectional jealousies do exist, the tone of your paper, gentlemen, is of itself an evidence, if indeed any were needed. The moral sentiment of the free states is against slavery. The freeman has declared his unwillingness that his labor should be reduced to a level with that of slaves. Harsh epithets and harsh threats have been freely exchanged, until the beautiful Potomac, wherever it winds its way to the ocean, has become the dividing line, not [67] of territory only, but of feeling, interest, national pride, a moral division.

What shook the pillars of the Union when the Missouri question was agitated? What but a few months ago arrayed in arms a state against the Union, and the Union against a state

From Maine to Florida, gentlemen, the answer must be the same, slavery.

6. Because of its pernicious influence upon national wealth and prosperity.

Political economy has been the peculiar study of Virginia. But there are some important truths connected with this science which she has hitherto overlooked or wantonly disregarded.

Population increasing with the means of subsistence is a fair test of national wealth.

By reference to the several censuses of the United States, it will be seen that the white population increases nearly twice as fast in states where there are few or no slaves as in the slave states.

Again, in the latter states the slave population has increased twice as fast as the white. Let us take, for example, the period of twenty years, from 1790 to 1810, and compare the increase of the two classes in three of the Southern states.

Per cent. of whites.Per cent. of blacks.
North Carolina3070

The causes of this disproportionate increase, so inimical to the true interests of the country, are very manifest.

A large proportion of the free inhabitants of the [68] United States are dependent upon their labor for subsistence. The forced, unnatural system of slavery in some of the states renders the demand for free laborers less urgent; they are not so readily and abundantly supplied with the means of subsistence as those of their own class in the free states, and as the necessaries of life diminish population also diminishes.

There is yet another cause for the decline of the white population. In the free states labor is reputable. The statesman, whose eloquence has electrified a nation, does not disdain in the intervals of the public service to handle the axe and the hoe. And the woman whose beauty, talents, and accomplishments have won the admiration of all deems it no degradation to ‘look well to her household.’

But the slave stamps with indelible ignominy the character of occupation. It is a disgrace for a highborn Virginian or chivalrous Carolinian to labor, side by side, with the low, despised, miserable black man. Wretched must be the condition of the poorer classes of whites in a slave-holding community! Compelled to perform the despised offices of the slave, they can hardly rise above his level. They become the pariahs of society. No wonder, then, that the tide of emigration flows from the slave-cursed shores of the Atlantic to the free valleys of the West.

In New England the labor of a farmer or mechanic is worth from $150 to $200 per annum. That of a female from $50 to $100. Our entire population, with the exception of those engaged in mercantile affairs, the professional classes, and a [69] very few moneyed idlers, are working men and women. If that of the South were equally employed (and slavery apart, there is no reason why they should not be), how large an addition would be annually made to the wealth of the country The truth is, a very considerable portion of the national wealth produced by Northern labor is taxed to defray the expenses of twenty-five representatives of Southern property in Congress, and to maintain an army mainly for the protection of the slave-master against the dangerous tendencies of that property.

In the early and better days of the Roman Republic, the ancient warriors and statesmen cultivated their fields with their own hands; but so soon as their agriculture was left to the slaves, it visibly declined, the once fertile fields became pastures, and the inhabitants of that garden of the world were dependent upon foreign nations for the necessaries of life. The beautiful villages, once peopled by free contented laborers, became tenantless, and, over the waste of solitude, we see, here and there, at weary distances, the palaces of the master, contrasting painfully with the wretched cottages and subterranean cells of the slave. In speaking of the extraordinary fertility of the soil in the early times of the Republic, Pliny inquires, ‘What was the cause of these abundant harvests? It was this, that men of rank employed themselves in the culture of the fields; whereas now it is left to wretches loaded with fetters, who carry in their countenances the shameful evidence of their slavery.’ [70]

And what was true in the days of the Roman is now written legibly upon the soil of your own Virginia. A traveller in your state, in contemplating the decline of its agriculture, has justly remarked that, ‘if the miserable condition of the negro had left his mind for reflection, he would laugh in his chains to see how slavery has stricken the land with ugliness.’

Is the rapid increase of a population of slaves in itself no evil? In all the slave states the increase of the slaves is vastly more rapid than that of the whites or free blacks. When we recollect that they are under no natural or moral restraint, careless of providing food or clothing for themselves or their children; when, too, we consider that they are raised as an article of profitable traffic, like the cattle of New England and the hogs of Kentucky; that it is a matter of interest, of dollars and cents, to the master that they should multiply as fast as possible, there is surely nothing at all surprising in the increase of their numbers. Would to heaven there were also nothing alarming!

7. Because, by the terms of the national compact, the free and the slave states are alike involved in the guilt of maintaining slavery, and the citizens of the former are liable, at any moment, to be called upon to aid the latter in suppressing, at the point of the bayonet, the insurrection of the slaves.

Slavery is, at the best, an unnatural state. And Nature, when her eternal principles are violated, is perpetually struggling to restore them to their first estate. [71]

All history, ancient and modern, is full of warning on this point. Need I refer to the many revolts of the Roman and Grecian slaves, the bloody insurrection of Etruria, the horrible servile wars of Sicily and Capua? Or, to come down to later times, to France in the fourteenth century, Germany in the sixteenth, to Malta in the last? Need I call to mind the untold horrors of St. Domingo, when that island, under the curse of its servile war, glowed redly in the view of earth and heaven,—--an open hell? Have our own peculiar warnings gone by unheeded,—the frequent slave insurrections of the South? One horrible tragedy, gentlemen, must still be fresh in your recollection, —Southampton, with its fired dwellings and ghastly dead! Southampton, with its dreadful associations, of the death struggle with the insurgents, the groans of the tortured negroes, the lamentations of the surviving whites over woman in her innocence and beauty, and childhood, and hoary age!

‘The hour of emancipation,’ said Thomas Jefferson, ‘is advancing in the march of time. It will come. If not brought on by the generous energy of our own minds, it will come by the bloody process of St. Domingo

To the just and prophetic language of your own great statesman I have but a few words to add. They shall be those of truth and soberness.

We regard the slave system in your section of the country as a great evil, moral and political,—an evil which, if left to itself for even a few years longer, will give the entire South into the hands of the blacks. [72]

The terms of the national compact compel us to consider more than two millions of our fellowbeings as your property; not, indeed, morally, really, de facto, but still legally your property! We acknowledge that you have a power derived from the United States Constitution to hold this ‘property,’ but we deny that you have any moral right to take advantage of that power. For truth will not allow us to admit that any human law or compact can make void or put aside the ordinance of the living God and the eternal laws of Nature.

We therefore hold it to be the duty of the people of the slave-holding states to begin the work of emancipation now; that any delay must be dangerous to themselves in time and eternity, and full of injustice to their slaves and to their brethren of the free states.

Because the slave has never forfeited his right to freedom, and the continuance of his servitude is a continuance of robbery; and because, in the event of a servile war, the people of the free states would be called upon to take a part in its unutterable horrors.

New England would obey that call, for she will abide unto death by the Constitution of the land. Yet what must be the feelings of her citizens, while engaged in hunting down like wild beasts their fellow-men—--brutal and black it may be, but still oppressed, suffering human beings, struggling madly and desperately for their liberty, if they feel and know that the necessity of so doing has resulted from a blind fatality on the part of the [73] oppressor, a reckless disregard of the warnings of earth and heaven, an obstinate perseverance in a system founded and sustained by robbery and wrong?

All wars are horrible, wicked, inexcusable, and truly and solemnly has Jefferson himself said that, in a contest of this kind, between the slave and the master, ‘the Almighty has no attribute which could take side with us.’

Understand us, gentlemen. We only ask to have the fearful necessity taken away from us of sustaining the wretched policy of slavery by moral influence or physical force. We ask alone to be allowed to wash our hands of the blood of millions of your fellow-beings, the cry of whom is rising up as a swift witness unto God against us.

8. Because all the facts connected with the subject warrant us in a most confident belief that a speedy and general emancipation might be made with entire safety, and that the consequences of such an emancipation would be highly beneficial to the planters of the South.

Awful as may be their estimate in time and eternity, I will not, gentlemen, dwell upon the priceless benefits of a conscience at rest, a soul redeemed from the all-polluting influences of slavery, and against which the cry of the laborer whose hire has been kept back by fraud does not ascend. Nor will I rest the defence of my position upon the fact that it can never be unsafe to obey the commands of God. These are the old and common arguments of ‘fanatics’ and ‘enthusiasts,’ melting away like frost-work in the glorious sunshine of [74] expediency and utility. In the light of these modern luminaries, then, let us reason together.

A long and careful examination of the subject will I think fully justify me in advancing this general proposition.

Wherever, whether in Europe, the East and West Indies, South America, or in our own country, a fair experiment has been made of the comparative expense of free and slave labor, the result has uniformly been favorable to the former.64

Here, gentlemen, the issue is tendered. Standing on your own ground of expediency, I am ready to defend my position.

I pass from the utility to the safety of emancipation. And here, gentlemen, I shall probably be met at the outset with your supposed consequences, bloodshed, rapine, promiscuous massacre

The facts, gentlemen! In God's name, bring out your facts! If slavery is to cast over the prosperity of our country the thick shadow of an everlasting curse, because emancipation is dreaded as a remedy worse than the disease itself, let us know the real grounds of your fear.

Do you find them in the emancipation of the South American Republics In Hayti? In the partial experiments of some of the West India [75] Islands? Does history, ancient or modern, justify your fears? Can you find any excuse for them in the nature of the human mind, everywhere maddened by injury and conciliated by kindness? No, gentlemen; the dangers of slavery are manifest and real, all history lies open for your warning. But the dangers of emancipation, of ‘doing justly and loving mercy,’ exist only in your imaginations. You cannot produce one fact in corroboration of your fears. You cannot point to the stain of a single drop of any master's blood shed by the slave he has emancipated.

I have now given some of our reasons for opposing slavery. In my next letter I shall explain our method of opposition, and I trust I shall be able to show that there is nothing ‘fanatical,’ nothing ‘unconstitutional,’ and nothing unchristian in that method.

In the mean time, gentlemen, I am your friend and well-wisher.

Haverhill, Mass., 22d 7th Mo., 1833.


The abolitionists of the North have been grossly misrepresented. In attacking the system of slavery, they have never recommended any measure or measures conflicting with the Constitution of the United States.

They have never sought to excite or encourage a spirit of rebellion among the slaves: on the contrary, they would hold any such attempt, by whomsoever made, in utter and stern abhorrence. [76]

All the leading abolitionists of my acquaintance are, from principle, opposed to war of all kinds, believing that the benefits of no war whatever can compensate for the sacrifice of one human life by violence.

Consequently, they would be the first to deprecate any physical interference with your slave system on the part of the general government.

They are, without exception, opposed to any political interposition of the government, in regard to slavery as it exists in the states. For, although they feel and see that the canker of the moral disease is affecting all parts of the confederacy, they believe that the remedy lies with yourselves alone. Any such interference they would consider unlawful and unconstitutional; and the exercise of unconstitutional power, although sanctioned by the majority of a republican government, they believe to be a tyranny as monstrous and as odious as the despotism of a Turkish Sultan.

Having made this disclaimer on the part of myself and my friends, let me inquire from whence this charge of advocating the interference of the general government with the sovereign jurisdiction of the states has arisen? Will you, gentlemen, will the able editors of the United States Telegraph and the Columbian Telescope, explain For myself, I have sought in vain among the writings of our ‘Northern Enthusiasts,’ and among the speeches of the Northern statesmen and politicians, for some grounds for the accusation.

The doctrine, such as it is, does not belong to us. I think it may be traced home to the South, [77] to Virginia, to her Convention of 1829, to the speech of Ex-President Monroe, on the white basis question.

‘As to emancipation,’ said that distinguished son of your state, ‘if ever that should take place, it cannot be done by the state; it must be done by the Union.’

Again, ‘If emancipation can ever be effected, it can only be done with the aid of the general government.’

Gentlemen, you are welcome to your doctrine. It has no advocates among the abolitionists of New England.

We aim to overthrow slavery by the moral influence of an enlightened public sentiment;

By a clear and fearless exposition of the guilt of holding property in man;

By analyzing the true nature of slavery, and boldly rebuking sin;

By a general dissemination of the truths of political economy, in regard to free and slave labor;

By appeals from the pulpit to the consciences of men

By the powerful influence of the public press;

By the formation of societies whose object shall be to oppose the principle of slavery by such means as are consistent with our obligations to law, religion, and humanity;

By elevating, by means of education and sympathy, the character of the free people of color among us.

Our testimony against slavery is the same which has uniformly, and with so much success, been applied [78] to prevailing iniquity in all ages of the world, the truths of divine revelation.

Believing that there can be nothing in the Providence of God to which His holy and eternal law is not strictly applicable, we maintain that no circumstances can justify the slave-holder in a continuance of his system.

That the fact that this system did not originate with the present generation is no apology for retaining it, inasmuch as crime cannot be entailed; and no one is under a necessity of sinning because others have done so before him;

That the domestic slave-trade is as repugnant to the laws of God, and should be as odious in the eyes of a Christian community, as the foreign;

That the black child born in a slave plantation is not ‘an entailed article of property;’ and that the white man who makes of that child a slave is a thief and a robber, stealing the child as the sea pirate stole his father

We do not talk of gradual abolition, because, as Christians, we find no authority for advocating a gradual relinquishment of sin. We say to slaveholders, ‘Repent now, to-day, immediately;’ just as we say to the intemperate, ‘Break off from your vice at once; touch not, taste not, handle not, from henceforth forever.’

Besides, the plan of gradual abolition has been tried in this country and the West Indies, and found wanting. It has been in operation in our slave states ever since the Declaration of Independence, and its results are before the nation. Let us see. [79]

In 1790 there were in the slave states south of the Potomac and the Ohio 20,415 free blacks. Their increase for the ten years following was at the rate of sixty per cent., their number in 1800 being 32,604. In 1810 there were 58,046, an increase of seventy-five per cent. This comparatively large increase was, in a great measure, owing to the free discussions going on in England and in this country on the subject of the slave-trade and the rights of man. The benevolent impulse extended to the slave-masters, and manumissions were frequent. But the salutary impression died away; the hand of oppression closed again upon its victims; and the increase for the period of twenty years, 1810 to 1830, was only seventy-seven per cent., about one half of what it was in the ten years from 1800 to 1810. And this is the practical result of the much-lauded plan of gradual abolition.

In 1790, in the states above mentioned, there were only 550,604 slaves, but in 1830 there were 1,874,098 And this, too, is gradual abolition.

‘What, then!’ perhaps you will ask, ‘do you expect to overthrow our whole slave system at once? to turn loose to-day two millions of negroes’

No, gentlemen; we expect no such thing. Enough for us if in the spirit of fraternal duty we point to your notice the commands of God; if we urge you by every cherished remembrance of common sacrifices upon a common altar, by every consideration of humanity, justice, and expediency, to begin now, without a moment's delay, to break away from your miserable system,—--to begin the [80] work of moral reformation, as God commands you to begin, not as selfishness, or worldly policy, or short-sighted political expediency, may chance to dictate.

Such is our doctrine of immediate emancipation. A doctrine founded on God's eternal truth, plain, simple, and perfect,—--the doctrine of immediate, unprocrastinated repentance applied to the sin of slavery.

Of this doctrine, and of our plan for carrying it into effect, I have given an exposition, with the most earnest regard to the truth. Does either embrace anything false, fanatical, or unconstitutional? Do they afford a reasonable pretext for your fierce denunciations of your Northern brethren? Do they furnish occasion for your newspaper chivalry, your stereotyped demonstrations of Southern magnanimity and Yankee meanness— things, let me say, unworthy of Virginians, degrading to yourselves, insulting to us.

Gentlemen, it is too late for Virginia, with all her lofty intellect and nobility of feeling, to defend and advocate the principle of slavery. The deathlike silence which for nearly two centuries brooded over her execrable system has been broken; light is pouring in upon the minds of her citizens; truth is abroad, ‘searching out and overturning the lies of the age.’ A moral reformation has been already awakened, and it cannot now be drugged to sleep by the sophistries of detected sin. A thousand intelligences are at work in her land; a thousand of her noblest hearts are glowing with the redeeming spirit of that true philanthropy, [81] which is moving all the world. No, gentlemen; light is spreading from the hills of Western Virginia to the extremest East. You cannot arrest its progress. It is searching the consciences; it is exercising the reason; it is appealing to the noblest characteristics of intelligent Virginians. It is no foreign influence. From every abandoned plantation where the profitless fern and thistle have sprung up under the heel of slavery; from every falling mansion of the master, through whose windows the fox may look out securely, and over whose hearth-stone the thin grass is creeping, a warning voice is sinking deeply into all hearts not imbruted by avarice, indolence, and the lust of power.

Abolitionist as I am, the intellectual character of Virginia has no warmer admirer than myself. Her great names, her moral trophies, the glories of her early day, the still proud and living testimonials of her mental power, I freely acknowledge and strongly appreciate. And, believe me, it is with no other feelings than those of regret and heartfelt sorrow that I speak plainly of her great error, her giant crime, a crime which is visibly calling down upon her the curse of an offended Deity. But I cannot forget that upon some of the most influential and highly favored of her sons rests the responsibility at the present time of sustaining this fearful iniquity. Blind to the signs of the times, careless of the wishes of thousands of their white fellow-citizens and of the manifold wrongs of the black man, they have dared to excuse, defend, nay, eulogize, the black abominations of slavery. [82] Against the tottering ark of the idol these strong men have placed their shoulders. That ark must fall; that idol must be cast down; what, then, will be the fate of their supporters?

When the Convention of 1829 had gathered in its splendid galaxy of talents the great names of Virginia, the friends of civil liberty turned their eyes towards it in the earnest hope and confidence that it would adopt some measures in regard to slavery worthy of the high character of its members and of the age in which they lived. I need not say how deep and bitter was our disappointment. Western Virginia indeed spoke on that occasion, through some of her delegates, the words of truth and humanity. But their counsels and warnings were unavailing; the majority turned away to listen to the bewildering eloquence of Leigh and Upshur and Randolph, as they desecrated their great intellects to the defence of that system of oppression under which the whole land is groaning. The memorial of the citizens of Augusta County, bearing the signatures of many slave-holders, placed the evils of slavery in a strong light before the convention. Its facts and arguments could only be arbitrarily thrust aside and wantonly disregarded; they could not be disproved.

‘In a political point of view,’ says the memorial, ‘we esteem slavery an evil greater than the aggregate of all the other evils which beset us, and we are perfectly willing to bear our proportion of the burden of removing it. We ask, further, What is the evil of any such alarm as our proposition [83] may excite in minds unnecessarily jealous compared with that of the fatal catastrophe which ultimately awaits our country, and the general depravation of manners which slavery has already produced and is producing’

I cannot forbear giving one more extract from this paper. The memorialists state their belief:

‘That the labor of slaves is vastly less productive than that of freemen; that it therefore requires a larger space to furnish subsistence for a given number of the former than of the latter; that the employment of the former necessarily excludes that of the latter; that hence our population, white and black, averages seventeen, when it ought, and would under other circumstances, average, as in New England, at least sixty to a square mile; that the possession and management of slaves form a source of endless vexation and misery in the house, and of waste and ruin on the farm; that the youth of the country are growing up with a contempt of steady industry as a low and servile thing, which contempt induces idleness and all its attendant effeminacy, vice, and worthlessness; that the waste of the products of the land, nay, of the land itself, is bringing poverty on all its inhabitants; that this poverty and the sparseness of population either prevent the institution of schools throughout the country, or keep them in a most languid and inefficient condition; and that the same causes most obviously paralyze all our schemes and efforts for the useful improvement of the country.’

Gentlemen, you have only to look around you [84] to know that this picture has been drawn with the pencil of truth. What has made desolate and sterile one of the loveliest regions of the whole earth? What mean the signs of wasteful neglect, of long improvidence around you: the half-finished mansion already falling into decay, the broken-down enclosures, the weed-grown garden, the slave hut open to the elements, the hillsides galled and naked, the fields below them run over with brier and fern? Is all this in the ordinary course of nature? Has man husbanded well the good gifts of God, and are they nevertheless passing from him, by a process of deterioration over which he has no control? No, gentlemen. For more than two centuries the cold and rocky soil of New England has yielded its annual tribute, and it still lies green and luxuriant beneath the sun of our brief summer. The nerved and everex-ercised arm of free labor has changed a landscape wild and savage as the night scenery of Salvator Rosa into one of pastoral beauty,—--the abode of independence and happiness. Under a similar system of economy and industry, how would Virginia, rich with Nature's prodigal blessings, have worn at this time over all her territory the smiles of plenty, the charms of rewarded industry! What a change would have been manifest in your whole character! Freemen in the place of slaves, industry, reputable65 economy, a virtue, dissipation despised, emigration unnecessary! [85]

All this, you will say, comes too late; the curse is upon you, the evil in the vitals of your state, the desolation widening day by day. No, it is not too late. There are elements in the Virginian character capable of meeting the danger, extreme as it is, and turning it aside. Could you but forget for a time partisan contest and unprofitable political speculations, you might successfully meet the dangerous exigencies of your state with those efficient remedies which the spirit of the age suggests; you might, and that too without pecuniary loss, relinquish your claims to human beings as slaves, and employ them as free laborers, under such restraint and supervision as their present degraded condition may render necessary. In the language of one of your own citizens,66‘it is useless for you to attempt to linger on the skirts of the age which is departed. The action of existing causes and principles is steady and progressive. It cannot be retarded, unless you would blow out all the moral lights around you; and if you refuse to keep up with it, you will be towed in the wake, whether you will or not.’

The late noble example of the eloquent statesman of Roanoke, the manumission of his slaves, [86] speaks volumes to his political friends. In the last hour of existence, when his soul was struggling from his broken tenement, his latest effort was the confirmation of this generous act of a former period. Light rest the turf upon him beneath his own patrimonial oaks! The prayers of many hearts made happy by his benevolence shall linger over his grave and bless it.

Gentlemen, in concluding these letters, let me once more assure you that I entertain towards you and your political friends none other than kindly feelings. If I have spoken at all with apparent harshness, it has been of principles rather than of men. But I deprecate no censure. Conscious of the honest and patriotic motives which have prompted their avowal, I cheerfully leave my sentiments to their fate. Despised and contemned as they may be, I believe they cannot be gainsaid. Sustained by the truth as it exists in Nature and Revelation, sanctioned by the prevailing spirit of the age, they are yet destined to work out the political and moral regeneration of our country. The opposition which they meet with does not dishearten me. In the lofty confidence of John Milton, I believe that ‘though all the winds of doctrine be let loose upon the earth, so Truth be among them, we need not fear. Let her and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew her to be put to the worst in a free and open encounter’

Haverhill, MAss., 29th of 7th Mo., 1833.


Letter to Samuel E. Sewall.

Haverhill, 10th of 1st Mo., 1834.
Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., Secretary New England A. S. Society:
dear friend,—I regret that circumstances beyond my control will not allow of my attendance at the annual meeting of the New England Anti-Slavery Society.

I need not say to the members of that society that I am with them, heart and soul, in the cause of abolition; the abolition not of physical slavery alone, abhorrent and monstrous as it is, but of that intellectual slavery, the bondage of corrupt and mistaken opinion, which has fettered as with iron the moral energies and intellectual strength of New England.

For what is slavery, after all, but fear,—--fear, forcing mind and body into unnatural action And it matters little whether it be the terror of the slave-whip on the body, or of the scourge of popular opinion upon the inner man.

We all know how often the representatives of the Southern division of the country have amused themselves in Congress by applying the opprobrious name of ‘slave’ to the free Northern laborer. And how familiar have the significant epithets of ‘white slave’ and ‘dough-face’ become! [88]

I fear these epithets have not been wholly misapplied. Have we not been told here, gravely and authoritatively, by some of our learned judges, divines, and politicians, that we, the free people of New England, have no right to discuss the subject of slavery Freemen, and no right to suggest the duty or the policy of a practical adherence to the doctrines of that immortal declaration upon which our liberties are founded! Christians, enjoying perfect liberty of conscience, yet possessing no right to breathe one whisper against a system of adultery and blood, which is filling the whole land with abomination and blasphemy! And this craven sentiment is echoed by the very men whose industry is taxed to defray the expenses of twenty-five representatives of property, vested in beings fashioned in the awful image of their Maker; by men whose hard earnings aid in supporting a standing army mainly for the protection of slaveholding indolence; by men who are liable at any moment to be called from the field and workshop to put down by force the ever upward tendencies of oppressed humanity, to aid the negro-breeder and the negro-trader in the prosecution of a traffic most horrible in the eye of God, to wall round with their bayonets two millions of colored Americans, children of a common Father and heirs of a common eternity, while the broken chain is riveted anew and the thrown-off fetter replaced.

I am for the abolition of this kind of slavery. It must be accomplished before we can hope to abolish the negro slavery of the country. The people of the free states, with a perfect understanding [89] of their own rights and a sacred respect for the rights of others, must put their strong shoulders to the work of moral reform, and our statesmen, orators, and politicians will follow, floating as they must with the tendency of the current, the mere indices of popular sentiment. They cannot be expected to lead in this matter. They are but instruments in the hands of the people for good or evil—

A breath can make them, as a breath has made.

Be it our task to give tone and direction to these instruments; to turn the tide of popular feeling into the pure channels of justice; to break up the sinful silence of the nation; to bring the vaunted Christianity of our age and country to the test of truth; to try the strength and purity of our republicanism. If the Christianity we profess has not power to pull down the strongholds of prejudice, and overcome hate, and melt the heart of oppression, it is not of God. If our republicanism is based on other foundation than justice and humanity, let it fall forever.

No better evidence is needed of the suicidal policy of this nation than the death-like silence on the subject of slavery which pervades its public documents. Who that peruses the annual messages of the national executive would, from their perusal alone, conjecture that such an evil as slavery had existence among us? Have the people reflected upon the cause of this silence The evil has grown to be too monstrous to be questioned. Its very magnitude has sealed the lips of the [90] rulers. Uneasily, and troubled with its dream of guilt, the nation sleeps on. The volcano is beneath. God is above us.

At every step of our peaceful and legal agitation of this subject we are met with one grave objection. We are told that the system which we are conscientiously opposing is recognized and protected by the Constitution. For all the benefits of our fathers' patriotism—--and they are neither few nor trifling—let us be grateful to God and to their memories. But it should not be forgotten that the same constitutional compact which now sanctions slavery guaranteed protection for twenty years to the foreign slave-trade. It threw the shield of its ‘sanctity’around the now universally branded pirate. It legalized the most abhorrent system of robbery which ever cursed the family of man.

During those years of sinful compromise was the crime of man-robbery less atrocious than at present? Because the Constitution permitted, in that single crime, the violation of all the commandments of God, was that violation less terrible to earth or offensive to heaven

No one now defends that ‘constitutional’ slavetrade. Loaded with the curse of God and man, it stands amidst minor iniquities, like Satan in Pandemonium, preeminent and monstrous in crime.

And if the slave-trade has become thus odious, what must be the fate, erelong, of its parent, slavery? If the mere consequence be thus blackening under the execration of all the world, who shall measure the dreadful amount of infamy which [91] must finally settle on the cause itself? The titled ecclesiastic and the ambitious statesman should have their warning on this point. They should know that public opinion is steadily turning to the light of truth. The fountains are breaking up around us, and the great deep will soon be in motion. A stern, uncompromising, and solemn spirit of inquiry is abroad. It cannot be arrested, and its result may be easily foreseen. It will not long be popular to talk of the legality of soul-murder, the constitutionality of man-robbery.

One word in relation to our duty to our Southern brethren. If we detest their system of slavery in our hearts, let us not play the hypocrite with our lips. Let us not pay so poor a compliment to their understandings as to suppose that we can deceive them into a compliance with our views of justice by ambiguous sophistry, and overcome their sinful practices and established prejudices by miserable stratagem. Let us not first do violence to our consciences by admitting their moral right to property in man, and then go to work like so many vagabond pedlers to cheat them out of it. They have a right to complain of such treatment. It is mean, and wicked, and dishonorable. Let us rather treat our Southern friends as intelligent and high-minded men, who, whatever may be their faults, despise unmanly artifice, and loathe cant, and abhor hypocrisy. Connected with them, not by political ties alone, but by common sacrifices and mutual benefits, let us seek to expostulate with them earnestly and openly, to gain at least their confidence in our sincerity, to appeal to their consciences, [92] reason, and interests; and, using no other weapons than those of moral truth, contend fearlessly with the evil system they are cherishing. And if, in an immediate compliance with the strict demands of justice, they should need our aid and sympathy, let us open to them our hearts and our purses. But in the name of sincerity, and for the love of peace and the harmony of the Union, let there be no more mining and countermining, no more blending of apology with denunciation, no more Janus-like systems of reform, with one face for the South and another for the North.

If we steadily adhere to the principles upon which we have heretofore acted, if we present our naked hearts to the view of all, if we meet the threats and violence of our misguided enemies with the bare bosom and weaponless hand of innocence, may we not trust that the arm of our Heavenly Father will be under us, to strengthen and support us? And although we may not be able to save our country from the awful judgment she is provoking, though the pillars of the Union fall and all the elements of her greatness perish, still let it be our part to rally around the standard of truth and justice, to wash our hands of evil, to keep our own souls unspotted, and, bearing our testimony and lifting our warning voices to the last, leave the event in the hands of a righteous God.


John Quincy Adams.

In 1837 Isaac Knapp printed Letters from John Quincy Adams to his Constituents of the Twelfth Congressional District in Massachusetts, to which is added his Speech in Congress, delivered February 9, 1837, and the following stood as an introduction to the pamphlet.

the following letters have been published, within a few weeks, in the Quincy (Mass.) Patriot. Notwithstanding the great importance of the subjects which they discuss, the intense interest which they are calculated to awaken throughout this commonwealth and the whole country, and the exalted reputation of their author as a profound statesman and powerful writer, they are as yet hardly known beyond the limits of the constituency to whom they are particularly addressed. The reason of this is sufficiently obvious. John Quincy Adams belongs to neither of the prominent political parties, fights no partisan battles, and cannot be prevailed upon to sacrifice truth and principle upon the altar of party expediency and interest. Hence neither party is interested in defending his course, or in giving him an opportunity to defend himself. But however systematic may be the efforts of mere partisan presses to suppress and hold back from the public eye the powerful and triumphant vindication of the Right of Petition, the graphic delineation of the slavery spirit in Congress, and the humbling disclosure of Northern cowardice and [94] treachery, contained in these letters, they are destined to exert a powerful influence upon the public mind. They will constitute one of the most striking pages in the history of our times. They will be read with avidity in the North and in the South, and throughout Europe. Apart from the interest excited by the subjects under discussion, and viewed only as literary productions, they may be ranked among the highest intellectual efforts of their author. Their sarcasm is Junius-like,—--cold, keen, unsparing. In boldness, directness, and eloquent appeal, they will bear comparison with O'Connell's celebrated Letters to the Reformers of Great Britain. They are the offspring of an intellect unshorn of its primal strength, and combining the ardor of youth with the experience of age.

The disclosure made in these letters of the slavery influence exerted in Congress over the representatives of the free states, of the manner in which the rights of freemen have been bartered for Southern votes, or basely yielded to the threats of men educated in despotism, and stamped by the free indulgence of unrestrained tyranny with the ‘odious peculiarities’ of slavery, is painful and humiliating in the extreme. It will be seen that, in the great struggle for and against the Right of Petition, an account of which is given in the following pages, their author stood, in a great measure, alone and unsupported by his Northern colleagues. On his ‘gray, discrowned head’ the entire fury of slave-holding arrogance and wrath was expended. He stood alone, beating back, with his aged and single arm, the tide which would have borne down [95] and overwhelmed a less sturdy and determined spirit.

We need not solicit for these letters, and the speech which accompanies them, a thorough perusal. They deserve, and we trust will receive, a circulation throughout the entire country. They will meet a cordial welcome from every lover of human liberty, from every friend of justice and the rights of man, irrespective of color or condition. The principles which they defend, the sentiments which they express, are those of Massachusetts, as recently asserted, almost unanimously, by her legislature. In both branches of that body, during the discussion of the subject of slavery and the right of petition, the course of the ex-President was warmly and eloquently commended. Massachusetts will sustain her tried and faithful representative; and the time is not far distant when the best and worthiest citizens of the entire North will proffer him their thanks for hi noble defence of their rights as freemen, and of the rights of the slave as a man.


The Bible and slavery

From a review of a pro-slavery pamphlet by ‘Evangelicus’ in the Boston Emancipator in 1843.

The second part of the essay is occupied in proving that the slavery in the Roman world, at the time of our Saviour, was similar in all essential features to American slavery at the present day; and the third and concluding part is devoted to an examination of the apostolical directions to slaves and masters, as applicable to the same classes in the United States. He thinks the command to give to servants that which is just and equal means simply that the masters should treat their slaves with equity, and that while the servant is to be profitable to the master, the latter is bound in ‘a fair and equitable manner to provide for the slave's subsistence and happiness.’ Although he professes to believe that a faithful adherence to Scriptural injunctions on this point would eventually terminate in the emancipation of the slaves, he thinks it not necessary to inquire whether the New Testament does or does not ‘tolerate slavery as a permanent institution’!

From the foregoing synopsis it will be seen at once that whatever may have been the motives of the writer, the effect of his publication, so far as it is at all felt, will be to strengthen the oppressor in his guilt, and hold him back from the performance [97] of his immediate duty in respect to his slaves, and to shield his conscience from the reproofs of that class who, according to ‘Evangelicus,’ have ‘no personal acquaintance with the actual domestic state or the social and political connections of their Southern fellow-citizens.’ We look upon it only as another vain attempt to strike a balance between Christian duty and criminal policy, to reconcile Christ and Belial, the holy philanthropy of Him who went about doing good with the most abhorrent manifestation of human selfishness, lust, and hatred which ever provoked the divine displeasure. There is a grave-stone coldness about it. The author manifests as little feeling as if he were solving a question in algebra. No sigh of sympathy breathes through its frozen pages for the dumb, chained millions, no evidence of a feeling akin to that of Him who at the grave of Lazarus

Wept, and forgot His power to save;

no outburst of that indignant reproof with which the Divine Master rebuked the devourers of widows' houses and the oppressors of the poor is called forth by the writer's stoical contemplation of the tyranny of his ‘Christian brethren’ at the South.

‘It is not necessary,’ says Evangelicus, ‘to inquire whether the New Testament does not tolerate slavery as a permanent institution.’ And this is said when the entire slave-holding church has sheltered its abominations under the pretended sanction of the gospel; when slavery, including within itself a violation of every command uttered [98] amidst the thunders of Sinai, a system which has filled the whole South with the oppression of Egypt and the pollutions of Sodom, is declared to be an institution of the Most High. With all due deference to the author, we tell him, and we tell the church, North and South, that this question must be met. Once more we repeat the solemn inquiry which has been already made in our columns, ‘Is the Bible to enslave the world’ Has it been but a vain dream of ours that the mission of the Author of the gospel was to undo the heavy burdens, to open the prison doors, and to break the yoke of the captive? Let Andover and Princeton answer. If the gospel does sanction the vilest wrong which man can inflict upon his fellow-man, if it does rivet the chains which humanity, left to itself, would otherwise cast off, then, in humanity's name, let it perish forever from the face of the earth. Let the Bible societies dissolve; let not another sheet issue from their presses. Scatter not its leaves abroad over the dark places of the earth; they are not for the healing of the nations. Leave rather to the Persian his Zendavesta, to the Mussulman his Koran. We repeat it, this question must be met. Already we have heard infidelity exulting over the astute discoveries of bespectacled theological professors, that the great Head of the Christian Church tolerated the horrible atrocities of Roman slavery, and that His most favored apostle combined slave-catching with his missionary labors. And why should it not exult? Fouler blasphemy than this was never uttered. A more monstrous libel upon the Divine Author of Christianity [99] was never propagated by Paine or Voltaire, Kneeland or Owen; and we are constrained to regard the professor of theology or the doctor of divinity who tasks his sophistry and learning in an attempt to show that the Divine Mind looks with complacency upon chattel slavery as the most dangerous enemy with which Christianity has to contend. The friends of pure and undefiled religion must awake to this danger. The Northern church must shake itself clean from its present connection with blasphemers and slave-holders, or perish with them.


What is slavery?

Addressed to the Liberty Party Convention at New Bedford in September, 1843.

I have just received your kind invitation to attend the meeting of the Liberty Party in New Bedford on the 2d of next month. Believe me, it is with no ordinary feelings of regret that I find myself under the necessity of foregoing the pleasure of meeting with you on that occasion. But I need not say to you, and through you to the convention, that you have my hearty sympathy.

I am with the Liberty Party because it is the only party in the country which is striving openly and honestly to reduce to practice the great truths which lie at the foundation of our republic: all men created equal, endowed with rights inalienable; the security of these rights the only just object of government; the right of the people to alter or modify government until this great object is attained. Precious and glorious truths! Sacred in the sight of their Divine Author, grateful and beneficent to suffering humanity, essential elements of that ultimate and universal government of which God is laying the strong and wide foundations, turning and overturning, until He whose right it is shall rule. The voice which calls upon us to sustain them is the voice of God. In the eloquent language of the lamented Myron Holley, the man [101] who first lifted up the standard of the Liberty Party: ‘He calls upon us to sustain these truths in the recorded voice of the holy of ancient times. He calls us to sustain them in the sound as of many waters and mighty thunderings rising from the fields of Europe, converted into one vast Aceldama by the exertions of despots to suppress them; in the persuasive history of the best thoughts and boldest deeds of all our brave, self-sacrificing ancestors; in the tender, heart-reaching whispers of our children, preparing to suffer or enjoy the future, as we leave it for them; in the broken and disordered but moving accents of half our race yet groping in darkness and galled by the chains of bondage. He calls upon us to sustain them by the solemn and considerate use of all the powers with which He has invested us.’ In a time of almost universal political scepticism, in the midst of a pervading and growing unbelief in the great principles enunciated in the revolutionary declaration, the Liberty Party has dared to avow its belief in these truths, and to carry them into action as far as it has the power. It is a protest against the political infidelity of the day, a recurrence to first principles, a summons once more to that deserted altar upon which our fathers laid their offerings.

It may be asked why it is that a party resting upon such broad principles is directing its exclusive exertions against slavery. ‘Are there not other great interests?’ ask all manner of Whig and Democrat editors and politicians. ‘Consider, for instance,’ say the Democrats, ‘the mighty question which is agitating us, whether a Northern [102] man with Southern principles' or a Southern man with the principles of a Nero or Caligula shall be President.’ ‘Or look at us,’ say the Whigs, ‘deprived of our inalienable right to office by this Tyler-Calhoun administration. And bethink you, gentlemen, how could your Liberty Party do better than to vote with us for a man who, if he does hold some threescore of slaves, and maintain that “two hundred years of legislation has sanctioned and sanctified negro slavery,” is, at the same time, the champion of Greek liberty, and Polish liberty, and South American liberty, and, in short, of all sorts of liberties, save liberty at home.’

Yes, friends, we have considered all this, and more, namely, that one sixth part of our entire population are slaves, and that you, with your subtreasuries and national banks, propose no relief for them. Nay, farther, it is because both of you, when in power, have used your authority to rivet closer the chains of unhappy millions, that we have been compelled to abandon you, and form a liberty party having for its first object the breaking of these chains.

What is slavery? For upon the answer to this question must the Liberty Party depend for its justification.

The slave laws of the South tell us that it is the conversion of men into articles of property; the transformation of sentient immortal beings into ‘chattels personal.’ The principle of a reciprocity of benefits, which to some extent characterizes all other relations, does not exist in that of master and slave. The master holds the plough which turns [103] the soil of his plantation, the horse which draws it, and the slave who guides it by one and the same tenure. The profit of the master is the great end of the slave's existence. For this end he is fed, clothed, and prescribed for in sickness. He learns nothing, acquires nothing, for himself. He cannot use his own body for his own benefit. His very personality is destroyed. He is a mere instrument, a means in the hands of another for the accomplishment of an end in which his own interests are not regarded, a machine moved not by his own will, but by another's. In him the awful distinction between a person and a thing is annihilated: he is thrust down from the place which God and Nature assigned him, from the equal companionship of rational intelligences,—--a man herded with beasts, an immortal nature classed with the wares of the merchant!

The relations of parent and child, master and apprentice, government and subject, are based upon the principle of benevolence, reciprocal benefits, and the wants of human society; relations which sacredly respect the rights and legacies which God has given to all His rational creatures. But slavery exists only by annihilating or monopolizing these rights and legacies. In every other modification of society, man's personal ownership remains secure. He may be oppressed, deprived of privileges, loaded with burdens, hemmed about with legal disabilities, his liberties restrained. But, through all, the right to his own body and soul remains inviolate. He retains his inherent, original possession of himself. Even crime cannot forfeit [104] it, for that law which destroys his personality makes void its own claims upon him as a moral agent; and the power to punish ceases with the accountability of the criminal. He may suffer and die under the penalties of the law, but he suffers as a man, he perishes as a man, and not as a thing. To the last moments of his existence the rights of a moral agent are his; they go with him to the grave; they constitute the ground of his accountability at the bar of infinite justice,—--rights fixed, eternal, inseparable; attributes of all rational intelligence in time and eternity; the same in essence, and differing in degree only, with those of the highest moral being, of God himself.

Slavery alone lays its grasp upon the right of personal ownership, that foundation right, the removal of which uncreates the man; a right which God himself could not take away without absolving the being thus deprived of all moral accountability; and so far as that being is concerned, making sin and holiness, crime and virtue, words without significance, and the promises and sanctions of revelation, dreams. Hence, the crowning horror of slavery, that which lifts it above all other iniquities, is not that it usurps the prerogatives of Deity, but that it attempts that which even He who has said, ‘All souls are mine,’ cannot do, without breaking up the foundations of His moral government. Slavery is, in fact, a struggle with the Almighty for dominion over His rational creatures. It is leagued with the powers of darkness, in wresting man from his Maker. It is blasphemy lifting brazen brow and violent hand to heaven, attempting [105] a reversal of God's laws. Man claiming the right to uncreate his brother; to undo that last and most glorious work, which God himself pronounced good, amidst the rejoicing hosts of heaven! Man arrogating to himself the right to change, for his own selfish purposes, the beautiful order of created existences; to pluck the crown of an immortal nature, scarce lower than that of angels, from the brow of his brother; to erase the God-like image and superscription stamped upon him by the hand of his Creator, and to write on the despoiled and desecrated tablet, ‘A chattel personal!’

This, then, is slavery. Nature, with her thousand voices, cries out against it. Against it, divine revelation launches its thunders. The voice of God condemns it in the deep places of the human heart. The woes and wrongs unutterable which attend this dreadful violation of natural justice, the stripes, the tortures, the sunderings of kindred, the desolation of human affections, the unchastity and lust, the toil uncompensated, the abrogated marriage, the legalized heathenism, the burial of the mind, are but the mere incidentals of the first grand outrage, that seizure of the entire man, nerve, sinew, and spirit, which robs him of his body, and God of his soul. These are but the natural results and outward demonstrations of slavery, the crystallizations from the chattel principle.

It is against this system, in its active operation upon three millions of our countrymen, that the Liberty Party is, for the present, directing all its efforts. With such an object well may we be ‘men of one idea.’ Nor do we neglect ‘other great [106] interests,’ for all are colored and controlled by slavery, and the removal of this disastrous influence would most effectually benefit them.

Political action is the result and immediate object of moral suasion on this subject. Action, action, is the spirit's means of progress, its sole test of rectitude, its only source of happiness. And should not decided action follow our deep convictions of the wrong of slavery? Shall we denounce the slave-holders of the states, while we retain our slavery in the District of Columbia? Shall we pray that the God of the oppressed will turn the hearts of ‘the rulers’ in South Carolina, while we, the rulers of the District, refuse to open the prisons and break up the slave-markets on its ten miles square? God keep us from such hypocrisy! Everybody now professes to be opposed to slavery. The leaders of the two great political parties are grievously concerned lest the purity of the antislavery enterprise will suffer in its connection with politics. In the midst of grossest pro-slavery action, they are full of anti-slavery sentiment. They love the cause, but, on the whole, think it too good for this world. They would keep it sublimated, aloft, out of vulgar reach or use altogether, intangible as Magellan's clouds. Everybody will join us in denouncing slavery, in the abstract; not a faithless priest nor politician will oppose us; abandon action, and forsooth we can have an abolition millennium; the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, while slavery in practice clanks, in derision, its three millions of unbroken chains. Our opponents have no fear of the harmless spectre of an [107] abstract idea. They dread it only when it puts on the flesh and sinews of a practical reality, and lifts its right arm in the strength which God giveth to do as well as theorize.

As honest men, then, we must needs act; let us do so as becomes men engaged in a great and solemn cause. Not by processions and idle parades and spasmodic enthusiasms, by shallow tricks and shows and artifices, can a cause like ours be carried onward. Leave these to parties contending for office, as the ‘spoils of victory.’ We need no disguises, nor false pretences, nor subterfuges; enough for us to present before our fellow-countrymen the holy truths of freedom, in their unadorned and native beauty. Dark as the present may seem, let us remember with hearty confidence that truth and right are destined to triumph. Let us blot out the word ‘discouragement’ from the anti-slavery vocabulary. Let the enemies of freedom be discouraged; let the advocates of oppression despair; but let those who grapple with wrong and falsehood, in the name of God and in the power of His truth, take courage. Slavery must die. The Lord hath spoken it. The vials of His hot displeasure, like those which chastised the nations in the Apocalyptic vision, are smoking even now, above its ‘habitations of cruelty.’ It can no longer be borne with by Heaven. Universal humanity cries out against it. Let us work, then, to hasten its downfall, doing whatsoever our hands find to do, ‘with all our might.’

October, 1843.

1 Messrs. Harvey of New Hampshire, Mallary of Vermont, and Ripley of Maine, voted in the Congress of 1829 against the consideration of a Resolution for inquiring into the expediency of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.

2 J. Q. Adams is the only member of Congress who has ventured to speak plainly of this protection. See also his very able Report from the minority of the Committee on Manufactures. In his speech during the last session, upon the bill of the Committee of Ways and Means, after discussing the constitutional protection of slavery, he says: ‘But that same interest is further protected by the Laws of the United States. It was protected by the existence of a standing army. If the States of this Union were all free republican States, and none of them possessed any of the machinery of which he had spoken, and if another portion of the Union were not exposed to another danger, from their vicinity to the tribes of Indian savages, he believed it would be difficult to prove to the House any such thing as the necessity of a standing army. What in fact was the occupation of the army? It had been protecting this very same interest. It had been doing so ever since the army existed. Of what use to the district of Plymouth (which he there represented) was the standing army of the United States? Of not one dollar's use, and never had been.’

3 The following is a recorded statement of the venerated Sir William Jones: ‘Let sugar be as cheap as it may, it is better to eat none, better to eat aloes and colloquintida, than violate a primary law impressed on every heart not imbruted with avarice; than rob one human creature of those eternal rights of which no law on earth can justly deprive him.’

4 Address of the Managers of the Colonization Society, 1832.

5 It will be seen that the society approves of these laws.

6 African Repository, vol. v. p. 179.

7 Second Annual Report of New York Colonization Society.

8 African Repository.

9 African Repository, vol. III. p. 16.

10 African Repository, vol. VII. p. 202.

11 Speech of James S. Green, Esq., First Annual Report of the New Jersey Colonization Society.

12 ‘Review on African Colonization,’ Christian Spectator for September, 1830.

13 ‘The Colonization Society Vindicated,’ African Repository, vol. III. p. 197.

14 Idem, D. 306.

15 Mr. Clay's Speech, Idem, vol. VI. pp. 13, 17.

16 Address of the Board of Managers of the American Colonization Society to its Auxiliary Societies, Idem, vol. VII. p. 291.

17 North American Review, for July, 1832.

18 African Repository, vol. i. p. 283.

19 Idem, vol. VI. p. 205.

20 Idem, vol. VII. p. 100.

21 African Repository, vol. i. p. 227.

22 Speech of John Randolph at the first meeting of the Colonization Society.

23 Address of the Rockbridge Colonization Society, African Repository, vol. IV. p. 274.

24 Speech of Mr. Archer, Fifteenth Annual Report.

25 A New and Interesting View of Slavery. By Humanitas, a colonization advocate. Baltimore, 1820.

26 Last Annual Report of the American Colonization Society.

27 African Repository, vol. IV. pp. 118, 119.

28 Idem, vol. VII. p. 196.

29 Southern Religious Telegraph, February 19, 1831.

30 G. P. Dissosway, Esq., an eminent colonizationist.

31 Proceedings of New York State Colonization Society at its second anniversary.

32 I would especially invite the attention of my friends to Thoughts on Colonization, a very able and eloquent pamphlet by a much traduced but noble-hearted philanthropist, William L. Garrison, of Boston; and also to the First Annual Report of the New England Anti-Slavery Society.

33 Fourteenth Annual Report, 1831.

34 Prejudice Vincible, or the Practicability of conquering Prejudice by better means than Slavery or Exile, in relation to the American Colonization Society. By C. Stewart. Liverpool: Smith & Co. 1832.

35 African Repository, vol. II. p. 328.

36 C. F. Mercer.

37 African Repository, vol. VII. p. 230.

38 Tenth Annual Report of the Colonization Society.

39 Rev. Dr. Thomson, of Edinburgh, thus speaks of it: ‘Were I to treat the term gradual as some of our enemies have the term immediate, I could easily, by the help of a little quibbling, bring you to the conclusion that, as hitherto employed, it means that the abolition of slavery will never take place.’ ‘The meaning of the word as used by us is perfectly clear; it is to be considered and understood under the direction of common sense, and as modified and expounded by the statements with which it is associated.’

40 President Wright, of the Western Reserve College, Ohio.

41 The report of Mr. Alexander in the Congress of 1829, unfavorable to the prayer of the petition for abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, may be referred to as a specimen of the veriest sophistry which ever supplied the place of argument.

42 ‘Trust not,’ said the illustrious Canning, ‘the masters of slaves in what concerns legislation for slavery. Let the evil be remedied by a government of free people, and not by the masters of slaves.’

43 The reader will find some curious speculations and forebodings on this point in the very able speeches of Vice-President Calhoun and Governor Poindexter of Mississippi in the United States Senate. It is foreign to my present purpose to meddle in any way with the doctrine of Nullification,—--a doctrine which, whatever it may have been originally, has been recently so sublimated and mystified as to admit only of the Scotchman's well-known definition of metaphysics: ‘He that speaks disna weel ken what he says, and he that listens disna weel ken what he hears.’ But I would ask the reader to follow out the doctrine of the rights of the minority, or the inferior power, in point of physical of political strength, as maintained in the speeches above referred to, and see to what it will lead. If there could be found moral energy enough among the slaves of South Carolina to apply ‘the peaceful remedy,’ to enable them to stand upon their reserved rights as members of the great human family, and formally demand a reduction of their burdens, their sufferings, what course could South Carolina adopt If true to her principles—in which if she errs at all it is on the side of liberty—she would grant that reduction. Would she use coercion, brute force, because the law allowed it No. With the indignant eloquence of her own great champion she would scornfully repudiate ‘the idea, as sophistry, bloody sophistry, such as cast Daniel into the lion's den, and the three Innocents into the fiery furnace; the same sophistry under which the bloody edicts of Nero and Caligula were executed.’ She would scorn to ‘collect tribute from her slaves under the mouth of cannon,’ to‘enforce robbery by murder,’ to act upon the vague abstraction, the miserable sophistry of enforcing law whether just or unjust.—See Speech of J. C. Calhoun in the United States Senate on the Enforcing Bill.

44 Malenfant in Memoirs for a History of St. Domingo by General Lecroix, 1819.

45 Memoire Historique et Politique des Colonies.

46 Sketches of Hayti.

47 C. Stewart, Capt. R. N.

48 Clarkson.

49 Anti-Slavery Report for 1832.

50 English Quarterly Magazine and Review, April, 1832.

51 Christian Record for Jamaica, quoted by C. Stewart, 1831.

52 J. Jeremie, quoted by Stewart.

53 W. B. O. Peabody.

54 This law is recognized and sanctioned by Apostle Paul, 1 Tim. i. 9, 10. The word the Apostle uses in its original import comprehends all who are concerned in bringing any of the human race into slavery, or detaining them in it. Hominum fures qui sermos vel liberos abducant, retinent, vendunt vel emunt. To steal a freeman, says Grotius, is the highest kind of theft. In other instances we only steal human property; but when we steal, or retain men in slavery, we seize those who in common with ourselves are constituted by the original grant (Gen. i. 28) lords of the earth. Vide Note to Confession of Faith by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, 1825.

55 What has been in Jamaica may be expected in our own slaveholding community: a bitter, bloody, and most atrocious persecution of the ministers of religion. The following is from a declaration agreed to by the planters of Jamaica in July, 1832:

‘We the undersigned most solemnly declare that we are resolved, at the hazard of our lives, not to suffer any Baptist or other sectarian preacher or teacher, or any person professedly belonging to those sects, to preach or teach in any house, in towns, or in districts of the country where the influence of the Colonial Union extends.’

56 The, diffusion of Christianity in Great Britain was moreover followed by a general manumission; for it would seem that the priests and missionaries of religion in that early and benighted age were more faithful in the performance of their duties than those of the present. ‘The holy fathers, monks, and friars,’ says Sir T. Smith, ‘had in their confessions, and specially in their extreme and deadly sickness, convinced the laity how dangerous a thing it was for one Christian to hold another in bondage; so that temporal men, by reason of the terror in their consciences, were glad to manumit all their villains.’—Hist. Commonwealth, Blackstone, p. 52.

57 Declaration of Independence, from the pen of Thomas Jefferson.

58 Francis Jeffrey.

59 Simon Boliver.

60 Lafayette.

61 Notes on Virginia, p. 241.

62 Virginia Reports, vol. v. p. 484, Harris versus Nichols.

63 Beevard's 2 Dig. 242.

64 See Brougham's Colonial Policy. Hodgdon's Letter to Jean Baptiste Say. Walch's Brazil. Official Letter of Hon. Mr. Ward, from Mexico. Dr. Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery. Franklin on The Peopling of Countries. Ramsay's Essay. Botham's Sugar Cultivation in Batavia. Marsden's History of Suniatra. Coxe's Travels. Dr. Anderson's Observations on Slavery. Storch's Political Economy. Adam Smith. J. Jeremies' Essays Humboldt's Travels, etc., etc.

65 A late Virginia member of Congress described the Virginia slave-holder as follows: ‘He is an Eastern Virginian whose good fortune it has been to have been born wealthy, and to have become a profound politician at twenty-one without study or labor. This individual, from birth and habit, is above all labor and exertion. He never moves a finger for any useful purpose; he lives on the labor of his slaves, and even this labor he is too proud and indolent to direct in person. While he is at his ease, a mercenary with a whip in his hand drives his slaves in the field. Their dinner, consisting of a few scraps and lean bones, is eaten in the burning sun. They have no time to go to a shade and be refreshed; such easement is reserved for the horses’!—Speech of Hon. P. P. Doddridge in House of Delegates, 1829.

66 Speech in Virginia legislature, 1832.

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