and hopes of self-government called into existence, it
Chap. XLVII.} 1772.
was beyond the power of the British King
to remove the one or the other.
The inhabitants of Virginia
were controlled by the central authority on a subject of still more vital importance to them and their posterity.
Their halls of legislation had resounded with eloquence directed against the terrible plague of negro slavery.
Again and again they had passed laws, restraining the importations of negroes from Africa
; but their laws were disallowed.
How to prevent them from protecting themselves against the increase of the overwhelming evil was debated by the King
in Council, and on the tenth day of December, 1770, he issued an instruction, under his own hand, commanding the Governor
, ‘upon pain of the highest displeasure, to assent to no law, by which the importation of slaves should be in any respect prohibited or obstructed.’1
In April 1772, this rigorous order was solemnly debated in the Assembly of Virginia. ‘They were very anxious for an Act to restrain the introduction of people, the number of whom already in the Colony, gave them just cause to apprehend the most dangerous consequences, and therefore made it necessary that they should fall upon means not only of preventing their increase, but also of lessening their number.
The interest of the country,’ it was said, ‘manifestly requires the total expulsion of them.’2
, like Richard Henry Lee
, had begun his