Or, Slavery Considered with a View to its Rightful and Effectual Remedy,
"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."
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 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,
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
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 eye, 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, do we not
participate in it?
[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.]
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 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.
[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."]
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 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 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; I but
so long as our confederacy exists, a commercial intercourse with slave
states and a consumption of their products cannot be avoided.
[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."]
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 organized in 1817. It has
two hundred and eighteen auxiliary societies. The legislatures of
fourteen 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
Balance against the society . . . . 549,387!
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 Cod and the unalienable
rights of His children?--[It will be seen that the society approves of
these laws.]--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 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!" "The
existence of slavery among us, though not at all to be objected to our
Southern brethren as a fault," etc? "It (the society) condemns no man
because he is a slave-holder." "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. "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."
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, and they do yet disavow, that their object is the emancipation
of slaves."--[Speech of James S. Green, Esq., First Annual Report of the
New Jersey Colonization Society.]
"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
"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
"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."
"From its origin, and throughout the whole period of its existence, it
has constantly disclaimed 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."--[ Mr. Clay's Speech, Idem, vol. vi.
pp. 13, 17.]
"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
"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
constitptional and legitimate system, which they have no inclination,
interest, nor ability to disturb."
3. It regards God's rational creatures as property.
Proof. "We hold their slaves, as we hold their other property, sacred."
"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."
"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."
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."
"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."--[Speech of John Randolph at the
first meeting of the Colonization Society.]
"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
"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 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."
"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."
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 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 ordination of Providence, and no more to be changed than the laws
of Nature!"--[Last Annual Report of the American Colonization Society.]
"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."
"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?"
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 them to remain in this country (that is, in
their native country). We would offer then no such inducement."--
[Southern Religious Telegraph, February 19, 1831.]
"The public safety of our brethren at the South requires them (the
slaves) to be kept ignorant and uninstructed."
"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."--[Proceedings of New York State Colonization Society at its
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.
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."
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 Colonization 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 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
But we are told that the Colonization Society is to civilize and
"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,
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:--
Free blacks are a greater nuisance than even slaves themselves."--
[African Repository, vol. ii. p. 328.]
"A horde of miserable people--the objects of universal suspicion--
subsisting by plunder."
"An anomalous race of beings the most debased upon earth."--[African
Repository, vol. vii. p. 230.]
"Of all classes of our population the most vicious is that of the free
colored."--[Tenth Annual Report of the Colonization Society.]
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 immediate is used in contrast with 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, our plan of emancipation is
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 Columbia ..... 6,119
Territory of Arkansas .... 4,576
Territory of Florida .... 15,501
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 power to emancipate them is clear.
It is indisputable. It does not depend upon the twenty-five slave votes
in Congress. It lies with the free states. 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 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
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 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," let 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 it can break one fetter from off the image of God, and enable
one suffering African
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 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
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.
Belie his virtues: since his wrongs began,
His follies 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
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, 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
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 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.--[Malenfant in Memoirs for a History of St. Domingo by
General Lecroix, 1819.]
"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 Cul-de-Sac 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 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. 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 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
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, 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 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."
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.
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, "led a harmless life, and gained the character of an honest,
industrious people from their white neighbors." 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.
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:--
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
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
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 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 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.--[English
Quarterly Magazine and Review, April, 1832.]
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 from the trees;
and many, almost all, are found eager to earn their wages."
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 all-depressing fears of
discovery and oppression, labor well, because the fruits of their labor
are immediately their own.
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; 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
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
The slave states are learning this truth by fatal experience. Most of
them are silently writhing 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 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
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
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 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
"How does it happen," inquires an able writer, "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 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 weihtier
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. viii. 6.) "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? The night of that infidelity, 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
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 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
To the women of America, whose sympathies know no distinction of cline,
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 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
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; 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
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.
[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."--Hilt. Commonwealth, Blackstone, p. 52.]
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 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 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, 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 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!