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CONTENTS

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THE

HISTORY OF THE QUESTION

OF

SLAVERY EXTENSION OR RESTRICTION.

MAINLY BY DOCUMENTS.

SLAVERY IN THE COLONIES.

I.

Africa, whom their eternal wars and marauding invasions were constantly exposing to

captivity and sale as prisoners of war, and HUMAN Slavery, as it existed in the pa- who, as a race, might be said to be inured to gan world, and especially in the infancy, vig- the hardships and degradations of Slavery or, and decline of Greek and Roman civiliza- by an immemorial experience. The suggestion, gradually died out in the advancing tion was unhappily approved, and the woes light of Christianity. When Columbus open- and miseries of the few remaining Aborigines ed the New World to European enterprise of the islands known to us as “ West Indies," and settlement, the serfdom of Russia and were inconsiderably prolonged by exposing Hungary, and the mild bondage of Turkey the whole continent for unnumbered generaeach rather an Asiatic or Scythian than a tions to the evils and horrors of African slaveEuropean power-were the last remaining ry. The author lived to perceive and deplore vestiges of a system which had pervaded, and the consequences of his expedient mastered, and ruined, the vast empires of Al- The sanction of the Pope having been obexander and the Cæsars. The few ignorant tained for the African slave-trade by repreand feeble dependents elsewhere held in vir-sentations which invested it with a look of tual bondage by force rather of custom than philanthropy, Spanish and Portuguese merof positive law, serve rather to establish than cantile avarice was readily enlisted in its disprove this general statement.

prosecution, and the whole continent, north Lust of gold and power was the main im- and south of the tropics, became a slave-mart pulse of Spanish migration to the marvelous before the close of the sixteenth century. regions beyond the Atlantic. And the soft Holland, a comparatively new and Proand timid Aborigines of tropical America, testant state, unable to shelter itself from the especially of its islands, were first compelled reproaches of conscience and humanity beto surrender whatever they possessed of the hind a Papal bull, entered upon the new trafprecious metals to the imperious and grasp- fic more tardily ; but its profits soon overbore ing strangers ; next forced to disclose to those all scruples, and British merchants were not strangers the sources whence they were most proof against the glittering evidences of their readily obtained ; and finally driven to toil success. But the first slave-ship that ever and delve for more, wherever power and greed entered a North American port for the sale supposed they might most readily be obtained. of its human merchandise, was a Dutch tradFrom this point, the transition to general en- ing-vessel which landed twenty negro bondslavement was ready and rapid. The gentle men at Jamestown, the nucleus of Virginia, and indolent natives, unaccustomed to rug- almost simultaneously with the landing of the ged, persistent toil, and revolting at the harsh Pilgrims of the Mayflower on Plymouth rock, and brutal severity of their Christian mas- Dec. 22d, 1620. ters, had but one unfailing resource-death. The Dutch slaver had chosen his market Through privation, hardship, exposure, with sagacity. Virginia was settled by CAfatigue and despair, they drooped and died, VALIERS-gentlemen-adventurers aspiring to until millions were reduced to a few miser- live by their me wits and other men's labor able thousands within the first century of with the necessary complement of followSpanish rule in America.

ers and servitors. Few of her pioneers cherA humane and observant priest (Las Casas,), ished any earnest liking for downright,.perwitnessing these cruelties and sufferings, was sistent, muscular exertion; yet some exmoved by pity to devise a plan for their ter- ertion was urgently required to clear away mination. He suggested and urged the poli- the heavy forest which all but covered the cy of substituting for these feeble and perish- soil of the infant colony, and growthe To ing “Indians” the hardier natives of Western bacco which easily became its staple: exporte

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by means of which nearly everything required had them set at liberty. The first Continent by its people but food was to be paid for al Congress which resolved to resist the in England. The slaves, therefore, found usurpations and oppressions of Great Britain ready purchasers at satisfactory prices, and by force, had already declared that our strugthe success of the first venture induced others; gle would be “for the cause of human nauntil not only Virginia but every part of ture,” which the Congress of 1776, under British America was supplied with African the lead of Thomas Jefferson, expanded into slaves.

the noble affirmation of the right of“ all men This traffic, with the bondage it involved, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" had no justification in British nor in the early contained in the immortal preamble to the colonial laws; but it proceeded nevertheless, Declaration of Independence. A like avermuch as an importation of dromedaries to re- ment that all men are born free and equal.' place with presumed economy our horses was in 1780 inserted in the Massachusetts Bill and oxen might now do. Georgia was the of Rights; and the Supreme Court of that first among the colonies to resist and remand State, in 1783, on an indictment of a master it in her original charter under the lead of for assant and battery, held this declaration her noble founder-Governor, General Ogle- a bar to slaveholding henceforth in the state. thorpe; but the evil was too formidable and A similar clause in the second Constitution inveterate for local extirpation, and a few of New-Hampshire, was held by the courts years saw it established, even in Georgia ; of that State to secure freedom to every child, first evading or defying, and at length mold- born therein after its adoption. Pennsylvania, ing and transforming the law.

in 1780, passed an act prohibiting the further It is very common at this day to speak of introduction of slaves and securing freedom our revolutionary struggle as commenced and to all persons born in that State thereafter. hurried forward by a union of free and slave Connecticut and Rhode Island passed similar colonies; but such is not the fact. However acts in 1784. Virginia, 1778, on motion slender and dubious its legal basis, Slavery ex- of Mr. Jefferson, prohibited the further isted in each and all of the colonies that unit- importation of slaves; and in 1782, reed to declare and maintain their independ-moved all legal restrictions on emancipaence. Slaves were proportionately more nu- tion : Maryland adopted both of these in 1783. merous in certain portions of the South; but North Carolina, in 1786, declared the introthey were held with impunity throughout duction of Slaves into that state“ of evil conthe North, advertised like dogs or horses, and sequences and highly impolitic," and imposed sold at auction, or otherwise, as chattels. Ver- a duty of £5 per head thereon. New-York mont, then a territory in dispute between New- and New Jersey followed the example of Hampshire and New-York, and with very Virginia and Maryland, including the domesfew civilized inbabitants, mainly on its south- tic in the same interdict with the foreigo slave ern and eastern borders, is probably the only trade. Neither of these States, however, deportion of the revolutionary confederation clared a general emancipation until many never polluted by the tread of a slave. years thereafter, and Slavery did not wholly

The spirit of liberty, aroused or intensi- cease in New-York until about 1830, nor in fied by the protracted struggle of the colo- New Jersey till a much, later date. The nists against usurped and abused power in distinction of free and slave States, with the the mother country, soon found itself engaged kindred assumption of a natural antagonism in natural antagonism against the current between the North and South, was utterly form of domestic despotism. “ How shall unknown to the men of the Revolution. we complain of arbitrary or unlimited power Before the Declaration of Independence, exerted over us, while we exert a still more but during the intense ferment which preceddespotic and inexcusable power over a de- ed it, and distracted public attention from pendent and benighted race ?" was very fair- everything else, Lord Mansfield had rendered ly asked. Several suits were brought in his judgment from the King's Bench, which Massachusetts where the fires of liberty expelled Slavery from England, and ought to barnt earliest and brightest to test the legal have destroyed it in the colonies as well. right of slaveholding; and the leading Whigs The plaintiff in this famous case gave their money and their legal services to James Somerset, a native of Africa, carsupport these actions, which were generally, ried to Virginia as a slave, taken tkence on one ground or another, successful. Efforts by his master to England, and there infor an express law of emand portion, however, cited to resist the claim of his master to failed even in Massachusetts; the Legislature, his services, and assert his right to liberty. doubtless, apprehending that such a measure, In the first recorded case, involving the by alienating the slaveholders, would increase legality of modern slavery in England, it the number and power of the Tories ; but in was held (1697) that negroes, “ being usual1777, a privateer having brought a lot of ly bought and sold among merchants as mercaptured slaves into Jamaica, and advertised chandise, and also being infidels, there might them for sale, the General Court, as the leg- be a property in them sufficient to maintain islative assembly was called, interfered and trover." But this was overruled by Chief Jus

was

ing that

rect us.

tice Holt from the King's Bench (1697,) rul- claim to spacious dominions outside of their

80 soon as a negro lands in England proper boundaries; while New-Hampshire he is free;" and again, (1702) that “ there is no (save in Vermont), Rhode Island, New-Jersuch thing as a slave by the law of England.” sey, Maryland, Delaware, and South CaroThis judgment proving exceedingly trouble- lina, possessed no such boasted resources to some to planters and merchants from slave- meet the war-debts.constantly augmenting. holding colonies visiting the mother country They urged, therefore, with obvious justice, with their servants, the merchants concerned that these unequal advantages ought to be jo the American trade, in 1729, procured from surrendered, and all the lands included within Yorke and Talbot, the Attorney General and the territorial limits of the Union, but outSolicitor General of the Crown, a written side of the proper and natural boundaries of opinion that negroes, legally enslaved elşe- the several States, respectively, should be where, might be held as slaves in England, ceded to, and held by, Congress, in trust for and that even baptism was no bar to the mas- the common benefit of all the States, and ter's claim. This opinion was, in 1749, held their proceeds employed in satisfaction of the to be sound law by Yorke (now Lord Hard-debts and liabilities of the Confederation. This wicke), sitting as Judge, on the ground that, reasonable requisition was ultimately, but if the contrary ruling of Lord Holt were up- with some reservations, responded to. Virheld, it would abolish slavery in Jamaica or ginia reserved a sufficiency beyond the Ohio Virginia as well as in England; British law to furnish the bounties promised to her rebeing paramount in each. Thus the law volutionary officers and soldiers. Connectistood until Lord Mansfield, in Somerset's cut, a western reserve, since largely settled case, reversed it with evident reluctance, and from the parent State. Massachusetts reafter having vainly endeavored to bring about served five millions of acres, located in Westan accommodation between the parties. ern New York, which she claimed to be When delay would serve no longer, and a entitled by her charter to own. In either of judgment must be rendered, Mansfield declar- these cases, the fee only was reserved, the ed it in these memorable words :

sovereignty being surrendered. “ We cannot direct the law; the law mast di

The cessions were severally made during, The state of Slavery is of such a or directly after, the close of the Revolutionnature that it is incapable of being introduced on ary War. And one of the most obvious duany reasons, moral or political, but only by posi- ties devolved on the Continental Congress, tive law, which preserves its force long after the which held its sessions in Philadelphia direasons, occasion, and time itself whence it was created, is erased from the memory. It is so udi- rectly after the close of that exhausting strugous that nothing can be sufficient to support it gle, was the framing of an act or ordinance but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, for the government of the vast domain thus therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law committed to its care and

disposal

. of England, and therefore the black must be dis- The responsible duty of framing this ordicharged.

nance was devolved by Congress on a Select The natural, if not necessary, effect of this Committee, consisting of Mr. Jefferson of decision on Slavery in these colonies, had their Va. (Chairman), Chase of Md., and Howell connection with the mother country been of R. I. ; who in due time reported a plan for continued, is sufficiently obvious.

the government of the Western Territory, con

templating the whole region included within II.

our boundaries west of the old thirteen States, and as far south as our 31st degree of North

latitude ; territory as yet partially ceded to the The disposition or management of an- Confederation, but which was expected to be peopled territories, pertaining to the thirteen so, and embracing several of our present Slave recent colonies now confederated as inde- States. This plan contemplated the ultimate pendent States, early became a subject of division of this territory into seventeen States, solicitude and of þickering among those eight of them situated below the parallel of States, and in Congress. By the terms of the Falls of the Ohio (now Louisville), and their charters, some of the colonies had an in- nine above it. Among other rules reported definite extension westwardly, and were only from this Committee by Mr. Jefferson, for limited by the power of the grantor, Many the government of this vast region, was the of these charters conflicted with each other following : the same territory being included within the “ That after the year 1800, of the Christian era, limits of two or more totally distinct colonies. there shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary As the expenses of the Revolutionary struggle servitude in any of the said States, otherwise began to bear heavily on the resources of the than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party States, it was keenly felt by some that their guilty.” share in the advantages of the expected triumph, would be less than that of others. April 19th, 1784.-Congress having the Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, Vir- aforesaid Report under consideration, Mr. ginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, laid Spaight, of N. C., moved the striking out of

SLAVERY UNDER THE CONFEDERATION.

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