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The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus by American Anti-Slavery Society

Part 44 out of 52

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disgrace to human nature; but it appears to me, that, if the
importation was crushed, the value of a slave would be increased
instead of diminished; however, considerations of this kind have
nothing to do with the present question; gentlemen may acquiesce in
the commitment of the memorial, without pledging themselves to support
its object.

Mr. Jackson, (of Ga.) I differ much in opinion with the gentleman last
up. I apprehend if, through the interference of the general
government, the slave-trade was abolished, it would evince to the
people a disposition toward a total emancipation, and they would hold
their property in jeopardy. Any extraordinary attention of Congress to
this petition may have, in some degree, a similar effect. I would beg
to ask those, then, who are so desirous of freeing the negroes, if
they have funds sufficient to pay for them? If they have, they may
come forward on that business with some propriety; but, if they have
not, they should keep themselves quiet, and not interfere with a
business in which they are not interested. They may as well come
forward, and solicit Congress to interdict the West-India trade,
because it is injurious to the morals of mankind; from thence we
import rum, which has a debasing influence upon the consumer. But,
sir, is the whole morality of the United States confined to the
Quakers? Are they the only people whose feelings are to be consulted
on this occasion? Is it to them we owe our present happiness? Was it
they who formed the Constitution? Did they, by their arms, or
contributions, establish our independence? I believe they were
generally opposed to that measure. Why, then, on their application,
shall we injure men, who, at the risk of their lives and fortunes,
secured to the community their liberty and property? If Congress pay
any uncommon degree of attention to their petition, it will furnish
just ground of alarm to the Southern States. But, why do these men set
themselves up, in such a particular manner, against slavery? Do they
understand the rights of mankind, and the disposition of Providence
better than others? If they were to consult that Book which claims our
regard, they will find that slavery is not only allowed, but
commended. Their Saviour, who possessed more benevolence and
commiseration than they pretend to, has allowed of it. And if they
fully examine the subject, they will find that slavery has been no
novel doctrine since the days of Cain. But be these things as they
may, I hope the house will order the petition to lie on the table, in
order to prevent alarming our Southern brethren.

Mr. Sedgwick, (of Mass.) If it was a serious question, whether the
Memorial should be committed or not, I would not urge it at this time;
but that cannot be a question for a moment, if we consider our
relative situation with the people. A number of men,--who are
certainly very respectable, and of whom, as a society, it may be said
with truth, that they conform their moral conduct to their religious
tenets, as much as any people in the whole community,--come forward
and tell you, that you may effect two objects by the exercise of a
Constitutional authority which will give great satisfaction; on the
one hand you may acquire revenue, and on the other, restrain a
practice productive of great evil. Now, setting aside the religious
motives which influenced their application, have they not a right, as
citizens, to give their opinion of public measures? For my part I do
not apprehend that any State, or any considerable number of
individuals in any State, will be seriously alarmed at the commitment
of the petition, from a fear that Congress intend to exercise an
unconstitutional authority, in order to violate their rights; I
believe there is not a wish of the kind entertained by any member of
this body. How can gentlemen hesitate then to pay that respect to a
memorial which it is entitled to, according to the ordinary mode of
procedure in business? Why shall we defer doing that till to-morrow,
which we can do to-day? for the result, I apprehend, will be the same
in either case.

Mr. Smith, (of S.C.) The question, I apprehend, is, whether we will
take the petition up for a second reading, and not whether it shall be
committed? Now, I oppose this, because it is contrary to our usual
practice, and does not allow gentlemen time to consider of the merits
of the prayer; perhaps some gentlemen may think it improper to commit
it to so large a committee as has been mentioned; a variety of causes
may be supposed to show that such a hasty decision is improper;
perhaps the prayer of it is improper. If I understood it right, on its
first reading, though, to be sure, I did not comprehend perfectly all
that the petition contained, it prays that we should take measures for
the abolition of the slave trade; this is desiring an unconstitutional
act, because the constitution secures that trade to the States,
independent of congressional restrictions, for the term of twenty-one
years. If, therefore, it prays for a violation of constitutional
rights, it ought to be rejected, as an attempt upon the virtue and
patriotism of the house.

Mr. Boudinot, (of N.J.) It has been said that the Quakers have no
right to interfere in this business; I am surprised to hear this
doctrine advanced, after it has been so lately contended, and settled,
that the people have a right to assemble and petition for redress of
grievances; it is not because the petition comes from the society of
Quakers that I am in favor of the commitment, but because it comes
from citizens of the United States, who are as equally concerned in
the welfare and happiness of their country as others. There certainly
is no foundation for the apprehensions which seem to prevail in
gentlemen's minds. If the petitioners were so uninformed as to suppose
that congress could be guilty of a violation of the constitution, yet,
I trust we know our duty better than to be led astray by an
application from any man, or set of men whatever. I do not consider
the merits of the main question to be before us; it will be time
enough to give our opinions upon that, when the committee have
reported. If it is in our power, by recommendation, or any other way,
to put a stop to the slave-trade in America, I do not doubt of its
policy; but how far the constitution will authorize us to attempt to
depress it, will be a question well worthy of our consideration.

Mr. Sherman (of Conn.) observed, that the petitioners from New York,
stated that they had applied to the legislature of that State, to
prohibit certain practices which they conceived to be improper, and
which tended to injure the well-being of the community; that the
legislature had considered the application, but had applied no remedy,
because they supposed that power was exclusively vested in the general
government, under the constitution of the United States; it would,
therefore, be proper to commit that petition, in order to ascertain
what were the powers of the general government, in the case doubted by
the legislature of New York.

Mr. Gerry (of Mass.) thought gentlemen were out of order in entering
upon the merits of the main question at this time, when they were
considering the expediency of committing the petition; he should,
therefore, now follow them further in that track than barely to
observe, that it was the right of the citizens to apply for redress,
in every case they conceived themselves aggrieved in; and it was the
duty of congress to afford redress as far as in their power. That
their Southern brethren had been betrayed into the slave-trade by the
first settlers, was to be lamented; they were not to be reflected on
for not viewing this subject in a different light, the prejudice of
education is eradicated with difficulty; but he thought nothing would
excuse the general government for not exerting itself to prevent, as
far as they constitutionally could, the evils resulting from such
enormities as were alluded to by the petitioners; and the same
considerations induced him highly to commend the part the society of
Friends had taken; it was the cause of humanity they had interested
themselves in, and he wished, with them, to see measures pursued by
every nation, to wipe off the indelible stain which the slave-trade
had brought upon all who were concerned in it.

Mr. Madison (of Va.) thought the question before the committee was no
otherwise important than as gentlemen made it so by their serious
opposition. Did they permit the commitment of the Memorial, as a
matter of course, no notice would be taken of it out of doors; it
could never be blown up into a decision of the question respecting the
discouragement of the African slave-trade, nor alarm the owners with
an apprehension that the general government were about to abolish
slavery in all the States; such things are not contemplated by any
gentleman; but, to appearance, they decide the question more against
themselves than would be the case if it was determined on its real
merits, because gentlemen may be disposed to vote for the commitment
of a petition, without any intention of supporting the prayer of it.

Mr. White (of Va.) would not have seconded the motion, if he had
thought it would have brought on a lengthy debate. He conceived that a
business of this kind ought to be decided without much discussion; it
had constantly been the practice of the house, and he did not suppose
there was any reason for a deviation.

Mr. Page (of Va.) said, if the memorial had been presented by any
individual, instead of the respectable body it was, he should have
voted in favor of a commitment, because it was the duty of the
legislature to attend to subjects brought before them by their
constituents; if, upon inquiry, it was discovered to be improper to
comply with the prayer of the petitioners, he would say so, and they
would be satisfied.

Mr. Stone (of Md.) thought the business ought to be left to take its
usual course; by the rules of the house, it was expressly declared,
that petitions, memorials, and other papers, addressed to the house,
should not be debated or decided on the day they were first read.

Mr. Baldwin (of Ga.) felt at a loss to account why precipitation was
used on this occasion, contrary to the customary usage of the house;
he had not heard a single reason advanced in favor of it. To be sure
it was said the petitioners are a respectable body of men--he did not
deny it--but, certainly, gentlemen did not suppose they were paying
respect to them, or to the house, when they urged such a hasty
procedure; anyhow it was contrary to his idea of respect, and the idea
the house had always expressed, when they had important subjects under
consideration; and, therefore, he should be against the motion. He was
afraid that there was really a little volunteering in this business,
as it had been termed by the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. Huntington (of Conn.) considered the petitioners as much
disinterested as any person in the United States; he was persuaded
they had an aversion to slavery; yet they were not singular in this,
others had the same; and he hoped when congress took up the subject,
they would go as far as possible to prohibit the evil complained of.
But he thought that would better be done by considering it in the
light of revenue. When the committee of the whole, on the finance
business, came to the ways and means, it might properly be taken into
consideration, without giving any ground for alarm.

Mr. Tucker, (of S.C.) I have no doubt on my mind respecting what ought
to be done on this occasion; so far from committing the memorial, we
ought to dismiss it without further notice. What is the purport of the
memorial? It is plainly this; to reprobate a particular kind of
commerce, in a moral view, and to request the interposition of
congress to effect its abrogation. But congress have no authority,
under the constitution, to do more than lay a duty of ten dollars upon
each person imported; and this is a political consideration, not
arising from either religion or morality, and is the only principle
upon which we can proceed to take it up. But what effect do these men
suppose will arise from their exertions? Will a duty of ten dollars
diminish the importation? Will the treatment be better than usual? I
apprehend it will not, nay, it may be worse. Because an interference
with the subject may excite a great degree of restlessness in the
minds of those it is intended to serve, and that may be a cause for
the masters to use more rigor towards them, than they would otherwise
exert; so that these men seem to overshoot their object. But if they
will endeavor to procure the abolition of the slave-trade, let them
prefer their petitions to the State legislatures, who alone have the
power of forbidding the importation; I believe their applications
there would be improper; but if they are any where proper, it is
there. I look upon the address then to be ill-judged, however good the
intention of the framers.

Mr. Smith (of S.C.) claimed it as a right, that the petition should
lay over till to-morrow.

Mr. Boudinor (of N.J.) said it was not unusual to commit petitions on
the day they were presented; and the rules of the house admitted the
practice, by the qualification which followed the positive order, that
petitions should not be decided on the day they were first read,
"unless where the house shall direct otherwise."

Mr. Smith (of S.C.) declared his intention of calling the yeas and
nays, if gentlemen persisted in pressing the question.

Mr. Clymer (of Penn.) hoped the motion would be withdrawn for the
present, and the business taken up in course to-morrow; because,
though he respected the memorialists, he also respected order and the
situation of the members.

Mr. Fitzsimons (of Penn.) did not recollect whether he moved or
seconded the motion, but if he had, he should not withdraw it on
account of the threat of calling the yeas and nays.

Mr. Baldwin (of Ga.) hoped the business would be conducted with temper
and moderation, and that gentlemen would concede and pass the subject
over a day at least.

Mr. Smith (of S.C.) had no idea of holding out a threat to any
gentleman. If the declaration of an intention to call the yeas and
nays was viewed by gentlemen in that light, he would withdraw that

Mr. White (of Va.) hereupon withdrew his motion. And the address was
ordered to lie on the table.

FEBRUARY 12th, 1790.

The following memorial was presented and read:

"To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States: The
Memorial of the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of
slavery, the relief of free negroes unlawfully held in bondage, and
the improvement of the condition of the African race, respectfully
showeth: That from a regard for the happiness of mankind, an
association was formed several years since in this State, by a number
of her citizens, of various religious denominations, for promoting the
abolition of slavery, and for the relief of those unlawfully held in
bondage. A just and acute conception of the true principles of
liberty, as it spread through the land, produced accessions to their
numbers, many friends to their cause, and a legislative co-operation
with their views, which, by the blessing of Divine Providence, have
been successfully directed to the relieving from bondage a large
number of their fellow creatures of the African race. They have also
the satisfaction to observe, that, in consequence of that spirit of
philanthropy and genuine liberty which is generally diffusing its
beneficial influence, similar institutions are forming at home and
abroad. That mankind are all formed by the same Almighty Being, alike
objects of his care, and equally designed for the enjoyment of
happiness, the Christian religion teaches us to believe, and the
political creed of Americans fully coincides with the position. Your
memorialists, particularly engaged in attending to the distresses
arising from slavery, believe it their indispensable duty to present
this subject to your notice. They have observed with real
satisfaction, that many important and salutary powers are vested in
you for 'promoting the welfare and securing the blessings of liberty
to the people of the United States;' and as they conceive, that these
blessings ought rightfully to be administered, without distinction of
color, to all descriptions of people, so they indulge themselves in
the pleasing expectation, that nothing which can be done for the
relief of the unhappy objects of their care, will be either omitted or
delayed. From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally the
portion, and is still the birth-right of all men, and influenced by
the strong ties of humanity and the principles of their institution,
your memorialists conceived themselves bound to use all justifiable
endeavors to loosen the bands of slavery, and promote a general
enjoyment of the blessings of freedom. Under these impressions, they
earnestly entreat your serious attention to the subject of slavery;
that you will be pleased to countenance the restoration of liberty to
those unhappy men, who alone, in this land of freedom, are degraded
into perpetual bondage, and who, amidst the general joy of surrounding
freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you will devise
means for removing this inconsistency from the character of the
American people; that you will promote mercy and justice towards this
distressed race, and that you will step to the very verge of the power
vested in you, for discouraging every species of traffic in the
persons of our fellow-men.


"PHILADELPHIA, _February_ 3, 1790."

Mr. Hartley (of Penn.) then called up the memorial presented
yesterday, from the annual meeting of Friends at Philadelphia, for a
second reading; whereupon the same was read a second time, and moved
to be committed.

Mr. Tucker (of S.C.) was sorry the petition had a second reading as he
conceived it contained an unconstitutional request, and from that
consideration he wished it thrown aside. He feared the commitment of
it would be a very alarming circumstance to the Southern States; for
if the object was to engage Congress in an unconstitutional measure,
it would be considered as an interference with their rights, the
people would become very uneasy under the government, and lament that
they ever put additional powers into their hands. He was surprised to
see another memorial on the same subject and that signed by a man who
ought to have known the constitution better. He thought it a
mischievous attempt, as it respected the persons in whose favor it was
intended. It would buoy them up with hopes, without a foundation, and
as they could not reason on the subject, as more enlightened men
would, they might be led to do what they would be punished for, and
the owners of them, in their own defence, would be compelled to
exercise over them a severity they were not accustomed to. Do these
men expect a general emancipation of slaves by law? This would never
be submitted to by the Southern States without a civil war. Do they
mean to purchase their freedom? He believed their money would fall
short of the price. But how is it they are more concerned in this
business than others? Are they the only persons who possess religion
and morality? If the people are not so exemplary, certainly they will
admit the clergy are; why then do we not find them uniting in a body,
praying us to adopt measures for the promotion of religion and piety,
or any moral object? They know it would be an improper interference;
and to say the best of this memorial, it is an act of imprudence,
which he hoped would receive no countenance from the house.

Mr. Seney (of Md.) denied that there was anything unconstitutional in
the memorial, at least, if there was, it had escaped his attention,
and he should be obliged to the gentleman to point it out. Its only
object was, that congress should exercise their constitutional
authority, to abate the horrors of slavery, as far as they could:
Indeed, he considered that all altercation on the subject of
commitment was at an end, as the house had impliedly determined
yesterday that it should be committed.

Mr. Burke (of S.C.) saw the disposition of the house, and he feared it
would be refered to a committee, maugre all their opposition; but he
must insist that it prayed for an unconstitutional measure. Did it not
desire congress to interfere and abolish the slave-trade, while the
constitution expressly stipulated that congress should exercise no
such power? He was certain the commitment would sound in alarm, and
blow the trumpet of sedition in the Southern States. He was sorry to
see the petitioners paid more attention to than the constitution;
however, he would do his duty, and oppose the business totally; and if
it was referred to a committee, as mentioned yesterday, consisting of
a member from each State, and he was appointed, he would decline

Mr. Scott, (of Penn.) I can't entertain a doubt but the memorial duty
particularly assigned to us by that instrument, and I hope we may be
inclined to take it into consideration. We can, at present, lay our
hands upon a small duty of ten dollars. I would take this, and if it
is all we can do, we must be content. But I am sorry that the framers
of the constitution did not go farther and enable us to interdict it
for good and all; for I look upon the slave-trade to be one of the
most abominable things on earth; and if there was neither God nor
devil, I should oppose it upon the principles of humanity and the law
of nature. I cannot, for my part, conceive how any person can be said
to acquire a property in another; is it by virtue of conquest? What
are the rights of conquest? Some have dared to advance this monstrous
principle, that the conqueror is absolute master of his conquest; that
he may dispose of it as his property, and treat it as he pleases; but
enough of those who reduce men to the state of transferable goods, or
use them like beasts of burden; who deliver them up as the property or
patrimony of another man. Let us argue on principles countenanced by
reason and becoming humanity; the petitioners view the subject in a
religious light, but I do not stand in need of religious motives to
induce me to reprobate the traffic in human flesh; other
considerations weigh with me to support the commitment of the
memorial, and to support every constitutional measure likely to bring
about its total abolition. Perhaps, in our legislative capacity, we
can go no further than to impose a duty of ten dollars, but I do not
know how far I might go, if I was one of the judges of the United
States, and those people were to come before me and claim their
emancipation; but I am sure I would go as far as I could.

Mr. Jackson (of Ga.) differed with the gentleman last up, and supposed
the master had a qualified property in his slave; he said the contrary
doctrine would go to the destruction of every species of personal
service. The gentleman said he did not stand in need of religion to
induce him to reprobate slavery, but if he is guided by that evidence,
which the Christian system is founded upon, he will find that religion
is not against it; he will see, from Genesis to Revelation, the
current setting strong that way. There never was a government on the
face of the earth, but what permitted slavery. The purest sons of
freedom in the Grecian republics, the citizens of Athens and
Lacedaemon all held slaves. On this principle the nations of Europe
are associated; it is the basis of the feudal system. But suppose all
this to have been wrong, let me ask the gentleman, if it is policy to
bring forward a business at this moment, likely to light up a flame of
civil discord, for the people of the Southern States will resist one
tyranny as soon as another; the other parts of the continent may bear
them down by force of arms, but they will never suffer themselves to
be divested of their property without a struggle. The gentleman says,
if he was a federal judge, he does not know to what length he would go
in emancipating these people; but, I believe his judgment would be of
short duration in Georgia; perhaps even the existence of such a judge
might be in danger.

Mr. Sherman (of Conn.) could see no difficulty in committing the
memorial; because it was probable the committee would understand their
business, and perhaps they might bring in such a report as would be
satisfactory to gentlemen on both sides of the House.

Mr. Baldwin (of Ga.) was sorry the subject had ever been brought
before Congress, because it was a delicate nature, as it respected
some of the States. Gentlemen who had been present at the formation of
this Constitution, could not avoid the recollection of the pain and
difficulty which the subject caused in that body; the members from the
Southern States were so tender upon this point, that they had well
nigh broken up without coming to any determination; however, from the
extreme desire of preserving the Union, and obtaining an efficient
government, they were induced mutually, to concede, and the
Constitution jealously guarded what they agreed to. If gentlemen look
over the footsteps of that body, they will find the greatest degree of
caution used to imprint them, so as not to be easily eradicated; but
the moment we go to jostle on that ground, said he, I fear we shall
feel it tremble under our feet. Congress have no power to interfere
with the importation of slaves, beyond what is given in the 9th
section of the first article of the Constitution; every thing else is
interdicted to them in the strongest terms. If we examine the
Constitution, we shall find the expressions, relative to this subject,
cautiously expressed, and more punctiliously guarded than any other
part. "The migration or importation of such persons, shall not be
prohibited by Congress." But lest this should not have secured the
object sufficiently, it is declared in the same section, "That no
capitation or direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the
census;" this was intended to prevent Congress from laying any special
tax upon negro slaves, as they might, in this way, so burthen the
possessors of them, as to induce a general emancipation. If we go on
to the 5th article, we shall find the 1st and 5th clauses of the 9th
section of the 1st article restrained from being altered before the
year 1808.

Gentlemen have said, that this petition does not pray for an abolition
of the slave-trade; I think, sir, it prays for nothing else, and
therefore we have no more to do with it, than if it prayed us to
establish an order of nobility, or a national religion.

Mr. Sylvester of (N.Y.) said that he had always been in the habit of
respecting the society called Quakers; he respected them for their
exertions in the cause of humanity, but he thought the present was not
a time to enter into a consideration of the subject, especially as he
conceived it to be a business in the province of the State

Mr. Lawrance of (of N.Y.) observed that the subject would undoubtedly
come under the consideration of the House; and he thought, that as it
was now before them, that the present time was as proper as any; he
was therefore for committing the memorial; and when the prayer of it
had been properly examined, they could see how far congress may
constitutionally interfere; as they knew the limits of their power on
this, as well as on every other occasion, there was no just
apprehension to be entertained that they would go beyond them.

Mr. Smith (of S.C.) insisted that it was not in the power of the House
to grant the prayer of the petition, which went to the total
abolishment of the slave trade, and it was therefore unnecessary to
commit it. He observed, that in the Southern States, difficulties had
arisen on adopting the Constitution, inasmuch as it was apprehended,
that Congress might take measures under it for abolishing the

Perhaps the petitioners, when they applied to this house, did not
think their object unconstitutional, but now they are told that it is,
they will be satisfied with the answer, and press it no further. If
their object had been for Congress to lay a duty of ten dollars per
head on the importation of slaves, they would have said so, but that
does not appear to have been the case; the commitment of the petition,
on that ground, cannot be contended; if they will not be content with
that, shall it be committed to investigate facts? The petition speaks
of none; for what purpose then shall it be committed? If gentlemen can
assign no good reason for the measure, they will not support it, when
they are told that it will create great jealousies and alarm in the
Southern States; for I can assure them, that there is no point on
which they are more jealous and suspicious, than on a business with
which they think the government has nothing to do.

When we entered into this Confederacy, we did it from political, not
from moral motives, and I do not think my constituents want to learn
morals from the petitioners; I do not believe they want improvement in
their moral system; if they do, they can get it at home.

The gentleman from Georgia, has justly stated the jealousy of the
Southern States. On entering into this government, they apprehended
that the other States, not knowing the necessity the citizens of the
Southern States were under to hold this species of property, would,
from motives of humanity and benevolence, be led to vote for a general
emancipation; and had they not seen that the Constitution provided
against the effect of such a disposition, I may be bold to say, they
never would have adopted it. And notwithstanding all the calmness with
which some gentlemen have viewed the subject, they will find, that the
discussion alone will create great alarm. We have been told, that if
the discussion will create alarm, we ought to have avoided it, by
saying nothing; but it was not for that purpose that we were sent
here, we look upon this measure as an attack upon the palladium of the
property of our country; it is therefore our duty to oppose it by
every means in our power. Gentlemen should consider that when we
entered into a political connexion with the other States, that this
property was there; it was acquired under a former government,
conformably to the laws and Constitution; therefore anything that will
tend to deprive them of that property, must be an _ex post facto_ law,
and as such is forbid by our political compact.

I said the States would never have entered into the confederation,
unless their property had been guaranteed to them, for such is the
state of agriculture in that country, that without slaves it must be
depopulated. Why will these people then make use of arguments to
induce the slave to turn his hand against his master? We labor under
difficulties enough from the ravages of the late war. A gentleman can
hardly come from that country, with a servant or two, either to this
place or Philadelphia, but what there are persons trying to seduce his
servants to leave him; and, when they have done this, the poor
wretches are obliged to rob their master in order to obtain a
subsistence; all those, therefore, who are concerned in this
seduction, are accessaries to the robbery.

The reproaches which they cast upon the owners of negro property, is
charging them with the want of humanity; I believe the proprietors are
persons of as much humanity as any part of the continent and are as
conspicuous for their good morals as their neighbors. It was said
yesterday, that the Quakers were a society known to the laws, and the
Constitution, but they are no more so than other religious societies;
they stand exactly in the same situation; their memorial, therefore,
relates to a matter in which they are no more interested than any
other sect, and can only be considered as a piece of advice; it is
customary to refer a piece of advice to a committee, but if it is
supposed to pray for what they think a moral purpose, is that
sufficient to induce us to commit it? What may appear a moral virtue
in their eyes, may not be so in reality. I have heard of a sect of
Shaking Quakers, who, I presume, suppose their tenets of a moral
tendency; I am informed one of them forbids to intermarry, yet in
consequence of their shakings and concussions, you may see them with a
numerous offspring about them. Now, if these people were to petition
Congress to pass a law prohibiting matrimony, I ask, would gentlemen
agree to refer such a petition? I think if they would reject one of
that nature, as improper, they ought also to reject this.

Mr. Page (of Va.) was in favor of the commitment; he hoped that the
designs of the respectable memorialists would not be stopped at the
threshold, in order to preclude a fair discussion of the prayer of the
memorial. He observed that gentlemen had founded their arguments upon
a misrepresentation; for the object of the memorial was not declared
to be the total abolition of the slave trade: but that Congress would
consider, whether it be not in reality within their power to exercise
justice and mercy, which, if adhered to, they cannot doubt must
produce the abolition of the slave trade. If then the prayer contained
nothing unconstitutional, he trusted the meritorious effort would not
be frustrated. With respect to the alarm that was apprehended, he
conjectured there was none; but there might be just cause, if the
memorial was not taken into consideration. He placed himself in the
case of a slave, and said, that, on hearing that Congress had refused
to listen to the decent suggestions of a respectable part of the
community, he should infer, that the general government (from which
was expected great good would result to every class of citizens) had
shut their ears against the voice of humanity, and he should despair
of any alleviation of the miseries he and his posterity had in
prospect; if any thing could induce him to rebel, it must be a stroke
like this, impressing on his mind all the horrors of despair. But if
he was told, that application was made in his behalf, and that
Congress were willing to hear what could be urged in favor of
discouraging the practice of importing his fellow-wretches, he would
trust in their justice and humanity, and wait the decision patiently.
He presumed that these unfortunate people would reason in the same
way; and he, therefore, conceived the most likely way to prevent
danger, was to commit the petition. He lived in a State which had the
misfortune of having in her bosom a great number of slaves, he held
many of them himself, and was as much interested in the business, he
believed, as any gentleman in South Carolina or Georgia, yet, if he
was determined to hold them in eternal bondage, he should feel no
uneasiness or alarm on account of the present measure, because he
should rely upon the virtue of Congress, that they would not exercise
any unconstitutional authority.

Mr. Madison (of Va.) The debate has taken a serious turn, and it will
be owing to this alone if an alarm is created; for had the memorial
been treated in the usual way, it would have been considered as a
matter of course, and a report might have been made, so as to have
given general satisfaction.

If there was the slightest tendency by the commitment to break in upon
the constitution, he would object to it; but he did not see upon what
ground such an event was to be apprehended. The petition prayed, in
general terms, for the interference of congress, so far as they were
constitutionally authorized; but even if its prayer was, in some
degree, unconstitutional, it might be committed, as was the case on
Mr. Churchman's petition, one part of which was supposed to apply for
an unconstitutional interference by the general government.

He admitted that congress was restricted by the constitution from
taking measures to abolish the slave-trade; yet there were a variety
of ways by which they could countenance the abolition, and they might
make some regulations respecting the introduction of them into the new
States, to be formed out of the Western Territory, different from what
they could in the old settled States. He thought the object well
worthy of consideration.

Mr. Gerry (of Mass.) thought the interference of congress fully
compatible with the constitution, and could not help lamenting the
miseries to which the tribes of Africa were exposed by this inhuman
commerce; and said that he never contemplated the subject, without
reflecting what his own feelings would be, in case himself, his
children, or friends, were placed in the same deplorable
circumstances. He then adverted to the flagrant acts of cruelty which
are committed in carrying on that traffic; and asked whether it can be
supposed, that congress has no power to prevent such transactions? He
then referred to the constitution, and pointed out the restrictions
laid on the general government respecting the importation of slaves.
It was not, he presumed, in the contemplation of any gentleman in this
house to violate that part of the constitution; but that we have a
right to regulate this business, is as clear as that we have any
rights whatever; nor has the contrary been shown by any person who has
spoken on the occasion. Congress can, agreeable to the constitution,
lay a duty of ten dollars on imported slaves; they may do this
immediately. He made a calculation of the value of the slaves in the
Southern States, and supposed they might be worth ten millions of
dollars; congress have a right, if they see proper, to make a proposal
to the Southern States to purchase the whole of them, and their
resources in the Western Territory may furnish them with means. He did
not intend to suggest a measure of this kind, he only instanced these
particulars, to show that congress certainly have a right to
intermeddle in the business. He thought that no objection had been
offered, of any force, to prevent the commitment of the memorial.

Mr. Boudinot (of N.J.) had carefully examined the petition, and found
nothing like what was complained of by gentlemen, contained in it; he,
therefore, hoped they would withdraw their opposition, and suffer it
to be committed.

Mr. Smith (of S.C.) said, that as the petitioners had particularly
prayed congress to take measures for the annihilation of the slave
trade, and that was admitted on all hands to be beyond their power,
and as the petitioners would not be gratified by a tax of ten dollars
per head, which was all that was within their power, there was, of
consequence, no occasion for committing it.

Mr. Stone (of Md.) thought this memorial a thing of course; for there
never was a society, of any considerable extent, which did not
interfere with the concerns of other people, and this kind of
interference, whenever it has happened, has never failed to deluge the
country in blood: on this principle he was opposed to the commitment.

The question on the commitment being about to be put, the yeas and
nays were called for, and are as follows:--

Yeas.--Messrs. Ames, Benson, Boudinot, Brown, Cadwallader, Clymer,
Fitzsimons, Floyd, Foster, Gale, Gerry, Gilman, Goodhue, Griffin,
Grout, Hartley, Hathorne, Heister, Huntington, Lawrence, Lee, Leonard,
Livermore, Madison, Moore, Muhlenberg, Pale, Parker, Partridge,
Renssellaer, Schureman, Scott, Sedgwick, Seney, Sherman, Sinnickson,
Smith of Maryland, Sturges, Thatcher, Trumbull, Wadsworth, White, and

Noes--Messrs. Baldwin, Bland, Bourke, Coles, Huger, Jackson, Mathews,
Sylvester, Smith of S.C., Stone, and Tucker--11.

Whereupon it was determined in the affirmative; and on motion, the
petition of the Society of Friends, at New York, and the memorial from
the Pennsylvania Society, for the abolition of slavery, were also
referred to a committee.--LLOYD'S DEBATES.

_Debate on Committee's Report, March_, 1790.


Mr. Tucker moved to modify the first paragraph by striking out all the
words after the word opinion, and to insert the following: that the
several memorials proposed to the consideration of this house, a
subject on which its interference would be unconstitutional, and even
its deliberations highly injurious to some of the States in the Union.

Mr. Jackson rose and observed, that he had been silent on the subject
of the reports coming before the committee, because he wished the
principles of the resolutions to be examined fairly, and to be decided
on their true grounds. He was against the propositions generally, and
would examine the policy, the justice and the use of them, and he
hoped, if he could make them appear in the same light to others as
they did to him by fair argument, that the gentlemen in opposition
were not so determined in their opinions as not to give up their
present sentiments.

With respect to the policy of the measure, the situation of the slaves
here, their situation in their native States, and the disposal of them
in case of emancipation, should be considered. That slavery was an
evil habit, he did not mean to controvert; but that habit was already
established, and there were peculiar situations in countries which
rendered that habit necessary. Such situations the States of South
Carolina and Georgia were in--large tracts of the most fertile lands
on the continent remained uncultivated for the want of population. It
was frequently advanced on the floor of Congress, how unhealthy those
climates were, and how impossible it was for northern constitutions to
exist there. What, he asked, is to be done with this uncultivated
territory? Is it to remain a waste? Is the rice trade to be banished
from our coasts? Are congress willing to deprive themselves of the
revenue arising from that trade, and which is daily increasing, and to
throw this great advantage into the hands of other countries?

Let us examine the use or the benefit of the resolutions contained in
the report. I call upon gentlemen to give me one single instance in
which they can be of service. They are of no use to congress. The
powers of that body are already defined, and those powers cannot be
amended, confirmed or diminished by ten thousand resolutions. Is not
that the guide and rule of this legislature. A multiplicity of laws is
reprobated in any society, and tend but to confound and perplex. How
strange would a law appear which was to confirm a law; and how much
more strange must it appear for this body to pass resolutions to
confirm the constitution under which they sit! This is the case with
others of the resolutions.

A gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Stone) very properly observed, that the
Union had received the different States with all their ill habits
about them. This was one of these habits established long before the
constitution, and could not now be remedied. He begged congress to
reflect on the number on the continent who were opposed to this
constitution, and on the number which yet remained in the Southern
States. The violation of this compact they would seize on with
avidity; they would make a handle of it to cover their designs against
the government, and many good federalists, who would be injured by the
measure, would be induced to join them: his heart was truly federal,
and it had always been so, and he wished those designs frustrated. He
begged congress to beware before they went too far: he called on them
to attend to the interest of two whole States, as well as to the
memorials of a society of quakers, who came forward to blow the
trumpet of sedition, and to destroy that constitution which they had
not in the least contributed by personal service or supply to

He seconded Mr. Tucker's motion.

Mr. Smith (of S.C.) said, the gentleman from Massachusetts, (Mr.
Gerry,) had declared that it was the opinion of the select committee,
of which he was a member, that the memorial of the Pennsylvania
society, required congress to violate the constitution. It was not
less astonishing to see Dr. Franklin taking the lead in a business
which looks so much like a persecution of the Southern inhabitants,
when he recollected the parable he had written some time ago, with a
view of showing the immorality of one set of men persecuting others
for a difference of opinion. The parable was to this effect: an old
traveller, hungry and weary, applied to the patriarch Abraham for a
night's lodging. In conversation, Abraham discovered that the stranger
differed with him on religious points, and turned him out of doors. In
the night God appeared unto Abraham, and said, where is the stranger?
Abraham answered, I found that he did not worship the true God, and so
I turned him out of doors. The Almighty thus rebuked the patriarch:
have I borne with him three-score and ten years, and couldst thou not
bear with him one night? Has the Almighty, said Mr. Smith, borne with
us for more than three-score years and ten: He has even made our
country opulent, and shed the blessings of affluence and prosperity on
our land, notwithstanding all its slaves, and must we now be ruined
on account of the tender consciences of a few scrupulous individuals
who differ from us on this point?

Mr. Boudinot agreed with the general doctrines of Mr. S., but could
not agree that the clause in the constitution relating to the want of
power in congress to prohibit the importation of such persons as any
of the States, _now existing_, shall think proper to admit, prior to
the year 1808, and authorizing a tax or duty on such importation not
exceeding ten dollars for each person, did not extend to negro slaves.
Candor required that he should acknowledge that this was the express
design of the constitution, and therefore congress could not interfere
in prohibiting the importation or promoting the emancipation of them,
prior to that period. Mr. Boudinot observed, that he was well informed
that the tax or duty of ten dollars was provided, instead of the five
per cent. ad valorem, and was so expressly understood by all parties
in the convention; that therefore it was the interest and duty of
congress to impose this tax, or it would not be doing justice to the
States, or equalizing the duties throughout the Union. If this was
not done, merchants might bring their whole capitals into this branch
of trade, and save paying any duties whatever. Mr. Boudinot observed,
that the gentleman had overlooked the prophecy of St. Peter, where he
foretells that among other damnable heresies, "Through covetousness
shall they with feigned words make merchandize of you."

[NOTE.--This petition, with others of a similar object, was committed
to a select committee; that committee made a report; the report was
referred to a committee of the whole house, and discussed on four
successive days; it was then reported to the House with amendments,
and by the House ordered to be inscribed in its Journals, and then
laid on the table.

That report, as amended in committee, is in the following words: The
committee to whom were referred sundry memorials from the people
called Quakers, and also a memorial from the Pennsylvania Society for
promoting the abolition of slavery, submit the following report, (as
amended in committee of the whole.)

"First: That the migration or importation of such persons as any of
the States now existing shall think proper to admit, cannot be
prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808."

"Secondly: That Congress have no power to interfere in the
emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them, within any of the
States; it remaining with the several States alone to provide any
regulations therein which humanity and true policy may require."

"Thirdly: That Congress have authority to restrain the citizens of the
United States from carrying on the African Slave trade, for the
purpose of supplying foreigners with slaves, and of providing by
proper regulations for the humane treatment, during their passage, of
slaves imported by the said citizens into the states admitting such

"Fourthly: That Congress have also authority to prohibit foreigners
from fitting out vessels in any part of the United States for
transporting persons from Africa to any foreign port."]

SOCIETY TO THE Friends of Freedom and Emancipation in the United

At the Tenth Anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, held in
the city of New York, May 7th, 1844,--after grave deliberation, and a
long and earnest discussion,--it was decided, by a vote of nearly
three to one of the members present, that fidelity to the cause of
human freedom, hatred of oppression, sympathy for those who are held
in chains and slavery in this republic, and allegiance to God, require
that the existing national compact should be instantly dissolved; that
secession from the government is a religious and political duty; that
the motto inscribed on the banner of Freedom should be, NO UNION WITH
SLAVEHOLDERS; that it is impracticable for tyrants and the enemies of
tyranny to coalesce and legislate together for the preservation of
human rights, or the promotion of the interests of Liberty; and that
revolutionary ground should be occupied by all those who abhor the
thought of doing evil that good may come, and who do not mean to
compromise the principles of Justice and humanity.

A decision involving such momentous consequences, so well calculated
to startle the public mind, so hostile to the established order of
things, demands of us, as the official representatives of the
American Society, a statement of the reasons which led to it. This is
due not only to the Society, but also to the country and the world.

It is declared by the American people to be a self-evident truth,
"that all men are created equal; that they are endowed BY THEIR
CREATOR with certain inalienable rights; that among these are _life,_
LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness." It is further maintained by
them, that "all governments derive their just powers from the consent
of the governed;" that "whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of human rights, it is the right of the people to alter or
to abolish it, and institute a new government, laying its foundation
on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them
shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." These
doctrines the patriots of 1776 sealed with their blood. They would
not brook even the menace of oppression. They held that there should
be no delay in resisting at whatever cost or peril, the first
encroachments of power on their liberties. Appealing to the great
Ruler of the universe for the rectitude of their course, they pledged
to each other "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor," to
conquer or perish in their struggle to be free.

For the example which they set to all people subjected to a despotic
sway, and the sacrifices which they made, their descendants cherish
their memories with gratitude, reverence their virtues, honor their
deeds, and glory in their triumphs.

It is not necessary, therefore, for us to prove that a state of
slavery is incompatible with the dictates of reason and humanity; or
that it is lawful to throw off a government which is at war with the
sacred rights of mankind.

We regard this as indeed a solemn crisis, which requires of every man
sobriety of thought, prophetic forecast, independent judgment,
invincible determination, and a sound heart. A revolutionary step is
one that should not be taken hastily, nor followed under the influence
of impulsive imitation. To know what spirit they are of--whether they
have counted the cost of the warfare--what are the principles they
advocate--and how they are to achieve their object--is the first duty
of revolutionists.

But, while circumspection and prudence are excellent qualities in
every great emergency, they become the allies of tyranny whenever they
restrain prompt, bold and decisive action against it.

We charge upon the present national compact, that it was formed at the
expense of human liberty, by a profligate surrender of principle, and
to this hour is cemented with human blood.

We charge upon the American Constitution, that it contains provisions,
and enjoins duties, which make it unlawful for freemen to take the
oath of allegiance to it, because they are expressly designed to favor
a slaveholding oligarchy, and consequently, to make one portion of the
people a prey to another.

We charge upon the existing national government, that it is an
insupportable despotism, wielded by a power which is superior to all
legal and constitutional restraints--equally indisposed and unable to
protect the lives or liberties of the people--the prop and safeguard
of American slavery.

These charges we proceed briefly to establish:

I. It is admitted by all men of intelligence,--or if it be denied in
any quarter, the records of our national history settle the question
beyond doubt,--that the American Union was effected by a guilty
compromise between the free and slaveholding States; in other words,
by immolating the colored population on the altar of slavery, by
depriving the North of equal rights and privileges, and by
incorporating the slave system into the government. In the expressive
and pertinent language of scripture, it was "a covenant with death,
and an agreement with hell"--null and void before God, from the first
hour of its inception--the framers of which were recreant to duty, and
the supporters of which are equally guilty.

It was pleaded at the time of the adoption, it is pleaded now, that,
without such a compromise there could have been no union; that,
without union, the colonies would have become an easy prey to the
mother country; and, hence, that it was an act of necessity,
deplorable indeed when viewed alone, but absolutely indispensable to
the safety of the republic.

To this see reply: The plea is as profligate as the act was
tyrannical. It is the jesuitical doctrine, that the end sanctifies the
means. It is a confession of sin, but the denial of any guilt in its
perpetration. It is at war with the government of God, and subversive
of the foundations of morality. It is to make lies our refuge, and
under falsehood to hide ourselves, so that we may escape the
overflowing scourge. "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Judgment
will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail
shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the
hiding place." Moreover, "because ye trust in oppression and
perverseness, and stay thereon; therefore this iniquity shall be to
you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose
breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. And he shall break it as the
breaking of the potter's vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not

This plea is sufficiently broad to cover all the oppression and
villany that the sun has witnessed in his circuit, since God said,
"Let there be light." It assumes that to be practicable, which is
impossible, namely, that there can be freedom with slavery, union with
injustice, and safety with bloodguiltiness. A union of virtue with
pollution is the triumph of licentiousness. A partnership between
right and wrong, is wholly wrong. A compromise of the principles of
Justice, is the deification of crime.

Better that the American Union had never been formed, than that it
should have been obtained at such a frightful cost! If they were
guilty who fashioned it, but who could not foresee all its frightful
consequences, how much more guilty are they, who, in full view of all
that has resulted from it, clamor for its perpetuity! If it was sinful
at the commencement, to adopt it on the ground of escaping a greater
evil, is it not equally sinful to swear to support it for the same
reason, or until, in process of time, it be purged from its

The fact is, the compromise alluded to, instead of effecting a union,
rendered it impracticable; unless by the term union are to understand
the absolute reign of the slaveholding power over the whole country,
to the prostration of Northern rights. In the just use of words, the
American Union is and always has been a sham--an imposture. It is an
instrument of oppression unsurpassed in the criminal history of the
world. How then can it be innocently sustained? It is not certain, it
is not even probable, that if it had not been adopted, the mother
country would have reconquered the colonies. The spirit that would
have chosen danger in preference to crime,--to perish with justice
rather than live with dishonor,--to dare and suffer whatever might
betide, rather than sacrifice the rights of one human being,--could
never have been subjugated by any mortal power. Surely it is paying a
poor tribute to the valor and devotion of our revolutionary fathers in
the cause of liberty, to say that, if they had sternly refused to
sacrifice their principles, they would have fallen an easy prey to the
despotic power of England.

II. The American Constitution is the exponent of the national compact.
We affirm that it is an instrument which no man can innocently bind
himself to support, because its anti-republican and anti-christian
requirements are explicit and peremptory; at least, so explicit that,
in regard to all the clauses pertaining to slavery, they have been
uniformly understood and enforced in the same way, by all the courts
and by all the people; and so peremptory, that no individual
interpretation or authority can set them aside with impunity. It is
not a ball of clay, to be moulded into any shape that party
contrivance or caprice may choose it to assume. It is not a form of
words, to be interpreted in any manner, or to any extent, or for the
accomplishment of any purpose, that individuals in office under it may
determine. _It means precisely what those who framed and adopted it
meant_--NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS, _as a matter of bargain and
compromise_. Even if it can be construed to mean something else,
without violence to its language, such construction is not to be
tolerated _against the wishes of either party_. No just or honest use
of it can be made, in opposition to the plain intention of its
framers, _except to declare the contract at an end, and to refuse to
serve under it_.

To the argument, that the words "slaves" and "slavery" are not to be
found in the Constitution, and therefore that it was never intended to
give any protection or countenance to the slave system, it is
sufficient to reply, that though no such words are contained in that
instrument, other words were used, intelligently and specifically, TO
MEET THE NECESSITIES OF SLAVERY; and that these were adopted _in good
faith, to be observed until a constitutional change could be
effected_. On this point, as to the design of certain provisions, no
intelligent man can honestly entertain a doubt. If it be objected,
that though these provisions were meant to cover slavery, yet, as they
can fairly be interpreted to mean something exactly the reverse, it is
allowable to give to them such an interpretation, _especially as the
cause of freedom will thereby be promoted_--we reply, that this is to
advocate fraud and violence toward one of the contracting parties,
_whose co-operation was secured only by an express agreement and
understanding between them both, in regard to the clauses alluded to_;
and that such a construction, if enforced by pains and penalties,
would unquestionably lead to a civil war, in which the aggrieved party
would justly claim to have been betrayed, and robbed of their
constitutional rights.

Again, if it be said, that those clauses, being immoral, are null and
void--we reply, it is true they are not to be observed; but it is also
true that they are portions of an instrument, the support of which, AS
A WHOLE, is required by oath or affirmation; and, therefore, _because
IMMORALITY, no one can innocently swear to support the Constitution.

Again, if it be objected, that the Constitution was formed by the
people of the United States, in order to establish justice, to promote
the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves
and their posterity; and therefore, it is to be so construed as to
harmonize with these objects; we reply, again, that its language is
_not to be interpreted in a sense which neither of the contracting
parties understood_, and which would frustrate every design of their
alliance--to wit, _union at the expense of the colored population of
the country_. Moreover, nothing is more certain than that the preamble
alluded to never included, in the minds of those who framed it, _those
who were then pining in bondage_--for, in that case, a general
emancipation of the slaves would have instantly been proclaimed
throughout the United States. The words, "secure the blessings of
liberty to ourselves and our posterity," assuredly meant only the
white population. "To promote the general welfare," referred to their
own welfare exclusively. "To establish justice," was understood to be
for their sole benefit as slaveholders, and the guilty abettors of
slavery. This is demonstrated by other parts of the same instrument,
and by their own practice under it.

We would not detract aught from what is justly their due; but it is as
reprehensible to give them credit for _what they did not possess_, as
it is to rob them of what is theirs. It is absurd, it is false, it is
an insult to the common sense of mankind, to pretend that the
Constitution was intended to embrace the entire population of the
country under its sheltering wings; or that the parties to it were
actuated by a sense of justice and the spirit of impartial liberty; or
that it needs no alteration, but only a new interpretation, to make it
harmonize with the object aimed at by its adoption. As truly might it
be argued, that because it is asserted in the Declaration of
Independence, that all men are created equal and endowed with an
inalienable right to liberty, therefore none of its signers were
slaveholders, and since its adoption, slavery has been banished from
the American soil! The truth is, our fathers were intent on securing
liberty _to themselves_, without being very scrupulous as to the means
they used to accomplish their purpose. They were not actuated by the
spirit of universal philanthropy; and though in _words_ they
recognized occasionally the brotherhood of the human race, _in
practice_ they continually denied it. They did not blush to enslave a
portion of their fellow-men, and to buy and sell them as cattle in the
market, while they were fighting against the oppression of the mother
country, and boasting of their regard for the rights of man. Why,
then, concede to them virtues which they did not posses? _Why cling to
the falsehood, that they were no respecters of person in the formation
of the government_?

Alas! that they had no more fear of God, no more regard for man, in
their hearts! "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah [The
North and South] is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood,
and the city full of perverseness; for they say, the Lord hath
forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not."

We proceed to a critical examination of the American Constitution, in
its relations to slavery.

In ARTICLE I, Section 9, it is declared--"The migration or importation
of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper
to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress, prior to the year
one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a tax or duty may be imposed
on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person."

In this Section, it will be perceived, the phraseology is so guarded
as not to imply, _ex necessitate_, any criminal intent or inhuman
arrangement; and yet no one has ever had the hardihood or folly to
deny, that it was clearly understood by the contracting parties, to
mean that there should be no interference with the African slave
trade, on the part of the general government, until the year 1808. For
twenty years after the adoption of the Constitution, the citizens of
the United States were to be encouraged and protected in the
prosecution of that infernal traffic--in sacking and burning the
hamlets of Africa--in slaughtering multitudes of the inoffensive
natives on the soil, kidnapping and enslaving a still greater
proportion, crowding them to suffocation in the holds of the slave
ships, populating the Atlantic with their dead bodies, and subjecting
the wretched survivors to all the horrors of unmitigated bondage! This
awful covenant was strictly fulfilled; and though, since its
termination, Congress has declared the foreign slave traffic to be
piracy, yet all Christendom knows that the American flag, instead of
being the terror of the African slavers, has given them the most ample

The manner in which the 9th Section was agreed to, by the national
convention that formed the constitution, is thus frankly avowed by the
Hon. Luther Martin,[8] who was a prominent member of that body:

[Footnote 8: Speech before the Legislature of Maryland in 1787.]

"The Eastern States, notwithstanding their aversion of slavery, (!)
were _very willing to indulge the Southern States_ at least with a
temporary liberty to prosecute the slave trade, provided the Southern
States would, in their turn, _gratify_ them by laying no restriction
on navigation acts; and, after a very little time, the committee, by a
great majority, agreed on a report, _by which the general government
was to be prohibited from preventing the importation of slaves_ for a
limited time; and the restrictive clause relative to navigation acts
was to be omitted."

Behold the iniquity of this agreement! how sordid were the motives
which led to it! what a profligate disregard of justice and humanity,
on the part of those who had solemnly declared the inalienable right
of all men to be free and equal, to be a self-evident truth!

It is due to the national convention to say, that this section was not
adopted "without considerable opposition." Alluding to it, Mr. Martin

"It was said we had just assumed a place among the independent nations
in consequence of our opposition to the attempts of Great Britain to
_enslave us_; that this opposition was grounded upon the preservation
of those rights to which God and nature has entitled us, not in
_particular_, but in _common with all the rest of mankind_; that we
had appealed to the Supreme Being for his assistance, as the God of
freedom, who could not but approve our efforts to preserve the rights
which he had thus imparted to his creatures; that now, when we had
scarcely risen from our knees, from supplicating his mercy and
protection in forming our government over a free people, a government
formed pretendedly on the principles of liberty, and for its
preservation,--in that government to have a provision, not only of
putting out of its power to restrain and prevent the slave trade, even
encouraging that most infamous traffic, by giving the States the power
and influence in the Union in proportion as they cruelly and wantonly
sported with the rights of their fellow-creatures, ought to be
considered as a solemn mockery of, and insult to, that God whose
protection we had thus implored, and could not fail to hold us up in
detestation, and render us contemptible to every true friend of
liberty in the world. It was said that national crimes can only be,
and frequently are, punished in this world by _national punishments_,
and that the continuance of the slave trade, and thus giving it a
national character, sanction, and encouragement, ought to be
considered as justly exposing us to the displeasure and vengeance of
him who is equally the Lord of all, and who views with equal eye the
poor _African slave_ and his _American master!_ [9]

[Footnote 9: How terribly and justly as the guilty nation been
scourged, since these words were spoken, on account of slavery and the
slave trade!]

"It was urged that, by this system, we were giving the general
government full and absolute power to regulate commerce, under which
general power it would have a right to restrain, or totally prohibit,
the slave trade: it must, therefore, appear to the world absurd and
disgraceful to the last degree that we should except from the exercise
of that power the only branch of commerce which is unjustifiable in
its nature, and contrary to the rights of mankind. That, on the
contrary, we ought to prohibit expressly, in our Constitution, the
further importation of slaves, and to authorize the general
government, from time to time, to make such regulations as should be
thought most advantageous for the gradual abolition of slavery, and
the emancipation of the slaves already in the States. That slavery is
inconsistent with the genius of republicanism, and has a tendency to
destroy those principles on which it is supported, as it lessens the
sense of the equal rights of mankind, and habituates to tyranny and
oppression. It was further urged that, by this system of government,
every State is to be protected both from foreign invasion and from
domestic insurrections; and, from this consideration, it was of the
utmost importance it should have the power to restrain the importation
of slaves, since in proportion as the number of slaves increased in
any State, in the same proportion is the State weakened and exposed to
foreign invasion and domestic insurrection; and by so much less will
it be able to protect itself against either, and therefore by so much,
want aid and be a burden to, the Union.

"It was further said, that, in this system, as we were giving the
general government power, under the idea of national character, or
national interest, to regulate even our weights and measures, and have
prohibited all possibility of emitting paper money, and passing
insolvent laws, &c., it must appear still more extraordinary that we
prohibited the government from interfering with the slave trade, than
which nothing could more effect our national honor and interest.

"These reasons influenced me, both in the committee and in the
convention, most decidedly to oppose and vote against the clause, as
it now makes part of the system." [10]

[Footnote 10: Secret Proceedings, p. 61.]

Happy had it been for this nation, had these solemn considerations
been heeded by the framers of the Constitution! But for the sake of
securing some local advantages, they choose to do evil that good may
come, and to make the end sanctify the means. They were willing to
enslave others, that they might secure their own freedom. They did
this deed deliberately, with their eyes open, with all the facts and
consequences arising therefrom before them, in violation of all their
heaven-attested declarations, and in atheistical distrust of the
overruling power of God. "The Eastern States were very willing to
_indulge_ the Southern States" in the unrestricted prosecution of
their piratical traffic, provided in return they could be _gratified_
by no restriction on being laid on navigation acts!!--Had there been
no other provision of the Constitution justly liable to objection,
this one alone rendered the support of that instrument incompatible
with the duties which men owe to their Creator, and to each other. It
was the poisonous infusion in the cup, which, though constituting but
a very slight portion of its contents, perilled the life of every one
who partook of it.

If it be asked to what purpose are these animadversions, since the
clause alluded to has long since expired by its own limitation--we
answer, that, if at any time the foreign slave trade could be
_constitutionally_ prosecuted, it may yet be renewed, under the
Constitution, at the pleasure of Congress, whose prohibitory statute
is liable to be reversed at any moment, in the frenzy of Southern
opposition to emancipation. It is ignorantly supposed that the bargain
was, that the traffic _should cease_ in 1808; but the only thing
secured by it was, the _right_ of Congress (not any obligation) to
prohibit it at that period. If, therefore, Congress had not chosen to
exercise that right, _the traffic might have been prolonged
indefinitely, under the Constitution_. The right to destroy any
particular branch of commerce, implies the right to re-establish it.
True, there is no probability that the African slave trade will ever
again be legalized by the national government; but no credit is due
the framers of the Constitution on this ground; for, while they threw
around it all the sanction and protection of the national character
and power for twenty years, _they set no bounds to its continuance by
any positive constitutional prohibition_.

Again, the adoption of such a clause, and the faithful execution of
it, prove what was meant by the words of the preamble--"to form a more
perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity,
provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and
secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our
posterity"--namely, that the parties to the Constitution regarded
only their own rights and interests, and never intended that its
language should be so interpreted as to interfere with slavery, or to
make it unlawful for one portion of the people to enslave another,
_without an express alteration in the instrument, in the manner
therein set forth_. While, therefore, the Constitution remains as it
was originally adopted, they who swear to support it are bound to
comply with all its provisions, as a matter of allegiance. For it
avails nothing to say, that some of those provisions are at war with
the law of God and the rights of man, and therefore are not
obligatory. Whatever may be their character, they are
_constitutionally_, obligatory; and whoever feels that he cannot
execute them, or swear to execute them, without committing sin,
has no other choice left than to withdraw from the government, or to
violate his conscience by taking on his lips an impious promise. The
object of the Constitution is not to define _what is the law of God_,
but WHAT IS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE--which will is not to be frustrated
by an ingenious moral interpretation, by those whom they have elected
to serve them.

ARTICLE 1, Sect. 2, provides--"Representatives and direct taxes shall
be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within
this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be
determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including
those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not
taxed, _three-fifths of all other persons_."

Here, as in the clause we have already examined, veiled beneath a form
of words as deceitful as it is unmeaning in a truly democratic
government, is a provision for the safety, perpetuity and augmentation
of the slaveholding power--a provision scarcely less atrocious than
that which related to the African slave trade, and almost as
afflictive in its operation--a provision still in force, with no
possibility of its alteration, so long as a majority of the slave
States choose to maintain their slave system--a provision which, at
the present time, enables the South to have twenty-five additional
representatives in Congress on the score of _property_, while the
North is not allowed to have one--a provision which concedes to the
oppressed three-fifths of the political power which is granted to all
others, and then puts this power into the hands of their oppressors,
to be wielded by them for the more perfect security of their tyrannous
authority, and the complete subjugation of the non-slaveholding

Referring to this atrocious bargain, ALEXANDER HAMILTON remarked in
the New York Convention--

"The first thing objected to, is that clause which allows a
representation for three-fifths of the negroes. Much has been said of
the impropriety of representing men who have no will of their own:
whether this is _reasoning_, or _declamation_, (!!) I will not presume
to say. It is the _unfortunate_ situation of the Southern States to
have a great part of their population, as well as _property_, in
blacks. The regulation complained of was one result of _the spirit of
accommodation_ which governed the Convention: and without this
considering some _peculiar advantages_ which we derive from them, it
is entirely JUST that they should be _gratified_.--The Southern States
possess certain staples, tobacco, rice, indigo, &c.--which must be
_capital_ objects in treaties of commerce with foreign nations; and
the advantage which they necessarily procure in these treaties will be
felt throughout the United states."

If such was the patriotism, such the love of liberty, such the
morality of ALEXANDER HAMILTON, what can be said of the character of
those who were far less conspicuous than himself in securing American
independence, and in framing the American Constitution?

Listen, now, to the questions of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, respecting the
constitutional clause now under consideration:--

"'In outward show, it is a representation of persons in bondage; in
fact, it is a representation of their masters,--the oppressor
representing the oppressed.'--'Is it in the compass of human
imagination to devise a more perfect exemplification of the art of
committing the lamb to the tender custody of the wolf?'--'The
representative is thus constituted, not the friend, agent and trustee
of the person whom he represents, but the most inveterate of his
foes.'--'It was _one_ of the curses from that Pandora's box, adjusted
at the time, as usual, by a _compromise_, the whole advantage of which
inured to the benefit of the South, and to aggravate the burdens of
the North.'--'If there be a parallel to it in human history, it can
only be that of the Roman Emperors, who, from the days when Julius
Caesar substituted a military despotism in the place of a republic,
among the offices which they always concentrated upon themselves, was
that of tribune of the people. A Roman Emperor tribune of the people,
is an exact parallel to that feature in the Constitution of the United
States which makes the master the representative of his slave.'--'The
Constitution of the United States expressly prescribes that no title
of nobility shall be granted by the United States. The spirit of this
interdict is not a rooted antipathy to the grant of mere powerless
empty _titles_, but to titles of _nobility_; to the institution of
privileged orders of men. But what order of men under the most
absolute of monarchies, or the most aristocratic of republics, was
ever invested with such an odious and unjust privilege as that of the
separate and exclusive representation of less than half a million
owners of slaves, in the Hall of this House, in the Chair of the
Senate, and in the Presidential mansion?'--'This investment of power
in the owners of one species of property concentrated in the highest
authorities of the nation, and disseminated through thirteen of the
twenty-six States of the Union, constitutes a privileged order of men
in the community, more adverse to the rights of all, and more
pernicious to the interests of the whole, than any order of nobility
ever known. To call government thus constituted a democracy, is to
insult the understanding of mankind. To call it an aristocracy, is to
do injustice to that form of government. Aristocracy is the government
of _the best_. Its standard qualification for accession to power _is
merit_, ascertained by popular election recurring at short intervals
of time. If even that government is prone to degenerate into tyranny,
what must be the character of that form of polity in which the
standard qualification for access to power is wealth in the possession
of slaves? It is doubly tainted with the infection of riches and of
slavery. _There is no name in the language of national jurisprudence
that can define it_--no model in the records of ancient history, or in
the political theories of Aristotle, with which it can be likened. It
was introduced into the Constitution of the United States by an
equivocation--a representation of property under the name of persons.
Little did the members of the Convention from the free States foresee
what a sacrifice to Moloch was hidden under the mask of this
concession.'--'The House of Representatives of the United States
consists of 223 members--all, by _the letter_ of the Constitution,
representatives only of _persons_, as 135 of them really are; but the
other 88, equally representing the _persons_ of their constituents, by
whom they are elected, also represent, under the name of _other
persons_, upwards of two and a half millions of _slaves_, held as the
_property_ of less than half a million of the white constituents, and
valued at twelve hundred millions of dollars. Each of these 88 members
represents in fact the whole of that mass of associated wealth, and
the persons and exclusive interests of its owners; all thus knit
together, like the members of a moneyed corporation, with a capital
not of thirty-five or forty or fifty, but of twelve hundred millions
of dollars, exhibiting the most extraordinary exemplification of the
anti-republican tendencies of associated wealth that the world ever
saw.'--'Here is one class of men, consisting of not more than one
fortieth part of the whole people, not more than one-thirtieth part of
the free population, exclusively devoted to their personal interests
identified with their own as slaveholders of the same associated
wealth, and wielding by their votes, upon every question of government
or of public policy, two-fifths of the whole power of the House. In
the Senate of the Union, the proportion of the slaveholding power is
yet greater. By the influence of slavery, in the States where the
institution is tolerated, over their elections, no other than a
slaveholder can rise to the distinction of obtaining a seat in the
Senate; and thus, of the 52 members of the federal Senate, 26 are
owners of slaves, and as effectively representatives of that interest
as the 88 members elected by them to the House.'--'By this process it
is that all political power in the States is absorbed and engrossed by
the owners of _slaves_, and the overruling policy of the States is
shaped to strengthen and consolidate their domination. The
legislative, executive, and judicial authorities are all in their
hands--the preservation, propagation, and perpetuation of the black
code of slavery--every law of the legislature becomes a link in the
chain of the slave; every executive act a rivet to his hapless fate;
every judicial decision a perversion of the human intellect to the
justification of _wrong._'--'Its reciprocal operation upon the
government of the nation is, to establish an artificial majority in
the slave representation over that of the free people, in the American
Congress, and thereby to make the PRESERVATION, PROPAGATION, AND
GOVERNMENT.'--'The result is seen in the fact that, at this day, the
President of the United States, the President of the Senate, the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, and five out of nine of the
Judges of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the United States, are not
only citizens of slaveholding States, but individual slaveholders
themselves. So are, and constantly have been, with scarcely an
exception, all the members of both Houses of Congress from the
slaveholding States; and so are, in immensely disproportionate
numbers, the commanding officers of the army and navy; the officers of
the customs; the registers and receivers of the land offices, and the
post-masters throughout the slaveholding States.--The Biennial
Register indicates the birth-place of all the officers employed in the
government of the Union. If it were required to designate the owners
of this species of property among them, it would be little more than a
catalogue of slaveholders.'"

It is confessed by Mr. Adams, alluding to the national convention that
framed the Constitution, that "the delegation from the free States, in
their extreme anxiety to conciliate the ascendency of the Southern
slaveholder, did listen to _a compromise between right and
wrong--between freedom and slavery_; of the ultimate fruits of which
they had no conception, but which already even now is urging the Union
to its inevitable ruin and dissolution, by a civil, servile, foreign,
and Indian war, all combined in one; a war, the essential issue of
which will be between freedom and slavery, and in which the unhallowed
standard of slavery will be the desecrated banner of the North
American Union--that banner, first unfurled to the breeze, inscribed
with the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence."

Hence to swear to support the Constitution of the United States, _as
it is_, is to make "a compromise between right and wrong," and to wage
war against human liberty. It is to recognize and honor as republican
legislators, _incorrigible men-stealers_, MERCILESS TYRANTS, BLOOD
THIRSTY ASSASSINS, who legislate with deadly weapons about their
persons, such as pistols, daggers, and bowie-knives, with which they
threaten to murder any Northern senator or representative who shall
dare to stain their _honor_, or interfere with their _rights_! They
constitute a banditti more fierce and cruel than any whose atrocities
are recorded on the pages of history or romance. To mix with them on
terms of social or religious fellowship, is to indicate a low state of
virtue; but to think of administering a free government by their
co-operation, is nothing short of insanity.

Article IV., Section 2, declares,--"no person held to service or labor
on one State, _under the laws thereof_, escaping into another, shall,
in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from
such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party
to whom such service or labor may be due."

Here is a third clause, which, like the other two, makes no mention of
slavery or slaves, in express terms; and yet, like them, was
intelligently framed and mutually understood by the parties to the
ratification, and intended both to protect the slave system and to
restore runaway slaves. It alone makes slavery a national institution,
a national crime, and all the people who are not enslaved, the
body-guard over those whose liberties have been cloven down. This
agreement, too, has been fulfilled to the letter by the North.

Under the Mosaic dispensation it was imperatively commanded,--"Thou
shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from
his master unto thee: he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in
that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh
him best: thou shalt not oppress him." The warning which the prophet
Isaiah gave to oppressing Moab was of a similar kind: "Take counsel,
execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the
noon-day; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth. Let mine
outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face
of the spoiler." The prophet Obadiah brings the following charge
against treacherous Edom, which is precisely applicable to this guilty
nation:--"For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall come
over thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. In the day that thou
stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away
captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast
lots upon Jerusalem, _even thou wast as one of them_. But thou
shouldst not have looked on the day of thy brother, in the day that he
became a stranger; neither shouldst thou have rejoiced over the
children of Judah, in the day of their destruction; neither shouldst
thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress; neither shouldst thou
have _stood in the cross-way, to cut off those of his that did
escape_; neither shouldst thou have _delivered up those of his that
did remain_, in the day of distress."

How exactly descriptive of this boasted republic is the impeachment of
Edom by the same prophet! "The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee,
thou whose habitation is high; that saith in thy heart, Who shall
bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle,
and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee
down, saith the Lord." The emblem of American pride and power is the
_eagle_, and on her banner she has mingled _stars_ with its _stripes_.
Her vanity, her treachery, her oppression, her self-exaltation, and
her defiance of the Almighty, far surpass the madness and wickedness
of Edom. What shall be her punishment? Truly, it may be affirmed of
the American people, (who live not under the Levitical but Christian
code, and whose guilt, therefore, is the more awful, and their
condemnation the greater,) in the language of another prophet--"They
all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh,
and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his
mischievous desire: _so they wrap it up_." Likewise of the colored
inhabitants of this land it may be said,--"This is a people robbed and
spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in
prison-houses; they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil,
and none saith, Restore."

By this stipulation, the Northern States are made the hunting ground
of slave-catchers, who may pursue their victims with bloodhounds, and
capture them with impunity wherever they can lay their robber hands
upon them. At least twelve or fifteen thousand runaway slaves are now
in Canada, exiled from their native land, because they could not find,
throughout its vast extent, a single road on which they could dwell in
safety, in _consequence of this provision of the Constitution_? How is
it possible, then, for the advocates of liberty to support a
government which gives over to destruction one-sixth part of the whole

It is denied by some at the present day, that the clause which has
been cited, was intended to apply to runaway slaves. This indicates
either ignorance, or folly or something worse. JAMES MADISON, as one
of the framers of the Constitution, is of some authority on this
point. Alluding to that instrument, in the Virginia convention, he

"Another clause _secures us that property which we now possess_. At
present, if any slave elopes to those States where slaves are free,
_he becomes emancipated by their laws_; for the laws of the States are
_uncharitable_ (!) to one another in this respect; but in this
constitution, 'No person held to service or labor in one State, under
the laws thereof, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation
therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be
delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may
SLAVES TO RECLAIM THEM. _This is a better security than any that now
exists_. No power is given to the general government to interfere with
respect to the property in slaves now held by the States."

In the same convention, alluding to the same clause, GOV. RANDOLPH

"Every one knows that slaves are held to service or labor. And, when
authority is given to owners of slaves _to vindicate their property_,
can it be supposed they can be deprived of it? If a citizen of this
State, in consequence of this clause, can take his runaway slave in
Maryland, can it be seriously thought that, after taking him and
bringing him home, he could be made free?"

It is objected, that slaves are held as property, and therefore, as
the clause refers to persons, it cannot mean slaves. But this is
criticism against fact. Slaves are recognized not merely as property,
but also as persons--as having a mixed character--as combining the
human with the brutal. This is paradoxical, we admit; but slavery is a
paradox--the American Constitution is a paradox--the American Union is
a paradox--the American Government is a paradox; and if any one of
these is to be repudiated on that ground, they all are. That it is the
duty of the friends of freedom to deny the binding authority of them
all, and to secede from them all, we distinctly affirm. After the
independence of this country had been achieved, the voice of God
exhorted the people, saying, "Execute true judgment, and show mercy
and compassion, every man to his brother: and oppress not the widow,
nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you
imagine evil against his brother in your heart. But they refused to
hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that
they should not hear; yea, they made their hearts as an adamant
stone." "Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord. Shall not
my soul be avenged on such a notion as this?"

Whatever doubt may have rested on any honest mind, respecting the
meaning of the clause in relation to persons held to service or labor,
must have been removed by the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court
of the United States, in the case of Prigg versus The State of
Pennsylvania. By that decision, any Southern slave-catcher is
empowered to seize and convey to the South, without hindrance or
molestation on the part of the State, and without any legal process
duly obtained and served, any person or persons, irrespective of caste
or complexion, whom he may choose to claim as runaway slaves; and if,
when thus surprised and attacked, or on their arrival South, they
cannot prove by legal witnesses, that they are freemen, their doom is
sealed! Hence the free colored population of the North are specially
liable to become the victims of this terrible power, and all the other
inhabitants are at the mercy of prowling kidnappers, because there are
multitudes of white as well as black slaves on Southern plantations,
and slavery is no longer fastidious with regard to the color of its

As soon as that appalling decision of the Supreme Court was
enunciated, in the name of the Constitution, the people of the North
should have risen _en masse_, if for no other cause, and declared the
Union at an end; and they would have done so, if they had not lost
their manhood, and their reverence for justice and liberty.

In the 4th Sect. of Art. IV., the United States guarantee to protect
every State in the Union "against _domestic violence_." By the 8th
Section of Article I., congress is empowered "to provide for calling
forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, _suppress
insurrections_, and repel invasions." These provisions, however
strictly they may apply to cases of disturbance among the white
population, were adopted with special reference to the slave
population, for the purpose of keeping them in their chains by the
combined military force of the country; and were these repealed, and
the South left to manage her slaves as best she could, a servile
insurrection would ere long be the consequence, as general as it would
unquestionably be successful. Says Mr. Madison, respecting these

"On application of the legislature or executive, as the case may be,
the militia of the other States are to be called to suppress domestic
insurrections. Does this bar the States from calling forth their own
militia? No; but it gives them a _supplementary_ security to suppress
insurrections and domestic violence."

The answer to Patrick Henry's objection, as urged against the
constitution in the Virginia convention, that there was no power left
to the _States_ to quell an insurrection of slaves, as it was wholly
vested in congress, George Nicholas asked:--

"Have they it now? If they have, does the constitution take it away?
If it does, it must be in one of those clauses which have been
mentioned by the worthy member. The first part gives the general
government power to call them out when necessary. Does this take it
away from the States? No! but _it gives an additional security;_ for,
beside the power in the State government to use their own militia, it
will be _the duty of the general government_ to aid them WITH THE
STRENGTH OF THE UNION, when called for."

This solemn guaranty of security to the slave system, caps the climax
of national barbarity, and stains with human blood the garments of all
the people. In consequence of it, that system has multiplied its
victims from five hundred thousand to nearly three millions--a vast
amount of territory has been purchased, in order to give it extension
and perpetuity--several new slave States have been admitted into the
Union--the slave trade has been made one of the great branches of
American commerce--the slave population, though over-worked, starved,
lacerated, branded, maimed, and subjected to every form of deprivation
and every species of torture, have been overawed and crushed,--or,
whenever they have attempted to gain their liberty by revolt, they
have been shot down and quelled by the strong arm of the national
government; as, for example, in the case of Nat Turner's insurrection
in Virginia, when the naval and military forces of the government were
called into active service. Cuban bloodhounds have been purchased with
the money of the people, and imported and used to hunt slave fugitives
among the everglades of Florida. A merciless warfare has been waged
for the extermination or expulsion of the Florida Indians, because
they gave succor to those poor hunted fugitives--a warfare which has
cost the nation several thousand lives, and forty millions of dollars.
But the catalogue of enormities is too long to be recapitulated in the
present address.

We have thus demonstrated that the compact between the North and the
South embraces every variety of wrong and outrage,--is at war with God
and man, cannot be innocently supported, and deserves to be
immediately annulled. In behalf of the Society which we represent, we
call upon all our fellow-citizens, who believe it is right to obey God
rather than man, to declare themselves peaceful revolutionists, and to
unite with us under the stainless banner of Liberty, having for its

It is pleaded that the Constitution provides for its own amendment;
and we ought to use the elective franchise to effect this object.
True, there is such a proviso; but, until the amendment be made, that
instrument is binding as it stands. Is it not to violate every moral
instinct, and to sacrifice principle to expediency, to argue that we
may swear to steal, oppress and murder by wholesale, because it may be
necessary to do so only for the time being, and because there is some
remote probability that the instrument which requires that we should
be robbers, oppressors and murderers, may at some future day be
amended in these particulars? Let us not palter with our consciences
in this manner--let us not deny that the compact was conceived in sin
and brought forth in iniquity--let us not be so dishonest, even to
promote a good object, as to interpret the Constitution in a manner
utterly at variance with the intentions and arrangements of the
contracting parties; but, confessing the guilt of the nation,
acknowledging the dreadful specifications in the bond, washing our
hands in the waters of repentance from all further participation in
this criminal alliance, and resolving that we will sustain none other
than a free and righteous government, let us glory in the name of
revolutionists, unfurl the banner of disunion, and consecrate our
talents and means to the overthrow of all that is tyrannical in the
land,--to the establishment of all that is free, just, true and
holy,--to the triumph of universal love and peace.

If, in utter disregard of the historical facts which have been cited,
it is still asserted, that the Constitution needs no amendment to make
it a free instrument, adapted to all the exigencies of a free people,
and was never intended to give any strength or countenance to the
slave system--the indignant spirit of insulted Liberty replies:--"What
though the assertion be true? Of what avail is a mere piece of
parchment? In itself, though it be written all over with words of
truth and freedom--though its provisions be as impartial and just as
words can express, or the imagination paint--though it be as pure as
the gospel, and breathe only the spirit of Heaven--it is powerless; it
has no executive vitality; it is a lifeless corpse, even though
beautiful in death. I am famishing for lack of bread! How is my
appetite relieved by holding up to my gaze a painted loaf? I am
manacled, wounded, bleeding, dying! What consolation is it to know,
that they who are seeking to destroy my life, profess in words to be
my friends?" If the liberties of the people have been betrayed--if
judgement is turned away backward and justice standeth afar off, and
truth has fallen in the streets, and equality cannot enter--if the
princes of the land are roaring lions, the judges evening wolves, the
people light and treacherous persons, the priests covered with
pollution--if we are living under a frightened despotism, which scoffs
at all constitutional restrains, and wields the resources of the
nation to promote its own bloody purposes--tell us not that the forms
of freedom are still left to us! "Would such tameness and submission
have freighted the May-Flower for Plymouth Rock? Would it have
resisted the Stamp Act, the Tea Tax, or any of those entering wedges
of tyranny with which the British government sought to rive the
liberties of America? The wheel of the Revolution would have rusted on
its axle, if a spirit so weak had been the only power to give it
motion. Did our fathers say, when their rights and liberties were
infringed--"_Why, what is done cannot be undone_. That is the first
thought." No it was the last thing they thought of: or, rather it
never entered their minds at all. They sprang to the conclusion at
once--"_What is done_ SHALL _be undone_. That is our FIRST and ONLY

"Is water running in our veins? Do we remember still
Old Plymouth Rock, and Lexington, and famous Bunker Hill?
The debt we owe our fathers' graves? and to the yet unborn,
Whose heritage ourselves must make a thing of pride or scorn?

Gray Plymouth Rock hath yet a tongue, and Concord is not dumb;
And voices from our fathers' graves and from the future come:
They call on us to stand our ground--they charge us still to be
Not only free from chains ourselves, but foremost to make free!"

It is of little consequence who is on the throne, if there be behind
it a power mightier than the throne. It matters not what is the theory
of the government, if the practice of the government be unjust and
tyrannical. We rise in rebellion against a despotism incomparably more
dreadful than that which induced the colonists to take up arms against
the mother country; not on account of a three-penny tax on tea, but
because fetters of living iron are fastened on the limbs of millions
of our countrymen, and our own sacred rights are trampled in the dust.
As citizens of the State, we appeal to the State in vain for
protection and redress. As citizen of the United States, we are
treated as outlaws in one half of the country, and the national
government consents to our destruction. We are denied the right of
locomotion, freedom of speech, the right of petition, the liberty of
the press, the right peaceably to assemble together to protest against
oppression and plead for liberty--at least in thirteen States of the
Union. If we venture, as avowed and unflinching abolitionists, to
travel South of Mason and Dixon's line, we do so at the peril of our
lives. If we would escape torture and death, on visiting any of the
slave States, we must stifle our conscientious convictions, hear no
testimony against cruelty and tyranny, suppress the struggling
emotions of humanity, divest ourselves of all letters and papers of an
antislavery character, and do homage to the slaveholding power--or run
the risk of a cruel martyrdom! These are appalling and undeniable

Three millions of the American people are crushed under the American
Union! They are held as slaves--trafficked as merchandise--registered
as goods and chattels! The government gives them no protection--the
government is their enemy--the government keeps them in chains! There
they lie bleeding--we are prostrate by their side--in their sorrows
and sufferings we participate--their stripes are inflicted on our
bodies, their shackles are fastened to our limbs, their cause is ours!
The Union which grinds them to the dust rests upon us, and with them
we will struggle to overthrow it! The Constitution, which subjects
them to hopeless bondage, is one that we cannot swear to support! Our
motto is, "NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS," either religious or political.
They are the fiercest enemies of mankind, and the bitterest foes of
God! We separate from them not in anger, not in malice, not for a
selfish purpose, not to do them an injury, not to cease warning,
exhorting, reproving them for their crimes, not to leave the perishing
bondman to his fate--O no! But to clear our skirts of innocent
blood--to give the oppressor no countenance--to signify our abhorrence
of injustice and cruelty--to testify against an ungodly compact--to
cease striking hands with thieves and consenting with adulterers--to
make no compromise with tyranny--to walk worthily of our high
profession--to increase our moral power over the nation--to obey God
and vindicate the gospel of His Son--to hasten the downfall of slavery
in America, and throughout the world!

We are not acting under a blind impulse. We have carefully counted the
cost of this warfare, and are prepared to meet its consequences. It
will subject us to reproach, persecution, infamy--it will prove a
fiery ordeal to all who shall pass through it--it may cost us our
lives. We shall be ridiculed as fools, scorned as visionaries, branded
as disorganizers, reviled as madmen, threatened and perhaps punished
as traitors. But we shall bide our time. Whether safety or peril,
whether victory or defeat, whether life or death be ours, believing
that our feet are planted on an eternal foundation, that our position
is sublime and glorious, that our faith in God is rational and
steadfast, that we have exceeding great and precious promises on which
to rely, THAT WE ARE IN THE RIGHT, we shall not falter nor be
dismayed, "though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be
carried into the midst of the sea,"--though our ranks be thinned to
the number of "three hundred men." Freemen! are you ready for the
conflict? Come what may, will you sever the chain that binds you to a
slaveholding government, and declare your independence? Up, then, with
the banner of revolution! Not to shed blood--not to injure the person
or estate of any oppressor--not by force and arms to resist any
law--not to countenance a servile insurrection--not to wield any
carnal weapons! No--ours must be a bloodless strife, excepting _our_
blood be shed--for we aim, as did Christ our leader, not to destroy
men's lives, but to save them--to overcome evil with good--to conquer
through suffering for righteousness' sake--to set the captive free by
the potency of truth!

Secede, then, from the government. Submit to its exactions, but pay it
no allegiance, and give it no voluntary aid. Fill no offices under it.
Send no senators or representatives to the national or State
legislature; for what you cannot conscientiously perform yourself, you
cannot ask another to perform as your agent. Circulate a declaration
of DISUNION FROM SLAVEHOLDERS, throughout the country. Hold mass
meetings--assemble in conventions--nail your banners to the mast!

Do you ask what can be done, if you abandon the ballot-box? What did
the crucified Nazarene do without the elective franchise? What did the
apostles do? What did the glorious army of martyrs and confessors do?
What did Luther and his intrepid associates do? What can women and
children do? What has Father Mathew done for teetotalism? What has
Daniel O'Connell done for Irish repeal? "Stand, having your loins girt
about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness," and
arrayed in the whole armor of God!

The form of government that shall succeed the present government of
the United States, let time determine. It would be a waste of time to
argue that question, until the people are regenerated and turned from
their iniquity. Ours is no anarchical movement, but one of order and
obedience. In ceasing from oppression, we establish liberty. What is
now fragmentary, shall in due time be crystallized, and shine like a
gem set in the heavens, for a light to all coming ages.

Finally--we believe that the effect of this movement will be,--First,
to create discussion and agitation throughout the North; and these
will lead to a general perception of its grandeur and importance.

Secondly, to convulse the slumbering South like an earthquake, and
convince her that her only alternative is, to abolish slavery, or be
abandoned by that power on which she now relies for safety.

Thirdly, to attack the slave power in its most vulnerable point, and
to carry the battle to the gate.

Fourthly, to exalt the moral sense, increase the moral power, and
invigorate the moral constitution of all who heartily espouse it.

We reverently believe that, in withdrawing from the American Union, we
have the God of justice with us. We know that we have our enslaved
countrymen with us. We are confident that all free hearts will be with
us. We are certain that tyrants and their abettors will be against us.

In behalf of the Executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery

WM. LLOYD GARRISON, _President_.
_Boston, May 20, 1844_.


BOSTON, 4th July, 1844.

_To His Excellency George N. Briggs_:

SIR--Many years since, I received from the executive of the
Commonwealth a commission as Justice of the Peace. I have held the
office that it conferred upon me till the present time, and have found
it a convenience to myself, and others. It might continue to be so,
could I consent longer to hold it. But paramount considerations
forbid, and I herewith transmit to you my commission respectfully
asking you to accept my resignation.

While I deem it a duty to myself to take this step, I feel called on
to state the reasons that influence me.

In entering upon the duties of the office in question, I complied with
the requirements of the law, by taking an oath "_to support the
Constitution of the United States_." I regret that I ever took that
oath. Had I then as maturely considered its full import, and the
obligations under which it is understood, and meant to lay those who
take it, as I have done since, I certainly never would have taken it,
seeing, as I now do, that the Constitution of the United States
contains provisions calculated and intended to foster, cherish, uphold
and perpetuate _slavery_. It pledges the country to guard and protect
the slave system so long as the slaveholding States choose to retain
it. It regards the slave code as lawful in the States which enact it.
Still more, "it has done that, which, until its adoption, was never
before done for African slavery. It took it out of its former category
of municipal law and local life, adopted it as a national institution,
spread around it the broad and sufficient shield of national law, and
thus gave to slavery a national existence." Consequently, the oath to
support the Constitution of the United States is a solemn promise to
do that which is morally wrong; that which is a violation of the
natural rights of man, and a sin in the sight of God.

I am not, in this matter, constituting myself a judge of others. I do
not say that no honest man can take such an oath, and abide by it. I
only say, that _I_ would not now deliberately take it; and that,
having inconsiderately taken it, I can no longer suffer it to lie upon
my soul. I take back the oath, and ask you, sir, to take back the
commission, which was the occasion of my taking it.

I am aware that my course in this matter is liable to be regarded as
singular, if not censurable; and I must, therefore, be allowed to make
a more specific statement of those _provisions of the Constitution_
which support the enormous wrong, the heinous sin of slavery.

The very first Article of the Constitution takes slavery at once under
its legislative protection, as a basis of representation in the
popular branch of the National Legislature. It regards slaves under
the description "of all other _persons_"--as of only three-fifths of
the value of free persons; thus to appearance undervaluing them in
comparison with freemen. But its dark and involved phraseology seems
intended to blind us to the consideration, that those underrated
slaves are merely a _basis_, not the _source_ of representation; that
by the laws of all the States where they live, they are regarded not
as _persons_, but as _things_; that they are not the _constituency_ of
the representative, but his property; and that the necessary effect of
this provision of the Constitution is, to take legislative power out
of the hands of _men_ as such, and give it to the mere possessors of
goods and chattels. Fixing upon thirty thousand persons, as the
smallest number that shall send one member into the House of
Representatives, it protects slavery by distributing legislative power
in a free and in a slave State thus: To a congressional district in
South Carolina, containing fifty thousand slaves, claimed as the
property of five hundred whites, who hold, on an average, one hundred
apiece, it gives one Representative in Congress; to a district in
Massachusetts containing a population of thirty thousand five hundred,
one Representative is assigned. But inasmuch as a slave is never
permitted to vote, the fifty thousand persons in a district in
Carolina form no part of "the constituency;" _that_ is found only in
the five hundred free persons. Five hundred freemen of Carolina could
send one Representative to Congress, while it would take thirty
thousand five hundred freemen of Massachusetts, to do the same thing;
that is, one slaveholder in Carolina is clothed by the Constitution
with the same political power and influence in the Representatives
Hall at Washington, as sixty Massachusetts men like you and me, who
"eat their bread in the sweat of their own brows."

According to the census of 1830, and the _ratio_ of representation
based upon that, slave property added twenty-five members to the House
of Representatives. And as it has been estimated, (as an approximation
to the truth,) that the two and a half million slaves in the United
States are held as property by about two hundred and fifty thousand
persons--giving an average of ten slaves to each slaveholder, those
twenty-five Representatives, each chosen, at most, by only ten
thousand voters, and probably by less than three-fourths of that
number, were the representatives, not only of the two hundred and
fifty thousand persons who chose them; but of _property_ which, five
years ago, when slaves were lower in market, than at present, were
estimated, by the man who is now the most prominent candidate for the
Presidency, at twelve hundred millions of dollars--a sum, which, by
the natural increase of five years, and the enhanced value resulting
from a more prosperous state of the planting interest, cannot now be
less than fifteen hundred millions of dollars. All this vast amount of
property, as it is "peculiar," is also identical in its character. In
Congress, as we have seen, it is animated by one spirit, moves in one
mass, and is wielded with one aim; and when we consider that tyranny
is always timid, and despotism distrustful, we see that this vast
money power would be false to itself, did it not direct all its eyes
and hands, and put forth all its ingenuity and energy, to one
end--self-protection and self-perpetuation. And this it has ever done.
In all the vibrations of the political scale, whether in relation to a
Bank or Sub-Treasury, Free Trade or a Tariff, this immense power has
moved, and will continue to move, in one mass, for its own protection.

While the weight of the slave influence is thus felt in the House of
Representatives, "in the Senate of the Union," says John Quincy Adams,
"the proportion of slaveholding power is still greater. By the
influence of slavery in the States where the institution is tolerated,
over their elections, no other than a slaveholder can rise to the
distinction of obtaining a seat in the Senate; and thus, of the
fifty-two members of the federal Senate, twenty-six are owners of
slaves, and are as effectually representatives of that interest, as
the eighty-eight members elected by them to the House."

The dominant power which the Constitution gives to the slave interest,
as thus seen and exercised in the _Legislative Halls_ of our nation,
is equally obvious and obtrusive in every other department of the
National government.

In the _Electoral college_, the same cause produces the same
effect--the same power is wielded for the same purpose, as in the
Halls of Congress. Even the preliminary nominating conventions, before
they dare name a candidate for the highest office in the gift of the
people, must ask of the Genius of slavery, to what votary she will
show herself propitious. This very year, we see both the great
political parties doing homage to the slave power, by nominating each
a slaveholder for the chair of State. The candidate of one party
declares, "I should have opposed, and would continue to oppose, any
scheme whatever of emancipation, either gradual or immediate;" and
adds, "It is not true, and I rejoice that it is not true, that either
of the two great parties of this country has any design or aim at

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