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

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no occasion to repeat and apply the language of his
predecessors,[73] in exposing and rebuking idolatry and
slaveholding. Could he, the greatest of the prophets, have been
less effectually aroused by the presence of "the yoke," than was
Isaiah?--or less intrepid and decisive in exposing and denouncing
the sin of oppression under its most hateful and injurious forms?

[Footnote 73: Psalm lxxxii; Isa. lviii. 1-12 Jer. xxii. 13-16.]

3. The Savior was not backward in applying his own principles plainly
and pointedly to such forms of oppression as appeared among the Jews.
These principles, whenever they have been freely acted on, the
Princeton professor admits, have abolished domestic bondage. Had
this prevailed within the sphere of our Savior's ministry, he could
not, consistently with his general character, have failed to expose
and condemn it. The oppression of the people by lordly ecclesiastics,
of parents by their selfish children, of widows by their ghostly
counsellors, drew from his lips scorching rebukes and terrible
denunciations.[74] How, then, must he have felt and spoke in the
presence of such tyranny, if _such tyranny had been within his
official sphere_, as should _have made widows_, by driving their
husbands to some flesh-market, and their children not orphans,
_but cattle_?

[Footnote 74: Matt. xxiii; Mark, vii. 1-13.]

4. Domestic slavery was manifestly inconsistent with the _industry_,
which, _in the form of manual labor_, so generally prevailed among
the Jews. In one connection, in the Acts of the Apostles, we are
informed, that, coming from Athens to Corinth, Paul "found a certain
Jew, named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his
wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to
depart from Rome;) and came unto them. And because he was of the
same craft, he abode with them and wrought: (for by their occupation
they were tent-makers.")[75] This passage has opened the way for
different commentators to refer us to the public sentiment and
general practice of the Jews respecting useful industry and manual
labor. According to _Lightfoot_, "it was their custom to bring up
their children to some trade, yea, though they gave them learning or
estates." According to Rabbi Judah, "He that teaches not his son a
trade, is as if he taught him to be a thief."[76] It was, _Kuinoel_
affirms, customary even for Jewish teachers to unite labor
(opificium) with the study of the law. This he confirms by the
highest Rabbinical authority.[77] _Heinrichs_ quotes a Rabbi as
teaching, that no man should by any means neglect to train his son
to honest industry.[78] Accordingly, the apostle Paul, though
brought up at the "feet of Gamaliel," the distinguished disciple of
a most illustrious teacher, practised the art of tent-making. His
own hands ministered to his necessities; and his example is so
doing, he commends to his Gentile brethren for their imitation.[79]
That Zebedee, the father of John the Evangelist, had wealth, various
hints in the New Testament render probable.[80] Yet how do we find
him and his sons, while prosecuting their appropriate business? In
the midst of the hired servants, "in the ship mending their

[Footnote 75: Acts, xviii. 1-3.]

[Footnote 76: Henry on Acts, xviii. 1-3.]

[Footnote 77: Kuinoel on Acts.]

[Footnote 78: Heinrichs on Acts.]

[Footnote 79: Acts, xx. 34, 35; 1 Thess. iv. 11.]

[Footnote 80: See Kuinoel's Prolegom. to the Gospel of John.]

[Footnote 81: Mark, i. 19, 20.]

Slavery among a people who, from the highest to the lowest, were
used to manual labor! What occasion for slavery there? And how could
it be maintained? No place can be found for slavery among a people
generally inured to useful industry. With such, especially if
men of learning, wealth, and station, "labor, working with their
hands," such labor must be honorable. On this subject, let Jewish
maxims and Jewish habits be adopted at the South, and the "peculiar
institution" would vanish like a ghost at daybreak.

5. Another hint, here deserving particular attention, is furnished
in the allusions of the New Testament to the lowest casts and most
servile employments among the Jews. With profligates, _publicans_
were joined as depraved and contemptible. The outcasts of society
were described, not as fit to herd with slaves, but as deserving a
place among Samaritans and publicans. They were "_hired servants_,"
whom Zebedee employed. In the parable of the prodigal son we have a
wealthy Jewish family. Here servants seem to have abounded. The
prodigal, bitterly bewailing his wretchedness and folly, described
their condition as greatly superior to his own. How happy the change
which should place him by their side? His remorse, and shame, and
penitence made him willing to embrace the lot of the lowest of them
all. But these--what was their condition? They were HIRED SERVANTS.
"Make me as one of thy hired servants." Such he refers to as the
lowest menials known in Jewish life.

Lay such hints as have now been suggested together; let it be
remembered, that slavery was inconsistent with the Mosaic economy;
that John the Baptist in preparing the way for the Messiah makes no
reference "to the yoke" which, had it been before him, he would, like
Isaiah, have condemned; that the Savior, while he took the part of
the poor and sympathized with the oppressed, was evidently spared the
pain of witnessing within the sphere of his ministry, the presence,
of the chattel principle, that it was the habit of the Jews, whoever
they might be, high or low, rich or poor, learned or rude, "to labor,
working with their hands;" and that where reference was had to the
most menial employments, in families, they were described as carried
on by hired servants; and the question of slavery "in Judea," so far
as the seed of Abraham were concerned, is very easily disposed of.
With every phase and form of society among them slavery was

The position which, in the article so often referred to in this paper,
the Princeton professor takes, is sufficiently remarkable. Northern
abolitionists he saw in an earnest struggle with southern
slaveholders. The present welfare and future happiness of myriads of
the human family were at stake in this contest. In the heat of the
battle, he throws himself between the belligerent powers. He gives
the abolitionists to understand, that they are quite mistaken in the
character of the objections they have set themselves so openly and
sternly against. Slaveholding is not, as they suppose, contrary to
the law of God. It was witnessed by the Savior "in its worst
forms"[82] without extorting from his laps a syllable of rebuke. "The
sacred writers did not condemn it." [83] And why should they? By a
definition[84] sufficiently ambiguous and slippery, he undertakes to
set forth a form of slavery which he looks upon as consistent with the
law of Righteousness. From this definition he infers that the
abolitionists are greatly to blame for maintaining that American
slavery is inherently and essentially sinful, and for insisting that
it ought at once to be abolished. For this labor of love the
slaveholding South is warmly grateful and applauds its reverend ally,
as if a very Daniel had come as their advocate to judgment.[85]

[Footnote 82: Pittsburg pamphlet, p. 9.]

[Footnote 83: The same, p. 13.]

[Footnote 84: The same, p. 12.]

[Footnote 85: Supra, p. 58.]

A few questions, briefly put, may not here be inappropriate.

1. Was the form of slavery which our professor pronounces innocent
_the form_ witnessed by our Savior "in Judea?" That, _he_ will by
no means admit. The slavery there was, he affirms, of the "worst"
kind. _How then does he account for the alleged silence of the
Savior?--a silence covering the essence and the form--the
institution and its "worst" abuses_?

2. Is the slaveholding, which, according to the Princeton professor,
Christianity justifies, the same as that which the abolitionists so
earnestly wish to see abolished? Let us see.

_Christianity in supporting Slavery, _The American system for
according to Professor Hodge_, supporting Slavery_,

"Enjoins a fair compensation for Makes compensation
labor" impossible by reducing the
laborer to a chattel.

"It insists on the moral and It sternly forbids its
intellectual improvement of all victim to learn to read
classes of men" even the name of his
Creator and Redeemer.

"It condemns all infractions of It outlaws the conjugal
marital or parental rights." and parental relations.

"It requires that free scope It forbids any effort, on
should be allowed to human the part of myriads of the
improvement." human family, to improve
their character,
condition, and prospects.

"It requires that all suitable It inflicts heavy
means should be employed to improve penalties for teaching
mankind" letters to the poorest of
the poor.

"Wherever it has had free scope, Wherever it has free
it has abolished domestic bondage." scope, it perpetuates
domestic bondage.

_Now it is slavery according to the American system_ that the
abolitionists are set against. _Of the existence of any_ such form
of slavery as is consistent with Professor Hodge's account of the
requisitions of Christianity, they know nothing. It has never met
their notice, and of course, has never roused their feelings or
called forth their exertions. What, then, have _they_ to do with the
censures and reproaches which the Princeton professor deals around?
Let those who have leisure and good nature protect the man of
_straw_ he is so hot against. The abolitionists have other business.
It is not the figment of some sickly brain; but that system of
oppression which in theory is corrupting, and in practice destroying
both Church and State;--it is this that they feel pledged to do
battle upon, till by the just judgment of Almighty God it is thrown,
dead and damned, into the bottomless abyss.

3. _How can the South feel itself protected by any shield which may
be thrown over_ SUCH SLAVERY, _as may be consistent with what the
Princeton professor describes as the requisitions of Christianity_?
Is _this_ THE _slavery_ which their laws describe, and their hands
maintain? "Fair compensation for labor"--"marital and parental
rights"--"free scope" and "all suitable means" for the "improvement,
moral and intellectual, of all classes of men;"--are these,
according to the statutes of the South, among the objects of
slaveholding legislation? Every body knows that any such
requisitions and American slavery are flatly opposed to and directly
subversive of each other. What service, then, has the Princeton
professor, with all his ingenuity and all his zeal, rendered the
"peculiar institution?" Their gratitude must be of a stamp and
complexion quite peculiar, if they can thank him for throwing their
"domestic system" under the weight of such Christian requisitions as
must at once crush its snaky head "and grind it to powder."

And what, moreover, is the bearing of the Christian requisitions,
which Professor Hodge quotes, upon the definition of slavery which
he has elaborated? "All the ideas which necessarily enter into the
definition of slavery are, deprivation of personal liberty,
obligation of service at the discretion of another, and the
transferable character of the authority and claim of service of the

[Footnote 86: Pittsburg pamphlet p. 12.]

_According to Professor Hodge's _According to Professor Hodge's
account of the definition of Slavery_,
requisitions of Christianity_,

The spring of effort in the The laborer must serve at the
laborer is a fair compensation. discretion of another.

Free scope must be given for He is deprived of personal
his moral and intellectual liberty--the necessary condition,
improvement. and living soul of improvement,
without which he has no control
of either intellect or morals.

His rights as a husband and The authority and claims of the
a father are to be protected. master may throw an ocean between
him and his family, and separate
them from each other's presence
at any moment and forever.

Christianity, then, requires such slavery as Professor Hodge so
cunningly defines, to be abolished. It was well provided for the
peace of the respective parties, that he placed _his definition_ so
far from _the requisitions of Christianity_. Had he brought them
into each other's presence, their natural and invincible antipathy
to each other would have broken out into open and exterminating
warfare. But why should we delay longer upon an argument which is
based on gross and monstrous sophistry? It can mislead only such as
_wish_ to be misled. The lovers of sunlight are in little danger
of rushing into the professor's dungeon. Those who, having something
to conceal, covet darkness, can find it there, to their heart's
content. The hour cannot be far away, when upright and reflective
minds at the South will be astonished at the blindness which could
welcome such protection as the Princeton argument offers to the

But _Professor Stuart_ must not be forgotten. In his celebrated
letter to Dr. Fisk, he affirms that "_Paul did not expect slavery to
be ousted in a day_."[87] _Did not_ EXPECT! What then! Are the
_requisitions_ of Christianity adapted to any EXPECTATIONS which
in any quarter and on any ground might have risen to human
consciousness? And are we to interpret the _precepts_ of the gospel
by the expectations of Paul? The Savior commanded all men every
where to repent, and this, though "Paul did not expect" that human
wickedness, in its ten thousand forms would in any community
"be ousted in a day." Expectations are one thing; requisitions quite

[Footnote 87: Supra, p. 7.]

In the mean time, while expectation waited, Paul, the professor adds,
"gave precepts to Christians respecting their demeanor." _That_ he
did. Of what character were these precepts? Must they not have been
in harmony with the Golden Rule? But this, according to Professor
Stuart, "decides against the righteousness of slavery" even as a
"theory." Accordingly, Christians were required, _without respect of
persons_, to do each other justice--to maintain equality as common
ground for all to stand upon--to cherish and express in all their
intercourse that tender love and disinterested charity which one
_brother_ naturally feels for another. These were the "ad interim
precepts."[88] which cannot fail, if obeyed, to cut up slavery,
"root and branch," at once and forever.

[Footnote 88: Letter to Dr. Fisk, p. 7.]

Professor Stuart comforts us with the assurance that "_Christianity
will ultimately certainly destroy slavery_." Of this _we_ have not
the feeblest doubt. But how could _he_ admit a persuasion and utter
a prediction so much at war with the doctrine he maintains, that
"_slavery may exist without_ VIOLATING THE CHRISTIAN FAITH OR THE
CHURCH?"[89] What, Christianity bent on the destruction of an ancient
and cherished institution which hurts neither her character nor
condition?[90] Why not correct its abuses and purify its spirit; and
shedding upon it her own beauty, preserve it, as a living trophy of
her reformatory power? Whence the discovery that, in her onward
progress, she would trample down and destroy what was no way hurtful
to her? This is to be _aggressive_ with a witness. Far be it from
the Judge of all the earth to whelm the innocent and guilty in the
same destruction! In aid of Professor Stuart, in the rude and
scarcely covert attack which he makes upon himself, we maintain that
Christianity will certainly destroy slavery on account of its
inherent wickedness--its malignant temper--its deadly effects--its
constitutional, insolent, and unmitigable opposition to the
authority of God and the welfare of man.

[Footnote 89: Letter to Dr. Fisk, p. 7.]

[Footnote 90: Professor Stuart applies here the words, _salva fide et
salva ecclesia_.]

"Christianity will _ultimately_ destroy slavery." "ULTIMATELY!" What
meaneth that portentous word? To what limit of remotest time,
concealed in the darkness of futurity, may it look? Tell us, O
watchman, on the hill of Andover. Almost nineteen centuries have
rolled over this world of wrong and outrage--and yet we tremble in
the presence of a form of slavery whose breath is poison, whose fang
is death! If any one of the incidents of slavery should fall, but
for a single day, upon the head of the prophet, who dipped his pen
in such cold blood, to write that word "ultimately," how, under the
sufferings of the first tedious hour, would he break out in the
lamentable cry, "How _long_, O Lord, HOW LONG!" In the agony of
beholding a wife or daughter upon the table of the auctioneer, while
every bid fell upon his heart like the groan of despair, small
comfort would he find in the dull assurance of some heartless prophet,
quite at "ease in Zion," that "ULTIMATELY _Christianity would
destroy slavery_." As the hammer falls, and the beloved of his soul,
all helpless and most wretched, is borne away to the haunts of
_legalized_ debauchery, his hearts turns to stone, while the cry
dies upon his lips, "_How_ LONG, _O Lord_, HOW LONG!"

"_Ultimately_!" In _what circumstances_ does Professor Stuart
assure himself that Christianity will destroy slavery? Are we, as
American citizens, under the sceptre of a Nero? When, as integral parts
of this republic--as living members of this community, did we forfeit
the prerogatives of _freemen_? Have we not the right to speak and
act as wielding the powers which the privileges of self-government
has put in our possession? And without asking leave of priest or
statesman of the North or the South, may we not make the most of the
freedom which we enjoy under the guaranty of the ordinances of Heaven
and the Constitution of our country! Can we expect to see Christianity
on higher vantage-ground than in this country she stands upon? In
the midst of a republic based on the principle of the equality of
mankind, where every Christian, as vitally connected with the state,
freely wields the highest political rights and enjoys the richest
political privileges; where the unanimous demand of one-half of the
members of the churches would be promptly met in the abolition of
slavery, what "_ultimately_" must Christianity here wait for before
she crushes the chattel principle beneath her heel? Her triumph over
slavery is retarded by nothing but the corruption and defection so
widely spread through the "sacramental host" beneath her banners!
Let her voice be heard and her energies exerted, and the _ultimately_
of the "dark spirit of slavery" would at once give place to the
_immediately_ of the Avenger of the Poor.

No. 12.



* * * * *










TO Friends of Freedom and Emancipation in the U. States.

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 we 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 bail 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 spare."

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 by light." It assumes that to be practicable, which is
impossible, namely, that there can be freedom with slavery, union
with injustice, and safety with blood guiltiness. 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 we 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 they are immoral_, and BECAUSE OF THIS OBLIGATION
TO ENFORCE IMMORALITY, no one can innocently swear to support the

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 not respecters of
persons 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 1, 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 protection.

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,[91] who was a prominent member of that body:

"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 the return, _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 observes--

[Footnote 91: Speech before the Legislature of Maryland in 1787.]

"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_![92]

[Footnote 92: How terribly and justly has this guilty nation been
scourged, since these words were spoken, on account of slavery and
the slave trade! Secret Proceedings, p. 64.]

"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 from, 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."[93]

[Footnote 93: Secret Proceedings, p. 64.]

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 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 that 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, aid 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 States.

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 _indulgence_, NO UNION COULD POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN FORMED.
But, sir, 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 opinions 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
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

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 in 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 sayeth 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 blood-hounds,
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 population?

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 upon claim of the party to whom such service or
OWNERS OF 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

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 nation 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 prey.

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 1., 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 clauses:--

"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
over awed 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 motto--"EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL--NO UNION WITH

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
judgment 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 frightful despotism, which scoffs
at all constitutional restraints, 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 most
sacred rights are trampled in the dust. As citizens of the State,
we appeal to the State in vain for protection and redress. As
citizens 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, bear no testimony against
cruelty and tyranny, suppress the struggling emotions of humanity,
divest ourselves of all letters and papers of an anti-slavery
character, and do homage to the slaveholding power--or run the risk
of a cruel martyrdom! These are appalling and undeniable facts.

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 on 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--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, accused 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_.

WENDELL PHILLIPS, } _Secretaries_.

_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

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 colleges_, 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 the 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 abolition. I should deeply lament it, if it were true."[94]

[Footnote 94: Henry Clay's speech in the United States Senate in 1839,
and confirmed at Raleigh, N.C. 1844.]

The other party nominates a man who says, "I have no hesitation in
declaring that I am in favor of the immediate re-annexation of Texas
to the territory and government of the United States."

Thus both the political parties, and the candidates of both, vie
with each other, in offering allegiance to the slave power, as a
condition precedent to any hope of success in the struggle for the
executive chair; a seat that, for more than three-fourths of the
existence of our constitutional government, has been occupied by a

The same stern despotism overshadows even the sanctuaries of
_justice_. Of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United
States, five are slaveholders, and of course, must be faithless to
their own interest, as well as recreant to the power that gives them
place, or must, so far as _they_ are concerned, give both to law and
constitution such a construction as shall justify the language of
John Quincy Adams, when he says--"The legislative, executive, and
judicial authorities, are all in their hands--for 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

Thus by merely adverting but briefly to the theory and the practical
effect of this clause of the Constitution, that I have sworn to
support, it is seen that it throws the political power of the nation
into the hands of the slaveholders; a body of men, which, however it
may be regarded by the Constitution as "persons," is in fact and
practical effect, a vast moneyed corporation, bound together by an
indissoluble unity of interest, by a common sense of a common danger;
counselling at all times for its common protection; wielding the
whole power, and controlling the destiny of the nation.

If we look into the legislative halls, slavery is seen in the chair
of the presiding officer of each, and controlling the action of both.
Slavery occupies, by prescriptive right, the Presidential chair. The
paramount voice that comes from the temple of national justice,
issues from the lips of slavery. The army is in the hands of slavery,
and at her bidding, must encamp in the everglades of Florida, or
march from the Missouri to the borders of Mexico, to look after her
interests in Texas.

The navy, even that part that is cruising off the coast of Africa, to
suppress the foreign slave trade, is in the hands of slavery.

Freemen of the North, who have even dared to lift up their voice
against slavery, cannot travel through the slave States, but at the
peril of their lives.

The representatives of freemen are forbidden, on the floor of
Congress, to remonstrate against the encroachments of slavery, or to
pray that she would let her poor victims go.

I renounce my allegiance to a Constitution that enthrones such a
power, wielded for the purpose of depriving me of my rights, of
robbing my countrymen of their liberties, and of securing its own
protection, support and perpetuation.

Passing by that clause of the Constitution, which restricted Congress
for twenty years, from passing any law against the African slave
trade, and which gave authority to raise a revenue on the stolen
sons of Africa, I come to that part of the fourth article, which
guarantees protection against "_domestic violence_," and which
pledges to the South the military force of the country, to protect
the masters against their insurgent slaves: binds us, and our
children, to shoot down our fellow-countrymen, who may rise, in
emulation of our revolutionary fathers, to vindicate their inalienable
"right to life, _liberty_ and the pursuit of happiness,"--this
clause of the Constitution, I say distinctly, I never will

That part of the Constitution which provides for the surrender of
fugitive slaves, I never have supported and never will. I will join
in no slave-hunt. My door shall stand open, as it has long stood, for
the panting and trembling victim of the slave-hunter. When I shut it
against him, may God shut the door of his mercy against me! Under
this clause of the Constitution, and designed to carry it into effect,
slavery has demanded that laws should be passed, and of such a
character, as have left the free citizen of the North without
protection for his own liberty. The question, whether a man seized
in a free State as a slave, _is_ a slave or not, the law of Congress
does not allow a jury to determine: but refers it to the decision of
a Judge of a United States' Court, or even of the humblest State
magistrate, it may be, upon the testimony or affidavit of the party
most deeply interested to support the claim. By virtue of this law,
freemen have been seized and dragged into perpetual slavery--and
should I be seized by a slave-hunter in any part of the country
where I am not personally known, neither the Constitution nor laws
of the United States would shield me from the same destiny.

These, sir, are the specific parts of the Constitution of the United
States, which in my opinion are essentially vicious, hostile at once
to the liberty and to the morals of the nation. And these are the
principal reasons of my refusal any longer to acknowledge my
allegiance to it, and of my determination to revoke my oath to
support it. I cannot, in order to keep the law of man, break the law
of God, or solemnly call him to witness my promise that I will break

It is true that the Constitution provides for its own amendment, and
that by this process, all the guarantees of Slavery may be expunged.
But it will be time enough to swear to support it when this is done.
It cannot be right to do so, until these amendments are made.

It is also true that the framers of the Constitution did studiously
keep the words "Slave" and "Slavery" from its face. But to do our
constitutional fathers justice, while they forebore--from very
shame--to give the word "Slavery" a place in the Constitution, they
did not forbear--again to do them justice--to give place in it to
the _thing_. They were careful to wrap up the idea, and the substance
of Slavery, in the clause for the surrender of the fugitive, though
they sacrificed justice in doing so.

There is abundant evidence that this clause touching "persons held
to service or labor," not only operates practically, under the
judicial construction, for the protection of the slave interest; but
that it was intended so to operate by the framers of the
Constitution. The highest judicial authorities--Chief Justice Shaw,
of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, in the Latimer case, and
Mr. Justice Story, in the Supreme Court of the United States, in the
case of _Prigg_ vs. _The State of Pennsylvania_,--tell us, I know
not on what evidence, that without this "compromise," this security
for Southern slaveholders, "the Union could not have been formed."
And there is still higher evidence, not only that the framers of the
Constitution meant by this clause to protect slavery, but that they
did this, knowing that slavery was wrong. Mr. Madison[95] informs us
that the clause in question, as it came out of the hands of Dr.
Johnson, the chairman of the "committee on style," read thus: "No
person legally held to service, or labor, in one State, escaping into
another, shall," &c., and that the word "legally" was struck out, and
the words "under the laws thereof" inserted after the word "State," in
compliance with the wish of some, who thought the term _legal_
equivocal, and favoring the idea that slavery was legal "_in a moral
view_." A conclusive proof that, although future generations might
apply that clause to other kinds of "service or labor," when slavery
should have died out, or been killed off by the young spirit of
liberty, which was _then_ awake and at work in the land; still,
slavery was what they were wrapping up in "equivocal" words; and
wrapping it up for its protection and safe keeping: a conclusive proof
that the framers of the Constitution were more careful to protect
themselves in the judgment of coming generations, from the charge
of ignorance, than of sin; a conclusive proof that they knew that
slavery was _not_ "legal in a moral view," that it was a violation
of the moral law of God; and yet knowing and confessing its
immorality, they dared to make this stipulation for its support and

[Footnote 95: Madison Papers, p. 1589]

This language may sound harsh to the ears of those who think it a
part of their duty, as citizens, to maintain that whatever the
patriots of the Revolution did, was right; and who hold that we are
bound to _do_ all the iniquity that they covenanted for us that we
_should_ do. But the claims of truth and right are paramount to
all other claims.

With all our veneration for our constitutional fathers, we must
admit,--for they have left on record their own confession of it,--that
in this part of their work they intended to hold the shield of
their protection over a wrong, knowing that it was a wrong. They
made a "compromise" which they had no right to make--a compromise of
moral principle for the sake of what they probably regarded as
"political expediency." I am sure they did not know--no man could
know, or can now measure, the extent, or the consequences of the
wrong, that they were doing. In the strong language of John Quincy
Adams,[96] in relation to the article fixing the basis of
representation, "Little did the members of the Convention, from the
free States, imagine or foresee what a sacrifice to Moloch was hidden
under the mask of this concession."

[Footnote 96: See his Report on the Massachusetts Resolutions.]

I verily believe that, giving all due consideration to the benefits
conferred upon this nation by the Constitution, its national unity,
its swelling masses of wealth, its power, and the external
prosperity of its multiplying millions; yet the _moral_ injury that
has been done, by the countenance shown to slavery by holding over
that tremendous sin the shield of the Constitution, and thus
breaking down in the eyes of the nation the barrier between right
and wrong; by so tenderly cherishing slavery as, in less than the
life of man, to multiply her children from half a million to nearly
three millions; by exacting oaths from those who occupy prominent
stations in society, that they will violate at once the rights of
man and the law of God; by substituting itself as a rule of right,
in place of the moral laws of the universe;--thus in effect,
dethroning the Almighty in the hearts of this people and setting up
another sovereign in his stead--more than outweighs it all. A
melancholy and monitory lesson this, to all timeserving and
temporising statesmen! A striking illustration of the _impolicy_ of
sacrificing _right_ to any considerations of expediency! Yet, what
better than the evil effects that we have seen, could the authors of
the Constitution have reasonably expected, from the sacrifice of
right, in the concessions they made to slavery? Was it reasonable in
them to expect that after they had introduced a vicious element into
the very Constitution of the body politic which they were calling
into life, it would not exert its vicious energies? Was it reasonable
in them to expect that, after slavery had been corrupting the public
morals for a whole generation, their children would have too much
virtue to _use_ for the defence of slavery, a power which they
themselves had not too much virtue to _give_? It is dangerous for
the sovereign power of a State to license immorality; to hold the
shield of its protection over any thing that is not "legal in a moral
view." Bring into your house a benumbed viper, and lay it down upon
your warm hearth, and soon it will not ask you into which room it
may crawl. Let Slavery once lean upon the supporting arm, and bask
in the fostering smile of the State, and you will soon see, as we
now see, both her minions and her victims multiply apace till the
politics, the morals, the liberties, even the religion of the nation,
are brought completely under her control.

To me, it appears that the virus of slavery, introduced into the
Constitution of our body politic, by a few slight punctures, has now
so pervaded and poisoned the whole system of our National Government,
that literally there is no health in it. The only remedy that I can
see for the disease, is to be found in the _dissolution of the

The Constitution of the United States, both in theory and practice,
is so utterly broken down by the influence and effects of slavery,
so imbecile for the highest good of the nation, and so powerful for
evil, that I can give no voluntary assistance in holding it up any

Henceforth it is dead to me, and I to it. I withdraw all profession
of allegiance to it, and all my voluntary efforts to sustain it. The
burdens that it lays upon me, while it is held up by others, I shall
endeavor to bear patiently, yet acting with reference to a higher law,
and distinctly declaring, that while I retain my own liberty, I will
be a party to no compact, which helps to rob any other man of his.

Very respectfully, your friend,


* * * * *


"We have slavery, already, amongst us. The Constitution found it
among us; it recognized it and gave it SOLEMN GUARANTIES. To the
full extent of these guaranties we are all bound, in honor, in
justice, and by the Constitution. All the stipulations, contained in
the Constitution, _in favor of the slaveholding States_ which are
already in the Union, ought to be fulfilled, and so far as depends
on me, shall be fulfilled, in the fullness of their spirit, and to
the exactness of their letter."!!!

* * * * *



The benefits of the Constitution of the United States, were the
restoration of credit and reputation, to the country--the revival of
commerce, navigation, and ship-building--the acquisition of the
means of discharging the debts of the Revolution, and the protection
and encouragement of the infant and drooping manufactures of the
country. All this, however, as is now well ascertained, was
insufficient to propitiate the rulers of the Southern States to
the adoption of the Constitution. What they specially wanted was
_protection_.--Protection from the powerful and savage tribes of
Indians within their borders, and who were harassing them with the most
terrible of wars--and protection from their own negroes--protection
from their insurrections--protection from their escape--protection
even to the trade by which they were brought into the
country--protection, shall I not blush to say, protection to the very
bondage by which they were held. Yes! it cannot be denied--the
slaveholding lords of the South prescribed, as a condition of their
assent to the Constitution, three special provisions to secure the
perpetuity of their dominion over their slaves. The first was the
immunity for twenty years of preserving the African slave-trade; the
second was the stipulation to surrender fugitive slaves--an
engagement positively prohibited by the laws of God, delivered from
Sinai; and thirdly, the exaction fatal to the principles of popular
representation, of a representation for slaves--for articles of
merchandise, under the name of persons.

The reluctance with which the freemen of the North submitted to the
dictation of these conditions, is attested by the awkward and
ambiguous language in which they are expressed. The word slave is
most cautiously and fastidiously excluded from the whole instrument.
A stranger, who should come from a foreign land, and read the
Constitution of the United States, would not believe that slavery or
a slave existed within the borders of our country. There is not a
word in the Constitution _apparently_ bearing upon the condition of
slavery, nor is there a provision but would be susceptible of
practical execution, if there were not a slave in the land.

The delegates from South Carolina and Georgia distinctly avowed that,
without this guarantee of protection to their property in slaves,
they would not yield their assent to the Constitution; and the
freemen of the North, reduced to the alternative of departing from
the vital principle of their liberty, or of forfeiting the Union
itself, averted their faces, and with trembling hand subscribed the

Twenty years passed away--the slave markets of the South were
saturated with the blood of African bondage, and from midnight of the
31st of December, 1807, not a slave from Africa was suffered ever
more to be introduced upon our soil. But the internal traffic was
still lawful, and the _breeding_ States soon reconciled themselves to
a prohibition which gave them the monopoly of the interdicted trade,
and they joined the full chorus of reprobation, to punish with death
the slave-trader from Africa, while they cherished and shielded and
enjoyed the precious profits of the American slave-trade exclusively
to themselves.

Perhaps this unhappy result of their concession had not altogether
escaped the foresight of the freemen of the North; but their intense
anxiety for the preservation of the whole Union, and the habit
already formed of yielding to the somewhat peremptory and overbearing
tone which the relation of master and slave welds into the nature of
the lord, prevailed with them to overlook this consideration, the
internal slave-trade having scarcely existed while that with Africa
had been allowed. But of one consequence which has followed from the
slave representation, pervading the whole organic structure of the
Constitution, they certainly were not prescient; for if they had been,
never--no, never would they have consented to it.

The representation, ostensibly of slaves, under the name of persons,
was in its operation an exclusive grant of power to one class of
proprietors, owners of one species of property, to the detriment of
all the rest of the community. This species of property was odious
in its nature, held in direct violation of the natural and
inalienable rights of man, and of the vital principles of
Christianity; it was all accumulated in one geographical section of
the country, and was all held by wealthy men, comparatively small in
numbers, not amounting to a tenth part of the free white population
of the States in which it was concentrated.

In some of the ancient, and in some modern republics, extraordinary
political power and privileges have been invested in the owners of
horses; but then these privileges and these powers have been granted
for the equivalent of extraordinary duties and services to the
community, required of the favoured class. The Roman knights
constituted the cavalry of their armies, and the bushels of rings
gathered by Hannibal from their dead bodies, after the battle of
Cannae, amply prove that the special powers conferred upon them were
no gratuitous grants. But in the Constitution of the United States,
the political power invested in the owners of slaves is entirely
gratuitous. No extraordinary service is required of them; they are,
on the contrary, themselves grievous burdens upon the community,
always threatened with the danger of insurrections, to be smothered
in the blood of both parties, master and slave, and always
depressing the condition of the poor free laborer, by competition
with the labor of the slave. The property in horses was the gift of
God to man, at the creation of the world; the property in slaves is
property acquired and held by crimes, differing in no moral aspect
from the pillage of a freebooter, and to which no lapse of time can
give a prescriptive right. You are told that this is no concern of
yours, and that the question of freedom and slavery is exclusively
reserved to the consideration of the separate States. But if it be so,
as to the mere question of right between master and slave, it is of
tremendous concern to you that this little cluster of slave-owners
should possess, besides their own share in the representative hall
of the nation, the exclusive privilege of appointing two-fifths of
the whole number of the representatives of the people. This is now
your condition, under that delusive ambiguity of language and of
principle, which begins by declaring the representation in the
popular branch of the legislature a representation of persons, and
then provides that one class of persons shall have neither part not
lot in the choice of their representatives; but their elective
franchise shall be transferred to their masters, and the oppressors
shall represent the oppressed. The same perversion of the
representative principle pollutes the composition of the colleges of
electors of President and Vice President of the United States, and
every department of the government of the Union is thus tainted at
its source by the gangrene of slavery.

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