Showing posts with label Slave States. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slave States. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Jonathan Worth to T. C. and B. G. Worth, May 13, 1861

ASHEBORO, May 13, 1861.

There are few men in so unhappy a frame of mind as myself. If I could believe there was a prominent man in the nation, urging and controlling either of the sections; of real probity and honor and fair-mind, uninfluenced by selfish ends, I could find in this conviction some consolation. If I could see beyond the conclusion of the present strife any probability of the re-establishment of a wholesome state and government, either republican or monarchical, it would give me some relief, however much blood and treasure it might cost. The petty monarchies or republics which must spring up on the establishment of the doctrine of secession and the overthrow of Washington's popular idea of a united government, must involve the European plan of preserving government by the Cartridge box, instead of the ballot box. This must bring with it incalculable woe to the masses.

This continent ought to be a united government. Popular government is proving itself a fallacy and delusion. Virtue and order are unequal to a contest with ambition and selfishness. The desire to avoid the carnage and wickedness of war makes me desire a pacification on the only basis now possible, the recognition of the Southern Republic, but I confess that, the argument carries much force to my mind that the evils growing out of the recognition of secession and the immeasurable petty governments which must spring from it, will probably overbalance the loss of life and property which the war will occasion. Will not the North West submit to self-immolation if they recognize secession? Pecuniary selfishness, if the doctrine be once acknowledged, will make N. Y. adopt it.

Another view which distresses me is this. Slavery thus far, has been only a pretext for this sectional contest. The multitude, North and South, regard it as the cause.

This makes the North regard it as the sum of all sins. If the civil war is protracted and Northern troops sent among us they will ultimately incite insurrection. The poor negroes will be killed.

I am pained that I occupy a place in the public counsels, because I am impotent to do anything which my judgment and conscious approve. I can not avert the war, consistent with the re-establishment of a government so good as that we pull down. Whilst I can not hesitate where no choice is left, only to fight for the South and home, or for the North, if I should fall in such a contest, I would find in a dying hour no comfort in the conviction that I had sacrificed my life in a just cause. It is true that I believe Lincoln had no right to call out the militia, make War and blockade the ports, when Congress, with full knowledge of the existing state of the rebellion, had just refused to pass the force bill, and conceding to him the right, if reunion was his object, he showed want of common sense in adopting the course he did. If the restoration of the Union was his object, which I believe was his object, then he is a fool. If his purpose was to drive off all the Slave states, in order to make war on them and annihilate Slavery, then he is a Devil and in the latter supposition I could fight with a hearty good will.

I hope your customers are honorable and that the war and the stay law will not engulph you. I am struggling to make corn, wheat, etc.

[P. S.] I do not expect you to reply. I have unbosomed myself because there is nobody else to whom I can do it [One line illegible] only 703 votes yesterday instead of 2,611. We are getting up volunteers, principally in the class of which armies are commonly composed.

SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 141-2

Jonathan Worth to Dr. C. W. Woolen, May 17, 1861

ASHEBORO, May 17th, 1861.

I have made special inquiry into the cost question against you and the other securities of Daniel Worth—having first taken the pains to examine the authorities.

It is decided by the Supreme Court in the case State vs. Saunders and others, 1 Hawkes, p. 355, that the securities to an appeal bond in a criminal case, where the judgment from which appeal was taken is confirmed, are liable to all the State costs in the Superior Court and the Supreme Court, excepting the prison fee. I have seen S. G. Worth this morning and learn from him that the State Solicitor has at length given up all claims beyond this. At the Spring Term he was authorized to demand all the costs in both cases, and not to receive forfeitures, but to issue execution for them, unless the whole of the costs was paid. I instructed him to disregard this instruction and throw the responsibility on me, and he accordingly received the amount of the forfeiture and the cost of the proceedings and to enforce them and with the assent of the attorneys, prosecuting for the State, he claims only what he is bound to demand according to law, to wit, the State's costs in the Supr. and Supreme Court in the case tried, excluding prison fees. No costs are now claimed on the case not tried, and none of defendant's costs are cither called for and the County has made an order directing the prison fees to be paid out of the forfeitures. The order given by your nephew is not, I understand, for a sum sufficient to pay the costs for which you are liable as security for the appeal to the Supreme Court.

 I am filled with horror at the condition of our country. According to my notions of Government, there is much that is wrong on both sides. The Abolitionists of the Free States ought not to have agitated the slavery question at all, even conceding that their feeling is right. It only tends to make the treatment of slaves more vigorous and to encourage bitterness between the two sections. When it was seized upon as a party question it was easy to see it must soon become sectional and that is purely sectional. have always regarded the dissolution of the Union as the greatest misfortune which could befall the whole nation and the whole human race. Hence I have abhorred the agitation of the slavery question as tending to this result. Acting on that conviction I have used all the efforts in my power to stay what I regarded as the madness of both sections, and in the immediate sphere of my influence have impressed my views upon others. My immediate constituents sustained me with greater unanimity than did the constituents of any other representative. I was the first public man in the State to call on the people to vote down the Convention on the 28th Feb., on the ground that the calling of it would tend to a dissolution of the Union. Everybody attributed to me a larger share of the credit or discredit of defeating the call of a Convention than to any other man in the State. I regarded the result in N. C. and Tenn. as arresting the march of madness. Union men had gained strength up to the proclamation of Lincoln. If he had withdrawn the garrison of Fort Sumter on the principle of a military necessity and in obedience in what seemed to be the will of Congress in refusing to pass the force bill, this State and Tenn. and the other slave States which had not passed the ordinance of Secession, would have stood up for the Union. In the feverish state of the popular mind, if he be a man of good sense, he knew he would crush the Union men in the Slave States by the policy he adopted. All of 118 who had stood by the Union, felt that he had abandoned us and surrendered us to the tender mercies of Democracy & the Devil. He must have known that he was letting loose on us a torrent to which we could oppose no resistance. It may be said, theoretically, that this should not have been the effect. Statesmen should have common sense. All sensible men knew it would be the effect. We are still at a loss to determine whether he is an old goose, as well as each of his advisers, thinking to preserve the Union by his course, or whether he became apprehensive that the Union men were about to gain strength enough in the South to stay Secession and he desired to drive us all into rebellion, in order to make a crusade against slavery and desolate our section. In the former case he is a fool:—in the latter—a devil. He could have adopted no policy so effectual to destroy the Union. Since the issue of that great proclamation, it is unsafe for a Union man in even N. C. to own he is for the Union. The feeling is to resist to the death. Union men feel that just as they had got so they could stand on their legs, Lincoln had heartlessly turned them over to the mercy of their enemies. We feel that his co-operation with the Secessionists left us no alternative but to take arms against our neighbors, or to defend ourself against his aggression.

I am still a Union man, but for military resistance to Lincoln, believing that Lincoln and his cabinet have acted on their mistaken impression that their policy was the best for the preservation of the Union, and that they do not intend to proclaim servile insurrection. If the latter is the design the South can be conquered only by extermination. If his purpose be, as le says, to respect property and discountenance rebellion or insurrection among our servile population, and our people become satisfied of this, many of our people will not willingly take arms.

I see no hope of any good and stable government except in the United government we are pulling down. It can not be united by war. If peace be immediately made, it will soon re-unite, with an anti-secession clause.

Write me again soon. The Quakers here will not believe your statements as to your Quakers volunteering and the floating of the Stars and Stripes over a Quaker Church. 

SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 145-8

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Jonathan Worth to Johnson and Farnsworth, May 22, 1861

ASHEBORO, May 22nd, 1861.

This State is now a perfect unit as the North seems to be. No man desired or worked harder than myself to preserve the Union, but the Abolitionists North and the fire-eaters South have gradually forced everybody into the ranks of the one or the other. In N. C. the Union sentiment was largely in the ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us. Congress having refused to pass the force bill, we felt that the President could abandon Sumter and Pickens without any sacrifice of his principles, but in conformity with the Legislative will. He induced the whole South so to believe. The assurance of Seward to Judge Campbell seems to have been made with deliberate duplicity, and we can not doubt that Mr. Lincoln knew his policy would disarm all Union men in the Southern States. He did more than all the secessionists to break up the Union, but whether he did this, not being statesman enough to comprehend the effect of his measures; or whether his purpose was to drive all the slave States into rebellion, thinking he could bring against us men enough, with the aid of a servile insurrection, to overthrow us and abolish Slavery, we are in doubt. If the Union be restored, the War must at once cease.  Our white population and our slaves will resist to the death. I infer from all I can see that Lincoln's measures have united the North. The have certainly united North Carolina. The North must stop her warlike measures and consent to a severance of the government—or the God of Battles must long gloat over the carnage of alienated brethren. Reason has left. Rage controls both sections.

God save the Country.-

Gov. Graham, as I presume you know, is universally respected for every quality which should commend the regard of good and wise men. He was as strong for the Union as Edward Everett till Lincoln's proclamation. I enclose a late speech of his. Have it published in some of your leading papers. Let good men North and South understand each other.

BOSTON, MASS.

SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 50-1

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Jonathan Worth to the People of Randolph County, North Carolina, May 1861

 RALEigh, May, 1861.

You know how earnestly I have labored to preserve the Union. I still regard it as the “paladium of our liberty.” I have no hope that so good a government will be built upon its ruins. I advised you last February to vote against a Convention, regarding it as a contrivance to overthrow the Government. There was then a majority in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas in favor of preserving the Union. I felt sure if a reconsideration could not be effected, war must ensue—and if war was commenced by either party, it would engender hatred between the sections and greatly widen the breach. I have always believed and still believe that the doctrine of secession, as a peaceful and constitutional mode of withdrawing a State from the Union, an absurdity; and that it was the right and the duty of the Federal Government, to execute the laws and protect the public property by military force in such seceding States; but after seven States had been allowed without molestation, to assert this doctrine of secession and set up and put in operation a new government—after all the Federal officers within their limits had resigned and they had possessed themselves without resistance of all the forts, excepting Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens, on the mainland in seven States, I deemed it highly inexpedient for the Government to attempt coercion by military force: because,

First—it would result in a bloody civil war—and could not end in a restoration of friendly union.

Secondly—because I thought Congress had indicated, by refusing to pass a force bill, that it was inexpedient at that time, to use military power to retain or regain the public property, through the agency of a Sectional President, which indication I supposed the President, as the power appointed to execute the Legislative will, would observe.

Thirdly—I supposed that President, though he had obtained power by the advocacy of Sectional doctrines, tending to dissolve the Union, still desired to preserve the Union; and any man of ordinary common sense knew that any attempt on the part of a president elected by one section, to compel by force of arms, the other section which had been allowed quietly to accomplish revolution and establish a government, would be resisted—and all the men in the same States, still adhering to the Union, would be rendered impotent to resist the current of Revolution.

The President must have known that all of us in the Slave States, who in spite of the unfriendly action of the North, had barely become able to stand up for the Union would be crushed by the first gun he fired against the South. I believed he still desired to protect our rights and preserve the Union, and that he had some sympathy with those of us who had breasted the current of Disunion, and that he would not voluntarily drive us out of the Union—though the President had been elected as a partisan, upon one Sectional idea, I hoped and believed, when he and his party had attained control of the government, that he was enough of a statesman and a patriot to exert his powers to protect our rights and preserve the Union. Clay and Jackson and all the statesmen of the land, when South Carolina first asserted the Doctrine of Nullification and Secession, held that extraordinary Legislation was necessary to enable the executive to suppress the rebellion. The last Congress had refused the extraordinary legislation—the legislative will was therefore clearly expressed, that there should be no attempt at military coercion, and for some weeks after the inauguration of Lincoln, his administration allowed it to be understood that they intended to act in conformity to the will of Congress and evacuate Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens—and thus allowing excited passions to subside, leave to the next Congress to determine what was to be done. But suddenly and without explanation, a fleet is fitted by the President and notice given to the Southern Confederacy that Fort Sumter would be provided for peaceably or forcibly. Men of war were sent to Charleston Harbor—then Fort Sumter was attacked and taken. The first guns were fired by the Southern army, but this was after they had notice from the President that he intended to retain possession of the Fort by force.

[The remainder is missing, but the substance of it was an appeal to the people to unite in defense of the South.]

SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 135-7

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Employment of Negroes in the Army: September 3, 1863

This knotty subject is exciting comment in nearly all of the newspapers in the confederacy, (says the Selma Mississippian,) and thoughtful men throughout the country are giving it their serious attention.  It seems to us there should be no difficulty in its solution.  We must either employ the negroes ourselves or the enemy will employ them against us.  While the enemy retains so much of our territory, they are, in the present avocation and status, a dangerous element, a source of weakness.  They are no longer negative characters, but subjects of volition as other people.  They must be taught to know that this is peculiarly the country of the black man—that in no other is the climate and soil so well adapted to his nature and capacity.  He must further be taught that it is his duty as well as the white man’s, to defend his home with arms, if need be.

We are aware that there are persons who shudder at the bare [idea] of placing arms in the hands of negroes, and who are not willing to trust them under any circumstances.—The negro, however, is proverbial for his faithfulness under kind treatment.  He is an affectionate, grateful being, and we are persuaded that the tears of such persons are groundless.

There are in the slaveholding States four millions of negroes, and out of this number at least six hundred thousand able-bodied men capable of bearing arms can be found.  Lincoln proposes to free and arm them against us.  There are already 50,000 of them in arms in the federal ranks.  Lincoln’s plan has worked well so far, and if not checkmated, will most assuredly be carried out.  The Confederate Government must adopt a counter policy.  It must thwart the enemy in this gigantic scheme, at all hazards, and if nothing else will do it—if the negroes cannot be made effective and trustworthy to the Southern cause in no other way, we solemnly believe it is the duty of this Government to forestall Lincoln and proceed at once to take steps for the emancipation or liberation of the negroes itself.  Let them be declared free, placed in the ranks, and told to fight for their homes and country.

We are fully sensible of the grave importance of the question, but the inexorable logic of events has forced it upon us.  We must deal with it, then, not with fear and trembling—not as timid, time serving men—but with a boldness, a promptness and a determination which the exigency requires, and which should over characterize the action of a people resolved to sacrifice everything for liberty.  It is true, that such a step would revolutionize our whole industrial system—that it would, to a great extent, impoverish the country and be a dire calamity to both the negro [and] the white race of this and the Old World; but better this than the loss of the negroes, the country and liberty.

If Lincoln succeeds in arming our slaves against us, he will also succeed in making them our masters.  He will reverse the social order of things in the South.  Whereas, if he is checkmated in times, our liberties will remain intact; the land will be ours, and the industrial system of the country will still [be] controlled by Southern men.

Such action on the part of our Government would place our people in a purer and better light before the world.  It would disabuse the European mind of a grave error in regard to the cause of our separation.  It would prove to them that there were higher and holier motives which actuated our people than the mere love of property.  It would show that although slavery is one of the principles that we started out to fight for, yet it falls far short of being the chief one; that for the sake of our liberty were are capable of any personal sacrifice; that we regard the emancipation of slaves and the consequent loss of property as an evil infinitely less than the subjugation and enslavement of ourselves; that it is not a war exclusively for the privilege of holding negroes in bondage.  It would prove to our own soldiers, three-fourths of whom never owned a negro, that it is not “the rich man’s war and the poor man’s fight;” but a war for the most sacred of all principles, for the dearest of all rights—the right to govern ourselves.  It would show them that the rich man who owned slaves was not willing to jeopardize the precious liberty of the country by his eagerness to hold on to his slaves, but that he was ready to give them up and sacrifice his interest in them whenever the cause demanded it.  It would lend a new impetus, a new enthusiasm, a new and powerful strength to the cause, and place our success beyond a peradventure.  It would at once remove all the odium which attaches to us on account of slavery, and bring us speedy recognition, and, if necessary, intervention.

We sincerely trust that the Southern people will be found willing to make any and every sacrifice which the establishment of our independence may require.  Let it never be said that to preserve slavery we were willing to wear the chains of bondage ourselves—that the very avarice which prompted us to hold on to the negro for the sake of the money invested in him, riveted upon us shackles more galling and bitter than ever a people yet endured.  Let not slavery prove a barrier to our independence.  If it is found in the way—if it proves an insurmountable obstacle to the achievement of our liberty and separate nationality, away with it!  Let it perish!—We must make up our minds to one solemn duty—the first duty of the patriot—and that is to save ourselves from the rapacious North WHATEVER THE COST.

SOURCE: “Employment of Negroes in the Army,” The Clarke County Democrat, Grove Hill, Alabama, Thursday, September 3, 1863, p. 2

Saturday, October 5, 2019

George L. Stearns, writing from Nashville, Tennessee, September 10, 1863

I opened a letter from you this morning and lo, it was dated 30th August. Probably it had strayed to Rosecrans at Chattanooga and back here. It breathed the old tale of suffering sadness. Such is our life. One day I am successful, and consequently happy. Then, something adverse casts me down, and I have to nerve myself up to the work.

Governor Johnson is afraid of me (or rather was) and opposed my work, and I have been laboring to bring him over to the faith, and think I have succeeded, but can't tell yet. If I do it will be a great gain, for then we will try to settle the slavery question at Washington before Congress meets.

The Governor showed me recent letters from Lincoln and Chase that were very encouraging, Lincoln looking to Tennessee for the key-note of his policy for bringing back the slave states; and I should not be surprised if I was to shape that policy, and the whole affair be settled before it was thought of at the North.

SOURCE: Preston Stearns, The Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns, p. 309-10

Saturday, August 3, 2019

George M. Bibb to John J. Crittenden, March 8, 1824

Washington, March 8, 1824.

DEAR JOHN,—That there are men who will ascribe my actions to any motive but a reasonable one, I know, but that any should suppose that I have come to Washington for the purpose of electioneering against Mr. Clay is an extravagance that I did not anticipate would have been charged against me. My great motive in coming here was to get a hearing and decision in my suit for the land at Falmouth; in this I have succeeded. The opinion is delivered, and is in my favor. I endeavored to lay a contribution on other suitors in the court to help pay expenses of the trip, but the people of Kentucky are not drilled to paying fees to the lawyers. They pay in promises. As to Mr. Clay, he has broken the cords of friendship which bound me to him; they can never again be tied. I have no desire to interfere with your friendship for him, nor to trouble you with complaints of his conduct to me. Beware of such sunshine friends! As to electioneering upon the subject of President, I am as far removed from it as Washington is from Kentucky. I have heard a great deal; said little. I am not a member of Congress, and have, therefore, no right to go to caucus or vote in caucus, nor have I a vote when the question shall come before the House of Representatives. A listener, who hears all parties, is perhaps better able to form his opinions than those who are heated, busy, bustling managers. The grand Harrisburg Convention has decided, with but a single dissenting voice, for Jackson. Roberts was the only man who did not, upon the first vote, declare for Jackson. This has given a new impetus to him. The anticipation that Pennsylvania would declare for him gave him great advantages. The undivided voice of the Convention at Harrisburg has surprised the friends of all the other candidates, — save those of Calhoun, — they looked for it after the meeting in the county of Philadelphia, for the purpose of choosing a delegate to the Convention at Harrisburg. It seems that the people of North Carolina are taking up Jackson, as Pennsylvania did, against their politicians and of their own mere will. So it is in New York. The majority of the Senate are disposed to keep the appointment of electors in the legislature, — that is their calculation for Crawford; but a large majority of the House of Representatives of that State are decidedly opposed to Crawford. Adams is the most potent there. With the people, Jackson is next to Adams, and should the election go to the people Jackson may prevail in that State. The indications in Maryland are for Jackson. Tennessee and Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri, for Jackson. All New England for Adams. As for Indiana and Ohio, it is difficult now to say for whom their vote will be. The most knowing say that the substantial controversy is now between Adams and Jackson, and by a union of the slaveholding States with Pennsylvania Jackson may be elected. Unless Clay gets the votes of New York he cannot be one of the three from whom the House of Representatives is to choose. What revolutions in the electoral votes may take place before the time of choosing the Electoral College, should the friends of Crawford find out what everybody else seems to have found out (that he cannot be elected either by the people or the House of Representatives), cannot be foreseen. Jackson's ticket is every day acquiring new friends. Since the Convention at Harrisburg his pretensions are placed before the people by means of newspapers that were devoted before to other candidates. So much for politics. The great case, between Jersey and New York as it is called, upon the constitutionality of the law of New York, giving to Fulton the exclusive right to navigate the waters of New York by steamboats, is decided against New York. In this cause, I heard from Wirt the greatest display that I have ever heard at the bar since the days of Patrick Henry. His legal argument was very strong; his peroration was beautiful and grand. I did not hear Webster, nor Oakley, nor Emmett in this case, but all are said to have exhibited great talents. I have heard Webster, Sergeant, and White, of Tennessee. Wirt, Webster, White, and Ogden are the ablest lawyers, and Walter Jones should also be ranked among the first. Emmett I have not heard, but his reputation is high. After all, I have not been convinced that the bar of Kentucky does not contain as much talent and force as any other bar in the Union.

SOURCE: Mrs. Chapman Coleman, The Life of John J. Crittenden, Volume 1, p. 60-1

Sunday, July 14, 2019

John Bright to John M. Forbes, July 31, 1863

Rochdale, July 31,1863.

My Dear Me. Forbes, — I am glad to hear of your safe arrival, and I rejoice that on your arrival so much good news should await you. I have a note from Mr. Aspinwall this morning of a very satisfactory character; and I only now begin to fear that your cause may go on too fast, for I am not sure that the North is yet resolute and unanimous enough to be able to deal wisely with the great slavery question. To me it seems needful to declare the Proclamation an unalterable decree, and to restore no State to its ancient position in the nation until its constitution and laws are made to harmonize with the spirit of it. Till this is done, you will be legally entitled to hold and govern every slaveholding State by that military power which has restored it to the control of the central government.

The “recognition” motion in our House of Commons was a ludicrous failure, as you will have seen. I had the opportunity of preaching some sound doctrine to some unwilling ears. Now the press and the friends of “Secesh” are in great confusion, and their sayings and doings are matter of amusement to me and to many others.

. . . And now for your kind words to me, and your hope that I may come to the States. Many thanks for them and for your invitation. I fear I am getting too far on in life to cross the ocean, unless I saw some prospect of being useful, and had some duty clearly before me. It is a subject of constant regret that I have not paid a visit to the States years ago. Mr. Walker and many others alarm me by telling me I should have a reception that would astonish me.

What they promise me would be a great affliction, for I am not ambitious of demonstrations on my behalf. We will hope affairs in the States will be more settled, and passions in some degree calmed down, before I come, if I ever come; and then I might spend three months pleasantly, and perhaps usefully, in seeing your country and its people.

I have had great pleasure in making your acquaintance in London, and only regret that, having no house in town, I was not able to offer you the hospitality I wished to have offered to you and to others of your countrymen.

With all good wishes for you and for your country and government,

I am with much respect, yours sincerely,
John Bright.

SOURCE: Sarah Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Volume 2, p. 52-4

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

George Thompson Speech at New York, At the Meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, published May 23, 1835

[From the rapid and impassioned style of Mr. T’s delivery, it becomes difficult, indeed impossible to give a very close report of all he said.  We attempt only a sketch touching on the leading points, and giving enough of his language to enable the reader to form some idea of his very fervid mode of address.  He was heard with profound attention by all, but with very different feelings by different portions of his auditory, as they abundantly manifested on more occasions than one.]

He commenced his address by declaring that the feelings of his heart were too deep for utterance. When he thought where he stood, of the topic on which he was called to speak, upon the mighty interests which were involved — upon his own responsibility to God-upon the destinies of thousands which might hinge upon the results of the present meeting — and when he reflected upon the ignorance, the wickedness, and the mighty prejudices he had to encounter; on the two and a half million of clients, whose cause was committed to his feeble advocacy, with all their rights, eternal and irreversible, he trembled, and felt almost disposed to retire. And when, in addition to all, he remembered that there were at this moment, in this land, in perfect health, in full vigor of mind and body, countrymen of his own, once pledged to the very lips in behalf of this cause, and with an authority which must command a wide and powerful influence, who had yet left it to the care of youth and ignorance, he felt scarce able to proceed, and almost willing to leave another blank in the history of this day's proceedings.

He had said that he had prejudices to overcome; and they met him with this rebuff — “you are a foreigner.” I am, said Mr. T. I plead guilty to the charge: where is the sentence? Yet I am not a foreigner. I am no foreigner to the language of this country. I am not a foreigner to the religion of this country. I am not a foreigner to the God of this country. Nor to her interests — nor to her religious and political institutions. Yet I was not born here. Will those who urge this objection tell me how I could help it? If my crime is the having been born in another country, have I not made the best reparation in my power, by removing away from it, and coming as soon as I could to where 1 should have been born? (Much laughter.) I have come over the waves of the mighty deep, to look upon your land and to visit you. Has not one God made us all? Who shall dare to split the human family asunder? who shall presume to cut the link which binds all its members to mutual amity? I am no foreigner to your hopes or your fears, and I stand where there is no discriminating hue but the color of the soul. I am not a foreigner, I am a man: and nothing which affects human nature is foreign to me, (I speak the language of a slave.)

“But what have you known about our country? How have you been prepared to unravel the perplexities of our policy and of our party interests? How did you get an intimate acquaintance with our customs, our manners, our habits of thought and of action, and all the peculiarities of our national condition and character, the moment you set your foot upon our shores?” And is it necessary I should know all this before I can be able or fit to enunciate the truths of the Bible! to declare the mind and will of God as he has revealed it in his word

“But you do not care about us or our welfare.” Then why did I leave my own country to visit yours? It was not certainly to better my circumstances: for they have not been bettered. I never did, and I never will, better them by advocating this cause. I may enlarge my heart by it: I may make an infinite number of friends among the wretched by it: but I never can or will fill my purse by it. “But you are a foreigner — and have no right to speak here.” I dismiss this — I am weary of it. I have an interest in America, and in all that pertains to her. And let my right hand forget its cunning, and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I am ever capable of maligning her, or sowing the seeds of animosity among her inhabitants. He might truly say, though in the words of another,

I love thee, witness heaven above,
That I this land, — this people love;
Nor love thee less, when I do tell
Of crimes that in thy bosom dwell.
There is oppression in thy hand—
A sin, corrupting all the land; —
There is within thy gates a pest—
Gold—and a Babylonish vest.
Repent thee, then, and swiftly bring
Forth from the camp th’ accursed thing;
Consign it to remorseless fire—
Watch, till the latest spark expire;
Then strew its ashes on the wind,
Nor leave an atom wreck behind!

Yet while he said this, he would also add, if possible, with still stronger emphasis, Let my right hand forget her cunning, and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I desert the cause of American abjects — or cease to plead, so long as the clanking of chains shall be heard in the very porch of the temple, and beneath the walls of your capitol. If any shall still say, I have no right to speak, I will agree to quit the assembly, on condition that that objecter will furnish to me a plea which shall avail in the day of judgment, when my Maker shall ask me why I did not do, in America, that which all the feelings of my heart, and all the dictates of my judgment, and all the principles too, of God's own gospel, so powerfully prompted me to do? If the great Judge shall say to me “When human misery claimed you, why did you not plead the cause of suffering humanity?’ will any one give me an excuse that will avail as a reply to such a question? Is there any such excuse? [Here he paused.] Shall it be because the misery for which I should have pleaded was across the water? If this is the principle, then cease your splendid embassies of mercy to China and Hindoostan: abandon the glorious missionary cause: and let us read in your papers and periodicals no more of those eloquent and high toned predictions about the speedy conversion of the world.

“But you are a monarchist, you were born the subject of a king, and we are republicans.” Yes, and because I loved the latter best, I left the dominions of a monarch, and came to the shores of a free Republic. I gave up the tinsel and the trappings of a king, for the plain coat and the simple manners of your President. But granting me to be a monarchist, will that do as an excuse before the King of kings, the Lord of lords?

“But, we quarrelled once. You taxed us, and we would not be taxed: and now we will have nothing more to do with you.” Indeed; and may our artizans construct your machinery, and our Irishmen feed your furnaces, and dig your canals; may our advocates come to your bar, and our ministers to your pulpits, and shall all, all be made welcome but the advocate of the Slave? Should I be welcome to you all, if I had but renounced the cause of humanity?

“But the newspapers abuse you — they are all against you; and therefore you had better go back to where you came from.” Yes: if I fear the newspapers. But supposing I care nothing about the newspapers, and am heartily willing that every shaft that can fly from all the presses of the land shall be launched against me, is it a good reason then? Leave me, I pray you, to take care of the newspapers, and the newspapers to take care of me: I am entirely easy on that score.

But now as to the question before us. The gentleman from Kentucky, [Mr. Birney,] has gone very fully into its civil and political bearings: that aspect of it I shall not touch: I have nothing to do with it. I shall treat it on religious ground exclusively; on principles which cannot be impugned, and by arguments which cannot be refuted. I ask the abolition of slavery from among you, not because it dooms its victims to hard labor, nor because it compels them to a crouching servility, and deprives them of the exercise of civil rights: though all these are true. No: I ask for the illumination of the minds of immortal beings of our species; I seek to deliver woman from the lash, and from all that pollutes and that degrades her; I plead for the ordinances of religion; for the diffusion of knowledge; for the sanctification of marriage; for the participation of the gospel. And If you ask my authority, I answer there it is (pointing to the Bible) and let him that refutes me, refute me from that volume.

The resolution I offer has respect to the moral and spiritual condition of your colored population, and I do say that while one sixth of your entire population are left to perish without the word of God, or the ministry of the gospel, that your splendid missionary operations abroad, justly expose you before the whole world, to the charge of inconsistency. Your boast is, that your missionaries have gone into all the world; that you are consulting with the other christian nations for the illumination of the whole earth; and you have your missionary stations in all climes visited by the sun, from the frosts of Lapland to the sunny isles of Greece, and the scorching plains of Hindoostan; amidst the Christless literature of Persia, and the revolting vices of Constantinople. God grant that they may multiply a thousand fold — and continue to spread, till not a spot shall be left on the surface of our ruined world, where the ensign of the cross shall not have been set up. But will you, at the same time, refuse this gospel to one sixth of your own home-born population? And will you not hear me, when I ask that that word of life, which you are sending to the nations of New Holland and all the islands of the farthest sea, may be given to your slaves? When I plead for two millions and a half of human beings in the midst of your own land, left nearly, if not wholly, destitute of the blessings of God's truth? What spiritual wants have the heathen which the poor slaves have not? And what obligation binds you to the one, which does not equally bind you to the other? You own your responsibility to the heathen of other parts of the world, why not the heathen of this continent? And if to the heathen of one portion of the continent, why not to the no less heathen in another portion of it?

The resolution has reference to the diffusion of the Bible: and here I am invulnerable. You have offered to give, within twenty years, a copy of the Scriptures to every family of the world; you are now translating the sacred volume into all the languages of the earth, and scattering its healing leaves wherever men are found; and may I not say a word for the more than two millions at your door? Men whom you will not allow so much as to look into that book? Whom you forbid to be taught to read it, under pain of death? Why shall not these have the lamp of life? Are these no portion of the families of the south, whom you are pledged to supply? Is it any wonder there should be darkness in your land, that there should be spiritual leanness in your churches, that there should be Popery among you, when you thus debar men of the Bible? Is it not a fact, that while you have said you will give a Bible to every family in the world, not one of the families of slaveholders in the Southern States is to be found included in the benefaction? Of all the four hundred and sixty thousand families of your slaves, show me one that is included in your purpose or your plan. There is not one. If it would be wicked to blot out the sun from the heavens; if it would be wicked to deprive the earth of its circumambient air, or to dry up its streams of water, is it less wicked to withhold the word of God from men? to shut them out from the means of saving knowledge? to annihilate the cross? to take away the corner stone of human hope? to legislate away from your fellow-beings the will of God as recorded in his own word.

In view of the retributions of the judgment, I plead for these men, disinherited of their birthright. And once for all, I say, that every enterprise to enlighten, convert, and bless the world, must be branded with the charge of base hypocrisy, while millions at home are formally and by law deprived of the gospel of life, of the very letter of the Bible. And what has been the result Christianity has been dethroned; she is gone: there is no weeping mercy to bless the land of the slave; it is banished forever, as far as human laws can effect it. Brethren, I know not how you feel, nor can I tell you how I feel, when I behold you urging, by every powerful argument, the conversion of the world, while such a state of things is at your door; when I see you all tenderness for men you never saw; and yet seeming destitute of all pity for those you see every day.

Suppose, now, that in China the efforts of your missionaries should make one of the dark heathen a convert to the peaceful doctrine of the cross. What would be the duty of such a convert? Learning that there was a country where millions of his fellow sinners were yet destitute of the treasure that had enriched him for eternity, would he not leave the loved parents of his childhood, and the place of his father's sepulchres, and tracing his way across the waters, would he not come to bestow the boon upon men in America? Would he not come here to enlighten our darkness? And would he not be acting reasonably? according to the principles and commands of the very Bible you gave him?

And now I ask, what is the christianity of the South ! Is it not a chain-forging christianity? a whip-platting christianity? a marriage denouncing, or, at best, a marriage discouraging christianity. Is it not, above all, a Bible withholding christianity? You know that the evidence is incontestible. I anticipate the objection. “We cannot do otherwise. It is true, there are in South Carolina not twelve slaveholders who instruct their slaves; but we can't help it; there is an impassible wall; we can't throw the Bible over it; and if we attempt to make our way through, there stands the gibbet on the other side. It is not to be helped.” Why? “SLAVERY is there.” Then away with slavery. “Ay, but how ! Do you want the slave to cut his master's throat?” By no means. God forbid. I would not have him hurt one hair of his head, even if it would secure him freedom for life. “How then are we to get rid of it? By carrying them home?” Home? where? Where is their home? Where, but where they were born? I say, let them live on the soil where they first saw the light and breathed the air. Here, here, in the midst of you, let justice be done. “What! release all our slaves? turn them loose? spread a lawless band of paupers, vagrants, and lawless depredators upon the country?” Not at all. We have no such thought. All we ask is, that the control of masters over their slaves may be subjected to supervision, and to legal responsibility. Cannot this be done? Surely it can. There is even now enough of energy in the land to annihilate the whole evil; but all we ask is permission to publish truth, and to set forth the claims of the great and eternal principles of justice and equal rights; and then let them work out their own results. Let the social principle operate. Leave man to work upon man, and church upon church, and one body of people upon another, until the slave States themselves shall voluntarily loose the bonds and break every yoke. All this is legitimate and fair proceeding. It is common sense. It is sound philosophy. Against this course slavery cannot stand long. How was it abolished in England? By the fiat of the legislature, you will say. True: but was there no preaching of the truth beforehand? Was there no waking up of the public mind? no appeals no investigations? no rousing of public feelings, and concentration of the public energy Had there been nothing of this, the glorious act would never have passed the Parliament; and the British dependencies would still have mourned under the shade of this moral Bohon Upas.

It was well said by one of the gentlemen who preceded me, that there is a conscience at the South; and that there is the word of God at the South; and they have fears and hopes like our own: and in penning the appeals of reason and religion we cannot be laboring in vain. I will therefore say, that the hope of this cause is in the churches of God. There are church members enough of themselves to decide the destinies of slavery, and I charge upon the 17,000 ministers in this land, that they do keep this evil within our country; that they do not remember them that are in bonds as bound with them; that they fatten on the plunder of God's poor, and enrich themselves by the price of their souls. Were these all to do their duty, this monster, which has so long been brooding over our land, would soon take his flight to the nethermost hell, where he was begotten. How can these refuse to hear me? They are bound to hear; Unitarians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, be their name or their sect's name what it may, are bound to hear — for a minister is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts: and if they shall withhold their aid when God calls for it, the Lord will make them contemptible in the eyes of all the people.

Finally: this Anti-Slavery Society is not opposing one evil only; it is setting its face against all the vices of the land. What friend of religion ought to revile it? Surely the minister of Christ least of all; for it is opening his path before him; and that over a high wall that he dare not pass. Can the friend of education be against us? A society that seeks to pour the light of science over minds long benighted: a society that aims to make the beast a man: and the man an angel? Ought the friend of the Bible to oppose it? Surely not. , Nor can any of these various interests of benevolence thrive until slavery is first removed out of the way.

Mr. T. in closing, observed that he had risen to-day under peculiar feelings. Two of his countrymen had been deputed to visit this country, one of them a member of the Committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, who had been appointed with the express object of extinguishing slavery throughout the world, and belonging to a christian denomination which had actually memorialized all their sister churches in this land on the subject. My heart leaped when I learned they were to be here: especially that one of them whose name stood before the blank which is to be left in the record of this day's proceedings. Where is he now? He is in this city: why is he not here? The reason I shall leave for himself to explain. Sir, said Mr. T., in this very fact I behold a new proof of the power of the omnipotence of slavery: by its torpedo power a man has been struck dumb, who was eloquent in England on the side of its open opposers. What! is it come to this? Shall he or shall I advocate the cause of emancipation, of immediate emancipation, only because we are Englishmen? Perish the thought ! before I can entertain such an idea I must be recreant to all the principles of the Bible, to all the claims of truth, of honor, of humanity. No sir: if man is not the same in every latitude; if he would advocate a cause with eloquence and ardor in Exeter Hall, in the midst of admiring thousands, but because he is in America can close his lips and desert the cause he once espoused, I denounce, I abjure him. Let him carry his philanthropy home again; there let him display it in the loftiest or the tenderest strains; but never let him step his foot abroad, until he is prepared to show to the world that he is the friend of his kind.

The following resolution was offered by Mr. Thompson, and adopted by the Society.

Resolved, That the practice of suffering a sixth portion of the population of this Christian land to perish, destitute of the volume of Revelation, and the ministry of the Gospel, is inconsistent with the profession of zeal for the conversion of the world.

SOURCE: Isaac Knapp, Publisher, Letters and Addresses by G. Thompson [on American Negro Slavery] During His Mission in the United States, From Oct. 1st, 1834, to Nov. 27, 1835, p. 66-74; The Liberator, Boston Massachusetts, Saturday, May 23, 1835, p. 2-3

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Gerrit Smith’s Speach at a War Meeting in Peterboro, Massachusets, April 27, 1861

The end of American slavery is at hand. That it is to end in blood does not surprise me. For fifteen years I have been constantly predicting that it would be. . . . The first gun fired at Fort Sumter announced the fact that the last fugitive slave had been returned. . . . And what if, when Congress shall come together in this extra session, the slave States shall all have ceased from their treason, and shall all ask that they may be suffered to go from us. Shall Congress let them go? Certainly. But only on the condition that those States shall first abolish slavery. Congress has clearly no constitutional right to let them go on any conditions. But I believe that the people would approve of the proceedings, and would be ready to confirm it in the most formal and sufficient manner. A few weeks ago I would have consented to let the slave States go without requiring the abolition of slavery, . . . But now, since the southern tiger has smeared himself with our blood, we will not, if we get him in our power, let him go until we have drawn his teeth and his claws. . . .

A word in respect to the armed men who go south. They should go more in sorrow than in anger. The sad necessity should be their only excuse for going. They must still love the south. We must all still love her. Conquer her, and most completely too, we must, both for her sake and our own. But does it not ill become us to talk of punishing her? Slavery, which has infatuated her, is the crime of the north as well as of the south. As her chiefs shall one after another, fall into our hands, let us be restrained from dealing revengefully, and moved to deal tenderly with them, by our remembrance of the large share which the north has had in blinding them. The conspiracy of northern merchants and manufacturers, northern publishers, priests and politicians, against the slaveholders, carried on under the guise of friendship, has been mighty to benumb their conscience, and darken their understanding in regard to slavery.

SOURCES: Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography, p. 257-8

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Alexander H. Stephens to the Editor of the Federal Union,* August 30, 1848

Clinton, Ga. 30th, Aug., 1848.

Mr. Editor: In passing through this place, I have just seen your paper of yesterday's date which contains some enquiries addressed to me, to which I cannot hesitate to give a prompt reply “in such reasonable length and respectful terms” as to secure, I trust, a place in your columns.

And that I may be distinctly understood, I will give the entire communication and my answer to each enquiry in order:

To The Hon. A. H. Stephens:

It is known to you, that your motion to lay upon the table the “Compromise bill”1 of the Senate, during the late session of Congress, has produced considerable excitement in this district. You have been nominated as the Whig candidate for re-election. If you should have opposition, it is scarcely to be doubted that this bill will be the main issue involved in the canvass. It is therefore eminently desirable that your sentiments should be clearly understood as to what are the rights of the South and how far they are affected by the bill. A careful perusal of your speech has left our mind in doubt as to your opinion upon several essential points. We therefore venture respectfully to propound to you a few interrogatories, to which we ask a reply.

I. Do you believe that Congress has the right under the Constitution, to prohibit slavery in the territories belonging to the United States?

To your first enquiry I answer, that I do not believe that Congress has the right, either in honor, justice or good faith, to prohibit slavery in the territories belonging to the United States and thus to appropriate the public Domain entirely to the benefit of the people of the non-slaveholding states — and hence I have uniformly voted against the Oregon bill which contained a section excluding slavery, notwithstanding most if not all my Democratic colleagues have repeatedly voted for a bill organizing a Government there with such exclusion — and notwithstanding Mr. Polk has lately signed a bill which contained such an exclusion.

So far as New Mexico and California are concerned, and towards which your enquiries are doubtless mainly directed, there is no express provision in the Constitution which applies either directly or indirectly to them. They are to be considered as acquired by conquest, and there is no article or clause in the Constitution that relates in the remotest degree to the government of conquests. I do not believe that the framers of the Constitution contemplated that such a contingency would ever happen — and hence the silence of the Constitution upon that subject. But as the Supreme Court of the United States have repeatedly held the doctrine that the power to make conquest does belong to the General Government, though not expressly granted, it is not my purpose to say anything upon that point now. The only point in your enquiry relates to the government of the conquest, and to that point I answer explicitly that I consider the conquest, according to the best authorities upon the laws of nations, as belonging to the people of the United States — to all the citizens of the United States, the South as well as the North. When the treaty is fully complied with these provinces will constitute a public domain acquired by the common valor, blood and treasure of all. And in the government of them the rights and interests of the South should be looked to, guarded and protected as well as the North by all proper and necessary laws. Until they are admitted into the United States the government of them must devolve upon Congress or such territorial legislatures as may be created and authorized by Congress. And any legislation by Congress or by the territorial legislatures which would exclude slavery would be in direct violation of the rights of the Southern people to an equal participation in them and in open derogation of that equality between the states of the South and North which should never [be] surrendered by the South. And I hold also that any legislation by Congress or by the territorial legislatures which does not secure and protect the rights of the South as fully and as completely in the enjoyment of their property in slaves as it does the rights of the people of the North in the enjoyment of their property in these territories is manifestly unjust, in violation of the rights of the South, and a surrender of that equality between the different members of this confederacy which shall never be made by my sanction.

Your second enquiry is in the following words:

II. From your replies to Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, on pages 10 and 11 of your speech, we clearly infer that it is your opinion that the Constitution of the United States does not guarantee to the slaveholder the right to remove with his property into any territory of the United States and to be protected in the undisturbed use and enjoyment of his slaves as property. Do we properly construe your meaning?

And in reply you will allow me to say that you seem greatly to misapprehend my answer to Mr. Stanton. The purport of my answer to him was (I have not the speech before me) that the Constitution did secure and guarantee the rights of the master to his slave in every state and territory of the Union where slavery was not prohibited by law. But that it did not establish it in any territory or State where it was so prohibited. And the same I reaffirm. It is too plain a question to admit of argument. It is one of those truths which under our system of government may be considered as a political axiom. Everybody knows that the Constitution secures and guarantees property in slaves in Georgia and in all the slave States, but that it does not secure the use and enjoyment of such property in New York or any of the States where slavery is prohibited.

Your third question is in the following words:

III. If the right spoken of in the 2d question does exist under the Constitution in reference to territory generally, does it exist in relation to New Mexico and California?

And in answer to it I say that I hold that the Constitution does secure and guarantee the rights of the master to property in his slave in all the territories belong to the United States where slavery is not prohibited. With regard to the territories, the same principle holds which is applicable to the states. I do not maintain the position that slavery cannot be maintained without positive law. But I say that according to all the decisions of all the courts I have ever seen in all civilized nations, it cannot be maintained and protected where it is prohibited by express law. In all the states of this Union where it is not prohibited, the Constitution secures and protects it; but in those states where it is prohibited it does not protect it further than to provide for the recapture of runaway slaves — and the same principle I have no doubt from the decisions of the Supreme Court would by that tribunal be held to be applicable to the territories. By the Missouri Compromise slavery was prohibited from all that portion of the Louisiana cession out of Missouri, North of 36:30 degrees of North latitude. Slavery by that Compromise was in effect abolished in all that territory. For by the laws in force in the territory at the time of the acquisition slavery was recognised and had existence. There is a large territory now unoccupied which is embraced in the provisions of that Compromise and from which by that Compromise slavery is prohibited. And can any man believe that if a slaveholder should carry his slave into that territory where slavery is prohibited, that the Supreme Court of the United States would recognise his right and protect him in holding his slave there?

It is not my purpose now to speak of the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise — I am speaking of it as a practical question under the decisions of the Supreme Court; and according to principles settled by that Court, does any man believe that the rights of the master would be protected by that Court in that territory, or any other territory of the United States, where slavery is prohibited, until the prohibition is removed by competent authority, any more than in a State where slavery is prohibited? In New Mexico and California slavery was abolished and prohibited by express law at the time of the conquest. And according to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, which no man can gainsay or deny; (I mean the fact of the decisions; I do not now speak of their correctness), all the laws which were of force at the time of the conquest will continue in force until altered by competent authority, except such as were inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States or the stipulations of the treaty. Is the prohibition of slavery by the local law of any state or place inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States? If it is, those laws of New Mexico and California will become abrogated and necessarily cease to operate upon the final fulfilment of the treaty stipulations. But if the prohibition of slavery by the local law of any state or place is not inconsistent with the Constitution according to the decisions of the Supreme Court, they will of course remain of force until altered by competent authority. My own opinion is, that neither the existence of slavery or non-existence of it by the local law of any place is inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution. The Constitution extends over states where slavery exists as well as where it is prohibited. Slavery depends upon the law of the place, which may be either written or unwritten. And where it exists the Constitution protects it, but it does not establish it where it is prohibited.

I have heard some argue that the laws in New Mexico and California prohibiting slavery there were similar to the laws concerning the establishment of religion. I consider the cases totally different. for this plain reason: An established religion is inconsistent with an express provision of the Constitution.

But the non-existence or prohibition of slavery by the local law of any State or place is not inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution. It is in vain for any man to attempt to deceive himself or others upon this point. And it is worse than in vain to attempt to make the Southern people believe that any right was secured to them by the late proposed Compromise bill which without any legal protection referred the matter to the Supreme Court. The only right it pretended to secure was the right of a law suit — and that existed without the Compromise just as amply and as fully as it did under it. And under the circumstances if any man can suppose that the Court, at the end of the suit, would decide in favor of the rights of the Southern people, he cannot doubt but that the same decision would be made even if the Wilmot Proviso were passed.

But to proceed to your fourth question, which is as follows:

IV. We infer from the tenor of your speech that you do not believe the right exists in relation to New Mexico and California, because of the decrees of 1829 and 1837 abolishing slavery throughout the Republic of Mexico. If so, what right of the South is surrendered by the Compromise bill, and how is it surrendered?

To this I answer that your inference is entirely wrong. I do believe that we of the South have a right to an equal participation in this acquisition, notwithstanding the decrees and acts of Mexico abolishing and prohibiting slavery in New Mexico and California — and a right that I never intend to abandon or surrender by my vote. It is the right which belongs to us as a portion of the conquerors of the country. It is public property, belonging as I have said before to all the citizens of the country — to the people of the South as well as the North. It is common property, and the principles applicable to it are well expressed by Vattel, as follows:

All the members of a corporation have an equal right to the use of the common property. But respecting the manner of enjoying it, the body of the corporation may make such regulations as they think proper, provided that those regulations be not inconsistent with that equality of right which ought to be preserved in a communion of property. Thus a corporation may determine the use of a common forest or a common pasture, either allotting it to all the members, according to their wants, or allotting each an equal share, but they have no right to exclude any one of the members, or to make a distinction to his disadvantage, by assigning him a less share than that of the others. (Vattel's L[aw of] Nations], 113.)

These are the principles I hold: Congress has no right to exclude the South from an equal share, and it is the duty of Congress to see that the rights of the South are as amply protected as the rights of the North. And it was this right of legal protection for the property of the South that was surrendered in that bill. If Congress has the power to declare exactly how far the interests of the North shall be protected, if they have the power to extend the Missouri Compromise line, they certainly have the power to say in clear and distinct words that up to that line on the South the rights of the South shall be protected — and not after prohibiting us from going North of that line leave us to contest with the Courts our rights on the South of it. This is what the Compromise bill did. It excluded us from the whole of Oregon, and left us to the Courts to decide whether we should be allowed to carry and hold our property in New Mexico and California. For such a Compromise I shall never vote.

Your fifth question is as follows:

V. If by virtue of the Constitution of the United States, we have not the right to carry our slaves into these territories, we ask, upon what principle do you claim it, in behalf of your constituents? Do you claim it, upon the broad principle of justice arising from the fact that It is the fruit of common blood and common treasure? If so, do you expect Congress, constituted as it now is, or is hereafter likely to be, will ever recognise this principle of justice, and by positive legislation authorise the extension of slavery into those territories?

And in answer I say, that I do claim it “upon the broad principle of justice arising from the fact that it is the fruit of common blood and common treasure. And I do expect that Congress constituted as it is will recognise this principle of justice when the South presents an unbroken front, as it ought to do, against paying one dollar for the territories unless this justice is awarded to them; and you will here permit me to bring to your mind a reminiscence not inapplicable on the present occasion. When the annexation of Texas was at first started by Mr. Tyler, by a treaty which left this question of vital importance to the South unsettled, I opposed it. I was then bitterly assailed by the paper which you now conduct for opposition to this great Southern measure upon all occasions when I addressed the people of Georgia. In 1844, I declared that I was in favor of the annexation of Texas upon proper principles — but I was utterly opposed to the Tyler treaty for several reasons, the main one of which was that the slave question was left open in it, the rights of the South were not secured by it, and that I should never vote for any plan of annexation that did not settle this question in the compact of union and secure these rights in terms clearly and distinctly defined. This position I maintained in your own city, and if you will turn to the files of the Federal Union and examine an editorial of the first week in July, 1844, I think you will see that this position of mine was alluded to and it was denounced as amounting to a total opposition to the whole measure and it was said (I quote from memory) that I was insisting upon what never could be obtained. But I had taken my position firmly, not to be deterred by any fears or alarms or denunciations. And from that position and its success a profitable lesson may now be learnt. I made a speech in Congress when a plan for annexation similar to the Tyler treaty was offered, in which I maintained the same position and stated the only grounds upon which I should vote for annexation. They were the same grounds which I had advocated throughout 1844. Seven Southern Whigs stood by me — we held the balance of power in the House. And when all other plans offered (and there were a number) failed (neither of which secured the rights of the South), then Mr. Brown (after conference with me and others) offered his with the Missouri Compromise in it; and that passed by my vote and the other seven Whigs, and it could not have passed in the Committee of the Whole House without our votes, as the proceedings of the House will show. The firm and inflexible course I and seven other Southern Whigs took upon that question secured the rights of the South and obtained the establishment of the Missouri Compromise, which it was said by the Federal Union could never be obtained. And if a similar course shall be taken and maintained by all parties at the South, the same Compromise or one as good can be obtained again. I have taken the same stand now and I intend to maintain it in defiance of all assaults and denunciations that may be made against me from any and every quarter.

The sixth and last of your enquiries, is as follows:

VI. If you should be of opinion that we have the constitutional right to carry our slaves into these territories, would you sooner risk the recognition and vindication of that right before Congress where there is a decided majority in both branches against us, or before the Supreme Court where it is well known that a majority of the Bench are from slaveholding States?

We are aware, that you deprecate in very strong terms any reference to the complexion of the Supreme Court upon this subject. Tour deprecation may be the result of a sentiment which we by no means condemn. Yet we do not agree with you in its application in this instance. The South are in a minority, we fear a doomed minority, on this subject, and we are therefore disposed to vindicate our rights by all honorable means. We certainly should not refuse to accept justice because the tribunal to whom we apply are supposed to be favorable to our cause. With all deference to your views on this point, we must be indulged in the belief that your indignation savors more of transcendentalism than of sound, practical statesmanship.

To this I answer that I consider the reference of this subject to the Supreme Court as a total abandonment of the question by the South. According to repeated decisions of that court upon the principles involved in it, I cannot see how any man can look upon it in any other light. But I will here say, that I am opposed to referring any political question to that court. And as a Representative in Congress, as long as I shall have the honor of remaining there, I shall never avoid responsibility by turning any question over to the Supreme Court or any other body. I shall, as I have heretofore done, maintain the equal and just rights of my constituents upon all questions; and I shall demand that they be clearly and distinctly recognised by Congress, that they may be amply protected by all others before whom they may come for action; and when these rights are left to the courts to determine, by my sanction they shall be so clearly set forth and defined that the courts shall be bound to protect them, in their decisions. And I say to you and the people of the 7th. Congressional District, that I shall never return as your and their Representative and tell them I have secured their rights by getting an act passed which will enable them to carry their slaves to California and New Mexico to encounter a law suit whenever they get there, which will cost more than their slaves are worth. If I can never get a better compromise for them than such an one as that, I shall never agree to any at all. They have that right independently of any thing I can do for them, and that is a right which no act of Congress can deprive them of.
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* From the Federal Union, Milledgerllle, Ga., Sept. 12, 1848.
1 The Clayton compromise hill.

SOURCE: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Editor, The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911, Volume 2: The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, p. 117-24

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Bible Must Settle The Question

You say, “on the subject of slavery, we are willing to be guided by the Bible, the unerring word of truth. Where it condemns we condemn, where it approves we approve; we are not unwilling for the whole world to know our views on the subject of slavery.” We were heartily glad to hear this, because we can, and do, without qualification, reciprocate your declaration, and feel that on one main point to be attained in the settlement of this great controversy between the churches of the slave and of the free States, we are already perfectly agreed. The word of God, rightly understood, must settle the matter—

There must also be established laws of interpretation of which we shall mutually approve; which, if duly regarded, must bring us to the same result. Here then we are happy to meet you, and in union with you, would gladly bow down in humble, fervent prayer, to the author of the Bible, for the effectual teaching of his Spirit that we may be guided in the way of truth, of righteousness and peace. You believe that the Bible justifies such slaveholding as is commonly practised in this country. We as firmly believe that it does not, but is entirely opposed to it. You have ingenuously assigned the reasons of your belief, referring us to the particular portions of scripture on which it is founded. We have carefully examined every one of those passages, and aimed to weigh impartially all your arguments founded on them, and yet dissent entirely from the main conclusions to which you have come. With becoming deference we would inform you wherein we think your reasoning incorrect, and why we believe the Bible, instead of justifying, particularly condemns the practice in question. And from the evidences we have already had of your magnanimity and fairness, we cannot but hope, that you will not only give us a candid hearing, but see cause to come to the same conclusions with ourselves.
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Continued from: Reverend Silas McKeen to Thomas C. Stuart, August 20, 1839

SOURCE: Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Slavery vs. The Bible: A Correspondence Between the General Conference of Maine, and the Presbytery of Tombecbee, Mississippi, p. 31-3

Nathaniel Peabody Rogers: Constitutionality of Slavery, September 8, 1838

The second “unprovided-for difficulty” of the Keene Sentinel, in the way of the anti-slavery movement is, that “slaves are property.” We deny that they are property, or that they can be made so. We will not argue this, for it is self-evident. A man cannot be a subject of human ownership; neither can he be the owner of humanity. There is a clear and eternal incompetancy on both sides, — on the one to own man, and on the other to be owned by man. A man cannot alienate his right to liberty and to himself, — still less can it be taken from him. He cannot part with his duty to be free — his obligation to liberty, any more than his right. He is under obligation to God and humanity and his own immortality, to retain his manhood and to exercise it. He cannot become the property of another, any more than he can part with his human nature. It would be utterly repugnant to all the purposes of his creation. He is bound to perform a part, which is totally incompatible with his being owned by any body but himself; which requires that he keep himself free. He can't be property, any more than he can be a horse, or a literal ass. We commend our brethren of the Sentinel to the eighth Psalm, as a divine authority touching the nature and destination of man. He can't be property — he can't be appropriated. His mighty nature cannot be coped by the grasp of ownership. Can the Messrs. Sentinel be appropriated? We put it sternly to them, in behalf of their, and our own, and the slave's common nature, — for we feel that it is all outraged by their terrible allegation. Can the editors of the Sentinel become property? the goods and chattels, rights and hereditaments of an owner? If they can't, no man can. If any man can, they can. Can the Hon. Mr. Prentiss, with all his interesting qualities and relations, by any diabolical jugglery, be converted into a slave, so as to belong to one of his fallen, depraved fellow-men? Can he suppose the idea? Is he susceptible of this transmutation? He is, if any body is. Can he be transferred, by virtue of a few cries and raps of a glib-tongued auctioneer? Could a pedler sell him, from his tin cart? Could he knock him off, bag and baggage, to the boldest bidder? Let us try it. No disrespect to our esteemed senior. — We test his allegation, that a man is property. If one man can be, any man can — himself, or his stately townsman, Major-General Wilson, who would most oddly become the auction platform. If a man can be property, he can be sold. If any man can be, every man can — Mr. Prentiss, Gen. Wilson, Rev. Mr. Barstow — every man. Let us try to vendue the Sentinel. Advertise him, if you please, in the Keene paper. On the day, produce him — bring him on — let his personal symmetries be examined and descanted on — his sacred person handled by the sacrilegious man-jockey, — let him be ordered to shift positions, and assume attitudes, and display to the callous multitude his form and proportions — his points, as the horse-jockey would say. How would all this comport with the high sense of personal honor, wont to be entertained by the Sentinel? How would he not encounter a thousand deaths rather than submit to it? How his proud spirit, instinct with manhood, would burst and soar away from the scene! Who bids? an able-bodied, capable, fine, healthy, submissive, contented Boy, about fifty — sound wind and limb — sold positively for no fault — a field hand — come of real stock, — faithful, can trust him with gold untold — will nobody start him? — shall we have a bid? — will nobody bid for the boy? Now we demand of our respected brother, whose honor is as sacred in our regard as in his own, what he thinks of the chattelism of a slave, — for we indignantly lay it down as an immovable principle that the Hon. John Prentiss is as legitimate a subject of property and of sale, as any the lowest of his race.

We dispose of the position that “slaves are property,” by utterly and indignantly denying the possibility of it. We will rescue our brethren of the Sentinel from the imputation of this murderous idea, by erasing the semicolon after “property,” and making but one sentence of the second “difficulty,” turning it into an opinion that “slaves are property by the constitution and the laws;” throwing the infamy on to the old framers of the constitution, and all of us who have lived under it, with power to amend or nullify it. It would sink the whole of us. Constitution and laws! Is the Sentinel of opinion that a constitution could be framed by men, or by existences in the shape of men, that, instead of protecting human liberty and rights, should annihilate them? A constitution to enslave men! What would you say of a British constitution, that enslaved a British subject? Would you not scout the idea of it — of the British possibility of it? and can it be done here, and was it done here by revolutionary sages, who could not brook the restraints of British liberty? A constitution, that should provide for the enslavement of a man, would be a legal abortion. The bare engrossing of it would nullify it. It would perish by spontaneous annulment and nullification. It could not survive its ordination — nor could its infamous framers. We deny that an enslaved man is property by the constitution, and we might deny that any man can be enslaved under our constitution, and consequently, that he could be chattelized, if a slave were admitted to be property. Things may be appropriated — persons may not. They are self-evidently not susceptible of appropriation or ownership. By the constitution every body is spoken of as a person — no mention is made of human things. If a slave is alluded to, in that instrument, as a possible existence in point of fact, it is under the name of person. “Three fifths of all other Persons” — “migration or importation of persons— “no person held to service.” These are the only instances in it where allusion is made to slaves, — and it no more, in those allusions, sanctions enslaving, than it does “piracies and felonies on the high seas,” which it also expressly recognizes, as they say of slavery. So it says “person,” where it solemnly asserts that “no person can be deprived of liberty or property, but by due process of law.” This clause prohibits the slightest approaches to enslaving, or holding in slavery, which is continued enslaving. No person's property can be taken from him; not his life even; infinitely less his Liberty, without due legal process. It is idle to say, that the framers of the constitution, or. those who adopted it and acted under it, did not mean to save the colored man from slavery, by this clause. In law they are to be held to mean so, because they said so. The intent of the framers is now to be gathered from what they said in the instrument itself — not their colloquies at the time or before or after — but what they put down in imperishable black and white. It is what they inscribed on the parchment for all time, that they legally intended, and there we are to go to get at their intent. If the words are obscure and ambiguous, we may gather their intent by aid of concomitant circumstances, &c. But there is no ambiguity here. The clearest words and best understood and most trimly defined of any we have, here set forth the essential doctrine, (without which a community of thieves and pirates could scarcely be kept together,) that life, liberty and property are sacred. Enslave man and leave him these three, and you may do it, maugre this clause of the constitution. However, you must leave him, by virtue of other clauses, a few other incidentals, such as compulsory process for calling in all witnesses for him, of whatever color; the inviolate right to be secure in person, house, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures; right of trial by jury in all cases over twenty dollars' value; the free exercise of religion, of speech, of the press, of peaceable assembly and of petition; the civil rights of republican government, which is guarantied to him in every state in this Union; the privileges and immunities of citizens in every state; in short, you must allow him a string of franchises, enumerated accidentally in that part of the old compact, called the preamble, viz., justice, domestic tranquillity, common defence, general welfare, and, finally, the blessings of liberty to himself and to his posterity; — moreover you may add, in repetition, — for in securing these breath-of-life sort of rights, people run a little into superfluity of words — you may add the unsuspendible privilege of habeas corpus — the old writ of liberty; — and perfect exemption from all attainder, or enslaving a man's children on his account. We will mention one more — that is the uninfringible right to keep and bear arms. All these and many other rights and immunities, "too numerous to be mentioned,” are secured to him by adamantine provisions in the constitution, and if you can chattelize him under them, so that Austin Woolfolk can trade in him, at your capital, or Wade Hampton or the American Board, can buy him and use him up in their service, or Doctor Ezra Styles Ely speculate in his soul and body, then your doctrine, Messrs. Sentinel, is sound, that he is recognized as property by the constitution.

We claim some exceptions, however, in case we cannot overthrow slavery in the slave states, by force of the national constitution. We cannot allow you to enslave any body in old Virginia. Look at her law paramount in our caption, declaring the Birth-Right, Inalienable Liberty Of All Men. In Maryland the right is constitutionally set forth a little stronger. You must not enslave a man in Maryland, — and we can't allow you to lay a finger on his liberties in the district of Columbia, because the constitutions of Virginia and Maryland are still paramount law there, by congressional adoption, at the acceptance of the cessions. And if he runs away from the district or a territory, or either of those two states, we can't allow you to arrest him and send him back.

We ask our legal friends, who think lightly of this “fanaticism,” to look into this constitutional and legal matter of slaveholding. We would like especially, that some of the neighbors of the Sentinel would give some exposition, during the coming convention, of the lawfulness of enslaving people in this country. We ask the Keene lawyers how this is. We want “the opinion of the court.”

For ourselves we venture the opinion, in light of what glimmerings of law scintillate about our vision, that holding a man in slavery is a violation of the law of this land, and of every part of it, not excepting our gory-fingered sister Arkansas, or our carnage-dripping sister Alabama, the haunt of christian enterprise from New England and the worn-out slave states in the north. A constitution that can avail to protect republican liberty to a single member of this community, inviolably secures it to every man, and condemns and prohibits slavery. It cannot otherwise be. Slavery is a mere matter of fact — in the face of the constitution — in the face of each state constitution — in the face of every court of justice which soundly administers the law of any state — in face of every thing, but a tyrant public sentiment, and a diabolical American practice.

The enslaved of the country are as much entitled to their liberty as any of us, by the law as it is. They have a right to throw off all violation of it by force, if they cannot otherwise. Nay, it is their duty to do so, if they can, — for it is not injury merely, that they are submitting to — not wrongs. They are rendered incapable of suffering injury — incompetent to endure wrong. The accursed system, that preys upon them, makes things of them — exterminates their very natures. This they may not submit to. They ought to prevent it, at every expense. They ought to resist it, as the Christian should the devil, for it wars upon the nature of man, and devours his immortality. If they could heave off the system by an instantaneous and universal effort, they ought to do it Individually we wish they could do it, and that they would do it. We may be wrong in this opinion — but we entertain it. If our white brethren at the South were slaves, we should wish them instantaneous deliverance by insurrection, if this would bring it to them. We wish our colored brethren the same. We do not value the bodily lives of the present white generation there a straw, compared to the horrible thraldom, in which they hold the colored people, and we value their lives as highly as we do the colored people's. But insurrection can't effect it. It must be done by the abolitionists. They must annihilate the system by force of their principles, and as fast as possible. And they must increase their speed. Men will have to groan and pant in absolute brutality, with their high and eternal natures bound down and strangled amid the folds of this enslaving devil, until we throw it off. To the work then, and Heaven abandon the tardy! If you wish to save your white brethren and yourselves, we commend you to this work, in sharp earnest We tell you, once for all, there is no time to be Inst!

There is no end to the theme — there must be to this article. We deny the truth and existence of the Sentinel's two difficulties, and if, in fact, they both existed, our movement “provides for them.” The people collectively have the power to declare slavery a crime in the slave states. Congress has the power to do what amounts to the same thing — by direct action. They can declare it criminal in the capital, and how long would it be esteemed innocent elsewhere? They can punish enslaving in the district, and the man-traffic between the states as piracy. Lex talionis would enslave the perpetrators — but that would be devilish, and ought not to be inflicted. But if hanging is lawful in any case, it is in this.

If the people collectively and Congress have no legal power over the slavery of the slave states, abolitionists have the power, ample and adequate, and they will “provide for the difficulty.”

The constitution and the laws do not recognize the slaves as property. We call for the proof. The Sentinel avers it. Let them point us to the spot where. And could they do this, the abolitionists have the power (consult rule of three for the time it will take) to change and redeem both the constitution and the laws, and transmute this property back again to humanity.

SOURCE: Collection from the Miscellaneous Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, Second Edition, p. 15-21 which states it was published in the Herald of Freedom of September 8, 1838.