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

Part 10 out of 52

[Footnote A: In the prophecy, Gen. ix. 25, the subjection of the
Canaanites as a conquered people rendering tribute to other nations, is
foretold by inspiration. The fulfilment of this prediction, seems to
have commenced in the subjection of the Canaanites to the Israelites as
tributaries. If the Israelites had exterminated them, as the objector
asserts they were commanded to do; the prediction would have been

[Footnote B: These two verses are so explicit we quote them entire--"And
it shall be if thou do at all forget the Lord they God and walk after
other Gods and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this
day that ye shall surely _perish_, as the nations which the Lord
destroyed before your face, _so_ shall ye perish." The following
passages are, if possible still more explicit--"The Lord shall send upon
thee cursing, vexation and rebuke in all that thou settest thine hand
unto for to do, until thou be _destroyed_, and until thou perish
quickly." "The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee until he
have _consumed_ thee." "They (the 'sword,' 'blasting,' &c.) shall pursue
thee until thou _perish_." "From heaven shall it come down upon thee
until thou be _destroyed_." "All these curses shall come upon thee till
thou be _destroyed_." "He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck until
he have _destroyed_ thee." "The Lord shall bring a nation against thee,
a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the
old, nor show favor to the young, * * until he have _destroyed_ thee."
All these, with other similar threatenings of _destruction_, are
contained in the twenty-eighth chapter of Deut. See verses 20-25, 45,
48, 51. In the _same_ chapter God declares that as a punishment for the
same transgressions, the Israelites shall "be _removed_ into all the
kingdoms of the earth," thus showing that the terms employed in the
other verses, "destroy," "perish," "perish quickly," "consume," &c.,
instead of signifying utter, personal destruction doubtless meant their
destruction as an independent nation. In Josh. xxiv. 8, 18, "destroyed"
and "drave out," are used synonymously.]

[Footnote C: Perhaps it will be objected, that the preservation of the
Gibeonites, and of Rahab and her kindred, was a violation of the command
of God. We answer, if it had been, we might expect some such intimation.
If God had straitly commanded them to _exterminate all the Canaanites_,
their pledge to save them alive, was neither a repeal of the statute,
nor absolution for the breach of it. If _unconditional destruction_ was
the import of the command, would God have permitted such an act to pass
without rebuke? Would he have established such a precedent when Israel
had hardly passed the threshold of Canaan, and was then striking the
first blow of a half century war? What if they _had_ passed their word
to Rahab and the Gibeonites? Was that more binding than God's command?
So Saul seems to have passed _his_ word to Agag; yet Samuel hewed him in
pieces, because in saving his life, Saul had violated God's command.
When Saul sought to slay the Gibeonites in "his zeal for the children of
Israel and Judah," God sent upon Israel a three years' famine for it.
When David inquired of them what atonement he should make, they say,
"The man that devised against us, that we should be destroyed from
_remaining in any of the coast of Israel_, let seven of his sons be
delivered," &c. 2 Sam. xxi. 1-6.]

[Footnote D: If the Canaanites were devoted by God to unconditional
extermination, to have employed them in the erection of the
temple,--what was it but the climax of impiety? As well might they
pollute its altars with swine's flesh or make their sons pass through
the fire to Moloch.]

[Footnote E: Suppose all the Canaanitish nations had abandoned their
territory at the tidings of Israel's approach, did God's command require
the Israelites to chase them to ends of the earth, and hunt them out,
until every Canaanite was destroyed? It is too preposterous for belief,
and yet it follows legitimately from that construction, which interprets
the terms "consume," "destroy," "destroy utterly," &c. to mean
unconditional, individual extermination.]

[The original design of the preceding Inquiry embraced a much wider
range of topics. It was soon found, however, that to fill up the outline
would be to make a volume. Much of the foregoing has therefore been
thrown into a mere series of _indices_, to trains of thought and classes
of proof, which, however limited or imperfect, may perhaps, afford some
facilities to those who have little leisure for protracted

NO. 5.







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This periodical contains 3 1/2 sheets.--Postage under 100 miles, 6 cts.;
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A civilized community presupposes a government of law. If that
government be a republic, its citizens are the sole _sources_, as well
as the _subjects_ of its power. Its constitution is their bill of
directions to their own agents--a grant authorizing the exercise of
certain powers, and prohibiting that of others. In the Constitution of
the United States, whatever else may be obscure, the clause granting
power to Congress over the Federal District may well defy
misconstruction. Art. 1, Sec. 6, Clause 18: "The Congress shall have
power to exercise exclusive legislation, _in all cases whatsoever_, over
such District." Congress may make laws for the District "in all
_cases_," not of all _kinds_; not all _laws_ whatsoever, but laws "in
all _cases_ whatsoever." The grant respects the _subjects_ of
legislation, _not_ the moral nature of the laws. The law-making power
every where is subject to _moral_ restrictions, whether limited by
constitutions or not. No legislature can authorize murder, nor make
honesty penal, nor virtue a crime, nor exact impossibilities. In these
and similar respects, the power of Congress is held in check by
principles, existing in the nature of things, not imposed by the
Constitution, but presupposed and assumed by it. The power of Congress
over the District is restricted only by those principles that limit
ordinary legislation, and, in some respects, it has even wider scope.

In common with the legislatures of the States, Congress cannot
constitutionally pass ex post facto laws in criminal cases, nor suspend
the writ of habeas corpus, nor pass a bill of attainder, nor abridge the
freedom of speech and of the press, nor invade the right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, nor enact
laws respecting an establishment of religion. These are general
limitations. Congress cannot do these things _any where_. The exact
import, therefore, of the clause "in all cases whatsoever," is, _on all
subjects within the appropriate sphere of legislation_. Some
legislatures are restrained by constitutions, from the exercise of
powers strictly within the proper sphere of legislation. Congressional
power over the District has no such restraint. It traverses the whole
field of legitimate legislation. All the power which any legislature has
within its own jurisdiction, Congress holds over the District of

It has been objected that the clause in question respects merely police
regulations, and that its sole design was to enable Congress to protect
itself against popular tumults. But if the convention that framed the
Constitution aimed to provide for a _single_ case only, why did they
provide for "_all_ cases whatsoever?" Besides, this clause was opposed
in many of the state conventions, because the grant of power was
extended to "_all_ cases whatsoever," instead of being restricted to
police regulations _alone_. In the Virginia Convention, George Mason,
the father of the Virginia Constitution, Patrick Henry, Mr. Grayson, and
others, assailed it on that ground. Mr. Mason said, "This clause gives
an unlimited authority in every possible case within the District. He
would willingly give them exclusive power as far as respected the police
and good government of the place, but he would give them no more." Mr.
Grayson exclaimed against so large a grant of power--said that control
over the _police_ was all-sufficient, and "that the Continental Congress
never had an idea of exclusive legislation in all cases." Patrick Henry
said: "Shall we be told, when about to grant such illimitable authority,
that it will never be exercised? Is it consistent with any principle of
prudence or good policy, to grant _unlimited, unbounded authority_?" Mr.
Madison said in reply: "I did conceive that the clause under
consideration was one of those parts which would speak its own praise. I
cannot comprehend that the power of legislation over a small District,
will involve the dangers which he apprehends. When any power is given,
it's delegation necessarily involves authority to make laws to execute
it. * * * * The powers which are found necessary to be given, are
therefore delegated _generally_, and particular and minute specification
is left to the Legislature. * * * It is not within the limits of human
capacity to delineate on paper all those particular cases and
circumstances, in which legislation by the general legislature, would be
necessary." Governor Randolph said: "Holland has no ten miles square,
but she has the Hague where the deputies of the States assemble. But the
influence which it has given the province of Holland, to have the seat
of government within its territory, subject in some respects to its
control, has been injurious to the other provinces. The wisdom of the
convention is therefore manifest in granting to Congress exclusive
jurisdiction over the place of their session." (_See debates in the
Virginia Convention_, p. 320.) In the forty-third number of the
"Federalist," Mr. Madison says: "The indispensable necessity of
_complete_ authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence
with it."

Finally, that the grant in question is to be interpreted according to
the obvious import of its _terms_, and not in such a way as to restrict
it to _police_ regulations, is proved by the fact, that the State of
Virginia proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution at the
time of its adoption, providing that this clause "should be so construed
as to give power only over the _police and good government_ of said
District," _which amendment was rejected_. Fourteen other amendments,
proposed at the same time by Virginia, were _adopted_.

The former part, of the clause under consideration, "Congress shall have
power to exercise _exclusive_ legislation," gives sole jurisdiction, and
the latter part, "in all cases whatsoever," defines the _extent_ of it.
Since, then, Congress is the _sole_ legislature within the District, and
since its power is limited only by the checks common to all
legislatures, it follows that what the law-making power is intrinsically
competent to do _any_ where, Congress is competent to do in the District
of Columbia.


Having disposed of preliminaries, we proceed to argue the _real
question_ at issue. Is the law-making power competent to abolish slavery
when not restricted in that particular by constitutional provisions--or,
_Is the abolition of slavery within the appropriate sphere of

In every government, absolute sovereignty exists _somewhere_. In the
United States it exists primarily with the _people_, and _ultimate_
sovereignty _always_ exists with them. In each of the States, the
legislature possesses a _representative_ sovereignty, delegated by the
people through the Constitution--the people thus committing to the
legislature a portion of their sovereignty, and specifying in their
constitutions the amount and the conditions of the grant. That the
_people_ in any state where slavery exists, have the power to abolish
it, none will deny. If the legislature have not the power, it is because
_the people_ have reserved it to themselves. Had they lodged with the
legislature "power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases
whatsoever," they would have parted with their sovereignty over the
legislation of the State, and so far forth the legislature would have
become _the people_, clothed with all their functions, and as such
competent, _during the continuance of the grant_, to do whatever the
people might have done before the surrender of their power:
consequently, they would have the power to abolish slavery. The
sovereignty of the District of Columbia exists _somewhere_--where is it
lodged? The citizens of the District have no legislature of their own,
no representation in Congress, and no political power whatever. Maryland
and Virginia have surrendered to the United States their "full and
absolute right and entire sovereignty," and the people of the United
States have committed to Congress by the Constitution, the power to
"exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such

Thus, the sovereignty of the District of Columbia, is shown to reside
solely in the Congress of the United States; and since the power of the
people of a state to abolish slavery within their own limits, results
from their entire sovereignty within the state, so the power of Congress
to abolish slavery in the District, results from its entire
_sovereignty_ within the District. If it be objected that Congress can
have no more power over the District, than was held by the legislatures
of Maryland and Virginia, we ask what clause in the constitution
graduates the power of Congress by the standard of a state legislature?
Was the United States constitution worked into its present shape under
the measuring line and square of Virginia and Maryland? and is its power
to be bevelled down till it can run in the grooves of state legislation?
There is a deal of prating about constitutional power over the District,
as though Congress were indebted for it to Maryland and Virginia. The
powers of those states, whether few or many, prodigies or nullities,
have nothing to do with the question. As well thrust in the powers of
the Grand Lama to join issue upon, or twist papal bulls into
constitutional tether, with which to curb congressional action. The
Constitution of the United States gives power to Congress, and takes it
away, and _it alone_. Maryland and Virginia adopted the Constitution
_before_ they ceded to the united States the territory of the District.
By their acts of cession, they abdicated their own sovereignty over the
District, and thus made room for that provided by the United States
constitution, which sovereignty was to commence as soon as a cession of
territory by states, and its acceptance by Congress furnished a sphere
for its exercise.

That the abolition of slavery is within the sphere of legislation, I
argue, _secondly_, from the fact, that _slavery as a legal system, is
the creature of legislation_. The law by _creating_ slavery, not only
affirmed its _existence_ to be within the sphere and under the control
of legislation, but equally, the _conditions_ and _terms_ of its
existence, and the _question_ whether or not it _should_ exist. Of
course legislation would not travel _out_ of its sphere, in abolishing
what is _within_ it, and what was recognised to be within it, by its own
act. Cannot legislatures repeal their own laws? If law can take from a
man his rights, it can give them back again. If it can say, "your body
belongs to your neighbor," it can say, "it belongs to _yourself_, and I
will sustain your right." If it can annul a man's right to himself, held
by express grant from his Maker, and can create for another an
artificial title to him, can it not annul the artificial title, and
leave the original owner to hold himself by his original title?

3. _The abolition of slavery has always been considered within the
appropriate sphere of legislation_. Almost every civilized nation has
abolished slavery by law. The history of legislation since the revival
of letters, is a record crowded with testimony to the universally
admitted competency of the law-making power to abolish slavery. It is so
manifestly an attribute not merely of absolute sovereignty, but even of
ordinary legislation, that the competency of a legislature to exercise
it, may well nigh be reckoned among the legal axioms of the civilized
world. Even the night of the dark ages was not dark enough to make this

The Abolition decree of the great council of England was passed in 1102.
The memorable Irish decree, "that all the English slaves in the whole of
Ireland, be immediately emancipated and restored to their former
liberty," was issued in 1171. Slavery in England was abolished by a
general charter of emancipation in 1381. Passing over many instances of
the abolition of slavery by law, both during the middle ages and since
the reformation, we find them multiplying as we approach our own times.
In 1776 slavery was abolished in Prussia by special edict. In St.
Domingo, Cayenne, Guadaloupe and Martinique, in 1794, where more than
600,000 slaves were emancipated by the French government. In Java, 1811;
in Ceylon, 1815; in Buenos Ayres, 1816; in St. Helena, 1819; in
Colombia, 1821; by the Congress of Chili in 1821; in Cape Colony, 1823;
in Malacca, 1825; in the southern provinces of Birmah, in 1826; in
Bolivia, 1826; in Peru, Guatemala, and Monte Video, 1828, in Jamaica,
Barbadoes, Bermudas, Bahamas, the Mauritius, St. Christopher's, Nevis,
the Virgin Islands, Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Vincents,
Grenada, Berbice, Tobago, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Honduras, Demarara, and
the Cape of Good Hope, on the 1st of August, 1834. But waving details,
suffice it to say, that England, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden,
Denmark, Austria, Prussia, and Germany, have all and often given their
testimony to the competency of the law to abolish slavery. In our own
country, the Legislature of Pennsylvania passed an act of abolition in
1780, Connecticut, in 1784; Rhode Island, 1784; New-York, 1799;
New-Jersey, in 1804; Vermont, by Constitution, in 1777; Massachusetts,
in 1780; and New Hampshire, in 1784.

When the competency of the law-making power to abolish slavery, has thus
been recognised every where and for ages, when it has been embodied in
the highest precedents, and celebrated in the thousand jubilees of
regenerated liberty, is it forsooth an achievement of modern discovery,
that such a power is a nullity?--that all these acts of abolition are
void, and that the millions disenthralled by them, are, either
themselves or their posterity, still legally in bondage?

4. _Legislative power has abolished slavery in its parts_. The law of
South Carolina prohibits the working of slaves more than fifteen hours
in the twenty-four. [_See__Brevard's Digest_, 253.] In other words, it
takes from the slaveholder his power over nine hours of the slave's time
daily; and if it can take nine hours it may take twenty-four--if
two-fifths, then five-fifths. The laws of Georgia prohibit the working
of slaves on the first day of the week; and if they can do it for the
first, they can for the six following. Laws embodying the same principle
have existed for ages in nearly all governments that have tolerated

The law of North Carolina prohibits the "immoderate" correction of
slaves. If it has power to prohibit _immoderate_ correction, it can
prohibit _moderate_ correction--_all_ correction, which would be virtual
emancipation; for, take from the master the power to inflict pain, and
he is master no longer. Cease to ply the slave with the stimulus of
fear, and he is free. Laws similar to this exist in slaveholding
governments generally.

The Constitution of Mississippi gives the General Assembly power to make
laws "to oblige the owners of slaves to _treat them with humanity_." The
Constitution of Missouri has the same clause, and an additional one
making it the DUTY of the legislature to pass such laws as may be
necessary to secure the _humane_ treatment of the slaves. This grant of
power to those legislatures empowers them to decide what _is_ and what
is _not_ "humane treatment." Otherwise it gives no "power"--the clause
is mere waste paper, and flouts in the face of a mocked and befooled
legislature. A clause giving power to require "humane treatment" covers
all the _particulars_ of such treatment--gives power to exact it in all
_respects--requiring_ certain acts, and _prohibiting_ others--maiming,
branding, chaining together, allowing each but a quart of corn a day,[A]
and but "one shirt and one pair of pantaloons" in six
months[B]--separating families, destroying marriages, floggings for
learning the alphabet and reading the Bible--robbing them of their oath,
of jury trial, and of the right to worship God according to
conscience--the legislature has power to specify each of these
acts--declare that it is not "_humane_ treatment," and PROHIBIT it.--The
legislature may also believe that driving men and women into the field,
and forcing them to work without pay as long as they live, is not
"humane treatment," and being constitutionally bound "to _oblige_"
masters to practise "humane treatment"--they have the _power_ to
_prohibit such_ treatment, and are bound to do it.

[Footnote A: Law of North Carolina, Haywood's Manual, 524-5.]

[Footnote B: Law of Louisiana, Martin's Digest, 610.]

The law of Louisiana makes slaves real estate, prohibiting the holder,
if he be also a _land_ holder, to separate them from the soil.[C] If it
has power to prohibit the sale _without_ the soil, it can prohibit the
sale _with_ it; and if it can prohibit the _sale_ as property, it can
prohibit the _holding_ as property. Similar laws exist in the French,
Spanish, and Portuguese colonies.

[Footnote C: Virginia made slaves real estate by a law passed in 1705.
(_Beverly's Hist. of Va._, p. 98.) I do not find the precise time when
this law was repealed, probably when Virginia became the chief slave
breeder for the cotton-growing and sugar-planting country, and made
young men and women "from fifteen to twenty-five" the main staple
production of the State.]

The law of Louisiana requires the master to give his slaves a certain
amount of food and clothing, (_Martin's Digest_, 610.) If it can oblige
the master to give the slave _one_ thing, it can oblige him to give him
another: if food and clothing, then wages, liberty, his own body. Such
laws exist in most slaveholding governments.

By the slave laws of Connecticut, under which slaves are now held, (for
even Connecticut is still a slave State,) slaves might receive and hold
property, and prosecute suits in their own name as plaintiffs: [This
last was also the law of Virginia in 1795. See Tucker's "Dissertation on
Slavery," p. 73.] There were also laws making marriage contracts legal,
in certain contingencies, and punishing infringements of them,
["_Reeve's Law of Baron and Femme_," p. 310-1.] Each of the laws
enumerated above, does, _in principle_, abolish slavery; and all of them
together abolish it _in fact_. True, not as a _whole_, and at a
_stroke_, nor all in one place; but in its _parts_, by piecemeal, at
divers times and places; thus showing that the abolition of slavery is
within the boundary of _legislation_.

5._The competency of the law-making power to abolish slavery has been
recognized by all the slaveholding States, either directly or by
implication_. Some States recognize it in their _Constitutions_, by
giving the legislature power to emancipate such slaves as may "have
rendered the state some distinguished service," and others by express
prohibitory restrictions. The Constitutions of Mississippi, Arkansas,
and other States, restrict the power of the legislature in this respect.
Why this express prohibition, if the law-making power cannot abolish
slavery? A stately farce, indeed, formally to construct a special
clause, and with appropriate rites induct it into the Constitution, for
the express purpose of restricting a nonentity!--to take from the
lawmaking power what it _never had_, and what _cannot_ pertain to it!
The legislatures of those States have no power to abolish slavery,
simply because their Constitutions have expressly _taken away_ that
power. The people of Arkansas, Mississippi, &c., well knew the
competency of the law-making power to abolish slavery, and hence their
zeal to _restrict_ it. The fact that these and other States have
inhibited their legislatures from the exercise of this power, shows that
the abolition of slavery is acknowledged to be a proper subject of
legislation, when Constitutions impose no restrictions.

The slaveholding States have recognised this power in their _laws_. The
Virginia Legislature passed a law in 1786 to prevent the further
importation of Slaves, of which the following is an extract: "And be it
further enacted that every slave imported into this commonwealth
contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, shall upon such
importation become _free_." By a law of Virginia, passed Dec. 17, 1792,
a slave brought into the state and kept _there a year_, was _free_. The
Maryland Court of Appeals at the December term 1813 (see case of Stewart
_vs._ Oakes,) decided that a slave owned in Maryland, and sent by his
master into Virginia to work at different periods, making one year in
the whole, became _free_, being _emancipated_ by the law of Virginia
quoted above. North Carolina and Georgia in their acts of cession,
transferring to the United States the territory now constituting the
States of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, made it a condition of the
grant, that the provisions of the ordinance of '87, should be secured to
the inhabitants _with the exception of the sixth article which prohibits
slavery_; thus conceding, both the competency of law to abolish slavery,
and the power of Congress to do it, within its jurisdiction. Besides,
these acts show the prevalent belief at that time, in the slaveholding
States, that the general government had adopted a line of policy aiming
at the exclusion of slavery from the entire territory of the United
States, not included within the original States, and that this policy
would be pursued unless prevented by specific and formal stipulation.

Slaveholding states have asserted this power _in their judicial
decisions._ In numerous cases their highest courts have decided that if
the legal owner of slaves takes them into those States where slavery has
been abolished either by law or by the constitution, such removal
emancipates them, such law or constitution abolishing their slavery.
This principle is asserted in the decision of the Supreme Court of
Louisiana, in the case of Lunsford _vs._ Coquillon, 14 Martin's La.
Reps. 401. Also by the Supreme Court of Virginia, in the case of Hunter
_vs._ Fulcher, 1 Leigh's Reps. 172. The same doctrine was laid down by
Judge Washington, of the United States Supreme Court, in the case of
Butler _vs._ Hopper, Washington's Circuit Court Reps. 508. This
principle was also decided by the Court of Appeals in Kentucky; case of
Rankin _vs._ Lydia, 2 Marshall's Reps. 407; see also, Wilson _vs._
Isbell, 5 Call's Reps. 425, Spotts _vs._ Gillespie, 6 Randolph's Reps.
566. The State _vs._ Lasselle, 1 Blackford's Reps. 60, Marie Louise
_vs._ Mariot, 8 La. Reps. 475. In this case, which was tried in 1836,
the slave had been taken by her master to France and brought back; Judge
Mathews, of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, decided that "residence for
one moment" under the laws of France emancipated her.

6. _Eminent statesmen, themselves slaveholders, have conceded this
power_. Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris, dated April 12, 1786,
says: "There is not a man living, who wishes more sincerely than I do,
to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery; but there is only
one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that
is by _legislative_ authority." In a letter to Lafayette, dated May 10,
1786, he says: "It (the abolition of slavery) certainly might, and
assuredly ought to be effected, and that too by _legislative_
authority." In a letter to John Fenton Mercer, dated Sept. 9, 1786, he
says: "It is among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which
slavery in this country may be abolished by _law_." In a letter to Sir
John Sinclair, he says: "There are in Pennsylvania, _laws_ for the
gradual abolition of slavery, which neither Maryland nor Virginia have
at present, but which nothing is more certain that that they _must
have_, and at a period not remote." Speaking of movements in the
Virginia Legislature in 1777, for the passage of a law emancipating the
slaves, Mr. Jefferson says: "The principles of the amendment were agreed
on, that is to say, the freedom of all born after a certain day; but it
was found that the public mind would not bear the proposition, yet the
day is not far distant, when _it must bear and adopt it_."--Jefferson's
Memoirs, v. 1, p. 35. It is well known that Jefferson, Pendleton, Mason,
Wythe and Lee, while acting as a committee of the Virginia House of
Delegates to revise the State Laws, prepared a plan for the gradual
emancipation of the slaves by law. These men were the great lights of
Virginia. Mason, the author of the Virginia Constitution; Pendleton, the
President of the memorable Virginia Convention in 1787, and President of
the Virginia Court of Appeals; Wythe was the Blackstone of the Virginia
bench, for a quarter of a century Chancellor of the State, the professor
of law in the University of William and Mary, and the preceptor of
Jefferson, Madison, and Chief Justice Marshall. He was author of the
celebrated remonstrance to the English House of Commons on the subject
of the stamp act. As to Jefferson, his _name_ is his biography.

Every slaveholding member of Congress from the States of Maryland,
Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, voted for the
celebrated ordinance of 1787, which _abolished_ the slavery then
existing in the Northwest Territory. Patrick Henry, in his well known
letter to Robert Pleasants, of Virginia, January 18, 1773, says: "I
believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to
_abolish_ this lamentable evil." William Pinkney, of Maryland, advocated
the abolition of slavery by law, in the legislature of that State, in
1789. Luther Martin urged the same measure both in the Federal
Convention, and in his report to the Legislature of Maryland. In 1796,
St. George Tucker, professor of law in the University of William and
Mary, and Judge of the General Court, published an elaborate
dissertation on slavery, addressed to the General Assembly of the State,
and urging upon them the abolition of slavery by _law_.

John Jay, while New-York was yet a slave State, and himself in law a
slaveholder, said in a letter from Spain, in 1786, "An excellent law
might be made out of the Pennsylvania one, for the gradual abolition of
slavery. Were I in your legislature, I would present a bill for the
purpose, drawn up with great care, and I would never cease moving it
till it became a law, or I ceased to be a member."

Daniel D. Tompkins, in a message to the Legislature of New-York, January
8, 1812, said: "To devise the means for the gradual and ultimate
_extermination_ from amongst us of slavery, is work worthy the
representatives of a polished and enlightened nation."

The Virginia Legislature asserted this power in 1832. At the close of a
month's debate, the following proceedings were had. I extract from an
editorial article of the Richmond Whig, of January 26, 1832.

"The report of the Select Committee, adverse to legislation on the
subject of Abolition, was in these words: _Resolved_, as the opinion of
this Committee, that it is INEXPEDIENT FOR THE PRESENT, to make any
legislative enactments for the abolition of Slavery." This Report Mr.
Preston moved to reverse, and thus to declare that it _was_ expedient,
_now_ to make Legislative enactments for the abolition of slavery. This
was meeting the question in its strongest form. It demanded action, and
immediate action. On this proposition the vote was 58 to 73. Many of the
most decided friends of abolition voted against the amendment; because
they thought public opinion not sufficiently prepared for it, and that
it might prejudice the cause to move too rapidly. The vote on Mr.
Witcher's motion to postpone the whole subject indefinitely, indicates
the true state of opinion in the House.--That was the test question, and
was so intended and proclaimed by its mover. That motion was
_negatived_, 71 to 60; showing a majority of 11, who by that vote,
declared their belief that "at the proper time, and in the proper mode,
Virginia ought to commence a system of gradual abolition."

8. _The Congress of the United States have asserted this power_. The
ordinance of '87, declaring that there should be "neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude," in the North Western territory, abolished the
slavery then existing there. The Supreme Court of Mississippi, in its
decision in the case of Harvey _vs._ Decker, Walker's Mi. Reps. 36,
declared that the ordinance emancipated the slaves then held there. In
this decision the question is argued ably and at great length. The
Supreme Court of Louisiana made the same decision in the case of Forsyth
_vs._ Nash, 4 Martin's La. Reps 385. The same doctrine was laid down by
Judge Porter, (late United States Senator from Louisiana,) in his
decision at the March term of the La. Supreme Court, 1830, in the case
of Merry _vs._ Chexnaider, 20 Martin's Reps. 699.

That the ordinance abolished the slavery then existing, is also shown by
the fact, that persons holding slaves in the territory petitioned for
the repeal of the article abolishing slavery, assigning that as a
reason. "The petition of the citizens of Randolph and St. Clair counties
in the Illinois country, stating that they were in possession of slaves,
and praying the repeal of that act (the 6th article of the ordinance of
'87) and the passage of a law legalizing slavery there." [Am. State
papers, Public Lands, v. 1. p. 69,] Congress passed this ordinance
before the United States Constitution was adopted, when it derived all
its authority from the articles of Confederation, which conferred powers
of legislation far more restricted than those conferred on Congress over
the District and Territories by the United States Constitution. Now, we
ask, how does the Constitution _abridge_ the powers which Congress
possessed under the articles of confederation?

The abolition of the slave trade by Congress, in 1808, is another
illustration of the competency of legislative power to abolish slavery.
The African slave trade has become such a mere _technic_, in common
parlance, that the fact of its being _proper slavery_ is overlooked. The
buying and selling, the transportation, and the horrors of the middle
passage, were mere _incidents_ of the slavery in which the victims were
held. Let things be called by their own names. When Congress abolished
the African slave trade, it abolished SLAVERY--supreme slavery--power
frantic with license, trampling a whole hemisphere scathed with its
fires, and running down with blood. True, Congress did not, in the
abolition of the slave trade, abolish _all_ the slavery within its
jurisdiction, but it did abolish all the slavery in _one part_ of its
jurisdiction. What has rifled it of power to abolish slavery in
_another_ part of its jurisdiction, especially in that part where it has
"exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever?"

9. _The Constitution of the United States recognizes this power by the
most conclusive implication_. In Art. 1, sec. 3, clause 1, it prohibits
the abolition of the slave trade previous to 1808: thus implying the
power of Congress to do it at once, but for the restriction; and its
power to do it _unconditionally_, when that restriction ceased. Again:
In Art. 4, sec. 2, "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 said service or
labor." This clause was inserted, as all admit, to prevent the runaway
slave from being emancipated by the _laws_ of the free states. If these
laws had _no power_ to emancipate, why this constitutional guard to
prevent it?

The insertion of the clause, was the testimony of the eminent jurists
that framed the Constitution, to the existence of the _power_, and their
public proclamation, that the abolition of slavery was within the
appropriate sphere of legislation. The right of the owner to that which
is rightfully property, is founded on a principle of _universal law_,
and is recognised and protected by all civilized nations; property in
slaves is, by general consent, an _exception_; hence slaveholders
insisted upon the insertion of this clause in the United States
Constitution that they might secure by an _express provision_, that from
which protection is withheld, by the acknowledged principles of
universal law.[A] By demanding this provision, slaveholders consented
that their slaves should not be recognised as property by the United
States Constitution, and hence they found their claim, on the fact of
their being "_persons_, and _held_ to service."

[Footnote A: The fact, that under the articles of Confederation,
slaveholders, whose slaves had escaped into free states, had no legal
power to force them back,--that _now_ they have no power to recover, by
process of law, their slaves who escape to Canada, the South American
States, or to Europe--the case already cited in which the Supreme Court
of Louisiana decided, that residence "_for one moment_," under the laws
of France emancipated an American slave--the case of Fulton, _vs._
Lewis, 3 Har. and John's Reps., 56, where the slave of a St. Domingo
slaveholder, who brought him to Maryland in '93, was pronounced free by
the Maryland Court of Appeals--these, with other facts and cases "too
numerous to mention," are illustrations of the acknowledged truth here
asserted, that by the consent of the civilized world, and on the
principles of universal law, slaves are not "_property_," but
_self-proprietors_, and that whenever held as property under _law_, it
is only by _positive legislative acts_, forcibly setting aside the law
of nature, the common law, and the principles of universal justice and
right between man and man,--principles paramount to all law, and from
which alone law derives its intrinsic authoritative sanction.]

But waiving all concessions, whether of constitutions, laws, judicial
decisions, or common consent, I take the position that the power of
Congress to abolish slavery in the District, follows from the fact, that
as the sole legislature there, it has unquestionable power _to adopt the
Common Law, as the legal system within its exclusive jurisdiction_. This
has been done, with certain restrictions, in most of the States, either
by legislative acts or by constitutional implication. THE COMMON LAW
KNOWS NO SLAVES. Its principles annihilate slavery wherever they touch
it. It is a universal, unconditional, abolition act. Wherever slavery is
a legal system, it is so only by _statute_ law, and in violation of
common law. The declaration of Lord Chief Justice Holt, that "by the
common law, no man can have property in another," is an acknowledged
axiom, and based upon the well known common law definition of property.
"The subjects of dominion or property are _things_, as
contra-distinguished from _persons_." Let Congress adopt the common law
in the District of Columbia, and slavery there is at once abolished.
Congress may well be at home in common law legislation, for the common
law is the grand element of the United States Constitution. All its
_fundamental_ provisions are instinct with its spirit; and its
existence, principles and paramount authority, are presupposed and
assumed throughout the whole. The preamble of the Constitution plants
the standard of the Common Law immovably in its foreground. "We, the
people of the United States, in order to ESTABLISH JUSTICE, &c., do
ordain and establish this Constitution;" thus proclaiming _devotion to
justice_, as the controlling motive in the organization of the
Government, and its secure establishment the chief object of its aims.
By this most solemn recognition, the common law, that grand legal
embodiment of "_justice_" and fundamental right was made the groundwork
of the Constitution, and intrenched behind its strongest munitions. The
second clause of Sec. 9, Art. 1; Sec. 4, Art. 2, and the last clause of
Sec. 2, Art. 3, with Articles 7, 8, 9, and 13 of the Amendments, are
also express recognitions of the common law as the presiding Genius of
the Constitution.

By adopting the common law within its exclusive jurisdiction Congress
would carry out the principles of our glorious Declaration, and follow
the highest precedents in our national history and jurisprudence. It is
a political maxim as old as civil legislation, that laws should be
strictly homogeneous with the principles of the government whose will
they express, embodying and carrying them out--being indeed the
_principles themselves_, in preceptive form--representatives alike of
the nature and the power of the Government--standing illustrations of
its genius and spirit, while they proclaim and enforce its authority.
Who needs be told that slavery is in antagonism to the principles of the
Declaration, and the spirit of the Constitution, and that these and the
principles of the common law gravitate toward each other with
irrepressible affinities, and mingle into one? The common law came
hither with our pilgrim fathers; it was their birthright, their panoply,
their glory, and their song of rejoicing in the house of their
pilgrimage. It covered them in the day of their calamity, and their
trust was under the shadow of its wings. From the first settlement of
the country, the genius of our institutions and our national spirit have
claimed it as a common possession, and exulted in it with a common
pride. A century ago, Governor Pownall, one of the most eminent
constitutional jurists of colonial times, said of the common law, "In
all the colonies the common law is received as the foundation and main
body of their law." In the Declaration of Rights, made by the
Continental Congress at its first session in '74, there was the
following resolution: "Resolved, That the respective colonies are
entitled to the common law of England, and especially to the great and
inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage
according to the course of that law." Soon after the organization of the
general government, Chief Justice Ellsworth, in one of his decisions on
the bench of the United States Supreme Court, said: "The common law of
this country remains the same as it was before the revolution." Chief
Justice Marshall, in his decision in the case of Livingston _vs._
Jefferson, said: "When our ancestors migrated to America, they brought
with them the common law of their native country, so far as it was
applicable to their new situation and I do not conceive that the
revolution in any degree changed the relations of man to man, or the law
which regulates them. In breaking our political connection with the
parent state, we did not break our connection with each other."
[_See__Hall's Law Journal, new series._] Mr. Duponceau, in his
"Dissertation on the Jurisdiction of Courts in the United States," says,
"I consider the common law of England the _jus commune_ of the United
States. I think I can lay it down as a correct principle, that the
common law of England, as it was at the time of the declaration of
Independence, still continues to be the national law of this country, so
far as it is applicable to our present state, and subject to the
modifications it has received here in the course of nearly half a
century." Chief Justice Taylor of North Carolina, in his decision in the
case of the State _vs._ Reed, in 1823, Hawkes' N.C. Reps. 454, says, "a
law of _paramount obligation to the statute_ was violated by the
offence--COMMON LAW, founded upon the law of nature, and confirmed by
revelation." The legislation of the United States abounds in
recognitions of the principles of the common law, asserting their
paramount binding power. Sparing details, of which our national state
papers are full, we illustrate by a single instance. It was made a
condition of the admission of Louisiana into the Union, that the right
of trial by jury should be secured to all her citizens,--the United
States government thus employing its power to enlarge the jurisdiction
of the common law in this its great representative.

Having shown that the abolition of slavery is within the competency of
the law-making power, when unrestricted by constitutional provisions,
and that the legislation of Congress over the District _is_ thus
unrestricted, its power to abolish slavery there is established.

Besides this general ground, the power of Congress to abolish slavery in
the District may be based upon another equally tenable. We argue it from
the fact, that slavery exists there _now_ by an act of Congress. In the
act of 16th July, 1790, Congress accepted portions of territory offered
by the states of Maryland and Virginia, and enacted that the laws, as
they then were, should continue in force, "until Congress shall
otherwise by law provide;" thus making the slave codes of Maryland and
Virginia its own. Under these laws, adopted by Congress, and in effect
re-enacted and made laws of the District, the slaves there are now held.

Is Congress so impotent in its own "exclusive jurisdiction" that it
_cannot_ "otherwise by law provide?" If it can say, what _shall_ be
considered property, it can say what shall _not_ be considered property.
Suppose a legislature enacts, that marriage contracts shall be mere
bills of sale, making a husband the proprietor of his wife, as his _bona
fide_ property; and suppose husbands should herd their wives in droves
for the market as beasts of burden, or for the brothel as victims of
lust, and then prate about their inviolable legal property, and deny the
power of the legislature, which stamped them property, to undo its own
wrong, and secure to wives by law the rights of human beings. Would such
cant about "legal rights" be heeded where reason and justice held sway,
and where law, based upon fundamental morality, received homage? If a
frantic legislature pronounces woman a chattel, has it no power, with
returning reason, to take back the blasphemy? Is the impious edict
irrepealable? Be it, that with legal forms it has stamped wives "wares."
Can no legislation blot out the brand? Must the handwriting of Deity on
human nature be expunged for ever? Has law no power to stay the erasing
pen, and tear off the scrawled label that covers up the IMAGE OF GOD? We
now proceed to show that


1. It has been assumed by Congress itself. The following record stands
on the journals of the House of Representatives for 1804, p. 225: "On
motion made and seconded that the House do come to the following
resolution: 'Resolved, That from and after the 4th day of July, 1805,
all blacks and people of color that shall be born within the District of
Columbia, or whose mothers shall be the property of any person residing
within said District, shall be free, the males at the age of ----, and
the females at the age of ----. The main question being taken that the
House do agree to said motion as originally proposed, it was negatived
by a majority of 46.'" Though the motion was lost, it was on the ground
of its alleged _inexpediency_ alone, and not because Congress lacked the
constitutional power. In the debate which preceded the vote, the _power_
of Congress was conceded. In March, 1816, the House of Representatives
passed the following resolution:--"Resolved, That a committee be
appointed to inquire into the existence of an inhuman and illegal
traffic in slaves, carried on in and through the District of Columbia,
and to report whether any and what measures are necessary for _putting a
stop to the same_."

On the 9th of January, 1829, the House of Representatives passed the
following resolution by a vote of 114 to 66: "Resolved, That the
Committee on the District of Columbia be instructed to inquire into the
_expediency_ of providing by _law_ for the gradual abolition of slavery
within the District, in such manner that the interests of no individual
shall be injured thereby." Among those who voted in the affirmative were
Messrs. Barney of Md., Armstrong of Va., A.H. Shepperd of N.C., Blair of
Tenn., Chilton and Lyon of Ky., Johns of Delaware, and others from slave

2. It has been conceded directly, or impliedly, by all the committees on
the District of Columbia that have reported on the subject. In a report
of the committee on the District, Jan. 11, 1837, by their chairman, Mr.
Powell of Virginia, there is the following declaration "The Congress of
the United States, has by the constitution exclusive jurisdiction over
the District, and has power upon this subject, (_slavery_) as upon all
other subjects of legislation, to exercise _unlimited discretion_."
Reps. of Comms. 2d Session, 19th Cong. v. I. No. 43. In February, 1829,
the committee on the District, Mr. Alexander of Virginia, Chairman, in
their report pursuant to Mr. Miner's resolutions, recognize a contingent
abolition proceeding upon the consent of the people. In December, 1831,
the committee on the District, Mr. Doddridge of Virginia, Chairman,
reported, "That until the adjoining states act on the subject (slavery)
it would be (not _unconstitutional_ but) unwise and impolitic, if not
unjust, for Congress to interfere." In April, 1836, a special committee
on abolition memorials reported the following resolutions by their
Chairman, Mr. Pinckney of South Carolina: "Resolved, that Congress
possesses no constitutional authority to interfere in any way with the
institution of slavery in any of the states of this confederacy."

"Resolved, That Congress _ought not to interfere_ in any way with
slavery in the District of Columbia." "Ought not to interfere,"
carefully avoiding the phraseology of the first resolution, and thus in
effect conceding the constitutional power. In a widely circulated
"Address to the electors of the Charleston District," Mr. Pinckney is
thus denounced by his own constituents: "He has proposed a resolution
which is received by the plain common sense of the whole country as a
concession that Congress has authority to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia."

3. It has been conceded by the _citizens of the District_. A petition
for the gradual abolition of slavery in the District, signed by nearly
eleven hundred of its citizens, was presented to Congress, March 24,
1837. Among the signers to this petition, were Chief Justice Cranch,
Judge Van Ness, Judge Morsel, Prof. J.M. Staughton, Rev. Dr. Balch, Rev.
Dr. Keith, John M. Munroe, and a large number of the most influential
inhabitants of the District. Mr. Dickson, of New York, asserted on the
floor of Congress in 1835, that the signers of this petition owned more
than half of the property in the District. The accuracy of this
statement has never been questioned.

This power has been conceded by _grand juries of the District_. The
grand jury of the county of Alexandria, at the March term 1802,
presented the domestic slave trade as a grievance, and said, "We
consider these grievances demanding _legislative_ redress." Jan. 19,
1829, Mr. Alexander, of Virginia, presented a representation of the
grand jury in the city of Washington, remonstrating against "any measure
for the abolition of slavery within said District, unless accompanied by
measures for the removal of the emancipated from the same;" thus, not
only conceding the power to emancipate slaves, but affirming an
additional power, that of _excluding them when free_. See Journal H.R.
1828-9, p. 174.

4. This power has been conceded _by State Legislatures_. In 1828 the
Legislature of Pennsylvania instructed their Senators in Congress "to
procure, if practicable, the passage of a law to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia." Jan. 28, 1829, the House of Assembly of New York
passed a resolution, that their "Senators in Congress be instructed to
make every possible exertion to effect the passage of a law for the
abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia." In February, 1837,
the Senate of Massachusetts "Resolved, That Congress having exclusive
legislation in the District of Columbia, possess the right to abolish
slavery and the slave trade therein, and that the early exercise of such
right is demanded by the enlightened sentiment of the civilized world,
by the principles of the revolution, and by humanity." The House of
Representatives passed the following resolution at the same session:
"Resolved, That Congress having exclusive legislation in the District of
Columbia, possess the right to abolish slavery in said District, and
that its exercise should only be restrained by a regard to the public

November 1, 1837, the Legislature of Vermont, "Resolved, that Congress
have the full power by the constitution to abolish slavery and the slave
trade in the District of Columbia, and in the territories." The
Legislature of Vermont passed in substance the same resolution, at its
session in 1836.

May 30, 1836, a committee of the Pennsylvania Legislature reported the
following resolution: "Resolved, That Congress does possess the
constitutional power, and it is expedient to abolish slavery and the
slave trade within the District of Columbia."

In January, 1836, the Legislature of South Carolina "Resolved, That we
should consider the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia as
a violation of the rights of the citizens of that District derived from
the _implied_ conditions on which that territory was ceded to the
General Government." Instead of denying the constitutional power, they
virtually admit its existence, by striving to smother it under an
_implication_. In February, 1836, the Legislature of North Carolina
"Resolved, That, although by the Constitution all legislative power over
the District of Columbia is vested in the Congress of the United States,
yet we would deprecate any legislative action on the part of that body
towards liberating the slaves of that District, as a breach of faith
towards those States by whom the territory was originally ceded, and
will regard such interference as the first step towards a general
emancipation of the slaves of the South." Here is a full concession of
the _power_, February 2, 1836, the Virginia Legislature passed
unanimously the following resolution: "Resolved, by the General Assembly
of Virginia, that the following article be proposed to the several
states of this Union, and to Congress, as an amendment of the
Constitution of the United States: 'The powers of Congress shall not be
so construed as to authorize the passage of any law for the emancipation
of slaves in the District of Columbia, without the consent of the
individual proprietors thereof, unless by the sanction of the
Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, and under such conditions as they
shall by law prescribe.'"

Fifty years after the formation of the United States constitution the
states are solemnly called upon by the Virginia Legislature, to amend
that instrument by a clause asserting that, in the grant to Congress of
"exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the District, the
"case" of slavery is not included!! What could have dictated such a
resolution but the conviction that the power to abolish slavery is an
irresistible interference from the constitution _as it is_. The fact
that the same legislature passed afterward a resolution, though by no
means unanimously, that Congress does not possess the power, abates not
a tittle of the testimony in the first resolution. March 23d, 1824, "Mr.
Brown presented the resolutions of the General Assembly of Ohio,
recommending to Congress the consideration of a system for the gradual
emancipation of persons of color held in servitude in the United
States." On the same day, "Mr. Noble, of Indiana, communicated a
resolution from the legislature of that state, respecting the gradual
emancipation of slaves within the United States." Journal of the United
States Senate, for 1824-5, p. 231.

The Ohio and Indiana resolutions, by taking for granted the _general_
power of Congress over the subject of slavery, do virtually assert its
_special_ power within its _exclusive_ jurisdiction.

5. The power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District, has been
conceded by bodies of citizens in the slave states. The petition of
eleven hundred citizens of the District of Columbia, in 1827, has been
already mentioned. "March 5, 1830, Mr. Washington presented a memorial
of inhabitants of the county of Frederick, in the state of Maryland,
praying that provision may be made for the gradual abolition of slavery
in the District of Columbia." Journal H.R. 1829-30, p. 358.

March 30, 1828. Mr. A.H. Shepperd, of North Carolina, presented a
memorial of citizens of that state, "praying Congress to take measures
fur the entire abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia."
Journal H.R. 1829-30, p. 379.

January 14, 1822. Mr. Rhea, of Tennessee, presented a memorial of
citizens of that state, praying "that provision may be made, whereby all
slaves which may hereafter be born in the District of Columbia, shall be
free at a certain period of their lives." Journal H.R. 1821-22, p. 142.

December 13, 1824. Mr. Saunders of North Carolina, presented a memorial
of citizens of that state, praying "that measures may be taken for the
gradual abolition of slavery in the United States." Journal H.R.
1824-25, p. 27.

December 16, 1828. "Mr. Barnard presented the memorial of the American
Convention for promoting the abolition of slavery, held in Baltimore,
praying that slavery may be abolished in the District of Columbia."
Journal U.S. Senate, 1828-29, p. 24.

6. Distinguished statesmen and jurists in the slaveholding states, have
conceded the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District. The
testimony of Messrs. Doddridge, Powell, and Alexander, of Virginia,
Chief Justice Cranch, and Judges Morsell and Van Ness, of the District,
has already been given. In the debate in Congress on the memorial of the
Society of Friends, in 1790, Mr. Madison, in speaking of the territories
of the United States, explicitly declared, from his own knowledge of the
views of the members of the convention that framed the constitution, as
well as from the obvious import of its terms, that in the territories
"Congress have certainly the power to regulate the subject of slavery."
Congress can have no more power over the territories than that of
"exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever," consequently, according
to Mr. Madison, "it has certainly the power to regulate the subject of
slavery in the" _District_. In March, 1816, John Randolph introduced a
resolution for putting a stop to the domestic slave trade within the
District. December 12, 1827, Mr. Barney, of Maryland, presented a
memorial for abolition in the District, and moved that it be printed.
Mr. McDuffie, of South Carolina, objected to the printing, but
"expressly admitted the right of Congress to grant to the people of the
District any measures which they might deem necessary to free themselves
from the deplorable evil."--(See letter of Mr. Claiborne, of
Mississippi, to his constituents, published in the Washington Globe, May
9, 1836.) The sentiments of Henry Clay on the subject are well known. In
a speech before the U.S. Senate, in 1836, he declared the power of
Congress to abolish slavery in the District "unquestionable." Messrs.
Blair, of Tennessee, Chilton, Lyon, and Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky,
A.H. Shepperd, of North Carolina, Messrs. Armstrong and Smyth, of
Virginia, Messrs. Dorsey, Archer, and Barney, of Maryland, and Johns, of
Delaware, with numerous others from slave states, have asserted the
power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District. In the speech of
Mr. Smyth, of Virginia, on the Missouri question, January 28, 1820, he
says on this point: "If the future freedom of the blacks is your real
object, and not a mere pretence, why do you not begin _here_? Within the
ten miles square, you have _undoubted power_ to exercise exclusive
legislation. _Produce a bill to emancipate the slaves in the District of
Columbia_, or, if you prefer it, to emancipate those born hereafter."

To this may be added the testimony of the present Vice President of the
United States, Hon. Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky. In a speech before
the United States' Senate, February 1, 1820, (National Intelligencer,
April 29, 1820,) he says: "Congress has the express power stipulated by
the Constitution, to exercise exclusive legislation over this District
of ten miles square. Here slavery is sanctioned by law. In the District
of Columbia, containing a population of 30,000 souls, and probably as
many slaves as the whole territory of Missouri, THE POWER OF PROVIDING
Mr. President, why all this sensibility--this commiseration--this
heart-rending sympathy for the slaves of Missouri, and this cold
insensibility, this eternal apathy, towards the slaves in the District
of Columbia?"

It is quite unnecessary to add, that the most distinguished northern
statesmen of both political parties, have always affirmed the power of
Congress to abolish slavery in the District. President Van Buren in his
letter of March 6, 1836, to a committee of gentlemen in North Carolina,
says, "I would not, from the light now before me, feel myself safe in
pronouncing that Congress does not possess the power of abolishing
slavery in the District of Columbia." This declaration of the President
is consistent with his avowed sentiments touching the Missouri question,
on which he coincided with such men as Daniel D. Tompkins, De Witt
Clinton, and others, whose names are a host.[A] It is consistent also,
with his recommendation in his late message on the 5th of last month, in
which, speaking of the District, he strongly urges upon Congress "a
thorough and careful revision of its local government," speaks of the
"entire dependence" of the people of the District "upon Congress,"
recommends that a "uniform system of local government" be adopted, and
adds, that "although it was selected as the seat of the General
Government, the site of its public edifices, the depository of its
archives, and the residence of officers intrusted with large amounts of
public property, and the management of public business, yet it never has
been subjected to, or received, that _special_ and _comprehensive_
legislation which these circumstances peculiarly demanded."

[Footnote A: Mr. Van Buren, when a member of the Senate of New-York,
voted for the following preamble and resolutions, which passed
unanimously:--Jan. 28th, 1820. "Whereas, the inhibiting the further
extension of slavery in the United States, is a subject of deep concern
to the people of this state: and whereas, we consider slavery as an evil
much to be deplored, and that _every constitutional barrier should be
interposed to prevent its further extension_: and that the constitution
of the United States _clearly gives congress the right_ to require new
states, not comprised within the original boundary of the United States,
to _make the prohibition of slavery_ a condition of their admission into
the Union: Therefore,

"Resolved, That our Senators be instructed, and our members of Congress
be requested, to oppose the admission as a state into the Union, of any
territory not comprised as aforesaid, without making _the prohibition of
slavery_ therein an indispensable condition of admission." ]

The tenor of Senator Tallmadge's speech on the right of petition, in the
last Congress, and of Mr. Webster's on the reception of abolition
memorials, may be taken as universal exponents of the sentiments of
northern statesmen as to the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia.

After presenting this array of evidence, _direct testimony_ to show that
the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District, has always
till recently been _universally conceded_, is perhaps quite superfluous.
We subjoin; however, the following:

The Vice-President of the United States in his speech on the Missouri
question, quoted above, after contending that the restriction of slavery
in Missouri would be unconstitutional, adds, "But I am at a loss to
conceive why gentlemen should arouse all their sympathies upon this
occasion, when they permit them to lie dormant upon the same subject, in
relation to other sections of country, in which THEIR POWER COULD NOT BE
QUESTIONED." Then follows immediately the assertion of congressional
power to abolish slavery in the District, as already quoted. In the
speech of Mr. Smyth, of Va., also quoted above, he declares the power of
Congress to abolish slavery in the District to be "UNDOUBTED."

Mr. Sutherland, of Pennsylvania, in a speech in the House of
Representatives, on the motion to print Mr. Pinckney's Report, is thus
reported in the Washington Globe, of May 9th, '36. "He replied to the
remark that the report conceded that Congress had a right to legislate
upon the subject in the District of Columbia, and said that SUCH A RIGHT

The American Quarterly Review, published at Philadelphia, with a large
circulation and list of contributors in the slave states, holds the
following language in the September No. 1833, p. 55: "Under this
'exclusive jurisdiction,' granted by the constitution, Congress has
power to abolish slavery and the slave trade in the District of
Columbia. It would hardly be necessary to state this as a distinct
proposition, had it not been occasionally questioned. The truth of the
assertion, however, is too obvious to admit of argument--and we believe

Finally--an explicit, and unexpected admission, that an "_over-whelming
majority_" of the _present_ Congress concede the power to abolish
slavery in the District, has just been made by a member of Congress from
South Carolina, in a letter published in the Charleston Mercury of Dec.
27, well known as the mouth-piece of Mr. Calhoun. The following is an

"The time has arrived when we must have new guarantees under the
constitution, or the union must be dissolved. _Our views of the
constitution are not those of the majority. An overwhelming majority
think that by the constitution, Congress may abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia--may abolish the slave trade between the States;
that is, it may prohibit their being carried out of the State in which
they are--and prohibit it in all the territories, Florida among them.
They think_, NOT WITHOUT STRONG REASONS, _that the power of Congress
extends to all of these subjects_."

In another letter, the same correspondent says:

"_The fact is, it is vain to attempt_, AS THE CONSTITUTION IS NOW, _to
keep the question of slavery out of the halls of Congress_,--until, by
some decisive action, WE COMPEL SILENCE, or _alter the constitution_,
agitation and insult is our eternal fate in the confederacy."


We now proceed to notice briefly the main arguments that have been
employed in Congress and elsewhere against the power of Congress to
abolish slavery in the District. One of the most plausible, is that "the
conditions on which Maryland and Virginia ceded the District to the
United States, would be violated, if Congress should abolish slavery
there." The reply to this is, that Congress had no power to _accept_ a
cession coupled with conditions restricting the power given it by the
constitution. Nothing short of a convention of the states, and an
alteration of the constitution, abridging its grant of power, could have
empowered Congress to accept a territory on any other conditions than
that of exercising "exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever,"
over it.

To show the futility of the objection, here follow the acts of cession.
The cession of Maryland was made in November, 1788, and is as follows:
"An act to cede to Congress a district of ten miles square in this state
for the seat of the government of the United States."

"Be it enacted, by the General Assembly of Maryland, that the
representatives of this state in the House of Representatives of the
Congress of the United States, appointed to assemble at New-York, on the
first Wednesday of March next, be, and they are hereby authorized and
required on the behalf of this state, to cede to the Congress of the
United States, any district in this state, not exceeding ten miles
square, which the Congress may fix upon, and accept for the seat of
government of the United States." Laws of Maryland, vol. 2, chap. 46.

The cession from Virginia was made by act of the Legislature of that
State on the 3d of December, 1788, in the following words:

"Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That a tract of country, not
exceeding ten miles square, or any lesser quantity, to be located within
the limits of the State, and in any part thereof, as Congress may, by
law, direct, shall be, and the same is hereby for ever ceded and
relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United States, in
full and absolute right, and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of soil, as
of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor and
effect of the eighth section of the first article of the government of
the constitution of the United States."

But were there no provisos to these acts? The Maryland act had _none_.
That part of the District therefore, which includes the cities of
Washington and Georgetown, can lay claim to nothing with which to ward
off the power of Congress. The Virginia act had this proviso: "Sect. 2.
Provided, that nothing herein contained, shall be construed to vest in
the United States any right of property in the _soil_, or to affect the
rights of individuals _therein_, otherwise than the same shall or may be
transferred by such individuals to the United States."

This specification touching the soil was merely definitive and
explanatory of that clause in the act of cession, "_full and absolute
right._" Instead of restraining the power of Congress on _slavery_ and
other subjects, it even gives it wider scope; for exceptions to _parts_
of a rule, give double confirmation to those parts not embraced in the
exceptions. If it was the _design_ of the proviso to restrict
congressional action on the subject of _slavery_, why is the _soil
alone_ specified? As legal instruments are not paragons of economy in
words, might not "John Doe," out of his abundance, and without spoiling
his style, have afforded an additional word--at least a hint--that
slavery was _meant_, though nothing was _said_ about it? The subject
must have been too "delicate," even for the most distant allusion! The
mystery of silence is solved!!

But again, Maryland and Virginia, in their acts of cession, declare them
to be "in pursuance of" that clause of the constitution which gives to
Congress "exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over" the ten
miles square--thus, instead of _restricting_ that clause, both States
gave an express and decided confirmation of it. Now, their acts of
cession either accorded with that clause of the constitution, or they
conflicted with it. If they conflicted with it, _accepting_ the cessions
was a violation of the constitution. If they accorded, the objector has
already had his answer. The fact that Congress accepted the cessions,
proves that in its view their _terms_ did not conflict with the
constitutional grant of "power to exercise exclusive legislation in all
cases whatsoever over such District." The inquiry whether these acts of
cession were consistent or inconsistent with the United States
constitution, is totally irrelevant to the question at issue. What saith
the CONSTITUTION? That is the question. Not, what saith Virginia, or
Maryland, or--equally to the point--John Bull! If Maryland and Virginia
had been the authorized interpreters of the constitution for the Union,
these acts of cession could hardly have been magnified more than they
were by Messrs. Garland and Wise in the last Congress. A true
understanding of the constitution can be had, forsooth, only by holding
it up in the light of Maryland and Virginia legislation!

We are told, again, that those States would not have ceded the District
if they had supposed the constitution gave Congress power to abolish
slavery in it.

This comes with an ill grace from Maryland and Virginia. They _knew_ the
constitution. They were parties to it. They had sifted it, clause by
clause, in their State conventions. They had weighed its words in the
balance--they had tested them as by fire; and finally, after long
pondering, they _adopted_ the constitution. And _afterward_, self-moved,
they ceded the ten miles square, and declared the cession made "in
pursuance of" that oft-cited clause, "Congress shall have power to
exercise exclusive legalisation in all cases whatsoever over such
District," &c. And now verily "they would not have ceded if they had
_supposed_!" &c. Cede it they _did_, and "in full and absolute right
both of soil and persons." Congress accepted the cession--state power
over the District ceased, and congressional power over it commenced--and
now, the sole question to be settled is, _the amount of power over the
District, lodged in Congress by the constitution_. The constitution--the
CONSTITUTION--that is the point. Maryland and Virginia "suppositions"
must be potent suppositions, to abrogate a clause in the United States
Constitution! That clause either gives Congress power to abolish slavery
in the District, or it does _not_--and that point is to be settled, not
by state "suppositions," nor state usages, nor state legislation, but
_by the terms of the clause themselves_.

Southern members of Congress, in the recent discussions, have conceded
the power of a contingent abolition in the District, by suspending it
upon the consent of the people. Such a doctrine from _declaimers_ like
Messrs. Alford, of Georgia, and Walker, of Mississippi, would excite no
surprise; but that it should be honored with the endorsement of such men
as Mr. Rives and Mr. Calhoun, is quite unaccountable. Are attributes of
_sovereignty_ mere creatures of _contingency_? Is delegated _authority_
mere conditional _permission_? Is a _constitutional power_ to be
exercised by those who hold it, only by popular _sufferance_? Must it
lie helpless at the pool of public sentiment, waiting the gracious
troubling of its waters? Is it a lifeless corpse, save only when popular
"consent" deigns to put breath into its nostrils? Besides, if the
consent of the people of the District be necessary, the consent of the
_whole_ people must be had--not that of a majority, however large.
Majorities, to be authoritative, must be _legal_--and a legal majority
without legislative power, right of representation, or even the
electoral franchise, would be an anomaly. In the District of Columbia,
such a thing as a majority in a legal sense is unknown to law. To talk
of the power of a majority, or the will of a majority there, is mere
mouthing. A majority? Then it has an authoritative will--and an organ to
make it known--and an executive to carry it into effect--Where are they?
We repeat it--if the consent of the people of the District be necessary,
the consent of _every one_ is necessary--and _universal_ consent will
come only with the Greek Kalends and a "perpetual motion." A single
individual might thus perpetuate slavery in defiance of the expressed
will of a whole people. The most common form of this fallacy is given by
Mr. Wise, of Virginia, in his speech, February 16, 1835, in which he
denied the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the District, unless
the inhabitants owning slaves petitioned for it!! Southern members of
Congress at the present session ring changes almost daily upon the same
fallacy. What! pray Congress _to use_ a power which it _has not_? "It is
required of a man according to what he _hath_," saith the Scripture. I
commend Mr. Wise to Paul for his ethics. Would that he had got his
_logic_ of him! If Congress does not possess the power, why taunt it
with its weakness, by asking its exercise? Why mock it by demanding
impossibilities? Petitioning, according to Mr. Wise, is, in matters of
legislation, omnipotence itself; the very source of all constitutional
power; for, _asking_ Congress to do what it _cannot_ do, gives it the
power--to pray the exercise of a power that is _not, creates_ it. A
beautiful theory! Let us work it both ways. If to petition for the
exercise of a power that is _not_, creates it--to petition against the
exercise of a power that _is_, annihilates it. As southern gentlemen are
partial to summary processes, pray, sirs, try the virtue of your own
recipe on "exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever;" a better
subject for experiment and test of the prescription could not be had.
But if the petitions of the citizens of the District give Congress the
_right_ to abolish slavery, they impose the _duty_; if they confer
constitutional authority, they create constitutional obligation. If
Congress _may_ abolish because of an expression of their will, it _must_
abolish at the bidding of that will. If the people of the District are a
_source of power_ to Congress, their _expressed will_ has the force of a
constitutional provision, and has the same binding power upon the
National Legislature. To make Congress dependent on the District for
authority, is to make it a _subject_ of its authority, restraining the
exercise of its own discretion, and sinking it into a mere organ of the
District's will. We proceed to another objection.

"The southern states would not have ratified the constitution, if they
had supposed that it gave this power." It is a sufficient answer to this
objection, that the northern states would not have ratified it, if they
had supposed that it _withheld_ the power. If "suppositions" are to take
the place of the constitution--coming from both sides, they neutralize
each other. To argue a constitutional question by _guessing_ at the
"suppositions" that might have been made by the parties to it, would
find small favor in a court of law. But even a desperate shift is some
easement when sorely pushed. If this question is to be settled by
"suppositions," suppositions shall be forth coming, and that without

First, then, I affirm that the North ratified the constitution,
"supposing" that slavery had begun to wax old, and would speedily vanish
away, and especially that the abolition of the slave trade, which by the
constitution was to be surrendered to Congress after twenty years, would
cast it headlong.

Would the North have adopted the constitution, giving three-fifths of
the "slave property" a representation, if it has "supposed" that the
slaves would have increased from half a million to two millions and a
half by 1838--and that the census of 1840 would give to the slave
states, 30 representatives of "slave property?"

If they had "supposed" that this representation would have controlled
the legislation of the government, and carried against the North every
question vital to its interests, would Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin
Franklin, Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry, William Livingston, John
Langdon, and Rufus King have been such madmen, as to sign the
constitution, and the Northern States such suicides as to ratify it?
Every self-preserving instinct would have shrieked at such an infatuate
immolation. At the adoption of the United States constitution, slavery
was regarded as a fast waning system. This conviction was universal.
Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Grayson, St. George Tucker,
Madison, Wythe, Pendleton, Lee, Blair, Mason, Page, Parker, Edmund
Randolph, Iredell, Spaight, Ramsey, William Pinckney, Luther Martin,
James McHenry, Samuel Chase, and nearly all the illustrious names south
of the Potomac, proclaimed it before the sun, that the days of slavery
were beginning to be numbered. A reason urged in the convention that
formed the United States constitution, why the word slave should not be
used in it, was, that _when slavery should cease_ there might remain
upon the National Charter no record that it had even been. (See speech
of Mr. Burrill, of R.I., on the Missouri question.)

I now proceed to show by testimony, that at the date of the United
States constitution, and for several years before and after that period,
slavery was rapidly on the wane; that the American Revolution with the
great events preceding accompanying, and following it, had wrought an
immense and almost universal change in the public sentiment of the
nation of the subject, powerfully impelling it toward the entire
abolition of the system--and that it was the _general belief_ that
measures for its abolition throughout the Union, would be commenced by
the individual States generally before the lapse of many years. A great
mass of testimony establishing this position is at hand and might be
presented, but narrow space, little time, the patience of readers, and
the importance of speedy publication, counsel brevity. Let the following
proofs suffice. First, a few dates as points of observation.

The first _general_ Congress met in 1774. The revolutionary war
commenced in '75. Independence was declared in '76. The articles of
confederacy were adopted by the thirteen states in '78. Independence
acknowledged in '83. The convention for forming the U.S. constitution
was held in '87, the state conventions for considering it in '87, and
'88. The first Congress under the constitution in '89.

Dr. Rush, of Pennsylvania, one of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence, in a letter to the celebrated Granville Sharpe, May 1,
1773, says: "A spirit of humanity and religion begins to awaken in
several of the colonies in favor of the poor negroes. The clergy begin
to bear a public testimony against this violation of the laws of nature
and christianity. Great events have been brought about by small
beginnings. _Anthony Benezet stood alone a few years ago in opposing
negro slavery in Philadelphia_, and NOW THREE-FOURTHS OF THE PROVINCE AS
WELL AS OF THE CITY CRY OUT AGAINST IT."--(Stuart's Life of Sharpe, p.

In the preamble to the act prohibiting the importation of slaves into
Rhode Island, June 1774, is the following: "Whereas, the inhabitants of
America are generally engaged in the preservation of their own rights
and liberties, among which that of personal freedom must be considered
the greatest, and as those who are desirous of enjoying all the
advantages of liberty themselves, _should be willing to extend personal
liberty to others_, therefore," &c.

October 20, 1774, the Continental Congress passed the following: "We,
for ourselves and the inhabitants of the several colonies whom we
represent, _firmly agree and associate under the sacred ties of virtue,
honor, and love of our country_, as follows:

"2d Article. _We will neither import nor purchase any slaves imported_
after the first day of December next, after which time we will _wholly
discontinue_ the slave trade, and we will neither be concerned in it
ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or
manufactures to those who are concerned in it."

The Continental Congress, in 1775, setting forth the causes and the
necessity for taking up arms, say: "_If it were possible_ for men who
exercise their reason to believe that the Divine Author of our existence
intended a part of the human race _to hold an absolute property in_, and
_unbounded power over others_, marked out by infinite goodness and
wisdom as objects of a legal domination, never rightfully resistible,
however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these colonies might
at least require from the Parliament of Great Britain some evidence that
this dreadful authority over them has been granted to that body."

In 1776, the celebrated Dr. Hopkins, then at the head of New England
divines, published a pamphlet entitled, "An Address to the owners of
negro slaves in the American colonies," from which the following is an
extract: "The conviction of the unjustifiableness of this practice
(slavery) has been _increasing_, and _greatly spreading of late_, and
_many_ who have had slaves, have found themselves so unable to justify
their own conduct in holding them in bondage, as to be induced to _set
them at liberty_. May this conviction soon reach every owner of slaves
in _North America!_ Slavery is, _in every instance_, wrong, unrighteous,
and oppressive--a very great and crying sin--_there being nothing of the
kind equal to it on the face of the earth._"

The same year the American Congress issued a solemn MANIFESTO to the
world. These were its first words: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, 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." _Once_, these were words
of power; _now_, "a rhetorical flourish."

The celebrated Patrick Henry of Virginia, in a letter, of Jan. 18, 1773,
to Robert Pleasants, afterwards president of the Virginia Abolition
Society, says: "Believe me, I shall honor the Quakers for their noble
efforts to abolish slavery. It is a debt we owe to the purity of our
religion to show that it is at variance with that law that warrants
slavery. I exhort you to persevere in so worthy a resolution."

In 1779, the Continental Congress ordered a pamphlet to be published,
entitled, "Observations on the American Revolution," from which the
following is an extract: "The great principle (of government) is and
ever will remain in force, _that men are by nature free_; as accountable
to him that made them, they must be so; and so long as we have any idea
of divine _justice_, we must associate that of _human freedom_. Whether
men can part with their liberty, is among the questions which have
exercised the ablest writers; but it is _conceded on all hands, that the
right to be free_ CAN NEVER BE ALIENATED--still less is it practicable
for one generation to mortgage the privileges of another."

Extract from the Pennsylvania act for the Abolition of Slavery, passed
March 1, 1780: * * * "We conceive that it is our duty, and we
rejoice that it is in our power, to extend a portion of that freedom to
others which has been extended to us. Weaned by a long course of
experience from those narrow prejudices and partialities we have
imbibed, we find our hearts enlarged with kindness and benevolence
towards men of all conditions and nations: * * * Therefore be it
enacted, that no child born hereafter be a slave," &c.

Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia, written just before the close of
the Revolutionary War, says: "I think a change already perceptible since
the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is
abating, that of the slave is rising from the dust, his condition
mollifying, _the way I hope preparing under the auspices of heaven_, FOR
A TOTAL EMANCIPATION, and that this is disposed, in the order of events,
to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their

In a letter to Dr. Price, of London, who had just published a pamphlet
in favor of the abolition of slavery, Mr. Jefferson, then Minister at
Paris, (August 7, 1785,) says: "From the mouth to the head of the
Chesapeake, _the bulk of the people will approve of your pamphlet in
theory_, and it will find a respectable minority ready to _adopt it in
practice_--a minority which, for weight and worth of character,
_preponderates against the greater number_." Speaking of Virginia, he
says: "This is the next state to which we may turn our eyes for the
interesting spectacle of justice in conflict with avarice and
oppression,--a conflict in which THE SACRED SIDE IS GAINING DAILY
RECRUITS. Be not, therefore discouraged--what you have written will do a
_great deal of good_; and could you still trouble yourself with our
welfare, no man is more able to give aid to the laboring side. The
College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, since the remodelling of
its plan, is the place where are collected together all the young men of
Virginia, under preparation for public life. They are there under the
direction (most of them) of a Mr. Wythe, one of the most virtuous of
characters, and _whose sentiments on the subject of slavery are
unequivocal_. I am satisfied, if you could resolve to address an
exhortation to those young men with all the eloquence of which you are
master that _its influence on the future decision of this important
question would be great, perhaps decisive_. Thus, you see, that so far
from thinking you have cause to repent of what you have done, _I wish
you to do more, and wish it on an assurance of its
effect_."--Jefferson's Posthumous Works, vol. 1, p. 268.

In 1786, John jay, afterward Chief Justice of the United States, drafted
and signed a petition to the Legislature of New York, on the subject of
slavery, beginning with these words:

"Your memorialists being deeply affected by the situation of those, who,
although FREE BY THE LAWS OF GOD, are held in slavery by the laws of the
State," &c.

This memorial bore also the signature of the celebrated Alexander
Hamilton; Robert R. Livingston, afterward Secretary of Foreign Affairs
of the United States, and Chancellor of the State of New York; James
Duane, Mayor of the City of New York, and many others of the most
eminent individuals in the State.

In the preamble of an instrument, by which Mr. Jay emancipated a slave
in 1784, is the following passage:

"Whereas, the children of men are by nature equally free, and cannot,
without injustice, be either reduced to or HELD in slavery."

In his letter while Minister at Spain, in 1786, he says, speaking of the
abolition of slavery: "Till America comes into this measure, her prayers
to heaven will be IMPIOUS. This is a strong expression, but it is just.
I believe God governs the world; and I believe it to be a maxim in his,
as in our court, that those who ask for equity _ought to do it_."

In 1785, the New York Manumission Society was formed. John Jay was
chosen its first President, and held the office five years. Alexander
Hamilton was its second President, and after holding the office one
year, resigned upon his removal to Philadelphia as Secretary of the
United States' Treasury. In 1787, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society was
formed. Benjamin Franklin, warm from the discussions of the convention
that formed the United States constitution, was chosen President, and
Benjamin Rush, Secretary--both signers of the Declaration of
Independence. In 1789, the Maryland Abolition Society was formed. Among
its officers were Samuel Chace, Judge of the United States Supreme
Court, and Luther Martin, a member of the convention that formed the
United States constitution. In 1790, the Connecticut Abolition Society
was formed. The first President was Rev. Dr. Stiles, President of Yale
College, and the Secretary, Simeon Baldwin, (the late Judge Baldwin of
New Haven.) In 1791, this Society sent a memorial to Congress, from
which the following is an extract:

"From a sober conviction of the unrighteousness of slavery, your
petitioners have long beheld, with grief, our fellow men doomed to
perpetual bondage, in a country which boasts of her freedom. Your
petitioners are fully of opinion, that calm reflection will at last
convince the world, that the whole system of African slavery is unjust
in its nature--impolitic in its principles--and, in its consequences,
ruinous to the industry and enterprise of the citizens of these States.
From a conviction of these truths, your petitioners were led, by
motives, we conceive, of general philanthropy, to associate ourselves
for the protection and assistance of this unfortunate part of our fellow
men; and, though this Society has been _lately_ established, it has now
become _generally extensive_ through this state, and, we fully believe,
_embraces, on this subject, the sentiments of a large majority of its

The same year the Virginia Abolition Society was formed. This Society,
and the Maryland Society, had auxiliaries in different parts of those
States. Both societies sent up memorials to Congress. The memorial of
the Virginia Society is headed--"The memorial of the _Virginia Society_,
for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, &c." The following is an

"Your memorialists, fully believing that 'righteousness exalteth a
nation,' and that slavery is not only an odious degradation, but an
_outrageous violation of one of the most essential rights of human
nature, and utterly repugnant to the precepts of the gospel_, which
breathes 'peace on earth, good will to men;' lament that a practice, so
inconsistent with true policy and the inalienable rights of men, should
subsist in so enlightened an age, and among a people professing, that
all mankind are, by nature, equally entitled to freedom."

About the same time a Society was formed in New-Jersey. It had an acting
committee of five members in each county in the State. The following is
an extract from the preamble to its constitution:

"It is our boast, that we live under a government founded on principles
of justice and reason, wherein _life, liberty_, and the _pursuit of
happiness_, are recognised as the universal rights of men; and whilst we
are anxious to preserve these rights to ourselves, and transmit them
inviolate, to our posterity, we _abhor that inconsistent, illiberal, and
interested policy, which withholds those rights, from an unfortunate and
degraded class of our fellow creatures_."

Among other distinguished individuals who were efficient officers of
these Abolition Societies, and delegates from their respective state
societies, at the annual meetings of the American convention for
promoting the abolition of slavery, were Hon. Uriah Tracy, United
States' Senator, from Connecticut; Hon. Zephaniah Swift, Chief Justice
of the same State; Hon. Cesar A. Rodney, Attorney General of the United
States; Hon. James A. Bayard, United States Senator, from Delaware;
Governor Bloomfield, of New Jersey; Hon. Wm. Rawle, the late venerable
head of the Philadelphia bar; Dr. Casper Wistar, of Philadelphia;
Messrs. Foster and Tillinghast, of Rhode Island; Messrs. Ridgeley,
Buchanan, and Wilkinson, of Maryland; and Messrs. Pleasants, McLean, and
Anthony, of Virginia.

In July, 1787, the old Congress passed the celebrated ordinance,
abolishing slavery in the northwestern territory, and declaring that it
should never thereafter exist there. This ordinance was passed while the
convention that formed the United States constitution was in session. At
the first session of Congress under the constitution, this ordinance was
ratified by a special act. Washington, fresh from the discussions of the
convention, in which _more than forty days had been spent in adjusting
the question of slavery, gave it his approval._ The act passed with only
one dissenting voice, (that of Mr. Yates, of New-York,) _the South
equally with the North avowing the fitness and expediency of the measure
of general considerations, and indicating thus early the line of
national policy, to be pursued by the United States Government on the
subject of slavery_.

In the debates in the North Carolina Convention, Mr. Iredell, afterward
a Judge of the United States' Supreme Court, said, "_When the entire
abolition of slavery takes place_, it will be an event which must be
pleasing to every generous mind and every friend of human nature." Mr.
Galloway said, "I wish to see this abominable trade put an end to. I
apprehend the clause (touching the slave trade) means to _bring forward
manumission."_ Luther Martin, of Md., a member of the convention that
formed the United States constitution, said, "We ought to authorize the
General Government to make such regulations as shall be thought most
advantageous for _the gradual abolition of slavery,_ and the
_emancipation of the slaves_ which are already in the States." Judge
Wilson, of Pennsylvania, one of the framers of the constitution, said,
in the Pennsylvania convention of '87, Deb. Pa. Con. p. 303, 156: "I
consider this (the clause relative to the slave trade) as laying the
foundation for _banishing slavery out of this country_. It will produce
the same kind of gradual change which was produced in Pennsylvania; the
new states which are to be formed will be under the control of Congress
in this particular, and _slaves will never be introduced_ among them. It
presents us with the pleasing prospect that the rights of mankind will
be acknowledged and established _throughout the Union_. Yet the lapse of
a few years, and Congress will have power to _exterminate slavery_
within our borders." In the Virginia convention of '87, Mr. Mason,
author of the Virginia constitution, said, "The augmentation of slaves
weakens the States, and such a trade is _diabolical_ in itself, and
disgraceful to mankind. As much as I value a union of all the states, I
would not admit the southern states, (i.e., South Carolina and Georgia,)
into the union, _unless they agree to a discontinuance of this
disgraceful trade._" Mr. Tyler opposed with great power the clause
prohibiting the abolition of the slave trade till 1808, and said, "My
earnest desire is, that it shall he handed down to posterity that I
oppose this wicked clause." Mr. Johnson said, "The principle of
emancipation _has begun since the revolution. Let us do what we will, it
will come round._"--[_Deb. Va. Con._ p. 463.] Patrick Henry, arguing the
power of Congress under the United States constitution to abolish
slavery in the States, said, in the same convention, "Another thing will
contribute to bring this event (the abolition of slavery) about. Slavery
is _detested._ We feel its fatal effects; we deplore it with all the
pity of humanity."--[_Deb. Va. Con._ p. 431.] In the Mass. Con. of '88,
Judge Dawes said, "Although slavery is not smitten by an apoplexy, yet
_it has received a mortal wound_, and will die of consumption."--[_Deb.
Mass. Con._ p. 60.] General Heath said that, "Slavery was confined to
the States _now existing, it could not be extended_. By their ordinance,
Congress had declared that the new States should be republican States,
and _have no slavery._"--p. 147.

In the debate in the first Congress, February 11th and 12th, 1789, on
the petitions of the Society of Friends, and the Pennsylvania Abolition
Society, Mr. Parker, of Virginia, said, "I hope, Mr. Speaker, the
petition of these respectable people will be attended to _with all the
readiness the importance of its object demands_; and I cannot help
expressing the pleasure I feel in finding _so considerable a part_ of
the community attending to matters of such a momentous concern to the
_future prosperity_ and happiness of the people of America. I think it
my duty, as a citizen of the Union, _to espouse their cause_."

Mr. Page, of Virginia, (afterward Governor)--"Was _in favor_ of the
commitment; he hoped that the designs of the respectable memorialists
would not be stopped at the threshold, in order to preclude a fair
discussion of the prayer of the memorial. With respect to the alarm that
was apprehended, he conjectured there was none; but there might be just
cause, if the memorial was _not_ taken into consideration. He placed
himself in the case of a slave, and said, that on hearing that Congress
had refused to listen to the decent suggestions of a respectable part of
the community, he should infer, that the general government, _from which
was expected great good would result to_ EVERY CLASS _of citizens_, had
shut their ears against the voice of humanity, and he should despair of
any alleviation of the miseries he and his posterity had in prospect; if
any thing could induce him to rebel, it must be a stroke like this,
impressing on his mind all the horrors of despair. But if he was told,
that application was made in his behalf, and that Congress were willing
to hear what could be urged in favor of discouraging the practice of
importing his fellow-wretches, he would trust in their justice and
humanity, and _wait the decision patiently_."

Mr. Scott, of Pennsylvania: "I cannot, for my part, conceive how any
person _can be said to acquire a property in another_; but enough of
those who reduce men to the state of transferable goods, or use them
like beasts of burden, who deliver them up as the property or patrimony
of another man. Let us argue on principles countenanced by reason, and
becoming humanity. _I do not know how far I might go, if I was one of
the judges of the United States, and those people were to come before me
and claim their emancipation, but I am sure I would go as far as I

Mr. Burke, of South Carolina, said, "He _saw the disposition of the
House_, and he feared it would be referred to a committee, maugre all
their opposition."

Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, said, "That on entering into this
government, they (South Carolina and Georgia) apprehended that the other
states, not knowing the necessity the citizens of the Southern states
were under to hold this species of property, _would, from motives of
humanity and benevolence, be led to vote for a general emancipation_;
and had they not seen, that the constitution provided against the effect
of such a disposition, I may be bold to say, they never would have
adopted it."

In the debate, at the same session, May 13th, 1789, on the petition of
the Society of Friends respecting the slave trade, Mr. Parker, of
Virginia, said, "He hoped Congress would do all that lay in their power
to _restore to human nature its inherent privileges_, and if possible,
wipe off the stigma, which America labored under. The inconsistency in
our principles, with which we are justly charged _should be done away_,
that we may show by our actions the pure beneficence of the doctrine we
held out to the world in our Declaration of Independence."

Mr. Jackson of Georgia, said, "IT WAS THE FASHION OF THE DAY TO FAVOR
THE LIBERTY OF THE SLAVES. * * * * * What is to be done for
compensation? Will Virginia set all her negroes free? Will they give up
the money they have cost them; and to whom? _When this practice comes to
be tried, then the sound of liberty will lose those charms which make it
grateful to the ravished ear_."

Mr. Madison of Virginia,--"The dictates of humanity, the principles of
the people, the national safety and happiness, and prudent policy,
require it of us. The constitution has particularly called our attention
to it. * * * * * I conceive the constitution in this particular
was formed in order that the Government, whilst it was restrained from
having a total prohibition, might be able to _give some testimony of the
sense of America_, with respect to the African trade. * * * * * It
is to be hoped, that by expressing a national disapprobation of this
trade, we may destroy it, and save ourselves from reproaches, AND OUR
I do not wish to say any thing harsh to the hearing of gentlemen who
entertain different sentiments from me, or different sentiments from
those I represent. But if there is any one point in which it is clearly
the policy of this nation, so far as we constitutionally can, _to vary
the practice_ obtaining under some of the state governments, it is this.
But it is _certain_ a majority of the states are _opposed to this
practice_."--[Cong. Reg. v. 1, p. 308-12.]

A writer in the "Gazette of the United States," Feb. 20th, 1790, (then
the government paper,) who opposes the abolition of slavery, and avows
himself a _slaveholder_, says, "I have seen in the papers accounts of
_large associations_, and applications to Government for _the abolition
of slavery_. Religion, humanity, and the generosity natural to a free
people, are the _noble principles which dictate those measures_. SUCH

It is well known, that in the convention that formed the constitution of
Kentucky in 1780, the effort to prohibit slavery was nearly successful.
The writer has frequently heard it asserted in Kentucky, and has had it
from some who were members of that convention, that a decided majority
of that body would have voted for its exclusion but for the great
efforts and influence of two large slaveholders--men of commanding
talents and sway--Messrs. Breckenridge and Nicholas. The following
extract from a speech made in that convention by a member of it, Mr.
Rice, a native Virginian, is a specimen of the _free discussion_ that
prevailed on that "delicate subject." Said Mr. Rice: "I do a man greater
injury, when I deprive him of his liberty, than when I deprive him of
his property. It is vain for me to plead that I have the sanction of
law; for this makes the injury the greater--it arms the community
against him, and makes his case desperate. The owners of such slaves
then are _licensed robbers_, and not the just proprietors of what they
claim. Freeing them is not depriving them of property, but _restoring it
to the right owner_. In America, a slave is a standing monument of the
tyranny and inconsistency of human governments. The master is the enemy
of the slave; he _has made open war upon him_, AND IS DAILY CARRYING IT
ON in unremitted efforts. Can any one imagine, then, that the slave is
indebted to his master, and _bound to serve him_? Whence can the
obligation arise? What is it founded upon? What is my duty to an enemy
that is carrying on war against me? I do not deny, but in some
circumstances, it is the duty of the slave to serve; but it is a duty he
owes himself, and not his master."

President Edwards, the younger, said, in a sermon preached before the
Connecticut Abolition Society, Sept. 15, 1791: "Thirty years ago,
scarcely a man in this country thought either the slave trade or the
slavery of negroes to be wrong; but now how many and able advocates in
private life, in our legislatures, in Congress, have appeared, and have
openly and irrefragably pleaded the rights of humanity in this as well
as other instances? And if we judge of the future by the past, _within
fifty years from this time, it will be as shameful for a man to hold a
negro slave, as to be guilty of common robbery or theft_."

In 1794, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church adopted its
"Scripture proofs," notes, comments, &c. Among these was the following:

"1 Tim. i. 10. The law is made for manstealers. This crime among
the Jews exposed the perpetrators of it to capital punishment.
Exodus xxi. 16. And the apostle here classes them with _sinners
of the first rank_. The word he uses, in its original import
comprehends all who are concerned in bringing any of the human
race into slavery, or in _retaining_ them in it. _Stealers of
men_ are all those who bring off slaves or freemen, and _keep_,
sell, or buy them."

In 1794, Dr. Rush declared: "Domestic slavery is repugnant to the
principles of Christianity. It prostrates every benevolent and just
principle of action in the human heart. It is rebellion against the
authority of a common Father. It is a practical denial of the extent and
efficacy of the death of a common Savior. It is an usurpation of the
prerogative of the great Sovereign of the universe, who has solemnly
claimed an exclusive property in the souls of men."

In 1795, Mr. Fiske, then an officer of Dartmouth College, afterward a
Judge in Tennessee, said, in an oration published that year, speaking of
slaves: "I steadfastly maintain, that we must bring them to _an equal
standing, in point of privileges, with the whites_! They must enjoy all
the rights belonging to human nature."

When the petition on the abolition of the slave trade was under
discussion in the Congress of '89, Mr. Brown. of North Carolina, said,
"The emancipation of the slaves _will be effected_ in time; it ought to
be a gradual business, but he hoped that Congress would not
_precipitate_ it to the great injury of the southern States." Mr.
Hartley, of Pennsylvania said, in the sane debate, "_He was not a little
surprised to hear the cause of slavery advocated in that house._"
WASHINGTON, in a letter to Sir John Sinclair, says, "There are, in
Pennsylvania, laws for the gradual abolition of slavery which neither
Maryland nor Virginia have at present, but which _nothing is more
certain_ than that they _must have_, and at a period NOT REMOTE." In
1782, Virginia passed her celebrated manumission act. Within nine years
from that time nearly eleven thousand slaves were voluntarily
emancipated by their masters. Judge Tucker's "Dissertation on Slavery,"
p. 72. In 1787, Maryland passed an act legalizing manumission. Mr.
Dorsey, of Maryland, in a speech in Congress, December 27th, 1826,
speaking of manumissions under that act, said, that "_The progress of
emancipation was astonishing_, the State became crowded with a free
black population."

The celebrated William Pinkney, in a speech before the Maryland House of
Delegates, in 1789, on the emancipation of slaves, said, "Sir, by the
eternal principles of natural justice, _no master in the state has a
right to hold his slave in bondage for a single hour_. I would as soon
believe the incoherent tale of a schoolboy, who should tell me he had
been frightened by a ghost, as that the grant of this permission (to
emancipate) ought in any degree to alarm us. Are we apprehensive that
these men will become more dangerous by becoming freemen? Are we
alarmed, lest by being admitted into the enjoyment of civil rights, they
will be inspired with a deadly enmity against the rights of others?
Strange, unaccountable paradox! How much more rational would it be, to
argue that the natural enemy of the privileges of a freeman, is he who
is robbed of them himself! Dishonorable to the species is the idea that
they would ever prove injurious to our interests--released from the
shackles of slavery, by the justice of government and the bounty of
individuals--the want of fidelity and attachment would be next to

Hon. James Campbell, in an address before the Pennsylvania Society of
the Cincinnati, July 4, 1787, said, "Our separation from Great Britain
has extended the empire of _humanity_. The time _is not far distant_
when our sister states, in imitation of our example, _shall turn their
vassals into freemen._" The Convention that formed the United States'
constitution being then in session, attended at the delivery of this
oration with General Washington at their head.

A Baltimore paper of September 8th, 1780, contains the following notice
of Major General Gates: "A few days ago passed through this town the
Hon. General Gates and lady. The General, previous to leaving Virginia,
summoned his numerous family of slaves about him, and amidst their tears
of affection and gratitude, gave them their FREEDOM."

In 1791 the university of William and Mary, in Virginia, conferred upon
Granville Sharpe the degree of Doctor of Laws. Sharpe was at that time
the acknowledged head of British abolitionists. His indefatigable
exertions, prosecuted for years in the case of Somerset, procured that
memorable decision in the Court of King's Bench, which settled the
principle that no slave could be held in England. He was most
uncompromising in his opposition to slavery, and for twenty years
previous he had spoken, written, and accomplished more against it than
any man living.

In the "Memoirs of the Revolutionary War in the Southern Department," by
Gen. Lee, of Va., Commandant of the Partizan Legion, is the following:
"The Constitution of the United States, adopted lately with so much
difficulty, has effectually provided against this evil, (by importation)
after a few years. It is much to be lamented that having done so much in
this way, _a provision had not been made for the gradual abolition of
slavery_."--p. 233, 4.

Mr. Tucker, of Virginia, Judge of the Supreme Court of that state, and
professor of law in the University of William and Mary, addressed a
letter to the General Assembly of that state, in 1796, urging the
abolition of slavery; from which the following is an extract. Speaking
of the slaves in Virginia, he says: "Should we not, at the time of the
revolution, have loosed their chains and broken their fetters; or if the
difficulties and dangers of such an experiment prohibited the attempt,
during the convulsions of a revolution, is it not our duty, _to embrace
the first moment_ of constitutional health and vigor to effectuate so
desirable an object, and to remove from us a stigma with which our
enemies will never fail to upbraid us, nor consciences to reproach us?"

Mr. Faulkner, in a speech before the Virginia Legislature, Jan. 20,
1832, said:--"The idea of a gradual emancipation and removal of the
slaves from this commonwealth, is coeval with the declaration of our
independence from the British yoke. It sprung into existence during the
first session of the General Assembly, subsequent to the formation of
your republican government. When Virginia stood sustained in her
legislation by the pure and philosophic intellect of Pendleton--by the
patriotism of Mason and Lee--by the searching vigor and sagacity of
Wythe, and by the all-embracing, all-comprehensive genius of Thomas
Jefferson! Sir, it was a committee composed of those five illustrious
men, who, in 1777, submitted to the general assembly of this state, then
in session, _a plan for the gradual emancipation of the slaves of this

Hon. Benjamin Watkins Leigh, late United States' senator from Virginia,
in his letters to the people of Virginia, in 1832, signed Appomattox, p.
43, says: "I thought, till very lately, that it was known to every body
that during the Revolution, _and for many years after, the abolition of
slavery was a favorite topic with many of our ablest statesmen_, who
entertained, with respect, all the schemes which wisdom or ingenuity
could suggest for accomplishing the object. Mr. Wythe, to the day of his
death, _was for a simple abolition, considering the objection to color
as founded in prejudice_. By degrees, all projects of the kind were
abandoned. Mr. Jefferson _retained_ his opinion, and now we have these
projects revived."

Governor Barbour, of Virginia, in his speech in the U.S. Senate, on the
Missouri question, Jan. 1820, said:--"We are asked why has Virginia
_changed her policy_ in reference to slavery? That the sentiments _of
our most distinguished men_, for thirty years _entirely corresponded_
with the course which the friends of the restriction (of slavery in
Missouri) now advocated; and that the Virginia delegation, one of which
was the late President of the United Stance, voted for the restriction,
(of slavery) in the northwestern territory, and that Mr. Jefferson has
delineated a gloomy picture of the baneful effects of slavery. When it
is recollected that the Notes of Mr. Jefferson were written during the
progress of the revolution, it is no matter of surprise that the writer
should have imbibed a large portion of that enthusiasm which such an
occasion was so well calculated to produce. As to the consent of the
Virginia delegation to the restriction in question, whether the result
of a disposition to restrain the slave trade indirectly, or the
influence of that _enthusiasm_ to which I have just alluded, * * * *
it is not now important to decide. We have witnessed its effects. The
liberality of Virginia, or, as the result may prove, her folly, which
submitted to, or, if you will, PROPOSED _this measure_, (abolition of
slavery in the N.W. territory) has eventuated in effects which speak a
monitory lesson. _How is the representation from this quarter on the
present question?_"

Mr. Imlay, in his early history of Kentucky, p. 185, says: "We have
disgraced the fair face of humanity, and trampled upon the sacred
privileges of man, at the very moment that we were exclaiming against
the tyranny of your (the English) ministry. But in contending for the
birthright of freedom, we have learned to feel _for the bondage of
others_, and in the libations we offer to the goddess of liberty, we
_contemplate an emancipation of the slaves of this country_, as
honorable to themselves as it will be glorious to us."

In the debate in Congress, Jan. 20, 1806, on Mr. Sloan's motion to lay a
tax on the importation of slaves, Mr. Clark of Va. said: "He was no
advocate for a system of slavery." Mr. Marion, of S. Carolina, said: "He
never had purchased, nor should he ever purchase a slave." Mr. Southard
said: "Not revenue, but an expression of the _national sentiment_ is the
principal object." Mr. Smilie--"I rejoice that the word (slave) is not
in the Constitution; its not being there does honor to the worthies who
would not suffer it to become a _part_ of it." Mr. Alston, of N.
Carolina--"In two years we shall have the power to prohibit the trade
altogether. Then this House will be UNANIMOUS. No one will object to our
exercising our full constitutional powers." National Intelligencer,
Jany. 24, 1806.

These witnesses need no vouchers to entitle them to credit--nor their
testimony comments to make it intelligible--their _names_ are their
_endorsers_ and their strong words their own interpreters. We wave all
comments. Our readers are of age. Whosoever hath ears to _hear_, let him
HEAR. And whosoever will not hear the fathers of the revolution, the
founders of the government, its chief magistrates, judges, legislators
and sages, who dared and periled all under the burdens, and in the heat
of the day that tried men's souls--then "neither will he be persuaded
though THEY rose from the dead."

Some of the points established by the testimony are--The universal
expectation that the _moral_ influence of Congress, of state
legislatures, of seminaries of learning, of churches, of the ministers
of religion, and of public sentiment widely embodied in abolition
societies, would be exerted against slavery, calling forth by argument
and appeal the moral sense of the nation, and creating a power of
opinion that would abolish the system throughout the union. In a word,
that free speech and a free press would be wielded against slavery


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