The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 2 of 4
American Anti-Slavery Society

Part 1 out of 16

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BY The American Anti-Slavery Society








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NO. 5


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STREET. 1838.

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This No. contains 3-1/2 sheets.--Postage, under 100 miles, 6 cts. over
100, 10 cts.


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. 8, 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_. 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 Columbia.

It has been asserted 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 framers of 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 not restricted to
police regulations _alone_. In the Virginia Convention, George Mason,
the father of the Virginia Constitution, 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 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. "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. When any power is given, its 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." [_Deb. Va. Con._, 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_, is proved by the fact, that 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_.

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 state and
argue the _real_ question at issue.


1. 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 of the grant and its conditions. 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 that 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 of the constitution
graduates the power of Congress by the standard of those legislatures?
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 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.

LEGISLATION. The law, by _creating_ slavery, not only affirmed its
_existence_ to be within the sphere and under the control of
legislation, but also, 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 had been recognized 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_." 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?

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, 1826; in Bolivia,
1826; in Peru, Guatemala, and Monte Video, 1828; in Jamaica, Barbados,
the Bermudas, the Bahamas, Anguilla, Mauritius, St. Christopers, Nevis,
the Virgin Islands, (British), Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St.
Vincents, Grenada, Berbice, Tobago, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Honduras,
Demerara, Essequibo and the Cape of Good Hope, on the 1st of August,
1834. But waving details, suffice it to say, that England, France,
Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Germany, have
all and often given their testimony to the competency of the legislative
power 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 recognized 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 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?

South Carolina prohibits the working of slaves more than fifteen hours
in the twenty-four. 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. 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. 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.

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 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 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, separating families, floggings for learning the alphabet, for
reading the Bible, for worshiping 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, 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.

The law of Louisiana makes slaves real estate, prohibiting the holder,
if he be also a _land_ holder, to separate them from the soil.[A] 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. The law of Louisiana requires the
master to give his slaves a certain amount of food and clothing. 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. By the laws of Connecticut, slaves may 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. 340-1.]

[Footnote A: 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.]

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.

In the "Washington (D.C.) City Laws," page 138, is "AN ACT to prevent
horses from being cruelly beaten or abused." Similar laws have been
passed by corporations in many of the slave states, and throughout the
civilized world, such acts are punishable either as violations of common
law or of legislative enactments. If a legislature can pass laws "to
prevent _horses_ from being cruelly abused," it can pass laws to prevent
_men_ from being cruelly abused, and if it can _prevent_ cruel abuse, it
can define _what it is_. It can declare that to make men _work without
pay_ is cruel abuse, and can PROHIBIT it.

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 Constitution 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, with appropriate rites to induct into
the Constitution a special clause, for the express purpose of
restricting a nonentity!--to take from the law-making 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 slaveholding States have recognised this power in their _laws_.
Virginia passed a law in 1786 to prevent the 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,
Dec., 1813 [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 above law. 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. (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

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, Lunsford vs. Coquillon, 14 Martin's La. Reps. 401. Also by
the Supreme Court of Virginia, Hunter vs. Fulcher, 1 Leigh's Reps. 172.
The same doctrine was laid down by Judge Washington, of the U. S. Sup.
Court, Butler vs. Hopper, Washington's C. C. Reps. 508; also, by the
Court of Appeals in Kentucky, 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 Matthews, of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, decided that
"residence for one moment" under the laws of France emancipated her.

Washington, in a letter to Robert Morris, 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, 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, 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 than that they _must have_, and at a period not remote."
Jefferson, speaking of movements in the Virginia Legislature in 1777,
for the passage of a law emancipating the slaves, 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. i. 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 the 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, of Virginia,
professor of law in the University of William and Mary, and Judge of the
General Court, published a dissertation on slavery, urging 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, and I would never cease moving it till it became a law, or I
ceased to be a member."

Governor 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 a 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 in the Richmond Whig, Jan. 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.

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 Sup. Court of Mississippi, [Harvey vs.
Decker, Walker's Mi. Reps. 36,] declared that the ordinance of '87
emancipated the slaves then held there. In this decision the question is
argued ably and at great length. The Supreme Court of La. 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 La.,) in his decision at the March term of the La. Supreme Court,
1830, Merry vs. Chexnaider, 20 Martin's Reps. 699.

That the ordinance abolished the slavery then existing there 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 committed to 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

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?"

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 recognized 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 recognized 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--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_," 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.]

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 the 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 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 embodyment 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

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 power of the Government--standing illustrations of its
genius and spirit, while they proclaim and enforce its authority. Who
needs be told that slavery makes war upon the principles of the
Declaration, and the spirit of the Constitution, and that these and the
principles of the common law gravitate towards 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 U. S. Sup. 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." [_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. We
argue it further, from the fact that,

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." 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 should enact that marriage contracts should 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?


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 the 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 motions 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. 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 a 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 Del., and
others from slave states.

COLUMBIA.--In a report of the committee on the District, Jan. 11, 1837,
by their chairman, Mr. Powell of Va., 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_." Reports of Comms. 2d Sess. 19th Cong.
v. iv. No. 43. In December, 1831, the committee on the District, Mr.
Doddridge of Va., 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. Pinkney 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."

the gradual abolition of slavery in the District, signed by nearly
eleven hundred of its citizens, was presented to Congress, March 24,
1827. Among the signers to this petition, were Chief Justice Cranch,
Judge Van Ness, Judge Morsel, Prof. J.M. Staughton, 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 to
this petition owned more than half the property in the District. The
accuracy of this statement has never been questioned.

jury of the county of Alexandria, at the March term, 1802, presented the
domestic slaves 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_. Journal H. R.
1828-9, p. 174.

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." 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." 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."

In May, 1838, the Legislature of Connecticut passed a resolution
asserting the power of Congress to abolish slavery in 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.
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 inference 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
title 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.

STATES. The petition of eleven hundred citizens of the District, 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 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
for 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 that 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 the 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.

CONCEDED THIS POWER. The testimony Of Messrs. Doddridge, and Powell, of
Virginia, Chief Justice Cranch, and Judges Morsel 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, Mr. Randolph of Virginia, 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 S.C.,
objected to the printing, but "expressly admitted the right of Congress
to grant to the people of the District any measure which they might deem
necessary to free themselves from the deplorable evil."--[See letter of
Mr. Claiborne of Miss. to his constituents published in the Washington
Globe, May 9, 1836.] The sentiments of Mr. Clay of Kentucky, 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, and Chilton, Lyon, and
R.M. Johnson, of Kentucky, A.H. Shepperd, of N.C., Messrs. Armstrong and
Smyth of Va., Messrs. Dorsey, Archer, and Barney, of Md., and Johns, of
Del., 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 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 U.S. Senate, February 1, 1820, (National Intelligencer, April 29,
1829,) he says: "In the District of Columbia, containing a population of
30,000 souls, and probably as many slaves as the whole territory of
CONGRESS ALONE. Why then, 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. Thompkins, De Witt
Clinton, and others, whose names are a host.[A] It is consistent, also
with his recommendation in his last message, in which speaking of the
District, he strongly urges upon Congress "a thorough and careful
revision of its local government," speaks of the "entire independence"
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
residences 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 indispensible condition of

The tenor of Mr. Tallmadge's speech on the right of petition, 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.

An explicit declaration, that an "_overwhelming majority_" of the
_present_ Congress concede the power to abolish slavery in the District
has just been made by Robert Barnwell Rhett, a member of Congress from
South Carolina, in a letter published in the Charleston Mercury of Dec.
27, 1837. The following is an extract:

"The time has arrived when we must have new guaranties 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_."

_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, declares, that the power of
Congress over slavery in the District "COULD NOT BE QUESTIONED." 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 Penn., 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 HAD NEVER BEEN,

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


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 that "power of exclusive
legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District," which was
given it by the constitution.

To show the futility of the objection, we insert here 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 Md., v. 2., c. 46.

The cession of Virginia was made 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 forever 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_.
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 freer course; 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?

But again, Maryland and Virginia, in their acts of cession, declare them
to be made "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
_confirm_ 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. The fact that Congress accepted the cessions, proves that
in its views their _terms_ did not conflict with its constitutional
grant of power. The inquiry whether these acts of cession were
consistent or inconsistent with the United Status' constitution, is
totally irrelevant to the question at issue. What with the CONSTITUTION?
That is the question. Not, what with 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 more magnified than they have been
recently by the southern delegation in 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 legislation in all cases whatsoever over such
District." 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 of 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 puff 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, or right of representation, or even the electoral franchise,
would be truly 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 (1837-8) 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? 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 forthcoming, and that
without stint.

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
plunge it headlong.

Would the North have adopted the constitution, giving three-fifths of
the "slave property" a representation, if it had "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
thirty 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 Hamilton, Franklin, Sherman,
Gerry, Livingston, 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, Henry, Grayson, Tucker, Madison,
Wythe, Pendleton, Lee, Blair, Mason, Page, Parker, Randolph, Iredell,
Spaight, Ramsey, Pinkney, Martin, McHenry, Chase, and nearly all the
illustrious names south of the Potomac, proclaimed it before the sun. 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 ever 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 on 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 States generally before the lapse of many years. A great mass of
testimony establishing this position might be presented, but narrow
space, and the importance of speedy publication, counsel brevity. Let
the following proofs suffice. First, a few dates as points of

In 1757, Commissioners from seven colonies met at Albany, resolved upon
a Union and proposed a plan of general government. In 1765, delegates
from nine colonies met at New York and sent forth a bill of rights. The
first _general_ Congress met in 1774. The first Congress of the
_thirteen_ colonies met in 1775. The revolutionary war commenced in '75.
Independence was declared in '76. The articles of confederation were
adopted by the thirteen states in '77 and '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 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. 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
Life of Granville Sharpe, p. 21.]

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_," &c.

In 1776, Dr. Hopkins, then at the head of New England divines,
in "An Address to the owners of negro slaves in the American colonies,"
says: "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_. * * * * * 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 Virginia Gazette of March 19, 1767, in an essay on slavery says:
"_There cannot be in nature, there is not in all history, an instance in
which every right of man is more flagrantly violated_. Enough I hope has
been effected to prove that slavery is a violation of justice and

The celebrated Patrick Henry of Virginia, in a letter, 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."

The Pennsylvania Chronicle of Nov. 21, 1768, says: "Let every black that
shall henceforth be born amongst us be deemed free. One step farther
would be to emancipate the whole race, restoring that liberty we have so
long unjustly detained from them. Till some step of this kind be taken
we shall justly be the derision of the whole world."

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_; and so long as
we have any idea of divine _justice_, we must associate that of _human
freedom_. It is _conceded on all hands, that the right to be free_ CAN

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 had 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, _and the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of

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, 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 that 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 I wish it on
an assurance of its effect_."--Jefferson's Posthumous Works, vol. 1,
p. 268.

In 1786, John Jay 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 signatures of the celebrated
Alexander Hamilton; Robert R. Livingston, afterwards 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. 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 U.S. 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 Chase, Judge of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Luther Martin, a
member of the convention that formed the U.S. 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, (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 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 citizens_."

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 extract:

"Your memorialists, fully believing 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_," &c.

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, wherein _life,
liberty_, and the _pursuit of happiness_, are recognized as the
universal rights of men. 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. Caspar Wistar, of Philadelphia;
Messrs. Foster and Tillinghast, of Rhode Island; Messrs. Ridgely,
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 on 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 Maryland, 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 be 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." Governor Randolph said: "They insist that the
_abolition of slavery will result from this Constitution_. I hope that
there is no one here, who will advance _an objection so dishonorable_ to
Virginia--I hope that at the moment they are securing the rights of
their citizens, an objection will not be started, that those unfortunate
men now held in bondage, _by the operation of the general government_
may be made free!" [_Deb. Va. Con._ p. 421.] 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 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, (afterwards 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. 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 the 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. I do not know how
far I might go, if I was one of the judges of the United States, and
those people were to come before me and claim their emancipation, but I
am sure I would go as far as I could_."

Mr. 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. Baldwin of Georgia said that the clause in the U.S. Constitution
relating to direct taxes "was intended to prevent Congress from laying
any special tax upon negro slaves, _as they might, in this way, so
burthen the possessors of them, as to induce a_ GENERAL EMANCIPATION."

Mr. Smith of South Carolina, said, "That on entering into this
government, they (South Carolina and Georgia) apprehended that the other
states, * * * _would, from motives of humanity and benevolence, be led
to vote for a general emancipation_."

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_. The inconsistency
in our principles, with which we are justly charged _should be
done away_."

Mr. Jackson, of Georgia, said, "IT WAS THE FASHION OF THE DAY
set her negroes free? _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. * * * * * * * I conceive the constitution
in this particular was formed in order that the Government, whilst it
was restrained from laying 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

Mr. Gerry, of Massachusetts, said, "he highly commended the part the
Society of Friends had taken; it was the cause of humanity they had
interested themselves in."--Cong. Reg. v. 1, p. 308-12.

A writer in the "Gazette of the Unites 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

In the convention that formed the constitution of Kentucky in 1790, the
effort to prohibit slavery was nearly successful. A decided majority of
that body would undoubtedly 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_. 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, and comments. 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 Saviour. 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 same 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 bandage for a single hour_... 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!"

Hon. James Campbell, in an address before the Pennsylvania Society of
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 on 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_."--pp. 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 broken their fetters? 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 our consciences to
reproach us?"

Mr. Faulkner, in a speech before the Virginia House of Delegates, 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. 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 whom was the
late President of the United States, 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,
Jan. 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 waive 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 perilled 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 this testimony are--The universal
expectation that Congress, state legislatures, seminaries of learning,
churches, ministers of religion, and public sentiment widely embodied in
abolition societies, would act against slavery, calling forth 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 it without ceasing and without
restriction. Full well did the South know, not only that the national
government would probably legislate against slavery wherever the
constitution placed it within its reach, but she knew also that Congress
had already marked out the line of national policy to be pursued on the
subject--had committed itself before the world to a course of action
against slavery, wherever she could move upon it without encountering a
conflicting jurisdiction--that the nation had established by solemn
ordinance a memorable precedent for subsequent action, by abolishing
slavery in the northwest territory, and by declaring that it should
never thenceforward exist there; and this too, as soon as by cession of
Virginia and other states, the territory came under congressional
control. The South knew also that the sixth article in the ordinance
prohibiting slavery, was first proposed by the largest slaveholding
state in the confederacy--that in the Congress of '84, Mr. Jefferson, as
chairman of the committee on the N.W. territory, reported a resolution
abolishing slavery there--that the chairman of the committee that
reported the ordinance of '87 was also a slaveholder--that the ordinance
was enacted by Congress during the session of the convention that formed
the United States' Constitution--that the provisions of the ordinance
were, both while in prospect and when under discussion, matters of
universal notoriety and _approval_ with all parties, and when finally
passed, received the vote of _every member of Congress from each of the
slaveholding states_. The South also had every reason for believing that
the first Congress under the constitution would _ratify_ that
ordinance--as it did unanimously.

A crowd of reflections, suggested by the preceding testimony, presses
for utterance. The right of petition ravished and trampled by its
constitutional guardians, and insult and defiance hurled in the faces of
the SOVEREIGN PEOPLE while calmly remonstrating _with their_ SERVANTS
for violence committed on the nation's charter and their own dearest
rights! Added to this "the right of peaceably assembling" violently
wrested--the rights of minorities, _rights_ no longer--free speech
struck dumb--free _men_ outlawed and murdered--free presses cast into
the streets and their fragments strewed with shoutings, or flourished in
triumph before the gaze of approving crowds as proud mementos of
prostrate law! The spirit and power of our fathers, where are they?
Their deep homage always and every where rendered to FREE THOUGHT, with
its _inseparable signs--free speech and a free press_--their reverence
for justice, liberty, _rights_ and all-pervading law, where are they?

But we turn from these considerations--though the times on which we have
fallen, and those toward which we are borne with headlong haste, call
for their discussion as with the voices of departing life--and proceed
to topics relevant to the argument before us.

The seventh article of the amendments to the constitution is alleged to
withhold from Congress the power to abolish slavery in the District. "No
person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due
process of law." All the slaves in the District have been "deprived of
liberty" by legislative acts. Now, these legislative acts "depriving"
them "of liberty," were either "due process of law," or they were _not_.
If they _were_, then a legislative act, taking from the master that
"property" which is the identical "liberty" previously taken from the
slave, would be "due process of law" _also_, and of course a
_constitutional_ act; but if the legislative acts "depriving" them of
"liberty" were _not_ "due process of law," then the slaves were deprived
of liberty _unconstitutionally_, and these acts are _void_. In that case
the _constitution emancipates them_.

If the objector reply, by saying that the import of the phrase "due
process of law," is _judicial_ process solely, it is granted, and that
fact is our rejoinder; for no slave in the District _has_ been deprived
of his liberty by "a judicial process," or, in other words, by "due
process of law;" consequently, upon the objector's own admission, every
slave in the District has been deprived of liberty _unconstitutionally_,
and is therefore _free by the constitution_. This is asserted only of
the slaves under the "exclusive legislation" of Congress.

The last clause of the article under consideration is quoted for the
same purpose: "Nor shall private property he taken for public use
without just compensation." Each of the state constitutions has a clause
of similar purport. The abolition of slavery in the District by
Congress, would not, as we shall presently show; violate this clause
either directly or by implication. Granting for argument's sake, that
slaves are "private property," and that to emancipate them, would be to
"take private property" for "public use," the objector admits the power
of Congress to do _this_, provided it will do something _else_, that is,
_pay_ for them. Thus, instead of denying the _power_, the objector not
only admits, but _affirms_ it, as the ground of the inference that
compensation must accompany it. So far from disproving the existence of
_one_ power, he asserts the existence of _two_--one, the power to take
the slaves from their masters, the other, the power to take the property
of the United States to pay for them.

If Congress cannot constitutionally impair the right of private
property, or take it without compensation, it cannot constitutionally,
_legalize_ the perpetration of such acts, by _others_, nor _protect_
those who commit them. Does the power to rob a man of his earnings, rob
the earner of his _right_ to them? Who has a better right to the
_product_ than the producer?--to the _interest_, than the owner of the
_principal_?--to the hands and arms, than he from whose shoulders they
swing?--to the body and soul, than he whose they are? Congress not only
impairs but annihilates the right of private property, while it
withholds from the slaves of the District their title to _themselves_.
What! Congress powerless to protect a man's right to _himself_, when it
can make inviolable the right to a _dog_! But, waiving this, I deny that
the abolition of slavery in the District would violate this clause. What
does the clause prohibit? The "taking" of "private property" for "public
use." Suppose Congress should emancipate the slaves in the District,
what would it "_take_?" Nothing. What would it _hold_? Nothing. What
would it put to "public use?" Nothing. Instead of _taking_ "private
property," Congress, by abolishing slavery, would say "_private
property_ shall not be taken; and those who have been robbed of it
already, shall be kept out of it no longer; and every man's right to his
own body shall be protected." True, Congress may not arbitrarily take
property, _as_ property, from one man and give it to another--and in the
abolition of slavery no such thing is done. A legislative act changes
the _condition_ of the slave--makes him his own _proprietor_, instead of
the property of another. It determines a question of _original right_
between two classes of persons--doing an act of justice to one, and
restraining the other from acts of injustice; or, in other words,
preventing one from robbing the other, by granting to the injured party
the protection of just and equitable laws.

Congress, by an act of abolition, would change the condition of seven
thousand "persons" in the District, but would "take" nothing. To
construe this provision so as to enable the citizens of the District to
hold as property, and in perpetuity, whatever they please, or to hold it
as property in all circumstances--all necessity, public welfare, and the
will and power of the government to the contrary notwithstanding--is a
total perversion of its whole _intent_. The _design_ of the provision,
was to throw up a barrier against Governmental aggrandizement. The right
to "take property" for _State uses_ is one thing;--the right so to
adjust the _tenures_ by which property is held, that _each may have his
own secured to him_, is another thing, and clearly within the scope of
legislation. Besides, if Congress were to "take" the slaves in the
District, it would be _adopting_, not abolishing slavery--becoming a
slaveholder itself, instead of requiring others to be such no longer.
The clause in question, prohibits the "taking" of individual property
for public use, to be employed or disposed of _as_ property for
governmental purposes. Congress, by abolishing slavery in the District,
would do no such thing. It would merely change the _condition_ of that
which has been recognized as a qualified property by congressional acts,
though previously declared "persons" by the constitution. More than this
is done continually by Congress and every other Legislature. Property
the most absolute and unqualified, is annihilated by legislative acts.
The embargo and non-intercourse act, levelled at a stroke a forest of
shipping, and sunk millions of capital. To say nothing of the power of
Congress to take hundreds of millions from the people by direct
taxation, who doubts its power to abolish at once the whole tariff
system, change the seat of Government, arrest the progress of national
works, prohibit any branch of commerce with the Indian tribes or with
foreign nations, change the locality of forts, arsenals, magazines and
dock yards; abolish the Post Office system, and the privilege of patents
and copyrights? By such acts Congress might, in the exercise of its
acknowledged powers, annihilate property to an incalculable amount, and
that without becoming liable to claims for compensation.

Finally, this clause prohibits the taking for public use of
"_property_." The constitution of the United States does not recognize
slaves as "PROPERTY" any where, and it does not recognize them in _any
sense_ in the District of Columbia. All allusions to them in the
constitution recognize them as "persons." Every reference to them points
_solely_ to the element of _personality_; and thus, by the strongest
implication, declares that the constitution _knows_ them only as
"persons," and _will_ not recognize them in any other light. If they
escape into free States, the constitution authorizes their being taken
back. But how? Not as the property of an "owner," but as "persons;" and
the peculiarity of the expression is a marked recognition of their
_personality_--a refusal to recognize them as chattels--"persons _held_
to service." Are _oxen "held_ to service?" That can be affirmed only of
_persons_. Again, slaves give political power as "persons." The
constitution, in settling the principle of representation, requires
their enumeration in the census. How? As property? Then why not include
race horses and game cocks? Slaves, like other inhabitants, are
enumerated as "persons." So by the constitution, the government was
pledged to non-interference with "the migration or importation of such
_persons_" as the States might think proper to admit until 1808, and
authorized the laying of a tax on each "person" so admitted. Further,
slaves are recognized as _persons_ by the exaction of their _allegiance_
to the government. For offences against the government slaves are tried
as _persons_; as persons they are entitled to counsel for their defence,
to the rules of evidence, and to "due process of law," and as _persons_
they are punished. True, they are loaded with cruel disabilities in


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