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poetical talents; in honor of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the world this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of vanity. This, and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public prints. If
you should ever come to Cambridge, or near head-quarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favored by the Muses, and to whom nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations. I am, with great respect, your obedient humble servant.—Letter to Phillis Wheatley (An African].
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations, cultivate peace and harmony with all ; religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices ?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an babitual fondness, is, in some degree, a slave. It is a slave to its animosity, or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another, disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. Farewell Address, 1796.
Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all my slaves, which I hold in my own right, shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life, would, though earnestly wished, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriages with the dower negroes, as to create the most fearful sensation, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the dower negroes are held, to manumit them. And, whereas, among those who will receive their freedom according to this clause, there may be somé, who, from old age, or bodily infirmities, and others, who, on account of their infancy, will be unable to support themselves, it is my will and desire that all who come under the first and second
descriptions, shall be comfortably clothed and fed by my heirs while they live ; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living, are unable or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the age of twenty-five years: and in case where no record can be produced whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final. The negroes thus bound, are by their masters and mistresses to be taught to read and write, and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the laws of the commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of orphans and other poor children. And I do hereby expressly forbid the sale or transportation out of the said commonwealth, of any slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatever. And I do, moreover, most pointedly and most solemnly enjoin it upon my executors, hereafter named, or the survivor of them, to see that this clause respecting slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled, at the epoch at which it is directed to take place, without evasion, neglect, or delay, after the crops which may then be on the ground are harvested. Particularly as it respects the aged and infirm, seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support, as long as there are subjects requiring it, not trusting to the uncertain provisions to be made by individuals. And to my mulatto man, William, (calling himself William Lee,) I give immediate freedom, or if he should prefer it on account of the accidents which have befallen him, and which have rendered him incapable of walking, or of any active employment, to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so~in either case, however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life, which shall be independent of the victuals and clothes he has been accustomed to receive if he chooses the last alternative, but in full with his freedom if he prefers the first. And this I give him as a testimony of my
a sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful services during the revolutionary war.
[By another item of Washington's will, the negroes, then thirtythree in number) belonging to the estate of B. Dandridge, (his wife's, brother, and taken in execution, sold, and purchased in on Washington's account, he left, with their increase, to the widow of B. Dandridge during her life ;] " at the expiration of which, I direct that all of them, who are forty years of age and upwards, shall receive their freedom; all under forty and over sixteen, shall serve seven years and no longer; and all under sixteen years, shall serve until they are twenty-five years old, and then be free.”—George Washing. ton's Will, July 9, 1790[91
JOHN ADAMS. LAFAYETTE.
You and I may not live to the time when this declaration shall be made good; we may die; die colonists—die slaves; die, it may
be, ignominiously, and on the scaffold; be it so—be it so; if it be the pleasure of heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may; but while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country. But whatever may be our fate, be assured that this declaration will stand.-Speech at the passage of the Declaration of Independence.
Great is Truth-great is Liberty-great is Humanity; and they must and will prevail.—Letter to a friend.
While I am indulging in my views of American prospects, and American liberty, it is mortifying to be told that in that very country, a large portion of the people are slaves! It is a dark spot on the face of the nation. Such a state of things cannot always exist.
I see in the papers, that there is a plan of gradual abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia. I would be doubly happy of it, for the measure in itself, and because a sense of American pride makes me recoil at the observations of the diplomatists, and other foreigners, who gladly improve the unfortunate existing circumstances into a general objection to our republican, and (saving that deplorable evil) our matchless system.*
* Lafayette was consistent. Having bravely and disinterestedly aided in vindicating our rights, he did not incur the reproach of hypocrisy, by turning and trampling on the rights of others.
For the purpose of applying his principles to men of color, he purchased a plantation in French Guiana. His first step was to collect all the whips and other instruments of torture and punishment, and make a bonfire with them, in presence of the assembled slaves. He then instituted a plan of giving a portion of his time to each slave every week, with a promise that as soon as any one had earned money enough to purchase an additional day of the week, he should be entitled to it;
and when with this increased time to work for himself, he could purchase another day, he should have that, and so on, until he was master of his whole time. In the then state of Anti-Slavery science, this gradual and sifting process was deemed necessary to form the character of slaves, and to secure the safety of the masters. Abolitionists would not elect this mode now. They would turn slaves at once into free laborers or leaseholders, on the same estate, if possible, where they have been as slaves. Still there is not an American abolitionist who would not rejoice to see a single southern planter copy the plan of Lafayette, or take any other step tending to emancipation, however remote. Before Lafayette's views were fully executed, the French revolution occurred, which interrupted his operations, and made the slaves free at once. But mark the conduct of the ungrateful and blood-thirsty blacks. While other slaves in the colony availed themselves of the first moment of freedom to quit the plantations of their masters, Lafayette's remained, desiring to work for their humane and generous friend. D. L. Child's Oration.
CONSISTENCY OF LAFAYETTE.
“ After the decisive campaign against Lord Cornwallis, in 1781, Lafayette, on receiving the thanks of the State of Virginia, which had particularly profited by his successes, replied, by the expression of a wish, that liberty might be speedily extended to all men, without distinction. But, he was not contented with sterile wishes, and on his return to France, flattering himself, like Turgot and Poivre, that the gradual emancipation of the negroes, might be conciliated with the personal interests of the colonists ; he was desirous of establishing the fact by experience, and for that purpose, he tried a special experiment, on a scale sufficiently large to put the question to the test. At that period, the Intendant of Cayenne was a man of skill, probity, and experience, named Lescalier, whose opinions on the subject coincided with those of Lafayette. Marshal de Castries, the minister of the Marine, not only consented to the experiment, but determined to aid it, by permitting Lescalier to try upon the king's negroes the new regime projected. Lafayette had at first devoted one hundred thonsand francs to this object. He confided the management of the re sidence which he had purchased at Cayenne, to a man distinguished for philosophy and talent, named Richeprey, who generously devoted himself to the direction of the experiment. The Seminarists established a colony, and above all, the Abbé Farjon, the curate of it, applauded and encouraged the measure. It is but justice to the colonists of Cayenne, to say, that the negroes had been treated with more humanity there than elsewhere. Richeprey's six months' stay there, and the example set by him, before he fell a victim to the climate, contributed still further to improve their condition. La Rochefoucault was to purchase another plantation as soon as Richeprey's establishment had met with some success, and a third would afterward have been bought by Malesherbes, who took a cordial interest in the plan. The untimely death of Richeprey, the difficulty of replacing such a man, the departure of the Intendant, and a change in the ministry, threw obstacles in the way of this noble undertaking.
When Lafayette had been proscribed in 1792, the National Convention confiscated all his property, and ordered his negroes to be sold at Cayenne, in spite of the remonstrances of Madame Lafayette, who protested against the sale, observing, that the negroes had been purchased only to be restored to liberty after their instruction, and not to be again sold as objects of trade and speculation. At a later period all the negroes of the French colonies were declared free, by a decree of the National Convention. It is nevertheless remarkable, that some of Lafayette's plans, with regard to the slave emancipation, were realized. Cayenne, the only one of our colonies in which the example set by him of instructing the negroes, had been followed, was also the only colony in which no disorders took place. Urged by gratitude, the negroes of his plantation declared to Richeprey's successor, that if Lafayette's property was confiscated, they would avail them
selves of their liberty ; but that in the opposite case they would remain and continue to cultivate his estates.”—Private Life of Gen. Lafayette. Vol. I. page 149.
It is difficult to determine on the standard by which the manners of a nation may be tried, whether catholic or particular. It is more difficult for a native to bring to that standard the manners of his own nation, familiarized to him by habit. There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us.
The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions; the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what sees others do. If a parent could find no motive either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present. But generally it is not sufficient. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. / And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who permitting one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriæ of the other. For if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labor for another: in which he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute as far as depends on his individual endeavors to “the evanishment of the human race, or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him. With the morals of the people, their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate no man will labor for himself who can make another labor for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves, a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firmi basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God That they are not to be violated but with his wrath ? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep for ever; that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events : that it