« PrejšnjaNaprej »
by means of which nearly everything required by its people but food was to be paid for in England. The slaves, therefore, found ready purchasers at satisfactory prices, and the success of the first venture induced others; until not only Virginia but every part of British America was supplied with African slaves.
This traffic, with the bondage it involved, had no justification in British nor in the early colonial laws; but it proceeded nevertheless, much as an importation of dromedaries to replace with presumed economy our horses and oxen might now do. Georgia was the first among the colonies to resist and remand it in her original charter under the lead of her noble founder-Governor, General Oglethorpe; but the evil was too formidable and inveterate for local extirpation, and a few years saw it established, even in Georgia; first evading or defying, and at length molding and transforming the law.
It is very common at this day to speak of our revolutionary struggle as commenced and hurried forward by a union of free and slave colonies; but such is not the fact. However slender and dubious its legal basis, Slavery existed in each and all of the colonies that united to declare and maintain their independence. Slaves were proportionately more numerous in certain portions of the South; but they were held with impunity throughout the North, advertised like dogs or horses, and sold at auction, or otherwise, as chattels. Vermont, then a territory in dispute between NewHampshire and New-York, and with very few civilized inhabitants, mainly on its southern and eastern borders, is probably the only portion of the revolutionary confederation never polluted by the tread of a slave.
had them set at liberty. The first Continental Congress which resolved to resist the usurpations and oppressions of Great Britain by force, had already declared that our struggle would be " for the cause of human nature," which the Congress of 1776, under the lead of Thomas Jefferson, expanded into the noble affirmation of the right of "all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" contained in the immortal preamble to the Declaration of Independence. A like averment that all men are born free and equal,' was in 1780 inserted in the Massachusetts Bill of Rights; and the Supreme Court of that State, in 1783, on an indictment of a master for assault and battery, held this declaration a bar to slaveholding henceforth in the state.
A similar clause in the second Constitution of New-Hampshire, was held by the courts of that State to secure freedom to every child, born therein after its adoption. Pennsylvania, in 1780, passed an act prohibiting the further introduction of slaves and securing freedom to all persons born in that State thereafter. Connecticut and Rhode Island passed similar acts in 1784. Virginia, 1778, on motion of Mr. Jefferson, prohibited the further importation of slaves; and in 1782, removed all legal restrictions on emancipation: Maryland adopted both of these in 1783. North Carolina, in 1786, declared the introduction of Slaves into that state" of evil consequences and highly impolitic," and imposed a duty of £5 per head thereon. New-York and New-Jersey followed the example of Virginia and Maryland, including the domestic in the same interdict with the foreign slave trade. Neither of these States, however, declared a general emancipation until many years thereafter, and Slavery did not wholly cease in New-York until about 1830, nor in New-Jersey till a much later date. distinction of free and slave States, with the kindred assumption of a natural antagonism between the North and South, was utterly unknown to the men of the Revolution.
The spirit of liberty, aroused or intensified by the protracted struggle of the colonists against usurped and abused power in the mother country, soon found itself engaged in natural antagonism against the current form of domestic despotism. "How shall we complain of arbitrary or unlimited power Before the Declaration of Independence, exerted over us, while we exert a still more but during the intense ferment which preceddespotic and inexcusable power over a de- ed it, and distracted public attention from pendent and benighted race?" was very fair- everything else, Lord Mansfield had rendered ly asked. Several suits were brought in his judgment from the King's Bench, which Massachusetts-where the fires of liberty expelled Slavery from England, and ought to burnt earliest and brightest-to test the legal have destroyed it in the colonies as well. right of slaveholding; and the leading Whigs The plaintiff in this famous case gave their money and their legal services to James Somerset, a native of Africa, carsupport these actions, which were generally, ried to Virginia as a slave, taken thence on one ground or another, successful. Efforts by his master to England, and there infor an express law of emancipation, however, cited to resist the claim of his master to failed even in Massachusetts; the Legislature, his services, and assert his right to liberty. doubtless, apprehending that such a measure, by alienating the slaveholders, would increase the number and power of the Tories; but in 1777, a privateer having brought a lot of captured slaves into Jamaica, and advertised them for sale, the General Court, as the legislative assembly was called, interfered and
In the first recorded case, involving the legality of modern slavery in England, it was held (1697) that negroes, "being usually bought and sold among merchants as merchandise, and also being infidels, there might be a property in them sufficient to maintain trover." But this was overruled by Chief Jus
tice Holt from the King's Bench (1697,) rul- | claim to spacious dominions outside of their ing that "so soon as a negro lands in England proper boundaries; while New-Hampshire he is free;" and again, (1702) that "there is no (save in Vermont), Rhode Island, New-Jersuch thing as a slave by the law of England." This judgment proving exceedingly troublesome to planters and merchants from slaveholding colonies visiting the mother country with their servants, the merchants concerned in the American trade, in 1729, procured from Yorke and Talbot, the Attorney General and Solicitor General of the Crown, a written opinion that negroes, legally enslaved elsewhere, might be held as slaves in England, and that even baptism was no bar to the master's claim. This opinion was, in 1749, held to be sound law by Yorke (now Lord Hardwicke), sitting as Judge, on the ground that, if the contrary ruling of Lord Holt were upheld, it would abolish slavery in Jamaica or Virginia as well as in England; British law being paramount in each. Thus the law stood until Lord Mansfield, in Somerset's case, reversed it with evident reluctance, and after having vainly endeavored to bring about an accommodation between the parties. When delay would serve no longer, and a judgment must be rendered, Mansfield declared it in these memorable words:
"We cannot direct the law; the law must di
rect us. ** * The state of Slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law. which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself whence it was created, is erased from the memory. It is so odious that nothing can be sufficient to support it but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England, and therefore the black must be discharged."
The natural, if not necessary, effect of this decision on Slavery in these colonies, had their connection with the mother country been continued, is sufficiently obvious.
SLAVERY UNDER THE CONFEDERATION.
THE disposition or management of unpeopled territories, pertaining to the thirteen recent colonies now confederated as independent States, early became a subject of solicitude and of bickering among those States, and in Congress. By the terms of their charters, some of the colonies had an indefinite extension westwardly, and were only limited by the power of the grantor. Many of these charters conflicted with each other-the same territory being included within the limits of two or more totally distinct colonies. As the expenses of the Revolutionary struggle began to bear heavily on the resources of the States, it was keenly felt by some that their share in the advantages of the expected triumph, would be less than that of others. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, laid
sey, Maryland, Delaware, and South Carolina, possessed no such boasted resources to meet the war-debts constantly augmenting. They urged, therefore, with obvious justice, that these unequal advantages ought to be surrendered, and all the lands included within the territorial limits of the Union, but outside of the proper and natural boundaries of the several States, respectively, should be ceded to, and held by, Congress, in trust for the common benefit of all the States, and their proceeds employed in satisfaction of the debts and liabilities of the Confederation. This reasonable requisition was ultimately, but with some reservations, responded to. Vir ginia reserved a sufficiency beyond the Ohio to furnish the bounties promised to her revolutionary officers and soldiers. Connecticut, a western reserve, since largely settled from the parent State. Massachusetts reserved five millions of acres, located in Western New York, which she claimed to be entitled by her charter to own. In either of these cases, the fee only was reserved, the sovereignty being surrendered.
The cessions were severally made during, or directly after, the close of the Revolutionary War. And one of the most obvious duties devolved on the Continental Congress, which held its sessions in Philadelphia directly after the close of that exhausting struggle, was the framing of an act or ordinance for the government of the vast domain thus committed to its care and disposal.
The responsible duty of framing this ordinance was devolved by Congress on a Select Committee, consisting of Mr. Jefferson of Va. (Chairman), Chase of Md., and Howell of R. I.; who in due time reported a plan for the government of the Western Territory, contemplating the whole region included within our boundaries west of the old thirteen States, and as far south as our 31st degree of North latitude; territory as yet partially ceded to the Confederation, but which was expected to be so, and embracing several of our present Slave States. This plan contemplated the ultimate division of this territory into seventeen States, eight of them situated below the parallel of the Falls of the Ohio (now Louisville), and nine above it. Among other rules reported from this Committee by Mr. Jefferson, for the government of this vast region, was the following:
"That after the year 1800, of the Christian era, there shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise shall have been convicted to be personally than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party guilty."
April 19th, 1784.-Congress having the aforesaid Report under consideration, Mr. Spaight, of N. C., moved the striking out of
So the question was lost, and the words were struck out.
tives from labor or service, soon after embo died in the Federal Constitution; and in this shape, the entire ordinance was adopted (July 13th) by a unanimous vote, Georgia and the Carolinas concurring.
UNDER THE CONSTITUTION.
THE old Articles of Confederation having proved inadequate to the creation and maintenance of a capable and efficient national or central authority, a Convention of Delegates from the several States, was legally assembled in Philadelphia, in 1787-George Washington President; and the result of its labors was our present Federal Constitution, though some amendments, mainly of the nature of restrictions on Federal power, were proposed by the several State Conventions assembled, to pass upon that Constitution, and adopted. The following are all the provisions of that instrument, which are presumed to relate to the subject of Slavery:
(Preamble): "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the ge neral welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the "Art. I. § 1. All legislative powers herein United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Lost-although six States voted aye to only three nay; and though of the members present, fifteen voted for, to six against, Mr. Jefferson's proposition. But the Articles of Confederation required a vote of nine States to carry a proposition; and, failing to receive so many, this comprehensive exclusion of Slavery from the Federal Territories was "§ 2. *** Representatives and direct taxes defeated. shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, accordThe Ordinance, thus depleted, after under-ing to their respective numbers, which shall be going some further amendments, was finally determined, by adding to the whole number of approved April 23rd-all the delegates, but free persons, including those bound to servitude those from South Carolina, voting in the for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. affirmative.
"$9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing, shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808; but a tax or on each person. duty may be imposed, not exceeding ten dollars
"No bill of attainder, or ex post facto laws
In 1787 the last Continental Congress, sitting in New York simultaneously with the Convention at Philadelphia which framed our Federal Constitution, took up the subject of the government of the West- The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus ern Territory, raising a Committee thereon, shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of of which Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, rebellion or invasion, the public safety may rewas Chairman. That Committee reported quire it. (July 11th), "An Ordinance for the gov-shall be passed. ernment of the Territory of the United States, Northwest of the Ohio"-the larger area contemplated by Mr. Jefferson's bill not having been ceded by the Southern States claiming dominion over it. This bill embodied many of the provisions originally drafted and reported by Mr. Jefferson, but with some modifications, and concludes with six unalterable articles of perpetual compact, the last of them as follows:
"There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, in the said territory, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the parties
shall be duly convicted."
To this was added, prior to its passage, the stipulation for the delivery of fugi
"Art. III. § 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
"Art. IV. § 2. The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges of citizens, in the several States.
"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be
Congress into this Union; but no new State shall "3. New Slates may be admitted by the be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States,
without the consent of the legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress. "The Congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property, belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
"S4 The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union, a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legis lature, or of the executive when the legislature cannot be convened, against domestic violence. Art. VI. This Constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all the treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."
The above are all-and perhaps more than all-the clauses of the Constitution, that have been quoted on one side or the other as bearing upon the subject of Slavery.
It will be noted that the word "slave," or "slavery" does not appear therein. Mr. Madison, who was a leading and observant member of the Convention, and who took notes of its daily proceedings, affirms that this silence was designed-the Convention being unwilling that the Constitution of the United States should recognize property in human beings. In passages where slaves are presumed to be contemplated, they are uniformly designated as persons," never as property. Contemporary history proves that it was the belief of at least a large portion of the delegates that Slavery could not long survive the final stoppage of the slave trade, which was expected to (and did) occur in 1808. And, were Slavery this day banished forever from the country, there might, indeed, be some superfluous stipulations in the Federal compact or charter; but there are none which need be repealed, or essentially modified.
A direct provision for the restoration of fugitive slaves to their masters was, at least once, voted down by the Convention. Finally, the clause respecting persons "held at service or labor," was proposed by Mr. Butler, of South Carolina, and adopted, with little or no opposition.
The following, among the amendments to the Constitution proposed by the ratifying conventions of one or more States, and adopted, are supposed by some to bear on the questions now agitated relative to Slavery:
"Art. I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the rights of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of griev
"Art. II. A well-regulated militia being neces
sary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
"Art. V. No person shall be*** deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due procass of law; nor shall private property be taken for pub lic use without just compensation."
CESSIONS OF SOUTHERN TERRITORY.
THE State of KENTUCKY was set off from the State of Virginia in 1790, by mutual agreement, and admitted into the Union by act of Congress, passed February 4th, 1791; to take effect June 1st, 1792. It was never a territory of the United States, nor under Federal jurisdiction, except as a State, and inherited Slavery from the Old Dominion.'
The State of North Carolina, like several others, claimed, during and after the Revolu tion, that her territory extended westward to The settlers west of the the Mississippi. of them assumed to establish (1784-5) the Alleganies resisted this claim, and a portion Tennessee; but North Carolina forcibly reState of Frankland, in what is now East sisted and subverted this, and a considerable portion of the people of the embryo State devote as citizens of North Carolina. A delerided its authority, and continued to act and gate (William Cocke) was sent from Frankland to the Continental Congress, but was not received by that body. On the 22nd of her ratification of the Federal ConstitutionDecember, 1789, however-one month after North Carolina passed an act, ceding, on certain conditions, all her territory west of her present limits to the United States. Among the conditions exacted by her, and agreed to, by Congress, (Act approved April 2nd, 1790) is the following:
to be made, by Congress shall tend to emancipate
"Provided always, that no regulations made, or
Georgia, in like manner, ceded (April 2nd, 1802) the territories lying west of her present limits, now forming the States of Alabama and Mississippi. Among the conditions exacted by her, and accepted by the United States, is the following:
"Fifthly. That the territory thus ceded shall become a State, and be admitted into the Union as soon as it shall contain sixty thousand free inhabitants, or, at an earlier period, if Congress shall think it expedient, on the same conditions and restrictions, with the same privileges, and in the same manner, as is provided in the ordinance of Congress of the 13th day of July, 1787, for the government of the Western territory of the United States; which ordinance shall, in all its parts, extend to the territory contained in the present act of Cession, the article only excepted which forbids slavery."
EARLY ATTEMPTS TO OVERRIDE THE
WHEN Ohio (1802-3) was made a State, the residue of the vast regions,
originally conveyed by the ordinance of '87, was continued under Federal pupilage, by the name of " Indiana Territory," whereof Wm. Henry Harrison (since President) was appointed Governor. An earnest though quiet effort was made by the Virginia element, which the location of her military bounty warrants on the soil of Ohio had infused into that embryo State, to have Slavery for a limited term authorized in her first Constitution; but it was strenuously resisted by the New England element, which was far more considerable, and defeated. The
Virginians either had or professed to have the countenance of President Jefferson, though his hostility to Slavery, as a permanent social state, was undoubted. It was quite commonly argued that, though Slavery was injurious in the long run, yet, as an expedient while clearing away the heavy forests, opening settlements in the wilderness, and surmounting the inevitable hardships and privations of border life, it might be tolerated, and even regarded with favor. Accordingly, the new Territory of Indiana made repeated efforts to procure a relaxation in her favor of the restrictive clause of the Ordinance of '87, one of them through the instrumentality of a Convention assembled in 1802-3, and presided over by the Territorial Governor; so he, with the great body of his fellow-delegates, memorialized Congress, among other things, to suspend temporarily the operation of the sixth article of the Ordinance aforesaid. This memorial was referred in the House to a select committee of three, two of them from Slave States, with the since celebrated John Randolph as chairman. On the 2nd of March, 1803, Mr. Randolph made what appears to have been a unanimous report from this Committee, of which we give so much as relates to Slavery as follows:
"The rapid population of the State of Ohio sufficiently evinces, in the opinion of your committee, that the labor of slaves is not necessary to promote the growth and settlement of colonies in that region. That this labor-demonstrably the dearest of any-can only be employed in the cultivation of products more valuable than any known to that quarter of the United States; that the Committee deem it highly dangerous and inexpedient to impair a provision wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the northwestern country, and to give strength and security to that extensive frontier. In the salutary operation of this sagacious and benevolent restraint, it is believed that the inhabitants of In diana will, at no very distant day, find ample remuneration for a temporary privation of labor, and of emigration."
The Committee proceed to discuss other subjects set forth in the prayer of the memorial, and conclude with eight resolves, whereof the only one relating to Slavery is as follows:
"Resolved, That it is inexpedient to suspend, for a limited time, the operation of the sixth article of the compact between the original States and the · people and States west of the river Ohio."
This Report, having been made at the close of the Session, was referred at the next to a new Committee, whereof Cæsar Rodney, a new Representative from Delaware, was Chairman. Mr. Rodney from this Committee reported (February 17th, 1804),
"That, taking into their consideration the facts stated in the said memorial and petition, they are induced to believe that a qualified suspension, for tween the original States and the people and a limited time, of the sixth article of compact beStates west of the river Ohio, might be produc tive of benefit and advantage to said Territory.',
topics embraced in the Indiana memorial, and The Report goes on to discuss the other concludes with eight resolves, of which the first (and only one relative to Slavery) is as follows:
dinance of 1787, which prohibited Slavery within the said Territory, be suspended in a qualified manner, for ten years, so as to permit the introduction of slaves, born within the United States, from any of the individual States; provided, that such individual State does not permit the importation of slaves from foreign countries: and provided, further, that the descendants of all such slaves shall, if males, be free at the age of twenty-five years, and, if females, at the age of twenty-one years."
"Resolved, That the sixth article of the Or
The House took no action on this Report.
The original memorial from Indiana, with several additional memorials of like purport, was again, in 1805-6, referred by the House to a select committee, whereof Mr. Garnett of Virginia was chairman, who, on the 14th of February, 1806, made a report in favor of the prayer of the petitioners-as follows:
That, having attentively considered the facts stated in the said petitions and memorials, they limited time, of the sixth article of compact beare of opinion that a qualified suspension, for a tween the original States, and the people and States west of the river Ohio, would be beneficial to the people of the Indiana Territory. The suspension of this article is an object almost universally desired in that Territory.
It appears to your committee to be a question entirely different from that between Slavery and Freedom; inasmuch as it would merely occasion the removal of persons, already slaves, from one part of the country to another. The good effects of this suspension, in the present instance, would be to accelerate the population of that Territory, hitherto retarded by the operation of that article of compact, as slave-holders emigrating into the Western country might then indulge any preference which they might feel for a settlement in the Indiana Territory, instead of seeking, as they are now compelled to do, settlements in other States or countries permitting the introduction of slaves. The condition of the slaves themselves would be much ameliorated by it, as it is evident, from experience, that the more they are separated and diffused, the more care and attention are be stowed on them by their masters—each proprietor having it in his power to increase their comforts and conveniences, in proportion to the smallness of their numbers. The dangers, too, (if any are to be apprehended) from too large a black population existing in any one section of country, would certainly be very much diminished, if not entirely removed. But, whether dangers are to be feared from this source or not, it is certainly an obvious dictate of sound policy to guard against