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HISTORY OF THE STRUGGLE
SLAVERY EXTENSION OR RESTRICTION.
MAINLY BY DOCUMENTS.
SLAVERY IN THE COLONIES.
LUST of gold and power was the main impulse of Spanish migration to the regions beyond the Atlantic. And the soft and timid Aborigines of tropical America, especially of its islands, were first compelled to surrender whatever they possessed of the precious metals to the imperious and grasping strangers; next forced to disclose to those strangers the sources whence they were most readily obtained; and finally driven to toil and delve for more, wherever power and greed supposed they might most readily be obtained. From this point, the transition to general enslavement was ready and rapid. The gentle and indolent natives, unaccustomed to rugged, persistent toil, and revolting at the harsh and brutal severity of their Christian masters, had but one unfailing resource-death. Through privation, hardship, exposure, fatigue and despair, they drooped and died, until millions were reduced to a few miserable thousands within the first century of Spanish rule in America.
A humane and observant priest (Las Casas,) witnessing these cruelties and sufferings, was moved by pity to devise a plan for their termination. He suggested and urged the policy of substituting for these feeble and perishing "Indians "the hardier natives of Western Af rica, whom their eternal wars and marauding invasions were constantly exposing to captivity and sale as prisoners of war, and who, as a race, might be said to be inured to the hardships and degradations of Slavery by an immemorial experience. The suggestion was unhappily approved, and the woes and miseries of the few remaining Aborigines of the islands known to us as "West Indies," were inconsiderably prolonged by exposing the whole continent for unnumbered generations to the evils and horrors of African Slavery. The author lived to perceive and deplore the consequences of his expedient.
The sanction of the Pope having been obtained for the African Slave-trade by representations which invested it with a look of philanthropy, Spanish and Portuguese mercantile avarice was readily enlisted in its prosecution
and the whole continent, North and South of the tropics, became a Slave-mart before the close of the sixteenth century.
Holland, a comparatively new and Protestant State, unable to shelter itself from the reproaches of conscience and humanity behind a Papal bull, entered upon the new traffic more tardily; but its profits soon overbore all scruples, and British merchants were not proof against the glittering evidences of their success. But the first slave ship that ever entered a North American port for the sale of its human merchandise, was a Dutch trading-vessel which landed twenty negro bondmen at Jamestown, the nucleus of Virginia, almost simultaneously with the landing of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock, December 22d, 1620.
The Dutch slaver had chosen his market with sagacity. Virginia was settled by CAVALIERSgentlemen-adventurers aspiring to live by their own wits and other men's labor-with the necessary complement of followers and servitors. Few of her pioneers cherished any earnest liking for downright, persistent, muscular exertion; yet some exertion was urgently required to clear away the heavy forest which all but covered the soil of the infant colony, and grow the tobacco. which early became its staple export, 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 condemn 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 estab lished, 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 tions on emancipation: Maryland adopted both revolutionary struggle as commenced and hur- of these in 1783. North-Carolina, in 1786, deried forward by a union of Free and Slaveclared the introduction of slaves into that State colonies; but such is not the fact. However of evil consequence, and highly impolitic," slender and dubious its legal basis, Slavery ex- and imposed a duty of £5 per head thereon. isted in each and all of the colonies that united New-York and New-Jersey followed the example to declare and maintain their independence. of Virginia and Maryland, including the domesSlaves were proportionately more numerous in tic in the same interdict with the foreign slavecertain portions of the South; but they were trade. Neither of these States, however, deheld with impunity throughout the North, ad-clared a general emancipation until many years vertised like dogs or horses, and sold at auction, thereafter, and Slavery did not wholly cease in or otherwise, as chattels. Vermont, then a ter-New-York until about 1830, nor in New-Jersey ritory in dispute between New-Hampshire and till a much later date. The distinction of Free New-York, and with very few civilized inhabi- and Slave States, with the kindred assumption tants, mainly on its Southern and Eastern bor- of a natural antagonism between the North and ders, is probably the only portion of the revolu- South, was utterly unknown to the men of the tionary confederation never polluted by the Revolution. tread of a slave.
Before the Declaration of Independence, but The spirit of liberty, aroused or intensified during the intense ferment which preceded it, by the protracted struggle of the colonists and distracted public attention from everything against usurped and abused power in the else, Lord Mansfield had rendered his judgment mother country, soon found itself engaged in from the King's Bench, which expelled Slavery natural antagonism against the current form of from England, and ought to have destroyed it domestic despotism. "How shall we complain in the colonies as well. The plaintiff in this of arbitrary or unlimited power exerted over us, famous case was James Somerset, a native of while we exert a still more despotic and inex- Africa, carried to Virginia as a slave, taken cusable power over a dependent and benighted thence by his master to England, and there inrace?" was very fairly asked. Several suits cited to resist the claim of his master to his were brought in Massachusetts-where the fires services, and assert his right to liberty. In the of liberty burnt earliest and brightest-to test first recorded case, involving the legality of the legal right of slave-holding; and the lead-modern Slavery in England, it was held (1677) ing Whigs gave their money and their legal that negroes, "being usually bought and sold services to support these actions, which were generally, on one ground or another, successful. Efforts for an express law of emancipation, however, failed even in Massachusetts; the Legislature, doubtless, apprehending that such a measure, by alienating the slave-holders, 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 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 rights 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 immortai 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 slave-holding henceforth in the State.
among merchants as merchandise, and also
A similar clause in the second Constitution of
"We cannot direct the law: the law must direct 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 that this case is allowed or approved by the law of England, and there
The natural, if not necessary, effect of this ¦ The report of the committee was in the decision on Slavery in these colonies had their following words: 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 con flicted 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 claim to spacious dominions outside of their proper boundaries; while NewHampshire (save in Verinont), Rhode Island, New-Jersey, 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.
THE JEFFERSONIAN ORDINANCE, 1784. Resolved, That the territory ceded, or to be ceded by individual States to the United States, whensoever the same shall have been purchased of the Indian inhabitants and offered for sale by the United States, shall be formed into additional States, bounded in the that is to say, northwardly and southwardly by parallels following manner, as nearly as such cessions will admit: of latitude, so that each State shall comprehend from south to north, two degrees of latitude, beginning to count from the completion of thirty-one degrees north of but any territory northwardly of the forty-seventh degree the equator; the then southern boundary of the U. S.] shall make part of the State next below. And eastwardly and westwardly they shall be bounded, those on the Mississippi, by that river on one side, and the meridian of the lowest point of the rapids of the Ohio on the other; and those adjoining on the east, by the same meridian on their western side, and on their eastern by Great Kanawha. And the territory eastward of this last the meridian of the western cape of the mouth of the meridian, between the Ohio, Lake Erie, and Pennsylvania, shall be one State.
chased and offered for sale shall, either on their own That the settlers within the territory so to be purpetition or on the order of Congress, receive authority from them, with appointments of time and place, for their free males of full age to meet together for the purpose of establishing a temporary government, to adopt the constitution and laws of any one of these States, so that such laws nevertheless shall be subject to alteration by their ordinary Legislature, and to erect, subject to a like alteration, counties or townships for the election of members for their Legislature.
That such temporary government shall only continue in force in any State until it shall have acquired twenty thou Congress, they shall receive from them authority, with sand free inhabitants, when, giving due proof thereof to appointments of time and place, to call a convention of representatives to establish a permanent constitution and government for themselves: Provided, That both the temporary and permanent governments be established on these principles as their basis:
1. That they shall forever remain a part of the United States of America.
2. That in their persons, property, and territory, they shall be subject to the Government of the United States in Congress assembled, and to the Articles of Confederation in all those cases in which the original States shall be so subject.
4. That their respective governments shall be in republican forms, and shall admit no person to be a citizen who holds a hereditary title.
5. That after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servi tude in any of the said States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty.
3. That they shall be subject to pay a part of the The IXth Continental Congress, under the Ar- Federal debts, contracted or to be contracted, to be ticles of Confederation, assembled at Philadel-apportioned on them by Congress, according to the same common rule and measure by which apportionments phia, Nov. 3, 1783, but adjourned next day to thereof shall be made on the other States. Annapolis, Md. The House was soon left without a quorum, and so continued most of the timeof course, doing no business-till the 1st of March, 1784, when the delegates from Virginia, in pursuance of instructions from the Legislature of that State, signed the conditional deed of cession to the Confederation of her claims to That whenever any of the said States shall have, of territory northwest of the Ohio River. New free inhabitants, as many as shall then be in any one of York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts had al- the least numerous of the thirteen original States, such State shall be admitted, by its Delegates, into the Conready made similar concessions to the Confede-gress of the United States, on an equal footing with the ration of their respective claims to territory said original States; after which the assent of two-thirds westward of their present limits. of the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be Congress requisite in all those cases wherein, by the Confederation, hereupon appointed Messrs. Jefferson of Vir- the assent of nine States is now required, provided the ginia, Chase of Maryland, and Howell of Rhode consent of nine States to such admission may be obIsland, a Select Committee to report a Plan of tained according to the eleventh of the Articles of Confederation. Until such admission by their Delegates Government for the Western Territory. This into Congress, any of the said States, after the establishplan, drawn up by Thomas Jefferson, provided ment of their temporary government, shall have authofor the government of all the Western terri-rity to keep a sitting member in Congress, with a right of debating, but not of voting. tory, including that portion which had not yet been, but which, it was reasonably expected, would be, surrendered to the Confederation by the States of North Carolina and Georgia (and which now forms the States of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi), as well as that which had already been conceded by the northern States
That the territory northward of the forty-fifth degree, that is to say, of the completion of forty-five degrees from the equator, and extending to the Lake of the under the forty-fifth and forty-fourth degress, that which Woods, shall be called Sylvania; that of the territory lies westward of Lake Michigan, shall be called Michigania; and that which is eastward thereof, within the peninsula formed by the lakes and waters of Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, and E ie, shall be called Chersonesus, and shall include any part of the peninsula which у
extend above the forty-fifth degree. Of the territory taining his views of "non-intervention by under the forty-third and forty-second degrees, that to Congress." the westward, through which the Assenisipi or Rock River runs, shall be called Asenisipia; and that to the The Ordinance, thus depleted, after undergoeastward, in which are the fountains of the Muskingum, ing some further amendments, was finally ap the two Miamies of the Ohio, the Wabash, the Illinois, proved April 23d-all the delegates, but those the Miami of the Lake, and the Sandusky rivers, shall be called Met opotamia. Of the territory which lies under from South Carolina, voting in the affirmative. the forty-fi st and fortieth degrees, the western. through In 1787, the last Continental Congress, sitwhich the river Illinois runs, shall be called Illinoia; ting in New-York simultaneously with the that next adjoining to the eastward, Saratoga; and that between this last and Pennsylvania, and extending Convention at Philadelphia which framed our f om the Ohio to Lake Erie, shall be called Washington. Federal Constitution, took up the subject of the Of the territory which lies under the thirty-ninth and government of the Western Territory, raising a thirty-eighth degrees, to which shall be added so much of the point of land within the fork of the Ohio and Mis- Committee thereon, of which Nathan Dane, of sissippi as lies under the thirty-seventh degree; that to Massachusetts, was Chairman. That Committee the westward, within and adjacent to which are the reported (July 11th), "An Ordinance for the confluences of the rivers Wabash, Shawanee, Tanisee, Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri, shall be called government of the Territories of the United Polypotamia; and that to the eastward, further up the States, Northwest of the Ohio"-the larger area Ohio, otherwise called the Pelisipi, shall be called contemplated by Mr. Jefferson's bill not having Pelisipia. That all the preceding articles shall be formed been ceded by the Southern States claiming into a charter of compact, shall be duly executed by dominion over it. This bill embodied many of the President of the United States, in Congress assem-the provisions originally drafted and reported bled, under his hand and the seal of the United States, by Mr. Jefferson, but with some modifications, shall be promulgated, and shall stand as fundamental conditions between the thirteen original States and and concludes with six unalterable articles of those newly described, unalterable but by the joint perpetual compact, the last of them as follows: consent of the United States, in Congress assembled, and of the particular State within which such alteration is proposed to be made.
April 19, this reported plan came up for consideration in Congress. Mr. Spaight of N. C. moved that the 5th proposition (prohibiting Slavery after the year 1800) be stricken out of the plan of ordinance, and Mr. Read of S. C. seconded the motion. The question was put in this form: "Shall the words moved to be stricken out stand?" and on this question the Ayes and Noes were taken, and resulted as follows:
N. HAMPSHIRE..... Mr. Foster,
CONNECTICUT...... Mr. Sherman,.
Mr. De Witt,..
Here we find the votes sixteen in favor of Mr. Jefferson's restriction to barely seven against it, and the States divided six in favor to three against it. But the Articles of Confederation (Art. IX.) required an affirmative vote of a majority of all the States-that is, a vote of seven States to carry a proposition; so this clause was defeated through the absence of one delegate from New-Jersey, in spite of a vote of more than two to one in its favor. Had the New-Jersey delegation been full, it must, to a moral certainty, have prevailed; had Delaware then been represented, it would probably have been carried, even without New-Jersey. Yet, it is this voie, so given and recorded, that Mr. Douglas in his " Harper" essay claims as sus
servitude, in the said Territory, otherwise than in "There shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary punishment of crimes, whereof the parties shall be duly convicted."
To this was added, prior to its passage, the stipulation for the delivery of fugitives from labor or service, soon after embodied 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 Conventious assembled to pass upon that Constitution, and adopted. The following are all the provisions of that instrument, which are presumed to bear upon 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 general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Art. I. § 1. All legislative powers herein granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. apportioned among the several States which may be § 2. Representatives and direct taxes shall be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined, by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.
§ 9. The mig ation 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 duty may be imposed, not exceeding ten dollars on each person.
The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.
No bill of attainder or ex post facto laws shall be passed.
Art. III. 8. Treason against the United States
The Cong ess 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.
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 Revolution, that her territory extended westward to the Mississippi.
§ 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government, On the 22d of December, 1799-one month and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on after the ratification of the Federal Constitution application of the legislature, or of the executive when-North Carolina passed an act, ceding, on certhe legislature cannot be convened, against domestic tain conditions, all her territory west of her Art. VI. This Constitution, and the laws of the present limits to the United States. Among United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, the conditions exacted by her, and agreed to and all the treaties made, or which shall be made, under by Congress (Act approved April 2nd, 1790) is the following:
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 hiscory 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 modi
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 to service or labor," was proposed by Mr. Butler, of South Carolina, and adopted with little or no opposi
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 grievances.
Art. II. A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Art. V. No persons shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Provided always, that no regulations made, or to be made, by Congress shall tend to emancipate slaves.
Were it not then conceded that Congress had the power to make regulations for the territories which would "tend to emancipate slaves," this proviso would be utterly meaningless.
Georgia, in like manner, ceded (April 2nd, 1862) 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 becom 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 18th day of July, 1787, for States; which ordinance shall, in all its parts, extend to the government of the Western territory of the United the territory contained in the present act of cession, the article only excepted which forbids slavery. EARLY ATTEMPTS TO OVERRIDE THE ORDINANCE.
residue of the vast regions originally conveyed When Ohio (1802-3) was made a State, the by the ordinance of '87 was continued under Territory," whereof Wm. Henry Harrison (since Federal pupilage, by the name of "Indiana President) was appointed Governor. 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 surtions of border life, it might be tolerated, and mounting the inevitable hardships and privaeven 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 Conven tion 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 Slaye States, with the since celebrated John Randolph as chairman.