Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Besides, we are not quite sure, that the states of North Carolina and Georgia might not have been convinced, that their interests required the keeping of slavery within as narrow bounds as possible. If these territories had been early and effectually barred against the introduction of slavery, there would have been less demand for imported slaves in the Atlantic states: of course, there would have been fewer slaves brought into the country. If the southern Atlantic states had a numerous white population, without any mixture of slaves, on their western border, the danger of a servile insurrection, at any future time, would be greatly diminished. We are inclined to think, that if our rulers had kept their ears open to the complaints of Africa;- if they had continually felt the full force of the Declaration of Independence;—if they had faithfully consulted the New Testament, with a real desire to ascertain their duty;-if they had been more employed on the great questions, which relate to our country's destiny, and less intent upon the petty contests, and personal interests, of a day;--they would not have found it impossible to devise measures, in which all the states might bave concurred, for the limitation, and ultimate abolition, of slavery, and the intellectual and moral improvement of the blacks.

The next important event, in relation to this subject, was the purchase of Louisiana. By the third article of the treaty of cession it is stipulated, that the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated into the union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities, of citizens of the United States; and, in the mean time, they shall be maintained and protected, in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion, which they profess.

It is contended, that this article secures, to all the future inhabitants of the vast country beyond the Mississippi, the right of holding persons in bondage, without any power in the general government to limit restrain, or prevent, so tremendous an evil. We design not to go into the legal argument at length. But it is to our immediate purpose to observe, that if this be in fact the meaning of the article, our minister, who negociated the treaty, the cabinet wbich instructed bim, and the President and Senate, by whom the treaty was ratified, have done more to ensure to their memories the reproaches of posterity, than almost any other set of men, within the scope of history. They have, by this solemn instrument, erected an eternal barrier in favor of unequal rights and oppression, and have entailed the curse of perpetual slavery upon a tract of country half as large as Europe, and capable of sustaining a hundred millions of people. But such never was the meaning of the article; and this enormous mischief does not lie at the door of the Senate of 1803;-happy, if it shall not be found at the door of the Senate of 1820.

Should the inquiry be madc, how we understand the article, we briefly reply: the clause which stipulates, that the ceded territory shall be adınitted into the union, "according to the principles of the federal constitution," means simply, that the admission here contemplated shall take place under the direction of Congress, in conformity to the power given to that body by the federal constitution. Doubtless it is the duty of Congress, so far as the treaty is binding on the national legislature, to incorporate into the union parts of the territory beyond the Mississippi, at such periods, and on such terms, as a regard to the general good shall dictate. If the general good requires that slavery shall be forever excluded from the new states, then Congress is bound to exclude it. If the phraseology of the treaty"the principles of the federal constitution”—is taken in its largest sense, and means those principles of free government, which the federal constitution was intended to secure, the language of the treaty imperatively requires Congress to prohibit slavery in the new states, to be formed out of this territory.

The article further says, that the inhabitants of the ceded territory, shall be admitted “to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States." The rights, here referred to, we conceive to be political rights, resulting to the several states from the union; such as, an equal representation in the Senate, proportionate representation in the House of Representatives, liability to none but equal national taxes, and an equal claim on the protection and defence to be furnished by the general government. Any other construction leads to the greatest absurdities. Thus, for instance, the laws of Virginia recognize the right of holding black men in servitude; and the emigrants to Missouri claim the same right, under this treaty of cession. But the laws of Ohio recognize the right of every man, whether black or white, to the enjoyment of his liberty; they consider it as a great advantage, as a precious immunity, to be free from the slightest stain of slavery. Why may not the black emigrant to Missouri insist, under the treaty of cession, that he is entitled to the same "rights, advantages, and immunities," as if he lived in Ohio?

The last clause of the article declares, that the inhabitants shall be protected in the enjoyment of their property.” So far as the word property applies to this subject, it could comprise no slaves, except those actually residing in the territory at that time, and belonging to masters then inhabitants of the territory.

From this brief examination it appears, that Congress had the same power to legislate for Louisiana, as for any other territory of the United States. It is, therefore, much to be regretted, that the importation of slaves into every part of the Louisiana purchase, either from abroad, or from the slave-holding states, had not been immediately prohibited; that every person born in that tract of country, subsequently to the date of cession, had not been declared free; and that the ordinance of 1787 had not been extended to this whole region, with the slight exception of the slaves then actually residing there. It is still more to be regretted, perhaps, that when the state of Louisiana was admitted into the union, no conditions were required, with reference to this subject. But in these transactions, the future condition of the country seems to have attracted-little notice. When Louisiana was admitted, the nation was on the eve of a war with Great Britain; and all eyes were directed to that event. Till the present question agitated the country, within three months past, the attention of the rising empire of North America bas never been properly fixed upon the limitation, or the extension of slavery. It is now thus fixed; and the decision soon to take place will do more towards forming a pational character, than any other single decision that can be imagined. Heretofvre, as we have seen in this discussion, there has been, at a certain period, a perseverance in the slave-trade, which admits of no excuse; though the enormities of this trade had not then been fully disclosed. But the nation disclaimed it, and ultimately abolished it. Subsequently, there has been too much apathy and negligence in reference to the subject; but hitherto nothing has been done, which cau fairly stamp our national character with the opprobrium of having deliberately sanctioned, extended, and attempted to perpetuate domestic slavery, and a domestic slave-trade. Possibly the vote is now recorded, which shall exhibit the American republic to the scorn of Europe and the world, as making hollow professions of devotion to liberty and the unalienable rights of man, while riveting the letters of oppressed Africa, and spreading her enslaved sous over this great continent.

To those persons, who have scruples as to the power of Congress to impose a restriction upon new states, and who would Jament the increase and extension of slavery, we would address a single consid. eration. There is no doubt that Congress has the power of probib. iting the migration of slaves into the territories of the United States. Let this power be immediately and effectually exercised; and let the territorial governments remain for a few years. We have twentytwo states in the union already; Maine will make the twenty-third. Why should we be in haste to admit more? A very short time, upon this plan, would fix the character of the inbabitants of these territories in decided opposition to slavery; and they would of themselves form constitutions of government, by which it should be forever proscribed. This is morally certain; and it is also certain, that when slavery is thoroughly established, slave-holders will never cure the evil themselves. At least, the history of the world affords no example of their doing it.

There are those, who deny that the introduction of slaves into Missouri is an extension of slavery. This measure does not increase the number of slaves, they say; it simply permits a change of residence. Let us look at the subject a moment.

Is it not an unquestionable fact, that population increases, accord. ing to the means of support, wbich any country furnishes and that a new country furnisbes more abundant means of support than an old one? Will any man pretend, that the descendants of the first settlers of Connecticut are not more numerous at the present day, than they would bave been, if they and their ancestors had all been confined within the limits of that small state? Beyond question they are at least twice as numerous now, as they would have been, if all emigration had been prevented; and within a hundred and fifty years from this time, they will be ten times more numerous, than the population which Connecticut ever can sustain. Virginia is a great state, and capable of supporting a vast number of people; but, if all the slaves in the union, were placed and kept within her limits, they would not be une tenth part as numerous a century hence, as they will be, if spread over the southern states, and the country beyond the Mississippi. And though the slave-holding country is now lamentably large, the man who votes in favor of making Missouri a slave-country, does in effect vote in favor of doubling or trebling the future slave population of this great empire. What stupendous results are to be expected from the present decision! What an awful respousibility rests upon those, who are now fixing the destiny of countless millions yet to be born!

Besides, it would in fact be an extension of slavery, and of the erils which accompany it, if slaves were to be carried beyond the Mississippi, while the whole number remained the same. Can this be doubted? Would it be no extension of slavery, and no accumulation of its curses, to take 20,000 slaves from Kentucky and hold them in bondage in Vermont? to transplant 50,000 from Virginia to Massachusetts; 100,000 from the Carolinas to New York; and as many from Georgia to Pennsylvania? Is there a man so blind, as not to see the most serious evils resulting from such a proceeding? Would not the number of slave-holders be greatly increased? Would there be no abatement of the vigor, independence, and industry of our countrymen? Would domestic manners suffer no alteration for the worse?

Further; the extension of the territory, in which slaves are held, increases the number of slaves by increasing their value. When the price is bigh, the planter is under every inducement to augment the quantity of his saleable stock, by promoting early marriages among his slaves, and by every other means in his power.

Again; the extension of the slave-country, unavoidably increases the domestic slave-trade. This is in itself an inmeasurable evil.

Lastly; the opening of Missouri to the introduction of slaves, will I lead to the unlawful importation of them from Africa, the West

Indies, South America, and Mexico. How great will be the number thus introduced, it is not possible for men to foresee; but there is every reason to believe, that it will be very great; that the increasing wealth of the western country will domand a prodigious supply of slaves; that the avarice of slave-traders will furnish this supply at all bazards, and in contempt of all law; and that this gigantic wickedness, in all its horrid forms, will increase, until the nation is prepared for the desolating judgments of heaven.

In some of the preceding remarks it bas been intimated, that slaves experience oppression at the hands of their masters. We very well know, that our southern brethren feel acutely the least intimation of this sort. We cheerfully admit, that there are many humane, kind, and benevolent persons, among the possessor's of slaves; that some consult not only the temporal, but the spiritual, good of their slaves, with great solicitude; and that slaves, in the United States, are better treated, than in most other places, where they are found. But would our southern brethren wish to be slaves themselves, even to the kindest and most benevolent masters within their knowledge? Would they consent, that their children should be slaves, even to such masters? What then shall be said of the grasping miser, and the domestic tyrant? Does any man love his neighbor as himself, when he willingly entrusts his neighbor to the unrestrained will of such a master? Are we yet to learn, that unlimited power is always abused by the depraved children of Adam? Are we required to believe, that a constant, all-pervading miracle is wrought, iu bebalf of the undefended, secluded, unheeded descendants of Africa? We have no inclination to go into particulars; but we owe it to truth and the cause of humanity to declare, that the worst accounts of slavery and its consequences, that have ever come to our knowledge, have either been the relations of facts so public, as to be unquestionable, or have proceeded directly from the mouths of respectable slave-holders themselves. We heard such a slave-holder observe, with great deliberation and solemnity, that when the history of human crimes shall be recited to the astonished universe, slavery will form the most dreadful chapter, not excepting even war. This is a serious subject; and it will be found so in the end.

Let us imagine an intelligent traveller, some fifty years hence, passing through the western country. In the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, he finds a vigorous, healthy, industrious population; a land of cultivated farms, thriving villages, and populous towns, inhabited by freemen only; an ample domain, tilled in small portions by the lords of the soil, abundant in its productions, and almost boundless in its resources. Every individual has the disposal of his own time, the employment of his own faculties; and is, in short, his own master. Here is no hereditary degradation; no exclusion from the rights of men, and of citizens. Here is but one code of laws, enacted by the cominon voice, and administered for the common protection. The village school is open to every child; and every child learns to read his Bible. The village sanctuary is open to every immortal being; and not an individual is restrained from worshipping God, whenever and wherever he thinks proper, according to the dictates of his own conscience. Here every man goes where he pleases, without suspicion, interrogation, or notice. All feel safe, for all are brethren.

Our traveller crosses the Mississippi. Every thing is changed. With indications of wealth, and power, and splendor, are intermixed tokens of poverty, indolence, and hopeless depression. One half of the people are masters, and the other half are slaves. The extensive plantation removes the opulent landbolder, with his sable retinue, from the inspection of the public, and from all responsibility to human laws. Half the people are at their birth excluded from all pussibility of sharing in civil or political rights. Their time, their earnings, their faculties, their children, their bodies, and, in a very important sense, their souls too, are at the disposal of others. The spring of industry is broken. Confidence is extinguished. Labor is exacted by the dread of punishment alone. Two codes of law are established; one for freemen, the other for slaves. It is needless to say, that slaves Jaye no voice in making laws for their own government; laws barbarous in their enactments, inflicting heavy and disgraceful punishments for the slightest offences, executed in the most capricious manner, and giving very inadequate redress to the injured subject. Here half the children are not permitted to learn to read; for by reading they would acquire knowledge, and knowledge is power. Knowledge they must not possess; for they would re-print our Declaration of independence in characters of blood. Of course they can rever read the Bible, that

« AnteriorContinuar »