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followed the neighboring state of Mexico in the same As career. Having in like manner achieved her own inndence, she published, Sept. 15, 1829, a decree for the ene abolition of slavery, containing these remarkable words : • Being desirous to signalize the anniversary of independence by an act of national justice and beneficence, which may redound to the advantage and support of so inestimable a good, which may tend to the aggrandizement of the Republic, and which may reinstate an unfortunate portion of its inhabitants in the sacred rights which nature gave them, and the nation should protect by wise and wholesome laws--I (the President) have resolved to decree that Slavery is and shall remain abolished in this Republic.” Whatever may be the fate of this distracted, unhappy Republic, in the darkest hour of her degradation, this act will ever be a bright remembered page in her history.
Then we have to record the Act of the British Government, by which, Aug. 1, 1834, 800,000 slaves were set free in a day, in the British West India Islands. This act, the most memorable in the modern history of emancipation, was carried into effect without bloodshed, without tumult, or the outbreak of violent passion, but with the solemn enthusiasm becoming the great occasion, in the places of religious worship, amid prayers and hymns of praise. The experiment is now in a course of successful operation. If there have been temporary drawbacks, arising from the very nature of the case, it is now proved beyond a doubt, not only that it may be made without hazard, but that the great gift of liberty cannot be bestowed upon any without physical and moral advantage to all.
We hasten to another testimony, to show the settled con. viction which prevails respecting the wrong and inhumanity of slavery. We refer to the decrees of the late head of the Roman Catholic church. December 13, 1839, Gregory XVI. pub Alished once more the earnest remonstrances of the Catholic church against every species of involuntary servitude. He says,—“We admonish by our apostolical authority and urgently invoke in the name of God all Christians of whatever condition, that none, henceforth, dare subject to slavery, unjustly persecute, or despoil of their goods, Indians, Negroes, or any other classes of men." A protest urged again by the present Pontiff in language as emphatic and authoritative.
There is a contagion in the spread of liberty. The spirit which succors the down-trodden, and remembers the forgotten, is wafted like winged seed into most congenial spots, and takes root in unlooked-for places. Hence, as we pass from the centre of civilization and religion to a semi-barbarous region, there is another testimony to the worth of individual freedom. The
Bey of Tunis, at the head of two millions of subjects, January 22, 1846, declared his sovereign pleasure in the following terms: “ The servitude imposed on a part of the human kind whom God has created, is a very cruel thing, and our heart shrinks from it. Now, therefore, we have thought proper to publish that we have abolished men's slavery throughout our dominions, inasmuch as we regard all slaves who are on our territory as free, and do not recognize the legality of their being kept as property.” We have here a sentiment worthy of a most enlightened Christian ruler !
Soon afterwards, in a little kingdom hard by the frozen zone, the heart of royalty is melted, and a decree is issued by the king of Denmark, in which it is proclaimed, July 3, 1848, “that all unfree in Danish West India Islands are from to-day emancipated.” It is added in the St. Thomas Times, two days afterwards: “The lively joy with which the boon was received by the unfree in the Island can be easily imagined; but we are happy to state that although the decree was so sudden, so unexpected, no other sounds were heard but those of rejoicing and thankfulness."
Early in the same year, the Provisional Government of France decreed the emancipation of slavery in all her colonies. When the great capital had driven the king from his throne, and the nation was emancipated, the first act was to strike off the chains from the limbs of the slave, within the farthest bounds of the Republic. In some of the provinces, the decrees of the government were carried into partial effect only; in others, the acts of emancipation were consummated. The last, of which any account has been given, took place on the 10th of August, 1848, in Cayenne and French Guiana. And it contains a' testimony, not only to the extent to which the spirit of liberty is now spread, but to the safety of immediate, unconditional emancipation. Here also the most serious apprehensions existed, lest when the proclamation of freedom should be made, there should be tumult and bloodshed. The inhabitants for many days previous went armed; but on that day, says an eye-witness, little by little, confidence was re-estab
" lished; and the thronging of the inhabitants through the streets commenced; the Te Deum was sung at the church, after which more than a thousand negroes marched to the front of the Governor's house to thank him for the proclamation made by him giving them their freedom ; and it was truly admirable to us who so little expected it, to see these poor people, who immediately after repaired to the church, and then quietly kneeling down and lifting up their hands to heaven thanked God for giving them their liberty."
Thus have we testimony from almost every portion of
Christendom; and we think that we are fully sustained in the position, that the enlightened sentiment of the day is diametrically opposed to the extension and continuance of slavery ; and that he who upholds and defends the system, does it in opposition to the distinctly avowed and settled convictions of the Christian world.
But we are well aware, that, in the judgment of many, there is in the fundamental laws of our government, a very formidable, if not insurmountable obstacle in the way of the abolition of American slavery. Your Committee have, therefore, devoted some attention to this part of the subject before them, and would be glad, if the limits of their Report would allow a more detailed historical view of it.
The Government of Great Britain established slavery in this country; and up to the period of our Revolution, the authority of that government was its only legal sanction among us. The Declaration of Independence subverted the authority of that government in all the colonies consenting to or adopting it; but did not subvert and annul all the laws which had been established in the colonies under that authority. It did, however, affirm and indicate principles, both in regard to man and his rights, and to government, its duty and obligations, utterly inconsistent with slavery and the maintenance and execution of all the laws in relation to it. This inconsistency was felt and acknowledged by many; and during the Revolutionary struggle the Declaration and its principles had a manifest influence upon the public mind, and in some cases upon legal action in regard to slavery.
Dr. Belknap, in his account of the decrease of slavery in Massachusetts,* says: “At the beginning of our controversy with Great Britain, several persons, who before had entertained sentiments opposed to the slavery of the blacks, did then take occasion publicly to remonstrate against the inconsistency of contending for our own liberty, and at the same time depriving other people of theirs.” It was under the effect produced by the Declaration of Independence, and the influence of the public opinion of which it was in part both the source and the expression, that juries in Massachusetts in several cases rendered verdicts in favor of slaves, previous to the adoption of the constitution of 1780, which constitution by the decision of the
* Mass. Hist. Coll. vol. IV. p. 201.
supreme court in 1783, was interpreted as establishing upon broad and general principles the liberties of the negroes.
There are misapprehensions and misrepresentations of the constitution, on the subject of slavery, which seem to have originated in sheer ignorance of the history of our Federal Government. Many intelligent men are probably unacquainted with the real origin and import of the enumeration of “threefifths of all other persons,” beside “free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed."
In the report of the committee of the Continental Congress, appointed to draft articles of confederation, it was proposed, " that all charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or the general welfare, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several colonies, in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex and quality, except Indians not paying taxes in each colony.” The report was submitted July 12, 1776. Some days afterwards, while under discussion in committee of the whole house, Mr. Chase, of Maryland, endeavored to obviate some objections, by an amendment, “ that the quotas should be paid, not by the number of the inhabitants of every condition, but by that of the white inhabitants.'” The amendment suggested and advocated by Mr. Chase, was strenuously resisted by John Adams and others; mainly because, as was contended, inhabitants were to be taken as an index of property, and, therefore, if taxes should be apportioned according to the number of white inhabitants, the smallest share of the burden would fall upon those States in which were the greatest number of slaves. And it was well understood, that the Southern States were much richer than the Northern.
The comparative value of free and slave labor very materially affected the views of the different speakers, -as may be seen by an examination of the “Madison Papers.” As a compromise, Mr. Harrison, of Virginia, proposed that two slaves should be counted as one free man;-it being doubtful in his opinion, if two slaves did any more work, and thus, as producers of wealth, could justly be reckoned as any more than equal to one free man.
Both the amendment and the proposition of the committee were rejected. It was agreed to apportion the taxes, according to the valuation of houses and lands. But such valuation having afterwards been found impracticable, the taxes were assessed according to the estimated population of the different States respectively.
It is of much importance here to notice, that, in the debate upon the articles of confederation, the subject of slavery was
introduced, not upon any question of natural or moral right, but upon a question of finance, or of political economy. Our Southern brethren, and ourselves also, now look at the subject from a very different position from that in which it was viewed by the members of the Continental Congress in 1776, or by the framers of the constitution, in 1787.
In 1783, the Continental Congress made an attempt to revive the national credit. A committee reported, “that the quotas of the several States should be in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex and condition, provided that in such enumeration no persons shall be included who are bound to servitude for life, according to the laws of the State to which they belong, other than such as may be between the ages of years." Insuperable objections were urged against any apportionment, which contemplated the age of persons. The proportion of absolute numbers was finally agreed to,-slaves being rated as five to three. One member proposed the ratio of four to three; another of four to one. Some were in favor of two to one, or of three to one. The ratio of five to three was, in Mr. Madison's view, as it would seem, a proof of liberality and magnanimity on the part of those immediately interested in the avails of slave-labor.
In the legislation of 1776 and 1783, we doubtless have the natural history and the true import of the provision of the second section of the first article of the constitution, which determines the apportionment of representatives and direct taxes. The provision was adopted, because members of the Convention, who were “principled against slavery," yet were unwilling to seem to do injustice to the slave-holding States, by an apportionment of direct taxes, without an equivalent representation. Throughout the discussions of the Convention in 1787, as well as those of the Continental Congress, the Northern and Southern States appear in no such attitude, upon the subject of slavery, as would now be presented, in the existing state of moral and political opinions. The most decided convictions against the right and the policy of slave-holding were freely expressed by members of the Convention, from the south as well as the north of the Potomac. And a speech of Gouverneur Morris, of Pennsylvania, would satisfy the most uncompromising and unsparing antagonist of the slave-holding system, among all who now desire its speedy and total extirpation. “He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of Heaven on the States where it prevailed."*
The compromise, therefore, by which the enumeration of the
* Madison Papers, pp. 1263-5.