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THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the just consent of the governed, &c. [See the whole declaration, signed by the delegates of all the original states, and adopted as the basis of all the State Constitutions.]
THE UNITED STATES' CONSTITUTION.
AMENDMENT. 1. 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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
N. Y. CONSTITUTION-INDIANA-G. WASHINGTON.
NEW YORK CONSTITUTION.
Every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech, or of the press.
There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, othewise than for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. Nor shall any indenture of any negro or mulatto, hereafter made and executed out of the bounds of this state, be of any validity within this state.-[Ohio and Illinois are similar.]
THE SLAVE-TRADE DECLARED TO BE PIRACY BY THE LAW OF THE UNITED STATES, 1820.
If any citizen of the United States, being of the crew or ship's company of any foreign ship or vessel engaged in the slave-trade, or any person whatever, being of the crew or ship's company of any ship or vessel owned in the whole or part, or navigated for, or in behalf of, any citizen or citizens of the United States, shall land, from any such ship or vessel, and on any foreign shore seize any negro or mulatto, not held to service or labor by the laws of either of the states or territories of the United States, with intent to make such negro or mulatto a slave, or shall decoy, or forcibly bring or carry, or shall receive such negro or mulatto on board any such ship or vessel, with intent as aforesaid, such citizen or person shall be adjudged a PIRATE, and on conviction thereof, before the circuit court of the United States, for the district wherein he may be brought or found, shall suffer DEATH.
...The benevolence of your heart, my dear Marquis, is so conspicuous on all occasions, that I never wonder at fresh proofs of it; but your late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God, a like spirit might diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country! But I despair of seeing it. Some petitions were presented to the Assembly at its last session, for the abolition of slavery; but they could scarcely obtain a hearing.— Letter to Lafayette.
I hope it will not be conceived from these observations, that it is my wish to hold the unhappy people who are the subject of this letter, in slavery. I can only say, that there is not a man living, who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is, by the legislative authority; and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall not be wanting.-Letter to Robert
I never mean, unless some particular circumstance should compel me to it, to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law.-Letter to John F. Mercer.
Because there are, in Pennsylvania, laws for the gradual abolition of slavery, which neither Maryland nor Virginia have at present; but which nothing is more certain than that they must have, and at a period not remote.-[Reasons for depreciation of southern lands in a letter to Sir John Sinclair.]
CAMBRIDGE, February 28, 1776.
MISS PHILLIS,Your favor of the 26th of October, did not reach my hands till the middle of December. Time enough, you will say, to have given an answer ere this. Granted. But a variety of impor tant occurrences, continually interposing to distract the mind and withdraw the attention, I hope will apologize for the delay, and plead my excuse for the seeming, but not real neglect. I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and panegyric, the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your poetical talents; in honor of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, 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?-Farewell Address.
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 some, 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 fufilled, 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.-Washington's Will.
The day is passed-the 4th of July, 1776, will be a memorable epocha in the history of America. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, &c., from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward for ever! You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states; yet through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory.-I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.-Letter, Philadelphia, July 5th, 1776.
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.