« PreviousContinue »
discouraging every species of traffic in the persons of our fellow-
On another occasion, he says:-"Slavery is an atrocious de-
Alexander Hamilton, the brilliant Statesman and financier, tells us that
"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
Again, in 1774, addressing himself to an American Tory, he says:
"The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to equal privileges. You would be convinced that natural liberty is the gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race; and that civil liberty is founded on that."
THE VOICE OF JAY.
John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States under the Constitution of 1789, in a letter to the Hon. Elias Boudinot, dated Nov. 17, 1819, says :
"Little can be added to what has been said and written on the subject of slavery. I concur in the opinion that it ought not to be introduced nor permitted in any of the new States. and that it ought to be gradually diminished and finally abolished in all of them.
"The first article of the Constitution specifies the legislative powers committed to the Congress. The 9th section of that article has these words: 'The migration or importation of such persons as any of the now-existing States 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 on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.'
"I understand the sense and meaning of this clause to be, that the power of the congress, although competent to prohibit such migration and importation, was to be exercised with respect to the then existing States, and them only, until the year 1808, but the Congress were at liberty to make such prohibitions as to any new State, which might in the mean time be established. And further, that from and after that period, they were authorized to make such prohibitions as to all the States, whether new or old.
"It will, I presume, be admitted, that slaves were the persons intended. The word slaves was avoided, probably on account of the existing toleration of slavery, and its discordancy with the principles of the Revolution, and from a consciousness of its being repugnant to the following positions in 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.""
In a previous letter, written from Spain, whither he had been appointed as minister plenipotentiary, he says, speaking of the abolition of slavery :
"Till America comes into this measure, her prayers to Heaven will be impious. This is a strong expression, but it is just. I believe that God governs the world, and I believe it to be a maxim in His, as in our Courts, that those who ask for equity ought to do it."
The Hon. Wm. Jay, a noble son of Chief Justice John
"A crisis has arrived in which we must maintain our rights, or surrender them for ever. I speak not to abolitionists alone, but to all who value the liberty our fathers achieved. Do you ask what we have to do with slavery? Let our muzzled presses answer-let the mobs excited against us by the merchants and politicians answer-let the gag laws threatened by our governors and legislatures answer, let the conduct of the National Government answer."
From the Diary of John Quincy Adams, "the old man eloquent," we make the following extract :
"It is among the evils of slavery, that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice; for what can be more false and more heartless than this doctrine, which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin? It perverts human reason, and induces men endowed with logical powers to maintain that slavery is sanctioned by the Christian religion; that slaves are happy and contented in their condition; that between master and slave there are ties of mutual attachment and affection; that the virtues of the master are refined and exalted by the degradation of the slave, while at the same time they vent execrations upon the slave-trade, curse Britain for having given them slaves, burn at the stake negroes convicted of crimes, for the terror of the example, and writhe in agonies of fear at the very mention of human rights as applicable to men of color."
THE VOICE OF WEBSTER.
In a speech which he delivered at Niblo's Garden, in
"On the general question of slavery, a great part of the community is already strongly excited. The subject has not only attracted attention as a question of politics, but it has struck a far deeper one ahead. It has arrested the religious feeling of the country, it has taken strong hold on the consciences of men. He is a rash man, indeed, and little conversant with human nature, and especially has he an erroneous estimate of the character of the people of this country, who supposes that a feeling of this kind is to be trifled with or despised. It will assuredly cause itself to be respected. But to endeavor to coin it into silver, or retain its free expression, to seek to compress and confine it, warm as it is, and more heated as such endeavors would inevitably render it should this be attempted, I know nothing, even in the Constitution or Union itself, which might not be endangered by the explosion which might follow."
When discussing the Oregon Bill in 1848, he said:
"I have made up my mind, for one, that under no circumstances will I consent to the further extension of the area of slavery in the United States, or to the further increase of slave represertation in the House of Representatives."
Under date of February 15th, 1850, in a letter to the
"From my earliest youth I have regarded slavery as a great moral and political evil. I think it unjust, repugnant to the natural equality of mankind, founded only in superior power; a standing and permanent conquest by the stronger over the weaker. All pretense of defending it on the ground of different races, I have ever condemned. I have even said that if the black race is weaker, that is a reason against, not for, its subjection and oppression. In a religious point of view I have ever regarded it, and even spoken of it, not as subject to any express denun
ciation, either in the Old Testament or the New, but as opposed to the whole spirit of the Gospel and to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of kindness, justice, and brotherly love. But slavery is not kindly affectionate; it does not seek anothers, and not its own; it does not let the oppressed go free. It is, as I have said, but a continual act of oppression. But then, such is the influence of a habit of thinking among men, and such is the influence of what has been long established, that even minds, religious and tenderly conscientious, such as would be shocked by any single act of oppression, in any single exercise of violence and unjust power, are not always moved by the reflection that slavery is a continual and permanent violation of human rights."
While delivering a speech at Buffalo, in the State of New York, in the summer of 1851, only about twelve months prior to his decease, he made use of the following emphatic words :
"I never would consent, and never have consented, that there should be one foot of slave territory beyond what the old thirteen States had at the formation of the Union. Never, never!"
Noah Webster, the great American vocabulist, says:
"That freedom is the sacred right of every man, whatever be his color, who has not forfeited it by some violation of municipal law, is a truth established by God himself, in the very creation of human beings. No time, no circumstance, no human power or policy can change the nature of this truth, nor repeal the fundamental laws of society, by which every man's right to liberty is guarantied. The act of enslaving men is always a violation of those great primary laws of society, by which alone, the master himself holds every particle of his own freedom."